“Did they pay you?” I moved my right hand slightly, to a small space between her left arm and the hand that held the knife.

“Of course. There was risk involved. I had to get the drugs from the pharmacy in town where I worked at night.”

“How much did they pay you?” I shifted my weight to my left leg and tensed my muscles.


“Well, it sounds like killing for hire to me,” I said, and shot my hand up through the small space between her arms. I knocked the knife away from my neck and kicked back with my right foot, circling her leg and pitching forward as hard as I could.

Liz stumbled sideways and careened across the shed. She slammed into the rack of garden tools and I heard something crash down on her. My bag and gun were lost in the shadows. I grabbed a sharp-pointed trowel from a shelf by the lawnmower, almost stepping on Snelling.

Liz straightened. She still had the knife. Its steel blade glinted in the moonlight that came through the small high windows.

“Put the knife down, Liz.”

She stood there, panting.

“Put it down!”

She came at me, crouching, the knife extended. I thought she was going to try to come up under the trowel at my throat. Instead she dodged to the side and scurried out the door of the shed. I dropped the trowel and went after her, hurling myself at her feet like an NFL tackle.

She went down and I saw the knife fly from her hand. I crawled after it, expecting a struggle. Again she surprised me, jumping to her feet and running toward the cypress grove. I started to get up, but my foot slipped on the damp grass and I fell ingloriously on my rear.

Snelling, I thought, he’s dying in there.

“Help!” I yelled. “Help!”

Lights began to go on in the main building.

“Help!” And I began to run toward the cypress grove.

The sliding glass doors of the building opened and two nurses and a man in a bathrobe appeared. They hesitated, then hurried across the lawn.

“There’s a man in the tool shed!” I shouted over my shoulder. “He’s been stabbed. Dying! Get a doctor!”

Ahead I could hear thrashing noises as Liz ran through the thickly planted trees and scrambled over the rocky ground. I plunged into the underbrush after her. My hands outstretched in front of me, I pushed branches aside and ran in the direction of the noises. If I could overtake her in here-

Suddenly my foot rammed against a big rock. My toe caught and I fell forward. I landed flat, struggled partway up, and fell again. The sounds in the trees ahead of me stopped.

Liz was already out of the grove, racing for-where?

I got up and went along more carefully, aiming at an opening where the grove bordered the lawn. When I got there I stopped, scanning the grounds for Liz.

She was on the platform where the steps led down to the beach, the place where I’d seen the two old ladies sitting the day I’d gone out on the reefs to look at the tidepools. She was silhouetted against the horizon, looking back at the cypress grove.

I came out of the trees, running.

Liz whirled, first to her right and then to her left. She spun and plunged toward the stairway.

What was she doing, going down there at high tide? I thought. She couldn’t run down the beach. It was under water.

I jumped onto the platform and rushed to the edge. Liz was halfway down the stairs. Waves slapped at the cliff, sending showers of spray over her. The bottom three or four steps were engulfed in the roiling water.

“Stop!” I yelled. “There’s no place to go!”

She looked up at me, the wind whipping her cap of blond hair.

“Come back up here! You’ll drown!”

She looked back down at the water, then jumped from the steps. I watched as she floundered and righted herself. The water, though turbulent, only came to a little above her knees.

I started down the stairway after her.

Liz plunged into the surf, swimming toward the reefs. A couple of the larger ones were still above water. By the time I reached the step where she’d jumped off the stairway, she was clinging to a reef maybe thirty yards away.

I jumped down into the icy water. The cold shocked me and I almost fell. Then I started wading into the sea, battling the waves for balance. The water splashed upward, each wave bringing a new shock until I could feel my skin turning numb. Finally I ducked under and began swimming.

I reached the reef and put out a hand for support. I could still touch bottom, but the current was treacherous. At any minute I might be swept off my feet. Liz, sitting on top of the reef, kicked at my hand.

“Give it up, Liz. There’s no place for you to go from here.”

She kicked at my hand again. I let go, and a wave sucked me under. Salt water filled my mouth. I bobbed to the surface, spitting and coughing.

When I looked up, Liz had retreated to the far side of the reef. Cautiously, I began climbing. The rough rocks cut at my hands. The knee ripped out of my jeans. I felt a trickling that was probably blood.

I pulled myself to the top of the reef and crouched there, panting. Liz was about eight feet away. Her hair was plastered flat against her skull and water dripped down her face. Her coat and jeans clung to her slight body. She stood with her hands balled into fists at her sides, her knees slightly bent. Weaponless, she was still dangerous. I stood up. “Liz, there’s nothing you can do. Come back to shore with me.”

She laughed, a wild crow’s caw.

I started forward, one hand outstretched.

She backed closer to the edge of the reef. One foot slipped. She looked down at the swirling water, then back at me.

“Get away from me.”


“I mean it!”

She lunged forward, grabbing my shoulders. Her hands went to my throat. I put my own hands up, trying to pry her fingers loose. They were as steely as the blade of her knife.

Liz shook me. “I mean it! You stop coming at me! They were always coming at me. Wanting something. All of them. More and more…”

My vision was blurring. I clawed frantically at her fingers.

“More and more and more. They wouldn’t stop coming after me.”

My knees sagged. I dug my fingernails into her hands a final time. The gray blurriness gave way to red and gold flashes…

Cold water hit my face. I groaned. An icy pool formed under my cheek. There was a second icy splash, and I groaned again. Salty water rushed into my mouth. I choked, coughed, and struggled to sit up.

I was lying on the reef, rocks cutting into my flesh. As I pushed up, they scraped my palms. I looked around, saw nothing. The surf was slapping higher than before, spilling over around me.

I looked down at where my face had been and saw an indentation full of water. A tidepool. I’d been lying face down in a tidepool. Liz had left me to drown as the water rose higher.

I sat up, looking around. She was no longer on the reef. Where had she gone? I couldn’t have been unconscious long. Where was she?

I pushed to my feet, shivering with chills, and peered around. The white water spewed up over the reef, slapping at me and almost making me stumble. The stairway from the beach was half covered now. I could still make it back, good swimmer that I was, but the water would be treacherous. And I was so tired.

But Liz. Where…?

And then I spotted her, on the only other reef that was still above water, many yards away. She stood there, her sodden clothing flapping in the wind. She was looking back at the beach, as if trying to gauge her chances.

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