Richie Travers carefully removed the picklock from the keyhole of the French windows of the Glen Iris estate, then looked up at the pale blue alarm box above the windows.
"Fingers crossed!" thought Richie, mindful of his first stay in prison, half his lifetime ago after the "carefully de-activated" alarm decided to go off anyway, despite his best efforts to bypass it. But since then Richie had spent nearly a decade of his young life in the pen and had learnt lock picking from the experts. So, with any luck, this time the alarm would not shriek as he opened the door.
He placed the picklock back into a small, plastic wallet, returned the wallet to an inner pocket of his vest, then reached out for the door handle with his right hand. Holding the handle, he breathed deeply for a second or two to steel himself. Then, carefully easing the French windows open, he eased around the side to glide inside catlike, rather than risk opening the windows wide.
Inside at last, he stopped to carefully ease shut the windows, then reached into his outer breast pocket to remove a small penlight. He pressed the small switch on the torch, and nothing happened Cursing to himself, Richie pressed the switch a little harder and a pinprick of yellowy light shot out to illuminate a small area. Doing his best not to trip or bump into furniture, Richie slowly made his way around the small sitting hall.
A careful examination of the ground floor revealed nothing of interest, since it was mainly entrance halls. So, he crept up one of two wide staircases to the first floor where he located a large sitting room.
"Well, one of them, anyway," thought Richie. Although Laura and Stephen Weston we're quite in the same financial bracket as Joseph Gutnick or Kerry Packer, as Australia's third wealthiest family, the Westons were still well moneyed. "So this must be only one of their sitting rooms," he reasoned. Before entering the Westons's home, Richie had acquired a copy of the blueprints of the manor and had established that it was a six-storey mansion with an average twelve rooms per floor.
Still half expecting to hear the outside alarm go off (and fearing it might be a silent alarm linked directly to D24 in Melbourne) Richie started slowly around the sitting room.
Apart from a few silver trinkets, the only things of interest to the burglar were two Aboriginal Dream-Time paintings by celebrated Australian artist Ainslie Roberts: "The Burgin Gin" (which showed a full sized Aboriginal warrior being attacked by half metre tall Aboriginal warriors wielding shining golden spears taller than themselves. And "Liru and Kunia" which depicted two large serpents fighting in the red sand of the Simpson Desert.
"These should fetch a nice commission," said Richie at a whisper. He knew at least two or three private collectors who were desperate for Ainslie Roberts works and were not concerned how they acquired them.
After carefully checking for alarm presses on the wall behind the paintings (for fear they might be separate to the main alarm that he had already deactivated), Richie carefully removed the first painting. Instead of cutting the painting from the frame and damaging it (thus reducing its value), he carefully removed the painting from the frame, then reached into the sack he was carrying and removed a long postal cylinder. He carefully rolled up the painting and slid it into the cylinder, then placed the cylinder into his sack. Then he removed the second painting and repeated the procedure.
Although not usually nervous, Richie had been on edge ever since entering the French windows. Feeling a cold chill run down his spine, he considered departing with the two paintings. Though not worth a fortune, they would each fetch a few thousand dollars. "And maybe I can come back in a few months ... once I've got my nerves back!" But logic told him that it would be ten times harder to enter the manor house next time. "Once they find the paintings gone the security system will be revamped to blazes!"
So, with icy fingers playing his spine like a xylophone, Richie started across to the door to the corridor.
Outside he lingered for a moment. His eyes had adjusted to the feeble beam thrown by the penlight. So there was less chance of him stumbling into furniture. Still, logic (and icy tendrils of fear gripping his heart) told him it was best to take no chances. So, he started slowly down the wide corridor, stopping at the next door.
Gripping the doorknob in his left hand this time, Richie steeled himself for a few moments, then swung the door inward. He had half expected the door to be locked. But even in a security conscious district like Glen Iris, there was no reason to lock inner doors. And the sitting room had not been locked. So, as he had expected, the door swung wide easily. Too easily, and for a nervous second, he feared he would lose control of the door to hear it crash into the inside wall.
