For disclaimers see part 1

Booyong Mountain

part 16


Lois Kay

"What’s the matter, honey?" Sam asked gently, casting a glance at the woman who was sitting next to her.

Jody’s eyes were still glued to the monitor in front of her, but her head was cocked to the side and Sam had the impression she was listening for something. Intently.

"Is it the twins?" Sam asked, wishing she was not sitting in her office in the middle of the night, watching a monitor that showed a black- clad figure sneaking around on their property, intent on hurting them. She wanted to be in bed, snuggled up to the woman who had held her heart and soul for so long now. Sam wished she didn’t have to worry about her partner, or their children, or any other family member or friend. But the threat was there, a tall, dark figure, slowly but surely making his way to the apartment where Fiona and Robin were quietly talking, their voices too soft and low to be picked up by the intercom.

"No," Jody finally answered, shaking her head. "I...there’s...something...I can’t put my finger on it, but..."

It feels like a shift in the air. Like a ...whisper or a breath..But it’s cold...How can I explain to Sam what I mean? Something’s up...

All of a sudden all blood drained from Jody’s face and she pushed back her chair, jumping to her feet. Startled, Sam looked up, temporarily forgetting about the monitor and the fact that Trishia was able to hear the conversation between her and Jody.

"Honey?" she urged, the concern in her voice evident, while Trishia’s voice sounded through the little piece that was snugly resting in her ear: "Sam. Sam ? What’s going on ? Sam ?"

"Somebody’s in the house," Jody’s voice was hoarse with emotion. "I need to get the twins."

"Jody, wait !" Sam responded, jumping to her feet and ignoring Trishia’s voice in her ear.

But before Jody could answer, the door of the office flew open, Yarra and Alice came bursting in. Their faces were drawn and Alice’s eyes looked huge in her pale face.

"Somebody’s trying to get in the house," Yarra breathed, not able to banish the panic from her voice.

"No, they’re inside," Jody and Alice simultaneously answered.

Sam’s astonished blue eyes darted between Alice and Jody, but she didn’t have time to ponder over the way the two women’s minds seemed to be linked together. That would have to wait till later. Much later.

"Where ?" she asked, hearing her words echoed by Trishia’s voice.

"Kitchen," they answered and in her ear Sam could hear Trishia groan in frustration.

"I’m coming back up, Sam," Trishia’s tense voice sounded and Sam nodded, not registering the fact that the policewoman could not see her.

"Stay here," the tall blonde urged Alice and Jody, but each woman shook her head, while the fear on their faces was replaced by sheer determination.

"The twins," Jody croaked, starting to feel sick to her stomach.

"Fiona and Robin," Sam whispered. "Alice, Yarra, you need to warn them. Be their eyes. He’s so close.."

Alice cast a look at the monitor and she swallowed hard when she saw a, now familiar, broad- shouldered figure clearing the tree line and heading for the apartment where her friends were still oblivious to his presence.

"Sam ! Dammit, listen to me !" Trishia’s voice penetrated Sam’s senses and, involuntarily, she stood still, impressed by the authority in her friend’s voice.

"I’m on my way back up. Peter’s at the apartment. Someone has to warn Fiona and Robin, they might have to make a run for it."

"But...the twins..." Sam almost whispered, feeling her stomach clutch in fear. What if the intruder would try to hurt their children ? She just had to go to the bedroom and check up on Timothy and Taryn.

"We’ll stay here, Sam," Yarra decided, moving towards the monitor, pulling Alice with her. "We’ll keep an eye on the girls. You two go, get the twins."

Sam and Jody didn’t need further encouragement. Trishia, who had heard the exchange in words, mentally sighed, but knew she would have done the exact same thing.

"Be careful, Sam," she urged her friend. "I’m halfway up the hill. I’m almost there."

Trishia’s long legs carried her back up the hill as fast as they could. It was hard not to stumble. The night was dark and there was no moon to illuminate her path.

Trishia’s thoughts sped through her mind with the speed of light. The intruder in the house was a complication she had not anticipated. She hated surprises like that and the fact that she had been outsmarted only fueled her anger and frustration. She tried not to think of the twins and how vulnerable they made Sam and Jody. If somebody only threatened to hurt them...she hated to think of what could happen.

