20 All’s Well That Ends
Knocked half off balance, the pan of frying chicken was still easily within Heather’s reach and, bracing her foot against the side of the counter for what she knew what was to come, she snapped it off the burner. Chicken fat sizzled as the meal that she had been preparing slid to the other side of the pan with the centrifugal force.
“Nobody fucking hits me!” Heather screamed as she swung the pan in a vicious arc, sizzling drops of oil flying back; she didn’t feel them, she was far too angry.
Caught off guard for the second time by a furious woman, Alan tightened his grip on Heather’s hair just as the red hot pan connected with his arm. Fried chicken flew everywhere in a bizarre rain all around Alan, as unexpected for him as a fall of toads from the sky.
Hot oil splattered up his arm, so hot it burst into flames on his shirt in places, and he screamed out loud, a sound that startled him, making him release Heather’s hair to slap out the flames on his shirt. His skin blistered underneath. Whatever meager protection his clothing offered was stripped away as the burnt, molten hot, oil soaked cloth pressed flat against his skin and promptly stuck there. Angry red blisters rose along his jaw and the side of his face where the last of the spray had caught him.
Heather was not in the least startled by Alan’s scream, and she certainly wasn’t frightened. If anything, she was singularly inspired, and swung the still red hot pan again, this time in an opposite arc, the pan bonging almost musically off Alan’s elbow. “How do you like that, you fucking son of a bitch!”
Pissed off beyond an ability to form words, Alan roared and lunged at Heather; he could easily picture himself capturing her and beating her to death with the pan. It wasn’t his day. In fact, it hadn’t been his day for a while.
Lunging forward, Alan stamped on one of pieces of chicken that littered the floor and his feet went out from under him. He fought it, skittering across the floor, arms windmilling for balance, before he collided with the kitchen table, sending a large vase of flowers flying. Water pooled across the table before it rolled to the edge and fell in a sheet to the floor.
Scrabbling to his hands and knees, Alan shuffled to the wall to try to pull himself up as Heather darted out of the way, avoiding the now oil and water slick sections of the floor. “I’ll fucking kill you, bitch. I’ll…”
Derisively, Heather glared at Alan from across the kitchen, her eye cutting over to the phone on the counter. “You’ll do what?! Look at you! You can’t even get off the fucking floor! I’m not your sniveling little weakling of a wife. You picked the wrong woman to fuck with!”
With one slap of her hand, Heather knocked the handset off the phone and smacked the button for the speaker phone. Keeping an eye on Alan the entire time, Heather switched the pan to the other hand and called 911.
Not about to stand there and wait for the call to go through, Heather switched the pan back to her good hand, just as Alan managed to pull himself up the wall. Boots slid in the oil and water and then tentatively stuck; he could perhaps brave a rush across the kitchen, first to pull the phone from the wall, and then to kill Heather, but he didn’t trust his footing.
Traveling hand over hand, Alan pulled himself along the counter. The blisters on his arm and face swelled, filled with fluid and, where what was left of his shirt abraded, burst. His right arm twitched where Heather had hit him so hard with the cast iron pan. If he wasn’t Alan Brightman, he would have tallied his losses and crawled along the floor to the relative carpeted safety of the living room and then gotten the hell out. Hate drove him forward, and that hate spilled out, as he told Heather what he would do to her.
Meanwhile, the phone continued to ring. Three. Four. It wasn’t something that Heather had relied on; her cell phone was still in her jeans pocket anyway, but it was still possible that the Sheriff would answer and it kept Alan occupied. As Alan crept along the kitchen counters, Heather circled slowly around the kitchen table until the kitchen table, still covered in water, was between her and Alan.
Heather snorted with laughter as she watched Alan’s pathetic attempt. To her, he looked ridiculous; he didn’t look scary at all. Blistered and raw, his face all screwed up with rage. To Heather, Alan looked like nothing so much as a snotty little kid having a tantrum.
“Talk, talk, talk. You know, you’re supposed to be this scary guy. Got everyone running around scared shitless over you. Look at you!” Sharp and derisive, Heather’s words cut right to the bone. She had always known where to cut first. In that, she and Alan were a lot alike. “You’re fucking pathetic. I mean, just look at you!”
Pointing at him, Heather started to laugh in earnest, a sharp, unfriendly sound that had nothing to do with humor. “You gonna take that piece of chicken to go with you, you fucking moron?”
Alan, now halfway along the length of the counter, couldn’t believe what was happening. She was actually laughing at him. Laughing and pointing as though he were the most ridiculous thing in the world. Looking down, he realized that he had a piece of fried chicken sticking out of his breast pocket. If he had been a laughing man, he might have found some humor in it, but Alan had never been one to laugh, definitely not at himself and he never much gave a damn what a woman had said in the first place.
With a sneer that came out with a sound all its own, he flung the chicken onto the counter, just as he reached for the knife block. That was when Heather made her move. Braced against the kitchen wall, she brought up a foot and rammed it hard into the kitchen table. Several things happened at the same time; all of them Heather stayed to watch with a sick sense of joy that Alan might have admired in a man.
