For disclaimers see Part 1
by Bonnie (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Shana watched Anne's almost visible indecision with trepidation. She willed her lover to do Carlos's bidding, if only to gain some time to think. She tried to keep one eye on Carlos while not letting Anne out of her eyes. That proved to be difficult since Carlos was more or less at her back now and the more she thought about that fact, the more she felt the urge to turn fully around and look at him. The space between her shoulder blades was itching, a sure sign to her that something was about to happen.
The blonde woman decided to ignore her own body and concentrated on her lover's body language again. Relieved, she realized that Anne was moving a bit closer to the table and Carol, and she wasn't surprised when she found herself shoved gently behind her tall lover. If the situation hadn't been so dire, she would have smiled at Anne's protective gesture. Unfortunately, she was certain that she probably wasn't the one needing the protection at the moment.
Anne was frantically trying to come up with a way to resolve the situation that would ensure all of them got out alive. Okay, so she wouldn't mind if Carlos didn't make it out safe and sound. Apart from him, though, she felt it was her responsibility to get everyone out.
She realized with dismay that she had absolutely no idea how to do that. If you had read more mysteries instead of old classics, you might have a clue how to behave in a situation like this. But no, you never liked them.
She had, however, seen quite a few movies during long, lonely hours in hotel rooms and she tried to remember them. Okay, this is normally where we get the bad guy to confess everything and lead us to the missing girl. Something tells me that won't work with Carlos. She mentally shook her head at their situation.
Still, now she could at least understand why the people on the dangerous end of firearms in those movies always talked to their assailants. They were probably just as curious as she was right now. All she wanted to know at the moment was why Carlos was doing was he was doing and why he had been trying to ruin her life for as long as she could remember.
"Why are you doing this, Carlos?" The question was out before she could stop it, and for a second Anne had the feeling that it stopped all movement, all thought, and all sound right with it. Even Carlos looked stunned, so she decided to simply go with it. "Why have you always tried to make my life miserable? What did I ever do to you?"
Carlos seemed to really think about those questions for a few heartbeats, absently running the fingers of his free hand along his chin. Then he looked Anne right in the eye, showing a cold glint in his eyes and a cruel smile.
"Why do you think this is about you, Anne?" he asked very calmly. "Why should this be about you?"
Before Anne could answer he began to pace back and forth, two steps to the right, two steps to the left, between the kitchen counter and the back door. Then he continued, still in a thoughtful, quiet voice. "Not everything is about you, Anne. This," he spread his arms wide, "isn't about you."
Shana gave a short snort at that, but remained quiet otherwise. Carol, however, had stiffened noticeably as soon as Carlos lifted his gun to make his open arms gesture, and Anne imagined she could almost hear the sheriff's grip on her gun tighten. That made two things very clear to her: one, the sheriff was most probably on their side. Two, she needed to get Carlos attention away from the table and their little group. Maybe talking does work.
"Okay," Anne replied, "what is it about, then?" She started a little pacing of her own, just two tiny baby steps in the direction of the back door, and one baby step back. Her idea was to get as close to the door as she could, so Carlos would have to divide his attention between her and the others who would be standing to the side then. Her eyes never left Carlos's face; she was always ready to stop moving if he seemed to mind. Surprisingly, he didn't even seem to notice. "Tell me what it is about, Carlos, because you sure made me think it was about me all those years."
The tall man seemed to notice Anne's movements for the first time and for a second Anne feared he'd make her stop or just shoot her. But then he just gave her an intense look and obviously came to a decision. His gun slowly moved until it was pointed straight at her chest, and it kept moving in time with her steps.
"Do you know that you stole my life, Anne?" The question sounded almost contemplative, like a philosophical proposition. "Look at me and tell me you really think this is about you." He stared intently at the tennis player, who was more or less just rolling back and forth on the balls of her feet. He waited for an answer that didn't come.
To say that Anne was confused would have been an understatement. Why would she have stolen his life? What the hell is he talking about? She repressed the urge to turn her head and look at her mother and Shana for an answer, but it was hard.
