Once Upon a Halloween, страница 4
"Take a good look, kid. I'm the last one you'll ever..." She flinched as if prodded in the back. Gasping, "Yah!" she whirled around and cocked her arm, ready to slash the intruder.
An intruder she couldn't seem to find
Her head jerked this way and that.
Hunter saw no one, but the woman's naked body was blocking much of his view.
"Screw with me," she said, "I'll chop you to ribbons."
She was starting to breathe hard. Hunter saw her shoulders rise and fall as he scooted quietly toward her, feet first. Dribbles of sweat were running down her spine. A droplet slid down the crease between her round, solid buttocks.
"Who's there?" she demanded.
"Everything okay up there?" a man's voice called out. It sounded as if he were shouting from downstairs.
"Fine and dandy," the woman muttered to herself.
"No problem!" she yelled. "I've got the kid. I'll be right down!"
Hunter drew back his right foot, aimed the sole of his sneaker at Eleanor's Achilles tendon, and kicked forward.
Last year, a member of his cross-country team had accidentally gotten kicked in the Achilles tendon. The kid had let out a scream of agony. An axe to the back of his foot couldn't have done a better job taking him down. He hadn't been able to get up again. They'd carried him off the field and he'd missed the rest of the running season.
When Hunter struck out at Eleanor's tendon, he hoped for similar results.
He didn't get them.
Instead of shrieking in pain, she gasped with surprise. Her right foot shot forward, flew high. She waved her arms. Her saber slashed the air. Then she fell backward onto Hunter. Sat down hard on his thighs, slammed his back against the hardwood floor. An instant later, the top of her head clipped his chin. His teeth clashed together.
Though barely conscious, he felt Eleanor's weight on top of him and knew this was his only chance.
Already, he could feel her trying to sit up.
If I let her get away...
He hooked his left arm across her throat and squeezed, trying to choke her. But something was in the way. Her chin? Then one of her hands was pulling at his arm while her other hand tried to bring the saber into play. He hammered his right fist down against her face again and again and again. She grunted and whimpered. She bucked. She thrashed and writhed, but she couldn't free herself from his squeezing forearm and clubbing fist. Though she jerked the saber this way and that, she couldn't get at him with it. Then she let it fall and caught hold of his wrist.
"Stop!" she gasped. "Stop. I give."
He stopped pounding her face, stopped trying to choke her.
She released his arms, then lay limp on top of him, panting for air.
After a few seconds, she said, "Let me up."
"Don't move." Keeping his left arm across her throat, Hunter reached out with his other hand and grabbed the saber. He raised it over Eleanor's face to let her see that he had it.
"Put your arms out," he said.
She stretched out her arms.
"Keep them that way and sit up. If you do anything, I'll chop you."
With her arms out straight to the right and left, she sat up. Hunter winced at the weight on his thighs.
"Now stand up," he said. "But keep your arms like that."
She drew her knees in close to her chest and leaned forward. As she rose to her feet, Hunter sat up and shoved himself off the floor.
Standing behind her, he pressed the edge of the blade against the side of her neck.
"Now take off your belt. Unbuckle it and let it drop. Keep your hand away from the knife."
She lowered her arms and head.
Hunter could only see the backs of her arms down to her elbows. From elbows to hands, they were in front of her... unfastening the belt buckle by the sounds he heard.
He watched the sheathed knife by her right hip. A couple of times, his eyes strayed over to her buttocks. He tried not to stare at them, though.
Soon, the belt, sheath and knife fell to the floor.
"Okay," Hunter said.
"That was good."
"Okay." He took the sword away from her neck. "Now put your hands on top of your head."
"Gonna book me?"
"Just do it, okay?"
She did it, then turned around, fingers interlaced on top of hoi head, a smirk on her face. Her cheeks were ruddy from the punch. One eye was puffy. Blood ran from her nostrils, coated her lips and dripped off her chin.
Hunter felt a little sick, realizing he had done this to her. he fore the pounding, she'd had a pretty face... if you didn't count its smirk and meanness.
She had it coming, he told himself. For godsake, don't feel sorry for her. Feel sorry for Connie. And Laura and Shannon.
Crap, she almost killed ME.
Hunter touched the point of the sword to her belly.
"I know you're the guy with the blade," she said. "And you can skewer me if that's what you want."
"I don't want to, but..."
"All you really want to do is get out of this alive, right?"
He shrugged. "Maybe."
"That's what I want, too." She glanced down the saber, then looked Hunter in the eyes. "Live and let live, okay?"
"Here's what we'll do. First, tell your friend to come out."
What friend? he wondered. Connie had run the other way back at the graveyard. By now, she had probably been cut down or captured by the creeps who'd gone chasing after her.
"Then let me have my weapons back and I'll take you both downstairs as my prisoners."
"Oh, that sounds perfect."
"Bryce and Simone'll go along with it. We need captives for the midnight ceremony back at the graveyard. On the way there, I'll let you and your friend get away."
