The revenger, p.4
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       The Revenger, p.4

           Debra Anastasia
 
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  Also, the payoff was shorter, more fleeting the less red she saw. A hint of the smell of her daughter’s neck, remembering the slope of Kal’s forearm when he shifted gears, it wasn’t enough.

  She ran a frustrated hand through her hair, keeping the other on the steering wheel as the cruised a neighborhood street. She’d started prowling during the day as well to increase her chances at scoring, though she knew it wasn’t great idea. Tobias wasn’t talking to her anymore. She couldn’t blame him. It had been four weeks since her first attack on the man in the bar.

  Tonight she would ask him again to move out, and it wasn’t a conversation she looked forward to. She felt selfish and ungrateful, but she didn’t want him keeping track of her. The money from the insurance company would keep her living frugally for a few years without having to work. So Tobias’s income as a mechanic was unnecessary, for now.

  Savvy had driven aimlessly out of the neighborhood and back onto a main drag when she saw what she desired most in the world: a bright red aura. She had to pull herself out of the trance the color put her in to see her surroundings. She willed herself to remain aware of what happened around her. A daytime beating required restraint, which wasn’t her strong suit with a red aura in the mix.

  The asshole stood in the woods just a few feet away from a fence. He was dressed in full camouflage, but the red made him easy pickings for her. His aura seemed particularly predatory.

  What the hell is he doing?

  He looked like he was waiting for something. Savvy put the car in park. To get to him she had to cross a field or drive around behind him and make her way through the woods. Gripping the steering wheel, she assessed the area.

  This is a school?

  Yes. There was a playground and the telltale brick building. A school bell sounded in the distance, and a flood of children came out of the doors. They brought the man with the red aura to full attention, his glow rippling in anticipation. Savvy popped open her door and ran as fast as she could.

  I’ll get this bastard.

  As she ran, she saw a police cruiser out of the corner of her eye. The teachers who had followed the kids out to recess began blowing their whistles, calling the children back into the building. The sight of a madwoman bolting across the recess field had caused appropriate alarm.

  Savvy didn’t care. The asshole had locked eyes with her, and he turned and ran into the woods. She should have slowed down, tried to appear a little normal, but the mother in her mixed with whatever supercharged crazy was running her life now and had taken over. That man with a red aura had been looking at children. There was no stopping now. She vaulted the fence and navigated the trees easily, quickly. The police siren lit up the afternoon and seemed to be coming from all directions.

  She closed in on the man soon enough; he was no match for a hunting Savvy. When she was close enough, she pushed him from behind. He tumbled forward and landed propped awkwardly against a tree. A wet stain spread across his pants. He was scared. Savvy took a deep breath of his fear, and it felt like falling in love. His aura pulsed angrily. She would break every bone. Every bone.

  The footfalls behind her put a damper on her fix, though his aura still called to her. Her hands began to shake. I can’t beat him here. Shit. Her whole body gave in to the tremors. He was so close, so red. Let me hurt him, oh God. It hurts not to hurt him.

  The police came closer, stepping cautiously.

  You can’t go to jail, she told herself. Tobias would hate that. And you might injure the cops by accident.

  Savvy needed more practice not acting on her impulse, and she wasn’t currently sure she was strong enough. She took small steps until she stood next to the aura’s twisted body. He dared to talk.

  “I was just looking. I love kids. I was just looking.”

  Savvy grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, and he shouted in pain.

  Don’t tear him up. Don’t break him.

  She put her mouth close to his ear and was so very tempted to bite it off. “If you ever look at a child again, I’ll know. And I’ll find you.”

  She grabbed his hand and squeezed as hard as she could. The bone structure collapsed and was as easy to crumple as piece of paper.

  But his aura didn’t budge. He was an intensely evil man. Summoning every bit of restraint she’d ever possessed, Savvy put him face down on the ground. She rested one foot on the back of his neck and waited for either the police to show up or her control to falter.

