Cristiãn

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Chapter 15: The Gathering

Cassidy was in good humor Monday morning. This was due, in a large part, to the memory of her time with David and in part to her children. Cassidy was grateful to be in their company again. She showered them with affection up until the moment they went out the door to start their day at school. When she arrived at the One-Two-Two all eyes noted her even if it was only for a brief glance. She gave no special notice to this. She looked towards someone on a couple of occasions to say hi or to return a welcome, but other than this she walked through the precinct with near indifference to everyone around her. When she reached her squad room she flashed a smile at her gathering co-workers and made an immediate turn for Lt. Graham’s office.

“Take a seat,” Lt. Graham proffered in tone that bordered on a command.

Cassidy took a seat in one of the two chairs and in front of Lt. Graham’s desk. He was seated on the opposite side of it and had been so from the moment she entered his office.

“You dodged a bullet. There were people over my head who were breathing fire every time they spoke your name.”

“But that’s not the case anymore?”

“Yours wasn’t the only neck in the noose,” Lt. Graham bellowed back with a look that said he did not like that response. “The Captain called me in and demanded that I explain what you were doing. And I didn’t know what to tell him.”

“I’m sorry about that, Sir.”

“Here,” Lt. Graham spoke as he pulled Cassidy’s badge and ID out of the top drawer of his desk and set them down on top of it.

“Thank you,” Cassidy acknowledged as she collected them.

Cassidy put the ID and badge in her inside blazer pocket.

“Are there going to be any more surprises?”

“Ah, no,” Cassidy answered indecisively. “I mean I don’t think so. I haven’t seen any of the reports on Alan Lantz, but it sounds like we’ve got him.”

“Well, let’s get one thing straight right now,” Lt. Graham grumbled back. “You’re off this investigation. You are to have nothing more to do with it.”

“Okay,” Cassidy replied, with a look that said she really didn’t know what to say.

At this moment, Cassidy was nearly indifferent to the investigation. Putting it behind her was already her plan. It was Lt. Graham’s order to do so that was confusing her.

“So, we’re in agreement on this?”

“Yes,” Cassidy agreed with a shrug. “The investigation is pretty much over now. Isn’t it? I mean it’s just a matter of finding out what this guy was into.”

“Well, there is also the matter of his accomplice,” Lt. Graham corrected.

“Accomplice?” Cassidy questioned back with an expression that said she was confused by this word.

Lt. Graham noted the look and quickly spoke to it.

“The female voice—You said you heard the voice of a woman in the warehouse.”

Cassidy took a moment to think about this. Just prior to this instant she had no recollection of hearing a female voice in the warehouse or ever saying that she had. She was several seconds into rekindling this memory when Lt. Graham spoke to her equivocation.

“Was there or was there not a third person in the warehouse?” Lt. Graham questioned with a look of concern.

“Ah, yeah,” Cassidy returned from behind a bewildered expression. “I can’t believe I forgot that.”

“If you’re having some issues with your thinking…”

“No, no, I remember. I’m just surprised that I forgot, that’s all.”

“Is it that you forgot or that you made it up?” Lt. Graham challenged with a stern expression.

“What?” Cassidy questioned back with a look of shock.

“I have detectives out there looking for a female accomplice based on what you told me. So far, they have found no one that’s a fit for that role. Andrew Lantz’s wife died three years ago, he’s single and his daughter lives in California. On top of that, Andrew Lantz was five-eight, not six-feet. He was over-weight and he was in the early stages of congestive heart failure. Now I’m asking you, keeping in mind that you took a bump to the head, could your recollection of what happened be—distorted?”

Cassidy did not know how to respond to this question. Her memory of what transpired in the warehouse was in her mind, but it existed as a faint, insignificant memory. It took Lt. Graham’s retelling of her own report to awaken it in her head. How and why she had devalued the event so much caused her to question if it happened at all, or to the extent that she reported it. She soon latched on to the idea that her new romance had distracted her far more than expected. This thinking gave her cause to conclude that it did happen.

“No, I think it happened just the way I said.”

“You think?” Lt. Graham questioned with a mixture of concern and suspicion in his expression.

“It just seems like such a long time ago now. I’m just having a little trouble piecing it together in my mind.”

