December 20, 2010

Inherit My Heart Chapter Thirty-one

Katrina woke to the wonderful smells of brewing coffee and sizzling bacon, and scrambled out of bed. She dressed hurriedly as her stomach rumbled loudly, demanding to be fed.

When she entered the main living area of the suite, Sally was lounging sideways in one of the stuffed armchairs, her feet dangling over the armrest. Gavin presided in the kitchenette. A whack and snapping sound preceded the hiss and pop of eggs being dropped into the bacon grease.

“Good morning,” Gavin called out as Katrina walked past him into the bathroom.

“Morning,” she agreed. Morning had never been the best part of her day, although if she could somehow convince Gavin to cook breakfast for her all the time, she might have to revise that opinion.

Katrina pulled her shirt and bra off, intending to take a shower, when she recalled Gavin’s interruption yesterday. Quickly grabbing a towel, she wrapped it around herself and opened the door, poking her head and shoulder out.

“Gavin?”

“Yes?” He looked up from the eggs, and she saw his eyes darken as they flicked across her shoulder and the top edge of the towel.

“Is it…has it been long enough…um…that is…would it be all right if I took a shower this morning?” Why did she get all tongue-tied simply talking to the man?

“It’s been long enough, you should be fine, Kitten. Just holler if you need anything.”

She nodded and returned to the bathroom, closing the door firmly behind her.

Katrina was hot all over at the thought of what she might need while in the shower that could lure him to her side…and what the delicious consequences might be. Her lips tingled at the memory of yesterday’s—had it only been yesterday morning?—kisses, and they weren’t the only parts of her that were tingling.

Firmly ignoring the clamoring demands of her body, Katrina finished undressing and quickly showered, then dried off and got dressed. By the time she joined the others, the table had been set and Gavin was serving breakfast.

The three ate in companionable silence, then Katrina rose and collected the dishes, taking them into the kitchenette’s sink to wash.

“Leave them,” Gavin said, “and I’ll wash them later.”

“It’s my turn to wash up,” Katrina replied.

“I thought I’d already told you that I don’t make ladies clean up after me. If I did that, my Granny would have something to say about it.”

“You and your granny,” Katrina laughed. “I’m sure your granny would agree with me that cooking makes you exempt from washing dishes.”

It didn’t take her long to wash up, and soon the dishes were stacked on a towel to drain.

“You didn’t dry them,” Gavin observed as Katrina joined them.

“I draw the line at drying dishes,” Katrina said, smiling, “because if you leave them alone, voila...they dry themselves.”

Sally was laying out Monopoly on the table, counting the multi-colored money into three piles. “Do you want to be banker, Gavin, or shall I?”

Gavin checked his watch and rose from the table. “You’ll have to be banker, if you don’t mind teaching Katrina the game. I have an appointment with Lt. Carew and Detective Beals, and then there are some other things I have to do. I should be back in time for dinner, around six.”

Sally nodded. “No problem, see you later.” She scooped up one of the piles of money and sorted it back into the box.

Gavin stepped into his half of the suite, retrieved his briefcase and then left. Sally crossed the room and bolted the door behind him, then returned to the game.

Katrina watched her finish laying out the money, sort cards with colored stripes across the top, shuffle orange and yellow cards and place them on the board, and open bags of miniature green and red buildings. She tossed a pair of dice into the middle of the board, followed by a handful of small silver objects. It all looked very complicated.

“These are the markers,” Sally pointed at the silver things. “If you pick one, we can get the game started.”

Katrina examined all the pieces, and decided the old-fashioned car looked fun. Sally picked up the thimble and set it on the start space, then cleared away the rest of the silver pieces and launched into explanation and directions.

The game turned out to be a lot easier to play than it had looked when Sally had been setting it up, and the girls had a good time giggling wickedly and moaning as the money for rent changed hands.

Around one in the afternoon, Sally threw the dice and moved her thimble around the corner and onto Baltic Avenue. Katrina smiled.

“I don’t have anything left that isn’t mortgaged,” Sally sighed. “I’m broke, and even with my two hundred for passing Go, I can’t afford your rent. Again.”

“So what happens now?” Katrina asked.

“What happens now,” Sally said, “is that I’m bankrupt, and the game is over. You win. We can count up all the money you have, if you want, but we don’t have to.”

“No, it’s cool enough that I won,” Katrina said, “I don’t need to know how much I won by.” They quickly put the game away and Sally made lunch.

The sandwiches didn’t take them long to eat, and even less time to clean up.

“I know why you wanted to make the sandwiches,” Katrina teased as she rinsed the plates and washed the mayonnaise covered knife.

“Why’s that?”

“Because you wanted me to do the dishes again.”

“You’re absolutely right, I abhor dishes. What game do you want to play next?”

“Um…could we…do you think it would be all right to go to the pool?”

Sally frowned. “Mr. Browning wanted you to stay in the room. The more controlled your environment is, the safer we can keep you.”

Katrina sighed. “I can understand that, but I’m going crazy stuck in here, even with all these wonderful games. How dangerous can the pool be in the middle of the afternoon? I don’t even want to swim, it would be enough to just sit in the sun and see different walls for a little bit.”

Sally sat still for several minutes, her brow furrowed in thought. “I suppose it would be all right, if I came with you, and we only stayed half an hour or so.”

She unbolted the door. “Lock this while I’m gone. I’ll go check the pool area and see that it’s safe. When I come back, don’t let me in unless I give you the password.”

“If I’m Snow White,” Katrina said, remembering the passwords Gavin had used when they’d arrived, “then who are you?”

