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A soft golden glow reached from behind the eastern range as the predawn light began to fade out the deep night sky. Indigo shadows were slowly paling to shades of purple and dark blue as the morning light tinged the white mountain scenery. The experienced eyes of any hunter would have sighted the brown bodies and white tails of deer moving among the greens and granite greys of the snowy terrain as they moved silently and slowly up from the valley floor to the higher ground.
Undulating snow sparkled on ridge tops in the early sunlight as if the mountain were a bejewelled sea rising. The sky was azure, edged with gold and stretched cloudless over the sleeping resort. Those guests who were very early risers could discern the many tracks left behind by various animals which had roamed unobserved about the resort grounds during the night. The majority were elk or deer, with the occasional moose, and most originated and returned to the trees surrounding the exclusive mountain getaway.
But there were a few tracks that meandered among the lodges and disappeared over the ridge at the resort’s rear. Only the sharp eyes of an expert tracker or hunter would have been capable of making out the human prints almost obliterated by those of the animals; human prints that led away from a secreted rocky hideout and made for one of the lodges.
Humming that could only testify to a night of sound sleep, and possibly good sex beforehand, emanated from the master bathroom. Steam billowed into the bedroom, defying the best efforts of the superior fan system to redirect it outside. The indistinct willowy shape of a tall woman moved behind the translucent shower curtain as she enjoyed the luxuriant hot water cascading over her athletic figure.
Hands, slick with soap, caressed firm, full breasts, teased erect nipples and traced arabesques over a flat stomach. Muscular long legs came together at that magical triangular juncture. The humming faltered as fingers began to tease and play with intimate folds, her head bowed, eyes closed in concentration, and the long dark hair draped in heavy wet tendrils over slightly heaving breasts.
Gloved hands slid the key into the lock, expertly opening the main entrance door quickly, then closing it quietly behind as the figure slipped unnoticed into the lodge. Eyes turned upwards at the sound of running water coming from the top floor. Silent steps carried the person up the flight of wooden stairs, then into the short hallway leading to the master bedroom. One hand dipped inside the dark jacket and slowly withdrew a length of piano wire with handles attached at either end—a garrote.
Pressed against the side of the hallway, the figure reached the bedroom door which was partially ajar. A wisp of steam trailed into the hall as eyes peered through the gap between door and jamb surveilling the visible section of the room it allowed. The bedroom was empty. A shadow passed over the crumpled sheets of the king-size bed and headed for the bathroom. Muffled moans could be heard coming from the shower.
“Haven’t you finished in there yet, Em?” a woman’s voice called from downstairs. The intruder’s head whipped round and eyes darted, frantic, to the door, then around the room. Approaching steps of someone coming up the stairs could be heard above the sounds of the shower and its occupant. Blonde hair blazed white gold as a head popped through the doorway and was caught by soft sun rays drifting into the bedroom through large sliders.
“Hey! If you can tear yourself away from whatever it is you’re doing to yourself, I just wanted to let you know I’m headed out for my usual two-mile run, then to the main building for breakfast. I’ll grab us a table. Okay?”
“Oh, okay,” came a voice dreamily, from the bathroom. “I’m about finished here. I won’t be far behind you.”
“Yeah, sure, enjoy yourself,” chuckled the young blonde. “I’m off, then.” The head disappeared from the doorway and speedy feet danced down the stairs. Seconds later the front door closed. Silence settled on the lodge again, except for the running shower and heavy, fast breathing. A shadow slipped from the large walk-in closet and glided towards the bathroom through the heavy carpet.
Em steadied herself with one hand propped against the tiled wall while her other hand busied itself with her wet pussy. One leg was raised, resting on the low edge of the step-in shower. Head bowed, eyes closed, Em was lost in the mounting ecstasy her fingers were teasing from her clit. Feverishly she rubbed her hard nodule sensing the electric charge enlivening her nervous system. An involuntary shudder rippled through her legs, and her stomach grew taut in anticipation. Then it was there! The orgasm blossomed fully.
“Ahhhh … Ohhhh … Yessss!”
