The Upper Hand

 

The closet door burst open with a bang, and before he had a chance to turn around, Lucas’s arms were around Richard’s torso, pulling him away from me. I threw myself off the bed as planned, and rolled under it. I could hear their struggle above me: the crunch of a fist connecting; the grunts of pain; the swish of a pocket-knife flicked open. The scream, muffled by a hand, as the knife cut deep through flesh. The creaks of the bed as the two men struggled to gain the upper hand. I shut my eyes tightly, imagining everything happening on the bed from the sounds. I hoped that everything would go according to plan. I prayed hard; it had to.

There was no controlling my breathing now.

Just then, there was a sound of something heavy colliding against a bone. Immediately, the struggle stopped and there was silence. I let a minute pass before crawling out of my hiding place. In the darkness of the room, I could just about make out the still form of a body lying on the bed. I let out a whimper; there was no sign of the second man. Had the plan gone awry? I tried to assess the situation, but panic had seized control of my mind. Still on all fours, I made my way towards the window opposite the bed, desperate to get out of the room quickly. I had nearly reached the window, when, suddenly, the room was flooded with bright light. I was momentarily blinded and a cry tore out of my lips before I could stop it. The next moment, a pair of arms encircled me—familiar, comforting arms.

“Are you hurt, Ariana?” my husband’s worried voice broke through the panic in my brain. A few relieved tears escaped from under my lids and seeped into Richard’s sweat-drenched shirt. Everything had gone according to plan after all.

“No, no, I’m fine.” I pushed myself away from him and gave him a once-over for any injuries. “Are you hurt anywhere?”

“Just a nick here and there. Nothing to worry about”, Richard answered as he kissed my forehead and made his way over to the bed, holding a hand to his bleeding arm.

Lucas lay on the sheets, a bloody knife beside him.

“He’s alive, just unconscious. I had to knock him out with the lamp when he started swiping at me with his knife.” Richard explained. “I’ve alerted the local police, they are on their way here.” His eyes softened as he looked at me. “He won’t trouble you ever again, Ari. I’ll make sure the bastard is put behind bars for life.”

I believed him.

Four years ago, I had divorced Lucas to save myself from an abusive marriage. Since then he had been stalking and threatening me, forcing me to get a restraining order against him. Immediately after that, I disappeared. I stayed at an old mountain lodge under an alias, not mingling or talking to anyone until the day when an old friend stumbled upon me at the lodge. Richard. Over the next few months, he brought me out of my shell and gave me the confidence to go out into the world again. He also made me realise that despite a failed marriage, I could fall in love again; that I deserved to fall in love with, and be equally loved by, a good man. Soon after I married Richard, however, Lucas’s nefarious activities started again. I began receiving threatening messages and calls; strange ‘gifts’ started finding their way to me. Being the wife of Richard Stone, the media tycoon, made me an easy target. I was frequently in the papers, on TV; my whereabouts were, more often than not, widely known; my daily schedule was an open secret. I had no way of linking these activities back to Lucas; he had covered his tracks well. I kept quiet about it, not wanting to cause Richard any worry. Until one day when I got a tip-off about Lucas’s plan to get rid of my husband. One of my old friends, Tess, who owned the pub in Lucas’ neighbourhood, had overheard him boasting to his friends about how he was going to kill ‘that filthy rich son of a bitch’ who had stolen his wife. Without waiting to find out if it had been an empty promise or something more, she had come to me straight away. I in turn, had confided in Richard; I told him everything. Richard had used his contacts to find out Lucas’s plan and had carefully engineered a trap to catch him in the act so we would have the upper hand.

And now, we had him. The police were on their way to the lodge. The very place where Richard had given me a second chance at life.

And so I believed him. After so many years of living in fear, Lucas would no longer be able to hurt me.

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