“God damn it,” Sharlene snapped, grabbing my cell from my hand before I could answer. “I hope you’re having a good evening because your incessant calls have lost my best friend her date.”
Glaring at her, I snatched it back as the male on the other end called her a bitch.
“Hi. Yeah. Call my best friend a bitch again and I’ll remove your balls with my abnormally long nails,” I sighed, tired of the constant fights between everyone in the area.
“Hey. Sorry. It’s Detective Andrews. You’re needed at a crime scene down by the harbour,” his deep voice was calmer, apologetic.
“Which one?” I held a hand over Shar’s mouth to keep her quiet.
“The one near Café Casablanca,” he shouted — a crash in the background almost obscuring his overly-appealing voice.
“Okay. I’m about ten minutes away. Regular kit or just my camera tonight?” I winced, my fingers being gnawed on.
“Just the camera. See you soon,” he hung up.
“I will kill him,” Sharlene growled. “Your date was one edible piece of man-meat.”
“Too bad I won’t remember him after midnight Sunday,” I grinned, walking to my car. “Do you want to come with or should I drop you off at home first?”
“I’ll come, but I’m staying in the car,” she grouched.
“Fine. Bob Marley or Sublime?”
“40 ounces to freedom, babe,” she jumped in and lounged in the seat.
Following her example, I climbed into my little four-seater and turned it on; cranking the heat and revving the engine before pealing out of the restaurant’s parking lot. Hanging a left onto Government St., I took another left halfway through her favourite song onto Bay St. The road was blocked not far after the intersection; uniform cars with lights flashing parked haphazardly across the street. Cutting my engine, I stepped out and pulled my camera from the back seat; grabbing a few extra film canisters just in case.
“I’m trusting you with my keys. Steal my car and I will kill you,” I grinned poking my head back in as Sharlene flipped it to ‘ACC’ mode.
“Understood, doll,” she smiled, ‘Beautiful’ by Eminem drifting from the speakers.
Shutting the door, I was met halfway by a 6’3″, pure muscle, brunette, lightly tanned, plain-clothes cop. He paused with a shit-eating grin plastered on his face.
“Keep dreaming,” I jeered, adjusting the back of my short skirt a little.
“Hard not to,” he chuckled. “Can you remember me this week?”
“By voice from that call, I can Detective Andrews,” I shook my head. “As far as facially, I’ve no recollection of you.”
“Well damn,” his smile slipped a little. “How long has it been?”
“You know exactly how long it’s been,” I popped the protector from my camera’s lens. “Three years, four months, six days, eighteen hours, twelve minutes and counting.”
“Down to the minute. It’s still that fresh?” he held an arm out, indicating for me to walk with him. Tucking my extra film into the top of my nude thigh-highs, I did.
“You have a serial killer try to do you in and have it not be,” I retorted.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Sharp. I know how much it ticks you off,” he paused just out of hearing range of the uniforms and crime scene techs. “I was told to warn you before you stepped in there. The vic is a bloody mess. My superiors ordered me to tell you that you can leave if it strikes too much of a nerve.”
“Understood. Shall we?” I had to crane my neck to look at him; my six-inch pumps only halving the discrepancy our heights.
“Ladies first,” he nodded.
Drifting between the cars, the techs all nodded to me; all aware that I couldn’t recognize them, but close friends anyway. Nodding back, I followed the jumper bunnies (as I affectionately called them) to the closed scene. If kırgız escort I hadn’t been used to gore, I would have unloaded my chicken chow mien all over the pavement. Gagging, I brought my camera up and snapped preliminary shots of everything. Running out of film, I switched rolls and tucked the full one into my bra.
“Melaney? Could you get close-ups of this please?” a female tech asked quietly, indicating a blood-soaked section of pavement near the body.
Bringing my camera to eye-level, I zoomed in on the area indicated and snapped off half a dozen shots from different angles; capturing the essence of the mess.
“Thanks, hun. If you would follow me please,” she waved me over to the body. “There’s something burned into…well…”
Clenching my jaw, bile rose in my throat as I saw the brand on her massacred inner thigh. Snapping a few shots, I moved to cover the rest of the body from every angle imaginable. Changing the roll again, I got a few more before straightening and blanching at the wall opposite.
“Has anyone noticed that?” I pointed at the blood smeared along the glass and concrete.
“What?” Detective Andrews whirred around and stumbled a little. “Shit. Shit, shit, shit.”
“Oh god, not another one,” the tech murmured.
In big, bloody letters the scene was marked by my worst nightmare. To top it all off, the message was addressed to me and ended with a demented smiley face.
“Jimmy get her out of here now!” Andrews yelled, pointing at me. His partner was the first over; tucking me under his arm and pulling me away.
“Mel. Mel, come with me. He knows you’re alive,” James knocked my knees out when I didn’t respond. The techs and uniforms scattered as we broke the line; my camera bouncing against my chest.
“Mel? Jimmy what’s wrong?” Sharlene appeared in front of us.
“Later, Shar. Right now, we need to get as far away from here as fast as we can,” he grunted a little. “Where are her keys?”
“In the ignition. You drive. That thing will hit 240 faster than any of your cars,” she ran ahead and crawled in the back. James set me in the seat and slammed the door in his haste. “Mel? What’s wrong? Why are you shaking?”
“I said later Sharlene. Right now we have to go,” James slammed the door, flicked the keys over and pushed it into reverse; pealing out into the street and around the corner. Dropping her into drive, his lead foot hit the accelerator and threw me back into my seat.
‘Perfect’ by Hedley played softly through my broken speakers as the streets blurred by; my car’s engine revving higher and higher to accommodate the speed. Patrol cars kept the streets clear and honked once as we sped by; Detective Andrews having probably sent out a call to not stop us. Dropping the heat, I secured my camera and leaned my seat back; Sharlene wrapping her arms around me as well as she could.
“Where are we going?” I mumbled as he drifted around a corner.
“Safe house thirteen eighty-three,” he answered gruffly, slowing a little. “But I can’t tell you exactly where it is.”
Nodding, I reached into the the back seat and grabbed an energy drink; hoping the caffeine and sugar would calm my nerves.
“Doll, I don’t think an orange Rockstar will help,” Sharlene tried to take it away.
“Don’t. She needs it if she doesn’t want to slip into shock,” James glanced over at us.
“In that case,” she cracked the tab. “Drink up.”
Forcing a small smile, I gulped it down; the fizz tickling my throat.
“I would kill for a cigarette right now,” I breathed as I set the half-empty can in the drink holder.
“I think that will have to wait for a little while,” he shook his head.
“Damn. eskort istanbul Oh well,” I shrugged awkwardly.
My cell rang randomly; making us all jump. Reflexively checking the caller ID first, I frowned at the blocked number. Flipping it open, I set it to speaker before saying anything.
“Hello?” I coughed.
“Did you get my gift?” the voice straight from my nightmares asked nonchalantly.
Hanging up, James shut off my phone and dialled his partner.
“He has her number,” he growled. Putting it on speaker, he set it between the seats and gripped the wheel until his knuckles were white.
“Keep your phone off. Do not go home. Do not contact your family,” Andrews voice was a little distorted. “Tell me exactly what he said.”
“Verbatim? Did you get my gift,” my voice shook.
“Shit. God damn, mother fucking, cock sucker,” he swore like a proud sailor. With his sealed history, he probably had been. “Do everything Jimmy tells you. We’ll make sure your family is safe.”
“Understood,” I retrieved my Rockstar and chugged the rest. “Please — “
“I won’t let anything happen to them. Take care,” he hung up.
Flipping James’s phone shut, I dropped it into his nearest coat pocket and reached for another energy drink.
“Oh no Mel. You have another one and you’ll either be up all night, or you’ll crash really hard,” Sharlene plucked this one away easily. Pulling out a gold-foiled block, she handed it to me with a smile. “Have this instead.”
Opening it, I gave a small, genuine smile at her home-made brownies.
“Do you ever go anywhere without some of these?” I pulled the corner off one.
“Nope. You try going eight waking hours without one of these,” she stole a tiny piece.
Sucking the melting chocolate off my fingers, an acrid taste hit the back of my throat.
“Shar? Stop eating. Something’s not right about those brownies,” I slurred.
“Mel? Mel! Jimmy, redirect to the nearest hospital,” her voice grew distant. “MEL! LOOK AT ME! DON’T YOU DARE FUCKING DIE ON ME AGAIN!”
Closing my eyes halfway, black overtook my vision and darkness sucked me under. My usual nightmare haunted me; and like the previous times, I was unable to unmask the man who had shoved his hand into my chest and squeezed my beating heart.
I came awake screaming; my hair loose and tangled around my face as someone set their hands on my shoulders and tried to push me back down. Thrashing, I managed to land a solid blow to their jaw before the pain cleared my head. Allowing the large hands to order me around, I leaned back into the uncomfortable bed.
“Damn you have a wicked right hook,” the voice was male.
“Years of living with nothing but older siblings,” I rasped. “It’s Monday, isn’t it?”
“Thursday actually. Your memory has reset, hasn’t it?” he asked.
“Midnight Sunday turning to Monday. Unless I’m awake. Then it resets while I’m sleeping,” I massaged my throat a little. “What happened and who do you happen to be?”
“Andrews,” he stepped away to give me a look at more than his well-defined bicep. “The brownies were spiked. Well, the cocoa that went into them was. Sharlene doesn’t know who did it. She’ll be fine, by the way. It appears that it was a custom designed poison that only activates when combined with your favourite energy drink.”
“Fuck,” I closed my eyes.
“Our thoughts exactly. This prick has been watching you for a very long time without us knowing,” he shook his head, a little stubble dusting his face. “I’m here to spring you. The staff are getting suspicious of our gag order on the occupant of this room.”
Nodding, I pulled the needle out of my arm and reached around to the back of genç escort my heart monitor; flicking it to off before removing the sticky pads.
“I take it you’ve done this before?” he chuckled, holding a hand out to me.
“A couple times,” I took it. Pulling me to my feet, I was expecting one of those embarrassing, ass-revealing hospital gowns.
“Sharlene bought you some new clothes. She dressed you this morning,” Andrews steadied me.
“Thank god for small miracles,” I smiled. “My family?”
His face fell dramatically. “I’m sorry. We were too late.”
My knees buckled then; my muscles going limp. He caught me easily; setting me on the bed only to lift me again with my torso pressed to his. Wrapping my arms around his neck, I clung to him as he grabbed a bag from the chair and walked easily to the door. Opening it one-handed, he carried me casually into the hall and nodded to the nurses we passed. In the elevator he pressed my back to the wall and placed a single kiss against my throat. The door dinging, his gait was normal as he walked down the hall and out the door; nothing indicating he was packing an extra hundred and thirty pounds.
“The car is silver, as per your request. Hers is still being inspected for tracers and bugs, but it’s bomb free,” a vaguely familiar voice directed itself at Andrews. “Will she be all right?”
Ignoring them, I didn’t hear his reply. I just tightened my hold on his neck and tried to hold back my anger and sorrow.
“Melaney? What would you prefer? Pepsi or Red Bull? Unfortunately, until the poison is clear of your system you can’t have any more Rockstars,” Andrews bounced me a little.
“Pepsi,” I mumbled, his use of my first name not escaping me. “I hate the cotton candy taste of Red Bull. It’s too sickly sweet.”
Nodding, he set me in the open passenger seat and buckled me in; setting the bag by my feet before gently closing my door. He walked slowly around the front of the simple sedan; his mouth moving silently until he stood by the driver’s door. Saluting, he got in and grabbed a Pepsi from the back; handing it to me, he started the car and eased out of the space.
“Where are we going?” I asked, trying to break the can’s seal.
“Same place as before you were poisoned,” he reached over and cracked it for me.
“Thank you,” I murmured in a deadpan tone.
“Melaney?” he used my first name again. “It doesn’t seem like it at the moment, but everything will be okay. It may be fubarred now, but we’ll catch the bastard.”
“Fucked up beyond all recognition. That’s one way to put it,” I stared out the window. “Story of my fucking life.”
He didn’t try to strike up a conversation the rest of the way. It was five hours of silence as he kept us at a constant 160; the scenery flying by as he would sometimes take a hand off the wheel and almost reach for me, only to put it back with a sigh.
I dozed lightly for the last hour; every detail playing through my head as the scar on my abdomen itched. He had cut into me with surgical precision; slicing beneath the diaphragm so I could breathe while he gripped my heart in his cold hand. He had tortured me first, for hours; burning and branding, cutting, whipping, but never raping. He hadn’t been eunuch enough for that. He hadn’t needed that kind of power trip. He preferred to feel a person’s life slipping away. He got a kick out of it.
I had been lucky. My heart stopped the first time he squeezed it. It had restarted after he took his hand out of my chest, but he hadn’t noticed and dumped me in the middle of the street. Even the techs had thought I was dead when they arrived. It was Detective Joshua Andrews who had checked for a pulse — just in case — while they photographed, bagged and tagged everything. The next month was spent in hospital. The two after that relearning how to move without help. The next year training myself to not jump at the slightest sound. It had been a long road. And now I was nearly back at the beginning.