Maggie laid on the table for two pounding heartbeats, then slid off and onto her feet, and scrambled over to Sky’s chair.
“Mom, what just happened?” Sky asked, her voice near hysterical.
“I don’t know,” Maggie managed to croak, squatting behind Sky’s chair and furiously working the ropes that bound her wrists.
“What did he do?”
“I don’t know, Sky!”
The wind was whistling like a train outside, and it seemed impossible that it could be louder than it had already been. Maggie looked up toward the kitchen window as something small but hard hit it, and she caught Kyle’s eye. He was staring at the front door, his eyes wide.
“I’m coming, Kyle,” Maggie said. He looked at her, but didn’t say anything.
Sky wiggled her fingers. “Hurry, Mom!”
“Hold still, baby, please,” Maggie said.
She yanked the ropes free and jumped up as Sky pulled her arms around to the front. They were stiff from hours of being bound behind her, and she rolled them gingerly.
“Sky, I need you to grab the Glock,” Maggie said, as she squatted behind Kyle and started working on the ropes. His thin wrists were bleeding, and the ropes had left welts on them that made Maggie want to scream.
Sky ran over to the kitchen counter and picked up the Glock, where it lay with the Mossberg and her great-grandfather’s .38. “Do you want me to bring it to you?”
“No, I need it for you,” she said. “Do you remember how to use it?”
“Yeah, but…I guess. Why not the .38?”
“This is not the time for a revolver, baby,” Maggie answered. “Just take it. I want you take it, and I want you to take Kyle, and I want you guys to go in my room, and you don’t come out unless I come get you.”
“You don’t come out unless I come get you, do you understand me?” Maggie yelled.
A branch slammed into the window behind Sky, and she ducked instinctively, but the glass didn’t break. The branch fell away again as she straightened up and grabbed the extra rounds from the counter and shoved them into her pocket.
Maggie finally pulled Kyle’s wrists free, and she rubbed them for just a second before she pulled him up from the chair. “Kyle, you go with Sky, and you guys stay in there. Do you hear me?”
“Yeah,” he said, his voice a croak.
“Go!” Maggie barked at Sky, and the kids ran down the hallway. As soon as she heard their steps, Coco started barking and scratching at the door again. Maggie watched Sky open the door, watched the kids go in and slam the door behind them, then she ran over to the kitchen counter.
She glanced up at the front door several times, as she loaded the Mossberg, shoved a couple of extra rounds in her shorts pocket, and then ran over to the door. The floor was wet from when he had burst through, and she slipped and nearly went down before catching herself.
She put an ear to the door, but it was a ridiculous thing to do. On the other side was nothing but noise, and she could hear nothing beyond the pounding of the rain on the deck.
She took a deep breath, slammed back the action on the shotgun, and flung open the door.
Boudreaux was in the yard, a few feet from the bottom of the stairs. He was almost knee deep in water from the creek, and the water closest to him was colored a deep, dark red.
He looked up at her, the wind buffeting him and pushing him, his hair whipping wildly.
Maggie raised the shotgun and felt a catch in her throat as she looked into those eyes, so deeply blue even from this distance. She hadn’t wanted him to be the one, and she felt, ridiculously, the heaviness of disappointment in her chest.
“I wish you hadn’t come here, Mr. Boudreaux.”
He stared at the shotgun, then wiped his forearm across his eyes. “Your father called me,” he yelled to her above the rain and wind.
It took a second for Maggie to process what he’d said. “What?”
“He was worried about you,” he called back.
“Why would he call you?” she demanded.
Boudreaux seemed to hesitate for a moment. She could almost see him deciding on the best answer. “Because he knew I would come,” he yelled.
Maggie raised the shotgun just a hair. “That doesn’t—” she started, but then she heard a whining, almost keening sound, like someone slashing a bow across the strings of a violin, and a section of sheet metal or aluminum, maybe a piece of someone’s storage shed, came whipping through the air.
Boudreaux turned to look when she did, but it wasn’t soon enough to get out of its way. It banged into and across him at the midsection, then was flung into the water beside him, where it was quickly carried away in the fast-moving water.
When Maggie looked back at Boudreaux, he had his mouth open as though he was about to say something, and then, all at once, his white button-down shirt was flooded with red, red that soaked the shirt from the inside, just above his waist, from one hip to the other, with remarkable speed.
Boudreaux didn’t seem to notice it until he saw her face, then he looked down and placed a palm on his stomach.
Maggie opened her mouth to yell a warning as a fresh surge from the creek cascaded into the yard, carrying with it clumps of debris. In an instant, the water was above Boudreaux’s knees, and just as he looked up at Maggie, part of an old railroad tie bumped into his leg and Boudreaux went to his knees.
