Darkness Becomes You

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Darkness Becomes You

A Kensington Shaw Adventure #2

By

Arietta Charles

Copyright © Arietta Charles 2014 All rights reserved

 

1920’s Chicago
     “Miss Shaw,the detective isn’t going to like it that you’re here,” officer Stamp said as he stomped the snow from his shoes onto the sidewalk.
     “That’s alright Phillip. He doesn’t have a say this time just as he didn’t have a say last time. I found the body,” Kensington said mustering her brightest smile. Stamp gave her a tight smile and fidgeted with his notebook before wandering off.
     “To think I was worried when they were falling down in front of you; now you’re finding them in parks. How ever will we cope?” Kensington knew the voice that spoke to her back. She honestly never dreamed that she would encounter that level of sarcasm again. She turned with an almost genuine smile on her face. Almost.
     Nathaniel Kane stood on the sidewalk only two yards away. His dark gray suit was sedate and everything a respectable senior detective could hope to achieve. His shoes were polished. His hair was mostly hidden under a hat that matched his suit and wool coat. He wore an expression of determined exasperation.
     Kensi was convinced that it was a very different expression that earned him both of his reputations. She had quietly inquired about him after their first meeting. She was looking for confirmation, and perhaps some comfort, that he was just as stoic and sarcastic with everyone else as he was with her. She found that he was in fact rude only to her. He volunteered at the very same soup kitchen that she gave a donation to each month. She found that men respected and admired him. Women found him dashing and charming. He was considered a gentleman and a saint by everyone. Kensi wasn’t sure what she found him to be but he definitely was not a swashbuckling penny dreadful hero. She knew, however, that he found her to be a nuisance. He had said as much with that look of disgust he leveled upon her during their first meeting.
     “Detective Kane. How are you?” Kensi asked turning to him with a sugary sweet smile that matched her voice.
     As she expected an expression of general disapproval was plastered on his face. How women found him swoon worthy was truly beyond her. His general demeanor was enough to put her off men altogether if she were so inclined. Not that she dated overly much. She would never marry and her father would never demand it of her. She wanted to be free. And at the moment she was free to annoy the detective.
     “I’m enjoying this fine winter day Miss. Shaw,” he said and then remembered he had manners. “How are you finding it?” He smiled at her but she saw it for what it was. More sarcasm. She had the overwhelming urge to stamp on his foot with her heal.
     “It is a fine day to be out isn’t it,” she agreed. It really wasn’t and they both knew it. It was insanely cold and the wind sliced through Kensi’s hat, coat and scarf. Her stockings did nothing to protect her legs. She was freezing everywhere.
     “Am I to believe that you were out for a stroll and happened upon a body?” Kane asked as Stamp came to stand beside him giving Kensi that lopsided grin that she had come to associate with him.
     “I was on my way to church detective. It was a lucky thing really. This poor soul would have remained undiscovered for quite some time had I not been late and taking this short cut.” Kensi smiled sweetly.            “Do you suppose he’s homeless?” She was running out of time and really needed him to believe her story. She had to leave. She could practically feel the bottle in her purse as if it were a lead weight. Kane could never know about it. He could cause trouble for her that she didn’t need. What she did need was to get herself and the bottle somewhere safe as soon as possible.
     He watched her carefully for a moment as if she were likely to send him a message in Morse code with the movement of her eyes. Movement, he noticed, that appeared to be her searching for something.
     “Stamp, please go about your business. I will see to Miss. Shaw’s statement personally,” Kane said.            Stamp retained his smile and hurried off to aid the other officers in securing the scene and holding back the reporters that had begun to gather. Kensi closed the distance that separated her from detective Kane. She took a deep breath and prepared an exit strategy. Her buyer was dead. Situations like this never ended well. She had to get her merchandise away from the park.
     “Detective, officer Stamp was only trying to help you,” Kensi said.
     “He was mooning over you like a lovesick schoolboy. He isn’t of any use to this job if he cannot keep his head around a pretty girl.”
     “You do realize that you just called me pretty,” she said.
     “Miss. Shaw.” He said exasperated. Which was excellent news. She would play the stupid girl if it meant that she could leave. It had worked once with him and she was willing to try anything. At some point Kane would realize that the park wasn’t near her house and not on the way to anywhere she would ever go so it was now or never.
