Paul crab-walked toward the window. It held but shattered like windshield glass. He said, “You stay put, all of you!” he barked before hustling toward the back door.
Daring to turn her head she looked at her kids who’s expressions surely mirrored her own shock, “You ok?”
At the duplicate yeahs, her audible sigh of relief could be heard clear across the room.
“Is it safe enough to move now?”
“Not sure, Christina, but I think we can get to the media room, might have a better line of sight from there and the windows are long and narrow.”
They followed one behind the other until they reached the safety of the door, stood and scooted inside and shut it behind them.
“Is it that maniac?” Christine’s eyes tracked to her mother.
“Not sure, but I can’t imagine who else it could be.” Eilea side-tracked to the first of four tall windows and peered outside, shielding her body with as much of the wall as she could. The kids did the same. The only indication anyone was moving among the tall grass was a sudden shift as the grass swayed.
“I can’t see much, can you?” Andrew asked.
“He’s probably taken off by now, don’t you think?”
“I can’t imagine any reason he’d stick around unless he intends getting caught Christina and that’s certainly doubtful.”
“The bullet didn’t make it through the glass. Is it some kind of special glass or did we just get lucky?”
“I think we got lucky. Could have been the angle or the distance, but whatever, I’m grateful,” Eilea remarked.
“You see Paul anywhere?” Christina’s voice was heavy with concern.
“I can’t see anyone.”
It was an interminably long time before they heard movement at the back of the house. Even as they moved toward shelter, Paul walked in. “I thought I told you three to stay put!”
“Figured it was safer in here.”
“Did you get him?”
“Unfortunately, we didn’t, Andrew. He fired and ran.”
“Must have been some high-powered weapon to reach us from the far side of that grass.”
“It was. Luckily for us, the glass held.”
“There are patrol cars checking the area now from the highway to the beach and every inch of land between. Everyone stays inside! Outside your sitting ducks.”
Paul’s phone rang and he quickly answered. “Yeah, yeah, ok, got it.”
“What?” Eilea asked her voice sounding a little shaky to Paul’s highly tuned ears.
“Damn it! He got away clean, but it only means we’ll post men on the other side of the grassland. They’re checking for tire and footprints. Now we know he has a high powered sniper rifle and obviously knows how to use it, we’ll have to double up on manpower.”
“We’re going to get this bastard, I promise you!” Paul said on a growl looking straight into Christina’s glazed eyes.
When Paul received the all clear, he suggested they eat. No one was particularly interested but they did enjoy the raspberry floats he made. After that they settled into the games room, which was easier to secure and which Paul hoped would take their minds of the immediate and eminent danger.
Word came down that Eilea’s family was to be moved into a safehouse. He was feeling pretty angry. It would postpone the inevitable. This jerk had made a move and he’d make another. He’d tipped over into deranged and he wasn’t about to stop. If he could convince Eilea to hang tough a couple more days, he was sure they’d nab the bastard in the act. Otherwise it could be months if ever before they caught him. If he disappeared into the wind neither she nor the kids would ever feel truly safe. They’d always have that concern hanging over their heads – would he return, if so, when? Would he give up his pursuit or simply wait them out? What if they ran smack dab into him somewhere sometime.
He put off talking with them as long as he could. Turning the tv off he said, “There’s something we’ve got to talk about.” When all three sets of questioning eyes turned his way he continued, “The powers that be want to place you in a safehouse until they catch this perp. I want to to figure this into your equation before making a decision.” He went on to explain what his personal thoughts on the matter were.
“I take it your alone in your perception?”
“Pretty much. Most just want the problem to go away, others figure this is the best course of action, but you know what I think. So, take your time before you decide. I need to give them an answer soon.” With that he walked away to allow them time to discuss the situation and make a unified decision.
They watched the group until they were but dots and wandered back inside. Paul noted the men and women surrounding the perimeter of the property and silently nodded approval knowing they were in good hands.
Inside with the door closed gently behind them, he took Eilea in his arms. “It’s been too long since we had alone time.” He nuzzled her neck with his nose and then his lips.
“You up for this champ?”
“Wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“I’ll remind you of that when your head is banging like it has a sledge hammer inside.”
“Worth the wait and the agony.”
Eilea backed him into the bedroom and shut the door leaning back to lock it. “Now, as you were saying?” She shoved him gently on the bed and for a brief second, he had second thoughts until she landed on top of him and erased all thought completely and emotion took over.
