Dark Impulse Ch. 17byAurora Black©
Grace's Studio - One Hour Later
Grace let herself into the studio apartment, pausing briefly to pick up her shopping bags from where she'd placed them on the hallway floor before entering and closing the door securely behind her. After turning the deadbolts, she rested her head against the cool surface as if it could help erase the pain of the last couple of hours.
The pregnancy test was negative, and while she was greatly relieved by the results, she felt a strange combination of fear and emptiness inside her deepest core.
What's wrong with me?
Exhausted both physically and emotionally, she walked to the window. Her muscles aching, she looked down at Hell's Kitchen and Times Square in the distance, her thoughts on the earlier conversation with Evelyn and the question of whether or not she still had feelings for Gabriel.
Yes, I still love him. I always will. I'm not going to run away anymore. If I see Gabriel again, I won't turn him away. I'll at least listen to what he has to say.
Grace was startled out of her reverie by the chirping of her cellular phone. "Hello?"
Hiroshi's voice was firm in her ear. "I told you I would call."
She checked her watch and saw that it was 3pm. Exactly two hours had passed since she left her father's. She smiled into the phone. "So you did. How's everything?"
"The boy is fine, but there are two things that you should know."
Grace frowned slightly. "Tell me."
"A man named Gabriel Knight showed up at the apartment."
She exhaled forcefully at the mention of his name, and she shivered as she remembered seeing him earlier that afternoon. "Yes, I know."
"I saw him coming out of a taxi as I was leaving."
Hiroshi paused for a moment. "Well, he wanted to speak with you and he seemed rather upset when I told him that you weren't here. He left his number and the address where he's staying in town."
Grace tensed as an idea came to her, and her hand tightened on the tiny cell.
"He didn't see Rafe, did he?"
On the other end of the line, Hiroshi frowned in confusion.
"No, but Rafe saw him. He kept asking who he was, and why I didn't let him in."
Grace's fingers flew to her mouth to prevent the sound of anguish that she made from escaping. Turning away from the window, she squeezed her eyes closed as she tried to maintain a calm voice.
"Okay, Dad. W-what was the other thing you wanted to tell me?"
"I found a letter in the mailbox that's addressed to you."
She managed to regain control as she thought it over. Could it be from Gabriel?
"A letter? But today is Sunday. Did you open it?"
Hiroshi studied the letter, which only had "Grace" written on the front.
"No, I wanted to wait for you. It appears to be hand-delivered."
Grace was silent, her mind racing. "Dad, open it and see what it is."
He reached for the letter opener and tore open the envelope to find a note and business card. He read the note first. "Grace, who is this Mosely person?"
She sighed. Damn. Everybody's really coming out of the woodwork, aren't they?
"He's an old friend who now works for the CIA. What does the letter say?"
Hiroshi adjusted his glasses. "'Dear Grace: I can't imagine what you must be going through with everything that's been going on. I sympathize deeply with the pain and fear that you're undoubtedly experiencing, for yourself as well as your little boy. I know everything, Grace, but please don't be alarmed by this. I only want to help in any way that I possibly can, and I already have. It was me who found you in the Park and took you to your father's doorstep. You can trust me, I promise you.'"
Grace raised a hand to massage her throbbing temple. "Was that all?"
Her father continued reading. "'I feel that it's my duty to warn you that Gabriel will be in the city sometime today, and he intends to seek you out. In fact, I'm the one who gave him your address. I'm sorry, but once you see him you'll know that he's serious about helping you. When he first contacted me to help locate you, I was suspicious of his motives as well. But then he explained his reasons for wanting to get in touch with you, and I was convinced that I was doing the right thing.'"
She felt her heart pounding as she listened. We'll see, Mose. We'll see.
Hiroshi cleared his throat and read the last lines of Mosely's letter.
"'By the time you read this, I'll probably be on my way back to Washington. Enclosed is my card for you to contact me at the Agency, and it has my personal home and cell numbers written on the back. If there's anything you need, I'll try my damnedest to do it for you. Please, keep in touch. Love, Mosely.'"
Grace leaned against the windowsill, knocked flat by Mosely's words. She turned around again to face the window, looking at the deceptively clear blue sky. Her own personal storm raged within her. "Will you do me a favor?"
Her father's voice was full of warmth. "Of course, honey."
"Would you pack our overnight bag and bring Rafe here to the studio, please? I have a lot to do and I don't want to go back there to pick him up."
Her tone grew pensive. "Besides, with my new popularity among would-be stalker types, it would be best if I avoid the San Remo until all this is over."
"So you're going to move into the studio today, then?"
He sounded disappointed, and Grace's voice softened.
"I'm afraid so, Dad. I'm sorry. I know that we were supposed to spend the entire weekend with you, but now it's just not possible. There are too many unexpected visitors popping up, too many people who know the address."
"You're right, and I understand. I'll bring him. What are you going to do now?"
Grace looked over her shoulder at the shopping bags on the floor.
"I have some do-it-yourself work to prepare the place for Rafe, I'm going to make some phone calls, stuff like that. See you soon, and don't forget to bring that note."
His voice was heavy with concern, and she took a deep breath. "Yes?"
"Are you going to call either of them?"
After a long moment, she replied. "I'll have to think about it."
"Don't think too long, okay? We could use the help."
She nodded, even though she knew that he couldn't see her. "Okay. Bye."
Grace disconnected the call and strode over to the bags. She grabbed them and headed for the living room area of the apartment. She turned on the CD player, and programmed it to shuffle between discs before sitting down on the sofa. She reached into the bags and placed her purchases on the small table one by one. The mellow sound of Billie Holiday filled the room as she opened the boxes.
They say into your early life romance came,
And in this heart of yours burned a flame,
A flame that flickered one day
And died away...
She unwrapped a brand-new telephone and looked over the instructions. According to the guy at the spy store, the phone was supposed to block all forms of wiretapping and unlawful voice recordings, and it also had a feature that she could use to change and distort her voice.
Then, with disillusion deep in your eyes,
You learned that fools in love soon grow wise.
The years have changed you somehow;
I see you now...
She looked at the other items on the table. She'd bought an alarm shaped like a doorstop wedge, which emits an extremely loud, high-pitched noise when a burglar opens the door and activates the alarm. Next to it was a large flashlight that can temporarily blind an intruder when the intense beam shines into their eyes. Pepper spray for Grace to carry in her purse, and a device which was similar to a baby monitor but meant for outside use. The small transmitter is clipped onto the child's clothing and relays information to a beeper that the parent wears. If the child exceeds a certain distance from the parent, the pager beeps. If someone approaches the child, the intruder's voice can be heard by the parent via the pager.
For a brief moment she stared down at the items, wondering if she was overdoing the personal protection thing. But then she remembered how Cooper's chalk outline had looked against what seemed to be a sea of blood on television the week before, and she decided that it was better to be paranoid than defenseless. She had a child to protect. It was not the time to gamble with either of their lives.
Smoking, drinking, never thinking of tomorrow,
Diamonds shining, dancing and dining
With some man in a restaurant,
Is that all you really want?
Grace was distracted by the music, and her thoughts were on Gabriel again. She closed her eyes, remembering how he looked just a few hours before. She had wanted so much to call out to him, touch him. She wanted to run into his arms.
No, Sophisticated lady, I know
You miss the love you lost long ago,
And when nobody is nigh,
She rose from the couch and set up the telephone, forcing herself to focus on the important phone calls that she had to make. When she was finished, she was at a loss over what to do next.
As she sat down again, the music changed to a slow and soulful love ballad. She leaned back and closed her eyes, allowing the sounds and the memories they triggered to wash over her.
I am thinking of you
In my sleepless solitude tonight
If it's wrong to love you,
Then my heart just won't let me be right
'Cause I've drowned in you
And I won't pull though
Without you by my side...
Grace's hands fisted on the couch, her nails biting into her palms as she recalled the passion that she'd shared with Gabriel. She shuddered at the memory of his tender yet fierce lovemaking. That night in France, he had given her pleasure which was almost frightening in its intensity. Then, she thought that she would die from it.
I'd give my all to have
Just one more night with you
I'd risk my life to feel
Your body next to mine
'Cause I can't go on
Living in the memory of our song
I'd give my all for your love tonight...
She hadn't died that night. But the next day, when Gabriel's behavior broke her heart, she was sure that she would. Returning to the present, she opened her eyes and found herself clutching the supple leather of the sofa in her fists. She gently let go, wondering again at the possibility that Gabriel may have changed over the years.
Right then, she made the decision. She wanted to hear him out.
Determined, Grace leapt off of the couch and went back to the entryway where she'd left her purse. She opened it and retrieved the letter that Gabriel sent her, and returned to the living room and the waiting phone.
All right, Gabriel. Let's see what you're up to, and what you really want from me.
* * *
Gabriel sat in a darkened bar near his apartment building, unable to cope with the shock he'd received just an hour before. Grace, married to Anami? Oh, God.
The ice cubes clinked in the glass as he lifted the drink to his lips. He winced at the bitter taste, remembering how painful it was when Mosely told him the truth.
Well, I've definitely screwed things up with her. I hurt her badly and then, just a few months later, she married someone who may be a killer. And if he's not, then he must be on the edge anyway considering his past history. Jesus, I drove her into his arms! How could I have been so stupid back at RLC, to just let her go like that without a fight? What the hell am I going to do now that she's married, and has a kid with this guy?
Then he heard a voice inside his head that sounded oddly like Gerde.
You're going to do your job. We've discussed this, Gabriel. You are only there to see if Grace wants assistance, not to romance her or break up her family. If she resists your offer, that's the end of it. But if she accepts, then do what you do best. Investigate.
Gabriel raised his drink in salute to her sage advice and gulped it down. Sighing heavily, he held the chilled glass to his cheek. The bartender saw him and came over. Her eyes sparkled as she spoke to him. "Would you like another one?"
He nodded absently and she collected his glass, her gaze raking over him appreciatively. He ignored her, his mind still focused on Grace.
Now that he was in the same city with her, he felt that he was only a hair's breadth away from making contact. He desperately wanted to make that connection with her; not even the news of her marriage took away from his need. He knew that he was treading on dangerous ground, but he didn't care. He had to see her, talk to her.
The bartender placed the refilled glass before him, and he muttered his thanks.
"I haven't seen you around here before. Are you new to the Big Apple?"
Gabriel reached for the drink, but he was careful to go slowly this time.
"Yeah." He didn't feel like talking, so he limited himself to a one syllable answer and hoped that the girl would get the message. She didn't.
"Mmm, that figures. I definitely would've remembered you."
He finished his drink and looked up at her as he reached for his wallet.
"How much do I owe you?"
The girl looked a bit put out, raising an eyebrow at him. "Leaving so soon?"
"Yeah, I'm afraid I have to." He longed to go outside for some fresh air, away from the smoky darkness of the bar as well as the bartender's flirting. She was beautiful, and once upon a time Gabriel would have been glad to return her advances but now he was just annoyed by them. He wanted to be alone.
He paid the bill and left her a generous tip before leaving. Outside, he took a deep breath and walked back to his apartment building. He rode the elevator up to his top-floor loft, his jaw clenched with self-directed anger.
Gabriel had parted ways with Mosely almost immediately after their chat on the street outside the diner; Mosely headed for the airport while he had made a beeline for home and the nearby bar. Instead of numbing the pain, the alcohol stoked the raging bonfire within. He'd felt betrayed when he realized - too late - the connection between Grace and Anami, yet he knew in his heart that she was the one that had been forsaken, not the other way around.
Furious with himself as he strode down the corridor, he didn't hear the phone ring until he was outside his door. Cursing softly, he quickly entered the loft and sprinted to where he had carelessly left his cell phone on the coffee table.
He pressed the button, breathing hard into the device. "Hello?"
Silence. Gabriel heard soft, feminine breaths. His entire body tingled with awareness, and he knew it was her. "Gracie? Please, say something."
Grace's lips parted to speak, and his groin tightened instantly at the sound.
Her voice was husky. "Meet me tomorrow morning at Columbia. My office, 9am."
Before he could reply, Gabriel heard the soft click on the other end of the line; she had hung up. He slowly placed the cell phone on the table, unsure of what he felt.
Gabriel's body felt hot and sticky, and he decided to take a shower to help clear his head. He turned on the radio and entered the bedroom to strip off his clothes. His gaze was drawn again to the large bed which dominated the room, and he couldn't repress a shudder of longing.
Naked, he strode into the connecting bathroom and stepped into the shower. He adjusted the water temperature until it was as cold as he could stand, and he let the icy spray fall onto him as he thought of Grace again. He was going to see her tomorrow.
The music reached him as he began to wash. "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins was playing, and Gabriel thought that the lyrics fit his situation like a glove.
How can I just let you walk away, just let you leave without a trace?
When I stand here taking every breath with you, ooh
You're the only one who really knew me at all
How can you just walk away from me,
When all I can do is watch you leave?
'Cause we've shared the laughter and the pain and even shared the tears
You're the only one who really knew me at all
So take a look at me now, oh there's just an empty space
And there's nothing left here to remind me,
Just the memory of your face
Ooh take a look at me now, well there's just an empty space
And you coming back to me is against the odds and that's what I've got to face...
He washed his hair, not caring when the shampoo stung his eyes. The pain offered him a feeble excuse for the sudden tears that had formed in their emerald depths.
I wish I could just make you turn around,
Turn around and see me cry
There's so much I need to say to you,
So many reasons why
You're the only one who really knew me at all
So take a look at me now...
Finished washing, Gabriel remained under the water as his heart warred with his mind over how he should proceed. Do I back off or go for the girl?
He needed Grace as much as he needed air; he was so close to seeing her again after so many years, and he'd be damned if he was going to quit now.
He turned off the water, shivering from the combination of his emotions and the chill of the air on his bare form as the love ballad drew to a close.
Take a good look at me now, 'cause I'll still be standing here
And you coming back to me is against all odds
It's the chance I've gotta take...
* * *
Headington Quarry Churchyard, Oxford, England
April 2, 2001
David slowly regained consciousness, his entire body aching as a result of all the activity that had taken place in the last twenty-four hours. He felt the early morning rays of the sun bathing his nude body in warmth, but he could not bring himself to open his eyes. His head spun and his limbs felt as if they were made of gelatin; he doubted that he could support himself if he tried to stand.
Cautiously, he opened his eyes and allowed them to adjust to his surroundings. A gentle breeze blew, and he detected the smell of freshly mowed grass. The sweetness of flowers in bloom. The richness of newly turned earth.
I know this place, it's forever etched on my soul.
He was lying with his back against the cold ground, facing the sky. His vision focused on a weeping willow which stood over him, its branches dipping low enough to almost touch his skin. He recognized the tree, and his breath caught.
He turned his head, and tears flooded his eyes as he saw the modest tombstone before him: Caitlin Blackwell Anami, February 14, 1950 - April 15, 1971. Beloved daughter, wife and mother. She is greatly missed.
Sobbing quietly, he shifted his gaze from his late wife's monument to a significantly smaller one beside it. Panting, David forced his exhausted form to move towards his child's grave. He crawled on hands and knees, raising a shaking hand to brush away some foliage which had obscured the engraved letters on stone.
Child of David and Caitlin Anami, April 15, 1971. There is a new angel in Heaven.
He threw his head back and screamed with fresh grief, his voice echoing off the surrounding stones. He buried his face in his hands, beyond caring that they were covered with dirt and grass. At that point, he was beyond everything.
"Oy! You there!" The groundskeeper rushed toward the spot where David lay, a flashlight in one hand and a loaded shotgun in the other.
"You're tresspassing on sacred ground! What are you doing here? You... you have no clothes on! You're naked in the house of the Lord! Explain yourself, man!"
David looked up at the elderly man. "Please, help me."
For a moment, the old man seemed unsure. His eyes went from David's bare form to his shotgun and back, but then he held out his wrinkled hand for David to take.