Pass The Baton Challenge #2 with the locker picture started with Marla and went to Matt, to Sadje, to Robert, to Di and now my part is at the bottom.
Exhausted, I yanked the door handle on my locker and yanked it open. Looking inside my locker at my shoes up on the top shelf and my clothes neatly folded at the bottom, I felt too run-down to even begin to change. I thought about laying down on the bench that ran between the lockers for a short nap when I saw the most hideous face reflected back at me on the little magnetized mirror hanging inside. Just as I registered that this could be trouble, I was shoved forward, hitting my face and shoulders into the locker.
Adrenaline rushed through me, and I was suddenly very awake. If he wanted a fight, I was glad to oblige.
I’m not a professional boxer, but I think he thought he could daze me with a sneak attack, and whatever it was that he had wanted wasn’t worth fighting over. So, he took off after only a few minutes.
I looked at myself in the mirror and realized that he had split my lip and it was bleeding pretty badly. I looked down to see if any droplets hit the floor, and I saw a note that my assailant had most likely dropped. Opening it, I read:
That was the locker number right next to me. He must have thought I was using that locker and attacked me because of it. What would be important enough to start a fight over?
…I plopped back down on the bench and grabbed a towel to stop the bleeding on my lip. Staring at an unlocked locker S 24, my curiosity got the best of me, I opened it. Much to my surprise NOTHING was inside.
“So, what the hell ?!”
I got slammed head-first into a locker, why? I started racking my brain, was I on a machine too long, was I staring at this dude? I can’t worry about this. I manage to control the bleeding on my lip, but I know I’ll need to get some ice at some point. I got dressed and headed out of the gym to the elevator to the parking garage.
I didn’t see Joe Attitude anywhere. This is not how I wanted to end my day. I got on the elevator and pushed G for the garage, on the descent stopping at floor 5 an older woman got on with me. She scowled in my direction, it was most likely my lip. Stopping again at floor three two young men in black hoodies got on and pushed G. They said something to each other. One of the guys looked back at me and smiled…
The smile on his face sent shivers down my spine. These guys were definitely connected to the guy who attacked me, Joe. The atmosphere in the elevator was so uneasy that I was wishing that it would reach the garage level ASAP and I would escape to the safety of my car.
The elevator stopped on the first floor and a girl got in. She had a huge bag with her. My unease increased manyfold. And acting on impulse, just before the doors closed again, I dashed out of the elevator. Instead of going down the stairs, I headed toward the apartment of a guy I knew. I was barely inside his apartment when I heard the sound of running feet going past the door.
Nick opened his mouth to ask what was going on but I shushed him. When the commotion outside died I opened the door carefully and peeped out. The corridor was quiet.
I waved goodbye to Nick and stepped outside when suddenly …
Someone grabbed me by my collar and dragged me backwards. Twisting to gain my balance I spun around into a low crouch, eyes wide, fists already rising but there stood Nick with a worried expression on his face.
“Mate,” he said “don’t rush off; I need your help.”
Seven minutes later we were sitting at his dining table screwing our faces up at Nick’s dark-roast.
“You need to get some Maxwell House, Nick. This stuff is seriously rank. Anyway, what’s up? What do you need my help for?”
“I’ll tell you in a bit. First off: what’s up with you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you just about smash my door down, you’re as sweaty as frick and then you want to rush off like …”
I told him about being attacked by some nutter with a weird-looking face in the gym upstairs and then about being followed down to his apartment. He listened in silence, scepticism written all over his face and then when I’d done, he reached out and placed his hand on my arm.
“You keeping up with your meds, right?”
I tamped down immediately on the spike of anger. Nick was my friend. He’d been there for me when I’d come back, broken, from Afghanistan. He knew about the panic attacks, the flashbacks and the paranoia. I nodded.
“Well then …”
He left the words hanging in the air with my flapping mind. Then I thought of something. I fished in my pocket and pulled out the slip of paper I’d picked up.
“There’s this,” I said and handed it over. “S24. The locker next to mine. I think the guy who attacked me dropped it.”
He frowned, pulled his phone out and tapped for a few moments then showed me the screen. It was a picture of a locker. The code on the front was S24.
“Why do you have a picture of this?”