"What are you talking about?" came Shana's voice right then, mirroring Anne's thoughts almost exactly. When Carlos looked at the blonde woman, she continued. "To me it looks a lot like this is about Anne and ... maybe even about me."
Her voice was getting louder and harsher with each word, and Anne could feel the rage building in her lover. She knew that if she didn't do something soon, Shana might get herself in some real trouble. She looked at Carlos and saw a crazy gleam in his eyes that made her shiver. It also gave her an idea.
She turned toward her lover and made a calming gesture with her hands. "No, Shea, he's right. It is all about him, don't you see." With a steady look into her lover's eyes she tried to tell her that Shana needed to trust her and let her handle things right now. An almost imperceptible nod told her to go ahead. For a second Anne wondered if she had imagined it, but she plunged right on anyway.
She turned a bit to fully concentrate on Carlos, who was watching the whole scene with a mixture of bemusement and amusement, or so it seemed. The hand that was holding the gun also twitched in what Anne assumed was impatience. She knew she needed to act fast before someone got hurt.
"It's all about you, Carlos. Isn't it?" She looked straight into his cool blue eyes and made a baby step forward. "It was you who tried to rape me when I was fourteen. You who tortured my little brother. You who killed him. It was you who kidnapped those girls to do who knows what with them. You who took Daniela from her loving parents to lead her to a fate unknown. You raped Shana, and you tried to kill her by driving her off the road!"
Every "you" was emphasized by another baby step toward him and a little to the left so that she was standing closer to him and away from the group. Carlos had to concentrate on her or on the others, and he couldn't aim the gun at both at the same time.
Anne had moved so close to him, she could grab for the gun with her outstretched arm, but she didn't dare do that. She also didn't dare take her eyes off Carlos, even though her lover's gasp at the last bit nearly stopped her in the middle of her sentence. She knew she was gambling with the part about the accident, but she had known Carlos almost all her adult life and she was certain that the accident was his work. And by the look in his eyes, she was right.
Carlos's eyes were getting colder by the second. They also took on another hue, one that she recognized as him losing control. She knew that she had surprised him with her move and that he was probably contemplating options now. She wasn't sure that was a good thing.
She was also out of options now, she realized. She had made him mad, she could see that, but she had managed to get his focus away from her family. That, however, made her the only real target and she didn't have a clue as to what she was supposed to be doing to keep Carlos off balance and herself and the others alive.
What scared her the most, though, was that Carlos was beginning to smile.
"You're right, Anne," Carlos said after only a couple of seconds, "this is about me, but not in the way you think it is." His smile developed into a smirk, which made him look like he was laughing at a joke only he heard.
Which was probably exactly what was happening here, Anne mused.
"You don't have the slightest idea what this is all about," Carlos continued, still in the conversational tone he had managed to keep up the entire time. "And you're just dying to know, aren't you?" The way he drawled out the word "dying" made Anne shiver, but she stood her ground.
Carlos seemed disappointed by her lack of reaction, but he continued nonetheless. "Yes, I did some of the things you said I did, but darling, they happened so much differently than what you made them sound." He chuckled and then looked over at Shana.
"Did you tell Anne I raped you, honey? I'm wounded." He put his free hand on his heart in a mock show of hurt. Then, completely serious, he looked at Anne again. "Now why would I need to do that, Anne? Want me to tell you what really happened? Yes? Good."
The last thing Anne wanted to hear was how Carlos viewed whatever had happened that night, but she threw Shana a completely unconscious glance. She knew her lover hadn't lied to her, didn't she? The question must have showed in her eyes because Shana's eyes met hers and held the gaze unflinchingly, openly, and completely filled with a trust that Anne knew she had to return. She smiled a bit, letting Shana know the message was received.
"No, Carlos, I don't want to hear whatever story you cooked up in your little demented mind," she growled as she turned her eyes back to Carlos. "What I really want to know is why you did all those things. Why are you trying to ruin my life? What did I ever do to you? Why have you always tried everything you could to hurt me?"
