…and your reading enjoyment, I present Chapter One of The Rise of Kali. Please, by all means, leave a comment even if it’s to say that you liked it or not. Keep it as simple or as detailed as you like.
Part One: Be Careful What You Wish For…
Chapter One: In The Beginning…
2005, Chicago, Illinois
Rays of sunlight wove through the Chicago skyline signaling the end of one shift and the beginning of another. Kali Hunter sat at her desk at Desmond Advanced Technology but going home was the last thing on her mind. She spoke into the phone in hushed tones to her father, Jackson.
“Kali, how’s the plan going?”
“Everything’s on schedule.” Her eyes darted around the room, making sure no one was eavesdropping. “I’ve gotten Grimes attention. You were right, the guy’s a real letch.”
“Remember, he’s only the floor manager, not our primary target. We just need his badge card. Make sure you get him to follow you into the copy room. Leave it for me in there.”
“Right, it’ll be under the pile of papers in the floor.”
“What about Desmond? Has he kept to his routine?”
“He comes through the floor every day at twenty minutes ‘til five to check with the department head.”
“The stolen camera is in Desmond’s safe. When he takes you to his office, stall him until I get there. You sure you’re going to be okay, Kitten?”
“It won’t be a problem, I’ll have them eating out of my hand.”
“That’s my girl. Now, let’s test your earbud. Shove it down deep into your ear.” Kali took a tiny object out of a case and pushed it into her ear.
“How’s the reception?” He asked.
“Loud and clear. What about visual? Can you see everything?”
“I’m tapped into the office video feed. It looks like Grimes is walking the floor checking out the ladies.”
“Ugh, I hate the way he leers at me, I’d love to give him a two-second vasectomy. That guy makes my skin crawl.”
“Speaking of skin, you’re showing an awful lot.”
“Daaad.” Kali’s cheeks grew hot and she pulled down on her skirt.
“I wanted you to show him some skin, not all of it.”
Kali put her head down on her desk. “Will you please stop?”
“OK, OK, sorry. I couldn’t resist. Here he comes. It’s time, you better get going.”
Kali scooped up a large stack of papers and hurried down the corridor. Not an easy task in four-inch heels. She wore a tight black skirt and a low-cut red blouse to good effect. She caught the attention of every male in the office at some point in the day, including James Grimes, the floor supervisor.
“Okay, I’m headed for the copy room. Where’s Grimes? What’s he doing?” Kali asked.
“He’s a few paces behind you. Ever seen those documentaries of lions hunting antelope?”
“I watched one last week, why?”
“You’re the antelope.”
“He won’t think so when I’m finished with him.”
Kali allowed a paper to slip from her grasp. When she turned, trying to snatch it, the stack spilled, creating a spreading pool of white on the floor. She got onto her knees to organize the mess and her loose-fitting blouse gaped open.
“Here, let me help you with that Miss.” Grimes knelt and feigned looking at her identification badge while stealing a glance down her blouse. The two of them scooped up papers into separate piles.
“It’s Huffman, sir. Kali Huffman.”
“Huffman, you’re the new girl.”
“I’ve been here two weeks. I’m terribly sorry to be so clumsy. I need to get these papers copied before the end of my shift.” Kali caught him staring down her shirt.
“His I. D. badge is on his belt. Be careful he doesn’t notice you taking it.” Kali rolled her eyes at her father’s advice. Yes, dad, I know. He’s so busy staring at my cleavage, I could take his pants and he’d never notice.
With the papers stacked in two piles, Grimes lifted one and stood while smoothing his comb-over with his free hand.
“Let me walk you to the copy room. This is quite a stack for a young lady to carry.” Grimes eyed every inch of her body from her painted toenails to her tight ponytail and smiled.
“Thank you, but I can handle it, really.” She extended her hand to take the stack from him.
“No, I won’t hear of it. You just lead the way.” He winked and swept his arm in the direction of the copy room. Kali nodded and led the way down the aisle, adding an extra swing to her hips.
“Looks like the fish is on the hook,” her father said.
