AK 25 - "Storm Warnings"

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AK 25 - "Storm Warnings"

Postby FSF Sail » Wed Aug 02, 2017 9:48 am

“Holly came from Miami F.L.A.
Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side,
Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side.”


The subway tunnels were hot as hell, despite the breeze from the number 2 Uptown express upon whose ass end she clung. August heat permeated the city, baking the concrete and asphalt as it turned everything metal into a guaranteed second degree burn. And the people were losing their collective sh!t.

The FD was on high alert, chasing hydrants wrenched open to provide some cool-down for kids. Likewise the paramedics and city ambulance services were running double shifts for heat stroke, dehydration, not to mention all the seniors and shut-in’s who were dropping like flies in sweltering apartments.

Crime? F#ck, Amber thought as the train blew through the 103rd Street station at full speed. Domestics were through the goddam roof. Husband clocks wife with bare knuckles. Wife retaliates with big assed kitchen knife, yadda yadda yadda. And the street fights...holy sh!t. Yeah, you got the picture...roving squads of guys or girls who trip over each other on the curb and take it straight to ‘throw down’ mode. But they weren’t the only ones. She’d just separated two women, total ‘business class’ types who tried to claw each other’s eyes out over a friggin’ cab. Amber had to toss a couple punches herself to get them separated, only to hear that they both wanted to go the goddam airport!

And of course, Carl wasn’t making it any better. He skidded off the outer banks of North Carolina as a Category 2. While the tracking models were divided between a last minute swing toward Nova Scotia or a direct hit on the city, the local news channels all went batsh!t. Even Jim Cantore was setting up his Weather Channel cameras on the waterfront. You can imagine all this turned the local bodegas into war zones. You’d be right. “F#ckin’ Carl,” Amber muttered as her train raced north. “Can’t get here fast enough.”

A sudden feeling crept over her, the sensation of being watched. Amber’s gaze lifted, straight into two little pairs of eyes. The kids were Asian, and barely tall enough to look through the glass in the train’s rear door. For a moment, the children and the punk hitchhiker regarded one another, The train gave a slight lurch, and the high pitched keening of it’s brakes announced the upcoming stop. “116th,” Amber gave them a grin. “My stop. Bye!” With a wave, she leapt from the back of the train, her wheels coming squarely down on the third rail housing. Two little hands waved back as the subway drew to a halt.

“Okay,” she reported as the employee stairway deposited her into an alley. “I’m up. Any reports?” The relentless heat had forced students at Metro U to keep their windows open at night, all the incentive required for some perv with basic climbing skills to start assaulting girls. Campus PD wasn’t keeping up, and Metro was stretched way too thin. Tonight, she’d hang outside the dorms.

Lupe’s voice rang through her earbuds. “Nothing from the college. But he messaged you again.”

Amber’s lip curled. “You tell him to f#ck off?”

“Not yet,” the older sister replied. “You might want to see this one.” The display in Amber’s right lens came alive with the message.

We simply must meet, mon Dahlia. There is much to discuss.

The Trainer was stepping up his game. She knew that all of this was just to throw her off balance, probe for a weakness to exploit. But in the end, talking meant he wasn’t disemboweling another kid. She’d keep him on the line. “Send him this,” Amber dictated. “Sounds good. 23rd Precinct, any time. Detective Casey has a room all set.”

Ahead were three dormitories, each bordering one side of an open common area with concrete benches and unmovable sand boxes for ashtrays. Several students lounged on the benches, the cherry glows of cigarettes flaring and ebbing with each drag they took. “Hey,” one chubby silhouette turned toward her. “You’re Amber, right? Seriously cool…”

“You seen anybody,” she asked, “acting strange? Yeah, stupid question, I get it,” she chuckled as some of the others gathered around. “Anybody spending alot of time watching the windows?”

“No...not really,” several voices chimed in unison.

“You guys know how to get me on Twitter, right?”

“Yeah. I follow you!” the pudgy guy exclaimed, as others joined in.

“Cool,” Amber nodded. “Do me a solid. You see somebody...climbing outside, hanging in a hallway...trying doors, anything weird, tweet to me, okay?”

