Author Topic: The rules of a crisis situation  (Read 60 times)

Offline Chloe Benton

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The rules of a crisis situation
« on: April 01, 2022, 05:28:23 PM »
Following a record-breaking performance at Blaze of Glory, Chloe Benton scours wrestling news sites online. Hunkered down in her darkened room she peers at the neon text on a darkened backdrop on a laptop screen from behind curious chestnut probes. Her performance at the Premium Live Event proved less than stellar as she broke a long-standing record for fastest elimination, without a single blow being landed. She can hear the shrill laughter of the fans at ringside, mocking her lack of grace, a dark spot on the bloodstain she would call a career. Still, her attention succumbs to the often-morbid nature of curiosity, like a calamitous cat staring at its own injury. Scrolling down a list of hyperlinks tethered to other matches on the card she recognizes her name and promptly clicks.

At the click of a button, she is taken to a series of reviews and grades by experts in the wrestling industry. Journalists with college degrees and years of experience writing about events and actions seen or heard of through word of mouth. She blinks while continuing to scroll, more slowly now, while wondering how anyone who has never participated in a particular field or endeavor could possibly be considered an expert. To her an expert was in individual possessing authoritative knowledge or skill in a particular area which begs the question of how one could obtain authoritative knowledge without actively participating in this field of ‘expertise’? It makes no sense to her that she and other wrestlers would be graded and judged by others who have never been in their shoes or set foot in a ring, but here she finds herself. Pausing at list of Twitter responses she cuts loose a weary sigh of grudging acceptance lapping at her feet as she timidly wades forth into the pool of cognoscenti, teeming with pugnacious pundits.

Maybe Chloe was late for an appointment?

-   Adam Wilbourn, What Culture Wrestling

A four-and-a-half-star match, but a zero-star performance by Chloe.

-   Bryan Alvarez, WON

Sheesh! Chloe flipped out faster than a two-dollar trick at Denny’s at sunrise.

-   Jim Cornette, Jim Cornette’s Drive Thru

A delightful girl and a bona fide sweetheart, but I’m not sure she’s cut out for this business.

-   Simon Miller, What Culture Wrestling

Not the kind of record you want to set.

-   Chase Bagdon, CBS Sports

I blinked and missed her performance.

-   Ollie Davis, Wrestletalk News

2.17 seconds, are you kidding me? I’ve had sex that lasted longer than that!

-   Brian Last, Jim Cornette’s Drive thru

A tadpole in an ocean of Great White sharks. Chloe doesn’t belong here. She’d be better off working at Wal-Mart.

-   Eric Bischoff, 83 Weeks Podcast

Four and a half stars for the others in the bombshell gauntlet. I would’ve given it five had it been held in the Tokyo Dome, but nothing for Chloe. This is a kid whose dreams and aspirations are being held hostage at gunpoint by her own ineptitude. Get her off my wrestling shows, please.

-   Dave Meltzer, WON


A riptide of negative reaction pulls her emotions from a state of precarious buoyancy into a whirlpool of woe, drowning any hope of salvation and pulling the girl deeper and deeper with every tear splashing against her flushed cheeks into the depths of despair. The future, once bright and sunny now appears overcast and falling into the shadowy tendrils of darkness. The sharks have surrounded the girl, a cast away from her hopes and desires, and are probing her for the eventual meal. She closes her eyes which once burned with molten determination, only now to see that determination frozen by her inability to decipher her own mistakes. The causeway of her lids break, releasing streams of salty tears rolling along a mournful face and dripping from a quivering chin onto the battered old desk in her bedroom. Opening them once more, a life preserver is spotted gleaming mere inches from her agitated fingertips. With a tremored hand she reaches over and depresses the power button. Free from the light of the monitor darkness reigns, eclipsing the thoughts grappling for attention in her mind and granting her reprieve in the form of her bed which she plops down upon. She rolls onto her side, tightly clutching a body pillow and wrapping her legs around it’s plain satin casing and then buries her face into a plush, blue unicorn, caught up in the wrappings. Her heart gradually slows to the cadence of anguished sobs, holding her steady as the twilight consumes the remaining vestiges of torment, wrapping the tortured child in a succoring embrace…

Dreams and aspirations are being held hostage at gunpoint by her own ineptitude…

Dreams and aspirations…

Gunpoint…

Hostage…

Hostage…

Commander William Blackburn, tenured veteran of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department exhales an arduous sigh. Standing from behind his Crown Victoria squad car with red and blue emergency lights station in a bar on the roof of the vehicle flashing along with numerous other vehicles. The entire block of Eastern Avenue at Owens has been taped off with frustrated, albeit curious motorists being diverted from the scene. Slowly they amble by drivers and occupants craning their necks hopeful of a glimpse at the anticipated carnage. Their view is mostly blocked by the dark blue uniforms of more than four dozen responding officers. News vans have taken station across the street in the sardine can which serves as a parking lot to Roberto’s Tacos and an adjacent laundromat. Directly across from them intrepid news hounds climb onto the roofs of their vans, their cameras directed at the 7-11 convenience store at the center of attention. The glass double doors have been barred shut from the inside and the lights turned off leaving no views other than the brightly burning LED sign next to the sidewalk and a growing collection of badges. Decked out in a similar uniform to the surrounding officers, save for gold appointments lining the cuffs denoting his rank. Removing his officer’s cap he runs his fingers through a neatly combed coif of red hair, offering a brief glance to the reporters and onlookers across the street clamoring for his attention. Quickly he turns his attention back to the scene at hand. Though unable to discern activity inside the store, he trains his steely grey eyes onto the doorway, watching, hoping for a sign when he is approached by another uniformed officer, a man decidedly younger than his 50 years sporting a clean-shaven face, crew cut blond hair and striking green eyes who stands at attention awaiting permission to speak from his senior officer.

“What have you got for me Johnny?” Blackburn asks, stroking his immaculately groomed red beard. “Something good I hope?”

“Sir,” The younger man responds in a curt, professional tone. “From what we gather, they have five hostages: two store employees, and Chloe Benton’s hopes, dreams and ambitions. SWAT has been notified and is 10-85”. He uses the police code meaning ‘on their way’ and continues, “There are three assailants, though we have no info other than that they are all males between the ages of 25 to 35 and all around six feet in height. Medium builds, and all three are dressed in black. This looks like it has been planned out, sir”.

