Third Time's the Harm

  • Crime
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This story is now available in a revised and expanded version on Smashwords!

After a cursory walk around the old house and seeing no sign of its inhabitants, private investigator Bobbi Dale picked the lock on the back door and slowly crept in. The police had heard rumors about a potential terrorist threat in the area, and had asked her to help any way she could.

While she couldn't corroborate anything definite, one anonymous tipster sent her this address as a potential site of such activity. The house had been abandoned years ago, so there was no current owner listed.

When she was outside, Bobbi noticed a gas generator in the backyard that appeared to have been used recently. Someone had to at least be squatting here, and she was just here to look around for anything concrete she could report to the police.

Bobbi crept through the kitchen, noticing some fast food bags in a trash can. They had the current logos of their respective chains, which confirmed her suspicions.

As she walked into the living room, she saw a desk in the corner covered in papers. She lightly shifted the papers around, seeing what appeared blueprints for the sewer system and a Post-It note with today's date and "8pm" written on it.

Bobbi wracked her brain. What was happening today? Then she remembered -- Senator Woods was speaking downtown at a dinner meeting. That had to be it!

"Find anything interesting?" came a man's voice from behind her.

Bobbi spun around to face the man, who she recognized immediately. It was Ross Franklin, a lowlife she'd busted years ago when he was trying to set up a gun-running operation.

Before Ross could react, Bobbi drew her gun out of its shoulder holster and leveled it at Ross's chest. Ross immediately froze and held his hands out.

"I'd say it's nice to see you again, Ross, but I'd be lying," goaded Bobbi.

"Likewise, bitch," snarled Ross.

"So," Bobbi asked, "do you want to tell me what this is all about, or would you rather wait until the cops get here?"

Ross smirked. "You think I'm going to spell everything out for you when I still have an ace to play?"

Bobbi frowned, wondering what Ross could possibly be referring to, when a rag clamped down over her face, and a hand grabbed her gun arm, lifting it toward the ceiling. Bobbi caught the faint smell of chloroform and held her breath. However, seeing the distraction, Ross lunged forward, grabbing her free arm with one hand and planting an uppercut right below Bobbi's sternum, knocking the wind out of her.

As much as Bobbi wanted to fight it, her body overruled her brain, and she sucked in gulps of the anesthetized air. Suddenly, her gun felt extremely heavy and slipped out of her fingers. Her consciousness wasn't far behind, and soon she went limp in the two men's grasp.

God, I can still smell that stuff, Bobbi thought as she slowly awoke. How long was I out?

She instinctively went for her watch, but realized there was a problem. Namely, her hands were handcuffed behind her back. In addition, she was seated in a heavy wooden chair with each of her ankles bound to one of the chair's front legs. Another rope ran around her waist and the back of her chair, keeping her seated. She tried to mutter her frustration, but the large rag tied between her teeth and around her head only allowed a few muffled grunts through.

She glanced around the room for a clock, and spotted one on the wall. It's only 4 p.m. I've still got time! she thought. On a far table, she saw her gun and purse, which hopefully still contained her phone and the small knife she kept for emergencies.

Bobbi struggled for a few minutes to see if there was any play in either the ropes or the cuffs, but they held fast. She sighed and looked around the room, listening carefully. There was no sign of her attackers, and she couldn't hear anyone else in the house.

How thoroughly did they search me? she wondered as she twisted and maneuvered her hands around the back of the chair so they were now directly behind her back. She reached under her jacket into the hemline of her skirt and found what she was looking for -- the small lockpick she began stowing there after the the last time she was handcuffed.

She slid the pick out of its hiding place and went to work on the handcuffs. She wasn't used to doing this blind, but after several tries, she finally lifted the inner hook, and the cuff on her left hand opened enough to free her hand.

Immediately, she pulled the gag out of her mouth. "Bastards..." she muttered as she went to work picking the other cuff. "I've still got a few hours, and then they'll get theirs!"

Just as she freed her right hand, the front door opened, and Ross entered carrying a sack of fast food.

"What the hell?!" exclaimed Ross.

"Shit!" cursed Bobbi as she went to the rope around her waist.

Ross wasted no time, dropping his bag on the table and lunging at Bobbi. Another man followed him (presumably the one that grabbed her from behind earlier), alerted by Ross's alarm and sudden movement.

"Put her out again, Joe!" ordered Ross as he grabbed one of Bobbi's arms and moved behind her, clamping a hand over her mouth to keep her quiet. Joe opened a cabinet drawer and pulled out a rag and a pharmaceutical bottle. He opened the bottle and splashed some of its contents onto the rag.

No! Not again! thought Bobbi as she tried fighting Ross.

Joe approached, and Ross took his hand from her mouth just long enough for the rag to be pressed tightly against Bobbi's nose and mouth.

Bobbi tried holding her breath, but the excitement was too much, and after a few moments of futile struggle, she was once again unconscious.

Of all the days to wear a thong... thought Bobbi once she awoke and assessed her new predicament.

Realizing she must have hid the lockpick in her clothes, the men had stripped her down to her bra and panties prior to tying her in a tight hogtie on the sofa and regagging her with the rag.

She glanced toward the wall clock again. It was after five now, meaning there were only three hours left. Bobbi looked back at the table, and her purse was still sitting there, ideally with the knife inside.

She could hear voices coming from behind the kitchen door. The men were probably eating the meal they'd brought back. There was only one thing to do -- try and knock her purse down and cut herself loose before they came back, so she was going to have to be as quick and quiet as possible.

Bobbi shifted herself to the edge of the sofa and swung her knees over the edge. She let them land on the carpet, and then slid the rest of her body to the floor. She hesitated for just a moment to see if the men heard the small thud, but there was no change in their conversation.

Bobbi squirmed over to the table and braced her shoulder against one of the legs. She gave a small heave, and she saw her purse rock. She shoved again, and the purse rocked more. She wished they hadn't bound her knees, too, as she might have been able to get into a kneeling position and grab the strap with her teeth, even with the gag on.

She shoved several more times, and her purse finally tipped over, dumping some of its contents on top of her. As luck would have it, the knife was one of them!

Bobbi squirmed around and took hold of the knife. After two tries, she managed to open the blade and quickly cut the rope binding her wrists and ankles together.

The next piece was trickier. She rotated the knife in her hands and slowly wedged it between the loops of rope around her wrists. She couldn't get as much leverage in this position and slowly sawed away at the ropes.

Unfortunately, she was so focused on cutting herself free she didn't notice the kitchen door was open and Ross sneaking up behind her with a freshly-soaked rag.

Bobbi heard a floorboard groan slightly and spun her head around mere seconds before Ross clamped the rag over her face yet again. She wanted to use the knife as a weapon, but it was wedged in her ropes and she couldn't get it loose before the chloroform did its work for a third time.

Well, this is certainly different, thought Bobbi once she awoke and assessed her current predicament.

She was kneeling at the base of a staircase, duct tape wrapped over each thigh and calf, pinning her legs in a bent position. Her hands were folded around the main bannister, and her captors had completely encased her fists in the tape, making her hands completely useless. She could also feel tape wrapped around her head, thoroughly sealing a rag inside her mouth, reducing any sounds she made into a slight grunt.

Bobbi tried tugging at her hands, wondering if she could get the tape to rip, but the tape was layered thick and wouldn't budge at all. She leaned in to see if she could scrape her gag off, but the rounded ball that enveloped her fists was too smooth to catch. Bobbi sighed. There didn't appear to be any escape from this one.

After several minutes, Ross approached her carrying a small paper bag. He took a seat on the second stair. He reached through the railing and pushed back a lock of hair that was hanging over one of Bobbi's eyes. Bobbi recoiled, but couldn't go very far due to her hands' imprisonment.

"You're a beautiful woman, Bobbi," said Ross. "It's too bad you're such a pain in my ass, or we could have some fun."

Bobbi just stared daggers at Ross. There was no way in hell she'd give this scumbag the time of day.

"Since everything is going down in about two hours, and I don't see you going anywhere anytime soon, I guess I'll answer the question you asked me at gunpoint. You've already figured out the visiting Senator is the target and eight o'clock is the time. All you need to know is the how."

Bobbi shrugged.

Ross continued, "As you're probably aware, his speech ends at seven-thirty, and he'll immediately head to the airport to fly back to Washington, D.C. Given he'll spend a few minutes shaking hands and kissing babies, his route is going to take him down Third Street to get on the freeway. Well, a week ago, Joe and I planted a sizeable amount of plastic explosive under the manhole cover at Third and Westbrook. We'll be watching from a nearby café, and when his limo drives over it... boom!"

As much as she hated to admit it, it was a good plan. The Senator's escort would be looking for attacks from the air or ground, and they would have closed off the sewer access only in recent days, not several.

