When I got home, I realized I was not alone.
The house had been tossed; someone had wrecked the place, probably looking for money. As soon as I stepped in, I heard them somewhere in the kitchen, shuffling around.
I should have called the police. I should have ran to the neighbors. An entire childhood full of PSAs about what to do in a dangerous situation played back in my mind, force-feeding me advice. All of it screaming a single, blazing message: Find an adult.
But then I heard a smooth, gentle voice cut through it all--the voice of my mother.
She had given me a PSA of her own.
In a potentially dangerous situation, there are three rules to remember. First: Assess.
I heard the clatter of metal against a table and the dull shuffle of feet. It sounded like one person, but it could have been more. By the sound, I guessed they were making themselves a quick lunch.
Whoever it was, they weren't too smart. You didn't stick around a crime scene after the fact. They were either high or stupid. Possibly both.
Next: Create a plan of action. Prepare several contingencies to fall back on if this plan meets with failure. And remember: All plans meet with failure.
I retrieved the poker from the fireplace. If they had a gun, or there was more than one, I could fall back, run, scream for help. If they didn't...
I had muscles now, didn't I?
I stepped into the kitchen.
A man turned and stared at me. He was a scruffy middle-aged guy who looked like the sort you avoided eye-contact with at the mall; he had a mouth full of meth-teeth and his clothes were second and third-hand at best. He was holding a sandwich in one hand, a kitchen knife in the other.
He looked at the kitchen knife, then at me--a semi-cute sixteen year old school girl. And then, with a mouth full of food, he grinned.
The poker flew out of my hand like a harpoon. It slammed right on target--into his shoulder. He shrieked with surprise as metal lodged into bone, spinning and crashing down against the table behind him.
The knife clattered to the floor. I sprang forward to him, then slammed my knees down on either side of his waist.
My hands wrapped around his throat. Fingers fit snugly--like puzzle pieces finally finding their place.
His eyes bulged; a mouthful of lettuce and ham spurted out of his mouth as he gurgled. His arms flailed, smacking against me--he struggled and writhed, but it was like holding down a flopping fish.
Was I going to kill him?
God, I wanted to.
His eyes were glazed with confusion; if I had to wager a guess, I'd say he was on something right now. Probably was wondering if this was some sort of bad trip.
I loosened my grip, letting him breath. "Tell me who you work for and where I can find them," I said.
"Th'hell," he groaned, shuddering with pain.
"Hey. Hey," I repeated. "Focus here, okay? Who do you work for and where can I find them?"
"Mr. Donovan," he groaned, and then: "Trailer parks down at Sullivan. Oh, God, what the hell is goin' on..."
"Thanks," I said, and then I reached forward to seize hold of the poker. With a hard yank, I pulled it free--prompting my prisoner to scream.
I climbed off the table and picked him up. He was taller, but I was surprised just how easy it was to lift him--like I was picking up a puppy. He wriggled and twisted, but it was useless.
I kicked the door open and threw him out into the backyard.
I went to the phone and dialed 9-1-1. Then, trying to compose myself, I put on my best damsel-in-distress voice.
"Oh my god," I said, pretending to hyperventilate. "There's some guy here! Some crazy man in my kitchen--I just got home, and--"
The dispatcher did what she could to keep me calm and talk me through it. I put up the requisite amount of panic before I fed her the information I wanted her to have. Then I hung up and proceeded to puke.
It wasn't the elixir, not this time. This time it was all me.
I just speared some guy on a fireplace poker and interrogated him like he was a piece of meat. And to be honest? I'm pretty sure I was holding back.
By the time the police arrived, he was already gone. It hardly mattered. I wasn't worried about him blabbing--who'd believe him? A meth-head claiming that a sixteen year old girl threw a poker in his shoulder and beat him up for information wasn't going to be high on anyone's priority list of things to 'check out'. I guessed he'd show up in the ER and they'd assume he had gotten stabbed by a mugger or something.
I answered the officers' questions, told them I'd be staying at a friend's that night, then saw them out.
Then I grabbed a quick shower and went downstairs.
Into the bunker.