“Alright”, Blackburn nods. “When SWAT arrives, have them set up in the Planet Fitness parking lot behind us, stay out of sight of the perps. Also, get hold of the FBI Crisis Response Team and have them send a crisis negotiator and double time it here.”

“Yes sir!” The reply comes clipped as the officer turns about face and dashes away to carry out his orders.

Meanwhile, Blackburn pulls his gaze from the building, and walks to the trunk of his car. Fumbling about the right pocket of his slacks he opens the trunk lid revealing a bullhorn, body armor and a 12-gauge shotgun, along with a military style helmet. Briskly, he jettisons his jacket in favor of the black Kevlar vest, his cap gives way to the helmet and finally, he pulls out the megaphone. Slamming the trunk closed her darts around his vehicle and takes station behind the hood of another squad car, the unit closest to the store entry. He kneels, leaving only his head and speaker visible to potential shooters from within.

“Attention!” he shouts, his voice amplified by the black and white cone-shaped device. “This is Commander William Blackburn of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. You are surrounded. There is no way to escape. I order you to relinquish your weapons and give yourselves up. If you do not comply my men will be forced to kill you, your situation is hopeless. Give yourselves up and you will live”.

A crackling sound is heard from a speaker affixed the edge of the overhanging roof of the store. Blackburn recognizes it as a speaker system used to converse with patrons. Typically used at gas stations for dialog with people having difficulty at the pumps he recalls this store having once served as a fuel depot several years ago. They simply moved it from the pumps, placing it along the exterior roof edge.

“We answer only to Allah, Zionist pig!”. The reply is broken but blunt, an indicator of their unwillingness to negotiate.

Once again, the grizzled police veteran of 30 years places the cold metallic lip of the bullhorn to his own. “Then what is it that you want?” he asks, anxious to get a dialog going. The longer he can get them talking to him the better his chances of buying time for his special response team to set up their position. “You wouldn’t take such drastic measures if you didn’t need something. Tell me what it is, and I’ll see what we can do”.

His words are met with a hushed silence. The occupying officers watching and waiting with belated breath. With a groan Blackburn withdraws from his position to a safer location behind another marked unit out of line of sight. He is approached by his immediate subordinate, John ‘Johnny’ Lawson. Handing the bullhorn to Johnny, he reaches into the right pocket of his jacket, pulling out a cigarette, which is promptly lit for him by the attentive Lieutenant.

“SWAT is pulling up behind the building now, sir”, he advises. “They travelled westbound on Owens to avoid detection.”

“Good”, Blackburn nods, taking a drag. “I want their shooters to take station on the rooftop of that laundromat across the street and send a few uniforms with them to clear out the press. The others will probe for entry points, and where the hell is that hostage negotiator?”

“I haven’t heard anything, sir.”

“Keep me in the loop, dismissed.”

Blackburn orders the strobes of a helicopter hovering overhead to be redirected momentarily to facilitate the street crossing of the black clad members of the shooting team without alerting the hostage takers inside. He orders his men to form a wall, encircling the front face of the building to further block their view outside. Less than five minutes pass before the team announces that they are in position and awaiting orders which he curtly acknowledges. Anxiously he looks down at his gold-plated Breitling aviator watch. Shaking his head, he taps the device and agitatedly raps his knuckles against the side of the black, Kevlar combat helmet.

“Where the hell is that damned negotiator?”

“Th-this sucks!”

A plaintive whine pierces the ears of the weary driver, a middle-aged immigrant from Ethiopia. Casually clad in a simple blue tee shirt, blue jeans and black and white sneakers, Abe took up driving for Uber as a second means of income to better provide for his family. He endures the same routine every day, eight hours as a barback on the strip and immediately taking behind the wheel of his royal blue 2017 Nissan Versa. The days change, the scenery and passengers change, but the routine remains the same. Being caught in traffic, for him, is nothing new. After so many months of driving during rush hour traffic he learned to detach his thoughts from the situation, no sense in getting upset over things beyond your control, he reasoned. His passengers, however, often prove to be a different story.

Joining him in the passenger seat is Chloe Benton, a tenured veteran of the FBI’s Crisis Response team. Dressed as casually as the driver in snug fitting wranglers, with a simple, white tee bearing a SCW logo and Aero Jordans, a cheap counterfeit courtesy of the Chinese economy and topped off with a blue government issued windbreaker, the letters ‘FBI’ boldly emblazoned in yellow on the back. She grips the cream-colored vinyl dash, her slender digits digging into the pliable covering while her wide chestnuts scan the area for an opening. Finding none she shakes her head in frustration, tossing her long, red tresses wildly about the car making her appear to be ‘rocking out’ to those not in the know. Another arduous groan bursts through thin, tightly pursed lips as the pair find themselves stopped at a red light.

“R-R-R-Run th-the l-light!”

“Do you have a siren and emergency lights?” he asks in fractured English.

“N-No”, she answers demurely. “I-I’m a h-h-hostage n-negotiator, not-not a c-c-cop”.

“Then we must be patient,” he answers, leaning back into his seat. “In my country, we have a saying, ‘patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting’. Be patient my friend, and I will get you there”.

“Y-Yes sir, I’m sorry”.



“God damn it! I’m running out of patience here, where the hell is my negotiator?” Snarling, Commander Blackburn reaches for the radio transmitter inside the black and white cruiser against which he leans. Pulling it to his face, mindless of the desperately stretched cord, he tosses his cigarette butt to the ground and barks, “This is Commander Blackburn, I need a com trace on the following number, 555-1212, area code 702, my authorization code is Edward Thomas Charles 619. I need to know the exact location of that number”.

The receiver inside the vehicle crackles to life with a feminine voice acknowledging his request. “Roger that, Edward Thomas Charles 619 confirmed, stand by”.

Time slowly passes by, unconcerned with the trials and tribulations of the living, and working. Frustrated with the process the Commander plops into the driver’s seat, the cushioned leather giving way to his bulk with a huff and anxiously begins to strum his fingers along the steering wheel. His eyes scan the scene for any signs of change, but nothing appears to his trained gaze. He grips the hard, black plastic receiver tightly, thumping it against his thigh, growling under his breath in discontent until finally, the radio once more crackles.

“We have your coordinates Commander”, the voice chirps. “Transmitting to your personal unit, stand by”.

“Roger that,” he says, jumping from his seat and darting across to his own vehicle mere feet away. In a huff, he grips the cold, metal handle which releases with a metallic clink and swings open the heavy steel door, dropping into the left side seat. He flips open the black, unmarked laptop computer affixed to the transmission tunnel open, and the screen comes to life, prompting him to blink rapidly to allow his orbs to adjust to the sudden influx of bright light. Punching a key, a map of his current location takes over the display, a blinking red dot indicating the location of his target. Peering at the map intently, his mouth draws open as he comes to a sudden realization, “Son of a bitch”, he mutters, bolting from the unit.

“Our negotiator is right down the block, caught in traffic”, he fires off to the nearest officer, the young John Lawson to whom he gestures excitedly. “Johnny, I need you to come with me, our negotiator is caught in traffic right down the block”.

“Yes sir!” Lawson nods in affirmation as the pair take off in a sprint away from the scene towards their target.



“Maybe some music will help you to calm down”, Abe offers, reaching down to turn on the simple, AM/FM radio deck. The speakers buzz momentarily as he twists the dial, sending the needle through different stations. “Let me know when you hear something you like”.

Chloe nods absently, her mind having drifted away from the sounds of blaring horns, squeaking brakes and angry voices shouting obscenities to a more peaceful place, the melodious echo chamber of her inner thoughts, and the ear worm playing incessantly in the background. Abe slows down his search as the needly approaches 97.1, a classic rock and pop station playing an eclectic assortment of music from the 70s through now. The husky inflection of Billy Ocean singing one of his most famous hit songs ‘Loverboy’ gradually clears the static out. Chloe’s gaze goes from a blank canvass to one of recognition as the chords come into focus, promoting a wide grin to cross her previously abrasive lineaments.

“Oh my God!” She squeals excitedly. “That’s it, that’s my ear worm, crank that shit!”

Abe obliges dutifully, turning the volume knob all the way to the right. The strain taxes the catchpenny speakers which bellow a distorted version of the tune, though Chloe seems not to notice. Bopping in her seat the girl sings along, her gyrating body bringing the small, barely 2,700-pound car to dance by way of bouncing.

“Whooo I love this song!”



“What the hell is thought sound?” Blackburn asks in between huffs as they approach the vehicles stuck in the heavy traffic, being held in place by his men, detouring them away from the scene.

“I think it’s music,” Lawson offers, pointing a finger in the general direction. “It looks like it’s coming from that blue Nissan.”

Glancing at his duty phone which displays the map and the red dot his expression drops to a frown, “I think that’s our negotiator in that car, bouncing up and down”.

“Didn’t you say he was FBI?” Johnny asks, as they reach the sidewalk and enter the street.

“That’s who I called”, he answers, following the winding trail of his subordinate. “Let’s go find out”.

“I’d think the FBI would be a little more professional”.

They approach the car from the front. Peering through the windshield they notice a dark-skinned man seated behind the wheel next to a young-looking redhead whom the senior officer surmises to be no more than 17 or 18 bopping animatedly, her gyrations causing the unusual movement of the Nissan. With a second glance he recognizes the navy-blue FBI issued windbreaker and points to her.

“This is our hostage negotiator,” he shouts, straining his voice to be heard over the thumping speakers. Drawing their flashlights, the two men direct the beam at the occupants with Lawson approaching from the driver side and Blackburn the passenger side, The car stops bouncing as he raps on the window with the backside of his knuckles. “Bring your window down”, he demands, shining the light into Chloe’s face. “We’re with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police”.

Abe attentively winds down the window via an old-style plastic manual crank and depresses the red light identifying the power button to the radio effectively shutting off the music and ending Chloe’s dance party. Peering out through the window his nostrils are greeted by the acrid emanation of exhaust gases and diesel fuel. Blackburn flashes his badge and leans in the be heard over the low rumble of idling engines. Onlookers in nearby vehicles lower their own windows, their curious eye gawking at the two uniformed policemen hoping to get some clarification to the reason for the traffic jam. The two law officers pay them no mind, their focus squarely on Abe and Chloe.

“I’m Commander Blackburn of the LVMPD”, he says tersely. “We need you to come with us”.

Abe responds wide eyed, his mild accent quavering as he asks, “Why, what did I do?”

Before the Commander can answer however, his attention is garnered by his companion rapping against the warm hood of the car. He gestures to Chloe saying,

“This is our FBI agent”.

“What?” Blackburn chokes out in surprise, his vocal cords strained by an already stressful evening of shouting orders and attempting to negotiate with the yet to be identified hostage takers. “She’s a damned kid, can’t be more than 19!”

“I-I’m 18 M-Mister C-C-Commander, sir” opening the door she rises from her seat in the vehicle and, reaching into the right pocket of her government issued windbreaker, retrieves and flashes her badge for the duo. “I-I-I’m a h-hostage neg-negotiator-negotiator”, she stumbles.

“How the hell did the FBI hire a damned brat kid as a hostage negotiator?” Lawson wonders incredulously.

Chloe shrugs her sinewy shoulders absently, her expression a frown of uncertainty. “Th-That was m-m-mean Mr. Sir, B-But to answer your q-q-q-question I d-d-d-d-don’t kn-know. B-But m-my boss s-says I-I’m r-r-really g-good at it”.

“Yeah, right”, Lawson scoffs. “Who’s your daddy, little girl?” he sneers derisively.

“That can wait”, Blackburn snaps aggressively, taking the bull by the horns and leading Chloe away from the bevy. “We have to work with what we have so let’s get her to the scene”.

“Wait!” Abe cries stepping out from behind the wheel. ” What about my fare?”

“Fine, whatever”, Lawson huffs turning to Chloe. “Pay the man so we can get to work.”

“B-B-But I d-d-don’t have any m-money”. She whines. “M-My mother, stepmother t-t-took my paycheck”.

“Surely you have a card from the Bureau for expenses?” Blackburn offers, rolling his eyes in disdain.

“N-No,” she stammers. “I-I-I’m t-too young to g-get a credit c-card a-and besides, m-momma won’t co-sign one f-for me”.

“Jesus Christ you’ve got to be kidding me”, Lawson slams his hand against the hood. “What kind of shit show is this?”

“It doesn’t matter”, the Commander snarls, hastily reaching for his wallet and throwing a pair of twenty-dollar bills onto the hood. “We need to get moving”.

Abe grabs the money and slides back into his seat and watches silently as his passenger disappears into the dusk with the officers, sprinting into the sea of flashing lights, honking horns and aggravated policemen in yellow vests trying to usher the herd of cars through billowing clouds of smoke towards the detour.

