“Black C.A.S.T.L.E.” Chapter XXI – Mnemonics

The closest Kacie had ever come to doing hard drugs was watching Breaking Bad. She’d gotten in her share of good-natured arguments over the close-but-questionable science of the show: the saving graces of explosive chemistry, the evidence-erasing power of hydrofluoric acid, the not-so-pure quality of Walter White’s blue meth. She had no idea what the street value of crystal meth was, but if the show was even close in that regard, she knew that whoever made the quantity of the crystal-clear drug in the boxes in front of her would need more than a car wash to launder the ill-gotten gains. Six boxes weighing roughly 250 pounds each was a hell of a lot of meth no matter what the price was … enough to kill for.

Kacie snapped out of her shock when an elevator dinged. It was such an odd, unexpected sound here in the abandoned chem lab that housed millions of dollars of illegal methamphetamine hidden in plain sight. The freight elevator doors opened at the rear of the vast open lab as if waiting for Kacie to connect the dots. Is someone coming? Are they the white hats or the black ones? Whoever it was, it was better if Kacie alone knew where the drugs were; it would either be a bargaining chip to keep her alive or a big help to the cops should they ever decide to show up.

She pumped the handle of the dolly a few times to raise the hefty weight of the loaded boxes off the floor and, once she got the bulk moving, wheeled it into the freight elevator. She pushed the button for SB, which she assumed meant sub-basement, though she had never been there, and stepped out of the elevator, watching as the doors closed and it descended to its lowest depths. Kacie had thought about riding with the drugs, but she didn’t want to be trapped anymore than she already was and with no way to bargain her way out. She did, however, need more assurance that she wasn’t the only one who knew about the drugs. But without her phone, and having only the easily overheard walkie talkie tucked into her back pocket as a source of communication, Kacie needed another way to contact the outside world.

Rotten Monkey Palm Oil. The thought sprang to the front of her mind and Kacie found herself laughing. She turned away from the elevator and looked for the nearest landline phone in the lab. Luckily, it still worked. She ran through the mnemonic in her head again–RTN. MNK. PLM. L.–and dialed the associated numbers. Part of her was amazed she remembered Gemma’s phone number from one silly night at the bar when Rick had taught them the memorization trick, but that was the whole point of it, of course. She had expected Agent Johnson’s voice to answer instead of Gemma, but it was someone else entirely.

“This is Agent Cohen. To whom am I speaking?”

“This is Kacie Lin,” She quickly found herself becoming frustrated with these stupid phone games. She just wanted to talk to Gemma. “Do you guys have any plans on actually rescuing us, or should we just do everything ourselves?”

“Miss Lin, how are you holding up?” There was no real concern in Agent Cohen’s voice, merely the well-practiced artificial sympathy of a negotiator.

“Well, considering that armed gunmen are trying to kill me and I’m trapped in a lab on a Friday night, not great,” Kacie started. “But you’re probably more interested in the half ton of meth that’s sitting here, am I right?”

Kacie was met with momentary silence on the other end of the line and it brought a smile to her face. When Agent Cohen spoke again, it was with a precisely measured mix of inquiry and urgency, laced with that false sense of concern for her well-being.

“At the moment, Miss Lin, we just want to get you and your co-workers to safety. But we could use your help…”

Kacie sighed and gave them as much information as she could: She was on the 16th floor in the chemistry lab while two armed men, one of them doped up on ketamine, attempted to break their way in to do unspeakable things to her person, most likely. There were three others: one in an autoclave, one in a freezer, and one in a locked-down lab. There were probably more whom she hadn’t seen yet. She did not mention the precise location of the drugs. When she’d finished, Kacie had one simple request.

“Let me speak to Gemma.”

Surprisingly, Agent Cohen passed the phone back to its owner without much hesitation. Gemma’s genuine concern was readily apparent.

“Kacieohmygodareyouokay?”

“Hey Gemma. Yeah, I’m alright, all things considered.”

“How are you holding up? Are you hurt at all?”

“I really need to pee, but other than that, I’m fine.”

Gemma cracked up laughing on the other end. “Wow, that sounds truly awful,” she joked.

“It’s Hell,” Kacie laughed back, “but I’ll manage.” A heavy sort of silence passed between them. Kacie broke it first. “Last I saw, Rick and the others–five of them–were safe and trying to make their way out of the building.”
“Why aren’t you with them?” Gemma asked, suddenly stern.

Kacie shrugged. “I’ve just been trying to stall these guys. It started because I thought they were after our viral stock, but they’re after something way different.” Kacie took a deep breath because what she was about to say sounded mad and could be considered a sign of cracking under the pressure of the situation, by anyone but Gemma, anyway. “Gemma, there are drugs here, a shitload of them. Boxes full of what looks like crystal meth. I stashed them in the freight elevator in the chem lab–did you know there was a freight elevator in the chem lab?–and sent it to the sub-basement. You and I are the only ones who know where it is, FYI.”

Kacie was met with more silence on the other end. Was Gemma shocked into silence by this revelation or was she taking time to consider Kacie’s sanity?

“Holy shit, Kace…” she said at last, not confirming which of these two outcomes was more likely. “I guess that explains why the DEA is here.”

It was Kacie’s turn to be taken aback. “Wait, what? DEA?”

“Yeah, that agent you just talked to, he’s with the DEA.”

That was certainly a strange coincidence, meaning it was likely not a coincidence at all, or so Kacie thought. She was snapped back to reality by the sound of the gunmen trying to break the lab door down at the end of the hall. “Gemma, I’ve got to go. Tell the agent what I told you; maybe they’ll actually do something about all this if it means a big, career-making headline for them.”

“Will do. Kace, hang in there. Try to buy yourself some more time, but don’t do anything stupid!”

Kacie looked around the lab, suddenly aware of all the chemicals, tools, and equipment at her disposal. This was her territory, her stomping grounds, her hill to die on, and she would make their uphill climb as unpleasant as possible. “Don’t worry, Gemma,” she said with an impish grin, “I have a few ideas.”

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Image of PPG Place via Derek Jensen(Tysto), Wikimedia Commons
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