AUTHOR OF THE ROAR OF A DRAGON SERIES
THE PRICE OF REVENGE
James threw his glass against the wall, shattering it with a frightening crash.
“Damn that bitch,” he growled under his breath. “Damn her!”
In the hand where he had been clutching the glass containing his new best friend, Jack Daniels, he held a photograph he had just received—a picture of his wife, Anna, in bed with another man.
He had suspected as much weeks ago, but he had no evidence to go on. His friend, Richard, who was a private investigator, had offered to follow his wife and confirm his suspicions—free of charge. James had agreed and now, he had the evidence he sought.
The picture he held was just one of many—there were pictures of Anna and her lover at the movies, at restaurants, seemingly everywhere.
How had he not seen it earlier?
It had started so subtly—Anna had said that she would be working late one day. She was an editor at a fancy fashion magazine downtown, so it happened every now and then. But lately, he seemed to be happening much more frequently, and James was beginning to question the loyalty of his wife.
Now, all these weeks later, he finally had his answer.
Doctors always told James that he suffered from mental illness, but he had never believed it—he just didn’t like to be screwed with. He’d also been told that he needed medication, but he didn’t think he needed that either.
What he needed was revenge.
What he needed was to get his hands around that bitch’s neck and squeeze her worthless life from her tiny body.
“What you need is to divorce her and move on with your life,” a voice said from behind him.
James knew the voice wasn’t real, just as he knew she wasn’t real. But to him, she was. She was the most beautiful, intelligent, loyal woman he had ever known—fiery red hair, small, full lips, amazing body. Nobody understood him better than she did.
“You know that’s not going to make me happy, Alexia,” he growled.
“What won’t make me happy is you going to prison for the rest of your life because of a mistake,” Alexia shot back. “She’s not worth it, James, and you know it.”
“She’s not worthy of her life,” James retorted. “No woman who cheats on a man is.”
“What of the man who cheats on the woman?” Alexia asked.
James didn’t have an answer for that; the situation didn’t apply to him. But this did and he was intent on making sure Anna paid the price for adultery in blood.
He went to his closet in the bedroom of their small, shabby apartment and dug through it until he found the box containing the .38 revolver that he had bought last year. The funny thing was, at the time he wasn’t even sure why he’d bought it—he just felt at the time that he was going to need it.
That feeling turned out to be correct.
“I wouldn’t use that if I were you,” Alexia warned.
“What else wouldn’t you do?” James asked, whipping around to face her.
“Well, any of this foolishness, if you must know,” Alexia answered. “But if you walk out the door with that gun, you’re making a huge mistake.”
“What have I got to lose?” James asked, spreading his arms out around him. “I’m stuck at a dead-end job, while I am far eclipsed by my wife’s success. I have no money, no one else in my life—all I have—” he held the gun out in front of him, seething in fury—“is this moment.”
“The moment where you make a damn fool of yourself?” Alexia asked, smirking. “Yes, I can see that.”
“Sit there and mock me all you want,” James said, although inside he was hurt; Alexia had never been this cruel to him before. “After tonight, there’s one woman who won’t be laughing anymore.”
“You know, you’ve been like this ever since your mother died,” Alexia said, leaning casually against the wall.
“Whether she died or not, she still left my ass,” James said, a tint of anger in his voice.
With that, James stormed out the door, slamming it shut behind him, gun in hand.
Alexia sighed. “There will only be one fool at the end of this night, James, and Anna won’t be it.”
Anna worked at Finer Things Printing Press, which published her rag of a fashion magazine. James didn’t really expect to find her there, but figured that someone would know where she was.
Monica watched James come off the elevator, and she felt the air escape her lungs. She had worked at the printing press as the receptionist for a few years, and had known Anna all of that time. Monica wasn’t that fond of James, and didn’t know anyone who was—there always seemed to be something … off about him.
“Where’s Anna?” He grumbled as he walked up to the counter.
