For general disclaimers see part 1
Sam carefully climbed through the window, trying to avoid making any noise at all. Her long legs quickly touched the ground and she stood still, listening to the surrounding sounds.
There was nothing unusual at first. From the kitchen she could hear the mumbled voice of a man, but she wasnít able to put words to the sounds. She stepped inside the room and tiptoed to the door that Fred had closed behind him. She rested her hand on the knob and slowly turned it , praying that the door wouldnít squeak. It didnít and Sam promised herself to compliment Megan and Sarah about the maintenance of their house later.
While holding her breath she slowly opened the door, the ax clenched in her left hand.
Against a gun, it wouldnít be much of a weapon, but at least it was something, she reasoned.
Tantalizing slow she opened the door and peeked through the little crack, inside the hall. On the opposite side she could see the kitchen door, which was closed. She waited a little while, afraid to make a noise and give away her presence. Her eyes fixed on the kitchen door she listened. Her heart was beating heavy and she could almost hear the pounding in her ears. After a few minutes she heard the closing of a door and her head jerked up.
Somebody had left the kitchen! That could only mean one thing. One of the men had left the house.
Sam calculated the distance to the door and knew it would only cost her about three seconds to come barging into the kitchen. But what if the remaining man had a gun? And what if he was willing to use it ? According to Carol Wong there had been two men at The Reef, when Brian was shot. The shooter had seemed very confident, but his companion nervous and skittish, according to the testimony of the few witnesses. Sam was sure she would be able to overpower him. But the other one, she wasnít sure.
While debating with herself, Sam heard footsteps outside the bedroom window and without thinking, she stepped inside the hall, closing the door behind her.
" What do you mean you smell smoke?" Lucy snapped at Fiona, her eyes suddenly worried.
" I smell smoke," Fiona repeated, her eyes nervously flicking from her sister to the door and back again. "Come over here. You can smell it."
In a few strides Lucy was at the door and sniffed carefully. She paled when realizing her youngest sister was right.
" We have to get out of here," she stated with a strained voice.
" How?" Sarah asked. " That idiot is out there with a gun. Heíll use it, I am sure. Heís just waiting for us to do just that, come outside. Besides, he blocked the door and all the windows."
" Maybe not all of them," Fred sounded, a bit hopeful.
While they were discussing the situation, smoke started to appear from under the kitchen door and small tendrils slowly rose up, like a silent warning. There wasnít much time left.
" Stop the car," Carol Wong ordered, as soon as she saw the unmarked police car blocking half the road.
Before the car came to an halt, the police officer had already jumped out and ran towards the car with the two, dead bodies. Even before she arrived, Carol knew that Megan had been right.
The men inside were dead. Shot through the head. Suddenly she was filled with an ice cold anger , her face set in a grim mask of hurt and determination.
" Can you get that car around?"
" I donít think so," Vinnie, the driver said, looking outside the window and measuring the distance between the car he drove and the edge of the road. "I think weíll go over the side if we try toÖ."
" Get out and help me push this car back into the bush," Carol Wong ordered.
" ButÖthatís a crime scene, I donít thinkÖ"
" Then donít," his boss snapped. " As long as you get your ass over here and give me a hand. Thereís lifes at stake up that hill. Get a move on."
As quick as lightning Vinnie was out the car to help Carol Wong push the car with the bodies of two of his co workers back into the bush, off the side of the road. He tried not to look through the window, but his eyes were drawn to the scene like a magnet.
One of the men inside was his high school buddy. Married only for two years and recently became a father
for the first time.
When Carol Wong hear a suppressed sob, she turned to look at the tall police officer who was standing beside her. She swallowed hard and gently placed a hand on his arm.
" I know, Vinnie, " she whispered, the pain evident in her voice. " Letís cry later. We have to nail the bastard who did this."
Vinnie slowly nodded and turned to his boss, She saw the pained expression leave his face, making place for a grim, determined one.
" Letís get him."
They headed back to their car and Carol motioned to the two police cars coming towards them. They traveled up the narrow road as fast as they could, leaving behind big clouds of dust, and a thin, grey layer on the roof of the unmarked policecar that was pushed off the road.
Sam stayed close to the wall when she crossed the hall towards the kitchen door. If the door opened, at least she wouldnít be immediately seen, like a deer trapped in the headlights of a car. It would give her a few extra seconds to respond. If things went well.
