The Reef

part 9

Lois Kay


Okay, I know, I know...!!! How long has it been? Three months? I am truly sorry for abandoning you all so long. My life has changed a lot and writing wasn't exactely one of my priorities. I moved from The Netherlands to the USA and I can assure you, organizing a move like that takes a lot of time and energy. But...I'm back to writing again!
I want to thank the readers who didn't give up on me, but kept kicking my butt through friendly, but honest emails. It's nice to know my story is appreciated!

For General disclaimers see part 1.
In this part of the story there is some domestic violence. Unfortunately lots of women, worldwide, face this terror on a daily base. Let's not close our eyes to that, but help and support them as much as we can.
Again, I want to thank Cyndi for betareading for me. Cyndi, you are doing a great job and I can't tell you enough how grateful I am for you sacrificing your spare time to struggle with my musings.
As always I want to dedicate this story to the woman who helped me to believe in love again. TCB, in you I did not only find the love of my life, but also my best friend, my future...Every day I spend with you is a blessing I will be eternally grateful for.

Comments? Feedback? Questions? Drop me a line at

The large office was air conditioned and cool enough to eventually want to wear a jacket. That was the way Joe Michaels preferred it. He always told his staff that a low temperature made his brain work faster. And fast it was, while he was explaining his plans to the three men who were sitting opposite him in the low chairs circling his huge desk.
Joe Michaels himself was not sitting down, he was standing behind his desk, his hands leaning on the smooth, dark oak surface. His voice was soft and everybody who knew him could hear the excitement he was trying to hide. His eyes were gleaming and the little smile that curled the corner of his mouth never left his face.
When he finally stopped speaking, the room was filled with silence and his eyes roamed over his silent companions. Little Steven's face was stoic, as it usually was. William Jensen's face was pale and he nervously drummed his fingers on his cotton clad knee. The youngest of the three, Fred, was shifting in his chair. It was obvious he didn't feel at ease and Joe Michaels noticed the sweat on his forehead, in spite of the temperature in the room.
" I have told you my plans, gentlemen, " Joe Michaels continued. " And I can assure you, there's no way back. No way out."

He glanced at Fred, who tried very hard not to shiver.

" We're in this together, so you'd better not screw up, because you'd be selling your own hide. If I go down, I will take you all with me."

He paused to give his words a dramatic effect, not lost on his audience.

" But I promise you, when we succeed you will all be free to go, if you like. And guess what? You'll be rich!"

His laugh made Fred feel sick to his stomach and he cast down his eyes, so his boss wouldn't be able to see the repulsion in them.

William Jensen clenched his teeth, making the muscles in his jaw vividely stand out. He was still fighting a feeling of guilt, but he tried to focus on the near future, where there wouldn't be a Nemesis like Joe Michaels to treat him like some low life criminal. And any thought about Jody and her friend was pushed to the background. He kept telling himself over and over again that it was for the best, that he had a family to take into account. That his wife and daughter needed him to do the job right, because if he didn't, he'd never come home. He would spend the rest of his life behind bars, or worse…end up dead.

"Any questions?' Joe Michaels asked, glancing at his watch.

" What about the girl, Joe? " Little Steven asked. " Are we supposed to forget about her now?"

" Yeah, just concentrate on the big fish. But if the little brat gets in the way, you know what to do."

" Eliminate her, " Little Steven answered calmly, casually as if they weren't discussing a human life.

Fred cleared his throat to mask the gasp that threatened to come out and he wiped away the moisture from his forehead and upper lip, feeling drops slowly sliding down his back.

She's my sisters age. Nancy and her are just schoolgirls. My God, she is somebody's sister as well, how can they even discuss a thing like this. But I have no way out of this. God, please, Fiona, don't get in the way! I don't want to hurt you. It would be like hurting my own sister.

Fred felt a stab of pain and he had to take a few deep breaths to control his breathing again. Of course Joe Michaels noticed. He cast a look at Little Steven, his eyes expressionless and his face grim.

