I made it out the door and into my car before my mother was down the front steps. When I ripped away from the curb she was left standing helpless in the street. The guard shack was another matter but I was ready. The gate was down. The guard waved me to stop. He had one hand on his holster and I slowed, pretending to follow his hand signals until the last second. Then I bolted. The gate snapped in two and the guard hit the deck. I was free.
It was a small a victory. Simon would follow and I knew I only had seconds before he materialized behind me. What then? My eyes darted between the road and the rear view mirror. I couldn’t drive forever. A quick glance at my gas gauge told me I wouldn’t even make it all day. I needed a plan.
I was a wreck of nerves. How dangerous was Simon? Just my babysitter or a killer? If he couldn’t bring me back into cusody, would he just say screw it and shoot me between the eyes, be done with Project Violet once and for all?
A black sedan with tinted windows appeared. I hit the gas. I turned, fishtailed to the right and wished my training with Marco had included high speed get aways. My tires whined. If Simon hadn’t seen me, and I was pretty sure he had, all he had to do was follow the screech. What was I going to do? Could I lose him? Fight him? I figured reasoning with him was out of the question.
Simon made the right, popping back into view before I had a chance to breath. I would never out drive him. There was only one way to get away. I needed to lose my car and ditch Simon somewhere I knew but he didn’t. A place that he would get lost in searching for me. The same place I had lost a tail before.
I headed for the library.
Instead of parking where you were supposed to I slid my car into the loading zone. Tow me, I dare you. It was the closest spot to the door and I was inside the building by the time Simon made the lot.
I should have hidden but I wanted to see what he would do. I’m glad I did. Simon zipped in behind my car, slammed on the breaks and jumped out. I could have hit myself. Of course he wouldn’t care about parking legally and now my car was blocked in. If I was going to win this game everything about me would have to change, right down to the way I thought.
I bolted, running straight for periodicals. In that part of the library was a block of movable track storage, three rows and fifteen shelves deep. It’s where the library housed their massive collection of magazines and the last place I thought Simon would look. I shoved two shelves apart, slipped between them then pressed them against me like a sandwich. Poking my cell phone out and training the camera on the door, I kept watch for Simon.
There was no way he could see where I was. The library was too partitioned to see much beyond the section you stood in. Simon would have to move through each department on foot to find me. I kept the camera on a main intersection of shelves hoping to see him pass. If he didn’t go that way it meant he was looking in my area first and seriously reduced my chances of getting away.
I saw him. His hands were clenched into fists. I frustrated him. Good. Scowling he moved left and disappeared and I started to think my plan just might work.
I slipped out from behind the shelves and moved between the rows towards the door. Yes Simon couldn’t see me, but that meant I couldn’t see him either. I had to move quick and get out of the building before his search patteren collided with my escape route.
I didn’t consider that colliding with a librarian would be just as bad.
“Excuse me!” The plump woman cried after I bounced off her. She’d been pushing a cart of books down the aisle and didn’t look pleased that I had failed to see her. I mouthed an apology and tiptoed past but she wasn’t satisfied.
“Oh no you don’t.” She said. “Don’t even think about leaving!”
I could think of nothing but. I kept moving, pissing her off even more, and suddenly there were two people after me.
The exit wasn’t far. If I took a risk and walked out in the open I’d be there. The librarian was gaining and I’d been in the building too long already. I had to make a run for it and hope Simon didn’t notice.
Once again, I forgot to factor in the librarian. I started running and she started screaming.
“This is a library!” She hollered, drawing attention from all around and giving a big kiss off to the institutions policy of ‘respectful quiet’. “You stop running right this instant!” I didn’t. I ignored her, and all the people staring at me and raced out the door.
I flew across the lot, cataloging the surrounding buildings; salon, shoe store, clothing outlet…so many places, so many window. None looked like great places to hide. On the other side of the street though was a busy two story department store. I glanced back at the library. Simon was outside, scanning the street for signs of me.
I panicked and ran and regretted it. I didn’t pay enough attention to traffic and now the driver of the car that almost hit me was leaning on his horn. I looked back to where Simon stood and we locked eyes. Guess he noticed.
I ran again, bursting through the store doors and kept on. I jogged through the aisles hunting for a place to hide. Where could I go that he wouldn’t follow? Then I saw it. The bathrooms. The women’s was open but right next to it, in front of the men’s room was a yellow sign: closed for cleaning, sorry for the inconvenience.
It was perfect. I raced over and grabbed the sign, glancing around quickly to make sure no one was watching. Then, I shifted it right, blocking the women’s entrance, and silently slipped into the men’s.
