Chapter 4 – Ho, Ho, Ho.

"We do it the hard way," Hans stated flatly, rising to his feet. "Tony, see if you can dispose of that. Karl, you'd better go and check on Heinrich's work on the machine floor."

Karl, the burly blond, stood up as he handed Theo a hundred dollar bill. Suddenly, a distinguishable thump was heard from the other room. All heads snapped towards the glass doors, where the sound came from. Immediately, Karl and the other blond hurried into the other room, leaving Hans alone with Theo and Marianne.

Meanwhile, Marianne had gone into a state of shock, hunched over in her chair, hugging herself and rocking back and forth as she stared blankly down at Takagi's body. Her body was shaking, her stomach churning. She couldn't cry, she couldn't scream. It felt as if the whole world came crashing down upon her. Why did Takagi have to die? As illogical as it sounded, Marianne felt as if it was her fault he was killed. Suddenly, she felt a hand rest upon her shoulder.

"Stop that," Hans ordered, tightening his grip to make her stop rocking. His voice was calm, but clipped and cold. "This won't be the first corpse you'll see, I guarantee it. Now, come with me."

Marianne stood up and numbly followed Hans out with Theo behind her. She watched Karl and his comrade searching frantically here and there for whatever caused the sound earlier. She didn't care. Mr. Takagi was dead. Would Hans have still killed him if she didn't go along? It was probable, but she would've seen it, and it would've scarred her mind for the rest of her life.

Karl ran to a pair of wooden doors at the corner of the room. He opened it and peeked in. Nothing. He rain to a glass door on the other side of the corner. He tried to open it, but it was locked. He turned and trotted back to Hans, the other blond joining him.

"Nothing," he stated, putting his gun away.

"See to Heinrich," Hans ordered. They immediately hurried out of the room.

"Now..." said Hans to Theo, who was standing behind him. " can break the code..."

"You didn't bring me along for my charming personality," Theo coolly replied.

Marianne felt her insides churn when she saw that smug grin spread across Hans's face once again. He snatched her by the elbow as he walked away towards the elevator as Theo followed along. She glanced behind her has she was towed along. The blood covered the once-beautiful glass doors of the conference room. Swallowing a sob, she pulled her eyes away.

They were back inside the elevator, Marianne was put in between Theo and Hans. She folded her hands in front of her and she looked down at her feet, trying to keep her eyes on a stable place. Her stomach was turning over and over. She felt like she was going to be sick. It took every fiber of her being not to break down into tears. She clenched her jaw. I'm not going to cry and give that horrible, horrible man the satisfaction! Not happening!

"Tell me, how are you to go about it?" Hans asked Theo. She closed her eyes. How she wanted to be rid of that voice!

"Meaning..." Theo turned to him, the lights inside the elevator reflecting off his glasses.

"What must be done to break the code, and how long will it take?" Hans clarified. 'Ding!' The elevator stopped, and the door slid open. All he wants is money. He'll learn... he'll learn.

"Thirty minutes the break the code," Theo began as he strode out of the elevator with Hans and Marianne, confidence in his voice. "Two hours, maybe two and a half hours for the five mechanicals – at the minimum. The seventh lock, however, is out of my hands."

They walked down a short corridor into a room. At the very end of the corridor, Theo ran a card through a scanner mounted on the wall to his right. After the card was accepted, a large pair of heavy doors right around the corner started to open. She watched with interest, but her insides kept churning. She tried with all her might not to get sick. Hans released her as he walked toward the front of the door for a better look.

Inside was a curved metal door – the door to the vault itself. Next to it was a panel with a keypad. Hans crossed his arms, watching the panel intently. The panel came to life; it displayed a message, replacing the one it had previously. Hans slowly looked away, deep in thought, when his eyes found Theo.

"...I'm sorry..." he said. Apparently, he had missed the last part of Theo's rundown.

"The seventh lock," repeated Theo. "The electromagnetic do understand the circuits cannot be cut locally."

Hans looked as if he might grin again...but he didn't. "Trust me," he replied. Marianne clenched her jaw even tighter. 'Trust me?' Not on your life, mister!

Just then – Marianne realized that she was about to be sick. She wasn't going to make it back downstairs without a mess! She took a few even breaths, but that just made it worse. Oh no... oh God...

"Come on," Hans commanded, gripping her arm again. She pulled back, causing him to stop – he glared at her, his eyes wide with shock and a hint of anger.

