She wanted love and lacked empathy; he wanted truth and lacked proof. A falsely accused man takes shelter in the home of a difficult woman. ClairxKai with a Clue style murder to solve.
Sanctuary: Part 1
Sanctuary: Valour, the Pursuit of Knowledge
Chapter One: Temperantia - Gula
The crash of thunder echoed in the night. The one and only inhabitant of the mansion couldn't sleep. It was not because of the weather, but because of an annoying bout of insomnia that assaulted her for three days in a row. She had not been able to fall asleep until sunrise and then it only lasted two or three hours. The floors of the mansion were covered in thick carpets, the walls lined with expensive paintings. The lights were off and she didn't care. Outside it was pitch black as the rain beat against the glass windows with all its might.
It had been three days since her cousin's wedding, an event to which she had not been invited. She huffed, what did she care? The woman was marrying such an unworthy man with nothing to his name but a dirty old farm. The groom could never pass for a man of high society and with the act of marrying him, neither could the bride.
Clair was not like that. Clair was a woman of status who would not marry unless it was to a man who could match her assets, or better yet surpass them. She laughed bitterly at the thought. Who could surpass her riches? Unlike her uncle who commanded a modest industrial empire, her father had been wiser in his investments leaving her as the heir to a conglomerate of corporate titans.
Her mother passed away when Clair was still quite young and she was raised by the maids since pre-adolescence. Her father saw her every morning before leaving for work and every evening during dinner. Their time spent together in a day amounted to an hour at most, but it was enough. Mr. Moon could assert that his daughter was alright and still projecting the aura of a fine young lady, while reminding her that she was better than the others around her.
Mr. Moon had not wanted young Clair to feel as less because she did not have a mother to guide her in the ways of being a lady of high society. He would not have anyone belittling his precious daughter. Clair firmly believed her father's words when he spoke them and still did after his passing.
It was then, when Mr. Moon's life came to an end, that Clair entered her solitude, or rather was exiled by her relatives and their friends, even the mansion staff quit. They owed a lot to her father but not to her, and when the man was no longer present, they felt their debt had been paid sufficiently. After all, they had humored his impossible daughter for years to keep him at ease.
Mr. Moon had married at a relatively mature age, so his passing came as no surprise to Clair, who clearly saw the age in his face. Mr. Moon was prepared as well, though some silently theorized that he was prepared to die since the day his wife passed away in that terrible accident that crushed her inside her car.
Clair made her way to the front door of her mansion leaving the large entrance open. She walked into the wet driveway wearing only a nightgown with a robe over it. The thin layers of fabric were not enough to keep the chill of the night away. It was fall, but winter was clearly on its way. She looked at the skies above as if challenging the forces of nature to strike her down and reveling against the world that refused to grant her much wanted sleep.
She walked on through the driveway, barefoot and soaked. She progressed slowly until she saw a most intriguing sight. She did not see this until she was right in front of the main gates that connected with the street a considerable distance away from her front door. Outside, a lamp post on the spacious sidewalk illuminated the moonless night enough for her to make out the shape of a human climbing over the bars of the tall gate.
The person lingered on top, struggling to get over the points unharmed. For a moment, Clair wondered what kind of sound would be made if that person fell. Perhaps the distance was enough for bones to break. To her disappointment, the person made it to the bottom safely. "Don't move!" She screeched.
The trespasser was a young man soaked to the bone. He turned around sharply, surprised by what he saw. He intended to hide in that mansion, taking refuge from the police until he could come up with a way to prove his innocence. He never thought he would run into someone once he lost the officers after him, especially not a young woman quite inappropriately dressed for the weather. The sight shocked him so much he stared, noting that she not only lacked a coat but also shoes. One should not be out in that weather at all, let along barefoot in clothing that offered basically no warmth.
Her cold blue eyes stared into his as she untied the crimson band of her robe, revealing the scarlet nightgown underneath, which clung to her body. He stood as if paralyzed as she lifted the hem of her nightgown to her thigh, revealing a black thing strapped to her leg. He couldn't see it clearly until she pulled the shiny object from it.
The silver gun was aimed right at him at point blank. His eyes widened and he lifted his hands, palms facing her. He wanted to speak but could not find his voice. His breaths were still labored from all the running he did to get there.
She grinned, it seemed she found herself a new toy, "inside," she commanded and he knew he had no choice.
The young man stepped out of the rainfall and through the mansion's front entrance. Clair stepped in after him, her gun still aimed at his head. She closed the doors with one hand, not turning her back on him for a second. She reached for the light switch and turned it on. A blindingly bright light invaded the room, decorated in white and gold. The man blinked and waited for his eyes to adjust to the brightness. He kept his hands up, palms open the entire time and was certainly not in the mood to notice the expensive paintings that lined the walls.
"I know who you are," Clair finally broke the deafening silence. A crash of thunder echoed near by. "You're the chef who works for my aunt and uncle," she spoke into the darkness, "what was your name?"
"Kai," he choked out that one word wondering how it was possible for the thunder not to have startled her in any visible way. Then again, she wasn't the one who had been running for her life after being falsely accused and almost arrested with no hopes of ever leaving jail. She was the one who held all the cards, and most importantly, the gun. No one would ever dare to accuse her of any crimes, not the rich heir, not the elegant Miss Moon. She was feared by some, scorned by many and envied by most. "You're Clair Moon," he didn't know what else to say to break the tense silence than to state he recognized her too.
"Why did you break into my property?" Clair cut to the chase and demanded to know.
"I wasn't trying to steal anything. I just wanted... I needed... I'm innocent!" The stress and drama of the night was too much to bear. "I didn't do it; I swear I didn't do it."
"What did you not do?" Clair asked coolly.
"I didn't kill Jack," Kai confessed.
Clair's blue eyes widened in shock, "Jack is dead?" Her grip on the gun tightened, her trembling index finger resting dangerously on the trigger. "Jack Harvest is dead?!"
Bang! Kai's heart stopped and he had to take a deep breath to assure himself that he was still alive. His purple bandana was hanging off the side of his head, almost on his shoulder before. It was now on the floor with a bullet hole in it. As he realized what had happened Kai's shock grew and he wondered if Clair's aim was very good or very bad. "I'm innocent..." he whispered, as if his voice had almost completely disappeared.
"If not you, then who did it?" Clair's calm demeanor was gone; she was clearly enraged, almost desperate.
"I don't know!" Kai's voice returned as he defended. "That's what I want to find out. I was set up, if they arrest me now, they'll just assume I'm guilty. I need to prove my innocence somehow!"
"I'll give you the benefit of the doubt..." Clair took deep breaths as she tried to calm herself.
xoxox xox xoxox
Clair and Kai had first met a few months ago when she had gone for her last visit to her aunt and uncle. The visit had ended with an argument when Clair became enraged upon hearing of her cousin's engagement to Jack. Before that, a somewhat civil meal had taken place. She had intruded into the kitchen soon after, slipping away from her relatives with the excuse of complimenting the chef.
"Did you make the meal?" Clair, dressed in an evening gown as if she were attending a ball, looked out of place in the kitchen, no matter how fancy the spacious kitchen was.
"Yes, miss," Kai smiled cheerfully, "and the dessert as well." He wasn't sure if she was there to compliment him or criticize him, her look was hard to read.
"How much do they pay you?" Clair sounded serious and neutral, her tone flat.
"Excuse me?" Kai was taken aback.
"How much?" Clair insisted, knowing full well he had heard her question before.
After a moment's pause, Kai revealed the extent of his salary, mentioning that he was also given a room to live in at the mansion.
Clair laughed, which didn't please Kai. Then she gave him a look of absolute superiority, "I'll double it."
"What?" Kai didn't know what to think about the sudden offer.
Clair gave him a mocking laugh, "are you always this eloquent? I said I would double your salary if you work for me. I will give you a room to live in bigger than what you have here. Of course, you'd have to quit your current job."
Kai shook his head, "I can't just leave."
"Triple," Clair offered firmly.
Kai stared at her for a few moments. Was his food that good, or was Clair just trying to cause trouble for her cousin's family? It was easy to see that they didn't really get along and the hypocrisy was about to fall apart. The offer was very tempting even if there was a rumor going around that all of Clair's employees got fed up with her and quit. Kai really wanted to save up and open his own restaurant one day. He imagined a sea side restaurant in a tropical town. Then he snapped back into reality, he couldn't leave and he had a good reason not to. "I'm sorry, as generous as your offer is; I have my own personal reasons to stay here."
If looks could kill, Clair would have murdered Kai there and then.
xoxox xox xoxox
Clair laughed bitterly at the memory of her job offer being rejected. "I bet you're regretting not taking my offer. If you had been working for me you wouldn't have gotten into this mess."
Kai offered no reply, he knew it wouldn't do him any good to think of the what ifs. If he had left it wouldn't have stopped the murder. The culprit would have just found another scapegoat. "I would rather focus on the future."
"Good, because you're going to help me find the culprit," Clair had calmed down in comparison to her recent outburst, but she looked like she was holding back tears. "Until the real culprit is found, you're still my main suspect, but if you're truly innocent you should have nothing to fear. I don't just want to blame someone; I want to get to the bottom of this. Until the truth is revealed you'll stay here. Don't even think of running off, I have more resources to track you down than the police." Another crash of thunder shook Clair's mansion. "It's late," Clair stated with a grave expression, she was clearly still shaken by the news of Jack's death. Her strong reaction puzzled Kai. "We will begin the investigation tomorrow. For now, I will show you to your room."
Kai silently nodded and picked up his bandana from the floor as Clair flicked a switch and a series of lights illuminated the mansion much brighter than the electric storm in the windows. He shuddered as he looked at the bullet hole in the purple fabric, which he tugged into his pocket. It had been dark, what if Clair didn't miss? Had she truly missed on purpose? Did her finger slip on the trigger and his survival was just fate's grace? As such questions flooded his already overwhelmed mind; he walked down the halls of the mansion next to Clair.
Though she was leading the way around a structure that was unknown to him, she maintained a relatively slow pace. It was as if she was telling him with her body language to walk next to her, not behind her. Kai quickened his pace and so did Clair. He could feel her icy glare on the side of his face and tried not to look at her too much. She almost looked as if she was deliberating if he deserved the benefit of the doubt or if she should just end his life with a bullet.
Clair stopped in front of a door and opened it. Kai stepped inside the room automatically reaching for the light switch. The sight he found once the room lit up was most unpleasant. The polished dark wood furniture and blue walls were littered with bullet holes. Random broken items were scattered all over the floor. A butler dark gray tuxedo style uniform hung from the lopsided blue crystal chandelier and looked as if it had been used for target practice with a gun.
"This isn't your room," Clair walked past Kai nonchalant while he stood frozen near the door. "I just thought you needed something to wear, since it's obvious you can't go back to your previous place of residence to fetch your things. My butler quit, alive, in case you're curious." She opened the closet with her left hand, still holding her shiny silver gun on her right hand. "I think these clothes will fit you." Two more uniforms similar to the one on the chandelier, but without any damage, were inside the closet, along with a pair of shiny black shoes. "Come here."
In a split second, Kai was next to her, not daring to question her orders. Clearly, this woman was... troubled. He certainly didn't want to trouble her further. He needed to upset her just as much as he needed a bullet through the brain.
Clair placed the uniforms and shoes in a pile in Kai's arms and walked across the room again. Slightly disturbed by her own memories, she stepped on a piece of glass from a broken base. The sharp clear shard cut through the expose skin of her bare right foot. She automatically let out a sound of pain in protest and stumbled to sit on the bed. The bed was covered in ragged blue sheets, with several bullet holes adorning the mattress and pillows.
"You're hurt," Kai quickly dumped the pile of clothes he carried into the bed next to her, kneeling over to have a better look at the injury.
"It's nothing," Clair dismissed it; she had enough of being in that room and didn't want to sit there any longer.
"At least let me get the glass out," Kai offered, "just keep your foot still," he carefully began to pull out the shard that was stuck to the bottom of her foot. Even when the glass was out she was still bleeding a little. He took the bandana from his pocket and tied it around her foot. It was obvious that she was uneasy. Kai assumed he was to blame for her unrest, though it was more so the room.
"You'll ruin it," Clair pointed out, referring to the already battered purple bandana.
"It already has a bullet hole in it," Kai pointed out as nonchalant and casual as he could manage. He didn't want to think too much about that incident. He looked up, his brown eyes meeting her blue ones. Her icy glare was gone and in those endless blue orbs he saw sadness. It was as if her very soul had been bleeding for days without rest, days that felt like years. Or perhaps her soul had been injured long ago and it was only recently that she noticed it.
She broke eye contact and gripped the base of her silver gun, her right index finger gently resting on the trigger. "Let's go," she stood carefully, as if testing her balance and walked to the door. Kai picked up the uniforms and shoes, following Clair. She turned the light off as soon as she reached the switch near the door. She didn't want to look at that room anymore and was secretly thankful that Kai didn't ask about it.
They walked in silence down more long elegant hallways lined with various paintings with a small expensive sculpture or base here and there. As they walked, the atmosphere turned fancier with predominant decorations of gold. Finally, Clair stopped in front of a door. Keep your friends close and your suspects closer, his room would be right next to hers. "This is your room. Stay in there until morning. I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt; don't betray my trust and you'll be fine," she reminded.
"I understand," Kai ascertained in all seriousness. He entered the room to find a grand suite adorned in gold and purple. He didn't even hear Clair close the door behind him. He didn't hear her returned a couple of minutes later and quietly open the door just to make sure he was still there. Then the door was closed and locked for the night. The entire time Kai couldn't help it but to contemplate the irony. Clair Moon had everything and yet her eyes looked as if she had nothing.
xoxox xox xoxox
Sanctuary: Generosity, the Pursuit of Charity
Chapter Two: Caritas - Avaritia
It wasn't until morning when Kai's status as a fugitive finally sunk in for him. Even so, he wasn't sure exactly how he was supposed to feel other than frustrated and annoyed. His room covered in purple and gold was very luxurious, but it was a cage none the less. Perhaps it was the elegance which delayed desperation. He shuddered at thinking that he could be trapped for a long time in a much different room in jail if he got caught before he could prove his innocence, or if Clair sold him out to the police.
He had woken up early as it had become his habit. On a normal day he was supposed to cook breakfast early. Upon rubbing the sleep from his eyes and focusing on the room, the events of the previous night had rushed back to him. He had showered and dressed in one of the uniforms Claire provided him with the previous night, finding that it did indeed fit him well. Then he tried the door and realized that he was locked in. The rest of his time in the room was spent pacing around.
Kai jumped as he heard the click of a lock and the door was opened. He stood there staring at the woman standing just outside the room. She was wearing a fuzzy lavender bath robe, her hair still damp as if she had just washed it and dried it only with a towel. She wasn't holding her gun, but Kai had a feeling she had it hidden somewhere in her long bath robe. "You didn't think I would let you stay here just like that, did you? You're a chef, so it's up to you to make breakfast."
"Yes, of course," Kai nodded and followed Clair out of the room and down the halls lined with paintings. They arrived at the main entrance after going down some stairs that he must have climbed so automatically the previous night he didn't even remember them.
Upon crossing the main entrance hall in broad daylight, Kai noticed one of the paintings. It was a large painting that hung in a small balcony in the middle of two flights of stairs that crossed over each other in the shape of an X facing the front entrance. The staircase was truly grand in its white marble and golden details, but Kai's attention had been stolen by the painting.
The large canvas depicted a field with a small house in the distance. The land was planted with various spring crops. It was a picture of a random farm, most would say. However, Kai knew that place, he had visited it before. It was the farm of Jack Harvest. Why would Clair have such a painting, why did she get so upset upon hearing of his death if she supposedly didn't care about her cousin? Why would the death of Karen's new husband rattle her so much?
Kai's eyes traveled to the center of the large canvas. There was a big stain on it that, had he seen it before, it would make him think of blood. At least he had enough sense to notice it was a stain of red wine, further emphasize by the tiny shards of glass that stuck to the thick canvas. Someone had thrown a bottle of wine at the painting. In comparison to the disturbing ruined room with the bullet holes, this was nothing, yet it was further proof that Clair was... disturbed.
