Making a brief stop at the bar, Gemma orders two cocktails and carries them to the pool where she sees Dawn. The sight of the other woman, who is wearing an old-fashioned swimsuit and bright yellow floaties, makes her skin crawl. Before she is spotted, the detective slips two sleeping pills into the hotelier’s drink. Swirling the alcohol, she takes the long away around the pool to give the medication time to dissolve. Many of the splashing children point at the gun on her hip, their parents moving them away until they spot the badge. Ignoring the sea of stares that follow her, Gemma takes the seat next to Dawn and offers the spiked cocktail. The brown-haired woman refuses to accept, her eyes peeking over a pair of large sunglasses.
“Consider this an apology for cheating in our game,” the smiling detective says, taking a sip from her own drink. Placing the cocktails on a small table, she leans forward with her elbows on her knees. “Though to be fair, you didn’t say I had to work alone. My partner was already helping me, which I’m sure you know about.”
“Good point. Though there is a difference, kitty,” Dawn replies while pulling a long straw out from behind her back. It takes a minute for her to get it into her drink, which she quickly drains. “Wow. That’s a tingly one. Where was I? Oh yes, the reason why I had that man cooked and served. First of all, the grocery delivery didn’t include bacon, so I needed to improvise. It isn’t always fun being charge. Second of all, your partner is looking into me and staying on the outside. He’ll never find anything worth talking about. The handsome dish, on the other hand, was in my territory and helped you solve my riddle. That was made specifically for you and I’m so hurt that you shared my gift. Okay, not that I hurt right now. Getting a nice numbness going on from something.”
“I still plan on stopping you,” Gemma states, making herself comfortable on the sagging lounge chair. Putting on her own sunglasses, she watches the sky where a collection of clouds circle the hotel. “I hope you realize that this game can continue for only so long. At some point, my boss will decide that I’m wasting my time and put me on a different case. That’s if he doesn’t suspend or release me. Not sure how you expect to win or keep being entertained.”
Dawn rolls onto her side and curls into a ball, her eyes fluttering to stay open. “You sound like my husband. He wanted me to stop causing trouble, but I think it’s because he has a bad headache. I’m like a unicorn. Rare, unique, and unable to be contained. This game will end when I say it ends or forget it’s going on. You’ll be fine as long as you stay within the rules. Next time I give you a riddle, I expect you to do it on your own.”
“What happens to me if you forget?”
“Kitties are much smarter than puppies. I’ll let you live . . . or kill you.”
“I won’t go down without a fight.”
“That’s the type of show that my husband and I prefer.”
A scream from the pool causes Dawn to sit upright and resist the sleeping pills, her eyes widening as she scans the crowd. The disturbance is coming from a crowd of barely clothed men, who are fighting in the water. It is a friendly wrestling match, which is fueled by alcohol, but they are constantly bumping into the other guests. Children are pushed against the wall and their parents struggle to get them to safety as the grunting battle gets more heated. Snapping her fingers, Dawn calls for the lifeguards to get involved. She whistles at the men and women in bright yellow swimsuits, who easily drag the drunks out of the water. The crowd parts to let the complaining guests get escorted back into the building, all of them being shoved into a room marked by a thumbs up symbol.
“Some people really need to grow up,” Dawn states, her drowsiness returning. She smiles when her companion hands her another drink and nods to the empty glass in Gemma’s other hand. “You drink a lot faster than me. I owe you another riddle. Let me think for a second. This is so yummy and . . . eye-fluttery. Here’s the riddle with some drool and slurring. With one eye, I watch my prey. Old and young and man and woman. All are in my sight. Yet the one I truly want is just beyond my grasp. That was pretty.”
“And sounds like more gibberish than the last one,” Gemma says as she watches the hotelier follow her movements. Leaning far to the side, she guides Dawn into lying down and getting more comfortable. “I’ll go back to my room and work on the riddle. There really isn’t anything else for us to talk about.”
“It’s weird how people scream,” the other woman whispers, a tiny hiccup making her body jerk. She reaches out to caress a small object that only she can see before casting it over her head. “Some people holler at the top of their lungs like whatshername with the veil. Others don’t make a noise like Demarcus Lang. His wife did scream, but then kind of locked up. I guess that was the poison more than the fear. There are also those who fight back, which I haven’t managed to find here. To be honest, I prefer the screamers because the noise makes me feel like I’m at a concert.”
Inching closer, Gemma keeps her enemy’s eyes on her and does long blinks to help her fall asleep. “I really don’t like you. Despise is a good word, but only because I can’t think of anything stronger. Your games are going to end either with me arresting you or putting a bullet in your head. So enjoy the fun until you make a mistake. That’s when I’ll tear your entire world down. Does that scare you?”
“Your lips are so shiny.”
“I think you need a nap.”
“This has been a taxing day.”
“Go check on my husband, would you?”
Gemma is surprised when the key to Dawn’s private elevator is pushed into her hand. The warm metal is slick due to a layer of suntan lotion and sweat, the keychain a heavily chewed rabbit’s foot. She carefully takes the offering and slowly backs away while searching for a sign that the snoring woman is trying to trick her. With a sudden whimper, Dawn rolls over and stretches her leg until a pop causes the limb to flop onto the lounge chair. Deciding that she has nothing to lose, Gemma pockets the key and hurries to the public elevators to get some equipment from her room.