As usual, here is your warning that this story has cursing, sex (not graphic), innuendo, and violence. It’s my Rated-R action adventure called Derailing Bedlam. This is the fourth outing (third official) for Cassidy and Lloyd, so feel free to click on one of the two covers to see how it started. Each one is 99 cents!
Lloyd looks in the rearview mirror for the tenth time since leaving Grand Aquae, the bandaged man still confused on the willingness of their passenger. Arethusa calmly sits among the weapons and extra clothes, her dolphin tail forcing her to sit like she is posing for a photograph. The woman’s hands are bound by cords that can easily be slipped out of if she has to escape on her own. Her hair is tussled and falls around her shoulders, giving the mermaid the look of someone who physically resisted her captors. The charm on her necklace has a fake scuff mark on the surface, which one of the park artists was all too happy to create. Anybody who dares to peek inside would never doubt that Arethusa is a prisoner as long as they ignore the friendly smile on her face and the way she glances at Cassidy. Whenever Lloyd clears his throat, she tenses and takes on the expression of a terrified captive. The transformation is so sudden that the serial killer momentarily forgets that she is their ticket into the kidnappers’ hideout and feels the sudden urge to take off the useless bonds.
“Told you she would be perfect for this,” Cassidy says as the city of Eau Clair comes into view. Seeing a few other vehicles on the road, she watches them for signs that they are owned by the kidnappers. “Remember to stay in the jeep. We’re going to pretend to be potential members examining the operation. Once we grab Cola, we’ll have to get out of here quickly. Last thing I want is for you to get hurt or left behind.”
“You got it,” Arethusa bluntly replies, her voice betraying her nervousness. Leaning forward, she rests her chin on the shoulder of Cassidy’s chair. “This is pretty exciting, but know that I wouldn’t do this for anyone. You’re a really fun person to spend time with. Both in and out of the arena.”
Lloyd scratches his head as he glances from one woman to the other. “By the ink of bad romance authors, you’re smitten with her. You two haven’t even known each other for a day and you’re staring at her like she’s a goddess. I’m still hung up on our fishy friend saying she’s straight, but you’re her permanent exception, kid. What is it that you do to these women that leaves them wanting more?”
“There’s this thing she does with her-” the mermaid begins, licking her lips.
“It’s the big building over there, right?” the mercenary interrupts, her cheeks bright red. She can feel her partner staring at her, his deep eyes refusing to blink. “Mostly, it’s tenderness and attention to details. There’s a thing I do with . . . Look, I’ll write you instructions if it will make you drop this topic and never mention it again. Though, you’ll probably kick yourself for not thinking of it before since it’s such an obvious pleasure move. Okay, we’re almost at the door, so everybody shut up and let me do the talking.”
Turning off the highway, Cassidy does her best to drive at a decent pace without appearing suspicious. She keeps her eyes on the sides of the road while Lloyd watches their destination through a pair of bright pink binoculars. Glints of metal on the rooftop causes the cautious pair to lean away from the windows in case there are snipers. Catching sight of one of the gunmen, they hold their breath until they are sure their enemies are not going to attack. Moving around a series of abandoned cars, Cassidy realizes that the obstacles have been placed there on purpose. She can only imagine the nightmare of weaving among them while trying to get away from pursuing vehicles, gunfire, and whatever else they are about to face. As they reach the abandoned shopping center, the mercenary decides that the best escape is through a wire fence and then try to get back to the highway by going off-road.
The jeep comes to an abrupt halt when a long-haired, bug-eyed man jumps out of a tunnel that leads underground. Wearing a pair of black boxer briefs and waving a long knife, the guard whistles and screeches while dancing in a circle. He repeatedly acts as if he is about to jump onto the hood, but turns away every time with a clumsy cartwheel. The bizarre display finally stops when a bullet skims the man’s leg and he hops to the side while slapping at the blood-seeping wound.
“Shoot at my brother again, Dannie, and I’ll pulverize you!” a short woman yells over a headset. Nearly all of her head is covered by a helmet with metal plates welded to the sides, the armor painted to match her military style clothing. “Don’t go chuckling your head off, Kennie, since you know not to do whatever that is. Guard duty is the only thing we keep you around for, little cousin. I don’t want Paulie to blame me for another screw up. Just get back into your tunnels and put on some pants. There better not be any more dead bodies in there too. Our job is to capture, trade, and release. No killing.”
“I know, Cathie, and I swear I haven’t tricked anyone into my tunnels all month,” the unblinking man promises while scrambling into a camouflaged hole. He returns with a pair of jeans that are torn to shreds, the garment falling apart as he tries to put them on. “Sorry about that, cousin. I’ll get some new ones once we’re done here. These people look fairly interesting. I think they’re strippers since the one behind the wheel is barely clothed.”
“I saw her in Grand Aquae before we took that conductor,” Cathie states before walking to the driver’s side of the jeep. Taking a sledgehammer out from behind her back, she hooks the weapon on the open window and hoists herself onto the runner. “And that’s the mermaid I saw her with. All trussed up and looking sad. Could have sworn you two were making out, but that’s none of my business. What’s with your friends in all the bandages? Are you some kind of mummy freak?”
“No, I’m just culturally insensitive to the Egyptian people,” Lloyd replies with a smile. He is about to lean against his door when Kennie jumps onto the jeep and shoves his head inside. “I’d say I hope this guy has had all his shots, but I don’t think they would do any good. Honestly, I’m just the muscle here. The boss here is the one who seduced the challenge champion while I only got her in the sack and . . . Do you mind not breathing on my neck, buddy? Use your nose for more than a snack carrier.”
Sensing that tempers are starting to run very high, Cassidy turns off the engine and gets out of the jeep. She keeps her hands away from the guns that are strapped to her sides, the firearms looking odd with her swimsuit. The mercenary opens her mouth to talk when Cathie takes a wild swing with her sledgehammer. Not wanting the weapon to hit her baby, Cassidy steps in the way and catches the handle. Leaning back, she lets her upper back hit the hood and arches her body to avoid tearing the fake skin that is covering her tattoo. The kidnapper is surprisingly strong considering her height, the combination making her an unexpected challenge for the more experienced fighter. With a grunt, the mercenary pushes the kidnapper away and moves to take the fight away from the jeep. The two women push against each other again until a bullet hits the ground between their feet. A purple flare rises from the hideout’s roof, a message from the sniper that he will not give another warning shot.
“Guess Dannie is getting tired of watching,” Cathie mutters, taking a step back. Snapping her fingers and glowering, she gets Kennie to leave the jeep alone. “You did a stupid thing getting out of there without talking. Are you some mute or just an idiot?”
“Actually, I’m the woman whose job was ruined by you people,” Cassidy replies while opening the door. Reaching into the back, she gently pulls Arethusa by the bikini top until her face is in full view. “My partner and I were going to ransom her to King Grannus. We had just grabbed her when you guys attacked that train. Do you have any idea how hard it was to get out of there after you made a mess? We had a third member of our team who got caught, which is the only reason we were able to escape with the prize. Anyway, we heard there was this kidnapper haven or syndicate or whatever in Eau Clair. Figured we would come up here until the heat dies down since you owe us for the trouble.”
“Pretty bold request considering you’re intruders on our turf,” the kidnapper says, drawing a large handgun. She runs a finger along a series of crudely etched words, which are from an incomprehensible language. “This poem speaks about seeing the truth. If I point this gun at you then you will tell me everything I want to know. What makes this mermaid so special to King Grannus? Does she carry another brat that he’ll fawn over?”
“Yes, but it’s his own kid this time,” Lloyd answers from his seat. Even with his two companions staring at him in bewilderment and the kidnappers looking doubtful, the man leans back and smiles. “Sure, the old guy is impotent. That’s why he had his sperm syphoned out of his testes by the use of a thin syringe going into his vas deferens. After that, they combined his stuff with her cryogenically frozen egg and placed the zygote into a primordial soup to nurture it until it was strong enough to be put in the womb. This happened a month ago, which is why she isn’t showing. You know this is true because why else would I use so many scientific words in a way that sounded real instead of babbling mumbo jumbo like I on one of those old science fiction shows.”
“This is making my head hurt,” Kennie groans, sliding from the door. He remains sprawled on the ground even when his cousin walks around the jeep. “Let’s just bring them to meet Paulie and be done with it. Either he’ll kill them and take the mermaid or they’ll join the gang. Might be nice to have a mummy and a stripper who drive around with a massive arsenal. Besides, it isn’t like they can give us any trouble. There’s only two of them and Dannie is the best sniper in the state.”
“Don’t be so naïve. Best not to underestimate people we don’t know,” Cathie states, hoisting the wild-haired man up by the stomach. Adding a twist at the end, her grip leaves pink welts on his greasy skin. “I’ll keep them here while you run inside to talk to Paulie. He just got back with the Holly Sage Express conductor, so he’s probably resting. Have Dannie give me the signal to let them into the parking garage.”
Watching the man disappear into a tunnel entrance, Cassidy gets back behind the wheel and keeps an eye on the kidnapper. She is about to speak when she spots the woman’s hand move for a grenade on her belt. Unable to grab one of her guns without being seen, the mercenary leans back and pretends to relax. Pointing at a loaded shotgun, she waits for Arethusa to slide it into her hand before sitting up again. Cassidy keeps the weapon on her lap and silently prays that she is quicker than Cathie. Not for the first time, she risks a glance in the rearview mirror and fears that she made a big mistake taking the mermaid along.