"Sure you will."
Hunter shook his head. The plan might work if Eleanor played it straight.
She won't. It's just a trick.
"I'm not that stupid," he said.
"You might be too smart for your own..."
"Eleanor!" called a man's voice.
Hunter gave the saber a tiny push.
She winced and sucked in her tummy. A dribble of blood started sliding down her skin.
Sounding impatient, she shouted, "What do you want, Bryce? "
"How much longer're you gonna take with that kid? "
"Long as I want!"
A woman, apparently Simone, called, "No problem. Want us to wait for you? Or we can start back..."
"Good idea, " Eleanor yelled. "Why don't you go on ahead? I'll come along after I'm done up here. Shouldn't be too much longer. "
"No hurry, " Simone responded.
"Just don't be late for the ceremony, " Bryce warned.
"Have fun up there, " Simone called.
"lam. See you later."
For a few seconds, Eleanor stared into Hunter's eyes. Then she stepped away from the sword, walked to the bedroom door and eased it shut. Facing him again, she leaned back against the door and crossed her feet at the ankles.
"That worked out," she said.
"Why'd you do it?"
"Live and let live." Lowering her head, she stared down at the shiny red line of blood from her cut. It ran into the round dip of her navel, spilled out and slid down and down until it painted her thighs red. "See what you've already done to me?"
"You got me worse," he said.
She smirked toward the front of his shirt. "You'll live." Then she pushed herself away from the door and came toward him with long, slow strides.
As she neared the sword, he raised it.
She stepped up close to him. Not saying a word, she unbuttoned his shirt. When she opened it, the blood-soaked fabric peeled away from his skin.
He looked down.
Eleanor bent forward and kissed his cut. Then, smiling up at him with blood on her lips, she said, "Kiss mine?"
The offer shocked him. "No thanks."
She smiled. "Don't you want to be my friend?"
Is she kidding?
Hunter's mouth went suddenly dry and his heart pounded harder. "No," he said.
"Just don't wanta. You're a... I don't know, a killer or something "
"I'm not pure enough for you?"
Eleanor laughed. "My, what a good boy you are."
He glared at her.
"None of your business."
"I'd be glad to make it my business." Reaching down, she squeezed him gently through the front of his jeans.
He smacked her hand away.
She chuckled. "Was that a nice thing to do?"
"Just keep your hands off."
"That isn't what you really want. What you really want..." Going silent, she started to unbuckle his belt.
"Stop it," he said.
She undid the button at the waist of his jeans.
"Don't. I'm warning you."
"Come out, come out, wherever you are."
As she fumbled with the tab of his zipper, he made a fist of his left hand and slammed it into the side of her face. Her head snapped sideways, spit flying. She staggered back a few steps, then crashed to the floor.
The impact jolted Eleanor's entire body and seemed to shake the room.
What if Bryce and Simone heard that?
Hunter heard no sounds from downstairs.
Doesn't mean they're gone, he thought. Maybe they're sneaking up the stairs right now.
He looked at Eleanor. She was sprawled on her back, her eyes shut, face puffy and bloody from her earlier beating, her chest slowly rising and falling as if she were asleep. He supposed she was out cold.
Not bad for a left hook, he thought. Wait'll I tell Dad.
Won't be telling him anything if I don't get out of this alive.
He didn't think Eleanor was faking it. But how long would she be out? In the movies and on television shows, the villains seemed to stay knocked out for quite a while. But he'd seen televised boxing matches, too. Guys who got K.O.ed in the ring usually woke up in a matter of seconds.
He still held the sword in his right hand.
I could kill her right now - before she comes to.
Many times, when talking to his friends about movies, he'd complained about characters who refused to finish off the villain in situations exactly like this. Sooner or later, the creep they'd spared would come after them again. No gratitude, nothing, And they always ended up killing him anyway.
Dumb movie crap.
Eleanor moaned. She turned her head slightly.
Finish her off?
He stood there, staring down at her, the sword high and ready to strike.
Do it, he told himself. You're always whining they should do it in scenes like this. So do it!
If I do it, he thought, she'll really be dead.
She's unconscious. She's unarmed.
Unarmed? Hell, she's naked!
You can't just finish off a beautiful naked woman who's out cold on the floor, no matter what she might've done or tried to do. No matter how "smart" it might be.
If she makes a try for me...
She moaned and moved a little more, like someone half awake but not yet ready to open her eyes and struggle out of bed.
Hunter ran from the room. He leaned out over the railing and looked down the stairway. Nobody there.
They're gone. They won't be coming up.
Probably took Shannon and Laura with them - for that ceremony - or left them dead in the house.
He suddenly realized that the bottom of the stairs was only a few strides away from the front door. If Bryce and Simone were actually gone, Hunter himself could be out the door in a matter of seconds.
Or maybe take a few seconds longer, he thought, and check around for Shannon and Laura. Make sure they're gone... or don't need an ambulance.
