Dark Impulse Ch. 20byAurora Black©
51 Buckingham Gate,
Colin Westbridge entered his apartment after the grueling 90-minute commute back to the city. The clock chimed 4pm as he tossed his money clip and keys onto the foyer table.
"Darling, I'm home!"
There was no answer, and he frowned as he wondered where his wife could have gone. He didn't have to wait long for an answer; he entered the living room and found a note on the coffee table, her handwriting neat and feminine.
Colin, I'm off to Harrods with Lily and the girls for shopping and tea. There's food in the oven if you're hungry, and if you're a good boy I just might pick up a silky bit of nothing to model for you when I get home. Love you, Kitty.
He crumpled the note in his large hands. "Bloody hell..."
We're barely scraping by enough as it is, and what does she do? She goes shopping!
Westbridge sighed as he retreated to his study and shut the door behind him, extremely nervous after his confrontation with Liam Kilpatrick. He closed the drapes and sat at his desk, his mind on what happened at the hospital.
Maybe he was overreacting, but somehow he hadn't expected to get his way so easily. Liam was always so protective of his friend Anami, and he was furious at first when Colin threatened him with blackmail. But then an expression of deep calm had settled on the Irishman's handsome features and his smile disturbed Colin even more than his earlier rage.
His heart pounded as he remembered what he saw the night of Cooper's murder. Despite what he had boldly said to Liam, he hadn't told the whole truth. He didn't actually see Cooper's death, but he deliberately led Liam to believe he did so he could cash in on Anami's fear of exposure. He only witnessed the fight between David and the old man, and when the news report came out the next day he had automatically assumed that Anami had done Cooper in. The opportunity to revenge himself on David and Liam and get hush money had finally come, and he jumped at the chance.
Can I pull this off? This is a damned dangerous way to get money.
His hands shaking, he opened the desk drawer and pulled out a small glass vial, a mirror and a razor blade. He opened the vial and poured the powder onto the mirror, its snowy whiteness giving it the illusion of purity. He used the blade to divide the cocaine into even lines, thinking over his financial situation and why he needed to succeed in his plan.
Between his love of coke and his wife's frequent shopping sprees, they had already run through a great portion of their savings. Since his company went bankrupt and he had to sell, his salary under Anami wasn't enough to keep Colin and Catherine afloat. He wanted to give every comfort to his beautiful wife and fulfill her every desire, and he had severely detested the fact that he couldn't give her that lifestyle on his own terms.
He rolled up a ₤100 note and bent over the cocaine-dusted mirror.
Until now. He punctuated his thought with a long, deep snort of the drug.
Over the amplified sound of his own breathing, he heard the ringing of the telephone. His vision swirled and shifted as he reached for it, knocking over a desk lamp with his arm. He picked up the receiver, hoping that he wouldn't sound stoned.
He cleared his throat. "Westbridge."
"Colin, this is Liam Kilpatrick. I have thought over what we talked about, and I've decided that the answer is no. You have absolutely no clue about what really happened that night with Cooper, and therefore you have nothing to use in your little scheme to extort money from David. You won't get anything, not one cent. You're also fired."
Still high from the cocaine, Westbridge laughed mockingly into the phone.
"Who the hell do you think you are, you mick bastard? Always pretending to be so high and mighty, but guess what? You're worse than anyone could ever guess. I know all about you, Kilpatrick. I've done my research about your origins and your ties to Anami and guess what I found. Bloody freaks, the pair of you! But you're worse!"
With a mixture of victory and chemical rush, Westbridge traced a design in the remaining white powder with his finger and then put it in his mouth. For a long moment there was no sound on the other end of the line, and then Liam spoke.
"That's a very nasty habit you have there, Colin."
He licked the powder off his even white teeth as he sneered into the phone.
"Fuck you, Kilpatrick! Oh, wait. You'd probably like that, you bloody faggot!"
Liam's voice remained cool and calm. "You are a sad excuse for a human being, Westbridge. Look at you! Your eyes are bloodshot, your nose is running and you're high!"
Westbridge froze as Liam's words finally sank in. "H-How...?"
It was Liam's turn to laugh, its husky timbre sending a chill up Colin's spine.
"I can see you, you rancid piece of filth! I originally called to give you a chance to just walk away with no hard feelings concerning what you tried to do to us, but after hearing the venom spew from your mouth I realize it's no longer possible."
Westbridge grew increasingly sober as his fear rose, and he became flustered. His eyes darted wildly about the room; the window drapes remained closed.
"Liam, what's no longer possible?"
He sensed the Irishman smiling on the other end of the line.
"Why, for you to remain alive of course."
Colin's senses swam as he gripped the side of his desk, his knuckles turning white.
"Liam, I apologize. Please, mate. I didn't mean all that, really."
Liam's smile grew, his voice low. "It's a bit too late for that, I'm afraid. My dear Colin, do you know the story of the boy who cried wolf?"
Westbridge panted hard, convinced that he was speaking with a madman.
Liam spoke to him very slowly, as if he were addressing a dimwit.
"The boy... who... cried... wolf. He found it amusing to scare the townspeople with false wolf sightings, and after a bit the villagers grew tired of his lies and warned him that no one would come the next time. But then a real wolf came and no matter how loud the boy cried, no one came to his aid because no one believed him."
Westbridge didn't know how to reply. He chuckled nervously. "Yes, that's the one."
Liam's voice grew darker. "No one will come to help you, Colin."
Tears trailed down Westbridge's face as his eyes were unwillingly drawn to the razor blade in his open palm. He didn't know how it had gotten there.
"Liam, please. Whatever you're doing, please stop. I won't talk, I swear to you!"
The last words that Colin heard him say were, "I know you won't," and then the connection was gone and a hand reached out from the darkness to seal his fate.
* * *
John Radcliffe Hospital - Fifteen Minutes Later
The press conference room was filled with activity as reporters, cameramen and sound technicians set up shop and eagerly waited for the big exclusive: David Anami speaks of his capture at the hands of political zealots and his daring escape.
The door opened and several Scotland Yard men entered the room along with someone from AE London's public relations department, and then the man himself was wheeled in by a nurse, followed closely by Liam Kilpatrick. The crowd grew silent as the PR representative took his place at the podium.
"I respectfully ask you to refrain from asking questions during this press conference, as this is a very difficult time for Mr. Anami due to his terrible ordeal. All will be revealed by Mr. Anami himself, but he will not answer any questions. Thank you."
Camera flashes illuminated David in white light as he shakily rose from the wheelchair, aided by Liam's hand on his arm. He walked to the podium, his eyes sweeping the room and taking in the sight of the multitude of reporters, rolling cameras and poised microphones, all waiting to hear what he had to say.
"I was having trouble sleeping that night, and I thought that going out for a breath of fresh air would do me good. It was about 5am when I left the Savoy. I never intended to stay out longer than a few minutes, but apparently someone thought otherwise."
He paused briefly to gauge the audience's response to his story; they were riveted.
David continued. "It was almost sunrise. I was looking out over the Thames when they grabbed me from behind. There were too many of them, and I was quickly overpowered. They wore ski masks over their faces, but I could see the coldness in their eyes as they looked at me like I was nothing. They tore off my clothes and dragged me to their vehicle, which was a large refrigerated delivery truck for raw meat."
He shuddered hard as if it had really happened, briefly meeting Liam's eyes.
"The smell was indescribably awful, and I was sick several times in the back of the truck as they drove around in circles. I asked them what they wanted and where they were taking me, and one of them slapped me hard and put a gun against my temple. The man who struck me, the leader, told me that there was nothing he'd like better than to pull the trigger, and he warned me not to give him an excuse to shoot me."
David heard someone gasp in the crowd.
"I asked them, 'What have I done to offend you so much that you would do something as desperate as this, and what have I done to deserve it?' And they mentioned AE's new role as a defense contractor for the United States. They said that something major was coming, and that all the money in the world wouldn't protect the innocent from falling dead and broken on the battlefield and in the war-torn streets, caught in the crossfire for the so-called preservation of democracy."
A murmur swept through the crowd at his words, more camera flashes.
