Lani took the afternoon off so that she could run some errands to get ready for Dorothy’s baby shower in two weeks. Her list of things to do included getting the flowers picked out and ordering the cake and finger foods. She crossed the food off the list and the cake as well and headed to the florist to pick out some flowers for the shower.
choices were mind-boggling but in the end she went with a couple of
simple arrangements, in subtle pastel colors since they still weren’t
sure of the sex of the second baby. Dorothy felt sure it was a boy too,
but Clark had decided it was a girl. He said that only a girl could so
obstinately stay hidden. Lani had to laugh as she remembered the
discussion at Bri’s party; it had been a lively one for sure with
everyone putting in their two cents worth.
As she got ready to
leave the shop she spotted a large display of Gerbera daisies in a
multitude of colors, including several shades of purple. She stopped
and admired them for a moment, thinking of Mrs. Carter and her love of
purple. On an impulse she bought a large bouquet of purples ones in a
variety of colors from palest lilac to a deep grape color. She thought
they were beautiful and hoped that Mrs. Carter was home because she
intended to stop on her way to Josef’s house in the hills.
was mostly living there with him now and it felt good, right, as if it
was the only place she wanted to be. They hadn’t really talked about
living arrangements yet, but since she knew that they were on the same
page about the future she wasn’t concerned. One thing was certain, they
spent all their nights together, whether at her place or his.
hadn’t told Beth or Mick about Mrs. Carter yet; there had just been too
many things going on, for all of them. Plus, she thought for sure that
the picture she had seen was Mick but she wanted to ask some questions,
just to be sure. Subtle questions that is because she didn’t want to
upset any of them or get hopes up that were unfounded.
into the drive and saw Noodle in the yard, lying in a sunny patch of
grass and she smiled as the floppy-haired dog hopped up and immediately
started barking as she shut the engine off.
“Hey, Noodle! How
are you boy?” she asked, scratching the pup behind the ears as she saw
Mrs. Carter open the door and smile widely at her guest.
Lani! How nice of you to stop by. Did your nose lead you here? I just
finished baking a batch of oatmeal cookies dear. Please, come in,” she
said, wiping her hands on an apron.
“I hope I’m not being a pest
but I saw these at the flower shop and I just had to get them for you.
So I’ll trade you them for a cookie or two,” Lani said, inhaling the
spicy aroma that permeated the house. “You know, oatmeal cookies aren’t
really bad for you, they're ‘heath food’,” she laughed.
Carter looked puzzled for a minute and then smiled, playing along with
the game. “Well of course they are dear!” She took the bouquet of
flowers and admired them for a long moment, obviously pleased with the
gift. “Now, just let me put these in water.”
Lani followed her
into the kitchen, again thinking what a pleasant room it was. It looked
homey, comfortable, a place to spend an hour or two chatting the
Lani helped get the tea and cookies ready and
they finally sat down at the table and each woman picked up a still warm
cookie and took a bite. It was slightly spicy, with raisins and nuts
and it melted in Lani’s mouth.
“Oh my goodness, this is delicious!”
“Thank you Lani. So, tell me dear, how is that young man of yours?”
smiled and Mrs. Carter saw her eyes light up at the thought of him.
“He’s very well, thank you. We’ve talked things through and we’ve
agreed after the first of the year to get married.”
Mrs. Carter frowned for a moment and said, “Well, dear, that doesn’t sound very romantic!”
wasn’t exactly a proposal; he said when he does that he wants to do it
right. But we both know what we want and where we are headed; together
always. Oh, Mrs. Carter, Josef is a wonderful man, he really is and he
loves me so much.”
“And you love him that much as well?”
“Yes, I do. I have no doubts that he is the man I want to be with forever. Something inside me just - just knows it. I don’t know how to explain it. We’re…connected I guess you could say.”
Carter nodded, seeing the truth of her words on Lani’s face. Yes, she
was deeply in love with her young man, as it should be. “You must bring
him around with you sometime, I’d love to meet him.”
feeling that you will be meeting him,” she said with an enigmatic smile
that gave Mrs. Carter pause. Maybe she meant that she’d be invited to
the wedding? She didn’t have time to think about it as she spotted
Noodle begging for a bite of the cookies.
“Noodle, you bad boy!
Please forgive him, Lani, he loves oatmeal! Sadly, he doesn’t feel the
same about the raisins,” she laughed as she watched as Lani broke off a
piece of a cookie and gave it to the dog. He chewed for a moment and
then spit the raisins out onto the floor. “Bad dog!” she admonished.
