WARNING: Language, some violence
As I prepped my notes for work on Ties of Blood, I noticed that I have a lot of side characters who, for one reason or another, don’t get any “me” time. so, I’ve decided to remedy that in a collection of short stories called…
(You can find Sarah in Shades of Gray. This story takes place during Shades of Gray – if you’ve read the book, it’s on the same day that Katelina runs into Jesslynn and the baby in the nursery.)
Sarah sat on the couch, a bright orange pillow clutched in her lap. “I know it’s been hard on Katelina. I really think she needs to talk to someone. I suggested she call you and set up an appointment, but she’s so stubborn.”
The therapist nodded. Her blonde hair moved with her head, like a solid piece of hairsprayed perfection. “Her boyfriend was murdered, wasn’t he?”
“Yes. They still don’t know who did it.” Sarah frowned. “Though the police have been harassing her about it for a month. And now there’s some joker calling her at work.” She sighed again. “I’m sorry. I know this isn’t what we’re supposed to be talking about.”
“We can talk about anything you want,” the therapist assured her. “Why do you think this is bothering you so much?”
“Because she’s my best friend,” Sarah answered without thought. “We’ve been friends since we were kids. She was there for me through a lot of crap.” The therapist nodded, and Sarah went on. “I can’t stand seeing her like this. She says she’s fine, but I know better. And then some jack ass thinks it’s funny to call and say they know who killed him…” she trailed off and shook her head. “I’d like to ring their neck!”
“Did their joke upset her?”
Sarah absently bunched the pillow with her hands. “Of course it did!” Her voice dropped. “She went home early and I haven’t seen her since. I thought I should give her a little time, but I don’t know. It’s been a couple of days. Maybe I should call her?”
“What do you think?”
Before Sarah could answer, the timer buzzed.
“And that’s our session for today.” The therapist stood up and offered a lipstick colored smile. “I’ll see you next Friday?”
Sarah dropped the pillow to the couch and swept to her feet. She shook the doctor’s hand, murmured the usual goodbyes, and headed out into the corridor. The colorful fish photographs and cheerfully painted woodwork didn’t make her feel any better.
Her cellphone went off and she tugged it from her purse. Brad’s familiar, smiling picture flashed on the screen and a silly grin stretched over her face as she answered it. “Hey, honey. What’s up?”
“Hey, sweety. Just calling to see how you’re doing.”
Sarah juggled her purse and let herself out through the glass front door. It was only five, but the October sky was already growing dark and the air was crisp. She wished for her jacket and hurried to her car. “I’m okay. Just leaving the therapist now.”
It was a joke, but it made her frown. “No, not really.” She sighed. “I’m worried about Katelina.”
“I’m sure she’s fine, honey. She just needs some time.”
“I know.” Sarah unlocked the door and slid in behind the steering wheel. “I just wish to God she’d never gotten tangled up with Patrick! He was bad news from the get go!” It was a familiar speech, but she launched into it, anyway. “He was a drop out – we went to school with him, though he was older than us – you’d think that would have clued her in, you know? A guy who can’t even graduate isn’t going to get anywhere. And he wore eyeliner – eyeliner! What kind of responsible guy wears eyeliner? I’ll tell you – none!”
The tirade continued as she started her car and pulled onto the road. Brad made little noises of agreement until she paused for a breath and then he threw in, “I’m sure it will be fine. Are you coming in tonight?”
His question momentarily confused her. “What?”
“To the bar? Hello! Earth to Sarah! I work tonight, honey, and I thought you were going to come in and keep me company. Unless you’re too busy?”
Her cheeks flushed. “No, of course I’m not too busy.”
“I wasn’t sure. Your Patrick tirade can go for hours, after all.”
She could hear the smile in his voice and she responded with a sheepish laugh. “Okay, okay, I get the hint. I just never liked the guy.”
“Me either, but he’s dead now. It’s so long and good riddance, and time for everyone to move on, huh?”
“I know, I know. My therapist says I have trouble with letting things go.”
“I think she’s right.” His voice turned to innuendo. “Maybe later tonight we can see if you have trouble letting me go?”
Sarah giggled. “Oh, you! All right, let me just change and call Katelina real quick, and I’ll be right there.”
