Just beyond the rockslide was a drop-off overlooking mounds of scree just above the Abyss. There were several crevasses in which a body could easily be swallowed, never to be seen again. Darcy liked to believe if An Interested Party had not been crushed by the rocks, he had fallen, to either be dashed upon the scree, or devoured by the mountain itself.
Still, she wanted proof. In her encounter with him in Leeds it was obvious he was possessed of some cunning. She found this both intriguing and intimidating. Most of the men she dealt with, even those who looked after her when she was locked away, no matter how intelligent, could be manipulated after some time. It was a matter of figuring them and out and knowing how to play the games necessary to achieve her ends.
An Interested Party, upon first impression, seemed impervious to such things. In fact, Darcy felt the only reason she came away from their initial encounter was because he allowed it. That he was quite dangerous in his own rite. The very thought of which, no matter how likely, was sickening.
As she scrambled about the crevasses, she thought she heard the distant thwok of a helicopter. At one point she thought she heard the jackrabbit speaking in a raised voice. This got her attention. It occurred to her she wasn’t going to find a body, because there was no body to be found. With a frustrated hiss, she turned herself around to finish what she started five years ago.
She was nearly back to rockslide when movement along the Abyss caught her eye. At first, Darcy could only stare in disbelief at the sight of the jackrabbit heading back down the trail at a brisk pace. She almost screamed in rage as she moved closer to edge for a better look.
At the edge, she felt her balance wane for the briefest of seconds, as if something behind her moved her ever so slightly forward. The lower tiers of mountain seemed to reach up for her momentarily as she struggled to right herself. Then, she felt something, someone, gripping her very tightly about the waist.
“It’s all right. You’re okay,” Lankin whispered into her ear. “I’ve got you. I won’t let you fall.”
Darcy watched her prey disappear down the trail with a scowl. When she tried to struggle, his grip merely tightened. The turned her head to be face to face with Lankin and spat at him. He regarded the action with feline detachment.
“You should let me go!” She snapped, and he merely shrugged, as if unsurprised.
And she was flying, hurtling toward the rock a few hundred feet below her at incredible speed. At first, it didn’t seem real; that he would let her fall. But, there she was; cold air screaming in her ears as the ground rushed up. The scree yawned before her in the manner of broken teeth and jagged talons, ready to embrace her.
Then, suddenly, she stopped. Something jerked tightly about her waist. Darcy looked down to see it was the very climbing rope she had used to bind the jackrabbit. She was suspended just above the scree. First, she started to laugh manically and she found herself crying at the realization of what happened. Her bladder and bowels loosened and she was only partially successful in restraining the urge to vomit.
The thwok sound seemed to be closer. Something about that worried her. She felt the rope pulling on her waist and realized she was being pulled back up.
“I am afraid it’s not going to be that easy for you,” Lankin called down to her.
“I hate you!” Darcy screamed.
“If I was here solely for you to like than we’d both be disappointed.”
“Just let me fall!” Then her voice became plaintive; “Please!”
“No,” he said softly.
By this time she was dangling just a few feet from the edge once more. Lankin stood firmly, his wiry arms as knotted as the rope around her waist. His gray eyes were narrowed in predatory concentration, but there was a slight look of amusement playing across his lips, like that of a barn cat with an especially fat mouse.
“You’ve been building up to this for years,” Lankin said off-handedly. “Torment, torture, and ultimately murder someone you decided was the source of all your misery, then kill yourself so you could be with the fantasy of someone who left you fifteen years ago.” He pulled her closer to the edge, a smirk forming. “But you’ve been a naughty, naughty girl, and naughty girls need to be punished.”
With that, he gave a mighty tug, sending Darcy hurtling past him, onto the bare rock of the Death’s Head. It took her a moment to realize she was back on solid ground. Even before she could move, Lankin’s booted foot was jammed into the small of her back. He was using the rest of the rope to tie her hands behind her back. His trek pole ran behind her, making her feel as though she was being trussed.
“And your punishment is you get to live!” Lankin growled as he pulled her to her feet forcefully. Then he whispered in ear in a voice that was far removed from anything human; “Now, you see you’re not the only one capable of abject cruelty.”
Darcy felt defeated tears begin to flow as she was made to start walking along the trail. The thwok sound of the helicopter was very close now. Both of them turned to see the vehicle coming down along side them. There were official markings on it and men in uniforms could be seen riding in it.
“Lankin! We’re here!” Connelly’s voice was amplified by a loudspeaker. “We’ll land at the usual place and wait for you.”
“Dammit, Connelly!” He shouted back, although there was a smirk on his face. “We were going to be down by tonight! Did my sister ask about me?”