What’s up, my readers?
Night here with another thrilling installment of Whispers in Silence. Before we begin, many of you have asked where the intros have been and how it’s going over here in reality land. Well, a lot is going on—not that this is unusual or anything. I was asked to help with a wedding, a small wedding that turned into something else entirely and now I’m scratching my head, wondering if America suddenly adopted a queen when I wasn’t I looking.
No, I’m kidding. My friend is the best, and I know everything will work out, and that every bride has a “moment” when she thinks of throwing in the towel. Let’s just say there was a terrible experience at the dress store she made an appointment at (a well-known bridal shop I might add) and she did NOT want to ring the bell every time she found a dress she liked. Think putting on a sombrero at a Mexican restaurant on your birthday and being forced to stand on a chair while the staff shakes silverware and sings. Not her thing. *laughs*
The other reason I’ve been away is…a new guy. Many of you might have guessed the man I referred to as “boyfriend” is no longer around and hasn’t been for some time. I wish him well and what not, but things weren’t working out, and I wasn’t up for dealing with his issues. We’ll leave it at that. Anyway, my friends conspired against me and set me up on a blind date. At first I thought this was because they hated me—I abhor blind dates due to past experience. But they forced me to go, or rather I was having a terrible time the week of Valentine’s (fuck you Hallmark) and in my girlish vulnerability gave it shot.And instead of slumming it the day before Valentine’s Day in my jammies and watching a gut-wrenching chick flick, I went out with him. Turns out he’s a pretty cool guy. He’s also not the kind of guy I would have picked out of crowd to be attracted to, but he’s different, and different is good. I was hooked when I asked him about the scar on his cheek. I thought for sure he would say he used to be a thug and got it during some drug deal gone wrong. This is my writer’s imagination at work, of course.
He laughs, obviously knowing what I’m thinking and says, “Got in a fight with a can of veggies. I’m not good with metal lids.”
“What did you do, make out with it?”
He winks. “Corn turns me on.”
It was probably the best date ever for someone like me, who thought his quirky quips were absolutely hilarious. And I’m sure his sense of humor will be constant inspiration for my writing, so for now we’ll continue hanging out and see what happens.
Well, that’s what’s going on around here. I’ll keep you all updated. Onto the story!!
Whispers in Silence: Part 7
“Cap says you two can’t go back home. Not after this.” Feist delivered the news to Wes. He stood a good three feet away and kept his face passive. His hands stuffed inside his jacket pockets moved around like he was ready for a fight from Wes. A fight he didn’t want to get in.
Wes understood. Feist was only the messenger. He also saw Sutton’s point; if Halverson was in with Redding, home wasn’t a safe place anymore. Truthfully, it hadn’t been since Adrian walked in the door. But damn if Wes didn’t want to take his partner home and let him sleep. He needed to watch over Adrian and feed him and make sure all the creepy crawlies Tabitha Sinclair had left behind were gone for good.
Adrian swore up and down he was fine, that his time with Tabitha had been different from the other spirits he’d encountered. He claimed he was able to go on and meet up with Sutton at the Sinclair residence. Wes wasn’t so sure. Although Adrian’s experience could have been worse and he hadn’t come out of his spirit coma looking like he’d been through hell and back, Wes was worried about his partner.
Adrian kept looking at him funny; kept leaning in like he was listening for something when he couldn’t hear a thing. Wes felt like a science experiment all the sudden, an unnecessary stress on top of everything else. Not how he pictured his day going with Adrian after the kiss they had shared earlier.
Wes told himself Adrian was fine, that the kiss meant something and Adrian was all in. But something tugged at his detective instincts. Something was different about Adrian that had nothing to do with sexual attraction and more to do with bodily chemistry.
Wes didn’t say it aloud for fear of scaring Adrian, but he sensed all the recent developments were coming to a head. Any minute now, he was sure Adrian would turn, leaving him in a tight spot with two bad guys after his life.
Back to the matter at hand, he didn’t have any fight in him for Feist. He was saving it for Halverson when they found him. “Grab some stuff for us when you roll by? We can stay in one of the crash rooms at the Bureau if shit goes down.”
“You can stay with one of us, Wes. You don’t have to sleep on those cots. Hurts my back every time I think about taking a nap there.”
“Nah. Thanks for the offer but we’ll manage.”
Wes sat down on the curb and lit a cigarette. He closed his mouth and inhaled deeply through his nose. Feist looked down at him, something on his mind. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Open book, Feist.” Wes shrugged.
“He really the one? I mean…how do you know?”
“I’d write a book for the next poor bastard in my position if I could explain it. I just know. If you want the hearts and flowers version—”
“Not really.” Feist kicked gravel with his boot and chuckled.
Wes lifted a shoulder. “It’s like a slow game of connect the dots. You believe you know what the picture is, and you dive in thinking you know something, like you’re real smart. And then your hand gets heavy and the pencil drags. The lines you’ve done already don’t make sense and you start to get scared that you’ll never finish. And then one day all those lines click into place. All those strokes meant something along the way and prepared you for that final move. And then bam, there it is in black and white and that picture is nothing like you thought it would be. But the end result is perfect, different, but perfect.”
“That is officially the corniest thing I have ever heard.” Feist snickered. “I’m sorry, Durren. You’re either whipped or you’re fucking nuts. Connect the dots…” Feist put his hands on his hips and laughed. “The hell you come up with this shit… Oh, damn.”
“Can’t be whipped if you haven’t had sex.” Wes tapped his cigarette, letting ash fall to the ground. He couldn’t believe he just said that.
