So, Julie was awake, and what great timing. What would happen first? Would her friends notice that it hadn’t been her shouting back, or would Julie manage to take off her gag?
It’s days like that that made me want to get out of bed in the morning.
“Time to move,” Travis said, “grab her keys, and get us out of here.”
I looked down at the door. It had a key, and a dial—like on a combination lock or a safe.
That explained all the clicks when she’d opened the door.
“Not that simple,” I told him. “I don’t know the door’s combination.”
“Combination?” His mouth twisted, probably in frustration. “You’ve got Julie, right? Make her tell you.”
I looked at Julie. She didn’t say anything.
It was hard to tell through the gag, but it looked like she was smiling. Worse, all she had to do was stall. She could even pretend to cooperate. I wasn’t going to remove her gag, so we’d have to play twenty questions or she’d have to mime it. Either way, I’d bet the Blues would be coming down the stairway before she finished.
“Not that simple,” I said, and tried to think about what I could do. I could have asked Travis to rip the door out. It might have worked—or made the room explode.
I spied Julie’s suit jacket. It had a gun in the pocket, a small one with arabic writing on the side. I’d seen it when I cut her shirt sleeves off, but hadn’t grabbed it because there hadn’t been much of a point.
I picked it up, ejected the magazine, and checked the barrel from the back. It had a full magazine plus one in the chamber.
I pointed it at her. “Julie, I know you’re planning to stall, so let me tell you why you won’t. If they come down here, I’ve got your gun, and if we get into a firefight, everything’s going to blow up. The gas cans won’t need much to go off—just one good ricochet. So you know what you need to do? Help me with the combination. I’m going to start now. Nod if I need to start with the key. Shake your head for the dial.”
She didn’t move at all.
Crap. How far was I going to go? I wasn’t going to threaten anything I wasn’t willing to do. That left out killing no matter how much she deserved it.
From the stairs, a man’s voice shouted, “Are you close?”
“Working on it!” They weren’t going to believe me for long—if they still did. Except for being female and twenty-something, I didn’t sound that much like Julie.
I needed to get at this from another angle.
Samita and Rod had both come to the door, and stood on either side of Travis. Tara stood behind them.
“What do you need to make a protective circle?”
Samita’s brow furrowed, and then she said, “Anything I can write with.” Then she glared at Rod. “Not pee.”
He shrugged. “That was a joke—mostly, but ink’s liquid. It could work.”
Ignoring him, Sam turned back toward me. “I’ve got everything I need in my coat. Where did she put it?”
It was my turn to shrug. “Don’t know, but I’ve got your rings. She was wearing them.” I’d taken them off when I’d tied her hands.
I reached through the door, and handed the rings over. I made my hand and the rings solid, feeling the touch of Samita’s fingers as she scooped the rings up.
“She was wearing both of them?” Samita sounded shocked.
“Is that bad?” I asked.
“It’s complicated,” she said, “but it shouldn’t work.”
“Give me a second.” I turned invisible and intangible, and flew upwards.
The first level wasn’t much. The windows had been boarded up. Light came in through a couple knotholes. Plus, they hadn’t covered over the very top of the window on the left for some reason. A rectangle of sunlight hit the middle of the room, showing the worn boards and the dust particles in the air. Whatever this shop had sold, they’d left nothing, but bare wooden floor.
I flew toward the back, passing the counter. Even the cash register had been pulled out.
The back held only empty shelves.
I was wasting time. I could have flown up into the second floor, but I doubted Julie would have taken it up there. I had no idea where though.
I decided to get back downstairs, making a quick detour past the side door to see if my guess about who’d been shouting at us was right.
I floated through the wall, and found myself in a hallway that turned into a stairwell at the side door. That wasn’t the good part though. Our stuff was sitting on the floor just to the left of the door—our costumes, cellphones and Samita’s red jacket.
I materialized, and I was about to grab the stuff when the same voice from the outside that I’d been hearing shouted, “We’re coming in!”
Then I heard the sound of boards breaking. The door had been covered with plywood on the outside. On the inside though, it was metal, and it rung with the hit. It even bent a little.
They’d probably blast through in another hit.
They needed a reason to reconsider that plan.
I turned invisible, and intangible, and stuck my head partway out the door. Even the alley felt bright after being in the basement, but it wasn’t so bright that I missed what was going on outside. Seven of the Blues stood in the alley.
The biggest of them stood in the middle of the alley, beginning to run toward the door.
I waited until he was within a couple steps, made myself visible (but transparent) and shouted, “Merry Christmas!”
His eyes widened, and he stumbled, missing the door and hitting the wall to my left. Bits of brick fell where he hit.
Deciding they needed more of a reason to stay back, I pulled out Julie’s gun, and shot the next nearest Blue soldier in the gut.