Houdini’s Box

Part 16

(The Conclusion)

By: Girl Bard


Please see Part 1 for disclaimer. This part has an additional violence disclaimer. If violence disturbs you, please email me and I will provide you with an alternate version.

Many thanks to everyone who mailed me feedback! Keep it coming!


June 29, 2000

Above all, I attempt to remain calm. Aron's creep is grinning at me like a Cheshire cat because he's so proud of himself. There is nothing I'd love to do more than reach across the table and beat the smirk off his face. But I need more information from him, and kicking his ass won't help me get that.

"What are you talking about?" I ask him, raising my eyebrows as if I have no idea what blonde he's talking about.

"Aron knows about your little whore you sent to Maine." He replies, trying to bait me by calling Grace a whore.

I fake a blank stare. "Who?"

The kid laughs briefly, and leans across the table towards me. "You're not fooling me. Aron knows what he's talking about. After he slit the throat of his blonde, he told me all about your Grace."

I refuse to play into his game. "How do you know he slit the blonde's throat?" I ask, glancing to the mirrored wall where I know Steele and the captain are watching from the adjoining room.

The kid laughs again. "I was there."

I stand up, looking down on his pathetic form. "That's all I need to know." I motion to the mirror, and Steele and the captain let themselves into the room. "Stand up." I order the kid, and he looks around, confused.

"What's going on?" He asks, subconsciously backing away from Steele's intimidating form.

"You're under arrest." I tell him simply, turning him around roughly and snapping the cuffs around his wrists.

"For what?" He blurts out, losing his composure.

"Accessory to murder." I tell him, and astonishingly, the kid laughs.

"You can't prove anything. Aron said this would happen. He said he'd get me off."

I look at his young face, wishing he could see how stupid he is. "Dream on kid." I tell him, my voice surprisingly compassionate. "Aron used you like he uses everyone. He’s already forgotten about you." I shove him into the captain's hands and let myself out into the hallway. Steele follows me, peppering me with questions but I ignore him, and try and figure out how in the hell I'm going to save Grace.




I hear muffled movement as I stand outside of Ian's closed bedroom door. I'm creeped out, honestly, and my intuition is telling me not to go into that room. My stomach clenches with fear, and I slowly step away from the door. Bean joins me in the hallway, sniffing underneath the door. She turns her liquid brown eyes up to me and emits a singular low muffing sound. I slowly turn and head back down the hall, slipping on my sandals and letting myself and Bean outside. Something is not right here.

I don't know what to do. Everything in my being is telling me to get out of here and never look back. But I can't bear the thought of leaving Ian.

What if Ian is working for Aron? I can't imagine that to be true. At first I was suspicious of him, but he's a really nice person and after spending the entire day with him I can't think of him as a killer.

So what do I do? Run away? Run to where? I guess I could get in Ian's car and drive somewhere, but I don't know where in the hell I am. I could find my way to the nearest town and call the cabin from there, making sure Ian was okay.

But I don't know the phone number. I walk over to Ian's car, and open the driver's door. Bean jumps in eagerly, prepared to take a car ride. I get in the driver's seat and notice that the keys are missing. Shit. I check the dashboard and in the glove compartment, not seeing the keys. They must be on the counter, or in Ian's pocket or something.

I get out of the car, calling Bean as I prepare to shut the door. She doesn't listen, still sitting on the passenger seat and panting with excitement.

And then I practically jump out of my skin when I hear a gunshot. My eyes widen in fear as I hear another, and than another. I need to get out of here. I roll down the driver's window just enough to give Bean air and then I lock the door, shutting her in. I don't want her getting hurt. "Stay." I order her, and she looks at me with uncertain eyes. "Lay down." I command, and she immediately jumps to the car floor and lays in the cool shade. "Shhh." I tell her, putting my finger to my lips. This is her command to be silent, and she always listens to me.

The woods. It is my only conscious thought as I say a quick farewell to my beloved puppy and run like hell for the trails we walked this morning. I don't know who is shooting whom in the cabin, but I know that it's not a good sign. The only person wanting to come here and shoot things would be Aron.

Thankful for the cool evening air I continue to race towards nowhere. I fucking hate running and I fucking hate whoever is in the cabin that is forcing me to run. I channel my anger into my physical actions, concentrating on making as little noise possible.

I'm not scared. I don't know why, but I'm not. I'm scared for Ian and for Bean, but not myself. Maybe it's my way of coping with this situation.

