The car was filling with water faster than I could really begin to process the situation. I've seen it happen before, from the other side of course, and it seems like the car takes forever to sink. But from the inside; forever turns into practically nothing. I turned to look out the back window and saw a dark, human like shadow standing on the lake shore - just waiting for us to surface.
"What the hell?!" Leni shouted as the cold water covered her legs. She started to scramble for the seat belt latch and panic set it. She barely spared me a glance as she started fighting with the door, trying to open it against the pressure of the water outside. "HELP!" she shouted. I'm not sure if she was shouting at me or hoping for someone else to show up in her hour of need.
I reached over and put a firm hand on her shoulder. "Calm down." I said; then pulled a gun from the center console. It was no doubt water logged but it would serve some purpose anyway. The water was about to overtake our heads so I had to get Leni's attention back on me, as she was now scratching at the door. "Leni!" I said loudly. "You need to stop and take a deep breath!" I grabbed her head and turned her to face me. "Do you hear me? Take a deep breath and be ready to follow me!"
She nodded her head vigorously between my hands, thankful that someone seemed to have a plan. I only hoped it would work! I felt the water touch my chin and nodded to Leni; I took my own deep breath at the same time she did and the water enveloped our heads at the moment. I waited just long enough for the rest of the window to be submerged before using the butt of the gun to smash it several times. Without looking at Leni, I pushed my way through the broken window, a few remaining shards tugged at my clothing.
Thankfully Leni was right on my heels and I grabbed her arm to pull her from the car as it continued to sink toward the bottom of the lake.
I didn't have time to survey the area before I saw Leni moving toward the surface. I tried to grasp her arm to stop her and met only water; my second attempt won though as I grabbed her shirt and pulled her back down. I tried to shake my head vigorously in the water, thinking of the man above who seemed to be out to kill us - well me anyway but I'm not sure he'd spare much thought for Leni.
She, thoroughly unaware of the heap of trouble she'd landed in, fought against my hold on her. We were losing precious air as we struggled against each other so I grabbed her firmly around the wrist and started swimming. There was only one area I could think of that we might be able to surface without being seen. Leni continued to struggle against my grip but eventually gave up.
If the sinking of the car seemed fast, the short swim from the car to the waterfall seemed to take an eternity. Every second we were under water without air began to burn inside and every stroke was a feat in and of itself to make. Somehow, through sheer force of will or just dumb luck, I felt the pressure from the waterfall all around me. Once we'd crossed the barrier so I knew we were safely behind it's watery veil, I let go of Leni.
"What the hell!?" she shouted after taking a large gulp of air.
I clamped my hand over her mouth quickly and prayed that the noise of the waterfall would mask her voice. "Would you shut up?" I hissed. I tried looking through the thick wall of water but couldn't get a clear sight on the shore. "A man just tried to kill us, I'd prefer it if he thought he might have succeeded."
Leni's eyes went wide with shock and horror as she caught up to everything that had just happened. "He tried to...." she trailed off. "Who is he? And why?" she asked, this time in a reasonably quiet voice.
I didn't answer her questions; instead I turned my back on her and swam toward the edge of the falls. Pressed tightly against a rock face, I peered out across the lake through a sliver. The man was still standing there and this time I saw him lazily tapping a gun against his thigh. I was about to turn back toward Leni when a series of gunshots rang out. Behind me somewhere I heard Leni shriek and I turned back to see if somehow she'd been hit. Thankfully she was fine, though completely freaked out. Looking back toward the man, he was pointing his gun into the water where the car had submerged. He held his gun out for several moments before he relaxed and resumed his vigil; he wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.
I looked back at Leni and wondered how long it would take before she would break under the pressure and get herself killed. I erred on the side of caution and assumed not long. Swimming back to her, I considered our options, anywhere we surfaced on the open shore, the man would see. "Leni, I need you to stay here" I said. "I'll be right back. Just. Stay. Here." She nodded but didn't speak. I took another deep breath and dove beneath the surface; Nes had told me there was a cave and tunnel down here that led under the waterfall and to the outer edge of the island. She was always trying to get me to go exploring with her but I'd never taken her up on it - I only wish I had now. I spotted the entrance just before I had no choice but to surface again.
To her credit, Leni was there waiting. "Take a deep breath and follow me." I said. She nodded, this time with less enthusiasm, but did as she was told.
The entrance to the cave system led upwards and soon we were able to break the surface of the water - though the heavy rock formations around us were imposing. Most of the system was at least partially above the water level so there was little risk of drowning. Any time we had to make a dive, I left Leni behind so that I could figure out how far we'd have to go. Luck, for once, seemed to be on my side as we never encountered a completely submerged area that we couldn't navigate. Unluckily, the caves and tunnels were far more complex than Nes had led me to believe. There wasn't just one tunnel or even two; there were several leading to several small caverns which would dead end.
