Laurence blinked a few times. As her eyes adapted to the sudden light, Beatrice came into focus. She was standing next to the window, calmly smoking a cigarette, puffs of smoke emanating from the smirk on her face.
Once the moment of surprise was gone, Laurence advanced toward Beatrice.
"No, no, no," said Beatrice, teasingly, pointing at the gun placed on the table in front of her.
Laurence stopped dead in her tracks and tried to slow her racing heart so she could assess the situation. "What do you want, Beatrice?"
"I came here to see my son," Beatrice answered, extinguishing her cigarette on the wooden table and leaving a black mark behind. She carelessly disposed of the butt by throwing it on the floor. "When I think of how much your father loved this table…" she said venomously.
"Where is Chloe?" asked Laurence menacingly, her blood boiling in her veins and her mind churning, searching without success for a way out of the situation without anyone getting hurt.
"Your little girlfriend? She is taking a nap in the kitchen right now…a long…long nap," laughed Beatrice.
A knot tightened in Laurence's stomach and fear gripped her. "Chloe, Chloe…can you hear me?" she called, never taking her eyes off of Beatrice.
"I told you, she’s taking a nap…now, about my request…"
"Forget it Beatrice. You're insane. I'm not letting you see my son," barked Laurence, panic obvious in her voice.
"Now Laurence, be reasonable…obviously I'm in charge here…look, I have the gun." She picked up the gun to prove her point and advanced slowly toward Laurence. Laurence swallowed with difficulty, but courageously kept eye contact with Beatrice. "Now, we can make this very easy, we both go get Clément and no one gets hurt, or I put a bullet through your pretty face and I go get Clément. Now, I don't care, either way, I win." Beatrice laughed at the fear evident on Laurence's face.
Laurence sighed heavily and forced her body to relax. "Beatrice, I'm sure you don't want to kill me…I'll cut you a deal. You take me to Chloe, so I can check on her, and then I'll take you to Clément."
"You'll cut me a deal!" Beatrice's laugh reverberated once more into the room. "I don't think you're in any position to cut any deal Laurence…" Beatrice came closer to Laurence, and playfully ran the barrel of the gun along Laurence's neck. Laurence stayed put, refusing to give in to Beatrice. "…but to show you that I'm not heartless, I'll grant you your wish." Beatrice pushed Laurence toward the kitchen. "No tricks now."
Chloe lay unconscious in the kitchen, face first on the floor. A small pool of blood had formed under her head. Laurence rushed to Chloe's side. "Chloe, Chloe, can you hear me?" She quickly checked for a pulse, and finally let go of the breath she had been holding after finding one. "Beatrice, I need to grab a towel and ice so I can stop the blood." Without waiting for Beatrice's response, she stood up and opened a drawer, looking frantically for a kitchen towel. She found one to her satisfaction, grabbed some ice from the freezer and rushed back to Chloe, the threat of Beatrice's presence now of secondary concern. She put the ice inside the towel and gently applied the makeshift bandage to the gash in the back of Chloe's head. She then tenderly turned Chloe to lie on her back. "Come on sweetie…please show me you can hear me," she said pleading. "Com…" Her sentence was suddenly interrupted by Clément's voice.
"Mommy," he called with a teary voice.
Laurence looked abruptly at Beatrice, whose eyes had lit up. She forgot about the gun in Beatrice's hand and rushed out of the kitchen. "Clément, go back to your room…now!" she yelled at Clément, who was standing at the top of the stairs. Instead of obeying Laurence, Clément stood frozen on the steps, his eyes wide with fear. Laurence turned around to see Beatrice standing behind her, staring at Clément.
"Hi, sweetheart. I've missed you," said Beatrice, her tone of voice almost sincere. "Why don't you come down here?" Clément stood frozen, staring at her, his legs shaking slightly. Laurence wanted to run to him, take him in her arms and tell him not to worry, but she didn't want to provoke Beatrice. "Go get him," said Beatrice, pushing her with the barrel of the gun. Laurence climbed the steps slowly, making eye contact with Clément and trying to reassure him. As she reached him she knelt in front of him, gently setting her hand on his shoulder.
"It's okay, sweetheart…I'm here." She then pulled him toward her to pick him up. Once Clément was settled safely in her arms, she turned toward Beatrice,
"Good, now come down," ordered Beatrice.
Laurence looked at her. "In your dreams," she said before launching her self to the top of the stairs, and running to Clément's bedroom. She rushed in, closed the door and locked it. She frantically looked around the room and cursed herself for locking herself into a room without a phone. She put Clément down. "Okay love, I need you to be brave…can you be brave for me?" Clément nodded behind his teary eyes. "Good." Laurence opened the window and looked outside. At the same time, she heard a strong blow against the door. Laurence quickly stripped Clément's sheets from his bed and tied one around his waist securely. She then tied the other sheet to the first sheet. "Okay, Clément listen to me…."
"Laurence! Open the door or I'll shoot it open!" yelled Beatrice from the corridor.
Laurence looked nervously at the door. "…it's not very high. You see the gutter running down the wall?" she hurriedly asked Clément while standing him on the windowsill. Clément sniffled and nodded. "I'm going to lower you to it. I want you to grab it and move your hands down as I'm lowering you to the ground…once you’re down, I want you to run to the Cambier’s. Got it?"
"Mommy," whined Clément.
"Clément, we don't have time for you to be whining. Stop it," she said strictly as Beatrice shot the first bullet through the door. The bullet came crashing though the door and inside the room, missing Laurence by an inch before embedding itself in the wall. "Now!" yelled Laurence, lowering Clément as she had explained to him. Before he had reached the ground completely, Beatrice kicked the door open. Laurence looked frantically at her while hurrying Clément down. Beatrice ran to the window and smashed the butt of her gun into the side of Laurence's face. The sudden pain made Laurence loose her grip on the sheet. She yelled "No!" as she heard the thump as Clément's body hit the ground. A sharp cry followed the thump. Laurence pushed Beatrice out of the way, mindless of the gun. "You're okay! Run!" she yelled out the window. Clément got up slowly and ran out of the courtyard as fast as he could, the sheet still attached to his waist. Beatrice had grabbed Laurence in a death grip and had the gun on her head.
"You never listen, do you?" said Beatrice angrily. "I don't know what's stopping me from killing you right here right now."
"You've lost, Beatrice. Clément is going to alert the neighbors and then they'll call the police… it's only a matter of minutes before help arrives."
Beatrice pressed the gun harder into Laurence's head. "Let me decide that," she growled, kicking Laurence in the back and pushing her forward.
Go to chapter XXI
copyright (c) 2000 Malaurie Barber
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