On Forgetting Ch. 11byewebie©
She swallowed down the urge to retch, forcing herself to roll onto her side and away from the edge. Her head felt like it was going to split open, every movement sending lancing waves of pain through her body. Langdon blinked furiously, trying to shake the black spots from her vision. It took her a moment to realize that some of the persistent black spots were actually gaping holes in the layers of slate. She winced as she struggled to her hands and knees, then feet, stumbling into the dark shelter and collapsing against the wall.
Paul toed the edge of the cliff, making sure the rocks were solid before peering over the edge. Heights made him dizzy and he had to brace himself to keep from swaying. He stretched his head forward, leaning carefully. He didn't see her. He dropped to his hands and knees, risking leaning further over the edge. Nothing.
He frowned and bent as far forward as he dared, studying the rocks and surf at the base of the cliff. Still nothing. It didn't make sense. The water wasn't deep enough here to pull a body under. Muttering under his breath, Paul stood and headed toward the farms, hoping to get a better view from the other side of the ledge.
In the shelter of the cavern, Langdon pressed her hands to her temples. The sensation of the ground pitching beneath her had her head spinning and stomach lurching, and she dropped heavily to her hands and knees.
A metallic thud had her head snapping up and she squinted into the darkness from behind a large filing cabinet, quickly gathering the papers that spilled from the dropped chart. The whispering voices stopped suddenly, and Langdon scrambled back into the dark shadow of the cabinet.
"I thought you said no one else would be down here!" hissed a deep, angry voice.
"There isn't!" another replied sharply. Langdon's brow furrowed as she recognised the second voice. Paul? What is he doing down here so late? "No one comes down here. This is an old building; it's always creaking like that."
Langdon held her breath as they passed near her hiding space, trying to make herself as small as possible. She jumped as the door slammed, staying hidden long enough to calm her breathing. She didn't quite understand what was going on, but she had the distinct impression that she wasn't supposed to know.
As the dark and quiet started to weigh on her nerves, she inched out from behind the cabinet and crept toward the door. She slipped through the door into the silent hallway and moved toward the stairs. Light filtered through the last autopsy room window, and Langdon risked peeking around the edge of the frame.
What were they doing? She furrowed her brow, it was awfully late for a post-mortem, and shouldn't one of the consultants be here for it? Paul seemed absorbed in his work, the other man out of her line of sight, but was fiddling with something metallic in the corner from the sounds she heard. And the tubs of formalin, they already had organs in them... Her eyes grew wide as she watched Paul remove the heart and place it in an open cooler. A cooler? A transplant cooler? The truth struck her hard and she felt her stomach drop. This was bad, very bad.
She must have made a noise of shock, because Paul's head shot up to glare out the window. Langdon snapped her head back and pressed against the wall, but she knew it was too late. She could hear the exchange of voices, but didn't wait to hear what they said. She took off at a run. She had to find Connor. He'd know what to do. As the door to the pathology wing swung shut behind her, she heard Paul shouting her name, his tone sending a shiver down her spine.
Langdon shuddered and the sound of the surf and clattering rocks brought her back to her senses. Her body was trembling from the waves of vivid memories crashing through her mind. It was almost overwhelming, as if she was being pulled between two different realities at once.
Paul eyed the short drop to the strange, rocky flat. It looked stable enough, though the gravely slope at the bottom of the drop didn't look too promising. He slid his gun into the waistband of his pants, squatted down, and swung his legs over the edge. With a small shift, he dropped to the sloped ground below.
His feet skittered through the gravel and he fell ungracefully onto his rear. Cursing, he clambered from the gravel onto the smooth plateau of slate. His movement sent a cascade of lose rocks down the incline and clattering noisily to the water far below. Taking a moment to gain his bearings, he peered over the edge, hoping to catch a glimpse of Langdon down in the surf. She wasn't there, which meant she was somewhere up here.
He drew his gun and flicked the safety off. "Langdon," he called softly. "I know you're here. Come out, come out wherever you are." She couldn't have made the drop safely from the distance she fell. It was nearly twenty feet to the verge where he was now standing.
