Chapter 17

Todd dropped them off at Linda’ apartment. He warned both of them to remain inside for the remainderof the day. They fled from hiscar without answering him. Great, now he had them afraid of him.

With them safe at home, he was free to investigate the End House party on his own. First, he wanted to question Ryan, Gregg, and Judy about their abrupt disappearance from Friday night’s party, which brought their loyalty into question.

He drove down Main Street, making a sharp left turn by the town hall, taking the narrow, paved road to the Oasis Hotel. The road was lined with overhanging palm trees, creating a leafy archway and an illusion of an oasis. But unfortunately, he knew better.

He drove up the hotel’s circular driveway, past the colorful garden of flowers, spelling out the words “Oasis Hotel.” The pretty pink hotel came into view with its rust colored Spanish roof and tall floor-to-ceiling sparkling clear windows. He left his car with the valet and entered the hotel through the lavish entrance, with its high rounded open archways, breezy ceiling fans, and lush palm trees.

The hotel was bustling with activity: people were checking in and out; guests were strolling through the lobby with drinks in their hands, decorated with little umbrellas; and vacationers were relaxing on the hotel’s couches as the sun streamed in through the open doorways.

He spotted Judy at the front desk helping a guest. He positioned himself off to the side, leaning against a palm tree, so that he wouldn’t frighten her away. He decided to begin with the weakest link. Judy has always had a vivacious personality: brimming with enthusiasm and charm, with a quick smile on her pretty face, and a bright sparkle in her large brown eyes. But she wasn’t confident of herself like Gregg and Ryan. They were much harder to read. They both were tall and muscular with thick dark-brown hair. Ryan had dark-blue eyes that sparkled when he smiled, while Gregg had dark green eyes that matched his somber personality.

After Judy was finished with the guest, she looked hesitantly over at Todd. He detected fear in her eyes. He didn’t want to alienate her or her friends. He greeted her in the friendliest manner he could muster up. “Hi Judy, what happened to you at the house? I was afraid that something had happened to you or your group.”

“We were concerned for the second group so we went downstairs to check on them.” She was staring at the ground, refusing to meet his eyes.

This was not a good sign. And they had disappeared without informing him first, but he was their group leader and therefore, had to be informed of everything. “What happened?”

“We were too late: Tom and Edward had already disappeared. However, we did manage to help David find the lever by the door that helped them to escape the wild animals. And Gregg pushed David down the stairs to free him from the flying creatures.”

“What were these creatures?”

“We couldn’t figure out what or who they were.” She was standing behind the front desk, shuffling her feet back and forth.

“How did Louise escape from the hanging?” Todd asked in a soft tone, not wanting to agitate her any further.

“We chased away the circling figures and then Ryan resuscitated Louise, who was still unconscious. Once she was breathing on her own, we left her on the beach.”

“Were the figures in the gazebo human?”

Judy shook her head back and forth. “We couldn’t tell: they wore hoods draped over their faces. But they did seem to be human. They could be anyone from town, or even someone from inside our own group.”

“Why didn’t you come to me for help?” his voice rose, upset that they’d left on their own and hadn’t even found out anything useful.

Judy, who was looking very sincere, quickly apologized. “I’m sorry. We didn’t know if you had turned. We didn’t know who to trust anymore.”

“I understand. But from now on, we’ll work together as a team. Tell Ryan and Gregg that I’ll return tomorrow to plan a new course of action.” Too bad they always needed to be told what to do. He had hoped by now that they would be better able to make decisions on their own.

“Yes, boss. We knew that we couldn’t handle this on our own.”

“You did very well. You saved David and Louise. I’m very proud of you.” He turned away and walked out of the hotel, without looking back.

Judy stood there smiling to herself.

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