Chapter 23

By Anj (A.k.a. Azurenon)

Introduction: At the age of seventeen, Darby Jennings is once again running away from a very abusive home life. This time, however, she's dressed as a boy. Along her rather short journey she meets up with a "call girl" or "lady of the evening". This story follows the early trials and tribulations of their rather unique relationship, as well as, their struggles with the malevolent human forces attempting to tear them apart. It is part romance, part drama, with an attempt at suspense and/or mystery. This is NOT an Uber story. Although I love the daring duo (and written fan fiction with a partner, under the pseudonyms "Azurenon and Savanna Mac" posted on this very site) you won't find them here.

DISCLAIMERS: No copyright infringement is intended by the use of titles, artist's names and/or lyrics of the songs contained herein. These have merely been used for entertainment value and possible storyline continuity. All the characters are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental.


Violence: This story contains scenes and/or references to physical, emotional and sexual violence.

Sex: It centers on an explicit sexual relationship between two women. It is intended for MATURE AUDIENCES. So if you're under age 18, this is illegal where you are or this just isn't your cup of tea, then you have been forewarned, please exit stage left. If you are mature enough and I've captured your attention, then moving right along here...

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Be it known the author has no firsthand knowledge concerning physical or sexual violence. Nor does she even pretend to know anything about "call girls" or "ladies of the evening". Therefore, I ask that the reader please forgive any mistakes and/or oversights. Especially so in the area of giving the healing process of such aforementioned experiences the in-depth attention they so richly deserve. This story is complete fiction, written merely for entertainment. In its entirety, it contains 23 chapters: at around 10 pgs per chapter.

Thanks go to all my friends for their support and encouragement over the years.

(Written 1993. Revised 2001)

Chapter 23

        It was nearly three-thirty when we left her office. We had decided to finish our little "making up session" at home.

        "So Dora is in tight with the mayor, hmm?" Anna inquired, after I told her what Barbara's snooping had turned up. "You know, I shoulda thought of her before, but... I really didn't think she'd stoop so low. But now that you mention it, she's been real interested in what's going on. I thought it was just 'cause she'd have to find a new manager for the place, but now..." She paused, as we neared the door. "I bet she had plans to buy me out, once I was in prison. Guess, she'll just have to try somethin' else, hmm?"

        "She knows you're not in jail, does..."

        "Of course, I had to tell her so she wouldn't hire that jackass she had lined up."

        "If you told Dora, why not Candy or Tiny?"

        She shrugged. "I... assumed they knew. And speakin' of knowin' somethin'... there's somethin' we're forgettin'... the money." She turned on her heels at the door.

        "I'll go get the truck. Pull it around so you won't have to walk," I offered.

        "Okay... I'll only be a minute."

        It was cold and dreary out. The parking lot was wet from a previous rain shower and there was a ring of vapor hanging around each of the few street lamps that were working. My boot heels clicking on the asphalt was the only sound in this eerie silence. It was a lonesome sound, as well. Like those you hear in horror movies. The ones where the dumb broad, who hasn't got anymore sense than to walk across a deserted and dimly lit parking lot at three in the morning, gets it in the back or something.

        The thought chilled me to the bone. I wrapped my arms around myself and glanced about. I'd already checked out the parking lot before leaving the club, since the truck was around on the side of the building. I'd had to park it way out in 'nowheresville', when I got there, because of the crowd.

        When I finally reached the truck, I was quite relieved. I fumbled with the keys in my cold, trembling fingers, then opened the door. I got in and threw my purse back behind the seat, as I usually did, then reached out to close the door. I caught a glimpse of a figure in black out of the corner of my eye then something hard slammed against the side of my head.

        My head was throbbing. My underarms were hurting. I heard sounds like something heavy being dragged somewhere close by. I could make out voices that sounded distorted, like a 45 record being played at 33 rpms.

        "You didn't kill her, did ya?" an effeminate voice asked from in front of me.

