"Secrets and Locks"

by Jeb


Chapter One

Penelope Place watched as the tiny drop of sweat beaded on the end of her nose; it hung there, glistening in the moonlight, then slipped off. She rolled her eyes back in her head to follow it, but it dispersed in the air almost immediately. Of course, if I fall from here, I won't disperse till I hit the street... which was approximately forty stories below. As she hung there, another drop made the path from her cheek down to the tip of her nose, and she closed her eyes to try and get back her equilibrium.

O.K., she told herself. You're upside down. Not the first time, won't be the last. You can handle this.

Of course, this was the first time she'd been hanging upside down this high in the air with her hands tied behind her back, but after some of the adventures she'd been through, that ought to be no more than a small setback.

She'd practiced working with no hands before, certainly, and could often achieve amazing results with the use of her fine, white teeth. In this case, though, she was hampered by the balled-up handkerchief in her mouth, and the strip of heavy gray duct tape that had been pressed over her lips. She supposed that, given time, the perspiration might loosen the tape enough for her to work it free... but she hadn't been given time.

It was probably a good thing they'd left her stocking cap on when they'd tied her up... hanging upside down was bad enough, but if her three and a half feet of glossy dark hair had been loose around her head, she'd never have been able to see anything. Not that there was much to see... from her angle, she could see the bottom of the hotel room balcony from which she was dangling, the railing above that, and the thin black cable that was hooked to her bound ankles and which ran up across the railing, and ended at the little winch she'd planned to use to lower her down to the window two floors below.

Her captors had been delighted to find the winch-they cut the end of the cable that was fastened to the rotating barrel, and dropped her, bound and gagged, over the side of the balcony, allowing the winch to slowly play out, knowing that when it reached the end, she'd be sent plummeting forty floors to her death... and that she would have plenty of time to consider her fate as she was lowered by inches.

She was a little surprised the two goons hadn't stayed to watch her fall, but she realized that they still had to go down to the room she had been supposed to burgle and fetch out the disks; no doubt they would be back to check on her to make sure she didn't miss her appointment with the sidewalk.

Hanging upside down, of course, most people would have had all their blood rushing to their head. For Penny, though, things weren't quite that simple-not all of it went there. As the danger grew more and more acute, she felt, as she always did, that suffusion of warmth down in her loins She had heard of agents who laughed at danger; she wondered if she was the only who got horny at the prospect.

No time for such distractions now, though. Gritting her teeth against the flush of pleasure, she closed her eyes again, and began to breathe through her nose, slowly and deeply... letting her mind and body relax, getting her physical and mental selves centered... then the breathing quickened: short bursts-one! two! three! And on three, she flexed her muscular buttocks, tightened the muscles in her stomach, and threw herself upwards, bending her body against gravity. Breathing was difficult with her mouth gagged, but she knew how vital it was to keep the flow of oxygen smooth and even, and she exerted all the mental discipline of which she was capable. Each minute that passed, the winch lowered her a few inches closer to death, but she daren't think about that.

Fortunately, the men she'd been dealing with were amateurs-they'd bound her wrists tightly behind her with cord, but hadn't then fastened the wrists to her waist. If they had... well, she preferred not to think about that. Instead, she concentrated on duplicating one of the exercises she did each morning: bending her body into a perfect front jackknife. She grunted into the gag. Friends always teased her about being a bit "top heavy", and her ample endowments were certainly making the fight against gravity even more difficult, but time was short, more blood was rushing to her head, and she would only get one chance.

The pain was a burning line across her stomach, and she knew that cramping up now would be fatal. Her body trembled furiously as she inched her way up; finally, her goal was in sight-- dizzily, now, she could see her legs in front of her.. just... a...few...more...inches...there! She'd done it! She strained her body, bent double now, as far as she was able, and finally hooked her chin around the back of her legs.

She hung there for no more than a second, gathering her strength, then called on aching muscles once more, and slowly bent her knees. Upside down as she was, it had the effect of drawing her body upwards, and she twisted sideways while at the same time reaching her bound hands around to the front of her body, and grasping the cable that was bound to her ankles. Instinct told her to hold on to the cable for dear life, but she knew better: there couldn't be more than a few feet of cable left to play out of the reel above her. She let go the cable with her right hand, and its fingers strained to reach the hook that attached to her bound ankles. She'd known the work they had done was sloppy, and reflected that she was probably lucky it had held this long. In another few seconds, her legs were free of the hook; with the added slack, she was able to kick her ankles free of their bonds. Gingerly, she put both hands back on the cable, and allowed her legs to swing down and free.

For an instant, she hung there, her arms too tired to move, and the displacement of the weight in her legs dragging her down. With a last heave of strength, she pulled herself up... up... trying to make up the distance she had already been lowered... the railing was inches away... and she could see the reel of cable coming to its end!

Unable to trust the thin wire more than another few seconds, she clenched it as tightly as she could, and threw her legs up over her head, praying the momentum would be sufficient, and it was.. just barely. She felt the toe of her right boot catch on the railing while her left flailed in space for a footing just as she felt the cable give way!

With a silent prayer to the patron saint of secret agents in peril, she slowly drew her left leg up to meet her right, and hooked it between two rails of the railing. It was all leg strength now, and she almost giggled well, I've got the legs for it, if anyone has! Bending her legs once more, she drew herself close enough to get her bound hands on the railing... then it was one last gymnastic move, a flip, and she was back up over the railing, landing face-first on the floor of the balcony with a thump she hoped had not been heard within.

Penny lay gasping for air through her nose, her body still trembling from the exertion. With her cheek on the cool cement floor of the balcony, she looked up to the sliding glass door. They'd opened it, of course, when they had forced her, bound and gagged, out onto the balcony, and strung her up for her intended slow fall to death. She was going to make them very sorry they hadn't locked it behind them.

Gathering her strength, Penny slowly came up to a kneeling position. She looked around-- nothing here with which to cut her bonds or scrape free her gag; certainly not in the minute or two until they came out to see what had happened to her.

Quietly, Penny inched her way closer to the door, and peered inside. Sure enough, they were sitting at the glass-topped coffee table, sorting through the stack of computer disks; the gun lay next to the elbow of the fat one. Nice of them to get the disks for me, she thought.

No point in being subtle-the only way out was through the door of the hotel room, and if she didn't move now, they'd be sure to spot her in another minute or two. Taking one last deep breath in through her nose, she dashed through the open glass door, past the curtain and into the hotel room.

The fat one was actually not the slow one. He reacted first, his eyes popping open at the sight of the black-clad woman, still bound and gagged, whom he had last seen dangling from the cable over the balcony. He reached a hand for the gun, and the distance between them was too great for Penny to hope to disarm him with a kick. So, instead of kicking her leg out, she kicked it down-bringing her booted heel down on the edge of the table's glass top. The glass was heavy enough not to shatter, but it flew up like a seesaw, and sent the gun flying through the door, landing with a clatter on the balcony outside. Propelled by Penny's kick, the table continued its upward path, until it collided with the fat man's jaw... and then, it did shatter. It shattered his face, it shattered into pieces of jagged glass... and his bubbling scream of agony shattered the quiet in the room.

His partner stared in shock as the fat man fell backwards to the couch, his face a mass of blood. He turned to look at Penny-he was a tall, stocky man with large hands, and he was facing a slender (if well-endowed) young woman, whose hands were tied behind her, whose mouth was gagged, who had just endured a terrible physical strain... and he knew he was outmatched. His only thought was the gun... and he turned and made for the balcony to retrieve it.

Penny cursed to herself. She could make for the door and escape, but he could be back in the room with the gun in a matter of seconds, and drill her in the back as she ran. With no clear option, Penny followed the man out onto the balcony.

The fabric of the curtain caught on Penny's cap as she raced outside, nearly pulling it off her head. The night breeze was cool on her face as she emerged out onto the balcony again; in the bright moonlight, she could see the man framed against the city skyline behind him as he bent down to pick up the gun. He stood up, aiming the gun, and Penny froze as a gust of strong breeze blew past them... and blew the cap the rest of the way off her head.

For a moment, the man was frozen in place, staring as the moonlight glinted off the silky mane that cascaded down around Penny's face and shoulders, nearly to her waist. His eyes widened at the waterfall of glorious tresses... and they popped almost out of his head when Penny executed a deft pirouette and slammed a booted foot into his gun hand. The man uttered a choking scream, and the gun sailed down over the balcony to the street below. Where he was planning to send me; Penny appreciated the irony. The man squalled again, and made a grab for Penny's hair, but she deftly moved her head aside, and he floundered past her... now, though, he was between her and the door back into the safety of the hotel room. The man took a run at Penny, intending, no doubt, to push her over the balcony. He lowered his head and extended his hands, but Penny was far too limber-as he raced towards her, she dropped to her back, brought her feet up to meet him, and used the force of his momentum to send him flying over her head, up and over the railing...and down... all the way down. The sound that followed was disgusting, even from forty stories away.

Trembling legs carried Penny slowly back into the hotel room. Sooner or later, somebody would connect the body in the street with this hotel, but there were hundreds of rooms... she had some time.

The body of the fat man was a bloody mess on the couch of the small sitting room. Not the first death Penny had seen-or caused-but she still preferred to head into the bedroom, away from the sight.

Now, with her legs free, it was a simple matter to pass her bound wrists over her butt and bring them back up in front of her. That done, it was easy (if painful) to peel the strip of tape from her mouth, and pluck the sodden cloth from between her teeth. Not waiting until she had the ropes off her wrists, she went immediately to the bathroom for a quick glass of water to wash the foul taste of the gag from her mouth, then used her teeth to undo the bonds on her wrists.

Looking back at herself in the mirror, she smiled. No obvious bruises or marks, apart from tape residue around her lips; her face would be in fine shape for the camera in the morning, as long as she got some sleep. She stripped off her "night work" outfit of tight black spandex body suit and black leather jacket; she'd put on a long-sleeved sweater in the morning to hide the bind marks on her wrists. She ran slender fingers through the silky brown tresses, arranging her hair as best she could, and went to the phone.

She waited for the scrambler to make the hotel line secure; in a moment, she heard a familiar voice.

"Penny! How's it goin' girl? You got the disks? Oh, silly question-- as if you'd ever fail at something like that." Suzanne Reynolds was not one of the Agency's top pros... in fact, she'd failed the field agent exam twice now... but Penny knew that the girl idolized her, so she made sure that Suzanne was the desk contact on most of Penny's cases.

"Suzanne, we've got a problem. Someone knew I was going to be here."


"They were waiting for me, when I got here to set up. It looked like they also knew what I was doing there, because they knew I had the winch with me."

"What makes you say they knew about it?"

Penny smiled wryly. "They decided to put it to use in a sort of novel fashion." Briefly, she filled Suzanne in on what had happened.

"Penny, I'm so sorry... but it might be just carelessness, rather than a leak. When we rented the room for you, we had to make sure it was the one that was two floors above Von Pilsner's room, so you could have a straight climb down to his window; maybe we just accidentally gave something away."

"Maybe." Suzette always went too easily on agency foulups, in Penny's opinion: lives were at stake.

"Anyway," Suzanne went on, "the Chief will want to see you right away, and get a debriefing."

"Tell her I'll take a rain check," Penny chuckled wearily, "I've got a shoot in the morning, and I need to get my sleep! Tell her I'll meet her for lunch, and bring the disks."

"Penny, honestly-"

"Hey, a girl's gotta keep her cover intact, right?"

"I suppose so. Not like I'd know about that!"

"Hang in there, Sue," Penny encouraged her. "Your day will come. Mine did."

There was a sigh at the other end of the line. "OK, then. See you tomorrow."

Hanging up the phone, Penny tucked the disks into the satchel she had brought with her when she had first arrived earlier in the evening-- what felt like hours, in retrospect, couldn't have been over thirty minutes all told.

She looked around the room-- she'd picked up her equipment, stashed the disks she had come to acquire... basically, her work was done for the evening. Well, it looks like I've got a bit of time to myself... and, after all, the room IS paid for!

She settled back on the bed as warmth began to spread into her nether regions. She closed her eyes and ran through all the evening's action and excitement in her mind: the adrenalized anticipation of her "cat-burglary" job... the shock as she found the two thugs waiting for her in the room... the thrill of fear as she'd had to stand with the gun jammed up under her throat, and allow herself to be bound and gagged... the terrifying drop over the balcony... and as the feeling grew stronger, she slipped a hand between her legs, and gave herself over to the familiar feeling of wonderful surrender. Her other hand ran through her silky mane of hair, feeling it glide smoothly through her fingers, enhancing the sensuality. Waves of pleasure washed away the aches and pains, and after several minutes of glorious stimulation, she approached that magic moment.

She'd heard people say that some agents "got off" on danger... but I might be the only one to take it literally! And with that thought, she shuddered her way into blissful sleep.

To Be Continued...

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