Halfway to my Heart
by Brigid Doyle
Copyright - July 1999
Payton burst through the large green swinging doors unconcerned with any unfortunate employee who might be standing behind it. The doors swung wildly, slamming against the inside and outside walls several times before slowing to a normal rate and finally wagging shut together. The young woman shoved boxes and crates aside, oblivious to their contents, on her way to the concrete dock at the end of the maintenance tunnel. Colin slammed through the doors a few seconds behind, narrowly missing a cardboard barrel that rolled into his path. He skirted around it in an effort to catch his young boss before she reached the dock. Donnie exited the doors between their frantic swinging, bouncing off the barrel and stumbling over several crates strewn across the walkway. He tripped and slipped in a wild tangle of arms and legs like an inexperienced skater on wet ice. Miraculously he regained his balance and hurried to fall into step behind the lawyer.
"Payton!" Colin called breathlessly. "PAYTON, WAIT!"
The young executive ignored his plea and pushed on, stopping only after she had reached the dock and practically slid down the few concrete steps to the pavement. She stood in the windswept alley and turned in a full circles first in one direction and then in the other.
"Which way WHICH WAY?!" She screamed to the sky throwing her head back in fury as well as anguish. "YOU BITCH, WHICH WAY???!!"
Colin approached slowly, motioning for Donnie to stay behind. Payton turned her back to the young man, blinking away the hot tears of frustration building in her eyes. She shifted her weight from foot to foot and mentally raced through the options before her. The court to the right led back to the Battery, back to the crowds of people on the street and in the shops and business along the main streets. To the left it continued along the block collecting the loading docks and trash collections of the other office buildings that filled the area until it reached a narrow side street. There it turned back to the main street or ended at a large graffiti covered brick wall that served as meeting- place for the many rather shady characters that frequently the nightlife of the city. Colin placed a hand on Payton's shoulder gently stepping to her side.
"Payton ." He began softly. "We should go back and wait for the police. There's nothing "
"She wouldn't go back to the street, Colin. There's too many people there too many witnesses too many security guards. No, she's too smart for that. She wouldn't let herself get boxed in either and that leaves only the docks the harbor the water ." Her words fell away as the horror of what that maniac might be planning replaced them. It would take weeks, months, possibly forever to find a small girl's body in that bay. She shook her head, desperately trying to erase the thought of that small body broken and floating among the pilings under the docks. A grisly memory surfaced of an accident that took place on these docks and the worker that was pulled from the water a few days later. Her stomach wrenched with the mental picture. She had to hurry.
"There's no time Colin no time ." She answered the man without meeting his eyes.
"Payton, you don't even know if she came this way. She could still be in the building. That elevator stops on every floor. She could have left through the garage or the mailroom or "
Donnie stood with his hands in his pockets wishing he had grabbed a jacket before racing into the November air. He shrugged his shoulders and moved back against the edge of the dock wondering how the two people in the windy alley seemingly did not feel the cold. He shook his head and kicked at the loose gravel in the docking bay, noticing a small drop on the pavement. At first he thought it was oil and looked at the dark stain, thinking that it was an odd place for any truck to have dripped grease. He stared at it trying to forget the cold. 'Hmph,' he thought to himself, 'looks more like blood than oil anyway.' He looked back at the well-dressed couple exchanging words in the alley. The dark haired woman was shaking her head. The man was using his outstretched hand to make a point. He wished his ears weren't so cold, maybe he'd be able to hear them better. His eyes went back to the small splotch on the ground and he moved closer to examine it. The young man stood directly over the spot and blinked a few times cocking his head from left to right then squatted down and touched his cold fingers to the mark. He drew it back slowly and looked at the sticky reddish brown substance that clung there.
"MISS McALLISTER! MR. WALTERS!" Donnie's voice startled both as they turned to see the back of the young elevator operator's red coat. "OVER HERE LOOK!"
They were at his side in seconds peering over his shoulder.
"Blood." He simply stated holding out his fingers to them.
Payton bent down and touched the spot finding the sticky substance on her own fingers. "That bitch." She hissed as she stood snatching the handkerchief that Donnie was using to wipe his hand.