I reach an impasse of trails. I stop, disorientated and confused about which way to head. I cock my head, listening for any sounds confirming that I'm being followed. I struggle to regain my breath and it catches in my throat as I hear a large body crashing through trees not that far behind me.

Oh shit. Remember what I said about not being scared? Strike that thought. I quickly decide on a trail and bolt down it, determined to get away from my follower. You know that Ashley Judd movie, where that psycho is chasing her through the woods? She got away by running her ass off and jumping off of a cliff. I'll get away too; I just hope I don’t have to jump of a fucking cliff to do it.

I try to think positively as I continue to run. My lungs are burning in my chest and I'm suddenly flooded with memories of the shipwreck, and not being able to breathe. I gasp for air as I concentrate on just getting away. I have to get away. I have to see Jaden again and write my best-selling novel and do all the things I’ve always wanted to do.

My eyes tear with the exertion of running combined with thoughts of Jaden. If Aron is here, than she must be dead. She would never tell him where I was unless he made her.

Please let her be alive. Oh Goddess, please let her be alive.



Racing to the parking lot, I jump in my Explorer and start the engine. As I back out of my parking space, Steele bangs his fist on the passenger window.

"Let me in!" He demands, his voice muffled through the class. I hit the unlock button and he jumps in. "What is going on?" He asks, and I hand him my radio.

"Radio the dispatcher named Diana. Get us a police escort to Maine." I order, and he looks at me quizzically. "NOW!" I yell as I screech out of the lot. He fumbles with the radio as he obeys.

Diana's voice answers quickly. I grab the radio from Steele as I weave through traffic. I'm driving only like I've seen in car racing video games, but I don't care if I get in an accident. All I can think about is Grace.

"I need police to your cabin, now." I tell Diana, knowing she'll pick up on my inflection.

"Shit Jaden!" She answers and I nod numbly, forgetting she can't see me. "Hang on." I hear her radio the department in Maine. A few seconds of silence goes by and Diana answers quietly. "It will take them twenty minutes."

"It's a fucking emergency!" I scream into the radio. "There is a professional hit man who is going to kill Grace."

I don't want to think that she might already be dead. I would have known, wouldn't I? I would have felt something, I know I would have.

"Okay Jaden." Diana says, her soothing voice having no affect on me. "Give them 10. They'll be there."

"Thank you." I tell her, my voice shaking. "Where's my escort?" I ask her as I merge onto the highway.

"Waiting for you at exit 48." She answers calmly. "She'll be okay, Jaden."

I hand the radio back to Steele as I gun the Explorer. Grace always makes fun of my big tough car. How I wish now I had chosen some hot rod that could do 120+ just so I could get there faster.

"Can you tell me what's going on?" Steele asks uncertainly.

"No." I snap, focusing only on getting to the cabin as fast as I can. It takes an hour and a half to get to the cabin from here. That's going 70mph. My mind is too jumbled to tell me how long it will take going over 100.

I fly by the other traffic, flashing my lights and beeping like a lunatic at anyone who dare get in my way. Steele puts on his seatbelt and sits back in his seat.

"There's your escort." He remarks, seeing the flashing lights ahead. I purse my lips and nod. Steele gets them on the radio and tells them our location and destination. He must have gathered where we were going from my conversation with Diana. He barks a few other orders to the three cars waiting ahead and they pull out like a well-trained team. They quickly reach my speed and pull in front and to the side of me.

I glance at Steele, impressed. "Thanks." I offer him and he smiles tensely.

"No problem."

The police escort clears all traffic from our lanes of the busy highway and we tear down the road, the exit signs flying past us.

"Check the status of the Cape Neddick department." I ask Steele and he radios Diana again.

"Five minutes. I gave them directions." Diana's voice answers. Steele thanks her and clicks the radio off.

Five minutes. In five minutes, I will know if Grace is all right.

Suddenly nauseous, I glance at the dashboard clock. It reads 6:12.

I don't know if I ever want it to reach 6:17.



I'm bleeding. I slow to a jog, unable to see because of the blood seeping into my eyes. I wipe my face on my t-shirt, and find it covered with the glossy redness of my blood.

"Stupid idiot." I curse myself as I tenderly feel the lash on my forehead. As I was running, the path narrowed and instead of slowing to carefully ease myself through, I bullied right through it and in return, received a nasty cut from the thorn bush that I ran through.

Wiping the last of the blood away I take a deep, burning breath and begin to run again. I still hear him behind me, but I feel I've managed to put a considerable distance between us. That thought doesn't slow me down as I race on.

He has a gun. It doesn't matter how far away I am from him, he can shoot me just as easily. I wipe my forehead again, shocked that a stupid pricker bush could make a cut that deep.

