The Speed of Dark

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EXCERPT from Snatched

The Speed of Dark

I, Nola Randolph, do solemnly swear that the testimony I am about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me…Sappho.

Could be, she’d be uttering words to that effect soon, if things didn’t go according to plan.

She couldn’t even enjoy the newspaper anymore. Even when she skipped the society pages, she still found some little tidbit about how Mr. Wallace Blank had done this or that, donated to some charity, or built some new building that brought untold benefits to humankind. He was often referred to as Mr. Blank-check. Mr. Blank-this, Mr. Blank-that. But Nola knew who he was at his core. Mr. Blankety-Blank-Blank. At his core, he was a self-serving, homophobic prick. And like all self-serving, homophobic pricks, he protected his interests with an insidious fervor that never saw the light of day. She had been discarded and humiliated one too many times by this hate-mongering fucker. Payback was going to be hell. Hopefully, only for him.

But a man with his money always had a first line of defense, and could hire any number of first-line defenders; from grateful and indebted politicos, to lawyers, to accountants, to simple body guards. He even had a security system on his house. It was this last particular defender that would be Mr. Blank’s undoing.

Nola Randolph had created a plan; maybe not a fool-proof plan, because she wasn’t foolish, and as the saying goes, a common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. Douglas Adams said that. Adams also said that the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything was…forty-two. Wallace Blank’s address was 4200 West Palm, so she decided to interpret that as a meaningful portent. A synchronicity. An excuse to go through with her almost-foolproof plan.

Part-time work at the university theater department allowed her access to Pinky Quinn. She was a theater major who had an intense interest in lesbians. Nola discovered why, the first time she had her in bed. Her pussy was so tight, that she could only handle fingers, and so it was not unexpected that Pinky would be drawn to lesbians. Though, Nola thought there might be a loophole in there somewhere, if the average penis size was really what it was reported to be. Anyway, Nola didn’t tell Pinky that lesbians do other things besides fingering, because…well, Nola wanted her in bed. So this morning, after making Pinky service her under the kitchen table while Nola had coffee and tried to read the paper, she sent her on her way.

The gig in the theater department also provided Nola the perfect disguise. Not just a face mask, but a fat-suit. One of those padded foam things that make you look heavier than you are. When she added the black clothes and ski mask to it, there was no way she could be identified visually. As long as she didn’t say anything.

It did occur to Nola that after this thing was over, the police would question Blank and he’d say his captor never talked, only wrote notes, and any shrewd detective would wonder about that, and maybe guess that it was someone whose voice was familiar and could be recognized. And this would inevitably lead to her arrest and incarceration. She’d watched enough of Law and Order to know that. Maybe that particular flaw in the plan would be the fatal one. But she hoped to be long gone, before the pieces were put back together. Long gone, with her pockets full of his money. The money she should have had anyway. If her mother got to live high on the hog, why didn’t Nola? Why did women who liked dick get to have all the perks? Nola liked dick when it was attached to her and she was ramming some hottie with it, but wasn’t too fond of the authentic kind that had blood and cum coursing through it. Anyway. She wouldn’t stick around to give the cops a chance to find her. She’d maybe go to one of those exotic tropical islands everyone was always talking about. Maybe in the Bahamas. Or the Caribbean. She didn’t even know where those were. Maybe the Bahamas were in the Caribbean. But she’d be able to look that up soon enough because she’d be able to buy a laptop and figure it out.

Anyway, the plan was to lure the muscle-bound watchdog away from his post, tranq him in the neck and then make Wally walk to the car, where she would blindfold and tie him up in the back seat and transport him to the nondescript kidnapper’s lair.

Ultimately, she decided against dosing Wally, because she didn’t want to have to move all his dead weight somehow; that would complicate matters, and render her foolproof plan a bit unwieldy. Better to have him walk to the car and into the lair, with a gun on his back.

She got the drug from a veterinary major who also worked in the theater department. Same kind that Dexter, the beloved serial killer, used on that TV show. It was for knocking out large animals. Mr. Blank certainly qualified on both counts. So did his bodyguard. Waldo’s days of calling all the shots were over and done. He thought he was rid of Nola, by virtue of his philosophy, ignore her and she’ll go away. He was pretending she was dead. Old Waldo would feel the hot breath of fate on the nape of his fat neck, and Nola would walk away victorious. O death, where is thy sting? as any self-respecting theater major would say.