Just in time he managed to control his nerves, and the door, and stepped silently inside. And found himself standing face to face with a Doberman Pinscher.
His first instinct was to race back out into the corridor, trying to pull the door closed in time to keep the guard dog at bay. He eased back into the hallway, and started to slowly ease the door shut.
He had shut the door firmly, when he realised that the dog had made no move toward him. "It must have seen me!" he realised. "And even if it didn't, Dobermans have a sense of smell twenty thousand times as strong as ours. So it can't have failed to notice me!"
Logic told him to head back toward the ground floor and exit the manor through the French windows. But determined not to be so easily spooked, Richie forced himself to pull open the door and step back into the darkened room.
Trying his best to control his racing heart and panting breath, Richie stepped up to the tallish, black dog and shone the penlight directly into its eyes. Expecting the dog to whine and flinch (or attack!), Richie kept within a quick step of the hallway door. However, the Doberman neither whined, flinched nor attacked. So, hesitantly, Richie reached out one hand to tap the beast gently upon the muzzle.
The cold, enamel muzzle.
Richie sighed audibly as he realised that it was only a plaster dog. Then he looked round nervously again, hoping no one in an adjoining room had heard the loud outrush of breath.
For one crazy instant, Richie thought of taking the plaster Doberman to punish the Westons for the anxiety it had caused him. But logic dictated it was too bulky to fit into his sack, and much too heavy for its value to waste time on it anyway.
So, ignoring the faux Doberman, Richie started round the room, carefully evaluating each item in turn by the beam of the penlight, before deciding whether it was worth taking or not.
The room was filled with plaster or jade statues and statuettes from pocket-size up to need-a-forklift-to-move-it size. In the end Richie took just two small jade vases, which he carefully wrapped in newspaper, both to protect them and to stop them clinking in his sack.
Then, after one last look around the room, he returned to the wide corridor and started toward the next room to the left, deciding to do all the rooms on one side first, then return to investigate the right-hand rooms later.
After more than an hour, he had finished the first floor rooms and had only picked up three paintings -- although all three would pick up a few thousand dollars each -- half a dozen small silver knickknacks, and the two jade vases.
"A small haul for the third wealthiest family in Australia," said Richie, feeling vexed. Although normally an easy going bloke, he couldn't help feeling a little cheated at all the work he had had to do, for the little he had to show for it.
Not a man of violence, Richie was reluctant to check the upper floors, knowing the Westons and their domestics were asleep up there. "I should have waited till they went on their holidays in a few months," he thought. But just out of prison, he'd needed cash urgently and the Weston manor house seemed a surprisingly easy tickle. So far though, it had hardly been a tickle at all.
"Still, the second floor might be safe enough," he decided. He knew the Westons themselves lived on the fifth floor, which had been converted to a private penthouse. "So, stay well clear of the fifth floor and I ought to be relatively safe." He hoped. Of course, the domestics could live on any of the remaining floors for all that his blueprints showed. However, he was prepared to gamble that any occupied bedrooms would be locked at night. So, as long as he was careful trying the doorknobs, he should be safe.
After a moment's indecision, he started across to the wide, carpeted staircases in the centre of the building. One of two that led up to the next floor. Just past the twin staircases was a small, wire-framed elevator. But having been caught twice previously for burglary, he was not careless enough to risk using the elevator. If the rattles and crashes didn't awaken the entire household, the shrieking of the cables and antiquated motor starting and stopping undoubtedly would.
"Besides, I'm not going any further than the second floor, Richie decided. "So who needs an elevator?"
Half an hour later he had completed the second floor. On the plus side he had only encountered one locked door and had managed to slip away unnoticed by anyone sleeping within. On the negative side, he had found little worth lifting. An original Norman Lindsay painting would fetch notably more than the two Ainslie Robertses combined, so he had taken the time to liberate it. But nothing else had been worth adding to his meagre stash.
After much soul-searching, he reluctantly went up to the third floor. In the first room he found a handful of small silver cups in what was obviously the games room. There was also a $50,000 full sized pool table, which he had no possible hope of moving. So he was forced to settle for the silver trophies.