“Aaiight,” another student said as he ground a butt into the concrete. “This ‘bout the creeper, right?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s some f#cked up sh!t,” he said. “I see his ass, I’ll letchoo know.”

Amber lifted a hand toward the tall student. “That’s perfect, thanks. You see this guy, don’t try to mess with him. Get me…”

“Trainer’s messaged you back,” Lupe’s tone was deeply concerned. “You need to see this.”

“Alright,” Amber replied. “Thanks, guys. Gotta bounce.” As she kicked away on her skateboard, her eyes widened at the Trainer’s response.

Allow me to suggest an alternate location

She scrolled to an embedded photo. The background looked familiar, walls in need of paint opening to a fire escape window. In the foreground extended a black clad arm. The gloved hand was balled into a fist, its grip tightened over the collar and scruff of Angela’s dog.

“Mother...f#cker,” Amber swore under her breath as a swell of emotion filled her chest. Alake hung in the invader’s grip. Her mouth was open, teeth bared, one eye turned toward the camera opened wide in terror. Before she could even think, a fresh message appeared onscreen.

No time like the present, if that’s not too inconvenient?

“Tell that a$$hole I’m on my way,” Amber growled. “Call Detective Casey.”

“Carla’s on with her right now,” Lupe said. “She wants to talk to you.”

Amber’s board raced through the darkness to the outskirts of the campus. Angela’s apartment was easily a dozen blocks away. “Put her through,” she said, “and find me the quickest route to her place.”

“Got it.”

A moment later, the echoes of squealing tires and revving engines filled her earbuds. “Angela?” she said after the sound of a slamming car door abruptly ended the noise of the police garage.

“I’m here,” the detective answered. “Carla filled me in. I’m headed home.” Despite the professional calm, Amber heard the dry rasp of fear at the back of her friend’s throat. That sound, and the image of Alake, dangling in a hostile grip, forced an urge to drop her own composure.

“I’m on my way there as well. Listen, wait for me…”

“They’ve got my dog,” Angela replied. “I’m not waiting.”

“Turn left on 114th,” Carla’s voice was low in her ear. “One block to Holland Ave. Make a right.”

“Angela, you know this whole thing is a setup…”

“...Directed at you…”

“Right,” Amber said as she swerved hard into a tight turn. “But they know you’ll come. Don’t go in there without backup.”

“We’re calling Deakins,” Lupe whispered.

“Cool.” Ahead lay Holland Avenue. She’d make a right turn, and then if her memory served, would have twelve blocks to go before hitting Angela’s neighborhood. “Angela, I’m on Holland. Deakins is on his way, too. Give us a few minutes...please!”

“Look behind you,” Carla said.

“What?” Amber turned her gaze back up the street. The black Cadillac wagon was a throwback to the 1960’s. The machine gleamed as it passed beneath a street lamp, before flashing it’s headlights. “Hola, chica!” the driver shouted through the passenger window, “let’s motor!”

“I got you a ride.”

“A hearse?” she asked, dumbfounded.



…………………………………………………………………..

“Fifty-nine…...sixty.” That’s all the time she’d give. With a turn of the fire key, she was inside the foyer of her apartment building. Angela drew her service revolver. The thirty-eight snub was out of style with most detectives, but it was the only gun that had ever felt right in her hand. Now, she held it before her as she raced up the stairs, pausing to make certain each landing was clear.

Her phone buzzed constantly. Probably Amber, or Deakins. No time to answer. As she reached her floor, Angela’s nerves were jangled at the pitiful cries that filtered down the hallway from her open door. She’s alive, the detective thought, as the frightened wailing set her heart to thudding. She halted just outside the door. Lights were out in the apartment, though the half open door didn’t permit much of a view into the living room. After a quick leap across the entrance, Angela prodded the door as her gun and mag-light led the way in. So far, nothing seemed out of place. The furniture was empty. So was Alake’s kennel…

Motion. A silhouette in the window.

The flashlight’s beam landed on a figure dressed entirely in black. Possible male, slight build, maybe five feet six,” her investigative mind set to work finding facts. Caucasian, she noted a thin strip of pale flesh and blue eyes which regarded her from behind the black ski mask. And there, clutched by the scruff, was Alake.

“METRO PD!” she shouted. “FREEZE!”

Alake cried a plaintive response to her human’s voice. Suddenly, she and her captor were gone, her gut wrenching howls echoing from the fire escape as they climbed. As she bolted through the window in pursuit, Angela labored to keep her cool. She’d already made mistakes. Amber was right. She should’ve waited for backup. This was clearly some kind of a staged game. But what’s the purpose? Her reasoning mind fought to retain control as she ran up the rusted metal steps. Apparently, Alake was struggling, slowing the suspect’s escape. She was gaining.

With one flight remaining before the roof, Detective Casey rounded the landing and found herself with a clear shot. The suspect was picking her way over the top wall when from below, Angela roared, “I WILL SHOOT YOU RIGHT NOW! STOP!” This time, the elusive figure obeyed. “TURN AROUND!” she shouted. Slowly, the ninja kidnapper pivoted on the top step. Alake was in her arms, crying to be set loose. “THE DOG!” Angela commanded. “PUT HER DOWN!”

“As you wish,” the assailant rasped. A black arm swung outward, fingers splaying wide as the little terrier was pitched into the void.

“ALAKE!” Angela screamed. She flung herself against the railing, nearly toppling into the abyss. Her flashlight was sent flying, it’s beam strobing upward as it tumbled from the heights. She reached, stretching for all she was worth, only to be rewarded by a brush of fur against two fingertips as Alake plunged toward the alley four stories below. In that moment, she couldn’t tell which of them screamed more loudly. “ALLAAAAAKE!” her eyes widened in horror as the flashlight strobed images of her dog’s last moments.

The little canine’s body twisted in midair, attempting to right herself... until a sudden blackness enveloped her. Her cries ended abruptly with a strangely gutteral “unh!” Then, only darkness. “ALAKE!” her human sobbed. Nothing came up from the alley. The flashlight had shattered upon impact. Swallowing tears of rage, Angela directed her gun toward the top step, now just empty night sky. The perp was gone. The detective ran up the final flight. She paused, glistening eyes taking in the entire open sweep of the rooftop. The shadowy killer had escaped.

Angela holstered the snub. Her apartment was a crime scene that required securing. But first, she would collect her dog’s body from the alley. Her shoes rang hollow on the metal fire escape. Alake had been such a good dog...so sweet. Angela had rescued her as a nearly newborn puppy. When she first opened her eyes, it was Angela’s face that greeted her. She loved that little dog.This should never have happened.

Footfalls on the steps below, climbing. Her hand found the .38, as her body tensed. Suddenly, the sound of muffled whining rose to meet her. “Alake?” she asked, but the answer was already driving her, recklessly charging down the steps as fresh tears streaked her face. She rounded a landing to nearly crash headlong into Amber. And there, snug in the punk’s leather jacket, was the little terrier. “Oh!” Angela cried as Alake riggled to leap into her arms. “Oh! Baby!”

“Did you see who took her?” Amber’s gaze checked the top, then returned to the emotional reunion.

“Yeah,” Angela pulled herself together. “Lost him on the rooftop, when he dropped her.” The detective recalled the hasty mental description before the vigilante turned for the stairs. “No, he’s gone.”

“I don’t think so. The Trainer really wants a sit down. He didn’t go to all this trouble just to kill your dog.”

“Okay,” Angela nodded. “Let me put her away. I’ll come with you.”

Amber smiled. “This setup was for me. Remember? You’ve got a crime scene...and a really happy baby to hold for awhile. I’ll be back when this is done.”

Angela’s hand rose up to cradle the back of Amber’s head. “I love you, girl.”

“Me too.” And she was gone, racing up the fire escape toward the roof beyond. “Wish I had I-R,” Amber whispered as she surveyed the empty rooftop.

“I’ll put it on the list,” Carla replied. “Look, the roof you’re on only gives you one option. Straight ahead. Conjoined building, one floor shorter. Easy drop,”

She made her way to the edge. “Come out, come out, wherever you are!” Amber called to the darkened space below. “Nothing,” she muttered. “This is f#cked up. What’s next, Carla?”

