Slippery Slope

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Dropping In

Dropping In – Starting a ski run by launching off a ledge or cliff

By the time Jess left with their kids, she was almost too hysterical to drive. Derrick shook his head. She had worked herself into a frenzy that Laura was back to hurt him. The only thing that calmed her was his promise to call the police and file a report. But he was hesitant. He needed to make absolutely sure that Hilda Pierson was Laura Andrews. There had already been too much drama since he had returned to town and he was loath to deal with that detective again. If he were mistaken about Hilda, he would never be off of Sam Kosner’s radar.

Derrick weighed the situation. Laura had actually never done him or his family any harm. Even when her stalking reached an annoying level – she would call and text him constantly, sit in her car in front of his condo complex for hours – he just ignored it. He was relieved when he started on a new project and they were no longer working together. When he hadn’t heard from her for weeks, he figured she had given up. But when he and Jess returned from a weekend getaway, there she was in his condo. Inside. She said she had broken in because she was worried about him. Even though she cried pathetically and apologized he had no choice but to press charges. She had totally crossed the line. It was Jess who had pushed for the restraining order, worried for Rick. But that restraining order had made Laura very angry. Derrick didn’t understand it. They had only slept together a couple of times at a local motel. It was a causal. She knew he was with Jess. Laura had totally misread his level of interest in her and he had completely misread her level of craziness.

He also needed to tell Asher his suspicions as soon as possible. After all, Asher had entrusted to this person the security of his entire business, his livelihood. If Hilda was really Laura, it was beyond bizarre that she would go to such lengths to assume another identity to get near him and his family. The more he thought about it, if Laura was the woman in the road, then maybe she was dangerous. Maybe she was just someone who had broken down in the middle of the road. Still, whoever had been on the road that night had seen a car skid off the highway and failed to report it. Derrick picked up his phone, wavering back and forth between calling the police department or calling Asher, when he heard the back door open and close.

“Jess?” he called.

“Uh-huh,” came the answer.

“Why are you back?”

Derrick bounded up the stairs, the phone still in his hand.

However, when he entered the kitchen, there was no one there. From behind him in the dining room, he heard the rustle of the plastic construction tarps.

A cold feeling filled his gut.

Derrick turned toward the plastic sheeting covering the doorway into the dining room. It was now partially torn down.

“Hello, Derrick,” someone said from inside. It was not Jess but he didn’t quite recognize the voice. He stepped across the threshold.

In the dim room he could see a figure against the light of the window. It bent and turned on the work lamp. It was Hilda.

“What are you doing here, Hilda?” Derrick asked.

“Oh, I think you know, Derrick,” Hilda answered. “I saw the way you looked at me when you ran out of Asher’s office. I figure by now you’ve done your research. You’re so methodical that way. I’m only sorry I’ve missed the chance to say hello to your lovely wife and beautiful children. I guess you’ve sent them off to Doug and Karen’s again. That’s where Jessica was going the night her car crashed. I felt kind of badly about that. It was your job to pick up little Derrick from school. I don’t know why it should have surprised me that you were shirking your parental duties.”

“So that was you in the road that night,” Derrick felt his blood turn to ice, even though his heart was pounding in his chest.

“See? You are so clever. But I did fool you for a long while. It’s too bad, though. This has taken much longer than I intended. When I set the fire in your house, I figured I’d get all of you together at Grandma and Grandpa’s once your wife was out of the hospital. But then you left so suddenly. Don’t you like your in-laws, Derrick?”

“You set fire to my house, too?” Derrick felt his temper flare, all that she had done hitting him hard.

“Yes, Derrick. That’s what I just said. Pay attention.”

“Did you know the man they found in my house?”

“John? Yeah. He was very irritating but I needed someone to help get me here. His sister had just passed away and left him her car and some money. It was enough cash to keep him high and he was really into me, so it was easy to get him to do what I wanted. But when he started to give me a hard time about the fire, he had to go.”

Derrick shook his head, “Are saying you killed him?”

“Ding, ding, ding. Years of writing screenplays have given you real insight into plot, Derrick.”

“I don’t believe you. That man died from smoke inhalation.”

Hilda laughed, “Did the police tell you that, Derrick?”

Derrick thought about it and realized that he had never actually been told the cause of death, even when Kosner had called him in to question him about the man’s identity. He assumed it was from the smoke or burns, or both, and Kosner had never said anything different.

Hilda shrugged her shoulders. “The coroner in your town must be completely incompetent. John was dead before the fire started. I bashed his head in.”

Her contemptuousness unnerved him but he didn’t want to show it. But he did want to keep her talking.

“What I don’t understand, Laura, is why all this intrigue? If you just wanted to get to me, why take on another identity? Why work at the lodge? I haven’t even been working there.”

