We decided to follow Kade’s advice and lay low, not that we had much other choice.
Unfortunately standing in front of the pool house didn’t exactly give us a whole lot of options. Figuring that the cryptic “this area’s secure” also extended to the garage, we practically belly crawled through the side door, taking careful measure to lock it behind us and hid in the darkest corner we could find. If someone came in, there was little to no chance of us escaping unseen. I prayed I didn’t have to figure out what the hell “rack it” meant.
It was fairly large garage, housing two fancy sports cars, Sean’s Audi and a large SUV I had never seen. Considering I’m not a car-girl, I didn’t even try to guess what types of cars they were. The space was not so surprisingly pristine with large rolling tool boxes lined neatly against the back wall and a couple of storage boxes stacked neatly on a large metal shelf off to the left of the garage door. The space cleaner and more organized then my apartment had ever been. Hell, even the concrete floor was clean enough to eat off of. It was coated in some undoubtedly expensive protective coating that made it gleam in the small bit of moon light that came through the surrounding windows.
Despite the obvious anal retentiveness of this room, the most important aspect that Sam and I focused on was that it was dark and thankfully very empty.
“I can’t believe this is really happening,” Sam spat out angrily beside me in our crouched position in the corner. “Sean had better pray one of us doesn’t make it out of here alive.”
Clearly Sam had regained her composure and now looked like she was spoiling for a fight. Of course it’s really easy to act that way when there is no immediate threat heading in your direction. As much as I argued with them, I knew Ghost and Kade would do everything in their power to keep us safe and keep the gun-toting bad guys at bay. I was still questioning the real motive behind why they were willing to risk their necks to save ours, but that was something I would have to worry about at another time.
“Shhh,” I whispered loudly beside her.
“Who the hell is going to hear us out here?” she asked with a roll of her eyes.
I held my finger to my lips while giving her a wide eyed warning.
Reality was that I was paranoid that the slightest bit of noise was going to suddenly cause a squadron of armed henchmen (yes, henchmen) to suddenly come exploding through the door. Considering our current situation, I wasn’t leaving anything to chance. It was pure freaking luck we had gotten this far, and I wasn’t willing to keep pressing it.
What seemed like hours, but was really only a few minutes, passed by in terrifying silence. The only noise we could hear was our own rapid breathing and pounding hearts. We were nervous, on edge and frankly scared as hell.
Sam suddenly sneezed and I squawked in fright as I jumped up from the corner and immediately tripped over my own two feet. Thank God the safety was still on or I’m almost positive I would have accidentally shot myself in the leg as I flailed my arms unsuccessfully to catch myself. I landed squarely on my ass (which hurt like hell, thanks for asking) with a loud crash as I knocked into one of the tool boxes. We froze like a deer in headlights, waiting for the goon squad to come bursting through the door at any second.
After a few minutes of nothing, we breathed a collective sigh of relief and I quickly crawled back over to where Sam remained hiding, both my ego and behind painfully bruised by my moment of girly cowardice.
I had just found a comfortable position to sit in when all hell broke loose outside. What I can only describe as a hail of gun fire erupted and shattered the eerie silence. Thankfully it was all coming from a distance.
We could hear angry voices yelling, but we were too far away to make out what they were saying. Some sounded as if they were shouting orders while others we assumed were screaming out in pain based on the abnormally high octave their voices took on. I just prayed that none of the screams belonged to Ghost or Kade; though I seriously doubted either one of those two would succumb to such a cowardly whine.
We hunched closer together, praying that someone in the neighborhood had heard the war going on next door and decided to call the Army. Okay, the Army may be a stretch, but I wouldn’t scoff at the idea of a SWAT team dropping in right now.
After a few minutes of consistent gun fire, broken only by the occasional scream, we could start to hear more voices. A sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach told me that that couldn’t possibly be a good sign since I was no longer having a problem understanding what they were saying.
I prayed and prayed again that they hadn’t decided to start searching the pool house and garage. If they did, we were caught for sure and I very much doubted they were going to just ignore us sitting there.
A hand grasped my upper arm and I almost shrieked again.
Luckily my instinct kicked in at the last second and I bit my tongue off instead.
Sam had a firm grasp on my arm as she started to pull me away from our hiding space. I had no idea what she was doing, but Sam tended to have better instincts then I did (sometimes a rock had better instincts then me, if I’m being truly honest), so I followed her quietly as we made our way back toward the exact same door we had crawled through not too long ago.
It wasn’t until we were just a few feet away that I noticed something I had completely missed before.
There was a second door inside the garage and based on our current trajectory, that’s exactly where Sam was headed. Unfortunately that door was right next to the side door entrance, which had a large window. If someone was standing outside, they were going to notice something amiss in the garage since most doors don’t tend to just randomly open on their own.