Paul's head shot up, squinting at overhang as he cursed under his breath. There was no way Connor could be up and on his feet, Paul thought. The voice had come from near the fort, and it sounded weak. Weak and desperate, Paul thought. He still had time. "Langdon!" he barked, his voice echoing off the sheer stone cliff faces. His temper was wearing thin.
Langdon ran. She could feel her lungs burning from the shortness of breath and cold, the metallic taste of adrenaline and fear filling her mouth. She kept running. She could hear feet pounding on the pavement behind her and didn't dare look behind her. She had seen Paul's car catching up to the bus as it was nearing the quays, and she didn't think he had a nice chat on his mind. She had abandoned the bus at the last minute, telling the driver that her violent ex-boyfriend was following her. She had hoped to lose him in the traffic, but there was someone else in the car. Now she was being chased and her heart was pounding in her chest so loud that she thought it would burst. As she cleared the alleyway, she flew out on to the quay, dodging traffic to reach the bridge. Somehow she knew if she could make it to the other side of the river, it would be ok.
The Millennium Bridge was just ahead and she winced as her heels hit the rough metal grating, losing traction for a moment on the icy surface. Damn female fashion trends, if she'd only been wearing her trainers today. She hoped the dark would make her hard to see, her black coat over black pants would blend into the shadows once she was over the bridge and in Temple Bar. A loud metallic ping sounded from nearby and she flinched, it was a shot, and it had come close to hitting her. Her muscles were burning, but she ran harder. It was less than 200 yards to the South side and to Connor, and to the Gardai, and what she prayed was safety. If she had to, she'd go to the embassy for protection.
The usual pedestrian traffic on the streets was lighter due to the cold, but Langdon was still dodging people. Then Paul was in front of her. Forgetting the man on her tail, she tried to stop and change directions, skidding on the icy surface. She knew she was in trouble as her momentum carried her right into Paul, and she drew up her arms, ready to fight against his hold. But then she was airborne.
He had dropped his shoulder at the last second and sent her over the railing. Her body flipped through the air and she saw sky and river in one breath. She screamed. She flailed her arms in a desperate attempt to catch the bridge. Her fingers clutched at the slick edge of the bridge, her body jerking roughly as she momentarily stopped her descent. Another pinging noise and pain shot through her right shoulder, a bullet grazing her arm and digging a deep furrow into her skin. Another stab of pain as a large boot came down on her hand. Paul ground his boot down, and she gasped. Then her fingers slipped, unable to keep purchase in the metal. She screamed again as she fell, the ice rushing toward her and Paul disappeared, melting into the stunned crowd. The last thing she heard was Connor yelling her name, "Laney!"
She bit back a scream of shock as the ghost of chilling cold washed through her again. She remembered. She remembered everything. She squinted into the dark as her shivers subsided. From closer than she wished, Paul's voice muttered and cursed. Langdon's entire body grew tense. Her fear was quickly eclipsed by a wave of pure anger. Paul was the one that had thrown her from the bridge. Paul was the one that had pushed her into traffic. Paul had stood in her home and feigned concern for her well-being. He interrupted her at work, he followed them out here, he struck Connor, he had shot at her... He SHOT at her. Then there was Connor. She wanted to get back to him; she needed to know that he was all right. Langdon clenched her hands into fists and crouched near the opening of the small cave, waiting for an opportunity. She didn't have to wait long.
She watched as Paul crept by, his foot stepping inches from her. Langdon held her breath, watching the weight-shift change the muscles that flexed within his leg. When all the weight was on the inside foot, Langdon lashed out. Her hiking boot connected solidly with the outside of his knee and with a harsh pop, she felt it give. Paul howled his pain and anger as he collapsed down onto hands and knees, the gun clattering across the slate and over the edge, splashing into the water below.
As he thudded to the rock, Langdon sprang up, dashing along the thin ledge toward the rocky slope. Her boots hit the loose gravel and she scrambled, digging her fingers into the steep, fragmented slate and making what seemed like horrifyingly slow progress.
An angry snarl was the only warning she had; Paul launched himself at her. A strangled cry escaped her as he caught her thigh and back waistband of her pants and jerked her backwards. The gravel gave way beneath her boots and she slipped, the corners of the rocks digging into her arms and knees. She gasped as he flipped her easily onto her back and pinned her beneath him.
