~*~

They were outside of the building within ten minutes. Joan found the window that was open on the second floor. It was always left slightly ajar in case of a fire. The entrance doors automatically lock at a certain time, and sometimes you can't open it from the inside. This window was one of the few windows large enough to fit through, so the person can jump out.

"Okay, we climb up the drainpipe on the left here, and then jump on that ledge up there," she pointed out. The drainpipe went up to the roof and the ledge was a couple of feet in length. It would probably just enough space for her to get a boost into the window that was nine feet above the ledge.

He nodded, and she started up the drainpipe. The pipe was white and made of aluminum. She hoped that it would support both of their weights. It creaked, but didn't budge from the wall. She climbed it as she would a rope, and soon swung herself onto the ledge. Carl followed suite.

She looked down. It was pretty high off of the ground, and just one wrong step would send you over the edge. One step was all that was needed, she thought, to get out of this mess. If you only took that one step, who knows where you'd be?

"Hey, are you okay?" she heard Carl asked.

Joan tore her eyes away from the edge and stepped back unsteadily. "Why?"

"You were swaying, and it looked as if you were getting ready to jump," he said concerned.

"I'm fine, just give me a boost up, and I'll find the phone," she said, trying to concentrate on the task ahead.

She put her foot in his hand, and soon she was at the level of the window. She took a deep breath, and heaved herself into opening. She dropped heavily on the ground when she landed inside, and stood up quickly. Joan moved to the window, and looked down on the ledge. She put out her arm, and Carl grabbed it. She pulled him up just as a shot rang through the air.

"Darin, they are in the building," they heard Julia shout. "Mandy, go around the front and make sure they don't go out. Guard, go and get one other guard at the parking lot, and meet me in the building."

Joan and Carl ran to the first door they saw in the hallway. Locked. They ran to the second, third, fourth. "All locked!" exclaimed Joan. She looked around. "We need to get down on the first floor. There is a payphone there you can get to."

He nodded, and they ran down the corridor to the stairs. The stairs were endless, and they took them two at a time. Joan hoped they made it in time - no predicting what a madwoman would do when. They reached the ground floor soon, but were stopped with a gun barrel pointed at them.

Julia was holding the gun laughing, and switched the gun from pointing at Carl to pointing at Joan. "You didn't think that you were going to get away, did you?"

Joan didn't move a muscle. It was different having a gun pointed at you than in the movies. It was . And she knew this gun wasn't full of blanks. She took in a breath slowly, and tried to think.

The brunette haired grinned slyly and walked up to Joan, pointing the gun directly at her chest. "I have worked too long and too hard for you to get away Joan. I've suffered so much because of you. I'm not going to let you get away, or live."

"Let her go, Julia," Carl said, and trained the gun he had gotten from the tied up guard on her.

Julia growled, and with a flash of movement kicked the gun from his hand. Joan lunged at Julia, and tackled her to the ground. Carl dived after the gun. Julia hit Joan square in the jaw. The brown hair landed on her back on the floor as Julia sprinted across the corridor and into another section of the building. Carl aimed the gun at her, but was out of sight before he could get a clear shot.

"She got away," Joan said disappointedly and a little shaken.

"She'll be back," Carl said, reloading his gun. He helped her up on her feet. "Are you okay?"

She smiled. "It would take more than a little punch to send me packing." He smiled too and kissed her quickly on the lips. They moved away from the open corridor into a corner where they couldn't be seen.

"Where is the pay phone?"

Joan looked around the place. "It's so dark, and so big." She looked down the corridor, "I think that it's this way."

He nodded and led the way down the hall with the gun in the ready position. He scanned each intersection of corridors before darting across. The building was really big, and a long corridor separated each section. Each part of the building had a different scene in it, whether it was the green room where they placed a fake car, or a rickety bridge. They passed each section with caution. The pay phone was on the other end of the building.

They were silent as they made their way through, until they reached halfway across an intersection. "Hey, stop! You there - stop!" they heard someone shout.

Carl tackled Joan to the ground, saving her from getting a bullet in the back, and started shooting behind them. They heard some more footsteps coming after them, and they sprinted across the intersection, dodging bullets as it whizzed by their head and body. As soon as they reached the other side of the intersection, they ran as fast as they could to get away. Carl stopped and shot back, and they heard a cry and then something fall.

"A direct hit," he said proudly, and started running again. He shot some more times, and then they came to the entrance of the building. "Okay, now where is the pay phone?"

Joan looked around frantically. "Oh crud, it's in the office." The office had large glass windows, but the door was locked.

