Dance Or Die | By: Ng Hoi Yee | | Category: Short Story - Mystery Bookmark and Share

Dance Or Die

'Out! Get out! Get out of the way now!' He screamed. He wasn't sure if she could hear him because he could vaguely see the little girl still standing in front. Just standing there .Why hadn't the stupid girl move? He thought wildly. Perhaps too modified, staring into the headlights of his speeding car, not just any car, but a brand new red Ferrari. It was his birthday and his father had bought him the car, properly out of guilt that he was too busy with work to celebrate his birthday again, just like the many birthdays that he had missed since his childhood. He was used to growing up with an absent father. And as he grew older as an only child, he was used to being on his own. He much preferred the advantage of the situation whereby he could get whatever he wanted from his father who spoilt him out of guilt. He hadn't seen his mother since she had left with another man when he was seven. His father had surprised him this morning with the Ferrari delivered right at the door, wrapped in large pink silky ribbon. Somehow he wasn't surprised as he had just gotten his license a few weeks ago. He test drove it immediately and the sound was like sweet music to his ears. He went out drinking with some friends at the Quentin's Bar and he was in a happy mood. To describe them as friends would be overstated; these people didn't care about him except his money. Anyway after he got himself really drunk, his friends had offered him a ride home but he refused, as they'd properly rob him clean and dump him in the middle of nowhere. Or if they were especially genial enough to leave him at his house steps, he wasn't in the mood to explain why he reeked of alcohol. His father hated alcohol, never drank and kept to a strict fitness regime. And he held the same of the many other expectations for Ben that drove him crazy. His father hadn't been interested in women since Ben's mother left, but he had tried to re-marry, to give Ben a mother figure to look up to, a woman's touch, maybe to share some burden of raising a difficult child. And Ben had chased away every one of them. Things would never be the same without his mother but his father always seemed to refuse to accept or understand that. It made his efforts all the more corny and pathetic, and Ben despised that. He felt his car knock against something on the left. His heart sank. Was that the girl? He swerved right and was too late to do anything as his car headed straight to the tree off the sidewalk. He thought about what a waste of the car, what a way to spend his birthday, with some self-sarcasm, before his world went black. 1. He opened his eyes and wished he hadn't. A woman was standing at his side and staring down at him, her eyes feral. He felt creeped to know she had been patiently waiting for him to wake up. He was then filled with enmity a stranger had caught him unaware at his vulnerable state, when he was unconscious. He was on a hospital bed, alone and machines beeped softly around him. Green light illuminated her face to give a more crazed look. She was middle-aged and he had never seen her before. 'Your name is Ben?' She spoke in a low voice. 'Who're you?' His mind started to recall. He was alive. His left arm was in a cast and his left leg ached down from his knee. Aside for some welts and contusions below his ribcage and over his legs, he was in good shape. 'Your name is Ben,' It was a statement. 'Don't try to lie to me; try to get away from me like everybody else. Your name is on your sheet. I've seen it. You think I'm stupid but I'm not.' Her voice rose just a little. 'What do you want?' She was blocking the alarm button above the bedside table. He was wondering how he should call for help, when she produced and pointed a gun to his throat. So he wasn't after all. She snatched the blanket off him and tore away the tubes around his body. 'You're fine, don't lie to me. Get up, you wuss.' He stood up. She gripped his right arm and her fingernails dug deep through his frail hospital gowns. Her gun was still at his throat. 'Shout, and you're dead.' 'I'm not going to, but whatever it's about, you're making a mistake.' She thrust his arm behind and he yelled in pain. 