Once showered and dressed, Kian put the books away and straightened the library. She picked up the book about Chokole and was reading on the sofa and stroking Lucky, soothed by his purr, when she heard a thud in the barn followed by loud scraping sounds.
Kian felt vulnerable. Why wait until tomorrow? She and Lucky should go to the cave today. As soon as Aidan gets back.
Kian retrieved her cat carrier from the hallway closet, grabbed a bag of unopened dry food, and placed the two next to the front door. Should she leave the Ark and Wings hidden or take them along? Could she be sure nobody would find them under her attic floor?
Kian heard someone shout outside, then a gunshot. It sounded like it came from the barn.
Oh my god! She ducked down, swooped Lucky up into her arms, and pushed him into his carrier. Her hands were trembling. She tossed her backpack over her shoulder. “Off we go, buddy,” she said as she grabbed the carrier and placed her hand on the doorknob. She peeked out one of the long glass panels next to the door. Fake Stephen emerged from behind Jimbo’s truck. She could not go out the front. There was no way to get to the Jeep. Which rule said to always have an escape?
When Kian looked back out the window, she saw fake Stephen holding his hand. Blood dripped into a small pool in front of him. He was wounded. The odds of escaping out the front were about even now. It might be worth taking the risk. She looked again. It was his right hand. She tried to remember. Was he right handed? She did not know.
When Stephen spoke to someone behind him, her heart sank. There was no way she could get past two of them. Kian would have to take Lucky through the kitchen and out the side door. She would hide in the woods until Aidan returned.
But what if Aidan was walking into a trap?
She took one last glance out the front window and heard Aidan call to her. “Kian!”
“Aidan, be careful, they’re out front,” she shouted back.
“I know. I got him.” Confused, Kian looked out the small glass panel again. Fake Stephen was approaching the porch steps, Aidan following behind and holding him at gunpoint. “Open up, will you?”
She opened the door and stepped back.
“There’s a dirty tee-shirt on my bag. Toss it to this creep,” Aidan said. Kian grabbed the garment and threw it to Stephen who immediately wrapped his bleeding hand.
“Get everything off the sink,” Aidan said. “Anything this bastard could use as a weapon.”
Kian hurried in front of them. She didn’t think the spice jars constituted a lethal weapon, but the paring knives did, so she shoved them onto a pantry shelf along with the cutting board. She hurried back to remove the plastic dish drainer stacked with last night’s dishes–all breakable, Kian figured, and the sharp edges could be dangerous.
“To your left and into the kitchen,” Aidan growled. Kian turned to see Aidan press his gun into the man’s lower back, pushing him forward two steps. “Put that hand over the sink. Kian, is this the guy who claims to be Jacob’s son?”
“Yes.” She reached for the wall phone.
“Ms. Buchanan, I’m bleeding. You gotta do something,” the man pleaded as he walked past, holding out his wounded hand. His voice shook, the tone wildly out of control, and his brow dripping from sweat.
“She is doing something. She’s calling the cops. Should be here in ten minutes, so unless you want them to find a corpse with a shot-up hand, you better start talking. There is a man called Power walking around out there. How do you know him?”
“Look, man, he’ll kill me if I say anything, I swear. Man, you don’t understand.”
“No, I don’t. So spit it out. How do you know this guy Power?”
“He brought me in for questioning on bond trading. The trading wasn’t, well, exactly kosher.”
“Power brought you in for illegal bond trading. Then what?”
“He threatened me. Said I’d go to jail. So I told him to wait ’cause I got a wife and kids, and I can’t go to jail.”
He looked from Aidan to Kian. She saw pleading in his eyes. This cold-blooded killer was pleading with her. She wanted to slap him. Hard.
“Go on,” Aidan demanded.
“Threatened my family, too. Called it Power’s Finishing School. Man, it didn’t take a genius to know what he meant by that and every time he talked to me, he said it again. Don’t you see, I was stuck?”
“Tell me what Power wanted you to do.” Aidan’s tone was sharp now as he scowled at Stephen.
“It seemed clear enough.” Stephen replied. “Raven and I. We had to pretend to be Jacob’s son, his daughter-in-law.”
“Raven? I thought her name was Charlene, or Mary, or something like that,” Kian shrieked, shaking with rage. She didn’t really want to talk to him, she wanted to make him pay. With blood. She glared at him, staring straight into his now terrified eyes.
“Raven,” he managed to choke out, looking down to avoid her stare. “We called her Charlene. It sounded better. Classy. Kinda French.”
“Go on, why did you pretend to be Jacob’s son?” Aidan’s scowl deepened.