" Will he be okay? " he asked, as if Fred wasn't present.

Without looking at his young companion Little Steven nodded, his eyes never leaving his boss' .

" He'll be right, Joe. No worries. He's just a youngster, but he'll learn."

" Good. Well, if there are no further questions you can all go on your way. Now, remember, be cautious, I don't want to draw any attention. I'd rather have you blokes taking your time on this. We'll get her. Just stick to the plan. All right?"

" Fiona, for the umpteenth time, you can't translate it like this. It's German for crying out loud, not English. The grammar is different and you have to use those cases, " Jody cried in frustration, after spending about twenty minutes trying to explain the rules of German grammar to her sister " Why did you pick that language in the first place? Didn't they have anything easier?"

" Come on, sis, " Fiona smirked. " I know it's difficult, but Germans have excellent drinking songs."

Her eyes were twinkling with mischief when she looked at her sister, who frowned and scowled at her.

" Nah, Karen's granddad is German and I just think it's a funny language. You should hear him yell at Karen's brother sometimes, " Fiona smirked. " Excellent!"

Jody heard a muffled snicker behind her and when she turned around she saw Sam leaning against the kitchen counter, a steaming mug in her hand.

" Don't laugh, Sam. This is horrible.Wait a minute!"

Jody's eyes lit up and she turned around in her chair to be able to look at her lover.

" Dutch and German are similar, aren't they? Maybe you can help Fiona."

Sam laughed and her clear blue eyes shone with mirth, while she shook her head.

"Oh, no, my love," she objected. " They seem that way, but are totally different. We don't use cases like that. Besides, I never took German. I can speak it when I have to, but I'm a klutz when it comes to their grammar. No way I could teach Fi. We Dutchies are more interested in beating the Germans at soccer, than speaking their language."

" You're no help, " Jody mumbled frustrated, before turning her attention back to Fiona, ignoring the chuckle that her words ignited.

" Sorry!" Sam mouthed, winking at Fiona, who happily winked back.

While Jody and her sister concentrated on the translation again, Sam stared in the distance, without seeing much. Her thoughts went over the information her brother had sent her and she was trying to come up with a solution for the problems she was faced with.

It was obvious William Jensen was deeply involved in some criminal activities that required a lot of money. The Reef had been an excellent source to withdraw money from, with the headquarters located in Europe. The accounts they had received never held any indication that something could have been wrong, until that anonymous email arrived and Tom took a better look at The Reef's administration. Large amounts of money had been channeled away, apparently into different bank accounts. Somehow Sam didn't think William Jensen was the brain behind all that. She suspected that he was just another puppet, working for some kind of criminal organization, that had some power over him.

If I could only talk to him. I bet I could make him sweat a little, maybe spill some information. But I promised Carol Wong to stay out of it. Besides, Jody would be furious.

Sam sighed and her eyes traveled to a red and a dark head, bend over the books that were scattered around the table. Her eyes softened and a small smile curved her lips. No, she wouldn't risk Jody's wrath. It was not worth it. She promised to stay out of it, be a good citizen. But it had been two days since she talked to the detective and she was getting restless, being cooped up in Megan and Sarah's house.

Face it Sam, you are not in control this time. And you are not used to that. This time you have to rely on others to fix the problems. And you don't like it!

Sam impatiently shook her head as if she was chasing away a fly and with a heartfelt sigh she turned her attention back to her coffee. Hardly tasting the fragrant, sweet liquid. In spite of the promises she made, her mind was busy coming up with a plan.

With trembling hands Joan McDonnell unpacked her husbands suitcase, neatly stacking the clean clothes on the shelves and throwing the dirty ones in the already full hamper. She had picked him up from the hospital, after the doctor released him that morning. Part of her was happy he was well enough to come home, but the other part mourned the loss of the freedom she had been experiencing the week before.

