Dear readers and reviewers... once again, thank you so much for keeping me company here. Trying really hard to entertain - hope you all still liking! Am sorry its a short chapter again, but I really wanted to update - Garmun, LilikaP, VDeV and all me brill and cool regulars out there thank you so much for keeping me even more motivated! I appreciate every single one of you! Your comments, feedback, welcome as always.
You never know - I might even finish by the end of the year! Here's hoping!
Have fun fanfic-ing, wherever you are! ;-)
Houghton leaned onto his desk, clasping his hands in a gesture of mild impatience. His eyes glittered though. Nick noticed immediately, but didn't allow any body language to show.
"So, Charlie boy, you want out, huh?"
Houghtons' tone remained even, yet there was a slight colouring at his temples, where a frown was just starting to crease.
Nick kept his expression neutral and allowed a brief pause, before replying. He really wasn't in the mood to be intimidated by this man today.
"Boss, you know I'm not a coward, alright? And you know my reasons for coming here today…" at this point, Nick, despite his best efforts, couldn't help his gaze drop to the floor briefly. Then his chin was up again, and he gave Houghton a look. Not quite a look of defiance. Perhaps something close to it. He just wanted to be honest with the man though.
"…I have to …" He swallowed. "…I… need to look after my little girl now."
Hansen, standing near the door of Houghtons' office, looking bored, yet alert, gave a small sound in his throat. Nicks eyes narrowed. But he still held his gaze forward. Not going to give the ugly son of a bitch the satisfaction…
"Hansen…" Houghtons' voice carried a caution.
"Boss." Hansen stood up straighter and began to examine his finger nails.
"Nick… I really am sorry about little Beth but - you know the score. You walk away from me and …" He pulled his hands apart and placed them palm downwards on the desk, keeping his eyes steady on Nick.
"… Hansen will… find you… and it will be the last thing you ever do."
Houghtons' hands remained flat on the desk surface, a cold and uncompromising atmosphere now trailing the end of the conversation.
"Do you understand me?"
Nick nodded and scraped his chair back.
"Boss." He nodded once more then turned and left without waiting for Houghton to dismiss him.
"Kris," Sabrina sighed, "I really don't think this is a good time to do this!" She repeated - for the third time - by Kris's reckoning.
"I need to get it over with! I can't leave it any longer! Sabrina, the place is a mess and it will probably smell bad by now!"
Sabrina sighed. Kris was right. The cleanup operation needed to be done. She just hoped Kris wouldn't react too badly when she saw everything. Especially just after coming from seeing Kelly.
"Yeah. I know."
"Anyway… too late." Kris pulled the Cobra down the ramp way to her house and parked up. She took a deep breath then got out of the car, quickly followed by Sabrina. And without another word, she walked over, climbed the few steps to the porch, reaching in her bag for the keys as she did so. Sabrina was right behind her. As Kris popped the key in at the back door and turned it, she felt Sabrina touch her arm gently.
"You want me to go first?"
"No! Bri - I'm alright! You don't have to mother me okay?" Kris snapped. Way too tense and irritable, she suddenly realised.
Sabrina shrugged and took a small step back.
"Sorry! Bri I'm sorry! That was …!" She began apologising immediately.
Sabrina smiled and waved her hand towards the inside.
"After you…" she replied not unkindly. Kris turned and stepped over the thresh hold, and flicked the kitchen light on. It wasn't dark… but she wanted full light on … the scene.
"God…!" She exclaimed softly, as she made her way slowly to the spot where Kelly had … what Kris, huh, what? Gone mad?! The scene before them and the thoughts and the memories of the day before, came welling up, making her shudder. She drew her arms round herself.
"Mess huh?" Sabrina's even softer voice from behind her made her jump a little.
"Oh Sabrina! She…you … God, poor Kelly!"
Sabrina herself couldn't help the knot of fear returning, and felt her scalp prickle at the sight of her own blood before her, now dried to a dark shade and beginning to flake a little where it lay in shallower trails on Kris's floor tiles.
"Jeez!" She heard herself mutter. It occurred to her suddenly that this was the second time in only a matter of days, that herself and Kris had both stared at a scarily messed up floor. And both times, Kelly had been involved. They absolutely did not need a third time. She shook her head then snapped herself out of it.
"Okay enough with the floor show!" The joke was out before she could stop it. Oh well.
"Ugh!" Kris had time to utter one syllable before Sabrina took her by the elbow.
"C'mon Kris - mop, bucket, detergent, bleach…? Where's your cleaning stuff? Let's go to work here!"