     “Yes Detective?”
     “Why were you walking through this park?” Kane watched her closely.
     “I was on my way to church. I believe I said that already.” Kensi was honestly afraid that she was going to have to use plan B. Poor Kane didn’t want her to use plan B. Plan B. Involved a memory powder and she would feel badly when he forgot his mother’s birthday.
     “Why don’t you try something that is a little closer to the truth. I believe that fibbing is a sin especially when you fib about church. You could be struck by lightening and I would rather not be standing next to you when it happens.”
     She had already told Phillip that little white lie and it had suited Phillip just fine. No one else would have questioned it. Now that she had to deal with detective Kane it was a different story. She was going to have to give it a hard sell.
     “May I ask why you think I’m being untruthful?”
     “It’s not Sunday for one. Your heart is racing for another,” Kane said looking down at her. Now he was fibbing. He had no way of knowing that her heart was about to beat out of her chest.
     “I go to church a couple of times a week detective. I decided to go to the church on Adams because my favorite dress boutique is on the very same street. You may have noticed that I enjoy couture. As it happens I need a new dress for dancing Friday night. They also have all the latest hats from Paris but you probably don’t care about that. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Do you have a wife or girlfriend detective?” She looked at the straight line his mouth made. And to think that Livvy found him attractive. She was baffled.
     “Is that so?” he said ignoring her question.
     “Mother? Aunt? Nanny?”
     Nothing
     “Detective, you sound as though you remain unconvinced.”
     “Because I am,” he replied.
     “Do you really think I am up to no good? Honestly, I’m the daughter of Walter Kensington Shaw. What could I possibly get up to? I am a pillar of this community detective and quite honestly I am wary of your attitude towards me.” There was a thin line between the the hard sell and appearing frantic and Kensi was worried that she had just crossed the line.
     “I’ve seen the children of the wealthy and well connected get up to all manner of things Miss Shaw. What were you really doing here?” His eyes weren’t quite cold but they weren’t warm either.
     “It is a very good thing then that I am not a child,” she said as if she were hurt by his accusation. She wasn’t but she really needed to get away and was willing to take any avenue to get there. She knew she was out of time.
     “Do you know the victim Miss. Shaw?”
     “I can honestly tell you that I have never met him before,” she said.
     She meant it. She had never met Joseph Billings before she found him in the park. She had spoke to him by telephone when they had set up the time and place to meet but they had never actually met. She wasn’t even sure the body was that of her client until she had riffled though his pockets and located a form of identification. She would have to find another buyer for the bottle in her purse but first she had to regroup. Then she would also have to solve her clients murder. Dead bodies were bad for any business and it would be catastrophic to hers. Who would purchase her particular service if they believed their life would be in danger by doing so?
     “Do you usually-,” Kane began but was cut off by gun fire.
     Kane threw her to the snow covered ground near a neighboring tree. Looking around for the source he removed his weapon and covered her body with his own. He also made an interesting observation that he vowed to follow up on later. He heard another bullet hit the tree above his head. Another hit close to the last. He looked around for the source of the bullets. He concentrated on everyone in the park and where they were. Then he took his shot. It was an impossible shot and he would have to blame it on humble luck once someone realized what had been accomplished. It was the kind of shot that he did his best to avoid. He stood and offered her a hand up which she took. His other hand returned his weapon to its home beneath his coat and he was rushed by his fellow policemen. They too realized where the bullets had been aimed.
     “We have him sir,” yelled a patrolman from behind a bank of bushes. “You got him.”
Kensi let go of Kane’s hand the second she was upright. She was covered in snow from head to foot. She tried to right her hat but she was going to have to remove the hat pins first. She would be very lucky if the black cloche wasn’t ruined forever. It was a shame. It was her favorite.
     The death of the man shooting at her didn’t make her feel any better. She knew it wouldn’t be over until the bottle was out of her possession. This was not the first time she had been shot at over a magical object. She doubted that it would be the last.
     Dusting the snow from her coat, she smoothed the ripples in her gloves, and looked around. Detective Kane was otherwise occupied so Kensi decided that it was high time she remove herself from the situation in case another tragedy should befall the scene. Every life in the park was at risk as long as Kensi and the vile remained there.
