“Wait!” Shay yelled desperately. “I’m your teammate! You love me! Don’t do this to me! Mirabelle, wait, hold on! Come back for me! Come back! You can’t pull this off without me! You fucking need me, you clown! You rat! You fucking fool!”
She heard the engine on Mirabelle’s SUV rev up and paused in her screaming to listen in on the sound of tires over dirt. The headlights passed momentarily through the windows, and then she was gone. Shay sighed, alone in that dusty room. Admittedly, she didn’t think she’d start her day out being kidnapped, locked away, and labeled a hostage. A hostage for her girlfriend’s murderous, loving, crazily unpredictable friends – yeah, that was gonna work out great.
Tentatively, she strained against all the chains around her body and found they were wound tight against her. She could barely move her hands, still behind her back, which meant that she couldn’t attempt escape or itch her nose. She even flexed her muscles Hulk style and still got nowhere, and in that defeat decided the best option would be to just start crying again. These were pretty stressful times, after all, she thought she had the right.
So for about ten minutes she screamed and bawled and sobbed, and finally when she was done sniffled, tried and failed to wipe her face, then looked again to see how she could get the hell out of there. She loved Mirabelle and the girls, she really did, but she wasn’t going to be a pawn in a scheme they created without her. No, her patience with all of them could only go so far, and maybe it was Candy’s influence, but it had hit the limit. She just had no idea what to do once she escaped. Should she run to Candy with the knowledge she might be angry enough to dismiss their little peace treaty? Should she hide herself away knowing those idiots were probably going to fail miserably in their heist and all get arrested? She sighed and looked around the empty room until she spotted the massive spider sitting in the corner.
“You better not come anywhere near me.” She muttered, and the spider twitched a hairy leg. “Fucker.”
There was no use worrying about what to do until she’d actually freed herself. She looked at the web of chains around her: they were solid, but the chair was old and rickety, so if she could break that she might be able to untangle herself a little. If she weren’t chained to the floor she could rock back and smash the chair to smithereens, but she couldn’t move enough to get the momentum. Upon closer inspection, however, she found the floor to be weak too from years and years of humidity, and stomped next to the little screw that held her in place. Nothing happened, but she bet she could change that.
She stomped, stomped, and stomped again. Her knee could barely raise an inch, but she just kept at it until eventually she saw the wood begin to splinter, Beatrix Kiddo style. It had become light enough outside to see the old pine and the cloud of dust she was producing clearly, and after another splinter came loose she grinned. After a few more minutes of stomping she produced a large dent around the screw, and finally on her last stop cleaved a chunk of the floor right out and separated that screw from the ground. Triumphantly she cheered, bounced back, and slammed against the floor.
The chair didn’t break. She swore to herself – she was still trapped, but now on the floor where she got a perfect upside down view of the spider that was now lazily making its way down the wall.
“Ew, ew, ew.” She whispered to herself and wriggled around. Her legs were loose, but not her arms so she couldn’t push herself up. She kicked and flailed until she was on her side, then got to her knees, then struggled to her feet, squatted though she was.
“This time.” She vowed through deep breaths, then threw herself backwards onto the floor. She heard a crack and rejoiced, but found herself still immobile. After inspection she realized the flooring had cracked but the damn chair was still intact.
“What is this thing made of?” She griped. The spider made it to the floor and stood there a moment, undoubtedly staring right at her. “Stay right there, man. Don’t even think about moving.”
She got back onto her side, then her knees, then stooped with her chair. She didn’t want to try bashing out of it against the floor again: she didn’t know what was beneath the planks and didn’t want to get stuck if she fell through. With a quick nod towards that ugly bastard of a spider, she smashed the door down with the battery ram she was attached to and slammed herself down onto the dirt. This time she felt the chair shatter, and she shook it off herself and arduously untangled all the chains until she was only left with handcuffs. They were pretty solid, a pair the fed had likely given her boss, but she had to at least try and break them.
