She gasped for breath -- the shock had winded her -- and looked at Patrick's pink, sweating face. But this was no time to feel queasy. Erica took a deep breath and then took stock.
"Look " we've got to get out of here before van Slooten gets back," she said. "Now!"
"But how?" whimpered Patrick. "I can't even get out of this gimp suit!"
Erica looked around her at the tiny cell. In addition to the standard four walls, floor, ceiling and door was an air vent and a small, high window. She tried desperately to remember the action movies she had sceptically sat through, convinced she would be more capable than the bimbo heroines. Now she had a chance to prove it. Not just a chance - her life depended on it.
In Con Air prisoners had used nails hidden in their flesh to pick the locks on their handcuffs. Too late for that. What about that all-singing, all-dancing female prison movie where a chick used a hairpin? Erica emptied her pockets and started to laugh. As well as a used tissue she found a hair pin and sample sized sachet of the Bee Yourself royal jelly that had cost her her Cosmopolitan job. Suddenly it was blindingly clear. And sickeningly clear.
"Patrick, please stop crying. Please," she said. "Listen carefully to me. I am going to have to do something that you are going to find very, very enjoyable, but I don't want you to take it personally, OK?"
He nodded obediently.
"Turn around," she barked.
Erica quickly ripped open the sachet and smeared it on Patrick's arms and wrists in an effort to budge the ropes. After about five minutes, they were off.
"Now lift me up so I can reach the window," she said, thanking her lucky stars she was wearing opaque stockings that day. Standing on Patrick's head, she pushed the window. It was locked, or stuck. She got out her hairpin and gently put it in the lock, holding one end steady while jiggling the other, grateful her years of forgetting keys had served her well. The window opened. She started to climb out.
"Hey! What about me?" Patrick plaintively cried.
"I'll get help then come back for you."
She looked out the window and saw to her relief the ground was only a few feet below. As she wriggled out she heard Patrick scream. Suddenly there was a painfully tight grip on her ankle.
"Not so fast, you evil vixen!" It was van Slooten. For not the first time that day, Erica was really frightened. But this time she could smell freedom. Once again she took out the Bee Yourself jelly and dribbled the last dregs on her legs and managed to wrestle out of van Slooten's grip before falling heavily on the ground below.
"I was never good at graceful exits," she thought to herself.
She didn't know where she was, but she knew what to do. Whipping out her mobile phone she called Rex Carter, the winsome host of Channel 9's News at 4am For Insomniacs and recent ex-flingee.
"Rex's house of pain."
"Rex, it's me, Erica. Listen, I just escaped from an underground cell where this crazy guy had locked up me and Patrick and now I need to get into your work to do some research on the Finnish mafia. By the way, you were great the other night."
"Why didn't you just call me from the cell?" Rex asked.
"Oh yeah, I didn't . . . Look there's no time for details. I'll meet you at the place near the thing where we went that time." This was a line from one of Erica's favourite films, Broadcast News. It was a test she always tried on potential men. If they knew what she meant (and no one ever had), it would mean he was THE MAN.
OK, so scratch Rex from the list. He still had his uses.