Feist stopped laughing. “Seriously? We thought…”
“I wasn’t joking when I said we were just sleeping. And I’m pretty sure I should kick your ass for walking in that bathroom back there.” Wes had no idea why he was being so open with Feist. Perhaps because it felt good to talk to someone on the outside, and maybe he was going a bit stir crazy in his head keeping it all in. Wes would talk to Sutton if he wasn’t such an intricate part of Adrian’s life, making it weird to chat about sleeping with his nephew. Feist was different; he was one of the guys and this was bro talk.
Keep telling yourself that, Durren. Since when do you talk about anything personal with Feist?
“Can’t believe you haven’t been with your own…” Feist sat down next to Wes. He held out his fingers and Wes passed him the cigarette.
“Mate? First time I said it out loud.”
“Heavy shit, man.” Feist nodded and passed the cig. “Adrian get it yet?”
“I don’t know what’s going on in his head. I try and read him and there’s so much to sift through. He used to block me out when we first met, but he’s not trying to anymore and still I’ve got nothing. I know there’s stuff he hasn’t told me yet, but he’s got to know by now. I know he feels it.”
“Looks like he felt you just fine in the bathroom.” Feist smirked.
Wes slugged Feist in the arm. “Screw you.”
“No way. Maybe if you told Adrian straight up what’s going on between you two, then you could screw him.” Feist winked and stood up. “He’s a step ahead of us in a lot of ways, Durren, but he’s also a step behind us in other departments. It’s a possibility he might know and just doesn’t understand how to show you. You go and he follows. You say something and he starts to speak up. You kiss him, he kisses you back. You’re the Senior Detective in the relationship. Take the lead. Train your partner where he’s lacking.”
Feist snagged the cigarette from Wes’s fingers, winked, and then walked to the stairs where Adrian was being checked over by a tech. Wes locked eyes with Adrian.
The team sat in a circular booth at the back of a twenty-four hour diner near the Sinclair residence. The White Plate was a popular vampire hangout just outside Gramercy Park. The coffee was hot, the pancakes out of this world, and the waitresses knew when the Guards wanted their privacy. Especially when files were spread across the table, laptops were open, and six exhausted males were hunkered down over their breakfast.
“So much for keeping this quiet,” Fontine muttered between bites. “The Sinclair’s butler spread Tabitha’s death across the city with a single phone call. Now every maid, driver, and doorman belonging to a Royal knows. And now so do their employers. Bureau dispatch is blowing up and soon we’ll have a damn war on our hands.”
“Maybe we’ll get a lead on Halverson. Everyone is looking for him and we’ve got men and women stationed at every city exit. He won’t be able to plane, train, walk, or teleport out of here without us knowing.” Feist had no sooner finished speaking when he got a text. “Sutton says the butler is ready to speak. The parents won’t be joining us.”
“Because the mother is a cunt.” Adrian stabbed his pancakes.
Feist put his phone down. “Okay… Feel like talking to us there, champ? You haven’t said a word since we left Flatiron and—”
Adrian cut him off with a cold, hard stare. “I told you everything relevant at the time. Now the mother has become relevant. She won’t speak to us, and yes I understand she just lost her daughter, but wouldn’t that make her more determined to help us out? Wouldn’t it make sense if she knew Halverson when he called her daughter Tabby? Killers don’t suddenly adopt nicknames for their random victims. She knows something. And if she isn’t willing to spit it out, I say we squeeze the butler for all he’s worth.”
“This is starting to sound like Clue. Mrs. Sinclair in the library with a candlestick,” Wes teased, trying to lighten the mood. Adrian scraped his fork across his plate, a high pitched noise that made everyone grimace. Wes knew Adrian wished he could stick a fork in Halverson instead of a pancake.
“What are you talking about, Durren?” Maloy raised a brow.
Wes turned his palms up and emitted a shaky laugh. “Popular board game?”
Maloy scratched his head. “Uh…”
“Before his time, Durren,” Davis reminded Wes. “We’re old, remember?”
“Right. We’re old.” Wes sagged in his seat. “As much as I love discussing my age, we have work to do. I agree with Adrian. He and I will take the interview and see what we get.” There wasn’t a need to elaborate on why he wanted the interview. With Adrian there, who knew what they could find.
“You up for that, Adrian?” Feist snapped his fingers to get the brooding Detective’s attention. “I asked if you were cool to interview the butler with Wes.”
Adrian nodded slowly. He stared at his coffee cup like it was about to attack. “Wes does the talking while I watch this guy squirm. Butlers know everything.” One second Adrian seemed to be his old self, a fire in his eyes and a menacing grip on his pronged utensil. The next he was back to his breakfast like a starved man, leaving the team a bit lost as to do what to do with him.
Slightly disappointed his pasta wasn’t that special, Wes watched Adrian chow down on his pancakes and wash them down with coffee as he did with any other meal. It was just the way Adrian ate, Wes learned. Adrian was a high energy person, eager to fill his depleted battery and then return to his task. It was both admirable and scary to behold.
Adrian caught Wes watching. He licked his lips of syrup, arousing Wes to no end. Wes had no idea if Adrian knew what he was doing, but he’d bet money his partner didn’t. Even so, their eyes locked and Wes was treated to a flash of need scrolling through Adrian’s blues.
Adrian glanced at their teammates, and then wiped his mouth with a napkin.
In a flash the connection was gone as Adrian shut his laptop and scrolled through his phone. They definitely needed to talk. Unfortunately for Wes, they had no privacy to do so and going home wasn’t an option anymore.
Less than an hour later, they walked through the front doors of the Gramercy Park Hotel. Since the hotel was officially sold to the Sinclairs in 2018, they converted the guest rooms into eight luxury residences. Normally, one to two doormen would be adequate. However, the fact that eight Royal families lived at the hotel now, appeared to require a lot more than just your average doorman.
As if they thought they were potted plants or unnoticeable pillars in the lobby, at least a dozen bodyguards dotted the room. Large males that looked like hired muscle and didn’t belong to the Bureau raised Wes’s suspicions. “All the families accounted for in the building?”
“Seven in total, and yes, they’re all here. I’m going to check in with our Guards and see what they’ve heard from the neighbors while you two visit Sutton.” He sized up a bodyguard near him and rolled his eyes. “Had I known they had this many watchdogs, I would’ve brought some treats.”
“Weird, huh?” Wes agreed.
“It’s always weird, Durren.” Feist chuckled and pointed to the elevator. “Top floor. The Sinclairs have it all to themselves.”
“Fancy.” Wes lifted his brows and gestured for Adrian to follow. Once inside the lift, Wes took one wall and Adrian took the other. The two of them tried not to look at each other, making things very awkward. “What’s up?”
Adrian sighed. He watched the lighted numbers near the ceiling go up.
Wes waved his hand in Adrian’s face. “Did I do something wrong?”
“It’s not you, alright.”
“Then what is it?”
The elevator hit the fourth floor and kept going. Adrian tapped his foot. “It is you. It’s everything. I have a lot to deal with right now.” Adrian pointed to his temple. “I can only deal with one thing at a time. I’d rather save you for later when we don’t have to work. Right now, this is work. I’m on my game, so don’t mess with me.”
“God, Wes, chill out. You’re worse than most women. I need to focus right now, and we need to learn to work together at work and do…whatever it is in private. Keep the two separate.” Adrian put his fingers to his wrist and continued to tap his foot. He huffed, flicking his stare to the carpet. “I’m not angry with you if that’s what you think. It’s that I’m not use to this attention, being in the spotlight all the time, and being a critical part of a team. There’s a lot of pressure in this job when others are counting on you to use skills they don’t have. There’s Redding and Halverson on the loose. We’ve got bodies piling up. And then there’s you and me, and the thing.”
Adrian glanced up. Wes smiled. “The thing?”
“Yes, I’m calling it the thing. I know what you want to hear, but I’m not comfortable naming it for what it is in an elevator when we don’t have time to discuss it. That’s not how I operate. I’m sorry if you were hoping for more.”
Wes leaned against the wall, grinning from ear to ear. “Not a hearts and flowers kind of guy?”
He knows. Oh god he knows.
Adrian stuck up his middle finger. “This is work, Wes. Don’t you get that?”
Wes nodded. He reveled in the sound of Adrian’s rapid heartbeat. “I hear you loud and clear, partner.”
“Your favorite word. Kind of like when women say everything is “fine” but they don’t really mean it. I intend to work it out of your vocabulary.” Wes winked. He strode to the other side of the elevator before they arrived at the eighth floor and stole a hard, fast kiss. He lifted away from Adrian, happy at the blitzed look in his partner’s eyes. “Now I can work, and with the promise of later, I’m more than happy to step up my game for you.”
When the elevator opened, Adrian stormed out, glancing over his shoulder with a flush to his cheeks. He was a strong and powerful addition to the team, tall and lean muscled, weapons all over his graceful body. But when kissed, Adrian was nothing more than a hissing kitten, an adorably ferocious fluff-ball to Wes.
A kitten that turned into a prowling panther the moment he entered the Sinclair residence. There was no mistaking his mission; Adrian went straight to Sutton and started signing with his back turned, but even though he seemed preoccupied, Wes watched his partner study the living room like he had microscopic lenses for eyes.
Nothing escaped Adrian Donohue.
While Adrian made imaginary lists in his head and signed with Sutton, Wes took a more languid approach to the scene. He counted Bureau badges and took note of the Sinclair’s private security trying to stake some claim. The bodyguard count was absurd for the small family. Sure they were Royal, but this wasn’t the Queen’s quarters or anything. Why would they need this many?
“Don’t touch that,” a female hissed across the room.
Wes laid eyes on a tall, redheaded woman who was snatching away a framed photo from a Bureau Guard. Sutton immediately intercepted. He put a hand up to the fearsome female and ushered the Guard away. “Camille, you should be resting.”
“While these animals ravage through our private things, Captain? I should think not.” She let loose a disgusted huff and placed the frame back on the table. “Haven’t we suffered enough? Is it too much to ask you to leave us be during our time of grief?”
“Camille, you and I both know this is standard procedure. You said you’d give us your full cooperation to find Tabitha’s killer, and so far you’ve hindered us every step of the way. I will ask you again as politely as I can to go and sit at your mate’s side until we need you.”
“This is my home. I will not be told what to do.” She stomped a heeled foot and growled like a rabid beast.
“I realize you are suffering, Camille. I do. That said, I must tell you that any other mother of a deceased child would do anything in their power to find the one that took them away. No matter if that meant sitting and waiting for answers. No matter if that meant men ravaging your materialistic possessions for clues.” Sutton cocked his head. His eyes darkened. “But you are not at your mate’s side, your mate who in his grievance nearly lost his mind and had to be sedated. You are here, holding me up, worried about which cabinets I search through and what picture frames I touch. Does that not seem strange to you?”