     She slipped away behind the tree and quickly made her way through the snow with freezing feet. Once she was a safe distance away she returned to the sidewalk and did her best to stomp feeling back into her feet. She regretted not wearing actual boots. The ones she wore supported her image of a wealthy socialite but did nothing practical. They were more or less Maryjane’s with a substantial heal. They weren’t even big enough for socks so stockings were all that separated Kensi’s legs from the cold and boy was she cold.
     She quickly looked into her handbag to ensure that the vile of powder hadn’t cracked during her near death experience. The bottle was enchanted but it was designed to break on impact. It was a weapon after all. At least she assumed it was a weapon. She couldn’t imagine that it could be used for anything else. She felt someone coming so she slowly pulled out a little mirror from her handbag and pretended to check her lipstick as she used the mirror to check behind her. She saw detective Kane walking up behind her. He was always doing that. And just when she thought she had made good her escape.
     “Well Miss. Shaw that was a fairly interesting morning. You happen over a body in the park and then someone starts shooting at you with deadly accuracy.”
     “How do you know they were shooting at me?” She asked turning to him.
He looked at her with those unwavering blue eyes.
     “I suppose life is just dangerous. Perhaps life should come with a label of warning. Proceed with caution,” she said removing her lipstick from her bag. She made sure her hands shook just a little. She had been shot at after all. Being terrified on the inside was not what a man like Kane would expect from a socialite.
     “Yours should at any rate. You can drop the act Miss. Shaw. Your lipstick isn’t so much as smudged. Much like your nerves. How do you know Joseph Billings?” She felt as though he was assessing her. As if he was working out all her secrets for himself. In fact, there had been times during their brief association when she was certain that he could read her mind. At least a little.
     “I’m sure I don’t know what you’re getting at detective,” she said abandoning her mirror and the lipstick. She really needed to get away from him. He was in danger at the very least. She also didn’t want to reveal anymore about herself than she already had. He would dog her every footstep if he knew what her profession was.
     “Stop playing games Kensington,” he said quietly as he closed the distance between them. She froze at his use of her first name.
     “Arrest me or let me go detective Kane but make a decision,” she said just as quietly.
     “Finally an honest word from your lips,” he said.
     She turned to go.
     “Let’s discuss this over brunch,” he said catching her elbow.
     “Did you hit your head on that tree Detective?” She asked.
     “Why do you say that?”
     “Brunch?”
     “Can’t I buy you a meal without suspicion?” He asked.
     “No.”
     Kane watched Kensi closely. She added honey to her tea and then buttered a piece of toast. He left his breakfast untouched in front of him and concentrated on his coffee as he kept an eye on her purse. It did not escape his notice that it was so close to her hand it was impossible that she wouldn’t spill something on it at some point. He had no way of knowing of course that she was doing everything possible not to so much as bump her purse. She didn’t want to risk that the vile could be further jostled. She had hit the ground hard at the park and she hadn’t been alone long enough to visually inspect it. She knew that Kane thought she was carrying Dal. He wouldn’t believe what was actually in the vile.
     It had been her own fault. What else could she do? She had to keep it close. The substance was dangerous on a scale that she didn’t want to think about in such a small place. She decided that she wasn’t doing favors anymore. This situation was why she didn’t negotiate the sale of really dangerous weapons. It could be argued that everything that she sold was dangerous but it was rare for her to sell something that was capable of doing this kind of harm right out of the box. Dangerous weapons equaled dangerous complications and she didn’t like complications.
     “Is something wrong with your food Detective?”
     “I’m not as hungry as I thought. I’m enjoying my coffee. How’s yours?”
     “Fantastic. Do you come here often Detective? Do you bring your wife or sweetheart? Perhaps your father or brother? Maybe a son?”
     “There are not any other women. What I mean to say is that-why do you want to know?”
     “You assume that you know everything about me. I would think you would extend me the same courtesy,” she said.
     He had taken her to the quietest diner he could think of just in case something like this happened. They were practically alone. There was one couple at a table and a few older gentlemen scattered around behind them at the counter drinking coffee and smoking. It was brunch and only the wealthy ate brunch. Everyone else was at their place of employment. It was that kind of neighborhood. Kensi was positive that it was Kane’s neighborhood.
