Part One: North Of The Border
Chapter Eight: Flight

"I'm surprised to see you here tonight, Harri."

As Harriet pushed open the door to the club, she cast a grin at the man who had spoken, shrugging her shoulders.

"Eric said he couldn't spare me here another night, so I traded in my free time." She replied. "How's it been lately? Busy?"

"If you mean, has that jerk been back here, not the last night or so." The man shook his head. "We've been keeping our eyes open, don't worry...but he won't be allowed to come near you. You know Eric's always been very specific on that front."

"I know." Harriet nodded, suppressing a shiver at the memory. "It's fine, really. I'm a big girl, Errol. I can defend myself...I've got my pepper spray in my bag. I just don't want to create a scene in the club, that's all. Bad for business, as the boss would say."

"Well, we're on the case anyway." Errol laughed. "So you can just get on with your night's work."

He cast his friend a sidelong glance.

"Where have you been the last few nights, anyway?" He asked. "Boss's protection, or something else?"

"That's for me to know." Harriet said playfully. "And none of your business, you know that."

She pulled her apron off the peg, tying it around her waist.

 "And now, we've both got work to do." She said simply. "So let's get to it!"

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *    * 

So, on to phase two.

Eric sat back in his chair, rubbing his chin thoughtfully as he ran back over the previous night's conversation with his daughter in his head. Though she had been cold and disdainful, he knew he had rattled her.

"Which is so much to the good, though I haven't exactly got the biggest window of opportunity for all of this." He spoke the words aloud, pulling himself to his feet and padding across the living room floor to the window, pausing for a second to glance out at the busy street outside. Then he pulled the heavy curtains across, turning his back on the city as he focused his mind on his next mode of attack.

As he did so, a frown touched his lips.

"Sometimes Harriet is useful, but other times I wish she wouldn't try and grasp things that are beyond her years and her intelligence." He murmured, reaching for his notepad from the top of the unit and grabbing a pen out of the pot on the desk. "There's nothing in business without a calculated risk, after all. That's part of the fun. And besides, I read people much better than she thinks. That girl is half Pizzazz's daughter, but she's also half mine. There must be a hint of business interest in her somewhere. I'll get to it."

He sighed.

"But it's better Harriet isn't involved from hereon in." He acknowledged to himself. "Before she makes a liability of herself."

He took the lid from the pen, pausing, and then scrawling the words "Dear Emily" in clear, concise letters across the top of the page. After a moment of hesitation, he wrote quickly, covering one sheet and turning it over to use the back. At length he was finished, rummaging in his drawer for an envelope and folding the single sheet in half and half again. Sliding it into the envelope, he wrote his daughter's name in block capitals, followed by the address and stamp. Licking the back, he sealed it shut, and for a moment just sat there, as if debating whether or not to send it.

Harriet's words echoed in his head, and his frown deepened.

"She's just a girl." He said aloud. "This is between me and my daughter, and Harriet's no older than Emily. Don't get distracted by feeble female wailings now, Eric...Starlight Music has eluded you for too long and this is the best chance you'll ever have of recovering it!"

To think was to act, and he got to his feet, heading out to the mailbox to slip his letter inside. As he did so, he caught sight of the postman doing his evening round, and he raised his hand in a wave. The man crossed the street, casting him a grin.

"Evening, Mr Raymond." he said warmly. "Letter to be sent?"

"Yes. As soon as possible." Eric held the letter out. "Postage is paid."

"I'll see it gets there." The postman winked, taking it from him and sliding it into the bottom of his bag. "Good night, Mr Raymond."

"Night, Ralph." Eric returned the smile with a professional one of his own. He watched the postman disappear out of sight, then turned on his heel, heading slowly back towards his open front door.

"Done deal now." He mused with a smile. "Out of my hands and well out of Harri's worrying ones, thank goodness. There's no harm in a letter."

As he shut the door behind him, there was an echoing click from the lounge and he froze where he stood, listening.

For a moment, nothing in the house moved, and he drew a slow, calming breath into his lungs as he berated his paranoia.

"Harriet and her heebie jeebies." he muttered. "She's starting to get to me with all her talk about rich people. Get a grip, Eric. You don't need a silly girl's fantasies."

He pushed open the door of the lounge, striding across to his desk and picking up his notebook and pen, moving to put them both back in their proper places.

"Really, you don't need to do that on my account."

A smooth voice from behind him made him start, dropping the book to the floor in his surprise as he turned to face his intruder.

A younger man, perhaps in his late twenties stood before him, dressed all in black, with slicked back hair and darting eyes watching his every movement. One hand was out of his sight and as Eric tried to gauge the situation, the stranger smiled.

"I don't believe we've had the pleasure." He said softly. "It's a shame, because I'm sure we'd have a lot of things in common."

"Why are you in my house?" Eric found his voice at long last. "Did that Gabor bitch send you to find me?"

"Gabor?" The man looked surprised. Then he let out a low chuckle, shaking his head.

"Oh, no. She didn't send me anywhere. In fact, it's quite the opposite...I've sent her a little something to remember me by. You see, I've made her acquaintance's not something I intend to repeat."

Eric furrowed his brow.

"Who are you?" He demanded. "And if she didn't send you, why are you here? Do you mean to rob me? Because I warn you..."

"Rob the tightest man in Canada?" The man's voice was mocking. "When someone is paying me much, much more to do their dirty work for them? I don't think so. There's only one thing you have that I might want, Eric...and it's not made of paper. I assure you."

 There was a flash of movement, and Eric let out a gasp as he realised the man's hidden hand had concealed a silver revolver - a gun now pointing casually towards his chest.

"I don't have all night." The stranger continued, in amiable, laid back tones. "No doubt your own personal whore will be home soon, and I'm sure you'd rather she didn't walk in on us quite like this."

"Harriet?" Eric blinked, then, "You're from the club? The man who's been harassing her? Is that what this is?"

"Oh, not really." The man shrugged. "I find her pretty, that's all. She's just a...a freebie in all of this, nothing more. And you won't exactly be needing her yourself...not after we've finished our little business meeting here."

"So what do you want, then? Why are you here?"

 "I came here to kill you." The man smiled, revealing a row of perfect white teeth, and despite himself, Eric quailed inwardly.

 "Why else would I come?"

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *  

"Thanks for the lift this evening, Errol."

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 me laugh."

"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 I'm home."

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 you..."

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? Dammit, 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?"

"You!" 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 back earlier."

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 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 face.

"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 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.


Prologue: Toronto
Chapter One: Preparations
Chapter Two: Heading North
Chapter Three: First Show
Chapter Four: A Hotel Scare
Chapter Five: Diversion
Chapter Six: Eric's Gambit
Chapter Seven: Under The Radar
Chapter Eight: Flight

The copyright for the original Jem characters featured in this and other stories by me belongs entirely to Hasbro and their interpretations to Christy Marx and the other writers of the Sunbow Jem series. Their future selves are based on concepts that are entirely my own and are not to be repeated elsewhere without due permission.
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