"Thanks for the lift this evening,
Harriet cast her chauffeur a warm smile, slipping her purse over her
shoulder and leaning across to open the door of the car. "I appreciate
it - though I'm not sure Eric intended for you to take my safety this
seriously, you know."
"Well, he is the boss." Errol joked. Then he became serious.
"Listen, Harri, men like that - they're trouble waiting to happen.
You're a nice girl. Don't let it happen to you."
"Eric?" Harriet paused, looking startled. "Errol, you and I both know
that he's my..."
"No, I don't mean Eric." Errol shook his head. "He's a different kind
of trouble, but he's one who takes good care of you and sees we all do
the same, that's for sure. No, I meant this guy who's been sleazing on
you so much lately. Those kinds of men...they're not to be trusted
under any circumstances. No matter what they say."
"I'm aware." Harriet said grimly. "Believe me, Errol, I'm not as nice a
girl as you think I am. I've encountered men like him before and
probably will until I get wrinkled and old. Jerks like him only see one
thing when they look at a woman - meat."
"Well, I know you're tougher than you look." Errol smiled. "And you
know that we're always looking out for you too. I didn't give you a
ride home tonight because Eric asked me to, Harri. I did it because I
wanted to. I'd miss you, if anything happened to you. You always make
"Well, I'm glad someone would." Harriet chuckled. "All right. I guess
I'll be back in the shackles tomorrow as well, so I'll see you then.
Eric's coming to the club tomorrow, I think, for his monthly review -
so I'll be catching a ride with him, most likely. I should be fine now
She leant over to kiss Errol on the cheek.
"But you're a sweetheart for worrying." She added. "I'm glad I've got
friends who'll look out for me."
With that she pushed open the passenger door, stepping out onto the
tarmac. With a wave, Errol reversed his vehicle into the drive, turning
around and pulling back onto the road, racing away into the distance.
Harriet paused to glance at her watch in the dim light of the street
lamp. It was almost four o' clock. Eric would be in bed.
Fumbling in her bag for her house key, she headed up the drive, humming
softly under her breath as she reached to slide it into the lock. Then
she paused, a frown touching her features as she realised it was
already ajar. Gingerly she pushed against the panelling of the door,
watching with some misgivings as it swung cleanly away beneath her
touch. A dark, unwelcoming hallway greeted her, and she swallowed hard,
fighting against the flickers of panic that ran up her spine.
"It's late. He's in bed." She whispered, as shards of long suppressed
memories hastened unbidden into her mind. "He's asleep. It's dark out.
He wouldn't be waiting for you...not like this. What's wrong with you,
girl? You're giving yourself the creeps over nothing!"
She shut the door behind her with a firm click, reaching along the wall
for the switch to plunge the hall-way into light and colour.
All was quiet, but as she stepped cautiously along the carpet, a
strange smell assailed her nose and she frowned, sniffing the air.
"What the...?" She murmured. "That smells like gasoline! What the heck
was Eric doing here this evening?"
She glanced down at the floor, muttering a curse as she realised her
soft beige shoes were stained at the base with a thick, tarry liquid.
"Oh, someone's going to pay for this." She decided. "Those were some of
my best shoes, as well! Eric Raymond, wait till I get my hands on
She pushed open the door of the lounge, flicking on the light and
stopping dead mid-sentence as she registered the scene before her. A
notebook and pen lay discarded on the floor, pages every which way, and
one of the bookshelves had been pulled over, spilling books all over
the carpet. Drawers were pulled open, and papers tossed this way and
that, making a paperchase across the dark green of the carpet.
As she moved into the room, a cry escaped her lips as she made out
something dark and still behind the couch and she hurried towards it,
stumbling and kicking off the shoes that moments earlier had been her
prime concern. As she reached the couch, she registered the thick, dark
pool of liquid that had begun to spread across the floor in a dented
arc and her face paled.
"Sweet mother of God." She whispered, dropping to her knees beside the
still form. "Eric
Eric, speak to me! Speak to..."
She trailed off, brushing the tip of her finger across his chest. His
shirt was torn and spattered with blood, and she swallowed hard,
feeling sick to her stomach as she registered the gaping bullet wound
over his heart. She fumbled for a pulse, but his skin was cold to her
touch, and the blood had already begun to congeal across his body. The
heart had long since ceased to beat and though his eyes stared upwards
in surprise and alarm, they were glazed and sightless.
Tears of fear and grief sprung into her eyes and she muttered every
single curse word she could think of, rummaging frantically in her bag
for her mobile phone.
"Godammit, I warned you about rich people. I warned you about that
Gabor woman." She muttered as she tossed the contents of her purse
every which way in her hunt for it. "Eric, I warned you! I damn well
warned you that people aren't to be...why didn't you listen to me? Why
didn't you listen when I said you could get hurt? Dammit, now look
where it's got you! And what's going to happen to me, now? Without
you...what am I going to do? And where's my phone? Don't tell me I left
it behind the bar again!"
She dropped the bag to the floor, reaching a shaky hand towards the
corpse and sliding her fingers into the cold, stiff fist of the man who
had taken her in.
"Tell me this wasn't my fault." She whispered. "God, tell me I didn't
bring this on you, Eric...tell me it wasn't because of me."
"Touching, but it has very little to do with you."
A firm hand clamped down on her shoulder at that moment and she spun
around, meeting amused blue eyes with her own scared ones. "Hello,
Harriet. We meet again...isn't that a coincidence?"
!" Harriet wrenched
herself away, groping across the floor for her pepper spray, but the
man kicked it under the sofa, reaching out to grasp her around the
wrists. "From the club! Did you do this, you son of a bitch? Did you
kill him? Did you
"Yes." The man said matter-of-factly. "You know, I had expected you
He jerked a foot towards the body, nudging his toes against Eric's
head. "He sure worked you long hours, didn't he? Or are you having a
bit of fun on the side? Is that why you were so late? Can't say I blame
you. Young girl like you? No way an old guy like this could keep up."