Nola had removed every item from the room except the mattress positioned atop several wooden pallets. The walls didn’t have anything adorning them. They were just flat, slick concrete, painted gray. That’s so that an FBI dude who looked at details in the video, like they always do on TV, couldn’t figure out where the room was by finding some landmark visible through the window, or the markings or paintings on the wall, or the sound that the train made as it went by at a certain time. There were no windows, and no trains. Just a room. Like a cell at Abu Ghraib. Maybe she’d break all the rules of the Geneva Convention when she finally got him in this nondescript room.

There was a security system on the house. Nola knew that much about it because her mother enjoyed talking about all the amenities she enjoyed, now. Completely oblivious to the fact that Nola lived in a squalid apartment in a high-crime area, and the only security system for her had a magazine full of bullets and a trigger. And she didn’t even have that.

The first glitch in the plan was when she saw the bodyguard leave, and the cook was still in the kitchen. It would do her no good to tranq the watchdog and then hang around waiting for the other witness to leave. The cook usually left an hour or so after dinner, but it had already been three hours. She must have had a lot of cleaning up to do.

Nola had been clever, planning the snatch for the night of a dinner party. Lots of people for the cops to question. It would give her time to implement her plan, and make a clean getaway. But now, she was stuck waiting for that damn cook to finish up.

She hid in the hedgerow until she saw the cook approaching the back door, while tugging her purse strap onto her shoulder. Dashing to the house wall behind the kitchen door, Nola flattened herself out of sight, and waited until the woman stepped out, swinging the door wide. As she made her way down the driveway, Nola caught the door just before it closed, and slipped inside, hearing it shut and lock automatically behind her.

The kitchen was spotless, everything in its place. All the copper pans dangled from over the center island. The floor was so shiny, it looked wet. On the marble countertop, one of those Keurig single-cup coffee machines, and other expensive-looking appliances, taunting her. She bet her mother was overjoyed. Finally, she could have all her little gadgets and amenities. Even if it meant sacrificing her only child.

Nola had been relegated to a life of poverty, banished, like the town leper. It seemed that Mr. Blankety-Blank-Blank didn’t care much for Nola’s black hair, black fingernails and black clothing. Goth was not in at the Blank household. But that was only part of it. His real disgust came from her preferences in the bedroom. Not that she forced him to watch, or anything. Although, she was certain he would watch, if he didn’t think anyone would catch him. And it wasn’t as if he didn’t like women too. Either which way, Nola was summarily told to make her-self scarce.

Her mother was, at heart, a gold-digger and loath to give up the generous bank account, her Louis Vuitton handbags, the red sports car, and indulgences at various spas. Every time Nola thought about her mother, she envisioned her lying on a table with a towel around her head, medicinal mud on her face, and cucumber slices on her eyes.

Nola was digging a deeper and deeper hole into the red, living beyond her means, too, when she bought something other than tuna and Ramen noodles, when her poverty became such a pisser that she justified the purchase. Her means were well below the mean of the general population, and she felt that was just…mean.

Just as she was making progress down Blank’s hall-way, creeping along like a cat stalking a mouse, Nola stopped short, face to face with a young woman.

“Who are you?” the girl asked.

Yeah right. I’m going to give you my name. Nola noticed that the girl looked…a lot like herself. Dark hair, dark clothes, leather bracelets, leather boots. She was wearing an Evanescence concert T-shirt. Nola liked that band, too.

Shaking herself back to the situation, she pulled out the pistol and aimed it at her. “I’ll ask the questions, thanks.”

The goth girl glanced down at the gun and then back up to Nola’s eyes peeping out of the circles in the knit ski mask. Goth-twin pursed her lips thoughtfully. “What do you want? Money?” She shoved a dainty hand into her pants pocket and threw a wad of cash at Nola’s feet. “There. Now run along.”

Nola wanted to smack her with the butt of the gun, like the tough guys do in the movies. “I don’t want the contents of your pocket. I want the contents of Blank’s bank account.”

“Yeah? Well join the club. The line forms in the rear.”

“Who are you?” she tossed her question back.

“Sonya.”

Sonya…Sonya…where have I heard that name?

