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TARA WESTON'S GUARDIAN, Part Two

Short story By: Philip Roberts
Mystery and crime



Richie Travers is a world-class burglar who breaks into the Weston mansion expecting to find treasures. Instead he finds slashed bodies everywhere!


Submitted:Sep 18, 2011    Reads: 3    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


PART TWO:

Resisting the urge to keep racing down the wide staircase, Richie Travers and Tara Weston raced out onto the fourth floor landing, still trying to be as quiet as possible. Although they had heard the maniac shouting at them and sensed as much as heard as the killer started down the stairs after them.

"In here," said Richie at a whisper, guiding the girl into the nearest room. Looking about, even in the dark, Richie could see that it was a dining room. "More like a banqueting hall," he thought, looking over at the long blackwood table which looked as though it would not be out of place in the dining room in the Lodge in Canberra. "Or even Buckingham Palace!" he decided. Of course, he knew from studiously reading the society pages that the Westons had always liked to dine on a grand scale.

As they crouched at one end of the behemoth of a table, Tara Weston suddenly leant across to whisper in Richie's left ear, "Are you my guardian angel?"

"What ...? No ... I'm just a burglar, who picked the wrong house to burgle," explained Richie, startled by the beautiful girl's faith in him. Smiling to himself, he thought, "Guardian angel? Hell, I'm not even much of a burglar. I've already served two stretches in the pen, and I've only been out of high school fifteen years or so."

Hearing footsteps on their level, instinctively Tara and Richie both ducked. But, to their relief, instead of stopping on the fourth floor, the footsteps began to retreat down toward the third floor landing.

"He thinks we're racing down to the ground floor!" said Tara, sounding ecstatic. But Richie soon brought her back to Earth:

"For now," he said, looking around for some other exit from the landing. "But it won't take him long to realise that he can't hear our footsteps on the stairs ahead of him."

Looking across at the wide bay windows, Richie wondered if he could get them open without setting off any alarms. Then he realised, "Maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing; it might scare off the maniac. If he's got any sense of self-preservation at all, he'll know the alarm will bring neighbours and police poste haste."

After a second's hesitation, he headed toward the window.

* * *

For a moment Tara Weston crouched by the table watching her new guardian angel. Then deciding it was safest to stay near him, she padded after him and watched, puzzled, as Richie Travers approached the large window.

"Are we going to climb down to ground level out the window?" Tara asked, obviously thinking there was little that her new protector could not do.

"No, with any luck, we won't need to," said Richie, reaching for the window handle. "Here goes," he said, throwing the window open wide.

Instead of the shrill alarms that he had expected, Richie was greeted with only silence.

"Damn! He must have shut off the alarm system along with the lift mechanism," said Richie. He heaved a depressed sigh, hoping he wasn't going to get the girl killed after all. Hoping the man who had murdered Laura and Stephen Weston, wasn't too smart for him. "That's why I didn't set off any alarms when I entered through the French windows on the ground floor. Because he'd already shut down the alarm system. Not because of any lock picking skills I learnt in prison."

Looking out the fourth floor window, he realised that there was no escape for them that way either. Unlike the thriller movies where there is always a conveniently situated tree or water pipe that can be climbed down to ground level, in real life there was nothing. Only smooth fawn-coloured bricks. Which a skilled rock-climber might have been able to descend, using the mortar courses as footholds. But Richie was no human fly. And even if he had been desperate enough to risk his own life, he knew that he could never risk Tara Weston's life that way. "After all I'm her new guardian angel," he thought, smiling at the irony of it.

* * *

Roderick Voss has started to hum the old ABBA hit, "Waterloo", as he races down the wide staircase toward the third floor. It is only as he reaches the third floor landing that he realises that he can no longer hear the twelve-year-old girl's frightened footsteps ahead of him on the stairs. "Are you going to be my Waterloo, young Tara Weston?" he thinks. Over the last twenty years, Voss has killed nearly fifty people, raped and/or maimed countless others. And in all of that time, he has never faltered. Never felt uncertain about his ability to avoid capture and imprisonment, or worse. No one has ever been smart enough to elude his clutches. Until now!

Now he thinks, "Waterloo! Are you going to be my Waterloo, young Tara Weston?"

