Gwen's Journey Ch. 07byLitRiter©
Part 7 – Falling Down
*** Warning *** Some bad things happen and some graphic violence occurs. If you do not care to read this, either stop now, or when you see violence occurring or imminent, simply skip down to the next "story break" (* * * * *). Thank you.
Gwen found a pair of white sneakers that she just loved, and she used her credit card to buy them. She was walking through the crowded mall to get to the food court, where she knew she could find the largest bathrooms and change.
She had bought some jeans and a shirt earlier, and she looked forward to changing out of the black dress and heels she had worn to Ronnie's in order to con her. It was time to put all of those things away and just be honest, she had decided. If she was going to turn her life around, she figured she might as well fix things with the people she cared about first.
As she passed the Hot Dog on a Stick, Gwen darted between two people in the fast growing line there, a group from the Sunshine House, a local group home for the mentally challenged. She hadn't gone far before a ruckus behind her made her glance back to see a man in a black leather coat shoving his way through the group. She saw right away that he was watching her more than the people he was pushing past, and she saw his look of anger when she noticed him.
Gwen's heart began to pound and she hurried her step, getting into the presumed safety of the women's bathroom without challenge. She closed the door of a large stall and quickly changed out of her party clothes. She decided to go bra less when she saw how obviously her black lace bra showed through her new shirt.
Packing her own clothes and shoes into her shopping bags, Gwen left the stall and sat on the utilitarian couch and thought through her options. There was no way to exit the bathrooms without being seen, and no way to leave the food court without passing the way she'd come. She was trapped.
* * * * *
Steve's call went directly to Gwen's voice mail and he clicked his phone shut angrily. He sat on her little brown sofa and worried about her. He tried to think of where she would have gone, but he'd only met one of her friends, Ronnie, and he knew nothing about her. He knew he didn't like her, but that didn't really count.
He'd spent nearly a half hour in Gwen's house, worried out of his mind after hearing that Gwen had been taken by Stetsenko's men. He wanted, no, he needed to find out if she was safe, or if they really did have her. It occurred to him that they might have found out about the bugs and were feeding false information, that Gwen might actually be safe, but that was a stretch since they would have had to know how important Gwen was to Steve, and he was only then coming to realize that fact for himself.
He went into her bedroom and looked around, opening her closet and seeing her clothes and her shoes. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive or even that nice, he noticed. He opened the top of her hamper and was immediately struck by her scent. Her running clothes lay in amongst her other things, and the smell strongly reminded him of her, making his heart yearn. He imagined running in Santa Monica with her, down the boardwalk. He could see, in his mind's eye, how excited she'd be to see the sand and the ocean. He smiled, picturing her reaction to the bikini (or less) clad environment, the physical perfection that would surround her, and those who only thought they were perfect. Gwen would go crazy there, he thought, feeling so inadequate, despite her beauty.
He went to her bed table and opened the drawer, smiling at the sight of her dildo and raising his eyebrows as he examined her butt plug. He smiled broadly as he looked at the nearly unused box of condoms, noting the expiration date had passed. According to Gwen, apart from a one-night stand when she'd been almost forcibly taken, she had been celibate since her breakup with her boyfriend a year before. For Steve himself, apart from the incident with Gabby, he hadn't been with anyone since the death of his wife. Closing the drawer, Steve sat down on Gwen's bed and stared at the bedspread hanging over her window.
Stetsenko was on the other side of that cloth he knew, and he felt the tension building in him, felt his anger and frustration grow. He was a highly trained and well educated man, with a strong will and the determination to reach his current level of responsibility before forty. He was a picture of dedication and self control.
Stetsenko had his woman, and Steve was going to tear his arms off.
* * * * *
Gwen put the key to the storage locker in her pocket and paced nervously inside the women's bathroom. She'd put her things in the storage cabinet meant for diaper bags and the like so she wouldn't stand out so much, as well as being less encumbered when she had to run, and Gwen assumed that she would.
Taking a deep breath, Gwen walked briskly out of the bathroom and headed back into the crowds, seeing with her peripheral vision that the man in the black coat rose to follow her. She cut through the crowd, twisting and dodging, and ran up the first escalator she encountered. Turning this way and that, Gwen made her way to one of the least exclusive department stores in the mall, the place where the lower class came to buy nice things. The place Gwen normally shopped at.
Racing past the perfume counter, Gwen raced up another escalator to the very crowded women's department, notable because it was one of the few places that the mall exited directly into a parking structure. She immediately cut over into the lingerie section and moved back, away from the exit, ending up in maternity. Using the memories of her youth, Gwen slipped between the tightly packed clothes on a circular rack, stepped up onto the support bars, and sat down on her heels.
Gwen had hidden like this when she was six, and eight, and once when she was fourteen. She felt as though she was safe in a private fortress of cotton and cotton blends, hidden from the world. Hopefully she was hidden from the man chasing her. Not knowing the time, Gwen wished she'd worn a watch, or at least had her cell phone.
* * * * *
Ronnie was pushed roughly, and she stumbled forward and lost her footing. Her hands were tied behind her, and because her balance was compromised she fell forward and landed heavily on her shoulder. Luckily she had been shoved onto a bare mattress, so she didn't break anything, but the fall still hurt, and she began to cry again.
She knew they were near the lake, and that the building they were in was primarily a warehouse, but the third floor room she was in at the moment had probably been an office once. It was a filthy little room, twelve feet by twelve feet, with one window and one door. Both the window and the glass on the door were frosted, occluded, and the only furniture on the filthy linoleum floor was the old mattress.
Ronnie's whole body hurt from her beating, and she saw livid bruises. The skirt she'd put on before they'd left was short, and she saw the scabbed cut that the monster had made on her thigh. She sobbed at the pain of the slashes on her back and her ass. They weren't bleeding anymore, so they hadn't been deep, but they were razor slashes on her body and they hurt her constantly, body and spirit.
She lay on the mattress, crying. Her hair was a disaster, and the monster's taste in traveling clothes atrocious. She wore a short black skirt and a white tank top, with her crappiest little tennis shoes. He hadn't let her wear underwear. Dirty, bruised, and cut, Ronnie doubted anyone who knew her would be able to identify her body.
She didn't know why they were holding her, but she knew it had to do with Gwen, and probably involved trapping her somehow. Ronnie liked Gwen very much, but as her body continued to hurt and the cuts on her body stung and burned, she reflected on just how much she would be willing to go through for her.
* * * * *
"It is of no matter," Sergei said into the phone. He had the satellite phone pressed tightly to his ear, to better hear his caller. He had turned the volume on the phone down to its lowest levels for fear of being overheard. "I have determined it would be best for you to proceed with the original plan that was discussed."
"Yes," Vassily said, wiping mustard from the sleeve of his black leather coat. He had been trying to eat his pretzel without incident, and failed. "The original plan. Was that to gather at home point?"
"Yes," sighed Sergei. What was the point in speaking in code, if your contact was going to repeat everything? "I have found out for myself the information I wanted, and I think we should act on it immediately," Sergei said in his rich, deep voice and with a strong Russian accent.
"We will proceed at once," Vassily said, and he disconnected the call.
Sergei set his sat phone down and went to the front window of his apartment. He looked out at the house the big man had come from and he smiled. Before long, he'd have his revenge and be away from this dreadful place.
* * * * *
"Crap!" Gabrielle shouted, slamming her big headphones to the table in frustration. She was almost certain they knew they were being listened to now. If they knew, the whole operation was compromised, and her bosses wouldn't be happy that the one weapons seizure would be the only payoff.
Sure, she might get reassigned. That was no big deal, happened all the time. But Gabrielle knew that Steve's career, his soul, couldn't survive this failure. They'd propped him up after Amelia's death, and this had been his chance to shine. He was supposed to pull off the perfect job and show he was as good as they wanted him to be.
"Why did you have to go after the townie?" Gabrielle said softly into her hands. She cradled her face, her elbows on her knees. She couldn't imagine Steve going for that little local girl, especially with a glamorous and beautiful fellow agent so close at hand.
And now she couldn't even count on Steve. As soon as he'd thought his little Gwen, or Maggie, or whoever, was in danger, he'd run out to find her. They had a job to do, damn it, and she needed him. Gabrielle stood up and stretched, her tank top pulling up over her taut tummy. As far as she was concerned at that moment, Gabrielle only needed two things; a good long run and a zinger. When Steve came back, she was going to run to the store. She deserved the break.
