Friday, April 10, 2009

Raising Rachel [part 6] (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Joanne "JJ" Sher @ her blog, An Open Book. Click here to read and share more great fiction.

Author's Ramblings: Happy Easter everyone-may you have a blessed weekend and some of those wonderful heart-stopping, completely-totally-God moments. ^_^ Sorry this week's installment is late, I've been fiddling and rewriting and fussing with our faulty internet connection. I couldn't quite flesh this piece out the way I wanted to, but hopefully the gist of the message comes through. I had a bit of fun with this piece, I do hope y'all enjoy it. Happy reading!

The face seemed faceless at first. Rachel didn’t bother to process beyond that, because the masked head stared at her for all of a split-second. Then reached around her and caught hold of Jeanette’s arm, dragging her out from under the bed.

“Hey! Let her go!” Rachel lunged for her legs, tangling up her arms in the straps of the duffel bag.
The carpet burned beneath her toes as Rachel was yanked out along the ground, holding onto Jeanette’s ankle.

“Oww! Let go!” Jeanette kicked Rachel’s hand away, failing against the masked assailant who was dragging her from the room.

Rachel staggered to her feet, shrugging off the duffel with another frantic wriggle. “Let her go now!” She threw herself forward before she saw the flash of silver. The blade grazed her arm as her hands clamped around the slender pair of shoulders.

She heard the scream, heard the snap and crackle, heard something slam into the wall. Her vision fuzzed, her head seemed to swell as if it would explode and then everything blanked out.

When her eyes could finally struggle open, she was lying flat on her back, gasping for breath and realizing that the room was upside down. When she tried to turn her head, a blinding pain rippled through her neck. She moaned. “Jeanette?”

It hurt to move her neck, but it hurt worse to stay as she was, so Rachel twisted again and the room righted itself as she tumbled over to the ground. She lay there, awkwardly sprawled as her mind reoriented itself with reality.

The scream had been hers. The slam had been hers…and the aching head. Rachel winced. She’d conveniently lost every ounce of energy coursing through her body and now wasn’t sure she wanted to know what had just happened.

There was a moan from somewhere behind her and then a whiney voice whimpered out. “W-what d-did you d-do t-t-o my h-hair!” The last word turned into a full-blown wail, before the speaker herself came into Rachel’s twisted line of sight.

A poof was the first thing Rachel saw and then somewhere in the middle of the crazy hair, was a small, familiar round face. The face had a mouth attached to it and words were streaming out, albeit somewhat stuttered at times in a way that Rachel didn’t really want to understand.

Thankfully, she didn’t have to, as the footsteps pounded up the stairs made her head ache even worse, but their arrival brought waves of relief that she desperately needed.

“Rach? Jean?” Thom’s voice echoed in the hallway. “Rachel! Jeanette?” The bedroom door burst open, chocking halfway with a muted thud.

Rachel winced. The pounding of the footsteps was louder now and the insistent padding was making her head hurt even worse…again. “Unk?” The word leaving her lips left a horrid taste in her mouth.

“Rachel!”

She felt him before she saw him and then his hands were feeling her forehead, neck and gently lifting her from the floor, supporting her until she was sitting straight up. Her lips tried to move to form an answer.

“Mr. Marsten!” Jeanette hovered at his elbow, both hands behind her head, trying to wrestle with her poof of hair.

Thom’s face slowly tightened into an expression of sudden and he grabbed his phone. “This is Marsten, emergency! Code twelve, point. Immediate response needed. Three females. Rachel Banner. Jeanette Ellis. Unidentified intruder, wearing black. Masked. Please advise.” He turned his attention towards the girls at once, apparently satisfied the intruder wasn’t about to revive and surprise them. “Rachel! What happened? Who’s that on the floor over here?”

“Mr. Marsten, he tried to choke me!” Jeanette danced around the room, arms flapping.
“Jeanette! Calm down!” Thom hurriedly swooped Rachel up to deposit her on the bed and then to chase the anxious pre-teen. “Jeanette! Jean! Please…calm down…you’ll need your inhaler if you keep that up!”

