Disclaimers: Mine. Not yours. Enjoy.
Note: There will be some violence in this story, though I'm not sure what kind yet as I haven't written it yet. Just be warned.
If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com
I cleared my throat, nervous as anything. Adjusting the hair, once blonde and now mostly gray, atop my head, I tried to calm myself. Looking down at my skirt, I saw that it was settled perfectly over my legs, ankles crossed and tucked up against the arm chair I sat in. The young man clipped the microphone to my collar, and I smiled at him, thanking him. My eyes darted to the audience, hearing the dull roar of their chatter but catching the brown eyes of the very attractive red head sitting in the front row. She smiled at me, and I smiled shyly back.
"Are we about ready, then?"
My attention was given back to Ronald Stone, the host of the one hour talk show.
"Yes. I think so." I said, my voice nearly a whisper. I was so nervous!
"Wonderful." He cleared his own throat, taking a long draught of water from his coffee mug with the show's logo on it. A prop person leaned over the table between us where my book was set up just so- making it look natural, but still angled to where the folks at home would be able to read the title clearly 'Eight Days In October.'
"Clear the set!" Some disembodied voice called out, and a woman with a clipboard next to one of the cameras began to count, using her fingers once she hit the number three, then pointed at the host at one.
"Good afternoon, American, and thanks for tuning in to the Ronald Stone hour. I'm here today with best-selling author, Virginia Kelly. Virginia, it's a pleasure to have you with us." The audience clapped, and I tried to hide my blush, though I figured the gallons of make-up they had on me would do the job for me.
"Thank you, Ronald. It's nice to be here."
"Now, you have taken the country by storm with your book." To prove his point, the host grabbed his own copy of the book that had been sitting on the arm of his chair. Perfectly manicured fingers flipped through the pages, a midnight black eyebrow raising. "Did you have any idea that it would be such a success?"
"Oh, heavens, no!" I chuckled, truly startled by all the attention my fifth novel was getting. "I figured it would collect dust like so many of my other works." Ronald Stone laughed at that, as did the audience.
"Now," he sat back in his chair, crossing one perfectly creased slack leg over the other, gray dress socks matching the lighter shade of gray in the pinstripe of his gray suit. "By day you're an English professor at UCLA." He brought a finger up to tap against his chin, perfectly plucked brows drawn.
"Yes. I teach both English courses as well as journalism.."
"Really?" He sounded impressed at this. "Quite a well-rounded teacher, then." I smiled, nodding. "Okay. Back to the book. 'Eight Days In October.' One of the first novels with obvious lesbian content that has done so well in the mainstream market, yes?"
"Yes. It has been a wonderfully positive response. I've been very happy with it."
"Are you yourself a lesbian?"
I knew the question would come up, an I wasn't fond of the idea of being outted on national TV, but here it was. "Yes, Ronald, I am."
"Then a positive thing for you, indeed." He smiled, perfectly white capped teeth flashing under the intense lights of the studio. "Where did you get such an idea for the story?"
"Oh," I smiled, looking at my fidgeting hands for a moment, "it's amazing what the imagination will come up with."
The noise, louder and louder, building, getting closer, faster, faster. With a gasp, I sat straight up, eyes wide as the darkness of my room surrounded me. The police sirens raced down the street, their lights reflecting off the buildings all around, creating a red and blue disco.
Getting out of bed, I pushed the lacy curtains aside, and looked down, eight stories below, as four police cars, lights flashing, screeched to a stop, the passengers in the black and whites jumping out, guns at the ready.
"I said freeze!"
I watched in fascination, feeling like I was watching one of those FBI Files-type shows unfolding in my front yard. A figure, shrouded in darkness, was running at an amazing pace, giving the cops a run for their money. A shot was fired, a spark in the night, the sound echoing. I wasn't sure who fired it, the cops or the bad guy, but soon enough everyone was out of sight, one cop car starting up again and racing out of sight.
Letting the curtains fall back into place, I tucked my feet into the floppy bunny slippers I'd had since I was seventeen, and scraped along the floor toward the kitchen, snapping lights on as I went.
"Aw, Gordie!" I lifted my foot, the soft, gooie smelly stuff sticking to the nearly bald bottom of my left slipper. Hopping over to the sink, I took it off, tossing it in. With a growl, I saw my cat sitting under the end table, his black body nearly blending into the shadows of the still partly dark living room. I knew I should have cleaned his litter box out today. 'You're such a damn priss." If his box isn't up to his specifications, he'd pee or poop wherever he saw fit, and right in the middle of my pathway to the kitchen was where he saw fit.
Grumbling to myself, I got out the Resolve, specifically made for pet stains, and began to clean, glaring up at him every couple seconds. He licked his paws.
Dragging the trash can over to my small mountain of soiled paper towels, I dumped them all in, cleaned out the litter box, then tied up the plastic bag, tugging it free from the confines of the stainless steel can.
"Don't shit anywhere else tonight, buddy, or you and me is gonna have words." I pointed an accusing finger at the feline, and he yawned. Rolling my eyes, I unlocked my door and stepped out into the hallway of my building. It was eerily quiet, the bare bulbs hanging overhead cast strange shadows in the corners of the windowless hall. My neighbors' doors were locked up tight, as it was nearly four in the morning. I hummed quietly to myself as I made my way toward the trash shoot at the end, near the bank of elevators.
The shoot closed with a satisfying, metallic thud, I wiped my hands on the thighs of my sweats, and turned to head back when the doors on one of the cars slid open. Glancing out of slight curiosity, wondering if it was my crazy neighbor across the hall who came in at all hours of the day or night, I was shocked to see a tall figure dressed completely in black, including the face, lost in the shadows of a hood.
"Do you live here?" A whispery voice demanded. Fear gripped
my insides as a gun was raised, a gun that I recognized from American Justice,
as being a 9mm handgun. Numbly I nodded. "Show me," the gun was
thrust into my stomach, and I gasped. The gun was pressed harder as I failed
to move, giving me the idea. I began to back down the hall, keeping a keen
eye on that cold steel the entire way, only glancing behind my shoulder to
make sure I wouldn't bump into anything, or go past my door.
"It's here," I said, stopping in front of my home. The person indicated I should go in with the a gesture of the gun. With a trembling hand, I finally managed to get the door open, and to my horror, the figure followed me in, closing and locking the door behind them. They looked around, then rushed over to the tall windows in the living room, looking down at the street far below. More sirens blared through the night, speeding down the street only to disappear around the corner.
My eyes were huge, my heart nearly beating out of my chest as I hugged the kitchen counter.
"What do you want?" I whispered, then cleared my throat and tried again. "Please don't hurt me. Take whatever you want, just don't hurt me or my cat." To prove my point, I felt the little fur ball winding around my calves.
"Do what I ask of you and you and your cat will be fine." Came a very soft voice, deceptively soft to my distrustful ears. I watch A&E. "Fuck," the intruder whispered. I glanced over, seeing the front door, not fifteen feet from me. Looking back to see where my guest was, and just where his attention was, I turned back to the door, very, very quietly inching my way toward it. "I wouldn't if I were you." I froze, looking back to the window where the shadowy figure still looked down to the street.
"Are you the one they were chasing earlier?" my voice was shaky, fear gripping me harder and harder until I almost couldn't breathe. The figure didn't answer, but then there was a banging on my door. The figure was over to me in a heartbeat, Gordon in hand.
"You say anything, or do anything stupid, and your cat here will be the first to go, got it?" the person hissed, face still obscured by the hood, giving me only a slight view of a Caucasian chin. I nodded, my chin trembling. "Answer the door." The figure began to slink back deeper into the apartment, Gordon still in arms.
Taking several deep breaths, I called out, "Who is it?"
"It's the police, ma'am." A voice called back. God, here was my chance to escape, to get out of a horribly dangerous predicament that could ultimately be deadly, but then I heard a click. Looking over my shoulder, I saw the figure had cocked his gun, which was pressed against the back of Gordon's neck.
I walked over to the door, unlocking it once I'd looked into the peephole, making sure it wasn't a friend of the bad guy.
"Good morning, ma'am. I'm sorry to bother you, but I saw your light was on, and I needed to ask you a couple of questions," a large uniformed man said, removing his hat.
"Oh, uh, sure." Taking every bit of willpower I had not to look back toward my bedroom again, I opened the door more, letting the man just inside. "What can I help you with, officer?" I saw his mouth moving, but the blood was pounding through my ears at an unbelievable rate I couldn't hear a thing. "I'm sorry, sir," I laughed, waving it off, "I'm still not awake. Can you repeat that?" I gave him my most charming smile.
"I said has anyone strange tried to gain entrance into your apartment this morning, or have you heard anything strange in the hallway, or in any of your neighbors' apartments?"
"Oh, uh, no. I've been up for about forty-five minutes, and haven't heard a single thing." Smile "Does this have to do with all those loud sirens down there?" I pointed toward my living room windows, where just moments before, my intruder had been standing.
"What's going on?"
"I can't really talk about it, ma'am, but this person is considered armed and extremely dangerous, so if you hear or see anything, please call the police, or Sgt. Ray Martinez," I was presented with a card, which I put into the pocket of my sweats.
"Will do, officer."
"Thank you, ma'am, and it might be a good idea to stay indoors with your door locked for a bit." The officer put his hat back on, smiled, and left. I closed the door behind him, careful not to slam it in my haste to get Gordon back from that monster. About to scream out from the surprise of him standing right in front of me, I felt a hand cover my mouth. My eyes were huge as I looked into that hood, so close now that I could actually sort of make out features. Piercing blue eyes looked at me, the fringe of dark hair dipping slightly over one.
I almost laughed as I realized the hand smelled like my Lubriderm lotion.
"You did good." My arms were suddenly filled with Gordon, who was purring contentedly.
"What did you do?" I whispered, fear once again filling me, knowing that my possibly one chance at escape had come and gone. I was now stuck with this person, with apparently dry skin.
"Something that the PD obviously didn't like." The figure turned away, and the hood was lowered. My head dropped immediately. I knew from the shows I'd watched that my chances of surviving this thing were far less if I got a look at my assailant. Yet, curiosity was gnawing at me, too.
"The cop said you're extremely dangerous." I said, busying myself with petting Gordie, who had his yellow eyes squeezed shut, purring in contentment.
"Well, wouldn't you be if the entire city of Minneapolis was looking for you?" I could tell by the sound of her voice, wait, her voice? My head shot up, and I found that I was looking into the most beautiful face I'd ever seen. Piercing blue eyes, alright, framed by hair the color of midnight, and skin that was tan, contrasting heavily with the brightness of those eyes. She smirked. "I'm a girl."
My head whipped back to my cat, own eyes squeezed shut. Crap, crap, crap, crap. I've seen her, now I can identify her, and now she will definitely have to kill me. Crap, crap, crap, crap.
"So, in your book you write about a woman who is taken hostage by a wanted criminal, who also happens to be a woman." Ronald Stone said, flipping through various pages of the book, where, to my surprise, I noticed note cards already planted.
"Yes. I decided to be a bit different. You figure, in most such stories, it's a woman taken by a man, and the damsel in distress figure emerges."
"And you didn't want the typical 'damsel in distress' imagery in your work?"
"No. And I'm certainly not going to get on my soap box here, but women are very capable of many things from helping themselves to being bad. It's not always men who commit crime." I couldn't keep the small smile off my face, my eyes twinkling, I'm sure. Ronald looked up at me, catching the smile, and smiled in return, though I knew he'd never understand the core of that smile.
"I suppose that is very true."
I was curled up on the loveseat, Gordon bathing himself on the cushions above my head, the constant licking calming for me- something normal and familiar, unlike the figure who sat reclined on the couch across from me, booted feet crossed and resting on the coffee table. Her head was against the back of the couch, eyes at half-mass, gun laying in her lap. Her black hoodie was unzipped a bit, revealing the neckline of a black t-shirt underneath.
"You know," I began in a shaky voice, "with your looks you could be a model instead of a criminal." Blue eyes focused on me, and a slight smile appeared across full lips.
"How do you know I wasn't, and shot my photographer?" Ronald Stone chuckled, as did some of the audience members. "It's lines like this in your book that make it a truly memorable work piece of writing. Your characters have such depth and realism to them. Heck, as I read it, I felt as though I could pick up my phone and call either one right up and invite them out to lunch." Stone grinned from ear to ear.
"I'm glad to hear that, Ronald. It's important to me in all my writing that the characters jump at you from the page. If they don't, I haven't done my job."
"Well, you did your job beautifully here. I'd half expect that this was a true story."
My eyes popped open, and immediately went to the couch across from me. Empty. Was it a dream? The answer to that question came when I heard clanging coming from the kitchen. Standing, and inadvertently dumping a not-so-thrilled cat from my lap, I looked past the breakfast bar into the kitchen that was dimly lit by the light over the sink. Cabinet doors were open, and I could just see a dark head over the bar.
Walking slowly toward it, I looked over the counter and saw my intruder was squatting in front of my cabinet filled with pans of various types and sizes. A small pile of frying pans were on the floor next to her.
"What are you doing?" I asked quietly, hugging my arms around myself.
"Glad you're awake. We'll be going soon." She said in lieu of an answer. Standing, she examined a large iron frying pan, then her piercing eyes focused on me.
"What? Going? Where?" I thought my eyes would pop out of my skull at the news. She turned to me, frying pan still I hand. My eyes went from it to her eyes to the gun resting on the counter, back to her eyes.
"I can't stay here, and I need a reason for the cops not to shoot me." She said patiently, almost most as if she were explaining this to a child.
"I can't just pick up and leave!" My hand rested on my hips as what she was asking me to do finally hit me. "No!"
"No?" Gently, she set the pan down, taking a step closer to the breakfast bar that separated us. It took everything I had to not step back.
"No, I," swallowing, I tried not to lose my courage. Who the hell did she think she was? "I have a life here, and I'm going on a trip I've been planning for over a year, and I, I can't go with you."
The woman stared me down, chewing on her lower lip, eyeing me, her eyes not even moving when Gordon jumped up onto the breakfast bar, tail swishing in the air. To my dismay, he went to her! The woman reached out a hand, eyes still on me, and scratched him behind the ears, a slight smirk on her face.
"A trip, huh? Where to?"
"None of your damn business!"
A dark brow raised, and I realized that I'd pushed her too far. Swallowing hard again, my eyes lowered. I didn't want to get myself shot, or anything to happen to my cat. Damn this woman!
"I was just going to take a sight-seeing road trip for a couple weeks. See some new things." My heart fell, and in that moment I knew that I would indeed be taking my trip, but I'd have an unwanted companion along for the ride.
"How interesting. And Lady Luck knocks." My eyes lifted at the words to see the intruder running her large hand down the entire length of Gordon's black body, to the tip of his tail. He was loving it. I had to admit, she was good with him. Though was it the calm before the storm? Was it to get me to trust her before she picked him up and broke his neck, just to torture me?
Shaking the thoughts out of my head, I turned before she could see the tears that were glistening in my eyes. Why me? Damn her.
"So what inspired you to write a sympathetic criminal character?" Ronald Stone asked, once again flipping through the pages of my book.
"Well," I smiled, always a bit embarrassed by this. "I watch quite a lot of true crime on television, as well as read book written by the former FBI agent, and father of our profiling system, John Douglas. There are always the criminals, and they are, understandably, the bad guys. I wanted to see if I could, in fact, write a sympathetic bad guy. Or bad girl, in this case. Could the public read this novel and actually root for her to get away with whatever crime she'd committed?"
"A question that I think has definitely been answered by the sheer number of sales and level of interest in your work." Stone smiled his perfect television smile. "I've head it's even been said that Senator Hilary Clinton has read this work."
"I'll never tell." I winked at him.
We loaded my little hatchback, the intruder telling me to pack what I normally would have for my trip, including all traveler's checks, camera, etc. She wanted it to look as real as possible, I figured just in cast we were pulled over or something. When I was in my room packing, I snuck a small pocket knife into my back pocket. I was afraid, and had no idea what to expect.
She slammed the hatch closed and turned to me. "Do you have anyone you need to say goodbye to?" My heart stopped, mouth suddenly very dry. The fold out knife in my jeans now seemed somehow very useless.
"Uh, no. No one, and I work from home." James, my neighbor down the hall, was going to be stopping in on Gordon every few days, so there truly was no one.
"Good. Get in." She ordered, walking around to the passenger side.
I climbed in, buckling my seatbelt, and wanted to smack myself in the forehead. If I had been thinking I would have told her that I had a whole army of people who would miss me, including loving parents and a dozen or so six foot four brothers scattered all around the country, so yeah, we could run into them anywhere at any time. But, alas, my mind froze and I told the truth.
With a sigh of dread, I put the car into reverse, and backed out of the space behind my building.
"There have been reports lately stating that certain groups, mainly those with Christian affiliations, have a problem with your novel, stating that," Stone began to read from one of his note cards. "'Miss Kelly has only managed to glorify the criminal in today's society as well as the gay and lesbian community, making it seem as if both are alright for our children to be reading, leaning from, and looking up to.'" Stone looked at me again. "What do you have to say about that?"
I smiled, having extremely strong opinions on such nonsense, but I choose to be nice. "Ronald, there will always be someone out there that has a problem with everything written, filmed or recorded today. There is no way to make every group happy, so I think it's best to just let art be art and leave it at that. There are video games out there that I have no doubt the author of that review you just read, allows his or her children to play, which glorify violence and blood in its rawest form. The opinions of those, who probably haven't even read the book, don't matter to me."
"So are you saying you aren't promoting violence, or the glorification of it?" Ronald asked, playing the devil's advocate. I shook my head.
"No. I'm saying that it's a book, a novel, a story. People are smart enough to know this."
"What about impressionable children out there?"
"Perhaps their parents should do a better job of parenting and worrying about their own lives then that of everyone else."
"Alright. Well, back to the story, it was quite a journey for the two women, yes?"
The streets were nearly empty considering it was only six-thirty in the morning. I had been driving for almost two hours, and from the little sleep I'd gotten the night before, I was extremely tired, but I plowed on. My companion seemed to be very awake, sitting stick straight in the passenger seat, looking out her window.
Clearing my throat, I turned my attention back to the road. "Where am I going?" My question, though quiet, shattered the stillness of the morning.
"Take a left at the lights, then another right at Atkins." Was my equally quiet answer. I did as I was told, my eye constantly flicking back to the gun that rested on the intruder's thigh.
"What is your name? I mean, I don't like just thinking of you as the chick who busted in on me and took me hostage." A bit of the anger I was feeling managed to seep out around the edges of my words. I sucked my bottom lip in. Crap, crap, crap. To my surprise I heard a chuckle.
"I hardly think I busted in on you. You were kind enough to meet my by the elevators." She glanced over at me, and I met her gaze, which was filled with mischief. I looked away. Kind enough, my ass. "Call me Hopper."
"Hopper?" I asked, incredulous, "As in grass?"
"As in Dennis. I'm a great admirer of his work, and I can't really give you my real name, now can I?"
"And what should I call you? You know, other than the chick I busted in on and am keeping hostage."
I actually couldn't keep a wee bit of a smile off my face at her sense of humor. "Ginny."
"Well, Ginny, head down Atkins until I tell you to stop."
The street was dark, though I could hear dogs barking now and then. A simple residential street with small, well taken care of houses and yards.
'Stop there, where that white Volkswagen is parked." Hopper pointed, and I stopped. "Kill the lights."
The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon as the headlights were dowsed. Leaning forward to look out the windshield, I could see the glorious colors spreading across the morning like a rainbow of fingers, bringing light and beauty to a new day.
"Hey!" Startled as an a hand invaded my space, and the keys were swiped from the ignition.
I swallowed heavily, wondering if this was it for me. Was she going to take me into that house with the nice porch swing and do me in finally? Then she could have my car, taking the plates off it only to replace them with those stolen from another car.
Startled again, I unbuckled my seatbelt. Hopper was making her way to the small front yard of the house I was parked in front of, up the driveway to the large checkered garage door where a rolling trash can waited, surrounded by a heap of black Glad bags.
"Oomph!" I nearly doubled over as I caught the bag thrown at me, it's weight belied the feeble look of it. The bag was obviously stuffed to capacity, but it wasn't bulky with anything that you'd think of the create such weight. "What's in this thing?" I hissed. "A body?"
"No," Hopper said, heaving an identical bag from the pile and heading back down the drive. "Heads."
"What!?" I looked down to the bag at my feet, eyes huge with disbelief, and totally renewed fear. To my utter shock, she laughed! An all out guffaw that showed perfectly white, even teeth.
"Of dead presidents, now pick it up and put it in the car." She walked past me.
"No! This will make me an accessory, Hopper!" I stood there, in the middle of some person's driveway, hands on hips, and utterly incredulous. She turned slowly, looking at me under dark bangs, smile gone.
"Not if you do it at gun point." She said sweetly. I gulped at the click of her cocking her gun; that would be the gun that was pointed at my stomach. "Now move."
Picking up the bag with a slight grunt, I made it to the car, dropping it again, and opened the hatch. We both threw our bag in, and Hopper covered them with some coats and a blanket that I had back there.
"Alright. Let's move out." She got into the passenger side again, and I got behind the wheel.
"Where to?" I asked, my voice sounding as tired as I felt. I also felt her eyes on me, and turned to meet that intense gaze.
"Can you make it out of Minneapolis today before you crash?"
I stared ahead into the dawning day, tapping the wheel with my fingers and chewing my lip as I thought about it. Finally nodding, I turned back to her.
"Kay. Get us out, then we'll find a motel."
"You got it, boss." Starting up the engine, we were once again moving into an unknown future.
"Do not do anything stupid, Ginny." Hopper said, her face mere inches from my own. She tugged one last time on the handcuffs that were attached to my wrist as well as part of the metal of my seat, keeping my hand pinned between the door and the seat. "Don't make a sound. Do you hear me?" She looked me in the eye, demanding my attention. I nodded, swallowing the bile of my fear down. She smiled, such a beautiful contrast with the evil that must be in her.
She zipped the hoodie back up, running her fingers through wild hair as she walked toward the office of the small, out of the way motel.
I looked around the parking lot. Not much activity at almost nine in the morning. I could hear the traffic, mainly big rigs, on the highway, which was just out of view from the parking lot. Only two other cars were in the parking lot, both empty. I could clearly see the man behind the counter in the office, Hopper talking with him and handing him cash for a room. He smiled, nodded, then turned to his computer. The glass door opened, and Hopper stepped out into the morning, jaw set, eyes sharp as they searched the immediate perimeter.
"Let's go." She opened the driver's side door, unlocked the metal bracelet, and I automatically drew my wrist to my chest, almost protective. She went around back, bundling the bags of money into the blanket, then heaving the whole thing over her shoulder, making it look like a really large bag. I grabbed my own bag, slinging it over my shoulder and locking the car up and hurrying to catch up with the long strides of Hopper.
She had the door unlocked and was making her way inside by the time I did catch up. I looked around the dark, musty room, and froze.
"Uh, one bed?" I swallowed, my mind filling with all sorts of horrible things she could have planned for me.
"Relax," she said, heading back toward the bathroom, dragging a chair behind her. Stopping it just in front of the bathroom door, she climbed on, pinning the huge bundle between her shins and the back of the chair, and pushed the ceiling tile up. With a hefty grunt, she pushed the bundle up through the hole, making sure it wouldn't fall through, and slid the tile back into place. I plopped down on the one bed, watching all this with fascination.
Hopping down from the chair, she carried back to the table, and sat down onto it, hard. She looked exhausted.
"So, um, I can sleep in the bathtub-" I began shyly, unsure.
"Take the bed," she interrupted, getting up and moving one of the other two chairs to the door, lodging it under the knob, then went back to her original seat. "Get some sleep. You're gonna need it."
"Oh." Pulling myself up to my feet, I grabbed my bag and headed to the bathroom, closing and locking the door behind me. Looking around the tiny room, I was deflated to see there was no window. I was trapped. Plopping down on the closed seat of the toilet, my head hung, blonde hair falling around me in a curtain. The sob took me by surprise, disrupting my entire body as it battled its way out of my throat. I tried to suck it back in, but it was out, followed by a whole family of sobs. Soon I was outright crying.
Bringing my knees up against my chest, huddled on that toilet lid, I buried my face in the soft fabric of warn jeans, the tears staining it them dark. I couldn't stop it, my body brought to nearly retch I was crying so hard.
Knowing that I needed to get myself together and try to stay strong, I got myself calmed down, hiccupping as the sobs really wanted to keep coming, but pushing them down, I stood, rubbing at my incredibly painful eyes. They felt as they a ten pound bag of gravel had been dumped into each. I had planned on taking a shower, but figured I'd fall asleep right there, and truly sleep in the tub.
Washing my face and changing into my sweats and a t-shirt, I opened the bathroom door just a tad, peeking out to see what Hopper was up to. She was still in the chair, which was tipped back on two legs, her own legs stretched out, ankles crossed on the edge of the bed. Her eyes were closed, but as I stepped out fully, bag in tow, there was just the slit of blue. I looked away, pulling the covers back on the opposite side of the bed from her, and climbed in. I turned onto my side, back to her, feeling incredibly vulnerable, but at this point, I was too tired to care.
The bliss and escape of sleep was suddenly taken away when sounds began to shred the peace, then voices. I reached out, feeling for Gordie, but felt nothing. Eyes popping open with reality, I looked around the now dark motel room. Hopper sat at the end of the bed watching the television.
"Madson is said to be armed and dangerous, authorities say, so do be careful if you happen upon her." The reporter looked down at his notes. "She has been known as Elyssa Michaels, Brock Madson, as I said, as well as a nickname, Bull's Eye."
"Do the police have any leads yet, Mark?" the studio anchor asked.
"Not yet, Marcy. Just that she is on the run and may have a great deal of money on her, and to approach with caution, or simply to call the police."
"Thank you Mark. Now Bill Martin has the weather for you."
"Fuck." Hopper said, standing and clicking the TV off. "Fucking rat."
"Were they talking about you?"
Hopper turned on me, those eyes dangerous, making me shrink into the bedding.
"Get up and get dressed. You've got ten minutes." She pulled a pack of Marlboros out of her shirt pocket, and slammed out of the room.
Taking the quickest shower of my life, I was packed and loading up the car in eight minutes, long, wet strands falling down my back to make me shiver. Hopper snuffed her cigarette out on the stucco wall of the building, then tossed the butt to the parking lot. She snagged the keys that I'd left on the hood of my hatchback, and climbed behind the wheel, adjusting the seat for her longer legs. Getting the idea, I buckled up in the passenger seat.
"Um, don't we need to pay?" I asked, quiet, afraid to set her off.
"Did." Looking back over her shoulder, she backed out of the space, then got us back on the road again. It was quiet and very tense for more than half the day. I didn't know what to do, what to say, if I should do or say anything. Hopper stared straight ahead, her jaw working like mad, hands tightly gripping the wheel. I noticed from the passing signs that we were leaving the state, and I felt panic set in.