Ever since David McDonnell had found out his wife had been seeing Jody, he had been giving her the silent treatment. Only speaking when she asked him something and always keeping his answers short or gruff . It made her feel nervous and very insecure. Especially when she realized she had to confront him with the information Jody and Sam had given her. She knew she had to face him soon, before he noticed Fiona wouldn't be coming home after school.

" Any coffee left?" she suddenly heard his voice behind her.

Startled she turned around, to see his still angry eyes rest upon her.

" I'll get you some, "she answered, leaving the stack of clothes and hurrying into the kitchen. She noticed he followed her and after taking a deep breath, she turned around to face him.

" David, we have to talk."

" No, we don't " he answered emotionless. " All I want is you to get me some coffee. You disappointed me, Joan. I need time to get over that. A wife is supposed to obey her husband."

Joan McDonnell could feel the cold creep up het spine and suddenly all anxiety seemed to leave her body, leaving her calm and determined.

" A parent is supposed to love his child," she objected in a clear voice.

That remark caught his attention and suddenly the cup he raised to his lips, was lowered down, while his eyes turned ice cold.

" What?" he almost spat.

" A parent is supposed to love his child," Joan repeated, feeling nauseous when she saw the look he gave her.

" What is that supposed to mean? Are you saying I don't love my children?"

Joan McDonnell pushed her hair back from her forehead and sighed.

" I didn't say you don't love your children. I am convinced you do, in your own way. But what seems right to you is not always good for the children, David."

" Meaning?"

" The way you treated Jody is awful."

There, she said it. Joan McDonnell bit her bottom lip and braced herself for the outbreak of anger that would soon follow. She didn't have to wait long.

David McDonnell stared at his wife, as if seeing her for the first time. His eyes turned to slits and his face became red. With a crushing sound he slammed his cup on the kitchen counter. Breaking the glass and spilling the dark brown coffee all over the flat surface. A few drops slowly slid down one of the kitchen cabinets, forming into a small puddle on the immaculate floor.

" And what is that supposed to mean? " he hissed.

Joan McDonnell swallowed hard and moistened her lips in a nervous gesture.

" You lied to her, when Sam left. And you lied to Sam. You told her Michael became paraplegic after the accident and you threatened her with the police. She went back home thinking Jody didn't want her see her anymore because of that."

Joan saw her husband first turn bright red, before all color left his face. For a moment she was afraid his heart wasn't able to take the pressure, but when he opened his mouth to speak, she knew he had returned to his own self.

" And who told you this?"

" Sam," Joan McDonnell answered.

" Like in Samantha Stevens? That sinful, God forsaken creature? She is back? That queer? And you believe her?"

Joan McDonnell took a deep breath and unconsciously straightened up, to face the next round.

" I believe her, yes. She's a very nice, honest person. And even though you didn't approve of her relationship with our daughter, you had no right to treat her the way you did. You drove our daughter away from us, David. That was wrong!"

David McDonnell was so angry he could not speak. He stared at his wife with a look of disgust and even though he opened and closed his mouth a few times, no sound came out. In blind fury he raised his hand and with a sickening sound he hit his wife square in the face. Her head snapped back and before she could even try to get away he hit her again.

Blood spilled from her nose and a cut in her eyebrow, contrasting with the paleness of her skin. Joan McDonnell was so astounded she didn't even try to wipe it away. She looked at her husband with unbelieving eyes. For a few moments they stared at each other, without speaking a word. Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, Joan McDonnell turned around, grabbed her car keys and purse from the table and headed for the door. She didn't look back.

It was another beautiful day, with a lot of blue sky and sunshine. Tourists were slowly cruising the streets and the braver ones were on the beach, sunbathing or enjoying the cool, salty water of the ocean. People of the working force were in their air conditioned office buildings, shops and restaurants, happy to be out of the breathtaking heat.

Small groups of people walked through the impressive entrance of The Reef, doing business at the reservation desk, or happily leaving for a day of shopping or sight seeing.

" What's the use of just sitting here, waiting?" Fred grumbled. " It feels like the only thing I have been doing lately is sitting around, getting a heat stroke."

