Fiction Friday Week 24

Good Saturday evening!

Yep, I know.  

Nevertheless, I have good news to report!  I hit 46k this morning.  That means I only have four thousand left to go and three days in which to do it.  Easy peasy.

I got an early birthday present (very early!) and got take advantage of a huge sale at my favourite clothing store.  Got me some pretties.  Love it. 

And now, I share with you chapters nineteen through twenty-three.  In these chapters we have a little bit of excitement and we get to discover just how sick Dennis really is. 



Chapter Nineteen


2100, Dennis, timer dead

Before dawn the next morning, Dennis is out skulking about.  He’s driving his car to the ends of roads and dashing up and down the coastline looking for Delilah’s cameras.  He’s intimately familiar with her work and thinks he knows where she might go.  He started in the most likely places and has smashed up three of them by now.  He’s currently along the northwestern side of the island, trying to be careful to stay away from houses.  He hasn’t found any, though he crept quite close to an old stone house, and is on his way back to his car when he catches sight of a narrow path to sea level.  He sweeps his flashlight back and forth and catches a faint metallic glimmer in the sea of sleeping seals.

He starts to scramble down the path, pausing to go slower only when rocks crumble away beneath his feet.  He gets to the bottom and picks his way amongst the beasts to the camera.  He pulls the long iron bar he carried in a loop on his belt and starts smashing the camera to pieces. 

He didn’t count on the seals’ reaction to the violence. 

They woke up with a roar.  Most of them looked at him with annoyance and disdain and waddled down the beach and into the water but some of them headed for him.  He backs away from the camera heading for the trail up and trips over a seal, landing heavily on the mother.  She takes a bite at him and the sharp canines break through the synthetic leather to graze his shoulder as the rest of the pointy teeth leave him bruised almost to the bone and forcing him to drop the iron bar.  She lets go, bellows at him then escorts her baby to the water’s edge. 

The other seals aren’t going to let him off so lightly and they’re headed for him, moving quickly.  Dennis considers turning his back to run faster but can’t quite bring himself too.  The seals are ganging up on him.  He falls on his ass as he finally hits the trail.  He wrenches himself to his feet and scrambles up the path, praying the seals can’t follow him.

Dennis finally reaches the top and pauses there to try and catch his breath.  He stares down at the seals that are now settling down, some going back to sleep, some heading into the sea, and makes a rude gesture at them.  “Fuckers!”  He yells at them then trudges back to his car.  His shoulder ached and he could feel a warm trickle.  He drives back to town one handed.

A little while later, Dennis is having his wounds tended to.  “Ouch, woman!”  Dennis glowers at Catie as she applies a few small stitches to the bite marks.  “Don’t you have any glue?”

“No.  Supplies are limited here,” she says pertly.  “On the rare occasion stitches are needed, we use thread.”

“Perhaps,” Colin adds, “you shouldn’t have riled the seals.  What were you doing there anyway?”

Dennis smoothes his face out and adopts a contrite tone.  “You’re right, I shouldn’t have.  They just looked so peaceful.  I was trying to capture it on film when I slipped on some manure and fell.  One of them objected to me landing on them.”  He tries to sound like he is pleading for understanding and like he regrets doing what he did. 

The reality is that he doesn’t give a damn.  He’s too busy thinking.  The town he’s lodged in can barely be called a town.  It’s a spit of a grocery store that closes its doors before tea and opens at dawn again the next morning; a doctor’s office with hours posted on it that says “Tuesday, 7 am to 7 pm, and Friday, 7 am to 7 pm”; a dingy looking pub and a tiny post office.   Farms stretch out north, west and south.  A dock with a fishing boat tethered to it is at the base of a cliff, just north of the small beach that slopes out from behind the grocery store.

