June 50 – Chapters 13-18

Good Thursday morning!

I realized I haven’t shared with you in a while and there are only 6 days left in the month.  It’s time to do a little daily sharing I think!  Let’s start with Chapter 13.  

We left off with Delilah being bundled into a car while Savannah tries to figure out who the plane saboteur and stalker is.  We pick up with Dennis.

Enjoy your day!

Muah!  

P.S.  Feel free to comment below with thoughts about the story so far.  It is, as I’ve said, a first for me to write in first person. I’d like to know what you think.

Chapter Thirteen

 

2100, Dennis, timer dead

The plane finally lands and people file through to the terminal.  There is a pair of people with clipboards just outside the gate.  They’re asking people things as they come into the terminal proper.  Dennis watches as one of them walks away with a tall man. Dennis dodges around the other one and grabs his luggage. 

He finds his rental car and sits in it for a moment after turning it on.  “Siri.”

“Yes, Mr. Harris?”  The computer comes to life. 

“How do I get here from Guith?”

“Where in Guith would you like to go?”

Dennis glowers at the car’s dash.  “How the hell would I know?  I’ve never been there before.”

“Are you staying overnight?”

“Yes.” His voice is grumpy.

“There really isn’t a lot in Guith, it’s a really more a blip than a town.  Are you sure you want to go there?”

Dennis stares at the small computer screen.  “What the fuck.  Just find me a hotel.”

There’s a pause and then the voice says, “Exit the lot, turn north on B9083.”  The car starts with a hum and the doors lock.

A few minutes later, he ends up in Eday.  “What the hell, Siri!  This isn’t Guith.”

“Guith is only two minutes to the west.  There is a hotel here.”  The computer guides him to a small bed-and-breakfast and stops the car before he car.  “I have called the proprietor here and there is a room available.”  The computer shuts down and the door locks release.

Dennis takes a moment to swear at the computer then he gets out of the car and trudges towards the door. 

It swings open before he can lift a hand to knock and an older man peers out at him.  “Dennis Harris, are ye not?”

“I am.  Siri said you have a room.”

“We do, though we’ll be taking payment up front.  It being short notice and all.”

Dennis scowls but hands over his card once the man has led him in.  The machine is old, slow and has Dennis’s back up by the time the old man handed his card back.  “Yer full up for two days.  If ya leave before, there are no refunds.  I’m Colin, wife is Catie, she’ll be seein’ to your room.  I’ll be cooking and doing the heavy work.  The washroom is shared, down to the end of the hall.  There is one other guest here, you’ll be leaving her alone.  She’s a writer and wouldn’t take kindly to being pestered by a man looking to dip his wick.”

“Now see here, I have no intention –”

“Intention or no, rules be the same.”  Colin leads the way back out to Dennis’s car, ignoring the spluttered arguments.  “Let’s get your things and get you settled.”

Dennis doesn’t know quite what to say so he just shuts up and hauls his suitcase and equipment cases out of the car.

“Oh! You’re a photog then, are ya?”  Catie comes out of another room to meet their guest.

“Yes, I’m a photographer.” Dennis nods as he looks her over.  As with Colin, she looks like she’s led a hard working life but one of joy. 

“I’d imagine you’re wanting packed lunches then.  We can do that for you.  Breakfast is at 6:30 and tea is at the same, twelve hours later.  Supper is at nine.”  Catie opens the door to Dennis’s room and stands aside as the pair of men enter it and set his things on the bed.  She hands over the old-fashioned key and Dennis looks at it with some puzzlement.  It’s not like the locks he’s used to – electronic locks with cards.

Catie grins and takes the key back.  “Come, I’ll show you.”  She shows him the cylinder with the hole in it.  She inserts the key and turns it.  Another cylinder popped out the side.  “It goes into a hole in the door frame and locks the door.”  She shows him the inside of the door and twists the switch on the matching cylinder.  The one in the edge of the door pops back inside.  “Got it?”

Dennis nods.  He thinks the whole thing is stupid but if the door locks, it locks.  He accepts the key and not-so-politely gets them out the door. 

With a growl, he digs through his suitcase to find his laptop.  He drops into a chair and starts it up.  When Delilah’s face comes on the screen an evil smile curves his lips and his hand goes to the buckle on his pants. 

 

 

 

Chapter Fourteen

 

2100, Delilah, 31 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 14 days left on timer

Delilah is seriously happy to see the outside of that car, luxurious though it was.  Tom’s sulking made things unbearably tense and suffocating.  She stands there and stretches her back out.  She bends back with her hands on her lower back then straight up, reaching for the sky before bending forward to touch her toes.  She lets the breaths required cleanse her of the tension and is able to look around with a smile. 

The driveway sweeps into a curve only a few meters away from a cliff’s edge.  Delilah decides she’s going to explore the cliff at her first opportunity. Her photographer’s eye is already calculating the possible images, including the probability of a time lapse sunset video.  She decides she’ll set that up as soon as possible, so she can see what happens as the sun goes down. 

