When Brendell Meshango is terrorized by a deranged masked man for two long days, she thinks it's racially motivated. When he threatens her daughter, she doesn't care how scary he is, she'll use any means to stop him. Or so she thinks.
"Why did your husband leave you?"
I nearly choked. He knew that? How did he know that? "Because… Because I am stupid and ugly?" Damn. I hadn't meant for it to sound like a question. I tensed, hoping I'd manage the pain this time.
"Only I know what you need, Brendell. Eat."
Without argument I obeyed. When my plate was empty, he asked me whether I needed to go and I almost allowed confusion to ruin everything. But survival kicked in. "Yes."
His eyes moved over me, then he nodded and brought me a deep bedpan that I didn't recognize. I stared at it for a second before my thoughts cleared. Propped on one elbow, I hoisted my buttocks up while pushing the dish underneath. He returned to the kitchen nook and lowered his head. I closed my eyes and worked fast. When I finished, he gave me some paper towels, then handed me a plastic bag and a damp cloth. He removed the dish. I wiped my hands quickly, efficiently. I put the paper towels in the bag. He tied my free hand. I barely glimpsed his hand before he applied pressure to the tender hollow of my neck. His grip was powerful. The pain was unbearable. I fought to escape but -- Sweet Jesus. I couldn’t breathe. Choking. My eyes felt as if they were popping out of my head. I tried to scream. ...
* * *
Groggy, my eyelids weighed down by drug-induced sleep, I heard the distant cry of a lone eagle and felt like weeping with him. Was he calling to me? Attempting to say goodbye? Promising me that he’d fly overhead as my daughter spread my ashes across the water? Zoë had been silent when I stated that request.
A movement stirred the hairs on my neck. Shoes scuffed across the red carpet and the darkness transformed into dim light.
"Can I trust you?" he said.
"Oh, yes." I didn’t believe that for a moment.
"How do I know you won't betray me?"
I struggled to find an acceptable response and realized warm blankets covered me. My arms were tied, but my legs were free. What did that mean? "I won’t. I promise."
"Do you have any idea how much it pains me to punish you?" He moved closer, one arm behind his back. "Don't take pleasure in it, Brendell. Thought it would be easy, but it's not."
Did that mean there would be no more pain? Oh, thank you!
"Actually, Brendell, think I could hurt someone who hurt you. Maybe that's how I prove my loyalty. I could be your one and only personal avenger."
His words seemed to bring him peace and he moved closer. He stopped at the end of my bed. "I could make your ex-husband pay for deserting you, Brendell.
"I don’t care about him.” I tried to raise my head.
"Can I trust you, Brendell?"
A tremor passed through me. I groped for the words that would appease him. He went to the nook and dragged back my only stool. He positioned it between the woodstove and the bed and sat.
“Yes, you can trust me.”
"Prove it, Brendell," he whispered, his right arm behind his back.
With his free hand, he smoothed the hair off my cheek. Then he grasped my chin so I couldn’t turn my head. He shifted, slipping his hand out from behind his back and resting it on the bed beside my head. I felt something hard and cold touch my cheek. It moved along my throat ... touching my chin… my lower lip. I smelled ... oiled metal. He tucked his thumb in my mouth and forced my lips apart. Oh dear God! He pressed the barrel of the gun against my teeth … between my teeth. I tasted cold steel.
I tried not to gag. I hoped someone other than Zoë found me.
He withdrew the gun and let go of my chin. The stool squeaked, and he walked to the kitchen window, his arms folded across his chest.
I cried without sound.
He grabbed something from the counter and returned to the side of my bed. I stiffening, expecting the excruciating pressure. But this time I felt a prick on the tender area of my neck while my mind registered on the word syringe..
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