Desperate Measures

Chapter 3


WARNING: This is a Uber story. All characters are figments of my imagination. Any similarities to living or dead individuals are unintentional.

VIOLENCE WARNING/DISCLAIMER: The violence in this story, is not into gross or gory. There are fight scenes. Please feel free not to read if violence of any kind bothers you.

LOVE/SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.

By Candy


The older woman stood face to face with the tall, intense writer, who was fast losing her patience, anger vibrated from every nerve. Dru felt the need to find Kasey growing in intensity, she didn't have time to waste. "Do you have Kasey?"

"Who? You're proofreader? No, why would I?" Clarice forced herself not to look away from the startling, angry, blue eyes confronting her, trying to decipher what was being demanded. Cognizant of the obvious threat laying in the muscular body held in rein by the woman towering over her.

"Someone kidnapped her tonight, and I came to the conclusion either you or your son did it."

"Antonio? Oh my God," she cried. "Why would he have her?"

"Look, I don't know what kind of game you're playing, but I don't have time to learn the rules. What I do need are answers." Dru mentally forced herself to calm down, but the sharp, edginess remained. Her heart twinge, and mind whirled with nightmares. It was happening all over again, and she couldn't control the circumstances like before. This time though, she wouldn't live through losing yet another person she cared about. Dru studied that thought, and perceived the truth, she wasn't going to sit by and allow another life slip through her fingers. With enormous concentration, she forced her attention back onto the woman standing before her. Clarice had short, salt and pepper brown hair, light hazel eyes, and slim, athletic frame. She hadn't acted the way Dru expected, The body language was all wrong, and it took her a moment to adjust. "Okay, let's get a few things cleared up. Were you having an affair with Lyanda?"

The woman's eyes brimmed with uncontrollable tears, "Yes," came the soft whisper. Hazel eyes searched blue for understanding, "But it wasn't what you think, I really loved her."

"Oh yeah, loved her to death," disdain threaded her words.

Clarice shook her head emphatically, "No! I didn't kill her." A small hand lay across her heart, "It devastated me."

She paused to catch her breath, "I had finally made the decision to tell my husband I was leaving him, but before I could, the police knocked on the door telling me about a woman being murdered on the beach the night before." A sob escaped, as she tried to explain, "When I found out it was Lyanda, I didn't know what to do, so I decided not to do anything." Eyes pleading, "What good would it have done to tell the police she and I were lovers?" Shaking her head, "It would only have hurt more people, and after Lyanda was gone, there was nothing left for me. She was my life, I died that night along with her." She collapsed into a chair unable to stand any longer. Sobbing heaves shook her body.

The woman was telling the truth, Dru had a sense for when a person was lying or not. And Clarice didn't set off the warning bells. Still, she had a friend to save. "Do you know anything that might help me find my friend, and maybe help get a murderer off the streets?"

Grief stricken eyes grew even sadder, "My husband killed her."

Shocked, Dru blurted, "What! Why didn't you go to the police?"

Clarice stood, and padded to the desk in the corner of the room. With a key she retrieved from a small box on the desk, she unlocked a drawer. Turning, she had in her hands a leather covered, dog-eared book. She handed it to Dru, who took it. "That's my husband's journal. He died a year later, almost to the day of Lyanda's murder from a massive heart attack." She rubbed away tears from her pale cheeks.

"Brandon had been writing in it at the time of the heart attack, and it was still laying on the bed when I came home from the hospital after he died." Clarice dropped in a boneless heap in the chair again. Defeat and grief etched every fiber of her body. "I was so tired, and wanted to just lay down and go to sleep forever, never to wake up again, but my hand fell on the journal. Idly, I turned to where he had been writing. My eyes picked Lyanda's name out instantly on the page. Suddenly, I had to know how he knew her, and what he had been writing. Look for yourself."

The tall, silent women thumbed through the pages until she found the last entry.

Tomorrow will mark a year to the day of Lyanda Pharold's murder. I didn't think I would survive this year without going crazy, but I did. Never knew I could live with such a secret, but I did.

