The news echoed through the 5 bedroom house like Christmas music on January 2nd. The Denver Center for Depression and Anxiety had suffered a fire and several of the 86 residents had gone missing in the chaos.
Tossing his cigarette on the Corvette shaped ashtray, Nick stumbled over Nell’s Barbie house reaching for the TV remote control. Questions rushed through his panic stricken brain.
How long ago had this happened?
Would they say which residents were missing?
Were they even allowed to say which residents were missing if they knew?
Was the fire an accident ?
Nick could feel is heart rate getting out of control. He tried to slow his heart and his mind down with some slow deep breaths. Denver was practically a coast away from his brother’s Maine vacation bungalow. Surely there was no need for alarm.
Nick’s chest tightened up again this time adding extreme nausea. He could have been a country apart and it would not be far enough. Jane had resources in abundance as well as connections.
An update. The word jarred Nick out of his panic induced reverie. The fire was under control and minutes away from being completely put out. 77 residents had been located, safely collected and relocated to a similar facility in neighboring Colorado Springs. The search continued for the remaining 9. Fire officials confirmed that the vicious 18 hour long fire had been the work of an arsonist.
Nick backed up slowly until he was leaning against the living room wall. Nell… Should he go pick her up from the birthday party? Maybe she was safer there, in a secret location.
A strained and incredulous laugh bubbled up in him. Nowhere was safe. Jane knew everything at all times.
“It’s up and the kick is good! Patriots win, Patriots win!”
Nick glanced at his cell phone to make sure it was someone he wanted to talk to.
“Hey Bobby, you back?”
“Back in L. A. and everything went well. The deal is signed and I shouldn’t have to go back to Saudi Arabia for awhile. Long time coming, eh bro? Hey, Bethany is home from college for Spring break. Why don’t you and Nell come out and we’ll have a little family fun together, take her to Disney or something?
“I don’t know, something has come up.”
“Don’t worry about the office. Jack can handle anything that comes up. I’ll call him and smooth it over with him. He can’t refuse the boss. Those are the perks, Nicky. We can barbeque on my new massive, authentic, outdoor , wood fire grill. We can go to a spring training game. Take out the boat and check out some babes. Don’t tell Chrissie!! Heh Heh.”
“Bobby, wait. Jane is out”
“Out, what ya mean out?”
Nick recapped the news cast.
“You don’t know if she is out. They could have got her back. I am sure it will be fine. I will call some people and see what I can find out.”
“I will have Stewart book a flight for you and Nell right away. You can’t be stalked on an airplane, right?”
Nick hung up and huffed at his brothers attempts at light heartedness.
“Call Maria Fernandez.”
Maria was the closest neighbor, 3 miles down the road and the mother of Nell’s best friend.
“Maria, I have to come get Nell. Can you let her know?”
“She is going to be so disappointed. The girls were looking forward to staying up late and watching every princess movie we own.”
“I know but my brother needs me in L. A. right away and we have to leave tonight.”
“Is everything okay?”
“I hope so.”
Nick felt a weight lifting off of his chest as he packed Nell’s Hello Kitty suitcase with a few outfits and her backpack with a few books, toys and her IPad.
He patted his pockets to make sure he had his keys, his cigarettes and his lighter. Grabbing his carryon, he opened the door to the very large garage. It was full of his brother’s favorite things, a 20 piece collection of muscle cars.
The garage was actually larger than the house. It was taller, longer and wider. 20 cars didn’t even come close to filling it up, but it was a new collection and one must plan ahead when one wants to collect cars. The Land Rover that was used to bop around town, was at the very front, past all the metal beauties and right next to the main door.
Slinging Nell’s backpack over one shoulder and pulling the two suitcases behind him, Nick banged his shin into the Chevy Nova. Bobby had never felt it necessary to add more than 4 windows to the space, so Nick bumped along in the half light toward the large front door. It occurred to him that this garage was a death trap. He shook off the feeling as he moved thru it, towards the Dodge Charger .
The smell hit him like a 300lb linebacker. The earthy, sweet smell of a riding stable.
There was no doubt that Jane would have gone to see Maximum Revenge, her Arabian stallion before doing anything else.
