Dragon Sword: Chapter 6
The way accomplishes its task yet lays claim to no merit. It is because it lays claim to no merit that its merit never deserts it.
A new chapter is available every Wednesday at Noon, CST. Begin with Chapter 1
“Seriously?” I said. I gestured to the folder. “I thought I was a lowlife heinous person who was scum of the earth and couldn’t be trusted not to take candy from a baby.”
Derkein shrugged almost imperceptibly. Bastard.
“Unless you need me,” I said to that tiny gesture.
“That is correct,” said Daiyu. “We need you to use your skills to save the Kindred and possibly the people of this island.”
“The Chinese have come because of me,” said Long-ju. He didn’t sound sad or guilty. He just said it flatly. “They are using the public disorder as an excuse to take an interest in our affairs.”
“Do they really need an excuse?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Derkein patiently. “If the Chinese were to simply march in, they would attract the attention of Taiwan and eventually the Americans.”
“And we wouldn’t want that,” I said. God bless American exceptionalism.
“No,” said Derkein. “We’ve all seen pictures of Baghdad and Kabul. We don’t want that.”
Oh, yeah. Exceptional except for that bad stuff.
“So the Chinese want an iron-clad excuse to march in.” Long-ju sounded a little tired and distant when he said that. “We are on their doorstep. They can’t overlook terrorism. But they could offer peace keepers and we can freely accept them. No foreign power could object to that.”
“So the ambassador is here to offer his gallant assistance,” I said. “And Chen-li is going to gratefully accept.” This caused a flutter in my stomach.
I didn’t want anything to happen to these people. Or these dragons, even the ones I was currently pissed off at. I knew Long-ju felt responsible. When his wife Lihua was murdered he’d gone on a rampage sowing death and destruction across the land. He was insane for a while. And for a while he thought I’d killed her or had helped to do it. I thought so too. Eventually we caught the real killer and he is roasting his nuts in the volcano as we speak.
Even though everyone seemed reasonably sure I didn’t do anything wrong, I still felt a twinge of guilt over the entire thing. I knew Long-ju’s twinge was like being impaled on the Empire State Building compared to my twinge. I was virtually certain that’s why he stayed holed up in his cave. He’d put himself in prison. The fact that the emerald dragon had been imprisoned in the volcano for the original murder didn’t balance everything out. About a dozen people had died in his rampage and he knew they were all as precious as his beloved Lihua, even if he didn’t know them and he’d loved her more than his own life. He knew that and it hurt him. My part in it hurt me. The suffering bound us together.
“Chen-li is poised to accept these peace keepers in exchange for remaining in power.”
“So he’s a bastard,” I said. “What am I supposed to steal?”
“The key to the hell realms,” said Daiyu.
“Oh,” I said. At least I think I said that. It may have been something stronger. “I thought it would be the agreement paper or something.” The dragon tattoo on Daiyu’s face had what I thought was a sour expression. That thing was more expressive than she was, though I was never sure if it was just my imagination.
“No peace keeper will step foot on the island as long as any of the Kindred are here,” Derkein said. There was hidden power behind his words. He said them softly, but you could almost feel the violence back there. “Therefore they have awakened the Death of Dragons to frighten us off or kill us off if we won’t leave.”
“That part seems to have worked,” I said. “The scared part, I mean.”
Derkein’s expression was hot enough to ignite paper. “The Kindred will return when they are needed,” he said.
I decided that topic of conversation needed to be dropped.
“So what does the key to the hell realms look like?” I asked.
“A bronze paintbrush,” said Daiyu.
How Chinese, I thought. It wouldn’t be a ring of power or a sword of fire or the iron fist of thunder. That would be vulgar and uncouth. The pen is mightier than the sword. It would be a paintbrush.
“Okay,” I said. “So where do they keep it? How do I get at it?”
My last question was greeted by profound dragon silence. When it comes to profound, dragons don’t mess around.
“Though the demon exists to kill dragons, crushing a human is the work of a moment. Humans are very fragile,” Long-ju said. There was that touch of sadness again. I wished he’d stop saying that. Lihua was wonderfully, fragilely, delightfully human and it’s very sad she’s dead. On the other hand my own delightfully human fragility was on the table. We don’t need to keep bringing it up.
And then another profound silence fell. Remember the previous profound silence from a little while ago? That was noisy compared to this one.