Clair cleared her throat noisily in annoyance. She was already at the bottom of the stairs while Kai had lagged behind to stare at the painting. The young man quickly made his way down the stairs, wisely deciding not to inquire about the painting. Instead he followed Clair to the large kitchen in silence.
The kitchen was so white it was almost blinding. It lacked the golden details of the rest of the house that gave it a strangely ironic heavenly look. The kitchen was just bright and empty. While Clair stood at the entrance, Kai wondered in feeling as if he was wandering into nothingness, walking off the edge of the world.
"I'll leave you to your job, I trust you will behave. Make some breakfast for yourself too, you'll need the energy," without waiting for a reply, Clair left.
She didn't hear the, "sure," Kai mumbled under his breath. She didn't request something specific for her breakfast and it was when he thought about it that her statement sunk in. He would need the energy; that could only mean that she intended to put him to work as more than just a chef.
The mansion was empty; he wouldn't be surprised if he ended up stuck cleaning the whole place from top to bottom on his own. Then it impacted on him full force that he was a fugitive being hidden away. The streets outside down which he walked without a worry in the world on the very afternoon of the previous day should be crawling with police officers waiting to arrest him.
While Kai tried to focus his mind on preparing an omelet, Clair returned. She wore a crimson blouse made of silk with three quarters of a sleeve ideal to go out in the somewhat chilly, but not freezing day. Her pants were white with a red belt that matched her red boots. Her blond hair had been properly dried and slightly curled, falling in waves on her shoulders. She wore light makeup for the most part, though her soft red lips stood out, albeit not excessively.
"An omelet, is it?" Clair approached Kai from behind; he had only glanced at her before turning his attention back to the food. It was amazing how different she looked from the previous night.
"Is that okay?" Kai asked as casually as he could.
"It smells good," Clair commented, before walking over to the refrigerator and retrieving a covered blue glass bowl. "Add some of this when it's done," she lifted the bowl's cap and smelled the contents, her nose scrunching up in disgust. "On second thought, the cheeses and hams are enough..." She retrieved a spoon from a drawer and dumped the contents of the bowl in the trash, scraping what was left in the bowl with the spoon. She placed the bowl and spoon on the sink, Kai knew it would be up to him to wash them.
"Was that caviar?" He had only caught a quick curious glimpse of the substance in the bowl.
"Yes, but its gone bad. I bought too much..." just to bother her cousin when they didn't have enough left for her to buy and she had to go far out of her way to find some, if she even did. "It does wonders for the gardens, or so I heard. I suppose the season isn't favorable," she shrugged, "we'll see."
Kai froze in the act of serving the omelets, and he thought the hams and cheeses were expensive. He was feeling bad about following Clair's instructions and making enough for himself at the expense of her ingredients. Not anymore though, if she had enough money to throw away like fertilizer, it wouldn't hurt her wallet if he did eat some of her food, he should have known.
While they sat on the table eating breakfast, Clair looked up for a moment and commented, "you don't look anything like him," though she didn't specify who, Kai guessed she must have meant her past butler to whom those uniforms used to belong. "That's a good thing," she clarified.
"Thanks..." Kai honestly wasn't sure how to respond to her statement and decided to try to at least stay somewhat positive and take it as a compliment.
"I'll be going out today so you'll be by yourself," Clair announced with the same air of superiority that always surrounded her. "I'll assign some tasks for you to do while I'm gone," that much was already expected. "You don't need anything, do you? My past butler got some really bad migraines now and then; he was helpless without his prescribed pain killers."
"I don't need anything," the realization hit Kai once again with that little reminder. If he needed something from outside the mansion, Clair would have to get it for him. He couldn't just walk outside freely, he was no longer a free man, he was an outlaw, he was a fugitive. Kai finished setting up the table for breakfast, saying nothing more.
A long moment of silence passed between Clair and Kai as they ate. Finally, Clair spoke once again, "tell me the details." Though her words were not harsh, there was something about her superior tone that made her sound like an unquestionable authority.
Kai had to pause at the sudden request, the sudden demand. She could only be referring to one thing, the day Jack Harvest died. "It was a day like any other, sunny and nice, not too hot, not too cool. A soft breeze blew, not strong enough to be called wind. I went out that afternoon to buy a few groceries. When I returned to the mansion everything seemed normal enough. I got started on dinner as usual. That day it was lasagna."
Following a small pause, Kai continued, "after dinner, Jack started feeling sick. He went to rest, but there seemed to be unease in the atmosphere. He got worse that night and they called a doctor. Karen's mother, Sasha, was especially upset, angry and impatient even. She wanted some tea to relax so I went to make it. Then the next thing I know Karen is screaming and the police arrive. Jack was dead, the cause was poison and I was the prime suspect. They all blamed me without a second thought, all except Popuri."
'Not that a simple maid's opinion would count for much,' Clair mentally added with a small huff escaping her.
Kai took her expression as doubt, "it's the truth," he insisted.
"I said I would give you the benefit of the doubt, didn't I?" Clair thought quietly for a moment, her rhetorical question had only received a quiet nod from Kai. She then turned her attention to the rest of her breakfast and finished eating. She placed the utensils on the plate and rose from her seat wordlessly exiting the kitchen.
Kai tried to finish eating, despite his sudden lack of appetite. Every time Clair was out of sight he kept suspecting that she was calling the police. He knew that such stressful thoughts wouldn't do him any good. He had no choice but to count on her sanctuary. Out there, it was only a matter of time, and not a very long time, before he got caught. He finished what he could of his breakfast and cleared the table, setting the dishes on the sink. He took off his blazer, placing it on the back of a chair and rolled up his sleeves before getting started on washing the dishes.
"Kai!" He was only half done with the dishes when Clair's voice called.
"Coming!" Kai hastily dried his hands and picked up his blazer on the way out, adjusting his sleeves and putting it on. He had a feeling Clair would be annoyed if he didn't look presentable. He missed his old job where he could wear whatever he wanted, which usually consisted of jeans, a tshirt and sneakers, but he knew better than to annoy someone who was taking such a risk for him. Sure she could be a little more polite, but he sensed that Jack's death had disturbed her much more than she let on, not that she wasn't clearly already disturbed.
Clair appeared, making her way down a hall near Kai's path, she went through another door and Kai followed. They found themselves in an elegant sitting room with roses as the main theme. However, all the roses on the vases were terribly wilted, though their sweet scent somehow lingered. Clair sat down in an ivory couch with detailed red roses edged on it, "sit," she murmured, her attention on a white notepad with golden lining which she held. She twisted a golden pen around her fingers which, judging by the names on the sheet of paper, produced red ink.
Kai sat down on the couch beside her, sinking into the soft material and taking in the appearance of the room further. He could imagine Clair with a rose on her hair, if they weren't so wilted and brown, ready to turn to dust. The walls seemed to fade from white to rosy pink to red at the very bottom, with a plush carpet that was a darker shade of red. Ivory bases were scattered through the room holding the wilted roses, dust collected in their surfaces.
Aside from the elegant couches and seats, all which shared the same design as the one they sat upon, there was a dark red wood table in the center of the sitting area, with a layer of dust upon its surface. It was bittersweet, perhaps predominantly bitter, a strange mix of beauty and sadness. The room was very much like Clair, but Kai didn't feel in any position to make such an assessment so soon.
"All of these people are suspects," Clair finally spoke, holding the notepad at an angle from which Kai could easily read it.
His name was there too, heading the list no less, but the benefit of the doubt didn't mean he was instantly absolved. "Let's start with Karen's mother, Sasha. Though she was generally accepting of the situation, I happen to know she wished Karen would marry a man of high society."
"Yes, she would always speak of helping Jack 'adapt' as if he had to change to fit into his role as Karen's husband," Kai recalled, "but to kill him..."
"We'll have to go through a process of elimination investigating each suspect. Even if they are found innocent, their alibis may be clues in disguise that will lead us to the real culprit. Before we find the key piece to this mystery, we might have to examine the other pieces to try to get a clearer picture. If we know why one could not have been the murderer, we might realize why another could have been," Clair explained.
Kai nodded and was a second away from commenting when another voice interrupted. "Lady Clair!" The man's voice was dissolved by distance and sounded off quite faint, despite the caller straining his throat to shout, "Lady Clair!" Kai looked at Clair questioningly, as if silently asking if she was expecting visitors.
Clair got up, leaving her notepad on the table with a tiny cloud of dust flying and settling on the surface. She moved towards the window, parting the dusty ivory curtains adorned with red roses. "Officer Harris," she shook her head as she spotted the man standing at the other side of her mansion's front gates. It didn't look like he would give up on calling her any time soon. Giving one last glance out the window, Clair turned her gaze to Kai, "I'll take care of this."
He nodded; there was something in her tone that told him she wasn't lying. She had not secretly called the officer; she was not planning to turn him in. Kai realized that he simply couldn't picture Clair calling the police. It wasn't because of him, as they didn't really know each other well enough to be called friends. Furthermore, she didn't seem interested in being his friend and he had far more urgent matters in his mind. She just didn't seem like the type of person who would call the police or any kind of help for any reason.
Clair was a proud woman with the means and the courage to take justice into her own silver gun wielding hands, should she feel it necessary. It was at that point that Kai realize that maybe the police wasn't his biggest problem. If he didn't clear his name, his savior would become his most dangerous predator and she didn't take prisoners.
Kai discretely watched from the window as Clair made her way to the gates of her mansion with a set of golden keys in her hands. She walked at a luxurious pace as if she was a model walking slowly through a stage so that any pictures taken would not be blurred by sudden motions and everyone could get a chance to take a good look at the latest fashion. Kai could tell, even from that distance, that the officer, whom she had identified as Harris, was aggravated by her slow pace and nonchalant attitude.
Clair finally made it to the gates in front of her mansion and refused to look at the officer, instead occupying herself with the keys while humming a melody only she knew. She looked at each golden key the on the set, every one engraved with a different gem on the handle for identification. She finally paused on one with a pearl and held it between her thumb and index, her thumb caressing the surface of the pearl. Finally looking up at the man in the blue uniform at the other side of the tall gates she smiled with superiority and asked, "may I help you?"
Though she made a show of locating the correct key, which Harris was sure she could have found faster and more easily, Clair clearly had no intentions of opening the gates to her property unless it was necessary. Fortunately, Harris only needed to follow a protocol and ask her a few questions, then he could be on his way. Honestly, he couldn't stand this woman. His first visit to her cost him a suspension and almost his job, when she let herself be arrested on the alleged charges of illegal possession of a fire arm.
However, it turned out that her documents were in perfect order and she had a variety of up to date licenses for several fire arms. She allowed a little technicality to slip, for Harris to accidentally overstep his jurisdiction, skipping over a tiny step in the protocol and she didn't breathe a word until his head was under the metaphorical guillotine. Harris had certainly come to hate that cynical little smile Clair would often wear.
"I would just like to ask you a few questions," Harris tried to sound as calm as possible. He knew better than to pick a fight with someone who had more power in her pinky finger than the whole police department put together. Money made a big difference and she had that, combined with what he perceived to be a cruel nature. "There is a fugitive on the loose," he produced a picture out of his pocket. "This man," the picture Harris held was clearly of Kai, "have you seen him?"
Clair made a long paused examining her perfect pink manicure before her eyes gave the picture a dismissive look, "no."
Harris mentally counted to ten and elaborated, "he used to work as a chef in the Moon household."
"The chef here was much older," Clair knew Harris wasn't talking about her when he mentioned the Moon household, but she pretended to assume it anyway, with her usual air of importance. "He quit some time ago, I do not know where he went."
"My apologies Lady Clair," Harris tried hard not to snap, he knew she was pushing him to do so and it would cost him dearly. His first mistake when they met was to think he had a shred of authority over her; to think that he had the right to scold her for shooting up into the skies in broad daylight. The act was in fact illegal in that area, however, Harris didn't know that he was expected to politely beg her to stop rather than demand that she did. He hated the weak attitude the other officers took with her, but he too had bills to pay and a reputation to protect. Clair Moon, always won, yet, unknown to all, she also always lost. "To clarify, I was talking about the household of Jeff Moon and his family."
"Ah, them," Clair made it a point to stick up her nose and flip her long blond hair in dismissal over her shoulder, as if they were not important enough to be mentioned in her presence. "You cannot expect me to remember such unimportant details. Some of us have more... dignified things to do than pry."
Gritting his teeth, Harris forced himself to smile, "I'm sure you do." He pocketed the picture. He had heard Clair had briefly met Kai before, but he didn't put it past her to simply forget about him. Then came the part Harris dreaded, it brought back bitter memories, but he had to warn her as it was his duty. "The neighbors said they heard a loud noise last night, similar to a gunshot."
Clair laughed, her property was large, but something as loud as a gun being shot without a silencer could still be heard in the distance. She expected Harris to mention this and she had already concocted a plan. She made use of the pearl adorned golden key to open the gates to her property, parting them enough for Harris to fit through. "Follow me," she commanded, and without waiting for an answer she walked away.
Clair approached a small shed on the side of her mansion with Harris wordlessly following her. She entered the little shed while he stood by the door. Placing the keys in her pocket to free up her hands, she picked up a lighter and something akin to a stick of dynamite, which she kept in the shed. She lit the stick and threw it on the ground outside of the shed near Harris. The officer jumped back, his eyes going wide. The short fuse ended and the fire reached the red stick with a loud boom!
Harris' heart raced, he was alive, not blown to pieces. It was just some kind of big and loud firecracker, just a piece of pyrotechnic material, not dynamite, not a weapon. Then again, he had a feeling that anything in the hands of this woman could be a weapon. With a smug smile, Clair informed Harris, "that is what was heard."
Harris could only nod and follow her back to the gates. He forced himself to say, "I apologize for the inconvenience, thank you for your time," then quickly left without looking back.
Kai obviously couldn't hear any of their conversation from his position hidden near the window, but when he saw the officer leaving and Clair heading back inside the mansion, he felt a wave of relief wash over him. His sanctuary was free of suspicion; he had a safe haven, for as long as Clair's mercy lasted.
xoxox xox xoxox
Sanctuary: Humility, the Pursuit of Modesty
Chapter Three: Humilitas - Superbia
After Clair had made officer Harris leave without a clue, she and Kai returned to examining the list of suspects. They had been previously discussing Sasha, Karen's mother, who was opposed to the marriage of her daughter and Jack. Their theories had picked up right where they left off before the interruption.
"I still think it's too much to say she killed him," Kai quietly defended. Sasha wasn't on the top of his favorite people list; she wasn't even in the middle. However, she wasn't someone Kai would label as a murderer. She was simply proud, but not impossible to persuade, stubborn but not murderously obstinate. She had for the most part, as far as Kai could tell, accepted Jack.
"The ones that don't seem like murderers are the most likely suspects at times. She was conceded, she was used to having whatever she wanted," Clair elaborated. "She wanted her daughter to marry someone of high society and she didn't get it. That's a harsh blow. When someone lives like you, they get little scratches and bruises as they go through life. They learn to deal with the pain."
Kai's look became more attentive as Clair spoke. He wanted to raise an eyebrow and give her a disapproving look. She was speaking as if she knew him, but she didn't and it bothered him. Yet she spoke with such a sense of knowledge and experience that he couldn't interrupt.
"People like Sasha are fragile; people like her can't deal with the pain of disappointment. They can do things that are... preposterous," Clair finished with a hint of... Sadness? Guilt?
Kai's face remained frozen as Clair broke eye contact and instead stared at her list. If he wasn't too shock to move, even the small muscles of his face, his eyes would have been wide and his jaw would have dropped. Instead he was frozen. Was Clair speaking from experience? She certainly sounded as if she was. She herself was a rich spoiled lady, who had obtained everything in the eyes of most. Did she murder someone? Was she feeling regret? Was that her reason to help him pursue the truth? Was this her way to chase after redemption? That would explain why she was so disturbed. She certainly knew how to handle a gun and she wasn't afraid to shoot. Who did she kill?