'There you're. That's what you get when you try to lie to me. I told you not to lie. So why're you lying? Now walk.' She walked with the gun at his back hidden insides her jacket's sleeve. She wore a military long-sleeved green jacket over a loose, flowery dark brown maxi dress. Her sneakers made no sound. She was slatternly dressed in a hurry. Her hair was long and curly, wild like herself. She was shorter than Ben but muscular-built for a woman. In pink health Ben would have felt confident enough to wrestle her for the gun and over-powered her easily. But not at his present state. His head felt dizzy. Best not to argue, Ben thought. I survived the accident not to be killed by a mad woman. The corridor was half lit and the end only sat one overweight security guard who didn't even bother to look up, or would prove useless in a chase. They came out the back door. It was late and the street was empty. She came to a police car. It had seen a chase or maybe an accident with scratches on the aluminum layer and broken headlights. The side window was broken and the hinge was loose when she opened the passenger door. She pushed Ben in and handcuffed him to the railing. She started the engine. After some silence, Ben ventured, 'where're we going?' 'To Beethoven’s Hall, where my sister's going to perform.' 'This is kidnap. Police are going to find me once they see me gone.' He pulled the handcuff in frustration. 'And that'd be the last thing you'd want, you murderer!' she suddenly shouted and waved the gun dangerously in his face. He leaned back. 'Ok ok, anything you say,’ he held up his hands in surrender. ‘ Just get the gun out of my face!' 'Why're you lying? There's no one around? You murderer! You're Ben! You killed my sister, you bastard!' She slapped him. He covered his cheek. 'Shit! You mad bitch!' He attempted to bite her hand but she was too fast. 'I didn't kill your... what do you mean? I've never seen your sister... wait!' His mind reeled, and his heart froze when he had a dreadful idea. She slapped him again, jolted him away from his turmoil. 'Quit it!' he cried, tasting blood in his lips. She was crying like an open floodgate. It was sick to see a grown woman behaving like a 5-year-old. Her grip loosened and the car zigzagged across on a highway. 'Watch out!' he shouted, and grabbed the wheel with his good hand in time to avoid an upcoming truck. 'Shit!' 'You want to kill yourself, leave me out of it!' He seethed. She didn't hear him, still crying and snorting, her face contorted to various crazy expressions. He was thinking hard now. If he had killed her sister, is that possible? He wished he hadn't been so drunk. He had swerved, and knew he didn't knock the girl directly. He had felt his car had hit something, but not directly. But was the impact hard enough to kill the girl? He had hit a tree but he still lived. Yet the girl looked so young. Could she be dead? Did he really kill this woman's sister? How old was the girl anyway? Was he a murderer? Many questions came to his mind. He didn't want to go to jail. Maybe he shouldn't turn back. She stopped crying just as abruptly as she had started. Now she was just quietly sniffing. 'God, about time,' he muttered. She noticed his presence again. 'What're you doing?' She scolded and slapped his hand away. This time, he dodged before she touched him. He wasn't going to let her hit him again. 'Trying to keep us alive. You drove like a goddamn drunk.' 'A drunk with a gun. Remember that and you'd be careful with your mouth now ya?' 'That's what I get after trying to save us?' 'I could kill you, right here, right now.' He glared at her. 'If you were going to kill me, you'd have done that back in the hospital.' 'No, that'd be too good for you. We're still going to the Beethoven's Hall.' She stared straight ahead, and had resumed the wild look when Ben first laid eyes on her. 'That Beethoven's Hall? That rundown place? I haven't been there since I was five.' He was about to ask what they might be doing there if her sister was dead, but could tell she wasn't with him. She was in her own world now, staring ahead intently. 'I'm coming now, Emily, I'm coming and you look so pretty tonight.' 2. 'You look so pretty tonight, honey.' Her mother finished the last of the girl's makeup. The girl was eight and she preened at herself in the full-length mirror, gave it a practiced smiled she had perfected. She was pretty and knew it. Soft blonde curly hair bounced on her shoulders as she kneeled and gave a princess bow. She left her dressing room with her mother snuffling behind to join the group of other girls backstage, all about eight to twelve. She was in her pink leotard, seamless tights, and ballet slippers. She could charm her audience with her smile but she'd nail them with her dexterous dance routine that she had worked so hard for. The curtains lifted. One by one the girls danced their routines but she knew she was going to be better than everybody. 