"Payton ," Colin began again.
"Shut up, Colin!" She snapped at the man. "DON'T tell me what to do! DON'T tell me to be calm! DON'T tell me I don't know if it her blood or not. DON'T PACIFY ME, COLIN! JUST DON'T TELL ME ANYTHING! Either come with me or stay here and do whatever it is you do, but just shut up!" Her words were slow, her voice deep and thick with vehemence. She shoved the cloth into the lawyer's chest and stepped around him. The narrow alley directly in front of her led to the harbor, something told her to take that route. Something else, something deeper, told her to hurry. She started at a brisk walk that quickly broke into a trot. She couldn't allow the men behind her to see her tears. No, no one would ever witness Payton McAllister's panic. She burst into a run allowing the anger in her soul to smother the fear in her heart.
Nicholas Larzy hefted his slightly overweight frame down the three flights of stairs that were part of the McAllister firm and emerged slightly breathless on the twenty-fifth floor. He leaned against the doorframe for a moment to catch his breath. His colleagues were right - six years behind a desk had cost him his vitality. He promised himself to spend more time in the field after this case was closed. He smiled at a middle-aged secretary that eyed him curiously over her glasses as she walked past. For a moment he felt like a schoolboy caught in the hall without a pass. The detective pushed himself away from the door's support and walked to the set of elevators at the end of the corridor. He pressed the down arrow and looked up at the arc of numbers above both cars.
Time was slipping past. A young girl's life was at stake and he was gauging the speed at which the cars might arrive. Car one was on the second floor and didn't appear to be in a hurry to reach the third. Car two was on the move, the dark metal arrow hovering between the numbers eight and nine on the shiny black dial. He looked back at the door to the stairwell and wondered if he took three more flights of stairs if he could meet the car on that floor. On second thought, after the first breathless experience he decided to wait. Car two seemed to be moving steadily and had made only one quick stop on the eleventh floor. The arrow was reaching for fourteen. The first car was still stalled at two. 'Probably out of service or out to lunch,' he mumbled to himself rocking back and forth on his heels as his impatience grew. He pushed the down button again as if that might hurry the elevator to his floor.
Seventeen twenty twenty-two three more floors he began to pace in front of the doors when it stalled for several seconds there. He smiled at the same secretary as she retraced her steps back down the hall and disappeared into one of the offices opposite the elevator doors. Twenty-four he turned to see the arrow pass the floor below. PING! The doors opened and he stepped aside allowing three passengers engaged in a heated discussion to exit. He stepped inside quickly and pulled his badge from his inside pocket.
"Police." He explained simply to the spectacled man standing near the rows of lighted number buttons. "Lobby. Nonstop." He flipped his wallet closed and returned it to his pocket. The small gray-haired man nodded quickly and pulled the doors closed.
"Nonstop it is officer!" He saluted and turned to his controls. Two more numbers lit up on the board and a low buzzer called. The man looked at the panel. "Sorry folks, you'll have to catch the next ride." He apologized to it as he pulled the handle forward and the car began its slow descent.
"RUN!" The voice in Reagan's mind screamed. She obeyed, blindly dashing away from the woman who meant certain tragedy. The ache in her side clawed at her chest but she ignored the pain. The only sound was her small feet slamming against the wet pavement as she tried to put as much space between them and that woman as she could. She dared not look back for fear that the witch would be right behind.
The alley seemed to twist and turn like a maze. Fire escapes and building overhangs effectively blocked out most of the sun leaving the child in an almost surreal world of half day. She rounded what seemed like the tenth corner and finally had to press herself against the wall to rest. Her breathing was rapid and deep, punctuated with loud rasping gasps as she struggled to fill her aching lungs. Despite the chill in the autumn air a fine sheen of sweat covered her body causing her cotton blouse to stick to her back and arms. The ever-present breeze that gusted along the passageway felt wonderful against her hot skin. The cold brick of the building behind her helped to calm her racing heart. She closed her eyes for just a second to bask in the feeling. A soft sound to her left brought her back.