The town beach provided a photo shoot yesterday, though not much of one.  He’s not as much of a fan of Mother Nature’s creatures as Delilah.  He is, however, satisfied he got enough pictures to maybe cover the cost of the trip.  Still… it wasn’t one of the places she’d go.  He thinks he got all her cameras on this island, though that one by the seals almost got by him.  It caught him by surprise.  On reflection, he figures it shouldn’t have. He wonders if there are more he may have missed.

Meanwhile, he hasn’t figured out where she’s staying.  If he can find that, he can destroy her equipment, then maybe she’d be forced to ask him for help and then he can get close to her. 

“You’re done,” Catie says as she applies the last of the tape.  “Try not to get it wet for a few days.  And stay away from the seals!”

“Thanks,” Dennis says absently before heading back to his room.  He decides to get a better look at that stone cottage he saw in the morning, it looks like the kind of place Delilah would choose to stay.  He throws some things in a backpack – a hammer, spray pain, the replacement for his trusty iron bar – and heads out again.  He’s hoping that Delilah is out for the day.



Chapter Twenty


2100, Delilah, 31 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 13 days left on timer

Delilah catches her breath, the familiar thrill of being toe to toe with Mother Nature’s creatures coursing through her.  They are on Calf of Eday and she is surrounded by birds.  Her hair is braided tightly and covered with a hat.  She’d had birds try to take strands of it before.  She is lying on the ground with two cameras in front of her, both on short tripods.  She has her notepad with her. 

The sound of the shutter is silent on the digital camera but the 35mm is giving the occasional mechanical click.  It’s not ruffling feathers though so she’s happy with it.  She is startled when Savannah’s quiet voice intrudes on her musings.

“How did you discover this place?”  Savannah puts a hand on Delilah’s arm.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“It’s okay.  I’m usually here alone, Tom doesn’t like days like this.  I’m not used to have others around but you, Reaper and Ghost are so silent I forgot you were here.”

Savannah flashes a grin.  “We have had practice being still and quiet.” 

“To answer your question, I was sent here to photograph the burial grounds and the old salt works.”

Reaper leapt to his feet, startling a hundred birds into flight, each of them shrieking their annoyance at him.  “There’s a burial ground here?” he shouted through the din.

Delilah grabs her camera and starts photographing the swirling storm of cormorants, auks and kittiwakes.  She turns her camera on him so she can take pictures of the birds skimming the air over his head.  “It was excavated a hundred and seventy years ago, Reaper, there’s nothing left.  Sadly, it’s been so overrun with people that it’s no longer sacred.  Now it’s just a tourist site.  They say that no one has been quite sure whether it was a tomb or a home or both.  That’s why I was asked to take a look – I’ve been able to tell the difference before.”

He stands there a moment, breathing through his nose as he tries to get a handle on himself.  Delilah watches as he visibly relaxes – his shoulders come down, his fists unclench and his jaw unlocks – and takes pictures of the progression.  So great was his agitation and then relief that he doesn’t notice.  He sits down again and nods.  “Okay.   Okay.  That’s fine.  Are there any others?”

“No, this is the only one.”  Delilah smiles when he nods again and stretches out.

“Why you?  You’re a simple photographer aren’t you?”

Delilah gives Savannah a side-long glance at her question and resumes photographing the birds in flight.  “You researched me fully, I’m sure.  You should know that I have a Masters in both journalism and archeology.  I have an artist’s eye and the knowledge to back my finds up.”

Savannah grins.  “You’re right, I did know.  I forgot, that’s all.  This place is amazing.  It’s easy to forget why we’re here.”

With a grin, Delilah pats Savannah’s hand.  “I only want to do a couple more hours in this spot, then I want to move to the other side of the island.  I’ll show you the cairn – the tomb slash house – and the salt works.”

True to her word, Delilah stays in that spot exactly two hours.  She took hundreds of photos of fuzzy chicks in nests sleeping, being fed or just started to walk; more still of the adults in flight, diving into the sea, fighting with rivals, or loving on their mates.  Then she packed up and led them across the island to the slope facing the larger Eday Island.

