All the cool kids are using this picture of the St. Joseph North Pier Inner Lighthouse by Carolyn Rogers of Wheat Salt Wine Oil as a prompt for the Thursday Doors Writing Challenge, so I’m using it, too.
by Marian Allen
It was bitterly cold. Well, Michigan in the winter, what could you expect? You could expect bitter cold, which is why Steffie was geared up for it. Her state-of-the-art body suit fit neatly beneath ordinary winter clothes and a down jacket, regulating the temperature of every part of her from toe to head. The only place it showed was on her hands, which it covered like a second, faintly blue skin.
Bulky gloves made it so difficult to handle deadly weapons.
The metal catwalk from the shore to the inner lighthouse was free from ice, and so was the walk from the inner to the outer light, although the pier they stood on was coated with icy spray. Steffie had worn her ice-gripping shoe accessories, just in case, but she was glad not to need them. She pulled them off and tucked them into her coat’s left pocket.
She stomped across the catwalk to imitate the heavier step of the … neutralized … enemy agent who now sprawled in the brush. Nothing so suspicious as creeping when someone is expected.
The vivid red door of the inner lighthouse was unlocked. After all, who knew there were unfriendlies squatting in the decommissioned structures in the dead of winter? Who knew they were guarding a laptop with a countdown to the triggering of a dirty bomb planted in a major metropolitan area? Well, obviously, someone knew, and, obviously, Steffie had found who and had debriefed them with extreme prejudice.
“Did you remember the Cheez Whiz?” a burly man asked, not looking up from his girly magazine.
Steffie disabled him with a solid blow to the temple.
His two companions were on their feet in an instant, one drawing a knife and the other picking up a gun fitted with a suppressor.
Steffie drew her own gun and fired at the gunman. She hit him square in the chest, but they weren’t as cocky as she had hoped. He grunted and fell, but rolled onto his side, blood-free, and fired.
She was wearing body armor, too, but, like his, hers protected her torso. His shot hit her leg.
It went through her calf, through-and-through. She judged that damage was comparatively minimal, but it hurt like a bastard and bled like a faulty faucet. She gripped the back of a chair to keep from falling and returned fire.
He screamed as his kneecap exploded, flinging up his arms and sending his gun to the edge of the room.
The man with the knife had circled behind her. She turned in time to block his blow with a forearm to his wrist. He rolled his arm under hers and slashed upward. It would have opened a gash in her triceps, but her down jacket and underlying body suit interfered. Tiny feathers flew into the air like snow, swirling in the currents of the fight.
No time for niceties. She probably wouldn’t bleed out from her leg wound – not quickly, anyway, but she still couldn’t faff around. She jammed her gun into the man’s throat and fired.
Time. Time was running out.
There was no laptop anywhere in the inner lighthouse. Must be in the outer one.
Steffie limped across the catwalk to the smaller, circular outer light. This door was locked. A little C4 took care of that.
And there was the laptop, lying, open, on the floor. She knelt before it and typed in the kill code. Unlike in the thrillers, there were minutes to spare, not seconds, but she still breathed a huff of relief.
She made a quick call to Pete, her handler, to tell him their plan had succeeded, picked up the laptop and tucked it into her jacket.
A shot chipped a shard of cinderblock next to her head.
She ducked, peering out the door. The man she had struck in the head had recovered and retrieved the suppressed gun. He crouched on the catwalk between her and the inner lighthouse and, beyond it, the shore.
What were her options? She would have no cover outside. She could wait him out; the cleaners would be along soon to make the evidence of mayhem vanish. Her leg needed to be tended to, though. Her shoe was full of blood, and she could hardly tourniquet a leg she needed for escape.
The gunman crept closer, still crouched, presenting as small a target as possible. Could she manage a head shot from this distance? Well, certainly, but her hand was shaking. She was getting light-headed, weak.
The man on the catwalk threw his head back and fell sideways, the gun skittering off into the icy water.
Behind his body, the man Steffie had kneecapped raised himself onto his good knee, bloody knife and empty left hand raised in the air.
“I give up!” he shouted. “I’m changing sides! I killed this guy for you! I saved your life! I claim asylum or whatever!”
Steffie saw the cleaners pull up on the shore. She waved her gun at them and said, “Hands on your head, fingers interlaced. Stay right there. Don’t move.”
If he was lucky, the cleaners wouldn’t kill him when they came to fetch her.
Thursday doors is under the direction of Dan Antion, photographer extraordinaire and critter daddy. Visit his site, enjoy his wonderful photographs, follow his directions, and enter a world of doors.
MY PROMPT TODAY: Lighthouse picture.
Dan AntionMay 19, 2022 at 10:29am
Looks like the guy found his smarts just in time. Was the “Cheez Whiz?” reference supposed to make me remember a certain movie? If so, mission accomplished. Jake and Elwood were lucky Princess Leah wasn’t as good as Steffie.
Marian AllenMay 19, 2022 at 10:46am
Bonus points for Dan! lol!
Dan AntionMay 19, 2022 at 11:10am
Alicia Butcher EhrhardtMay 19, 2022 at 2:55pm
Here I thought you were a goodie goodie! You have the rage within. Fiction is so handy for stowing that, isn’t it?
Marian AllenMay 20, 2022 at 7:01am
As I always say, I’m not a sweet little old lady because it’s the only way I know how to be. It’s a choice. Every day.
Alicia Butcher EhrhardtMay 20, 2022 at 8:05am
I’m afraid of what will happen if I start losing that control – I may be one of those difficult (more difficult?) old ladies.
Marian AllenMay 20, 2022 at 9:02am
Same. I don’t want to give my girls any trouble.
sustainabiliteaMay 19, 2022 at 5:37pm
🙂 Well done, Marian.
Marian AllenMay 20, 2022 at 7:01am
Teagan Riordain GenevieneMay 19, 2022 at 10:45pm
I’m really liking Steffie. Hugs on the wing.
Marian AllenMay 20, 2022 at 7:06am
A lot of people like Steffie. I’m glad you’re one of them. Hugs back, if I can catch you as you buzz by. 🙂
Wheat Salt Wine OilMay 23, 2022 at 5:46pm
Great story, Marian. Full of action, and laughed at the use of the cheese whiz line. I like how you worked in the ice (someone’s gonna slip, I thought as I was reading) and brutal cold of Michigan winters. Thanks for choosing this photo, and keep writing!
Marian AllenMay 24, 2022 at 7:50am
Thank you so much for visiting! I love that photo. Come back again: I write and post a story a day during May. It gets harder, as the month goes on, so I appreciate the encouragement!