Three days before on the other side of town.
Before walking into his office, Kenyon grabbed one of the club kids who liked to hang out in front of his place and sent for Jane. Jane usually kept the barbarians at the gate of his club, Dark Whispers. Kenyon felt like he had been letting things slip by him lately. She would know best what exactly was going on of all his human companions. She had never lied to him and rarely gave him cause for concern. He instinctively knew there was a new game going on and he felt like he was out of the loop. He was going to fix that immediately.
No sooner had he got comfortably seated behind his desk than the moppet he had ordered to find Jane came back quickly saying, "Kenyon, she isn't there."
He was taken back for a minute. How the hell could Jane not be in the lobby of Dark Whispers? He had never seen her go far from the money in all the years she had worked for him. She never took much of a vacation or had much of a life outside the club. Jane was one of the only humans he could count on in all the craziness surrounding him. It was just another sign of how out of whack everything was getting.
"Go find her then," he growled. His tone offered no recourse and immediate action.
The urchin shivered, clattering various pieces of metal strung around and through the black mesh outfit and ran. He didn't know why he had scared the child; it wasn't like he was sporting fangs or anything. It must have been his attitude. He shook his head. Kids nowadays were so sensitive and moody. Hell, that was part of the fun usually. But this current batch was less than ideal. Kenyon felt the decades' difference between their ages the more and more he was forced to talk with the little perverts. And they were perverted, that was why his club drew such a following. He had encouraged the lost and misfits. They suited his appetites. Usually.
That was exactly why he needed to touch base with Jane. She would know if he was overreacting. He was pretty sure he wasn't but he needed someone more in touch with the clients. Kenyon drummed his fingers impatiently on the sleek desktop. His nails were buffed and well groomed. He was momentarily distracted by a flash out of the corner of his eye.
The back of his neck was bristling with energy. Someone or something was watching him. He relaxed and leaned back in his chair while casually putting his arms up and stretching. Then he lunged at the movement with a lightning fast speed. His fingers circled cloth and he yanked Jane from where she had been crouching.
If possible, her face was even paler than her usual alabaster hue. The normal rings of kohl that lined her eyes were accented by blue black rings of exhaustion. She had chewed off all of her lipstick and was brittle beneath his fingers.
"There you are, Jane. I had just sent for you," Kenyon spoke softly without removing his hand from her arms. She was trembling.
Jane didn't tremble around Kenyon as a rule. She snarled and spit at him and genuinely seemed to not mind his altered state. To her, vampires were just a part of the job. She figured as long as they didn't bother her she wouldn't bother them. She never questioned they were real, much less seemed to care if they drained patrons as long as they left her alone. Which the vampires did, once they understood Jane had no interest in becoming one at all. That and the word was out if she was harmed the vampire would be slain. It was a relationship that had worked well the dozen or so years she had been employed by Kenyon. So for her now to be hiding and afraid just showed Kenyon again how things had changed in his own club.
"Kenyon, what is happening here? I don't understand," she was not getting any more color in her face seeing him standing over her; he could feel the fear chewing at her and it was causing him to grow agitated. His hands released her as gently as he could. Lines of worry framed her face and she looked her age. That unnerved Kenyon.
"What is it I can tell you to soothe you?" Kenyon barely avoided snarling, he wasn't used to not knowing everything. "I don't know exactly why all this is happening right now. I suspect a few things. When I walk into the club there is nothing but fear surrounding everyone. What's more, there's more happening than I realize. I called for you to tell me what's being said outside." He didn't ask but demanded.
She took in a deep gulp of air and tried to look bored. It failed miserably. Jane just looked like prey. It was all Kenyon could do to keep his fangs in his face. This was worse than he had thought. She had never been someone he wanted to fang into, since she protected his interests and made sure the money made it to the bank and the bills got paid on time. Running a club took more work than most people realized and relying on others came with some difficulty, but Kenyon knew she was one of his key people. Seeing her like this was not a sign of anything good.
"Kenyon, there is this rumor going around that Charlotte is about ready to leave town with some of the slayers' money. She has been stealing it from their banks. And she is being seen as some sort of cult hero for stealing their loot. The kids on the street have been watching both the vampire stalkers and the vampires closely, and saw Charlotte hit some of the banks. And some folks also think the money and jewelry was all that has been stolen recently from the vampires." Jane was nearly green with fear telling him this bad news. Knowing this Kenyon pushed down his basic instinct to kill the messenger. Jane had been brave coming to him before he had sought her out.
Slowly Kenyon asked, "Who told you this?"