The kitchen table jolted forward, groaning resentfully, much as it had when Alan careened into it the first time. The sheet of water which, in stillness, had pooled out towards the edges, held in place in the pillow of meniscus, now broke its bounds and shot onto the already oil and water slick floor. Gliding freely once away from the relatively dry patch, the table slid more easily across the floor, hurtling towards Alan.
Feet skittering across the floor, Alan tried to dodge out of the way of the table and took the knife block with him. Chef’s knives, boning knives and a very cruel looking cleaver tinked and spun out across the counter, spiraling towards the edge as Alan went down.
Letting out another startled cry, Alan wiped out on the floor as the table slammed into his lower back, bouncing off and gliding away a short distance. Like a deadly rain, the knives fell from the counter. A dull thud hit his leg but it must have been the hilt rather than the blade. As the boning knife dropped from the edge of the counter, he was not so lucky, and it pierced cleanly, right through the skin and muscle of his forearm, sticking into the floor beneath.
Heather hadn’t wasted any time and completed the dash she had begun. Once on the safety of the living room carpet, she turned back just as Alan let out a deep, pained roar, pulling the knife from his arm, spinning on the floor to rest shakily on his hands and knees, looking at her.
Leaning forward, her elbows on her knees, Heather looked under the table at him, the derisive smirk still planted on her face. “You have to be about the stupidest person I’ve ever met. Except maybe for that simpering little bitch that you married.”
With that, Heather was up and running for the front door, the frying pan still in her hand. Swooping low, she grabbed her purse and yanked the front door open but before she jumped down the steps and to her car, she turned and flung one last taunt at Alan. “You better run, you stupid fucker. You talk far too much and maybe nobody ever told you, but you talk in your sleep!”
Alan shuffled on his hands and knees across the kitchen floor, swearing as the front door slammed closed. Blood pounded in his ears and he ground his teeth hard enough that he thought one might have cracked. It didn’t matter.
It was all falling apart around him. Nothing had gone right and it was all Amber’s fault; that’s when everything had started to go wrong, when she left him. His life, his career, everything. It was all her fault. Head lowered, Alan’s vision went black again as he screamed in impotent rage at the floor.
Slipping once, he managed to scramble across the rest of the floor to the living room. Once there, Alan jumped to his feet and raced to the front door, yanking it nearly off its hinges but he was too late, Heather was gone.
In the kitchen, the phone continued to ring but there was no way that he would risk crossing the floor again to pull it out of the wall. The blood was another matter, but Alan didn’t think he would have the time to clean it up. It was his anyway, not Heather’s, he rationalized; if it was hers as well, he would have had to take the time to clean it up.
Amber and Heather; Alan swore that he would make them both pay. Toretto as well. But he couldn’t do it right away; things were too hot. It would have to wait. Quickly, Alan darted down the hall to the bathroom, grabbing a towel and tying it around his forearm. It hurt like hell and he muffled another scream, biting into the towel, as he wound it around the cut.
Letting the end of the towel drop out of his mouth, Alan looked up into the bathroom mirror, his face twisting into a moue of disgust. Disheveled and filthy, soaked, both by water and grease, his skin oily to the touch; it was hard to reconcile the face in the mirror with his self-image.
All of the way up his left arm raced an angry burn, all the way to his face, with large blisters at the jawline. His right arm twitched spasmodically where Heather had hit him with the pan. A knife wound in his left forearm.
That most of the damage was on one side would make it easier to conceal, but he would have to get out of the country to get it treated. There was no way that he would risk being asked too many questions by visiting a local hospital, by leaving a paper trail. There was always the chance that Heather had gone to the authorities.
When Amber had first left him and he knew that he would kill her, Alan had started to piece together a plan to leave for Mexico. It had been small time at first; a shipment here and there would be diverted, sold on the lucrative Latin American arms supermarket circuit. When International Trade cut him loose, it hadn’t cut his ties, and so he continued to profit off the truck thefts. If anything, it was even more lucrative because he wasn’t quite so careful about whether it made a black mark on the company or not.
Alan hadn’t made all the money that he had wanted to make, but it would have to do; maybe in Mexico it would be enough. He would have to leave and he would have to do it soon. In the mirror, his face twisted again in rage that his plans had been disrupted, that he had to change them. Amber, it all came down to Amber; it was all her fault. To his reflection, Alan swore that he would come back, and that he would kill her, and anyone with her. It always came back to that.
Throwing bottles from the medicine cabinet when he opened the metal door, Alan searched. Something for pain. Swallowing them dry, he slammed the cabinet closed again, hard enough to smash. There wasn’t time to revel in destruction, he knew.
