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THERE IS A SPACE in every building between what’s called the drop ceiling and the building’s structural ceiling. It’s called the plenum space, which is most commonly used to hide such things as wiring and piping, and to help with ventilation.
It can also be used, if the occasion calls for it, to hide a man dressed as a piñata.
The Mighty Piñata was unaware that the space had a name. And frankly, if asked, he wouldn’t care. All that mattered was that he could use it to move about the hospital unseen, which was paramount to his plan to find a pair of evil doers and the walkie-talkies they carried with them.
The plan, he wasn’t too modest to admit, was genius in its simplicity.
First, he was to find two walkie-talkies.
Second, he would then retrieve said walkie-talkies that he found during Step One.
Third, give one of the walkie-talkies to the police officer outside.
This third step was the most important. It had the most opportunities for slip ups. For example, if he was to give both of the walkie-talkies to the police officer, then he would not have one of his own in which to communicate. He couldn’t afford a mistake like that. Not when the stakes were this high.
I like it when the stakes are high, he thought. But also medium rare with a bit of butter.
The Piñata crawled along the plenum space with no sense of where he was going. But then, he didn’t need to know, Lady Justice would guide him.
Had anyone been in the plenum space with him, they would have heard the him humming as he crawled along. It was the kind of tune John Williams would hum in his sleep. The perfect melody to go along with exciting events such as swinging across a bottomless pit with a whip, blowing up evil space stations, or running from dinosaurs. It was exactly the kind of tune, in his opinion, that would play as our hero crawled along the plenum space of a building under siege.
The Piñata paused, both the humming and the crawling, and lifted a ceiling tile just enough so that he could see where he might be within the hospital. He knew that he was still on the third floor, but beyond that he knew nothing. Below him was a hallway. Ahead of him, in the plenum space, was a wall. A dead end.
He moved to the wall and put his ear to it. He could hear the hum of machinery and something large moving beyond. It moved up, then down. Up, and then down. He listened for ten minutes. Up, and then down. Up. And then down.
The elevator. He gave himself a mental high five.
He heard voices below him and took another peek.
Two men in red jumpsuits approached the elevator. Each one of them were armed with a rifle. One of them pushed the elevator button.
“You think all this is going to take much longer?” asked the one on the right, the one who had pushed the button. He had red hair.
“I hope so,” said the one the left. He was bald. “I hope we go all night. I don’t know about you, but I’m having a ball. I love pushing around sick people, they don’t have the strength to fight back.”
Beyond the color of their hair, the Piñata could not pick out any other distinguishing characteristics for the two soldiers. After all, he was looking down on them from behind and couldn’t see their faces.
“Oh I know,” said the red head. “I enjoy that too. I mean, I like the looks on their faces when I wave my gun around.”
“Yes,” said the bald man, his voice full of an exuberant enthusiasm that, considering the subject, offended the Piñata to no end. “Those looks are so priceless. The fear, the confusion. Priceless.”
The Piñata slid the ceiling tile aside and dropped down onto the floor behind the two men. One advantage to wearing the piñata suit was the thick cushioning in the feet. It buffered the sound of his feet hitting the floor.
“I agree,” said the red head. “I just hope we’re back in time for America’s Got Talent. The finale is tonight.”
“Ah, crap,” said the bald man. “I’d almost forgotten about that. I hope the comedian wins.”
Standing behind the two men it was clear that the bald man was the larger of the two.
“The comedian?” said the red head. “Come on. The comedian sucks. Everyone knows that the guy who breaks stuff with his head is going to win.”
“What? Are you serious!?” The bald man shook his head. “How is that a Las Vegas act? Two hours of some guy breaking stuff with his head? Talk about an exercise in stupidity.”
“Whatever, dude,” said the red head. “He’s the best and you know it.”
“I rather liked the kid that played the bongos with his feet,” said the Piñata.
“Yeah, he was cool,” said the red head, turning to address the new participant in the conversation. “But really, how far can you go with a talent like that?”
“How far can you go breaking stuff with your head?” Asked the Piñata.
“Right!?” said the bald man, gesturing from the Piñata to the red head to point out that the new guy got it. “Thank you.”
The two men turned back to the elevator. The Piñata waited for the inevitable realization to come over the soldiers. While it hadn’t taken long, it took longer than he’d expected, and he had begun to question the thought process behind whomever had recruited the two men when it simultaneously dawned on the soldiers that there was a man dressed in a piñata suit standing behind them.
Then, as expected, they both spun, rifles at the ready.
But, as the previous paragraph indicated, the Mighty Piñata had been expecting such a reaction, and was therefore prepared. Before either soldier could fully bring their rifles to bear, the Piñata cracked each across the head with his baseball bat and then watched in satisfaction as the men crumpled like a pair of marionettes with cut strings.
It was at that point the elevator dinged and the doors slid open. The elevator was, thankfully, empty and so far no other soldiers had appeared, so the Mighty Piñata dragged both men into the waiting elevator. Then, holding the doors open with a foot, he took the walkie-talkies from each of the men, pushed the button for the lobby on the elevator keypad, and stepped back into the hallway.
“That’s four,” he said aloud. “The two from my room, and these two.” He counted it out on his fingers. “That makes four to fall beneath the weight of justice.”
He looked up into the ceiling. More specifically the opening he’d dropped out of. It was too high. He would not be able to jump high enough to get back into what he was not aware was called the plenum space. Then, giving the rest of us a moment to recover from reading such a complicated sentence, he thought the problem through. There had to be other options.
If he had a ladder he could get back up into the ceiling. That’s how he’d gotten there in the first place. A ladder left abandoned in a hallway. He looked around. No ladders.
He’d left his Piñata Stilts at home, so that option was out.
How about a trampoline? Surely a trampoline would work. In fact, he knew it would. A trampoline was precisely what he needed.
He looked around once again. No trampolines in sight. He frowned in disappointment. There was never a trampoline around when you needed one. Sure, they were all over the place when all you wanted was a swimming pool, but the moment you needed a trampoline, they all disappeared.
At the other end of the hall was a door with a pictograph depicting stairs.
“Stairs,” he said aloud. “Not as exciting as crawling around in the ceiling, but they’ll do.”
He sighed, shouldered his bat, and made his way across the hall and down the stairs.
And so, his prize won, the next step for our intrepid hero was to get one of the walkie-talkies to the officer out in front of the hospital. Which he will surely try to do in the next, exciting chapter.
- Will our intrepid hero get one of the walkie-talkies to the officer out front of the hospital?
- Will the two soldiers be punished for their failures?
- Who wants to see the Piñata Stilts in action?
Find out the answers to one of these questions in the next exciting installment of: The Mighty Piñata!
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