The girl's eyes shot open as she sprang away from the wall, immediately falling into the same pace and pushing herself ahead and away from whatever or whoever had made that noise. The passageway narrowed to nothing more that a walkway. She entered it without thought, pushing herself, with her already bruised palms, along the rough walls. She blinked to adjust her eyes to the even darker environment. A large form loomed in front of her. It seemed to appear out of thin air. She smashed headlong into it before realizing it was not a part of deepening gloom.
A large pair of hands grasped her shoulders. Panic, flight, fight, escape, fueled the small child's strength. "NO!!" She screamed flailing wildly. She pounded on the large body squeezing her eyes shut to avoid the sight. Her small feet kicked franticly making contact with the hard surface time after time. She squirmed like a frenetic fish tossed on hot sand.
A deep throaty laugh turned quickly into a wet cough as the strong smell of stale whiskey assaulted her nostrils. For a moment she stopped, almost relieved that the large person was a man. Her relief was short lived as a gravelly slurred voice asked, "what's a little spit like you doin round here?"
"LET ME GO!" She demanded with renewed energy.
"In a hurry, are ya? Got somewhere ta go?" The man laughed. "Yer Momma know yer out?"
"I SAID LET GO!" She screamed, kicking and punching through her tears.
The man laughed again and just as quickly fell into a fit of coughing. He gasped for breath dropping the girl to the ground and reaching his hands to the pain in his chest.
Reagan fell to all fours and quickly scampered between the man's legs. He made one attempt to snatch her retreating form but the coughing and the lack of balance sent him too far forward. He pitched toward the ground and landed with a soft 'umph'. Reagan scrambled to her feet and ran a few steps backward before turning and heading toward the point of light the large man's body must have blocked before. She pushed the tears away from her eyes with her palms and made a silent prayer that she would find salvation in that light.
L'sandra slowly pushed herself free of the rubbish tossing boxes and several unidentifiable objects across the narrow alley. She rose, breathing deeply. She'd underestimated the child's strength. It wouldn't happen again. She took a deep breath and ignored the dull pain in her stomach. She listened intently to the sounds of the city's back street.
"You won't get far!" She called after the child, brushing the mess from the front of her dark colored dress. "You have no where to run!" She laughed in a singsong voice. She kicked a few stray boxes out of her path and slowly began tracing the route the child had taken a few minutes before.
The darkness of the passage made no difference to the incensed woman. She stalked her prey like an animal. L'sandra was no stranger to these back routes and she knew the end of the line spilled out onto the wharf and then the sea. 'Dead-end,' she growled to herself, then laughed again. "More dead than she realizes."
"Hiya, beautiful." The slurred voice of a large drunk stopped her as she rounded one of the many twists and turns in the alley. "Wanna share a bottle." The man waved a brown paper bag covered quart in her face.
"BACK OFF!" She snapped, stepping aside to pass.
The man stepped in front of her again. "Come on sweetie, howsa 'bout a little lovin' for this ol' sea dog?"
L'sandra glared at the man for less than a second before snapping the palm of her hand against the base of his nose. He blinked once then crumpled to the ground. The bag dropped from his hand smashing its contents and spilling its strong alcoholic liquid across the damp pavement.
"Fool." She commented without emotion as she stepped over the still man and continued toward the narrow passage that led to the dock.
Reagan blinked, adjusting her eyes to the bright sunlight, as she sped out of the tunnel and onto the deserted dock. She welcomed the chill of the salty ocean breeze against her sweat soaked skin. The air reeked of seawater and sea life but anything was better than the smell in that 'inner city cave'. She raced across the wide-open area avoiding the giant hemp ropes that seemed to crisscross the ground like some huge spider's web. She could see the end of the wharf ahead and knew the only thing beyond was the dark water of the harbor. She turned right and headed for the large building at the end of the pier. She could hide there, hide there until Payton came. Payton would come. She promised, promised not to let anything happen to her. Payton would come. She would bring help.
Each thought pushed her further. Each thought pushed the pain in her chest and the ache in her legs to the back of her mind. Only escape mattered. A gull screamed its bird's laughter overhead. Immediately she felt the crazed woman at her heels and ran faster toward the dark warehouse that might offer her some refuge.
