Chapter 35 - Prey Of a Predator
I know this idea will work. It’s the one my father and Alessio came up with after weeks of planning, but I can’t help but worry about the outcome if it all goes wrong.
No, I shouldn’t think like that… I shouldn’t doubt them. I’m just so afraid. We only get one shot at this and we can’t mess it up.
My feet tread lightly as I enter the warehouse, cautiously looking around. Being at the ports in Boston at this time at night makes my skin crawl. The facility seems even bigger than what I imagined, standing high with five levels.
To my relief the industrial lamps are still, though it’s only a few on the first floor and they’re not as bright as I’d hope they’d be.
Curiosity has my eyes wandering.
Large crates fill this level. Some are piled up and pushed against the walls, others are neatly stacked in the middle.
My nose wrinkles as I inhale, the iron leaving a harsh sting. This place holds a strong odor, like a metallic rust.
I just want to get this over with. God, I hope we can.
Before I arrived, I had asked the driver to drop me off at the front of the building. When I stepped out of the car, I told him loud enough to go around back and wait for me there until I called for him, that I would be here for a while collecting a few papers for my father.
However, he wasn’t my family’s ordinary driver — it was Raphael, one of Alessio’s cousins acting as a chauffeur. The plan was for me to be out all day, purposely putting myself in a position where I can be seen publicly. I needed to get my stalker’s attention, to show him that I’m vulnerable and that he could find me if he wanted to.
And he did… because it was all part of the plan.
Letting out a breath, I make my way to the staircase that resembles more of a steel fire escape. The spiral of steps is quite the journey and each level has its own platform. The height of the building isn’t ordinary. It’s structure is spaced out unevenly, making it seem like it’ll take even longer to get to the fifth floor where my father's office is.
This building has only two floors. The first and the fifth. Getting there is what’s going to be hard. There is no break in-between, just one step after the other. And as soon as I make it to my father’s office, I’m supposed to lock myself in.
Alessio has been sending me messages throughout the day. They believe they found the man who’s been following me, and want to corner him here instead of doing it out in the open where he could slip away. Whoever this man is, he’s smart and is always careful. All day he’s been keeping a distance and his face hidden, getting lost in the crowd when he can then emerging at random times.
My family knew that trapping him here would be perfect, it’s an advantage for them. Being that they know all the in’s and out’s to the warehouse it’s easier to cover all the possible exit routes, not that there’s much in this place.
Counting the steep steps takes my racing mind and heart off the situation. It’s hard to keep myself at peace when I just want to run and scream.
My palms are becoming sweaty and clammy. Reaching the second platform, I discreetly look over my shoulder, letting out a shaky breath. Continuing onto the next flight of steps, I notice that the structure is unstable. The metal creaks loudly underneath my foot as I keep on going.
I’ve never been here before so I have no idea if this is common or not.
Please let it just be natural and that it’s not truly secure.
Unsure, I’m tempted to stop in my tracks but I force myself to keep going. Hesitation is too dangerous right now.
It’s becoming darker as I make my way towards the second platform, the lights from the first floor fading the higher I go. The darkness creeping up is terrifying, like a scene from a horror movie where you know the character should stop and just turn back.
I’ll be okay, they won’t let anything bad happen to me.
I have to remind myself that I’m far from alone. Fionn and Levii are on the roof, ready to come down when the time comes. It’s not just my family but also Alessio’s family who are outside forming a perimeter, not just around the building but the entire loading dock.
The few of the Giodarnos’ are also here, manning the pier and the outskirts of the property.
Another step creaks and tilts forward, causing me to wobble and shoot a hand out to grab onto the rail. A hard breath pushes out as I steady myself. Looking down from this height I see no one or anything out of place.
I hope that this isn’t all for nothing. Careful with my footing, I make my way onto the platform and onto the third flight, picking up my pace just slightly.
You’re almost there, Cherry.
Just stay calm.
Midway of the third flight my hands start to shake. Almost instantly my breathing pattern alters. There's a turn in my stomach, a familiar feeling that makes me want to hurl.
I feel it. A disturbing familiarity.
Oh god, is this my mind playing tricks?
I can feel it, his presence that holds my body hostage of a petrifying fear.
Ace… did he enter the building just now?
Now I need to hurry. There’s enough distance between us for me to make it to my father’s office still.
Just one more flight. I can make it. It'll all be over soon and I'll be free of this nightmare.
A small smile pulls at my lips as I step onto the fourth platform — but oh how wrong I was.
My breath is lost. Feet lock in place as I stare wide-eyed at the next flight.
Tears gather and my hand lifts to cover my mouth.
This can’t be real.
Underneath the last flight of stairs is the shadow I’ve come to despise so much. The moonlight that pours through the building’s windows casts a dim outline of him, illuminating the darkness he is.
Without wasting another moment I turn around to spring down the flight that I came up from. Only making it three steps down, I feel a heavy hand snake around my arm, yanking me back roughly up the steps. Instantly I let out a blood curdling scream, the echo bouncing off the walls and amplifying it.
Scream after scream, I thrash around his arm goes around my neck, tightening so there's no way I can free myself.
The sound of metal banging loudly sounds off into the night and I know it’s the doors of the warehouse being sealed shut.
Footsteps hone in, coming from above.
Everythings a blur as I try to loosen myself.
Though I can’t focus on what’s going on, I hear it through my panic. Someone is coming but I don’t know who.
My fingers dig into his arm, pulling as hard as I can.
Suddenly a gun goes off and I'm thrown to the side, harshly hitting the ground.
My face makes contact with the metal platform and I let out another scream as the pain explodes around my nose.
Quickly, I push myself up on all fours but stop moving the moment I notice that everything feels off, that I’m too dizzy. After a few seconds I force myself to brush it off and get up, ignoring the feeling of something warm dripping from my nose, leaving a metallic taste on my lips as it falls past my chin.
A gun is fired again and I stumble to the nearest wall.
My head is spinning — I need to throw up.
More bullets fly through the air and this time one of them hits the rail. The sound it creates has me folding over, placing my hands on my ears as they ring loudly.
“Cherry!” a muffled voice yells out to me.
My head bobs as I let out a long breath.
There’s so much blood.
“Cherry!” I hear the same voice call out again. With foggy vision I look up to see Levii peeking out from behind a wall on the floor above me with a gun in his hand. “Go! Go now!”
Levii aims his gun again at Ace and I duck down.
With my head bent, I notice people moving on the first floor, the open steel gratings allowing me to see them swarm towards the staircase.
Alessio and my father are coming.
“Cherry!” A different voice calls out.
Looking back up I see Alessio’s cousin behind another wall, his gun also drawn and aiming down on my level.
“What are you fucking doing? Go!”
Coming back to reality, I stand back up and whip around to where Ace is at. He’s backed against the wall with a gun in his hand aimed upwards.
Seeing him as a whole is underwhelming, revealing himself to be a tall-broad man wearing a black ski mask and a black coat. Suddenly Ace’s gun shifts, dropping his hand to his left side, emptying his bullets into the wall of the third staircase.
Confused as to what he’s doing but not caring to find out, I run the opposite way of where he’s shooting and up the stairway to seek safety with Levii.
“Come here,” Levii angrily says, hauling me behind him. As he does this, a violent crash interrupts us all.
The sound of heavy metal crashing against one another then collapsing onto the concrete floor is brutal.
When I peek around Levii, I see that Ace has completely destroyed the first and second stairwell.
Does that mean he knew about the loose screws, that it would shatter with enough gun power?
With Ace’s back turned from us, Fionn takes the opportunity to run down the staircase and onto the platform Ace is on.
“Fionn!” Levii shouts, sounding distraught. “Shit! Cherry, stay here.”
Abruptly, I hear my father’s voice yelling out commands, telling everyone to lower their weapons upon seeing Levii carefully move out from behind the wall.
They can’t get a good shot at Ace with Fionn and Levii in the way.
Watching as Fionn lifts his gun, Ace quickly turns and aims his at Fionn, shooting without hesitation.
However, to my relief, Ace misses — only shooting Fionn’s gun out of his hand instead.
Was that an intention or mistake?
My eyes trail over to the back of Fionn who stands shocked that Ace did that all in a blink of an eye.
Instead of withdrawing like I thought he would, Fionn lunges at Ace who continues to shoot at him. Bullets fly past Fionn as he evades all three of them.
I never knew Fionn was so agile.
The colliding impact causes Ace to stumble back with his gun slipping through his fingers.
Levii lifts his gun, stopping midway down the staircase. It looks like he can’t get a good shot, they’re moving too much.
Ace doesn’t let up. Instead he fights back, hurling his fists down on Fionn’s spine. Withdrawing, Fionn tries to distance himself but Ace takes the opportunity to grab at his arm and yank him across the platform, hauling him over the rail.
It all happened so quickly.
“Fionn!” I scream, watching as he grabs onto the rail with one hand at the last second.
Leaping into action, Levii moves onto the fourth platform and unloads his bullets. None of them reach Ace’s body. Unfortunately, he successfully sidesteps them all.
It’s like he’s prepared for this or something.
Swiftly, Ace grabs ahold of the arm that Levii is using to shoot at him and roughly pushes his arm up, the bullets emptying into the air until the clip is completely done. Using his other hand, Ace reaches into his pocket and something that holds the moon's reflection is pulled out.
Jumping out from the wall, I scream, “Levii he has a knife!”
As a reflex, Levii lifts his other arm just in time to block the attack from his face. Instead the knife lodges into Levii’s forearm and I hear him cry out in pain.
Ace pays no more attention to him, tossing him back onto the ground and letting him slide across the platform until his back hits the wall.
Fionn is trying to pull himself up but the metal starts to wobble. The more he moves the more it looks like it loosening.
Ace turns his head in my direction and I take a few steps back, realizing what he’s about to do. Fleeing, I run in the direction of my father’s office but I feel the metal underneath me shake.
He’s too quick to follow me.
My breathing becomes ragged as my muscles put in work to escape, the adrenaline eating me alive.
Bullets start to fly again and the sound of them ricocheting is brutal.
A hand snakes around my hair and I let out a violent scream. Tugging me back, I slam into Ace’s body and the sound of bullets leaving their barrel stops.
“No! Get off of me!” My head whips around as I let out my terror.
Catching sight of the lower level, I see Levii pulling Fionn back onto the platform, they trip over their own footing as their eyes meet mine.
“Levii,” I shriek but a hand slaps over my mouth.
My teeth bites into the leather of Ace’s gloves but It doesn’t affect him in the slightest.
Ace’s head lowers, his chin resting on my shoulder. “You’re calling out the wrong name.” His voice is husky, full of a calm anger. “Call for him, Cherry. Call out for our father.”