Noodle hung his head in shame and retreated a few feet to stare as Lani
got up over Mrs. Carter’s protestations and used a napkin to pick up the
chewed up bits, laughing as she did so.
“So, Mrs. Carter, tell
me more about your family. I really enjoyed seeing the pictures last
time I was here. Do you have others?”
“Oh why yes, enough to
bore you to tears my dear. Let me just get out an album or two.” Lani
waited for her shook her head at Noodle who had resumed his begging
posture. He could sit like that for long periods of time evidently. He
was also hard to resist, especially when he held out a paw as if asking
for more cookie.
“Oh no you don’t you little con artist. Not until you either learn to like the raisins or clean them up yourself!”
Mrs. Carter came back into the room carrying two large photo albums, both covered in well-worn leather.
my, you do have lots of pictures. I can’t wait to see them,” Lani said
and watched as her friend opened the first one, displaying very old and
worn photographs. She explained who the people were; her grandparents
and parents, pictures of her and her brother as well. “So what are
“My grandparents were Michael and Eileen St. John;
my brother was named after our grandfather but we called him Mick,” she
said, pointing at a picture of Mick as a young boy. “This is my da and
ma, Patrick and Mary Ellen St. John.”
There, confirmation; it
definitely was Mick. She looked at the picture of his parents and saw a
strong resemblance to his father, especially the cleft in his chin. The
startling thing was that he could be his grandfathers brother because
they were so similar in appearance.
“You said last time I was
here that your brother was killed in a tragedy in 1952?” At Mrs.
Carter’s nod of agreement she continued, “What happened? Unless it’s too
painful to talk about that is.”
“Oh, Lani, it all happened so
long ago.” She got a faraway look in her eyes, remembering the past and
settling back into the chair. “Mick was 8 years older than I was; my
ma lost two babies between Mick and I and I think they actually gave up
on having any more children, but then, there I was. I’m afraid I was
such a pest to Mick though, always wanting to follow him and Ray and
Lila around. He called me ‘Squeaks’ because when I was little my
laughter sounded more like squeaking they tell me.”
as they both sipped their tea. She could imagine Mick feeling annoyed
by a little sister who constantly tagged along. But, somehow she also
thought that he’d loved her a great deal because Mick was someone who
loved and cherished the people around him.
“Still, we had so many
good times when we were children. I idolized Mick, I truly did. As
they got older Ray and Lila became an ‘item’, but still the three of
them were inseparable. Ray and Lila went together like peas and carrots
and yet Mick was never a third wheel. When the war started Mick and
Ray both joined and Ray and Lila got married before they left. Oh, she
was a grand lady to be sure. I remained friends with her until she
died, in 1991. Ray had died about ten years before that.”
Lani watched as that faraway gaze swept over Mrs. Carter’s face, as if
in another place, another time. She glanced down at her tea cup and
realized it was empty and poured a bit more from the pot and offered
Lani more as well.
“Late in the war Mick was seriously injured
and was told that he was the only survivor from his unit; he came home
but he was a different Mick then. Since Ray had been killed he helped
Lila a good deal and eventually they became well, involved, I guess
you’d say. Da and Ma were adamantly opposed to it though and Mick and
our parents argued a good deal about it. It was a difficult time for
all of us.”
“What happened then? Did he stay with her?” Lani
felt a bit guilty for asking for details she already knew but hearing
what the family thought might be helpful for Mick she decided.
fate would have it, Ray hadn’t been killed and when he showed up Mick
just walked away from Lila and Ray both and for the most part our family
as well. I’m sure he was embarrassed and guilt-ridden about it as
well. His life took a bit of a wild turn then; he started playing in a
band and keeping late hours and such. Da just couldn’t accept it and he
and Mick didn’t speak for almost a year.”
That information was
hard for Lani to digest since the Mick she knew likely wouldn’t ever do
that. People change so much she thought - time and circumstance can
make them into such different people. How had time affected Josef?
several years we only saw him occasionally, holidays and such mostly
and then he met a wonderful girl, Margie. Oh, she was a ray of sunshine
in Mick’s life and finally he started thinking about the future;
playing in the band was still important to him but he also realized that
if he wanted a family he needed to figure out what he would do in the
future. Then suddenly, it all changed. He met that woman, that
Coraline Duvall and within a month he had broken up with Margie and
married Coraline. It hurt Da and Ma so very much.”
