The first time I met Franco, I was on a trip visiting some old friends. It had been years since I last saw Lenore and Jeremy, and we were overdue for a good time. With them, I laughed more, smiled more. So, I took the first chance I got to go see them at Carden University.
Fancy place, this university. With open spaces, large glass windows and doors, the largest sunroof I’d ever seen, Carden U was a modern palace. More of an expensive hotel than a school.
Both Lenore and Jeremy were still in class when I arrived, so I hung out in the lobby until I got bored. The huge building begged to be explored. I found a kitchen, where I stole someone’s chocolate cake balls from the freezer. Delicious. I’m sure they won’t notice.
I tried to make it look like they hadn’t been touched, and had almost finished when I heard a muffled scream coming from the hall.
It came from a young man, my age, maybe younger. The three goons beating him were mammoths, and I could hardly make out a face under the bloodied lumps of flesh. They dragged him down an empty hall while one of them stuffed something in the boy’s mouth.
How was no one else witnessing this? And what could I do? I’m a small girl, and those men were triple or four times my size. I had to come up with something, though.
I followed them down the hall, hiding in doorways and behind statues. This place has way too many statues. The men managed to find the only set of halls without windows—which worked to my benefit.
In the dark, I trailed them to a basement full of stacked boxes, still unsure how exactly I could help. I had no weapons other than a small knife and key chain mace, my combat skills were okay at best—according to my self-defense teacher—and these men were clearly professionals. They all wore suits and carried guns, and they were definitely not nice guys. I had to intervene before they killed the kid, which was clearly their goal.
One of the goons with a red tie yelled, “You’re dead, Frank!”
I’ve always had a tendency for getting into trouble wherever I went. You would think that after all of the scrapes I got myself into, I’d be a bit smarter when it came to dealing with dangerous situations. I wasn’t. Sure, sometimes, I formulated a plan in advance. But it’s more fun to make up the steps as I go. Maybe not the wisest way to get things done, but things do get done.
This was one of those times. Besides, I still wanted to see my friends. The goons tied up their victim, preparing to execute him. Now or never, I had to act.
The white recessed lighting reflected from a glass casing about five feet away. The fire alarm! I dialed 911 on my cell and slid it under some nearby crates, crawled to the alarm, and flipped the switch.
“What the hell?”
Two goons ran toward me, but they couldn’t see me behind a stack boxes and barrels. That wouldn’t last long. Blue Tie and Yellow Tie were already close. I needed to move. Fast.
About ten feet to my left a ladder leaned against a huge, black pipe. I needed to climb up, knock it down, and run across the big pipe. That would leave me right above Red Tie and his victim.
How could I get to the later with those two goons closing in? An idea… Funny things, boxes. They can only be stacked so high before they topple over. These boxes were due for a tumble. I pushed as hard as I could and bolted.
The goons stumbled over the collapsed boxes, reaching for their now visible prey. I reached the top of the ladder with easy speed. I’ve had tons of practice climbing. My luck was limited, as I found the top of the ladder nailed to the pipe. Yellow Tie was already halfway up with Blue right behind.
I ran down the wide pipe, glad for my minuscule size. When Yellow reached the top, I whipped out my mace and sprayed until he crashed backwards, taking Blue down with him.
Red Tie shot at me as I ran across the pipe, my shoes in hand. Steam bursts from the pipes and filled the room. Nothing could be seen or heard over the screams, gun shots, hissing steam, and the alarm.
By the time I reached Red and his unconscious victim, the other two had followed me onto the pipe.
I guess I’ll play this one by ear. Why not? It’s only my life at stake.
A wise girl would get away from the goons attempting to kill her. They surrounded me, two on the pipe and one below. Yellow wiped at his eyes, and they were out of bullets, but they still had the advantage. The goons each held a knife twice as big as my own.
I hooked my heels onto my belt and laid down flat. Steam and smoke blinded all of us. I slid around the pipe, holding on to the grip bars on the sides.
Okay, genius, what do I do now? The goons could no longer see me, I knew that. I also knew that the best way to get out of this was to incapacitate all three of them while I released their victim. Easy.
I grabbed one of my shoes and used it to trip Yellow as he walked above me. He stumbled, grabbed his friend, and fell right on top of Red. This guy fell twice, he’s totally not going to have a job after this.
They scrambled to stand and I dropped down, wrapped my shirt around my face and sprayed the whole lot down. They coughed and sputtered and cursed, but couldn’t untangle from one another.
I cut the young man’s ropes as the goon squad choked in a pile of limbs. I shook him until he woke and pulled him to his feet. The poor kid could barely stand. Trying to get him to run wouldn’t work.
We needed another solution. A dolly used for moving crates waited nearby. Why not? I dragged the boy to the dolly, and started pushing toward the delivery doors. The goons still struggled in their mace cloud, and I knocked down more stacks around them on the way to the exit. Through the doors went the dolly and the boy; I bolted them shut and ran back to the stairs.
Red Tie barreled towards me. No problem, he’s just a very large man full of rage. I’ve outrun those before. A bright green fire extinguisher hung right by the stairwell. That works, too.
I bolted to the stairs and grabbed the canister. I ran up and sprayed the stairs behind me every few steps. That should slow him down.
The can sputtered empty halfway up. Red slipped on the stairs and I chucked the extinguisher at his head.
I darted the rest of the way, knowing that if he caught me in this empty stairwell, I wouldn’t make it out alive. Up the stairs and out the first door into a more crowded area.
At the end of the hall, an elevator waited—and an idea. I could hear the goons grunting their way through the foam, and geez, did they sound angry. I sprinted to the elevator screaming, “Hold the door!”
Those people would probably regret doing that, but I had no time to worry about who would like me or not. I hopped into the car and the ‘door close’ button, pulled the emergency stop, and hit the alarm. Before the doors closed, I jumped out and ran into a crowded hallway, one practically made of windows.
The authorities could take care of the rest. I found my way back to the kitchen where I’d left my overnight bag, grabbed it, and slipped into the bathroom.
By the time I’d changed, fixed my hair and makeup, and cursed the goons for scuffing my new shoes, police and firefighters swarmed the campus. The phone I’d left was a burner. The alarms made it so that a large enough squad had shown up, blocking all exits. Those men weren’t getting away.
I learned later that the goons had disabled the camera system before entering, so there was nothing linking me to the scene. Nothing but my calling card, a plain white card with a K in the center.
Lenore and Jeremy waited in the lobby.
Lenore hugged me. “You’re late, Kres.” I was ten minutes early.
“I’ve been here fifteen minutes, at least,” I replied with a smile. The cops blocked all exits, so we sat for lunch in the lobby. And I had a tale to tell.