Now for the third 1500 words! I admit, I thought this was finished and that I had just forgotten to post it, but there was a whole chunk missing that just said “tdk figure this out later”. I guess I just forgot to finish it? MY BAD. If you click through to the master plot for this section, you’ll see just how badly I deviated from it.
Regardless, this section is actually only 1300 words long, even with the bit that I figured out today. So far I’m actually on track for Mr. Dent’s suggested word count, even with the too-long first half.
Liz was halfway out the window when Yates grabbed her calf.
“The plane’s ten minutes in the wrong direction. You gonna chase them down on foot?”
She was right. “We’ll get the plane and follow them,” Liz said. “Come on.”
“Why would we follow them? This whole thing is a hunch. We don’t even know if Brown had anything to do with it. You’re just going to waste your time chasing geese.”
A contact bauble popped up before she could retort (not that she had one). It was one of the boss’s lackeys,1 a cute secretary with a button nose and bubblegum hair.
“What?” Liz asked.
“Um,” the girl said. “Um, Ms. King wants me to tell you to ‘fix this. Now.’, she said.”
“Couldn’t she tell me herself?”
The girl shrugged. Liz swiped her away, told Yates what she’d said. “How do you suggest we ‘fix’ this?” she added. “If we can’t follow them?”
Yates curled her lip, and not into a smile. “Investigation? Talking to people?”
Liz followed them. Yates went back to the office for her investigation. Cams on both, of course, but Liz was in a plane doing minor stunts as she wheeled over the desert in search of the thugs. Yates was in her office reading. It was clear which shots would be used for the stream.
Liz dipped in low, her little plane closing in on the ground. The sand was dry this far out, dry enough that the truck tracks stood out like a cat scratch. She had lost them in the time she’d wasted arguing, but she’d catch up.
The tracks led to a little independent airstrip run by a couple of retirees with old stocks to burn though. She refueled her plane, threw in a big tip, then asked about the drivers of the beat-up truck that had been left there.
The old man smacked his dry lips. “They had a plane here. Bigger’n yours. Left the truck, said we could keep it. Not that we want it. You buying?”
“Do you know where they went?”
He called his wife over to confer. Liz sent another little tip his way, hoping it would ease their discussion.
“North,” he said. “Big fuel tank on that plane, but they only bought a quarter tank’s worth. Guess they’re not going far.”
The wife described the plane, but they had nothing more useful than that to say. The old girl waved, bangles jingling against her stick of a wrist, as Liz clambered back into the plane.
Maybe their plane was too small to need a flight plan, or maybe they had paid the right people off. Either seemed possible. But there was only one city you could get to on a quarter tank of a plane small enough to fly without plans: home. Liz headed that way, hoping she was right.
Easy flight. She did it fast, no tricks, and hoped Yates was doing something interesting for the viewers–which would be rare, of course. Liz tried to shut that thought down, since there was no use criticizing. Yates was doing her best, just like she was.
She was approaching the outskirts of town. There was an airstrip out here, both for folding two-mans like hers and the bigger planes like the one she was chasing, and a huge hangar for storage. She announced her callsign and location, and when no one had any issues, landed.
She was in a hurry, obviously. Usually she’d fold the wings and take the smaller door into the hangar. Closer to her parking bay. This time she landed and went straight for the big gate. She’d pay the fine for leaving her plane in the wrong bay.
The hangar was usually well-lit, but something was wrong today–bulb burnout, maybe? She could barely make out the plane next to her, let alone the far wall.
Any other day, maybe, she’d just keep going.
But today, she paused. Too weird, to chase a bunch of thugs in a plane, then to have something funny happen at the airstrip?
She parked, got out, and slid behind the landing gear of the plane next to hers.
Hangars are echoey spaces. She heard his voice like he was standing next to her.
“Son of a bitch. Where is she?”
“She called in. She shoulda been here by now.”
“Did anyone else call in?
“Then who just came in the far door?”
Liz gave them some credit: their feet were quicker than their brains. They were slamming across the cement ground like TDKs.
“She’s gone.” It was barrel chest, she could tell by the boots. “Came in through here and left.”
“The ATC guy said she always comes in through the back.”
“Well, she didn’t. Look, here’s her plane.”
It was tough for Liz to watch them slice the hydraulics that would unfold her wings, but she did it. She wasn’t about to forget it, though.
“So what do we do?”
“Doesn’t fucking matter. All we had to do was lose her, man. Didn’t need to kill her. Just make sure she couldn’t find us. She’s already gone looking somewhere else, we can just go back to the club.”
The club. Of course. She’d had that hunch, after all.
By the time she got there the sun had gone down, taking the warmth of the day with it. The place looked exactly as deserted as it had the first time, but Liz waited in the car just in case. Within ten minutes the first group came through.
“Doesn’t look like the news coverage hurt them at all,” she whispered to a nearby cam. “You’d think no one would go to a club their parents saw on the news.”
The warehouse was exactly as before: thumping bodies and flashing lights. She swallowed as she stepped into the sea of people. You’re in it now, she reminded herself. No going back. So she went forward, weaving past dancers toward the back wall, hoping to find offices. No one was twitching this time.
An alert popped up in her vision, in front of all the invites to dance. One of her cams was down. She tried to locate it, but it was gone. And before she could turn around to physically find it, another went down.
She suppressed the instinct to call out. Instead, pushed forward, trying to get her back against the wall.
The third went down, and she felt her breath coming faster. She had gone dark.
She had almost reached the wall when someone grabbed her shoulder.
“Wanna dance?” His voice was loud in the quiet room.
“Not with you.” She shrugged his hand off, turned to face him.
“Too bad,” the big man–of course he was big–said. He was easily two weight classes above her, and she was here alone. He was inching her toward the wall now, and suddenly she wished she had gone for the door instead. People surged around her, and every time she tried to duck away she was met with flailing arms. When he had her against the wall he pressed his forearm into her neck. She tried to even out her breathing, but her heart was beating hard, and what little oxygen was coming in couldn’t keep up. His ugly nug started to swim.
She kicked at his shins, but he didn’t even seem to notice. Clawed at his arm, but he was wearing a leather jacket, the pretentious shit. He said something to someone, sounded like “do it,” then, “okay, okay.”
Something floated across her vision. It wasn’t a hallucination.
“Accept it,” he grunted at her. It was an invitation to listen to something, bouncing in her vision.
She couldn’t ask why, could barely draw enough breath to think the question.
“You wanna breathe again? Accept it.”
She didn’t figure he’d explain what it was even if she could ask. She accepted it.
God dammit, English, why isn’t this “lackies”?↩