She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but Gabi Montgomery had the feeling something was off ever since she entered her apartment an hour ago. She couldn’t figure out why, but her space felt invaded somehow. The feeling unnerved her. Her attempt at a sexy soak in the bath with a book and a glass of wine didn’t help to wind her down. In fact, she got out of the tub the minute she got in because she started feeling like she’d be at a disadvantage if someone walked into the room.
This particular fear is unwarranted because she lived alone. But, she never second-guessed feelings like these. She couldn’t afford to. And the more time that passed, the more pronounced the feeling was.
She looked at her reflection in passing the mirror. Wet, relaxed hair hung down her back. Her chocolate coloured skin, so dark she almost disappears in the dark with her usual skin-tight, all black attire was draped tightly over her fit physique. Bold eyes with the ability to bare the soul of anyone who looked into them, high cheekbones, a plump nose and sculpted lips. At five feet, eight inches tall, a hundred and thirty-five pounds, she was the girl everyone mistook for the twenty-two-year-old model. She never bothered to tell most people she’s a decade older than that, and while her job required a walk of stealth, grace and fluidity, a runway was not where she did it. She required an audience of none to be successful.
“Gabz, you’re a mess”. She tried talking to herself out loud, albeit only loud enough to carry to her ears.
It had been a long week. Perhaps a pedicure would soothe whatever anxiety she has been feeling. She walked into the second bedroom in her apartment to find her nail kit. She stepped through the door and every hair on the back of her neck stood up. She froze. Her heart raced and beat an erratic, loud rhythm in her ears. Within a second she controlled it. Light, even breathing and acute awareness as she looked around the room, allowing her pulse to slow to a reptilian hibernation pace. She was a human weapon and at the moment fully charged and in tune. Something was wrong. Her sixth sense was as sharp as a guillotine.
She silently scanned the dark room, then looked behind her and moved swiftly, silently to the nightstand in her bedroom and picked up her service Glock. She walked back to the spare bedroom and spoke.
“Don’t let me come looking for you. Come out now and save us both the hassle.”
Her voice carried a deadly calmness that most people found chilling, mirroring the blank emotionless expression she wore like a second skin.
An ever so slight movement from the far side of the room caught her eye and she flexed her fingers and arms in a motion as fluid as the flow of water, raising her weapon in the instant it took to happen.
Someone was in her apartment.
“Gabrielle Ava Montgomery.” She didn’t recognise the ashy male voice.
“Come out.” She ordered.
Slowly, the figure rose from the other side of the bed.
Gabi didn’t bother to switch the light on. Enough light came through the window for her to see his face clearly and she wanted to advantage she knew the dark gave her. She recognised him. He looked too much like the man she had killed for her not to, so she knew who this was. It had to be Tony Delaware’s brother Mike. Of that she was sure. She had killed fifty-two men, and she knows the face of every last one. She would never forget. No matter how many there were.
He clutched a large knife. Instinctively she knew that wasn’t his only weapon. He got this far. He isn’t stupid. He had a gun. She knew.
She also didn’t miss the fact that along with being inside her apartment, he had used her full name. Something she herself hadn’t heard in a while. He’d clearly been keeping tabs on her. She had been careless.
For the last eight years, she’s been a member of the Special Weapons And Tactics SWAT team. She’s second in command of her unit. Last year, her team was called in to take out an irate kidnapper who had taken three teenagers, two girls and one boy hostage. He’d already killed one of the girls and shot the boy. The team needed their best sniper to act fast. That was her. She took Delaware out before he’d been able to shoot the last kid.
She knew what Mike was after. It’s what the families are always after. Revenge. Yet, this one had gotten farther than any other had before him. She usually saw them a mile away coming. Not this one. She found that interesting. And dangerous.
“You aren’t frightened, Gabi.” he said commented casually.
“You know better, Mike.”
“Ah… so you know who I am.” He smirked mockingly and enacted a bow that could only be described as disgraceful. It lacked gallantry in every way.
She remained silent. She is taller than he is and she was certain he is fit. She was almost certain. He was there to kill her, no doubting that. But she’d been in her apartment a whole hour. And yet… She needed to know.
“You’ve kind of lost your window of opportunity, haven’t you? I’ve been here an hour. Why did you let it come to this?”
“I thought to rape you first, beat you up. Make sure you understand you’re going to die for what you did to Tony.” He tried to keep the venom from his voice as he spoke and failed.
“How cute.” She taunted.
“I brought a body bag for you.” He taunted back.
“Good. I’ll need it. Your brother was in the last one I had.”
She heard the change in his breathing. It spoke of his anger. The anger she needs. She anticipated his movement a full three seconds before it happened. He lunged and in a split second, warm, sticky wet blood filled everything around them.
One of them was leaving that apartment dead.
