I drag my fingers through my silky pale rose colored hair, green eyes fixed on the cross walk sign waiting for the light to change and the slush of people I'm mobbed into moves. I can feel the slack in my tie holding my bun up threatening to come lose, so I crane my neck so that it is straight and proper without too much motion. A few shorter layers that frame my cheeks have come free already and a bad habit of mine is to twine my hair around my finger while strangers press uncomfortably behind me crowding the corner. I'm urged forward as we move like a swarm of fish across the road to the other side. I can feel someone who's too inappropriately pressed behind me breathing hot breath on the naked nape of my neck. I can feel him jut against me when I try to gain distance like a pair of flats that is a size too big and the extra space slaps at my heels each step. Finally I surge forward yearning for freedom and to break free from the blobby monster and break through the congestion making my way toward Macy's.
Everyone steals these moments by emerging from their homes after being cooped up for the hopelessly long winter. Colors finally begin to paint against the sky above the skylines and warm rays of light dips its fingers through the spines of the buildings. Spring is in the air. We all mimic the flowers that are still hidden beneath the flat and muddy colors of the city, we angle our faces to the sun which has been hidden behind a veil of gray like a face behind a paper fan. We want to soak up as much vitamin C as we can and I feel the light burn against my exposed skin. Yesterday when I passed this way the store was still in muted colors reflecting the sludge outside but today it is bursting with pink. I stare in awe at the window display. Flamingo's the size of the entire span of the window towers on each side of the entrance to the door all adorned and anatomy made up of pink roses! If these are fake, whoever fabricated the material made it look as realistic as possible. Hanging above their crowns are real flowers that dangle in tight tangles and it renews the stores vigor. I imagine the workers tirelessly staying through all hours of the night to prepare the store for spring.
I brush the left strand behind my ear and begin my shameless hunting. It's been awhile since I binged for myself and after yesterday's messy blood and stitches night at the hospital I felt I needed to wipe the memory clean with something material. I thumb through the sales rack, I look at the new lines on the outer edges of the store, I even gravitate towards the jewelry. Black pearl earrings. Ino told me once that my complexion was fair, so soft pastels of pinks and whites would best accent me. But I found emeralds didn't contrast against the hue of my eye color, and soft yellows also seemed to flatter me. What did she know? She was always wearing crop tops that cut off just under the lines that silhouetted her breasts and shorts that clung too tightly to her ass. I assess a bright red sweater that would free my shoulders from its grip and add it to my basket. I swipe my right stray strand behind my ear and inspect a rose gold ring that appeals to my depth of symmetry. The gold is like filigree that curves gracefully in sharp patterns and arches that eventually build up to its center which dawns a black pearl that gleams a soft shade of gray when it hits the light and bleeds to deep black like the depths of a sea. A smatter of diamonds adorn random patterns like stars. Five on the left side of the pearl, three on the right. This will match my earrings.
With a single bag slung around my arm I wander to my usual spot which has become my favorite place to frequent for coffee. I sit at the high table crossing my legs over one another arresting the fabric of my skirt to keep it from coming loose. I pull out the book from my purse and jot down little notes. What no one tells you in medical school is that although yes you are saving lives there are more bad days that outweigh the good one does. It's getting harder and harder to find the slips of those good moments and the more gore filled ones blot out that and remain in your head like scars. I've woken up numerous times in a sheen of sweat and nightmares of the faces I couldn't save laid there on the table like a cold dead slab of meat as if they're waiting for me to stitch up the pieces of their broken body. One of my coworkers suggested I start writing down the good. It's a sparse entry but a little girl came in with a flesh eating virus after she went into lake water with a small open wound no more the size of my pinky's tip. The bacteria entered that small entry point and within hours she got severely sick and in no more than eight hours later her leg began to blacken. We were able to extract the bacteria and eradicate any other threats. Had she been another hour later, she would have lost her entire leg up to her calf.
The hospital is always filled with patients. Like the cars that pack together outside like flakes of snow, so too are the halls of the hospital. I work endlessly. I'm afraid to admit that I now lean heavily on the assistance of caffeine. Like the officers that are allowed leave after a bad case to get their sanity back together, so too have I put in for two weeks' vacation. Tsunade insisted I take more but if I don't do something I only drown in my own thoughts and vanish into naps. She suggested I actually go on a vacation and get out of the city but it felt so odd to picture myself somewhere tropical and warm. Like residents in hotter climates who never get snow for Christmas.