Yet, Clarice isn't over her, and is as distant as ever with me. Oh, she's loving in her own detached way, but not the way I need her to be. I had thought with Lyanda out of the picture, she would love me again, like in the beginning. Well, maybe not like that because she had been truthful with me from the start. I knew she didn't love me when we married, but I thought given time that would change. I love her so much, why can't she love me in the same way?

The jealousy I felt when Lyanda was alive hasn't left because the woman is still between us. She's a ghost in Clarice's eyes, and I know when she is thinking of her. She gets this one look with a sad smile, and I know that's when she is with her.

Why is my conscious bothering me now, and why can't I shake this guilt? It's all over with. The police haven't a clue who murdered her. I'm away scot-free, and can just go on living my life. So why am I fighting with myself?

No one would fault me for doing what I did, and no jury would convict me, for trying to save my marriage, no one.

The entry stopped there with a squiggle of a line running off the page. "Your husband killed her out of jealousy?"

"Yes," visibly shaken, "I checked the entries back to the day of Lyanda's murder, and Brandon described every graphic detail he could remember. Every point." She gritted her teeth.

"He had a meeting that night, and planned to fly out of town after it to a conference. About midway through the meeting he realized he had forgotten some papers he required for the conference. I guess he saw me and Lyanda together, I don't know exactly, but he waited. Then went down and confronted Lyanda after I left her. It's all written there in the journal. Her fear, her smell, the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. Lyanda's confusion when he challenged her, every torment he put her through." Tears freely cascaded down the woman's face, Dru felt the agony emanating from her.

"I'm going to have to ask you some questions," she now dreaded having to, "even painful ones because I need to know how to find my friend, and you hold the key." She softened her voice. "What did your husband mean about you not loving him from the beginning?"

"It's difficult to explain." Clarice took a moment to collect her thoughts, "When I was very young I knew I was," she cleared her throat trying to find the right word, a little embarrassed, "a lesbian, though of course I didn't know what it was until I was older. My high school years were horrible lessons in frustration, when I found myself attracted to all my girlfriends instead of the boys. And that got me into trouble. Back then, someone admitting to being gay was ridiculed and scoffed at," She sorted. "There was a young man in a class ahead of mine who had effeminate characteristics. He wasn't even gay, yet every day they would trap him after school in the parking lot, the jocks would then beat him senseless. That was the kind of mindset I was up against in my hometown," she sneered. "And they said they were so broadminded. Every friend I came out to, stop seeing me, and word started to get around that I was one of those girls. Everyone stayed away from me." Clarice hung her head appraising trembling hands for a moment. "I was too weak to stand against them and their small minds, so I caved in. I made myself over in the image they wanted me to be," she stated full of self loathing. "I forced myself to go out with guys so I would belong. After awhile the girls took me back into their group." She sighed heavily, "Though I played their game and acted their way, I was still me. In college I met Brandon. He was a nice guy, and we had fun together." Clarice leaned her head back staring up at the ceiling.

"We started seeing each other. After a year of dating he asked me to marry him. I wanted to say no, but found myself saying yes. We were best friends in those days, and I couldn't marry him without telling him about the real me, so I told him the truth. He heard me out, and stated he loved me regardless. Still too afraid to buck the system and my family, I married him. When I told Brandon 'till death do us part' I realized I had given my word, and I couldn't break it."

"Then one day I met Lyanda. From the first moment I set eyes on her I knew I was going to break my oath to my husband."

Dru had listened very closely, and it was uncanny what she was hearing. "Clarice, my book mirrors your life."

"Your book?" she asked, bewildered.

"Someone has been trying to keep me from publishing my book. The summary is a great deal like your life. It's about a married woman who fines herself unable to reject her feelings for another woman. The main gist of the story is how she tries to deal with her own sexuality, and decides to leave her husband for a woman. The husband unable to accept his wife's decision kills her lover. I used Lyanda's murder as the back bone for the story. At the time, I didn't know Lyanda was a lesbian when I began writing."

"She wasn't. It just sort of happened between us."

"Does Antonio know?" asked Dru quietly.

The other woman shook her head, "No."

"Are you sure?"

"As sure as I can be without coming right out and asking him."