The punkette moved across the second rooftop. She could hear Carla’s keyboard, then her younger sister’s voice. “Open top parking structure. There’s a ten foot easement between the buildings, but also it’s a three story.”

“Not a bad leap,” Amber replied as she went to the edge. Between the buildings was a basic alley, stuffed with dumpsters, old mattresses, and the domestic wreckage of evicted families. “There’s a drainpipe here,” she observed. “Pretty sturdy. Our ninja might’ve used it. But…..wait.” The open roof of the garage was empty at this hour, it’s lamp posts casting even pools of light upon a concrete deck that had long ago given up pretense of being white. Empty, but for one car. A black Mercedes S Class sat in the center, it’s running lights glowing yellow. As she watched, the big car flashed it’s headlights, two quick bursts, three times. “Guess that’s my meeting.”

Lupe was now properly alarmed. “Carla, call Deakins. She needs backup…”

“No,” she cut in. “This could be my only chance. Let’s keep Five-oh on a leash.” She’d returned to the far side of the roof. Adopting a sprinter’s stance, Amber started, picking up speed as the edge moved near. Legs pumped furiously as she achieved top stride. The first leap planted her right foot on the edge of the facade wall, Amber sprung up and forward, tucking her knees in as she somersaulted into the black. One, two, stick, she counted, breaking out of the roll in time to land upon the balls of her feet.

The Mercedes held it’s place. As she straightened, it’s lights flashed once again.

“I’m getting a bad feeling about this,” Lupe warned.

“Right there with you, hermana.” Amber strolled casually forward. The engine was running. She could see the silhouette of a driver. Still, the car did not move. “If he’s gonna run me over,” she said quietly, “now’s his chance.”

Instead, the driver’s door opened. A thin man, a kid, really, emerged, wearing a slightly ill fitting navy blue suit. “Excuse me,” he asked politely. “Are you Amber?”

“Yes.”

At her response, the driver opened the passenger door. “Please get in,” he gestured an often rehearsed welcome. There are refreshments inside.”

“Where we going?” Amber asked as she came abreast of the open door. The back seat was empty, as was the shotgun seat. It was just her and this driver. For a moment, she scrutinized him. “Male, slight build,” she thought of Angela’s description. But it just didn’t add up. Whoever led Angela up the fire escape had employed some serious cardio. Even if he’d managed to change into the suit, his face would still be bathed in sweat. This guy, she reasoned, hadn’t left the air conditioning all night...until now.

“I don’t have instructions to take you anywhere,” he answered. “You’ll have a conversation with my employer, and then be on your way. Please,” he gestured again. Amber slipped onto the impossible softness of the black leather seat. After the boiling humidity outside, the car’s interior was blessedly cool. To one side was installed a mini refreshments stand, complete with bottled water and champagne in a sweating silver ice bucket. Before her was a flat panel monitor screen. The driver went to close her door, frowned, pushed again, and then looked downward. He then fixed Amber with a curious eye.

“In the front,” she ordered, “where I can see you.”

He nodded dutifully before taking his place behind the wheel. Amber watched as he tapped out a quick message on his phone. A moment later, the screen before her came to life. “Here we go,” she whispered.

The scene before her was that of an office. But for the obvious taste on display, it appeared perfectly ordinary to the vigilante’s eye. A triple desk lamp’s green shades glowed above a wood desktop that obviously knew nothing but love from it’s caretaker. The desk was neat, it’s contents few and well arranged. Behind it sat a high backed swivel chair, soft leather a deep brown. A handsome credenza stood in the background, complimented by a gilded tray upon which sat a floral arrangement. The wall was painted a mild earthen shade which brought the entire mood of the space to one of relaxation. The final point she could detect was a framed global chart of the sort used by sailors in the 1700’s.

When he entered the shot, Amber recognized him instantly. An immaculate suit, hands perfectly manicured, and not a hair out of place. And that skin, she thought of the unnatural smoothness of his face. Like porcelain.

The Trainer’s lips parted to reveal a grin that would otherwise charm. “Ah, bon soir, mon Dahlia, bon soir!” he exclaimed. “How delightful to see you again! I trust you are well this evening?”

