I paused the footage and stared at the screen. I hadn’t truly expected to be right, it had been a off the wall theory born out of fear that my friend would spend a long time in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. I looked up at an equally confused Luis, although I knew his confusion stemmed from a different place.
“Luis, can I take this?”
Luis nodded and handed me the disc case. “Should I call the police Miss?”
“No.” I replied shaking my head. Neither Tobias or Jimmy were safe if the cat was let out of the bag now. I had to warn them both first. I ejected the disc and placed it in the case before slipping it into my jeans pocket. “Thanks luis.”
“No problemo.” He replied. “Come back for dinner sometime… on the house.”
I stood up and nodded before walking to the door of the store. I walked briskly through the almost empty sidewalk, desperate to return to the apartment and share what I knew. Leaving have been dangerous, but I was almost home and we were almost safe. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and bit my lip. Staring at the screen I could see Tobias had called five times in the last 10 minutes. He had returned home to find me gone. Guilt surged through me, he needed to know I was okay. I hit return on one of the calls and held the phone to my ear continuing my pace down the street. It barely rang before Tobias answered.
“Ruby?! Where are you? What part of stay safe didn’t you understand.” He sounded frustrated, but the worry saturated through his words.
“I’m okay.” I murmured. “Everything is going to be okay.” I smiled, finally believing it myself. As soon as Ryan was caught this would all stop. The power he seemed to hold over us would be gone.
“I’m coming to get you. Where are you?” Tobias exclaimed in a telling, not asking tone.
“I’m only a couple of blocks away I was at the pizza place. I’ll be home before you even leave the parking garage.” I replied.
“Then I’m leaving the apartment now. I’ll meet you on foot. Ruby I can’t lose you again.”
He wouldn’t have to. We’d already been through so much, that if we could just get through this we could get through anything.
I went to reply, but before I could, I felt someone push against my back, causing my body to shunt forward slightly, I lost grip on my phone and it fell out of my hand onto the concrete sidewalk. I bent down to pick it up. The violent sound would have Tobias worried and my thoughts of him were more prominent than getting angry at the person who had pushed me.
“Leave it.” A voice infiltrated my ears assaulting me with the familiarity. I stood up and turned around. I wanted to run, aware that I was no longer safe, that Tobias had been right and now I was going to pay for my mistake. Knowing who was behind all of this wouldn’t matter if I was no longer a problem.
“Ryan.” I mumbled. “Uh hi… I need to get home.”
“Home.” he laughed menacingly. I looked around, but it seemed the usually busy streets were still sparse with people. I was on my own and he knew that I knew what he had done. “You move, and I’ll be forced to hurt you.”
“Why are you are you here?” I said slowly.
“You know why Ruby.” he smiled. “You’ve worked it out.”
He smiled, but it chilled me to the bone, filling me with a kind of dread I had never felt before. His eyes were dark and I new he had malice on his mind. I just didn’t know why.
“Why do you want to hurt us? What did we do.” I mewed.
He laughed again and bit his bottom lip, shaking his head in disturbed amusement. He stepped forward, closer to me, so I stepped back. I wanted to run, every part of my being told me I should, but I felt frozen to the spot.
“You’re the only one I want to hurt.” He exclaimed. It became clear to me, he had been following me… he had wanted me to work it out. I had played right into his hand without knowing it, without knowing why. “You’re the only one I wanted to torment.”
Tobias would be here soon, I just had to keep Ryan talking but this new revelation sent a chill through me. Ryan didn’t care about hurting Tobias or Jimmy. It was just me.
“Why?” I begged.
“You really want to know why?” He laughed before rubbing his chin with his left hand. He raised an eyebrow and began to speak. “32 years ago I was born in a small town a few hours from here. I was abandoned by my parents… sent to an adoption agency. I was adopted by a couple… but they were mean and hit me… so I acted up and by the time I was 7 I was labeled a problem child and shoved into the foster system.”
I studied the clearly broken man. He’d been through a lot, more than I could understand. I still wasn’t sure why I played into his situation, but I felt for him. He stopped smiling and continued to speak.
“Then… when I was finally 18 I tracked my parents down. I found them using paperwork I stole... I guess I wanted to know why they had left me. Except when I arrived at their place they weren’t the childless couple I had imagined. They had a girl… at least 10 years old… she was happy and laughing and they hugged her and it was obvious that they loved her, like they had never been able to love me.” I could hear the hatred in his voice, the thick emotion coated his words like a super glue, sticking to him.
I frowned, confused about where this story was headed. Surely he wasn’t insinuating what I thought he was. Surely my parent’s hadn’t….
“I watched that family for the next few years. My resentment grew everyday. My father died when I was 25 and my mom when I was 27. I had known my dad was sick and then when Mom died… well I had hoped their deaths would bring me peace… would silence the need for revenge that has burned within me, my whole life… but it didn’t, it only made me hate you more. You stole the years I should have had.”
I swallowed hard, confused by the realisation that Ryan was claiming to be my brother. That he was claiming there was a possibility I hadn’t been my parents only child. That they had kept something this big from me, my entire life.
“Ryan… I… don’t know what you’re talking about.” I began to cry, even though I had no reason to believe the man who had been messing with me, I did. I could see the familiarity in his face, his eyes were the same green as my father’s, In his confliction, he looked like me.. I wasn’t sure how I hadn’t seen it before.
His lips curled up into an amused smiled while his green eyes grew dark.
“I know. But I assure you, it’s all true. I watched you go to college, I saw you meet Ben. I reveled in the things he did to you, and for a while, your misery was enough to keep me going. I moved away, found a job and almost forgot about my mission to hurt you. Until out of the blue you arrive in the city where I live. Our world entwined and you didn’t even know it. I realised like so many others who had failed, you managed to leave the cycle of an abusive relationship and started again… I guess our strength is genetic.” He stopped and licked his lips. “So I found Ben and told him where you were and when he failed I talked my board into wanting to do business with Clarke… and I’ve been toying with your lover ever since… making him think that all of this was because of him, when it’s always been about you. And now I have you and my mind is tired, my revenge is complete. I have no need for you any longer.”
Ryan stopped talking and straightened up his body. He reached into his jacket and pulled his hand back quickly.
Before I move, or say anything to stop him, A loud bang filled my ears echoing through the canal, reaching my eardrum with a deafening thump. Searing pain overcame me, in my left shoulder, radiating out through my entire body weakening me so suddenly that I fell to the ground in pain. I could hear screams on the street, although faint, almost like they were fading. My eyes closed and darkness was welcoming, relieving me of my pain.
Time may have passed, or maybe none did at all, but a voice infiltrated my mind, and my eyes opened once more. Tobias held me, his eyes were streaming with tears, he was broken, I was broken.
“I’m sorry.” I tried to speak, but the taste of blood filled my mouth and the fear that this was the end overcame my thoughts. Thoughts of a future that hadn’t happened yet. Warm sand beneath my feet, a young girl with dark hair running ahead, and Tobias beside me, smiling. I wanted that future, I wanted to grasp it but it was merely a vision.
“Ruby. I’m here. Stay with me.” Tobias urged, his voice calmed me, but the pain was unbearable. I tried to focus on him, but in my delusional state of mind, it felt like he was moving every time my eyes laid upon his.
“I love you.” I whispered. I needed to say, in case the words never left my mouth again. I needed him to know that meeting him had changed me, that I hadn’t known what love was, until he had walked into my life. That he had healed me. But I couldn’t say it all, so I settled for a declaration of love.
“Don’t say goodbye! Ruby, an ambulance is on it’s way. You’re going to be okay.” He whimpered, not sounding like the strong commanding man I had come to know.
I swallowed hard, even though it hurt to do so. My body felt like it was on fire, just keeping my eyes open took all the energy I had left. I could feel myself drifting away, out of consciousness and slowly away from life.
“It was Ryan.” I managed to exclaim, I needed to get the words out, someone needed to know. “He’s my… brother.”
Darkness fell around me the vision of Tobias disappeared, the sound of the siren silenced.