There was a scream. And he knew who it was. He was already at the door when it happened.
A turn of the knob brought him through. The light of the hallway poured into the first room.
And he was running.
He followed the scream, the last call of a last stand of one woman.
He hardly noticed the people behind him making effort to keep up with him.
He hardly noticed his body muscles building up in size.
His eyes stood fixed on the open doorway in front of him. His legs pushed hard against the linoleum.
He wouldn’t be too late. He couldn’t.
She had her back up against the radiator. Her legs were up and kicking. She’d stretch out as they came near, and as her body pulled out from the radiator she would use her arms to pull herself back, preparing for the next forward move.
She was tired. She was so tired. She didn’t know how she found it in her to fight. She just knew as she looked at the pair standing over her that she had to. This wasn’t about being robbed or beaten or even raped. At the most basic level she understood that this was about losing her very self.
Maybe it was worse than dying.
Sweat had matted her hair to her face in patches. Her muscles felt like they ached in every possible place. She had no idea how long she had fought those bindings. Only then to have the door open behind her.
The two strangers had stepped in then. “It was time” they had told her simply.
And that was how it started.
Their first attack had brought the scream to her throat, the renewed throbbing in her heart.
They stood over her. A smug smile rested on their faces. Was it really going to end like this?
And then he was there, through the open door. A flash of red came to the head of the first and she was down.
The smile was gone from the other, her eyes agape in sudden fear. “Oh shit-“ and in a moment more she too was down.
Where they stood he now stood, his breath deep and even. His eyes looked on with relief.
Her body couldn’t stop shaking.
She was okay. Oh God, she was okay. He felt his breath easing somewhat. He laid the red baseball bat on the floor. Nikki, Azuma, and Catherine came in through the door as he did it.
He made it in time. He made it in time. The thought passed through his mind as he bent down to lay a hand lightly on her shoulder, and look down at her arms, the bright bruises on her wrists.
Her body shivered, her eyes stared up at his, “Daniel…”
“We’re going to get you out of here. Okay?”
She just nodded as he took a knife out of his pocket and bent down to cut her bindings.
As her arms came free they jumped out and wrapped around him in a tight embrace.
He started for a moment as her arms rested over him. And then his body relaxed as her head lay against his. It was safe. She was safe.
He brought his arms up, encircling her naked back. His embrace returned hers as the sobs slow came from her. Her body was warm against his, yet still her body shook. He felt her chest pushing against his as her breath came in deeply, her cries muffled by her face buried in his shoulder. He felt her grip tighten around him.
<It is curious about this feeling you’re having.>
Not now. His eyes moved from inward to out, shifting to the head resting on his shoulder, “Are you okay Sharon?”
The tears kept falling for a moment before the words came, “You came. You really came.”
“Of course I did. I couldn’t abandon you.”
“Then…” she began, taking in a deep exhale to push back the tears,“ I did leave you enough to follow.”
“Yeah, you were good. You were real good.” Daniel looked up. Nikki and Azuma were standing behind Sharon, their heads pointed towards the stairs. He knew what they were trying to remind him. They were only halfway done with what they’d come to do. Daniel’s eye hardened. “Listen, Sharon, Catherine’s going to get you out of here. We got some clothes out there for you.”
“No,” she shook her head against him, whispering “ No, I want to help you. I want to get this bastard.”
Daniel swallowed hard. He knew he couldn’t let her. She didn’t have a creature inside of her. Andrew would know this, and he would try to use that against him. If he got her…no he didn’t want to think about it. He didn’t want to think about her as a liability. But that was what she was.
“We need to cover you up and get you out of here,” he said finally, “Nikki’s got a quilt to cover you until you get in.”
“No,” she said shaking her head, “Didn’t you listen? I want to get this bastard. I can help.”
“What,” she said as she pulled out from his embrace. Her eyes stared at his, searching. His looked away, like the decision had already been made and he was just afraid to say it. “There’s nothing I can do is there?” Her eyes drifted back to the three women standing behind Daniel, they’d already tied up the other two to the radiator. They’d cast glances at her before turning away, the look in their eyes unmistakable.
“I’m only human” she uttered, barely above a whisper.
He inhaled like he intended to go to onto something deep in his thoughts, but he paused, the breath coming out in an exhale, his eyes looking away from her. “We’ll talk” he said at last, “Catherine will get you out to the car safely.”
She just nodded somberly, slowly standing up from the ground. Nikki stepped forward and wrapped the cover around her naked body.
