The Lighthouse by Bill K

Chapter 12: "End Of Days"

        Loharo tugged and pulled at the rope binding her limbs behind her back. She gurgled her exertion and frustration through the gag taped into her mouth. Despite her efforts, she wasn't any closer to gaining her freedom than she was minutes ago when Daria Morgan and Arthur left the room. Sweat trickled down her brow and into her eyes and she shook her head as they stung. Her heart was thundering in her chest, both from her efforts and from the building fear of dying a fiery death, trapped on the second floor of the lighthouse keeper's cottage that would soon be engulfed by incendiary flares.

        She glanced up at them again, trying to see what the timer said. It was still no good. The timer was angled so she couldn't read it. As she struggled to free herself, Loharo could feel the bite of the cord as it raked the raw skin of her wrists. She shunted it to the back of her mind. The pain was inconsequential compared to the fate that awaited them.

        She had also shunted the muffled cries of her two fellow prisoners, Donna Young and Faith Connally. They shared her mounting fear, but listening to it wouldn't help anymore than listening to the complaints of the skin on her wrists. Again she tugged at her wrists, trying to will them to narrow just enough to slip through the loops around them. It was useless.

        Hands slapping on the floor finally drew Loharo's attention. She looked to the source and found Faith blindly trying to attract her attention. She would slap the floor a few times, then gesture with her hands for Loharo to come over to her. The exercise repeated because the blindfolded ex-cop couldn't tell if Loharo had seen her.

        "What is she doing?" wondered Loharo. Aloud, the black woman gurgled an unintelligible query.

        Faith responded, facing the direction the sound came from, by waving even more frantically. Finally, she planted her bound hands and bound feet and began inching in the direction she thought Loharo was in.

        "Why does she want to be next to me?" Loharo pondered, then tensed with sudden inspiration. "Maybe she can untie me if we're back to back!" Instantly Loharo dug in her heels and began scooting toward Faith. "God, I hope we've got enough time!"

        "You've got the directions?" Daria called to Arthur. Arthur nodded and climbed into the SUV loaded with the computers and essential papers they'd salvaged before abandoning the cottage. "Then go. I'll meet you at the new embarkation point."

        Daria climbed into the four seat mid-size she'd be using and started the engine. Each would take a different route to the new embarkation point, so as not to draw attention. Daria was less thrilled about arriving there than she was about leaving this antique little backwater and all the trouble it had visited to her life. For a moment, she considered just driving to Boston, hopping the first flight to Geneva and being done with this entire hair-brained plot. Easing along the coast road, the vast Atlantic to her left with Geneva in its horizon beckoning her, Daria wasn't able to come up with a reason not to do just that. The longer she went without a reason to stay, the more her whim seemed to her like a plan.

        "So tell me, cabbie, do ye know of a good restaurant in these parts? I'm simply famished."

        The voice sent a cold chill down Daria's spine. She didn't have to look in the rear view mirror to know Dennis Flynn had been hiding in the back seat, but she looked anyway. There he was, looking like he could expire at any time. However, he had strength enough to hold a pistol level at her head and the same insane glint in his eye that said he'd use it at the slightest provocation.

        "So where have you been?" Daria asked coldly, trying to bluff her way out.

        "Something unexpected came up," Flynn sneered, having none of it. "Didn't ye get my note?"

        She knew from the murderous look in his eyes he'd pieced together her plan to have him killed by the police, that he'd murdered Denise Thompson and left her as a warning. Daria forced herself to remain calm. He wouldn't kill her outright, not without playing with her first. That was his way. And that gave her a few minutes to wait for a chance to somehow escape this alive - - if she
remained calm.

        Robert Harrington was stopped along the coast road just outside of the village. One of the state police had found the remains of a camp. Harrington had looked it over and decided from the evidence - - blood smears, empty pistol cartridges and discarded packets of codeine - - that Dennis Flynn had been there.

He'd probably holed up in the small ravine just below the road to sleep and nurse his wound. It was sheltered from sight from both the road and the village, and had the road between it and the Atlantic, so it was protected from the sea air. Harrington had to nod in respect. Even wounded, Flynn knew how to survive.

        Most of the added forces were fanned out from the camp. Harrington stayed behind, trying to puzzle out where Flynn would have gone from there. He looked around the area. The village was a possibility; he might force some local to harbor him. It was just as likely, though, that he'd hijack a car and leave town.

        "Except he doesn't strike me as the type to let go of a fight," Harrington mused. "And this fight seems to involve Ms. Reeves. So sooner or later, he'll make another play for her. Maybe I'd better get over to her . . ." Harrington stopped in his tracks. "Hold on. She said she was headed for the lighthouse."

        Harrington headed up the ravine to the coast road and his car.

        Faith pressed her back into Loharo's and immediately began searching the woman's arms for the ropes around her wrists. Loharo held herself as still as possible. Though the situation was still thick with tension, there was some comfort in feeling Faith next to her. They'd been through so much in the past few days that Loharo was feeling a genuine bond forming between them.

        A glance at the incendiary made her blood run cold. She could see the timer now. There was one minute and forty-six seconds remaining. A tremulous scream was throttled by the gag in her mouth. Faith heard it - - she must have heard it - - but continued tearing at the knots holding her wrists behind her.

        "There's still time," Loharo told herself. "Even if the incendiary goes off, it'll take a few minutes for the room to become completely involved. There's still time."

        But she didn't really believe it. She glanced at Donna. Donna was curled up against one of the boxes of munitions. When the device went off, Donna would get the worst of it. Loharo tried to call out to her, but again the words were blocked. She wanted to jerk free and run to her friend, to try to save her. It took all of her will to keep herself still and allow Faith to work.
        One minute and twenty-two seconds. Blindfolded, Faith had no idea how close they were to death. Maybe it was better that way. It would keep her from hurrying, but it would keep her from panic as well. And Loharo was panicked enough for both of them.

        "Mmmmm mnnnngh!" murmured Loharo, trying to urge her friend along.

        It was becoming hard for her to take in enough air. Her chest didn't seem to want to work. Inadequate little gasps were all Loharo was able to manage. Methodically Faith tugged at the knots around Loharo's wrists. Holding still was becoming increasingly hard to do.

        One minute.

        Loharo thought of Chris. She thought of how just three days ago she'd been in his strong, caring arms and how right everything had been with the world. She thought of how she'd never get to feel his arms around her again; how she'd never again see his boyish smile, or the way he looked at her in awe when she walked across a room toward him; how she'd never smile again at his quick, biting wit or marvel at the unique view of the world he had and the insights from that view he would share with her. Tears welled up in her eyes.

        At forty-nine seconds, she felt the ropes around her wrists loosen. Fear for her life gave Loharo the strength and speed to tug her hands free with several violent jerks. Pulling and shrugging at the same time, the black woman shook the ropes from her upper torso. She gave herself a single second to glance at the timer.

        Forty-one seconds.

        As an inarticulate inquiry came from Faith, Loharo bent forward and reached for the knot to the ropes around her ankles. She found it and began tugging at it. Stubbornly, the knot resisted.

        "Come on!" thought Loharo, ripping at the knot. One of her fingernails bent back painfully, but the knot remained in place. "Come on!"

        Thirty-four seconds.

        "Come on!"

        Yielding at last to her persistence, the knot parted. When it was undone, Loharo tugged at the ropes until they were loose enough, then kicked out of them. She immediately grasped the knots holding her knees together. Her clothing was plastered to her skin and Loharo could feel herself overheating due to her overtaxed perspiratory system. That would be nothing, though, compared to what was to come if she didn't get free.

        Those knots weren't pulled as tightly and yielded on the first try. The last rope fell away and Loharo looked up.

        Six seconds.

        Loharo lurched forward before she had her legs underneath her and stumbled to the floor. Ignoring the protests of her entire body, she scrambled to her feet and stumbled to the incendiary bomb.

        Three seconds.

        Picking it up, she looked around the room.

        Two seconds.

        For a moment, she didn't know what to do with it. But if she didn't do something with it, the bomb was going to go off in her hands. Then she locked onto the window just beyond Faith. In the room's darkness, she hadn't noticed it. It was covered over with dark paper, but thankfully not boarded up.

        As the timer moved to one second, Loharo took two steps forward and hurled the bomb at the window. It sailed through the air, over Faith's head.

        "God," thought Loharo as time slowed to a crawl, "what if it doesn't break the glass?"

        "Ye thought ye had it all figured out, didn't ye?" Dennis said, working himself into a murderous rage. As he spoke, he rubbed the barrel of the pistol against the back of Daria's head. "Set me up to be killed, then just fold yer tents up and steal off into the night." He glanced at Daria's eyes in the rear view mirror. "But then, ye always thought ye were smarter than me. Other women have thought that. Do ye know what happened to them?"

        "I can imagine," Daria replied cautiously.

        "And there ye go again," snapped Dennis. "Speaking to me with that same flat tone, as if I'm some sort of animal in a zoo and yer there on holiday to look." He angrily jabbed the barrel into the back of her head. "What do ye say we find out just how big yer brain is?"

