Rats? She hoped not. Their naked pink tails grossed her out.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
The house was old. It creaked and groaned throughout the night. They were sounds that Cody had gotten used to. She knew the difference between the rumble of the fridge and the sound of the fan on the old gas heater unit starting up. She recognized the sigh of slightly sagging floorboards in the hall and the hiss of the toilet filling. She had even trained herself to listen for the sounds of Becky’s footsteps heading down the hall in the middle of the night, the slight ‘shoosh’ of her blanket being pulled behind.
She lay awake now, listening to the rustling sound coming from the living room and knew they weren’t sounds the house made on its own.
Rats? She hoped not. Their naked pink tails grossed her out.
She’d seen a cat once, out by the garbage can and that had got pretty noisy when she’d yelled at the thing, but this noise was coming from inside the house.
Cody slid from beneath Sid’s arm and just as carefully slid a pillow into her place. He snorted in his sleep, made a face and then went back to softly snoring, a contented smile on his peaceful face. She allowed herself a moment to admire the width of his naked back as she pulled his t-shir over her head and then she turned and knelt beside the bed and began to turn the dial on the lock on the front of the gun safe.
The door swung open at the end of the third turn and Cody reached for the gun with one hand and the ammo clip with the other. She was just sliding the clip home when she heard the sound of heavy boots walking down the hall.
“I don’t fucking think so,” she hissed under her breath as she got to her feet and turned, settling the gun in both of her hands, her arms held straight out in front of her just like Agent Keith had shown her, pointing it directly at the doorway. He was big, a fucking giant that had to duck as he walked into the room. A naked razorblade swung from one ear, a golden hoop from the other. His head was shorn and his bald dome caught the moonlight as he faced her. So did his dark beady eyes, and the gold front tooth. “Fuck, you’re a fucking caricature,” she laughed, surprised at how calm she felt. Her hands didn’t shake. Her palms didn’t get clammy.
She surveyed the sleeves of tattoos that covered both of his arms, trying to memorize as many of the works of ‘art’ as she could so that if she had to, if she didn’t put a big fucking hole right between his eyes, she’d be able to identify him later.
“Like what ya see sweet cheeks?” the man growled, a hunting knife appearing in one of his hands. There was a word spelled across his knuckles. She thought it said KILL but she wasn’t sure.
“I just had no idea they piled shit so high,” she grinned back at him, pulling back the safety.
“I gots a message fo ya,” the Neanderthal grinned right back at her. “You needs to keep yo mouth shut or I kills the kid.” Cody shook her head. It was kind of insulting to have some goon who’d obviously not made it out of the third grade trying to make her quake in her fuzzy slippers.
Sid woke to see Kate standing on one side of the bed wearing his t-shirt, one eye squeezed shut and a determined set to her jaw. She was holding a gun. He was about to ask what kind of weird, kinky sex game she was into when he heard heavy breathing and rolled over to see what looked like something off of Outlaw Bikers standing in the doorway.
No, that wasn’t right. The guy was filling the doorway. If there had been any light he’d have blocked it out. As it was, Sid could make out a barbed wire design tattooed on the side of the guy’s chrome dome and a gold tooth when he grinned. The only guy he knew that was as imposing and as fucking scary as this guy was Ranger’s resident boogeyman Boogaard and Derek Boogaard had nothing on this guy.
“Like what ya see sweet cheeks?” The guy grinned and licked his lips as he leered at Kate’s bare legs. Sid was swinging out of the bed, putting his feet on the floor when he heard Kate laugh behind him.
“I just had no idea they piled shit so high,” he heard her say and then he heard the click of the safety being taken off and then he decided not to stand in the way. He felt like a fucking coward but he rolled onto the floor and tried to wriggle under the bed.
He could see the headlines now; ‘Star Player Dies in Gangland Murder’. This was why he didn’t date. Even the seemingly ‘normal’ ones turned out to be stalkers or worse...
“I got a message fo ya. You needs to keep yo mouth shut or I kills the kid.” Clenching his hands into fists, Sid cursed how useless he felt. Whatever kind of psychos Katie had dated before him, that kid down the hall did not deserve to die in some kind of deranged murder suicide.
She was calling the big tatted up biker names, even though Sid was silently pleading with her to just placate the big grease monkey while he tried to think of how he could get by the guy, get down the hall and get Reba out of the house and into his vehicle and get the hell out of here. ‘If the kid wasn’t already terrorized she will be by some big naked guy grabbing her’, he reminded himself and started to reach for his jeans.
That’s when all hell broke loose.