“Uh huh,” Kali hummed.
They entered the copy room and Grimes shut the door behind him. Kali placed her stack of papers on the counter while Grimes plopped his on the copier. He put his arms around her waist, grabbed her hips and spun her around.
“Mr. Grimes, please, I’m not that kind of girl.” She grabbed his hands, attempting to restrain them.
“Oh, come on. You’ve been sending signals all week. You put on quite a show just now.” He moved his hands from her hips to her chest.
“Good grief, what are you, an octopus?” Kali growled.
“It’s my mixed heritage honey. Romin’ hands, rushin’ fingers.”
Kali kept trying to push him away. “Please, I’m going to be in trouble if I don’t finish this copying before quitting time.”
“Honey, I’m floor supervisor. You’re going to be in trouble if you don’t finish me.”
“Hang in there,” Jackson said. “Desmond will be walking by your location in sixty seconds.”
“He can’t come soon enough,” Kali grunted and fought to keep Grimes hands off her.
He buried his face in her shoulder and nuzzled her neck. She squirmed, twisted and managed to pull herself out of his grasp, backing away from him.
Grimes followed her with a devilish grin on his lips. “So, you like to play games, eh? I like foreplay too, but only to a point.” He stalked toward her while Kali held out her palm and backed away. She pushed the pile of papers to the floor between them. He lunged for her and slipped, grabbing Kali by the waist. She managed to palm his I. D. card before they both tumbled to the floor.
Kali landed hard and Grimes fell on her like a bag of wet cement. She let out a loud groan and gasped to catch her breath. She managed to push the card under the pile of paper. Flailing her legs and pushing him away with her arms, Kali growled, “Now?
“Oh yeah baby, now.” Grimes moaned, reaching for his belt.
“Now,” Jackson said.
Kali let loose a blood-curdling scream that echoed throughout the floor. She drove her knee between Grimes’ legs and his face turned several shades of red. His eyes looked like they would bulge out of his head. Unable to breathe, he rolled off her and onto his back in the fetal position. After a long moment, he took a ragged breath.
The door burst open and Alec Desmond stood in the doorway, his imposing figure, that filled the opening, was silhouetted by the lights behind him. “What the hell is going on?” Desmond scanned the scene. Grimes moaned with both hands between his legs while Kali pushed herself away from him. Desmond’s lips formed a tight line. “This is the last straw, Grimes. As soon as you can walk, go clean out your desk and get out.”
Unable to speak, Grimes nodded his head and wept. Kali did her best to hide a smile. Desmond held out his hand. “I’m terribly sorry Miss….”
Grasping his arm, she struggled to stand. “Huffman, sir. Kali Huffman.” She stood for a moment but stumbled when she took a step. Desmond caught her, helping her to her feet.
“Damn, I think I’ve sprained my ankle when he fell on me.”
“Let me take you up to my office. We can put some ice on it while you tell me what happened.”
“Oh no sir, I’ll be alright. I just need a few minutes.”
He glanced at her name tag. “I insist, Miss… May I call you Kali?”
“You’re the boss…uh, boss.”
Desmond put his arm around her waist and she put her hand on his shoulder. The two of them made their way to the elevator while curious onlookers attempted to look busy
Desmond slid his card through the slot and opened his office door. Kali’s feet sank into the plush carpet that was complimented by Cherry wood paneling. On one side, a shelf held sports trophies along with a few books. Pictures of Desmond alongside various politicians decorated the opposite wall, others of him in army uniform. He helped her to the couch and she breathed in the spiced cologne he wore. That combined with the feel of his well-toned muscles beneath his expensive suit made her heart race.
Kali plopped down and Desmond slid an ottoman over, gently placing her injured foot on it. He sat on the coffee table and removed her shoe, gently probing her ankle with his fingertips. “There’s no swelling yet. It’s probably just a mild sprain.” His fingers kneaded her soft skin.
Kali laid her head back on the couch. A soft moan escaped her lips while enjoying his strong hands massaging her foot and ankle. She chastised herself. Stop acting like a teenager and focus on the mission.
“I’m hoping that we don’t have to report this to the authorities. Grimes really is a good man. He just doesn’t have much luck with the ladies.”
“I can see why. He needs to be in a freak show. I could’ve sworn he had more than two arms. But I grew up with two brothers, so I learned how to defend myself. I can handle a creep like him.”
“Well, he got what he deserved. I’m prepared to compensate you adequately for your injuries.” Desmond winked at her.
“Compensate?” Kali raised her head from the back of the couch and met his soft brown eyes. She noted Desmond’s hand inching north of her ankle.
“Yes, let’s say we have a glass of something cold while I get you some ice for your ankle. How about some wine?”
“It’s a little early for wine isn’t it?”
Desmond went to the bar on the far wall. He took out a bottle and two glasses. “I thought it might take the edge off that sore ankle. Plus, it’ll relax you.”
“I’m five minutes away. Stall him,” Jackson’s voice came through the earbud.
Desmond strode toward her. She reached for the glass and put it to her lips. Breathing in the bouquet, she took a sip, relishing the taste before swallowing and resting the glass on her lap.
Desmond sat next to her on the couch and pulled her legs onto his lap. He placed a bag of ice on her ankle and rubbed her leg. Kali put a pillow on the arm of the couch, propping herself up. She took a deep breath to calm herself. Her heartbeat increased, and heat built inside of her.
“Now, about that compensation…” Desmond’s lips curled into a slight grin.
“You have my undivided attention.” Kali placed her glass on the table and blew out a contented sigh.
“I think we should get you off that dreary 20th floor and move you up to the big leagues. I could use a new executive assistant. The job comes with lots of perks.”
“Mmm, I like perks, keep going.” Kali raised an eyebrow when Desmond’s hand migrated to her knee. She half-closed her eyes, feigning drowsiness. Desmond’s caress caused her skin to tingle all over.
“Well, the pay is excellent, and you’d have full benefits.”
“Benefits are good.” Kali closed her eyes and leaned her head back. Her mind began to spin fantasies about the handsome man massaging her leg. If dad doesn’t show up soon I might start kissing him.
“There would be lots of time for recreation.” Desmond’s hand moved to Kali’s thigh and her heart began to pound. A knock on the door made her gasp.
“You just relax and don’t move. I’ll get rid of them and we can continue our discussion.” He slid out from under her and she breathed a sigh of relief.
“Who is it?” Desmond stood and strode to the door.
“It’s maintenance, Mr. Desmond. We got a report of a problem with the air conditioning.”
“I didn’t report any problem with the air conditioning. How did you get past my assistant?” Desmond flung the door open. A spray of white mist swirled around his face and he collapsed on the floor.
“I thought you’d never get here.” Kali plopped the bag of ice on the coffee table and hopped off the couch.
“So, your ankle is okay?” Jackson pointed to her leg.
“Oh, it’s fine, I figured he’d be more likely to invite me to his office if I was hurt. Did you have any problems?”
“No, the assistant outside is down for a nice long nap. We do need to hurry though. They could discover the missing card any time.”
“So, where’s the safe? Did he get creative with it? Or is he vain enough to hide it behind the painting behind his desk?” Jackson and Kali turned their eyes to the large painting of Alec Desmond, clad in full Army dress uniform. He sported the two silver bars of a captain and a swagger stick tucked under one arm.
“I’ll take door number one, Monty.” Jackson took a small mirror from his pocket and checked behind the frame for any alarm wires. He pulled on the frame, revealing a wall safe with a digital keypad. “Whatever happened to the rotary dial? You could use a stethoscope and get into just about any safe.” He shook his head.
“What can I say? That’s the price of progress.” Kali put her hand on her father’s shoulder. “So, are we guessing at it or do we know the combination?”
“We can’t guess too many times. This is a Brinkley 2000 safe. Three wrong attempts and it sets off an alarm.” Jackson scratched his head. “But, I did enough research on our criminal friend here. I know everything about him, up to and including his underwear size.” He grinned at Kali.
“Ugh, please, not something I want to know.” Kali eyed Desmond’s prone figure on the floor, noting the bulge in his slacks. “Apparently, he was enjoying my company a little too much.”
“From the looks of things, you two were getting along pretty well,” Her father teased.
“Just open the safe, please. Enough with the jokes already.” She raised her palm. “I’m ready for a long hot shower. I haven’t been pawed this much since you got me a puppy.”
Jackson entered one eight-digit combination causing a buzzing noise. “Hmm, it’s not his address.” He tried again, and the irritating buzz sounded off. “Okay, not his phone number. If this last one doesn’t work, I’ll have to use the c-4 that I brought.”
“We don’t have much time left. Just blow it.”
“Too messy and loud. I’ll give it one more try.” Jackson punched in eight more numbers. With a loud click, the safe swung open.
“Let me guess, his birthday, right?” Kali peered over her father’s shoulder.
“Criminals have no imagination these days.” Jackson shook his head. He pulled out a tiny robotic camera prototype along with a folder of schematics.
“Put that right back where you got it, Hunter.”
Jackson froze. Kali gasped and spun around, her heart pounded.
Alec Desmond stood at the edge of his desk, a drawer open and a pistol pointed in their direction. He blinked several times and shook his head.
“Now, Blondie, step away from him. You and I have unfinished business, but I’ll tend to you later.” Desmond waved the gun indicating Kali move away. She regarded him for a moment, chiding herself for feeling anything toward him. She took a few steps to her right, assessing the distance between them.
“I heard you had a daughter. She’s quite the pretty little thing isn’t she?”
Jackson’s brow furrowed at Kali. “I thought I told you to use the new formula of knock-out gas.”
“No, you told me to use up the old stuff first.”
“I did not, I distinctly remember telling you to throw the old formula out.”
“Well, that’s not the way I remember it.”
“Enough!” Desmond’s face reddened. He used one hand to steady himself against the desk. “Hunter, I finally get the pleasure of sending you to jail. And when they cart you off, I’m going to get a lot more pleasure with your daughter.”
Anger swelled in Kali’s chest and her hands clenched into fists.
“The police will see it a lot differently Desmond. This camera doesn’t belong to you. You stole it. You and I both know it.” Jackson shook his finger at Desmond.
“That may be true, but let’s see you prove it,” Desmond said with a smile.
“I’ve had enough of you for one day.” Kali reached behind her back and pulled out an eight-inch sword. Pressing a button on the hilt, another eight inches sprang out. Desmond had no time to react. He shouted when the back of the blade hit his hand. Pain shot up his arm and he dropped the gun.
The pistol hit the floor with a thud and Desmond lunged for it. He froze when the cold point of steel pressed against his throat. Slowly, he stood erect.
Kali’s eyes were slits. “One wrong move and I’ll take away your reason for wearing a necktie.” A trickle of blood slid down his neck, staining the white shirt with crimson. Desmond’s eyes were foggy but bore through her.
“Hit him again with the gas and let’s get out of here.” Kali never took her eyes off her opponent. Jackson stowed the camera and paper inside his coveralls.
“I’m fresh out. Let’s just lock him in the bathroom. I’ll check it out.” Jackson snatched the keycard from the desk and opened the door. “You have a phone in your bathroom?” He asked Desmond. “Kali I’ve told you I need a phone in the bathroom.”
“Eww, no. You are not putting a phone in the bathroom, that’s just gross.” She crinkled her nose. Desmond regarded her out of the corner of his eye. “It wouldn’t be wise to try anything, Desmond. I studied for ten years under a samurai sword master. I can take your head off before you can blink.”
Jackson came out of the bathroom and waved them over. Desmond walked through the door on shaky legs. Kali sliced the phone in half and slammed the door behind her jamming a chair under the handle. She moved to the office door with Jackson behind her and cracked it open. “All clear.” Kali retracted the blade on her sword and hid it beneath her blouse.
