The door opened and Andrea threw herself into the man’s arms before Janet could catch so much as a glimpse of him. Two tattoo sleeved arms snaked around Andrea’s waist and Janet’s heart sank. He looked like trouble. Ethan’s husky voice sounded gin soaked to her suspicious ears.
“Sorry I’m late love. I got busy with a run last night and you know how Nate and them can be.”
Janet broke off from her critical appraisal of Ethan, “Excuse me? I’d say you’re more than a little late! We’ve been here fleeing for our lives while you were off on some stupid run. Whatever the hell that means! What the hell kind of run was so damn important that you left us high and dry? A beer run? A drug run? Judging from the looks of you, I’d say it was a drug run. See Andrea, that’s what you get for calling on one of your boy toys to help us!”
“Whose this grandma Andrea?”
“Ethan, this is my sister. Please ignore her rude comments. She can’t help herself, she’s had a stick lodged up her ass all her life. Look Janet, Ethan knows this area like the back of his hand. If anyone can get us out of here in one piece he can.”
“Oh really? Einstein here walks right in the front door seconds after a band of murders leave, in plain view of anyone who might have this place staked out. I’m surprised he didn’t bump into them. Maybe he’s working with them. Did you ever think of that? Whose side is he on? It’s mighty funny that he finally shows up seconds after they leave.”
Ethan fumed, “I made sure they were all gone. But that’s not to say they won’t double back. We’d better get going.”
The trio walked out through the rear of the building and Janet was dismayed to see that there was no car waiting to whisk them away. They headed for the overgrown tangle of woods behind the building, wading into weeds up to their thighs.
It was slow going and Janet had to concentrate to avoid twisting her ankle on the uneven, stone littered ground. She looked behind her and was pleased to see the wild foliage closing behind them. If nothing else, it would be a little harder to track them without a clear trail. Then again, those maniacs had dogs. That thought made Janet walk a little faster.
Before long, the mosquitos arrived and begin feasting upon her in earnest. Janet didn’t know what was making her more miserable, being forced to suckle a horde of mosquitos or the heat and humidity which slowly enveloped her like a hot, damp blanket.
Her breath began coming in huffs and puffs. Andrea and Ethan walked ahead of her seemingly oblivious to the stifling heat. They walked in silence and Janet allowed her mind to go blank. She was too tired to think about anything except putting one foot in front of the other.
Just when she thought she was going to pass out, the foliage thinned and she could see what looked like an abandoned farm-house in the distance. Every horror movie she had ever seen bloomed in her mind. Surely they weren’t going to be staying in that house of horrors.
It looked like the house that time forgot with its broken windows and faded, peeling paint. Ethan and Andrea walked in without a backward glance at Janet who stood in the weed-choked front yard sulking until an obscenely large bumblebee began harassing her.
Janet walked into the kitchen to find Andrea seated a battered wooden table with the words “eat me” crudely carved into the top of it. Ethan was placing a plate of pitiful looking bologna sandwiches in the middle of the table. The house was a wreck inside.
Judging from the graffiti, empty beer bottles, broken hypodermic needles and used condoms strewn across the floor, the house was probably a popular hangout. Janet spied a place set for her at the table and suddenly realized that she was ravenous. She sat down and helped herself to one of the sandwiches. Baloney never tasted so good. Ethan crossed his arms looking from one sister to the other.
“We didn’t get a chance to discuss anything when you called me last night. So tell me love, what’s all the fuss about”
“What do you mean Ethan,” asked Andrea.
“Why are folks trying to kill you? Who’d you piss off?”
“To be fair, we don’t know that those people mean to kill us. They could just want to talk.”
“So why didn’t you sit down and have a nice little chat with them?”
“Maybe I have nothing to say to them. You know what? I think I will have a sandwich.”
“Don’t try to change to subject. You’ve got something they want and I wanna know what it is.”
“What’s with the third degree? Do I put you on the rack when you show up at my place in the middle of the night looking for someplace to hole up for a few days? Have I ever tried to pry into your business when you ask me to lie for you? We are friends but that doesn’t mean I’m obligated to tell you a damn thing!”
“Don’t be so touchy Andrea. I was curious that’s all. You’ve never asked me for help before. You girls want something to wash those sandwiches down with?”
Andrea accepted a beer and Janet a ginger ale. Janet sat back to watch things develop, interested to see if Ethan knew Andrea well enough to recognize what the hard edge to her tone meant. She knew that if he kept going he would step out onto thin ice. Andrea’s anger was going to flare up if he kept pressing her.
When anyone ignited Andrea’s ire she lashed out without a moment’s thought for the consequences. Janet never could see any rhyme or reason for the forms that Andrea’s vengeance took. Sometimes, it was a punch or a stab, a shove or choke. Other times, Andrea would bide her time as she plotted some vicious retaliation.
Janet chuckled to herself, maybe she wouldn’t even have to try to convince Andrea to ditch that creep. It looked like he was going to do all the convincing for her. She watched him struggling to come up with a different tactic to make Andrea tell him what he wanted to know.
Wasn’t that just like a man? That’s right moron, go ahead and push your luck, Janet thought. His features settled into a mournful frown. This ought to be good.
“I didn’t mean to pry. It’s just that I’ve been having a run of bad luck lately. I owe a lot of money to some very scary dudes. I thought you might be able to help me out with a few duckets. Just enough to get ’em off my back.”
“How much are we talking about Ethan,” Andrea asked cautiously.
“Oh, fifty thou ought to do it.”
“Fifty thousand dollars? Janet can you believe this joker? I love the way he just causally tosses it out there like it’s chump change. Fifty thousand dollars! Really? Are you shitting me? After everything I’ve done for you over the years without ever asking or expecting any return, the one time I ask you for something you try to jam both hands into my pockets!”
Janet wanted so badly to blurt out that she had warned her sister not to trust him but she kept her mouth shut. One “I told you so,” no matter how satisfying it might be, was not worth derailing her anger. Janet wanted things to run their course. She shook her head and arranged her features into a shocked expression that mirrored her sister’s, hoping that it would egg her on.
“That really hurts Andrea. You know I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t desperate.”
“You’re always desperate Ethan! The only time you come around is when your ass is in a bind and you want me to pry it loose! Why do I get the feeling that you won’t help us unless I come across with the money? I’m beginning to think my sister was right about you. Maybe you’re working both sides and you’ll turn us over to them whether or not you get what you want.”
“Now you’re talking crazy! You’ve known me how many years? You know good and damn well that there were plenty of times that I could have sold you out for a tidy little profit. I’ve been in a bind before and managed to wiggle out of it. I’m just so used to you bailing me out of trouble that I didn’t stop to consider that you might be feeling a little cornered right now. But I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t intend to help. Finish your lunch love.”
Andrea remained pitched forward in her seat a few moments more, glaring at Ethan as though she might reach across the scarred table and throttle him. Janet was disappointed when Andrea wordlessly picked up the sandwich and bit into it.
She could tell by the way that Andrea tore bites from her sandwich that the insult wasn’t forgiven but there wouldn’t be any knock down drag out fighting during lunch. Ethan would be wise to watch his back. Janet looked down at her own lunch and took a swig of her ginger ale. She wrinkled her nose.
“This ginger ale is salty.”
Andrea rolled her eyes to the ceiling, “Oh lord, don’t you get started again. Give it a rest Janet. We get it. You’re not happy. Your displeasure is duly noted, now shut the hell up for two seconds will ya?”
Janet was about to argue back and suddenly felt too tired to care. She ate the rest of her sandwich in stony silence. Janet took another sip of her ginger ale and almost dropped the bottle. Ale splashed onto the table. She started to apologize and everything momentarily swam out of focus.
That’s strange. The heat must have affected me more than I realized. Maybe I’m a little dehydrated. She suddenly felt dizzy. The sensation intensified until the table seemed to be tilting at a crazy angle. Janet felt as though she might slide out of her chair. She grasped the edge of the table to steady herself. and looked over at her sister. Janet was startled to see that Andrea appeared to be having the same issue.
Andrea clumsily knocked her bottle of beer over. It splashed beer in Ethan’s direction before tumbling off the table and shattering on the wooden floor. He jumped up cursing and stalked over to the sink, searching for something with which to try himself.
While his back was turned, Andrea quickly bent down, grabbed a piece of broken glass and concealed it. Janet intended to ask Andrea what she was up to but her lips wouldn’t cooperate. Ethan returned to the table with a rag and mopped up most of the beer. Surprisingly, he didn’t look angry. A smile slowly spread across his face as he addressed Janet.
“You were partially right you know. I did go on a drug run last night. I had to get a few party favors for you ladies,” he said slyly.
Andrea’s eyes slid shut and her head fell forward onto the table. Janet’s drug addled brain finally put two and two together and she suddenly realized that he had drugged them. She could feel her strength beginning to leach away.
Her eyes were getting heavy. She forced herself to sit up straight in the chair, determined to stay awake, knowing that in a few short moments she would be unconscious. She looked at him, struggling to ask the question. He smirked, looking at her as though he could read her thoughts.
“Why did I drug you? When Andrea called me, I had every intention of helping you two. I really did. I care about your sister and I don’t want to see her hurt.”
Janet angrily shook her head and the jerky motion made her nauseous.
“I’m serious. I love her. I really do. It’s just that I’ve got to come up with some fast cash. I’ve been trying to come up with the dosh but I just can’t raise it fast enough. Every day that goes by, they raise the interest. I tried to work a job last night and it all went to hell.”
My clumsy swing wasn’t even close. Ethan continued,” I nearly got caught and I’ve got nothing to show for it. So you see, I’ve got no choice. I love your sister but I love being alive more. I’m going to have to take what she’s got. She didn’t tell me what it was but judging from the crew I saw descending on that warehouse, it’s gotta be pretty damn valuable. I knew Andrea would fight to the death rather than hand it over so, I took the liberty of dosing you two.”
Janet wanted to scream. She tried to reach over and shake her sister but succeeded only in pitching headfirst onto the floor. I’ve gotta do something! This bastard is going to kill us! Even if he doesn’t, those people will kill us the moment they realize Andrea no longer has the talisman. Janet rolled onto her back in time to see Ethan looming over her sister. Her eyes fluttered shut. She forced them open once and then everything went black.