"That's the neat thing about certain explosives," added Ross, "a little will go a long way. Take this one for example..."

Ross reached into the bag and pulled out a small bomb. Bobbi's eyes widened, and a muffled squeal made its way through her gag.

"The one for the Senator is about four times this size, but this one contains enough C-4 to level the first floor of this house. I'll set the timer for two hours and fifteen minutes so you can hear the Senator dying first and have another fifteen minutes to contemplate your own death."

Ross pressed a few buttons on the timer and set it down in front of Bobbi. She saw the "2:15:00" display begin counting down.

"If you decide you don't want to die, all you have to do is push the red button, and that will pause the timer," continued Ross, wearing an evil grin. "Of course, that might be difficult given your current position."

He stood up, grabbed Bobbi's jaw and bent to stare directly in her eyes. "Oh, and just in case you were wondering, that 'anonymous tip' you received -- I sent it."

Bobbi was incredulous.

"I knew you'd take off immediately and walk right in to my little plot. You took ten years from my life, bitch, now I'm taking the rest of yours in return."

Ross laughed slightly and walked out the front door leaving Bobbi pulling and tugging against her immobilized hands.


Bobbi was exhausted. She'd spent the better part of thirty minutes trying to pull and twist her hands apart, but the tape hadn't budged, and with her hands folded together, she couldn't twist much at all.

She then tried changing tactics by trying to pull the rail free, but the house was old enough that it was solid wood and securely screwed into the floor. Having her legs hobbled didn't help either, as she couldn't get much leverage no matter how she shifted her body.

Okay, just relax and think, she told herself. There has to be a way out of this.

Bobbi took some deep breaths through her nose, trying to calm her heart rate and focused on her bonds.


Bobbi was back in panic mode. Every idea she had about changing angles and applying pressure from a different direction had proven fruitless. The Senator's speech was almost over, and then he was on his way to certain doom... and hers not far behind.

Tears began streaming down her cheeks as she leaned into the post. This looked like the end of her detective career.

Just then, Bobbi heard the front door rattle. She perked up and started making as much noise as she could through her gag. The door opened, and in walked Jasmine!

Spotting her boss, the Asian woman dashed over to Bobbi, spotting the bomb in the process. She froze for a second, not knowing whether to focus on Bobbi or the bomb first.

Bobbi gestured at her gag, and Jasmine quickly pulled a pair of scissors out of her purse. After cutting and peeling the tape away, Bobbi spat out the rag and said, "The red button should pause the timer."

Jasmine gently picked up the bomb and looked it over. She shook her head. "Oh, it will pause the timer, boss, by setting off the detonator instantly."

"That bastard," muttered Bobbi. Even if she had managed to get free, Ross was going to make sure she died regardless.

"Give me a minute," said Jasmine. She double-checked the wires, and then used the scissors to cut two of them. "That should disable it. Let's get you untied."

"No time," replied Bobbi. "First things first, get the cops on the phone and tell them Senator Woods is a target. Ross Franklin and some guy named Joe put a bomb under the manhole cover at Westbrook and Third. They're waiting for the Senator's car to pass over it and detonate it, so they should be nearby."

"Ross Franklin?" questioned Jasmine. "Didn't you put him away years ago?"

"Obviously, he's out now," answered Bobbi. "Now get the cops on the line."

Once Bobbi and Jasmine explained the situation to the police, Jasmine cut Bobbi free. Standing up and stretching her cramped limbs, Bobbi asked, "How did you find me?"

"You didn't make it easy," Jasmine said, shaking her head. "Pepper had to hack into your laptop, and then we had to decipher your excuse for organization before we had a list of houses to go looking into. You're lucky I found you, or one of the other girls might have set that bomb off."

Bobbi began silently thanking every deity she'd ever heard of, interrupted by Jasmine's phone ringing. Jasmine answered and got the news that not only had they managed to reroute the Senator's limo, but they managed to find Ross and Joe and had the pair in custody.

Jasmine relayed the news to Bobbi, who sighed, saying "I guess we can chalk this one up as a 'win', although just barely. So, do I owe you a bonus or a nice dinner?"

"Both wouldn't be out of the question," smiled Jasmine.

"Fair enough," replied Bobbi. "Let me go home and get cleaned up, and then we can make some plans."

The End

This story is now available in a revised and expanded version on Smashwords!

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