Back on scene Blackburn gestures Chloe towards his vehicle which sits idle. Dropping her head, she demurely complies giving him the opportunity to pull Lawson aside. Both men cast a wary glance at the youngster who sits quietly in the driver seat, her hand cupped in her lap. Gripping his junior officer by the shoulder he rears his head skyward, sighing grievously.

“Ok, look Lawson,” he says, dropping his gaze back down. “Neither one of us trusts this kid to be anything more than some flighty highschooler and I intend to get to the bottom of this nonsense. I need you to glue yourself to her while I run her bonafides, copy?”

“Yes, sir”, the taller, athletically built man nods in affirmation. “Why don’t I give her the bullhorn?”

“Are you sure you want to do that?” The elder man asks, casting a furrowed brow at his contemporary. “This kid doesn’t have a professional bone in her body, suppose she escalates the matter?”

“No, she doesn’t”, he concedes. “But this will prove it, and given how these assholes responded to you, I doubt they’ll pay her any mind. Hell, they may think us a joke for employing such a loser which plays into our hands”.

“Meaning they’ll underestimate us”, the commander offers, thoughtfully stroking his meticulously groomed beard. Considering the proposition, he rapidly runs through the perceived pros and cons, his well trained and experienced mind carefully weighing potential consequences and repercussions. “Finally, he nods his head slowly in agreement. “I don’t see what we have to lose here, either way this falls on the feds. Let’s do it”.

With a curt nod Lawson performs a military-like about face and trots towards Chloe with Blackburn getting on the radio in another cruiser. She continues to sit in silence as he approaches, her cupped hands still in her lap, twiddling her thumbs. Noticing his arrival, she glances up at him, her wide, chestnut orbs regarding him hopefully.

“A-A-Are y-you g-g-g-going to l-let me do my j-job?” She asks shyly. “I-I-I’m really g-good at this, I p-p-promise”.

Without bothering to answer, Lawson reaches into the car, over her shoulder and retrieves a large, black and white bullhorn, bearing the LVMPD logo. He hands the heavy metal device to her and takes a step back, beckoning her from the seat. Taking her gruffly by the arm he leads the timid little fawn towards the hood and then proceeds to grip her on the shoulder, pushing down into a crouching position.

“There you go shit for brains,” he sneers. “Let’s see what you got”.

Cradling the cold piece in her dainty hands she studies it carefully and notices a series of strange buttons on the rear panel, flanked by a jack port and HDMI slot with a single red button by itself in the upper right corner. With a perplexed frown she runs her fingers along the rubber coated buttons and remarks,

“Th-This is d-d-different from m-mine”.

“No,” Lawson responds with a scornful crack. “Let me guess, yours is pink with butterflies?”

“N-No, it’s actually P-Pink with a g-glittery rainbow and m-my name”.

“The red button turns it on, stupid, just hold the damned thing to your mouth, and press the lever on the handle to speak… and for God’s sake, point the big end to the bad guys, alright?”

“Y-Yes, sir”, she complies chastely, pausing to wipe and errant tear trickling down her fleshy cheek. “Y-You don’t n-need to b-be mean about it”.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” he explodes, his temper having boiled over to blow the lid off his composure. “Talk to them already you moron!”

“I-I’m sorry,” she sputters meekly. With trembling hands, she brings the horn to her face, directing the open end towards the barred doors of the 7-11. “E-Excuse me, Mr. terrorist, sir?” Sporadic cackling can be heard in the background while she waits for a reply. Lawson, however, simply leans back against the car, pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and index finger, shaking his head in abject disgust. Several more moments pass by until the lack of proper reply prompts Chloe to bring the speaker to mouth once more. “Mr. Terrorist, i-it’s considered r-r-rude t-to ignore somebody, someone w-who is ask-asking y-you a q-question. M-M-Maybe you c-can’t speak, t-t-t-talk? I-I-I’ll be happy t-to c-call for a s-sign language ex-expert, sir”.

‘Sign language?” Johnny mutters incredulously to himself. He peeks up towards his boss, who is seated in the other patrol car, his hardened visage is glued the brightly lit LED screen of the onboard laptop, while firmly holding onto the corded speaker with his right hand. An exasperated grown slithers between the crack in his tight-lipped façade. Again, he shakes his head, casting one more sidelong glance to his superior before returning his hardened gaze back to Chloe.

“M-M-Mr T-T-Terrorist,” she resumes in a beseeched inflection. “Y-Y-You’re n-n-not b-being nice. “I-I want to t-t-talk to y-you, a-and I p-p-promise I’ll b-be n-nice”.

“God damn it!” Lawson shrieks, his outburst drawing the attention of other officers, including Blackburn, who has apparently finished his tasks. Catching the elder man through the corner of his eye, he turns his head towards the other man who draw a jutted thumb across his throat quickly, an unspoken command to end his efforts and makes his way towards them. Lawson, meanwhile, yanks the bullhorn from Chloe’s discouraged digits and grabs her forcefully by her right arms, pulling the girl to her feet. Opening the backdoor to the cruiser he had been leaning against the miffed flatfoot deposits her into the back seat. She lands with a muffled thud, the impact absorbed by the cushioned leather upholstery. With tears in her eyes, she places a tiny hand against the window as the door is shut, allowing Lawson to speak with his boss who nods in approval to the actions of his deputy. “Whatcha got Commander?” he asks.

“You’re not going to believe this…” he begins softly. “The kids’ credentials are legit”. He gestures towards the other car absently. “She’s with the FBI’s Crisis Response Team”.

“Son of a bitch”, he murmurs under his breath. “So, where do we go from here? There’s no way in hell I’m going to let an imbecile like her handle this”.

“Me either,” the boss nods his head in agreement. “I managed to get hold of her station chief and her team leader and they’re both on their way. Hopefully, after I read them the riot act for what has got to be the most idiotic hire in the history of the damned universe, they can work this problem out. The team leader, uhh… I didn’t catch her last name; special agent Amber does have a lot of solid experience so she should be useful to us”.

“Let’s hope so,” Lawson says, folding his arms across his chest, preparing the waiting game. “The last thing we need is for this thing to go sideways on us and the shit hits the fan”.

