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Caught

Part One

The man in the car held tight to the steering wheel, his knuckles white ringed with red, the bones threatening to burst through his skin at any moment. It was a miracle he could see his target with his eyes so narrowed. Yet he continued to stare out of the driver’s side window at the restaurant across the street. At her. She was, of course, oblivious to his attention. He hadn’t made his move yet. Soon, she’d know his love, his devotion, and she’d be terrified. But right now, she laughed with the man who sat opposite her and touched his arm lightly as she did. The man in the car growled, low and primal. It was time to intervene before things got messier than they needed to be. 

 

He pushed the car door open in a rage, his left leg already out as the door swung back to meet it. He howled in pain as he grabbed at his leg, desperately trying to pull it back inside. The pain was enough to distract him from the passenger side, where a shadow now sat, waiting. 

 

The click of the gun made the man still. He didn’t dare look up and over yet, still focused on the throb of pain that still pulsed through his leg. He knew what the sound was. He knew what was happening. He knew he had to stay calm.

 

He took a few long, deep, measured breaths before he faced the thief. They were dressed in black, hood up. He could see the contours of a face, so he knew they weren’t wearing a mask, yet he still could not make out the robber’s face. The lack of street light, a conscious choice on his part, now worked against him. Not that it mattered; his eyes were firmly trained on the gun pointed at his face.

 

“Look. I can just step out of the car. You can drive off. There’s no need for this to get messy.”

 

The figure didn’t move, the gun remained where it was. The man inched his hand toward the door, pushing it open a fraction. 

 

“Hands on the wheel, James.”

 

The man froze. This wasn’t just a carjacking. They knew his name. 

Should he….

Try and get out of the car? 

Do as he’s told? (100%)

Part Two

He could get out of the car, he reasoned. If they wanted him dead, they’d have pulled the trigger already. But, if they were serious, there’s no way he’d tumble out of the car fast enough to dodge the bullet. So he put his shaking hands on the wheel and gripped it almost as tight as before. 

 

“How… how do you know my name?”

 

“Oh, I know a lot about you, James. Probably more than you know about that pretty little brunette you’ve been staring at for the past hour.”

 

James shifted in his seat, his hands loosening as he prepared to argue.

 

“Don’t let those hands move, James.”

 

“I think you’ve got the wrong person, I’m just… just.” He was usually so good at lying, of placating people if they ever got suspicious. But he’d never had a gun pointed at his temple before, it made it so much harder to think.

 

“You are James Johnson. You live at 58 Gunthorpe Road. You had a wife. One you claimed left in the dead of night three years ago. You have a little girl called Jess. She’s at your sister’s place. She’s there a lot. Well, unless you need her as a cover or to strike up a conversation with your targets. She’s the fourth, right James? Unless your wife didn’t leave you as you claim?”

 

He keeps his eyes ahead, too frightened to face his armed accuser. “No. No. That’s not right… it’s not…” the words continued to tumble out, tripping and falling over each other. He willed his tongue to work properly. Ordered his body to stay still as sweat began to pour from him, dripping down his brow, the salt making his eyes burn. 

 

“What? You are not James Johnson?”

 

“Yes. I am James.”

 

“Your daughter isn’t Jess?”

 

“Yes,” he shouted, “Yes, that’s my daughter. Leave her out of this.”

 

“I intend to James. Your wife didn’t leave you?”

 

“No. Yes. She did.”

 

“You don’t sound so sure. Maybe we need to go for a little drive. Leave the little brunette alone for a while. What do you think?”

Should he...

Play along and drive? (33%)

Refuse and demand to know who they are? (67%)

Part Three

James knew he should do everything the gunman asked. But technically, they didn’t ask. He tried to move his hand, turn the key, start the car. But he couldn’t. What if she goes home with him? She was his. He couldn’t let some bastard in a suit and an overpriced haircut swoop in and take her. 

 

“What’s the problem, James? Can’t tear yourself away from your prey? You are a true predator, aren’t you?”

 

He listened to them carefully, trying to place the voice, but they didn’t even sound human. How did they know so much? The general details of his life could be easily gleaned by a neighbour, one of Jess’ school teachers, or a friend - not that he had many. He kept his real life offline so they couldn’t be a random stranger who stumbled across his social media profile. No, whoever this was had to have been in his life already. But to know that he was here, they had to have been watching him. Following him. The thought made him bristle, fury rising in his chest at the thought. 

 

“And you are better? Creeping into my car, holding me at gunpoint. You said it yourself: I have a daughter. And you’re threatening to take her only parent away. For what? Who are you? What do you want?”

 

The intruder pushed the gun into James’ temple, the cold metal biting into his skin. He could feel the anger rise from them in hot, violent waves. He shrunk back as if he could melt into the seat. As if all of this could just go away if he willed it enough.

 

“I want you to admit what you are,” they shouted, “Tell me what you are, what you’ve done. If you do, I’ll go. You’ll never see me again.”

 

James sat up, brightened at the small hope of escape. “You promise. I talk. You leave?”

 

“Yes.”

 

His hope billowed, his shoulders slumped down, and his hands eased a little on the steering wheel. 

 

“Keep your hands where they are, James. We aren’t done just yet.”

 

“I will. I just.. OK. What do you want to know?”

 

The gunman sat back in the passenger seat, the gun moving back with them but still trained at his head. 

 

“I told you. I want you to admit what you are. What you’ve done. But mostly, I want you to tell me where Sarah Little is.”

 

And just like that, James wished his seat would swallow him all over again. 

Should he...

Lie? (100%)

Tell the truth? (0%)

Finale

James reasoned that she couldn’t know. No one could. How could they? The only person alive who knew about Sarah was him. 

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he stuttered, flinching at the betrayal of his own voice.

 

He squeezed his eyes shut, waiting for the repercussions of his lie. He waited for the bang of the gun, the pain of a bullet ripping through a part of him. Or maybe they’d go right ahead and shoot him in the head. He wondered if he’d live long enough to hear the shot, to feel it. But nothing happened. He opened his right eye just enough to glance at the figure beside him. The gun was no longer pointed at his head. The figure no longer had a hood obscuring their face. His eyes flew open; his head twisted to get a full view of his attacker. The sight made him sick to his stomach. It can’t be her. It can’t be. 

 

She was talking again, her voice low, angry, but he couldn’t hear her. He was caught in her eyes. Hazel, the sunbeams fading into the forest of green. Shades of autumn swirled together with speckles of blackbirds in flight. She sought adventure. He could see it in her the moment they met. He sought all the things she dreamed of and offered to her freely. But it wasn’t enough. Never enough.  Not for women like her. 

 

“Are you even listening?” She was screaming now. The shrill, desperate cry was the same noise he heard as he fell to sleep every night. It was jarring to hear it again outside of his head. His hands shot to his ears, desperate to silence the sound. He bashed his head against the steering wheel - once, twice, then again and again. At some point she started to jostle him, to pull his head away from the wheel, pull his hands from his ears. She finally pulled his hand away long enough for him to hear, “I’m not Sarah! I’m not her!”

 

James froze. It wasn’t her. How could it not be her? She looked just like her. His Sarah. 

 

“I’m her sister, Gracie.” She’d stopped screaming now, her voice barely a whisper. “I just want to know where she is.”

 

He studied her face. Twins, they had to be. She was a perfect match. A perfect chance to start again, to get it right. He thought Sarah was the one, but she was just his path to Gracie. His Gracie. 

 

“I don’t know where your sister is,” he lied, “but if you let me go, I’ll help you find her.”

 

“Let you go? James, that’s never going to happen.” The brief flicker of vulnerability had gone. She was hard as stone once more, the resemblance to the soft sweetness of her sister gone in the blink of an eye.

 

“You said if I talked, you would let me go.”

 

“I said if you talked, I would leave.”

 

James choked out a bitter laugh. “What a surprise. You say one thing but mean another. Fuck you. Fuck your sister. You want to know where she is? Why don’t I show you? Why don’t you join fucking her?”

 

He lurched forward and grabbed for the gun, knocking it out of her hand and onto the floor. She scrambled to reach for it as he wrapped his hands around her throat. 

 

“You want to know what happened to Sarah? She lied. Just like you did. Like you all do. She pretended she loved me. She led me on and then complained when I did everything for her to make her happy.” He squeezed her neck harder, shaking her as he did. “And now she’s where she belongs. In Hell. That jezebel’s body belongs to the sea now, as will yours.”

 

Her face was a deep shade of purple, her eyes bulging and full of tears. She couldn’t speak, of course. But James swore that, as she smiled, she mouthed the words thank you.

 

A sharp pain bloomed in James’ side. A wetness formed there fast, a warm stickiness creeping out of his stomach and soaking his shirt. His grip weakened as the liquid saturated his clothes and began to drip over the centre console.

 

“That’s…” he stuttered, “That’s Italian leather, bitch.” His hands dropped from her neck as his body slumped onto her. She let him lie there for a while, listening to his gasps for air become slow, quiet heaves. Only when he stopped breathing did she push him back into his seat and place his hands back on the wheel. She felt for the gun that had found its way under the passenger seat and slipped it into her jacket. 

 

It had to be him as her first. She knew that. But the satisfaction, the joy, the power she felt was so intoxicating she knew that such a feeling could never be found again. But, she thought, it couldn’t hurt her to try. 

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