Chapter Fifty-two







"I want to watch you die."

Paige waited until their voices had sufficiently faded.

Then she waited a moment more.

She wanted to wait for daylight, for summer, for old age. For the pain to go away.

But there wasn't time.

Paige pushed aside the trap door, and climbed through it, back into the closet.

She had noticed it the moment she entered the cedar room, just behind the bazooka crate.

This was a closet almost identical to one her grandmother had built in her ancient Colonial house. Making one bedroom shorter by a yard, Octavia Ilyse Turner -- Grandma -- had constructed a cedar vault of sorts, to keep her gowns and furs and other such non-necessities from the wrath of the dreaded moth. But since cedar was expensive, and Paige's grandmother hardly had the clothes to fill such a large closet, only half the space was used, partitioned off. The other half, accessible only through a small sliding panel. Behind it one could hide valuables, important papers, or, as five-year-old Paige had discovered, Christmas presents, in a non-cedar space.

And as she realized now, checking her watch -- it was almost 2 AM -- checking herself. One could hide a life.

The Uzis were gone. But what remained might be as useful.

Paige pocketed a few hundred 9mm rounds for her Smith & Wesson, as well as two grenades -- hiding one in each pocket of the leather bomber -- and what must have been fifty or so feet of thick rope. She slung that over her shoulder, then pulled the bazooka from its crate, loaded one of the artillarery shells into its receiver, and hightailed it out of the room.

She crept down the hall, stopping first in the mud room.

Descending the stairs that could lead outside, Paige leaned the bazooka against the wall, near the door, covering it with an old ski jacket that had been hanging on a nearby hook. If Elliot got by her, she could use the weapon to take out his Artic Cat at a thousand yards.

Paige glanced out the window and wished she could at least see the tracks of the snowmobiles which Shane and Greta had used to escape.

Tracks which would lead into town, toward freedom, toward Wesley Selden.

Tracks which would lead eventually home.

But there was nothing. Just darkness, the wind, and the snow, which continued to fall.

Though the flakes, which once seemed as large as Doves, were small and fluffy. They flittered to Earth, instead of rocketing, and looked almost dainty. Norman Rockwell snow. Icing on the blizzard's cake.

It would all be over soon.

Once back in the hall, Paige walked over to the narrow servant's staircase, and cautiously headed up.

One stair at a time, careful not to bang into any walls, careful of old creaking wood.

Paige was halfway up the first flight, when she heard the thuds, a clunk, and some perverse screams.

Elliot found his surprise, Paige thought.

An early Christmas present.

Not exactly Malibu Barbie, but certainly unexpected, and so heartfelt.





Chapter Fifty-three







"So smart."

Elliot had slipped on the oil which covered the ninth stair, then tripped on the dental floss, which Paige had strung tautly between the hand rails of the tenth stair, then landed, hands down, on the upturned razor blades which she had scattered on the remaining eight stairs.

Had one of Elliot's hands not been made of plastics and wires, he might not have been able to tend to his wounds. As if was, he could barely move the pinky finger on his right, his real hand. Nerve damage, he assumed.

He plucked the pieces of sharpened steel from the flesh, then wiped away the blood on the bullet-riddled sheets and towels that surrounded him everywhere.

Elliot was tired. So fucking tired, of everything. But he'd never admit it. Not even to himself. Especially not to himself.

"You're stronger than she is," Elliot said, taking deep, even breaths.

He had to keep going. To squash out the pest before she affected his escape. Before . . . he grimaced as he wrapped a piece of sheet around his palm. This was life he was fighting for. His life.

And her's.

No thoughts, no pain, nothing. Just revenge. He was going to punish Paige for being born. One final act. The final act of Elliot Haring before the curtain fell.

He picked up the Uzi from where it had landed, clenched it in his prosthetic hand, then pulled back the wooden slat door and stepped into the cellar proper.

Paige had left the lights on for him.

How thoughtful.

But what other traps, what other surprises would he find? More dental floss and baby oil, or perhaps something more deadly.

He doubted it. Elliot doubted she had the time, the tools, the ingenuity. He doubted she had the rage.

But Elliot had a little surprise of his own, in store for Paige when she least expected it. One that would do more damage than razor blades. One that would shred her heart from the inside out, paralyze her, make her realize she was going mano a mano with evil itself.

"You might have outwitted Goop," Elliot yelled into the vast cement-walled space, his words bouncing off those walls, returning to him in an eerie echo.

But really, Elliot thought, was that such a challenge? Poor Goop, such a fool for women. Poor Lauren, such a fool period.

Elliot laughed to himself, crouched down low, then opened fire, spraying the room with a torrent of bullets.

