“I can’t believe you took her down to the pool this afternoon.” Gavin low voice sounded extremely angry.
“We weren’t there for more than ten minutes.”
“I thought I told you I didn’t want her to leave the room. Are you so incompetent… ”
“She was going stir-crazy,” Sally interposed. “All she wanted was a little fresh air and the sun on her face.”
“Anyone could have seen her. I hired you to keep her safely out of sight. We need her to effectively disappear from the face of the earth, and you take her to the pool.”
“Nothing happened, and she was safely returned to the room. Relax a little, she’s not the criminal here, she shouldn’t be a prisoner.”
“So help me, if your shenanigans this afternoon have done anything—anything at all—to interfere with my plans, I’ll see to it you’re fired as an incompetent bungler and never work in security again.”
“I told you, Mr. Browning, nothing happened at all. I checked the route before we went. We weren’t out of the room more than fifteen minutes. She’s safely back in the room now. I really don’t see what the harm was, but you can be sure I won’t let her out again, if that’s what you want. After all, that’s what you’re paying me for.”
“You’re right. I am paying you. And you will do the job to my satisfaction or I’ll replace you. It’s important that Katrina not be seen by anyone. I don’t even want the maid to come in and clean the room, because she’ll see Katrina. It’s important that Katrina continue to believe that this is a police safe-house. I can’t deal with all the other details and her, too. Keeping Katrina in this room, no matter what, is your job. So do it, and do it right.”
“Yes, sir.” Sally’s voice was full of venom.
Katrina stood still, cold with terror. If Sally wasn’t a policewoman, who was she? Some kind of a security person? Obviously she was willing to do anything Gavin would pay her to do. Did that include sleeping with Gavin?
Why did Gavin want her, Katrina, to totally disappear? So if she died, nobody would know? Where had he been when the shot was fired? Was he working with Jason and Charleston? He had brought her to the motel where they were staying…or at least, where Jason was staying.
She needed to leave, now. Katrina carefully backed away from the door, and crept back into her room. She didn’t dare use the motel phone to call the police, Gavin would be able to trace the call. For that matter, she didn’t even know that Carew and Beals were real detectives. Gavin had introduced them to her, and he…Katrina shuddered. She didn’t know what to believe anymore.
Katrina went directly to the dresser where she’d neatly stacked her clean clothing. She rummaged through the stacks, finding her jeans and the warmest blouse she’d brought with her. The piles toppled, spilling her clothing onto the floor, but she didn’t waste the time to pick it up.
Katrina changed quickly in the dark, not daring to turn on the light. If she left now, they would think she was still asleep and not look for her until morning, which would give her a few hours to get away.
The nightgown certainly came off a lot easier than it had gone on. She was suddenly grateful the phone had rung before. Gavin must be laughing at how gullible she was. He’d do anything to keep her in the room and happy, even if it meant sleeping with such an insignificant drab as herself.
Dressed, she picked up her purse and dumped it out onto the bed. She grabbed her wallet and shoved it into her back pocket. The long, check-book sized case stuck up beyond her pocket, but she pulled her shirt down over it, effectively concealing her money.
She pawed through the rest of the contents feeling for her keys before she remembered Gavin had locked the house and undoubtedly still had the keys, as he hadn’t returned them to her. It would be okay though, she could use the back-door key she kept hidden in the dryer vent. All she needed from home was her bank book, and she could make a fresh start somewhere else. She had more money and better job skills this time, and was more prepared to start over.
Katrina pressed an ear to her bedroom door and heard nothing, so she carefully opened it, one slow fractional slit at a time. The living room was still dark. The light was still on in Gavin’s room, and she could hear their muted voices deep in discussion of whatever they were planning to do with her body.
‘Get a grip,’ she told herself; ‘you don’t know that they’re planning to do anything with your body, alive or dead.’ Not knowing, she reflected, was at the deep heart of her fears.
Trying to keep her sneakers from scuffling on the carpet, Katrina moved to the door and pulled the chain off as silently as possible. She eased the door open and slipped through it, holding the knob turned until she had it closed behind her, so there wouldn’t be any sound as the latch flicked into place.
Katrina crossed the parking lot, making a beeline for the dumpster, still where she’d seen it, pushed up against the back wall separating the motel from the alley and the residential neighborhood beyond.
It took only a moment or two to reach it, then she squeezed herself into the small space between the dumpster and the wall. By bracing herself against the wall, Katrina was able to use the projections on the side of the dumpster to climb to the top…which made her high enough to clamber over the wall and drop into the alley on the other side.
Katrina landed in the soft dirt with a slight grunt, then straightened up and looked around her. It wasn’t an alley. Her heart dropped to her shoetops as easily as she had dropped from the top of the wall. She was in someone’s backyard.
A man and woman sat at the picnic table on their patio, talking. Luckily, they were intent on their conversation. By a miracle, they hadn’t seen her.
Katrina turned back to the privacy wall. There was no way to scale it, and nothing on this side of it to climb on, nor could she see a gate in the wall. There weren’t enough shadows to sneak around the patio and out of the yard while they were sitting there.
A tall tree near her wasn’t close enough to reach the fence even if she could shinny up it, though it was big enough to hide her from their view. She was trapped in the yard until they went back into the house.
She crept into the deep shadow surrounding the base of the large tree. It would be a good place to hide while she waited. As she touched the trunk, her fingers encountered a smooth metal rung. It was too thin to be a regular ladder, but reminded Katrina of the climbing toys at the park. She peered into the branches. It was difficult to see in the dimness, but gradually the boxy outlines of a tree house became clear.
The man got up from the bench and began ambling through the yard, the woman trailing behind him. Katrina’s heart leaped into her throat; they were sure to find her.
The tree house was her only option. Katrina didn’t hesitate, but scrambled silently up the ladder and through the hole in one wall that took the place of a door. She slid inside, and let the canvas curtain fall into place behind her. The roof was very low, but the structure was otherwise roomy. There was only one window.
Katrina crawled over heaped pillows and sleeping bags to reach the window and peeked out. The couple completed their walk about the yard and moved back onto the patio still deep in their discussion. She couldn’t hear most of what they said, but they seemed to be planning a party. The woman had stated they’d need to have the twins clean up the yard. Katrina filed that comment as an indication she’d need to be careful crossing the yard to avoid tripping over anything. She made herself comfortable among the pillows to wait. Time exhausted the night on weighted feet, dragging her eyelids with it. The couple was still talking on the patio when she slid into sleep.