By Lady E

Author's Note: I wrote this for an English assignment, so it's rushed at the end when I was worried about handing it in on time. Well, I hope everyone enjoys reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Flames smoldered in his grey eyes, reflecting the campfire that blazed into the night. His thoughts grew dark, darker than the night that pressed against him. One word thundered in his mind: revenge. Revenge for his brother who had been killed by that accursed police officer, Tyler Madison. Madison was responsible for Henry's death, and Madison was going to pay.

Robert Hemley dumped the bucket of water on the campfire, dousing the flames. A different, fiercer fire had ignited in his grey eyes-one that could not be doused so easily-, shooting a message through the darkness, a message with only one word: revenge.

Chelsea Madison laughed as the tiny bug rolled up into a smooth black ball. Her chocolate-brown eyes widened in delight and she scooped up the roly-poly, ready to spring to her feet and dash into her house to show her father her new pet.

A meow at her side caught her attention. The little girl looked up into a pair of misty eyes, which stared back at her intently.

Chelsea blinked her gaze from the cat's and tentatively reached out to pet it. To her surprise, it drew back quickly, but did not run away. It sat down on its haunches and continued to watch her with those unblinking eyes.

"What's wrong?" asked Chelsea uncertainly. Again, she tried to touch it and, again, the cat slid away. This time, though, it continued slinking away, it's black tail arched in the air, beckoning her to follow it.

Chelsea hesitated only a second before following, her seven-year-old curiosity getting the better of her. She did not remember her promise to her father that she'd stay near the house. Her whole concentration was bent on tailing the cat.

The little girl was oblivious to her surroundings. She paid no attention to the streets and buildings along the way. A huge, blue truck roared by, but she did not seem to see it. A tall lady with a red handbag paused in her walking to stare at Chelsea with curious black eyes, but Chelsea could not have cared less. She was too busy studying the cat and trying to imitate its lithe, graceful movements.

So it was that the black cat led her far from her home to a deserted alley, and Chelsea did not even notice. It was only as she stepped into the alley that she jolted back into reality.

Horror swept through her as she realized she had no idea here she was...or how to get back. Chelsea saw the cat in the shadows, and she stepped towards it, her arms held out pleadingly. "Kitty...Kitty, take me back," she moaned desperately. "I want to go home."

The cat did not move, did not make a sound. Its misty eyes were no longer trained on Chelsea, but behind her...

"You might as well wish for something else, then, because you're not going home...ever," came a rough voice at her ear.

Chelsea's eyes widened and she tried to scream, only to find a gloved hand clapped over her mouth. She twisted hard and managed to turn a little. Piercing grey eyes met her large brown ones and suddenly, white powder was flung into her face, momentarily blinding her.

She flailed out with her hands and feet, hoping to hit something. Pain suddenly seared through her head and her world went black.

Darkness greeted her unfocused eyes when she awoke to the world. She had a massive headache and her vision kept blurring-not that there was much to see in the darkness. By blinking a few times and squinting her eyes, Chelsea decided that she was in a cabin, which was empty for all she could tell.

She dropped her head into her arms, scared of facing the dark. Her headache throbbed fiercely at her temples, cutting through any thoughts she might have had, and she suddenly felt very cold.

There was a rustle of clothing from the shadows. The silhouette of a thin man approached Chelsea's small figure on the floor.

Slowly, the little girl raised her head. As her eyes connected with blazing grey eyes, a trail of icy fear shot down her spine. She tried to press herself deeper into the floor.

Robert Hemley raised his eyes to the darkness. "Don't blame me for this, little girl," he said quietly. "It's your daddy's fault. He owes me." When he looked down at her again, the anger was gone from his eyes, only to be replaced by a hint of scorching flames peeking out beneath a grey veil.

Chelsea was shivering, from the cold and from the fear, but she could not help wondering at the man's words. After a moment of silence, she suddenly spoke up, "Does Daddy owe you money?"

"No. He owes me a life," was the cold response. Hemley turned quickly to hide the hatred flaring in his eyes, though he did not know why he cared to shelter her from seeing such hate. The next instant, he was gone, disappearing out the door.

For some reason, Chelsea had stopped trembling. She didn't feel as much fear as before, nor did she even consider the prospect of escape. She drew her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around herself. A life?, she wondered amidst the dull pounding of her headache, what does that mean?

The sun shone at the brink of the sky, casting shadows throughout the streets. It's glowing rays showered the brown-haired man on the sidewalk, but it could not warm his trembling heart.

Tyler Madison clutched the note with cold fingers, unconsciously crumpling the paper slightly. He drew in a shaky breath before reading the note over for the hundredth time.

Madison. Your daughter is with me.

Don't worry. She won't hurt that much when she's dead.

A life for a life, Hemley.

His heart caught in his throat again. Shaking his head fiercely, he ripped the paper to shreds. Leaving the strips of paper to drift away on the wind, he proceeded back to his house, striding with one purpose in mind: to save his daughter.

"Let's go," Hemley ordered, pushing Chelsea into the car.

She scrambled across the backseat, wrinkling her nose at the repulsive leather smell. She heard the car door slam shut and the front door open. The tall, thin man settled himself in front of the steering wheel. His grey eyes appeared in the rearview mirror, piercing into hers, and he said shortly, "Buckle up your seatbelt."

As Hemley turned the ignition, he felt compelled to add, "Not that I care." Suddenly angry with himself, he slammed down the engine pedal, jerking the car into motion.

He knew he couldn't stay in any one place for long. Madison and the police would be tracking him and he couldn't afford to leave a clear trail. It would be easier to just kill the girl and run. He wouldn't have to deal with her anymore. Somehow, though, Hemley couldn't bring himself to do it. He was not like his brother and had never enjoyed killing.

This time, he reminded himself, it wasn't about enjoyment. It was about revenge.

Chelsea stared out the window, watching the land flash by in a blur of green and brown. She wondered if her father had realized she was missing yet and if he was looking for her. She knew he would be very worried about her and she wished there was some way to assure him that she was fine. Chelsea lifted her gaze to the light blue sky. The pale blue color was the exact shade of her father's eyes, always so light and cheerful. A tear started in her eyes at the thought. She longed to crawl into her father's arms again, where she could forget all her worries and just rest.

"When can I go home?" Chelsea blurted into the silence.

Startled by the sudden question, Hemley remained quiet for a few minutes. He considered answering her question truthfully, telling her that there was no chance of her ever returning to her home. But as Hemley saw her teary brown eyes in the rearview mirror, looking pleadingly into his, he found he could not speak. She did not need to know, he convinced himself. The girl would be dead soon anyway; it did not matter. He returned his attention to the interstate highway.

Chelsea wiped the tears from her eyes, frowning in annoyance. Why wasn't the man answering? She'd always been taught that ignoring someone was not nice. "Why are you always so quiet?" Chelsea said grumpily. "What did Daddy do to you anyway?"

Her carelessly flung questions struck Hemley deeply. Memories surfaced to taunt him cruelly, evoking a terrible, hidden pain that had been previously veiled by hatred. His brother had never been quiet. Henry had been a buoyant young man, reckless and daring. He was always open and cheerful, never missing the opportunity to pipe into other people's conversations. And he had constantly asked Hemley the same question Madison's daughter now asked him, "Why so quiet, Rob?"

His fingers trembled against the steering wheel, and he gripped the leather bindings tightly. In a barely controlled voice, he answered the girl's second question, nearly biting out the words, "Your daddy killed my brother."

"Yes, I want the kidnap to be on the news," Madison said into the cellular phone, carefully keeping his eyes on the road ahead. Stopping at a red traffic light, he continued, "I'm going on ahead to Connecticut. I think he might be heading to the forest his brother died in. Later, if possible, send some of the others there."

"You don't think...he could have killed her yet?" came his colleague's hesitant voice on the other end.

Fear laid its icy fingers over him again. "He better not," was his hoarse answer before he flicked the cell phone shut.

