Sunlight streamed into the cave from the East end. The cave had been the selling point for this particular island; the name of the place a coincidental and fortuitous bonus. The tide obscured the cave's presence for all but a few hours of the day, during which it was possible to navigate a small speedboat under the natural arch. At anchor near the entrance to the cave was just such a craft, its keel brushing the muddy bottom visible at low tide.
A metal grating ran halfway around the cave's perimeter, its handrail parting at several intervals for three staircases leading up to doors and one leading down to a small wooden pier. Each door opened on a tunnel that led to a different section of the house. Five feet above the center door was a circular opening, the terminus of a drainage pipe. Giles stood below it, pacing. He was too busy eyeing the speedboat to notice my presence.
Dad had seen the cave's potential, and had purposefully built the house above it, linking the two through a tunnel cut into the rock. I had seen to the others, expanding the underground system as my plan took root. Converting the wine cellar onto a command center had taken little effort. The servants' passages within the walls were also in Dad's original design, and it had been remarkably simple to hide them; replacing the doors into each room with silent sliding panels, camouflaged with heavy drapes or hollow-backed armoires.
I spared no expense, and suffered no delays. Dad would have approved. Dependability, punctuality, responsibility: these were virtues not to be taken lightly. Giles was punctual, yes. He had also proven dependable. Now he would get the chance to atone for what he was responsible for.
I took several steps toward him, stopping on a thick rubber mat and sparing a quick glance to the electrical box mounted on the rock to my right. A thick cable stuck out of the bottom of the box and my eyes followed its path down, to where it disappeared in the murky water below.
I startled him, and when he spun to face me, I could see he was angry. Not at being startled, no doubt. This wouldn't take long. I looked at my watch, which read 11:40, and pressed a button on the doorway remote that would let Rosenberg and Jenkins back into the manor's main floor.
"I won't be a part of this anymore."
I laughed. I couldn't help it, really. He seemed so sincere, so shocked. It was funny.
"You never said anything about killing them!"
"I never said I wouldn't, either."
"It's sick, brutal. Those people are-"
"Are what? Innocent?" I chewed the word and spat it out. I could see he thought it…thought they didn't deserve their judgment-my judgment. I felt my blood rise. He deserved judgment. "So now you're the champion of innocents, are you, Ripper? Did you claim that title before or after you and your friends murdered Randall? At least Thomas, Deidre and Philip paid for it, didn't they? While you and Ethan ran away, left the country."
He didn't even have the sense to appear contrite.
"That's not what happened! If you've told anyone-"
"You'll what? You're complicit in the deaths of five more people now." Well, seven, if you're counting, which I am. "Are you going to blame that on 'demon possession' or 'multiple personalities' or some other nonsense too?"
"You killed them, not me! You forced me to help you, but I'm done."
He started to walk down the stairs to the dock. He could easily wade out to the boat, push it through the cave entrance, make his escape. I raised my hands and peeled back the hood covering my head.
"My father had so much faith in you, but you failed him too."
He stopped dead in his tracks and turned at the sound of my unaltered voice. I curled my hand around the remote control in my pocket; my fingers poised on the proper buttons.
"You were supposed to be there. You were his 'trusted servant.' But no, you were off fucking some school teacher while my father was tying a noose around his neck and killing himself!"
I'd never seen him scared before. Granted, I'd been off at boarding school for most of the time he'd been around, but still. It was a fitting picture, and I took a mental snapshot of it to savor. I pressed two buttons at once, and 60,000 gallons of water roared out of the pipe. He grasped desperately for the rail, but the deluge ripped him away from the staircase with no more difficulty than plucking the legs off of a spider. I reached behind me for the switch on the side of the electrical box, and pushed it up. I counted to ten to be sure, and dropped the switch back down. Giles' corpse bobbed face-down, the surge of water slowly washing him out to sea.
I covered my head again and moved to the far left door. My watch read 11:51, and after a quick glance at the pipe, I pulled out my hand-held monitor. The tiny screen glowed to life just in time to see Rosenberg crouched over Jenkins, shaking her violently. A scuffling noise coming from the pipe announced the imminent presence of Finn and Maclay. I passed through the heavy door and held it open, waiting for the sound of shoes hitting the walkway before I let it slam shut and squeezed myself into a narrow crevice just inside and behind the door.
I knew Finn would take the lead. I was counting on it. His ill-advised shot at the poolroom door had proved his nerves were starting to fray, and Officer Finn's file had revealed a series of questionable decisions under tense situations. I felt along the rock in front of me for a cubby hole. My fingers found the butt of the revolver I'd stashed there, and I let my hand curl around it as the door swung open. Finn's flashlight skipped over the walls for scant seconds before he was running down the hall. I could hear Maclay yelling at him to wait, and recognized the sound of her just dropping down to the metal platform. I let go of the gun and reached for the bottle of chloroform, quickly unscrewing the cap and grabbing the cloth.
When I peered out of the crevice, Finn had already entered my control room. I typed the code into the remote that would unlock every door in the manor and inched out of my hiding spot. The steel door opened slowly, and I upended the bottle against the cloth. Maclay tiptoed into the hall, her unlit flashlight raised above her head as a weapon.
She never had the chance to use it. I slipped the bottle into my cloak and kicked the door closed, plunging the passage into darkness, save for the weak light emanating from the end of the hall. She jerked toward me at the sound and I shoved her against the wall, pinning her raised arm and pressing the soaked cloth against her mouth and nose. She clawed at my head with her free hand, pulling the hood further down my face, but I felt stronger than I ever had before. In moments she was slumping heavily against me, but I held the cloth in place as I let her slide down the wall to the floor. I replaced my tools in the cubby hole and retrieved the gun.
Officer Finn had his back to the door, staring at the wall of monitors as I crept into the room. I glanced up and saw Rosenberg enter the passage to the cave, the door automatically closing behind her. Finn stood in front of my desk; one hand holding the file I'd left for him. In the other was a framed snapshot.
He'd better not bleed all over it.
I raised the gun to the back of his head and fired. He fell face first across the desk, the file contents fluttering to the floor. I kicked them under the desk and laid out another file. I found his revolver tucked into the back waistband of his pants, set it on the desk by his right hand, and hurried back to Maclay. The rush of adrenaline surging through my veins served me well as I dragged her down the hall and hefted her into a chair behind Finn. I curled her fingers around my gun and placed it on her lap. She was already beginning to come around when I slipped out the back entrance of the room.
After passing through it, I pulled the tapestry by fireplace off of the wall, folding it neatly and setting on the coffee table. I removed my cloak and draped it over a chair, which I dragged to the middle of the room. I found the rope under the couch cushion where I'd left it, and stood on the chair to throw one end over a beam. After adjusting the noose height, I hopped down to tie off the loose end.
I picked up a napkin from the bar and took a small bottle of paint thinner out of a vase on the mantle. Wetting the cloth lightly, I dabbed at my face in the painting until the color washed away, leaving Giles' in its place, slightly smudged. I used my red marker to cross out Oz, Anya, and Giles. Minutes ticked by, and I sat on the couch, my leg jiggling, my stomach fluttering.
I knew the waiting would be difficult. So far everything had gone more perfectly than I could have hoped, and I hated leaving anything to chance. Not that there was much…not really. My gun had only had the one bullet, after all. Finn's still had five. Maclay would be defenseless, unless she somehow managed to get the other gun from Rosenberg, but that didn't seem likely. She wouldn't even consider it until it was too late.
I stared at the second hand sweeping around my watch face and began to pace.
Something should have happened by now.
12:15, 12:20, 12:25.
At 12:30 I'm going-
A shot rang out. I resumed my place on the couch and waited, my body trembling with anticipation. It would be over soon.
I looked at the snapshot frame, cracked when Finn had dropped it, and peeled out the photograph of me and Dad in front of the car he'd given me for my high school graduation. A drop of Finn's blood had seeped through the glass, and I wiped it off with my thumb. I kissed the picture and smiled, tracing my finger over the green ribbon wrapped around the car, reading 'Congratulations Dawn.'