'Please, God, please let the door be opened.' She chanted to herself when she reached the disintegrating building. She grabbed the large handle and pushed then pulled. It refused to budge. For a moment she rested her head against the wood and allowed the sobs that she had controlled for this long to fall freely. She twisted the handle again and pushed. The door creaked loudly and opened suddenly depositing the child on the floor inside. She jumped to her feet, spinning to push the large wooden slab closed. Frantically, she grabbed at pieces of broken packing crates and skids shoving them into the space between the door and the concrete floor. Hopefully, it would keep that witch out.
Her breathing was rapid and deep as she tried to calm herself. She turned slowly taking in the spectacle of the warehouse. The building was massive and reminded her more of a stadium than anything else. Its ceiling had to be at least fifty feet high and in the center of the floor was a huge chasm that made it impossible for her to reach the opposite side of the structure. She walked slowly to its edge and peered into the darkness below. She could hear the sound of the seawater lapping against the sides of whatever this big hole was used for. She picked up a small stone from the floor and tossed it into the emptiness. Seconds later she heard it splash into the ocean. She swallowed hard and turned away.
Her heart fell when she realized the entire wall at the end of the building was missing. It wouldn't matter that she had pushed all that wood under the door. All that woman had to do was circle the building and she could just walk right in. She walked the distance of the building to the large opening. The walls, at the opening, were flush with the edge of the wharf. If that woman was going to get in, she'd have to swim. Reagan let out the breath she hadn't realized she was holding and rested against the edge of the giant doorway. She knew she couldn't stay here. If that crazy woman got in, there would be no way for her to get out and if she couldn't get in then that would mean Payton wouldn't get in either.
She stared at the large freighter a few hundred yards from the opposite side of the decaying building. Part of its hull was pulled away revealing the inside. It reminded her of those pages in the encyclopedia that showed the anatomy of a frog. A large crane was suspended over the ship, its giant hook motionless in the billowy breeze. The thing that drew her attention was the circular emblem painted on the bow. She recognized it immediately and her hand went instinctively to her neck but her small bit of comfort was not there. She pushed herself away from the wall and walked again to the edge of the chasm. If she could get to that ship Payton would know Payton would see the emblem too and she would find her. She had to get there.
She looked left and right then straight up, up to the iron beams that lined the ceiling of the building. There was her answer, catwalks. Catwalks crossed the width of the chasm allowing whoever did whatever in this place to get from one side to the other. She traced the walkway with her eyes to a ladder that ran up the side of the outer wall. It was set on a landing half way up the wall. There was a rickety set of metal stairs that twisted up to that. She swallowed again. It was high, very high. She hated to be high, but it was the only way.
The stairs weren't too bad; she just closed her eyes and ran up as quickly as possible. Her heels clanged on each step, echoing loudly in the hollow chamber. She reached the landing that stuck out only a few feet from the wall. She would have to walk about ten feet to the bottom of the ladder. Again she ran, reaching the black iron bars and touching them the way she might have if it were a game and she had finally reached goal. She smiled at her small accomplishment and looked all the way up to the catwalk above. If she was going to do this it had to be now. She reached up and placed a scraped hand on a rusty rung then placed her foot on the nearest one to the bottom. She pulled herself up five whole steps and was even with a row of dirty windows. She hadn't planned on stopping to look, she wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible but the form that was charging down the pier stopped her cold.
L'sandra Teschner was heading directly for the warehouse. Reagan felt that the woman was looking her in the eye. She scrambled up the ladder wishing she had worn tennis shoes that would not cause the echoes her slippers were sending across the expanse. The higher she went the heavier her body seemed to get but she pulled each rung ignoring the pain it caused to her already injured palms. At the top she pulled herself onto the catwalk and stood frozen as she realized it was only a metal mesh platform, connected to what looked like thin pipes, attached to the beams above. She took one step and the entire structure swung slowly emitting a high pitched squeal that did nothing to quell her panic. Another step and the thing swung back, as did the squeal. She closed her eyes, tightly squeezing the tears out as she did. Her stomach tossed wildly keeping perfect rhythm with the swaying walk. Below a loud bang told her that the woman was at the door. A loud sob escaped her before she realized it was there. Her knuckles whitened on the side rails of the scaffold. If she opened her eyes she knew she would be frozen in place. She did the only thing she could. She ran.
Colin breathed heavily as he struggled to keep pace with the young dark haired woman that ran a few steps ahead of him. He had never seen Payton like this. Sure he'd only known her a few months, but in all that time he had never seen her emit any emotion other than anger. Now she was a twister of several, ranging from total panic to extreme anguish. She kept her face turned from the lawyer. He knew she did so to hide the tears. She wasn't doing very well in her effort. He had noticed the tears twice since they exited the building. It wouldn't do any good to try to stop her or to try to convince her to let the authorities do their job. No, Payton McAllister did exactly what she pleased when she pleased. He knew better than to stand in her way. No, it was much better at this point just to run behind her. He glanced over his shoulder hoping to have a sea of blue uniforms in hot pursuit but all he saw was the last dark corner they had raced around in the dimly lit passage.
Payton stopped suddenly, blocked by the garbage strewn across the pavement. Colin managed to step to the side before running headlong into the woman. They both stood looking at the mess in their path. Neither was familiar with the protocol of stacking trash but somehow even in this environment it seemed out of place. Colin turned and bent down placing his hands on his knees. He took long deep breaths.
"Payton there." He managed to blurt out between inhaling and exhaling.
The woman turned in the direction he pointed immediately picking out the depression in the rubble that showed someone, or something, had rested there. "Probably some drunk looking for a night's rest." She shook her head. "I don't think she'd be taking a break, Colin." She kicked a small can out of her path then stepped nimbly through the debris and resumed her pace through the dark city maze.
Colin shook his head as he straightened up and took one last deep breath before stepping on the thrash and following her lead. She was already at least two yards ahead of him and around the next corner. He picked up his own pace and rounded the bend just as she passed the next. He made the turn only a few seconds later and found her again standing in the center of the passage looking down at a large dark mass. 'Nothing worse than messy garbage', he grumbled to himself. He was more than shocked to see Payton bend down slowly and place a hand on the mess. 'What is she doing, now?' He shook his head feeling that perhaps she had finally snapped under the pressure of this insane situation. He stepped alongside of her and leaned forward.
"He's dead." She announced without emotion. She stood and brushed her hands together, looking ahead toward the long narrow passageway that led to the wharf.
"Dead? DEAD! Who's dead?" Colin gasped stepped back from the body.
"Someone who got in her way." Payton remarked. She started toward the tunnel.
"Wait!" Colin grabbed her arm and spun her toward him. "Payton, you have to stop. This woman is dangerous!" He reasoned trying to keep the frustration out of his voice. Before she could protest he continued, "You have no idea what she is capable of doing, Payton. That's a job for the police. They can't be far behind. You have to stop, you just have to stop." His tone wound down to little more than a plea as he felt her tug away.
"That dangerous woman has my sister!" She hissed through clenched teeth. "Don't you think those thoughts have crossed my mind! For god's sake, Colin she's already killed at least one person and Connie is just lucky to be alive! What do you think she plans on doing with Reagan, Colin!? Do you think this is just a game of tag or hide and seek? Dammit Colin! Larzy practically said my father was murdered. If this bitch is responsible if she is the same maniac that threatened Reagan's life years ago, then she she " Payton could not bring herself to voice the thoughts that had run through her head during her trek through this alley. Teschner had one and only one plan for Reagan she knew she had to prevent that from happening. "I don't have time to wait for the police. Reagan doesn't have time." She barked as she pushed the thought back into the darkness of her mind and was already walking away her voice trailing behind as once again she refused to meet his eye.
Colin could hear the tears in her voice, he didn't need to see them. Payton McAllister couldn't let anyone see her vulnerability, not even him.
"You don't have to come, Colin." She spoke to him over her shoulder.