Across the small clearing in front of the shack there was a willow tree drowning in Spanish moss, so she walked over to it and ducked underneath its wispy leaves only to be immediately hit in the face with a spider web. She spat impatiently and stepped over to a thick branch, which she grabbed with difficulty and climbed up to. When she perched on top of it she leaned her back against the trunk and thought a moment, then crouched and scooted her way to the end of the branch and did some tried and true stomping. Leaves and smaller branches fell away to the ground below until finally she had one main branch to slide her handcuffs around.
She threaded the cuffs around the branch and shuffled her way back towards the trunk, where the tree could support her. Then she grabbed the little chain tight – one slip-up and she’d snap both her wrists – and with a deep breath she flung herself off the branch. Nothing happened, except she was now dangling three inches off the ground from a pair of unbroken cuffs.
“Well now what?” She asked, and a massive orange grasshopper crawled brazenly down her arm. She remembered learning about these things in grade school – a local equivalent to poison frogs, she was pretty sure she didn’t want a toxic little beastie on her arm even if she’d have to eat it to fall ill (and she was certainly not eating it). She wriggled uselessly and watched it not budge an inch, then groaned. “I am not equipped for this. I’m from the suburbs!”
Still hanging from the branch, she carefully moved to grip it instead of the chain between her wrists, then moved to hug it and scoot her way to the end of the branch to untangle herself. It was slow and awkward goings, but it seemed she’d succeed until she heard a crack and went tumbling to the ground. With a screech she lost her footing and tumbled backwards until she landed with a splash into some slimy green, foul smelling, piss warm swamp water.
“Arrgh!” She approximately said. When she sat up algae clung to the hair that curtained her face. “Fuck nature!”
She moved her hair out of her eyes with a still handcuffed pair of hands and looked around her vibrant green settings a moment – the water was shallow here, its surface dancing with mosquitos as ripples displaced whatever chunks of larvae and rotting leaves had been floating there. When her eyes adjusted to the small amount of light that could filter through tight, leafy trees, she spotted the coup de grâce of the day, and this was a day that involved being drugged and kidnapped. An alligator’s weird, long head poked out of the water and looked at her with tiny, beady, judgmental eyes just a few feet away from her. She narrowed her own.
“I am not being chased by an alligator today.” She said to it. She was the only one of her gang from the suburbs, which meant she’d actually had experience with alligators before – they used to sun themselves in people’s yards and walk down the road as though insulted by everyone else’s presence. With the whole destruction of swampland thing she assumed that was fair, but she was not going to be one of those idiots that got too close for a picture and realized too late how fast these dinosaurs move, no sir.
Three baby alligators poked their heads out of the water to give her curious looks. A fourth crawled up its mother’s back, and it appeared that she’d just dropped into a new mother’s nest.
“I guess I’m running now.” She said far more calmly than she felt, then hauled ass out of the water and ran. She didn’t have to guess if the alligator was following her – she heard her heavy, awkward footsteps as she ran across the clearing and down the narrow dirt road. She ran as hard and fast as she could down the road long after she heard the alligator’s lurching, oddball steps fade away with disinterest: she had to get the hell out of there, out of all this awful nature and back to her city so she could save Mirabelle’s ass.
She arrived back onto the main road and sprinted down the straight line of asphalt for several achy, sweaty minutes. There was no way she could have made it on time, or even by the end of the day, if she had to run this whole thing. But somewhere down the line there was a tourist trap or two that likely had more than a few parked cars for her to choose from. So she ran, her black sneakers a blur against the pavement, the hot and humid air stale in her lungs, her thoughts on Candy and Drew and stupid Mirabelle with every step she took, every jolt that shot through her strained muscles.
She got lucky. Headlights appeared in the distance, then the heat-wavy shape of an old pickup, and she stood in the middle of the road to wave her arms awkwardly in the cuffs as she caught her breath. When the car slowed in front of her and she peered through the windshield, the driver was who she thought he would be. The Miccosukee tribe had what they called an ‘Indian Village’ along the road that she and Mirabelle had undoubtedly passed when she was knocked out — it was mostly for tourists and educational purposes, with a gift shop and airboat rides, and the serious looking Native American man likely came from that area. As he came to a stop she thought back to this morning, to screaming at Mirabelle, begging her not to leave. She thought of both Drew and Solana, young and pretty and innocent looking, but both watched by an officer when they were hospitalized for gruesome injuries. It seemed that in the department of convincing people they didn’t have many wins as of late. The door to the car opened and a middle aged but relatively fit man stepped out, a gun holstered to his hip.