"What do you mean? Trying to ruin your life?" Carlos's question sounded almost sincere. "You don't have a life, Anne! Your life is mine!" He shouted the last bit, but calmed down at once, obviously trying hard not to lose control. "Did she tell you how much she liked it when I fucked her, Anne? How she begged me to take her? How she wanted me not to stop? She belongs to me, Anne, just like everything you have belongs to me."
He slowly raised the gun and pointed it at Shana's belly. "And now that I've had her, I don't need her anymore, just like you won't need her anymore after tonight." His finger tightened as he slowly pulled the trigger.
Shana closed her eyes, never having felt so helpless before. She didn't want to see Anne's pain when she was shot, but her eyes refused to stay shut in the face of death. Defiantly she focused on Carlos and the gun, while trying to keep one eye on her lover, who looked like she was rooted to the spot. I'm sorry, Anne. The time was too short. We should have done this so many years ago.
The sound of the gun going off was louder than anything Shana had ever heard and she was very surprised that she didn't feel any pain. She did, however, feel the jostle when Carol shoved her toward a fast-moving Anne, who made it to where her lover was standing in one large leap.
Anne was frozen to the spot for all of a second before she realized that she had managed to bring her lover into a very dangerous situation. All she knew was that she had to get between Shana and the gun before Carlos pulled the trigger. The room around her disappeared until only she and her lover existed. The muscles in her thigh tensed and with a roar she leapt into the space between Carlos and the blonde woman who held her future.
It doesn't really hurt that much, Anne thought. At least not as much as she expected it to. At least not for the first couple of seconds.
Then the burning began and Anne felt a groan erupt in her stomach that threatened to evolve into a scream on the way to her mouth and there was nothing she could do about it. Her right arm felt as if someone were slowly burning a hole through it with a hot poker.
Then a hand touched her hair and a voice reached her ear, sweet and soothing as a long shot of bourbon on a very cold night. Shana. She's okay, I made it. That was everything that mattered, but then she remembered that there was someone responsible for the pain in her upper arm, and that they were probably still in grave danger.
She slowly opened her eyes and looked straight up into Shana's face, which was wet with tears. "I'm okay," she croaked with a half-grin, "doesn't really hurt." She tried to move from her position in Shana's lap to see if someone else had been hit by the bullet that had gone right through her arm, and bit back a groan when the movement reached her injured arm.
She couldn't see anyone else down, so she relaxed slightly and tried not to think about that any more than she had to. She turned her head to look for Carlos and saw him standing where he had been standing all the time, the gun still pointed at her and the woman she was almost lying on top of. He didn't move, and Anne wondered why the grin had slipped off his face until she followed the line of his gaze and came to a gun that was being held somewhere above her face.
Carol. With a sigh Anne closed her eyes again and concentrated on the small hand that was continuously stroking her hair. The pain was slowly lessening and she opened her eyes again to take a look at the wound. The bullet had hit her upper arm, about four inches from the elbow. The hole didn't look too big to her, but she didn't have any experience whatsoever with gunshot wounds and could have done without this one as well.
What worried her was the copious amount of blood that was running from it.
It was becoming increasingly difficult for Mike and Kevin to hold Irene back. When Carlos had fired the shot at Shana the older woman had tensed, but when the shot actually hit her daughter she was halfway across the table in a very surprising lunge before the two men could grab her shoulders.
They pressed her down into her chair with all the power they could muster and could hardly keep her down. When Anne groaned in pain, Irene struggled even more. In the end, Kevin bent down and whispered in her ear, telling her that she couldn't put herself into danger, too.
"Why didn't she kill him?" the older woman hissed back. Kevin didn't need to ask who she was referring to. He had wondered himself why the sheriff had been relatively passive.
"I was beginning to trust her and now she just lets that ... that bastard ... shoot my daughter!"
"Mom," Kevin's voice was soothing, although he wasn't sure about the sheriff any longer, "she must have her reasons. She probably wants him to give her some information before she arrests him." He was tenderly rubbing her shoulders, touching his lover's hand at the same time and noticing the tremor in it. He quickly shot his lover a smile that was meant to be reassuring, but Mike's frown told him that he hadn't succeeded. He squeezed Mike's hand and was rewarded with a short and strained smile.
