Mary Anne pulled away from her and squeezed through an opening on the end of fence just as the men closed in. “Come on, Jen!” she encouraged. “You can do it! They’ll never get us this way, with all those bulky guns under their coats.”
It took Jennifer longer than Mary Anne did, but she did manage to get through the opening. Jennifer pushed Mary Anne into the first cab they saw and asked the driver to take them to their hotel.
“Are you ladies sure?” the big, bespectacled driver joked. “You look more like you’re going to the Embassy Ball at the UN Headquarters.”
“Please,” Jennifer grumbled, “no wisecracks. We’ve had a long day.”
“Jen,” Mary Anne explained, “he’s just trying to make light out of a serious situation.” She picked at the mass of polka-dot tulle at her waist. “Not to mention explain why we’re dressed like extras from Dynasty.”
Jennifer sighed and settled back into the worn cloth seat. “Mary Anne, all I really want to do at this point is get back to my hotel room, get these dresses back to Bloomingdale’s, go to dinner with my boyfriend, and forget this afternoon ever happened. We’ve given those jerks the slip for now.”
They spent the rest of the short ride to their mid-Manhattan hotel in silence. Jennifer closed her eyes in an attempt to shut out the events of the afternoon. Mary Anne’s thoughts were all in a whirl. Who were those men? Why did they want her idol so much that they killed a nice old lady and chased them through one of New York’s biggest department stores? Who was this “boss” the man in the gray suit mentioned? Where did he get off calling her a bimbo? She may have been a little forgetful, but she wasn’t that bad!
The two tired women got off at the hotel. Jennifer paid the cab driver while Mary Anne checked to make sure they weren’t being followed again. There were some people in suits on the street, but none of them were the men with the guns. They hurried into the lobby and took the elevator to their floor. Jennifer was grateful that it was empty. She didn’t like the look the desk clerk gave her when they went past him in their elaborate ball gowns.
“Mary Anne,” Jennifer told her as they exited the elevator and walked down the hall to their room, “the first thing I’m doing when we get in is calling Bloomingdale’s to explain to them what happened this afternoon. If we’re really nice, they may even believe it.” She sighed. “Then I’m taking a hot shower and getting ready for my dinner with Larry. At least I’ll be able to do something on the schedule.”
Mary Anne beamed as they stopped in front of the door to their room and unlocked the door. “I promise, Jen, no more distractions. Balki and I will stick so closely to the schedule, you won’t be able to pull it off of us for a year!”
“Good.” Jennifer returned her friend’s smile. “I think things could finally start going our way.”
She opened the door….and found a disaster area. The sheets had been torn off the beds. The mattresses and pillows were ripped open, revealing dusty yellow foam and puffy white feathers. Their luggage was scattered over the room. Bottles of perfume and cosmetics lay open on the vanity tables. The shoes and dresses that were in the closet were now on the floor. The desk drawers sat on the desk, emptied of their contents. Even a fake potted plant in one corner now lay on its side. The small refrigerator jutted open, it’s filling lying in a messy heap on the carpet. The curtains were piled next to the window, showing ragged spots where they were torn down.
“Boy,” Mary Anne said, shaking her head, “is the maid going to get a lousy tip.”
“Mary Anne,” Jennifer said in shock, “the maid didn’t do this.” She took a deep breath. “The men must have somehow found out that we were staying here and ransacked the rooms while we were in Bloomingdale’s.” She gingerly sat down on the remains of her bed. “Mary Anne,” she asked quietly, “do you still have the idol in your purse?”
Mary Anne took the box out of her purse and put it on the nightstand between the beds. “I haven’t touched him since we left Chinatown,” she admitted. “I sort of forgot about him until the man in the gray suit mentioned him to his boss.”
Jennifer sighed. “Mary Anne, we’re in terrible danger, all because of that idol. Those men killed a harmless little old lady, and a darn fine bargainer. Who knows what they’d do to us?”
A knock on the door caused both women to nearly jump ten miles. Mary Anne went over to the door and peered into the view hole. “It’s Larry!” she exclaimed.
