AL BRUNO III
Thursday November 8th 1996
Isobel flicked on the bathroom lights and winced at her reflection. Less than twelve hours on the lamb and she looked like she'd been on the run for twelve years. Her hair was a limp tangle, her eyes were ringed with dark circles and wherever she wasn’t bandaged she was bruised.
"Cheryl?" she called out.
"Is everything all right?" Cheryl was instantly at the bathroom door.
"Yes." Isobel tired to put a smile in her voice, "I'm just going to wash up a little in the sink.”
"Sure...I'll make us something to eat."
Isobel's stomach rumbled at the thought, all she'd had since last night was those four beers out of Cheryl's fridge. The scary thing was she didn't even feel the slightest buzz. Isobel took a washcloth and wet it down with warm water. Then she stripped the rest of the way down to her underwear. She couldn’t help but think about her bathroom misadventure a day and a half ago.
Goosebumps rose in response- even now. She pressed the hot cloth to her skin, feeling the warmth, breathing in steam mist. Isobel groaned with relief and ran the cloth down over her face. When it started to cool she gave it another dose of water each time hotter than the last. She ran the cloth down her chin and along her neck.
What were they? She wondered again. Ms. Ginnmett and Mr. Sauno had been like something out of one of those Terminator movies. Except those monsters had sported metal skeleton under their skin, not grooved gray shapes that hissed and clicked against each other.
And beyond that three was the discolored blood and their incongruous demeanors- the way they had called Galen ungrateful.
What was that about?
Isobel warmed the cloth again and ran it over her shoulders and breasts, drops and water stained the edges of her bra. She ran the cloth tenderly over her stomach, staying well away from the wound on her side. Cheryl still suspected that she might need stitches but Isobel wasn’t ready to risk a hospital.
Not too many dead girls show up in the emergency room do they?
Were Ms. Ginnmett and Mr. Sauno so sure of themselves that they were already listing her among the dead?
Or worse yet was it just a way to run her to ground? Isobel imagined that her credit cards and bank accounts were now inaccessible, and how long would it be before some sharp eyed police officer noticed the dead girl’s car tooling around town?
She wrung the cloth out and warmed it again, now it was her legs she gave the once over. The bruises they sported were particularly ugly.
At first she had thought the police would merely be helpless protect her but now it looked worse than that, it looked like they were in on it. It was the stuff of paranoid fantasies come to life.
Galen, she thought. He tried to protect me. He came back for me.
But where was he now? She’d lost him again in her panic.
Isobel wrung the cloth out a final time and set it on the side of the sink. Then she went and knelt beside the tub, she twisted the water and let it jet out until it was just hot enough. Then she ducked her head beneath the stream.
All this… She thought to herself ...all this over a few moments of pleasure. Mom would be so pleased.
"Run if you want. We'll catch up to you later."
All the hot water in the world couldn’t take the chill out of those words. And what did she have to protect her from that promise? Two guns, one empty, one at least a bullet short, a stolen billfold and a half tank of gas.
You’re screwed girl, face it.
"Isobel!" Cheryl's voice rang out with panic.
“Oh no.” Isobel straightened, wet hair falling down around her face and water dripping down her back.
At the second cry Isobel started to run out of the bathroom, realized she was in her underwear and doubled back to grab a bathrobe. Then she bolted into the hall to found Cheryl holding a man at gunpoint.
It was Galen.
He found me.
It took a few moments to get everything back under control and most of that involved finding a way to make Cheryl stop pointing the automatic at Galen.
Once everyone was calm and disarmed the questions began.
“How did you find her?” Cheryl asked, “How did you know she was here?”
“I got lucky.” Galen said, “I recognized her car.”
“So what you’re telling me is that aside from everything else you’re also a shitty liar.”
Isobel raised a hand, “Who were those… those people Galen?”
Galen said, “They’re spies and assassins.”
“They’re not human.”
“No they’re not.”
“And what,” Cheryl asked, “did you do to warrant an assassination?”
"My entire family was murdered.” Galen said, “I managed to escape but they’ve been after me ever since.”
Isobel nodded with understanding, then asked, “But why did they call you ungrateful?”
“Because I wouldn’t go quietly. They thought they were doing me a favor.”
“Were they?” Cheryl asked.
“Come on Cheryl.” Isobel said, “Back off a little.”
Isobel asked, “Ginnmett and Sauno, who do they work for?”
Galen looked away, “They call themselves the Monarchs.”
“What are they?”
“It isn’t that easy to explain.”
Cheryl snorted, “There’s a lot of that going around lately.”
“What are we going to do now?” Isobel asked.
Galen and Cheryl both spoke at the same time, “We?”
“Whatever this is,” Isobel explained, “I’m in it with you.”
“Not necessarily.” Galen said, “If I leave they might just follow me and forget you.”
Cheryl nodded, “Now that’s the first sensible thing I’ve heard all day.”
“Galen,” Isobel said, “the news is already saying I'm dead. If I stay here I probably will be.”
“You could try. You don’t know anything about this guy besides the size of his prick.”
"Isobel." Galen broke in, "Your friend is obviously concerned for you and it's understandable-"
"Hey! I don't need any help." Cheryl snapped.
Galen became quiet as though he was considering something, then he said, "I know a place. We could be safe there."
Cheryl crossed her arms, "Then why aren't you there now?"
“It isn't easy to get to”
“Where is it?” Isobel asked.
Galen replied, “The Catskill mountains.”
Cheryl rolled her eyes, “It just gets better and better doesn’t it?”
"Are you sure?" Isobel asked.
He shrugged, "It's our only chance. We’ll need a car.”
“We can use mine.”
“They’re probably looking for yours.”
“Ok… Ok…” Isobel wrung her hands as she thought.
“Isobel.” Cheryl said, “You can’t be serious about this.”
“You didn’t see them.” Isobel said, “I can't face them again...”
“This is insane.”
“My parents!” Isobel said, “Their Lincoln is in the garage. They wouldn’t leave the keys with the brother but my Dad left a set with me just in case.”
Galen nodded approvingly.
“And my parents have about two thousand dollars in the safe in their bedroom."
"You know the combination?" Galen asked.
"My Dad trusts me a lot." she answered with a pang of guilt.
"You’re serious about this aren’t you?" Cheryl said.
"I'm going with him."
“Fine,” Cheryl sighed with resignation, "then I'm going too. And no buts loverboy, not one."
Galen spoke cautiously, “Not a one.”
“Great.” Cheryl said, “I’ve got a few more clips of ammo in the kitchen.”
Isobel brightened again, “Oh and I almost forgot. I’ve got these too.” She handed the velvet drawstring bag and billfold to Galen.
He held them in his hands his expression souring, “Where did you get these?”
“I was looking for you. Back were we first... met.” Isobel explained, “There was a man in the woods.”
“Michlyund.” Galen said, “His name was Michlyund.”
“Oh God.” Isobel said, “Was he your friend? I thought he was with them…”
“Not your fault.” He pocketed the wallet, “He would have wanted me to have these…”
He unknotted the drawstring bag and spilled some of the contents into the palm of his hand. Isobel marveled at the gemstones, they were dark, and beautiful. “Are those real?” she asked.
“Black rubies.” Galen said, “The coin of the realm.”
Reloading the pistol, Cheryl came out of the kitchen, “Let’s get this show on the road before I come to my senses… What the Hell are those?”