No one bothered to put him in handcuffs. Landis is almost surprised, but maybe the blood still pouring out of his mouth is enough to convince them that he’s out of commission. He doesn’t see the sheriff anywhere, and the two deputies - Officer Alvarez and another - are buzzing around, in and out of rooms, talking to each other in a low hum. Landis can pick out the words “ambulance” and “treatment”. They both look shaken. Officer Alvarez’s face is still drawn and pale, and Landis almost feels bad for scaring him so much.
“How’s the tongue?” Mal asks glibly, hovering over the office chair Landis was sat down in, then promptly forgotten about. “Not totally gone, I hope.”
“Hurt’h like a motherfucker,” Landis spits, spraying little droplets of blood all over his shirt. His tongue still feels useless in his mouth, a big, wet, swollen lump of pain. It probably needs stitches, but he isn’t planning on sticking around long enough to see the paramedics.
Good thing you don’t plan on living through this. You’d never be able to talk normally again. Landis shakes off the thought and looks at the desk in front of him. He needs a weapon, or something he can use as one, if he’s going to get out of here. He wishes he knew what they did with his boxcutter, or his car - improvising has never been his strong suit. But he seems to be on a roll today as far as it’s concerned. The tongue thing certainly turned out to be a success.
He looks over his shoulder to make sure the deputies aren’t anywhere close by before he stands and shuffles over to the other side of the desk. There’s a long, thin drawer in the middle, and Landis slides it open carefully, hoping to find a pair of scissors or something he can shove in his pocket and claim to be a gun without anyone calling his bluff. He finds something better. A letter opener with a polished wood handle and a broad, shiny blade that looks sharp enough to slit a throat open. It feels too lightweight in his hand, not nearly as solid as the box cutter, but he’ll get used to it. He slides it up the sleeve of his flannel for easy access, and scurries back around to the chair he was put in.
“Are you still awake?”
Officer Alvarez’s voice startles Landis, making him jump. He nods without looking behind him at the deputy. The blood on his tongue feels like it’s starting to clot, so speaking might start to be easier, but he’s sure the guilt of taking the letter opener is written all over his face. He’s never stolen anything before - hell, he’s never committed a crime before today. Well. Not a voluntary crime, at least.
“The ambulance should be here soon. I wish I knew what was taking them so long.” Officer Alvarez sits down heavily on the chair around other side of the desk. His eyes are tired, and he keeps flicking them briefly at Landis’s face, like he wants to see how bad the damage is but is too afraid to really assess it. “If I had known they’d take forever, I would have driven you to the hospital myself. Can - can I - do you need anything?”
Landis winces as he pries his lips apart again, feeling the film of drying blood on them. “Ice?”
“More ice? Yeah, yeah, I can do that. Just, uh - just don’t go anywhere.”
Officer Alvarez lets out a high, hysterical laugh at his own joke, and stands up, the chair clattering noisily out from under him. Landis watches him leave. He looks about ten seconds away from collapsing on the floor. Probably he’s never had to deal with anything like this before. Antlers is a sleepy town in the middle of nowhere, that no one outside of the county has even heard of. Murderers aren’t supposed to show up in a place like this.
“This is your plan? Sit around until the ambulance gets here? I mean, as much as I’d love to watch a bunch of doctors try to sew your mouth up, don’t you need to go see a man about a lake?” Mal drifts down to where Officer Alvarez was just sitting, raising his eyebrows at Landis. He puts his hands against the monitor of the computer sitting on the desk, and grins sardonically as it fizzes and sputters, static leaping across the display. Landis glares at him.
“I’m working on it.”
“Oh, are you,” Mal says. He furrows his eyebrows as he loses concentration, yanking his hands back as they start to pass through the computer. “Well, better hurry up.”
Mal isn’t wrong - Landis is sure he can hear a siren blaring in the distance, getting closer and closer. He has to get going, before it gets here and before one of the deputies comes back into the room. It’ll be tight. He expected his heart to be pounding, but it feels like it’s just sitting there, an immobile rock inside of his chest. He doesn’t even feel nauseous. Just numb, and a little out of body, like he’s on autopilot even though he’s doing things he’s never done before in his life.
He stands up, and steers himself into the station lobby, which is silent and empty save for the secretary sitting behind the front desk. She’s short and chubby, with curly ginger hair pulled back in a loose bun at the nape of her neck. Landis thinks he could take her in a fight, but he’s malnourished and missing a lot of blood, so who really knows? Either way, she doesn’t notice him until he’s already behind her.
Landis slides the letter opener effortlessly into his hand, and presses it flat against the secretary’s throat. “Don’t scream.”
He feels her swallow. She nods very slowly, and puts her hands flat on the desk, maybe to convince him she’s not going to try anything funny.
“Do you have a car?” Landis asks.
The secretary nods again, a little faster. “Outside.”
Her voice is steady and quiet. Landis lets out a breath he didn’t realize he had been holding in, and holds the letter opener away from her throat. The siren from before is closer, now, and through the glass front doors he can see flashing lights approaching from down the road. Mal is outside the doors too, waiting for him.
“Take me to it,” Landis says, trying very carefully not to trip over any words. Forming them in his mouth feels laborious, his injured tongue adding an extra level of effort to every syllable. “I need you…to drive.”
“Okay,” the secretary says.
She reaches inside her desk - slowly, so that Landis can see what she’s doing - and takes out a set of keys. Then, she stands and starts to walk towards the front doors, giving Landis more than enough time to keep up, and not particularly seeming to mind the blade at her throat. Landis can feel every one of his muscles tensing, his breath coming in quick gasps, his whole body getting ready to run if the secretary starts screaming or trying to escape the moment they get outside.
But she doesn’t - she leads Landis calmly to an old station wagon with flaking paint parked just outside the building, and fumbles her keys around in the lock on the door until she gets it open.
“Are you sure you don’t want to drive?” She asks.
Landis blinks at her, opening and closing his mouth soundlessly before shutting it and shaking his head. He tries the passenger door, and finds it unlocked for him.
“Suit yourself,” the secretary says, watching him slide into the station wagon. “But you have to give me directions, so don’t you dare go passing out on me. There’s tissues in the glove box if you want to clean up some.”
Landis slumps wordlessly back into the car seat as they pull out of the parking lot. The ambulance, the one he’s supposed to be waiting for still, turns in just as they’re turning out, its flashing lights making him blink hard and turn away from the window.
“May as well be on a first name basis if you’re kidnapping me,” the secretary says off-handedly, cranking the radio up a few notches and flooding the station wagon with Dave Matthews Band. “I’m Grace. You must be the guy Tab and Ickett brought in earlier - Landon? Lyndon?”
“Landis,” he says softly, squeezing his eyes shut. He almost regrets not going with the paramedics.