By the time the others returned, they were cuddled together on the couch and his head lay on Eilea’s lap. “You ok champ?”
“Never better. I could get used to lazing about if this is how it’s going to be.” He winked.
Following a sigh, Eilea said, “I’ve never been a ‘wait for the other shoe to drop’ type of gal. I usually take it on the chin and move on after making whatever decisions were necessary, but I now know how the other half feels.”
“Patience if a virtue! but having said that, I’m with you. Although I’m a patient type, have to be in my line of work since it often includes plenty of downtime, I’d rather this miscreant made his move so we can catch him. Then I can really show you a good time.” He winked suggestively.
“Can’t wait!” Eilea ruffled his hair gently, mindful of how tender his head still was.
“I’ve been trying to come up with something new to do, something we haven’t done yet.”
“I beg of you, give it another day, my poor beleaguered head needs one more day before I start romping around,” Paul suggested.
“Oh I don’t know, that romp earlier seemed to go well.” She couldn’t help but laugh at his expression of shock and dismay.
“What? There was something wrong with my technique?”
“Quite the opposite,” Eilea quickly assured him.
“Seriously, Paul, what do you think he’ll try next? He’s not stupid, he knows there are officers here, has to, especially after attacking you, (and he managed to break through the lines) I’d imagine that’s got to embolden him somewhat. That begs the question as to what we should do next. How do we draw him in (out) whatever…to catch him. He’s definitely not stupid and takes risks when he knows he can get away with it.”
“We’ll think of something, Eilea, give me a day or two though. I’d rather forgo another knock on the head just yet. As delightful as you are, I’d rather not see two of you continuously. I quite enjoy centering all my attention on just you.” His quip while meant to be amusing brought home just how serious the situation was and could become.
Paul’s head pounded and as soon as they ate, retired to the bedroom to lay down in a dark room for an hour. When he got up he was feeling better but still necessitated the pills the doctor had ordered if a headache got out of hand.
When he entered the living room he couldn’t find anyone. Peering outside, he found the trio in the garden. Everyone was involved in weeding and the results were spectacular.
Joining them he said, “Wow, this is quite the treat!”
“We hoped you’d like it,” Eilea said straightening. “Have you seen the barn yet?”
“No, what’s been going on out there?”
Linking arms, Eilea led the procession to the back yard. “Have a look.”
He was stunned to see the side of the barn had been repaired and several bundles of fresh hay flanked the barn. There were workmen shoveling fresh hay into all the stalls and the horses were looking on in delighted amusement pawing the ground eager to get inside. “When did this happen?”
“They showed up late last night and managed to get the sides replaced before dark then returned early this morning. We were hoping you wouldn’t notice until the job was complete.”
Paul pulled Eilea close, “I don’t know what to say.”
“We didn’t have much to do with it. It was the guys from the detachment. They got ahold of the insurance adjuster and made it happen pronto.”
Paul gingerly walked to the men hard at work, “Hi fellas. This is wonderful.”
“No problem. It will be when we’re done.” Stopping for a minute looking at the horses, “I’m pretty sure it’s appreciated.” He nodded at the horses.
“If I was up to it, I’d roll around in the hay.” Paul laughed.
Andrew went to saddle Britches as Christine saddled Showgirl and as soon as they were finished, they waved and headed toward the beach. “They’ve been riding them daily to give the horses a break.” They watched an officer slide onto the other horse and head out. “They’ll be meeting several officers already located on the beach and awaiting their arrival. Your men are good, Paul. I’ve been impressed with their coordination and tact.”
Paul pulled Eilea closer. “Glad to hear it.”
Eilea and the kids were waiting just inside the door when Paul arrived. Although he was pale and looked more exhausted than anyone should ever look, he was a sight for sore eyes. Christina walked to him first and held out her arms, “Hey you! You look a little worse for wear but there’s a sparkle in them there eyes still!” Paul hugged her briefly, “Takes more than a knock on this old hard head of mine to knock the twinkle out.”
Andrew stepped forward and held out a fist and they stood doing the manly bumped fist thing which had Eilea smirking. “Glad you’re alright, Paul. Sorry he got to you though.”
Gently touching the lump on the back of his head Paul agreed, “Yeah, I could have done without the goose egg that’s for sure.”
Eilea opened her arms wide and Paul walked into them and pulled her in tight. “Hi beautiful. How’d you sleep?”