'Emily.' She heard her name announced and knew it was her time to shine. Like the experienced performer she was she stood fearless in front of the vast audience. All of them were here to see her and they'd be glad to have come. She had practiced her routine countless time till she could do it in her sleep. There would be no mistake. It was just like the same practice that she had been doing every day. Was it five or ten minutes? It felt like two to her. Hundreds pairs of eyes followed her graceful movement as she performed, gliding into different poses smoothly and effortlessly. Everything was perfect. The judges thought so too, and by the thunderous applause as she landed, bowed and smiled she knew she had nailed it. Even at eight, she possessed the confidence and grace older than her age, displaying the making of a future champion. 'What're you doing? Give your sister a towel!' Only someone would snap at her this way. Initially she had despised and feared the voice but she was used to it by now. It was effective to snap her back from her trance. The curtain fell and the winning grin for the audience and judges, slipped away with it. Emily snatched the towel from her hand, not even glancing at her. She wiped it over her body. A few of the contestants came up to congratulate and shook her hands as Emily walked to her dressing room. The older girl dutifully followed with a second towel around her arm. Banquets of flowers lined around the floor. Emily saw none of it, headed straight to her dressing table, swept the flowers off her seat and table. She sat with an exasperated sigh. 'God, I'm so sick of all their stupid faces,' Emily scowled. 'But look at all these pretty flowers,' She plucked a pink flower. 'They all love you.' Emily snapped the flower away from her. 'Don't touch my stuffs with your filthy hands!' 'Mom has made a reservation at Quentin's Place, your favorite restaurant. You need to change now and she'll meet you outside.' She remembered the message word for word, the way her mother had instructed her to. She was trained this way and was good at it. 'And I guess you'll be coming with me, right, Emma?' Emily took off her ribbon, her makeup, and her sweaty ballet clothes. 'Of course, I'm your sister,' Emma gathered the clothes in her arms and headed to the laundry room contiguous to the dressing room. 'Well, you know the drill.' 'Yes,' Emma called from the other room. 'You'll go with Mum first. I'll take the car and meet you at the restaurant. But I won't sit next to you. I'll just sit all by myself.' So it was like this. Emma was used to this way of life. She felt happy for her sister, who cared nothing for her. But she was content in her shadow, and in a queer way she kind of liked it, being invisible. She never needed to answer questions about herself. She didn’t have to answer to anybody else. It had always been Emily, Emily. People who ever talked to her were only generous to sing praise about her Emily, and not her, the sister who did all the work at the backstage. She knew any possible interest piqued by people in her was only their curiosity at how two people so different in looks, talents and personalities could be from the same background and related by blood. It took longer than she thought to clean up the dressing room and get rid of all the flowers. She was late and the sky was raining lightly as she parked her car next to the sidewalk. She entered the restaurant to find only Emily sitting at the table. Her parents had left and a waiter was clearing their utensils. Emily was having deserts, one scoop of vanilla ice-cream, a treat to her strict diet. She ate everything in small portions as she needed to watch her weight. Emily saw her and sighed loudly. She banged the fork down as though Emma's entry had just interrupted her enjoying her desert and she had lost appetite now. 'You're late. I've been waiting for you forever. I need to sleep early. I passed the elimination round but there's only one week before the real competition began.' She made her way to the door and Emma knew she wouldn't be getting dinner at the place after all. Maybe she could cook some noodles when they reached home. The rain had turned heavier outside. Emily sat next to her as Emma started the car. It was just one of the normal trips that she made as she used to drive Emily to and fro between her ballet lessons. Emma stopped at the red light at a road junction. She watched the light turn green and was about to swerve to right when she saw a red Ferrari car speeding towards her. It took her a second to realize she was about to collide with it. One second was too late. Before she could do anything or shouted at Emily to jump off the car, the Ferrari ramped and crashed right into hers from the left, straight for Emily at the passenger seat. She hadn't begun to comprehend the horror of it before her world went back. 3. The fax machine beeped and Sergeant Gary Elliott, who had been waiting for it, tore the fax off. Ross Mackay glanced at the fax over his shoulder. 