The incessant beeping of the alarm roused Jeff from his uneasy slumber. Frowning at the time he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. The beeping continued despite his repeated attempts to turn the damn thing off. Yawning he realized part of the problem was it wasn’t his alarm clock. Shuffling to the computer he pulled up the GPS system he had installed in all of his detectives cars.
He hardly ever used the tracking system as it made him feel like a spy but Verity had been worrying him lately. Always reticent she was even more so lately. He had a feeling she was doing some work on the side. Knowing her it was more research into the secret of life of Kara. Studying the GPS route she had taken that night it was obvious she had been following someone. What had awoken him was the proximity sensor indicating the car she had been driving was being hidden.
Of course it could mean Verity herself was responsible for that but his gut was telling him there was more to it than that. Kara was dangerous and Verity was playing with fire following her on her own without backup. Grabbing his clothes he threw them on as he transferred her route to his GPS system in his car. Before he left he glared at the time, it was much too early for this.
Ignoring what Kara was doing Verity went to check on Ian. He lay so still. She was afraid to find out. Taking a deep breath she pressed her fingers to his neck searching for a pulse. “No” she cried rolling him from the bed to the hard solid surface of the floor. “You can’t be gone,” she muttered starting chest compressions “you can’t die. Not now.” She kept count in her head.
Her old CPR instructor’s voice boomed loud in her head telling her what to do. Her harsh words making it impossible for Verity to give up. She refused to believe this was the way it was going to end.
“I haven’t lost yet,” she panted between compressions “I won’t let you give up.”
Her arms felt like jelly. She lost track of how long she had been doing CPR. Her hands slip off his chest from the sweat pouring from her body.
“Fight damn you. Fight,” she cried as her arms fell to her sides sobbing. This couldn’t be happening. She’d never be able to look at Garrett again knowing how she had failed. She felt sick. Crawling a few feet away before her heaving stomach forced her to empty it’s contents on the floor. Leaning back feeling weak, exhausted. The faint scent of smoke wasn’t strong enough to generate alarm in her brain. Stunned she couldn’t think, couldn’t feel. All she was was numb.
Jeff followed the GPS indicated route Verity had taken earlier. His fingers drummed against the steering wheel. Every minute that ticked past was one less he had to avert disaster. Fifteen minutes later he slowed down to make a right hand turn when a flashy little sports car came barreling out at him. Slamming on his brakes he swerved just in time to avoid colliding with it. He had half a mind to chase after it. Calming a little he vetoed that fleeting thought. Every minute he spent following that driver would have been one less he had to help Verity.
He was right on top of Verity’s car according to the tracking device but he couldn’t see it. Stopping he got out of the car to have a look around. A slight breeze moved through the trees. Sniffing there was an unmistakable scent of smoke in the air. Looking down the driveway he could see a glow in the sky. Fire. He ran to the car, stomping on the gas, unconcerned with making an unannounced approach. Whoever had tried to run into him no doubt was the same person who started the fire.
Taking precious seconds he called the fire department. He raced inside the building calling out Verity’s name hoping she would hear him.
Verity lifted her head. She must be imagining things. She sat up wiping her eyes on her sleeves listening to the silence of the house. There was a roaring sound, a distinct scent of smoke in the air. Panic drove her to the door. Pulling on the door knob she tried to open it.
All the time she had been preoccupied with Ian her adversary had been setting the place on fire. Slamming her shoulder into the door she tied to break it open. “Help,” she screamed coughing as smoke filled her lungs “help” she cried coughing harder.
As smoke filled the room she grabbed the blanket from the bed and stuffed it under the door. She couldn’t believe this was how it was all going to end. She had been so stupid. She should have told Jeff where she was going, what she was doing. At the very least she should have called for backup. She reached for the shattered phone. It had fallen out when she was struggling with Kara. There were so many things she wished she had done differently.
Jeff pulled his t-shirt up around his nose and mouth in a vain attempt to keep from breathing in smoke. Eyes watering so profusely he could barely see he heard a faint cry for help. It sounded like it was coming from below him. The basement perhaps?
