DISCLAIMER:The following story is based on characters copywritten by "Warner Brothers" and "Shoot the Moon Productions." It is meant for enjoyment purposes only. I retain the right to the plot but not the characters.
Lee and Amanda were driving back from an assignment out of town. They still had a couple of hours before they reached the Agency and Lee was at the wheel of his Corvette listening to music on the local radio station, Amanda was next to him asleep.
Lee glanced over at her thinking how lovely she looked. He smiled to himself still amazed at how important she had become to him over the last three years. He had realised a long time ago that he was in love with her, although her ex-husband turning up a few weeks back had really brought it home to him just how much. He would have told her before now if it weren't for the Agency always getting in the way and, of course, there was also his uncertainty of whether Amanda felt the same.
It started to rain and black clouds gathered overhead darkening the sky. As Lee continued to drive the announcer read a newsflash over the radio. "We interrupt this programme to bring you a severe weather warning. Storms and heavy rain in the region are causing flash flooding. People are advised to terminate their journeys and keep off the roads. Please stay indoors if at all possible. We will issue an update in our next scheduled News Bulletin." The music resumed.
"Oh great," muttered Lee, "just what we need."
The rain started to fall heavier and the clouds darkened ominously. Lee turned his headlights on and slowed down. Suddenly there was a flash of lightning followed by a tremendous clap of thunder.
"Oh!" exclaimed Amanda as she awoke with a start blinking a couple of times. "What was that?"
"It's nothing to worry about Amanda. It's just a little bit of thunder, you go back to sleep."
The lightning flashed and the thunder roared louder this time. Amanda winced. "A little bit of thunder? Are you kidding?" she said alarmed as she noticed the rain. "Lee, should you be driving in this weather?"
"Look, Amanda, you do not have to worry," he said smiling assuredly at her. "I've driven in alot worse weather than this without any trouble, believe me."
Just then a streak if lightning flashed from the sky and struck a tree causing it to fall down across the road and right into their path. "Look out!" shouted Amanda.
Lee quickly turned the wheel and the car skidded and spun around coming to a halt inches from the fallen tree. Both Amanda and Lee looked at each other and let out the breath they were holding.
"Wow, that was close," said Amanda.
"Yeah," said Lee as he pulled over to the side of the road and looked over at the tree. "We're never going to get around that," he said as he leant into the back of the car and pulled out a map. "I guess we'd better find another way home."
After a couple of minutes study he let out a snort of disgust. "Well, that's just great!" he said frustratedly.
"What?" asked Amanda.
He looked at her. "It appears there is no other road, at least not nearby. We're going to have to backtrack for about forty miles to get onto a road that joins up with this one further down. With this weather we're probably looking at another two hours journey on top of the two we already had to do!" He shook his head resignedly and tossed the map into the back of the car.
Amanda looked out of the window and saw that the rain was starting to fall harder making visibility virtually non-existent. "Look, you can't drive all that way in this," she said matter-of-factly, as she gestured to the rain. "Why don't we just look for somewhere to stay for the night and carry on tomorrow?"
Lee looked at her in surprise. "I thought you had to get back home?"
"Oh no," she said. "Mother's away for a few days with the boys so it won't matter if I'm not back tonight." She smiled at him hoping he'd agree.
Lee stared at her torn. He really wanted to be alone with her but without a case to use as a distraction, he knew it would be hard for him not to betray his feelings. He was already slipping badly whenever they had the odd quiet moment as it was. He frowned trying to decide what to do.
'Oh no,' thought Amanda to herself misunderstanding his frown. 'He doesn't want to spend any more time with me than necessary,' her smile faded. "Look, Lee, it was only a suggestion," she said abruptly. "If you want to keep driving that's fine by me."
Lee continued to stare at her knowing that he couldn't pass up this opportunity to be alone with her, really alone, no Agency. "No, Amanda you're right. The weather's getting worse and I don't really want to drive all that way tonight," he said smiling at her. "I think I saw a signpost for a Hotel a couple of miles back, let's try there huh?"
"Oh! Yeah, that would be great," said Amanda turning to him. Pleased at his unexpected agreement she continued, "you know, I'm glad we'll be getting a chance to spend the night together without a case to worry about, it's......"
"Spend the night together?" said Lee interrupting, as he rose his eyebrows teasingly. "Why, Amanda King, are you propositioning me?"
"What?...Oh!...No!" she said staring at him and blushing as she realised how it had sounded, "no, no I didn't mean it like that...you know..."
"It's alright Amanda, I was only joking," said Lee laughing. He put the car in gear, "Now, let's go look for that signpost."
Embarrassed, Amanda turned and looked out of the window. 'Of course you're only joking, that's because you never see me as anything more than good old Amanda!' she thought to herself unhappily. She shook her head realising that, once again, he had made it clear that he saw her as no more than a friend. She turned to look at him and let out a sigh. Why did she have to love him so much?
"Anything wrong?" asked Lee, catching her staring at him.
Amanda jumped guiltily and blushed again. "No, no nothing's wrong, I think I'm just a little tired still that's all."
Lee nodded and rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah, I know how you feel."
They continued in silence for about ten minutes when they saw the signpost Lee had spotted earlier. He came to a stop to read what it said.
"With this weather and our luck I'll bet it says Bates Motel" said Lee chuckling.
Amanda laughed. "I hope not."
They peered through the rain and read the sign, their smiles faded and they looked at each other. "I think I would have preferred Bates Motel," said Amanda.
"Yeah," said Lee as they both looked back at the sign, it read 'Gallowstree Hall Hotel, 2 miles' and pointed right. Lee smiled at Amanda. "Well, let's go take a look."
They turned off the main road and started down the lane, it was pitch dark and the road was full of potholes. Lee grimaced after hitting a particularly bad one. "Great, I hope my suspension holds up long enough to get us to the Hotel, otherwise we're gonna' have a long wet walk.," he said, wincing as he hit another one. "Just great."
It wasn't long before they rounded a corner and the Hotel came into view. Lee stopped the car and they sat and stared.
"Oh," said Amanda, "it looks a bit creepy doesn't it?"
As if on cue lightning flashed illuminating the Hotel. It was a large two storey building finished in old English Tudor style. Amanda drew in a sharp breath. Lee gave a chuckle and leant over to her. He lowered his voice in mock menace, "Not scared of ghosts are you?"
"Oh please," she said laughing nervously. "I'm a little too old to believe in all that."
Lee grinned and drove on into the car park which was almost full. "Well it looks pretty busy, I hope we can get rooms," he said.
They parked up and made a dash for the entrance. Once under the porch they walked up to the large wooden doorway. Lee leant forward to pull the bell chain but before he could do so the door slowly creaked open.
"Oh my Gosh," Amanda gasped, her eyes wide.
Just then a man stepped out holding an umbrella and almost bumped into them. "Oh!, Sorry, didn't see you there," he said moving aside. "Go on in, I'm just getting something from my car."
Lee grinned mockingly at Amanda and gestured for her to proceed him. "Oh, just come on," she said angrily walking through the door.
"Yes Ma'am," he replied following her still grinning.
They entered the reception and looked around in awe. The ceilings were high with elaborate coving and painted a soft cream, there was a centre wooden staircase with intricately carved handrails and a deep burgundy carpet. All around on the walls was mahogany panelling. They walked over to the reception desk and rang the bell. A woman in her late thirties appeared from a back room, she smiled, "May I help you?"
"Yes," said Lee, "do you happen to have two singles available for tonight please?"
"I'll just check for you Sir." The receptionist opened a book and quickly looked through. "I'm sorry," she said looking at them apologetically, "but there isn't anything available."