Her steps were slow, her eyes deep in thought. She paused before leaving, turning back towards him, “Daniel?”
“We will have that talk. Won’t we?”
He nodded, “Of course.”
“I’ll be waiting. You better bring her back.”
For the first time that entire night he smiled.
Sharon turned back and away. Catherine walked beside her as she went out the way they had come.
Daniel watched her go.
Azuma stepped forward, “Shall we?”
Daniel retrieved his baseball bat from the ground. He turned towards her, nodding, “Lets go.”
“What the hell is taking them so long?” Andrew stirred, his eyes stared downwards toward the basement door.
Sarah, Hannah, and Lydia gathered about him in the room, following his gaze. They heard the steps coming up the staircase.
Lydia didn’t know why, but for an instant her heart fluttered.
A shiver ran up Andrew’s spine. He didn’t know why, but he felt like something was wrong.
Alexander’s hands were shaking. He couldn’t stop it. He knew something huge was happening, he just didn’t know what. And he needed to know. Who was that boy who’d gone in? What was he doing? Why had he gone in? Who was winning? Did it matter who was winning?
His thoughts raced. He peered through his binoculars as if thinking something worth looking at would happen suddenly.
And then something did.
She wouldn’t let herself look back until they were outside. The night was cool, illuminated but a moment by the lightning. She heard the sound of thunder. It was close.
He had come for her. He had found her in time. And she hoped for the chance indeed to talk with him again.
She pulled the cover tighter around her body, doing the best that she could to cover her nakedness. They were moving close along the wall, her bare feet trod on the rough shod concrete. Catherine led the way, her eyes looking forward into the darkness.
In a moment the street lamp came into view, its light shining almost like a beacon out with the rest of the open street laying before them.
Relief flooded over him at what he saw. It was her. It was the girl he had seen being taken in earlier that night. And by the look of her she had spent some harried hours inside that house.
He’d come to rescue her. That was the first thought that came into his head. That was his hope. This man, this boy, this stranger, he’d come to save her. Had he gained control over the strong sexual drive that he’d seen in the chimps at his lab? Was he able to act on his own choice? Or maybe it was just wishful thinking. Maybe he just wanted her for his own. But if that was the case why hadn’t he come out with her? Did it matter? Was it worth exposing himself to them to find out?
If he wanted any possibility for things to change, did he have a choice?
He opened the door of his Corolla at their approach.
Now is the time. Now is the time. Come on Daniel, you can do it.
He’s up and through the door. The lights are on. The kitchen lay open to him, the corridor.
And the crowd.
He registered the shock on their faces. Surprise, good. Lydia, stands beside the Adonis, the two others arrayed out in front of him. They don’t seem to have any weapons at the ready, good.
Everything seems to be moving slow again.
He’s surging forward now. The other two spread out behind him.
The first two seem to recover from the surprise. They press to block him. He pushes through.
Nikki and Azuma rush forward and engage with the first two.
He’s close. He’s so close. He can see the fear in his eyes. He can see it how he backs away. He stumbles. He’s injured. Good.
Lydia drops to the ground.
Daniel pulls the bat back to swing.
And then he feels the jab into his stomach. The air is knocked out of him. The bat falls from his hands. He’s down.
“That’s where I go to school. What are you doing here?”
Catherine stood beside her. The muscles on her body bulged. She stood pulled back as if ready to pounce. Her body shook though, the fear evident how she looked up and down the street, as if expecting some kind of trap.
“Chill,” Sharon laid a hand on her shoulder as she stepped past her.
“I…” the big bearded professor hesitated a moment, his body quivering “I know Andrew. He-he has one of those things inside of him. And-and I bare some responsibility for it being there” Sharon couldn’t help, but notice how his eyes shot for moments at her, looking away as if he didn’t want to be caught staring.
“Yes, I’m naked underneath this” she said shaking the covers around her to stress their presence.
“That’s not what I was thinking”
“What were you thinking?”
“You’re not one of them are you? You’re not like her?” he said gesturing towards Catherine.
She sighed, shaking her head, her voice low, her energy spent,“ Look can I get some clothes on first?”
He seemed to relax then, letting a sigh and nodding, “Yes, of course. I’m sorry.” He gave way for her to walk by.
She passed him, stopping a moment to arch her head back towards the house. A moment’s thought of Daniel. How was it going? Was he okay?
Alex followed her eyes, his thought following hers, “He’s in there fighting him isn’t he?”
She made as if to speak, but then she heard the siren, and as her eyes turned away from the house. She saw the rotating lights of the police car rounding the corner.
