Chapter Fifty-seven







"Got'cha!"

Bob kicked in the door to Peter's room, crouched down low, and opened fire. The bullets sprayed out like Lemon Pledge on a laminated tabletop. He had hoped to catch Paige in the calf, or maybe thigh. Watch those beauteous gams crumble beneath her, house of cards-like.

But when the dust settled, Bob realized he was alone.

The room was empty. And the window had been knocked out. In front of it was an overturned chair. And a rope, the rope he saw from below, stretched taunt from the leg of the armoire, out and down to the ground below.

Looking through the octagon hole, he caught sight of no one. Not Peter, not Alison, and certainly not Paige.

Bob turned . . . a few feet from where the window was cut into the roof line was an L-shaped deck of sorts, built onto the a flat portion of the roof. There was a set of footprints, leading away from the window, and onto the deck.

Then Bob saw the movement.

A sprint really, nothing but legs catching glints of light that escaped from the shadows.

Paige!

"Sonofabitch," he muttered, uprighting the chair, and hoisting himself up and through the window.

Bob held onto the rope for support. Its other end no longer taunt.

Checking over the edge of the roof line, he saw nothing.

"You won't get far," he called out anyway, spraying the ground with 9mm rounds. Hoping to hit something, anything.

Then he listened. Silence. Except for the wind, and the pelting bits of snow and sleet against the top of his head.

And . . . footsteps and a . . . thud.

Bob crawled over to where he had seen the flash of legs. Stepping onto the deck, he noticed more footsteps, leading this way and that.

Then he spotted the storage shed, one of those beige-plastic, Rubbermaid kinds. It was over at the far edge of the deck, sheltered by a overhang of the roof line.

The footsteps stopped there, and one of the shed's door was slightly ajar.

Bob laughed.

It was almost too easy.

He walked over to the shed, slowly, his Uzi at the ready. Ready to cut her in half if need be.

Using the muzzle of the gun, he pushed open the door of the shed and yelled, "Don't move!"

And nothing did.

The gas grill, the utensils, the folding patio chairs, the folding table, all stayed perfectly still.

The only movement came from the small egg-shaped contraption which was tossed Bob's way. It landed about six inches behind his left foot. Slightly covered in the snow, it was hard to even notice.

Paige counted off the time on her fingers. M-68's were known to blow of their own volition within seven seconds. "Seven . . . six . . ."

Bob poked further into the shed, thinking perhaps he'd missed something. That Paige could somehow squeeze and contort herself into the space behind the grill.

Finding nothing, he slowly turned around, lowered the Uzi, and scratched at his chin.

". . . five . . . four. . ."

That's when the contraption caught Bob's attention.

It was sinking into the snow under its own weight. And the shadows, the light coming only from windows, made it difficult to see.

He bent and reached for it.

". . . three . . . two . . . Hey, Bob!"

Bob held the contraption now in his hand, and was turning it over, trying to see it clearly, when he heard her voice.

He looked up, and caught sight of Paige. She was standing over in front of the broken window.

And she was waving.

"Bye," Paige said.

That's when Bob realized that the contraption was a live grenade.

A little too late.





Chapter Fifty-eight







"The best laid plans . . ."

Paige was long gone by the time Elliot made it to the third floor room in which Peter had been held.

He saw the broken window, the rope, and outside, the charred, still burning, remains of what he could only imagine to be Bob Kennedy O'Toole, over by some melted beige blob.

He crossed himself.

It was something Elliot had not done since childhood. Since his elementary school years at St. Anne's in Boston, Massachusetts. Since those damn Sunday morning church outings with his mother and father.

Church.

To think he once regularly attended church services. Mass, every Sunday morning, 9 AM sharp.

To think that he once actually believed.

Well, that all stopped soon enough. When mother died of breast cancer, and father took up drinking.

And then, well, his life fell apart . . .

"Rest in piece, my friend," Elliot he said, noticing the chair, and sitting.

He was tired, so absolutely exhausted. And so alone now.

Bob. Were there tears for him? Perhaps later. Perhaps as Elliot lay on the beach, his sweat mingling with that of some native girl's. The tears confusing her, making her believe her touch was to die for. Making her think she could elicit such a reaction with her mouth, or her hands.

But not now, no tears while Paige was still out there.

Not while she was still alive.

And who else?

Peter and Alison?

And what of the youngest guest? Dear Greta. He should have pulled the trigger when he had the chance. Saved Goop from his own primal instincts. Saved him from what he perceived as pleasure.

Were they all now -- Paige, Alison, Peter, Greta, and Shane, as well -- wandering through the blizzard? Circling the wagons, or circling the lodge? Waiting for him to make his move?

Could any human survive nature's coldest curse? Could they be oblivious to the wind-chilled factors? Could the authorities actually be on their way?

Elliot shook his head. No. Impossible. There was no way to survive out there. There was no way to get here. Not in time.

Time.

He checked his watch. Almost three-thirty.

What were his chances at survival? To say to hell with Paige Turner. To hell with revenge. There'd be other friends, other partners.

So much money was waiting for him. Money to last a hundred lifetimes -- and wasn't that what it was about? Not to die with the most toys, but to survive with the most toys. Escape was definitely preferable. To escape was to live. To survive.

Or was it?

Would Paige try and stop him? Become obsessed? Live her life determined to put an end to his? And might she know about his plans? Might she have heard from Alison or Peter or Greta about the retreat, his planned escape to the Cayman Islands?

"Shit!" Elliot whispered, knowing that to let Paige live was to forever be looking over his shoulder.

The decision was made. He had a little over three hours to hunt her down, and accomplish what neither Bob nor Goop could do.

To terminate Paige Turner's life.

Quick.

And definite.

Nothing fancy.

No time for fun. Not now.

Now the games were over. No more diversions. And for the first time in a very long time, since Christmas Eve, almost two years back, Elliot felt that sudden surge of righteous energy.

He was on track, walking hallowed ground.

A God-like feeling, really.

Elliot could decide who lived and who died.

And right now, he was choosing death for Paige Turner. And he would not be denied.





Chapter Fifty-nine







". . . always the asshole, doing the wrong thing at the right time . . ."

The song played the back of Paige's head, as she moved along the second floor hallway.

She pressed her body against the wall, and stayed down low. Into doorways, part of doorjambs, she wanted to blend into the flowered wallpaper like a Martha Stewart Christmas wreath.

Alison and Peter told her they were going to hide, and that they claimed to know just the place.

Paige hadn't even asked. Just go there, keep warm, and stay away from here, she ordered, explaining that it was wired and packed with plastiques, and only Elliot knew when it was going to blow.

"It's going to be soon," Paige had told them. "Probably just after the snow ends."

She was headed now to Elliot's bedroom.

If she remembered correctly, and she was pretty sure about this, Elliot was checked into a room at the opposite end of the hallway from the honeymoon suite. Two doors down from where Goop had killed Felicity.

Paige could see the room now, as she walked, faster, faster, her heartbeat, everything . . .

Then a noise . . .

Footsteps . . .

Paige turned and pulled herself into a doorway.

Elliot was running, leaping, two and three stairs at a time, down from the third floor. He seemed renewed. Energetic. As if on Speed, or Coke, or a gallon of Espresso.

He held an Uzi in his hand, at the ready, his eyes darting this way and that.

Elliot touched down on the second floor landing, crouched, then swept his eyes down both sides of the hall. The theme song from the Spiderman cartoon was playing in his head, and that was exactly how he felt. Impervious and all mighty. If only he had the cool red and black jumpsuit to go along with his mood.

But Elliot saw nothing -- Paige was out of his line of sight. If he had moved a foot or two forward, she'd be there, an easy target, as plain as day, but instead, he laughed, so carefree and gay, so loud, then straightened up, and in a beat -- a heartbeat, his, her's had stopped -- continued down the stairs, in those huge insect-like strides, toward the great room.

Paige clutched a hand to her chest. She pressed Greta's crucifix to her skin, and took a long breath. It felt good to breath again. Slowly, as if coming back to life. To move again.

She crept over to Elliot's room. The door was unlocked. She opened it, and slipped inside, closing, then using the skeleton key to lock the door behind her.

Rummaging around the room for something anything, Paige checked under the bed, in drawers, then in the closet. Then . . . well, hello.

It was lying on the floor in the back of the closet, not covered by any coats, any blankets, it's aluminum sides as conspicuous against the pastel decor, as her B&W speakers back home would be.

Elliot's briefcase.

Paige pulled it from its non-hiding space, and sat it on the bed. She glanced at the combination lock. The numbers were set at six-six-six. It was as if Elliot knew no one would ever dare violate his space, that there was no reason to lock the case.

Well, about that, he was wrong.