" Stop whining," Little Steven growled back. " At least you' re sitting in the shade for a chance.It could be worse you know."

" How?" Fred asked, unhappy with himself and the whole world.

Little Steven didn't answer his young, inexperienced partner immediately, but slowly turned his head to look at him. When Fred finally had the courage to look up he was taken aback by the coldness in Little Stevens eyes.

" You could have been dead."

Fred felt a chill run up and down his spine and he quickly cast down his eyes, trying very hard to keep his composure, fighting his instincts that told him to jump up and run.

When he swallowed he could taste bile in the back of his throat. Again he wondered how he had ever got involved with Joe Michaels. Even though his youth has been miserable and he ran away from home to escape his drunk and violent father, he had always managed to stay away from serious criminal activities.

What was I thinking when I agreed to work for Joe? I must have been insane! And how do I get myself out of this mess now? I could have been dead already. One mistake and they will kill me, just as easily as slapping an annoying fly. They have no reverence for life. I am not like I? How do I get myself out of here?

A punch in his side woke Fred up from his musings and startled he looked at Little Steven, who cast him an inquisitive glare.

" You ready?"

" For what?" Fred asked, suddenly feeling nervous.

" Don't you ever listen?" his companion growled. " What did Joe tell us to do? Cause some distraction and make sure that blonde will come over to visit her dad's precious resort. Right?"

Fred could only nod, knowing that whatever Little Steven had in mind wouldn't be very appealing to him.

" I worked out a plan. It's very simple and effective."

Little Steven paused, giving Fred the chance to ponder over his words. The inevitable question followed soon.

" What's the plan?"

" Very old fashioned, " Little Steven grinned. " A hold up."

Fred, who's face was already pale, almost turned green after hearing those words.

" "

" Simple, we walk in, push our guns under the nose of whoever is behind the desk and demand money. Even you can remember a concept like that, Freddie boy," Little Steven grinned. " Come on. Show time."

He opened the door of the car and unfolded his bulky body, leisurely stretching his muscles, stiff from sitting in the car. Fred had no other choice than following his experienced partner, trying not to look anxious and banning the image of his younger sister from his mind.

Brian was just reaching for the phone to ask for someone to take over so he could go to lunch, when he saw two men approaching. An older man, who carried himself with a lot of confidence and a younger one, not more than a teenager, who didn't seem to be at ease, since he nervously kept looking around.

" Good afternoon, gentlemen. How can I help you?" he smiled.

The older man casually leaned against the counter, curiously looking around.

" Nice place, " he admired. " I bet you're fully booked, huh?"

" If you are interested in a room, I can see if there's anything available at the moment," Brian politely answered.

" Sounds like busy times, " Little Steven grinned. " Good. I like flourishing businesses."

Brian couldn't help but frowning and shot the man a puzzled look.

" See this jacket?" Little Steven asked, pointing at his chest.

" Uh..yes, sir, I do," Brian hesitantly answered, not knowing how to handle the situation. He glanced at the phone, calculating how long it would take him to reach it when needed.

" Don't think about it, " Little Steven calmly stated, still smiling. " See, inside the pocket of this jacket there's a gun." He chuckled, clearly enjoying the situation. " In fact, right at this moment it's pointed at your chest. And guess what? My finger is on the trigger."

Brian felt his mouth go dry and his eyes nervously traveled from Little Steven to Fred, who was silently standing next to his partner, his hands inside his pockets.

" W..what do you want?" Brian asked, after carefully clearing his throat.

" What do you think? Money, of course. I know this place is loaded and I guess there's a safe somewhere, so...why don't you take us there?"

Brian's eyes scanned his surroundings. He was glad most of the guests were out for the day, or having lunch. There were only a few people around, too far away to notice there was anything wrong, but too close in case there woud be any shooting.

" I...I have to call one of my coworkers to come down and...."

