Halfway to my Heart
by Brigid Doyle
Copyright - July 1999
I must take a few minutes to apologize at this point as everyone else I was caught up in the finale episode of XWP last weekend and like those who have followed and love the show, I was deeply affected. (More so than I thought I would be) .My mind could not concentrate on my own work as I tried to make sense of the work of TPTB. So please accept my apology to those who have been waiting for more story and myWARNING that extreme violence toward a child will follow in the next few chapters. I apologize to those whom this may offend and even more to those to whom this will stir memories of things that should never have been, but it was necessary to the story. I believe wholeheartedly in HAPPY endings so take heart in knowing that Reagan will survive.
The elevator doors opened, allowing a whoosh of cold November air to wrap itself around the child huddled in the farthest corner. She pulled her arms around herself and shivered, mostly with fear. The tall grinning woman near the door seemed oblivious to the change in temperature. She turned slowly, eyeing the child through narrowed slits that masked her gray eyes. She seemed to be waiting for something.
Reagan straightened hesitantly and stepped toward the opening, rubbing her arms quickly with both hands. She peered from the dimness of the car into the blinding autumn sunlight. She did not recognize the area. It was strewn with short stubby cans, cardboard boxes in various states of destruction, shards of brightly colored broken glass and pieces of newspaper that drifted in the city air like the leaves had drifted in the air of Brisbey's campus. She could hear the soft toots of the tugs in the harbor much clearer. Deep muffled voices of working men blended with the sounds of machinery and the muscle it took to move it. She stopped at the edge of the car, her fear and the cold holding her back.
A rough hand snatched her wrist and yanked her forward. She snapped ahead with a quick jerk, immediately resisting the pull. The grip on her wrist tightened ripping her from the miniscule warmth the car offered. She felt the bones in her wrist crunch and let out a small whimper as she stumbled over a piece of debris in her path. The woman stopped quickly and spun back causing the child to crash into her midriff. She pushed her back without losing hold of her wrist.
"Quiet!" L'sandra ordered, glaring at the girl.
Reagan quickly swallowed the sob threatening to escape her throat and blinked the hot tears out of her eyes. This strange woman, this evil presence, was frightening her much more than any of the, almost forgotten, wrath of her former school headmistress. She blinked again as the tears continued to form. Payton was somewhere in the tall building. No amount of screaming would bring her closer. No call would bring rescue. She stared into the wild gray eyes that glared at her. The woman shook her hard again crunching the bones under her grasp. This time Reagan gritted her teeth and withstood the pain. Somewhere in her mind some small thing told her that those bones were close to the breaking point. She nodded quickly, swallowing another sob. Her breath came in small pants as she fought to remain in control.
L'sandra grasped the child by both shoulders and brought her up off of the ground to her own eye level. She dug her bony fingers into the girl's arms as she did so and felt the child cringe under the pressure. She seemed to take perverse pleasure in the girl's pain. "You make one more sound and I'll finish this right here. Do you understand?" She hissed through her teeth into Reagan's face, delighting in the fear she found in the child's eyes. The girl nodded quickly. L'sandra dug her nails deeper into the soft muscle at the back of the girl's arms daring her to either withstand the pain or utter the slightest whimper of protest.
Reagan squeezed her eyes shut, making a silent prayer that the woman would let go before she could no longer contain the scream that echoed inside of her mind. Her answer came as she was roughly dropped to the cold concrete floor. Her legs crumpled beneath her as she unexpectedly hit the hard cement. Her knees scraped the coarse surface a breath before the palms of her hands did the same. She stood slowly examining the brush burns across the points of impact. A slow trickle of blood ran down her left leg, staining the white knee-sock that was a part of the Brisbey uniform that she still wore. For a moment her thoughts drifted to the shopping trip that held the promise of something new, of time spent with her sister and their friend, of a special lunch at her favorite restaurant and a quiet ride back to her home in the evening. For a moment life existed outside the Brisbey uniform and she wondered what it might have held for her and her older sister. She watched as the blood ran into the rib of her sock and stained it a deep crimson. The stain spread out in a small semi-circle. A gust of wind blew the scattered papers in a swirl and the November chill threw her back into reality. The shopping trip was forgotten. A new wardrobe was now the least of her concern.