Trishia could feel a cold ball settle in the pit of her stomach and she increased her speed, her legs eating up the distance between herself and the house on top of the hill.


Her partner’s name reverberated through her mind with every step she took. If anything would happen to Lucy...

Don’t go there, Trish ! Don’t.

As she almost reached the path that led to the front door, Trishia suddenly came to a full stop when she heard a familiar, angry whine.


Turning her head, the policewoman could see the German Shepherd pulling the chain that confined him to his doghouse underneath a big tree. Reluctantly, Sam had tied up the dog, forcing him to rest after the superficial gunshot wound he had sustained. For a split second, Trishia hesitated. She didn’t want the canine to get hurt again, or worse, but Kurt was a great ally. He would fiercely protect his pack against any danger.

"Alright, boy," Trishia mumbled, kneeling down next to the dog to grab his collar and unclasp the chain.

Her strong hands dug in the dog’s fur when Kurt immediately tried to run towards the house on the hill.

"No, boy," Trishia corrected him. "Fiona. Go protect Fiona."

Trishia knew her command was unfamiliar to the German Shepherd and she wished she knew the commands Sam had taught the dog. But the mentioning of Fiona’s name, made Kurt’s ears stand up straight, while he let out a short, high-pitched bark.

"That’s it, boy. Go find Fiona," Trishia encouraged him, while she gave him a gentle push towards the little apartment down the hill.

Kurt didn’t need any further encouragement. He turned his muscular body around and, without looking back, he ran down the hill, disappearing in the darkness.

Fiona looked into Robin’s eyes that were so close, she could easily see the golden specks that were mixed in with the green, gray and brown. The colors shifted with Robin’s emotions and the photographer was fascinated by the kaleidoscope of light and shades. She hoped she would never get tired of the spectacle.

"You love me?" she asked in a voice that was so soft, it was hardly audible. But Robin had picked up on the words and slowly nodded.

"Don’t ask me to explain it," she answered, equally soft. "But within one week, you’ve managed to capture my heart like no one else has ever done before."

"I take it that’s a good thing," Fiona joked gently, brushing the back of her hand against Robin’s cheek.

"It’s a very good thing," Robin smiled, not able to resist Fiona’s soft lips any longer. With a small sigh she leaned forward, claiming the photographer’s lips in a long, tender kiss, inwardly smiling when a soft whimper reached her ears. In an answer to her action, Fiona’s hand slid around her neck, burying her fingers in Robin’s thick, curly hair, increasing the intensity of the kiss until they both felt their self-control slip away rapidly, making room for the increasing need to be even closer.

Only when Robin became aware of a hand that was persistently making its way down her back, into the waistband of her jeans, she noticed their position had shifted and, somehow, her thigh had ended up between a pair of long, strong legs, while she didn’t need to look down to see one of Fiona’s legs had positioned itself in the same way. The sweet, torturous pressure was enough indication.

"Oh, my God," Robin breathed, reluctantly letting go of the lips that could so easily make her forget her own name. "Fiona, honey, no matter how much I love and appreciate your enthusiasm, I think you should remove your hand from my butt, so I can get up and take a cold shower."

"I’ll come with you," Fiona whispered, which made Robin let out a soft chuckle.

"I think that would, somehow, defy the purpose," she answered softly.

"What purpose?" Fiona asked dreamily, slowly and reluctantly removing her hand from Robin’s backside.

"To cool off," Robin groaned, pushing herself up to create a distance between herself and the photographer, who was staring at her with a mixture of amusement, frustration and genuine need.

"I’ve never felt this way before," Fiona confessed with a shy smile. "I like it, though."

"I’m glad you do," Robin replied, reaching out a hand and brushing away a strand of dark hair from Fiona’s forehead. "I only wish that..." she exhaled slowly and sent the photographer an apologetic smile.

"I wish that too," Fiona nodded, deciding it would probably be a good idea to sit up, instead of lying down on the couch. At least while sitting, she wasn’t tempted to pull Robin on top of her and kiss her senseless. Not as much, anyway.

"We’ll have time soon," Fiona whispered, grabbing Robin’s hand to give it a gentle squeeze. "When all this is over, we’ll take a few days off, just you and me."

"I’d love to, but..."

"No work," Fiona interrupted, knowing what Robin was about to say. "I’ll talk to Sam and I’m sure she’ll give you a few days off."

"Oh, really?" Robin answered, smiling when she cast a look at Fiona’s confident expression.

"Really," the photographer nodded. "I once took a picture of Sam when she and Jody were having a water fight and...well, let me say this: Sam was wearing a white shirt," Fiona grinned. "A very wet, white shirt."

"Does she know you have that picture?" Robin chuckled. "If she didn’t, she does now," she added, pointing at the intercom.

"She knows," Fiona shrugged. "I told her I’d hang on to it for reasons of bribery. I guess that time has come."

"And how exactly would you bribe her, Miss Smarty Pants?"

"A trade," Fiona nodded, having it all worked out already. "She’ll give you a few days off and I’ll give the picture to Jody. I’m sure my sister would love to have it."

"I’m sure she would," Robin laughed. "I don’t think that..."

Robin stopped in mid-sentence when two things happened simultaneously. Outside they could hear the angry bark of a German Shepherd, while inside all of a sudden the intercom came alive with the voice of Yarra.

"Fiona. Robin. He’s coming, stay alert."

"What the...?" Fiona mumbled, jumping up from the couch and walking to the intercom, as if the small, white device could give her an answer to all the questions that started to pop up in her brain.

"C J? What the heck are you doing there ? Where’s Sam ?"

"Change of plans, Fi," Yarra’s tense voice filled the silence. "Peter’s outside the apartment, near the verandah. Trishia had to come back up, because someone got into the house."

"What?" Fiona exclaimed, shocked by Yarra’s explanation. She turned to Robin with eyes that were dark with worry.

"We’ll have to go back up. I..."

"No, we can’t," Robin answered, pulling Fiona away from the window where she saw the outline of a big shadow. "He’s here."

"He’s outside your living room window, Fi," Yarra’s voice sounded at the same time.

"Where’s Peter now?" Robin asked in a voice that was laced with tension.

"Verandah," was Yarra’s short answer.

"Do you have any form of communication with him?"

"No," Yarra sighed. "I...crap! The bloke’s going around the house now. He could run into Peter at any time."

"Where’s Kurt? I heard him," Fiona asked, part of her was worried about the dog, especially since he had been shot at that morning, but another part was happy to know the brave canine was close by.

"We need to do something," Robin decided.

Without saying another word she walked back to the couch and reached underneath one of the pillows. Fiona’s eyes grew wide when she saw the revolver that lay comfortably in the biologist’s hand. Swallowing hard, she raked her fingers through her hair.

"I still don’t like weapons, but I’ve got to admit right now that...thing is a comforting sight," she confessed. "Even though it’s disconcerting to know my butt was parked on it."

"It really was my butt," Robin corrected absent mindedly. "Let’s go."

"Where are we going, Charlie’s Angel?" Fiona asked with a worried frown.

"Outside. Peter might need help and since the original plan has fallen to pieces, I don’t want to be standing on the sidelines, while Peter is the only one between us and Barry Miles."

"Do I need to bring a can of beans?" Fiona joked faintly.

"Just stay close to me," Robin answered, motioning the photographer to follow her out of the room.

"Don’t worry," Fiona mumbled.

"Careful!" Yarra’s voice filled the room and both Fiona and Robin nodded, heading for the front door.

Hand-in-hand, Sam and Jody dashed through the hallway towards their bedroom where they had left the twins. Sam’s ears picked up an unfamiliar sound that came from the kitchen, but she didn’t have time to investigate it. All she wanted was to be with her children and protect them from whoever had managed to break into their house.

Jody’s face was set in determination. Like Sam, she was aware of the soft shuffling of feet in the kitchen. Like somebody was trying to find his way in an unfamiliar room, hindered by darkness. No matter how much she wanted to know who the intruder was and what he wanted from them, the urgent need to be with her children was overwhelming. Deep down inside, she knew she would do anything to keep her family safe.

As soon as they entered the bedroom, both Sam and Jody let out a sob of relief when their eyes fell on the bed. Timothy and Taryn were fast asleep. The little boy had turned on his side, facing his sister, one hand tucked underneath his chin, while Taryn was sleeping on her back. The hand of one outstretched arm was touching her brother’s soft blond hair like, even in sleep, she was looking out for him.

"Precious," Sam whispered, wrapping her arms around Jody, who let out a sigh of relief and closed her eyes, reveling in the contact with the one person she loved more than life itself.