  *~*~*~*

  Silas looked across his desk at Bugs, who was once again seated in his office. Based on Silas’s posture, an onlooker might have assumed there was a pleasant business meeting occurring.

  There wasn’t.

  Bugs sat on his hands. He’d spent weeks trying to solve this puzzle, but he had failed. And failure wasn’t an option. He’d expressed his desire to vomit, so a wastepaper basket now sat at his feet.

  Silas’s suit was impeccable, his hair just so. He smiled at his uneasy employee.

  “Tell me how much time I’ve given you again?” Silas spun the globe on his desk with his long middle finger.

  “Ample time, sir. I do have developments I would like to share—”

  Silas held up one hand. “Either you’ve failed or you’ve succeeded. Is the woman here?”

  “No, sir.” Bugs’s chair groaned as he shifted.

  Silas picked up the remote on his desk and pointed it at the painting above the fireplace. With the click of a button, the soothing picture evaporated. In its place a screen revealed an older woman making her way down the aisle at a grocery store.

  “Mom!” Bugs’s eyes were suddenly wild.

  “Keep watching, please.” Silas nodded, and watched the man’s eyes grow even bigger.

  In the frozen department, a gentleman pushed a cart up the aisle. Bugs went sheet white, clearly recognizing him, though his face was impossible to see. Silas’s organization had one legend—besides Silas himself.

  The assassin was extremely effective. His mere existence had gotten Silas his way in more than one business deal. The deadly man pulled his cart up next to the older woman’s. There was no audio, but he said something because Bugs’s mother turned to look at him and smiled.

  Silas paused the screen. Bugs was sweaty and seemed to be trying not to cry. He leaned forward and took advantage of the trash can.

  “So tell me your developments now.” Silas put on his best bored look.

  Bugs wiped his mouth and looked from the paused screen to his boss’s face. He seemed desperate to put his words together. “Uh…there have been reports of men being beaten in a…the same…type of beating…”

  He stopped to dry heave in the trash can again. After that his words were clearer. “Okay, some men have been admitted to the hospital with similar injuries. Some have been letting me know their friends were injured but they couldn’t go to the hospital, because they were wanted by the police already. She seems to be choosing the worst of the worst out there. She has yet to kill anyone—that I can find, anyway.”

  He paused then, but Silas motioned for him to continue.

  Lucky for him, Bugs had more to say. “A Denis Motte was beaten on his front lawn, in front of his wife, few weeks ago. He was the only one who didn’t have a record. He was very forthcoming with information and also gave me a great description. I was able to draw this composite sketch.” He dug in his pocket and unfolded the drawing. “Can I give this to you, sir?”

  Silas nodded once and took the pencil drawing from Bugs’s shaking hand. Barely looking at it, he flipped it over to the blank side as if it was of no consequence.

  “So, we know what she looks like,” Bugs continued, his voice a little tentative. “She seems to wear high heels in every incident, and she smiles a lot. The men say she’s abnormally strong.”

  Silas put his fist to his lips. Bugs looked at the floor now, having reached the end of his report. Sighing, Silas hit play on the frozen video feed, and Bugs braced himself, as if for a punch.
Having the assassin that close to his mother was no doubt akin to seeing her wrapped in hundreds of poisonous snakes. He could kill her so very quickly.

  Bugs’s mother nodded, looked at her watch, and presumably gave the assassin the time. Then the video stopped, and Silas pressed the button that turned Bugs’s greatest fear back into a pretty picture.

  “Bugs, call me on this phone—” Silas held up his expensive cell phone for clarification. “—with the girl’s whereabouts within twenty-four hours. And this is the last twenty-four hours you’ll get.”

  Bugs shot out of his chair like a dog being let off a leash. “Thank you so much, Mr. Sagan. I’ll get her. Soon. Very soon.” He walked quickly to the office door.

  Silas turned his chair away from his retreating employee. “And one more thing,” he added quietly.

  Bugs halted.

  “I’ve had to wait longer than I care to for what I want. If you fail? Your mother will have to wait for death longer than she cares to. You know the assassin loves to try out new techniques.”

  Bugs turned around, but was too horrified to respond. Silas waved his hand and smiled as he left.

  *~*~*~*

  Savvy was sweating by the time the cops reached the spot in the woods where she had pinned the pedophile to the ground. They came at her, spouting all the requisite lawful warnings, guns drawn. She held up her hands and stepped away from the writhing man.

  Her gaze remained fixated on her prey, and she hated to trust anyone else to deliver justice. Finally, she looked up and was struck speechless by the sight in front of her. The cops had visible auras of their own. They were surrounded by sparkling, golden light. It was peace—good people doing the right thing. Savvy felt so grateful to them for doing their jobs. In that moment she learned that the good auras could be as bright as the bad ones.

  She knelt when they told her to, and a female officer patted her down. When the situation was under control to the police officers’ satisfaction, Savvy described seeing the asshole looking at the kids and deciding to track him down. After going through the pedophile’s pockets, the cops found his ID and called in his description.

  “Well, Jim, looks like you’re a sex offender who hasn’t registered in years.” The male cop nodded at Savvy and led Jim toward the cruiser in cuffs.

  The minute Jim was secured, his red aura went out like a light. Savvy gasped at the sudden relief and return of her self-control.

  The female officer walked with her back toward the fence. “We’ll need you to come down to the station and give your statement.” After they had both climbed over the metal mesh, the officer continued talking. “I have to thank you, though. My little boy goes to this school. To me, you’re a hero. I know a lot of other parents will want to say thank you too.”

  “I’d prefer to stay quiet about the whole thing, if that’s okay. I mean, if anyone deserves thanks, it’s you guys.” Savvy looked at her feet. She wanted to find a way to be alone, to see if she could still feel Kal and Sara.

  “Well, I’ve never seen anyone move that fast in my whole life. You must be a mom running on pure adrenaline.” They arrived at Savvy’s car.

  Savvy didn’t want to cry, not now, but the word mom started her sanity disintegrating. She whispered as she looked over the roof of her car. “I used to be.”

  Savvy opened her door and got in. She started the car and rolled down the window. The female cop was even gentler now, seeming to have read the deeper meaning in Savvy’s words. She patted her on the shoulder.

  As the cop turned away, Savvy stopped her. “Could I drop by the station a little later?” she asked softly.

  “Yeah, that’s okay. Go home, relax a bit, then come on down.” The cop nodded her permission.

  “And also? When your little boy comes home from school? You hug him. Hug him so hard.” Savvy felt a tear slip through her tight grasp on her emotions.

  “Will do. I promise.”

  Savvy drove away, counting the moments until she could be home and able to focus on feeling her reward. She swiped the flood that always followed the first tear. At the stoplight she leaned forward and pointed at the sky. “That one was for you, Sara.”

  *~*~*~*

  Silas sat for a while before he gave in to the temptation to look at Bugs’s drawing more closely. He finally flipped the page over and couldn’t stop the rush of excitement. She would be an excellent acquisition. Everything about her face belied her clearly violent tendencies. She had full lips and large eyes. Her hair was thick and hung in dark, curling waves with hints of red. Bugs was excellent at many things, and Silas was pleased to see that his portrait skills were extraordinary. He’d even managed to capture the essence of the woman, as described by her victim: her picture radiated truth, rightness, and bliss.

  I want her so much.

  Chapter 8

  Just Like Saturday Morning

  Swerving into the driveway, Savvy parked her car and ran upstairs to her bedroom. She could feel them coming, the tangible memories that were her oxygen. She crawled into her bed and closed her eyes. It seemed more real when she couldn’t see the empty room.

  She held her breath and waited. It took all her energy to keep her eyes closed when she heard the familiar pitter-pat of Sara’s feet.

  “Can I get in, Mommy?”

