The trip back into town was a quick one. We stopped briefly at the Oliver’s house to drop off Rosie, I was awake enough to warn them about the large expenses I had to incur, but they were just happy to have their daughter back. Afterwards I asked Ness to drop me off at my apartment, I had some things to catch up on in the morning and I needed to get some rest. I watched her drive off in my car before beginning the long tired trudge up the stairs and into my box of a room. I didn’t bother changing and instead chose to collapse quietly on my bed and sleep for as long as the world let me. Which wasn’t long.
I had only shut my eyes for a few moments before I realised that I wasn’t alone. Cautiously I opened one eye and through the darkness I could make out a figure standing in the alcove of my shower. I slowly slid a hand across my chest to rest on the butt of my weapon, it was already unclipped so it slid easily from the broken leather holder.
‘I wouldn’t do that, Mr Carol.’ The stranger walked out from his hiding spot. I could instantly tell from his voice who it was.
‘Hello David.’ I said, removing the hand from my weapon. ‘Mind if I sit up?’ He waved the tip of his gun as a yes and I slowly raised myself into a sitting position, my hands held out to the side. I looked around the darkened room to the open window where the high school teacher was walking towards. Damn, I forgot to lock it after I left the other night. My captor stood by the window, the gun in his hand shaking slightly. Even in the dim light I could tell he was desperate.
‘What are you doing David?’ I asked, my voice calm and non threatening. ‘Can I help you with something? Drink perhaps?’ I gestured to the half empty bottle on my bedside table. He stood silent, nervous. I shrugged, ‘suit yourself.’ And poured myself two fingers of the amber liquid. A salute was offered before I downed my drink and I quickly refilled the glass, this one I nursed. ‘Take a seat David, we’re all friends here.’
He declined with a wobble of his head and the gun stayed trained on me, its barrel shaking like it had given up drinking two days ago. Clearly it was going to be up to me to do all the talking, which suited me just fine. After the night I had looking down the barrel of a gun was a walk in the park compared to looking down the barrel of four angry goddess. I settled onto the bed with my back against the wall and a drink in my hand.
‘I found Rosie you know?’ I told him. ‘She’s fine now, well, mostly fine. Few bruises, bit of a concussion but otherwise unharmed. She’s a good kid that one.’ I took a sip, watching his face for any changes. He stood there, unmoving.
‘Tell me David, what are you doing here? I haven’t done anything to you have I?’ I had to think actually, so many people get caught in the crossfire and I usually forget about them till they come at me with a gun. Then I saw it, a look of doubt flashed behind his eyes. This wasn’t his idea.
‘That’s just it though, I didn’t do anything to you, did I? She put you up to this?’ His grip on the gun tightened. ‘A grown man, a teacher even, taking orders from some little brat? Why don’t you go home and grow a pair, David. Leave me to sleep.’ I was hoping I could use his obvious submissive nature to my advantage. Although, push him too much and it might end up badly.
‘It...it’s not like that!’ He stammered. ‘She loves me, she said I’d be able to join the priesthood, live with her in the temple. Then you come along, sticking your nose in. Scarlett said you would report us to the headmistress and I’d be out of a job or in jail. Either way she said I wouldn’t be able to enter the priesthood. You’ve ruined it all!’ The gun wavering about in his hand the more emotional he became. This could end badly indeed, very badly.
I tried to play it cool. Taking a slow sip from my glass I leaned my head back against the cold, brick wall and stared off into the darkness. ‘Have I reported you yet, David?’ I asked. ‘Have you lost your job or been arrested by the police? Is Scarlett still with you? She is, I hazard, because I haven’t done anything to you, and most likely wont. If you let me live that is.’ I drained the glass and set it aside on the table. ‘It’s not too late you know, to climb back down that fire escape, throw the gun away and go back to your bed. Just pretend this entire thing didn’t happen. I won’t say anything to your headmistress or the police. Nymph Scouts honour.’ I made the horned sign I practised in my youth tramping about the woods. The gun started to lower.
‘What will I tell her? She’ll berate me for not killing you. She will.’ Panic started to come through the nerves.
‘Tell her you made a deal. Better yet, tell her you scared me straight. You held the gun against my head and told me if I spoke a word you’d come back and finish the job.’ I made the action with my hand, my fingers pressing into my temple.
It wouldn’t be enough though. If I knew Scarlett, and I’ve known women exactly like young Miss Oporto before, she wouldn’t buy it. She wanted poor old David out of the way, and this was her way of killing two birds with one stone. I looked at the teacher before me, a husk of man driven by the blind love of a woman. I felt sorry for him. Anyone could see she was just using him but in his mind it was a test of his devotion, love is a hell of a drug. I watched him lower the gun to his side, his head was full of conflicting thoughts so I needed to tread lightly, we weren’t out of the woods yet. Slowly I inched to the edge of the bed and stood up. Hand extended I asked him to pass me the gun. He looked down at the weapon and thought hard about it. I could see his mind ticking over, the silence in the night filled room was deafening, but eventually he relented holding out the weapon to me. Seconds from securing the gun a loud thump hit the door, followed by several more.
