13

ALLISON’S FOREHEAD WAS drenched in sweat and her body stuck in a fetal position when she opened her eyes. “Dan… DAN!” she shouted, flipping over the covers and springing to sit up in bed. She blinked and looked around the bedroom, relieved that her horrific ordeal was just another nightmare.

Moving on.

She went out and completed a few errands. The last thing to do was to pick up Daniel’s business suit from the dry-cleaners down the road. Coming to park outside the shop, she received a call from Adrian. Jolly as she was to speak to him since last Tuesday, three sentences in, she began to sense something terribly wrong.

“What’s going on, Adrian? Are you okay?”

“Come… come quickly…”

“Come where? Tell me where you are.”

 “To the apartment!” His voice went from a feeble moan to a harsh command. “Come to the apartment I said!!”

“What’s the address?”

“Aargh!!” He let out a manic growl as if in excruciating pain, breathing heavy into the speaker. “Don’t you pretend, bitch. You know this place better than anyone!

“Calm down —”

“Then don’t fuck with me alright…”

“Tell me what did you take, what are you on so I can help —”

“I SAID DON’T FUCK WITH ME!!!!!”

His increased hostility eventually shut her up.

“Okay… okay. We’ll do it your way. 770 Crestwood Apartments, number 33. Get here at exactly noon and not a minute later. I can’t guarantee what’s going to happen to her… but don’t you bother calling the cops. If you want her alive, come alone.”

“Are you with Miranda? Listen, don’t —”

He hung up.

Nothing petrified her more than getting a call like this from Adrian, but as much as it did, she had been involved enough times to know how desperately he needed her help. Because if anyone could bring him back to reality, she knew she was the one. Even so, risk was always certain should she decide to turn up as demanded. If things got violent, she might need to call her father for intervention, and he would not hesitate to employ his power to put him away — the absolute last thing she wanted to happen.

Ed was just leaving the dry cleaning shop when she walked in and by him, completely unaware of his presence until he greeted her. “Hi, Allie. It’s a good surprise to see you here.”

“Oh, hi, Ed.”

“Picking up something?”

“Uh-huh.” She looked on to the counter, watching the store clerk help a customer ahead of her, clearly not in the mood to chitchat.

“Would you like to grab a bite after this? I could really use a break.”

“I’m sorry, but I got something else to do right after.”

“I’m sure you do,” he muttered back in a bit of a bitter letdown, presuming it to be another excuse to avoid him.

“I honestly do. I have to go to this place by noon, which hopefully isn’t too bad of a drive.”

His eyes lit up. “You’ve never been there before?”

She shook her head and showed him the address saved on the phone.

“That’s in downtown Blackpool. I’ve heard many stories from that area and they aren’t good.”

“What sort of stories?”

“Someone getting killed, someone getting raped… you sure you want to hear them?”

“That’s not funny.”

“I’m not joking, though I wish I was. That place is known to have one of the highest crime rates in the metro, home to many crack-heads and lowlifes… I’m just saying, you should avoid going there at all cost.”

“But I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I uh… I have to meet up with an old friend. A promise is a promise.”

He saw through her falsehood, but instead of getting her to tell the truth, he offered her a ride there.

“That’s okay. I drove here.”

“Does he know about this?”

“Does who?”

“Your husband.”

“It’s sort of a… spur-of-the-moment kind of thing.”

“I see. Look, I don’t feel good having you go meet some ‘old friend’ at that god-awful place all by yourself. Let me come along. I can be your bodyguard.”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

“What do you have to lose? I’ll just wait in the car once we get there, if that makes you more comfortable.”

“Well…”

“Come on. I’ll drop you off back here right after. I just want to make sure you’ll be okay, that’s all, as a friend.”

“I have no idea how long it will take.”

“I don’t care.”

She figured it was only sensible to accept his help, so long as Adrian did not see him, and therefore in the end, agreed.

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