Slippery Slope

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Apres-Ski (Preparations)

Apres-Ski – The bar party after a fun day spent on the slopes.

It was a good time for a party. A perfect time, actually. To hell with the fact that it was still the middle of busy season. To hell that the mild weather and lack of snow had caused the busy season to slow to a crawl. To hell that his two best people had been suspended from Rescue and accused of criminal behavior. To hell with the fact that Derrick's wife was still in the hospital, that Derrick's house had almost burned down, and that Derrick had just tendered his resignation at the lodge. To hell with Derrick for pushing their relationship to a breaking point. To hell with all that, thought Asher, because they were going to have a party and shake off all the bad stuff for a couple of hours. Morale was at an all time low, so he insisted on it despite the grumblings of his weary employees. There was no harm in closing down one Sunday night during the season for a private party to have some fun. And everyone would be paid - that had helped to perk things up. It was unseemly, Denise had advised him. Well, to hell with that, too. She wasn't right all the time. She hadn't taken that assertion kindly, and he had instantly regretted it.
Traditionally, staff parties were held at the older club building in the base area where the hot tubs were, nearer the employee lockers. But this one would be at The Pool. Located on the rooftop of the main lodge building, it was part indoor, part outdoor. Inside, the glass walls were fogged perpetually, the air moist and warm. The pool deck was luxuriously appointed. Couples dried off and snuggled together on plush two-seater lounge chairs before the fire that roared in the stone fireplace. There was a magnificent indoor garden, lush with hanging greenery, potted grasses, and orchids. With just a few strokes you could propel yourself through heated jets of water that massaged and relaxed the muscles to the poolside bar for a speciality cocktail, local micro-brew, or glass of wine. Swim under the dividing wall and you would emerge outside into the bracing air for a panoramic view of snow covered mountains. The infinity pool seemed to drop right off the side of the building. It was breathtaking. It was extravagant. And although installing it had nearly bankrupted him, it had turned the resort into a year-round attraction and a hot-spot club in the off-season. Unseemly? He didn't think so. It seemed like just the right time and the pool was just the right place.
Still, Denise was upset and he would need to address that. She felt throwing a party was disrespectful to the dead, but he didn't know how much respect was owed to the dead vagrant found inside Derrick's house, who was presumed to have started the fire in the first place. To Asher, that was just desserts. Everyone was someone's baby had been her reply, making him wince. Maybe it was a little insensitive, he conceded, but he was going forward. Now he had to convince her to come. In the ten years they had been together, she had become the heart of the place and the center of his life. She was as sweet as she was stubborn and determined, and he wanted her there. He knew just how to do it. He had been working on it all day.
Kristy was his wingman and co-conspirator. She was bringing Denise to the roof under the guise that there was a problem with the pool's filtration system. Among her many talents, Denise was a top notch mechanic and could fix, or MacGyver, anything. He just needed her in the pool long enough for his plan to work. He had lodged a plastic bag containing a note into one of the water return lines. Asher figured it would take her about five minutes to find the blockage, get in the water, retrieve the bag, and enable him to put the rest of his plan to work - with a surprise not just for Denise but for everyone.
Asher felt his phone vibrate and fumbled for it in his pocket. It was a text from Kristy. She and Denise were on their way up in the elevator. Feeling a little silly, Asher dove behind the bar. The floor to ceiling mirrors behind it were warmed with a heating element to prevent them from fogging, and from that vantage point he could see the entire pool area. The line he had blocked was closest to the swim-up bar, but he was well hidden enough to not be seen. It also allowed him to execute the second part with just the flip of a switch once Denise was in the water.
He watched as Kristy and Denise approached the pool's main panel.
"See?" Kristy said, pointing. "The pressure is low."
Denise tilted her head as was her habit when working through a problem. From her pocket she withdrew a pad and wrote down some figures. Asher smiled. She was no doubt calculating whether it was more likely a main or return line problem. After a moment she looked up.
"Something stuck in a return line, more than likely. The pressure's not off by much." She smiled at Kristy, "Probably a piece of someone's hair extension, like last time."
"Yuck," Kristy laughed. "That's so gross."
Denise laughed, too. "I've found worse things."
Kristy shook her head, "I do not want to know. What can I do to help?"
Denise put onto a small side table the tool kit she was carrying and withdrew a little round plastic vial with a red cone cap.
"Food coloring?" Kristy asked.
"Yep." Denise walked to the edge of the pool, unscrewed the cap, and squirted in a couple of red drops as Kristy joined her.
"See how the dye is being sucked right in? The problem isn't here."
"Wow! What a great idea. It's so simple," Kristy said.
"Asher considered putting in some fancy monitors for the returns but they were so pricey. We saved thousands by figuring this out."
"You mean you did, Denise. I don't know what Asher would do without you," Kristy added.
A look of suspicion crossed Denise's face. Asher held his breath.
"Hmmh," she snorted. "The best he could do to talk me into going to this misguided celebration is sick you on me? He's slipping."
Kristy recovered valiantly, "No way. I'm not getting between you two. But I know he's really upset that you're not coming."
Denise shook her head and set back to her task as Kristy watched. At the first two returns, the red drops of dye hit the water, expanded, and swirled into the return, but at the third, the drop expanded outward and slowly dissipated.
Denise smiled, "Bingo." She kicked off her shoes and stripped off her pants, sweatshirt, and jacket to reveal her very toned body clad in a black two-piece that Asher had bought her on their trip to the Bahamas. It had been a while since he had seen her in it and it reinforced his belief that he was doing the right thing. Looking at her, he was already feeling recharged.
Denise put on her goggles and jumped in. In order to access the feed, she would need to unscrew the vented faceplate over the return. She could work mostly from above the water, but Asher knew she would submerge to get a better look. She popped up after about a half a minute.
"What do you see?" Kristy asked.
Denise shook her head in disgust. "Looks like some idiot threw a plastic bag, or something plastic, in the water and it got sucked in. I can't get to it unless I remove the faceplate." She perused the tools that Kristy had set out for her.
"Would you mind shutting down the unit for me?"
Kristy walked over to the panel, opened the door, and pushed the lever to the off position." The purring of the filter and gurgling of the water stopped immediately. Except for Denise's small splashes and the crackling from the fireplace, it was very quiet.
Denise grabbed a screwdriver and Asher watched as she placed the faceplate on the pool deck and reached her hand into the return. She brought the baggy up and held it in front of her face. "What the heck?"
"What is it?" Kristy asked. Denise turned the bag around. Kristy kneeled down to look at the two word note inside. "'I'm sorry,'" she read.
Asher flipped the switch behind the bar and watched Denise's face.
"Do you hear that?" Denise asked.
Kristy, whom Asher had let in on his plan only up to this point, looked puzzled, too.
"I think so. Music?" Kristy hovered her head over the water.
Denise dove back under. Asher watched in anticipation. He stood up and leaned across the bar, waiting for her to come up. He nodded and winked at Kristy who remained crouched near the water. Asher knew Denise was now listening to their favorite song, Baby, Baby I Need You, sung by The Temptations, on the newly installed underwater sound system.
Denise emerged in front of him, water dripping from her hair and body. She pushed herself up on the pool's bar bench and wrapped an arm around his neck, "I accept your apology and I love you."
"I love you, too."
This party was going to be great.

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