Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Killer Chocolate--A Valentine Mystery (Part 10)

Chapter 10
Roxanne Rustand

Lovey edged toward the open doorway, her heart battering wildly against her ribs.  What on earth--

Rouen grabbed her arm, hauling her back against the hard wall of his muscular chest. "Stop," he hissed, his breath warm and minty against her cheek.  "Don't. Move."

She blinked, fighting the urge to melt into his arms, as overwhelmed by his proximity as she was by the terrifying sight before her.

One more step and she would have breached a network of laser-thin beams of faint, ruby light glittering across the open doorway. Backlit by a security light glowing at the far end of the vast cavern ahead, the ominous barrier was nearly invisible, but she had no illusions about what it meant.

Someone wanted to protect this place, and had spent a lot of money to do it. 
And triggering that security system might have been the last thing she ever did on this earth.

Thank you, Lord, she breathed.

Rouen gently set her aside and moved closer to the open doorway.  "Look," he said in a low tone.  "Over there."

Straight ahead, she could make out the silhouette of a towering maze of warehouse shelving.  The lower tiers were empty, though crates filled the shelves ten or fifteen feet above the damp, rocky surface of the cavern where ebony pools of water glistened.

She followed Rouen's gaze to the left wall of the cavern, and the stairs leading to a raised platform.  Above it,  multi-colored lights blinked on a control panel of some sort, casting a dim glow over a desk and chair.  A  chair which held--

She drew in a sharp breath as she made out the bulky outline of  something draped over the edge of the desk.  "W-what is that?"

"The question is who," Rouen said.  He glanced over his shoulder at her, his mouth a grim line.  "I think we can assume that he was part of this operation.  Either his partners didn't want to play nice and share, or they feared he was going to rat them out."

"That's horrible," she breathed.  "What is this place?"

"A place you never should have seen."

Lovey spun around in shock at the sound of her friend's voice.  An all-too familiar voice now laced with venom.   "Athena?  I thought--I thought you were--"

"Unconscious? Oh, please."  Athena took a step forward both arms extended in front of her, her hands expertly wrapped around a small, lethal weapon.  "I needed help getting through those locked doors, and figured it would be convenient if you bumbled through the security system on your own.  So I stayed well out of the way.  But now..." she sighed dramatically. "Now, I have to decide what to do with you.  Then again, I could simply let nature take it's course."

Lovey felt her knees turn to Jell-0. "N-nature?"

"High tide.  It's pretty obvious, if you take a look around you.  This passageway fills to the ceiling.  But try to go through that doorway and you'll  trigger an explosion of lethal gas that will kill anyone within five or ten feet."

Lovey thought a moment. "If that were true, then rising sea water would've set off the system long ago."

"Sorry, honey.  The doors you just opened were a perfect seal.  And it doesn't look like you had the last digits of the code, or the security system wouldn't be on.   So now..."  Athena shrugged.  "Your choice.  Either way, elimination of witnesses is always a good plan."

Rouen eased in front of Lovey, and she saw the gleam of the gun he held hidden in the shadows at his side.

"If that's the plan, at least tell me about my brother Ryan," he said.  "And tell me about what's going on, here."
"No time."  She backed away, her gun still aimed at Lovey's chest.  "I've got an appointment to keep, but don't try to follow.  I'll be locking the gate on my way out of here. "

"Please--Athena," Lovey managed, choking back her fear.  "Just let us go."

Athena gave a harsh laugh.  "By the way, Rouen.  I know you have a gun in your hand and might think you can take me down.  But try it, and I'll put a bullet through Lovey's chest before I die--and I never, ever miss what I aim for.  Count on it."

In the faint light, Lovey could see the hem of Athena's pants leg caught above a trim ankle holster.   It was still just so unbelievable.  Athena?   And how had Lovey's life come to this, in just the span of a few hours?

She blinked.  Stared down the passageway beyond the younger woman and swallowed hard.

Behind Athena,  two parallel,  glittering orbs were weaving through the darkness. Low to the ground, they were coming closer.   Closer....

And now Lovey began to pray.


EllenToo said...

So I was right not to trust Athena!!
And those glittering orbs low to the ground ~~ what type of creature is heading for Athena???

PamelaTracy said...

You were right not to trust Athena! And, how are Rouen and Lovely going to get the last digits to the code?????
And, I need to go back and reread. I got so caught up in high tide, that I thought high tide was heading their way. But, a creature. Ohhhh.

Donna said...

It's Cupid!!! Come to save the day!! No one threatens a cat and lives to tell about!!! lol

RoxanneRustand said...

This is so much fun!

Margaret Daley said...

I love this and the direction it is taking.

Terri Reed said...

Nicely done Roxanne. Are we ever going to find out what's going on?

Jessiecue said...

so we have 4 installments left. I still say that Athena was Ryans partner. I wonder if Lovey and Ryan had set a wedding date. If they had I wonder if that is part of the last 2 digits to the beams. They now have a choice to think quick, fight gas, or high tide. This is getting interesting. I love it!

Lenora said...

Wow, what a twist. I hope Cupid is going to get that Athena! Can't wait until the end. Oh, wait. I have to figure out how to write that part!

PamelaTracy said...

What a great idea about the wedding date!

Debby Giusti said...

I'm wringing my hands and wondering how Lovey and Rouen are going to get out alive.

For a moment, I thought the guy at the desk was Ryan. Not so, evidently!

But where is Ryan? And what type of treasure is being hidden in the cave. Can't wait until tomorrow's episode!

Leann said...

Bravo, Roxanne. You took it a way that surprised me. Hey, Lenora, I'm glad I'm not your shoes and wrapping up this exciting story. But I think you're up to the challenge.

Olga said...

So Athena was the enemy... Can't wait for the next installment!

Julia Smith said...