Thursday, January 5, 2012

Smelling the Flowers

by Salvatore Buttaci



How long had she been lying there? Looking up, she saw a tall tree poking at the August sky. Bright sunlight filling the spaces between branches and leaves nearly blinded her. One thing was certain: she was not dreaming.
She heard the cries of a far away bird. What brought her to this? She flexed the fingers of her left hand. Then she tried the right but she could not will her fingers to even wiggle slightly. If only she could turn her head from side to side. Tears pinched free from the corners of her eyes. Her lips beat mutely; inside her head a litany of prayers raged: Help me, God! Help me! I don't remember! With her good hand she touched her temple and came away with blood.
Stop it! We will not panic, she told herself. There's got to be an explanation. I was walking in the park on my lunch hour. I tripped. I banged my head against the stone walk. No. More like I was running down the street. Someone had a gun. I ran here to hide. Did he find me?
The midday sun was a hot wrecking ball crashing heat down on her body. It made her think back to a childhood day when her little brother Bobby held a magnifying glass to her notebook pages and the sun set those pages on fire. How she cried, then made Bobby cry when she hit him with her book bag. Bobby! Something about Bobby. Her head hurt as she tried to put all the pieces together. Bobby.
He had been the brain of the family. Her father said so. Her mother said it too. Bobby this. Bobby that. Bobby the genius. Bobby who went to college. Bobby who became a lawyer. Bobby who broke the family's heart by taking a job with the mob. Oh, God! She saw a picture in her head, materializing like a wild dog in a junkyard. She was afraid it would spring up at her and tear out her throat now filling up with gagging, unvoiced screams.
"She's hiding."
The voice startled her. It was close, maybe as close as feet away but so far they had not found her.
"She's gotta be here. You scared her into the park. Smart ass. Waving a gun. What is this…the movies! She runs out, you go back and tell Dillon how smart you are. How you flashed your gun like some crazy bandito. I ain't fryin' for you."
"Okay, okay," the other voice said.
Valerie held her breath. She could move both her hands now. Her legs too. She saw hedges several feet away and with painful effort she inched her body away from the voices moving closer. With sheer will and fear she dragged her body towards the hiding place. The voices were still too close, but she held her breath inside the safety of the hedges.
"So we kill her?"
"Yeah, first we find her."
Valerie shook her head. She might die but she'd struggle first.
She tried to lie still, even when the caterpillar fuzzy walked up her arm. Even when the tips of the hedge branches cut her face. Maybe they'd give up looking. From the looks of what'd been going on, that was unlikely.
"Carl!" She heard a voice calling. Bobby‘s voice? Bobby? Here in this park? "Carl! It’s off. Dillon changed his mind. Wherever she's hiding, Dillon says, let her stay."
The three of them were so close to the hedges she could almost smell the leather of their shoes. "Dillon say that?" one of them asked.
"He really say, let her go?" asked the other one. Bobby wasn't saying anything.
"Hey, big guy, what's with…" and then she heard the shots quaking the ground beneath her. Then the other voice begging, "No! No!" Then the shots rang out again.
"I know you're here," her brother said, his voice calm and sweeter than she'd ever remembered. "I saved your life. You owe me one. Dillon's counting on you. When you go back to that courthouse, you tell them Bradford's okay. You tell them even if you're the only holdout on that jury. Your life depends on Bradford walking."
She heard the gate of the park's grand garden close gently the way Bobby always did things, gently, quietly, perfectly. And then, like all those times in her growing up years, he was gone.
Today might have been her last. It was clear now. She had left the courthouse and was unlocking her car to head home. The one called Carl and the other man had stepped towards her, showed guns, and motioned her towards the car alongside hers. But she’d managed to break from them and run into the park. Up and down the maize of tall hedges until one of them fired his gun and brought her down. Who knew for how long she lay there. She was still lying there, this time hidden inside the hedges, a prisoner. Two hired killers were dead. Bobby was gone.
It saddened her most of all because Bobby had come back. It had been what she'd always dreamed, especially when their parents died. Somebody to rely on when life turned her upside down. But this? Her own brother saved her life, only to threaten to take it away again if she didn't help him save the life of a murderer? She struggled to her feet, brushed off the twigs that played across her skirt. The blood on the side of Valerie's grazed head had caked into a fresh scab. It was tender but she'd live. Bobby had saved her, but she'd take her chances from here on in.
She rummaged through her purse that she'd managed to hold onto. Finding her cell phone, she dialed the number from the card Michael West had given her.
"This is Valerie Gordon," she said. "May I speak with the prosecutor?"

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting my story here, Angela.

    Salvatore

    ReplyDelete
  2. Josephine LissandrelloJanuary 8, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    Good story.....suspenseful. I liked that at the end her honesty prevailed. I'm also glad that since Valerie was related to a mobster, her last name was Gordon and not Giordano! Thanks for sharing Sal. It's always a pleasure to read your writing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you, Jo, for reading my story. Hope you are having a wonderful start to this new year!

    Love from me and Sharon.

    ReplyDelete