“Let me see your hands!”
The girl laid Billy's head on the bed. She was crying, and the tear streams were slowly cleaning a path through the blood on her face. As she raised her hands, even the spaces between her fingers were coated. On her palms, on the backs of her hands, on her wrists and forearms, soaked into her hair, covering her neck and face, soaking into her torn shirt, her torn pants, the blood was everywhere.
“Hands up, now!”
As her hands rose, team leader Decklan could see that they were trembling. As he stepped forward, her hands flinched. She didn't want him to come closer. She didn't want him anywhere near her. She seemed partially scared for herself.
Almost more so for him.
“Lopez!” Decklan yelled. Officer Lopez stepped into the bedroom from the living room, her MP5 raised. She'd raised her boots a few inches higher than necessary as she crossed the threshold. She didn't want to step in the puddle of vomit officer James had left there, next to the entrails.
“Jesus,” she whispered, seeing the girl on the bed. She'd seen the two men downstairs, the man hanging from the wall in the stairwell, the other bodies broken and bleeding in the apartment. She'd seen the open chests and crushed skulls and fractured limbs and blood – the dark, wet blood everywhere, everywhere – but now, in the inner chamber, in the nightmare's churning heart, the only thing left living must be the monster. From here, the flashlight on her machine pistol now glaring off of the still-drying blood, the monster seemed to be a frail and terrified woman, her arms shaking as they shielded her face from the bright lights.
As Lopez looked closer, it seemed the woman's arms might be shielding her more from the staring eyes.
“Cover!” Decklan growled. Seconds later, a flash lit the room, then another. Each flash shook the frail woman and she seemed to sink lower and lower into the bed. By the last picture, she was stuttering through tears:
“That's w-what... that's what you... are... ”
“Alright, secure the suspect,” Decklan said.
Lopez rounded the bed, her feet sending sucking sounds as they pulled globs of sticky blood from the floor. The walls were coated in long, runny streaks of it. Blood was dripping from the ceiling. The bed was nearly soaked, but Lopez saw a small patch of somewhat dry, clean exposed sheet behind the woman. She pulled her cuffs, let her weapon hang at her side, and raised a knee onto the bed's dry spot.
“Un... f-forget-forget-getable...” the woman continued. Her voice wandered from syllable to syllable, as if she were searching for the right match of melody and lyrics. She was switching cadences, repeating words, sorting through musical puzzle pieces in her mind
Decklan let the woman know she was being placed under arrest. He began the Miranda rights speech.
“Tho near... or f-far...”
When he got to her right to an attorney, Lopez clicked the first handcuff around the woman's right wrist. She knew she would need to grab the blood-soaked wrists and pull them down behind the woman's back before securing the second. Looking at the wrists, Lopez knew there was no way she could do so without touching the blood. She knew it would soak into her gloves, her new gloves, and possibly touch her skin. She knew that feeling, that smell, the sharp iron sting, would stay in her nostrils for weeks, would tinge the taste of whatever food or drinks she consumed. She knew she would feel it when she washed her hands, would feel the sticky film as her hands slid across her body in the shower. She knew it would be weeks before she felt clean of it.
“Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?”
Lopez grabbed the woman's wrists. Just before contact she knew what would happen, she felt it, like a static charge building on her forearms, rippling tiny arcs of electricity from hair to hair on the back of her neck. The current surged, and when she grabbed the woman's wrist, an invisible bolt surged between them. The woman's stuttered murmuring stopped and she sucked in air as if coming up from beneath the suffocating battery of unseen, imprisoning waves. Lopez gasped, too, and her hand locked on the woman's wrist and shook slightly, as if she were trying to pull it free but couldn't.
Decklan rounded the foot of the bed and leveled his weapon at the woman's face.
“Face down, face down on the bed, now!”
“I can see you,” the woman said, breathing in another thankful breath.
“Let her go!” he yelled, “you've got two seconds!”
“I knew it.”
“I knew you would come!”
The woman let out a sigh and her eyes rolled back in her head. She went limp and slid sideways on the bed. Lopez caught her before she could tumble onto the floor, and she pulled the now limp arms together and secured the second cuff.
