“Dear Lord, protect me from the evil forces that desecrate this most holy sanctuary,” the old priest prays frantically, crawling his way over to me from the altar.
He struggles, partly because of his age, and partly because of his robes getting in the way, and I find myself unable to muster up one ounce of sympathy for him.
“There’s too many of them!” one of my father’s men cries out.
“Fall back!” my father roars and then grunts as if he’s in pain.
My heart immediately lurches inside my chest, my hate for him is momentarily forgotten.
Is he hurt?
Logic fleeing, I try to pop up again to check on my father, only to have Igor shove me back down.
He curses and then shouts something in Russian.
Alexei shouts back.
The priest finally reaches me just as two of my father’s men stumble down the aisle. Shooting wildly at the front of the church, they don’t even spare me a glance as they run for the doors flanking the altar.
Only one of them makes it. I watch in horror as the smaller of the two, a man I don’t know by name, takes a shot to the head and drops to the floor.
“God have mercy,” the priest whimpers, and then the smell of something acidic hits the air.
It takes me a second to place the smell, but once I do I scoot away from him in disgust.
He pissed himself in fear.
“Meghan! Meghan!” my father cries out and then he appears, being dragged down the aisle by Alexei.
I note at once that his right arm is hanging limply at his side and a blossom of blood the size of my fist stains his white shirt.
He’s wounded, and the little girl inside me cries out, “Daddy!”
Three Russians shield my father and Alexei, using their huge bodies as a wall as they shoot at the front of the church.
“Bring her, Igor,” Alexei orders as he drags my father past me.
Igor glances at him before firing off a few more rounds. Then he reaches down and grabs me by the shoulder a second before he just drops beside me.
It happens so fast, I find myself blinking down at Igor’s motionless body in shock.
“Fuck!” Alexei roars and begins to shout frantically in Russian as he continues to drag my father further and further away from me.
One of the three men shielding him moves toward me only to drop dead with a bullet in his head beside Igor.
“Meghan! Meghan!” my father wails desperately, and not knowing what else to do, I begin to crawl toward him.
A stream of bullets suddenly hit the floor in front of me, blocking off my escape. I scramble backward as another of Alexei’s guards falls to the ground, dead.
Thrusting my spine into the front of the pew, I look up in time to find Alexei staring at me. His eyes lock on mine, intense and full of something I can’t place as he reaches the door beside the altar.
A shot rings out, this one somehow much louder than the last.
The only guard standing in front of Alexei falls to the ground, his body thumping into the floor with a wet crack.
Then another shot rings out, this one hitting the door as it closes behind my father and Alexei.
I just stare at the door as two more bullets splinter the wood.
Then it finally hits me.
“They left me…” I say out loud in cold disbelief.
They fucking left me here to die…
A heavy silence falls over the church.
No more shots ring out.
No more voices pierce the air.
The only thing I can hear is the old priest wheezing beside me.
Seconds pass that drag on like minutes. A million thoughts race through my mind.
Is everyone dead? Are the attackers gone? Maybe now’s my chance to get away?
Staring at the bullet-riddled floor in front of me, my heart pounds so hard I fear I might be sick.
The thought of popping up only to drop to the floor like the dead men in front of me keeps me from moving.
So I wait, my ears straining.
The silence stretches on and on.
Then the first heavy footstep falls, echoing throughout the cathedral, and my heart freezes in mid beat.
Oh god, the attackers are still here.
One footstep becomes two, three, then four.
My brain finally processes what I’m hearing. Someone is walking up the aisle.
The footsteps stop.
“Dead,” a deep voice says.
Then they start again only to stop.
“Dead,” the voice says again.
The footsteps grow louder and louder, coming closer and closer.
Two gunshots suddenly ring out and I nearly jump out of my skin.
Fuck. I’m dead if I make a run for it, and I’m dead if I stay here.
If I want to live, I’m going to have to find a way to fight.
The footsteps start again, and knowing I only have a few precious seconds to save myself, I make a grab for Igor’s gun beside me.