“I won’t need anything!” Jeanette twisted, trying to pull her wrists out of his strong grip. “I don’t know what’s going on!”

“Well that makes two of us.” Thom muttered. “Sit.” He tugged her towards the bed and gently pressed her shoulders downward for emphasis. “Sit now…please?”

Jeanette sat, then bounced up and sat again. Her eyes darted wildly about the room and then she finally stuck a finger in her mouth and began chewing the fingernail expertly. She couldn’t seem to settle down and Thom finally stepped back to let her bounce on the bed.

“Rachel?” Thom pressed a few buttons on a his pager and turned to cross the room to examine the fallen intruder. “What happened? Can you talk?”

“Mmmhmmhuphfff.” The words jumbled out of her mouth and Rachel was somewhat alarmed to find that even directing energy for the necessary actions of causing her lips to properly form to pronounce words was more than she could manage.

He frowned. “I’ll take that as a no…and no, Jeanette! No talking until you’re calmed down, I don’t need the exaggerated version of your story!” Jeanette scowled and then her finger dropped from her mouth and her lower lip stuck out in a pout. Thom merely raised an eyebrow in the direction of her twiddling toes. “Calm all the way down.” He added, pointedly.

“I take it that fellow in the corner isn’t here on an invitation?” His gaze swiveled back to the two girls occupying the twin guest bed. “Rachel?” A note of worry touched his voice. “Jeanette? Just nod…badguy?” But as he spoke, he was already cautiously inching forward, alert.

His cell phone rang before he reached the figure and he answered it quickly, the exchange taking no more than a minute before he flipped it shut and knelt to feel for a pulse. “He’s out cold…what did you girls do to him?” There was no answer and Thom didn’t bother to repeat himself as he reached for the black mask. “Now to let’s see who you are!”

A double gasp filled the room and Jeanette hopped up from the bed, her arms flapping again. “It’s a girl!”

“A woman.” Thom corrected. “Jeanette! Sit down….you’ll hurt yourself!” He tugged the mask all the way out and then felt her wrists. “Strange…I’ve never seen anything like it.”

His pager beeped and he hurried to the window, opening it to stick his head out. “Jared! Lucy! Up here…bring the others.”

There was more feet pounding through the house and upstairs and all around her. Rachel didn’t particularly care for them, but she didn’t have much of a choice either.

“Thom!” Pete took a quick inventory of his partner and then his gaze swept the room, settling on Rachel’s limp form on the bed. “Her or her?” He gestured towards the bed and then to the woman on the floor.

“Both…her first.” Thom pointed to the floor. “and then Rachel. She’s out cold...too cold, Rachel’s conscious.”

“What happened?” Pete leaned out the door to wave over the rest of the officers.

“Don’t know.” Thom moved aside as the paramedics took over, transferring the woman to a stretcher and beginning their work.

“I meant what were you doing here. You were on break.”

“The power failure.” Thom nodded towards the brightly lit

Lucy came and examined her, pronouncing her condition as unusually lucky with a hint of complete exhaustion.

Jared merely grunted and turned his attention on the still fussing Jeanette who’s story of the happening grew more exaggerated with each excited retelling.

“Complete exhaustion?” Thom stared at her in disbelief. “Lucy…I’d…I…you’re sure?”

Lucy shrugged. “Well, what else do you want me to say? She’s fine as far as I can tell!”

“Fine.” He repeated. “Okay, I’ll take fine.” His gaze flitted back and forth from her to Rachel, a slight smile tugged at his face. “And her voice? What’s with that?”

“She’s too tired.” Lucy repeated. “Complete exhaustion. She can’t even work up the energy inside of herself to construct a verbal response.”

“And that’s possible?” Thom brushed a few stray strands of hair from her face. “Rachel, honey? Did you hear that? You’ll be okay.”

There was a lot of whispers and even more mumbling, all of which was too low and quiet for Rachel to hear. And also, which was frozen solid in silence at the newest arrival. A distressed woman in an expensive suit. She pushed through the gaggle of paramedics and detectives at once, angling straight for Jeanette.