He whispered the words: "Ollie ollie oxen free. Won't you come out to play?"







Chapter Fifty-four







"Don't say a word."

Paige pressed an index finger to her lips for emphasis, but still, once she had removed the gag from Peter's mouth, he still had to ask.

"Alison?" he said, his voice frantic and whispered. "Where is she?"

"We'll find her," Paige said, untying his hands.

But Peter began to cry, childlike and frightened, as if he had been holding it in, and now, now that she was there, now that anyone was there, he could let loose, regress, return to the cradle.

"I'm so sorry," Peter muttered, sniffling, rubbing the circulation back into his hands.

He was helpless, lost.

"You've got to be strong," Paige said.

Peter nodded, sniffled some more, then turned and stared off into space.

Paige watched him.

His complexion, so pale. His actions, shock of some sort, defeat, he was already as good as dead in his own mind. He was a guest at his own funeral. She had seen the symptoms before, the complete loss of one's will to survive.

Paige could only hope that Alison was in better shape.

"Wait here," she said, not needing to -- Peter wasn't going anywhere -- backing out of the room.

There were only four bedrooms on the third floor -- one in each corner of the space, converted attic space really, with angled ceiling lines and those octangular windows made mostly of stained glass -- as well as a bathroom, and a doorway at the end of the hall.

Built into one of the angled walls, the door led to a rooftop deck, used only during the summer months for small cookouts and star-gazing. It was locked off during the winter.

With a grenade in each pocket, and the rope still slung over her shoulder, Paige walked from Peter's room, to the next.

The door was likewise locked, but the skeleton key she had snatched from where Goop placed it on the nighttable seemed to work on every lock -- so much for security. But then, in the minds of most, crime probably didn't exist in places like Montana.

Inside the room was Alison.

Tied to the bed, as Peter had been. Her wounded hand ineptly bandaged with a small towel.

Alison let out a soft cry when the door opened, thinking that the end had come. In what form she could not even imagine, but her mind was running wild after all she'd seen. Why hadn't they just killed her, she wondered, figuring that her being alive, kept Peter from freaking out. That Elliot knew Peter would stay calm if there was a chance, however remote, that she could escape with her life.

But Alison's cry got lodged somewhere deep in her throat when Paige stuck her head through the doorway.

"Quiet," Paige said.

And this time it worked.

Alison watched her with wide, apprehensive eyes, hopeful yet weary, as she untied her arms, then her ankles. She sat up in the bed, rubbing at the muscles that had been choked by the rope , pressing at the wound on her hand.

"Can you walk?" Paige asked.

"I'll crawl if I have to," Alison said.

There was nothing weak in her tone. No fear, no shock, just undiluted rage, controlled yet volatile.

Alison wanted to live. She wanted to see another hot, sticky Florida day. She wanted to press every suit ever worn by every Yuppie who ever lived. She wanted to feel the steam, smell the chemicals. She wanted to hear the crinkling of the oversized plastic bags, experience the paper cuts from the shirt boxes that needed to be unfolded and stuffed. Alison longed to finger the cold metal of those blessed hangers.

Paige led her back to Peter's room, and once inside, locked the door behind them. Peter was still sitting up in bed, staring off into space, crying.

Alison ran to him, took him into her arms. She held him close, as if she'd never expected to hold him again.

Retrieving one of the pillows from the bed, Paige wrapped it around her elbow, then moved over to the room's large octagonal window, and pushed through the stained, leaded glass. Then using the pillow as a padded glove, she removed every last shard.

Turning, Paige looked about the room for the heaviest piece of furniture, and chose the armoire.

Dropping the heavy rope from her shoulder, she tied one end to the farthest leg of the old pine piece, pulling on it to test the strength of her knots. Then she unrolled the rest of the rope, dropping it out through the window.

"I don't know if he can make it?" Alison said, still clutching Peter to her chest.

"He doesn't have a choice," Paige said.

Alison nodded. She pushed Peter away, then looking right into his eyes, she slapped him hard across the face with her uninjured hand.

"Snap out of it, Goddamnit," Alison said, her voice strong, yet still choked with love, the desire to survive.

Peter looked at her. Confused. His mind clouded.

She slapped him again.

Nothing.

Then again.

This time, Peter caught her wrist just before her hand connected with his stinging cheek.

"I . . . love you," he said.

"Then help me make it down that rope."







Chapter Fifty-five







"You poor sick bastard."

Bob was in the bathroom off Goop's room, leaning over the sink, throwing up everything he'd eaten that day, that week, that year.

He was sure he'd probably thrown up baby food eaten as an infant, and some of his mother's milk, as well.