“Call me the stumpy dwarf,” Sally said with a grin.

“Oh, yeah, you’re a real stumpy dwarf.”

Sally laughed out loud, and Katrina smiled as Sally slipped out the door and Katrina dutifully bolted it behind her. It wasn’t very long until there was a knock at the door. Even though she assumed it was Sally, she felt the familiar fear grip her heart. Would she never be free of it?

Leaving the chain on, she opened the door just the smallest sliver so the password wouldn’t have to be shouted. “Who’s there?” she called softly.

Sally’s saucy voice was reassuring. “Just a stumpy dwarf. Are you alone, Snow Baby?”

Katrina laughed and slipped the chain from the door.

“Grab the key and let’s go,” Sally said, “there’s nobody down at the pool.”

Katrina whirled around and snatched the room key from the dresser where the television stood, then pranced out the door. Her first breath of outside air felt like heaven and tasted of freedom. She knew she shouldn’t resent Sally and Gavin for keeping her locked up, and reminded herself it was really all Charleston’s fault. If you can’t lock up the criminal, she reflected, expelling pent-up air with a slight huff, the next best thing would be to lock up the victim.

She followed Sally along the open hall which fronted the room doors, glancing nervously around the parking lot. The motel was a nice one and had a high block wall around the back and sides of the property, at least as far as she could see.

There were large pots here and there along the open “wall” of the hall. Small shrubs and trees planted in them helped screen the rooms from the parking lot, while bright spring flowers nested in junior pots between the larger trees, their delightful bouquet filling the air. Katrina breathed deeply, pleased to fill her lungs with the fresh air.

A large blue trash dumpster had been neatly pushed against the wall at the back of the property, as if the management had wanted to keep the smell of it as far from the rooms as possible. Katrina idly wondered if the trash bin was the reason so many flowers lined the walk.

Sally turned down a narrow corridor between two rooms, and passed two soda machines sporting rival brands, a snack machine full of candy and chips, and a second that had fruit and sandwiches in it. At the end of the row was the ubiquitous ice machine with its metal scoop dangling on a chain so no one could walk off with it. At the end of the corridor was a glass door with a red and white sign on it announcing the pool hours, the prohibition against alcohol and glass containers, the warning not to stay in the hot tub too long, and the proclamation that persons making enough noise to disturb other guests would be ejected from the pool.

Sally opened the door and gestured Katrina into the largest greenhouse she’d ever seen. The roof was steeply pitched metal, to provide cover from snow in the winter and direct sun in the summer. Three of the walls were glass, the fourth was the block wall of the backs of the motel rooms. The pool sat in the center of the enclosure, with a wide deck along each side. Lounges and chairs were scattered along the deck and there was a closed bar, with the hours dutifully posted above it. A large counter near the bar held piles of the motel’s fluffy white towels.

Katrina walked to the far side of the pool, and turned one of the lounge chairs sideways before she sank into it, enjoying the warmth of the sunlight concentrated by the glass wall.

Sally pulled a chair over near Katrina’s lounge and sat down; angling herself so she could watch the door. Katrina marveled at how competently Sally did her job, effortlessly making her security measures seem natural.

A maid came in with a cart and replenished a double stack of thick towels on a shelf. She fussed around a bit, straightening some of the chairs, and picking up the few bits of litter that were scattered across the floor.

The maid left, passing a man in the doorway. He wore greasy-looking blue jeans, faded in spots to nearly white, a dilapidated ball cap, and a shapeless T-shirt that had seen better days.

Katrina watched him through her eyelashes. He moved with a lithe grace which reminded her of a large cat about to pounce. Something seemed familiar about him, and tugged at the corner of her mind, setting off every warning bell in her brain.

He walked past the girls without speaking to them or even sending a glance in their direction, dragged a lounge chair over near the glass wall, and settled into it. Scratching at his beard, he pulled a rolled-up magazine out of his pocket. He pried it open, fighting the curve of the pages. Judging from the cover, it appeared to be full of what Great-Aunt Monalee would call “naughty pictures”. Grandmother Price would probably have stomped over to him, snatched the offending pages from his hand and thrown them into the nearest fireplace.

Almost as though he knew he were being watched, the man shifted his chair, turning it away from the girls. When he settled back into it, the sun was in his eyes. He took off his ball cap, scratched his beard again, then settled the hat back onto his head at a different angle, shading the rays of the sun.

Katrina suddenly shivered.

“Are you all right?” Sally asked, leaning close and speaking softly.

“Yes…no…I’m not sure. Can we go back to the room now?”

Sally’s brows rose in surprise, but she nodded and the girls returned to the room. Katrina locked the door firmly behind them, then leaned against it in sudden relief.

Sally fixed her with a concerned eye. “What was the problem?”

Katrina looked at the floor. “I…really, I don’t know. That man at the pool just gave me the creeps, but I don’t know why.”

“Did he look familiar to you?”

“I…didn’t really look closely at him,” Katrina lied, studying her sandals. “I…it’s probably just being stuck here waiting for someone else to attack, that has me jumping at shadows.”

Sally nodded. “I can understand that. I wouldn’t like being in your place, knowing someone was trying to kill me, but not knowing where the next blow will fall.”

Katrina smiled weakly as she met Sally’s eyes. “If you don’t mind, I think I’ll take a nap and see if I can relax before dinner.”

“Go ahead, I’ll sit here on the couch and read and see that you’re not disturbed.”

“Thanks.” Katrina slipped into her bedroom and closed the door softly behind her.