Shades of Grey
Part 17


"Sam...?

Someone wrenched the phone from his hand. He couldn't move. His arm still hung out in midair as he waited.

Waited for Sam to fall.

"You have one more hour and one more chance."

Waited for the blood.

Sam...

Sam moved. He was...

Josh blinked his eyes into focus.

...breathing?

Slowly lowering his arm to his side, Josh held his breath as he watched his best friend.

Sam trembled, and his upper chest hitched with a breath.

He's not dead. Oh, dear God, thank you.

Relief lessened the ache in his gut, but the sudden primal urge to wrap his hands around Rashid's neck and squeeze vied for dominance. He turned his gaze to Raj.

"You fucking bastard. You sick son of a bitch. You—"

"What was that, Joshua?"

He chewed on more choice words, but kept them to himself. Josh found it was an effort to keep his lips from curling into a snarl. He averted his gaze; he couldn't look at Raj anymore. He focused on Sam.

More words from Raj. Not English. He was an American. Why didn't he speak English? It just wasn't Raj—

It wasn't Raj.

Sam was right. This wasn't Raj. His old friend was gone. He didn't know this man. How could he have been so wrong?

Gabir said something. No, Gabir growled something. He was pissed. Rashid silenced him with a single word, then took a few steps from behind Sam.

Sam started at the movement and opened his eyes, but his gaze was fixed on the floor.

Look at me, Sam, please...

Gabir grabbed hold of Sam's collar and hauled him to his feet. Sam choked and gasped as he was dragged toward the door.

"No!" They couldn't take Sam away. Not now. Not like this. Josh rushed forward, but once again found himself held at gunpoint. Only this time, it was Rashid holding the gun.

Sam was taken from the room; he didn't look back.

Josh fought to contain his anger. He looked at the walls, the ceiling, the floor...

There was a bullet hole in the floor. God damn bastard.

Watch your temper.

Focus.

"Okay, Rashid." He couldn't call him Raj anymore. It wasn't Raj. "You win. Is that what you wanted to hear? Fine. You win. But let me tell you something. Sam is my best friend. I don't know if you remember what that means, or what it feels like..." He paused as his voice caught in his throat. "...but there's nothing you can do, short of shooting me, that's going to keep me from going to him right now."

Josh drew a breath and held it...

I can do this. I can do this.

He turned his back on a man with a gun and closed his eyes.

No shot.

Josh opened his eyes and took a step, then another. He wanted to run, to duck out the door, but instead, he took another step.

There was no sound from behind him.

Just another step to the door...

He crossed the threshold, and was in the hall. Josh blew out a shaky breath as he headed for the stairs.

Don't look back. One step at a time.

The stairs seemed to go on forever. He didn't remember there being this many before. He resisted the urge to take them three at a time, but as he reached the last few, his resistance decayed. He leapt the last two stairs onto the second story and turned to Sam's room.

Gabir was blocking his path.

Josh wasn't in the mood for this. The door was still open. He could see Sam kneeling on the floor, his upper body bent forward. If Gabir had hurt him...

Then unexpectedly, Gabir stepped to one side, muttering under his breath. For a moment Josh wondered why. Then he saw Gabir's gaze was not on him, but looking past him. Josh turned.

Rashid was on the staircase, the gun tucked in his belt. Gabir pushed past Josh and stormed over to his boss.

Their argument wasn't Josh's concern. He rushed forward and fell to his knees at Sam's side.

The anger melted away, leaving only a strong urge to pull his friend into an embrace, to protect him from further harm. But Sam was still shaking. Josh settled for laying a hand on Sam' back. He could feel him breathing, feel his heart beating. Relief swelled again. It was enough to know he hadn't lost his best friend. "Oh my God, Sam, thank God you're all right. I was really scared there, you know? I really thought he had shot you. When I heard that gunshot..." He couldn't finish that thought out loud. When he heard that gunshot, he was back there...

Josh shook his head. This wasn't the time or the place to freak out. Sam needed him. "I'm just glad you're okay."

Nothing.

"You're okay, right? Did that Gabir guy hurt you? What did he do, Sam?" He scanned his friend for any obvious signs of injury, but in the room's dim light, it was hard to tell.