"Are you listening to me?" Clair interrupted Kai's thoughts exasperated. When he snapped into attention, she continued, "Jeff cannot be discarded, though quiet and seemingly submissive, he might have been a time bomb waiting to explode. Years of being in the shadow of his brother, of being unworthy," Clair spoke proudly of her own father, Jeff's brother, as superior to her uncle. "And of being pushed around by his controlling wife, might have finally gotten to him."
Kai couldn't comment, he was too immersed in his own thoughts.
"Karen Moon," Clair spat out the name like poison, "or should I say Karen Harvest?" It was clear she hated her cousin. "Sure, Jack was her husband, but no one knows that girl like I do. She's got her dark side."
Pretty, proper, polite Karen? Kai was in no position to question Clair; he didn't know Karen well enough to contradict her. He realized that Clair had a point in considering everyone a suspect. Before he was falsely accused and Clair's mansion became his sanctuary, he knew she had a rivalry with Karen, but he never thought Clair Moon was so disturbed. He never would have imagined the inside of this lovely mansion to be so neglected and covered with dust if she was still living in it. He never would have imagine it to contain a horrific room full of bullet holes.
That mansion was much like a person, it was painted and cared for on the outside, displaying a beautiful yet empty face, but on the inside it was falling apart and no one saw that unless the door was opened and one was allowed in. People were like that too, especially Clair. Suddenly her list made a lot more sense, everyone was a suspect and he didn't blame her for including him on that list too. He was innocent, he knew that, but Clair had never visited the room of his soul, she had not seen what inhabited his mind, so she couldn't know. Maybe she didn't even know herself that well, maybe he didn't know himself that well either, maybe no one did.
"Alright, I'll just go and get started filling up the hot tub with bubbles so we can make love in it." Clair's statement brought Kai back to reality.
"What?" He stared wide eyed with his mouth open.
"You're not listening," Clair scolded. "I hope you at least know I wasn't serious. Honestly, men are impossible. Leave it to a man to filter out everything except that. Are you even interested in solving this case at all? I'm not going to keep you here forever. If I grow impatient with you, I'm turning you in and going after the culprit by myself!"
It was then that it hit him. Clair wasn't looking for the culprit to clear Kai's name; he knew that from the start. Clair was looking for the culprit for her own reasons, her own vengeance. What he didn't notice before that was the fact that she apparently had no intentions of handing the culprit to the police. Clair was going to make her own justice. She was going to kill Jack Harvest's murderer. "I'm sorry," Kai finally voiced. "It's just a lot to take in. I'm sorry, you're right, they should all be taken into consideration."
Annoyed, Clair huffed and returned her eyes to the list, speaking the next name, "Rick Poultry."
"Now there's a likely candidate," Kai voiced before he could stop himself. He had never seen eye to eye with Rick. He had a huge overprotective brother complex and Kai happened to get what he deemed to be too close to his sister. Then he stopped and thought about it. Rick was overprotective, annoying, nagging, infuriating, intolerable, unpleasant, cranky and a number of other things in Kai's opinion, but was he a murderer? That might be going too far. Furthermore, what would his motive be? "Karen!"
"Yes, I discussed her while you were off in space," Clair snapped.
"No, I mean Rick, Karen!" Kai insisted. "Rick is in love with Karen." Rick had been working for the family for some time. His father, Rod, had been the butler at the mansion for years before he left. Kai had heard Rod ran off to find a miracle cure for cancer to save his wife, Lillia, and had not returned since then. Most theorize he just couldn't face the truth. Kai had to agree with them. A miracle cure? If there was a miracle cure for anything, it would have been found by now.
"So you think Rick killed Jack out of jealousy? You can't say he's in love with her then," Clair mused aloud, "they say you hurt the ones you love, but that's only when you don't know how to love. I know the difference between that superficial lustful love and true love. I've felt both in the past, neither ever amounts to anything in the end, but true love lets go."
Neither amounts to anything? "Love is definitely worth something, its worth a lot. Love is-"
"Enough," Clair angrily interrupted. "This isn't a talk about love; it's a talk about death, about murder. Rick will be investigated like the others. The next suspect is Rick's sister, Popuri." She worked as a maid at Karen's home.
"She would never!" Kai immediately argued.
Clair's frown deepened, "shut up!" She shouted so defiantly, no one would dare to speak. "Do not let your emotions cloud your judgment. If you are useless to this investigation, you are useless to me."
Kai could only silently nod. If he was going to recover his life, he needed Clair's help. In the end everyone was a suspect, but that didn't mean everyone was a culprit, at least not of that particular crime.
Clair shifted in her seat in the room of wilted roses where she and Kai had been discussing the list of suspects. "You seem to be keen on coming up with reasons as to why these people didn't kill Jack. However, I must remind you that what we're trying to do is quite the opposite. Let's think more about why these people could have done it. We'll start with Sasha since, other than you, she's the one I currently suspect most strongly and your judgment is clearly flawed."
Kai opened his mouth to protest but Clair's icy glare made him shut it again and remain silent.
"Are you absolutely certain you didn't notice Sasha doing something out of the ordinary?" Clair insisted.
"Well," Kai thought it was an unimportant detail but decided to cease that way of thinking. All the details, however small, were important to their investigation. "Sasha bought dessert. I thought it was unusual because I always made all the food, desserts included. I didn't think too much about it at the time. There's a new gourmet dessert shop in town, I thought she was just curious."
"Interesting," Clair mused, "we cannot assume that the poison was contained in the main dish. It would be inconvenient to poison a specific someone from the lasagna that was prepared as a whole?"
"Yes, I made it, I cut it, I served it," Kai confirmed. "As for the dessert..." his eyes went wide in realization. Clair might be on to something after all. "They were some elaborate parfaits, each a different flavors. Licorice for Karen, strawberry for Sasha, vanilla for Jeff, chocolate for Jack, she even brought a pineapple parfait for me. She knew everyone's favorite flavors; she knew Jack would eat the chocolate parfait."
"We might have found the answer, but it's too soon to tell," Clair acknowledged. "If Sasha wanted to poison Jack, she could have slipped something into his parfait, but how do we confirm this?"
"We can't," Kai grimaced, before holding on to a small ray of hope. "Unless Sasha still has some of the poison in her possession."
"That would certainly be incriminating," Clair nodded in acceptance of the theory. "The other members of the household are not as suspicious by comparison, so we'll focus on Sasha." Karen's mother had become the prime suspect in their investigation. Yet Clair didn't want to conclude that Sasha murdered her son-in-law until she was sure. Then, after the proof was found, Sasha would pay. "I must go out for a while," Clair tossed the notepad and pen onto the table. "First I'll show you were the cleaning supplies are. I want this mansion cleaned from top to bottom. You have until five in the afternoon."
Kai's jaw drop, "that's impossible! No one can single-handedly clean up a mansion this big in so little time!" He protested. He was expecting Clair to put him to work, but not like that.
"I didn't say you had to finish today," Clair growled. "Clean as much as you can until five then rest, sleep, that is after dinner has been made. I expect lunch too; I'll call for some groceries and other necessities to be delivered. I'm pretty sure there's an alarm clock in your room. Set it to whatever time you see fit for you to be fully awake after your nap by midnight. I also want a cake, a dark chocolate cake, not spiked. The most important part is that you're ready to go by midnight."
Kai nodded, taking in the torrent of information, or rather the flood of orders. Clean as much as possible, make lunch, dinner and an alcohol-free dark chocolate cake. Sleep and be ready to go at midnight. "What exactly do you want me to do at midnight?"
"We're going out to investigate," Clair grinned. "That is to say," she elaborated, "we're sneaking into the scene of the crime, the mansion where Sasha and her family lives. Leave the security system to me, I have connections. You just have to be ready to help in the search."
Once again, Kai was shocked, "that's trespassing!"
"Better a trespasser than a murderer, wouldn't you say?" Clair reasoned.
No one ever said proving one's innocence against all odds would be easy. With a serious but determined expression, Kai nodded. "I'll be ready to go on time."
xoxox xox xoxox
The rest of the day passed uneventfully except for the horrors of cleaning a mansion that was in great need of maintenance. His room had been clean, and so had the kitchen. Kai assumed that Clair did what she could to keep at least a few parts of the mansion presentable. Keeping the entire place in order without a proper staff would indeed be quite the challenge.
Kai wondered about Clair's connections and how their trip at midnight would go. She told him to be rested, but how could he take a nap thinking about what they were going to do? Just what was up with Clair? How could she be so nonchalant and at the same time so temperamental? Kai had never been shy around women; some would even label him as a flirt. He was not one to be discouraged or intimidated no matter how beautiful or strong the woman in question was, but Clair was a whole other story. She was a dangerous enigma, perhaps a deadly mystery.
While cleaning, Kai stumbled upon a room full of various stuffed animals. The room was behind one of the few doors that was unlocked in that particular hallway. After Clair had returned from wherever she went and sat down to have lunch, Kai had inquired about the locked rooms. Clair had told him to leave them. He didn't question this.
He observed the forest-like atmosphere of the room with dark green walls a lighter green carpet and polished brown wood furniture. There were deer, bears, birds and a variety of other animals. Kai wasn't sure if all of them could be legally hunted, but he wasn't about to question Clair about it. He would just clean the dust off them pretending they were only sculptures and nothing more.
Atop a large elegant fireplace there was a framed picture with a pair of hunting rifles hanging from the wall left and right of it. A man fully dressed to hunt, carrying his gear, smiled at the camera. To his right there stood a shorter person, the man's arm resting on the younger one's shoulder. The boy was also dressed in hunting gear... wait, it was a girl. Her hair was tugged into her hat and the baggy clothes did little to hint at the shape beneath them, but her face was smooth and feminine.
Looking at the picture, Kai soon realize that he had seen those blue eyes before. The girl grinned at the camera with an almost menacing expression, as if she couldn't wait to get out there and hunt. She was Clair; Kai knew right away it had to be her. She was perhaps fourteen or fifteen in that picture. If he had to take a guess, he would say that the man next to her was her father. Kai found that Clair as a hunter was rather easy to imagine, she gave him the strong impression of being trigger happy.
xoxox xox xoxox
After a long day of cleaning and cooking, Kai tried to take a nap as Clair had instructed. The reality had not fully sank in that they were apparently going to break into the mansion of Karen and her family to search for evidence incriminating Karen's mother, Sasha. Kai knew that if this went well he could be a free man, but what about Sasha? Was she really a murderer? What would Karen's reaction be to her own mother killing her husband? The household would fall apart and the tension would fly in every direction, including at Karen's maid, Popuri. The image of the strawberry haired young woman crying made him feel guilty when he realized that she was probably already crying. Her brother, Rick, would be having a field day throwing out all sorts of insults and accusations about how he knew all along that Kai was the very incarnation of evil.
The young man shifted in his bed and buried his face in his pillow. How was Clair going to get into the mansion anyway? She said she had connections, but what did that mean? Would she threaten the staff? Would she threaten Popuri? Would she hire a professional burglar? Kai wouldn't put it past her, that woman was capable of anything.
While he tried unsuccessfully to fall asleep so he could be alert during the mission, he felt the door being opened and someone enter the room. It was Clair, as he confirmed turning his head towards her. She was as quiet as can be and would have slipped in unnoticed if Kai's senses weren't on full alert. "Still awake? You might as well get up. I want you to meet the other member of our team before we leave in an hour. Make sure you change into the clothes I left for you," with that said, Clair promptly left, not waiting for a reply.
Kai let out a deep breath and realized just how long he had spent tossing and turning in bed trying to take a nap he was too nervous to take. His body ached from the day of work and he was exhausted, but it was impossible for him to sleep. He got up and headed to the adjacent bathroom to finish waking up with cold water on his face. He didn't know what clothes Clair was talking about, but soon spotted an all black ninja style outfit waiting in the bathroom. He didn't know when she came in to deliver it, probably while he was busy cleaning. Dressing quickly, Kai headed to find Clair and meet her mysterious guest. His theories about the person were all over the place and none were favorable.
When Kai made it to the main dinning room, he finally succeeded in locating Clair. She sat at the end of a very long table with a man old enough to be her father to her right. In front of her there was a slice of the cake he prepared earlier, which she savored slowly. Another regular sized slice was set in front of the empty chair to her left. The rest of the cake was being devoured by the man in the chair to her right.
Clair nodded at Kai and glanced at the empty seat to her left, as if telling him to join them. His footsteps made no sounds on the plush red carpet as he walked next to the long redwood polished table. A multitude of chairs were placed on both sides of it with enough space between them for the occupants to be comfortable if it were full.
Arriving at the far end of the table, Kai nodded to Clair, not daring to speak. He quietly sat down on the chair to her left, sinking into its soft red cushion. Another quiet nod from Clair indicated that he should eat. The cake was accompanied by black coffee, a common drink when it came to staying awake. The coffee was neither bitter nor particularly hot. It was not what one would expect from its color but it was pleasant and none the less strong with a very noticeable aroma.
"Gotz," at Clair's voice, the man to her right stopped stuffing his face with cake and looked at Kai.
Gotz was tall and heavily built, with a lot of that built pertaining to muscle. His face was practically completely covered with brown hair and his dark beady eyes were hard to see beyond his long bangs. He laughed; his mouth almost impossible to see in his bushy beard. "So you're Clair's new pet, are you, boy?"
"Excuse me?" Kai raised an eyebrow.
"What's your name, boy? Mine's Gotz, like the lady said!" Gotz's manners in the table and in addressing others left a lot to be wished for.
"Kai," he frowned in disapproval. He was beginning to think that his guess about Clair hiring a professional burglar was correct. Not that burglary was an actual profession. Immediately, Kai instinctively trained his eyes on the man, watching for sudden movements while backing into his chair and pretending to mind his own business. He took a piece of cake with a golden fork that he didn't doubt was made of pure gold if the weight was any indication. Carefully, he ate the bite, the entire time his eyes remaining on the suspicious man across the table.
Gotz chuckled and Kai gripped his fork as if unconsciously preparing to use it as a weapon of self defense. A few more minutes passed in silence while each of the three ate their cake and drank their coffee. Then suddenly, once they were all finished, Gotz stood up and so did Kai. The younger man slammed his left hand on the table, gripping the golden fork in a stabbing position in his right hand as he leaned forward, his eyes menacing with the adrenaline of survival instinct.
"Kai!" Clair scolded him with sharp disapproval.
Kai didn't put his fork down and sit again until he realized Gotz had no intentions of attacking. "Sorry," he muttered still on edge.
Gotz laughed hardily, "you got yourself a protective one, eh Clair?" He met Kai's gaze unblinking, "but you know boy, Clair's not the kind to want to be protected, she's no damsel in distress." He then turned to look at Clair smiling under his beard. He ruffled her golden hair with the affection a parent would have for a child. "Thanks for the cake." He began to clear the dishes from the table.
"I'll do it," Clair offered, snatching the dishes away, piling the smaller gold detailed ivory plates into the larger matching cake dish Gotz was eating out of, along with the matching cups and golden eating utensils. She then briskly left, the heavy atmosphere weighing more on Kai's shoulders with every step she took away from them.
Kai's eyes never left Gotz as if watching out for any attack he might attempt to make. Then it sunk in how he ruffled Clair's hair. It was not something commonly done to someone who could no longer be called a child, let alone someone like Clair. "How do you know Clair?" Kai pushed his voice to be as polite and non-hostile as it could be.
"Ever since she was this little," Gotz laughed indicating a height that barely reached his waist. Seeing him standing up for a moment before he took a seat again, Kai observed his old stained white tshirt which added to his disheveled appearance as if the messy beard wasn't enough. "They were best friends," his voice turned solemn, "Clair and my daughter, just about the same age, but then I lost them, my daughter and my wife."
