Written by Susan Dayley
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She snatched the can from him and took a short drink. Despite her growing panic, a jolt of caffeine might help her carry through with an escape. Behind him, the clock on the mantle looked heavy enough to knock him out, but too large to conceal behind her back. And the sharp edges might cut his skull. I’ve never been good around blood. She drank again. The pop tasted good. Next to the clock sat a basket filled with dusty eucalyptus leaves and dried berries. She took another drink.
“So your dad is my dad’s cousin? Then you are my uncle? No, that’s not right.” Her mind had trouble making sense. Maybe she could go outside and get some fresh air. Her head began to ache.
“Sit down,” he said. “You don’t look too good.”
He tugged at her elbow and she mechanically moved toward a sofa, but the motion made her dizzy. She let her knees bend until she sank into the leather cushion. She raised her head and tried to focus. Next to the basket on the mantle, just before a series of framed pictures, three white wooden candlesticks with white candles on them offered another choice. The candlesticks had smooth bulging curves. One of them would be perfect.
“Here, have another drink—it’ll clear your head,” he said, easing her elbow upward. What he said made no sense, but she drank anyway. Nothing is making sense. I need to get to the candlesticks.
She tried to think of something to say to distract Xavier. “When do I talk to my father? Is he on his way?” Chelo tried to stand up so she could walk casually toward the fireplace.
“Some friends are bringing a satellite phone. We’ll call him then.” Xavier spoke right next to her.
Why was the fireplace still across the room? She realized she hadn’t stood up yet. And then she looked at the picture closest to the candlesticks. She recognized Xavier, though he looked about fifteen. He held a gun casually across his chest. It wasn’t a hunting rifle. She’d seen that type of gun all her life back home.
He reached out and took the soda can from her just before she slumped backward. A thought hovered around her slipping consciousness, like smoke from her father’s cigars, then drifted away before the words could form. He drugged me.
When she’s not reading or writing, Susan loves to hike and garden. She is the author of Cold Pursuit, and Redemption, the story of Jonah.
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