Chapter 34: Ashes
“This is taking too long!” Lukas slams his fist on the table in frustration. “It’s been nearly a week and they still haven’t given us the search warrant?”
Detective Mathis sits on the other side of the table calmly with his hands together. He doesn’t appreciate his tone, but he also understands his rage is being fueled by not just his desire for justice, but also his concern over the woman he loves. For that reason, he gives him a break. “You know these things take time Detective Arias, especially when there’s no justifiable reason to rush or any evidence for that matter.”
“Nai is being held captive with that monster! Isn’t that reason enough Sir?” He looks at him with miserable eyes.
“Is she though?” He gets up from his seat and walks over to the window. “The last time you spoke to her, she told you that they were happily together, and she wanted to get back with him. She didn’t show any signs of being in danger or being held against her will. Perhaps she really is content with him.”
“Are you kidding me?! There’s no way! I know her Sir, and I know what we felt during our time together. She would’ve never chosen to go back to him, and she’d rather die than commit to a life with him. If she said those things willingly, it was because he threatened her family or even me. She’d be willing to settle if it meant we could be safe, because that’s the kind of person she is. Even then, I’m sure she’s still fighting behind the scenes. She’s not a quitter and she will definitely spend every day trying to find a way to get out, but she’s going to do it in a smart and calculated way. For that, she needs our help.”
“I believe you Lukas.” The older man looks back at the younger with empathetic eyes. “I was just playing devil’s advocate and trying to make you understand how the law would see it. However personally, I believe you and even from that short time I was able to interact with her, I know what you say is true.”
Lukas is genuinely shocked that Detective Mathis could show such an expression or agree with him this way. “So then, we can get a rush on it, right?”
“No.” He sighs. “What you or I know isn’t relevant without legal backing. Suspicion of criminal activity isn’t enough to get a rush order warrant. If we had some way to confirm that she was indeed being held against her will, or that he was indeed behind these abductions and murders, we could get one by morning. However, I highly doubt that evidence is going to come walking up to our doorstep.”
“Detective Mathis Sir.”
He turns to see an officer standing in the doorway of his office. “What is it Officer Franco?”
“Um, this is kind of crazy, but there’s a woman downstairs demanding to speak to only you or Detective Arias. She’s claiming to be Veronica Hayes.”
Both detectives become alert now and Lukas is the first to act. He rushes downstairs and soon the woman comes into view. He can see that she’s weak and has light bruising all over her body. Getting closer, he can see that she really is Veronica.
Once he reaches her, she looks at him with tired green eyes. “You’re Lukas, aren’t you? Nai said you were a looker, she wasn’t kidding.” She smiles lightly, and as though all her strength leaves her at once, she collapses to the ground, Lukas just managing to catch her in his arms before she can hit the floor.
“Someone call an ambulance!” He shouts this and several officers begin to scramble. Detective Mathis walks up beside them, disbelief etched on his face. Lukas looks up at him and says, “What do you think Sir, is this evidence enough?”
He composes himself and shifts into a determined state. “I’ll put in the request immediately and we’ll head out first thing tomorrow morning.” He quickly jumps into action, knowing every second counts from here on.
Lukas looks at Veronica and her current state. She’s clearly mentally and physically exhausted that she’d pass out so abruptly as soon as she felt safe. If she mentioned Nai, then obviously she’s ok, but he’s filled with anxiety at the thought that she could also be in such a miserable state or worse. He prays she’s safe as he quietly says, “Hold on Nai, I’m coming.”
“This is crazy Peter! You would rather die like this rather than own up to your crimes and face them like a man? I thought you had more pride than that?!” Nai tries to cover her mouth with her shirt and move away from the flames, but they are spreading quickly and he’s blocking the door.
“You know that there’s no future for me Nai, not after this. I simply wanted to live a happy life together with you. I wanted to have a successful career, a beautiful wife, a few wonderful kids, and a large house to call home. I didn’t think that was too much to ask for. Florida was going to be a fresh start for us both, and I’d finally be free from mother and Adam and could have my own life. It would’ve been so easy Nai, so easy.”
“If you wanted to be free of them so badly, then why did you act like your world was over just a minute ago? If they made you so miserable, then why would you be so distraught over their deaths that you’d decide to kill us both along with them?”
“You love your mothers, don’t you?”
“Of course I do, what kind of question is that?”
“Of course you do. However, have you never wanted to be free of them? Have you not thought about how nice it’d be to have your own space, without them breathing down your neck and keeping tabs on everything you do? Even as an adult, are you not still bound by their rules and expectations if you live in their house? Do you consider yourself independent?”
Nai coughs, finding it more difficult to breath. She needs to get out of here soon, or she’s done for. “Of course I have Peter, that’s normal. I get that point, but even if they were to die in a tragic accident, I wouldn’t kill myself. I’d do my best to live for them and keep them alive in my memories. It’s what they’d want for you. So please, let’s get out of here. Maybe you could get off by being just an accomplice? I mean, you don’t have any legal records, and technically don’t exist. Perhaps I can speak with Lukas and he can figure out a way to get you a lighter sentence by pinning everything on Adam, since it’s his DNA they’ll find anyway. That sounds like a good plan, right?”
He laughs. “As if I’d want to take any favors from your precious Lukas. He’d never do it anyway and you know it. He hates me, he always has since I started looking at you as more than a face in the crowd. He even had the nerve to tell me once to stay away from you, that you were his. But then he goes and royally fucks up his life and loses you anyway. He made it so easy for me to swoop in and take you for myself. I really should thank him.”
“So, you really have been scheming from the start. I was always just a prize for you. You knew from the beginning that you had no intention of letting me be my own person. I’ve been your prisoner since the moment we met, and I was too stupid to see it.” She coughs more intensely and falls to her knees.
Peter walks over to Nai and kneels beside her. “It started that way I guess, but I promise you Nai, I do love you now. I’ve loved you for a long time, and I’ll continue to love you forever. I said it before didn’t I?” He pulls her into his arms and rests her head against his chest. He leans by her ear and whispers, “I love you to death.”
Nai is too weak to push him away and can barely keep her eyes open. She realizes that he fully intends to meet his end in this fiery blaze, and he’s going to drag her with him. He fully intends to have her, even in the afterlife. She’d cry if her tear ducts weren’t dried out and as she starts to drift, she whispers, “Lukas....”
There’s a faint sound of a door being kicked open and someone shouting. “Nai!” She comes to and opens her eyes just as Peter takes a sharp hook to the face and is propelled into the wall with a slam. She feels strong arms wrap around her and pick her up. They hold her close against their chest as they run out of the burning apartment and up the stairs. “I’ve got you Nai, I’ve got you now.” She recognizes his voice but is unable to speak. However, she knows she’s safe and smiles.
Lukas kicks open the door to the roof and soon they are hit with the cool blast of fresh air. He places Nai down on the ground, but she’s fading in and out of consciousness. She’s not breathing, and he realizes the smoke must have overtaken her lungs. He quickly begins CPR. “Come on Nai, breath for me. You can do it.”
He switches between blowing fresh air into her lungs, compression and encouraging her to breath for about a minute. “Dios, por favor. Please god, please don’t make me lose her again.” He continues relentlessly and just as he worries he might be too late, her eyes flutter, and she gasps as she tries to take in a breath. He quickly flips her to her side and smacks her back to force the bad air out and help her get the good air in.
Nai takes a labored breath, and another and several more until she can feel the fresh air returning to her lungs. She coughs several times, as she expels the remaining toxins and can feel the gentle motion of someone rubbing her back and encouraging her. Looking up she can see the familiar light eyes that have brought her much comfort lately, in her dreams. “Lukas?” She sees his luscious lips curl into a sweet smile, and she can feel her tears begin to pool beneath her lids. “Lukas!” She wraps her arms around his neck and kisses him deeply as she starts crying. “I missed you so much Lukas.”
“I’m here now Nai. I’m sorry I couldn’t be here sooner, but I’m here now. I promise I’ll never leave your side a-.” Before he can finish his words, he’s tackled hard and rolls along the ground, stopping just short of the roof’s edge. Straddling over him is Peter, with blood dripping down the side of his face and a spiteful glare. “Adam?” Lukas says. “No, you’re Peter, aren’t you?”
Peter grins. “I guess that bitch has been talking about me. I should’ve killed her while I had the chance.” He laughs. “So nice to officially meet you Lukas. You only knew me as Adam back then, but this is who I really am.” He punches Lukas hard in the face and uses his body to keep his arms and legs pinned down. “You really should be careful to not make promises you can’t keep Lukas.” He reaches to the side and removes Lukas’ gun from the holster.