"Oh," said Lee "well, can you recommend anywhere else nearby?"
"Oh yes, there's…"
"That won't be necessary," said a man coming out from the back room. "We still have room ten vacant, you can have that."
"But it's a double," said the receptionist turning to the man. "The gentleman wanted two singles"
"Ah, a double will be fine, won't it Amanda?" said Lee turning to her.
"Um, yeah, fine," she replied, hesitating slightly.
"That's settled then," said the man holding out a pen for them to sign in.
"But Sir," whispered the receptionist. "You know the Mistress doesn't like that room let out after what happened in there and…."
"I'm in charge Martha," the man hissed back angrily. "Go and get Sam to take up our guests luggage will you?"
Martha gave Lee and Amanda a worried look and walked off. They looked at each other puzzled and then signed the register.
"Now, here you are then," said the man smiling as he turned and retrieved a key down from the rack behind him. "Dinner is at 7.30."
"Thanks," said Lee. He turned to Amanda, "I'll just pop out to the car and get our bags OK?" Amanda nodded.
A few minutes later they were being led to their room by an elderly porter. "Here you are Sir, Madam, number ten." He took out a key and opened the door standing back as he allowed them to enter.
"Thank you," said Amanda walking into the room. "Oh, this is just lovely," she exclaimed looking around. Her eyes fell on the large four-poster bed which seemed to take up most of the room. She glanced at Lee who raised his eyebrows and smiled rakishly back at her. She quickly looked away blushing. Trying to find something to distract from herself, she walked over to a portrait of a young blonde woman in a beautiful blue silk and lace ballgown which hung over the fireplace.
As she studied the picture, the porter brought their bags into the room. Amanda pointed at the painting and turned to him. "She's lovely, do you know her name?" she asked.
The porter nodded. "Yes, Madam, that's Lady Josephine Moore. She was the first Mistress of the Hall and this was her bedroom."
"Oh, I see," said Amanda looking back at the painting.
"In fact, it was out of that very window," continued the porter pointing, "that she jumped to her death."
"What? You mean she killed herself?" said Amanda.
"Yes," said the porter getting into the story. "It was just after she saw her husband hanging from that tree outside. They say that she still haunts this room today, guarding something or other and......"
Seeing Amanda was looking increasingly horrified, Lee cut in "Yes, thank you, that'll be all for now." He pushed a couple of bills into the porter's hand and guided him out of the door. He shut it firmly behind him, he turned and looked at her.
The lights flickered briefly. "What was that?" asked Amanda looking around nervously.
"It must be the storm affecting the power," said Lee.
Amanda nodded and bit her bottom lip worriedly, "Of course." Trying to sound unconcerned she added, "So, do you think there really is a ghost?"
Lee smiled slightly and walked over to her. "Hey, don't worry," he said quietly as he put his arms around her and gave her a comforting hug. "That was just a story that they tell the guests to create some atmosphere OK?"
Amanda nodded and burrowed her head into his neck enjoying his unexpected gesture of tenderness.
"Good," he said huskily as he absently started to stroke her hair. Realising how affected he was becoming he pulled away from her clearing his throat. "I, uh, think we ought to get unpacked and, uh, get ready for dinner, don't you?"
"Yeah," said Amanda looking down and feeling more than a little lost without his arms about her. "Do you want to go first?" she asked gesturing toward the bathroom.
"No, no, you can, I think I'll have a quick lay down and watch the News."
Amanda nodded and walked over to their luggage. She opened her holdall and took out her toiletry bag and dressing gown. "I shan't be long," she said.
She walked into the bathroom and turned the shower on. The room quickly filled up with steam as she started to get undressed. She was just about to take off her underwear when she noticed something written on the mirror above the basin. She leant forward to get a closer look. Amanda's eyes grew wide and her mouth dropped open as she let out a yell, "Lee! Lee, come in here quick!"
She continued to stare at the message written in bright red letters, 'WHILE ALL THE HOUSE SLEEPS SO TIGHT, YOU, MY DEAR, WILL DIE TONIGHT'
Lee shot off the bed as soon as he heard Amanda calling. He raced over to the bathroom door and rattled the doorknob trying to get it open but it was locked. He knocked loudly and shouted "Amanda, open the door!"
Inside, Amanda quickly went to the door and turned the lock. Lee burst in looking around, "What's the matter? What's happened? Are you OK?"
"I'm fine, but look at the mirror," said Amanda.
Lee squinted trying to see through the steam. "What about the mirror?" he asked puzzled.
"The writing on it…..can't you see," said Amanda pointing and gasping as she turned and noticed that the mirror was clear. "I don't understand, there was a message on there……a threatening message in big red letters," said Amanda walking over to the glass in confusion.
"Well, it's not there now. Are you sure you didn't just imagine it, I mean it is steamy in here," he said wrinkling his nose as he waved his arm about trying to clear the fog.
"I'm not stupid Lee," said Amanda turning to him annoyed. "I know what I saw and I saw a message"
"OK, OK. You saw a message. So, what did it say?"
"It said 'While all the house sleeps so tight, you, my dear, will die tonight'"
"What?" said Lee trying not to laugh. "And then what happened? Did a ghost in a white sheet come out and shout Boo?"
Amanda grimaced. "Well, if you're not going to take this seriously I think you'd better just leave so that I can have my shower," she said as she started to push him out of the door.
"Oh yeah, your, uh, shower," said Lee not moving and staring at her as he though he'd suddenly noticed her state of undress for the first time.
Looking down at her lack of attire Amanda gasped. She grabbed a towel and quickly wrapped it around herself and pointed at the door. "I really think you should leave now Lee," she said mustering as much dignity as she could.
Lee cleared his throat and dragged his gaze back to her face. He felt his cheeks grow hot. "Uh, yeah, yeah, I'd better call Billy and let him know where we are," he said turning quickly and walking out of the bathroom shutting the door behind him
Amanda stared at the door and slowly started smile as she realised that Lee had actually been embarrassed. With that thought, her smile grew bigger as she quickly stripped and stepped into the shower. She started humming 'Maybe Tonight' to herself, the message on the mirror temporarily forgotten.
Lee walked over to the telephone and took a deep breath. He let it out slowly trying to regain his composure. He couldn't believe he'd just stood there and stared at her like that.
"Way to go Stetson, real subtle," he said in disgust as he shook his head trying to get the image of her out of his mind.
He picked up the phone and quickly rang Billy's number.
"Hi Billy, it's Lee."
"Lee, where are you? I expected you back by now, how did the assignment go?"
"The assignment was fine, no problems, but we won't be back tonight Billy. We ran into a bad storm and some lightning brought a tree right down in front of us blocking the road so we've come to a Hotel for the night. We should be back tomorrow."
"Are you both alright?" asked Billy concerned.
"Yeah, just a little shaken."
"OK, give me the details of the Hotel in case I need to contact you."
Lee left the Hotel's name and telephone number with Billy and put the phone down. He lay on the bed with his hands behind his head and tried to concentrate on the TV but his thoughts kept going back to Amanda. He could still picture her standing there in the bathroom. God, how he'd wanted to kiss her…..and more. He sighed and shut his eyes knowing that being alone with her tonight was going to be a lot harder than he'd imagined.
Amanda finished her shower and got out feeling alot better. She glanced at the mirror as she dried herself but it was still clear. Shaking her head she reached over for her toiletry bag but it wasn't there. 'That's strange,' she thought as she looked around the bathroom frowning, she couldn't see it anywhere. Amanda sighed in annoyance, she was so sure she'd brought it in with her. She reached for her dressing gown and put it on mumbling to herself.
"Lee?" said Amanda as she walked out of the bathroom. She stopped noticing he was fast asleep on the bed. She quietly walked over to the TV and switched it off and then turned and watched him. It wasn't often she had a quiet moment to just look at him. She smiled softly and his eyes flickered open.
"Hi," he said quietly.
"Hello," she answered.
They smiled at each other for a moment until Amanda spoke. "The bathroom's free if you want to have a shower now," she said looking away. She noticed something and walked over to the suitcases.
"Thanks," said Lee standing up and stretching. He started to walk over to the bathroom when Amanda stepped in front of him holding out her toiletry bag.
"Lee, you didn't happen to notice whether I took this into the bathroom with me did you?" she asked.
"Uh, no, sorry."
"That's funny," she said puzzled. "I'm sure I took it in with me, so how did it get out here?"
"You must have been mistaken Amanda," said Lee.
"What again?" she asked sarcastically putting her free hand on her hip. "Gee, well, I must be either going blind or having hallucinations then."
Lee held his hands up in mock surrender "Hey, OK, OK, I'm sorry alright?" he said with a rueful smile.
Amanda smiled back sheepishly. "I'm sorry too. This place just gives me the jitters that's all," she said looking around. She rubbed her arms as the feeling of uneasiness took hold again.
"Look, there's nothing to worry about Amanda, believe me," Lee said softly. He gently lifted her chin with his hand and looked at her. "You know I'll look after you, I always have, haven't I?" he said tenderly. 'And I always will,' he thought to himself.
Amanda nodded feeling better.
"Good," he said moving away. "Now, I will go and have my shower and then we can have dinner. I'm starving."
The lights flickered again and Lee looked around. "Looks like we may lose the power if this storm keeps up" he said.
Amanda nodded again and started busying herself putting their clothes away while he went and took his shower. She left out a low cut black dress to change into for dinner and then sat down to watch TV. She turned the set on but nothing happened. She tried the switch a couple of times but nothing. After checking the plug was in and hitting the set she finally gave up. Maybe the fuse had blown.
When Lee finished his shower Amanda excused herself and went into the bathroom to quickly get changed. When she emerged, Lee was standing and watching the TV looking handsome in a dark blue suit he'd changed into.
"I didn't think that was working," she said frowning as she pointed to the TV.
"Seems fine to me," said Lee shrugging his shoulders.
Amanda began to feel uneasy again but decided not to say anything. Lee turned off the set and stared at her. "You look lovely," he said quietly.
Amanda looked down and then looked back at him. "Thank you Lee, you…you look good too," she said shyly.
They stared at each other for a moment and then Lee held out his arm smiling. Amanda stepped up and placed her arm through his loving the way he immediately made her feel safe. He patted her hand comfortingly and they made their way downstairs to dinner.
They entered the dining room and were shown to a table. A string quartet were quietly playing classical music in the corner. On their table was a pretty flower arrangement and Amanda reached out and touched one of the roses gently. "Aren't they lovely?" she said.
"They are," said Lee gazing at her warmly. "But not as lovely as you."
Amanda looked back blushing prettily. "Thank you," she said quietly.
Lee smiled. "You're welcome. Now, let's order shall we?"
They ate dinner chatting companionably to each other and afterwards they went through to the bar. Amanda sat contentedly at a table while Lee went to get their drinks. As she watched other couples dancing a young man came up to her, obviously tipsy, and sat down heavily on the seat next to her.
"Dave Phillips," he said holding out his hand.
"Hello, I'm Amanda King," said Amanda shaking hands.
"I own this Hotel," he said leaning towards her still holding her hand. She drew back as the smell of drink on his breath hit her. "Which room are you in?" he asked with a predatory smile. He looked her up and down, "I could come by later and make sure you've got everything you need."
"The lady has already got everything she needs," said an angry voice. They hadn't noticed Lee's approach. He slammed the drinks he was carrying down on the table, spilling some, and sat down next to Amanda.
Amanda guiltily snatched her hand from Dave's grasp. He sat back and smiled at her. "Hey, sorry, I didn't realise you were with someone."
"Well, now you do!" said Lee rudely. "I'm Amanda's fiancé."
Dave pointedly looked down at Amanda's hand.
"We haven't had a chance to buy a ring yet," said Lee putting his arm around her possessively. "Have we dear?"
"Uh, no, no, not yet….darling," said Amanda surprised at Lee's reaction.
Dave looked at Lee hostile face and decided retreat was the best option. "Aha, well….I know when I'm not wanted so enjoy your stay, both of you."
He got up looking around and spotted another woman seated on her own. He smiled slightly at them both and walked off in her direction.
"Can you believe the nerve of that guy?" said Lee glaring after him.
"What do you mean, the nerve of that guy?" exclaimed Amanda.
"What?" said Lee looking at her in surprise.
"Did you have to tell him you were my fiancé?"
"Oh, would you have preferred me to just let him pick you up then? Well, I'm sorry if I ruined your chances Amanda," he said angrily as he took his arm from around her and sat there with a face as dark as the clouds outside.
"Look, you could have just said we were dating or something. Just because you were jealous….."
"I was not jealous!" broke in Lee indignantly.
"OK, OK," said Amanda shrugging her shoulders and rolling her eyes. She picked up her drink. "Whatever you say."
"Amanda, I was not jealous. I was merely trying to help you out with that guy. I mean, there's……there's nothing between us" said Lee hesitating slightly. He stared at her hopefully "Right?"
Amanda looked back wanting to contradict him. "Of course not," she said finally, trying to sound dismissive. Then she continued, "After all, we're just friends…..right?"
Lee let out the breath he'd been holding as he waited for her reply and looked at her in disappointment. "Yeah, we're….we're just friends," he said flatly.
"Yeah," said Amanda looking away.
"Yeah," he said picking up his glass and draining the contents.
They sat in an awkward silence for a few minutes until finally, not able to stand it any longer, Amanda said she was going back to the room. "Are you coming?" she asked.
"No," said Lee abruptly. He stood up, "I'm gonna' stay and have another couple of drinks." He began to walk away then he turned and said, "Oh and don't wait up Amanda, I may be late."
"Late?" said Amanda questioningly.
"Yeah, late." He looked pointedly a pretty young blonde haired woman at the bar and then back to her. He raised his eyebrows and smiled mockingly. "You don't mind, do you Amanda? After all, we are just 'friends', right?" he said bitterly throwing her words back at her.
As realisation dawned at what he was implying Amanda felt heartbroken. She stood up suddenly scraping her chair back. "I don't care what you do" she said unevenly, desperately trying to hold back the tears. "In fact, I don't care if you don't come back at all."
"Amanda!" said Lee looking contrite. He took a step towards her but she turned around and quickly walked out of the lounge. She didn't want to talk to him right now.
Amanda let herself into the suite and walked unsteadily over to the chair and sat down. She couldn't quite understand what had gone wrong, the evening had begun so well. Tears started to roll down her face as she thought of Lee and the blonde woman together. Determined to put it out of her mind she angrily brushed the tears aside, telling herself that if that was what he wanted then she was better off without him.
She went to the bathroom to clean off her make-up and wash her face. Having freshened up and changed into comfortable trousers and a loose top, Amanda rang room service and ordered coffee to be sent up. As she replaced the receiver the lights flickered again. Amanda glanced around nervously, she didn't relish the idea of being in the room alone.
Lee sat at the bar staring miserably into his drink. He'd felt terrible as he watched Amanda walk away. He hadn't anticipated her reaction at all. He'd been expecting to make her jealous, angry even, anything but her walking out on him and looking so betrayed.
He ran his fingers through his hair letting out a sigh as he glanced at his watch. He'd given her half an hour and now he was going up to the room. He got up from his stool and paid his bill. Then he straightened his jacket and fixed his tie. He cleared his throat and took a deep breath exhaling slowly. He was not looking forward to facing Amanda.
The sound of the slap echoed around the small dark room in the basement of the Hotel. The man from reception sat in a chair with his hands bound behind his back. His face was badly bruised and bleeding.
"Why are you doing this to me?" he asked weakly.
"Because you let room ten out, George," came the reply "….and because I want to."
Without warning, George then received a blow to the head which sent him deep into the depths of unconsciousness.
Back at the suite Amanda heard a soft knock so she got up and answered the door . The smile on her face faded when she saw it was Lee.
"Well, that was quick," she said sarcastically, glaring at him.
Lee bowed his head slightly knowing he deserved the taunt. "May I come in?" he asked quietly.
Amanda sighed and then stood back and held the door open for him to enter.
"Thanks." He walked in and stood in the middle of the room turning to watch her. Amanda shut the door and walked over to a chair and sat down.
"May I?" Lee asked gesturing to a chair opposite her.
Amanda shrugged her shoulders appearing unconcerned. Secretly she was pleased that he'd come back so soon but she just didn't want him to know that.
Lee sat down and looked at her not knowing where to start. He took a deep breath. "Amanda, I…" began Lee, then he stopped. Suddenly, they were plunged into darkness. The moonlight and flashes of lightning outside casting the only light within the room.
"What's happened?" came Amanda's nervous voice out of the semi-darkness.
"It's the storm Amanda, it must have knocked the power out," replied Lee. He stood and started making his way across the room to try to find the candles that he'd seen on the sideboard earlier. All of a sudden he bumped into Amanda who had got up with the same idea in mind.
"Woah, sorry," he said catching hold of her about the waist to steady her "I didn't see you there."
Amanda had grabbed his arms at the same time. "That's alright," she said a little breathlessly.
They stood in the loose embrace for a few seconds and then, just as Amanda started to pull away, she felt Lee's hands tighten about her waist. She looked up at him in surprise as he slowly pulled her towards him until their bodies finally met. Feeling suddenly shy, Amanda hesitated a moment before sliding her hands up his arms to his shoulders.
Lee felt her tremble slightly. "Oh Amanda" he whispered. "I'm so sorry for the way I acted in the bar. I never meant to hurt you. I…."
"Shhh," whispered Amanda gently laying her hand against his cheek. She couldn't believe this was happening and she didn't want to talk anymore.
Whatever he was about to say was forgotten as soon as Lee felt the touch of her hand against his face. He turned his head slightly and softly kissed her palm. Amanda smiled as she felt the light brush of his lips. She moved her hand back to his shoulder and then slid her fingers into his hair as she tilted her head back to look at him.
A flash of lightning illuminated the room allowing Amanda a clear view of Lee's face. His burning look of love was obvious, even to her. Only in her most precious dreams had he ever looked at her like that. She had never dared hope that one day they would come true.
Seeing his own feelings mirrored in Amanda's face, Lee drew her even closer. "Amanda" he breathed. Her lips parted invitingly and she closed her eyes as he slowly bent to kiss her.
Amanda stood and waited in anticipation, longing to feel the touch of his lips on hers. Nothing happened. Confused, she slowly opened her eyes and realised that he was no longer looking at her but staring grimly at something behind her.
"Lee, what is it?" she whispered as she turned to see what held his attention.
"Amanda, NO!" said Lee trying to stop her, but he was too late.
"Oh my God," she gasped in shock.
Looking through the window to the darkness outside, Amanda could just make out the silhouette of a limp figure swaying in the wind as it hung by the neck from a branch of the tree.
Lee released her and went to the telephone. He picked it up but there was no dial tone. "Damn, the phone's dead," he said slamming it down.
He looked at her. "Amanda, I want you to stay right here while I go down to reception."
He walked over to the window. Amanda nodded, still staring at the figure outside, as Lee closed the curtains blocking out the view.
Lee turned to her. "Amanda, did you hear me? Promise me you'll stay here," he said urgently.
"I, I promise," whispered Amanda.
He looked at her concerned. "Hey, are you OK?" he asked as he walked back over to her and took her into his arms, hugging her tightly.
"Yes, really, I….I'm fine, really, you'd better go," she said pulling away from him.
"You're sure?" he asked still holding onto her arms. She nodded.
"OK" he said turning to go. Then he looked back and pointed at her. "But you make damned sure you lock this door and don't let anyone else but me back in, alright?"
"Alright," said Amanda.
Lee left the suite and waited until he heard Amanda turn the key. Then, satisfied it was locked, he quickly made his way down the stairs, grateful that there was already lit candles along the walls.
He went into the reception area but no-one was about although he could hear the low hum of conversation and muted music still coming from the bar. He was about to ring the bell for the receptionist when he heard a faint scream from outside. He took his gun out of it's holster and ran over to the large wooden door and pulled it open. He looked out into the night but all he could see was the relentless rain and a fine mist.
He slowly walked outside with his gun ready. He heard a groan coming from out of the darkness and started moving towards the noise. After a couple of feet he could just make out a body laying face down on the ground under the tree a little way in front of him. He jogged over and knelt down on one knee next to the figure reaching out and turning it over. He gasped as he saw it was a woman, her face and hair covered in mud.
"David," she said weakly, "David".
Lee put his gun away and helped the woman to sit up. "Are you hurt?" he asked.
"David," repeated the woman. "The tree."
Lee realised that the woman was talking about the body both Amanda and he had seen and that she knew who it was.
He turned and looked up at the tree. "What the hell?" he said at a loss.
He stood up and took a couple of steps staring in disbelief. Confused, he turned around trying to see the rest of the grounds through the mist. "I don't believe it" he muttered to himself. He shook his head and he gazed at the tree once again. There was no doubt about it – the body had definitely vanished!
Amanda paced up and down the suite wringing her hands. She had found some matches and lit the candles and there was a soft glow around the room. She stopped and looked worriedly at her watch.
"Where is he?" she said out loud. Surely Lee must have found help by now, he'd been gone ages. She started to pace again then she heard a noise outside the door.
"Amanda? It's me, let me in," called Lee.
Relieved, Amanda ran over to the door and unlocked it. As she pulled open the door she gasped.
"Lee, what happened?" she asked in concern.
Lee stood there dripping wet and holding the woman he'd found outside in his arms. He walked in and set her down. She stood there in a daze and swayed slightly. Amanda caught hold of her arm in concern and led her towards the bathroom.
"I think that what you need first of all is a good hot bath" she said gently. The woman nodded and they went into the bathroom. Amanda quickly ran a bath then she grabbed a towel and opened the door. "If you need me just call OK? I've left a dressing gown for you to change into when you've finished"
"Thank you," she replied.
Amanda nodded and left the room. She walked over to Lee who had taken his jacket, tie, shoes and socks off and was unbuttoning his shirt. She held out the towel. "Here, you'd better dry yourself off before you catch a cold," she said.
Lee took the towel and smiled at her. "Thanks," he said. He stripped off his shirt and his hands moved down to his trousers. He stopped and looked at her with a small smile as he raised his eyebrows.
"Oh! Sorry," said Amanda quickly turning her back.
Lee grinned and quickly stripped off the rest of his clothes to rub himself dry.
"So, what happened?" asked Amanda.
"You tell me!" said Lee exasperated.
"What do you mean?" asked Amanda puzzled.
Lee explained what had happened when he went downstairs.
