State of Emergency – Chapter 11

March 1, 2011

He should have just grabbed her the second she opened the door; pulled her out and dragged her over to the car, tased her if he had to, hit the road, full speed and just got the job done.

Should have, could have, would have. Didn’t. Instead, here he was, walking up the hallway with his cheap shoes scuffing the hardwood floors, into the opulent lounge.

Who says crime doesn’t pay?

The furniture had to be her choice. Neutral colours and elegant lines, very adult, but with a plush comfort that spoke of the frightened little girl within. Carlyle lounged in a chair by the flickering flames of a hearth fire. Gas – no coal dust or laborious cleaning for these two, no.

His eyes strayed to the thick sheepskin rug that lay before the hearth. Looked away again before he could picture more than a fleeting image of a web of gold hair spreading across the white pelt. When his gaze returned to Carlyle, there was more venom in it. He’d have done her there on the rug. And probably on the couch, or in that chair, right where he was sitting now like a king granting audience with his faithful little servant girl holding a gun to Chris’ back.

He thrust a rattling paper bag towards his nemesis. “It’s all there. Chlorprozamine, aripiprazole, flupenthixol, venlafaxine. The bottles have instructions.” He waited, tapping one foot restlessly, fighting the impulse to turn his head and look at the girl over his shoulder. Carlyle picked through the bottles, looking at the labels on each, before fishing out a bubble-pack of blue triangles and shaking it curiously.

“What’re these?”

Chris blushed from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. “Erm… those are mine. Ulcers.” He reached out and Carlyle tossed them into his hand with a flip of his fingers; he sensed, rather than heard, the soft exhalation of breath behind him, the slight shift in Peony’s posture as she peered past him. Felt the quickening of her heart in his own veins. “You know they won’t do a damn bit of good without therapy, though, right? You were in that hospital for a reason.”

Cold steel, instantly, right in his face. The bag tumbling to the floor, the pill bottles spilling out and rolling loose into the depths of the rug. The blank mirrors of Carlyle’s glasses, right in his face, were unreadable, but the tense, quivering set of his jaw was anything but.

“What. Did I tell you. About. Speaking. To her?”

And for the first time in a long, brimming, burgeoning time, Chris lost it. Ripping open his jacket, he took two fast paces back. There was motion from behind him. Instinct flung out a hand, shoving the girl back, sending her reeling on to the couch, the gun flying from her hand. His voice came out through gritted teeth. “Why don’t you let her decide about that?”

Then he stopped and let Carlyle take it all in. The serried ranks of explosives taped to his vest. The red-lit LEDs boasting their “primed” status. The dead man’s switch clutched in his fist, his thumb holding down the button that kept them all from incineration.

He spoke again, more softly, turning slowly to look at the girl, trying to pour everything of importance into a single, penetrating glance as it met those ocean eyes. “Why you don’t you let her decide?”

She licked her lips, breathing light and fast. He saw every detail; the fleeting sweep of her tongue, the widening of her eyes and the way her pupils swelled into dark pools, the way her lips parted around an in-drawn breath as she prepared to speak.

“That yellow wire’s not connected to anything.”


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