I sat on the barstool with my legs dangling over the edge. Scared to do anything more than sit motionless, I watched him as he paced the floor. The pistol he held was gripped so firmly that his knuckles had gone white.
“Do you think because of who I am that you’re safe?” He cackled a sinister laugh. “That there’s some code? An oath I’ve taken that’ll prevent me from hurting you? Is that what you’re thinking?”
It had crossed my mind, but I had no idea how to respond. His tight jaw and fiery eyes warned me that reasoning with him wasn’t a remote possibility.
I wanted Baker to walk in. To see what was happening. There would be hell to pay, regardless of this asshole’s status. I was sure of it. My eyes drifted to the century-old grandfather clock situated in the adjoining room.
Baker wouldn’t be home for two hours. My heart fell into the pit of my stomach. It was two hours I doubted the pistol-wielding maniac was willing to give.
I scanned through the memories of every cop show I’d binge watched on Netflix. I hated admitting it, but I was a hostage. I needed to downplay the situation. To reassure him that hurting me wasn’t in his best interest. We’d develop a faux hostage-captor relationship, and then negotiations could begin.
Swallowing my fear would be step one. I could talk in circles – and easily buy a few hours of time – if I could get past my dry tongue and the knot in my throat that was choking me from speaking.
“Hurting me won’t…be…it won’t be necessary,” I stammered. “I’ll comply.” The bitter taste of the inevitable rose in my throat. I pressed my tongue to the roof of my mouth and swallowed heavily. “I can assure you that you won’t…you won’t have to--”
“I won’t have to what?” He spat. He waved the barrel of the pistol at me. “To protect me and my brothers, I’ll do whatever I have to, believe me. I can’t risk forfeiting the time we’ve put into this operation.”
“I have no…I’ve got…I don’t know what you want,” I murmured.
“You’re going to talk,” he said through his teeth. “Believe me, you’ll talk, or you’ll wish you had.”
“Just tell me…just tell me what you want to know.” The words got stuck in my throat, and I began to softly cry. I swallowed hard. “I’ll…I’ll do my best.”
He glared at me. With each swing of the clock’s pendulum, his eyes thinned a little more. “Tell me what you know about the operation. Every word you’ve overheard. What you know, and what you think you know. Everything.”
I had no idea what he was talking about. “I don’t know anything,” I whispered. “I swear. He doesn’t tell me--”
He stepped so close taste the whiskey on his breath. Then, he raised the pistol and pointed it at my head. “Why are you in here snooping around?”
I closed my eyes. Obviously, he had no idea how intimate Baker and I had become. I wasn’t snooping around. I’d become a fixture in Baker’s life. Our relationship had evolved from casual sex to one of exclusivity and imminent love.
I debated with what to tell him. Divulging too much information about my relationship might put Baker at risk. Saying too little wouldn’t justify my presence in his home. I was in a situation where I couldn’t win.
Protecting Baker was my priority. I decided to lie. I would ad lib my way through it. It was the only way I could shield Baker from the unknown.
“Answer me,” he hissed. “Or I’ll plaster your brains all over that bed.”
I opened my eyes. “I come by on Sundays and clean up the place. I was getting ready to leave when you walked--”
“Cleaning girl?” His hand began to shake. “Sundays, huh?”
I swallowed heavily. “Yeah. Sometimes I cook--”
“Bullshit. You’re here every fucking day. You sneak in at night. I’ve seen you.” He tilted his head toward the living room. “That night you had the signs. You’re fucking him.” He slipped the tip of his finger against the trigger. “You’re a goddamn liar.”
The door behind me opened.
My head swiveled toward the sound.
Upon seeing us, Baker stopped in his tracks. His eyes darted around the room and then locked on us. “What in the absolute fuck is going on?”
I kept my eyes fixed on him. I wondered how he was going to save me. Surely, he’d give me a signal.
I felt the barrel of the gun press against the back of my head. “I’ll kill this bitch. I fucking swear.” He yanked to my feet. “Don’t take another step, Baker.”
“Her?” Baker raised his hands raised to the sides of his head. “I don’t give a fuck, kill her. She doesn’t mean anything to me.”
She doesn’t mean anything to me?
With each of those six spoken words, a dagger was thrust into my heart. How could he say such a thing?
My assailant wrapped his arm around my neck and yanked me off the stool. I slammed against his chest. Struggling to breathe, and now facing Baker, I searched his face for answers. His eyes were fixed on the man who towered over me, but offered nothing to ease the pain of what he’d said.
The wild-eyed maniac took a step back, dragging me with him. “I’m not fucking around, Baker. I’ll put one in the back of this bitch’s head.”
Slowly, Baker lowered his hands.
The pistol pressed hard against the base of my skull. “Keep your hands where I can see them, Baker.”
She doesn’t mean anything to me. The words echoed in my mind. Then, it dawned on me. That was his sign. He had a plan, I simply didn’t know what his next step was. Whatever it was, it was going to have to be precise. One wrong move, and I would be nothing but a memory.
I closed my eyes.
Please. Guide me through this. Help me understand what it is that I need to…
The explosive sound of the gun firing caused me to suck what would surely be my last breath.
The feeling of warm blood cascading down my face and onto my chest followed.
Then, everything went black.