Thursday, June 9, 2011

Chapter 23

Oct. 20 – 7:00am

            The soft chirp of her cell phone pulled Alex from a restless sleep and she barely refrained from tossing it across the room. The only ones who would be sending her a text were either the ones who killed her brother or the flirt from last night. At this point, she really couldn’t decide which would be worse. The intern, Raoul, had asked for her number so many times last night that she’d given it to him to simply shut him up about it. By the time the doctor finished with Da’ud’s leg and declared it time to go, she was fighting a raging headache and her ears were ringing from the intern’s constant babbling about nothing and everything. Other than loving the sound of his own voice, though, he seemed nice enough; at one time she would have been thrilled at his interest in her. He was reasonably attractive and easy to talk to (or listen, really) with a good paying job…but Alex couldn’t help but compare him to a certain taciturn, amber-eyed composer. Unfortunately for Raoul, he fell short in that comparison in every way. With a sigh, she rolled off the bed and headed for the shower, ignoring the little flashing light on her phone. She just hoped he didn’t text as much as he talked or she would throw it across the room.
            Nearly an hour later, she emerged from the room with just a faint throbbing in her head that only coffee could fix. The house was silent which surprised her; usually both Erik and Da’ud were awake long before her. Needing to be feel the sun on her face, Alex slipped on her jacket and out the front door. Shivering slightly in the early morning chill, she sipped her coffee as she wandered aimlessly around the house. She wasn’t so sure she wanted to see Erik this morning; the longer she could avoid him, the longer she could cling to the hope that Lizzie was alright. Finding a small patio at the rear of the house, she settled into a chair and watched the play of the sunlight through the leaves of the trees at the edge of the Estate.
When her cell chirped again, she sighed in annoyance and pulled it from her jacket to see if it was Raoul. ‘Seven new messages? Stalker, much?’ Alex chuckled softly and began to scroll through seven variations of the same message. Sunlight reflected off the screen and, in shifting it in order to see, she dropped it to the stone patio floor. Letting loose a rather excessive amount of expletives, she leaned over to grab her phone just as the window behind her exploded in a spray of glass. She screamed and dropped the phone to crouch on the floor, covering her head with her arms. Momentarily frozen, she looked around for somewhere to hide from the unseen gunman. Spotting a wooden bench at the edge of the patio, Alex scrambled to reach it before a second shot found her. She flipped it over with a loud crash and huddled behind it, praying it was thick enough to protect her. When a second shot struck the bench, penetrating it to graze a painful, bloody trail across her arm, she knew she had to find a better place to hide. Seeing nothing but open meadow, she berated her foolishness, ‘Stupid, stupid, stupid! You knew better than to go outside!

Oct. 20 – 8:30am
            Erik had just entered the kitchen when the first shot shattered a window in the laundry room near the garage followed by a terrified scream. Running to the Library to retrieve the weapon he kept there, his first thought was of Alexandra’s safety. Surely she wasn’t foolish enough to have gone outside? Staying low, he ran to the laundry room and risked a glance through the broken window just as the second shot broke was fired. Seeing Alex huddled behind a wooden bench, bleeding and scared, stole his breath for a moment before his fear and worry were replaced by unbridled fury. If she survived this bit of self-destructive idiocy, he was tempted to kill her himself.
            Using the amount of time between rounds as a guide, Erik knew that the time to get her out of there was now while the sniper was reloading his weapon. The third time isn’t always a charm, sometimes it’s fatal. Running to the garage, he easily found the door in the dark and hoped it was close enough for Alex to make it inside. Easing the door open, he saw more than thirty feet of open grass between the bench and the garage. Definitely not ideal. A cry of pain from a third shot alerted him that he was running out of time and, making a quick decision, he turned quickly from the door.

            Sobbing and near hysteria, Alex frantically sought anything she could use to protect herself from the sniper’s bullets. The cut on her arm had been little more than a scratch but she was concerned about the amount of blood she was losing from the wound in her side. Blood had quickly covered most of the left side of her shirt and was beginning to soak into her jeans. Where it had been a fiery pain at first, it was now going numb and that worried her even more. She was starting to see black spots as her vision blurred when a sleek, black Z4 backed across the lawn at high speed to stop in front of her. Erik opened the passenger door and yelled for her to get in, grabbing her arm and pulling her in when dizziness made her stumble. Slamming the door closed, he put it in gear and was almost around the corner when the back window shattered. He never even slowed down, bringing the sports car to a screeching halt only after they were in the safety of the garage.

            Bellowing for Da’ud to bring the medical supplies to Alex’s guest room, Erik carried the barely conscious girl into her bedroom and laid her down. A quick look at the wound on her arm satisfied him that it was superficial and had almost stopped bleeding already. Lifting the bloodied hem of her shirt, he rolled her onto her right side and cursed under his breath. The bullet was still inside. Retrieving towels and a bowl of water, he had cleaned most of the blood by the time the detective hobbled into the room with the first aid bag slung across his shoulders. While Erik finished cleaning the wound, Da’ud prepared a low dose of morphine to help with the bullet extraction. Quickly working in tandem, they had Alex sedated, the bullet removed, and both injuries bandaged before tucking her into bed to sleep off the pain medication.
            As soon as she was settled, Erik sped upstairs to change. He had little hope of finding the sniper but needed to find the site to see if any clues were left behind. He left the house through the front door, working his way to the line of trees before angling towards the back of the house. Staying in the shadows, he moved as quietly as the ghost he was once called though he met with disappointment at the site used by the shooting. The sniper was a professional; there were no cigarette butts, gum wrappers, expended shell casings, and barely any broken blades of grass to reveal his presence. Frustrated, Erik looked up into the trees, trying to discover how the sniper accessed his property without setting off the alarms.
Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he stalked over to the patio to retrieve Alex’s coffee mug and cell phone. Erik was reading the many asinine messages left by someone named Raoul when the phone’s cheerful chirp and flashing light alerted him to a new incoming text. He gave a low growl of anger at what he read.
Bring the drive on Friday, you know the location. Next time you won’t be so lucky.

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