"When are you going to let me go?" I asked, then held my breath, waiting for the consequences. She sighed, grabbing a bottle of the water we'd bought when we'd stopped in Baker, nearly three hours ago. At first I didn't think she was going to answer, but then she began to speak.
"How long did you tell that queen he was keeping your cat?"
"You'll be back to pick him up."
"Oh. Good." Chewing on my lip, I remembered all the money wrapped in the blanket a row of seats behind me. "So, what's with all the money?" Hopper snorted.
"It's my retirement."
"Oh. Um, are you planning to retire down in Mexico? It's real sunny down there." I smiled, and she met my gaze, one dark brow raised, then she turned back to the road, bursting into laughter.
"Nice try, Ginny. I'm not telling you a damn thing. Mexico. Sheesh." She rolled down her window, absently plucking the half-empty pack of cigarettes from her shirt.
"No smoking in my car." I said, brows drawn. She looked at me as though I had three heads.
"What'd you say?" she drawled.
"Look, if you're not going to kill me then I don't want to die from your damn second-hand smoke." I was adamant. To my eternal gratitude, and relief, she pocketed her lighter, and chewed on the cigarette. Wrinkling my nose, I turned away. As long as she didn't light up, I didn't care how she got her nicotine.
Ronald Stone after reading a passage from my novel. "Your heroine certainly does have some guts."
"Of course." I grinned and looked out over the audience. Some people looked bored out of their minds, and some hung on our every word. I was an interesting dichotomy. Many of the audience members held books of their own in their hands, which didn't surprise me. I'd agreed to a book signing after the taping. I looked forward to that part, as I always loved meeting and talking to my fans. It made me feel good that another human being could enjoy what I loved so dearly, and what meant so much to me to create.
"I suppose young Ginny wasn't too worried about the consequences of such demands?" Ronald asked, raising a brow.
"Well, I just think at that point she was tired of having her entire life taken over, and wanted to exert a bit of control herself."
My head was rolling against the headrest, lulling side to side as I drifted in and out of sleep, which was tumultuous at best. The dreamscape was riddled with horrid images and fears, startling me awake again and again. Finally, pushing myself up fully in the seat, I gave up. Looking around, slightly disoriented, I saw Hopper was chewing on another cigarette, then bobbed it around with her tongue, her complete attention on the road. It was raining cats and dogs, the windshield wipers going at lightning speed to try and keep up.
Running my hands over my ponytail, I felt that it was in total disarray. Tugging at the hair tie, I stuck it between my teeth, re-gathering the long locks, trying to put it into some semblance of order.
"Where are we?" I asked, twisting my hair back through the tie.
"In the middle of a pissing contest between God and Father Winter, I think. We've hit rain, sunshine and snow in large quantities in the last hour." Hopper said, slowly breaking to a stop behind a big rig, all lights and splendor.
"Oh." I had to look at the dash clock as it was completely dark, now. Apparently we would be driving through the night. "Can we stop for a pee break soon? And maybe an eating break, too?" Hopper glanced over at me, her features lit up for a moment as we passed under an orange-hued street light, then turned back to the road.
"I guess. What do you want? We've got all the regular artery clogging factories," she pointed to a sign coming up advertising that there was a McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and some place called Big Al's just off the next ramp.
I sighed, grimacing at the possibilities. "Whatever will kill me slowest." I heard a low chuckle next to me, and sweat automatically sprung out under my arms. Swallowing hard, I squeaked, yes I squeaked, okay? "Uh, Burger King is fine."
The motel room was much like the one we stayed at last night- bathroom, crappy furniture with even crappier art work, and one bed. Unzipping my coat, I threw it to the bed, listening as Hopper walked past me toward the bathroom.
"Hopper?" I didn't look at her, afraid.
"What?" She paused at the door, hand on the frame.
"I need to go see my sister."
My head jerked up, eyes narrowing as the anger began to build. "Yes."
"No. Forget it." She disappeared into the tiny bathroom, and I marched right on after her.
"Who the fuck are you, Hopper!?" I demanded, watching as she unloaded some stuff from a plastic grocery bag- toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. "Who are you to tell me what to do?"
"I'm the one in control, Ginny. Get used to it." She said, voice calm, attention still focused on her task.
"Bullshit! You're the one who came into my apartment, my life, making your fucking demands while waving your gun around. This is my trip! Get your own!" I stomped back over to the bed, grabbed my jacket, and slung it on, cursing as I realized my right arm was twisted.
"How dare you talk to me like that," Hopper's voice was low and dangerous, her eyes boring into me as she stared at me from across the bed. Getting my jacket fixed, I looked at her, beyond caring at the moment.
"Maybe if you'd stay out of trouble you wouldn't have to steal other people's lives." Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, shiiiiiiiiiiiiit. As soon as it was out of my mouth, even if I hadn't seen the murderous glint in those eyes, I would have known that was a hugely bad thing.
Before I could utter anther thought, I found myself slammed against the door of the room, breath forced out of my lungs, and a forearm crushing against my windpipe. Hopper's face was mere inches from mine, her white teeth bared like a crazed animal.
"You are not a smart woman," she hissed, her hold getting even tighter. I squeezed my eyes shut, hands tugging uselessly at the crushing arm, trying desperately to get air.
"I can't," I tried to gasp, but the hold was making my head pound, my vision go black around the edges.
"I don't need to wave a gun around to get my way. Got it?" Blue eyes were beginning to swirl in and out of focus. Suddenly the pressure was gone, and I fell to the floor with a solid thud, jarring my entire skeletal structure. Taking several deep breaths, I finally opened my eyes, my hand wandering up to my throat. Hopper had disappeared back into the bathroom, though I could see a bit of her reflection in the mirror. Her head was down, hair mostly covering her face. I had no idea what she was doing.
Slowly, and very unsteadily, I got to my feet, moving everything, making sure it all worked. My coat hung off me, and I shrugged it on, trying to decide what to do. I looked around the room, trying to see if I could see some sort of weapon, or even the 9mm, which I'd never used in my life. As per usual, she had unplugged the phone as soon as we'd gotten into the room, the handset in the bathroom with her, as well as confiscating my cell phone back at the apartment.
Then I remembered my pocket knife.
Reaching back, I felt the bump against my butt, keeping my eyes on that reflection, I pulled the knife out slowly, trying not to make any sound. I swallowed, wondering it would be considered self-defense. The blade flicked out of its body, the sharp blade grazing across my jeans. I tucked it up inside the sleeve of my jacket, hand sweaty as it gripped the handle tighter as I made my way toward the bathroom.
As I got closer the sink faucet came to life, Hopper bending down to splash her face. I took that as my chance, and brought the blade out, pressing it against the shirt that covered her side, just beneath her ribcage.
She stopped mid-splash, slowly standing.
"Don't do anything stupid, Hopper. I'm warning you." I was angry that I couldn't keep the fear out of my voice, but I held strong.
"What will you do?" she asked, her eyes glancing down at the blade, then into my eyes.
"I'll stab you, what do you think?" I pushed the blade a bit, just enough for her to feel the sting of the tip.
"You don't want to do that, Ginny."
"Yes I do. Unless you let me go."
Hopper sighed, closing her eyes for a moment, then with one swift movement, I was on the floor looking up at a very pissed off brunette, standing over me with a very familiar-looking pocket knife in hand.
"Please stop for one night, Ginny. I'm tired and irritable. I don't want to do something I'll regret."
I looked up at her, surprised at her words, and seeing just how weary she was in those piercing eyes. Without a word, I nodded, and she extended her hand down. Knowing I didn't stand a chance like this, I took it, and was helped to my feet.
As like the night before, Hopper took up post in a chair, and I in the bed. I huddled around myself as far from her as I could get, and cried myself to sleep.
Ronald Stone re-crossed his legs, and I knew this was allowing him time to formulate a question in his mind. Finally he spoke, running his fingers down the perfect crease in his trousers.
"Now, Virginia, you've created a bit of an aggressive character in Hopper, wouldn't you say?" He cocked his head to the side a bit, his days as a news journalist coming back in his mannerisms.
"She's a criminal who has lived life as a criminal. Of course there's going to be some aggression there." I answered, a smile fixated on my lips.
"This is true, however you've said that you wanted to try and break chains and stereotypes with this work. Having Hopper be a violent criminal, holding some innocent woman against her will, sometimes by means of said violence, is feeding into the idea of a criminal."
"Yes, but if we're honest here, Ronald, criminals, especially those who have just committed a crime and are on the run, are going to be somewhat desperate, and desperate measures ... well, you know the saying."
"And, when you've got someone there who can identify you to the police, bring you down, ruin your plan of desperation, whatever, you're going to react accordingly." I continued.
"So you're condoning Hopper's actions toward Ginny?"
"No. I'm saying every action has a reason. People don't stop to look behind the action and see why it's being done. What Hopper did was wrong, I'm not here to say any different. What I am here to say is that right or wrong, she had her reasons."
The room was empty when I woke, the sun just starting to fall. I looked around, stopping immediately when a pain shot through my back. Slowly, oh so slowly, I pulled the covers off me, still fully clothed, and put my feet on the floor. There was a bag from Burger King sitting on the scarred dresser, a drink cup sitting next to it with a wrapped straw balanced on the plastic lid.
Fists flat on the mattress on either side of my legs, I put my weight on them and rolled my shoulder, grimacing at the soreness. Standing fully, I stretched, hearing things pop that I wasn't sure were supposed to pop, but I did feel better for it.
The food smelled so good, and the bag was warm, so I figured Hopper hadn't dropped it off long ago. From the smell of cigarette smoke curling up under the door, I knew she was outside. I didn't know what my time frame was, but I was hungry and planned to take my time eating. Moving over to the table near the window, I glanced out to see my capture laying on the hood of the car, back against the windshield, cigarette dangling from fingertips that dangled off the side of the hood. She was staring up into the darkening heavens.
I couldn't help but wonder what she was thinking about. Was she scared at all? Did she worry about being caught? Where was she taking me, and what was her plan?
As though she had heard my thoughts, blue eyes flicked my way, catching me staring. I held her gaze for as long as I dared, then turned to my dinner.
The door to the room opened, and with a stronger whiff of smoke, Hopper entered. I didn't look up, but could feel her presence close by. Slyly glancing over, I could see she had sat down on the unmade bed, reclining back against the headboard, much as she had been my car.
"Did you sleep okay?" she asked, her voice quiet, almost hesitant. I thought about that question as I munched on a fry, and finally nodded. We were both silent, my brain spinning a thousand questions. Finally one came to the surface, standing out from all the others, and one I felt I had a right to know.
"Have you ever killed anyone before, Hopper?" Garnering the courage, I looked up and over at her. She looked at me, eyes falling to my neck, and quickly looking away. Self-conscious, I brought my hand up, covering the skin that I realized was bruised.
"Yes." Her eyes met mine again, then dropped. My heart thudded double-time against my chest, painful. Taking several deep breaths, I asked what happened. Sighing, she readjusted on the bed, getting more comfortable, bringing a leg up and resting her rest on the knee. "When I was sixteen I was dating this guy, Austin. He was a bum, and I wanted to be a bum, so we got hold of a gun, a little pistol of some sort. I don't even remember now where. Anyway, so we go into a convenience store in Denver, where I grew up, and robbed it. It was late, not too many people around, a lady and the clerk."
When she didn't continue, dinner forgotten, I turned in the chair, leaning on my thighs, I looked at her. "And?"
"And we got the money. It was something stupid like eighty dollars. We planned to buy some crack with it. I'm ready to go, got my thrill, wanted to get high. Austin wanted me to shoot the clerk."
She shrugged. "Who knows. Power. Make sure I couldn't turn on him. I've never figured it out. So anyway, I said no, not a chance. Austin got pissed and we began to argue, which was stupid, cause the cops were on their way- we could hear the sirens. I still said no, and Austin still insisted. Finally he said 'fuck it,' reached for the gun, which I tried to pull away from him. We started to fight over it, his hands on my wrist at the moment that I got jarred and pulled the trigger." Hopper looked down, chin nearly resting on her chest. "The kid went down like a ton of bricks- BAM!" she clapped her hands, startling me.
"Is that why your nickname is Bull's Eye?" I whispered. She nodded, then threw her legs off the bed, standing and storming over to the door.
"And don't even think about trying to use this shit against me with the cops. I've done my time." The door slammed, leaving me alone to wallow in my thoughts. And wallow I did. If she killed once, even if it were accidental, does that mean she could do it again? She had come pretty close earlier in the day. That thought in mind, I stood from the chair and headed over to the mirror that hung on the wall above the dresser.
A small gasp escaped my throat as I saw what had turned Hopper's eyes away. An angry looking bruise started just below my chin, light in color, but growing darker the further down it went, disappearing into the collar of my shirt. Pushing that aside, I winced when I saw it at its blackest point.
Anger renewed, I gritted my teeth, making my way into the bathroom for a shower. Other bruises littered my body in various places, mainly on my back where I'd been slammed into the door, then where I'd fallen on the floor. I scrubbed at those parts, even though it hurt like hell, trying to wash off what felt like a violation of my spirit, as well as the bruising of my skin.
Skin red, burning and my body sore, I turned off the double faucet and stepped out onto the towel I'd laid out on the cold, bathroom tile.
So she'd killed before. She had been sixteen. How long ago had that been? What did she mean she'd done her time? In prison? Why did she get so pissed off?
More questions. Unending and mostly unanswered.
The car was packed and Hopper was waiting behind the wheel, tapping her fingers against the wheel to the beat of a song on the radio. I slid in beside her, buckled up and got ready for another long night of driving.
