Part 52

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Caitlin glanced at the back seat as I lifted her through the passenger side door. I didn't follow her gaze. I knew no one had left underwear or anything else incriminating there. The last girl who'd lain on my back seat hadn't been wearing any underwear…I cut that thought short. This was hardly the time.

I turned my eyes back to Caitlin's worried ones. Guessing her thoughts, I told her, "You have a window that you can open if you want to – and a door you can leave by if you decide you don't want to be in the car. Just give me a bit of warning on the freeway – so I can pull into the emergency stopping lane before you get out."

I shut the door for her and strode to my own side of the car, sliding into the seat easily as if nothing was wrong.

Caitlin clicked the seatbelt into place and clutched at it with white-knuckled fingers of fear. "Saucer eyes," she murmured. She closed her eyes, as if struggling to remember something.

I started the car, trying harder to forget. The first time I saw her.

The red car parked on the side of the road, windows down. A spiral of smoke wafting out of the open window, the smell of the cigarette carried away on the winter wind. Watching, as they did the same.

There were plenty of people around. Commuters in suits, tradesmen in fluorescent shirts from the construction site nearby and casually dressed students on their way to university. The intermittent clicking from the crosswalk lights to the east. A ranting religious man handing out flyers, trying to save people from the end of the world. Couldn't save her.

A moving curtain of darkness in the light breeze, turned to deep red wine in the sunlight. It was her hair I saw first, drawing my eye to the rest of her.

She walked close to the kerb, a cheerful smile on her face, her loose hair rippling and catching the light. She wore a blinding white t-shirt that proclaimed she was an angel. The faint outline of her nipples punctuated the word through the cotton in the cold wind, calling the proclamation into question. An angel, but an earthly one without wings, unless they were attached to her feet. Her every step was fluid, graceful, as if she were dancing through the crowd of people, from paving stone to paving stone. I stopped watching them. I only had eyes for her. I thought she was the most incredible girl I'd ever seen and I wanted her, my angel, like I'd never wanted anyone or anything else before. God, even the memory was torture, seeing how much she'd changed.

What did I want to do to her? Hell, anything she asked me to. She was that stunning.

Of course they saw her. Of the hundreds of people walking down the Terrace, they had to pick her. Someone spoke to her, before getting out of the car. She said something else and opened the back door. For a moment, Caitlin's face lit up with a beautiful, heart-stopping smile as she leaned down to speak to someone inside.

I was mesmerised, caught up in half-formed fantasies about what I wanted to do with this girl. Precious seconds that I couldn't afford to lose. Seconds that could have cost Caitlin everything.

Caitlin's smile slid into a look of horror as she hit her and pushed her in. For a moment, her dark eyes held mine and they screamed HELP. But her lips didn't move or make a sound, sunlight catching on shiny lipstick the same colour as the scars on her wrists now.

The flick of her dark hair before it swung out of sight. The slam of the door behind her. The blur of the driver running around, closing the driver's side door and starting the engine. The roar of it revving as the flash of orange indicated they were going to move.

A cigarette butt thrown out of the window. Sparks on the paving as the mirror-tinted glass blocked my view, sliding smoothly up like a Mercedes window should.

I'd wanted to step in, stop them and help her, no matter what I was supposed to do. But I was too slow emerging from my daydream into her nightmare. It was too late. The car had already driven away with the angel inside who'd never be mine.

Now, my knuckles were whiter than hers, my nails digging deep into the soft leather steering wheel.

I glanced at Caitlin, but her face was turned away from me, staring out the window. Now that she was wearing a long-sleeved jumper with long pants, it was hard to tell she was injured at all.

"You look so much better in clothes," I blurted out, before I realised what I'd said. "Oh, hell, I didn't mean..." I almost said that I hadn't been fantasising about her naked, but that wasn't entirely true. I'd been remembering just such a fantasy, the first time I'd seen her. I'd since seen her wearing nothing but blood. I'd give anything to forget that night.

She still didn't look at me, as if she hadn't heard.

I reached over and touched her cheek. My fingers came away wet with tears. I swore, then took her hand. "Caitlin, it's over. They can't touch you any more." I paused. "Or are you upset that I was checking you out?"

She laughed through her tears, wiped her eyes and met mine. "I'm going to be all right." She was forceful, more to herself than to me. "Please, can you take me home now?"

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