Jennifer joined her at the door and quickly unlocked it. Larry darted in. “Jennifer, I’m so glad you’re here!” he exclaimed, hugging his girlfriend.
Mary Anne looked behind him. “Where’s Balki?”
Larry gulped. “I don’t know. We ducked into a café. It was really dark, so I figured it would be a perfect place to hide. One minute, he was there, but when I turned to tell him that the coast was clear, he was gone. I searched the whole café and couldn’t find him. I was hoping he would be with you girls.”
“No, Larry,” Mary Anne explained slowly, “Balki’s your best friend. We split up, remember?”
“No, Larry, he isn’t here,” Jennifer assured him.
Larry looked around their room and gasped, his eyes getting wide enough to fall off his face. “Oh, my lord, they got your room, too!”
Now Jennifer was really worried. “They ransacked your room?”
“From top to bottom,” Larry told her. “It’s the same deal as this.” He swept his arm around the wrecked hotel room. “They tore our mattresses open, took the furniture apart, dumped our luggage all over the place, and they even knocked over my Mylanta!” He sighed. “You wouldn’t have any spare antacid, would you?”
Jennifer sighed and picked up a bottle that sat on the carpet beneath the open refrigerator. Larry took the medicine from her and took a long swig. “Want some?” he asked, handing the bottle to Jennifer.
Jennifer accepted the antacid and took a slightly daintier swallow. Mary Anne smiled. “May I try?” Jennifer nodded and turned the bottle over to the smaller lady. Mary Anne chugged the liquid the way Larry did it, only to spit it back out and return the bottle to Larry. She wiped her lips and made a face. “Yuck! Larry, how can you drink that stuff like you do? It tastes terrible!”
Larry shrugged. “Many, many years of practice.”
Jennifer shivered. “We can’t stay here. They could be watching this hotel even as we speak.”
“Right.” Larry nodded. “We’ve got to get to someplace safe.” He tried to smile. “I heard Brazil is lovely this time of year.”
Mary Anne crossed her arms and looked contrite. “I’m not leaving New York City until I find Balki, find out why everyone’s so interested in my statue, and see the kitties on Broadway.”
“You mean see Cats, the musical play,” Jennifer pointed out.
Jennifer sighed. “Larry, I’m on Mary Anne’s side. Balki could be in trouble. We can’t just leave him here.” She put her arm around him. “Besides, we still haven’t gotten our dinner at Tavern on the Green.”
Larry sighed. He knew when he was defeated “Ok, ok, we’ll stay, but we’ve got to bring these outfits back to Bloomingdale’s and square ourselves with them.” Jennifer curled up against him, and he put his arms comfortingly around her, drawing her into a kiss.
Mary Anne figured she’d give her friends some time to themselves, so she went to the now-bare window and gazed at the skyline of Manhattan. The sun was setting and casting dark shadows over the street they were staying at. She wished she knew where Balki was. They would be at the petting zoo right now, playing with the goats and lambs and trading sheep jokes.
Her mind was still at the petting zoo when she saw the big black car from earlier pull up in front of the hotel, the one with the dent in the fender the shape of New Jersey. Three men stepped out of the car, flanking someone swathed in a fancy purple silk suit with a huge standing collar and a hat with a wide feather. Mary Anne couldn’t see the rest of the person, but she suspected that they must be with the men, because the person pointed to the hotel and the men obeyed.
Jennifer and Larry were still kissing each other, trying to avoid the spring poking out of the mattress where it’d been slashed. Mary Anne shook Jennifer’s arm. “Jen, I know you hate it when I catch you and Larry nosing, but the men are here, and they brought a friend.”
The duo turned red and untangled themselves from each other’s arms. Jennifer pulled the sleeves back on her shoulders and Larry buttoned his shirtfront. “Are you sure, Mary Anne?”
Larry joined Mary Anne at the window and went from red to white in five seconds. “Um, Jennifer, she’s sure.” He nodded. “Come on. There’s got to be a back way somewhere.”