The shower curtain was ripped aside. Caught up in an explosion of erotic pleasure and violence, the woman found herself spun about and dragged halfway from the shower. Her feet kicked and fought for purchase on tile, slick with soapy water, casino oyna but kept slipping. Her assailant hauled her into the middle of the bathroom. Hands clawed at her throat frantically trying to tear away whatever it was that entwined it. Emily was tall, athletic, and strong for a woman yet her attacker was overpowering her with superior strength.
A red fog was at the edge of her vision and seeping into her mind. Air! Her lungs screamed for air, but could draw nothing past the obstruction digging deep into her throat. She twisted and fought but the pain was proving too great. The woman felt warm liquid oozing down her chest, between winging breasts, and down her body. The floor became more slippery with a combination of soap, water … and blood.
She slipped, almost fell to the floor, and the pain at her throat almost caused her to black out completely. A lightness was creeping into her limbs, her mind. Her desperate struggling was giving way to a growing stillness as her life seeped from her body. Soft clouds enveloped her.
Em sensed she was floating, face down. She found the strength to open her eyes. Nothing. Wait! Yes. There was something. Her befuddled mind took in the fuzziness; tried to process the information. Seconds passed, then her eyes focused on satin weave.
Satin! Weave? Uumph! Her body shuddered as a force pushed her face forward. Ever-so-slowly, her mind rose from a dense fog which threatened to drag her down, to … she didn’t know. But her body’s reactive fight-or-flight instinct demanded she get as far away from that fog as possible. Her mind rose higher, broke from the fog into sunlight. Umumph! Umph! She was being shoved from behind. She tried to turn her head but sudden pain assailed her dull senses. Her arms felt like lead weights, way too heavy to move. Uumph!
There was a sense of recognition floating at the edge of her awareness, just beyond her grasp. The movement was somehow familiar to her. From a time far off. There was pain … and pleasure. She couldn’t place her mind’s finger on it, but … a veil began to lift. The pain was incessant, a throbbing annoyance that robbed her concentration; she couldn’t focus on … something … familiar. Then she had it! Almost. Uumph! There it was … again. Like a groggy voice awakening from a deep sleep, her mind announced its find … RAPE! I’m being raped!
Em almost gagged at the thought and fought down the foul taste of bile rising in her gorge. Uumph. With the cruel realization of her predicament also came sensation, albeit dull. She could now feel the engorged appendage of her assailant pushing deep between her legs, into her pussy; feel it sliding in and out. From behind and over her came deep raspy breathing—quickening. Make it be over, thought Emily. Please let him cum and leave me in peace.
Movement indicated the attacker was about to cum; the bed rocked and bounced more, as did the dazed and exhausted woman. A grunt preceded a sudden warmness inside her and Emily drew on ancient distant memories to realize he was finally cumming, spurting his dark seed inside her. Her world reeled as her head was suddenly yanked up and backwards.
Em’s body bent as if someone were drawing a bow. A knee was planted into her back. The pain exploded inside her mind, bleaching out all other senses. Mercifully the woman couldn’t feel the thin wire slicing deeper into her throat. Her body, at the mercy of her rapist, was limp as a rag doll; arms dangled useless onto the bed.
She couldn’t breathe, but that was okay Em decided, because all she wanted to do was go to sleep. A blackness rose up around her, enveloped her, and with a thankful final sigh, Emily slipped into an endless oblivion.
Mac was becoming more agitated. What the hell was keeping Em? The large dining room was fast filling with guests as they came in from the cold singly, in couples, or groups. The blonde was into her second coffee of the morning already and it showed in her growing impatience. She was having difficulty keeping other guests from dragging off the only other chair at her table, while the waitress was circling like a hungry shark, eyeing her hungrily for a breakfast order. I’ll give Em thirty more seconds, then I’m starting without her. I’m famished!
Suddenly there was commotion at the main door as incoming patrons were shoved aside unceremoniously by a white-uniformed cleaning woman. Clearly she was distraught, grabbing at one person’s sleeve, then another’s, while she gasped for air enough to speak. Finally she succeeded and a thin high wail pierced the room. Heads turned. Talk ceased. People stood stunned, staring at the little round woman on her knees with her face buried in her hands, crying.
Resort staff converged on her from all points and fussed over her, trying to quieten her, to gain some sense from her distress. There was low mumbling from the huddle, loud sobbing, a cry, and heads snapped up. A command rang out.
“Someone call the police! There’s been a murder!”