“Okay. I’ll be missing you until then.”
They exchanged their kissy-sounds and goodbyes, and then Sarah dialed Katelina’s phone. It went straight to voicemail. Undeterred, she tried twice more, as though it would magically ring through if she only called enough. As she pulled into the driveway of her little rental house, she surrendered and left a message.
“Hey, it’s Sarah. Just wanted to make sure you’re okay. They said you didn’t call in today, or yesterday. I know you kind of flake sometimes, but I just wanted to make sure everything is all right. Call me.”
There was nothing to do but wait.
Sarah took a shower and changed into the little red dress she saved for special occasions. Tonight wasn’t really special, but she knew Brad felt neglected. On their last date she’d spent the whole night fretting about Katelina. He’d joked about it, but it was obvious it upset him.
“I’m going to show him just how important he is”, she thought as she spritzed on his favorite perfume.
She checked her phone as she headed out the door, but there were no missed calls. Damn. Where the hell is she?
She called Katelina – got voice mail again – and made up her mind. She dialed Brad’s phone and he answered on the second ring. “Hey, whatcha need?”
“I called Katelina but she didn’t answer.” She heard his sigh, and she rushed on quickly. “I’m just going to stop by her place for a little bit, to make sure she’s okay, and then I’ll be yours for the whole evening.”
“I promise! I just can’t enjoy myself while I’m worried about her, you know? I swear, it won’t be five minutes and then I’m all yours. No more distractions. Just you, me, and a few dozen drunks hanging around the bar.”
He laughed lightly. “As long as they’re a few dozen drunks who are tipping.” He sighed. “All right, though I think you’re worried over nothing. Every time that girl breathes wrong, you’re fussing and fretting. Sometimes I just feel like you love her more than me.”
“Of course I don’t! You know I love you and Mr. Winky-boo.”
She could feel him cringing. “I wish you wouldn’t call it that.”
“Why not? Oh, come, on, lots of guys have names for it.”
“Cool names. Not something like that. It sounds like a puppet from a kids’ show or something! For Christ’s sake, we’re not in junior high.”
She couldn’t stop the giggles anymore. “All right, all right. I’ll stop calling it that if you stop dogging me about being a worry wart.”
He gave an exaggerated sigh. “Deal. Now go check on your air headed friend and I’ll see you later.”
“She’s not an air head.”
“Really? And how often is she completely irresponsible?”
“Well … maybe once in awhile…” she trailed off. “Okay, she’s a fruit cake, but so are you.”
“I’ll pretend that means I taste good. See you soon.”
They repeated their kissy-ritual and hung up. Sarah started the car and backed into the street. Just a few minutes, she promised herself.
The street was crowded and Sarah had to park her car two blocks away. Most of the shops on Main Street were closed, but the ballet studio was letting out and the street was thronged with parents picking up their little princesses in time whisk them home for a late dinner.
Must be nice, Sarah thought bitterly, then just as quickly she chided herself. Her therapist had told her that when she started to feel like that, she should count her blessings. It didn’t matter where she’d come from, only where she was going.
Easier said than done.
The street lights tinted the evening orangy-pink. Sarah hurried down the sidewalk to the book store. Katelina’s apartment sat above it and her living room windows looked out on the street. Light blazed from them and a person shaped shadows flitted across the blinds.
Good. At least she’s home.
A cheery red door led to a steep set of stairs. Sarah hurried up them and froze at the top, one hand on her purse and the other on the stair railing.
Katelina’s door sat at the end of the hall, wide open. A slice of the front room was visible; the coffee table was overturned and the floor was heaped with books and other items, including what looked like the couch cushions.
Eyes narrowed in determination, Sarah marched through the door, her cell phone in one hand as though it was a weapon. The disarray was even worse inside. The two large bookcases had been emptied and the armchair was overturned. From where she stood, she could see part of the kitchen; the cupboard doors were open and broken dishes littered the floor.
Fury swept through her. After everything that had happened, how could someone do this?
Glass shattered and she stormed towards the sound. Inside the bedroom she found two men. One had long black hair and chestnut colored skin. He’d have looked at home wearing feathers and buckskin. A scar across one cheek only made him look wilder. The other had short red hair and dark eyes. His skin was pale white, and something about the way he stood, perfectly still and staring, seemed wrong.