        "I wouldn't advise it while I'm driving."

        Dennis glared.

        "Ye just keep driving then," he whispered. "I'll let ye know when ye've finished being useful."

        Just then, a brilliant flash of light pierced the windows of the car. Dennis looked back and, for a brief moment, Daria saw her opening. Then the pistol jammed into the back of her head again and it passed.

        Harrington saw the brilliant flash as well. He altered his course from his vehicle to the direction of the flash. A few feet into the middle of the coast road he realized the flash had come from the lighthouse keeper's cottage.

Then he spotted the mid-size barreling down the road toward him. Straining his eyes to see who was driving, Harrington reflexively reached for his sidearm.

        "Good God," he whispered, spotting the man next to the woman he couldn't identify, "that's Flynn."

        "Christ, it's the copper that shot me!" spat Flynn. His gun hand shot out to the steering wheel and grabbed it with his last three fingers, holding onto the gun with his thumb and forefinger.

        "Are you out of your mind?" gasped Daria, her voice changing in timber as he jerked the wheel up and aimed the car for Harrington. It was the first time Flynn could ever remember hearing a tone to her voice.

        "Shut up, woman!" growled Flynn. He brought the pistol up hard against her face, momentarily stunning Daria. Fighting through the pain, she grasped the wheel again and tried to regain control.

        "My God, you'll kill us both!" Daria cried as she wrestled with Flynn for control of the car. He kept his course, though, and smiled grimly to himself. Not only was he going to run down the man who'd shot him, but he'd finally managed to get a reaction from the haughty Daria Morgan.

        Harrington could see the struggle, but couldn't do anything except dive out of the way. The careening car missed him by inches. It barreled onto the shoulder of the road, then hit some of the jutting rocks that lined the ocean side of the road. The car became airborne. It did a quarter rotation to the left as it cleaved space, then arced downward in slow motion before hitting the Atlantic with a loud thud grill first. Pulling himself up to his feet, Harrington raced over to see if anything could be done. However, the car was already engulfed past the back windshield and sinking fast into the ocean.

        "If I ever get me hands on that woman," fumed Faith as she rubbed circulation back into her legs. The breeze from the shattered window behind her was chill.

        Loharo pulled the gag out of Donna's mouth. She'd already freed the woman's arms.

        "Donna?" Loharo asked. "Are you hurt? Can you walk?"

        "Dunno," Donna squeaked dryly. "My legs are kind of rubbery. And I been tied up so long, I may have plum forgot how to walk."

        "We could call the Constable," offered Faith. "Have him pick us up here."

        "If it's all the same to you," Donna replied, "I want to get the hell outta here, even if I have to crawl out."

        "I'm with her," Loharo said. "If you can walk, Donna can lean on me."

        "We'll get out faster if she leans on us both," Faith said, climbing to a shaky stance on shaky legs.

        Dr. Englehart finished her examination of Donna Young. Loharo, Faith, and Robert Harrington were crowded in the small examination room, too, and Englehart had neither the strength nor the desire to kick them out. It had been a bizarre few days and she would be glad to see it end.

        "Doesn't seem to be any permanent damage," Englehart pronounced. "The bruising and chafing will go down in a few days. A good hot meal and some rest should do the trick." She noticed Donna's sullen demeanor. "If you need to talk about this, I'm here." She glanced at Loharo. "Or you could talk it out with Loharo. After all she's gone through during the past few days just to find you, I'd guess she's as good a friend as a person could have."

        Donna looked up at Loharo, grateful tears welling in her eyes. Loharo smiled.

        "I'll back that up," Harrington added. "I'd love to have someone that tenacious consider themself my friend. This whole case unraveled because she wouldn't abandon you."

        "Aye," added Faith. "She's a remarkable woman, and I've only known her for a few days."

        "I only did what I had to," Loharo replied, embarrassed.

        "Well, thank ya anyway, hon'," Donna replied. "I thought I was a goner for sure. Thought we all was." Donna looked downcast again. "I can't believe all this happened 'cause Mr. Grant wanted to invade Canada. They even said he put that double in fer me just 'cause he saw it in a movie." She swallowed. "What do ya think'll happen to Mr. Grant?"

        "He'll get some trouble for this," Harrington commented. "But men like Travis Grant don't stay in trouble for very long."

        "Aye, he'll throw some of his money around and smooth things over," Faith added.

        "It's too bad. He seemed like such a nice feller."

        The phone rang. After answering it, Dr. Englehart handed it to
Harrington. The conversation was short.