“I’m surprised at you, Derrick! Use your imagination. When I couldn’t get at you as easily as I had anticipated, I took stock of my situation. It was a little depressing, to tell you the truth. I really wanted to kill you but I thought that maybe it wasn’t meant to be. I thought perhaps Fate was telling me to spare you. I had all the identification I needed from John’s sister to get a job: license, birth certificate, Social Security card. My age was close enough and I only had to dye my hair and get some contacts. I certainly had the smarts to pull it off. You remember what a computer whiz I am, don’t you? It was absolute serendipity that Asher posted for that position. And lets face it – he’s the trusting sort. Probably didn’t even do a background check on me. I know he didn’t check my references – all the numbers and emails I gave him would have come to me.”

“That explains the how, Laura, but not the why,” Derrick replied.

Hilda stared at him for a long moment before she continued, “I thought that being near you might be enough. The job at the lodge meant that I could keep all kinds of tabs on you - computers, surveillance equipment, cameras, the transmitter. I could set things up to track you anywhere in town, even in your house. I could know where you were at all times, Derrick. I could hear your voice. I started to think maybe I could build a real life here. But then, I went and had a heart to heart with that slut, Kristy. Is there a woman you know that you haven’t fucked, Derrick?”

Derrick had had enough.

“You’re not supposed to be within 100 yards of me or my family, Laura,” Derrick answered. “I’m calling the police.”

Hilda raised a gun at him, “No, Derrick, honey. Toss that phone over here, please.”

Derrick started to back up into the kitchen when he heard her cock the gun.

“Derrick, maybe you didn’t hear me. Toss. That. Fucking. Phone. Over. Here.”

Derrick threw the phone straight at her and she ducked out of the way, laughing.

“My goodness, Derrick. You could have taken my eye out! Get in the kitchen,” she ordered.

Derrick backed up with his hands in the air as Hilda advanced toward him. Seeing her in the better light of the kitchen, he couldn’t believe he had not recognized her.

“It’s so nice to hear how concerned you are about your family. It’s also good to hear that you haven’t contacted the police yet,” she smiled. “That makes things so much easier for me. Thank you.” Hilda leaned against the kitchen counter, watching him.

“So what now, Laura?” Derrick asked. “You’re going to kill me?”

“Yes, Derrick. I’m going to kill you, your wife, your kids, her parents, your friends. I’m going to kill everyone you’ve ever known.”

Derrick looked her up and down, “I don’t believe you, Laura. I don’t believe you have it in you.”

Hilda laughed, “First of all, Derrick. You can call me Hilda. And you’re right. The person I was could never hurt you. She loved you too much. But I can. Hilda can.”

“You’re crazy,” he said, amazed.

“Maybe, but I’m the one with the gun, Derrick. You shouldn’t call names.”

“Do you really want to throw your whole life away, Hilda? If I no longer mean anything to you, if you’ve started over, is it worth it?”

“Oh, Derrick! This isn’t one of your cheesy movie scripts, dear.” She stepped closer to him, “Of course, it’s worth it.”

“Really, Laura?”

“Hilda!” she screamed.

“No,” Derrick shook his head, “You are Laura Andrews. We loved each other once, Laura.”

Hilda walked right up to him and stuck her gun in his face, “No, Derrick. I was Laura. I loved you but you never loved me, did you?” She put the gun under his chin and Derrick swallowed hard.

“I did love you, Laura,” he said softly.

“You’re lying,” Hilda said through clenched teeth, pushing the gun harder into his flesh.

“No, Laura. I even told Jess. But we had Rick. She threatened to kill herself, Laura. I couldn’t leave her.”

Hilda’s eyes seemed to soften and she pulled the gun away just a bit. Derrick moved his head toward her, his lips brushing her hair. His lips found her forehead and he pressed them there, gently. Derrick felt her deeply exhale against his skin. He took a deep breath in and out and slowly moved his hands to her hips.

“You don’t’ really want to hurt me, do you?”

Derrick touched his lips to Hilda’s and as he kissed her, he grabbed for the gun. They began to grapple. He gasped at how strong she was and they both fell to the ground. She was scratching at him, biting him. All the while he was keeping the gun up and away from his body. He rolled over her and pinned her arm, banging her wrist repeatedly as hard as he could against the floor. He felt her release the gun and it flew across the kitchen and through the basement door, clattering down the stairs. He continued to wrestle against her, trying to immobilize her heaving body. Then he lost hold of her arm and she slammed it against his throat and kneed him in the groin. Stunned, Derrick groaned and rolled away. Hilda scrambled to her feet and ran out the back door. Derrick struggled to his feet and stumbled into the dining room. He looked around for his phone, but not finding it hobbled toward the front door and flung it open. He went outside and looked up and down the road. He staggered forward toward the gate and saw Kristy’s truck turn the corner. Thank god, he thought to himself and walked into the street, waving her down. Suddenly, the vehicle accelerated toward him. Derrick realized too late that Hilda was driving. He had no time to react.

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