The long hallway with the thick, luxurious carpet was really quiet. The floor covering absorbed the careful footsteps that drew closer to the door. There was no sound, except a soft buzzing of the light inside the emergency exit sign. The rest of the world seemed eerily quiet.
A small ray of light fell into the room when the door gradually cracked open, the beam painting a soft yellow trace on the bed covering. Backlit by the small source of light a shadow approached the bed with slow, deliberate movements. While it came closer the sound of heavy breathing filled the room, a mixture of fear and excitement.
Two hands were stretched out, its fingers spread and wiggling. Slowly they came closer, until the fabric that covered the hands finally touched the soft skin of a neck.
"Alice," a whisper shattered the silence in the room. "I have finally found you."
"No!" Alice breathed, shooting upright and staring into the darkness with fear filled eyes. She had brought up her arms in a defense posture and her whole body was shaking.
"Alice?" a sleepy but worried voice next to her sounded. "Are you alright?"
Alice looked around the darkened room, her eyes searching for the shadow who had wanted to kill her. Her heart was hammering in her chest and her hands were shaking.
Yarra pushed herself upright and peered at her friend's face and posture, immediately realizing the girl must have had a nightmare. She softly whispered words of comfort, while tentatively stretching out a hand and touching Alice's shoulder. Immediately the girl's body stiffened.
"It's me, Alice," Yarra whispered soothingly. "You had a bad dream. You are safe here, Alice. It's alright now."
Yarra's hand gently touched Alice's shoulder, slowly traveling to her back, where she started a slow rubbing in order to help her friend calm down. After a few moments she could hear Alice let out a shuddering breath and the body underneath her hand started to relax.
"Oh, God," Alice moaned with a husky voice, burying her face in her hands and breathing in deeply. "It was so real."
"What was?" Yarra asked. "Do you want to talk about it, Alice?"
Alice rubbed her face with both hands and felt a shiver travel down her spine.
"He was here," she whispered. "In the bedroom and he was trying to kill me. His hands…," she swallowed hard and shivered again. "It was so real…"
"I am sorry, Alice," Yarra softly spoke, feeling a deep sadness settle inside her chest, because her already traumatized friend even suffered in her sleep. "I know how real nightmares can be, but you are safe here. Sam and Trishia are close by and Peter is sleeping on the couch in the sitting room. Nobody can harm you here."
"I…I know," Alice stammered. "I just wished he would not invade my dreams like that. I am scared of him, Yarra."
With a sigh Yarra wrapped her arm around Alice's shoulders and gently squeezed.
"I know, although I have never met him, he scares me as well. But there are a lot of people looking out for you, Alice and don't ask me how I know, but I feel that everything will be alright."
"You do?" Alice whispered, turning her head so she could look at Yarra. Unconsciously she leaned in closer to the contact, which made Yarra smile.
"I do," the dark girl nodded. "And I realize it might be hard to believe right now, but I have faith in the outcome."
"I wish I had too," Alice mumbled with a small cough.
"Thirsty?" Yarra asked. "I'll get you a glass of water."
The dark skinned girl already started to crawl towards the foot of the bed, but a hand on her arm stopped her.
"I'll be fine," Alice whispered, glancing at Fiona's sleeping form. "I don't want us to wake Fiona."
Yarra's face split in a wide grin and if it had not been that dark, Alice would have been able to see the dancing lights in her dark brown eyes.
"Don't worry about Fiona. Once she is asleep, she needs to be resurrected, instead of woken up. She has the capability to sleep through almost anything."
Yarra hopped off the bed and headed for the bathroom where she retrieved a glass of water. She left a little light on and did not completely close to door, when she came back again.
"Thank you, Yarra," Alice sighed while taking the glass and emptying it in one, big gulp.
"Are you ready to go back to sleep again?" Yarra gently asked when the blonde put the empty glass on the night stand.
"I think so," Alice answered, but Yarra could hear the hesitation in her voice.
"Just lie down and make yourself comfortable. I will tell you a story, okay? That might help you relax."
Alice did not answer, but she obediently sank back into the pillow. She tucked her left arm underneath her head, while her right arm rested on her stomach. Slightly turning her head she glanced at Yarra, who was lying on her left side, looking at her closely.
Alice swallowed hard and was wondering if her friend thought she was crazy if she would ask her if it was alright for her to hold Yarra's hand. Physical contact had been something alien to Alice after her mother and brother died and in her years on the street she always shunned away from touching other people or being touched by them. But somehow Jody had efficiently broken down that barrier the night before, when the kindhearted woman had ignored Alice's carefully erected wall, recognizing it for what it was; self defense.
Alice nervously plucked the fabric of her sleeping shirt and suddenly felt her heart skip a beat, when the fidgeting digits were covered by a warm hand.