The girls took their purses and Larry grabbed his tuxedo coat and red tie, and they stealthily slunk down the hall and out the fire escape at the end. They made for Times Square, hoping to lose themselves in the crowds going to the latest Broadway show.
Mary Anne did her best to keep from being jostled by the thousands of people milling around, waiting for the next play to start. She looked longingly at the marquee for Cats, but Jennifer hustled her along before she could ask if it would be safe enough to see a show about kitties.
Something rumbled loud enough to be heard over the crowd. “What was that?” Jennifer asked, grabbing Larry’s hand so hard it turned purple. “Was it gunshots?”
Mary Anne rubbed her stomach. “No, Jennifer, that was my tummy telling me that I haven’t eaten since early this afternoon.” She sighed. “Couldn’t we stop and have dinner? I don’t see the men anywhere, and I think I’ll pass gas from hunger if I have to walk for much longer.”
“Ok,” Larry conceded. “I don’t see the goons or their friend anywhere, and I am a little hungry.” He ushered the girls into the smallest, most crowded café on the square. Larry persuaded the host to give them a small booth near the door, so they could see everyone who came and went, and ignored the strange look the man gave their fancy clothes.
“Mary Anne,” Jennifer asked when they were seated and reading the menus, “can I see the idol?”
“Why?” she asked warily. “You aren’t going to take it, are you?”
“No,” Jennifer assured her. “There’re enough people trying to do that as it is. I want to figure out why everyone in New York City is so interested in this thing.”
“Maybe they all have good taste,” Mary Anne observed. She pulled the idol out of her purse, took it out of the box, and set it on the table next to the breadbasket. “Isn’t he sweet?” she giggled.
“He’d be sweeter if people weren’t willing to kill to get him,” Larry grumbled. “That thing gives me the creeps.” He took a good, hard stare at the statue, concentrating on the writing on the medallion in the center. “Maybe it has something to do with the writing. Or there could be something valuable inside it.”
Jennifer was trying to decide between the lemon-pepper flounder and the New York strip steak when she noticed someone approach their table. A good-looking woman in a simple black suit and carrying a briefcase stood before the three travelers.
The woman shook their hands. “Hello. My name is Andrea Wilson. I’m a teacher of Chinese history at Columbia University, and I’m very interested in that ancient idol that you have on your table.” She put her briefcase on the table and opened it. “I’m willing to pay you at least two thousand dollars for that statue. It’s a rare example of the early Ming period of Chinese architecture.”
Mary Anne shook her head, ignoring the blatantly interested looks on her companions’ faces. “I’m sorry, it’s not for sale. It’s my souvenir from Chinatown, and it’s wanted by some men with big guns.”
“You didn’t hear that!” Larry exclaimed. “We’re willing to negotiate.”
“No, we’re not!” Mary Anne looked horrified. “Jennifer, don’t let him sell my statue just because it’s popular with people who carry guns! Larry would sell his antacid if it would make him money!”
Jennifer sighed. She wouldn’t mind getting the object off their hands herself, but Mary Anne was inexplicably attached to it. Not to mention she could swear she saw Andrea Wilson somewhere else that day, and it wasn’t at Columbia University. “I’m sorry, but the idol isn’t for sale.” She gathered the skirt of her dress. “Would you be interested in a genuine satin ball gown?” She gestured at Larry when the woman shook her head. “How about him?” Larry glared at Jennifer for a second, then turned a very phony smile to Ms. Wilson.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t want to sell the idol?” she asked. “We could bargain, or I could trade something. I could get you front-row seats for the Broadway show of your choice.”
Mary Anne looked for a second like she might change her mind, but she finally put the idol back in its box and in her purse. “I like the idol, and it’s not for sale.”
Andrea Wilson shrugged. “If that’s how you feel about it, miss. Sorry to have troubled you.” She walked out of the restaurant. The three at the table watched her.
Jennifer frowned as she reached into the breadbasket. “What was that all about? First we get shot at by people who will use any means necessary or unnecessary to get their hands on this idol, then people offer amazing sums of money to purchase it? What is it with this statue?”
