Level 2 – 11
They were officially in a torrential down pour. Rain didn’t simply fall upon the pavement as they ran through the middle of the wide, empty street. Waves of water smacked down upon the pavement in thick sheets, like dozens of troughs being emptied above them.
Luke had said that the community pool would be right across the street and he hadn’t lied. However, the distance across was greater than Dylan had anticipated. As she struggled forward, the sensation of being watched pierced her from every angle. Despite the near blinding sheets of rain pouring down, both she and Luke were left exposed, out in the open.
With her body running on empty, Dylan was certain she’d collapse at any moment. If she weren’t so stubborn she would have. Her iron will and the possibility of escape was all that kept her going forward to the next safe space: whatever that meant.
They’d crossed the street and stepped onto the lawn leading up to pool. Only twenty more yards or so till the entrance. It felt like a thousand yards and growing. She shivered under her soaked clothes. They clung to her, constricted every movement. With each and every step it was like being slowly squeezed by a python. Her next step in fact sank deeper into the flooded grass than she expected. Tripping, and pitching down to the ground, Dylan put her arms up to soften the impact. Fortunately, Luke caught her again at the last minute. Throwing her arm around his shoulder, they hobbled on. Dylan would have protested Luke carrying her the last few steps to the gate. She would have said something if there was any breath left to spare, but there wasn’t.
Having reached the gate, Luke fished through his pockets, muttering, “Shit. Shit. Shit, where are they?”
Dylan remembered she’d been using the multi tool keychain and dug it out of her pocket. Handing it to Luke, she could barely say, “Here.”
“Thanks,” Luke replied jamming the silver key into the lock. He turned it and pushed through the fence. Pointing towards an awning, “Under there. Restrooms, and a phone.”
Dylan nodded and limped after Luke heading for the shelter. The entire pool deck was flooded over, but at least they’d be out of the rain under the awning. Plodding through the puddles on the deck they continued looking for any signs of cop cars rolling by. The fence didn’t provide even the slightest of cover. They were still exposed, and worse, trapped in a cage.
Finally under the modest shelter, Dylan let herself collapse on the driest spot on the pavement. She listened to the violent rain drops shooting into the pool like a legion of machine gunners firing all at once from the sky. The pavement smelled rank of chlorine. Over the sound of heavy rain, Dylan heard the pleasant sound of quarters sliding into the a metal receptacle. It reminded her of the McLaren Arcade, and she wished more than anything to be standing there rather than lying here, on the ground, in the rain, soaked to the bone.
Lifting her throbbing head up, Dylan asked, “Who you calling?”
Luke shushed her, but after a pause answered, “Bo.”
Dylan coughed out, “That’s cool.” That tiny glimmer of hope she’d held onto shined a little brighter. Even the one and only Sub-Zero would have to admit that Dylan was hardcore now. What were the odds that Bo had also broken into a house to investigate a kidnaping and ran from the cops? Dylan smiled at the thought of Bo’s approval even though smiling hurt her face.
Luke hung up the phone and slid in another thirty-five cents into the receiver. Waiting for a dial tone, Luke grumbled, “Pick up. Pick up damn it.”
Even almost devoid of energy, Dylan’s curiosity still sparked as she asked, “How do you even know Sub-Zero anyway?”
Rolling his eyes Luke replied, “I told you I went to the DAC two years ago right?”’
Talking into the pavement, Dylan’s muffled voice replied, “No, you didn’t.”
“I made it to the final round. He was the other guy.”
Rolling over on to her back, Dylan raised an eyebrow, “You fought Sub-Zero?”
“I fought Bo Han, yes. He considered me a worthy enough opponent,” Luke hung up the receiver again and pulled out his last two quarters. “I lost, but I was the only person to take a full ninety-nine seconds for him to beat me. I had the lower life bar, but he never knocked me out.”
Dylan gave Luke a weak little clap, “My step-brother, LAG the immortal.”
Dropping the last of his change into the phone, Luke huffed, “That was a mistype.”
“You couldn’t just wait till the cursor made it over to the ‘P”?”
“I was working with a broken joystick, alright?” Luke turned his attention to the phone, “Bo Han, it’s Luke– DON’T HANG UP!– Fine. I’m sorry. I said I’m sorry, okay? Fine. Sub-Zero, we need your help– What does it matter who we– OKAY! okay. My step-sister and I– yeah her. Fine.” Luke handed the phone over to Dylan, and breathlessly stated, “He wants to talk to you.”