"Sam? Come on, buddy, talk to me."

Sam didn't respond.

Josh's gaze settled on his friend's bound hands. Shit. How stupid could he be? He should have untied Sam first.

"Hang on..." Josh shifted closer to his Sam's hands and pulled at the bonds. There was no give. Using both hands, he tried to pull the clasp open. It wouldn't budge.

God damn fucking plastic...

"Just...leave it."

Josh stopped, his fingers entwined in the serrated plastic zip tie. "Sam?"

"Just..."

The lack of resolve in Sam's voice made Josh work at the bonds with renewed determination. "Sam, I can—"

"Hurts...just...p-please."

Josh let go instantly, his hands shaking. He hadn't meant to cause Sam more pain. "Okay." He swallowed. "Okay."

"C-can't stop...sh-sha—"

"It's shock, Sam. It'll pass. You're okay. I'm here." He shifted back to the left and wrapped an arm around Sam's shoulders, offering what little comfort he could.

"Why, Josh?"

Josh stopped breathing. He pulled his arm back, startled by the abrupt question. How could he answer that question? Did he even know the answer?

"You knew...but you...Why?"

His breath shuddered out. "Sam, I-I thought—"

"No." Sam cut him off, his voice sharper than before. He sat up slowly, turning his head toward Josh. His eyes were wet with unshed tears. "No, Josh, th-that's the problem. You...didn't think."

Josh stared at his best friend, not knowing what to say. He saw something in Sam's expression that went beyond fear and hurt. Something deeper...

"You...asked me to trust you..." Sam's voice was softer now, more distant.

Something...

"And...I d-did."

Josh had betrayed Sam's trust. His stomach rolled. He hadn't realized just how much faith Sam had in him. That realization only made Josh feel worse.

Sam blinked, freeing the tears at the corners of his eyes. He turned his head away. "I did..."

Josh laid a hand on Sam's shoulder. "Oh God, Sam, I'm sorry, I—"

Sam jerked at the touch, more a start than an escape, but still... "Just...go."

Josh's breath caught. He didn't believe what he had just heard. "Sam—"

"Josh...just go."

Josh withdrew his hand. His eyes glazed, he shifted back, shaking his head. No. This wasn't happening. It wasn't...

He stood and staggered back a few steps, moving slowly in hope that Sam would...would what?

'You're so na´ve, Josh.'

Rashid's words haunted him. He had honestly believed he could talk Rashid out of this. Sam had known better. Sam had warned him. He hadn't listened. In trying to save an old friend, he'd nearly lost his best friend. How could he have been so stupid?

How could he explain it to Sam when he didn't know himself?

How could Sam ever forgive him?

Josh backed into the doorjamb and swiped at the wetness on his cheeks. He stepped back into the hall, hoping Sam would stop him. Sam didn't.

There was another guard in the hallway. Gabir wasn't there. The guard closed the door to Sam's room, but it was as if Sam had slammed the door in Josh's face. Maybe he had lost his best friend after all.

He stood in the hallway, his lungs heaving for breath. He struggled for control, but it was becoming harder and harder.

There was only one guard. Maybe he could take him. Then he could grab Sam and make a run for it. The door was a few feet from the base of the stairs, maybe...

If something happened to Sam he would never forgive himself.

He took a few steps and turned toward the stairs.

Rashid was still there. His right foot was on the staircase, his left leg hitched up as he sat on the railing.

Josh started down the stairs. Just a push would do it. Just a simple push and Rashid would be over the side and...

Two more steps brought him level with Rashid. Josh stopped. He inclined his head and took a deep breath, but he refused his old friend even the slightest glance.

Rashid didn't move.

Trust or overconfidence?

It would be so simple. Just a push, and Rashid would be dead.

Rashid would be dead, then the guard would shoot Josh, then Gabir would be in charge and Sam...

Josh took another step down.

Gabir would kill Sam. He was certain about that.

He took two more steps down.

Why didn't Rashid kill Sam?

Gabir would have killed him. Why didn't Rashid?

An enraged shout came from upstairs, followed by the rattle of automatic weapon fire.

Josh spun on the stairs, grabbing the railing for support.

And suddenly he was back in Rosslyn.

 

Shades of Grey - 18

 

 

 

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