Charlene Collin’s eyes slowly adjusted to the dark. The only source she had in her small room was the residual light that streaked in under the locked door. It wasn’t much but it was enough for her to subtly make out shapes.

Charlene decided it was time for another one of her self-styled pep talks. The kind she seemed to be having a lot of during the last twenty four hours or so. It helped her while away the time, as well as keeping her moderately sane, in this insane world she had been suddenly thrust into.

‘Okay, Char,’ she began to think, ‘lets review the bidding! You’re still alive. So that must mean whatever they’re after, they haven’t gotten yet. So you’ve still got some time. Probably not much, but some.

Also, your Father, whether he was a genuine ghost or a figment of your imagination was right, you’re not getting out of here alive, no matter what. That weirdo Bakunin said as much with his carefully worded answers to your questions.

That means that either Bakunin will eventually take you someplace and “off you” (that was the only technical term she could remember, based on watching old gangster films on TV) or, maybe worst, turn you over to little Ms. Psycho, to once again become a guinea pig for whatever sadistic experiments that crazy girl could come up with.

Or, there was even the possibility you could be turned over to whatever caused that creepy, inhuman scream you had heard earlier, that also seemed to have freaked out Bakunin! Not a good sign, if even he was spooked!

However, lets look at the positive. You’ve got your Zapper back and it appears they don't have any cameras in here or they would have confiscated it by now.

You need to somehow get this cuff off your wrist, then you could come up with a plan to get the hell out of here!’

Charlene examined the cuff that held her arm to the bed. It looked like it was a standard key lock type. She figured Bakunin still had the keys strapped to his wrist, as she noted earlier when he was “visiting” her, right before he was scared off by that weird scream.

Suddenly, she remembered something. She actually had been told once how to get out of a pair of cuffs!

A couple years ago, before she had hooked up with her cousin Megan and her band, Charlene had worked as a waitress at some little seaside bar just south of San Francisco.

One evening, a cute girl with long blonde hair, pulled up in an old beat up Jeep. She came in and sat in Charlene’s section.

She had ordered a beer and asked Charlene if she would be interested in buying some very expensive jewelry offering up to an 80% discount.

“Where did you get that jewelry?” Charlene remembered suspiciously asking the girl.

“Oh, my Uncle is a Jeweler,” the girl replied, “and he is overstocked with merchandise, so he asked me to try and sell it all off!”

“Hmmm,” Charlene mumbled. She knew the girl was lying but since she was so charming, Charlene just couldn’t resist. She bought a small “diamond” necklace. The price tag had listed its value at $1,500, but Charlene had bought it for ten.

She couldn’t remember if the girl had ever said what her name was (if she did, it probably wouldn’t of been her real name anyway) but Charlene ended up having a nice conversation with her.

The girl had said she was on her way further upstate to try and locate her Father, whom she hardly knew and hadn’t seen in years. She said her Father had been a con man and had shown her some “tricks of the trade”.

“Was selling fake jewelry by telling people it’s real,” Charlene had asked her, “one of the “tricks of the trade” your Father had taught you?”

The girl smiled.

“No, that one I learned from my Mother!” she had replied.

Charlene laughed and asked what were some of the other things her Father, or her Mother, had taught her. The girl went on to tell her about different little things she just happened to know. Like the best way to get out of a speeding ticket.

“You always work into the conversation that your father or brother or someone close to you was a police officer that had been killed in the line of duty years ago and how you miss them so much,” the girl explained, "and never underestimate the power of a smile and always maintain full flirtatious eye contact.

Always thank them for taking the time out of their busy schedule to let you know you were speeding. Always be super polite. Most people get tickets because they argue, which only pisses the cop off. You never know but earlier in the day, they may have been shot at, so they’re not in the best of moods in the first place and now they’ve got to deal with some smart ass speeder!”

(Charlene thought, at the time, that what the girl was telling her was a bunch of con girl b.s. and didn’t think it could ever actually work until one time, long after the girl had offered her that advice, she had been pulled over for going twenty miles over the speed limit by an old, seemingly grizzled, highway patrol officer. So she tried it and had gotten only a warning! So go figure!)

Anyway, one of the other “off the wall” things Charlene now remembered the girl had told her was how to get out of a pair of handcuffs using a beer can! Charlene didn’t have a beer can but she did have that can of Hanso Cola still sitting on the table at the end of the bed.

She tried hard to remember exactly what the girl back at that seaside bar had told her. Slowly it came back.

She had said you smash the can and bend its middle back and forth until it breaks in two. Then take the end of the pop top and slowly scrap the can’s edge until you make a sharp sliver like shim. Take the end of the shim and insert it into the cuff’s keyhole and press gently up. The shim should be able to push the locking pin up long enough to release the cuff.

Charlene reached over and grabbed the can of Hanso Cola, popped the top, and chugged it down. Then she started working on bending the now empty can after smashing it and pulling off its top.

It wouldn’t take long to break the aluminum can in two, but the pop top scraping would take awhile. But considering what her options were, Charlene knew she didn’t have a choice. Besides, what else has she got to do with her time?

Next: Chap. Twenty-Nine “A Long Ride to a Certain Death”

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