Start here if you’re new to Mitsy: Mitsy Bats Her Lashes (Part One)
Then here: Mitsy Bats Her Lashes (Part Two)
Audiophiles, here’s Part Three audio for your listening pleasure:
“We’re okay, we’re okay,” Mitsy tried to say, but it came out “whee kay” with the shotgun pressed under her chin. Link was staring at her, panting inside his birdcage, searching her eyes for what? Zippers? Mitsy felt, for the first time, very out of control. This wasn’t a nasty escrow situation, there was no contract to enforce. There was a crazy dude with a shotgun and he currently held all the cards. Her eyes, already irritated from trying to rip her eyelids off, filled with tears that spilled down her cheeks.
Link yelled a startled “Gah!” and moved back a step, taking his shotgun barrel with him. He seemed to be holding his breath. A few more steps and he was brave enough to open his mouth. “Is that acid? What is that??? Stop doing that!”
Mitsy sniffed loudly and blinked the last two giant tears out of her eyes. This guy was afraid of his own shadow. She was afraid of his shadow, too, maybe he’d think it was after him and start something else. She blew out a big breath and tried to calm down. Having the shotgun barrel somewhere other than her chin helped tremendously. Mitsy was going to pretend he was a seller with a rotten roof and convince him that replacing it was his own idea.
“Alright. You got me,” she said, barely a hint of tremor in her voice. She folded her shaking hands on her lap. No point reminding him they were free. She forced a rueful chuckle. “I told them you’d never fall for it, but they underestimated you, didn’t they?”
Link stood up a little straighter, some of the fear leaving his face. “Damn right. All those black helicopters flying over, and I’m supposed to think you showing up is just a coincidence? After what happened on Tuesday?”
“Why don’t you tell me about Tuesday?”
“Yeah, right, like they don’t just download all that.” He rolled his eyes inside his wire cage. “You people were flying overhead in circles all damn day, taking pictures and using your mind beams. It didn’t work, though, ‘cause I stayed inside the Cocoon. I’ve been up every minute since then, watching, and here you are.”
Mitsy blanched. It was Friday afternoon. The man hadn’t slept for three days? Not that he was going to be safe and predictable normally, but this was not good.
“The Cocoon?” she asked.
“You don’t need to know about that!” Link was getting agitated again.
“We apologize for that,” she soothed. “I’m actually here to let you know it was all a big mistake.”
“Uh huh. They don’t send assets like you in to deliver messages. I already got their message, loud and clear, that I’m a threat and they’re gonna do something about it. These don’t lie. I can expose them all.” Link waved his hand toward the computers spooling numbers as if that explained it. Mitsy noticed he also had a large red button on his desk, one that looked like a cartoon self-destruct button. She amended the flyer copy to add “Many amenities, wired for surround sound.” The sound was “BOOM.” Small details.
She needed to redirect him. If he wasn’t going to believe she was harmless, maybe she could make herself the best of bad options. “Well…” she stalled. “Would you have let them in?”
Instantly, she knew she’d made a mistake. Link bounded over to one of his computers, like one of the moon-walking astronauts he probably believed never left Earth, and punched through a series of cameras, checking all his vantages. His anxiety was palpable.
“Where are they?” he asked her, intense and wild.
“It’s just me!” she protested, knowing he wouldn’t buy it. Link still had the shotgun in one hand, his knuckles white, and his shaky control was visibly slipping. He kept glancing at the front door as if it was going to burst open any second. He turned back to his cameras, seeing nothing and not believing it. He kept mumbling something under his breath, but she couldn’t make it out. Mitsy thought furiously. “If you have all this information on them, why haven’t you exposed them already?” she asked.
“I have to be able to disappear before I go nuclear. I’m waiting on some documents.”
“Documents? Like more evidence?”
“Like my passport, as if you didn’t know it’s been held up for weeks because I smiled in the picture. Just another way to get our facial biometrics, but I got around that.”
“So…you are going to use your actual passport to get away from the government that issued the passport?” Mitsy couldn’t help pointing out the flaw in his plan. Link sighed and put his shotgun down on one of the tables. Walking a few steps toward her, he put his hands on his hips, making them disappear into his foil bubble.