The diner was also an attempt to make her feel comfortable and it wasn’t working. She kept looking out the plate glass windows in the front of the diner. They had the appearance of one large window separated by a long metal brace that looked as though it helped keep the diner upright. The place was clean and respectable but she kept looking out the windows as if she were waiting to be caught in such a place. It didn’t make sense to Kane. From what he had seen of Kensington Shaw well, she wasn’t afraid of anything.
     “Detective, I can’t explain any of this and it’s dangerous for you to be involved. Please accept that and let me handle this,” Kensi said.
     “Then why are you here? If you don’t want my help why did you accept my invitation?” Kane asked.
Kensi didn’t say anything. She didn’t even want to admit it to herself. She had been relieved when he had shown up at the park. She would never confess that sin even to a priest. What would a priest make of it when she didn’t know what to make of it herself?
     Whatever thought Kane was mulling over during her silence was interrupted by the sound of shattering glass. He looked around expecting to see a waitress with an empty tray and a pile of shattered water glasses at her feet but what he saw made his breath catch. There was glass all over the tables in the front on the diner. A baseball sized rock had rolled under a table. He watched as a bottle with a flaming rag stuck in the end of it shattered onto the tables by the windows. The second pane of glass met the same fate as the first. Another bottle identical to the first smashed just beyond a row of tables. Flames were beginning to dance across the floor that caught a table leg and were spreading up a chair.
     “Everyone out,” Kane yelled to the other patrons. “Fire, everyone out.”
     Kensi had her hat and coat on and her purse in hand before he had even finished speaking. Kane showed people the way out as smoke clogged the diner. He looked around to make sure everyone had gotten out. No one was left and when he noticed the flames had crawled up the wall he decided that it was time to go. He turned around but Kensington Shaw was gone. He sighed. It didn’t matter. He had her home address memorized.
     Kensi wasn’t surprised when detective Kane knocked on the door of her house. She was still wearing her coat when she personally answered the door. He stood on her front steps in his long wool coat and matching hat without so much as a piece of soot to mar his appearance.
     “I thought you would turn up here at some point,” she said leaving the door open and walking away. When she didn’t feel him behind her she turned around. “Detective, you are a strange one. Would you care to come in?”
     “Thank you,” he said walking in and looking around. “I can always count on you to save yourself and you can always count on me to find you when you do,” he said removing his hat and placing it on the hall tree. He continued to stare at his surroundings and gave a long slow whistle. “Is your father home? There are some things that I should speak to him about.”
     “I’m afraid you’ll have to speak to me detective as my father lives thirty five minutes away.
“This is a big house doesn’t your whole family live in it?”
     “It’s not that big and there is only myself, Livvy and Maria our cook.” She handed off her coat to Livvy.
     “You don’t live in this huge house with only the two people who take care of it,” he said shaking his head. It wasn’t a question. He said it as though he would never believe it even if he was confronted with physical proof. As if she just suggested that she kept a unicorn in the back garden.
     “I do and it isn’t that big. Have you ever seen my father’s house? Where do you live?” If he could be personal so could she.
     “This is downtown Chicago Miss. Shaw. I live in an apartment like everyone else. This place takes up a full city block.”
     “Don’t be dramatic detective. You know full well it doesn’t.”
     “You aren’t even old enough to live on your own. What does your father say about this?” He asked the question, with something resembling annoyance. Kensi did not deal well with people who judged her father. This was especially true when they criticized his child rearing skills.
     “My father and I have an understanding. He leaves me to live my life and I don’t flaunt my occupation and lack of a husband in society’s face. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Society pretends that I don’t exist and I pretend that society doesn’t exist. It’s the best that society and I can do for one another.”
     “And your father doesn’t mind that his debutante lives virtually alone in a huge house in a city the size of Chicago? I find that hard to believe Miss Shaw.” He said it as though her father were to blame for something. She angled her chin up to him and unloaded her frustration.
     “I’ve lived in this city my whole life. I was privately tutored in this city. My sisters all found husbands in this city. My sisters families all have homes in this city. Ones far grander than the one you are currently standing within. Most importantly my father, the most amazing person I know, lives a thirty five minute walk from here in the greatest city in the world detective Kane. Where else exactly would I live?” She took a deep breath and looked at him expectantly. She tried to reminded herself that she wasn’t being unfair. He shouldn’t accuse people that were not there to defend themselves.