Lt. Graham gave Cassidy a wary exam for several seconds and then he spoke.

“If what you say is true then Andrew Lantz’s death was either a suicide done to protect someone else or a murder made to look like a suicide. Either way the only thing we’ve got to go on is the name Christian.”

“Christian?” Cassidy asked from behind a look of puzzlement.

The memory of the name flooded into her mind. She remembered the tall man in the warehouse. She remembered the glint of light off his eyes when he looked at her. She remembered how he turned away when the female voice called his name. But her pronunciation was not an exact match for the name Christian.

“Yeah, that’s the name you told me,” Lt. Graham answered from behind a look of concern. “That was the name you heard, wasn’t it?” He challenged after taking a moment to note Cassidy’s confused expression.

At this moment, Cassidy’s thinking began to wander. The name she recalled had a foreign sound to it. At this moment, her recollection was that the name had a European accent. And then she recalled the writing in the pictures. The writing on the cave walls. She remembered the translation of the writing and the name of the author. And then she remembered Janice’s words. “This is not a word for word translation and the pronunciation of the names are probably off.” This recollection startled her, and she looked up at Lt. Graham at that instant in wide-eyed amazement.

“Is Christian the name you heard?” Lt. Graham questioned again more forcefully.

“No, not Christian,” Cassidy returned hesitantly. “But it sounded something like Christian.”

“So now it’s not Christian,” Lt. Graham returned with no small inflection of exasperation.

Cassidy took a moment to make sense of the memories and images that were racing through her mind. Lt. Graham examined her while he waited for some new thought or memory to come from her.

“Is that all?” Cassidy questioned with a sudden look of surprise.

“Yeah that’s it,” Lt. Graham confirmed with a disgusted shake of his head. “You’re still on desk duty.”

“Okay,” Cassidy concurred as she got up and started for the door.

Cassidy hurried out of Lt. Graham’s office and raced to her desk. She paid no attention to the greetings from other detectives. Her focus was on her desk and what she expected to find there. An instant after sitting down she turned on her computer. When it was fully on she accessed the Greenbelt Nine case file and navigated her way to the Romanian cave pictures and specifically to the writing on the wall. Her attention went back and forth between the picture and the translation several times. At the end of this her mind recalled the words from Grigore Stefanescu.

“We dug them up. We let them out. Your city is infested with vampires.”

Cassidy recalled these words again and again. Shortly into this her reasoning pushed back on the thinking that this case had a connection to a twelve-hundred-year-old writing on a cave wall in Romania. She told herself that this was impossible. There is no such thing as a vampire, she scolded to herself. After a few deep breathes sober thinking wrestled control away from this outlandish idea. After a few seconds, she began to relax into the idea that this was all just a coincidence. Her mind was still settling into this position when Nina raced up to her desk.

“Hi, wow! You’re back,” Nina blurted out excitedly. “I heard about what happened at that warehouse in Brooklyn. I thought you were a goner. It was really making me feel guilty for telling you the cell phone on the other end was in there. But I’m glad to see that it worked out. So, I hear that you got him.”

Cassidy endured Nina’s babble from behind a modest smile. At the end of Nina’s spiel, she gave a response with a look of apprehension.

“We’re not sure. They’re still looking into this guy.”

“I thought I heard he confessed in a note,” Nina challenged.

“He did, but we have reason to think that he may have had one or more accomplices,” Cassidy replied as though she was pondering her answer as she spoke it.

“In that case I think you’re really going to like what I have,” Nina responded with an upbeat inflection.

“What’s that?”

“I found a cell number that looks like it could belong to your accomplice,” Nina gushed excitedly. “It’s assigned to a prepaid phone from the same lot as the others and it went active eleven days-ago.”

Cassidy was surprised to hear Nina say this, but the claim was not enough to convince her that she was right. Her first thought was to challenge this assertion. She wanted to know why she thought this.

“What makes you think this is the new phone?”

“Because it’s the last phone in that lot to be activated,” Nina explained excitedly. “I checked it against a list that the cell company accidentally emailed to me. All but two of the other phones in that lot were activated more than two months-ago. The two that were activated since then belong to your suspect, presumably, and they’re no longer active. This is the last prepaid phone from that lot. I think this is your guy. Who else would hold a prepaid phone for that long without using it.”