Returning to the corridor, he paused for a second, tempted to leave now. When from overhead came a sudden shriek, then a female voice crying, "No, oh God no!" Then a muffled, half choking sound, followed by silence.
Startled, Richie looked up as though possessing X-ray vision, hoping to see the crier through the ceiling. "Nightmares, I guess," he said, knowing that the Westons had a twelve-year-old daughter, Tara. "I guess even rich kids can have nightmares," he thought. "I suppose their bad dreams are about stock market crashes; governments of the world getting serious about taxing the rich; about the United States no longer functioning as a haven for billion-dollar tax-avoiders from other countries ...?"
Despite his fear of being caught by the Westons, Richie reluctantly continued hunting through the rooms on the third floor. He would not dare try rifling through the fourth floor or the fifth floor suites with the Westons sleeping up there. But he decided it was worth risking a bleary-eyed valet or maid.
The next room was a large den, with bookcases lining three walls, and a large oaken table taking up nearly half the floor space. At first Richie considered leafing through the books in the hope of finding rare first editions. But then, as a cry came from the fifth floor again, he decided against it.
Besides, he had already noticed what to the untrained eye looked like a fireplace. But which instinct and prison training told him was a false-front covering a wall safe.
He resisted the urge to race across to the fireplace and probably fall in the dark. Instead he stepped across slowly, knelt, and began carefully feeling around the white frontispiece, which was wood moulded and painted to look like ironwork. After a few moments, he found a small button on one side of the fireplace.
Half expecting alarms to go off, he pressed the button. With an (he hoped) almost inaudible whirring of gears, the fireplace slid up the wall to reveal a fairly standard looking small metal wall safe.
Richie removed the glove from his right hand, then took a small piece of emery-board from his sack to sensitise his fingertips. "If only I had one of those electronic gizmos to clip onto the safe, it could spin the tumblers and crack the safe in two minutes while I stood back and watched," he thought. Then looking at the unimpressive safe, he decided, "I can probably open it in two minutes anyway."
In reality it took nearly five minutes to crack the safe. However, to his dismay, no bounty lay within.
"Damn!" said Richie, taking out the contents: a small automatic pistol (minus the clip), a faded travel brochure -- which looked old enough to be for the maiden voyage of the Titanic -- a small portion of at least week-old meat pie on a lilac saucer, and three plastic $100 bills.
"Oh well, this is something, at least," said Richie, pocketing the $300. He returned the other things to the safe and quickly departed the room.
In the next few rooms he found other trinkets, but still nothing of great value. "They must keep all their loot in a walk-in safe on the fifth floor," he had begun to realise, wondering if he dared try up there after all?
As he stepped into the corridor, once more cries rang out from the floor above. But this time it was the voice of a mature man. "Bad dreams must be contagious," thought Richie as he pulled open the door to the final room, stepped into the room and stared in disbelief at the sight before him:
A middle-aged man and woman were sitting up in bed, both seemingly staring toward Richie. Except that both had had their eyes plucked out.
Thinking it an illusion of the poor light from the penlight, Richie risked turning on the overhead light and stared in horror. The man and woman had not only been blinded, but had been all but boned by whoever had killed them. Entrails hung like bloody spaghetti across a double bed stained red with their blood.
Realising his fingers were sticky, Richie took out a handkerchief and began to rub down his fingers as he stared in amazement at the room. The walls, floor and ceiling looked like something Jackson Pollock might have produced on a bad day. The walls seemed to have been painted in gallons of red paint, except that Richie didn't need to be told that it wasn't really red paint.
"What the hell happened to my glove?" he wondered, staring at his bare right hand. He silently cursed his carelessness as he realised he had removed it to crack the safe earlier, then had left the glove behind.
Looking away from the blood-soaked bed, Richie cursed his own stupidity as he saw the perfect fingerprints he had left in blood when he had turned on the bedroom light.
Striding across to the light, he hurriedly wiped away the prints with the hanky. Then staring at the now sopping red hanky, he wondered if he was making things worse rather than better. Seeing two more fingerprints on the wall near the switch, he hurriedly rubbed them away, before realising, "They could have belonged to the murderer, not me." He considered returning to the den to collect his glove, but had to think, "Was it on this floor? Or one down?"
He had already returned to the corridor, when he heard another muffled cry from upstairs, followed by the sound of cascading water. For a moment he thought it had started to rain outside, and looked round toward a bay window at the other end of the corridor.
Then he realised, "The shower! Someone is taking a shower up on the fifth floor!" Looking at his wristwatch he saw that it was a little before 1:00 AM.
"Who the hell takes a shower at this time?" he wondered. Then he realised there was only one possible answer.
His first instinct was to flee. His second, to continue up one more floor to start searching the fourth floor rooms in the hope of locating valuables. However, the recollection of the eviscerated couple in the room he had just vacated, made the search for valuables no longer attractive.
Without even realising it, Richie started up the wide staircase past the fourth landing and onto the fifth. It was only as he started down the left-hand corridor, that he suddenly came to his senses. "What the hell am I doing? It has to be the murderer washing the blood off before leaving!"
As the muffled cry came again, he realised that both showerer and crier were in rooms at the other end of the hallway. "The logical thing to do is call the police, then make a hasty exit before they get here," Richie decided.
He looked down the corridor in the hope of seeing a phone on a stand. Then, reluctantly, he tried the knob of the nearest door -- careful to use his left hand, which still had on its protective glove.
Inside the master bedroom he found two telephones, both with the cables cut. On the bed lay a beautiful blonde of at least fifty, whom he knew from the society pages must be Laura Weston. The man beside her was probably half a decade younger and resembled Stephen Weston. As far as he could recall.
For one crazy moment Richie thought the Westons had decided to take a bath, wearing pyjamas, in their own blood. Then he realised that the gentle bobbing of the corpses was caused by the torn waterbed that they lay upon.
"Got to get out of here now!" thought Richie. Despite having spent nearly a third of his thirty-something years in prison, Richie Travers was not a violent man. He knew that he would fare no better than the Westons or their domestics if he came face to face with whoever else had broken into the Weston estate that night.
As he returned to the corridor again, the muffled cry rang out again, from the next room down the hallway. And he realised that it could only be the Westons's twelve-year-old daughter, Tara.
"Why has he kept the girl alive after killing everyone else?" wondered Richie as he started down the corridor to the next door. Then he blushed as he realised the only possible reason.
"With both parents dead, it's unlikely to be for ransom!" he reasoned, blushing again.
Although he could hear the shower still running, he knew that it could not continue much longer. "Got to get on with it then," he thought as he tentatively gripped the doorknob and swung the bedroom door inward.
Not quite knowing what to expect, Richie stepped into the bedroom which obviously belonged to a young girl: posters of Hanson and other teen heartthrobs lined the wall, along with two bookcases of Barbie dolls and a seemingly near-infinite array of Barbie companion dolls and accessories.
Of more interest though, was the painfully beautiful silver-blonde girl in the centre of the bed. Unlike her parents, Tara Weston seemed to be unharmed, her pale blue eyes staring up at Richie in terror as he stepped into the room.
At first, other than the strange posture, hunched in the middle of the bed, Tara Weston seemed untouched. Then, even in the dark, Richie could see the strong masking tape circling her head three or four times to gag her, and the gleaming, near new looking chains that held her spread-eagled to the bed.
"Mmmmmm!" murmured Tara, blue eyes wide in terror staring at Richie.
Heartsick at the look of absolute terror in the eyes of one so young, Richie wondered if the fiend who had killed her parents had already told her of the "fate worse than death" that awaited Tara Weston.
"Unless I, Richie Travers, burglar extraordinaire, can rescue her," he thought. Then seeing his gloveless right hand in the pale beam of his penlight, he thought, "Extraordinarily inept that is."
As he approached the bed, Richie was startled to hear singing from a metre or so beyond the bed. And for the first time he realised that the murderer of Laura and Stephen Weston was showering in the en-suite of their daughter's bedroom.
"Don't worry, honey," said Richie as he leant across Tara Weston, "I'm here to help you." Reaching into his vest pocket, he removed the plastic wallet holding his picklocks and just hoped and prayed that he could pick the heavy Yale locks holding the girl chained to the bed, before the murderer finished cleaning up.
* * *
Roderick Voss is taking a shower in the small en-suite of Tara Weston's bedroom, when he hears the clanking of chains. He grins a broad shit-eater grin, looking forward to the fun that he is going to have with the twelve-year-old girl soon. "It's hardly worth showering, only to get dirty again," he thinks, delighted at the thought of how violently he will abuse the virginal girl before killing her.
Of course he could take her with him. Keep her chained to His bed as a personal sex slave as others before him had done. But he realises that this would be suicidally dangerous. Others before him have also served decades in prison when their love captives have managed to escape, or get found still alive. "No, better to have her violently for a few hours till just before dawn, then kill her before leaving the estate," he thinks. "After all, dead girls tell no tales!
"Still, she is gorgeous." Most parents like to believe their little girl is the most beautiful girl in the world. In the Westons's case, they just might be right. "But she will be a gorgeous corpse soon," he decides. "After I've had a few hours of pleasure with her."
Hearing the chains clinking in the next room, Roderick Voss smiles, knowing there is no way that Tara Weston can escape the four Yale locks. Yet he is pleased in a way that she is a fighter and will not stop trying. Her parents had not even pleaded for their lives. They had just stared at him with big cow-eyes, too afraid to even try to run as he slaughtered first Laura, then Stephen. But young Tara had kicked and scratched like a wildcat.
Voss has had fun subduing the silver-haired minx. He smirks like a village idiot as he thinks of the still greater pleasure that he is going to take from her nubile young body, before killing her.
Excitement mounting, Voss reaches up to turn off the shower, then steps out of the cubicle and reaches for a towel.
* * *
In the bedroom, Richie Travers had picked the locks holding Tara Weston's hands in place. He had just started to pick the lock holding her left foot to the bed, when the shower in the en-suite suddenly went off.
"Oh no!" said Tara, having painstakingly removed the four rolls of masking tape around her head, doing her best not to cry out at the pain as the tape tore at her blonde hair, and the delicate flesh of her face.
"Don't worry, honey, I'll get you out of here in time," said Richie. Only hoping he wasn't making promises that he couldn't keep.
Richie almost cried aloud in delight as the third Yale popped open. But he realised that he only had seconds to pick the fourth lock and get the girl onto her feet before the murderer came looking for her.
"Please hurry," whispered the girl, in a terrified voice that made her sound half of her twelve years.
* * *
In the en-suite Roderick Voss is slowly towelling himself off. He almost starts dressing, but realises that there's no point, since he will be naked again soon anyway. He snickers as he thinks of the sexual agony he is about to inflict upon the young girl. From past experience he knows that he will enjoy the girl's pain and terror even more than the physical act of sex.
"Well, as much," he says, laughing sadistically.
Draping his clothes carefully over his left shoulder, Voss starts across toward the door to the bedroom, calling, "Coming, ready or not!"
He hears a terrified whimper from Tara Weston and is thrilled by her fear.
* * *
"Don't worry, honey, nearly there," whispered Richie Travers. And to his relief he heard a loud click as the fourth Yale lock sprang open.
As the en-suite door began to swing open, Richie grabbed the young girl by the shoulders and all but threw her off the bed. For a few seconds the chains tangled and it looked as though they might not get away in time before the door swung open.
But seeing the look of absolute terror in the girl's pale blue eyes, Richie grabbed her arms with both hands and tugged with all his might. "No point being gentle with her, if it means leaving her in the grip of that pervert!" thought Richie as he strained to tug the girl loose from the bed.
Finally the tangled chains pulled loose, and Richie stumbled backwards, almost falling to the floor with the twelve-year-old girl on top of him.
Staggering a little, he just managed to keep his footing. And hearing the girl's startled yelp, Richie flashed her a broad smile, only hoping that she could see it in the dark.
"Can you walk, honey?" he asked, placing the girl gently on her feet.
"Y ... yes, I think so," she said hesitantly, clinging to Richie Travers for support.
"Okay, then let's get going," he said, half leading, half carrying the twelve-year-old girl toward the corridor.
* * *
Grinning his broadest shit-eater grin, Roderick Voss pushes the en-suite door open, almost laughing aloud in delight at the brutality (both sexual and otherwise) that he intends inflicting upon the gorgeous silver-blonde girl before killing her.
"Okay, baby, the fun is ready to be..." calls Voss, stopping in shock as he stares at the empty bed. He sees the chains still in place, the four Yale locks, now mysteriously open, and long strands of brown masking tape with tufts of silver-blonde hair attached. But no sign of Tara Weston.
"Where the ...?" says Voss. Then hearing shuffling movement, he looks across just in time to see the bedroom door swing shut.
"How in the hell?" he asks no one in particular. He hurriedly pulls on his slacks, shoes and vest, not bothering with his under garments, then leaps across the bed, unconcerned by the clinking of the chains as he heads toward the door to the corridor. "This place is like a fortress," he thinks aloud. "It could take days to track her down if she gets out of hearing range."
As he races toward the door, he wonders if Tara Weston is game enough to head toward the wide staircase to try to reach ground level to go for help. "Then it really will be a race!" he thinks, confident that with four hours gym work a week for the last twenty years, he is fitter and faster than the young girl and will easily overtake her.
* * *
Doing his best not to pull the young girl off her feet, Richie started to drag her down the corridor in the direction where he hoped the twin staircases were. "Let's just hope I haven't got myself turned about in the dark!" he thought, hoping he wasn't leading them both deeper into danger, away from the stairs, not toward them.
"No, no," cried Tara, pulling back against him as he started toward the stairs. "Not that way."
"But we have to make a run for it," said Richie, thinking that the girl was still confused from her recent ordeal.
"No, he'll catch us on the stairs," said the girl, thinking more clearly than the man. "The lift. We can take it down to the ground floor while he's still on the third or fourth floor."
"Good thinking," said Richie, beaming at the beautiful girl.
* * *
In the corridor Roderick Voss stops to get his bearings, and allows his eyes to adjust to the dark. Hearing footsteps to the left, he smiles a broad shit-eater grin, thinking Tara Weston is heading for the stairs after all.
"Here I come, Tara baby!" calls the killer. "I hope you've got your running shoes on, if you think you can beat me to the ground floor."
At first he is greeted by only silence and Voss fears that the girl has gone into hiding instead. Then he hears the metallic screech of the elevator door being pulled open, and he grins broadly again.
"I've got you now, little one!" he calls after the fleeing girl as he starts at an easy trot toward the elevator. "You won't believe all the exquisitely painful things that I'm going to do with you, before sending you on to heaven to join your mummy and daddy."
Hearing the girl whimper in terror, Voss chuckles aloud, confident that he has as good as recaptured her.
"Running away wasn't very nice, baby. I'm going to have to punish you for that!" he calls. This time he is a little disappointed to hear no answering whimper from the girl.
* * *
"This way, this way," called Tara Weston, pointing. Although she was still a little unsteady on her feet after being in the cramped position, chained to her bed.
"Well, I'm glad you know the way," thought Richie, having got himself more than a little turned about in the dark. His eyes had already adjusted as much as possible to the dark. However, on the fifth floor of an unlit building, with all the drapes drawn, there was a limit to how much his eyes could really adjust. So, despite his best attempts at stealth, Richie was barely able to avoid collisions with stationary objects lining both sides of the corridor: fancy jade or plaster knickknacks on individual small stands. Knickknacks which must have seemed a good buy to one of the Westons when they had purchased them, but were now just a nuisance, turning the unlit corridor into an obstacle course.
At her insistence Richie led Tara past the first staircase and was relieved to see the elevator cage just past the stairs. "I guess it doesn't matter how much clanking and grinding it makes now. Only that bastard behind us will hear it. And with a little luck he'll never be able to run down five flights of stairs as quickly as the lift can travel."
By the time they had reached the elevator, to Richie's relief Tara seemed to be able to stand on her own feet. However, that was the least of their worries, as they soon discovered.
