I padded into the kitchen, grabbed some strawberries from the fridge and turned on the radio. Norah Jones was singing Those Sweet Words. “Perfect,” I thought, “a great tune to get me in the mood for my morning yoga.” I put a teakettle on the stove and sat down at the kitchen table, nibbling on the strawberries. When Norah finished singing, an announcer started droning on about the weather and sports. I tuned him out as the teakettle started whistling. As I picked it up, something the announcer said caught my attention. “This program is brought to you in memory of Eddie Mars. Mr. Mars’ favorite saying was from the latin, ‘A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi’, meaning - A precipice in front, wolves behind. No idea what that means folks, but it sounds like Mr. Mars must have been quite a character.”
I clicked off the radio and said, “Yes he is…”
No one voluntarily leaves the Company and lives long, but I had managed for a year so far. I owed a lot of that to Eddie Mars, or should I say, Ted Johansson. Ted always was a sucker for The Big Sleep, so I wasn’t surprised that he used the code name ‘Eddie Mars’ to get his message to me. When I knew I had to get out of the Company, Ted, or Uncle Teddy as I came to know him, came up with a code system to let me know when I was in danger.
“A precipice in front, wolves behind.” In other words, get the hell out.
I no longer had access to all the “toys” I did when I was in the Company, but I did have access to Radio Shack. So, when I moved into this house I installed video monitors around its perimeter, the backyard easement, and near some other key areas of the addition. I then found an iPad app that would allow me to see what they see – all while being mobile. Paranoid much? There’s an app for that.
I ran to the bedroom and grabbed my iPad off the dresser. A quick look at the tablet showed a black SUV parked on the street, blocking my driveway. “Wolves,” I thought. I caught my reflection in the dresser mirror as I reached for my gun. Some spy I was, with my hair in a ponytail, wearing only yoga pants, and a sports bra.
I made sure there was a round in the chamber, met my gaze in the mirror and said, “Alea iacta est. The die is cast.” Carrying the iPad in my left hand and the gun in my right, I made my way through the house. Checking the cameras again I saw another SUV on the street near where the easement comes out, but the end nearest the woods appeared clear.
I popped the screen out of my bedroom window and ran as fast as I could through the backyard, toward the property easement. I felt if I could make it to the easement, it was a quick run to the woods and safety. I opened the gate of my privacy fence and entered the property easement. All of the privacy fences in this addition went up to the property line of each home owner’s property, but by law they couldn’t build on the easement, so this created a 6ft x 6ft tunnel for me to run through.
I turned left and ran as fast as I could. As I ran past my neighbors back yards, I occasionally caught glimpses of swing sets, vegetable gardens, and BBQ grills through open or broken fence slats. I envied them their boring, normal suburban lives, a life I would never have.
As I neared the end of the ‘privacy tunnel,’ I stopped to glance at the cameras again. In the time it had taken for me to run the length of the tunnel, a third SUV had shown up, blocking my escape here too. Two beefy men got out of it and stood in front of the truck. Did they know I would come this way? Looking at my cameras I saw no other way out. The good news was that since we were in a residential neighborhood, the men hadn’t drawn their weapons yet. They just stood there like two dumb gorillas in their black suits. If I went out, guns blazing, I might be able to take out both of them before they had a chance to draw their weapons.
I took a deep breath and prepared to run out when I noticed one of the apes look to his left. He smiled a huge, stupid smile and slapped his buddy on the shoulder. The other ape looked in the direction his buddy was pointing and an even bigger smile spread across his face.
Confused, I used the iPad to rotate the camera to get a better look. And there she was: Lizzie Jones watering her hydrangeas. The tramp was only wearing a blue bikini top and some daisy dukes while she gyrated to her MP3 player. Well, a distraction is a distraction. I stepped out of the tunnel and dropped both of them, stupid smiles and all. Lizzie just kept watering her flowers and dancing to her unheard music.
I grabbed their wallets and jumped in the SUV. Flooring it, I got out of the neighborhood as quickly as I could. Now that I was free from the wolves I had time to think about what Uncle Teddy meant by ‘Precipice’. Really, it could only mean one thing, the Crag.
The Crag was an old Scottish pub on Balboa Street and had a certain old school Chicago charm. If you find doughy-faced mobsters charming that is.
Since one doesn’t just traipse into a downtown Chicago restaurant wearing only yoga pants and a sports bra, I first stopped off at a Goodwill store in Munster to buy a few things. I used the money I had found in the apes wallets to buy a black skirt, decent top, and a nice pair of heels before heading to the Windy City.
When the Crag’s Maître D’ greeted me I had a few doubts about the famed restaurant’s authenticity. A small Vietnamese man with an overbite, he stared at the register for several seconds before saying, “Ah yes, Mr. Mars. This way please.”
As the Maître D’ led me out onto a balcony I took a deep breath when I saw Uncle Teddy. He had aged considerably and was that a cane he was holding?
“Thank you”, I said to the Maître D’. “I’ll have what he’s having.”
“So happy you figured out my message Trish”, Uncle Teddy said. He seemed nervous and I thought I saw his hand shake when he raised the glass of Macallan to his lips.
“Time is short my dear and there’s no simple way to put this. They’re on to you. I’ve made arrangements for you to hide at my old family estate in St. Croix.” A faint smile played across his face as he said, “I shouldn’t have asked you to meet me of course. Call it an old man’s weakness, but I just had to see you one last time.” Uncle Teddy looked away and glanced out across the balcony. His eyes narrowed and I turned to follow his gaze just as he muttered, “Oh dear”. I heard the pop of the gun and grabbed him as he collapsed. I pulled him down with me to the balcony floor. Looking back across the balcony I saw a sniper preparing to take another shot. The limestone lattice work of the balcony would provide us some cover, but it wouldn’t stop our assassin. I reached between my legs, where I had strapped my hand-gun, and smoothly pulled it out and fired in one quick motion. I saw the sniper’s rifle fall. I glanced back through the balcony door into the restaurant and saw black-suited gorillas on their way.
Uncle Teddy was mumbling something and I leaned my head towards his lips so I could hear him. “Ad Augusta Per Angusta”.
Sighing I said, “Really, Uncle Teddy? More Latin? Now?” He repeated the phrase again and again. I crouched, gun pointed towards the door, body shielding Uncle Teddy, when it clicked. ‘Ad Augusta Per Angusta’ To high places by narrow paths. I glanced around and noticed that the masonry work on the Crag’s walls had narrow ledges all along it, occurring at six foot intervals. I’d have to jump off the balcony to the first one, but I might be able to climb to the street below using these ledges.
I kissed Uncle Teddy on the forehead and said, “Ad Augusta Per Angusta. I understand, Uncle Teddy. I love you.” I slipped off my heels and climbed over the balcony ledge as the first ape broke through the door. I blew him a kiss and jumped.