he call from Louie came the next day. “Your Jake Holden is really Cole Brady, FBI undercover specialist. His specialty? The Mafia.
But I can’t find anything that says he’s here on anything but vaca-
“Oh, yeah, like he just lives to sightsee in quaint old towns. Trust me, if that Mafia specialist dude is on vacation, he’s on a beach somewhere. He’s not in Victoria by fluke.” Carol clicked off the phone. She’d do a little re-con on her own before she called Big Dan to appraise him, if he didn’t already know.
* * *
Carol paced the floors housing the Italians the next day, too restless to sit behind a desk. It was late afternoon, the maids all but finished cleaning, so the corridors were virtually empty, as were the rooms. She had only a few moments with Agnes over High Tea as their meeting was cut short by an urgent call to do with the Belletis and their rooms. How was it possible in a hotel of this prestige that beds could be too stiff? I couldn’t deal with snotty rich people every day without losing it.
Although it was interesting to watch the Rizzutos experiencing the hotel’s famous High Tea, and wasn’t that quaint? The Godfather sampling tiny sandwiches and strawberry scones.
Carol wrinkled her nose when she caught the scent of staleness, a smell the cleaning staff kept well at bay in this fine establishment. Her nose twitched again, her senses were suddenly on full alert, and she turned swiftly to look behind her. An older, distinguished gentleman was trying Antonio Rizzuto’s door. Having no luck with that door, he moved on to the next. What the…? When he approached a third, Carol intervened. “Excuse me, may I help you?”
He looked up. His face was bearded, his clothes, though smart and formal, were old, not as in worn and tattered but as in old-fashioned; turn of the century old-fashioned. Doubly odd. The man just turned and headed down the corridor. Carol sped up as he disappeared around the end of the hall, walking as though he belonged there. Damn it.
She hightailed it and rounded the corner. No one was there except a couple waiting for the elevator.
“Sorry, good afternoon. I was just looking for someone. A bearded man, about five-ten. Just came around this corner?”
The woman looked blankly at her. She checked Carol’s name tag and stepped closer to her husband, nudging him to response. “You must be mistaken, Ms. Moore, no one has come around the corner since we’ve been here, a good couple of minutes.” The elevator chimed, announcing its arrival. “Now good day.” He picked up his bag and escorted his wife inside the elevator.
“Ah, sorry about that. Didn’t mean to startle you. Hope you’re enjoying your stay at the hotel.” She turned around, glanced down both ends of the corridor, and headed back to her office. I think I’ve just seen my first ghost. Time for a smoke, get some nice clothes on, a bit of makeup, meet Mr. Yankee. As for Agnes, we need to chat.
In the dank darkness of the sewers the blue sparks intensified, throbbing as if alive. Slowly they began to flow to each other and merged. A glow lit the room and when it faded away all that remained was a small oval blue egg-like object. Throbbing with life.
“I’m a sucker for good seafood chowder and I hear this restaurant makes some of the best on the West Coast,” Jake, aka Cole, adjusted his chair closer to the Nautical Nellies’ table they sat at. “A great meal with a beautiful woman—what more does a man need to make a night one to remember?”
Still an arrogant bastard. “Well, I’m not really a fan of water, boats or the ocean. Honestly, I’m more a meat and potatoes kind of woman. But what woman in her right mind passes up a dinner invitation from a handsome man?” She smiled and let her eyelashes flutter a bit.
“Exactly. Just two lonely ships in the night. And what are you drinking, Ms. Moore?”
“Whiskey on the rocks, please.”
“And here I took you to be a Chianti type of lady. You’re full of surprises. I love that about a woman.” Jake signaled the hovering waiter over. “Two whiskeys on the rocks, please.” He turned back to Carol and gave her a hungry look, the look men assumed women found sexy.
“So why are you in town, Mr. Holden?”
“I’m in sales. Here for a trade show.”
“Really? What kind of sales? Where’s the show being held? I thought I knew all the trade shows and conventions going on this week.”
“High tech security software. We don’t advertise it, so I’m not surprised you didn’t hear about it.”
She smiled at him over the top of the menu. “What a great cover story, Cole Brady. Now why don’t you tell me why you’re really here?”
A genuine grin replaced his on-demand smiles. “I was wondering how long it’d take you, Detective Ainsworth. I told the big boys they were making a mistake, not telling you straight up.
I’d have thought your superiors knew you better than that.”
“I’d have thought so, too.”
“Well, it was fun while it lasted. And of course, you know my attraction to you wasn’t—and isn’t—part of the cover. But we’re both professionals and since we’ve now confirmed that, we’ll guard each other’s backs. Which means sharing our intel whether the brass’s authorized it or not.
“Absolutely. Agreed. So what angle are you covering?”
“Word has it the Bellettis have convinced the Rizzutos to expand their operations into the west coast from their New York center. That’s what this wedding’s all about, it’s setting up a combined new family group here in Canada. The Rizzutto’s have been reluctant to have anything to do with the west coast. Most of the Asian trade enters America between Victoria and Vancouver. I don’t have to tell you mobsters are basically nothing but forward-thinking businessmen.”
“Except they kill their competition. Literally, not figuratively.”
“Touché. And in this case, there’s a small problem of already established American and UN gangs. They don’t take lightly to competition.”
“So, we’ve heard. We’re worried of the conflict on our side, and you’re worried about contraband entering the US from Canada.”
“That’s the bare bones of it, yes.”
“Fair enough, but enough shop talk. Let’s order, and then before our food arrives, you can tell me something about yourself.”
Carol walked around the large Pendray estate’s backyard just off St. James Street. They were one of the original founding families with successful business operations in early Victoria and had done well. She took several pictures on her cell phone. The back window where the boy had his room was broken from the outside in. Marks in the soil indicated a ladder had been used. Forensics was already working on that, along with a couple of shoe imprints. She bent over and looked closer at a flash of color under the shrubbery. A green headed toy figurine, very similar to the one left at Nathan’s crime scene except the mask around his head was red. Something else the police missed, or...
Carol parted the branches around the figurine. A small footprint. Yup, I’d say same, size six.
Okay, that isn’t in the report either. So, Louie is someone leaving me clues? And Why? She snapped a couple of shots of the figurine and footprint then, after donning her gloves, she placed the small toy into an evidence bag. She then texted Louie the pictures and requested forensics to take a cast of this footprint too.
“Vaon! Zodacanea, zodamerana! Odo femura Daa: zodareje, lerna madired, Noca Mudu, hoat Saitan!
Appear! Open the grounds beneath! I am the same as you, a believer! I worship you the eternal King of Hell!”
The white-hooded figures chanted over and over as they stood around the pentagram in the basement of Hatley Castle. In the center was a dark seemingly endless opening into the bowels of the earth.
A low deep breath hissed upwards. “Who disturbs me?” Acrid sulphuric vapours filled the chamber.
Several gagged. “We ask for your blessings.”
“Bring me sweet morsels to slake my hunger.” Whispered up from the darkness.
“He, the Almighty One, has spoken,” the leader intoned. “We must act on this in order to get his blessings.”
* * *
“Come in.” As with the maid, Agnes called out the invitation before Carol had time to knock. Carol shrugged and complied. A haze of light smoke from the incense sticks layered the room. Carol immediately relaxed as she breathed it in. “I won’t even ask! Reception said you needed to see me now, tonight. Is everything okay?”
“I’m sensing something.”
“I’m not sure I understand it myself. I started in the circus and then vaudeville, billed as Psychic Lucy and later Ms. Teak. At first it was just that—an act. But apparently, I got an awful lot of things right, more than just coincidences, and word got around. A lot of people came to see me and some still pay me big bucks to help them.”
“So, you’re saying you started out as a fake who became real?”
“You already know I’m real. But you don’t know I often see things from people’s pasts as well as read minds.” Agnes smiled sweetly back at her.
Carol stared blankly. “So—you want to read my past?”
“Give me your hand, darling. You’re still a misbeliever.”
Carol did. “As you already have guessed, I’m a police officer. I only believe in the facts.”
“Interesting. You’re not who you say you are, although I already knew that and … call your dad, tonight, and ask about your older brother George. Meet me for High Tea tomorrow.” She let go of Carol’s hand. “Now at my age I need a lot of beauty sleep. Thanks for the help.”
Perturbed, Carol replied, “I don’t have an older brother George. Don’t have any brothers, only one sister.”
“Call your dad if you don’t believe me. Now I’m off to bed. I’m still recovering from that ghastly airplane. Air travel is so tiresome.” I’m overdue a call to check up on my dad anyways.
Carol walked out the door, images of Agnes in her gypsy get-up playing in her brain. She could see Agnes in her swirly skirt, headscarf and dangly earrings, bamboozling the crowds with her weird crystal skull.
As she entered the lobby, a plaque caught her eye. She’d seen it a dozen times and never really paid attention to it. A picture of a man, the builder of the hotel, Francis Rattenbury. Carol stopped and did a double take. It’s him! The ghost from the corridor earlier. She’d heard stories the owner’s ghost, along with others, haunted the hotel. No, can’t be. That’s what I get for hanging out with psych-jobs.
* * *
“Ah, you’ll make a splendid specimen for the young master of the house,” Gladys Townsend said to her unconscious companion. She drove along the street and quickly pulled into the back of the Windsor Hotel parking lot. She made sure the boy was still out and pulled his limp body from the back of her new tan 1987 GMC van. “I’m getting old. It’s hard to lift these strapping young lads like I used to, but at least I’ve another playmate for my Jordon.”
She stared at the spray-painted graffiti on the back door. It looked like a being of some sort, hair all askew like he was on fire. “What is this town coming to?”
Gladys unlocked it and walked into the basement. She moved the filing cabinets and boxes aside, revealing a three-foot high doorway. She pulled an old key from around her neck, unlocked the ancient door and turned on the lights. Two dehydrated corpses were arranged either side of a Snakes and Ladders game. Gladys dragged the still body into the room and propped it next to the others. She filled a syringe with fluid and plunged it into the boy’s arm.
“Now tomorrow I’ll return and see how you three are getting along, shall I? Oh, young boys are such trouble these days, I do hope you’ll all play nice. I’ve always wanted to have some nice sons to entertain. Maybe we’ll go to the park and have some fun on the Merry-Go-Round.”
Satisfied all was in order, she patted Jordon on the head. “Now, no cheating, and I’ll see you lads in the morning. It’s getting late and I must return to the vortex.” She held the pentagonal pendant that hung around her neck. “I hear my master calling.” She turned off the lights and trundled back up the stairs after putting everything back in its place.
* * *
The blue egg-shaped object in the sewer throbbed hard and split itself into two. Both halves pulsed several times, absorbing more of the liquids left by the dead girls and the vials on the floor of the room. Then they reached out, reabsorbing each other and doubling in size. The new egg lay still as fluids coursed within it.