Only the rising of smoke, no falling debris. A businesswoman clitter-clattered past her, too frightened to think to kick off her heels before fleeing. Other people dashed about, while some clustered together on the ground; first aiders tending to the wounded.
What was it? Bomb? Accident? Runaway car? She needed to know. Sadie moved forward, her hands clutched in front of her. Her boss would ask, her friends would ask.... he would demand. She needed--
Her feet slowed. So many people lying about, especially closer to the building that... what? exploded? was attacked? Who knew? Probably no one would know, at least, not for some time.
No one would know. A newswoman's voice spoke in the back of her head: "The death toll rose today as emergency workers struggled to find any more survivors of today's disaster..."
Some disasters were quick, and needed immediate action. Others, like her marriage, were slow, and required planning.
She'd planned. Dani had helped her, had even volunteered to keep Sadie's Safe Bag in her bike locker under her apartment building. Dani had put a combination lock on there, so Sadie would never have a key confiscated from her.
He'd driven her into work, dropped her off right at the front door, then drove away after she'd gone inside. Sadie had come out at lunchtime, for she'd once found five dollars in the lobby. Instead of adding it to the FU Fund, she'd kept it for a time when she needed reminding that life could be so much more than the brown paper bag lunch he watched her make that morning. Sheer coincidence she was outside when a sudden disaster struck. Her coworkers would innocently explain this to the police, who would then explain it to him.
And what could he do? Nothing. He would never know she'd taken advantage of a sudden disaster to escape a slow one. Perhaps he would have no reason to consider finding her.
Dani would know, when she discovered the locker empty. As tempted as she was, Sadie left no note.
She had to leave quickly. Everyone's focus would be on the disaster for the next day or so. Public transport out of town, to the farthest suburb, then maybe a bus to somewhere else. Jersey? Too close. Arizona? Dunno. Maybe up to Canada on her way to Alaska? Work a few cash-only jobs, then head off overseas.
No rush. By the time someone thought to inquire after her, she'd be well and truly away.
And this was how the rest of her life would play out: Identity theft.
Dani came up with this one. Sadie didn't ask how, but Dani acquired an identity for her, birth certificate, passport, and more. These she'd hold on to for later.
Several months after fleeing, Sadie would get several credit cards in her original name, rack up ridiculous bills, get "caught", let them discover her "original identity", and get prosecuted for it. If she balanced it right, a misdemeanor, with some jail time. (He couldn't get her while she was in jail.) Released on good behaviour, tap into the system for help in rehabilitation back into society, then attempt to live out the rest of her life under her new identity as some waitress in some small city.
Sadie coughed through the cloud of dust. The sounds of sirens pierced through the dust. Help had arrived. Police officers pushed her back, telling her to get off the street, to go inside.
She would never return to her office, daily haven that it was. 26-33-19. That was the combination of Dani's lock. New clothes, new papers, new life awaited her.
Her Grace would like you to know that any connection between this story and any recent disasters is purely coincidental. She wrote this story many months ago and scheduled it for today, as the time was too sensitive to post this earlier. Be well.