The cliffs sort of meander north up the coast from them before curving back in on itself to come to a point before heading north once more.  She takes a short walk to look east behind the west facing cottage and she swears that with a good telephoto lens she’ll be able to see the other side of the island.  Suddenly, she can’t wait to set up her cameras.

The cottage is a long, low crofters house done in stone with a tin-look roof.  It has large windows where the main rooms are then a series of smaller windows that march up the length of it.  It even has a chimney and Delilah has a moment to imagine smoke curling from it.  The house is clearly more than 200 years old.  Delilah is delighted with it.  “This is fantastic!”

Peanut, a petite woman with an elfin face and blonde hair that’s cut in a bob that falls just below her ear, pauses beside Delilah and grins.  “This is great!  How old is it?”

“The owners said it was built in…um… 1857.  They said it is thoroughly modernized inside, and has been throughout the last couple centuries, but the family has carefully maintained the outside to be as original as possible.  I think some of the stones are manufactured now but there is still a great deal of original material here.”   Her eyes travel over the building to see if she can see the difference and her mind starts planning a photo shoot and brochure for Scotland Tourism. 

Ghost comes up to them, hands and shoulders loaded with equipment.  “I’m not sure I’ll fit through the door.”

Delilah laughs, a soft musical sound, as Tom joins them.  “I’m sure you’ll be fine.”  She pulls out the key card that had been messengered to her.  She swipes it through and watches as a light turns green.  She looks startled as a bit of the wall pushes out then up and reveals a keypad with a small screen attached. 

Welcome to Windswept Cottage.  Please enter your name then press OKAY.

Delilah types in her name and presses the small green button.

Hello Delilah. As agreed, your stay is 10 days long. Your passcode for entering the cottage is 195673.  Please remember it.  The keycard will only work once more.  For your safety, do not give out the code to non-residents.  Enjoy your stay.

There is a faint buzz and old looking wooden door swings open.  Peanut is the first through the door while Ghost makes Delilah and Tom wait.

“Oh for the love of Jupiter,” Tom says with exasperation.  “No one knows we’re here!”

Ghost stares down at the man.  Tom is six feet, two inches tall, but Ghost has several inches on him and is the only one who has managed to make Tom ever feel small.  “We still need to cut your hair.”

Tom shuts up but fury burns in his eyes.  He moves away a little bit. 

“Have patience, Tom, please,” Delilah says.  “You know that the stalker is escalating.  I don’t want to see you hurt.”

Tom bristles briefly at the thought of the five-foot-six woman protecting him but he looks into her eyes and softens at the care he sees there.  Immediately, a dim corner of his mind equates it with love, rather than the friendship it is.  It makes him smile at her and pat her shoulder.  “As you wish, Lily.”

Only Ghost notices that Delilah stiffens when Tom calls her by her intimate nickname but he doesn’t say anything.  He merely shifts slightly so that he’s between them.  He’s starting to get a snaky feeling about Tom.

Peanut comes to the door.  “It’s all clear, come on in.  Delilah, come with me.” 

Delilah smiles up at Ghost as he gestures her in then shifts her attention to the smaller woman.  “Sure thing.”  She hoists her suitcase over the threshold and follows her in

Peanut leads her through the house, down the dim hallway that is lit only by a window placed in the middle of it, to the door stuck in the end wall.  Delilah looks back down the hallway and counts the doors, tries to line that up with the windows she saw from the outside then cocks her head curiously.  “What room is this?”

“This is a master suite.  It takes up the last two windows in the front of the house and juts out behind.”  She opens the door and precedes Delilah into the room. 

Light spills in from the windows lighting up a small table covered in a white lace cloth and two wing chairs side by side.  On the table is a vase of flowers and a small lamp Delilah is sure must be a replica of a Tiffany’s reading lamp.  The chairs are covered in a print with large flowers on it.  That print is echoed in the soft deep rug under the furniture.  The room’s walls are a subtle green taken from the rug.  A large armoire, smaller dressing table with a delicate chair take up most of one wall with a vid screen dominating the space between them.  The screen is lazily scrolling between Monet prints, leaving each one up for thirty seconds before moving on. 

On the wall opposite is a large, wide bed.  A heavy, white duvet and a mountain of pillows covers it.  On the bed is a tablet.  Delilah picks that up but follows Peanut as the woman opens another the door on the fourth wall.  Peanut gestures for Delilah to proceed her. 

A gasp of pleasure and awe explodes from Delilah and Peanut grins.  “Right?  I am envious of you.  This is amazing.”  Peanut wandered around the spacious room, trailing her fingers over the antique marble countertop before going to sit on the wide ledge around the tub. 

“I can’t believe there’s a tub!  I haven’t seen one since I visited my grandparents as a child.  Isn’t there some law against it?”

