"Yes, Penny, Esmeralda is here." Harry briefly interrupted the woman on the other end of the phone. I kept my mouth shut.
Harry arched an eyebrow with questioning look in his eyes, and leaned towards me with a slight grin on his face so I could hear more of Penny's call. Finally Harry held the receiver at least a good six inches from his face -- giving me easy access to the call -- as Penny proceeded to shrilly scream into the phone from her side. She wasn't calming in the least hearing the news that I was with Harry.
"Harry, I don't give a flying fuck that she made it there. I give a fuck that she took the rental papers with her!" Guiltily I nodded and pointed to my backpack wedged between my feet. She'd told me to take out paperwork from the glove box right before we were squished into the too-soon-to-be gooey center of what was going to be an SUV cookie sandwich. I'd thought it best I leave immediately rather than deal with another car wreck trauma. I'd popped out of the car and thought of Harry's front door in a blink before our car had even finished being crushed. I mean, after all, it hadn't even been a full week since the folks and I had had such a deadly encounter and as the sole survivor I knew it took hours to get free of that sort of twisted mess.
Harry shrugged and didn't seem overly worried about my deserting Penny and showing up instantly on his doorstep.
Penny was still rambling about not having the proper paperwork and all the cops around her when he broke in with, "Penny, you aren't hurt, correct?" It wasn't really a question but he'd made it sound like one.
For some reason he knew she wasn't hurt and she sullenly spit out, "Of course not." Like it was a given. Maybe it was. I was pretty amazed that I didn't feel worse. I figured it had to be shock. I'd been horribly sore after my last car wreck for days.
"Charm your way out of the not-having-the-missing-paperwork. I'll pay you double your usual delivery fee." With that Harry simply replaced the receiver and sighed at my look of outrage at being part of a 'delivery.'
"Stop fretting, Esmeralda. She's fine and charges an obscene amount of money for her rather specialized services." His black silk robe had slipped a little off his shoulder exposing his chest when he'd put the phone back and I noticed that he wasn't alabaster white like all the movie vampires, but actually looked pretty normal.
Actively ignoring Harry's chest and sputtering slightly I said, "I was just a delivery?"
"No, you are much more than that or I would have sent somebody else to help you. Penny's also skilled in the use of a large number of deadly weapons and lethal in close-up fighting. Not to mention she makes a wicked mojito -- the Cuban rum and lime drink -- it is excellent I've been told." He had picked back up some of the paperwork he had scattered on his comforter and looked down at the sheets of documents while I pondered all of that.
Thinking for a second, I hazarded a guess, "So she's not human, right?"
Laughing, "No, but then I rarely have much to do with humans." He hadn't stopped looking through his papers to even meet my wide eyes.
"Okay, then." I rocked back on my heels and pulled out the folded paperwork I'd automatically stuffed inside the backpack when I had popped out of the car that was being smashed between two rather massive vehicles. I was impressed by my reactions even if Penny was pissed off.
The first set of paperwork was the rental agreement that Penny was currently missing. I grinned and said, "Well, it wasn't like her information was real."
Harry looked up at me quizzically and asked, "What?"
"She claims to be only twenty-five here but there's no way she's only nine years older than me." It was a sticking point because I found it odd that she'd shave years off her age when she didn't look like ancient. Must be some screwed-up vanity thing.
Harry began laughing loudly and slapped his thigh saying, "She's trying to pull off twenty-five now huh? She is significantly older than that." I was still no closer to knowing what she was other than older than twenty-five.
While he tried unsuccessfully to contain his mirth, I flipped open another set of folded pages that I'd grabbed. I read the first few paragraphs and gasped. Continuing to read, I rapidly flipped through the black on white pretty little words framed in awkwardly worded phrases and spit out, "This says you are in fact my uncle?" It was funny because I was an orphan and never had any relatives since my folks had adopted me. The legalese made it clear that he was related to me and in fact had legal custody of me until I turned twenty-one.
Harry grinned and said, "I told you Penny was worth the money. She does amazing work. You are now officially my niece and nobody can prove differently."
Oddly, that didn't bother me because for some reason I already felt kinship to the vampire. That it was now apparently 'legal' just made me grin and said, "Okay, Uncle Harry."
I stashed the paperwork back inside the bag and looked at the last set of documents I'd grabbed from the car. These weren't legal documents but headshots of various men. I flipped through them rapidly, not recognizing anyone until nearly the last page. It was the man that had been outside my parents' home and wanted me to let him inside, then threatened to kill me when I didn't open the door.