“That’s my new locker number,” he said. “I switched gyms yesterday. Made more sense to work out in my own building. I was going to tell you,” he finished lamely.
A piece of the puzzle clicked into place. Nick had pretty much the same build as me and we had the same crew cut. From behind …
“From behind, we probably look the same, you know,” he said, following my thoughts. Then he frowned. “Hey, you said that the person who attacked you looked weird. Weird, how?” Before I could answer I saw a thought flash into his eyes. “Wait, did he look a bit like a … a ferret?”
“Yeah; how did you know that?”
“Have you ever heard of The Menagerie?“
“No. What’s that?”
“Vivisection. But with a twist. Ever seen that old flick The Island of Dr. Moreau?” He didn’t wait for me to reply. “Anyway, that’s what I need your help with. Saddle up, dude, I’ll tell you about it on the way.”
Nick got his jacket and we checked the corridor before going down to the garage lot.
We used the stairs and neither of us said a word until we were in his car.
‘What’s going on Nick?’ I said. ‘ And what has an old science fiction movie got to do with all this? ‘
Soon we were on the open road cruising at a sensible speed, though I know this baby could do a ton plus if Nick wanted it to. He said he didn’t want to attract attention.
‘The movie might have been sci-fi, but the potential has been picked up and there are experiments going on that I stumbled upon by accident when I fell over a dead body at a masquerade party.’
‘So? Why didn’t you go to the police?’
Nick glared at me.
‘You’re joking, right? Why would they believe me with my record? Remember I knocked that guy out with one punch and he died!’
I could see his point. It had been a freak accident but the family’s lawyers picked up on Nick’s violent father and said it ran in the family. The trial had been messy and very public, but Nick had been acquitted as it turned out the guy had a brain aneurysm and could have knocked his head on a bedpost and the result would have been the same.
‘So?’ I asked again. ‘Why is someone after you?’
‘The face was not a mask. It was hideous, rat like. Then I heard voices and hid.’
Nick went on to explain about an overheard conversation and the mention of vivisection but to do with transplants rather than altering DNA.
‘They were growing tissue in the lab and then …………………….
Nick said that he had an idea where the ferret faced dude lived, well at lest he thought it might be in them rundown apartments at the other end of town, so that is where we went. When we reached our destination Nick backed into a parking spot, explaining that this was necessary in case we had to leave in a hurry. We walked to the back of his car and Nick popped it open and told me to grab any weapon that I liked. I saw Nick pick out a baseball bat and I said, “Is that a Taser? How cool is that? I have never seen one up close.” Nick said, “It’s a stun gun, as it doesn’t have those projectile prongs that attach to the target. You need to close in on your opponent between 0 to 3 feet away when you use a stun gun, but they are both illegal and you will stop someone in their tracks with a Taser, but the stun gun will incapacitate them long enough for us to get away.”
That Nick sure knew his weapons, so I asked him if I take the stun gun was there anything that I needed to know about how to use it. Nick said, “You made a good choice and as long as you are carful, you just line your weapon up with your target and then press the button to begin the electric shock. I have the voltage set on medium, so you may need to hold the stun gun against your attacker for about 3 to 5 seconds and try to keep your body away from him while you are executing the stun. If you want to up the voltage, that is fine, but that will take all the power away and you will only get one stun.”
Realizing that I had to see this through with Nick, I grabbed the stun gun and now we would try and find ferret face, who I was originally calling Joe Attitude (in case anyone is still fowling this convoluted bizarre story). My mind kept switching back and forth between the Glass Menagerie and the Island of Dr. Moreau and I was worried that Laura Wingfield’s collection glass animals might be turned into some horrible creatures and then I realized that it was time for me to take more of my meds. I gulped 3 down knowing that I am fragile like Laura, and nobody really understands my mental issues, not even Nick. Now I am thinking about M*A*S*H, and I remember that Frank Burns’ nickname was “Ferret Face”, and I think that Nick and I are a lot like Hawkeye and Trapper. Just then, I spotted….
It is time for me to pass the baton for this challenge and I can’t think of a better person to select than Diana Coombes of Writer Ravenclaw and I hope she decides to do this, but if she wants to restrain from responding to this tag, I am issuing her a Get Out Of A Tag Free Card and then I will look for someone else to continue the story.