“Look, it’s not like there are people who make fake passports going door to door handing them out. I don’t use the sheeple internet search engines because of tracking, OBVIOUSLY.” He shook his head, jangling his birdcage. “My shielding on the building must be blocking your instructions or something. What do you remember? Are they coming?” He came closer, peering with uncomfortable intensity into her eyes. “TELL ME ABOUT THE BLACK HELICOPTERS,” he commanded.
Alright. If he wanted black helicopters, she’d go full fly-over for him. She’d burnt any chance of reasoning with him already. “They’re close,” she whispered. “There’s no place for you to run.” She closed her eyes and thrust both her hands at him, palms out.
The effect was electric and extremely clumsy. Link jumped in fright, off-balance in his outlandish protective gear, and began a panicky windmilling fall across the room. Mitsy held her breath. Just when he seemed to be gaining some control, he ran into one of the support posts again, hard enough to drive the air out of him in a whoof and pinball him in another direction. It was away from the gun, thankfully, but another three stumbling steps drove him straight toward the table with the big red button. One flailing hand came down on the thing with a loud, slapping mechanical click that surely meant it was activated. Mitsy braced for oblivion.
“Nununununononono….” Link stammered. Mitsy opened one lavishly lashed eye and peeked at him, wondering where the boom was. “I’m nuclear! What have you done!” he yelled, blaming her for whatever had just happened.
“What did I do? Are we blowing up?” she asked.
“NO.” He made a disgusted noise to make clear how stupid the question was. “My exposé just went out to every major media outlet in the world. I’m not ready! Chapter 31 isn’t even proofread!” Link looked at his button-pushing hand as if it had betrayed him. Computer screens went black in a cascading failure. The camera feeds stayed on, still showing no activity, but he was transfixed for a minute. Mitsy was afraid to interrupt him, not wanting to remind him she was there, or that he had a shotgun three feet away.
“Well, that’s it then,” he said quietly. “It’s time for the Cocoon.” He reached behind him and turned off the fan to his suit, slowly deflating like punctured kiddie pool. He headed away from Mitsy, to a scarred khaki school locker with the number “1013” on it. Must be where he keeps his bug-out bag, Mitsy thought.
She had both her hands free. She could probably get out of here if he just left, but she had to be in one piece for that to happen. She didn’t really know how to broach the subject after scaring him and sabotaging his big manifesto plans, though. Link was fumbling with the combination lock and had to start over several times. Well, no time like the present.
Mitsy silently lifted the loose ropes over her head, leaning to place them on the floor. The chair creaked underneath her. Link was opening the locker door when he heard the movement behind him.
“What are you doing?” he screeched, his extreme anxiety pulling his voice an octave higher as he turned.
“Now, Link,” Mitsy tried to soothe, “I’m just wanting to get out of here, just like you. Just tell me how to get out of here and we’ll leave. I won’t tell them a thing if you just let me out.”
“Hell no! I’m not leaving! This is the Cocoon!” The man tried to step back dramatically into the nearly empty locker. His birdcage got in the way, preventing his head from entering the space with his feet. Another boinging sound and he fell forward, clanging his feet into the locker and slapping the floor with his palms. The sound was unexpectedly funny, and Mitsy stifled an involuntary laugh, using the blank face she had ready for consultations with DIY homeowners who’d “improved” a few too many things.
Link scrambled up and disconnected something in the back of the cage. The wires sprung outward, allowing him room to yank it off. He tossed it at Mitsy with both hands, a wild but predictable throw she tried to kick away. Her heels weren’t down with that plan, though, and one of the sharp spikes caught a wire and wedged in-between it and another. Mitsy had to do her own flailing dance to keep from falling, but managed to catch herself on a support pole before kicking the wires, shoe still attached, across the room.
Link was busy while she was hopping. By the time she looked over again, he had stuffed himself in the locker and was closing the door, ready to wait out his own personal Armageddon. Well, he was more nutterfly than butterfly, but he was out of the way in his Cocoon.
Mitsy pulled off her other shoe and dashed over to the shotgun, unloading it like the seasoned trap shooter she was. She put the shells in her jacket pocket and went back to the locker.
Bang! Bang! She hit the outside of the locker with the heel of her hand. “Link? Are you going to be okay in there?
“Go away!” he yelled.
“You got it. Just tell me the combination to the lockbox.” Mitsy didn’t really need it, but it would be easier.
“No!” Link fired back with the vehemence of an offended two-year-old. Mitsy sighed and closed her eyes. No help there. Time to do it the hard way. She searched for a roll of tape and found some silver duct tape handy for patching Link’s space suit.
She took the Barton lockbox down and inspected it, trying to see if there was wear on the buttons to give away the numbers in the combination. All five numbers were pristine. She’d have to try to exploit its weakness, the “Number 3 Flaw.” She took the shoe she had in her hand and pulled the rubber tip off the sharp heel, creating a makeshift punch. She put the lockbox on the floor and pressed down the “3” button all the way. A small strip of duct tape held it down. Lining up the sharp heel, Mitsy brought her shoe down with all the force she could muster. She missed, and the lockbox skittered a few inches away.
Attempt number eight was successful. Mitsy got a dead-on hit with her shoe on the depressed “3” button and the lockbox made a popping sound. She removed the tape and the front compartment fell open, spilling the deadbolt key on the floor. A Barton, really? Might as well use one of those hide-a-key rocks. She looked at her shoe and sighed. Perhaps an “I survived” pair of shoes were in order, anyway. She tossed it with the other one.
She grabbed her briefcase, no reason to leave that behind, and walked to the locker again. “Link, I’m leaving. I’m sorry I scared you. I’m just a person who got lost.”
“No, you’re not!” he yelled.
“You going to be okay in there?”
“I was on Tuesday!” Alrighty, then.
Mitsy walked to the door and inserted the key in the deadbolt. It opened with a satisfying thunk. The doorknob lock opened with a little twist. The door still wouldn’t open. The electronic combination lock didn’t have a terminal on this side, so it couldn’t be that, but the card reader did. The card was presumably in the Cocoon with Link, the world’s most paranoid caterpillar. Mitsy considered trying to break the door down, but a 5’1” lady wasn’t going to break anything but herself.
She thought for a minute about what she knew about card reader locks. She’d had commercial properties listed once in a while, and these locks weren’t foolproof. Cutting the power was the easiest thing, but the main part of the box was outside. Lately, thieves were carrying strong magnets to jimmy locks like these. She blinked.
Mitsy had to drag a chair over to get up high enough to put her eyelashes right next to the swipe reader. She stepped up on the seat and put her eyes one inch from where the electronics would be on the other side of the door. She batted her lashes, once. With a little buzz, the lock disengaged. She quickly hopped off the chair and tossed it out of the way, opening the door before the lock re-engaged.
“I’m leaving now!” she called back to Link. He didn’t answer. Mitsy stood on the small porch, considering. The man was locked into a school locker and afraid to come out. Who knew how long he’d stay in there, waiting? She might need to call someone to go check on him? If she closed the door, they’d have to break in, freaking him out all over again. She decided to leave it propped open and call someone as soon as she got back to the convenience store. She cursed her useless phone again. She wedged a rock in the door and took off barefoot down the long driveway. She was relieved to see her SUV exactly where she’d left it, and fished the keys out of her briefcase.
As she opened the door to get in, a noise reached her from the direction of the highway. A fast, percussive “thwurp thwurp thwurp” approached very quickly, and as she looked up, three sleek black helicopters appeared, moving fast and in a tight line. She watched them fly directly overhead and begin a banking turn before disappearing over the trees. A light wind ruffled her blonde hair. That was weird.
Her SUV started just fine, something she’d worried about, and she drove back toward the convenience store at “I’ve been kidnapped and would enjoy being pulled over right now” miles per hour. About halfway there, a line of dark sedans shot by going the other direction, three of them nearly tailgating each other. They went by too fast for her to see anything but the impression of men in suits driving each one. Those guys should slow down, they were going to kill somebody.