He hesitates on the third floor landing, looking about, not really hoping to see Tara's presence in the dark. More likely sense it. He takes a deep breath, then sticks out his tongue, like a snake smelling the air, in the hope of obtaining some kind of instinct about the girl's presence.

"Okay, so you're not ahead of me on the stairs," he says aloud softly, "but which way did you go, beautiful Tara? Down here to the third floor? Or did you stop up on the fourth floor?"

He looks up toward the fourth floor landing as though some evil instinct has warned him that he has gone too far. But then, as though not believing in instinct, refusing to believe he could have run down too far, he steps out onto the third floor and starts down the corridor toward the first doorway.

* * *

Turning away from the fourth floor window, Richie Travers looked back into the dining room. "There must be some way to get past that maniac to reach the ground floor?" thought Richie. He had parked his Corolla half a block from the Weston estate and thought, "If I could only get her to the car!"

He half considered trying to hide in the dining room until dawn. But looking at the phosphorescent face of his wristwatch, he realised that dawn was still five hours away. "Too long! We could never stay hidden in here for five hours!"

"I think he's stopped running," said Tara Weston.

"What?" asked Richie, turning toward the beautiful blonde girl.

"That ...." She gulped, looking as though she were about to cry for a moment. "That man. I think he stopped on the next floor. If ... if we're really quiet on the stairs, maybe we can sneak past him and get down to the ground floor."

"No, it's too risky. If he heard us, he'd catch us before we got ten metres."

"But we could go down the back staircase. It leads down to the garage. We've got five cars ..." she said, suddenly stopping.

Richie looked at her in the dark, wondering if she had suddenly realised that having five cars didn't mean anything if you're only twelve and you don't have a mother or father.

"That's okay, honey," said Richie. He reached out to the young girl, who came willingly into his arms. At first she didn't cry, merely pressed her silver-blonde head against his chest. Then after almost a minute, the sobbing finally came.

"That's all right," said Richie, slowly stroking her long hair. He was more determined than ever now to get the child out of the mansion alive. But wondered, "How? It's one thing wanting to get her out ...?"

In mid thought he stopped as something on the side wall caught his attention. Half a metre tall, and a metre and a half long, Richie had at first taken it to be a painting. Half a dozen or more paintings graced each wall in the banqueting hall. So it had been a natural mistake in the dark.

Richie didn't want to be insensitive and break in on the young girl's grief. But he realised that saving her life was more important than providing her with a shoulder to cry on. Gently pushing her away a few centimetres, Richie pointed toward the long black oblong and asked, "Honey, what is that?"

For a few seconds Tara stood rubbing at her eyes with her knuckles. Then looking where he was pointing, she squinted for a moment trying to see in the dark. Finally she said, "That's the dumbwaiter. For bringing food up from the second floor where the main kitchen is located."

Allowing the girl to collapse against him again, Richie gently walked her backwards toward the dumbwaiter. Almost as though they were dancing in the dark.

"I wonder," said Richie, thinking aloud. "Could we take this down to the ground floor?"

"No, it only goes to the second floor."

"Still, if he's stopped on the third floor, it would get us past him," said Richie. "Does it stop on the third floor?"

Tara had to think for a moment, but finally she shook her head emphatically. "No, only the second floor and this one."

"Then he can't open it on the third floor to get us," said Richie, his hopes rapidly growing. He smiled to himself in the dark, thinking, "Don't worry, beautiful Tara, I'll get you out of this alive yet."

Aloud he said, "Do you know how to work this thing, honey?"

"I think it has up and down buttons like a lift."

Reaching into his vest pocket, Richie removed the small penlight which he had used earlier. He had had to pocket it to unchain the girl, then had not dared using it when fleeing, for fear the maniac would follow the bobbing light to catch them.

Clicking on the penlight, he quickly scanned the wall around the dumbwaiter and saw a small control bank on the right-hand side. As Tara had suggested, there were up and down pointing arrow-buttons to send the dumbwaiter down to the second floor or call it back up to the fourth floor. Half a dozen black, circular buttons regulated the speed and angle of descent (in case anything went wrong).

Opening the sliding doors, Richie was pleased to see the dumbwaiter there waiting for them. "All right, honey, climb in and I'll send you down to the second floor first."