* * * * *
Gwen had been squatting inside the display for at least an hour, by her reckoning, and her thighs were totally pissed off at her. Waiting until she was reasonably sure there was nobody too close, Gwen pushed out through the tightly packed maternity dresses and onto the crowded main floor of the department store. She got some strange looks but she ignored those people, looking around instead for her pursuer.
Gwen rushed through the late afternoon crowds to a customer service booth, where she had the attendant call a taxi for her. That accomplished, she hurried to the entrance she'd indicated to wait for her cab, intensely aware of everyone around her as she watched for the man in the black leather coat.
Her taxi arrived and she directed him to a library that was only a few blocks from Ronnie's condo, and then walked the rest of the way. She felt elated as she walked up the stairs to Ronnie's floor. She was finally going to come clean with her friend, and she prayed they could still be friends after she did. Gwen knocked on the door and it swung open.
"Hello?" Gwen called softly as she leaned inside the apartment. "Ronnie?"
She saw the pile of books on the floor in front of the bookcase first, and she cautiously walked into the condo. All of the things that had been on the coffee table were on the floor, and the table itself was askew. She saw stains on the white couch. Something bad had happened here.
She rushed to the bedroom and saw the mussed bed first. Dark red blotches covered the white floral bedspread, and more small blotches of rusty brown stained the carpet. It took no imagination for her to know with certainty that it was blood. She saw the folded paper on the bed, atop a large blood stain.
Gwen unfolded the paper and read it, her knees giving out. She sat on the floor and reread the note as her eyes filled with tears and her heart clenched painfully.
The note read, "Go Home. Tell No One."
"What did I do to you?" Gwen sobbed, and then she got to her feet and stumbled out into the living room. She saw Ronnie's cell phone on the floor and she picked it up. She dialed Steve's number from memory.
"Hello?" Gwen heard Steve's voice answer. He sounded so worried. She tried to speak, but the sound of his voice on the other end of the connection choked her up. "Hello?"
"Steve," Gwen choked out.
"Gwen!" he shouted, "Where in the hell are you, Baby?"
He called me "Baby", Gwen thought, smiling through her tears. "I'm at Ronnie's," Gwen said, and then she remembered what the note had said and her blood froze in her veins. "Shit!" she hissed, and she disconnected the call, dropping the cell phone to the floor.
* * * * *
"Gwen!" Steve shouted at his cell phone, the connection gone. He hit four buttons and waited a moment for an answer.
"Gabrielle," he said curtly, "Listen and don't ask questions. I'm going to give you a number and I need you to give me the address of the subscriber." Steve gave her the telephone number from his recent calls list. "Can you look it up now, or do you need to call me back?"
"What in the hell are you doing, Steve?" Gabrielle said, sounding peeved, but Steve heard the clicking of her keyboard.
"I need this information fast, Gabby," Steve said, starting to pace the room swiftly. Two minutes later he had the address of Veronica Driscoll, and Steve bolted out of the apartment and got into his car, driving away fast and passing two old sedans arriving from the opposite direction.
Steve pounded on the steering wheel when he stopped for a light. Gwen was only five miles away.
* * * * *
Gwen had changed into an unused pair of blue running shorts she found in Ronnie's closet. She had to get home, but she couldn't chance waiting for a taxi, in case anyone showed up to look for her. It was only five miles to her house, with the big park in between. Pulling the door shut behind her, she set off to run for her life.
* * * * *
Only minutes after Steve had hung up, Gabrielle had heard someone arrive at the subject's home. They were speaking quietly about something, but they were being very circumspect, and she wasn't able to determine what exactly they were talking about. She held the headphones tight to her ears and listened intently, her eyes closed, and didn't hear the door to the basement open.
She heard something on the stairs, and Gabby turned in time to see the cannister bounce from the last step to the cement floor. She closed her eyes tightly and dropped to the floor, but she wasn't completely down yet when the cannister exploded. She was showered by glass from the shattered monitor over her as she was flung back under the table, striking her head on one of the legs.