She screamed and every other shred of energy went into fighting him. Her fingers curled into claws and she gouged his face, aiming for his eyes. He roared in response, giving up on catching her hands and striking her sharply with the back of his hand. Her scream choked off with the blow and a wave of nausea clenched at her stomach. Langdon's cheek burned from the slap, but after a moment it was lost in the streams of pain registering from every bone in her body. Then his hand closed around her throat.
Langdon gasped as the pressure increased, managing to draw in a small, hasty breath before her air was cut off completely. Her eyes went wide and she clawed at his hand as the second wrapped over the first. Spots clouded her vision, and she knew she didn't have much time. Her legs kicked out, flailing uselessly where he straddled her hips. Langdon grabbed his thumb and pulled back with all her might.
Paul snarled, the sudden pain had caused him to lose his grip momentarily, and she had managed to get some air in the process. Why wouldn't she just die? She had lost. Death was inevitable. Couldn't she take her defeat gracefully? He snatched the hand that had caused his pain and pinned it to the rocks, shifting his position to grab the other hand.
It took all of her control to relax her body and conserve energy and air, but Langdon let herself go lax as Paul shifted. When he was distracted, trying to catch her free hand, she drew her knee up sharply, landing a lucky blow right in his groin. He released her suddenly, rolling to the side to cradle his throbbing flesh.
Langdon sucked in air, filling her burning lungs and letting the subsequent wave of numbness wash through her. Her vision went black momentarily, returning slowly, reluctant to remain steady. Paul groaned and tried to shift onto his hands and one good knee. In his effort to right himself, a large chunk of rock kicked loose, sliding off the edge and dragging a stream of gravel with it.
The miniature avalanche knocked Paul back to the ground and he flailed, grabbing at anything he could reach to keep from slipping over the lip of the cliff with the rest of the stones. He snagged Langdon's ankle as he slid down the slope. Her throat still raw, Langdon couldn't find the breath to scream, but the sudden lurch of Paul's weight sent her sliding down the slope along with him.
Her arms shot out, digging into the moving ground, catching one of the larger, stable boulders and jerking her to a stop. Pain lanced through her shoulders as they halted her momentum. Paul's grip on her leg tightened in panic as his lower body dropped over the edge of the cliff, and he scrambled to shift his grip higher to her calf.
Langdon bit back a yelp as her leg twisted painfully under the strain of Paul's weight, and dug the heel of her free leg into the ground. She quickly sought and found purchase to ease the strain on her shoulders, and she groaned with the effort as she inched herself back from the edge ever so slightly, towing Paul back toward solid ground.
Paul flailed, kicking his feet into the cliff face, unable to find a foothold, his movement erratically shifting his weight. "No!" Langdon shouted, feeling his hands slip. He caught Langdon's ankle for a moment before failing all together as his hands slipped from her cargo pants and he disappeared from sight.
The scream that echoed up the cliff walls made her gut clench. The sound cut off abruptly and Langdon choked out a sob. She trembled from head to toe, the toll on her body and mind threatening to overwhelm her. Every movement hurt, but she didn't fancy lying on the unstable rocks any longer. With a small whimper, she shifted onto her side, releasing one rock to flip onto her stomach. Climbing was slow going as she carefully picked new handholds and tested the ground where she planted her feet. Her muscles shook with the effort as she inched up the slope.
Digging her fingers into the grass was both a relief and horrifying. Her strength all but gone, she didn't think she'd be able to make it up the remaining vertical six-feet to the solid, flat earth above. Finding a place for one boot, she grunted and pulled herself flush against the rock, dragging her second leg off the ground as her arms began shaking violently. Trying to use her legs, she managed to plant a forearm on the grass. The simple contact with the soft, cool, damp ground was a soothing balm for her battered state of mind. She gasped as strong hands reached under her arms and hauled her the final few feet to safety.
Langdon collapsed on top of her saviour, wrapping her fingers in his jacket, clinging to him even as her body dissolved into a fit tremors. Connor released a sigh of relief, struggling to sit up under her dead weight and cradling her carefully to his chest. She let her body go lax. She could feel the bruises settling, the numerous scrapes and abrasions cooling as their bleeding slowed, and her leg throbbed from the punishment of supporting her weight and Paul's. The thought of Paul sent a shudder through her, and tears she didn't know she had began to spill between her lashes.
