Jared stared over at the young woman kneeling in front of a man, who had one hand wrapped in her long, blonde hair. With his other hand, the man held a gun to her head. The woman’s head hung down, part of her hair obscuring her face. Her soft whimpers tore at his heart. But the gun kept Jared 20 paces away. He was way over his head and had no idea how to fix it.
“You ready to talk, Dr. Quinby?”
Jared wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans. If fear had an odor, he was sure the other man smelled it on him. “I don’t know where the package is. I swear. Please don’t hurt her.”
“You’ll have to do better than that.”
The other man’s voice cut the fetid air in the dimly lit tenement basement like a knife. Where was the FBI? Jared willed his hands not to touch his jeans’ snap, which contained a tiny GPS tracking chip. Surely Will would have found them by now.
“Please. I know someone who knows where it is. Let me call him and he can bring the package to you.”
The man narrowed his eyes. “What is this person’s name?”
Jared tossed out the only name he thought might buy him some time. “Devon. Devon the Maggot.”
With his eyes as black as night and just as void of emotion, the man tightened his grip on the woman’s hair. In a movement Jared barely registered, he removed the gun from the woman’s head and aimed it at Jared. The gunshot reverberated off the concrete walls as the bullet sped toward Jared.
Pain exploded in Jared’s left leg and he crashed to the floor, writhing in agony.
“Devon is food for maggots. He’s dead. I saw the body myself.” The gunman returned the weapon to the woman’s head. “Now you have ten seconds to tell me where the package is or the next bullet I fire blows a hole through her pretty little head.”
Jared squeezed his eyes shut, wishing he had the information. The pain in his leg dulled his senses. The acrid smell of gunpowder and blood gagged him, and he swallowed hard to avoid vomiting.
He opened his eyes, a prayer forming on his lips. But time had run out.
“Ten.” The man looked at Jared, who stared back with anguished, pleading eyes.
“I guess you really don’t know. A pity.” The man tightened his grip on the woman’s head, whose rising wail threatened to drown out the man’s voice. “But I always keep my word.”
The bullet overshadowed Jared’s scream.
# # #
He reared up, a scream still on his lips and the lingering scent of gunpowder in his nostrils. For a split second, he thought he was still lying in a pool of his own blood on a dirty floor with the body of a dead woman across the room. But gradually, the nightmare image faded and his heart rate slowed to normal.
He tossed back the covers and eased out of bed. He limped into the living room, turning on all the lights and firing up his laptop. Unless he found a massage therapist soon, he would have to resort to sleeping pills to get a decent night’s rest. In the days after he was released from the hospital, he developed a fear of going to sleep because of the constant replaying of those last few minutes. He soon realized that cramping in his injured leg contributed or perhaps triggered the worst of the nightmares. Having the kinks worked out by a massage before bed helped him sleep better.
He wouldn’t get any more sleep tonight. He poured a glass of milk and sank onto the couch, pulling his computer onto his lap. He opened Internet Explorer and Googled “massage therapists, Culpepper, Virginia.” He unscrewed the cap and took a drink while perusing the search returns. He narrowed the search by adding the words “in home” and found a more manageable list.
He spent the next half hour visiting massage therapist websites and emailing the three that didn’t appear to be a front for more intimate services. Maybe he could have someone out this afternoon. He closed down the computer and picked up the TV remote. Nothing like watching infomercials to dull his mind. With any luck, the Ab Rocket would put him right to sleep.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.