The water pushed him over to one side, then face first into the swirl, all in the span of just a few seconds. Maggie took one step toward the stairs, then froze as she saw Boudreaux get swept away toward the chicken yard, then disappear altogether beneath the water.
She turned around and ran back into the house, skidding on the now much larger puddle in front of the door. She looked around for a moment, then spotted the man’s cell phone on the kitchen counter and ran over to it.
She flipped open the phone, tapped his call log and looked at the number he’d dialed 17 times. She didn’t recognize it. She tapped it, and it was answered on the first ring.
“I still got an hour of driving,” a woman’s raised voice said. “I’m going as fast as I can!”
“Who is this?” Maggie asked evenly.
There was a long pause before the woman’s rough voice came back across the line. “Who is this?” She sounded panicked.
“Maggie Redmond,” Maggie answered.
“You murdered our son, you whore!” the woman yelled. “You killed my Richard!”
Maggie let out a slow breath. Ricky Alessi. This crazy woman had raised the meth dealer who’d tried to kill Maggie, and now she was raising poor Grace’s kids. She was about to ask where they were when the woman yelled at her.
“Giving an account of himself to God,” Maggie said. “You want to be next, Mrs. Alessi? Keep coming. I’ll blow a hole in you big enough for me to crawl through.”
“You evil little—” the woman’s scream was cut off and there was nothing. Maggie looked at the phone. It was dead. She allowed herself one second to be furious at herself for wasting the last few seconds of its battery life, then slammed the phone down on the counter.
Maggie spun around and nearly trod upon Stoopid, who had come into the kitchen to give her an update on the weather, their situation, or his desire to be fed. “Move, Stoopid!” Maggie snapped, as she hopped over him, and he turned and flailed onto to the bottom rail of the kitchen island.
Maggie ran back out onto the deck, shutting the door behind her to keep Stoopid from running outside.
She scanned the front and left side yards for a few moments, constantly wiping the rain from her face, before she spotted a flash of white over by the garden.
Boudreaux was hung up against one of the raised beds. He was partially on his side, one elbow up on the topmost railroad tie, but his face was in the water.
Maggie half ran, half slid down the deck stairs and jumped into the water. It was up to the bottom of her backside, and she was amazed at how powerfully it pushed against her legs. They’d had flooding before, but not like this, not this deep and this fast-moving. Not in her memory.
She had to alternate wading with the current and dragging her feet in order to remain standing, but she still came close to falling several times, as she stumbled against a rock or a hump in the dirt. At one point, something slammed against her calves, and she almost went down.
She had to stop periodically, turn her body, and force her way diagonally toward the garden again, as the water sought to push her past it. She had a vision of herself, running against her will with the water, into the woods and on out to the river beyond them.
She finally reached Boudreaux, and she tried to brace herself against the raised bed with one hip as she bent down and turned him over. His eyes were closed.
“Boudreaux!” she yelled over the noise of the storm. It was the first time in her life that she hadn’t addressed him as ‘Mr.’
“Get up!” she yelled at him, pulling on the shoulders of his shirt. His eyelids fluttered a moment, then he opened his eyes. He didn’t seem to see her at first.
“Move! I need you to get up!”
He finally focused on her, raised one arm up out of the water and pointed beyond her. “Get inside,” he said, and she read his lips more than she actually heard it.
She leaned away from the raised bed, tried to plant her feet on the slick ground, and bent to slide her wrists under his arms. “Get the hell up!” she yelled again.
He struggled to get his feet underneath him, as she struggled to pull him upward without losing her own footing. The water was tugging at her lower legs like a thousand insistent toddlers, and she knew that if one foot left the ground, they both would.
Once she got Boudreaux to his feet, she was thrown for a moment by the sight of his midsection. His shirt, still mostly tucked in, had been rent almost from one side of his waist to the other. She wanted to spread the fabric open to the see the wound, but she was afraid she’d find it discouraging and that this would only distract her from getting him to the house. The amount of blood, and the fact that it was still seeping through the shirt and had soaked the top of his trousers, let her know all she really needed to know at this point: the help he needed was beyond her limited training.
“Where’s your phone?” she yelled over the wind.
He had one arm draped over her neck, and raised the hand of the other one to pat his empty shirt pocket, then shook his head at her.
“Never mind. Let’s go,” she said.
She’d thought moving with the water was difficult. She could see immediately that working against it was going to be much harder. The house was very slightly uphill from the chicken yard and garden area, which she supposed helped make the flow so fast. She also knew that the water was not only making its way downhill, but also back to its own source. Several hundred yards through the woods in back, the river curved around and made its way to what would eventually, in five miles or so, be Scipio Creek, and then the bay.
Maggie had always loved that she had water on both one side and the back of her land, but at the moment, the flood water on her property was essentially connecting the two, and this wasn’t a good thing. One way or another, everything was going to flow to the river, whether it wanted to or not.