"Yeah?" she asked, backing out of the space.
"Whatever happened to Austin?"
"We broke up."
Morning was dawning as we passed through the borders of the south east corner of South Dakota, heading right into Nebraska. The sky all around us was turning a brilliant pink and orange, making everything glow. I was hypnotized.
"When I was growing up in Colorado, back when we were still in Rifle, which is essentially bum fuck, there was nothing for miles but farmland. I'd get up early to help my dad with the farm, early as in before the sun rose, and then as it was rising, I'd run out to the middle of the alfalfa field in the western corner of our land, and just spread out my arms, letting the suns morning warmth engulf me."
I looked over at Hopper, seeing the soft smile that raised the corner of her lips, memories playing out over her face like a wonderful movie. She continued.
"Once in a great while, when he wasn't hurting, my dad would join me, then he'd pick me up and stick me on his shoulders and we'd watch the day come alive together."
"Where is he now?"
"He died when I was thirteen."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"Thanks." She smiled at me, and I smiled back.
The morning spread before us, a few cars on the road passing or being passed. We'd laugh at some of the cars with passengers asleep in various positions. The best was the kid, probably nine or ten, who had his entire face smooshed against the glass, mouth open, a little foggy spot at the center of it.
"I thought you didn't have anyone." Hopper finally said, about two hours later. Confused, I looked at her.
"When I asked you at your apartment if you had anyone to say goodbye to, you said no. But then you said you wanted to visit your sister. Which is it?"
"Oh. No, there's no one." I looked out of my passenger window, watching the passing, often snow-covered, landscape.
"Wait, I'm confused."
I sighed. "When I was ten my sister Cora was coming home from a date. She was seventeen, and my hero." I smiled at the memory. "Anyway, the guy parked the car across the street so my parents couldn't see them making out as easy." I heard a soft chuckle next to me. "When she finally got out of the car, she was walking across the street toward the house, and around the corner came a truck full of three boys, not a driver's license among them. Cora landed ninety-six feet from the point of impact."
Hopper whistled through her teeth. "Jeez, that's terrible."
"Where is she now?" Hopper asked, turning her turn signal on to catch an off-ramp.
"Missouri. Where are you going?"
"I have to pee."
The rest stop was basically empty. A lone rig was parked out of the way, engine off, lights all on. I figured the driver was probably getting some shut-eye. The bathroom were housed in a squat brick building, men and women separated by a Coke and Pepsi machine.
"Come on." Hopper said, unbuckling her seatbelt.
"I don't have need to go."
She looked at me, then sighed. "Look, either you come with me, or you get cuffed to the seat again. Your choice."
"What if I promise not to go anywhere?" I asked, brows raised with hope. She snorted.
"Yeah, after last night, I don't think so."
Remembering the fear and pain from the night before, my hand absently raised to my neck, and I nodded, unbuckling my seatbelt as well.
The place stunk, as most do. Used and unused toilet paper littered the three stalls, each with walls that were smudged stainless steel. I decided I might as well go, as who knows when we'd stop again. Holding myself up, not daring letting the skin of my tush.
"Thanks for dinner, by the way," I said as we stood side by side, washing our hands. Hopper nodded.
"Can't have you fainting dead away on me, now can I? You're enough trouble alive and well." She grinned, and I glared, making her laugh as she made her way out of the bathroom into the early morning sunshine. I followed, grinning at the playful exchange, when the wind was knocked out of me, my back once again slammed against something very hard. My arms were grabbed and put up around a neck, my hands suddenly thrust into soft, thick hair. The heat of a body was against mine, breasts, surprising soft, squishing mine. But what surprised me the most was the mouth that was covering mine.
At first I struggled, trying to push her away, but then, for reasons I'll never know, I gave in to it. Perhaps it was the need of human contact after feeling so afraid and isolated over the previous days. Who knows. But I responded. My hands went back to that soft, thick hair, and my fingers found various paths through it, feeling the heat of the skin beneath. Her lips were so soft as they moved against mine.
Her arms, which had been around my shoulders, slipped down to my lower back, gently pulling me away from the hard, cold brick, and into her. She was surprisingly gentle, and I ate it up.
I was stunned to hear a male's voice, and peeked an eye open, seeing a uniformed officer walking by us, toward the men's room. His tone was two-fold- "Good day to you," and "Take it somewhere else."
As soon as he disappeared into the bathroom, Hopper began to slowly disengage, nipping at my bottom lip as she did. She took a quick step back, as though she were just waking from a daze, and I fell back against the wall, grimacing as it smacked, yet again, against my new bruises.
"I'm, uh, I had," Hopper cleared her throat, then turned. "Let's go. And quickly."
Finally getting myself out of my funk, I followed after her, Hopper's much longer strides eating up distance that two of my own did. There was a police car in the parking lot, not far from mine. I felt panicked, as though the officer would catch Hopper.
I'd have to think about that one later. However, for the moment, I looked in the side mirror and saw the officer step out onto the sidewalk in front of the small building, and pull out a notepad. He was writing down my license plate number.
We drove on, both of us shaken. For me, the cop was the least of it. I glanced over at Hopper often, her eyes never meeting mine, then I looked out the window, hand reaching up for my fingers to brush against my own lips. I now knew why she had done it- she had seen the cop as she left the restroom, and figured us kissing would cause a lot less attention than either jumping back into the bathroom or taking off. But still ....
Why had my ex, Jason, never kissed me like that? But then again, he and I had never had to kiss in such a heated, intense moment, either. I imagine the adrenaline in my own body had created even more endorphins than that kiss actually had.
I was fighting with myself on whether I should tell her that the cop had my plate number, and thus was obviously suspicious, or keep it to myself. After all, if they caught up to us, my ordeal would be over and I could go home, safe and sound. But then what? Why hadn't I alerted the cop at the truck stop when I'd seen him?
I was confused. Maybe it was Stockholm's Syndrome. Me and Patty Hearst could swap stories.
"And we're clear."
Ronald Stone stood, stretching his back and arms, then began talking to one of the producers.
"Um, Miss Kelly?"
I turned, seeing a woman from the audience had moved to the base of the stage.
"Yes?" I smiled at her, turning my body to face her.
"Um, well, I just wanted you to know that my mother, who has been a big fan of your writing for years, just had a stroke, and while she was in the hospital, before she died, I sat with her and read 'Eight Days In October' to her. I'll never really know if she actually heard me, you know how it is, but for me, and I'd never read your work," the woman blushed at the admission, and I smiled, "it really changed my life. Such a beautifully written, well thought out story. And the lessons we can learn as women! And in general, I suppose. Like for men, too. Just on human strength, and what can be overcome." She finished, almost out of breath from her long prattling. I thought she was adorable, so unsure. "It was really great, and I just wanted to thank you for writing it. It got me through the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with."
I was stunned and completely touched. "What a wonderful thing to say." I stood, making sure my microphone pack hooked to my belt, was still attached, and walked over to the woman. "I'm sorry to hear about your mother's death. I know how difficult that can be." I took the woman in a warm embrace, feeling her relax against me. "Thank you for sharing your story with me."
We parted, and the woman shuffled her feet. "No, thank you for sharing your story with us. It's an honor to meet you."
"You, too, dear. Take care of yourself."
"And back in five!" The producer scurried to her position near one of the cameras, and the woman quickly bounded back up to her place in the audience, and I to my own seat on stage.
I did a series of jumping jacks when we got to the hotel, a fairly nice place this time, with room service. My body was aching from the long hours sitting and lack of exercise.
"Oh," Hopper said, flipping through the little brochure provided. "This place has a hot tub and gym." She flipped the page. "Twenty-four hour room service,"
"Gee, Miss Money Bucks, why don't you shell it out for places like this more often?" I asked with a grunt, running place. She rolled her eyes, tossing the brochure aside. "So, um," I started, rocking on my heels. "can I use the hot tub?"
"Why wouldn't you?" She asked, sitting on the edge of the one of the beds, yep two this time, and began to untie her boots.
"Gee, I don't know. Maybe cause you dog my every step, and I wasn't sure if you'd be interested in babysitting or not." I stood there, hand on hip, daring her to dispute me. She smiled ruefully, looked back down to her laces.
"Yes. Enjoy yourself." She paused for a moment, then, "I'm sure a good soak would do you good." She stood, grabbing a small bag she'd picked up at a store, which held all her personals. "Gonna take a shower."
I dug out the most opaque pair of underwear and bra I had with me, and quickly changed into it, listening for the water in the bathroom. It went on and on, so I knew I wouldn't be interrupted when I stood there naked. That was the last thing I needed after that morning.
Slipping my regular clothes back over my make-shift swimsuit, I realized I needed a towel. Chewing on a fingernail, I looked around to see if just maybe there was one laying around the room somewhere. Yeah, right. My eyes found the bathroom again, the door closed. I tried to remember if I had heard the lock engage or not. Deciding to try, I tested the knob. It turned, and the door opened just a smidge. Waiting to see if Hopper had noticed, I stepped inside the smallish room, trying to avoid looking toward the shower at all, and seeing my capture's clothes folded neatly on the lid of the toilet. That surprised me for some reason. Not sure what I expected- perhaps for them to be thrown carelessly around the room?
I stopped, frozen, when I heard a beautiful, velvety voice begin to sing "Me And Bobby McGee" by Janice Joplin. I listened, hand lying on the stack of towels on the rack above the toilet. Her voice was so clear, carrying beautifully in the acoustics of a shower stall. Suddenly she stopped, and I figured it was time for me to get the hell out of there.
The warmth from the hot tub washed over and through me, making me close my eyes, lean my head back against the little bump outs for just that purpose, and basically purr like a kitten. I had taken a swim first to further stretch out my legs and arms, and the contrast from the cool pool water to this was striking, and made the tub an even higher notch of bliss.
I tried to close off my mind, not wanting to think of the situation I was stuck in, or the amazing amount of danger. Even so, I couldn't help but think of that officer who had written down the plate number. Did he call it in? Surely he had. Now they knew that it was my car, and probably wondered if it were indeed me who was with Hopper. Where had all that money come from? What had she done, and had anyone been hurt or had to die in the process?
She was such a bag of contradictions. I had no doubt, and had in fact been quite privy to, her violent nature. I knew as sure as I knew my own name that Hopper could kill someone with her bare hands. I think the gun was simply a formality or convenience. Someone is more likely to listen if they've got a gun pointed at their face as opposed to someone threatening to karate chop them to death. I also wondered, not for the first time, how old was she? What was her real name?
Finally getting my brain to shut down and let me relax, I settled further down into the water, letting it bubble ad gurgle all around me, wrapping me in a warm cocoon of safety and comfort.
The sounds around me began to fade, the kids playing in the pool no longer existed as I drifted, weightless and untouchable. Freedom. A field before me, skies above, birds taking flight and a wild stallion in the distance. I saw me without really seeing anything at all. My eyes weren't necessary, yet they took in everything. The bright colors of the surrounding flowers, swaying in an unfelt breeze.
Unseen eyes watched me, following my every move. I turned in a slow circle, trying to find my secret watcher, but could see no one. It was so strong, strong enough to start to make me uncomfortable, and then afraid. My heart was beating like mad in my chest, pounding, pounding.
My eyes opened with the gasp that escaped my lungs, and I found myself chin-deep in warm, churning water, almost as though I were in a witch's pot. Looking around, I saw the kids from the pool were gone, and Hopper was walking toward me.
"You're still here," she said, a statement. I blinked several times, trying to clear my head.
"Yeah. Where else would I be?" Pushing myself up in the seat, the water lowered to just above my breasts, and my arms began to float.
"Oh, uh, just surprised that you're still in the hot tub, I guess. Need a fork?" She grinned, eyes devious.
"A fork? What?" I looked down at myself, confused. Then I got the joke. "Ha ha. I'm done, put a fork in me, got it." I rolled my eyes and she grinned wider.
"I'm going to swim a couple laps then I thought we'd get some room service."
"Ohhh!" I immediately perked up. We hadn't eaten in hours, and all this exercise had me exhausted and hungry. Hopper stripped down to her own undies, and dove in.
"That was soooo good." I sat back against the end of the bed, hand resting contentedly on my stomach. I nudged my empty plate away with my big toe.
"Sure was." Hopper leaned back against the dresser. Our little carpet picnic had been nice. Ordering a spread of ribs, extra gooey, salad, rolls, a beer for each of us and a pot of coffee, with double chocolate cake for dessert.
"I can't remember the last time I had ribs that were that good." I grinned at the pile of napkins that littered the tray our dinner had been brought on. "So messy."
"They're best when they're messy. What kind of ribs would they be if they were clean and proper?" Hopper asked, grabbing the packaged handy-wipes they'd sent with the meal, and tossing me one. Happily tearing the packaging open, I began to run the moist wipe down between my fingers and the skin of my knuckles where the sauce really liked to gather. "My mom used to make a mean plate of ribs. The things was, though, they were from our very own pigs and cows."
"No kidding? Didn't that bother you? Knowing that your pets were dinner?" The wipe joined the rest of the garbage, and I sat back, crossing my ankles and relaxing, allowing everything to digest as painlessly as possible. I hated overeating.
"Pets? Shoot, they weren't pets. You couldn't see them that way. Had to learn that the hard way."
"Well," Hopper sighed, pushing herself down to hold herself up on her elbows. "When I was six there was this cow that I loved. He loved me, too. I named her Tulip after my favorite flower at the time, and used to go out and chase her around." She smiled, making her whole face light up. She truly was a beautiful woman. "We were close. Then one day were headed for the Stock Show in Denver, and my dad loaded Tulip up in the horse trailer, along with a couple of the pigs. I found out later that they were to be put up for sale. The highest bidder got to eat my friend." She gave me a very sad smile.