Peanut shakes her head.  “There aren’t enough renters for the cottage to fall under that law.  Even the owners don’t visit enough.  Feel free to enjoy.”

“First chance I get,” Delilah says with feeling.

They leave the room and Peanut gives everyone a tour of the cottage before Delilah can unpack and then sit down with the tablet.  She chooses the wing chair in her room, needing the silence and solitude for a little bit.  On the tablet is a letter from the owners.  It details the little island, where everything is, reminds Delilah of the conversation with the owners about the weather, and offers a couple of locations for watching the wildlife. 

Delilah takes notes about everything on her PDA then stands up and shifts the chair around so she can watch the sea.  She curls into the chair, leans her head against the wing of the chair and lets her mind wander.

 

 

Chapter Fifteen

 

2100, Savannah, 36 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 14 days left on timer

Savannah, standing with Taco, watches the first of the two men as Reaper questions him.  She listens to the conversation from behind an old two-way mirror.  When she’d first seen the rooms security had given her to do the interrogations, Savannah had been surprised at the archaic set up.  Then she’d been pleased.  She would much rather watch a person and listen to them this way than through a computer. 

“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, man!” The guy, whose name is Robby, waves his hands around in agitation.  He is a big man, tattoos are scattered over his forearms, he’s bald with a large beard. He’s barrel chested and somewhat intimidating in size.  He’s also a veterinarian, asked for by the Queen.  Really, Savannah can’t imagine it being him but she lets the interview proceed.  

Reaper watches him calmly.  “Where have you been recently?  Been to Canmerico, have you?”

“Bloody hell!  Why would I go there?”  Robby looks genuinely confused.

“Have friends there?”

“Of course I do. Doesn’t everyone?”

“Friends who would beat up a woman for you?”

Robby’s jaw drops.  “Who the hell would want to beat up a woman?  Women, they’re glorious creatures given to us men by the Gods.  They smell sweet, taste sweeter and are a delight to touch.  Oh, the sounds they make…”

Savannah shakes her head and speaks into the mic connected to a speaker in Reaper’s ear.  “He’s not the one.  Release him.”

Reaper stands up and holds out his hand.  “Sorry to keep you, Robby.  It’s clear you’re not the man we’re looking for.”

Robby stands and shakes Reaper’s hand, slaps him on the shoulder.  “No harm down.”  He frowns.  “Yer looking for a man who’d beat up a woman?”

“Yes.  He’s been stalking her for some time.”

“She do anything?”

“Nah, man.  She’s a photographer, takes beautiful pictures of the world.  She can take a tragic event and make you feel like you are there, make you feel the pain and want to go and help the people.  She can take the past and immerse you in it with a single click of the shutter.  And she can make a picture of a leaf make you want to weep for the beauty of it.”  Reaper smiles. He is fond of Delilah’s work.  His deep dark secret is an appreciation of the arts and when he’d found out they were taking this case as a favour for a friend of Savannah’s, he’d looked up Delilah’s work.  And ended up immersed in it.

“Wow.  What’s her name?  Now I want to look her up.”

“D.D.  Just the initials.”

“Oh!  I’ve seen some of her work.  She is amazing.”  Robby steps out the door, followed by Reaper.  “I hope you find the bastard.”

“Me too,” Savannah mutters from behind the glass.  She’s shocked at Reaper’s description of Delilah’s work.  She knew he liked art, hard not to know after spending so much time with someone, but she had no idea it ran that deep.  She turns to him as he comes into the room, raises one brow.

Reaper blushes.  “Oh come on.  Let it go.”

“Oh, I don’t know.  The idea of you weeping at a picture of a leaf is pretty compelling.  It just needs to be shared.”  Savannah grins as Reaper groans and Taco laughs.  “Who is the other guy, Taco?”

“Alex Rodreguiz.  He’s here on a work visa, studying erosion.  He did have a computer with a folder of a number of Delilah’s photographs on the desktop.”

Savannah frowns.  “I’ll take this one.  Where’s his computer?”

Taco opens a laptop and his fingers fly over it for a moment.  “Here,” he snaps it shut and gives it to Savannah.  “It’s open to the folder of her work.  Just open it up, I’ve turned off the sleep when the lid closes thing.”

Savannah takes it and nods. The room they’re in is in between two interrogation rooms.  She exits the room and goes into the other.  She sets the laptop down on the table and pulls out the chair.  “Please, have a seat, Mr. Rodrequiz.”

“What is this about?”  He frowns at the blonde woman but does as she asks, takes a seat.  Then he notices the laptop. “Hey!  That’s mine!  What are you doing with it?”

“That’s what I want to ask you about, Alex.  May I call you Alex?”  At his shrug, she continues, laying a hand on the laptop as he reaches for it.  She’s satisfied when he lowers his hands to the table, looking confused.  “What are you doing here in the Orkneys?”

Alex frowns.  “A piece of the cliffs has just fallen into the sea near Shapsinay.  I’m here to find out why.”

