A Night Tiger Adventure
Stunned and enraged by the murder of her parents, beautiful heiress Chase Lockheart becomes determined to bring her parents' killers to justice -- no matter the cost. A talented athlete and academic, she knows that to truly fight criminals she must break the law herself. Donning a custom-made black catsuit and mask, the raven-haired beauty becomes the Night Tiger, one of the sexiest crime-fighters of all time!
Working her way through the newly-cut hole in the chain link fence, Cassie ducked down and made her way toward the old factory. She was determined to discover the truth about this place, no matter what.
Like her namesake, Cassandra from Greek mythology, no one was believing her when it came to the rich and powerful. Her blog, Spur of the Moment, was dedicated to reporting the evil deeds of the elite, but her latest articles on kidnapping and human sacrifice were being met with extreme derision from both the mainstream press and the public alike. Tonight she was going to get proof.
Zeke, a homeless man who she paid to watch the streets, told her of one or more robed figures skulking around the old National Cable and Twine factory that had closed nearly a decade ago. Zeke wasn't necessarily the most reliable informant, his mind damaged by alcohol abuse and years living on the street. However, Cassie always wondered why the building hadn't been leveled or purchased, but if this was where the elite were holding their secret ceremonies, it made perfect sense.
As Cassie neared the main building, she pulled out her camera and switched it to infrared mode. With any luck, she would get some photographic evidence proving her claims. Slipping around the graffitied walls, she came to a door. She tested the knob and found the door was unlocked. Slipping inside, she found herself in a hallway leading past an old timeclock and dusty locker room.
She stopped for a second and listened. Faint hums filled the air, and were those voices? Her heart jumped with excitement as she made her way toward the main production area. Light spilled out from a doorway up ahead, and Cassie's pulse quickened. She lifted the camera to her face and eased toward the opening.
Sure enough, there was a bank of computers set up in the middle of the floor and several men were operating them. Cassie switched to regular mode and turned the zoom up. She pointed the camera and snapped a few quick shots.
Then a gloved hand clamped over her mouth, while another grabbed her upper arm. Cassie tried to wrench herself free, but the grip was too tight.
"Hello, Miss Spurlock," said a gravelly voice. "Surely you know it's dangerous to be sneaking around abandoned factories late at night."
Cassie whimpered as her captor led her into the lighted area.
"It appears we need one more piece to complete the plan," concluded the robed figure.
Cassie grunted through the rag tied between her lips as she unsuccessfully tried twisting her hands free again. The speaker, a tall figure clad in a hooded green robe and simply addressed as "Master" by the other men, stared at the computer screen in deep thought. After he'd grabbed her, she was seated in a heavy wooden chair where her wrists and ankles were crossed and bound, then connected by another rope under the chair itself. Master glanced over at her, and she detected a wry smile from beneath the hood.
"Perhaps while we're out, I'll pick up something special for our guest as well," he said.
"I don't know why we don't just take her out back and put a bullet in her," grunted one of the thugs.
Master paused. "Logically, that would be the best idea," he surmised, "but while Cassandra comes off as a raging lunatic online, in person she is quite fetching. I admit to being quite smitten with her."
Cassie shuddered. It was bad enough she was this maniac's prisoner, but if he believed she was going to go Stockholm Syndrome for him, he was crazier than she originally thought.
"Jonas, keep an eye on her while we're gone," ordered Master. "The rest of you come with me."
I'm glad things have been quiet lately, thought the ebony-clad woman as her custom motorcycle rounded the corner of 31st and Jefferson. The heroine known as Night Tiger reveled in the cool night air as her dyed locks danced behind her.
Her neck suddenly tensed, knowing she'd spoken too soon. There was a light on at the city planner's building, and no one was ever there at this hour. Night Tiger pulled her motorcycle into a nearby alley and found the rear entrance to the building. The door lock had already been picked, so she slipped inside without a sound.
In one of the rear offices, Night Tiger saw three heavies and a robed figure searching through the file cabinets. In a perfect case of bad timing, one of the thugs happened to look up and directly at her.
"Master!" he shouted.
Not wanting to completely lose the element of surprise, the heroine leapt into the room, connecting her boot solidly with the man's open jaw. Before he hit the floor, Night Tiger was already cartwheeling backward, catching a second thug with a whipping fist. A spinning tumble into the third left only the robed man standing. She grabbed the robe and raised her knee to his chest, preparing to Judo throw him into a wall, but a spray of gas erupted from the center of his chest precisely into Night Tiger's face!
Night Tiger stumbled backward, her senses reeling. The room began to spin, and then everything went black.
Cassie and Jonas looked up as the men returned. One was carrying a stack of folders, while Master carried two small boxes. The other two were limping and seemed to be nursing wounds.
Noticing the bruises and torn clothing of his pals, Jonas asked, "What happened to you guys?"
"We were interrupted by the self-styled superhero Night Tiger," answered Master, placing the boxes on a nearby desk.
Cassie perked up at the mention of the heroine's name. She'd been critical of the costumed vigilantes in the past, opining their unsanctioned enforcement of law and order was both a benefit and a threat.
"While she set our timetable back a few minutes, our trek was a success, and she shouldn't be a factor," Master continued.
Cassie's heart dropped at this pronouncement.
Turning to the thug carrying the folders, Master said. "Franklin, you and Jonas get this data entered so we can begin."
Then he turned to Cassie. "I brought you something as well," he said, opening the largest box. He unfurled a long, slinky dress. The sleeveless number was bright red and featured a plunging neckline. "I got you some matching shoes as well. The only question at this point is whether you dress yourself, or if you're going to make me do it for you."
Although the dress was certainly beautiful, Cassie shuddered, unsure of where Master's affections were going to lead.
Night Tiger groaned as her eyes fluttered open. A putrid smell filled her nostrils and it was dark. In seconds, she realized she was lying in a dumpster atop a day's worth of garbage. She tried questioning her situation, but found her mouth stuffed with a rag and covered by another. Memories of the fight with the robed figure and his goons came back to her and she tried to remove the gag, finding her wrists and elbows bound tightly behind her back. Her wrists were tied to her similarly-bound ankles, but as she tried to move her legs to undo the hogtie, she felt herself being choked!
Gasping, she relaxed her legs and the pressure on her neck ceased. She pushed her bound knees downward, and again felt the constriction on her neck. The bastard had apparently tied a rope from her knees up and around her throat, ensuring she wouldn't be able to simply untie her ankles. Worse, if she pulled up with her hands, that would choke her, too!
Night Tiger tensed her legs, trying to reach around with her hands as much as possible to see if she could slide her utility belt around and get one of her blades out of the pouches, but found it had been removed. There was another blade in her left boot heel, but would she be able to reach it?
Tightening the muscles in her neck, she pushed her feet back as far as she could. The thin cord dug into her throat, but she kept pushing. Finally, she realized it was no use. The tips of her fingers were several inches from her foot, and any more pressure would cause her to pass out.
Worse, the garbage trucks usually came in the early morning hours. If she didn't escape before then, she could end up crushed by the trash compactor!
Although she was dressed better, Cassie's situation hadn't improved all that much. Master let her have the dignity of changing in a small, windowless room away from the ogling eyes of him and his goons. However, with no means of escape and a time limit, she had to comply with his demands for now.
After she'd changed into the dress and matching heels, Master led her to a support post in the main room where he raised her wrists over her head and behind the pole, where they were again crossed and bound. He lashed more rope around her waist and the pole before following suit with her ankles. The cloth gag was removed because "it ruined the lines of her face," but was replaced with several strips of wide tape, ensuring the reporter's continued silence.
Master's glances darted between her and his men as they progressed. Cassie had never felt so exposed and vulnerable in her life, not to mention standing motionless in the heels made her almost miss the hard wooden chair.
As his goons continued to work, Master walked over to Cassie and gently ran his hand down the side of her face and neck, causing her to cringe. "Relax, my dear Cassandra, you're about to get the story of a lifetime -- even if you'll never have the opportunity to publish it."
Cassie did her best to fight back the tears stinging her eyes.
Night Tiger tried her best to maintain her composure, but the nature of her current predicament combined with the rancid garbage odor wasn't helping.
She heard movement outside the dumpster. The lid began to rise slowly, and Night Tiger shifted her body as much as she could to face whoever it was on the other side.
A mostly-toothless, bearded face greeted her, appearing shocked at the contents.
"G-g-golly, jeezus!" stammered the man. "You durn near made me piss myself! You shouldn't be in there. Dumpsters is too dangerous fer a lady!"
Night Tiger grunted at the obviously homeless man, hoping he was the friendly type.
"Oh! Someone done roped you up! You need help?" he asked, finally recognizing the situation for what it was.
The heroine nodded emphatically.
"Well, just a minute and let me get in there," said the man as he tried to find a foothold outside the dumpster. "My name's Zeke, by the way."
After a few tries, Zeke finally got inside with her and removed the gag.
"Thank you so much, Zeke," Night Tiger cooed, hoping he would simply untie her and not attempt anything else while she couldn't fight back. "You're a good person."
"Mama always told me to be a gentleman with the ladies," he replied, fumbling with the knots binding Night Tiger's arms. "I always thank Miss Cassie when she gives me food and money for helping her out."
"Miss Cassie?" asked Night Tiger, wishing he would hurry up.
Zeke nodded, finally making progress. "Yup, the reporter gal who tells me to keep an eye on things. 'Specially when guys with hoods is lurking around."
Night Tiger perked up. "Hooded guys?" she asked.
"Yup," replied Zeke, "Miss Cassie wanted to know about any shady types wandering around, so I told her about the old rope factory."
Zeke finally managed to free Night Tiger's arms, and she quickly untied the rope around her neck and started on her legs. "You saw a hooded man at the old National Cable and Twine building?"
Zeke nodded. "Yes, ma'am. I may drink a lot, but I know what I saw."
The two of them climbed out of the dumpster, and Night Tiger spotted her utility belt sitting atop a nearby trash can. She grabbed the belt and removed some of the emergency cash she kept at hand.
"Zeke, I can't thank you enough," she said, handing him a wad of twenty-dollar bills. "Get yourself something to eat and stay someplace nicer tonight. I need to go check on Miss Cassie."
Zeke's eyes nearly popped out of his head at the large sum of money. "Golly, jeezus!" he exclaimed. Before he could say any more, Night Tiger had already run off, leaving the dumbfounded man wondering where to spend his money first.
"Boss... er... Master, we're done!" shouted Jonas.
"Excellent!" replied Master, moving over to the console. "First, we will start the remote backup, and once that completes, we can begin the next phase."
Master sat down to initiate the upload protocol, but he was interrupted by a loud crash from the factory's entrance.
A cloud of smoke formed at the far side of the room, and seconds later Night Tiger burst in through the smoke. Master's goons leapt from their seats to advance on the heroine, but Night Tiger wasn't going to be deterred.
A well-placed punch knocked Franklin down. Franklin and another thug tried grabbing the feline fury, but Night Tiger jumped into an aerial backflip as the two men approached, causing them to crash into each other.
Although her flip was Olympics-worthy, the landing wasn't. Night Tiger landed in a pile of rope left over from the factory's active days. As she stepped forward, her feet became tangled, and she fell straight down toward the floor. Jonas and the remaining thug seized their opportunity on the ensnared avenger. Before they reached her, Night Tiger drew her pistol and fired at Master.
Jonas, however, kicked her hand at the last second, causing the shot to go left, sending the bullet into the computer bank. The men pounced on Night Tiger, pulling her arms behind her back and binding her wrists together.
