I’ve been writing again, this time I took a dialogue prompt and used it to draft the below. It’s only a rough draft. I’m sure I could spend weeks tinkering with it if I wanted to. I just wanted to get it down on paper if I’m honest – including all the incredulous and unbelievable bits. It’s also a bit swearier than usual so don’t read if this offends you!
Feel free to suggest improvements, as always, you are my mentor in these things and I willingly soak up your writerly genius.
If I’m honest, I’m not entirely sure how I managed to get myself into this. This time last week, I was in a wine bar with my best friend of twenty years, blissfully unaware she was an assassin. Today, I’m dressed like some sort of ninja hooker, laying beneath a lorry with an oil leak and wondering what the fuck happened.
“You still there Andi?” My friend called.
“Where the fuck else would I be Josie?” Her laughably unlikely assassin name still added to my sense of disbelief at this whole situation. I heard her tut before she reached under the lorry, grabbed my ankle and dragged me out through the putrid puddle of oil I’d so carefully avoided for the last fifteen minutes.
“Shit Josie, I’ll never get that out of my hair.” I hissed to her shadowy outline as I sniffed my ponytail.
“Rub neat washing up liquid in it. It’ll come right out.”
“Of course it will.” I muttered, my brain producing an image of an assassin life hack course where she’d learnt these things.
“Right.” She said in that tone I knew to mean business. “I’ve scoped the warehouse. There’s a camera over the main door and one on each corner of the building. There’s also guards patrolling but there’s only three of them and they’re lazy. They’re not expecting any trouble.” Even in the dark I could see her eyes widen. I hoped to Christ it wasn’t excitement because I really wasn’t on the same trip as her.
“Shall we go home then? We’ll never get in if it’s so well protected.”
Josie leaned forward. “It’s not well protected. It’s virtually unlocked, we can just walk right in there.”
“But the guards and cameras on the doors!” I protested.
“Chill Sweetie, we’re not going in that way, we’re going through a window.”
I hadn’t considered we’d do anything other than sneak through a conveniently open door somewhere and I tried to keep my traitorous face from saying the same thing.
“Look.” She continued. ” The main door and that whole side of the building are out. Too many eyes on that. There’s three guards patrolling a four sided building, they can’t be in all places at once. At the back there’s a window big enough for us to get through so we’ll climb in when the guards pass and leave us a few minutes gap.You’re okay with that aren’t you?”
“Uh-huh.” I said, forcing my head to nod convincingly.
She looked at my face, squinting her eyes and leaning in to scrutinise my innermost thoughts. I felt beads of sweat appear on my top lip at the effort of keeping my face neutral. She knows how to make me crack, she’d been using the same trick since school. It’s how she found out I hated Take That despite going to six concerts with her and that yes, her bum really did look big in her favourite white jeans. I’m a pathetic liar. She released my eyes and sat up again.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be fine. There’ll be plenty of time. Come on.” She said, springing to her feet. I followed, the veiled dread sitting heavily in my stomach.
We stuck to the shadows cast by heavy plant vehicles and pallets of tightly cellophaned bricks and cement bags. I followed Josie’s lead as closely as possible, crouching and dashing between the dark pools of safety as we hid from the exposing glare of security lights. She made frequent hand gestures to me in silent communication but I could only guess what these meant since I’d missed that important assassin course too. She stopped and signalled for me to come and crouch beside her.
“There’s the window we’re going through.” She said, pointing to a tiny glass cutout above an illuminated sign sitting proud of the wall which read ‘Brewers Builders Ltd’
“You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s about a hundred feet up the wall, have you got a ladder tucked into that commando belt of yours?”
She laughed quietly. “Don’t be daft. You can get up there. I didn’t choose the County Cheerleading runner-up to come with me for no reason you know.” A familiar wave of murderous intent washed over me.
“I was only runner-up because you cheated, and you know it.” I said through clamped teeth. “And what do you mean you chose me?” A series of random events and discoveries this week had led to me being here, none of which had involved Josie choosing me.
“Andi sweetie, if I hadn’t wanted you to know about my job, I wouldn’t have let you find out. I needed you and your particular set of skills to help me rescue my partner. I thought it was only fair you helped me since it was partially your fault he was taken hostage in the first place.”
“I’ve apologised for that already, I had no idea those guys weren’t there to pick up your car. I also had no idea that Troy was in the boot.”
Josie waved her hand dismissively at me. “There’s no point going into it now. I needed help so I left you clues to follow and work out the truth. I’m actually quite impressed you managed to work it out so quickly. I didn’t expect you to find my armoury, that was a surprise.”
“You knew I was sneaking around your house and you didn’t say anything?”
She nodded and for the first time I thought I saw a shadow of doubt pass over her features. “I knew I could trust you, but I needed to know that you weren’t going to freak out on me.”
“And what would you have done if I had?”
“I’d have had to killed you of course.” She said, shrugging her shoulders. “I wouldn’t have wanted to obviously, which is why I’m relieved you took it so well.” She pulled me into one of her tight schoolgirl hugs. “I’m so glad you know.”
It did explain a lot about the weirdness that followed Josie around, her sudden disappearance from dinner parties without a word, her insistence she was in Tesco despite her foreign ringtone. Nobody should be able to crash their car so many times and still afford insurance, it spent most of the time in the bodyshop. Passing her keys to the friendly mechanics while she was at work was something I did regularly. It was an easy mistake to make.
I shook my head to clear the miasma of odd happenings. “What’s the plan then?”
“The window is on the second floor. This is where you get to shine. You are going to use the flag pole to swing up to the sign and then onto the window sill.” She said pointing to the white pole bolted to the wall at a near right angle high above us.
“Come again?” I asked, not certain I’d understood the words I knew I had heard.
“Pole. Sign. Window.” She repeated, pointing to each in turn.
“So, you’ve dragged me into this for my gymnastic ability?”
“Yes. Unless you can think of a good use for your nine out of ten blow job skills?”
I opened my mouth intending to be indignant but at that moment she removed Crocodile Dundee’s knife from the arsenal around her waist, cut a tie on her belt and a coil of thin rope fell into her hand. I shut it again.
“I’m going to boost you up and you’re going to find a way to get from the pole to the ledge. Don’t look at me like that, it’s just like being on the uneven bars, you were always the best at those.”
“I was always the best at everything.” I muttered, my mind drifting back to her historic win.
“Once you get to the ledge, you need to pop the catch up with this and slide the window open.” She casually handed me her credit card as if she was paying for lunch. “Then climb in carefully. You’ll need to secure this rope and throw it down to hoist me up.” She said wrapping the soft black cord around my waist.
“Josie, you could get up there quite easily without me hoisting you up. Surely you’ve learnt enough shit-hot Mission Impossible skills doing this job for that? You don’t need my help.”
“Rule number one in this game; someone has to have your back and since my partner is probably chained to a chair in there, I need someone else I can trust behind me. That person is you. Are you ready?”
I nodded and we watched from the shadows as the guards made their rounds. I was not imagining the carnal excitement oozing from Josie as she waited, poised like a lioness to pounce. I wondered how she bore the nine to five monotony of suburban life if this was what really turned her on.
“GO!” She whispered, and we ran across the brilliantly lit yard to the shadow of the building.
“Right Andi, I need you up in your best elevator extension sweetie.” She said, squatting slightly and holding her hands out to me. I didn’t think twice, she was the best base in the cheerleading squad at school and had the strength of the whole team combined. I took her hands, walked up her thighs and climbed up to her shoulders before stepping into her palms so she could lift me. My fingers groped the air for the pole as we both reached full stretch. The cold metal tapped against my hand and I gripped it gratefully, lifting my feet from Josie’s hands and swinging back and forth until I had enough momentum to hoist myself up and sit on the pole. I leaned down to ask what the next move was and watched Josie’s head disappear behind a pallet just as a guard appeared from around the corner. Sitting astride a flagpole, 14ft in the air is not something I thought I would be doing with my Saturday night so going with my base instinct not to die, I sat as still as a statue until he passed.
The window was still several feet away. As Josie suggested, the illuminated sign of Brewers’ Builders on whose land we were currently trespassing would be a middle rung in reaching it. Before I could question my sanity, I dropped myself back into a swinging position and began to build up my momentum. In my mind, I pictured the sign as a balance beam, albeit attached to a wall twenty feet from the ground and scary as hell. The moment I let go of the pole and flew towards the sign I knew I would make it. Adrenaline flooded my body and I fleetingly understood Josie’s crazy excitement. My feet landed on top of the sign and I knelt to grip the edge, steadying myself until I felt sure equilibrium had returned and I wasn’t going to fall. I had never done anything so reckless or exhilarating before in my life and the thrill of not falling to my death washed through me in a hot wave of relief. I heard a faint ‘whoop’ and looked down to Josie’s double thumbs-up, her face grinning from the shadow. I stood to full height smiling manically to myself, groped above for the window ledge and easily hoisted myself up, the adrenaline was doing a welcome job of supplying superhuman strength.
