Keith Alan

She's in the panic room, assessing the situation. There are several still left alive. They surprised her with their attack and she had to retreat before she could get them all. Though she isn't obvious about it, she ensures everyone who gets into her workspace passses through a metal detector, so she's reasonably certain they didn't have guns or metal knives. Theirs must be ceramic. That, or there's something new in bypassing metal detectors she needs to learn about.

After activating the sensors and remotes, she starts looking for the infiltrators. There are a lot of screens, she has cameras all over the place, so it takes a while. Suddenly, an arm reaches out from behind her to point at one of the screens. Her head snaps around. It's the "other guy" who came in with this group. It's clear from his immediate step back and away, yet still easily viewable, that he recognises that she isn't comfortable. "Isn't comfortable," what an understatement. Coincidentally, or cleverly, he's on the side opposite of where she placed the revolver. Of course, the revolver is empty. Which is why she's in the panic room in the first place.

She's worked long and hard to become an expert shot with this weapon. A revolver, because they almost never jam. And she never expected to need more than the handful of shots available. In this case, she could have used the greater number of shots and easy/quick reload of a typical autoload pistol, but there's no point in wasting thought on that. She has a small indoor firing range where she can practice whenever she wants. The targets all move around randomly, she can turn on flashing lights and loud random sounds and has engineered a way to fire hard rubber balls to train her to focus her aim even when she's being heavily distracted. She hoped she'd never have to use that training, but knows that in her business violence is always just instants away.

As she splits her attention between the screen her "companion" pointed to and keeping an eye on him, her memory replays what happened just a few moments ago. She'd been showing off her wares to the prospective customers, everything seemed to be going well, when, with her back turned, several of her customers suddenly went on the attack with their knives. Because she has strategically placed reflective surfaces scattered all throughout her workspace, she saw them launch. What's only now becoming clear, upon reviewing her memory, is at that same instant, this other guy, her companion in the panic room, started attacking the attackers.

When she first let them in there was just the handful, she had more than enough bullets to take them all out, even including this stranger. However, it seems while she was giving her presentation, they somehow overcame her alarm systems and more began flooding into the area. They were surprised by her response, making them a bit tentative, giving her a chance to escape to the room. The monitors are showing more coming in through the outer door. Now they're bringing in heavy equipment. Clearly they intend to open her vault and get at the rest of her wares.

She knows little about her companion; pretty standard in this business. A name, but surely it must have been made up at the last moment: Jehoshaphat. Of course, he might have been bullied so much as a child with that name he was forced to learn excellent self defense, but he just doesn't have a "Jehoshaphat" look about him. As she fired her gun, he'd been taking out the same number just using his hands and feet. The attackers fanned out, giving her enough time to get into her panic room. Somehow Jehoshaphat managed to get in as well. All of this flashes through her mind as she steers her remote to take out the guy on the screen. Because she doesn't want to have a huge mess to clean up, not to mention repair work, she has special ammo that kills without making holes.

As she scans the other screens, it seems Jehoshaphat is ahead of her; he points to another. As she works the remote, she decides that he isn't a threat. If he is, it's a very subtle one, as he could have easily taken her out already. She points to another remote and is gratified when he takes control without any need for explanation. The attackers figure out what's going on pretty quickly and become increasingly hard to take out. Her exterior cameras are showing that there are yet more preparing to enter. It seems they've anticipated her exterior guns and are using armor to deflect those shots.

"It might be best if I head out," Jehoshaphat says to her.

She looks at him, wondering if this is some sort of bizarre long-range con the attackers have worked out. It seems incredibly unlikely that they would sacrifice their men just to build trust. The balance of probability is he's simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Clearly he has skills, so after just a moment of hesitation she agrees. She hands him an earpiece so she can communicate with him.

"Start on the outside, I'll work on those already on the inside."

He nods, then slips out when she opens the door.

She splits her time watching his progress as he moves along the hallways and searching for other infiltrators. It's interesting. She has a harder and harder time locating him as she comes back. Hopefully that'll translate to the bad guys having difficulty spotting him.