There, a hill slopes gently toward the water.  A long, rectangular house was built into the hillside.  It had a small oval house built over the cairn.  The cairn itself was chambered and had had, as Delilah put it, “only two bodies, one human and one otter, in there when it was originally found.”

“The walls are a meter thick in some places.  The wind and sand have damaged a lot of it but it’s still worth a look.  The place was in use for at least a century.  It measures sixty-feet by twenty-seven feet with a six foot drop in the centre.  There are hallways that lead to other rooms, including the large chamber with stalls, maybe for animals?  We’ll never know now.”

She gestures to a low wall between the sea and the entrance.  “The wall here was probably a good eight feet tall, though all that’s really left is just over a foot now.  You can find a space in the main room that must have held a fireplace, there’s a hole in the roof for smoke.”  She pauses then says thoughtfully, “There are stories about ships running aground near here.  That’s what I’d like to really take pictures of.  I haven’t been able to get permission to search for ships though.  I need to find a backer first, I think.”

Savannah, Ghost and Reaper all stand there staring at her.  Delilah wipes her nose as her colour turns bright pink.  “What’s the matter?”

All three of them laugh.  Reaper wraps an arm around her shoulders and smiles.  “You are so lovely when you’re talking about your work.   You love it, yes?”

“Absolutely!  It is my passion, my life.”

“What about when you meet your soulmate?”  Ghosts asks.  “Do you think they will be understanding of all your travel?”

“They will have to be,” Delilah looks fierce.  “I’m not giving this up.  I get to see the world.  I bring beauty to people.  I offer different perspectives, I make people think.  I’m not quitting.”

Savannah smiles.  “Anyone who loves you will love that part of you too.  They won’t be able to help but do so.  I think it’s admirable.”

“Thank you.”  Delilah smiles at her and a small part of her mind wonders what it’d be like if her soulmate was Savannah.



Chapter Twenty-One


2100, Savannah, 36 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 13 days left on timer

Savannah smiles back, wondering the same thing.  She breaks the eye contact abruptly and looks at her watch.  “Are Josh and the others back yet?”  She had sent Josh and Peanut on a tour of the island to see what, if anything, they could see.  She’d forced Tom to go with Taco to find food and informed them both that if they didn’t come back with 35mm film, they would be on kitchen duty until the trip was over.  Cooking and cleaning.  

She sincerely hopes they’ll bring back the film.  The only thing Taco really knows how to cook is tacos.

“I don’t know, I haven’t heard.”  Ghost is the one who answers.

Just then, Savannah’s phone buzzes.  “Hey, Taco.  …What?  No.  …Ew.  No. ….Yes.  Okay.”  She taps the earpiece and shudders.  “He wanted to bring back haggis.  Claims you like it, Delilah.”

“I do.” Delilah laughs at the look on Savannah’s face.  “It’s an acquired taste.”

“You know what I don’t understand about acquired tastes?” Reaper asks.

“What’s that? Delilah asks as they make their way back to the boat.

“Why anyone would put disgusting food into their mouths over and over again just to be able to say they like it.”

Savannah finds that she adores Delilah’s giggles. 

“Because,” Delilah says, “some foods are worth it.  Like Brie cheese.”

“Oh,” Reaper waves a hand in dismissal.  “I liked the Brie at first bite.”

They get into the boat and sail for Eday.  Once there, Delilah says she wants to check on her cameras.

Savannah checks the time and vetoes the request.  “No, I’m sorry, it’s going to be dark soon and I want you indoors before then.”

Delilah considers arguing but she did hire Savannah to protect her and she knew going in that it would be Savannah in charge.  She lets it go and merely follows silently as they go back to the cottage.

Ghost steps through the door with Delilah behind him.  Immediately, he turns and shoves her out, back into Reaper’s arms.  “Someone’s been here,” he growls.

Reaper puts Delilah behind him as her temper turns her face red.  “Loup.”

“Take her to the safe house.  Now.”  Savannah pulls her weapon as Reaper grabs Delilah’s arm and tries to drag her back to the car.