        "Hell no! Least... I don't think so," a deeper voice answered from behind me. "But, what the fuck does it matter, huh? Dead pussy, live pussy, it all fucks the same. 'Sides, you're gonna kill her anyway."

        The voices sounded familiar, but in the fog my brain was enmeshed, I couldn't place them. Yet, I now knew that I was that something being dragged. My eyes fluttered open at intervals, as I fought the haze, but they would not focus.

        "Yes, but I want her to know who's killin' her," the effeminate one continued, "And I want her to know why. She was nicer than the others. Damn shame she started fuckin' Anna."

        I heard the back gate on the truck open and then I was picked up. My head lolled back. I felt as helpless as a kitten being picked up by the scruff of its neck. I wanted to strike out, but nothing would function.

        "I don't know what you see in that cunt, anyhow," the deeper voice said. "She's just a whore. And a perverted one at that. Damn pussy eater is what she is."

        I was laid down, roughly. Pain reverberated through my head as it struck something with a dull smack.

        "No, she's not! Don't say that!" the effeminate protested.

        "Oh, I forgot she was your precious ba-bysitter. But, she's still a fuckin' whore."

        "She'll change, you'll see. Once she sees that I'm the only one who ever really cared for her, she'll change. I'm gonna marry her."

        "Marry a whore like that, shit! You got some fucked up ideas, man!"

        I was rolled onto my stomach. I could feel a scratchy surface beneath my face. My eyes fluttered open. They were focusing a bit better now; I could make out the front seats of the truck.

        "You seem to like my ideas," the effeminate one maintained. "I never heard you complain about the others. All I ever heard outta you was, 'this is the best fuck I ever had', man."

        Others? I thought, what others? Had they done this to someone else? The thought that they were going to kill me finally struck home. The sensation of fear rushed through my lifeless body. My head throbbed.

        "You really liked that red head, didn'cha?" he continued, "Real anal, wasn't...

        "Shut up," the deeper voice hissed. "What's that?"

        I heard the faint jingle of keys in the distance and boot heels on the asphalt. Anna, my mind sang out. My mouth tried to form the words, but my cheek was pressed against the floorboard. I wanted desperately to tell her to stay away.

        "Oh shit!" the effeminate one hissed. "Who's that?"

        "I thought you said everybody else was gone!"

        "Darby?" Anna called out.

        The fingers of my right hand wiggled. I had to warn her.

        "Anna!" the effeminate one hissed.

        My left hand wiggled.

        "Where the hell did she come from?" growled the other. "I thought you had her put in prison?"

        "I... she was s'posed..."

        "Goddamn sneaky whore! I didn't even get to tie this'un up. What the hell you waitin' for, get in the fuckin' truck, Fletch. I'll take care of Anna." I heard the gate slam shut.

        I now knew one of my assailants: Fletcher Cummings.

        "Don't you hurt her! Don't you dare hurt her! She's mine!" Fletcher chanted, moving away.

        "Fuck you!" the other growled. "I been wantin' a piece a that pussy-eater for a long time. Sic that fat fucker Tiny on me, will she?" He slammed the hatch shut.

        I knew my other assailant, as well, it could be none other than Stan the man. These two were as unlikely a pair as I could imagine. I'd never seen the two of them hanging around with each other. They moved in totally different circles, or so it had appeared.

        The front door slammed, keys jingled, the truck suddenly roared to life and jolted backwards. My head throbbed wildly with the movement, but my eyes were focusing better now. I fought to keep them open. My fingers scraped the carpet, curling themselves into fists. Then the truck suddenly stopped and jolted forward again.

        "DAR... BY!!!" Anna's voice rang out.

        I moved my head slightly. I knew I had to fight this or both of us would end up dead. With every ounce of strength I possessed, I willed my trembling, dysfunctional limbs to life. I had to get to Fletcher, somehow.

        "DAR...BY!!!" she screamed again, as the truck swerved and something hit the side.

        This scared the bejesus out of me. I just knew he had run her over. Now, I was gonna kill him!

