This story is by A.R. Harlow and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Take the shot!”
Ben was quivering and his own gun shook in his hand as he aimed it at the head of the man who had his partner at gunpoint. If he pulled the trigger the odds were exceedingly high that before the bullet dropped the murderer and rapist, Louis, that he would pull the trigger of the gun pointed at his partner’s head. “I can’t!”
“Pull the trigger…” Elle pleaded with her partner. They couldn’t let the man get away after three years of his games. Circumstantial evidence that never stuck and witnesses that always seemed to disappear right before the trial, he always managed to walk free.
“Shut up! Everybody shut the hell up!”
Her eyes pleaded with him. It didn’t matter that she was at gunpoint., she couldn’t chance Louis getting away with it this time. It was possible she would die. More then possible. It was the strongest outcome—how many times had a gun been pointed at her? She couldn’t recall, but never once had it been aimed at her with such intent and hatred. Because this time, the charges would stick to Louis. After fifteen years on the force and thirteen of it with the same partner—there had been many situations like this. Never one this bad however, never one where she just knew she wouldn’t walk away.
Her blood was thrumming steadily in her head and her hand twitched where her gun should be—the gun that was in Louis’ hands, the gun that was pointed at her head. She took in the detail of Ben’s face, the man that had been her partner for more than a decade and tears dripped down her cheeks. She didn’t want to die. Her mind ran through all the moments between them even in a brutal job like this one. The years of seeing abuse the worst of human nature caused her heart to ache for the victims, even now when she was about to become one. One way or another a bullet was going to wind up lodged within her. Already her limp arm was losing feeling as the blood steadily dripped from the knife wound Louis had inflicted on her when she had been distracted by Ben and something funny he said. Who knew even seasoned cops like themselves could make such a mistake to let their guard down? She wasn’t going to let Ben take the bullet for her. Louis was going to shoot, it was clear he didn’t care who.
Elle tensed with pain.
How had she been so foolish?
Fear settled into the pit of her stomach. Realization washed over her anew. There was no more of the days of her partnership after this—even if she walked away she would never be the same. She could never look in Ben’s eyes and know that they had all the forces in the world keeping them apart romantically despite the unspoken desires and tensions between them for years.
Louis’s arm was twitching and panic filled her. If he accidentally shot her now, her partner would never be able to stop him. The murderer would get away. Distant sirens filled her stomach with further dread. Help was arriving, yet that brought no solace. Her mouth went dry as her eyes met Ben’s. Tears were rolling down his face and his hands were shaking with his gun pointed at the perp.
“Louis…you don’t have to do this.” Ben’s voice cracked and gave out. He’d do anything to get Louis to drop the gun and let Elle go, he would give anything. “You can still walk out of here alive. We can cut you a deal. Just let my partner go. She…she doesn’t deserve this.”
Louis began to chuckle slowly and harshly. “Doesn’t deserve it? Do they ever truly deserve it? I’m sure you would say the same of the women I ‘raped’. They didn’t deserve it.” His tone was mocking and he pressed the gun harder into the side of Elle’s head, with his free hand he made air quotes to emphasize that he felt no remorse for what he had done. “Your pretty little partner…maybe she doesn’t deserve it. But she would if she walked away…” Louis gestured with the free hand between Ben and Elle.
Ben’s face was flushed, tears made his eyes puffy and red, Elle’s lips were dry and her nose was red and dripping from crying. Louis looked between Ben’s eyes and hers and there was an unspoken language passing between them, something that they could understand without speaking a word and he knew he had them there. Years of cat and mouse, years of being caught only to have the charges fall away as witnesses disappeared for one reason or another, and years of watching them together… oh he knew alright.
“Your partnership would never go back to normal, and what with you in the middle of a messy divorce, children and a wife that knows you’ve spent more time married to this job and married to this partner then you have to her…? What lines would be crossed and how would it affect your future?” Louis knew too much about them. “Am I wrong?” When no answer came, “I just got my answer.” He taunted.
Maybe it wasn’t just about the women he had raped, maybe it wasn’t just about the women that were killed in the last three years. Maybe it was about getting inside their heads. Maybe it was about revenge for when Elle turned him down many years before, the final rejection that broke him. All because of her devotion to a man who would never see her. “It’s clear! You rejected me for him even though he was out of reach!”
Louis’s shout startled them both and Elle jumped, Ben almost squeezed the trigger of the gun.
Louis ran his free hand along Elle’s face and tucked a single blue feather behind her ear, almost as though he were touching a lover and not a woman he was holding at gunpoint.
It didn’t matter though. His words struck a chord as Elle trembled against the cold barrel of the gun, tears running down her chin and dripping steadily on the floor. Ben tried to contain sobs that now shook his usually unmovable and steady frame. The words of Louis made the color drain from both of them. Every word. It struck a chord. The bastard knew where to hit them, how to dismantle their composure. He had revealed the biggest unspoken secrets between them just by knowing them, by obsessing over them. No. If they walked away from this, things would never be the same. How could they be? Could they pretend that they hadn’t revealed their feelings for each other in this situation? What would it look like after, to pretend to be the Elle and Ben that they were before?
The sirens were growing closer. With a situation like this…they usually had a certain protocol to follow where they would not send in someone if they had radio contact. Ben’s radio static’ed to life and a voice came over. “Sergeant Leven, Detective Sable, do you read?” It was their captain’s voice.
“Yeah, we copy. Situation is under control.” Ben managed. It was a lie. Ben didn’t have control of the situation, Louis did.
“Make them stop talking! Smash the radio!”
Ben sighed. “If I smash the radio they will know something is up. Then none of us walk outta here.” He had to buy them time.
Footsteps were loud outside the warehouse and Ben knew that there wasn’t much time left before one of the higher ups took matters into their own hands. Louis was a dangerous man, he was wanted by many for his latest victims—they weren’t going to take the chance of him giving them the slip.
“Take the shot.” Elle whispered, her eyes pleading.
Louis tensed and his finger hovered over the trigger. The many booted feet outside drew nearer to one of the doors and Louis began to back away. Any second a bunch of bullets could start flying. Ben steadied his gun and before Louis could pull the trigger, Ben did. Two shots echoed as Louis’s gun went off. Elle and Louis fell to the floor, Elle fell away from Louis. For Ben, it was like a slow-motion blur and then everything went into a speedy blur. He gripped his radio and shouted into it, “Call a bus! Officer down! Elle!” His radio roared to life with chatter about the suspect, but for him there was nothing in the world he cared about now except his partner. He rushed to her side and knelt. His fingers traced her face, blood was spattered across her and her clothes.
“Elle…?” His voice broke as he regarded her unmoving body. He brushed her blue feather behind her ear and he pressed a tender kiss to her forehead.