For general disclaimers see part 1

Disclaimer: there is some violence in this part and a brief description of a murder.

I want to thank my betareader Cyndi for her efforts to make me look like a decent bard <g>. I really appreciate it and the next time we will see each other, the beer is on me.

The Reef – part 12

By Lois Kay

Sam desperately made herself a path through the dense bushes, while trying not to make too much noise. The last thing she needed was to draw the attention of a bunch of cop killers. She tried not to think of the things the men, who were responsible for the death of two police officers, were capable of doing to her lover, her family and her friends.

Sam softly cursed when her cotton slacks got tangled up in some very persistent lantana. The tough little thorns painfully penetrated the fabric stung and scratched her legs when she tried to free herself.

Impatiently Sam used her bare hands to pull herself free, ignoring the the little cuts it made on her fingers. As a matter of fact, she hardly felt it at all.

There was only one thing on her mind: getting to the house in time. Getting Jody and the rest out of there before the scumbags who were after her, beat her to it.

She knew they could only be a couple of minutes ahead of her and since she and Megan had not seen anything suspicious on their way to the mailbox, she figured that whoever was out there, was on foot. How else could they have sneaked up on two trained policemen?

Sam’s stomach rebelled when she remembered the gruesome scene she had witnessed. Two young men, shot in the head. Executed.

A shiver went down her spine when she thought about the coldness that would have provoked such an act.

" Please, let me be in time," she whispered, pushing away some ferns and carefully avoiding another lantana bush. " I can’t lose her. I can’t. I can’t ."

Finally, after what had felt like hours, Sam reached the clearing and was granted a full view of the house on top of the hill. She had crawled through the last few bushes and was laying on her stomach, hidden by some heavy branches of a wild berry bush. Her eyes scanned the house and the garden, looking for any sign of life, while all her muscles were tense, ready to jump up and run.

After a little while Sam became aware of the fact that she was holding her breath and slowly she let it out, replacing the stale air with a gulp of fresh one, that smelled like earth and sweet flowers. She stayed unmoving for another few minutes, slowly breathing in and out, >willing her racing heart to slow down.

Just when she was about to crawl forward a movement behind one of the windows caught her eye. Reality hit her with a sickening blow when she saw the outline of a large man, holding what appeared to be a gun.

"O, God, no," Sam groaned, feeling the tears sting in the back of her eyes. " What can I do now?"

She swallowed hard, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, trying not to notice the throbbing pain in her right leg.

" Focus, Stevenson," an angry voice in the back of her head shouted. " Focus! This is no time to fall apart. You can do that later, not now. You have to come up with a plan."

" I have to create some kind of diversion, " Sam decided. " But how?"

Her eyes searched the huge yard, looking for something, anything, that would help her create a plan. They fell on a pile of wood.

A fire. No. Bad idea. I could burn down the whole hill. Some rocks. Maybe I can throw…yeah, right, King David. He has a gun. Remember? Wait a second. That pile of wood, that’s firewood. I bet there’s an axe there as well. Maybe if I can get to it and get into the house through one of the bedroom windows, I could…Well, I would have the element of surprise. Maybe I can knock someone senseless with it.

A vision of guns going off, hitting her or someone else was pushed away in the back of her mind. Sam felt she didn’t have much time. And any plan, however stupid it might sound, was better than nothing at all. Slowly she started to crawl towards the huge pile of firewood. Hoping and praying that no one with bad intentions, would look outside of the window any time soon.

An almost hysterical Megan had finally reached the police station, after a reckless drive down the hill, only a few near misses with the huge trees along the road.

The first police officer she had run into had not understood one word of her incoherent story, but realized something must have been terribly wrong. He had brought her into an office and immediately paged his superior.

 Within two minutes Carol Wong came dashing into the office, followed by two more officers. When her eyes fell on the woman who was sitting on a chair, trying to hold a glass of water in her trembling hands, her heart sank.

" You are…Megan, right?" she started, pulling up a chair and sitting down in front of the distressed woman.

