Chapter One: Eternal Darkness
After stopping my car on the bridge, a heavy breath leaves my lungs. I have never believed in a higher power, even more so in life after death. However, I feel the heaviness of my past on this road as many ghosts in my head haunt me here. Usually, I avoid this route if I can. Spearing myself from the flashback of the white blur. As it will come back on its own terms to me like it always does, it's not time for it yet.
Even though looking through the windscreen, I know the rain hasn't stopped since this afternoon in entire London. But on this bridge, in particular, it seems to be getting worse every minute. It almost would appear as if rain clouds never leave this cursed death ground at all. Dooming the path always to be cursed from the sky itself. And as if my company knows that. He picks this theatrical meeting location that irritates me.
Not because I dismiss the location but merely because people watch too many movies. There is nothing wrong with discussing business over a drink in a warm bar or restaurant with a seaming plate of food in front of you. This foreplay is so necessary.
Nevertheless, I grind my teeth and pull the collar of my coat up before I climb out of the car. I expect this to be brief the second I see his stupid smirk. "Mr Sinclair, I'm so happy to see you, my boy." If I wasn't already pissed, my expression darkens in a blink, clouding my mood even more than an evening sky.
I'm cold, wet, and fed up with clowns, clearly wasting my time like this shithead that assumes to be some sort of pal of mine.
I do not, however, give my thoughts away through my expressions. As I never do. And keep my cold face at all times. "Remind me again, Stefan. Why I'm letting be drenche in the rain?" As he
extends his hand to shake, I insert mine inside my coat pockets.
He barely grins at my action but doesn't comment on it. At least he knows better than to do that. He should be glad I let him talk at all, and a handshake is out of his league.
"Because I possess something you may want." He pulls a white envelope from the inside pocket of his coat, and rain covers the thick paper in seconds. But I don't move a muscle, "What exactly is that?" I don't even do so much as glare at the envelope, keeping my eyes on the man in front of me.
It intimidates him as it does most. So it's not surprising to me when he starts to shift his weight from one leg to another. I threaten way worse men than him. While Stefan, at the very best, is the leaf stuck to the bottom of my shoe. Still, he dears to grin mischieflly. "Something you will like to know." He says, and it almost makes me smirk. Almost.
I know everything I want to know. The rest I don't care about. So I found his words desperate and pathetic attempts as I expected them to be. However, I choose to play a game with his weak mind for a minute longer. And I ask, already knowing the answer, "What do you want for it?"
"Is it hard to believe that I'm doing this from the greatness of my heart?" I grind my teeth again. A guy is wearing out my patience.
"Cut this bullshit. What do you want?" My tone gets a bit more aggressive than usual, but I want him to go to the point.
His jaw tenses as a stupid smile leaves his face noticing he won't reach me with smitten words. "Your good word in tomorrow's meeting." He ultimately blurs it out, and the corner of my lips twists in an evil grin. Expression Stefan should feel exceptional to see.
I knew what he would say before I even sat in the car and came here. I knew what my answer would be, but I still chose to feed my curiosity by coming here. Secretly hoping he will surprise me somehow because of how confident he sounded on the phone about the information he possesses.
Unfortunately, all I can hear now are my father's words in my head, saying, "You should have known better." I hate everything he was right about, and he was right about this, so my disapproval only rises, "If you are equally innocent as you claim to be, you have nothing to be afraid of tomorrow." I shrug my shoulders calmly and turn around to walk away, but he reaches for my arm, and I jerk away from his touch.
Furious rage fills me, making me want to reach for my gun and end him then and there. He is lucky I possess more willpower than this wanker would ever know, so I control my urge. Yet, the look I give him is evident that this thought is not entirely crossed out of my mind.
Regardless, desperate people make desperate moves as he shows no regret in what he did while talking like I am still listening, "Think about what I said to you, Mr Sinclair. I was loyal to your father for years. What would he say if he saw you left me to be ripped by the lions?" Uneasy pain twitches somewhere inside me, and I can't control the disgust that appears on my face. Stefan thought it would benefit him to mention Nickolas to me, but he just signed his sentence.
He was never mine to deal with, so coming here, I knew I would let him meet his fate on his own terms either way. Only now, he made sure that that fate won't be kind to him, and I assure it personally. "That's correct. You were my Nick's servant, not mine." I lean slightly closer to him. "When you face him in hell, say hi. From me, would you?" I calmly smile, with a confident knowledge that he won't make it past another sunset.