Gabrielle had pushed herself up on her hands, thankful for the headphones that had saved her ears, when a powerful kick caught her shoulder and sent her rolling onto her back. She saw three men standing over her, two of them brandishing pistols. They were big men, bruisers, and Gabby quickly calculated the possibilities.
Putting up her hands, Gabby shouted, "Don't hurt me! I'm a tech!" She was grabbed by her wrists and hauled to her feet before being thrown back against the table. The headphones were swept from her head and tossed away. The man on her left leveled his pistol on her, aiming for her heart.
"Oh god," Gabby breathed, and her mind filled with thoughts of all of the things she hadn't done yet with her life. Gabrielle realized that she wanted a baby and was surprised. There was a loud crack, and Gabby's world went dark.
* * * * *
Steve came to a screeching halt outside the condo complex and he ran as fast as he could up the stairs. He pounded on the door for a few seconds before trying it and found it unlocked. He went in and saw the disarray, and found the blood stained bed and carpet. It struck him as strange that there was a pair of brand new blue jeans crumpled on the floor. He picked them up and felt they were still warm.
Immediately, Steve was certain they were Gwen's. He found a little locker key in one pocket, and a fat roll of bills in another. Whatever Gwen was doing, it must be important, for her to leave these behind. The only things he couldn't figure out were where she had gone, and why she'd left her pants.
Steve pulled out his cell and dialed Gabby. maybe it was a girl thing, and she'd be able to offer some insight. The call went directly to voice mail, and the bottom of Steve's stomach fell out.
They'd kept him jumping around like a monkey on a string, and Steve had made a major tactical mistake and had left Gabby alone. Steve ran for his car and peeled out, driving fast and not caring about stop signs or red lights. He came to a fast, skidding stop in front of his apartment, and sparing only a glance back at Gwen's house, he turned and ran inside and down the stairs to the basement.
The signs of a flash-bang grenade were clear, as was the fact that their equipment had been further destroyed after the grenade has exploded. He made a cursory search of the house before collapsing to sit on the bed. The bed where he had sex with Gabby. She was gone. He'd managed to fail everyone who was important to him. Steve had failed.
* * * * *
Gwen's lungs burned. She'd never run so fast for such a long distance, but she had to get home as quickly as she possibly could. She considered stopping for a moment, just to catch her breath, but visions of the blood stains in Ronnie's condo filled her mind and she pressed on.
She'd run through the park, cutting some considerable distance from her trip, and when she was only two blocks from home she allowed herself the luxury of slowing to a jog. She crossed her lawn and went up the steps to her porch, taking the door knob in hand. The door swung open too easily, and Gwen stopped, gasping for air, and saw that the door frame had been destroyed.
She went inside and pushed the door closed, and then staggered into her bedroom. She went to the window and grabbing two handfuls of the comforter, yanked it down. The window across the way was empty, but Gwen stood there, staring, as her body shook and her chest and legs burned. Even if he took a week, Gwen was determined to wait there for instructions. Everyone had suffered enough on her behalf.
* * * * *
Ronnie had gotten up onto her knees on the mattress and found that her wounds didn't pain her so much. She toyed with the idea of standing, but the thought of possibly falling onto her tortured, wounded back and bottom was so terrifying that she decided against it. She had been there for lord knows how long, with nothing to drink, and she was terribly thirsty.
The door swung open suddenly, and two big men came inside quickly, an unconscious woman between them. She was thrown onto the mattress, landing partly on Ronnie and sending her sprawling. The door slammed shut, and Ronnie lay still, whining in pain. The big woman was face down, her face and breasts on Ronnie's chest.
Ronnie smelled the blood before she felt it, and she knew her wounds had pulled open again. She began to cry, cursing the giantess who lay atop her. She cried out as she squirmed from beneath the woman, and she saw that the woman's head was cut and bleeding.
Rolling her onto her back, Ronnie stopped and stared. This tanned, gorgeous goddess was everything that Ronnie herself had tried to become, using surgery. She could tell with even a brief examination that this woman was all natural, and Ronnie was filled with envy. She was tall, while Ronnie was very short. She had large, natural breasts, while Ronnie's had been small and plain before the surgery had made them double-D-cups. She had beautiful hair, even when in total disarray, while Ronnie paid thousands of dollars each year to make hers behave.