Somehow the attackers have knowledge of her vault's location. They're steadily working their way towards it. They quickly figure out where her scattered guns are. She only rarely gets more than one from each. They also seem to guess where some of them are, though they aren't always right, and she gets a couple as they move through the building. She has several lethal traps on the route to the vault, but they're usually deactivated so she doesn't accidentally take herself out. She turns them all on, which catches more and slows them down a lot.

She can turn part of her attention back to her mysterious partner and sees that his skills are certainly way above average. There's a trail of bodies leading toward the entrance they've been using, which has them bunched up outside. She finally spots him, just inside the doorway. He's armed himself and is picking off people who are lazy or sloppy. She sees, in their concern for Jehoshaphat, they've left themselves vulnerable, so figures surprise there will let him get out.

Quietly, so she doesn't startle him, she speaks into her microphone:

"I'm going to fire at them from a gun they don't know about. You can use that as distraction."

He nods, clearly understanding that she can see him on at least one of her cameras.

There's been a pause in the firing and things are quiet for a change. She owns or controls much of the land surrounding her place, and all her neighbors know to be incurious about any sights or sounds at the property, so she isn't expecting any sort of official response. The outside attackers seem to be conferring on how to get past Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat is waiting for new targets. She gives her inside cameras a quick check and is gratified to see that the traps have been working as desired, they're at least several minutes away from the vault. She's confident, with gear they have with them, it'll take at least 30 minutes to breach the door. She turns her focus to the exterior gun and carefully aims it. The first shot takes out two guys that happened to be lined up just right. The second two shots don't hit anyone directly, but ricochet off their armor and probably at least temporarily blind a couple of the culprits. That's all she gets before they reposition their armor. She glances back to the camera that showed Jehoshaphat, but he's already gone. It takes her a few seconds to locate him. He's a whirling, dodging dervish. She comes up with a nickname for him: "one shot, one kill."

It's amazing to her that he's able to fire so accurately with a weapon that he clearly just picked up. In fact, she sees him drop one and pick up another and continues firing as if it were a carefully rehearsed action. Then again, he might have carefully rehearse exactly that, so maybe it isn't that amazing. For him, anyway.

She realizes that she's been spending too much time watching him and her inside attackers have reached the vault. She has one last surprise for them, but there are still several left and doubts it will take out more than one.

She watches them carefully, and once they start to cut into the door and are leaning against it, she triggers the electrical surge. Unfortunately, she was right, she only got one. The others quickly figure out what happened and no longer touch the door. Knowing they'll be taking quite a while to get through, she turns her attention back to the exterior and her Jehoshaphat. Amazingly, he seems to have taken out every single one of the remaining attackers. And doesn't appear to have a scratch on him. He's methodically checking all the vehicles, inside, underneath and opening the trunks. He looks at one of the cameras, she thought they were all well hidden, and gives her a "thumbs up."

"There are two left at the vault, heavily armed, but are clearly focused on opening the door."

He nods, and starts in the house. She has microphones scattered around the house and is interested to note that he makes no sound as he moves around. He keeps to the edges of the hallways and tends to move in random seeming darts rather than in smooth forward progress. She assumes he assumes there may be live ones left and doesn't want to make himself an easy target.

She directs him through the place. She deliberately has some strange architecture, so without familiarity, people could get easily confused. That the attackers moved directly to her vault says someone has been here and given out her secrets. She'll have to do a careful accounting of the people who've been given that access. Perhaps one or two need a fatal accident. This Jehoshaphat might be just the right person for that; clearly he's among the best.

The two guys at the vault do check over their shoulders from time to time, but the armor they brought with them hides a lot of their view. Jehoshaphat peaks around the corner. She was sure to keep him informed of all her traps as he worked his way down. She blinks in surprise when it seems he magically transported himself several steps down the hall and is concealed by some of the furniture she has scattered around. She blinks again and he's closer still. He looks like a stone when he isn't moving, then flows like water when he does. He crouches and takes careful aim and just waits. A minute or so goes by, then there are two shots so close together they almost sound like one, and he stands up and casually walks toward the two men.

She focuses the camera in and can see one was shot right on the very top of his head and might still be alive, the other one was hit with a ricochet and is clearly still alive, but is in agony. His agony is made worse as he hit himself with the torch as he reacted and bounced off the vault door with its red hot splashes of metal. Jehoshaphat casually shoots the first one as he walks up, then kicks the remaining one away from the door and torch. He turns off the torch and ensures that the remaining guy is stripped of any weapons. He improvises some bindings from the dead men's clothing, then drags him away from the door.

