“Look, I should’ve told you earlier in the week,” David said. “She came to me about the gambling thing, but she told me she wouldn’t report me if I didn’t blow her cover, so I guess I was scared. And, you know, I wasn’t totally sure it was you until . . . until now.”
I slipped back out of sight and lifted my wrist to my mouth. It was risky, but we were in the middle of nowhere. If I didn’t alert my mother as to our location ASAP, there was a chance that Danielle would evade capture.
God! I still couldn’t believe she was the bad guy!
“What’s going on?” Jon mouthed to me as we moved soundlessly back to the center of the loft.
I lifted one finger to tell him to wait. David was babbling so all I could do was hope that his voice would mask the sound of my own.
“Attention, Chief Stratford, we’re in the old stable past the soccer field to the west of the school. Suspect is here now. All units converge.”
Jon’s face was a mixture of suspicion and approbation. It was kinda cool.
“I’ll give the orders, Kim. Thanks,” my mother’s voice said in my ear. Followed by, “All units converge.”
I smiled. She hadn’t retracted my order. Ha!
Then I noticed David had fallen silent. Big fat oops.
“Did you hear something?” Danielle’s voice asked.
“We’ll be there in five,” my mother’s voice said in my ear.
And then, all hell broke loose.
I heard a floorboard creak, and half a second later, I noticed something move out of the corner of my eye. I was about to shout a warning when Jon and I both were grabbed from behind and pulled away from each other. Jon’s legs flailed out, kicking at the floor, but there was nothing I could do to help him. My own arms were pinned to my sides.
Yet another advantage of being a chick fighter. Those who don’t know you don’t think you’re a threat.
Jon and I were being dragged toward a set of stairs near the far wall. I had no idea what they planned to do with us, but I wasn’t going to let them do it. I planted my feet on the ground, leaned forward with all my might, and knocked my attacker off balance. The second he faltered, I bent at the waist and flipped him over my back to the hard floor. Dust rained down from the ceiling and the scoundrel groaned in pain.
He had shaggy hair and a bulky frame and looked vaguely familiar, like I’d seen him in a movie or something, but I couldn’t place him.
“What’s going on up there?” Danielle’s voice called out.
“We’ll be right down,” the other guy answered from across the loft.
Then I heard a punch crack across a jaw. I turned around to find that Jon had broken free and was wailing on his man. He actually was a pretty adept fighter. For a moment I forgot where I was and simply watched Jon go, impressed. Then my guy got up, grabbed my arm and twisted it behind my back.
Hello? You’re in the middle of a fight!
“Nice try, babe,” the guy growled in my ear. “Now why don’t you play nice and—“
“Give me a break,” I said. I used my free hand and whacked him hard in the nose, then when he was doubled over in pain I whirled easily away from him. This guy had no idea who he was dealing with. He thought a little arm twist could constrain me? Ha!
But now I’d pissed him off. He rushed me in an attempt to tackle me to the ground, but I lifted my knee at just the right moment and brought it up into his solar plexus. The guy went sprawling to the floor. He wasn’t turning out to be a very formidable adversary. I walked over and picked him up by the scruff of the neck.
“Had enough?” I asked, allowing myself a moment of triumph.
He jabbed backward with his elbow and hit me directly in the gut. I doubled over for a second, surprised, and then he was on his feet again. This time he fought me like a man, but his punches were imprecise and he was no match for my speed. I ducked, weaved and dodged, and only a couple of his jabs hit home. As we sparred our way across the loft, he started to grow winded. He was ungainly and his fighting was sort of pedestrian. In a way, I actually was kind of bored.
As I wore the guy down, I kept wondering what was going on with Jon, whether he was okay, but I couldn’t take my eyes off my own opponent. Letting my guard down, even with an untutored fighter, could be deadly.
The guy backed me up to the wall and came at me with a powerful punch. I ducked and his hand went through the stable wall. He yelled out in pain and I could tell it was excruciating. All the better for me. I planted my feet firmly on the floor and yanked him free, using my momentum to whirl him halfway across the loft. The guy grasped his bleeding hand, gaping at it in wonder. I rushed at him and hit him with an uppercut, ready to finish him off. He stumbled toward the edge of the loft.
Suddenly my heart seized up. He was going to go over! And as much as I wanted to kick his butt, I didn’t really want to finish him off. I wasn’t ready to kill somebody.
His eyes widened in fear and I made to grab for him, but somehow forgot that a little person like me couldn’t stop a big guy like that who was already falling. No matter how strong I was.
We went over the edge, into the void—together.
It was over so quickly I barely had time to register the fact that I was falling. We slammed into the ground, me falling on a few inches of hay, him landing with a thud on the hardwood floor. My landing hurt, but I rolled over as quickly as possible to protect myself from another onslaught.
That little bit of hay turned out to be my salvation. The thug, who hadn’t been so lucky, was out cold. “Tag!” Danielle shouted, running over to us. She dropped to her knees next to the prostrate body and suddenly it hit me. I knew where I’d seen this guy before. He was Danielle’s boyfriend—the one in the picture on her dresser. They were wrapped up in this drug business together.
I struggled to my feet as Danielle fussed over her boyfriend, who I was relieved to see was still breathing. David apparently had fled because we were the only ones in the room—that is, until the other thug finally succeeded in dragging Jon down the stairs. I looked up to make sure he was okay and instantly my blood ran cold. Jon’s hands were fettered behind his back with a strip of cloth, and his slimy-looking attacker held a gun to his head.
A trickle of blood ran from Jon’s nose, and he stared at me with an unreadable expression in his eyes. Was he angry, scared, begging for help? It was impossible to tell.
“We spotted these two sneaking in upstairs when we were on our way in with the goods,” the man said to Danielle, who finally rose to her feet. She turned to look at me, her face pinched, her eyes shiny with tears.
“How could you do this to me?” she demanded. “I thought we were friends!”
My mouth dropped open. She was totally delusional. “How could I do this to you? Danielle! You’re a drug dealer!”
She snorted a laugh. “ Alleged.”
God! Couldn’t she even show a modicum of regret?
“Kim! We have the place surrounded!” my mother’s voice shouted through a bullhorn. They were the most exquisite words I’d ever heard. I couldn’t help smiling when I saw Danielle’s face fall.
“What’re you going to do now?” I asked.
Danielle glanced at Tag, who was still recumbent on the floor, then looked at the other man. They exchanged some kind of message with their eyes. Then the man threw Jon at me with such force that we tumbled to the ground in a tangled mess of arms and legs. Jon couldn’t stop himself, what with his arms tied inextricably, and he fell right on top of me. I shoved him away rather callously so I could see what was happening. The thug was gone and Danielle was just disappearing through a back door.
“Stay here,” I said to Jon.
And then, without so much as a backward glance, I took off after Danielle.