“Helping Sam fix a generator. Shouldn’t be long.” He climbed off the bed. One of them needed to before things got out of hand. She really should eat.
Al wandered off to the bathroom as he set the table, poured juice into a glass, cereal into a bowl. Everything was ready and waiting when she emerged a few minutes later dressed in the usual jeans and t-shirt, her hair tied back and face damp from washing. He welcomed the normalcy of routine. They could live like this no problem. Mostly petty jealous bul shit had fueled the recent fighting. A near-death experience tended to clear up communication issues pretty damn fast. Or maybe it reshuffled priorities back into their pertinent order.
Finn smiled at her, and she smiled back.
The guy from the supply runs appeared at the top of the stairs. The one who had collected their weapons the day they arrived.
Finn hesitated, surprised, certain Dan would have locked the door. Owen. That was his name. And the first thing that came to mind was that something had happened to Dan. This guy was bringing the news.
“What …” Finn stepped forward, and the guy raised his hand. There was a gun in it. Owen’s eyes were empty and his mouth set.
Owen, not Andy, and the gun had a silencer attached. Owen was working with Andy. They wanted to hurt her. His heart beat frantically.
“Al!” A muffled crack, followed by the impact of the bullet. It sent Finn stumbling back and a world of pain ensued. A universe of it.
Then everything went black.
Ali watched Finn stumble, fall. Her head spun sickeningly. There was so much blood.
She scrambled forward as Owen barked something, waved the gun at her. It was al peripheral, unreal. She couldn’t make out the words. Her brain wouldn’t accommodate them.
She had to reach Finn. Had to.
His closed eyes and ashen face tore at her. He looked like he’d been tossed aside by an uncaring hand, lying slumped against the brick wall, blood seeping from his chest. The front of his t-shirt slowly soaked it up. He might have only been asleep if it weren’t for al the blood.
She moved jerkily forward and Owen’s hand closed around her wrist. He gripped tight enough to grind her bones together, to drag her to a halt. He twisted her arm up behind her back. It should have hurt, but she had gone numb.
He pushed the barrel of the gun beneath her ribs. She saw it, but she didn’t feel it. It made her wonder if the punch of a bullet would hurt, wake her up.
“Let’s go,” Owen said. “Cooperate or I go find your other boyfriend and shoot him too. Move.”
Her jaw flapped but no sound came out.
Owen strong-armed her toward the stairs, down them, the gun shoved beneath her ribs the entire time. He was strong and handled her easily.
She had to get back to Finn. Had. To. Had to stop this before Dan came strolling in and the prick shot him too. Owen needed to die before this nightmare worsened. He would die whatever it took.
Owen pulled her along, keeping her close, keeping up the grip on the gun and her wrist. If he had been behind her on the stairs, it wouldn’t have worked. Halfway down the stairs, she threw her half-formed plan into action. With a strangled scream, Ali smashed herself into Owen. She threw al of her weight against him.
Surprised and caught off balance, he toppled to his knees. Gravity took over.
She had hoped he would let go. He did, but only of the gun. It bumped its way down the steps ahead of them.
Next came the tearing and the pop of her arm being wrenched from its socket. A blaze of white pain shattered her like a bolt of lightning, shearing her in two. She knew her shoulder was dislocated. No more numb. Oh fuck did she feel it.
They both fell, tumbling down the stairs to land one on top of the other. Owen grunted and shoved her aside, setting off all the pain receptors in her body once more. Black pinpricks danced and the world swam, murky and bright. Her breathing came in agonizing puffs. Every bit between her top and toes felt broken. When her vision cleared she stared down the barrel of the gun, her arm limp at her side.
Owen kicked out, caught her in the leg. He even sneered for good measure. Or he tried to. There was a bruise blossoming on his jaw, bloody drool on his chin. He was a mess. She wasn’t much better. Her shoulder drowned out all other sensation.
“Fucking thtupid bitch.”
She blinked, again and again. Poor Owen had apparently bitten his tongue.
She lost it. A manic giggle frothed up. It came out as a gasping groan of a noise.
The prick’s face turned pink.
“Up. Move.” Blood bubbled on his lips. He grabbed the front of her shirt, wrestled her back up onto her feet. Whatever damage she’d done him, he still had her in strength. “Move!”
Owen dragged her, limping and swaying, to a vehicle parked out front of the building. It was one of the pick-ups used for supply runs, nothing anyone would notice. The night was deadly quiet, the street empty. Dinnertime, everyone was busy. There was no one nearby to hear them.