"PAYTON!" Colin's voice took on a commanding tone, one he hadn't used in years. She turned slowly, glaring at him. He stepped closer. "What are you going to do when you, if you, catch up to her Payton? What can you do?"
She merely stared at him. She had no idea what she would do or how she would do it. She only knew she had to so something, anything to save the one small piece of softness life had ever seen fit to lend her. 'Lend her.' That thought swirled around in her head. Perhaps Reagan had only been leant to her afterall. What had she ever done in her life to deserve the love and trust of that little imp? She had had so many opportunities in the last twelve years to make Reagan a part of her life, to make herself a part of Reagan's life, but she had rejected every one. Over and over she had told herself she needed no one, let herself hate the child she never even cared to meet. Was this her punishment? Was Reagan going to pay for her sins? She couldn't let that happen. What would her life be worth if it did? She'd lost a mother she never knew and a stepmother she never cared to know. The father that never knew her, the father she wouldn't, couldn't, forgive was taken as well. She couldn't forgive herself for that. She didn't want this kid in her life, she'd never asked for her but some small part of her was safe and content in this child's love. Just how it happened or when wasn't clear to her but she couldn't shake the feeling no matter how many walls she threw between it and her heart. Reagan was in danger, mortal danger and she knew she was responsible for most, if not all, of it.
"You don't understand!" She barked at the young lawyer. "You just don't understand." She repeated in almost a whisper, her voice cracking with unspent emotion. He grabbed her hand. "If it weren't for my stubborn refusal to have anything to do with her, she wouldn't be in this mess. " She looked into his eyes, noticing for the first time the deep blue compassion that showed behind his professional concern. She pulled away quickly, rubbing her hand as if it had been burnt. "I put her there! I put her in this danger!" The wall crashed back into place, immediately taking her exposed emotion with it. She took a breath and discretely wiped the stray tears from the corners of her eyes. "I'll do whatever it takes!" She finished by answering his original question. "You can do what you want." She stepped away slowly, almost hesitantly as if she were waiting for him to join her. He watched as she took several steps before quickening her pace. She entered the tunnel at a slow jog that turned into a dead run within seconds.
For a moment he allowed his anger to fester. "How can that damn woman be so blasted stubborn?!" He asked the sky. He turned back toward the Bhaird Building taking at least six long strides before stopping. "Oh Shit!" He exclaimed throwing his hands up as he turned again and ran after her into the long dark tunnel.
L'sandra Teschner had seen the building as soon as she stepped onto the dock. She smiled maliciously. "How nice " She almost purred. "A big old castle for the little princess to hide in!" She slowed her pace, knowing the girl could not go much farther. She'd give her a little time to get confident, to think she had succeeded in eluding the inevitable. She laughed without making a sound. "Stupid, stupid child. You've backed yourself into a corner and you don't even know how trapped you are." Her stride turned into a march as she stormed toward the deserted building.
The woman placed a bony hand on and turned the rusty handle then pushed against the door, shocked and incensed when it refused to open. She tried again, pushing against the wood with her shoulder. Still the door held. 'The child can't be holding it. She doesn't have the strength.' The woman told herself, refusing to believe that the girl had outwitted her. She let out a loud screech, placing a hard kick against the frame, but still it would not give her access. L'sandra turned from the building doubled over in anger. She screamed and cursed violently as she stormed away from the structure and then back, giving the door a second strong kick.
"Damn you, McAllister, you won't get away that easy!" She shrieked at the building. "You spoiled little bastard!" She kicked the door a third time and felt it give slightly under her strength. "Did you really think " She kicked again, "that you could get away from me?" Powered by insane anger the next kick took the door from its rusted hinges and sent it crashing to the concrete floor of the warehouse. She stepped onto it and charged into the spacious interior of the building.
