I follow Mom's Jaguar back to Corporate HQ. Tony sits in the passenger seat looking straight ahead, bracing his hands on the dashboard because we are hauling nine kinds of ass. The Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping" blares from the stereo. Maybe it's a little too loud, but I don't care. Herpezoids have Kelly Clarkson, whom I have come to adore and appreciate as an artist. They want to steal our Christmas. Ain't gonna happen. Not on my watch. Tony turns down the volume.
"Is the music necessary?" His voice is fighting a losing battle not to sound whiny.
"Have we met? Do we know each other? This is motivational music. You know how much I rely on that."
"I'm with Tony," Randi says. "You can play it. Just turn it down a smidge so I can think."
"Grinches." i turn The Waitresses down under protest. Traffic is getting heavy, so we're dashing down side streets trying to make it to the highway. A thirst for vengeance needs quenching. A hunger to dish out retribution needs satiating.
"Dean has tried to reach out to some of our contacts inside the building," Randi says, "but not getting a response."
"Do we have a plan?" Tony asks. "For all we know, they've taken over the security protocols and we can't access the building."
"Dean is reprogramming the Rube Goldberg Protocols right now," Randi says. "By the time we get there, we should be able to access Sandra's private entrance."
"Oh yeah," I remember. "That tunnel."
A half mile past the HQ entrance is the kind of gravel road that people wonder where it leads. This particular narrow road leads to a secret tunnel that accesses a private parking garage for Mom. Dad used to use it when he was alive, especially when he wanted to arrive without anyone knowing. Dean changed the Rube Goldberg Protocol for it just as we arrived and sent Randi the script. Mom has already completed the protocol so now it's my turn.
"Here. Follow this." Randi hands me her phone with the scripting. It's short. I'm supposed to press the intercom box and wait for the voice to say "can you believe this is happening?" According to the script, I'm supposed to produce an unintelligible scream. I ease up to the box and follow the instructions. The intercom voice sounds panicked.
"Can you believe this is happening?"
"AAHAUUUAHHHGGGGHHHH!" is my reply.
"What the hell?" I say.
"Jesus," Randi says. "You don't actually scream. You just say the words "unintelligible scream."
"That makes no sense," I say.
"That's a great a protocol," Tony says.
I press the button again.
"Can you believe this is happening?"
The gate arm raises and I speed into the space next to Mom's Jag. She waits with Dean and Kevin as the check their Multiblasters. We run to the elevator and Mom presses in her access code and we rise from the basement to the third floor, the site of the Christmas party. Our weapons are poised and we are ready to fire.
The doors open.
The large cafeteria and dining hall is decked in glorious holiday decorations. A stage is set with a sound system and single microphone. Speakers sit on each side. The giant Christmas tree blinks with multi-colored lights. A magnificent spread of food adorns a long table against a wall. The tables are set with garland and candles. A bar sits on another wall, bottles of booze lined around it and a cooler of beer on ice next to it. No one is here except for one person. A lovely blonde wearing an ugly Christmas sweater with a twerking Santa on it stands in the middle of the cafeteria.
"Kenzie?" Mom keeps her weapon drawn as he creep into the space and spread out. "Where is everyone? Where are the Herpezoids?"
"Oh," Kenzie whispers. "They're here."
The sound system starts blaring Wham's "Last Christmas" and I can't even begin to tell you how much I hate that song.
To be continued...