God, she felt awful. Her back hurt and wherever she was, wasn’t helping with the pain. It was cold, hard, and she could feel the side of her arm being prickled by the uneven protuberances from the rough surface under her. Her right cheek also felt like it was being exfoliated with rocks. It hurt.
When she tried to open her eyes her whole head did a nosedive and she closed them again.
But deep from within her mind, a tiny dot of light began to get closer and closer, like the light from a train as it enters a tunnel and is fast approaching. The light suddenly exploded behind her eyes and the force of the memory, like a freight train out of control, crashed right into her. All that had happened since coming out from Sonia’s, going with Jim to his truck and then the last conscious thought she had before going down.
Julia now had the who, but still couldn’t comprehend the why.
Just as the three letters of his name materialized inside her head, her eyes snapped open. With a blurry vision, she did a quick scan of her surroundings, her sight eventually clearing though she didn’t recognize anything. It was so dark she could barely make out the wooden beams across the ceiling above her.
The air was a mixture of stale air, abandoned and hot, as if the structure had garnered the heat from the day and kept it enclosed. She concluded the ceiling must be made of aluminum. There appeared to be some plastic chairs and tables piled up in the corner nearest her. There were also some old rusted tractors next to those chairs and tables. There was a second floor, like a balcony, that surrounded the rectangle shape of the space where she was; pieces of railing were missing at intervals. Finally, her eyes found what she was looking for.
At the center of the room, Jim sat on one of those plastic chairs. Though there was no light, Julia knew his stare was locked on her slumped body. As she began to stir, slowly, she winced in pain when the sensitive skin on her wrists burned against the brush of plastic. He must’ve bound her hands with one of those plastic cords they use nowadays after inspecting your bag at the airport.
When she tried her legs, they were not bound but they were numb.
Where the hell am I?
Was she even still in La Providencia? Panic sprouted claws around her heart as the possibility of being in some other place where no one would find her, formed. She whimpered, but the sound was drowned as somewhere far, a series of explosions intertwined with the booming of music coming from the town square.
I’m still in town!
Though that didn’t help her much.
Who knew Jim had taken her? Damian probably thought she was stuck among the tumult of people, and her friends all thought she was with Damian. They’d all notice her absence all too late.
“I was afraid I would have to carry on without you.” Jim’s almost friendly tone scared her more than if he would have screamed at her. She struggled with the restraints on her hands, and let out another whimper of pain when the tight plastic cut through her skin. Since her legs were free, she moved them and sat up. When she did, her head felt like it would explode like the fireworks from the town.
From her new position, she searched frantically for a way out or something to defend herself with, though her current situation with her impaired arms would narrow down her chances considerably. God, she was going to die.
The fireworks’ roars continued to lance the hollowed silence around her. Her heart’s rhythm skittered, and a cold and damp sweat made the back of her black dress shirt cling to her back. Again, the reality of her situation hit her. She had to get out of here. However, before Julia could stand up, Jim made a tsk-tsk sound, reading her intentions.
“I wouldn’t attempt anything foolish if I were you, Julia.” The friendly tone was still there, almost condescending, but with an edge of nervousness. Jim sounded more than eager to get this over with.
Then, the last word on her mind before being put down replaced any other thoughts currently parading inside her mind. Without wasting another minute she asked. “Why?” She rasped. Her throat fell like a jar of dirt.
If she was going to die, then she sure as hell deserved to know the reason why.
“I’m not surprised you don’t know. I mean, you’ve been so engrossed in yourself these past ten years, you had no idea what was happening outside your bubble of egotism.”
“You mean with my father?”
Jim laughed, its sound as disturbing and skin scrawling as nails scratching on a blackboard.
“Yes. And with the rest of us. Like your father, mine wasn’t as thrilled to learn I wanted to marry a woman who came from this town. And like you, I was stubborn and went against his wishes and married Magdalena.”
“So you cut all contact with him?”
Julia was impressed by how steady her voice sounded all of a sudden. It was like knowing what lay ahead had given her a weird sense of serenity.
“I did. I hadn’t spoken to him for more than three years. But then, at the end of 2008 all the scandals about Maddoff and similar frauds were sprouting like flowers at every corner. Someone pointed the finger at my father. So, what did he do? He went to his longtime friend, Benjamin Andersson, for help.”
“I’m guessing this is the part where you tell my why the sudden urge to kill me?”
“Look at you, sassy in the face of death.”
“What can I say, I’ve never done what others expect of me.” Julia jutted her chin forward and though her insides were shaking like jello, she wasn’t going to give Jim the pleasure of seeing her fall apart.
“My dad went to your father and while preparing for his trial, your father confided in him. He told him he regretted how things had gone between you two.”
“You’re lying.” Her stomach knotted.
“I’m not. Though he didn’t say exactly what things. My dad says he rarely spoke of you after you left your house.”
Julia’s own surprise at Jim’s words transformed into mild irritation.
“That’s what they told you? That I left?”
For a split second Julia saw a pause, a hesitation go on inside Jim’s blue eyes. Julia took the chance and added. “He kicked me out. They both did. I had no choice but to leave.”
Then the hesitation turned to surprise and a mocking laughter erupted from him. With his body still shaking from it, Jim cleared his throat and said.
“Oh boy. I mean, I knew your dad wanted you to be a lawyer but to kick his daughter out because she didn’t go his way, wow. If only your dad had had the same balls to defend my father, you wouldn’t be here now.”