“Is this one of those gang tricks? Luring robbery victims with a lost little girl?” He asked with his hand near his pistol grip, and Shay chose honesty.
“No, but I am in a gang.” He looked too surprised to shoot her on sight. “Listen, my boss kidnapped me and dumped me in a little shack in the woods and I escaped and I need a ride back to the city so I can stop her from stealing a cruise ship, failing miserably, getting arrested, and possibly killing or banishing my girlfriend and her friends that I sort of somehow like. So I’m going to steal your car now.”
He stared at her for a long time. Some of that staring was aimed at her handcuffs. Finally, he brought a palm to his face.
“Mirabelle Bravo, huh?” He asked through his hand, and she made an incredulous sound that was either a laugh or a sob. He pulled his hand away to look down at her scrupulously. “Stand to the side here. Like that. Hold your arms far away from you.”
He pulled out his gun, and though Shay flinched he pointed it at her handcuffs without hesitation. She supposed he could have turned and shot her in the gut quite easily, but the familiar weariness that came to him when he said Mirabelle’s name made her trust him, so she outstretched her hands enough that he could get a view of the chain that linked them, and he took his shot. The cuffs snapped cleanly and her hands were finally separated.
“Thanks.” She said as he tucked his gun away, then grew sympathetic. “Any way I can get a ride?”
“To the city? Where you’ll chase down an outlaw in the middle of some grand scheme?” He quirked his brow in an ‘obviously not’ type gesture. Shay didn’t shrink down. “The only way I don’t get fired involves you stealing this car and this gun and racing back on your own.”
“I’m not stealing your gun. There’s gators out here.”
“You think I can’t handle a gator?” He asked sagely, and she smiled briefly, took a step closer, and punched him hard and clear across the face.
“Help with the cover story.” She said, and though his face was turned away from the force she could see a smile play across his lips. “Give me the gun.”
“Try not to kill me.” He said, and handed it over. She didn’t and instead headed back to the truck, where the key was still in the ignition.
“What’s your name?” She called as she climbed in. “I can give Mirabelle your regards.”
“Please don’t.” He said, and she laughed, slammed the door, and revved the engine. She had a feeling his was a not uncommon story in this town, though it may have explained how Mirabelle got that little shack she’d locked her in. The truck was so old there was no clock on the dash or the radio, but she knew she was running low on time: Mirabelle had more than likely already stolen the helicopter on her own by now, and Inez and Drew were probably on their way to the ship. She turned it around and sped off unconcerned with speed limits. Cruising at ninety, she and the pickup flew down the arrow straight road, past the Indian village, past a few more tourist sites. Into the city, then right through it. She needed to stop Mirabelle.
The sun was too high already as she sailed down 84 and into the city, and it wasn’t long before she hit the morning commute. If Mirabelle wasn’t on that boat yet, she was about to be. Part of her thought to find Candy and ask for help stopping her, but she knew dragging her and likely the rest of her gang in would do far more harm than good. She didn’t have time to run up to Little Haiti anyway, not when she was driving down to Port Miami. Stuck in traffic, all she could do was grip the wheel, grit her teeth, and catch sight of the gun glinting in the cupholder.
At some point the traffic ebbed and she was able to get closer to the marina, but her hopes for an easy rescue were quickly diminishing. A police chopper flew overhead, and when she neared the general entrance to the parking lot she saw flashes of red and blue in the distance. There were officers at the toll booth, but cars were still being let in, likely to avoid a traffic nightmare. She got in line with the rest of them, and when she neared the booth spotted someone in the driver’s seat handing an officer their passport and a few pieces of paper. She stashed the gun behind her back and took a deep breath.