"Is this okay?" Yarra whispered.
Alice swallowed away the lump in her throat and could only nod. How did Yarra do that? It was like the dark girl had the uncanny ability to read Alice's mind. In spite of the situation Alice softly laughed.
"What?" Yarra curiously asked, immensely pleased to see Alice relax and smile again.
"Are you a mind reader?" Alice asked, turning her head and looking into a pair of soulful brown eyes.
"I don't think so," Yarra grinned. "But I am a person who often acts on intuition, like…like I feel people."
Alice took a few moments to ponder over those words, while her eyes still studied Yarra's face. The older girl patiently waited for her friend to work out whatever it was that was occupying her thoughts.
"Do you…feel… me?" Alice finally asked in a soft voice, glad for the darkness that was hiding her blush.
"I do," Yarra admitted in a gentle voice.
"I am glad," Alice unexpectedly answered and this time it was Yarra who could feel a blush creep up her cheeks.
"So, are you ready for that story?" she asked in a voice that was slightly strained.
"Yes, I am," Alice smiled, wiggling around a little to make herself more comfortable.
"Good," Yarra chuckled. "It's a story about how the tortoise lost its tail…"
Yarra's soft and captivating voice filled the silence in the room and from the very beginning of the story Alice was entranced, letting her friend weave the words and sentences together to create an enchanting tale.
The third occupant of the bed was lying on her side, facing away from her friends. Her breathing was deep and regular and her eyes were closed. But had Yarra or Alice taken a closer look, they would have seen the smile on Fiona's face.
After Sam and Jody had made their exit the previous evening, Trishia and Lucy had followed suit. Not only were they in desperate need of some privacy, but Trishia knew she really needed a few hours of undisturbed sleep.
Of course, sharing a shower with Lucy had lead to some very intense, very intimate but extremely satisfying activities that had left them both satiated and so utterly relaxed, they had both fallen asleep, still wrapped in each others arms.
It was in that same position Trishia woke up after at least six hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep. Her blue-green eyes blinked sleepily and it took her a few moments to realize she was in The Reef and not on some tropical location for a well deserved vacation with her lover.
"Why the heck I am awake?" she softly mumbled, afraid to wake Lucy, who was wrapped around her body with her head resting on Trishia's shoulder.
A soft buzz coming from the night stand was the answer to that question and inwardly cursing Trishia reached out a hand to grab her cell phone.
"Hello," she curtly greeted.
"Trish, it's me Pete. I think you'd better get out here. The night guard has found a dead body in the back of a truck down at the parking garage."
Trishia was silent for a few seconds to let Peter's words sink in and give her brain the opportunity to jump start.
"Damn," she softly muttered. "I will be on my way down in a few minutes, Pete. Where are you?"
"Outside your door," Peter answered and Trishia could hear a trace of humor in his voice. "I didn't want to come barging in, because somehow I believe you and Lucy are not exactly…dressed for the occasion."
Trishia softly chuckled and appreciated her partner's thoughtfulness. Trishia would not have been bothered if Peter would have found her in bed naked, with Lucy. But she knew her partner would have been mortally embarrassed.
"Thanks, mate. I'll be out in a few minutes. You don't have any coffee, do you?"
"Brewing as we speak," Peter grinned. "Your mother-in-law is up and taking care of business. She sure is putting that coffee maker to good use."
"Bless her," Trishia breathed. "See you in a few."
The policewoman put down the phone and looked at the still peacefully sleeping Lucy. With a pang of regret she carefully untangled herself from her lover's loving grip and cautiously climbed out of the bed. She went over to the bathroom to splash her face with cold water and quickly she got dressed.
On her way over to the door, she stopped by the bed and looked down at the sleeping woman. The sheets were only partially covering Lucy and Trishia's eyes roamed over her lover's lightly tanned skin, drinking in the beautiful face and slowly sliding down to where the sheet was covering her body, but still allowing her to see the swell of a soft breast.
With a deep sigh Trishia bent over and softly kissed the sleeping woman's temple.
"I love you, Lucy," she whispered, brushing away a long strand of dark hair.
Lucy stirred and mumbled something incoherent and Trishia smiled when she watched her lover snuggle deeper into the pillows, hugging the one Trishia had been resting on to her chest.
After one more, last look, the tall police woman headed towards the door and soundlessly left the room.
"No, senior sergeant Waters!"
Trishia winced at her inspector's use of her full title and shot Peter an exasperated look. The last five minutes she had been trying to convince her inspector to give her permission to go down to the parking garage and check out the murder scene in the hope of finding any clues that could lead them to Martin Coles' whereabouts.
"There is nothing you can do down here that can't be done by someone else from the station," Carol Wong forcefully stated. "I want you and Peter to stay where you are and work on your plan to lure that…that shark to the surface and reel him in. Besides, I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Coles is expecting you in that parking garage. He is sick, Trish and full of hatred. On his computer Phil discovered a lot of nasty things. Not only about those murdered girls, but apparently Martin Coles had frequent contacts with some Neo Nazi groups and we did find some emails in which he gave them directions to the addresses of gay people. Suffice to say those people mysteriously lost their pets, got the tires of their cars slashed and in some cases, they even got bashed up by those sorry excuses for human beings."
Trishia could hear her inspector let out a deep breath before she continued to speak again.
"I am sorry I have to be blunt," she apologized. "But this bloke hates your guts, Trish. I want you to be careful."
"I will be," Trishia promised, feeling sick to her stomach when she realized a former police officer was most likely responsible for killing at least three people, Alice's family not included. On top of that he encouraged prejudice and violent hatred.
"We need to flush him out, inspector. I know he is around here somewhere and I want my hands on him before we find any more victims. I am positive he is no longer in the room that poor James Ferguson had made reservations for and I also know that he is expecting me to show up in that same room."
"All the more reason not to go there," Carol Wong wryly replied. "Maybe that will piss him off enough for him to make a mistake."
"Hopefully," Trishia mumbled. "Maybe we should seal the hotel and check everybody who happens to be inside."
"And create chaos and panic? I don't know, Trish. Somehow I feel that would drive Martin completely over the edge and there is no telling what he would do then. I don't want to see any more dead bodies."
"I guess you are right, inspector," Trishia sighed. "Peter and I will stick to our original plan to walk around this hotel and see if we run into Martin somewhere. I just know he is here somewhere, the bastard."
"Good. That stuff you requested is on its way and Shirley Crabb should be arriving at The Reef soon. If it's not Shirley who shows up, arrest the one who does. My instructions have been quite specific. I will head for room 297 myself and I will let you know what I find. You and Peter go ahead with your preparations. I'll call you as soon as I can."
It had been a long night. Again there had been little or no sleep at all and he gradually started to feel he needed some rest. He had hoped that his quest would have come to an end when the sun rose that morning, but his nemesis had thrown up another barrier between him and his goal.
He had spent some hours in the lobby of the hotel, sitting on a couch with a newspaper, pretending to read while he drank coffee. Instead of reading he had put his eyes and ears to good use and memorized a few room numbers and the guests who resided there.
Hours later, when most guests of The Reef had retired for the night he had used one of the phones in the empty and dark restaurant to call the night clerk and ask for assistance in a room which he knew housed an elderly couple. He had told the clerk in a voice close to panic, that his wife had slipped and fell in the bathroom and he could not help her back on her feet again by himself. As expected the clerk had immediately grabbed a cell phone and headed towards the room on the second floor.
As soon as the young man had disappeared out of sight, Martin had rushed towards the reception desk in search of the key card to the top floor. With a huge grin he had noticed it was not even locked away and quickly grabbing the card he had headed for the private elevator. The doors had slid open with a quiet hiss and Martin had stepped inside, his heart pounding in his chest. The excitement had made his fingers tremble and he had to take a few deep breaths in order to calm down.
As soon as the doors had closed again he had run the key card through the slot and waited for the elevator to start moving. But nothing had happened. Again he had slid the card through the slot, this time a little slower, but there was no response.
Martin had known that the night clerk would return shortly, once he had discovered the call had been a hoax and he had only time to try it once more.
He had wiped the key card on his shirt, hoping it would have been some dirt that had prevented the machine from reading the card and again he had slid the card through the magnetic lock.
Cursing he had hit the button that would open the door and he had practically bolted from the elevator, towards the stair case. The moment the door had shut behind him, the night clerk had returned to his desk.
Martin had not bothered trying to return the key card. He knew Trishia had correctly anticipated his next move and she had made sure he would not be able to act on his plan. The rage that had risen inside his chest had been overwhelming and for a few minutes Martin had felt dizzy with hate. When he had finally calmed down a little he had slowly climbed the steps up to the floor where he would find room 297.
He realized he needed to revise his plans and while he had taken a long, cool shower Martin Coles had decided that Trishia Waters would be crushed like a fly. That thought had made him feel better and chuckling he had contemplated his next move. There was no time to waste and Martin had opened his bag, pulling out a small toolbox and a few other items. Giggling he had started to sort out the things he needed.
"I guess my Boy Scout years are starting to pay off after all," he chuckled. "And curiosity killed the cat."
Carol Wong and a team of five policemen had taken the stairs up to the second floor and within five minutes after leaving the gruesome scene at the parking garage, they were standing in front of room 297.
While there were armed policemen on either side of the door, Carol Wong took a deep breath and knocked. She knew that being an Inspector she should have stayed down at the lobby until a team would have had the chance to search the room and waited for their 'all clear' sign. But Carol Wong took it as a personal insult that one of 'her' officers turned out to be a psychopathic murderer and she was determined to bring down Martin Coles.
After the knock on the door it remained very quiet and Carol Wong decided to knock again. With a deep sight she realized her suspicions would be true, the room would be empty.
"Here goes," she mumbled, tightening her hold on the gun she was holding, while her other hand slid the key card through the magnetic lock. A little green light indicated that the door could be opened and flanked by two of her officers she pushed open the door, immediately holding her gun steady with both hands and aiming at the space in front of her.
The room had obviously been used and her heart rate picked up, Carol Wong prepared to step inside, her eyes darted through the room. Once she stood inside the doorway, her foot collided with something and then everything happened in a blur.
In a split second Carol Wong realized that Martin Coles had left them a nasty surprise. As soon as Carol Wong's foot had touched the wire on the floor, she had yelled a warning.
At the same moment she twisted her body around and threw herself towards the wall. The two razor sharp knives that had been mounted on a cleverly designed catapult and aimed at the door came flying at her and it was only thanks to her quick thinking and excellent reflexes that the metal embedded itself in her left shoulder and upper arm, instead of her chest. Had she not throw herself against the wall, Carol Wong knew she probably would have ended up as Martin Coles' next victim.
That realization made her so angry that initially she did not even feel any pain. Phil Kanides, who had been standing right behind his inspector had caught her in his arms and dragged her backwards, out of the room, into the hallway, while the rest of the team entered the room, carefully scanning the floor and walls for more traps.
"Inspector, are you alright?" Phil asked with a pale face. "I'll call an ambulance," he quickly added, seeing the blood pour out of the knife wounds in his inspector's arm and shoulder.
Carol Wong nodded and tried to block out the pain that gradually became worse now her adrenaline level was slowly getting back to normal again. She inhaled deeply to fight the feeling of nausea she felt rising in her chest.
"Son of a bitch," she spat.
With every breath she took she could feel the sharp metal move inside her arm and shoulder and she briefly closed her eyes to fight a wave of dizziness. She really wanted to grab those knives and pull them out, but she knew the bleeding could become worse if she did that. And Carol Wong had no intention of giving Martin Coles what he wanted by dying.
"I need my cell phone, Phil," she breathed when the officer had made his emergency call. "It's in my pocket."
Phil Kanides stuck his hand in the pocket of Carol Wong's jacket and pulled out her cell phone, which he handed to his inspector.
Not caring that her blood covered fingers stained the device, she quickly dialed Trishia's number.
"Trish? You are in charge of this operation now. Our friend has been very kind and had left us a nice surprise in his room. I got hit by two knives and I will be on my way to the hospital soon. Here's Phil, he can fill you in," she ended in a pain filled voice.
Phil Kanides took over and quickly informed a shocked Trishia what had happened.
"Tell her to stay up there, Phil," Carol Wong mumbled. "You can take over here, I need Trishia to go ahead with her plan. If she comes down now, she might do exactly what that creep wants her to do."
Phil repeated the words to Trishia who reluctantly admitted that their inspector was probably right.
"Keep me informed, Phil," she grimly ordered. "We are almost done here. It's time we go out and capture that bastard."
A loud knock on the door aroused Sam and Jody from a deep sleep. The blond woman immediately sat up straight, her heart hammering in her chest.
"Darn," she muttered under her breath, raking her fingers through her unruly hair. "I am having way too much stress these days."
The knock sounded again, this time louder and Sam glanced at the door with a look of disgust in her eyes.
"Yeah, yeah," she called out, not able to hide the annoyance in her voice. "I am on my way."
She slipped from her comfortable, warm spot next to Jody and started to walk towards the door. But Jody's voice stopped her dead in her tracks.
"Mmm?" Sam turned around and looked at her lover, smiling when she noticed the disheveled, sleepy and utterly naked state her lover was in.
"Are you going to open the door?" Jody asked with a chuckle.
"Well, there's somebody knocking, isn't there?" Sam replied with a sigh.
"I don't care if the whole world knows I love you, but I refuse to let you go out like that," Jody stated with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. "I don't want you to become the leading lady in anyone else's wet dreams but mine."
Only then Sam realized she was as naked as the moment she was born and grinning she walked towards a chair where she had dumped her clothes the previous evening, very aware of Jody's appreciative eyes.
"Thanks, sweetie," Sam smiled. "You saved me from embarrassment and most likely from a life time of teasing."
"I aim to please," was the playful answer.
"Oh, and you do, believe me," Sam smiled, winking at her lover who blushed lightly.
Rising to her feet again, now dressed in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, Sam crossed the room to open the door, chuckling when Jody quickly dived underneath the sheets until the only thing that was visible were her eyes and hair.
