“I’m glad the bitch is dead,” Mr. Jenson shouts, spraying spit on Lyle’s face.
“You’re an evil man,” Lyle shouts back, his biceps bulging. “She’s his mother, for god’s sake!”
“I’m his mother!” Mrs. Jenson mewls, tears running down her face. “I’m the one who raised him.”
“That’s right, Catherine,” my mother says soothingly. “You’re his mother.”
“That bitch is nothing more than a baby maker,” Mr. Jenson says nastily. “Put in a penis and out pops a kid. Nothing but a whore.”
“Keep your voice down,” I say, furious at his histrionics. “Do you want Paris to hear you?”
“I don’t give a good hot damn,” Mr. Jenson declares, pushing a finger in Lyle’s chest. “She deserved what she got.”
“Listen, you,” Lyle sputters, making a grab for Mr. Jenson’s finger.
“Oh for god sake’s,” I sigh loudly, fed up with the whole scene. “Mom, can I have the keys to your car? I’m going to the gym to work out.”
“This late?” My mother protests. It’s nine-thirty, and it makes her nervous when I travel alone late at night—especially after the last few months.
“I gotta get out of here. I want to check out the gym one more time, anyway.” I pull my cell phone out of my duffel and wave it at my mother. “Look, I’m armed and dangerous.” I shove it in my jacket pocket so I have easy access.
“All right.” She reluctantly hands me her keys. “Be careful,” she warns. I breeze out of the hospital and drive to the gym. There are only two clients, both of whom are wearing headphones, and Jimmy is at the front desk.
“You’re here,” I say in surprise. “I thought you were vacationing in the Midwest somewhere.”
“I was,” Jimmy said, scowling at me, his arms folded across his chest. “How’s Paris?” His tone is more aggrieved than concerned, as if he’s put out because he’s a worker short.
“He’s better,” I say, beaming. “He’s out of his coma and breathing on his own.”
“That’s good news,” Jimmy replies, his lips smiling but his eyes straying to his computer monitor. There is something bothering him, but I can’t tell what it is. The phone rings; he answers it. “’N Sound Shape,” he says in bright tones. I take a quick peek at his monitor while he’s chatting. There’s an email from firstname.lastname@example.org, dated yesterday morning. The address is vaguely familiar, and the email is right there. What could I do but read it?
I have to talk to you. Today. I’m concerned about, well, I’m sure you know about what. Or whom, should I say? I hope to God I’m wrong, but I’m terribly afraid I’m right. Let’s meet tonight. Call me.
As I’m reading the email, two things simultaneously happen. Jimmy turns and catches me reading the email, and Roger bounds across the room, waving his hand in the air. His normally smiling face is set.
“Benedict, I have to talk to you.”
Benedict. Eggs. Trader. Trader=traitor. Benedict. Benny, B. Jimmy is Paris’s father, and Jimmy is the one who tried to kill Paris. Paris’s subconscious remembered, even if he didn’t. I move away from the desk, but Jimmy is watching me closely and grabs me by the arm. There is something hard pressed into the small of my back. Having been on the business end of one of these things more times than I care to remember, I freeze. I try to convey to my body that we have to do something, but it freezes, too. Roger stops in his tracks approximately fifteen feet away, the anger in his face giving way to shock.
“What the hell?” Roger asks, his mouth dropping open.
“Stay back or I’ll shoot,” Jimmy hisses, his eyes darting from side to side. The other two clients are minding their own business, working out like good little drones. Their headphones keep them oblivious to the real-life drama unfolding in front of them. Roger, who can’t see the gun, takes one tentative step towards me. Jimmy jams the gun harder in my back, causing me to yelp in pain. “Shut up, you fucking bitch. I knew I was going to have take care of you sooner or later, nosy bitch.” The fact that he carries a gun with him isn’t lost on me. He’s backing towards the door, the gun pressed firmly in my back.
“Bene—Jimmy, don’t do this,” I squeak, earning me another jab. This time, it’s so hard, I know it’s going to bruise. Great. Just when my jaw is beginning to heal.