“She—she’s not here, James,” Monica stumbled, in spite of herself. “She left quite some time ago.”
“Oh, she did, did she?” James breathed. “Any idea where she—”
James’ words caught in his throat as he stared at the computer screen Monica had been staring at as he had come in. She had been reading her horoscope …
“Gemini,” he said under his breath. “Same sign as mine.”
“Hmm?” Monica’s voice broke him out of his thoughts.
“Never mind,” James snarled, and he turned and stormed away.
Monica’s breath returned to her body as soon as James left.
Down in the lobby, James was about to push through the glass double doors when he heard a voice behind him.
“You should be glad she wasn’t here.”
James hesitated for a moment, then turned to face Alexia. “I didn’t expect her to be here—I was just hoping someone knew where she’d gone.”
“You’d better hope you never find out,” Alexia said, almost in a sing-songy voice.
“What is with you tonight, anyway?” James burst out, infuriated. “Why are you so damn critical of me tonight?”
“Because you’re about to make the biggest mistake of your life,” Alexia answered simply. “I don’t want to see you go down that road.”
“I didn’t make the mistake … she did.” Again, with that, James stormed out the door.
Still with no idea as to Anna’s whereabouts, James headed off to the next obvious destination—her best friend, Amanda’s house. Anna had known Amanda for a very long time, so long that Amanda also knew Anna’s sister, Rachel. James had never met Rachel, as she and Anna had had a major disagreement before he and Anna had gotten together, and the two sisters hadn’t spoken since. Anna didn’t even speak of her very much, nor did she have any pictures of her.
Amanda’s apartment was not too far away from Finer Things, so James walked there, fuming the entire way. His irritation was growing every second he had to think about what had happened, and for every second the situation went unresolved.
An antique store caught James’ eye as he passed by. In the window, there were small, matching statues of the Greek Gods Apollo and Artemis.
James couldn’t help but stare at them. Something about them seemed important …
After a while (he had no idea how long), James snapped himself out of it. “Damn it,” he growled to himself, “they’re just a couple of dolls.” He stomped off down the road.
Not long after that, James was at the door to Amanda’s apartment, pounding on the door.
The door burst open. “What?” The woman was clearly agitated. Amanda was a short brunette, but in good shape, and right now she just looked angry.
Like Monica, Amanda was a bit creeped out by James, but unlike the receptionist, Amanda didn’t fear him—she was an avid kick boxer, and had no doubt in her mind that she could take him out before he even blinked.
“Is Anna here?” James asked gruffly.
“No, she’s not,” Amanda answered, crossing her arms. “I haven’t talked to her all day—she’s been quite busy.”
“Mmm, I’ll bet she has been,” James muttered. “Do you mind if I come in and have a look?”
Amanda casually leaned against the doorframe. “As a matter of fact, I do mind.”
James barged past her, shouldering her to the side as he entered the apartment.
Amanda was yelling something, but James couldn’t hear her—his eyes suddenly fixed on the couch, where Amanda’s Siamese cats lay, staring at him. The cats were identical, and lying on the couch opposite each other, they looked every bit like mirror images.
“James, I’m warning you …” Amanda said in a stern voice.
James scoffed at her, and left the apartment in a huff.
“Do you get the message yet?” Alexia asked as James pushed the down button in the elevator.
“What are you talking about?” James asked, not even bothering to turn around.
“You are being warned,” Alexia said in a low voice.
“By who?” James asked, waving his arms around. “The stars? The Greek Gods? Amanda’s ugly cats? Any warning I get from them don’t mean nothin’.”
“Don’t be so sure,” Alexia said, again in that annoying sing-songy voice. “Deep down, everything means something.”
“Don’t give me that deep crap,” James growled. “This is betrayal, plain and simple.”
“It is that, I’ll give that to you,” Alexia responded. “But it is your response to the betrayal that will shape your entire future.”
