It was such a pleasant dream. Jody was holding her hand and they were both running down a hill. The sweet smell of sun warmed grass filled her nose and the cool breeze ruffled her hair.
In the distance she could see the creek that was crawling through the valley. Its clear, cold water looked very inviting and she started to run faster. Jody's hand slipped away from hers and she tried to turn her head to look around, but her speed increased and she practically flew down the hill.
Without Jody's hand in her own, she felt lost and she wanted to stop, but she was going to fast. Her right leg started to ache and when she glanced down, she saw mangled bones and blood.
The need to stop running became very urgent, but still, it was like an invisible force was pushing her forward, closer to the water.
Her mouth formed her lover's name, but no matter how hard she tried, no sound was forthcoming. Knowing she was leaving Jody behind, she bolted down the hill, while her ears picked up a sound.
With a grunt of pain she tried to move her head, but again she failed. With growing frustration she decided to just let herself fall, when she heard the voice again.
"Sam! Wake up, Sam!!"
Taking in a lung full of air, Sam shot up straight to look straight into the worried face of Fiona. Immediately her hand reached out to touch the familiar body next to her, but with horror she realized Jody was not there. Instantly Sam remembered the previous evening and she could feel the panic constrict her chest.
"Where's Jody?" she breathed.
"Sam, there's something wrong with Alice," Fiona hurried to explain. "Jody sent me to get you."
For a moment Sam was so profoundly relieved, that she felt dizzy. But when she saw the distress on Fiona's face, she quickly threw her long legs out of bed and jumped up. Immediately she grabbed her right leg and moaned in pain.
"Are you all right?" Fiona asked, reaching out a hand to grab Sam's arm and prevent the tall woman from toppling over.
"I will be, Fi, thanks," Sam answered. "My leg has been bothering me all day, I guess it's just stiff now. If you could hand me my shorts I will come with you."
For the second time that evening Fiona felt a blush creep up her cheeks when she realized how happy she was that her sister and Sam had decided to at least wear a t-shirt. If she had found them in bed naked, she would have died on the spot. Knowing her sister had a sex life was one thing. Being confronted with it was something totally different.
"Of course you understand we usually sleep in the buff," Sam could not help teasing the embarrassed teenager. "But since we have guests...."
"Um...I will wait for you outside," Fiona mumbled, handing Sam the requested shorts and making a beeline for the door.
With a soft chuckle Sam stepped inside her shorts and pulled them up. She followed Fiona out the door and as fast as her leg would allow, she walked towards Alice's bedroom, Fiona in tow.
As soon as she stepped inside the room, Sam's eyes fell on Jody, who looked at her with worried green eyes. The limp body of Alice was lying on the bed. The girl's face was unnaturally pale and even in the dim light Sam noticed the perspiration on her forehead.
"What happened?" she asked, ignoring the pain in her leg and stepping closer to the bed.
"Fiona woke me up because Alice was crying. I got up to see if I could do anything for her and we talked for a while. She told me she had a bad dream and when I asked her if she could remember when that dream first started, she remembered something. She told me about it and it was pretty...intense, but then she....I don't know, I think she fainted," Jody told Sam with a slightly trembling voice.
Sam put her hand on Jody's shoulder and softly squeezed. It was obvious her partner was at a loss what to do and Sam wanted to provide all the support she could.
She cast a look at the digital alarm clock on the night stand and saw that it was four thirty in the morning. Too early to call a doctor, unless it was a real emergency, which it did not appear to be.
"Maybe we should ask Trish what to do," Sam suggested. "I have no experience with a situation like this, honey. I don't want to run the risk of making matters worse."
"Oh, Sam, I feel so bad about it," Jody almost sobbed. "I wish I had not asked her about it. Maybe it was too much."
"But she told you about it, didn't she?" Sam gently asked, pulling Jody in for a one armed hug.
Jody nodded and rested her head against Sam's stomach, immediately feeling better.
"I am no psychiatrist, but I think that's a good sign," Sam continued. "Let's get Trishia and see what she says.I'll put on some shoes and get her."
"Thanks, baby," Jody whispered, gently pushing away a strand of damp hair from Alice's forehead.
"I'll be right back," Sam promised, brushing past Fiona who was standing in the doorway.
The teenager looked from her sister to the disappearing Sam and back again. Confusion was written all over her face.
"Sam is going to do what?" she asked.
"Get Trishia," Jody answered absent-mindedly.