Kai saw then, not a dangerous man, but a kind hearted man who simply saw no reason in keeping up his appearance if those dearest to him were gone. Gotz was heartbroken and sounded painfully sincere. "I'm sorry," Kai whispered not only referring to the loss but also his earlier behavior. Despite Kai still fully expecting the means by which they would enter Sasha's home to be illegal, he no longer saw Gotz as a criminal, perhaps this would be his first unlawful act. That man was someone who held Clair dear as a living memory of his daughter. He wasn't a bad person; he just wanted to help Clair. No matter what people thought of Clair, Gotz looked past it and she returned the favor. An uncomfortable silence formed as Kai looked down in shame. Just as he, a traveler from a distant land was sometimes labeled as a trouble maker before he could convince people otherwise. Kai had decided long ago that he wouldn't judge by appearances, but he had broken his own rule.
Gotz chuckled, "can't judge a book by its cover, can you?" With a grin, he voiced the thoughts he correctly guessed must be going through Kai's head.
Something in Gotz's barely visible eyes seemed to twinkle with forgiveness and acceptance. It was then that Kai realized that despite his situation as a fugitive no doubt being all over the news for the world to see, this man was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as Clair had. "That's right," Kai grinned back.
xoxox xox xoxox
Sanctuary: Liberality, the Pursuit of Will
Chapter Four: Industria - Acedia Tristitia
When Clair returned to the dinning room where Kai and Gotz were, she was dressed in a black ninja outfit similar to Kai's. Her golden hair was tugged away under a black bandana and she was ready to blend in with the night. This was only a precaution of course, since if all went well no one should be out there to see them, but better safe than sorry.
Gotz picked up his large black jacket from the back of his chair and put it on. "One of these days Clair... one of these days..." he muttered as the trio left Clair's mansion via the back door.
Clair smiled at the remark and even let out a soft laugh, as if remembering something from the past that she and Gotz witnessed. "I'm always armed, you know that." She patted the black holster on her waist that hid her favorite silver gun.
Kai's uneasiness returned to him as he wondered just how well acquainted those two were with firearms. Kai himself had never had the opportunity nor the necessity or desire to hold one.
As if reading Kai's curiosity in his face, Gotz elaborated while they walked down the dark path of Clair's yard. "Clair's father, my brother and I used to go on hunting trips. The three of us were inseparable. One day when Clair was only fourteen, her father brought her to hunt with us. I told him I would never think of bringing my daughter on one of our trips, since it was no place for a girl. Then Clair shot my hat right off my head and gave me a look that no one would dare to challenge. She's got great aim and sharp senses; she's known how to shoot, and shoot well, since she was thirteen."
"Are you serious?" Kai stammered, no matter how much of a firearm enthusiast Clair's father was, to let someone so young train with a weapon felt dangerous.
"There were reasons of course," Gotz left it at that, hinting that the reasons were private and not even he knew about them. He trusted the judgment of his friend, Clair's father, may he rest in peace.
"Was your mom okay with that too?" Kai curiously asked. Clair ignored the question and kept walking with a noticeably more aggressive stride. Kai felt one of Gotz large hands on his shoulder. He looked at the tall bearded man who sternly shook his head. Kai knew that he had stumbled on a sour topic. Clair was quite an enigma, her thoughts, her personality, her family, her past. This was obviously a puzzle that he wouldn't solve any time soon, if he ever did.
"We should all go to the mountains and hunt wild bears sometime. What do you say Clair?" Gotz tried to lighten the mood as they approached the far end of Clair's vast property. "You can bring your pet!" He playfully elbowed Kai, almost knocking the younger man to the ground.
Kai stumbled but managed to maintain his balance. He was so puzzled and curious about Clair and her mother that he didn't even bother to complain about being called Clair's pet.
"He's like Cliff," Clair finally spoke, "he's not a hunter. I can't turn him into one any more than Cliff's father could."
"Ah, I see," Gotz nodded in understanding.
With the mention of another person that both Clair and Gotz knew but Kai didn't, his curiosity grew but he kept quiet about it. The silence went uninterrupted as they were close to the fence that marked the border of Clair's land.
Gotz revealed a rope that he had hidden in his large black jacket. The rope had a hook at the end, which he skillfully threw up into the tall brick fence that stood about fifteen feet up. He pulled the rope to test it before Clair stepped in to take it. She skillfully climbed up and peered over the fence. She looked back and nodded, then jumped to the other side of the fence.
"Go on, boy," Gotz offered Kai the rope, "I'll catch you if you fall."
"I won't fall," Kai assured before going up the rope himself. His primary skills outside of the culinary arts lay in swimming and surfing, but he was generally athletic, so climbing up a rope was no problem.
"What do you know, he didn't fall," Gotz chuckled and followed the other two, climbing the rope to the top of the fence where he unhooked it. He jumped down to the other side with the rope in hand. He quickly wrapped it up and put it away in his coat.
The three then followed Gotz towards a small shed nestled between two trees in the darkness of the night. Gotz clearly knew exactly where he was going. He pulled out a key from his pocket and opened up the lock on the wooden shed. Inside it there was a small metal cabin which Gotz proceeded to unlock with a code on an electronic lock. "I work in home security," Gotz confessed to Kai's bewildered look. "This here's an emergency escape. The tunnel leads to the basement."
"Thank you, Gotz" Clair acknowledge before going into the tunnel. She stopped and looked back for a moment, "Kai," she indicated for him to follow, then continued on.
Kai followed into the tunnel, pausing at the entrance to look at Gotz, who nodded. He would be there waiting for them, this was all he was willing to do, to open the door. The investigation was up to Clair and Kai to conduct.
Kai was quick to catch up to Clair in the tunnel, "be on the look out for anything suspicious, substances, liquid, dust, anything that could be poison," Clair instructed. Not only that, letters, receipts journals, notes contact information, anything that hints at Sasha acquiring poison or expressing intentions of acquiring it. Once we have something to work with, we can get a confession out of her and record it."
Though Kai should have been relived at the possibility of proving his innocence with the confession of the real culprit, he was worried. Was the recorded confession needed because a live one would become impossible? Did Clair really intend to kill Sasha? A life for a life? Even if it meant his freedom and regardless of how well acquainted with firearms Clair was, he didn't like the idea. Even if she could get away with it due to her fortune and connections, he still didn't like the idea at all. Maybe Clair was right, maybe he simply wasn't a hunter and maybe she was too much of a hunter.
The emergency exit tunnel that Clair and Kai were using to enter the mansion, home of Karen and her parents, Sasha and Jeff, seemed endless in its darkness. Clair stopped near its end and Kai bumped into her, though thankfully not too hard. He stepped back quickly muttering an inaudible apology and waited. She produced a small pen flashlight from her pocket and a silver key. Kai realized that Gotz must have given her the key in advance before he joined them for cake.
He could imagine Gotz excuses for having a copy of the combination and keys of people's homes. They lost their keys and forgot the codes, then who did they go to? The one who installed them in the first place. It was a cheap excuse but one that most would overlook as somewhat logical and even convenient. Kai supposed that they assumed that one person being able to get into their homes wasn't a big deal. Why would he? He would be the obvious culprit after all.
All those musings reminded Kai of how he was thought of as the obvious culprit in the poisoning of Jack Harvest simply because he was the chef. Gotz must really care about Clair as his own daughter if he was taking such risks.
The inside of the mansion was dark, as all its occupants were sleeping. The decor was elegant, Kai had seen it before, as had Clair. Yet the cheerful shades of fiery colors, blending in red, orange and yellow, accented in gold, were lost to the blackness of the night.
Quiet and sneaky, the two intruders advanced, "go to the studio, the one with the art supplies," Clair whispered, assuming that Kai knew his way around the mansion well enough. She knew Sasha liked to pretend she was good at painting. She would spend hours in her art studio and would have no doubt at some point requested a snack or beverage to be delivered to her, which would fall upon the chef to prepare. "Meet me in the kitchen in ten minutes."
"Right," Kai went on his way, while Clair left in the opposite direction, turning off her light.
Kai made his way to the art studio in the darkness, but was able to find it without stumbling on anything. He saw that there was a light coming from the studio and froze. Maybe Sasha was up late, painting to calm her nerves. Was the therapy of art needed because she had committed a murder or because she was an innocent mourner? It was a big risk, but Kai couldn't help it but to discreetly peek in to the studio.
Inside the studio he didn't find Sasha in front of a canvas depicting something abstract that was not supposed to be abstract. Instead he found a young woman with a rare shade of strawberry hair, so in between red and blond that it could be more accurately defined as pink. Her canvas depicted an ocean view so vivid that Kai felt that he had seen that place before. The sun was setting, tinting the sky in shades of orange and pink. The ocean glowed, clear and calm. There was a rock far from the shore. On top of it a small figure, merely a dot in the distance seemed to be waving to someone who was out of the picture's view in the beach.
A few seconds passed in silence and Kai recognized the scenery. He had indeed seen that place before. He had been to that beach last summer. He had swam out and climbed that rock. The tiny dot was him; he was waving to Popuri who was back at the beach, chronometer in hand. He was trying to see how fast he could swim out there and if his time would improve when they went out to the beach every summer evening. Karen and her family were there as well, enjoying their private area of the beach. On the far left and right there would be fences in the distance that marked the limit of their shore property, but that was out of the picture's view.
"Popuri..." The name escaped his voice before he could stop himself and he entered the art studio.
The pink haired young woman dropped her paint brush, staining the polished hardwood floor with the colors of the sunset. She turned around and saw him, eyes brimming with tears, "Kai," his name left her so softly that it was barely audible. Then she rushed to him and buried her face in his shoulder with muffled cries. "I know you're innocent, I know you didn't do it."
He tried to console her as best he could, "it's okay, I'm going to prove my innocence, it'll be alright." Remembering his mission he looked around the studio, "isn't this Sasha's studio?"
"Yes," Popuri nodded, still holding onto Kai, "she knew I've been depressed since you were accused so she's been letting me use it. She's been very kind to me."
Upon hearing Popuri's words, Kai felt guilty about thinking of Sasha as a murderer, though something felt off. "I thought Sasha didn't particularly care about the working class."
Popuri's face was a mixture of sadness, confusion and thought, "it's strange really. Sasha has been acting different since Jack passed away. It's very recent so none of us have even begun to recover. I still think it's odd, she seemed angry with Karen. Poor Karen has been crying none stop since Dr. Trent pronounced Jack was... never going to wake up."
Kai patted Popuri's back softly, tracing circles to ease her crying. "You mean Sasha hasn't been consoling her as much as one would expect from a mother?"
Popuri nodded sadly, "now that you mention it, it's exactly like that." She frowned with guilt, "she's been more kind to me, a maid, than her own daughter."
"Maybe seeing Karen reminds her too much of the event," it was Karen's husband who passed away after all. Kai tried to find some sort of logical justification in Sasha's behavior, but no matter how he looked at it, something was off. Maybe Sasha was feeling frustrated that Karen married Jack, since she had wished that her daughter would marry someone else. Perhaps Sasha was reproaching Karen, thinking that if she had married another man, they would have no one to mourn or maybe... maybe she really was the culprit and was consoling Popuri out of guilt and to keep up appearances, unable to face her own daughter after her crime. Yet Kai found he had a hard time condemning anyone who had shown Popuri kindness in her time of need, when he was not there to offer his support, instead being part of her grief.
Realizing that he was going in mental circles, Kai decided it was best to take care of the task at hand before his ten minutes passed and Clair came to find him. He trusted Popuri and knew she trusted him. Even so, Clair might not be happy that he revealed himself to her. "I'm here looking for clues. There's someone who's helping me prove my innocence."
Popuri's redish amber eyes met Kai's brown orbs and in an instant she offered without hesitation, "I'll help."
xoxox xox xoxox
After searching all over Sasha's art studio, Kai and Popuri didn't find anything that would accuse her. "I should be heading back to the meeting point now. Stay here," Kai finally decided. He hoped Clair's search went better than his.
"I'm coming with you," Popuri insisted with great determination. "I want to meet the person who is helping you; I want to give my thanks."
"No," Kai was firm in his decision and seeing Popuri's frown he added, "please understand, I don't think Clair wants anyone else involved in this and I don't want to break her rules after she has been hiding me..." Kai realized his mistake too late, "I have a big mouth, don't I?"
Popuri's eyes were wide in surprise, "Clair, as in Clair Moon, Karen's cousin? Why would she want to help you? I didn't even think you two were friends."
"We weren't," Kai assured, wondering if he had imagined the hint of jealousy in Popuri's voice. "Actually, I don't think we're friends now either, Clair is not exactly the easiest person to spend time with. Either way, for whatever personal reasons she may have, she wants to find the culprit. I don't understand it either, but I can tell you that it's not about me, it's about uncovering the truth."
"I see, so she's not helping you specifically, she just wants justice," Popuri sighed, "then maybe..." she shook her head as if pushing away her thoughts.
Kai's interest had already been captured and he had to ask, "maybe what? Anything at all could be a clue, so if you know something..."
"It's nothing, just something Karen said some time ago," Popuri recalled, "it was before she and Jack got married. She was having a fit in her room; I don't think she realized how loud she was being. She said something about Clair being a spoiled brat that could have everything she wanted, even if she didn't deserve it, even Jack. The way she said it made me wonder if there was something between Clair and Jack. I've heard nothing but bad things about Clair; maybe she had tried to steal Jack away from Karen."
Kai thought about the option and more so about Clair's possible feelings for Jack. Then he remembered something Clair had told him. 'They say you hurt the ones you love, but that's only when you don't know how to love. I know the difference between that superficial lustful love and true love. I've felt both in the past, neither ever amounts to anything in the end, but true love lets go.'
Remembering her words, Kai couldn't help it but to wonder which was it that Clair had felt for Jack. If his death upset her, then it was reasonable to think that she had feelings for him. In the end Jack married Karen, did Clair let him go? Did she still love him none the less? Kai felt his curiosity for Clair growing, if she truly had been selfless and let Jack pursue Karen. Then, even though he left her for another, she still wanted to avenge him; she wasn't so selfish after all. Maybe she could feel for others, even if she was hard to understand at times. Maybe in payment for her sanctuary, Kai could offer his friendship to help her heal from past wounds.
"Kai?" Popuri's soft voice got Kai out of his thoughts.
"Thanks for telling me everything, at least I have a clue as to why Clair would want to avenge Jack," Kai finally spoke. "Don't tell anyone I was here and don't worry, everything will work out. I have to go now, please stay here, I really don't want to give Clair any reasons to throw me to the police and continue her search for justice on her own. I don't know what jail is like, but I think I rather stick to cleaning and cooking for Clair and not find out."
Popuri nodded, she seemed almost relieved that Clair was making Kai work as it gave their unusual partnership more of a business feeling. She helped him avoid the police until his innocence was proven and he worked in payment. "I understand, even if the culprit is found by Clair of all people, I wouldn't want you to have to wait in jail until then."
"Yeah, neither would I," something told Kai that if he ended up in jail, he wouldn't be getting out any time soon. Clair wanted vengeance more than anything. If he angered her, she would probably let him rot in jail while she carried out her own murderous revenge, seemingly unrelated to his case. If it was in his hands, he would stop her from doing that. By his newly formed theories, she was hurt and someone as temperamental as Clair could be dangerous when dealing with pain. It made her more defensive and her best defense was offense.
xoxox xox xoxox
While Kai had been investigating Sasha's art studio, Clair had gone in a more dangerous mission. She snuck into the largest bedroom of the mansion where Sasha and her husband, Jeff, slept. A small nightlight was plugged to the wall on the husband's side of the bed as he was an uneasy sleeper that often got up in need of a glass of water, a little fresh air or a trip to the bathroom. The small light illuminated the area at the bed side, showing some of the light blue wallpaper, while the rest of the room was shrouded in darkness. The bed and furniture were of polished white painted wood with dark blue details.
Clair immediately headed for the vanity, which held a large mirror and an assortment of facial creams and makeup. Obviously, the majority of the furniture in the room was there for Sasha's benefit. She opened up the drawers one by one finding an assortment of things she wasn't looking for. Jewelry, nail products, hair brushes, combs and accessories. Finally, in the bottom drawer of the vanity, Clair found a music box with a thin slip of paper peeking out from its cover. She pulled it out seeing that it was a small white enveloped addressed to Sasha from Tim Trent. Dr. Trent had treated Jack and had been in the past one of Karen's suitors.