L'sandra again snatched the girl's wrist and pulled her forward toward the end of the loading dock and into the alley beyond. It wasn't the way she had planned to take the child from the building, but it was only a small detour. A few blocks through this alley and onto the street then hail a cab and they would be at Port of Authority in time to catch the first bus out of the city. By nightfall she would have the little brat in her father's cabin deep in the woods. It would be spring before anyone found the little bastard. By that time her plan would be complete and the McAllister line would be as gone as the Teschner line. She glanced ahead making sure the alley was as empty as it usually was this time of morning.
The incensed woman pushed the small girl ahead of her and off of the end of the dock. It was at least three feet to the ground below and once again Reagan's knees and hands met with the cold cruel surface of the Manhattan pavement. This time the scrapes deepened and both knees sent streams of crimson toward the white cotton dams below. She rolled onto her bottom and quickly placed a hand over each abrasion. The sting brought the tears in her eyes across both of her cheeks. She clenched her teeth tightly and sobbed without making a sound. A rough hand grabbed her by the back of her neck and pulled her to her feet.
Teschner held the girl up so high her toes barely touched the ground. The collar grew taunt against Reagan's throat and she reached with both scraped and bloody hands to pull it from her neck. L'sandra shook her like a rag doll and quickly glanced at the wounds on her knees. "You'll live." She shook her again. "At least until I decide, you'll live." She laughed a small laugh and let the girl's feet rest on the ground. Reagan gasped at the air and could not contain the choking cough it brought. She pulled the collar away from her neck and continued to take deep breaths. A swift fierce sting across her cheek sent her staggering backward but she was caught before hitting the pavement a third time. "I said QUIET!" L'sandra barked as she grabbed the child's wrist and pulled her into the windswept alley.
Reagan struggled to quell her coughs as she stumbled along behind the strange woman she was sure was some sort of witch. She glanced back at the Bhaird Building. The executive office was so far up that Payton would never ever see her. She knew those large windows were the penthouse. From up there everything looked so small and so wonderful, so bright and dreamlike. Down here it was her worst nightmare and even in though it was only midday the sun seemed to avoid this part of the world leaving it in a perpetual state of dusk. The colors were a mixture of grays and the smells assaulted her nose. Her stomach flipped once and she prayed it would behave itself. If she were to get sick now she was sure this witch would have no sympathy. She'd hit her twice and pushed her down twice, each time a little worse than the time before. She didn't want to think any more about what else this woman meant to do to her, or why. She ran to keep up with the stride of the crazed person that yanked her along the dark alleyway behind the only world she had known.
The large ornate doors of the Bhaird building's main elevator opened slowly. Payton McAllister shot into the lobby as soon as the space between them was wide enough to release her from its interior. Her movements were tense but determined as she practically marched across the wide area. Clients as well as tenants jumped to clear her path. She was clearly a woman on a mission. Her ebony hair seemed to fly in a arc about her head as she turned in a wide circle to view the entire area. Without uttering a sound she blast through the main doors and out onto the street. Colin and Donnie hurried to catch up; each repeating the same movements their employer had made seconds before. Other people in the lobby also began to look from side to side and all around wondering what the odd collection of searchers were trailing.
Outside, Payton grabbed the doorman and pulled him close. The man lifted a gloved hand to the peak of his uniform cap in a weak attempt to tip it toward the woman. She shook him. "I don't need any of that nonsense now!" She barked. "Did a woman and a small girl come through here in the past ten minutes?" She demanded.
He blinked a few times. Such a strange question from the woman who had entered this building every morning for the past four months and never had so much as a 'how'd ya do?' for him. Of course there were women and children through this door all morning. There was a pediatrician's office on the third floor and a dentist on the second. He'd spoken to at least five small girls on their way in or out. She shook him again, incensed by the blank look on his face. He nodded quickly, wondering why she needed this information and why it was so urgent. "Several." He managed to blurt out before she shook him again. The answer seemed to make her more upset. She pushed him away and paced to the curb and back. He straightened his uniform and looked toward the two men who had rushed out of the door. He recognized the elevator operator and looked at him with a silent 'what the hell is going on' expression.
Payton stopped in front of the man and he stepped back. "How many is several?"
He looked from her to the men and then back. "I I don't know four or five "
"How can you not know?" She demanded. "Don't I pay you to know who goes in and out of my building?!" She glared at him demanding an answer.
"Miss McAllister?" Donnie's shaky voice tried to interject.
"Were they all wearing coats?" She changed direction quickly as the man was still contemplating how to answer the last question.
He nodded, wrinkling his brow. "It is rather brisk today, ma'am. I should hope they'd be wearing them." He smiled weakly hoping the answer was correct.