"Okay," Fiona drawled. "Did I miss something here? Did the aliens finally come to take over your bodies? Or is there something going on I don't know about? Why does Sam need shoes to call Trishia? Do we have a payphone outside?"
Jody's eyes widened in shock and mentally she kicked herself. They had all agreed not to tell Fiona and Alice about the murder on the beach and how it could affect them all. Her youngest sister did not know yet that Trishia and Lucy were staying at the guesthouse and she was not supposed to find out the reason why they were there.
"Um....Trishia and Lucy are staying at the guesthouse," Jody answered, wrecking her brain to come up with a good explanation.
"Why?" Fiona asked. "I saw them leave last night. What's up, Jo?"
"Well," Jody started, talking slow to buy herself some time. "They ran into some trouble and..."
"What kind of trouble?" Fiona asked, stepping closer and kneeling down next to her sister. She knew Jody was the worst liar of the entire universe and if she was not telling the truth, Fiona would know.
"Oh, my goodness," Jody inwardly sighed, determined not to look at Fiona, whose eyes were glued to her face.
"They were supposed to go to Trishia's place, but...um...I..um...there was a leak, I think."
"What kind of leak?" Fiona inquired with a frown.
"Water!" Jody blurted out. "The apartment on the top floor, one of its water pipes busted and everything flooded."
"Why didn't they go to Lucy's?"
Jody bit her lip and let out a heartfelt sigh. Why did her sister have to be so smart and determined?
"I don't know, Fi, maybe you should ask them that yourself. It was late and I was tired and right now I have other things on my mind," Jody answered impatiently, her voice reflecting her fatigue.
"I am sorry, Jo," Fiona mumbled.
"It's okay, sweetie," Jody answered, wrapping an arm around Fiona's shoulders and pulling her close."I am sorry as well. I am tired and worried about Alice."
Fiona nodded in understanding and rested her head against Jody's shoulder, something she would never do if any of her other siblings were around. She had a reputation to live up to as an independent, opinionated teenager. But every now and then, when her eldest sister pulled her in for a hug, Fiona did not ridicule it. She simply closed her eyes and enjoyed the warmth and love that was coming her way.
In spite of her worries, Jody smiled when she looked down at the dark head that was resting on her shoulder. She softly kissed Fiona's temple and gave her a playful squeeze.
"Are you all right, Red?" she asked.
A pair of green eyes that were so much like Lucy's looked up at her and Fiona silently nodded.
"Would you do me a favour? Trishia and Sam will be back soon, would you please put the kettle on? I am sure everybody could use a cup of tea. "
Fiona nodded again and slowly got back to her feet, casting a look at Alice who had still not opened her eyes. She knew Jody had not been telling her the truth about Trishia's presence, but she realised her sister would have a very good reason for that. Jody was normally a person who always told the truth. But Fiona decided to keep her ears and eyes open to find out what exactly was going on.
When she had almost left the room, Jody's voice stopped her.
"I know you saw straight through that busted pipe story, Fi. I...don't want to lie to you, so I’ll just tell you that there is a perfectly good reason for Trishia to be here. I will tell you the reason as soon as I can, all right?"
"Thanks, Jo," Fiona softly answered. "Does that mean I am not allowed to eavesdrop?" she added with a smile.
"Yes, young lady, that's exactly right," Jody smiled back.
Sam hurried down the dark path that lead to the guest house, closely followed by an enthusiastic dog, who was running around her in a wide circle, hoping his favourite blonde human would decide to play with him.
"Not now, boy," Sam told Kurt, scratching behind his ear, which made him grunt in pleasure. "We can play later today."
She had reached the guest house that was completely dark and turned to the German Shepard.
"Down Kurt," she pointed towards the ground.
The dog obediently sat down and looked up at his human with dark, trusting eyes.
"Good boy," Sam praised him, glad the training she had been giving him had not fallen on deaf ears. "Guard Kurt."
Immediately his ears perked up and he sniffed the air, panting from the excitement of the important command. His intelligent eyes stared down the road and Sam knew that not even a mouse would escape his attention.
"Good boy," she praised him again, opening the screen door and softly knocking on the door.
She almost jumped when the door was immediately yanked open and she looked into another pair of intelligent, alert eyes. But this time they were of the human kind.
"My God, woman. You scared the heck out of me," she accused Trishia while she put her hand over her wildly beating heart.
"Sorry," Trishia sheepishly mumbled. "But I saw you when you passed the window and I didn't want Lucy to wake up. What's up?"
