The long black limousine pulled up in front of Lily's old high school and the driver leapt out to open her door. "Thank you." Lily said graciously as she stepped from the car, accepting his hand for assistance. She took a deep breath and quickly scanned the surrounding area. There was no one else outside. It was a clear, crispy night, the air so fresh. All the stars seemed so close, like you could reach out and touch them, pluck them from the sky. A light breeze gently ruffled her bangs. The rest of her long hair had been pulled back from her face, and a portion secured into a bun on top with two, long thin chignon pins. The rest was left to tumble down her back in a cascade of loose curls. Tear shaped pearl earrings hung from diamond studs on her ears, a larger matching pearl dangled from an exquisite choker of black pearls and baguette diamonds encircled her long neck and accentuated her beautiful neckline and shoulders. Her sweater concealed her holster perfectly. She had worried she would have to decide on a new outfit at the last moment, and if there was one thing that drove Lily insane it was clothing anxiety. "Get a grip girl" she muttered to herself through clenched teeth. She almost hated to spoil such a beautiful night by springing what ever trap awaited her. Although, the idea of pitting her skills and brains against the unknown filled her with a tingling sensation not entirely unlike lust. Here goes nothing, she thought and started off in the direction of the gymnasium. Click, click, click, her heels echoed off the brick building. Click, click, click, like a metronome or her heart beat. Each step taker her closer and closer to the past. Click, like a clock ticking backward like school clocks seem to do. Suddenly the door was before her. Music, laughter and the occasional flicker of light leaked around the door. Crepe paper streamer swirls obscured the window, forbidding a peek without opening the door. Her hand trembled as she reached for the door and her mind demanded she select an attitude to present to put off this rising anxiety. Suddenly an image of Audrey Hepburn as Holly Go lightly in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" popped into mind, and Lily raised her eyebrows, relaxed her face, straightened her spine and pulled on the finger-polished brass door handle. She strode into the lobby area as if she knew where she was going. Her senses snapped into a state of alert as she approached the table of ex student council members to get her name tag. Oh goddess, she mentally rolled her eyes as Mary Jo Shetland, one of the biggest bitch clique members of all time squealed loudly. "LILY?! Oh, my, god! You look great! I almost didn't recognize you, you've lost sooo much weight!" Lily's lips tightened imperceptibly. Her eyes roamed over the more than ample shape of Mary Jo and decided to have some fun. Grabbing her face in mock surprise, Lily squealed in return. "Mary Jo?! Oh my lord, is that you? What ever happened? You used to be so thin!" A quick bitchy frown flickered on Mary Jo's face before she caught herself and covered it with a big fake smile. "Well, married life has been too good to me." She laughed as her eyes sought out Lily's left hand. Finding it ringless, she added, "My three children hardly leave me any time for myself. How many children do you have, Lil?" This last comment smacked of cattiness, and Lily thought that two could play this game. "Well, none currently," Mary Jo's smirk grew as she obviously felt superior. "but what with all the world travel I do and all the endless training and competitions, I simply don't know where I would find the time." Mary Jo suddenly ran out of things to squeal about. Lily spotted her tag and picked it up quickly, shooting Mary Jo a quick smile and twiddling her fingers in farewell as she headed for the main gym. She smiled smugly herself for a moment. Ha! serves her right. A few people she didn't know were standing in the hall talking and drinking. Two men stopped talking suddenly and stared at Lily as she approached. She appraised them quickly, noting their name tags and cheap, ill fitting suits. Probably not assassins. Just men, agog at her beauty. She smiled in their direction and they both sucked in their bellies and stuck out their chests, like banty roosters. She really had to make an effort not to laugh out loud. As she passed by, she could hear them let out their breath and ask each other if they knew her. Definitely not assassins. Entering the main gym she was almost overloaded with sensory input. Music she hated from the eighties was blaring over several loud speakers. Colored lights flashed all around creating garish snapshots as it fell on various groups of people talking around several tables. Very few people were dancing. Little wonder with the horrible music, she thought. The bleachers on the east side of the gym had been pulled down for people to sit on, on the west side, there were tables set up with punchbowls and appetizers. The D.J. was at the north end, up on the portion used for ceremonies. It was actually a smaller gym, usually partitioned off with folding doors, but tonight it was open wide, allowing the D.J. a good view and enough room to run cables safely away from the crowds. Lily recognized the D.J. and decided to go that way first. She walked up the few stairs at the side and up to the table. The D.J. looked up to ask what he could play for her, when he recognized her. "Lily! How are you honey?" and gave her a big hug. "Good, how are you , Pete? Is this what you do now?" "No, no. I run a small video compression