“Ok I guess, it could have been longer and better, but Im sure I slept better than you.”
“It was a long night mostly because I wanted to get back here to you!” He hugged her tight and then glanced at the kids, “All of you!”
They settled into the living room and the kids decided they’d make pancake breakfast for everyone and headed off to the kitchen. Eilea and Paul snuggled on the chesterfield. “God I’m so sorry, Paul!”
“No need, Eilea. He would have gotten around to me sooner or later, rather surprised I wasn’t his first target but I figure the opportunity presented itself and he took it, which means we’re on high alert from now on! I’m just very unhappy I didn’t get a look at him beforehand, mind you then he’d be the one sporting the bruises and cracked skull, not me!”
“I’m completely lost you know. I want this over with, I want him charged in behind bars so he can’t hurt any of us anymore. It’s my first thought when I wake up and my last thought before I go to bed,” Eilea admitted fervently.
“What?” Paul feigned a shocked look, “I thought I was a little more important to you than that and ranked a little higher on the scale of … well … I know where I stand now then, hey?” He winked.
Eilea held on hard, “You fishing there, Paul?”
It was a restless night with nurses poking and prodding him every two hours. Between their endeavours at monitoring his condition and worrying about Eilea and the kids, he could count the minutes of sleep he’d received. Damn, he just wanted out of here!
The doctor arrived at his bedside, checked his chart and pronounced him ready to leave even though he felt he should stay a few more hours but the second he’d made his decision, Paul flew off the bed and hid the fact the world whirled in an arc around him. Planting his feet solidly he said, “Great, doc, thanks.”
The doc turned at the door shook his head and said, “Take it easy, Paul. Another crack on the head like that could be fatal. This one was serious and you aren’t over it yet. Take some friendly advice, take it easy…go home, relax, laze about…you are on holidays, aren’t you?”
“Working holiday, yeah.”
Paul called to inform Eilea he was heading home and dressed as quickly as possible and headed out his door. A friend was standing guard just outside the door. “Hey, Paul, you heading home then?”
“Yeah, Harold, you give me a ride home?”
“I’m to stick to you like glue, not supposed to let you out of my sight so I suppose I’ll be hanging at your house for the day.”
Paul didn’t much care as long as Eilea and the kids were safe and he was home with them.
Dropping into the car had his head spinning and a muffled curse eminate from his mouth before he could stop it. “You really ready to head home, Paul? You sound pretty rough.”
“Doc said so.” Truth be told, he’d have found a way home even without permission. As he sat in the passenger seat he ruminated on all the possibilities. Relieved Eilea hadn’t left he was positive they were all in equal danger. He’d wondered why the perp hadn’t gone after him first. Seems his priorities were skewed, but now he too was a target and usually better able to defend himself. He’d allowed himself to be lulled into a false sense of security, the safety in numbers thing, but that was a mistake. Where there was a will, there was always a way. The second he was home, he’d call a meeting and stress the fact. No one was to take anything for granted and if someone approached they didn’t know, or hadn’t been apprised was coming, they were to be escorted out of the area immediately after being taken to HQ for questioning and an in-depth background check.
Eilea the kids and two others hovered inside the emergency room awaiting the verdict. Paul had apparently regained consciousness and was lucid and angry. She had to smile at the rather robust use of cursing emanating from his room as he obviously was unwilling to remain in the hospital any longer than necessary and wanted out. His Sarg had been called in to assure him Eilea’s family would be looked after until such times as he was able to join them.
When the dust settled, he was moved into a semi-private room for the night as they fully intended keeping track of him due to the concussion he’d received.
They entered his room together to find him laying prone eyes closed. As soon as he was aware they had entered he tried to sit up and clasped his head. “Shit!”
Eilea and Christina walked to the right side and Andrew rounded the bed to stand on the other side. “Hey, this your fancy way of getting out of dishes?” Andrew smirked.
Paul asked, “Did it work?”
“I think so. You saved our bacon too. A few stayed behind to clean up the bbq. Oh and by the way, you have a way of making bbqs live. It’s been an interesting highlight I gotta say.”
Paul smiled up at Andrew. “I think I went overboard, but yeah…” He winked at Andrew before turning back to Eilea and lifting his hand to capture hers.
“Hey, beautiful! You ok?”