"It's Alice," Sam told her. "Apparently she had a bad dream and Jody went to see her. They talked and Alice remembered something. According to Jody it was pretty intense and she passed out. We were wondering what to do about it."
"She told Jody what she remembered?" Trishia eagerly repeated. "Really?"
"Yes," Sam sighed. "So, what do we do now? Call a doctor? Bring her to emergency room? Get a psychiatrist up here? What?I’d love to help the poor girl, Trish, but it's not like we have any experience with something like this."
"I know and I will come up to the house with you to have a look. If needed there is a psychologist I could give a call, but I'd better check it out first."
Trishia wanted to close the door behind her and follow Sam, but suddenly she hesitated.
"What?" Sam asked impatiently. She was filled with nervous energy and wanted to return to Jody as fast as she could.
"Lucy is asleep, but I don't want her to wake up and be alone here."
Trishia bit her bottom lip and suddenly stepped back into the house.
"Go ahead, Sam. I will be coming up in a few minutes. I will wake up Lucy and tell her where I will be going."
"I can leave Kurt here," Sam offered.
"Thanks, Sam," Trishia smiled. "If Lucy decides to come along I will take him back up."
"Great, see you soon, Trish."
Sam hurried back towards the house, after repeating the command to Kurt. The dog softly whimpered, but he obediently stayed where he was, staring after his human with sad, brown eyes.
Trishia felt she did not have the time to wake Lucy in a gentle way. She flipped the light switch on and immediately the bedroom was basked in a sea of light. Kneeling next to the bed she brushed away some dark hair that had fallen across Lucy's face and softly smiled when she saw dark eyelashes flutter.
Positioning herself between the source of light and her lover, Trishia bent down to kiss a soft cheek and slowly a pair of sleepy eyes appeared.
"Morning, beautiful," Trishia whispered.
"Morning?" Lucy mumbled, casting a look in the direction of the window. "Are you sure about that? Looks pretty dark to me."
"I know and I am sorry," Trishia sighed. "But Sam just came down to tell me there's something wrong with Alice and I need to go and check it out. I would really like you to come with me."
"Alright," Lucy yawned, throwing back the sheets and revealing a scarcely clad body. In fact, she was only wearing a tank top and a pair of lacy looking panties.
Trishia swallowed hard and tried very hard not to touch the healthy looking skin that was so close to her itching hands.
"Is this whole...situation...going to affect our love life in a very negative way?" Lucy asked, noticing the barely hidden desire in her lover's eyes. "Cause if it is, I will not be pleased. I had such great plans for us last night and look what happened!I slept alone and you sat watch in that chair all night. Don't deny it, Trish," Lucy said, raising a hand to stop Trishia from talking. "You didn't sleep a wink. If you keep that up, you will get sick."
"It's not the first time I have stayed up a whole night and day," Trishia answered, feeling guilty for having dragged her lover into a potentially bad situation. "I will be okay, I..."
"I worry," Lucy interrupted the policewoman.
She reached out a hand and cupped Trishia's cheek, while her thumb gently stroked the tanned skin.
"I worry about you," Lucy repeated. "I trust you, Trishia. I have faith in you and if anyone can keep my family safe, I know it's you. But when will you think about yourself for a change? No! Don't tell me you will start doing that when this is over. I have known you for over a year now and I have seen how hard you work. The hours you put in and the energy it costs you. I know your work means a lot to you and I am the last one who would stand between you and your job." Lucy laughed without any humour."Don't think I have never considered that," she confessed. "I have, but that would mean either losing you on the spot, or losing you later,because you would resent me for it."
Lucy bent forward until they touched foreheads. She smiled and gently kissed Trishia's nose.
"I know you are determined to keep the McDonnell clan and Alice safe, but promise me one thing, Trish."
"What?" Trishia whispered.
"Promise me you will ask Carol Wong to provide a few more police officers who can keep an eye on the place. Please?"
"I will," Trishia answered in a husky voice.
Lucy McDonnell never ceased to amaze her. The start of their relationship had been very sudden, very fast and very intense and sometimes Trishia could not help wondering if they would ever develop the kind of bond that Jody and Sam had, or Megan and Sarah.
For as long as their relationship existed, they had both taken it day by day and in the beginning Trishia had expected the attraction to subside, until there would be nothing left but friendship.She would have welcomed that as well. But lately Trishia had noticed some changes. Nothing quite spectacular, but more like a slow growing bond between them. The passion was still there, but there also seemed to be more warmth, tenderness and affection. They were completely at ease with each other and after a day's work she didn't look forward to see Lucy just for the physical attraction. She wanted to be with her because the dark haired woman made her feel complete.