From canlı casino her corner of the dining room, Mac watched a ripple move out from the group near the doorway as guests, reacting to the astonishing news, turned to those near them to share their observations or moved to be closer to friends and loved ones. Mac craned her neck, trying to see if Em were anywhere in the room. Nothing.
Staff were now breaking away from the source of the disturbance, clearly with orders to settle the guests as Mac saw people begin taking their seats, immediately falling into huddled conversations. Her shark materialized at her elbow asking for her breakfast order. The somewhat angered waitress watched Mac dismiss her with a wave and make for the main door.
Drawing near the smaller huddle, Mac discerned the maid, sobbing quietly now, seated in one of the many plush lounge chairs, fellow staff members perched on each of the wide armrests. An elderly woman—a senior staff member or possibly management—was kneeling at the distraught woman’s feet, trying to console her.
“They’re on their way!’ announced a male clerk from behind the check-in counter. “They said the roads are pretty bad after last night’s snow. It could take them 30 minutes or so before they can get here. I was told to make sure no one goes near the mur—the lodge. What should I do?”
“Take the master key and go lock the lodge,” commanded the elderly woman. “Stay there to make sure no one tries to enter the place.” The man made to leave on his errand. “Oh, and get someone to find the day manager. I’m surprised he hasn’t turned up, what with all the fuss. GO! Don’t stand there with your mouth open.”
“Y-yes, ma’am,” stammered the clerk. Grabbing a bunch of keys from the board behind him, he dashed from behind the counter and out the door. It hadn’t time to close behind him before Mac was close on his heels. Guests still making their way to breakfast fell back from the duo and watched after them quizzically as they ploughed through the two-foot-deep snow.
Unaware he was being followed, the young man forged across the parking area on a straight heading for the far side of the resort. Mac’s breath caught as they drew near the lodge she and Em were occupying. NO! The silent scream filled her head. NO! It can’t be! Her heart lurched with shock.
Mac pulled up short, unable to take another step closer as the young man began fumbling with his bunch of keys to lock the front door. Suddenly it opened. The man threw a fist to his mouth and recoiled at the sight of the woman standing there covered in blood. No! Not covered in blood … dressed in red. There stood Em, garbed in a red leather outfit similar to the black one she’d been wearing when they arrived at the resort.
“Hello? Can I help you?” she said, questioning the clerk scrabbling in the snow at her feet. He lurched to his feet, clutching keys in his hand. His expression was one of utter consternation. His eyes dashed to the brass numbers over the lodge door, to his keys, then back to Em.
“I … I … I’m … terribly … sorry. I…” stammered the man, before turning on his heel and dashing off in the direction of the neighboring lodge, some sixty feet further on from Em and Mac’s.
“You’re not dead! You’re not the one that…” Mac was still rooted where she stood.
“Dead? Dead! Who’s dead?”
“There … there’s been a … murder. A cleaning woman just rushed into the main office screaming her head off that she’d found a body in one of the lodges. Some woman back there,” Mac indicated the office behind her where Em could see a small knot of people milling about the entrance, looking and gesturing their way, “she took charge and ordered that clerk to lock the lodge—to keep everyone out. The police are on their way.” Finally the emotion caught up with the blonde; she dropped her head and began sobbing into her hands unashamedly. Em went to her friend and took her into her arms.
“It’s okay, darling, I’m perfectly alright. C’mon, I need you to pull yourself together. Where’s the Day Manager—why isn’t he here? Has anyone seen him?” Mac eased herself out from Em’s embrace and sniffled.
“No. I don’t think so. That woman was asking about him, too. She—”
“Em? My god! Are you alright?” A voice yelled from across the carpark.
Both women looked up to see a tall, handsome elderly man surging through the snow towards them. He struck a dashing figure in his royal blue and gold parka, deep burgundy ski pants, and rich buff-colored Sorrels. The bulkiness of his winter clothing did nothing to hide the broad shoulders and heavy muscular stature of the man. He was hatless, and his thick black hair, streaked with grey, glinted like a steel helm in the brightening sunlight. There was no sense of exertion, no gasping for breath as he reached them. He looked Em up and down, holding her by her shoulders.
“My god! From back there we could all swear you were covered in bl … thank God, you’re alright!” He appeared shocked, but in total kaçak casino control of himself. “This is a terrible business—just terrible.”
