It’s bad enough being kidnapped, but now Neil’s been accused of murdering Kent – who’s sitting beside him in the cell. Kent’s been hurt, but he’s not dead. At least – not yet!
After a busy, trying day, Neil was really looking forward to spending some time with Kent. It had been too long since they had simply relaxed in each other’s company. As he parked his car in Kent’s driveway, Neil noted all the downstairs were lights were on, and he suddenly realized he was actually excited at the prospect of a beer, snacks and spending a few hours with his best friend. If that didn’t say how much he missed Kent, what did?
Neil got out of his car and slowly closed the door. As he walked to the Kent’s front door, Neil slipped his hand into his jacket pocket and fingered the key there, hesitating for a moment about whether to use it or not. In the past neither he nor Kent had stood on ceremony with each other, but ever since the accident things between them had been a little different. But no more, Neil thought with a smile. He slipped the key in the lock and turned it.
Kent waited for him in the entrance hall, presumably having heard Neil’s car draw up outside. From the perplexed look on Kent’s face, Neil assumed that perhaps Kent had heard his hesitation on his doorstep and was probably wondering what had caused his uncertainty. Wanting to reassure Kent, Neil smiled warmly and took a step towards him — and immediately he felt something, someone violently thrust him forward. He lost his balance and was stumbling toward Kent, who stretched out his arms as if to catch him. But they never connected.
Even as he was falling, Neil was aware of the large man moving quickly behind him through the still open door; he must have been the one who had pushed Neil towards Kent. Neil had a sudden presentiment that Kent was in danger from this man. Neil struggled to get his feet in an attempt to go to Kent’s aid, and he had just about made it when he felt a sharp pain in his thigh. He cried out.
Neil was shocked to see a second man standing over him with a weapon aimed at him. Neil looked down and saw some kind of dart sticking in his upper thigh. Still determined to get closer to Kent, feeling somehow that they would both be safer if they were together, Neil attempted to get to his knees, tried to crawl to Kent, but he had no control over his legs and he collapsed.
Out of the corner of his eye Neil saw Kent still attempting to reach him, but Neil knew that Kent wasn’t going to make it. One of the men grabbed a hold of Kent and swung him away. Neil heard Kent curse in angry frustration as he tried to fight back. At the same moment Neil’s leg collapsed under him and Neil tumbled to the floor.
“Ke..nt,” Neil murmured brokenly as the pain in his thigh turned to a cold numbness that sapped his strength. He tried to say Kent’s name again but only managed to utter unintelligible sounds.
Lying on the floor, Neil stared through half-lidded eyes watching in disbelief as Kent struggled with the two assailants. Kent was clearly doing his best, but he was outnumbered and both men were heavier than he was.
One man had managed to get behind Kent and twisted his arms up his back as the second man began to strike him again and again. Kent desperately tried to free himself but the two men clearly knew what they were doing and he was held fast.
By now Neil was unable to move. He felt heavy and cumbersome. As if his head was stuffed with cotton wadding. He watched horrified as Kent fought a losing battle, clearly hurting. Blood sprayed from his mouth and various cuts on his face. One man held Kent while the other pounded on him. He moved from damaging Kent’s face to his body landing blows on his chest and abdomen. Kent grunted and moaned but was unable to free himself.
They’re going to kill him.
Neil tried to beg them to let him alone but the words would not come. Neil didn’t even know he was crying until he tasted his tears. He swore to anyone, any being who might listen, that he would do anything if only this would stop.
A voice spoke from behind him, cold and harsh. “Stop. That’s enough for now. Don’t want him dead… yet. Just leave enough evidence.”
Neil’s first reaction was utter relief as the two men instantly obeyed and allowed Kent to slide to the floor. His second was disquiet about the appearance of this third man who was obeyed so instantly. Also there was an odd inflection on the word “evidence” as the stranger said it and it gave Neil a chill.
Evidence of what? Oh God!
“You still with us, Carson?” the voice addressed him quietly. Neil still could not see him, though as his vision was going increasingly gray around the edges he wasn’t sure if he could have seen the man properly anyway. Neil sensed the man had moved closer as the voice seemed louder as the man said, “Don’t worry, you’ll understand… eventually.”
Neil’s failing gaze filled with the image of Kent collapsed into a heap at the men’s feet, clearly unconscious now, just before he lost his own battle against the encroaching darkness.
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