The sudden noise spooked him and David raised the the weapon, moving it quickly between me and door. His face was white. The knocking continued. I took a step backwards, butting up against the edge of the bed.
‘It’s ok David.’ I said, my hands up in plain sight trying not to give him a reason to panic and squeeze that trigger. ‘No one knows you’re here, they’re probably after me. If you’re lucky they’ll off me before you can.’ I tried to laugh but it came out wrong and just caused him to tighten the grip on his weapon. The knocking continued, louder than before.
‘Mr Carol! Mr Carol! Open up!’
‘Oh shit.’ I said under my breath. David looked spooked.
‘Who is it?’ He asked in a nervous whisper, his hand starting to shake again. I tried to assure him with my hands that I would handle it.
‘It’s my landlord. I’m a little behind on my rent.’ I gestured for him to whisper, I didn’t want the landlord knowing I was in. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand I can get shot over some dumb school kid and her patsy of a teacher or I could open the door, be saved but have to pay my rent.
‘How much are you behind?’ Asked David, he was leaning in closer to hear me now. I was behind about five months now and told him so.
‘Five months!’ He practically shouted. I shushed him, bringing his voice down. ‘Five months? How did you get that far behind?’
I shrugged. ‘Guess I’m good at avoiding people. Look,’ I said standing up, ‘you can stay here if you want but I need some rest and I’m not going to get it here. Between him and you I may as well give up now and try again tomorrow.’ With that I started towards the open window. David stood dumbstruck, he didn’t know what was happening. By the time he remembered the gun in his hand I was half way out, only a leg and my head remained.
‘Hey!’ He shouted. ‘Get back here, we’re not done!’ He pointed the gun at me. Hearing David’s shouts, my landlord kicked up the barrage against my door, the knocking became pounding, which quickly became thumping, all the while shouting obscenities and commands to open the door. If I ever had to write a list of my enemies it would end up being a novel.
I was almost out. My right foot was half way down the fire escape ladder and my head was ducking under the window frame when David took a step forward, gun outstretched.
‘Don’t!’ he warned, the gun waggling in my face. I sighed and climbed back inside. Staying by the window for a quick escape I nodded towards the door. It was bending under the pressure from the blows of my landlord, the guy must have some muscle on him, that or he was just really pissed off. I did tend to have that effect on people.
‘What now, David?’ I asked, leaning absently against the window frame. The curtains billowed gently in the breeze puffing up around me. The pounding at the door, my escape attempt, the pressure from just being here was all building on David, I could see it in his eyes. I needed to calm the situation down or at the very least distract him enough to make a quicker getaway. Get him talking, I told myself.
‘Do you want me to let him in?’ I said, indicating at the door. David shook his head, he was a bundle of nerves with a gun. When he didn’t have it trained on me, the weapon was pointed at every noise that made him jump. I folded my arms and waited. I was betting on his common sense and lack of valour to kick in and tell him to throw the weapon away and get the Hel out of here. He was pacing up and down the small room, thinking out loud.
‘If I go back now she’ll never forgive me, but if I stay here I’ll get caught and end up in jail.’ His increasingly frantic negotiations with himself delved into mumbled, run on sentences. I stopped listening to him after a few minutes when I noticed the knocking had stopped.
‘David.’ I said. He didn’t hear me above his own mumblings, so I called him again. ‘David!’ Second time got his attention, he spun around, gun pointed directly at me. I looked him in the eye and simply pointed towards the door. ‘He’s gone.’ I said.
We listened to the silence together. Only the vague night noises from the city filtered in through the open window.
I watched as David seemed to calm, his body slacking slightly and the gun slowly dropping to his side. I smiled at him and he responded in kind. Maybe I can talk him out of this mess after all. Suddenly the door burst into a shower of splinters as the door lock exploded. With the hidden reflexes of a school teacher, David spun around and emptied four shots into the moving blur coming through the door frame. I was on him in a second but it was too slow to help poor Mr Lee, now face down on my stained carpet. Blood started pooling under him as I landed a solid blow on David’s chin knocking him out cold. Just to be sure I reached for the hand cuffs in my bedside table drawer and secured both hands behind his back. Picking myself up I kicked the gun away from David and moved to check on Mr. Lee.
Sadly my long enduring landlord was gone, his pulse flat under my fingers, his grey knitted cardigan quickly turning a deep maroon. I stood up and surveyed the room. My door was shattered where Mr Lee had shouldered his way in, David, the love struck teacher was unconscious and in cuffs next to my dead landlord. I’ve had things turn out better but I was alive and possibly up five months rent. I decided to leave that last part out when I called the cops, just in case they got some funny ideas when they investigated. Out of sheer habit I sighed heavily before picking up the phone, I sat on the bed and dialled the local police. Cradling the receiver under my chin, I poured myself a drink with my free hand, toasting to the deceased while I waited for dispatch to pick up. There’s no rest for the godless, that’s for sure.