Joe Louis: Yeah, I’m Scared
October 18, 2016
Natasha’s phone vibrated in the particular sequence she had programmed for Friday. Two shorts. Three longs. The movement shook it to the edge of the expensive teak desk, but it didn’t fall.
“You know I’m not stupid, Kuok. I wouldn’t have come here if I had another choice.” When the jab came it was sharp and quick and struck exactly where she had taken a stun gun hit earlier in the evening. Exactly where she had anticipated. Her breath came out in a forced exhale. The metal cuffs around her wrists and ankles bit into her skin as her body swayed under the force of the blow, but neither the eyebolt in the ceiling or the steel u in the floor gave in the slightest.
“The Black Widow, I think, has many choices.” Kuok remained seated at his desk, sipping a cup of something that smelled like chai. His eyes flicked to the side and another blow fell on her back, directly over her left kidney. It hurt more than she remembered. A quick step back took her assailant out of range – even if she hadn’t been manacled.
“Not anymore, Kuok. You know I was burned when SHIELD fell. I didn’t come here to poach,” another hit over her right kidney and she bit off a scream. “Just -” she gasped, “just trying to rebuild. There’s plenty to go around.”
“The Black Widow never worked in this sort of merchandise – not on such a scale. Why should I believe you? No, I think I do not have to.”
“Let’s talk about this – professional courtesy -” a stun baton hit the back of her thigh and she bit down on the end of her tongue. When her muscles stopped clenching she could feel the blood trickling from the corner of her mouth.
“As you said,” Kuok spoke quietly, “you were burned. Now you are a hero, hotakae?” Behind her, a man laughed. “So, we are done here, I think. Instead of taking money from me, the Black Window will earn. With your training, you are worth three times our usual product. Muuyaitsayy suumeat.”
Natasha twisted her body, making the cuffs bite into her wrists. The guard who had been beating her was within arms’ reach, holding a syringe. She spat blood and a piece of her tongue into his face. Kuok shouted, but in the three seconds it took the guard to recover, she had already picked the lock on her cuffs. Natasha dropped to the floor, landing on the balls of her feet and pivoting to hurl the cuffs at Kuok. His nose broke with a crunch and spatter. The guard was moving again, and Natasha used the bolt that still secured her feet as an anchor point and braced her toes against it. She met the side of his knee with her fist and all the coiled tension in her body. The joint snapped and he screamed. The syringe clattered to the floor and Natasha quickly picked the lock at her ankles. Her heel connected with the guard’s temple, cracking the skull and knocking him unconscious. Increased fluid pressure on the brain would kill him within minutes. Kuok was holding his face, calling out for help and stumbling toward the door. In one fluid motion Natasha bent and retrieved the syringe, flicked off the cap with her thumb, and threw it like a dart into the old man’s neck. He paused in fear, gingerly reaching for it, but he had given her enough time to cross the room and depress the plunger.
“Thank you,” she whispered as he relaxed against her and slid to the floor. “You have been very helpful.”
Kuok’s private bathroom was stocked with Turkish towels and a variety of soaps. She had time to wash the blood off of her face, dab at the small stain spots on her navy blouse, and fix her hair before the outer door to the office opened.
“That was forty-two seconds slower than anticipated, pititsaka.” She padded out of the bathroom on bare feet, absently admiring the silky finish of the wood floor.
“I stopped to find your shoes.” By the tips of her fingers and as far from her body as possible, Wanda held up a pair of strappy sandals that perfectly matched the blue of Natasha’s blouse. There was a long scratch in the leather of one heel. Wanda’s mouth turned down with disgust. “One of the downstairs guards has – had – a…fetysh for shoes. Personally, I would prefer to walk on glass rather than wear these again.” She shrugged.
Natasha grabbed her phone, pleased to see the encryption was intact, and opened her messages. “Leave them. Yours too.” Wanda raised an eyebrow but tossed away the sandals and began unlacing the gladiator heels that criss-crossed up to her knees.
Rosalind: 4.669966, 101.882435 Cary requests you take out the trash. See attached file.
Natasha typed with one hand and opened the narrow window next to the desk with the other.
Running errands presently. Deadline?
Rosalind: Three days. Assistance needed?
Wanda had finished with her shoes and when Natasha motioned she stuck her head out the window. The younger woman sighed. “Is not a problem. But are you certain you can fit through here?” She glanced meaningfully at Natasha’s chest. The window was only twelve inches wide. “I believe I have seen this movie. I will not hold an umbrella over you if you get stuck.”
Natasha almost smiled. She could count on one hand the number of people who were comfortable enough with her to tease as a friend would. “I’ll manage. Get going.” She sent one last message before ripping a slit in her skirt above each thigh, from knee to hip.
Recommendation for good Vietnamese?
Rosalind: I will send you an address. Have fun.
Natasha did allow a smile then. She locked the phone and pulled the SIM card, then smashed both between the window sill and a decorative paperweight before letting them fall eight stories to the alley below. It took a bit of maneuvering – not that she would ever tell Wanda – but Natasha did fit through the window and get a grip on the bundle of telecommunication cables that ran down the side of the building. It was a simple matter to scale to the roof from there.
Wanda was standing carefully on a narrow ledge that ran around the perimeter, eyeing the detritus and bird droppings that littered the roof with a curled lip. “I hope the intel you got was worth this. Ohydno.”
“He confirmed we’re looking at human trafficking, and that they are after a specific kind of subject. We’ll look into it more once we get back from Malaysia.” She strode easily down the ledge, making a short five foot hop to the next building. Wanda followed more slowly, using her power to assist her across the gap. Natasha nodded to herself. The Witch had gained considerable control over the last few months. With one long leg the spy stretched out and kicked the hatch on an air vent. A black bag fell out, the strap catching on the curve of her foot so she could pull it in closer. “How do you feel about lemongrass?” She removed a new phone first, and turned it on to start downloading her encryption software and the file from Friday. Sirens in the distance were getting closer.
“Is that a food?”
“Hm. We will definitely order bun bo hue. And salad rolls. Interrogation always works up an appetite.”
“Your missions are much more…intricate than Steve’s.”
At that careful statement Natasha did let out a quiet chuckle. “Yes, I know how he likes the straightforward approach. Hit first, hit later, then hit some more. I prefer subtlety. His way can be useful too.” She picked through the bag’s contents and pulled out a pair of silky black pants and low heeled leather boots. Natasha offered them to Wanda with a smirk. “But I look better doing it.”
*pititsaka: little bird