Lucy's revelation about Trishia's work had been an eye opener and for the first time Trishia knew for a certainty that Lucy must be feeling the same. That realisation filled her with so much joy and gratitude it pushed away the darkness that had crept inside her soul ever since she had seen the body on the beach.
Suddenly Trishia could feel unexpected tears sting the back of her eyes and sucked in a deep breath.
"I promise," she repeated. "And I think we need to talk soon. Real soon."
"We will," Lucy smiled, brushing away a lonely tear that threatened to roll down Trishia's cheek. "I hope that talk also involves a bottle of chilled white wine, a comfy bed and lots of privacy."
"Of course," Trishia assured her lover.
"Good," Lucy sighed happily. "Let's get up to the house and see what is going on.I guess I need to dress appropriately. I don't want Jody to think I am after her woman."
"You'd better not," Trishia growled playfully.
She pulled Lucy into her arms and for a brief moment she closed her eyes and enjoyed the feel of the warm body against her own and the smell of Lucy's perfume that still faintly clung to her skin.
"Don't worry," Lucy chuckled, pulling Trishia's face down for a quick kiss. "I like Sam, but she is not my type."
"Oh, and who is?" Trishia grinned, while Lucy threw back her head, squinted her eyes and pretended to think really hard.
"Well, I always had a soft spot for that cute redhead, you know, the one who works at the Anzac bank? The one YOU gave a ride home after some punk stole her bike."
"Oh, please," Trishia laughed. "I will never live that down, will I? But if it's any comfort to you, she was so not twenty one years old yet and as a police officer I can not be associated with cradle robbers."
"She had the hots for you though," Lucy accused, but her dark green eyes sparkled.
"Until she laid eyes on you," Trishia chuckled. "I think she literally drooled."
"Poor kid," Lucy chuckled, freeing herself from Trishia's arms and grabbing a pair of shorts.
"Talking about kids, we'd better get up to the house."
"Yes," Trishia agreed, suddenly reminded of the responsibility that was weighing heavy on her shoulders. "Let's check out how Alice is doing."
Making sure to stay off the main track, a dark clad figure slowly searched a way through the dense bushes, bypassing as many dead branches as possible. The house should still be far away, enough not to be heard when the wood snapped while stepping on it. Still, taking risks was not allowed. Being careful was the key to survival. It had always been that way. Tidiness, being careful and thinking ahead. Analysing and planning.
A night bird suddenly flew up, protesting loudly at being disturbed by an intruder just when it was about to snatch a juicy insect from the air. It flew towards a tree and settled itself on one of the lower branches. Its little beady eyes looked down with curiosity, following the dark figure that had brutally interrupted such a nice meal.
The figure looked up at the bird with appreciating eyes. Nature was beautiful. The bush was something that always managed to settle nerves and bring peace to a torn soul.
Slowly the intruder advanced towards the clearing, where there would be a clear view of the house on top of the hill. Careful not to make a sound the figure kneeled down and gently brushed away a few leaves that obscured the view.
There it was. The house he had already heard so much about. It did exist. It had not been just another story.
A smile warmed a pair of eyes that seemed colourless in the hours before dawn, when the moon was slowly losing its power.
This was good. This was more than good, it was excellent. It was such a blessing to have found it so easily. Now the rest of the plan could be outlined and maybe, with a little luck, the quest that had started such a long time ago could finally come to an end.
Slowly crawling back into the bushes, the figure leaned onto a small twig that snapped with a dry crack. Immediately the adrenaline pumped and for a timeless moment, the world seemed to hold its breath.
On the veranda Kurt raised his head and immediately his eyes focussed on the exact spot where the sound had come from. He raised himself up and sniffed the air, detecting something vaguely unfamiliar. He was about to leave his comfortable spot, when the words of his human echoed in his ears.
"Stay boy. Guard."
Casting a look at the kitchen door he almost willed his human to appear. Had she not heard that sound? How could they have missed it?
Kurt nervously paced towards the door and back again, not sure what to do. But eventually the need to please his human was so much stronger than going off on his own.
Softly whimpering he went back to his usual spot, where he laid down again. He rested his muzzle on his outstretched legs, while his intelligent brown eyes stared towards the bushes.
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