Author: TazRaven (Sara)
It's funny how life works. One minute you can be reading a book, cooking dinner, performing any number of mundane tasks. And the next, you can be thrown for a loop. Death, infidelity, unemployment. They can strike at the most surprising moments, merely because you never expect them; just as I didn't expect Tara Maclay to knock on my door that night.
I'd been cleaning my clothes for tomorrow, happily enjoying the first night off I'd had in weeks. After I finished with my shirts, I moved onto the pants. That's when I heard the knock on my door. I put down the pair of slacks I'd been about to wash and walked nonchalantly to the door, never expecting the love of my life to be on the other side. I stood on the tips of my toes and looked through the peephole, gasping when I saw light brown hair and frightened blue eyes. I tore open the door, startling her even more. Before I could ask what was going on, she raced through the door and shut it behind her.
I realized then that Tara Maclay was standing in my apartment. The second thing I realized was that I wasn't wearing my binding. Fortunately, Tara didn't seem to notice. She was too afraid. After asking if she was alright and only getting a muted shake of her head, I led her to the couch and brewed a cup of tea to help calm her nerves, fretting the entire time about whether I was being too presumptuous in having her in my apartment. However, all thoughts of that nature were banished from my mind when I saw the scared look in her eyes. I brought her the cup of tea and sat down on the other side of the couch. She brought the cup to her lips and took what looked like a needed drink. Then she told me what she'd seen.
Tara smiled before taking one last curtsy and exiting the stage amidst the applause. She made a beeline for her dressing room, hoping to escape the club before the men could confront her about tonight's performance. While normally she wouldn't have left hurriedly after a performance, instead choosing to stay and listen to comments, tonight was different. Tonight, Will wasn't working.
It's amazing how quickly the red-haired young man had become a major part of her life. She'd never become such fast friends with anyone before. But that's all they were; friends. And it seemed that's all they ever would be. Tara had tried flirting with him, talking with him at every available time, smiling coyly in his direction, lingering touches that she was sure he understood the reason for. And yet, nothing. She'd never felt this way about anyone before, and certainly had never flirted, but with Will, it just felt right.
Sighing despondedly, Tara changed out of her stage costume, removing the sequined red dress and black heels. She hung the outfit on a hanger that was resting on the door of her "dressing room," which was really just a janitor's closet that had been cleaned out. Quickly slipping on a long brown skirt and matching shirt before stepping into dark brown heels, Tara grabbed her show dress and exited the room as quietly as she could. Instead of risking a lengthy conversation with a patron by using the front door, Tara decided to slip out the back, braving the dark alley rather than the inebriated customers. She opened the door and slipped into the alley. Her breath caught in her throat as it closed behind her, encasing her in darkness and a noise that she couldn't place immediately. And then she realized what it was. Screaming.
The screaming was silenced as quickly as it began, followed by a deep voice.
"That wasn't very manly of you, Warren. Screaming like that."
Tara's breath caught again, and for some reason she couldn't discern, she tiptoed, as best as she could in heels, toward the voice. Trying to make as little sound as possible, she edged along the brick wall, opposite the direction of the street, and safety. Making sure to keep in the dark, she crept as close as she could to the end of the wall, stopping when she was able to peer beyond it to see a hidden back lot. The only entrance or exit was the alleyway she was currently hiding in. Cargo boxes and pieces of paper littered the ground, and a single light from a street lamp shone on the scene. As Tara gazed upon the sight before her, she wished that there hadn't been a lamp.
Her eyes were first drawn to the center of the lot. A man, strapped to a chair, sat in the center. At first, Tara didn't know who it was despite the name that the man had said, the victim's face so bloodied and beaten that she could barely look. Both of his eyes were black, and blood ran from cuts almost everywhere across his face. All confusion was removed when he spoke. She couldn't make out the words, his mouth too swollen to properly enunciate. But she knew who it was. She felt the bile rise in her throat as she heard Warren's voice come from the human turned punching bag. Fighting the urge to vomit at the sight of her boss, she tore her eyes away. They settled on the man who, presumably, had beaten him senseless.
He was dressed in a cream colored suit, not even making an effort to blend into the night, as if unafraid of being seen. His hair was dark brown, almost black, and in his hand was a wooden bat. The shined wood glistened against the light emanating from the small street lamp, drawing Tara's eyes no matter how much she tried to keep them away. All she wanted to do was run, and yet there she stood, her feet rooted to the ground as effectively as if she'd actually sprouted roots. She watched the scene unfold before her.
Two brutish men dressed in identical black suits hung back from the scene, watching with what looked like interest and caution. One, the larger of the two, cracked his knuckles before reaching inside his jacket pocket. He removed a snub nosed handgun that Tara recognized as the firearms that many police officers carried around. She was almost positive that this man was not a cop. Here eyes were drawn immediately back to the man in the cream colored suit as he began to speak.
"Mears, Mears, Mears. I know what you've been up to." He spoke with a distinct Chicago accent, his voice deeper than any other she'd ever heard. He began to walk towards Warren as he spoke. "Now, Mears, there are only a few things I can't tolerate, but lying is the worst one." The man stopped right in front of Warren, the bat in his hand still glinting in the light. "What I don't understand though, is why you thought you could get away with lying to me."
In half a second, the expression on the man's face turned from cool indifference to venomous hatred. Tara cringed from where she stood, unable to imagine what it would be like to be on the receiving end of his anger, and certainly not wanting to. A wet spot formed on the crotch of Warren's pants. "You fucking stole from me! You know what I do to lying fucks, Mears. Now you're gonna feel what I do to ‘em."
Tara knew what was going to happen, and yet was unable to move, unable to do anything except watch as the man quickly shoved a rag into Warren's mouth. She fought to contain a cry as the man swung the bat through the air with such force that it whistled before connecting solidly with Warren's knee. Warren screamed through the rag in his mouth, his knee audibly breaking, the splintering noise carrying through the still night. Tara lost the fight against her stomach. She fell to her hands and knees and vomited.
After emptying the contents of her gut, almost grateful for Warren's screams as they covered up the sound of her retching, she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and resolved to leave the alley. Immediately. Just as she was about to turn to go, her eyes were once again drawn to the leader of the group as he walked over to the large men watching.
"Here ya go, Mr. Malone," Tara heard the larger man say, as the bat was replaced with the snub-nosed handgun. Before Tara could try and discern where she'd heard that name before, Mr. Malone turned around and shot Warren in the head.
For a moment, Tara couldn't move, frozen with fear as she saw the bullet hole in Warren's head trickle blood slowly down his brow, his eyes now blank where only seconds before there had been blind terror, his mouth open in an eternal scream. Then she ran.
She turned around and began to sprint out of the alley and into the street, running as fast as she could, until her foot hit a glass bottle. She stumbled for a moment before regaining her balance as the bottle flew into the air, shattering against the wall. Tara barely had time to realize they would have heard the noise. She kept running, assisted by the adrenaline coursing through her system, a product of extreme fear and survival instinct. It was only after running for several blocks that Tara stopped as a sudden realization entered her mind. Her dress was gone. In her mind she saw where it was, crumpled on the ground near the mouth of the alley. She'd dropped it along with the contents of her stomach. Hopefully, it was hidden enough by the shadows. But in her mind she knew. She knew that Mr. Malone would find it and figure out who it belonged to. She knew he would put two and two together, and realize that she'd heard him. She knew she couldn't go home. Her feet started carrying her to the one person she knew she could trust. She could only hope Will was home.