“You’re damn right about that,” James said, and then the elevator dinged as it reached the bottom. James stormed off once again, intent on his target.
James was walking along the city streets, not sure where to go next when …
Right across the street, his platinum blond wife, with a red overcoat and high heels, walking arm-in-arm with a man James had never seen before.
James’ confusion and irritation ignited into full-blown rage. Every instinct he had screamed at him to shoot them both on the street where they stood.
No, no, his mind said to him soothingly. Follow them, and pick your spot.
James had to admit, he liked that idea better—if he played his cards right, then he could really enjoy the moment.
Careful to remain inconspicuous, James watched them carefully as they continued down the street. They were laughing and joking with each other, Anna’s head rested on the taller man’s shoulder. More than once, James’ temper threatened to get the best of him, and it took everything he had to keep it clamped down.
Finally, the two of them turned into a large, elegant building. It was the obvious the man was one of wealth, probably one of the reasons Anna was cheating on James with him.
The thought threatened to send James over the edge again.
Gritting his teeth in anger, James hurried as soon as the two were inside. He had to know which way they were going …
He almost rushed too far ahead of himself—as he started to push through the glass revolving doors, James saw them at the lobby counter talking to the clerk.
Catching himself, James backed up and watched them through the window. The two finished their brief conversation and headed for the elevators.
James stayed close behind as they waited for the elevator, hiding behind a pillar. As soon as the doors closed behind him, James followed and watched as the lights indicated where the elevator was going to stop.
It stopped on the fourth floor.
Frantically, James stabbed at the elevator button, as if pushing it over and over again was going to make the elevator arrive faster. With each second that went by, James got more and more anxious.
Just as James had had enough and was going to run for the stairs, the elevator arrived.
James jumped on and pushed the “4” button, muttering at the elevator to hurry up as he swayed back and forth impatiently. Finally, the door closed and elevator began to move.
“This is your last chance, James,” Alexia warned. “You’re making a big mistake.”
“No!” James yelled, twisting around. “You’re making a big mistake. This isn’t my last chance—this is her last moment on this earth!”
James turned toward the door of the elevator again, and when he turned back around, Alexia was gone.
As soon as the door opened, James jumped out, and thankfully, he saw them immediately—they were just walking into a room to his right, at the end of the corridor.
They closed the door behind them a second later, so James had nothing to fear as he ran down the hall. He stood in front of the door, taking a few anxious moments to decide what he was going to say, what he was going to do …
This was his moment, and now it was finally time to make her pay.
He pushed the buzzer on the door, and looking around to make sure no one was watching, pulled the gun out from his belt and hid it behind his back.
“Come on, come on, come on,” he whispered as he got no answer. He was about to ring the buzzer again when the door opened.
There she was, an image of pure radiance, standing there staring at him with the strangest look on her face--
As if she was seeing him for the first time.
Everything she had done flooded into his mind, and he thought no more.
“Wha—” Anna said, but what she was going to say was cut off as James shot her in the chest. The loud bang echoed throughout the corridor.
“What was—oh, my God!” The man yelled, appearing suddenly. Again, James didn’t think—he shot him too.
Both of them laid there in widening pools of blood, but James didn’t have time to sit there and admire his handiwork. Doors were beginning to open at the other end of the hall, and he had to escape. Right next to him, there was a window that led to a fire escape, leading to a dark alley.
His mind a blur, James shot at the window, then kicked the rest of the glass away. He climbed out onto the metal platform and descended each of the stairs, disappearing into the night.
A couple of hours passed. James had returned to his apartment, satisfied with the handling of his broken heart. When he had first gotten home, he was too excited to relax, running around doing things half-consciously. He figured the cops would arrive and arrest him eventually, but so far, none had shown up.
Not only had the cops not shown up—Alexia hadn’t either. Whatever she was, an imaginary friend or whatever, she clearly hadn’t liked that her warnings had been ignored, and so she had turned her back on him.
