Bad Fall – Part 98


Bad FallKnowing they have nowhere to live, James is trying to figure out where Frank and Marka can actually go home to when Frank is released from the hospital.

“I think that’s up to Frank and Marka,” Tom said.

“I hadn’t thought that far. I hate to take him back to the tiny apartment,” Marka said.

“Kenny told me that one of the villas is empty right now. The new residents won’t be moving in for a month. If you don’t mind camping with secondhand furniture, he and the maintenance crew can get stuff and furnish it for you and move your stuff,” James told them.

“James, that would be wonderful. Tell Kenny thank you.” Marka kissed his cheek.

“You got it. What are best friends for?”

Marka took him in her arms, holding him close. “You’re the best friend ever. You helped save his life today. Thank you.” She kissed both his cheeks and planted a lingering one on his forehead. “Thank you.” She burst into tears, her hand over her mouth.

Paula enfolded her in her arms and the two women cried while the men looked on.

“I’ll never understand why they’re crying now,” Tom said quietly. “The worst part is over.”

James grinned, shaking his head. “I dunno, man. But does it matter?”

“No.” Tom laughed.

The two men went outside for James to make his phone call and Tom to get a smoke. When they came back in, the women were dry eyed and smiling. Rochelle had helped to calm them down. She offered to drive Marka to the facility to get her things for the night.

“Oh, my car!” Marka suddenly remember that it was still in Canton at the courthouse.

“Give me your keys, sugar. I’ll have a friend of mine help me get it back here.”

“Thank you so much, Rochelle! You’re a wonderful friend too. I don’t know how to thank you.”

“You invite me to the wedding.” She smirked.

“Better yet, you’ll be the maid of honor. We haven’t set a date yet. We aren’t even officially engaged.”

“You will be. You give that man a chance to heal up. You’ll be engaged all over the place.”

When Marka got back to the hospital, Frank was in his room. He was asleep when she came in, but woke while she was getting ready for bed. He held out his hand to her.

“Hey, babe. I’m glad you’re back.”

“Miss me?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe. You know what’s amazing? I don’t feel her in my head anymore. All this time, she’s been there—all these years. I remembered what really happened that day. I made all the plans, I oversaw it all, but Liz wanted to be involved. I told her I had it under control, but she insisted that Shay wanted her to.”

“You know he didn’t.”

“I know that now. At the time, I assumed she was telling the truth.”

“So, she’s the one who set up Clay and the others.”

“Yes. I still don’t know who she’s working with. I never knew that. But I remember that now. I also know where they took me for three days and what they did.” He shuddered, going pale. “I hope one day I can forget that. No one should have done to them what they did to me. Not even the Devil himself deserves that. It’s amazing I came back with any mind at all.”

“You don’t have to talk about this right now, Frank.”

“No, but I will one day. I’ll tell you everything. I just wanted you to know that I remember.”

“I’m glad.” She cuddled up next to him.

“I remember something else,” he said, his voice deepening.

“Yeah, what’s that?”

“I remember what it’s like to make love to you. To hold you and kiss you and make you scream.” His lips brushed hers.

The door burst open and Colonel Shay marched in with Clark behind him. “Frank, glad to see you’re on the mend.”

“Who let you in?”

“I let myself in. You gonna throw me out?”

Frank laughed as Shay shadowboxed. Marka hadn’t noticed before, but most of the Colonel’s bulk was solid muscle. He wasn’t in uniform. He and Clark wore civilian clothing and looked oddly uncomfortable. Clark handed Marka a bouquet of flowers and he handed Frank a small package. When he opened it, Frank found a PlayStation Portable and a variety of games. Frank laughed, holding up the PSP like a badge of honor.

“You remembered! I remembered!”

“That’s what friends are for, Frank. We used to share one when we were working together,” Clark explained. “Frank held the record for lamest score possible in Grand Theft Auto.”

“Untrue, that was Phil. Mine was second lowest.” His eyes saddened. “Is he okay?”

“He will be, in time,” Shay replied, his voice soft. “He’s in the psych ward at the V.A. Hospital. I wanted to pick Marka’s brain in a few days, have you do a consult with the doctors there.”

“You know I’ll do anything to help him. He came through for me when I needed him most. Liz and her goons would have killed me otherwise.”

“He’s not gonna do time?” Frank sounded worried.

“No. We all know Liz did something to him, just like she did you.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 97


Frank’s back in the hospital. Soon, a young woman comes out asking for Frank’s Bad Fallfamily.

“I’m Doctor Frampton. He’s doing fine. He’ll need to be here overnight so we can keep an eye on him, but he’s doing amazingly well. We’ve been looking for him since he walked out a few hours ago. The police have been searching everywhere.”

“Can we see him?” Paula asked.

“Yes, a couple at a time. You’re his parents?”

Tom and Paula nodded.

“And this is his fiancée.”

“Is one of you Jimmy?”

“I am,” James stepped forward.

“He’s been asking for you and Mark?”

“Marka,” James corrected. “His fiancée.”

“Oh!” The young woman giggled.

“Let his parents go in first,” Marka said.

“You and Polly go,” Tom said. “Jimmy and I can wait.”

The women followed the doctor into the cubicle where Frank lay. He was still pale, but the dark circles had receded. His face no longer looked drawn and his color had improved. He had an IV in his arm as well as a blood pressure cuff and a pulse rate monitor on his finger. His smile was a little dimmer than usual, but the dark brown eyes sparkled when he saw his mother and Marka.

Paula dashed to his bed, flinging herself across his chest. “You come home after nearly getting yourself blown to bits and I think I don’t have to worry anymore. And here you are, all messed up again. What am I going to do with you?” She hugged him fiercely.

“You’re gonna have to let up on me, Mom. You’re gonna kill me,” Frank gasped.

Paula let him go, laughing at herself. “See what you’re like when you’re a mother.”

“Yeah, that’ll happen one day.”

Frank’s sarcastic tone wasn’t lost on his mother. She swatted at him, tapping his arm.

“You know what I mean. Oh, Frankie!” She burst into tears.

Marka let his mother monopolize him for a few minutes. He’d been her son longer than he’d been Marka’s boyfriend. Every part of her hungered to touch him, but she wasn’t going to deny his mother’s need for assurance.

“I’m going to let Marka have you now. I need to call Mabel. She was beside herself when she found out you were hurt. It was on this very day that Frank died.”

“I love you, Mom.”

“I love you too. Don’t scare me like this again!”

“I’ll do my best.”

“I’ll send your father and Jimmy back when Marka’s done.” She kissed her son and Marka before she left.

Frank held out his hands to Marka. She came to him much more gently than his mother. Scooting over, Frank made room for her before folding her in his embrace. He kissed her hard and deep for a long time before letting go.

“Do you remember anything that happened?” Marka gasped.

“Most of it, sadly. What the hell did you give me, by the way?”

Marka blushed, ducking her head. “A triple dose of Benadryl. I didn’t have anything else handy, but you were so distraught, I wanted you to have a chance to calm down before you encountered Liz.”

“Nice forgery job on the journals.”

“You knew they weren’t real?”

“Sort of. I knew they didn’t look exactly right, but they fulfilled the directive. She told me to bring her the journals. She didn’t say they were mine. Those weren’t technically mine, but they were journals.”

“Even drugged out, you found the loophole.”

He laughed, shaking his head. “It was funny—well, not funny, but interesting. The whole time she worked me over, I zoned out. I didn’t focus on her or what she was doing to me, I kept thinking of you. I thought about how much I need you and want to make love to you. I reminded myself of how you taste and what your breath feels like on my skin. I wrapped you around me like a cloak and held on. I know it sounds like a chick flick, Marka. But you saved me.”

“Oh, Frank!”

She kissed him so hard, it hurt. He wiggled a little, letting her know to ease up. A nurse stuck her head around the curtain, reddening when she saw them.

“Sorry! I wondered why his pulse spiked. Don’t mind me.”

“I’d better go,” Marka said. “I know your dad and James are anxious to see you.”

“Come back later. Hey, can she spend the night?” He asked the nurse.

“Sure. I’ll let them know at the desk. They’re making your room assignment now.”

Marka gave him a gentle kiss and left. James and Tom walked rapidly into the cubicle when she came out. They didn’t stay long, but they were both smiling when they came out.

“The doctor said he should be good to go tomorrow,” James told them.

“But where will he go home? His house isn’t fit to live in. Marka’s in a crime scene. Tom, should we take him to our place?”

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 96


Bad FallFrank finds Liz at Marka’s house. After a fight, he manages to take her down.

Frank moved in on her before she could roll over the grab her weapon. The end of the board cracked her hand. Screaming, she kicked at him, connecting painfully with his thigh. Gritting his teeth against the pain, Frank swung the board, hitting her in the head, knocking her unconscious. Dragging the board, he stumbled toward the door. Flinging it open, he was greeted by a sea of weapons aimed at him. Red dots danced on his head, chest and legs.

“Hold!” A familiar voice bellowed. “Hold your fire. That’s Frank!”

With a resounding click, the weapons went down. People surrounded Frank. Strong hands helped steady him. An ambulance awaited him and he fell onto the gurney, his body finally giving out. An oxygen mask went over his head, covering his nose. A paramedic spoke to him, but he couldn’t figure out what the woman was saying. Everything grew hazy and dark as his eyes drifted shut.

Swarms of people moved into the house, Shay and Clark led the assault. They found Liz in an untidy heap on the living room floor, her head bleeding freely from a blunt wound. Her gun lay across the room, a syringe in the far corner. Clark collected the evidence as the second medical team strapped Liz to a backboard with a neck brace.

“You keep her drugged,” Shay ordered. “I don’t care what you have to give her. I want that bitch unconscious until we get her to a prison.”

“She needs a hospital,” the paramedic said, taking her pulse.

“She needs to be shot as a traitor,” Shay growled. “She’s going to federal lock up immediately. I want her buried so deep, the worms can’t find her. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir!” Clark said, saluting. “Don’t worry, Arnold. I’ll take care of her. She’s not only a traitor, she damn near killed some people I car about. You heard the Colonel,” he barked at the paramedics. “Drug her up and get her out of here.”

“Yes, sir,” they replied in unison.

Frank lay so still, Marka wasn’t sure he was breathing. His face was pale, the circles around his eyes darker and more pronounced. His pulse was thready, but she could feel it beneath her cold fingers.

“Vitals?” She asked the EMT.

“Pulse is forty-five and steady. BP sixty over forty. Pupils slightly sluggish. Gonna move him quick. He’s gonna dip any second. You his doctor?”

“I’m his fiancée who’s also a doctor. I’m coming with you.”

“No argument from me, lady. Hop in.”

The paramedic and EMT loaded Frank into the ambulance and took off. When they reached the emergency room, his pulse had dropped to forty and he was clammy. The paramedic was right to move him so quickly. Marka called Rochelle and told her where she was.

“I’m on my way,” she said. “You don’t need to sit up there all alone.”

Rochelle arrived at the emergency room about ten minutes later. It was at least a fifteen minute drive.

“What good is a siren if I can’t use it?” She replied when Marka asked her about it.

Rochelle was wonderful about keeping Marka’s mind off her worries. They talked about her relationship with Frank.

“Is he really that good? All that stuff he did with Miss Thang.”

Marka smiled, nodding. “Oh, he’s that good and more. Like a feast after a lifelong famine. I didn’t think I’d ever have it this good.” She paused, gulping. “He has to be all right, Rochelle.”

“He will be, honey. He’s gonna be just fine. Don’t you worry.”

James drove up a few minutes after Rochelle arrived, bringing Frank’s parents. Marka greeted them and introduced Rochelle.

“I’m so sorry I didn’t call you,” she apologized, driving back the tears. “I didn’t think.”

“Neither would I, darling,” Paula replied, pulling her into a hug. “But that’s why we have Jimmy.”

Tom hugged Marka so hard, she almost cried out. The three of them sat in the waiting room, a trio of misery. Rochelle took James aside.

“We got to lighten these folks up. You with me?”

“I’ll follow your lead.” He smiled at her.

“Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come?” she sang in a clear, strong voice.

Marka and the Atherton’s looked up at her. All the others in the emergency room turned to her. Rochelle continued to sing His Eye is on the Sparrow, with James backing her up on harmony. Before she had finished, everyone in the room was singing. Doctors and nurses from the back came out front to see what was going on.

When the song was over, the only sound was a collective sniffle. Men and women alike dabbed at their eyes.

“I love that song,” Marka said with a happy sigh. “How did you know?”

“Because I do too,” Rochelle said. “Now, you put that worry aside. You put that energy into prayer for your man, sugar. He’s gonna be fine.”

A doctor came into the emergency waiting area. She looked rather young and flustered, but she was smiling.

“Family for Frank Atherton?”

Marka and his parents rose. The doctor walked over. Her light brown hair was pulled back in an untidy bun. Her blue eyes sparkled as she smiled. Shorter than Marka, she was slender but shapely.