The sounds coming from the kitchen became more clear as Sam slowly approched. The tight grip on the wooden handle of the ax made her knuckles look white and small drops of perspiration formed on her forehead and upper lip. Sam didnít even notice that the back of her shirt was sticking to her body, she was too concerned with what was going on in the kitchen. Holding her breath she listened, trying to make sense of the small bits and pieces she was able to hear.
Suddenly a voice was raised and Sam stiffened. Jody!
" As much as I like standing here chatting with the lot of you, I think itís time to split," Lucy remarked, her voice almost dripping with sarcasm. " I donít know about you all, but becoming smoked meat is not on my list of things to do."
She walked towards the kitchen door, but was stopped by Sarah.
" We all know weíre in a predicament here, Lucy," Sarah sighed. " But letís stick together, okay? We might have a better chance. And maybe the policeÖ"
" Police?" Lucy sneered. " I havenít heard or seen any of those faithful, Ď We are here to protect youí civil servants yet. Have you?"
In the meantime Fiona and her mother were stuffing wet tea towels under the door, to keep the smoke out, at least for the time being. They wordlessly worked together like a well oiled team, while Fred stood watching, his face pale and his hands trembling.
" I could try to get out," he suddenly spoke. " If I will come barging in through the door, Steven will come after me. That will give all of you time to try and get away through one of the other doors, in the back."
" No!" Jody suddenly spoke up, almost shouting. It was the first word she uttered in a long time and everybody froze, watching her.
Slowly rubbing her sore cheek, Jody shook her head.
" Weíre all in this together. We canít sit here and wait for the house to really catch fire. What do we know about the road up here? It could be blocked as well. I agree with Lucy, we have to get out. But Fred, we need to stick together. Donít be the hero, okay? Leave that to the movie stars."
Suddenly, without any warning, the kitchen door flew open and Sam stormed inside, her eyes wide from anxiety and a big ax clutched in her hands. Her eyes bored into Fredís immediately and unconciously he stepped back, until he felt the kitchen counter giving him something to lean against.
" Stay where you are," she growled, seeing the fear in his eyes.
Her eyes turned to Jody, who was still sitting in her chair, one side of her face badly bruised and smeared with blood, that still slowly seeped from her cut eyebrow.
" Oh, honey."
Sam knelt down to her lover and carefully wrapped her long arms around the slumped figure. She felt Jody relax against her, putting her sore head on her shoulder.
" Sam," came the muffled response. " I am so glad youíre here. I knew you would come back. He said he was after you now, I..I was so scared IÖ"
" Ssh, "Sam softly comforted Jody. " I am here now. Megan went to get the police, they should be here any minute now."
" The house is on fire, Sam" Fiona piped up, her eyes big and full of fear.
" We have to get out of here then," Sam stated, Jody still wrapped in her arms. " Do you think you can walk, sweetie?"
"Yeah, sure. Anything better than becoming the main course of the barbecue," Jody joked, feeling so much better now Sam was back.
" Steven has a gun," Fred dared to say, still impressed by the furious look Sam had greeted him with when she came storming in.
" I have an ax, " Sam answered. " We can chop down a door or window and get out."
" I have a gun as well," Fred said, reaching under his shirt. He pulled out the gun and stretched out his arm, offering it to Sam.
Sam swallowed and wished, for the first time in her life that she knew how to use such a thing.
" Give it to me," Sarah said, determination written all over her face. She took the gun from Fredís outstretched hand. " Itís mine and I do know how to use it."
Joan McDonnell had watched the exchange quietly and cast a worried look at her daughterís tall lover.
" Are you sure this is the best option, Sam. Somebody might get hurt."
" I donít know, Joan," Sam truthfully answered, while softly rubbing her hand in circles over Jodyís back, not even anware she was doing it. " All I know is that we have to get out of here. When I came in through the bedroom window about five minutes ago, the coast was clear. But whatever we do, we have to get out of the kitchen. Those towels wonít stop the smoke for long."
" Letís go then," Lucy spoke, opening the door towards the hall, dragging Fiona with her.
" Can you walk?" Sam gently asked Jody, taking her hand.
Jody nodded and slowly stood up, which increased the throbbing in her head. She breathed in a few times to fight the dizziness and smiled when she saw Samís worried expression.
" Iím fine, honey. Just a bit of a head ache. Letís get out of here."
Outside, Little Steven had stacked the wooden furniture that was on the porch, against the door and had drenched it with gasoline he had found in a jerrycan. He hadnít used it all up, but saved some to sprinkle on the wooden shutters of all the bedroom windows.