“Did you go to their wedding?”
for what little that was worth. He’d brought her to Sunday dinner
once, when they told us they were getting married on the following
Friday. She was so rude! She refused to eat a thing and ma had worked
so hard on that meal too. At the wedding, she only had one friend there
and no family at all and she wouldn’t let us take any photographs
either,” Mrs. Carter said, flipping forward in the photo album. She
pointed to two blurry photos and added, “I took two anyway, when that
woman wasn’t watching but as you can see they didn’t come out well at
all. Two days later the police came and told us that Mick and Coraline
had disappeared, were most likely dead and we never heard from him
again, so it seemed to be true that he was no longer alive.”
saw tears spring to her friends eyes and reached her hand across the
table to lightly pat Mrs. Carters. “I’m so sorry for asking about all
this; I didn’t mean to make you relive such unhappy memories.”
dear, only the last bit were unhappy; I have such wonderful and loving
memories of my brother. For many years I wished I could know what
really happened to him for sure, but those thoughts are long gone
nowadays; I only hope that he rests in peace now.”
her head, afraid that Mrs. Carter would see the truth in her eyes, that
Mick was still alive. Would she see him being alive as a blessing or
was it better to let it all go? She needed to talk to Josef about it
all, now that she was sure.
As she drove home she mulled it all
over; she’d heard Mick’s side of it all from Beth but hearing the pain
the family had felt made it all so much more real to her. Would it be
better to just let it go?
When she walked into the house Franklin
was waiting, as usual to take her jacket and to offer her something to
drink. “Nothing, Franklin,” she responded to his query. “Is Josef home
“Yes he is. I believe he’s in his office.”
“Thank you, I’ll just go and see him now.”
“Certainly Miss Lani. Dinner will be served at 7, as usual.”
nodded and walked down the hall to the office and before she could even
knock Josef had opened the door, grinning impishly at her. When he
took in her sad demeanor he held his arms out to her and she walked
straight into them. He settled them both down on the couch and listened
as the story poured out of her and gently wiped her tears away when she
“Wow, that’s quite a story, Sweetness. A chance meeting that could really change lives.”
“I know. Josef, should we tell him? He’s had so much to deal with lately.”
deep frown marred his handsome face as he mulled it over. He knew that
Mick would want to know and it might eventually do him a lot of good.
He had a lot of guilt over those sins of his past but the question was,
could it possibly be fair to hit him with more right now?
a talk with Beth first would be in order, Lani. I know that Mick would
want to know this, but it might be best if we wait a bit. Beth should
be aware of it all.”
“I think you’re right. I’ll see if I can
meet her for lunch in a day or two. I agree that he would want to
know.” Lani settled back into his warm and protective embrace; it had
been a hard day and she felt a bit shaky right now. Probably ate too
much sugar at Mrs. Carter’s, what with the sweetened tea and cookies.
“What else is wrong my love?” Her scent still wasn’t quite right.
think I’m just over-wrought by it all. And I consumed way too much
sugar this afternoon; I’m really not used to it,” she said with a laugh.
smiled, pulling her onto his lap and settling his arms around her.
“So, you’re extra sweet, hm?” he teased, nuzzling her neck. Her
responding giggle tempted him to kiss his spot and he felt her shiver in
his arms and stretch her neck so he could get better access. Suddenly,
she didn’t feel so bad at all. In fact, she felt perfect!
At 5:05 pm Luka’s phone rang, an unavailable call. Damn!
Carl had already left for the day; he had a date with Cami and had
been anxious to get out of here. Not that Luka could blame him but he
didn’t have anything, anyone to escape to.
“Still interested in a
face-to-face detective?” The voice on the phone sounded more sinister
than usual. Luka wondered briefly if it was the same guy.
“What are your terms?” he asked.
“Go to the corner of Kimbridge and Valley View. Wait for further instructions.”
“Now would be a good time.”
Now? The bastard wanted to meet now? It was almost dark out, not a good idea. He decided to stall.
“No can do. How about tomorrow morning?” That wasn’t enough time to try to put a team in place.
“Nope. This is your shot.”
“Look, I’m getting ready to interview a suspect here. I can’t get away yet.”
“Nice talking to you detective.”
Fuck! “Look, can you give me an hour? That’s the best I can do.”
There was complete silence on the other end of the phone, not even the sound of breathing could be heard. Had the guy hung up?
“One hour detective. And if you don’t make it we’re done here.”
“Okay; one hour. See you there.”
There will be other instructions for you at that location. And
detective? If I so much see anyone nosing around there you will regret
Luka wasn’t aware that Malcolm could hear as his heart speed
up at those words. Alone. Okay, he’d do it, just to see what the hell
this jerk wanted.
“Good, we have an understanding.”
heard the line click and then nothing, the call had been ended. He
called Carl and got his voice mail and left him a message, letting him
know what was happening. That was the best he could do under the
circumstances. He thought for a moment about getting some undercover
back up but decided against it. He’d deal with the freak himself.
checked his gun and made sure it was ready to go. The clip was full
and he had another one stashed in the car. He was ready.
