At the exact moment Raven drained her mango smoothie, wiped her mouth, and set her glass down, the buzz of a power tool shattered the morning quiet. The small, colorful birds that had been flitting around our rooftop garden vanished.
Raven walked to the edge of the rooftop garden and looked down. “Uh-oh,” she said. “Dad, you better come look at this.”
I swallowed the last bite of my chilaquiles and licked some tomato sauce off my thumb. “What is it, Kid?”
“Um, it looks like three guys are trying to break in.”
I stood and looked over the short cinder-block wall that ringed the top of our roof. Three men wearing ski masks stood on the sidewalk. Two of them faced the street. The third was cutting through our cast-iron gate with a battery-operated Saws-All.
Raven trotted along the sides of the roof, checking the other three sides. Then she was back at my side. Beneath her tan, her face had gone pale. The contrast between her blue eyes and black hair was even more startling than usual.
“I don’t see any more,” she said in a shaky whisper. “Just these three.”
I put my arm around her shoulders gave her a soft squeeze. I kept my eyes on the street. The angry electrical smell of hot metal had replaced the breakfast smells of tropical flowers, fresh fruit, coffee, and chorizo.
“You’re sure you didn’t see any other guys hiding behind the house? Nobody in the alley? Nobody around the back?”
“I didn’t see anybody. Just these three.”
“Does this maybe have anything to do with whatever you were telling me about the other night? Shady oil deals and crawlers and block readers and so on?”
“Maybe. Probably. But maybe right now isn’t the time to get into it.” She wedged a chair under the handle of the door at the top of the stairs. She’d already slung her bag over her shoulder.
“It’ll be okay, Kid. They haven’t looked up once, so they don’t know we’re up here. And if we’ve only got these three to worry about, we’re home free on the fire escape.”
The fire escape was a wrought iron ladder running down the side of the house. At the bottom of the ladder a small wooden gate allowed access to the alley.
The guy with the Saws-All cut through the last bar and the gate swung open. He dropped the tool on the sidewalk. All three guys headed inside the house.
They had two stories to check. I figured it gave us enough time.
Raven whispered, “I really think we better go, Popsicle.”
“You’re right, Kid. Let’s scram.”
Raven threw a leg over the wall and started climbing down.
I waited for her to get far enough below me that I wouldn’t stomp on her fingers then followed her down.
She was crouching by the back gate when I got over there.
“I can’t see over it,” she said.
Keeping my face in the shadows, I moved a palm frond and peered into the alley. “Nobody there,” I said.
“Where are we going to go?”
“I don’t know,” I said, but it looked to me like they left keys in the car.”
Raven cracked a smile. “I love road trips.”
“Atta girl,” I said, grinning at her. “When I open this gate, we’re going jog to their car. Don’t sprint, you might slip. I’m driving. You get in behind me on the driver’s side. That keeps the car between you and them. Got it?”
She nodded, her eyes wide. “Got it.”
“Okay. If they get close to us, run. I’ll keep them off of you. You just run. Go to the dive shop, have Ramón call Don Pedro, you’ll be okay.”
“What about you?”
“Don’t worry about me. Just run.” I checked the alley again. “You ready to go?”
Raven nodded again.
“Okay, Kid, here we go.” I pulled the gate open and we hit the alley at a jog, Raven staying a step or two behind me and to the outside, away from the house.
I took a deep breath going around the corner, but there was nobody and nothing in the street beside the car the would-be kidnappers had thoughtfully left for us. I noticed it was a Nissan as I slid into the driver’s seat. Raven was right behind me in the backseat, contorting her body to look out the back window toward the roof.
The car started on the first try. God bless Japanese engines.
“They’re on the roof, Dad. They look pissed.”
I popped the clutch and got us out of there.
>>>Jump to Part 2: Tables and Chairs, Ravens and Beans<<<
© Copyright 2020 by Jim Latham
Photo by Lei Ramirez on Unsplash
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