This was going to be tough. Now after hearing Clarice's take on the situation, and also seeing the torment the woman was going through, she didn't like being the one to add more to it... but in this case she had too. Her strawberry-blonde friend was out there somewhere frightened and alone. By all that's holy, Dru prayed for a chance to tell the proofreader what was in her heart, knowing she was setting herself up for possible rejection, this might be her last gamble for love, and she had to take a leap of the heart to know.

"I need you to phone Antonio and ask him to come over." Dru rubbed her temples. Fatigue and worried were taking their toll.

"You're not going to hurt him are you... if you are I'm not going to call him or help you in any way. I don't care what happens to me, but I won't allow anything to happen to my boy." The set of the older woman's jaw substantiated the threat.

"No, I'm not going to hurt him, unless he tries something stupid. All I want to do is ask him some questions."

Dru listened as Clarice asked her son to drop by. All there was left to do now, was wait.


Good grief could this guy have found a dirtier rag to use? Kasey's stomach rolled. From the moment she came to, she tried to listen to her surroundings. It didn't take long to realize there were two people in the front seat, and they were arguing. She remained still not wanting them to know she was conscious.

"Are you crazy? Tony's going to hit the roof when he fines out what you've done."

"Screw Tony! He was going to let this opportunity slip by. Not me, this bitch is going to pay."

"It wasn't suppose to go this far, Barry. If we get caught we could go to jail."

"You're such a idiot, no matter what happens, if we get caught they are going to throw us in jail. But don't worry, Spud, they aren't going to catch us."

"What makes you think that?"

"Because I'm smart, and Ms. Warlord isn't going to chance something happening to her little playmate. She'll be more than happy to turn over the money to get her back. Only problem," he snickered, "we're not giving her back. I'm not going to give up this money tree. She'll keep paying as long as I have her friend."

"You can't keep this up forever, sooner or later you'll have to let her go."

"Who says? I have some special plans for that annoying little blonde," snorted Barry.

Annoying? Me? Never! Well, not most of the time, she thought to herself.

"No one is suppose to get hurt, you promised," Spud's voice wavered.

Yeah, Barry, listen to Spud. Oh please listen to him. She was beginning to feel more than a little nervous about this Barry fellow.

"Don't worry, she'll like the little party I'm planning. No one will get hurt, unless she fights me, then.... " Barry let the meaning float in the air.

Kasey let out a silent sigh, there has got to be a way to escape, but how eluded her for the moment. This guy, Barry, was going to regret the day he kidnapped her. Closing her eyes she focused on an image in her mind, one tall, raven-haired beauty, who she realized she cared for very much. More than she ever expected. Hell, she just had to get out of this, there was so much she wanted to say to Dru. The cerulean eyes in her mind twinkled their magic at her. Oh Dru, there's has got to be a way to convey how I feel? If something should happen, you've got to know how special you are to me. Warm, angry tears filled her eyes.

Pull yourself together, Kasey. You're not dead yet, and you'd better keep your wits sharp. Be ready when Dru shows up. She held onto the belief she felt deep inside, Dru would show up.


"Mom, I'm home," announced Antonio, as he closed the back door.

"I'm in the living room, Tony," directed Clarice, as her body visually tensed up.

Dru stood up, balancing her weight on the balls of her feet, preparing for Tony's reaction.

The young man entered the room and stopped dead. "What are you doing here?" he growled, then proceeded to his mother's side, resting a protective hand on her shoulder.

"Honey, she's fine. We've been talking." Clarice patted the hand on her shoulder. "She needs to ask you some questions."

"I'm not talking to her." He sounded like a petulant child.

Dru moved menacingly toward him.

"You promised me you wouldn't hurt him," begged Clarice.

"I haven't laid a finger on him, but I will get my answers." There was no doubt in the meaning of her words. Tony looked first at his mother then at Dru.

"What's going on?" he demanded.

"Someone kidnapped my friend," informed Dru. Surprised registered on the young man's handsome face.

"When?" he asked curious.

"Around eight this evening," added the writer.

"Damn!" Antonio turned, seeming not to know what to do, or where to go, then turned to face Dru. "I had nothing to do with this, honest."

"Why should I believe you, you've already tried to kill Kasey." Hissed the dark-haired woman, muscles flexed with tension. An odd feeling wound around a dark cold place in her heart, it started out small and blossomed into a warmth laced with fear from deep within. Somehow she knew it had something to do with Kasey, and that time was running out.

"All I was trying to do was scare you with a few phone calls, I know nothing about trying to kill Kasey."

Her voice low, Dru moved closer, "You're saying you didn't try to run Kasey off the highway?"

"Yes." It was like a light bulb went off, and he slapped his forehead. "Barry used my car the other day, even mentioned he bumped a car in a parking lot. I thought nothing of it."

"Who is this, Barry, and where can I find him?" Dru felt hope growing.

"He was heading out to his grandparent's place, up in the hills not far from here for the weekend." The young man, appeared to deflate somewhat, it was obvious to Dru, by all accounts, Barry was her man.

"Let me ask you this, why did you start the phone calls?" Dru had an idea, but realized Clarice and her son didn't know the true picture. It was time for mother and son to talk. Tony shifted nervously, and tried to look everywhere but at Dru or his mother.

"I... ah.. I .." He couldn't even get the words out, so Dru helped him.

"You thought your mother shot Lyanda, didn't you?" After setting off the bombshell in the room, she waited for the fallout. She heard the sudden intake of breath from Clarice, and saw the wide-eyed expression grow on Antonio's face. He hung his head unable to confirm it.

"Tony, I didn't kill her," sobbed his mother.

"But I saw you fighting with her on the beach," he said, barely audible.

"Oh God, we weren't fighting, we were discussing." The woman stopped, and gathered her strength, "She wanted me to leave your father that night, but I wanted to wait until he returned from the conference, and do it face to face."

"You were leaving Dad?" he sounded so lost, his world he knew was shattering into shards of pain.

Clarice struggled to say the words, nodded. "I loved Lyanda."

Antonio went and sat down on the sofa, laying his head in his hands. He looked up, "I saw you once having lunch with her, and thought she was one of your cronies you always meet with. I didn't want to bother you." He smiled sadly, "The two of you were laughing in a way that was missing when you were with father. Anyone could see there was an acceptance and... love between you," he sighed heavily.

"The night Lyanda was murdered, I drove by the house to drop off some laundry. You weren't here, so I walked across the street to catch a breath of fresh air, and saw you two kissing." He rubbed his face embarrassed. "It was damn awkward, I had to think, and not wanting to stand there gawking, I walked up the street trying to siphon off my anger. Don't know how much time past before heading back, and when I came back up the beach both of you appeared agitated. Lyanda was saying something waving her hands wildly, and you had your jaw fixed, the way you do when you're upset. What you were saying was lost in the noise of the surf. I prayed what I felt, wasn't the truth, that my own mother wasn't having an affair with another woman. It ate at me, and what I wanted to do was go down there, and shake some sense into you. Instead, I headed home. You came home a short time later." He took a shaky breath. "I was furious with you, and while you were reading I got up and made like I was going out to the garage, but headed over to the beach again. I couldn’t' stand being in the same room with you, knowing what I did. That's when I discovered the body."

He turned and looked directly at Dru, "I thought their argument got out of control and mother killed her in a rage. I wasn't thinking clearly, all that came to mind was to protect her. So I took the clothes off of Lyanda, and tried to cover the body, then left."

"When my girlfriend informed me, who works for your publisher, you were writing a book that was taken from Lyanda's murder. I got scared, and thought you might have found something that would point to my mother. And figured a few prank calls might change your mind about writing it."

Dru raised an eyebrow at Clarice, and the woman knew what was expected of her. "Tony, believe me when I say your father was a good man, it's just I wasn't happy with him. He knew this even before we married."

"You stayed married to a man you didn't love for twenty-nine years?" he acknowledged sadly.

"It's not that I didn't love him because in my way I did, just not the way he deserved or needed. I don't know how, but he found out about Lyanda. His jealousy got the best of him, and he murdered her."

"No! I don't believe you."

"It's true, Antonio." Dru handed him the journal, so he could read it for himself. "I need your help, and I need it now."