The door was pretty plain with no windows and appeared to be made out of metal. My guess was that it led to another room or a utility closet. Undoubtedly the first place anyone would look, but if we were lucky, there may be a lock on that door that would buy us a few extra seconds while I figured out how to remove the safety and took aim. Of course, that same ideal lock could prove to be a problem if it was already engaged and we had no key to open it with.
Sam turned back to me and put a finger to her lips, warning me to remain quiet.
With a nod from me that I understood, she let go of my arm and crawled over to the closet door. She looked back over to me and pointed to the side garage door just a few feet in front of her. I scrunched up my brow up in confusion as she pointed again. I felt like she was trying to tell me something, but I’ve never been good a charades.
In annoyance, she scowled at me before pointing at me then to the window in the door.
Finally realization dawned and I shook my head furiously.
There was no way in hell I was sticking my head up to look out that window. What if there was some goon with a gun standing right outside? I was pretty sure that no matter how talented I was when it came to a makeup brush, there was no way in hell I was going to be able to cover a hole in my forehead.
We silently bickered back and forth, neither side giving in to the others silent demands or refusals.
Of course, in the end, Sam won.
Come on Addison, I thought to myself. You can do this. Your life, and Sam’s, depends on you putting on your big girl panties and doing what should be a relatively simple task.
The fact that Sam was glaring at me from across the way helped quicken my pace.
I crawled over to the window quickly and reached up carefully, grabbing the window frame with the tips of my fingers and rose slowly on my knees until I could just barely see over the window frame.
No bogeyman. No henchmen. No hounds of hell.
I breathed a sigh of relief and sagged against the wall, giving Sam a weak thumbs up.
She quickly reached up and grabbed the door handle, which thankfully turned, and yanked the door open. I didn’t wait for Sam to give me the thumbs up that the coast was clear. I made tracks and crawled over as quickly as I could.
It was a dark inside the room, and with no windows, we couldn’t make out much.
Sam nudged me forward and followed behind, closing the door softly behind us.
“See if there’s a light switch,” she said from behind me.
I stood up and felt along the wall until I found what I was looking for.
Flipping the switch, Sam and I were momentarily blinded by the sudden assault of light.
We were in a small storage room, barely bigger than a bathroom. There was nothing inside except a few steel shelves filled with card board boxes.
“What do you think all of that is?” Sam asked, coming up beside me.
I shrugged. “No idea. Did you lock the door?” I asked in complete paranoia.
“No lock,” she replied with a frown.
Great. There went any hope of getting a few seconds head start.
“Sean never came across as a random pack rat sort,” Sam said, wandering over to the boxes. “What do you suppose he has in here?”
“Does it really matter?”
“Absolutely,” she said, grabbing one of the boxes. “We just found out he’s leading a weird double life where his friends walk around shooting guns and blowing up cars. For all we know, there are weapons in here.”
“You do realize you sound completely crazy right now,” I replied.
“I sound crazy,” she said, as she turned to look at me. “Where have you been for the past couple of hours?”
I didn’t answer, but rolled my eyes in response.
Sam was in one of her nosey moods and I knew nothing was going to derail that train of thought. While she rifled through the boxes, I walked over to the door and cracked it open, watching carefully for any movements outside.
“This is strange,” she said behind me.
“What,” I replied, turning towards her. “The fact we’re in the middle of a literal gun battle or the fact we’re in the middle of a gun battle and you’re worried about what Sean stores in his garage?”
She rolled her eyes. “The fact that Sean, with his discriminating and snobbish taste, would have boxes filled with costume jewelry.”
Hmmm. That was a little curious. Hell, who was I kidding? It was downright weird. Sean didn’t do anything fake or faux. Those things were beneath him, which was why I had found it so strange he had given me that cheap necklace for my birthday a few months ago.
“I can’t begin to tell you the inner workings of Sean’s brain,” I replied, returning to my post at the door. “Clearly there are a lot of things I didn’t know about him.”
“Yeah, but…” Sam began.
I hushed her loudly before flipping off the light switch.
“What,” she whispered behind me.
I could hear the soft scrape of the box as she pushed it back onto the shelf.
“I think I hear someone,” I whispered back, cracking the door open slowly as I tried to get a better look outside.
Sam took a few tentative steps forward, just barely able to make out where I was thanks to the very small sliver of light that could be seen through the cracked door.
The gun in my hand felt heavy and slick thanks to the fact my hand was sweating, probably because of the death grip I had on it. I really didn’t want to shoot someone, but if it came down to us or them, well I was just going to have to get over that fear quickly. I may have my moments where my common sense doesn’t always win, but that didn’t mean my instinct to live was weak.