Delilah kicks him in the shin, surprising him, and bolts for the cottage.

Reaper hops around on one foot, cussing.

Savannah is not surprised when Delilah bursts through the door.  She really kind of expected it.  She caught Delilah around the waist and held her to her.  “Don’t look.   The place has been trashed.  It’s a good thing you had your 35mm camera with you.  Ghost is checking the premises.”  She looks up as a very chagrined Reaper pokes his head around the door.  She raises a brow. 

“Sorry, Loup.  She surprised me.”

“It’s alright.  She’s a surprising woman.”  Savannah looked into Delilah’s eyes.  “I’m trying to protect you, okay?  You have to go with Reaper.  Now.”

The chagrined Reaper accepted custody of equally chagrined Delilah and took her away.  Savannah took a long breath and let it out slowly as she closed the door and surveyed the wreckage.  She touched her comm.  “Taco, what’s your ETA?”

“Thirty minutes, Loup.”

“You have twenty.”  She talks over his protests.  “Peanut, where are you and Josh?”

“Airport.  We’ll head back now.  We’re on foot. If Taco passes us he can pick us up. Otherwise, we’ll be there ASAP.” 

“Good.  All of you get back here now.”  Savannah touches the comm once more and cuts off any questions.

Ghost surveys the damage and swears.  “Whoever this was, it wasn’t Tom.”

“And he’s evil,” Reaper adds as he came out of Delilah’s room, a pillow in his hand.  The foam in the pillow is slashed to pieces.  A chunk falls off as he comes to a stop near the others.  “He’s torn up her room so thoroughly I don’t think there’s a single thing that’s salvageable.  Except her computer.  Oddly, he left that alone. The screen was open and the keys were dirty though.”

Reaper gives Savannah a look.  “There are…ah… sticky spots in her room.  On her shoes, the other pillow, the equipment.  I would suggest that it’s semen.”

Savannah rubs her face. It doesn’t matter how much she sees of the world, some people never fail to surprise her.  “So not only is he pissed off, for whatever reason, but he’s aroused by her.  Fantastic, we have a sexual predator and a stalker.”

“He’s never done anything like this before.  I wonder what set him off.”

“I don’t know,” Ghost’s voice rumbles as he thinks aloud.  “We may not know if he has because she hasn’t recognized the results of such an emission and therefore didn’t, couldn’t tell us about it.  I think maybe it’s because he’s final physically close to her.  Everything else has come in the mail or been a brief encounter in public.  He’s here on the island.  He know she is too, she’s the reason he’s here.”

“Well, isn’t that just shiny.”  Savannah growls in frustration.  “We need to figure out who this guy is.  Is any of our stuff touched?”

“I haven’t been in the other rooms yet,” Reaper says.  “All the doors were closed save hers.  It was standing wide open like an invitation.”

Savannah nods.  “Let’s go check them out and see what we can find.  Reaper, check Tom’s room, Ghost and I will do the others.”

The small group splits up and Savannah goes into the room she shares with Peanut.  It’s completely tossed.  It doesn’t look like anything is damaged.  It does, however, look like a small child had a tantrum.  She starts picking things up and looking them over.  The lock on her weapons case is still whole, as are the ones on both her tech case and Peanut’s, which is much larger.  Savannah has spare comms, her computer, a satellite phone and a smaller computer.  Peanut has her personal computer plus about three others with different software programs on them.

Ghost appears in the door.  “Nothing is amiss in our room.  Nothing is touched.”

“Our room has been tossed, as you can see.  Nothing seems to be damaged.  Our lockers are still intact, no tampering with the locks.  He must have been looking for Delilah’s things in here.  The other two rooms are decidedly masculine.”  Savannah nudges Ghost out of the doorway so she can enter the hall.  Reaper comes out of Tom’s room, looking disturbed. 

Savannah frowns.  “What’s wrong?”

