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Chapter 3

"Home." Jerome Kirche barked at his driver, standing by his chauffeured car as Kirche pinched the fringes of his coat together, and ducked into the back seat. He sat back, and fished out his SMART phone from his inside pocket of his coat. He fingered the device, trying to think, trying to make sense of what had just happened. Two faces lingered in his mind, two faces he had hoped to not see in the same place, at the same time. He quietly laughed, or the box full of men, and women of his family's enemy.

The car suddenly jerked to a stop, almost throwing him into the back of the seat. "What the blazes? Be careful!” He snapped. The driver apologized as Jerome looked out into the misty night. He too apologized under his breath as he saw the people scattering, spilling out of King's Theatre into Edinburgh’s streets. His thoughts returned to the faces he had seen. He rubbed the heel of his palm into this temple, relieved that not one of the men or women knew who he truly was. He liked it that way, preferred it. He was too old for this game. At sixty-eight years old and counting, he was well past the average survival rate of most men in his family. And the last ten years of this feud, the games they played had turned rather nasty. All because his cousins had some grand design to rule the world, or at least a part of it.

His finger rolled over the screen of his phone, thinking. Kirche cursed his existence for a second time, and activated the phone. He hit his passcode and entered a memorized number, letting it ring as agreed upon several years ago. He cut the connection at the right time, and then brought up the number again, and hit send. He let it ring once, and cut the connection. A quick scroll through his call log, and deleted of the number. Next, Kirche brought up a specific app that would clean out his directory, and call memory. How many times did he do this in one day? He would need to trash this phone soon, and take up another fresh one. Better to be safe than sorry, or see plans thwarted. He stopped, thinking about which hotel was it now, which one was in the rotation? He recalled the word came he played, and hit the app, calling up the scrabble of words, "Take me to the Carlton please, I need a drink."

"Aye sir."

Kirche looked at the back of the driver's head, wondering if he could trust the man. He turned his gaze back to the window as the streets of nighttime Edinburgh rolled by. The car pulled up to the entrance, "I won't need you the rest of the night Ulrich, I am going to get a room." The young driver helped him out of the car, and Jerome slipped him £200.

"Yes sir, call me in the morning when you want to go home."

"I will thank you." He hustled into the lobby, crossed through to a corridor that led to the elevators. Calling a second number, he let it ring three times, then cut the connection. The signal he had sent, would tell the man at the other end to go to the next meeting point on their extensive list, and meet him within the hour. He went into the men's room, and to the sink. He slipped his phone into his front pocket and washed his hands. He took a towel, dried them, and realized he needed something to take the edge off, before he could think straight. He tossed the towel into the hamper, and headed to the bar. There was still time before he needed to sneak out to the next meeting point.

He ordered a twenty-five year old Glenlivet single malt. He passed on a splash of water, and warmed the crystal in his hand. He took a sip, and let the amber warmth slide past his tongue, down his throat. The liquor warmed his throat, his stomach, his limbs. The alcohol steadied his nerves, clearing his scattered thoughts, and allowed him to focus. Rolen Louvella. What was that mad bastard doing out of prison? What had he missed? And if Rolen was here, where were his brothers, Elan and more importantly, Julian. The eldest Andreas had met a rathe sticky end several months ago. He was getting slow in his old age, and needed to think about retirement. That made him laugh. Retirement was a one-way ticket into a pine box.

Standing in the lobby, he had seen Louvella entered the theatre, and raised his program over his lower face to hide. Looking over the edge, his eyes tracked the man, watched Rolen walk down the aisle plain as can be, and slide into a seat. He was dressed in a rather impressive Armani suit. Where would a convict get that kind of cash? Where would a man like that get that kind of suit for the sick man that he was, and disowned by his father? But then he didn't know the man that well, only by reputation, by stories passed around the family.

Kirche's stomach had soured as he watched Rolen converse with the men and women to either side of him. Normal behavior for most, except normal wasn’t associated with Rolen. What a facade the man painted! What a farce! There were no answers forthcoming, and he downed the rest of his single malt. He stood, looking at his watch. He still had time, and had to play his own part to throw off any shadows. He went to the front desk to the young lass, standing there punching information into a computer. He rented a room and gave her a form of credit. He took the room key, and thanked here, refusing any help with luggage. He walked to the bank of elevators, scanning the lobby. He didn't recognize any faces, or anything suspicious, and pushed a button for the upper floors. He got on an empty elevator, and was thankful no one got on with him. He selected several floors above his own, and was surprised when the elevator stopped after just two floors. Several children jumped into the car, giggling, punching all of the numbers. He excused himself, slipping out before the doors closed.

He knew the hotel intimately, and turned to the exit. He pressed open the door, and went up one floor. He opened the exit door on that floor, walked the hall, to the other exit, and headed down the stairs. He took it down to the ground level, walked past various doors, and exited behind the hotel through the employee entrance. He slipped out into the alleyway, and into the mist.

Fifteen minutes later, Jerome entered The Oxford Bar, and crossed to the bar. He ordered a pint of lager, and stood at the bar, waiting a few seconds. He crossed the room, and entered the other small front room to an empty table, and sat down, waiting. He toyed with his glass as the other patrons around him conversed. The sound was rising in volume, but he somehow tuned it out. His mind on the other man he had seen that night. Storm Macleod.

The young man was playing a deadly game, coming out in the open like that. What was he thinking? And especially in this city of all cities. He tried to understand the lad's reasoning? He tried to understand the coincidence between Louvella and Macleod? Surely his cousin, Bertrand Louvella had not sent Macleod against his own son? And his enemies, the other branch of the family entrenched in this feud that had been in the upper boxes, what of them? What was the connection between the horrific display that sent the crowd into a panic, emptying the theatre?

He replayed the last two hours in his mind. The concert had allowed him to forget for a few precious hours. Effie Scott was a beautiful woman, and her music genius. The delicate strains of her cello playing settled around his shoulders like a warm blanket. Her last movement, the debut piece called Battled Light caught them all by surprise. He understood all too clear the vision she was weaving. He recalled the moment she stood to acknowledge the audience applause, the moment of the explosion, and the audio, visual threat. He, like the rest in the auditorium, had frozen at the sight of the blood dampening the drapes. And then the whole room erupted in chaos. He stood, not sure what to do. That was when he saw Macleod jump onto the stage and run after Effie, scoop her up, and rush from the stage. Why? Did he know Effie? Was he dating the girl? He knew the rules. He knew he wasn't to bring anyone into this dangerous play. He reached for his beer.

He took a sip of his drink, and saw the one person that could give him answers walk into the bar. Their eyes caught across the distance as Fraser Sinclair moved to the bar, ordered his own drink. He didn't have long to wait as Sinclair set his beer on the table, set his briefcase on the floor beside him. He sat, and they looked at each other. Finally, Jerome spoke quietly, leaning in over his drink, "What the hell is going on?"

Betty Simmons crossed to her window of the house on the Cannongate, lifted back the drapes, and looked at the street below. Her eyes darted one way, then another. No one loitered about. She let the drapes fall back into place, and tucked a strand of her auburn hair behind her ear. She went back to her door, closed it, then retreated to her desk. Ignoring the computer on her desk, she reached into the left hand drawer, took out a small four by four slimline box, and slid aside the lid, revealing a small keypad, and finger security. She fished out a small key fob from around her neck, that held her password scrambler. She ran her finger over the small sensor, and looked at the password that flashed on the key fob. Once the small screen flared to life, a small password box came up. She put in another password, and looked up at the small box that was wired into the ceiling. The red light turned green, and she knew a web of security had dropped into place.

She lifted out another slimline computer, no bigger than a tablet, and brought it to life. She brought up the email program, and quickly typed an email. She sent it off to the intended party and heard the successful ping. She shut down the computer, and hid it back in her desk. She shut down the independent security system, and hid the technology in another draw. She sighed, hoping that her boss knew what he was doing. She had the distinctive feeling that their family's feud was about to heat up.

She reached for the folders she had created earlier in the day, looked at the notes, and printed documentation. She jotted down her own observations in the margins and sat back against her chair. Fraser Sinclair didn't hire her because she could type. She had higher degrees in psychology, and the law. He valued her perceptions, and inferences on material. There was a whimper at the door, a bark, then a scratch. She smiled at their dog Sophie. She got up from her desk, crossed to the door, and opened it. The Doberman Pincher padded in, and sat at her leg. She played with Sophie's ears, praising her. She returned to her work, and the dog joined her, sitting down beside her. The dog wasn’t just for show, but a second layer of security that had lethal jaws to stop an attacker. She turned to another report, scanning the information before delving deeper into the contents. She frowned half-way through, hoping the information wasn't factual.

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