“Suspect secure,” she said. She stepped off the bed. In two more steps she was in the living room. She could feel where the blood had soaked into her gloves and pants. She could still feel the stickiness under her feet with each step. She paused at the bathroom, but the sight of the two dead men there pushed her into the kitchen, and then out into the hallway where the dam she'd been shoring up broke and she threw up against the far wall near the door to apartment twenty-seven. She laid her forearm against the wall to steady herself, but it gave way and she slid to the floor and gasped for air.
It was minutes before Decklan appeared, standing in front of her.
“That's probably about enough of that,” he said, his hand held out. She nodded and took the hand and let him yank her to her feet with a grunt. When he pulled her up she turned and went to let go, but he held her. She could feel his eyes calling to hers.
“You good?” he asked.
“You want to talk about it?”
She shook her head. “Later.”
“At the station?”
She nodded again.
Decklan sighed. He wasn't satisfied with the answer but he understood. They'd just seen the one of the worst scenes in NYPD history, and the images would stay with both of them for the rest of their lives. And something else, an unspoken something between them knew that tonight wouldn't be the end of it. Neither spoke it aloud, but they both knew tonight was the beginning.
“Are you up for transport?”
Lopez nodded. She went to wipe her mouth but looked at her right hand and stopped. Her left hand was no better. She considered her forearms. Both were speckled in patches of blood. She turned her head and spit the remaining bile onto the floor and wiped her mouth on a small patch of sleeve that seemed clean enough.
Decklan brought the woman out. She was awake, now, humming and muttering strange words in strange orders under her breath. Once Lopez took hold of the handcuffs, the woman went silent. She said nothing as they passed the men in the hallway. She said nothing as they passed the man in the stairwell and in the hallway below. They'd fitted her feet with plastic booties to preserve any evidence on her feet and to spare the apartment complex the extra clean-up.
Lopez and Decklan were wearing the booties, too, and they all marched to the sound of crinkling plastic until they reached an area free of blood. There, they each pulled another set of plastic booties over their shoes and continued to the door.
A squad car was waiting at the alleyway entrance where the SWAT team originally entered. A layer of plastic sheeting had been secured on the seats and across the floor, front and back. The young officer in the driver's seat went to get out of the car and Decklan immediately waved him back in. The driver sat back down and closed his door.
“He doesn't say a single word on the drive over,” Decklan said. Lopez nodded. “That car needs to be a church basement on a Monday morning.”
Lopez opened the back door. She went to put her hand on the woman's head but didn't need to, the woman dropped down into the cruiser and settled into the sheets of plastic without a word.
“I'll be here for the detectives and then I'll join you. The station is ready for clean-up and booking, you can just pass her off and go take care of yourself. They have a holding cell ready.”
Lopez made her way to the far side of the cruiser and opened the door. Decklan called to her.
“Lopez! No one talks to her.”
She got in the car and they pulled away. The driver hit the lights and the sirens. Lopez looked back to see if the noise or the lights would upset the woman. They didn't, she stared forward and bobbed silently to the movements of the car. For the six minute drive to the station, the woman didn't speak, didn't murmur quietly to herself, didn't move unless moved. When they pulled into the station, a small team was ready. The driver got out, and as Lopez opened her door, she heard a faint voice from the back seat.
“You-you're un-unforget-able t-too.”
The shower hissed to life and Lopez shut her eyes and mouth into its violent spray. She tried not to smell what was washing off of her face, what was running out of the ends of her hair. She worked way too much soap into way too much lather and soaked herself in it, only breathing again once she thought the overwhelming sweetness of her soap might overtake the smell of hot, rusted flesh. It did, mostly, enough where she could ignore the smell of blood and pretend it wasn't there.