She refused to let them intimidate her. “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?” She brandished her phone. “I’m calling the cops!”
The Native American took a step towards her, his eyes narrowed and his hands loose fingered fists at his side. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
She jabbed the icon for the phone app. “Just watch me!”
With a snarl he leapt at her, and she ran. She pounded down the short hallway, the intruder behind her. Her purse fell from her shoulder and she let it go. Maybe he’d trip on it.
She made it to the front room before he tackled her to the floor. She kicked and flailed, but he was too strong. A thousand panicked thoughts raced through her head, each one culminating in the certainty that she had to escape.
A voice floated from behind them, “Did you get her, Joseff?”
The reply came through clenched teeth, “Obviously.”
“Good, then let’s get out of here.”
Her captor stood and pulled her to her feet. She tried to swallow down her terror and remember what she’d learned in self defense class. She knew the first step was to remain calm.
Easier said than done!
Joseff jerked the cell phone from her hand. Impossibly, he crushed it in his palm and dropped the pieces to the floor.
“My phone!” Sarah shrieked. That’s it! She slammed her fist into his surprised stomach and followed it with a sweeping kick to the back of his knee. He didn’t fall, but the moment of surprise gave her an opening and she took it.
She was just to the front door, one foot in the hallway, when he grabbed her arm and swung her around. Her face smashed into the door frame and pain exploded from her nose. She stumbled backwards and Joseff knocked her to the floor.
Something warm and wet ran down her face; blood. The familiar sensation flung her back in time. Suddenly she was a little girl again, crouched in the closet, hiding from her father’s beer scented fury. She trembled and terror crashed through her. Help me! She begged silently. Save me. Someone, please.
She wasn’t a little girl, she was a grown woman, and the only person who was going to save her was herself.
She took stock of her surroundings, looking for a weapon. A broken-spined book lay next to her. Useless. A pair of dice was near her left hand. Useless. There was a bottle of nail polish – useless – and half of a broken glass ashtray.
She slowly wrapped her hand around it, the jagged edge out, and readied herself.
“She’s going to be trouble,” the red head quipped.
“Brilliant observation, Lennon!” Joseff jerked her to her feet. He shoved his face in hers. His dark eyes snapped like fire that left her breathless. “Listen here Kate, or whatever your name is. You can cooperate or you can die. The choice is-”
His words shook her out of her momentary trance and she struck. The broken glass tore at his check, but did a fraction of the damage she’d hoped for. He roared in surprise and fury and then punched her in the face. She fell backwards over the armchair and lay stunned.
Joseff loomed over her, his face twisted and lips pulled back from his teeth – No, fangs! Jesus! He has fangs! He grabbed a handful of her curly hair and lifted her by it. “Enough games, you stupid human!”
She had a nanosecond view of his fist crashing towards her face.
The world went black.
When she opened her eyes she was greeted by the same suffocating blackness. Her face throbbed and, though she tried to move, she couldn’t. It was as if she was tied up.
She took a deep, exhaust scented breath and choked. She could feel the hum of a motor, the vibrations of movement.
I’m in the trunk of a car.
Which could only mean one thing: she was being kidnapped.
But why? If they wanted money they’d have just taken her discarded purse. If they wanted to rape her, they’d have done it back at the apartment. If they wanted to kill her, she’d already be dead. She didn’t know them, so why-
“Listen here Kate, or whatever your name is…”
“Oh my God, they’re after Katelina!”
The realization jolted her. Why would a pair of thugs be after her best friend? What in the hell was Katelina mixed up in?
Patrick. It had to be something to do with him. Probably drugs. No doubt, that was what he’d been killed over and now – and now what? And now they were after Katelina, only they’d grabbed her by mistake?
In her mind, she ran through scenes from movies, lectures from her self defense class, random reality TV shows. None of them had any advice for this scenario. Not even Cosmo had a “What to do if you’re locked in a trunk” article. Like usual, she was on her own.
You can do this, she told herself. Just hang on until we get wherever we’re going. Then they’ll open the trunk. But how long would that be?