Nai sees this and jumps up in a panic. “No, Peter, please don’t! I’ll do anything you ask, just please, don’t hurt him!”
“You’ll do anything?” He laughs. “You’ll do anything?!” He shouts. “If you really meant that, then you’d have come along with me quietly and we could’ve been far away from here by now! But no, you just had to help that bitch escape and you just had to choose this fucking loser!” He swipes and smacks the gun across Lukas’ head, causing him cry out and wince, as his head begins to bleed. “What does he have that I don’t?!”
“I don’t know, try sanity you psycho piece of shit!” Lukas shouts this in rage and it leads to Peter giving him another whack with the bottom of his pistol and leaving his conscious fading.
Peter stands up over Lukas and aims the gun at his chest. He looks at Nai with a grin. “What do you think Nai, is he wearing vest? If you can guess right, I won’t shoot him.”
“I’m not playing such a stupid game with you. Just let him go!” She can see Lukas struggle to get up, but he’s disoriented. The blows to the head are probably the cause.
Peter scowls. “Nope, that’s the wrong answer.” He glares at Lukas and then pulls the trigger, the shot ringing out.
“No!” Nai shouts and she runs over to Lukas, not caring that Peter’s still holding a loaded gun. “Lukas!” She falls to her knees and looks at his wound. It’s on the upper left of his chest, which is a dangerous area, but it doesn’t appear to have pierced his heart. Regardless, he’s bleeding heavily and if he doesn’t get medical care soon, he will die from bleeding out. “Oh god, Lukas, I’m sorry you’re in this situation. It’s all my fault.” She lies her head against his lower chest and cries into it. She can feel him breathing, but he doesn’t respond. She glares up at Peter, hatred filling her eyes as she shouts, “You’re a real monster!”
Peter wears an expression of hurt, as though he’s genuinely shocked she’d say such a thing. He drops the gun and stares down at the ground, his fists clenched and trembling. “I might be a monster, but you still loved me!” He grabs her and pulls her closer to the edge. “You used to love me Nai, and I won’t let you get out of that. You promised me forever, and so forever is what I’m going to get!” He holds her tight in his grip against his body and inches onto the ledge, preparing to jump. He gives Nai one final, crazed expression as he says, “Any last words Nai?”
Nai looks over his shoulder to see that there are several police cars, fire trucks and ambulances down below. However, to the immediate bottom, there is nothing but stone cold concrete. She lifts her arms and wraps them around his body, seeming to return his hug. “I do Peter, I do have something I want to say.” She watches as his eyes soften, and he looks at her expectantly. She knows what he wants to hear. She pulls his face to her own and plants a long, deep kiss on his lips. She pulls away slightly and tenderly says, “I love you Peter.”
He drops his arms for a moment, surprised that she said it, and seemed like she really meant it. “You love me?”
She nods and gives him a sweet smile. “I do Peter.” Her face suddenly twists into a spiteful expression as she says, “I love you to death!” She then shoves him with all her might backwards and he’s sent right over the edge. She can see his devastation as he realizes she betrayed him once again, and watches as he falls to his doom. She turns her head just as he hits the ground, but she couldn’t block out the sound of his skull splitting open against the pavement. “May you burn in hell Peter. You and your devilish brother.” She hurries back to Lukas’ side.
“Nai?” He calls out to her weakly.
“I’m here Lukas, I’m here.” She takes his hand in hers.
“Is he gone? Is that bastard finally gone?”
“Yes, he’s gone. He will never plague the earth again and his brother will never hurt another woman.”
“Thank goodness.” He groans. “This feels a lot worse than getting shot with a vest.” He laughs. “Damn, it really fucking hurts. I need a drink after this.”
Nai laughs with him. “I’m glad you can still keep your sense of humor even in a situation like this. Though I really wouldn’t expect anything less.” She leans down and kisses him gently. “I love you Lukas, I love you so much. Thank you for saving me again. Forget about a drink, I’ll buy you your own bar.”
“I’ll always save you Nai, because I love you more than there are words in any language to express. But I’ll say it a hundred times more.” He pulls her down for another kiss. “Te amo, te amo mucho, I love you; I love you so much.”
He continues to say those words while they waited for the paramedics, in the ambulance and even after the doors to operating room were shut. He really did say it one hundred times, probably more. She said it too, silently like a prayer, until the nurse came to get her from the waiting room, and she could be in his loving arms again.