CHAPTER EIGHT

Amy stood on the step just below the landing. The flashes of light through the windows were like a strobe, and she felt for the banister. She could feel her heart battering her chest as she slowly made her way down the steps. She should go back up to the girls; they had to be scared to death now. But she needed to find Face. She had to know where he was.

"Face?"

She had no idea if her loud whisper would carry over the noise of the storm. She stared ahead, waiting for the next flash so she could get her bearings. As long as she held the banister, she was all right, but when she got to the entry, it would be a whole other story.

Two more steps.

"Face? Dammit, where are you?"

She reached the floor of the entry. Again, she looked around, trying to make out her surroundings.

"Face!"

"Over here, Amy."

She nearly choked at the sudden, soft voice behind her. She whirled around, thought she saw a figure to her left.

"Face, where..."

"In here, Amy." He stepped away.

She could've killed him. They were in the dark, the kids were upstairs alone, there was some maniac out on the grounds, and he decides to play follow the leader.

Her jaw clenched, she felt her way into the dining room.


*****

Face moved slowly, feeling his way along the wall, trying not to trip over the furniture. Why did there seem to be so much more in this room when it was dark than when the lights were on? He thought he was almost out of the parlor when he heard Amy. He didn't know if he should be glad of the reference point, or angry because she had moved from her position. When he banged his shin, hard, he knew.

When his feet left carpet and touched linoleum, he knew he was in the entry. He stopped and waited for the lightning. Consecutive lightning flashes only added to his irritation. Amy had apparently gone back upstairs. The entry was empty.

He grabbed the banister and hurried up the stairs. He nearly tripped again moving from the landing to the next set of steps, but kept his balance.

"Amy?"

Keeping one hand on the wall, he moved down the hall, where Amy and the girls were supposed to be waiting.

"Amy? Mary? Somebody answer me!"

His only answer was the sound of small feet hurrying down the hall. Away from him.


*****

"Face, enough is enough! We have to get back to the kids. Face? Face!"

"You're so concerned about them, yet you left them. Why was that, Amy?" Again, the voice was soft, calm, but with a hint of derision.

"I got...worried. You were gone so long. Too long."

"You're supposed to stay with them. That is your job. To protect them."

"All right, all right. So it's my job. But now we both need to get back up there. Those men are probably trying to find a way into the house right now."

"That's not your concern. Your concern is the children. Remember?"

"Face, damn it, it's up to both of us to protect them!"

She stared into the darkness. No windows in here. No light. No sound.

"Face?"

No light. No sound.


*****

He moved down the hall, found the next door and slowly, carefully opened it, trying to make as little noise as possible. He was fully expecting it to be as empty as the other two he'd checked. He had lost all patience now. Dammit, he'd told Amy to stay with those kids. Why the hell couldn't she listen, just once?

"Amy!"

His whisper was hoarse, loud enough, he hoped, that she would hear; soft enough, he hoped, that no one else would. He was quite sure he'd heard something from downstairs, most likely at the back of the house. Voices. Muffled, but definitely voices.

Well, almost definitely. After that crap with Amy in the kitchen, who the hell knew?

He took a quick glance into the room, knowing damn well he wouldn't be able to see anyone. He was about to close the door when he stopped. There had been something, like an intake of breath.

"Amy? Mary?"

"The children aren't here."

Face didn't know whether to kiss her or kill her. "Amy, dammit, where are they? And why didn't you answer me?"

"They're safe. I made sure of that."

"Yeah, well, would you like to let me in on the secret so I don't shoot them by mistake?"

"I won't let that happen. You won't hurt them."

"Amy, that's exactly why I...dammit, Amy, I'm trying to protect them, not hurt them!"

"Are you so sure of that?"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"You don't think I noticed? You don't think I saw the way you looked at them?"

Face didn't know what to say. He knew he'd been angry, terrifically angry. But hurt them? No, never...

Then he remembered that vision, that picture, of the three little bodies. Clad in their nightgowns, lying in the grass. He'd been looking down at them. Down from a great height, so they were so small and...tidy.

So quiet.

He shook his head, trying to clear the image. He looked into the room again, trying to see Amy. If he could see her, he could explain. He wouldn't hurt the girls. They just had to quit playing those stupid games. That's all.

If they would just...quit.