The blood had grown cold and curdled. It was everywhere. The large, red splatters lay carelessly, yet intricately across the wooden floors, walls, paintings and pictures. One particularly telling stain included clumps of brain matter. The lifeless body sprawled awkwardly across the walkway presented as a witness to the vicious struggle that took place only minutes before. It was unrecognisable. The victim’s head was bashed in, giving the appearance of an odd geometrical figure. Examination revealed blunt force trauma, gunshot wounds and stab wounds. The killer’s rage was not to be mistaken. The eerie body bag nearby shocked and confused the cleanup team.
The metallic scent permeated the apartment, choking the most experienced of the forensics team and the chill of the night permeated the apartment from the cracked window. The city lights flashed below, the world carried on without missing the life it just lost. It didn’t stop, it didn’t cry. No moment of silence to show reverence.
The two women having been found unconscious were carted off to the hospital, police in toe.
One of them had to leave in a body bag. Gabi Montgomery had now killed fifty-three men.
1 Hour before…
***She didn’t want to kill him. She understood his anger. His brother was dead and she had killed him. It was easier to be angry at her than to acknowledge his brother was wrong, possibly ill. It didn’t matter now what he was or wasn’t. She did what she had to do to save lives. She shot the knife from Mike’s hand, but to her surprise, it didn’t stop him. He had a surprising amount of momentum for such a short distance and the collision knocked the wind out of her. She fell face forward and realised if she couldn’t move she would die. He was on top of her.
His weight braced in her back and his arm around her neck squeezed with a force she’d never felt. He growled and grunted. She used whatever strength she could muster to pick up the baseball bat that came into view. She said a short prayer to her nephew and awkwardly swatted above her head. She was losing consciousness. Finally, a blow connected enough to loosen his grip n she elbowed him in the ribs and wiggled from under him before he had a chance to recover. She couldn’t make it to her feet so she crawled.
A knock and the door opening surprised them both.
“Gabi! Come on, I’m getting you out of here. Let’s go get a drink. Or two. Or three… We don’t have to count.”
As the sound of her best friend’s voice filled the apartment, Gabi’s stomach fell as dread took over. No, no, no, no, no! He would reach her before she could. She tried to scream for Vanessa to get out but there was only a hoarse whisper. In horror, she realised her throat and airways were swollen. Her heart beat so loudly she couldn’t hear. She heard heels clicking in their direction.
Oh God! She was coming to her! To him!
Adrenaline rushed through her body and she got to her feet running towards him, him towards her. Halfway up, she dipped, retrieving the knife and the movement, too fast, threw her off balance. She rolled and got up, ignoring the puke that rose in her throat. She was dizzy. Her head hurt and the world was spinning. Her vision was blurred. She had to get up. Vanessa rounded the corner and bumped into Mike.
“Who-… Oh my God!”
Vanessa’s scream was cut off before it started, her attempt to flee a fraction of a second too late. Gabi reached them and her anger exploded. He was strangling her, even with his shot, bloodied hand. Vanessa was gasping for air without success, scratching at his face, kicking. Gabi clutched the knife rained the blows on his back with renewed strength as he howled and fell on top of Vanessa.
That made her angrier. She pulled him off of Vanessa while grabbing a wooden showpiece on her centre table. She hit him so many times she lost count. Not being satisfied, she got her hidden pistol and shot him six times. She thought Vanessa dead until she moaned. She didn’t have time to rejoice. All at once, her world went blank.
The darkness took over.
Where was she? She heard voices. She tried hard to focus on them. She couldn’t. She tried harder to focus on just one.
Her second in command. Her team was here. Gabi’s eyes fluttered open. As she struggled to open them, bright lights and a wave of nausea and excruciating pain forced its way through her, prompting her to close them close again. Her pulse hammered in her temples as the pain in her head ripped through her cranium and rushed down to collar her throat. Breathing was difficult. Painful. It became even more painful when her memory returned.
She was in the hospital. Why?
With the question, her memory returned forcefully in a rush of wanted and unwanted information. Michael Delaware had broken into her apartment and attacked her. And Vanessa.
Her eyes flew open and she began to struggle to get up. Where was Vanessa?
In an instant, Cruz was there.
“Hey, c’mon, Gabs. None of that. You have to stay put.”
Cruz gently laid her back down. She tried to ask him about Vanessa, but her voice didn’t materialise. She squeezed his hand to get his attention.
“What is it, Boss?”
Her fingers could move. She clumsily wrote letters in his palm. He was smart, he would understand. She was right. By the time she signed the second S, he had figured it out.
“Vanessa? Your friend?” Cruz asked.
“She’s fine, Boss. In better shape than you are. She’ll be okay. Delaware is dead. You got him.”
She knew that already. But Vanessa was okay. She was alive. Good. Fifty-three. The number haunted her. Lives taken are never easy, no matter the reason. She had a toll number most people would never imagine. Fifty-three men died at her hands. Fifty-three.
The darkness eventually settled over her as she slipped into unconsciousness.