"Hold this," he said, giving the gun to Joan. "Shoot if you see any movement."

She started to protest when a bullet was shot and nearly got its target. She dived behind a table and started shooting. She was missing badly, but at least it kept the gunmen at bay. She heard crashing behind her, and she turned to see Carl throw a chair through the office window.

Her heart leapt. They were going to get out of here - alive! He jumped through the opening of broken glass, and started dialing on the pay phone. Yes! She thought. They were going to make it! She started when he slammed down the receiver.

He turned to her, his blue eyes dark with anger. "They cut the phone lines. There isn't any way we can call."

She gaped at him. No phone lines? She closed her eyes, and how were they going to get out? Fly? She sat down on the ground, trying to think, when she felt something dig into her back. She turned around, and saw a cellular phone lying on the ground. She gasped, and picked it up. It must have been Pete's! He must have dropped in when Darin grabbed him.

"Carl, come here! I think that we might get a way out after all!" she said, and dialed the emergency police number.

She pressed the talk button when she heard Darin's voice behind her. "Sweetie, put down the phone and slowly stand up."

She dropped the cell phone, and turned around. She felt like punching him out, but with a gun pointed at her, she rethought it. Carl made his way out of the window. Darin yanked her hard and pulled her towards him. She was up against him, with her back to him, and his gun right under her chin.

"Don't try anything smart, Carl, or I'll blow this little darling to pieces," he said fiercely. Darin grabbed her hard and started dragging her away.

Julia appeared from around the corner with her gun cocked. She had the wild light in her eyes that made her the most dangerous of all, Carl noted. She aimed, and shot at him. He dived for the table, but didn't dare shoot back - Darin was using Joan as a human shield, and he didn't want any risk of her taking a bullet instead of that dense ass, Darin. Julia was still shooting as Darin exited the building with Joan.

Joan tried to squirm her way from Darin, but with a gun against her back, she didn't think it wise to try some self-defense. She was led, or more like dragged outside to where she stood when she first arrived. The cliff was just a couple of feet away. She took a deep breath and tried to hide her fear the best she could.

Julia came up behind her, snickering. "It looks like the end of line for you, kiddo. You don't realize how good this feels - finally getting my revenge. Just a little push, and you go for a long jump." She looked down at the rapids and rocks below, and then at Joan again.

Joan looked around frantically. She needed to get out away, but how? Mandy came into the clearing grinning wickedly. "Darin, you don't want to do this. You don't want to throw your life away like this." She was desperate, and psyching the enemy out seemed to be the best and only move.

He hesitated a moment, but then continued pushing her towards the cliff. Joan hadn't given up hope as yet. If Darin was unsure whether to do this or not, then maybe she could make him stop. "That's right, Darin, why throw everything away just for revenge? Remember when we were together, and we went to the shopping mall - and two little girls came up to you and expressed their admiration for you? Do you remember that? They said they were your two biggest fans and that they had seen all of your movies. Do you remember? Do you really want to throw that away? Do you?"

Darin stopped for a moment, and thought it through. Joan's hope lit just a little bit more. His hair was in disarray, and if it weren't for the hesitation in his eyes, he would have looked just as crazy as Julia.

"Don't listen to her Darin. You've been waiting and planning this for almost three years," Julia said angrily. "Don't throw THAT all away."

"Yeah," Mandy added, "You wouldn't want to look like a little chicken in front of us, would you?"

Darin's pride got the best of him, and started making Joan walk towards the cliff. The edge was approaching fast, and she raked her brain for some more things to stall. " - what are you going to do when the police find you? Huh? What are you going to tell them? That you killed me? Julia doesn't have a career, but you still do, Mandy, don't let her ruin it."

Mandy turned to Julia. "Hey, what are we going to tell the police? I still want my job. You said that I would still have my job left," she whined.

Julia glared at Joan. "Mandy, dear, don't pay attention to the brown bimbo. She's just trying to psych you out, okay? We all have worked hard for this moment."

Julia was at the very edge of the cliff. One faulty step and she could send herself over. "But-but." Where was Carl? Is he okay? What if he is lying inside of the building shot and bleeding to death? She breathed in deep, and elbowed Darin in the nose.

"What the-" was all he could say before Joan pushed him to the ground, and ran for the bushes.

"Stop her - STOP HER!" screamed Julia. She shot at the running hostage, but she ended up hitting the trees and ground.

