The three leering kidnappers, evil intent on their minds, saunter toward Amy Lindsay.
Amy shifts in her Porsche, chaffing at the limited mobility of the handcuffs securing her to the steering wheel. Just a little more … Yes! She squeezes the door’s release latch, disengaging it, but not opening it. She sets her foot flat against the door, ready to kick it into the men, as they come into range. A long shot, and she has to move fast, but with a bit of luck she can incapacitate all three men, and perhaps grab – .
A gunshot rings out, startling her.
Even more startled is one of the approaching men; the middle of the trio. A puzzled expression wipes the leer from his face. He spits a trickle of blood, then, coughs up a red flood and topples like a felled tree, hitting the road and sending up spirals of dust. Beyond him, the first kidnapper shots in the middle of the argument, totters on his knees, a red stain growing on his chest and a smoking .38 clutched in his wavering hand.
The other two kidnappers straighten from their instinctive duck and spin to face the shooter. The man that did the original shooting claws at the pistol now shoved in his belt, struggling a moment before clearing it. That instant of delay gives the wounded kidnapper time to steady his aim and fire. Two shots explodes as one. Both men hit the dirt, still.
The remaining kidnapper freezes, stunned. But, only for a moment! He dives for the pistol that has twirled off into the ditch and whirled to train it on Amy. Seeing her still handcuffed and in the car, he relaxes. A bit!
In Spanish, he told Amy, “I would not have let them rape you, Amy Lindsay” with an earnestness that made her believe him, though he pronounced her name: Ah-ma Lin-say.
Keeping Amy covered, he edges away to check the bodies. From the leader, he forages through the pockets for the handcuff keys. He retrieves the .38 and tucks it into his belt, he stops ten feet from the Porsche, and tosses Amy the keys.
In Spanish, he orders her to release herself from the wheel, then, reattaches the cuffs to her wrists. When she pretends not to understand his pantomime, he pointed the gun at her to emphasize his point. Amy does as instructed, pretending to fumble with the keys and taking her time. She glances at the dashboard clock.
Rescue is at least seven minutes away.
She finishes locking her second wrist and tosses the keys to the kidnapper. He did not see the danger of letting her hands be cuffed in front of her body, as she hoped. He steps back and waves her to exit it the car. She stops out, staying slumped and huddled to give the impression of helplessness.
The trill of a cell phone fills the still air.
Amy recognizes her generic ring tone, coming from the dead leader. The startled kidnapper turns toward the sound. Though, he quickly realizes the mistake of taking his eyes off her, it’s the split second Amy needs. Her lithe body hampered only slightly by the cuffs, she delivers a perfectly timed spin kick that snaps the kidnapper’s wrist and sends the pistol flying. The man yelps and falls to his knee as he grabs his wrist. Amy’s second kick leaves him face down in the ditch.
Amy finds the keys to the cuffs, frees herself, and places the cuffs on the unconscious kidnapper. Her phone stops trilling by the time she retrieves it. A costume shop voicemail message acknowledges receipt of her payment for the ‘unusual rips and tears’ suffers by the Catwoman outfit she rented for a New Year’s Eve party.
A Chinook helicopter thunders over the small rise to hover over her before can punch in a call to HQ. Repelling lines spill out of an open hatch. Amy flashes the requisite ‘all clear’ hand signal, and the lines snake back into the ‘copter, as it eases away to find a landing pad.
The thunder of the chopper faded choking sounds makes Amy spin. And freeze! The last kidnapper regains consciousness and works the cuffs from behind his back. Exhibiting contortionist-like skill, he grasps his hands behind his head, so that the cuff’s chain tears into his neck, almost disappearing into him. Amy leaps forward to pry the hands apart. Before she could grasp the man’s wrists, he fell limp.
” … never regained consciousness, then?” Authority asks into his phone headset. From her seat across the sparse, uncluttered desk in the dimly-lit office, Amy can barely make out the shadowed profile of the mysterious man who runs H.O.T.B.A.B.E. “All right, keep me posted.” He tears off the headset and bounces it on the desktop.
“I take it we’re a long way from figuring this one out?” Amy asks.
“A very long way. We have their vehicles, and the weapons, but they’ve been sanitized. Tracing them will take time.”
“Which we don’t have?”