business but I'm friends with the vice principal here, Paul Vickers, and he asked me to come D.J. since I own so much music and equipment." He was smiling like a jack-a-nape at her. Mostly looking at her cleavage. "So! What are you doing these days? Modeling?" He smiled broadly, showing his crooked yellowed teeth and Lily moaned inwardly as she realized this guy thought he was slick, and that she would fall for a cheesy line like that. She let him stare for a moment as she scanned the crowds for friends, or enemies. "Oh, occasionally, but not professionally. I'm in international acquisitions." She could tell by the look on his face that this meant nothing to him, nor did he care. "So. Are you married?" Why did everyone want to know this? "No, not yet, I'm sorry Pete, I see someone waving to me, I'll stop back by... play Madonna's "Borderline" for me, would you?" "Sure thing! Nice seeing you again!" With that, Lily headed for the table of people who were cavorting around their table. Must be the theater people, she thought. Jenny Parker, Patrick Falrow, Lori Cyzinski, Anthony Lewis, Angie Pollock, and Craig Benton were "vogue-ing" and laughing as she approached. Patrick saw her first. "Lily!!" They crowded around for hugs and kisses and she had just started talking and remenencing when a tall, good looking man with a long ponytail happened up to the group. "Well hello, stranger." Lily's head snapped around at the familiar voice. "George!" She flung herself into his embrace. Big as a bear, George had always been a dear friend to her. Had been since Jr. high. "Wow!" She exclaimed, pulling back to look at him more closely. "You look great!" "You too. What's new?" "same old, same old..."Lily laughed, ‘What are you doing these days? Still working for the Plaza, I hope." "Yeah, it's less thrilling than it used to be, but the money keeps me in beer and skittles and there are always women. New women." He grinned at her lecherously. Lily grinned back, enjoying the game. "You look faaaabu-lous darling!" Lily let her eyes wander over her old friend , noting the way his features had matured. and his whole person seemed right. He had always been a chunky kid, gawky, awkward with girls. A geek. now he was tall and thin but with good definition in his arms and chest from set construction. His hair had grown so long, and he kept it in a neat ponytail. Very artsy fartsy lily thought. Right down to the black Doc Martins on his feet. Lily pulled a cigarette from her bag, to calm her nerves, and George was right there, producing a zippo from one of the pockets of his BDU's. He flicked it open in one deft movement and lit her smoke. Lily smiled coyly, "I see you haven't lost your touch," "For anything..." he replied. She smiled into his green eyes, glowing in response to this playful flirting. The group at large drew Lily and George into their conversation and someone brought a round of drinks to their table. They laughed and chatted animatedly for an hour or so, had a few more drinks, then everyone but Lily and George went to the buffet tables. They sat quietly, not speaking, nor needing to. George knew her well and she him. Only he among her high school friends knew what she did although he may not know the scope of her profession. How vast her experience. He didn't really care either and for that Lily was grateful. She could be herself with George. Suddenly the hair on her neck stood up and her eyes scanned the crowd and bleachers. Instinct turned her gaze on the empty chair next to her in time to see the dot of red light moving her way. Lily threw herself to the right and under the table just as the bullet meant for her plowed into her chair back with a puff of upholstery bits. Damn, damn, damn, she thought as she began crawling under the tables heading for the east exit. George had followed her lead and was right behind her. Most of the crowd was unaware anything had occurred. The music and lights were so distracting. This worked to Lily's advantage as well and no one noticed as she crawled out from under the table and hidden in the shadows of the bleachers, slipped out the exit . This put her in a hallway about six feet long. At one end of the hall was the varsity girls locker room, a dead end. At the other end, you had two choices. The door to the underclass girls locker room, which also had a tunnel to the pool at the other end, or you could walk up three steps and be in a hallway that went left to the boys locker rooms and the pool, or right down a long hall with two cross halls. Actually, there was one more door, to the courtyard no one was allowed out into, and Lily doubted the door would open after all these years. It would have been easy for her assassin to have circled out of the main gym to the boys locker room and the pool room, up the tunnel and through the girls locker room, but more likely took the hall. The locker rooms would be locked up and he would have to risk undue notice, as well as waste precious time. Most assassins and mercenaries were not known for their stealth or brains. They were used to using their superior fire power and brute strength to get what they wanted. It seemed then that going up the stairs to the left would be suicide, and trying to get to the hall on the right very risky as well. Deciding the locker room, through to the pool and out it's exit would be the best plan, Lily whipped the chignon pins from her hair and utilized them as picks on the lock. She turned to look at George, who was still with her, and he looked excited but not scared. "Go back to the reunion. You don't need to be involved in this."
