I seem to be getting a hang of this story. :)


Adrian, Your Turn!

Being so near to the house, the force of explosion that had occurred in a room in the ground floor had knocked us all off our feet. I stood up groggily; everything seemed to be spinning. It took a few moments for the earth to settle down beneath my feet. I looked around myself. Xalo and Charlie had managed to toss Arian to a pile of snow so that she would not have any more injuries. Others were slowly getting up, clutching their head and groaning in pain.

"Osmond..." Pristina was struggling beside me. "Someone go check on Osmond ..."

Guided by the light cast by the fire that was burning inside the room where the blast had occurred, I saw Phil staggering all the way to where Osmond's body lay. He knelt down and checked the body for a pulse.

"He's alive," Phil yelled and proceeded to lift him up. Zareen ran to his aid when Phil started to falter under Osmond's weight. Irene, who had just got to her feet, started crying. I could hear her mutter Ursa's name as Pristina limped over to console her friend, putting an arm around the girl and guiding her view away from the flames where Ursa probably lay dead now, killed either by the gunshot or the force of the explosion.

"Peter! He's hurt!" I heard Adrian exclaim behind me. I whirled around to see Adrian struggling to pull Peter up. He was bleeding from his head; he must have hit the ground pretty hard with it when he fell. I walked up to them and put Peter's left arm around my shoulder. Adrian was doing the same with Peter's right arm. Peter groaned as we lifted him up, twisting his face in agony.

"Take it easy buddy," I said. "How hard does it hurt?"

"You don't want to know," he answered from between his clenched teeth.

"We need to move. Now," Xalo said. "Before the killer strikes again."

We walked slowly over to our villa. Adrian and I supported Peter as he staggered on, Xalo and Charlie had Arian, Pristina walked with Irene and Phil and Zareen carried Phil.

"Wait, everyone!" Xalo cried as we approached the front door of our villa. "The killer could be inside."

"Yeah," Adrian agreed. "We need to be careful."

"I'll go in and check," Xalo said.

"I'll go with you," I said as Xalo and Charlie were putting Arian down.

"No, you stay," Adrian said. "I'll go. Charlie, you stay here and guard the others."

I started to protest when Xalo said, "I think if anyone else wants to come, it should be him. He is a detective, isn't he? You'd be a liability Antei. Charlie, you stay here and guard them."

He made sense. I relented and watched as they disappeared into the house. I could hear Peter breathing heavily; he was concerned for both his brother and Adrian. So was I. So was everyone else. I didn't know about the others but my heart was beating wildly. It wasn't until the door opened again and Adrian and Xalo showed their faces that it stopped thumping.

Adrian stayed at the door, watching inside as Xalo came to us.

"It's clean," he said and proceeded to lift Arian up with Charlie. I could see that her face was deathly pale. It was then I realized how cold I myself was. My fingers and toes were numb - not a good sign. It was snowing heavily and all of us were sopping wet.

As soon as all of us were inside, Adrian and Zareen lit up the fireplace and threw in as many pieces of wood as they could find. Despite the fact that the heater was turned on, it was still a bit chilly inside the room. Osmond and Arian were placed near the fireplace covered in many layers of blankets to warm them up. Xalo was cleaning Peter's wound with warm water. The cut on Peter's head was neither deep nor big and Peter seemed to have been spared from a possible concussion. Osmond was not so fortunate. He was still unconscious.

"Here, use this," Adrian said, tossing a first-aid bag to Xalo. The soldier immediately set upon sanitizing and dressing his brother's wound. After he was done with Peter, he walked around, addressing the wounds and bruises on our bodies and his own.

"Will I need stitches?" I heard Peter ask.

"I don't think so," Xalo answered. "But you should get a doctor check that tomorrow."

Irene sat down near Arian and started rubbing the latter's feet. Color was slowly returning to Arian's face. Seeing Irene, Zareen did the same to Osmond. Peter lay down on the couch and closed his eyes (he complained of a headache). Meanwhile, I could feel again with my fingers and toes. Adrian was pacing around the room.

I knew that look on his face. He must know that something was wrong, horribly wrong with whatever was going on. What could it be?

"That explosion must have been either seen or heard by someone from this resort's management at least," Zareen began. "They must surely have called the police or the fire brigade and an ambulance too."

"I doubt it," Adrian said. "We're quite far away from any other villa or the office of this resort (we chose it that way so we wouldn't be disturbed and I'm sure you lot did it too). It's nothing short of a blizzard outside. And with all the snow covering the area, the sound would be pretty muffled. Even if someone did hear the sound of the explosion and came outside to investigate it, they'd see nothing due to the snow."

"What about the fire?"

"The fire seems to have died down," I said, looking out the window. "The snow and the wind seem to have put most of it off. Adrian's right, you can barely see the flames from here. I doubt anyone else could."

"The fire broke out in the ground floor only. Thank goodness the gas pipe didn't explode," Adrian finished.

We all sat in silence. I looked at my watch. Almost two in the morning. So much had happened in the last two hours. I suddenly felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Adrian.

"Wanna accompany me to the other house?" he asked.

"You want to go back there?" I asked in disbelief. "Whatever for?"

Those who were awake (Xalo, Charlie, Phil and Pristina; the others were asleep) turned their heads towards us.

"The blast came only a few seconds after the gunshot. There's a chance the killer got wounded or dazed or whatever in the blast. So, I thought maybe we could look for some footprints."

"Ok then," I said and added, in a whisper so that no one else could hear, "I hope what you've found out is important."

"I'll go too," Charlie said, standing up from where he was sitting. Xalo did the same.

"I'd rather have one of you stay here," Adrian said. Xalo and Charlie looked at each other. "I think you should stay here Charlie," he continued.

"Yeah Charlie," Phil agreed, "I'd rather have you here than out there."

Pristina sprang up, walked over to Xalo and hugged him tightly.

"No. Don't go," she said.

"It'll be okay Pristina," Xalo said. "We'll be back in a moment."

Reluctantly, she let Xalo come with us. After making sure all the doors and windows were locked tight (Charlie had armed himself with a knife and threw all other sharp stuff into the fire), we stepped outside. It was still snowing but with less intensity now than before. It was completely dark except for the light in the other villa in the distance. As we approached it, we saw that the flames had died out completely. The light of the main room was on; Ursa had switched it on when she had gone running inside to fetch Arian some blankets, only to meet death.

"Why'd you ask me to come of all of them?" I asked.

"I mostly consult you or Peter in matters like these. Since Peter's all knocked up, you were the only one I could turn too. Charlie will be better in there than investigating with us here. Phil could have helped us here but he'd be rather useless in case we encountered the killer considering his physique."

"And you allowed me to come for protection?" Xalo asked (somewhat insulted, I think).

"Partly, yes," Adrian answered.

"Partly?"

"You'll know why I allowed you to come soon enough."

"So, what is it you want to look for? It's not the killer. You made that up as an excuse. There would be no more footprints since it's been snowing," Xalo said.

"I just want to clear up some doubts," Adrian answered.

"And those would be?"

"Again, you'll know soon enough."