William was woken up by the unmistakable hum of wheels on a worn terrain. His head was cloudy and his vision hazy. The persistent headache was back at full strength as he forced himself to swallow.
His throat was dry and the dusty air inside the barn stung at his tired eyes. His stomach rumbled in protest to hours without food and his hands felt like lead, holding him down. The burn of the ropes had calmed down to a numbing pain, but it hurt none the less.
He strained his hears and above the symphony of wheels he could hear the clopping of powerful horses and the eerie silence of anticipation. The violent wind blew by, seeping through the cracks of the damaged building and making him shiver through his thin cotton shirt. The crash of tired hooves came to a stop after picking up volume and the footfall of men echoed from outside the wooden door.
A loud whiny was stopped by a tug on the reins and a pained whimper escaped; one that was echoed by the detective. Adrenaline pumped through his veins, making his heartbeat faster; too fast for an aching body.
Every fibre of h is being was praying. Begging someone, anyone that the people outside were here to save him. He hoped that it was Brackenreid leading the mission and that George, ever loyal George, was fighting by his side. He wished it was his station out there and not more kidnappers; pawns in some sick game.
The thought was forced out of his head as a grimy cloth was placed over his face and the sweet scent of chloroform flooded his senses. His eyes began to close as he willed them to stay open.
Unconsciousness crept on him, black threads winding around his entire being and pulling him down to the depths. His breathing was slow and calculated as he drifted off into the nothingness. It felt as if he was floating, not on water or air, but an odd combination of the two.
From somewhere in the darkness he heard the door shudder with every assault. Finally the entrance gave in and the worn wood opened up with a heavy crack. The accented voice of the Inspector leaked through his heavy slumber and into the smoke that was unconsciousness.
Relief flooded through him at the voice of his superior. Brackenreid was cautious, talking to the man in a manner not learnt in the constabulary, and if William had been awake it would have reassured him.
An arrogant voice asked from behind for the files of the most recent robbery. The unmistakable sound of paper running over rough concrete filtered through his mind and hope filled his entire being. The information skidded to a halt by his feet as he waited patiently for the man to pick it up. He never did.
There was no rustle of paper or crackle of cheap cotton, only the panicked breath of the detective as his heart beat at a quickened pace. The file had become ransom; a trade for his safety and the man didn't want it.
Rage flooded through him, not towards his situation but the fact that this was how he was going to die. Not in some heroic fall or in the line of duty, but because one man was selfish enough to choose an ignored ransom over his life. He could almost see the sick smile that graced the man's worn features.
The click of the safety sent panic through his veins. All the doubt and worry fell from gravity, crushing him under the ruble of fear. Breathing became harder and from the depths of unconsciousness the smoke was choking him. Inside he was crumbling.
The pressure of the outside world was causing him to fold; molding him into something he never though he would be, a victim. Someone so strong, but in their time of weakness they became as vulnerable as a child lost amongst the crowd. He heard the pleas of the men through the rustling wind and the composed voice of his superior, but still he felt alone.
He was alone, he assured himself. Liza had died, Julia had left him, and everyone he had ever loved was gone. Something had always stolen them away from him. There were others, different options, better options. He told himself he could move on; that eventually he would, but he never did.
He was stuck in the past, always looking towards the future and turning away. Guilt, pain and worry plagued his heart, always lingering and leaving a bitter path in its wake. Everything he loved was being taken away, his job and his life.
Maybe, just maybe, this was what he needed. Forget about faith he told himself, forget about love, and forget about hope. This is what he needed; a fresh start, one without guilt or pain- one where he could look back and see not regrets but all the lives he saved without the stories of loss that weaved their way throughout. He allowed himself a moment of calm and behind his tired facade he smiled into the darkness.
He didn't even notice when the trigger was pulled.