The Joining: Ainsworth Chronicles Book One

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Chapter Six

Chapter Six


arol met Agnes again for afternoon tea. Although the hotel’s real General Manager still did much of the background work, as Carol could not be expected to manage after only a week of training,

however intense, Big Dan had requested he step in and do more, allowing Carol as much free time as possible. “Every time I turn around I’m seeing a ghost. Is it just me?”

“No,” Agnes said as she sipped slowly at her tea. Today Agnes looked like a forties fashion model, dressed in a long flowing red and white checkered dress. Her signature cartwheel hat was red, pinned slightly back. “It’s a side effect from that being you told me you met. The forest sprite. She’s enhanced a sixth sense in you via the vomeronasal organ. Everyone has the ability although few use it or even know it’s there.”

“The what? I thought the sixth sense was an intuitive thing.”

“It’s an organ located in the nose, and detects chemicals and pheromones in minute quantities, something a lot of animals use in detecting their prey or fear in humans. Some species may even communicate via this organ, like dogs, and also to sense when humans are scared of them. Now give me your hand again.”

She let Agnes concentrate for a moment before replying after she let her hold her hand, “Glyffy? You’re talking about Glyffy? The thing Charlie said was me in a future incarnation? Is this permanent?”

“Yes, these Sprity beings most likely communicate using the vomeronasal organ and your Charlie sounds like just the kind of chap I’d like to date.”

“He’s a little young for you, though, and besides, he’s hopelessly hooked and in love with his childhood sweetheart who died when he was a teenager.”

“My kind of guy though if he’s into ghosts and the deceased. Feel free to hook us up. I’ve got nothing against a young stud in my bed.”

Carol closed her eyes. “Eww! You’ve just turned me off sex for the next year.” They both laughed.

“Okay, yes, this creature, this Glyffy as you call her, did change something inside of you. So, the answer is yes, you have been gifted with a most unusual ability, you’re able to sense, feel and occasionally see, spiritual beings and ghosts. I think maybe she intended you’d be able to detect when she was near you.”

“Great, I’ll smell her coming a mile away. But it’s only around here that

I’m getting more and more visions.”

“No, I think it has to do with the ley lines and earth energy that intersects here. They attract corporeal energies and awaken your powers even more.”

“Great. How do I put that job skill in my portfolio?”

“I think hush-hush is a better approach.”

Carol’s nose twitched again, and her senses were suddenly on high alert, just like when she saw the ghost in the hallway. She looked up and watched an elderly lady walk into the dining room, sit down at a table next to them and begin to sip at her tea. Her clothing was similar to Agnes’ highend forties fashion. “A spirit just walked in. We saw her yesterday when we were here, didn’t we, Margaret?”

“The one who dresses elegantly, feather in her hat?” Carol nodded.

“Yes. She’s quite harmless.”

“But you do see her too, right?” She watched the woman calmly sit down and like the day before, take her hat off and pull one of her long white gloves off. Carol could see through her to the couple behind.

“Occasionally, just a glimpse, like most people. Only most people will talk themselves out of it. I mainly just pick up her thoughts. She’s quite distinct and has very strong energy.”

“But the hat. I get something about the hat.”

“She thinks about it a lot. Looks at it in the mirror and adjusts it before she comes down at precisely three o’clock for tea. Every day. Very prompt and fastidious. Does everything on a set schedule and has for years, possibly decades.”

Carol looked at her, sitting there so primly. She closed her eyes and concentrated. “It’s the hat. A man paid her a lot of attention when she wore that hat. He came back and talked to her a lot over the next few days. He was supposed to ask her out for dinner, but never did. She returns here every winter in the hope he’ll come back to her, like he promised.” A tear threatened to roll down her cheek. “That’s so sad. She’s come back here year after year, just hoping he’ll come back and ask her to dinner. She hopes he’ll ask her to marry him.”

Agnes watched Carol wipe her eyes. “So, not the cold-hearted, cool-headed realist you lead others to believe. Yes, she loved him dearly and died in her room on the sixth floor a spinster.”

Carol glanced at her watch. “I’ve got to go. I need to make an appearance at Reception. Shall we meet in the lobby around seven for the ghost tour?”

“Yes, please. It sounds like a fun night. You think our friend the hunky American or the equally hunky Italian will be joining us?”

“Hey, I didn’t tell you about any hunky… oh. Right.”

“Exactly.” Agnes picked up her last tiny cucumber sandwich. “You go ahead, my dear. I’ve got a busy afternoon of massages and shopping. Right after I have another cup or two of this wonderful tea.

I really hate her reading me like a diary.

“I know.” Agnes smiled serenely as Carol walked away. Now, to get back to my room and ask Cider a few questions.