They took a few seconds to regain their composure, but then the reality came crashing back into their conscious minds and, slowly, Sam loosened her grip on her partner.

"Trishia might need help."

"Sam," Jody whispered. "We need to do something, but I don’t want you dashing into the kitchen like a madman. God knows what you’ll run into."

"I know, honey," Sam sighed. "But we need to do something. We can’t just be sitting ducks. Besides, we need to warn the boys, your mom and Lucy."

"The police should be on their way. You told Yarra to call them."

"I know, but I don’t want this to end up in a stand-off, with us, or any of our family as hostages."

Jody’s eyes traveled from the bed, and the peacefully sleeping forms of their children, to the window and back again.

"Sam," she whispered. "The window. If we can get out of here, we can walk around the back of the house and warn the others. We could get everybody out of here."

Sam’s blue eyes widened and for a few seconds they darted between the window and her partner. Then a small smile appeared on her face. Bending down, she gave Jody a quick kiss on the lips.

"I love you," she said, before grabbing the smaller woman’s hand and pulling her towards the window. She quickly opened it all the way and motioned Jody to climb out.

"I’ll get the kids," she whispered.

As soon as Jody had climbed through the window, Sam quickly walked back to the bed and carefully lifted Timothy into her arms. The little boy scrunched up his face in a sleepy protest, but he didn’t wake up.

Sam handed Jody the little boy and stepped back to the bed to get her daughter. Taryn mumbled something and, in spite of the situation, Sam suppressed a laugh. The little girl was so much like Jody when she produced those unintelligible, adorable sounds in her sleep.

Putting her long legs to good use Sam climbed out of the window, her daughter safely cradled against her chest.

"Let’s get Yarra and Alice out of the office first," Sam whispered. "They can help us warn the others a lot faster."

"But...what about...?"

"I’m afraid all plans have changed," Sam answered with a grim expression on her face.

A high-pitched bark pierced the silence and Sam cocked her head, listening intently.

"Trish must have taken Kurt off the chain. That bark came from down the hill."

"Oh, God, the girls," Jody moaned.

"They got away from him before, honey. Have faith in them. Besides, Peter and Kurt are down there as well and the police are on their way."

"I know, I know," Jody nodded, ignoring the wave of nausea that made her want to throw up. "Let’s go."

Without much preamble, Trishia threw open the kitchen door, cocked gun in hand. It was dark and she resisted the urge to flip the light-switch. Instead, she quickly stepped away from the door, not wanting to be an outlined target against the night sky.

Slowly exhaling, the policewoman tried to control her breathing. She had sprinted up the hill and felt the fatigue of the past few days catch up with her. Her eyes took in the dark kitchen and she knew she had a big advantage; she knew her way around the place, while the intruder was most likely to stumble into things.

The kitchen was empty though, and Trishia felt her stomach clench when she thought about all her defenseless friends and family.


The thought of her pregnant partner almost made her call out her name in warning, but Trishia knew that would not be a sensible thing to do. For all she knew, the intruder had not reached the bedrooms yet and in that case there was still time.

Carefully putting one foot in front of the other, Trishia inched her way towards the hallway. To her left was the huge livingroom, while a right turn would take her to most of the bedrooms and Sam’s office.

For a split second she hesitated, but an almost inaudible sound to her left, made her decide to walk into the livingroom. With her heart pounding in her chest, Trishia clenched the gun more firmly into her fist and pressed her back against the wall, trying to be as invisible as the darkness allowed her to be.

All her senses told her there was somebody lurking in the shadow of one of the huge bookcases that were lined up against the wall. Trishia’s nostrils flared when, all of a sudden, her suspicions were confirmed when a dark figure appeared, carefully making his way towards her.

Trishia suppressed a sigh of relief and carefully took a step aside, so she could block the intruder’s way to the hallway. Suddenly she froze in mid-motion, when her foot collided with something totally unexpected; a toy. The little bell inside the colorful ball shattered the silence like a gunshot, while it rolled across the floor.

A sharp intake of breath reached Trishia’s ears and before she realized what was happening, a forceful blow to the side of her head made her spin and, with a groan of frustration and pain, she could feel her knees buckle.

No. No! Not now. Not like this! Don’t you dare lose consciousness, Trishia Waters!

Gasping for breath, Trishia fought her body’s urge to close her eyes and sink away in darkness. Something warm trickled down the side of her face and the realization she was about to be defeated by an unknown adversary who was capable of hurting her partner and their unborn child made the adrenaline surge through her body. With all the strength she could muster up, Trishia Waters shook her head and took a deep breath, willing the oxygen to chase away the nausea and dizziness.

All of a sudden her head felt clear, but when she turned around to face whoever it was who had hit her, she knew she was alone.

Mumbling a curse, she pushed herself away from the wall and headed towards the bedrooms.

"Fiona! Robin!" Yarra called out, leaning forward towards the intercom, eying the device with a wary glance.

"It’s no use, honey, they’ve left the room," Alice spoke softly, putting a hand on her lover’s shoulder and giving it a loving squeeze.

"Peter’s so close to this bloke and he doesn’t even know it," Yarra groaned, pressing her hand against her stomach. She felt sick with worry and frustration. If only there was something she could do to help her friends...

A soft, but persistent tapping on the window made a blond and a dark head jerk up and, with a frown, Alice cautiously stepped closer to the window, closely followed by Yarra.

"Careful, baby, I..." Yarra paused in mid-sentence and let out a sigh of relief when she recognized Sam. Quickly opening the window, she stuck her head outside.

"What the heck?" she mumbled when she noticed the sleeping twins in Sam and Jody’s arms.

"Get out of there, Yarra. You too, Alice," Sam urged. "The plans have changed."

"Tell me about it," Yarra muttered, grabbing Alice’s hand and tugging her towards the window. She gently helped the blonde climb out of the window, quickly following her with an athletic jump that landed her neatly next to Sam.

"What’s the plan now, Sam?" Alice whispered, briefly touching Jody’s hand in a silent greeting.

"We’ll wake the rest and have everybody climb outside. I want them all away from the house. I don’t want to risk anyone being taken as a hostage."

"Good idea," Yarra mumbled, grabbing Alice’s hand and pulling her along. She was not planning on letting the blonde get out of her sight. "We’ll start at the other end. Where do we meet?"

"Stable," Jody whispered, knowing the sturdy building towards the top of the hill would provide a reasonably good protection.

"Stable it is," Alice nodded, before following her lover towards the other end of the big house.

"How are you holding up, sweetie?" Sam asked with concern, freeing one arm to wrap it around her partner’s shoulders.

"I’m getting more and more...annoyed... with these people," Jody grumbled. "I so want this to be over, Sam. I’m tired of it."

"So am I," Sam sighed. "Hang in there, alright? It might all be over soon. Just stay close to me."

"Don’t worry, I’m not taking my eyes off of you," Jody responded, lifting her head to give her taller partner a quick kiss. "Come on, Dutchie, let’s go."

Fiona felt her heart hammering in her chest when she followed Robin to the front door that led to the verandah. She knew they most likely would run into their kidnapper and that thought alone was enough to make her nauseous. They had been able to escape before, but would they be able to defeat Barry Miles again? And who was the person who had managed to break into the house, forming a threat to the rest of the family?

Wiping her sweaty palms on her thighs, Fiona swallowed hard and moistened her dry lips. If only she could wake up from this nightmare and find herself on the couch with Robin. It would be great to nudge the dozing biologist and say:’Guess what I’ve just dreamt?’

"Fat chance," Fiona mumbled to herself.

"What?" Robin whispered, half-turning to cast the photographer a quizzical look. She raised an eyebrow and for a brief moment Fiona noticed a sparkle in her eyes. "Were you eying my butt?"

Fiona let out a nervous laugh and shook her head in denial.

"No, I wasn’t, which doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to," she smiled, while the nervous ball in the pit of her stomach seemed to disappear for a few moments. " And your butt is not fat."

"Thanks," Robin smiled, reaching out and grabbing Fiona’s hand. "Are you ready?"

Fiona nodded and her dark-green eyes darted to the door that was the only barrier left between them and Barry Miles.

"I love you," Robin whispered.

Fiona swallowed hard and mustered up a small smile.

"I love you, too."

It sounded so right and true. Those three whispered words provided a surge of warmth and energy and, all of a sudden, Fiona’s fear was replaced by grim determination. It was time to make sure they could live their lives without the fear of being kidnapped again or their families being hurt.

"Let’s go."

"That’s my girl," Robin smiled, giving Fiona’s hand a loving squeeze before she let go and reached out for the doorknob. At that same moment Kurt’s angry bark and a howl of frustration and pain filled the air, followed by the raised voice of Peter Jones and the sound of bodies hitting the wooden floor of the small verandah.

Without hesitation, Robin yanked open the door and stepped outside, closely followed by Fiona.

Peter Jones had cursed under his breath when Trishia had turned around to run back up the hill. He knew reinforcements would probably be on the way, but, in the meantime, he felt utterly vulnerable in the darkness, knowing his adversary was as strong as he was huge. And armed as well, Peter had no doubt about that.

Thinking back to the moment Barry Miles had escaped him that morning, filled the policeman with determination. He would do anything in his power to make things right and catch Fiona’s and Robin’s kidnapper. He could only hope the girls would stay out of harm’s way, although Trishia had told him Robin had been one of her best students. Peter knew Robin had a gun and knew how to use it. But, hopefully, it would not come that far. All Peter needed was one chance, one opportunity to surprise Barry Miles. And he had one huge advantage; he knew the kidnapper was around, but Barry Miles would have to guess about Peter’s whereabouts.

Unconsciously clenching the butt of his gun tighter in his hand, Peter pressed his back against the wall, inching closer to the verandah. He thought he had heard the dry sound of a snapping twig and, holding his breath, he listened intently.

After a few seconds he exhaled slowly and willed his muscles to relax. Just when he was about to take another step something large flew by him, letting out a low, deep growl and for a moment Peter thought his heart would stop.

"Dammit, Trish ! You scared the heck out of me," he sighed. "Good idea, though."

Pushing away from the wall, Peter was about to follow Kurt when the dog let out an angry bark, which was immediately followed by a howl of pain.

"That’s it, boy. Sink your teeth in his hurt shoulder," Peter mumbled, leaving his hiding place against the wall and stepping closer to the verandah.

"That’s it, Barry. Police ! Put your hands in the air and...," Peter could not finish his sentence, because something heavy hit him in the chest, taking his breath away and making him lose his balance. Only when he was sprawled out on the damp grass in front of the verandah, he realized Barry Miles must have managed to, somehow, pick up Kurt and throw the dog at him.

While Peter was still gasping for breath, Kurt was already on his way back to Barry Miles, his ears flat against his head and his teeth bared. The deep growl in his chest intensified and for a brief moment Peter realized he was happy to have the German Shepherd on his side.

Barry Miles on the other hand was filled with rage when Kurt had sunk his teeth in his already painful shoulder. A hot surge had shot through his arm, straight to his hand and he had trouble holding on to his gun. He knew the dog must have hit a nerve and that knowledge filled him with even more rage.

"Die, you mongrel," he growled, seeing the dog approach him; head low, hair on his back standing upright and his snout pulled into a snarl, baring impressive, healthy teeth.

Raising his gun, he willed away the pain in his arm and aimed for the dog’s head. One shot was all he needed and he knew it had better be a good one. From the corner of his eye, he could see Peter Jones scrambling back to his feet and he almost laughed. This was going to be too easy. Two bullets; one for the dog, one for the policeman.

"Say ‘hi’ to Lassie," Barry Miles mumbled, tightening his finger on the trigger.

At that moment the door behind him was thrown open, crashing against his injured shoulder. The pain that surged through his arm paralyzed his fingers and, with a howl of frustration, he could feel the solid gun slip from his fingers. The moment it clattered on the verandah his legs were kicked away from underneath his body, while the dog jumped on his chest, sinking his teeth in his other shoulder.

"Wow, thanks, good one, Robin," Peter gasped, still out of breath. He stepped on the verandah and looked down at the masked man at his feet.

"Game over, Miles," he said, pushing the gun away from the man on the verandah. "It’s alright, Kurt, you can let go now."

"Kurt, let go. Guard," Fiona’s voice sounded from behind Robin and, immediately, the German Shepherd let go of Barry Miles, sitting on his haunches next to the big man while his intelligent brown eyes never left the form of the man who had tried to shoot him.

"Good boy," Fiona complimented the dog with a smile.

In the distance, they could hear the sound of sirens and Peter let out a sigh of relief. Somebody had managed to call the units that had been on stand- by and he knew the much- needed reinforcements were on the way.

"They’ll be too late," the smug smile was audible in Barry Miles’ voice. "They’ll all be dead."

Behind her, Robin could hear Fiona gasp and she immediately reached out to grab a hand that felt clammy and cold.

"It’s not true, Fiona," she responded with more self-control than she felt. Inwardly, the fear and fury fought for dominance, but she was determined not to let either of them win. "He’s bluffing and he doesn’t know we all know what their plan was."

This time it was Robin who was bluffing, but Barry Miles didn’t immediately answer. He stayed very still, because every time he did as much as twitch, Kurt let out a warning growl.

"Sam Stevens will get what she’s asked for," his voice, filled with menace, sounded after a brief silence.

"And what would that be?" Peter Jones asked dryly.

"She’s a murderer," Barry Miles spat. "She’ll get what she deserves."

"You’ re delusional, mate," Fiona’s answered angrily. "Sam wouldn’t hurt a fly!"

"Liar ! She killed Bill. She shot him in cold blood !"

"Now, listen to me, idiot," Fiona fumed, ignoring Robin’s muttered warning and stepping closer. "I don’t know which planet you come from, but your thought process is definitely un-earthly. Sam did not kill William Jenkins."

"You’ re a liar!" Barry Miles shot back, trying to sit up, which earned him another growl from Kurt. He sank back to the ground and slid his hand underneath his black jacket to rub his injured shoulder.

Both Peter and Robin noticed the smooth move a fraction of a second too late. A simultaneous shouted ‘Watch out’, rang through the night and while Robin grabbed Fiona to pull her away from the bulky figure of Barry Miles, Peter’s hand dug into Kurt’s fur, pulling the surprised dog backwards, while stepping in front of him.

Before Peter could raise his gun, a loud gunshot shattered the silence and a hot, searing pain made the policeman sink to his knees, clutching his side with both hands, while his gun tumbled down, hitting the verandah with a thud, before sliding towards the edge, rolling off the side into a rosebush.

Robin did not have much time to think. With Fiona tucked behind her back, the biologist saw Peter Jones fall down while the gun Barry Miles was holding changed direction. With a sickening feeling in the pit of her stomach Robin realized she would not be left a choice. Swallowing down the bile that was rising in the back of her throat, she raised her hand, while Fiona’s hoarse voice shouted:’Kurt, attack.’

But Barry Miles had expected the dog to attack again and this time he used his long, powerful legs to fend off the canine. With a well- aimed thrust, he kicked the dog off the verandah and Kurt howled in pain and surprise when he landed in the same thorny bush as Peter Jones’ gun.

The weapon in his hand had strayed from its aim and Robin knew it would be now or never. Barry Miles’ hand moved back into her direction and Robin held her breath. Knowing the next few seconds would probably change the rest of her life, her finger tightened. She fought the urge to close her eyes, willing them to stay focused on the man who would not hesitate to hurt either her or Fiona.

Fiona saw the gun in Robin’s hand take aim and inwardly she screamed. She knew Trishia still had the occasional nightmare about shooting Steven Hayes and she wished Robin would not have to go through the same ordeal.

I’ve got to do something! I’ve got to do something!

Unexpectedly, a gentle, but firm pressure pushed down Robin’s arm, while Fiona reached around her and used her leg to forcefully kick the gun out of Barry Miles’ hands, sending it skidding down the verandah.

"Fiona!" Robin whispered, all of a sudden feeling the tension drain out of her body, leaving her tired and feeling weak.

"I’m sorry, Robbie," Fiona breathed. "You have a gun, but I’ve got longer legs. Are you alright?"

"I am now," Robin sighed, wishing she could drop the gun and wrap her arms around Fiona’s taller body, reveling in her warmth and softness. "Thank you."

"Anytime," Fiona smiled after letting out a shuddering breath. "Now, keep an eye on him while I check out Peter."

The photographer knelt down next to the body of Peter Jones that lay curled up in the corner of the verandah. Even in the dim light of the softly glowing security lamp next to the front door she could see the slowly growing puddle of blood that surrounded Peter’s body.

Without hesitancy Fiona reached into her pocket to pull out her cell phone. While her right hand sought Peter’s neck for a pulse, her other hand speed dialed the number Jody had urged her to program into her phone.