"I'm sorry. That must have been devastating for a six year old who didn't understand."
"Without a doubt, but I had to learn. After that I never named another animal on the farm, nor did I have anything to do with them except to help my parents take care of them. Feed them, that kind of thing."
"You and I had a totally different childhood." I chuckled at the thought. "See, I grew up in a northern suburb in New Jersey, not far from the city. My father was a broker when I was a kid. I'm talking the big houses, big cars, big names as friends, the works. Then he got fired, some big scandal that I was too young to understand. All I know is suddenly one day I get home from school, my father was directing three men who were moving stuff out of the house, including all my mother's priceless works of art. I was informed that we were moving, and to go help Suzanne pack my room."
"Ah. Shit, in my household, me and my little brother were the maid." Hopper laughed.
"Oh, a brother? Is he a hoodlum, too?" I flashed mischievous eyes at her to let her know I was teasing her. She snorted at the comment.
"Are you kidding? Fuck no. Brian is a friggin' minister now." She gave me a wicked grin.
"Oh!" I clapped my hands. "How perfect. Gee, I bet you two are close."
"As close as Jesus and the Devil as poker pals."
I laughed, then got up, gathering up all our trash. I was so tired of looking at the tray, and it was making me feel sick. Setting it outside the door, I flopped onto the bed, spreading out on my side and holding my head up with my hand.
"Hopper?" I asked, my voice soft.
"Hmm?" She responded, plucking at some carpet fibers."Will you tell me what you did? Why you're running?" She looked up at me, and where I thought I'd see anger, I only saw sadness and resignation. Hopper sighed
and gathered herself, literally, hugging her knees to her chest and wrapping her arms around her shins. What was she trying to protect herself from?
"I already told you that my dad died when I was thirteen. He had been a big rodeo hero in his day, thrown off a lot of bulls, and constantly re-injuring himself until he was an old man way before his time. Anyway, so his body finally gave out, and he had a heart attack, died right there on the field."
"Wow. Who found him?" I rolled over onto my stomach, socked heels clicking together periodically.
"Brian. I was at school, luckily. Anyway, so then we had this farm with huge debts. There was no way in hell that mom could pay them off, and dad had no insurance. Enter Winston Myles Carter IV, Attorney At Law. He had been sniffing around the property for years, but was always chased off by my dad. So, when he died, and he knew mom was desperate, he came back with a wonderful offer."
"Oh, boy." I could tell there were bad things coming.
"Yeah." Hopper got up and opened the small refrigerator, offering up a travel-size bottle of pre-mixed margarita. I nodded, and she tossed it to me, then grabbed one for herself. Making herself comfortable on the other bed, she kicked off her shoes and laid back. "Mom took the offer, which she understood to be that he'd pay off the loans she had, and we'd continue to work the land, giving Carter a portion of the profits. What he hadn't told her, though, and mom never admitted this, but she never denied it, either, was he go equal profits from her."
I wrinkled my nose, trying to imagine how a woman like that, so desperate to hold on to her land and feed her family, could say no.
"What he also didn't tell her was that he planned to run the farm into the ground and pocket its sale as losses for his investment."
"Yes, ma'am." Hopper nodded then gulped from her little bottle. She twisted the cap back on and set it on the table between our beds. "So, we ended up far worse than we started, and mom was too embarrassed to do anything about it. We moved to Denver, living with my Aunt Joyce for a bit, then a shelter, and finally a piece of shit apartment in Capital Hill. Now, I don't know how familiar you are with Denver, but that is not a place you want to be."
"Isn't that where that rapist was several years back? The Capital Hill Rapist?" I sipped from my own bottle. I wasn't sure what kind of drunk Hopper was, if she in fact got drunk, so decided to keep my wits about me. She nodded.
"Exactly. So Carter disappeared, and we were left to try and fend for ourselves. Mom got a job with a plumber, working his phone calls during the day, and then bagging groceries at night at King Soopers, a grocery store," she clarified at my look of confusion.
"I did what any white girl would do to survive in a mostly black neighborhood- got tough. Stated hanging out with them, getting involved in the shit that they did, and met Austin. You know that story."
"Yeah, you broke up," I said dryly.
"Precisely." She grinned. "I get out, and I've got one thing on the brain- vengeance. I find out where Carter has gone in nine years, and turns out he'd ended up in good ol' Minneapolis."
"Thus how we became insta-roommates."
"Indeed." She raised her drink to me and finished it, tossing the bottle to the end of her bed. "Found out he was with some huge firm there, so got a job with the night cleaning crew. Luckily, like the rest of the big wigs in the world, the fucker didn't care who cleaned up his shit, and we never met. I got his floor, and timed myself so that it always took me around three hours and fifteen minutes to clean it. Eventually I got it down to just over an hour, and used the other two hours to snoop. I went through his files, drawers, locked and unlocked," she winked, "and anything else I could find. I found out where all his accounts were, found out just how many other people he'd fucked over the years, and found out who all had access to his accounts."
"Ohh, regular James Bond."
"You have no idea. So, I forged some names, and cleaned out his accounts." She grinned, sticking her tongue out between her teeth.
"That's what we've been lugging along all this time."
"Okay, then why were you being chased by the cops the night you came to my place?"
Hopper looked away from me, though I could tell she was smiling.
"At this point? I doubt it."
She looked at me. "Okay, I told you that I had taken files and things, getting his life down pat." I nodded. "Well, not everything came from his office. I was busted breaking and entering."
"To steal more?"
"No, to put the shit back."
We both erupted into laughter. "How much money are we talking about here?" My curiosity was on overdrive.
"Forty-three million and some change."
"Holy shit!" I flopped over to my back, staring at the ceiling, trying to imagine that much money. "What will you do with all that?" I looked over at her, my voice quiet, somehow in awe of what she had been able to pull off.
"I don't know." She put her hands behind her head. "Invest some of it, hide some of it, and just basically have a better life." She shrugged. "That's all anyone can hope for."
"Are you tired of the criminal bit?"
"You have no idea." She looked at me, and I smiled, shaking my head.
"No, I truly don't. The worst thing I ever did was egg a house with some friends when I was in seventh grade. Got grounded for a month."
"Oh, lordy. How did you get so bad?" She waggled a finger at me.
"Lots of practice, I guess." I turned my attention back tot eh ceiling.
"Oh, and Ginny?"
"Yeah?" I asked, starting to feel myself doze from all the good food, small bit of alcohol and exercise.
"I sold your car tonight."
"Hmm." My eyes closed, only to snap back open. "What?!"
"You sold my car for that?" I pointed. "It's a friggin' tank!"
Hopper laughed, pushing the automatic locking system to unlock the doors with a beep. "That's just because you were used to driving that little Smurf of a car." She climbed in behind the wheel, and I beside her, muttering the entire time. I looked around the thing, surveying all its features and gadgets. Though I'd never tell Hopper this in a million years, it was gorgeous. Black on the outside, gray leather interior with plenty of space.
"What is this thing, anyway?" I fiddled with knobs and controls, getting my hand slapped away a couple times.
"This baby is a 2004 Buick Rainier, fully loaded." Hopper proclaimed with quite the smug grin.
'You cannot tell me for a moment that you got enough from my 1999 Ford Focus to buy this thing." I looked at her skeptically. She grinned, putting the key into the ignition.
"You wouldn't think, would you?"
Shaking my head, I turned to look behind us, all of our bags loaded into the spacious back seat, and the blanket folded neatly on the floor between the driver's seat and the back seat.
"Oh my god!" I turned in my seat, getting up on my knees.
"What?" Hopper looked all around us, the parking lot, the entrance to the hotel, then back to me in confusion. I looked at her with wide eyes.
"Hopper, the money's gone." I whispered.
"God," she put her hand to her chest, turning back in her seat, eyes closed for a moment. "Don't scare me like that. I thought the entire National Guard was outside the damn car." She looked at me, and I was even more confused. "I know it's gone. I made it that way."
"Why? Where is it?" I also sat down, absently grabbing the seatbelt, trying to figure out where the hell it snapped into.
"That's for me to know and you never to find out." Hopper grinned and started the car. "You might as well settle in- we've got a long trip ahead of us today." She grabbed a map out of the glove compartment, which I guess she grabbed while out during her morning activities with my damn car. Spreading it out across the steering wheel, I peeked over, seeing it was a map of the United States. Losing interest, I opened my paperback and started to read as Hopper charted our course.
The ride was so smooth, almost soothing, the radio on low, music lulling me to sleep as my eyes got heavier and heavier. The book in my hands seemed to get heavy, too, harder and harder to hold, falling to teepee my thigh, head sinking back against the softness that was the headrest, light fading, world becoming one big blob, darkness.
Random pictures entered my consciousness- passing scenery that slipped into a red traffic light and Hopper chewing on a nail to Hopper matching words on the map with the big green signs along the highway, to my strange dreams, all filtering together to create a warm blanket of peace.
My name echoed in my head, bouncing around against those walls, making me twitch with each hit.
There it was again.
"Ginny, wake up, come on. I need you to direct me."
My eyes slowly opened, half light, half dark. I heard a chuckle and looked over at Hopper. Fixing my sunglasses so they were straight and trying to rub out the kink from sleeping with my face against the window. I looked into her amused eyes and groaned, stretching my screaming body.
"Where are we?" I yawned, but then caught sight of the sign that welcomed me to Missouri. Looking back to Hopper, I saw that she had the map out again, flattening it against the steering wheel. "Why are we here?"
"That's where your sister is, isn't it?" Her brows were drawn, half disappearing behind her own glasses, my surprise reflected back at me in a circus mirror image.
"Yep." She looked back to the map. With a squeal I reached across the console between our seats and grabbed her up in as good a hug as I could give.
"Thank you." I said, letting go of her and sitting back in my own seat. She nodded, looking out at the traffic that roared past us as we sat on the side of the highway.
"Well, you did sacrifice your car and all," She unbuckled her seatbelt. "Get out."
"Get out. Be careful." She opened her door, quickly closing it and hugging the side of the car as a big rig whizzed dangerously close by. Getting the idea, I quickly unbuckled and was out, stepping into the soggy ground, muddy from recent rains, the road black, reflecting all the lights of the stream of cars.
She handed me the map once we got settled, and with a devilish grin, I tossed it to the backseat.
"I don't need that."
We actually weren't far. I guessed at about another hour and a half and we'd be there. I told Hopper as much, and she nodded, tilting her seat back and closing her eyes. I turned the radio down so as not to disturb Hopper's nap. Also so I could hear sirens.
"You've given your criminal a bit of a heart at times, haven't you?" Ronald Stone asked. I nodded, sipping my water. Setting the cup down, I adjusted slightly in the chair.
"Yes. I believe everyone has a good side to them. And, if we're honest, we all have that bad side, as well." I explained. Ronald seemed to chew on this as he chewed on the arm of his glasses.
"Alright, I can buy that. But why such polar opposites in reaction and temperament? One moment you have Hopper as a savage and the next she's doing something wonderful for Ginny."
"Just as I would do for you or you for anyone else. Give and take, Ronald. No one is consistent."
"Hopper. Wake up." Reaching out a hand, I gently nudged her arm, her entire body moving with the touch. She sighed, leg twitching. "Hopper." Startling me, she sat straight up, head snapping around, taking in her surroundings. Finally she looked at me, then seemed to relax. Taking her glasses off, she rubbed at her eyes then ran her hand through her hair.
"Where are we?"
"We're here." I also ran my hands through my hair, though for a different reason. I wanted to look nice.
Hopper took in the parking lot, the two-story building before us, a man standing outside in a white lab coat talking to two women in blue scrubs. She also took in the man sitting in the wheelchair dressed in a flannel robe, his head, covered with silver hair, cocked to the side, eyes staring out blankly, mouth open and working, but nothing seeming to come out, a woman with short, brown hair sitting at a picnic table next to him, hand on his arm, head bowed. She seemed to be crying.
"This looks like a nursing home." Hopper said, looking at me. I nodded.
"It's an assisted living home, yes."
"But I thought your sister was dead?"
I smiled sadly at her. "Come on." I reached to my bag behind me, turning back and plopping a baseball cap onto her head. She straightened the cap, pulling a ponytail through the hole in back as we walked into the facility. It was clean, floors polished and reflecting the soft lights above. The reception desk was just as I remembered it- long and curved, two computer banks with a woman sitting in front of each.
"Ginny," the first said, smiling up at me, then giving a curious glance to Hopper. "How are you?"
"I'm fine, Grace. Thank you for asking."
"You're early. Don't you usually come around Thanksgiving?" She handed me the short visitor form to fill out and sign. I smiled and nodded.
"Yeah. Slight chance in plans."
"Oh, well glad to have you." She gave us each a warm smile, then turned to the ringing phone.
I slid the clipboard back across the counter and headed down the hall toward one of the two elevators. We waited for a couple minutes until there was a ding, and rose-veneered doors slid open.
Hopper said nothing as she walked beside me down the hall. We passed doors on either side, some open, some closed. Some were filled with laughter, others with talking, and some with nothing at all. That was the case with room 218. The door was closed, and I quietly turned the knob, knowing it would be unlocked. The room was small, a single, one window, blinds drawn, leaving the room with a faintly golden hue with the dying sun trying to break free of its blockage.
Sitting in a chair, simple wooden construction with lightly padded seat and back, arms on either side, was a still figure. The chair was placed before the window, as though the person were staring out into the fading light.