Wordlessly I handed the page to Uncle Harry. I liked the sound of that 'uncle' in my head but my stomach churned nervously and I was a bit frightened by what I'd found. There had been a front mug shot and a side view of the man and a different set of numbers beneath both photos. He was a felon of some nature. Uncle Harry took the page and began to frown as he read the words beneath the pictures. I had been too nervous to even look. I didn't want to know anything about him.
"This is an unexpected twist, my dear." He sighed and handed that page back to me. Reluctantly I accepted the sheet and began to read the words beneath the headshot of the man.
Paul Owens is a self-made man. He's been brought in numerous times and booked on suspicion of manslaughter but no charges ever stick. There are no known warrants currently but he is the prime suspect in the deaths of over a dozen people in the Miami area and a half dozen others in surrounding areas of Florida.
His right hand man is Roland Hicks and usually presents himself as the driver, but has been locked up for various infractions. Witnesses are few; between his jail time and court time he tends to get out quickly.
From all data available, Owens has no known associates of any criminal families or triads, but is allowed to do whatever he wants on the East coast without any repercussions.
I stopped reading and glanced over at Uncle Harry.
"What is this?" I was puzzled by what I was reading. It was like research, but there was something I was missing.
Uncle Harry laughed, "Penny is good at ferreting out information about any and all possibilities. This was what she threw together in a few hours. All of those pages represent men that arrived in Florida in the past week or were already living in your neighborhood."
I fanned out the pages and looked at the last one I'd missed when I'd seen the man who'd shown up at my house. I gasped and my hand shook as I recognized the man.
"Oh my goodness, this man is my high school chemistry teacher!"
Nodding, Uncle Harry said, "Yeah, that isn't good but to be expected. The Council had to have someone close to you in case you discovered your talents at school."
"He's not a human?" I knew he was weird but then most teachers seem weird to high schoolers.
I read the information beneath the picture and wasn't sure how he'd even stayed a teacher. Suspected of abusing his wife and one DUI were noted along with a comment that he was in debt to eyeballs because of an unhealthy interest in the ponies and a tendency to bet on the long shots. Disgusted, I pushed the page aside.
"He's human, but merely a tool for others," Uncle Harry assured me but I didn't feel any better. The 'tool' had been watching me for over a year plus in my chemistry courses. I shuddered and pushed it aside because it wasn't like I could do anything about it.
There was more on the sheet about this Paul Owens. It was about his likes and dislikes that didn't make much sense to me. I read and tried to figure out what Penny had been trying to say.
So in summary, Owens wasn't ever seen eating in public and he had fresh meat -- the on the bone kind that was delivered weekly -- I got that and wasn't sure why it had been noted. I liked good meat. His driver was known to frequent dive bars and go home with the local lushes. No mention of the 'dates' missing after visiting with the driver, Roland, so it wasn't like they were decorating the local swamps. It was also noted that there was preference for natural brunettes, no hair dyes, also without any enhancements and from what I knew about Florida that had to be a challenge. Uncle Harry took pity on me and said, "Paul and his companion aren't human but fey."
Damn, I so wanted a cheat sheet on the whole supernatural pantheon. It'd only been a little under twenty-four hours since I had found out about all the creatures that were around the corner and under the bed so I did have a good excuse for not knowing all the ins and outs of the new world where I found myself living. But still, a little help wouldn't hurt any, I thought while trying to figure out what exactly 'fey' were and why I was their focus.
"Why are fey interested in me?" I finally spit out.
"That is part of the problem. They shouldn't be in the least interested in you at this stage in your life. So it seems that Owens is playing some sort of game that involves the Vampire Council. Fey usually play a long game and don't mingle much with humans other than as playthings. That there are vampires involved isn't good news." Uncle Harry paused then said, "But you aren't there, so don't worry, we'll take care of it." The unspoken 'we' gave me small comfort. But it didn't exactly answer all my questions.
"Why fresh meat?" That didn't seem to be remarkable but for some reason Penny had seen fit to put it on Paul Owens's particulars and I wasn't sure what exactly it meant in the long-range scheme of things.
"His clan is bloodthirsty, but they are not in the least the same as vampires. From all the rumors, they are savages. Fey tend to keep as far away from us as we do them." I shrugged and then visualized the two fey tearing into the flesh of meat and ripping apart the raw beef.
Seemingly catching my unspoken thoughts, Uncle Harry nodded and said, "That's right, but they also eat the bones."