“I know, shut up.” Ezra traced the red wire back to the control box, then started turning the box over in his hands.
“I’m just saying, you know. Keeping you up to date.” Sigrid leaned against the wall, picking at her nails with a small blade. “Just wondering if Mister Walks Through Walls is havin’ a little difficulty.”
Ezra glared over his shoulder. “Mister Walks Through Walls could leave you here to undo this by yourself, you know.”
She nodded. “He could. But he won’t.” She glanced at her watch. “Four minutes thirty.”
He turned back to the timer and ran his finger along the blue wire to the brick-sized block of C4 that was wedged against the door. If they opened it, a relay would trip, detonating the explosive immediately. As it was, they had been given ten minutes, more than half of which was already gone. The only reason he was doing this instead of her was that he had marginally more experience in disarming bombs.
Marginally. Once. And that was very nearly successful. Kind of.
He held out a hand. “Give me a knife.”
She didn’t move. “Which one?”
“Big or small?”
“It doesn’t matter, just-”
“Do you want the double-edged flickknife or that new ceramic one I picked up back in-”
“Just give me a damn knife!”
She clucked her tongue. “Testy,” she said. She dropped a knife from her right sleeve into her hand, flicked it open and handed it to him. “Ceramic is best for this kind of thing,” she said. “Non-conductive.” Another glance at the timer. “Oh. Three-thirty.”
He didn’t say anything, but just started slicing wires. There didn’t seem to be any kind of booby trap in place, but he started closest to the brick and worked back towards the timer. If it did blow up, at least she wouldn’t have enough jaw left to say “I told you so.”
The wires cut, he pulled the ends out of the putty-like brick and tossed it to her. She didn’t give him the pleasure of panicking, but rather just caught it in one hand. “Nice,” she said. “But I was kinda hoping you’d hold off until the timer was just about at zero.”
“Well, next time you can do it,” he said, standing up. he tossed the knife to her, and she caught that as well. “Happy?” he asked.
“Why, about what, Ezra?” she actually fluttered her eyelashes at him. If this was her attempt at looking innocent, he couldn’t imagine why she wasn’t doing time.
“I didn’t tell you I could get out of that room back in Jersey. All right? You had your revenge, now can we just get on with this?”
She laughed, and it was about as amused as that look had been innocent. “You think I was upset about that, Ezra?”
“You didn’t talk to me for weeks.”
She shrugged. “Okay. Maybe a little irritated.”
“You. Burned. My. Jacket.”
“I was trying to clean it.”
She smiled and shrugged. “Whatever,” she said. “The point is that now we understand each other, right? We know where all those silly little buttons are and no one needs to push them anymore. Right?”
He could leave her here. That was perfectly possible. Just walk through the wall and let her wait until someone wondered why she hadn’t blown up yet. He glanced down that the timer, which was still counting down. Two minutes. He took a deep breath. “Look. In slightly under two minutes, someone is going to wonder why there hasn’t been an earth-shattering kaboom. They will come investigate, and I know for a fact that they won’t find me here. Give me a reason why they shouldn’t find you.”
The pleasant expression melted from her face and turned into something harder, colder. “Because, like I already said – you wouldn’t.”
He had to fight to keep his hands at his sides. She really was right. He’d worked with a lot of people, had a lot of partners, but none of them got him the way she did. None of them clicked the way she did. He wasn’t ready to examine the feeling much deeper, but he knew she was right. He wouldn’t leave her.
Ezra shook his head. “Wait here,” he said. He slid through the door and, a moment later, it popped open. He stuck his head into the room. “This would be a whole lot easier if I could just bring you through with me. We wouldn’t have to worry about defusing anything.”
“Not a chance,” she said. “I’m not getting my atoms mixed up with anything else’s atoms.” She put the knife back in her pocket and swung the door all the way open. When she stepped out in the hall, she paused.
“What?” Ezra asked.
She glanced over at him. “What’s it like?” she asked.
He rolled his eyes. “We really don’t have time for this,” he said.
“Then tell me,” she said. “What’s it like?”
Ezra thought for a moment. “Ever been through a spaghetti strainer?” he asked.
He grabbed her arm. “Kind of like that,” he said, and they dropped through the floor to the room below, and the one below that. She’d probably spend a little time puking, but it would be worth it. And there’d be plenty of time to make up for it.
“I hope you’re happy,” Sigrid said, tugging at the ropes. “All we had to do was show up, hand over the money, and we’d be done.” She tugged again. “Out.” She made a little growling noise as she managed to get her left hand into her back pocket to reach the switchblade. “Finished.” There was a pause, and a quiet noise. “Hah!”