* * *

Carol sat beside Agnes on one of the wrought-iron benches strategically placed under the Empress’s portico.

“Oh, look, dear! Here comes our tour bus!” Agnes pointed to the red double-decker bus pulling into the reserved spaces in front of the hotel. Victoria’s Ghost Tours lettered the side of the bus in ornate cursive. The bus door opened, and the tour guide hopped out to collect his evening’s charges, a clip-board in his hand. His top-hat and tails warred with the deep-red t-shirt under the coat that sported the same logo emblazoned on the side of the bus. Apparently, the tour company didn’t know whether to go formal or informal, but the odd compromise seemed to work for them.

Agnes tugged on Carol’s arm. “Oh, good! I do love it when the tour guide’s a hottie, don’t you, dear?”

Carol laughed. “Agnes, behave yourself.”

“Good evening, ladies!” The tour guide bowed theatrically and flipped a page on his clip board. “Adam Johnson here! You must be…let’s see…”

“Agnes Van Lunt and my young friend, Carol Moore. I had the concierge call and add her to the tour this afternoon.”

“Yes, you certainly did and you’re both right here! Now, we’re only waiting on…ah…the Belletti party?”

Carol looked back through the lobby’s big glass windows and pointed. “And here they come now, I see.”

Tony Belletti led the Belletti party through the lobby. Carol ran through her own personal mug-book containing photos of the main players of the

Rizzuto and Belletti families. Tony was a

Belletti family son. His picture didn’t do him justice, though. Tony Belletti’s looks made Lorenzo Rizzuto seem ordinary. In fact, Tony was the type of drop-dead gorgeous women couldn’t help staring at. He smiled at Carol and she smiled back, then glanced down at her watch, hoping the gesture made her seem shy. Men like Tony Belletti loved to play the big hero to shy women. He kept staring at her as she looked back up. Their eyes locking and the first thing that entered her mind was, Oh God, as flashes of memories not yet lived flashed through her, not him. He kept staring as if he couldn’t tear his eyes away before he had to look in the direction of the tour guide.

“Wonderful!” Tour guide Adam Johnson flipped the pages of his clip board back in place. “We’re ready to start tonight’s festivities! I don’t know about you folks, but I’m just shivvvvering with excitement! And since beauty always comes before age, let’s get Mrs. Van Lunt seated first, shall we? Right this way, now!”

The crowd giggled a bit and Carol held Agnes’ arm and guided her toward the London bus. It was an older model, with the jump on-jump off platform at the back. Two four-person bench seats faced each other, their backs to the windows, just inside. The more normal five rows of two by two-seater seats took up the front.

“Ah, Ms. Moore!” Tony Belletti touched Carol’s arm lightly. “Please, let me help you two lovely ladies get settled in your seats. Beside me, if I could be so lucky?” He steered them toward the first of seat. His eyes never leaving Carol. His touch sent shivers through her and flashes of knowing.

It is said that you can meet people and know in the space of a heartbeat or a touch that you’ve been together or are meant to be together. Or know that you will be, but not him. Lord, why him?

Agnes elbowed Carol. “He hasn’t taken his eyes off you. I think he likes what he sees.”

Carol elbowed back, “makes two of us.” She couldn’t help herself, this man, the enemy, had already dug deep into her. Instant attraction. I read about it in trashy romance novels, but to feel it first hand was exhilarating. The attraction to Jake was more physical due to the fact he looked a lot like her deceased fiancé. This is deeper.

“How lovely to find chivalry alive and well in Victoria, Canada!” Agnes flirted back, breaking the silence. “And aren’t you handsome and smoothtalking. I’ve been told Italian men are very amorous in bed.”

Carol blushed, caught off guard by Agnes’ comment. She didn’t just actually say that, did she?

“If I was ten years older, I would gladly show that you are correct in what you’ve heard. But in any event, if you and Ms. Moore allow me to join you on the tour, we can see where that leads, no?”

Agnes put out her hand for Tony to assist her up the small step to the long bench seat. “What fun these seats are. I feel very tall and regal. Now, Tony, you sit here,” she patted the seat on her right, “and Carol you here.” She patted the other side. “I shall be a thorn between two roses.”

Carol grinned. Certainly no one was going to argue with that. The two men she’d already pegged as Tony’s bodyguards didn’t look terribly happy, though. They sat on the opposing bench seat.

Agnes smiled and let her hand fall against Tony’s outer thigh. “Oh my, judging by the hardness of your leg muscles, I’d say you must work out.”

He laughed lightly and actually blushed. “Well, I play a lot of tennis

and golf, I’m not bad, actually. I made professional football in Italy, in fact.”

The bus drove along Government Street and the tour guide started his spiel over the PA system.

“Okay folks, how’s everyone doing? Where are you all from?”