No sooner than the two men go silent the emphatic rumble of a large engine of notable power and size is heard in the distance. The decibels appreciate as the thundering symphony of combustion draws nearer. Just off site the screeching and crunching of metal, followed by the cries of alarmed motorists rings out. Inside the backseat of the car Chloe appears to be talking to the door, which, per Police regulations is locked from the inside with the door handles, levers and knobs being removed to prevent the potential escape of detainees. Suddenly, with no visible activity, the door swings open with a heavy click allowing Chloe to step out. She turns towards the door offering her gratitude, which does not go unnoticed.

“Thank you, Mr. Door”.

Lawson is the first to react, grabbing her by the shoulder leading away from the car where he is quickly joined by his commander, both men sporting an expression of astonishment, staring slack jawed at the girl through wide, disbelieving eyes.

“How did you do that?” Blackburn demands. “Those doors are locked from the inside, there’s no way to open them”.

Chloe shakes her head, her velvety ginger locks bobbing in sync and shrugs.

“Was that some sort of FBI trick the Bureau taught you?”

“I d-don’t know wh-what you’re, you guys are t-t-t-talking about”, she replies softly with another shrug. “A-All I d-did was say please”.

The squealing of crushed metal grows louder, accentuated by the cries of increasingly alarmed drivers, until the supercharged roar of angry pistons hammering about are heard overhead, prompting all parties involved to direct their collective gazes skyward and onto the bulky silhouette of a Chevrolet Suburban falling towards them. They scatter, taking cover behind other nearby cars and large obstacles, with the notable exception of Chloe, who regards the panic-stricken mob curiously as the custom lifted SUV crashes down directly atop Blackburn’s squad car, it’s three plus tons of weight effectively crushing the roof and mangling it beyond recognition, leaving a trail of heavily burnt rubber, courtesy of the aftermarket 44-inch mudders and billowing trails of exhaust fumes in its wake. Car alarms blare lustily as hundreds of pairs of eyeballs peek up from behind their temporary shelters to ascertain the cause of the commotion. Chloe looks up to the driver, a trim, athletic looking man in his forties sporting a short cut hairstyle gelled up, a neatly trimmed goatee matching his dark brown coiffure. With a big smile she waves to the man as the hefty, steel reinforced door is swung open allowing the man to step out. He drops from his elevated position, his painfully polished black Oxfords, thudding on the pavement of the parking lot. Casually he adjusts his pleated black slacks and fishes in the left pocket of his navy-blue FBI windbreaker.

“Hi Mr. Christian!”

Bypassing the dumbfounded duo of Lawson and Blackburn, who continue to stare in silence he approaches Chloe, gently pinching her rounded cheeks.

“Hello Chloe”, he replies warmly as she responds with a hug to her boss. His demeanor quickly changes upon releasing his junior agent. Turning his suddenly hardened gaze onto the wonderstruck police officers. “You better damn well have a fucking good explanation for dragging me out here on my bubble bath night”, he snarls.

Blackburn runs his fingers thoughtfully along his beard, his mind desperately trying to salvage some form of decorum from the unexpected chaos. Drawing a breath, he lifts his eyes to meter Christian’s slow burning focus.

“I’m Commander Blackburn of the LVMPD,” he begins, his thoughts circling the wagons in light of Special Agent Mr. Christian’s menacing visage. A quick gesture towards Lawson and he continues, “We called you here on account of the sheer lack of professionalism displayed by your colleague Special Agent Chloe”.

“Sheer and utter incompetence and buffoonery is more like it”, Lawson adds.

“Let me explain something to you two cockwombles,” he begins testily. “Chloe is the best damned hostage negotiator in the country…”

“Surely you’re joking,” Lawson scoffs, only to draw a sharp rebuke from Christian by way of a stiff right cross which sends him reeling to the pavement.

“Shut up! I only fuck one asshole at a time! So, wait your fucking turn.” Turning his attention back onto Blackburn Christian drives a pointed finger into the other man’s chest. “Did anyone explain to you the importance of my bubble bath day?” he hisses venomously.

“Special Agent Christian…” he pleads before being cut off.

“It’s Mr. Christian”. He snaps. “Special Agent Mr. M-I-S-T-E-R Christian, and again I ask you, did anyone explain the importance of bubble bath day to you?” Chloe clears her throat to join in the conversation

“I-I-I tried t-to M-Mr. Christian, b-b-b-but th-the other guy was b-b-b-being m-mean to me, I’m sorry!” Free roaming tears graze over the delicate features of her youthful countenance, carrying her remorse to the surface. “P-Please forgive me!” she cries. “I-I didn’t m-mean to!”

“Chloekins…” abruptly Christian culls his diatribe; pulling Chloe in close for a hug. “Nothing’s ever your fault sweety. That’s why we’re here, to blame these assholes”.

A satisfied smile crosses her lips, and she steps back, allowing Christian to resume his dressing down of the police veteran. His chest once more being used for fingertip acupuncture, Blackburn backs away from the pointed jabs, only to be followed until he finds himself back against the ragged heap of what used to be his transport.

“Let me explain to you the importance of bubble bath day Blackhead…”

“I-It’s B-B-Blackburn…”

“Shut up, I do the talking around here you crater faced puss peddler!” A brief pause to clear his throat and Mr. Christian resumes his diatribe. “Submergence in water helps to reduce pain and inflammation, like the pain and inflammation of your collective assholes after I get done fucking them. Furthermore, by heating the bath water you increase the temperature of the affected muscles and stimulate blood flow which greatly aids in the recovery process. Also, a hot bath can burn calories, provide a boost to the immune system and help you sleep better”, another pause ensues as Christian renews his pointed jabs into Blackburn’s chest, forcibly pushing him around the parking lot in a circular motion. Nearby, Lawson comes to, rubbing his chin, feeling a dull throbbing sensation at the point of impact. He rises shakily to his feet while the ass chewing continues unabated. “And most importantly of all, I fucking like bubble baths, so the entire God damned world had best come to a full fucking stop on my bubble bath days!” Lawson cautiously approaches his now simpering commander inwardly debating how, and if he should get involved when they are interrupted by the throaty growl of a V twin motorcycle engine.

Turning their heads, the trio eyes a low-profile bike, sporting a sinister looking pair of horizontally mounted headlamps, its sleek matte black frame bearing the load of the massive 1131 cc, 115 horsepower engine, put to the ground by a burley, 12-inch-wide rear wheel. Ridden by a tall, athletically built woman, her face hidden behind a matching matte black helmet with tinted visor and air inlets on top shaped like cat ears to complete the muscular manifestation. Slowing the testosterone infused beast down to a halt she pops out the kickstand with a knee high, black leather stiletto boot, setting the bike to rest and swings a long, color matched black leather clad leg over. Removing the helmet reveals a youthful face with pronounced cheekbones, piercing, lightly colored eyes and a luxurious mane of long, red hair. A simple, black sports bra and the standard navy-blue FBI windbreaker provides the finishing touches.

“That must be the other agent you called”, Lawson regards his superior with a curt nod, adding, “I’m going to liaise with her.

Approaching the stern-faced woman, he extends his hand to her but is rebuffed by her right hand, gripping the synthetic reinforced shell, swinging and slamming the helmet across his face. Spun around Lawson lands on his chest in a broken heap, blood draining from his slobbering mouth onto the asphalt with a pair of teeth lying beside him and she casually leaves the broken mess behind. Approaching the group, she wraps her arm around Chloe offering a peck on the cheek.

“Hiya Chickie!”

“Hi Ms. Amber!”

“W-Was that r-really n-n-n-necessary A-A-Amber?” Blackburn whimpers, his hands still trying to massage his chest.

“It’s Ms. Amber,” she corrects him hastily, “and you’re damn straight it was”, adding, “Anybody who’s mean to Chloe deals with me directly”.

“H-H-How did you know?”

“Listen you walking nut sack,” she says harshly, showing her teeth. Grabbing him by the testicles, she squeezes, forcing the burdened police officer to his knees, wailing in capitulation. “Where the chickie is concerned, I have mother hearing, and if wonder bread wakes up, he’s getting another shot, and one more word out of you guarantees you’ll be leaving this scene wearing your balls as earrings.” Turning her attention from Blackburn to Christian, a concerned expression washing across her face, and she asks, “Tonight’s bubble bath night, isn’t it?”

“It was,” he responds sourly. “But now that you’re here, we should get down to business. Look, I know you’re the team lead but since these assclowns had the audacity to call me from my bubble bath, I still have some ass kicking to do. Would you mind taking up sniper overwatch for Chloe? I have weapons and other stuff in the back”, he finishes gesturing to his black Suburban resting atop Blackburn’s’ crushed squad car. Turning his attention back to the fretful Blackburn he lifts him by the lapels and shoves him towards another car. “I’m not done with your ass by a long shot”.

Taking her leave Amber approaches the mangled heap of Blackburn’s car, climbing the wreckage to access the rear hatch to the Suburban on top, it’s wheels still spinning as Christian never bothered to take it out of gear or turn off the engine. Opening the heavy aperture, she gazes upon a jumbled assortment of heavy weaponry including M 16 machine guns, grenade launchers, a slingshot, Barret .50 caliber BMG sniper rifle, super soaker water gun, a smattering of Chloe’s teddy bears and a pleasant surprise. A grin skates playfully across her face as she lays her shimmering blue-green eyes on a portable Javelin, anti-tank weapon system. Reaching for the heavy, cylindrical firing platform, with its payload nestled securely inside she sighs,

“Come to mama”.

Hopping back down to the pavement Christian notices the weapon in hand and nods in approval.

“A sensible choice”, he says, drawing a look of disgust from Blackburn, having since recovered from his underlying trauma.

“Are you fucking crazy?” He demands. “That damned thing will take out half the block!”

“Including all hostage takers in a single shot”, she answers with a pointed boot to the scrotum, dropping the commander once again. “It’s called efficiency asshole”. With Blackburn disposed of, cradling his well tenderized nether regions Amber turns back to Christian. “I’m gonna take up station on the rooftop across the street”.

“W-Why…?” Blackburn croaks, with tears streaming down his face.

Looking down with an eye roll at the withering heap of a man she shrugs and says, “I never let no sense go unpunished”.

“Got your phone?” Christian asks, kicking the debilitated policeman out of his path.

“Yep, I’ll be watching cat videos on YouTube”.

“Excellent,” he nods affirmatively. “If you find any good ones, send them to me. In the meantime, I’ll let Chloe work her magic and get to work myself on emasculating the rest of these bitches”.

“Will do, boss”.

As Amber disappears into the night Christian places a hand on Chloe’s shoulder, asking “Are you ready to talk to these guys?”

“Y-Y-Yes sir” she stammers. “B-But I n-n-need to g-go in there w-with them, a-and talk t-to them f-face to face”.

“But…” Blackburn, moans groggily, “The door is barricaded”.

“Fucking idiot”, Christian snorts. “Shows how little you dumbasses know. There isn’t a barricade, wall, vault, safe or lock of any kind on this planet my girl can’t bypass.” With a grin he adds, “God help the treasury vault if they deny our pay raise”. With a tap on the shoulder, he gestures Chloe towards the door, “Do your thing sweetie”.

With Chloe making her way towards the door and an astonished, and distressed Blackburn looking on, Christian climbs the wreckage of the police command unit, opening the rear door to his own. He pulls out a self-inflatable rubber swimming pool, tossing it to the ground and next pulls out a five-gallon jug of vegetable oil. Situating the pool in the center of the scene he depresses a button which turns on a small, battery powered compressor that pumps air into the shell, inflating the pool. Curious, uniformed officers, distracted by the unusual actions of the FBI agent turn their attentions away from their various duties of crowd control, liaising with headquarters, combing the scene for potential evidence and securing the area, squarely onto the senior agent as he proceeds to fill the pool with the vegetable oil. Finished, he stands back with a satisfied smirk,

“Now we’re cooking”.

He commandeers a discarded bullhorn from the open trunk of Lawsons’ black and white as he wouldn’t be needing it. Powering the device up he directs it to a gathering of uniformed officers, all of whom are eyeing him eccentrically, their faces awash with bemused inquisition of the less than conventional FBI boss.

“Alright, listen up shitheads,” he begins. “I am Special Agent Mr. Christian of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and on the authority of the Federal government I am taking over this operation. In other words, this is my dreamboat sweethearts, and here’s how things are going to work...,”



Approaching the barricaded door, Chloe pauses, regarding the terrorists within with a smile in greeting. One man, armed with an AK 47 approaches, yelling at her from behind the glass in Arabic. The hard sounds and excited pronunciation give her the impression of anger, prompting the girl to step back, raising her arms in capitulation.

“P-Please, don’t y-yell at me M-M-Mr. T-Terrorist, sir. When p-people yell-yell a-at me i-it scares m-me. I-I know y-you don’t w-want t-to be mean. I-I want t-to b-be your friend”, she says with a warm smile. “W-Would y-you l-l-like to be f-friends too?”

Shouting to be heard from behind the glass, the dark-skinned man with a bushy beard regards the interloper curiously. Turning his head, he shouts to his companion in Arabic and the two are quickly drawn into what appears to be an argument, likely debating the idea of allowing her entry. He steps away, fully engaged with his bushy bearded friend leaving Chloe to her thought. She leans over bringing her face level with the boards used to barricade the door and speaks softly.

“Please, Mr. B-Barricade, I-I can’t be friends with th-these n-n-nice people if you k-keep me out. M-May I c-come in please?”

The boards inexplicably fall to the wayside and an audible click renders the glass door unlocked. Gripping the handle, she pulls the right door open, gaining entry to the utter shock of the occupants who draw their guns on her.

“Th-Thank you Mr. B-Barricade,” she says congenially while stepping over the threshold with her arms raised. “I-I’m sorry”, she offers in a mournful inflection. “I-I didn’t m-mean to scare y-you. I-I only w-want to b-be friends,” she says as the man up front grabs her by the arm and pats her down. Satisfied he ushers her towards the back and sits her down with the other hostages while his partner glares awkwardly at the door for a few moments before re-locking and barricading it.



“She’s in”, Christian calls out over the radio to Amber who responds with a curt ‘10-4’ leaving the man to return to his special project.

The police officers are lined up three deep surrounding the oil-filled pool. Stripped to their underwear the men look on, some of them clapping and cheering, their muscular bodies, coated in a thin layer of vegetable oil and perspiration, gleaming under the luminescence of the streetlamp shining overhead. Looking on from an elevated position, seated on the hood of his SUV with the bullhorn in hand, Christian shouts encouragement to a pair of men wrestling in the pool,

“Come on guys, I’m not seeing enough ass here, let’s get with the program!”

Responding to the command the two men push themselves harder, attempting to apply and counter various hold only to see their efforts thwarted by the oil coating their heaving, rippled physiques. Blackburn and Lawson lie on the ground having succumbed to their injuries and pay no mind to the commotion by the pool, most likely unaware given the toll this situation has taken on them.



Inside the ransacked convenience store the hostage takers find themselves torn between the pandemonium owing to the unusual tactics of the FBI and Chloe who movingly regales them with tales from her childhood. The three men sit around her, their rifles conspicuously absent from their clutches, replaced with drinks and chips from the aisle and listen intently, poking their head up curiously at the ruckus going on outside. Tempted they may be, they find themselves transfixed by the youngster’s doleful delivery.

“W-When I was l-l-little, I-I had a pet, a b-baby hedgehog, who I n-named S-Sonic. I-It was th-the cutest pet I ever h-had. I knitted some m-m-mittens for all f-four of his little b-bitty feet”, she pauses to bring up a picture on her phone, a tiny little hedgehog lying on its back in her palm, wearing the aforementioned mittens and sporting a wide-eyed smile. The hostage takers take the phone as she offers it to them, tarrying for a moment to reflect on the image which draws a collective ‘Awww’ from the hardened trio before returning it to her allow her to resume. “I-I would p-play with h-him e-every day, I even p-put a little c-collar with a b-bell around his n-neck”.



Across the street outside on the rooftop of the laundromat, Amber lies in a prone position and busies herself with YouTube videos, scrolling through her suggested list. She exhales a labored sigh, unable to find anything to her liking and reaches over to check on the Javelin anti-tank missile system. Content with the condition of the weapon, she bows her head, and returns to her search. Suddenly, the screen on her phone goes dark save for a line of small, red text which reads ‘Battery power low’. Recognizing the ominous message, she bolts into an upright position and fumbles anxiously for her radio.  Finding it, she brings it to her lips and speaks in a hurried, almost frantic intonation.

“Amber to Christian, Amber to Christian, we’ve got a big problem up here, please respond. I say again, we’ve got a fucking crisis up here, please respond.”

She waits, nervously strumming her fingers along her thigh for a few moments before the radio buzzes back,

“This is Christian, what is it Amber, what’s wrong?”

“My fucking phone died!” She cries. “I don’t know what to do!”

Shit!” He curses. “I wasn’t counting on that, hang on Amber, give me a moment to work the problem”, he responds hastily.

She clenches and unclenches her fists in rapid fire motion, relying on her advanced training to maintain her composure in time of duress. Despite her efforts however, the team at Quantico had failed to take such an emergency into account and she rises to her feet, her mind racing for the elusive checkered flag of a solution. Grabbing the missile launcher, she starts to pace the vacant rooftop, free of SWAT snipers who had been ordered back for Christian’s oil wrestling extravaganza.  Looking overhead on the cloudy, overcast evening she finds nothing other than a few low flying patches of clouds, churning overhead, threatening rain and the sound of a police helicopter in the distance. It appears to be returning for fuel. The rooftop itself is vacant save for scattered debris and a half empty bucket of tar used to coat the roof some time ago. Down below a gaggle of reporters and cameramen jockey for position to see overtop the mangled heap of Blackburn’s car as it blocks the view of Christian’s unsanctioned pay per view. One eagle-eyed reporter, however, notices her figure pacing about the rooftop and directs his camera onto her. Anxiously she grips the radio transmitter,

“Please tell you got something boss. You know how I get…” A brief pause ensues while as she takes notice of the intrepid newshound. “If I don’t fuck something, and fast…”

“I know, I know…” Christian interrupts. “Maybe you can use my phone?” He suggests.

“Won’t work”, she answers pointedly. “It has that stupid facial recognition thingy”.

“Alright, I’ll have Chloe bring it, she can bypass that easily.”

“Still won’t work, it’ll take too long. Besides, she’s giving them the hedgehog story right now.”

“Aw dude, that’s harsh. I cried for three days after hearing… hey, how the hell did you know that?” he demands in surprise.

“I told you boss; I have mother hearing where my chickie is concerned”.

“Ok, Ok,” he relents. Give me a minute to think then”.

“Make it quick because this shit’s going critical”.

 “I got it!” Nary a second passes before he comes back on crying excitedly, “Take a look down below,” he advises, “and tell me what you see.”