Furious, Master rose from his chair. "Use as much rope as you can," he ordered. "This insufferable woman has delayed me enough!"
The thugs wrapped more rope around Night Tiger's torso, pinning her wrists against her lower back. Likewise, they practically cocooned her legs in rope until she was almost completely immobilized.
Night Tiger's complaints were quickly suppressed as Jonas pulled a rolled-up and knotted rag between her teeth, tying it tightly behind her head.
Savoring her muffled grunts for a moment, Master said, "Put her over by dear, sweet Cassandra. I want the two of them to see what happens next."
"Dear, sweet Cassandra"? wondered Night Tiger. Had the villain developed a thing for his first captive?
Roughly, Night Tiger was dragged over and dropped at Cassie's feet. With considerable effort, she twisted around so she could see what this was all about.
Master approached the console and began typing in some commands. Suddenly, he stopped.
"What's that smell?" he asked.
To answer his question, a steady stream of smoke began pouring out of the console where Night Tiger's bullet had struck. Master stood up mere seconds before the terminal exploded in a shower of sparks.
The sparks landed in the piles of paper scattered over the desk area, and flames erupted from the console.
"Get back!" shouted Master, as another terminal exploded.
The raging fire separated Master and his goons from the two women. Master's glance darted between the computers and Cassie as if he was deciding which was more important.
"Boss!" screamed Jonas. "Get back!"
The flames were beginning to spread to the old, dried-up rope lying around the room, and the fire was turning into a raging inferno.
Master gazed longingly at Cassie. "Farewell, dear Cassandra!" he shouted. "It appears we'll have to continue this later, perhaps in the next life!"
Jonas grabbed him and the villains made their way to a side exit, leaving Cassandra crying into her gag and pulling frantically at her bonds.
Night Tiger, however, recognized the situation at the first puff of smoke and retrieved the blade in her boot heel. While the rope she was bound with was thick, its age made it easier to cut through. Keeping one eye on the flames, she freed her legs, then her wrists.
The ropes around her arms were going to be a problem, but she needed to get Cassie free from her pole. She sliced the ropes binding Cassie's legs and nodded with her head. Cassie finally got her meaning and ducked down so Night Tiger could cut her hands free.
Cassie pulled her gag off, and took the blade from Night Tiger to cut her arms free as well. Night Tiger yanked her gag out and pointed toward the main entrance. "Come on!" she yelled.
Cassie kicked off her heels, and the two women sprinted toward the entrance, mere moments before they heard the ceiling collapse. The two watched the fire engulf the factory, and soon heard sirens in the distance.
"Are you going to be okay?" asked Night Tiger. "The authorities and I aren't on totally agreeable terms yet, so I can't exactly stick around."
Still trembling, Cassie nodded. "I suppose..." she answered. "You want me to keep your name out of this?"
"No, feel free to tell the truth," replied Night Tiger. "After all, isn't that what you champion on a daily basis?"
Cassie was taken aback that Night Tiger knew who she was and agreed. "I suppose so," she said looking back at the fire. "Actually, I wonder if I could get an interview with..."
When Cassie turned back around, Night Tiger was already on her motorcycle and speeding off.
"Normally, I'd say we could do this another time, but frankly, I hope there is no 'another time'," she muttered to herself.
Cassie wasn't in the mood to blog about secret rituals and other underhanded dealings for several days, but fortunately, she had a few "evergreen" pieces that she had pre-written in case she was ever in a slump.
She got a shock one day when the blog's Twitter account got a new follower: @HoodedMaster.
Cassie hovered her mouse pointer over the "Block" button. After a moment's thought, she realized if it truly was her captor from earlier, he could easily create a new account under a less obvious nickname. She let it go for now. Who knows? Maybe he would click on an ad banner every so often, just to help her out.
Something in her gut told her, however, she would probably see him again.