"Don't you know where you're going?" Leni asked as we hit one such dead end. Her freak out had now been replaced by annoyance it seemed. I couldn't really blame her.
"Honestly? No...not really." I said and took another huge gulp of air before ducking back under the water.
A few more wrong turns and several quarrels later, we surfaced and found ourselves in the much smaller lake near my house. "Thank God!" Leni said climbing out of the water and into the cold night air. I was about to start another fight with her, the hours I'd spent with her had been the longest of my life, but I caught sight of my tiny shack. And the plume of smoke rising above it. I ran towards it, leaving a cold, shivering Leni standing by the water.
The door had been kicked in, I could see the fire inside before I even got there. Scattered across the floor were files, books, clothes and broken dishes - all I had on this island was inside that house or sitting at the bottom of a lake.
I shoved my way past some smoldering debris and saw that whoever had started the fire had completely trashed the house. I don't know if he was looking for something or setting a scene for law enforcement but chairs were overturned, the ancient TV had been smashed in and the sofa had been slashed.
I felt myself detaching from those few belongings as the flames licked around me. There were few things here that I was particularly attached to and I was prepared to let it all burn away.
"Oh hell!" Leni shouted from behind me.
Her shout brought my attention back into focus. I started to push her back out of the burning house when my eye caught on a fleck of silver. I didn't even have to look closely to know what it was the flames had claimed as their next victim. I reached toward a kitchen cabinet and pulled back quickly as the fire leapt against my exposed flesh. I growled and thrust my arm forward again and pulled out a fire extinguisher from under the sink.
Leni had disappeared, outside I hoped, and I turned the extinguisher on the flames that now seemed to be surrounding me. I was determined to put them out and salvage at least that one small object.
I heard a pop behind me and turned back to see Leni wielding her own extinguisher, as if she'd magicked it into existence. I couldn't spare the time to think about where it came from and returned to the battle against the flames.
With the two of us working against the fire, it was soon extinguished and I would have collapsed on the couch if a large, uncomfortable looking spring wasn't poking out of it. I knelt down and picked up the object I...we...had fought so hard for. The small silver picture frame was black with soot but the pictures inside appeared to be unharmed. Aunt Pru smiled back at me as I dusted the film of soot from the glass and tucked into the corner was a small picture of Felicia, I had clipped it from a newspaper before leaving the states.
"Thank you." I said, standing up with the frame firmly in my grasp.
Leni didn't say anything, she was leaning heavily on the railing of the stairs and looked like she might collapse or freak out at any moment - although I'm not sure she really had the energy to do a freak out justice.
I looked over the stairs and decided they seemed to be structurally sound, mostly untouched by the fire. "I have some shorts and tanks and tees upstairs...if you want to put on something dry." I said. "At least I hope I do." I said as I toed a pile of charred clothes with my shoe. Leni nodded and slowly ascended the stairs, dragging her tired body upwards. Once she was out of sight, I pulled out my cell phone in an attempt to call John - with the fire, I had completely forgotten that it had spent the better part of the afternoon under water. The screen attempted to flicker to life but I heard an unpleasant fritzing noise from within the device and then the screen went dark again.
Leni returned a few minutes later and handed me a couple things as well. "Thought you might need it." she said quietly.
"Thanks." I said nodding. I climbed over some charred debris and stepped into the small bathroom to change, still holding the frame and the useless phone. After changing, I tucked them both into the pocket. I attempted to dry off my wallet and cards a bit before stowing them in my pocket as well.
Leni was half asleep on the couch with the popped spring when I came out of the bathroom. I walked over to her and gently touched her shoulder, causing her to jump and shriek. Her eyes were wide with terror for as few seconds before they settled on me. "Sorry" she mumbled once her breathing had slowed some.
"It's okay. Come on, we need to get out of here." I said offering my hand.
"What? Why?!" she scrambled to her feet quickly and looked around for the next threat. When she realized that we weren't about to be gunned down or chopped to bits she settled down slightly.
"It's not safe, we need to get off the island." I explained quickly.
"We?! Why we? I didn't do anything to the crazy guy - I just was in the wrong place..." she started to stutter, backing away from me. Being a tiny house, she found herself up against a wall within a few steps.
"Yeah but this guy doesn't know that." I said mostly to myself. I hated to bring her along - partially because she would be a hindrance more than likely but mostly because I didn't want to get her killed. "So looks like we'll be working together after all..."
I can't be sure, but I don't think she was entirely thrilled about that prospect anymore.