The aluminium windows were insecurely fitted into a sliding casement. As Josie had instructed, a credit card slotted between the frames lifted the latch and allowed the window to slide open easily. I tucked her card safely back into my pocket, if I gave into my growing urge to run away she could shout me a few consolatory drinks. I climbed through into the room and as my eyes adjusted to the gloom, the knobbly dark shapes around me focussed into desks piled with computers and office paraphernalia. A glass fronted server cupboard bathed the room in an eerie green glow as the rows of panels flashed among a tangle of cables. I stood statue-still for what seemed like minutes just listening and orientating myself. My thundering heart and bellowing breath seemed to echo around the room but I heard nothing else bar soft clicks from the busy server cupboard in the corner. I slipped the rope from around my waist and tied it to what I hoped was a sturdy desk, dropping it out the window to where Josie was waiting. Using the desk as leverage and standing on the rope to stop it slipping , I hoisted Josie up to the window and she hopped lithely through with a face wide grin.
“I knew you could do it sweetie.” She said, enveloping me in another bear hug.
“That was awesome! Who’d have thought I would be able to scale a building, break in and then pull your oversized arse up the wall!
“Feels good doesn’t it?” She asked, still grinning widely.
I nodded but quickly turned it into a shake. “No Josie! I’ve just broken into a warehouse where bad guys are holding a hostage. What the fuck are we doing? Why didn’t we just get the police to find him?” I asked, the adrenaline draining away and sanity taking its place.
“Chill Andi. You know we couldn’t bring the police into this. On the scale of weird shit I’ve done, this doesn’t even register. I’ll tell you about it someday, but right now – focus.” She did that hand movement where she pointed at her own eyes and then jabbed somewhere in front of her.
“I don’t mean to be thick Josie, but I don’t understand all these combat signals you keep giving. Can’t you just speak?”
“Sorry, habit from the field. It means shut up and keep an eye out in this direction.” She said, jabbing forwards again.
“So, what’s the plan now we’re in?”
“We find where they’re keeping Troy, rescue him and hopefully not kill too many people in the process. You should probably try not to get killed too.” She stroked her jaw, looking at me. “We should probably find you a gun or something.”
“A gun? I don’t know how to use a bloody gun. And you didn’t say anything about killing or being killed Josie. I would definitely have remembered that.”
“When did you get so whiney Andi?” Josie asked, sounding genuinely put out by my reluctance to die.
“Oh I don’t know, probably about the same time you dressed me in this cat woman get-up and dragged me on this fun ride-along.” Even in the gloom I could see her eyes roll.
“I know you’re having fun really, just loosen up a bit, you’ll have a blast. Come on, suck it up cupcake. Let’s go.” She said, slapping me with unnecessary force on the back of my shoulder.
I followed her as quietly as I could out the door and stuck to the wall like a lizard. We were up on a mezzanine floor that circled the upper level around the edge of the building. I could see over the crisscrossed metal barrier down to the warehouse below. The warehouse was stacked with neatly wrapped pallets of cement bags and bricks like those outside only these were arranged in straight organised aisles. Huge metal rods laid tied together on the floor like oversized bundles of strawberry twizzlers. Next to these, suspended from huge supporting frames in various stages of construction, were long rectangular cages made from the same rods. I had no idea what purpose these served in the building business but crucified to one of these with his head slumped to his chest, was Troy.
If Josie had seen him, she didn’t react to her partner’s predicament. She carried on inching her way along the wall in the opposite direction to the stairs. I hurried to catch up and tapped on her shoulder, pointing to the way down we were walking away from. She shook her head and pointed to a wall of racking and stacked pallets. My questioning hand signals and intense frowning illicited a silent laugh but she carried on walking. When we reached the racking, Josie crept up behind a thick round pillar and looked down before signalling me to follow her. She climbed the barrier and scaled nimbly down the racking. Half way down she looked up and jerked her head sharply to both summon and question me. The bravery imparted by the earlier adrenaline rush had completely worn off now and the climb down to the warehouse appealed to me about as much as the descent down Mont Blanc. The urge to turn and run fought with my loyalty to Josie, my best friend of twenty years whose partner and childhood sweetheart was tied to a frame below.
“Fucking hell.” I muttered to myself, swinging unwilling legs over the barrier and lowered them onto the cold metal shelving, wondering for the umpteenth time tonight what I was doing here.