“The room has been trashed.  Serious fury going on in there.  There were pictures of Delilah everywhere and they’re all torn to pieces.  Tom’s things are sliced to ribbons and his bed has obvious stab wounds all over it.”

Ghost lets out a long, low whistle.  “Wow.  This dude hates Tom.  I don’t like the guy but even I can see he has merit.”  He pauses.  “Sometimes.  He likes sports.  That’s okay.”

The three of them survey the damage in Tom’s room.  All of Delilah’s cases have been destroyed, all the equipment inside smashed to pieces.  Savannah has a sudden thought and darts out the door.  The two men find her standing over the wreckage of one of Delilah’s time lapse cameras.  She points at the other one.  “They’re both damaged.”

A car comes to a stop near them and Taco and Tom get out of it.  Tom spots the damage and snarls as he runs towards Savannah and the others.  “What the hell did you do?”

Savannah raises a brow as Ghost grabs Tom.  “Excuse me?  Remember why we’re here?”  Tom does the heavy breathing through his nose that Savannah has come to recognize as Tom getting a grip.  She waits until his nostrils stop flaring then speaks again.  “Someone has been here, been inside.  Do you remember all the places she put the time lapse cameras?

Tom nods.  “Yeah, I think so.”

“Good.  You will go with Taco to find them.”

“Loup, ton of perishables in the car.”  Taco jerks his thumb towards the car.

Savannah rubs her face.  “Fine, get them put away first.”

Just then, Peanut and Josh come jogging up and stop, hands on their knees to try and catch their breath.  “What…happened?” Peanut asks. 

“The stalker,” supplies Reaper.  “He did a number on the cottage.”

Peanut swears.  “What do you need, Loup?”

“Find him.  Go through her art work, the awards ceremonies, the gallery opens.  Find the people who are most often at these events.  See if she’s photographed anyone.”  Savannah knows Delilah doesn’t do portraits but she wanted all bases covered.  “Find her lectures, see if anyone stands out, someone who asks the most questions, keeps her attention on him.”

Peanut’s mouth had slowly opened throughout Savannah’s list of demands until it was almost hitting her chin.  “Loup! That will take hours, even with both of us working on it?”

“Better get to it then.”




Chapter Twenty-Two


2100, Dennis, timer dead

Dennis is the only pub on the island.  It’s near the airport, darkly panelled, with vid screens showing sports and news and one that seems dedicated to the weather.  He has his eyes on the one showing some football game but he’s not really paying attention. He’s thinking about the way he’d spent his afternoon.

The glory of the destruction, the thrill of the violence, still sings in his blood.  He’s so happy, he’s polite to the server when she comes over.

“Is there anything I can get you, son?”  The woman is older, she’s obviously been on the island a long while; her skin is weathered – wrinkled and leathered by sun and wind, her curly hair is permanently frizzy, hands are calloused.  She gives him a warm smile.

Still elated, he smiles back.  “I would like potato skins au gratin, the steak and kidney pie and a plate of chips.”  He pauses for a minute.  “And a pint of stout.”

“Would you like that all at once, hon?”

He considers.   “No, skins and stout first.”

“Alright then.  You enjoy that meal.  Chef is the best in the Orkneys.”

“Sure.”  Dennis has already dismissed her in his mind.  He smiles to himself as he replays the afternoon.

He’d skulked up to the cottage and was emboldened when no cars were in the drive.  He peered in the windows and spotted Delilah’s picture on a bedside table.  A growl erupted and he smashed his way through the window and hauled himself into the room.  He dropped the bag and grabbed the picture he saw.  He punched the front of the frame and broke the glass. 

After ripping the picture from the frame he crushed it in his fist.  “What is it?” he screams.  “What makes you better?”  He shredded the photo and stomped it under foot, grinding it under his heal.  Then he turned to the rest of the room.  There were other pictures of Delilah in the room, enough that part of him started to think that maybe he had competition. 

He finds the equipment cases and grabs his hammer.  The first swing of the hammer and subsequent explosion of sound – from the plastic cracking – inspired him to greater heights.  He demolished the cases and the equipment left in them. 

