Chapter One – Sue 'er?
Harriet Blaze - better known to the world as Haze - slipped her cell-phone back into the tiny pocket of her short white dress. She suddenly realised how conspicuous her attire appeared, and was again glad that she'd found hiding indoors. An unlocked and unguarded warehouse was a major blessing, no matter how much dirt and grime adorned the slab floor.
At least it wasn't quite abandoned. If that had been the case, there wouldn't be a row of worn blue overalls hanging on pegs. Haze ran to the far wall and selected the least ill-fitting pair that wasn't too oily. She decided it would be best to wear it over her own clothes, mostly because she didn't want to leave them to be spotted.
A hardhat over her silky black hair completed the illusion. She no longer looked like an internationally known pop princess. However, she didn't feel much safer. Any moment could bring a rush of armed guards, and who knew whose side they would be on? Likely not hers. Not that she really had her own side.
Her train of despondent thoughts was promptly derailed by her phone ringing. That is, it warbled the tune of her own rendition of Star Spangled Banner. She snatched it out of her pocket, glanced at the caller ID, and answered, "H-Haze here."
Her eyes lit up with hope as the caller filled her in on her situation. "There's a hidden way out, you say? Underground? Oh, you mean the sewer! Eww, if you think for a moment that I'm going to... Fine, if there's no other way, I'll do it. Actually, I've found some overalls, and there might be boots to go with this helmet. First right, then first left, about a block total, got it. The batteries out? If you say so. Goodbye, and thanks a million!"
After ending the call, Haze, pulled the battery out of her phone, just to be certain no one could track her by it. Then she pulled a digital organiser out of her other pocket. It had belonged to her husband, until a scarce few minutes ago. She removed its batteries too, not that it would make much difference, what with the chunk missing from one corner.
Racing unseen enemies, the young woman replaced her silver heels with steel-caps and made her way to the location of a sewer grating. She struggled against rust, succeeded, faltered for a moment, and finally dropped down inside. Feeling much safer already – despite the continuing pain from what must be a huge bruise on her chest – she headed north towards the designated exit point.
Elsewhere, the middle-aged Duncan Merry rearranged barrels and crates with his trusty forklift. Everything had to be just so, or it wouldn't work. His wife Norma looked on and gave advice. She knew as much about the different types of fuel and chemicals as he, having worked alongside him for over ten years.
It would be a shame to see their business go up in smoke, but sacrifices had to be made. Stock and property could easily be replaced. A human life could not. Norma checked her watch and headed for a drain cover. Their guest should be arriving soon.
Haze struggled back up to floor level and looked over her hosts. Seemed pleasant enough. "Uh, I'm Harriet. I've been told you can get me out of trouble."
The couple nodded. 'We're Duncan and Norma Merry. We're sorry you can't stay for long, but it's about to get a bit hot in here."
"Toasty, roasty, high temperature, crispy, burning, frying," Duncan listed.
"Give her a break, dear." Norma turned towards the visitor and explained, "We're burning these barrels as a sort of pretext. It'll make a lot of smoke, and eventually the whole place will catch alight and burn to the ground."
"We should be gone by then," Duncan added.
The young woman shuddered. "I should certainly hope so. When do we start?"
"How about you two ladies get well clear first. No point in all rushing up the stairs at the same time. We'll trip and break our necks."
Haze and Norma agreed and started trudging upstairs. Duncan caught up a minute later. "It's all in motion now. Can you hear the flames yet?"
Haze listened carefully for the roar of the flames, but her mind kept turning the sound into the recent applause of her audience. It was hard to believe that under an hour ago, she was singing at City Hall, naively hoping all would go well for her if she simply did whatever she was told...
Wondering what on earth this has to do with anything? Don't worry: in this case, '…' means Flashback Mode is on its way. Soon.