“I am,” Amber felt her face tighten as she addressed this most beautiful monster. “So’s the dog.”

The grin widened; he took a breath and sighed his contentment. “Oh, to have witnessed the moment of the beast’s salvation. Imagine, dear Maria, if cruel fate had not come come between yourself and your gymnastics aspirations.”

“Is this why we’re here?”

“Not necessarily,” the child sex trafficker replied with ease. “However, such considerations are useful to...set the stage, as it were, for the heart of our conversation. I’ll beg your indulgence. And please,” he gestured, “do avail yourself of some water. You may remove your glasses; your electronics don’t function in this car. I’ll delay offering the champagne. Should our conversation end well, we may wish a celebratory toast to seal our bargain.”

Now, it was Amber’s turn to smile. “A bargain. What? You turning yourself in? I’ll drink to that.”

Beneath an artfully lifted eyebrow, a knowing smile crossed the Trainer’s face. “Tell me, Dahlia. You are familiar with ISIS? The Taliban? Boko Haram? Al Quaeda?”

“I am,” she nodded.

“You would label them...I don’t know...radicals? Extremists, perhaps?”

“Terrorists.” Amber joined the scenario.

“Ah!” the Trainer’s grin resurfaced as a slender, perfectly manicured index finger pointed skyward. “Terrorists,” he nodded. “But, knowing what we know, might we both agree that the application of such title is purely based upon one’s perspective?”

“One man’s terrorist,” Amber replied, “is another man’s freedom fighter.”

The index finger now pointed toward the screen, rising slighty to accentuate the Trainer’s response. “Just...so,” he nodded. “Though the Israelis are rather prickly about that particular comparison. Permit me to offer a personal theory. Our friends in those organizations have all been radicalized behind a certain ideology. My theory holds that a combination of pivotal events must occur in order to transform an average person into a radicalized...freedom fighter.”

After folding her arms, Amber tilted her head. “Don’t you have any friends?”

“None so captivating as yourself,” the Trainer smiled.

“So let me save us both time and get you where you’re going,” the punk spoke.

“Please.”

“You’re gonna say,” Amber began, “that all those groups recruit kids with sh!tty lives. They’ve all been seriously f#cked up. They want payback. They want someone to blame. Then they meet a mentor who talks ‘em into carrying an AK-47 or modeling the latest explosive vest. Right?”

“Ineloquent,” he sniffed, “but essentially on track. Do continue.”

“Right,” Amber nodded. “Then you’re gonna bring up my f#cked up childhood, point out how ‘one man’s vigilante…’ blah blah f#cking blah. You coulda just used the Bruce Wayne example.”

The Trainer nodded. “Agreed on all points. And, as promised, you’ve delivered us to the heart of the topic. I’m intrigued, Maria. If you would, kindly expand upon your personal definition of...payback, you called it?”

“Take a look at your little girlfriend.”

He settled back in his chair. “Poor Uta. But therein lies my confusion. She was burning on the floor. As a vigilante, you had perfect opportunity to remove her as a threat to those girls you held so dear. And yet, you chose to spare her life. Tell me, Dahlia, where in that example might I find the ‘payback’ you so desperately seek?”

“I learned things about her,” Amber said uncertainly.

“Thus humanizing your foe,” the Trainer offered a kindly smile. “A foe you’d have simply allowed to burn to death not two minutes earlier. So to my point, and my offer. Amber Kryptonite, as the subject of...payback..seems to tolerate a sliding scale in your case, I’d like to ask the price of your ignoring both myself and my enterprise for the future.”

She laughed. “F#ck off.”

His calm was undisturbed. “I’ve demonstrated my good will. Your family’s fortunes have taken a rather sharp turn for the better, have they not? And suddenly, the military has a fresh lead toward locating Dear Old Dad.” He paused, allowing the impact of his words to anchor. “I’m prepared to close our interactions with a sum appropriate to your liking. Tell me...what’s the price for your vigilantism? How much to buy a hero? Shall the bidding begin at two million?”

