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Chapter 7

Dac sat in front of his computer screen with a triple decker turkey BLT and frigid Sam Adams. He liked the American ale, acquiring a taste for it while on trips to the States. Something plagued him about what had gone down at the Concert Hall. Wynne's phone call had disturbed him, and raised a host of questions. Some ghostly memory about Storm nagged him. The intuition rose up like an old emaciated fish wife, and screeched at him to do something, check information.

He stroked the keyboard, entering in several keyword searches into the browser of several newspapers databases. He minimized the screen, and opened up another program. He typed in the password, and a backdoor opened into the Edinburgh Metro police department. The timer started in his head as he did the search, knowing that his noodling would be flagged after forty seconds top, possibly sooner. Several pieces of information came up, but nothing to cause alarm. Dac logged out and opened up a third program, entered the password, but before hitting send, grabbed his sandwich and took a healthy bite. He licked off the excess mayo from his lip, and hit the enter key as he reached for his beer. He took a quick swig and typed in his search. A blue and red screen came up, flashing processing. His eyebrows shot up as an extensive list emerged. His fingers hit the keystrokes to start the file capture and download. He reopened his browser to the newspapers and saw the hits. He started scanning the list as the computer finished its former task. He returned back to the Metro database and logged off with a few seconds to spare.

Dac wiped his face, started printing off the information, and categorized it into piles. For the next few hours he sifted through the information, took meticulous notes and observations on a legal pad. He returned several times to the computer, and gathered more information until he had a pretty nice, thick file. He took his plate into the kitchen, and grabbed another Sam, ducked out of his cubby hole, and out into a corridor that ran the length of the whole manor house. He wove his way to the ground floor, to a little nook of a library that Wynne used to meet with the men. He knocked at the office of his Captain, hearing voices within. He poked his head around the door, spying Wynne at his desk, and Alvar in one of the chairs before the desk. "Can I bother ye for a few? I think you'll want to hear this."

Rolen Louvella’s fingers dipped into the ceramic sink and played with the warm water. He lifted his cupped hand and rubbed his whiskered face, threaded his fingers through the thick strands of his brown hair as his eyes dropped to the laminated picture tacked to the wooden frame of his medicine chest. His pinky traced the contours of Effie Scott’s oval face. She had grown into a beautiful woman, even more so than her mother. Her indigo eyes haunted his every waking and sleeping moment. His sea-green eyes lifted to the fogged mirror as he used the foot of his hand to wipe away the moisture. His mind replayed the night of the concert savoring the complete satisfaction in creating chaos. Depressing that remote to take control of the audio visual technology that governed the graphics of the backdrop, made his blood hum.

He closed his eyes, heard the clapping that had drowned out the small explosive devices that broke the bags of pigs blood he had secured from several butchers, and attached up in the rigging in the ceiling. Deep, dark red had seeped down the fabric of the drapes as his eyes fixed on Effie’s face. He took a deep, shuddering breath, quivering at the thought of her fear, her fainting, her vulnerability. His manhood swelled as his mind's eye played her fainting, the sound of her cello crashing to the floor, and the screams, the sounds of the panicked crowd.

Chuckling, he had almost orgasmed as the audience and orchestra bolted for the exits. He had easily disappeared into the melee, disappeared out into the misty night along with the running crowds. The night's chaos wasn’t enough, not nearly enough for what she had done to him.

He took several measured breaths, gaining control. Control was everything for success. He straightened, reached for the can of shave cream, and filled his cupped hand. As he shaved, his mind drifted to dreams of Effie and her mother. Margaret Scott walking the aisle of the meat counter, holding five year old Effie's hand, shopping. Watching her from afar, and choosing her above all others. She had been a classy lady, like his mother, dressed to the nines, not a hair out of place or too short a hem. She was the picture of his idyllic form of a family and long to meld them to his idea of white picket fence.

Carefully, he drew the straight blade over the contours of his face, taking his time at his chin, the line of his jaw back towards his left ear. The thin puckered line of skin that dropped several inches from his chin down across his neck, over his aorta, was the evidence of her duplicity. The doctors had counseled on what instruments to use to shave his face, some razor specifically designed to protect his skin. He would have none of it.

The discipline of using the acute edge of the straight razor allowed him to sharpen his mind, his focus. And that focus would see him to the end of his plans for Effie Scott. He gritted his teeth as his hand slipped, nicking the thin skin. Blood beaded up from the small cut and tainted the edge of the straight edge, tinted the moisture on his skin, and slipped down his neck over the old scar. He cursed himself and his anger, his emotions for allowing that bitch to distract him. His fingers itched to lash out at something, pound something down until he felt some relief.

The anger was a parasite inching beneath his skin, coursing along the lines of his spirit. He had harbored it for enough years now to recognize it, and give it its voice without regard. It was an addiction; it was a way of life that had greater meaning than anything else. It fueled his entire being and governed his action. Three people were to blame for lot in life, his father Bertrand Louvella, Storm Macleod, and Effie Scott.

Reality was that life took a big chunk out of your ass, and served it up to you every day, and you had better bite back or pay. His father, Macleod and Effie would pay for their actions. His father could wait a bit more, his day was coming. But Effie had taken her due seven years ago and it was time for payback. She had taken everything from him, all that he held dear. At first, his logic deemed Margaret Scott at fault. But no, it wasn't nice to blame the dead. She had paid her price for her ineptness. And then there was Storm Macleod. Laughter built deep in his gut, and escaped his lip. Fates had seen fit to humor him.

Rolen’s eyes dropped to the drop of blood that had fallen from his face into the water in the sink. The drop had dissipate across the water until it colored the placid silk for mere seconds before breaking the integrity of the line and disappeared. Another drop, two fell, morphing into a abstract mosaic of red color. He envision a deeper pool of blood blossoming under the dead body of Storm Macleod, and laughed harder, knowing his hand would be the root cause.

His eyes lifted again to the picture and saw himself looking down into those indigo eyes as she squirmed beneath his body. His hand stilled, his mind recalling those last moments in the concert hall. The vision of a man dropping from one of the private boxes, and rushing to Effie's side emerged from the other memories. He had been distracted by his artistic display, reveling in the ensuing chaos to think about that man. His brow pinched together hard, trying to recall detail. He shook his head and reached for the towel, wiping off the streaks of soap and blood from his face, tossing the soiled towel into the hamper. He pulled out the plug and let the water drain as his mind worked on details. He cleaned the sink in specific, systematic steps, allowing his mind to focus. He dropped the cleaning cloths into the trash and washed his hands for over a minute before turning to the shower. He slipped under the cold water, and let it stream down his back as he let his mind drift back into the reel to reel of that night.

The sounds of the drunken lads heading to the take-out across the street invaded his concentration, and Rolen cursed, the flat of his hand hit the tile of the shower as his mind lost focus. He took a measured breath, and realigned his thoughts on the man. Incredibly tall, broad of shoulder, shoulder length black hair, and olive skin. He had moved effortlessly, with such fluidity suggesting a natural athlete. He snarled low in his throat as he recalled the man's rugged good looks, and shivered anew. "Fuck eejit. He was there."

Storm had scooped up Effie and carried her off the stage. White, hot anger built in his gut. "Well isna this grand." Rolen’s jaw clenched as his palm hit the tile several times in anger, cracking one. He would have to alter his plans slightly, weaving in new goals in his scheme to bring Effie back under his control, and eliminate Storm. Oh, the thought, the rich thought of killing Storm.

Both of them would feel the pain that had governed his life for the past seven years. He would make her watch as he took the Storm's life, and take perverse pleasure in her grief and then, he would take the steps to ensure that she would stay with him for the rest of their lives. He could just see Effie’s picture through the glass doors “Soon you will feel what I felt that night seven years ago and more.”

Bertrand Louvella examined his reflection in the diamond cut, soldered window pane. Sixty-two years old and still in excellent shape. His deep set aquamarine eyes traced the age lines on his face. Distinguished some would say, wise by others. He would agree with all of the observations. The patriarch of the Louvella family was strong in mind and body. A flicker of silver caught his eye. The windows reflected the length of a sword over a intricately carved stone fireplace. The medieval piece held place of honor among all of his treasures, treasures that he had accumulated over the years he had been alive. More than any other Louvella since the sword was forged in the fires of Italy during the middle of the 16th Century.

Louvella grinned arrogantly for the other pieces that sat to either side of the sword. A small carved wooden and jeweled casket, and a silver box that hid a small silver Celtic love knot wrapped with a faded blue ribbon that was stained in several places with blood, a piece of chard wood, and several medieval chains of office. All held some significance, and meant more to him than all of his wealth. And how that wealth had grown in sixty-two years.

He had built his great-grandfathers company into one of the leading industrial power houses of the European Union, focusing on oil, petrol and shipping. World War II had just been a blip on the radar. His family craftily knowing to hedge their bets for both sides. Bertrand had taken what was left and made wise investments in oil, and new technologies, building an €50 million a year profitable firm. Their diverse portfolio alone netted another €35 million a year. He was sitting pretty on a vast nest egg. Money that was well spent on this war against Macleod and Doughlas Industries. He wasn't about to lose this blood feud, not after all the centuries of horrible loss. This was their time and he would be the one at the top of the pile of bodies.

