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122 Rules

By:Deek Rhew

PART 1

1


Monica and the three goons in the death wagon drove for what felt like an eternity. A man with the chest and shoulders of a linebacker and a face chiseled out of granite sat opposite her on the backseat. Clad in a three-piece suit and dark sunglasses, he had first captured then belted her into the large SUV. But now it seemed the fun for him had ended, and he only glanced her way on the occasional mile.

The man in the passenger front seat with the broken nose ignored her, giving his full attention to the road ahead. The hood of his sweatshirt had fallen back, revealing the bristles of a crew cut as sharp and squared away as the Super Bowl field on the morning of game day. He wiped his sleeve across his upper lip, leaving a trail of blood on the dingy gray fabric. After their altercation earlier, his groin and ribs had to be aching as well. A thin smirk of satisfaction played across her lips. If only for a moment, she’d had the upper hand.

Monica’s smile faded as her thoughts returned to her predicament. She sat directly behind the driver. Maybe a chop to the neck or a blow to the temple would disable him? Would that cause him to lose control of the vehicle? Could she grab the wheel and yank it? If they crashed into oncoming traffic, would she be able to escape the twisted metal and broken glass? Though she hadn’t seen the driver’s face, the thickness of the man’s shoulders beneath his suit jacket rivaled Granite’s. This man could swat her off as easily as an annoying spider.

She couldn’t out-muscle them, so surprise and distraction were her only allies. Surely these meatheads carried weapons. Could she startle one of them—maybe scream in Driver’s ear since he was focused on navigating the busy city streets and would be less able to react—and grab his gun? She would hold the barrel to his neck, forcing him to pull the car over, and blast anyone that tried to stop her. The idea had merit. But Granite sat only inches away; he would enjoy subduing her.

Though the idea made her nerves cringe, she could dive out the door. They did that on TV all the time. Fall and roll, right? Looked simple enough. But she doubted it worked in real life. In the movies, no cars ever trailed behind the hero as she made her escape. Most likely, she would be mowed down by one of the insane taxis that prowled the boulevards. At the very least, she’d break a leg or twist her ankle, and they would recapture her.

But the closer they got to wherever these brutes were taking her, the faster her viable options dwindled. Seeing no alternative, she tensed, fingers wrapped around the door’s release handle. Steeling herself, she took a deep breath and pulled the lever.

The door didn’t budge.

Shit. Child locks. Of course these guys would have thought of that. She looked up to find Crew Cut watching her.

He pointed at her lap. “You forgot to unbuckle your belt too.” Her eyes dropped to the buckle. Duh! The corners of his lips curled up, then he turned away to watch out his window, uninterested.

Shit.

No one said anything for a few miles. Finally, Monica turned to Granite. “Look, before you kill me, can I at least call and say goodbye to my family?”







As time and distance slipped past, Monica ran and reran each scenario in her head. Each new option of escaping these men seemed even less likely than the last.

They surprised her when they turned into an underground garage. Driver handed a plastic card to the stern security guard who met them at the gate. Another guard stayed back but kept his hand on his holster. He hadn’t drawn one of the several weapons hanging from his belt but looked competent and ready to go to war at the slightest provocation. The first guard, who looked like he drank from the same steroid-laden stream as Granite, examined the embossed card, made a call, and waved them through.

These were not rent-a-cops.

What the hell? She hadn’t known what to expect, but certainly not a military-like fortress. Maybe an abandoned warehouse—her mind refused to imagine what they had in store for her there—or a deserted pier, followed by a swim in the Hudson. At least they hadn’t made her ride in the trunk.

They parked, and, in unison, the three men got out. Evidently only she required a child lock. Granite came around and opened her door, but she didn’t budge. After a few seconds, he unbuckled her belt and lifted her out of the car with the same odd gentleness he had used to deposit her into the seat.

Learning from the mistakes Crew Cut had made earlier, they surrounded her as they marched to an armored, unmarked door. The entrance had no handle; instead, Driver swiped his card and typed something into the inset keypad. He looked into the lens of a nearby camera mounted in the rough-hewn rock wall. A second later, the door buzzed and clicked. Driver opened it. She glanced about, desperate for any opportunity to escape, as they ushered her inside then down a long, dimly lit, colorless hall. Granite pushed through one of many indistinguishable side doors into a narrow room. The small space, empty save two chairs and a table, had a can-it-be-more-obvious-that-it’s-a-one-way-glass mirror covering half the far wall.

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