Shaking her head emphatically, Tara clung to her new guardian angel for dear life. "No, I want to stay with you."

"But we can't go down together. It'll never hold our combined weight," explained Richie. Although looking at the frail contraption, little more than three thin planks on each side, he was dubious that it could hold either one of them. Let alone both together.

"If I'm her guardian angel, I guess I have to take the risk and test it for her," thought Richie. Aloud he said, "Okay, what if I go first to make sure he's not waiting down there?"

"Well ... o ... okay," said the twelve-year-old girl, clearly still far from convinced.

"Is there a control panel like this one down there too?" asked Richie tapping the consul gently.

"I ... I think so. Why?"

"So, I can bring the dumbwaiter down again when you get inside," explained Richie. "You can work these controls to send me down to the second floor. But it could be dangerous if you have to lean out to operate the dumbwaiter when you're inside it."

Hoping that the girl would not send him crashing to his death two floors below, Richie climbed into the dumbwaiter with great difficulty. Again he had to resist the pangs of claustrophobia as soon as Tara closed the doors on him. But knowing he had to take the risk to protect her, he called out, "Okay, start it up."

Tara Weston pressed the down button, and with a grinding of gears the small elevator started slowly downward. "Just be grateful it's only two floors," thought Richie, doing his best to ignore the alarming creaking of wood and groaning of gears as the dumbwaiter struggled not to fall apart under a far greater weight than it had ever been intended to carry.

* * *

Roderick Voss is almost finished checking through the rooms on the right-hand side of the corridor on the third floor. He has failed to find the Weston girl and is starting to think she has outsmarted him. Either stopping on the fourth floor, or by tiptoeing past the third floor so he didn't hear her tread.

"She'd have to be very clever to tiptoe quietly enough so that I thought she'd left the staircase," Voss says aloud. But he has to concede that the silver-blonde girl is a lot smarter than he has given her credit for. "Waterloo, couldn't escape if I wanted to," he thinks. And again he wonders if Tara Weston will be his undoing?

He is in the billiard room, when he hears the grinding of mechanisms starting up above him.

"The lift!" he says, wondering how the girl could have started it again after he had disabled the mechanisms earlier.

Almost colliding with the cue wrack in his haste to get to Tara Weston, Roderick Voss grabs a hefty billiard cue to use to finish off the pesky girl, having decided that she is too cunning to waste time playing with first. "Just kill her, then get the hell out of here!" he tells himself, racing out into the corridor.

He half expects to see the elevator approaching the third floor landing as he reaches the elevator bay. However, there is no sign of the contraption which is still clanking away loudly overhead. On an instinct, he presses the down button to stop the elevator when it reaches the third floor.

Then he jogs up the staircase to the fourth floor. Where, to his astonishment, there still is no sign of the elevator.

"The little bitch has got the mechanism clanking somehow, but she hasn't got it moving yet," Voss tells himself. He is grinning a broad shit-eater grin as he jogs up to the fifth floor, half hoping to find the clever pest has trapped herself inside the elevator.

When he reaches the elevator bay on the fifth floor though, the doors are wide open and there is no sign of Tara Weston. And most surprisingly of all, the clanking sound is not coming from the elevator.

"Then what is it, for God's sake?" he says aloud, starting to hate Tara Weston. Until now there has been nothing personal in his desire to rape and murder her. He has picked the Weston family almost at random from the society pages. But now he must kill the twelve-year-old girl. It is as though killing Tara Weston has become the centre of his universe; the star that his very existence orbits around.

Resisting the urge to scream in rage at being outsmarted by the young girl again, Voss reverses direction. After one last baneful look at the jammed elevator, he jogs back toward the staircase.

Ignoring the desire to race madly down the stairs and flee the Weston manor, Voss starts slowly down the stairs again. Determined to kill Tara Weston with the billiard cue that he still carries, Voss no longer even cares whether or not he is captured by the police.

"Just so long as I smash that cunning little bitch's head to cheese paste first," he thinks, gripping the cue so hard with both hands that his knuckles are glowing white.

