Author: Charil Zweig PM
A gentle-hearted attorney's complex double-life takes a turn for the worse when his hostile fiancee turns from a political protester into a domestic terrorist. Rating subject to change due to subject matter.Rated: Fiction T - English - Suspense/Drama - Chapters: 7 - Words: 20,137 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 12-27-12 - Published: 05-01-12 - id: 3018561
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
(A/N: This is the prose version of a story I have been working on for years. I recently scrapped all of the previous work I had done on it, and this is its new start. The prose is meant to iron out all the kinks in the story, so please don't mind whatever amateur mistakes I may make; on the contrary, please let me know about them so that I may fix them!)
The storm had just broken when they came into the pharmacy.
Denise watched them lazily from the counter, finding them interest in that they were the only things of interest in the building. She was the only one working tonight. The television in the corner was silently displaying unexciting pictures half-obscured by closed captioning subtitles. And if the late hour didn't drive business away, the weather certainly would. So she merely watched them.
There were four of them, but the most exotic-looking one stayed behind in the doorway, watching the rain fall through the glass panes, obscured in the darkness. The other three roamed the store, squinting in the fluorescent light, and Denise's first impression was that something bad had happened to them. They clung to each other like disaster survivors, strangers pulled together by circumstance, awkward in each other's company but with nowhere else to turn. The two kids must've been high-school aged at most – the youngest clearly devastated by whatever tragedy had struck him, keeping his eyes blankly on the linoleum floor and his shaking hands clenched tight to his sides – and gravitated to the oldest in desperate need of an authority figure. He wasn't quite as old as Denise herself was, yet he had an air of maturity and control about him which aged him, and he supported the kids unquestioningly, as if it were his God-given duty and it would be unthinkable to act otherwise.
The girl he supported literally, as her leg was bleeding heavily.
He spoke to the boy in hushed tones; the boy blinked up at him, dazed, and then disappeared into the aisles. Only then did the leader notice Denise. Their eyes met, his flinching with something not unlike fear, hers staying level with him though her suspicion had already been roused. Then, in an instant, the look was gone, and he approached the counter with the injured girl.
"First aid kit?" he gasped simply.
After the cashier had disappeared into the backroom, Hugh Anderson released the breath that he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Witnesses would've been inevitable, he knew, and he only wished that she wouldn't ask any questions. He hadn't yet come up with a convincing enough explanation for their appearance. With his mind racing the way it was, he didn't expect to come up with one either.
The girl let go of his shoulder, leaning against the counter for support. "Now what?" she asked. "What do we do?"
The boy returned then, with an open tin of crackers in his hands, an ugly bruise already forming on his forehead. He, too, stared at Anderson expectantly, idly chewing on a cracker. Anderson inhaled a shaky breath, running his fingers through his hair, stringy and wet from the storm. He didn't have an answer to that, and he was certain they knew it, but he couldn't let himself admit that. He was the most fit for leadership of the four of them. He had to come up with something, for their sake.
It was hard not to admit that he was still shaken too, to have to assume the role of guardian for the kids that needed more support than he did. There would be plenty of time for himself and his recovery later. Right now, he needed to think of a plan, of a way to even ensure that there would be a later for himself. He couldn't think, though. He couldn't concentrate. The scene kept replaying in his head like a skipping record. He kept seeing the bus deviating from its route, pulling off of the highway, thumping clumsily over the uneven ground of the median, heading into oncoming traffic. He kept hearing the screech of the car horns, blaring angrily at the driver who had started screaming "for the Revolution!" in a tone of near madness, oblivious – or perhaps reveling in – the chaos he was causing inside and outside of the bus. He kept feeling the pit of his stomach drop as the bus emerged on the other side of the lane and tipped over the grassy hill, skidding on its side for a moment before overturning, somersaulting before coming to a stop at the foot. Anderson didn't remember making the conscious decision to dive for cover, but when it was over, he found himself half buried beneath what had used to be his seat, one arm slung over his head for protection, the other clutching the leg of the seat for dear life. He didn't even give his vision a chance to clear before he was on his feet, digging frantically through the wreckage.
He had found only three other survivors. They left the scene immediately, before the rescue workers could show up. That much had been Anderson's insistence; references to the Revolution were not taken lightly, and Anderson feared his survival might be suspect.
What they really needed was medical attention, but he first needed to come up with a story.
"When we get back to town," he said finally, thinking out loud more than offering any legitimate strategy, "we'll find a motel. We'll sleep on it. We'll look into the—" He swallowed audibly. "—the news reports. The wreck must have been massive. We'll say we were involved in that."
The girl didn't look convinced. "And how are we supposed to know each other? And why did we leave the scene? They've probably got statements from everybody by now."
"I said we'll sleep on it, okay?" Anderson snapped, harsher than he would've liked. "Maybe we had nothing to do with it. Maybe we weren't even there. Maybe we haven't even heard about it." He pressed his hands to the side of his face, manually steadying his breathing. "We'll figure it out. We'll work something out. And then we'll never speak a word about this ever aga—"
"Mr. Anderson—" The boy croaked, his eyes fixed on something across the room. The girl's bleeding leg trembled beneath her; she saw it too. Anderson followed his gaze, and felt his heart leap into his throat.
The television on the far side of the room was showing footage of the crash.
He couldn't look away; he stared at the screen with what must have been barely concealed horror, watching the closed captioning crawl almost hypnotically up the screen, catching snippets and phrases before his vision glazed over and his mind began racing again.
—TRAGIC ACCIDENT THIS AFTERNOON—
—ROUTE 60 CLOSED FOR SEVERAL HOURS—
—LINKED TO DOMESTIC TERRORIST ACTIVITIES—
—SEVENTEEN DEAD, FOUR INJURED—
"There were others," he said suddenly, and the trance was broken. He turned around to face the kids again, already snaking his shoulder beneath the girl's arm. "We have to go. There were others."
The boy stared at the blood that had pooled on the floor. "But what about—"
"Someone could recognize us." Anderson struggled to keep his composure. "It only takes one person to realize that we're not around anymore. And then they'll be after us. And we'll look even more suspect." He took one last look around the store, his eyes lingering a moment longer on the security camera on the ceiling. "We have to go."
When Denise returned, bandages in hand, they were gone.