“Wow and I thought this was going to be hard.” From their expressions I saw they were having no problem deducing the sarcasm in my remark.
“I’d like you to make a first attempt tonight,” Daiyu said. She stood like we were going to leave right now.
“Wait a minute,” I said. She stopped very still. I didn’t have the least doubt that she knew what I was going to say next. “We haven’t discussed my payment for this little adventure.”
Derkein’s glance was full of daggers. I was glad he didn’t have a dragon tattoo. It would probably be breathing fire. Daiyu’s dragon looked like it was holding its breath.
“Saving the lives of all of the Kindred and the freedom of every person in Shaolong should be payment enough,” Derkein growled. He was a cop. He didn’t like me. It was like a prejudice.
“Yeah, that’s a good start,” I said, not taking my eyes off Daiyu. “But I want my grandfather’s sword back.”
I think my mouth dropped open. I didn’t expect that. “You want me to do something impossible to save an entire race of dragons and you aren’t going to give me the sword?” I may have said it louder than I needed to.
“No.” She didn’t raise her voice or her gaze.
Derkein and Long-ju had fastened their gaze on Daiyu. I think they were surprised, but it was hard to say.
“Damn you, BITCH!” I roared and jumped at her. Looking back I don’t know what I was thinking. What was I going to do if I grabbed her? But my mind went up in flames and all I wanted was to tear her head off. Really? Over a sword? Well, THAT sword. It was mine and I wanted it back. The sheer wanting of that sword was something so thick and tangible I could bite it off.
An arm snaked around my neck, hard and immovable. His breath on my neck was Death Valley hot. “Stop it!” Derkein shook me. “You will not speak to any dragon that way. I will — ”
Daiyu took his wrist and easily pulled it away from me. He let her.
“When the Death of Dragons is sealed from this earth,” she said. “The sword will be yours again.”
The same thought kept rolling through my mind. The sword is always mine. Sometimes it’s not in my hands, but it’s always mine. There’s no physical, real, solid way it could be mine “again.” Variations on those phrases kept repeating over and over. It’s mine. It can’t be mine “again.” Eventually it wasn’t my own Angie-Tanaka-mind voice talking. It was Poppy. She was saying those words in her high little voice. It’s mine, mine, mine!!!
Noticing that twisted my stomach into knots.
Leaving Long-Ju and Derkein in the kitchen, Daiyu and I went to my little room above Mrs. Chin’s tea shop doubled up on my motorbike. Usually when someone rides behind you on a motorbike they wrap their arms around your waist. She didn’t do that. I have no idea how she managed to not slide off but I figured it was dragon-related.
And I was glad she didn’t. I was still fighting the urge to slug her. It was mine, dammit. Mine, mine, mine. Poppy’s voice. I had to stop thinking that. Just think about how to get into the hotel where the ambassador was staying. Focus on that. I could think about that in my own voice.
There were three ways to get into my room. I never live anywhere that has only one entrance and exit. I just haven’t lived a lifestyle that supports such a silly living configuration.
Mrs. Chin had an apartment next door to my room. My room may have once been a second bedroom because there was a connecting door. Since Mrs. Chin was often chemically impaired it would make a good exit and she had a balcony. It wouldn’t be an easy climb if I ever tried to enter or exit that way, but I could do it. I’m a good climber. It’s an important job skill. The least desirable way to get into and out of my room was the entry way next to the tea shop. Anybody and his brother-in-law would be able to see you enter and leave that way.
My favorite of the three ways to enter my room was the little door off the alley that led to the basement. You go through the basement and then the back stairs led down to the kitchen or up to the second-floor hall. Not even Mrs. Chin knew when I was home and when I wasn’t, not that she paid attention or could remember. As a landlady these were wonderful bonus features.
I parked the bike in the alley and led Daiyu to the basement door.
The basement was as dank and undisturbed looking as always. There were hardly any rats. The back stairs creaked and were a little claustrophobic. They were barely wider than I am and obviously intended to just be for servants or worker-bees. I was pretty sure this building had once been a private residence. Maybe sometime in the last century. Or the century before that. Now it was in a run-down part of town with a few legitimate businesses sandwiched between beer joints and massage parlors. They weren’t close enough to the harbor to be waterfront dives. They were second-tier lowlife.