'So that's the kid that got everybody so hyped about?' South Pecan Police Station was abuzz with activites with people shuffling about their business. The phones rang incessantly; files were banged around, a rare sight in the usual quiet station where its small town prided itself for its low crimes. 'Not just any kid, Ross,' Gary was a big man with neat, close-crop hair, a big belly tauted sight in his shirt hinted too many donuts in the quiet station and lack of fitness. 'But Donald Wakefield's only boy. Yes, that Donald boss who owns 80% of the car companies here in the state. Heck, you're driving one of his cars now. Maybe your Daddy is too.' 'So this's a kidnap case?' In contrast, Ross was thin and bald in the middle, with thin dark hair flailing at the sides. 'Yup,' Gary adjusted the bell around his large waist. 'Kidnapped and walked right out of the hospital. Take a look at this from its CCTV.' He switched on one of the small TVs where it showed footage of Emma and Ben walking along the corridor. 'Hey, that's the bitch the stole my car last night!' Ross exclaimed and consciously touched his Band-Aid above his right left eye which was slightly purple. 'I'd recognize her everywhere. Lying in the middle of the road like she had an incident. When I tried to help her, she pounced on me like some animal. That woman swung at me like a boxer, stole my gun and car.' Ross gritted his teeth. 'That's what I get for playing the good cop. I'd like to get my hands on her. So that's why she needed my car for?' 'A woman, clever huh? Just waltzed right in and out like a goddamn convenience store in the middle of the night. You'd have suspected this was a job for a gang of professionals, not this ugly bitch.' 'Any ransom note so far?' 'Nope. I don't think it's about money. See the way this bitch dressed? Does she look like she gives a shit about money?' 'So this is personal?' Gary grunted. 'Perhaps. Guess Daddy's bought his little boy a sweet Ferrari for his birthday and little Ben here was taking it for a spin and ended with a little incident. Poor little rich boy properly never saw it coming. It doesn't look like a normal kidnap where you need to plan the whole thing. This’s almost too convenient. Or maybe she's just damn lucky.' 'Wasn't there a little girl involved?' 'Yup, and she's damn lucky too, no damage at all. Just a little shocked that's all.' 4. The police car cruised slowly as it came to a tall, enormous, and formidable building that was the Beethoven’s Hall. It stopped behind where intense shrubbery grew wildly abandoned. It was conveniently the perfect hideout, just located along the edge of the town and out of the buzz of the city. It used to be a concert hall where it could house hundreds of audience and had attracted some of the most talented performers in her hay day. Now it'd cost too much to admonish it as the land was worthless. It stood lone and abandoned, and was only home to the nearby animals and insects. Ben had stolen a quick nap during the ride. He was too exhausted. Now awake, his muscles ached all over, the cast weighed heavy and his legs had fallen asleep. He guessed it was about five in the morning. Emma alighted the car, gun in her hand. She opened the passenger door. 'No funny games or I'd shoot.' She unlocked one half of his handcuffs and dragged him out by the other, her gun never left him. She led him to the kitchen. There was a storage room. She opened and walked him down the stairs to the basement. There was the setting of a home with rickety furniture slatternly littered around: a table and a few upturned wooden chairs, a TV with a smashed screen, a contiguous toilet with no flush level and the tap had no water. The metal sink was tainted with a rusty shade of red-brown and tiles were chipped and darkened with dirt. Dirty clothes draperied around the floor leading to the laundry basket that were covered full with them. Spider webs sprawled across ceilings. The place had a smothering noxious stink of sweat and squalor. She pushed him on the long wooden couch with a few torn seat pillows near the stairs. She handcuffed him to the side, stood back with hands on her hips. 'You'll take her place to performing tomorrow, since she couldn't make it here,' she kicked his injured leg. 'Shit!' Ben yelled as needles of pain shot through all the way to his left ribcage. She laughed cruelly at his agony. 'You're going to dance. Yes, you murderer pig. You've a dance competition to join and you'd better be prepared for it.' 