“Jeanie!” She grabbed her in a hug and promptly burst into tears.

“Mom!” Jeanette’s greetings were muffled in the burgundy shoulder and the childishness seemed to slowly melt away from her. “Mom…”

“Ally!” Thom exclaimed. “What are you doing here? Your mission…?” His face traveled through a kaleidoscope of emotions and colors, finally settling on a somewhat purple shade. “Please tell me the months of work we put in to set up a credible background and op for you wasn’t just ruined by overhearing a page you shouldn’t have paid attention to.”

The burgundy suited woman whirled around on him, her arms protectively around Jeanette. “That’s it? That’s all you’ve got to say, Thom? I entrust my daughter, my only child, my most precious thing on earth to you and when they’re nearly killed by some lady ninja, all you have to say is-”

The words were clear enough for Rachel to hear, but she found herself wishing that they weren’t. She didn’t really care to hear or see her already stressed uncle getting chewed out by some strange woman that could be his girlfriend.

“You weren’t supposed to compromise the mission for any reason!” Thom’s voice rose several octaves.

“And saving my daughter’s life wasn’t important enough for you?”

“She was with my niece!” The sudden rise of temper was slowly transforming into calculated replies. “Who, I might also add, was also included in this situation. Excuse me if I’m just as close to this situation as you are!”

“Your niece? You have a niece visiting here now? Which one, I must ask? The sensible smart, hard-working one or the troublemaker?”

“Take that back, Ally. You don’t know anything about-”

“I’ve read all your family files, Thom! Rooted out all your little family skeletons, I thought a girl ought to know all about a fellow before she got involved. Apparently in your case that does very little in ensuring-”

“You accessed my family files? On me? On Rachel?”

“Rachel? That’s the one? The troublemaker?”

“She’s not a troublemaker, Ally.” Thom was struggling to keep his temper.

Ally snorted. “Let me be the judge of that.”

“Thom…you might want to see this.” Pete cut into the argument. “Look at these photos…in this file…how’d they get here?”

“Wait a minute-” Ally tore away from Jeanette long enough to cross over to the room to see what Pete was showing. “Aren't these your case photos, Thom? What are they doing here? I thought the Cheif said they weren't supposed to leave the office." She flashed a red-lipped smile. "Very nice, Pete…what do you have to say to that, Thom? Huh?”

Rachel winced. That was enough confusion for the day, or so she thought, until she heard a new voice, talking very quietly, just into her ear in the corner of the bed where no one was paying any attention. A very familiar voice…one she desperately wanted to place.

“That was an extremely foolish and reckless thing to do.” It was Ben’s voice and Ben’s face, but he shouldn’t have been anywhere near her. Rachel tried to turn only to hear his growl. “Don’t! You’re exhausted to a point that shouldn’t exist!”

Tears pooled up and rimmed her eyes, the pain inside overwhelmingly trumping the confusion and aches on the outside.

I don’t even know what you’re talking about, Ben…and now’s not really the time.

“You’re lucky Mark’s keeping such close tabs on you.” He unscrewed something near her ears and a cold daub of something was liberally applied to her cheek.

A shudder passed through her, but she couldn’t coax her lips to protest and ask what it was and what he was doing.

“Don’t ask.” He murmured, dipping out another fingerful and slathering it generously across her face. “It’ll revive you and that’s all you need to know. I shouldn’t be hear, except for you’re on my watch and under my wings, therefore you’re my responsibility, but I don’t have to answer to Mark for you. Did you get the file?”

A burning dryness ripped through her throat and any other thoughts on actually answering vanished with a grimace. The coolness being applied to her face was helping in terms of motor control, for at least she could think clearly enough to understand where she was and what was happening to her.

Ben sighed. “I’ll take that as a yes, don’t try to talk yet, you haven’t absorbed enough of this goop yet. How’d you end up in this room? What were you doing here? I thought you’d at least try to be smart and hit the streets to keep things from heating up around here!”

Rachel tried to glare at him, pleased when it didn’t take as much effort as she thought it would. Her lips trembled and relief flooded through her again at the proof that her body was slowly returning to her own control.

“Never mind, don’t try to answer either of them.” Ben matched her glare with one of her own, rising to his feet in the crowded room. No one seemed to even realize the interaction between them and she was glad for that, because this new wave of disapproval completely wiped away any traces of earlier relief, nailing her to the guest bed with a look that promised painful things to come. “You’ve been carrying with your happy little normal life for awhile now.” His voice was dangerously calm. “Your time’s up, okay? Mark gave you a mission and my head was almost on the line when you nearly flat-lined because of a stupid rookie move. Don’t pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about, because you’ll know a whole lot more than that, when I’m through with you.” He grabbed her hand, folding it so one finger stuck out. “Swallow this and zip it.” He ordered, dunking her finger in the small white container and transferring the finger to her mouth.

Bliss exploded inside her mouth and Rachel could only describe the feeling as everything being so beautiful, she thought it would break. White light seemed to be streaming down from everywhere and everything was so crystal clear, it almost hurt to hear it.

The yummy tasting glob slid down her throat and straight to her stomach with a frightening speed. As it traveled through her, Rachel felt a new tingling sensation spreading all throughout her until it reached her toes. A sudden sharp twinge on her feet jerked her upwards, clutching toward her ankles. “OW! Ben!”

The quiet conversation in the room halted as several pairs of eyes registered on her. “Who’s Ben?” Jared’s gravelly voice broke through her embarrassment.

“Glad to see you up…again.” Lucy forced a smile, hawk-like eyes sweeping over her entire form. “I don’t suppose you are feeling well enough to tell us your side of the story, are you?”

Rachel blushed. “Actually, um, I uh-” Her eyes landed on her duffel bag, open on the floor, the contents strewn about the floor around it. The clothes were tossed to the side and there were two officers examining the papers and speaking to Thom.

The blush deepened as Thom stepped away from Ally and moved towards her. “Rachel! I need some answers! Power failures, intruders and what else am I forgetting? What on earth happened here?”

Rachel wiggled a few fingers experimentally and then her toes, relieved to find that the foot pain was gone, a momentary distraction while she searched for an answer to satisfy the question she didn’t want to answer.

“Rachel.” Thom began warningly. “Now isn’t the time for one of your stories.”

Rachel closed her eyes for a moment, working up her temper. Her hands slowly curled into fists. “Why do you always assume that I’m lying?” She stumbled free from the bed, lurching to her feet. “And what are you doing to my stuff!”

Thom followed her line of sight to the duffel on the floor and the contents displayed beside them. “That’s yours?” Puzzlement showed clearly in his face. “Since when?”

“Question isn’t when, Thom.” Pete frowned. “It’s how.”

“Right.” Rachel said slowly. “Um, let’s just stick with that’s my private stuff and I don’t want anyone rooting about inside of it and if you don’t mind, I’d like to have it back, all of it and if you’ve got a problem with that, then you’ll need to get warrant or arrest me or something, because-”

“No need to get all uptight kid.” The junior officer offered a friendly smile. “We’re just curious.” His expression hardened. “Very curious how you managed to come across these photos.”

“Yeah, curious, isn’t it?” Rachel snatched the papers from his hands, dropping to her knees to retrieve her belongings.

“Rachel.” The iron had returned to his voice, with a commanding note she knew better than to ignore. “A word, please?” He moved to stand near the door, motioning out into the hallway.

Rachel hesitated. “Not without my stuff.” She crammed the clothes and papers into the duffel and forced her feet to carry her to the doorway and out into the hallway. Her Uncle was not happy in a way that made her stomach flip upside down.

There was a moment of silence between them.

He stood with his back to her, arms crossed over his chest, his head turned to the side.

Rachel slowly inched up to stand beside him. She couldn’t bear to meet his eyes, fearing to see what she was sure was there.

He gave a soft sigh and then finally he turned, arms unfolding. He reached over with one arm and pulled her close, whispering in her ear. “Rach, don’t answer until I tell you to. I understand you’ve been in some…unusual things before…and I’d wager this is one of them. Now, I’m not going to pretend I understand, but I’m not going to pretend I’m stupid either. Are you safe here? Just blink once.”

