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