The tiny slip of paper I’d put in the door jam was still in place. Nobody had breached my Fortress of Solitude.
Mrs. Chin was playing the radio super loud next door. She was singing along at the top of her voice. It sounded like a bucket of cats were drowning. Daiyu glanced at her door as we went by.
“She drinks,” I said. “But she’s very nice,” I added.
Daiyu gasped when she saw my room. That little sharp in-draw of breath reminded me that it was totally wrong for her to be here. She didn’t get this room or anything in it. This was all my stuff.
My room is like a museum. I warmed when I saw the pretty things I had stored there. I’m sure some of them will eventually be sold to make room for new pretty things but it always made me feel comfortable, almost sleepy, when I was home. Some of the stuff, like some genuine Japanese woodcuts and a couple of cinnabar boxes, were valuable. Most of it was just for fun. Embroidered wall hangings, soapstone statues of pretty ladies in sweeping robes. A cut crystal Buddha was especially nice. I had all of it displayed on little shelves and all over the surfaces of the furniture. It made a colorful and inviting room. Or so I thought and my opinion was the only one that counted.
I had a little dokusan stand for Grandfather’s sword. Usually it was the focal point of the room, but now it was a barren, empty spot. It made my heart ache to look at it, so I tried not to.
When Grandfather died I grieved for him but I was glad because I thought the vigilante killings would stop. But they didn’t stop. My father had taken up the cause. So I stole the sword and ran. I’ve been running ever since. I know someday my father will catch up to me. Someday. Not today.
I noticed Daiyu studied a photo of a Buddha statue. It wasn’t worth anything. I took it for the frame which turned out to be gold leaf, worthless even in the cheeziest pawn shop. It was kind of pretty so I didn’t feel like throwing it away.
“Don’t touch anything,” I said.
Daiyu backed away from the photo and looked around while I stuffed burglary tools in my pockets.
“This room speaks volumes about you,” said Daiyu.
“Tell it to shut the hell up,” I said. I was trying to decide if I needed gloves.
“You don’t keep everything you steal,” she said.
“No, of course not. The point of it is the money.” I wrapped several yards of cord around my waist and covered it with a slightly looser tee shirt. Would I need a grappling hook? They were kind of cumbersome to carry along. I decided against it.
“But you could have gotten quite a lot of money for this,” she said pointing to a cinnabar box without touching it. I was glad she didn’t try to open it. It was full of M&Ms.
“I like it,” I said. “If I like something I keep it. I can always sell it later.”
She regarded me thoughtfully. This was a soft gaze that wasn’t quite as intense as usual.
“When you arrived on the island you owned almost nothing,” she said. “Which means you can cast off possessions at will.”
“I had a bunch of diamonds,” I said. “That’s not nothing.” I still had those diamonds. They were in the ginger jar on top of the refrigerator. I almost added “And I had a sword.” There was still bubbling anger down in the bottom of my mind and I needed to keep it down there for a while.
“You haven’t cast off the diamonds yet,” she said glancing at the ginger jar.
“No I haven’t,” I said. “Let’s get out of here.” I held the door open for her and we left. Mrs. Chen had ripped into a gusty rendition of something that sounded like “Wait for the Wagon,” but with a Chinese twist.
The ambassador was staying in the Noble House hotel. It was a five-story affair in the business district downtown. It made most of its money as a convention center. We had that remote desert island vibe going on and businessmen, mostly from Shanghai, Macao and Tokyo liked to congregate there. Their wives helped drive the local economy. The hotel had all the modern conveniences and, in fact, all traces of local color were carefully removed from every detail. You could fall asleep in one of the rooms and almost convince yourself you were in a Motel 6 in the outskirts of Los Angeles. It was the best place in town to get a burger and fries.
Noble House was where all really rich people stayed which is why I was somewhat familiar with it. Photos of me crawling onto a second story balcony were on page 32 of my dossier.
According to Derkein, the ambassador and his thugs were in the penthouse suite. I had him call and get me a room on the fourth floor. His personal assistant — the real one named Mr. Wen — would meet us there with the key card.
Therefore I parked the motorbike in the back at the end of the row of them that almost certainly belonged to the hotel staff.
“Hey! You can’t park there!” a voice called from the back door. With the grace of a ballerina, Daiyu turned to the voice — a cook, by the look of him.
“Yes, we can park here,” she said levelly.