She stood for a moment, frenetically looking in all directions. "I know you're here brat!" She screamed in an almost demonic voice. "I'll have you soon!" Stepping farther into the warehouse, the crazed woman tossed crates and boxes aside as she searched madly for the child. "You can't escape, not now you little bastard!" She turned, suddenly alerted by a soft sound and quickly grabbed a long pole from its resting-place against the wall. She used it to smash against the side of a tall metal cabinet. The sound rang like a giant bell throughout the hollow ship's repair plant. "Come out, before I get angry!" She warned in a voice that rumbled out of her chest like a low growl. Again the wooden pole met the side of the metal cabinet. "I SAID GET OUT HERE!" She screamed again, slamming the metal to emphasize each word. She paused, then smiled. "Fine." She whispered then began pummeling the boxes that were stacked next to it. Those that were not squashed in the melee were thrown aside and skittered to the edge of the pit teetering there for a second before tumbling into the watery blackness. In a wild rage she beat the cardboard cubes until all that was left were shreds of brown paper and splinters of wood from the stick she used as her weapon. She screamed again as she turned, covered with sweat. Her dirty blonde hair disheveled and plastered to the sides of her face. She squatted down on her haunches taking a deep breath then sprang up emitting a screech that rattled the rafters. She threw her head back as the scream escaped her lungs holding it there as her breath came back in quick maddening pants. Her eyes opened slowly as her breathing calmed. She swallowed deeply and allowed her eyes to focus as the fury melted into sweet satisfaction, then closed her eyes and smiled fiendishly as she lowered her head and quieted her ire.
L'sandra had just enough time to see it, to see her. On the catwalk twenty feet above was her prey and she knew all too well the child's fear of heights. She could call out the girl's name and let her know she had been found, but the poor dear might fall and that would ruin everything. No, she would not be denied the pleasure of seeing the life drain out of that small piece of McAllister progeny. That luxury would be hers and hers alone. No accident would take it from her. She scanned the room, quickly finding the staircase, the landing and the ladder that led to the walkway above. She walked slowly and deliberately across the concrete floor and took the twisting metal staircase without making a sound. No, no sound that might alert the little bastard. She reached the end of the landing and began her silent ascent. Her fingers twitched with the anticipation that she would soon have the brat in her hands. Fear was on her side. She'd catch the little creature within minutes but before she got her final revenge she would teach that McAllister bastard a few hard lessons. She owed her for the incident in the alley and she intended to collect that debt in full.
Reagan had listened to the seething tantrum below. The sound had frozen her in place. The child stood shock still, her small arms stretched to their limit in order to reach the thin pipes that ran along either side of the catwalk. Her knuckles turned white as she held each in a death grip. She opened her eyes slowly only to feel the world around her spin away, like water slipping down a storm drain. She pulled them closed quickly and tried without success to calm her breathing. Reagan was sure the witch below could hear her panting, in and out, in rapid succession. She tried lifting a foot, but it seemed her lower limbs had turned to lead and were held magnetically to the metal mesh that formed the walkway. The woman below continued to scream as she beat the boxes into shredded nothingness. Reagan opened her eyes again forcing herself to look forward. The walkway seemed to sway to and fro making the opposite side, her goal, push farther and farther from her reach. She dared to look down through the woven metal under her feet only to see the wild black eyes of her pursuer glaring up at her.
Suddenly, the distance from the floor to her perch seemed only an arm's reach and the only thing that mattered was getting away. She forced her heavy feet to move, at first only skating across the surface then slowly taking shaky steps. Her hands slid across the railing pulling more skin from her torn palms on its rough surface. Although a few seconds before she could barely focus, now her eye remained glued on that woman as she climbed the metal steps two at a time and raced across the landing to the ladder. Reagan was so concerned with the insane woman she paid little heed to her own progress. Her small hands slammed into one of the ceiling braces that held the walkway in place. The force of the blow combined with the pain it brought threw her back and off balance. She went down hard smashing against the metal floor. She could only compare the blow to her stomach to the way she felt doing a 'belly flop' into the pool last summer when Daddy tried to teach her to dive.
But there was no time for pain, no time for fear. She watched, as the floor twenty feet below seemed to reach up to snatch her from her roost. The soft vibration against her cheek told her that the demon had stepped onto the catwalk and would be upon her in seconds. She found no handholds to bring her to her feet. The railing now above her, was out of reach. She picked up her head long enough to gauge the distance to the end of the plank. The sharp clanks of the woman's shoes against the metal were coming closer together. The woman was not afraid of this place. Reagan let herself cry. It was all she could do. Frantic little sobs escaped her as she pulled herself up on her hands and knees. She laced her small fingers in the holes of the floor, the only anchor she could find, and frantically crawled the remaining distance. Now her knees met the same fate her hands had done only seconds before.