After she washed her hair three times and scrubbed her body from head to foot three times, she let the water run down her face and chest, turning once the scorching warmth was too much for her pruning skin. She let the water burn down her back, shivered at the feel of the steam on the red goosebumps at the back of her neck. She pressed her palms into the wall in front of her and leaned there, head down, until the tears began to fall. She let them fall, let them merge with the burning waterfall and steam. A single sob rocked her body and she clenched her jaw against it, but only for a moment. When the second sob gripped her, she let it shudder through her arms and legs. She let the third one twist her stomach and pull strands of electricity from between her vertebrae. Everything beyond the fourth sob was lost in a dam burst of painful memory. She gasped and sobbed and let the crash of water dull the pitiful sound. She pressed her hands harder into the tiled wall, hoping it would hold her up despite her failing legs. An image from the past rose up behind her closed eyes. It played a scene of her father, waving to her from a small dock before walking away. Her mind played the image amid the sounds of footsteps on linoleum, the sound of rain on a roof, and the sound of a little girl's scream.
“I'm sorry,” Lopez said, her head hanging lower. The words seemed to pull her toward the floor, but on saying them a second time, her head straightened. She opened her eyes and took her hands from the wall so she could wash her face again. She shut the water off and breathed, blowing droplets of water from her lips to the floor.
Drea's head rolled from its resting place on her shoulder down onto her chest. She groaned, her body noting the pain in her neck before she was fully awake. Light began registering in her brain, a clouded, shifting spectrum of yellows and reds and browns. The colors merged and split, twisting into shapes that seemed to be crystallizing into something familiar, only to break apart again. As they broke, Drea became aware of two other sensations: the feeling that she was spinning in long, swooping passes, and a rhythmic beating on something nearby. She could hear the thump, thump, thump of something hard, metallic. She could feel the thumping under her. It rattled her legs and back. She could feel it faintly in her arms.
She tried to pick her head up. She winced at the effort. Another sensation was making itself known. She was sitting, she could feel the hard platform under her legs and could feel the bend in her knees and the feel of the floor under her feet. She tried to raise her hands to her face. Her lips were tingling and she wasn't sure if her mouth was open or closed. Her hands did not answer her call, and with another effort to raise them, she felt the dimpling of rounded metal against the skin and flesh of her shoulders, her forearms, her chest and thighs. She tensed again, harder this time, and the dimples went deeper. Now there was a sound, hushed and in the distance.
Rattling. She could hear the rattling of chains.
The voice was distant and wavy. Her brain was playing with the volume. She felt her head pull to one side and then slump back against her chest. She was waking up. She was groggy and confused and couldn't remember where she was but she realized she was just now waking up.
“We have... so many questions, Andrea.”
No one called her Andrea, not since third grade. The colors were clearing. The sounds were drawing closer, louder. Another jerk from her arms and legs set the chains rattling again, this time clearly. She could smell the iron. The feeling in her face was returning. Her mouth was a desert and she smacked her lips and pressed her tongue into the sides of her teeth and the roof of her mouth. She tried to work up some saliva, tried to swallow, tried to lick her lips. The more she tried, the drier her mouth seemed.
A face appeared, suddenly staring into her eyes.
“Are you ready to begin?”
Officer Lopez was standing at interrogation two's viewing window. She was wearing her training kit: NYPD-issued sweats and socks, a navy blue t-shirt under a navy blue hoodie, and her favorite running shoes, the white and gray sneakers she wore in last year's New York marathon. She stared at the woman sitting in the metal chair behind the glass. Now she had a name. The woman, now showered and changed, now slouched over the table where she'd been handcuffed, was named Caroline. Caroline Ayers, twenty-seven years old.
Lopez thought it might be the overhead lighting, or the jailhouse jumpsuit, or the weight of whatever Caroline must have seen that evening, but she'd have guessed forty-seven before she guessed twenty-seven.
Lopez looked at her phone. Decklan had texted her nine minutes ago. He'd be joining her shortly, along with detective Jonathan Cole, who would be doing the interrogating. Lopez had met Cole on two previous occasions. He seemed like a good detective. When she first saw him, they were at a crime scene together. Lopez thought he might be the suspect's lawyer. Cole was tall and thin and always wore glasses. He seemed to be the kind of man who liked to wear glasses. He seemed the kind of man that must have suffered bullying and abuse over many years for his enjoyment of glasses, now wearing them as proudly as he wore his badge.