“I’m fine and not the one laying on a hospital bed with a concussion.” She leaned down to plant a gentle kiss on his unexpecting lips then added, “You know, there are other ways of getting out of dishes and clean-up detail. Next time, just ask…” she leaned in for another kiss. Andrew and Christina exchanged knowing glances and a smile lit both faces.
“I take it you didn’t see it coming.”
“No, I had an uneasy feeling, put everyone on alert and under the guise of watering went out front to have a look and before I could turn around, the lights went out. Holy hell, did they ever. Not even sure stars registered it just went black.”
Eilea clasped his hand tightly. “You know what I’m thinking, right?”
“No, no safe house! Promise me you won’t let anyone talk you into moving. One I’ll never know where you are and two, it won’t encourage this ass to make another move, and if he does locate you, then you’ll be sitting targets.”
“Not unlike you?”
“That was a one time deal. I promise you he won’t get another chance! I’ll see to it.”
They sat and chatted until the staff finally threw them out. Paul was obviously tired so they headed back to his place with the officers that drove them and when they entered the place was spic and span clean.
They huddled in front of the tv hoping to find a movie to watch as their enthusiasm for doing much else had dwindled. Eventually, they all turned in for the night after hugs were exchanged.
Eilea was seriously contemplating taking her kids and leaving if only to protect Paul, but he was right. If she disappeared whether into a safe house or not, they wouldn’t see him again until the maniac was caught. At this point, it was unclear how long that would take and she was selfish enough to want Paul in her life. She’d been absolutely sick when she realized he’d gotten to Paul and admid feelings of guilt and fear prayed to the gods he would be ok.
To say she was enjoying his company would have been putting it mildly. She was loving his company and everything about him. She wanted more of him and his time.
Paul’s sense of unease couldn’t be denied, even though he knew others were patrolling the area including his home and the beach.
His watchful eye drifted from one member of Eilea’s family to another making sure each was present and accounted for. He’d assigned a couple to monitor each of the teens and he was watching out for Eilea. This maniac had managed to get close enough to cause real distress and whether his intent was harming one of the family members or whisking Eilea away, his mental stability was undoubtedly questionable.
It was time to check in with each team. After making his excuses, Paul wandered through the house, mentally checking as he moved, then on out through the front door. Picking up a hose to water the garden, he yanked and pulled until it uncoiled to its full extent. Eyes ever watchful, he backed up toward the road, his gaze moving from one location to another.
So intently was he focused he hadn’t noticed the lone man walking briskly toward him, nor had he heard sounds of his movements. Before he could turn to face his attacker, he was down. The hose slipped from his grasp as he fell to the ground.
The assailant grasped him under the arms and hauled his drooping body over the grass to an unmarked vehicle and hefted Paul inside. Satisfied, he slammed the door and steadily walked away.
Twenty minutes passed before someone noticed Paul’s disappearance. Eilea had scanned the group and figured Paul was making rounds but became anxious enough to ask first one then another when they’d last seen Paul. It soon became apparent that no one knew where he was. Immediately word passed through the group and everyone was on their feet. Ushering Eilea and the kids inside along with a group assigned to watch over them, the rest fanned out.
Eilea heard the distant yell. “Found him! Call 911!” Instantly she was out the door before anyone could stop her. She raced to the group of men and women and found Paul laying on his side a horrible shade of unbecoming pink.
“Oh my god, what’s happened to him?” she asked kneeling beside him.
“Someone’s used some kind of gas on him.”
Before she could ask how to help, an ambulance was racing up, lights flashing and they all moved aside to create a path. Upon examination, they immediately hooked Paul up to Oxygen and asked, “Anyone know what he used?”
“HE used nothing. He’s got a sizeable lump on the back of his head. We don’t know what gas was used to knock him out!”
“Ok, we’re off to the hospital.” As they hurried away, they listened to the ambulance attendant reporting over a walkie-talkie to the hospital explaining the situation.
“I have to go!” Eilea responded racing toward the house to grab her keys.
“Eilea, wait, I’ll drive you! You can’t go alone.” Eilea nodded before racing inside to gather her purse and tell her kids what had happened.
“We’re coming with you!” they shouted in unison.
Eilea couldn’t explain her unease, the prickles creeping up her spine or the neck itch. It was something she’d rarely experienced but it had happened on three previous occasions. A precursor to her “known” pregnancy with both kids and before her “ex” decided they were quits, weeks before in fact. It was here, again. Chills crept up her body and she was suddenly inexplicably cold though the sun shone brightly overhead. She looked at Paul then the kids and everyone else seemed relaxed and comfortable. She peered at the cars beside them.
