1000 Word Challenge – Archways (Weekly Writing Challenge)

Credit: Cheri Lucas Rowlands of The Daily Post
Credit: Cheri Lucas Rowlands of The Daily Post

The stones stared back at her. The brick and mortar were cold as a wind howled through them. Her 9mm felt cold even as her hand sweated against it, “I know you’re in there!” she cried at the shadows, “If you come out now I won’t have to shoot you.”

A chuckle bounced back from the darkness, “Come now, Annie, you don’t really expect me to believe that, do you? Not after what you did to Nicholas.”

“Nicholas fought back!” she hollered in reply, feeling her face grow hot despite the chill, “He didn’t surrender.”

“Surrender to what? You? Or the CPA?”

“Does it matter?” She returned, not especially concerned with his response. If she kept him talking, then she might be able to locate where he was hiding in this idiotic maze. When she got back, she’d have a word with her commanding officer about safety. And not making stupid decisions without enough intel to determine if it was a good plan or a poor one to send in a single officer against a madman. With shadows.

“Of course it does,” the reply bounced off the stone mockingly, “Surrender to a faceless government authority is very different from surrendering to a woman.”

Annie rolled her eyes. She’d read Nicolas’ profile on the plane ride over. The man was a domineering asshat who got his jollies off on controlling situations and other people. Especially women, “Whichever one you prefer, Nicholas. I’ll be happy to take your surrender.”

Annie heard a light scraping sound and tried to puzzle what it was. There was a faint metallic grind to it, almost like a pipe rubbing on a rough surface. At the same time, however, it was loud enough to echo off the bricks that surrounded her. Most piping wouldn’t do that, “Oh Annie, I don’t surrender.” Nicholas chimed, pulling her mind off the sound and back to his voice, “Not to a woman and not to the CPA.”

Annie sorted quickly through her mental catalogue of facts she had read in the report. The monster had murdered four women, all aged 25-35. Two blondes and two brunettes. They had all shared similar builds – on the tall side and well rounded. They had all worked in middle of the road jobs – a medical assistant, a small business owner, a radio jockey, and a daycare provider. His fifth target, Karena, had managed to slip free of the manacles that he had trapped her with and make it to a phone to call the police. Then she had locked herself in a bathroom and stayed there until the police arrived.

Apparently Nicholas had gotten some kind of tip off about the warning, as he had not returned to the apartment he had stored his women in. Instead he had managed to make it to an airport and fly half way across the country. It was only through sheer luck and a sharp eyed flight attendant that they had managed to track the madman to this spot. She had warrants and notifications stuffed in to the satchel at her side permitting her to claim the man. The entire area was swamped in police cars just outside of the visibility line for the structure. Even if she didn’t convince the man to surrender, he wasn’t going to escape. She’d been given ten minutes to talk to the guy and convince him to surrender before the local units were going to swarm the area and gun the man down.

The local law enforcement had been reluctant to allow her to try and handle Nicholas alone. Never mind it had been her investigation from the start. Never mind she had been the one to talk to the families. Never mind she had to tell the children of victim number three – Marsela DiGiacano – that their mother wasn’t going home and that they would have to become wardens of the state. Never mind those details – it wasn’t her territory and it wasn’t her operation.

Thankfully, the CPA had backed her up and talked with the officials. It hadn’t been a pleasant talk, but it had gotten her not only what she needed, but what she wanted. “Oh come now, Nicholas,” she replied, “you don’t have to surrender, but it’ll be good for you. It’s a nice and dignified way to admit you’ve been beaten.”

“By these chumps, Annie?” she heard the scraping of the metal again, “I wouldn’t count on it. I can get through their little blockade.”

“If that’s the case, you’re missing your chance. We have less than ten minutes before this place is crawling with cops,” she spoke calmly, even as she tried to track the sound once more. The arches made it bounce oddly and she could hear her own voice echoing as well.

“A few more carapaces for the counting bag, Annie. I’m not worried about them any more than I am worried about you.” his taunt was filled with maliciousness as he continued to speak, “I assume you enjoyed talking to little Tony and Maria. Marsela’s pictures were wonderful. She was so proud of them after what happened to Daddy overseas. They’d handled it so well,” he paused and his dark chuckle reverberated from the stone, “Bet they’re not doing so well now.”

Annie took a deep breath and counted backwards from ten to keep her emotions in check. It was a technique that she had learned both as an officer and as a yoga student. It worked well for both departments and allowed her to think more clearly than she normally could. What was he blathering so long for? Why stay in the shadows.

She couldn’t help but feel she was being played by this manipulative jerk, “Better pictures than your mug shot in the paper this morning. I could have used the ones that Karena snapped on her cell phone, but I preferred your sullen look from the beer heist two years ago. Captures the real you, I’d think.”

The scraping sound was her only warning as a large chunk of metal piping came hurtling out of the darkness at her. She ducked behind the archway of her conversation and heard it crash with a loud clank against the manufactured stone. The piece of piping bounced off and then rolled on the floor behind her, “Nice aim!” she returned. Apparantly she’d gotten to the fool.

“Oh Annie,” the voice was closer now, reverberating less, “That was exactly what I needed it to do.” she heard a loud thunking sound from behind her and turned just in time to see a second piece of piping swing at her face. Pain exploded in her temple and she felt her legs collapse beneath her, “You really do need to learn to look up.”

Her vision blurred as she tracked Nicholas’ movements. He considered her prone form for a moment before slamming the pipe into her gut. She wheezed and felt bile rising in to her throat. Reflexively her hands unclenched and she felt her gun slide out of her grasp on to the floor, “That’s the problem with you. With all of you. You’re not nearly as clever as you think you are.”

Annie tried to grab the gun even as Nicholas kicked it away from her, “Doesn’t matter,” she responded, “Don’t have to be clever. Just have to be smart…smart…smarter than you,” she spat.

“That’s not going to happen either.” he grinned. Annie watched as he drew back his arm still holding the pipe chunk, “Not when I get done. A few concussions’ll take care of any brains you might have.”

Annie felt her stomach heave and used the feeling to duck under Nicholas’ swing. He corrected it at her desperate dodge but caught only her shoulder with a resounding smack. She cried out and managed to get to her knees as he drew back again. She faced forward and peered up, retching at his face. She was rather satisfied to hear him cry out as his hands moved to protect himself from the contents of her stomach.

She took advantage of his momentary distraction and locate her gun and lunged for it. Some of her stomach fluids were on the ground and they soaked her sleeve as she moved past him, half rolling half crawling to the weapon. They were hot and smelled disgusting, but it was her ticket to the weapon. She retrieved the cool metal and slammed it home, pointing it at the man.

“You’ll regret that,” he threatened, raising the pipe.

That was all she needed. She pulled the trigger once and hit his shoulder, forcing him to drop the pipe. The second caught his gut and he bent, clutching at the new wound. From beyond the perimeter she heard voices on megaphones declaring ‘Shots fired! Shots fired!”

He was leaking fluids all over the concrete, but, then again, so was she. The shadows of the arches reached out to her, claiming her as she felt her spirit soar away from the mess on the floor before her.

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