Night Child(8)

By: Ann Major

Quickly she shoveled everything, her food, the lamp, her scanty belongings under the ragged quilt and ran to hide behind the door.

A key turned in the lock, and she shrank against the wall as the door opened a crack. In the gray-black light she made out the glint of a gun barrel. Then she saw the immense outline of a masculine body.

It was the menacing stranger from the hall.

He was death's angel, and in an instant flash, she knew she was not ready to die.

He stepped into the room and approached the bed, speaking softly, almost beguilingly. He had come to kill her. She knew it.

He pointed his gun at the lump and kicked it. When it remained motionless he snatched the quilt aside.

She bolted outside, only to stumble over a slumped figure in the doorway and fall flat on her face on the dirt floor. Behind her she heard the merciless clamor of footsteps as the giant tracked her. She struggled to get up, but she was weakened from her imprisonment. As she crawled along the floor, the man lunged and dragged her back by the hair, falling on top of her, rolling with her. When they were still, he pinioned both her wrists above her head, with one hand. Straddling her waist with his thighs, he held her down. All she could do was kick and flail the air helplessly with her legs. Still she fought him, twisting in his hold, her soft body like a sweet devouring flame wherever any part of him touched her.

In breathless English, he whispered, "Honey, don't make me hurt you."

Through the haze of her terror, his words made no impression. Aslam had spoken English, too. She kept struggling, so he tightened his grip. Her arms went numb.

She felt the warm grizzle of the man's unshaven cheek against her face. She heard his ragged whisper, "Julia,'s Kirk. Don't fight me."

Names from the past.... They meant nothing.

Memories assailed her and were gone, vanishing into a mist of whiteness and terror. Kirk... Julia... What did they mean? Who did they belong to, these names? The flashes of light? They had to do with nightmares. Her head throbbed dully.

All she knew was that this monster who held her down was some living figment from a long-forgotten nightmare that had been more horrible than even her present terror. He had said he would come back, and he had.

She struggled more fiercely than before.

"Damn," he muttered. "I didn't want to do this."

He wrapped a cord around her hands and bound them behind her back. Then he stuffed a wad of clothing into her dry mouth and gagged her. Her eyes flared with new hatred as he yanked her unceremoniously to her feet and pushed her forward. When she stumbled on her bad foot, he leaned over, examined it and uttered a low curse. When she cringed from his rough probing, he slung her over his shoulders as if her weight was nothing and stalked down the hall.

As he bore her up the stairs to a fate too horrible to contemplate, her tortured mind went mercifully black.

* * *


Fiery waves of pain, radiating from Dawn's ankle, brought her whimpering back to consciousness. Her mouth was dry and sore from some hideous cloth that seemed to work like a dirty sponge, soaking up what little moisture had remained in her parched tissues. Thin cords cut into her wrists like knives.

The narrow room was hotter than the cell where she'd been imprisoned before, and it stank with some gagging smell from a dark smoke sifting through a glassless window. But at least the brilliant moonlight cast her surroundings in a silver half light, and she was no longer in the dark.

Then she saw him, the cause of all these new miseries, the malevolent giant who'd accosted her on the stairs. He was dressed in his long black robes with a black kaffiyeh draped rakishly over his head, its folds concealing his face. He was leaning his great male body nonchalantly against a wall as he shoved a cartridge into a long-barreled gun. He set the gun down for a second and took a lengthy swig from a goatskin jug.

She could hear the liquid sloshing in the jug as he drank from it carelessly, and her dry tongue flailed against the wad of cotton stuffed in her mouth.

He set the jug down and licked his lips. Even in the dim light, she could see a pearly droplet glisten on his mouth before he smeared it away with the back of a long-fingered brown hand. The lip of the jug glimmered with the same wetness.

Her thirst was like a dry ache in her sore mouth. She could feel it burning in every parched crack of her lips.

The swilling, thoughtless pig! She shivered with hatred.

He gave not a thought to her comfort, not a thought to the possibility of her thirst. She could be dead for all he cared. Instead, he turned his attention to his weapon. She didn't know anything about guns, but as she watched his deft movements, his nimble expertise, she knew he must surely be a professional killer.