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 95


Back in the room, Frank has revived. He’s still groggy and disoriented. He knows Bad Fallthere is something he is supposed to do, but he can’t remember what it is.

Frank hesitated. “I remember. . . . I don’t know what I remember. I needed to do something. I still need to do something. It’s really important, but I can’t remember. . . .” His voice dropped to a whimper. “I can’t remember.”

Marka fixed the coffee, again in the Styrofoam cups, and carried them into the living room. She handed one to James and set the one for Frank in front of him. She took a seat in the chair, as far from Frank as she could get in the little room. The pile of journals sat on top of the television. James had left them in plain sight, but didn’t draw attention to them.

They sipped their coffee, the two men talking quietly. Frank stiffened, his gaze fixed on the TV. He wasn’t watching the commercial, which was for feminine hygiene products. Instead, he stared at what sat on top. His eyes glazed over and he stood, nearly tripping over the coffee table in his haste to get to the books. Wordlessly, he picked them up, cradling them in his arms.

James and Marka didn’t say anything, merely watched. James helped Frank with his shoe and Marka moved quietly to the door to alert Rochelle. They moved the chair from the doorway just as Frank dashed out. He didn’t stop for the elevator, but climbed the stairs to the next floor, two at a time. James followed, his own shoes back on, his utility belt in place.

“Call it in,” he told Rochelle as he passed.

She already had the radio in her hand, calling the dispatcher who alerted Colonel Shay.

“They have your house surrounded,” Rochelle told Marka as they hurried to the front door after the men. “You call off that alert so people can go about their business.”

“Oh, I totally forgot,” Marka gasped as she bustled to the front of the building. She stopped by the front desk and told the frightened looking secretary to give the all clear.

“Did they fix the problem?” She asked Marka.

“Yes. It’s okay now.”

“What was it?”

“I don’t know. I think it was a gas leak. It’s okay now.”

The woman hit the all clear button and the announcement sounded. With a sigh, the activity in the building gradually returned to normal. Marka and Rochelle ran out the front door. They saw Frank going up the steps to Marka’s house. James was on his radio, coordinating with the federal officers and police. He must have given a stand-down order because all weapons were lowered. The collective click was distinctive even at this distance.

Frank mounted the steps to the old house with determination. He had no idea why he was there, but he knew it had something to do with the books in his arms. He carried them gently, like a father with a newborn. The door opened from inside, the person remaining hidden behind the door. It closed with a snap, the deadbolt shooting to.

“Did you bring them?” The female voice behind him asked sweetly.

“Yes. Here.” He held them out to her.

“Good job, Frank. You did just what I asked you to do. That’s very good.”

Frank took a few steps away from her, suddenly alert. He knew something was wrong, but he couldn’t quite pinpoint it. He was still groggy from the Benadryl that Marka had given him. That, on top of whatever drugs Liz had already administered, made him dull witted and blurred his vision. He almost didn’t see the syringe in her hand. Drugged or not, self-preservation kicked in.

Liz lunged at him, syringe ready. Frank blocked with the stack of books, knocking her back. She jumped at him again and he kicked her hard in the chest. He heard something crack and knew he’d broken a couple ribs.

Screaming, Liz attacked again. Frank swung the stack of books, swatting the deadly needle from her hand. It flew across the room, landing in the corner. Liz made a dive for it, but Frank was ready for that. He kicked again, this time forcing her well away from the needle to the other side of the room.

Tiring of the game, Liz reached behind her back, pulling a pistol. She leveled it at Frank. From that distance, she’d be hard pressed to miss him. He was point blank range and Liz was a crack shot. Frank couldn’t reach her at that distance. She was out of jumping range.

Fortunately, the room was empty except for some boards, neatly stacked along the far wall. Liz aimed at Frank. He saw her finger tighten on the trigger and rolled to one side as the bullet slammed into the wall behind him. Frank grabbed a 2X4 from the pile, holding it in front of him like a sword. It was about four feet long and a bit unwieldy, but it was the only weapon he had.

Liz laughed loudly. “Frank, trust you to bring a board to a gun fight.” She aimed at him again.

Frank kept moving. She tried to draw a bead on him, but he didn’t stand still long enough. Howling in frustration, Liz fired and missed. Two bullets out of fifteen. Frank knew he had to get to her and unarm her. The odds were greatly in her favor. He kept dodging and spinning, the board clutched in front of him. When he got close enough, he took a swing at Liz and missed.

Laughing, she dodged, backing away from him as she aimed once more. Frank swung again, closer this time. He missed a second time. Liz snarled at him as she pulled the trigger. Two bullets flew by, too close for comfort. Frank’s next attack caught the back of her hand. It was enough to unbalance her. Backing away, Liz ran into the pile of wood. Tripping over a long board, she fell. Her gun clattered to the floor.

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 94


Bad FallMarka figures out that Liz is probably hiding out at her unfinished house. It’s within sight of Sheltering Oaks and easy for her to pretend to be Marka, as no one has seen her. Marka and Rochelle meet up with Shay and tell him where Frank is. He prepares to go after Liz.

The federal agents moved quietly toward Marka’s property.

“Get her out of here,” Shay commanded Rochelle. “Stay with her.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Thank you,” he added as an afterthought. “I find myself very fond of this young woman.”

“Me too.” Rochelle took Marka and went back inside. She figured the safest place for her was the secret hallway.

Once inside, Marka insisted on visiting Frank. She kicked up such a fuss, Rochelle decided to allow it. James was there. With luck, Frank would still be unconscious. Marka called James first and found that Frank was sleeping.

“He’s kinda restless. I don’t think he’ll be asleep much longer.”

“Dammit. I was hoping he’d be out at least two hours.”

“Doesn’t surprise me. Frank’s got the tolerance of a horse. He can drink more than me and my brother and still be standing. I’d love to have his metabolism. Where are you?”

“Almost there. We’re at the nurse’s station.”

“Door’s open.”

“Thanks.”

“I’ll wait out here,” Rochelle said. “Frank doesn’t know me. I don’t want to cause him any distress.” She picked up a chair from the sitting room and carried it with her down the hallway. She plunked it in front of the door. Before Marka went in the room, Rochelle hugged her. “You be careful, baby.”

“I will. Thank you.”

“I find myself fond of you,” Rochelle paraphrased Shay.

“Me too.” Marka smiled.

James was in the living room with the TV on low. He stood when Marka walked in.

“He’s stirring around a little. I can hear him talking. Are those what he’s after?”

“They’re fakes. I didn’t want to risk Liz getting the real thing.” She pulled the industrial rubber band out of her purse and put it around the fake diaries.

“You sure you’re not a spy?” James winked at her.

“Jane Bond, double O seven and a half.” She winked back at him. “I’m going to fix some dinner. It calms me down. You like chicken?”

“I eat anything, Marka. I’m not picky.”

“I thought about fried, but I think hot grease would be a bad idea.” She walked into the kitchen, considering her approach to the meal. Once she decided, she started getting out her ingredients.

James came in and washed his hands. “Put me to work. I’m not bad in the kitchen. I can cook, too.”

Marka giggled. It was so like something Frank would say, she had to laugh. These two men were a lot alike in so many ways—friendly, handsome, outgoing, generous and loyal.

“So, why aren’t you married, James?”

“Me? Didn’t find anyone worthwhile. I kinda had me a crush on Jen. But she was just a kid when I joined the Marines. Then she met Clay and I figured I lost my chance.”

“Why haven’t you asked her out since—since he passed?”

“Marka, she’s all kinda tore up over him. I don’t know if she’ll ever be over it. Honestly, I’m not sure I want to live in another man’s shadow.”

Nodding, Marka smiled. “I can understand that. You haven’t found anyone else since?”

He shook his head. “Small town like this, I know everyone. I’m a stay home kinda guy. I go out with friends and have a drink or two, but truth is, I’m kinda shy.”

Marka turned to him, putting down the knife she’d been using to cut up celery. “You aren’t going to the right bars, then. Because if a guy like you walked into a club where my friends and I were, you’d have to beat those girls off with your nightstick.”

James laughed and snagged a piece of celery off the cutting board. “Really. Introduce me sometime. I guarantee not to beat ‘em too hard.”

“When this is over—” A noise in the foyer made her look up.

Frank stood by the bathroom door, unsteady and disoriented. He leaned against the wall, one shoe off, the other in his hand. He wore a T-shirt and jeans instead of the scrubs and hospital gown. James motioned to Marka to put the knife away. She put it in the upper cabinet in front of her, closing the door quietly.

“Hey, buddy. Going out?” James asked calmly.

Frank looked at him, hardly seeming to know him. “I dunno, Jimmy.”

“Why don’t you have a seat, pal? Marka, coffee? This time, make Frank’s plain.”

“Yeah, of course, James. Coming right up.” She’d already set up a pot and hit the start button.

Unsure whether she should join the men, she stayed in the kitchen, waiting. James led Frank to the love seat again.

“Where am I?” Frank asked.

James told him. “Do you remember anything?”

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 93


Bad FallMarka slips something into Frank’s coffee. For the moment, he’s asleep with James watching him.

“I hardly knew that man in there,” Marka said, gulping for air. “He scared me so. What did that evil woman do to him?”

“I don’t know, honey. But I’d like to kill her myself.”

“Not as much as I want to,” Marka growled. “I’m not a violent person,” she told Rochelle. “But she’s injured someone I love. Who knows if he’ll ever be back to himself.”

“We never did stop for that notebook,” Rochelle said suddenly. “You wanted one, remember?”

“Yes! I bet they have them at the store downtown.”

“Then let’s go.”

They went down the stairs and out the back. Rochelle led her through the woods again and back to her car. They drove quickly to the small store downtown. Marka found the stationary section and grabbed a few of the essay notebooks. After paying for them, she took them outside and dropped them on the sidewalk. She kicked them around, telling Rochelle to step on them a few times. She picked them up, curling them, bending the spines.

“There, that looks pretty good.”

“His had the dates on them.”

“Oh, crap. You’re right.” She took a pen out of her purse. Most of the dates had been written in black ink. She visualized Frank’s neat printing in her mind and did her best to imitate it. Afterward, she scrubbed them around on the sidewalk again. Satisfied with their appearance, she stuffed them in the plastic bag once more.

“You gonna write in them too?” Rochelle asked.

“I hadn’t thought of that. No. I don’t think we have time for that. If Liz isn’t here yet, she will be. Let’s get back. I’m worried about James with Frank. I have no idea how long that drug will hold him.”

“What did you give him?”

“I crunched up some Benadryl and put it in the coffee.”

“That shit makes me sleepy as hell.”

“That’s what I’m counting on.”

They headed back to the nursing home. There were police cars and more federal agents around. An ambulance stood on the lawn outside the blue house. Marka saw Colonel Shay. Before getting out of the car, she called him.

As soon as he heard her voice, Colonel Shay looked up, casting about the area, trying to find her. “Where are you? I’ve been worried sick since I got your call.”

“I had my phone off. I’ve been with Frank. His cop friend, James, is with him now. He’s sleeping in our room.”

“What? I have the entire police force here and feds everywhere, scouring the countryside and he’s asleep!”

“He might not be for long. He was pretty agitated when I drugged him.”

“I’m sending people up there now.”

“No. Only you and me. He barely knew who I was. He should recognize you, though. You’ve known him a lot longer.”

“Okay. Where are you?”

Marka hopped out of the car and waved at him. Shay saw her and struck out across the lawn to the waiting car. Marka introduced him to Rochelle. The federal officer drove them closer to the facility. There were so many cars around, hers wouldn’t be noticed. They stood outside a moment, studying the lay of the land.

“Any sign of Liz?” Marka asked Shay.

“Not her, but that was her handiwork at the house. No one’s seen her since she left the courthouse.”

“She definitely got away?” Rochelle asked.

“Well, she tortured Cherry and Brad. . . .”

“She did that before she went to Canton,” Marka said. “Their wounds weren’t bleeding when I got there. That extent of damage, they would still have been bleeding so soon after. We were only minutes behind her escape. I bet we beat her here. We weren’t trying to evade the law and cover our tracks.”

“Then where the hell is she?”

“She’s got to have a safe house nearby,” Marka said. “She couldn’t be—Oh, my God. It’s so obvious.”

“What?”

My house. It must be. It makes perfect sense.”

“What are you talking about. Your house? You have a room here.”

“My house is being worked on before I move in. But it’s deserted right now. They’ve been waiting for some parts or something. The point is, it would be easy to break in. No one’s seen me. She could pass as the new resident easily enough.”

“Where’s this house?” Shay asked.

Marka walked a few feet away and faced her property, less than a block away, across the street.

“Bloody hell!” Shay muttered. “Give me that thing,” he gestured to Rochelle’s radio.

She undid the clasp, handing it to him. Shay got on there, barking orders to whomever would listen. He glared at the house across the street.

“Marka, I hope you’re not too attached to that place.”

“Not really,” she said, hesitantly.