Joan ran as fast as her toned legs could carry her. The bushes were snagging at her hair and clothes, but she wouldn't dare stop. They were pursuing her like hot cakes, and she didn't ever want to go near the cliff again. She heard pounding shoes right on her heels, and she dashed to the right, losing the pursuer for now.

Where was she? The trees were tall, and the moon was again behind a cloud. Which direction was she facing? Was she heading towards or away from the cliff? Where was Carl? She hoped like never before that he wasn' he was, she didn't know what she would do with herself.

She slowed down a little bit, now which was it to the parking lot? Where was Carl? Oh fuck - where was Pete? Things were piling up, and she was getting desperate for some sort of sign.

WHUMP!

Joan was tackled to the ground, her legs caught in the person's arms. She tried to kick the person in the face, but they held on to her leg. She swung her other foot around, connecting it with some part of their body. By their grunt she would say it was a good kick, but she didn't waste time turning around to look at them. She took off through the bushes again, leaving her pursuer in the dust.

She ran full throttle for less than a minute when someone grabbed her by her arm. She was jerked back, and she kicked and squirmed, trying to get away. "Let me go - Let me go! I'll-"

"It's me," she heard a deep voice resonate in her ear. It was Carl.

She turned around and hugged him with relief that felt good. "Are you okay? I was trying to go back and get you!"

She buried her head in his neck, and just for one minute enjoyed his comfort and safety that just seemed to emanate from him. At least she was away from the cliff. He nodded, "I was busy with the guards. They are tied up and locked inside the building. The parking lot is east of here, and if we run, we can make it."

"How did you get three guards that were armed tied and locked?" She asked, forgetting the danger.

"Never mind that, we need to get to the parking lot and get out of here," he said seriously.

Joan shook her head, "I need to find Pete. You can go on if you want."

He ran his hand through his hair, contemplating. "If the building is north, the parking lot east, the cliff west. Follow me," he said, and easily ran through the bushes in the opposite direction.

She followed behind, and soon they were in the cove clearing where they were before. She rushed over to Pete lying on the ground. He was hot on the forehead and still unconscious.

"Pete, Pete - wake up," Joan coaxed him in a hushed voice.

"Hm?" was all he answered hoarsely. For moment he laid still, and then he slowly opened his eyes. "Where am I?"

Carl stepped closer to him to see how he was doing, "You're still near the cliff. If we run, we can make it to the parking lot and out of here. Do you think you can do that?"

He took in a deep breath and gave a weak smile. "Of course."

Joan and Carl helped him up, and soon the three of them were making their way towards the parking lot. They heard footsteps behind but kept on running and dodging in the shadows as fast as they could. They made it up the grass path, and were soon in the parking lot when they heard sirens approaching.

Joan closed her eyes briefly, reveled that she had never welcomed the sound of the police siren as much as now. A shot was fired at them from behind, and Joan felt a searing pain in her left calf. She cried out before dropping to the ground. It felt like someone had slashed her skin with a dull knife, and it was hurting more than she could ever imagine.

"Joan!" Carl called turning around. He knelt beside her as she moaned. "Where's the shot?"

"The left leg," she says slowly. Any movement at all brought the pain shooting all through her leg and up her spine. She felt Carl's hands gently move up her leg until he reached the wound.

"It's not a full shot - it skimmed the skin. It looks deep though," he concluded in a second.

"Will you be able to walk? I see them coming up the path now," Pete said seriously. He was still drugged quite a bit, and could barely walk himself.

She sighed, at least she wouldn't have a lead bullet in her body. She tried to stand up with the help of Carl. Just as she started hopping to get further away, the voice of a madwoman ran clear in the night. "Stop right there, limpy," commanded Julia, and then burst out laughing.

Joan narrowed her eyes, and turned around with one hand on Carl's shoulders. Julia smiled coldly at her after her fit of laughter. The sirens were closer now, but by the sound of them they were still at least a mile away. Her leg hurt just standing up, as if someone had put a knife in it and then started turning it. She was trying her best not to cry out again. "It's all over. The police are on their way," Joan said.

Julia cocked her gun at Joan. "Well then, I guess you and Peter will have to say good-bye." She started to put pressure on the trigger.

"WAIT!" Carl yelled. "Don't do it." He had run out of options for saving them. It was either the police arrived, or none of them were going to live.

Julia lowered her gun. Mandy and Darin looked at her strangely. Her eyes held an evil gleam, a gleam that put fear in any sane person. She paused for a moment, contemplating something important, before speaking. "Alright, Carl. You have taken pity on them, but now you have to make a decision." Carl said nothing, only watched as he saw her eyes flicker. "Choose which one you would like for me to have, and you and the other can go your merry way. I promise," she said, holding up her right hand.