Antonio looked up from the journal, glassy eyed, face stricken with new grief. Mourning the loss of the type of family he thought he had when it was all a lie. "I'll help," he said, hoarsely.

Dru cellular phone rang, "Hello?"

"Dru?" Greg asked, "I've got the money, but you owe me big time, understand?"

Despite herself and the stressful situation, Dru smiled, "Yeah, I know, so what else is new?"

"Where do you want me to meet you?"

Dru gave Greg Clarice's address, and hung up. "Show me on a map where I can find Barry's grandparent's place."

"It's not on there. The place is off on some dirt road, but I'll take you there."

"No, I can't risk your life like that. It's bad enough I'm taking my friend, Greg, I won't risk anyone else."

"You don't have a choice or say," the young man answered, with more backbone than Dru expected. He might have done some stupid stuff, but his reasons were all for family. She couldn't fault him there.

"Okay, but you do exactly as I say, understand?" Antonio nodded.

Clarice stood, moving over to her son, and cupped his cheek with a trembling hand, "I'm so sorry."

He leaned his head against her chest. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders.

"We'll make it through this," he mumbled into her blouse.

Clarice looked up and caught Dru's eyes, pain showing plainly in her own, but it was different this time. All the secrets were in the open, she was free to be the person she had always hidden away.


Kasey felt the car slow down, then it bumped turning off the main road onto a dirt one. The car bounced and rocked across uneven ruts. Oh boy, I'm going to be stuck out in the boonies without any idea how to get back to town. Great, if I do get loose, I'll end up getting lost in the woods. Hmm, being lost in the woods sounded far better than being with Barry and Spud. And what kind of name is, Spud, anyway? What is he some kind of potato head toy? She remembered a friend of hers had one once, a real old one the girl had received from her grandmother, the body was made up of coarse Styrofoam instead of the plastic ones of today. You could poke the arms and legs wherever you wanted. That went for all the parts, eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. She and her friend had fun putting all the parts in rather rude places. Right now she had some ideas where those items might be jabbed in Barry and Spud.

For the umpteenth time she tried her bindings. The rough, rope cut into her wrists and ankles. She could feel the painful puffiness in her hands and feet from the lack of circulation. It was hot under the blanket, and the sweat beaded off her face and body. She wondered if she smelled bad enough, if Barry would decide to forgo his little party? One could hope, she thought. While thinking how to get out of her situation, a tendril of feeling came bubbling up warm and safe into her awareness. As if someone was wrapping arms of comfort around her. Was it only hopeful wistfulness, or was it real? It didn't matter, she wanted to believe for a moment Dru was holding her in her strong arms making her feel safe and secure.

The movement of the car stopped. "Ok, honey, time to get up. You're invited to a party, and you're the guest of honor." Kasey identified the voice belonging to Barry. The blanket was removed, and she was dragged out of the car to only collapse in a heap on the ground. Her legs and arms were useless. Pins and needles coursed through her limbs, and sharp pains attacked her hands and feet.

"C'mon," Barry gathered her up in his arms. "Get the door, Spud."

Spud took the keys and ran ahead to unlock the door and flip on the lights. Barry carried Kasey through the living room into the next room which just happened to be a bedroom, and plopped her on the bed. She bounced once. "Check the place while I make our company comfortable," Barry called out.

Her mind whirled with ideas. She couldn't hit or kick out with her limbs in the state they were. Think, you've got a brain, use it. Here you are with this maniac, there's got to be something you can do.

"See, you should have been nice to me before," he purred in her ear. "But no you had your girlfriend butt in." He tugged at the knot pulling free the gag. "Now, you're alone, and she's not here to protect your Lilly white ass."

She spit and sputtered as the gag was removed. "Can I have a drink of water?" she rasped. Anything to get his mind off of her. Seeing him close up, she now recognized him to be the drunk Dru had brought up short on their jog. That seemed like ages ago, now. "You're not afraid of me are you?" she goaded him, "You're so strong, you could squash me like a bug. But if we're going to have a party maybe I could freshen up a bit." A raised eyebrow got him to look at her closer, thinking. Slowly a wicked smile planted itself on his lips.

"Now that's what I like, a women who knows her place." He untied the rope holding her hands first, then her legs. She winced from the sudden rush of circulation into the numbed appendages.

He stood looking down on her, "Me, afraid of you, not likely. But we will have that party. You owe me." He pointed to a door, "That's the bathroom." Then left the room.

Kasey could barely get her legs under her. Leaning on the bed she hobbled until finally she could close the bathroom door behind her. Quickly she realized a problem, the window was a narrow, squatty thing, and would barely allow a small animal through let alone someone her size. Well that was out. She splashed cold water on her face and running a finger across her gums and teeth trying to get rid of the taste lingering from the gag. Then she tried to bring her hair in a semblance of order, finally staring at her reflection. It helped her focus. Since she couldn't escape through the window, she'd have to see what presented itself. She hobbled back into the bedroom, and sat on the soft mattress being no other place to sit in the room.

Spud came into the room. He was tall and lanky, with a sweet child like face, and dog, brown eyes. Dusty, ash-blonde hair fell over his forehead. Unconsciously he kept pushing it out of his face with a nervous hand. "Here ya go," giving her a plastic glass of cold water, along with a shy smile.

"Thanks." She took a long drink, swallowing loudly, "Spud, do you go to college with Barry?"

"No, not exactly.... I help in the gym taking care of the sports equipment and towels." He shuffled his feet staring down at his worn tennis shoes.

"You do know what he's doing is wrong, don't you?" Plant a little seed, and see if it grows, she thought. "Both of you could get into an awful lot of trouble keeping me here."

"I know, I've tried to tell him, but Barry is smart, and will make things right. You'll see." Spud didn't seem to know exactly what to do, his eyes darted around the room apprehensively.

Obviously, he worshiped the ground Barry walked on, but he was the only weak link to use to get free. Plant the seed of fear, done.

"Spud get out! I don't want you talking with her." Spud left quickly, casting a glanced back at Kasey. Barry moved into the room, and confronted her, "I don't want you to get any crazy notions about using Spud against me. You see," he leaned close, "he's my trusty hound, and will do anything for his master."

Hesitantly, Spud poked his head back into the room, "Barry?" he said meekly.

"What!" answered Barry angrily, for being interrupted.

"You told me to remind you of the time, it's time for you to go." Spud whined, and disappeared back into the other room.

"Well, like he said, it's time, but don't worry sweetie, I'll be back and then we're going to have some fun. And I'm sure you're going to like it." He kissed her harshly, grating teeth against teeth, forcing his tongue into her mouth. He tasted like stale beer and potato chips. "Think on that while I'm gone, and know there's plenty where that came from." Barry ran a hand down her shoulder over her breast, lingered and dropped his hand. Kasey held very still during his kiss and fondling. No need to antagonize him, not yet that is. But her fantasy at that moment was seeing him writhing in pain on the floor from being kicked in the groin.

What bothered her after he left, when she had time to sort through her situation, he had made no attempt at keeping his identity secret. There were no blindfolds. She could identify both of them, and that didn't seem to bother Barry one bit. Suddenly a chill went through her soul. The only reason he would be so cocky, was knowing she wouldn't be able to testify against him. Only way that would happen was if she no longer was around. The implications were beginning to settle into her thought processes. She went to the door and looked out. Barry was giving Spud last minute instructions.

"Remember what I said, don't talk to her," he put a friendly hand on Spud's shoulder. "She'll just confuse you. I'll be back in no time at all. After, you and I will have some fun, ok?"

Spud nodded giving his friend a big, bright worshipful smile. This was going to be harder than anticipated. If there was going to be any chance of escaping she would have to it while Barry was out. Quietly, she went to the bedroom window and pulled back the blinds. Her heart sank, the window had been boarded over and nailed shut. The only way out would be past Spud. He looked harmless, but she had a feeling Barry wouldn't have him around unless he was useful... and her guess about that was sinking in.

Greg and Dru piled into Tony's Land Cruiser. The young man drove out to the highway. Dru in the front passenger seat, while Greg mumbled to himself in the back seat. Closing her eyes, she ran through what Antonio and told her. What a mess. He had been doubled crossed by his so called friend, Barry. And he added that Barry always had a shadow named, Spud. Barry was the brain and Spud the brawn. She let her mind roll over the plan she was formulating. Oh bat wings, she wish this was all over. Thinking about her assistant, she could almost smell the vanilla scented lotion Kasey used.

"Do you have a plan," Tony asked. After all he had learned earlier, he was holding up quite well. She felt in time Clarice and Tony would have a stronger relationship, if given the chance. The justice system would have a large say on what would happen to them.

"First we'll throw out the money where your so called friend specified. Then head to the house. Barry doesn't know I'm aware of the location of his grandparents' summer home, where I hope he's keeping my friend, or that you're helping, so we have the advantage of surprise." Dru gazed out the window seeing a slight reflection of her own face staring back. Tense lines around her eyes and mouth stood out in the low dashboard lighting. "You'll drop me off a small distance away, then proceed onto the house. Greg will hide in the car behind the wheel waiting for us in case we need a fast get away." She looked over at the driver, "You want out?"

"No!" he stated emphatically, "I caused this mess, I'll clean it up."

"How will they react when you show up?" ice-blue eyes studied the young man.

"I'm not sure, hopefully they'll think I want to get even with you." He gave her a small smile, "I don't know whether to thank you or hate you." Dru, understood completely. How do you thank someone for destroying what you knew of your family?

"Aren't we getting close to where you're suppose to throw out the briefcase?" questioned Greg? "I don't know if I can do this, throwing that much money out the window. It's goes against all that I am." His voice hit a higher pitch, "couldn't we keep the money and throw out an empty briefcase?"

"Yeah, this looks like the place." She rolled down the window, "Don't worry, Greg, we'll get the money back." The writer wiggled her fingers at the agent, and he reluctantly passed the black briefcase over the seat to her. She gave Tony a small nod. He slowed. The case went flying through the air hitting the ground and rolling into the darkness. "Begin timing now." Greg did as instructed, and pressed the tab on his watch ticking off the time it was taking them to get to the house from the drop off site.

Tony switched the lights off at a small bend leading to the house and stopped, letting the writer out. Dru melted off into the woods. They were working off a very small time frame. Barry would have to pick up the briefcase and then walk back to the house. It had taken them fifteen minutes from the drop off to the house. If they were lucky, they might have all of ten minutes. Assuming he was on foot. She had decided he would be because a vehicle would be too obvious, and easy to follow. Stealth was what Barry was hoping to use to keep his anonymity.

As soon as Dru felt the blanket of darkness wrapped around her, old habits fell into place automatically. The night again whispered its secrets. It was an old friend welcoming her back, and she embraced the homecoming. This she understood and knew, the strength of the trees and the solidness of the ground under her feet. Each giving their power, and willing her onward. She stood for a moment, sorting the sounds of the nocturnal creatures. A mouse to her left, and owl in the trees a hundred yards away. It was comforting to know she hadn't lost her touch. Carl would be proud. Thinking about her old mentor, brought a sad smile to her lips. She thought she would never have to use these long disused talents again.

An apparition appeared before her, he stood tall and straight. Long white hair tied with a thong at his neck. Dark eyes smiled at her. As usual he wore his plaid flannel shirt and levies. She had adopted the attire as her favorite way to dress, and mimicked him in apparel. "Ah, my old friend, will you be walking with me tonight?" she asked herself, knowing he wasn't real, but taking comfort he would always be with her. A soft smile crossed her lips remembering the days when she was twelve years old. Carl worked for her Aunt Flo, as a handyman.

It had been right after the accident when she was forced to go live with her Aunt. Frightened, feeling more alone than anytime in her short life, she would go and hide in the woods that surrounded her Aunt's home. From her hiding place in the hollow of a tree, she would spy on Carl working around the yard. No matter where she was hiding he would always look up from what he was doing to stare right at her. It became a game to see if she could find a place where he wouldn't see her. But each time he would smile that little quirky smile of his, and wave at her. One day she finally got up enough nerve to ask him how he did it. Easy he explained, you told me where you were. Fascinated with his answer, Dru had asked him how. He answered, by the way you moved through the woods. Of course she wanted him to show her how not to tell him where she was, so began her lessons. It was summer time, and every morning she would rise early and go find Carl, so he could show her how to walk and move without talking. Carl referred to talking by the noises created when leaves and debris were stepped on. Thus he taught her how to move through the woods as an animal would. Sliding in and around trees and bushes so quietly the animals didn't even know she was standing next to them. This discipline helped Dru deal feel she had control over something in her young life. She never forgot those lessons, and used them in her everyday life. The noise could be anything now, work, writing, people, and if she recognized it she then would mentally find a way to slide through or around without anyone noticing unless she wanted them to.