Hinata shoots me a text. I extract the phone from my jacket pocket looking at the small rectangular screen and thumb away all the notifications clogging my feed until finally I get to the message board. She wants me to meet her at her apartment. She's not too far from where I am, it isn't a big enough strain to have to hail a cab. With four blocks I'm there buzzing at the front gate. I ride the elevator eleven floors up and walk halfway down the hall before knocking on her door. Quietly and quickly she opens it, her face is flushed, and she has tears rimming in her eyes like diamonds against her black lashes. Her pearl white eyes plead to mine and her brows are knit together. I'm startled. She's truly upset. Usually she smiles and pretends there's nothing wrong but after Ino and I finally staged an intervention to get her out of her abusive relationship she had been struggling. She motions me in. Her family has money but after Hinata left our small town and migrated here with Ino and I she had opted for a small apartment in a more down trodden part of the city.
"Sakura, I'm so glad you're here. Something terrible has happened." I look at her, my own brow arched in confusion and she's moved like a ghost effortlessly into the other room. I go to follow but she's already floated back and produces a note tightly gripped in the confines of her shaking hand. I gently pull the letter from the feed of her palm and look over the document. The note is hand typed and not signed. The content of the letter sends a shiver through my body.
"Someone sent you a threatening letter?"
"D-do you th-think it could be h-him?" Her whole body convulses now and her hands find one another gripping until her knuckles are as pale as the color of her pearl eyes.
"No. Your ex is a jackass but he's a coward at heart and wouldn't send something like this." I take a seat suddenly feeling a dreadful weight in my body threatening to pull me down. "It seems to me the person whose contacting you wants a piece of your fortune."
"Should I tell father? Oh…he'll be cross. He'll want to send the police force and private investigators." Her voice is a feather against the drumming in my ears. She hasn't been able to look at me since she retrieved the letter. Gingerly I put my hand against her quaking shoulder offering warmth and softening my voice.
"Hinata, I think you should let your father know about this. It could become serious…"
"No one even knows I'm out here…who…who could…?"
"It's easy for a woman to be stalked. I hate to admit this to you too and scare you even more but if one wanted to type in your full name the internet isn't shy about revealing articles about your fathers charity work and that you and your sister are heiresses."
I watched her shrink into herself. I looked back to the letter.
"I don't want my family to get hurt."
"All the more reason to warn them that you and them may be targeted."
I spent the rest of my visit cooing soft words of encouragement and making her several pots of herbal tea to calm her jittery nerves. When I suggested she speak to detective Naruto about all this she was all too eager to change the subject or dismiss it. I loved Hinata as the dear friend she was to me but, sometimes it was like speaking to a child who was afraid of her own shadow. Children could be difficult and stubborn and no matter what I pitched to her she shot down. Finally I had to threaten to tell my own sources about the letter and that seemed to sap any of her protests. She didn't want me to get involved and made a promise that first thing in the morning before work she would go to the authorities with her proof and ask for help. It was enough to sate me. The letter gave her a two weeks' notice to produce the money or transfer it to a secure private fund so I felt a little at ease that perhaps they wouldn't come to collect her in exchange for that promise.
I lay awake all night feeling guilty about Hinata. It became too hard to leave her alone and when I shot her a text to come back to my place for the time being she politely declined still feigning that she didn't want me to get hurt in any of this exchange so I fled my apartment taking a cab as if precious moments were slipping from my fingers. Her building was alight and it helped douse a little of my fears but when I reached her front door it was then I noticed there was a splinter in the wood at the hinge. My heart was in my throat as my fingers lightly touched upon the wood of the door and it yawned open. Her apartment was dark and I could hear muffled talking. Maybe Hinata was retiring for the night and speaking to her father but then why would her door be affected by such a thing?
I dared two steps into her room when the creak in the floor threatened to tattle on me if I moved further. I craned my neck trying to peer around the corner to the kitchen. The only light was the clock on her microwave and stove. I inched against the frame of the wall getting closer to the rush of voices. Now I heard the distinction of a male. I strained for a minute to hear Hinata's reply but nothing came. A shadow moved across the wall in the living room. I went to strain my eyes to look into the stretch of darkness but felt a large hand press my locked lips against my teeth restraining my cries and screams of help. There was a wall of muscle at my back. My arms were pinned at my sides as the other arm snaked around me. My only free limbs were my legs which were easily lead in a dragging motion as the assailant directed us by holding my weight up and guiding us into the bedroom. My eyes widened. Hinata was slung over the shoulder of another male that seemed only a figment in the room. I could hear the venom in the elder male's words as he hissed to the one man handling me.
"Who the fuck is that?"
"Don't know. She was lurking at the door. What should we do?" I felt the pinprick of fear radiate up my spine and I began fighting. With little avail he easily coiled his arm flexing his muscles tighter against me. It was hard to take in air. I could see black blotting the corners of my vision.
"She's seen too much. Get rid of her."
"This might be the one she was texting." I felt his hand move from my mouth and I took a sharp breath of air into my lungs but felt the scream vanish inside my throat when the clicking sound and cold round press of steel touched under my jaw. It came out as a startled gasp.
"Don't you even fucking dare." My entire body began shaking. His voice was as deep and vicious as the steel under my chin. His arm uncoiled, he transferred the gun to his other hand and the free one plunged into my pockets. I let out a small yelp of surprise trying to shrink myself to get away from his invasive hands but moments later he plucked my phone from my back pocket. I glared blindly at him in the dark and shut my eyes when the shock of the bright screen flashed over my retinas. I blinked back burning tears watching him thumb through the phone then stopped.
"That the one?" The other male ground out through tightly gritted teeth.
"Yep." Said my assailant with a careless sigh. He slipped the phone somewhere behind me in one of his pockets and then he resumed the hold he had before. The guns position changed to my temple.
"Your call." The casual exchange made me think these two criminals knew one another on a personal level. Maybe even related? I couldn't think about that right now. Right now I needed to pine for my survival. I spent my years trying to save lives and to think of becoming just a stain within my legacy and a good front page article that would be looked over by tomorrow's new stories made my stomach churn.
"I know you two were the ones that sent the letter. I-I've already contacted the police about it." There was a long stretch of silence that curdled the bile in my stomach even more painfully sour. The elder spoke.
"We're wasting time here. Bag her too. We'll figure it out once we're in the clear." The one behind me didn't respond. He only moved awkwardly behind me slipping one sleeve of a jacket to him and forcing the other sleeve to my arm. His free hand was hidden between the shared garment and the barrel was now tightly pressed at my back. I swallowed a wet gulp feeling the block roughly glide down my throat.
"Here's the deal. You scream. You say anything. I shoot you first. Then I shoot all the people you call out too. I don't care if it's a kid either. Got me?" I gave a curt nod. "Say it!"
"Yes I understand!" I held the front of my sweater with my free hand trying to steady my nerves.
Given the time of night there was no body that inhabited the entry ways or hallways. The elder had moved Hinata so it looked as though with her arm slung around the back of his neck and him holding her by her waist he looked like a gallant gentleman escorting his drunk girlfriend into a cab. But in the cabs stead was a black Lincoln. She was put in the trunk however…and I was forced to duck into the cabin of the back row of seats that faced one another. The elder took to the wheel. The black divider hid him completely and I was face to face with my captor who freed himself from the jacket. I was too terrified to shrug the rest of it off me. We were moving and I looked to the tinted windows walled around me. I felt small. I felt hopeless. My life was out of my hands. I knew in this moment how my patients felt…
The younger captor was tall, not as tall as the other one but still larger than my short stature. He had long elegant legs that were cloaked in black jeans with faint tan stitching at the seams. He had heavy steel toed boots that somehow he controlled to keep his footfalls as silent as a cats. I saw the gray outlines in his shirt that made up the peaks and mountains of his midsection to his chest. His biceps were bulging from the clad shirts tight hold. The same arms that almost crushed me in two like a toothpick. He slung his forearm on the back of his seat showing the deadly muscle beneath his flesh. I looked away before his eyes could catch hold of mine. Charcoal black and bottomless like a shark's. He had a long aristocratic nose and his lips were thin but were perfectly shaped so if he smirked they tips of them would be like little arrows that would point to his long cheekbones. His hair was a mop of thick locks and like babies he was cursed with terrible cowlicks that swirled and curved upwards but yet-it made him look distinguished and just fit to his angelic appearance. I crushed my thoughts digging bloody moons into my palms.
Why had he put Hinata in the trunk? It wasn't like he couldn't overpower us if she awoke. Perhaps he didn't want us speaking to each other. I felt my body temperature rise, the arm that was buried in the jacket suddenly burning setting wildfire throughout my other limbs. I shirked it off pulling my feet to the wide expanse of the seat tucking my knees to my chest. He was busying himself with my phone going through it and erasing the contents. I just wanted to sleep. My eyes burned with need but my body was wide awake. All my nerves were firing away with adrenaline. But as the hours went by and my mindless gaze watched the landscape scrape by in blurs I was fading. I hadn't noticed when I stopped holding my head up and came to attention when my forehead was pressed against the cold glass. I jerked awake but couldn't fight sleep any longer. Maybe I should just take a minuscule one-it might be my last chance for sleep. My thoughts grew heavier and became scrambled and finally I gave in to the darkness.