My eyes were as much on my phone as they were on the street. I had to have typed the same message a dozen times without hitting send; probably drained half the battery with it.
“hay t. 4give me 4 bein a jerk???”
To send or not to send; that was the question. I mean, it wasn’t like I had anything to apologize for, did I?
An hour past midnight and a chill set under my skin. How long had I been walking?
The lines for the clubs had been replaced by the cue for taxis. Men smiling and reeking of alcohol leaned toward me as I passed them by.
“Hey, baby. You got somewhere to go tonight?”
“Dude, that’s a shim,” his friend laughed.
His eyes popped. “Whoa, really? I guess that don’t matter. He-she still has a fine booty.”
That was sort of a compliment, I guessed, but not one I felt that great about.
The tempo of heels clicking against pavement quickened as I clasped my arms to my chest. In one hand I stared at my phone and compiled a new message.
“no luck 2nite. mayb 2moro?”
Not that I expected Tanya to go for it; not after our last conversation.
The further I moved from the heart of town the quieter it became. Traffic signals flicked from red to green without a sound in chorus with the mannequins frozen in store windows. Engines roared in the distance, but made no impact on the barren urban stretch.
“Screw this,” I muttered.
Maybe I should have been flying. The chances of spotting this mystery kidnapper had to be the same from the sky as it was from the street, maybe better. At the very least I could cover more ground.
Then in the next hour or so I could go home; or home away from home at any rate. Tanya’s place was rad and all, but nothing beats your own bed.
I yawned and dropped my head. My eyes drooped and the rest of me wanted to follow.
Who was I kidding? I was no detective; these streets weren’t for me. I probably wouldn’t know a clue if it bit me in the butt.
“Probs gonna b back soon,” I thumbed into my phone, like it would take more than a minute to shoot across town.
Suddenly, there was a thunk.
I jumped, turned and stared into the shadows. Without even thinking I took two steps backward, hovered on the ball of my feet and lingered. It wasn’t until it started whining that I dared to press toward it; was there a person there? Were they in pain; crying?
The whining broke into a murmur, like a child drawing out sobs in between words. With each step the noise turned, as if agitated.
“Is someone down there?” I steeled my nerves and cursed, “I swear to the gods, if you’re a cat or something…”
Or something was right.
As it lifted its head the street light caught the polished surface. Were they wearing a helmet? The metal didn’t end there; it stretched down the length of the figure from head to toe. The shape was that of a woman, large and matronly, with what looked like a wide skirt reaching to her ankles.
“Mel-an-ie,” she droned. Something was wrong with her voice.
My hands contorted into fists and I stood at my guard. What was it Tanya said about trouble falling into my lap?
“I don’t know who Melanie is,” I told her. “Is she a friend? Your sister? Daughter?”
As she turned to the street her form caught the light. It wasn’t a helmet; more a shell, made of copper and covered in dents. The panels covered every inch of her going down; fixed save for the joints that ground against each other.
Whatever she was she had seen better days.
“Mel-an-ie,” she demanded. “Mel-an-ie!”
You ever get the feeling that life is like an Ed Wood flick? That was me right then.
I shuffled back. “What are you?”
No response, save for the mannequin moving to the street. Her eyes were blank, like they had been painted on and scraped away. A crack ran over her lips that had been sculpted into a tight smirk.
“Are you the one that took those girls?”
The machine tilted her head. “Mel-an-ie-”
“No, not Melanie,” I spat. “Sarah, Emma, Becky, Laura, and now Deborah as well!”
The metal body pounced into the air and lunged. My heart stopped as the spring in my ankle snapped, opening the gate for me to sprint across the road; but before I could get far the thing leaped again, reaching frontward, stretching automated limbs as far as they could go.
In a split second I turned; the flash erupted from my chest and Glimmer Girl burst to life to shoot out of range. I wasn’t fast enough; the machine clasped my ankle and pulled. Next I was jerked to the ground with my face meeting the pavement.
Stars rolled across my vision, and my costume faded. Everything was swimming against the current pulling me back to the robot woman.
Moments later I was in her arms being cradled like a child. A noise like a pneumatic hiss blew across my ear.
“Mel-an-ie,” she hummed.
Who was this Melanie person? Maybe I would find out when I regained consciousness.
To be continued…