Twelve steps down...through the door...thirty steps times five...tip-tap, tip-tap.
Their footsteps echoed down the hallway, announcing their approach through the numerous microphones embedded in the walls long before they came into view of the hidden cameras lining the pool room. Flashlight beams flared the lenses for a moment before dropping down. I admit I held my breath in anticipation.
Their reactions were as expected: Rosenberg's eyes bulged and the beam from her flashlight wavered in one shaking hand. Finn holstered his gun and passed his flashlight to Maclay before wading into the pool to retrieve Chase's corpse. Osbourne stood still as a statue, seemingly with less expression, though his eyes glanced rapidly around the room.
Look all you like...you won't see me.
I felt giddy, and couldn't help but grin at Jenkins, who seemed to be lapsing back into catatonia.
Useless. You could at least cry or scream or do something entertaining.
I'd barely finished the thought when the rolling pin slipped from her fingers and clattered to the floor. My finger twitched on the remote control.
Finn's strained voice sounded tinny as he struggled out of the pool. The cascade of water on tile threatened to drown out their voices, and I hastily made an adjustment to the sound feed. Osbourne passed his flashlight to Maclay, who relinquished her hold on Rosenberg to receive it, and grabbed Chase's legs, while Finn twisted his grip on the body's torso. I could hear them grunting under the strain, but my attention was somewhere else.
With her one free hand, Rosenberg continued to clutch at her hussy, pulling her back toward the doorway with shuffling steps. Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. Jenkins appeared next to them, her hands grasping out and locking solidly on Rosenberg's left forearm. My finger jerked again, and I didn't dare blink.
"We have to get out of here," Jenkins whined.
"We will, but we have to-Anya, let go!"
Jenkins' grip on Rosenberg must have been strong; the moment the murderous bitch let go of Maclay to confront Jenkins, both women were propelled through the doorway. I pressed down hard on the button.
As much as I wanted to watch-and I so did, I refrained.
Time's a wasting, things to do, tick-tock.
I double-checked the monitor strapped to my wrist and retrieved the gun and vial from the Osbourne drawer. I tapped out a series of digits, opening all the interior doors in corridor B-28. The sounds of their panic were music in my ears as I flicked the switch on my goggles and stepped out of the control room.
Willow spun around to bark at Anya, releasing Tara's arm in the process. Before she could protest the rude woman's behavior, she felt herself forcefully dragged from the room. Yanking her arm free, she turned toward the arch just in time to see a steel plate drop into place with a resounding boom, narrowly missing the toes of her right foot. Her shock dissipated with the echo from the door's landing, and she pounded on the solid metal, anger and desperation driving her fists again and again. After a moment an answering assault from the other side of the door joined hers. Tears burned her eyes and blurred her vision, and she screamed at the top of her lungs.
No sound but the dull banging from the opposite side met her cry, but even that faded after a few minutes.
They were cut off.
Willow frantically cast her flashlight beam around the perimeter of the door, desperately seeking a switch or panel, but there was nothing but solid stone.
Closing her eyes tightly, Willow leaned her forehead against the cool, smooth metal and silently sobbed. She could hear Anya behind her and off to the side, her breathing quickening into hyperventilation. Willow pressed her lips to the steel wall.
"I'll find you, baby" she breathed. Taking a deep breath she turned and gently took Anya's arm, leading her back down the hallway.
Tara's face contorted, but she would not let herself cry. She shouted in frustration and smashed the butt of the flashlight against the metal plate one last time. The repeated blows had not left so much as a scratch on the solid steel, and the soft thumps from the other side had ceased. Oz and Riley gently lay Cordelia's body on the floor and stood, neither moving nor speaking.
Tara pressed her left ear to the wall and closed her eyes. She raised her right hand to her mouth, the pads of her fingertips brushing against the metal as she whispered into her cupped palm.
"I need you, Willow."
By the time I got into position and silently withdrew one of the bricks, they'd apparently recovered from the surprise, and were predictably poking around the only other door in the room. I was sorry to have missed the panic and anger that had been so entertaining over the past several days, though Osbourne and Maclay seemed less inclined to hysterics as some of the others. It was very disappointing.
Shouldn't have skewered that psycho Johnson so soon. She'd be beating the crap out of someone by now. Oh well.
Finn pulled out his gun and I had to cover my mouth to muffle the laugh.
He can't be that dumb.
I slid the brick back in place just as I heard the bullet ricocheted off the lock. The shouts ripped through my head and I yanked out my earpiece, counting to five before carefully removing the brick again.
If that idiot killed someone...
Luckily it had missed them all, lodging in a wall of the pool to judge by their gazes. There was no chance of them noticing the missing brick in the shadowy recess of the far corner, but still I waited for them to turn back to the door before moving. My fingers were trembling with anticipation as I took out the vial and removed the dart by its feather. A bead of liquid dripped from the hypodermic tip while I hastily discarded the glass and reached for the gun. I placed the dart in the pistol's breech, slid the cylinder shut, and opened the compressed air valve all the way.
Maclay and Finn were arguing heatedly, but Osbourne remained aloof, standing motionless several feet away. I sighted along the barrel. For aesthetic reasons I would have preferred the hit to be in the inner arm, but I couldn't wait all day for that opportunity to possibly present itself.
Tight schedule, beggars can't be choosers.
This would have to do. I squeezed the trigger.
"You could have killed someone!"
"You think I don't know that?"
"We're in enough danger without you shooting up the place," Tara continued.
"By all means, let's just stand here and do nothing!"
Riley and Tara turned at Oz's exclamation, thinking the young man was trying to halt the argument, but he was staring down at his own arm. Their eyes followed his as he plucked a dart out of his left bicep and dropped the projectile to the floor.
His agony was intoxicating. From the looks of it the headache began almost immediately.
Yes! I got the vein!
Finn and Maclay rushed to his side, standing impotently by as the arsenic coursed through his body. Within minutes he was doubled over, howling in pain and clutching his stomach. He fell to his hands and knees, vomiting violently, his back arching with the effort to purge the poison. He looked like a rabid dog in its final desperate throes, tearing at his shirt and clawing at his gut.
The sight was so disgusting I almost left right then, but I placed my earpiece back in just in time to hear his pitiful whine:
I held my breath. Maclay and Finn just gawked, at Osbourne then at each other. Finn looked dumbly at the gun he'd unconsciously drawn moments before.
"Kill...me," Osbourne repeated, his voice sounding tight and weak.
Tears streamed from Maclay's eyes. Finn raised the gun to Osbourne's head. Osbourne's body twitched uncontrollably on the floor. My heart thumped as the seconds ticked by. It was unexpected, but in this instance I didn't mind the improvisation. The scene was absolutely riveting.
Should have brought popcorn.
"I can't, I can't do it."
I had to bite my tongue to suppress the shout when Finn shook his head and dropped his arm, but couldn't withhold the guffaw when Maclay grabbed the revolver from the cop. The gun was steady in her hands, though the rest of her body was visibly trembling.
Well, well. It's always the quiet ones.
At Osbourne's plea, Maclay wiped the tears from her face and aimed.
"Close your eyes," she whispered.
Too bad Rosenberg didn't get to witness that. Wonder if she knows what her mousy little tart is capable of. There's always the video replay...no...no time. The look on Finn's face alone was priceless.
I could see Giles pacing when I approached the cave.
Excellent, punctual as always...well, almost always.
I'd run most of the way; who cared about the noise now, if they even noticed? I took a minute to catch my breath and ensure the hood obscured my face. He'd be seeing it soon enough.