Cassidy took time to consider this. The first thought that popped into her head was the fact that she now had the means to identify the person Albert Haynes was talking to. But this thought came with a problem. She would have to convince Lt. Graham to sign a court order request giving her access to the cellphone’s company’s metadata. Because this involved a court order and not a warrant, she believed it would be easy enough to get.

What made a court orders easy in Cassidy’s mind was the fact that they were simply a mandate that an entity participate in a legal process that did not involve search, seizure, arrest or the suspension of any civil liberties—all the things that a warrant did do. Cassidy knew that a judge would be far more likely to agree to this because they would not be looking at the contents of any communications.

With access to the cellphone company’s metadata, Cassidy knew that she would be able to track the location of this cellphone while it was turned on. Her only concern was that Lt. Graham might not look favorably on this idea because it was coming from her. After contemplating this for a moment, she looked at Nina with a thought.

“I’m going to need you to help me explain this to the Lieutenant” Cassidy instructed with a point.

“Why me?” Nina questioned with a shrug.

“I’m not popular with the lieutenant right now, and I need him to sign off on the request for a court order.”

“I already got it,” Nina declared with a toss of her hands. “The Captain signed off on it.”

“You have a signed court order request from the Captain?” Cassidy questioned from behind a look of disbelief.

“I’m already plugged into the cell company,” Nina returned with a look of incredulity. “That’s why I’m here.”

Cassidy was astonished. This was the last thing she expected to hear. For the first time, there was a chance that she could learn the identity of the person that Albert Haynes was secretly in contact with. By tracking this prepaid phone’s metadata, she could pin him or her down to a location in real-time.

“Let’s go,” Cassidy instructed with wide excitement.

Nina led an eager Cassidy into the IT Workroom. She went straight to her computer console, typed in some instructions and waited for the monitor to display the results.

“How did you get the Captain to sign off on this?” Cassidy queried as they waited for the data to display.

“This is what I do,” Nina answered with a self-assured delivery. “I submit requests for court orders a dozen times a month, at least. I don’t investigate crimes. That’s your job. I collect, interpret and analyze information technology and the data it produces. The Captain doesn’t even read my request forms anymore. He just verifies that it’s connected to an active case and he signs.”

“You’re a godsend,” Cassidy responded with a smile.

Nina accepted this with a smile as she continued to wait. It took several seconds for the computer to respond. When it did Nina was slightly confused by what she was seeing, and Cassidy was far more so.

“Wow!” Nina exclaimed as she examined the map on the monitor. “Isn’t this the same location in Manhattan?”

Cassidy had already noted this and was in a state of shock. She did not hear Nina’s question. The sight of The Cavern Nightclub in the middle of the monitor had her full attention.

“This is it. There’s your proof,” Nina insisted in an excited voice. “It has to be.”

Nina’s words continued to go unheard. Cassidy’s mind was too busy weighing the reasons why this prepaid phone might be at or near The Cavern Nightclub. Her mind could not avoid the thinking that it was just a coincidence. It was too early in the morning for the club to be open for guests, and the club was not scheduled to be open at all on Mondays. Her mind went to the thinking that it might be open for cleaning and provisioning. But this had her wondering who was supervising this activity, if it was happening. With David out of the country, it was her guess that the assistant manager was in the club.

“I have to go,” Cassidy announced suddenly.

Cassidy turned about and headed for the door an instant after saying this.

“What are you going to do?” Nina questioned with a mildly bewildered expression.

“I’m going there,” Cassidy explained without hesitation.

“No,” Nina responded spontaneously. “I mean, shouldn’t you take this to Lt. Graham?”

Cassidy stopped at the door and looked back to respond to Nina’s query.

“Take what?” Cassidy challenged with a stunned expression. “All I’ve got is a phone number and a theory on how it’s linked to this case. And right now, my theories aren’t popular with the Lieutenant. I need a name and evidence that connects that name to Lantz or Haynes or the Greenbelt Nine.”

“But you’re on desk duty,” Nina challenged timidly.

“I’m going to take a sick day,” Cassidy responded with assertion. “Text me that number.”

Cassidy turned about, opened the door and left the room within two seconds after saying this.

“Okay,” Nina agreed with a bewildered look.