“Which ship are you heading to today, miss?” An officer asked as she approached. When she answered the Commodus, he frowned. “I’m afraid there’s been a situation. We’re not letting anyone board at this time, but you can wait in the terminal.”
“For how long? Are you close to catching them?” He gave her a shrewd look. “I assume there’s a bad guy if the police are here, I mean.”
“I really couldn’t tell you.” He said in a way that conveyed lack of knowledge more than authority. “If I could just get a look at your ticket and passport I can let you through to the Grand Terminal.”
“I bet it’s crowded.” She said with hopefully not too much hesitation. “And I don’t know how long it’ll be. I’ll just turn around, I live nearby.”
“You sure?” He asked, and when she nodded he seemed to buy it. “Okay, pass through.”
He let the little red and white striped gate up and let her pass, and she watched him raise a walkie-talkie to his mouth as she creeped forward. Doubtless he was letting what seemed to be three or four more patrolmen just past the gate know that she was about to turn through the exit. It was just so unfortunate for them that they hadn’t barricaded the area one bit — she slammed the gas pedal and flew past the two patrol cars sitting there. The parking lot was full, what with so many ships going out and likely all delayed, but she moved through as quickly as she safely could to the half that wasn’t loaded with civilian cars, where red and blue flashed off the squad cars that surrounded SWAT vans, firetrucks, ambulances, and black town cars.
The Commodus cruise ship loomed over the crowd of cars and cops below, and Shay thought for a moment that maybe Mirabelle wouldn’t have been able to steal that thing even with a fourth girl. She wasn’t even sure what she was doing there now: it was too late to stop Mirabelle, and she was endangering herself to an insane degree just to confront her. Or help her? Or just get her the hell off of this thing. Whatever kept her team safe and alive another day. She approached the crowd and saw a few officers on the perimeter raise their weapons. No one fired, but she could tell they were taking small groups of passengers out from the cargo bay doors, which meant at least some officers were in. Her stomach lurched — wasn’t Drew meant to be down there defending the ship?
“Hey!” An officer yelled as he came her way. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
She being always so thoughtful, always so careful with her work, knew there was little she could say to this man without getting dragged to a precinct for questioning. But she also knew that if there were town cars around it either meant government officials or secret agents like their own friend, and this site was too dangerous for the former. It seemed there was someone in this crowd she could appeal to — appeal to her, then appeal to Mirabelle. She made sure the gun was tucked in the back of her leggings, then hopped up and sat in the truck’s open window.
“Agent!” She screamed at the top of her lungs. “Agent!”
When she wasn’t shot on sight she had to assume the mysterious woman was somewhere nearby, listening.
“I came here to stop her! Let me pass!” She yelled. There was a long pause as she mentally rifled through the crowd for a glimpse of a navy FBI jacket or a wisp of black hair. She saw nothing and desperately called out again: “Please! I can end this!”
The ship suddenly shuddered, then began to pull away from the dock. Somehow, against all odds, Mirabelle was doing it. Shay suddenly felt very out in the open, and dropped back into the truck just as she heard a shot. She swore to herself, put it back in drive, and checked her options. The ramp was still lined up with the edge of the dock, but she didn’t have the straightest route to it. With a groan, she slammed the gas pedal and moved forward. The cop who’d yelled at her rolled against her windshield and off to the side, cracking it, and someone (maybe herself) screamed as she surged onward. She hit the corner of an armored SWAT truck and basically bounced off of it — after barely a moment’s pause she readjusted and drove onwards, towards the ramp.
As she came closer she saw a small gap starting to grow between the ramp and the concrete and floored it. It was growing bigger and bigger as Mirabelle pulled away from the dock, but she was moving fast. Shots fired all around her; a side-view mirror shattered, then the rear windshield. She ducked her head and shrieked when another bullet pinged against her door, and another flattened a tire. Her already cracked windshield disintegrated before her eyes. Her truck met the end of the pier, and she could only hope the front tires would soon meet the end of the ramp.
She almost made it.