Savannah nods.  “Are you familiar with the work of Delilah DuMarchand?”

The frown deepens.  “No, who is she?”

With a flick of her wrist, Savannah opens the laptop.  She opens a photo then turns it so the screen faces him and taps on the screen to flip between pictures.  “This is Delilah DuMarchand.  Otherwise known as D.D.”

Alex looks excited.  “Oh yeah, I love their work.  Her work.  No one knows anything about her though.”  A strange look crosses his face.  “Wait, does she do archeological work too?”  At Savannah’s nod he continues.  “I use her work sometimes in mine.  I thought the last name rang a bell.”

“So you do know her.”  Savannah pins her blue eyes on the man with a frown.

“No, I know her work.  I had no idea those were the same person.”  He looks more critically at the work.  “Should’ve made the connection though.  The style is almost the same.”  His voice drifts off as he considers. 

Savannah snaps the laptop shut, startling Alex.  “Ms. DuMarchand has been assaulted, had property damaged and is being watched.  Do you know anything about that?”  She watches his face closely, noting the changes in his body language and the way his eyes widen with shock. 

“Who the hell would do that?  Why?”

“That’s what we’re trying to find out, Alex.”  Savannah leans back in her chair, linking her hands together.

“Wait, you think it’s me?”

“You do have a considerable amount of her work here.”

Anger crackles in his eyes but he doesn’t move, doesn’t even curl his fingers into fists.  “I can assure you, Officer, that I have nothing to do with it.  I have nothing but the utmost respect for this woman’s work.  I didn’t even know D.D. was a woman.  I use her work as a guideline.  Her images of mudslides and the aftermath of earthquakes help me trace it backward so I can try to find the cause.  I’m trying to stop the planet from dumping all its land into the sea and it is an exhausting full-time job.”

Savannah notes how uncomfortably the anger sits on him.  She watches as he twitches, trying to relieve the tension in his shoulders.  Taco whispers in her ear and she leans forward.  “Is it true that you have contacted her office.”

“Absolutely.  I have tried often to see if she will work with me.  I could use her skills.  In fact, I could use them on this job.  I would assume she’s in the Orkneys too, if you’re here.  Do you think she’d… Never mind,” he said.  “It looks like you’re dealing with trouble, she doesn’t need me pestering her for help.”

Savannah stands, her mind made up.  She pushes the laptop across the table and holds out her hand.  “Sorry to have troubled you, Mr. Rodreguiz.  Try to find some time to enjoy your stay on the islands.  I’ve been here before, they’re quite lovely.”

Alex rises and shakes Savannah’s hand.  “I hope you catch whoever is doing this to her.  Judging by her work, she is a unique person and a lovely one.  Only a person with a pure soul could capture beauty in agony.”

“Thank you, we are doing our best.”  Savannah opens the door for him and watches him leave as Reaper and Taco enter the hallway.

“Strike two,” Reaper says.  “Now what?”

Savannah sighs.  “Now we head to Guith.”

Taco nods.  “We have a chopper on standby.  The pilot is just awaiting word.”

“Give it, let’s go.”

It doesn’t take long for them to get to Eday airport and only about five minutes after that to drive to the cottage. 

Reaper gives a low whistle of appreciation.  “Wow. This is something else.”

Savannah shrugs.  “It’s an old stone building.”

Reaper grins as Taco heads inside.  “I bet Delilah loves it.”  He bumps his shoulder against hers and follows Taco inside.

She takes another look at the cottage and tries to envision it the way she thinks Delilah might.  It gives her a small amount of appreciation for the building and surroundings.  She does love the sea.  She takes a moment to watch it then heads inside.  The entire house smells like some sort of stew and her mouth waters.  Business first, she thinks as she looks for her crew.

“Where is she?” Savannah asks Ghost.  All but Delila

“Peanut left her in her rooms, at the end of the hall.”  He points over his shoulder with his thumb.

Savannah nods and heads down the hallway.  She taps lightly on the door.  When there’s no answer she calls Delilah’s name.  After a moment, when it’s still silent, she eases the door open, prepared for anything.

Or so she thought.  She wasn’t prepared to see Delilah sound asleep in the chair by the window.  Delilah looks young and vulnerable and more at peace than Savannah’s seen her yet.  The worry lines Savannah thought might be permanent are smoothed out.  Something in Savannah flares up and fills her with a need for this troubled woman.  It’s gone again almost as quickly as it appeared and Savannah ignores it.

“Delilah.”  Savannah touches Delilah’s shoulder.

Delilah wakes with a jerk and a gasp, arm swinging to hit the person who touched her.

Savannah stops the swing gently and crouches down.  “It’s just me, Savannah, it’s okay.  She watches as the sleep leaves Delilah’s eyes and the woman relaxes. 