“I didn’t say you could talk, bitch,” Jimmy growls, any trace of heartiness gone. He stops as we’re just in front of the door. He takes one dispassionate look at Roger, then quickly shoots him in the knee. Roger goes down with a shout. The gun is back in place before I can even react. “That should keep him busy.” Jimmy shoves me out the door and hurries me to a Range Rover. He takes his belt off his jeans with some difficulty as he has to do it one-handed, then ties my hands firmly in front of me. This is also something I’m familiar with. He shoves me into the passenger seat, making sure he locks the door before racing around to the other side. I frantically try to unlock the door, but am unsuccessful. Jimmy rewards me with a backhand across the face as he clamors into his side of the Range Rover. He’s muttering to himself as he starts the car.
“Where are you taking me?” I finally muster up the courage to ask. I wish he had buckled me in, but I’m not in the position to ask.
“Shut up, bitch,” Jimmy says, waving the gun at me. I shut up, more because I want him to focus on the road than because I’m worried that he’s going to shoot me. As sleep deprived as I’ve been, I can’t summon up the fear that I normally would be feeling. The silence must be getting to him because he starts talking. “You couldn’t leave it alone, could you? Had to keep poking your nose where it didn’t belong. Do you know how hard I’ve worked to establish myself? I wasn’t going to let that bitch ruin me.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I ask in exasperation. If I’m going to die, I want to die with my curiosity satisfied. “Why did you kill Ursula? Why did you try to kill Paris and Robin? You don’t get any money out of it.” He glares at me but refuses to answer.
“I can still fix this,” he mumbles as he drives. I have no idea where he’s going, nor do I particularly care; I’m trying to figure out a way out of this, but nothing is occurring to me off the top of my head. I’m rattling around in my seat, trying not to fall flat on my face. “Janet and the boys never have to know. Nobody has to know.”
“You left a live witness!” I exclaim, then wished I hadn’t. I don’t want him to return and kill Roger and perhaps the two clients to tie up loose ends.
“Why couldn’t you let it go? If it wasn’t for you, everything would be fine.” He reiterates, his lower lip pushed out. I stare at his profile in disbelief. He thinks it’s my fault. I fold my own lips, not wanting to talk to him. If he’s not going to tell me why he killed Ursula as well as attempted to kill Paris and Robin, then I don’t want to listen to him blather. In fact, he’s making me ill. He keeps driving; I’m lost before I know it. I don’t have the best sense of direction to begin with especially since I don’t drive, and now it’s impossible for me to tell where I am. He stops with a screech, hastily shifting into park. I pitch forward and bang my head on the windshield; it fucking hurts. He shuts down the engine and pockets the keys before reaching across me and unlocking the passenger door. I curse him in my mind as my head starts bleeding.
“Stay there,” he warns me, waving his gun as a threat. I could have told him I wasn’t going to try anything stupid—at least not until I get out of the car. We are on some deserted road with no one around us. There are no houses, no buildings, no lights—in other words, no civilization. However, I would take my chances in the wilderness over my chance of escaping a bullet.
I’m ready. As he opens the door, I kick with all my might. With a squawk of surprise, he goes flying as the door smacks him solidly in the nose. I slide out of my seat and race over to his prone body. He’s not moving, but I can’t be certain he’s nothing more than temporarily dazed. I start kicking the shit out of him until I’m sure he’s not going anywhere. I see the gun lying next to him on the ground and kick it as well. I watch in grim satisfaction until it disappears from view, then I take off running. I’m pretty sure that Jimmy is out, but I can’t be certain. I would like to find the keys and start the truck, but I can’t risk him coming to. What I need to do is find a place to hide, then decide what I’m going to do from there. It’s awkward to run with my arms tied in front of my body, but I do the best I can. Jimmy could wake any minute, and I aim to be as far away from him as possible when that happens. I weave and bob, heading for a clump of trees. I’m starting to lose my breath as I run; I vow that if I make it out alive, I will resume my daily workout of an hour of cardio or four miles and lifting every other day. Stretching, too. I have to reach my cell phone when I have a chance.