Clair heard Jeff stir and mumble something. She took the music box along with its contents and gently closed the drawer before hastily crawling out of the room. She couldn't open the box, as its sound may alert her uncle, who was out of bed muttering something about being thirsty. Jeff couldn't stand warm water, he had to drink it cool, but not icy, from the refrigerator, or else he claimed it made him nauseous. A lot of things seemed to make him sick to his stomach if his food was not served in a certain way, with only the lightest condiments and very little salt, if any, when his drinks were not a certain temperature, etcetera. Clair knew he would head to the kitchen which she was hoping to search with Kai's help.
The blond young woman, hurried to the kitchen, easily beating the half asleep Jeff there, but Kai had not yet arrived. With the music box still in her arms and that one letter that slipped out hinting at the possibility of others within it in her pocket, Clair hurried to find Kai. She fortunately located him heading down the hall towards the kitchen, when she arrived from a connecting hallway emerging behind him. She silently caught up to him placing her hand on his shoulder.
Kai gasped and jumped in surprise but managed to keep himself quiet. He breathed in relief when he turned around to see Clair, barely perceptible in the darkness, but just clear enough to be recognized. "Change of plans, we're leaving," Clair ordered, leaving no room for argument, not that Kai had any intentions of arguing with the end of their property invasion.
The kitchen search would have to wait for another occasion, if it was even necessary. It was time to leave and investigate the letters. The thought of murder by poison seemed to fit with the background of someone knowledgeable in medicine. Maybe they were accomplices, or maybe not, but it was definitely worth looking into. As for the music box, Sasha wouldn't know what happened to it. Perhaps later, Clair would sneak it back and leave it in the mansion for Sasha to find and believe her husband or someone from the mansion staff had moved it. For the time being, the next step was to retreat and study their findings.
To be Continued
Sanctuary: Part 2
Sanctuary: Diligence, the Pursuit of Ethics
Chapter Five: Castitas - Luxuria
It was late and the tension was hanging in the air, as Clair and Kai made their way out of the mansion of Sasha and her family the same way they came. Their pace through the emergency exit tunnel was faster and more anxious even if they were moving away from the danger of being discovered instead of towards it. They emerged next to Gotz, who closed off the tunnel, leaving it as if the group of trespassers was never there. Then the three returned to Clair's mansion the same way they came, climbing over the fence with the hook rope and jumping into Clair's land on the other side.
Though the two portions of land bordered each other, there was so much empty land between the two mansions that they could hardly be called neighbors. Gotz Kai and Clair, returned to Clair's mansion where Gotz said his goodbyes for the night. "It was an interesting visit," his smile was not really perceptible behind his bushy brown beard, but his small beady eyes expressed it well enough. "I hope next time we meet under better circumstances," he glanced at the music box Clair still held as they stood at the entrance to her mansion. He was curious for sure, but decided he was already too involved as it was, "take care."
"Are you sure you don't wan to stay?" Clair asked as if she was seeing off a guest in the middle of the afternoon, courteously offering to have them over for dinner. Except it wasn't the afternoon and this was far from an ordinary visit.
"I've had enough adventure for one night, I'd best be off," he yawned loudly, producing a sound that one would expect to hear more so from a bear then from a man. "Good night," Gotz gave his final farewell then nodded at Kai, "nice meeting you, boy."
"Likewise," Kai spoke automatically, almost in disbelief about how casual the conversation was.
"Drive safely," with a final smile and a gentle wave of her unoccupied hand, Clair sent Gotz off.
It was then that Kai realized that Gotz was perfectly capable of letting himself out past the front gates of Clair's property and probably let himself in on his own when Clair called him over before. At least he was on Clair's side; hence giving him access to her home didn't seem so bad. Gotz didn't appear to be the kind of person to pry anyway, despite having opened the way for them to pry into someone else's home. Exhausted from the mental and physical strain of work and uncertainty, Kai followed Clair tiredly inside.
Clair made her way up one of the X shaped stair cases, past the painting of the farm, which she glanced at before continuing on. She returned to the room of wilted roses that no longer had any wilted flowers or dust. Kai had cleaned it all out, but without the dead flowers the room looked even sadder if that was possible. The gloomy atmosphere was replaced by emptiness. She took a seat just like before and set the music box on the coffee table, taking the envelope out of her pocket and setting it down on the table next to it.
Kai could almost hear his own hart pounding with anticipation as Clair opened the music box. The box was a light pink with white edges, the color fading perfectly. The material was hard to identify, but Kai could tell that the pink and white stones edged to the cover forming flowers were some kind of quartz. A soft melody played as the box was opened, one that sounded like a nostalgic yet unknown lullaby. Kai was transported to the past by the song.
He saw himself as a small child. The memory was blurry at best. There was a storm raging outside with loud wind and thunder. To top it all up he had a cold, his nose was stuffy and his forehead was warm, but the rest of his body felt freezing cold. A woman sat by the boy's bedside humming a gentle tune with words whispered so softly that the child could barely understand them. Kai tried to figure out the words to the song, but the memory, like all memories of his mother, was simply too distant.
"Kai?" Clair's voice brought him to his senses. "You look like you were having an out of body experience. The hardest part is over, at least for tonight. You can take a moment to breathe, don't have a nervous breakdown now."
Kai shook his head, "sorry, it's just that the song from the music box reminded me of my mother." He stared at the music box some more, he had seen another box much like it with the same melody and the same soft ivory interior with a mirror on the inside of the cover, just like that one. However, the outside was different, instead of pink fading to white; it was sky blue fading to white, with blue and white quartz on the cover. "My mother had the same box in blue and it played the same song."
"Really?" Clair raised an eyebrow in slight curiosity. "Ironically, Sasha always bragged about this song being hers alone. She paid an European composer to make her a unique lullaby for her newborn daughter. It's called Golden Dreams, quite fitting for Sasha whose fortune would be nothing by now if she had not married Jeff."
"I'm sure it's just a coincidence," even so, Kai could almost remember the phrase of 'golden dreams' being spoken in the lullaby his mother used to sing. After she passed away it was sad for him to think of her so he tried not to. Later he realized the details about her were fading away and he tried desperately to hold on to what little he could still recall.
Upon thinking of his mother, something else surfaced on Kai's memories. It was not related to the lullaby; it was something she told him long ago, 'if you see someone in need of help, life has granted you the opportunity to be their angel, don't waste it. You never know when offering your friendship may go as far as saving a life.' Kai had thought about it as motherly advice and nothing more, yet there seemed to be so much more to her words that he didn't know.
Kai looked at Clair as she dug through the many envelopes contained in the music box. Some were visibly much newer than the others. The most recent ones were from Dr. Trent and the oldest were mostly from Jeff, probably cheesy love letters from their youth. He looked at Clair's focused blue eyes as she searched through the mail, ordering the envelopes by dates judging by the cancellation of the stamps, as they seemed to be stored in a random order. He suddenly felt more determined then ever to offer her his friendship.
Clair organized the envelopes into three piles, one pile for letters from Dr. Trent, their main source of potentially useful information, another pile for Jeff's old letters, which were too old to be related to the case in any way, and a third pile of letters from a Seara Summer. "I've organized them by date, lets see if we find something." Clair paused noticing that Kai had paled and his eyes were glued to the third pile of letters, which were clearly old, with the envelopes somewhat yellowed by time. "Summer," Clair spoke the surname aloud, it was the same as Kai's, "do you know her?"
"Seara Summer was my mother," Kai revealed and hesitantly reached for the letters. His thoughts were focused on the past rather than the pressing issue of proving his innocence. Kai felt wrong for prying, but if he could regain a few traces of his memories about his mother, then he felt he could somehow allow himself this. He could take the letters he and Clair had stolen from Sasha and find out just how did she know his mother.
Seeing Kai's hand hovering above the pile of letters from Seara, Clair pushed the pile towards him, perceiving his need to see their contents in his eyes. "Take them with you. I can take care of reading the doctor's letters by myself; I'll let you know if I find something. Don't forget to return those letters to the box and don't switch the envelopes' contents around."
After another second's hesitation, Kai took the letters, realizing that Clair was offering him the chance to read them privately. "I'll be careful with them," with that said, Kai took the letters and went to the room were he was staying.
Clair was meanwhile left to examine the letters that were more recently exchanged by Sasha and Dr. Trent. She picked up the most recent one and silently read it.
'Esteemed Lady Sasha,
What has happened with Karen has been most regrettable indeed. However, I fear that we have found out the truth too late, for she is marrying another as I write these lines. You see, I have spoken with Elli and she has given me a most dreadful confession. The child that Karen claimed to have expected from Jack, that child with which she pushed him into marriage, was not real. Elli has done a terrible thing falsifying the medical results. I will take care of reprimanding her myself, though I cannot understand her motivations, and she is not in the disposition to explain herself, despite claiming to be willing to take any punishment.
Dear lady, I implore you, do not try to disrupt their marriage. I have purposely given you this letter now, after the wedding, instead of telling you when I first learned of this, during the wedding. It matters not to me by what methods Karen has attracted Jack, albeit the thought of her secret relationship with him does anger me, my point is, he is the one she wants, that much is clear. I am deeply hurt as you must understand and will of course no longer pursue your daughter. Despite it all I hope you may still think of me as your confidant, for I still do hold a great appreciation for you, madam Sasha.
Should you need a shoulder to lead on in this time of stress, I beg you to come to me and not act rashly in ways you might regret. Dear lady, I had hoped that things were different, that I may one day be called your son, but it was not meant to be. I bid Karen a silent farewell, never again shall I think of her, but I will always think of you as one of my closest friends.
With sincere regret,
Clair's breathing became labored as she read over the letter several times. Her eyes were wide and her teeth clenched. Her breaths turned into gasps for air, as if she was choking on oxygen. Then she let out a terrible ear splitting wail that echoed through the mansion. Her screams continued, her throat burning with the intensity. For Karen to have faked a pregnancy, something must have obviously happened between her and Jack before her lie, to make it believable. He was with her; he was with her all along.
"Clair!" Kai returned to the sitting room where Clair had been left to study the letter. She took the papers ripping them apart into tiny pieces. "No!" That was their possible proof, the first and maybe most vital fruit of their investigation and she was destroying it. "Stop!"
Clair screamed loudly, her voice breaking in her agonizing cries. Abundant tears ran down her face blurring her vision and she once again wielded her silver gun. Her once melodious voice was strained and raspy from screaming in agony as she pointed the weapon at Kai. "There are few good men in the world and they are reserved for the most evil women." She shot, the bullet barely missing Kai and drilling a hole through the wall behind him.
Kai froze for a second, his arms instinctively raised, his open palms facing Clair in front of him. She must have seen something in those letters that deeply disturbed her. She was having an episode like what happened in that room, the room that belonged to her previous butler, the unknown man that wore the same size clothing as Kai. "Clair, calm down!" It was hard to keep someone else calm when Kai himself was anything but, yet it was impossible for him to stand firm and speak evenly with a seemingly insane, violent woman pointing a gun at him and clearly willing to shoot.
"I'll kill you!" Clair growled through clenched teeth and that was Kai's cue to run for dear life. Yet there was something peculiar about the way Clair spoke those words. She wasn't voicing a threat, it was a warning. It was as if she was holding back her inner turmoil as hard as she could to give Kai time to get away.
For the next few hours there was the sound of gunshots and when the bullets ran out there was insistent clicking, as Clair pulled the trigger over and over even if the gun was empty. Then there was more screaming, though much less in volume since her voice was all but completely gone. Furniture was thrown over and items were smashed, the room that had once held wilted roses and later held an unbearable emptiness, soon became a war zone of destruction. Finally, there was an absolute deadly silence and in the middle of the disarray, there lay Clair, on the floor, unconscious.
xoxox xox xoxox
By the time Clair opened her eyes, it was already mid day. She was on her bed, still wearing the same black outfit from the night before. This was her room; she recognized the shades of deep crimson accentuated with sky blue details that stood out. She rolled over on the large bed to face her side and saw Kai on a chair. She crawled to the edge of the bed and stood shakily, leaning over the sleeping man. Her hands gently cupped his face as she leaned closer. "Jack..." she whispered before joining her lips with his.
Kai was jolted awake immediately. His brown eyes shot open and his arms reached for the body now practically on top of his. He took Clair's arms and tried to get them loose from his neck. She pushed herself against him and the chair fell backward. At the sudden pain of his head impacting the floor, Kai instinctively bit down, drawing blood from Clair's lower lip.
Clair pulled away, pushing herself up with her left hand on his chest, her right hand reaching for her face. She traced her index finger on her bottom lip and frowned with disapproval. "Jack would not do this," she scolded as if he had disappointed her.
"I'm not Jack," Kai breathe, his heart pounding for various reasons.
Clair leaned back down on Kai, her face again inches from his. "Try to be," she insisted with a seductive warm breath that tickled his face and almost made him give in.
"I... I'm Kai, not Jack... I'm Kai and we shouldn't do this." Popuri, he had to remember Popuri. He had been chasing after her with her brother hindering his every step. After their father left, Rick took care of his sister and mother, thus Popuri felt grateful to him. She hated fighting with Rick, but she was clearly attracted to Kai, and besides, Rick would disapprove of any man Popuri liked, fearing that his sister would be abandoned like their mother, Lillia. Kai didn't want to justify Rick's disapproval when it finally seemed that he was making progress with Popuri, the woman who believe in him against all odds. "Don't do this, please stop," he could only ask, because he didn't think he had the will to fight.
Clair's eyes turned blank and she repeated his words and added a few more, "don't do this, please stop... Don't hurt me.... please don't hurt me anymore..." A few tears spilled out from her icy blue eyes before she snapped into reality and got up. Ignoring Kai completely, Clair strode to the bathroom to get ready for the day, as if the incident had never occurred. Letting out a breath, Kai got to his feet and shuffled out of the room.
xoxox xox xoxox
Kai didn't know what to think, he didn't know how to face Clair, but one thing was for sure, he couldn't stop thinking about her. The way she repeated his words as if they were her own, adding more to them... Who had hurt her? Who had made her as troubled as she was? He had hurried to his own assigned room, not knowing what else to do.
He was in one of the waiter uniforms and catching glimpse of his reflection in the large full length mirror in his room, he wondered if the man who had originally used that uniform was to blame for the state Clair was left in. Kai didn't know who that man could be, but he felt a strong loathing for whoever he was. It was something he couldn't explain.
Kai noticed the pile of letters he had begun to go through that night. He picked up the envelopes, sorting through them, they were quite thick. He opened one up and began to study its contents, fascinated by his discoveries. Several papers were folded together, he began to read them in the order in which they were.
I wish to express to you my gratitude for your kind words in my time of need. Please accept the enclosed gift as a token of my appreciation.
That first letter was quite old, written before Sasha married Jeff if the use of her maiden name was any indication. The strange thing was that it was from Sasha to Seara, rather than the other way around. Kai set the paper aside and looked at the next letter, which was longer.
'To my friend Sasha,
Forgive my rudeness if I offend you by returning your letter and check. I do not wish for a monetary compensation, but for your friendship instead. Please write to me again with a real letter for me to keep.
I will not pretend to understand what was going through your mind when you tried to end your life, but I couldn't bear to see you jump to your doom in stormy seas. As I am I basically a stranger to you, I believe you would have trouble trusting my sincerity, so I will explain the reason for my insistence.
My beloved is a sea captain and on that stormy night at the beach I was waiting for him, fearing that he would not return. For my husband to be stolen from me after only a month of marriage felt too cruel. Yet I remembered what he told me about courage being a necessity if one was to tame the sea. I wanted to stay strong for him and I would not allow the sea to take anyone's life. Fortunately, my beloved has returned to me alive, a day late and with a wrecked ship, but alive with all his crew.