"They were insane. It was at that moment when I realized they were going to kill me. They weren't even interested in holding me for ransom! They said money wasn't their chief motivator. They wanted to send a message to the world by executing me, but I wasn't willing to just roll over and die for them. I wanted to live and see my wife and child again. I didn't beg for my life the way they expected me to, I just made the decision to escape from these deranged individuals at the first opportunity."
The camera zoomed in on David's face as he looked straight into the lens.
"The leader, who up until then had a gun to my head, put it away and took out a huge serrated knife from his holster. He held it up for me to see before he stood up and jammed the blade into the side of a pig that was dangling from one of the meat hooks. He twisted it until the animal's blood oozed onto his clenched fist, his eyes hollow as he watched the disgust on my face. 'You're next,' he said. 'Like hell,' I replied."
Light applause came from the crowd, and David nodded his appreciation.
"The head of the group was angered by my defiant attitude, which I imagine was the opposite of what he'd expected from someone in my position. He hit me hard across the face, causing me to lose my balance and fall flat on the floor of the moving truck. I heard him snap his fingers, and the truck stopped soon afterward."
David braced himself on the podium as he leaned forward.
"They dragged me out of the truck and threw me onto the ground. It was still early in the morning, and there wasn't a soul in sight for miles. We were on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere. I had abandoned all hope that someone would come to my aid, so I acted as if I was resigned to my fate so they would let their guard down. What they didn't know was that behind my back, I was holding a tire iron which I'd grabbed as I left the truck."
His flint-gray eyes squeezed shut briefly before he continued the story.
"The leader raised his pistol and ordered me to run, and I knew this had something to do with the message their group wanted to convey. They wanted me to run like a coward so they could shoot me in the back. They wanted to make a powerful statement with my demise, make an example out of me. I refused, telling my would-be executioner that if I had to die, I'd prefer to die like a man instead of a lowly dog."
David smiled darkly, raising his hand to indicate the area between his eyes.
"He rested the gun where my fingers are now. His cold eyes stared into mine, searching for fear. I didn't give him the satisfaction, didn't let him know how afraid I was for my life. He ordered me again to run, and I laughed in his face. Time seemed to slow down as I watched his finger tighten on the trigger, and I knew that I had to act or die. I ducked, whipping out the tire iron and hitting my captor squarely in the abdomen with it, over and over until he coughed up blood and dropped the gun. Another man ran towards me with a knife. I threw the iron at him hard and he was impaled in the chest by the sharp end."
He watched as a female reporter squirmed uncomfortably in her seat in response to his bloody descriptions. He smiled at her in apology, then sobered.
"I ran for the safety of the trees. I heard the sound of silenced gunshots behind me as I forced myself to go faster despite the pain that I experienced with every step I took. I hid behind a thick bush to catch my breath, and I saw the truck leave. It would have been foolish for me to believe I was safe at that point, so I kept hidden under the cover of trees and shrubs as I distanced myself from the road."
David stared at the dark wood of the podium.
"It wasn't until I found myself at the Thames that I allowed my exhaustion to overtake me. I collapsed beside the water, and I didn't awaken until night had fallen. I was cold, hungry, and I still didn't know where I was. I followed the river until I began to recognize my surroundings, and I realized that I was in Oxford. My body and mind fiercely ached from the day's events and I longed for sleep."
He regarded the crowd before him, the sadness visible in his smoky eyes.
"I hadn't been to Oxford for a very long time, and for that reason I had no place to go in town and no one to turn to for help. As if my body had separated from my mind, I stumbled into the churchyard in Headington where I was later found by the old man, naked and shivering against the graves of my family."
His expressive mouth trembled at the last words, and he shook his head.
"That is all I have to say for now. Thank you for listening."
David left the podium and returned to the waiting wheelchair, and the heavy silence was shattered by the explosion of questions shouted by the swarm of reporters despite the earlier statement that no questions would be honored with a response.
As the nurse wheeled David away, he heard someone ask him a question.
"Mr. Anami, where is your wife? Your child? Why aren't they here?"
His mouth tightened as he stared straight ahead.
That's a very good question, but I don't have an answer for it.
As David and his entourage left the conference room, a Scotland Yard inspector stepped up to the podium and held up a large manila envelope for the crowd to see.
"We are currently following the leads that Mr. Anami was so kind to give us concerning his abductors, including a full description of the truck used in the kidnapping as well as information that possibly ties this organization to the death of Travis Cooper, a business associate of Mr. Anami's who was brutally murdered in New York more than a week ago."
The inspector opened the envelope and pulled out a sealed plastic bag containing a man's wallet, a gold Rolex, a wedding band and a small piece of paper.
"These items were sent anonymously to Mr. Anami's business this past Friday afternoon, and we have identified that they belonged to Mr. Cooper. Everything is perfectly intact; his money, identification and credit cards are all accounted for. The note is composed of letters cut and pasted from newspapers, and it reads: 'You're next, Anami.'"
The room was filled with intrigued whispers as the reporters' minds whirled over the possibilities. The inspector held up a hand to quiet them down.
"As a result of these latest developments, Mr. Anami is no longer considered a suspect in this crime. He is free to return home after he is discharged from this facility, and our new objective is to apprehend these individuals before they strike again."
At that moment, a policeman entered the room and motioned for the inspector. He stepped away from the podium and walked toward the younger man, trying to ignore the press. The man whispered to him, and the inspector visibly blanched at the news.
* * *
They were back in David's room, where they could finally speak privately.
"Liam, I am going to dismiss Knight as soon as we return home."
The Irishman sat up in his chair beside the hospital bed, his eyes wide with shock.
"What? Why would you want to do something like that?"
David adjusted the bed so he could sit up comfortably and meet Liam's eyes.
"Because I believe that hiring him was only a knee-jerk reaction to Cooper's death, that's why. I was afraid that someone would make the connection to me somehow because of the Gift, and I wanted to be rid of it. But now I've come back to my senses and I've changed my mind; I know I had nothing to do with what happened, and even if someone did know about my abilities, who would believe them?"
He sighed deeply before continuing. "Yesterday I connected to the Morrigan for the first time in ages, and I don't want to give that up for anything. When we return to New York, which I hope will be as early as tomorrow, I'll apologize to Knight for bringing him all that way for nothing. I'll be the courteous host and offer him another few days in the city at my expense, and then he'll be gone."
Liam shook his head in disbelief. "I don't know what to say to this, David. A week ago you were determined to sever yourself from the Morrigan once and for all. While you were sitting on my couch, eyes puffy from lack of sleep and downing vodka as if it was water, you kept saying that it's never the fault of the deity that grants the power, but the one who receives it and uses it for their own selfish ends. The guilt over what you'd done all those years ago still simmers within you, and because of that trauma you thought that somehow you lost control of the Gift and killed Cooper. But now you're certain that you don't want to be parted from it, even though it's the root of all the fear and uncertainty in your life. Why? Please help me understand this."
David took a deep breath. "You must experience the Gift for yourself in order to truly understand, and that is something you can never do. Right now, my link with the Morrigan is the only thing that keeps me sane while my world falls apart. It keeps me alive. I almost gave up everything yesterday as I stood by the river, ready to throw myself in. Then I felt the healing warmth of the Goddess flow through me, and I knew I would survive."
Liam felt a curious tightening of his chest as he listened to his friend's words.
"What about Grace? Rafe? Aren't they motivation enough for you to live?"
A sad smile curled David's beautiful mouth. "I don't know anymore, my friend. It's been a long time since I've felt such a distance between myself and those closest to me. I'm not connected to them anymore, Liam. I feel as if I'm an astronaut whose safety line has snapped while in orbit. I'm floating away into space and I can't do anything to stop it. I've lost them, and I don't know how to get them back. My God, I don't know if it's even possible."
Liam opened his mouth to reply, but he forgot what he was going to say when he saw a determined look in David's eyes as he reached for the bedside telephone.
"Who are you calling?"
David's aristocratic fingers flew on the dial pad. "Grace."
Liam cursed softly. "Damn it! I forgot to tell her about you in all the excitement."