He looked over to where Shana was pulling Anne into her lap and heard his best friend's tortured groan. He closed his eyes in sympathy, feeling a little nauseous just at the thought of the pain she had to be enduring.
Irene was furious.
Not only with Carlos ... no, she was also mad as hell at her daughter for jumping between the gun and her lover, though she knew that she didn't have a choice. And she was really, really mad at Carol for not shooting Carlos when she had the chance.
However, now that it was too late, all she wanted was to check on her daughter. She smiled at Kevin and nodded, hoping he'd let her go. She understood why the boys had held her down, but she hadn't liked it one bit. Kevin smiled back at her, seemingly understanding her wish, and took his hand from her shoulder. Seeing that, Mike followed his example and suddenly she was free to move.
Checking Carlos's position and behavior from the corner of her eyes, she slowly inched towards the edge of the table to get closer to Anne. She realized that Dr. Hinkel was also there, lurking on the corner of the table, worriedly looking down at one of his patients. He looked alert, but not overly worried, which calmed Irene down. To her, the amount of blood seeping from her daughter's arm looked too much, too dangerous.
Both of them ended up hovering at the edge of the scene, watching over Anne and Shana, waiting for a chance to get closer.
With a grimace, Fritz Hinkel watched the events playing out in the kitchen. His body hurt and he cursed himself for rushing Carlos as if he were twenty years younger. His rage had startled him into action--a rage he hadn't thought possible for the pacifist he usually was. But faced with the man he knew had kidnapped and sold his daughter into what he assumed was a modern kind of slavery made him forget everything. Neither his age nor the fact that he and his wife abhorred violence mattered, and before he could think about what he was doing he had attacked the dark-haired man.
It's a wonder I'm still alive, he thought. Instinctively, he looked around to his wife, expecting her to be angry at his foolishness. Instead, he found a warm, encouraging look and an expression in her eyes that he had never seen before and couldn't read. His wife's eyes travelled to where Anne Patakis lay on the ground in her lover's arms and he could see the question in them.
The young woman was a big worry for him at the moment. He couldn't get near enough to really take a look at the wound, but from what he could see he knew that the tennis player should be on her way to a hospital, not lying on a kitchen floor in the middle of nowhere.
He had done all he could, handing Shana his own sleeve to stop the bleeding. Now, the flow had slowed to a trickle, something he was infinitely grateful for. The wound had bled profusely in the beginning and he had been afraid that the bullet might have hit the brachial artery, although the blood didn't get pumped out in spurts with every heartbeat.
Still, the bullet had gone through the arm, certainly doing all kinds of damage to the bone and dense muscle mass. But without taking a closer look he could only watch and wait.
Anne became faintly aware of her mother and Dr. Hinkel hovering in the background, watching her anxiously, and she tried to give them a sign that she was more or less okay. The older man whispered something to Shana and handed her something that turned out to be a sleeve of his shirt. She tied it around Anne's arm and the tall woman bit back a scream when Shana tightened the knot and closed her wound tightly. She could do nothing to hold back the tears of pain, however, and her only comfort was the gentle touch of Shana's fingers in her hair. Anne tried to get a grip on her pain and the nausea that followed it, and she tried not to give in to the overwhelming wish to just scream or slip into unconsciousness.
She closed her eyes just for a minute, letting herself fall into the darkness that hovered on the fringes of her mind. Her body slipped into relaxation and she missed the absolute terror on her lover's and her mother's faces when her own face relaxed as her body was released from the stress, if only for a minute or two. She also missed Dr. Hinkel's caring hand on her mother's shoulder and his whispered words, and the encouraging smile Irene gave Shana because of it.
Somehow, however, she did not miss the love that surrounded her, and the gentle touch of her lover's fingers in her hair, and her mind clung to that instead of completely letting itself go into oblivion.
The moment of relative peace was broken rudely by a loud voice that even made it through the shield of her mind and pulled her back into the here and now.
"Enough of that!" Carlos's voice boomed as if they had been given the time by his grace. He addressed the sheriff next. "Carol, put away that gun and stop fooling around. We both know you're not going to hurt me. Hell, you hate her just as much as I do! Let's just get on with this."
