Slippery Slope

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Never Call Last Run

Never Call Last Run – Declaring “last run” is considered a jinx certain to result in injury, or worse, especially if called after a day of perfect, incident-free skiing.

“Brent?”

“Kristy!”

“Brent?” Kristy pushed the door open and she found herself standing inside a large mudroom. She stepped through to a beautiful, sparkling clean kitchen.

“Brent?” she said again.

“Kristy, get out of here!”

“Brent, where are you?”

“I’m on the couch. Go get help!”

Kristy looked across the kitchen. Four carpeted steps led up to the living room.

She looked all around as she walked up them, her legs feeling oddly heavy. It didn’t look like anyone else was there. At the top, she could see Brent’s yellow hair sticking up over the arm of the overstuffed couch. She ran to him and skid to a halt on the hardwood floor.

Kristy gasped. Brent was lying on his right side. His ankles were tied together. His hands were tied behind his back with zip ties and a rope ran up his back between them. His lips looked slightly blue, his eyes were bloodshot. She grabbed for him and he groaned in pain. She began to check him over. His wrists were bloody from his efforts to squeeze his hands through the ties. He was sweating profusely.

“Oh my god, Brent. What did she do to you?”

“Kristy,” he said again, “You need to leave.”

Kristy did leave, but only for a moment. She ran back down to the kitchen and rummaged through some drawers until she found a large pair of shears. Bounding back up the stairs she cut through the ties and hacked away at the rope. Brent’s ankles were raw where the rope had rubbed against them.

Kristy checked his wounds again. They looked awful but were mostly superficial. She did a quick assessment of the rest of his body, checking for broken bones.

She looked at his eyes. His pupils were dilated.

“What did you take?”

“I don’t know. It was a pill.”

Kristy put her arm around him and began to pull him to his feet.

“You need to get to a doctor. Can you stand?”

“No,” Brent replied, pushing her away.

“Kristy, you need to call 911 and you need to leave.”

Kristy grabbed him again, “No! I’m not leaving you here!”

“Kristy, Hilda’s dangerous. She may be back any moment. Call 911. Please.”

Brent’s eyes pleaded with hers, yet they were calm. She realized she was shaking and she sat down next to him on the couch for a moment to collect herself. Kristy turned to him and took his face in her hands. She gently and briefly pressed her lips to his.

“You’re right, Brent. I don’t know what I’m thinking. I’m just so relieved to see you.”

A laugh from the staircase filled Kristy with dread.

“What a touching scene,” Hilda sneered.

Kristy shot to her feet and stepped in front of Brent.

“Stay away from us, Hilda.”

“Or what, Kristy?” Hilda reached over the stair railing and drew up a metal baseball bat. She slapped it on the palm of her hand.

“You really think that you’re a match for me? I can kick your ass any day of the week, Honey.”

Kristy sized her up. Hilda’s hair was wild. She looked disheveled. Her face was swollen, sweaty.

“Why don’t you put that bat down and we’ll see.”

Kristy began to slowly take off her jacket and reached into its inner pocket for her phone. As she placed the jacket on the couch she dropped the phone onto Brent’s lap. It slid off between the couch cushions. As he fumbled for it, Hilda noticed.

Hilda advanced and Kristy prepared herself for the assault. Hilda laughed and swiped at her with the bat, each time swinging wider and harder, aiming for her head. Kristy managed to slap it away as Hilda closed in on her. As she raised her hands a third time Hilda rammed the bat into her gut. Kristy crumpled to the ground. She was certain the blow had cracked her ribs.

Paralyzed and blinded by pain, Kristy heard the sound of something being smashed. Hilda had recovered the phone from Brent and little shards of it were now flying around as she shattered it completely.

Kristy gasped in pain and rolled herself onto her knees. She needed to get back to her feet, to fight. Unsure of how she would continue to defend herself, she considered trying to escape, to run, but she could not leave Brent behind. In his condition, he was too weak to move. Without a phone, she would have to find help and Hilda would easily overtake her.

When she looked at Hilda again, the woman was casually leaning on the bat, observing her as if she were some kind of science experiment.

“Hurts, does it?”

Kristy spat out the words, “Screw you, Hilda.”