She wondered what sort of interrogator he could be. Unless he were submitting a scathing report, typed, single-spaced, he didn't carry the kind of physical dominance and intimidation most of the other detectives utilized in their own interrogations. She was interested to see him work, see how you could generate trust and fear and willingness to cooperate with his... look.
She noticed she was rubbing her lip. She rubbed her lip when she was deep in thought or when she was nervous. She also noticed she'd been rubbing her lip while holding her hand over her nostrils. Now, seeing Caroline again, even after her twenty-five minute shower and a completely new set of clothes, she still thought she might be able to smell that room, again. She kept waiting for a waft of blood, and her hand tried to protect her from it.
The door opened and Decklan and Cole entered.
“Officer Lopez, this is detective Jonathan Cole.”
“We've met,” Cole said, still reaching out to shake Lopez's hand, “do you remember?”
“Twice,” she said, pulling her hand out of his and stuffing it back beneath her armpit.
“That's right, very good.” He managed to say it without sounding condescending.
“You get them? You catch those guys?”
Cole nodded, “Sure did. Axel got twelve years for the armed robbery and Simms got twenty-five-to-life for... the other one.”
Decklan was waiting for more from either Cole or Lopez and got nothing from either. There seemed to be a story there, an important story. He chose not to dig any deeper.
“She ask for a lawyer?” Lopez asked. She was struggling to hide the warble in her voice. She put a free hand over her mouth to try to stop it from trembling as Decklan responded.
“No, did not... would not respond when asked about an attorney. We've arranged for one. He is in route.”
“Are you going to wait?” Lopez asked. Cole looked at her, then to Decklan.
“Yes, Lopez, we are going to wait,” Decklan said.
“Caroline Ayers, twenty-seven years old, out of Brooklyn,” Lopez said, “do we know anything else about her?”
“We're lucky we know that much. She was found with no ID and she wouldn't give us her name or social or anything we asked for. She didn't respond to a single question, just kept babbling to herself.”
“What was she saying?”
“Pretty sure it wasn't really English or Spanish or any other language most humans speak.”
A sound took their attention to Caroline. She pulled the chain of her handcuffs through their locking loop on the table, as far as they could go in one direction, and then as far as they could go in the other. She pulled the chain slowly, letting each loop clink along the metal lock bar. She kept a slow, steady rhythm for three pulls back and forth.
“Do we think she is high?” Lopez asked, never taking her eyes off Caroline.
Cole finally spoke: “I think it might be more of a mental health issue. She may even be autistic. She's showing some of the signature movements and speech patterns. Like this...”
Click, click, click, the metal handcuff chains continued their clunky trail back and forth.
“Sometimes, people with autism will try to calm themselves with patterns of speech or movement. They way she is pulling the restraints back and forth, feeling the metal, listening to the click, seems almost like stimming.”
“Stimming?” Lopez asked.
“Stimming, self stimulation. It's calming,” Cole replied. “My sister has a pair of squishy balls she takes with her everywhere she goes. If she is in a new place or is feeling overwhelmed, she just squeezes them.”
Lopez finally looked away from Caroline. She wanted to see Cole's face when he finished. She thought about him saying these things about his sister, knowing these things about his sister, and being so open about it. She thought of him helping her, of all of the times it must have been confusing or embarrassing to help her. She thought about all of the times he probably had to explain it before: to friends, neighbors, people on the street; girlfriends. And now he had to explain it yet again, to some young officer who judged him about his glasses.
She looked away.
He never looked away from Caroline. “We went through the apartment. We talked to people in the neighboring rooms and got nothing. Seeing the layout of the bodies, and the... injuries... I've seen a lot of things in my time here. I've seen mass stabbings and bloody shootouts and torture rooms. I was with the team that looked through the shipping container full of Chinese nationals last year.”
He stopped talking. He just stopped and shook his head. There was a rhythm to it, and he didn't stop shaking his head until Lopez spoke again.
“Then how did you find out her name and age?” Lopez asked.
Decklan went into his back pocket and unfolded the piece of paper he found there.
“She is a missing person,” he said, displaying the poster. Lopez looked at the poster, then into the interrogation room, then back to the poster and shook her head.