        Where the energy came from I didn't know, I only knew it surged through my veins like water through a hose pipe, unfurling and putting into motion what had once been lifeless. I crawled towards him, my head still throbbing, unsure of just how I was going to stop him. My hand came across my purse strap. My mind accessed it as my only viable weapon, at this point. To get to the gun in the console armrest would be too risky.

        I grabbed hold of my purse and eased up behind his seat. He saw me, a moment too late. I tossed the strap over his head and snatched back on it. He panicked, letting go of the steering wheel to grab at his neck, where the strap was strangling him. I glanced up, to find we were headed across the street and straight towards a brick building beyond.

        "Stop the fuckin' truck!" I screamed. "You'll kill us both!" I eased up on the strap and he slammed on the brakes. The truck veered to the left and hit the curb on the other side.

        I was thrown forward against his seat, whose latch gave way and folded over on him. My head was throbbing so badly, I could hardly see straight, much less think. Yet, some instinct for survival was working. I had him pinned down, as well as, still had the strap around his neck, so I kept the pressure on, while maneuvering over, getting my hands on the keys. I turned the ignition off and snatched them out. He never made a move, nor a sound. I quickly turned and looked out the back window. Stan was dragging Anna around the side of the building.

        "Goddammit!" I yelled, stuffing the keys in my pocket.

        I frantically snatched open the console arm rest and pulled out the nine-millimeter. Long, thin fingers suddenly wrapped around my wrist, the seat was pushed back against me and the gun went off, blowing a hole in the front windshield.

        He immediately let go of my wrist, chanting, "Don't kill me, don't kill me!"

        I was on my back, behind his seat, feeling vulnerable as hell, but he didn't need to know that. "Then get the fuck outta the truck!" I shouted, raising up. Both of which did not help my head.

        He removed the strap from his neck, while fumbling with the door, then jumped out. I pushed the passenger seat forward and climbed through the hole between them, while holding the gun on him as best I could.

        "Shut the fuckin' door!" I screamed. He did and I pushed the passenger seat back with my elbow, then reached behind me and locked the doors with the electronic switch.

        I crawled behind the wheel and started the truck again. Throwing it in reverse, I hit the gas and shot backwards like a bat out of hell. "Please God let her be alright," I was saying, though I didn't see them anywhere.

        I backed all the way up to beyond the corner of the building, where I had last seen them. I saw nothing, now. I wheeled around and shifted into drive, then shot around the building. There was Stan the man's old beat up, pick-up truck, parked in an alleyway in back. His lights were on, his engine was running and he was pointed my way.

        My mind went crazy with what I could or should do. I took aim at his front tire through the shattered windshield, and fired. His left tire blew out. Then his truck started to move forward. He had obviously mistaken me for Fletcher. I took aim again at the right one and blew it out. Stan the man wasn't going anywhere in a hurry.

        Snatching the truck around, I aimed it at his door. I slammed on the brakes moments before impact. I already had the masked Mr. Stan in my sights, though the gun was visibly shaking, as was I.

        I saw him reach over towards the other side of his truck and I fired. It blew his window out. His head popped back up a moment later, his hands beside it.

        I unlocked, then opened the door, and got out slowly, keeping the gun trained on him. "Cut the motor, asshole!" He reluctantly shut it off. "Throw the fuckin' keys out here." He leaned forward. "No! One hand only... your left! Keep the other where I can see it!" He reluctantly obeyed, then dropped the keys out the window.

        Now I felt I could move safely around the front of his truck. I kept the gun trained on him, while doing so, at a slow pace. When I finally reached the passenger door, I could see Anna slumped over on the seat beside him, her head in his lap. Her nose was bleeding.

I temporarily lost my cool. I grabbed the old door handle and started to snatch it open. My thumb slipped off the button. I tried again, taking my eyes off him, momentarily. When I got it open, I heard a click, as something shiny went to her throat.

        Stan had pulled out a switchblade. "Wanna throw that gun down now!" he growled.