"Miss McAllister " again Donnie spoke.
"You do know young Miss McAllister, don't you?" Colin tried to help, stepping between the woman, who was close to losing the small piece of temper she still had, and the doorman who was close to losing the small piece of mind she had left him.
"Of course!" The man smiled, knowing that was correct. "She arrived earlier with with ," He stared at the flustered form before him realizing for the first time who he had been speaking to. "Miss McAllister! Oh Miss Mc I am sorry I didn't I mean no, no the young Miss hasn't been through here I "
Payton let out an exasperated sigh, stormed past the doorman, and Colin, toward the door. Donnie's soft voice called her name again. She spun toward him. "WHAT IS IT?!" She practically growled throwing her hands into the air then dropping them quickly.
The young man felt the blush rise on his face and he swallowed hard to avoid a stammer. "If they used the service elevator " He looked to Colin and then back to Payton, "they wouldn't have come out this way. We need to " Before he was able to finish the statement Payton had burst back into the lobby and made her way toward the 'employee's only' door beyond the elevators.
The young executive ferociously pushed her way past the large security guard practically knocking the man off his feet. He righted himself quickly and reached for his sidearm. He had been alerted to a strange female intruder in the building. If he wanted to keep his position he would have to do everything in his power to stop her. The man had been on this job for five years. In all that time he had never used his weapon. He drew it slowly and pointed at the back of the young woman just as she placed both hands on the rear exit door and shouted with as much authority as he could muster, "HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!" His voice rang through the crowded lobby, as did the sound of the cocking of the gun in his hand. A hush fell over the large area as each individual froze in place waiting for the loud pop that would certainly follow. Colin and Donnie skidded to a halt a few feet behind the guard.
Payton turned slowly. Her eyes shot venom at the man keeping her from her goal. Her gaze and posture held a lethal threat. She eyed the tall muscular young man holding the service revolver with shaking hands. Beads of sweat had formed across his brow and on his upper lip. She took a step toward him.
"STOP!" He ordered in a voice that betrayed his courage with a boyish squeak. "TURN AROUND AND PUT YOUR HANDS ON THE WALL!" He almost asked her. It was apparent this was a practiced drill and he would repeat the learned script of a proper arrest. "NOBODY IS GOING TO GET HURT HERE TODAY."
Payton took a second slow step toward the man. Her eyes met his and locked onto his gaze. "What do you think you're doing, you fool?" She asked through clenched teeth in a voice barely above a whisper. "Put that thing down before I take it away from you and put it so far up your backside it'll take a team of proctologists six months to locate its new holster!" She smiled evilly but never broke her stare. With each word she took another slow step toward him never making any other movement.
"I SAID I S-SAID ST-STOP!" The young man stammered clearly confused by this reaction. He took a step backward. "I I'll SHOOT!" He warned. She continued toward him with slow calculated steps. The loud crack and the slight whine that followed it gave everyone cause to dive for cover or fall to the floor. The young man opened his eyes just in time to see the dark haired woman slap the gun from his hand. Later he would not even remember pulling the trigger. The gun fell to the well-polished floor with a clank and skidded away stopping against a large standing pedestal ashtray. The young guard turned as a hand fell on his shoulder. He looked into the eyes of Colin Walters.
"Take it easy " Colin said calmly using his most serious lawyer tone. "Why don't you have a seat?" He gently pushed the young man into one of the large chairs that were placed throughout the building's baroque lobby. The man's face was ashen, his eyes wide with shock.
"Did I hurt anyone?" He said in a barely audible voice as he lowered himself slowly into the chair.
Payton grabbed his collar just as he made contact with the seat. "YOU STUPID FOOL!! WHAT WERE YOU TRYING TO DO?? YOU COULD HAVE KILLED SOMEONE!" The man stared at her blankly. She raised a hand to smack the stupid vacant look from his face.
Colin caught her arm as it began its downward swing. "He was only doing his job Payton." He said slowly and quietly. "He doesn't know who you are. None of these people do." He nodded toward the wide-eyed onlookers that were gradually coming to their feet around the lobby.
Payton's breath came in quick short pants. Her anger was blind red fury and only the calm warm voice next to her seemed to be cutting its way through. This idiot had slowed her down. This moron who couldn't even manage to do what he thought was his job, without endangering her life and everyone else's, had stopped her from reaching her goal. That witch Teschner was getting away and this fool was to blame. Her rage was in complete control and its need for fuel was pounding against her temples. She would take out her anger on this imbecile.
