Monday, November 11, 1996



Chapter Fifty







". . . thugs and scum and punks and freaks, they're harnessed in slums but they want to be free . . ."

Paige was singing out loud, but only in her head.

The words kept her sane, focused, from breaking down, tuning out, dropping into the abyss of despair.

They kept her from jumping out of her skin.

She was at the top of the stairs -- the stairs that began or ended at the laundry room, depending upon one's perception -- standing in front of a door that led to where exactly, she was not sure.

If Elliot, or anyone else for that matter, decided to come looking for her in the cellar, they be walking through that door, down these stairs, and they'd be in for a nasty little surprise.

Paige was proud of her handiwork. It was amazing what you could do with some dental floss, baby oil, and razor blades, a few of the items she borrowed from Greta's bathroom.

And though it wasn't exactly a land mine, as long as it slowed and injured, as long as blood was drawn from the other side, the necessary effect had been accomplished.

Her hand turned the door knob slowly, and just as slowly the lock retracted, and the door swung open.

No creaks, no sounds, Paige wasn't even breathing.

And then came the panic.

The gunshots.

Standing behind the half-opened door, she heard it all. The sounds gushing down the halls, like a ten thousand gallon tank of blood shattering and flowing free, taking with it all of humanity, like a mud slide, a volcanic eruption. Like the big bang.

"What the hell is going on?" Paige wondered aloud, trying to put these new pieces together, then picturing Lauren's face. Her rigid dignity, her old world beauty. Her tears at Elliot's duplicity.

Paige actually felt mournful and sorry.

And she wasn't sure why?

Hadn't Lauren Devereaux played a large part in Elliot's sick plan? Hadn't she set up Peter and Alison? And hadn't that led to Steve's death? Wasn't she just as guilty as Elliot or Goop for what had transpired, and those who had expired, over the past twenty-four or so hours?

Yes, Paige knew she most assuredly was. In the eyes of the law, Lauren was an accomplice.

Why then, did Paige feel like crying for the woman? Crying for the loss? Crying for womankind in general?

Paige shook the thoughts from her head, and slipped past the door. She'd think later, much later, over a cold drink in the hot sun. She'd ruminate and mourn and cry in her beer.

But not now.

Now she needed to survive.

Paige was in a hallway behind the kitchen. She followed it through the rear of the lodge, passing first a pantry, then a door which opened onto a narrow staircase leading upstairs -- the servant's staircase perhaps, then a mud room, with stairs leading down and outside, then a half-bath, and lastly a bedroom.

The servant's quarters.

The door was unlocked. Paige entered the room, shutting the door behind her.

Decorated in more pastels, it was like most of the other guest rooms, except for the twin beds.

She checked the dresser drawers for anything that might come in handy, then the checked the armoire.

Nothing.

The room seemed as if no one had slept there for months.

About to move on, Paige noticed a narrow door, recessed into an interior wall. She assumed it led to an equally narrow closet.

But it was locked.

Not with the ancient hardware which seemed to accent every interior door, but with a shiny new brass doorhandle, the word Medeco emblazed over where she needed to insert a key, and turn.

And a closet in an unoccupied bedroom would have no reason to be secured with one of the finest locks money could buy . . .

Unless . . .

Dropping to her knees, Paige fished her badge from her pants pocket, and from the carrying case pulled out a laminated identification card, a little like a credit card, minus the buying power.

Slipping it between the door and the jam, Paige wriggled the card up, back and forth, then up again, thanking God that it wasn't a deadbolt.

Click!

Standing, she pulled the door open, and just about fell backwards from the shock.

What she had assumed to be a two-by-four closet, was walk-in in size, with cedar walls.

And it was hardly empty.

The small room was an artillery in itself, filled with every sort of high powered weapon: a pair of Uzis, an AK-47's, a bazooka, M-68 grenades, cases of ammo.

"Their own little militia," Paige whispered, picking up an Uzi for the first time since Quantico.

She liked the weight, the balance, the potency, and was going to take it with her.

Checking the cases of ammo for 9mm bullets, and finding some, Paige was about to begin filling a fifty-round magazine, when she heard the sounds in the hall.

Footsteps.

And voices.

Two distinctively male voices.

Elliot's and Bob's.

And Paige had no doubt whatsoever where they were heading.







Chapter Fifty-one







"Behave yourselves."

They had not only locked Peter and Alison in separate third-floor bedrooms, but they had bound and gagged them as well, tying them to the respective headboards.

The only other way out of either room was through an octagon-shaped stained-glass window that did not open, and the drop was enough to break a leg, or some other such extremity, the cold enough to kill quickly thereafter.

"They aren't going anywhere," Bob had said, as they locked the second door, and headed back toward the great room, where he had thrown a blanket over Lauren's body, and a throw rug over Vivian's.

As they walked, they talked:

"You sure know how to pick your lady friends," Elliot joked.

"You ever see a pretty cop outside of the chicks on TV shows?" Bob said.

"What about Ms. Turner?" Elliot asked.

"Ah, yes," Bob said. "She a rarity. But, really, Elliot, is she still going to be pretty after you find her?"

"She'll be more beautiful than ever."

Bob laughed. "I've missed you, Elliot. I miss your sense of humor."

"How long has it been?" Elliot said, thinking it had seemed lke an eternity. Bob was a friend, a good friend. Not the lifelong partner Goop had been -- or Lauren, for that matter -- but an intellectual equal. One who enjoyed the game of taking money, as much as the amusement of spending it.

"Almost a year since I was paroled."

At the state penitentiary in Boise where Elliot and V-man were held pending trial, Bob Kennedy O'Toole had been Elliot's closest friend.

They would spend hours alleviating the boredom with stories of their brash glories. Bob specialized in banks, and had, by his account, successfully and rather anonymously knocked off forty-one branches in sixteen states over a period of nine years, before being arrested, convicted, and jailed, for, of all things . . . tax evasion.

When Elliot heard that, he laughed for days.

The mere thought could still bring a beaming smile to his face.

Tax evasion!

It seemed that between bank jobs, Bob had become involved with a promoter of baseball trading card shows. The promoter needed a little cash infusion, to guarantee the appearance of some big name ballplayers. And, in exchange for Bob putting up the cash, he'd get half the gate, half the table rentals.

All in cash.

Nothing but cash.

Lots of cash.

The magic words, as far as Bob was concerned.

But when the Internal Revenue Service snagged the promoter by his non-baseball balls, he gave up not only the big name ballplayers, but his partner as well.

Having plenty of of that nothing but cash stored away in banks throughout the Caribbean, Bob attempted to flee the country, but was apprehended at Denver International Airport, and ended up serving hard time at the state pen in Boise, instead of living the easy life with the other white-collars in Danbury, Connecticut.

Seven years, five months of a ten year sentence.

And only nine months or so of that was bearable. Bearable because of Elliot, who was awaiting his trial, sweating it out with zero chance of bail.

Now the two of them would be partners.

Elliot and Bob.

They were so close to complete freedom: freedom of pursuit, of monetary concerns, of ever sitting through another Goddamn blizzard, of ever heard the phrase "wind-chill factor."

The storm was about to break. Less than six hours to go -- for once the forecasters would be right on target.

The details were almost set, only Peter's hand needed to be severed, but that would happen at the last moment.

Elliot didn't want him to bleed to death. The cause of Peter's passing needed to be the force of the explosion, not a bullet, not a drug, not a two-by-four to the back of his skull.

Then to place Lauren by his side, set the timers, and drive off on those marvelous Artic Cats, and from a distant mountain top watch the lodge go boom-chick-a-boom!

Don't you just love it?

They'd be in Canada by night fall. Over the border into British Columbia. A small town called Kingsgate.

Bob had set up a small apartment, just the essentials. They'd recoup, and hop into his Jeep Grand Cherokee and drive west.