With delight he had seen the chairs and table catch fire quickly and he chuckled when he realized the house would go up in flames, destroying everything and everyone in it. Joe would be proud of him. The tall Dutch woman wasnít inside, so that meant he would still have a chance to find her and bring her to his boss. That would get him all the money he needed to run from the police. He would be rich and they would never been able to track him down.
If just those last few shutters would catch fire! Little Steven tried again to set fire to one of the bedrooms, but somehow it didnít work. He frowned and softly mumbled a few curses, when after a little sputtering, there was only a thin tendril of smoke, but no flames.
" More gasoline," he grumbled, turning around to walk back to the porch.
He cocked his head when he heard a sound and squinted his eyes when he looked towards the driveway.
He could hear the revving of the engines and through an opening in the trees, he could see a small cloud of dust.
" Damnit!" he cursed, quickly looking around, trying to find a way to escape.
He knew there was only one road leading to the house, but at the moment that wasnít an option. He had to get away and he had to do it fast.
Little Steven looked around and his eyes fell on a small path, leading towards the trees behind the house. With a worried glance over his shoulder he began to run towards the line of trees. Hoping he would be invisible from whoever was speeding up the road.
" Damnit, damnit, damnit!" he panted, while running as fast as he could. " I hate bush walking!"
" God Allmighty!" Carol Wong exclaimed, when they finally rounded the last corner, getting a full few of the house. " Itís on fire!"
She quickly grabbed the microphone of the radio and pushed the button.
" This is Carol Wong. We need assistence. Thereís a fire up on Junction road. I repeat, the house on top of Junction road is on fire. Over"
" Roger that, inspector. House on top of Junction road. The fire brigade is on itís way. Ambulance as well. Over."
" Thanks, Les. Over and out."
Close to the house the three police cars skidded to a stop and six officers jumped out immediately, crouching down behind the relative safety of the open car doors. With their guns drawn they waited for Carol Wong to make the decision about what to do next.
Carolís eyes scanned the house and the treeline behind it. Everything seemed clear, but it was easy for anyone to hide behind the bushes and trees, letting them walk into an ambush.
" We know thereís at least two of them," Carol Wong shouted, her eyes never leaving the burning furniture on the porch. " I will go in first. Vinnie, you are next. Trisha and Peter, you will follow us when I give the signal. Bob and Carl, cover our backs."
After these commands Carol Wong sprinted towards the house. The adrenaline rushed through her body, giving her the strength and speed she needed to reach the porch in record time. Nothing happened. No noise, except for the crackling of burning wood.
Vinnie followed his boss, while his fellow officers watched with pounding hearts. They knew their action was a risky one. They could easily be shot from somewhere behind the trees, but they didnít have much of a choice. They knew there were people inside the building and waiting too long could mean they would be severely injured, or even die.
Vinnie crouched down next to Carol Wong and looked at her with a questioning gaze. He was panting and the persperation had already formed on his forehead.
" Okay, boss," he breathed. " Whatís next?"
Carol Wong turned around and motioned Trisha and Peter to come over, which they did, with amazing speed.
" Vinnie and I will go around the left side, you two take the right. Letís see if we can find a way inside. Stick together and donít forget thereís at least two of them. Donít let them surprise you. We have to get those people out, but be careful. I donít want any dead heroes."
Without saying another word the four of them split up, carefully making their way around the house, staying as close to the wall as possible.
" Looks like all the shutters are closed, " Trisha Waters remarked, stealing a glance around the corner. " They must have locked them in and ran."
" Bastards, " her coworker Peter Jones growled. " More reason to keep an eye on those bushes, Trish. I promised my wife to be home in time for dinner."
Trisha let out a nervous chuckle and crouched around a rosebush, cautiously avoiding the sharp thorns.
" Seems like they tried to set fire to these as well, " she remarked, pointing at the small, blackened spots on one of the shutters. " Maybe we got here just in time."
" Yeah, and maybe they are still around," Peter remarked. " Just be careful."
Inside, the women had arrived in the master bedroom, discovering it was locked from the outside as well.
" Okay, this is it," Sam spoke. " We have to break through it. I can smell the smoke in here already. We have to get out."
" What are you going to do, Sam? " Fiona nervously asked.
" You will all stand back, stay away from the window and stay down. First I will break the glass and then I will knock those shutters out with the ax."
Sam cast an apologetic look at Sarah, who tried to smile and shrugged her shoulders.
" Go ahead, " she softly answered. " Itís just a window."
" Lucy, make sure everybody is in the back of the room and stay down."
" Careful, Sam," Jodyís soft voice pleaded. " IÖjust be careful."
"I will, " Sam smiled. " Donít worry. I have too much to live for."
