“Drop the gun, Jim.”
Damian crouched from the upper balcony that ran on each side of the walls inside the warehouse. From his position he could see Julia’s body face down on the ground, and Jim’s body with his right hand held straight out with the gun. Even from here, Damian could tell Jim’s hand had begun to shake. He clearly had not anticipated the interruption.
Still, when he spoke his detached voice sent a torrent of cold sweat down his spine. When Julia’s head moved slightly up to try and locate where his voice was coming from, Damian felt himself breath ever since Raul had pointed at the abandoned warehouse, where they used to have their high school dances.
“If it isn’t prince charming himself. You know Damian, I really thought you’d be strong but it’s amazing what good sex can do to you. One tumble with this one and you’re all over each other again. Too bad. I was enjoying the whole revenge angle. You know, buying the house from where Benjamin Andersson himself never let you set foot in. I mean, if you think about it, Benjamin Andersson treated you like crap, or so I’ve been told by Madgalena. And then there’s the whole tortured lovers tale, so dramatic.”
He could see Julia squirm as she continued to lie down there. Damian continued to move from the open window where he’d climbed in, to the stairs that led to the bottom floor. The entire upper floor was covered in dust, there were some scattered old wooden rotting chairs and rusted metal hinges and broken glass from the windows.
When they’d gotten to the warehouse, Raul had pointed to a side wall, where a mount of branches, mud and trash no one had bothered to clean up, stood just high enough for them to reach the hole for the missing window. Damian had been all for storming through the front door but Raul made him see that any brusque movement and Jim might kill Julia, if he hadn’t hurt her yet.
Raul had circled around the other way opposite Damian while Felix had stayed out waiting for Chief Ramos and his men.
“Put the gun down Jim. I’m sure we can talk about it.” His voice sounded steady, confident, but inside Damian was hanging by a thread. Just the sight of a gun pointed at Julia had his stomach rolling with nausea.
“Oh, don’t you worry. We’ve talked about it. Dear Julia and myself. And she knows now why she has to die.” Jim walked over to Julia and pulled her to her feet, the sudden change of position sending sharp knives of pain into her upper body.
“It’s okay, Julia. Everything is going to be okay.”
Damian had already reached the stairs and was making his way down, without making a sound. Jim’s head kept moving right and left then up as he tried to locate his position.
Finally, Damian was in the same floor level. He had no cover except the walls that lined each side of the stairs. He needed to get Jim away from Julia.
“Are you really willing to risk your life for her?” Jim pushed her in front of him, using her now as a human shield in case Damian had not come alone. Julia struggled under his hold, the labored breaths coming from her igniting a need to protect her so strong, Damian had to ball his fists before doing anything stupid.
Jim waited for a reply. When none came, he carried on. “You really think she’s going to stay with you? The guy who cheated on her ten years ago? You think Julia will give up her brand new found success as a writer, her lifestyle in New York just to come and waste away in some God forsaken town? Oh and let’s not forget, to become the unwilling mother of the child product of your infidelity. I have to say that was genius. Too bad that instead of using your brain now, your using your dick. That is going to get you killed as well. Guess I won’t be the only one who’ll be without a father.”
“Damian, just go!” Julia said, frantic. If something happened to him she’d never forgive herself.
“Yes, listen to her.”
“Oh, we’re not going anywhere.”
Oh my God. Julia felt Jim’s hold falter as Raul’s voice resounded around them. Though part of her was relieved they’d found her, she was afraid either of her friends, because there was no way Felix hadn’t come to, would do something stupid and end up getting hurt.
“If it isn’t the rest of your lame friends. You really know how to manipulate people Julia. After neglecting them for ten years, they are now going to die because of you. Many children are going to grow without their fathers it seems.”
Jim moved to the center of the room. Julia spotted a movement from the corner of her eye and she felt herself almost faint when Damian stepped out from the shadows, his hands up in the air. His stare never leaving hers, while he stole several glances towards Jim and the gun he now he held against her temple.
“I’m here, Julia.”
In that instant, when their eyes found each other, Julia saw Damian was trying desperately to find a way out. Julia hoped that the defeat she felt wasn’t visible in hers.
Pearls of sweat were glistening from Jim’s forehead. It was obvious Jim wasn’t as stable as before. He was nervous and it was painstakingly clear he hadn’t factored in the interruptions. Damian dreaded he might feel cornered and start shooting at them, maybe even killing himself in the end.
Jim shoved Julia aside. She landed on her knees, where she stayed on all fours, her eyes going wide in horror when Jim aimed the gun right in the middle of Damian’s chest.
“No, Jim, please.” She begged. “This is just between you and me.”
But he didn’t say anything back. Julia felt the scream logged inside her throat. She had to do something, anything. Only that someone beat her up to it. It all happened so fast, the sequence of events developed in a blur inside her mind. She barely had time to react.
From somewhere above them, an object came down flying through the air, hitting Jim on the head, causing his stance to wobble and for the gun to drop from his hand. The metallic object clattered noisily on the floor. She held her breath as she saw Damian go for it.
Damian didn’t even think. He simply launched himself towards the gun. His grip tightened around the weapon but Jim’s body landed on top of him, as the deranged man had recovered quickly from the knock to his head. One side of his temple was starting to bleed, and tiny drops left crimson splotches on the floor as both men began a struggle for the gun.
Julia couldn’t move. Her muscles had locked down from sheer shock. Both men panted and cursed as they continued to struggle and roll on the floor, each time the gun falling from one or the other’s grasp. An aggressive dance of fists as Damian broke Jim’s nose and he in return cut open above Damian’s eyebrow.
Julia urged her muscles to respond. But just as she was balancing back on her toes to stand up, Jim used his knee to ram it into Damian’s groin. The guttural sound that came out from him told Julia he wouldn’t recover in time. He curled into a ball as Jim stood up and kicked him in the stomach.
Julia went back to her knees and crawled over to where Damian lay, his face contorted in pain. The blood from his eyebrow slid down the side of his eye.
“Fucking bastard.” Damian panted.
“I think I’ve wasted enough time with this nonsense.” Jim had the gun again in his hands but instead of shooting at them he whirled to the direction where Damian had come from and pulled the trigger. The fatal sound shook Julia to the bone. Her face bleached when she saw Raul fall to the ground, as he’d probably been waiting to sneak up on Jim.
Had he moved out of the way in time or had the bullet gotten him?
Raul’s cry of pain was followed by a “son of a bitch.”
“Raul? Oh, God, are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” His voice sounded strained and for Julia at least, the fact that she got a response was a good sign.
Jim didn’t seem put out by this, though instead of walking over to where Raul lay, he came to stand mere inches away from where Julia was next to Damian. He aimed the gun at Julia and said. “Say hello to your father in hell for me Julia.”
Damian moved his body to shield hers and didn’t flinch away when his stare collided with Jim’s manic one, before a trigger was pulled.
A shot was fired. Julia felt Damian’s body tense as she shut her eyes. Afterwards, she was thrown into a cone of silence. She saw red and shiny dots dancing inside her closed eyelids; images of Damian’s lifeless body swirled inside her mind. Then, from some faraway place, the echo of someone calling her name mingled with male moans of pain, followed by the cold, hard surface shaking under her. It took several more shakes for Julia to realize it wasn’t the earth that was moving but her body. Someone was shaking her by the shoulders while they called her name urgently. The moans continued.
He’s hit. He hit Damian, he………
“Julia. Julia. Open your eyes.”
That voice. It was what made her open her eyes and find Damian’s dark pupils fixed on her. The blood from the cut above his eye was drying up. Her eyes skittered down to inspect his body but there was no visible red stain that indicated where the bullet had entered. He was kneeled down in front of her, the faraway voice finally connecting with his mouth moving.
Dazed, Julia said nothing but turned her head around. It was in that instant she noticed the commotion going on around her. Paramedics were taking Raul out from the warehouse through the only entrance. There was a stain of red on his left arm below the shoulder. When her mouth opened and a strangled sound came out, Damian eased her worry.
“He’s fine. The bullet just grazed his arm. He’s going to be fine.”
Julia continued to take in the scene before her. Felix stood a few feet from them, next to Chief Ramos. Felix was shaken up, and his eyes did, too, wander to their friend being carted away. When his eyes found her, he gave her a feeble smile, and she returned the gesture.
The second man next to him, Chief Ramos watched over as another couple of paramedics treated Jim, who was on the floor. His flailing arms impeding the paramedics to get a look at his calf. That was the source of the moans.
Damian saw the question dance in her eyes, and he said. “Just before he fired his gun, Ramos came in from behind and shot him in the leg. Jim fell down and the police with Felix stormed into the warehouse. It’s over now Julia.”
Maybe it was the many emotions that had ripped her apart in the last few hours. Fear, anger, shock, then back again to fear when she thought she’d lost Damian. The tears rushed out and she didn’t bother to diminish the sound of her sobs. He simply let her put her head on his shoulder while his hand caressed her back, and said over and over again. “It’s okay, it’s okay. We’re okay.”