She moved in the direction of the drop off sight. Barry knew the area and probably figured no one would know what he was up to. She felt it was best to catch him out in the open rather than in the house. Dru didn't want to take a chance in the house where someone other than Barry might get hurt. Keeping Kasey safe was her uppermost priority. And keeping this guy away from the proofreader was on top of the agenda list. Number two on the list, this guy had pissed her off by pushing one too many of her buttons trying to hurt her friend. She had lost too many people she cared about, and she wasn't going to lose the proofreader. Not if she had anything to do with it. Just as quickly as she started off making her way through the trees, the self doubts began. Would this end up like Blaine, and her parents and brother? It hadn't matter what she did then, they all left her. In the end she wasn't sure she really had survived, but she breathed and she laughed. Guilt settled on her like a well worn garment. The weight was one she had grown used to. Only Carl and her Aunt Flo gave her reason to live. And now Kasey gave her hope in possibilities of a future with something other than reproach and loneliness.

Manzanita limbs slid by her passing form. Deer started at her sudden presence. Dru listened, a crunching sound of dead leaves and twigs came to her ears. Someone was coming. She wasn't even sure her body would respond, she was older and hadn't kept up on this type of exercise. Well, here goes nothing. Gathering the force in her legs, she did a small squat, suddenly hurling herself up into the air doing a graceful flip before catching the branch high above her head, swinging up and over the top, feet lightly settling on the limb, she was now in position. All this had been done in total silence. That answered one question, though her muscles were a little rusty, they still remembered years of training. The rush of adrenaline sharpened her senses. The wind blowing in her direction, brought first the cologne, then sweat, then beer. The stench came from the man trudging closer.

Barry was almost directly beneath her when she step off the limb, knocking him to the round. He was down but now out. He rolled over and bounced back to his feet, allowing a sneer to spread across his face.

"You don't know how glad you've made me," he chuckled, "I'm surprised of course, but hoped something like this would happen. I wanted a chance to tear you a part."

"I'm so glad I didn't disappoint you," drawled Dru circling. He moved with her.

"Oh yeah, this is great, I get rid of you and still get to party with your friend. She's taken a real liking to me, and enjoys what I give her." He grabbed his crotch to indicate what he meant. "You should see her when we get it on, writhing and squirming under me." Dru knew he was trying to make her angry, so she would make a mistake, but she wasn't falling for it. First lesson Carl had taught her, don't let your opponent control your anger, never give him that much power. Second lesson, don't underestimate your adversary. There was too much depending on her. A chuckle rose deep from within Dru's chest.

"You know, Barry, I don't think you're man enough to do a good job on anyone." Turn-about was fair play, and it worked. A shift in his balance tipped her off. The man lunged. She dodged to one side, whacking him on the backside as he went flying past her. Chuckling louder, "Gee, is that all you can do?"

He roared, "I'm going to kill you." Throwing himself at her, dragging her down onto the ground by his sheer weight. He got his arms around her back and squeezed, forcing all the air from her lungs. Little spots of bright light floated in her vision. NO! she had to hold on she couldn't let Kasey down. She was able to get her arms lose, allowing her to wallop both sides of Barry's head at the same time. If done just right, could break a person's eardrums, but she pulled up in time to keep from doing permanent damage, but just enough to cause the man to relinquish his hold on her. Giving enough time to position herself before he turned on her again. Her elbow connected with his chin as he lunged, and a leg caught him in the stomach. Barry staggered and almost fell, his arm went behind him and came out with a gun. She hadn't seen it until now, and realized she was in trouble. The barrel was pointed directly at her chest. A vision of Kasey passed through her mind.

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