She lowered her head and placed a soft kiss on her loverís forehead.
" Get out of sight. Okay?"
Sam waited until everybody was in the back of the room, before focusing her attention to the window. It was a large window and she realized there would be a lot of sharp glass falling inside once she used the ax to break it.
My goodness, look at me. I look like a hero out of a comic book! And I thought I would come over here on a business trip! And right now I feel responsible for five other human beings. How did this all happen? I look like a pathetic copy of Bruce Willis here! Okay, here we go.
Sam took a deep breath and turning away her head from the window, she hit the glass with backside of the ax, jumping back immediately when she heard a crackling sound. She shielded her face with her left arm, protecting herself from the falling pieces of glass. When she cast a look at the damaged window a small smile tugged on the corner of her mouth.
Good job, Stevenson. Bulls eye!
Only a few sharp pieces of glass were stuck in the bottom of the windowsill and it only took Sam one swipe with the ax to remove them and clear the whole area from the debris.
Right! Next stop: the shutters.
Sam placed her feet apart, so she had a good balance, ignoring the cramp that started in her right leg and grabbed the ax with both her hands. Without thinking twice she swung it back over her right shoulder and with a powerful movement she buried the sharp metal deep in the wood of the shutter. When she pulled the ax back, she heard a satisfying ripping noise.
Through the cracks in the wood, sunlight streamed into the room and Sam knew it would only take a few more blows to either bring the shutters down, or open them up.
" Go for the middle, Sam," Fiona encouraged. " They might pop open."
" Thanks, Fi, I will," Sam answered, swinging the ax back over her shoulder again.
Fiona was right. The next blow sprung the hinges on the outside and suddenly the shutters gave way to the brutal force and sprang open.
Immediately Sam jumped back, staying out of sight, her blue eyes searching a pair of green ones across the room.
So far, so good.
Jody managed a weak smile and tried not to show Sam how worried she was. The window was open, they could go outside, away from the fire. But where was Little Steven? Was he waiting for them to come out? And where was the police? Had Megan managed to warn them and were they on their way? What would be the next move? Would it be the right one?
Tantalizing slow Sam moved to the battered window, keeping her back against the wall. Her head inched itís way to the window sill and from the corner of her eye, she could see the rosegarden. It seemed quiet, no signs of life.
Sam released the breath she didnít know she had been holding and moved a little closer, to be able to carefully peek outside. Five pairs of anxious eyes followed her every move. No one spoke. No one dared to move.
Just as Sam reached the window sill and slightly bent her head to look around the corner an unexpected motion stopped her dead in her tracks.
" Police! Donít move! Put your hands where I can see them!"
Too surprised to react Sam just stood there, the ax still clenched into her hand. Her clear blue eyes looked at the tall, brown haired woman in front of her and slowly reality sank in.
Sam obediently dropped the ax and slowly put her hands in the air, while her eyes started sparkling.
" I could have hurt you, you know, " she deadpanned.
It was dead silent for just a few seconds, but then Trishia Waters heard relieved giggling coming from the back of the room and she visibly relaxed.
" Itís okay, Peter," she called out to her fellow officer, who was standing on the other side of the window.
" Are you all okay? And where is Hayes?"
" Weíre fine now, " Sam answered, motioning the others to come to the window. " But not thanks to Hayes. He wanted to burn them alive. I guess he took off."
" Is Megan okay? " Sarah nervously asked.
" Sheís at the station, " Trishia answered. " We will let her know you lot are okay. First we have to get you all of here. The front of the house is on fire, mostly the porch. The fire brigade is on itís way,so maybe there wonít be that much damage."
" Come on, letís get out of here," Sam said, grabbing Jodyís hand.
" Stay near Peter here, we are not sure where Hayes went to, he could still be around."
Sam nodded and carefully helped Jody climb through the window, making sure that there was nothing her lover could hurt herself on. Trisia Waters and Peter Jones grabbed her arms and gently lifted her to the ground, under the watchful eyes of Sam. Fiona was next and after her Joan McDonnell and Sarah.
Peter Jones, assisted by Carol Wong and Vinnie quickly herded them to the waiting police cars, making sure the women were safe inside.
Sam and Lucy were the last ones who climbed through the window and Lucy gratefully smiled into a pair of greenblue eyes, when her arm was grabbed while climbing out.
" Thanks, " she smiled." Iím Lucy McDonnell. Nice to meet you."
" Trishia Waters, " the police woman grinned, trying not to show how captivated she was by the dark green eyes that bore into her own.
