I know where the door leads. I can even remember the gruff voice snarling, "Working girls only!"
Working. That was working. Right now, with my right hand on my pistol, I'm working. This is just a job, right? Like that was just a job.
Right. And maybe, just maybe, reindeer really know how to fly.
It's personal now, I suppose, and I can't really hate the girl who's trapped in this building. She didn't know that in asking me to bring her here, she asked me to bring myself. I could have just said no, forget the money, and we could have gotten the hell out of here.
But I can't leave her here, not knowing where the door leads.
I can remember it opening and yawning like the jaws of hell, and you dug the stiletto heels into the floor a little more, because you didn't want to go. Like it helped. It never helped.
It's mocking me, the door. I'm standing in this filthy kitchen, so tense I can hear the cockroaches as they scuttle to hide beneath the stove, and I don't want to go. After all this time, it still scares me, and I don't want to go.
Well, I can't get in anyway, not looking like I do now.
I spin on my heel and sneak through the kitchen, to the heavy door on the other side. Every nerve is standing at attention, shrieking at me to hurry, not for the safety of the missing girl, but for my own safety. Every second I have to spend in this hellhole makes me more nervous, more afraid. Which I seriously hate.
How do you get close to a man with a big gun? Easy: take off some clothes.
So I shut the heavy door behind me. Perfect-thrown over the top of a screen is a pair of shorts the size of a personals ad and a top whose deep v-neck is grinning at me like a crouching tiger. The memory of the shiny vinyl on my skin is too vivid for my comfort.
I duck behind the screen to change. Not that it matters; the room is empty, but I want to keep something of my modesty.
Hn. Modesty! In a place like this, something to give the illusion of modesty. That's ridiculous. Obscene.
I shut the door behind me, and the smell of the grease is so strong it hurts me, and my feet are stuffed into painful shoes. The part of me that remembers all this is inside me crying, but I've shoved her into an empty room and shut the door. There can be no comfort for her, not now, not yet. I can't have anyone see her, can't have her give me away.
It is a physical effort to put up the gun, to hide it. Besides the fact that the tight shorts are the ultimate challenge to concealed-weapon carry, I know I'll fumble getting it out if I need it. If someone wants to kill me, I'll never be in time.
All this for someone I barely know, someone who's nearly gotten me killed on more than one occasion. Why?
The question is, what do I really see when I look at her? Do I see her, or do I see the part of me that's locked away weeping? The part that wasn't yet Hana, who didn't have to know how to hide a gun in vinyl shorts?
I'm not trying to save Wee Ming from her father, am I? I'm trying to save her from turning out like me.
That upsets me. Does her life mean that much, or does mine mean that little?
All this introspection is making me angry, so I almost run in the painful shoes towards the door in the kitchen. No more preparation; off with the clothes.
The little panel slides open, and I try to look harmless. I probably ended up looking a little sick. His beady little eyes don't notice, didn't care. His face fills up the well of dark in the little window, like a terrible fish.
"All right, you can come up."
I sidle through the open door, trying not to frown. Of course I can go upstairs. I'm walking up the stairs to hell--it'll be easy to get in. The trouble will come when I want to get out.
I can hear the heavy footsteps of the guards on the carpeted floor. Imagine a person who has less than two minutes left to live. Do they know? Do they walk the way they normally would?
I take a deep breath, let it out. Then I stride out into the hall on the uncomfortable shoes.
No one yells, "Halt!" No one pulls a weapon. No one even looks at me.
I head to the first door, remembering this routine all too well. No one says a thing. They just keep pacing, like pumas in cages.
Back and forth.
Back and forth.
Time to go to work.
I twist the knob, and they still say nothing. I can do what I want, can go where I please. I'm just working here. They don't think I'm dangerous.
I smile a little at the thought. They don't think I'm dangerous.
There are times in everyone's life when they have to do things they don't want to do, and it takes a special brand of courage to do them. I love to try my voice on characters like Hana (who partially inspired an original story I'm currently writing and who later taught me a lesson about human behavior). I only hope someday one of my characters might inspire someone the way these characters inspire me.
Reviews are greatly appreciated; I welcome reviews of all kinds. Please be constructive, okay?