Rachel swallowed. Then blinked.

“Good girl. In case you haven’t noticed, you aren’t exactly making a whole lot of friends or good impressions on my friends. I’ll have Pete escort you to the motel safehouse. You should be fine there. I’ll be over soon and we’ll talk. Keep yourself together until then. Understand? Blink twice.”

Rachel bit her lip, processing the request. The last thing she wanted to go was go somewhere alone, where Ben would have more than an ample opportunity to pop in and make good on the threat she still didn’t quite understand. But staying held nothing but embarrassment on two different sides and a whole lot of questions she couldn’t answer without endangering more people than just herself.

She blinked twice.

“Good girl…now pretend you’re throwing a little temper tantrum.” But as he spoke, he rolled his eyes.

Rachel struggled to keep her expression neutral. “Okay.” She said slowly, hesitating. “Um, right.” She cleared her throat, speaking clearly. “So let me get this straight…you’re sending me away? I’m your niece! I came here to stay at your house and you’re sending me away? I don’t believe this!”

“There is to be no discussion on this, young lady.” Thom turned on his heel. “Pete! Need you to do me a favor.”

Pete appeared in the doorway, scowling. “Is it the kind of favor I don’t want to do?”

Thom forced a smile. “Maybe. Take Rachel to the safehouse at the Brick Motel. Make sure she’s safely inside before you head out.”

“Locking her up in a motel?” Ally muscled her way into the doorway next to Pete. There was a half-smirk on her face. “Some family you’ve got, Thom. When you’ve got to order them out of the way…lock them up in motels.”

Jeanette snickered. “That isn’t the half of it, Mom…you should have heard her this morning.”

Rachel felt her temper prickle and couldn’t help it. “Yeah, Mrs. Ellis…you should have heard Jeanette, whining and carrying on like a bratty little ten year old. Real smart kid you’ve got, no manners, no respect, doesn’t know when to quit. In fact, I think she’s taking right after you.”

Ally bristled. “That’s all the mouth I’m taking from you young lady, keep that up and I won’t need anything to-”

“To what? Throw me in jail? You judge me before you even see me? You talk about me as if I don’t exist? You’re treating me, an influential person in the life of the man you’re dating, as if I’m just trash? Junk? Useless? Whatever happened to the benefit of the doubt, huh? People with good hearts who didn't just take strangers at face value? The last of a kind, I suppose. Well guess what? Uncle Thom's one of them and I have news for you-”

“And it’s called follow Pete right now before things get out of hand.” Thom’s hand clamped down on her shoulder, physically turning her around. “Go Rachel, now.” He gave her shoulder an extra squeeze. “Pete?”

His partner sighed. “I’m going…Thom, of all the…” He stopped. “Why do I bother?”

“Hey Marsten!” Jason’s head appeared over Ally’s shoulder. “I think you should take a look at this…the girl…she uh…” He swallowed. “You’re not going to believe this.”

“Try me.” Thom muttered, turning back towards the room. He paused in the door way. “Excuse me?” Ally shifted to the side, one arm still wrapped tight around Jeanette. “Thank you. Jason?”

“Right here. Stand right here and here…take a look at this...”

Thom shuffled to the side, copying the pose, tilting his head to the side and squinted at the chalk outline etched on the carpet floor. There were faint burn marks in several places, marks that showed very clearly through the chalk marks with his head held sideways. He swallowed. “Did you call the Chief?”

“Yeah.” Jason shrugged. “He’ll be over here in five minutes…hey, you okay? Marsten? Thom!”

Copyright 2009 Sara Harricharan

2 comments:

Joanne Sher said...

TOTALLY into this, Sawa! What a whiz you are at characterization. Can't wait for more! (But I guess I gotta! hehe)
Love it!
JJ

Catrina Bradley... said...

Sara - nice installment! Rachel has me completely captivated. And I know Thom knows more than we know he knows. I can't wait to find out how this all comes together.