"Too late!" He replied almost cheerfully.
"Do you have a death wish? Did you see that someone tried to kill me back there?" She looked at him as if he were insane, or stupid.
"Yeah, that's why I'm just going to make sure you get out of the building." She rolled her eyes, and at that moment, the lock slid open.
"Shazam! Let's go!" Lily whispered and they entered the quiet dark labyrinth of the locker room. Lily's heels echoed like gun shot off the tile floor and she quickly slipped them off, taking off her hose as well, since she would have better traction in bare feet. Continuing on toward the tunnel door, they crept quietly, listening intently for any sounds besides their own. They reached the tunnel door and found it locked as well. Lily started to pull out her picks again, when they heard the sound of wet shoes squeaking on concrete down in the tunnel. Lily was suddenly awash in fear, afraid she had made a wrong choice and there was more than one assassin and now she would be a sitting duck. She pulled the derringer from her garter holster and handed it to George. "you do know how to use one these, I assume?" She whispered.
"Sure, sure." He whispered back confidently.
"Only shoot if you see a gun. Lets not kill innocent classmates, okay?"
There was only one thing to do, go back to the hallway and try to make it out to the right. Quietly, but quickly, Lily and George crept back to the entrance. The jiggling of the handle on the tunnel door hurried them along. No one was in the hall, and Lily quickly took the gun from her bra holster and decided they should peek and run. George would go first to peek, since he wasn't the target. No one to the left, no one to the right. Gesturing to Lily, she joined him and they started down the hall to the right, toward the first cross hall where they would be able to cross the school, and come out by the small theater where the exit door was only locked by a crash bar. No alarm, no chains. As soon as they started down the hall, quick footsteps could be heard coming up behind them. "Duck!" Yelled Lily as she dove for cover behind a trash can. George took refuge in a shallow bay of lockers. A bullet whined off the tile floor, cracking it into mosaic pieces. Simultaneously, George and Lily fired one shot each at the approaching foe. Lily's hit the man in his neck, just to the left of his vocal cords, severing the carotid artery. The new hole in his windpipe now allowed that blood to pump right into his lungs. George's bullet hit his left shoulder and had obviously hit an artery as his life's blood spurted out all over the hallway. They didn't wait to watch the end but ran down the hall as fast as their shaking legs would take them. They slowed as they approached the first hall to intersect theirs. It was empty. It was mostly constructed of glass, revealing the beautifully tended lawns of the courtyards. The moonlight shone in, illuminating the way with a blue light. They momentarily looked at one another and nodding in unspoken agreement, went down this first hall, rather than risk what would be around the corner in the second corridor. Hearing nothing now but their breathing, Lily quietly told George where her car was, and where she had dropped her tote bag. When they reached the door at the other end, it was locked, but Lily made short work of it and they slipped toward the small theater on cat's feet. As they were almost to the door, a large man in a blue suit stepped from the shadows and pointed a large pistol at Lily's head. He looked elated. "Oh man. Oh man. I got you. I got you!" As he was licking his lips in anticipation of his reward for being the lucky one to capture and kill Lily Hightower, he was sent to his greater reward. A slight squeak escaped his lips as a bullet hole seemed to suddenly appear between his eyes. The assassin hit the floor like a giant rag doll, and Lily snapped her head around to look at George in astonishment. He appeared as amazed as she. He hadn't fired! Then who? Lily whirled around and came face to face with...Rock. Rockwell Stannard. He appeared shocked to see her, then an anguished look crossed his face as Lily whispered his name the instant before she was consumed by white hot fire in her brain. George leapt forward to catch lily as she collapsed. Rock began to approach them and instinctively George raised his pistol at Rock, who reciprocated. George