He responded to several of the crowd before continuing. “Now, there’s going to be a lot going on tonight, so let me give you a little overview. Victoria, if you haven’t heard, is ghost central. Easily the most haunted city in all of Canada. We have so many ghosts the government is proposing a boo tax.” Everyone groaned “Some sites I’ll point out to you and tell you their story, but we won’t be getting off the bus and touring. And why not, you ask? Well, some of the ones we won’t actually go inside ’cause the current owners haven’t invited us. That legal issue thing, you know. And some we won’t go into because we want to make sure all our guests who start the tour return from it, and if we actually disturb the ghosts at some sites, they might not.

That’s why you all signed waivers!”

Ghostly music played over the PA, and the spiel continued. “Now, for those of you feeling particularly adventuresome, there’s another tour that takes you to a time vortex. What’s that you say? Time travel? Yes, indeedy! Right at the spot where Shelbourne Street crosses Hillside

Avenue, it’s possible to time travel! Sometimes. If you’re lucky. Some say they’ve been driving along on a very ordinary suburban street and suddenly found themselves on an old dirt road. But that, as they say, is another story! I can sell you tickets for that tour, if you’d like.”

Agnes looked at Carol and Tony and grinned. “Take my hands if you feel scared, my dears. Don’t you just love the scare tactics? The only spooky thing about these tours is the exorbitant price.”

The other two smiled. “By American prices, this is inexpensive for a

tour of this nature,”

Tony replied, his eyes catching Carol’s smile.

Carol just shook her head. “I’m just along for the ride, never done anything like this before.”

Tony smiled at her. “Then I, for one, am glad Mrs. Van Lunt convinced her niece to join her tonight.”

Agnes pinched his leg. “Oh, he’s a flirt and a charmer as well.”

The bus stopped in front of an old brick building and the guide’s voice continued to flow from the PA system.

“This is the former Windsor Hotel. And even though it’s been closed for the last eight years, many say shadows play across the windows.” The guide’s voice deepened and lingered over the words as he told the story. “Oh, yes, many passersby insist figures move inside, casting the shadows, and sometimes the shadows scream and thump. And now and then, folks say they hear little children playing inside.”

Suddenly everything blurred. Carol closed her eyes and lowered her head. “What?”

A vision filled her eyes as she stared out the window. Like watching a private video clip of her driving along a street, this street. Late at night when an elderly woman dressed in black fills her view through the car’s windshield. She tries to swerve, but it is too late, slamming into her.

The body is flung like a disjointed ragdoll through the air. “Oh God.” She slams on the brakes and runs to the woman’s aid.

Even in her panic, the odd graffiti scrawled on the door caught her attention. She looked down and felt for a pulse, there wasn’t any. The elderly lady lay very still, blood oozing from her mouth and her hand clutched a … “Carol! Are you okay?” Agnes shook her, and everything vanished.

Only the empty store front stared back at her.

“I, I, thought I just saw something. My imagination, I’m sure.” With Tony sitting there she didn’t want to go into details about a vision. “I’m alright. Sorry if I gave you a fright, though.”

Agnes patted her arm. “That’s perfectly fine, dear. You probably just had a hot flash from sitting close to such a gorgeous man. I think I’m getting one too.”

“Agnes! Really!”

Tony laughed. “Oh, don’t mind me. I haven’t been this, how you say, intrattenuti, entertained in a long time.”

They stopped next in front of Roger’s Chocolates and everyone disembarked. Carol and Tony helped Agnes off the bus, one on each side. “This is now a historic site. Back in 1885 Charles Rogers moved here from Massachusetts. He originally just set up a grocery and sold imported chocolates from the US which people were buying up like mad.”

“I guess they were just as crazy for chocolate back then as they are now,” one of the tour group said as the tour guide unlocked the door and let everyone in. Lights flickered eerily on.

“Yes, some things never change. He ended up meeting and marrying Canadian Leah Morrison. Now good ol’ Candy Rogers, as he was nicknamed, decided to try his hand at making his own chocolate. Which became the privately-run Roger’s Chocolates brand. It was rumoured that they often slept in the store and the kitchen.”

Agnes closed her eyes. “Hang on, I’m getting something.”

“Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, she really is a psychic and sometimes gets visions.” Carol said trying to calm everyone.

Agnes laughed to herself. Obviously regaling in the attention as everyone turned to stare her. “Now I know why they slept here, used to slather the stuff all over themselves and have a fun time licking it off,” Agnes spoke out loud. “Victorian kinkiness, love it.” Several chuckled and some of the older crowd gasped at her remark.

“And you’re probably going to saying that they never left.” Agnes muttered as she turned to the tour guide.

He nodded in affirmation.