The path veers off sharply to the left. I run shortly down the path I am on and then double back down the veering path. Maybe I can trick him into thinking I took the other direction.

I slow down to a fast walk, impressed with myself for being able to move so quietly as I strain my ears to listen to my pursuers' progress. I don’t hear anything now but I’m still uncertain if I threw him off of my trail so I break into a run again, panting and heaving from the exertion.

The trail widens and I look around when I recognize where I am. This is one of the paths that I walked down this morning, I'm sure of it. I must be close to the cabin.

I don't know if that's a good thing or not. Goddess, I hope Ian is okay. Who was shooting? And who is shot and who is chasing me? And most importantly, are Bean and Jaden okay?

My heart clenches in fear as I think about them. If they are hurt or dead, I won't be able to live with myself.

I suddenly lose all of my strength. The anger that has kept me running dissipates from my body and all I can think is how nauseous I feel. I fall to the ground, dry heaving and coughing when my parched throat burns with stomach acid. Now isn't the time to lose it. I have to remain strong. I try to tell myself to get up and keep moving, but my exhausted body prevails and I crumple to the ground, defeated.

I lay on the ground, panting and shaking with chills. I don't know how I can be freezing when I've been running forever, but I am. I think I must be going back into shock. Just like during the shipwreck.

No. I won't do that again. Jaden isn't here to save me this time, I have to save myself. I’m not going to be like some idiot stereotype of a girl in horror movies who fall and don’t get away. I have to get up and keep going. I can do this. I can save myself.

I have to save myself. I have to save myself.

I chant it over and over in my head as I force myself to stand up and continue towards the cabin. My legs are shaky and wobbling but I manage to walk, and then jog, and then run again. If I can get back to the cabin before my pursuer does, then I can find the car keys and drive the hell out of here.

The trail breaks and I see the cabin. It looks peaceful and undisturbed. I glance to Ian's car, and find it exactly the way I left it. I hope to Goddess that Bean is sleeping peacefully on the floor.

I cautiously let myself in through the back door, wishing I had some kind of weapon but not knowing what I would do with it if I had one.

I creep over to the kitchen. Searching frantically, I can't find the keys. They must be in Ian's room. Oh shit, I don't want to go in there.

Maybe I should just go get Bean, and run down the driveway and down the road. Someone would surely drive by and find me.

Maybe that's what I should have done in the first place. Not lead the shooter on a chase through the woods.

But both Jaden and Ian said that these roads are hardly traveled. And it would have given the shooter a clear shot at me. Maybe this way I've tired him out.

I have to go to Ian's room. I have to make sure he's okay and maybe he'll have the car keys. I just could have sworn that I saw him put them on the counter.

My heart pounds in my chest as I head down the hallway. Only this time, instead of finding his door closed, it is now ajar.

I push it open slowly and step inside. I close my eyes immediately when greeted with Ian's body, prone on the floor in a pool of blood.



6:16. The ominous clock on my dashboard taunts me, refusing to change. "Check.." I begin, only to have Steele interrupt me.

"Diana." He speaks and she responds.

"Give them two more minutes, Jaden." She says. "They are just getting off of 95."

"Dammit!" I growl in frustration, knowing that they are at least 5 minutes away. I tap my hands nervously on the steering wheel. If anything happens to her, I don't know what I'll do.



"Ian?" I ask, forcing the bile back down my throat. I know it's no use, he's dead. His blank eyes stare at me lifelessly, his mouth agape in surprise. I feel a wash of sympathy for him and I close my eyes in disbelief. "I'm so sorry." I tell him, knowing that his death is my fault for him being here.

I see his handgun on the floor. I pick it up gingerly, not even knowing how to use one. I've seen enough movies to feel comfortable enough to open the bullet chamber. It’s fully loaded. So that means that obviously Ian hasn’t done any shooting, meaning his murderer is unharmed. Great. I click the safety off, knowing that I have to do that to shoot.

The gun feels so heavy in my hand, so promising of the death it brings. I feel nervous holding it, knowing that at any second I could take anyone's life, including my own.

The keys. I have to find them. The dresser in Ian's room is bare, except for his watch and some money. I quickly glance around the rest of the room searching for them, trying to look everywhere but at his dead body.

I have to check his pockets. The thought enters my mind and festers. It's the only other place they could be. I gingerly step over to him, holding the gun in one hand.

"I'm sorry." I whisper, as I put my hand in one pocket, finding it empty. My stomach clenches at the thought of touching him again, but I grit my teeth and feel around in his other pocket.


"Tsk, tsk." The deep male voice chides me and I look up in alarm to find Aron standing in the doorway. I step back from Ian's body and point the gun at him.

"Going through a dead man's pockets. What has become of you, sweet Grace?" He asks, his lips curling into a feral grin.

I refuse to give him the satisfaction of an answer.

"What a big girl, holding on to a grown-up gun like that." He remarks, holding up his own gun. "But mine's bigger, don't you think?"

Keeping my mouth shut, I don't waver from his intense gaze.

"Cat got your tongue?" He offers, "Or maybe dog?" Chuckling at his own joke, he finally gets a reaction out of me.

"What did you do to Bean?" I demand, waving my gun at him erratically.

"Nothing. Though I'll enjoy running that little mongrel through." He adds dramatically. "I was too busy chasing you." He adds, grinning again. "You're pretty fast, but you have a lousy sense of direction."

I clamp my mouth shut, determined not to further the conversation.

"Don't you want to know why I'm here?" He questions, stepping towards me. I know he wants me to step back so I refuse, standing my ground like I've seen Dana Scully do.

"Well, I guess I'll have to tell you anyway." He remarks, running his free hand through his unruly hair. "Once upon a time, a beautiful princess double-crossed her handsome king, so the king killed the princesses' brother." He laughs again, and I realize that he is truly insane.

"You would think that the princess would learn her lesson and not mess with the handsome king. But the princess was a dumb princess, and had to interfere in the king's business."

"Jaden isn't stupid." I tell him angrily.

"Aw, how sweet." He replies sarcastically, taking a step towards me again. "But you didn't let me finish my story." He states menacingly. I don't flinch and continue to stand my ground, my hands tight around Ian's gun.

"Anyway, the dumb princess and her knight in shining armor started nosing around the king's castle and servants. This made the king very angry. Angry enough that he had to kill."

My eyes widen in fear. Surely he doesn't mean Jaden. "Kill who?" I ask.

He giggles, a truly disturbing sound. "My servant seemed to take a fancy to the knight, so she had to die."
I sigh, relieved that Jaden is still alive. I hear police sirens in the background. Aron hears them too, rolling his eyes.

"So the end of the story is, that the princess needs to be taught her lesson all over again. Only this time, instead of the princesses' brother, the handsome king will kill the princesses' wench."

I tighten my finger on the trigger. "I am not a wench." I tell him, my voice low.

"Yes you are." He jibes. "You're a plain little white-trash stray that she picked up. She'll keep you until she's bored, and then double-cross you."
"You're wrong." I tell him, my voice rising. "She left you because you are evil."

He sighs. "I have a beautiful soul."

"You have no soul." I respond.

The sirens wail in the background, closer to us now. Aron does not attempt to move as I hear the tires of the police cars crunch in the gravel.

"Time for the fairy tale to end." He remarks. "But instead of a happy ending, both the wench and the beautiful princess will die."

"I won't let you kill her." I tell him, the rage in my voice unfamiliar to my ears.

"You can't stop me." He says, advancing closer to me. "I’m going to kill you and then I’m going to relish in killing her once and for all."

I don't answer him as I point the gun at his head and shoot.

The next thing I feel is the white-hot searing pain of a bullet piercing my flesh.



6:24. "Where are they?" I scream into the radio. Diana's normally upbeat voice answers softly, "They just got there."

"Is Grace okay? What is going on?" I ask as I cross the state line into New Hampshire.

"They have reports of two shots fired." She responds, her calm composure slipping as her voice shakes. "They have one man down, and two are dead."

I drop the radio, unbelieving what I have heard. Grace is dead.

I struggle to keep my car on the road as the news sinks in. How can she be dead?

Shaking my head to relieve myself from the fog I gaze uncertainly at the road ahead. Nothing matters to me anymore.

I feel like I am wrapped in chains and drowning, trapped in Houdini's box, and sinking to my death.




The End!!! I know, I know. I'm evil. But look for the return of Jaden (and possibly Grace) in the sequel to the sequel, called We Do What We Can.

I promise I won't make you wait too long before posting.

Thanks again to everyone who has made this story & I Know This Bar possible. Linda, for being there from the beginning, Colleen, to a new friendship, SB for always providing me with the "rules" of fanfic. (Although rule #1 is to NOT kill off a major character......) but you'll all have to turn in to the next story to see if I did or did not break that rule.

Thanks to my adorable little Jack Russell for inspiring the character of Bean.

And as always, thanks to my sweet, sweet girl. Because I love you more everyday.

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