I am not clear in terms of the cause of your affliction, but from what I could understand, you are being made to marry a man you do not love. Please do not let yourself fall pray to pressure, follow your heart! I once again offer my friendship and support should you ever choose to accept it.
Kai read the next letter in the group.
'To my only friend,
I regret to say I cannot follow your advice, for my heart only knows how to lead me to peril. The life I wish to live cannot be afforded by love alone. Please forgive me if this is an offence, but none the less, if you are my friend, please accept my invitation and bare witness to my marriage with Jeff. My parents and his insist that we will one day be grateful to them; I can only hope they are right. The enclosed tickets will take you to my city where there shall be someone awaiting your arrival if you decide to come.
From what Kai could conclude, Sasha's opposition to her marriage with Jeff had driven her to the brink of suicide. It was a fate from which she was spared by Seara. Kai could almost picture it, a stormy night at the edge of the sea in the cliff he had seen in his childhood. His mother going out to wait looking into the horizon, searching for signs of an approaching vessel in the raging storm. Then she saw a woman close in age to herself. She ran to that woman realizing she meant to jump. She consoled her and tried to make her change her mind; she hugged her and didn't let her go, she saved her life.
A memory surfaced for Kai. He remembered his mother speaking about a friend she had in a distant city. They would exchange letters regularly, but Kai had never met the other woman. He had heard something about her having a daughter around his age, but he never met her either.
Then a sad memory came to Kai and he remembered the day when he was told the terrible news. He had been happy before he knew. His father was off at sea, which was not unusual. This time however, in honor of their anniversary, his mother was with him as well. Kai was staying with his best friend Gray, who was spending summer vacation at his grandfather's house. The two boys had become close friends over the past few summers.
It was on a clear afternoon following a harsh storm, when Gray and Kai were happily playing outside. With a stern face, Saibara approached his grandson and his friend in the small home's back yard. "Boys," his serious tone left no room for argument as the child approached him. There was also a police officer present.
Kai broke free from his memories and tried to focus on the present. Though his aunt and uncle raised him well, they never filled the void left by his parents. Even so Kai vowed not to fear the sea, he would go to the beach often to prove to himself he was brave, even if on the inside his memories were deeply buried as he ran away from the sadness. Maybe it was about time he faced the loss instead of pretending his parents were away at sea fated to return any day. "They're really gone..." He breathed.
He looked over the contents of the letters further. His mother was Sasha's confident, though their differing moral sometimes clashed. The last letter was from Sasha to Seara in a closed envelope that was never sent. Kai opened it and took out the paper that seemed newer than the others by several years.
'Dearest angel Seara,
Where ever you may be, I wish I had your guidance. I know I am mistaken, terribly mistaken. I know I should receive no forgiveness, yet I long for your kind understanding words. I must confess something terrible. I have fallen in love with another man not my husband, in terms of age he stands in the middle between my daughter and I. Our romance was brief, short lived and deliciously forbidden.
We came to our senses and broke things off, yet I want him near and he's not opposed to the idea of marrying Karen. However, I know that if he does, he will no longer spare me a glance. This is alright; I want him near none the less. This is my confession to you, Seara, my one true friend. I wish you were here to comfort me and to guide me, for it was the fear of disappointing you and losing your friendship that in the past kept me from making terrible mistakes. Now you are no more, what am I to do?
Missing you always,
Kai gasped in shock. Could the man mentioned in the letter be Dr. Trent? He fit the approximate age and the fact that Sasha was trying to arrange his marriage to Karen. That didn't work out, as Karen married Jack, then the story ended in tragedy. Speedy precise footsteps made Kai snap out of his daze as Clair stepped into the hallway and seconds later entered his room. Would it kill her to knock? Then again, this was her house and he was a fugitive, he was at her mercy. He cringed thinking of the consequences of refusing her earlier. What was he supposed to do? Cheat on Popuri? Hold on to the excuse that it was to avoid jail?
"We're going out to the church," Clair's voice pierced through the air scattering all of Kai's thoughts.
"The church?" Kai blinked dumbly, that was unexpected, it was miles away from the topic he thought she would discuss.
"Yes, the church, it's not far from here, let's go." Clair walked away, out of the room, with a stride that made Kai believe he better follow, thus he did. She had changed out of her ninja outfit and was wearing a cozy sky blue sweater and navy pants with sky blue boots, all perfect for the chilly weather. It was one of those cloudy days when the sun refused to be seen behind the thick curtain of gray clouds, rain threatened to fall at any moment and the chilling breeze made autumn feel like the middle of winter.
"Is it okay for me to go out in public?" Kai would guess not, he was feeling tenser by the second as he walked with Clair. Was this all just a lie to get him outside? Or was she taking him out to give one final prayer before she executed him? Should he run? Was his sanctuary over?
Kai was trapped in such thoughts when Clair stopped in one of the locked rooms that Kai was not allowed to enter before. She opened it with a golden key adorned with an emerald and walked inside. Picking up an Indiana Jones style black hat, she swiftly placed it on Kai's head, then handed him a black coat and a dark gray scarf. "Not much of a disguise, but there will be noone there to see you anyway."
Clair exited the room waiting for Kai to go out of it before she locked it again. Kai had very little time to take in the room's appearance, perceiving little beyond the polished wood and shades of brown. It was elegant, but simple, functional. Did it belong to Mr. Moon? Kai dared not ask, he only quietly followed Clair outside.
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Sanctuary: Patience, the Pursuit of Peace
Chapter Six: Humanitas - Invidia
The chilly breeze of the afternoon hit their faces as Clair and Kai exited the mansion. Clair's collection of cars was parked outside, but she didn't seem interested in using them. She did mention the church was not far and if it was the same one Kai thought of, then it was within a short walking distance of the mansion. Even so, walking felt risky. Kai kept his hat lowered over his face and his scarf covering half of it.
The walk to the church down the street went without incident. It was too late to attend the morning activities and too early to attend the afternoon activities. As a result, the majestic building of ivory walls and colored glass windows was almost empty. Entering the church their every step echoed like the steps of a multitude, making Kai feel exposed.
Four people were present at the church, lost in the many rows of seats. Near the front there was a sad looking red haired young woman contemplating the floor with half closed eyes and a seemingly permanent frown that didn't seem to fit her face. She paid no attention to the new arrivals, not even noticing them.
Aside from Clair, Kai and the redhead, the only other person there was Father Carter, who greeted Clair with a gentle smile and a suspicious look. "It's been a long time Clair, I haven't seen you around here since your father was still among us, may he rest in peace."
"I've been... a little sidetracked, not paying attention to the days. But I will start attending again regularly as soon as I sort out a few things," Clair smiled casually.
"Perhaps being here will help you sort your thoughts," Carter suggested with that look of intelligent suspicion still present in his eyes, while his gentle smile didn't waver. "Who is this young man with you?"
"John," Clair replied without a single hint of doubt in her voice. Kai was at least glad she didn't call him Jack. He would feel odd being called that. "He's also the reason why I'm here." At such words, Kai tensed up and considered running, but stayed still as a statue as Clair continued her false explanation. "Sadly, John has suffered a terrible loss; his family is no longer among the living. They were quite strong in faith but the pain has started to make him lose his. Perhaps you could help. Why don't you two sit down and talk?"
When Clair's icy blue eyes met Kai's unsure chocolate orbs, he suddenly understood. She wanted him to distract Carter for some reason. Her story was a mere coincidence, there was no way she could know about his past that was so far away. None the less, knowing the pain of loss from experience, Kai was able to put up a convincing act that captured Carter's attention completely as they sat in a corner of the church.
Opposite to them beyond the altar, there was a door that led to the confessional. The redhead was distracted, her eyes still closed in silent prayer. Clair made her way to the confessional, in and out quickly. She watched the redhead and Carter, they didn't see her. She waited a little longer apparently praying, then pulled up her sweater's sleeve to reveal a diamond encrusted white gold watch. The people attending the church in the afternoon would be there soon, it was time to leave. "John," let us not forget our appointment, I know you don't like going to the doctor, but you must. Father Carter, I do apologize for not being able to stay."
"I understand," for several minutes carter had been distracted by Kai and his act. As soon as Clair spoke up, an analytical look once again invaded his eyes. "Perhaps you would both return tonight and listen to my sermon."
"Perhaps," Clair smiled and linked her arms with Kai's as they left the church. Once outside she let him go and started walking more swiftly. The streets would soon be full of the people attending the afternoon service at the church.
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Clair and Kai were a few steps away from her mansion when something unexpected happened. A woman walked past them in the opposite direction and Clair froze. "Clarisse..." She whispered in a voice that only Kai was close enough to hear, before her world stopped spinning and her awareness faded into nothingness.
"Clair!" Kai caught her before she could fall and held her on her feet, his arm around her waist as her limp form rested on him. "Clair!" He didn't know who that woman was; she didn't seem to notice them, focused on the man walking next to her instead. Kai could recognize the older man missing some hair on his head but with plenty still on his face in a bushy brown mustache under a large round nose. He was the mayor, but the woman, who seemed to be the one to make Clair faint, was unknown to Kai.
"What's wrong?" A man slightly younger than Clair and Kai approached them. He had long brown hair and curious purplish-blue eyes. "What happened to her?"
"Nothing," Kai tried to continue on his way, half-carrying Clair as naturally as possible, trying to make it look like she was simply leaning on him, rather than being dragged on her feet.
"What's wrong with Clair?" The young man asked more intensely.
"I don't know, she just fainted, I'll get her inside." Seeing that this man apparently knew Clair, Kai thought it was alright to cut the act, he would just look worse if he didn't.
Kai searched for her keys in her sky blue coat pocket and allowed Clair to rest on the other man's waiting arms while he opened the gates to the mansion. "It's the pearl," the unknown young man informed seeing Kai trying different keys, it was obvious he had been there before if he knew that much."
Without any further words being exchanged, Kai and the unknown man took Clair inside, locking the gates and door behind them.
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When Clair woke up, she was back on her bed in the room she was used to waking up in. She turned her head to the side to see that Kai was there without his hat and scarf. Next to him was Cliff looking shocked. "I knew there was something odd about you not taking off your hat and scarf after we came inside, but I admit I didn't expect this. Nonetheless I'll keep my promise, like I said, I won't judge you no matter what I see. Besides, if you're with Clair then even if..." Cliff trailed into silence and noticed that Clair was looking at them. "How are you feeling."
Clair sat up and shook her head, "like I saw a ghost. I must be losing it, Clarisse is dead, that couldn't have been her. So, how do you two know each other?"
"We just met," Kai replied.
"Is that so? Well you don't need to worry, Cliff here is trust worthy. He's like a little brother to me so you can relax," Clair explained as she started to get up.
"You should rest," Cliff insisted, "rest and explain what's going on while you do."
Sitting on the edge of her bed, Clair began to speak. "I didn't hire a hitman to take out Jack."
Cliff let out a breath of relief, "that's good to know, I thought I would have to help hide him and become an accomplice. But if you didn't hire him, then why is Kai here? His picture is all over the news! I came to see how you were doing, since this whole thing was my fault."
"No it wasn't," Clair scolded as if she had grown tired of reassuring Cliff of the same thing over and over. All you did was invite me to go on vacation in the countryside; all you did was introduce me to a friend. If things didn't work out between Jack and I, that's not your fault. As for Kai, he might be innocent."
"I am innocent," Kai insisted.
"That is yet to be," Clair suddenly grew silent in the middle of her sentence. She rose her hand to quiet the others as her eyes became wide with agony, then narrow with anger. She ripped something small out of her ear, previously hidden under her hair and tossed it on the floor in anger before bolting out of the room, "I'm going to kill her!"
The two men were caught completely off guard. Numb by the suddenness of all the complications, Cliff picked up the small transmitter Clair had tossed on the floor and brought it to his ear while Kai rushed after her. The transmitter carried the voice of a woman, "I'm sorry, you should be speaking to everyone who gathered here, but I waited for so long before confessing, I just sat there unsure. I'm sorry, it was all my fault, I was the one who poisoned him. I'm so sorry." With surprise invading all his features, Cliff came to a conclusion; Clair must have linked that person to the death of Jack. Who was that woman? Where was she? Probably near by. Cliff listened to the other voice; it was muffled by the woman's cries, something about sins and redemption, was it a confession at a church? Was that where the culprit was?
"Stop Clair! You can't just run out and shoot someone! What were you hearing? What was it?" Kai's voice was desperate as he tried to stop Clair from running off. Cliff ran past them and out of the mansion, he dashed to the church as fast as he could.
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Cliff kept the transmitter on his ear all the way to the church and heard as the girl insisted she should leave, saying she would return later. The priest tried to stop her but she left anyway. Cliff arrived just in time to see a red-haired woman in tears running out of the church, causing murmurs to erupt from all those who had gathered to hear the sermon as they theorized about her possible confession. None would guess it to be murder.
She stopped cold, seeing him there, than ran past him. She never would have guessed he heard it all. He never would have guessed she was capable of something like this, "Ann..."
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Cliff returned to the mansion at a broken pace. He made his way back to Clair's room noticing the sounds of muffled sobbing as he went. Kai was on his knees on the floor with Clair in his arms, clinging to him, her pink manicured nails digging into his tan skin. "Why did you leave me, Jack? I missed you so much! Don't go away again, don't betray me."
Kai, who sported a black eye and abundant bruises and scratches thanks to Clair's outburst, tried to soothe the crying woman in his arms gently patting her back and caressing her hair, but he refused to let her give him the name of a dead man. "It's Kai, my name is Kai."
Cliff approached them and ruffled Clair's golden hair, "Clary-sweet, did you take your vitamins today?"
Clair shifted before responding, "no papa, not today, I don't want to, because you weren't there for breakfast like you promised."
"I'm sorry, please take your vitamins and I'll buy you something nice for being such a good girl. You know you can't come hunting with me if you get sick," Cliff continued the act, impersonating Clair's father.
"Yes papa, I understand, I'll go take them now." Clair parted from Kai and walked to her adjacent private bathroom like a zombie. She opened a cabinet and took a bottle of pills, retrieving one and swallowing it without water. She returned to her room walking automatically, then collapsed into her bed and closed her eyes.
"What was that?" Kai asked with urgent alarm.
"Shh," Cliff made a motion for Kai to lower his voice and follow him out of the room. Once both men were in the hallway, Cliff gently closed Clair's door. "Clair needs to take her medicine or she becomes a little unstable. She's usually responsible with these things, she says she hates losing control; she never remembers anything afterwards and is left wondering about what she could have done. All the stress in the last few days must have made her neglect her treatment."
Kai knew from the start that there had to be something wrong with Clair, but he didn't know she needed medicine to fight it off. "Will she be okay?"
"Probably... but..." Cliff removed the transmitter from his ear.
"What was that about?" Kai inquired with renewed alarm. "Did that have something to do with that woman who made her faint? With Clarisse?"
Sighing deeply, Cliff shook his head, "Clarisse is dead and it's not my place to tell you about her." Cliff paced a little in the hallway unsure. "This transmitter, the sounds it produces are from the church, aren't they?"
Kai nodded, that would explain why Clair needed him to distract Carter. She was placing a hidden sound transmission device in the confessional in case the culprit came in. Kai was invaded by shock upon the possibility, "the murderer?"
"Ann, I barely know her, I met her not too long ago, but she seemed so nice. I don't know what her connection with Jack or Clair could be, if she's even connected to Clair at all." Cliff spoke solemnly. "Clair is like a sister to me. She always took care of me like an older sibling would protect the younger. I'm grateful to her and I'm probably one of the few people left in the world who doesn't hate her, uncle Gotz and I... I'll back her up on anything but I don't think I can help her with this. I can't help her kill Ann. I'll still tell her though, I would feel like a traitor if I don't tell her the truth and let her decide her actions."
"Ann," Kai repeated the name looking for a connection but he found none. "Who is she?"
"She runs the gourmet dessert shop that just opened, I thought she was nice," cliff frowned in deep sadness. "I guess I was wrong, but I can't help kill her, I can't kill anything." Cliff grimaced.