" No, you don't, " Little Steven interrupted. " It won't take long. Besides, I know you have a cute little sign to place on this desk. What does it say? ' Be back in minute' ? "

" The...the safe is upstairs, in the manager's office," Brian explained.

" Great, let's go and get this over with. I'm sure you' re ready for lunch. I'm starving myself."

Little Steven grinned and jerked his head in the direction of the stairs.

" Lead the way."

Lucy yawned and shot a glance at her watch, pleased to find out it was time for lunch. She had spent the morning sorting out files for one of the attorneys, to enable him to do some needed research on one of his new cases. Although Lucy grew up in the middle of nature and wasn't afraid to get dirty hands, she hated dust. It always made her sneeze and she wasn't very pleased with watery eyes and a runny nose.

But she had not complained, knowing David really needed the files. Besides, knowing her dislike for digging through old files he had promised her lunch afterwards.

Lucy grinned and went through a list of expensive restaurants, determined to make the most of it. It didn't happen often that one of her bosses was in such a generous mood.

When the phone rang she frowned and debated not answering it, but since David had not shown up yet and her job description was quite clear about her duties, she decided to answer it anyway.

" Thank you for calling Johnson, Goldman and O' Connor. This is Lucy McDonnell speaking. How can I help you?"

" Lucy? It's me, " a familiar voice sounded.

" Hey, mom, " Lucy smiled. " What's up? You sound tired. How's grumpy?"

" I...uhm...I...your father and I had an argument, and...I....I walked out."

" What?" The smile had left Lucy's face and she suddenly sat up straight, the phone clenched in her hand. " Mom? What happened? Where are you?"

Rebellious and outspoken as she was, Lucy never could have imagined that her mother would be able to turn her back on her husband and she realized things must have been very serious for her mother to do a thing like that.

" I jumped in the car and started driving. I....I didn't really know where to go."

" Where are you now, mom? " Lucy urged, recognizing the distress in her mothers' voice.

" Outside The Reef. In one of the phone booths. I really don't know what possessed me to come here," Joan McDonnell nervously chuckled. " I must have been....confused..."

" Mom, did he hurt you?" Lucy asked, her face pale and her hands shaking.

It took so long for her mother to answer the question, Lucy thought she might not have heard. just as she was about to repeat her question, her mother spoke.

" He hit me."

Lucy closed her eyes end tried to swallow away the tears that were threatening to appear.

" Stay where you are, mom. I am on my way, " she urged, her voice strained and husky from emotion.

" I...I challenged him, Luce and he hit me," her mother repeated, still sounding dazed.

" We will talk about it, " Lucy answered, grabbing her purse and car keys. " Stay where you are, mom. I am coming to get you. Okay?"

" Okay, " Joan McDonnell whispered. " I will wait here for you."

" I'll be there within ten minutes, mom. I will leave right now."

Lucy jumped up and almost ran to the door, her lunch completely forgotten.

Brian's heart pounded in his chest and the muscles in his legs were stiff from tension when he climbed the stairs leading to the first floor, Little Steven closely behind him. On their way up, they only met an Asian couple, who nodded friendly, not noticing Brian's forced smile, his pale face and the persperation on his forehead.

With trembling fingers Brian opened the door of the manager's office. Immediately he was roughly pushed inside the room, nearly stumbling over his own feet. A soft click told him the door behind him was closed.

Nervously he looked over his shoulder, to see Little Steven taking in the office with appreciative eyes.

" Nice place, Billie boy, " he heard him whisper.

Without hesitation, Little Steven walked up to one of the oil paintings that decorated the walls. He reached behind the copy of Van Gogh's ' Three sunflowers in a vase' and pulled out a little key. A triumphant smile crossed his face when he threw the key at Brian.

" Open up that safe, " he ordered, taking his hand out of his pocket and pointing with his 10mm Glock, which drained all the blood from Brian's face.

Without protest Brian knelt down in front of the safe and quickly opened the steel door. There wasn't much inside. A stack of documents, a little box that looked like a jewelry box and a few neatly stacked piles of dollar bills.