“Don’t make me thoot any more people,” Owen hissed in her ear, hustling her into the passenger side of the pick up. He flicked on the child lock and slammed the door closed in her face.
She had to get back to Finn.
Ali nursed her injured arm, breathing through gritted teeth as the pain ebbed and flowed. In and out, in and out, in time with her heartbeat.
Oh, God. Finn. He had to be alright. He couldn’t die. She had to escape. Get back to him. Stop the bleeding.
The truck’s interior stank of old cigarette smoke. She peered out through the dirty windscreen, hoping for rescue so she could get someone to save Finn. Not many lights out there. A few of the empty steel storage drums dotted up the sidewalk, the tips of flames dancing over the steel rim, smoke winding up into the night air.
No one knew to help Finn. He was still up there, bleeding and alone. There had been a silencer on the gun but still, someone had to have heard something. She didn’t want to think of him dying, but there it sat, front and center. No chance she was going to give in and cry in front of the prick, though her eyes watered. Her trembling sent pain lancing through her. Fuck but it hurt. Her breath stuttered and she held in a groan.
Owen climbed into the driver’s seat, a gruesome trail of slobber dripping down his chin. It hung, suspended, catching the light from the nearest fire before fal ing to his lap.
The drive was short. Blackstone wasn’t big. Neither spoke. Owen drove with the gun still in hand, braced against the steering wheel.
He darted looks at her every other second, waiting on her next great escape attempt, no doubt.
What the hell could she do?
They made slow, steady progress through the streets. No point in making a grab for the wheel, he could easily overpower her.
Besides, she only had one hand at her disposal and it wasn’t her right, which was a bitch. Another opportunity would present itself and she’d grab it when it did. Rage and pain roiled through her.
They passed a group of people standing on a street corner. Several raised their hands and Owen nodded back, lowering the gun from view.
“Don’t move,” he muttered as they rolled past the scene.
The church spire came into view, the solid old brick building set with panels of colored glass. It was too dark to make out what stories they told. A trio of massive pine trees circled the place, standing guard. They made it even darker.
Owen pulled into the churchyard. Her teeth clattered as they covered the uneven ground. She clung onto her wounded wing, doing her best not to pass out. She needed to be coherent to kil the fucker and get back to Finn.
Andy stuck his head out the church’s side door. There was a flashlight in one hand pointing down, casting a circle of light around his shoes. He held a gun in his other hand.
“What is this about, Owen?” she asked, trying to think her way clear of the pain, trying to find a way out.
The prick turned off the engine and wiped his chin with the back of his hand. “Come on, we’l thow you.”
Fresh air rushed in as Andy opened the passenger side door. Owen had kept the windows up. She hadn’t realized how cloying the temperature and the stink of old cigarettes had been until relief was granted. Maybe she should just try to make a run for it. Her rabbit heart beat faster at the thought. But getting shot here wasn’t going to help Finn.
Andy stood there grim faced, looking far too young. “Told you to be careful with her.”
“Thwew herself down the stairs. She’s a fucking nut job.” Owen flung open his door and spat onto the grass. “Shit.”
“Come on. She’s real y agitated tonight,” Andy said.
“Who is?” Ali levered herself careful y out of the car. The barrel of Andy’s gun hovered by the side of her head.
“Inside,” the boy waved the gun in the desired direction.
They marched her into the cool, quiet of the church building. It smelt nice at first, wood polish and the lingering scent of flowers. It was peaceful, still. Her shoulder beat in time with her steps. The farther they got down the dark red strip of carpet toward an open internal door, the more a pungent odor rose to greet them.
She knew the stench. Once she had caught it, it was all she could smel . The rank and putrid stink of rotting flesh. A low moan echoed up from below. Everything in her slowed in horror.
Al shook her head, trying to step back. “No! No.”
“I can thoot you in the leg now and we’ll drag you down there,” Owen pressed the butt of his gun to her thigh. “Your choice.”
The lack of options beat her about the head. Her ears filled with gray noise. Her steps toward the dark, open door were small, measured, and each and every one took a year off her rapidly dwindling life.
“Down the thteps. Don’t try anything thith time.” Owen tapped her head once more with the pistol in warning.
Andy led the way with his gun and flashlight.
Below, the cel ar was lit with candles, big and small. Altar candles. The room glowed with light. Rachel was chained to an overhead beam, a dog collar around her swollen, gray neck. She had been fighting her imprisonment. One hand tugged at the collar while the other reached out to the three of them, bloody lips spread wide. The chain jangled as she tested her reach. It almost sounded merry.