"Are you calling triple zero?" Robin asked, referring to the national emergency phone number.

"Yes. I...He has a pulse," Fiona sighed in relief. "I...Hello? Yes, this is Fiona McDonnell. A police officer has been shot."

Fiona quickly gave the dispatcher the address and promised to stay on the phone until the rapidly approaching police cars would have arrived. The sound of the sirens grew louder and when she looked up she could see the flashing of the lights disrupting the serene picture of the forest during the night.

"I don’t know," she answered a question from the dispatcher. "He’s breathing and he has a pulse, but he’s unconscious. I don’t have much light, but there’s a lot of blood...What? Yes, I will, but I’ll have to put the phone down...No, well, yes, Robin’s here but she’s busy keeping a gun on this bloke....Just a sec..."

Fiona handed the phone to Robin and sank back onto her knees next to Peter Jones, carefully rolling the injured policeman on his side. With trembling fingers she pulled up his shirt and she gasped in horror when her eyes took in the wound where the bullet had entered his body. Blood was steadily flowing from his side and Fiona could only hope and pray Trishia’s partner would get the medical attention he needed as soon as possible.

"I’ve got to apply pressure," Fiona mumbled. Without hesitance the photographer pulled her t-shirt over her head, bundled up the fabric and pressed it against the hole in Peter’s side.

"Hang in there, mate, help is on the way," she spoke, brushing the hair away from the policeman’s forehead. "You can’t leave Sharon and the little Jones’ all by themselves, Pete, they’d have a fit and no matter what or how, Sharon would find you and kick your butt."

Fiona thought she saw Peter Jones’ face twitch and she decided to keep talking to him.

"And think about Trish. You’re the only one we all trust to watch her back. If you’d give up, I’m sure Lucy will join Sharon in the butt-kicking quest. That could be nasty, mate."

This time Fiona heard a soft snort coming from Peter and, to her utter relief, she noticed the policeman had opened his eyes and was looking at her.

"Under...normal circumstances, I’d...enjoy the...view," he spoke with difficulty, gritting his teeth against the pain. "Does’ re half-naked?"

"It’s just a bra, Pete and of course she does," Fiona responded. "She’s standing right there, holding a gun at our friend."

"Good," Peter breathed. "Don’t...let him...get away...again."

"No chance of that, Peter," Robin answered, not taking her eyes off Barry Miles.

A soft whine alerted them to the presence of Kurt, who had freed himself from the rosebush he had landed in. The dog limped back to the verandah and pressed his nose against Peter’s neck before sitting himself next to Robin, a deep, rumbling growl coming from his chest when he looked at Barry Miles.

"He just thanked you for saving his life," Fiona smiled.

"I," Peter answered with a small smile. "He’s part... of the... family." He paused and exhaled slowly. "Great, here are the troops," he said, referring to the flashing lights that were reflected in the windows. "Finally."

Trishia had heard some faint sounds coming from Sam’s office and she hoped her friends would keep a low profile. One of a police officer’s deepest fears was to be involved in a shoot-out while innocent people were caught in the middle. And Trishia was no exception. Just the thought of Lucy being in the same house as the intruder made her tremble with fear. She tried not to think about all the things that could happen. Instead, she focused on the sounds and shadows surrounding her.

The policewoman’s head throbbed and she could still feel the blood steadily trickle down the side of her face. She could not help wondering what she had been hit with. Probably the butt of a gun. But no matter what it had been, it had given her a terrible headache.

Making her way down the hallway, Trishia concentrated on her breathing, which became increasing difficult when the sound of a gunshot broke the night silence. Her whole body froze and she had to fight the urge to turn around and run outside to see if Fiona, Robin and Peter were alright.

Damn ! What’s going on ? Oh, God, please, let it be alright. I’ve got to get everybody out of the house. I need to get to Lucy...

The door to the bedroom where Lucy was supposed to be asleep was only a few steps away and Trishia threw all caution in the wind. She took three long strides, making sure to keep her eyes and ears wide open and opened the door.

Everything seemed to be quiet and Trishia’s eyes flew to the bed where she had left her exhausted partner earlier that evening. But then her breathing hitched and she had to reach out to steady herself against the wall, fighting the sudden dizziness that almost made her lose her balance.

The bed was empty.


To be concluded in part 17

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