With a sudden need to use the facilities...
Amy entered the bathroom and faced a door opposite, the entrance to the Harp Hotel on the Lake. No wonder this bathroom was elegant. Waffle towels and an assortment of fragrance mists, lotions, and a milk-glass, soap pump sat on a green-marble counter next to a vintage-looking faucet. If she weren’t in a hurry, she’d spray herself with the cologne in the shamrock container.
There were two large stalls, and she peeked under the shiny white doors to make sure she wouldn’t intrude upon someone. After making sure it was empty, she headed in and hung her little handbag on a hook. About to use the toilet, she heard muffled voices. Wasn’t she alone?
Glancing upward, she spotted a vent. The voices came from a room in the hotel. Did she hear strong words? She stepped onto the toilet seat and stood on tiptoes, straining to raise herself even higher. As she peered through the vent, she realized she was looking over a balcony and onto a large conference room. This bathroom, on the second level of the parking structure, was level with the hotel’s mezzanine.
About twenty feet below, the marble floor gleamed up at her, but the scene was far from friendly business. A half-dozen men wore turbans and black, body armor with the Takbir insignia embroidered on them. The symbol, hard to ignore this year, was white Arabic writing on their rolling-sand motif flag and displayed with every hostage crisis. Flowing robes extended half-way below their shins.
The robed men surrounded four men seated with their hands on a round table. These men were held captive, she was certain. The two facing her wearing Claddagh rings on their third fingers had visited Les. The rings married them, molded them into a brotherhood. Whether they wore suits or the Levis they’d worn on their visit, they bound together by a code of violence and silence. For years the Waterfront Roached remained an impenetrable and unstoppable force. Until now.
The Irish Mafioso appearance was as easy to recognize as the Takbir terrorists. In her hometown of Long Beach, the Waterfront Roaches went about their business in match-match suits. The Irish Kings of Cocaine ruled the warehouse district. After scrutinizing the backs of the other two suits, one wore a fedora identical to the Irish mobster at the coffee shop. Next she zeroed in on the other man with slicked back, silver hair who’d visited Les at their condo. Was an Islamic gang taking over the Irish mob’s territory?
Fearing they’d see her, she cringed, but the thugs were far below. Concentrating, she tried to make out what was happening down there. She looked through the vent. They were talking again.
One of the robes said, “We are defenders of the Prophet. You failed our leader, Rourke.” Speaking with unaccented English meant he was a recruit.
Where had she heard the name Rourke?
She concentrated on the leader in his white tunic. He jerked to a halt in front of Rourke and pulled his black bandanna down to speak. His accent was Middle Eastern, and his face contorted with anger.
“Let me impress upon you,” came rough words from Rourke, “we can both win.”
“You are not our brother,” the robed leader barked. “This is our territory now. Pledge your finances to us.”
“Wait! Hold on!” stammered a young, suited man facing her direction.
Hold onto what? When Amy watched the leader gesture toward his guard, she feared something bad was about to happen.
The guard raised his arms in the air. Coming from under his robe, light reflected on a long sword. He wrapped both hands around it and whipped it through the air. Like lightning, his arms and body made a complete circle.
Amy gasped at the sword, aimed for the seated guy’s neck.
Rourke whipped out a blade at thigh level and threw it, striking the robed man in the shoulder.
His sword thudded onto the floor, but his man brought out a pistol. With Rourke in its cross-hairs, the gun discharged and ripped through Rourke’s shoulder and out the other side.
Another robed man picked up the sword and swung it upward, but a suited man shot him twice in the chest. He crashed to the floor. A puddle of blood reddened his robe and seeped outward.
In all her years, nothing prepared her for this horror. She shivered from fright but steadied herself against the stall wall. She froze as seconds passed but told herself to serve justice.
Take photos! Pulling out her iPhone, she touched the camera-button, took photos from various angles, and thanked God for the soft click-click-click.
Again, she glanced through the vent. Running his hand through his blood-spattered white hair, Rourke stumbled. Irish companions supported him through the room’s double doors.
The robed leader looked up in her direction. She ducked. A second later, she snapped two more photos of the gruesome scene. Enough evidence. Time to scram. Leaping off the toilet, she darted out the door to the parking structure. Cold air brushed her skin.
She charged down the ramp. Around and around, she sped with all her might. She took a quick glance over her shoulder. A shadow from a careening SUV. Light blue. She dove behind a parked car. As the SUV passed, the windows rolled down. The barrel of a rifle appeared. Tires squealed. The SUV zoomed off.
Crouching motionless for a full minute, her heart thumped from the close call. She willed herself to get out of there. She sprinted through the exit. Coming onto the street, she spotted the open door of the Arrowbear Cafe.