The woman is wondering now if it's safe to come out. She hasn't seen any signs of activity on any of her other cameras and it seems Jehoshaphat has the situation under control. She sees him crouch down next to the one remaining attacker and seems to be interrogating him. She can hear some of his speech; it sounds like he's running through a number of languages. Finally he stops at one. It sounds Slavic. She can't quite make out what they're saying. Whenever the attacker hesitates in his responses, Jehoshaphat leans on something already damaged or twists and breaks a bone somewhere. She decides to gamble a bit and heads toward her vault.

She's almost down the hallway when she sees Jehoshaphat stand up and point his gun at the attacker. She opens her mouth to ask him to stop, but it's too late, he fires. She recorded their conversation and can get someone to translate for her, but would have prefered to do her own interrogation.

Jehoshaphat looks at her as she arrives.

"It seems they've been working on this for a while. This one purchased some arms from you a year or so ago, and, once he realized you worked alone, cooked up this elaborate scheme."

He looks down at the guy, then kicks him in the head with disdain.

"Fucking amateurs. What a bunch of morons. Before I even arrived, I knew you had this sort of defense in place. What the heck did they think was going to happen?"

"This, ahh, might not be the best time and place, but I think I'd like to hire you to deliver a response for me."

"That's fine, that's what I do, after all. Normally I don't waste time with clowns like these, but since they've had the bad luck to attack when I showed up, it's become a little personal for me."

They discuss the deposition of the bodies. The grand total is twenty-seven. In a small way, she's flattered they sent so many. She doesn't want them to simply vanish, that might trigger a subsequent attempt, and she has better things to do than deal with these sorts of events. However, she doesn't want them discovered too close. Though she has a working relationship with the local constabulary, she doesn't want to depend on them too much. There are also the vehicles to deal with as well. She doesn't give much thought past that, but she has a major mess to clean up. And that electric surge burned out the electronics and sealed her vault. She knows a couple of people who can get in, though it will take hours to open the vault without destroying what remains of the door.

It takes the rest of the day to get the bodies and vehicles dealt with. She isn't too worried about leaving her vault at this time, she's quite sure that if there was going to be a follow up visit it would've happened already. Since she knows that these sorts of events are possible, even likely, she'd already planned for what to do. Things go much faster than she anticipated with Jehoshaphat's assistance.

Nevertheless, the sun's going down when all the immediate issues have been dealt with. She's exhausted from her efforts and hasn't eaten since breakfast. Jehoshaphat doesn't seem to be impacted in any way, but surely he must be hungry as well. She suggests dinner. He agrees without hesitation.

In between nibbling during preparation, they start discussing events.

She, "I'm sure glad you picked today to do your shopping!"

He, "It was a fun workout. It's so rare that I get to let loose. I suspect, though, that you'd've got the job done all by yourself, it just would have taken a little longer."

"I clearly need some security upgrades. I should've got a warning that their vehicles were arriving. And for certain, I should have known they were entering the house."

"I did notice you have a few weaknesses, and a number of your detectors and gun emplacements are a little obvious. I have some expertise in security. Perhaps you'll let me give you some suggestions."

"Absolutely! Originally, I intended the visible signs to act as a deterrent. But I take your point, if they're all visible, then they serve as a roadmap for avoiding them."

What follows is a long discussion on security. He really does have expertise. Their hunger assuaged, she starts to think about other, more personal things.

"You know, don't you, that violence can be an aphrodisiac?"

He nods, getting a speculative look in his eyes.

"If you're willing, perhaps we could continue this discussion in the shower?"

He nods again, then stands up and comes around to her side of the table. She also stands up, then takes him by the hand and leads him to her bedroom. Hours later, she decides she's been triply lucky, this day will be one to remember for so many reasons. Afterwards, they discuss his rates and what he thinks it will take to send the message she desires. His aren't too bad, though they're in the higher end. At least she knows for certain she'll be getting her money's worth

In the weeks and months later, she's gratified to see in the news that her Jehoshaphat was true to his words, and the strong, unequivocal message was received. She had a number of subsequent customers ask about what happened. She just smiles and says everything happens for a reason.