Paul sensed her unease and lifted a brow at her. She shrugged her shoulders in response before silently mouthing “later”.
They had planned on a barbecue and Paul had invited half the precinct. Safety in numbers his goal.
A dozen couples showed up and each brought steaks, salad, corn on the cob along with a few desserts. Those on duty brought pop, chips, bread sticks and others brought a bottle of wine.
He turned on the music from the media room and it played softly in the background and a few of the guys dug out the lawn chairs. Before long everyone was seated or dancing to the music. Everyone was relaxed and enjoying the moment.
He took Eilea aside as soon as he could and asked what was going on. She explained and he knew beyond a doubt their reprieve was about over. Instincts, it was all about instincts, listening to them and heeding the warnings.
Paul carefully made his way around the group putting on a show of checking to make sure everyone was comfortable and enjoying while placing everyone present on alert.
Damn! Strategy, he needed a strategy. Think! He slammed his fist against the steering wheel. Music from the radio blasted inside his head. The song pounded his emotions and had him firing on all cylinders. Every nerve ending, every fibre of his body was aflame with emotion swirling from angst to anger to rage and back to undying love for the woman in the vehicle up ahead.
Soon the music became distant as his mind travelled back to the moment he’d met her – a lifetime ago, a moment ago. He’d entered the CofC to obtain a map. She’d asked questions and opened the world to him. Taking him from display to display, her heartfelt questions followed by material on the area that might be of interest to him. It was as if he’d known her all his life and she, him.
After explaining Cape Scott Park and her interest and yearning to hike there this year, he’d made a point of learning all he could about the place and taken the journey himself. He was captivated by it, and her. He’d followed up on some of the other suggestions she’d encouraged him to try, equally delighted. Little by little he began to understand her, know her, enjoy her.
He began dropping by to thank her when he’d accomplished and stroked off another on the list of activities she’d outlined. She seemed as delighted as he was pleased with his discoveries along those journeys. Eilea, her name was Eilea. She’d spoken so encouragingly, lovingly, looking him directly in the eye – no one else existed. He knew she felt no cared for him as deeply as he’d come to care for her.
Then suddenly she’d changed jobs shocking him, but more making a chance meet nearly impossible. He’d had to settle for watching her from afar. Not enough, never enough, not nearly enough!
Time was of the essence. His transfer to Hardy was a temporary one necessitating he move things along, but something held him back. Instead, he’d called and hung up which propelled him into calling repeatedly.
He’d been smart enough to obtain equipment that by-passed the system allowing him unfettered contact whenever he wished. A stop-gap nothing more.
Now was time to make his move. He’d have to prepare, well!
Thank god he’d swapped vehicles. Sitting behind the wheel of his car, he shook. That was too close for comfort. He hadn’t thought it through but then he hadn’t expected an immediate response. It was orchestrated he was sure of it. Damn them all! For standing in his way, for stopping him, for keeping them apart.
He took his wallet out of his pants and opened it to stare at her beloved face. “You are so beautiful. We’re meant to be together. I know it, you know it. I have to get you away from them. I will, I vow it!” He lifted her picture to his face and kissed it.
Warily he made his way out of the park looking for cops and roadblocks. There were none. He parked at the entrance and wandered for a bit making nice. Not near enough he thought, but safe enough. It enabled him a view of exit and he’d be able to see her. His mind vacillated between wanting her and punishing her. Every time he thought of the latter, he wanted to weep. She was his woman, so special, so dear. This was intolerable. He wanted to scream his love for her from the rooftops, carry her away to a place they could be together, forever. He must plan better. He derided himself.
No clues, he’d left no clues, he was positive about that. Going over every encounter again in his mind, he smiled at their response, especially hers. He felt bad about the gift even though he’d scared her, he had to make a point. She must take him seriously. If he couldn’t get close to her he had no other way of showing her what she meant to him.
His fractured thinking left little room for doubt. His plan was to separate her from the others and take her away. He only needed a moment to accomplish his goal.
He saw the truck. They were headed out, preparing to leave. He watched them wave at another couple. Safety in numbers? Hopping into his car, he followed several car lengths behind. One opportunity, that’s all it would take.
In his mind, Paul didn’t exist. They didn’t exist. The children would come round eventually, and if not, well, that was too bad.