13. Sounds in the forest
Katarina didn't believe what the strange voice had told her during the disturbing phone call. She did understand the man hated her from the bottom of his soul and wanted her dead, not that he would spare Jean-Pierre. This bloke gloated over the fear and pain he could give her, psychologically by the message had passed to her but probably too by the prospect what he would do with her.
She had wracked her brain on who was behind this. Her mother had unquestionably made some enemies during her life. Considering her profession, she learned a lot about some important persons, and it had given her power over them.
Some of the visitors of the Chateau couldn't handle that consequence, but Baroness Beatrice had always made short shrift of it. She denied them the access to all the appealing sexual pleasures with the strictness she used to show. A few of the boys that were working at the castle acted as security in these cases. Given the power and the knowledge, Beatrice possessed it had no effect on the Chateau or his inhabitants.
Then she thought about Vincent Beau, the gangster who had killed her mother. It could, of course, be someone of his entourage who wanted revenge because Katarina and Jean-Pierre were the reason for his death. She knew that in the aftermath of their adventures the largest part of the gang had been arrested.
Then she thought about Vincent Beau, the gangster who had killed her mother. It could, of course, be someone of his entourage who wanted revenge because Katarina and Jean-Pierre were the reason for his death. In the aftermath of their adventures, the largest part of the gang members were arrested, that she knew. It was quite a possibility they missed someone.
She thought about the General. Maybe he could give her a bit of advice, maybe help her, but she had not the time to spare to let him know. She hadn't the luxury to play with another person's life. The life of her soul partner she loved so much. No, she wrote off that option too.
Her plan was very simple. She would be lying in ambush, not far from the open place in the forest. She knew a good spot, where the shrubbery was thick and where she had a clear view of the exit of the secret passageway. Armed with her loaded Sig Sauer, she would try to disarm her opponents. Maybe she wasn't that experienced in shoot-outs, but she had the advantage of the surprise.
Nobody would expect her to act that way. Men would never change, time after time they underestimated the possibilities of a woman. Those tough guys would catalog her as the 'weaker sex'. They would experience it firsthand how weak she was.
She had reassured her sister she trusted François and his colleagues to use all their resources to find Jean-Pierre. she had hugged her again, realizing it could be the last time. She also had written a letter with explanations and the order to the notary to put all her possessions upon Cecile's name if she would die. Katarina had also taken care of Marie-Anne's financial future. She wouldn't be left behind without means. Her thoughts were clear, she was ready to die if it was necessary.
Then the moment came she had to leave for her hiding place in the forest. It would soon be dark. She left on foot using the backside, the exit used by the personnel to enter and leave the castle.
She was wearing a dark jumpsuit and a black vest. She had fastened her hair together and hidden under a ski mask. She had seen enough movies that she knew the smallest piece of skin could stand out. She had held a champagne cork over a candle till there was a thin layer of soot and she put it, after it had cool down, in her pocket. Those small parts of her skin that were still showing in the dark would get a treatment later on.
Fifteen minutes later she reached the spot where she carefully would make a hiding place for herself. Before she approached, she had stopped a few times to listen cautiously. She heard nothing, but it was better to be safe than sorry, and she stayed alerted. With her black boots, she flattened some shrubbery and laid her black raincoat she had brought with her on the ground. It would make it somewhat softer while she waited.
With the soot on the cork, she smeared a black layer around her eyes and mouth and on her hands too. It should be sufficient later on when it got completely dark so that nobody would spot her. She had prepared another think that one way or another could give her the advantage in this situation. She didn't know where this guy or his accomplices would be setting themselves up. If they were smart and experienced, they would also silently and invisible hide behind something. She had to lure them out of their hiding place.
Out of her pocket of her raincoat, she got a dark green clothesline. She walked warily to the concealed exit of the secret passageway and connected the line to one of the handles of the door. Katarina ensured the door was unlocked, and she was able to open it by drawing the line. By way of a few trees on the right side of the exit, she tightened the line until her hiding place. She tried her diversion maneuver and the door each time opened a ten centimeter when she pulled the line. It would be sufficient, so she hoped, to make them act, something that would give away their hiding spot and that was all she needed.
She was lucky because it had just been a full moon. Nonetheless, the celestial sphere already had covered-up a little part of his luminous source, the night was cloudless. She had an excellent view of the open place from where she was hiding. Katarina nestled herself as good as possible and tried to relax. Her adrenaline level was very high, and she was almost jumping to take action. In a little while maybe she wouldn't dare anymore. But when she thought about Jean-Pierre, a dangerous fire started to burn inside of her. She was afraid somebody would see those flames in her eyes, and she closed them for a moment while she breathed more slowly. In, two three four. Out, two three four.