“Two weeks. Check this out, an anonymous caller made the report. This anonymous caller gave her name and age, her address, and even sent in the picture. Officers are checking the address now, and we still have no idea who the anonymous caller was.”
“Is it possible the anonymous caller had anything to do with the guys at the apartment?” Lopez asked.
“So far there is nothing to suggest that. Hopefully, she will be able to tell us more, because right now, none of this makes sense. Assuming this fragile, possibly psychotic little thing didn't tear those men's hearts out herself, what is the story? Some kind of new gang violence? Is there some group out there trying to make a name for themselves by twisting the heads off of their rivals?”
“Well,” Cole said, stepping to the door, “let's ask her.”
“Andrea, I'm going to ask you a series of questions.”
Drea was awake now. Her vision had cleared enough to see that she was sitting, chained to a chair in a large, dark room. The man in front of her was familiar. The spinning in her mind hadn't fully stopped, but the ride was creaking slowly to its end and she felt his identity would come back to her soon.
The voice, there was something in his voice.
“What we need from you are straight-forward, honest answers. You can be honest with us, can't you, miss Newton?”
The voice, mid-pitch, nasal. Drea wondered if it could be someone from work, or one of the bar patrons.
He stepped again out of the darkness and leaned forward so they would be face to face. Even two feet away, there wasn't enough light to tell her what she wanted to know.
“Andrea Newton, is that your real name?”
Andrea lifted her head up and let it fall again. It was something like a nod.
“I'll take that as a yes. Good. Andrea Newton, do you know who I am?”
Drea squinted. She did know, he was familiar. She couldn't zero in on an exact who. She knew him, but couldn't place the “from where?” She shook her head.
“Miss Newton... remember when I said I needed you to be straight-forward and honest? Do you remember that?”
Drea nodded again. The shifting in his voice, the blurred colors and shifting shapes and the spinning of the room, it finally came together. She'd been drugged. On realizing she'd been drugged, the symptoms became more clear. She tried to talk but couldn't tell if she was opening her mouth, or making noises. She tried to move but her limbs were full of curing cement. It was like struggling against a lead blanket. Her body was there with all of its power and potential, but someone else was holding the remote controls.
“Do you lie to your daughters?”
The blanket lifted slightly. Kayley and Tanya, their faces rushed in to fill the swirling chaos. She pulled again at the chains and they rattled again, a little louder this time.
The man stood up and turned. Now, maybe twenty feet behind him, Drea saw a row of heads lined up in the darkness. They were turning to each other now, nodding. Their whispers barely reached Drea's ears, but she could hear the excitement.
“Fascinating,” the man said. “Truly fascinating, is it not?”
Drea closed her mouth and tried to force her breathing to intensify. Her ribs didn't want to expand. Her lungs felt punctured, every breath lost into a damaged balloon. She kept working her tongue around her mouth, trying to build up some saliva and regain her voice. She coughed. It was a dry cough, the kind that brings on another cough, and that one another.
“Now Andrea, our next question is about your incredible strength. Even now, in the state you're in, I'm still wondering if I used enough chain. There is no reason you should ever be able to get out of those. We've all heard stories of mothers lifting whole cars off of their trapped and dying children. We've heard stories of mothers fighting off wild animals and violent husbands and madmen. But still, I'd like to think that even if I had one of your precious little girls here, right now, kneeling on this cold cement floor...”
Another man appeared from the shadows. A girl was with him, young, thin, light-skinned. She was wearing underwear and a tattered t-shirt. They had a hood over her head and she'd obviously been gagged. Even with the gag, her muted screams still filled the small, dark space.
The muted screams filled Drea's mind.
“...even if I brought your precious Tanya here and made her kneel before me, I'd like to think you'd still be bound by those chains. All of my training in science tells me I should be safe here, and yet look...”
The man held out his hand to show his trembling.
“Do you see? I can't believe it, I haven't felt this way in... well, since two hours ago, but before that, well... it's been years since I felt these things!”
Two hours ago. Drea found it, the pieces finally fit. That nasally voice, that pompous air. The bar, the man, the college blonde. What did his license say?
