My Demon, My Lover.
‘Helloooo.’ Charles Baxter followed his ghoulish welcome with a cackle and ushered Olivia Kent and her adult nephew, Nick, into the gathering. Crime writer and challenger for the position of matriarch at Baxter’s Publishing, Angela Connolly, greeted them. ‘Lilly, you look just like your heroine. Is that your real hair?’ Tidy, middle-aged Olivia Kent usually wore her shoulder length grey hair in a neat bun. For the themed launch party of her latest novel, she had untied it, let it out and coiffed it. Angela herself looked like Cruella De Vil. ‘And Nick darling, aren’t you the demon.’ Nick’s snarled response was in character though Olivia was sure there was more than a touch of honesty in it. Kelly, her personal assistant slid in beside her with her permanently attached Blackberry pinging. ‘So Miss Kent, Charles will launch at ten. Mark O’Grady from ‘People’ will be here at ten fifteen for photos and then you’re signing from eleven.’
‘Thank you, Vampira. Now please go and enjoy yourself.’
The girl giggled, ‘Isn’t it fun?’ before blending into the otherworldly crowd. As Olivia moved through the congregation acknowledging fans and colleagues, she thought she saw someone she knew; someone she had tried to forget, but honestly, some days he was everywhere. What would Jason be doing here? She could not be sure but the tall frame and strong jawline were so familiar.
A death knell clanged and she came to attention with the rest of the company. ‘Demons and lovers all, may I introduce our guest of honour, Miss Olivia Kent.’ Charles led the applause and for the most part the crowd clapped politely though some who were really in character howled or smacked their lips. Olivia climbed the podium. ‘Thanks for coming out of your hovels and lairs all of you to be here this Halloween night to help launch ‘My Demon, My Lover’, my thirteenth novel.’ Jason’s face was morphing before her, but when it faded into the crowd again, she was not sure what she had seen. ‘Thank you Charles and Baxter Publishing and thank you fiends.’ There was a spatter of laughter from the gathering. ‘Please buy my book for a special price tonight and I’m here to sign it for you.’
From somewhere in the crowd there was a shocking scream, followed by a ripple of uncertainty. Was this part of the show? Olivia looked to Charles whose panicked look back to her told her this was real. The mob knew then also and scattered in fright. Angela Connolly lay alone and still, her two-toned wig bloodied from a head wound. Nick grabbed Olivia and dragged her from the stage. ‘Come on Aunt Lilly.’ Together they followed the crush to the exit.
‘Stop. Nicholas Kent, you are under arrest.’
Olivia watched as Nick ran headlong into Jason who pointed a gun and began firing at his attacker. Olivia’s knees collapsed under her in shock and there was something damp at her hip.
‘Livvy! No!’ Olivia smiled with dizziness and remembrance. Jason was the only one allowed to call her Livvy. The colour drained from her face and leaked from the hole in her side. The floor rose to meet her and everything went dark.
Jason held her pale head on his knee and rocked her sweetly. ‘No. No. Come back to me Livvy, please.’ In the motion of his tenderness Olivia was at the beach by her house standing in the waves watching a man and his dog. She stirred in pain and opened her eyes.
‘Jason is that you?’
‘Yes my love. I’m here.’
‘Why?’ She winced with physical suffering and emotional confusion.
‘I’m here to arrest Nick. He’s wanted for questioning about a disappearance.’
Olivia raised a bloody hand to brush Jason’s cheek. ‘You disappeared, Jason. Always disappearing. . . ‘ Her voice faded and her hand slid away as she drifted back into the cool waves.
On the beach the man played with his dog. As Olivia watched, the scene became Jason and Nick fighting to remove each other from the world. Conscious again, she moved toward them sliding painfully, the blood from her wound streaking the floor as she went. As she crawled past Angela’s still unmoving body she wondered if she were living one of the writer’s twisted storylines.
‘Stop. Stop.’ She tried to speak but her tongue was thick in her dry mouth and the pain in her side moved up her body to explode in her brain. Jason and Nick’s sickening rumble came to an end. Nick was handcuffed and stood pleading down to Olivia who lay with agony and questions interchanging across her face. Jason marched Nick before him and they exited.
‘Don’t move Miss Kent. The ambulance is coming.’ Kelly sat beside her.
‘Efficient Kelly,’ said Olivia as she weakly patted the girl’s arm. She looked over to where Angela lay unmoving and alone even now. Kelly followed her gaze. ‘Oh Ms. Connolly is dead.’ The ice in Kelly’s words sent a shiver through Olivia. ‘I have been very efficient. Angela Connolly will write no more.’ Her face contorted and her mouth twitched into laughter. The ensuing shriek was lost in the sound of approaching sirens.
On the beach Olivia watched the tide go out.
Word count 880