Sunday, November 10, 1996

Chapter Twenty-one

"Put the gun away."

It had been a long night. A restless night. A sleepless night.

A night of anxiety, strain, fear . . . fear you could taste, feel, smell, fear that made the back of your throat itch, the pit of your stomach ache, the back of your knees sweat, your toes numb.

And as the snow continued to fall outside, as the inches accumulated, and as escape, any contact to, with, from the outside world became hopeless, impossible, that anxiety, strain and fear continued to rise, double time and time again.

The room was small. No honeymoon suite here. Just comfortable in a bed and breakfast way. The pastels and frills, and a cozy queen-sized bed.

A bed with pillows cutting it down the middle, in half . . . making one side virtually a world away from the other, at least in terms of passion, compassion, even a harmless snuggle or bump in the night.

"No," Vivian said, checking to make sure her Colt Detective Special was loaded. It was a six-shot, double-action .38. "I go nowhere without this from now on."

Shaking his head, Bob turned away in frustration, before asking, "They told you nothing?"

"How many times do I have to repeat myself?" Vivian said. "They told me something was up, that's when she came into the room."


"Her name's Lauren Devereaux," Vivian said. "If anyone should know that, it's you."

"Right," Bob said.

"Then before they could tell me anything else, the line went dead."

"And stayed that way."

"No phone, no contact to the world outside," Vivian said. "Haring planned this, I'm telling you. He planned everything."

"He couldn't have planned this blizzard," Bob said. "A storm was his undoing last time, remember? I doubt that he has fond memories of the snow."

"He's getting even with Mother Nature," Vivian snapped, shaking her head in anger. "He's planning something." She shot Bob a look that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. "You've been following Devereaux for over a year. During that time, did she have any contact with him?"

"He had no visitors, period," Bob said, adding, "At least, not as far as I know."

"Not as far as you know?" Vivian repeated, sarcastically.

"Sorry," Bob snapped. "I don't have your resources at my fingertips."

"Or my training."

Bob let that one pass.

It had been a long few days of planning, traveling, and finally attempting to appear lovey-dovey with a woman he found about as attractive as a slug. And he was pretty certain the feeling, the lack of attraction, was mutual.

"And now, this weekend," Vivian continued. "He breaks out of jail . . ."

"We don't know that," Bob said.

"Christ!" Vivian said. "They don't give death row convicts time off for good behavior. What do you think this is, a weekend pass?"

"Vivian, you're not even sure that Alan Hitchcock is Haring," Bob said.

"Please," Vivian let the word linger on her tongue, tasting the bitterness she felt toward Elliot Haring, relishing it. "Give me more credit than that."

Vivian had been working on this case, on locating the illusive third member of the crew, the mysterious Lauren Devereaux, for longer than she cared to remember.

It was personal.

So damn personal it hurt . . .

Vivian was a detective with the Boise, Idaho police department. Had been for going on ten years, when she received the call.

She was still wrapping presents, for her nephews, Harold, Jr., and Paul, for her nieces, Debbie and Claudia. And, of course, something for her sister, Shelley, and brother-in-law, Harold.

Then the phone rang.

They were still alive at that point, as she raced to the house in Bedford Falls. Still alive . . . but not for long.

Still alive . . .

Vivian remembered standing on the front lawn of her sister's home, watching helplessly, as one child's body after another came tumbling from that second story window, crashing down on the snow covered lawn below.

She'd never forgot the way the blood mixed with the snow, syrupy, an ice cone from some heinous 7-Eleven abyss. She'd never forget the sound, the wet slop and thud, ringing of death and finality. She'd never forget the rage, the tears, the feeling that her throat was being skinned from the inside out.

It hurt so fucking bad.

Vivian wanted in. She wanted to storm the house, her guns blazing. If they were going to kill everyone anyway, at least let her go in and take down Haring. She was willing to risk her life for that.

But the Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in charge, would not let her. The bastard made her stay back, away, this wasn't her case. He wanted to negotiate. Elliot Haring was his, and he expected to talk Haring down.

Four hours later, Haring was still in the second floor bedroom, and Vivian's brother-in-law was dead.

That left only her sister.

That last hour was the most excruciating time of Vivian's four decades of existence. Waiting, knowing how it would end. But unable to leave the theater, unable to bale out, walk away, or wake up, as if from a bad dream. Standing, so helplessly, as Elliot Haring walked her sister to the bedroom window.

Vivian caught Shelley's eye. There was nothing left. No glint of recognition. No reason for life. Shelley had given up, probably earlier when Harold died, or before, right at the beginning. Vivian would never know.

Haring pulled the trigger, and gently pushed.

Shelley fell from the window, her arms out stretched, almost as if she were attempting to fly away, almost as if she knew the way home.

The case became Vivian's obsession. Her reason to go on. She saw Haring sentenced to die, and his partner put away for life. That left only the third accomplice.

But her department had no leads regarding Lauren Devereaux, no clues, nothing, the woman had vanished, from the state, from the country. It was almost as if she were never alive to begin with. Just a figment of Chuck V-man Vincenzo's twisted imagination.