'I'm hungry.' 'Ok, pig, why you think I chained you here for? I'm going out to get us some breakfast. I know you need your strength and you're not the only one who needs to eat.' 'And I've to pee.' She kicked a plastic bucket and it rolled to his feet. 'Use that,' she laughed when Ben looked at it in disgust. 'Don't worry. The finals will be in two days, and then you aren't going to need and worry about anything anymore.' He shuddered as a dreadful thought crawled to his mind. 'You aren't going to kill me, are you?' She laughed in a diabolic way that confirmed his fears even before she could reply. 'A life for a life, mister. My sister died because of you. And you're going to pay.' 5. It was drizzling and the sight would since become a constant reminder of the accident that would haunt her forever. She walked among the sea of people in black with umbrellas as they marched along in silence. A group of men carried Emily's coffin on their shoulders. Emily had more friends than she knew. Many faces she couldn't recognize or had never seen before were all here for Emily. Strangers passed by to glare at her, in disgust and accusingly, incredulous that her very killer would have the face and shame to show up. Those who were sympathetic made her feel worse; the guilt weighed like tons in the pit of her stomach as she trudged on like her feet were leaden to metal ball and chain. The gloomy weather further enhanced the solemnity of the funeral. The rain seemed to cry along with her parents for the loss of their pride and joy. Her mother sobbed and her father held her hand and whispered words of comfort in her ears. She wished someone would do the same for her but knew nothing would appease her guilt and fear which could only be emphasized by those who shared the same experience. That was the worst feeling she ever had since birth and her inability to handle that burden made her speechless with the trauma and sadness of it. She shouldn't be here. Her eyes followed her shoes as her feet walked in front and back. She could feel the burn of stares of everyone around her. At least she had feet. She had escaped with nothing more than a few scratches. The Ferrari had crashed straight to the left of her car where Emily sat and Emily was killed instantly. The impact banged Emma against the door while the roof caved in that cushioned her from the rest of the otherwise lethal impact. She wished she was dead now just to rid the stares off her back. Murmurs around her sounded magnified as she knew people were whispering the same things over and over again since the incident: 'Do you think she killed her on purpose?' 'Just making it look like an accident.' 'Didn't she hear the Ferrari coming? Any car that sped so fast carried a lot of noise. Why didn't she stop?' 'I heard she was jealous of her sister. I saw Emily perform that night. She was amazing. She could have won that scholarship if she was still alive.' Emma wished she was the one who had died. Just so she wouldn't need to hear more lies of such. No one cared about her. She couldn't look at anyone since the accident, especially her parents who had harbored such high hopes for her sister and she had dashed their dreams completely. They had grown even more distant after the accident. Her mother spent the whole day crying in her room and Emma hardly saw her. Her father passed by without looking at her like a total stranger. So cold was the silence treatment that staying in the house proved to be unbearable. She only came home to a fitful of restless sleep that was a pageant of loathsome nightmares involving the accident. She even imagined Emily entered her room to deride at her depressed state the way she deserved. The voices grew louder and fiercer in her mind till she knew she would go mad if she stayed. She couldn't take it anymore. Aware that everyone's glance was on her but she no longer cared, she broke away from the crowd and ran. She distinctly heard her father call out to her but rain drowned out all sounds except her own loud sobs. 6. 