Authors: Max Ellendale
"Please, Nate, not here,
. Let's just leave,
okay? Just leave her here and we—" She begged him but when I saw his body
move into position and Jillian's knees buckle under his weight, I pulled the
gun from my jacket and blinked away the haze, taking my aim.
"Get off her!" I tried to shout but it came out muffled.
I watched his hand enclose on her throat while she punched at his
arm and chest. His lower half jerked violently as if trying to find the right
way to move. Jillian choked, coughed, and I fired.
The blast rang out, slicing every sound in the room, and leaving
us in silence.
Jillian hit the floor and crawled away from him while gasping for
breath. Blood spattered her shoulder and I pushed myself up to stand. I could
barely breathe but I had to get to her. She grabbed for me and I pulled her
away from him, dragging her across the floor. Nate lay crumpled and unmoving
while a pool of blood spread out over the carpet. Jilly screamed and screamed
while I held her. She tore at me and held on at the same time.
The door bashed open and half a dozen armed police officers
flooded the room with guns drawn and focused faces.
"Drop your weapon!" one of them bellowed, but I had
already lowered the gun. Two of them rushed to Jillian and me while a third
picked up my weapon. Another moved toward Nate and two others called in reports
on their radios. When one of the officers touched Jilly, she screamed and clamored
"Don't touch her!" I said. "She's scared. Just back
off a minute."
"What's your name?" A female officer crouched beside us,
holding up a blanket. I tucked it around Jilly and she buried her face against
my neck; the first real sign of life from her, even in all this mess.
"Jeslyn Holloway, retired badge number 34622, Portland PD."
"Shit," someone said, and more scuffling ensued.
"Is that your service weapon?"
"Side-arm, registered." I answered them automatically
while rocking Jilly a bit. Her fingers dug into my side and I kept my hand on
her cheek, preventing her from looking at Nate's body. And exposed gray matter.
I knew he was dead. I wasn't trying to miss.
"What's her name?" Officer Adams, according to her
"Do you know her?"
"She's my girlfriend."
"Jillian, we've got some EMS here to take the two of you to
the hospital, okay?" Adams said, though Jilly didn't answer.
We went together, back to the hospital I'd left only a few weeks
earlier. They had to sedate Jilly and, when she was finally calm and safe, I
asked them to sedate me.
I deserved worse.
She woke up, three days later. After I had finished all the
interviews and the interrogations. After everyone had given statements and
notified families. After Nate was gone and I wasn't charged with murder, even
though I murdered him. But I murdered a rapist, a kidnapper, a felon without a
family except for those he collected.
When she finally opened her eyes, I was there. Her crimson hair
tucked behind her ear where I left it. When her gaze met mine, as we lay on our
sides opposite each other in her hospital bed, a single tear trickled down her
"I'm sorry," I told her, brushing away her tear.
"For what?" her hoarse voice croaked.
"Thinking you really left me."
"I did leave you."
"To protect me from him," I said, and she glanced away
from me for a moment then nodded. "He's dead," I confessed. "He
can't hurt you anymore."
"Or anyone," she whispered.
We grew quiet for a while and I closed my eyes. My side throbbed
under the wraps meant to protect the broken ribs beneath them. A gentle caress
on my cheek had me looking at her again. She wore a soft, contented expression
for a moment while she touched me. Her eyes darted all over as if making sure
everything was the same. It wasn't.
"You're too thin," she said.
"So are you."
I let her touch me, do whatever she wanted to me. She brushed her
thumb over my split lip, then tickled the side of my neck with her fingertips,
like I was something foreign and fragile. When I lifted my hand to brush away
another tear from her face, she flinched at first, the way she used to when she
thought I didn't notice.
"There's this place," I began, my voice cracking a bit,
"in South Dakota, where there's acres and acres of land, and a horse farm.
And the house is like a log cabin, but modern and sturdy, with a stone
fireplace and Jacuzzi." She listened to me, her gaze fixed on mine like I
was telling her a bedtime story. "I was thinking that we could live there.
Just me and you. No one and nothing else. And maybe ride horses and be
"Can we go there now?"
"I'll get it ready and, when you're healthy enough to leave
here, we'll move right there."
"I'd like that," she said, her bottom lip trembling as
she broke into full-on crying. She moved to me for the first time on her own
accord and I just held her.
Eventually I'd join her and our cries would make us equal again.
The creaking door disturbed us hours later. Jilly peaked up from
her place on my shoulder and her whole body tensed. A nurse walked in first
followed by a uniformed officer.
"Miss Holloway, this officer would like to speak with you a
moment," the nurse said.
"Why?" I looked right at him and he stopped on my side
of the bed. Jillian's fingers dug into me so fiercely that I had to stifle a
"Miss Holloway, when we ran your name, we came across a
missing person's report. Are you aware of this?"
"A what?" Jillian said, looking between us.
"No," I said. "Who filed it?"
"A man named Declan Holloway. Relation?" the officer
"My brother." I sighed a bit and dropped my head back on
the pillows. "Can you tell him I'm fine?"
"I'd prefer if you told him, ma'am, but I can relay the
The nurse walked the officer out and Jillian leaned up to look at
me. With time passing, my body pain grew and hers lessened, for the most part.
"Why are you missing?"
"Your brother seems to think so. And what are you doing in
doing in Portland?"
"Same thing I was doing in New York," she said, her
mouth twitching with her smirk.
"I don't want you doing that anymore." This time when I
stroked her cheek, she didn't flinch.
We didn't make it to South Dakota, mostly because Jillian was
released the next day. Neither of us had a car or clothes that weren't stained
with blood so the hospital gave us standard issue sweats and shoes. Jillian
refused the interview with the rape-crisis counselor, even with my urging, and
I refused one with a social worker, too. I gave her my jacket when we hit the
The police kept my gun.
"Are you hungry?" I asked her but she shook her head. My
pace was slower than hers and, when we were about half a block from the
hospital, she slipped her arm around my elbow.
"Let's just go home."
It took us about half an hour to walk to Portland Taxi and we
hired a cab to take us the two hours back home. Neither of us cared about the
money. She had none, just like last time, and I had a pocket full of cash I
intended to lose in the g-strings of whatever women I encountered.
In the quiet moment, when the cabby ignored us and Jillian fell
asleep, guilt stirred somewhere inside me, breaking through the concrete wall
I'd plastered over my emotions. Why hadn't I looked for her the way
looked for his sister? Why had I so readily accepted that she'd leave me?
Maybe because I expected her to. Because everyone always did.
Or at least I believed so anyway.
"Can I have a bath?" Jillian asked as we walked up from
the gate toward the house. I pulled out my keys and unlocked the door. I hadn't
bothered to set the alarm when I left.
"Why don't you use the upstairs tub and I'll get some towels,
"The tub is bigger," I said and waited for her to walk
up the stairs toward the studio. She glanced over her shoulder, watching me
until the stairs curved away.
The house was as I left it; a destroyed mess that resembled a
crime scene. Paint splattered the living room furniture from my tantrum and the
kitchen table remained on its side. I righted it on my way past and waited
until I heard the water running upstairs before I made for the bedroom. I
stripped the sheets, picked up the dirty laundry and cleared the floor to make
it look at least halfway decent. The odor of decay lingered so I cracked the
window a bit.
By the time I made it back upstairs, Jilly had the tub mostly
filled with steaming water and she was half-undressed. She paused when I came
in and watched me when I set the towels on the sink.
"It's like a flashback," she said.
She undressed the rest of the way and I stared at the fading
bruises that covered her in the same places they were last time, with the
addition of her throat and arms. I helped her into the tub and she sighed when
the hot water surrounded her. I lowered myself to the floor beside her, biting
my tongue to keep from making any noise.
"Come in here with me," she said.
"I shouldn't get the bandage wet."
"It's not doing anything anyway."
I undressed, reluctantly, and tossed everything on the floor. The
bandage wrap came off last and Jilly's face fell when she saw the awful
bruises. Her lips pursed and her brows narrowed. When I stepped into the water,
her hands went right to my middle, caressing me gently.
"I hate him," she said, her bottom lip quivering
"You don't have to worry about him anymore," I said,
sucking in my breath when the water hit my abdomen. "What did Pam mean
that he was your manager?"
"I danced there sometimes. He took all the money."
"Did you do that in New York?" I asked and she nodded.
"But I did it for myself. That's how we met," she said,
leaning back against the basin and sighing. The water covered almost all of her
except the very top of her breasts. I tried not to look. It didn't seem right.
"I found you right after the first time he—"
"Raped you, I know."
"You've always known."
"Yeah," I said and shook off the images of him attacking
her right before I blew his brains out. My heart pounded in my chest and I took
a few deep breaths. "I'm sorry I didn't look for you."
"I'm sorry I left you."
"Maybe you had to leave," I said, swiping at a tear that
"What do you mean?"
"Maybe you had to so that he could die and you wouldn't have
to be afraid anymore. Two years and you've always been afraid."
"Not when I'm with you. My instincts turned out right about
"A little late on my part," I said, glancing away from
her. My mind screamed with the haunting images of him hurting her, the same way
I used to envision Graydon being blown to bits. By the time I turned back to
her, she'd moved across the tub to straddle my legs and cup my face in her
"Do you hate me?" she asked, her voice barely a whisper.
Her hair cascaded over us, dark on the bottom from the water and
crimson at the top. Her eyes bore into me, shimmering with the pain she'd been
hiding. With her like this, everything crumbled away. Tears flowed freely now
and I held my breath while our gazes locked. I shook my head and she dropped
her forehead against mine.
Soft sobs filled the space between us and we stayed there until
our skin shriveled to prunes.
"What did you do, Jess?" Jillian asked after we dressed.
I urged her toward the guest room but she stopped me by holding fast to her
footing. "My God…" She stopped to stare at the living room and, for
the first time, I really looked at it, too. Shards of glass littered the floor
along with splintered wood, overturned furniture and walls smeared with paint.
My handprints resembled a crime scene mess and I remembered Rhoda's friend
asking if it was blood.
"It doesn't matter," I said, urging her forward.
"Yes, it does. Why are we going in here?" She stumbled a
little but obliged. The guest room for the most part remained untouched. In
haste, I pulled back the sheets and fluffed the pillows a bit. She watched me,
waiting for my answer.
"The bedroom's a mess," was all I could come up with.
"I want to be in
bed," she said, her eyes
welling up as the stress of everything seemed to finally hit her. She cried
softly as I took her hand and led her to the bedroom.
"Okay, it's okay," I said, softly, reminding myself of
our reunion in Portland a few days ago. I released her and pulled clean linens
from the closet, then together, we made up the bed. She closed the window on
her way by and locked it after. Lifting my arms was painful so she took on
fluffing the blanket over the bed.
We climbed in together and I couldn't lie in any other position
except on my back without causing myself more pain. She watched me, taking
swipes at her eyes now and then until I settled first. Neither of us made a
move to turn out the bedside lamps. She moved closer, pulling the blankets over
us and lay on her side facing me. I had so many feelings at war inside me that
they seemed to negate themselves. The most prominent was disbelief.