Paige popped the locks open, then raised the lid. She couldn't help but smile, then laugh slightly, at the sight. The gleaming prosthetic hand, encased in foam.

Then an idea popped out of her mind, like a meat timer in a just-done bird.

Boing!

Stick the fork in.

She'd leave a nice little treat for Elliot. Classic in its simplicity, but heartfelt nonetheless. And all Paige needed was a lighter, or some matches.

She checked her pockets, remembering that one day she knew she'd regret not smoking as a teenager.

And this was the day.

Paige checked the pockets of the coat in Elliot's closet, nothing. She looked about the room, atop the dresser, and nighttable, and . . . voila . . . atop the pale pink doily, in a pretty pink glass ashtray, were pretty pink matches, official Lambert Ski Lodge matches.

Perfect, she thought.

Simply perfect.





Chapter Sixty







"You were here."

Elliot kicked in the door of the servant's quarters.

The cedar closet was open.

For a moment he thought God was on his side, smiling down upon him, in cahoots with Elliot and Mother Nature, and that he'd found Paige, rummaging through the weapons. But no such luck.

The room was quite.

No heartbeats, no fear.

Elliot ran toward the closet, and took an immediate inventory. Two grenades were missing from the case of twelve, and the bazooka. What use could she possibly have for a bazooka?

His mind wandered for a moment, and then he noticed the panel, pushed aside, and the storage space behind it.

He cursed loudly, and slammed his prosthetic hand in the wall, splintering some of the cedar.

Paige had mocked him by her presence, and that only increased his fury.

She had ridiculed him with her fearlessness.

And Paige should have been very frightened.

"Stupid girl," Elliot said, exhaling deeply.

He had to calm down. Remember the plan. The new and immediate plan.

Picking up boxes of 9mm ammo, Elliot began loading the Uzi's magazines.

It was a simple enough idea, really.

He'd shoot her out of hiding, or shoot her while hiding. Didn't matter. But no square foot of the lodge would go unharmed.

He'd start at the top and work his way down, Swiss-cheesing all the way.

Elliot loaded the clips into his pockets, as many as he could carry. Two in each front pocket, one in each back, one in his free hand, and one loaded in the gun.

Four hundred rounds in all.

A good start.







Chapter Sixty-one







"We've got to help her."

Alison and Peter were in the small pro shop at the base of the mountain, where one could warm their bones before the slow ride up, and quick ride down, or the long cross-country workout.

The lights were off, all the lights, even the fluorescent bulbs which would normally offer shoppers a clear view of the merchandise and price tags. Though the switch, the switch that could change all that, remained within Peter's reach.

Not that the lights could help, the lights could do nothing except lead Elliot right to them. There were no gigantic Saint Bernards out there, ready and willing to rescue, which would be guided to them by the lights.

They were both drinking coffee, seated by the portable electric heater. It was turned on high, and doing a satisfactory job of first warming them up, then keeping them that way.

They had already gone over the questions in their heads, so many questions, a text book of whys and what ifs, with the main one being a how?, as in: "How could we have been so stupid?"

But there was no easy answer. There had been no signs. It was only Lauren, and she had played the part perfectly, handing them a dream, then seducing them into believing in it.

When it had been nothing but a ruse.

One they never expected, never even considered. So why be on the lookout?

And though Peter was still dazed, and Alison still enraged, their hearts, their loyalties, kept tugging them back to Paige, who had come to their rescue when she could have been long gone, who had saved their lives.

"If only we had a gun" Alison said.

They had gone through every drawer, every cabinet, and short of tossing a cup of scalding hot coffee in Elliot's face, or perhaps stabbing him with the pointed tip of a ski pole, there was nothing that even remotely resembled anything lethal.

"Nothing," Alison said, slamming the last storage cabinet shut, picturing steam . . . if she could just concentrate on dry cleaning. Funny, she thought, how the one thing in her life which had been driving her crazy, was now the one thing keeping her sane.

"Not here, there isn't," Peter said, suddenly bright eyed, and almost brimming with exuberance.

"What are you talking about?" Alison asked.

Peter stood and began pacing, his hands animated, telling her his scheme, his arguably brilliant idea.

And though Alison had to maintain that it could be dangerous, it was nonetheless the only course of action they had.

And if it could save Paige's life, then it was worth the try.

Damn Elliot Haring, full speed ahead.



SNOW BLIND 2004 Gorman Bechard - All Rights Reserved