Then Connor's arms were around her, his heartbeat constant and strong where she pressed her ear was pressed to his chest, and he was warm. The heat spread through her, soothing, calming, and comforting. He held her as tightly as he dared, aware of some of the punishment she had just survived.
The faint sound of a siren reached her ears, but she pressed her eyes closed and buried her face against his shoulder. He whispered to her, rocking her in his arms. She was safe. Langdon couldn't fight the fatigue, and before the sirens could grow loud enough to be more than a distant hum, she slipped into unconsciousness.
Connor scowled at the nurse as she left the room. All he had wanted to do was sit by Laney's bedside, and that woman put up a fuss. He'd had to find Eamonn and get the 'Doctor's' permission to be out of bed and to disturb another patient. Once she was gone, he began to relax. His head didn't hurt too much, in spite of the fact that Eamonn had insisted on putting in a few stitches and running a CT to be sure all was still where it belonged in his brain. Now, he just wanted to stay with Laney until she woke up.
Eamonn closed the door softly behind him when he came into the room, and Connor couldn't keep from frowning. "If you even think about telling me to go back to my room, so help me, Eamo," he warned.
Eamonn smiled, "Don't worry Connor, I just came to check on her. How's your head?"
Connor shrugged non-committaly. "I think I've been slapped harder by Laney." He couldn't keep from letting a smile touch his lips. "How's she doing?"
"She took another nasty knock on the head." Eamonn flipped through her chart out of habit. He knew everything in it, because he'd penned it himself. "Look, all the bruises and abrasions are superficial. They'll hurt like hell, and a few of them will keep opening and bleeding, like the ones on her knuckles. But other than that, it's all about how bad that bump on her head is." Eamonn shifted nervously. "And how much the events are stressing out her mind. I'm not trying to scare you, I just know how hard it has been these past few weeks."
"She's tough, Eamo. She'll fight through it," Connor whispered. He leaned forward and slid hand under hers, carefully running his thumb over the backs of her fingers. "You know, she remembered most of it already? She'll be fine."
Eamonn dropped a hand on Connor's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "I know." He replaced the chart and headed for the door. "When she wakes up, bleep me? I'll be around the wards, and there's an Inspector that's waiting to talk to her as well." Connor nodded, his eyes carefully assessing the cuts on Langdon's hand as it lay in his. Eamonn sighed and took his leave.
Connor had a mercifully short wait for Langdon to wake. She grunted, her fingers closing around his. He cupped her cheek as she struggled to open her eyes, whispering encouragement and watching her face as a new flush coloured her face. She groaned and squinted, trying to bring his face into focus. "Connor?"
"Hey, baby." He pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Welcome back."
She furrowed her brow and blinked, taking in the surroundings. "Where?" she paused. "How did I get here?" The look of panic in Connor's eyes had Langdon clearing her throat to find her voice quickly. "We were in Dingle. I don't..." She chewed on her lip.
A large sigh of relief escaped him. "Don't scare me like that," he whispered, covering her lips with his, gently kissing her until her head was spinning.
When he released her, she let out a contented sigh, "Mmmn, hi."
He chuckled, "Hello to you too." His fingers brushed across her cheek, tucking hair behind her ear. "How do you feel?"
She shifted carefully, trying to get a feel for the state she was in. "I have a headache that would put a sledgehammer to shame, and I'm sore just about everywhere. Other than that..."
"Other than that?" he asked hopefully.
She gave his hand a squeeze. "If you can just explain how we got from Dingle to Dublin, I'll be ok."
"Helicopter, actually." He sat back in the chair, keeping her hand carefully within his. "The Gardai weren't far behind us, and arrived a few minutes after I pulled you back up onto the grass. The Inspector in charge had you rushed here, and I decided to bum along for the ride."
Langdon tugged her hand free and pushed herself up into a sitting position, grimacing as she felt the stretch of skin over bruises. She waved off his help, but sighed gratefully when he slid onto the bed beside her and allowed her to use his chest as a backrest. Settled and comfortable, she watched as his fingers ran gingerly along her knuckles. "How's your head?"