Minutes ticked past, or maybe they were hours. Trapped in the dark without her phone, Sarah had no idea how much timed had passed. The car thrummed along at a steady pace. She was jostled over bumps, but for the most part the ride was smooth. Probably an interstate, she told herself.
Her mind wandered. She thought of Brad. She could picture him leaning on the bar, his sandy blonde hair glinting in the row of colored lights, and his blue eyes twinkling with mischief. Only, they wouldn’t be. They’d be ringed in worry and impatience, while he checked the clock and wondered what was taking her so long.
Hopefully he’d go to Katelina’s when he got off work, and when he found it in shambles… what? He’d call the police? And just how would that help her, when she was God knows where?
The car slowed and then the road suddenly got bumpy – very bumpy. She could hear something pinging into the bottom of the car: rocks. They were on a gravel road.
It felt like an eternity, but at last the car pulled to a stop and the engine fell silent. Sarah heard the car doors open and footsteps crunch across gravel. They stopped nearby and someone banged loudly on the trunk.
Lennon’s voice sounded tiny and distant through the metal. “You sure she’s not dead?”
Someone slotted a key into the lock and then the trunk sprang open. Sarah squinted against the onslaught of artificial light; too bright after the blackness.
Joseff grabbed her by her shoulders and pulled her out of the trunk. With her ankles bound, she couldn’t stand on her own, so he flung her over his shoulder and carried her towards a small brick building that sat seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Several cars were parked in the gravel parking lot, and a security light threw harsh, strange shadows.
The metal door of the building scraped open and a blonde man appeared. His hair was longish and tucked behind his ears. His eyes held neither hatred nor pity; the expression of someone who was simply doing what they were supposed to.
“You got her?”
“Yes,” Joseff answered smugly. “She walked right in and practically asked us to take her.”
The blonde moved aside so they could enter. As they passed through the door, Sarah missed banging her had against it by mere inches.
They walked down a brick hallway and the blonde asked, “Was Jorick there?”
Jorick? Who’s Jorick?
“Nope,” Lennon answered from behind. “She was all alone.”
“Hmmm. The way that Michael and the others talked, she left with him.”
Michael? Who the hell were these people?
Joseff made a noise of agreement. “I know, but he wasn’t there and it’s not our problem. Let Michael explain it.”
“He can’t. He’s dead.”
Sarah felt a stab of icy terror at those words. Michel was a stranger to her, but that they could be so nonchalant that someone – anyone – was dead…
“Claudius kill him?” Joseff asked as they came to a door in the far wall. The blonde opened it and they started down a set of stairs.
“Yes. He had him burned, shortly after you two left.”
Lennon made a noise in his throat and Joseff grumbled, “I always miss the entertainment.”
Burned? Oh my God, it’s the mafia, isn’t it? There was no other explanation. But the mafia doesn’t have fangs. She still remembered her captor’s flashing teeth. Maybe it was my imagination. It had to be.
The trio of men fell silent as they reached the bottom of the stairs and Sarah concentrated on her surroundings. The room was large and open, like a big basement, with gray walls and floor. A chandelier, strangely out of place, hung from the center of the ceiling, and beneath it sat a large, wicker chair.
A door to the right opened up and several people trailed out. Among them was a bald guy, two scantily clad women, and a sulky blonde teenager. Sarah didn’t recognize any of them, but there was something about them, something that seemed… wrong.
If this is the mafia, then they don’t look like they do on TV!
The group moved to the center of the room and the teenager dropped into the chair. His cold eyes surveyed them and Sarah shivered.
Joseff dropped her to the cement floor. With no hands to catch herself, she landed painfully on her shoulder. She bit back a cry and told herself to stay calm. Work on the rope on your wrists. Try to get your hands loose. You can still escape.
The Native American propped his foot on her hip and declared, “We’ve brought her, Master.”
“Have you?” The teenager stood and moved to her, absently rubbing his hands together. She froze as his gaze moved from her feet to her head and back again, so intense that she could almost feel it, like fingers gliding over her. “She is interesting. I could see why they might fight over her.”
The bald man made a noise in his throat and walked towards them. He stopped a few feet away and broke into rough laughter.
The teenager’s head snapped up and his cold eyes narrowed. “And what do you find so amusing, Troy?”
“It’s not her,” he answered, his smile wide and fanged.
