There was a creak from above as the elevator doors in the hallway were opened from the outside, “Dr. Arlington, are you there?” The policeman’s voice was muffled by the thickness of the door Victoria had recently closed.
“Yes, we’re down here!” Eugene yelled, managing to sound frightened. “Hurry, there’s a child with us! I heard gunshots up there, what’s going on?”
“Don’t worry Doc, the fire department is on their way. It looks like there’s nothing to worry about here, some joker just pulled the fire alarm and it stopped all the elevators. There’s an override here but the fire department has the key to open the box. They’ll be here in just a couple minutes and we’ll lower you down to the lobby.”
“I’m not worried but the girls would appreciate a swift extraction. Victoria and I have a conference to get to and now she’s going to need to tidy up before she’ll let me take her there.”
“True Eugene. Annoying but true.” Victoria tried to make her voice sound spoiled and petulant. “Is there any way you competent men could just get us out of here? Jesus some jackass pulls the fire alarm and I have to deal with the fallout? Have you seen the state of my dress?”
Eugene sighed, “Sorry officers, I know you’re doing everything you can.”
There was a chuckle from above, “No offense taken, we’ll have you people out in a few minutes.”
There was a pause and Victoria heard a click and the same officer continued talking, “What the fuck happened here? I see blood and multiple bullet holes in walls. This place looks like a fucking war zone. You’re sure they couldn’t have been involved?”
“I dunno Jackson, but I’d better get forensics up here as soon as we rescue these folks. I’m going to send them down to eleven where there are some EMT’s waiting to make sure they’re OK.” Victoria realized she was tapping into their comm link and sent Adam a silent thank you.
After a couple of agonizing minutes the elevator slowly began to move down. Yeun-Ja came up to Victoria and took her hand.
“What is happening Toria? Are we in trouble? Why are the police coming for us?”
“It’s OK, they are here to rescue us. They don’t know we could get out any time we wanted and the rescue will give us the cover our need to escape. It would be completely illogical for a group such as ourselves to be involved in anything that went on up there since we were trapped and had to be rescued.” She gave the girl an encouraging look. “Once I fulfill an obligation to the doctor here I’ll help you find your dad and we’ll get out of here safe and sound.”
“OK Toria. I trust you.” Yuen-Ja said, “We leave together to find poppa when you have paid your debt to Eugene.”
Victoria squeezed her hand, “We will find your father together, just make sure you’re discreet. That data you have is dangerous and we’ve already seen that they are willing to kill for it.”
”Yes, I fear for poppa’s life.” Her lower lip trembled, “The killers took mommy before and now they are back for him. Is it my fault?”
“No, you can’t control the actions of others.” Victoria’s mouth thinned into a determined grimace. This girl had been through so much at such a young age, it wasn’t fair.
“What are you two talking about?” The elevator was still slowly moving downwards, “I don’t think we’re going to be able to get to your room, it’s a crime scene up there now.”
“They can’t deny me access to my things, I am going to at very least need my makeup! Are they going to move me to another room? They damn well better.”
“Just play the diva and you should be fine. It seems like you have that act down already?” He arched an eyebrow at her and she gave him a flat look.
“You’re clearly not used to dealing with girls Eugene. If you want drama I can turn it up to eleven; not wanting to ruin a five thousand dollar dress hardly qualifies me for diva status.” She strapped her shoes back onto her feet, picked up her purse and squared her shoulders. “I’m prepared for battle!”
Eugene was nervous about how this was going to go. He found it hard to believe the cops would just let them go after the obvious firefight that had occurred just a few feet from them. The only solution was to put their freedom in the hands of an eighteen year old girl who was actually involved in said firefight.
Of course another issue was her erratic behavior and the certainty that she was being directly influenced by his creation. The door opened and she immediately went on the attack, zeroing in on the poor floor manager who was waiting with the fire department outside.
“Why have I been denied access to my room?” She demanded, “Look at this dress, it’s ruined and it’s all because you don’t have proper security over your alarm system! I have a conference to attend and if I don’t look my best I’m holding your hotel directly responsible!”
She had her head high and was looking down her nose at the man who was stammering to respond. “Miss, please! You’ve been through an ordeal and may need medical attention I have professional EMT’s standing by here to examine you and give you what you need.”
“What I need? These men here may have medical expertise but do you think they can do anything with THIS?” She spun and pulled her hair away from her spine. “What I NEED is my doctor, my friend, a spa and a fast, high quality dry cleaner.” She gestured toward Eugene and the little girl who was looking at her with wide eyes. “Do you think you can manage that?”
“We have a world class spa Miss.” He said with smooth efficiency, “Please come with me right now; I will personally see that you and your friend have a complimentary full access pass. While you appreciate the luxury at the spa I will ensure your clothes are cleaned or replaced ready for you as soon as you require them. By the time you are done with your conference I will have all your personal items placed in a new penthouse suite for you. Is there anything else you require?”
To her credit she didn’t pause and instead looked him square on and said, “A bottle of champagne for me, a bottle of scotch for my doctor and fresh sushi for all three of us. Oh, and I’ll need my laptop from my room along with the case which should be on the desk in the foyer.”
