Thursday, August 16, 2012
The house was totally put together and Audrey, Dorothy and Beth stood surveying it all proudly. Every bit of glassware and pottery, every knick- knack was in its place and the house was ready for the housewarming and engagement party for Logan and Audrey. The boys had stayed mostly in their kitty tree house or outside during the past week as all the moving, shifting and unpacking was done and their magnanimous contributions were greatly appreciated.
Audrey stood in the foyer, running her fingertips lovingly over the credenza that Mick and Beth had given them. She and Beth had spotted it several months ago on a shopping spree and the old house didn’t have a place for it but it looked wonderful here.
“I can’t believe that you remembered it, Beth. It is so lovely, thank you both so much!” Audrey declared.
Beth grinned at her friend, so happy to see how much Audrey liked the gift. A lot of the furniture that had furnished Audrey’s house had been hand-me-downs from her grandmother and Beth wanted to contribute to their satisfaction of putting their own home together. “I remembered how your eyes lit up when you saw and knew it had to find a home with you, Audrey. And it does look really good here.” She looked around her at the house and saw how much time and care Audrey and Logan had put into getting it ‘just right’.
Beth and Dorothy migrated into the kitchen to check on the finger foods that were being served that afternoon. Dorothy and Clark had offered to have a caterer come in but Audrey didn’t want that so on top of getting settled in the house she had been making various items to serve today. Beth, Dorothy and Lani had all helped as well and now there was enough food to serve an army, especially when you considered how many vamps were here today.
Beth and Dorothy shared a worried glance at Lani who came into the room carrying a large tray of cupcakes she’d made, all by herself. She was very proud of them too but she looked so tired, her makeup barely concealing the dark circles under her eyes.
“Hey, that looks heavy, why isn’t Josef carrying it for you?” Beth asked, rushing to take the tray from her.
“For god’s sake, Beth, it’s cupcakes. I’ve got it. And he’s bringing in a couple of cases of wine to help stock their wine rack, our housewarming gift to them.”
“O-okay. It’s just, you look tired, Lani. Aren’t you sleeping enough?” Beth mentally grinned at the memories of her and Mick’s first months together; most of what they did was between the sheets and she had quite a few days when she was dragging when she went to work. She glanced at Lani again and still felt concern; there was no sparkle in her eyes either. She didn’t feel good and nothing she could say would convince Beth otherwise. Judging by the way that Dorothy was staring at her Beth knew that she agreed.
“Yeah, well, you know how it is; vampires don’t have ‘off switches’! Seriously, I may be a bit run down though.”
“Sweetie, perhaps you should go to the doctor?” Dorothy ventured and watched as a blush crept over Lani’s face.
“Yeah, well that sort of presents a problem, you know? How do I explain the bite marks on my neck to my totally human doctor?”
“Well, you have a point there,” Beth admitted. “Hey, maybe you could go and see Rose? At the Women’s Center, where we’re donating the stuff from the shower?”
“Do you think she’d see me?”
“I’ll bet she will. I’ll give her a call on Monday, okay?”
Lani smiled, and for the first time her face brightened a bit. “Thanks, Beth. I appreciate it. I think I need some vitamins or something.”
“Could be. Do you think you're anemic Lani?”
“I don’t know. He doesn’t really take much blood; it’s more about the bite.”
“Yeah, well I’m sure Rose can get it all figured out.”
They were interrupted when Josef and Mick came into the kitchen each carrying a case of wine. Audrey and Logan followed along behind, excited to see what was in the boxes.
When the bottles were pulled out Beth recognized several pricey bottles of wine and smiled, knowing that neither Audrey or Logan realized that they were the good stuff. Still, after they placed the bottles in the rack they both stood back to admire it all.
“Josef and Lani, thank you so much! That rack looks so much better now!”
“You are very welcome, Audrey!” Josef smiled, rocking back on his heels, a sure sign that he had something planned. “Could I speak to both of you? In private?” he asked, watching the puzzled looks on their faces.
Audrey’s heart began pounding; she couldn’t imagine what was wrong but she was sure something must be wrong if he wanted to speak to them in private. She cast a quick glance at Logan who also appeared a bit alarmed.
“Um, okay. How about the office?” Logan asked. At Josef’s nod he headed out of the kitchen, closely followed by Audrey and Josef.
“Well, that’s curious,” Beth commented.
“It’s nothing bad,” Lani said. “In fact, it’s something that Josef has done that makes me love him all the more,” she finished mysteriously.
“What?” Beth asked, curiosity getting the better of her.
“Nope, not my story to tell. If Audrey and Logan want to share, then I guess you’ll find out!” she teased.
Mick looked at Beth, his eyebrow raised in amusement at her inquisitiveness. She fixed him with a ‘look’ that said, ‘spill’ and he raised his hands in surrender and said, “I don’t have a clue, baby.”
“Hm,” she said, looking at Lani again who suddenly seemed very busy sipping some orange juice. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”
“Guess so,” Lani said, but couldn’t resist the smile that spread quickly across her face. He could claim to be a hard ass but she was so glad she knew the real Josef Kostan. Very glad indeed.
