They were here because of Haley. Head injuries could be unexpected, one day someone will smash your head into concrete and you’ll be a little dazed. Get unlucky, someone hits you in a certain way and it’s game over.
I glanced at Beth.
The man at the head of the group addressed me directly. “Alexis Loch, you need to come with us.”
I’d hurt Haley pretty bad. Maybe I’d… Goose-pimples ran down my arms and a mess of conflicting emotions all collided into each other: Fear, about what was going to happen, guilt over my actions and – underneath it all, a splash of giddy pleasure. That strange bubbly feeling of power fed the guilt like gasoline fed an open flame. I had to concentrate on standing straight and not staggering. I stared at the men who’d entered the room like they were ghosts.
He spoke again, but all that reached my ears was a disjointed mass of noise. Sounds in the shape of words, but I wasn’t paying attention.
“I didn’t mean to hurt her…” I said, but that was a lie. I had meant to hurt her. I wanted to hurt her badly. Why else would I do that? “Well, not for it to go that far. And I stopped, I managed to stop before-”
Mike stepped forwards and interrupted me. I wanted to explain. I had a chance, to smash her face into the table. I could have killed her. I didn’t. That was good right?
Mike halted my mind’s ineffectual whirring with a look, all I heard was the word ‘family’ but it hit me like a sledgehammer. There was a lot you could portray with an expression, Mike’s was serious. And mike rarely looked serious about anything.
On instinct I put a couple more paces between myself and the men. Did Mike recognise them? They were Kolmek?
“Mike, you know these people?” I asked. He considered it. No, he doesn’t. Or maybe he didn’t want to say yes? That would complicate matters, were they expecting him here?
No. If that was the case he’d be more worried for himself than me. They were after his hide too. These people mustn’t know him personally. Not members themselves. But his family had connections with the MCPS.
He confirmed my suspicions, but I was only half listening. Instead, I studied my adversaries. My first instinct was to fight. It reflected the change in my psyche over the last few months. All my life I’d avoided it, I’d put painstaking steps in to prevent any kind of physical contact. But here, right now, the first thoughts in my head weren’t of the fastest, most efficient method of escape. No, my thoughts ran through violent solutions. I had to resist it.
The speaker stepped forward, was it Arthur? His scruffy grey suit the archetype uniform of a detective. He was flanked by one young, neatly pressed, MCPS uniform who remained a respectful step behind. Through his professional demeanour I could sense a bemused air.
The others hung back. They were definitely not cops. Why hadn’t I noticed that earlier?
Ill-fitting suits don’t hide thugs as well as they hope. They looked like the brutes that the gangs hired. I wondered if they practiced projecting that menace, or if it was just natural. Were they born like that? Imagining them as toddlers posing, chests out, fists bared struck me as comical. It helped eat away at the fear that they would snap my neck if I looked at them wrong. I felt a giggle threatening to creep up my throat but I wasn’t sure if it was just my body wanting to throw up.
Was something wrong with my head? Why did I always get giddy when I’m fucked?
‘A few questions’ he’d said, that I have to come with them. His eyes told me different. His eyes told me to run.
There was no opportunity. They had the door covered and this was the sixth floor. Even if I’d wanted to get out of the window the glass wouldn’t break – it was designed that way.
I couldn’t fight. The room was small and Beth occupied most of it. They didn’t want her. They wanted me. I couldn’t go with them. But I couldn’t fight them here. Logically I just had to fight them once we get away from Beth. Easy.
To my annoyance the uniform at the front flicked out a pair of handcuffs. That would make things significantly more difficult. Should I reconsider, reassess?
“Are you sure that’s really required?” Beth’s father said, observing us from near the door.
“I believe it is, sir,” the detective said, turning his head a fraction to address him but keeping his eyes on mine. “I’ve been informed to take all precautions.”
He shifted from one foot to the other. In contrast I was still, trying to calm my body’s fight-or-flight reaction into the fractionally more sensible giving up.
I won out. A fight here would be too destructive. Beth had already suffered because of me. I couldn’t take the chance she’d get hurt further. If leaving this room in handcuffs meant leaving this room without her coming to harm then that’s what was going to happen.
I held out my wrists. He let out a breath, relaxing a fraction. But I didn’t feel the hard resin. He gently pushed my shoulder – turning my body. With a soft touch he pulled my wrists to the small of my back and then pushed them into the loops, locking them together.
Shit, he was a clever bastard.
* * *
Opportunity. What a bitch.
I scanned the walls, ceiling, windows. Nothing jumped into my head. If I grabbed the fire extinguisher would I be able to… No, that would be embarrassing, and I wouldn’t really be able to do much with my arms behind my back. If only I could get them around to the front… I tested twisting, but there was only so much covert contortionism that I could manage before I got a warning ‘hey! Give it up,’ from my friendly captors.
I was happy that this Arthur guy was the one with a firm hand on my shoulder. A firm hand wasn’t the best way of restraining someone. I suspected if the two brutes had their way I’d be being dragged along.
The nurses and hospital staff stared wide-eye at my passing. It must look odd, a fourteen year old girl in cuffs being marched along by four police officers. How the hell was I going to get out of this?
The lift hummed as it dropped five floors, not to the ground I noticed. One of the men mentioned something about taking the back door. Damn, no way to make them hurt by making this public. They wanted it on the quiet. I was going to disappear. I was going to be an unidentified corpse, washed up by the river, dismissed as another anonymous piece of meat produced by the Island.
I knew that as soon as I left the hospital my chances of escape would fall even lower than they were now. I’d seen the inside of their MCPF vans, they were built like armoured cars, except with better locks.
I had to make a move now or forget about it.
First floor. Windows, I always thought they’d be good escape routes, always looked to them when I felt trapped in a building. Never tested the theory.
Was I desperate enough to try now? Sure I didn’t have the use of my arms… but hey, they weren’t all that important when climbing. Ha.
Fuck, what’s the worst that could happen, other than falling to my death? Whatever these guys wanted, it wasn’t good. If they were with the Kolmek I wouldn’t last the night. If I did, I would probably be begging not to. I shuddered.
A plan, I say plan, formed quickly when I saw a beefy looking porter approach. He clearly lifted weights or something. A red panel of a fire-alarm caught my eye.
I was desperate. Desperate enough to try anything. I knew how weird it looked right now, and only one of these guys was even in a uniform. Could I play the little girl card?
Fuck I wished I could make myself cry. Now I willed it my eyes were bone dry. I needed to be more convincing. Last week, now I’d looked sufficiently beaten up. Now, my bruises had expanded into muddy yellow patches.
But… There was one way.
Hell, if it didn’t work I risked looking a fucking idiot.
But if it did?
As we passed through a door, as the porter glanced away for a moment I seized the opportunity.
I skipped forward, out of the grip of the detective and smashed myself face-first into the doorframe.