Carol was holding her gun steadily at Carlos, not moving a muscle, not showing any reaction. Her first instinct had been to just shoot Carlos, but she needed him for the information he could provide on the slave ring he had built. She wanted him alive and able to talk, she wanted to bring him in and maybe - with this big catch in tow - get back with the FBI.
But if she had to, she would kill him. It couldn't be that hard, could it?
She didn't react to his command, but his next words chilled her to the bone, making her realize that she would probably have to make a decision soon. Until then, she wished she knew how to keep him talking, because the way his eyes were turning slightly weird she realized that whatever he might say now could probably be used against him. She was also curious because, frankly, she didn't have a clue why he hated Anne so much.
"I need to get going," was what Carlos uttered in a voice that was entirely too calm. "It's time to finish this."
He was getting impatient. He knew that he had to leave soon in order to stay ahead of everything. He was confident that he was always one step ahead, but there was no reason to get cocky. Too bad things weren't going the way they were supposed to. Well, he hadn't really planned it ... more fantasized about it. His big moment, when he would finally did what he should have done years, decades ago.
Too bad this didn't feel nearly as exhilarating as he had imagined.
He allowed himself a moment of self-pity. Lately, everything had started to go wrong, and the easy and comfortable life he knew was threatened. First, he had heard that Shana had gotten pregnant, and then some of his papers had vanished from his briefcase when he was at the Wilsons' place. He just knew that Shana had them and he knew she had to die.
Even if she didn't know what the papers meant, he couldn't let her bring the child into this world. Not when the kid could be his. He could tell that night that she had wanted it, and he had merely taken her up on the offer, although she was never really someone he wanted. No, he had just taken her because she was there, and was willing, and belonged to someone he owned.
Someone who owed him everything: life, money, success. And everything else in between.
He was there to make sure she paid her debts. He always figured that her life was just enough of a payment to get even. He wanted her dead and should her blonde friend die right beside her ... well, that would just make things easier.
Why did it have to get so complicated, though? All he had wanted was to go in, kill Anne, and get out again. He shook his head and almost allowed a chuckle to bubble up when he realized he was kidding himself. He always did enjoy having an audience, and he was eagerly awaiting the kick it would give him to see Anne die in front of her lover and her mother.
Before he killed them, too.
"Carlos." Irene's pleading voice interrupted his pleasurable thoughts. "Why don't you let us take Anne to the hospital? She needs a doctor ... you know it will hurt worse the longer we wait." She looked him straight in the eyes. "Please?"
A big grin crept over Carlos's face. Now that he liked, the old woman pleading and begging for her precious daughter. Too bad she'd never cared about him the same way. "No doctor, no hospital," he replied, trying to keep the excitement out of his voice. "No nothing."
"Shut up, Irene!" He pointed the gun down to where Anne lay in Shana's arms. "And you ... get up." He made a gesture with his arm to hurry Anne up. "It's time for you to die," he said with a smile.
Irene knew she had to do something and she knew she only had one chance. Maybe he doesn't know and that might stop him. She took a deep breath, while watching Anne struggle to get up from Shana's lap. The blonde tried to hold her back but her daughter was determined to see this through, Irene could see that.
He's going to hurt her anyway, and you don't really want Anne to know, do you? a small voice inside her head asked. No, she didn't, but if that what it took for Anne to survive this, then by God she would do it.
Anne was standing now and, following Carlos's gestures, was moving away from the others in the direction of the back door, close to where she had been standing before she had jumped in front of Shana. When Carlos was satisfied with her position, he indicated he wanted her to stop, and raised his gun until it pointed squarely towards her eyes.
It's now or never. Go! "Carlos!" Irene shouted desperately. "Don't kill her, please!"
The dark-haired man looked over at her as if asking why he shouldn't before tightening his finger on the trigger ever so slightly. Irene didn't know how she saw it, but she did, so she barged right on.
"You can't kill her, Carlos, please," she begged. "You can't kill your own sister."
