I approached the door slowly, cautiously. The jingling of the keys stopped. I could hear the footsteps of someone running away. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. My hands were trembling. Maddie’s beautiful face entered my mind, my body felt weak and for a moment, I lost my balance thinking about what was on the other side of the door. If Maddie was out there, lying on the ground, dead…I’m going to put a bullet in my head.
Daniel startled me as he walked into the kitchen from the bedroom where I left him sleeping. I turned around and automatically pointed the gun at him.
“No daddy!” He shouted placing one arm over his head. His other tiny arm was in a cast.
“Goddammit! Daniel! What are you doing up?” I shouted.
I almost puked in my mouth at my reaction. He stood there, staring at me, trembling, his blue eyes welling with tears. He was so shaken up that I had pointed the gun at him and then yelled; I had to set the gun down on the table to kneel down, pick him and hug him tightly.
“Momma, daddy…where’s momma?” he cried.
“She’s coming big boy. You can’t just get out of bed like that…momma will worry. Now, come on, go back to bed champ.”
I carried Daniel back into the bedroom and placed him in his bed slipping the ninja turtle blanket over his shoulders. He stared at the empty side of the bed where Bryan once laid. Maddie told me how Bryan and Daniel always slept together. I can’t imagine how Daniel feels without him. I glanced over at Alyssa and she was sleeping like an angel, her little lips twitching with a heavenly smile. I walked over and kissed her forehead. I grabbed the baby monitor and closed the door behind me, then locked them both in. If someone was behind that door, they weren’t coming in here alive to try to take the kids from me.
I needed to get out into that hallway fast. I needed to know if My Maddie was out there. My heart was thrashing against my chest I was wondering if everything that I ever loved was behind that door, outside, in the hallway. I placed my hand on my forehead and wiped away the tiny beads of sweat that had begun to slide into my eyes. I glanced over at the bedroom door where the kids slept. I inhaled deeply, praying to God that Maddie wasn’t behind that front door. Then I thought,
My God…I can’t put a bullet in my head. They need me. They need me.
The bile in my gut was slowly making its way up into my throat, scalding me, burning a hole through me as my insides winced with each step that I took. I put on my black gloves, then reached for my gun and practiced pointing it towards the door with the safety lock on first. I wanted a perfect aim at the person that was behind that door waiting for me or maybe…there was no one at all.
I looked through the peep hole. I didn’t see anyone. I placed my hand on the door knob, turning it slowly, then, peeked out through the small space between the door and the wall.
I looked out into the hallway…NO ONE. I looked down at the floor…A BODY BAG. Then I remembered what Andrew said to me before I left,
‘I’ll think about sending Maddie back to you either tonight or tomorrow…in a body bag.’
I slid down the wall near the opening of the door, the sweat on my forehead dripping profusely into my eyes. The tears ran down my cheeks relentlessly, and I knew if Maddie was in that bag, they would never stop. My hands shook as I leaned in to unzip the body bag. As I did, my stomach gurgled, and my heart pounded into a fast-steady pace that left me breathless. I became lightheaded from the lack of oxygen, my stomach revolted as I feared the worse.
I can’t look…
I looked down as I unzipped the bag and her face appeared.
It wasn’t Maddie in the body bag. It was CLARISSA. I stared at her…my heart stopped for a moment. The sweat that had built up around my temple dripped from my nose and onto her face. Her eyes were open. A look of shock on her face that became permanent…the rigid look of death. Her pale skin was shadowed by the color of ice cold blue. They didn’t just kill her; she’s been dead since last night. I fell back on my ass, the air knocked out of my lungs. I raised my knees to my chest, gasping for air, crying like a fucking baby. I stopped for a moment and stood staring at her. I placed my hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming out her name. I removed it slowly, enough to take in a deep breath without feeling like I was choking.
I smiled nervously. Then, I started to laugh.
An uncontrollable laugh that led to more sobs.