looked at him, undecided for a moment. Despite his birth name,Rock earned the nick name with his cold, calculating character. He was indeed a rock. Hard headed, hard hearted, and hard bodied. Rock had gone to school with them and he and Lily had had a tempestuous affair. Obviously he had just saved both their butts so George decided Rock must be on their side and dropped his weapon and offered no resistance when Rock pointed to the theater and half carried, half dragged Lily down the aisle of the small auditorium. Rock moved quickly to raise Lily's feet and stuffed a wadded up jacket under them. He spoke to George in a curt, brisk manner as he gave instructions and tried to briefly explain what was happening. Blood had begun to trickle from Lily's nostrils. Rock pulled out a small black kit from his waist pouch. He produced two hypodermic syringes filled with clear fluids, a rubber tourniquet, and a small vial of white and red capsules.
"Hold up her arm for me. She's going into shock and I need to get these into her on the first try. I have no extra with me." George did as he was told, but his face was quizzical. "What are you giving her? How do you know what's happening to her?" Rock ignored George as he bent to his task, giving Lily first one injection and then the other.
"C'mon Lily, fight it. Don't let those bastards win! Fight girl, fight!" Rock felt her neck and the strong steady throbbing there assured him she still lived. Rock startled George by suddenly speaking. "We don't have much time. There are four more assassins here, not counting the two we killed. We need to be gone from here. Do you have a car?"
"No, but I know where Lily's is. A few blocks from here."
"Good, you carry her, I'll run interference for us." As if no more needed to be said, Rock rose and collected his equipment, raised his weapon, and led the way to the door. They managed to make it away from the building and to Lily's car without incident. George lay lily across the big back seat of her Impala. Only Lily would cling to such a dinosaur. It was from 1969, the champagne year for Impala's Lily often said. She'd had it beautifully restored to original specs and added a few things she couldn't do without. All terrain, run flat tires, a Holly double pumper carburetor on top of a 550 big block V8 engine. Lily had always been firm to the adage that, to err was human, but to screw up you really needed a computer. In her line of work, she had had too many computers fall or fail to her skilled fingers and she had no faith in them. This included in cars. All she ever wanted was a car she could work on herself. One she could understand, one she could stick a screwdriver into the choke and make start on a cold winters day. None of that "fuel injection" crap for her. Not that she had those worries anymore. No more beater cars for her. This one was in prime shape, Better, and she had it custom painted a dark metallic flake purple. The engine turned over on the first crank and ran so quietly that George felt compelled to "goose" the gas to rev it up enough to feel it. Wum! It revved readily and you could see the slight tilt to the car as the engine strained against the drive train. Suddenly a voice from the backseat said, "Well, are you going to drive it, or just masturbate all over the interior?"
"Lily?!" Both George and Rock strained over the seat. Her eyes were still closed and for a moment they felt they must have imagined she spoke until she said, "Oooh, my head , my aching head..."
"Stay flat, Lily." Rock commanded, "Here, take these." and placed the capsules in her mouth. She opened her bloodshot eyes a crack and asked hoarsely,"What are they?" "Tylenol, extra strength." She closed her eyes and swallowed them obediently. "If you poison me, I'll haunt you, you know." Rock almost smiled. "Just be quiet now, dear. Rest. You are lucky to be alive, I'm surprized you're awake at all. You're stronger than I gave you credit for."
"I'm tough." she mumbled. Rock watched as her breathing evened out and he knew she slept. He turned his attention to George who was awaiting directions. Rock quickly rattled off several orders and soon the car slipped off into the night. Rock kept one eye on the mirrors and reloaded his weapon as they drove. He looked up and saw they were nearing the turnoff. "Okay, up here where the road curves, don't. Go straight."