  Savvy nodded, but kept her eyes closed. And then her arms were full of her baby. Sara’s hair tickled her nose. Her warm body molded so perfectly to her side. Savvy had always laughed at how completely her girl could snuggle in, like Sara still had claim to some of her womb’s real estate. Savvy hummed her daughter’s lullaby and after a moment had the complete satisfaction of hearing her girl’s deep, contented sleep noises.

  She knew her tears would drench her pillowcase, but this was the most intense memory yet. It felt so good it hurt.

  And then there was more. She thought she might not be able to take it when she felt the mattress give under Kal’s weight.

  Oh, please, yes. Him too.

  She couldn’t make out the mumbles he whispered into her hair, but she could feel his arm finding its perfect home in the curve of her hip. He, too, was soon sleeping. And she was wrapped in them, like they’d never been taken. Like God knew that this, just this, was the only thing her heart understood. Savvy began to feel the security of bliss, like she could slip into dreams with them. Please, let me go like this, in my sleep. Don’t make me wake up without them again. Never again.

  Then Tobias slammed the front door, and she could feel the connection with her family evaporating. Don’t go! No, you’re not leaving. She tried to hang onto them, but her hands found only balled-up sheets when she searched.

  She could hear Tobias bounding up the stairs, looking for her.

  Go away, Tobias. Let them stay.

  When he tossed open her door, she kept her eyes shut tight. But they were gone. Like smoke. Like fog. Like a dream.

  “Sav, are you okay? What’s wrong? Look at me. Look at me!”

  Rage.

  She slapped the empty space in her bed. “They were here. You ruined it! You ruined it for me. Goddamn it, Tobias!” She launched herself from the bed.

  She made her fists into tight testaments of her anger. Tobias’s aura was faintly gold so she knew she wouldn’t be strong enough. And even in her horrific rage, she knew he wasn’t evil. He barely even tried to hold her arms as she rained punches on his shoulders, his chest, and finally, connected with his jaw. He gritted his teeth and turned his head, offering her his other cheek as well.

  Her fists dropped to her sides, and she waited. Tobias was a wonderful man, but he wasn’t beyond his own anger.

  His voice was quiet but sharp. “Never have you ever laid a hand on me, Savvy. Not even when we were kids.”

  She wanted to hug him. She wanted to comfort him, but she turned to face her empty bed instead. “I think it would be best if you left.”

  If he was gone, she could lay with them for hours, for days, if they would just stay.

&
nbsp; “I’m not leaving you like this. Something’s so wrong. I made a mistake when I took you home. I see that now. You need the hospital.” Tobias stepped toward her.

  Make him leave.

  She turned and made her face cold, uncaring. “You’re here to watch the show? To pretend you’re the one who lost your family? Because you didn’t. You can’t have them. You can’t claim my grief as yours anymore. Maybe you’re between girlfriends. Maybe you’re just like Dad and you’re selfish, living on my property, getting a free ride.”

  She could tell he didn’t buy it.

  “This isn’t you. This isn’t who you are, Savvy.”

  She grabbed the lamp and tossed it against the wall. It shattered. “Yes, this is me now. Your Savvy? She died in that accident. I’m throwing you out. Now. Leave or I’ll call the police and have you removed as a trespasser.” She looked at her feet.

  He was quiet. He was angry. “You’re my only family.”

  Pretending to hate him wouldn’t get her very far; she was a terrible liar. She tried another approach. “I know one thing for sure: I’m not going to stop. I have to see them. Just now, when you came in? They were in the bed with me. Just like a Saturday morning. I’ll kill for that. I will die for that. I don’t want to bring you down with me to where I have to go. Does that make any sense? Let me save you from me. I couldn’t save them from me. Please, just let me save you.”

  “What do you want?” Tobias waited.

  “I need time by myself. To figure this out. I need to face that they’re gone. With the house empty, I’ll know I’m alone.” She hugged her middle.

 
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