The convenience store had more customers this time, and she felt better about that for a reason she couldn’t put a finger on. She wanted to use the phone, and she wanted to complain about those stupid eyelashes. She wheeled into an empty parking spot and stalked into the store, less scared now than furious.
The man behind the counter was different. He was just slightly taller than Mitsy, dark-skinned and wearing an apron with the nametag “Hakeem” prominently displayed. Some of Mitsy’s fire dimmed as she contemplated this man, clearly not the one she’d talked to before and probably the real “Hakeem.”
“Excuse me,” she said, taking advantage of a break in the stream of people buying cigarettes and diet soda. “Are you Hakeem?”
“Yes, how can I help you?” He looked slightly nervous.
“Do you have another employee named Hakeem? A big blond guy?”
“Uh, no, no, just me. I am the only Hakeem.” He was stuttering and wouldn’t meet her eyes, looking everywhere but at her.
“I was here earlier, and there was a big guy wearing your apron, then, is he still here?”
“That can’t be, I am the only one here all day. This is my store, no one works here but me.” Still nervous.
“Can I use your phone? I just had something terrible—”
“Oh, no, sorry, but the phone is broken. Will not be fixed today.” That was a lie if Mitsy had ever heard one, but there was a line starting behind her and she didn’t even know where to start. She looked around the counter for the “Rare Earth Eyes” display and couldn’t find it.
“Well, maybe you can help me with these.” She pointed to her eyes. “I bought these eyelashes here today and they’ve been nothing but trouble. I can’t even get them off!” She reached up to demonstrate on her left eye, tugging gently at the tips of the synthetic extensions. The entire eyelash popped off in her fingers with the first pull. She stared at the spidery cosmetic in her fingers for a moment, not sure what to say now. She dropped the lash on the counter and Hakeem took two startled steps back, the maximum he could in his small space. Mitsy plucked the other lash from her right eye and dropped it beside the first. Hakeem recoiled as if they were spiders, and highly venomous ones.
“I do not sell those, Miss,” he blurted. “I have never sold those and I do not know what you are talking about.”
Mitsy was starting to wonder if she knew what she was talking about. Of course, she’d bought them here, but the man’s protestations were vehement. “But…I’m sure I bought them here just a few hours ago?”
“Hey, lady, he says he doesn’t sell them. Maybe you got ‘em wherever you left your shoes.” A balding man with a paunch and long scraggly beard was ready for her to move out of the way. The other two people in line seemed to agree with him, looking quickly at her bare feet and chuckling. Mitsy stared hard at Hakeem, who was looking at the dead eyelashes, hands shaking slightly. This was not getting anywhere. She needed to get to a phone and call the police.
She looked around the counter area again, and not seeing a hint of the polka-dotted cardboard, or anything else that might help, scowled at the man behind her and stomped out of the store. Her stomping was not as effective as she’d imagined it would be, a small barefoot woman slip-slapping out across the linoleum, but it was all she could think of.
She carefully picked her way across the parking lot, avoiding a broken bottle and a wad of gum, and didn’t see the black envelope on her SUV until she was reaching for the door handle. She got on her tiptoes and retrieved it from under the windshield wiper. It wasn’t sealed, and contained one piece of thick, folded paper. When she slid the paper out of the envelope, several coins fell from the fold to the pavement, tinkling and rolling. Inside, there was a ten-dollar bill, two ones, and the rest of the 99 cents. She set the money on the hood of her SUV and read the printed note.
The unsigned note read, simply, “Thank you for your service, Ms. McDonnell.”
Copyright 2019© by Rebecka Ratcliffe, All Rights Reserved.
The Story: I hope you liked this story about a plucky real estate agent and her spooky experience–not ghost spooky, but spook spooky. Writing serial fiction is interesting. You have to have some idea where you’re going to tie it all together, but that final part is still a challenge. Constrained by what has gone before, you must satisfy the reader’s expectations in an unexpected way. Thanks again to Joshua M. Anderson for the cool idea of “magnetic eyeliner” that sparked this story!
PS. I am currently in need of more ideas for the idea list. I have a few queued up for the next couple of months, but the longer I have the idea, the more I can mess with the story. Drop your suggestions in the comments or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.