“To get him to change his will. Leave everything to me. Then I would turn around and give it to Power.”
“You didn’t have to kill him.” Kian spit the words at him. She could barely hold herself back now. She wanted to go at Stephen with rusty razor blades.
“Wait, lady, wait! I didn’t kill the old guy. Raven did. Not me. She’d have killed you too. Only I stopped her. I pushed her. When she shot at you. Lady, she’s a crack shot. Doesn’t matter how much weaving you did. She’d have hit you for sure.”
“I think you are just trying to save your sorry ass,” Aidan countered. “I should turn you over to Power. Let him finish you.”
“Man, no, please! I’m telling you the truth. Look, I didn’t want to kill the old guy. That was Raven. I just tried to scare him. Power wanted to know about this artifact. A pair of wings or something. Look, I tried to be nice. Get on Jacob’s good side.”
The kitchen clock ticked away. Time was running short. The local authorities would be arriving in two or three minutes.
“Tell me what happened Thursday night,” Kian demanded. “I want to know what you did Thursday night.”
“I slipped that date rape drug into his tea. To loosen his tongue. It made him dopey. When Raven found out, she lost it. Told him to kneel on the floor. He didn’t, so she pushed him down. Tied his wrists with duct tape.” Stephen looked up at the clock and then at his bleeding hand.
“Go on.” Kian wasn’t sure she wanted to hear the rest, but she had to know. She just had to.
Stephen continued to stare at his hand and at the blood now dripping onto a soapy sponge. “She took this leather cord. Wrapped it around his neck. Said something about a Three-Fold Death.”
“Then what?” Aidan demanded.
“The old man kept falling. Passing out. She got mad as hell and yanked him up.” Stephen looked up at that moment and caught Kian’s eye. She saw him shudder. “She’s cold! You have no idea.” With his good hand, he wiped first his right, then his left eye before continuing. “Her temper. She was screaming. And twisted the cord again. Too hard. I heard his neck go pop. Then she took her knife. Slit his throat.”
Aidan demanded, “And what did you do, you scumbag?”
“I kept shouting, ‘Let’s leave.’ But, no. She got this bowl. Put water in it and shoved his face in it. Then she looked me straight in the eyes. ‘That’s the Three-Fold Death,’ she said. ‘Remember it. I can do it to you, too.'”
Kian continued to glare at Stephen. Uncle Jacob was probably too drugged to know what was happening. But that thought did not make her feel any better. She heard a police siren in the distance.
“You got one more minute to answer my questions,” Aidan growled. “Why didn’t you let Raven kill Kian?”
“I was sick to my stomach. Her killing the old man and all. I told Raven, why kill the girl? We need to find this Ark thing. Even Raven had to agree to that.”
Aidan scowled at him. “When you had your chance, why didn’t you leave?”
“Look, I’m no hero. If I leave, I’m dead and it won’t be pretty. And they will go after my family. Don’t you see? If I run away, someone pays. It’s that simple.”
The police car pulled up to the house. Kian opened the door and watched as her childhood friend, Owen Griffiths, took three long strides up the steps.
“Are you okay?” Owen looked around the large open room, a frown crossing his face when he saw Aidan. “What’s he doing here?”
“Helping me,” Kian replied, a warm smile on her face. Owen scowled at her again, then looked at Aidan who was checking Stephen’s bleeding hand.
“You’ll live,” Aidan said. Without turning around, Aidan addressed the responding officer, “FBI. My ID is on the table.”
“I know damn well who you are.” He looked past Aidan to the suspect. “Well, well, if it isn’t Stephen Steiner, con artist and murderer. Where’s that ugly wife of yours?”
Looking sullen, Stephen ignored the officer.
“I take it I am arresting this man,” Owen said, handing an old plastic bag to Stephen to wrap around his bleeding hand. “What’s the charge? Homicide?”
“Start with breaking and entering, and drawing a weapon on an FBI agent,” Aidan said as the officer cuffed his suspect. “I don’t think we can charge him with dropping that weapon or shooting himself in the hand, but accomplice to murder sounds good.” Aidan secured his own weapon.
“Fine.” Owen looked at Kian, “I’ll be back later. Stay put.”
Now Owen was ordering her around. Kian felt her hackles rise, but she held her tongue.
Owen scowled at Aidan one last time before turning to leave. By the time his prisoner reached the bottom step, the officer had read Stephen his rights.
Kian closed the door just as Lucky let out a piercing howl. “Oh, no!” Kian bent down to open the carrier door. Aidan looked at the carrier, the bag of dry food, and Kian’s stuffed backpack.
Hardenacke at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons