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June 17, 2024

Patterns in Blood 44

By Lydia Manx

Los Angeles
The Present

I didn't have to wait long for Michael Stockwell to react to my flippant comment. I guess my 'so?' was correctly interpreted by Michael as I didn't care if Marge Hagen claimed she was molested as a child.

What I'd personally witnessed while still married to Randolph Hagen wasn't exactly an act of violence upon Marge but a mutually consensual fling. And from my lawyer's findings, not the first time they played together. The claims she'd been abused for such a long time didn't seem to work with reality. Marge was as sick as my ex-husband, no matter what the crooked cop thought. Michael didn't have enough background to go jumping to such conclusions, but I wasn't surprised he'd gone that way. From what I'd seen Marge was pretty persuasive.

"Alanna, you've got to understand, Marge was molested! First by her father, then her cousins and all the time she was watched by the vampire." I'd never expected him to admit to the existence of a vampire on the phone. But then Michael hadn't been doing what I'd expected from the moment I'd met him. Nelson arched an eyebrow and lifted one shoulder in a confused shrug. Then Michael was back to coughing his lung wetly out on his end of the call. That lung shot wasn't healing anytime soon, so I said, "Fine, Michael. But we do need to meet and you have to explain why I shouldn't let my new friends here just take you out and stake you for Marge's vampire to kill?"

He stopped coughing long enough to gasp out, "He doesn't know I exist." He resumed choking out a lung.

I sincerely doubted that the vampire was unaware of Michael. I was also pretty sure that Michael's connections to the Hagens ran deeper than his just being Marge's lapdog and Randa's personal cop. He definitely knew about the vampire. And I would guess the family's vampire also knew all about Michael. I still wasn't convinced that the vampire hadn't sent Michael to find me either. Nothing much really shocked me anymore, but then my week had been pretty odd to say the least. Hell, my life had been odd.

Nelson was back to pacing and his edge of anger was beginning to run off him like water off a newly waxed car, and his men were responding automatically to their leader's anxious actions by chewing their cheeks, bouncing their legs and tapping fingertips on any available surfaces, all signs of agitation. I needed to get Michael up close and personal and hopefully he'd be telling me a story for a change. Our ducking upstairs to a new suite wasn't going to keep the cops fooled for long. They did have three bodies to explain and a room or two full of bullet holes. No matter how much the hotel liked their good client they naturally wouldn't do anything to impede the investigation.

"Okay, Michael, where are you?" I went for broke.

More coughing and a gasp of wet choking from his side of the call that wasn't in the least pretty. Michael wasn't going to be long for this world with or without medical attention. Paul must have got a good shot off before Michael tortured and beat him nearly to death. I still didn't know what happened and why Paul was tortured by his old partner, but I figured it might have had more to do with their past -- a shared woman involved naturally -- than mine and I was just the current convenient excuse. I was hoping it had nothing to do with me for a change, but wasn't overly hopeful considering the past week.

Katherine's death, on the other hand, was a deliberate act of murder because Michael knew she had been a friend of mine. Near as I could put it together, Paul must have brought her to Michael once she decided to fly down here. I hadn't even known she was coming to the city. Paul had done some of the calls and footwork on my past friends and coworkers and we hadn't been having much luck with either set of folks.

All in all, it sickened me but at the same time I had to get over it because I wasn't the one doing the crimes but dear old Michael. The two cops had used their connections to track down my past and Michael used it to carve away any last threads of hope for me ever escaping the Hagens and their personal hell. Added into the mix was that Michael wasn't doing well from his coughing and choking. I needed information from him before he died. I wasn't under any illusions about Michael's abilities to heal. He wasn't a vampire but some sort of helper. And given we needed help from him before he crossed the final line I was willing to put up with some of his garbage to get answers. Another muffled set of coughs and then he cleared his throat. Then he slowly replied as if tasting the quality of the words.

"Alanna, I'm just on the phone waiting for you to tell me where to meet you." A lovely non-answer, as he didn't tell me where he was at the moment, but then cops didn't much like answering questions as a rule. I guess I should thank the Hagens for all the years of learning how to answer cops and fill in reports. Or not.

I silently gritted my teeth and said, "How far are you from downtown?"

Silence then another series of coughing, which didn't sound promising. The wound wasn't some graze or crease along his skin but a deep shot in the middle of his body that pretty much was going to be terminal. Well, that was if he survived meeting up with us and the bullet waited to finish plunging further into his lung. Which at this point wasn't a sure thing. If we took too long tracking him down we'd need a medium to finish the discussion.

"Too far. You got a car?" Like he didn't already know. That was assuming my rental car hadn't been car jacked or fire bombed at the hotel. With my current run of luck it was a fifty-fifty proposition.

"Yes, why?" I answered slowly. I was pretty much guessing, but I wasn't going to admit that. Michael had to explain things live not remotely from a call while hiding from us. As I was nearly ready to strangle him myself for his games, but I knew that wouldn't get me anywhere I wasn't even ready to guess where Nelson was mentally as he'd been listening into our call. His head was still close to mine but the boys were back to their macho pacing around the room like caged lions. I wondered if tossing them some raw beef would sooth them or just be poking at the beasts.