She closed her eyes and turned to Carol whispering, “I get why, there’s something not right in this store. A creepy feeling, I don’t usually get. There’s something else in here I don’t like.” Agnes smiled at the others and said out loud. “Yes, I do get a lot of hot, chocolatey passions in here.”

Carol looked about, but nothing came to her. She inhaled deeply, but nothing, not even a single twitch from her nose.

“What was that earlier when we were at the other hotel?” Agnes said as she pulled Carol aside.

Carol quickly explained. “It was me, everything blurred and it was like I’d been thrust into a vision, or maybe a memory, but how can it be a memory when it’s not something I’ve ever done? I’d struck an older lady and killed her in the alley behind the Windsor Hotel. Why I would be driving here at breakneck speed and strike a woman crossing the street I don’t know. It was so vivid, so real.”

“That is called retro or post-cognition. Encountering something unexplainable by any normal means. Either an event from the past or possibly one that will happen in the future.”

“Like déja-vu in reverse? I’ve never been down that alley before we drove by it today.”

Agnes nodded, “If this hasn’t happened to you yet, it will in the future. Post cognitive.”

“Not possible.”

Agnes grabbed her, “I think our man Adam wants to get on with his spiel and we’re delaying him. We’ll talk later.”

Adam smiled at the two. “I’d be honored to get more of your visions on this tour. I don’t get many mystics joining us. Now, many people have heard and seen shadows moving about the store and the smell of fresh chocolate still wafts about.”

Agnes closed her eyes and half whispered to Carol on a light note as she shook her head. “Sorry I get these visions, from people alive mostly. But occasionally in haunted areas I get voices and other strange happenings.” “They actually slathered each other with chocolate?” Agnes nodded.

“You’re so bad. On the other hand, that would be kinky fun to try some day,” Carol replied, realizing how much hell Agnes probably went through and the things she must have experienced. “Small wonder you’re still sane after all of this.”

Carol caught a shadow flicker over a mirror in the corner of the room as her nose suddenly twitched to the smell of chocolate. “Pardon me.” She walked over and stared at her reflection in the mirror.

A bearded man stared back at her, somewhat distinguished looking. He looked quite like Francis Rattenbury, and the man she’d seen before. Although most gentlemen of the day looked very similar it could have been either of them or it could have been one and the same. She glanced behind her to see him better in person, only there was no one there. She turned back to stare in the mirror and only saw her own reflection. What the…

She walked back to Agnes, who was perusing some of the items in the store. “Did you feel something just then? Anything weird?”

“Just my cucumber sandwich. I really shouldn’t eat the stuff. Love it, but it always seems to repeat on me.”

“No, I meant…”

“I know what you meant. I’m getting some really heavy vibes in this place. There’s a lot of esoteric shit being stirred, and it has nothing to do with the tour.” “What do you mean?” Carol was curious.

“When I’m in a place with a lot of ghostly hauntings I tend to get this creepy feeling down my spine. It’s my divining rod.” Agnes replied.

“Nothing to do with burping cukes?” Carol tried to make light as she began to get shivers as well. Tony and his gang had already slipped outside for a smoke.

“Ladies, we must be getting on with the tour,” Adam said to them.

“No, that was my sarcastic humor. It’s not like being able to read people’s thoughts, can’t with the dead, which I could have made a fortune with. It’s this sense that I almost feel like something is watching me.”

“Yeah, I swear there was just a guy in the mirror just watching me, only there’s no one here. He looked just like the man I saw in the hotel.”

The tour guide looked at them. “Pardon me ladies for interrupting, but you may want to see this as we exit the store.” He pointed up. “There’s no explanation for this.”

Some of the group gasped as he shone his light at a mirror high above the door. A small child’s handprint could be seen. “It is rumored that one of their children died at an early age and still haunts this store. That handprint has been wiped off many times and always reappears. Now to our next stop.”

Agnes smiled. “No, it’s not their child doing that. Although I can feel the presence of the Rogers in the room and I think we should leave ASAP.”

The smell of chocolate wafted in the air and whisperings echoed. Adam turned white as a chill filled the room. “Yes, agreed, I think our couple wants to slather some chocolate on themselves. The next stop on the tour tonight is Helmcken Alley. The rest we’ll see on the second night of the tour.”

Everyone hurried from the room and stood outside shivering as they boarded the tour bus. Tony stared quietly at Agnes as they drove on like he wanted to ask a question but didn’t know what to say or how to ask it.

Minutes later they got off the bus again. They walked to the entrance of a dark alley. “Along Helmcken Alley, on the left once stood the first jail of Fort Victoria. A ghost is often seen, rattling his chains here. There are rumours that they had the wrong man but that The Hanging Judge, as he was known, Chief Justice Sir Matthew Begbie, didn’t care. He ordered him hanged anyways as he was in the mood for a good hanging. It was reported the man was also beaten to near death before he got to the gallows. In another case, it was also noted that once the Chief Justice got so annoyed with the jury, he threatened to have them all strung up. Begbie’s ghost is reported to have been filmed near Saanich along his beach-front home where he rather liked to hang out.”