" Get me the money," Little Steven grumbled. " The rest I'm not interested in."

Brian took one of the piles, estimating that he was holding about five hundred Australian dollars and hesitantly looked up.

" you want me to put it in a bag or something?" he asked, wishing he was courageous and strong enough to jump up and beat the living daylights out of the tall man with the gun.

And stupid enough. A little voice in the back of his mind sounded. What's wrong with you? You want to die?

" Give him an envelope or something, Fred," Little Steven ordered. " A big one," he added with a grin.

Fred silently did what his companion asked him and walked to one of the file cabinets to retrieve a big envelope. When he handed it to Brian their eyes briefly met and Brian could have sworn he saw a look of remorse in the younger man eyes.

Quickly he loaded the money in it's paper confinement, while his brain worked overtime.

There is something about all of this that doesn't make sense. There shouldn't be this much money in the safe. I know William was in his office yesterday and he always takes the money to bring it to the bank. Why didn't he do it? Had he....? Wait a minute! ' Billie boy?' Isn't that what this idiot said?

Brians suddenly remembered his boss' strange behavior when he demanded the copy of Samantha Stevens' passport and the way he had acted. He had been very tense and Brian knew he was hiding something.

Could this robbery have anything to do with that? Does William know about this? Did he send them?

" Get a move on, moron."

A kick in his back brought Brian back from his musings and he swallowed hard.

Act cool, Bri. Don't let them know what you' re thinking. My God, I have to call Samantha or Jody, let them know....

It took Lucy only five minutes to reach the plaza in front of ' The Reef ' . Ignoring a ' no parking' sign and thus risking a ticket, she parked her car and quickly jumped out, scanning the environment to find her mother.

With a sigh of relief she located her on a bench in front of the resort. Even from a distance, Lucy could see that her mother was shaken up. She seemed to be dazed, not noticing the world around her. But kept staring into the distance, with eyes that were empty and glassy.

Walking closer, Lucy noticed a dark bruise on her mothers cheek and the cracked, swollen lip, from where a little drop of blood was oozing.

She felt her stomach churn and tried to fight tears of sadness, frustration and anger when she approached her mother slowly, not wanting to startle her.

" Hey, mom, " she softly spoke, kneeling in front of the older woman. " What happened?"

Joan McDonnell looked up and tried to smile when she saw the worried look in Lucy's eyes. But instead of a smile, her daughter saw an expression of pain, when the battered lip cracked open again.

" Your....father...and I....We had an argument," she explained in a voice hardly audible. " He hit me and I left. Lucy, I....I don't want the boys or Fiona to see me like this. I...don't want to go back, but....I don't know what to do."

The intense sadness in her mother's voice and eyes was almost too much to bear. Lucy would have encouraged her mother to be angry with her husband and frustrated, to scream and yell, but there was no trace of these emotions. Just a deep sadness.

Whatever you do, don't go back to him! He doesn't deserve it. He has finally proven what kind of person he is. Start worrying about yourself for a change. Stop being his slave, mom.

" I can' tell you what to do, mom, " Lucy answered. " But I hope you won't go back to him."

" What about the boys ?"

" They can look after themselves. Don't worry about them. If you want I will drop by after school and see how they are doing. Okay? Please, think about yourself for a change."

" I have no place to go," Joan McDonnell whispered.

" You can stay with me," Lucy quickly answered, congratulating herself for cleaning up her apartment the previous day.

" He will come and look for me there first," her mother objected and Lucy realized that would be true.

" Well, I guess we'll have to find another solution then, " she said, trying to sound cheerful. " How about staying with Jody? Or maybe even staying at The Reef. I'm sure Sam wouldn't mind, after all, it's her dad's resort."

" I can't do that!" Joan McDonnell prostested. " I can't impose on Sam like that."

" We'll see, " Lucy grinned, pulling her mother to her feet. " Why don't we go in and ask one of Jody's coworkers if we can use the phone, ' cause in my hurry to get here, I forgot mine.It's still in the office, getting charged."