Sam and I stood silently against the wall, trying to peer through the crack that gave us an unobstructed view of the side garage door. A shadow momentarily passed in front of the door and we both held our breath.
Someone was definitely outside and the sneaky bastard was making sure he didn’t draw much attention to himself.
Instinct told me it wasn’t Ghost or Kade. Neither of them would make what seemed to be such an unprofessional and rookie mistake. Whoever was out there wasn’t keeping low to the ground to avoid being seen. Clearly not a professional.
Suddenly we heard a muffled curse.
Whoever they were, they weren’t concerned with being quiet either.
The shadow disappeared for a minute and we could hear the muffled click of what I assumed was the pool house door. I wasn’t certain if the mystery shadow disappeared inside, or God forbid, let someone out.
Sam and I didn’t move. Hell, we didn’t even breathe. Whoever was out there had a good chance of finding us, and we didn’t have much in the way of self-defense. Well, there was the matter of the gun I currently held in a death grip, but I think the idea of using it scared me more than the idea of being on the opposite end.
A shot rang out.
This one was right outside the garage.
My hands were shaking as I swallowed down another nervous shriek. Why was it I had found the ability to get ahold of my fear back at the house but now I was freaking out at every small whisper? Or gun shot?
Come on Addison. Get a grip already. You can do this.
Sam kept watch through the crack in the door as I turned my attention to the loaded firearm I held.
Kade gave me four simple steps to follow and had some stupid blind faith I could handle it without accidentally shooting myself. Let’s hope he wasn’t being too unrealistic.
The door to the garage rattled and I could hear Sam’s nervous intake of breath.
Okay, there were four steps I needed to remember.
Step one - Remove safety.
I held the gun up close to my face as I tried to figure out where exactly the safety was located. Any and all knowledge I had of guns was from what I learned in the movies. I prayed reality was fairly close or I was screwed for sure.
In the movies, the safeties are always located above the handle and toward the top of the gun, usually within easy reach so that the actors portraying officers can flick off the safety while keeping their fingers carefully hovering over the trigger. Since it was practically impossible to see, I made certain my right hand was firmly wrapped around the handle and nowhere near the trigger while I used my left hand to feel across the top, hoping to find the safety switch I had seen thousands of times in movies.
Finally a bit of luck was on my side. I felt the small latch and flicked it to the other side. There was a small click and my heart beat triple time. I now held a loaded gun in a pitch black room with no safety. The odds of me not shooting myself were stacked against me. Why couldn’t Sam have mastered the art of weaponry like she had mastered ripping a guy’s nuts off? Shooting skills would have been much more helpful in this particular situation.
Okay. Step two - Rack it.
Again my extensive movie recollection came into play as I carefully avoided the trigger again and grabbed the slide, pulling it back until it clicked. At this point I was sweating bullets. Not only did I hold a loaded gun, but it was cocked and ready to fire.
This had disaster written all over it.
Step three – Aim.
Yeah, that step seemed simple enough, so long as whatever I was aiming at didn’t inconveniently move or stay hidden in the shadows.
Step four – Shoot.
Not a lot of explanation needed there (I say as I silently pray I don’t ever have to do exactly that).
It had become eerily silent outside. For the first time I noticed that the distant gun fire had died down and except for the wind rustling a few tree leaves outside, nothing else could be heard from our unknown visitor. No more footsteps, shadows or shaky doorknobs.
Normally a welcome retreat, the silence was deafening. What I wouldn’t give to hear sirens or shouts from the police to “come out with your hands up”. Instead what we got was an unsteady silence that seemed to foreshadow something bad was about to happen. After all, we weren’t fools. Unless the shadow decided to off himself he had to be shooting at someone or something, which also meant he was still outside somewhere.
What if Mr. Unknown Shadow was out there hiding? What if he was waiting for someone? What if he was looking for something? What if he knew we were hiding inside and he was trying to scare us out?
There were a lot of “what if’s” and no good answers.
What I did know was that Sam and I were sitting ducks as long as we stayed hidden in the closet. We were blind and completely cornered the longer we stayed in here.
I chewed my bottom lip as my brain tried to rationalize with my common sense.
We couldn’t afford to stay in here any longer. Not with a lurking dark shadow right outside our door. If he came in, we were trapped with no other options. At least in the main part of the garage we still had a couple of places to hide and a couple of different methods of exit if needed.
The worst case scenario kept floating through my mind.
Mr. Unknown Shadow bursting through the door. Me blindly shooting at a figure I can’t identify. An exchange of gunfire that results in one or all of us getting killed in a dark room.
Yeah, we needed to get out of here and we needed to do it now.
“Do you see anything,” I whispered in Sam’s ear.
I took a small amount of joy at the way she jumped.
“No,” she whispered back. “But he’s still out there.”