Leaving Heather’s front door open in the hope that thieves would do the work he didn’t have the time to, Alan half ran to his car, on the lookout for the law. Only when he was safely out of range of Heather’s did he stop and flip open his cell phone. He had to use his injured left arm, his right arm still twitched, but after a few tries, he punched in the number of his contact. No answer. He nearly hurled his cell phone out the window when he was transferred to her voice mail. Gritting his teeth to gain some semblance of control, he left a message. “The plan’s have changed. I’m coming out for my cut.”
All of which brought him to Heather’s parting words, and what she possibly knew.
“Fuck!” he screamed as he gripped the wheel, letting the violence wash through him.
Squeezing the bridge of his nose, Eddie leaned an elbow on his steering wheel and looked longingly at the few cars that flew past him, raising dust in their wake. “All right, first off, are you okay?”
When Eddie had first started his assignment at the diner, he had thought that Dom and Heather were an item. It had been one of the first sore spots that he had hoped to exploit. It had taken him less than half an hour to find that was entirely the wrong direction. To say that Heather and Dom weren’t entirely exclusive was to be polite about it. They weren’t ‘friends with benefits’ and they weren’t even ‘fuck buddies’. That would have required some sort of friendship and whatever Dom and Heather were, they weren’t friends.
A few moments after Eddie had started in on Heather, she had been all over him. Not that he complained too much about the blowjob, but after that, he made a concerted effort to not be in the same sort of position with Heather again. He would talk to her, had given her his cell phone number, but that was the extent of it. He didn’t ignore her; that would only hone her interest, but he wasn’t stupid. He made sure that he was rarely alone with her, and if he was alone, it was for a specific purpose. There was no way that Eddie would allow himself to be led around by his dick like that and, in fact, it kind of surprised him that Dom walked into it. Eddie chalked it up to Dom having been in prison.
As much trouble as Heather was, it had bothered him greatly to find that she had hooked up with Brightman, especially after what he and Brian had discussed earlier. What Alan Brightman was went beyond the abuse of his wife or the destruction of property.
Brian had come to him because whatever contacts that he had, they weren’t willing to grant him access to FBI databases. They could likely be hacked, but that would create problems of its own, so instead Brian had gone with what was at hand and contacted Eddie.
They had discussed what the private investigator, Mike Anderson, had discovered about Brightman; that Brightman was likely a murderer. How many times over it wasn’t known. Except for a few scuffles with the local law as a teenager, Brightman was a legal unknown, however. But that’s not what Brian had wanted to ask him about.
International Trade, disappearing trucks laden with dual use equipment, and the sale of that weaponry in other countries and eventually overseas. All of that, with Brightman right in the middle of it, that’s what Brian had wanted to talk about. So Eddie knew that Brightman was beyond dangerous and not just to the women in his life.
‘Yeah, I’m fine. When I left, the moron couldn’t even get up off the floor.’
Even over the phone Eddie could hear the bite to her voice, the derision. Not only over Brightman; there was enough to go around, encompassing Amber, someone he knew that Heather despised. He wondered if Heather had any idea how much trouble she was in with Brightman and then thought that she probably did, in the way any other cunning animal would smell danger. To her it would smell like something else though; it would spark her interest. Heather may not know the exact particulars, but she would know what Brightman was, that was part of what she did. Figure men out.
Warning crept into his voice, “Heather…”
‘I’ll be staying at a friend’s.’
The headache behind Eddie’s eyes sharpened a little. A ‘friend’. Heather could always be counted on to have another rock to hop to, and come out unscathed. The agent in him admired the trait, the ability to move on and adapt to the circumstances no matter what, but the man in him didn’t; he thought it was an ugly trait in a woman. He could well imagine what the counselors at the sensitivity training classes that all agents were required to take would think about that but it didn’t make it any less true for him. Biting the cutting remark that he was about to utter, Eddie waited for her to finish.
“What the fuck is he doing back here?” Dom muttered angrily, watching in his rear view mirror as Eddie’s truck pulled up behind him in the driveway. Brian’s car was parked just ahead, snugged close to the garage, next to Jim’s tow truck. Eddie pulled his truck off to the side, taking a sidelong look at Dom’s car, at Amber, before he got out and walked back to the garage.
Something was wrong. “I should go inside,” Amber whispered; it was silly to whisper, but the tension demanded it.
“Go help Mia with dinner. Stay with her until I know what the hell is going on.” Everything felt too serious and, coming on top of Brian and Eddie having left together earlier in the day, it stunk to high heaven.
Reaching out, Dom cupped Amber’s face, turning her to face him; she had been staring apprehensively at Eddie and Brian standing close together in the garage. “Whatever it is, it’s fine,” Dom asserted, reassuring Amber as best he could. “I’ll let you know either way, okay?” Not only because Mia would roast him alive if he didn’t.
Trust was hard and Amber’s chest felt tight. Turned in her seat, looking at Dom, she could tell that he was angry, but he wasn’t angry with her. She trusted.
Dom watched Amber run through the light drizzle up to the back steps of the diner. Only when she had disappeared from sight did he slam his door closed and walk to the garage.
Copyright © Jan 2008 xxx evilgrin xxx