I’m slowing down. I don’t want to, but I am. I’ve been running for hours, or so it seems, and I need to take a break. I stop, panting as I do. I listen, but don’t hear anyone running behind me. What I do hear, however, is a lot of noise—more than one person can make. Confused, I stop behind a tree and cautiously look around. I can’t see anything in the dark, but I hear more than one voice. I start trying to work my wrists free. I had tensed my muscles as hard as I could when Jimmy tied me, so I have a little wiggle room. I still can’t hear any footsteps, so I concentrate on freeing myself. After many agonizing minutes—more than I’m sure I can spare—I pull my right hand free from the belt. It’s easy to pull my left hand out after that. My wrists are rubbed raw, but I’m so relieved to be free, I don’t care. I don’t even mind that there’s blood running down my face. I pull out my cell phone and call Inspector Robinson.
“Rayne! Where are you?” She barks into the phone.
“I don’t know. Where are you?”
“With Mr. Benedict,” she says grimly. “He’s not saying a word, though.” So that’s the noise I heard in the distance. He must have woken up, I think irrationally. So much for stomping the shit out of him.
“Turn on your sirens if you have them,” I say to her. I can faintly hear the noise. “I’m heading for Mecca,” I inform the inspector and start limping in the direction of the sirens.
“Stay on the phone,” she orders me sharply before turning away from the phone and muttering something to somebody. I’m not paying attention to her because I’m concentrating on the cacophony of a thousand sirens at one time. Well, at least three. I trudge towards it, feeling my spirits droop with each step. All the adrenaline coursing through me as I fled from Jimmy has drained, leaving me exhausted. I plop down on the ground.
“Inspector, I’m taking a break.” I hear the lassitude in my voice as I massage my right calf. “Ah, it feels so good to sit. I may never get up again.”
“Rayne! You get your ass up off the ground and get over here now.” An order, not a request. “You can rest when you get here.” I sigh, but I struggle to my feet. “Can’t you tell me which way you went?”
“Away from Jimmy!” I retort peevishly. “How did you know where we were, and why didn’t you do swoop in earlier and save me from this hell?” For a minute, she doesn’t answer. I know she’s sensitive because she feels like she’s failed me twice; I wonder if she’s going to answer at all.
“We’ve been watching the gym all night,” she finally admits. “When he came out with you,” her voice falters; “we were having a brief confab, and my lookout neglected to inform me of Mr. Benedict’s presence until he had you secured in his vehicle.” By her tone of voice, I discern that said lookout is in deep shit. I vaguely wonder if it’s the same officer who made the snide comment about me being the inspector’s girlfriend and if he overlooked me on purpose, then surmise that I don’t particularly care. I am carefully placing one foot in front of another, letting the sound of the sirens guide me. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind is the realization that I am in shock, but I don’t much care about that either. I am following the directive that Inspector Robinson has given me because I know if I stop now, I’ll never start again.
“Rayne, are you still with me?” The inspector’s voice jolts me momentarily out of my lethargy. She is calling me by my first name; I wonder if that means something. I file it under ‘things to think about later when I’m not so out of my fucking mind’ and continue walking. The sirens are increasing in volume and starting to bother me.
“Inspector, can you cut one or two of the sirens?” I ask plaintively. “I can’t stand it.” Immediately, the cacophony stops, leaving the lone siren to mournfully wail.
“Is that better, Rayne?” The inspector asks. Without waiting for me to answer, she adds, “You must be getting close.”
“What’s your first name?” I ask abruptly. It’s only fair if she’s calling me Rayne that I call her something other than Inspector Robinson. “I mean, I can’t possibly say, ‘Pass the butter, Inspector Robinson’ when we’re having dinner. It would be terribly gauche.” I am rewarded by a soft laugh.
“Serena,” Inspector Robinson admits, still chuckling. “How about letting out a whoop to see if we can hear you.” I don’t know if I have the energy to yell, let alone whoop, but I gamely give it a shot.
“Jimmy Benedict is a murderous prick!” I yell as loudly as I can. There is a smattering of laughter as well as muffled curses in response. “Not only that, he’s an inept murderous prick! I’m going to kick his ass when I see him! Kick it again, I mean! What a fucking idiot to get his ass kicked by a woman with her arms tied in front of her!” By now, the chuckles have become out-and-out guffaws. I continue yelling things in this vein until I see a dim figure emerge out of the night striding towards me. I stop yelling the minute I see her because my energy is past zero. “Inspector Robinson,” I say with my last breath. “Serena, we have got to stop meeting this way.” I give her my best smile, and just as she reaches me, I crumple to the ground.