"Payton?" The soft voice called her name.
She closed her eyes and listened to the sound of her anger beat against her chest. She felt a strong hand holding her right wrist and squeezed handful of dark blue uniform beneath her left fist until her knuckles turned white. A hand, a touch, fell against her shoulders and began a slow calming massage, much the way a parent might calm a frustrated child. A child Reagan the thought of her younger sister's gentle touch on her hand that first time they had met rushed through her mind. She drew a deep breath and held it for a moment before exhaling fiercely. Her body relaxed slowly. The arm she had raised in violence went limp and fell from the lawyer's grip landing on the security guard's chest with a soft thud. She opened her eyes and looked into the terrified face of the young man seated before her. Her left hand relaxed and laid, palm open, against his chest.
"I'm sorry." She whispered patting his chest gently with both hands. "You were doing your job I "
The man blinked a few times and swallowed hard. If he had heard correctly the lawyer had called this crazy woman Payton. Could she be THE Payton McAllister? He'd heard stories about her from the older guards and maintenance crew, but he always suspected they were exaggerations. He nodded at her and attempted a weak smile.
"Donnie, get some water for " Colin looked at the young man's name badge for the first time, "Officer Marnard . " He turned back to the young man. "We need to get out through those doors." Colin nodded at the exit. "We believe the woman you thought you had apprehended left through the rear of the building and that she took Miss McAllister's younger sister with her." He hoped that was enough to explain the situation to the guard.
Payton had retreated from the scene, partly embarrassed by her loss of control and partly because the fury was rebuilding with new intensity. She folded her arms across her chest and paced stiffly across the marble floor. She glanced at Colin quickly without turning her head. He was taking too long and she would not wait. There was no time. Teschner was insane and Reagan was in mortal danger. She again walked briskly toward the exit door and practically through her body against it. The door refused to budge. She shook the knob roughly.
"It's locked." The guard said slowly as he lowered the glass of water that Donnie had handed him from his lips. He rose from the chair and pulled a large ring of keys from his belt. "We have to keep it locked." He explained as he slid past Payton without turning his back on her. "I have a key." He held it up before he placed it the lock and released the door.
Again Payton grabbed the doorknob and pushed. The door swung open immediately admitting her into a long dark passageway.
"It leads to the alley behind the building." The guard smiled uneasily.
She nodded and disappeared into the dim interior. Colin stepped pasted the guard as well, hurrying to catch up with his employer and hoping to keep her from harming herself as well as the woman they sought.
Donnie brought up the rear, excited and terrified to be part of this escapade. He turned to the guard with a newfound feeling of authority. "You wait here for the police. Send them this way!" With that he followed the others into the dark corridor and out of the guards sight.
The young guard watched them disappear then took off his cap and pushed back his sweat soaked hair. He turned and stared at his pistol that still lay on the marble floor next to the pedestal. He lifted his gaze and noticed for the first time the audience that had gathered to view this spectacle. He threw back his shoulders, trying to regain some sort of dignity and walked over to retrieve his weapon. He shook his head a bit and seriously considered the office job his wife's uncle had offered him just a few days before.
L'sandra's long legs took great strides as she hurried along the alley forcing Reagan to run. A deep ache developed in the girl's side that crept slowly along her ribs and into her chest. Each breath she drew increased the pain; each pounding of her small feet against the pavement drove it farther along her torso. The world seemed to flash by, as she was privy to the sights and sounds of the flip side of society. Large garbage dumpsters rested against the dark side of the buildings, many overflowing with trash that reeked of rotten meats and spoiled vegetables. Strange crystallized puddles of an unusual auburn substance lay in almost every corner and against every trash-barrel. Reagan tried not to imagine what it could be although its odor was unmistakable. She tripped for the thousandth time and was immediately yanked ahead, but not before her skin scrapped across the object that caused her fall. There was no time to look down at the damage caused and her chest screamed with so much pain that breathing was becoming impossible. She had to stop, had to rest before her heart exploded taking her burning lungs along for the ride. She had to take the risk of yet another sharp slap from this woman before she just fell and was dragged through this horrid foreign landscape. A large tomcat yowled and then hissed from his perch on top of a dented can, arching its back and spitting at the strangers that passed. The woman stopped abruptly. Reagan dropped to her knees and rested her free hand against the cool pavement. She took small short breaths and listened as the sound of her racing heart seemed to slam against her eardrums.