Too tired and too emotionally stressed out, Joan McDonnell let herself be pulled up and followed her daughter to the entrance. Thankful that her children had grown up to be caring, responsible adults.

While walking down the stairs, Brian wondered what might happen next as the threatening shadow of Little Steven towered over him.

Will they just leave and let me be, so I can call the police? Or do they have something else up on their sleeve?

Brian realized it wasn't the silent companion of the tall man that was a threat to him, but Little Steven himself. The presence of the big handgun he had shown him a little earlier, made him very cautious not to do anything stupid.

" Okay, handsome, " Little Stevens voice suddenly sounded very close to his ear. " I want you to walk us to the door. See that cute elderly couple over there? The ones who are just leaving? We will follow them outside,while we leave you at the door. Whenever I look back and not see you standing there, I wll shoot them. You got that? I'm sure you want them to enjoy their well earned retirement, don't you?"

Something hard poked in his back and Brian swallowed hard, praying the gun wouldn't go off by accident.

" You got it?" Little Steven asked again.

" I..I got it, " Brian answered. ' I will stay at the door, so you can see me."

" Good boy, " Little Steven praised, patting his shoulder. " Your mom will be proud of you. Now, walk two steps in front of me and remember: don't try anything stupid!"

When he reached the bottom of the stairs Brian slowly walked in the direction of the entrance. Through the huge glass door he could see that there weren't many people on the plaza, but he didn't know if that would be a good thing or not.

When he was halfway down the hall, a movement outside caught his eye and at the same time he heard a sharp intake of breath behind him.

And suddenly, with a blood chilling certainty, he realized that somehow Jody and Sam were involved.

He had met Jody's sister Lucy a few times and recognized her immediately. The reaction of the thug behind him made it clear that Little Steven knew her as well.

" Our lucky day, Fred," Little Steven hissed, his voice full of excitement.

She can't come in. I have to warn her. How?

As he saw Lucy approach and start to open the door, Brian knew what to do. With a courage born out of despair, he suddenly let himself fall down on one knee. While supporting his weight on his right hand he used his outstretched left leg to kick out and sweep Little Steven's legs out from under him.

" Lucy! Run!" Brian shouted from the top of his lungs, noticing in horror that Little Steven had lost his balance, but was still standing up, ready to make a run for it.

Brian turned his head to look at the entrance and saw Lucy grabbing the arm of the woman she was with, pulling her backwards, until they were outside again.

" Big mistake, fancy boy. Consider yourself dead."

Little Steven had regained his balance and while walking away from Brian he pulled out his gun, turned around, aimed and pulled the trigger twice. Without looking back he ran to the entrance, Fred closely behind him.

With the echoes of the shots painfully ringing in his ears, Brian, who's body had convulsed in pain, suddenly felt numb. There was hardly any pain anymore and with amazement he looked down. A steadily flowing stream of blood had made a puddle on the light colored marble floor and Brian could hardly believe it was his. He tried to smile, but his lips felt cold and stiff and he was so tired.

Slowly his eyes traveled across the ceiling and for the first time ever, he realized how beautiful it was. The dark wood, the lights.

I must be losing my mind. Here I am, shot and bleeding and I am admiring a ceiling! How is that for being pathetic?! Strange, I feel no pain. Just tired and a little cold. Is this what dying is like? Hold it! Dying? I don't want to die! I still have so much I want to do. And what about Chris? I can't leave Chris!

One of the resort's guests, a retired nurse, who was trying to apply pressure to stop the gunshot wound from bleeding, heard Brian softly grunt.

" Take it easy, son, the ambulance is on it's way. Just take it easy, you' ll be fine. Just take it easy."

" Thank you, " Brian managed to whisper.

He was really tried and couldn' t keep his eyes open much longer. Slowly he let the darkness claim him and he drifted away in a deep, peaceful sleep.

To be continued in part 10. And this time you don't have to wait three months!

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