Josef pulled the Ferrari to a stop and cut the lights and the ignition. He was about a block from the cleaners headquarters and he waited while Ryan and Mike pulled up behind him. He saw a Bentley parked to the right and knew that it was Miguel. As he got out of the car to speak with Miguel he noticed that he had also brought backup with him. Good thing, Josef thought because Katrina wouldn’t go down without a fight. A big one he anticipated and hoped that Miguel and his men were armed with the right ammunition.
almost silently across the asphalt Josef, Mike and Ryan headed over to
the shadows to join Miguel. Josef had heard from Colleen a few minutes
before who had told him that Katrina was in her office working. Even
though this would be the last night that Colleen worked with the
cleaners Josef had told her to make herself scarce while all this was
going down; he didn’t want anyone in the group that was loyal to Katrina
to figure out that Colleen was working with him.
“Are we ready?” Miguel asked. Even though his voice was hushed it sounded loud in the quiet night.
Colleen says she’s in her office and that the night has been quiet so
far. Let’s get this over with. Oh, and by the way? Subdue her anyway
you like or need to but then she’s mine. Does everyone understand
that?” Everyone nodded, including Miguel who raised his eyebrows at
Josef’s vehement words. They didn’t surprise him a bit; Josef took care
of his own. That was one of the things that Miguel admired most about
the vampire named Josef Kostan.
“Let’s go then. Inside the
building, only Miguel and I will enter Katrina’s office; the rest of you
hang back out of sight. She’ll scent you, can’t help that but better
she doesn’t see you too.” With those abrupt words Josef headed down the
street, staying in the shadows and walking with determination. Once
they reached the door, they moved fast, hands on weapons as they made a
beeline for Katrina’s office. Miguel and Josef entered without knocking
on the door causing Katrina to look up with irritation until she saw
who her guests were. The irritation shifted into caution as she sat up
straighter in her chair, trying to seem unconcerned. Josef could scent
the truth though; she was just this side of panic at the sight of them.
“Katrina,” Josef said, stepping a bit closer. “We have some business to attend to.”
stood up and inhaled, smelling several others outside her door. She
wasn’t sure what was going on but it didn’t bode well for her she knew.
Katrina had been the head of the LA cleaners for over 30 years;
she not only knew where the bodies were buried – she’d put them there.
This job had been lucrative for her; lots of vamps liked to pay for
anonymity and she’d taken full advantage of that, keeping much of that
business off the books. Several million dollars worth at last count and
she’d kept count frequently. Dual bookkeeping was a marvelous thing as
were bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. Only a few of her most
trusted employees knew the truth and shared in the spoils of the
business. She sighed inwardly, knowing that the time had come; Kostan
had finally caught on to it all but it was okay, she wasn’t without a
backup plan. She stood up and let her foot run under the edge of the
desk, seeking and finding a small button hidden carefully away. Her toe
touched it lightly and she was rewarded by the almost imperceptible
‘click’ that meant freedom.
Josef’s ears perked up at the sound
but he couldn’t tell where it had come from. Could have been anything
he realized but he took another step towards her, leaning over the desk
until his face was only inches from Katrina’s. “Don’t try anything
foolish Katrina. Do you know why we’re here?”
“No idea at all Josef,” she said coolly, still meeting his gaze. “Why don’t you tell me so we can all know what this is about?”
games Katrina? Okay, I’ll play. Last night a ghost appeared and
attacked Beth St. John. The good thing is, she really IS dead this
time. But I’m curious whose ashes you showed me before? Could they
have been Billie’s?”