        I swallowed audibly. What were the chances I could blow his head off before he slit her throat? Too close to risk it, I thought. I stared at Anna, as he pushed the blade against her skin. A small amount of blood trickled down her neck. But, she didn't even flinch. Her eyes were wide open. Was she dead already? My heart jumped up in my throat.

        "Fuck you, Stan! You've already killed her, what the hell have I got to lose!" I aimed the gun at his head and steadied it with both hands.

        "What? She ain't dead!" He glanced down at her. Her eyes were fixed and dilated. "Hey.... hey..." He patted her face. "She ain't... she can't... I didn't hit her that hard." He lifted the knife slightly, turning her head towards him. She suddenly sprang to life and bit down on his hand. "Fuckin' bitch!" he exclaimed, as he reached towards her with the other hand.

        I took aim and fired.

        I saw the knife drop from his hand, as he grabbed his right shoulder and fell up against the door. "Goddammit... you shot me, you fuckin' cunt... you fuckin' shot me!" he cried.

        Anna picked up the switchblade, then raised up and quickly slid across the seat away from him.

        I kept the gun trained on him. "Are you okay?" I asked.

        "I've... been better," she answered, wiping at her bloody nose. "And you?" She was staring at the side of my head now.

        "Fine," I answered. But, I wasn't fine, my insides were jumping up and down in a frenzy of fear. I was surprised I had been able to fire the gun.

        "No, you're not. You're bleedin'," she said, reaching towards me. "This is one time you had to save my ass, hmm?" she commented, touching my face. "And I said there weren't many heros anymore," she added softly.

        My head grew about two sizes and I felt my chest expand with a deep inhalation of satisfaction. Indeed, I had been a hero of sorts, in this instance, though I didn't feel much like one at the moment. My head was killing me.

        "Ouch!" I exclaimed, pulling back, after she'd touched the apparent cause of all my pain.

        "I need a doctor, you perverted bitches," Stan whined, holding his injured shoulder. "I'm fuckin' bleedin' to death here."

        Anna glanced over at him. "Serves you right. You know I oughta cut your fuckin' balls off with your own knife!"

        "Fuckin' whore!" he growled, then winced.

        "Guess you better give me the gun and go call the cops," she said, moving towards me.

        Keeping the gun trained on him, I eased it towards her. At that same moment, a searing pain sprang from my back and I was jolted forward.

        Anna's mouth flew open in a horrendous, ear-piercing scream. It did not register in my mind what was happening, until I was hit by another more forceful blow, which drove me over into her lap.

        "Goddamn you to hell!" Anna exclaimed. I felt the gun being wrenched from my grasp.

        Another pain shot through my body. My head arched upward.

        "An-na," I breathed, as an explosion went off close to my ear. Then the world swam away in darkness.

        Stan's wounds were not serious, only a clean shot through the shoulder. But, he sang like a canary, when the cops confronted him with what I had overheard that night. He confessed to two abductions and rapes, but he wasn't about to take the rap for murder. He cracked like an egg and spilled all the sorted details.

        According to him, Fletcher had paid him to help him abduct Leena and Phil. For his help, Stan got to rape the women, with Fletcher participating. He said that Fletcher killed the two women. Fletcher had called them "witches" that didn't deserve to live. They had corrupted Anna, his "one and only love". And that this was why she wouldn't marry him. He was merely taking the evil influence out of her life. Which, was what he saw me as being.

        He said that Fletcher had tried to warn Anna about the witches, with the notes, but she hadn't listened. After Leena, he asked her to marry him again and once again she turned him down flat. He knew then that there had to be another witch, but he didn't know who. He resorted to violence, by dressing up in women's clothes and beating her up at a motel room, where she assumed she would be meeting his father. His intention had been to show her just how bad women could be. Later, when he saw her put her hand on my behind, he knew who the witch was and decided to get rid of me. But, she kept too close an eye on me.

        After seeing the results of the drug bust on Dora's manager, this gave him the perfect way to get Anna out of the way, by putting her in prison. Then he could get rid of me, whereupon he would then be the only one in her life. And was sure she would then fall head over heels in love with him, after he faithfully visited her in prison and helped her see the error of her ways.