"…and then I looked up at the tree and the body had vanished!" he finished on a disbelieving note.
"It had what?" said Amanda in amazement.
"Vanished Amanda, you know, disappeared, gone" he said agitated. "I tried to have look around but it was too misty and I couldn't really see anything. I picked up our 'guest' in there and came back to the suite. I couldn't find anyone in reception and I didn't want to go into the bar."
He finished drying himself and then wrapped the towel around his waist. "OK Amanda, I'm decent now" he said.
Amanda turned expecting him to be dressed. Her eyes widened, 'decent' certainly wasn't the word that sprung into to her mind as she looked at him standing there. Realising she was staring, she reddened slightly and put her hand up to her forehead looking down in embarrassment.
"Amanda? Are you OK?" asked Lee walking towards her thinking she was unwell.
"Uh, yeah," she said laughing nervously and dropping her hand as she backed away from him.
He stopped in surprise. "Then what…"
"The coffee I ordered should be here soon," interrupted Amanda loudly. She turned away abruptly and walked over to the wardrobe opening the doors.
Puzzled at her strange behaviour, Lee quietly walked up behind her and took hold of her arms to turn her around. She jumped and quickly broke away from his hold.
He stepped back. "Hey, what's the matter?" he asked with a frown.
"Nothing" snapped Amanda turning bright red. She reached into the wardrobe and grabbed a T-Shirt and jeans and almost threw them at him. "Would you please just put some clothes on," she said as she walked off trying to calm down.
Surprised, Lee looked down at the clothes in his arms and then at Amanda. Slowly, a knowing smile appeared on his face. "Sorry Amanda, I didn't realise I was making you so….." he paused.
She turned and looked at him narrowing her eyes suspiciously. "Making me so, what?" she asked defensively.
"Uncomfortable," he said smiling innocently.
Amanda was not taken in for a minute. She sighed and shook her head, keeping her back turned as she listened to the rustle of the clothes as he dressed.
"OK Amanda, this time I really am decent," he said chuckling.
She turned around and looked at him as he stood there with his arms outstretched. He made a quick turn and looked back at her grinning.
"Thank you," she said, slowly smiling at him.
There was a loud knock and then a voice called, "Room service."
Lee opened the door and a waiter brought in a tray of coffee. "I'm sorry for the delay but with the power out it's been a bit hectic I'm afraid. Most of the staff are trying to get the outside generator working."
"That's OK," said Lee. "Do you have any idea how long it will be before we get any power back?"
"I'm sorry Sir, I don't," said the waiter apologetically.
He turned to leave but Lee stopped him. "Uh, before you go," he said. "Can you tell me if anyone has seen anything unusual outside tonight, you know, like out by the tree or in the grounds?"
"Um, no Sir, not that I know of," replied the waiter. "Was there something in particular?"
"No, no, nothing. I just thought I saw something out of the window but I must have made a mistake," said Lee smiling at him. He held open the door, "Thank you for bringing the coffee."
The waiter nodded to him and left the room.
Lee shut the door after him sighing and returned to business. "I just can't understand what happened Amanda," he said running his hand through his hair in frustration. "I know that I saw the body. I know that you saw the body. And that woman," he said pointing to the bathroom, "definitely saw the body, so where did it go?"
Amanda looked at him and shrugged her shoulders helplessly. "I don't know, maybe they weren't dead."
"Oh please, Amanda, you cannot hang for that length of time and not be dead," he said matter-of-factly.
"OK, well then, maybe there's another explanation," she said.
"Like what?" asked Lee baffled.
"Oh, I don't know," she said, then her eyes widened as she had an idea.
"What?" asked Lee recognising the look.
Amanda walked over to him and had a quick glance around before leaning towards him and whispering, "It could have been a ghost!"
"A WHAT?" exclaimed Lee in disbelief. He started to laugh. "Are you kidding? Amanda, come on, ghosts do not exist."
"Shhh, don't talk so loud they may hear you," she said glancing around worriedly again.
"They may hear me?" he said chuckling some more. "Oh Amanda, you've had some wacky ideas in the past but this beats them all."
"Now look," she said getting annoyed, "there have been some pretty strange things going on here and…."
"Amanda!" said Lee forcefully cutting her off. "It wasn't a ghost, alright? Now, let's just try to think of a logical explanation."
Amanda looked at him angrily. "Why don't you think of a 'logical explanation' while I go and see how our guest is doing hmm? And while you're thinking, you can pour the coffee," she said huffily.
Lee was still smiling as he watched her walk over to the bathroom. She knocked on the door.
"Hello? Can I come in?" she asked.
"It's OK, I'm ready now," came a voice back.
"OK," said Amanda and walked back over to where Lee was pouring the coffee. The door opened and the woman came out. They turned to look at her and Amanda let out a gasp. She looked at Lee who's mouth had dropped open in surprise.
"What was that you were saying about ghosts not existing?" she whispered to him.
He swallowed and shook his head in disbelief. "Maybe I was wrong," he whispered back.
They both looked back at the woman standing by the bathroom door and then at the picture above the fireplace. They were identical.
The woman followed Lee and Amanda's gaze to the picture and smiled faintly. "That's a picture of my aunt," she said. "Actually she's my great-great-great aunt to be exact." She turned to them, "I'm told I look like her, but I'm certainly not a ghost."
Amanda smiled and held out her hand. "I'm sorry we stared, you just took us by surprise. I'm Amanda and this is Lee," she said gesturing towards him. He nodded.
"I'm Josie," she replied. "You're lucky to have this room. We never usually put guests in here." She looked around and tears started to fall. "My husband and I spent our wedding night in here."
"Oh, come on, it's OK," said Amanda going over and putting her arm about her.
"Can you talk about what happened outside yet?" Lee asked.
"I, I think so," she said still sniffling a little.
Amanda glanced at Lee and frowned. "Look, why don't you go and sit down and I'll get you some coffee first," she said.
Lee looked back at her. "What?" he mouthed innocently.
Josie walked over to the couch and sat down. Lee sat on the chair nearby and leaned forward.
"What were you doing outside in this weather?" he asked, ignoring Amanda's groan at the question.
Josie sighed. "Well, I'd had an argument with David, my husband, and I just had to get out of the room because I needed time to think."
"That must have some argument to make you go out in that storm," said Lee.
Amanda walked over and placed a cup of coffee down on the table in front of Josie giving Lee another stern look. He sat back and folded his arms scowling.
"It was," said Josie not noticing their exchange. "He wants me to have an abortion," she said quietly.
"Oh no," gasped Amanda. She went and sat next to her and put her arm around her comfortingly.
"I'm sorry," said Josie starting to cry. "I just can't take in what's happened."
"That's alright," said Amanda soothingly. "You just cry all you want." She handed her a tissue before looking at Lee in concern.
He nodded and stood up. "Would you like to try and get some rest?" he asked quietly.
Josie looked up. "Oh no. No, I want to find out what's going on. I'll go back to my room now. Thank you, you've been very kind," she said standing. She put her hand up to her head and swayed unsteadily.
"Whoa," said Amanda grabbing her arm. "I think we'd better come along with you."
"Thank you," she said giving them a vague smile.
They made their way up to Josie's room and waited while she got changed. She appeared a few minutes later and looked at them both. "OK, I'm ready."
Lee and Amanda stood up. "Are you sure you're up to this?" asked Amanda.
"Yes" she said. "I want to know what's going on."
"Well, we need to get some flashlights first," said Lee. "We're not going to be able to see a thing outside otherwise."
Josie nodded. "They're kept behind reception."
"Well, let's go then," said Lee as he held his hand out for Josie to lead the way.
