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Книга Whiplash. Содержание - 55

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Where was she?

In a closet maybe. It wasn't pitch-black, which was a relief, so no, not a closet. She lay quietly on her side, getting herself back into her brain, letting her eyes grow accustomed to the dim light. She realized her wrists and ankles were bound, probably with Mick's duct tape. She gave a couple of tugs, but there wasn't any give. There was a reason men swore by duct tape.

Her brain was only half plugged in. She felt punch-drunk and so tired she could barely keep her eyes open, and why was that? Jane Ann had drugged her, of course. Jane Ann, no dummy, had realized Sherlock was playing Mick with the fainting and the low blood sugar, and she'd mashed some kind of pills into the orange juice. She'd thought she'd pulled it off, but she'd never fooled Jane Ann, not for a minute. She didn't think she was destined for Hollywood any more than Mick was. She didn't think he'd make it as an acting critic either.

At least Bowie knew she was in trouble. Her brain was woozy again. She felt the dragging sweep of drugs and tried not to go under again. She counted to ten a half-dozen times. On the fifth try, she knew she made it to ten without a single short circuit in her brain. She realized her mouth felt desert dry. She made another halfhearted attempt to pull free of the duct tape, but there was no movement at all.

Where was she? She could see in the dim light that she was in a large room. She made out clothes, lots of clothes hanging from a long pole rack. Clothes? More than street clothes-costumes, dozens of costumes, at least that's what they looked like. There were long gowns, yard upon yard of heavy material, short silk 1920s flapper dresses that her great-grandmother probably wore, even a couple of high-waisted Regency gowns that looked flowy and soft.

What was that huge round thing that looked like gold? A gong, she realized, she could just make it out now, its mallet hanging beside it. Who would have a gong? She saw two sofas, one flowery, one dark leather, a dozen chairs, some old-fashioned and frilly, others painfully modern, end tables, lamps, and three rolled rugs not far from her feet.

Was she in an attic?

No, not an attic. Everything smelled too fresh, with maybe a layer of lavender. The room was large, deep. She saw another clothes rack with men's clothes-capes, coats, lots of shoes-modern shoes, disco pointed toes, velvet shoes, boots of all sorts. Was that a ruff hanging over a hanger under that plastic garment bag? A ruff like the men wore in Queen Elizabeth's time? Didn't the women wear ruffs too? She simply couldn't get her brain around that. There were stacks of luggage, looking vintage 1920s.

Was that a guillotine set on the floor, its wicked blade pulled up, ready to whack through a neck with a pull of the rope? That made her shudder. She managed to get herself up into a sitting position. At her back was a-tree? She twisted to look at it. Yep, a fake tree that didn't look very real at all up close and personal.

A ruff ?

She knew then where she was. In the storage room of a theater, probably the Belson summer stock theater where Mick had played Petruchio in Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew.

They'd stashed her here until they figured out what to do with her.

She could feel her Lady Colt in its ankle holster. She was very glad they weren't pros or they'd have found it in a matter of minutes. She'd have to get free before it would be of use to her.

Sherlock saw a weapons array-guns, muskets, fake Uzis, a butcher knife, an axe, and a stiletto-all of them fastened to a board set against a wall twelve feet away from her.

She tried to stand up and promptly fell on her side. She tried several more times, but always ended up on the floor. Okay, then-she wriggled over to the weapons board. She stared up at the stiletto, leaned her back against the board and slowly pushed herself up. She felt the weapons digging in her back, but she just kept pushing, pushing, until she was standing straight up. She turned slowly, leaning heavily against the board. The stiletto was still way too high up for her to pull it off with her hands bound behind her back. She went up on her tiptoes and clamped the steel blade between her teeth. It tasted cold and metallic. Since it was a stage knife, it had to be retractable. She'd have to be careful how she used it.

She pushed her back against the board again and slowly sank down to the floor. She dropped the stiletto and twisted around until she managed to grab the handle in her hand. Her first try at poking through the duct tape made the blade retract instantly. Okay, she'd have to saw the tape, not try to punch through it. She was clumsy at first, but she kept at it, sawed away. She cut her fingers, and her hands cramped. The stiletto kept slipping but she forced herself to be patient and repositioned it, aware of the precious minutes marching inexorably forward, bringing Jane Ann and Mick back to her. She couldn't hurry because when she did, the stiletto slipped and she had to start over again.

She stopped counting the times the stiletto cut her. There was slick blood now, making the task all that more difficult. Keep going, just keep going. Focus now, whine later.

Sherlock couldn't believe it when the duct tape suddenly split apart. She was free. She sat perfectly still for an instant, not really believing it. Forever, she thought, it had taken nearly forever, but she'd gotten the duct tape off. She stared down at her bloody hands-just like Lady Macbeth's. She drew a deep breath and shook her hands to get the feeling back, rubbed her hands on her pants. It hurt, but who cared?

She picked up the stiletto and went to work on the tape around her ankles. She cut through it in an instant. She was in business.

She stood and stamped her feet until she felt the pins and needles go away. Then she leaned up and pulled a butcher knife off its hooks. It was blunt, but nice and heavy. Best of all, it wasn't retractable. Evidently the actors had to remember not to hack anyone with it in the plays they performed. She held the butcher knife in her left hand and her Lady Colt in her right. She was good to go. She walked quickly through the shadows to the door of the storage room. It was locked, of course. Okay, now what? She had two bullets in her Lady Colt, she could shoot off the lock and-

She heard footsteps coming. Heavy footsteps. It was a man, and he was coming here.

Her heart stopped. They were back, to deal with her, probably to kill her. At least she wasn't lying on the floor, helpless. No, she wasn't helpless at all.

Sherlock eased behind the closely packed clothes racks, and waited. She heard him fiddling with the lock, and then the door was pushed inward.

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