To every single one of my dear readers and reviewers: thank you so much for coming with me on the journey! I am so very sorry it has taken so long and I have left you all for long periods of time without updates. (bad times!) I know it's not easy to keep coming back to slow publishers like me! But I have sincerely enjoyed writing this fic, and do hope you all have enjoyed the read!
Thank you all again for every single review you have left, all your great comments that have kept me going, spurred me on! Honestly, you are all FAB!
Please also be aware that the religious content in this story is purely in keeping with the character of Markow Petrescow, a once strong follower of his faith, but whose unfortunate life experience drove him to insanely abuse and twist biblical scripture. It is purely fiction.
The content does not in any way at all reflect my own feelings on anything of a theocratic nature!
Having said this, I hope that no one has been offended by any of the material. That was not my intention at all.
So a huge thanks to every single one of you! Happy ca-fic and hope to read from some of you in the new year!
Here is the final chapter. Finally!
Markow Petrescow was no ordinary evangeliser. Markow Petrescow was no ordinary Polish immigrant. Markow Petrescow had been used and abused and used and abused several times over by the peoples of this world. By the peoples of the nations. Markow Petrescow had, had enough.
The world had never been his oyster. No one had ever handed anything to him on a plate. He had never taken anything for granted. His whole life, his whole existence had been… hard. Nothing but…hard. Even everything he'd ever worked for, ever given all his life for, all his energies, all his soul, all his entire being… had all been…ultimately ripped away from him. Piece by piece, flesh by flesh, bone by bone.
So now, Markow Petrescow was ready.
Ready to give the entirety of all this suffering, all this worthless striving after the wind, all this wanton nothingness, it's due and just end.
Markow pushed his horse up and up, over and around every boulder, every crag, every outcrop. He pushed and pushed, sometimes not even aware of the two people behind him, dragged by the ropes he tied them with.
If God alone had seen him suffer his entire life, then surely God alone would welcome his final sacrifice? Isn't that was God required of his only begotten son? Isn't that what God required of all his loyal servants? Their ultimate and final sacrifice? Isn't that why he was bringing with him, two more sacrificial offerings? Just like His Son? Just like Abraham and Isaac?
Marcus urged the tired horse ever upwards, becoming more lost and more bent in his own mental anguish, his own skewered thinking becoming increasingly more unstable as he tried in vain to make scripture sit with his own off-kilter view of his life.
Kelly stumbled for the umpteenth time as she tried to keep pace with the horse. She had linked arms with Kris in order to try and keep Kris on her feet, but the situation was impossible. Kris did not seem to be aware of much at all. Kelly wondered at her own ability to be even slightly aware. As the horse and rider in front paused to mount yet another obstacle, she summoned every fibre and will in her being, and yelled.
She then fell to her knees, taking a subdued Kris with her. She could go no further. She groaned. She felt Kris beside her, gasping and panting, both of them kneeling in the dirt.
The man pulled the horse up, then looked back at them.
"What are you doing?" He yelled at them. "Get up!"
But Kelly knew she was past it. Way past it. She cast a quick glance at Kris and knew her friend was equally gone.
"I can't… go on!" Kelly muttered, then toppled forwards, her bound hands outstretched. Kris remained in a kneel, looking with complete and utter reverence at Marcus.
Marcus growled in annoyance and dismounted, walking back to Kelly and Kris.
"You both disappoint me, sisters!" He exclaimed, with menace. Kelly could no longer care. All she wanted right now, was for Kris to somehow get away from this madman. But she realised with utter heart-rending anguish, that Kris now appeared to be thoroughly part of Marcus's world. Kris… Oh Kris please no…
Then even as Kelly thought this, she saw Marcus untie them both from the horse, and pull them both roughly towards him. Kelly was forced to her feet, and as she managed to get upright again, Marcus drew a yard or so of rope back behind him. Then as Kelly stumbled up before him, Marcus let fly with the loose end at Kelly's face, scoring a burn along her exposed cheek.
"You WILL BOTH be with me in Paradise!" Marcus screamed at them, his features contorted in crazed fury, before Kelly had even time to cry out. He yanked them both harshly after them, as he continued on foot, leaving the horse to it's own devices.
Kelly stumbled along, still feeling the sting of Marcus's rope and also feeling still at the mercy of whatever Kris had injected her with. Yet she needed to link arms again with Kris, for what it was worth. As before, Kelly felt no response whatsoever, from her friend. Oh God, you can't let this happen, Kelly sent a silent prayer upward. And then suddenly realised her mind was somewhat free to do so. She looked again at Kris, wanting with all her heart to see Kris's big friendly smile beckon her, but all she saw next was Kris splitting herself in three, as if to taunt Kelly.
Each image smiled languidly back at her.
"Hey, you wanna play hide n seek?" One Kris purred at her.
"Hey Kelly, where's Sabrina?" The other Kris asked accusingly.
"Oh Kelly! Tut, tut, tut! You left Kris and Sabrina all alone!" Another Kris admonished Kelly.
"You're no friend of mine!"
"No, you're no friend of mine either!" The other Kris chimed in.
"You're no friend of Sabrina's!" The first Kris chimed in, and the word "Sabrina" echoed tauntingly around Kelly's head. She stumbled, Kris stumbling along side her.
Kelly shook her head in pain. "No!" She shouted. "No, you're not real! Kris is only one! Stop this!"
Kelly stumbled again and Marcus was forced to pull up short.
"Get UP!" He screamed.
But Kelly and Kris were both beyond responding now. Kelly watched as Marcus's face turned from white, to red, to puce… until she could watch no longer. Her head dropped. She knew she was lost in a floating, whirling, sparkling, blinking imagery of … whatever her brain could deliver. And somehow, deep in her dim consciousness, she knew her memories would, given the chance, deliver uncompromisingly.
Some fifteen or twenty minutes later though, Kelly's mind began to clear a little. She understood that both herself and Kris were in danger from the man in front, yet… she could not home in on the exact reason why. They both were pulled onwards by some rope, tied to their wrists. And the man in front seemed to pay them no heed as he dragged them onwards. Kelly chanced a look sideward's at Kris. Kris was her best friend, Kelly's thoughts drained this information back into her subconscious brain for about the tenth time in as many minutes. Yet why, Kelly wondered secretly, did she feel so antagonistic towards her? Why, suddenly, did she feel like she wanted to kick the living daylights out of this blond woman next to her? Kelly did not know. So she refrained from the act. It seemed the best logical course of action. Logic? She nearly giggled. What did that have to do with anything?
Marcus stopped and turned. Too suddenly. Kelly froze.
"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it!" Marcus gave voice to all who could listen. Then he stepped purposefully upwards, towards what he hoped would be a break in the underbrush, a break in the local mountain bluff.
And he was right, it was a clearing, that led deceptively, to a cliff-like ledge. A definite cliff that broke the entire face of that side of the mountain.
Kelly and Kris were pulled along.
Marcus pulled his way to the edge of the bluff, his sacrificial lambs behind him. Then he stood up tall on the edge, quickly tying his wrists with the girls ropes, then, his arms reaching upwards towards heaven, towards his supposed salvation, he intoned the words,
"Today you will be with me in paradise!"
Then he stepped forwards over the edge.
Kris was jerked forward seconds later, and without hesitation, began to obediently trace Marcus's way to the edge.
"No, Kris!" Kelly screamed. But Kris ignored her. Or couldn't even hear her.
She herself had been jerked forward also, but then stood her ground, causing some slack on Kris's line. Her own line was taught and she knew she was holding Marcus's weight. Marcus had not figured out the weight ratio. He was a very slim man, and this had thankfully worked in their favour. Kelly was perfectly balanced, as she leaned back, keeping an audibly surprised Marcus, she realised, dangling out of sight, on the other end.
She murmured some thanks heavenward. But she knew she couldn't hold him for long. Her muscles were beginning to over-strain.
And even more alarming was the fact that Kris was still moving forward, by little slow steps, towards the edge, towards Marcus. Kelly cursed. There was only one thing left to do. Please, please let this work, her mind begged, to whoever was listening. She took a deep breath then lunged for Kris.
Their ropes became slack for a split second, as Kelly pelted forward, but then Marcus dropped once more down the cliff, taking all the slack. Kelly leapt and landed directly on top of Kris and they both were then pulled inches from the edge by Marcus's downward travel. Kelly held on to Kris for dear life, trying to pin her down, trying to dig her elbows into the earth for purchase, yet watched helplessly as they both were dragged ever nearer to an untimely messy death.
Then suddenly, Marcus's descent ended again, and his grunts of anger could be heard above. Both Kris and Kelly's combined weight had again balanced out the equation.
Kelly looked at Kris's face. Nothing. She just stared past Kelly up at the blue sky. Kelly then manoeuvred herself slowly so that she could peek over the cliff at Marcus.
"Brother Marcus! It's alright, we've got you! I can pull you up, if you help me!" She shouted at the dangling man, who seconds ago had tried to take their lives.
Marcus looked back up at them, his face twisting in a leer.
"Come, come be my followers! All you have to do now is let go!" He shouted back up, willing them to let go of their worldly grip.
Marcus looked right at Kelly.
"All you have to do - is let go!"
"No!" She began to try and pull Marcus up, but as she looked down, she saw that the rope around his wrists was coming undone.
"Please, hold on!" She begged. She really did not want it to end this way. All her strength was beginning to fail her now, but even if she could save him she wouldn't hesitate to try. But Marcus himself had other plans. She watched in fascinated horror, as he undid the rest of the rope, fell silently for some seconds then was gone, his body lost, battered and broken up in his fall down Heavenly Mountain.
Kelly rolled herself away from it all and pulled Kris with her, as far away from it as the rest of her failing energy would allow. Then she held Kris's hand tightly as she lay on her back, gulping in deep breaths of air, trying to fully regain her senses. She could hear men's voices shouting some distance away, and could also hear dogs barking. Strange, she didn't think there had been any dogs at the sanctuary. A flash of a memory then - men, guns, dogs - being chased down, hunted. No, not this time, surely? She rolled on to her side and looked at Kris, who looked peaceful, staring up into the sky again. Kelly's eyes drooped and closed.
Bosley tapped on Sabrina's door before peeping his head around.
"It's okay Bosley, I'm decent, you can come in!" Sabrina beckoned. Bosley pushed open the door and gave Sabrina a big smile.
"Well hi, there, you look a little better!" Bosley sat down at the bedside.
"Yeah, I've just had a few nips and tucks while I was waiting for the swelling to go down!" Sabrina joked, and managed a small grin. Bosley grinned back.
"Well good, I'm glad you're in good spirits, because I have some excellent news…" Sabrina became more alert.
"…and some not so good news."
"I'll take the excellent news first!" Sabrina was desperately worried for Kelly and Kris. She just needed to hear they were alright.
"Kelly and Kris have been found…" Bosley began.
"Oh thank God! How are they, are they alright? Bosley? What's the bad news?" Sabrina's tone changed from utter delight, to concern, to outright alarm in about three seconds flat.
"Hey, it's okay Sabrina, don't go getting yourself all upset, they're going to be okay…"
"Going to be?" Sabrina cut in again. "What the hell has been happening Bosley?" Sabrina tried to sit herself up to talk better.
"Okay first, lie back and just stop worrying!" Bosley held a hand on his friends shoulder. "Secondly, Kris and Kelly are here in the hospital getting checked out, but they are both going to be fine!" He re-assured her. Sabrina tutted at Bosley's hand gently but firmly stopping her from sitting up.
"So…?" Sabrina was waiting for the not so good news still.
"Well it seems that both Kelly and Kris were injected with some kind of hallucinogenic drug. Kelly is relatively okay, but Kris got a pretty high dose and is still…ahh…"
"Coming down?" Sabrina offered. "Aw damn. Poor Kris. Will she be okay? Does Jill know she's safe?" She queried, still worried. She felt for Kris and she also badly felt for Jill, who had been so supportive with her, but obviously out of her mind with worry over Kris and Kelly too. Jill needed to have Kris back right now.
Bosley smiled. "She's right there with Kris now. Charlie has been informed of everything, and the FBI are dealing with Alexandra Limardo. She won't be bothering us again."
Bosley went on to fill Sabrina in on the circumstances under which Kris and Kelly had been found, and all that he knew so far.
"So Marcus did kill Alda Limardo…?"
"Well that's the ironic part. Marcus blabbed to the FBI agent working undercover in the sanctuary, that his partner, a guy called Vincent, had ordered Alda Limardo to be disposed of, because she'd been seen creeping around and getting too nosey." Bosley saw Sabrina's puzzled look.
"Well Marcus didn't actually kill Alda Limardo, it was Vincents men that took care of it..." Bosley continued.
"…and if Alexandra Limardo had waited long enough, the FBI would have been able to finish their own case, clear the whole mess up, and lawful justice would have been served."
"Instead though, Alexandra got us involved and now she's got the FBI in her bonnet on top of everything else!" Sabrina finished. "What a mess!"
"Yeah." Bosley agreed. "Agent Reardon none too pleased with the way everything went down! But at least all the girls got out of the sanctuary safe and well. Just goes to show, not every religion has the answer!"
"Yeah but I wouldn't have exactly called that a 'religion', Boz! But it does go to show…patience is a virtue!"
"I doubt Mrs Limardo has any virtues left." Bosley mused, and Sabrina grimaced as they both then silently reflected on things.
Kris vaguely heard low murmurs and things bleeping, as she came to. She tried to move her head but was immediately hit by a wave of nausea rushing up from her stomach. She groaned and tried to open her eyes.
"Kris!" A fuzzy outline of someone loomed over her, but there was no mistaking the voice.
"Jill! What are you…" She managed to croak. "Oh God I feel sick…"
"Hold on, sweetie!" Then Jill was right by her with a bed bowl, and Kris turned and launched what was left of her stomach contents into the bowl. Jill held her sick and exhausted sister until the nausea passed, and then eased her back down onto the pillows, brushing her hair back from her sweating brow gently.
"It's okay Kris, I'm here, sweetie." Jill soothed her sister, her hand still stroking Kris's hair.
"Sorry…" Kris mumbled and groaned again.
"Hey, nothing to be sorry for. Probably just a bad take-out huh!" Jill joked, knowing full well what had actually gone on since Kris and Kelly had been discovered half way up Heavenly Mountain by the police. Jill was so, so glad Kris had called her - how many days ago now? She'd lost track of time.
"I'm right here for you Kris, you're going to be fine, okay? Doctor says you'll probably be able to come home in a day or two." She smiled. "The police found you and Kelly…"
"How's Kelly?" Kris was suddenly scared. She realised she couldn't remember anything about getting out.
"I'm fine, Kris, I'm okay!" Kelly suddenly appeared and smiled down at her friend.
"Don't you worry about anyone now, I'm just so relieved you're safe! You just rest, okay?" She touched Kris's cheek, knowing that Kris and herself may have a few things to work out between them over the next week or so, but it didn't really matter. All that mattered was that they and all those girls were back safe and relatively okay. It had been a very close call. She bent down and gave Kris a gentle hug then stood up.
"I'm gonna go see Bri. I'll be back soon." She smiled, gave Jill's arm a warm squeeze and left her to be with her sister. Boy, this had been one rough ride. She walked slowly towards Bri's room, feeling still light headed and weak, but able to get around. The doctor who checked her out had said she'd only received about a third of the dose Kris had got. Poor Kris, she had done her best to limit the damage. Kelly felt humble. She got to room 302 and knocked softly, before pushing the door open and quietly entering. She'd not managed to see Sabrina yet, and was a little nervous, not knowing what to expect of her friends injuries, or how well she'd be received. She saw Bosley first, as she approached the bed.
"Kelly!" He grinned broadly and stood up to offer her the chair.
"Hiya Boz!" She said quietly. Then she looked at Sabrina. Oh God, they had really gone to town on her. She swallowed quickly, and smiled.
Sabrina's eyes lit up and she smiled with so much relief.
"What took you so long?" She gave Kelly their standard joke greeting and any awkwardness was quickly dispelled. Kelly sat down and smiled back with warmth and equal relief to see Sabrina so cheery and … well, just… Sabrina.
"Hi Bri!" Kelly said, her greeting affable, but her voice easily giving her emotions away.
"Hey Kelly!" Sabrina replied, her voice cracking. "Missed you."
"Missed you too, kiddo!"
They exchanged looks, then Sabrina reached out and took Kelly's hand. Kelly really found she had no words, so she just leaned in and embraced her friend with all her heart. Sabrina responded likewise, as she noticed Bosley slip quietly out of the room.