"Hey, Trish," Sam greeted her friend when she had opened the door. "What's up?"
"I need to talk to you," Trishia answered and Sam could read the tension on her face.
"Come in," she invited, stepping aside to make room for Trishia to pass.
When the tall policewoman noticed that Jody was still in bed, she averted her eyes and mumbled an apology.
"Don't worry," Jody cheerfully answered. "If you would be so kind to turn around for a minute and if Sam would hand me my clothes, I will get decent and nobody will have to feel embarrassed."
With an affectionate smile Sam handed her lover the requested items and watched her lover get dressed, while Trishia was obediently studying one of the colorful paintings on the wall.
"Alright, Trish, what is going on?" Sam repeated her question, while she sank down on the edge of the bed in order to put on her shoes.
Trishia quickly told the couple what had happened while they had been asleep, seeing their faces reflect the frustration and anger that had been her first reaction as well.
"Is Carol alright?" Jody asked, blindly grabbing Sam's hand for support. The idea that the inspector was injured and on her way to the hospital was very upsetting and immediately Jody started to figure out a way to keep down the commotion inside The Reef. Causing panic among the guests was the last thing she wanted to happen. Although she suspected most of the guests would have been in their rooms, since it was still very early.
"I hope so," Trishia sighed. "She is on her way to the hospital now. Those knives were meant for me," she grunted in frustration, seeing Jody pale.
"Does Lucy know?" she quickly asked.
Trishia bit her bottom lip and shook her head.
"No, this has all happened in the last twenty minutes and she was still fast asleep when I got up. Don't tell her, Jody, please. I don't want her to worry."
"She'll worry anyway, mate," Sam somberly stated. "I figure you have a plan and I just know Lucy is not going to like it."
Trishia looked slightly guilty and she walked towards the huge window to stare outside. Below the beach was still covered in darkness and the policewoman wondered if Martin Coles would have left The Reef and maybe was looking up from the outside, his presence covered by the night sky.
"I need your help, Sam," the tall policewoman sighed without turning around. She knew she would not be able to stand the horrified and pleading look from a pair of green eyes that, without a doubt, were staring at her at that same moment.
"I need you to instruct your staff about a few things and I need to know every little nook and cranny in this building where Martin could hide. I don't care how absurd it sounds, if you think it's a possible place to hide, I want to know about it."
"What is the plan?" Sam calmly asked, while her mind was already scanning the building, mentally taking notes of places where a person could try to hide.
"I know he must be angry and frustrated because we prevented him from using that key card. And because it was the inspector who showed up at the door of that room and not me." Trishia answered with barely veiled anger. "Hopefully his madness will make him less careful."
Trishia turned around and shot the women at the bed a determined look.
"I am going to turn the tables on Martin Coles. I will make sure the hunter becomes the prey."
Fiona woke up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and even before she had opened her eyes, her nostril already flared, taking in as much of the delicious scent as possible. Her mother only allowed her a few cups a day and the one she usually had right after she woke up, was the best of them all.
Yawning and stretching Fiona turned onto her other side to cast a look at her friends. Her eyes twinkled when she noticed that apparently Yarra and Alice had gravitated towards each other during the night and were now almost cuddling. They were laying side by side, with Alice almost spooned against Yarra while the dark girl's hand rested on Alice's arm.
Fiona grinned and pushed herself upright, softly whistling the tune of 'Love is in the air'. It only took a few moments for Yarra to stir and when the dark skinned girl opened her eyes, they visibly widened when she noticed how close she and Alice had been sleeping.
Fiona's persistent whistling penetrated her fog filled mind and slowly she turned onto her other side, bracing herself for what would come.
"Morning," Fiona greeted her with a cheerful smile.
"M'ng," Yarra mumbled, still feeling dazed and anything but awake.
"Did you have a good sleep?" Fiona inquired.
"Yes, I did, thank you," Yarra managed to croak in a coherent sentence.
"I thought you would have," Fiona stated, sounding so cheerful and awake that Yarra would have liked to choke her. "You and Alice looked so…cozy together."
Yarra groaned and rolled her eyes, regretting the fact that Fiona had woke up before she had, something that rarely happened.
"Give it a rest, Fi, Alice and I are just friends," Yarra replied, not awake enough to be quick witted.
"That is what Jody kept saying, until Lucy caught her kissing Sam behind the shed," Fiona chuckled, enjoying the teasing. It wasn't often she had the opportunity to make her friend squirm.
"Smart ass," Yarra sighed. "Do me a favor, Fi, don't involve Alice in this pathetic theory of yours. She is too vulnerable, alright?"
"As if I would do that," Fiona snorted, looking slightly insulted.
She let herself fall back onto the bed again and turned on her side so she could have a good look at her friend's face.