Megan could only nodd, trying control her breathing and calm down.

Carol clasped her hands together and leaned forward, looking Megan straight in the eyes.

" What happened, Megan?"she asked, more calmly than she felt.

Megan took a sip of water and a deep breath.

" They’re up at the house. The policemen in the car….Sam and I saw the car when we came back up after getting the mail. They are…dead. Shot."

After those words all color was drained from Carol Wong’s face and suddenly she felt sick when the words sank in.

" The policemen in the car are shot?" she asked. " Are you sure?"

Megan nodded and felt the tears stream down her face.

" Sam had a look inside when we spotted the car. She went up to the house on foot and told me to get help."

The inspector turned around and cast a look at the three men who were standing near the door. They looked pale, expressions of hurt, anger and shock on their faces.

" Page Vinnie and get two cars. I’ll be there in a minute. Tell Jennifer to get in here and stay with this lady."

She turned her attention back to the still shaking Megan and put a hand on her shoulder.

" We’re on our way over there now," she said. " Have you got any idea how many…?"

" No, " Megan interrupted her. " We didn’t see them. But there are five people at the house and Sam is somewhere out there as well."

" Thank you, Megan," Carol said, jumping up and turning around. She wanted to walk away, but Megan’s hand stopped her.

" Get them out of there safely. Please." Megan whispered.

" I will try my damdest," Carol promised, squeezing the hand before she released it. " Just stay here. Jennifer will keep you company and as soon as I have news, I will let you know. I promise. Just hang in there, Megan."

After those words, Carol was out the door, leaving a sobbing Megan behind.

" Okay, I will ask you for the last time: where is Samantha Stevens? I know she’s around here somewhere."

Little Steven looked at the five women in front of him and used his gun for emphasis, pointing it at each and every one.

" She went out," Jody answered, for the third time, trying to ignore the weapon that was almost shoved in her face a couple of times already. " I swear. She is not here."

" I wonder if you would still stick to that story if I would hurt….let’s say…that little sister of yours."

He pointed at Fiona, who swallowed hard, but didn’t cast down her eyes when he looked at her. She cast him a defiant look, not realizing that only made him more angry.

" It wouldn’t change my story," Jody’s soft voice broke the silence. " Because what I just told you is the truth. She is not here."

With a protective gesture Jody put her arm around Fiona’s shoulders and pulled her close, while her brain worked overtime.

If he is so desperate to find Sam, he must not have seen her and Megan go down the hill. That’s good. God, I hope they have noticed them and went to get some help. What happened to those police men who were supposed to keep watch? Did they go around them? Did they come from the other side of the hill? No, that’s impossible. There’s only one way up here. The other side is too steep, it’s one big cliff. Damnit, what happened here this morning? And where are Sam and Megan? They must know something is wrong or they would have been back half an hour ago! Please, God, let Sam be allright. Let her be safe. I can’t lose her. I can’t.

Little Steven walked towards the kitchen sink, pulling out a steak knife from between the stacked up dishes staring at it intently. The little smile on his face never reached his eyes when he turned back to the women, who were all sitting around the kitchen table. When they saw the coldness in his eyes they involuntarily shivered. They didn’t need a psychologist to understand the crazy, almost demented look in the big man’s eyes.

" Right. Okay, I can play that game, " he smirked. " I am done asking. Fred, bring that girl over here."

Jody tightened her grip on Fiona, who softly whimpered and cast a look at the young man who had been standing in the doorway. To her he looked like the regular boy next door and it was hard to believe he was as coldhearted and ruthless as his companion.

Fred almost jumped when Little Steven called out his name. His eyes flew wide open and he nervously plucked at the hem of his shirt. The fear oozing off him was almost palpable. His eyes flew to his companion and back to the dark haired girl at the kitchen table. He looked as insecure as he felt and little Steven looked at him impatiently.

" You got a problem, Freddie boy?"he growled.

" Um….N..No, I….I..she said she wasn’t here, Steve, so…."

"And you believe that, huh? You are bloody stupid, Fred. Now, get that bloody sheila over here, before I really lose my bloody patience with you!!!"

Fred stepped forward, but the pleading look in a pair of ocean green eyes made him stop dead in his tracks. Jody didn’t take her eyes of him, but silently asked him to have mercy.

Fred picked up the sentiment and hesitated. Again he turned to Little Steven, a question in his eyes.

" You want a hole in your head, son?"

Little Steven aimed his gun at Fred’s head and they all saw his finger tightening around the trigger. Fred froze, unable to move, not even now, when his life seemed to depend on it. His fear paralyzed him and the only thing he could do was stare into that steel round eye, breathing death.

It was as if everybody present was holding their breath. Nobody moved and Lucy could feel Sarah, who was sitting next to her, tremble uncontrolably. Without taking her eyes off Little Steven, Lucy reached out and grabbed Sarah’s hand, squeezing it tightly.

Fred tried not to throw up when he remembered what had happened back on the road, just a little while ago. Little Steven had told him to be quiet and after telling him to pay attention, he had stalked up to the parked car, without being noticed. Fred had not really seen the two police men get shot, but the soft, plopping noises still echoed in his mind, almost making him physically ill. He now knew that his companion was capable of taking his life in a heart beat.

And for a moment he wondered if that would not be the best thing. His life was a mess. He had gotten himself in so much trouble, he wondered if he would ever be able to lead a normal life again. With a regular job and friends his own age.

Fred was about to take a step forward when Little Steven spoke again. His voice was low and void of emotion.

" Go find some ropes somewhere," he ordered. " We have to tie up this lot. Get a move on,baby boy, before I really lose my patience with you."

While Fred almost bolted out of the kitchen, Little Steven’s eyes were fixed on Jody again.

He grinned a devilish grin and looked very pleased with himself.

" You know," he said. " I think you might be telling the truth. And you know the fun part about all this? I am sure that Dutch cheese head will be stupid enough to come back here. Probably thinks she can save the day."

He giggled and scratched his two days old beard with the barrel of his gun.

" And I will be right here waiting for her. What do you think?" He leaned forward and brought his face so close to Jody’s, that she could smell his foul breath and see the tiny, red veins in the white of his eyes.

" Would she run faster if she heard someone scream?"

Little Steven chuckled and grabbed Jody’s chin, yanking her face up so he was looking straight into her eyes.

" Or would she run away? Fast!?"

Sam would never run away, you filthy scumbag! She has more style and courage in her little finger than you have in your whole body! Oh, Sam. Honey. Please stay away and let the police handle this. This guy is crazy! Oh, God. I pray you and Megan got some help.

Jody was determined not to be provoked. She just stared right back with a steady glance, outwardly not impressed by the large man’s threats. The anger she felt made her eyes darker and Little Steven could see the determination and defiance glow in the depths of green.

" Little spitfire, huh?" he hissed. " Maybe it’s about time I should teach you a lesson!

Obviously you don’t know who you’re dealing with. Reds! I have been chasing your sorry ass for about a week now. Thanks to you the boss is about ready to skin me alive and feed me to the sharks! You realize how that makes me feel. Huh?"

Suddenly angry, Little Steven poked Jody hard in the chest with his gun and he laughed when he saw her cringe. Biting her lip not to scream, when a throbbing pain announced the birth of a big bruise.

" Just because you were so nosy and self righteouss. Copying those disks and taking them with you. Where did you hide them, bitch? Did you give ‘em to your boss’daughter? Sucking up to her, huh? Being the good girl!!! Well I have news for you! We’re not interested in those disks anymore! " Little Steven giggled again and lowered his voice. " It’s Samantha Stevenson we want now. And you know why?"

He looked around and brought his head close to Jody’s, who tried hard not to show her repulsion.

" She’s worth millions! Did you know that? Her family is loaded and Joe’s sure that daddy dear will pay a fortune to get his baby girl back….in one piece!"

He laughed again and took one of Jody’s red tresses of hair between his thumb and finger and softly stroked it. Genuinely amazed by it’s softness.

" You know, I bet Joe will be willing to cut you a deal when you tell me where the Dutchie is. Think about it, lass, you could end up rich!"

Hearing those words, Jody’s temper snapped and without thinking, her hand shot out and hit Little Steven square in the face.

" We’re not all snakes," she forcefully spat. " Or crazy, demented, greedy leeches."

Oh, my God. What did I do now? Shit, shit, shit! I am dead. I know that now I am dead.

Jody closed her eyes to not see Little Stevens reaction. She was sure he was aiming his gun at her, ready to pull the trigger.

Don’t let him hit Fiona as well. Oh, God. Sam! I am sorry. I am so, so sorry. I love you, honey. You know I do. I wanted a life with you, a future. You have my heart Sam, you always had.

A tear slid down from underneath Jody’s closed eyelids and with a pounding heart she waited….

Fred was frantically searching for the rope Little Steven had demanded. He already managed to find a few bits and pieces, big enough to tie around some hands or feet. He only needed a few more.

When walking into one of the bedrooms Fred suddenly realized that if he would run off, Little Steven would have no other choice than to let him go. It would be impossible for his companion to catch up with him and keep an eye on his hostages.

The prospect made Fred’s heart beat faster and with anticipation he looked at the window. He only needed to open it and he would be free. Just run off. Hitch hike up North, or down South and disappear into the anonomity of a big city. He could go to Sydney and try to get a job as a taxi driver. Or head up North, all the way up North to Darwin. Joe wouldn’t be able to find him there. Or maybe go inland and find a job on one of those huge farms.

Fred opened the door of one of the closets and rummaged through it, pulling free a duffel bag with ropes that were once used on camping trips. He automatically pulled them out and threw them on the bed. Knowing he had found more than enough to satisfy Little Steven.

Another longing glance at the window made him bite his lip in frustration. He listened nervously, while wanting to know what was going on in the kitchen. Did Little Steven get impatient already?

I could just jump out of that window and disappear. Why don’t I? I am not a killer. I thought I would be an errand boy and make some easy money. I never meant for any of this to happen. Why would I stay? If I do I will be accountable for murder as well. I didn’t try anything to stop him when he went to that car. God knows what he will do with those women…I’ll get out of here.

Fred quickly walked towards the window and unlocked it. But when he pushed aside the curtain a freckled face and a pair of dark green eyes suddenly blurred his vision. Slowly his hand slid off the window sill, limply hanging down his side.

She’s the same age as my sister. What would Nancy think of me if I would just leave them be? Without even trying to help? I might be able to help. Do something. I am the only one they have and they think I am a criminal, just like Steve. Maybe I can use that fact. Give Little Steven what he wants. For now. Maybe I can do something….

Fred slowly walked back to the bed and picked up the ropes he had gathered. His brain was already busy working out a plan to stop Little Steven and somehow try to make up for past mistakes. With his arms full of rope he stepped towards the door, nearly tripping over the duffel bag, that was sitting in the middle of the room.

He used his foot to kick away the bag and hit something hard. Curious Fred put his load down and knelt down, gingerly reaching into the bag. His fingers came across something cold and suddenly Fred’s heart skipped a

beat and all of a sudden he was filled with hope.

It might work. I have to be really careful, but I might be able to do this.

He tucked his find in the waistband of his jeans, covering it with his shirt and made his way back to the kitchen. He did not notice a pair of clear blue eyes, watching him intently from just outside the bedroom window. After the door closed, the tall owner of those eyes rose up and quickly climbed into the window.

The silence in the kitchen was almost palpable. The sound of Jody hitting Little Steven in his face had the effect of a gunshot. The echo lingered in the air and everybody held her breath, waiting for the inevitable.

Fiona had grabbed Jody’s hand and held on so tight, that she cut of the flow of blood to her sister’s finger, which neither of them noticed.

Little Steven slowly rubbed his cheek, where Jody’s hand had left a red mark and he squinted his eyes when he looked at her, clearly calculating his next move.