“We need to get out here,” I replied, leaning close to the door crack as I tried to peer out as well.
“And go where,” she whispered incredulously. “In case you haven’t noticed, we don’t have many options.”
“That’s why we need to go back out to the main part of the garage. We no options sitting in here but we do if hide out there.”
I could barely see Sam’s face from the little bit of light streaming through the crack, but I could see she was chewing her lip which is something she only did when she was debating with herself. I did it when I was nervous.
She nodded. “On the count of three, we crawl out of here. Stay low to the ground. Whoever is out there is likely to go come in through the same side door we did so we need to get to the other side of the garage. We can hide behind one of the cars. If someone comes in, we’ll try to make our way back outside if they come towards us.”
I took a deep breath and cracked the door open a little wider to get a better view outside.
It was perfectly quiet and still.
Sending up a dozen silent prayers, I tucked the gun gently into the back of my sweat pants as I had seen them do countless times in movies, taking extra precaution that it was secure and not likely to shoot me in the behind.
I turned back to Sam. “Ready?”
She shook her head.
“One…two…three,” I said.
We both lowered ourselves to the ground, and opening the door slowly so that it didn’t creak or catch anyone’s attention, we crawled out of the room and back over to the back corner we had hid in originally.
We had just gotten to the farthest corner of the garage when the side door slammed opened followed by the heavy sounds of footsteps. Whoever just came in was walking with a purpose. I just prayed that purpose wasn’t to find us.
The footsteps were heavy, quick, and based on the sudden crash that had both Sam and I jumping out of our skins, unsteady. There was a muffled curse as our uninvited quest tried to pick himself up from the wall where he had crashed headfirst into the rolling tool boxes.
We could hear the opening and closing of drawers as our unknown party crash not-so-silently cursed to himself before suddenly turning his attention to the closet that we had literally just vacated. And this we could tell with no mistake by the sudden light that flooded the space.
Boxes dropped to the floor and we could hear the footsteps scurrying over to the SUV parked two spots over. There was the unmistakable beeping sound as the alarm was disengaged and the back hatch opened. Mr. Unknown Shadow made a couple of trips back and forth between the closet and the car, throwing in what sounded like heavy items with little care before rushing back for more.
Since Sam and I had just left that room and knew there was nothing in there but the boxes filled with costume jewelry, the entire process completely boggled us. What the hell was so important about a bunch of crappy jewelry that Mr. Unknown Shadow felt the need to wander out here during a gun fight in hopes of driving off into the night unnoticed with his ill-gotten gains?
I wanted to sneak a peek, curiosity having always been a condition I could never cure myself of. But you know what they say...curiosity killed the cat.
Luckily for me, I’m not a cat.
Deciding that satisfying my curiosity was worth the risk, I stood up on my knees silently (at least I hoped) and peered over the hood of the fancy sports car we were currently cowering behind. No doubt Sean would have an aneurysm if he saw the smudge marks I was currently leaving on it, but let’s be honest, did I really care? If I survived this, I may key the stupid thing just out of spiteful principle.
I couldn’t see much from my vantage point, but I could make out a guy hefting two oversized boxes out of the closet and tossing them haphazardly into the back of the truck before going back for more.
So a moment of sheer honesty. We all know that I probably do not do the most rational of things in moments of crisis (and frankly what little rationale I had left was still praying I didn’t accidentally shoot myself in the ass), but boxes of cheap costume jewelry? I’ve said it once and I will say it again. What the hell could be so important about them that Mr. Unknown Shadow would decide to retrieve them during an armed invasion? No one could be stupid enough to believe any of it was real. (They weren’t, were they?)
Mr. Unknown Shadow made a few more trips to the closet before finally throwing in the last box and slamming the door shut. Even though the light from the closet provided enough to see by, it didn’t provide enough to make out any real details. Being in the literal and figurative darkness made it hard to determine who it was currently acting out this moment of random weirdness.
Mr. Unknown Shadow disappeared to the side of the truck, and a few seconds later the interior light turned on again as the driver’s side door opened and he jumped in, slamming the door behind him and hitting the garage door opener. The garage door (that I just happened to be sitting in front of) rose silently.
It was still dark outside but a distant streetlight caused a soft light to filter into the now open door. I prayed that it remained dark enough that the shadow sitting in the driver’s seat couldn’t see me sitting there like an idiot.
Of course, everyone’s luck eventually runs out. And at that moment, so did mine.
As if sensing he wasn’t alone (probably because I was boring a hole into his head with the intensity of my stare), Mr. Unknown Shadow’s head suddenly whipped over to my direction, catching me with a startled and yet extremely angry glare.
It was also that same moment that I finally could see his face clearly as well.
And what I saw made my blood run cold.