"I won't tease her," she promised, seeing a pair of dark brown eyes soften. "You like her, don't you, C.J.?" she softly asked, all traces of teasing had vanished.
Yarra could only nod and swallowed away a big lump in her throat. Fiona was right; she did like Alice. A lot. She was very much attracted to the cute blonde, but realized that Alice still had a long and difficult journey ahead of her on the road to healing.
"She's going through a tough time, Fi. All I can do right now is to try and be her friend. Maybe I will get over it," she added with a humorless laugh, deep down inside recognizing the pull she felt towards Alice for what it was.
"Maybe not," Fiona mused. "You two do make a cute couple. I hope something beautiful will come out of this, Yarra. You both deserve that."
"As long as I can be her friend, I will be happy, Fi" Yarra wistfully smiled.
Fiona opened her mouth to reply, but a loud knock on the door interrupted.
"Rise and shine, beauties," Joan McDonnell came walking into the room, heading for the curtains and mercilessly yanking them open to let in the bright sunny glare.
"Mom!" Fiona cried out, covering her eyes against the harsh light. "Yesterday I told Yarra and Alice you were the best mom in the world, don't ruin that image, alright?"
"Breakfast is waiting, love," Joan continued, smiling when Alice carefully opened her eyes and groaned when she noticed the sunlight streaming in.
"Breakfast?" Alice sleepily echoed, making both Yarra and Fiona chuckle. They had only known Alice for a short time, but already her appetite had become legendary.
"Yes, girls, breakfast. I have seen freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee, tea, toast, crumpets, bacon, eggs in all sizes and shapes, pancakes, oatmeal and a lot more. It seems like The Reef's staff is intend on spoiling us."
"They won't hear me object," Fiona laughed, jumping off the bed and racing towards the bathroom, while Joan stared at her retreating back with a soft smile. When Fiona had closed the door behind her she perched herself on the edge of the bed and looked at the two sleepy teenagers.
"Did you girls have a good sleep?" she asked.
"The best I had in ages, except for that nightmare," Alice answered with a frown. "That was…really frightening, but Yarra told me a real nice story and I fell asleep again."
Joan McDonnell gratefully smiled at the dark girl and patted her knee. From the moment they had first met, she had always liked Yarra. The girl was intelligent and mature and she had proven to be a great friend to Fiona and now also to Alice. Joan remembered the words of Lisa Bailey and had to agree with the psychiatrist: she too believed that the three teenagers shared a very special bond and she hoped they would always remain that close.
"Yarra is a sweetie," she told Alice, seeing Yarra roll her eyes. "Of course, Yarra will never admit that, but believe me, I am telling the truth."
With a smile and a wink Joan got back to her feet again and walked back towards the open door that let in some very enticing scents, making Yarra sniff the air with an appreciating grunt, while Alice could hear her stomach rumble. She pressed her hands against the offending organ and grinned sheepishly when Yarra looked at her with raised eyebrows.
"What can I say?" she mumbled. "I am a growing girl?"
Yarra's dark face split in a big grin and she playfully nudged Alice's shoulder, glad to hear her friend make a joke.
"By the sound of it we really do need to feed you," Yarra gently joked. "Just make sure you will leave something for us, okay?"
"Oh, ha ha," Alice snorted, but her blue eyes were twinkling.
When the girls entered the sitting room, they noticed a disheveled Jody sipping coffee and staring at Sam, Trishia and Peter who were sitting around the coffee table with something that resembled a map spread out in front of them. They were talking softly among themselves and every now and then, Peter scribbled something down on the notepad he was holding.
With a sleepy smile Jody waved at the teenagers and motioned them to come closer to the huge table that was transformed into a breakfast buffet. Fiona gave her sister a quick hug, before turning around and looking at the table with big eyes.
"Wow," she said. "Who ordered all this?"
"I did," Jody answered. "I don't know what everybody likes, so I told them to bring up a few different things."
"And they did," Fiona grinned, snatching a piece of crispy bacon from a plate and propping it in her mouth.
"Pig," Yarra mumbled, making Alice grin.
"Sit down girls and help yourself before it gets cold," Joan encouraged the teenagers, setting a good example by grabbing a plate, filling it with toast and eggs.
"Jody, what are they doing?" Alice softly asked nodding her head in the direction of the small group around the coffee table.
"Trishia wants to know some things about this building," Jody explained while she tried to sound unconcerned. "Sam is showing her a blueprint."
"Because Martin is hiding inside the building?" Alice continued, knowing deep down inside that something must have happened that night.
Jody's green eyes looked at the solemn face of the girl who had taken a seat next to her, on the couch. All traces of sleep had vanished and Alice's blue eyes were dark with concern.
Jody sighed and reached out a hand to gently pat Alice's knee. To the teenager that was the answer she needed and Jody could see the girl turn pale and shiver.