He made his way towards what he hoped was the basement door. Lungs tight from lack of oxygen he made his way down the rickety stairs. Whoever had started the fire had wanted it to be a slow burn. Soon it would be out of control fully engulfing the house. He searched the basement as quickly as possible he found one locked door. He gathered his strength and kicked at the door. It didn’t budge. Looking around he found an ax with a broken handle. It was all he had to break the lock with. He hacked at it oblivious of the slivers of wood flying into his eyes and face.
He couldn’t get a good swing at the lock due to the broken handle. He wound up hacking away at the door as much as hitting the lock. It was a slow process as he felt the heat from the fire breathing down his back. In the back of his mind he could hear Lisa pleading with him to stop, to run to safety.
He kept chipping away ignoring her pleas. He couldn’t stop. Wiping the sweat from his brow he closed his eyes begging her to forgive him if he didn’t make it home to her. He hoped she’d understand why he couldn’t stop. Why he had to keep going despite the odds. Several minutes later the lock finally fell to the floor with a clatter. Pushing against the door he was surprised at the resistance he received. As the door gave way to his persistence he found Verity on the floor coughing. “Can you walk?” he yelled over the roar of the fire.
She looked up at him through red swollen eyes nodding in response to his question. “Get out” he ordered once she was on her feet. He moved to get Ian.
Verity grabbed his arm “he’s gone.” The sorrow in her voice stunned him.
“Go” he ordered again. Lifting Ian’s body across his shoulders he’d grieve later now he had to concentrate on getting out. As they staggered from the burning building the wail of fire engines filled the air.
Dropping to his knees he laid Ian carefully on the ground as paramedics took over. He pulled Verity away giving them room to work.
Crying she buried her face in his shoulder “I tried” she gulped between wracking sobs “he wasn’t breathing. Kara smothered him with a pillow.” Sobbing harder she felt Jeff put his arms around her “what am I going to do now? I can’t tell Garrett I failed!” Sniffing she clung to Jeff “I promised I’d bring him home.
Jeff held onto Verity there wasn’t a trace of the confident girl she once was. He could feel his inner reserves slipping. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to end. How was he going to face his Uncle? It would devastate him. No matter how old your child was it was never easy to accept they were gone.
“At least you found him,” he muttered knowing the words meant nothing to her. He knew it would feel more like a slap in the face. A reminder of her failure. “At least now they’ll have closure.” He rubbed her heaving shoulders feeling his shirt becoming damp with her tears.
“I know those words are supposed to make me feel better,” she mumbled pulling away “but they don’t. I shouldn’t have come alone.” She stumbled several feet away “I should have called for backup.” Shivering she turned her back on him lost in thought.
Sighing Jeff didn’t try to contradict her. She had messed up. It was something she would have to live with. He moved up behind her putting a gentle hand on her shoulder.
She jerked away from his touch “I’m going to find her. If it’s the last thing I do I’m going to make her pay for what she’s done.”
“You need to calm down,” he advised her “let the doctors check you over. Get some rest. You’ll feel better…”
“No I won’t,” she screamed “I’ll never feel better. Garrett will hate me once he knows what I’ve done. If I had done things better Ian would still be alive.” She shivered wrapping her arms around herself “it’s so cold” she complained coughing
“You’re in shock” Jeff told her trying to keep her attention “why don’t you come over here and sit down?”
“I don’t want to sit down,” she whined teeth chattering “why is it so cold?” she asked rubbing her arms. “Owe that hurt,” she cried turning as a paramedic gave her a sedative. Her eyes drooped as the man caught her before she fell to the ground.
“Five more minutes,” she mumbled seeking the comfort of sleep. Moaning she felt the serenity of sleep slipping further and further away. Her eyes blinked opened than slammed shut with a heavy thud. No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t keep her eyes open.
“Come no baby open your eyes,” a voice encouraged her. A voice she knew but the sound of it made her wince. She didn’t want to remember. Didn’t want to see the pain in their eyes when they realized she was to blame for their grief.
“Sorry,” she murmured turning her face away as she opened her eyes.
“You have nothing to be sorry for” Garrett soothed brushing her hair from her face.
“My fault that he’s dead,” she moaned wishing she could tell him to go away. To spare her the pain of seeing his disdain.
“Whose death sweetheart?” he asked her concern deepening his tone.
“My fault…my fault,” she muttered closing her eyes letting sleep reclaim her.
Sometime later several loud voices like the calling of seagulls along an empty beach disturbed her sleep She opened her eyes a crack to find an older man smiling down at her. “How are you this morning young lady?”