“Absolutely, please follow me and I’ll take care of everything.” He walked off and she followed as though there was no chance of anyone stopping her, and to Eugene’s amazement nobody did.
“Thanks for helping us out guys.” He rolled his eyes at the med techs who were standing by, “You know how it is with the needy ones right?”
“I HEARD that Eugene!” Victoria said without looking around, “Get your ASS over here! If you make me wait I’ll make you sorry!”
“Shit man, good luck with that.” One of the EMTs was staring hard at the retreating form of Victoria, “I hope to hells that ass is worth the hassle, I wouldn’t put up with that kind of bullshit.”
Eugene gave him a chagrinned look, “I hope so too. Thanks for your understanding.”
“Sorry guys, gotta go.” Eugene hurried after the trio. Upon reaching the location of the spa, he was pulled off into a separate room by a fussy looking woman.
“Oh sir, this is the woman’s side! You’ll have to wait for your girls over here on the men’s side, unless they are family?”
“I’m Victoria’s doctor, there’s no reason for me not to join her.” He said, trying not to think about the innuendo the EMT’s had made.
“Ahh, but she’s not the only young lady over here is she? Off you go now.”
Shit, nothing for it but to let them go. “You take care of those girls for me OK?” He slipped her a hundred dollar bill. “I’ll never hear the end of it if they don’t have the best experience possible.”
“I can assure you sir our salon and spa will exceed even the most demanding expectations.”
Victoria lay back in a tub of heated mud, unsure if she loved or hated the experience. While it was amazingly warm and relaxing she also was aware of the minute grains of earth working their way into every crease and crevice of her body. How in the world was she going to get completely clean after this? She lifted one of the huge slices of cucumber sitting over one eye and cast a glance at Yeun-Ja who was totally submerged with only the tip of her nose protruding from the mud.
Strangely enough, her young friend hadn’t hesitated at all before disrobing and stepping into the mud bath. “It is very good for the body and the spirit. I have not had a good earth cleansing since we left Korea.” The mention of her home country brought a shadow across her face.
The staff was amazing, once they realized that Yeun-Ja spoke limited English they changed the attendant to a woman who spoke Mandarin. Looking like the strangest VIP ever dressed in overalls, a white T-shirt several sizes too big for her and pink flip flops she had lectured the woman about proper treatment of her hardware before handing over her precious laptop and HUD to be put in a locker. She also took off what appeared to be a charm bracelet with a dozen or so rubber animals about the size of her thumb hanging off it.
The woman looked as though she was used to all kinds of characters and took it in stride, assuring Yeun-Ja that her machine would be untouched. In spite of that, she had still insisted on having the key to the locker put on a large-linked silver necklace she refused to remove before leaving the dressing room.
Victoria understood completely, she certainly wouldn’t want to be separated from something so important. As she settled deeper into the mud she wondered what Adam thought of all this. In spite of her body’s state of supreme relaxation she had a feeling of readiness from her mechanical companion. Why in the world would he be so nervous? Oh well, at least she could relax with him on high alert.
After twenty or so minutes, the attendant returned to help them out of the mud.
”Did you ladies enjoy your soak? Come with me and we will let it dry in the sun, the feeling when it flakes off taking all the dead skin with it is fantastic. Then after that we will take you for a healing massage.”
They got out of their baths; bodies obscured by a thick layer of dark red muck and followed the woman to a long, narrow room with several low canvas deck chairs. It thrust from the side of the building and one wall and the entire ceiling were glass.
“Sit here and enjoy the sun warming your bodies. I will bring your drinks, is there anything else you require?”
“Not at this time, thank you.” The sun did feel amazing and as the mud began to dry Victoria felt like it was sucking the impurities out of her skin. It was a strange experience but a very pleasurable one. She was settling back against the soft canvas of her chair when she heard the side door open. Lazily looking out of the corner of her eye, she saw an unfamiliar woman enter carrying a bottle of champagne and two glasses on a tray.
Immediately alarms went off in Victoria’s head. First, the way the woman carried herself screamed combat military training. Second, the staff outfit she wore did not fit nearly as well as their other attendant’s had. Third, she had brought two glasses, and while she herself might pass for twenty one, there was no way Yeun-Ja was even remotely old enough to drink. From the satisfied feeling that settled over her, she figured this was what Adam had been waiting for.
”Just set it on the table please.” She murmured sleepily, watching the woman from beneath lowered eyelashes and waiting for an opening. The woman hesitated, apparently she didn’t speak Mandarin and had no idea what the instruction had been. Victoria and Adam both recognized the opening and burst into action simultaneously.
She flipped sideways out of the canvas sling of the chair, using that momentum to propel herself all the way around, spinning on one hand to sweep the woman’s feet. Her opponent fell hard, flinging the tray and its contents away as she tried to catch herself and landed on her back sliding slightly across the hardwood floor.
Before she could recover Victoria had flipped to bring her heel down on the side of her head with a sickening thud, bouncing her skull off the floor. The glasses and bottle hit the far wall, shattering into a thousand pieces, the bottle of champagne exploding like a grenade and Victoria stood, surveying her fallen foe. It was the first time she and Adam had acted truly as one and the thrill of it still sang through her body. Unbidden Queen’s ‘We Are the Champions’ began playing through her head.