Delilah gives her a sleepy smile as her head falls back against the chair.  “Oh Savannah, thank the Gods.  I was having the oddest dream…”   She breaks off and sits up abruptly as her surroundings click in.  “Never mind.  Is that food I smell? What’s going on?  Did you find him?”

“Come on, there’s food in the kitchen.  I’ll tell everyone at once.”

 

 

Chapter Sixteen

 

2100, Dennis, timer dead

Dennis stares at a map of the island.  It’s actually paper, though it’s been laminated.  He tries to figure out where that woman will set up her cameras.  He stares at it and marks a few coves and likely spots for cameras on the island.  Then he turns his attention to the other small islands that make up Eday Islands.  He feels certain she’ll find a way onto the Calf of Eday, a small island on the north end of the larger Eday.  It’s what he would do, there are thirty-two species of breeding bird there, several of whom are endangered. 

He turns his attention to Fara.  There are birds, sheep and grey seals there.  He’s not sure she’d be interested in that but there are beaches there.  He knows she’s doing the shoot for the tourism board so she might.  Dennis rubs the top of his head as confusion sets in for a moment.  He wonders what he’s doing there as his eyes go blank.  Then he sees his camera case and he remembers.  He picks up the map and tries to tear it in two.

Thankfully, the lamination protects the old map and the inability to truly damage it breaks the moment of furious insanity. Dennis calms himself and smoothes the map out again on the bed.  He decides to give that woman a day to set her equipment up.  He’s going to give her time to think she’s escaped. 

Then he’ll strike.

 

 

Chapter Seventeen

 

2100, Delilah, 31 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 14 days left on timer

Delilah sits at the table and eats the stew, giggling at the stories Ghost is telling about Savanah. 

“…and then she tumbled backwards.  None of us was close enough to catch her.  She fell off the wall and landed in the enormous pile of manure on the other side.”  Ghost grins as a peal of laughter rings out, lighting Delilah up from the inside.  “I swear she stank for a month.

“Oui!  There was no amount of scrubbing that could get the stench off our fearless leader.”  Reaper leans closer to Delilah and stage whispers, “There was so much of it that I swear it filled her from the inside and turned her eyes and hair brown.”

Savannah mutters under her breath, “Yeah and they called me Captain Underpants for that entire month too.”

Delilah almost chokes on the drink she’d made the mistake of sipping as she listened.  Peanut pounds her on the back as she struggles to catch her breath. “What?” her voice is rough.  “Why?”

“Because, Chérie, we had to force her to strip down to her drawers before we could get close enough to help her get cleaned off.”  Reaper grins.  “She wears some nice undergarments under that stiff, starched uniform.”

Savannah turns red as everyone turns an appraising eye on her.  “Oh knock it off!  I’m sure they don’t want to hear any more stories.”

Delilah reaches over and gives Savannah’s hand a commiserating pat. “I’m sure Betty and Tom could tell stories about me too.  I tend to be an absentminded professor type.”

All eyes turn to Tom.  He just scowls back. 

Delilah looks embarrassed but simply picks up her dishes and drops them into the sonic dishwasher.  The others follow suits as she heads back to her room to get her large tablet.  She brings it out to the main room and settles on to the couch.  She keys up the map program and looks at the map of Eday. 

Savannah passes through the room and pauses when Delilah calls her name.  “Yes?”

“I’d like to get a start shortly.  These are the places I’m considering.  I’ll need to take the vehicle that’s parked in the garage a little up the road there.”  Delilah breaks off as Savannah holds up a hand.

“There’s a vehicle in another building?”  Savannah calls to Josh to bring her a tablet. 

He brings a small one as Delilah nods, rises.  She heads out the front door and turns north with Savannah following.  She moves around the end of the building and points out a dirt track that could hardly be called a road.  There’s a rickety looking building a few minutes walk away.  “There is a Jeep in there.  It’s all wheel drive and will take me – us,” she corrected, “wherever I need to go.”  She goes back inside and waits while Savannah sends Josh to check out the building and the car.   “I’ll be hiring a boat from these people here,” she touches the map. 

“They’re about a four minute drive south, because you have to follow the roads.  Or two minutes on foot along the coastline.  They will take me to Fara.”  She takes a breath.  “I will set up a camera just on the edge there,” she gestures out the window.  “I think the sunset will be spectacular.   I will also point one north,” she decides right then and there, “and see if I can catch the northern lights.” 

She shifts the map over and points at a small village the northeastern edge of the island.  “The Calf of Eday is across from here.  Alicia – the cottage owner – assures me that I’ll be able to get a boat there too.  I want to go over to the island to photograph the ruins and see if I can capture the birds.  I’ll be setting up cameras there but I want to actively photograph.”

Savannah blinks a little but she’s done the same thing to her own troops, thrown a ton of information at them all at once.  “Can you mark everything on the map and send me a copy?”

“Sure.”  She opens the information sharing app and waits as Savannah taps her phone on the tablet.  Savannah’s tech appears immediately in the form of a folder Delilah can transfer the map into.  “I plan on beginning to work immediately.”

