Using the light from her cell phone, Kian could see Aidan was bleeding but the bullet had gone clean through. Kian did not think it hit an artery as the blood did not come in spurts, but still she did not like how quickly the pool of blood grew under him. He would need to get to an Emergency Room quickly or he would die.
Kian reached into her backpack and retrieved a pair of scissors. From her tee shirt she cut strips for bandages and bound the wound as best she could. The cellar was cool, too cool for just her cami top, but she did not want to use Aidan’s clothing. He was in shock and needed to stay warm more than she did.
As she stood, she could see the pool of blood growing larger. She needed to apply pressure to the wound, but first she needed to reach Owen to let him know they were trapped. “Please, Owen, know how to get down here,” she mumbled just as she realized the key was sitting on the floor next to her. It was safe from Raven, but nobody else could use it either. Would Owen know how to fashion another one?
Kian circled the small room, holding the phone as high as she could and watching to see if any bars appeared. She circled once and got nothing. She tried again, this time more slowly. On the far side of the cellar, she felt a slight movement of air. That must be the ventilation she reasoned, and stood there for one minute before she saw one bar appear. Holding the phone in the air so as not to lose the signal, she dialed Owen. It did not go through, so she tried again, and again. Finally on the fourth try, she heard it connect.
“Trapped. Under Jacob’s cabin. Hurry. Aidan shot.”
“Bad connection. Say again. Slowly this…,” the line fuzzed out and went dead. Kian hit her speed dial again and waited. The sound of falling timbers crashed above her head and then smoke filtered into the room. Had Raven set a fire near the ventilation shaft? Her one bar disappeared. As more smoke came in, she wondered how long before they would both die.
Raven made her way through the underbrush back toward her sister’s house. Cat would either be there or in the cave, she figured. Raven made it as far as the ridge when she spotted movement ahead. A deer? Or Cat? Or that big buffoon that was with that FBI agent?
She sniggered and allowed herself a few pleasurable moments as she envisioned Kian and the agent roasting alive under the old man’s cabin. Was the girl screaming? Frantic, the girl must be frantic by now. Or maybe, just maybe she had opened that cupboard and been hit with a wall of fire. And it was all over. Much too quickly for Raven’s liking. But the picture of her sister’s brat writhing in the flames, well, that was worth savoring. She’d have to cut back and see for herself, but not until her sister was dead, too.
Raven headed down the hill. Whoever it was she sensed in front of her, she’d surely catch them further along the trail. She kept to the underbrush and moved swiftly, but stopped when she saw three deer bounding down the far slope away from the stone chambers. It was unlike Cat to spook animals unless Cat wanted to be spotted. Even so, Raven knew she had the advantage. As long as she kept her patience.
Raven made her way up the far hill and crouched behind a fallen tree. And waited. No movement. No sound. She found a pebble and tossed it far to her left. When it hit a tree, she popped up to look, then ducked down quickly. Nobody. She needed to get closer, so she skirted the area until she found a tall pine, one she could climb.
Raven was sure Cat was around somewhere, Cat and her half-brained husband. Careful, Raven cautioned her anxious self as she pulled herself up the tree. Red was not so half-brained as she wanted to believe.
Owen had finished his paperwork. A judge had signed the warrant for Raven’s arrest, and a team was being formed to go find her.
Because he was dead on his feet, Owen’s captain ordered him home for a shower and sleep before returning to the station, preferably not before the afternoon.
Owen had other plans. He would check on Kian and nap at the caves. So, he drove back toward the Buchanan’s.
Out on the highway, Owen saw the dark smoke spiraling into the sky. Then Kian’s garbled call came through. Siren blaring, he sped through the cross roads, and turned left onto Jacob’s road arriving at the burning cabin minutes later.
He jumped out of his car, pulled out his cell, and punched 911 to summon the local fire department.
His eyes scanned the house and surrounding grounds. The fire had by then consumed the roof and upper portions of the walls. Hot burning sparks spit into the air. Small fires caught in the dry leaves surrounding the structure. Owen searched for something to put these out. He saw the open shed and quickly retrieved a shovel. He was beating at the flames when he heard the sound of far-off fire engines. Hurrying to pummel as much of the ground fire as he could before it set the forest ablaze, Owen ran headlong into the discarded kerosene can. Raven. Raven must have been here. This was no accident. This was arson.
Red watched Raven circle the stone structures and then climb the pine. He kept half his attention on her and the other half on his wife. Darn fool woman thought she could talk to her sister, reason with her. Red knew she’d only get herself killed. Something he’d risk his life to prevent.
Cat started to stand. He grabbed her arm, pulling her back down, the fear in his heart growing. “She’s still got that rifle,” he warned. “She’ll shoot.” Why does she never listen to me?
“What you see is not the sister I love. It is some stranger. Somewhere in there is my Gaagé, my sister Raven. Not what this world has made of her. I have to take the chance. I have to draw her out. I want to talk to her.”
From long experience Red knew he could not stop her. But he would do just about anything to give her the advantage. “Then wait, dear. She’ll come to you if you just wait.” He was relieved when Cat relaxed and settled next to him again.
Minutes later, Raven descended the tree and boldly walked toward the stone circle. Just outside it, she placed her rifle against one of the standing stones and untied the garrote from her waist. Cupping it in her right hand, she entered the stone circle.
“I know you are out there, Sister Dearest. Show yourself.”
In that instant, Red knew what he had to do. Older and less agile than Raven, he was not sure he would be able to subdue Raven. But he was sure he could take the garrote around his own neck, leaving Raven momentarily defenseless, giving Cat the advantage. Whether he lived would depend on his wife’s reflexes, and Raven’s strength and agility with the garrote.
He stood and, with more strength than he thought he had, Red hurled himself into the circle.
Raven caught movement behind her and, as she grabbed both ends of the garrote, she swung around to meet it. With one swift motion, she had the garrote around her victim’s neck, surprised to see it was Red, not Cat that she had ensnared. She gave the garrote a swift twist and, just as Cat leapt toward her, Raven heard Red’s neck pop.
Then, Raven felt herself go head-over-heels. She rolled away and scrambled to her feet. Holding the garrote in one hand, she swung it around her head as she moved menacingly toward her sister. Cat jumped back, but not before Raven, garrote still swinging, caught her in the cheek. Blood trickled down and soaked into her buckskins.
“Ashta-molon,” Raven screamed, “attend me. Now.”
Kian felt the room growing hotter, and she could now see whiffs of smoke curling around the cupboard that locked them in their hellish grave. The cupboard would eventually burn through, that much she knew. She hoped smoke inhalation would render them unconscious before the flames got to them. Still, and she laughed at herself for this useless action, she checked Aidan’s wound. The pool of blood under him had not grown bigger. His pulse was thready, but he was alive. Clearly in shock, but still alive.
And he was warm. She’d worried about that earlier. She wished that was all she had to worry about now. In fact she almost envied him. Lethargic, barely alert, Aidan barely stirred. If he was aware of their predicament, he did not show it. Maybe he had the sense to slow his body functions, to keep still so as to conserve his strength, so as to slow the bleeding, so as to preserve life as long as possible. She bent down and kissed him softly on the mouth. Had she imagined it or had a weak smile come across his face?
“I love you,” he murmured. And fell back into silence.
Now it was up to her. Her alone. And then it hit her, “The Ark! I can use the Ark!”
By MC2 Corbin J. Shea [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons