Chapter 62: Catching up to Speed
Coincidence, Karma, Fate, God, or perhaps Neptune Himself had taken charge and Jimson’s own actions became the cause of his ultimate death. I heaved in great gulps of air as I tried to keep from passing out from Jimson’s kick to my chest, propelling me off of him and both of us backwards in opposite directions. The way he’d been carelessly waving that pistol around the entire time, I wasn’t sure how the man hadn’t managed to fire it by accident before now, but it had finally happened and he was buried in the rocky avalanche that his bullet had caused.
I half expected to feel a great weight lifted at the realization of his death, yet that weight was far less than I’d expected. Yes, one of the men responsible for the crimes that ultimately killed my beautiful wife and her dolphin had met his own death, yet a larger part of me felt remorse that it all had to come to this. Sandy and Jade wouldn’t have wanted things to end like this. My only solace was the fact that his death wouldn’t be on my hands or conscience. It was purely his own doing--or undoing.
The stars circling in my vision were dissipating as I sat up completely. A small sniffle coming from closer to the rubble brought my mind back to the present. October!
My eyes darted in the dim light to where she sat curled tightly against the cave wall, her arms wrapped around her knees as she buried her face in an attempt to most likely unsee the terrible death of Hank Jimson.
“October! I’m coming!” My voice was rough and shaky from the fight as I clambered up and off the ground, ignoring my own aches and pains to get over to where she remained huddled. I knew her ankle or foot had been injured in the boat accident, but had Jimson hurt her otherwise?
My heart raced as I scrambled the short distance to her with worry overwhelming my senses. I came up short as I fell to my knees before her balled up form, not wanting to move her and possibly cause further injury if she was worse off than she’d been when we entered the cave. “October, are you okay?”
Raising her head, her eyes, ready to overflow with tears, met mine and she stared at me unmoving for what seemed like forever before she finally melted. Closing her eyes, she allowed her tears to fall, simultaneously reaching out for me as heavy sobs shook her small frame. I scooped her up into my arms, pressing her to my chest as if I were afraid of losing her even now.
“It’s okay. It’ll be okay.” I allowed her to cry silently for a moment as she clung to me with a strength I didn’t realize she had. Releasing what had to have been several hours of wondering if she would make it out of this alive, I soaked in the feel of her very much alive, albeit distraught energy. With Jimson dead, she could finally let it out.
At last, she loosened her grip on my soaked button-up shirt, lifting her head to peer up at me. “He… he’s dead.” The horror of witnessing his death was more than evident in her voice and expression.
I simply gazed back at her, taking in every detail of her being, thankful beyond words that she was alive, before finally nodding softly in affirmation. I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about his death just yet, so stayed silent, not ready to venture that far into my own emotions.
“But you’re alive,” she nearly whispered, a look of hope and wonderment in her eyes.
I nodded again, a bit more firmly as emotion threatened to erupt with the realization of just how close both of us had come to dying at Jimson’s hand today. I couldn’t speak, for doing so would surely break my resolve.
“Oh, Torin…,” October breathed out, the same understanding filling her mind, before she circled my neck with her arms.
I’m still not sure who moved to whom, but somehow our lips found each other, meeting with a passion as though our kiss were as vital to life as breathing itself. She may have been shivering from the cold, but her mouth was warm and inviting and just what I needed to completely quell the fear of losing her.
As we pulled apart, October blushed, her cheeks red with heat as she bit her lower lip, both embarrassment and perhaps a bit of pride evident in her downcast gaze. She was going to have to get over that as I fully intended to kiss her like that again in the near future. Many more times, if I had anything to do with it.
Stealing my thoughts from her delightful lips, she began shaking again, but this time not from crying and I didn’t think it was exactly from the chill cave air hitting her still-drenched body. My instincts knew she could very well go into shock, for I’d seen it happen in lesser situations, and she’d been through a lot. Rubbing her back and arms in rapid motion for a moment, I pulled her back from me to examine her better. I’d noted some blood on her clothes before, though I didn’t see any gashes now. Regardless, she needed to stay alert. “Are you alright? Where are you hurt?”
She took a deep breath, then pushed back the plastered locks of her hair so they were out of her face as she leaned back against the rocky wall. She shook her head as though to clear her mind, “I’m alright. I’m pretty sure my ankle’s sprained, but I don’t think it’s broken. Otherwise, I think that’s the extent of my injuries.” Then voicing my thoughts, she looked down at her shirt, taking in the darkened blood stain. “That’s not mine, it’s Chuy’s.”
Panic and her motherly instincts hit her hard as her eyes grew wide with worry. “Oh my God! What about the kids? Chuy! Your mom and Vickie?”
I shook my head with consternation as concern for my own loved ones and the others bubbled inside of me again at her reminder that Jimson had started all of this at the rehab. “I have no idea. I put in a call to the PD to get over to the aquarium as soon as I got your message, but the detectives and I went after you instead. I haven’t heard anything.”
Her eyes watered again. “Oh, God. He almost had Anne out here. What if he’d taken her instead?”
She looked like she was about to get sick as her face drained of all color, and as a parent, I could almost see the dreadful scenarios her mind was likely conjuring up in her fearful eyes. Stopping her from further panic, and with my own need to know, I interrupted her thoughts. “You said in your text that Chuy was shot? Did Jimson hurt anyone else?” I was too afraid to voice Rainie and Mom’s names.
She shook her head, swallowing before speaking as fast as she could. “No, just Chuy. He got shot in the arm and lost a good amount of blood, but he’ll be fine. Vickie knew what to do. God, Torin, he could’ve killed somebody! He had your mom at gunpoint, and ohhhh…”
I hugged her tightly as she petered off in dismay again, the unspoken what-if’s getting to her. While my own stomach clenched at the thought of Mom and Rainie at gunpoint, I needed October to stay calm. “Hey, it’s okay. I’m sure they’re all okay now. The police have been over there for a while now.”