"And this means.." Carl led on. He wasn't sure what she wanted, but as long as he was stalling, it was more time for the cops to arrive.

She shook her head. "I mean, darling, that you choose either Joan or Pete to die." She smiled at him, as if it were a normal statement.

"And if I don't chose?"

Julia shrugged. "Then they both die. It doesn't matter to me. Go ahead, you have ten seconds. Ten."

Carl's mind raced. Run? Not in ten seconds.

"Nine."

Give up? Not in his lifetime. What should he do?

"Eight."

Grief, he was having a hard time thinking with the number yelled out and jarring his thoughts.

"Seven."

He didn't want to lose Joan - she was the star in his life since the first time he had seen her.

"Six."

Peter was a nice man, hard working, and Joan treated him like a boss and a-

"Five."

- father; he just couldn't do that to him.

"Four."

He racked his brain for a solution. If only the police would come!

"Three."

He closed his eyes for a brief moment, wondering if someone up in the clouds was just testing him.

"Two."

He caught something in Joan's eyes that scared him. He saw a determination with sadness, a knowledge of something that scared her.

"One."

Joan looked into his eyes, and then Carl knew what she was going to do. She gave him a little smile. He shook his head. "No." He turned to Julia. "I want to give myself."

Julia looked stunned at the thought and stared as though he had grown an extra arm; and then caught herself. "Sorry, not allowed. Which one did you pick?"

Carl shook his head again. How can he answer? "I-"

"-choose me." Joan finished. She looked over at him one more time. The last time she will ever see the man ? Shared with? Enjoyed? Loved? She stepped walked, more like limped, towards the madwoman and her gun. The pain was searing in her leg, but nothing like what she was feeling in her heart.

"NO!" Carl objected fiercely. He started after her until Mandy pulled a gun on him. She gave him a signal to move back to where he was. He moved back only a few steps and glared at her.

The sirens were a lot closer now, and Joan was almost hoping they would arrive now. Julia blew Carl a kiss before she started sprinting down the path. Darin grabbed Joan's arm, making her run as fast as he was down the path. She cried out again at the pain - her leg hurt so much that it was starting to go numb with it pounding against the ground. She could feel warm liquid trickling down her leg, and her stomach gave a lurch when she knew it was her blood. Darin looked over at her while they were running, giving her body a look over that if she wasn't bleeding and running at the same time, she would have slugged him.

Darin's grip was going to leave a mark he was holding it so tight, but he pulled her along when she started to slow down. "Faster," he commanded, as they headed into the bushes where Julia and the rest first emerged.

She started breathing heavily from the pain and the run from the police. Darin pulled her into the bush, and just as she thought there was just trees, a log cabin came into view. Julia entered first, with her and Darin behind. He shut the door, bolting it and turning the lock.

The cabin was small, probably not fitting more than ten people at a time. The inside had a little lamp on the ground and that was it, except for a few chairs around a table in the middle. Darin pushed her in a chair, and it was almost a relief to be off her leg, but it was paining so much, and her whole leg was covered in blood. She caught her breath and looked around. Mandy was already inside. It was just the three of them, and then Joan. She took a slow breath in, trying not to show her fear. She could hear the sirens far away, and she hoped that they could find her in time.

It must have showed on her face because Mandy sneered, "They won't find you in here, Joan. Not unless they know what they are looking for. It's in the middle of the forest and bush. It will give us enough time to shoot you dead."

Joan did her best not to show her fear, but they surrounded her, and her leg was a pain like she had never felt before. What could she do? She was definitely out of options.

Julia spoke this time, the crazy light in her eyes dimmed a bit. For a moment, she actually looked like a normal person, like a beautiful, caring woman, probably the woman she used to be. Joan could see why Carl had liked her, and it made her heart sink. But the caring look was gone in an instant, replaced with the crazed light that scared her. "Well, Joan, I just might just feel like sparing you if you do one little thing for me."

Mandy jerked her head towards her, and Darin looked at her horrified. "NO! She knows too much, Julia. We have to do it. You said-"

"Oh do shut up, Darin," Julia snapped back at him. "Listen for a moment before you open your big mouth again." Darin gave her a dirty look, but he didn't have the courage to say anything back.

Julia turned back to Joan, circling the table as she spoke. " might just work out." Joan shuddered to think what she might have to do to spare her life. Julia turned to look at her, and she realized Mandy and Darin were in the corner, watching Julia with fear and curiosity. Joan realized Julia was running the show, but with more than just money, with craziness and murder in her eyes.