That luckily connects with his brain, and the last bit of colour drains from his face. In contrast, I turn again to leave him there while returning to my waiting car. But at that moment, my eyes caught the person's silhouette in the distance. And blood runs cold in my veins. I can't figure out on the spot if what I see it's real or if it's nothing more than a bad memory playing in front of me. All I can see it's a blur because of all the rain and darkness, and I genuinely consider the possibility of my head messing with me as a consequence of a lack of sleep. My mind is playing tricks, making me see ghosts that aren't there.
Am I daydreaming, and it's just one of my nightmares, and none of it is genuine? Of course, it would explain it, and I won't pass that option, but it looks so realistic. It feels substantial, too, like that sting of my throat after I screamed my lungs—the limpness of my body when I collapsed on wet cement alone, meeting my failure.
These days is almost too hard to say what actually happened and what I imagined to help my brain cope. I blocked significant parts of it. I didn't mean to do it, but I assume my mind did it unconsciously to provide me from going insane.
It is one thing to take the life of someone you bearly know and completely different to see the life of someone you love taken from you. Even if, on some days, I am getting a little too close to crossing the line between sense and nonsense, both mixed in my skull. I remember clearly her letting go of a rail. I remember the blur falling, almost slipping past my fingers before disappearing into eternal darkness in the dark, icy water.
Regardless, minute passes and I notice the difference between images of my memory and what I think is reality, happening several feet ahead of me. Following my gaze, Stefan speaks behind me again, "Great, some bitch with a death wish." His words mean nothing other than confirmation I'm not hallucinating. And now I'm sure it's a person on the other side of the bridge—a woman, I assume, as I see her wet blonde hair flying in the wind. Not black. Blond.
I completely zone out of everything else that comes out of that lying shits mouth as Stefan Collins eventually gets back to his car and drives off after being ignored by me entirely. Nothing he said would matter anyway. He is as good as dead to me. Though, the main reason I didn't hear him is holding on to her life with two hands griping cold, wet metal.
I may stay there for another solid minute. I didn't move. I feel like my legs get paralyse. I just froze on the spot while a woman is standing on the other side of the railing, still holding tight, keeping her from falling into the deep cold weather several meters underneath her. Holding from a fall that himself will likely instantly kill her figure.
Nevertheless, from the situation she put herself into, even from where I stand, I can hear her loud sob, and my cold dead heart starts beating again for the first time after many, many years from the moment I saw the same thing happening right in front of me. And one thing I remember the clearest of that tragic night was the loud beating of my heart drumming in my ears. But death took what I loved, and at that point, the beat stopped. After that, I no longer felt a thing. Just emptiness that filled me and stayed with me for many years. Till today.
My legs begin moving on their own cord, and I barely even check the road before crossing it quietly, not wanting to frighten her.
It's not a hectic road at this time of the night. But several cars are driving past, not bothering about the woman that is ready to take her own life. And it's me that people call a man without a heart.
Her piercing cries are even more audible when I come near her. She doesn't want to do it, she is just scared, and for what seems the first time in years, I don't know what to do. How to act? Should I try to say something and try to convince her not to do it? But as I think about me doing a pep talk? I can't believe I consider that at all. I know it's not my style. I would only make it worse when sweet realise of the dead is often all I can think of.
Perhaps, I should not beat around a bush and rip her off the railing without a word. Since looking at her physic, it clearly won't be a problem. And that's what I would typically do. My actions talk louder than my words.
Regardless, I hesitate, constrained by my fears and memories. For the first time in a decade, I felt panic in my veins, and I didn't know how to stop it. So I slowly and quietly walk closer. To the young woman crying so hard, she isn't even aware of my presents. While I start another chaotic moment in my mind questioning myself about what my actions should be. One of the passing cars seemingly found it funny to put on a loud horn and frighten the girl.
She panics, and I witness that flash of past and present when I see her hands let go.
I'm unsure how I got to her so fast since I was still several steps away the moment ago, but my adrenalin or something kicks in right before she slips into the eternal night. I grab her by her tiny waist and lift her to the other side with me.
We both collapse on the wet, icy pavement while I still hold her in my arms. The hit are brutal, and I could feel pain sting eco through my entire body. Yet, even if it is temporary, I welcome the familiarity of it. Another déjà vu moment messes with my physic, but the relief is indescribable and so profiling as this time I met cement, not alone. I had no idea I needed this so much as just for this act itself. Some part of me feels complete again.