Kelly! Damn the bitch! She just couldn’t stay away from St. John. I should have known better than to let her live.
her face as straight as possible Katrina said, “She escaped that night
Josef; I – I was afraid so I killed Billie. I didn’t know what to do
because I knew you’d be so angry.” She could only hope that Kostan
would buy it and feel a bit of pity for her predicament. At his look of
anger she could tell it hadn’t worked. She backed up a bit from him,
only partially faking the look of fear on her face. He was out for blood
– hers and she knew that this was it; all the preparations that she had
made over the years were going to be tested. “It was a foolish thing to
do Josef, I know,” she said, inching backwards towards a floor to
ceiling bookshelf that lined the wall behind her desk.
pay for that fuck up with your life Katrina,” Miguel said softly. He
pulled a gun out, loaded with silver bullets and took aim. “Come around
the desk now and I won’t shoot. Let Josef handle this for you because
you really don’t want to feel the burn of the silver.”
opposed to the burn of the flames?” she said, her voice tight and high
as she started to feel the steely cold fingers of fear for the first
time. She needed to get out now and leaned back against the shelves
Josef scented the fear rolling off of her but there
was also the scent of satisfaction and he didn’t understand that at all.
A moment later he did as Katrina vanished before their eyes, slipping
behind the shelf that had pivoted when she pushed against it.
Josef yelled, jumping over the desk and pushing at the shelf with no
luck. From the other side of it he head a distinct thud as it was
barricaded and then footsteps running away. “Outside now, she has to
come out of there somewhere. Find her!” Mike, Ryan and Miguel’s two
men took off towards the outside door in search of Katrina.
rounded the desk, helping to push against the shelves but Josef knew
that it was no use; she’d locked them from the other side. “It’s locked
Miguel, I heard it. But I also heard a click when she stood up,
there’s some type of mechanism here,” he said as he started feeling
along the desk and floor. “It has to be here somewhere.”
one of the newer cleaners knocked on the doorway as she had heard what
happened. “I think there is a catch or button under the bottom of the
desk. I’ve seen them use it before, but they didn’t know that I knew.”
head snapped up at her words; she was young, in human and vamp years
alike and how the hell she had ended up here, with this nest of vipers
was beyond him. Maybe her youth was only a ploy and behind that
innocence beat the heart of a devil. Who knew?
“Who are you if
you knew that why didn’t you report that information before?” He stood
directly in front of him and noticed that she met his eyes without
“I’m Wendy, I’ve only been here a few months. I saw
her use it, taking some books in there. I don’t know if it’s a room or
what. I was trying to find out more information before I reported it
Mr. Kostan because it could have been nothing, you know?”
Josef watched her and decided she was telling the truth. “Show me how to get in there Wendy.”
walked around the desk and started moving nimble fingers around the
bottom of the desk and finally found what she was seeking. They all
heard a click this time and Josef pushed on the shelf and it gave way.
All three of them stepped into the inky blackness of the room on the
other side. Josef searched for a light switch and finally found what he
was looking for. The lights came up, making all of them blink at the
The small room held a safe and a small desk and
chair. A tunnel led out of the room on the other side and Josef headed
towards it. After about twenty feet he found that the tunnel split
three ways and he couldn’t pick up a scent as to which way she went.
Damn, he needed Mick and his ability to read a scene. He walked back
into the main room hoping that the boys had better luck outside.
the room he saw Miguel studying the safe, a frown marring his face.
“Any luck?” he said over his shoulder before coming to his feet.
there are at least three other tunnels leading out of here and I
couldn’t tell which one she took. Can you get into the safe? She
certainly didn’t have time to open it and I have to wonder what’s in
“Couldn’t get in, but I know someone who can.” Miguel
picked up his phone and quickly dialed a number, speaking in rapid
Spanish to someone on the other end. He closed it shut with a snap and
grinned. “Benito is coming over, he has a gift, you might say,” he told
them with a broad grin.
“I think I’m going to like Benito. Now Wendy, anything else you know that would be helpful?”
really Mr. Kostan. Maybe that Katrina, Diane, Lorinda and Marcia were
all very close and seemed to have a lot of meetings, behind closed doors
I mean. If anyone knows anything it would be them. I’m so sorry Mr.
Kostan, I’ve never worked as a cleaner before and I didn’t really
realize that anything was wrong with their behavior, for all I knew it
is always like this.”
She stared at him with huge blue eyes that
reminded him of Beth and he felt his heart soften a bit. “Wendy, as
long as you’re telling the truth you’ll be fine. Do you happen to know
where I might find the other three?”
“There’s a duty roster on
the computer out there,” she said indicating the on duty room with a nod
of her head. “It should say where they are if they are working.”