He gaped at her. Dragons don’t really exist. That’s the general consensus. That’s the local mythology. But we all know mythology isn’t true. He saw what she was and went a little pale.
“Yes, of course,” he said and ducked back through the door slamming it shut after him.
“Glad he saw it our way,” I said.
We entered by a side door. No doorman. I didn’t expect one.
The pair of us got a few stares from the hotel patrons, most of whom were either in suits and ties or Bermuda shorts and loud Hawaiian shirts. I didn’t fit in. Of course, neither did Daiyu. She looked like a Yakuza cat burglar. I looked like a hitchhiker.
We made our way to the fourth floor. Mr. Wen answered to my knock. He was a pinch-faced man with a sharp nose. He was thin and had sallow skin. And he clearly liked me less than Derkein did. He fawned over Daiyu.
“Good evening, Lady Daiyu!” he said as if I weren’t standing there. “The chief inspector has instructed me to assist you in any way I can.”
“Thank you Mr. Wen,” Daiyu said. “Is the ambassador in his room?”
He smiled. It didn’t improve his toady looks. “Yes. The Prime Minister left only a few minutes ago.”
“Is there a way to tell when the ambassador goes down to dinner?” I said.
You would have thought the furniture had suddenly become animated. He gave me a sharp glance and then back at Daiyu. “Is this wise?” he said softly.
“Answer the question,” Daiyu said levelly. The rebuke in her voice made me a tiny bit less mad at her.
Mr. Wen went satisfyingly pale. “Yes, Lady,” he said.
In order to make sure the ambassador was out of the way for a while, Derkein had arranged to have dinner with him. Considering the size of Mr. Jabba the Hutt I would have liked to sit in on that just to watch.
But I was getting to steal something, so I was content. I went out on the balcony and looked around. I was going to get into the ambassador’s rooms with a conveniently supplied pass key card. I think if stealing was always this easy I probably wouldn’t do it.
Out on the balcony, I looked up at the floor above. Naturally, it had a balcony also. I regretted not bringing the grappling hook. Climbing the thin cord I had wrapped around my waist wouldn’t have been easy but … it would have felt more normal. Going in the front door wasn’t my style.
Mr. Wen went to keep lookout. I spent the next half hour or so pacing around all the rooms. Daiyu spent it meditating. I should have done that, it might have calmed me down.
Then three quick knocks on the door told us the coast was clear. Daiyu rose to her feet in a single fluid motion.
“I work alone,” I said.
She gave me one of those bottomless, endless glances.
“No one works alone,” she said.
“No, you don’t.”
“Trust me, I do.”
“Trust me, you don’t.”
“Wait here!” I snapped and swept past her out the door. I didn’t expect that tactic to work, but to my absolute amazement, she didn’t follow me.
It was a relief. I took the service stairs up to the penthouse floor. The top floor lobby was way nicer than any other part of the hotel I’d seen. This was less like Motel 6 and a lot more like Vegas. Lots of mirrors, Berber carpet and wood paneling.
I smiled. This felt all wrong, going in the front door this way, but gosh it was fun! I knew there were things in there that were going to find their way into my pockets. I just hoped I got to keep whatever wasn’t demon-related.
As I shoved the key card into its slot I realized that when I had the magic paintbrush I could use it to buy back the sword. That thought made my heart flutter a little.
The penthouse suite smelled like money. It was decorated in the same Vegas-y style as the lobby. There was no immediately obvious paint brush. In fact, the place was fairly unoccupied looking. There was an Ipad on the coffee table next to a pair of very expensive looking sunglasses. I didn’t understand paying $500 for a pair of sunglasses and neither did the pawnshop owners I frequented, so they were the equivalent of worthless. I might be able to get $50 for the Ipad but it was too big to go in my pocket.
I went through all the drawers in the room, two in a side table, three in a desk against one wall. I found a Bible in Chinese that was probably a gift from the Gideons. That was the sitting room. Another room was a bedroom, much smaller. It had a few clothes in the drawers, but nothing interesting. I took a pair of cuff links that were probably worthless. In the second bedroom I found more men’s clothes in the drawers, two empty suitcases and a picture of a woman with two teenaged boys. Okay, one of the thugs was a family man. That was cute. The frame was cheap plastic so I didn’t touch it. This guy didn’t even bother with cuff links.