"So. Somewhere neutral like the beach?" He tried to make it sound innocent and benign.

So I'd just left Seal Beach and this idiot was suggesting that I head back to the beach? I wasn't thrilled by the notion and looked to see Nelson all but jumping up and down. Arching an eyebrow I hit the mute button on my cell and spun to him hissing, "What?"

"Not the beach. There's a nest down there that my team says has been gearing up for a major war. Make him head towards here. Hell, arrange to meet up at Griffith Park Observatory." He wasn't kidding.

Personally I automatically thought of a fateful movie where death surrounded the entire cast. James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo -- not a one of them had a happy ending to their lives. Gunshots and tragic fatalities pretty much summed up that movie and the deaths of the actors for me. And here I was being told I should guide the vampire's friend up to meet me at that historic spot. For some reason I kept thinking about the actor, Sal Mineo, having in real life being born to a Sicilian coffin maker and wondering at the irony of hooking up with Michael there. The odds of it being ugly seemed to increase dramatically. Go figure.

I clicked back into the call and reluctantly I said, "How about the Griffith Park Observatory parking lot?" Chills raced down my spine. As I was leaving a hotel currently riddled with bullet holes in one of the higher priced suites it wasn't like much would shock me now.

But then I'd been spinning my wheels so much lately, I wasn't sure which way was up anymore.

Michael agreed saying through some rough coughing, "Okay, give me an hour?"

I bit off the reply, 'Are you even going to be alive in an hour?' by sheer self-preservation kept my lips shut and instead I said, "Okay."

I disconnected and saw the men were all staring at me. Lindsey had reemerged from her exile and was glaring from behind Cooper's crossed arms. He was keeping her from bodily harming me while still actively listening. I wasn't fond of being watched.

Nelson sighed, "Sorry about that."

He didn't sound very contrite. But then his followers were watching carefully his every move. I wondered why Nelson was apologizing to me.

"For what?" I had to ask.

"For pushing you to meet the cop up at Griffith Park." That wasn't what I'd expected but then my expectations hadn't been exactly normal for a while. Lindsey was hissing something under her breath.

I'd had enough.

"And what the hell's your problem?" I snarled brushing past both Nelson and Cooper. Both men were stunned by my move and the others too far back to stop me. Not that there was much chance of them being able to stop me in motion. I was pissed.

Lindsey shook a finger in my face saying, "You are my problem! You're getting everyone fucking killed. And you don't even care."

"I don't care? Excuse me? I don't care? Then if I don't care why the hell am I still here? Why doesn't your fearless leader, Nelson, hand me over to the cops or vampire sorts? My life has been turned upside down and shaken into the damn trash. I crawled broken out of a slaughterhouse in Las Vegas and your precious friends watched. Nobody cared enough to help me back then and I am trying to help now." I was shaking.

Lindsey was still wagging her finger in my face. I'd had enough and reach out and yanked it down. The men pulled us apart. Cooper had simply bodily lifted the small blonde off the ground spitting and clawing. Nelson and Keith had one of my arms. I could tell earlier from the body language that Keith and Lindsey had a personal relationship. His hands were gripped tightly around my upper arm while Nelson was holding my shoulder and arm. I didn't resist.

"You leave a bruise on my arm I'll return the favor tenfold," I said very softly and Keith immediately relaxed his fists. I jerked the rest of the way free from him and turned to Nelson, "Get her out of here. I don't want her anywhere near the meet with Michael. She's crazy. And what the hell did she tell the hotel to get the room? She ran off pouting and never answered you." Nelson looked disturbed.

"What did you say to get this suite?" He directly asked Lindsey.

She snarled, "That we were shooting home movies." No giggling now.

"Lindsey, stop it. Answer him," Keith pleaded. Nelson flinched, as if he'd been struck, as the tone sunk in and there was something more than cult member friendship between the two. Men were oblivious at times to such things and I was happy that Nelson figured it out.

Unaware her attraction to one of his guards had been discovered Lindsey batted her eyes and said, "Just kidding. I told him I was with one of the local studios waiting for some lawyers. They wanted nothing more to do with me then."

"You put it on your credit card?"

"Of course, I'm not stupid." She was trying to smile. I thought it fell far short. Keith still stood next to me but he was holding himself tight.

Cooper allowed her feet to touch the floor again but Nelson knew better than letting her free. I was relieved to see him take charge.

"Take her out to Sebastian and let her chit chat with Bobby for a while. Tell Sebastian not to let either of them out until I contact him." Cooper nodded his understanding and quietly walked Lindsey out while letting her grab her purse. Nothing else.

She shot me one more evil hate filled glare while trying to smile at the men. It fell short of the intention. We all waited for Cooper to return. I wasn't going cause any more trouble for Lindsey but was glad she wasn't going to be around when we met up with Michael.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-09-22
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