“She sent me a coded message,” I said again, to no one in particular, still in amazement at her quick thinking during a terrible situation.
I raised the volume settings and left her precious mobile plugged in on my office desk. I sat down and watched its light flash normally. I had to. My girl was going to ring me on it and tell me where she was, so I could go to her and bring her back. Come on, baby . . .
What felt like aeons of time passed painfully slow. I recalled later that I never desired a smoke once while I waited for my girl to message me from wherever she was. I didn’t think about having one, or imagine the taste, or even feel the sting of nicotine deprivation. None of it. I’d never touch another ciggie in my life if doing so would bring Brynne safely back to me. Not much of a vow, I know. Pathetic, really. But it was all I had to wager with.
I prayed to my angel for another miracle, and hoped she would hear me for the second time in my life. Mum, I need your help again . . .
Then the picture came through in a media message with the most wonderful sounding blip I’d ever heard. I opened the message and stared, my eyes absorbing what she’d just sent.
Brynne was playing her hand in a kill-game situation, and had just upped the ante by betting huge stakes that could go either way. I loved her so much for doing it, I thought my heart could burst right on the spot. My girl played her cards with the instincts of an experienced ace. Of course she does, she’s my girl.
“Dad?” I held the mobile out to him with a shaking hand. “Where is that bell tower? You must know where it is; take me there right now. Brynne can see it from where she just took that photo.”
My first instinct was to rip the lamp out of the wall and start bashing Karl on the back of the head with it. I don’t know how I didn’t. I wanted to hurt him, make him suffer in agony for a long, long time before he died. The evil my mind imagined for him was not fit for anyone to ever know. I’d have to keep it buried inside me forever. No problems there.
It took some time, but we got there eventually. Karl got bored in our small prison and started texting someone or playing a game, I couldn’t tell. That’s how I knew he had his phone and where it was. I would have to get it from him at some point and use it to call the only phone number I could remember—the phone number I’d had since my move to London four years ago. I did not know any other numbers by heart but I knew that one.
I thought about how I could get to Karl’s iPhone. In time I realized the only way was for me to dig deep into my psyche to where I was willing to go all in, as Ethan would say. To bet everything. To carefully leverage the risks—or the consequences. To try to win, or be willing to lose everything.
Anger would be the vehicle to get me there.
“You murdered my dad, you evil motherfucker,” I said quietly.
He looked up from his texting and stared at me. “He deserved it. Even way back I hated him for not letting me see you after it happened. He kept you secreted away from your friends, and from me. I wanted to help you and to be there for you. Your prick of a father shut me down every time I tried to talk to you.”
“He was protecting me by shielding me from further hurt. He was being a parent, you ass**le!” I let my emotions build up inside me. “He loved me!”
“Yeah, well he was in the way. Killing him made my plan work better. Oakley was shitting a brick at the funeral. Did you see him sweating?”
“No,” I answered, “I was grieving for my father, you soulless shit.”
Karl smirked at me and I wanted to gouge his eyes out with a dull spoon. “Not like your dad when I took him out. He was one cool son of a bitch, even when he knew what was happening.” Karl looked me over dismissively. “He said your name right at the last . . .”
I couldn’t hold in the gasp, the agonized cry that poured out from my heart as I heard his nonchalant words, spoken almost as an afterthought. It was too much for me to accept. My father had died knowing what Karl intended for me.
“Don’t look so upset, Brynne. I told your dad I’d take care of you,” he said in a cocky voice, and then he turned his back on me.
Thank you, you f**king monster!
They say that under the influence of an adrenaline surge, humans are capable of extreme feats of strength. Mothers lift cars to free their children and stuff like that. I didn’t know if the effect could apply to me, but I didn’t care. It was lamp-bashing time—my very best option for the choices within my grasp. A nice solid stone-component base that would do the trick if it didn’t shatter from the force I was going to use when I hurled it at him.
Right. Fucking. Now!
I took ahold of the damn thing and launched it with all my strength at the back of Karl’s head.
I had done the shot put in high school, and I did it now. Contact coupled with perfect precision and brutal force. Karl went down like a rock in a pond. Maybe the stories about mothers lifting cars did apply to me.
I was a mother, and Karl just got reminded of that very important fact.
I grabbed his phone off the floor and did the first thing I could think of. I held it up to the window and took a picture of the skyline. Then I sent it to my old phone number.
I hoped I’d killed Karl, because it was precisely what he deserved, but I couldn’t be sure and I didn’t want to stick around to find out. I was getting out of there.
The door ate up a precious minute of time because he’d finagled a chain lock on the inside that took me a few tries to undo because my hands were shaking so badly. I knew we were up three or four stories, and that I had to get down to the street to find safety, but when I exited the attached flat, I found myself in a corridor. This place was a mess of architectural planning. Make that complete unplanning. I looked around for the best way out. The fastest way.
The corners and stairwells reminded me of the Mission Inn in Riverside that I’d visited with my parents as a kid. You could follow different paths and end up going in crazy loops, up and down stairs and around secluded alcoves that turned you right back where you had been before. Where were the elevators in this place?
I thought about Ethan and wondered again if he understood my message in the text, and how he would ever find me. Then I thought about the GPS stuff we’d discussed, and it came to me in a flash. Facebook! With Facebook you could check into places and post your location status with a built-in GPS application.