Josef nodded and headed to the computer terminal; it seems there was more work to do this evening than he had planned.
had been a busy day for Lani; she’d done laundry, bought some groceries
and gone to see Robbi and strangely enough, that was the hardest task
of all. Robbi was somewhat cold to her and didn’t feel like talking at
all. Lani put it down to pregnancy fatigue but in her heart she knew
better; Robbi was hurt and there wasn’t anything that Lani could do to
help. Instead she tried to be bright and cheerful and keep the
conversation going but it was like talking to a wall and Robbi gave no
response to anything she said, even though Lani studiously avoided the
subject of Beth. Bri wasn’t even there to provide another focus because
Kevin had taken her with him to go out to the Institute to work for a
After an hour of trying to make conversation she gave up
and got ready to leave. “I had better get going Robbi; I’ve still got
to stop at the store on my way home. Can I get you anything before I
leave?” she asked hopefully. It hurt her to see Robbi like this and she
felt more than a little guilty because she knew that it had to do with
Beth not being here. Robbi suspected something and since Lani wasn’t
talking Robbi just decided not to talk either.
“You could tell me the truth about what’s going on with Beth,” Robbi said, staring Lani in the eyes.
blushed and looked away hastily; what Robbi asked was impossible and it
made her hurt for Robbi, to be excluded like this. “I can’t Robbi;
it’s not my story to tell. If I could tell you I would. It’s not
something that is easily shared and Beth and Mick have to be the ones to
tell you. Please accept that,” she said, feeling the burning sting of
tears as she tried to blink them away.
“Oh my God, something is
wrong with her isn’t it?” Robbi said, suddenly scared for her friend.
“Lani, please tell me! I can’t stand this silence from everyone. I
talked to Dorothy and she said everything was fine but I don’t believe
any of you!”
“Robbi, what I can tell you is that she really IS
okay. But she can’t come home for a – awhile anyway. And it’s not the
kind of thing you talk about on the phone. You weren’t purposely
excluded Robbi, honestly you weren’t. You just have to accept that she
loves you and when she can talk about it she will. And until then I
can’t say anything more. Please Robbi, please accept that.”
“Just leave Lani, okay? I can’t deal with this right now. I’ll call you, I promise,” Robbi said, wiping away tears. Damn she hated this; she seemed to cry constantly and she was tired of it.
left – there was nothing else to do. She finished her errands and
headed home. As she carried the groceries up she realized she was
hungry and looked over the offerings she’d brought home. Nothing looked
good at all so she called in an order for sushi all the while laughing
at herself about the hundred buck’s worth of groceries that she didn’t
want to eat.
She climbed into the shower, replaying the
conversation she’d had with Robbi. When Beth called this evening she
had to let her know how bad this was. It could affect Robbi’s
pregnancy, all this pain and stress. She was genuinely worried about
Robbi and hated the position she was in. She supposed that she could
have lied to her and said everything was fine but Robbi knew better than
that and she didn’t want to compound one lie with more.
the shower she climbed into a pair of shorts and a tank top to await her
sushi. She hunted through the wine rack for a bottle of Fuki, Japanese
plum wine which would go well with the sushi. It was better cold but
would have to make do with a little fridge time she decided; it would at
least make it cool.
When she shut the door to the fridge she
heard the door bell ring and jumped; it had only been 20 minutes since
she’d ordered and it always took about an hour for it to get here. She
headed into the living room, stopping to grab a twenty out of her purse
and flung open the door only to see Josef standing there, wearing a
cock-eyed grin on his face.
“Well gee Lani, you don’t have to pay me to come visit!” he teased.
rolled her eyes and said, “What Josef? What do you want; I’ve had a
rough day and I’m waiting for my dinner to be delivered.”
serious look flashed across his face for a moment and chewed his lower
lip for a moment. “I kind of know that feeling; things didn’t go so
well with Katrina last night.”
Alarm spread rapidly though Lani
and she stepped aside, bidding him to enter. “What happened Josef?” she
asked, already pouring him a glass of scotch. She pointed to the sofa
and handed him the glass which he gladly took.