That was when it started to rain.
Not again, Oh, not again! His thoughts were half formed. His body shook, only adding to the pain he felt reverberating through his body.
He needed to find a weapon. He needed something, anything! How did he find him? How was it possible? What was he going to do? He crawled on the floor while Lydia fought him.
He shot his eyes back, searching. Was he going to die? No, he couldn’t, not like this.
And then a flash of red caught his eye.
There it sat, just in front of the window, the means.
He’s down and rolling, the pain in his stomach intense. He hadn’t expected it. How had he not expected her to protect her master? Stupid, she wasn’t Lydia anymore. It wasn’t just where the love had shifted. She was strong. She would do anything for him.
He feels weird, out of state coughing.
She’s on him, her arm back, her fist into his chest hard.
He coughs hard, heat rupturing in his chest, his insides exploding. He tries to force it back, but it won’t stay. His insides blast outward towards his assailant.
All over her. She falters back for a moment.
He’s up quick. He pushes forward. Forgive me.
Her first hand comes up, but he pushes it away, his other comes down, slamming into her face.
She falters as the second comes in on her. She flops down onto the ground unconscious. One-Two punch.
He turns his head back towards where Andrew was.
A flash of red.
The bitch was strong, just as strong as she was. They’re pulling at each other, swinging each other’s bodies every which way. Tables fly over. Lamps crash to the ground. The television slams to the ground and shatters.
Pain, but for Daniel anything.
She has to hold her back. She has to buy Daniel time to get Andrew.
That’s when she hears the yelling.
Her head arches up. Her heart sinks.
The first shot was straight out, hard into his stomach. He bent over, gasping, but remained standing.
“You think you’re so strong mother fucker!” he yells, he pulls the bat back and swings at him again.
It hits him hard against the side of his torso and his body slams against the wall. Blood flies out of his mouth.
“Look at you,” he screams at the top of his lungs,“ You’re just a fucking pussy bitch. You’re weak. I’m stronger than you. Say it.”
He feels the ache, but his body doesn’t care. He can heft the bat, that’s all that matters.
The eyes stare back at him from the ground. The face shifts from grimace to straight up. They look at him. They won’t turn away.
The eyes just stare back.
He pulls the bat back and strikes.
The arm is up, trying hard to cover the head the swing is meant for. It doesn’t matter.
The body flies to the ground like a ragdoll.
“Look at you,” Andrew yells again, “Can’t even fucking beat a cripple. I’m better than you. I’m fucking better than you. Can’t you see that?”
Daniel, on the ground, doesn’t respond.
Nikki’s heart is thumping. Her eyes flick between the person facing her and the two masters fighting it out.
She hears everything. She sees everything.
She’s pulling hard on her assailant now. She needs to get away. She needs to help Daniel.
But the woman won’t let her.
The woman tries to push in her in a different direction. She shifts her weight, pulling to the side of the push she slams the woman into the wall.
The shock seems to work. Her grip gives. Nikki pushes away.
Andrew stares down at Daniel, the blood, the motionless body before him. His hand quivers on the shaft of the bat. He can feel his body aching again. He feels exhausted again. Why hadn’t he just said it? ‘I give up, you are stronger than me.’ That was all that he’d wanted. Why was it all coming to this?
He had to kill him. He knew it. But…
His head turns, too late, the body slams into him hard.
He flies backward, the window behind him shatters.
He feels the glass tearing into him, and yet his last thought is of the sudden cool spring air.
And the rain.
“What the fuck!” the exclamation comes out in a gasp from the police officer. As he says this, his eyes have already shot towards the house, the shattered window, and the two bodies that came through it.
His hand is already at the gun in his holster, his words barking at the three others to stay back.
The gun is out. Two of the people out front, the tall man and the Hispanic lady in the quilt stay in place, but the third, a blonde looking to be in her early thirties makes as if to move. He hesitates for a moment with the gun, but is calmed when the Hispanic woman lays an arm out that seems to halt the other.
He reaches for the radio at his shoulder and calls in for back up and a medic unit, giving a brief outline of the details of where and what is going on.
He’s moving, gun at the ready, his head shifting to the open hole in the house. He can see the fighting still going on inside.
He barely notices the other police car rounding the corner. His attention is caught by the scene in front of him. A woman kneels on top of a fast bleeding youth. The male is alive, but he doesn’t have time to check how badly he is hurt. The woman has picked up a shard of glass, and is raising it above him, as if to strike.
The rain is picking up around her.