     He looked at her for a long moment. She watched him carefully in return. His face gave nothing away but she was certain that she saw something in his eyes for a split second. For one single second he had a look of acceptance and then it was gone. She had no idea what it meant.
     “Would you care to sit?” She led the way into a modern sitting room that was covered from one end to the other in bold black and white. It was the same style as the iron work and front door on the outside of the house. Art deco. Kane decided to ignore his surroundings just as Kensington ignored society. His beloved Victorians were being retrofitted or completely torn down all over town to make room for the ghastly monstrosities. Art deco depressed him.
     “What I would like Miss. Shaw is for you to tell me who is trying to kill you. They are trying very hard and it’s only a matter of time before they succeed. They also don’t care who gets in their way and that poses a problem for the citizens of the city you adore.”
She gave that some thought while fingering the cuff of her blouse. It was her favorite shade of pale green. She stared down at it. He was right of course. Eventually they would just get lucky. They were invisible and they would see her before she saw them. The smart thing would be to tell the detective what was going on. What made her cringe was that it required her to tell Kane the truth, at least part of it anyway. She was so rarely comfortable with the truth.
     “Allow me to help you make up your mind. The man that I shot in the park was named Theodore Foy. He is currently employed by the mob. Why would the Chicago families want you dead Miss. Shaw?”
Good question. She would be sure to ask Betty.
     “This predicament is in direct relation to what I do for a living. Let’s just say that I am a sort of courier service for certain objects. I was to meet Mr. Billings in the park today he should have the payment for the object with him. If he doesn’t then you have your motive. If he does, well then, it is entirely possible that someone wants the object and is willing to kill me to get it,” she related all of it as if it were simple fact and not as if her life hung in the balance.
     “What is the object?” He had his hat in his hand and he was ever so slowly turning it just like that day in the dance hall.
     “Detective, you should really let me handle this. You don’t know what you’re getting into. I’ve dealt with these kinds of people before. Once I am rid of the object who ever is willing to burn down a restaurant with innocent people inside will leave me alone and move on to more worthwhile exploits.”
     “If you don’t want to tell me what the object is then at the very least tell me how you intend to get rid of it,” he demanded.
     “I’m going to take it back to the source. I don’t have any idea how to safely dispose of it. Hopefully they will,” she said.
     “I’ll come with you.” He looked confused for a split second then continued. “Someone needs to keep you safe.”
     “That’s not-“
     “It wasn’t a suggestion or a request. If you end up in a cold gutter both your father and society will remember that you exist and I would not live down the shame,” he said. Kensi was pretty sure that the tail end of that was meant to be sarcastic but she wasn’t actually sure. It was entirely possible that the detective was slowly warming to her.
     “How kind Detective. Thank you.” She could hand sarcasm back to him all day and all night.
“One more thing Miss. Shaw do you engage in any other illegal activities?” He was wearing his serious expression. His square jaw and perfect nose could have been carved from marble. It helped to make the expression especially stern.
     “I don’t engage in any illegal activities. My business is completely legitimate. I am sorry to disappoint you detective but I even pay my taxes.” Then it clicked and she thought her head may explode. She stared at him as she popped up from her seat like a jack in the box. Her eyes went wide. He thought the “object” she was selling was dal.
     “I obtain magical objects for the insanely wealthy. People such as myself. I specialize in rare items. Things that are very hard to obtain even among people who do what I do. Even the mob doesn’t have access to what I have. And I do not trade in anything illegal. Dangerous certainly but not illegal. You cannot possible think that I deal in- me?” She said exasperated. “I realize that you don’t know me detective Kane but I would think it was fairly obvious that I would never deal in dal.” She looked down at him debating if she should claw out his eyes on sheer principle.
     “The dal problem in this city is getting worse. It’s understandable if you fell into-“
     “I do not deal dal detective Kane. Do you really think that I would profit from the backs of addicts? Do you think that little of me?”
     “I-“
     “If that’s truly what you think of me detective then you may leave my home right now,” she said. He hadn’t intended to go so far but he often forgot about the lines that society drew.
     “Miss. Shaw I apologize for offending you. Please sit and tell me about where we are going to dispose of this mysterious object.”
     “I know someone who works at The Scarlett Door. It’s a jazz club on-,” she explained but was interrupted.
     “Liberty. I know the place.”
     Kensington took detective Kane’s offered arm as they walked through the entrance of The Scarlet Door. They checked their hats and coats and proceeded inside. It felt as though all of Chicago were in the club. She saw just about every supernatural creature she could think of and some that she couldn’t put a name to. She caught fractions of their conversations as they walked by tables to get to the dining level.
     “No, the flapper I was seeing turned out to be a flat tire,” said one man.
     “So Marty thinks he’s all hard boiled all of a sudden and tells Eddie that his hooch was nothing but bootleg swill,” said a man that Kensi was pretty sure was a vampire.
     “Look at that doll. Is she with a-,” a man said looking Kensi over. The man abruptly stopped when Kane looked over at him.
     She wanted to turn around and tell them that indeed detective Kane was with the police but she decided to stop listening instead. She wasn’t surprised that they made him. Kane was a policeman to the bone. The people in the club were not. Betty served everyone who followed her rules even if they were the kind of person that Kane routinely dealt with.
     Kensi led Kane up a flight of stairs to a balcony full of tables that looked over the stage and dance floor. The band was just coming back from a break and the tables upstairs were starting to fill up with dinner guests while the tables downstairs emptied onto the dance floor. They were showed to a table by a hostess and Kane held out a chair for Kensi. She would have expected nothing less from him. He had just sat down himself when someone gave Kane a playful whack on the shoulder.
     “Nate, it’s damn good to see you. I was worried something had happened to you. It’s been a while,” said Bud who was a man built like a bear. His suit was of a fine cut and he had a rosebud on his lapel. Kensi knew Bud. He was Betty’s right hand man where the club was concerned. He also always habitually wore a rose bud on his lapel.
     “It’s good to see you too,” Kane said turning. “Do you know Miss. Shaw?”
     “We meet again Miss. Kensi.” He smiled down at her. She had never seen Bud without a smile on his face. “I’ll inform Betty that you’ve arrived. She’ll be thrilled that you’re here Nate. It’s a small world,” Bud said and with a small shake of his head and he was gone.
     “So you’ve been here before?” Kensi asked.
     “Yes,” he said. “I believe I said as much.”
     “I thought that when you said you knew the place, well, I suspected that you had perhaps raided it at some point. Not in my wildest daydreams did I consider that you had ever been a patron of the establishment. Nate.” She looked at him smiling but he said nothing. He turned his attention to the band and continued to look uncomfortable. Kensi couldn’t work out if it was due to her or the club.
Detective Kane was turning out to be an enigma. Kensi let herself look away from him and towards the stage where the band was whipping the crowd into a frenzy. The sign on the door said it was a jazz club but Betty embraced many forms of music. The band on the stage appeared to be capable of playing anything.
     Kensi caught sight of Betty in the corner of the club beyond the stage. She was with a man that appeared to be harassing her. Kensi watched quietly. Betty was the grand dame of the Chicago supernatural scene and didn’t like it when people interfered. She was more than capable of taking care of herself. Kensi didn’t know who the man was but she was sure that Betty didn’t look happy. Kane saw the expression on her face and followed her gaze.
     “Do you know who that is with Betty?”
     “I don’t know who he is,” Kensi said.
     “His name is Stuben Foy. He is Theodore Foy’s brother who is also connected to the mob. The attempts on your life were likely a joint effort. Stay here. I’m going to check on Betty.”
Kensi nodded and picked up the glass of water a waitress had just set in front of her. She watched Kane go and waited until he couldn’t see her if he turned around. She knew where he was going. She didn’t need to see him to follow him. She wound around tables taking care not to be seen and more than once she had to stop and fall back.
     Kane was moving slowly and Kensi wondered why. When he mounted the stairs to the office she became concerned. He would only be going there if he had lost Betty. She looked to the left of the stage and found that, sure enough, Betty and the man were gone. She had lost sight of them while she was avoiding Kane on the staircase. She decided that she would have been better off listening to Kane. She also decided that those words would never ever pass her lips.
     She followed him up the stairs at a safe distance. When the staircase curved to reach the next floor she hid behind the curve and watched as he quietly opened the door to Betty’s apartment and slipped inside unnoticed by everyone but her. She waited for a moment and climbed the stairs to do the same.
Kensi was considerably smaller than Kane. She entered Betty’s foyer without being seen. The foyer was less than ten feet long but the only light came from a lamp on a table in the sitting room and Betty had a love of indoor trees. Kensi crouched between a small ficus and a carved cabinet that served as a table for the telephone. She watched Kane stroll into the sitting room as if Betty had been expecting him. He treated the man with the gun pointed at Betty’s head as if he were nothing more than a piece of furniture. He hadn’t even drawn the pistol that she knew he wore under his suit jacket.
     “Hello Betty, how have you been?” Kane asked.
     “Kane. It’s nice to see you. It’s been so long that I wondered if you had shuffled off this mortal coil.” Betty said. Betty was eerily calm but that wasn’t what Kensi found shocking. Betty knew Kane. Kane knew Betty. It took her a moment to digest the information. She had only been half listening when Bud said that Betty would be thrilled to see him. She assumed it was because Betty would be thrilled with anyone whom Kensi chose to bring to the club. Kane had been the first and only.
     “I’ve been working. Not all of us are like the private dicks in the pictures. Some of us actually have to work to close cases.”
     “You’re the cop that shot my brother,” said Foy.
     “I am. He shouldn’t have tried to kill a defenseless girl,” Kane said.
     Without warning Foy fired and it wasn’t at Betty. Kane jerked falling backwards towards Kensi. She     screamed from the sheer shock and burst from her hiding place. She rushed to Kane. His eyes were open and the bullet hole between them was surprisingly neat. Kensi couldn’t breathe. She took short quick breaths. It was the wrong thing to do. She knew that. Everything was topsy-turvy and she would pass out if she didn’t get control of herself.
     Kensi used her body and grief to disguise the fact that she moved Kane’s jacket aside and removed his gun. She pulled back the hammer and turned quickly shooting at the ceiling. Startled, Foy let go of Betty and leveled his gun at Kensi.
     She didn’t waste the moment. She threw the vile down in front of Foy and it smashed as it hit the floor. The ground began to swirl beneath Foy. Kensi stood transfixed. She realized that it wasn’t the ground that was swirling. It was the darkness that had risen up. It churned under him becoming more aggressive until it pulled him in like thick roof tar. Then it completely vanished as though it had never existed.
     The hand that she placed on Kane’s chest after she threw her purse moved and she looked down. Kane was breathing. She jumped back but couldn’t look away.
     “Kane.” It came out as a whisper.
     “Don’t sound so surprised Kensington. What do you think happens when a vampire is shot? Honestly, you would think that you had never seen anything like it. Now help me get him up. He’s leaking blood onto Jane’s favorite rug and that rug is the only thing she and I ever agreed on in our lives.” Betty pulled Kane forward with surprising strength for such a small woman of advancing years.
     “How do the Foy’s fit into this?” Kensi asked as they helped Kane out of his suit jacket.
     “Joseph Billings was looking for something to level the playing field with the mob. That was why I agreed to make the powder. He wanted to use it on Franklin Peel. He thought that if he could get rid of Peel he could loosen the hold the mob has on some of the smaller businesses in the city. This wasn’t your fault Kensington. It was mine. I shouldn’t have interfered in your end of our arrangement. In my defense, I did have the best of intentions. I though that having Peel vanish would leave the Montilli’s scrambling,” Betty said.
     “Who exactly is Peel?” Kensi asked.
     “He’s a Montilli lieutenant. He’s in charge of their darker Underground endeavors as well as some not so legal ones above,” Kane said with a dry raspy voice. “What happened?” His voice was strained.
     “You died once again darling boy,” Betty told him. “My fault. Do forgive me.”
     “Why is it your fault?” Kane asked.
     “I’ll let Kensi tell the story,” Betty said.
     “Wait,” Kensi said. “You did this to help the Underground too?”
     “Yes, I have interests there as well. So do you for that matter.”
     “Such as?”
     “You have investments just as I do,” Betty said.
     “Betty knew Mr. Billings. I wasn’t lying when I said I hadn’t met him before. I don’t sell weapons. And that powder was definitely a weapon. Billings came here and worked out a deal directly with Betty. I told her that it was a bad idea but she wouldn’t listen. She has this philosophy about magic being a neutral force,” Kensi told Kane as she struggled under his weight getting him to the settee. “That it’s all down to fate and human nature as to how you use it. That magic is not good or bad and it only matters that the person using it is either good or bad. She says that we are just putting the magic out into the world and it’s up to people to make the right decision on their journey and we couldn’t stand in the way of the universe’s educational process.” Kensi blew out a breath. She and Betty had long discussions involving the topic. “I should probably find comfort in the fact that Betty here was finally taught a lesson for once but I’m afraid that I can’t work up the energy.”