But what about Eleanor?
He turned and looked into the room. She was still on the floor.
Not a chance in hell she'll catch me if I run right now.
His getaway would be a sure thing, bill so would hers.
Before I do anything, he thought, I've gotta take her out of the game.
So he turned away from the railing and hurried back into the room.
Eleanor no longer seemed to be stirring at all. She lay on her back, arms and legs outstretched, eyes shut, breathing slowly as if asleep.
Now maybe she's faking it, Hunter thought.
"If you try anything," he said, "I'll cut your head off."
She didn't react at all.
Maybe she isn't faking.
He knelt in front of her feet, gently set the sword on the floor, then reached out with both hands and took hold of her ankles.
Don't look at her there.
Why not? She's out cold. Nobody'll ever know.
It isn't right.
He shifted his eyes aside, pulled at her ankles and slid her legs together. Looking over his shoulder, he saw her belt on the floor. Its leather sheath, its knife.
It wasn't near enough to reach from where he was kneeling, so he pulled his own belt out of its loops and used it to bind Eleanor's ankles together. When they were tightly wrapped, he fastened the buckle.
She still seemed to be unconscious.
And about half the threat she'd been before, now that her feet were strapped together.
Hunter crawled over to Eleanor's belt. On his knees, he swung it around his waist. It was long enough. With the big, sheathed knife at his right hip, he fastened the buckle.
Then he looked around for something he might use to bind her hands.
Dozens of weird paintings throughout the room, a couple of easels with canvases on them, a stool, a box of paint on a small table... several lamps.
How about a lamp cord?
As a kid, he'd sometimes been tied up with electrical cords. He and his friends, playing games that often included being taken captive, had used whatever they could find: belts, cords, rags, tape, twine, ropes. Clothesline worked best. Tape could be pretty good, too, if you had the right kind and plenty of it. Most electrical cords weren't very good - too stiff. It was nearly impossible to pull the knots tight enough to hold someone. To get loose, all you usually had to do was shove the cords inward toward the knot.
Hunter seemed to recall noticing a lot of rope recently. But where?
When he'd first seen Eleanor charging across the living room like a demented savage, a big coil of rope had been hanging around her neck, flopping against her chest.
She didn't have it now. Must've left it downstairs before coming up to search for him.
Is it down there now?
Maybe. Or maybe the others had used it to tie Shannon and Laura before taking them away for the ceremony.
I hope they are tied with it, Hunter thought. If they're tied up, they aren't dead.
Regardless of where Eleanor's rope might be, it wasn't where he needed it. The electrical cords, however, were right here in the room with him.
Apparently, Laura used several different types of lamps to illuminate her canvases or subjects. All the lamps were dark at the moment, the room lighted by an overhead fixture.
Hunter puked up the sword and rose to his feel.
Eleanor still seemed to be unconscious.
He walked toward the nearest lamp, crouched beside it and jerked its plug out of the wall. The cord was abo
He would need both hands free for tying Eleanor, so he set the sword down on the floor. Better to leave it over here, well out of her reach, than to keep it near him.
Besides, he thought, I've got her knife.
He returned to Eleanor's side and stared down at her. She still looked like someone asleep.
How am I supposed to tie her hands together, he wondered, with her arms stretched out like this?
Have to bring them together.
Without waking her up?
He gave some thought to the matter, then squatted by Eleanor's right arm. He made a slip-knot near an end of the cord. With one hand, he lifted Eleanor's wrist. With the other, he put the loop around it. As he pushed at the loose, stiff knot, tightening the loop around Eleanor's wrist, the doorbell rang.
Eleanor moaned softly.
Faint, muffled voices called, "Trick or treat!"
Eleanor's head turned slowly to her right.
The doorbell rang again and again and again and Eleanor opened her eyes.
Hunter shoved the slip-knot tight against her wrist.
"Don't...!" he blurted.
She jerked her arm away from him. Hunter held on to the cord, but she sat up very fast and reached for the belt around her ankles.
Hunter tugged the cord. Her right arm flew toward him, but her left hand continued to pluck at the belt buckle.
Still on his knees, he hauled back on the cord with both hands and all his weight, pulling Eleanor's trapped hand toward him. Her free hand lost its hold on the belt and her whole body came sideways in his direction.
Shuffling backward, he would've fallen but the cord kept him up like a tow line. Finding his balance, he got to his feet, pulling on the cord, keeping it taut, keeping Eleanor's arm stretched toward him.
She hurled herself at him - awkward with her feet bound together - but Hunter rushed backward, tugging the cord, and she fell hard onto her right side.
"Quit it," he gasped. "Give it up."
She made another lunge at him. Again, he dodged her and pulled the cord and she fell and landed hard.
Then she lay there, curled on her side, sweaty, panting for air, fresh blood spilling from her nostrils and the cut on her belly.
"I just wanta... tie you up," Hunter gasped. "Just... let me tie you. Or I'll have to... hurt you worse."