Nadina tightened her hold on me. She was a few inches shorter than I am so height-wise I shielded her perfectly. She was a little bulkier though, but chances were no one would try to shoot the bit of shoulder that I didn’t hide. At least, I hoped they wouldn’t try. I closed my eyes and pulled the door open. Nothing happened.
Nadina inched me forward. I listened for the expected chatter, ultimatum, sharp click of guns’ hammer being cocked or something along those lines. Nothing happened.
Was I already dead?
I barely cracked my lids, ready to shut them if anything frightening appeared. The back alley in front of me was empty. Where were the people? Had my intervention facilitate her escape? That would be grossly unfair.
From the hesitation in Nadina’s movement, I deduced she was as surprised as me. It stressed her. I could almost hear her think that she would rather take a planned showdown with bullets, adrenaline and life threats than this calm deserted alley that hadn’t been foreseen. She walked me a little further.
As soon as Nadina stepped outside, I heard a grunt, a thump and the arms around my neck forced me to go down with my captor. I fell to my knees and twisted to see what had happened. Nadina was pinned down by a military trained, pissed off black woman. For a second, I thought it was over. As I was about to rejoice, Rebecca’s face slackened and paled. Nadina started sliding free from my partner’s grasp.
I jumped and grabbed Rebecca’s hand, receiving in full the imagery sucking the fight out of my friend. Becky had been taken by surprise and her mind hesitated between panic and terror, leaving her body catatonic. I knew what would hit me and held my mind together. Nadina was deeply sick and belonged behind bars; “bloodcurdling” barely covered what she played in her head.
In the blink of an eye, I forced my calm inside Rebecca’s mind to counter the criminal’s bombing. I just needed the telepath to snap out of it and raise her mental defences. Nadina stood by the time Becky became immune to the shock.
The non-reader had two choices; head back in the building or get passed us. She didn’t have a chance; Rebecca and I were a hell of a team.
As she thought of running right in Arabic, I instantly translated and Rebecca punched her with her free arm. Only a telepath – or an army of non-readers – has a chance to down another telepath in single combat. They always know which move is coming.
For the corner of my eye, I saw a man with a knife coming in our direction.
Driver. Knows use of knife. Higher threat.
The analysis fired back and forth between Rebecca and I as fast as it would in one brain. We shifted our position. Feet spread, one forward, one back in a fighter’s stance, we stood back to back, our heels maintaining the contact between us. While Rebecca took care of the man, I’d beat the crap out of Nadina.
I had no clue how to fight. I had never thrown a punch. As Rebecca’s training altered my mind, I bend my knees slightly and prepared for battle.
All that in a second, tops. The man reached us a little after we were ready. Nadina had already received another jab for trying to run.
Two against two. They would try to take us on. Bad move.
The man attacked. Nadina threw a punch. Becky caught his arm, twisted and punched the shoulder. I dodged and landed an uppercut. The man’s yelling covered the cracking sound of his dislocating shoulder. Nadina whimpered. The knife clattered on the ground. Nadina’s jaw looked broken.
Ten seconds and it was done. FBI agents arrived and moved in to grab our beat up criminals. Rebecca and I hugged.
“How comfortable is she now, bitch?” Rebecca yelled over my shoulder. Nadina didn’t answer but she thought about it intensely enough.
Now that the adrenaline was fading, my muscles shook. My throat hurt from being squeezed. My hands were numb. My nerves doubted they could hold for the rest of the day. Good thing Rebecca was cheered by hand-to-hand combat.
“How the hell did she get out of those restraints in the first place?” My nervousness had stripped Rebecca from her post-ass-kicking joy faster than we smacked down the bad guys. She fumed and anyone walking by was liable to be harangued. Right this minute, she targeted Jackson. Ryan stood a few steps back. A prudent decision, which he ought to know since he picked the mood right out of Rebecca’s mind.
I sipped my cup of coffee, sitting a couple of feet away on the fire escape stairs, the secret behind Rebecca’s rescue. She had jumped from the first floor to land on Nadina, invisible until she flew in.
“Initial investigation reveals she had an acid compound in a capsule in her sleeve. It weakened the metal loop holding her cuffs to the table.” I suspected Agent Jackson to voluntarily maintain an overly professional attitude in hopes of steering Rebecca back to calmer waters. Boy, he didn’t know her at all.
“Don’t ‘initial investigation’ me when death just flirted with my girl.” Body guard duty looked so natural on her. If I hadn’t seen it for two years, I wouldn’t believe she could perform a desk job.
“But she’s fine. Not a scratch on her.”
Becky opened her mouth for what her face advertised to be violent retort but unexpectedly closed it without a word. Agent Jackson began to express smugness. Ryan tugged on his sleeve before the growing smile on his partner’s face tore down any reserve Rebecca had.
Casey appeared around the corner, tucking his ID back in his wallet. He reached us in a New York minute. He patted Rebecca’s shoulder. They shared the same face now, the “sorry I failed you” one.
“Thanks for holding back when I asked,” Casey said out loud for my benefice. “You’re very bad for inter-agency relationships.” He smiled.
“You want to scold them too.” Rebecca answered.
“Yes. But instead, I’m going to do this…”
He hugged me.