“Let’s go then.” Billy moved quickly towards the door, stopping only when he realized no one was following behind him. “What are you all doing just standing there? We know where he’s keeping her? We know she’s okay.” He felt as if someone had their hands around his neck, his breath being shut off little by little with each passing second. “For now,” he managed, looking at Nick in a desperate attempt to connect with him. “We know she’s okay for now. If we wait, who knows what will happen. I for one don’t want to take the chance.”
Nick shuffled his weight from one foot to another. He turned to look at Paul, his eyes questioning him. All his life he’d watched his father take matters into his own hands. Sometimes it was what needed to be done, but other times he’d watched people get hurt—even killed because of the bravado. This wasn’t a call he ever wanted to make. “What do you think, Paul?”
“Honestly, I’m not sure we have the luxury of time here. I’d like to wait for another call, try to feel the situation out a bit more, but we don’t know enough about this guy to gauge how volatile he is. I’m afraid waiting could put Phyllis in a lot of danger.” His eyes fell on Billy’s, his tone growing more serious as he continued. “We’re going over there, but we do this my way. No one is playing a hero tonight, you got it?”
Billy nodded, feeling a slight sense of relief as he watched the team begin to move towards the doors.
“Curtis?” He’d been sitting in the chair with his head in his hands for nearly twenty minutes, not moving, not speaking.
“Yeah?” His lifted his head slowly, his eyes focusing on her. She wasn’t at all what he’d expected. She was supposed to be heartless and entitled, ruthless and arrogant, cold and distant. That was what was supposed to make this justified. He could do this bad thing for the best of reasons because he was taking from bad people, but now….
She wasn’t any of those things. Looking at her now, he saw the compassion in her eyes, he heard the sincerity in her voice, and he knew she was about to offer to help him yet again. Beyond that, she’d been strong and calm in a way he admired and her grace in a situation like that had forced him to realize the enormity of his mistake.
“It’s not too late to fix this.” Her tone was calm and kind—just as he knew it would be.
“I wish it was that simple. If I could see a way to fix this…”
She stood up, walking over to the end of the couch and sitting closer to him. “But there is…you just have to be willing to see it. Just let me go and I swear, I’ll go and talk to my family. We’ll get you the money your son needs. They’re good people. They’ll understand.”
“Not after this…not after what I’ve done.”
“Curtis, I swear—I can make them….” The flash of lights was obvious against the pale walls of the apartment. Though she tried not to react, she realized almost instantly that he’d seen them as well.
“Damn it,” he hissed, jumping up and immediately reaching for the gun.
“Curtis, don’t!” Phyllis stood, walking in front of him. “Please don’t do this. You’re gonna get hurt. Just put the gun down and I’ll talk to them. I’ll explain everything. We can all still walk out of here and everything will be okay, but not if they see you in here waving this gun around.”
He shook his head. “I can’t…I can’t risk it. They’ll arrest me. They’ll take me to jail and then my son won’t get anything. I’ll be completely useless to him then.”
“They’re gonna arrest you for sure if they find out you’re armed, Curtis.” She grabbed his hands, trying to desperately to get through to him. “Please…think about your son…your wife…think about them. They wouldn’t want you to do this. You don’t want to do this.”
“You’re right.” The sorrow in his voice was evident as he stared down at her. “I don’t want to do this, but I don’t have a choice. I’ve got to get this money for my son.”
It happened before she even had a chance to respond. His arm wrapped tight around her waist as she felt the gun press against her side.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, unable to look into her eyes. “I don’t want to hurt you. Just be still and quiet and I swear…I won’t hurt you.”
Phyllis swallowed hard as she nodded. For the first time since this started, she was forced to consider the fact that this was real. Curtis didn’t want to hurt her, of that she had no doubt, but how many times had she found herself doing things she didn’t want to do….She closed her eyes tight as she felt him leading her out onto the balcony.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Paul slammed his hands on the hood of the squad car as he stood in front of the rookie investigator. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
“I’m sorry, Chief…I wasn’t thinking…”
“That’s great,” Paul muttered. “That’s just great.”
“Paul, Paul…” Billy and Nick rushed up to him.
“There’s movement behind the curtains,” Billy said, the anxiety in his voice reaching near panic. “I keep seeing a shadow. “They must have seen the lights.”
Paul glared at the investigator. “I’m sure they did. I think for now, we just hang back and wait and see what move he makes. Chances are he’ll either contact us or he’ll show himself in some capacity. At that point, we’ll have a much better idea of what we’re dealing with and how we need to proceed.”
“So we just wait….we just sit here and hope this maniac decides to play by the rules?” He wanted to scream, to hit something—anything, but he couldn’t. He had to stay calm and focused. Phyllis needed him and he had to be here for her. “And what if he doesn’t? Then what?”
“Billy, I don’t have any answers for you right now. I just think…” Paul’s eyes went up to the balcony. “What the hell…” Billy and Nick followed his gaze and their eyes widened in horror as they saw Curtis standing with Phyllis, a gun pointed directly at her.
“I think we have our answer,” Paul said flatly before turning to the investigator. “I need a megaphone,” he snarled. “You think you can handle that?”