"Wait, Michael, just back up a minute. Karen, as in the lady who cleaned him out, was to be your wife?" I knew there had been something more to the story. We were still being rude and talking off to the side in the hotel room, but I didn't have much choice. It wasn't like I could walk outside and chitchat with Michael, giving my crazy ex-husband another chance to find me. I was nearly positive he was still alive. Too many things were pointing that way, and I wasn't happy in the least.
"Yes, Alanna, she was. But she broke it off as far as I was concerned when I found out her 'girls night out' every week was her way of saying she was playing the field while I worked. Paul kept trying to tell me something was wrong but I was too stubborn to listen," his confession was bitter and rang true if sad.
While Michael and I were talking, Paul was pretending to play with his boxes and gauges. He looked pretty glum, but then he knew the story already. I felt bad knowing what I was going to ask Michael could be a bit of an ethical dilemma, but I had no choice.
"So should we fill him in on all of this or not?" I questioned, not sure of the protocol for such a request in light of what Michael had just told me. In the past few days so much of what I knew as up now was down, and I wanted some muscle behind me. Michael was stretched as far as one person could be, and I definitely needed to consolidate and become more secure and establish a firm base. Too many lives were at stake, mine included, for me not to start getting serious.
He sighed, "Yeah, we should. I need a local contact and some trouble-free sleep."
Together we turned to Paul.
"Hey, it wasn't me!" He joked putting his hands up palms out towards us as if warding us back. The humor was appreciated, and we all had a weak chuckle.
"Want to hear a bedtime story?" Michael asked. So the evening was made longer with Michael and I sharing in the retelling of my story. Room service was helpful in quenching the physical needs we had. Michael called down for some more snacks. I had no idea what would satisfy my mental needs.
Originally when Michael had booked the room online for me for a few nights, we had thought he would head back to his place once I was settled in. In light of all the events of the afternoon, Paul went down and paid for the room adjoining, in his name. Luckily the hotel had the suite available. After we finished talking it was pretty late. The drawback with the entire arrangement was that I now had two overly protective men worried about me.
"Paul, stop pacing. You've checked both rooms yourself. What more do you think you can do?" Paul was on hyper-alert now that he was filled in on my history.
Slowing long enough to answer me Paul turned saying, "But this guy is nuts! I don't know if he had someone watching you from a distance, stalking you, whatever. I would feel much better if I stayed in here."
Michael argued equally fervently along the same lines that he should stay there also. Looking at both of them I smiled, "Okay, you both win!"
They smugly exchanged looks, "You two can stay in this room. I'll take your room, Paul."
And with that I picked up my new luggage and grabbed the room key from Paul's fingers. Sketching them a wave, I waltzed through the unlocked connecting door while they stood in my room with their mouths open. It was a small victory, but I felt relieved they let me walk.
I closed the door but didn't bolt it. Michael had me show Paul my handgun before I got settled in for the night. I had to promise them besides leaving the door unlocked between the two suites, I was going to leave the weapon on the nightstand. I lied and told them sure. There was no way I was falling asleep with a weapon at my head for someone else to pick up and use during the middle of the night. Years of fears and worries, I had adopted the not-so-smart tactic of placing my gun under the pillow to the right of my head. I slept on the left side of the bed on top of the pillow with the gun sleeping underneath the pillow on the right side of the bed. Not a particularly smart habit I knew, but it was one that I had. Since I was still live and seemingly bullet free it would have to do.
Yet for all my bravado, I was relieved that they weren't that far away. Paul also insisted on setting up an electric mobile alarm to both of the front doors. I was glad they both were as worried as I was about how my life was twisting and turning.
The Watcher lurked in the night.
Well, that was too damned close. Paul and his little machine nearly caught me. But luckily they like to discuss things beforehand. Gave me time to remove a few little things from the car and rooms. I mean look at them all just chattering about how they are going here and there while whining about how horribly life is treating Alanna. Amazing how stupid one person can be but to have three such idiots is a delight.
My, my...they liked the card. I knew that she would. She puts such stock in the written word. Wonder if I'm going to have to put a fire under them to get the card back. No matter, I'll think of something.
Boy, room service at this hotel certainly was bribable. Such a 'quality' hotel and a measly two hundred bucks and I got to play on the computer. I could have handled that differently but I love breaking down humans to their most common elements. This young gal at the reception desk sent believed the room service boy when he told her that I was his cousin and needed to check if his aunt's reservation was set. He held up a mere twenty for her to turn her head. A hotel that doesn't pay their help well can have the best of security features in place and be broken by a few stray twenties.