Nikki hurts, but she wasn’t cut by the glass, not like he was. The stranger laying underneath her is bleeding bad. She sees small streams of red being drawn from him, carried away by the water. She can finish it. She can finish it for Daniel. All of this can end.
And then he’ll go back to loving Lydia. No. No he won’t. He loves her. He’s just conflicted. If she does this for him, only then. But those words he told her that morning- it doesn’t matter.
The man underneath her is cut up all over, pieces of glass jutting out from random points all over his body. He coughs, and bits of blood fly out from his mouth. She can finish it. She can finish it.
She reaches for a big piece of glass laying beside her. Her fingers wrap it. With both hands she raises it up.
The words jar her out of the man on the ground. Her head slowly moves to the police officer standing not far from her.
His gun is up and pointed at her.
“Put the weapon down,” he barks, “and step away from the man.”
Her head turns back to the splayed out body. She’s trying to decide if it’s worth it.
He cocks the hammer of his gun, “I said put the weapon down and step away from the man now!”
Her eyes turn back towards the open window. Daniel.
A shot rings out in the night.
Police investigator Philip Bernake is out of the car in a flash. His eyes turn to the two people standing on the street. His mind registers that one of the people standing there fits the exact description of the woman he had come here looking for.
But that’s not what’s worrying him right now. He’s running. The third one, a woman is tearing out from the car and towards the front lawn. Something seems wrong about her, but he can’t pinpoint it at the moment. Not important yet.
His eyes are shifting from one house to the other as he goes. People will be coming out to see what’s happening at any moment and it is at least five minutes before he can expect any other police officers on the scene. Meanwhile he can still hear a great commotion going on from inside. That means that whatever happened here is probably still going on.
Two police officers and more things to do than ten could handle. Fucking rookie cop. All it took was one shot.
The woman tears out passed the two on the front lawn and is heading up the steps to the front door of the house.
The police officer on the ground arches his head up as Bernake comes up to him. He sees his rank “Sir?”
He lays his hand up to quiet him.
And then Philip stops in his tracks.
The front door is opening. And not from the outside.
He pulls the gun out of his holster.
And then they were gone, out the door. It came so suddenly. The one Nikki had pushed off from had and knocked her. She’d let go. And then they had ran. She still felt the shot echoing in her head.
But for some reason she just felt the compulsion to look after Daniel. No scratch that, she knew the reason, Daniel had wanted her to be like that. The unspoken command resonating within her; honest, clear minded, strong, and reliable. That was who she was.
She can hear the commotion going on outside. But right now her eyes are looking down. Daniel, not moving on the ground. His girlfriend, Lydia, naked next to him, her eyes closed, her chest rising and falling, unconscious.
Azuma kneels over Daniel. He lays splayed out against the ground, his head leaning against the wall. The carpet underneath him is moist with his own blood, and some of it sits on the wall behind him.
His head turns a moment back towards the shattered window. People are yelling. She can’t hear what. Everything else seems swallowed by the sound of the rain.
She shifts to get up, but hesitates. Her head turns back towards him.
Is he okay? What she means to wonder of course is whether he is alive or not. That fear is quickly subsided though by a hand to the vein underneath his neck, by the rhythmic beating of his heart within.
She can feel her own heart beating hard, but it’s subsiding. Her muscles shrink down. Her eyes look over Lydia. How innocent she looks. And how innocent she is. She wonders what kind of person she was before this all started. She’d never seen her before now.
For a moment she wonders what she would be doing if she wasn’t this person, if she was who she used to be.
She sighs. They’ll be time for that later.
She can see the flashers of the police lights blinking off of the walls of the front room. Maybe they will take care of it, maybe. But right now it’s her master that matters. She’s not sure what to do now. The next step is a big one. Things have just gotten complicated.
She lays a hand on Daniel and shakes him. “Daniel.”
His eyes flutter, open, they look around wildly for a moment. He grimaces. His eyes pause on his girlfriend’s unconscious body. His head shifts up to the blinking lights.
“Lydia.” He makes to move, but stops, grimacing again.
“Daniel,” Azuma begins, turning his attention to her, “Are you okay?”
His head turns back towards Lydia, “I don’t know- I mean… what happened? Are the cops here?”
Azuma nods her head, “What do you want me to do?”
He shifts his body into an upright position. Again the pain shoots across his face. His hand goes to his side. He starts breathing hard. His eyes glance over at Lydia again. He sighs. “What happened with Andrew?”
She tells him.
He thinks for a second, nodding his head, “Well…is he dead?”
“I don’t know.”
