Atticus, meanwhile, had been counting down. “Three … two … one.” He sighed and lowered the megaphone—then lifted it to his mouth again. “The problem with you, Jaime, is that you just—don’t—listen. Now I just explained to you what was going to happen if I reached ‘one’ and you hadn’t come out, and goddamned if you didn’t come out. So. What’s going to happen now is that we’re going to kill one of these people for every 30 seconds you remain inside the vehicle—starting immediately.” He directed the bullhorn at the upper floors of one of the buildings. “Hershel? You awake up there?”
“Get ready,” I said.
“I’m awake,” came a voice, though it was impossible to tell exactly where from.
“Fine,” said Atticus. “Hershel, in 30 seconds, I want you to place your site on the head of … that little girl, right there.” He gestured at a storefront on our right side—Simply Seattle. “Green coat, last one on the end, right next to the display window. Copy that there, Chief?”
The man didn’t hesitate. “Twenty-nine! 28! 27 …”
I toggled the loudspeaker myself. “We’re coming out,” I said, suddenly, and glanced at Sam. “We’re trying to figure out how.”
There was a silence as Atticus seemed to think about this.
At last he said, “Well, how complicated could it be? Just open the door. Hershel, keep counting ...”
“Twenty-three, 22, 21 …”
“It’s not that simple,” I hurried to say, “It’s, like, pressurized or something.” To the others I said, “On my mark, okay? Get ready.”
“We’re at 18 seconds and counting, James,” said Atticus. “Best clean your glasses and get with it.”
“Seventeen, 16, 15 …”
“Okay! Okay. We’re depressurizing. Right … now.”
And then Sam was toggling the smoke as I gripped the joystick tightly and Nigel took over the loudspeaker and Lazaro opened the side door, after which we cursed loudly and bent to our tasks, and, together, threw wide the gates of Hell.