Fanged? No, that had been her imagination. People didn’t have fangs. The mafia did not have fangs!
The teen frowned. “Are you certain?”
Joseff growled low in his throat and stepped harder on her hip. “Who else would it be?”
Troy shrugged. “Damned if I know, but Patrick’s girl is a bit of blonde fluff who looks like she might crawl under the bed at the slightest provocation.” He broke into harsh laughter again. “This one’s kinda cute, though. I bet we could find something to do with her.”
His leering tone made her stomach twist. And his fangs continued to taunt her; shiny, sharp, real. How could he have fangs?
The teenager’s face clouded and he glared at Sarah, as if it was her fault. “If you’re not Katelina, then who are you? Speak!”
Joseff ground his heel into her and she yelped, then choked out, “Sarah. Sarah Townsend.” She could tell from their expressions that more was expected, but she refused to play their game.
“And just what do you have to do with anything?” the teenager demanded.
She summoned up all of her courage and stared back. “Untie me and I’ll tell you.”
The teen motioned with his hand. “Joseff.”
The Native American leaned down and grabbed her by her throat. She choked as he lifted her off the floor, crushing her windpipe in his hand. The same hand that had broken her phone to bits. Oh God.
“I’m- I’m Katelina’s friend,” she gasped out.
“What? I didn’t hear you.” The teen motioned to Joseff again and he released her. She landed on her face and rolled over, still coughing. “I’m Katelina’s friend,” she repeated, her voice raspy.
“Her friend, hmmm?” The young man’s eyes glittered like daggers. “Then tell me, where is she?”
“I-I don’t know.”
He leaned down, though not close enough to actually touch her. “You don’t know, or you refuse to tell?”
Her voice rose, though she didn’t know if it was from anger of terror. “I said I don’t know!”
“Hmmmm.” The teen straightened, turned on his heel, and stalked back to the chair. He draped himself over it and stared at her with bored disdain. “I imagine you don’t know where Jorick is, either?”
Jorick. They’d mentioned him earlier. “I don’t know who he is.”
He snorted. “Of course, play innocent. But, we’ll see how long you can keep it up for.” He snapped his fingers. “Troy! Have you heard from Peter and Javier?”
“No, Claudius – Master,” he corrected quickly.
Claudius drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair. “They should have reported by now, unless they’re dead.” He narrowed his eyes at Sarah. “Are they dead? Did Jorick kill them, perhaps?”
When she didn’t answer, Joseff kicked her in the back. “He asked you a question.”
Though she knew they weren’t playing, she shouted, “I don’t know who they are, or who Jorick is, and I don’t know what happened to any of them! Let me go now and I won’t call the police!”
Troy’s grin seemed to grow even wider, if that were possible. “Let me have her, Master. I’ll make her talk.”
Claudius nodded disinterestedly. “Very well, Troy. Do as you please.” He glanced back to her and added absently, “If she knows anything, I would appreciate the information while she’s still able to speak.”
A terrified scream strangled itself in Sarah’s throat and she struggled against her bonds. This had to be a joke. Wasn’t there a TV show where they tried to scare people? Maybe she was on it. Or maybe it was a nightmare. Or maybe-
Troy bowed low, and then pounced, like a cat with a mouse. He snatched Sarah up by the front of her dress and smiled into her face; that wide, toothy, fanged smile. She could see herself reflected in his eyes, feel the heat of his breath.
Oh God, maybe it’s real.
Troy snickered and glanced to her captors. “Stand back, boys, and watch how it’s done.”
Joseff snorted contemptuously and the other two remained silent. Sarah tried to catch their eyes and send a silent plea to them, but they didn’t look at her. Her gaze swung wildly to the group clustered around Claudius’ chair. Surely one of them would help her. One of the women, maybe?
Help me. Save me. Someone, please.
Troy laughed again, and she told herself she wouldn’t scream, no matter what.
Easier said than done.
Only two left and then some editing and the Vampire Morsels collection will be done. Yay! next up is Troy, then Velnya.
- Claudius now on Smashwords! (joleenenaylor.wordpress.com)
- Elsa now on Smashwords! (joleenenaylor.wordpress.com)
- Herrick now on Smashwords! (joleenenaylor.wordpress.com)