“Yeah, hard to place me. I don’t get much press.” She crossed her arms defiantly. “So, you want me to go wake dear old dad? Or would you prefer to do it? I have a cattle prod in the closet.”

Dad. Sonya. Of course! She was the biological daughter of Wallace Blank. The one who was supposed to be away at some hoity-toity Ivy League college. The one he didn’t like to talk about. Nola could see why. She was just like Nola. Except cuter. In a feisty sort of way. Does that mean I think I am cute too, since she looks like me? And ain’t I feisty? Her brain-chatter became confusing, and she’d almost forgotten why she was there. She was pretty sure she had A.D.D.

Now what? In a few moments of reconsideration, Nola decided it would be a much better plan to kidnap the girl, because for one, she wasn’t very big, and would be easier to handle and move around as dead weight, in case she had to knock her out. And two, Waldo would be able to get to his money easily to pay ransom on his only daughter.

Other ideas blossomed in her mind, too. The compromising video would be even better. Nola could humiliate Sonya and her father by showing her with a lesbian lover. She could pose her in those compromising positions, wearing a blindfold, and film with the digital camera. That camera was the only valuable thing Nola owned, and it was damn well going to get used for this scheme. It certainly wasn’t making her enough money as a freelancer.

Standing in the dim hallway, Sonya looked at her huge novelty watch. “Can we wrap this up? I’m missing Dr. Who.”

Nola didn’t usually fly by the seat of her pants. Usual-ly, she preferred to fly by the seat of someone else’s pants, because she assumed they had the focus she didn’t possess. Often, she just removed the pants altogether and buried her face in it. What can I say? I like sex. And she was aware of carnal thoughts where this girl was concerned. In different circumstances, Nola would probably buy her a drink and invite her back to her place for a little muff-diving.

Sonya lifted a leather-braceleted arm and snapped her fingers three times. “Hello? Ms. Bandit-person. What’s the scoop? You want to discuss it over a beer or something?”

Wow. She’s really mouthy.

Nola gestured with the pistol toward the kitchen door. “Move it.”

“Where are we going? I hope it’s somewhere nice. I really like being pampered.”

Jesus fucking Christ, but she is a trip. “Just move it. Go, go, go.”

She headed for the door, and then stood in front of it.

“What are you doing?” Nola said. “Open it.”

Sonya turned to her. “You don’t want the alarm to go off, do you?”

Oops. Nola hadn’t thought of that. She was quickly losing her authority. Gun or no gun. Kidnappers dressed like fat ninjas really needed the appearance of authority, even if they didn’t possess any. At least she could comfort herself with the knowledge that she had not missed her calling as a criminal. “Well turn the alarm off—” Nola said impatiently. “And no funny business.”

Sonya spun back around and pressed a few numbers on the keypad by the door and the green light glowed. Then she opened the door and stepped outside. Nola followed, the gun still trained on her.

As they stepped into the driveway, Sonya raised her hands.

“Put your hands down!” Nola barked. She didn’t want the neighbors to notice the abduction. She knew that much about thinking like a criminal.

Sonya dropped her hands and a few steps later, paused in front of the black Navigator, pointing at it. “So, are we taking your car, or mine?”

Nola thought of her Olds Cutlass, parked several blocks away, with its torn upholstery, stained carpet, and sputtering engine, and a near-empty gas tank, and tilted her chin at the Lincoln. “This yours?”

Sonya nodded, and pulled the keys from her pocket.

“You’re driving.” She pressed the unlock remote on her key ring, and Nola got in the passenger side, still training the gun on her as Sonya settled into the driver’s seat. The sensation of luxury in the Navigator reminded her why she was doing this. Don’t I deserve a vehicle like this?

“So, where to?”

Did she want Sonya to know where the room was? It wasn’t like she intended to kill her. She had to think of an isolated place where they could pull over. She needed to tie the girl up and blindfold her, and drive the rest of the way herself.

Okay, so she hadn’t thought of everything in this foolproof plan, but at least she could think on her feet. She thought about that phrase. Think on her feet. Weren’t most people on their feet when they were thinking? I guess, unless they were sitting down at the time—

“Hello! Super-Ninja….where are we going?”

She broke out of her ADD attack. “Just drive forward.”

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