Was that was this was all about? Julia’s mind began to go through the heap of memories, anything that would help her understand. Suddenly, a little bell went off inside her head as it picked out the winner.
Danny had said their dad had lost some big case. That big case had to have been Jim’s dad.
“My father…….the big case he lost, it was you dad’s.”
Jim leaned towards her. He brought his elbows to rest on his thighs and it was then that Julia saw the gun in his hand. It was all she could do not to gasp, but she did recoil farther away. Jim grabbed his head with both hands and then stood up. Julia felt her heart jump all the way to her throat and her sudden bravado deserted her.
“Yes. My father and I had just started talking again. He saw how the estrangement between you two was affecting Benjamin so he phoned me before the trial. And as we reestablished contact, my father would complain your father was not the same shark in the courtroom he’d been before. He was distracted, and in the end his distraction cost my father his liberty and then his life.”
“His life?” The spacious room around her began to feel too crowded with her, Jim and his gun. While Jim made his way to her, Julia’s eyes moved in their sockets as they searched for anything she could use to her advantage. But what would be the point? She’d be dead before she managed to start running. There was no place she could hide for cover. Right now, what she had to do was to keep him talking. It might buy her enough time for a miracle to happen and someone to come looking for her.
“He killed himself a few months before your father died. He couldn’t take being locked up. And why should he have? He was innocent. Your father’s own guilt cost me my father. But since he is gone, it is you who’ll pay the price. If you only had stuck with the plan then my dad would still be alive.”
Before she could anticipate it, Jim kneeled down in front of her and slapped her with his free hand. The shock plus the impact had her tumbling down to the floor. Julia tasted the metallic flavor of blood as it trickled from the side of her mouth. Then, Jim’s leg shot outward and connected with her stomach and Julia swore she heard something crack inside her.
“You and your father ruined it all. I had my father back and he died because of you.”
Julia groaned, tears of pain falling down her cheeks. She tried to move but Jim’s hand grabbed her by the hair and made her get up on her knees. He pulled her hair back so she could look at him and what she saw froze her all over.
Gone was the kind, quiet boy she’d known. The same man who would look at Magdalena with eyes so full of love, it made her heart bleed for the woman as all they had in them now was pure hate. The Jim with his hand fisted in her hair, was beyond reason. Because only someone who’d lost his mental sanity would blame her for an event which she had nothing to do with. Not that she blamed her father, either. Despite their estrangement, he’d always been a good and thorough lawyer and if Jim’s father had been sent to jail then it was because he truly had been guilty.
The pain shooting from her head brought her to the present. This time, the barrel of the gun tried to dig a hole through her temple. Jim’s breathing was coming out fast. Julia couldn’t stand the pain from her ribs, but she had to keep him talking.
“How?” She asked, hoarsely.
“How did you know I was Kate Morgan?”
Fortunately, he lessened the hold on her hair and slammed her back against his legs.
“Oh well, you’re gonna love this. When my dad went to see your father at his firm, he noticed this book by a woman named Kate Morgan standing just next to a frame that had a picture of you and Danny. My father never asked him though but he made the connection immediately.”
When she gasped, he laughed again, enjoying the shock this news was having on her.
“It seems daddy dearest did read your stories after all. Too bad he died before you were able to make up.” He pouted his mouth and tugged harder on her hair. The mocking tone making something inside her flare with indignation.
“Afterwards, it was easy to find your New York address. And then just as I was getting ready to fly to New York and finish this, my adorable wife comes rushing into my study to tell me her long time friend Julia Andersson was back in La Providencia. And even better, we were all going to get together for lunch.”
“That must’ve pissed you off.” Julia said in between clenched teeth. Her anger had now gone back to insurmountable pain and that throbbing fear at the back of her head that she would spend her last moments alive with a total psycho.
“At first, I was just curious to see what had become of you. Of course, when you didn’t even remember me all I thought was, well she hasn’t changed much, she is still as conceited and as selfish as the rest of her stupid friends.”
“But what about Magdalena, don’t you love her? You’ll break her heart if you do this.”
“Shsh, shsh.” He bent down to whisper in her ear. “Don’t you worry about that. I have it all planned out. She thinks I’m in New York right now. Some urgent call from my publisher in New York. Trust me Julia, by the time they find your body, I’ll be already back with my beautiful wife to provide me with a believable alibi. I even printed a confirmation number and left it conveniently there in the house. Believe me, Magdalena won’t know about any of this and we’ll move on with our life and hey, get started on those babies.”
“You’re sick, Jim.”
He chuckled and thrust the gun between her shoulders. “No, Julia I’m not sick. I’m just mad. You know people never really now what sparks that need to kill, for revenge. For me it was being denied the chance to have a relationship with my father again.”
“This…….this won’t bring your father back.” She’d begun to shake, the final moments were so near she could feel her lungs enjoying their last drags of air before dying.
“No, but it will give me a sense of justice. Now you won’t get a chance to get your life back just as I didn’t get a chance to get mine back with my father. But this has gone for so long now, in a few moments Damian is going to open that little surprise I sent him and he’ll wonder where you are.”
He thrust her against the floor, the skin on her right cheek getting scraped on the cement floor. Her shoulder got banged up and she closed her eyes as she heard the click of the gun.
All at once, these images of her childhood, Danny, of the first time she came here to La Providencia, her friends, meeting Damian, the fights with her parents, the plans she and Damian had made, her first book, everything until last night when she made love to Damian, accompanied her in her last minutes.
I love you Damian.