When the traffic light flashed green, Madison was the first to zoom across the intersection. He sailed down the street, approaching a green sign that read: Interstate 95 To Connecticut.

Without a glance at the sign, he turned onto the interstate, merging easily with the line of cars shooting down the highway. Madison knew Robert Hemley quite well, at least well enough to know what the man intended to do next. Hemley was no doubt overcome with the thirst for revenge and he would not be satisfied with simple revenge either. He would want to leave a lasting impression on Madison. What better way than to do it by taking Chelsea to Connecticut-where Henry Hemley had died-and shooting her?

His hand brushed the gun on the seat next to his. His eyes glittered. Hemley wouldn't succeed. Even if Madison had to use that gun again, he vowed he would not allow Hemley to succeed. Chelsea meant too much to him. But he hoped it would not come to that. How he longed to be able to settle things peacefully, to be cleared of his own ever-increasing guilt. Because...when he thought about it, it was his fault. Not entirely his fault, but a great deal of guilt lay on his shoulders, his childish actions.

His mind turned back to a time not so long ago, no more than half a year. Memories rushed into him, consuming all his thoughts and momentarily chasing away the cold fear he bore for the fate of his daughter.

It had been a dark, stormy night. The rain had lashed the earth in icy pelts, and the wind had driven it fiercely against the trees. He longed to be at home, in a warm, dry bed. It had been a long day and he was tired, but there was some more work to do before he could sleep. As one of the most responsible and trustworthy officers in the area, he had been asked to work overtime in pursuit of some drug dealers, and as expected, he had agreed.

Madison peered through the rain-washed night, his fingers tightening around his gun. The sooner her caught the criminals, the sooner he could get home.

He and the others had been informed of the secret meeting being held by the drug dealers tonight. The criminals were going to meet with a man named Dick Hutchinson in this dark forest, where he would replenish their stock of drugs. So the police had surrounded the meeting place. Once the meeting ended and the drug dealers dispersed, the police would spring forth and arrest them. That was the plan.

He shifted slightly, glancing down at his watch. With a start, he realized it was already 12:10 A.M., past time for the meeting to end. The drug dealers should have appeared by now. Why were they behind schedule?

Madison wondered if the other officers had noticed the time too, and he tried to locate the nearest officer stationed to him. But the darkness was too complete and the rain too heavy for him to see much beyond the tall, ominous shadows that were the trees. Frowning at the sudden uneasiness sweeping through him, Madison tensed even more.

There was a movement in the darkness ahead. Impatiently blinking rainwater from his eyes, Madison studied the trees in front of him. Was it just a creature of the forest? He warily raised his gun.

Something moved again. Then, a young man stepped cautiously out from behind a tree. Madison's eyes widened.

Him! Never in a thousand years could Madison have forgotten him. Henry Hemley. The man his wife had left him for about five years ago. Madison had only seen Hemley a few times, but the troublesome man would be engraved in his memories forever, as well as the fact that Sally had run off with him. Suddenly, this pursuit tonight had become much more personal.

Madison came into Hemley's view, uncocking the gun in his hand. "Put your hands..."

Hemley did not wait for the officer to finish. He turned and bolted.

Half expecting this, Madison chased after him. The wind whipped angrily at his face and large drops of rain beat against his already drenched clothes, but he kept running after the figure in the front. Slowly, Madison began gaining on him. When they were just a few yards apart, Madison mustered enough breath to shout, "Freeze! If you do not comply, I will be forced to use a gun."

The man in front halted abruptly, bringing Madison to a wary stop as well. Hemley faced the other with a smirk and said mockingly, "I dare you to try."

Perhaps it was the smirk, which so resembled the one he'd worn when he'd left with Sally. Perhaps it was the mocking voice and words. Or perhaps it was just Madison's impatience to get home. It could even be a combination of the three. But for whatever reason, Madison took aim and fired.