Sam hid a grin and made good use of her long legs, jumping out of the window without any help.
" Show off," Lucy mumbled, which earned her a playful swat from her sisterís lover.
" Come on, letís get you two to the car," Trisia interrupted. " It might not be safe yet."
She hardly finished speaking those words when Carol Wong suddenly shouted.
" Trish! Get down!"
Thanks to years of training and excellent reflexes Trisia Waters immediately tackled Lucy, who was walking just in front of her. They hit the ground with an audible thump and Trishia shielded the smaller womanís body with her own. The loud sound of a gun being fired rang through the trees. By the sound behind her Trishia knew Sam had hit the ground as well and she prayed it wouldnít have been the bullet that had brought her down.
" Are youÖ?"
" I am fine, " Sam croaked. " Shit! What a mess."
" What the hell was that?" Lucy idignant, muffled voice came from underneath the tall police womanís body.
" Stay down, " Vinnieís voice came from somewhere behind one of the police cars. " Whatever you do, donít get up until we say itís okay."
Trishia slightly shifted her body, to give Lucy a little more breathing room, which earned her a soft " Thanks."
" I guess our friend is still around, huh?" Lucy remarked with a sigh. " I knew it was almost too good to be true to be rescued and live happily ever after."
" It will be over soon," Trishia answered. " We will get him, itís just a matter of time."
" Keep an eye on that line of trees, " Carol Wong ordered her fellow police officers. " Vinnie and I will try and get behind him. "
She crawled away from the car, closely followed by Vinnie, who held his gun tightly clenched in his fist. His eyes never leaving the line of trees behind the house. He knew Steven Hayes could probably see them and they were running the risk of being shot at, even though it was very difficult to take a good aim at the distance of about a hundred and fifty meters.
Everything was silent. Even the birds, startled by the gun that had gone off earlier, still didnít move. Only the soft rustling of the leaves was heard and in the distance the piercing siren of a fire truck heralding itís presence.
Little Steven Hayes had been peeking through the bushes he was hiding behind. With disgust he had watched the police cars arrive and four officers crawl around the house some time later. He was getting really angry when he saw the women he had locked inside the house, came crawling out of one of the windows that had been busted from the inside.
" Filthy traitorí he had mumbled, watching Fred meekly follow one of the police officers to the car. " I will get you for this."
But what finally pushed Little Stevenís limits, was the sight of a tall blonde, emerging from the house. Realizing Samanta Stevens must have been in the house while he was still there, made his blood boil and he grinded his teeth in frustration.
" Joe is gonna have my hide, " he growled.
Without thinking twice he had pulled his gun and aimed it at the back of the Dutch woman.
" Die, bitch!" he cursed, pulling the trigger.
Afterwards Little Steven would not have been able to tell how the petite Asian woman managed to spot him. But the moment his finger pulled the trigger she shouted a warning and the three women close to the house suddenly dove to the ground. Maybe she had seen him through the dense bushes. Maybe the sunlight had been bouncing off his gun. But he missed. And he knew he didnít have another chance.
Little Steven did the only thing he could think of that moment. He ran. Disappearing in the forrest behind the house.
" Is that your gun poking in my back or are you just happy to see me?" Lucy joked, feeling Trishia chuckle after those words.
"Iíd better not go into that, " she laughed. " I am still in uniform, you know. But I think I get the point. I will give you some more breathing room."
Lucy could feel the body that was shielding hers shift a little and the pressure on her legs lessened.
" Thanks, " she mumbled, wondering why she wasnít freaked out. She had just been shot at and could have been injured, or worse, but instead of being intimidated by that, she felt thoroughly protected by the tall police woman, who had tackled her some moments earlier.
Lucy shifted a little so she could cast a sideway glance at the woman next to her. A pair of sparkling greenblue eyes looked straight into her dark green ones and involuntarily she could feel a blush creep up her cheeks.
Wow! Whatís that? She mused, her gaze still being held by Trishiaís eyes. Nah! Couldnít be. Could it? Youíre in trouble, McDonnell! Admit it, you are impressed. Sheís definetely cute and that uniformÖ.MmmmÖlooks good! Dad is so not going to survive this!
A small smile tugged on the corner of Trishiaís mouth when she saw the expression on Lucyís face and she slowly averted her gaze. Her body still tingled from the contact with Lucyís and in spite of the situation they were in, her hormones were jumping up and down, almost shouting for attention.
" If you two are done staring at each other, could we maybe crawl to one of those cars?" Sam suddenly deadpanned. " That bullet might have missed me, but my leg is killing me."