Logan walked into the office followed by Audrey and then Josef, who closed the door behind him.
Josef knew he had to get to the issue right away because Audrey’s heart was about to pound out of her chest and Logan looked dangerously pallid, even for a vampire. “Can we sit down?” he asked and saw both of them nod their heads.
Josef took a seat on the sofa in the seating area and Audrey and Logan both did the same. “You can both relax, this isn’t anything bad. In fact, I hope you’ll think it’s good. But, I wanted to tell you in private, not in front of the crowd. If you choose to share this it is perfectly fine with me and if you don’t, that’s fine too.” He looked at them expectantly, waiting for them to acknowledge his words.
“Both of you have proved your loyalty and dedication to our, shall we say, family. Audrey, you have made a huge difference in computer operations at work; you’ve already found two hackers and saved me literally millions of dollars.”
“Josef, that’s the software, I’m just monitoring it,” she protested.
“No, no it’s more than that because you knew exactly how to proceed to catch them live. I can’t thank you enough for it. And Logan, you’ve shown fantastic skill in tracking down Katrina and information that has been critical to family survival. I know that in the future I’ll have a go-to person here that I can always count on. Because of this, I wanted you both to have a good start here in your new home and not have to worry about monetary matters. Clark helped me to talk to suppliers and backers and I have paid off your debts on the house. It’s yours, free and clear.”
Both Audrey and Logan gasped, stunned by what he’d said. Audrey sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly and then licked her lips. “Josef, no, this is too much. I’m just doing my job at work. Thank you, but this is really too much.”
“Yes, it is,” Logan said. Honestly, he couldn’t get any other words out he was so surprised by it all.
Josef smiled and said, “It’s done. You both deserve it and trust me when I say that you’ll both work your butts off in the future so take it. Take it as a gesture of my faith and appreciation, of my gratitude to be able to call you both ‘family’.”
“Josef, I still think it’s too much, but thank you so very much,” Audrey said humbly.
“Yeah, Josef. Anything you need in the future, I’m your man.”
“Yes you are, Logan,” Josef said enigmatically and Logan suddenly thought of The Godfather and wondered for a moment exactly what that meant. ”Well, shall we get back to the festivities?”
“Yes, of course,” Audrey answered, standing up.
“Oh, by the way, Audrey, your ring is lovely.” He looked at it and grinned at Logan. “Did you pick it out yourself?”
“Yes. Well, Mick was with me, but I loved this one.”
“You have great taste, Logan. It is almost as lovely as your beautiful bride-to-be is. Set a date yet?” he asked as they left the room.
“No, we wanted to get settled into the house first. We just want a simple wedding, something small with family.”
“Yes, of course. I do hope I’m included on that list.”
More guests had arrived while they’d spoken to Josef. Since the afternoon was dubbed as an open house, people could come and go as they pleased, but Audrey hurried off to greet the new guests. Logan wandered into the family room where the bar had been set up. He poured a large glass of tequila and drank it straight down, coughing as it burned on the way down.
Clark watched as Logan drank the glass of tequila; he didn’t normally drink anything but wine or the occasional beer. Logan looked flabbergasted and Clark walked up to him and put his arm around his little brother’s shoulder and gave him a quick squeeze. “You okay, Logan?”
“Yeah.” He poured another drink, this time scotch and tossed it back and wiped away the stinging tears that came to his eyes. “Josef, I…you knew?”
“Yes, I helped him. He was determined to do it Logan and it was a great gift. He did it out of kindness, so just accept it, okay? This way, you and Audrey don’t have a huge debt hanging over your heads. That’s amazing for you both.”
“Shocking actually. I sort of feel as if I’ve received an offer I can’t refuse.”
Clark caught the reference to The Godfather and laughed hard, a long belly laugh that Logan eventually joined. It was interrupted when Carl came in, looking for Mick and Josef.
“Try the patio room. Josef likes the cats.”
Carl nodded solemnly and headed out. “He looks really serious; I think we better see what’s up,” Logan said and followed the detective.
Mick and Josef were both in the patio room, as were Lani, Beth and Cami. Carl looked at the men and they immediately knew that something was up and it wasn’t good.
“Yes, in the morgue. The Chief of Police is having a press conference in an hour. I have to go.”
Josef was so angry he was ready to explode. Before Carl could leave he was already on the phone with Tango and they all agreed to meet later, after the press conference.
“Mick, I’d better go too. I think I need to be the one to cover the story for Buzzwire.”
Mick nodded, knowing she was right. There were now going to be three bodies known to the police and the public, all with the same MO and it would likely get crazy. He went with her as she found Audrey and said goodbye.
“I’m so sorry to leave so early, Audrey, but I need to be on top of this.”
“Of course, Beth. I’ll talk to you soon.”
Beth nodded and she and Mick headed out to the car. He was going to take her back to the loft so that she could get her car. She was already on the phone with Max, explaining what was going on by the time they pulled out of the driveway.
On her own, Beth swung by to pick up Max who was going to the press conference with her. There was already a mob of reporters there and they had to push through the crowd to get closer. Steve got there a few minutes late with the camera and they were ready to start shooting when the Chief started speaking.
“We don’t know what menacing cold-blooded killer is perpetrating these crimes but I want the citizens of Los Angeles to know that we are going to catch them.”
“Chief, all three victims have been men? Homeless men to be exact?” one of the reporters asked.
“Yes, as far as we know.” He didn’t volunteer that they believed that one of their own could possibly have been taken by the killer as well.
“Have there been any concessions made for the homeless population?”
“We are working with local shelters and churches to make sure that our indigent population has places to shelter. Officers are making the rounds on foot, encouraging these citizens to stay in groups and seek shelter if at all possible.”
A dozen questions later the event was over and Steve had finished getting B roll and they all headed back to Buzzwire to file the story. As soon as they got it up and running Beth sat back, a bit ashamed at how good it had felt to do the story.
“Couldn’t stay away from the camera, huh, Turner?” Steve teased.
“It’s St. John now, remember?” she grinned back at him.
“This girl was always a hound for the blood and gore, let me tell you,” Steve said to Max, who nodded at the remark. Beth had always been a hound for this type of news and she was really good at it too. This time it was hitting really close to home and it was going to take some skill to hopefully keep it from exploding.
“Well, ladies, it’s been fun but I have a very sexy model girlfriend to take out and wine and dine tonight, so I’ll be leaving now.”
“Steve, thanks for being here. I just couldn’t do it without you, okay?” Beth said.
“You got it!” He waved as he headed out the door.
Beth and Max talked for an hour or so longer, going over strategy for the story and both women hoped that there were no more bodies found. Max understood that this was shaking up the vampire community but she also knew that it was going to cause panic in the human community. Not because they thought it was a vampire but just because any serial crime caused fear and a sense of anxiety among them.
By 8:00 the story had been looping for two hours and they decided to call it quits. They said goodnight to Larry, the guard in the reception area (a new safety precaution after Mo had been murdered) and headed out to the parking garage.
As they got closer to the Prius, Beth noticed a foul smell. She lifted her nose, scenting the air and she suddenly realized what it was. “Max, I want you to turn around and run back to the building, right now. And if I don’t make it back there you call Mick, right away!”
“What’s going on Beth?”
“Just go, Max. NOW!”
At the tone of alarm and anger in Beth’s voice, along with her brilliantly blue eyes that seemed to glow she decided to do exactly as Beth said and turned around, ready to run when she was grabbed and something sharp was held to her neck, right over the carotid artery.
“I don’t think she’ll be doing that,” a low, strangely resonant voice told her.
Beth was overwhelmed by the scent and slowly turned around, finding Max being held by a very tall black man with extremely broad shoulders. He was well-muscled she knew and older vamps could be really strong. Still, sometimes fledglings had amazing strength and she weighed the possibility of attacking him. She weighed the pros and cons of trying to attack him for a moment, considering what might happen.
“I wouldn’t, if I were you Mrs. St. John. By the way, your report was very fascinating. You managed to make it sound all so ordinary, not sensational at all. Tango’s group are fools. The bodies are meant for them, not for the public to find.”
Beth stood there, watching as he pressed a bit harder with his talon and a drop of warm, red blood appeared on Max’s neck. She moved a step closer to him and said, “Just let her go. You don’t need her, take me.”
“And what good would you be to me? You’re a vampire, I don’t want your blood.”
It suddenly occurred to her that he was going to take Max and leave her! Beth knew that she couldn’t let that happen. She couldn’t get any closer and the way he was holding onto Max she knew that if she managed to grab her he’d puncture the artery for sure.
“My husband is a friend of Tango and Josef. If you take me you can get to them.”
“I am getting to them. Enough chatter!” He started pulling Max along with him, heading to the other end of the parking lot.
She couldn’t stop them but maybe he’d take her too. Maybe…She didn’t know what she’d do if he would but at some point the opportunity might come up to take him out. She really wished she’d had time to meet Brody, but she’d do the best that she could.
“Look, let me go with you. I - I can help keep her calm.”
“Chloroform does that extremely well.”
“Beth…” Max finally said, panic and terror showing in her eyes.
“Look, she’s really scared. I know that you don’t take women, let me go instead of her or at least with her. Please?” Beth started sending Max calming thoughts, trying to soothe her. She stopped struggling as much, which helped things a lot.
He debated for a moment and then tersely nodded towards the back of the parking garage. Beth started walking and he lead them to a black van, an older model that had no windows in the back of it. Very nondescript, it probably wouldn’t garner much attention with all the other service type of vehicles in the area.
When they got there he tossed her the keys and said, “You drive.” He put a petrified Max in the front passenger seat and he sat on a crate behind the front seats. “If you don’t do exactly what I tell you to do I’ll snap her neck.”
Beth nodded, knowing that he’d do it. “Where to?” were the only words she could muster.
To be continued…
Posted by Hope at 10:08 AM