“The Ming period of Chinese architecture must be very big in New York these days,” Larry observed half-jokingly.
“I don’t know, Larry,” Mary Anne said. “My idol’s an awfully small guy.”
Jennifer nearly choked on her roll. Three of the men who chased them earlier, including the one in the gray suit who complained to the “Boss” in Bloomingdale’s, were at the door. They were talking to the host, who pointed at their both.
“Guys,” she said through mouthfuls of wheat bread, “maybe we’d better get dinner from a hot dog vendor instead, because the thugs with the guns are back.”
Larry’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head. “Oh, my lord!” He gulped. “Look, we can’t let them chase us around New York all week. We need help. Someone’s got to get to the police, and someone has to look for Balki and get to Bloomingdale’s before they close and tell them that we’ll bring the clothes back as soon as we figure this all out.”
Jennifer looked around. “Larry, why don’t you call the police? Mary Anne and I will look for Balki and go to Bloomingdale’s. We’ll meet at Tavern on the Green in three hours.”
There was time to reply. The men spotted them right away and made for their booth. They left through a small corridor in the side of the restaurant that led past the less-than-clean looking bathrooms and a phone scratched with graffiti in eight languages and an “Out of Order” sign taped to the receiver. The trio split up when they got outside.
Mary Anne and Jennifer darted down Forty-Second Street and Broadway, past all kind of lurid and very adult entertainment. Mary Anne stopped to chat with a man who sold bootleg videos, but Jennifer snatched her away and admonished the petite woman not to stop for any reason and not to buy anything sold on a dirty table by a man who had more tattoos than a gang member, and probably was a gang member.
Jennifer did let her friend stop long enough to buy two hot dog vendors from a kindly Greek vendor who reminded Mary Anne a lot of an older Balki. “Jennifer, I’m worried,” she admitted as they wolfed down their dinner, walking as fast as possible without choking and getting mustard on their satin and taffeta frocks. “What are we going to do?”
“We’re going to find Balki and figure out what’s the big deal about this idol,” Jennifer insisted. “It’s the only way. If we knew what the men wanted, we’d at least be able to negotiate with them.”
Mary Anne stuffed the last of the hot dog in her mouth. “Negotiate with them? Jennifer, you’re not still thinking of selling my idol, are you?”
“At this point, Mary Anne, I’m willing to do anything that will get these people off our backs, find Balki, and get me and Larry to Tavern on the Green.”
Mary Anne wobbled for a few minutes and stopped. “Jen, can’t we sit on the curb or something? If I walk any further, my knees are going to turn into goat bladder pudding.”
Jennifer took off her blue heels and rubbed her sore toes. “I should have changed into sneakers when we were at the hotel. These things are killing me!” She sighed. “Ok, we’ll stop, but just for a few minutes. Those creeps are still after us.”
The two women plopped in a heap on the steps of an empty building. Mary Anne took the idol out of her purse again. “Why is this little guy so popular?” she asked. “I mean, I like him, but I didn’t think the rest of the city would like him so much, too.”
“I don’t know,” Jennifer admitted, “but that’s what we’re going to try to find out.” She ticked items off on her fingers. “Ok, first of all, we know that it’s the idol they’re after, not us in particular. None of this started until you bought that thing. Second, we know at least two different groups of people are after the idol.”
“We do?” Mary Anne looked surprised. “I don’t know, all the people chasing us looked alike to me.”
“What about Andrea Wilson, and the women who just happened to come into the formal department of Bloomingdale’s and stall the men with the guns? Don’t you consider both those incidents to be just the tiniest bit fishy?”
Mary Anne sniffed the air. “No, Jen, I think that’s the river.”
Jennifer rolled her eyes. “I mean, why would a professor from a prestigious university come up to three tourists and ask to buy some little trinket, and why would a group of women suddenly go crazy and start asking fashion opinions from dangerous men they don’t know?” She continued. “Both groups want the idol, but only the men in the suits and their ‘boss’ seem to be willing to use force. The other group hasn’t hurt us yet, and, if the women were members of the second group, helped us on one occasion.” She smiled faintly. “I’d be willing to bet Myposian dig-das that Andrea Wilson is a member of that second group, too.”