The knife clattered to the concrete floor.
The man chained to the floor in the corner shrugged, torn leather scraping against the concrete wall he was leaning against. The chains jingled slightly. “I told you to hire another guy.”
“We didn’t have the money for another guy, Ezra,” she said, trying to take one shoe off with the other. “We had money for the guns – DAMMIT – and the… What did you call them? ‘Foolproof disguises?’”
“I never said they were foolproof,” he said. “Just that they were good.”
She stopped moving and glared at the wall in front of her as if Ezra were there, instead of chained out of her sight behind the chair she was tied into. “Yes. Of course. Very good disguises. If by ‘very good’ you mean ‘Perfect for getting our asses handed to us and making sure we would never be seen by our loved ones again.’”
“You don’t have loved ones, Sigrid,” he said, and she could hear the smirk in his voice.
“You don’t know that,” she said. There was at least one more knife in the other boot. She started trying to wriggle her toes under the laces.
“You don’t. People with loved ones don’t try to scam the Mob.”
“Point. But that’s not helping us get out of here.”
“You’re changing the subject.”
“If I can get this other boot off, I’ll be able to cut myself free and then – despite my better judgment – I can get you unlocked.”
“You’re definitely changing the subject.”
“Gimme a sec to….”
There was a minute of silence, broken only by the soft scuffle of her feet. Then a quiet metallic ‘snikt’ noise.
“Good,” she whispered.
“Did you just -”
“Shut up,” she said, and began sawing through the ropes. Her breathing became labored as she contorted her leg up to get to the rope that bound her arms to her sides. She cursed quietly but proficiently under her breath as she picked away until the rope came free with a soft tearing sound.
She grabbed the knife in her newly freed hand and made short work of the rest of her bindings. “All RIGHT,” she said, standing up. “Now, can you give me a really good reason why I should WHAT THE HELL?”
Sigrid turned around to see Ezra leaning against the wall. The chain was coiled up neatly at his feet.
He held up one hand, the other in his pocket. “I just wanted to see if you could manage it. Now let’s get out of here.”
“You could have helped me!”
“Yes, I could have,” he said, running his hand down the wall by the door. “But I didn’t. I wanted to see if you could get out like that.”
She spun the knife in her hand. There was a tiny spot on the back of his jacket, a little place where the seam had rubbed away a bit. It was slightly worn and discolored and it called to her, practically begging her to just jam a blade in there. She bit her lip and snapped the blade shut. “If you got out of those,” she said through her teeth, “you should be able to get us out of here.” She picked up her third knife and laid it carefully in his outstretched hand.
“Thanks,” he said. “And yes, I can. So long as I think about it the right way.” He tapped the concrete wall with the edge of the blade, causing her to wince.
“Do you know what matter is?” he asked after a minute.
“Do you know what matter is? Things.” He gestured aimlessly. “The stuff all around us.” He tapped the wall again.
She shrugged. “Concrete. Steel. Armed thugs.”
He smiled and looked back at her. “Nothing.”
“Well,” he said, waggling his fingers at her. “ Mostly nothing. There’s a little bit of something in there. But not a whole lot.”
“Well a whole lot of nothing is staring me right in the face, and even more of it is on its way to drop us in the East River, so if Yer Honorable Zen-ness wouldn’t mind holding off on the philosophy until we’re far, far away from here, I’d really appreciate it.”
He turned back to the door and tapped it again with the knife. “The neat thing is that there’s so much nothing there that, if you know how, you can just….” He slid the knife into the concrete quickly and quietly. His hand followed with it.
“Slip right through.” He turned and grinned and stepped through the wall.
She jumped at the door after him, and her hand slapped cold steel. “Ezra, you son of a bitch, what did you do? Don’t leave me here, you… you… FREAK!!”
The lock clicked, silencing her. She backed away from the door, palming the switchblade. The door swung open, revealing Ezra, hands in the pockets of his jacket and a smug grin on his face. “You comin’, Sig?” he asked.
She grabbed her other boot and pulled it on. “One of these days you’re going to tell me how you did that,” she said.
“I told you – it’s mostly nothing.”
“And when you do I’m going to beat you senseless.” She stood up and held out her hand for the knife. Ezra gave it to her. “But until then, we have a small legion of large men in bad suits to get away from, so let’s go.” Sigrid stepped gingerly out the door, looked to see that no one was around, and dashed off to the stairwell. Ezra followed, his pace slow and sure.