Paul Colton was nice enough to actually put down his car's license plate. Don't you just love those law and order types? They won't step out of line and do everything by the numbers.
To bug or not to bug, that is the question. Only time will tell, certainly not me, but it is time to make a delivery.
By morning I was feeling foolish about my late night fears. I showered then dressed. Simply changing all of my underwear and clothes made me feel completely human again. I used the hair dryer provided in the well -supplied bathroom and finished drying my hair before pulling it back into a ponytail using a cloth scrunchie to secure it. I brushed my teeth and put on some lip-gloss and was ready to face the day.
Once transformed I softly knocked on the connecting door. Michael pulled it open warily looking over his shoulder at Paul who was holding something behind his back. My stomach hurt as it clenched in a cold panic.
"Oh, hi. You look very nice." Michael said in a stilted fake cheerful voice.
"Cut the bullshit. What's wrong?" I pushed past him brusquely.
"She has to know," Paul said tensely to Michael.
"Don't worry, we'll catch the bastard. I promise!" Michael was trying to assure me.
"Guys, quit it. What's going on?"
Paul removed his hand from behind his back. A familiar green envelope was encased formally in the now too familiar evidence bag.
"It was slid under the door early this morning probably around four or something. Paul ran down the hall as soon as we saw it. There was nobody around. The night desk clerk said he hadn't seen anyone but Paul and we had to wake him up to elicit that piece of info. Neither of us was overly impressed by the security here, regardless of what the hotel claims!" Michael had been the one picking the spot so I couldn't exactly object.
"Enough, what does this one say?"
Paul had tossed the envelope into his briefcase while Michael flipped open his notebook. Both of them were ignoring my question. I cleared my throat. I was puzzled by the change in procedure. Why weren't they showing me the card?
"Paul says he can analyze everything inside once back at work. We're pretty sure it was cat hair not human." Like that was supposed to help me?
"Wait a minute, hair? What do you mean there was hair?"
"Yeah, umm, well the outside was blank, no address to anyone, but inside there were a couple clumps of hair, dark brown."
"Like mine, you mean?" I interrupted.
"Uh, huh, okay. So inside the card matches the kind you described getting years ago. I quote," here Michael didn't pull out the evidence bag from Paul's briefcase but read off his notes, "it said, 'Dear Alanna, oh dear, what to do. Here today -- hair today -- oh so gone tomorrow. I missed you by just a hair yesterday. I won't next time. Ta-ta. Until we meet again. A snippet of desire -- mine -- my heart -- dear past little wife of life.' It is what it said."
"Damn and double damn," I was furious, not to mention extremely scared.
"Hang on, it's okay!"
"Don't worry!" They overlapped each other in their haste to try to reassure me. Their words were tumbling over each other's. It was all mixed up in my head but I was beyond any kind of response. My world was falling into disarray. I had no clue even where to start.
"Why don't you show me the card?"
"Because the writing is hard to decipher. His pen stabbed fairly deep on some words and," here Michael broke off and looked at Paul continuing, "well, it may have been written in something other than ink."
"Huh? 'Something other than ink' what do you mean?" I was horrified.
"We think animal blood. Once Paul gets to the lab he will properly test it. We didn't want to degrade any of the sample out here in the field. We figured that you didn't need to actually see it." Michael was trying to sound reasonable.
Ignoring them while they argued strategy, I went to the small desk. Once sitting I pulled out the pages I had half heartedly worked on the night before and looked at them in a new light. The answer was somewhere here in Randolph's past. The remainder of the morning was spent chronicling every single family story I could remember. The men were busy placing phone calls from their cell phones and comparing notes and left me to my pursuits. By noon I had completed my notes and I gave them the pages. Together they discussed my recall on the genealogy and information I had gathered. The questions flew as they read through the pages.
"Okay, now where exactly was Randa buried?"
"But did you ever see Randolph's brother or see family photos?"
"Does Rachel still hire help? Do you think they use some agency we could send a cop over to be placed in the household undercover?"
"Who were some of Randolph's friends? Do you know any of Marge's?"
All of these questions and more had to be answered before we could put together the puzzle. But, first, we had to relocate again to hopefully somewhere I couldn't be found. They took turns placing calls and making arrangements while one or the other took turns asking me more questions. My head was spinning. By checkout time we'd found a new place. We were heading to the coast, the beach communities offered more side streets and would hopefully make it harder for anyone to follow. Paul checked us out and carried my luggage out to his car. After much debate, we decided to travel together in Paul's car and Michael would deal with his car after we left in case Michael's car was being watched.
Anything was possible, after all.