Dylan tried to mask her excitement, which was easy since every muscle in her face and everywhere else hurt to move. Taking the phone, Dylan’s hoarse voice asked, “Sub-Zero?”
Over the phone, Bo Han’s distant voice answered, “Well, if it isn’t Lady DAY. How may I be of service to you and your spastic step-brother?”
Nearly half an hour had passed since Dylan had ended her phone call with Sub-Zero. She’d given as much of an enthusiastic account of what had happened as she could. Simply incredulous of their adventure, Bo Han agreed to pick them up simply to confirm the tale was true. That was thirty minutes ago. For one thousand and eight hundred seconds, they had watched at least two different patrol cars slowly cruise past the pool like sharks. Both Dylan and Luke were about as safe as bleeding baby seals in deep water.
Both Luke and Dylan were lying flat on the deck, motionless, and waiting. Luke however, had waited long enough. Sitting up, and pressing himself against the side of the bathroom wall, he asked, “If we had to, could you walk home?”
Taking a short breath Dylan answered, “Event if I wanted to, I don’t feel like I could stand.” The rain had let up just enough to see clear sky far in the distance. Looking out over the horizon, she watched the sky turn a mix of electric pinks and purples as the sun began to dip under the storm clouds. In just a few more minutes, they were either going to get hauled off by the cops, or murdered by her dad.
With a sigh, Luke asked, “What was that you were humming earlier?”
Dylan shot back, confused, “Humming? When was I humming?”
“You were humming while you were running up the hill, and jogging over here.”
With a smirk, she answered, “One Hundred Miles and Runnin’, NWA.” Luke raised an eyebrow and waited for Dylan to explain, “I can’t say what it stands for. It’s a rap group I used to listen to back home. Seemed appropriate at the time.”
Luke chuckled, “You listen to rap?”
Sitting up against the bathroom wall, Dylan spoke with an edge, “My friends listen to it. I listen to it. It’s my music.”
With another stifled laugh, Luke dug deeper, “So you just listen to it because it’s what was popular? You didn’t pick it up on your own? Kinda like you playing video games.”
Her defenses were up now as she shot back, “I play videogames because… You know what, I don’t have to explain myself to you.”
“That’s a solid answer,” Luke said with a smirk.
Dylan stood up and got right in Luke’s face and bawled her fists tight, “How about I show your face what I’d do if I wasn’t playing video games?”
Looking Dylan up and down, Luke smiled, “You feeling differently about walking home now are ya?” Crossing her arms across her chest, Dylan leaned back against the wall. Luke motioned for the fence, “It’s been clear for a few minutes. We better go while we still can.”
Dylan reached out for Luke before he took off, “What about Sub-Zero?”
Luke snorted, “He’s not coming. Let’s go.”
Breaking free from his step-sister, Luke dashed over to the fence. Dylan hobbled after. Nearly at the gate, a white-rusted Toyota pickup truck hydroplaned around the corner, and skid to a halt in front of the pool. Two polite honks came from the truck as the passenger window rolled down to reveal Bo shouting, “Where the party at?”
Luke plowed through the crash bar on the pool gate and ran to Bo’s truck. He shouted back, “It’s at the corner of Maine and shut the hell up!”
Bo snorted, “Well, if my presence isn’t appreciated…” Letting his foot off the brake, the truck began to roll forward.
Dylan had finally caught up to the truck. Her voice strained, “Bo, stop!”
Bo put his foot back on the brake and caught a good look at Dylan, “Oh man, kid you got wrecked. Guess you weren’t lying about being fugitives, huh?”
Trying to vocalize, Dylan grabbed hold of the truck, “Cops… There’s cops…”
Before Dylan could bother with complete sentences, she saw another patrol car poke it’s way out of the alley a few blocks in front of them. Bo, turned his head to where Dylan had been pointing. Luke had already thrown himself in the back of the truck. Trying to get herself over the side of the truck bed, Luke grabbed her arm and pulled her in.
Almost immediately, Bo made a quick U-Turn and headed for the exit. Dylan knocked on the side of the truck and shouted, “Don’t race out of here or they’ll pull you over.”
Bo didn’t say anything but gave two knocks on the other side of the glass as he slowed down. From inside the truck bed, Dylan could hear the patrol car approaching. The sound of the tires splashing through the flooded street, and the V8 supercharged engine rumbling beside them. Bo had now come to a complete stop. Looking up, Dylan silently begged the stoplight to turn green. They were on the edge of forever, lying silently, waiting for the police to sound their siren.