“Good, now let me get rid of this outfit.” Jackson unzipped his coveralls to reveal the uniform of a security guard. “Now, when we get into the hallway, start crying.”
The restroom wall shook from Desmond’s attempts to get out.
Father and daughter hurried out of the office and entered the hallway. Kali whimpered quietly, and Jackson led her by the arm to the elevator. They entered Desmond’s private lift and the doors slid closed.
“This is an express elevator. It’ll be the fastest way out.” Jackson put his arm around Kali’s shoulder in a brief hug. “You did great kid. I think you’re ready to operate on your own.”
Kali put one arm around her father’s waist and pulled him close. “I still wish you didn’t have to leave. Can’t they find someone else for the job?”
“I’ve waited a long time for this spot to open up. Assistant to the ambassador to Iraq is quite a step up. Instead of associating with seedy lowlifes, I’ll be rubbing elbows with big-time lowlifes. You’re ready to take over the family business. Your brothers will be home from college in a couple of weeks and the three of you can run things. It’s time for you to take the reins.”
The elevator jolted to a halt, knocking them off balance.
“Uh-oh, looks like the beast got out of his cage.” Kali noted the display. “Not good, halfway between the first and second floors.”
“Okay, give me a hand.” Jackson tried to wedge his fingers into the doors to open them. Kali pulled out her sword, jammed it into the crack and pried. The door inched open. An intermittent buzzing sound infiltrated the elevator. Kali’s heart raced. The two wrestled the doors open enough to slide through. She hopped to the ground floor, followed by her father.
Workers scurried around grabbing possessions and heading for the exits. A thick pane of glass descended toward the floor, threatening to lock them in.
“Time for you to quit this job Kitten, I think we pissed off the boss.” Jackson grabbed Kali’s elbow and ran. She stumbled and sprawled onto the floor then sat up and took off her heels.
“What are you doing?” Jackson spun around and waved her on.
“I can’t run in these blasted shoes.” She threw them over her shoulder.
“Those are two-hundred-dollar shoes.”
“We’ll be two dead people if we don’t get through that door.” By the time they reached the glass, only eighteen inches remained open, and that was closing fast. Jackson dropped and slid through on the polished floor. Kali dove headfirst, only to have her ankle caught by the glass.
She looked at her father with wild eyes. “Just go, get out of here.” She waved him on.
“Not without you.” He put his hands under the glass and pulled. Two shots rang out. The bullets struck the thick sheet of bulletproof glass in front of Jackson’s chest. He gasped and jerked his head back. If not for the glass, he would have died instantly. Kali spun her head. A bullet slammed into the glass in front of her face.
Alec Desmond ran toward them and continued firing until he emptied the clip. Bullets made pockmarks in the glass. Jackson bent his knees, screaming as he lifted. Desmond dove to grab her foot. The glass budged just enough. Kali jerked her foot out, the glass slammed down, and Desmond crashed into it.
Kali limped out to the street while leaning on her father. Glancing over their shoulder, two security guards helped Desmond to his feet. They attempted to dust him off when he pushed them against the wall. He screamed at them and glared out into the busy Chicago Street. Jackson and Kali blended into the crowd and disappeared.
* * * *
Jackson walked out the front door of their home, suitcases in hand and turned to have one last look around. Kali stood behind him, doe-eyed and looking lost.
“Now don’t look at me like that, Kitten. You’re going to be fine.”
“No buts, young lady. You can do this. I know I’ll be gone a long time, but this is important business. Iraq is dangerously close to developing nuclear weapons and we can’t let that happen.”
“I know how important it is. But, it won’t stop me from missing you.” Kali’s eyes flooded, and she buried her head into his shoulder.
“Hey, you’re the most courageous, most strong-willed person I know. You’ve had to grow up fast since your mother died. But, if there’s anyone in the world I can trust to handle things, it’s you.” Jackson gripped her shoulders and looked into her eyes. He wiped the tears from her cheeks and kissed her on the forehead. “Besides, I’m never more than a phone call away, day or night. Now, I called your brothers. They’ll be home soon to help you with the business. Just try not to hurt them too, badly will you? Hmm?”