"He's her brother?" For a second there was something close to mayhem in the kitchen with everyone shouting at the same time. Only Anne stood completely still with a baffled look on her face. Then she took a look at the man before her and wondered how she had never thought about that. She didn't doubt her mother's words for a second.
What puzzled her, though, was the fact that all she could think about was that Shana's baby might really end up looking like they both had contributed to it. If they survived, that is.
"So you knew," Carlos said as soon as the noise had died down. He seemed calmer now, as if having everyone know his secret was a good thing, and when Irene nodded he relaxed the pressure on the trigger.
To Carol he looked entirely too calm, and she wondered if they had run out of time with Irene's revelation. She didn't believe for a second that Carlos would suddenly start having feelings of brotherly love towards Anne, especially since it was pretty clear to her that he had already known he was her brother. Which, she felt, explained a lot of things she had witnessed in Carlos's behavior towards Anne. No, he had gone to the inn with a specific purpose, and killing his sister was probably very high on the list of things to do.
"Well, it doesn't really matter, now does it?" Carlos asked in a silky voice that sent shivers up Carol's spine. "I'm going to kill her anyway. That is, after all, what I came here for. She stole my life, and now I'm taking hers." He grinned and turned to look at Anne. "It's just going to be a bit more dramatic than what you did to me."
Anne took a deep breath to speak, but before even the first word made it out of her mouth, there was a blur of movement to her right and Shana suddenly stood next to her with a gun in her hand. Anne looked around to find Carol standing there with a confused look on her face and an empty hand. The sheriff hadn't even seen the smaller blonde come up to her and take the gun out of her hands with a sure grip.
"You are not going to kill anyone, Carlos," Shana said calmly, "not the baby, not me, and definitely not Anne." She raised Carol's gun and pointed it at the man who threatened to take everything she loved. "I know what you did to her all those years ago, and I know what you've done to all the other girls. Selling young girls like slaves! How could you do something like that? All you've ever done is try and destroy Anne's life, and now you're trying to finish it off? I'll kill you before I let you kill her. After all, you deserve it far more than anyone here."
The look she gave Carlos was a mixture of hatred and confusion, and he didn't know what to do with it. All he knew was that he sure wouldn't be stopped by the woman standing between him and what he wanted to destroy. He smiled at her, and the gun aimed at Anne never wavered.
"You can't kill me, Shana," he said in a voice that might just as well have inquired about the price of rice in China, "because if you do, the police will only have the evidence they're going to find at my place for my oh-so-many crimes." He shrugged. "And they're going to find some carefully hidden evidence that leads to my little darling sister over there as the main culprit."
"So what?" Irene asked before Shana could do it. "We'll kill you now and go to your house and destroy the evidence you left there."
"Nice idea, Irene, but unfortunately, the police will already be there by now, now that one of my ... associates ... unfortunately developed a conscience all of a sudden." There was pure venom in Carlos's voice. "Your mother never could keep a secret, Shana, could she?" he laughed.
"My mother? What the hell are you talking about?" Shana sounded utterly confused.
"Anyway," Carlos continued as if he hadn't been interrupted, "killing me will get you nowhere, unless you really want to see Anne behind bars for the rest of her life."
Shana turned around to Anne and touched her lover's back, needing the connection. She lowered the gun and tears started falling from her eyes. "My mom? I don't understand ..."
Anne tried to keep Carlos in her line of sight while still giving in to what her heart demanded of her. She raised her injured arm as much as she could so she could wipe away the tears rolling down Shana's cheeks. "Darling, don't believe a word he says. He's just trying to confuse us to get the advan--"
Her words were interrupted by Carlos, who looked at them in disgust. "You know what? You are really getting on my nerves. It's really time for you to--"
There was a metallic thump and then Carlos crumpled to the ground in a heap at Anne's and Shana's feet, leaving complete silence and a clear view of what had struck him down.
Standing there was Mrs. Hinkel, holding the 12-inch iron skillet in both hands. And amidst the silence her hands lost her grip on the handle and the skillet clattered to the floor.
Who would have thought the old girl had it in her . . . More of this in Part 28