“So what?” James muttered to himself. “They all do eventually.”
But James could say that all he wanted—deep inside, Alexia’s absence hurt him very deeply. True, she wasn’t real in the normal sense, but to James, she was very real, the only true supporter he had ever had.
“Oh, well,” James sighed, “she’ll be back even—”
James gasped as he dropped a glass on the floor. It had shattered all over the floor, and suddenly, he remembered the glass he had broken earlier. Time to take care of them, he supposed.
He grabbed the broom and dustpan from the hall closet and brought them to the kitchen. Kneeling to sweep up the broken glass, he didn’t hear the footsteps behind him.
A gun cocked.
James felt the air escape from his lungs. Surely, the cops wouldn’t just shoot and not try to arrest him first, right?
“James.” A woman hissed the name.
The voice sounded very familiar, and yet James had never heard it before in his life. Standing up slowly, arms raised to show no threat, he turned around.
Anna stood there, and she had a gun pointed at him.
James’ eyes felt like they were bulging out of his head. “No, no,” he whispered, “you’re dead. I shot you dead.”
Anna—or whoever she was—stared at him with ice blue eyes. It was clear she had been crying, but now her steely gaze looked as though it would burn the flesh from James’ bones if it could.
“You’re dead!” James screamed at the ice sculpture standing before him.
“No, James,” Anna said, and again, James knew it was her voice, but it was unrecognizable. “I am not dead. I should be, and I wish I were, but I’m not.”
“Then who—” James stammered.
“My sister, Rachel,” Anna answered evenly, taking a step toward her husband. “My twin sister. You shot her, in cold blood, thinking it was me, but in fact, it wasn’t. An innocent life has been taken, all because I married the wrong man.” She emphasized each of the last few words by taking more steps toward him.
James was backing away as fast as he could. “No, no!” He shouted, pointing at her. “She’s dead because you are cheating on me!”
Anna chuckled, clearly not the least bit surprised by his accusation. “No, James, I’m not, but I’m not going to get into a war of words with you. All you need to know—” she was speaking with a deadly calm— “is that I never cheated on you, you killed the wrong person, and now you’re going to die.”
“I have pictures of you!” James yelled at her.
“I’m sure you have some great pictures of Rachel,” Anna said, again with that unnerving calm. “I am sorry that you mistook me for her, and even more sorry that I cannot apologize to her, to tell her how wrong I was.”
“Wrong about what?” James asked, trying to buy time.
Anna smiled, an expression that didn’t brighten her features at all. “She said that you were wrong for me, and that I was making a big mistake.”
Still unwilling to believe the truth, all James could think of was that he hadn’t made the mistake—but the words didn’t come out.
Anna chuckled again, then sniffled, wiping her nose. “She was right.”
Anna pulled the trigger.
The force from the shot drove James into a nearby wall, and then he crumpled to the ground. Blood flowed heavily from his stomach as he groaned in agony.
James was in such a state of shock that he couldn’t fully comprehend what was happening to him. Unable to move, he just stared straight ahead, trying to understand when a familiar voice sounded nearby.
“I’m sorry, James, but I tried to warn you.”
James could just barely see Alexia—kneeling next to him, her long, fiery red hair falling in wispy strands from her face. But she didn’t look smug, like James would have expected—she just looked really, really sad.
“Gemini—the astrology sign representing the twins Castor and Pollux. Apollo and Artemis were twin siblings. And don’t get me started with the Siamese twin cats. The point, James, is that the signs were right in front of you, and you refused to see them. Now, since I am merely a part of you, we are both going to die.”
“Alexia,” James whispered, reaching for her. But his hands would find nothing but air, and finally, his strength spent, James died.
Anna watched James die. She expected to feel some satisfaction at James’ death, but she felt nothing except a crippling numbness. Having no intention of staying, Anna turned and left the apartment, but one question lingered in her mind—
“Who the hell is Alexia?”