        The police were able to corroborate most of this, when they found pictures of Anna all over Fletcher's apartment, as well as, one in his wallet. All but the latter picture, had been taken by him at various times: at the club, outside her house, at shopping malls and one at the Curiosity Pub. The one in his wallet was a very small black and white photo taken in her freshmen year, which he had removed from a high school annual. Anna had indeed babysat him for a brief time that year.

        Scraps of paper with her name written down as Mrs. Anna Cummings supported Stan's contention that Fletcher wanted to marry her. Drawings of her, done by the mentally retarded man, were also found. Fletcher had obviously bought them from him. There were also napkins from the club, with handwritten warnings on them, just like the ones she had been receiving. But it was the underwear, as well as pictures of both dead victims in his nightstand drawer, that was the clincher. Fletcher evidently had no fear of being caught. The only mistake he'd made was not checking to make sure his plan for putting her in prison had been successful. Turns out he had been out of town: Monday through Wednesday, his job of computer programmer, had sent him on an unexpected trip to Texas.

        The story made front-page headlines and the press were everywhere, especially after Stan led the police to the dumpsites. Phil and her car were dragged from a marshy lake several miles away. Leena, her car and personal belongings from her apartment were dragged from the same lake, a mere 200 feet from Phil. Apparently, Fletcher had not considered what would happen with Phil's belongings, nor the questions leaving such things behind would cause. He did, however, think of it with Leena and went back for them, posing as a roommate and removing them, according to Stan.

        The press then jumped all over his apparent motive for the murders, seeing in it a chance to sink their teeth in the sensationalism of the lesbian issue. One headline read, "Lesbian cousins thwart would be killer". Everyone in the city, as well as most of the state, now knew about us. The lesbian part was bad enough, but the cousin thing really blew it sky high. A guard had to be placed outside my hospital room to keep the reporters at bay; for, they had no respect for the injured, intended victim.

        "Hard to believe Fletcher would do such a thing," Anna said, as she folded up the newspaper and laid it aside her chair. "So much for a whore's instincts, hmm? You need anything, baby?"

        "Uh-uh," I answered, trying to reposition my head to a more comfortable position.

        They had me lying on my side, propped up by pillows down the length of my back. It was too painful to lay on my back, since I had three knife wounds. All of which had somehow missed vital nerves.

        "Dora had nothing to do with it, then did she?" I asked.

        She shook her head. "I think what Barbara stumbled over was Dora's attempt to find out what was going on. She was worried that whoever was doing it, would try to set her up next."

        "What's his father sayin'?" I further inquired.

        "That it ain't so. Tryin' to say that I did it, and that's why I killed Fletcher."

        "I didn't know you knew how to use a gun that well," I commented, for I had heard from Candy that Anna had shot him right between the eyes.

        "I don't. It... it was a damn lucky shot. I'm... just glad I got him before he could do more damage to you." She got up and started towards me. "I'm so sorry all this happened, baby. I..."

        "Ssh... Can't you find a better use for those lips than to apologize again and again for somethin' you had no control over?"

        "A better use?" she asked with a smile, brushing my hair back from my face.

        "Uh-huh. Bring'em down here and I'll show you."

        "Sounds like you're gettin' better. But... I'm surprised you'd... even want to touch me after... all this."

        "A few stab wounds can't stop me from lovin' you, Anna. Now... are you gonna gimme them lips, or do I have to call for a nurse?"

        "A nurse? What could she do about this?" she asked, as she let down the railing and sat down on the side of the bed.

        "What? You haven't seen that real cute one that works mornings? She said if I needed anything... anything at all, to buzz her. And right now, I need a kiss."

        Anna stared down at me, squinting, as if she were angry, yet her lips were forming a smile.

        "She's got a nice set a lips and... a cute butt," I went on. "Had on a pair of pink underwear this mornin', showed right through her white pants when she..."