“I’ve just this minute learned about it myself, Roger. Do you have any details? Who was killed? When?”
The man looked very grave. “I was told it was an Emily Carson—that’s all.” Only then did he notice Mac standing close, watching them both.
“Oh, forgive me. I come bursting in, totally disrupting your conversation and…”
“It’s perfectly alright, Roger, under the circumstances. Don’t worry yourself.” Em addressed the gentleman. “Roger Thurston, I would like to introduce my friend, Mackenzie Falon. Mac, Roger is the resort’s Day Manager, and the company’s vice president.”
Mac couldn’t help from being totally captivated by the hazel eyes turned in her direction. Roger was taller than Em by a few inches, making him a clear head taller than herself. The healthy, tanned skin was like beaten copper, and the hand that took hers engulfed it gently, but she could easily feel the strength hidden there. The young woman couldn’t seem to find her tongue. The hazel eyes smiled at her, a twinkle at their edge.
“Miss Falon, I’m delighted to meet you.” Roger gestured to the nearby lodge. “If it were not for the current circumstances…” Mac cut him off.
“Of course. And believe me, the pleasure is all mine. Nice to meet you … may I call you Roger? And please call me Mac.’
“I insist you do so … Mac.”
An uncomfortable silence fell over them—a heavy greyness, a palpable presence which stifled any further sense of cordiality. Their eyes drifted to the lonely figure nervously standing guard at the front entrance of the far lodge. The clerk, hands shoved deep into his parka’s warm pockets, shoulders hunched as much from the coolness of the shadows as from the evil trapped behind the door at his back, shuffled and stamped his feet attempting to keep warm, but clearly agitated by his assigned duty.
His eyes focused on the poor, unfortunate employee and with sincere concern in his voice, the manager excused himself from the two women and left in the direction of his nervous office clerk. Em and Mac watched him as he wound his way around the low shrubs and exposed granite rocks.
“Roger is the backbone of the resort. Without him being in charge here, I don’t know where we’d be. The popularity of the resort is all due to his hard work and belief in what we’re trying to establish here.” Having no comment of her own to add, and still entranced by the man’s animal magnetism, Mac kept her silence, her eyes tracking the manager’s every smooth movement.
A movement far off to one side caught Em’s attention and she quickly shifted her gaze to a point where the trees and shrubs were especially dense. For a moment she stared intently, thinking her mind had played tricks with her, but—there! It was as if a part of the forest detached itself and made a step forward, half-in, half-out of the tattered rays of sun.
Her sharp vision could just discern the outline of a figure. She couldn’t make out any details over the distance, but Em was fairly sure it was a man—and he was dressed in camouflage gear. Then he was gone. Vanished, swallowed up by the trees! And she was somehow afraid to go check for footprints for fear of finding none.
The night felt extra cold for those guests who had chosen to remain at the resort. They had been questioned and their particulars noted; they were allowed to leave, but either out of unabashed curiosity or because of their vacation investment in both time and money they stayed on. For them, the extra coldness wasn’t solely attributable to the seasonal temperature. Each person felt a sense of foreboding, as if the evil—which had wrought havoc on the body of the poor victim—was still lurking nearby, waiting to snatch the life of another unsuspecting innocent.
To accentuate the feeling, the forest had come alive this night and was dancing wildly around the resort. Deep shadows—contorted by the numerous lights flashing from the police cruisers parked haphazardly about and among the trees, now colored eerily in blues, reds, yellows and deathly white—took on the shapes of a tribe of whirling dervish.
The coroner had been and gone, and the body finally removed to the nearest county morgue. The CSI team, summoned from Boulder, was still scouring the cordoned-off crime scene, with police officers coming and going with assignments, their faces stoic masks of professionalism. The main building of the resort had become headquarters to the investigation, the foyer a scene of organized chaos.
Some resort staff had been permitted to return home with indefinite time off, while others had elected to stay on to look after the feeding of the numerous police and homicide detectives and to assist in any other way asked of them. Representing both the resort management and controlling company, Em and Roger had been in high demand by all investigators ever since the arrival of the first cruiser on the scene. Now, hours later, the two were feeling their stamina flagging badly. Mac, too, was worn; she had kept on their heels all day, endeavoring to alleviate some of the pressure from her best friend.
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