Carl had to drop off some paperwork at the DA’s office and saw Ben getting ready to leave. “Hey, Ben! How you been?”
“Good. Well, sort of I guess. Still, um, processing I guess, you know?”
“Yeah, I do. Ben, Cami and I are meeting for dinner. How about coming along?”
“No, don’t want to intrude on your date.”
had looked so withdrawn the last couple of times Carl had seen him. He
needed to get back to living his life and having dinner might help a
lot. Cami was good company and maybe if Ben began to see vamps in a
different light he’d start to relax a bit.
“You will not be
intruding, promise. Cami has asked me to bring you along several times.
Come on man, dinner, a drink or two?” He grinned at Ben as he saw him
“Absolutely. C’mon. I’m meeting her at the Breakwood. Great steaks. Know where it is?”
“Yes, I do. Okay, I’ll see you there.”
Carl got to the car he saw Ben following him and relaxed. Cami would
be happy, he knew that because she really had asked Carl to bring Ben
sometime. Ben was Carl’s best friend and they were each trying to
assimilate into the other’s world. This was a great step.
Beth was gathering up her laptop and coat when Max popped her head into Beth’s office.
“Hey, see you Sunday?”
I’m bringing wine and Mick rented a margarita machine! That should be
fun!” Monday was Buzzwire’s first ‘live’ day and Max and Mark were
throwing a staff party at their house on Sunday. The whole staff was
looking forward to it. “Sure that’s all I need to bring?”
chuckled and said, “I think that will be plenty. Margarita machine? Oh
lord, this is going to be fun! Half the staff are going to be hung
over when we go live!”
“Hope not. See you Max!” Beth said as she
waved good bye. Things had been pretty exciting this last week as the
countdown was on. Added to that was the fact that 3 more bodies had
turned up, although only 1 at the morgue. Tango’s crew had found the
others. Altogether there had been 6 bodies found so far and none of
them knew how many more there could be. One thing was for sure, Beth
would be the one covering it for Buzzwire if it became any more public.
They couldn’t let one of the rookies handle the story since a vampire
Personally she hoped it would all stop, that Tango
and Josef would find this guy but so far they hadn’t had any luck at
all. He was a ghost apparently, but a very dangerous one. Beth leaned
her head against the steering wheel for a moment before starting the
car. She was tired and a bit weary too. It had been a hell of a week.
Some down time this weekend was just what she needed.
Mick’s arms around her, holding her tight. The thought of her mate
brought a smile back to her face and it never left it during the short
Home. Yes home, Mick’s arms.
was sitting at her desk when there was a brief and perfunctory knock on
her door before it was opened. Robin was standing there holding a file
in her hands.
“Dr. Hampton, I have some test results for you that you marked urgent. For a…,” she frowned for a moment, “Beth St. John?”
thank you Robin.” Rose held out her hand and Robin handed her the
file. “Go on home, it’s been a long week!” Rose said with a smile.
“It has been. By the way, it looks like Yolanda Miller is about ready to deliver Dr. Carlson said so let’s hope all goes well.”
Miller had had a very difficult pregnancy so far. Rose had strongly
urged that they should just do a C-section but Yolanda wanted to have a
child naturally. Sometimes people just wouldn’t listen to common sense.
call if you need me. And at the very first sign of fetal distress I
want Dr. Carlson cutting. Tell her I said so. She can call me if she
can’t do it.”
Robin nodded and left the office, closing the door
behind her. Rose opened the file and scanned the pages that contained
the test results, scrutinizing the last page carefully. It contained
the genetic testing results and she smiled broadly at them.
Welcome to the family Beth!
pulled up to the corner of Kimbridge and Valley View and looked around.
It was in the warehouse district and deserted right now. It was also
pitch black as several of the street lights were out. Luka peered out
of the window and glanced around into the inky darkness.
He was starting to get a very bad feeling about this. Logic took over
and his hand went to the key to start the car. He didn’t give a damn
what information this guy had, he’d be a sitting duck here. He glanced
at the 9mm that was sitting on the seat next to him, making sure it was
ready if needed.
Big, bad cop, freaking out at a few shadows!
He taunted himself, trying to shake off the creepy feeling. He turned
the engine off and pocketed the keys before reaching for the door
Out of the shadows a silent figure appeared, walking
steadily towards him. A big guy too. This must be the ‘other
instructions’ he was supposed to get. He stayed put in the car and
waited as the guy approached him.
What he saw made him reach for his gun. But it was too late.
To be continued…