"Nobody really told me. I heard Ginger talking with one of the kids last week." Jane offered up another victim for Kenyon's growing anger. She hoped he missed that she had known for nearly week.
He bit, "Ginger, who's she?"
Jane replied, "The lady that sits in the back of the club and talks to the kids. Matthews or Mayviews, I don't know exactly. She takes notes after they leave. I think she is a social worker or something. She pays the full cover charge so I don't push."
Kenyon slowly nodded his head, but Jane could tell he didn't have a clue who she meant. Then it dawned on her that she had never seen Ginger inside the club when Kenyon was there. It was like the lady knew when Kenyon was off the floor and only came in then. That gave her something to think about if she survived this meeting. Jane now regretted her job choices.
"Okay, Jane, find out who this Ginger person is and what she is doing in my club. You have done well telling me this. Don't worry." Here he tried to inject a tone of concern for her but he was furious. Jane nodded and practically ran out the door. Kenyon picked up the phone and dialed.
"Jim, you need to come to the club, use the back entrance."
That was all he said once the call was answered. That was all Kenyon needed to say. Jim Arnold was one of his best enforcers. He hated to have to use him run down Charlotte but he had no choice. He knew she was resentful of his being the temporary Master in the city but she had made her share of mistakes. Thinking of the one she was currently making he wondered if he should tell the others what was going happening. Shaking his head he decided to have her brought in on his terms. No need to show other vampires he was losing control of his city. That would only worsen the existing problems.
Jim Arnold showed up a few hours later. Kenyon, finishing up some of the more tedious aspects of bar ownership, was grateful for the interruption.
He handed back the order sheet to his head bartender saying, "Tim, don't forget to back order more of the top shelf liquors. You may have noticed that we have been seeing more upscale business since New Year's Eve. It is like every stupid yuppie in town wants to see up close and personal where we are and if something exciting is going to happen while they're here."
Thankfully the news coverage had been sporadic about some of the events around Dark Whispers, but unfortunately the uncontrollable rumors on the street had fueled more than a little interest in the club than ever before. It had become popular to hang out in front if denied access. Too bad he couldn't charge them to loiter, he would make thousands nightly. Tim nodded and left them alone, closing the door as he went out. Tim had been around long enough to know when Jim was called in to see Kenyon it was better to stay out of the way.
"Jim, I need you to head over to Charlotte's house tomorrow," Kenyon handed Jim an address written down on a sticky note.
"What do you want me to do? Bring her in?" Jim took the slip of paper, glancing at it his eyebrows rose, "Boss, this is pretty pricy area. Should I bring back up or what?"
"No, just go over and knock on her damned door. She should be there, have her let you take a look around," Kenyon felt like he had to do everything lately. Everyone was out of control and nobody using any sense.
"Do not harm her. Hell, don't even park near her front door. Just park around the block and go over and see if she's home. She should be. Ask her to come back with you afterwards. Again, do not harm her." Kenyon didn't need any more problems. He just needed to talk to Charlotte and find out if the rumors were true. He'd call her but he never could tell if she was lying over the phone. They knew each other too well. Their shared history worked against him.
"Got it? Don't hurt her. Just get a look around and then bring her back here." Kenyon stared deeply into Jim's light blue eyes. They were empty of anything. No fears or curiosity about the command, just empty. Jim was one of the scariest vampires Kenyon owned. Also one of the most loyal.
"What if she's not there?" Jim asked softly.
Kenyon resisted shaking his head and moaning, "Then go back the next day. Not night. Daytime. She will not let you in at night. Hell, she might not even let you in during the day. Let me know the moment you find her. Call me on my cell."
With that he dismissed Jim. Jim shut the door behind him without another word. It wasn't like Kenyon was asking.
Jane tapped on the door a minute later saying, "I found out something more about Ginger."
Kenyon invited her in saying, "What?"
Jane stood stiffly in front of the desk and reported, "Ginger Matthews is a reporter. She talks to the runaways and misfits. She gives them money for food and clothes and only asks information in return. The younger men all want to go home with her and play house and some of the girls. She has some strange charisma the kids like."
"A reporter has been coming regularly into the club and this is the first I am hearing about it?" Kenyon was horrified.
Jane hung her head and said, "She isn't associated with any paper here. She's freelance. That's why nobody knew she was from the press. The kids all thought she was a social worker because of the money." Jane was not happy to be the bearer of bad news twice in the same day. Kenyon nodded deep in thought and said, "Thanks, Jane, get back to the lobby. I appreciate the help."
She left nodding and thankful to be keeping her neck. Kenyon brooded and wondered why this was all happening to him. It seemed like he never caught a break.