Normally, I’d consider the curved samurai sword out of place. Who expects to find an actual sword in an office building, even in a gigantic executive’s office like this?
At the moment, however, the sword looked like salvation – if I could only reach it.
Trying not to draw attention to myself, I flexed my arms, testing the ropes that bound me to the chair. The coil looped around me several times, but I could feel it budge ever so slightly when I strained my muscles.
Maybe, just maybe, I had a chance.
“And now, Mr. Smith,” spoke up the man standing in front of me. “What in the world are we going to do with you?”
He’d been turned away from me, staring out the massive floor-to-ceiling windows that made up the entire far wall. Dressed in a suit as dark as midnight, he looked as though he belonged in this setting. Only the dark, dangerous little glint in his shark-like eyes revealed that he was no corporate executive.
The man stepped over to stand in front of me, crouching down slightly in his elegant black suit. He shook his head back and forth, spreading a sorrowful expression across his face.
That expression never quite managed to touch those flat black eyes, however.
“And it’s repeated offenses, too,” he sighed. “Sneaking around our operation multiple times, taking pictures. You’re going to have to tell me where you sent those, by the way. This underhanded dealing – it’s just not how things should be done.”
I tried to stare back at the man, but my eyes must have flicked over towards the sword on the wall. The man caught the look, and he stood up, stretching out his knee joints as he walked over to lift the blade off the wall.
“Not bad,” he commented with a note of approval, swinging the sword in a lazy circle. “Of course, I doubt the man who owns this office has ever put it to use. Probably just enjoys the delusion of imagining himself as an assassin.”
In a sudden movement, faster than I could blink, the man had the blade of the sword pressed up against my neck, its tip digging into my soft skin. “Rather ironic, that is,” he continued, allowing himself a small smile.
I tried not to swallow, feeling that cold steel point digging into my skin.
“Now, once more, Mr. Smith,” the man repeated, moving in closer as he held the blade against my bare neck. “The pictures. We both know that you’re going to die tonight, but there are so many appendages I can remove before that finally happens. Let’s be civilized, here.”
One of the burly, muscle-bound thugs standing at the doorway behind me sniggered. I hadn’t seen them move since they’d dumped me in the chair, but I knew they’d stuck around. “Civilized,” the man grunted to himself, apparently enjoying the joke.
I saw the shark eyes flick up, and I knew the thug had just made a mistake. Again moving with that blurred, unbelievable speed, the man lunged past me, and I heard a sniggering cut off with a wet gurgle.
“Something funny?” the man in the suit hissed, some movement of his eliciting another gurgle. “Come now, laugh! A severed carotid, isn’t that hilarious?”
A moment later, I heard the thump of a heavy body dropping to the floor, and I knew that I was out of time.
The samurai sword appeared once more, this time draping across my shoulder from behind me. I could see dark red blood staining the gleaming silver of the blade. “Now, Mr. Smith,” the man in the suit hissed, his breath hot against the ear. “I’m very quickly losing my patience.”
I nodded – and then threw my head back, putting as much force into the movement as I could manage.
The man almost dodged.
He pulled his head out of the way, at least, so my backwards headbutt didn’t smash in his nose and face as I intended. That sword drew across my shoulder, leaving a burning line of fire.
But he couldn’t get all the way out of my path – and the back of my chair slammed into his shoulders, knocking him backwards onto the ground.
And a moment later, I fell on top of him.
The chair cracked from the blow against the floor, and I felt sudden slackness in the bonds around me. I tugged my arms free and struggled to free myself, even as the man trapped beneath me howled and furiously clawed at me to get free.
He managed to pull out from beneath me, but I had both arms and one of my legs disentangled from the broken chair. The man rolled in a somersault and burst to his feet, his teeth bared in a twisted grimace, but I kicked myself free as he turned to face me.
The sword was still clutched in the man’s hand, and he spun it in a silver flurry of metal. “Come here, Mr. Smith,” he hissed, death leaping through the air in front of him.
I turned tail and ran, past the corpse of the thug behind me and his shocked companion. My foot caught at the raised mantel of the office’s entrance, but I caught at the door, keeping myself from falling and throwing it shut behind me as I fled.
A split second later, with a sound like an axe striking a tree, the samurai sword pierced through the door. I stared back at the solid foot and a half of quivering steel poking through my side of the office door. The blade’s point terminated less than an inch from my wide eye.
And then, after that brief instant of paralyzing fear, my body recovered, and I hurtled myself away, back down the empty office building towards the ground floor and escape.
Back up in the office, the man stepped forward and, with a slight grunt, wrenched the sword free of where his throw had embedded it in the door to the office. The remaining grunt watched him, trying to evaluate his own chances of surviving the next five minutes.
Those chances looked slimmer by the second.
“What now, sir?” he ventured.
The man in the suit sighed, brushing one hand over the fine fabric to remove a few specks of dust. Even when he’d slit the throat of the first thug, he’d avoided getting a single drop of blood on his clothes.
With practice came experience, he supposed.
“Now?” he repeated back. “Now, we wait for Mr. Smith to return home – and then we follow the tracker in his pocket to him. It’s a bit like mice. Do you know how to kill a nest of mice?”
The thug shook his head, wondering where this was leading.
The man in the suit grinned. “The best way, in my experience, is to strap a small explosive to one of the mice – and then let it go,” he said. “The mouse will retreat back to its nest, where the explosive will kill not only itself, but also its brethren. Quite an elegant solution.”
“So that Mr. Smith is the mouse,” the thug guessed, trying to follow the metaphor.
“Yes,” the man in the suit confirmed. He stepped over to behind the desk and bent down. When he stood up, a gray brick sat in his hand, with a small electronic attachment embedded in it.
He stepped over and handed the brick to the thug. “And you,” the man concluded, grinning, “are the explosive.”