He ducked down between the Nova and the Charger as he tried to formulate a plan. He closed his eyes to visualize the situation and slow his thought process.
There were three exits, the one leading to the house which he had just come through and the least strategic. There was a door that led to the opposite side of the garage away from the house and it also led to the edge of the cliff near the water. Then there was the huge main front door that rolled up and that was where the Land Rover was.
What he needed to know was where she was so he could make a strategy for getting out of here alive.
She didn’t wait for an invitation.
“Where is Nell, Nick?”
Jane’s loud, confident and darkly sensuous voice bounced around the huge space like a basketball in a empty stadium.
“Where is Nell, Nick? You and your brother can’t keep her from me, Nick. She needs her mother.”
Nick could not tell exactly where Jane was. He could tell she was up front and on the far side but where?
He grabbed a croquet mallet out of a bucket of sports equipment, long since forgotten and unused for many summer since his brother’s kids had all reached college age.
Moving slowly through the cars, Nick was bending and squatting trying to catch a glimpse of Jane’s bleach blond hair through the car windows. From time to time , he dropped to the floor to look for her designer riding boots, under the frames.
“Jane, you know you’re not well. All you need to do is finish the program Dr. Sheldon set up for you and the Judge says you will be able to see her.”
“You and Robert think you are so clever, Nick, telling everyone that I am sick. I am fine Nick. Sick people don’t get away with arson, Nick.”
Nick could hear the click of her boots on the concrete. He could hear the swish of her silk slacks. He could hear the tinkle of her large earings.
He hunched down, as he slid past the Shelby Cobra. Lying down quietly on the ground, he searched the darkness carefully for any signs of movement.
“You couldn’t have done that all by yourself.”
He was hoping provoking her would make her lose some control and maybe even move her along faster, allowing him to get a better fix on her location.
“I planned it, I executed it and I came out on the other side unscathed and free!” Her voice rose into a more of a desperate squeal but she stopped as she finished her diatribe.
Her voice fell quickly back into the controlled sensuous growl but he couldn’t hear her foot steps. Where was she? He was getting nervous. She was getting the upper hand on him
“No one knows I am here, Nick. It is just me and you.”
“Whoever wins the game, get’s the spoils, Nick, and you know you can never beat me at anything.”
She wasn’t moving. Maybe he should just move up to the Ford Torino where it was darker and stay there too until he knew where she was or until he could flush her out into the light.
“I don’t want to beat you Jane, I just want you to be well.”
“ Nell wants you to be well too.”
He knew that saying Nell was aware that Jane was sick would get her to come out. It worked.
“Nell does not believe you. She knows that I am fine and that you are keeping her from me” Jane said as she got out of the convertible Mustang she had been hiding in.
Nick got up from behind the Torino and turned around to see Jane holding a gas can.
“It isn’t wrong to be sick, Jane. People just get sick.” He said softly as he walked toward her. His knuckles turned white with the tight grip he had on the mallet.
He stopped next to his brother’s favorite car, a 1965 black Camaro with red racing stripes.
The smirk on Jane’s face told him, she had a plan. She opened the gas can and started pouring the gas on the floor around the Land Rover and the other nearby cars, circling him and back again.
She smiled sweetly as she showed him the spare key she still had for the Land Rover.
“No matter, because when you are dead, I will be the only one Nell can lean on for comfort.”
Nick’s mind was picking through each life saving option and throwing it out. How could he get out of this? It was 4th and 1 and he just needed a break.
As Jane opened the door to the Land Rover, Nick performed the smoothest move of his life. With one lightening action, he whipped out his lighter, threw it on the gasoline, then pushed the garage door opener on the side of the wall allowing the Maine coastal wind to rush in the warehouse like an amassing Roman legion. The gasoline and lighter collided in a cacophony of billowing heat and beauty. The shocking, dancing flames kept Jane in her Yuppy tomb.
Nick ran through the door not looking behind him and smacked the door button as he ran through it. He went around to the cliff side door to make sure Jane wouldn’t have any alternative exits. There was already hot black smoke pushing through the cracks and seals. He shoved a metal drum up under the door knob, making escape unlikely.
Was she dead? He didn’t know or care. He just knew that he had won the game.