* * *

Inside the dumbwaiter Richie Travers had started to sweat like it was 50 Degrees Celsius. Although it was actually a quite chilly night. He had almost got over the claustrophobic terror of being inside the tiny elevator. But as it continued to squeak and groan beneath his weight, he could not escape the inexorable knowledge that it could collapse beneath him at any second.

"Still, it's only two floors," he said to himself. He only wished that the dumbwaiter had some kind of indicator inside to let him know how far he had to travel still -- like a full-sized elevator. But, of course, a full-sized elevator was intended to carry live passengers. The dumbwaiter was only designed to carry food and crockery. So there was no need or point in it having either lights or indicators on the inside.

Richie was still expecting to crash to his death -- or at least severe maiming -- when the dumbwaiter suddenly ground to a screeching halt.

"Oh God, what has gone wrong now?" thought Richie, wondering how long he could resist the claustrophobic urge to have a major breakdown if he was stuck between floors in the cramped food elevator?

* * *

Standing alone outside the dumbwaiter shaft on the fourth floor, Tara Weston heaved a sigh of relief when she heard the small elevator stop safely on the second floor. However, to her puzzlement she did not hear the doors open on the second floor. Although she could have brought the elevator back up, she decided against it, until receiving the A-OK on the small intercom attached to the control consul.

Instead, she pressed the small button marked, "Press to speak" and asked into the intercom, "Are you okay?"

She released the button so she could hear any answer, then leant down to listen intently.

* * *

Inside the dumbwaiter, Richie knew that he had to keep a calm head for Tara, if not for himself. "But how the hell do I get out of here, if the lift mechanism has seized up?"

Then, to his astonishment, Richie suddenly heard Tara Weston's voice whispering, "Are you okay?"

At first he thought the blonde girl was calling down the elevator shaft after him. Then he realised that the voice was coming from outside the elevator.

"Tara?" he called, wondering how she could have got down to the second floor ahead of him.

When he heard the voice calling a second time, he hesitantly reached out and opened the small doors. Heaving a sigh of relief to find himself stopped on the second floor kitchen, he all but fell out of the dumbwaiter in his desire to get out of the cramped space.

"Are you okay?" called Tara Weston again, through the intercom attached to the control panel.

Using the feeble beam of the penlight, Richie hunted around the control consul of the dumbwaiter until he worked out how to use the intercom system. Depressing the send button with his thumb, he said, "Yes, I'm fine. Stand by and I'll send the lift back up for you."

* * *

Roderick Voss has actually crept past the fourth floor landing, when he realises that the mechanical clanking has stopped. He halts half a dozen paces below the landing, clutching the billiard cue so hard that his knuckles now hurt. He looks about himself slowly, trying to sense where the sound has come from; hoping the silence does not mean that the girl has now somehow escaped the manor house; has somehow escaped the vengeance of Roderick Voss. Vengeance, he decides is now the right term for it.

"After all you've put me through, you little bitch, I have a right to reek vengeance upon you!"

He starts to head back down toward the third floor. But then the clatter-crashing starts up again. And he realises that it is just above him. On the fourth floor.

Puzzled, not understanding what could be on the fourth floor making such a clatter -- when he knows the elevator is still locked in its cage on the fifth floor -- he heads back up the staircase toward the fourth floor.

Stepping out into the corridor, he pads as quietly as a jungle cat across toward the first door on the left-hand side. He gently grips the doorknob and as quietly as possibly opens the door.

* * *

Standing by the dumbwaiter, Tara Weston hesitated a little. Although the tiny elevator had not collapsed when her guardian angel went down, she feared that it would collapse beneath her weight. Although she knew her guardian weighed two or three times what she did.

"Step into the lift, honey, and I'll bring you down here," said the voice of Richie Travers. Yet still the silver-blonde girl hesitated to step into the dumbwaiter. Afraid that it would collapse under her weight.

"Step into the lift, honey, and shut the doors," came the voice of Richie, as suddenly the banqueting hall was bathed in light.

Starting to climb into the tiny elevator, Tara Weston was blinded by the sudden burst of brightness. Stumbling as she reached up to rub at her eyes, she almost fell to a heap on the floor.

* * *

"You little bitch!" shrieks Roderick Voss, standing in the doorway at the other end of the large dining room. "I'm going to bash your fucking head in for all the trouble you've caused me! I'm not even going to bother fucking you first!"

Then with an almost animalistic roar of victory, Voss begins to race across the dining hall, still wielding the billiard cue like a club. Holding the thin end in his hands, so that when he brings the thick end down on Tara Weston's head, it will hopefully smash it open in a single blow, taking the smart bitch's life, and punishing her for the aggravation she has caused him.

* * *

Shrieking in terror, Tara Weston stood where she was, too frightened to step into the dumbwaiter. Although still partly blinded by the fluorescent lighting, she had heard Roderick Voss's threats. Shivering at his bestial roaring and hearing his thundering footsteps, she knew he would reach her in twenty seconds or so, and carry out his threat to bash in her head.

"Step into the lift, honey, and shut the doors," came the voice of Richie Travers over the intercom, "and I'll bring you down here."

* * *

On the second floor Richie heard Tara's shrieks of terror down the dumbwaiter shaft, but could only guess what was causing them.

"Step into the lift, honey, and shut the doors, and I'll bring you down here," he said for the half dozenth time into the control consul. And this time, to his relief, he heard the dumbwaiter creak as something heavy got into it.

"Thank God," said Richie. He pressed the down button. However, to his dismay, the elevator did not start down the shaft toward the second floor.

* * *

Roderick Voss is shrieking now in ecstasy as much as rage as he nears the terrified girl. She is absolutely gorgeous and he regrets not having the chance to rape her before killing her. But having been so close to being his Waterloo, he knows he must just smash her head in with the billiard cue, then get the hell out of there before dawn. Before nosy neighbours might spot him leaving and decide to call the police.

"I'm going to kill you! Kill you! Kill you!" he starts shrieking in rage, and is delighted as the girl starts to cry in terror.

* * *

Too terrified to even move now, Tara Weston stood just outside the dumbwaiter as death roared down on her wielding a wooden billiard cue.

"Step into the lift, honey, and shut the doors, and I'll bring you down here," said the voice of Richie Travers for the dozenth time through the intercom on the control panel.

Finally hearing the voice, Tara looked toward the consul. And as the voice repeated its lifesaving message, Tara slowly began to climb into the dumbwaiter. But her movements were arthritically slow, so that she almost seemed to be moving in slow motion as the man who had slaughtered her parents roared across the banqueting hall like an express train.

"Step into the lift, honey, and shut the doors, and I'll bring you down here," said the voice of Richie. But now Tara was "safely" inside the tiny food elevator.

"I'm in," said Tara, forgetting that Richie could not hear her unless she depressed the send button on the consul outside the dumbwaiter.

"I'm going to kill you! Kill you! Kill you!" shrieked Roderick Voss, now only three or four metres from where the beautiful girl lay bunched up, quivering in terror within the constricting space of the dumbwaiter.

* * *

On the second floor Richie Travers listened in horror to the shrieking of the maniac. Which he could now hear echoing down the shaft of the dumbwaiter.

Richie frantically pressed the consul controls, unable to fathom why the tiny elevator would not start downward. Then realisation suddenly hit him. Holding down the send button on the intercom controls, he shouted, "Shut the lift doors, honey. The dumbwaiter won't start with the doors open."

* * *

"I'm going to kill you! Kill you! Kill you!" shrieks Roderick Voss, as he charges toward the dumbwaiter. As he runs, vaguely he hears a voice talking through the intercom speaker, but pays no attention to it, mistaking it for a pre-recorded message.

"I'm going to kill you! Kill you! Kill you!" shrieks Voss, eyes gleaming insanely as he raises the billiard cue back over his left shoulder to swing toward the beautiful girl cowering inside the immobile dumbwaiter.

At the last instant, Tara Weston reaches out and slams shut the doors to the small elevator.

Crash! the billiard cue thunders against the wooden doors of the dumbwaiter, making the girl inside squeal in terror.

Roderick Voss laughs out loud at her terror, delighted by the sound of the scream.

Then he hears another sound. One that does not delight him.

"Noooooooo!" shrieks Voss in dismay as the dumbwaiter suddenly starts up with the clanking and grinding of gears that he has heard earlier.

"No! No! No!" shrieks the maniac, slamming the butt end of the billiard cue repeatedly into the blackwood doors of the dumbwaiter.

* * *

Inside the dumbwaiter Tara Weston heard the voice of her guardian angel over the intercom and reached out to pull shut the dumbwaiter doors as instructed.

Just in time as the billiard cue descended toward her head.

"Eeeeeeeeeiiii!" shrilled Tara in terror as the butt of the cue crashed into the elevator doors. Then, with a grinding of gears, the dumbwaiter started downward on its slow, steady trip from the fourth floor to the second.

"No! No! No!" came the voice of the madman in the fourth floor banqueting hall. Then "Crash! Crash! Crash! Crash!" the billiard cue slammed again and again into the wooden doors, making them creak as though about to split apart.

"What happens then?" wondered Tara, not knowing whether the dumbwaiter would grind to a halt instantly. Only hoping that she would not be stranded midway between the fourth and second floors.

* * *

"Crash! Crash! Crash! Crash!" Roderick Voss swings the billiard cue repeatedly against the doors of the dumbwaiter. Initially from frustration at the missed opportunity to punish the clever bitch for having outsmarted him in a way that none of his numerous other victims have ever done. But then as the wooden doors of the small elevator begin to splinter beneath the repeated blows of the billiard cue, another hope springs into the mind of Voss:

"If I can smash the lift doors open, it will stop midway between floors. It wouldn't go until the recorded message told the little bitch to shut the doors. So if I smash them open it should stop again," he thinks. "Then I can reach into the shaft and pull the lift back up!"

With this thought in mind, he starts to smile, all wasteful anger gone. Yet he keeps hitting the dumbwaiter with increasingly greater force. Until he is rewarded for his efforts.

"Yes!" cries Voss in almost sexual delight as one of the small doors shatters in half. The first half falls into the elevator shaft and crashes down onto the descending dumbwaiter. The second half hangs onto the hinges for a few seconds. But two more hard crashes with the billiard cue is enough to make it fall onto the floor in the banqueting hall.

Then, to the joy of Roderick Voss, the cranking of mechanisms grinds to a halt as the small elevator stops.

Two or three sharp whacks with the billiard cue is enough to smash away the second door. Then Voss peers down into the dumbwaiter shaft.

He grins his broadest shit-eater grin at the sight of the food elevator trapped between floors below him. He only wishes that there was a glass top, so he could see into the dumbwaiter to see Tara Weston cringing inside. But he is pleased to hear her sobbing and decides that will have to do. For now!

Laughing aloud at the young girl's sobbing, Roderick Voss reaches out with both hands. Grabbing the dumbwaiter cable firmly he begins tugging upon it, trying to pull the elevator back up to the fourth floor.

* * *

At first Tara felt safe within the cramped confines of the dumbwaiter. The "Crash! Crash! Crash!" of the billiard cue still made her jump a little. But then the crashing started to become little more than a dim echo receding into the distance as the dumbwaiter slowly rattled and clanked on its cable down from the fourth floor to the third. Then slowly on toward the safety of the second floor, where her new guardian angel was waiting to take her to safety.

"Then, I'll be safe," said Tara. At twelve she knew that she should not trust any older man too implicitly. But her guardian had kept her from the vile hands of the fiend who had murdered her parents, so she knew he was one man whom she could trust. And so far he had vindicated that implicit trust.

"Soon, I'll be down to the second ..." said Tara. But then she shrieked in terror as something crashed down onto the roof of the dumbwaiter.

"Oh my God!" cried Tara. She tried to sit up, but was unable to move about enough in the cramped space of the small elevator. "What in the world ...?"

Putting her left ear as close to the ceiling of the dumbwaiter as she dared, Tara listened, trying to discern what was going on.

"Crash! Crash! Crash! Crash!" the hammering of the billiard cue came from the floor above, now much louder than before. As though the maniac had managed to open the dumbwaiter doors, even though they were designed not to open once the small elevator was in motion.

"Not much longer, now. Soon I'll be safely with my guardian angel," said Tara at barely a whisper. Then the crashing came louder than before.

Tara crouched as far from the ceiling of the dumbwaiter as the cramped quarters allowed, expecting to hear something else crash down onto the roof of the elevator.