“What else do we know?” Mary Anne asked curiously.
Jennifer went on. “Third, there’s more to this idol than meets the eye. Someone’s so desperate to get their hands on it that they’re willing to murder an old lady, chase four innocent people across Manhattan, and destroy two rather expensive hotel rooms.”
Mary Anne rubbed her finger across the idol’s pickle-like face. “Of course they want him. He’s such a cutie! Look at his round little tummy, and his beard! Who could resist him?”
“Mary Anne,” Jennifer sighed, “I don’t think they want him for his round little tummy.” She took the idol from her friend. “I think it may have something to do with this medallion, and the writing.” She tried to pry the medallion off the statue, but only succeeded in breaking a nail.
“Don’t forget about the men with the guns and their ‘boss,’” Mary Anne added as she took the idol back and Jennifer cursed over her lost nail. “I’d like to know who their ‘boss’ is.”
“Me, too,” Jennifer added as she put her shoes back on. “He or she seems to give the orders. They must be the head of the gang who’s trying to kill us.” She looked at her watch. “We’ve got to get moving. We only have two hours to look for Balki. I could probably call Bloomingdale’s from a phone booth.”
“I have a great idea!” Mary Anne exclaimed, bouncing to her feet. “Balki told me last week that he wanted to see the Empire State Building so he could meet Darth Vader. Maybe he went there!”
They took a cab to one of New York’s most famous skyscrapers. The building was relatively empty, with only a few souls going back and forth. Jennifer looked wistfully at the brochures and pamphlets on the skyscraper and other attractions in the lobby, but Mary Anne pulled her past them. They both knew Balki would have little interest in the lobby and would probably head straight for the roof.
There was a gentle spring breeze drifting across the top of the Empire State Building when Jennifer and Mary Anne arrived at the top. Jennifer had to admit, the view was gorgeous. The lights of New York City sparkled like a million diamonds set amid a black jet sky. She took a deep breath of salty, tangy sea air. The air was much fresher at this height than on the ground.
Her head felt much clearer when she finally left the railing. She wandered amid the dwindling crowds. It was a bit chilly this high up, and she shivered. She hadn’t brought a coat or sweater on their flight from the hotel, only her purse.
She found Mary Anne chatting with a pair of tall, muscular men who were dressed like members of Rambo’s commando team and sported an assortment of very creative tattoos. “Jen, this is Jake.” She put her arms around the shorter, hairless muscle man. “And this is Fernando.” She put her arms around the other, a slightly slimmer man with thick, dark hair and a mustache. “They’re going to help us find Balki.”
Jennifer tried to smile. The two men shook her hand. “Nice to meet ‘cha, babe,” Jake said. “You’ve got a great little filly here.”
“Now, Senorita Jen,” Fernando added with a heavy Mexican accent, “who is this Balki we look for?”
“He’s my boyfriend,” Mary Anne explained. “He’s tall, and cute, and he has a Myposian accent.” She smiled. “Have you seen anyone like that around here?”
“No,” Jake admitted, “but someone seems to be really interested in you.” He pointed towards the railing. “Those dudes have been asking for babes of your description for the past five minutes.”
Jennifer gasped. “Oh, my God, it’s them!”
“Them who?” Fernando asked.
“The men who are after us,” Mary Anne explained. “These guys shot at us, turned our rooms outside-in, and chased us like Wile E. Coyote after Road Runner.” The men gave her a funny look. “Without the anvils and little umbrellas,” she added quickly.
“Why they chase nice ladies like you?” Fernando asked, his black eyes flaring.
“They’re after something we have,” Jennifer told them. She saw the men coming toward them out of the corner of her eye. “Excuse us, gentlemen, but we really do have to run. It was nice meeting you.”
The man in the gray suit stopped her before she could run. “Oh, no, you don’t. We’d like to have a chat with you and your little friend.” He grabbed her arm. Another man took Mary Anne.
“Why don’t you leave her alone?” Jake snapped. “What’s she done ta you?”
“You leave senoritas alone,” added Fernando, “and we may spare lives.”
The man in the gray suit glared at them. “Look, could you two walking art museums get out our way? We’ve been after these women all day.”
“You asked for it, pal,” Jake snarled. He knocked the man out cold with a clean upper cut to the chin. Fernando managed to get the other guy in a headlock. Jake nodded at the surprised Mary Anne and Jennifer. “Run for it, girls, before these dorks come to!”
Jennifer didn’t need to be told twice. She took Mary Anne’s hand and hurried to the stairs. They’d be quicker than the elevator. She could hear the other men close behind them. A gunshot rang loud and clear in the empty stairwell. They weren’t bothering with silencers now that the building was closing and the streets were growing as quiet as a city ever got.
“Jennifer,” Mary Anne shrieked, “they’re getting closer!”
The two turned down a hallway that housed offices and small businesses, from the look of the doorways. They passed a dance studio, two law offices, and an accountant’s room before they came to a screeching stop before a window.
“There’s no way out!” Jennifer wailed. “We’re trapped again!”
“No, we’re not!” Mary Anne pried the window open and started climbing out onto the ledge.
Jennifer grabbed her when she was half way out. “Mary Anne, what are you doing? You could kill yourself!”
“We don’t have much of a choice,” the smaller woman reminded her. “If we stay in here, the men will get us.”
“And if we go out there,” Jennifer complained, “we’ll fall to our deaths.”
Mary Anne shrugged. “Either way, we’re in trouble. Besides, it’s too nice of a night to waste inside.” She continued the rest of the way onto the ledge. Jennifer considered for a few moments before joining her.
It was chilly and windy on the ledge. Their skittish heels weren’t made for narrow openings, and they skidded with every step. Jennifer grabbed her best friend’s shoulder to steady her. “Mary Anne,” she snapped, “if we get out of this alive, I’m going to kill you.”
Her friend shook her head. “We don’t have time for that, Jen.” The pair edged carefully around the building. Gunshots rang out above, followed by screams. “Do you think anyone will see us up here?”
“Maybe,” Jennifer admitted. “They’ll probably just think we’re suicides, or wanted a really good look at the building.” She looked back at the window they’d abandoned. A head poked out of it, followed by a plain but expensive suit and a hand holding a gun. “Oh, my God! Mary Anne, they’ve found us!” She turned her gaze back to her friend, only to see the tiny blonde kneeling on a whitewashed flagpole in front of them. “Mary Anne, this is no time to practice gymnastics!”
“Who’s practicing?” Mary Anne inched along the pole. “The men will never catch us this far out.”
Jennifer gulped. “I can’t believe I’m doing this!” She slowly got on her knees and got on the length of metal and rope.
More gunshots and screams echoed on the roof and in the building. Jennifer shut her eyes. “Oh, God! Mary Anne, they’re still up there!”
One bullet hit the side of the building near the girls. The two screamed and grabbed hold of the pole, now dangling for dear life, as Mary Anne rambled to her girlfriend about how their problems began in the first place...
That night, on a flagpole on the Empire State Building...
“And that,” Mary Anne concluded, “is how we got into this mess.” She sighed. “Some story, huh, Jen? I wish it had a happy ending, though.”
“We’ll be lucky if the story doesn’t end with us becoming wet marks on the street!” Jennifer shrieked. She gulped and looked at her friend as the pole let out another decidedly pronounced snap. “Well,” she said, “it’s been nice knowing you, Mary Anne. We’ve had fun together, haven’t we?”
“Yeah,” Mary Anne agreed. “Two best buddies, friends to the end.” She smiled. “If I gotta go, I couldn’t think of a better way than falling to my death next to you, Jen.”
Jen grinned. “Thanks, Mary Anne.” The pole finally broke off the building, and the two women fell to the ground, screaming all the way.