Joan reproached carefully. "What do I have to do to stay alive?" she asked bravely.

Julia smiled at her, and if snakes could smile, it would look like this, thought Joan. "All you have to do is say a few little words into this little speaker right here," Julia said pointing to a little tape recorder on the table. Joan hadn't noticed it before. Julia picked it up and held it between Joan and herself. "Just repeat a few words after me into this mike, and you get to go free- no more bullets, guns, nothing. How does that sound?" Julia snickered.

Joan still felt trapped, but wondered why it was so easy. "What words do you want me to say?"

Julia waved her arms like it was nothing. "Just a couple of sentences. Agree with me, say them, and you are home do you say?"

Joan hesitated, looking for an escape, but she couldn't even stand up on her leg, far less run. What other choice did she have? Stalling was the only the she had. "F-Fine."

Julia clapped her hands, "Great. Just great. Now, let me turn this on the little red button is on." She turned towards Joan, and her eyes gleamed craziness, scaring Joan even more than when they threatened to kill her. She had the tape recorder right between them. And she pulled a chair next to Joan's, and scooted in close. "Now, just repeat after me, okay?"

Joan tried to concentrate on any phrases that might be trick, but her head was throbbing almost as much as her leg was. "Alright."

Julia spoke quickly and excitedly, "Give me your opinion on Carl. Anything you can think of."

Joan was at a loss for words. This isn't what she expected at all. Her opinion on Carl, what a scary and interesting question. But what was she up to? " ."

Julia shook her head impatiently. "Let's just skip to the chase." She moved the mike closer to Joan. "Now listen carefully: Speak into the recorder that you detest him. Say that you hate him, and that you never wanted to speak to him again - that you never want to sleep with him again. Say that he is horrible. Say that he is the lowest scumbag and that he was better off with me - much better off with me."

"What?!" Joan's leg was throbbing like hell, and little black dots were starting to form around her eyesight, but what Julia said caught her attention.

"Say it!" Julia snarled. Joan didn't know how to react. Silence reigned the cabin, and Mandy and Darin were dead quiet in their corner. When she wouldn't say anything, Julia grabbed a chunk of her hair, and pulled it back harshly.

Joan gasped as she felt her head snap back, and her head started pounding. Julia got up off of her seat and stared straight into the eyes of Joan. Joan had never been so scared in her life, but she managed to spit in the other woman's face, and yank her hair from Julia's hand. Her head felt like it would explode any minute, but Julia looked even more deadly. She spoke in a low voice, filled with venom, "Say it, or I will shoot you here and now."

Joan closed her eyes for a brief moment, deciding what to do as memories flashed through her mind. Memories of Carl with memories, loving memories. Feelings she felt for him she never felt for another person. Feelings that were so strong, so full of love and caring, that she thought they might burst from her, from her heart and from her soul. She couldn't bring herself to say those words to the man she knew to be her life. It was at this moment that Joan knew she loved Carl for all she was worth. She raised her face proudly to Julia and replied a simple and straightforward, "No," but it meant life to her.

Julia's eyes widened, realizing love when she saw it, and detested it and Joan even so much more, if it was humanly possible. She breathed in deeply, and reached for her gun.

~*~

Carl breathed in hard, full of rage and anger as he saw Darin grab Joan's arm and dragged her away. Joan cried out from the pain shooting through her leg, and Carl at that moment was ready to run after her, swoop her away and just cradle her in his arms, and then beat Darin within an inch of his life. Yes, he thought, he would do it. But then he felt a hand on his shoulder.

He turned to see Peter shaking his head. "Don't go after them, Carl. You don't know what they will do - to you or to her - if they see you running after them." Peter's voice was still slurring, but the drug was starting to wear off more now. "We can't to anything but wait for the police to arrive, and hope that Joan stays alive."

Carl closed his eyes for a moment. He never felt this alive before - this rage that was seeping through his body - it felt like he could jump 50 feet in the air. He turned as three squad cars pulled into the parking lot. Pete didn't want anything to happen to Joan, but Carl knew he couldn't just leave her to the mercy of the madwoman and her cronies. Not waiting another moment, he dashed into the forest after them.

~*~

Author's Note: First off - Happy New Year tout le monde, trust you all had good holidays - I sure did. Went to visit family - party party party! And then had to come back and write exams (ugh, the joys of high school). Anyways, just finished (literally) writing this chapter. Hope you all enjoyed it and remember to review!

Truly,

Soleil Antoinette