Carol watched as Tony performed the signs of the cross on himself, as did the others of the Belletti group. Okay, that’s of interest to note. Need to research the names of the men that were hanged here. “He must have been a very powerful figure in his time to leave such strong residues behind in his death.”

“And sometimes the unjustly accused also leave powerful residue with their passing and don’t rest until justice is performed, or in this case possibly a curse,” Agnes blurted out, disturbing Carol’s thoughts. “Something I’ve learned in my days as being a psychic.”

“Funny, I was just about to say that,” Adam said in response. “You must be getting some kind of visions here. Care to share them?”

Agnes closed her eyes as Carol stared at her phone as a text came in.

‘The Rizzutos gang, except for Antonio, have left and appear to be heading for Hatley castle again’ She turned it off and stared down the short dark alley. I think I need to pay the castle a visit next time they head out.

Agnes opened her eyes. “Sorry, I got nothing. But yes, I get the sense of strong injustice here. I think many a scoundrel met his maker at the end of the judge’s rope.”

A circular concrete area shone in the single street light. “Dare to walk the alley of death to the gallows which used to hang on the other side? Many a scoundrel, as our esteemed psychic has already mentioned, did indeed leave his last breath there.” He teased her and the rest in the group.

“Yeah, why not?” Carol and Agnes slowly walked down the cobbled alley behind the rest. As they did at the back of the group, due to Agnes’ slower pace, Carol caught something shifting in the darkness. Shadows of fires, flickering. She stopped. “Did you see that?”

“No, my dear. But there is much unrest and I really get that someone or something left a curse here. I saw the reaction of the Italians at the mention of his name.”

“I know, I did as well.” Carol breathed in deeply again. The weak outline of a man pulled from the shadows. But not the reported figure in chains. It was the same bearded, distinguished man who appeared to be following her. He mouthed some words before pulling back into the darkness. “What the…”

Someone from the front of the pack screamed as the sounds of chains echoed. Agnes stopped. “Go ahead, dear, I want to take a breather.”

Carol rushed ahead the fifty feet or so to the group as the haunted figure of a man in chains shuffled along. “Oh my. This has never happened before,” was all Adam said.

The same thing Agnes said. Wanting to make sure Agnes was okay Carol looked behind her and watched the old lady talking to vague figure she’d just seen herself in the shadows; “her” ghost, as she was beginning to think of him. Carol strode back to the old gal. The figure tilted his head and removed his top hat, like they did in the movies, and pulled back into the darkness. “You okay? What the heck was that all about? He appeared to be talking to you.”

“An old friend I haven’t seen in quite a while,” was all she said. “Time to head back to the bus.”

“But I’m sure he’s the same ghost that seem to be following me,” Carol said.

“Oh, you know, gentlemen of that era all seemed to look the same,” Agnes replied vaguely. “I think I’m beginning to understand the cause of the curse involving the mob. We need to go to the Saanich beach house and pay Judge Begbie a visit. There’s a lot more here than we know.”

* * *

A murky figure tore open the thin blue embryotic skin and lifted itself free. It stared around the awful rank-smelling chamber. I am us?

No, we are us. The other half of it responded.

I do not understand.

Nor do I?

They lifted their arms. We are now one and yet two. How is this possible?

Unknown. The cycle calls us, we shall sleep and grow some more.

We are young, still being born.

The blue being spun around itself a silky veil, collapsing into a blue embryonic shape and fell asleep. This time it began to dream.

* * *

As Carol and Tony assisted Agnes into the lobby of the Empress Hotel, Samuel came over to her. “Ms. Moore. May I have a word?”

Carol turned to Agnes. “Sorry, duty calls.” She signaled for a porter to help Agnes to the elevator.

“It’s okay, need a bit of a lie down anyways. We’ll talk later.”

Samuel waited until Agnes and the porter were far enough away so as not to hear him. “We’ve got a problem. Mr. Rizzuto Senior’s room.”

“What’s the problem?”

“Housekeeping noticed that at 7:18 the sensors on the mini-bar went off,” he told her.


“Yes. The mini-bar has sensors that alert them if items are removed so they can re-stock and charge accordingly. In Mr. Rizzuto’s room they all went off together. Housekeeping called in to alert us as it seemed strange.”

“All of them? That suggests that either a thief was at work or the cabinet could have been knocked over.”

“Correct. So, I sent Security to see if there was a problem, but Mr. Rizzuto hasn’t responded to any calls either on his room’s phone or through the door. Security unlocked the door, but the anchor is still in place. They have just requested our permission to break it down.”