With her eyes closed, her breathing under control, she started to distinguish the sounds of the forest. A red squirrel, looking for his sleeping place or stowing away his food. A mouse on her left side, tripping through the shrubbery. It could also be a rat, and although Katarina didn't like rodents, she had other things to worry about this time. She heard an owl hooting, ready for his attack on these gnawers. Then she heard something that wasn't one of the natural sounds she had captivated earlier.
It was the scratching of a match, and only for a short moment, she noticed the glowing tip of a cigarette. She saw the person hiding the glow inside his hand, and it became dark again. Now she smelled the odor from the cigarette too. For a moment, she thought that smoking could kill you. The man would personally experience how lethal it was. She still waited for a while. In case, a man is sentenced to death, you grant him his last wish, even if it is a cigarette.
Two minutes later, she put some tension on the line, and the door started automatically to open. Considering that she had put the light on in the underground passageway before she had left the castle, a gap of artificial light appeared. The sound of the creaking door made the man move. However, he stayed in the darkness of the trees.
She still tried two more times the same maneuver. Would the man have nerves of steel and stay where he was? From where she lay, she hadn't a clear sight of his hiding place. A gunshot could easily miss his target, and she didn't doubt he was an excellent marksman too. The advantage of the surprise would be over, and she would be animal fodder.
But the fish eventually took the bait. Aiming his weapon he moved in the direction of the double door who had moved a few times. In the light of the shining moon, she noticed the frowned eyebrows of the man. He didn't understand that the door of the exit of the secret passageway didn't go open. In a big circle, trying to stay out of the sight of the one who was coming out of the door, he came closer. This way he also approached Katarina's shelter.
It was now or never. She hadn't seen anyone else. The man had come alone. It had to be the person who made that telephone call. Suddenly she decided not to shoot to kill, he was alone and could give her information about Jean-Pierre's whereabouts. Maybe, just maybe she could save her boyfriend this way.
She aimed at his hand with the weapon. From this distance, she knew she couldn't miss. Disarmed she would ask the man some questions. If he failed to answer, she would work on his kneecaps first and after that, she would see what she could damage without taking his life. She could ask eighteen questions. After the first gunshot, there were still eighteen bullets left in the clip. Her finger bent around the trigger, and she decided to shoot at the next exhalation.
A gunshot sounded in her ears, but Katarina looked surprised when the man rotated on his axis and collapsed. Even before she was able to pull the trigger, the shot had sounded. Someone else had shot the man down.
Her surprise changed into mortal fear when she felt the still warm barrel of the weapon in her neck.
'Throw that weapon away, to the right in the bushes. Now!' The voice sounded muffled. The person was wearing something in front of her mouth so that Katarina couldn't recognize it was a man's or a woman's voice.
'You're courageous, Katarina, I have to admit. But these are people you better not know. Besides, I know you're not a murderer. To kill somebody is a drastic event always leaving scars.'
Katarina frowned surprisingly without moving otherwise. Who was it behind her that had interfered and considering the words the person knew her.
'Who are you? You have destroyed everything, that man could tell where my friend was. Now you have killed him and by doing that maybe also my friend.'
The barrel of the pistol pushed against her neck, just on the spot where the brain stem was. 'If I've taken good aim, he shouldn't be dead. Severely injured, yes, but if you call for help now, the police will be able to interrogate him, and you could still rescue Jean-Pierre. Be thankful that I had my eye on you. Today I was able to save your soul but next time maybe I'll be too late. Don't do stupid things, Katarina.'
Somewhere, Katarina knew this person had good intentions with her. The weapon in her neck was only a mean to keep the anonymity of the shooter.
'Just stay put for about five minutes, this man won't escape, I've still some work to do. I can't use a young Baroness in my wake. Maybe till next time, Katarina.'
Katarina lay stock-still, looking at the man who was still moving, but, for now, was immobilized. It didn't take long before she didn't hear anything more, and carefully she looked behind her.
The shooter had vanished, absorbed by the night. The usual natural sounds of the forest reached her hearing again. Nothing abnormal, they belonged there. With the exclusion of the groaning of her enemy, she heard now too. She stood straight and with a grim glance on her black face she approached the man.
© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere