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Chapter 4

It took Storm three minutes to find the address of Effie's loft across the city, his algorithm digging deeply into several layers of privacy and security. He stepped to the elevator for the return to his garage, and engaged his own alarm system, and hoped that Effie would sleep several hours. He took his black Audi and slipped out of his warehouse, intent on examining Effie’s home for more clues.

He punched in the address into his SMART phone, heading to the northern part of town to a loft in one of the new conversions; an old red sandstone school that had been part of revitalization projects before the recession. He drove on autopilot, thinking on the other faces he had seen across the expanse of the concert hall. His former family, sitting in the box like royalty. Fucking lot of them. If only he could reverse time, and turn back the clock. Jac and Foster’s faces alive and in death rose up in his mind with abject clarity. Their deaths were his fault, and his alone. The guilt hung heavy about his shoulders, and always would. Their ghosts still haunted his dreams, and he would never be free of his betrayal. Hell, a host of ghosts nipped at his heels, reminding him of his disloyalty. Reversing time, what a crock of shit. That wasn’t going to happen. Not in a million years. He hit the steering wheel, and recalled the moment he saw his cousin Wynne. Their eyes had locked for a fraction of a second before his former brothers, the warriors, the Leuchd-crois got the head of the family, Duncan Macleod and his wife, Jeannine to safety.

He had read the news, had even seen the crime scene of the assassination attempt on his cousin's Duncan’s life. He had paid a late night visit to the hospital and watched Duncan from afar, praying he survived. All he could think about at that time was his bleak future. Storm's fate had already been written, and his ticket was hovering in Death’s hands, waiting to be punched. He had one move left in this deathly bitch of a poker game, and his cards were hot. Two people stood in his way, and he was tired of being their bitch. If he was going to go, he was going to take a few of the worst down with him. The GPS location spat out that he was arriving at his destination.

His eyes were drawn to the Victorian school that stood alone on immaculate grounds. He pulled to the curb, a hundred yards away and fished out his high powered binoculars from under the passenger seat. He scanned the building noting the security features. His found several CCTV cameras and keypads at the door and grinned. Nothing he couldn't handle. He opened the glove compartment and fished out several leather zipped pouches, and a six inch handheld tablet. He brought up the home screen and tapped on the one app he had created that would circumvent the security measures. He grinned as he tapped into the Wifi network and found the site's security company. He initiated the protocol that would create a feedback loop of the parking lot, grounds and any indoor cameras. He would have a fifteen minutes, half-hour at the most to investigate, and find any clues before someone noticed his technological, and physical intrusion.

He engaged the program and drove up to the front door. He left the tablet on the font seat and approached the door. It was a double door entry with electronic by-pass. He took out his one leather zip pouch and went to work, his mental clock ticking off the seconds as his little thief, his other ‘key’ scrambled through combinations. Thirty-five seconds had him breach the security, and enter the building. He took the stairs, two at a time, up to the third floor. There were only two doors, Effie’s was on the right. Another thirty seconds and he slipped into Effie's home. He was a black wolf, slinking through the night, stealing secrets.

The loft was sparsely furnished as he moved from one piece of furniture to another. He stopped at a table and looked through several pieces of mail, nothing unusual, several bills and junk mail. He frowned, spying a different name on one letter. Address the same, but different name. Postal glitch by spam marketing firms perhaps. He replaced the envelopes back on the table in order, and moved into the open gallery kitchen. He opened the fridge and stopped. There was hardly anything in the fridge; a quart of skim milk, broccoli, brie cheese, turkey links and some mustard. He opened the freezer and found frozen strawberries, blueberries and peaches nestled among two boxes of creamed spinach. Either Effie bought food every day or something was wrong. He checked the pantry and found spices, angel air pasta and several cans of tomatoes.

The lone bathroom was before the bedroom, and its medicine cabinet had a bottle of aspirin, gummy vitamins, and acetaminophen on one shelf. A bottle of Jo Malone's, Lime, Basil Mandarin cologne stood on another shelf next to a new tube of mint toothpaste. If she was sick, surely her vanity would be littered with bottles, and other items? He picked up the cologne, and pulled off the cap, lifted it to his nose. Ah, the perfume he had smelled about her neck. He liked it, liked it very much. He replaced the silver cap, and closed the medicine cabinet, shut off the light, and entered the bedroom, flicking on the light.

Functional if not sparse. Very few items in the wall-to-wall wardrobe, nothing in the center chest of drawers. A suitcase stood in the corner. A lone sentinel waiting to be packed, and he thought packed quickly. He frowned, wondering if she had a boyfriend. Did she stay at his place? Were they on the verge of moving in together? There was no smell of a man about the house, or woman for that matter either. He frowned, stopping, staring at the bed. It was neatly made, but there lacked the common knick knacks people collected around their lives. He rubbed his neck, a question nagging his brain. He cursed, realizing he had ten minutes left and needed to work fast.

Storm found a computer in the second bedroom, booted it up and stopped. He was invading her privacy. But the death threat was clear, and did he not have some obligation to find out who was threatening her? His conscious answered for him. You’ve touched her, her fate; her death is on your shoulders. Do the right thing, not like you have before. His family was one fucked up piece of work, and his life was in the tank. The sooner he solved the puzzle, the sooner he could let her go, and return to the lethal game.

He found no password security and started skimming through her document folders in explorer. After two minutes, he found nothing. He was about to shut it down when he saw a little icon in the tray at the bottom right hand corner he had not seen before. He clicked on it and a password box popped up. So she was hiding something. He needed a password and with today’s technology, it could be finding that needle in a haystack. Everyone had more than one password for all their email, social media and other junk. If she were smart she had a storage program or a book laying about that held those passwords. He looked in the C: drive directory and found no storage program, nothing in notes, or a document. He rummaged through her desk and came up with a big fat zero. The clock was ticking towards zero on his investigation.

Storm went back to her bedroom, searching through all of the dressers and nightstands, the wardrobe. He was starting to sweat, running out of time. He checked the bathroom and was about to leave it, feeling the exhaustion from the escape in the concert hall, and his nerves descending upon his shoulders. He rolled his chin, stretching out the tightness, and grinned, spying a tile misplaced above his head. He punched it open and skimmed his hand about. He found a wooden box in the corner. He took it down and spied the lock. Fishing out another small, thin hook from his tools, he worked the lock, grinning when it popped open. He flipped the lid, and his eyes alighted on stacks of papers, letters and a pocket size black notebook with a black elastic band holding it closed.

He brought the box to the computer, sifting through one of the letters, and unfolded it. His anger curled his gut at the warning typed on the paper. Very expensive paper. Someone was trying to make several statements. Tonight, was not the first time she had been threatened. He would have to do some digging into the Police department’s computers to see if she had filed any reports. He took the black book and opened it, found a listing of email accounts and passwords. He found one password alone on a separate page from the rest and decided to try that. He keyed in the combination and hit submit. The file box opened to a host of folders. He clicked on one and saw a scan of several letters. Several rather nasty pictures popped up and his anger intensified.

His time was up, shutting down the computer, and quickly put back the box, replacing the tile. He hurried through the loft and replaced it as he had found it. He slipped out of her apartment, ducking his head for the security cameras in case some hot shot at the security firm figured out his intrusion. He jogged to his car, and sped across the city back to his home.

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