At the far end of the room a custodian whistled while mopping the floor. He didn’t hear me enter. I walked silently across the floor and took cover in the first stall. There, with the door locked and my feet balancing on the edge of the toilet, I held my breath and waited for the signal to run.
Eventually Simon would figure out where I was. He wasn’t stupid. I was counting on him hitting the women’s first though. His presence would, hopefully, cause a scene and he’d get stuck explaining. My plan was to wait for it and bolt. I sat in the stall listening with every fiber in my body. Meanwhile the custodian worked the floor, oblivious to my presence.
After a long moment of no commotion I let myself exhale. Maybe Simon wouldn’t find me after all…
A woman screamed. It was time. Before I could get out of the stall though, the happy custodian dropped his mop. It clanged against the floor and then he was running, past my stall and out the door. A hero. I hadn’t expected that. His act of bravery bumped me of schedule by five seconds. Five critical seconds.
I raced to the door and listened. The arguing was loud. I heard Simon. He wasn’t in the women’s room anymore, he was right outside the men’s. I had to act. There weren’t any windows but overhead was a vent. I jumped up on the counter to see if I could reach it and the door flew open.
Simon was on me. The custodian was right behind him but that didn’t stop Simon from grabbing my arm and yanking me down from the counter like a doll. I tried to cry out but he yanked me to his side, crushed me in his arms and smothered my face against his chest.
I bit him. It had to hurt, I felt his body flinch but he didn’t cry out. Simon grabbed my hair with his fist though and, pulling hard enough to rip it out, growled into my ear.
“Try that again and you’re dead.”
“Hang on,” a man said. “You can’t just storm in here like that and…and…who did you say you were again?” I couldn’t see but would have bet everything it was the gallant custodian. At least someone wasn’t going to stand by and let Simon manhandle me without an argument.
“Social Services Special Cases Division.” Simon barked.
“SSSCD. I’m just doing my job.”
“Your job? Do you have ID or something?”
“Wallet. Back pocket.” Simon shifted and I heard the other man walk over.
“I’ve never heard of SS…”
“…SCD. I assure you I am only here to help.”
“I’d like to hear from the young lady, if it’s all the same to you.” This guy wasn’t going to let Simon get away with anything. If I could have smiled, I would have.
“Are you familiar with PTSD?” Simon asked him.
“A little. Why?”
“Well don’t say I didn’t warn you.” He said then loosened his grip just enough to free my mouth.
“He’s lying! Get me out of here!”Help m…” I screamed and Simon shut me up again.
“What the hell…?
“Stress.” Simon told him. “Extreme stress from extreme trauma. She’s trapped in permanent flight or fight mode.”
“I’ve never seen…”
“In the pocket behind my ID are my business cards.” Simon, one arm around my head the other squeezing the life out of me, sounded like he was dictating a recipe. “Take one. Across the bottom is the number to our central office. They will be happy to address your concerns.”
Simon had thought of everything. It couldn’t be. This wasn’t happening.
While the custodian phoned whatever bogus number Simon had given him Simon freed his pistol from the holster under his arm. With the barrel wedged firmly between my rips he whispered in my ear.
“We can do this the easy way or the hard way but make no mistake, you are coming with me.”
“Well, OK,” the custodian was done with his call and judging by the tone of his voice, he’d heard what he needed to buy into Simons lies. “I guess you know what you are doing.”
My shoulders fell. Simon took the cue and gave me some breathing space. His gun was still on me though, slipped under my jacket and out of view. He shot me a quick warning glance then turned to face the man.
“I’m sorry you had to see this. But now that we have her, we can get her the help she needs.”
The custodian seemed convinced but still I held out that he would do something, anything, and give me a chance to break free again.
Salvation did not come. The man watched us for no more than a moment then shrugged. Simon moved forward and he moved out of the way. Then the man who would lock me away for the rest of my life walked me out the door like everything was completely normal.
“You won’t keep me.” I hissed as Simon shoved me into his car. “I’ll run again. I won’t stay with you.” He pulled the seatbelt across my lap like I was a child and chuckled.
“Oh Violet,” he smiled. “You have no idea how happy I am to hear that.”
“Why?” I asked, voice shaking. Simon’s surety was unsettling.
“Because,” he replied, opening the glove box and pulling out a plastic bag. “Now I have an excuse to do what I’ve wanted to do all day.” He opened it and dumped a wet cloth into his hand.
“Wait..don’t…” I began but it was too late. The cloth in his hand was over my mouth and nose. I reached up to push him away but Simon grabbed my hand. With his shoulder he pinned my other arm down. The seat belt took care of the rest. I fought but it was pointless and in a few seconds the world went dark.