They left the room and made their way down the corridor, nodding and saying goodnight as they passed couples and families who were returning to their rooms.
"I just want to get my jacket from our room," said Lee to Amanda. "Why don't you go ahead with Josie and I'll catch up with you downstairs."
Amanda nodded and Lee went back to their suite. While getting his jacket he also picked up his gun. He checked that he had enough bullets and then tucked it into the waistband of his jeans. He wasn't sure what was going on and he didn't want to take any chances. Then he left the room and went to meet the women.
Amanda and Josie reached the bottom of the stairs and turned to go into reception.
"How long were you and David married?" asked Amanda.
"Three years," replied Josie.
"That's not very long, I'm sorry," she said.
"Thank you Amanda," said Josie despondently. "You know, I can still remember when we first met. He was standing right there," she said pointing to the reception desk. "He looked so handsome. I had inherited the Hall and had just re-opened it after some renovation. He was the first guest here." She smiled dreamily "He swept me right off my feet. I was so in love that we married after eight weeks."
"Eight weeks? Wow," said Amanda amazed.
"I know it was quick but it just seemed right. I thought everything going well. The Hotel is booming, it's developed quite a reputation for being haunted and the guests come in droves." She sighed. "But, then, I found out about David's drinking and gambling and all the other women. He wanted me to sell because of his debts. The problem is I'd never give up my birthright. This place has been in my family for generations and I'll do whatever it takes to keep it."
"I see," said Amanda. "You've had a tough time." Josie nodded.
"So, how is the hotel haunted?" asked Amanda, changing the subject.
Josie turned to her "What do you mean 'how'? she asked abruptly.
"Well, do people see ghosts or do things go missing," she paused. "Or do people see, like, you know, scary messages or something?"
"Oh I see," she said laughing nervously. "For a minute I thought you meant...." she stopped and glanced at Amanda. "Well, people do say they see my aunt. And, yes, there have been people who have seen messages, as well as strange lights and so on. I've never seen anything though."
"Oh," said Amanda nodding.
They walked up to the empty reception desk and Josie stopped and looked around. "That's funny," she said frowning. "There should always be someone on the desk."
Josie rang the bell a couple of times but nobody came out of the back room. She went over to the door and tried it but it was locked. She rummaged about in her pockets. "Oh no," she said annoyed. "I must have left my keys upstairs. You wait here and I'll go back and get them."
"Well, why don't I just come....." said Amanda, but Josie had already gone. "Oh. OK. I'll just wait right here then," she said looking nervously around at the empty hall. She sighed and started to drum her fingers on the desk. She heard a noise behind her and turned, there was no-one there. Out of curiosity, she walked over to locked door and tried it herself. It opened.
"That's strange," said Amanda frowning. She was just about to go in when a hand came from behind and covered her mouth. She struggled and then felt cold steel being pressed against her throat. She stopped.
"One sound and you're dead," said a man's voice in her ear.
Amanda was dragged through the back room, through another door and down some stairs which led to the basement. Tape was placed over her mouth and she was shoved roughly into a chair, her hands then bound tightly behind her back. She looked around and saw the man from reception lying on the floor. He was badly beaten and his breathing was laboured.
Her assailant went over to a shelf and took down a small brown bottle. While his back was turned Amanda struggled vainly with the ropes but couldn't get her hands free. She stopped abruptly when he turned and walked over to her holding the bottle. She remembered seeing him behind the bar earlier. Her eyes widened as he undid the top of the bottle and knelt down next to her.
"These will just make you sleep," he said. She shook her head and tried to pull away as he tipped out two tablets and put the bottle down next to him. He reached out and grabbed a handful of her hair and tipped her head back. Then he ripped the tape off of her mouth causing her to cry out.
"Aghh!" she exclaimed. While her mouth was open he dropped the tablets in and forced her jaw together with his hand.
"Swallow," he said. She shook her head and tears of pain started to roll down her cheeks.
"Swallow or I swear I'll kill you here and now," he said menacingly.
Amanda looked at him and slowly swallowed.
"There, that wasn't too bad was it?" he said. Amanda stared at him petrified and shook her head slightly.
He smiled and looked at her. "I can see why David was interested in you. You're really quite lovely," he said.
He pulled out his knife and held it up to her face. Amanda drew in a sharp breath and stared at him. She closed her eyes as she felt the first touch of the cold metal slide gently down her face.
"It's going to be shame to ruin those looks," he said as he ran the knife down and across her throat.. He released her and Amanda opened her eyes and looked at him. "Yeah, it's going to be a real shame," he said.
Amanda's gaze began to blur and her head started to droop as the tablets began to take affect and soon she was fast asleep. The man picked up the bottle, put it back on a shelf, then quietly walked back up to the Hotel.
Lee ran down the stairs and walked up to the reception desk. He stopped and looked around for Amanda and Josie. Seeing that they weren't there, he sighed, leaned back against the desk and folded his arms to wait.
After a couple of minutes Josie came trotting down the stairs and walked over to him. "Where's Amanda?" she asked looking around.
"I thought she was with you," said Lee frowning.
"No. The door was locked and I had to go back upstairs and get my keys. I haven't been gone long," she said worriedly.
"Yeah? Well, believe me, it doesn't take Amanda long to get into trouble," said Lee, beginning to become concerned.
He pushed himself away from the desk, and stood with his hands on his hips, looking around. He heard the sound of glasses clinking and turned towards the Bar. "Come on," he said. "There's someone in there, maybe they've seen her."
They walked into the Bar and saw a young dark-haired man drying some glasses.
"That's Harry," said Josie. "He's our head bartender." Lee nodded and they walked over to him.
"Hi Harry," said Josie.
"Hello," he answered giving her a warm smile.
"Harry, did you see a young dark-haired woman come in here a few minutes ago?" asked Josie.
"A woman? Oh, uh, yeah, yeah," he said nervously. Lee noticed a faint sheen of sweat appear on his brow. "Uh, she said she needed to get something from her room and she'd meet you back by the desk."
"Are you sure?" asked Lee frowning.
"Yeah, positive," said Harry.
"That's odd. I didn't see her on my way down," said Lee. "Is there any other way to get upstairs?"
"Oh yes," replied Josie. "There's another staircase over the back there." She pointed to the far side of the bar.
"Yeah, that's where she went," said Harry nodding in agreement.
"I see," said Lee. He wasn't totally convinced about what the guy was telling him, he seemed too edgy. At that point Harry glanced behind him and swallowed nervously before looking back at them. Lee had followed his look and noticed a store room behind the Bar. He suddenly took Josie's arm. "Well, I suppose we'd better go back and wait for her then. Thank you," he said smiling.
They left the Bar and walked back outside. "Josie," said Lee turning her around, "Can you do me a favour?"
"Sure," she said looking at him.
"Can you distract that guy and get him out of there? I want to check that store room behind the Bar."
"OK," she said and walked back into the Bar. A couple of minutes later she popped her head around the corner. "He's not here," she whispered.
"What?" said Lee.
"He's not here. I've had a look around and I can't find him. He must have gone up the back stairs."
Lee joined her in the Bar and walked over to the store room. "Well, that's even better then," he said. He opened the door and peered inside. He turned to Josie. "You wait here and keep a look out. Let me know if he comes back. I'll just have a quick look around," he said. She nodded.
He went into the room, stopping suddenly when the lights came on. Apparently the power had been restored. He blinked a couple of times at the brightness and then quickly looked around. It was just a store room. He noticed four tall cabinets in the corner and walked over to them. He tried the first two but they were locked. He tried the third and the door swung open. He looked inside and found brooms and mops. He sighed and tried the fourth cabinet which also opened. Before he could do anything a body fell out right into his arms and knocked him over.
"Oh God!" he exclaimed in disgust, pushing the body off onto the floor.
"What is it?" asked Josie running into the room. She gasped and went white "DAVID!" she screamed. She started to shake and sob uncontrollably.
Lee sat up and looked at her confused. "David?"
He looked down at the body and his mouth opened in surprised recognition. There laying dead on the floor was the man who had tried to chat up Amanda in the bar earlier. He looked closer and grimly noticed the marks around his neck. It didn't make sense, they weren't made from a rope. The more he stared the more he could clearly see finger marks, which only meant one thing.
"Oh my God," said Lee. "He's been strangled."
Josie stared at Lee in disbelief. "He's been what? But, but, how? I saw him. You saw him."
Lee noticed a piece of plastic by the body and picked it up. It was Harry's name tag. He got up and went over to Josephine and pulled her into his arms. He turned her away from the sight of her husband. "I don't know how," he said holding out the tag for her to see. "But I'm gonna' get Harry and find out."
He led her back outside to the reception desk. Picking up the phone he was relieved to hear a dial tone. He quickly dialled the emergency service and asked for the police and an ambulance. He gave the address and put the phone down.
He turned to Josie who was still weeping. "OK, you stay right here, I'm going to find Harry. What room is he in?" asked Lee in a grim tone.
Josie turned and got a key from the rack behind her. "I'm going with you," she said.
"No" said Lee losing his temper. "He's already killed your husband and he's probably lied about Amanda and got her held somewhere," he said not wanting to think that she could be dead as well. "He's dangerous and I don't have time to worry about you too."
Josephine sniffed, took a couple of deep breaths and walked over to him holding her chin up defiantly. "I've got the key to his room and no-one tells me what to do in my own Hotel. If he's killed my husband then I have a right to go," she said her voice rising.
Lee looked at her angry tear-stained face and relented. "You know, you remind me of Amanda talking like that," he said with a small smile. "She never listens to what I tell her either."
"We'll find her Lee," said Josie quietly. She reached out and touched his arm. "She'll be OK."
"Yeah," said Lee. "I hope to God you're right. Come on."
They made their way up to Harry's room. Lee pulled out his gun and knocked quietly on the door. There was no response. He tried the door and then Josie got out the key and unlocked it. Lee cautiously opened the door. "Harry?" he called out. There was no answer. Lee felt along the wall and found the light switch, he flicked it on.
"Oh my God," he said looking around in amazement.. Josie's mouth dropped open in shock as she slowly looked around the room. Pinned up on the walls were hundreds of pictures of her.
Lee put his gun away and shook his head. "Did you know about this?" he asked walking over to a wall and taking a closer look at a couple of pictures.
"No," said Josie faintly.
"Take a look over here," said Lee pointing to a photo. Josie walked over and stared. It was a picture of David and herself but his face had been covered with a cross of thick black ink.
"This guy needs serious help," said Lee. "David must have done something to trigger him off and he killed him."
He walked over to the bathroom, had a look around and came back out. "Well, it's obvious Amanda isn't here," he said dejectedly. "Let's go down and take a look around outside."
He looked up just in time to see Harry walk into the room. Harry stopped in surprise, then turned and ran.
"Hold it," shouted Lee and chased after him. As Lee ran down the corridor people started coming out of their rooms to see what the commotion was. He pushed past as quickly as he could but by the time he'd reached the bottom of the stairs Harry had disappeared. "Damn it!" he said frustratedly.
As he stood there trying to decide which way to go, he heard the sound of a door shutting. It seemed to come from the room behind the reception desk. Pulling out his gun, he quickly made his way over to the room and entered. A quick glance showed him the room was empty. Spying a door over the other side, Lee quickly walked over and opened it. He realised it was a basement and started slowly down the steps.
He'd got about halfway down and then stopped when he saw the man from reception laying on the ground to the right and Amanda slumped in a chair in the middle of the floor. He felt his heart start to thump in his chest and his stomach drop when he took in the latter.
"Amanda?" he called. "Amanda?" he said louder.
He heard a man's laugh and then Harry's voice echoed around the room. "You're too late. She's already dead."
"She'd better not be Harry," he shouted back. "Or I'll swear to you that you'll be dead as well."
The laugh got louder and more maniacal. Lee slowly started to walk down the rest of the steps. He had just got to the last couple when his right foot went through the wood and he fell heavily twisting his ankle and dropping his gun.
Harry emerged from the shadows. He ran over, picked up the gun and pointed it at Lee.
"Well now. It looks like it's you that's going to be dead," he said nastily. As he took aim there was the sudden wail of police sirens in the distance.
"You'll never get away," said Lee. "Just give it up."
Harry started to sweat and backed away. "No," he said, his eyes staring madly. "No. It wasn't supposed to happen like this. She said I'd get away with it, that no-one would ever know."
Lee's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Who said?" he asked.
"Josephine. I go there every night and she talks to me. You shouldn't have been given that room because it's mine. She's mine." His voice had started to rise and he looked around agitated. "I'm going to go and talk to her now. She'll know what to do. Yes, I'll go now."
He quickly walked up the steps and out of the basement muttering to himself. Lee pulled his foot out of the broken step and got up unsteadily. He winced as pain shot up his right leg and hobbled as quickly as he could over to Amanda.
"Amanda," he said reaching out and lifting her chin. There was no response and Lee quickly checked for her pulse. He let out a sigh of relief and smiled when he found she was still alive. "Thank God," he said.
He quickly untied her and laid her on the floor and then walked over to check on the other guy. He was alive too, although he had a nasty gash on his head and was badly bruised. Lee left them both and went upstairs as quickly as he could.
As he entered the reception, four police officers and an ambulance crew came in. He took out his identification and told them about Amanda and the other man. The paramedics quickly went down into the basement. Then Lee explained to the police what happened to David. Two officers went to retrieve the body. Lee asked the other two to accompany him because he knew where the killer was.
"He's dangerous and he's got a gun so be careful, OK," he said. They nodded and followed him up the stairs to room ten. He opened the door and they saw Harry standing in front of the painting of Josephine and talking to it.
"Alright Harry," said Lee. "That's it. There's nowhere left to run. Just come quietly huh?"
Harry turned and looked at them "No. I've done nothing wrong. He deserved to die. He hurt her."
"We can talk all about this after you've given me the gun Harry," said Lee starting to walk slowly towards him.
"He didn't really hang himself you know. He got a harness from the place we get all our stuff made. He wanted to scare her. He said he didn't want her to have the baby. But when he came back and told me what he'd done I just wanted to shut him up."
Lee nodded and continued to walk steadily nearer. "We'll have plenty of time to sort this out later Harry. Just give me the gun, hmmm?"
"No. There is no more time," he said and suddenly put the gun to his head. "She wants us to be together, now."
"Whoa. Hold it, hold it," said Lee. He stopped walking and held out his hand to stop him. "Now let's just keep calm," he said soothingly. "You don't really want to hurt yourself Harry. Please, give me the gun."
"Harry!" said a female voice.
Lee turned and saw Josie standing there.
She walked past Lee and held out her hand. "Give me the gun Harry. I never wanted you to hurt yourself," she said.
He stared at her and swallowed "Jo-Josephine?" he said staring at her. She nodded.
"But, but," he stammered in confusion. His eyes darted to the painting and then back to Josie.
"Please Harry. We can still be together, I promise. Just give me the gun."
Harry hesitated and then dropped his hand to his side. "OK," he said and smiled at her holding out the gun.
She took it. Lee let out a sigh of relief and started to hobble over to them. Before he'd got very far, two shots rang out and Harry fell to the floor. He was dead.
"What the..." said Lee standing still in shock.
Josie turned to him and dropped the gun. She started to cry. "He killed David. He was my husband, for all his faults and I loved him. I'm sorry."
Lee stared at her not knowing what to say. The two police officers came over and handcuffed her and then led her away.
He stood alone for a few seconds. Then he sighed deeply and limped slowly out of the room shaking his head.
The rain had stopped as Lee limped over to the ambulance and found Amanda sitting on a stretcher.
"Hi," he said smiling at her. "How are you feeling?"
"Oh, much better, thank you," she said returning his smile. "That man gave me some sleeping pills. Luckily they found the bottle so they knew what the drug was and were able to wake me. They want me to go to hospital overnight just to be on the safe side though."
Lee nodded. "OK. Well, I'll go along with the police and tell them what I know. I'll come and get you in the morning." He turned to go.
"Lee?" said Amanda.
"Yeah?" He stopped and looked at her.
"What happened to your leg?" she asked frowning.
He looked down at it. "Oh, I just twisted my ankle that's all. It doesn't hurt."
"How did you do that?"
"Well I, uh, sort of had an accident walking down some stairs," he admitted a trifle sheepishly.
"You did?" Amanda started to laugh.
"Yeah. But it was worth it because I was rescuing you at the time," he grinned back at her.
She smiled back shyly and said in a tone of feigned adoration "My hero."
He laughed and waved goodbye to her before getting into his car and following the police to the station. He spent the rest of the night in the interrogation room giving and listening to evidence.
At ten o'clock the next morning he picked Amanda up from the hospital. As they drove back to the Hotel, Lee filled Amanda in on what had happened. Amanda sat in her seat open-mouthed.
"So, there wasn't anything supernatural going on at that place after all?" she said somewhat disappointed.
"No Amanda. It was all a scam to get people to come to their Hotel."
"I can't believe it. That message on the mirror was a fake? And the TV?"
"All rigged," said Lee. "They had the TV on a cut out switch and the 'message' you saw was just projected onto the mirror by a tiny camera. Josie had a company make the things up for her and install them when the place was renovated. She admitted it all last night. The police went back and checked what she told them and they even found a dress in her closet exactly like the one in the painting. She used to walk around the Hotel at night pretending to be her aunts' ghost."
"And David hanging from the tree. That just looked so real."
"Yeah. He had a harness made up without Josie knowing and did it to frighten her. He wanted to scare her into losing the baby. He must have got down and ran back to the Bar just before I came out. When he told Harry what he'd done, Harry flipped and killed him. Then he shoved David's body into the cabinet. The police found the harness in the same cabinet tucked in the corner."
"That's terrible," said Amanda horrified. "But what about that poor man from reception? What did he do?"
"Who George? Well, he let the room out to us. Harry was a Grade A nut and used to sit in the room and talk to the painting of Josephine. He couldn't stand the thought of someone else being in there and I guess because she used to walk around the Hotel dressed as his fantasy, it ended up intruding into real life."
Amanda shook her head sadly. "You know he must have seen David talking to me in the Bar earlier. He said that David was interested in me and I was going to pay for it."
Lee nodded. "He was totally unhinged Amanda. He had a complete mental breakdown. I don't think anyone could have helped him."
Amanda sighed. "What's going to happen to Josie?"
Lee shook his head. "She going down for along time Amanda. As well as murder, she's also been charged with fraud. I doubt she'll ever get out."
"What about the baby?"
"Well, I guess she'll have to deal with that when it happens."
"It's just all so sad," said Amanda.
Lee nodded and patted her hand gently. "I know," he said quietly.
They pulled into the Hotel car park and Amanda looked up at the building. "You know, Josie told me that nothing would ever be as important to her as this place," she said. "I guess she was wrong."
They went in and Martha greeted them on reception. She'd heard all the news and was arranging for all the guests to be moved to another Hotel. Lee and Amanda went up to their room and quickly got their things together.
Amanda looked up and held out her toiletry bag. "What about his?" she asked.
"Ah, that's not my colour," Lee replied laughing.
Amanda tutted. "I mean, how did this get out here when I know I took it in with me that time?"
"I thought we decided that was just a mistake on your part." Lee tried to sound convincing.
"Oh. We did, did we?" she responded sarcastically.
"Amanda I'm sure there is a perfectly good explanation," said Lee zipping up the last of his bags.
"Oh yeah, like what?" she demanded, standing there with her hands on her hips.
"Well, like, I took it back out with me when I came in to 'save' you," he answered, not looking at her.
"You did what? You wouldn't! Why would you do something like that?" she asked indignantly.
He reddened slightly and shrugged his shoulders. "Well, I thought you might call me back in again and uh....well, you know."
Amanda's mouth fell open. "Lee Stetson!" she exclaimed. "I don't believe it. I'm shocked."
Lee held up his hands. "Hey, I'm only giving you an explanation. I didn't say it was the truth," he said, grinning at her and winking.
She looked down smiling to herself and finished her packing. Then they went downstairs and checked out.
They drove back to the Agency in relative silence. They each took turns driving while the other slept, and it was Lee that eventually pulled into the Agency car park later that afternoon.
He parked his car and looked over at Amanda who was still asleep. He smiled and gently brushed back a wisp of hair that was on her face. "Amanda, we're back," he said quietly.
She stirred and sleepily opened her eyes. "What?" she said huskily as she looked around to get her bearings.
"We're back," he repeated.
"Oh" she said and sat up straight in her seat. "Well, that was quick. I thought I'd have to drive again."
"Yeah, well you looked so peaceful I decided to leave you."
Amanda looked at him. "Oh. Well, that was very kind. Thank you," she said with a smile.
He smiled back and they gazed longingly at each other for a few seconds until Amanda looked away. "Well, I suppose I'd better get going. I have a mountain of ironing to do before Mother and the boys get home," she said.
"Uh, yeah. Of course," said Lee. He got out of the car, made his way around to her side and opened the door. He took her hand and helped her out and then got her bags from the trunk. They walked over to her car and Lee put the bags inside. She opened her door and was about to get in when Lee stopped her and took hold of her hands. She looked at him, startled.
"Um, Amanda," he said awkwardly. "Uh, we haven't really talked about what happened between us in the suite last night and, um, well, there's something that I wanted to say to you......" He paused. "Well, what I mean is....." he said faltering to a stop again. He cleared his throat. "Look, what I 'm trying to say is...."
"Yes?" said Amanda trying not to smile.
He stared at her and took a deep breath. "Amanda, there's really only one to say this, so I'm just gonna' go ahead and say it."
Amanda smiled expectantly.
He took hold of her shoulders. "Amanda, I...." He stopped as they heard the sound of footsteps echoing around the yard. "Damn it!" he said in annoyance, letting his arms drop to his sides. "Can you believe this? Something always manages to interrupt us at the wrong time."
Amanda smiled sympathetically. "Don't worry Lee, I can wait," she said as she reached out and touched his face gently. "There'll be a right time soon and I'm looking forward to it," she said softly. He smiled.
The sound of the footsteps got nearer and Amanda suddenly leaned forward and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. Before he could react she got into her car and started the engine giving him a quick smile and a cheery wave as she drove off.
An agent walked around the corner and went over to his car giving Lee a wave. Lee nodded back and turned to watch Amanda leave the car park. He sighed. "So am I Amanda King" he said to himself. "Believe me, so am I."
Author's Note: My thanks to Ann for all her kind words of advice.