"Let go of me." Harriet's voice shook. "I know the kind of man you are
and I am not going anywhere with you!"
"You're not being very friendly." The man sounded amused. "After I
waited all this time for you, as well. I'm hurt, Harriet. Very hurt."
"How do you know my name? Did he
send you?" Harriet struggled valiently against his grip, but he held
her fast. "Let me go! Let me go or I'll kick you, I swear!"
"Sheesh, what is this?" The man looked surprised. "Is everyone out to
get you both? Your friend here listed a veritable litany of potential
people who might want him dead...now you, too? You are popular, I must
say...but I don't know what 'he
you might be talking about. This may be a surprise to your vacant
little head, but not everything in the world revolves around you."
He appraised her thoroughly and she recoiled from him, spitting in his
"Don't even think it." She warned. "I told you once. I'm not someone to
mess with. I'm not a nice girl, whoever you are. And you've just
murdered someone who meant a lot to me. So you'd better have a damn
death wish, because..."
"Do you want to be blown up with this house?" The man cut across her,
reaching up his free hand to wipe his cheek. "Because in a few minutes
I'm going to set this whole joint alight and the flames are going to be
seen for miles."
He ran his finger across her brow, and she flinched away from his touch.
"Besides, I know already what kind of a woman you are, Harriet." He
said, unconcerned by her hostility. You're a prostitute and you've
earnt your money from seducing unsuspecting men for a long time. I've
probably done you a favour, knocking Grandpa here out of the picture
for you. You'd think he'd leave you his money, after all. Now if you're
really desperate to stay here and burn to death, that's up to you...but
you have another choice. You can come with me and get out of this hell
hole. I promise you it'd be something you wouldn't forget."
"I'm no such thing!" Harriet struggled once more. "And I don't want to
go anywhere with you!"
"Well, that's a shame." The man tut-tutted. "I was going to kill you
anyway, but I did want to have some fun with you first. I guess it will
be a bit more feisty if I have to tie you down, won't it?"
He grabbed her more roughly, pulling her towards the door and despite
herself, fear began to flood through Harriet's body in waves.
"Let me go!" She exclaimed. "Let me go or I'll scream! I'll scream like
hell, I promise you!"
"Noone will care." The man said cruelly. "People don't bother over
murdered prostitutes, just like they don't shed tears over killed drug
dealers or slaughtered fat cats. This is the big city. Noone is going
to miss you here, you know."
"Why are you doing this?" Tears spilled down Harriet's cheeks. "What
did Eric ever do to you? If you weren't sent by...if it wasn't...why?"
"Because someone paid me a lot of money to get rid of some very
irritating people." The man said calmly. "You...well, that's my own
personal bonus. But it's not really anything to do with you."
"Phyllis Gabor? Was it her? Was it that woman who sent you?"
"Gabor?" The man let out a low chuckle. "No, my dear. It's a lot more
twisted than that, believe me. No, I wouldn't work for a Gabor...not in
this lifetime or the next."
He touched her cheek again.
"By the way, I'm Adam." He said with a smile. "Or Jake. Or whoever you
want me to be. Eric, if you like. You tell me. It'll be all the more
fun if you do."
He reached into his pocket for his cigarette lighter, holding her
firmly in his other arm as he flicked the flame on, waving it
tauntingly beneath her nose.
"Say goodbye to your house and your lover." He whispered. "They won't
be here much longer."
With that he muscled her into the hall, forcing her out of the front
door as he tossed the lighter into the building. Grabbing her more
firmly with both hands, he dragged her forcibly across the tarmac to
his waiting vehicle, and no matter how much she fought, she could not
get free. Drawing a desperate breath of air into her lungs, she
struggled to cry out but his grip across her ribcage was too tight and
all she could do was gasp out the words.
Then, as they reached his vehicle, there was a tremendous bang from the
house and both captor and captive were sent sprawling across the
ground, metres from the intruder's car. For a moment his grip on her
was loosened and Harriet, tears and mud streaking her face and her
clothes took her chance, struggling to her feet and running helter
skelter away from where the stunned man still lay in the dirt. Near
hysterical with fright and grief, she ran headlong into the night, not
knowing or caring where she was going or where she would end up.
As she reached the end of the third road, a slither of a coherent
thought began to nestle in her brain.
"He said she wasn't behind it." She gasped out as she paused to draw
ragged breaths of air into her panicked lungs. "And Eric said she...she
wasn't to be messed with. He's going to kill me if he finds me! He'll
hurt me and then he'll kill me and I've nowhere to go now Eric is dead.
Now the house is gone...now everything is gone."
She set off at a run again, doing her best to blank out the stabbing
stitch that tormented her as she went. The uneven ground tore into her
stockinged feet but she dared not stop, frightened that at any moment
she would feel that strong grip on her shoulder once again. The thought
mingled in her mind with earlier memories, confusing her and making her
even more afraid.
At length she could run no more, and as she staggered to a halt, she
realised that she had reached one of Eric's club complexes. With her
last bit of energy she forced open the rear delivery door, crawling
through the opening and into the chilly back room. Then she collapsed
against the wall as the tears overwhelmed her. Sinking down onto the
ground, she buried her head in her arms, too tired and too afraid to
run any further. As her sobs quieted into shuddering breaths, one idea
alone flickered in and out of her head.
Eric was dead. And only one family in this angry, dangerous city could
possibly help her now.
The family Gabor.
DEAR FATHER: PART ONE
Two: Heading North
Three: First Show
Four: A Hotel Scare
Six: Eric's Gambit
Seven: Under The Radar
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