“Alright.” Savannah watches Delilah’s fingers dance over the touchscreen and feels a quiver in her lower belly.  “What’s involved in what you do?”

“For the long term cameras, the ones that will be shooting continuously over several hours, we will anchor them into the group and set protective cases around them.”  She doesn’t mention that a couple of them will rotate, each frame will have the global position, time and date marked on it.    “For actively shooting the wildlife, I need to become part of the scenery, get them used to me being there.  That’s long hours of sitting around and slow movements,” Delilah warns.

Savannah smiles, thinking of the black ops work she does.  “That’s not a problem.  We are quite adept at becoming part of the scenery.”

Delilah nods as she sends the map and listens to the corresponding beep from Savannah’s tech.  She waits a moment while Savannah reviews the map then turns away when the other woman nods.  “Tom!” 

Tom appears in a second or so, as if he’d been just around the corner.  “Yes, Delilah?”

Savannah shakes her head.  “You know, Tom, if you’re going to eavesdrop, at least make it look like you were somewhere else when the person you’re spying on calls your name.”

Tom flushes a bright red.  “I was coming here anyway.”

“Uh huh.”  Savannah leaves the room after glancing at Delilah to see how she’s taking Tom’s encroachment on her privacy.  Seeing that the woman is exasperated but tolerant, she leaves to go talk to her team.

“I need two of the time lapse cameras, their housings and a couple anchors to set up outside here.  We’ll be taking a walk today along the coast, north I think, and we’ll need the 300 mm Nikon.”  She pauses to take a breath and consult her notes.

Tom interrupts.  “The D5300?”

“Yes.  Make sure you have at least three extra cards.  A spare battery and the rain gear.  I also want the polarized filters.  And the hoods.”  The filter helps reduce the most impactful of the sun’s rays by diffusing or removing it altogether.  It will help remove reflections on water, increase the saturation of colours and reduce glare and contrast.  The lens hood prevents those hexagonal spots from appearing in a photo when the sun is overhead.  Shading the camera lens reduces flare and, again, increases the colour saturation.  She stares at Tom.  “Why aren’t you taking notes?”

“I’ll remember.”

“Last time you said that I ran out of power and there was no extra battery.”  She goes back to her notes.  “Tripod.  And I want a roll of the 35mm.”

Tom looks at her in surprise.  “Are you sure?”  It was ridiculously expensive to develop that type of film.  Delilah has her own dark room but the chemicals are rare.  She doesn’t do the type of work often and Tom wonders what has inspired her this time.

“Of course I’m sure.”  She turns away to get ready, muttering to herself.  “Notebook, I need to bring my notebook.”  Her greatest indulgence is the use of paper notebooks and ink pens.  She’s careful to use every line, both sides of every sheet.  She loves the – to her – romance of putting ink to paper.  She tried pencil but, while pencil does better if the paper gets wet, it doesn’t last as long as ink and it fades and blurs if the pages rub together a lot.

She passes Peanut in the hall, still muttering over her notes about subjects and locations, and Peanut follows her to the door of her room.  Delilah jumps with a small scream when Peanut pokes her in the back.  She whips around, tablet pressed to her chest.  “Oh my Gods!  You scared eight years off my life!”

Peanut pauses in what she was about to say and tilts her head.  “Eight?  Why not ten or five?”

Delilah shrugs with a little laugh.  “I don’t know.  Eight just seems right.”

“Oooohkay…”  Peanut grins at her.  “You’re a weird one.  I like it.  I have a question for you.”

“Yes?”

“Is it okay if we go inside?”  Peanut gestures to Delilah’s room.

“Sure.”  She turns and leads the way in, watches Peanut close the door.

Peanut takes a breath.  “Is Tom always so angry?”

“It’s gotten worse over the last couple of years, why?”

“Do you know what’s on his timer?”

Delilah shakes her head.  “Do you like him?”

Peanut turns her wrist over.  Reaper isn’t the only one whose timer is a short time away.  “I only have a week or so left.  I feel a weird pull toward him.  I was wondering if that was why.”

Delilah smiles.  “I’m sorry, I wish I knew.  Frankly,” she sighs, “I wish his timer would come up.  Maybe he’d stop…” she breaks off, chewing her lip in thought.

“Stop what?”

“He’s obsessing.  I wondered if it could be him but some of the things that happened aren’t possible for him to do.  And I don’t think he could hire anyone.  I pay him as well as I can but he spends a lot of it almost as soon as he gets it.”

Peanut nods.  “Do you mind if I call in Loup?”

“No, that’s fine.”

Peanut lifts her radio to her mouth.  “Hey Loup!  As the only other woman here, do you think you could come help me convince the photog she’s got more talent than that guy…whatshisname Dennis Harris?”

