“What are you talking about?” Wayne advanced on her.
“Your story,” Jackie quavered getting quickly to her feet, backing towards the cluster of chairs that surrounded a small reading table and stack of well-worn soft covers left by years of guests, “I knew it sounded familiar but honestly Wayne, reciting the back of a romance novel?” Jackie’s hand found the book she had been reading out of sheer boredom that morning when the maid came by.
Wayne never stopped moving towards her and as she picked up the book, he lunged forward grabbing for her wrist. “You’ve got it all wrong, Jackie; I was just…having some fun.”
Jackie dodged him, throwing the book at his chest, “A young daughter of a wealthy restaurant owner, forced to marry the man her father favors when who she really loves is the lowly, waiter?” Jackie recited as she backed towards the door leading to the wide hallway that bridged the long gap between the reading room and the guest rooms.
“I know, it’s uncanny, isn’t it?” Wayne laughed, “Jackie, you are way off base,” he lunged towards her again and tripped over the corner of an ottoman.
Jackie turned and ran into the dark hallway that led away from the warm glow of the reading room.
Her feet made barely a noise on the thick carpet as she pounded through the pitch dark hall. She didn’t dare turn to see where Wayne was, but she was certain he was coming after her.
Wayne had killed her, Jackie’s frantic thoughts chanted; Wayne killed the maid—why? Maybe she knew he was in love with Mrs. Carson. Did Mr. Carson know? Jackie wondered. She kept running until her bare feet slapped onto the stone flooring of the elevator lobby. Three hallways lead away from the elevator in different directions. Three hallways each lined with rooms. Jackie’s was down the hallway to the right, but would Wayne know that?
She had to decide quickly but didn’t know where to go. Then in an instant, Jackie knew what to do. She ran down the hall to the left, looking back, expecting to see Wayne coming through the dark after her. She saw nothing and after a few feet, turned quickly and ducked into the stairwell. She was three floors up from the garden level.
The skin of her feet slapped the dirty cement stairs as she raced downward. Just then she heard the door over head squeak open. Jackie froze, trying to control her breathing. Overhead she heard footsteps, shuffle slowly into the stairwell.
“Jackie?” Wayne’s voice broke the silence sweetly, as if he was waking a sleeping child.
Jackie’s blood ran cold. She held her back still against the wall. There was silence.
A moment later, she heard a small shuffling on the floor and the door squeaked again and banged shut.
Jackie waited, not daring to move. Silence. Jackie held her breath and began plummeting down the stairs, again, three at a time.
When Jackie reached the bottom, her hand shot out to grab the handle but an instant before she made contact, the handle dipped down and Jackie shot back, ducking underneath the stairs.
The door flew open, banging the wall behind it. Jackie held her breath. A great scuffle sounded as two people came stumbling backwards into the stairwell.
There was a whoop and holler and loud laughter, high heels scraped the cement floor. Jackie poked her head out from under the stairs and exhaled.
“Susan!” Jackie breathed and lunged forward, peeling her reeling body out of the arms of an equally reeling Trevor.
Susan startled in slow-motion and took a moment to focus on Jackie’s face, then grinned, “Jackie! Where the heck have you been?”
“Susan,” Jackie almost burst into tears seeing her familiar face.
“Jackie, what is it?” Susan asked, her smile disappearing.
“Susan, I’m in trouble.”
Susan turned to Trevor, who was leaning casually against the wall, his head moving almost imperceptibly. “I’m sorry Trevor, I’m afraid I need to call it a night.”
“No!” Jackie said urgently, “It’s not safe, I think he should come with us.”
Susan’s face became serious, “Jackie, what is going on?”
“Susan we need to go to your room—no,” Jackie interrupted herself, turning to Trevor, “take us to your room.”
“Sure,” Trevor smiled looking like he had just won the lottery. Trevor turned to the door and reached for the knob.
“No,” Jackie stopped him, “let’s take the stairs.”
The three of them turned and began climbing the stairs, with Jackie in the lead.
“I’m on the third floor,” Trevor whispered enthusiastically.
“I know,” Jackie snapped, “all the rooms are on the third floor.”
“Actually the suites are around the garden…by the employee rooms.”
Jackie stopped and turned to Trevor, “employee rooms?”
“Sure,” Trevor said casually, “I was trying to get a suite,” he said more to Susan, “but they said this is their busy season so the employees who stay on grounds take up almost all of the suites.”
Jackie was silent for a moment. “Are their names on the doors?” Jackie asked.
Trevor rubbed his chin, looking at the ceiling, “Um, yeah, I think so.”
Jackie turned and began running back down the stairs, “we’re going there instead.”
“But Jack,” Susan said seriously, “It’s pouring outside.”
Jackie kept moving, “we’ll have to get rain jackets.”
Jackie led them quietly through the back, less-populated halls. Dinner was letting out and some guests staggered to the bar, others were going to the elevators to make their way back to their rooms.
As quietly as she could with two giggling adults behind her, Jackie led them to the main entrance. It was completely unguarded. As it was after ten o’clock at night and pouring rain outside, the resort was not expecting anyone to arrive.
Jackie looked from the door to the hall which opened to the stone mezzanine where the great fountain spurted endlessly up towards the glass ceiling. Then Jackie saw the coat check. Behind a short door was a rack full of black, Sunshine Lake Resort rain jackets, with wide hoods and long sleeves.
“Perfect,” Jackie whispered.
“What?” Susan whispered back, giving Trevor a gentle shove to get him standing up straight.
Jackie was already creeping to the coat check and reaching over the short door, plucking three rain coats from the coat rack and handing them back.
“Are we really going out there, Jack?” Susan asked wearily, looking down at her pink dress and stiletto heels.
“We have to,” Jackie hissed. “We have to figure out what’s going on.”
“Whose room are we going to?” Trevor asked.
“Vivian's” Jackie answered quickly, then turning towards the heavy wood door.
“Who’s Vivian?” Susan asked as Jackie pulled open the wide door, inviting in a lashing, wet wind.
Jackie turned from the dark night and howling wind to face the two, “Vivian’s dead.”