Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 1
Title: Miss Me, -Kait
Part Nine: Sacrifices
If I had a bucket list somewhere in the back of my mind, said list did not include riding in a makeshift harness down a well. Wells and buckets. Ha. I might laugh for real about it when Murray got me the hell back out. Or have a drink or three. Or swear never to answer the door when the police came calling again.
I shivered. Cold, fear, some combo of the two. Didn’t matter as I watched the circle of light above me get a little smaller as Murray lowered me down.
“You see the bottom yet, Riley?”
“You want me to look down?” I yelled. “Don’t they always tell you not to look down?”
“Ye-es.” I heard the patience he added in the extra syllable. “But we know Kait isn’t up here, remember?”
I flipped him the bird, bumping the wall in the process.
“Holy fuck.” I snapped my arm against my body, jolting myself in the other direction. By the time I stopped swaying back and forth against the walls, I had my hands tight around the rope above me, my head buried against my arms, and I’d gotten three-fourths of the way through the only prayer I knew.
“And lead us not into temptation—”
“Riley?” Murray’s voice broke through my panic. “Tell me what’s going on, babe. I can’t see you anymore.”
“Not helping, Murray,” I said. I kept an image of the bench I’d spied about twenty feet from the well in my mind. When I got topside, I’d sit right there and hyperventilate properly.
“I’ve got you,” he said. “Don’t worry. Just turn on the flashlight, find Kait, and I’ll get you out, okay?”
“Yeah.” I squeezed my eyes tight, breathing deep through my nose. Ugh, the water didn’t smell too fresh. Maybe the well had been locked up for more than just safety.
The beam from the flashlight reflected back in shimmery waves about fifteen feet below me, the first positive sign in this journey.
“Almost there, Murray.” I ran the beam around the bottom, spotting—oh, God. “Hurry, Adam. Hurry!” I squirmed in the harness, trying to get down faster. “C’mon, c’mon.”
My feet touched down and I tore at the rope.
“She’s here!” I screamed.
“Is she alive?”
The shouted question froze me in place, my eyes locked on Kait’s painfully still form just inches from my feet. Six inches of water or so soaked through my shoes and blue jeans. Kait slumped sideways, face partially submerged.
I’d never dealt with the potentially dead. This…not knowing what I would find when I touched her…I didn’t like this at all.
I crouched down, flashlight gripped between my knees, hands shaking as I reached out and dragged her upright. Taller and heavier than me, I could barely move her. With one hand, I steadied her. Her skin held the memory of warmth, but I could see the cool blue of death in her lips, beneath her eyes.
“It doesn’t have to be death, Riley,” I told myself. “Get a grip. This water is fucking cold, so maybe she’s just fucking cold, too.”
The shakes gripped my whole body now, and it hurt to breath. I forced my fingers to her throat, seeking her pulse.
“Please, please, please.” I willed her to be alive. “Give me a beat, Kait, please.”
“Talk to me, babe,” Murray said.
“I—I can’t find a pulse.”
Murray started swearing, too fast for me to keep up. I ignored him. Tears stung my eyes, but I stopped trembling. Calm, numb maybe, I faced the truth I’d known all along.
The living never talked to me.
I’d never told anyone as much. Part of me needed the hope, and Kait had been so urgent. So vital. I touched a hand to her cheek.
“I’m going to see you home, Kait,” I whispered.
Dead or alive, Kait would leave this hole. I propped her so she wouldn’t fall over and freed myself from the harness, securing her in my place.
“Murray,” I called, backing clear, the flashlight clutched in my hands. “Pull her up.”
Slow and steady, Kait rose up the shaft. Above me, I could see just a scrap of darkening sky. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Kait nudged the side of the well and jarring something loose from her hand. It plunked into the water beside me. Turning the light down, I found a plastic bag bobbing on the surface. I snatched it up, staring at the tiny purple drive sheltered inside.
She’d had it with her all along.
“Murray!” I tried to spot him. “Can you hear me? I’ve got it!”
He didn’t answer. Probably couldn’t hear me over the effort to haul Kait out. I stuffed the bag in my hip pocket. The evidence didn’t make up for Kait’s death, but damn if I didn’t feel better knowing we’d get Carson.
“We’ve got him, Kait,” I said. “All thanks to you.”
Murray got Kait clear of the well and two minutes later, the rope dropped down again. I hurriedly fastened it in place, giving a tug when I finished.
Ten feet up, a huge boom reverberated around me. I slammed into the water almost before I recognized the sound. Not thunder. No, no, no. Gun shot.
Rolling to my back, I tried to catch my breath. Warm liquid stung my eyes. I swiped it away, finding a gash on my forehead. I must have hit the wall. Pain rioted through me, in some places more than others. I tried to call out, but Adam’s name sounded as little more than a gasp.
“You see anyone down there?” an unfamiliar voice yelled.
“Doesn’t matter,” another said. “They’re not going anywhere without help from up here and we’ve just removed that possibility. Load the bodies and let’s go.”
“Adam?” My voice didn’t carry beyond the hand I clamped over my mouth.
“Boss isn’t going to be happy about a dead cop,” the first man said.
Dead? Oh God, no.
I could just make out their heads peering down as I quietly climbed to my feet, favoring my left ankle. I wanted to scream, wanted to plead with them to pull me up. But then what? Join Kait and Adam in the afterlife?
“Just another sacrifice along the road to the White House,” the second said. “Ambition is a terrible burden.”
“Well, if he ever makes it there, he’s going to pave the way with bodies.”
“Best cut the rope,” said the second. “And get rid of the gun.”
I barely spotted the speck of black hurtling my way. I backed hard against the wall, covering my head. Murky water splashed all over me, first the gun, then the rope. I fished a useless 9mm out and stared up.
Kait and Adam both dead, me at the bottom of a well, bruised, broken, and cut with the evidence, a bunch of rope, and a gun to keep me company as I died.
Thunder, much closer now, rumbled. I blinked away the first drops of rain from my eyes and wondered what the hell happened next.
Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.