Savannah’s voice crackles.  “On my way.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eighteen

 

2100, Savannah, 36 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 14 days left on timer

Savannah immediately knows something’s up and she goes on alert.  She passes a quiet hand signal to Reaper who, in turn, goes to find the others.  She heads down the hall and knocks on the door.  She slips in after Peanut opens it.   She looks around the room and sees nothing amiss.  “What’s up?”

“Delilah here says that Tom has been obsessing.   She doesn’t think he could have done anything like what’s been happening but she’s not sure.”

“We looked into him pretty closely, Delilah.”  Savannah moves closer to the other woman and puts her hand on her shoulder.  “He’s not responsible for any of the events in the last few months.”

“You’re sure?”  Delilah looks up into Savannah’s green eyes, seeking reassurance.  She’s trusted Tom with her life on more than one occasion; she would had to think it was him behind everything.

Savannah nods.  “We would have arrested him already if it were.”

“Thanks.  It would have crushed me if it was him.”

“You’re stronger than that.” Savannah’s hand leaves Delilah’s shoulder but she lets her fingers stroke down the other woman’s arm.  Neither of them are truly aware of the movement.

“Thanks, again.”  Delilah smiles at Savannah for a moment then turns to find the backpack she takes with her on these hikes.  She lays it, the 35mm camera she entrusts to no one, the notebook, spare socks and a few other things in a row on the bed.

Savannah and Peanut watch in silence then continue to watch as Delilah systematically packs the bag…then takes everything out and repacks everything but the camera. 

Delilah looks up.  “…What?”

Both women grin.  “Nothing,” Savannah says.

“Nothing at all,” Peanut agrees.

Delilah looks back at her bag and turns pink.  “I’m a little particular, that’s all.”

Savannah’s grin widens.  “That’s what we like about you.  We pack the same way.”

Delilah laughs.  “Oh good.”   She sits down in a chair and toes off the shoes she’s wearing.  “I just need to put my boots on,” she gestures to the heavy hiking boots sitting by the chair, “and grab a jacket.  Could someone check on Tom?”

“I’ll do it!” Peanut rushes out of the room.

Savannah raises a brow.  “What’s that about?”

“She has a little crush.”

“I don’t get that.  Not at all.”

Delilah shrugs as she ties up the first boot.  “Me neither but to each her own.”

“Exactly.”  Savannah turns to leave the room.  “Let me know when you’re ready.  Reaper, Ghost and I will be accompanying you.”

“Sure.” 

Savannah leaves Delilah wondering how they were going to be inconspicuous and heads to the main room.   “You guys about ready?”

Ghost and Reaper look up from the cameras they were looking at.  “Yes Ma’am.  You need to change.”  Ghost was dressed in blue, hip hugging jeans and a bright red cable knit sweater.  It was chilly out, considering it was June.  At only six degrees Celcius, warm clothing was necessary. 

Reaper, dressed in black jeans and purple hoodie with a print of a skull holding a black rose between its teeth, nods.  “You do.”

“I know.  I’ll be right back.”  Savannah darts into the room she shares with Peanut and pulls out her own jeans.  She tugs on a thick sweater and grabs a windbreaker almost the same colour as her eyes.  She ties it around her waist by the sleeves, grabs a pair of sunglasses and her camera.   She loves photography and takes her own pictures when she is on holiday – which is a rare thing.  She doesn’t really care for the technical aspects of it.  She just likes to take the pictures.

She arrives in the main room just after Delilah to find her arguing with Tom. 

“What do you mean you didn’t pack any 35mm film?”  Delilah’s voice is thick with anger.

“I didn’t think you’d need it on this trip and there were a thousand other things to pack to come to this Godsforsaken island!”  Tom’s voice rises with each word.

“If you dislike your job, Tom, you can leave.  I’m sure someone will escort you to the airport.  Give me a moment to buy your ticket.”  Delilah’s voice has gone as quiet, and weary, as Tom’s was loud.

Immediately, Tom’s entire demeanor changes.  “No!  No, I’m sorry.  I love working with you, wherever we are.  I’m sorry I didn’t pack the film. I’ll remember next time.”

Delilah just stares at him for a long moment then turns and leaves the room.

Savannah immediately gets in Tom’s face and speaks very softly.  “If you hurt her, we will find a way to repay you every ounce of pain she suffers.  Delilah may be a client but we’ve all come to adore her and we will protect her from everyone.  Including you.  Understand?”

Tom’s cheeks turn a dull red but he gives a jerky nod and only breaths again when Savannah steps away seconds before Delilah returns.

“Thankfully, I always have a spare roll in my things,” Delilah says.  “Okay, let’s go out.  Tom, we’re going to put those two cameras on the edge of the cliff. I want one face west and the other facing north and slightly up.”

Savannah turns to Peanut and Josh.  “Keep an eye out.  Check the satellites and keep watch.  If you see anything, let me know.”

“Aye, Aye, Cap.”  Josh gives her a snappy salute.

