Carl dialed Lani’s number,
realizing that it was only an hour or so before noon but he hoped he
might be able to score a lunch date anyway since he was in the general
vicinity of her office. To his surprise she answered almost right away
and agreed to go. He made arrangements to pick her up in front of her
building in 45 minutes and ended the call with satisfaction.
didn’t know how much information she would give him about Beth, but he
was hopeful that it might be enough to track them down. Of course, he
tried to ignore it but he also was curious what Cami had thought about
him. He felt as green and inexperienced as a high school boy playing
the ‘but does she like me or does she like like me?’ game.
couldn’t stop thinking about Cami; she made him feel alive for the first
time in years, maybe ever really. He felt in tune with her and so
comfortable when he was near her that it was almost scary. He’d really
only met the woman and yet he was already ready to surrender himself to
her. He didn’t understand it and he could only hope that it didn’t kick
him in the ass, a broken heart he didn’t want or need.
engaged a couple of years ago, but that had ended when Clarisse decided
that he couldn’t spend as much time with her as she needed; and boy did
she need – constantly. He could never go more than an hour or two at
the most before she was calling or texting, not understanding why he
couldn’t always respond immediately. The tears, the fights had just
gotten to be too much in the end. To say that it was not an amicable
parting would be a huge understatement; he never wanted to go through
anything like that again.
At the appointed time Carl pulled up
in front of the Billings Market building and saw Lani walking towards
him. So typical for Lani, she looked professional and hot at the same
time. Her suit was fuchsia colored, a slim skirt and bolero jacket that
looked perfect on her. Her lips matched the color and yet still looked
natural. He didn’t understand the mysteries of makeup, but Lani
apparently knew her stuff.
He put the car into park and got out
to open the door for her but she beat him to it, sliding into the
unmarked police car with a grin. “I’m not helpless you know Carl; never
He laughed, remembering well how independent she always was. “Okay, okay, I get it. Mexican okay with you?”
might have known; this was typical Carl. “Sure, but none of those
little taco stands; I want to go in and sit down to eat, got it?” she
“Yes ma’am! No taco stand; actually, I have the perfect
place in mind.” He signaled and pulled out into the flow of traffic
smoothly and eventually moved to the far left lane so that he could make
a turn. A few minutes of idle chatter later they parked in front of a
Lani’s eyebrows rose sky high as she peered out of
the windshield and she said, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Carl?” she
asked as he opened the door for her to get out of the sedan.
don’t judge a book by its cover because looks can be deceiving,” he
teased, leading the way into the small market. They walked towards the
back of the store and out a swinging door into a small garden set with a
few tables. There was a trellis growing overhead full of colorful
bougainvillea in every shade of purple and pink imaginable. The small
patio space was shaded and fragrant, both with the flowering trellis and
the rich, spicy smells of the food that was being served.
day’s offerings were written on a white board with colorful markers and
Lani perused the choices before deciding on grilled tilapia with fresh
mango lime and pepper salsa and a jicama salad. Carl opted for
fire-roasted rolled tacos with extra hot Pico de Gallo sauce. Even the
smell of it burned Lani’s nose. Both dishes were served with homemade
corn tortillas, hot off the grill and tender and delicious.
watched as Lani’s nose wrinkled as she smelled the peppery Pico de Gallo
and he grinned; in college Lani was notorious for shying away from the
spicy foods that he and Beth lived on. Anytime they offered her some
she always asked about the heat level. Either you could handle it or
you couldn’t and Lani definitely couldn’t.
Carl had thought over
his strategy for asking questions and was totally unaware that Lani too
had a strategy. She was curious as to why he was so considerate about
Cami and sunlight. Not that Carl wasn’t a considerate guy because he
always had been, but this seemed curious to her although she was willing
to admit that it most likely was just coincidence, maybe due to Cami’s
fair complexion and blonde hair.
“Still can’t handle the hot stuff, huh Lani?” he asked, taking a bit of the taco after he had spooned some of the sauce over it.
things just don’t change you know. And besides, hot I can handle, but
that stuff you and Beth eat demands a whole new description for the
word.” Her own grilled tilapia was exceptional, grilled to perfection
and the sauce was a delicious accompaniment to it. She took another
fork full and chewed it thoughtfully for a moment before adding, “Josef
told me that Mick had recently tried Kung Pao, extra spicy and about
died in the process. The server at the restaurant finally had to give
him milk to help him it was so bad. I believe Josef said Mick’s words
were, “This is fucking dangerous!” She didn’t feel at all bad about the
little white lie that distorted Mick’s actual words, it was still
The words gave Carl pause; Mick could eat food? Could
Cami? “I didn’t know that Mick could eat? Chinese food I mean,” he
Her eyes looked startled for a moment but she
made a fast recovery. “Not Kung Pao extra spicy he doesn’t,” she said
with a silly grin and a shrug. “So, what do you think of my god son?
And be careful what you say…” she laughed.
“He’s a fine looking
boy. I stopped by the hospital the day after he was born and admired
him. Robbi and Kevin are pretty proud of that little bundle and rightly
so. I mentioned Beth and the whole temperature cooled about 20 degrees
in that room though. What’s up with that?”
Lani tried to choose
her words carefully, there were too many questions that could lead to
other, unwanted ones. “She’s upset that Beth wasn’t here for the birth;
she and Beth skyped during it, but it wasn’t the same. When Bri was
born Beth missed it and promised to be there for the next one.”
“So why didn’t she just come back for this one?”
suddenly looked down at her plate so that he couldn’t read her face.
She took a long moment to choose another piece of fish while she
composed herself. After she chose one she popped it into her mouth,
giving her another few moments. “I think she and Mick are working on a
project there that they couldn’t get away from.” She took a sip of her
iced tea and waited for his reply.
“Um, well I understand that. Have you ever been to their house up there? In Seattle is it?”
but when they get ready to come back to LA I hope to talk Josef into
flying the jet up there so I can see it; it’s quite large and beautiful
I’ve heard. It’s not in Seattle proper though, Josef said it’s across
Puget Sound and you can see Seattle I think.”
Carl noticed that
she had mentioned Josef Kostan’s name 3 times in the past couple of
minutes. He wondered if there was more to that story. Maybe Cami knew.
He had to laugh at himself- grilling Lani about Beth and Cami and Cami
about Lani. “So how does an LA boy end up with a house up there?
Relative leave it to him or something?”
“No, I think he bought it himself; I know he lived up there for awhile.”
“Really? He’s been a PI here for quite a while.”
“Yeah, I think maybe 10 years or so ago. Not sure.”
he might have been a PI there too. It was a lead; a couple of leads
actually that would hopefully lead to some answers. He decided to
switch topics. “So, did Cami say anything about our date?”
Lani laughed, she knew this was coming sooner or later. “Why yes, she did!”
waited while Lani took another bite but she didn’t offer anything more,
thereby making him prompt for more details. He knew how to play this
game! “Did she enjoy herself?”
“Why yes, I believe she did.” She
looked at him over the rim of her iced tea glass and saw that he was
practically dying of curiosity; maybe it was time to end the torture and
besides, she had a few things to say. “She was very excited about it
Carl. And she’s looking forward to the next one. Why did you pick a
night game anyway?”
“Why, does it matter?” he countered.
“No, just most games are day games is all.”
“Yes, but this is a date, so I thought a night game would be a bit more romantic.”
“A baseball game romantic? Carl, you need a bit of educating in the love arena!”
“Hey, it will be relaxed and fun. Isn’t that a good thing?”
“Yes, I guess so. You know Carl, Cami is pretty inexperienced in the dating world. You need to go slow with her.”
a baseball game is hardly intimate. I can tell she’s pretty shy, which
I have to say is a bit surprising; the girl is beautiful. It’s hard to
imagine that she isn’t going out constantly.”
“I don’t believe
that she has had a date since her ex husband. You have to understand
Carl, they were missionaries, on their way to South Africa on their
honeymoon, when they were basically captured by pirates.”
assumed that it was Somali pirates; they were much in the headlines the
past few years. He couldn’t help but wonder what Cami might have
suffered at their hands. “I understand Lani; I won’t push her, okay? I
really like her and want to see where this goes.”
“Like her or
like like her?” Lani teased. She could have sworn that Carl blushed.
All in all, it was a great lunch. When he dropped her off a little
while later they made plans to do it again. And she couldn’t wait to
tell Cami that he liked liked her!
Beth got to Mary and Tim’s the smell of apples filled the air,
delighting the senses. Mary was in the kitchen, stirring a huge stock
pot full of apples and apple juice.
“Oh wow, it smells fantastic
in here Mary,” she told the older woman as she stood beside her at the
stove, peeking into the pot that Mary was stirring. On the counter next
to her were different jars of spices, waiting until just the right
moment to be added to the mixture. “Is there anything I can do to
“In the pantry you’ll find a large mouthed funnel that
we’ll need once the apple butter is ready to go into the jars; can you
get that for me please and then spread several large towels on the
counter and set the sterilized jars on them?”
“Sure,” Beth said
as she gathered up everything she needed and set it up according to
Mary’s instructions. She watched as Mary grated cinnamon and nutmeg
into the pot, inhaling the spicy aroma with pleasure. She peered over
Mary’s shoulder as she continued stirring the spices in.
Stumblingbear is coming over to help; she wants to learn how to do this.
I hope you don’t mind Beth,” Mary said, waving her hand over the
simmering pot as if to better inhale the scent.
“Oh, no I don’t
mind. But is she…?” she hesitated. She was so anxious to see a human,
but on the other hand she was also afraid.
“Yes Beth, she is a
vampire.” Mary smiled at the young one; she was still so uncertain of
things but given a bit more time she would be fine.
“Mary, how will I ever know if I can be around humans if I never am around them? I don’t understand.”
with the simmering concoction Mary placed a lid on it and led Beth to
the table and nodded for her to sit down. “Beth, there is no magic
answer to that; usually it’s a matter of time though; time and training.
Learning to control your impulses basically.”
Those words made
Beth take a good hard look at how she acted as a vampire. She did have a
hard time controlling herself, last night was a perfect example but she
had always been impetuous, impulsive. “But I’ve always been impulsive
Mary and I’ve always found it hard to control. I’ll never get to go
“Of course you will Beth, I am sure you miss your family and friends.”
I do. My mom is 5 months pregnant and my best friend just had a baby.
I promised her that I would be there for the birth and I know she is
upset with me. I need to see her and not just by skype.”
you’ll tell her, about what happened?” Mary’s question was spoken
quietly; Mary herself was reserved and quiet by nature and she felt as
if she were prying now.
“It’s so complicated. Lani, Robbi and I
have been best friends since before kindergarten. We’ve done everything
together. Lani found out about vampires on her own while living in
Tokyo a few years ago, but Robbi doesn’t have a clue. If I don’t make
things right with her that friendship will be over. She is already
hurt, I know that and they only way to remedy that is if I tell her.
But if I do, how will she react? How did you handle it Mary, I mean,
telling people you cared about?”
“Well, that was pretty simple
Beth; we didn’t tell anyone.” Seeing Beth’s eyes open wide she reached
across the table and squeezed the young vampire’s hand. “On November
29, 1864 the Colorado Militia attacked the Cheyenne and Aparaho who were
united under Chief Black Kettle. It was called the Sand Creek Massacre
and the battle was brutal, scattering our people. Tim was wounded and
eventually turned by a warrior from another tribe; it was an act of
hatred, visiting the evil on an enemy. How Tim survived those first few
months, on his own I don’t know, but he did. I thought he was dead,
the whole tribe did and we mourned the loss of Aenohe Nestoohe, Howling
Hawk. He was a great shaman, a wise man and revered for his knowledge.
Our son took his place among the tribe as he had already taken part of
the Sun Dance. I was slowly dying Beth, dying of a broken heart
because I missed him so very badly. By Cheyenne custom I was allowed a
morning period and then would either be married to another or forced to
work for another. The Cheyenne were a very practical tribe and everyone
worked and paid their own way, so to speak. One night, I heard someone
slipping into my teepee and raised a knife to protect myself. I sliced
across Tim’s chest as he reached me, covering my mouth so that I didn’t
scream.” Mary’s eyes darkened at the memories of the past and Beth was
sure it must have been heartbreaking for her.
“I watched him
heal right in front of me and eventually he removed his hand when I
calmed down. I knew he was different but he explained what had
happened. There was never a doubt that I would go with him. We left
then, taking little with us; I didn’t, couldn’t say goodbye to our son
or his family, my sisters, anyone. I think they all thought that I was
overcome with grief and took the death walk, to leave this world.
Instead I entered another and I’ve never regretted it; we are together
and I love that man more each day I spend with him.”
touched to have heard the story. She wiped away the cool tears that
traced down her face and knew that she understood how Mary felt because
she felt the same way about Mick. It didn’t provide her with any answers
about what to do about Robbi though. If she chose not to tell her,
their friendship would surely be over and it wasn’t just her that would
be affected – there was Lani to consider because she would be smack in
the middle of it all.
They heard a knock at the front door and
Mary lifted her head, scenting the air. “It’s Millie,” she said,
hurrying to the front door. Beth heard her greet her friend and stood
up in preparation to meeting her.
Millie was tall and beautiful
and very friendly. She’d been turned by her husband 10 years ago and
was very happy to be a vampire. She worked as a teacher on the
reservation and obviously thought of Mary as a mother figure.
explained the process of making the apple butter. “How you flavor it
will depend on what apples you are using; some are sweeter, tarter,
things like that. Some cook up better than others as well so time and
practice are the best teachers – oh, and having a human around to taste
for you, until you learn what it should smell like.”
All of this
was so fascinating to Beth, the apple butter that Mary had given her
before, as well as the apple tarts had been seasoned to perfection. It
was difficult to imagine that she did it without being able to taste it.
The three of them were standing over the pot, which was almost ready.
Mary held a spoonful up and sniffed it carefully and then passed it to
Millie to scent. Both women inhaled deeply, their eyes closed and they
let their noses guide them. Millie handed the spoon to Beth who sniffed
appreciatively. It smelled a bit different from the batch that Mary
had given her before but maybe that was because she was a vampire now.
Curious, Beth stuck her finger into the mixture and brought it to her
mouth to taste. The shocked look on both women’s faces was startling.
Mary cried out, “Beth!” but Beth only shrugged.
a bit more cinnamon Mary. The jar you gave me before had more cinnamon
in it.” Her words were spoken very matter-of-factly but both women
were frowning, staring at her as if she did something terrible.
don’t! It will make you sick. Do you feel sick?” At Beth’s negative
shake of her head another thought occurred to her. “You can taste it?”
I can. I don’t think it’s that surprising, I can taste coffee you
know.” She scooped another taste into her mouth and swallowed slowly,
savoring the flavor. “Yes, definitely a bit more cinnamon Mary.”
heard the front door open and Tim walked in; he had been out checking
the orchards. Since Mick didn’t live here Tim and Mary worked the
orchards, with help during harvest and so Mick granted them the rights
to the fruits of their labor. All the apple products that Mary made
were sold to donate to the tribal reservation they helped to support,
the rest of the crop went to market. When Tim walked into the kitchen
he stopped short, staring at the looks on Mary and Millie’s faces.
“What’s wrong,” he asked, afraid something had happened.
can taste the apple butter,” Mary said and watched as her husband’s
eyes opened wide. He could only stare at Beth, wondering what on earth
was up with her.
To be continued…