Cassidy was motivated by a renewed desire to see who was in possession of this phone. This was the same drive that sent her into the warehouse. She could not help but think that the time she spent with David had drained this obsession out of her. This thinking was being engendered by the familiar quality of excitement that this new information from Nina had aroused. She had to see this person. She had to know if it was one or more of the booth three regulars from The Cavern. She knew that any member of that group would be recognizable to her when she was close enough to see a face. And if it turned out to be someone she did not know then she needed only to make a phone call to the burner phone and watch to see who answers.

Cassidy was two minutes out of the IT room when Nina’s text came in. It took her just under five minutes to make her excuse for going home early, race out of the precinct and drive out of the one-two-two parking lot. She drove at her best speed that did not involve disturbing the traffic or risking an accident. Her fear was that the owner of the phone would leave before she got there. And she did not want to risk the possibility of this person disposing of the phone before he or she could be found out.

It took Cassidy twenty-minutes to arrive at the street where The Cavern was located. The absence of a delivery truck outside of the club was the first thing she mentally noticed. This supported the idea of a coincidence. There was also the possibility that whatever was happening there had finished.

“Is the burner phone still here?” Cassidy questioned an instant after Nina answered her phone call.

It took Nina several seconds to reactivate the trace and examine the readout.

“Yeah, it’s still there,” Nina reported. “It hasn’t moved.”

It took Cassidy another two-minutes to find a parking space around the corner from club. She kept her connection with Nina as she negotiated this last leg of her arrival.

“Do you see him?” Nina’s voice blared out of Cassidy’s earpiece.

Cassidy had just gotten out of her car and was starting her walk back to the front of the club when this question came in.

“I don’t know,” Cassidy answered as she started to walk.

Cassidy went quiet after this reply. Her mind was busy examining the faces of the people she passed. Everyone she saw appeared to be pedestrians passing through. She thought it unlikely that any of them was the person she was looking for. Her instinct told her that this person was inside The Cavern Nightclub.

“What do you see?” Nina blared into the silence a few seconds in.

“No one I know,” Cassidy reported softly. “Is the signal still stationary?”

“I think so,” Nina responded after taking a moment to examine her monitor.

“Whoever has this cellphone must be inside The Cavern,” Cassidy returned with a cadence that suggested she was deciding her next move as she spoke the words. “I need to get in there.”

The last part of this report caused Nina to become moderately alarmed, and it sounded in the tenor of her response.

“Shouldn’t I tell the lieutenant or the captain?”

“No!” Cassidy quickly countermanded. “I’m not supposed to be here. Remember?”

Cassidy all but dismissed the possibility of a physical altercation in this setting. She was confident that the person she was looking for had no idea as to what she was about. This alone was reason enough for her to believe that there was no danger here. The warehouse was an unoccupied private property business in an industrial sector of the city. And it had evidence in it that her suspect wanted to keep hidden. This was nothing like the situation at the warehouse. This was a busy city street on a weekday morning. And there was nothing here for this person to hide that he or she knew about.

“But what if something happens?” Nina questioned with an intonation of concern in her expression.

“That’s not going to happen,” Cassidy responded as if she was pondering out loud. “I can manage on my own from here.”

For a brief time, there was no response from Nina, and then she spoke with a tone of uncertainty.

“I really think I should tell someone where you’re at.”

Cassidy understood Nina’s concern, but she believed alerting her precinct was the wrong response. She feared that Lt. Graham would call her in, and she knew that a call to 9-1-1 and her badge number would be the quickest way to get assistance if she did come to need it.

“No, Nina,” Cassidy corrected. “The lieutenant will have me filing paperwork for the rest of the year if he finds out I’m here. I’ll be okay. This is strictly a look and see. I’m not arresting anyone. But if anything does happen, I’ll call 9-1-1.”

Nina took a moment to consider this before responding with, “okay.”

“Okay then, I’ll call you later,” Cassidy advised and then disconnected the call.

After a few more steps Cassidy came to a stop in front of The Cavern Nightclub. In the time it took her to do this, Cassidy had made up her mind to go inside the club. She tried the door and discovered that it was locked. After learning this, she began to pound on the door with the side of her fist. She pounded on the door three times, and then she waited for ten seconds. At the end of this wait she pounded on the door three more times. After an additional wait of several seconds, she began to hear the door unlocking. After a couple of seconds, the door pushed open two feet and stopped.

“Can I help you?” An attractive lady inquired of Cassidy through the half open door.

She looked to be in her mid to late twenties, medium of stature and in possession of an attractive figure. Her hair was dark brown and shoulder length. Her facial features were decidedly elegant and this made her look out of place as an employee of the club. Her impassive demeanor added support to this appearance.

“Is David Burrell here?” Cassidy questioned after examining the woman.

“No,” the elegant lady answered snobbishly.

The elegant lady paused behind this one word answer and gave Cassidy a haughty stare, and then she spoke again.

“Is there anything else?”

Cassidy was unperturbed by the manner of the woman in front of her. Getting inside the club was the only thought in her mind.

“Yes,” Cassidy responded to her query without hesitation. “I believe I left my scarf in David’s office.”

The elegant woman took a moment to give Cassidy a cold stare before she responded.

“Are you sure that’s what you’re looking for?” The lady questioned back from behind a bland expression.

Cassidy was confused by this question. She thought it a strange inquiry for an employee of the club. She displayed a look that said she thought the question peculiar as she gave her reply.

“Excuse me.”

The elegant woman ignored the remark. An instant after hearing it she stepped back and opened the door wide.

“Come in.”

This response by the woman at the door set off an alarm within Cassidy. She surmised from it that there was something menacing about her, but this did not stop her from going in. The possibility of learning why she was this way had her all the more intrigued.

Cassidy was three steps past the threshold when the woman shut the door behind her. Cassidy stopped to look back at her. She noticed that the woman was in the process of examining her from head to toe. Cassidy returned her examination with one of her own. The woman’s attire was far too formal for the refurbishing and provisioning work that had to be done during the nightclub’s off hours.

“Is there a special event going on?” Cassidy asked with a look toward the elegant woman beside her.

“Yes, very special,” she answered stoically.

“Do you mind if I ask what the event is,” Cassidy queried from behind a look of curiosity.

“No, not at all,” the elegant woman returned with a hint of a smile. “I’ll be happy to tell you, if you answer a question for me first?”

Once again Cassidy was baffled by this woman’s manner. Her responses seemed out of place for an employee. She hesitated to reply to this query as she considered this.

“What’s your question?” Cassidy asked with an edge in her voice.

The woman paid no attention to the sternness in Cassidy’s delivery, and she responded to the question with barely a pause between it and her query.

“Why are you really here?”

Cassidy thought this question was too unusual to be a casual inquiry. In Cassidy’s mind this confirmed that this person was something other than what she expected.

“I haven’t seen you here before,” Cassidy questioned with a stern look. “Are you a new employee?”

“I don’t work here” the woman responded with a hint of a nod. “I’m a guest. But unlike you, I was invited.”

The elegant woman paused to give Cassidy a look of satisfaction, and then she spoke again with her usual serene delivery.

“So, tell me, why have you come?”

Cassidy thought the woman in front of her was acting far too bold to be here alone. For a moment, she considered leaving out of fear that there were others hiding in back rooms. But the thought of losing this opportunity to get answers kept her fixed in her stance.

“I told you,” Cassidy responded with more than a hint of aggravation in her tone. “I left my scarf.”

The elegant woman gave Cassidy a smug look and a slight smile in response to this answer. Cassidy endured this for a couple of seconds, and then she spoke again.

“What’s the event?”

The elegant woman’s smile grew wider in response to the question. A moment later, she briefly looked off toward the entrance to the main room of the club, and then she turned back toward Cassidy to speak.

“I think Lucian should give you that answer,” the woman answered with a squint of her eyes and a nod of her head. “Please go through,” she continued with a gesture of her hand.

Cassidy took a moment to give the woman a suspicious look. An instant behind this she surreptitiously patted the gun beneath her coat. Her replacement handgun was snugly fixed above her right buttock inside the holster that was attached to her belt. She took comfort from the knowledge that it was right where it was supposed to be. She then turned about, walked through the vestibule doorway, past the bar and into the main room of the club. She stopped just inside the entrance. The elegant woman came to a stop beside her.