The shrill honk of a car horn broke through his thoughts, jerking him into the present. Madison sped up to a pace closer to the speed limit. He tried to turn his concentration back onto the highway, but the ringing of the fatal gunshot stayed in his ears. The look of surprise on Henry Hemley's face in the last second continued to haunt him. Neither of them had actually expected him to shoot-and with such deadly accuracy.

Madison fought the shame that unfurled within him. He had been at fault. He had taken a human life. And he had never been punished for it.

Which was why Chelsea was now in danger.

But, Madison argued to himself, Robert Hemley had no right to drag Chelsea into this mess. This conflict was between Madison and Hemley. Chelsea deserved no part in it. Madison hoped Hemley would realize that.

"Your daddy killed my brother."

Chelsea was stunned, disbelieving. Had she heard correctly? Was this stranger suggesting that her father was a murderer? Indignant, she declared, "Daddy would never kill anyone! He's a policeman!"

Hemley's laugh was cynical. "He's a policeman, but that doesn't mean he won't kill. My brother is dead, and it's your policeman father's fault." Ruefully, he shook his head. "Never mind. I don't expect you to understand anyway."

Her eyes were wide, her mouth half open in protest. After a moment of silence, she said, "No. You're wrong. My daddy is not like that. I'm sorry about your brother, but I know my daddy is not the one who killed him."

He glanced at her in the rearview mirror. Her young face was determined, her expression obstinate. She firmly believed that her father would not kill anyone. Hemley marveled at such naivety. How could she not see her father for the cold-blooded murderer that he was?

"I'm really sorry about your brother though," Chelsea said softly. "You must miss him a lot."

Hemley started.

"It must be so hard," she continued, unaware that he was staring at her. But then she blinked and smiled at him. "But it's okay. At least you're still alive! And I'm sure you'll see him again one day." Her smile widened and she pointed to the sky. "In heaven."

Disbelief lined his features. How could anyone be so innocent? He suddenly felt sick. He did not want to kill her. She was such a rarity in this world, so young and pure. How could he kill her?

Hemley's face hardened as he tried to harden his heart as well. He could not dwell on his doubts now. He was already halfway through the game. He had to finish, and he had to win. He had to kill Tyler Madison's daughter.

But when he looked into the rearview mirror again, bright seven-year-old eyes peered back at him with such innocence that his heart clenched.

"Here's your change, sir," said the cashier, pushing two quarters across the counter.

Hemley nodded and took up the change along with the bag of chips. With a word of thanks, he left the small store. He had reached Connecticut now and was stopping for a few minutes at a gas station to fill up the gas tank. Chelsea had been delighted and had eagerly asked for a bag of chips. He had conceded. It was just an apology from him for being the cause of her death, Hemley assured himself.

As he reached the car and opened the door, he froze. The car was empty. Chelsea had not stayed in the car as he had ordered her. And he, blinded by her supposed innocence, had foolishly left the doors unlocked.

Angry and grim, Hemley slammed the door shut. He looked across the small parking lot, eyes lit with flames again. A mere seven-year-old had tricked him, fooled him into believing that there was purity in this corrupted world. The fact that it was Madison's seven-year-old made it even more unacceptable.

With fast, angry strides, he walked the length of the parking lot, carefully scanning for any signs of brown hair or rustles in the bushes. She could not have gone very far. Even if she had managed to run a long way from here, little girls did not often hide their tracks well, and Hemley was certain he would be able to find her. But it would take time, precious time that he was unwilling to waste.

Hemley broke into a slow jog, eyes and ears still watchful. He was right. Chelsea had not gone very far. As he turned the corner of the small store, he saw her.

Hemley opened his mouth to shout when he suddenly stopped. His eyes widened in shock. For Chelsea was frolicking, leaping into the air with outstretched arms. Butterflies flitted over her head, evading her small hands that reached out to touch them. Hemley's breath froze in his throat as he watched the little girl and the butterflies dancing together. It seemed impossible for her to have even harbored the thought of escape.

Then Chelsea looked his way, her eyes sparkling and her laughter genuine. "Hi!"

He shook the wonder from his eyes. Then, with an intense regard, "I told you to stay in the car."