"What did he do?" she whispered while her eyes stared at the carpet where her bare toes were digging themselves into the soft material.
"I…I can't tell you, Alice, I am sorry. That is Trishia's call." Jody honestly replied.
Trishia, whose sharp ears had picked up the use of her name, raised her head and cast a look over her shoulder. She smiled at Fiona and Yarra, who were playfully discussing their choice of eggs and let her eyes travel to Alice's bent head. Trishia raised her brows in a silent question and Jody simply nodded.
The tall policewoman gestured her friend that she would be with them in a few minutes and Jody gratefully smiled.
"I am sure Trishia will tell you about it, Alice," she softly spoke. "They are almost done with studying that plan. Why don't you get a plate and eat something?"
"I feel sick," Alice mumbled reluctantly, all of a sudden feeling very nervous. "I don't think I will be able to eat."
"I am sorry, honey," Jody softly spoke, covering Alice's fidgeting fingers with her hand. "Just try to keep in mind that, no matter what Martin Coles has done or will do, you have absolutely nothing to do with that."
"He killed those girls because they looked like me," Alice whispered in a barely audible voice. "If I would have died when mom and Dean did, those girls would still be alive."
For a brief moment Jody closed her eyes, feeling the pain like a tidal wave crashing over her. She felt the tears sting her eyes when again she was confronted with the enormous amount of pain and guilt Alice obviously was carrying around. In spite of the difficult situation they were all in, she said a silent prayer of thanks for Alice having come into their lives.
Jody put down her now empty coffee cup and turned a little so she could face Alice.
"Come here," she invited, opening her arms.
Without hesitation Alice crawled into Jody's arms and immediately felt better when the deceptively strong arms wrapped her in a warm hug. Gently rocking back and forth, Jody rested her cheek on Alice's head and softy talked to her.
"You are not responsible for Martin Coles' actions, Alice. From what I understand he was already abusive when he and your mom dated. He has a sick mind, sweetie. He is a sick person. What he does has nothing to do with you. Those girls probably died because they looked like you, but that was something Martin Coles did, Alice. He was the one who took their lives, not you. You are as much a victim of him as the others are."
"But they are dead and I am not," Alice mumbled.
"Their deaths are very tragic and I can only imagine what their families will go through, but you are alive Alice. And I am so grateful you are. I am so thankful that you came into our lives."
"You are?" Alice sniffed.
Jody slightly pulled away from the teenager and used her hand to lift up Alice's chin, so she could look her in the eye.
"Yes, Alice," she reaffirmed when their eyes met. "I am. Never doubt that. I know we can never replace the family you lost, but know that you are always welcome to stay with Sam and me at Murrook Farm. For as long as you like."
Alice knew Jody had spoken those same words before but again she could see nothing but affection and honesty in those beautiful emerald eyes.
"As long as I don't have to ride those big horses," she replied with a sniff.
Jody's face relaxed and she laughed, pulling Alice in for another hug.
"Only if you want to, Alice. So, what about breakfast?"
Alice realized the brief talk with Jody had indeed helped her to feel better. Her nerves seemed to have settled and the nausea she had felt before had disappeared. Slowly she pulled away from Jody and sent the smiling woman a grateful look.
"I think I can eat now," she shyly admitted.
"Then go ahead and dig in, before Yarra and Fiona eat all the good stuff first," Jody encouraged.
"Thanks, Jody," Alice softly whispered.
"No worries, Alice. Go ahead, eat something."
With a soft glance she watched Alice jump up and join her friends at the big table. Jody's eyes traveled to the coffee table and she was not surprised when she caught Sam's eyes that shone with so much love and pride, it made Jody all warm inside. Her own eyes mirrored the same sentiment and for a moment the room faded away and there was only the radiant blue of Sam's eyes and the deep feelings they conveyed.
Only when Trishia's cell phone buzzed, they both returned to reality and with a last smile in Sam's direction, Jody stood up to get some more coffee, while the rest of the room's occupants listened to Trishia's one sided conversation.
"Phil, do you have news?...That fast? Great…So nothing vital has been damaged…yeah, I guess in a way she was very lucky, but don't underestimate our inspector's reflexes. She might have a desk job, well, most of the time anyway, but I know she still holds a black belt in karate and she is an excellent kick boxer. I have seen her in action and it was quite impressive…" Trishia had walked towards the table and snagged away a grape that she quickly popped into her mouth, enjoying the juice that exploded against her palate. "Try to find a clue as to what his next move might be, Phil…We are going over a blueprint of the building and I guess we will be coming downstairs within the next hour…Plan?...I want to piss him off and smoke him out. I want Martin Coles to feel our hot breath in his neck, so he will make a mistake…I want two experienced uniforms at every entrance of this building…no, I want them to be in uniform. Our friend needs to know that the noose around his neck is tightening…Great, Phil, thanks…Yeah, I'll give you a call as soon as we are headed for the lobby."