Authority sighes heavily. “I would really like to know as soon as possible who has the kind of influence over their people that one would find such an inventive and gruesome way to strangle himself, with a broken wrist, just to keep from being arrested and questioned.”
“So would I, seeing it was me they were trying to kill, or kidnap, or whatever.”
“We’re going over the cases you’ve worked. You’re still pretty deep undercover with us here at B.A.B.E.”
“Acting can be a cut throat business at times, but I don’t think I irritated anyone in the business enough to want me dead.”
Authority waves his hand dismissively and shakes his head. “Of course not. It may, or may not, be a question of someone coming after you personally.”
In the brief silence that follows, the implication hits Amy. Even if she were just a target of opportunity, this means a leak in the organization!
“And I don’t like this coming just hours after what happened to Bobby Chung,” Authority continues.
Amy recalls Bobby’s cryptic dying clue about the Mexican border; the kidnappers had spoken Spanish. “Could there be a connection? What was he working on?”
“He wasn’t one of our regulars,” Authority explains. “He was involved in a joint effort we were working on with the I.N.S.”
“An Immigration investigation working out of a Chinese restaurant?” Even before Authority answers the question, Amy understands. With the Chi-Coms getting cozy with every terrorist group in the Middle East, not to mention ‘legitimate’ anti-Western governments, a closer eye needs be kept on the Asian illegals coming across the Pacific.
“Chung’s clue about the Mexican border fits right in, especially since the Panama Canal is practically owned by the Chinese, and they run illegals up from there and through Mexico all the time. Not just Hispanics, but Chinese, and unfriendly Arabs.”
Amy snaps her fingers. “That’s it. That’s what’s been nagging at me. The Spanish accents of the kidnappers. Not Mexican. More Central, South American.”
“Are you sure?”
Authority’s expression sours at that revelation. “That’s fast work, if someone’s already after you because of this Chung business. Don’t like it.”
“Can’t say I’m too happy about it myself.” The image of Bobby Chung’s rigid face and bulging eyes fills her mind. “Have they found out what killed him?”
“It was too exotic for our little lab,” Authority replies. “Damn budget cuts. We farmed it out to your friends at the Alcomist Club.” In the darkness, he activates the small light in his watch. “You’ll be meeting Genius there in two hours. He’ll brief you.”
Amy smiles. “Sometimes I think the only reason you recruited me was because I’ve got the smartest fan club in the world.”
Even through the shadows Amy can make out Authority’s smile. “You brought a few positive … qualities … of your own.”
The damage to her Porsche is minimal, and HQ’s resident mechanical expert, Cue, can have it running smoothly enough for Amy to drive it to her meeting with Genius at the Alcomist Club.
The Alcomist Club is a ‘gentleman’s retreat’ formed by members of Amy’s fan club. Housed in a renovated Victorian mansion on Sunset Boulevard, it networks with similar clubs, the world over, linking it instantly with experts on every conceivable subject, and makes it a valued resource for H.O.T.B.A.B.E.
As usual, the moment Amy enters the lounge, someone cries out “OBG in the House!”, and the dozen or so members currently in attendance drops what they’re doing, stands, places their right hands over their hearts, and recites:
Amy Lindsay, Our Blonde Goddess
Of all Creation she is hottest
We love to see her at the beach
To watch her walk on water
But mess with her and incur our wrath
For to us she is like a daughter
(And we don’t mean in that weird Woody Allen kind of way)
“You guys,” she laughs. “Where’s Genius?”
As the members settle back down to the business of reading, card playing, or just dozing, Artist tosses a thumb over his shoulder at a side door leading to a small conference room. “And from what I heard about the information he’s got, you’re going to have to pay. Big Time.”
“Oh great,” Amy murmurs as she heads for the door. Genius always demands very unique forms of payment.
Genius, the short, stocky, be-speckled founder of the Alcomist Club, stands from the other end of the conference table, as she enters. A wide grin splits his bearded face.
Amy raises a quieting hand. “You don’t have to say a word,” she says. “I know what this is going to cost me. I’ve come prepared.”
Tongue flicking across his lips, Genius leans forward in eager anticipation, as Amy gives in to the inevitable and reaches for the top button of her blouse.
TO BE CONTINUED!