“Tell them to wait, I’m on my way. Does anyone else know?”

“Not yet, as far as we can tell.”

“Samuel, stay here on Reception. And act as normally as possible. I do not want this to get out.”

Carol looked at her watch as she rushed up the stairs. It was 7:56 just under forty minutes had elapsed. Time was of the essence; he could have suffered a heart attack or something.

As Carol ran down the corridor towards the Rizzuto suite she spied Carson and Vidler, two of the Victoria PD’s undercover sergeants, who had also responded, and the hotel’s own Security stood some few paces away. She ran up to the door, trying to peer through the half inch that the anchor allowed. “Mr. Rizzuto, are you okay in there?”

No response. She looked up and down the corridor, it was empty. Most of the Rizzuto clan members had gone on a tour of Hatley Castle to inspect the facility before the wedding. She knew he had elected to stay behind.

“Shall I break it down?” Carson asked.

“No, don’t want the noise to alert others. Watch and learn.” Carol grabbed the plastic hotel card and bent it in slightly. She slid the plastic in the gap, with the bent part pointing to the outside of the door. She quickly caught the two metal rods and shoved. The metal moved back effortlessly.

Carol caught something flicker in the light.

“Haven’t seen that move before.”

“I’ve had to break into a couple of rooms without anyone knowing.” Carol pushed the door open and they entered.

Inside it was a mess. The liquor cabinet was toppled over, and drink cans and bottles decorated the floor. Carol edged around them as she made for the bedroom door and spotted a pair of feet with very expensive leather shoes jutting out from behind the four-poster king-sized bed at the far end of the room. “Crap! Mr. Rizzuto?” She rushed around the bed, he lay there, eyes wide.

Carson and Vidler rushed in behind her. “Carson, check all the rooms and closets in this suite, make sure there’s no one else in here. Check also for any escape route.”

Carol searched for a pulse, but it was obvious he didn’t have any. His body still felt warm, so it would seem he was not dead long.

“Is he?” Vidler enquired.

“Yeah, dead and cooling. I’d say he died around the time of the cabinet going over.” Carol stared hard at his neck. “What the…”

She pulled on the latex gloves she kept about her person in case anything like this ever happened and she didn’t want to disturb evidence.

Voices were heard in the hallway.

She pulled his collar aside. “Holy. Vidler block the entrance. And have Security keep everyone out of the corridor. I don’t believe this.”

“Is that a noose?” he blurted out as he ran to block the door and anyone from entering.

“Yes, and somewhat old looking. This is now a crime scene. Don’t let anyone in and call the police and forensics.”

“But we are the police.”

“Yeah, undercover remember. No one else knows that, especially not the mob.”

“Sorry, moment of stupidity. Man, this is going to cause an uproar.” Carson flicked on his cell phone as he exited the suite. “Immediate backup to the Empress, the Rizzuto suite. Forensics too, apparent suicide.”

Carol stared at what looked like the murder weapon. She took a couple of pictures on her cell phone before lifting the noose slightly. There were ligature marks underneath. “Crap, it appears that he’s been hanged or strangled.” She stared around the room and looked up at the four-poster bed. Would that be sturdy enough? If it’s a cheap copy, probably not. And not high enough. He could have supported himself on the bed. Unless…

Carol carefully checked his head for signs of blunt-force trauma and found it. That explains a lot; incapacitated first. Probably what caused the mini-bar to go over and nothing else. Out cold before he hit the ground.

Murderer could take his time after that, and maybe hang him from the bed.

Only why not just leave him there? Why cut him down?

“No sign of anyone, and no obvious escape route, all doors and windows locked,” Carson said, as he reported back.

“Thanks Carson.”

Carol turned back to the victim and examined his face. No bruising or swelling other than a slight blue tinge to the lips.

A loud commotion at the door as Jake came bursting into the suite, pushing past Vidler, and then past Carson into the bedroom.

“What the hell is going on here?” Both agents were about to grab him.

Carol blurted out before too much noise and possible commotion was raised. “It’s okay, he’s FBI and also undercover.”

Jake’s eyes caught the sprawled body. “Shit, not Antonio Rizzuto? Oh, this isn’t going to go down well with the clan.”

He glanced around the room, quickly sizing up everything. Something Carol didn’t miss. “Is that an effing noose?”

“Okay.” She stood up, further blocking any view or access to the body. “Not your country, you’ve no jurisdiction here. I was told there’s FBI in this undercover, but officially I haven’t been told who or how to deal with them. Back up before I have you arrested.” She held her hands out in front of her. “I thought we were working together on this?”

“I have no commands or directives from my seniors. Only your words. Again, I was told there was an American FBI agent here, but nothing about working together.” Carol stood there arms folded, holding her ground.

Jake gritted his teeth and gave her a cold, hard stare. Neither was going to back down. He pulled his smart phone out from his jacket and handed her a card. “Calm down, lady. Better call your supervisor on this secure line.” He stood back as Carol stared at the number on the card and at him. It was Big Dan’s private cell number. How the hell does he know this number?

“Okay, back up, you’re not getting any closer before I call.”

Jake took two steps back into the lounge area of the Bob Hope suite and folded his arms.

Carson stood nearby prepared to grab Jake as Vidler stood by the hallway. “All clear so far.”

“Lady, I ain’t the enemy here.”

“Until I hear otherwise, I believe and trust no one. Except my boss. Now again, back the hell off.” Carson escorted Jake back into the corridor and stood next to Vidler, both blocking Jake from re-entering the suite.

Dan answered immediately. “Thought you’d be calling. Yes, you will allow him to be involved in this matter since the New York Mafia are of obvious interest to the American

Intelligence Authorities. This is a joint operation between both our countries security forces.”

“You could have told me earlier. Thanks.” Carol hung up before he could respond and indicated to Carson and Vidler to let Jake back in; he’d already contaminated the crime scene anyway. Handing the phone back to Jake she said, “Son of a… I guess we’re working together on this one.”

“As soon as we heard the commotion, we knew there’d be trouble, but not like this.”

“Heard? How?”

“We planted microphones.” He made it sound so nonchalant.

The yanks had ’phones planted. Even we hadn’t set those up yet, couldn’t get the warrants in time, and in our country. The nerve.

Jake pointed to the center of the room in front of the liquor cabinet. “Seems maybe Mr. Rizzuto surprised an intruder. We’d a tip that the clans are here for something else. Maybe they aren’t in this wedding together and one clan wants to wipe out the other, or it was rumored possibly a third clan might step in from Montreal to bust this joining up. Or maybe, there’s a more bizarre reason they’re here.”

“Wipe each other out? Not what we’re getting from the underground. But, yes, I can say we also got reports from our Quebec sources that the powerful Montreal mob is aware and doesn’t want this to go through. Bizarre reason? Like what?”

“An old curse, we’re told.”

“Old curse?” She scratched her head. “Is this the Federal Investigation

Bureau and not the Facebook Old Granny Conspiracy Theory Group?”

Jake laughed. “I was told you had balls. Okay, if you believe in Woowoo stuff, this happened well over a hundred and fifty years ago, around the time Victoria was just being settled and there was still the possibility it might join America instead of Canada. It had something to do with someone about to be wrongly hanged by Victoria’s Chief Justice, the right honorable M. Begbie. The victim’s name escapes me right about now, Marshall or Marchiotti, I think, but the man cursed everyone in the room, one of whom was a Rizzuto, possibly the man that hanged our victim. As you know, the Italians are a superstitious lot, and they believe the curse will be broken by marriage and consummation here. Along with some other weird observances, like cutting off a bat’s head, drinking devil’s blood, etc, blah, blah, blah. Otherwise the family will be doomed to forever lose their first-born sons, and from the research, that is exactly what has happened to every family affected by this curse since then. One of the reasons they haven’t been involved in setting up business on Canada’s West Coast.”

“What? And you think that person has come back and exacted their revenge by hanging Mr. Rizzuto? You Americans are nuts. Woo-woo stuff; no such thing,” she lied. It was the Woo-woo stuff with Charlie Stillwater that got her elected to be on this case. There were hints of occult based reasons why the mob might be here, as well. Is there anything the Americans didn’t know about what was going on here? “I’m beginning to really hate you. Okay, take a look, but don’t touch anything.”

“If you’re wondering, our dead friend here was the first-born male, so the curse continues.” He grinned smugly at her. As he brushed past her into the bedroom, his hand rubbed along her leg. A shiver went through her. Bastard. She was truly beginning to hate that assured smile on that handsome face. Crap this is going to be trouble trying to work on this case with this hunk beside me. Either I break his nose for touching me or take him to bed, or both.

Like her he glared at the noose, the end roughly cut. “Well, it appears, or has been made to appear, that he’s been hanged.”

“My thought exactly,” Carol replied as she stared at the noose.

“He must have been incapacitated first as otherwise we would have heard more commotion.”

“Yes, he was. I found the wound. Killer could have done what he wished after that.”

“Yeah, but the only possible place he could have been strung up is the four-poster.”

“Okay smartass. If he was hanged from the bed and then cut down— and the end of the noose appears to have been cut—where’s the other end? Why isn’t is still hanging from the bed frame? And why cut him down anyway? Why not just leave him hanging? That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Never does with ghosts.”

“I’m not buying it; something doesn’t smell right here.” Her nose has twitched several times.

Just then two police officers strolled in and a fully-dressed forensics team followed. Between the white boot covers, white coveralls with hoods and white face masks they looked like ghosts themselves. You could just about make out their eyes behind the goggles. Carol and Jake exited the suite to leave them to it. The corridor was still empty.

“Not like Grissom’s lot,” Jake said to Carol.

“You watch CSI as well?”

“Yeah, love seeing how bad they’ve screwed up the scenes. No protective clothing, not even gloves sometimes, shedding hair and sweat and breathing all over everything. Crime scene’s contaminated already. Really need a professional adviser,” he replied.

Carol laughed. “That’s what I think every time I watch it.”

“Hey, at least we got something in common, lady.”

Carol bristled at that remark. Arrogant, handsome prick, I need to keep my cool before I nut him between the legs.

Carol’s phone beeped. “I just got reports that limos are pulling up in front, so beat it. You need to get out of here before anyone shows up and you blow your cover.” Carol looked down the hallway, there was little activity at this time with everyone out. That would change very soon. “We gotta go.”

Jake glared at her and turned to leave. “Did I mention that bossy women turn me on?” he yelled at her as he retreated.

Ignoring his last remark, Carol turned to the medical examiner. “First impressions?”

“Death by asphyxiation probably, and it appears the noose is the murder weapon. It’s old looking but appears strong enough still. I’ll have the fibers checked for origin and age. Can’t see any defensive wounds, so the blunt force trauma,” he indicated the back of the dead man’s head, “would have caused instant incapacitation. Ensure the forensics team know to look for a weapon. There would probably be blood and hair on it.” Removing his thermometer, he stated, “Time of death approximately sixty minutes ago. Obviously we’ll know more after the autopsy. Don’t want to say anything else at this stage.”

Her phone was ringing, she was needed downstairs. As she exited the room, she spied an open pack of dental floss on the sideboard near the door.


She rearranged her collar and made sure she looked prim and proper. Lady, its show time and this is more than likely going to get ugly. Now what am I going to tell the mob? Break in?

Heart attack?

* * *

Agnes climbed out of the cab. “Here’s for the fare, and here’s another fifty for you to wait here while I do something.” The dark-skinned taxi driver nodded in agreement, staring at the red bill she’d placed in his palm. It was the biggest tip he’d ever seen.

I’m glad Carol got called away, gives me time to check this place out.

Agnes strolled over to the park bench. I figure I might as well start earning my pay for this assignment.

Agnes knew all the details having read over the case many times, trying to get some kind of intuitive feel for what happened and who took Jordon Gibson from the Quadra Street playground in October 1990. She sat on the park bench just beside the playground. On her lap in a cloth bag rested Cider. Nothing came to her. “Odd. I usually get a vision or a sense of something. It’s almost like there’s been an exclusion zone wrapped around here.”

She reached into the cloth and with one hand touched the cool crystal head of the skull, caressing it. “Okay, Cider, ol’ gal, show me what happened and don’t spare the grisly details.”

Everything faded around her as the crystal skull pulled her back threw the veils of time.

Agnes watched as the boy of five ran across the parking lot to the small playground. On the other side his mother, Samantha, watched as she talked on her large cellular phone. Agnes spied an idling tan van, just behind the corner of the elementary school. From it emerged what appeared to be a slender, older woman walking towards the lad playing by himself. Odd, I expected a man.

The woman stood wisely behind a large fir tree, years smaller than the one Agnes sat near today, blocked from being seen by anyone. The woman’s hand extended as a cheer ran through the men playing flag football nearby, drawing Samantha’s attention.

Candies laying in the hidden woman’s palm, caught the eye of the lad and he approached her. From her jacket a damp cloth sprang free as she grabbed the child who quickly went limp, inhaling chlorophyll.

She stared hard at the rear of the van, BCD 053 as the woman tossed the young lad inside.

The woman spun around and glared directly at the park bench, staring, it appeared, straight into Agnes’ gaze. She pulled a pendant from her blouse and waved one hand in a pentagram, much as the Catholics do making the sign of the cross. In the air the panicked cries of Samantha calling out her son’s name resounded.

She shoved her hand towards Agnes. The elder lurched backwards as the vision went black and she felt as if someone had just heaved a mental slap at her.

Agnes shook her head, stunned. Her cheek went red. Well that’s never happened before. She knows someone was watching her through time. Not your average abductor type then, no wonder I couldn’t get a lock on anything here.

Agnes summoned the cab driver that had been sitting there the whole time waiting for her. She quickly got into the backseat, clutching the heavy crystal skull tightly. “Empress Hotel and step on it.” She took a long swig from her flask. And if she knows that, the next question is, does she know who I am and how to track me down?

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