But the second my grip on her loosens, the long breath leaves her frozen blue lips, and she starts crying like there is no tomorrow. "Shh, it's okay, I got you," I whisper by her ear, myself not recognising the soft tone of my voice, but I already can sense her stiff body relaxing from the near-death experience. She holds on to my hand, which is still protectively around her waist, and she cries without even facing me. She cries, completely drenched in the rain. She cries when neither of us even attempts to move in what feels like hours. She just cries.
While she is weeping, I let that feeling of the selfless act I commit for someone I don't even know set in. The sentiment is uncanny and forgotten, but I let it sink into my bones.
Eventually, I think she runs out of tears as she quiets down. I assume it's time to say something, but the first words struggle to leave my dry throat, coming out raspy but way more caring than I wanted to sound, "Come on, let's get warmed up." I ultimately speak, and I help her rise to her feet while I do the same.
"Thank you." She barely whispers, and I am represented with her face clearly for the first time. With it, something in me again wrenches. A woman is so gorgeous and young. Her porcelain skin looks so soft, and her now wet blond hair makes her green eyes pop up even more, even if they are red and puffy from all the tiers. Her sweet cheeks make me imagine her smile, and without a sliver of a doubt, I know it must be beautiful.
I try not to concentrate on that, but I can't make myself ignore the clothes stuck to her tempting figure, hugging her hips, and even the thick coat that gives up on trying to hide her impressive cleavage. It probably was not intended considering the circumstances, but when I have a good look at her, I have no hesitation that she came to this world to be a tease for a men eye.
By the first look, she can't be older than in her mid-twenties. What made me question it again, why the fuck someone like her would be standing on this bridge, ready to take her own life. When she is probably one of the most attractive women I have ever seen. And I say this confidently, knowing plenty of gorgeous women who hold the most powerful man in the world in the palm of their hand. In comparison, they are nothing next to this stranger. This girl has her whole life still ahead of her.
I don't usually care about anyone's problems, but the condition we find ourselves in right now screams for a logical explanation. And it makes me pitter her the way I pit humanity years and years ago, as she just turned me back in time when I was a better man. "Hey, come with me. In my car, you will warm up." I stretched my hand for her. The hand that saved her life and then held her in her most vulnerable state, but she eyes me sceptically. "You won't seriously consider that I'm going to harm you now? Do you?" I raise my brow, but she still looks uncertain and scared. I don't blame her.
On any other occasion, I enjoy the fear on people's faces when they are in front of me. Still, the moment I saw her shadow, I made it my mission to make sure that person would be alright, even if I had to call back to the person in me that I killed off in the early days of my life just for the sake of survival.
I am not entirely sure why. Maybe I think that it will finally let me find a piece for past mistakes. As a seak of redemtion. Or it's as simple as, I hope to finally be able to sleep at night without having one eye open.
Either way, I know I would not be able to walk away as I would typically do after I saw her, so I try again, "Look, I am freezing, and I am sure you are cold too. I get that you are frightened, but I have no intention to hurt you." I try to step closer to her, but she steps back.
"Then what is that you want?" She finally speaks but looks as scared as lost puppy, so traumatised as if she will break into another cry any second. But I have time to notice her accent, and I can't entirely obtain what it is, but I'm pretty sure she is not originally from the UK, adding more things to my sympathy list. When I thought I could never care for another human being.
But in response, I could only shrug my shoulders and look around an empty road. "For the start, I want to get you and I somewhere dry." That is seriously my prime intention. After sanding for hours in the rain, my hands and legs start to turn numb. I'm soaked through, which alone quickly puts me in a bad mood, so I am surprising myself with how patient I am with a girl.
She, however, maintained silent, but I noticed her looking up and down my whole body, as she is probably just realising how drenche we both are. When her eyes return to mine, her look softens, giving me a little nod.
This time I make sure the road is clear before crossing with her by my side. I'm not sure what poses it to me, but my instinct kicks in, and I take her hand like I always do with Sophia. However, I feel her stiffness even though she remains patient until we get to the other side next to my car before she removes her hand from my grip. As soon as we got in, I started a car, and she grabbed my hand with everything she had. It's not much, but it shows me how spooked she is.
"I'm just putting the heating on so we can warm up," I inform her, and she lets go of me, and I now slower my movements to assure her comfort over mine while in my head, I question myself if she is actually worth all of this. Or I am a fool too desperate to find a piece that does not exist because I am so damn tired. So I ask myself, but all I can see when I look at her is my mistakes, and I have never been more desperate to fix them. "How did you get here? Is there anywhere you want to go now? Home? Hospital? Boyfriend, family member, a friend?" She eyes me questioningly again but looks away before saying, "I don't have a home. No place to go. Nobody to trust." It added some things to me about how and why she ended up here. She doesn't look homeless, but even though I crave a proper answer, she won't give it to me in this state. I know that much about people in shock.