A pair of muddy brown eyes carefully peeked around the door of the emergency exit on the second floor. Although he had not seen what had happened, he had heard enough to know that Trishia Waters had not fallen into his trap, but the inspector had. At first that had invoked another fit of rage, until he realized that the inspector had been a good target as well.
His ex-coworkers had left the room and Martin Coles noticed that a team of two people were already working to get the blood stains removed from the carpet.
With a soft chuckle he shut the door and quickly made his way to the first floor. Again he first peeked around the corner before stepping into the quiet lobby. It was Sunday morning and still early. From the restaurant he could hear the clattering of silverware and the faraway sound of subdued voices.
Taking a deep breath he stiffly made his way across the lobby, looking like an elderly man again, with a grey moustache and the same color hair. It was time to leave The Reef and do some shopping. But when he saw the police car outside the door he stopped dead in his tracks. Two uniformed policemen were casually leaning against the vehicle, obviously keeping an eye on the entrance. The same guard who had opened the door for him the previous evening was softly talking to a couple of guests who were about to leave the building. He noticed the couple showing the guard their key card and some identification. The guard friendly nodded and opened the door.
Martin Coles turned around and he was so angry, he almost forgot to pretend to be somebody else. He realized it was impossible for him to leave The Reef through the main entrance, since Trishia had obviously come up with the idea to check people's identification and key cards. The only cards Martin Coles had in his possession were the useless card to the top floor and the key card to room 297. He could not use either of them.
Rubbing his sleepy eyes, careful not to touch his grey eyebrows Martin casually walked back towards the hallway that lead to the indoor pool and sauna. He knew there was an exit there as well. But when he turned the corner and had an unobstructed view of the emergency exit, he could see another police car with two uniformed officers standing guard.
"You filthy dyke," he spat feeling the rage bubble up inside his chest. The intensity of his anger in combination with the lack of sleep made him dizzy and for a moment he had to grab the wall for support.
"If you think I won't be able to get out of here, you have another thing coming," he growled, shaking his head vigorously to get rid of the annoying dizziness. "Nobody will stop me when I want something."
Quickly turning around he walked away on unsteady legs, not needing to pretend his legs had difficulty carrying him.
"I need a phone," he mumbled.
Lucy woke up because something annoying was tickling her face and she had no idea what. Sleepy green eyes blinked against the dim light in the bedroom and noticed a tall figure sitting on the bed, staring at her with a loving smile.
"Morning, sunshine," Trishia greeted her lover.
"Is it?" Lucy responded with a croaky voice. "Morning I mean?"
"I am afraid so," Trishia answered, bending down to kiss a pair of soft lips.
Lucy immediately wrapped her arms around Trishia's neck and pulled the tall woman closer to deepen the kiss, not caring that the sheet slid down, revealing her naked body.
"Oh, my goodness," Trishia mumbled against her lover's lips, feeling her libido kick in full force. "Honey, we have no time for this," she regretfully sighed. "I have a nutcase to capture."
That last remark brought Lucy back to reality and with a deep sigh she loosened the grip on her lover, kissing her nose before letting her go again.
"You are right," she admitted. "Besides, I can hear the girls are up and I really don't want to embarrass myself."
Trishia smiled and cupped Lucy's cheek, staring deeply into her dark green eyes, realizing how lucky she was for having Lucy McDonnell in her life.
"Never apologize for being passionate," she gently teased, stroking a silky cheek with her thumb.
"I didn't intend to, but I'd rather be passionate with my family at a safe distance," Lucy grinned.
Trishia laughed and quickly stole another kiss.
"I love you, Ms McDonnell."
"Good," Lucy smiled. "Cause I love you, Ms Waters, or should I call you senior sergeant?"
Trishia rolled her eyes and chuckled, wrapping her arms around her lover and pulling her in for a hug.
"Breakfast is ready and I was wondering if…"
A loud knock sounded on the door and with a frown Trishia looked up. Her friends and partner knew she was waking Lucy up and wanted a few moments of privacy with her dark haired lover.
"This should better be good," she grunted, standing up from the bed and walking towards the door, to yank it open and growl: 'What?"
Sam could perfectly understand Trishia's reaction and she did not blame her friend for snapping at her. She would probably have done the same thing. But Sam did have a good reason to disturb her friend's tender intermezzo with Lucy.
Holding up a phone Sam's blue eyes looked straight into Trishia's and the policewoman could see the anger, frustration and worry brew beneath the surface.
"Mary from the reception desk just called. She had an anonymous phone call. Somebody claims there is a bomb hidden inside the building."
Concluded in part 20 (I know, I know, finally!! < g > )
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