“Good. Because I’m about to level it.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 92


Bad FallThe first police officer to arrive on scene, is James, Frank’s good friend. He helps Rochelle sneak into the facility through a back door that not even Frank knows about. They arrive at Frank and Marka’s room, finding the two of them there. James senses that Marka needs his help.

James took off his utility belt and set it aside. He put his cuffs in his pocket. He checked the rest of his uniform, removing anything that could be used as a weapon—including his badge. This, he handed to Rochelle. She put it in her pocket. Dressed only in his socks, shirt and pants, James walked boldly through the open door of the apartment.

“What the hell!” Frank yelled. “Jimmy?”

“Hi, Frank. Marka, everything cool?”

Her expression told him how desperate she was.

“What’s up, buddy? You look like hell, Frankie. Don’t you wanna sit down? Marka, maybe some coffee?”

“Yeah, sure.” She spoke so quietly, he could hardly hear her. She moved toward the kitchen.

James led Frank to the loveseat and sat beside him. His friend looked terrible. Dark circles blackened the area around his eyes. His skin was drawn over the bones, making him look hollow cheeked. A heavy growth of beard shaded his strong chin. Bruises and cuts from Liz’s torture covered his body. He was dressed in scrubs he must have stolen from the hospital. His feet were covered in the bedsocks they issued as part of standard patient garb. He looked haggard, driven and cold. An afghan lay over the back of the loveseat. James pulled it around Frank’s shoulders.

“Talk to me, buddy.”

“I need them, Jimmy. I have to find them.”

“Find what, Frankie?”

“The—” He grasped at the air as if trying to pluck the words from it. Taking handfuls of hair, he tugged desperately. “I don’t know! I don’t remember.” His voice shook as sobs wracked his body. “I just know they were here. And they’re gone.”

Marka came in with coffee as if nothing was strange. She set the cups down in front of the men. The pot and spoons were in the kitchen. She’d already added sugar and cream. The hot coffee attracted Frank’s attention. He picked up the cup and drank deeply, not minding the scorching heat. James didn’t miss the fact that Marka had used Styrofoam travel cups instead of ceramic mugs.

“What brings you here, Jimmy?” Marka asked.

“A friend dropped me off,” he replied with a grin. “Maybe yo

u know her. Rochelle?”

Relief flooded her face. “Anyone else?”

“No, but there was quite a flurry of activity when we left the house. But I think your friends will take care of that.”

“No one else with you?”

“Didn’t see a soul.”

“What are you talking about?” Frank sounded dangerously paranoid.

“Making conversation, buddy. You should take a nap, Frank. You look beat, kid.”

“I am kind of tired,” Frank admitted, yawning.

“I’ll help you to bed. Marka, I’d like to stick around awhile with Frank. Would you be a doll and get me a newspaper? I like to read the sports section.”

“Sure. I’ll be back soon, honey.” She kissed Frank desperately. “I love you,” she said. “I love you so much and I want you to rest.”

“Yeah. I’m sleepy.”

With James’ help, he stumbled to the bedroom and collapsed on the bed. James pulled the blankets over him. Closing the door, he followed Marka to the front door. They stepped out in the hallway, pulling the door shut behind them. Rochelle met them a few feet away.

“What’d you give him?” James asked.

“Don’t ask. I just hope I haven’t killed him. We have no idea what Liz gave him. Thank God you came when you did! He was wild and disoriented. I have no idea if he even knew who I was. But he knew you.” She hugged James.

“Me and Frank go a long way back.” James patted her on the back. “He’ll sleep a little while. I’ll stay here with him.”

“I want to stay.”

“No,” James and Rochelle said in unison.

“He’ll know me,” James said. “He might not recognize you, the state he’s in. You wouldn’t be safe.”

“Have they found Liz?”

“I don’t know,” Rochelle replied. “I turned off the radio when we came in. Did you cause the lock down?”

“Yes. It was the only thing I could think of. The only way to keep people safe.”

“Where did you leave the journals?” Rochelle asked.

Marka shook her head. “It’s best if I’m the only one who knows that.”

“I’ll go check on Frank. You two go somewhere else and I’ll call if I need you. Get a Liz update,” James said.

Marka couldn’t think where to go, so she followed Rochelle back to the hidden stair. The lock down was still in place. No one stirred, too afraid to go out until an all clear sounded. With luck, the residents would think it was an extended drill.

Once in the stairwell, Rochelle made Marka sit. The younger woman was shaking. Rochelle put her arms around Marka and let her cry.

© Dellani Oakes

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