        "That was Ken," Harrington said. "They fished the car out of the Atlantic. Flynn and the Morgan woman were both inside, dead. Preliminary judgment is both parties impacted with the dashboard on impact with the water. They both went unconscious and drowned as the car sank. You'll have to confirm that, of course, Carol."

        "You're giving me way too much business, Bobby," Caroline mused grimly.

        "Don't I know it. It's too bad, too. The Morgan woman was our best link to Grant."

        Loharo noticed Faith begin to sag a little.

        "What's wrong?" she asked. "Isn't this what you wanted?"

        "Aye," whispered Faith. "The world's well rid of the bastard. I guess it's just now dawned on me that I've got nothing to go back to. No family, no job - - I doubt I've even got the fare to fly back." She gave a hideous smirk. "Although I'd be thinking that yer government'll be flying me back once they get wind that I'm here. And I didn't even get the satisfaction of killing the little ferret with me own hands."

        "There wouldn't have been any satisfaction in that," Harrington replied.

        The room fell silent.

        "Who says you have to go back?" Loharo asked.

        "Because me visa'll run out and I've got no legitimate reason to let me stay in this country," Faith replied incredulously.

        "Suppose you had a job here?"

        "Doing what?"

        "Constable," Loharo began, turning to Harrington with a look of
determination he was beginning to recognize. "Did you know Faith is a former Detective Inspector with the Londonderry police? Wouldn't you just love to have someone with that kind of experience on your staff?"

        "Um . . ."

        "Now just hold on, Loharo," Faith began.

        "No, you said yourself that you've got nothing to go back to and that this part of Maine reminds you some of Ireland. Here you'd have a job, a chance to start over, and at least one person you could count on as a friend."

        "Two," Donna chimed in. "Anybody Loharo likes is all right by me."

        "I think it's a great idea, Bobby," added Carol. "You're always complaining about not having enough staff."

        "All right, all right. I know when I'm outnumbered," muttered Harrington, throwing up his hands. "I'll try to sell it to the Mayor. Maybe I can use our recent 'crime wave' to convince him. And if that doesn't work, I'll just turn Ms. Reeves loose on him."

        Everybody laughed, except for Loharo, who was again embarrassed, and Faith, who stared gratefully at the woman.

        "Ye'd do that for me, a person ye've only known for a few days?"

        "A person who saved my life," Loharo reminded her. "A person who I've shared crisis times with. Yeah, I think you're good for it."

        "Ye have to be the most remarkable person I've ever witnessed," Faith said. "I'll try me best to live up to yer faith in me."

        Once they were all released, the trio of newfound friends escorted Faith to the bed and breakfast she was staying at. There she would stay until she could secure work and permanent resident alien status with the Immigration Service. After making sure she was all right, Donna and Loharo headed for her apartment.

        "Ya sure I ain't putting ya out?" Donna asked.

        "Don't even think such things," Loharo replied. "Where are you going to stay, the cottage?"

        "It ain't high on my list, but I gotta go back sometime."

        "Fine, you can go back when you're ready."

        "I'm a big girl, Loharo. I ain't been afraid of the dark since I was little."

        "OK," Loharo said measuredly, "you can keep me company."

        "You? Hell, I was so busy thinking about myself, I plum forgot what you went through. I'm sorry, girl."

        "It's all right," Loharo said, trudging slowly up the steps to her apartment. "I'm just being paranoid."

        "'Cause ya had your apartment broke into twice in a matter of days? I understand. What ya really need is Chris holding ya tight."

        Loharo sighed.

        "That's not going to happen. He's still in Augusta. He's going to be there for a few weeks." The woman grew melancholy. "But I do miss him - - a lot."

        "I know the feeling."

        Loharo opened her door, which had magically, but not unexpectedly, been repaired since the previous night's break-in, and entered. Inside, she found a large male presence waiting for her.

        "Hi, baby," Chris smiled, spreading his arms. "I got my business done early."

        "CHRIS!" squealed Loharo. The woman jumped into his arms and crushed herself to him. "Oh my god, I'm so glad to see you!"

        "I can see," Chris replied, startled by her overflow of ardor. "What brought this on?"

        "Talk later," Loharo mumbled as she pressed her mouth to his.

        Donna watched the two embrace with a widening smile on her face.

        "Don't y'all worry about me none," Donna said as she backed out of the door. "I'll let myself out. Y'all just keep doing what you're doing."

        Chris and Loharo did just that, barely hearing the click of the lock.

The End

Story is (c)2000 by Bill Kropfhauser

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