"That's not a bad thing," Kai insisted, "you should worry if you're able to take a life without remorse, especially a human one." Then the theory about the parfait was right. Ann must have snuck the poison into the chocolate parfait, Jack's favorite flavor. "Why did she do it?"
"I don't know, I only heard a confession, I heard her say she killed Jack Harvest, that she poisoned him. I have no idea why she did it." It didn't make any sense to Cliff. "No matter how hard I try, I can't think of a single motivation."
"She's holds the answer; Ann must know why she did what she did." Kai wasn't sure of what to do next. Should he involve the police? Would Carter be willing to testify? Probably not, that would go against his believes and secrecy.
The door to Clair's room was suddenly opened by the hostess herself, her expression was serious. "I'm going to have a word with Ann."
"Clair, wait," Kai began to speak, but Clair raised her hand to silence him.
"I'm alright, I don't do well if I forget my medicine, but I'm fine now, it's just stress. If I did anything... unusual," she looked at Kai's beaten state as she spoke, "then I apologize." She didn't remember it, but she knew she was responsible for his black eye, scratches and bruises. "Kai, you'd best stay here. Don't worry; I won't do anything rash until I'm sure. I'll get a confession out of her for you."
Kai knew that he couldn't stop Clair once her mind was made up. "Be careful," he glanced at Cliff who nodded, he would go with her just in case.
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Clair and Cliff swiftly made their way to the new gourmet dessert shop in town. It was the first place where they would look for Ann in case she took refuge there. If she just confessed, then maybe that meant she didn't have the will to run away. The shop was closed, its glass doors locked and it was dark inside, a variety of sweets on display. Clair pounded on the door harshly. "Ann, I know you're there and I know what you did!"
Believing she was somehow truly seen, Ann emerged from behind the counter at the base of which she had been sitting hidden from view. She walked over to the glass door and stopped mid way there with a frightened expression.
Clair aimed her silver gun shielding it from the view of any possible passer-bys with her body. Cliff stood silently beside her, tensing up. "I know this isn't bulletproof glass," she growled threateningly.
Gathering all her courage, Ann unlocked the front door, there was no way to avoid her inevitable fate, but she didn't care, she was consumed by guilt. She stepped aside, allowing Clair and Cliff to enter.
Kai arrived covered by the hat and scarf from before, much to the surprise of Clair and Cliff. "I'm sorry, I just had to, this is my business too."
Allowing Kai passage, Cliff locked the front door and Clair made Ann walk to the back room away from the view of the glass displays in the front of the shop. Once out of sight from the street, she ordered, "confess."
Ann took an excruciating breath, "I did it, I poisoned Jack Harvest."
Clair's finger trembled on her gun's trigger. Cliff moved towards her to caution her, but Clair glanced in his direction and her angry blue eyes froze him in place. "Why?"
"Revenge... on you," Ann admitted. "My father was your family's loyal chef for years but you always treated us like trash. That's why I would rather live with my aunt and not go to that mansion, even if it meant missing my father. He wanted to retire, he deserved to retire, but he couldn't, because he couldn't afford his heart medications without work. I didn't have the means to help him... When Mr. Moon found out the truth about my father's illness, he offered to pay for the surgery, but Mr. Moon was older and quite fragile himself, he passed away and you cancelled the plans. All you could think of was your own loss and because of that, I suffered a loss, I too lost my father."
"You seem to be doing well now, thanks to the recipes," Clair spoke coldly.
"Dad was grateful to Mr. Moon and didn't abandon him, but he should have, he should have been the one to start this business long ago. Then when I was old enough I could start managing it and he could rest and recover. He would still be with me today if things had been that way. You shut everyone out thinking you were the only one in pain, or at least that's what I thought at first when I tried not to hate you thinking that I knew your pain because I suffered the same loss. Yet you were so nonchalant when I saw you. I wanted to make you understand the pain of a loss so I poisoned him. I smashed up some peanuts and put them in the chocolate parfait knowing from my short conversation with Sasha that it would go to Jack. I wanted you to worry seeing his pain, but I was stupid. I should have hurt you, not those around you. I didn't mean to kill him. I just wanted to ruin your approaching honey moon."
"What?" The atmosphere stood perfectly still as Clair lowered her gun and laughed bitterly. "You were misinformed. The Miss Moon that everyone was talking about getting married was not me."
Ann's face was invaded by shock, "then who?" She realized who else it could be, "Karen?"
"Yes, Karen and Jack were married and just so you know, the one highly allergic to peanuts was my ex-butler. The rumor mill is very unreliable these days. Is that the whole of your confession?" Clair inquired, her temper slowly subsiding.
"Yes," Ann stammered out in shock. "Then I didn't kill him? It wasn't me? I only heard he was poisoned so I thought..."
"It wasn't you, but know this, Ann, if you choose to pick a fight with me, you will suffered the terrible consequences." With those final words that left Ann quaking in fear, Clair put away her silver gun and left the shop with Kai and Cliff following her.
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Clair, Cliff and Kai were almost back at the mansion when the same lady from before walked by. She was focused on her talk with the mayor, discussing what they would do next and describing what she wanted for dinner. Clair stopped cold once more, but she remained in her senses that time. "Clarisse," she whispered before gathering air into her lungs and calling out, "Clarisse!"
The woman instinctively turned her head towards the source of the sound, her painted face making her look younger, despite being old enough to be Clair's mother. "Catherine, my name is Catherine..." she stammered as if confessing something terrible. Her hands trembled and the mayor gave her a worried look. "Please go ahead without me."
The mayor looked at Clair, a woman known for her nasty temper and violent ways. She was in the company of Cliff, a young man known as a polite kind gentleman who wouldn't hurt anyone, but somehow ended up as Clair's best and some would say only friend. As for the other man who was with Clair, his face was concealed, giving him a suspicious atmosphere. "Are you sure?"
"Please," Catherine implored, "there is something I must discuss with this young lady."
Seeing her urgency, the mayor knew he couldn't argue. "Very well, I will see you later then." He continued on his way, stopping every few feet to greet someone on the street.
Catherine took a deep breath and followed Clair, Cliff and Kai inside the mansion. The doors were once again locked and Catherine looked like she was awaiting her own death as she was led to the room of emptiness that once held wilted roses.
Everyone was taken by surprise when Clair motioned for them to sit while she paced around the room and uttered a simple unexpected question. "Who are you?" She stopped mid stride and looked at Catherine's downcast face, her icy blue eyes trying to see into the older woman's well hidden secrets.
Catherine breathed again, releasing the accumulated oxygen of her lungs slowly as if pained. "I am her sister; our resemblance has always been undeniable. I thought you wouldn't be here anymore, yet I wondered what I would do if you were. The mayor and I used to date when we were young, of course, he wasn't the mayor then. All of that ended with my secret indiscretion. I left him without an explanation and went far away to have the child of another man, he never knew."
Cliff and Kai sat in silence as Catherine spoke and Clair paced some more, until she paused to look at Catherine again. "You're Clarisse's sister," Clair tried to internalize the information, "you're my aunt."
Catherine shook her head. "It has always haunted me and it always will. We were twins you see, so easy to confuse. I am... your mother."
Gasp of surprise escaped Cliff, Kai and Clair. This was a major revelation that left Clair in shock as many scenes replayed in her mind. "Why?"
"I was jealous of her, of my sister." Abundant tears ran down Catherine's face. "It was all my fault, I tricked her fiance and had a child that should have been hers. I didn't know what to do with the baby; it didn't make him come to me. He begged for Clarisse's forgiveness and married her. I was left forgotten with the child. In my anger I told him I would kill the child if he didn't come to me, he came, but only to take the baby, then he went away and I never saw him again."
"Don't do this, please stop... Don't hurt me.... please don't hurt me anymore... mother..." Clair repeated as if in a trance. "She never forgave his betrayal," she spoke in realization, her eyes full of tears. "No, what she couldn't forgive was the memory, me. I was a symbol of that betrayal and instead of keeping me away, of helping the pain heal, he took me in and expected her to raise me as her own. It's no wonder Clarisse hated me. It's no wonder she tried to get us both killed by crashing her car. But I lived, I lived and for the longest time I pretended that she was never mean to me, that I didn't remember her final words before she crashed the car. 'I want to die because I'm hurt and I want to kill you because I hate you.' It's because of you that Clarisse hated me; it's because of you that she tried to kill us both. It's your fault!"
Clair's silver gun was aimed at Catherine. Cliff and Kai stood, but Catherine rose to her feet as well and waved them off. "Gentlemen, what happens in this room, shall remain in the sanctuary of secrecy forever. That is my final wish." With those words, that surrender, Cliff and Kai were left immobile.
Clair's finger trembled over her gun's trigger, she glared at Catherine fiercely. Her teeth wee gritted, her heart was pounding, she felt nothing but grief and anger. Then she slowly lowered her gun. "Live with the shame, live with the pain." Catherine gasped, unable to move for several seconds until Clair yelled, "get out of my sight!" with the most hateful tone those present have ever heard.
Pale as a sheet, with a tear stained face, Catherine hurried out. Cliff let her out with an upset look on his face that didn't seem to fit his usual gentle nature. With a hasty goodbye to the mayor, she left town and no one ever knew why, no one dared to ask, not if Clair was involved. They never saw Catherine again.
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Sanctuary: Kindness, the Pursuit of Love
Chapter Seven: Patientia - Ira
When Cliff returned to the room of roses and emptiness where Kai and Clair were, he saw them in a similar position to before, this time on the couch. She was clinging to him desperately as he tried to soothe her pain. "Now you know why I'm so hopelessly messed up, now you know, Jack."
"Kai, my name is Kai and you're not hopelessly messed up, you can overcome this. It's hard, but you can do it," Kai tried to console her.
"You were the first I truly loved, Jack, the firs who wasn't just an accessory to me," Clair sobbed. "The first and the only. I was mean to you despite you being Cliff's friend. You said you knew there was good in me so you were still kind. You stole my heart, Jack, don't you remember?"
"I don't remember, because I'm not Jack," Kai insisted more sternly this time. He tried to pry Clair off himself, he tried to pull her away so she could see his face, now devoid of the hat and scarf. He wanted her to see that he wasn't Jack.
"Stop that, you're hurting her," Cliff sat on the same couch on the other side of Clair and took her in his arms. "It's okay Clair, it's okay, I'm here."
"Jack, don't ever leave me, Jack..." Clair clung to Cliff her head resting on his shoulder, her eyes closed tightly.
"That will only hurt her more," Kai insisted. "She has to see the truth, denial never helps anyone, it didn't help me get over my parents death when I was a child, even if I pretended it did. The sooner she faces the truth the better."
"Stop it!" Cliff half scolded and half begged.
Clair distanced herself from cliff, then stood up and walked to the window opening in and breathing in the chilled air. "Winter is really on its way, or maybe it's already here. Kai is right, I have to face it, Jack is dead and before he died, he married another. Maybe he's better off dead. I'm sorry Kai, but I won't be able to help you any more. You can stay here and hide from the police, but I am no longer interested in avenging Jack's death."
Kai sighed, letting out his tension, but still keeping many more inside. "I understand, maybe it's best this way." An uncomfortable silence invaded the room for several minutes until Kai could no longer withstand it. "Are you two hungry? I'll make some dinner, how about it?"
"That sounds good," Cliff agreed while Clair nodded quietly.
Cliff and Clair watched Kai prepare the meal, with Cliff occasionally commenting on something. Then the three ate in silence and retired to sleep, with Cliff spending the night at the mansion also.
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With the arrival of a new day, an interesting letter was delivered to Clair, which requested her presence for the reading of Jack's will. She left on her own, insisting that she would be fine, while Cliff and Kai paced in circles, debating if they should go after her.
It was just over an hour when Clair returned with a smile plastered on her face. "Hello boys, aren't I the lucky one, having two handsome men waiting for me like well trained dogs," she laughed in crystal clear laughter that made Kai marble at her cheer.
Cliff grinned big, "Clair, you're back," he meant it in more ways than one. She was not only literally back, but seemingly back to her old self, the self that she only showed to Cliff and Gotz.
"Not entirely, but I'll get there," Clair admitted. "I suppose some explanations are due." She retrieved an envelope from her designer purse. "This, my friends, is the deed to Jack's farm with my name on it. My guess is he wrote a will before he was stolen by Karen and forgot to change it. You should have seen her face, it was priceless, I wish I had brought a camera. The farm is mine and it will one day be a lovely hotel and resort. In fact, I'm planning to go there right away to take a better look at the land. You two can tag along if you wish, we take off tonight!"
"It's short notice and unexpected, but I'm there," Cliff assured. "I'm going to get my luggage ready; I'll be back in a few hours."
"Can I come?" Kai inquired. He didn't know what he would do locked up in that mansion by himself.
"Sure, but you're going to need some clothes for the trip and I have to buy some things anyway," Clair asserted. "I'll pick up some things for you on the way.
Kai was about to say it was unnecessary, but realized he was in no position to shop for himself, or even provide his debit card, as it was the card of a fugitive. "Thank you, I'll repay you somehow."
"No worries, I'm not always grouchy you know, you just saw my worse side." It was obvious in Clair's eyes that she was still hurt, everything was still sinking in, but she was trying her best to face it bravely and surely making progress.
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The shopping trip and subsequent flight down south to the warm weathered small town where the farm was located went without incident. The trio of travelers made their way down the rural roads on foot because not even the taxi that they took at the airport could take them that far in the narrow and uneven dusty terrain. They looked very much like tourists with Clair wearing a sunflower decorated sundress and large hat with a yellow ribbon, accompanied by comfortable sandals. Cliff and Kai both choose similar casual attires, consisting of the all purpose classic jeans, tshirts and sneakers. Kai wore big sunglasses to hide his face and a blond wig that combined with his tan made him look like a typical bleach-haired surfer.
Dragging their luggage along, they kept walking down the road until the vast farmland came into view. The three travelers stopped taking in the view as a welcomed breeze blew. It was as if summer never left that place, no matter what month of the year it was. The land was overgrown with weeds, yet the wild flowers that managed to make their way into the fields gave it an almost mythical ambience. It wasn't until all three travelers were in front of the little house to which Clair carried the key that they finally realized how tired they were from their walk.
They entered the house, their steps disturbing the dust that had been collected on the floor. They set their luggage aside and exited the house just as quickly as they went in, sitting on an old bench in front of it that creaked in protest as it struggled to support their combined weight.
The travelers remained silent for a long moment until Clair finally spoke, "I'm just about dying of thirst."
There couldn't possibly be anything good to drink inside, the house had been empty for several days and the utilities were disconnected. "I'll go get us something from the near by town," Cliff offered, standing from the bench that appeared to become unbalanced being empty on one side. He was the obvious choice for the task, since Clair was clearly no longer in the mood for walking and Kai might feel uneasy being seen more than necessary, even if he was in disguise and in the possession of a false ID thanks to Clair and her connections. With such thoughts in mind, Cliff left.
"There's a beach near by," Clair broke the silence that lingered after Cliff left. "Maybe after Cliff gets back we can all go. A good vacation is exactly what I need right now, even if it is in the middle of nowhere, or maybe it's a good thing that it's the middle of nowhere."
"What if someone sees me?" Kai worried.
Clair laughed, "what part of middle of nowhere did you not understand? You can lose the wig now, no one will recognize you anyway and if they do, the country bumpkins will assume you're just a look alike. Relax, have fun, you have nothing to fear while in my care."
"Why did you decide to continue giving me sanctuary?" Kai curiously asked, it was a question that had been floating in his mind since Clair declared she no longer wished to avenge Jack.
"I don't know," Clair admitted, "I guess I just did. Maybe you shouldn't question it, count your blessings and be grateful for your luck, try to enjoy it while you're at it. Although if you really were lucky, I suppose you wouldn't be in this mess in the first place."
"They say that everything happens for a reason, maybe this whole mess has a reason to be," at least it was a small comfort for Kai to think so.
"Whatever it is, it was still troublesome and I'll be glad to leave it all behind," Clair's tone turned dark for a moment, but she maintained her calm expression.