L'sandra stared at the child watching her struggle to catch her breath. She held the girl's thin wrist tightly. The cat hissed again and struck out with a claw-bared paw. The woman drew a deep breath and narrowed her eyes at the creature. Its deep yellow eyes stared back as it lowered itself into a springing position. L'sandra watched and waited. The animal sprung for the larger of the two invaders, the one that dared to look into its feline eyes. The woman swung her free hand and connected with the cat's ribcage knocking it from the air and down hard onto the pavement. The cat scrambled to its feet letting out a loud screeching yowl and disappeared into the piles of boxes and cans. Its low growl could be heard as it quickly retreated farther into the darkness.
"Get up!" The witch hissed at the small girl pulling her into an almost standing position.
" can't ," Reagan managed to croak between pants.
"You'll get up or I will drag you the rest of the way." She reached down, grabbed the girl by the hair on top of her head and pulled up upright. She shook the child roughly by that hair and refused to let go. "It makes no difference to me, brat! But it might be easier on you." She almost smiled at her answer.
Reagan kept her eyes closed and concentrated on breathing despite the pain and the fact that her head was bobbing from side to side. She tugged gently hoping to urge the woman to release her but only succeeded in having her capture only tighten her grip and pull harder. The rapid pants of breath became deeper and deeper until she was able to take slow even gulps of the stale smelly air. "I need need to rest." She stammered between breaths.
The woman shook her again by the hair. "I don't give a damn what you need!! I said stand up and MOVE!" She threw the girl forward letting go of her hair but the grip she had on the child's thin wrist did not allow her the luxury of falling back to the ground. "YOU WILL DO AS I SAY WHEN I SAY IT! WITHOUT QUESTION AND WITHOUT HESITATION!!" She screamed breaking her own demand for silence. She snatched what was probably at one time the sole of a fine leather shoe from a pile of trash. She shook it in the girl's face threatening her with every word. For the first time since they left the loading dock L'sandra released her hold on the girl's wrist. Reagan's relief was short lived as the crazed woman immediately seized the same wrist with her left hand quickly spinning the child away from her. "MAYBE THIS WILL HELP YOU TO REMEMBER THAT, LITTLE GIRL!" She punctuated each word with a brutal strike of the old leather sole. Reagan raised one arm as a shield and screamed in shock as well as pain as the beating continued. But she was no match for this crazy witch that had come from her worst nightmare to take her away from the only person she had left in the world. The beating continued as L'sandra Teschner made sure she left marks the child would not soon forget.
"STOP!" Reagan shrieked as the hard leather fell across her thigh, then her forearm, her shoulder, her backside. She kept her free arm across her face. "Stop, stop I'll walk I'll get up .I'll ."
The woman threw the leather piece aside and pulled the girl roughly against her chest, placing a hand across her mouth to stifle those screams. "I SAID QUIET!" She growled in a low whisper close to Reagan's ear. She pushed her hand tighter against the child's tender lips forcing them against her teeth. Reagan opened her mouth slightly to relieve the pressure. The woman's hand slid down with the child's jaw and again she increase the pressure this time forcing the web of skin along her thumb under the girl's teeth.
Reagan had no real time to think. Instinct took over and self-preservation spun her into action. She felt the soft flesh against her teeth and bit down with all of her twelve-year-old strength, a strength that was empowered by terror. She wasn't sure if the strange coppery taste in her mouth was her blood or the blood of her tormentor, since in her panic she caught her bottom lip in the enamel vice. The woman let out a startled yelp and pulled her hand away releasing the child. Reagan spun to face her torturer. L'sandra had drawn her bloody hand close and cradled it with the opposite hand. If Reagan ever had an edge it was now. The woman was shocked by the girl's brazen act and momentarily distracted by her own injury.
The girl moved quickly pushing both small hands into the woman's midsection and sending her backward into the mountain of garbage left against the soot covered building. L'sandra landed with a crash as the mass of boxes, crates, and assorted decaying rubbish tumbled on top of her, effectively trapping her under its cluttered weight. Reagan stared as the woman disappeared under the rubble until all that was visible was one shiny black orthopedic oxford. She blinked a few times and waited for the foot to move. When it didn't she wrestled with her conscience as small voice told her she should help, make sure the woman wasn't badly hurt. She took a small step toward the exposed limb. It moved just a bit and from beneath the pile a low moan grew to an angry growl. The assorted garbage started moving.
Reagan stepped back, listening to a much louder voice.
All it said was, "RUN!"
To be continued 29-32
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