Hilda laughed. It was a cold, bitter sound. Her eyes were red from the strain of fighting. Kristy could not believe this was mellow, sweet person she had shared a hot tub and heart to heart with just the night before.

Hilda put the bat over her shoulders and twisted herself side to side. She then swung it several times like a batter in the batter’s box. It sang as it sliced through the air. Kristy shuddered at the thought of it again connecting with her body. Her left side was still wracked with pain.

Hilda advanced a step and Kristy shuffled backwards towards the steps. If she could just reach the railing in time she might be able to support herself down it and get to Asher’s truck. Still, she worried about leaving Brent even while there was nothing she could do to help him.

As Kristy got ready, Hilda abruptly stopped and rested the bat on one shoulder.

“Before I bash your skull in, I want to tell you a few things. I actually really like you.”

“I’m flattered.”

“You should be. We have a lot in common.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Hear me out. We both trust too completely, love too deeply. Until you told me that you had been involved with Derrick, I would have never thought you’d fall prey to a man like that. But he fooled us both.”

Kristy blinked, registering what Hilda was telling her.

“Hilda, what are you saying?”

“What I’m saying, Kristy, is that I can commiserate what you went through with Derrick, because he pulled the same shit on me.”

“You mean, you and Derrick?”

“Exactly.”

“But when?”

“That’s not important. I was another person then. But he couldn’t escape me.”

Kristy slid herself along the floor, inching her way toward her escape route. Keep her talking, she thought.

“I don’t understand what you’re talking about, Hilda. What do you mean he couldn’t escape you?”

Hilda smiled, “From what you told me last night, I’m sure you won’t be unhappy to know that Derrick is dead.”

Kristy’s mouth fell open. She shook her head and squeezed her eyes tightly together. Tears of pain and shock now streamed down her face.

“Now, now,” Hilda said, “No reason to cry. We both know what an asshole he is. Whoops, I mean, was.”

Kristy continued to shake her head, “I don’t believe you.”

“I suppose I could take you outside and show you the big dent on the hood of your truck. There’s some blood, too.”

“My truck! You took my truck!”

“Yes, Kristy. Brent had your spare keys. It was very convenient and crystallized my plans. Of course, it wasn’t my original plan to hit Derrick with your truck, but it worked out rather well. It will keep the cops off of me long enough while they look for you. Anyway, I thought you’d want to know.”

Hilda swung away again and then started to move forward. Suddenly, Brent grabbed her around the legs and tackled her to the ground. Hilda began to thrash and turned herself over. Kristy’s stomach sickened at the sound of the bat as it connected with Brent’s body. She began to crawl slowly toward him.

Brent grabbed at the bat and caught it, wresting it from Hilda. Hilda kicked at him and skittered backward like a crab, flinging herself toward the stairs and then standing to run down them.

Kristy reached him and they helped each other to their feet. As they stumbled to the stairs, Hilda reappeared, a gun in her hand.

Kristy put her hand to Brent’s chest to stop him and they backed away.

“Hilda, this is madness,” Kristy said, “You need to stop. What have we done to you that you are doing this to us?”

Hilda pointed the gun straight at her but her hand was trembling. She seemed to waver, then she shook her head, “I’ve gone too far to back down now.”

“No, Hilda,” Brent said to her, “I told you before, we can work this out.”

“No, Brent. I killed Derrick. It’s only a matter of time until the police figure out it wasn’t Kristy driving her truck. I need to leave.”

Brent pushed Kristy gently away from him and limped forward. Hilda trained the gun on him.

“That’s okay, Hilda. Go ahead and leave. Just go.”

“I can’t do that, Brent. You’ll call the police.”

“No. We won’t. I promise.”

“I’m not leaving any loose ends, Brent. I’m going to take your car and I’m going to find Derrick’s family before they can get away. And after I get rid of them, I’m going as far from here as I can. By the time anyone figures out what happened, I’ll be long gone.”

“Hilda, you can’t hurt Derrick’s family. They haven’t done anything thing to you. Hilda, they’re just kids.”