"Okay." I drag, and when she still doesn't look back at me, I find myself uneasy again, "So where do you want to go? Because I'm not letting you stay here." She pulls her legs closer to herself, curling herself in a ball. I think she would stop speaking again, but then she seems to remember something as her eyes snap back at me widen, "I have a car." She blurs out from nowhere.
I look ahead, unable to see much through this frightful weather, "Where is it?" I look back too, but still can't see much.
"It's on the other side, but I think it broke down. I am not sure." She bits her lip, certainly holding up another bust of tears.
I turn around again, and while passing, the car light the road. I notice a glimpse of a vehicle on the pavement at the other end of the bridge.
I growl, knowing I need to go back in the rain. "Stay here." Her eyes widen at my demand, and she looks up before they wander off, but I follow her gaze and see her eyes locking at the keys, and hash warning slips past my lips. "Don't do anything stupid," I tell her, but her body shakes like a reminder I need to be gentler to her. If I knew better how I might be, but instead, I lower my voice even more now, only losing the harshness of it and hoping that she will find comfort in knowing better what I am up to. "I will see what's wrong with your car and be back in a moment." This time she slightly nods and curls back in a ball.
I swear under my breath, "Fuck, I hate rain." A shiver runs through my skin as I make my way to her car.
It's an old silver Vauxhall. Simple and nothing out of the ordinary, something that you can easily blend in with the crowd, but when I reach for the door handle, it is hard to miss noticeable breaking marks. "Fantastic," I mumble again and pull out my phone, now not looking away from the headlights of my own vehicle.
It only takes a second ring for my call to be answered. "Yes, boss." I hear him respond and go straight to the point, "I need you to check this license plate -" I tell him the number, and while I wait for information, I open a car to see wires tangling lose explicit evidence of how a car had been started in the first place.
Dropping in the driver's seat, I inhale a strong sense of cheap tobacco and even despite the heavy rain, I leave the doors open to at least somehow mask the smell.
Clutching wires in my own hands, I try to start the car, but it only rows once before dying again. Reaching for a handle under the steering wheel, I pop a bonnet as it won't hurt to have a look. And while I am no mechanic, I straight away notice multiple things going wrong, which any off could be a cause for the ultimate death of the car, so I don't bother doing more investigation. It won't start anyways.
That's when I hear a voice coming from my phone, "Car registered under David Beck's name. 42 divorced, have a son, and work as a Buchalter in central London." Connor quickly provides all the essential information, and I glance back to my car.
At this point, I am not surprised the vehicle didn't belong to her, and I got more confirmation when Connor spoke again. "Oh, and this car has just been reported as stolen about 10 minutes ago. Did you need me to look at anything specific, boss?"
I violently slammed the bonnet down. "No, Connor. Call Tom, tell him to pull the car off the road, clean fingerprints, and tip it for the police to find. It's on Meltham bridge right now." I command and end a call without waiting for a reply.
Before leaving, I quickly peek back in the car and see a small black purse on the passenger seat. Reaching back in the car for the purse, I hope to get her ID or something, but everything I find in the handbag is lipstick, a dead phone, one house key, and a bunch of condoms. Marvellous.
I make my way back to my car, and as soon as I open the door, I notice she doesn't even stir. From previously being in this vast shock state, she could not possibly be this calm by now. I was gone for bearly a few minutes. So dropping to the driver's seat, I look up at her and notice her eyes are shut. I would think she is asleep if she wouldn't shiver as much.
Not wanting to scare her, I gently touch her forehead, confirming a fever. I know I should not wait any longer, so I start driving back to the city while considering how committed I am to her rescue.
I appraise the possibility of bringing her to the hospital, which is probably a sensible idea, but somehow I think that won't do her much good. She certainly stole that car, and while I can make that go away as easy as I can snap my fingers, I also know I won't be able to rest until I know she is alright because if I commit to her salvation, I will do it thoroughly that she won't end up here again. I don't do anything halfway.
It would be too easy to drop her in the hospital and forget. I'm sure she has some story about how she ended up on the bridge, ready to commit suicide, and I want to hear it.
I look at her before turning forward familiar root, knowing full well Sophia will be pissed I broth a random woman into our home. But as problematic as her situation she must put herself into, I hope that solving it will chaise my nightmares away.