The first thing that Cassidy noticed was the layout of the tables in the room. The twenty small round tables in the middle of the room were pushed off into a U formation. The bottom end of the U was closes to the stage and was comprised of two tables pushed together. The remaining eighteen tables comprised the sides of the U. They were also situated in pairs. One chair was situated behind each table. The excess chairs were pushed back and lined up against the sides of the room. On either side of each pair of tables was just enough room for someone to walk through. Several of the tables had one or more place settings on it, and each of these looked to be supporting a small collection of raw meat appetizer and water.

The next thing that Cassidy noticed was a man seated in a chair at the bottom of the U. He looked to be sharply tailored, thin and his hair was blond. His stare was fixed on her. After taking note of him Cassidy began to examining the room. There was no light coming from the lamps above the stage or the bar. A few overhead lamps, the wall lamps and lighted exit signs produced all the illumination that there was. This caused the center of the room to be far dimmer than usual and the perimeter to be far darker. Shortly after taking notice of all this, Cassidy watched the elegant woman beside her walk across the floor, around to the outer side of the U and then lovingly nestle herself into the chair next to Lucian. When comfortably seated, she looked back at Cassidy with a smile and spoke.

“Please, come in.”

Cassidy was unsure if she should go further into the room. She believed that this woman was toying with her. She was worried by the empty chairs in front of the place settings. Despite this, her mind was telling her to go in and get answers, while her instinct was screaming beware. She entertained this debate for a couple of seconds, and then she went into the middle of the U formation. She came to a stop half a dozen feet away from the inner rim of the tables at the bottom of the U.

“Detective Tremaine, your presence here is very unexpected and less than a pleasure, I’m sorry to say.” Lucian greeted solemnly. “But now that you are here, welcome,” he added with a hint of smile.

Cassidy was surprised to hear that he not only knew her name, he knew her station. Her trepidation doubled at the hearing of this. The only thing that was stopping her from drawing her weapon was the fact that the man and woman in front of her did not present themselves to be a physical threat to her. Their demeanor was calm. Their orientation was seated. For several seconds, she stared at them while her mind wondered at who they were. She then turned her thoughts to the task of assessing the situation. It was at this moment that the situation changed.

Cassidy was startled by the sound of the kitchen doors opening at the left end of the stage. She turned her attention to it in time to see the vague black silhouettes of people entering the room. Shortly a couple, a man and a woman, became visible in the dim light. They walked calmly into the room. The man looked to be all of six-feet in height, of healthy build and handsome. The woman was blond, of average height, thin and pleasing to look at. His demeanor was stoic. She had a slightly snooty air about her as she maintained the hint of a smile on her face.

An instant after noting their faces Cassidy heard movement behind her. She quickly turned about to see the faces of the four individuals enter the room through the hallway entrance at the right end of the bar. Two of these faces belonged to people she had seen before, Christine Meyer and Evan Pritchard. They strode into the room as an arm in arm couple. The second pair, a man and a woman, were unknown to her. The woman was tall and lean, nearly to the point of being gaunt. The man was slightly rotund, thicker in the shoulders than most and of equal stature to the woman but only average for a man. An instant after noting them she turned her attention back toward the kitchen doors in time to see Ryan Sandoval and Alexandra Hays entering the room. An instant after taking in these faces, Cassidy heard more movement from behind. She spun around in time to see a group of four more individuals trailing into the room through the hallway entrance. Brooke Chapman and Ronald Hollis walked casually into the main room with amused expressions on their faces. They were followed by a second couple that Cassidy had never seen before. The woman was below average in height, cute in appearance and maintained a seemingly wicked smile. The man was slightly above average height and had an imperious air about him. Cassidy nearly went into a panic at the sight of them all spilling into the room from every entrance and with their eyes fixed on her.

Cassidy watched as they moved into the room and down along the outer rim of the U. They kept their eyes fixed on her as they went. She watched as they came to stops behind a place setting on one of the tables. Cassidy immediately came to the thinking that all of them were involved in the Greenbelt Nine killings, and she also entertained the thought that her life was in danger. She pushed back her coats and put her hands on her hips. She eased her hand back until she could feel the top of her handgun against the edge of her thumb of her right hand.