She put a hand above her breasts, taken aback. Her mouth opened when she gasped theatrically. “Are you implying I do not care about my daughter?”
“That remains to be seen, Camille. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like you to go in the other room and comfort your mate. I’ll be sure you to keep you informed.”
Camille Sinclair’s nostrils flared. Her long nails bit into her palms, her fingers clenched tightly. “Very well, Captain,” she said. “I’ll be sure to comfort my mate even though he is out cold at the moment. How nice of you to grant me such an important task.”
As Camille departed the living room, she passed the butler, who was being escorted in. Her eyes narrowed and she followed him with a glare for as far as her neck would turn. “Mrs. Sinclair,” a Guard warned her to keep moving.
The butler was a small, sheepish man who would most certainly go unnoticed in a household like the Sinclair’s. But now he was in the hot seat, receiving death glares from his employer. Like a small, cornered animal, his heartbeat quickened once brought in the living room full of Guards. His beady black eyes darted from face to face, and he tried to make himself smaller by stuffing his body into the corner window seat he was shown to.
“This is good as I can do right now. We haven’t cleared all the bedrooms yet, and the staff is being held in the kitchen, so it’s a bit crowded in there,” Sutton said. “We’re taking the hired guns into the hall to give you some privacy, and our badges will continue searching the bedrooms. I’ll give you twenty minutes with him, and then the techs will have to take over. We need as much fresh evidence as possible.”
Wes looked at Adrian, trying to get his take on what had just occurred. Adrian’s eyes flicked to the muscle being moved out the door and then he raised a brow at Wes. “Just what I was thinking too. You get anything from the security around here?”
Sutton grinned tightly. “You’re gonna love this. They’re contracted through a private firm we’re attempting to locate now. But it appears we need an order from the Queen for them to divulge confidential client information—including but not limited to the reason why they’re here in the first place.”
“Bullshit.” Wes gaped. “You contact Nina?”
“Seeing as how I report to her, yes, I did.”
Sutton sighed. “She’s en route to the city as we speak; something to do with sealed records from before I was Captain. She didn’t wish to say over the phone, but she made it very clear the security detail was not to leave the premises.”
“Did she give you permission to swipe the staff?”
“No need, they’re all turned. That is why I’m hoping you can talk some sense into this one. The rest refuse to speak with us, more like they’re scared they’ll be offed should they confess anything with Camille around. This is turning out to be a nightmare.” Sutton gestured to the butler. “I’ll leave you to it. I need to check in with Feist.”
With the room clear of people, Wes pulled up a chair to the window seat and sat next to Adrian. For a minute he allowed the butler to breathe, to acknowledge he was safe from harm, and free to say anything he wanted. When that didn’t work and the butler looked ready to jump out of his skin, Wes tried another approach.
“I like your shoes. Italian?”
The butler, caught off guard, looked at his footwear. “Uh, yes, a gift from Miss Tabitha for Christmas last year.”
“Custom or off the shelf? Did you have to break them in? I’ve always wanted a pair but I don’t have the money to go custom and I don’t have the time to break a cheaper pair in. All the footwork we do as detectives would give me blisters. Nice, though, those are really sharp.” Wes smiled.
The butler smiled back. “They were handmade for me. A truly thoughtful gift from Miss Sinclair. She was always thoughtful, though, and such a warm hearted soul. I can’t believe she’s gone.” His smile faded as he looked at Adrian. Wes’s partner wasn’t about to offer this stranger any type of consoling at the moment.
Wes cleared his throat, yanking the butler’s attention away from Adrian. “Mister…”
“Marcus Sitz, sir. I’ve been with the Sinclairs the longest. A good butler is very hard to find, and I suppose I’ve done my job well enough to stay as long as I have.”
Wes nodded. “And the Sinclairs rewarded you for your effort by offering you the turn?”
“Yes, sir, before the Queen’s law dictated formal permission to do so.” He twiddled his thumbs, looking guilty.
“You’re not in any trouble, Mr. Sitz. I have no intention of turning you in over how you came to be a vampire. If you did so willingly, that’s fine by me.”
Mr. Sitz let out a breath he seemed to have been holding in. “I believe you. I’m a good judge of character…most of the time. I suppose I panicked when the Bureau invaded tonight. Still am a little overwhelmed.”
“Understandable,” Wes agreed. “I also understand the tight spot you’re in, wanting to please your employer, your family here, by keeping certain details to yourself. But you must see my side, and Tabitha’s. Detective Donohue and I are here only to find out what happened and get justice for Miss Tabitha.”
“Who’s to say I’ve withheld details?” Mr. Sitz swallowed his own fear. His question was worded perfectly. It wasn’t a fib and it wasn’t a whole truth, just somewhere in between that wouldn’t raise a red flag for a vampire with a built in lie detector.
“There are always secrets in every house. This one seems to hold a lot more than most. I need to know what you know, Mr. Sitz. Anything helps.” Wes tried to maintain a nonthreatening presence, keeping his body relaxed and away from the butler. He smiled, putting as much warmth behind it as possible.
“They will let me go for sharing such things, Detective. This is my home. I’m not sure where I could turn, or who would employ me if I was terminated. No Royal would have me.”
“Is that what she told you? Camille, I mean.”
Mr. Sitz was silent. He turned toward the window. “Yes.”
“And if I find your employer to be more than a suspect in this investigation, what house will be left for you to run?”
“It’s more complicated than that, I’m afraid,” Mr. Sitz murmured. “I…I fear for my life.”
“Wouldn’t telling me what you know benefit you if Camille was taken out of the picture?”
The butler turned back to Wes. Such sadness overcame his face, the look of a man who had spent his entire life putting on a smile when everything around him was a tragedy. “I’m sure you’ve seen our security. It doesn’t end there.”
“Mr. Sitz, please.” Wes leaned forward. “I need something. You know something,”
“I do,” Mr. Sitz whispered.
Wes shivered. A cold spot appeared on his left and every hair rose on his body. He looked at Adrian. His partner stared at the empty wingback chair along the wall. And while Adrian kept calm, he still put his fingers to his wrist. That alone let Wes know, a sign from one partner to another that a spirit was sitting next to Wes.
Mr. Sitz dug for a tissue and dabbed at his eyes. He wrapped his arms around his torso. “She didn’t deserve this. She didn’t deserve to be born to that woman and her doormat of a mate. I do not understand why fate would pair them together. Why not leave Mr. Sinclair alone and let him live a happy life with someone else? But then I think of the girls and how they would have never been born. Such sweet children.”
“You mean Tabby?” Adrian spoke. He looked at the butler.
The butler whipped around to Adrian. “Why did you call her that?”
“Because that’s what you called her, right. You called her Tabby when Camille wasn’t around. You called her older sister…Red.” Adrian curled his fingers around the armrests. His chest rose and fell rapidly.
Wes was torn between comforting Adrian and continuing to question Mr. Sitz. The mention of Red threw him for a loop. Red like Redding immediately came to mind. If he was thinking it then so was Adrian, and that sent Wes’s partner into a damn near panic attack.
“Adrian?” Wes put his hand over Adrian’s.
“Is he alright? I can get him some water.” Mr. Sitz started to rise, but Adrian stood and pushed him back into his seat.
Adrian glared down at the butler. “You stay here and suffer until one of those guys gets the order to kill you, or you start talking and get protection from the protection. Everything Camille told you was a lie. This isn’t your family anymore. Tabby is dead. Red is dead. No one here will save you except for us. Get out while you can.”
“No one will save you except for me. That’s what Red use to say. I never had the chance to take her up on that offer. She disappeared fourteen years ago. And now Tabby… Oh god.” Mr. Sitz wiped his eyes. “I feel like they’re here with me. I don’t know how you know these things but… Fine. I’ve lied for so many years that I’m afraid to know the real truth. I’ve speculated and heard bits and pieces, but if anything I know can help, I’ll tell you.”
“Start with the beginning,” Adrian said. He sat back down and flexed his shaking hands.
“The Sinclairs lived in Europe, eventually relocating to the states in 1989 when the Queen had settled. Frances was only two. I’m sorry—I mean Red was only two when they settled here in the city the same year. I was hired on a few months later and was told here and there about the life they led in Europe. Apparently Mr. Sinclair’s mother wanted them to stay but Camille didn’t get along with her, disapproving of her ways, and dragged Mr. Sinclair here with all of his money.
“I thought it odd how she acted towards him, belittling him all the time, how selfish she was. But on the other hand, she was charitable and did so much for the community that at first I wondered if maybe there was something very wrong with Mr. Sinclair that I did not see. Maybe he did not treat her right behind closed doors, if you understand my meaning.”
“Maybe he was abusive and she acted out because of it,” Wes offered.
“Yes.” Mr. Sitz nodded. “But after some time I learned he was a good father and tried to be a good mate, and really it was Camille who was a terrible person. I thought of leaving many times but Red was so young and Mr. Sinclair needed someone for support, even if he never said so. I stayed after that.”
Wes crossed his arms. “When did things start to get worse?”
“Mr. Sinclair started to drink and gamble. He was depressed with his mating, and refused to break away from Camille because of the blood bond they shared. It was the early nineties when he almost depleted their accounts to repay his debts, and his security firm went bankrupt. Nearly a hundred of his employees lost their jobs and were angry, but found work guarding newly immigrated families in the city. It was before the Bureau was in place and families were scared of another war.”
“What did Camille do when she found out the money was gone?”
“She nearly lost her mind. A woman like that doesn’t gracefully fall from the top and hand over her diamonds to pay the mortgage. She liked her lifestyle and her status and refused to be the source of talk within her circle of friends. So she put a leash on her husband and made her presence in the charity community bigger than ever. She wanted everyone to know how perfect her family was. She wanted them to trust her, to give her their money.”
Wes had no clue where Sitz’s story was headed, Camille’s possible embezzlement from a charity, an affair with a criminal, or maybe she killed her daughter because of something to do with a scheme gone wrong. He checked with Adrian to make sure he was okay. His partner’s vacant expression told Wes that Adrian was listening to something no one else heard. The temperature dropped when Sitz had started speaking, a game of hot and cold from the spirit sitting next to them.
Tabitha, in her own way, was backing up Sitz’s testimony. When Wes watched a cloud of air roll away from the butler’s mouth, he knew they were near the story’s climax.
“But nothing is ever perfect,” Wes urged Sitz on.
“No. However, the appearance of perfection is one of Camille’s many talents. She grew close with Behruz Franco, the head of the Royal Campaign to End Hunger. Perhaps she was drawn to his easy going temperament and his passionate fight to feed the poor, but I believe it was his money, his influence, and his family’s pristine image she wanted to sink her teeth into. Whatever her reasoning, Camille pushed her way into his circle and the two families became fast friends, when Mr. Sinclair played his part, of course.”