'Wait! Don't go! I didn't kill your sister, I swear!' Ben cried at the retreating figure of Emma as she climbed up the stairs. He knew she could hear him but she didn't turn around, properly lost in her own world again. He remembered how she seemed to slip into a trance during the ride, and knew he was wasting time to explain himself. The door slammed behind her and he was alone. He really needed to pee. He looked at the bucket and knew he had no choice. He half-closed his eyes as he did his business. He strained his handcuff and its round metal cut to his flesh with red marks round his right wrist. The four legs under the couch gave a little as the brittle wood cracked and splintered with age. With new hope he pulled with new strength and after a few attempts, he could move the entire couch but could not plod it along up the staircase to leave the door that was way too small. He didn't hear any car after Emma left so the police car was still outside. She properly didn't want to arouse suspicions. Everybody must be looking for him by now. The nearest convenient store on foot took roughly twenty minutes so he had about forty plus maybe ten to buy food before she returned. He looked around, and saw there was a small window above the toilet sink that was blocked from view when the couch was still stationary. He might be able to squeeze through. The new discovery sent a new urgency through all his senses. He looked around for anything to break his handcuffs. The overturned chairs had splintered woods on their legs. He chose one, put the leg through one of the chain's holes and pulled; his wrist hurt more. He broke off its leg and jabbed the chain with its sharp point on the floor. That unsuccessful, he dragged the couch to the toilet. It stuck at the too small doorway but he was able to get near the sink. He used the chair's leg, put it on the edge of the sink as a lever and pulled down. The chain's hole, due to its small size or sheer desperation on his part that gave him superhuman strength, gave a little. He never felt so happy. Sweat broke on his forehead and soaked his clothes as he repeated the action again and again, till the metal bulged out more. He could do it! He ignored the pain around his wrist each time he pulled the chair's leg and the handcuff cut into his flesh, and blood seeped and dripped on the floor. Clank! The chain's hole finally broke and he was free. He wanted to collapse and cry with relief but there was no time. How much time has passed? He wasn't going to waste any. He stepped on the couch and on the sink. He climbed to reach the window but his foot slipped off the tiles. His left arm was on a cast and as he jumped, his arm out of the window, he held it against the railing to hold his body before it could slide down all the way again. His feet kicked as he crawled and carried his upper body out of the toilet. Afterwards, it was easy to pull the rest of his body up and out on the open. He rewarded his body about five seconds of rest as he sprawled on the ground under the cool morning sun. Then he was on his feet and raced to the police car. He was right that Emma didn't use the car but it was perfect for him. He sank to the driver's seat. The key was there; she properly never suspected he could escape. He turned the key and the engine never sounded so sweet. He drove off and felt the wind of freedom on his face. 7. Once he collected his thoughts, Ben realized the next probable thing to do was to contact the police. They must be looking for him and he needed their protection till they caught his crazy captor. He slowed down as he reached the gas station. He had no change but this was an emergency. He walked to the counter. The cashier had his head buried behind the paper and didn't look at him. 'Whatta you want?' 'Please, this's an emergency. I need to get some change to call the police.' 'Nothing ain't free here, kid.' 'I've no money on me, and this really is an emergency.' Frustrated, Ben pulled the paper down from the man to show him his cuts and scars. The man was middle-aged, with thick black-rimmed glasses and a distinguished mustache that parted in the middle below his nose. His gesture annoyed rather than convinced the cashier. 'Now, look 'ere. No trouble or I'm calling the cops.' 'Good, call them. Tell them I'm Ben Wakefield and there's a psycho woman chasing me.' He showed him his handcuffs and cuts. The guy barely looked and didn't acknowledge the cuts on his face, properly dismissing them as the aftermath of some trivial gang fights that was prevalent these days. 'You get out of my store now,' he threatened as he stood up. 'All you kids are nothing but troublemakers.' Ben knew it was useless. He was going to the police station by himself. 'Damn!' He started to button the seat belt... and felt the hard metal of a gun barrel pressed coldly against the back of his neck that sent a chill down his spine and his heart dropped to his feet. 'Surprised?' Emma appeared behind him as Ben looked at her blankly in the rear mirror. Disheveled and fuzzy hair wilder than ever, she looked she had run a marathon. Sweat was dripping down his chin onto his leather seat. 'It looks like I've underestimated you,' her voice was slightly out of breathe but lost none of its insanity. Ben shuddered as he felt his hope crashed, and angry at his own negligence which led to his recapture. 