Brent was speaking softly, gently. Hilda was slowly lowering the gun. He was almost to her when she pulled the trigger and he crumpled to the ground. Kristy screamed and dove for him, trying to find where he had been shot. Hilda grabbed her by the hair and pulled her off of him. Brent’s eyes opened and he locked them on Kristy.

“I’m sorry,” he mouthed silently.

“Good,” Hilda said, “I’m glad you’re still alive. I want you to see me kill her.”

Hilda aimed the gun at her head.

Kristy wanted to be strong but she felt her eyes burn with tears. Still, she looked at Brent.

“Any last words?” Hilda asked her. Kristy wiped her face with her sleeve. She looked at Brent and did her best to smile. “I love you,” she said and she closed her eyes.

She heard the click as Hilda cocked the gun.

“Freeze! Drop the gun!” a voice shouted from behind them.

Kristy dropped flat to the ground, covering her head as the sound of gunfire exploded around them. She crawled on her belly to Brent.

It was over as quickly as it started. When she looked up again, she saw Hilda lying in a heap on the ground, a puddle of blood growing around her.

She realized in horror that a smaller puddle was growing around Brent. He was hit in the leg. Kristy applied pressure and reached over to grab her jacket, tying the sleeves around his thigh.

Sam Kosner approached them cautiously, his gun still pointed at Hilda.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

“I think so,” Kristy answered, “But Brent’s been shot. He needs medical attention now.”

Brent groaned and reached for her.

“Kristy,” he whispered.

“Save your strength, Brent.”

“I have to tell you something.”

“Not now, Brent.” Kristy continued to apply pressure to his wound, the puddle of blood growing larger.

Kristy looked skyward and said a quick prayer.

“Kristy. On Christmas Eve, I should have come after you. I’m so sorry.”

Kristy pushed his blonde hair back from his forehead and kissed him.

“It’s okay, Brent. No worries.”

“That’s my line,” he replied and tried to laugh but winced in pain.

“Kristy,” Brent’s hand found hers on his leg, “I love you.”

Kristy felt him go limp. She shook him, “Brent, can you hear me! Brent!”

She checked his pulse. He was not breathing. She looked around and saw the sheriff’s deputy.

“You!” she screamed, “Call 911.”

The deputy came flying over.

“We already have.”

He placed a defibrillator next to her.

Kristy tore Brent’s t-shirt away from his chest and began compressions as the deputy began to count out loud and set the pads on Brent’s side and chest. The deputy positioned himself at Brent’s head and tilted it back.

“…28, 29, 30!” Kristy stopped compressions and watched Brent’s chest rise and fall with the deputy’s breaths. Then it was still.

“Damn-it.”

Kristy gritted her teeth, “Come back to me, Brent.”

She called clear and she and the deputy backed away from him. She pushed the button on the AED and watched Brent’s body jerk. The deputy began compressions again as all around her there was movement and shouting from the paramedics who had arrived and burst up the stairs.

Sam Kosner pulled her away. She protested, “No. Brent! Brent!”

“Let them do their jobs, Kristy.”

An older woman with bright red hair, whom she recognized from Rescue, pushed her gently onto an ottoman to take her vitals.

Kristy listened, sobbing, as they continued to work on Brent. “Clear” was called once again. She held her breath.

“I have a pulse! It’s weak. We’ve got to move him - now!” They quickly placed him on a gurney and began to move en masse down the stairs and out the door.

The red-haired woman helped her to her feet. Kristy’s legs felt like rubber.

“Kristy? Can you walk?”

She nodded mutely and crossed the living room, stopping at Hilda’s body. Feathers were scattered around her body from the bullets that had torn holes through her down jacket. The hole through her forehead was small but the bullet had blown away the back of her skull. Her hair was soaked with blood, looking more brunette than blonde. Her eyes were still open, devoid of life. Kristy noticed that one was dark blue, the other brown. There was an oblong fleck next to her brown eye. Kristy pulled her arm from the woman’s and bent down, putting her finger to it. It was a curled up colored contact lens. She flicked it away and stood back up.

In the distance, Kristy could hear the helicopter as it approached.

For the second time that day in as many hours, the residents of the little ski town went to their doors, looked out of their windows, and put their hands to their ears as the county emergency helicopter roared above their heads, rushing to save a life.

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