Pulling the wire door open, they raced inside. Tara pressed the ground floor button, while Richie pulled the door shut again.
Then nothing happened!
"What's wrong?" asked Richie as the elevator refused to budge. Although he had never been particularly claustrophobic before, Richie felt a little giddy in the cramped cage, wondering if it was only because it reminded him of the years of his life that he had wasted in prison.
"I don't know," said Tara, frantically trying to get the elevator to start.
"Let's get out of here," said Richie, pulling the door open again.
"No, we'll never outrun him."
"It doesn't matter, we'll find some place to hide," said Richie. He pulled the girl out of the elevator and toward the second flight of stairs. "Anything would be better than being trapped in that cage. Even trying to outrun a homicidal maniac," thought Richie as they fled the iron-sided elevator.
"Come on, we can hide on the fourth floor," he insisted, as the girl continued to pull against him, reluctant to leave the imagined safety of the private elevator.
To Richie's relief, after a few seconds the young girl stopped tugging against him, and they began to run hand in hand down the wide staircase, doing their best not to thunder down the stairs and give away their position to the pursuing maniac.
"Try to step lightly, even when running," Richie whispered. Then he had to fight not to fall down the stairs after almost tripping as he turned to glance back at the blonde girl.
He somehow resisted the inclination to scream out, knowing that it would alert the murderer. Instead, he reached for the rounded wooden newel post, grateful that he was running near the hand rail, not down the centre of the staircase. For a few seconds his gloveless right hand slid along the shiny banner rail, his fear-slickened fingers failing to find a grip. But just in time, as he seemed certain to somersault into darkness, his hand began to grip. And, with a little help from the near frantic twelve-year-old girl pulling on his other arm, he managed to steady himself, find his balance and stop himself from falling.
Unable to resist the temptation to at least heave a sigh of relief, Richie tried to keep his voice even as he said, "All right, let's go." And a little more carefully now, they started back down the stairs toward the fourth floor.
As they reached the landing to the fourth floor, Richie was tempted to keep dragging the girl down the stairs, thinking, "Only four more flights to go." But logic told him that the girl was right, they could never race the maniac all the way to the ground floor. Much better to hide in the spacious mansion and hope to find a working phone. Or at least, if they could elude the maniac until dawn he was bound to flee.
"Thankfully we don't know who he is and can't identify him. So catching us shouldn't be as big a priority as getting away," thought Richie. Only wondering if a maniac could think logically enough to reason that out.
* * *
Roderick Voss is smiling in delight as he pulls up at the stationary elevator. Of course, the girl couldn't get it started downward to escape. Voss had been careful to disable the elevator before even entering the fifth floor suites.
The smile is soon wiped off his face though, when he realises that the girl has abandoned the elevator.
"Damn!" he curses, wondering if the little brat is hiding somewhere on this floor? Or whether she is foolish enough to try racing him to the ground floor after all?
He looks about the darkened corridor, tempted to start turning on the lights. But he wonders whether this might help the troublesome twelve-year-old more than him?
"I'm coming to get you, baby! I know exactly where you are!" he calls, hoping to draw at least a whimper from Tara Weston to lead him in her direction. At first he is disappointed, thinking his ruse has failed. Then he hears a sound like someone stumbling on the second staircase, just past the elevator and realises that she is foolish enough to try racing him down to the ground level after all.
"Here I come, baby," he calls, as he starts to run toward the staircase. "I can see you!"
He chuckles at the lie, hoping it has unnerved the girl. He is a little disconcerted that the girl has managed to escape from the four Yale locks. He wonders if that is where she has suddenly got this courage from? Or whether he was careless and failed to lock them properly.
"But I can't have failed to snap shut all four locks!" he thinks. He starts to wonder if the girl is a little too cunning for him. He wonders whether he should simply abandon the girl and flee to safety before dawn breaks? But his libido is afire and he is determined to have the girl as violently as possible before leaving the Weston estate. "I'll fuck her to death!" he thinks, grinning like a loon at the thought of how much he is going to hurt the twelve-year-old girl before killing her.
END OF PART ONE: