Pearl stood outside the restaurant waiting for Luke, huddling into her knee length brown coat and lifting the large collar to shield her neck from the frigid wind. Her pale grey eyes scanned the sidewalk, looking for any sign of the long legged swagger that would go a long way to make up for his lateness, but there was no sign of him.
With a frustrated sigh Pearl turned and headed south, walking directly into the wind and having to lower her face against it, her gaze focusing on the intermittent pools of watery yellow lamplight as she passed from one to the next. Her mind started making up all the shit a girl’s mind invents whenever she gets stood up: “What did I do?” “Maybe he’s not that interested.” “Maybe he’s dead in a ditch.”
Pearl chuckled to herself, the logical side of her brain knowing something very last minute had to have come up and the irrational side making up all kinds of crazy stories and she knew that the two sides needed to have a meeting.
It wasn’t uncommon to hear movement and conversation coming from the dark depths of the city’s many alleys, but this sound brought Pearl up short and she stopped, straining her ears to see if she would hear it again. She counted the passing of time by the pounding of her pulse. There it was again. In spite of not being able to make out any words there was something familiar about the voice, and turning toward it she made her way slowly into the shadows.
Her heels clicked quietly on the cracked pavement as she moved from cover to cover, pausing behind a dumpster then behind a stack of dilapidated pallets, each time pausing to listen for the voice. Pearl followed the sound like ET followed bits of candy, one by one she was drawn closer to the source and from where she crouched behind an old barrel she watched as two shadowy figures dragged an apparently less than willing third through a peeling blue door.
Like a hammer striking an anvil her mind pinpointed the strangled voice she’d been following: Luke. Once the figures disappeared from view she stood and jogged toward the building, stopping to stare at the plain white wall; there was no door.
“What the hell?” she asked quietly to no one in particular and she gasped when someone answered.
“You must see through what you see to what you can not.”
Pearl spun and scanned the area, grey eyes straining to see through grey gloom and stared as a faint light approached her. The marble sized green light bobbed and moved as though fighting a draft as it tried to hover at eye level.
“What do you mean?” she asked; she could give more thought to the fact that she was talking to a firefly later.
“She seeks what was lost.” The light said, bouncing more and more as though agitated, “Now! Go now!”
Pearl turned and stared at the wall, her brows drawing together in confusion. “I don’t understand.”
The tiny light zipped off and returned like a kamikaze pilot, dive bombing her head and she ducked and swatted at it. Splitting her focus between the insistent, cryptic helper and the wall Pearl took a few steps back and then ran at the wall, ramming it with her shoulder. She grunted in pain and adrenaline pushed her past it when the wall cracked and blue could be seen last the white.
As she backed up to run at it again the light calmed down and ceased its assaults. After three more painful meetings between her shoulder and the wall Pearl stumbled through the suddenly open door, emerging with an almost audible pop into a large cavernous room and her sudden appearance brought four pairs of eyes to rest on her.
Surprise hung in the air like a partially inflated balloon, bursting when a tall, thin woman let out a shriek and pointed an accusatory finger. As though an order was hidden in that sound a man the size of a linebacker charged her and Pearl dodged to the right just as he dove for her, his wide shoulders clipping her and knocking her to the floor.
Flipping onto her belly Pearl tried to scramble away, reaching for anything to give herself leverage, but he grabbed her leg and pulled her back and clutched her throat, squeezing with his meaty hand. She tried to pry at his fingers but they wouldn’t be moved. Spying the shoes she’d been knocked out of she reached out for one, straining her arm to its limit as her vision started to go grey around the edges.
Her fingers touched the smooth leather of her Jimmy Chu’s and she wrapped her fingers around it, cocking her arm back and then swinging out again. The sudden weight of the man’s body on her was like being pressed under a car and it took all she had to push him aside and wriggle out from under him. Climbing to her feet she looked at the shoe still clutched in her hand, the bloodied heel of her stiletto dripped with thicker things that used to be behind the man’s temple.
“And people say shoes like this are bad for you,” Pearl said, using humor to deflect fear as she stared from where Luke lay strapped to a sinister looking table to the crazy lady.
The woman rushed her, fingers curved like claws and she let out another ear piercing screech. Pearl bolted to left and ran around Luke’s table as the woman snatched up a jar from a shelf and hurled it at her, the glass shattering against the wall and spraying Pearl with formaldehyde.
“They are mine!” she screeched, “Mine to eat! Mine to love!” A jar sailed through the air to punctuate each statement, and with wide eyes Pearl soon realized that the wall behind the crazy lady was lined with shelf upon shelf of hearts, some still beating.
“Oh, fuck this!” Pearl said, lifting the hem of her coat and dress simultaneously and pulling a pistol from the holster strapped around her thigh, leveling it at the woman and firing a single shot that tore its way through her crazed grey matter.
Pearl holstered the gun and stared down into Luke’s wide blue eyes, shrugging one shoulder as she went about freeing him, “Did I mention I’m with the NSA?”