I’d saved the ambassador’s room for last. The balcony doors stood open. For penthouse money you get a wonderful view. The harbor stretched out down below full of little boats and twinkling lights.
Color me not shocked that it was a king-sized bed. But that was the only thing I noticed before I saw it.
Chinese calligraphy brushes are nearly always beautiful even when they are made of relatively plain bamboo or wood. This one was bronze as Daiyu had said. But it was ancient, greeny dull bronze with gold and silver dragons coiled around it. The brush part looked like it might be badger fur.
It hovered above an ink stone. The brush and the ink stone — as beautiful as they were — would have been unremarkable other than the fact that they both glowed with an internal light. That and the hovering thing. It just hovered there vertically like a steady hand was about to dip it in the ink. There were no wires and no reason for it to be doing that. You can tell when things are old. I don’t know how to explain it, but you can. Some objects have been around so long they seemed to have soaked up the touch of hundreds of hands.
This brush had that look. It was beautiful but the hundreds of hands had belonged to evil people or evil THINGS and that meant as beautifully as it had been cast, the patina of green bronze had a poisonous feel and the delicately detailed dragons coiled around it didn’t take the curse off it.
I hesitated. I really, really, really didn’t want to touch it. Really. I’m not kidding. I wasn’t at all sure I could make myself do it. I might be persuaded to put my hand on it if I had an asbestos oven mitt. And well…maybe not even then. Shit. I didn’t have anything asbestos in my pocket.
I did have a pair of pliers and I decided to use them as tongs. I was digging them out when it suddenly became a moot point.
“Hello … Daisy? Is that correct?”
I jumped and emitted a little shriek.
The ambassador smiled like a split watermelon. He filled up the entire doorway and the two thugs, Mr. Hatchet Face and Mr. Humvee, stood on either side of him with giant canons pointed at me. Mr. Humvee had a nasty bruise around his left ear. The weapons were probably just ordinary automatic pistols but in my experience guns grow a lot when they are aimed in your direction.
“Daisy will do,” I said.
“I see you have a good eye for antiques. Beautiful is it not?”
“Yes, if you like corroded hunks of bronze that radiate evil.”
The Ambassador roared with laughter. The giant canons didn’t look the slightest bit amused. They didn’t even jiggle.
“Angela Rosarita Tanaka,” the ambassador said, still looking like this was entertaining. I’m sure it was. For him. “You are a thief and several police departments would like to get their hands on you.”
It’s nice to be popular. Sometimes. “Good for them,” I said lamely. “Everybody should have goals.”
His little piggy eyes sparkled. Mr. Humvee looked like he’d dearly love to plug me. Mr. Hatchet Face just looked bored.
“So call the cops and get it over with,” I said.
“Derkein is the cops as you so colorfully put it. He sent you. He’s downstairs waiting for me to come to dinner.”
I didn’t for a second believe this guy was psychic so I made a guess. “Mr. Wen works for you.”
“Indirectly. He works for Mr. Chen-li.”
“Who is in your pocket.”
The ambassador shrugged his meaty shoulders. “He’s in the pocket of my employer.”
“Your employer being the Chinese government.” I was stalling. I couldn’t possibly care less about who worked for what or who. All I cared about was what was going to happen between me and those gigantic guns with their barrels still gaping at me.
He tilted his head at me as if I’d scored a point.
“They can’t have this island,” I said, still playing for time. “You don’t know what you are dealing with.”
“Do you mean the dragons? They all belong in a museum.”
I said something very bad about his parentage and bathing habits. That got him chuckling again.
“Unfortunately,” he said when he got his levity under control. “They are the last of a kind that are about to become extinct.”
His confidence in the truth of that remark was complete. It rattled me. I was pissed off at Daiyu. Monk Tien was a sanctimonious irritant and I thought Derkein was an oily politician. But these were my peeps he was so casually consigning to the dust heap of history.
“I know you think you have some kind of weapon you can use against them, but it’s not going to do you any good. They’ll stop you”
“No,” he said, his little eyes sparkling with pinpoints of fire. “They are dead and so are you.”
“I’ll tell them you said ‘hello’,” I said backing toward the balcony door.
“Please don’t move,” said the ambassador, suddenly not amused at all. “I wouldn’t want you to get blood all over the nice carpeting.”
