I go over the plan in my head over and over again. It’s simple, run, jump, roll, and hide. That was as far and Lionel had explained before giving me a hard look and disappearing into the shadows. I grip the ledge of the roof tightly until my fingertips go numb as I glare at the gap between this building and the next one. It’s got to be at least an eight foot jump.
I call Lionel every name I can think of under my breath as I back up from the ledge. It might be simple if I had any sort of practice with parkour or something. Hell, I did gymnastics when I was 6 and I got vertigo just standing on the balance beam. Lionel does this sort of thing all the time, he’s trained for it, but it’s ridiculous to think I can.
A quick whistle sounds from the other roof and I can make out Lionel’s waving hand. Show off.
I pace back a few more feet and rub my palms against my jeans. My heart races in my chest. I’ve got to be crazy to even think I can do this. I begin to regret my decision to help Lionel out.
A metallic clang sounds nearby and a half dozen men swarm out the roof entrance. They start shouting at me but I’m off before they get near me. My shoes slap off the cement and I pump my arms. The edge of the roof is coming up fast. The shouts get closer but I push harder. One last step on the ledge and I spring up and over. The alley below passes by in slow motion.
Everything speeds up again as the ledge of the neighbouring building rushes towards me. I realize I’m too low, I didn’t get enough height. I let out a scream as I reach out and collide with the brick. My hands clamp around the roof’s ledge. I dangle twenty stories above the ground.
My feet kick wildly, searching for a grove in the bricks, a window sill, something. The shouts behind me have quieted. Those guys on the other roof are waiting to see if I’m going to go splat.
My grip is slipping, the sweat on my hands making it hard to hold on. I jerk suddenly to the side as my grip fails and I hang by one hand, a yelp escaping my lips. The muscles in my arm are burning, I can’t hold on much longer. My fingers rake across the ledge as I fall.
Hands shoot down and wrap around my wrist before I even have time to register that I’m not plummeting to my death. A few grunts and I’m pulled over the ledge and onto the roof. I take raspy breaths.
“What part of roll and hide didn’t you get?”
I cast Lionel a dirty look. “Oh shut up.”
He grins before twisting to look over the ledge. The men are milling, their eyes fixed on where I disappeared. They probably can’t see us, it’s too dark.
“Who are they?”
I shrug. “Security maybe? People aren’t supposed to be on the roof.”
I can tell he isn’t entirely convinced, but he lets it go for now.
“Come on, we still have to figure out which room Torres is staying in.” He grabs my hand and we crouch down as we jog over to the fire escape on the opposite side of the building.
“My buddy said he was staying in one of the rooms accessible from the fire escape.”
“Well that’s vague.”
“It’s better than nothing.”
I let out a breath as Lionel creeps down the escape.
“You coming?” he asks, squinting up at me. His eyes flash in the light emanating from the hotel room window beside him.
“Why did I need to jump? Couldn’t we just have used this fire escape from the beginning?”
“Well yes, but I needed to make sure you were committed.”
“Good news, you are.”
My eyebrows draw together. “I could have died.”
“Don’t be so dramatic. I knew you could make it.”
“But I didn’t. I almost became Cassidy the pancake.”
“Oh, right.” Lionel’s quiet for a moment. “Anyway, the fact remains you didn’t die. So let’s get a move on and do what we came to do.”
I follow sullenly behind him as we descend stair after stair pausing at each window to look for Torres. After six windows we finally find him. I make a mental note that he’s on the 24th floor. “What now?”
“Shhh!” Lionel says, using his arm to press me against the wall beside him. Slowly he peeks around the sill to get a better look. “He’s reading a script or something,” he whispers. “He’s pacing back and forth. Looks like he’s alone.”
“We have to get him to leave the room long enough to get what we came for.”
“How do we do that?”
“Leave that to me.”
I watch as Lionel fishes his phone from his pocket. He dials a number and holds the phone to his ear. After a couple of rings someone picks up.
“Yes, this is Dal Torres’ publicist. Could you please put me through to his room?” A few seconds pass. When he speaks again his voice shifts down a few octaves. “Mr. Torres? This is the front desk. There was an accident in the parking lot. Your car has been damaged. If you would please be so kind as to come down to the lobby so we can sort out the situation?” Torres’ response is loud enough I can hear it through the window as well as the phone. He’s not happy. He hangs up quickly and leaves his room. The slam of the door is audible. Lionel shoves his phone back into his pocket, smirking as he does so. “That should give us about ten minutes. Let’s move.”
I walk forward, peering into the room, my fingers cupped against the glass. “How do we get in?”
