Anne’s eyes had not yet grown accustomed to her dark surroundings. The dust was making it hard for her to breathe. It was quiet now but she dared not move.
How did it come to this? Anne thought to herself as she sat in the cramped, dusty crawlspace. She was a mess, her dress was torn and covered in blood. She clutched the butcher’s knife as if it held the key to her survival.
My poor Harry, look at the mess I’ve made of our lives. We had a nice life here. She’d have to tell him the truth now. This frightened Anne more than what had just happened in the kitchen. It wasn’t my fault. she told herself. I didn’t have a choice. I have to protect Harry.
Her thoughts turned to last night….
Anne recognized the leggy brunette at first glance. Jane was another of Sal’s girls. The two had often worked parties together; Sal’s top earners. Her “companion” was Jack, one of Sal’s bodyguards. Jane locked eyes with Anne and smiled sweetly. There was nothing sweet about her. She whispered something to Jack, and walked towards the patio, her eyes motioning Anne to follow.
Anne began to shake and she leaned closer to Harry. “Do you feel ok, darling?” Harry asked.
“It’s just a little warm in here.” Anne answered. “I think I’ll go outside for some fresh air.”
Beside Anne’s drink was a small hammer, somebody’s discarded weapon of choice. She slipped it under her wrap.
Out on the patio Jane smiled again. “It’s been a long time, Anne. You look great. The straight life agrees with you.”
Anne babbled. “Why are you here? How did you find me? You and your goon can tell Sal that I won’t go back. I won’t.” She clutched the hammer tightly under her wrap, calming herself.
“Sal went nuts looking for you. It made me kind of jealous. I always thought I was his favourite. But it wasn’t you he was missing, was it?”
Anne felt the colour drain from her face. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She tried to regain her composure. “I left to start a new life with the man I love.”
“Ah yes, dear Harry. Wouldn't he be surprised to know that his lily white wife was not so pure after all? I'm sure you keep no secrets from your husband, do you ….. Anika, is it? I prefer Anne, it’s easier to pronounce.”
Anne squirmed and she felt the tears welling up in her eyes. Jane was loving this, and continued her taunt. “I think I'll go introduce myself.”
“Don't!” Anne cried.
“You know what I want.”
“I don’t have it.” Anne was crying now.
“Do I look like a fool?” Jane said angrily. “Fine, you leave me no choice.”
Jane turned around and started to walk back to the party. In desperation Anne raised the hammer and swung.
Jane fell to her knees, swayed and then slumped onto the grass. Anne raised her hand to swing again but a hand caught her wrist and another covered her mouth. The hammer dropped harmlessly onto the grass and Jack whispered into her ear.
“Sal said you were beautiful, he never say you were deadly.”
Pulling Anne down with him, Jack bent to check on Jane. There was no need. He turned back to Anne, his voice a rasp.
“Sal’s not going to be happy about Jane, but if Sal gets what’s Sal’s, he just may let you live your nice quiet life here. Capiche?”
Anne nodded her head.
“Get out of here. I’ll take care of Jane.”
Jack loosened his grip and Anne stepped back from him. She looked down at Jane; her eyes were open but lifeless. Anne felt tears running from her own eyes.
Jack was unsympathetic. “It’s too late for tears, baby. I want you to meet me at the Petite Auberge tomorrow morning at 11. Bring it with you. If you don’t show up….” Jack’s eyes swept from Anne over to the party, where she could see Harry talking with Bob. “Capiche?”
“Good. Don’t disappoint me. Now scram.”
A loud crack startled her back to the present. She heard something fall to the ground with a loud thump. Oh my god, it’s Sal. He’s looking for me. She tried to be still and quiet. She was sure whoever it was could hear her heart racing. The footsteps were getting closer. The tiny door to the crawlspace creaked as it opened slowly. Anne held the knife over her head........
Up next: Hyperion