Terry was only going to be so much help, I assessed, quickly. They did indeed open the door and toss food down to us. Well, not quite toss. It was cooked TV dinners still in the containers. With plastic cutlery.
I assumed it wasn’t drugged…or that if it was I could give them a nasty surprise…and tucked in. Ugh. It was terrible even by, say, school lunch standards. But not drugged. My mind even cleared a little, probably because I’d been hungry. “Okay. You said they…playtime?”
“They’re trying to Stockholm you,” I noted. I meant give her Stockholm syndrome. I wasn’t sure if it was allowed to use it as a verb, but I was anyway. “But…okay. You’re right about the door. I’m fairly sure I can kick it in, but it’s going to be hard from this angle, and we’d have to time it right. However…”
“I tried pretending to be sick.”
“Never works. But we could give them a real thing to worry about.” I started to search the basement again. “There’s a friend of mine in the house, black girl?”
“The whispering mouse of one of them.”
I nodded. “I would bet she doesn’t know you’re down here.”
“She doesn’t. She thinks Danilo walked me home.”
Of course she did. If she found out, it might give her a spine again. Or if she found out acquiescing hadn’t got me out of the situation… That might do it.
I continued my prowl. “Aha.” There was a laundry room. They presumably weren’t using it. From the way they looked, they probably weren’t using any laundry room anywhere. And I found what I wanted.
They had a central HVAC system and it met up in the basement. All I needed was some rags. The filthier the better.
Terry got the idea immediately. We found several dirty old t-shirts one of which seemed to be soiled with machine oil. “You know anything about this?”
She considered. “No, but I know what you’re trying to do. And the heat’s on.”
That would have been a flaw in my plan. I did wish somebody with more mechanical skill was here, but it wasn’t that hard to get the unit open, and there was plenty of heat from the furnace. I tossed the filthy shirts into the edge of the fire, then closed it before the smoke got into the room.
“They’ll have to come down here now. All the way down here, to fix it. Or they’ll leave the building. Either way…”
“Let’s hope they come down here, although…”
“I’ll kick their butt. I promise.”