I couldn’t get myself to stand up when I came to… scratch that; I couldn’t muster the courage to open my damned eyes. My attacker had just dumped the whole content of a three litre orange juice bottle previously designated for breakfast down my face and I had sputtered convulsively, so yeah! They knew I was conscious.
When massive gloved hands akin to a yeti’s clutched me by the throat however, I abandoned the charade and opened up my mouth to yell to high heavens for mercy but that wasn’t happening either. The spot where a size eleven boot from hell contacted my thorax may have felt tender on the outside, but it felt like I was choking on a white-hot monkey wrench from the inside; so I resorted to pleading through watery blood-shot eyes.
Finally able to see through the haze after I was propped in a corner like a rag-doll, all I could make out were a number of blurry figures hovering about my sitting room as they merged and disentangled heinously, teasing my senses into a flurried panic.
“Who are you?” I croaked…
“Hm… wouldn’t you like to know” she teased, making me wonder what she found so amusing about her extremely reprehensible introduction.
Suddenly, it dawned on me. The telltale amble as the figure paced, the slightest mellow sliver beneath the husky tone. My assailant was a woman!.. SHIT!!!
I tried to scramble to my feet, but they wouldn’t cooperate; go figure!.. My inner ear was still ringing from being parked right next to a disoriented and throbbing brain, and was that the taste of blood in my mouth?
Moments passed as I waited for my grey matter to collect enough data from its abrupt reboot and thankfully, she stopped the nettlesome pacing to squat in front of me. I saw her thrust a glass of water at my face; as well as my elegy: “HERE LIES IKHI, THE ONE A WOMAN KILLED WITH HER BARE HANDS; AND TO THINK HE WAS IN HIS PRIME TOO!” Blinking away the latter, I reached ever so tentatively for the water.
She must not have cared for my sleuthing prowess or simply wanted to drive home my emasculation, because she stood back up with an effeminate whip of her waist and afro, sauntered over to the rear-facing window and gingerly sat cross-legged on its sill; displaying such a matronly wide hip I’d have suffered quite a doozy of an erection if all of my blood wasn’t already pooling around my lungs in an attempt to drown me.
“What do you want?” I sputtered, grateful for the slight acoustic improvement.
“That’s more like it, Ali.” she said, angling her masked face at me. “I want your attention…”
A couple of gulps later, I lowered the tumbler to the floor and staggered up to my feet with marginal success. “Well, don’t let anyone tell you you’re no good at knocking”.
“Whenever you’re ready!” she said.
I straightened up, checked my ribs and satisfied they were all still intact; albeit tender, I said “well, you may as well go on… I don’t think I’ve ever been this interested in hearing anyone out my whole life, and I don’t think I ever will after this… hopefully”. I added
“Oh, don’t go rushing into conclusions”. I jerked as she said it. I’d been playing out several scenarios in my head, and even though I wasn’t happy where this was going, I at least knew for certain I wouldn’t die tonight if I let her have her way… not that I had a choice. I can assure you; a sea of desire to put up a strong defiance was welling up in me, but I knew that to be the case with every time I ever did something incredibly stupid. Since playing for my life or at any rate, having my ass brutally handed to me by a girl meant the stakes were too high; I kneaded my shoulders, uncrinkled my spine, looked at her purposefully and asked how I could be of service.
“There’s a dossier on you the size of a bishop’s bible seated on my desk, which is surprising considering you’ve been nobody till now, yet its contests are of considerable value in the event that you fail me. Naturally, an additional perk to that inconvenience is that we can communicate smoothly now that you know that I know everything there is to know about you. Nod if you get my drift.”
“I get you ma’am” I said, cockeyed.
“It’s important to me that you always affirm your absolute commitment by doing exactly as you’re fucking told”.
I quickly nodded.
“When Grace leaves tonight at eight, I’ll need you to plan for a flight in a 172 from a location eighteen kilometers from here. Your destination is a coordinate you’ll find on the fridge, attached to the aircraft keys. You’ll be ferrying a sensitive consignment for an Arcanum party; so naturally, filing a flight plan is out of the question.” After a brief pause I assume was meant to help me with translation, she pulled a massive well-worn duster from a pouch at her side and snugly slipped them over her knuckles.
“I get it, it’s all hush-hush and I’m supposed to fly under the radar”. “For chrissakes, couldn’t you at least have carried a gun like any decent erm…?” well, I wasn’t going to finish that.
“I could actually, but where’s the fun in that.” She said.
I rolled my eyes.
“I’m just worried you may not be all I had you cracked up to be, what with fainting like a school girl… also, everybody knows smart people don’t make good flunkeys.”
‘Go figure!’ I thought. ‘The giant badass killer lady is “hard to please”; whoulda thunk it’? “It’s a lot to process lady, but I’ll go through with it. I actually love myself too much to give you a hard time.” I said.
“Precisely… I’d have been extremely disappointed if my judgment of you was wrong. Your handler will be at the corner of Kano road by Preston at noon tomorrow with further instructions. He’ll provide your transport from their out and report to me.”
Increasingly bolder, I asked why she couldn’t just make me an offer like a decent human since she was disposed to so much resource, why someone else couldn’t have made just as good a bitch, and if she’d considered the shitty air-mass thunderstorms we’d be in for the next day.
She simply smiled and informed me not to speak to my ‘handler’.
“I can tell you’re properly conditioned for your brief and should be just fine.” She concluded, smiling as she switched her brass-knucks for a bead. “I however, do not take chances and would appreciate it if you could hold unto this for me… at all times. It’s a lot cheaper than surgically implanting a tracker, and assuming you don’t go rogue, I wouldn’t risk having a vegetable for a friend.”
She threw the bead at me and it slipped, clattering across the floor and into a nook in the dining area. She didn’t seem to bother though, it sounded quite sturdy as it fell and rolled, plus she must have known I was still reeling at her concept of humor. She started for the door as I moved to retrieve my digital tag and was out the door before I righted myself back up.
The damage was more psychological than physical as I assessed my encounter, with my ego taking the worst hit but like she said; I’d be fine… I felt confident about that small consolation, and resolved to play safe for the length of my foreseeable future with my new acquaintance. For a brief spell my mind wandered to Grace, my job, family and friends; but when concerns of my immediate safety kept proving dominant, I broke out my dusty bush-pilot manuals, headed to the shower for a good soak and mentally resolved my will to my fate.