     “At least you’ve been paying attention. I could teach you some magic you know. We could go shopping in the Underground and you can make your own charmed objects,” Betty said smiling.
     “The lesson here is that we should each sick to what we do best,” Kensi said.
     Once they had him resting comfortably on the settee with his head against a pillow, Betty decided that tea was in order. When she left Kensi sat beside Kane and leaned her head back so she could look at him. He turned his head slightly and opened the eye closest to her.
     “So you’re a vampire,” Kensi said to him.
     “Yes but it’s not who I am. I choose to help people. Humans need to be protected from the monsters of this city and from the Underground in general. That’s who I am. It’s like the business that you’re in makes you come alive. Helping people makes me feel alive even though I’m not. No other line of work would challenge you the way this one does. No other line of work would bring me the peace that this one does,” he said as every sentence changed his face. “You were very brave and deadly accurate with my gun. May I have it back now?” Kane asked. She looked down at it in her hands and returned it to him.
     “I’ve never even held one before. How do you know I was brave you were dead?”
     “True but I come around fast. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened,” he said.
     “It was pure luck that I didn’t put my own eye out,” Kensi said with a smile. She looked at him thoughtfully for a moment and then continued. “Do you eat people?”
He smiled at her. She was sure she had just witnessed the smile that earned him the admiration of women everywhere. Perhaps he had found what she said charming. It didn’t matter to her. She finally had seen the smile. Maybe he even liked her a little now.
     “No I have an arrangement with a butcher on Halstead. I drink animal blood that he puts into bottles for me. It honestly looks like wine in my icebox. I’ll show you sometime if it will set your mind at ease.”
     “I believe you,” Kensi said. “Are you ever tempted to eat people?”
     “I have been a cop for a very long time. My urge to protect fragile humans out weighed my thirst long ago. So to answer your question no. I am never tempted.”
     ‘The city that I love so much is a dark place to live. Darker than I want to admit,” Kensi said.
     “Yes but the darkness becomes you Miss Shaw.”
     Kensington closed and locked the attic door behind her. She walked to the window and made sure the curtains were securely closed. The curtains were always closed but she always checked. She walked to one of the wardrobes that were set against one wall and pulled open the doors. Everything was exactly as Kensi had left it. No one had a key to the room but her. Even Livvy didn’t venture into the attic. Livvy didn’t exactly know what Kensi did for a living and Kensi was sure it was Livvy’s choice. She also never asked Kensi what was in the attic. Kensi was grateful that she never asked. She didn’t want to blatantly lie to Livvy. And she definitely would have lied about the contents of the attic.
     Kensi lifted a box off the shelf and took it to a table that sat in the middle of the room. It was old and carved and had been in the attic when Kensi purchased the house. The box too was old and carved but Kensi had purchased it from a witch in the Underground. It was an enchanted box capable of containing great magic. She lifted the lid of the box and looked inside. A vile identical to the one she had risked her life for resided inside.
     The little vile shimmered and floated in the box. It made her feel better to know that it was there. It was insurance, just like most of the object in the room. The house had been blessed by witches, shamans and priests. The attic had been blessed with the heaviest magic she could find. Kensi tried to think of it not so much as amassing weapons but as amassing protection. Protection that Kane and Betty wouldn’t understand that she needed.
     Protection that obviously worked since Kane hadn’t been able enter the house without an invitation. It was true that she hadn’t put together the facts regarding Kane. She should have known he was a vampire. She should have been paying attention. She should have been less concerned with unraveling the mystery of him and instead been paying attention to the facts. It had been pure luck that he was one of the good guys. Most vampires were not. Most were killers and Livvy and Betty would have paid the price for her error in judgment.
     She closed the box and opened the drawer in the table. She took out a jar filled with a coppery liquid and an eye dropper and headed for the door. She needed to reinforce the magical barriers that protected her property and the dead of night was the only time she could do it safely. As it turned out Kane was right. Darkness became her in every way.
The End

 

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