“Two million dollars,” Amber shook her head, “and you go right back to destroying the lives of little girls and their families...selling them to rich perverts, or hacking them open,” she growled as a fresh memory of Shaniqua crossed before her eyes. “Oh, I get that you’re connected. Big people, bigger money, even intel. But how you could do those things...to those little girls...you’re one twisted motherf#cker.”

“Daddy touched me,” the Trainer rolled his eyes. “Uncle touched me. Brother touched me. Teacher touched me. Coach touched me. Priest touched me,” he tossed a dismissive gesture before leaning toward the screen. “And so it’s been, ad infinitum. You choose to place ideological labels upon it and presume to fight a conflict that’s been settled for centuries.. I, on the other hand,” his grin became sly, “choose to embrace it for what it truly is. Simply put, where you see an abomination, I see a business opportunity.”

“And I see my first kill.”

“Mayhaps,” the Trainer smiled, “but until that distant moment arrives, you may wish to consider the collateral damage along the way. Carla. Guadalupe. Your mother. That comely detective...Casey, and, if I might quote Frank Baum, “her little dog, too.” For the first time, his sanguine face hardened around eyes that radiated intensity. “Young Shaniqua died peacefully and without pain, prior to my more physical alterations. Cross me on this, and I promise that when I lay your loved ones open, they’ll be conscious...and screaming. You’ll be there to see every one of them, before I take you. What’s it to be? Payback, or death? Choose, Dahlia.”

“Twenty million.”

“Excuse me?”

“I don’t think I stuttered,” Amber retorted. “Twenty million.”

The Trainer stiffened. “There are limits to my resources…”

She chuckled and lifted a hand. “It’s alright, I was just kidding. You can go f#ck yourself.”

“So be it.” Suddenly, the door locks engaged. On screen, the Trainer’s smile became wistful as a five second countdown chirped it’s progress. “Au revoir, mon Dahlia,” he said as Amber lunged against her door.

The Mercedes appeared to expand in all directions with the blast force of the explosion. Some of the car’s outer panels actually managed to clear the edges of the garage to clatter onto the streets and alleys below. The hapless driver was vaporized where he sat, along with much of the heavy vehicle’s interior. Amid the cracking roar and a brilliant fireball, the skateboard raced outward, pushed first by Amber’s body, and then accelerated by the powerful shock wave that set the lamp posts gyrating. Having jammed it into the doorway before the driver could shut her into the car was the sole reason for her survival.

The toes of her Doc Martens dragged the concrete, coasting the board to a halt. The world had been reduced to nothing but a high pitched ringing in her ears, and the sluggish feeling that her entire body had lost a fight with a steamroller. Amber flopped off the board, craning her neck as slow hands helped pull her to a sitting position.

The car was gone, reduced to a raging fire amid a wide debris field. Amber stared at the flaming wreck, uncomprehending. A finger reflexively probed her ear. She couldn’t think, couldn’t focus. She barely felt the hypodermic needle as it bit into her neck. As the waking nightmare continued, her body landed on it’s back. A numbness spread throughout, taking with it her ability to move, to speak. She was powerless.

“Ready,” a voice rasped somewhere outside her field of vision. In seconds, the air was battered with the rapid whup whup whup of the Hughes Cayeuse settling onto the roof. She felt her body being lifted, then dragged beneath the spinning rotor blades until rough hands pitched her through the door. She was on the deck, her body twisted to fit the narrow space. Unmoving eyes could only take in the view of the ceiling as the nimble chopper rose and peeled away through the buildings.

She tried to focus as a figure came into view. The black clad suspect from Angela’s breakin leaned forward, piercing blue eyes studying Amber from within the ebon ski mask. As the helpless punk looked on, the assailant removed the mask. “So nice to see you again, Amber,” the scarred visage of Hatchetface leered down upon her hostage. “Such plans we’ve made for you.”


“Jackie is just speeding away
Thought she was James Dean for a day
Then I guess she had to crash
Valium would have helped that bash
She said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
I said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

And the colored girls say
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo…”


…………………………………………………………………………………………………...



Musical Credit: “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed, from the album “Transformer”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oG6fayQBm9w
FSF Sail (Just Dan)
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