Fiance by Friday(110)

By: Catherine Bybee


The ability to move her jaw together felt like heaven, regardless of the fact that the devil held her against the wall. Her dry tongue touched the roof of her mouth as she attempted to find moisture.

“What does he know?”

“I don’t know.”

He slapped her again. Moisture in her mouth came by way of a split lip.

Tears sprang to her eyes with the pain, but she refused to let them fall.

“What does he know?”

“I haven’t spoken with him.”

Charles moved closer. She wasn’t sure but she thought she smelled tobacco on his breath. “He knows you’re here.”

What could she say…she had no idea how Blake had found her. “Where is he?”

Charles let his hand slip to her throat, reminding her how easily he could snap it if he chose.

“On his way here.”

Hope sprang in her chest.

“You make one noise, one squeak down here and I’ll kill him. You got that?”

She nodded. He’d be so close. Maybe he’d sense something?

“One noise.”

Charles wrapped her mouth again, taking less care in securing the rag. He shoved her to the floor and left the room.

He left the lights on.

Chapter Thirty-Four

Neil knew his way around base better than any marine there. As day turned to night, traversing known passages into the base became easier. Not much had changed since he was a kid there with his father. Teenagers always wanted to know a way off base. Who knew he’d be sneaking back in so many years later.

One singular thought kept his feet moving.


Getting to her, keeping her safe. The sick thought that maybe something had already happened tried to inch into his brain, but he refused to hear it.

She’s fine, he told himself.

Perfectly fine.

It took twenty minutes to cross the base and meet the bottom of the hill where Blayney’s house perched. He paused for a moment and looked up at the dark windows.

Was he even there? Was Gwen?

Neil banked on the chance that without word from Mickey, Chuck would think the worst of his grunt. Logic told Neil that Chuck would use Gwen as a hostage at that point. Unless he gave up.

Neil had yet to meet a marine who gave up.

Chuck wouldn’t be the first.

A light flickered inside the house, evidence that someone was inside.

Neil circled around the back, hopped the fence, and ducked under the dark kitchen window. He took a small mirror from his field jacket and angled it on the floor to see inside the house from the back door.

The kitchen was empty. A light from the hall was on.

Neil held his breath and waited for the phone to ring. He told Blake to give him forty minutes to get into position. He had five minutes to wait.

Five minutes of absolute terror that he was waiting five minutes too long to help his wife.

The image of Chuck harming her made his fist clutch and his back teeth grind together. Sitting immobile for five lousy minutes left him shaking. When the phone finally rang, Neil nearly missed the sound.

The second ring grabbed his attention and sprang him into action.

The back lock to the sliding glass door was easily breached. The major wasn’t hypervigilant about his safety.

Stupid man.

Neil eased the door open enough to hear the one-sided conversation.

“Mr. Harrison? Yes…I was told you were here.” Chuck’s voice was on edge. Something Neil recognized but Blake wouldn’t. Neil closed the back door quietly behind him and locked it. He ducked behind the island before he made it to the back hall.

“No,” Neil heard Chuck say.

Neil moved up the stairs every time Chuck spoke.

“How did you get my number?”

Neil hesitated.

“Oh, I see. Yes…they were here.”

Neil moved up the stairs and to the room he and Gwen shared. Inside the room was dark. A part of him expected to see her there.

She wasn’t.

He moved quietly about the space, looking for evidence that she had been there.

Nothing…the room was bare of anything personal.

Gwen was gone.

The house had gone quiet. He didn’t hear the major…didn’t hear any other person in the home. Neil tiptoed from the guest room and glanced into the master bedroom. It too was dark. From what Neil could tell Ruth was gone, too.

Downstairs a door shut, and then quiet resumed. Neil lent his ear to the hall desperate to hear anything.

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