Bob knew Goop had killed Felicity. But nothing the squat, tattooed man could have said, nothing in his personality, or even his manner, would have ever prepared him for the grisly sight upon that bed. He had figured most of the tale was exaggeration, wishful thinking upon Goop's part, to impress Elliot, to sicken Felicity's kid sister.

When Bob switched on the room's overhead light and saw what remained of the beautiful young woman, suddenly the doubt, the remorse, the fear that he'd been suppressing came rising up with the bile.

Up and out and to the sink.

He splashed water on his face, and drank some from the cupped palm of his hand.

Just get past the next few hours, he told himself over and over.

The storm would end, and they'd be off-off-and-way.

The lodge would be history, and no one would ever be the wiser.

Bob walked back into the room, covering his nose and mouth from the sour smell of death that permeated the room, then checked the closet, the armoire, and finally snuck a quick peek under the bed.

There was nothing there, except for blood, which had seeped through the mattress, and dried on the hardwood floor.

And a knife, a blood-encrusted boning knife.

He wondered if Goop even perceived the irony.

Bob was about to leave, to move on, search elsewhere, anywhere else, when a sound caught his attention.

A rap-rap against one of the windows.

He pulled back at first, half expecting a surprise attack, Paige lunging through the window, guns blazing.

"You've seen to many movies," Bob told himself, laughing a little at his jumpiness.

Then he walked over, glanced out, and spotted . . . a rope.

It was pressing against the window.

He looked up, and saw that it came from the third floor, or somewhere on the roof, and it fell, down to the ground, or at least down to the snow.

"Sonofabitch," Bob muttered, comprehending, turning, running from the room.

He was headed to the third floor, hurrying, racing against the clock, to prevent Elliot's dream of going up in smoke, to prevent his body double from escaping to freedom.







Chapter Fifty-six







"He's only three."

Elliot had to laugh.

He was reliving every blessed moment of that Christmas Eve bash at the Dunlap's.

A party to end all.

Ed Gein meet Santa Claus.

Only three . . .

Please. Elliot was doing the kid a favor. He was preventing years of heartbreak, and disease, and peer pressures, and puberty, and . . . he took a deep breath.

The furnace was just up ahead.

Don't fuck with a good crew, he thought.

Elliot had had a good crew. A great crew. Great because they'd never been caught.

Great because he, Lauren and Goop, were all so proficient, so professional, so attached.

But he couldn't wait. Not two Goddamn weeks. The take wouldn't have been there. It couldn't have been the same.

And Lauren insisted, she urged and prodded. She seduced him by saying, "We don't need Goop."

It was all her fault, Elliot felt. Her responsibility that he'd been arrested, that they'd been separated . . . her blunder, a major faux pas. Just because she didn't approve of Goop.

Of course, Lauren hadn't approved of what Elliot had done that Christmas Eve night either.

He'd heard that enough times, through the grapevine, and from intermediaries. Hell, Goop even told him the evening of his escape, as they drove over the Montana state line toward the lodge.

"Lauren's not happy about the killings," Goop had said.

Little did he know what Elliot had planned for her.

Goop would have called it a waste.

But to Elliot, it was just deserts. He had almost died because of Lauren's distaste for Goop's social skills. Her impatience, her delusions of humanity. And when trapped in that house, when her words "Vincenzo's a good man" echoed in his head, Elliot became Goop. And every time he pulled the trigger, it was for Lauren.

Elliot kneeled now before the huge furnace, turned two thumbscrews that held a breakaway panel in place, then pulled the panel away.

The detonator, a black metal box, containing a concoction of batteries, switches, and wires, all put together by Goop, and connected to a timer. A simple battery-powered travel alarm clock, available at any department store.

"You probably leaned against it to get warm," Elliot said, reaching out, pressing the buttons.

It was almost three o'clock, and the sun rose at six thirty, give or take a moment.

Elliot set the alarm to go off in four hours.

He checked his watch.

The place would blow at . . . six-fifty-two AM.

Perfect.

That gave him and Bob plenty of time to hit the road.

And if they didn't locate Paige, so be it. She'd die in a ball of flames.

And when Elliot thought about it, that really wasn't such a bad thing after all. In fact, it sounded downright pleasant, watching her from atop Lambert Peak, her arms flailing, the flesh melting off her bones . . . as she attempted to fly away

He pressed the Alarm On button -- Quite a wake-up call, one thousand pounds of plastique -- then laughed, Goop-like, he-he-he.

"This one's for you, my friend."

 

SNOW BLIND 2004 Gorman Bechard - All Rights Reserved