The cabbie pulled to the curb in front of the address Ellie provided. Across the sidewalk, at this time of the morning, the main doors to the courthouse remained locked. She handed the driver cash and exited the cab. Puddles pooled on the road, and the headlights sent shafts of luminous light across the slick black surface. She had time to kill. Ellie cinched her coat belt tighter, dropped her head and ran for the cover of a parking garage on the corner.
She slipped into the stairwell near the elevator shaft, and hustled to a top covered floor. Her breath steamed in a darkened dusk as she surveyed the street below. Traffic had picked up and an occasional car entered the garage’s lower levels.
She lit a cigarette, wrestling with betraying Finn’s trust. I got this. Trust me, he’d once said. He’s so sure about things, Ellie thought, frustrated he usually was right but obsessed not to pursue revenge, betrayed justice. Ellie shivered as she quashed the cigarette beneath a rain soaked shoe.
The voices screaming like banshees in her head rose in pitch. Revenge is the only true justice. Community service is no justice for murder. It’s what the da said fifteen years ago, and it’s what the da says now. Nothing’s changed. It’s time. They’ll pay for her life with their own. Justice demands revenge.She gripped the gun secure in her pocket.
Shivering from cold, her unsteady hand drew another cigarette from the pack as she descended back down the stairwell. The purplish charcoal sky continued dumping rain. She stepped into the deluge, and had drifted a block from the courthouse when the tantalizing aroma of coffee lured her to a small coffee shop.
Under an awning overhanging the sidewalk, she watched as several people shuffled around inside. She crowded in, ordered a cappuccino, and returned to the cover of the awning. She listened to the deafening rain and blew on the drink—checking her watch between sips.
“Ellie?” foreshadowed a voice piercing Ellie’s anonymity.
The smell of fear blanketed everything like ash as Ellie’s gut tightened. Wary, she twisted toward the intruder. Her heart raced as her peripheral vision narrowed. Ellie barely recognized the slicing angles of the ancient woman holding the door ajar.
“Aida,” Ellie gasped.
Aida waved, smiling demurely. Ellie forced a half smile and nonchalantly nodded despite the urge to run to Aida, who was turning to enter the shop. Why now? Another time or place, and it could all be different. Ellie trembled, overwhelmed by remorse. Tossing the coffee, she darted across the street and bracing against the rain, she bustled toward the courthouse.
The rain’s dark shadows played tricks with her mind, and startled, she glanced over her shoulder and stumbled. The weight of her body crashed upon a twisted left foot. Ellie squinted into the torrent. No, this can’t happen!
She regained her balance and tried a step, but pain shot hot to her brain. She limped as she glanced up. One by one, lights flickered on different floors in offices hovering above. Not far now, she coaxed as she dragged her aching ankle in long strides to a position on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse.
Dense rain shimmered like layers of beveled glass, concealing her form in a watery cocoon. Relieved she had canvassed the streets weeks prior, she froze like a statue, waiting on the concrete stage she had set for retribution. At 8:20 a.m., a black limousine rolled to a halt at a four-way stop in front of the courthouse. Aamon exited from the limo’s rear door in leopard print jeans, a tight orange T-shirt, a black leather jacket, and a multicolored beanie.
Ellie blinked, straining to pierce the rain’s flickering shadows when she saw Jesse exiting from the limo’s opposite side. Multiple gold chains cascaded from his brown neck outlined by a black leisure suit. A Confederate ball cap contained his unruly hair. They resembled music icons arriving for an mtv award but in Ellie’s vengeful eyes, they were cold-blooded killers.
Sprinting through the monsoon-like rain, Aamon glanced back and joked with Jesse, trailing behind him. They’re trapped like vermin, Ellie reveled. The time has arrived. They splashed toward her on the sidewalk, laughing with the insouciance of children, offending Ellie. Her pulse quickened, palpable against her skin.
Motionless as a chameleon, her shadowy form blended with the dense silver-aqua rain when she stepped into their path. With a firm grip, she pulled the metal barrel from her pocket, aiming with one hand braced by the other.