“Franco was into something illegal and Camille struck a partnership,” Wes tried to finish.
“Heavens no. Mr. Franco was and still is a very generous and all around good person. When he discovered Camille and her mate had fallen on hard times, he paid for Mr. Sinclair’s rehabilitation and Red’s private schooling so she could be close to his daughter, Elle. Those two were best friends from the start.” Mr. Sitz shook his head. “No, it was when Ulysses Maloy entered the picture that things took a wrong turn for this house, worse than before.”
Wes tensed up. “Maloy?” he nearly spat.
“Yes. He was up and coming in Franco’s circle, but most were leery of him. You see, I understand most vampires do as they please, sexually and otherwise, but the older families still maintain a conservative attitude. They believe that what you do behind closed doors is wonderful and natural. That said, in public and especially in the finest of Royal circles, they keep those private moments to themselves. They want their sons and daughters to be respectful of each other’s minds and bodies. They believe in setting an example for the next generation, helping the less fortunate even if only by monthly check without so much as lifting a finger.”
“And Maloy was a sleazy bastard who didn’t care about what they thought.”
“He did to an extent. But whisking a male’s mate off to have a private chat wasn’t condoned and considered suspicious when he and Camille made a habit out of it. Maloy leering at their children wasn’t condoned either. Everyone agreed, even the staff, something wasn’t right about that man.” Sitz rubbed his hands up and down his arms. “It’s freezing in here. Did they turn the heat off? We’re supposed to have snow today.”
“We won’t be much longer, Mr. Sitz. Please continue and then I’ll talk to someone about the heat.”
“Very well. Ulysses began coming over to the house when Mr. Sinclair was gone. They would meet on the rooftop so no one would hear them, but it didn’t take much for me to figure out what was going on when they announced plans for a new charity called His Children, a global organization to take homeless boys off the streets. And when Franco started funding them, other Royal families began sending their checks in as well.”
Wes paled. He looked to the empty wingback chair and wondered what horrors had gone on in this house, what those poor girls had endured. Whatever had happened, Adrian must have sensed it because he reached out without hesitation and grabbed Wes’s hand. He sighed deeply and closed his eyes. Wes threaded his fingers with Adrian’s just like that. Sometimes mixing work with personal matters was necessary. This was one of those times.
“Are you sure he’s alright, Detective?” Mr. Sitz straightened.
“He will be. It’s been a long day already.”
“Quite understandable.” Sitz seemed satisfied, yet still curious as to why they were holding hands. “As I was saying, His Children quickly blossomed into a mixed race organization, with Camille and Ulysses working behind the scenes, and a collective staff of both humans and vampires in the field setting up homes for the boys. By the time Red was around eighteen, Camille had fifty locations. It was the fact that the boys they helped kept turning up at events and private parties, and not for anything charity related, that started to scare me.”
“What do you mean?”
Mr. Sitz checked both sides of the room before leaning in and whispering, “They were there with unmated, mature vampires. Camille and Ulysses swore up and down the boys were simply under the care of a vampire who was thinking of adopting them and taking them into their home, but it just didn’t feel right. The touches and whispers were…not platonic, and the way the boys would sometimes sit on their laps, or disappear early with a group of men… I knew what was going on, and so did Red.”
“I need to clarify what you’ve just told me, Mr. Sitz. Are you saying these boys were being hired out of the organization to offer unmated males company? Company as in pleasure.” Wes gripped Adrian’s hand. Adrian squeezed back.
“What did Red do when she found out?”
“She got into a fight with Camille. She told her mother she’d seen one of those boys leaving a male’s house the next morning with a bloody lip and bruises. She threatened to tell Franco if Camille didn’t stop, and if that didn’t work she’d make her father move them back to his mother’s. Her grandmother had been fighting for years to get Red and her father back to Europe. She always hated Camille and rightly so.”
“Did anyone else begin to notice?”
“Oh yes. When the number of boys at parties began to increase, Franco and his mate grew suspicious. They came to the house when Camille was gone and questioned Mr. Sinclair about Red’s allegations. He claimed he knew nothing of the sort, but he’s never been a very good liar. Franco tried to offer him money to leave Camille and bring Red to live with them, because he planned on withdrawing his donations and pursuing the matter further, but Mr. Sinclair declined. He was foolishly in love with his wretched mate, and planned to follow her to hell.”
“What happened then?”
“Franco made a spectacle of Camille and threw her out of his circle. He tried to shut her down by tarnishing her name, along with her anyone who donated to her cause, but it was too late and His Children already had international funding. Camille didn’t need Franco any longer. And she rewarded her mate for his loyalty by giving him another child, or maybe that’s just the time Tabitha came along.
“Red was nineteen, scared, and angry. But she loved her father, pitied him, and with a little sister to look after, she wouldn’t leave Tabitha to fend for herself. She took the baby out often, told me she went to the Franco’s so she and Elle could watch her. But as time went on, it became clear Tabitha favored her mother’s affection more. Camille created Tabitha in her image, dressed her in the finest things, gave her the best of schooling, and prepared her to be the perfect mate. Tabitha and Red were polar opposites, not to say they didn’t love each other very much. They’d do anything for each other, much to Camille’s dismay.”
Wes knew the feeling. He was years older than his little sister when she’d been alive, and they were different in every way, but he’d have done anything to keep her safe. And he had tried, even if it meant going criminal to keep her healthy and fed. He couldn’t imagine his mother being a criminal, though, and he gave Red credit for sticking around when all she wanted to do was run.
“Did Tabby hang around a boy called Halverson? Or maybe it was Red?”
Sitz raised a brow. “I don’t know that name. I’m sorry.”
Wes pulled out his phone and showed Sitz a picture. The butler gasped and looked from Adrian to Wes. “That’s Robert.”
“Around the Bureau he’s known as Junior Detective Matthew Halverson.”
“He’s a Guard? My god. You think he did this, don’t you. I knew he had it in him. He’d always been so strange, always watching us, always so infatuated with Tabitha and Camille’s praise. Just comes in here one day and stakes his claim. I don’t… I knew it.” Mr. Sitz panted. He clenched his knees.
“Tell us how Robert came to live here and why.”
“After Red went missing,” Sitz murmured.
“Back up. When did that happen?”
The front door opened and Sutton led a team of Guards into the room. The butler cowered into his corner, buttoning up again. Wes cursed. He let go of Adrian’s hand, immediately cold again, and crouched down next to the butler. “Please. We need to know what happened to the girls.”
The butler bowed his head. He darted a glance at the Guards before whispering, “Find Elle Franco. She was Red’s best friend and she was very close to Tabby after Red went missing. She knows everything you need. I need to make sure the staff is alright. They frighten easily.”
“You don’t say,” Wes muttered. He caught himself from falling when Sitz hurried across the living room and disappeared behind the swinging kitchen door. Wes stood. He went to Adrian. “Talk to me. I know she was here.”
Adrian nodded. “I have to make this right.”
“Not by yourself. I’m with you.”
“I don’t think he was after me all this time. I think I’m just involved somehow in the bigger picture.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because everything I think I know is a lie. That’s what she told me. We have this all wrong, W-E-S.”
“Durren,” Sutton said from behind them, startling Wes. “You get anything from the butler?”
“I would have gotten more if you gave me some time. He was about to tell me something important before you guys barged in here without any warning. I didn’t even get twenty minutes.”
Sutton ignored him. “Last bedroom on the left, boys,” he directed to two techs entering the bedroom. He looked at Wes. “Sorry I cut this short. No one is leaving here, so you can interview him more later on. Right now, we’ve got a missing Detective and blood at his apartment.”
“Halverson, yeah, we know.” Wes gestured for Adrian to join him. “What gives, Sutt?”
“Not Halverson. His Junior partner, Fredericks. The techs over at Tabby’s crime scene identified a few samples of blood belonging to Fredericks. They alerted dispatch, a car was sent over, and there’s more blood around the apartment. Signs of a struggle also.”
Adrian’s eyes widened at Wes. “I didn’t see the guy who caught Halverson killing Tabby. Maybe it wasn’t Redding after all.”
“Shit.” Wes rubbed a spot between his brows and sighed.
Being a Guard, Wes saw his fair share of twisted cases but this one competed for the worst. Every time they thought they knew what was going on, evidence led them in another direction, to another person and another victim with no end in sight. Sometimes cases took years to solve. They didn’t have years. They had another victim out there fighting for his life, if he wasn’t already dead.
Sutton cleared his throat. He put his hands in his pockets before he addressed Adrian. “Has Frederick tried to...to contact you yet?”
What he really meant to ask was if Frederick was dead. Adrian shook his head. With the bond growing between him and Wes, Wes knew, like Adrian, that Elle Franco was the one who would connect all the dots.
“Camille Sinclair cannot leave, Sutt. When this is all said and done, I want her to face the Queen for her crimes.”
“The butler talked then?”
Wes and Adrian shared a look. “Yeah. He pinned her as the head of His Children, along with Ulysses Maloy. They were pimping out those kids for money, and we have reason to believe she took out of her eldest daughter because she knew too much.”
Sutton scowled. “She won’t be leaving here. I promise you that.” Sutton lost his son under tragic circumstances. He would get revenge for a child that was taken by choice, by their own mother. “The neighbors said as much. They also talked about the Sinclair’s son, but there is no registered male offspring in the Queen’s database.”
“It’s Halverson. He lived here with them and he wasn’t blood. I’m not sure why or when, but we have a lead.”
Adrian glanced at the empty wingback chair, his eyes haunted, before he turned to Sutton. “Elle Franco.”
“Surely the Francos had nothing to do with this. Behruz is an upstanding Royal who has helped many people. You remember he threw me a party when I took the Captain’s seat.” Sutton appeared shocked at such an accusation.
“I was kind of drunk that night, but I’ll take your word for it. The butler cleared Behruz and his family of any wrongdoing. He said Behruz pulled away from Camille’s charity when he found out what she was doing. He tried to stop them, but by then His Children had more money and power than he could fight. We need to speak to his daughter. She was close with both the Sinclair girls, and the butler said she’d know everything we needed. I also think she might be in danger.”
Sutton inhaled sharply through his nose. “I’ll make the call. I have no idea if the Francos are in the country so close to a holiday, but I’ll do my best. Until we can pick up a trail on Halverson, or get more information out of Camille, I’m using my pull here and sending Feist and Maloy out to hunt Halverson. Davis and Fontine will stay here and head up the interviews with the staff…” Sutton looked over Wes’s shoulder. He glared at some unseen evil.
“No one says another word.” Camille came walking into the living room. “I’ve called my Royal Defender and because these are my employees, they are under the same protection. You have no evidence against me. I will not be made into some criminal.”
“We’ll see about that,” Sutton hissed. “The Queen is on her way here to speak with you. If you have nothing to hide like you claim you don’t, then there won’t be a problem.”
