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122 Rules(2)

By:Deek Rhew



Granite took a position in the corner, perhaps to ensure her cooperation, perhaps for intimidation. Monica turned from him to the rail-thin woman who trailed in his wake. Her severe features were exacerbated by a bun so tight it pulled the corners of her eyes back, as though a discount plastic surgeon had arrived intoxicated to her facelift. She wore a crisp white shirt, creased blue slacks, and no makeup.

As the woman began to thoroughly pat her down, Monica grabbed the woman’s arm and twisted it around. “Get your hands off of me,” she growled.

The unmistakable click of a gun next to her ear made her blood freeze. Swift and silent as the wind, Granite had stepped forward to protect his coworker.

Bad Facelift yanked her arm free, giving Monica a knowing, satisfied glare. She finished the frisk, even taking Monica’s watch and plucking the ring off her finger. Then she waved a wand over Monica, searching for telltale bits of metal. Granite had taken Monica’s phone, purse, and satchel bag when he had first apprehended her. The stern woman had them in a large plastic sack and now added Monica’s jewelry to the haul. Then both Granite and Bad Facelift left, closing the door behind them.

Monica tried the knob, but of course it refused to turn.

Shit.

She pressed her face against the one-way glass, cupping her hands around her eyes to block out the light. If she stared hard enough, she might be able to see who watched her from the other side.

Only her own reflection stared back.

She banged on the glass. “Heeeelllllooo, anyone in there? You can’t just lock me up. I get a phone call.”

When no answer came, she examined the door. She’d seen a movie where the hero had escaped by punching the pins out of the hinges. But Monica had no tools and tore off part of her fingernail after a few minutes of fussing and grunting. She rapped her knuckles on the entrance’s surface, but it felt solid and heavy. The handle seemed the most vulnerable to her efforts, but she had nothing with which to jimmy the latch open. Cursing, she kicked the door and began to pace.

The windowless room had no clock, so she had no way to know how much time had passed. At this rate, though, she would not be attending tomorrow morning’s Legal Ethics class. She stopped and looked around at the small space. Maybe not the one after that either.

She went back to the window and searched for gaps in the frame. Having found nothing, Monica pressed her ear to the space between the bottom of the door and the floor. Only the sound of air moving through the ducts greeted her.

She tried banging on the glass again. “Hey, anyone home yet? I need to pee. Keeping someone from urinating is considered cruel and unusual punishment. I go to law school and know about such things.” She pounded again. “Hello?”

Still no reply.

Frustrated, she slid to the floor, her back against the wall, and started counting the holes in the ceiling tiles. When she reached 1,000, her stomach growled.

Just as she considered throwing one of the chairs through the window, a short, bespectacled man swept into the room. He wore a crisp white shirt, blue tie, creased blue slacks, and shiny black shoes. This guy and Bad Facelift must shop at the same military surplus store. All spit and polish.

He carried a file and an air of casual authority with him. He smiled at her, probably to put her at ease. It only kicked her anxiety up a couple of notches.

“Hi, my name is Jon Smith, sorry for the wait. Can we get you anything? Water? Tea? Coffee?”

“My phone and a cab home?”

Jon chuckled and sat down, motioning for her to do the same in the opposite seat. “So, Monica is it?”

She nodded and followed suit. Her chair—the no-frills, no-specific-color, plastic variety—reminded her of a larger version of the kind she’d had in elementary school. Unlike the one Jon sat in, hers had no rollers and didn’t recline. Its entire purpose seemed to be keeping the occupant uncomfortable. It succeeded. Also, it was short.

When she settled into her seat, Jon towered eight to ten inches above her, even though, when standing, he only came up to her chin. Monica seethed at the obvious strategy for psychological dominance: he could play both sides of the coin from this position. Even when he smiled, she could see Bad Cop right beneath the surface.

Everything that had happened since they had nabbed her at the library had been designed to intimidate her—locking her in the black SUV, ginormous goons, leaving her alone in this little room for hours on end without her cell or any way of contacting the outside world. Now this little demonstration of authority… She screwed in her resolve, refusing to give in, and sat up straight in her chair, staring into the little man’s eyes. She would make him blink.

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