"Wait..." she said, ignoring his penetrating gaze. "I need... I need to use the bathroom."

Hans stared at her incredulously, tilting his head slightly to the side. "Can't it wait?"

"No," she said, shaking her head. She felt her insides getting worse. "I need to go. Please... I need to go!"

Hans sighed and turned to Theo. "Theo, are there restrooms on this floor?"

"Yes," replied Theo. "Just go back up this hall and take a right." Hans grabbed up Marianne again, and the both strode up the hall and made a right. A small amount of relief washed over Marianne as she approached the ladies room. Hans stopped and let her go.

"You have two minutes," he stated flatly. Marianne threw a dirty look at him before she turned and went into the bathroom. She ran to the closest stall. Banging the little door open, Marianne let it all out into the toilet in front of her. Her throat stung, her guts spasmed, her breath shortened. Her internals not yet satisfied, she retched again. Looking down at the disgusting contents of her lunch earlier, Marianne wiped her mouth with a piece of tissue and flushed it down the toilet.

Feeling exhausted, out of breath, miserable, grief-stricken, guilty all at the same time Marianne broke down into sobs, which grew more intense with each passing second. Tears flowed as her body shook. She slid down into sitting position in the corner of the stall, weeping her heart and soul away.

Just then, the stall door opened. Marianne caught her breath as she looked up at the figure through her blurry eyes. Hans was standing over her, staring down at her with a puzzled look on his face.

"Go away," she whimpered, turning away. She hugged her knees to her chest, sniffling. "This is the girl's bathroom."

She expected Hans to chuckle at her childish remark, but, to her surprise, he didn't make a sound. Then, he reached down and pulled her up by the arm. Marianne's legs felt weak and wobbly. She wanted to get as far away from him as possible, but her deplorable state caused her to slump against him. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her up. Her face was pressed against his chest, her nose filling with his scent, which she found quite pleasing and soothing.

"Now, now," Hans murmured. "There's need for you to cry."

"There's every reason for me to cry," Marianne sobbed into his chest. "You killed him. I saw you... It was horrible..."

She felt secure being in his arms, which confused and frustrated her. He was the one who made her break down in the first place. He was the one who started all this mess. She only wanted to see her parents back together for Christmas.

Her parents!

It hit her like a jolt of electricity. Dad! It was Dad making that noise! He saw Hans put a gun to my head! He saw Hans kill Mr. Takagi! Her heart started pounding. She felt her face get hot from shame – if her father could see her now, letting Hans Gruber hold her close to his body, comforting her.

With that revelation – Marianne straightened up and gently pulled away from Hans. "I need to clean off my mascara," she said, sniffling. It was true. In the mirror, she could see her black mascara running down her cheeks, making her look freakish.

Also in the mirror, she could see Hans standing next to her, his hands in his pockets, watching her with pure interest on his face. Tearing her eyes away, Marianne grabbed a piece of tissue, pumped soap into it, and turned on the water. Using the tissue, she managed to wipe as much mascara off her face as possible. Then she threw the tissue away.

"Are you ready?" Hans gently asked, a slightly enamored look in his eyes as he watched her in the mirror's reflection. Marianne glanced at him through the reflection. She nodded, looking down at she turned off the water in the sink. She could see the last dark streaks of her mascara disappear down the drain. Hans strode to the bathroom door, and held it open for her. She briefly glanced up at him before she walked through.

"We'll take the stairs," Hans suggested. Marianne quietly followed. When they finally reached the balcony that overlooked the thirtieth floor, Hans's walkie-talkie came to life: "We've got a fire alarm."

Without losing strike, Hans answered the alert. "Call 911, give them the guard's name, the building code number, and cancel the alarm. Then, disable the sys..." Hans paused, taken aback.

By then, they were halfway down the stairs. Blood was rushing in Marianne's ears. Had her father set off the alarm so they could all be rescued? Her heart hammered again. They had stopped where the blond with glasses was standing guard. Hans turned and looked at him. He looked back. Marianne glanced back and forth between them, uncertain what that was all about. Then, Hans addressed the walkie-talkie again. "Eddie, on what floor did the alarm go of?"

"Thirty-two," Eddie replied. Hans quickly turned to the blond. "Tony, go check floor thirty-two," he ordered. Tony obeyed at once without a word. Marianne was horrified. Now, her father was in danger! Of course, Hans wasn't aware that her father was running loose about the place, and neither was the rest of his crew. She decided to keep quiet about that. The last thing she or her father needed was Hans using her as bait!

Hans continued downstairs, Marianne following. She saw her mother sitting at the fountain by Ellis. Instinctively, she started towards her mother, when Hans gripped her by the back of her jacket, stopping her. ", you stay," he said. She whirled around to him, her eyes wide with shock.

"Stay?" she felt her mouth go dry. Hans snatched her by the wrist and jerked her towards him as he grabbed her other wrist. He pulled her up close to him, and put his face into hers. He spoke, his voice low and slightly quavering. "You know too much. In that case, you stay with all times."

A few tense seconds passed. Their eyes locked. Marianne knew that she had no choice. She lowered her eyes, and Hans released her wrists. He strode past her, and she followed. She looked into the group, and found her mother's face, who looked back, questioning. Saddened, Marianne looked away, and followed Hans into her mother's office – which he had taken over as his own.

He pointed to a chair. "Sit there, Marianne," he ordered as he walked over to her mother's desk, and made himself comfortable behind it. Marianne sat. The cool leather chilled her legs and backside through her thin miniskirt and bare legs that were not covered by her boots. At that moment, Hans was back on his feet.

"Stay here," he said. "I'm going to address the others." He headed for the door, when he paused and turned around. "Is there anything you need? Food? Drink?"

Surprised, Marianne looked up at him. "No...well...maybe water, but can get-"

"No, you can't, I'm afraid," Hans curtly replied. "I'll have one of my men bring it in to you." He turned around and went out the door, quickly shutting it behind him. She watched Hans approach one of his men with dark curly hair, and murmur into his ear. The man gave Hans a quizzical look, then lower his gun to fulfill his order. She saw Hans sit on the buffet table, helping himself to food. Then the curly-haired man blocked her view. He was coming into the office with a plastic cup of ice water.

He marched through the door, held the cup out to Marianne, who nimbly took it, and turned on his heel and marched back out without a word, slamming the door behind him. Pulling her eyes away from the door, she looked down into the water. The half-melted ice floated lazily around in the water, thunking against the sides of the plastic cup. Taking a breath, she took a sip. The icy water felt good going down, washing away the stinging remnants of vomit from her mouth and throat.

Once she had her fill, she set the cup on a side table. She could hear Hans speaking through the closed door. Getting up, Marianne approached the window next to the office door, and peered out though the blinds. Hans was still sitting partially on the corner of the buffet table.

"I wanted this to be professional," Hans said, some food still in his mouth. "efficient, adult, cooperative – not a lot to ask... Alas, your Mr Takagi did not see it that he won't be joining us...for the rest of his life."

It felt like Marianne had just been punched in the gut. The way he said it... so matter-of-fact, so -by-the-way, so...indifferent. She bit back a gasp from the urge to break down again, and turned away, feeling her internals turning again. She tried to tune out Hans's voice behind her:

"We can go any way you want it. You can walk out of here or be carried out... but have no illusions... We are in charge. So... decide now, each of you...and please remember...we have left nothing to chance."

She slowly sank into the seat, feeling numb again. Any return of tender feelings she had for Hans quickly vanished. He was cold, calculating, ruthless...evil, deceptive, manipulative bastard! Marianne thought bitterly. I hope Dad gets rid of him ASAP.

As soon as she finished with her thoughts, a woman's panicked, frightened, ear-piercing scream filled the rooms. Marianne's heart jumped into her throat with such force, that she jumped to her feet and ran to the window and looked out, pulling the blinds apart to see. Hans was scampering towards the elevator, ordering his men to "Get them back!"

What's in the elevator? She wondered. Taking advantage of the distraction, she opened the office door, and walked out. Glancing around, seeing that no one has noticed that she left the office, Marianne went straight for the elevator. She neared the elevator, and peeked around the corner... the sickness was back again.

There was Tony. Dead. In an office chair. Red paint was smeared over his gray sweatshirt, and blood was spattered over his face. His glasses were gone. But the Santa hat on his head distracted Marianne the most. How sick! Who could do this! Then it dawned on her – he was sent up to get whoever set off the fire alarm. Did Dad do this? She wondered, horrified that such a thought would occur to her.

Hans never noticed that she was standing there behind him, staring at Tony's corpse. He pulled the sweatshirt straight to look at the red paint. Marianne took a quiet step closer to get a better look. It was writing, not smears!

Hans read it aloud, his voice calm and monotonous:

"'Now I have a machine gun... Ho. Ho. Ho.'"