Troy was now directly in front of us, almost within touching distance. He didn’t look up, I watched his chest for signs of breathing but couldn’t tell if it moved or not. Instead of rushing directly over to him Josie backed up and silently began opening doors to the rooms behind us. On the third door, she turned and beckoned me towards her, that excited glint in her eye again. I tiptoed to the room behind her and froze. The room was lined with weaponry, every available space held either guns, knives or ammunition. Josie clutched both hands to her chest.
“Oh, look at all the pretties!” She said.
“Can you please stop talking about assault rifles like they are shoes!”
“Mmm – they smell so good.” She cooed.
“Stop it, it’s creepy. I take it you saw Troy out there.”
“Yes.” She said, reaching for two small handguns, checking they were loaded and handing them to me.
I stood with these cold and considerably weighty alien objects in my hands like they were someone else’s dirty socks. “I don’t know how to use these.” I hissed.
“It’s easy. See bad guy, point at bad guy, squeeze trigger, shoot bad guy.”
I willed my face to register comprehension, but it didn’t respond. Josie sighed.
“It’s a last resort. Use them in case of emergency. Here.” She said, securing a double gun holster around my waist. I dropped the guns into the pockets and wiped my hands down my legs.
“Easy tiger, the safety catches are off.” She winked and I quelled the urge to vomit.
“Right, let’s go and get Troy.” She opened the door, walked out and was immediately sideswiped by a large bald man charging her from the right. I did exactly what any frightened friend would do and hid behind the door listening to the sounds of a fight coming from the other side. I steeled myself to peak around the door. My best friend was being attacked by a man the size of an ape and I was hiding instead of helping her. I crawled around the door, took a deep breath and looked in the direction of the fight noises. To my surprise, Josie was sat astride the facedown man tying his hands together with tie wraps. She jumped up when he was secure and ran over to me.
“Quick, that’s probably alerted the others that we’re here. We have to do this now.” She grabbed my wrist and we ran across the centre of the warehouse towards the lifeless, crucified assassin.
“Troy.” Josie whispered, slapping his face gently.
“It’s Josie baby. We’re going to cut you down.” She pulled a small knife from her Mary Poppins belt and cut the ties around his ankles and knees. He stretched his legs experimentally while she sliced through his arm restraints. He slumped forward heavily and we caught him before he fell to the floor. We hooked his arms around our necks and half dragged him towards the exit. Apparently we were done with stealth.
Troy started to become lucid as we hurried across the warehouse and began to take his own weight.
“Stop right there.” Boomed a voice from behind us. “Or I will shoot you in the back of the head.”
We all froze, my famously weak bladder threatening to spill over.
“I thought you might attempt a rescue Miss Klein.” The voice said to Josie. In my panic, the voice sounded oddly familiar yet I couldn’t place it.
“Turn around so I can see you. Now.”
We turned in a carefully slow semi circle to face him.
“You’re getting in the way of my transaction again Miss Klein. I’ve already had words with Troy here.” He said, waving his gun in our general direction.
My sharp intake of breath as I realised who he was caught his attention. “You’re Mr Brooks, the lawyer from the telly!” I blurted.
“The very same Miss Wrong Time, Wrong Place.”
“Jeez, is everyone living a double life in this town Josie?” I whispered towards Josie who did not take her eyes off Mr Brooks.
“Not everyone Sweetie.”
The hard object jabbed into my back. I turned to see the bald ape that Josie had tied up standing behind me, an identically dressed ginger haired man pressed a gun into Josie’s back too. They ushered us forwards towards the TV lawyer.
“Look Brooks,” Said Josie. “Why don’t you, me and Troy here sort out our little issues and you let my friend go. She only came for the ride-along anyway.”
“I don’t think so Miss Klein. Tie them up.” He said to the goons, waving his gun at Josie and Troy. He strolled over to me and gripped the top of my arm, poking the gun into my side whilst the goons secured my friends to the metal racking.
“I’m afraid I’m on quite a tight schedule today so I’ll have to kill you all quickly if that’s alright?” I looked over at Josie, wondering why she looked so calm. She probably had guns pointed at her all the time, I didn’t, and panic was starting to pull the walls in around me. I sucked in a few deep breaths to release the pressure tightening my rib cage. Josie was doing her silent signalling thing again but this time with her eyes. She rolled them in a giant circle and then looked right at my crotch. I was sure I hadn’t seen that one on any war films and had no idea what she was trying to say. She did it again and again and all the time, Mr TV lawyer was babbling about how Troy had nearly ruined his deal. Christ, bad guys liked to talk about themselves. Gun or no gun, he was starting to get on my nerves. Somehow, I’d become mixed up in whatever shit was going on in Josie and Troy’s lives. I could have fallen to my death climbing that wall to save him, could easily have been beaten up by the guards and to top it off there’s oil in my hair. Now I’ve got a TV lawyer poking my ribs with a gun, I really used to like him too.
Brooks jabbed me with the gun to make me walk, his goons were standing next to the racking smiling like a couple of twisted hostesses. There was no way I was being tied up in here and left to die. I could tell from Brooks’ stance and the limp hold he had on his gun that he wasn’t expecting me to fight, this was my only chance. If I was tied to the racking there would be no escape. I turned quickly and shoved Brooks with as much strength as I could, he was sturdier than I expected and didn’t move too far but it did knock him off balance. I threw myself backwards into a double somersault, landed, grabbed a gun from my holster and pointed it at him before he managed to aim his gun at me in anger. Without saying a word, I squeezed the trigger.
The bang was deafening and I dropped the gun in shock, my hands shaking.
Mr Brooks was lying on the floor ten feet away and Troy and Josie were staring at me.
“Fucking yeah!” Josie screamed. “I knew you could do it. Cut me down Bob.” She said to the bald guard.
I stood, rooted to the spot as Josie ran up and hugged me so tightly she removed any ability I had to breathe. My legs wobbled and collapsed under my weight. We both folded to the floor, Josie still holding me upright.
“I’ll explain everything in a minute Sweetie.” She said, planting a kiss on my cheek and standing up.
“Didn’t I tell you she was fucking awesome?” She said to Mr Brooks who was rising to his elbows.
“Yep, I’m just glad you loaded the blanks.” He said, taking her hand and allowing himself to be pulled to standing.
“I didn’t.” Josie said, punching his arm playfully. “I just grabbed two guns and gave them to her.”
I watched them as if I was inside a giant bubble, their chit-chat contrasting the scenes we had just played out. “What the fuck is going on Josie?” I asked shakily. “I just shot him. The bad guy, remember?”
“Yeah, sorry about that sweetie. He’s not really a bad guy, he’s my boss. This was kinda your audition for being my new partner.” Josie said, recoiling into her shoulders like a turtle.
“Your audition, to be my new partner.” She repeated. “I see how bored you are everyday stuck in your dull accounting office, it’s sucking the life out of you. I know how much potential you’ve got, I wanted to give you a taste of what you could be doing instead. You’d be so good at this, you’ve got skills girl. Look how quickly you put together the clues I left you, and how well you stepped up to get us both into this building to save Troy.”
“An audition? For a job I haven’t applied for? That you presumed I’d want?” I could feel myself heating up again but Josie’s face was still, showing no regrets for voicing the assumptions she’d made. It’s hard to argue with someone who knows they’re right, I’d complained about my dead end life so many times to her.
“Yeah, this is how it works. You get sponsored and auditioned, it’s not a job you apply for. You’re chosen for it. This is exactly what Troy did to me five years ago.” She said, waving a hand at Troy who was still tied to the racking.
“If it helps,” Troy called. “You passed with flying colours. Josie couldn’t get up on that flagpole, even with me launching her up towards it. I had to push a truck over so she could reach.”
“Shut up Troy.” She said, throwing her Crocodile Dundee knife in his direction. “She already knows she’s better at that stuff than me.”
“Come on Andi, say you’ll be my partner. Troy’s going to be a trainer at HQ next month and I need someone I love and trust with me. I don’t want just anyone, I want you.” She walked over and picked up both of my hands. “You’ll love it, I promise. You won’t even have to kill anyone if you don’t want to. I’ll do that.”
“It’s quite a commitment Andi.” Said Mr Brooks. “You’ll be trained and sent on dangerous missions, but the rewards are great. You’ll be an agent serving your country, secretly keeping it safe from the shadows. What do you say? Do you want to give it a go?”
Josie was grinning like an idiot, watching me with eyes like a puppy waiting for a treat. Right in that moment, I could think of nothing I’d like more than to turn my life upside down and play Charlie’s Angel with my best friend.
“Do I get to wear this outfit?” I asked. “I’ve got kinda used to it.”
Josie’s excited squeals echoed around the warehouse and I knew I’d made the right decision.
“Excellent choice.” Said Mr Brooks, opening the roller shutter door and revealing an all black Hummer limo.”Shall we go and see to the details then ladies?” I walked towards the car knowing there’d be no turning back and not worrying about that in the slightest.
“Awesome. Great decision Andi.” Called Troy from the racking. “Can somebody cut me down now please? Anyone?”
Did anyone get to the end? 🙂