Lionel chuckles. “The window.” I watch as he crouches down and works the blade of a pocket knife between the sill and the pane, working to unlatch the lock. After a few seconds of shimming the blade, the window creaks up a fraction. “Bingo,” he says as he pushes the window up.
“Do you want me to be a look out or…?”
“Cass, there’s literally nothing to look out for on this fire escape. Come on,” he says, taking my hand and pulling me though the opening after him.
Torre’s room is warm, with a single lamp on near the bed. A couple of suitcases sit near the foot of the bed, and it’s there that Lionel heads.
I know I agreed to help but I’m having second thoughts. The act of breaking into someone’s room and stealing from them feels different in practice than in theory. I rub my arms and stride a few feet across the room. On the small desk there’s a script, tossed haphazardly there when Torres left. I go to pick it up, curious to see what it’s for, when Lionel’s voice sounds behind me.
“Don’t touch anything. Fingerprints, remember?”
I draw my hand back. “But you’re rummaging through his suitcase.”
Lionel lets out a laugh. “He’s going to know it was me, there’s no point in hiding it.”
A minute passes. Lionel searches through the second suitcase.
“He could come back… we should hurry.” I edge closer to look over Lionel’s shoulder. “What are you looking for anyway?”
“Got it,” he exclaims, pulling a small black book the size of his hand from the suitcase. He stands, tucking the book inside the breast pocket of his bomber jacket. “Easy. I told ya. Let’s get out of here.”
We’re turning to the window when the door to the room opens and Torres stands in the hallway. His dark hair is a wild mess down to his shoulders, a bandana tied above his brow. His eyes are dark and narrow, his lips pulled back over his teeth.
My mouth falls open. We’re screwed.
Lionel pushes my shoulders roughly. “Quick! Out the window!”
I run to the window, pulling myself through the opening, Lionel following behind. A howl rips from Torres’ throat as he streaks across the room and grips the back of Lionel’s jacket, jerking him backwards. He staggers towards the bed and trips over one of the open suitcases. Torres advances on him.
“Lionel!” I shout.
“Run, get away from here!” He demands as he regains his balance and pulls the switchblade from his pocket. I want to, I’m scared, but I’m paralyzed. I can’t leave him.
“You little punk,” Torres says, “You think you can steal from Dal Torres and get away with it?”
A cocky grin spreads over Lionel’s face. “Well I just did, and I’m pretty confident I will.”
Torres doesn’t like that and steps forward. “Give me the book back and maybe I’ll let you walk out of here.”
“Little prick.” Torres launches himself at Lionel, striking out with a series of punches. Lionel dodges most of them, but one hits him in the jaw and he falls onto the bed. Torres is on him in an instant, he kicks out, his boot connecting with the lamp. It goes crashing to the floor, sending the room into blackness.
I can’t see them. I only hear grunts and cursing. What do I do? I should run, do like Lionel said, but I still can’t force myself to move. After a minute the room goes silent.
“Lionel?” I squeak.
A second later a figure emerges from the black, its hands gripping the sill. I jump back, afraid it’s Torres, but instead, Lionel appears. He shuts the window and turns to face me. His face is clouded.
I bite my lip hesitantly. “What happened?”
Lionel shrugs. “Torres won’t be making any more movies.”
“Did you… did you kill him? With that switchblade?” My voice rises. “Oh my god, you killed Torres!”
Lionel steps forward, gripping my arms. “It was either that or get killed. You heard him.”
I shake my head. “I didn’t agree to this.”
“You didn’t do anything. Your conscience is clear.”
I step back, my sneakers grating against the metal of the fire escape. “It doesn’t work that way.” Anger seeps through me, washing away my disbelief. “What was so important you killed for it, huh?” I reach into Lionel’s jacket and pull the book out. “What is this?”
Lionel tries to grab the book but I hold it up and away from me.
“Be careful with that,” he says.
“Answer my question. What is it? I swear I’ll drop it over this railing. Who knows where it’ll land down there.”
“I can’t tell you. Now give it back.”
I hold the book further over the railing. “Tell me!”
Lionel ignores my question and reaches over me, trying to grab the book. My back presses into the railing. “Stop playing around, Cass.”
A siren sounds below us and it startles me. The book falls from my hand and drops down into the darkness below.
“No! Dammit!” Lionel growls, pounding his fist off the railing.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to drop it.”
Lionel rolls his eyes and lets out a slow breath. “I know.” He steps past me and starts down the stairs. “Let’s go. That siren meant someone called the cops. They must have heard the scuffle. We’ll come back tomorrow and find the book.”
I nod and follow after him.