He thinks for a moment, “Find out.”
She hesitates, “But… we need to get you out of here. The police…”
He shakes his head, coughing and spitting out some blood on the ground. “Azuma, every time I try to move it feels like fire is running through my fucking body. I’m not going anywhere. I’m not worried about the cops.” His head shifts towards the outside window and the rain. “Andrew though…”
Azuma slowly nods.
Daniel swallows hard and looks straight at her, “Only do what you can Azuma. And don’t die for it.” His eyes stray back towards Lydia. “Her life means something to me. But it’s not worth yours.”
After Azuma leaves Daniel looks over again at Lydia. With some effort he reaches for a table cloth fallen not far from him.
With a cry he lifts it and tosses it over her naked body.
His eyes scan over her for a moment. He casts a weary smile before turning towards the shattered window.
He leans his head against the wall and sighs.
They’d ran. They’d ran faster than he thought was humanly possible. They’d ignored his gun. They’d ignored his warning. And in a moment they were gone.
People were coming out of their doors. They were seeing the police flashers. They’d heard the gun shot. And if he wasn’t careful they’d tromp all over the scene and corrupt whatever evidence there might be. Meanwhile his kidnap victim was coming over with the cover still draped over, sopped by the rain. The suspect looked to be bleeding to death on the ground. And likely as not there was still stuff inside that needed to be checked out.
A mess and they were just two police officers, one of them currently busy with the woman who’d come crashing through the window.
The rain continued to fall.
The woman who had been rushing towards the door was getting up now. Her body looked different ,smaller. That shouldn’t be the case. She’d been knocked down ten plus stairs. He’d seen her head hit the ground hard. What the hell was going on?
He raised his gun and pointed it at her. “Stay where you are or I will shoot.”
She raises her hands. Her head turns back up the stairs for a moment.
Is there still someone inside? he thinks. “Stay where you are, keep your hands where I can see them” he calls out with the gun still pointed at her.
She continues to stand, but her neck turns back, her eyes can’t seem to leave the door. She watches her step lift.
His hand shifts from the guard to the trigger. He hesitates over it. He knows it takes less than two pounds of pressure to trigger the weapon. He doesn’t want to shoot her. But at the same time he knows he doesn’t want her to run. “Keep your eyes on me” he barks,“ And I want you to step over here by the other police officer!”
Her head turns back towards. Her foot rests suspended in air. Their eyes meet.
He moves to cock the hammer at the back of his gun and realizes that he already has. Someone he wanted to reinforce how serious he was. He keeps the gun raised, taking in a deep intake of breath as he stares down at her.
Her foot drops back down on the ground.
He exhales, “ Please step over by the other Police Officer Mam.”
“But…” she begins and trails off.
“It’s Dan-“ she pauses for a moment. Her demeanor changes. “It’s my son.”
He softens, he lowers his gun, “Mam, if he’s inside, we’ll take care of him. Please just step aside and wait."
The door opens behind and small Asian lady steps outside of the house. The woman at the bottom steps turns towards her. Philip raises his gun to the new person, cautious.
The women seem to ignore him, “Is Daniel…” the words trail off, almost like she’s afraid to ask the question.
The Asian lady smiles wanly, “He’s okay, hurt, but okay.”
“You two,” he barks, “move aside. I need you two to wait out here.”
They turn their heads back towards him. The Asian lady’s eyes turn towards the man splayed out on the front lawn. Lightning shatters across the sky and illuminates everything for a moment. She came out to see what had happened with him.
His gun is still pointed at them.
She nods slowly. “Come on Catherine. I think it’s okay.”
The two walk slowly down the stairs, keeping a safe distance from him, moving towards the place he had directed. They join the other woman, her hand clutching her forearm, where the bullet had pierced.
Philip feels relief wash over him. His gun lowers to the ground.
And then he hears the sirens in the distance, the lights blinking. Two other police cars arrive on the scene. The crowd is gathering around. And more important than anything an EMS vehicle arrives shortly behind them.
He’s just staring at the door now. He hears the other sirens. He knows the people outside are gathering. He’s done everything he could. He knows it.
He doesn’t know if Andrew is alive or not. He doesn’t know whether Azuma could do anything. The sounds coming from outside are those of strangers. He doesn’t know if Sharon is okay. He doesn’t know if he’ll be okay.
Everything now is just beyond his control. Whatever will be, will be.
Daniel hears the first door open. And he sees the police officer step through the next one. He has his gun out. His eyes stop on him and Lydia. He's sure he's going to have some questions to ask.