The following novel in progress is based on a real crime, but is largely a work of fiction. I started this novel in 2008 and stopped after just a few chapters. I will post those chapters here, and (hopefully) finish the remainder of the novel during NaNoWriMo.
Chapter 23 is here.
Unfortunately for Sarah, she lost her balance and tumbled after Cooley, landing practically in his lap at the bottom of the stairs. And Cooley still had the presence of mind to take advantage of her clumsiness. He was stunned for a moment, and hurting all over, but he managed to hook his arm around Sarah’s neck. With his other hand, he found his gun and brought it up to Sarah’s face. He wanted her to see that he wasn’t some old fool.
“Michael! Michael, I know you’re here. Did you kill Billy, Michael?”
A dark figure rose up on the other side of the bannister. Cooley and Sarah had fallen into the corner between Lucas’s office and the front door. That could be good, Cooley thought. Michael’s jeep was just outside.
“Billy’s not dead.” The dark figure didn’t move. Cooley couldn’t see his hands, see whether he had a gun or a knife or nothing.
“Well, where is he then?”
“Sleeping off a bad dream. He’s not dead, but he won’t be bothering us either. Now, let Sarah go, Cooley.”
The dark figure just stood there, like some statute. It was disconcerting how still Michael could be. Even as a child, he had had this strange way of becoming so still, you’d think he was in a trance or even dead if his eyes were closed. Cooley used to beat on him just to get the young boy to react, show some emotion. But the more he beat him, the more inward Michael went. It totally creeped Cooley out. He tried to not let Sarah get wind of his uneasiness. He knew his arm felt strong and if he squeezed a bit more, he could kill her. It would be a slow death, but Cooley would be willing to attempt it if it meant saving his own miserable life. Of course, he could shoot her and that’s what he wanted Michael to see, but he really didn’t want Sarah’s brains all over him.
“No, she stays with me. You let me and Sarah go. You give me the keys to your vehicle out there. You want to save her life? Then you let her go with me.”
Michael stepped forward into the square of light coming through the front door window. Cooley pressed the gun against Sarah’s forehead. She whimpered, which was all she could do with Cooley’s arm like a vise around her neck.
“Stop there, Michael. Now, I’m going to get up. You keep your distance, and Sarah won’t get hurt.” Cooley wasn’t quite sure how this would work. Michael was really too close and Sarah was essentially sitting in Cooley’s lap. She’d have to move first. Cooley might even have to put his gun down or at least move it away from her. He could feel his right leg starting to go numb. If he was going to pull this off, he needed to move now.
“Back away, Michael. Get back to the kitchen. Keep your distance.” Cooley hoped that Michael didn’t hear the anxiety in his voice. The young man moved away, which was good except that now he was so deep in shadow, Cooley couldn’t make out his figure any more.
“Now, you,” he turned his head to Sarah. “Now, you get up slowly. Don’t try anything funny. I’m not in a good mood, little lady.” Sarah couldn’t reply so Cooley took her passiveness for acquiescence. She leaned forward and Cooley loosened his grip on her just enough to give them both a bit more room for maneuvering their bodies up and out of their cramped positions. Only Cooley’s right leg had now fallen asleep, and he couldn’t put his weight on it.
He felt Sarah start to slip out from under his arm, now that they were both standing, and he couldn’t have that. He couldn’t let her go. He tried to pull her back to him with his arm, but he couldn’t put any weight on his leg. The damn thing had a mind of its own. It just bounced off the floor every time he tried to steady his weight on it. He still had his gun but it was pointing at the ceiling while he tried to hang onto Sarah and work feeling back into his leg at the same time.
It didn’t take long for Sarah to realize that Cooley was distracted. She didn’t know what was going on, but she could feel him wobbling behind her. He had loosened his lock around her neck and she knew this could be her only chance. She knew Michael was nearby. There was a shadow in front of her, looming, coming closer. She just needed to get away from Cooley, get from under his arm.
Michael watched as Cooley and Sarah made their way up to standing. He figured Sarah had to be hurt. She wasn’t saying anything. Just a whimper now and then. And when she stood fully up, the blood rushed to Michael’s face. He saw the porcelain thighs, bare and vulnerable, sans shorts. That was it. The last straw. When he got Sarah back and Cooley put to rights, he would kill Billy. He edged closer to them, trying to see an opportunity to pull Sarah away. Cooley was standing weird but he still clung to Sarah. Except now she was dropping herself down, trying to slip from Cooley’s grasp. Michael saw the gun come back up, but in his effort to balance his weight, Cooley had his gun pointed to the ceiling. This was it.
Sarah felt her arms grabbed and jerked forward as she ducked under Cooley’s arm. She banged her chin on his forearm, causing a firestorm of pain up the right side of her face. She heard a roaring in her ears. She didn’t know if she made the noise, or Michael, or Cooley, or all of them. Michael tossed her down the dark hallway, as gently as he could in the darkness. She heard Cooley yelled out in anger and someone’s gun went off as Sarah pulled herself as far as she could get away from the two men.
The Next Day
Sarah woke, feeling like someone had stuffed her head and mouth with cotton. Every bone and muscle in her body ached. She blinked opened her eyes and was surprised to see it was bright daylight. She was facing a window, a large picture window. Sarah saw a line running from the back of her right hand to an IV drip bag alongside her bed. She apparently was in a hospital. She felt a tug on her left hand and turned to see Michael sitting next to her bed.
Michael leaned in. “Hey, how are you feeling?”
Sarah tried to speak but only managed to stick her tongue out at him. Michael smiled and tapped her tongue with his finger.
“I imagine I somehow deserve that.” With his other hand, Michael started to fuss with Sarah’s hair, moving it away from her face. “You’re lucky you don’t have any broken bones. Billy gave you a huge hematoma on your jaw, though. It’ll take a while for the swelling to go down. Cooley and Billy should be headed to prison any day now. Edna James got them lawyered up but they had to plead guilty. Too much evidence against them.”
Michael briefly closed his eyes, and Sarah saw a tear sneak out one corner and trace a line down his cheek.
“Melody was so close. If I had just gotten her to leave with me …”
Sarah brought her fingers up to Michael’s face and brushed the tear. When she was better, when her throat didn’t hurt so much and she could talk, she’d help Michael understand that he wasn’t responsible for Melody’s death, or anyone else’s death. And maybe that would help her too.
Michael took Sarah’s hand and kissed the palm.
“Misty.” It took all of Sarah’s energy to say her name.
Michael smiled. “Yeah, well, since we now know Billy killed his own brother, Misty is being released. It’ll take two weeks for all the paperwork to go through, if you can imagine that.” Michael sighed and sat back in his chair, still holding her hand.
“Will you go with me to pick her up? I think she would like to see you.”