The terrified child reached the wall that was the opposite side of the building and found a long fire escape like staircase at the walkway's end. She pulled herself up on the railing. Long sobs still escaping between the rapid gulps of air she pulled into her lungs. Rubbing the tears from her eyes with shaking hands only succeeding in covering her tear streaked face with the rust, dirt and blood that covered them. Across the catwalk the woman was still charging toward her. She did not look twice but dashed down the zigzagging steps and was on the second landing when her stalker stepped onto the stairs. A low menacing chuckle that echoed in the chamber sent chills down the child's spine. Her tears fell faster as her sobs turned into a cascade of whimpers. She watched as her own feet charged down the metal staircase wondering how she could move so quickly and praying she would not lose her step and tumble the rest of the way down.
L'sandra casually walked down the stairs, as if she was merely admiring the view. She made no attempt to catch up to her frantic prey. She had no need to hurry; the child was as good as caught. It amazed her how similar this chase was to some bizarre form of cat and mouse play. All she had to do now was wait. The child would soon tire or trip over her own panicked feet. She would merely be there to snatch her up and finish this chapter in her volume of revenge. She stopped and peered over the side railing at the small form below. The child was on the last length of stairs, close to the ground floor. She looked across the room at the small garage door type opening that led back to the pier. Again she laughed at the exhausted girl's futile attempt at escape. All that existed outside that door was the hard concrete pier and the ocean. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. She resumed her slow descent smiling to herself in satisfaction.
Reagan hit the ground floor running. She stumbled once but caught herself quickly. The open door screamed to her and she followed the sound. This side of the building faced the open sea and the wind was much more voracious. It bit into her and she turned her face away from its fury. But through it all she managed to keep running. 'Run!' A voice in her head kept telling her, it pushed her beyond any limit she knew existed. She tripped over a large hemp rope stretched across the ground hitting the concrete with her shoulder, rolling in the same direction she was headed and landing between several towers of discarded machinery parts and old barrels. She stopped and lay still as death, covering her head instinctively. But the sobs would give her away, her body racked with her hysteria. She waited for the cold sharp grip of the demon that pursued her. It did not come.
Slowly, she raised her head and rubbed the tears from her eyes. She propped herself on her elbows and looked back toward the warehouse. The woman was nowhere in sight. For a moment there was relief then mortal fear. If she couldn't see her she could be anywhere. The girl pushed herself up quickly and stood, panting for much needed oxygen. She spun in a quick circle, expecting to find the maniacal beast right behind her, but again she found nothing except the cold November wind. The little voice in her head continued its chant, compelling her to keep running. Something else pulled her in the opposite direction.
'Maybe she fell.' She thought quickly. 'Maybe someone stopped her maybe Payton is here.'
"Payton." Reagan sobbed in a wistful tone as she drew a deep breath that shook with her still irrepressible crying and took a step back in the direction she had come. Payton could be waiting for her. She took a second step, listening intently for any sound that might alert her to the woman's presence then stopped at the edge of the forest of crates that surrounded her. "Payton?" She whispered hopefully.
"Paaay-ton," a witch-like voice whined as a tall dark figure stepped directly in her path from behind the barrels.
A quick intake of breath preceded the scream that emitted from the child as she recognized the evil before her. L'sandra threw her head back and cackled with demonic glee before reaching for the girl. But Reagan was already backing away. She ducked under the bony hand, turned on her heel and darted between the towers of discarded parts and containers pulling any object that moved from its resting-place to throw across her path and form a shield against that evil monster. She slowed only to push over a short already unstable tower of barrels that crashed to the ground and rolled away in all directions. Behind her was the sound of that insane laughter broken only by a series of curses and one terrifying threat.
"There's no where to hide, little girl. Nowhere."
To be continued 33-34
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