Bo steadily applied pressure to the gas easing the truck through the intersection when the light finally turned green. They turned left onto Park Boulevard. The cop car turned right. Dylan exhaled. Her nerves were more on edge than they’d ever been before. Everything from her toes, to fingers felt like they were locked up. Dylan suddenly remembered she’d been clutching the pink binder in a vice grip since the alley way.
She wanted to open the binder and take her mind off the possibility of being arrested from breaking and entering. Now wasn’t the time. She wanted to feel safe, warm, and dry before opening another mystery. Looking up, Dylan watched the dark storm clouds rolling across the sky overhead. Every once and awhile there would be a patch of clear sky. That sky grew darker my the minute as they turned right, and drove down Preston Road.
Taking a deep breath, Luke risked sitting up right and knocked on the window. Blindly reaching behind him, Bo eventually opened up the window, “Yeah?”
Luke shouted over the light traffic and the wind, “Right on Lloyd, Right on Maple, and right on Bent Creek.”
Bo gave a thumbs up, “Roger that. In the pipe, five by five.”
The last lights had nearly left the sky by the time Bo’s battered truck pulled up into Luke’s driveway. Hopping out of the truck bed, Luke sprinted for the door. Dylan on the other hand struggled to sit upright in the filthy truck bed. She heard the driver’s side door open and watched as Bo lowered the tailgate for Dylan. He bowed with a goofy grin, “I believe this is your stop, Lady Day.”
Dylan tried to mouth the word thank you, but all that came out was a hoarse cough. She took Bo’s hand as he helped her out of the truck bed. In that same moment, the garage door began to rise. Her father’s Lincoln Continental roared to life and began to roll forward. Breaking before running into Bo’s truck, Colonel Yates stepped out of the car and asked as any parent would of his daughter, “Who is this?”
Luke stopped fumbling with the keys to answer, “Um, Mister… I mean, Colonel Yates, this is Bo-Han Kirigami. He’s a friend from school.”
Not turning to acknowledge Luke, Dylan’s father replied, “I have a completely separate line of questioning for you. Later. Right now, Dylan, who is this boy, and why are you in his truck?”
Dylan took a breath, “We got caught in the storm. Luke didn’t want you to think he couldn’t take care of me, so he called his friend. He is actually the current North American Mortal Kombat champion, AND he’s won the Dallas Arcade Championship three times.”
Dylan’s father was not impressed.
Trying to take the initiative, Bo Han stepped forward and extended his hand, “Nice to meet you, sir. Bo-Han Kiragami.”
Isaac shook Bo’s hand, and did not release it, “You don’t look like you’re in high school.”
Bo replied, wincing under the Colonel’s vice grip, “No, sir. I graduated this spring.”
“So you still hang out with minors and play video games all day long now, is that it?”
Finally releasing Bo’s hand, Sub-Zero replied confidently, “Actually, I’m the lead programmer and telecommunication software engineer at Fujin International. All work and no play makes… well it’s really just all work mainly. That is an impressive grip you have there, sir.”
“All work, huh? You still have time to give car rides to my thirteen year-old daughter?”
Dylan spoke up, “He was just helping out Luke dad, who by the way, helped me from nearly eating pavement on the way over here. In fact, Luke has been a surprisingly good step-brother today overall.”
Isaac turned from staring down Bo and gazed over to Luke frozen on the doorstep. Looking back to Dylan, he cleared his throat, “Get inside and get dry, Private, before you catch cold in those clothes.”
Dylan snapped to attention and gave a salute before hobbling off into the garage. Stopping in the entryway, Dylan turned back to her father just before he got back into the car and asked, “Um, Dad, is it okay if Bo-Han stays for dinner? He did drive out of his way to get us. AND, he did drop us off before dark.”
Her father’s eyes narrowed as they met Dylan’s. Letting out a short sigh, he turned to Bo, “Get that bucket of bolts off my driveway, and take off those boots before you enter the house, understood?”
Bo-Han bowed, hands folded, without even a hint of sarcasm, “Thank you, Mr. Yates.” Running back to his truck, Bo quickly backed out of the driveway and parked it beside the nearest empty curb.
Turning to Luke, Colonel Yates offered the slightest of grins, “Thanks for bringing her back home on time.”