She nodded into my chest, and while I wanted to know exactly what the son-of-a-bitch did to my family, confusion also began to flood my mind. What were those diamonds doing at October’s house? I didn’t want to voice it, not even in my mind, but if she were somehow involved all this time… That would be one hell of a slap in the face--my soul mate caught up with Jimson and Lopez.
Clearing my throat I pulled her up to face me as she wiped her eyes, her crying ceasing despite one final sniffle. “The diamonds you said Jimson was after… October, tell me you didn’t have them all this time.”
My question, along with my now serious tone and demeanor caught her off guard and she blinked back at me with confusion, then slight indignation as she processed what I was implying. Then she laughed. At first it was a chuckle, but soon it turned into a side-splitting laugh-out-loud fit of humor that brought more tears to her eyes as she gulped for air. She was definitely on the edge. My look of confusion in return finally brought her back to reality after nearly a full minute, as she inhaled deeply a number of times to collect herself once more.
“Heaven help her. Anne is in so much trouble. Imagine me getting arrested, because of all of this!” She was talking rhetorically and laughed again, though apparently too worn out for another laughing fit. Finally, addressing me specifically again, October grinned with humor, then patted my leg before going on dramatically. “No, Chief Waters, you do not need to worry about me being the criminal here. But our kids… well, they’re into smuggling and pirating. And at such a young age!” Another wave of laughter erupted from her, echoing around the cave walls in merriment as my confusion continued to build.
“Oh, where to begin?” She mused full of mirth and I could tell she was trying to lighten me up.
“How about from the beginning,” I suggested dryly as my heart pounded. I just couldn’t see October being involved with a criminal ring, but things did look a bit suspicious from my point of view. And so far she hadn’t made any sense.
“Well,” she blew out a big breath, seriousness overcoming her features as she looked me in the eye. “I had the kids inside today sorting through office supplies down by Rhonda’s office. And, uh, I was in my office doing some orders for medical supplies. All of a sudden, I heard your mom scream, then some loud voices, so I went to investigate and he, uh, Jimson, was there in your mom’s office with the kids and her. He got us all together and started threatening us if we didn’t tell him where his treasure was. Specifically, where these diamonds were. Of course, Rhonda and I had no clue what he was talking about. I seriously thought he might be some drug addict or something off the street who’d gone crazy or something.
“When we told him we didn’t know anything about any treasure or diamonds, that’s when he held your mom hostage and had us all go out to the turtle enclosure together. I guess he’d broken in there earlier and came to find Rhonda when he didn’t find his diamonds. Anyways, there’s an old workshed back in there and he made me go inside to see where this treasure was supposed to be. Torin, I swear I thought he was just dragging us out there to kill us. But, I kid you not, there was this big hole in the floorboards and a real treasure chest in a hole inside that shed, full of gold and stuff.
“The next thing I knew, I heard his gun go off--he was still outside with Rhonda and the kids. He’d shot Chuy, who I guess came to see who was in the enclosure. When I got back outside of the shed, both Chuy and Vickie were there and now prisoners, too. He let me help Vickie get Chuy to the rest of the group and tend to his wound some, but he kept going on about his diamonds and kept threatening us.”
Shuttering at the memory, October rubbed her temples as she continued. “He… he pointed his gun at Chuy’s head, screaming that he was going to kill him if we didn’t cooperate. That’s when Anne yelled for him to stop and said that she had his diamonds. Torin, I have never been so scared in my life. The way he looked at her. She said they--the kids--were in there a while back and accidentally found the treasure, and she took the diamonds home to hide, like pirate treasure or something. She… she actually hid them up in the attic in my grandpa’s old chest. I didn’t believe her at first, thinking maybe she was lying to try to save Chuy. But she swore that’s what happened in front of everybody. Then Jimson wanted to take her to go get them, but I begged him to take me instead, telling him that I’d drive and all. He agreed and locked Vickie and Rhonda with Chuy in the penguin enclosure and the kids with the dolphins.
“I told him we needed to go to my office for my keys and that’s when I grabbed my phone from my desk, hiding it in my purse. I told him I needed to use the bathroom after that and sent the text message to you from there. Then I took the long way home hoping to stall him to give you time to come with help. Well, we made it to the house and he got his diamonds. I suppose they’re still on him,” she gave his still-visible leg a quick glance. “Next thing, you showed up and you know the rest.”
I silently watched her throughout her telling, studying her with my cop-eyes, though it was a very difficult story to hear with my father- and son-ears. Regardless, I knew when people were lying or nervous about being caught, and she was neither. Just close to the breaking point and very overwhelmed. Pulling her in for another hug, I apologized. “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have doubted you. That must’ve been hell.”
She breathed out a little laugh in return, her shivers coming back. “I forgive you. I guess it did kinda look bad. I’m still gonna ground Anne for the rest of her life, though. Stealing pirate treasure of all things.”
We both laughed, and it felt good to let my defenses down again, and even better to have October in my arms. After a pause, she didn’t move, but quietly asked, “Do you think they’re alright?”
I breathed into her hair, “Yeah, they’re probably better off than we are, and we’re okay now, right?”
“Yeah, you’re right. I just wanna hold my baby, that’s all.”
“I know. Me, too.” I replied, horrible imaginings filling my mind of my beautiful daughter and mother having to go through all that I’d just heard. With one final shiver in my arms, I knew I needed to get October dry and outside of this cave, and into the warm air. “Come on, let’s get outta here, okay?”