He couldn’t believe how loud the shot sounded in that small room. He wasn’t even sure, at first, if that’s what the sound was, but then he saw blood erupting from the guy’s leg and he didn’t need much more evidence than that. The guy dropped the knife to grab his leg and Sid launched himself across the floor to grab it.
‘And what are you going to do with it now genius?’ he asked himself and then turned around to see Kate staring at him, wide eyed, the kind of shock on her face that he’d seen on guys when they get really hurt out on the ice. She was white and he could see her pulse racing in her neck. The gun was hanging from her hand like she was going to drop it.
Part of him was relieved that she wasn’t as tough as she had sounded. Part of him wanted to yell at her to suck it up because after all, the guy wasn’t dead, just writhing around on the floor cursing and making all kinds of promises about what he was going to do to them when he got up.
“C’mon!” he yelled at her and grabbed his jeans with the hand that wasn’t still holding the double edged hunting knife. Kate blinked and then climbed across the bed to where he was jumping into his jeans. Not bothering to zip them up, Sid held his hand out to her and felt her palm slide over his, warm and somehow reassuring, and then they both hurdled the guy as best they could and rand down the hall.
Reba was sitting in the middle of her bed, clutching that cheap blue teddy bear, wide eyed and eerily silent. He’d expected her to be crying or screaming but, as he scooped her off of the bed, she was like a china doll, so still she didn’t even reach to put her arms around his neck like she’d done all those times before. She just continued to cling to the damn bear and didn’t make a single sound.
There hadn’t been time to even take Beck’s booster seat out of the Volvo so Cody held her on her lap as Sid gunned the engine and sent the SUV careening down the dark side streets and out of the sleepy neighbourhood. She could hear the wail of sirens not far behind them. She was glad they hadn’t stayed to try and explain to the local constabulary why there was blood all over the floor. She was sure that no matter how badly she’d winged the goon, he wouldn’t be there when the cops pulled into the driveway.
She didn’t even have her phone, couldn’t call her so called protectors. Not that they’d done much to protect them. She’d been glad, as she drifted off to sleep in Sidney’s arms that they bumbling agents hadn’t come back and walked in on them. Now she wasn’t sure if she was glad they hadn’t moved them to some other house, some other city. In fact, as she pressed her lips to Becka’s temple and whispered that everything was going to be okay, she thought they were better off on their own.
“Are you going to tell me what the f...what happened back there?” Sid asked finally as he merged onto the freeway. The midnight traffic was sparse but she felt better to have all the other cars around them.
“I was going to tell you,” she began, glancing over at him, at his smooth bare chest so pale in the reflected light of the oncoming headlights, his muscular arms tensed, his hands gripping the steering wheel hard enough she wondered how it hadn’t crumbled into dust. “I should have told you but...,” she turned away and stared out the passenger side window.
“I don’t care who you dated before Kate but if you’ve got a protection order against some violent ex con don’t you think you could have given me a heads up?” he snapped back at her. Cody smiled. If only it was that easy.
“My name’s not Kate,” she replied quietly. “It’s Cody...Dakota James and this is Rebecca, but I always call her Becka don’t I pumpkin?” she cradled her niece’s head against her shoulder and stroked her fingers through her soft blonde hair. “And we’re in the witness protection program.” She expected the silence. It didn’t bother her when he continued to stare straight ahead, his teeth worrying at the corner of his lip as he digested what she’d said. It felt good to finally say it, to tell someone the truth. “I wanted to tell you, before,” she continued after several minutes of silence, “should have told you....before...you know,” she added, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips as she felt the tender ache between her legs. She glanced over at him. He was still chewing on his lip and staring at the traffic in front of him. They had slowed down though. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t tell you before and no matter what you think right now, I really didn’t want to drag you into this.”
“Did you do something...are you some kind of...have you been in trouble?” he asked, glancing over at her, at them both, his copper and gold eyes coming to rest on the top of Becka’s head before he turned his attention back to the road.
“No,” she answered quickly and then put her hands gently over Becka’s ears. “She watched her mother, my sister, and her boyfriend get murdered. We’re hiding...I guess not very well.” She waited then and watched while he mulled over her answer. He didn’t have to believe her and she had no evidence to prove that what she was telling was the truth. He could pull over any minute and leave them both by the side of the road. She just hoped that she was right in how she felt about him, that he wasn’t the kind of guy to do something like that.
“So when that guy said he had a message...,” Sid’s voice trailed off as he turned to look at her. “Someone worse than that knows where you are.” Cody nodded and then so did he. “Then I guess I’d better get both of you somewhere safe.”