        Anna silenced me with a long kiss.

        When she eased back, she said, "I catch you foolin' around with some nurse and... you gonna be hurtin' a lot worse than you are now."

        "Promises, promises," I teased.

        She leaned down and kissed me again.

        We both heard him clear his throat. "Umph-hu." We knew the sound of the voice well, for he had been here on numerous occasions over the past week.

        Anna slowly eased back, but remained hovering over me. "Somethin' we can do for you, Chief?"

        "Umm... yeah. Your cousin there..." He cleared his throat again. "Well, we now know she ain't your real cousin."

        Anna turned towards him. Chief Thomas Benton was a tall, burly man with silver-gray hair and moustache. His pock marked face attested to a teenager with a terrible acne problem.

        "Who?" she asked simply.

        "A reporter ma'am," he answered, rattling the change in his pants pocket. "He was gonna do a background story on Darby there, but... he finds out she ain't got no background. Didn't even exist until last year."

        "Yeah. Well... there's an explanation for that," Anna commented. "And I'm sure you'd like to hear it, hmm?"

        "Sure would," he said, sitting down in a chair near the foot of the bed.

        Together, we spilled the whole tale. I went all the way back to the beginning and my reasons for leaving home. He merely sat there and nodded, as he jotted down notes.

        "You gonna give this to the press?" I inquired.

        "Way I see it, I ain't got much choice. If I give it to'em, maybe they'll have a quick field day with it and move on. If I don't, they gonna be pesterin' hell outta all of us, thinkin' you're hidin' something. Or that I am. I think it's best to go on and get it over with. First though, I need to check it out. Jennings, right? That's J E N N I N G S?"

        "Yes," I answered.

        "This oughta make them reporters a real good human interest story. Abused teen runs away, gets taken in by prostitute, becomes her... lover, then is nearly murdered by a deranged man who wants to marry the who..." He paused and quickly cleared his throat. "Uh...prostitute. Um-hum, oughta make a good 'un." He got up.

        "Chief, what did you do about that sergeant... what's his name?" I asked.

        He hung his head, as he started towards the door. "Uh... Moultrie's no longer on the force."

        "And Fred?" Anna inquired.

        "He's been gone." He then exited the room.

        "Oh well," I said to Anna, with a heavy sigh. "That's a load off my mind. I don't have to worry about anyone findin' out anymore. Guess, I'll go back to being Darby Jennings, hmm?"

        "I thought you liked being a Rollins?"

        "I do, but... now that everyone knows about us, it makes it... complicated. Being lovers and... havin' the same last name..."

        "We're married, aren't we? Why shouldn't you have my name?"

        I hadn't thought of it in those terms.

        She must have seen the look in my eyes for she said, "We'll get it offic'lly changed one day soon, hmm?" Then she leaned over and kissed me again, long and wantonly.

        "Ah-ah-ah," she protested, when I started unbuttoning her blouse. "It's far too soon for that."

        "But Anna, I been lyin' here for over a week and... I don't have anything to occupy my hands." I gave her my sad puppy look.

        "Cute," she commented. "But no dice."

        "Anna, please. You parade in here lookin' and smellin' so damn good, how can I not want what I can plainly see," I begged, referring to her partially open white blouse and the black bra she had on underneath. "Just one... little feel... please." I stuck out my bottom lip, giving her my best "baby, needs attention" look.

        She stared down at me, a smile turning up the corners of her mouth. "Alright, you win. But, let me pull this curtain."

        "God, why did I ever let you talk me into this?"

        "'Cause... you... love me," I mumbled against her bare skin.

        "Oh, baby, don't... do that. You know what that does to me. Darby... stop now." She pulled back. "What are tryin' to do, see if I'll let you do it right here in your hospital bed?"

        "That's a thought. I'm not too good with my left hand, though."

        "Well... don't worry about it, 'cause I ain't about to." She started buttoning up her blouse.

        "Just you remember who keeps those on their toes, hmm?" I asked, tweaking one nipple through the soft cotton blouse.