Following his advice, she approaches the bricked ledge rising a scant twelve inches over the roof itself and gazes down into the hungry den of disinformation. The others, numbering roughly 10 in all take notice of her presence and start shouting random questions, and waving their pens, notebooks and hands to gain her attention. With a shrug and a sneer, she turns away, uninterested in the bloodthirsty hyenas.

“The press,” she answers, “so?”

“What’s our team motto?” the station chief replies.

“The only good press is no press at all,” she mutters, wondering where he is going with this.

“So why don’t you go down there and… conduct some interviews…?”

The underlying grin in the man’s tone speaks volumes, especially after reminding her of the team motto and her lips crease into a devilish smirk as she latches onto his meaning. Rifling through her pockets Amber’s hands emerge with a matching pair of iron-grey brass knuckles, which she applies, and takes hold of the transmitter,

“That’s why I love you boss,” she chirps happily. “You understand a girl’s needs”.

“Have fun.”

“Bet your ass I will”, she finishes, striding purposefully towards the drainpipe.



“S-So I d-didn’t care th-that I g-g-g-got beat up at school, b-because I got t-to go home and p-play with Sonic.”

The three hostage takers, so engrossed in Chloe’s tearful tale have all but forgotten their weapons, stashed away next to a chip display by the emptied register. They regard her warmly, their collective gazes doing their best to inject her with affection. She pauses to wipe a tear and one of the would-be terrorists attentively hands her a tissue which she accepts gratefully. Another of the men gently rubs his hand across her back in a comforting motion while waiting silently and patiently for the young woman to regain her composure. Seated next to them, the store employees, identified by their matching work shirts emblazoned in 7-11 colors and bearing the corporate logo on the right breast pocket gorge themselves on chips, their expressions balefully tied up in knots.

“So, what happened next?” the apparent leader of the group seated Indian style to Chloe’s immediate right prods tenderly.

“I-I got on my b-bike,” she begins, stopping briefly to blow her nose into the Kleenex. “A-A-And I pedaled home a-as fast as I c-could. “B-But wh-when I got home…” her voice tapers off, nearing the end of the emotional trail. Taking a large handful of tissues offered, she spends a few moments wiping away a fresh release of tears running down and over a downturned estuary. All three of the hostage takers lend their support by rubbing her back, patting her on the shoulder and the third bringing his head to hers in a show of solidarity, whispering to her ‘stay strong young Chloe, we will protect you’. She looks up, peering into the man’s pleasant scrutiny and nods, clearing her throat. “So, I g-got h-home a-and I was so excited, I-I was g-going to play with S-Sonic on th-the front l-lawn. B-B-But as I approached th-the d-driveway I s-saw him l-l-lying un-under the c-car. H-He wasn’t m-m-m-moving.” The collective gasps in anticipation of her words, two of them already reaching for tissues with the third bowing his head solemnly. Rearing her head, Chloe lets loose and anguished, banshee-like shriek. The tears, having broken through the causeway of her lids, rush down her quaking cheeks bringing with them a flood of emotions. “He was dead!” She collapses into the first man’s arms, sobbing pitifully against his chest adding, “M-My stepmother ran him-him-him over! S-Sonic died!”

A hushed silence befalls the group as the three men subtly shift their positions to surround Chloe, each of them dabbing at their cheeks with tissue. Extending their arms, the group embraces the tormented teen in a group hug. They hold on tightly to her, all of them reflecting on the woeful tale for several moments. Gone is the flashing of the lights outside, the erratic hollering and cat calls and their purpose for being there. They only thing that matters to them at this moment is the delicate young girl in the center, sobbing into their collective chests. Time is standing still until eventually; the leader of the group breaks the embrace. Quietly he rises to his feet, and shuffles towards the register and their AK-47s, leaning against the fixture on standard wooden stocks. He collects them as the others follow his lead, with the third man tenderly helping her up. The remaining two return with the assault rifles cradled in hand, presenting them to her. Drying the last vestiges of her malaise, she accepts the offering as the leader begins to speak in broken English.

“We do not need these anymore”, he says. “We will surrender willingly. I am Abdulnap,” he offers before gesturing to his companions. “And this is Haafiz and Ejaz, and we are your friends. Come, we will walk with you outside.”

The trio removes the barricade, unlocking the doors in the process and emerges outside to a shocking scene; more than perhaps two dozen half-naked cops, stripped down to their underwear, save for badges which have been pinned to the garments with service pistols drawn upon them. Thrusting their hands up in capitulation they are immediately approached by five unarmed and under clothed officers who take turns, glaring questioningly at one another. Christian drops down from his perch looking through the ranks,

“Hey, any of you assholes got some cuffs?”

While the officers search through the pile of clothes for the gleaming nickel restraint devices. Abdulnap, Haafiz and Ejaz take turns embracing Chloe as they are joined by Christian, who offers a congratulatory pat on the back. Finally, one of the semi-nude men emerges bearing three pairs of handcuffs. Haafiz and Ejaz are the first to be detained and are led away to the back of a nearby police cruiser with only Abdulnap remaining. As the cold shackles are secured around his wrist, he leans over, offering Chloe a soft kiss on the cheek and whispering,

“When we are free, I promise you we will hunt down your Zionist stepmother and bring her to the judgement of Allah”.

“Thank you, Mr. Abdulnap,” she replies with a wave as the last of them is led away.

Turning to face her boss, Chloe smiles up at him, hopeful for a sign of approval which she gets by way of a quick shoulder rub. Looking down at her he smiles, pinching her cheek playfully,

“That’s my girl.”

Glancing around the disheveled scene she turns her gaze back onto her superior, her brows furrowed quizzically.

“Umm… Mr. C-C-Christian?”

“Yeah sweety?”

“W-Where’s M-Ms. Amber?



In the darkened alley way between the laundromat and Roberto’s’ Tacos, a pile of broken bodies serves as a blockade to unwanted eyes. Battered and bruised, beaten into quiescence they lie in a mangled heap, blood draining from the faces of some onto the crumbling sidewalk. A soft breeze carries the agonized moans off into the night. A heavy thud follows it, along with the screeching crunch of soft metal being forcibly distorted. A thud chases the reverberation, a harsh report of steel slamming into bone. A snap and pop bring the sadistic symphony to a merciful close. Special Agent Ms. Amber stands over the moribund pyramid, her face twisted into a mosaic of gleeful malevolence.

“Any more of you bitches want an interview?"