“You were never going to make her marry you. You had to cut the power just to get the advantage. She isn’t scared of you. She is hunting you now like you have her for months.” Howie laid in punch after punch, backing him into the countertop. Johnathan’s body hit the wooden cabinets and he scrambled to get away from Howie, whose fingers gripped fists full of his shirt.
“She still loves me!” Johnathan bent his back over the counter top trying to put some distance between him and Howie. His fingers found the knife block and he grabbed the first thing within reach, a steak knife. He held it a moment, waiting like a snake to strike at the perfect moment. The knife plunged into the muscle just behind his pocket in his shirt, Howie screamed out in anger. He took a step back and ripped out the steak knife and threw it to the ground. Johnathan took this opportunity to grab a bigger knife and buried it deep in his stomach. Howie’s blue eyes grew wide as he grabbed the handle himself but Johnathan now had the upper hand and backed him to the living room and finally the foyer. Howie stumbled and fell down on his back. The monster bent down over him and tisked at his nasty wound before pulling the knife out and admiring the red river that flowed from his body.
Johnathan grew a nasty smile and winked at Howie before leaning down and whispering something into Howie’s ear.
I ran like the wind to Howie’s side. The whole fight between them had only taken seconds, Matthew left me with Howie as he ran after Johnathan who had thankfully not seen us.
My hands shook so hard I could hardly apply pressure to his stomach. He winced at my touch and took my hands away and held them tightly.
Howies’ breathing grew ragged and laced his fingers with mine. He flashed me that charming smile that he always used to get his way and I held the back of his hand up to my cheek. My eyes stung with tears as I realized how dry they had become.
He tried to sit up but coughed and I saw his teeth turn red. He was bringing up blood.
“Please don’t leave me Howie.” He took another breath as he shook his head slowly.
“Little chick… You have to end this, only you. Now, go.” He pointed at my chest with his thumb. He blinked again but they didn’t open this time. Another shallow breath left his lips. The small smile he had, fell as he slipped into unconsciousness. My pounding heart rocked my chest. Everything leading up to this moment was out of my control, I had to find Johnathan. Howie was right, the tables had turned. I was not the hunter and he was the prey. A ringing in my head was replaced by another wave of anger and emotion. I needed to find Johnathan and end this before I lost my brother. Before I lost me.
I slowly stood and made my way down the hall, the same path that Johnathan and then Matthew had taken. It wasn’t long ’til I heard footsteps. My eyes glanced at Matthew who had taken shelter in a small closet. His head nodded and he gave me the thumbs up when I noticed his arm bleeding. He held up the empty mag and I sighed in relief. Our silent conversation told me that he was injured but fine and now, out of ammo. My fingers grazed the 500 caliber gun I had tucked in my waistband, hidden behind my sweatshirt- Neil’s sweatshirt. My body turned to meet the monster who had once again traced his steps over a second time.
“You.” Seething. My voice all but a dry hiss. He grinned. Grinned at me. I took slow even strides towards him, my hands slowly wiping off the blood from my brother onto my pants.
“You know, you’re very sexy when you’re angry. I miss that, I love yo-.” I shook my head as my fists clenched. He let me make up some of the space between us. He laughed. A confident hand ran through his hair as his long strides continued on my way.
“Just do not say you love me.” My breathing now harsh and my blood boiling through my body, I would have thrown fire with the look in my eyes.
“You know, I thought you’d be happier to see me Lo. But I think that idiot, big wig, boss of yours has turned you into a greedy princess. It’s sad, really. Someone needs to remind you of your place!” I changed my feet’s direction and began backing back down the hall. No way was I about to get stuck in a hallway with this idiot. Yes, I had the fire power, but he was no small man. My body would bounce like a cheap game of pinball in the laundry mat. As we made our way back to the main stairway, he drew his hand back and slapped the taste out of my mouth. He didn’t use his weapon which told me he was out of ammo too. Matthew had run him clean out. The force alone made me spin around as I fell and caught myself on my hands and knees. His rambling went on and on while my shoulders shook with anger that I prayed, he took as fear.