Dennis looks around the room, panting and pleased with himself.  As his eyes fall on the bed, images of Delilah and whomever this punk keeping pictures of her flashed through his head.  In his mind, Delilah was riding high above this guy, touching herself while she laughed at Dennis.  Then she had her mouth on the guy.  He had his mouth on her while she talked about all the ways she would defeat Dennis at the next competition.

Fury turned his face into a caricature of himself and he grabbed the knife.  He launched himself at the bed and the imaginary figures there.  He stabbed, stabbed, stabbed, imagining blood everywhere.  He grew more aroused with each strike.  He smashed all the picture frames and stabbed through Delilah’s face.  He gave himself a jolt when he stabbed the knife through an electronic frame. 

Finally, reason slipped in through the haze.  There had to be a room Delilah stayed in, even if it was only for appearances.  Where was her stuff?

He headed into the hallway and opened the first door he saw.  A room with male stuff.  It was severely masculine without a hint of Delilah anywhere.  He closed the door again.

Dennis found the washroom behind the next one.

Then he found a room full of women’s clothing.  At first, he thought it might be Delilah’s and started tossing it but then he realized some of the clothing was much too small for her. 

Finally, Dennis reached the door at the end of the hallway.  He opened it up to a room that was bigger than his at the hovel of a B&B that stupid computer found him.  He launched himself into the room and stabbed the pillow.  Immediately full of remorse, he picked up the same pillow and pressed it to his face.  He inhaled deeply and groaned with pleasure.  He put the pillow back down and opened his pants.

It didn’t take long for the pleasure to overtake him.  He giggled.  “Uh oh, look what I did to your pillow, D.D.!  You won’t like that much.”

His mood shifts again, quicksilver and unpredictable.  “Well, I don’t give a fuck you bitch!  You’ve taken all my awards from me!”  He kicked the pillow then hunted it and fell to his knees to stab, stab, stab it.  He left it pinned to the floor with the knife and set about to systematically destroy every single thing she had with her.

Now, he sips the stout the waitress had dropped off while he was reminiscing, and smiles.  He is a happy person.  For now. 

He is partway through his pie and chips when the door opens again and a large group blows into the pub.  The group is subdued and yet somehow manage to be loud.  He finally figures out that it’s because at least three of them are talking at once to the redhead in the middle of them all.  He growls quietly, his good mood ruined, and hunches over his food, one eye on the group. He hopes they don’t come too close to him.  They settle several tables away, after pulling a couple of them together, and he relaxes fractionally.

Then he hears someone say the name Delilah.



Chapter Twenty-three

2100, Delilah, 31 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 13 days left on timer

Delilah allows herself, and the equipment they’d had with them, to be bundled into the car by Reaper but sits there and fumes he zips away from the cottage.

Reaper gives her a sidelong glance as he speeds along the slightly cracked and weather-beaten road.  “What’s up, Delilah?”  He waits for a long moment before deciding that she’s not going to respond.  It hurts his ear when she explodes two seconds later.

“What’s up?!  What’s up?!  I just had my equipment destroyed!  I imagine the bastard destroyed everything I own!”  She twists in her seat and lays an accusing glare on him.  “You guys said I would be safe.  She promised.

“I know, Chérie.  I do not know how he found us.  We kept everything a secret.”  He pats her thigh.  “We did our best.”

“It’s a small island,” she says, only very slightly mollified.  “I suppose he was bound to find us sooner or later.  I meant how did he find out I was coming here?”  She clutches her 35mm to her chest.  “Oh Gods.  What if I’d been there when he showed up?”

“Then we would have caught him.  You would never have been left alone there.  And you won’t be alone until we catch the asshole.”   Reaper is pissed.  He’s trying to figure out what they did wrong but he just can’t see it.  They did everything by the book.  That thought triggers another one and he slaps the steering wheel with excitement, scaring Delilah into a little scream.