Chelsea's smile faltered. Her shoulders slumped. "Sorry," she said uncertainly, a guilty expression crossing her face.

Immediately, he regretted his words. But he could not take them back, so he said gruffly, "It's all right. Come on now." And the two got back into the car.

Sometime later, Hemley parked the car at the edges of a familiar forest. Silently, he stepped out of the car. The trees loomed before him, their branches clawing into the air. It was darker here, with so many trees barricading the sunlight.

He heard Chelsea scramble out of the car behind him, and he knew it was time. He had prolonged it for as long as he could and now, he could run from the task no longer. Now was the time to kill Chelsea-here, where his brother had died.

Chelsea watched the tall man quizzically. She looked around at the trees. "Where are we?" she asked.

Hemley turned to face Chelsea, pulling out a gun in the same movement.

It was then that the police sirens sounded, faintly as though in the distance, but it was there.

He nearly dropped the gun in his surprise. How had the police caught up so quickly? He had underestimated Madison. The officer was by far one of the best.

The sirens grew louder, closer, and Hemley knew he would have to act quickly. Even if the police caught him, he would at least have avenged his brother.

He already had the gun level with Chelsea. But the fire had died from his eyes and his hands shook. Unwittingly, Chelsea had managed to douse his flames with her youthful innocence.

Chelsea stared wide-eyed at the gun pointed directly at her. She was terrified.

The sirens were so loud now. The police must be really close.

Just do it, Hemley told himself. Get it over with. He uncocked the gun, the sharp sound slicing through the air. His grip tightened on the handle of the gun, his finger curling closer to the trigger.

A fearful whimper escaped Chelsea's lips and she squeezed her eyes shut.

The air throbbed around the two, tense and silent.

Sweat trickled down the side of Hemley's face. Pull the trigger, he urged himself. Just a little pressure and revenge would be exacted. His brother's face popped into mind, so sweet and dear. It was for his brother.

Two police cars flew into view. They skidded to an abrupt halt and doors were thrown open.

Yet he hesitated. Was it his right to take a little girl's life? Was it right for him to deal out judgment to Madison? His gun lowered and the tension seeped from the air. His eyelids lowered as a voice called out,

"Drop the gun and put your hands where I can see them! You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, an attorney will be provided for you."

The gun slipped from his fingers, crashing to the ground with finality. Madison had had no right to take his brother's life. And Hemley had no right to take Chelsea's life.

Her eyes flew open. She locked gazes with the tall stranger who had kidnapped her. His peculiar grey eyes were weary and resigned, but for the first time since she had met him, she thought she saw the hint of a real smile in them.

"I'm sorry," he mouthed, just before the police handcuffed him.

Tears flooded her eyes. "No!" she yelled at the police officers when they began to lead him to the car. "Don't take him away!" They gaped at her in astonishment.

One of the officers shook his head with a mild look of amusement. "He is a criminal. He belongs in jail." With that, they pushed Hemley into the car and shut the door.

"NO!" Chelsea screamed. "He is not a criminal! It's not his fault! His brother...!"

A gentle hand was laid on her shoulder and a warm, familiar voice sounded behind her ear. "Come on, Chelsea. It's time to go home now."

She turned around in surprise. When she recognized her father kneeling beside her, she flung her arms around him, clinging to him as she would a lifeline. Her tears spilled over, rushing down her cheeks in streams. "Daddy!" she sobbed, pressing her face into the soft material at his shoulder.

Madison hugged his daughter tightly, protectively, afraid to let her go. "Shhh," he whispered. "Everything will be fine now. Daddy's here. Nothing else is going to happen. Everything is fine."

Chelsea cried into her father's shoulder for a few more seconds. But as she heard the roar of a car engine start, her head jerked up and she wailed, "No, Daddy, don't let them take him away! He's a good person! Really, he is!" She clutched her father's large hand, shaking it helplessly.

"Oh Chelsea," her father said softly, overwhelmed with emotions.

"He did it for his brother," she whispered.

"I know," Madison answered, and tears trailed down his face.


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