The words screeched out in a raspy whisper. After saying his name, her anger built up again. She flexed her arms up and out, envisioned them ripping through the chains, splintering the metal into pieces and spraying them outward in every direction. She imagined standing from the metal chair, tearing it from the ground if she had to. She imagined the broken metal legs making nice weapons to use on the shadowy men before her.
“There she is! There's the honest and straight-forward Andrea Newton we know! And look at you, yet another surge of energy. Truthfully, even this much action is a surprise. You shouldn't really be conscious after taking what we gave you. Some of us thought you might die. Others of us knew better. Others of us have seen... incredible things.”
Polk stepped forward again, dragging the girl with him. He thrust her downward onto her knees in front of Drea. When she screamed again, Polk shook her once, hard, and the screams died down into whimpers.
The chains shook again, harder.
“Don't touch her!” Drea rasped.
“Incredible things, Drea... truly incredible things.”
“I'll show you incredible things,” she hissed.
“I know you will,” Polk said, playfully shaking the girl by her shoulders. “She's going to show us incredible things. Would you like to see some incredible things, little girl? Well, then, Andrea... miss Newton... I have one... more... question.”
Polk drew a knife from behind his back. He let it shine in the light before sliding it across the girl's neck.
“I think I know the answer but I somehow know I should ask. It just feels right to ask. I think a gentleman would ask. You can't just assume things, right? Not these days. Not in these unpredictable times. No, we shant hypothesize, we shall go straight to the source.”
He pulled the knife back and the blade pulled a crease across the girl's neck. Drea could see the carotid artery pulsing beneath it as the girl panted in fear.
“Andrea how... did you get... so strong?”
Polk let the word “strong” bound around the room and then settle into the silence. Then he smiled as the knife plunged into the girl's neck.
“NO!” Caroline screamed. The scream seemingly came out of nowhere. Detective Polk had been asking her his softball opening questions hoping to create a basic rapport. She'd offered her name, Caroline only, without a last name. She hadn't responded when he asked her age. When he asked her if she knew where she was, she jerked in her chair, pulling at the chains of her handcuffs and grinding them aggressively against the table's lock bar. She nodded her head again and again, as if answering questions that weren't being asked.
“It's not me, it's her-her... it's her, it's not me...” she'd said.
Cole told her they found her in an apartment. He asked her if she remembered the apartment. She pulled at the handcuffs again. This time, the metal made a sound that suggested a weakness was being created. Cole stood up from his chair and stepped back. He'd had three hundred and fifty pound football players high on PCP in those cuffs and they'd never made that sound.
“It's not me, it's not me, please...”
Cole asked her to calm down. He apologized and asked her to calm down, told her he wouldn't ask her any more questions. He told her she was safe now, that everything was fine and she was safe.
That's when she'd screamed.
Drea's voice returned. She shrieked at the knife. Blood flowed out of the girl's neck as she groaned inside her hood. Polk held her there, held her out for Drea to see, and then, when he felt the fight leave her, let the girl slide through his arms and slump onto the floor.
The chains rattled again. And again. And again. Drea caught her voice, felt her lungs fill again, and the “No” she'd been screaming morphed into something else, something primal and beyond words. The sound rumbled up from her belly, from the beginning, and roared its way out into the darkness and overtook it.
Had she not been sounding her devil scream, she might have heard the men's excited ramblings turn to gasps. She might have heard the rattle of chains produce another sound, something small but definite, down at the bottom of the chaos and noise.
A single clink.
One of the chain links gave way. There were nearly thirty more, but during her screams and her heaving fury, a piece of her bonds gave way.
She heaved again.
Another sharp clink. The ting of metal bursting.
“Yes,” Polk whispered, his eyes widening.
She heaved again. A long line of chain ripped from its base and flew up and over Drea's legs, slamming into the cement on the other side. Her growling continued, and Polk began to growl along with her.
“Yes, YES!” He roared. “Yes, Drea, teach us! Teach us!”
He knew he should leave but he couldn't. He couldn't miss this marvelous creature rising before him, couldn't miss the the twisting, grunting power of his hypothesis, his prophecy, coming to life. His years of study and search, all of his mad musings and failed experiments, all of the lost girls along the way, they all lead to this moment. While his monster rose up from the scattered fragments of her shell and showed herself to the world, he would be there to see it.
He would bear witness.
“Can you see?” he screamed. He was addressing the men fleeing the room behind him. Drea's cries and his own manic laughter covered their escape, but it didn't matter. They didn't matter.
“Can you see what we've created?”
Another chain popped free from its base, and another. Drea began to squirm and feel the faint air of freedom. She snarled at the remaining chains and shook in her chair. The floor rumbled beneath her, and the bolts holding her seat in place started to give.
“Stand, Andrea!” Polk cried, falling to his knees. “Throw off your chains and stand!”
Drea obeyed. One more heave of her chest and arms ripped the chair from its bolts and pulled one set of chains completely from their station at her feet. Drea stood, hot breath chugging from her throat, and she let her eyes quickly scan the room before settling on Polk.
“Rise, holy goddess. Rise!”
Drea took hold of the remaining chains across her shoulders and crushed them in her hands. She looked down at the dragging tails before tossing them to the left and right. They clattered against metal walls, the walls of a warehouse or an airport hangar.
Polk crawled forward, his head bowed, his hands raised in exaltation. He crawled through the pool of blood spreading out from the hooded girl's neck, smearing two trails with his knees.
“Soon the world will see. They will see what we have done and they will marvel. They will see and they will fear and they will MARVEL!”
When he crawled close enough, Drea grabbed him by his outstretched arms. She pressed them into his sides, breaking the bones of his forearms and the ribs they contacted. He winced and then laughed, his eyes wide and curious and hopeful. She pressed him downward into the floor, compressing his spine and breaking his collar bones under her thumbs. She packed him, tighter and tighter, into a ball, and then they both, together, shrieked a final death cry as she ripped the mass in two.
The handcuffs blew apart at the chain and the cuffs popped from her wrists and danced on the cement floor. Caroline stood and raised her hands above her head, clenching them into white hot fists. She brought them down on the metal table. The first blow crushed the metal downward under her two fists, carving the table into a double-u shape. Her second blow tore the securing screws from the table's base and they ricocheted around the interrogation room. Now, with the legs loose and the table already nearly flattened, her third blow melded it with the cement below.
She ripped the cuffs from her feet. She took the metal chair in her hands and folded it, screaming along with the twisting metal, until the chair had been packed into a small, rough sphere the size of a basketball. As she packed it in tighter and tighter, she reached a point where she seemed unhappy with the ball's progress. She slammed her palms into each side of it, flattening the sphere, and then ripped the mass into two pieces, throwing them to the ground.
She stomped one of her feet. The cement crunched and fragments peppered the wall behind her and dinged against the crushed table in front of her. She brought her foot down again and stomped her foot another few inches down, into the core of the building. Another stomp would have reached the foundation, possibly some of the electrical lines, but she stopped. She raised her hands in the air and they hung there, as if she were praying, begging God to stop her, and after a raspy breath and a full-body tremble, she fell to the floor, silent and still.
Drea fell to her knees. She crawled forward, past the broken chains, past a few of the pieces of Polk's body, to the girl on the floor. She was already crying when she lifted the girl's head and cradled it in her lap. She was ready to see the wavy hair, the button nose, the beautiful lips of her precious Tanya. She was ready for the wave of despair to wash over her and take them both away forever. She was sobbing when she pulled the hood back.
The knife had pierced the carotid artery. The color had drained from the girl's face, but even in the pale, twisted horror of death, Drea still recognized her. It was the blonde college girl, the one from the bar. Now, seeing her face, she remembered carrying her out of Polk's apartment, remembered carrying her into the hallway, down the elevator, into the lobby. She remembered the hopefulness she'd felt then, that she'd saved this poor stranger from a terrible fate.
And now she held her lifeless body on a dirty cement floor. Had she not tried to save this girl, the girl might still be alive. She cried for the girl, and for her own regret. She cried tears of anger. And she cried the guilty tears of a mother who was glad to see another mother's child under death's hood rather than her own.