Instead, the elevator began to whine strangely, to jerk from side to side a little, as though the cable were about to break. Although Tara knew the dumbwaiter could only plummet a few more feet to the second floor, she began to whimper in fear. Not quite crying yet, but knowing despite her resolution to be brave for her new guardian angel, that she would not be able to keep the tears at bay for much longer.

Then after one last shudder, the food elevator came to a halt between floors. And despite her best intentions, Tara Weston began to cry from terror.

* * *

On the second floor, Richie Travers had been waiting beside the dumbwaiter consul for what seemed like an aeon. "That a girl!" he had congratulated her into the consul intercom once the elevator finally started moving downwards. And he knew that she had finally had the courage to shut the doors and confine herself within the claustrophobic dumbwaiter.

"Good girl!" he said. Although he knew she could not hear him any longer, as with rattles and crashes aplenty the food elevator began to slowly grind its way down from the fourth floor toward the second.

"Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump!" the crashing of the billiard cue came to Richie only dimly from two flights up. Although not knowing what it was, logic told him it was the maniac coming after him. After Tara. Or after both of them. And he was just grateful that the dumbwaiter was in motion at last.

"There's no way he can get her now till she gets down here," said Richie. He heaved a sigh of relief, grateful that the dumbwaiter could not stop on the third floor.

"What could I have done then?" he wondered. "We could never have both fitted into the thing at once. So which would have been more dangerous? To send her down alone first? Or second? Knowing that the maniac could have grabbed her in either case without any interference from me.

"Still, everything is going smoothly now." Yet even as he thought it, the rattle-crashing of the small elevator increased to manic proportions. And became an almost buzz saw grinding, which had Richie wondering whether the cable was about to break?

"Still, it can't be far overhead now?" thought Richie. Even before the whining had begun, the rattle-crashing had been getting louder and louder and he realised, "It must be well past the third floor now. Even if it fell, it would be only three metres or so. No one ever dies falling two or three metres."

Yet somehow he could not convince himself. The thought of the beautiful silver-blonde girl trapped in that claustrophobic box as it crashed two or three metres to his level was enough to make his belly grip with worry like a fist tightly clenching round his entrails.

"Only another two metres now at most though," thought Richie. Then mysteriously the rattle-crashing and whining all stopped and he realised that the dumbwaiter had stopped just short of the second floor.

"Come on, come on," pleaded Richie, feeling helpless. He wished that it was him trapped inside the small wooden box, rather than the beautiful child.

* * *

Roderick Voss grins his best shit-eater grin as he reaches toward the dumbwaiter cable with both hands.

Taking hold of the cable, he heaves with all of his strength, trying to manually raise the elevator back up toward the fourth floor. However, the metallic cable is slippery with grease and impossible to grip well enough. Even if it was possible to pull the dumbwaiter manually up the vertical shaft with the twelve-year-old girl trapped inside.

Cursing, Voss looks around the banqueting hall for anything that he could use to pull up the cable.

"Or to cut it!" he suddenly realises. He looks round the banqueting hall, hoping to see a knife of some kind on the long blackwood table. But, of course, the knives are kept down in the Westons's main kitchen, sent up to the dining room (along with meals) via the dumbwaiter.

"What did I do with my own knife?" he wonders. He had wrought great bloodshed tonight; eight dead: three shot, the others hacked to pieces. But now the only weapon that he has is the billiard cue.

"Where did I ...?" he begins. Then he realises that he left the handgun and filleting knife in the young girl's bedroom. He had placed them on a cabinet in her bedroom while taking his shower. So they should still be there upon the fifth floor.

"Unless the little bitch picked them up on her way out?" he wonders. But he realises that this is unlikely. How ever she had picked the four Yale locks, it must have taken time. She could not have had time to hunt around in the dark for weapons before fleeing the darkened bedroom only seconds before he returned.

"That means that they're still up there?" says Roderick Voss aloud. He looks down into the shaft of the stranded dumbwaiter and smiles mischievously. He knows that the twelve-year-old girl is not going anywhere in a hurry.

"So I've got time to go and fetch the knife," he says as he turns and starts jogging across toward the door to the corridor. "And the revolver."

He pats his left hip pocket and smiles broadly as he feels two speed loaders still ready; knowing he still has at least a dozen rounds for the gun. "Just in case the knife doesn't do the trick."

END OF PART TWO:





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