"Uh… over here…" Kris also snapped out of her daze and turned to one of her cupboards.
Within minutes, both were silently busy scrubbing and mopping away all the evidence of Kelly's attack. It took almost an hour, as both girls went over and over the place scrupulously, thoroughly searching for any more traces of blood anywhere. When they were done, they both leaned against the kitchen work surfaces and looked at each other grimly.
"I'm going to open some windows." Kris said, and went into her lounge. Sabrina hung back, watching her.
"Wanna coffee?" She offered.
"Uh… " Kris opened one window. "No thanks …." She moved across the room and opened another.
"I - I don't feel like being here for too long, actually."
A light breeze flapped gently at the curtains, and Kris breathed in the refreshing air, deeply.
"No. Guess not." Sabrina replied. "Alright…" She pushed herself off the counter and went into the lounge.
"…Uh… I know it's kinda late Kris, but I was just thinking, we ought to try getting back to Maybourn… see if he came up with that phone number…?" Sabrina wondered if the diversion tactic would help any.
"Uh…" Kris looked around the room, as if looking for any further things out of place… any further blood stains, Sabrina thought, watching her.
"Yeah… go ahead…" She motioned distractedly towards the telephone on a small table near her couch.
"Kris, you know I think we got it - all…"
"What?" Kris continued to scrutinise her room.
Sabrina changed tack.
"Ah… you know, we can call Maybourn first in the morning." She decided it was time to leave.
"Well now! I'm a little hungry. What do you say we go and eat out?"
Kris now turned to Sabrina, a surprised look on her face.
"What?" Sabrina was unapologetic. "I just worked up an appetite!"
Kris herself, felt a little weak, but wasn't sure if that was just from the days events. She really did not feel like eating, now.
"Kris, you got to eat something, huh?" Sabrina knew Kris had barely eaten a thing all day.
"Do you always have to read my mind?" Kris half joked.
"Yes I do. I'm good at it! And besides," Sabrina smirked, "you know I'm right. Come on huh? Let's lock up and go eat some Chinese food!"
Kris wasn't in the mood to eat, but maybe a change of scenery would help though.
"Okay, but you're buying." Small victories helped too.
"Daddy, you don't always have to let me win!" Beth gave her dad the most solemn look she could muster. They had been playing cards for an hour or so. Snap mostly. Because he loved the eager excitement he saw shining out of his little girls eyes as she gingerly laid each card. He gave Beth a silly innocent-father look.
"Who me? You're just too quick for me, sweetheart!"
"You big fibber!" She countered back, grinning.
Nick grinned himself. He loved her so much, it overwhelmed him. And he loved how she still used British expressions she had learned back home. Home! What was home anymore? He reached out and tousled her hair. It had grown more lacklustre even over these last few days. Yet Beth herself, when she was awake and had a little energy, still rocked him with her selfless determination to keep smiling at everyone and giving as good as she got.
"Daddy?" Beth was serious once again.
Nick knew what was coming. She asked the same question every night now. She had never needed to ask it before. Just… uncannily since the doctors prognosis.
"Yes, my beautiful lady!" Nick pretended to swipe a cap from his head, and bowed slightly. "What may one do for one's beautiful princess this evening?" He said in his best clipped British accent.
Beth giggled. She loved her daddy's silly way of talking.
"Did I ever sound like that?" She asked, her more serious question forgotten for the moment. Nick smiled.
"If you did, you know, I really would have bought you a palace, fit for my beautiful princess!" He bowed again, and Beth giggled her squeaky, bubbly, little girl giggle once more. Then he lifted his head and looked deep into those incredible warm brown eyes.
"Beth, don't you ever, ever worry. I will be here all night. Every night. I will be here every time you wake up. And when you wake up in the morning, every morning, I will kiss your pretty little head Good Morning…just like …" He leaned close and planted a gentle loving kiss on his daughters warm head.
"…That!" He smiled. "Just like I always…"
But then he got no further as Beth threw her arms around him and hugged him for all she was worth.
"G'night daddy!" She then shuffled herself down under the bed covers.
"Love you poppet!" He said, smiling as he tucked her in.
"Love you poppet pop!" Beth smiled back. He gave her another kiss on the forehead, then she closed her eyes and sighed.
"Goodnight Sweetheart, I love you." Please, please, don't let me lose you.
"Love you too daddy…" Beth whispered, then she was asleep. Always so quickly now. He leaned back in the chair and watched. And silently wept.