a princess in u-town (part five)

This story started here.

I was awake before I was aware of it.

Jan was awake also, sitting up in bed.

It was still dark out, and I glanced at the clock on the bedside table by habit. 4:42 a.m.

Then we heard the sound again. Faint, as if there were several walls between us and the gun, but we knew that sound.

“Robe,” I said as I quickly pulled on a pair of pants, knowing that modesty was pretty much the last thing on her mind in situations like this.

I opened the locked case in my bottom bureau drawer and took out a pistol, carefully locking the case again as she pulled on her shoes.

Out in the hall, a couple of people were poking their heads out of their rooms and looking around. I gestured and they stepped back..

The princess’s room was down the hall from ours, and I think we were both sure, with no real evidence, that that’s where the shooting had been. Then we heard a scream.

I moved to knock on the door, but my employer gestured as she limped up and I tried the door. It was locked, but I knew how lousy most of the locks were and I gave it my shoulder, hard.

That popped the lock and I was in, my employer right behind me.

My brain was still figuring out how one apologizes for breaking into a princess’s bedroom in the middle of the night, and what I might quickly say if it turned out that her bodyguard was present, when my eyes informed my brain that it had a whole different set of problems to worry about, since the bodyguard was stretched out on the floor, obviously dead.

My employer limped in and quickly closed the door to the hall. She scanned the room as I went to the princess, who was sitting on the bed, shaking and staring at something on the floor, on the far side of the bed.

My employer and I hurried around, and there was Ana, on the floor. I kneeled and checked her, knowing what I would find. I could hear my employer moving around the room. I knew she’d see everything there was to see, so I turned my attention to the princess.

It looked like another scream was coming, so I said, “Don’t look, Val.” I was standing beside the bed, trying to block her view of Ana’s body. I took her shoulders and gently turned her so that she was facing the foot of the bed.

“Val,” I said again, trying to get her to look at me, “Are you hurt? Are you okay?”

Then the deluge came. She buried her face in my stomach and cried — great, heaving sobs, her hands clutching at my lower back.

This was somewhat awkward, since I was only wearing slacks and shoes, and she was naked, so I put my hand on her back and held it there, not moving it, as I looked around the room.

The bodyguard lay on his back, blood on his white shirt. A gun was lying in between the two bodies. The bed clothes were all tangled around, and some were scattered across the floor.

The princess’s grip had loosened enough that I was able to bend over, grab the corner of a blanket, and wrap it around her shoulders. She clutched it around her, as if suddenly aware that she was naked. She was looking down at the mattress and I couldn’t see her face.

“I’m going to get help,” my employer said, limping toward the door. “Pick up the gun.”

I did (checking it — two chambers empty), and dropped it into my pocket.

I now had a heavy gun in each pocket, and I hitched up my pants, wishing I’d put on a belt.

More to come…

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