Then there was the sudden and surprising contact with Canadian Marshall Bob Kennedy, who claimed to have been tracking, who claimed to have located, the seemingly-fictitious Devereaux.

Bob Kennedy had brought her here, to the Lambert Ski Lodge. He had explained about the contest, the new owners from Florida, and he suggest they waited.

"Something's going on," he had told her. "Let's check in and be patient."

Then Elliot Haring -- she was sure it was him -- checks in, walks around freely, sipping tea. Money management, indeed!

Vivian had watched the tapes -- she had memorized the highlights, could see them in her brain by just pressing PLAY -- hours upon hours of interviews with Elliot Haring, and just as many with Chuck V-man Vincenzo. She would recognize either man in her sleep -- sleep walking -- Haring's eyes haunting every moment of her day -- she'd draw her gun and shoot the sonofabitch down. And be over with it. Done!

"It's Haring," Vivian said, with no trace of doubt in her tone. "Though I'm curious about the business partner."

There was a pregnant pause.

Bob looked out the window, wishing for once he'd see sunshine, and maybe a lake, with row boats, and fishermen, and families eating at picnic tables on the shore . . .

"How do you want to handle it?" Vivian asked, derailing his train of thought.

And he was just about to get to the good part.

"There are too many damn civilians," Bob said. "There might be casualties if we attempt to take him down."

"There's only three of them."

"We don't know a thing about that Shane kid."

"Okay, four tops."

"And there's three of us."

"Where'd you learn math?"

"Paige's a Special Agent," Bob reminded her.

"How could I forget?" Vivian said, bitingly.

"Why is it that cops always hate the feds?"

You wouldn't understand, Vivian thought. But her distrust of the feds was short lived. It began on that Christmas Eve in Bedford Falls. Before then, she had hardly given them much thought.

"Not all feds," Vivian said, finally, "There's one or two in the bureau that would make good cops."

"But not Paige?"

"She's still wet behind the ears."

"So, you agree," Bob asked, "We wait?"

"Until the opportunity presents itself," Vivian said.

"And which opportunity would that be?"

"We both know, Elliot Haring has very little patience."

"Give me an example."

"What more do you need? He's trapped in my sister's house, knowing there's was no way out. But instead of stalling, trying to negotiate with the police, he eliminated his hostages, and put a quick end to the situation." Vivian shook her head. "He's not a patient man. Especially if things aren't going his way."


"A lot depends on Mother Nature."

"And she might not fully cooperate."

"Exactly," Vivian said. "And being snow-bound in this lodge for a few days might start to fray his nerves."

"He might get jumpy. Anxious."

"He might make a mistake," Vivian said, "put his guard down."

"And then we take him," Bob said.

"And then we blow the mother away."

Chapter Twenty-two

". . . I found a reason to live, and I can stop when I want, and I can call it off anytime I want to . . ."

Paige was half singing, half humming the words to herself, no Walkman necessary, thank you very much.

Normally she'd be doing her run along the beach, but weighing the possibilities: another good morning talk with Liana versus cuddling and snuggling and staying in bed with Steve, seeing if she could arouse him without him arising. The cuddling-snuggling was the runaway winner.

No offense, Liana.

Paige watched him for a while as he slept.

Steve was flat on his back, one arm up with the wrist behind his head, the other just lying flat by his side.

Paige was on her side, head propped up, the index finger of one hand tracing down his nose, and over his lips. Steve made a little face, almost as if he were being tickled, causing Paige to laugh.

She let her hand move south, dancing little loop-di-loops over his chest, spelling out words . . . "Hmmm, I dare you," she said to herself.

She accepted the dare, and spelt out "P-A-I-G-E M-C-R-A-E," immediately erasing the invisible letters with the flat her hand.

Steve snored once, and mumbled something that sounded like, "Throw the ball."

Paige slipped her hand under the blankets, and brushed the back of it against the flat of his belly, then down one thigh, back up, over the belly, down the other thigh, and back up, only to start all over again.

She lifted the blanket to see if she was having any effect.

Not yet.

"Hmmm," she went again, sneaking her hand between his legs and cupping his balls. So warm.

Why was it that ninety percent of our body's heat seemed to be generated from the space between our legs? Paige wondered, not spending all that much time on figuring out the answer.

She scratched lightly, once, twice . . .

"Well, hello," she whispered, finally getting somewhere.

Paige stuck her head under the blanket, and watched it up close and personal as she continued with the small, light scratches, then sneaking a peek up at his face, she had to laugh. How could one portion of his anatomy be so firmly awake, while everything else was so soundly asleep?

"I wonder," Paige muttered, whether or not they could have sex without Steve ever waking up.

Maybe, she thought, about and willing to find out. If I go very slow. If I'm very gentle.

Paige moved over him, squatted more than straddled . . . this could be more of a workout than her usual run . . . making sure she didn't so much as brush his legs with hers. And reaching beneath her, she carefully and easily slipped him inside, holding back the gasp, and doing her damnedest to keep from losing her balance, and falling over on top him.