Camille’s eyes widened. She closed her mouth and tugged on her bodyguard’s arm, whisking him off to the hallway. Sutton growled softly. “That female has made her bed, and the beds of many others. No Defender will help her now.” He sighed. “I’ll make some calls and be right back.”
Elle Franco declined her father’s presence for the interview. Ever the good father, Bezhur still sent armed security to sit outside her townhouse in a cozy part of Brooklyn. Where Wes expected a bit more grandeur, Elle shocked him by living among the rest of the middle class in a quaint, two-story townhome situated between two others. The youth of today always surprised him.
Elle rolled her eyes at the bodyguards on the stoop. No one but the homeless would hang around outside when it was this cold and now snowing. She muttered something under her breath and blew a few strands of black hair away from her forehead. “You two plan on joining them or did you want to come inside?”
Yep, Elle Franco was a complete surprise. She didn’t match anything Wes had depicted Elle to be in his head. “I’m Detective Durren and this is my partner Detective Donohue. I’m sorry to just barge in here like this, but it’s…”
Her eyes misted over. But she was strong enough to fight her tears. This one was a tough cookie and Wes could see why a firecracker like Red Sinclair had been friends with her. She sniffed back her emotions and pushed the door open wider. “I know why you’re here. I’ve been waiting for the Bureau to show up for a long time.”
Wes caught Adrian’s approving expression and smiled. “We’re here now. Thank you for having us.” He held the door open for Adrian and then followed him into the incense clouded hall.
“Sorry about the smell. I know most vamps hate it, but I’ve never had a problem with it.” She gestured to a small table near the living room entrance. A few sticks of incense and two Roman candles burned next to a picture of Tabitha and another redheaded beauty that could only be Red Sinclair.
The smell burned Wes’s nostrils, whereas Adrian was unaffected. He turned away from the picture that most likely harbored spirit energy for him and took interest in the collection of worldly weapons hanging on the wall. A decorative spear, Japanese swords with beautiful ribbons and beads hanging from the handles, daggers with intricate, ivory handles.
Elle smiled. “Those were gifts from Frances.” She frowned when Adrian kept looking and didn’t respond.
“He can’t hear,” Wes told her. “He can read lips, though.”
“Really? That’s…That’s refreshing.” She placed a hand on Adrian’s shoulder. He looked at her. “They were gifts from Frances. She sent them to me the last few years before she died.”
A wrinkle formed between Adrian’s brows. “She traveled before she went missing? The butler made it sound as though she was here.”
Elle smirked. “She didn’t travel for fun. She went to get answers, a way to bring down her mother.”
“She disappeared…” Wes breathed. He checked with Adrian. His partner was teeming with excitement. The butler had been right to send them here.
“I wouldn’t have told you if Tabby was still with us. It was for her protection that no one knew what had happened to Frances. I wasn’t even supposed to know, but Red and I were very close, and she wanted me not to worry or come after her. I would have, you know.” She paused in thought. “Let’s sit down and talk. I’m sure you don’t anything.”
She could say that twice, Wes and Adrian were lost in this case with no way of finding an exit. They followed her into the living room, a small room with three overstuffed red chairs. She plopped down in one and tucked her feet underneath her, totally at ease, or past the point of caring. In the lamplight, Wes was able to see how red her eyes were, how puffy and splotchy her cheeks were from crying. It had been a hard day for everyone.
“How about you tell us who Robert was,” Wes started.
“How about you wait until he came into the picture, Detective.” She ran her fingers over her sweater button while staring a hole into Wes. “I have plenty to say about him later. First you need to know there came a point when Red was done with her mother. She’d tried for years to get her mother to see the light and realize her family was enough, but I think it’s obvious how that turned out. Camille is a selfish bitch, who never cared about her mate or her children. To her, they were just belongings.”
Rather than allow Elle to get off track with her Camille hate train, Wes redirected the conversation. “What happened when Red decided to call it quits?”
“It was at Tabby’s twelfth birthday party. Camille had gone all out, invited everyone still willing to associate with her, and made a disgusting spectacle out of Tabby. It would have been fine had Camille left her male escorts off the guest list. When she saw that, Red was livid. That her mother would bring underage prostitutes to a child’s birthday party did her in.”
“Was there a fight?”
“There were words exchanged, but Red didn’t say anything to end the party. That night she called her grandmother, knowing nothing would change with Camille, and asked to live with her. At first I was angry she would up and leave her sister there. I was mad she would leave me too. And then Red told me the entire story, and made me swear on my family I would never tell another soul. I didn’t believe her when she told me. I thought she’d finally lost her mind after all she’d been through. But she was adamant, and she’d never lied to me before.”
“What did she tell you?” Adrian was on the edge of his seat. Wes knew this was the key to everything, and once she told them there was no going back.
Elle took a deep breath. “You can’t tell anyone you don’t trust with this information. I’m very serious.”
“Elle, you can trust us,” Adrian assured her. “I promise.”
“Okay.” She fisted the bottom of her sweater in her hand, and stared at her lap. “Sinclair isn’t their real surname, but no one else but Red and her grandmother knew that, and Red didn’t know until about a year before Tabby’s birthday that night. Her grandmother wanted to keep them safe, but she also wanted Red to carry out family tradition because she believed Red, even above her son, could handle the job.”
Adrian slowly turned to Wes. Neither of them had to say it aloud. Adrian’s horrified face spoke volumes.
“She wanted Red to be something called a Hunter, and that they were many others like her. She said they would help her take down Camille.”
To be continued…