" I should shoot you for that," he spat, his voice filled with menace. " But I have a feeling I might still need you for something."

Unexpectedly his arm reached out and his big fist collided with the side of Jody’s face. The impact was so strong and sudden, that she nearly fell off the chair. Only Fiona’s hand prevented her from sliding onto the kitchen floor.

Jody gasped for breath, willing herself not to pass out from the fierce blow. She quickly blinked her eyes, trying to get rid of the darkness that threatened to send her into oblivion.

Slowly she shook her head, while the nerve endings in her cheek and the side of her head screamed out in agony. She felt a warm, thick fluid slide down her face and she realized her eyebrow must have been cut.

At least he didn’t kill me. I am still alive, we all are! Maybe we will still have a chance.

Sudddenly the kitchen door was opened and Little Stevens attention was drawn away from the young woman in front of him

" Good job, Freddie my boy, " he smirked, when Fred came back into the kitchen carrying the requested rope. " Tie them up and do it tightly. I don’t want any surprises."

Fred silently went to work, starting with Joan McDonnell, tying her hands together behind the back of the kitchen chair. He tried not to bind them too tight, but Little Steven suddenly stood behind him, checking up on his work.

" Sloppy job, Fred, " he grunted. " It will only take her a few seconds to wiggle her way out of this knot. Make it tighter."

Obediently Fred untied the knot and pulled the rope tighter. When he checked it he had an apologetic look in his eyes and when Joan McDonnell looked at him, he silently mouthed ‘Sorry’, suprising her by this action.

He quickly cast down his eyes and went over to Sarah and Lucy, who was watching him like a hawk. She had noticed his apology and that had awaken her curiosity. If Fred was reluctant to even bind their hands, they could have chance to persuade him to take sides and help them to get out of the situation they were in, unharmed.

When Fred was down to the last hostage, Fiona, Little Steven sighed contentedly and walked over to the kitchen door.

" I’ll have a look outside, Fred, " he explained. " Keep an eye on this lot and don’t let any of these idiots try something stupid."

With that he disappeared outside, leaving the group of women and Fred in a stunned silence.

The latter one nervously looked around, not knowing what to do with the sudden trust his companion had bestowed on him. Five pairs of eyes watched him intently. Outside they could hear the heavy footsteps of Little Steven , who was apparently walking around the house, checking the windows. Because now and then they could hear him close a shutter, locking it from the outside.

" You could untie us, " Lucy suddenly whispered, afraid that Little Steven would be able to overhear anything they would say.

" And then what?" Fred answered, swallowing hard and moistening his dry lips. " Did you see that gun he has? He will use it, you know. Without even thinking about it. If you would try to make a run for it, he would just shoot you down. He would."

He scratched the back of his head, desperately trying to come up with a plan. When that move pulled up his shirt a little, Sarah gasped.

" You found my gun," she noticed, not knowing whether to be excited or scared about that.

Fred quickly lowered his arm and felt the cold steel that was tucked in the waistband of his jeans.

" Is it loaded?" he asked, his eyes wide. " I didn’t have time to check it."

" It is," Sarah answered, her face grim. " I cleaned and loaded it yesterday, when Brian got shot. I was determined to keep us all safe. Guess I was wrong," she ended bitterly.

Jody shifted in her chair and tried to pull the rope that was keeping her in place. It wasn’t too tight, thankfully, but it would still be hard to pull herself free. Every move she made hurt her head, that was throbbing painfully. She could feel that her right eye was swollen and a steady trickle of blood slowly slid down her face, to disappear in the collar of her shirt.

" Do you know how to use that thing?" she bluntly asked Fred, her voice hoarse and unsteady.

" I…I guess," he stammered

" What kind of criminal are you anyway?" Fiona suddenly asked, her eyes blazing. " You do exactly what that piece of….shit tells you to do, but in the meantime…"

" Fiona!" Joan McDonnell’s voice suddenly warned.

Fiona rolled her eyes and tried to look at her mother, which wasn’t an easy task, because with her hands tied behind her chair, she could hardly bend foreward.

" Mom! This isn’t Little House on the Prairie, you know! This is for real and that…bloke outside is a dangerous killer. And my guess is he’s a loony as well. He just beat the hell out of Jody. In my book that defines him as a piece of shit! And that means I am still being kind."

Lucy nervously chuckled, casting a look at her mother, who was sitting next to her.

" Don’t worry mom, it’s the stress," she explained.

" It’s not the language, girls," Joan McDonnell explained, sounding tired. " I don’t want them to get abusive again. God knows what they will be capable off."

The words were directed to her daughters, but her eyes were on Fred, who insecurely shuffled his feet.

" I won’t hurt anyone," he answered, feeling very akward. "In fact," he looked at the door and lowered his voice. " In fact, I am trying to come up with a plan to get us all out of here."

" Good for you," Lucy sneered. " You could start untying us, you know. That would help."

" I don’t think…."

Fred’s answer was interrupted by the sound of something heavy that was dragged along the porch. He could hear Little Steven’s footsteps and suddenly feared that his companion was up to something neither of them would like.

Quickly Fred walked towards the door, trying to push it open. But the door didn’t move.

Frowning he tried it again and when he heard a psychotic chuckle, he knew that Little Steven must have blocked the door with a heavy object.

" What are you doing, Steven?" Fred called out, his voice a pitch higher than usual.

" Locking you in, pretty boy. What does it sound like?"

A cold hand seemed to grab his wildly beating heart and slowly squeeze it. Taking his breath away and sending shivers down his spine.

" Why?" his voice croaked.

" I have no need for all of you," the muffled answer came. " It’s the blonde I want. You guys are just disposals."

Fred’s clammy hands tried the doorknob once again.

" What are you going to do?"

Again the chilling chuckle.

" That’s a surprise, Freddie boy. You just have to wait and see. And don’t try to climb out of the windows, because you can’t. I have closed all the shutters. This is the last one."

After those words the shutter outside the kitchen window was shut, leaving them all in darkness. The scraping sound made them all realize that it was bolted from the outside.

They were trapped.

" There’s a light switch just next to the door, Fred," Sarah’s voice sounded, suddenly very calm.

They could hear Fred reaching for it and after he few seconds the lamp over the kitchen table came on, bathing them all in a soft glow.

" Untie us, Fred, " Joan McDonnell ordered in a no-nonsense voice. " I don’t think we will have much time."

Obediently he knelt behind her chair, trying to untie the knot with trembling fingers.

" There’s a knife in the kitchen sink," Lucy suggested, casting a worried look at her older sister, who had been very quiet and looked like she could faint any minute. The blood still trickled down her face, that was an unnatural shade of white. Contrasting sharply with her freckles and the color of her hair.

Fred retrieved the sharp knife and it only took him a second to slid through the rope, which fell in a heap on the floor.

Jody was the last one who was set free and Fred looked at Lucy with worried eyes.

" Is she gonna be okay?"

" How would I know? I am not a doctor," Lucy snapped, kneeling down next to her sister on one side, while her mother was kneeling down on the other side. " This is your friend’s handywork."

" He’s not my friend," Fred bit back.

" Stop fighting," Joan McDonnell sighed. " We don’t have time for that."

" We need to get out of here," Sarah said, walking towards the door of the hall. " Maybe we can get out through one of the bedroom windows. If we break the glass, we might be able to kick out one of the shutters."

" And what if he’s still out there?" Lucy replied calmly. " He has a gun he likes to use. He is probably waiting for us to do something like that."

" Wait for the police,"Jody suddenly mumbled with difficulty. " I am sure Sam and Megan knew something was up. I bet they went to the police."

" That might be the best option," Joan McDonnell agreed. " It can’t be long before they are here."

" They’d better hurry though, " Fiona suddenly spoke from near the blocked kitchen door. " I think I smell smoke."

Continued in part 13

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