'Ok, enough games, now,' she signaled with her gun and Ben resignedly turned the car around. 8. 'First, we'd go to Emma's house. If she'd been there, maybe we could find some clues as where she's hiding Ben,' Ross tapped his fingers on the railing of the side window, as he did when he was nervous. Gary was driving the car and Dr Radcliff sat at the back. They had put almost the entire police squad on the case as time was crucial. 'It might help if you'd stop that tapping now, Officer Mackay,' Gary gritted his teeth. He was sweating and the car interior felt plaguy hot and stuffy. Dr. Radcliff was quiet, but looked bothered and ruffled. If they weren't so preoccupied with their own thoughts and spent a few seconds to glance out the window on their left, they might have noticed a similar police car gliding past theirs. It was being driven by a boy who was definitely not one of them, and the mad woman with a gun behind him. As it was, the two cars passed unknowingly by each other to the opposite direction. 9. 'So, this was Emily,' Ross picked up the photo frame. Flanked by her proud parents, an eight-year-old girl with curly blonde hair falling on her shoulders beamed at him. There was something of a poignant smug in the smile that got on his nerves. He recognized the face of a spoilt child who was used to get what she wanted and loved by many. He didn't like the girl but still, no one deserved such an untimely death. Ross, Gary and Dr. Radcliff were in Emily's bedroom. 'We've to find something that would give us a clue where Emma would have taken Ben,' Gary touched one of the stuffed toys that lined on the selves, moved and rearranged a few, as if he could find the answers behind the dolls. 'I remember something,' Dr Radcliff furrowed his brows. 'But it keeps slipping my mind, about Emily's competition. Ok, keep looking.' The three men rummaged around the house in silence except the ruffling and stumbling as stuffs were being shuffled about. The hand phone rang loudly in Gary's trousers, shattering the silence and made all of them jump. 'What?' Gary snapped, somehow flustered at being interrupted in the middle of his important investigation. 'Sir, someone just called from a petrol station,' the young officer sounded flushed with excitement. 'You may want to take the call.' 'What....’ before Gary could contradict with a harsh response, he heard the music when the call was being transferred. A gruff voice answered. 'Ben? Wakefield? This’d the fellow that knows the kid?' 'What do you know about,' Gary signaled the two men and both stopped to listen. 'Ben Wakefield?' 'The kid came to ask me for change to call police, but yak know how there's alot of kids comin' to my place and they have been nothing' but trouble. His face is a little bloody so maybe it's somethin' serious, and that's why I'm callin' ya here.' 'Where's he now?' Gary said sharply. 'He went out back to a police car...' Ross exclaimed, 'That's my car!' '..and drove off... I think maybe to Beethoven’s Hall or somewhere ya? There's nothing there except that old building? And the kid's said somethin' else but I can't remember... .’ 'I think we might have a lead,' Gary turned to Dr. Radcliff. 'Does Beethoven’s Hall mean anything to you?' 'Beethoven’s Hall... of course,' Dr Radcliff smacked his fist in his palm. The solution had been right in front of their eyes. ‘That’s the venue of the dance competition. Emily met her accident after the elimination round that was held there.' 'Ok, that's it then. That's where we're heading.' The three men broke into a run for their car. 'Uh...hello? Anyone there? I gotta just said somethin' good hadn't I? Any possible rewards? Anyone there? Hello?' 10. 'What the hell do you want?' Ben snapped angrily. Emma had her gun fixed at him the whole time and he was angry at his impotence to fight back. She carried a plastic bag of food and he tried not to stare at it too hungrily lest gave Emma more smug self-satisfaction. 'And to think I had been so kind enough to get you some food and this's how you repay me? You don't deserve any good treatment from me, you ungrateful beast!' She kicked his buttocks, and he was too tired and disappointed to slink away. That's it, he was going to die. Maybe he really did hit the little girl and she had died. It seemed a long time ago even though he knew it only happened yesterday night. He had killed an innocent little girl and for that, he was paying the price for his crime. 11. 'There it is!' Ross cried. He recognized his car immediately. He raised a fist of triumph in the air while Gary let out a laugh of joy as they knew they had hit bulleye. The three men turned solemn again when they heard some random gunshots coming from the concert hall. As they glided their way there, they could hear Emma's loud cackles. Gary and Ross had their guns ready when they reached the entrance of the hall. 'Better hang back, sir,' Gary gestured Dr. Radcliff to stay close to the door. 'Let's us do our job now.' He signaled Ross with his fingers. 3, 2, 1! Both kicked open the door simultaneously and twisted their guns to aim at Emma behind her back. 'Don't move or we'd shoot!' Emma snapped round her head to face them as she leaped up from her seat with an agileness that belied her ponderous size, brandishing her gun at Ben. The bag of potato chip dropped from her lap and spilled on the floor. 'Try and the boy is dead!' Her glance not wavering, She walked up the stage and grabbed Ben by his neck from behind. She twisted the gun to the side of his forehead as he cursed. She threaded backwards cautiously to the other side of the stage, where the exit door was. 'Surrender now! You can't run, Emma!' Gary said. 'We've the place surrounded!' Ross hoped his little lie would work. Emma laughed. 'I've the boy with me. Try anything funny and he's dead. I'm leaving with him.' The exit door behind suddenly opened. This she hadn't expected. Before Emma could turn around, Dr Radcliffe lunged for her, his hand knocked the gun off her hand as he embraced her from behind and wrestled her on the ground. He straddled over her as he pinned her hands besides her head. She screamed and kicked while Ben instinctively snatched the gun and ran off the stage for safety. 'Wake up, Emma! It's me, Dr Radcliffe! The boy is innocent! The Ben you want is dead. He's dead!' He screamed to her face, but his words fell obdurate to her. Dr Radcliffe couldn't hold against the mad woman for long. She kicked his right thigh and he lost his balance, his grip loosened and with her freed hands, she striked a few blows across his face, knocking off his glasses. He fell while she scrambled up and ran for the door, but he had bought the few precious seconds as the two police officers rushed to his aid. Both Gary and Ross grabbed her by the collar while she struggled and screamed out all kinds of vulgarities in her fury. 'That's it! I've had enough of this!' Gary grunted, and he striked a hard blow on the woman's head. Emma gasped and dropped on the ground, unconscious. Dr Radcliff straightened his suit and wiped the blood off his face. Ross helped him up. 'Thanks, Doc. We own you.' 'She's my patient. It was my fault that she escaped from the facility. I should have kept a better lookout for her. I should have done more to help.' 'And you've done more than enough now. We've better got those wounds looked at.' Ross turned to Ben. 'And you too, kid.' 'No worries. I'll live.' Gary snapped handcuffs around Emma's hands behind and her feet. 'That should do it. God, this woman's strong.' 12. The little girl laughed at something that her friend was saying. She was in her street clothes and was packing the last of her stuff in her bag. She was just waiting for her mother to finish some paperwork and she was looking forward to going home from the hospital. 'So, that's the girl?' Ben looked at her through the plastic glass of the door. 'Yes, safe and sound,' Ross patted his shoulders. 'So you can see, you didn't kill the girl or anybody,' During his kidnap Ben had thought he had killed the girl in his accident and it was a huge relief to know that he didn't after all. 'And you're fine too, you'll be out tomorrow.' 'What happened to Emma?' 'She'd gone back with Dr Radcliffe and don't worry, he's not letting her out of his sight again.' They walked along the hospital corridor, passing doctors and patients in wheelchairs. 'I hate her for what she'd done to me but I also feel kinda sorry for her. She did all this stuff only cos' she loved her sister too much.' 'But we don't live for anybody, Ben. We live for ourselves. If she'd done anything to you, you know she might never go to jail due to her mental condition. You could have died an innocent victim.' 'But I wouldn't,' smiled Ben. 'because I'm a survivor. You know I was just waiting for her to finish her bullets so I could make a run for it? You know I could still get out even if you guys didn't show up?' 'Yes, but we can't risk your life.' 'I'd never forget this. Maybe now I'd want to join the police. I like things exciting.' Ben felt excited as he thought about this new idea and knew that this was what he wanted to do. His mind started to fantasize the possibilities this path held for him as the name Emma Madsen began to slip away from his memory.

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