I glanced at the screen, praying for a wrong number, but picked up with an unusually cheerful "Hello?"
There was a buzz of static that I attributed to the fact that I was in the middle of the ocean, an odd clicking sound, and then…
"Hello love," a cold voice replied in a robotic tone.
My blood went cold, hand stiffening on the rail, resisting the urge to look around, to see if I was being watched, what this phone call really was. I said nothing.
"It's been a long time," his voice continued, as though we were having a friendly chat. "Far too long if you ask me."
"I intended for it to be longer," I replied with forced calm, "much longer."
He chuckled. I could picture the look of amusement crossing his features for just a split second before passing back to it's usual neutrality.
"I thought as much," he said, "But you have something that belongs to me."
This was puzzling. "I don't think I do," I told him simply.
There was another pause. "You took my son."
If my blood had run cold at the sound of his voice, it was now frozen. I forced my voice to remain neutral while I turned, scanning the deck for James and Colin, but they had already disappeared below.
"No," I corrected him slowly, "I took my son. You lost the right to be his father long before we left."
He seemed to ignore this, though I heard him sigh. "You know," he said with that unnerving calm, "I was actually rather impressed how long it took for my men to track you down. I never thought you would be one for the suburbs. Volvos and lawn mowers? Domestic bliss? After everything I taught you? Everything I gave you? I must admit I was slightly disappointed... but yes, still impressed. You and the boy and the cop, such a perfect family…"
He trailed off. I was already making plans in my head. The moment the boat docked in the first harbor we would disappear once again. James would understand. He would have to, because there was no other way.
"But you see darling," he continued. "You betrayed me, and you honestly believed that I wouldn't find you? It's not nearly that easy love. You made a big mistake, and now you're going to have to pay for it."
My knuckles had turned white, my heart pounded, but he was wrong, I had known all along that this day would come, that I couldn't run forever, that there was nowhere I could hide.
"The only mistake I made was leaving without killing you first," I said, doing my best to match his tone. "If I see you again I'll be sure to rectify that."
Another chuckle, as false as the first one.
"I'm afraid you won't get that opportunity" he said. "And if you see my son again, tell him it's all your fault. Goodbye love."
There was a click and the line went dead. I blinked at the phone uncertainly, detailing the conversation in my head so I wouldn't forget a word, taking mental inventory of my weapons; the knife that was always strapped to my ankle, but what else? After so many years I had naively let myself begin to feel safe again. But James would have his back up weapon I was certain, his little Ruger, though his duty pistol was back on dry land. I had to find out what the danger was, how much he knew. Was there someone on the boat, following us, or just some thugs back at home waiting? We would have to run first chance we got. I still had friends, people who would help us, and get us fake papers, passports. I had done it before, would just have to explain everything to my husband.
'Sorry honey, I'm not exactly the person you thought I was, and my son's father isn't actually dead, he's just a sociopath with lots of friends and money and enough people working for him that he won't even have to get out of his expensive leather revolving office chair to kill us.'
It was like moving in slow motion, as though the air had thickened, slowing me down while time sped up.
I had finally reached the corridor outside our cabin, was inside. The room was empty, beds and luggage untouched. I fumbled with the lock on the storage locker, finally managed to open it and dug the Ruger out of it's little lock box and the ankle holster that held it, curled my fingers around the cold metal.
Maybe it had been too long. The adrenaline burned through my veins, familiar as an old friend, oddly welcome if not for the threat on my son's life. I tore back into the corridor, didn't know where to start but took off at random down the corridor, up another flight of stairs.
I didn't know the boat well, and I found myself framed in another doorway leading to the deck. Panicking, knowing full well that I was giving myself away to anyone who was following I took the chance shouting over the howling of the wind, hoping.
I turned back, eager to search the boat, needing only to find them, and in that same moment they came around the corner, heading in the direction I had come, Colin in his little footsy pajamas, dinosaur toothbrush clutched in a pudgy fist.
He turned in surprise and looked up at me where I was still standing, half outside, half in, offering me a puzzled look.
"Are you alright?"
His gaze traveled from my face, frozen in shock, to the gun in my hand, reading me with experience.
"What are you-"
And the world exploded. My family disappeared from my view. I was flying, falling through open air and space, deaf and blind, far, far away… burning. And then I was swallowed by water and sucked beneath the waves.