“Fine” she croaked eyes darting around the room at the strangers staring at her.
“Do you know where you are?” the man asked.
Licking her dry cracked lips she mumbled “hospital.”
“Good good” the man patted her shoulder “your lungs were burned from breathing super heated air. I’m happy to say you’re mending quite nicely.” He winked at her as a nurse lifted her arm to check her blood pressure.
The older woman smiled down at her “there’s a good looking young man waiting to see you. Shall I send him in?”
Cringing Verity wanted to say yes but the thought of seeing him made her sick to her stomach. She wasn’t ready to destroy his hope of seeing his father again.
Garrett walked in lingering by the door hesitant to enter, watching for signs that Verity wanted him to leave. Taking here silence as acceptance he sat in the chair beside her bed “you’re looking better,” he smiled down at her.
“Thank you I guess,” looking away wishing things could be different “I’m sorry I…”
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” he assured her taking her hand.
“I promised I’d bring him home,” she cried wondering why he wasn’t more upset.
“Honey it’s not your fault,” he soothed kissing the palm of her hand “you brought him home. For that I’ll forever be grateful.”
Blinking back tears she let out a strangled sob “I can’t believe this. You should hate me.”
“Why would I do that?” he asked sounding confused.
“I’m not giving up,” she told him with determination “I’m going to find her. She had to pay for what she did.”
“Uncle Jeff is taking care of it,” Garrett informed her “you don’t have to worry about anything but getting better.”
“I do,” she insisted “it was my fault that she got away.”
“You found me dad.”
“Not soon enough,” she mumbled turning away from him.
Sighing Garrett sat beside her in uneasy silence. What could he say to help her through this? Words never came easy to him. he was more a doer then an eloquent speaker. Careful of the IV in her hand he lifted it to his lips and tenderly kissed it.
Garrett sat beside her until she fell into a fitful sleep. Sighing he got up leaned over her pressing his lips to her smooth forehead. He had spent to many days within these walls he thought as he made his way to the door. It was time for a change.
He had an idea to remedy that as he patted his jacket pocket. The comforting crinkle as the envelope beneath protested brought a smile to his lips. He couldn’t wait until she was released so he could whisk her away from this place. Starlight Shores no longer felt like home. He was ready to leave it behind.
His mind on thoughts of the future he opened the door into his mother’s room. He found her sitting up smiling “how is she?” she inquired.
Shrugging he threw himself into a chair “she’s blaming herself for what happened to dad.”
A shadow fell across Celia’s face”she did the best she could under the circumstances.”
“I know mom,” he sat forward chin resting in his hands “I’ve tried telling her that. She just isn’t listening.”
“Give her time,” Celia advised “it’s going to take time for all of us to heal.” He heard her well meaning words but that’s all they were….words. Meaningless words. A bunch of hot air formulated to offer comfort. He didn’t want to be comforted. He wanted his dad back.
His head jerked up in alarm as multiple alarms went off at once. In horror he watched his mother convulse on the bed, eyes rolling back into her head. “Mom” he choked backing towards the door screaming “help. Someone help.”
Hospital staff ran past him pushing him from the room despite his efforts to stay. Blindly he backed into someone “Garrett” the deep concerned voice was familiar, safe.
“I’ve lost them,” he mumbled falling into his Uncles arms “lost them both.”
Jeff held the sobbing heartbroken boy keeping him from falling into a heap upon the floor. He felt the walls around his heart crumble as he relived his worst nightmare. He was once again that little boy watching his parents die. The pain was just as bad now as it was then. He remembered all the empty platitudes well meaning relatives told him. Uncle Gene had been different. The only only who just let him cry until he didn’t have anymore tears. The only one who sat and cried with him. It was strange standing in his Uncle’s shoes, needing to be strong all the while wishing he could crawl into a hole somewhere and cry.
Lisa had offered to come. He had refused. He didn’t want to give Kara anymore targets then she already had. If only he had been able to stop her before all this tragedy occurred. He hadn’t been able to pick up her trail after the fire. No doubt Kara had an escape plan already in place that enabled her to disappear.
He knew without a doubt that Kara wasn’t done yet. She would make another appearance deadlier than ever. Next time he vowed he’d be ready.