Jennifer landed in something soft. She lay still for a few minutes, wondering if this is what death felt like. No, she thought, death would be different. Death would be…cleaner. She sat up slowly, taking stock of her surroundings.
They’d apparently landed in some kind of dump truck. Jennifer brushed herself off and turned to see Mary Anne doing the same. “Mary Anne,” Jennifer exclaimed, “we’re alive! We’re not a permanent part of the street after all!”
“It’s a good thing this dump truck was here,” Mary Anne added. She grabbed her friend in a huge, happy hug. The girls held onto each other for a few minutes, just happy to be alive and moving.
The two women managed to climb out of the truck at a wharf across from Roosevelt Island. “Mary Anne, we’re so lucky!” Jennifer exclaimed. “So we’re dirty, smelly, being chased by a group of thugs who want to kill us, likely wanted for theft, and ruined thousand of dollars’ worth of ball gowns. What does it matter? We’re alive! We fell off the Empire State Building and lived to tell about it!”
“What a rush that was!” Mary Anne agreed. “Except for the men trying to kill us part, and the fact that we have no idea where our boyfriends are, and the theft part, and the fact that we can’t go back to our hotel room, this is one of the best vacations I’ve ever been on!” She grinned. “See how much fun you can have when you don’t stick to a schedule?”
“I have to admit, running around New York has been kind of fun,” Jennifer said. “Scary, too, but fun.” She sighed. “We’ve should go to the police. We have witnesses who heard those gunshots on the Empire State Building. We’re nowhere near Tavern on the Green, so we’ll contact Larry from the nearest station.”
“What about Balki?” Mary Anne asked. “We never did find him.”
“He’s a big boy. He can find his own way home. Maybe he went to the police already and is with Larry.” She grinned. “I’ll bet Larry’s drank a whole bottle of Mylanta, and Balki’s trying to cheer him up with one of his terrible jokes.” She started across the street. “We should have gone to the police the moment those jerks starting shooting at us.”
“We wouldn’t have had such a great adventure if we had, though!” Mary Anne reminded her as they headed across the street.
Jennifer looked quickly for the men, then continued down the sidewalk. “I know, Mary Anne, but I all I want at this point is a bed in a nice, non-threatening building, where no one shoots at you unless they’re in a cop show.” She pulled a ragged map out of her purse. “According to this, the nearest police station is three blocks from here.” She put her arm around her friend. “Come on. The cops will probably have coffee and donuts, and good-looking officers for you to talk to.”
“And even if they arrest us,” Mary Anne added, “at least we’ve had an exciting night.”
“The night’s not over yet, ladies.” The man in the gray suit stepped out from an alley. “We want to have a little talk with you two.” Several other men joined him, surrounding the women. All wore plain, neutral-toned suits, and all carried weapons they pointed at the women.
“Jennifer,” Mary Anne whispered to her friend, “how do we get out of this one?”
“We don’t,” the taller woman replied. “I’m tired of running. We’ve been running all day. The only way out of this is to go with these men and find out why that statue is so important.” She turned to the man in the gray suit and noticed that he now sported a wonderful black eye that coordinated well with his outfit. “My friend and I aren’t going with you unless we get some answers,” she insisted. She steeled every bit of nerve she had. “We want to see your boss.”
Mary Anne nodded. “I’d like to meet someone who has the same taste in souvenirs as me.”
“Well, that’s a very interesting coincidence,” the man said with a smile that made Jennifer’s blood run cold. “The boss wants to meet you ladies, too. She even has a friend to make you feel at home.”
“Oh, I’d like to meet her friend!” Mary Anne giggled nervously. “I’ll bring Jennifer, and you can bring someone, and we’ll all have a late night snack and watch Johnny Carson.”
“Mary Anne,” Jennifer hissed as the two men took their arms and pulled them to shiny black limousine, “we’re meeting their boss, not going to a slumber party!”
“Well,” grumbled Mary Anne as a man shoved them into the back seat, “excuse me for being polite!”