They group heads outside and Savannah listens as Delilah gives them a lesson about time lapse cameras.  Honestly, it doesn’t take long before she’s bored with the mechanics of the camera but she does like the anchoring process.  She watches as Delilah kneels near the edge of the cliff, opens a narrow, hard-sided case containing a ratchet with a long handle, and equally long socket, a large allan wrench, a thick bolt and a cylinder that looks like a hollow two foot drill bit.  Intrigued, she moves closer.  “What’s that?”

“This the anchor for the camera post.”  Delilah smiles as she takes out the ratchet, wrench and bolt.  She reaches in and lifts the anchor out with a small grunt then turns ninety degrees and lays the drill down.  “Would you mind helping me steady it for a moment?”   Delilah is perfectly capable of performing the awkward maneuver by herself but since Savannah is there, she might as well use the help.

“Sure.”  Savannah drops to one knee and holds the anchor upright in the spot Delilah indicates. 

Delilah fits the ratchet and socket together then fits the socket around the knob inside the anchor’s body.  “Hold tight enough to keep it upright but don’t stop the turn.”  When Savannah nods, Delilah gets a two handed grip on the ratchet and pushes hard into the turn thinking she was trying to drill through rock.  She stumbles forward a bit when the blades on the anchor, basically a large masonry bit, bite into the ground easily.  The anchor slips a bit, creating a slightly angled bit of hole.

“What the..?   Oh right, totally forgot it’s sandstone here.  Didn’t think it’d be quite this soft though.”  Delilah adjusts the drill to a new spot, nods at Savannah to hold it again and once more starts to turn the whole business into the ground. 

Soft sandstone or not, it still takes some power to get the fourteen inches of cutting section of the anchor into the ground.  Delilah was panting just a little by the time she was done and Savannah had a new respect for the woman.  She thought about Delilah’s curves and never would have guessed that this strength lay beneath them. 

“Now what?” she asked.

“One sec.  Tom!” Delilah called over to her assistant, who was putting the camera further away than she’d like.  “I didn’t want it there!”  The look Tom gave her had her scowling in return. The drill was almost all the way in the ground. 

“It’s a better angle from here for what you want.”  Tom’s voice was sulky even as he tried to sound professional.

Delilah growled in exasperation.  “Fine!  But those images had better come out perfectly or I’ll have you out here filming it yourself!”  She stared out to sea for a moment, just breathing.  A moment later, Delilah turned to Savannah.  “Now, we put the camera and the housing here.”  She stretched to one side, giving Savannah a lovely image of lengthened torso and the curve of her hip.  Delilah pulled the cases containing the camera and the protective housing toward her. 

Savannah pulls her mind back from entertaining thoughts about that curve of hip unclothed and lengthened by the languorous stretch of a satisfied woman and watched as Delilah programs the camera to take pictures every minute, wires it to an external power source then to a tiny external hard drive and locks the entire assembly into the case with the lens pressed up against the glass. 

“That’s impressive.  How did you learn to do that?”  Savannah studies the solar panel on the top.

“How did you learn to handle all those weapons? Comes with the job.” Delilah shrugs as she pulls out a small compass and adjusts first the camera then the housing.  She closes all the cases and stacks them on top of each other.  “I just need to take these back to the cottage.  We can go on the hike from there.”  She rises then reaches for the cases. 

Savannah is there before her, picking up the stack.  She gestures with her chin.  “Lead the way.”

“We’ll put them in Tom’s room then go.”  Delilah heads for the house and tries to sort out the pleased feeling in her head about Savannah doing these things to look after her.  She tells herself it’s just part of the job.  Another voice says it’s not, Savannah’s job is just to watch over her, not help. 

Delilah and Savannah reach Tom’s room and hear the voices of Tom and Ghost as Delilah reaches for the doorknob.  They come into the hallway and Tom yells, “No! What are you doing?”

“Putting the cases away, Tom; there is no need for shouting.” Delilah’s voice is a reprimand.

“It’s my room.  I’ll do it.  Wait there.”

Savannah frowns over Tom’s head, her eyes on Ghost.  When he shrugs at her she makes a mental note to have someone check out Tom’s room while he’s out of the house.  She watches as Tom opens the door then takes the cases from Delilah and Ghost, stashing them inside while somehow managing to keep the door mostly closed.

Delilah just shakes her head.  “Alright, let’s go.”  

Savannah stays at Delilah’s side, keeping her on the ocean side, while she keeps her eye on the land side of things.  There are fields of hardy, fast growing wheat that come a few meters away from the cliffs.  She is relieved that she can see over it, figures maybe she can see across the island almost. 

The group played part of tourist very well.  It is Delilah that spots the skinny trail down to a rocky beach filled with grey seals.  Despite Savannah’s objections, Delilah scrambles down the trail, pausing to snap pictures as she goes.  Savannah watches from halfway down the trail as Delilah reaches the bottom and pauses to take pictures. 

 

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