Just wait Loreina, wait. He will start pacing like he always does. You’ll only get one chance, one shot. Just. wait. I repeated these words in my head over and over until I heard a sound from the top of the stairs. As his attention diverted, I used this moment to stand on my feet and draw my weapon. As I pulled back the hammer, the unmistakable sound of the gun drew his eyes back to mine.
The light in his eyes faded as I pulled the trigger. One bullet was all it took from this gun. My arm shot up in recoil and pain from the strength of this gun. His body froze for a moment before collapsing to the floor in a heap. A hole where that monster’s heartless soul used to be poured blood. I relished the moment his lifeless gaze rolled up into the ceiling. I suddenly gasped for air, like I’d been held under water too long. I had been. I had been drowning under this man too long.
The gun fell from my hands as they shook from the emotional and physical strength it took to fire it. My feet slowly moved without my command back to the dining room where my brother was holding on for dear life, but Alex and Neil stood in front of the closed partition doors. I paused and took in the men standing side by side with their gaze locked on mine. They looked like royal guards standing shoulder to shoulder, their hands clasped in front of them, both held weapons of their own. The men’s stone faces told me that my brother was gone but I had to get in there, I needed to see for myself.
“Alex please, I need to see him. I need to see if he is okay, he was breathing before!” His eyes wouldn’t meet mine, just the floor in front of him. I swallowed the lump that was closing up my throat. I took a step forward and reached for the door knob behind him but Neil’s hands caught mine. I pulled them away and cursed him without words as tears burned my eyes.
“Loreina, honey. He- he’s gone. Alex and I don’t want you to see him like that. Please, we need to go. Howie’s body-” I balled up my fists and slammed them into his chest. The wall of a man before me didn’t falter as I hit him over and over.
“Don’t say his name! He wasn’t your brother, you don’t know what it’s like to see someone you love so close to death, I promised him I would be back for him Neil. Alex, he was alone! I left him-” tears poured like lava does from an erupting volcano. My lungs were raw from running, screaming. He tried to grasp my waist but I twisted away.
“LOREINA. Enough.” I froze at his calm icy cold tone. His anger was surfacing, something I had never seen before. Perhaps he did know what it felt like, to lose someone close. My legs failed me, my knees hit the hardwood floors with a thud for the second time that night. God it should have hurt, but nothing compared to this mental turmoil I was sucked into.
Time seemed to stand still. I wasn’t sure how long it was until a pair of hands wrapped around my shoulders. The familiar cologne wrapped my mind with minimal comfort as I realized it was Alex. I finally met his eyes with mine.
“I-I didn’t say goodbye. Or tell him I loved him. I never apologized for all the times I ratted him out as a kid when we got caught doing things by dad. I never told him how much I think Stephanie was perfect for him. He was alone. I left him to go-.” I just wasn’t ready for him to leave us.
Alex hugged me so tight my sobs silenced. I heard more footsteps back and forth with time passing by. Our men came in waves, cleaning up the mess. They took care not to disturb us, but the process had to start before anyone found out what had happened here.
A figure approached behind us. The two men switched places in my grasp as they pulled me to stand again. Neil’s apologies were just comforting whispers lost in my long hair. His hand rubbed my back, the other took the nape of my neck, his thumb rubbing over my chill bumps. His hands were warm and brought me back to life a little bit. I clutched his shirt so tightly, the buttons should have snapped off.
“I’m so sorry Loreina…” an apology that held remorse for my loss but also his shouting at a time where nothing seemed to be the right reaction. His words were lost in a haze. Nothingness flooded my mind and it terrified me. I had done nothing but feel every emotion for months and months and in a split second they all vanished.
He looked up to Alex who had stood at the front window, mentally somewhere else and pulled himself together a bit. He gave Neil a knowing nod as he ran his hands through his messy, greasy hair. The subtle movement, an agreement that I in fact was not ready to see his lifeless form be taken away from us.