Beyond the window lay a majestic landscape of Swiss mountains, forests, lakes and rivers. A view that eased his chaotic thoughts and allowed him to focus. His nemesis Reid Macleod was long dead and soon his idiot son, Duncan would follow suit. The Macleods and all of their kin would topple from their pedestals and burn in the hell he would personally create. The stars were aligned in his favor, and that house of glass would shatter into a billion pieces, never to be reconstructed again.

Slowly piece by piece their wealth, their trinkets would be his, and nothing would stand in his way. Not even their leuchd-crois, their laoch, their warriors would stop his plans. That band of brothers would be rounded up, summarily executed, and lost for eternity. Names would be forgotten. Leading families would be decimated to extinction, leaving the lesser commoners powerless and weak. He would break more than their backs, and nothing would rise out of the ashes.

A smile lifted Bertrand’s face, slowly turning, and crossing the room. He stopped before the fire, lifting his eyes to the sword, and a snippet of a conversation drummed through his mind. A last conversation with his father before he passed away. A last lesson on how to finally break the back of their enemy by stealing and acquiring the tokens they cherished most. A few days ago he had sat in an auction house in the town of Auton, and acquired the jeweled casket, and the sword, remembering that last lesson.

"Watch those around you son, watch carefully, it is a game that few can play successfully." Émile Louvella bent whispering in Bertrand’s ear

"Are you such a man father?" Twelve year old Bertrand asked, his head turning one way, another watching, anxious for the auction to begin.

"Yes, but it has taken me years, sitting beside my own father, listening, learning, watching in the quiet. We are the cat and the prey, those artifacts dangle for a host of other fat cats. We must rise to the top, let no one else stand in our way to acquire what we most cherish. What is rightfully ours. We are the cream of those that sit here son. We are the better of all of them, and we must always come out on top. We have, unlike others, survived and endured because we knew how more important we are compared to lesser men."

The boy gestured to the other men, women in the room, "They are lesser than we are?"

"Yes, far beneath us. Erste von allen, son. First among all." Émile voiced their family motto with conviction, drumming it into Bertrand’s mind.

Bertrand’s index finger caressed the edge of the jeweled casket, over a large ruby. He knew the story, and knew the casket was the genuine article. He chuckled recalling the auctioneer’s words from several days ago, “This chest was reputedly a gift from Henry VIII to one of his courtiers. Supposedly one of his mistress's. Unfortunately, we have no papers to confirm ownership, but still it is a fine specimen of 16th century wood and metal working.” A steal at €25,750.

He had risen, was making his way back to complete his purchase when a last unannounced lot was placed for bidding. He whirled around as the description echoed through the room. A leggy brunette entered from the wings of the stage, carrying a long velvet pouch, and undid the drawstring as the auctioneer cleared his throat, adding more description. But he did not need to hear the words, knowing them already. His family had been looking for this piece for hundreds of years, and was the crowning jewel in their collection. " the Italian design, with two small amethyst jewels..."

He finished the auctioneer's words, under his breath, "Embedded in the tip of the hilt..." The words droned on as the sword gleamed in the bright lights of the stage as the cameras panned in, projecting more detail on the widescreen television. "...16th century..." His hand began to shake at his side as he made his way to an attendant, and whispered in his ear. The man nodded and waved at a senior member of the auction team. Louvella took a vacant seat and waited. It took five minutes for the man to return, whispering in his ear, acknowledging his request.

The caller on the stage, tapped his ear piece and cleared his throat. "We have a starting bid of 1.7 million Euros." A murmur of whispers erupted in the crowd and every head turned, looking around. Maybe it was someone on the phone? Maybe it was someone in the room to start the biding so high? Louvella hid his emotions; the auction assistant had his standing orders. The caller looked to the crowd, the phones, and waited. One bid went higher and the caller, went up another notch to the man's demands. Another bid went up and the auctioneer called him on another higher bid. Five more bids and the sword was his at €4.5 million.

Relief flooded Bertrand's body.

And then jubilation started in the pit of his stomach and curled outward, warming him. He retreated to pick up his items, pay his bill and retreat to valet parking. His driver had been alerted and pulled his Rolls to the front of the building. The man knew not to say a word, opened the door and stood with eyes front. Louvella sat down, his acquisitions beside him with the sword on his lap. He waited till his car hit the main expressway and merged with traffic before he opened the velvet pouch. The velvet dropped away, and he examined the hilt, the silver struck in the ornate design familiar to his eyes. So this was it. Finally, the instrument that had caused so much pain all those years ago, was in his hands, and now settled over his fireplace.

The door creaked open and Bertrand heard the footfalls of the men he had called to assemble behind him. His eyes remained fixed on that sword. “What news from Edinburgh?”

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