“I wouldn’t want that either,” I said. I tried to make it sound like a brash joke. I don’t think it quite came out that way.
Before I could be even be surprised by it, the ambassador grabbed my neck. Fast, unnaturally fast. One heartbeat he’d been across the room and the next, I had his big meaty fingers holding me under the chin. His hand felt like steel bars covered with loose soft squishy stuff. Heat radiated into me. Not real heat, I think, just a sense of something dangerous and probably lethal that my mind translated into heat.
He wasn’t squeezing hard. He could snap my neck or shut off my windpipe but he wasn’t doing either one. Still, my head went all wonky. Scrambled. The room filled with a red haze. Then the haze swirled and yes emerged. Then teeth. It was all thin and transparent like it was a projection on cellophane.
I tried to whimper. My throat didn’t work well.
Through the transparent monster I saw the ambassador’s minions suddenly get a sort of shocked look on their faces. They looked at each other and then holstered the bazookas. Behind them something glittered.
Not like I really cared about all that. The monster was filling my mind and it hurt.
“Where is the white dragon?” It was a really, really big voice. A satanic voice. It filled me with fiery urgency.
I tried to scream again and kicked the ambassador’s shins. I doubt I hurt him. I’m not even sure I was actually connecting with anything I just needed to do something because the demon was eating me alive. It mattered less and less if Jabba broke my neck.
“White dragon…” said the urgent, crazy and hellish big voice. All I wanted was away. All I could feel was crackling pain. There was nothing I could tell the demon about the White Dragon even if I knew anything. I’d heard his name once and couldn’t even remember that. I’d never seen him and I wasn’t entirely sure he was actually alive. That point had never been made clear to me. So even if I could be persuaded to tell this monster anything I had nothing to tell.
I wasn’t going to do anything but try to get away. He was evil, but this wasn’t Sauron. This wasn’t the Joker or Moriarty. This was roiling sickness. This was every bad moment you’ve ever experienced in your life rolled into one.
Then a roar filled the world like a thunder crack and the floor was pulled out from under my feet. When the ambassador fell, he let go of my neck. My whole head blasted with pain and the room still looked red but the monster was gone like its cellophane had melted. Gone. It was gone and only I was there in my head. I don’t like sharing my head.
The ambassador lay not far away, a loose pile of flesh. He seemed to be struggling to get to his feet.
Then the thing that was glittering earlier became more obvious. The building was on fire. Flames were spreading along the walls, surrounding me and the bad guys. Smoke was beginning to be a problem.
Mr. Humvee and Hatchet Face grabbed Jabba and dragged him toward the door. The fire seemed to be running after them, chasing them.
Bang! The whole floor shook. I rolled over on my side and saw the bronze brush was inches from my nose. Crap.
Dammit! Damn. Damn. I was going to have to take it. I was going to have to touch it. I was going to have to put my hand on it.
So I did. I snatched it up. A roar deafened me, shaking the walls. It was a cry of agony that would rip the heart out of a stone. If stones had hearts. You get the idea.
All I wanted to do was throw the brush as far away from me as I could, but I didn’t do that. Instead I stuffed it into my pocket next to the pliers and burglary tools and staggered to my feet. The room was heating up. Little tongues of fire licked along the wall and the air was thick with smoke. There was nothing useful to breathe. I had to get out of there. Smoke is way more dangerous than fire.
I ran to the balcony. There air was much nicer out there but the fire was really getting going back inside. I started unwrapping the cord around my waist like a wild woman.
The fire was eating the walls like napalm eating paper. The furniture whoofed into flame. The drapes on the balcony doors were beginning to catch. I worked frantically to get the rope off me. When the last of it finally dropped to the floor I snapped the carabiner to the balcony rail and tossed the rope over. I went over the railing after it. I was just getting myself adjusted to rappel down when the penthouse exploded.
What on earth in there would explode? I hadn’t seen anything but hotel room in there. The building rocked and I swung from my little slender cord. A flaming chunk of what I think was the bed blew out the balcony doors and soared gracefully and beautifully out into the night.
Time to go. I rapidly started to rappel down. I don’t like doing it, but when you have a raging inferno going on over your head it’s not that bad. It’s kind of cool, actually because I was moving pretty fast. Then something else exploded and flames blasted out thirty feet from the balcony. Taking the railing with it.
And then the balcony rail and I were headed for the ground.
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