It wasn’t Maddie inside that body bag. As bad as I felt for Clarissa, relief washed over me, but I felt the guilt consume me. Andrew killed Clarissa, and it was my fault. I placed my hands over my face and cried into them again. I wiped my tears with the hem of my shirt, as I stood up and leaned over her body.
“I’m sorry.” I whispered as my lips trembled. I placed my fingers over her eyelids and tried to close them shut, but they didn’t. Her cold, beautiful eyes stared back at me making me heart swell with pain. How could I let this happen? How?
I stood up and walked over to the bedroom trying to unlock it with urgency, fumbling with the key to get it open as quickly as possible. I grabbed the diaper bag Maddie kept on the floor next to the dresser. I filled up the bag with clothes and reached for the diapers on the top shelf, shoving them in the bag as well. I woke up the kids and carried them both in their pajamas.
“Daddy, where are we going?” Daniel asked.
“To get momma,” I answered as I ran towards the door, “Both of you close your eyes until I tell you, you can open them. Hold on to my neck tight as tight as you can,” I told the kids closing the door shut as I treaded carefully not to step on the body bag on the way out.
I didn’t get in the elevator. I went down the stairs at the speed of light. Jumping two steps at a time with Daniel on my back and Alyssa on my hip, “Hold on tight buddy,” I reminded Daniel.
I needed to get the fuck out of there before the police arrived. Someone must have seen what happened or at least seen me opening the body bag.
As I ran out of the building, the cold rain toppled us without warning. The thunder boomed, and Alyssa cried as the lightning followed lighting up the sky around us. I ran as fast as I could across the street to grab a cab to get to the train. I glanced over to my right and noticed a car that was approaching me at full speed. They stopped abruptly in front of me. The window slid down.
“Where are you going?” the familiar voice was a relief.
The rain splattered against Lacky’s face as he eyed me with suspicion.
“I’m taking the kids to my father.” I answered.
I didn’t want to tell him anything. Why? I don’t know. It just didn’t feel right. Why the fuck was he out at four in the morning?
“It’s fucking four in the morning…are you crazy?” he shook his head.
“What?” I shouted as the rain was steady, catapulting me on the head.
“Come on, get in. I’ll take you,” I stared at him suspiciously, “Dammit Stone the kids are going to get sick…get in.” He shouted.
I placed Daniel in the back and strapped on the seatbelt. I sat in the front with Alyssa.
“It’s okay guys you can open your eyes now, everything is fine,” I said softly trying to reassure the kids.
“What are you doing, Stone? And what the fuck happened to Daniel’s arm?” he asked.
“I have business to attend to. Clarissa isn’t watching the kids anymore.” I said without giving him eye contact.
“Why? Did she break his arm?” he asked curiously, raising an eyebrow.
“I don’t know. Something like that,” I felt guilty even saying something like that, but I didn’t want to tell him anything. I glanced over at him suspiciously, “Why are you out here?”
“Because I got a phone call that, that prick boyfriend of Maddie’s was out here again stalking her. What’s with that guy anyway aren’t they together? Why is he always following her?” he questioned me as he placed a cigarette on the tip of his lips.
“I don’t know, but, you know you can’t smoke in here.” I looked back at Daniel and smiled.
“Shit!” Daniel shouted.
“Fast learner…isn’t he?” Lacky laughed as he started driving towards the highway. I didn’t.
“Yeah, like father, like son.” I said, but deep down inside…I was dying.
I needed to get the kids to my father and go and get Maddie before that bastard killed her next. Lacky telling me that Andrew was stalking Maddie confirmed that he was here, and he…killed Clarissa. Jesus, Clarissa. I’m so sorry.
“Damn, look…there shutting down the highway…” he whispered.
“Flooding…I’ll take another route.” He turned the car around and started heading up through route 81.
“I have to get up there quick. Then I need to come right back down.”
“It’s three plus hours up there. What’s the urgency?” he asked glancing over at me.
“I just need to. Okay?” I stared into Alyssa’s sky-blue eyes and smiled.
“Okay.” He nodded suspiciously.