A few more minutes passed without conversation, just two people in need of a vacation, enjoying a relaxing breeze in a sunny afternoon. Cliff finally arrived, out of breath from all his running. He was carrying a small cooler, obviously hoping that the ice wouldn't melt on the way back. He also purchased an assortment of snacks and while looking through them Clair decided they were better off eating at the beach. Much to Cliff's surprise, Kai decided to go with the flow, despite his status as a fugitive, and enjoy his time there.
The rest of the day was spent on a beach that was beautiful but desolate save for Clair, Kai and Cliff. The locals were busy with their farm work and such tasks and the land was devoid of tourists as there were no real accommodations for them. Day after day, they enjoyed their vacation until a month later it was time to return to the snowy city from where they came to allow the construction of the hotel and resort to begin.
xoxox xox xoxox
There was one time in particular that stood out from their vacation. Cliff had returned home after only two weeks of being on vacation, insisting that he had business to tend to and giving Kai a sly smile on his way out. It was after Cliff had left, when Kai and Clair were alone one evening at the beach... "You might be better off hiding away here." Clair spoke with a hint of sadness.
"Wouldn't you get lonely without me?" Kai inquired, exaggerating hurt.
"You're a flirt when you get comfortable around girls, you know that?" Clair rolled her eyes.
"It usually doesn't take me this long to get comfortable," Kai admitted, feeling like an open book in front of Clair.
"That scary, am I?" Clair chuckled jokingly at first, then gained a solemn expression. 'I guess I really must be scary, wanting to shoot things and people, being so selfish and vengeful."
"I don't think you're a bad person," Kai stated truthfully. "I'm not only saying this because you had mercy on me, I mean it beyond that. You've been through a lot that I found out about before I had the right to know, before you could willingly tell me. I can only begin to imagine what it was like, but you're still here, you're still strong. Even with all that has happened recently and in the past, you're still brave and strong. That's pretty amazing, there's something about you that makes me admire you, you're survivor a Clair, no one can bring you down."
"I don't fully face my truths," Clair admitted.
"Neither do I, I suppose, but maybe we can. I'll tell you..." Kai offered after a moment's hesitation, "I'll tell you all about me and... You don't have to tell me anything if you don't feel comfortable, but just know that you can tell me all about you whenever you feel up to it..." That was how it all started, how they bared their very souls to each other.
xoxox xox xoxox
The return to the city came with many changes. Kai, who had practically forgotten he was a fugitive, had to readapt to his life of hiding. Then one fateful day Popuri called out from the gates of Clair's mansion and was allowed inside by the owner of the residence whose face was adorned with a scowl the second she saw the strawberry haired woman.
Without a word she led Popuri to the main room at the entrance where the stairs crossed over each other in the shape of an X. There Kai was cleaning up after the task of removing the old farmland painting was done, replacing it with a painting of a detailed ocean scenery. "Kai..."
Kai looked at Popuri, he had not even noticed she was there. "Popuri?" The name felt unfamiliar. When did he forget about her? When did Clair occupy his every thought? It's been a while...
"It has... I haven't seen you in so long and I... I'm sorry!" She seemed upset for some reason, or maybe ashamed. "I was so lonely and he comforted me."
"Did you find someone special?" Kai asked with a relieved smile. Popuri stared at him in surprised, mixed with relief. "I'm happy for you, I did too."
"I guess that's how it is..." Popuri didn't expect Kai to ask about the man who stole her heart, nor did she intend to ask about the woman who stole his. It was obvious, it had to be Clair, who else was he around all the time?. "When were you going to tell me?"
"Well..." Kai left the statement hanging, he had little to answer with.
"You forgot about me, didn't you?" Popuri pouted, "fine, be that way!" She crossed her arms and stomped her feet.
"Why are you mad, you were going to dump me anyway!" Kai defended.
"As opposed to just forgetting to break things off and leaving you waiting." Swiftly turning around, Popuri marched out of the mansion. Though she was upset, Kai knew deep down that she wouldn't tell on him, and if she did it was Clair's word against hers and Clair Moon always won.
Clair reappeared in the room, observing the new painting. "Is that woman gone?"
"Yeah, she's gone, don't worry, I don't think she'll tell anyone I'm here." Kai made his way down the stairs to stand next to Clair admiring the painting. "It reminds me of the beach we vacationed on. We talked about a lot of things, didn't we?"
"Indeed," before Kai could place his arm around her waist pretending it was an automatic motion he didn't notice, Clair disappeared from his side, as if it was a mere coincidence that she moved swiftly and suddenly at that precise moment. "Clair..."
"Make sure this place is clean, top to bottom," Clair waved her hand dismissively as she walked away not facing him.
"Clair wait, about our vacation," Kai insisted to bring up the subject she had been avoiding as if it never happened.
"Later Kai, I don't have time to talk now. With the construction going on I'm very busy overseeing the procedures," with her usual excuse, Clair disappeared from Kai's sight as she always did.
He had thought they became closer during their vacation. He had heard about her past in the words of another, but hearing her tell him about it from her perspective was different. It took a confession of his own past and feelings to get her to open up enough to speak of hers, one evening as the sun set when they were alone at the beach. The kiss that followed felt all too natural and caught in the moment, Kai wouldn't have minded if Clair did call him by another name, but he loved that she called him by his real name.
When morning came she acted as if nothing ever happened, even if Kai was certain that Clair was in her full senses and remembered everything just as clearly as he did. She simply didn't want to talk about it, which he would have a much easier time dealing with if she acted natural instead of avoidant, which was what truly bothered him. If they didn't know where they stood and took their time in figuring it out, that was fine by him, but they weren't going to figure out anything by avoiding each other.
xoxox xox xoxox
The ultimatum began to develop when Clair, after a week of working Kai like a slave in hopes of discouraging his romantic advances, received a direct confrontation from her refugee. "Be honest with yourself Clair, you're either a coward or a sadist, but either way you lo-"
"It's Jack's journal," Clair ended Kai's speech by shoving a book into his hands. "Do me a favor and burn it." Then she swiftly left his side.
Kai flipped through the book, finding information about farming, some accounting calculations, diagrams of what should be planted where on the farm, notes about seeds, crops and livestock, and similar things. It wasn't much of a journal per se, it was more like a hand written farmer's manual lacking the organization of an index.
Looking beyond that, Kai did notice why it was also a journal. There were notes and scribbles here and there. The birthdays of different people, people from the only nearby town Kai assumed, were written in the corners of the pages. Kai also noticed a few notes about what each person liked and what they didn't like. Opinions and perceptions were mixed in with the facts, giving insight to the writer's thoughts.
There was a page in which Clair was described as wild and untamable, hiding a secret, with an unusual sense of justice. Karen was described as well but each characteristic was accentuated with a question mark. It was as if Karen was trying to steal Jack away with her charm and Jack himself suspected that charm might be false.
As the pages went on filled with more farming tips, another page came up with a comparison of Clair and Karen as if writing the pros and cons of each one could help Jack organize his thoughts. "Couldn't he do this in his head?" Kai looked over the list, the characteristics seemed to fit, as if Karen had come out of her shell and truly fallen in love with Jack. Then finally there was a piece of paper folded and tugged into the journal, an unsent letter Jack must have forgotten about.
Long time no see, next time I'll come visit you. I might move into the city with Karen. She says she's pregnant so we need to get married, something about the procedures of her society or something. I told her she and the child could just live with me at the farm, but she was opposed to the idea.
Sorry about that, dropping the bomb on you like that. You introduced me to Clair and I know you thought we were together. We were for some time, but I made my choice and it's Karen. She's an enigmatic sassy city girl, but she's not an untamable wild spirit like Clair. Besides, Clair is intent on not being caught. A man would have to be incredibly stubborn or just plain suicidal to keep chasing after her.
I hope we can still be friends!
Kai got the fireplace ready and burned the journal along with the letter just as Clair asked. On a whim, he took the letters that had been in the stolen music box and burned them too; Clair didn't seem to care about them despite Kai having told her about their contents during one of their evening conversations on the beach side when they talked about anything and everything.
xoxox xox xoxox
The next day, Kai found himself at a loss of what to do. He was a free man with nowhere to go. Clair had forged some suicidal notes and used her connections to clear Kai's name. As he was no longer in need of a sanctuary, Clair booted him from her property and he had no choice but to leave. Perhaps she was getting attached and didn't want to be, but he had already begun chasing her and felt that he couldn't break free from that chase. Maybe in a certain sense, he too had the heart of a hunter.
He knew he couldn't apply for his old job. Karen still thought he was a murderer absolved by Clair in some sort of twisted display of power. He had no where to go and more importantly, he didn't know where he wanted to go. He wandered around and was caught by the falling snow, taking refuge in the nearest building he saw after his long walk without a destination.
The building was a library and at the counter a young woman with long dark hair and glasses gasped at his entrance. Kai tried to give her a charming smile, which worked wonders on most girls, before his picture appeared in the news advertised as a murderer. He knew it would no longer have the same effect, even if his name was cleared. He thought it was unfair that the absolution wasn't advertised nearly as much as the crime in the news.
Having heard the woman's gasp and becoming curious about its cause, a man with blond hair, blue eyes and a baseball cap, who was browsing the bookshelves, peeked over. "Kai?" As Kai turned towards the voice, the man rushed towards him. "It is you! You had me worried, man!"
"Gray? What in the world? It's been ages!" Kai exclaimed, seeing his childhood friend after so long.
"Yeah, it has. I nearly died of shock when I saw you were falsely accused," Gray confessed. "I never believed it, I knew you had to be innocent. To think the whole thing was a suicide. If that guy wanted to die so badly, he didn't have to cause trouble for the living by hiding his suicide note so well!"
"Yeah..." Kai bit his lip; the mystery of Jack's murder still remained unsolved. Who did it and why? Would the murderer take more lives?
"There's a rumor going around you were hiding out at Clair Moon's mansion. That chick's crazy, I tried making a living as her butler but... Well, let's just say we had a disagreement and she tried to kill me. I tried accusing her of attempted murder, but the accusation mysteriously vanished in the vast paperwork of the police. That woman's got connections all over the place. I think Harris is the only decent cop left in this city. If not for Mary, I wouldn't have come back." Gray observed Kai's shocked expression and chuckled. "Don't think so much about it. I wasn't injured, I just don't want to see another gun wielding woman for as long as I live, not even in a movie. I'm telling you, all women should be sweet like Mary... But what am I saying, you always did like the firecrackers didn't you?"
This time Kai laughed along with Gray. His shock wasn't about Clair having psychologically scarred someone; the shock was about finding who that someone was. The butler who wore the same size clothes as him was his childhood friend. "I guess Clair's right up my alley, stubborn, temperamental and fierce."
Gray laughed again, but Kai only grinned until Gray realized that he wasn't kidding. "Are you insane? I knew you had guts when it comes to flirting, but this isn't courage, it's suicide!"
Kai laughed truly amused, "that's what you told me about surfing in a storm and I did anyway. Gotta face danger if you're going to get through life."
"You just love the rush of adrenaline, don't you?" Gray shook his head but grinned nonetheless.
"Hot chocolate?" The young librarian's gentle voice brought the two men's attention to three steaming mugs filled to the brim with chocolate each having several white marshmallows floating in it.
"Thanks Mary," Gray picked up a mug and took a sip. "Oh yeah, I haven't even introduced you two. Kai, this beauty is my fiance, Mary, and the man with the taste for dangerous women is my best pal from childhood, Kai."
"Nice to meet you," Kai winked, aware that Gray knew him well enough not to think badly of the action.
"Likewise," Mary giggled. "I am glad your named was cleared, Gray always assured me that you were innocent when we heard the news." Mary shyly commented. "I know this may sound a bit cold, but I do believe everything happens for a reason and the fact that you were mistakenly mixed up in this might be... well..." She trailed into silence, not knowing how to avoid sounding insensitive.
"I know what you mean," Kai supplied. "I wouldn't know Clair like I do if not for this mess and I wouldn't be so willing to chase after her."
"So the flirt has finally been caught in the net of a cunning hunter pretending to be prey," Gray teased.
Kai grinned, "looks like it."
xoxox xox xoxox
A few days later, Clair stood at the beach watching the ocean to the sound of the heavy construction going on near by. The hotel's name was Sanctuary, a secluded place in a peaceful paradise that offered a beautiful beach escapade away from the bustle of the big city, complemented with casinos and souvenir shops for tourist to spend their money. The place wasn't even finished and Clair's clever marketing already had rich tourists from across the globe calling in for a reservation for the grand opening.
She felt an approaching presence and turned to see a familiar man. "What are you doing here Kai? This is officially private property now, even the beach."
"You put your contacts to good use, didn't you? This is going to be quite the business." Kai chuckled. "Why are you so surprised to see me? It's not the first time I trespassed on your land. If I recalled, the last time you stole me away at gunpoint, such efforts are no longer necessary, I'll come willingly," he winked.
Clair let out a breath to muffle a laugh. "Are you stubborn or suicidal?"
"Definitely stubborn," Kai grinned.
"Well, I'm not looking for a relationship," Clair was stubborn too.
"Fair enough, are you looking for an employee then? You've got a nice place opening up here," Kai insisted.
"I'll work you to the bone for minimum wage," Clair threatened.
"Fine by me, I've already survived being your slave, I can do it again," Kai remained resolute. "Besides, I don't intend to live off your kindness, Miss Moon. I already owe you big as it is for the past favor; it was an offer I couldn't refuse. I'll pay you back, so don't send your boys to collect, capiche?"
"Be serious," Clair punched Kai lightly on the arm.
"I am being serious; I'm looking for a job that allows me to stalk you. Do you think you have any openings?" Kai leaned in close to Clair, "I happen to know you got yourself a new place near here." It didn't come as too much of a surprise that she would move away as part of the process of getting a fresh start.
"I might have an opening for personal slave, but the qualifications are quite rigorous," Clair offered with a completely serious business tone.
"I won't let you down," Kai answered in the same way, extending his hand to seal the deal.
He grinned as they shook hands, causing her expression to change as well. "If you get out of line, me and my connections will do a number on you, and if not, me and my gun."
"I think that in any case, more so than your connections and gun, I should be more worried about you," Kai chuckled, he paused as if debating if he should mention the next part, then continued. "I hate to bring this up in the middle of good flirting, but I can't focus with this nagging feeling that won't go away."
"Spontaneous, aren't you?" Clair laughed. "So what's wrong? Do you need to go to the bathroom or something?"
"No, it's not that," Kai frowned, he didn't want to sour the mood, but he had to get the question off his chest. "I've been wondering about who did it. I mean, what if it happens again?"
"Oh, that!" Clair realized he was talking about Jack's murder. It took a while for the transmitter in the church confessional to run out of batteries. The culprit was Jeff, he knew that Sasha was in love with another man and wanted to arrange Karen's marriage to that man for the sake of keeping him close. To protect his daughter from being caught in the middle of a love triangle involving her husband and mother, he killed off the husband. Except Sasha's plan had failed and Karen had married Jack instead of Dr. Trent."
Clair explained her revelations, "apparently, Jeff didn't know the identity of the man in question and assumed it to be Jack. He confessed the whole thing to Carter and I heard. Unfortunately the transmitter ran out of batteries soon after and that was the end of the juicy confessions. Honestly, I don't think Jeff is going to cause anymore harm, he was terrified and regretful. We're not really letting a true killer out on the loose if we ignore this."
"Wow," Kai could do little more aside from looking shocked. "I was the scapegoat for someone who looks totally harmless. He's always getting pushed around, it's no wonder he snapped. Maybe Karen suspected something about Dr. Trent too, that must be why some tension developed between them." Then as an outlet, Sasha started treating Popuri as her daughter instead of Karen.
"If that ever blows up, it's their problem to deal with," Clair shrugged. "I'm done playing detective, it's back to the mafia for me."
"The most interesting part is that I don't even know if you're kidding," Kai admitted.
"You'll find out soon enough," Clair wrapped her arms around Kai in an embrace he gladly welcomed. They shared a kiss as the sun set in the horizon. They had found their sanctuary.
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