In Vancouver they'd board a boat, the Jeep and all. A boat which would take them both to the Caribbean, both to those liberating freedoms, both away.

Amen, and God bless.

It was such a beautiful arrangement.

Part Elliot's, part Bob's.

It was Bob who knew about Vivian.

He staked her out. Seen her name in many of the news clippings, watched from afar as she visited her sister's grave.

"Vivian hated you so much, wanted you so badly," Bob said. "She'd have believed anything."

"Obviously," Elliot said. "She believed you were a Canadian Marshall."

"Eh," Bob said, causing both men to laugh.

Then there was Goop, who deserved some of the credit as well, at least for locating the plastiques, and for wiring the lodge, and for being Elliot's delivery boy when cash needed to get to Warden Johnstone, or to the family of the inmate who offed V-man.

There would have been room for Goop. There would have always been room for Goop. He'd have been along for the ride, if only . . .

"Let's upgrade first," Elliot said.

They headed through the great room, the dining room, and kitchen, and entered the narrow rear hallway behind the kitchen, which led, eventually, to the servant's quarters.

"Goop insisted on keeping a little protection close by," Elliot said, opening the door to the room. "Just in case."

They entered the room and headed directly for the narrow closet.

Elliot reached up high over the molding, and retrieved a key. He slipped it into the Medeco lock, turned, opened the door, and proudly stood aside, displaying for Bob the wares.

Bob whistled. "In case of what?" he asked, "War?"

"Goop liked to be prepared," Elliot said, then, "And he usually was." Unless women were involved, he added in his head. Goop's Achilles heal.

Bob detected the change in his partner's demeanor. "We'll find her. I promise."

Elliot nodded. We will find her, he thought, looking around, his face cocked just sideways. He sniffed, almost suddenly, recklessly, and his eyes went wild with anticipation. "We have," he said, without hesitation, then "She's here."

"Who?"

"Paige. She's here. Right now."

Elliot picked up one of the Uzis, handed it to Bob, then grabbed the other, and slung its strap around his neck. He cracked open a crate of ammo, reached in and retrieved two boxes of bullets, tossing one to his partner, keeping the other for himself.

It took Elliot only seconds to expertly load the clip.

He stepped back into the room. Assumed a military crouch, and in a swooping move, he fell to one knee and sprayed the crawlspace under the twin beds with a mist of 9mm slugs.

Then he looked.

Nothing.

Elliot motioned over toward the armoire. Then raised a finger to his mouth, almost as if he could at this point take Paige by surprise.

He pulled the trigger, making a criss-crossing pattern of holes across the double doors.

Wood splintered, cracked, and flew off in all directions. One door fell completely to its side, and dropped with a clumsy rattle to the floor.

Elliot used the muzzle of the Uzi to push the other door open. It too crashed to the floor.

He looked inside.

Again . . . nothing.

Except blankets and sheets, all shot to hell.

"You sure she's here?" Bob asked.

Elliot turned. He pushed aside curtains, pulled open the drawers, he looked in places where Paige couldn't possibly hide.

Nothing.

Not a sign of her.

"Maybe we need a break?" Bob suggested, wishing immediately that he hadn't.

"I don't need a break," Elliot screamed. "She's here. I'm sure of it."

He spotted the air vent coming from the basement, took aim and emptied this clip.

"Shit!"

Elliot walked back into the closet, grabbed a few hundred rounds of ammo, loading up his pockets, and headed toward the door.

Bob followed sheepishly.

"We split up," Elliot said, his voice verging on possessed. "Flush her out. I'll start in the basement, you start on the third floor."

"What do I do if I find her?" Bob asked.

"If you find her," Elliot said, taking a few deep breaths, calming himself. He needed to calm down. He could find her if he remained calm. He was sure of it.

He could break her.

He could kill her.

More importantly, he could destroy her spirit.

"Aim low."

"You want her alive?" Bob asked, hesitantly.

"No," Elliot said, "I want to watch her die."


SNOW BLIND 2004 Gorman Bechard - All Rights Reserved