I got up from the chair I had been curled in and began to pace around the room. Peter decided to break the silence with excuses for his company's failures, "Well, as I mentioned, some letters and emails were exchanged. From what it is here it seems that you were reconciled with Mr. Hagen and had moved your great-uncle, Mr. Kelsey, into this house. You said you still visited and collected your bills here so we weren't to change the billing address only the correspondence address. The email address was used more than regular mail."
Detective Stockwell had been closely monitoring our conversation jotting notes while we spoke. His question showed instant perception of the issues at hand.
"Excuse me, Mr. Grange, but if I may ask, how did your office get a hand scan from Ms. Gilliam's uncle?" He directed the query without any emotion. Peter paused and began digging through the file.
Puzzlement crossed Peter's face as he continued to look over the messy file. "It would appear that last month, while I was out at a conference in Nevada, a gentleman purporting to be your great-uncle was brought into the office in a wheelchair. With a shaky voice he came to give his hand imprint and get a new key. There is a note here that he produced a mangled key he claimed he damaged when his key fell into the spokes of his wheelchair. He said that he didn't wish to bother you with his problems and stupid mistakes. From Marlene's comments in the file she found him quite charming."
Ironic mirth threatened to bubble out from me. Oh, I knew just how charming Randolph could be. Never did I doubt for a moment who had so easily broken through my security. Randolph did tend to run through people like a hot knife through a brick of butter. My supposedly unbreakable security seemed to have been a piece of cake for him. My stomach rumbled with all the food metaphors my brain was supplying. I couldn't remember the last time I ate. When I was painting, time slipped away from me.
"Was he accompanied by anyone?" Stockwell picked up the questioning.
"An elderly woman who was introduced as," he peered at the notes, "Rachel, your mother-in-law," I glared at him and he stumbled out with, "I mean your ex-mother-in-law." Peter was realizing the scope of what had occurred and he was looking more and more ill. The legal ramifications aside from all this, his personal reputation was toast.
With another rumble from my stomach, I took pity on my 'guests' and went over to my mini-bar fridge. Breathing slowly I tried to quell the panic licking at my heels. My mini-bar yielded a tray of cheeses and fruit slices I kept on hand to nibble while I painted. Given the interruptions, I didn't nosh and they were still chilling. I picked out an variety of crackers from the cupboards next to the refrigerator and automatically assembled an assortment of crackers, nuts and some non-stale pretzels. In the desert that was an iffy proposition. Things dried out amazingly fast. I broke one and it snapped crisply so I knew they were still fresh. Mechanically I assembled a tray with napkins and small plates. My mother would've been so proud. I turned to set the tray on the coffee table that separated the group of chairs I had clustered. Detective Stockwell assisted me; my hands had started trembling for no good reason as far as I knew, and I was grateful.
Peter renewed his apologizing. Stunned, I sat frozen once I'd placed the nibble trays down and everything began to catch up with me. Stockwell kindly offered to help by getting a drink for Peter and refreshing his soda. I hadn't finished mine, so I nodded my thanks and sank back into my chair. Before he finished delivering the drinks he gently lifted my gun from my unresisting hands. I never noticed when I had picked up the revolver again, and from my white knuckles it was obvious I had been tightly gripping the handle. The tension eased up slightly from my palm as he replaced the gun with my abandoned soda. The revolver was placed on the coffee table in front of me. It struck me then that I must have appeared somewhat threatening to Peter. I have the cop a wan smile of thanks.
Cutting into Peter's passionate apologizes Stockwell asked, "What can you do in way of damage control?"
Excusing himself he pulled out his cell phone and began to talk with his office. The orders were brisk and too late as far as I was concerned. The flurries of commands were given relating to my house. Immediate change of codes and someone was coming over to rekey the entire house and look over the existing optics and wiring to examine for any breaks or rerouting of my system. Effective immediately my security needs were to be handled only by him. Any and all phone calls, emails and letters were to be handed to him personally -- indefinitely. Recognizing that Peter was doing all that was in his power, I turned towards the detective.
"As you probably are aware this is all a huge shock to me. Is there something specific I can help you with?" My tone was dry. I found myself nibbling off the plate. I was starving and anxious. Every instinct in my body was screaming at me to fuel and fly. I wasn't happy in the least.
Detective Stockwell shook his head and answered, "All of this concerns me. I need to contact my boss. If you'll pardon me I need to use my cell."
I nodded it was okay and watched him shake his head as his phone didn't seem to like him. He continued to poke at keys and toggling numbers and his mouth had a firm straight line of aggravation.
"Excuse me, can I use your phone? It doesn't seem my carrier has any towers out here." I understood that. I was surprised Peter had been able to call out. Most of the desert was a giant black hole when it came to the cellular phone towers and communication. I didn't care since I wasn't overly fond of being found.
"Follow me, I have a private phone you can use. I led him to the kitchen pointing him towards the multi-line telephone. He pushed a button to an outside line and dialed a number after consulting his cell phone address book.
Lost, I wandered around the kitchen through the attached dining room. Peter was still on his cell phone and writing down something on the pad next to my keyboard. Seeing me, he nodded while starting to key into the computer database. I knew he was reconfiguring the security and backtracking the breaches. I didn't even have to ask if I had been hacked or breached because the pained look on his face said it all. He unfastened the top buttons on his shirt while he was dealing with his office. Reluctantly, I headed to see what Peter was doing at the desk. Solemnly he hung up his cell phone as I neared him.
"We seem to have had more mail this afternoon from 'you'. There was a request for Rachel and Marge Hagen to be added to your residence file and more master codes requested. According to the email they will be arriving early next week for hand-scans and processing. I allowed the order to stand but requested they be given invalid codes. I'll be there to confirm their identities before we turn them over to the police." He was shaken but trying to hold it together.
"Did I hear someone mention me?" Detective Stockwell returned to catch the last bit of Peter's comments.
Peter related the rest of his orders to the cop and Stockwell asked that he be included in any further decisions made. The men continued to quibble over minor details as I wandered out of the room. Before I cleared the doorway I snagged one of the geodes on my bookshelf. I fidgeted with the golf ball sized slice of polished geode. The blue-green crystals reflected brilliantly in the diffused light of my living room. I let my mind wander while they squabbled. Slowly I returned to the minor bickering at hand.
"Gentlemen, this is all well and good, but I need you -- Peter -- to have the compound and house swept for any and all electronic devices -- both active and passive. Peter, also, personally oversee a complete re-keying of all the locks by tonight, please." I set my rock back on the shelf and turned to the cop.
Sucking in air I went on saying, "Detective Stockwell, I doubt if you're finished with me. I'd like to suggest we head somewhere more private while Peter gets a handle on all of this. Oh, and Peter, I expect you will be here to let me in whenever I return. I'll call, naturally, to let you know when to expect me. And if I can't make it back tonight I'll give you a call by about seven."
Both men agreed and I excused myself to gather my purse and a light jacket. Nights in the desert could quickly drop in temperature. Before leaving the room I picked up my revolver. Hefting it pensively I looked at Detective Stockwell saying, "Do you mind if I bring it along?"
I asked adding, "To be honest, I don't have a license to carry concealed but am not overly thrilled with all I've heard."
Nodding at my comment, "In light of what I currently know, I wouldn't be in the least offended nor will I take any notice if you decide to tuck it into your purse."
Relieved, I went to my room picked up my purse and threw my jacket over my arm. The gun went inside the purse and Stockwell met me at my bedroom door. I felt odd walking past my alarm security board without keying my codes to leave into the system. Everything was different, and my routine was permanently changed. Old fears had returned from where I had thought they were banished. I put my sunglasses on my face hiding my eyes and fears, I hoped, as we headed outside.
Given my nightmares, I should've known that fears were never truly banished. The gun was a false safety but at least I would pump some bullets into someone before I was taken again. Vampires haunted my nightmares only slightly less than Randolph Hagen and his family. And now it looked like one of those monsters was out of the cage again. Nothing in my house would safeguard me against a vampiric attack. Most of the vampires laughed in the face of humans who, unbelieving, held up unblessed crosses. Garlic was a tasty addition to the meal of human blood. Most of the other supposed vampire weaknesses were produced by stories and myths. I hoped none of this chased back to vampires. But after finding out that Randolph had somehow breached my security, I wasn't so sure about anything any more.
Detective Stockwell paused by the passenger side door of a mid-sized, unmarked police car.
"Do you mind my driving?" He politely asked while opening the door. I was more than ready to let someone else open a door in the desert heat. The door handles seared flesh quite easily with very little time. His gloves had come in handy for something other than upsetting my security panel.
"Not at all," I replied accepting his surprisingly gracious gesture of helping me into his car. He walked behind the vehicle to join me inside. I looked into the desert and could see nothing but heat and dirt. I kept expecting to see flashing eyes or a gun aimed at me.
My neck itched and I wanted to rub the scar just below my shoulder. I hadn't been bitten but scraped by a vampire's fang. I still slept with the lights on many nights. At least the ones I bothered to try to sleep. Rubbing my mark was something I only did when nervous. I sure had reasons to be nervous. But these chased back to humans not vampires. I hoped.