“Reaper!  You scared me to death.”

“My apologies, Delilah.  I was thinking and my conclusion gave me a little bit of excitement.  Oh look, there’s a pub.  Small but it will do.  We will go there later to talk, the whole group.”  Reaper points out the pub as they drive by it in the tiny town of Eday.  He stops at a house just on the outskirts of the village.  “Wait in the car.”

Delilah watches as he gets out and locks the door.  She lapses into her own thoughts as he does a perimeter check.  What is it about her that is making this guy want to hurt her.  She tries to remember conversations with recent clients, friends, people she’s talked to at the parties Betty forces her to go to.  She can’t think of a single thing she’s done wrong. She’s not perfect but she treats people with courtesy and honesty.

It’s an ex-boyfriend, maybe?  Her honesty there tends to lean towards brutal.  If they’re dicks, she tells them so.  If they’re too fey, she tells them so.  If they don’t know where a clitoris is, she tells them exactly how to find it. 

She nods.  That must be it.  She’ll make a list and –

She screams again as Reaper knocks on the window beside her.  She glares daggers at him as he unlocks the door and reaches to help her out.  She ignores his hand and, once she’s standing, plants her own hands on her hips and scowls at him.  “Are you trying to kill me?  That’s two heart attacks since we left the cottage!”

Reaper has the grace to look chagrined.  “You looked deep in thought. I figured knocking on the window would be better than opening the door.”

“You got that right,” she says as she softens both her look and her stance.  “I’d probably have punched you in the face.”

He gives her an engaging grin.  “And I’d have deserved it.”  He holds out his arm for her hand in order to escort him to the house, is pleased when she slips her hand into the crook of his elbow.  “The house is safe.  We did think to back up some of your equipment but we couldn’t find everything on the list your assistant gave us.”

Delilah’s face lights up.  “You did?  Oh that’s wonderful!  Now I’ll only be behind a couple of days.”  She rushes in the door to look at the stack of hard cases. 

Reaper watches her document everything that’s there.  She’s writing everything down in the little notebook she carries everywhere with her.  At one point, he strolls over and looks at the notepad.  He can’t make heads or tails of it all.  Seems to be in some form of shorthand.  “How on earth do you read this?”

“Hmm?”  Delilah gives him a distracted look as her brain tries to shift gears and answer him.  “Oh, it’s easy. It’s my shorthand.  Can you ask Savannah what was damaged?”

“No, sorry.  Last time I tried talking to her I got cut off.  They’re busy looking for evidence and cleaning things up.  Many things will have to be replaced based on the few words she did say.”

Delilah nods.  “From Ghost’s reaction, I’m not surprised.  And the things here are good.  The ones you couldn’t find are custom made.”  She groans and rubs her face.  “Replacing all that is going to cost me.”

“Our insurance will pay for a great deal of it.”  Reaper moves through the house to see if there’s anything to eat.  Its floorplan is smaller than the cottage and its two storeys, with the bedrooms and a shared bath upstairs.  He can hear her from the kitchen. 

“Why did you purchase all this ahead of time?”

“Loup likes to be prepared.  She researches thoroughly and she figured you’re the type not to stop work no matter what.”  His voice implies that Savannah figured out, before their first meeting, just how stubborn she can be.

Delilah blushes.  “Well, she was right and I’m thankful for it.”  She hears a car pull up outside and she darts to Reaper’s side, furious that she’s so scared. 

He takes her hand and leads her to a corner away from the door and windows.  “Stay put.  It’s probably just Loup and the crew but I’ll check.”  He does just that and sees that he’s right.  “See, what’d I tell you.  You’re safer than ever now.  I see Loup, Peanut, Ghost, Josh and Tom.”

Delilah nods and comes forward to stand at his side.  “Good.  Okay.”  Only he hears her mutter under her breath, “I’m not sure Tom makes me feel safer.”  She pounces Savannah as soon as she comes through the door.  “Well?  Was anything salvageable?”


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