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Down a darkened hallway man and woman scampered, squinting their eyes against the drops from the sprinkler system which had been triggered by an unseen fire. Bettmann reached the emergency door that his trained eyes had noted before there was any emergency, and led his companion by the hand down three flights of stairs.
Korsakova wanted to stop once the two dirty and soaked escapees had reached the bottom of the stairs and walked out onto the sidewalk in front of her apartment building, which was spewing flames and smoke from its underground garage, but Bettmann tugged firmly on her wrist and led her down the street and away from the excited crowd of onlookers that was already coalescing. "Don't look back: whoever did this might be looking for you."
Korsakova wrenched her wrist out of her companion's grasp after they turned a corner onto a side street. "What are you talking about?"
Bettmann took a step closer to her and retook her wrist. "That was a car bomb, most likely planted in your car!" He started tugging her down the dark side street.
"Veronica--" Korsakova's gasp turned into a sob, and the strength in her legs left her.
Bettmann slipped his bag's strap over his shoulders and stooped down to lift his companion from the sidewalk as the wail of a fire engine sounded in the distance. "That could still be you, so you need to get outta here." Bettmann sucked in the hot, stale night air and carried Korsakova the remaining fifty feet to a borrowed BMW parked as far as possible from the nearest streetlamps.
Bettmann piled Korsakova into the passenger seat, placed the
bag on her lap, slammed the passenger door shut on both, and
scampered around to the driver's side before starting the engine and
taking off into the first hour of the morning.