Long Lost Page 41

He pulled the trigger again.

Another shot rang out. Terese went down.

My scream turned into a guttural cry of anguish. A hand reached into my chest and crushed my heart. I kept moving forward, even as he turned the gun toward me. Fear was gone I moved on pure, instinctive hatred. The gun was almost pointed in my direction, almost on me, when I ducked low and slammed into his waist. He fired off another bullet, but it went wild.

I drove him hard toward the wall, sweeping him off his feet. He swung the butt of the gun down on my back. In some other world at some other time, it might have hurt, but right now, the blow had all the impact of a mosquito bite. I was beyond pain, beyond caring. We landed hard. I let him go, scooting away, trying to get a little distance so I could go for the weapon in my ankle holster.

That was a mistake.

I was so consumed with pulling out my gun, with killing the bastard, that I nearly forgot that there were two other armed adversaries in the room. The man who\'d been on my right was running toward me, his weapon raised. I jumped back as he fired, but again it was too late.

The bullet hit me.

Hot pain. I could actually feel the hot metal rip into my body, stealing my breath, knocking me flat on my back. The man aimed again, but another shot rang out, striking the man in the neck with such force it nearly decapitated him. I looked past the fallen corpse, but I already knew.

Win had arrived.

The other man, the guy who\'d been on my left, turned just in time to see Win spin and pull the trigger again. The big bullet hit him squarely in the face, and his head exploded. I looked over at Terese. She wasn\'t moving. The man in the mug shot the man who had shot her started running away, slipping into the drawing room. I heard more gunfire. I heard someone yell to freeze and stop. I ignored them. Somehow I crawled toward the drawing room. Blood poured off me. I couldn\'t tell exactly, but I figured the bullet had landed somewhere near my stomach.

I clawed through the opening, not even checking to see if it was safe. Move forward, I thought. Grab the bastard and kill him. He was by the window. I was in pain and maybe delirious, but I reached out and grabbed his leg. He tried to kick me off, but there was no way. I dragged him down to the ground.

We wrestled, but he was no match for my rage. I gouged his eye with my thumb, weakening him. I grabbed his windpipe and started to squeeze. He started to flail, hitting me in the face and neck. I held on.

’’Freeze! Drop it!’’

Voices in the distance. Commotion. I wasn\'t even sure they were real. More like something from the wind. Might be something I was hallucinating. The accent sounded American. Familiar even.

I still squeezed the windpipe.

’’I said, freeze! Now! Let him go!’’

Surrounded. Six, eight men, maybe more. Most with guns aimed at me.

My eyes met the killer\'s. There was something mocking in them. I felt my hold slacken. I don\'t know if it was the command to let him go or if the bullet wound was ebbing away my strength. My hand dropped off him. The killer coughed and sputtered and then he tried to take advantage.

He brought up his gun.

Just as I hoped.

I had pulled the small gun from my leg holster. I grabbed his wrist with my left hand.

The familiar American voice: ’’Don\'t!’’

But I didn\'t really care if they shot me. Still holding his wrist, I took my gun, pushed it under his chin and fired. I felt something wet and sticky hit my face. Then I dropped the gun and fell on top of his still body.

Men, a lot of them from the feel of it, tackled me. Now that I had done what I had to, my power and will to live drained away. I let them turn me and cuff me and do whatever, but there was no need for restraints. The fight was out of me. They flipped me onto my back. I swiveled my head and looked at Terese\'s still body. I felt a pain as enormous as any I had ever known consume me.

Her eyes were closed and soon, very soon, so were mine.

PART TWO

22

THIRSTY.

Sand in the throat. Eyes won\'t open. Or maybe they do.

Total darkness.

Engine roar. I sense someone standing over me.

’’Terese . . .’’

I think I say it out loud, but I\'m not sure.

NEXT snippet of memory: voices.

They seem very far away. I don\'t understand any of the words. Sounds, that\'s all. Something angry. It gets closer. Louder. In my ear now.

My eyes open. I see white.

The voice keeps repeating the same thing over and over.

Sounds like ’’Al-sabr wal-sayf.’’

I don\'t understand. Gibberish maybe. Or a foreign language. I don\'t know.

’’Al-sabr wal-sayf.’’

Someone is shouting in my ear. My eyes squeeze shut. I want it to stop.

’’Al-sabr wal-sayf.’’

The voice is angry, incessant. I think I say I\'m sorry.

’’He doesn\'t understand,’’ someone says.

Silence.

PAIN in my side.

’’Terese . . . ,’’ I say again.

No reply.

Where am I?

I hear a voice again, but I can\'t understand what it\'s saying.

Feel alone, isolated. I\'m lying down. I think I\'m shaking.

’’LET me explain the situation to you.’’

I still can\'t move. I try to open my mouth, but I can\'t. Open my eyes. Blurry. Feels like my entire head is wrapped in thick, sticky cobwebs. I try to scrape the cobwebs away. They stay.

’’You used to work for the government, didn\'t you?’’

Is the voice talking to me? I nod but stay very still.

’’Then you know places like this exist. That they\'ve always existed. You heard the rumors, at the very least.’’

I never believed the rumors. Maybe after 9/11. But not before. I think I say no but that might just be in my head.

’’Nobody knows where you are. Nobody will find you. We can keep you forever. We can kill you any time we please. Or we can let you go.’’

Fingers around my bicep. More fingers around my wrist. Struggle but pointless. Feel a pinch in my arm. I can\'t move. Can\'t stop it. I remember when I was six my dad took me to the Kiwanis carnival on Northfield Avenue. Cheesy rides and attractions. The Madhouse. That was the name of one. Mirrors and giant clown heads and a horrible laugh track. Went in alone. I was a big boy, after all. Got lost and turned around and couldn\'t find my way out. One of those clown heads jumped out at me. I started to cry. I spun around. Another giant clown head was right there, mocking me.

That was what this felt like.

I cried and spun around again. I called for my dad. He shouted my name, ran inside, knocked through a thin wall, found me, and made it okay.


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