It came. Darkness. It crept into the corners of the room first and slowly moved toward her, like a groping hand attempting to suffocate her. Claire experienced the first stirrings of panic. She felt for the crumbling cement behind her, pushing herself to her feet as she heard it, a faint sound like that of an ancient metal door opening. Though she attempted to remain calm, her breathing quickened. She knew then what his other victims had felt, the terror that consumed them as the footsteps came closer. She was backing away from the door into the corner, her eyes riveted on the door. It was trembling slightly. She could hear the bolt being pulled back. It made a terrible screeching sound, ominous. Then it edged open. It swung and shuddered. Nothing moved beyond.
Every muscle in her body was tense. She knew the door would move, but when it did, she shook anyway. Slowly, a figure emerged from the darkness. He was only a silhouette, a shadow that caused her to stop breathing. Her fingers were starting to hurt, she was gripping the wall with such force.
"You're not afraid of the darkness, are you, Miss Kincaid?" he asked softly, his voice no more than a whisper. It was more terrible than if he had shouted, because there was an edge to his tone, a syrupy sweetness that made her skin crawl. She would not answer him, and he didn't expect her to. He was drawing nearer, slowly, his voice maintaining its utter calm. "You are very quiet," he said. "All of the others screamed. They cried. But not you. I knew you were different when I first laid eyes on you, Miss Kincaid. I knew you had dignity. I like dignity. The others, they amused me, but you… you captivate me. I should have known better than to expect finding you in tears. You haven't cried at all, have you?"
He reached out and touched her. She turned her face away from him, beneath the inquisitive fingertips. His hands were cold. "I wonder if he misses you," he mused. "Jack McCoy. I saw the way he looked at you. He wants you almost as much as I do. But he can't have you."
He gripped her chin in his firm hands and turned her toward him, his face so near hers that she could make out his eyes, glowing fiercely in the darkness. "No one can. You won't let them. But you'll let me, won't you?"
She wanted to tell him to go to hell, but couldn't form the words. Her heart was pounding. He could feel it, throbbing through her veins. She was going to be bruised in the morning, he was gripping her so tightly. In the morning. What made her think she would live to see the morning? The cement was crumbling beneath her fingers, and she closed her hand around it. There was a slight sound from the darkness, in the warehouse. He turned his head, listening. She was wearing a skirt and it made bringing up her knee difficult, but she did it anyway, connecting with his midsection. Her hand came up, the cement with it, casting the dust into his eyes and leaving red fingernail marks across his face, as she raked across his pale skin.
It happened so suddenly, she didn't remember it. She was running away from him, and he knocked her legs out from under her. She went down hard, skinning her hands on the pavement, as he grabbed a handful of hair and jerked her to her knees. She cried out; she couldn't help it. A blade gleamed in the darkness, leaping into his hand as he pressed it to her throat. Then there was an explosion of sound, a flash of light. It struck him in the head and sent him crashing to the ground, the knife dropping from his fingers. The room was filled with policemen. Claire remained on the floor, too shaken to move. Her eyes lifted and beheld a familiar form on the threshold. Logan had not yet lowered his weapon.
Light bounced across the bare walls, illuminating the blood spatter. It was a clean shot to the head. Lennie was helping her to her feet. McCoy pushed through the officers and started toward her. Claire pulled free and stumbled into his arms. She could feel his heart beating as frantically as hers, thundering beneath the vest. She was so small, so fragile, but he held her tightly, resting his head against hers. He didn't know what he said in those moments, but they were of some comfort to her. He had seen the flash of the knife, heard her cry, and it was responsive, spontaneous.
There was one thing he wanted her to see. The others disagreed, but he knew she needed it.
His arm still around her, he lead her to the fallen body of Harmon and let her see he was dead; he let her gaze on the still eyes staring blankly heavenward, the hand that would never again raise against her. It was justice. For the other girls, and for Claire, for her nightmares, and for the torment she had endured.
"Don't leave me, Jack," she whispered.
He wouldn't. Ever again.