Kali managed a weak smile and nodded her head. Wiping her cheeks with the back of her hand, she took a deep breath and hugged her father one last time. Walking with him to the taxi, she helped him put the bags in the trunk.
With one more kiss on the cheek, Jackson got in the car. Kali stared at the taillights until they vanished from view. She couldn’t shake the sinking feeling in her stomach.
The ringing doorbell woke Kali from a deep sleep. She blinked to clear her bleary eyes. The clock read Five a.m. She dropped her head onto the pillow and sighed as the bell reverberated through the house again.
Throwing the covers back, she stood, testing her sore ankle, grabbed her robe off the bedpost and limped downstairs. Her toes peeked out from under baggy pajama bottoms as she shuffled across the polished living room floor.
Approaching the heavy paneled oak door, she lifted the flap covering the peephole. Two men in dark suits stood outside. “Who is it?” Kali shouted.
“I’m terribly sorry to bother you miss. We’re from the State Department. It’s important that we speak with you right away.”
“Let me see some I.D.”
Both men reached into their jackets and produced badges with their pictures. Kali looked them over and unlocked the door.
“What brings you men out and about at this time of morning?” She glared at them through her disheveled mop of hair.
“I’m agent Davenport, this is agent Reeves. Could we come in Miss Hunter?”
“Sure, I need to sit down anyway, my ankle is killing me.” Kali led them to the living room where they sat on opposite couches.
“Miss Hunter, this is never easy to say. There’s been an accident.”
Kali’s eye were no longer slits. “Accident, what accident? Is it my father? Tell me he’s alright. Please, please, tell me he’s alright.” Kali sat on the edge of the couch. She gripped the cushion until her knuckles turned white. Her heart pounded. She fought to clear her foggy mind.
“Your father’s plane went down over Iraq. Now, this just happened you understand. We only have preliminary reports. But from the looks of the wreckage, it’s unlikely that there were any survivors.”
Kali’s mouth dropped open and her body went numb. Feeling confused, she searched for words that wouldn’t come.
“Several search and rescue teams have been dispatched to the area, but I’m afraid you need to prepare for the worst. They’ll continue searching until we have confirmation on each passenger on that plane.”
“How can it be? Do they know what went wrong?” Kali’s voice was breaking along with her heart.
“All we know for now is that they sent a distress call. The garbled message sounded like someone fired a missile on the plane. Again, Miss Hunter, I’m terribly sorry. Is there anything at all we can do for you?”
Kali sat, unable to move, unwilling to think. Agent Davenport waited, then spoke slowly. “Miss, is there anything at all we can do for you?”
Kali shook her head to clear it. “I…I…I don’t know. I don’t know. Will you keep me informed? My brothers, they’re not home. They’re away at college. They need to know.” Kali stared blankly ahead.
“We sent agents to apprise them of the situation and bring them home. You don’t have to worry about a thing. And, of course, we’ll keep you informed. The minute we have any new information we’ll relay it to you. Miss Hunter, is there anything we can do? Do you need to see a doctor?”
“No…uh, no. I’ll be all right. I’ll wait for your call.” She shook her head in disbelief.
“Here’s my card. You can call me at any time you need anything at all.” Kali took the card in a trembling hand. The three of them stood for a moment in silence.
“Again, Miss Hunter, I’m terribly sorry.” The two men turned and walked to the door. Kali closed the door behind them and stood with her back against it. Limping away from the door, the card fell from her trembling hand and dropped to the floor unnoticed. She stopped in the middle of the room because she could no longer see. Tears flooded her eyes, streaming down her cheeks. She collapsed to the floor sobbing. Her mournful wailing echoed to every corner of the empty house.
That’s all for now. So, what do you think?
If you like it and want to read the rest of the novel, you can buy a copy for about the price of a gallon of gas, or about half the cost of a venti vanilla latte at Starbucks.
It’s available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple, Scribd, Walmart online and several others including the Overdrive Public Library app.