Archie opened the door to his hotel room, then blinked. “Virginia… this is a surprise.” He looked me up and down. “What’s with the cat burglar outfit?”
“Do you have any weapons?”
His eyes flew wide. “Come again?”
“I don’t have time to explain,” I said. And he’d think I was crazy if I did.
“I have a friend who’s in danger and I need to give her something to protect herself with.”
I frowned. “Don’t you have a gun, or a knife, or a taser?”
“I have mace… in case a dog attacks me when I run.”
I squinted. “You’re a runner? Never mind. I’ll take the mace.”
He waved me inside. “Come on in.”
To save time, I stepped inside his room, surprised to see he’d made his more homey than mine. He was also more neat.
“Here you go,” he said, handing me the small cannister of mace.
I turned to go. “Thanks.”
“I hope your friend doesn’t have to use it.”
“I hope so, too.”
I turned back.
“If you’re in trouble, I’ll help you… just ask.”
I held up the mace. “I just did. See you later.”
I stepped out of his room, then hurried toward the stairs to save time. According to the autopsy report, Eloise had died around ten o’clock in the evening. I still had two hours to get there and prevent it from happening.
I’d dressed in black to try to remain hidden, although it occurred to me that since everyone else would be dressed in colorful garb, I’d probably stand out like a sore thumb.
I retraced my steps to the freight elevator, pulled the crates away, and pushed the call button. Sweat beaded on my upper lip—I was on the verge of bending historical events. If I was successful, a thousand other things could be set in motion.
When the elevator doors opened, I shrank in horror. Eloise stood leaning against the wall, bleeding profusely. I flung myself forward to help her. She clung to me, gasping for breath, her eyes pleading with me. Her Elevator Girl uniform was slashed in several places. In the confusion I realized the elevator doors had closed and we were descending to the basement.
To face the killer?
It seemed likely.
While holding her limp body with one arm, I held the can of mace in the other, my heart pounding out of my chest.
But when the doors opened, the only thing visible was a pool of blood and Eloise’s footprints to the elevator.
Suddenly Eloise’s knees buckled. She fell against me, and the momentum sent us both stumbling out into the bloody hallway.
“Hang on, Eloise,” I begged. I tried to support her, half-dragged and half-carried her before her weight got the better of me. We fell, and Eloise landed on top of me. I was freaking the freak out, and the sound of someone hurrying toward us both relieved me and scared me to death.
It took me a few seconds to realize it was Alec bent over us. I wanted to cry in abject relief.
“Virginia?” The shock in his voice was evident.
“Help me,” I said, struggling to get free. “And call an ambulance. She’s been stabbed.” I gripped his arm. “Alec… I can’t be here.”
“Go,” he said. “I’ll make sure she gets help.”
I nodded, then pushed to my feet and walked back through the blood to the elevator. I blindly stabbed at the button to take me to the ground floor, willing it to hurry. As the doors slid closed, Alec was administering CPR to Eloise…
But I knew she was gone. ~