As Cassidy turned to look back toward Lucian, she unlatched her handgun, stripped her weapon out of its holster and brought it up to an aim at the center of Lucian’s chest with practiced ease and swiftness. In that same instant a question came into her mind: who are you. She began to speak it, or at least she thought she did. Her sense of awareness faded out for what seemed to be a second or two. Her knowledge of this momentary fugue started to become apparent as her thinking returned. For a moment, she stood in the middle of the U in silence as she actively worked to restore her wits. Shortly her consciousness was functional enough to process the information from her senses. A few seconds after that, her memories began to reform. This return of her faculties soon brought Cassidy to the awareness that she was no longer in possession of her gun.

Cassidy noted that her arms were still stretched out in front of her, but there was no gun in her hands. An instant behind this she noticed that the booth three regulars and the six strangers had taken seats behind a place setting. They were examining her behind whispers, giggles and smiles. Her mind struggled to comprehend how they all came to be settled into chairs without her seeing it happen. After glancing around with a startled look on her face, her eyes came to light on Lucian’s table. On it she saw her gun and her cellphone. She then looked up at Lucian with wide-eyed amazement and started speaking the question that popped into her head.

“What are you?”

“Oh, I think we’re past that question,” Lucian responded with an amused countenance.

With this answer, Cassidy’s feeling of dread increased noticeably. The hope that her wildest imagining was nonsense crossed into the realm of plausibility. She was several seconds into a silent stare at Lucian when she first heard footfalls approaching from the hallway entrance. An instant later she spun about to see who was entering this time. A slim, good looking man with brown hair was the first to walk into the room. He looked to be slightly under six-feet in height. His focus was fixed on his movement. He did not look in Cassidy’s direction. After a short walk, he came to a stance in front of a place setting at the top right of the U. He then looked back towards the entrance that he just came through. Cassidy noted where his attention went and turned her eyes there in time to see two more individuals entering the room, clasped together arm in arm.

The woman who strode through the hallway entrance was of average height with a slender figure. She was elegantly attired. Her hair was dark brown, and it fell a foot below her shoulders. Her facial features leaned toward the exotic and she was easily someone that most people would call attractive. Her gaze locked onto Cassidy at the instant she came into the room. She was someone that Cassidy had never seen before, but this was not true of the man she came in with. He was someone that she knew and was very much shocked to see. Cassidy watched him as he escorted the woman into the room without returning her look. He kept his gaze low and straight ahead. The couple stopped in front of side by side place settings near the top right of the U. The man pulled out the chair and held it for the woman. She, in turn, lowered herself into the seat with over stated grace while holding her gaze on Cassidy. Her escort fixed his gaze on her as she settled into the seat, and Cassidy held her gaze on him. They maintained this quiet triangle of stares for several seconds. At the end of this, the exotic woman shifted her gaze from Cassidy to her escort and began to speak.

“Aw Cristiãn (kris-shē-ôn), she’s lovely—Please share.” She said with overly feigned sincerity.

A shiver shot through Cassidy when she heard these words. She looked down to the woman in wide-eyed terror. A second later she looked up to the man again. As she did this David Burrell looked up to return Cassidy’s gaze for first time. He held his stance and his stare for several seconds, and then he lowered himself into the chair next to the woman he came in with. A few seconds after this, Helga, the average height blond woman that came into the room with Christine and Evan, spoke in a malevolent tone of voice.

“So, what do we do with you?”

A few brief snickers spewed out from around the room.

“She’s a problem that we must resolve.”

Stefan, the man that Helga came into the room with, spoke these words with a severe stare at Cassidy and a hard edge in his tone. There was a brief silence behind this as the gaze of most within the room shifted back and forth between Lucian and David. Cassidy noted the speaker and then the glances. She then turned her attention back to David and examined him for the explanation behind these looks.

“There is no hurry on that, Stefan.” Lucian gently counseled after a pause. “We are not all here yet, and Detective Tremaine may prove to be useful.”

“Useful?” Stefan complained argumentatively. “Based upon what I’ve heard, she’s a nuisance.”

“I am a New York City police officer and there are people in the department that know I am here,” Cassidy addressed to Lucian with a defiant voice. “They will come here if I don’t call back in another five minutes.”

“Let’s see about that,” Lucian suggested just before going quiet and still while holding his stare on Cassidy.

Several seconds after hearing this statement Cassidy’s awareness-of-self dissolved away as she slipped off into a trance.

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