The long blonde hair that had been there six months ago was cut short, lightly sprinkled over the ears. Shoulders narrow, arms resting lightly upon the arms of the chair.
"Hey, Cora." I said, my voice quiet, not daring break the hush in the room. Pulling a chair with me, I sat beside her, taking her warm hand in mine. Her skin, pale and clear, eyes staring into the abyss. I watched, noting that they looked dry. I brought a hand up, just to the corner of her right eye, and automatically she blinked, bringing much-needed moisture to those green eyes, so much like my own. "You have to do that sometimes. It's almost like they get stuck." I explained softly to Hopper, who stayed back by Cora's bed.
"What's wrong with her?" Hopper asked, curious and surprised.
"We don't know. After the accident she had to have the fluid that was gathering around her brain drained to stop the pressure, then she went into a coma. That lasted for just over a month, but when she came out, she was like this." I brought my sister's hand to my cheek, closing my eyes as I rubbed it against the soft, veined skin.
"Is there anyone in there?"
"The doctor's don't know." I brought a hand up, running my hand over my big sister's new hairdo. "There is brain activity, and not just in the stem to control her reflexes and that sort of thing." Brushing my fingers through the short strands, I smiled. "I like your new do, sis. I think there is, though." I continued. "Aren't you, Cora? You're in there somewhere." I sighed, rubbing my thumb across the hand I still held. "I just wish I knew where."
"She's been here all this time?"
I nodded. Hopper moved a bit closer, leaning against the wall next to the window. She looked into Cora's face.
"You guys look alike." She said.
"I know." I grinned up at her, pride filling me.
"Why is she still here so far from you?"
"In my parent's will it was stated that money was left to continue paying for Cora's care here until either she died, or funds ran out. I can't afford anything else myself."
"Your parents are dead?" Hopper sounded surprised. I nodded.
"Mom kept her here, kept her alive, because she said she couldn't bare to lose a child. She couldn't lose her Cora Rose. Now that they're gone, I can't lose her because she's all I've got left."
She looked down at her hands, which fidgeted with the sunglasses, then looked at me, eyes hidden beneath the shadow of the bill of her hat. "We don't have a lot of time, Ginny, so I'm going to leave you alone for a bit. Okay?"
She pushed away from the wall, headed toward the door.
"Yeah?" she asked, hand on the knob.
"Thank you. You have no idea what this means to me." She looked at me for a moment, meeting my gaze second for second, finally breaking it. She nodded and left. I turned back to Cora. "I bet you're wondering who that was." Smiling, I stood and opened the blinds, letting the reaming light in. "I call her Hopper, though it's not actually her name. Anyway, this is crazy. This entire thing, how I met her, what she's doing here, why I'm here now instead of in November," I ran my hands through my hair, staring out into the early evening. "Crazy."
I told her my crazy story, realizing just how much I'd entered some of my favorite TV shows. With each passing detail, I also realized how much potential danger I was putting myself in. Well, had been put in, really.
"Part of me is really scared, Cora." I said, stroking my sister's hand. She had not moved in the hour that I'd been with her. It broke my heart, looking into those eyes that looked into eternity. I chuckled softly. "I can't help but think of the irony. Back home I work for a magazine, and am in the center of one hell of a story. But somehow I have no interest in sharing this story. I don't," I paused, trying to think of what exactly I was trying to say. "I'm going to see this through, I guess. I don't know what will happen, but can only hope that we both get out alive."
I sighed, standing. Kissing my sister on the cheek, I carefully hugged her.
"I'll be back- you mark my words. Be good, okay?" No response, as I knew there wouldn't be. "I love you, Cora. Someday you and I are going to go for ice cream again. Remember how we used to do that? When you first got your driver's license?" I smiled at the memory. "See you, sis."
I was told that my 'friend' was waiting outside for me, and found Hopper in the SUV, seat tilted back, stereo playing softly and her eyes closed. The doors were locked so I tapped on the window. She started awake, making me smile. Finally getting her bearings, she sat up in the seat and hit the automatic locks. Clicking open, I got in the car, looking at her.
"You're not getting enough sleep." This was a statement, not any question from me.
"I'm fine." She turned the key in the ignition. "How was your visit?"
"It was great, and you're not fine. Get out."
"What?" She looked at me, incredulous.
"Come on, get out." I hopped down from the vehicle, heading around the front where my progress was being traced by blue eyes. Opening the driver's side door, I stood to the side. "Out. I'm driving for a while."
Looking at me for a long moment, finally Hopper slid out, taking her time getting I on the passenger side. I adjusted the seat for my shorter legs as well as the rearview mirror.
"Where to?" I asked, watching as she made herself comfortable. She sighed, chewing on her lip as she stared out the front window at the near-empty parking lot. Not many folks here at night, save for employees.
"Anywhere." Her eyes met mine. I could see it in her eyes- she truly didn't care. It was either a lot of trust or pure resignation to her fate and whatever that may be.
"Okay. Then you're last official task as abductor tonight will be to hand me that map. She did, not hiding her smirk. "Thank you. Now sleep."
The miles and hours whizzed by along with the dwindling traffic. Coffee settled between my thighs, warmth spreading through the denim and into the skin of my legs. It was a cold morning, the sky still black as three a.m. inched its way on the dashboard clock. The music buzzed in the background, no DJ for hours, now. It was a recording of some woman's voice, soft and soothing, making me want to fall asleep.
Hopper slept peacefully, her seat completely reclined, head turned away from me. I could see the tendons in her long neck move once in awhile as she swallowed, but other than that, no movement for nearly six hours. Not eve when I went thorough the drive through of a fast food place to get my coffee.
What a horrible way to have to come to some fort of reconciliation with yourself and the life you live. The middle of the night, unseen miles ahead of you and a regretful past behind you. My life. My past. What past? I was a writer for a magazine specializing in equipment for farmers. What did I know about farmer and their equipment? Absolutely nothing. I'm sure Hopper could fill me in. I'd been at Tractor & Trade for just over a year, before that I was in the newspaper business. This job made up with steady hours what it lacked in excitement.
I barely knew my co-workers, having worked from home a good deal of the time. Stanley, my boss, liked my work. He offered to send me to the magazine's headquarters in Houston, bigger office, bigger stories, bigger bucks. I'd turned it down. Nope, I was safe in my little cocoon called Minneapolis. I'd had a boyfriend, Jason, who'd wanted to be my husband, or at least fiancé. I turned him down, too. Maybe if I pushed him away I couldn't lose him. This way, at least, it would be my choice, and not left up to fate.
Twenty-seven years old and afraid of her own life.
I glanced over at Hopper, wondering what she thought of what she'd made of her life. Was she happy? Satisfied? Content? Was that maybe the right way to go? Run wild, do what you wanted, law and society be damned? She was running, too, I realized. Obviously literally at the moment, but in general. It seemed to me she avoided responsibility for the same reasons I avoided commitment to anything. The longest I'd lived in one apartment was three years, the same with a job. It wasn't that I couldn't keep them, I just grew bored. Or perhaps I was afraid of succeeding?
Was Hopper afraid of succeeding? Was she afraid of herself? Who she is or was? An enigma- the first word I thought of whenever I thought of her. A complex puzzle made of so many twists and turns as to drive me nuts.
Darkness eventually gave way to a painter's pallet in the sky, which melted into golden light and blue skies. Suddenly I started to have neighbors on the once empty highway.
I was wiping the unwanted Sandman out of my eyes when I heard movement beside me.
"Hey," Hopper sat up, her seat buzzing quietly as it moved into place. She looked around with a yawn, noting the time. "Jesus! You've been driving for," she did a quick mental calculation, "fourteen hours."
Glancing at the clock, I nodded.
"Where are we?" She looked around, seeing network of roads coming together, and tons of traffic surrounding us.
I grinned and nodded. "The one and only."
"Good god, woman. I can't believe you stayed awake all that time."
"Who said I did?" I laughed at the glare I got.
"Cute. I can't believe you've been driving that long."
"And how you can sleep that long, I'll never understand."
"Yeah, well it wasn't that great of sleep. Let's get a hotel. We both need some sleep, in an actual bed."
Driving around for a while, I finally found a Motel 8. Room key in hand, we unloaded the car and headed in. The room was like any of the others we'd stayed at all week. We got two beds, as I insisted. This sleeping in a chair to watch the door crap wasn't going to happen anymore. I immediately closed the heavy drapes so the early afternoon sun wouldn't bother us.
"What a day," Hopper flopped down on one of the beds, falling back, arms over her head, legs dangling over the edge of the bed.
"No kidding." I sat on the edge of my own bed, untying my shoes, anxious to get them off. "I think my ass is officially flat." Hopper chuckled, rolling onto her side, slowly clawing at the bedding until the comforter was pulled down, white sheets revealed.
"Can I just die now?" She asked, kicking her shoes off, one hitting the wall with a BANG. We both laughed in our tired delirium.
"Nope. Not yet." I wiggled out of my jeans and threw my own covers back, pulling them up over me. Finally we were both bundled, my eyes drooping further and further with each ticking of my watch, which I hadn't even bothered to take off.
"Sleep well, Ginny." Hopper rolled over onto her stomach, head facing away from me.
Blinking several times, I was finally awake. The room was shrouded in near-darkness, and the red numbers on the alarm clock told me it was after seven-thirty p.m. Laying on my side, I rolled over to my stomach, head turning to face the other bed where I could just make out the glimmer of a pair of open eyes.
"Hey." Hopper's voice was soft, that recently brought from sleep.
"Hi." I sighed happily as I adjusted my body, getting more comfortable, tucking my arms under my chest to help support my breasts.
"Feel better?" I heard movement from the other bed, and assumed she, too, was getting more comfortable.
"Yeah, feel great. You?"
"Yeah. I think I'm hungry, though."
"You think? Not sure?" I was amused, and heard a soft chuckle across the four feet of space between our beds.
"Yes, well I'm a woman, allowed to not be sure about anything." She explained.
"This is very true. I'm just warm and comfortable. Could stay here for awhile."
"I figure we'll stay here for a bit, then take off in the early morning hours." We were both silent for a good while, and I started to wonder if Hopper had drifted back to sleep. "How did your visit go?"
"It was good. I miss her so much during the rest of the year, you know?" I asked, turning to my side, facing Hopper's bed.
"What do you mean, why?"
"Well, she can't talk to you. Why do you miss her?" Hopper's voice was very gentle, the innocent curiosity coming through.
"I don't know. I talk to her, knowing I'll never get any answerers or comments back, but I still talk. I tell her everything that's going on with me, anything new I've done or whatever. I don't know, it's weird, it's like I do hear her answer and comment. Does that sound crazy?"
"No. I talk to my dad sometimes."
"Yep. Will she ever be able to talk or anything, again?"
"Who knows. The doctors are stumped. They can't make heads or tails of her condition, yet there are times when she's found huddled in a corner down the hall, her bedroom door wide open. She'll be sitting there, staring as though someone put her there, yet nobody ever does."
"She gets up and walks out the door?"
"I guess. I don't know. She'll come back to me, I know it." I said, a soft smile curling my lips.
"I hoe she does, Ginny. You keep that faith, and she will."
I smiled at those words. "Thank you. You know, I wish so badly that I would have gotten to know her better when I was a kid. Talked to her more, grown to understand her better as a person, and not just a pesky older sister." I chuckled. "I used to drive her crazy, always wanting to know what she was doing, and begging her to pay attention to me."
"She's seven years older?"
"So you weren't close?"
"Eh, as close as a kid and a teenager can be. You figure, by time I was five, she was already almost thirteen."
"Tough age." I heard more movement, straining my eyes to try and see what she was up to. I could just barely make out the outline of her raised knees, tented under the covers. She lay on her back, hands behind her head.
"Yeah. I have a lot of regrets where Cora is concerned." Sighing, I thought of my sister, possibly forever locked inside her own mind. "Do you have any?" I asked eventually.
"What? Regrets?" I could again see the glimmer of Hopper's eyes as she looked my way. I nodded, then realized she probably couldn't see me.
"Hmm," she was quiet for a moment, then said, "I really regret those horrible parachute pants in the eighties. You know the ones I mean, with all the zippers? Oh! And what was up with the hair? Yes, I admit I had the lion mane going. Must have caused my very own hole in the ozone from all the Aqua Net."
I was laughing, then threw a pillow over at her. "Come on, Hopper. Really." She caught the pillow, stuffing it behind her head to my dismay.
"Oh, you mean like serious stuff?" I could see the white gleam of her teeth. "Okay, okay. Yes. I have tons of regrets." She was quiet for a moment, and I decided to give her time, though I did hope she'd answer. I got my wish. "I regret most of the past twenty years." She stopped. I wasn't about to let those flood gates close completely.
"Because I've made an absolute mess of my life. I've made my brother preach about people like me, and I've made my mother embarrassed by her own daughter."
I lifted my head to rest it on my palm. "How long has it been since you've talked to or seen them?"
"Oh, let me see," she blew out a breath. "I haven't seen Brian since the day I was convicted, more than fifteen years ago. He used to send me letters while I was inside, telling me about all the evils I had done, and how he used me as an example for his congregation of what not to do. My mom, well that's a little different story. She was there during the entire trial, as well as she came to see me inside."
"How many years did you do?"
"Eight. She used to come about once a month at first, then every couple, few months, and finally once a year. I haven't seen her since Christmas, about five years ago. I regret not telling my dad that I loved him one more time before he died. I regret the fact that he would be so disappointed in me." Abruptly Hopper turned to her side, her eyes burning into me. I couldn't see them, but sure felt them. "I regret getting you involved in all of this, in my mess. I'm really sorry, Ginny. You have a life, a job, a cat, whatever. You don't deserve this."
"It was a bad situation, Hopper."
"Yes, it was. Is."
I jumped when I felt the softest touch against my throat.
"Does it still hurt?"
I could feel my heart pounding, slamming against the very skin that fingertip was touching.
"A little." I swallowed, feeling that finger drift away.
"I'm so sorry, Ginny," Hopper whispered, her hand safely laying on the mattress of her own bed again. "I had no right to do that to you, and you had, have, every right to your freedom. When it's all said and done, I hope you don't hate me." The last was said so quietly that I almost missed the words. Pushing my covers aside, I went to my knees next to Hopper's bed, putting us more on an eye to eye level. This close I could also see her eyes, staring into mine.
"I don't hate you, Hopper." My voice was almost as quiet as hers. "I really don't."
"Call me Brock?" she asked, sounding almost like an uncertain child.
"Brock. Beautiful name. Different and unique, like you." I smiled, and she smiled shyly back.
"You know, I wish we could have met under different circumstances. On the street, had coffee, or something. You seem like such a nice, truly good person."
I was stunned by her words, staring at her for a moment, unable to think of a thing to say. Shaking myself out of it, I lightened my own mood. "There's a maker over there," I nodded toward the tiny, two-cup maker on the dresser. Hopper, I men, Brock, smiled, then her stomach let itself be known. I laughed. "Guess your stomach made that decision for you. Come on," standing, I reached my hand down. "Let's go get some food."
As we drove on the next day, Brock showed me various places in downtown Denver where she had hung out as a wild and unruly teenager. I think it was a bitter/sweet moment for her, looking back on all the building and places she used to haunt with Austin and the bunch. When she seemed to start to get uncomfortable, we headed on out.
I'd never been to Colorado, and certainly not to Arizona. The rock formations, and the way you were surrounded by blue and purple mountains was breath taking. Every direction were the Rocky Mountains.
"This must be so beautiful in the winter, when all the peaks are covered with snow." I said, looking out the driver's side window as I continued on, drivers whizzing by me even though it was snowing, and the streets were getting slick.
"It's gorgeous. Especially to be up there," Brock pointed toward the peaks. "Really amazing."
"Wow. Where are all the trees?" Looking along the side of the highway there were plenty of rock formations and shrubs, grasses, and a smattering of trees. I was used to trees as far as the eye could see. Brock laughed.
"You're not in Minnesota anymore, Dorothy."
"Yeah, no shit." I drove on, turning the radio up as I was finally able to get a damn radio station in again. Kelly Clarkson's 'Since You Been Gone' came on, and I cranked that sucker, tapping and bobbing my head to the beat, singing the words that I knew, which were few. I could feel Brock's eyes on me the entire time, but I continued anyway, enjoying the hell out of a cool song. On a particularly straight stretch of road, I let go of the wheel, raising my hands as much as I could in the confines of the SUV.
"Ginny! The road!" Brock exclaimed, trying to grab the wheel. I slapped at her hands, grinning madly at her.
"Come on, Brock. Allow yourself to have fun once in a while." All I got in answer to my proclamation was a glare. She didn't like my giggle at her expression, either.
"You pose a rather interesting relationship between Ginny and Hopper." Ronald said, again thumbing through my novel. "Certainly not the typical kidnapper/kidnappee at all."
"No. I think that's one of the great things about the story is that it isn't your typical fare in many ways." I crossed a leg over the other, trying to get my screaming back to stop. Sitting in one spot always drove me over the edge- I was a woman of action.
"Do you think that has to do with the success of your novel? Did you expect this sort of reaction?"
"Oh, heavens, no!" I laughed at the thought. "I had actually written this story many years ago as a short story, just something that came to mind that I wanted to get out on paper. I printed it out and had it bound, then had my students read it in one of my classes. With their encouragement, I decided to bring it all out again, and add to it, expanding it to the novel you hold in your hands now."
"I'd say it's a good thing they did, too." Ronald Stone smiled. "It truly is a wonderful story."
"Thank you, Ronald. That means a lot."
"Have your students read the finished product?"
"Of course. They each got a copy if they passed my class." I gave him a devilish grin, and laughter was heard from the audience.
"Wow," Brock stood at the rail, forearms holding her weight as she looked out, the heavy afternoon sun directly overhead. "This is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen."
"Isn't it?" I stood beside her, though did not touch the railing. I knew it was sturdy, had to be, but I was still a chicken shit. Just looking over the edge made my stomach churn. "I've always wanted to see the Grand Canyon, and had planned on it when I took my trip."
"I've never been further west than Colorado." Brock picked up a rock, tossing it up in the air only to catch it again, testing it's weight. With a mighty heave, the rock went soaring over the edge, down into a great, natural abyss, it's landing never to be heard by us. "Just amazing."
"When I was a kid we used to go to Anaheim, you know, the whole Disneyland thing." I watched progress of the mule tours as they made their way down into the great maw, almost black blobs.
"Never been there, either."
"Oh, you're missing out, my friend. However," I got brave and took a step closer, arms crossed tightly over my chest, as though I were trying to hold everything in so it wouldn't fall over the edge. "Disney World in Florida kicks Disneyland's ass, hands down. It truly is the happiest place on earth."
"Got a thing for Mickey, huh?" She looked at me, grinning. I raised a brow.
"Tigger, thank you very much."
Her guffaw echoed out across the canyon. "I suppose he would be more energetic in bed."
"Oh, you're bad." I smacked her on the arm and headed a bit further down the path, smiling at a couple as the three of us tried to squeeze between a huge wall of boulders and the rail. Unfortunately I got the side with the rail. Twisting my body quickly to give them even more room, my sunglasses made a suicidal jump down almost six thousand feet. "Shit!"
"Ohhhh, what do you think archaeologists will think when they find those in a thousand years?"
I turned, seeing Brock looking over the rail, following the progress of my glasses. I couldn't help the laughter that bubbled up.
"They'll probably think it was some ancient tool used to wipe your ass or something."
Brock smirked. "Yeah, there ya go. Come on, I'm hungry."
One of the many restaurants at the canyon served the usual fare- hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken fingers, and others. We got our food and sat at a table for four next to the window so we could look out at the canyon as we ate. I noticed a couple sit not far from us. They looked to be in their late forties, early fifties. Talking, they didn't much notice us until, the woman dropped her napkin as she unfolded the silverware from it. Brock noticed and grabbed it, handing it to her with a smile.
"Thank you." The woman said, looking at her for a moment, then turned back to her husband. She leaned in, getting him to do the same. Speaking in very quiet voices, they looked over at us repeatedly. I could tell Brock was getting very uncomfortable.
"Shit," she whispered, almost gulping the rest of the bite that had been in her mouth, down.
"Do you think they recognized you?" I asked, eyeing the older couple. Abruptly the man got up, heading toward the restrooms. He reached into his pocket as he went, and just before he disappeared into the men's room, I noticed him pull out a cell phone. "Shit!" I hissed. "Let's go."
Standing, I tossed some money to the table and grabbed the backpack I carried. Without a word, Brock took one more bite, then we headed out, leaving half-finished lunches and growling tummies behind.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck," Brock buried her face in her hands, scooting down in the seat, as though she were trying to hide from the world. "I am such a total fucking idiot." Running hands through her hair, she looked all around us, seeing only normal drivers getting from here to there like everyone else. "I should never have gone to such a fucking public place."
"I'm so sorry, Brock." I wanted to cry, knowing that she had gone because of me. I may have gotten her busted, and my heart hurt. "So sorry."
"What the hell are you apologizing for?" she asked, incredulous. I looked over at her, just as confused.
"What do you mean? For making you go out there-"
"Oh, Ginny," she reached out, about to touch my face, then dropped her hand, looking out the window again. "You didn't do anything wrong. It's all me."
"What do you want me to do?"
"I don't know. Just keep driving, I guess. Let's get off this highway, though."
My heart was pounding, and I felt sick. The lunch that I did have was starting to make itself known. Maybe it had been good that I hadn't finished it.
"What?" I was taken aback by the sudden command.
"Pull over. Do it, now."
With a screech of the tires, I found us a safe, private place and looked at her, waiting for instructions, or at least an explanation.
"Get out. Come on. Get out." She nearly pulled the seatbelt out of it's hiding place in her haste to get out of the car. I followed suit, not sure what was going on. We met in front of the car, and she slammed something into my hand. Looking at it, I realized that it was a wad of money.
"What are you doing?"
"Go." She ripped the keys from my hand.
"Wait, no, what-"
"Go!" She got into my face. "Get the fuck out of here, Ginny." She pushed past me, heading toward the driver's side. Coming to my senses, I looked down at the money, then stormed over to where Brock was about to open the driver's door. I slammed it shut, startling her. She looked at me, but her surprise was short lived.
"What the fuck are you doing? I said go, damn it!" She pointed in the direction of the surrounding area, like she was telling a dog to fetch.
"No! I'm not leaving you."
"You don't have a choice, Ginny." Her eyes were blue fire, and I met them. "I'm letting you go, now get! I'm not getting you hurt in all this shit. My shit, now get the fuck out of here!" She shoved me, knocking the wind out of me, but I held my ground.
"No. I'm going, too."
"Ginny, don't do this," she scrubbed at her eyes for a moment, then looked at me again, brow creased. "Please, just go. You'll be fine. Find some motorist, call the cops, call a cab, whatever. You'll be okay. Please just go." She was pleading with me now, which shocked the hell out of me.
"No." My voice was quiet, resolve firmly in place. "I want to see you find that happiness that you want so badly. Please let me help you, Brock. Please." I looked into her eyes, praying that she'd see just how much I wanted that for her, wanted that for me.
"Why?" She whispered. I smiled.
"Because. No one ever has before."
Yet again, I found the wind knocked out of me as I was gathered in a massive hug, crushed to her, a hand on the back of my head, pulling me so my cheek rested against her neck. As quickly as it started, it ended.
"Get in. Hurry!" Two doors slammed in the afternoon quiet, and the engine was revved to life. About to spin out of our hiding place, Brock looked at me, fingers holding my chin so I had to look at her. "If I tell you to duck, you do it, got me?" I nodded, and she let go, getting us back out to the road.
The day seemed to stand still as we pulled back out into traffic, which was relatively light for a Tuesday at noon. The sound seemed to be turned down, wild life hiding, watching, waiting. My breath held, too. Hell, time itself seemed to hold. We looked in every direction, trying not to look like we were looking out for our lives. Cars, shiny chrome and metal reflecting the hot Arizona sun. Every eye that met mine seemed to be accusing me of a crime I wasn't aware of. I had never felt so paranoid in all my life, and wondered if this must be what Brock had felt every second of the last week.
Cold, tickly beads of sweat were running down the side of my head, making my hair stick to me. There was a weight to the air, a tension, that I had never felt before. Something was out there, like a monster waiting for its chance to attack.
Then it did.
As we drove down Pine Street, a cop was driving the opposite way, and as soon as he spotted the red SUV, his lights flared up, as did his siren, as did my breathing, making my lungs hurt as they finally filled with air.
"Here we go,"
My hand instinctively found the handle on the door as the petal truly was put to the metal, and my head was forced back into the headrest. Brock had both hands on the wheel, save for when she had to shift, eyes focused on the road as she sped down the street, like an obstacle course, avoiding one car after another. My heart stopped as an older woman was about to step from the curb, seeing us just in time to fall back onto her ass on the sidewalk as we whipped around the corner, wailing sirens behind us, becoming a chorus.
"We've got to lose them before they get the helicopters in the air!" I yelled, looking back over my shoulder, seeing the officer in the passenger seat on the radio.
"What?!" Brock bared her teeth as we screeched around another corner.
"They'll get choppers out, with infrared heat sensors to find us in case they can't see us." I explained. She stole a glance at me.
"Jesus, Ginny! What the fuck kind of TV do you watch?"
Street after street we charged down, the SUV picking up speed, and jumping curbs, into fields and lands that was harder for the cop's cars to follow. An immense cloud of dust had gathered around us as we hit the desert, and I tried with everything in me to see where the cops were.
Thrilled when we plowed onto another street, paved street, that is, the entire car jolting me, making my skeletal frame feel as though it had come unhinged. Looking frantically around, I saw about half the cars behind us that had been before, and they were far behind.
"Shit," I muttered, looking around, to the left, right, behind us again, and in front. Where had the other cars gone?
"Where are they?" Brock asked, making another wild turn, heading into heavy traffic.
"I don't know. They're still back there, but only a handful." I turned as far as the seatbelt would allow, not daring to take the thing off. "Oh, shit!" Two of the cop cars that had disappeared careened around the corner, about four blocks behind us, smashing into the line of cops, one black and white ramming head on, flipping over the hood of his colleague, spinning in the air, and landing on the roof, skidding down the pavement in a wave of sparks. "Hit it! Fucking hit it!"
Brock slammed the SUV nearly to its limits as she pushed the speed, using the accident to her advantage to get away.
"God, I hope no one was hurt," I whispered, turning back in my seat.
"Just as long as they leave me the fuck alone,"
"You okay?" I heard quietly behind me. I nodded, slowly getting to my feet, closing the toilet lid as I did and flushing. "Here." A warm cloth was put in my hands, and I gratefully took it, wiping at my mouth and entire face. Next a plastic cup of cold water was put in my trembling hand. "Drink it, Ginny." I did, glad it wasn't glass as it probably would have broken a tooth, I was shaking so bad.
"I'm okay." I looked up into very concerned blue eyes. "How do you do this? How can you handle this?" I asked, making my way to the bed, needing to sit before I fell. Brock sighed.
"I don't know. Maybe I'm used to it." I felt the weight of the bed as she sat next to me, almost touching.
"I hate throwing up. Gives me the worst taste." I grimaced.
"Take a drink and swirl the water around. Spit it back in the cup. I'll toss it for you."
Following her advice, I was grateful to have it taken away. Mouth feeling fresher, and certainly cleaner, I laid back on the lumpy mattress.
"Should we turn the news on?" I asked, following her progress to the bed, with my eyes. She shook her head.
"No. I need some peace. If it's going to happen, it'll happen. Right now I don't want to think about it." She walked over to the window, shutting the heavy curtains, but peeking out the small slit where they didn't quiet meet all the way. Standing, I walked over to her, stopping just behind.
"That was scary today," my words were soft.
"Yeah." The dark head hung for a moment before Brock turned, facing me. She looked so tense, so scared. "Why didn't you run, Ginny? I don't want you hurt anymore. Why can't you see that?"
"And why can't you see that I've been running from things my entire life. What you did, stealing the money, kidnapping me, none of it was good, right. But I don't think you deserve any of this," I indicated the small, smelly room around us. "I can't help but wonder who you would have been if your dad had lived." I smiled, wistful. "Amazing, I bet."
Brock's eyes dropped as she looked at my neck, exposed by the v-neck t-shirt I wore. Reaching up, she traced the fading lines of the bruises, softest touch of a fingertip, sending chills down my spine.
"I will never hurt you again, Ginny." She looked into my eyes, and I saw truth there.
"I know." Taking her hand, the skin so warm, I placed the palm flat against the exposed skin of my throat and upper chest, sliding it down a bit, over my heart. "It's crazy, but though all this, you've made me feel alive again." I smiled, stunned by my own words, not fully realizing their truth until I spoke them. "I sit at home, typing up stories about things I don't care about, not facing the world. Not taking any chances or risks. Safe. My world is filled with safe."
"That's not such a bad thing," she breathed. I nodded.
"It can be. If you're dead." I covered her hand with both hands. "This beats again, because of you." I could feel the immense heat of Brock's skin through the thin fabric of my shirt, and it burned me to the core. "Till the end, Brock. I'm in this with you till the end."
My eyes seemed to close of their own accord as I saw that beautiful mouth coming closer, finally touching mine. The pressure was soft, but firm, that hand sliding down, brushing against a nipple on its way to my waist. I gasped at the sensation, but didn't break the kiss. My arms went up around Brock's neck, pulling her more fully to me, feeling that familiar body against mine, all warmth and softness.
The kiss deepened, me inviting her inside. The exploration was slow, careful, hands running up and down my back, sending even more chills my way. I felt the soft warmth of Brock's neck as my hand weaved its way through her hair, feeling the strong jaw, graceful neck, which I wanted to taste.
Breaking from her mouth, I trailed kisses across her face, and finally down, barely tasting that strong, proud jaw, and finally smelling the saltiness of the skin of her throat. Brock moaned softly, baring more for me, her hair gliding against my other hand as she tilted her head back.
The skin was so warm, amazingly so, and supple, giving to the pressure of my lips. The kisses began to get bigger, wetter, until I ran my tongue up the column of her throat, kissing her chin, then finding a waiting mouth again.
We were moving, me forward, Brock backward, until she sat on the end of the bed, placing me between her spread knees. I stood there, looking down at her as she looked up at me. Nothing was said as she wrapped her arms around my waist, resting her head against my chest. I cradled her head, kissing the top of her dark hair, running my fingers through it.
She began to nuzzle between my breasts, and my eyes closed involuntarily, feeling the hot breath coaxing my skin to come alive. Hands began to wander again, full-fingered, up the sides of my thighs, over my hips and waist, then began to bunch up my shirt as they continued, revealing skin that needed to be touched so badly. I raised my arms, allowing my shirt to be removed completely, shaking my head to free tangled strands of hair.
Those magical hands roamed down the front of my torso, not stopping at any point or lingering. When I felt the softness glide over my stomach, my eyes shut again. I was so torn- it felt too good to keep them open, but I wanted to not miss a single moment, either.
Warm breath, wet tongue, gliding up the center line of my stomach, just to the underwire of my bra. I sigh escaped my throat, and my hands found that thick hair again, gently pressing her toward me. Wet kisses covered the entire area, little nips here and there. Then that hot breath was targeted over my right breast, causing the nipple to grow rigid from the moisture and anticipation. When it was sucked into a hot mouth, material and all, I groaned, arching into it, wanted Brock to absolutely devour me.
I reached back behind me, fumbling with the clips until I heard the satisfying snap, and felt the straps loosen. The bra slipped down my body, and I tossed it aside, leaving me bare. Our eyes met, and Brock smiled. I smiled back, then cried out as that same nipple was taken a set of even, white teeth, and tugged at. I was clawing at her head now, silently urging her to take more.
With a yelp, I found myself laying flat on my back, Brock straddling my legs. She held herself up on her arms, looking down at me. She bent down, kissing me, rough, dangerous and possessive. I met her need for need, clawing at her shirt, wanting so badly to feel her skin against mine. She helped me, trying to stay attached to my mouth. We both realized this wasn't going to work, so switched to trying to get undressed as quickly as possible.
Finally, on my back again, I watched Brock's slow progress as she laid herself down, inch by inch of bare, warm, sexy as hell, skin.
She sighed into my mouth as full contact was made. I ran my hands up and over her back, feeling every muscle work as she moved to my neck, one hand finding my breast again, teasing, feeling, taking me to a place I had no idea existed. As she worked her way lower, there wasn't a single part of me that she missed, her tongue lapping up any last bit of resolve I may have had somewhere.
"Oh, god!" When her tongue created a path through a sea of want, I nearly jumped off the bed. She held me down, exploring, tasting and carving her initials upon my eternal memory.
My body jerked in almost painful spasms, Brock kissing and licking her way back up my body, spending a few moments on each breast before she reached my mouth. I kissed her with a renewed vigor. Exhaustion by ecstasy be damned!
Pushing her to her back, I ran my hands all over the unbelievable body that lay before me, bare and beautiful. I wanted to taste every last inch of her, too. I brought a fingertip to one of her nipples, amazed at just how hard it was, and how much it felt like my own.
"Oh please, Ginny," my hand was grabbed and drug down her body.
"I want to do what you did," I started to move down, but she stopped me.
"No," she gasped, her need taking her breath away. "I haven't been tested. No."
"How do you know I haven't been? It doesn't matter," trying to go back to my task, I was stopped again.
"Please, Ginny. You have a full life ahead of you," my hand was thrust in the wetness between her legs, and I decided that wasn't the time to argue about it. I could feel how hard she was, and it excited me to no end. I kissed her as my fingers moved against her, trying to bring even one-tenth of the pleasure she'd brought to me
Brock's eyes squeezed shut, her breathing heavy and erratic. Head thrown back, her thighs clamped down around my wrist, her hand holding me hard against her as she throbbed against me. I watched in awe at the magnificence that was Brock's pleasure.
She was trembling, so I pulled the blankets around us, and took her into my arms, brushing the hair away from her face, watching as her breathing became a bit more normal. She swallowed several times, then turned, face buying in my neck. I held her, stroking her back, tucking her in.
Sighing in contentment, I fell into a peaceful sleep.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
My head snapped up, looking around frantically.
"Brock Madson! This is the police. You are surrounded. Come up with your hands up and no one will get hurt."
"Brock," jumping up, I saw her behind me, head turned toward the door. We looked at each other, then she jumped out of bed, hurrying over to her clothes. I followed suit, heart pounding out of my chest. "What are we going to do?" I nearly cried, so terrified.
"I need you to trust me." She tugged on her jeans, not bothering with the underwear, almost ripping the material of her brat as she snapped it into place, then her shirt.
"Of course I trust you," pulling on my shoes, I tried to tie them, but wasn't having much luck. I couldn't get my fingers to do what I needed them to.
"You have to the count of five, then we're coming in!" The officer yelled, his voice loud, but muffled through the walls.
"Please," Brock grabbed me, pulling me to her in a crushing hug. "trust me." She looked at me, begging me with her eyes. I met her gaze, trying to say so much that I didn't understand. She smiled, as if she had understood, then kissed me. With that, she grabbed her gun from her bag, then grabbed me, pulling me to her, tightly, almost painfully, my back to her front. "I'm coming out!" she yelled, putting the gun at my temple.
Stunned, almost stumbling, my hands grabbed the forearm that was around my neck, the hold getting tighter as she opened the motel room door. I gasped as blinding lights met us, red and blue, red and blue, red and blue. Officers stood behind their open doors, using them as shields, guns drawn and aimed right at us.
"Don't do anything stupid or I'll blow her fucking head off!" Brock yelled, the barrel of the gun pressing into my head. In a strange moment of thought I envisioned some strange crop circle-looking mark in the skin.
"Let her go, Brock. You're outnumbered and surrounded. There's no place to go now. Let's end this."
"Come on, Brock. Don't do this. You're out of options. We'll do everything in our power to help you, but to do that, you have to let go of the girl. Let her go!"
"Brock, please," I gasped, so terrified for her. "They'll kill you." I had no idea what she was doing, but I was looking around frantically, trying to make a mental tally of just how many officers were there. She didn't stand a chance, and I had no idea what she had planned. If anything.
Time slowed again, the sun beating down on me, making me feel like I could melt. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end as I heard shouting, though nothing made sense to me, no words intelligible. All I knew was that suddenly the cold metal of the gun was no longer touching me, and Brock's arm was slipping from me, and with a small caress to the back of my neck, I was shoved, hard. Stumbling, seeing the ground getting closer, hands were on me again, and I was almost being drug as the first shots rang out.
"No!" I cried out, trying to get away from those hands, but they were like a vice, and I was shoved into the back of an ambulance, more shots echoing into the afternoon, BANG! BANG! BANG!!
I turned in time to see Brock go down as the doors were slammed shut.
"So basically, if you're in the mood for a happy-go-lucky ending, this isn't the novel for you." Ronald Stone smiled, and so did I, after shaking myself out of my reverie.
"Not every story has a happy ending. Tragedy comes in all shapes and sizes."
"What do you say to your critics who say you've simply taken a news story from twenty-odd years ago an turned into your very own fiction?" Ronald shut the book with a quiet thump.
"Well," I sighed, looking at my hands for a moment, "I'd say that you'll have critics no matter what you do. I think a critic is someone who is jealous because you thought of it before they did." I smiled, full of charm, and Ronald laughed.
"Well, it was certainly a pleasure to have you here today, Virginia." He turned to the camera. "Virginia Kelly, 'Eight Days In October,' available in stores now." He turned back to me, taking my hand. "Thank you so much for coming, Virginia, and good luck to you." Back to the camera. "Until next time, America," he gave his signature salute, and we were called clear.
I looked at the audience, clapping and smiling. My eyes found the redhead in the front row away, also clapping, warm, brown eyes smiling. I smiled back. I knew beneath the veneer those blue eyes were twinkling.
The Ninth Day- ten months later
(the hidden chapter)
I tried to be patient, my knee jiggling like mad as my foot tapped a nervous beat.
My head snapped up at the woman's voice, and I stood.
"Hi. Sorry to keep you waiting. I'm Wilma Lawson, director of Pine Gardens. If you'll follow me please?" she said after we shook hands. I followed her down the familiar halls of Cora's home, wondering what this was all about. She indicated that I should precede her into a medium sized, paneled office.
"What is this about, Miss Lawson?" I asked, seating myself in a chair in front of her desk that she sat behind. She entwined her fingers on the blotter of her desk. "Is Cora okay?"
"Oh yes, she's doing fine. Miss Roth, about a month ago we received a letter from an anonymous party who wishes to sponsor the removal of your sister from this facility, relocating her to a facility in Minneapolis."
"What?" Incredulous, I leaned forward in my chair. "Who?"
"We only just found out today. We arranged this meeting with you and the liaison, Sarah Kelly."
I turned in my chair as a beautiful woman entered the office. She wore a skirt suit in brown, which complimented her long red hair and brown eyes.
"Miss Roth," she extended a hand and I stood to shake it. I looked at her, taking in the full face, carefully shaped brows and delicate ears that peeked out from beneath the hair, hoops dangling from their lobes. My eyes met Sarah Kelly's again, and I froze.
"Sarah is here representing the Winston Myles Carter fund."
"Oh," I breathed, my head reeling.
"Shall we discuss the details, Ginny?" Sarah said, the barest quirk of the corner of her mouth making my heart beat again.
"Yes. Let's do."
It's been four years since the generous donation from Winston Myles Carter IV, and Cora seems happy in her new home, which is three miles from the home I share with Sarah Kelly. Imagine my surprise when I saw her!
I had to know, had to know what had happened that day. Brock had been hit, several time, in fact. The crazy thing is, she had carried around that iron frying pan of mine all those days, stuffed in her bag along with her gun. I hadn't even felt it against me that day, I'd been so scared. It had saved her life, keeping the slugs away from her more vital areas.
After I'd been whisked off to the hospital to make sure I was okay, then interrogated for hours by a victorious police force, and the FBI, Brock had been collected, formally arrested, and taken to the hospital for surgery to remove nine bullets from her body. She lived, and she escaped. Tsk tsk for careless officers who think flirting with pretty nurses is more important than guarding a dangerous criminal.
Months of recovery after plastic surgery, a whole new look, and whole new name, a whole new life, Brock found me.
Oh, and by the way, Cora smiled for the first time today on command. The doctor said she's making progress.
My life is nothing but boring, now. Who knows, maybe someday I'll write a book about it.
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