SUNSET ROOM - LOUNGE TERRACE
"Um, Mr. Monroe,"
St. John spoke up as he stood in the doorway of the terrace. "I
really...need to go back downstairs and take care of some things."
"Can I...just stay here a
little while longer?" Patterson Monroe asked as he turned around to face
him. "Can I look around some more? Maybe I can find
something...anything...that the police might have missed."
"I...guess that it would be all
right," Jasper replied. "Just...take as long as you need.
Honestly, though, I really don't see what the point is. Even if there were
any kind of evidence out here about what happened to Mrs.
Lake, I'm sure that
the weather would have destroyed it by now."
muttered softly. "Maybe not."
Once Jasper had left, Patterson
carefully began looking over the terrace. However, the only thing that he
could really see were the large potted plants that lined the side railing.
There was absolutely no way that anyone could have gotten into the lounge
through the terrace. Unless...
What if Stephen Lake had been in the
room before Annabelle had arrived? Could he have come in and then hidden
out on the terrace and waited to make his move?
Patterson shook his head and
immediately dismissed that notion. That didn't make logical sense,
either. After all, how could Stephanie's father have known that Annabelle
would go into the lounge? Besides that, since there was a witness who
never saw anyone else go into or come out of the lounge between the time that
Francis Callison left and Reginald went in, how could Stephen Lake have gotten
onto the other terrace and into the main ballroom where Sara had seen him?
No, none of it made any sense.
"Mr. Monroe?" Detective
Jim Fitzpatrick spoke up as he stood in the doorway. "Can I ask you
what you're doing here?"
"Just trying to figure out how
Albanyville's finest missed such an important piece of evidence like this
terrace," Patterson shot back. "Tell me, detective, did your
department even bother to consider that there might have been another way into
that room other than through the doors to the ballroom?"
"Well, considering that Mr. St.
John didn't bother mentioning this terrace's existence," Jim retorted,
"I'm not sure how we could have known about it."
"You are the police.
Isn't it your job to investigate things?"
Jim hesitated for a moment,
resisting the urge to fire off a defensive reply, but then calmly spoke
again. "So, exactly what are you doing here, Mr. Monroe? How
did you find out about this terrace?"
"I simply asked Mr. St.
John. If you'd done the same, maybe you would have known about it,
"Well, I know about it,
now!" Jim paused and took a deep breath. "Not that it
really matters. I already told you that the investigation into Mrs. Lake's
murder is closed."
"I'm not here because of the
murder," Patterson explained. "I'm here trying to find a
connection between Stephanie's disappearance and her father. Apparently,
the police aren't going to do anything to help her."
"Why don't you leave the
detective work to us? There's no proof that Miss Lake has been kidnapped. Even
if she has been and her father is involved, it could be a dangerous
matter. You shouldn't get involved!" Jim took another deep
breath. "Now why don't you just go home and let us do our job?"
Patterson eyed the detective
carefully as he tried to keep his rising temper in check. "So, why
are you here, detective, if your investigation into Annabelle's murder is
"Just routine follow up,"
Jim explained. "When I came into the lounge, I saw the drapes pulled
open and the door leading out here. I just wanted to check things
out. Curiosity, more than anything else. That's all. Go home,
With a shake of his head, Patterson
realized that he wouldn't be getting anywhere with the stubborn detective
anytime soon. Finally, with resignation, he nodded.
"Okay. If that's a direct order."
Without saying another word,
Patterson shoved his hands down into his pockets and walked back into the lounge
and headed for the door. However, in spite of his seeming compliance with
the detective's demands, Patterson was more determined than ever to get to the
bottom of things. He was certain, without a shadow of a doubt, that
Stephanie had been kidnapped by her father and was in serious trouble. If
he couldn't count on the police to do anything to help her, he'd have to do it
himself. However, it was now quite apparent that he'd have to keep his
search secret. He couldn't let the police's "good" intentions
destroy any chance he might have of ever saving Stephanie.
Jim had heard the main doors of the lounge close, he let out a deep sigh of
relief. Although he hadn't lied to Patterson---the investigation into
Annabelle Lake's murder was indeed still closed---he still had his own personal
suspicions that needed to be satisfied and those suspicions were even greater
than before after learning the contents of Annabelle Lake's letter.
As he stood on the terrace, Jim
reached into his jacket's inside left-breast pocket and pulled out a folded-up
stack of papers. Thank god he'd managed to dig the original plans for the
hotel out of the public records down at the courthouse---plans that clearly
showed the terrace outside the lounge. Now holding a complete blueprint of
The Grand Sunset Room and the adjoining lounge, he was determined to find a
connection that might connect Sara Manchester's sighting of Stephen Lake on the
terrace of The Grand Sunset Room and his possible means of access to the lounge
at the time his wife was murdered.
Eyeing the plans carefully, Jim
immediately saw that, although not connected as he'd hoped, the terraces for the
lounge and the main ballroom both ran along the same side of the hotel.
Glancing up from the plans, he furrowed his brow as he thought. Was there
a way for a person to move from one terrace to the other? Was the gap
between the two terraces small enough to permit easy access?
With determination, Jim walked over
to the row of large potted plants. The plants were clearly there to
provide a sense of privacy for the terrace. In fact, they completely hid
the other terrace from view. As he attempted to push the pots aside, he
realized that they were much heavier than they looked. In fact,
considering what floor they were on, they were probably weighted down to provide
stability against any strong winds.
After realizing that there was no
moving the pots, Jim carefully attempted to climb over them and through the
plants. He reached out his hand in order to find the railing of the
terrace so that he could judge his distance and, using his other hand to move
the plants' leaves and branches out of his way, pushed his way through. To
his surprise, he realized that there was, in fact, a slight gap between the
plants and the railing. Of course, there wasn't a great deal of room, but
there was room for a person to stand. What was even more surprising was
the revelation of the true distance between the two terraces---only a few feet
Considering the relative short
distance, could Stephen Lake have gotten onto the lounge's terrace from the one
outside the main ballroom and, therefore, access to the lounge? Jim peered
over the edge of the railing and noted how high up he was and took a deep
breath. There was only one way to find out---he had to try it for himself.
After climbing up onto the terrace's
railing, he again looked down at the ground, over 75 stories below, and took
another deep breath before praying that the old adage wasn't necessarily
true---maybe curiosity wouldn't kill the cat. He took another deep breath,
brushed his concerns out of his head, eyed his target...and jumped.
To his relief, he cleared the
distance with no trouble at all. Turning to look back at the terrace
outside the lounge, he knew that someone could have used it to gain access to
the lounge. That being the case, someone could have gotten in without
being seen and used the opportunity to kill Mrs. Lake and then slip back out
without being noticed. With a smile of victory, Jim was certain that that
person was, more than likely, Stephen Lake.