        "You're incorrigible," she said, grabbing my hand.

        "I know, but you love it."

        She smiled. "Um-hum. I love you, with all my heart." She raised my hand to her lips. "My hero," she said, placing a kiss on my fingers.

        "Some hero I am," I commented. "Just look where I ended up. You're the one that saved my ass."

        "Baby, I think... we've been savin' each other's ass since the day we met. Guess that makes us both heroes of a sort, hmm?"

        The chief showed up again. He did not interrupt a kiss this time for Anna was merely reading to me from a thick paperback entitled "Lost Along The Way". Despite her mere 9th grade education, she could read very well. Even better than I could.

        She stopped in mid-sentence when he entered the room. He glanced between the two of us, as he moved towards the bed. "Darby Lee Jennings," he said, rather formally.

        I glanced over at Anna, then back at him.

        "That's your real name, right?" he prodded.

        "Yes," I finally answered.

        "We checked out your story and... it's my duty to inform you that... as of this moment, you're offic'lly under arrest for murder."

        "What?" Anna screeched slamming the book shut. "Stan ain't dead!"

        "No, ma'am, Stan ain't. But... her daddy is. Been dead since she disappeared."

        Anna threw a quick glance my way. "No, uh-uh, you're makin' a mistake, Darby wouldn't..."

        "Ma'am, he's dead. Had a knife in his chest. She had the motive, the intent and... she fled the scene. Innocent people don't us'lly run, ma'am."

        The memory of the night I left home replayed in my mind. He'd tripped over the ashtray, with the knife in his hand. He'd hit his head on the coffee table. Had the knife somehow got turned in his hand? I'd never even stopped to consider that he might be dead. I thought nothing could hurt him. He was the invincible, ever present nightmare. But, he was dead. And yet, like Freddie Crooger, he was reaching out from beyond the grave to drag me right back where I started from. Would the nightmare never end? Or had it only just begun?

        "No, no, no!" I cried, as the chief began removing a pair of handcuffs from his belt. "You can't blame me. I didn't do it. I didn't do it. I DIDN'T DO IT!" Chief Benton started coming towards me with the handcuffs dangling in his hand. "Anna, you can't let him do this! I... didn't kill him, I swear! I didn't..." Anna stepped out of his way and turned her back to me.

        "You have the right to remain silent," the Chief said, continuing towards me. His lips turned up in a sly grin, as he reached out for my hands.

        Suddenly, his pockmarked face began to change before my very eyes. I screamed to the top of my lungs as my father stared down at me, his steel gray eyes boring into mine. "Gotcha now, gal!" he growled, putting the handcuffs on me.

        I closed my eyes. I didn't want to see anymore.

        "Darby, wake up!" Anna's voice said, close to my ear. This didn't make sense; she was across the room.

        I opened my eyes rather quickly. The room was hazy and dark, now. Something warm touched my face.

        "Baby, you alright?" Anna's soft voice asked. Her face now appeared in front of me, as she leaned down. "You were havin' an awful dream, hmm?" She brushed my hair out of my eyes. "Good lord, you're sweatin'. Must be the medicine, hmm?"

        "What.... happened to my father?" I had to ask, my head still feeling very fuzzy.

        She quickly glanced over her shoulder, then back down at me. "Did you hear us talkin'?" Her eyebrows contorted into a frown. "I didn't know you could hear.... well... I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but... he's dead."

        "The knife, I... didn't touch it! I swear! I didn't touch it! They can't blame me, I didn't kill him!"

        "What knife, baby? Nobody said you killed him. You're father died... in a fire. They think he was smoking in bed."

        "It happened a month after you left," spoke up Chief Benton, whose pock marked face appeared over her shoulder.

        I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Finally, the nightmare was truly over. But, just to be sure, I closed my eyes and reopened them again. She was still hovering over me. I reached up and touched her face.

        "Musta been one hell of a bad dream, hmm?" she inquired.

        "The last one of its kind, I hope."


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