So far, so good, Paige thought, biting on her bottom lip to keep from making any telltale sounds, her breathing heavy, her rhythm deceptively steady, wondering, if he didn't wake up, would she tell him?

Just then, Steve let out a little cackle, half-snore, then muttered something about the Miami Dolphins.

That clinched it for Paige. This was one little secret she'd definitely keep to herself . . . no way, no how, no why would she want for Steve to explain how in the heat of passion he was subconsciously thinking about a pro football team.

There are some things we just aren't meant to know.

And this, she had to concede, plummeting over that edge of orgasmic rapture, this was probably one of them.

Chapter Twenty-three

"Monday morning . . . six . . . o'clock . . ."

It was what Elliot muttered to Lauren just before falling asleep in her arms.

It seemed like so many hours before, days before, perhaps. For Lauren, it had been one of those difficult slumbers, drifting in and out, waking constantly, persistently, seemingly on the hour.

She was awake now. Wide awake.

Elliot no longer in her arms.

He was on his side, by the edge of the bed, his back to her. She stared at the five o'clock shadow of stubble that had grown on his shaved head. Arisen from the ashes, it looked rather surreal, as if his head were a newspaper photograph made up of a thousand microscopic dots.

Lauren replayed the night in her mind.

How Elliot had taken her by the window, so long after everyone else had fallen asleep. Why had it taken him so long to get there? Why hadn't he rushed to her that first night, not caring who knew, who heard? Who cared?

And after it was over, they crawled into bed, and . . . nothing.

Not a reprise, not a touch, not a kiss goodnight, just . . . Lauren wondered was it all in her head? Could she, in their two years apart, have forgotten what it was like to love him? To love anyone? Could the memories have clouded over? It certainly wasn't like she remembered.

She doubted it. Just as she doubted that a night with someone like Shane -- or perhaps even Steve, he was such a good looking man -- would have left her so unfulfilled, so depressed, so . . . angry.

"You and Goop have done tremendously," Elliot had said, as he lay down, his heart still beating furiously, the taste of her lingering on his lips.

"This will work, Elliot," Lauren had said. "As long as Goop stays under control."

"Don't worry about Goop."

"These are good people . . ."

"How nice of you to point that out before we kill them all," Elliot said.

"They don't have to know what's happening," Lauren said.

"Like at a slaughter house?" There was a cruelness to his tone which frightened her.

"That's the one thing I won't tolerate," Lauren said. Her inflection was even, unshakable.

"You won't have to."

A few tears came to Lauren's eyes now, which she quickly brushed away. This was no time for tears. Almost a year of planning, almost a year of waiting, would culminate as the last snowflake fell . . .

It was no time for weakness.

So much depended on the snow. So many lives linked to the Weather Channel . . . freedom, riches, sex, death. Quite an advertisement for a cable channel which featured geeks standing before maps, talking about high fronts, low fronts, and expected accumulations. If only they knew. Hell, commercial rates would go through the roof. It would be like Superbowl Sunday every day for the advertising reps.

The thought made Lauren smile, want to laugh even.

But there was no time, not even for laughter.

There needed to be a backup plan. A what if Elliot could no longer function in the capacity in which she needed? plan. A what if a lot had changed? plan. A what if she no longer loved him plan?

Was Elliot expendable?

Could Lauren simply move on, not blink, disappear again, without a trace?

It had been so easy last time.

She traveled to Europe, to the Caribbean, to Canada under a half-dozen different aliases.

Lauren played the part of a beautiful, rich woman with such ease. Maybe it was time to finally add the words single and available to that description.

A life without Elliot.

She had never given it much thought, until now. Until this night during which she thought of little else.

Elliot certainly seemed different. And the question remained: What could have possessed him to murder those people?

"Why, Elliot?" she had asked, reading the accounts in the daily papers. It was so unnecessary.

"Why?" she asked now.

And if last night was any indication, then . . . perhaps, yes. She could get over him.

Rather easily, she figured.

That undoubtedly would not be a part of Elliot's plan.

But then, neither was a federal agent.

Should she tell Elliot about that? About Paige? Or should she save it for later, a backup of sorts . . . just in case?

Lauren shrugged, then glanced over at the clock, and realized that these problems, and so many others, would have to wait.

Coffee needed to be brewed, stomachs fed.

It was time to rise and shine.

She could get used to this lodge matron role, Lauren thought, remembering how she had purchased the lodge so many months back from the actual Jonathan Lambert, a sweet old man who just didn't have it in him anymore -- he had lost the passion for the cold, for the tourists, for the whole damn package. And though she knew she could have taken it for a some -- a smile, and a lingering glance was all that was necessary -- she over-paid by at least ten thousand dollar, and sent the cash rich senior happily on his way to a retirement community somewhere in Arizona.

She was laughing now at the image of herself as innkeeper, reaching out, stretching her index finger straight, cocking her thumb high, and folding away the other three fingers . . . a gun.

Placing the tip of her five-fingered gun against the back of Elliot's head, Lauren pulled her imaginary trigger, and whispered, "bang."

SNOW BLIND 2004 Gorman Bechard - All Rights Reserved