He took a sip of
the drink and was tempted to down it all at once; instead he held it up
to the waning afternoon light and watched the dappled sunlight glinting
through the amber colored liquid. A couple of unnecessary breaths later
he finally spoke up, telling Lani what had happened at the cleaners
“So after we got into her room we found a safe and when
we got it open we discovered that she had been keeping a double set of
books; skimming the profits.”
“Who gets those profits Josef? Is it a corporation or something?”
the cleaners themselves. It’s a profit sharing independent
organization. They all work and share the profits equally, except for
the leader or head cleaner that gets 10% above the others. In this case
Katrina had been skimming 30% over the total amount that the other
cleaners never even saw. She took lion’s share of that money and shared
10 % with three of the other cleaners who were in on it with her. We
got their names and called them in. Fools all, they had assumed that if
Katrina ever got caught she’d give them a heads up, but she didn’t.
She had almost 3 million dollars socked away in an offshore bank
account. Thanks to Logan, that money is all gone now.”
“Wow, that’s a lot of money. So what happens now?” she asked.
other three were executed and two others were fired because we suspect
that they had an idea what was going on. So, we’re down a half dozen
cleaners in LA right now and that’s not so good. Colleen is going to
work for me but will stay with the cleaners for a few days until we can
get a few hired on. And we have a new lead cleaner coming in with no
connections to cleaners anywhere. He’ll be here tomorrow.” He tipped
the glass up and swallowed the last of the scotch and felt the burn as
it slipped down his throat.
“You really did have a rough day or
night I guess. Mine can’t really top that but I did have a very
uncomfortable conversation with Robbi. She knows that Beth lied to her
and she knows that I have answers. I assured her that Beth is okay, but
it didn’t really help anything Josef. I don’t know what to do because I
feel rotten about it. We’ve always, always been together; a secret for
one was a secret for all. Now she’s left out and I can’t make it
better for her.” She was interrupted by the door bell and stood up
saying, “Now, that is surely my dinner. I’ll be right back.”
thought about what she’d said, about Robbi and felt helpless as well.
It wasn’t his place to tell Robbi and Kevin, just as it wasn’t Lani’s.
This was where difficult, dangerous and complicated got a foothold and
dug in. Every single vamp out there he knew had had to walk away from
someone they cared about when they were turned and that may have to
happen here. It was just so much more complicated in this case because
of the connections the girls had. How do you brush aside 20 odd years
of friendship with one of them and stay with the other?
caught a familiar scent and for a moment he smiled at the memory it
stirred. Lani carried her dinner into the kitchen and Josef followed,
leaning lazily against the doorway as Lani transferred her dinner to a
plate. She sat it down on the bar counter and grabbed the bottle of
Fuki and two glasses and set them down as well before taking a seat.
She opened the wine and held a glass up to Josef who nodded with a
“Sushi! Man, that brings back a memory,” he said as he
watched her smear some green wasabi on a piece of tuna temaki and dip it
in soy sauce.
Lani quirked one eyebrow up in question as she
chewed the bite of sushi. After she swallowed and took a sip of the
wine she asked, “Why? Surely they didn’t have sushi before you were
“Um yes but we called it bait,” he said with a laugh.
“When Mick was human he set out to try as many human foods as possible,
especially ones that he had seen Beth eat or heard her talk about, sushi
being one of them. I just happened to be lucky enough to see it.” He
started laughing in earnest then, remembering Mick’s reaction to the
“He put a huge piece of the wasabi on the
bite and popped it into his mouth. That was right before his head
exploded, well figuratively anyway. He dumped the whole load of it into
the trash and said it was ‘fucking dangerous to eat nowadays’. See,
he’d sort of had a bad experience with Kung Pao Chicken, extra spicy as
well. I think he stuck with steak and burgers the rest of his human
Lani had taken a sip of the Fuki and choked on it when
she started laughing so hard. Almost no one could take the extra spicy
stuff like Beth did. As she dabbed wine off her face she started
giggling again, imagining poor Mick and the ‘dangerous’ food. “I guess
food probably has changed some since 1950.” She took another drink of
the wine which thankfully went down okay and asked, “Why do we always
end up talking about food?”
“Um, because you’re always eating? Seriously, for such a tiny girl you really do eat a lot!”
laughed and threw her napkin at him and then answered, “I guess that’s
because about the only time I got to eat when I was young was at Beth’s
house. My parents weren’t around much and the housekeeper didn’t think
it was her job to make sure the kid was fed.”
Josef stared at the golden wine in his glass as he contemplated her words. “So, you’re parents weren’t around much?”
if there was any type of social event somewhere. My parents are true
socialites and thrill to being invited to every event they can get to.
They may hate one another and I’m sure they do, but just let someone
hold up a camera in front of them and they are like two teenagers in
love. Yes, Marcus and Eloise Parker are quite the thing.”
father is Marcus Parker? Sponsor of Bright Beginnings?” Josef was
amazed; he’d met her mother and father many times at business gatherings
and never knew they had a child. Marcus’ foundation helped third world
countries acquire new technology to help in communications and farming.
Josef had donated several million to the foundation over the years.
“I’ll be damned.”
“So, you’ve heard of them then? Not surprised
at all. They revel in hanging with the rich and famous. Just not their
daughter. Or each other when they are alone I might add; they fought
violently at times and so I spent a good portion of my time with Dorothy
and Beth; I love them both so much and Robbi was a part of that as
well. They were all my foster family when Mom and Dad were AWOL.”
“Is that all the family you have? Brothers or sisters?” he asked, curious.
only me. My dad has a strange brother, twin actually named Martin. He
only comes around whenever he needs money, which is too frequent for my
tastes. He gives me the creeps actually. My mom has a brother who
lives in New York, my uncle Paul. He’s married to my aunt Pat and they
have 3 girls. I used to take vacations with them in the summers
sometimes; I always enjoyed that.”
The pieces of the puzzle were
beginning to fall in to place. This explained so much about Lani; her
independent nature and the need to hold herself back with people. Other
than Beth, Robbi and Dorothy that is because she grew up feeling loved
by them. She didn’t want to get close to anyone because it meant she
might be rejected. Another thought occurred to him – she said her
parents fought violently. Did that violence include her? He couldn’t
ask because it would upset her but he was going to do a bit of
investigating on his own.
This also made him think about the
situation with Robbi; this wasn’t just keeping information from anyone,
this was from family and while there wasn’t anything they could do about
it right now he understood the hurt that all three girls must be
feeling. He needed to talk to Mick about it all, without the girls
Logan pulled into
Audrey’s driveway and cut the engine in the car. He had a bag of some
clothes and blood with him but he’d been thinking about this situation
all evening. He’d went home to catch some freezer time and to feed and
check messages but he was back now and intended to stay the night again.
They needed to talk about the living arrangements. They might not
have been together all that long yet but he knew that she was his mate,
he knew it deep down inside and they needed to figure all this out. Her
place wasn’t big enough, but his was a wreck. That could be remedied
though and he hoped she’d be willing to try.
He hoped with all his heart because he knew he didn’t want to be apart from her every again.
looked through the file yet again, searching for a clue about Mick St.
John. How did Mick St. John, born in 1922 relate to the current Mick
St. John? They looked identical, mirror images of one another and had
to be related, but after months of investigation he still couldn’t find a
connection. He was missing something, somewhere, he had to be. When
St. John married Coraline Duvall in 1952 he disappeared, was probably
dead because their hotel room was covered with blood. They got some
fingerprints but DNA evidence didn’t exist then, so there was no blood
or other types of evidence in storage. But if he died then, could he
have had another child that was unknown before then?
back in the chair and tapped the pencil he was holding on the desktop.
He’d hired a private investigator in France to check out the Duvall
family and got little information. The branch of the family that lived
in the Duvall chateau claimed that they didn’t know anything about
Coraline and Mick, whether they were dead or alive. The investigator
thought that they knew more than they were telling but felt positive
that they weren’t going to talk about it. So, he was checking out the
Duvall family in hopes that something would turn up. He also hoped that
he might get an unhappy servant to talk as well.
answers and there was only one person who might still hold a few. He
headed off to see Margie, with the hope that she’d remembered something
since the last time he had seen her.
To be continued…