A deal may have been struck but the first week under Georgia's careful and clinically precise tutelage was both eye-opening and disheartening. Alex knew so little; Georgia was a pro. The learning curve was steep.
Georgia didn't solely begin and end with home security. Alex received a crash course in identifying everyday, overlooked weaknesses that could lead to sticky situations. She was briefed on everything from how important it was to take alternate routes to work to picking out clothes that didn't provide someone an easy handhold. She was shown, with limited success, how to break a wrist grab and properly disentangle herself from potentially fatal situations.
Together, the two mapped out improvements that needed doing to Alex's apartment while Georgia combed the home for listening devices or anything that might point to mob tampering. Nothing was found, but she maintained it was important to leave no stone unturned. A new door lock was installed and updated window locks were put on order. Georgie tried to talk Alex into a security system but she balked at the idea, citing the landlord would make a fuss about the installation.
It was a whirlwind of a week, and by the end of it, Alex was desperate for a reprieve. Anything to take the edge off, which was why she found herself seated at a bar in the middle of the afternoon with a cold beer clutched between her palms, the amber liquid missing most of its foamy head. Alex didn't make a habit of day drinking. Her colleagues were fond of 'alcoholic lunches' and took them often enough. It was a kind of sport in her world. She enjoyed the occasional beer or Friday night bender, depending on the roughness of her week, but since returning Topside, alcohol had become a favorite way to steady nerves and chase away bad dreams.
Nothing like the perils of self-medication.
This particular afternoon, Alex and Georgia were sharing a light lunch that started innocent enough with light conversations and updates on the orders Georgia placed. Alex was starting to feel the tension in her shoulders lessen until the conversation strayed away from safe waters. Strange how quickly the tides could turn when sensitive topics were teased like a finger in a bullet wound.
"I think you should mull it over." Back against the bar, elbows resting on the polished edge, Georgia watched her hunched lunch date out of the corner of her eye. If Alex coiled any tighter, she was liable to start a friction fire.
"Thank you, but I'm not interested," she muttered between bitter sips, wishing for something stronger. Her eyes kept drifting longingly to the whiskey bottles on the rack behind the bar.
"You have a good reason why?"
Alex promptly capped the venomous response building on her tongue by biting the muscle. This wasn't Georgia's fault. This all came back to how utterly disjointed Alex felt. Nothing was normal. Her apartment was a work zone. Her days were spent in the company of an ex-cop she'd only known for two weeks rather than spent in her office. Her city was a death trap waiting to snap closed around her. Alex knew it would take longer than two weeks to fully re-acclimate, but that said nothing about kick-starting the healing process, which had ground to a total halt. When she wasn't with Georgia she was at home hiding from the media.
As expected, her lesser colleagues had done what they do best. Dig and push and wheedle until they sucked all the blood and marrow from her, leaving behind a rattled woman reminded every time she turned on the TV or picked up a newspaper she was a victim of kidnapping, of assault, of attempted murder.
Over and over and over again.
Her face. Her shell-shocked expression. Her pain. Her scars spread out for the world to see. Alex felt naked and exposed, and despite her professional acquaintance's best efforts, the last thing she wanted was to sit on a therapist's couch being reminded she was just another statistic.
YOU ARE READING
Journalist Alexandra Bailey never believed she'd become another tragic statistic ripe for the front pages. Abducted off the street. Beaten bloody. Left for dead in the unforgiving winter. The article wrote itself. And her crime? Not even she knew, b...