It’s Saturday night and Zaira feels conflicted. She has successfully refrained from calling Sandor on his new Android cell phone, even though she’s been brooding over numerous scenarios of how he might be caught off guard, how he unknowingly (or knowingly) might be putting them at risk. At risk? She reproaches herself for hypocrisy. She’s the one who may have put them at risk with her recent escapade on a North Shore beach. And it’s the very thing she’s contemplating doing again this evening. The memory of the sweet rush from a fresh draw had been dancing around in her mind for hours. Should she just get in the car and drive to Maine? New York would be a better choice. There would be a lot of anonymity in a large metropolitan center. She selects a Mahler symphony on her sound system and paces back and forth across her spacious living room, dressed in fitted black pants and sweater, her red hair flowing loose. She’ll need to put caps on her teeth, some red lipstick, perfume and a good piece of jewelry. And high-heeled boots. Her cell phone rings. It’s Sandor.
“How are you doing?” she asks him, a bit too cheerfully.
“I’m at work, writing code.”
“Is the apartment comfortable for you?” she continues, shamelessly probing now for information.
“It was fine. I’m calling you because your phone at work has been ringing this afternoon and then this evening. Four times I think. The message light is blinking.”
A little shiver runs up Zaira’s spine. “Is anyone else working there tonight?”
“Are you alone?”
“Yes, no one is here, Zaira.”
“Please call me Sam whenever you are at work.”
“Sorry, I forgot.”
“Okay, I’m driving in. I’ll see you in about an hour.”
She hears his tone. “I’ll leave you to your code, Sandor. I won’t intrude. But, I really should check my messages.”
“Don’t you have them forwarded to your cell phone?” he asks incredulously.
“No. I keep my identities separate.”
She makes a quick course correction; no red lipstick and no jewelry. She pulls her hair into a pony tail and dons her tooth caps. Sneakers and a light parka replace the planned stilettos and fox jacket.
Zaira parks her red Carrera on a narrow side street in front of old 19th-century brickwork buildings that were once metal-working shops and now house small, bioinformatics companies. The car is several blocks away from BubbleTrendz; the night air has a bite to it and it invigorates her as she walks past a lone student, and past a cluster of laughing friends on their way to somewhere, texting their plans to other members of their social tribe. She quells a sudden predatory urge as she passes another lone male. Absolutely not here.
The lights are off when Zaira enters BubbleTrendz; only two exit lights are glowing. Because of her superb vampiric night vision, she doesn’t reflexively turn on more lights, but simply walks to her desk in the dark. She sees the blinking red message light of her phone and picks up the receiver. There are five short messages — all from Dean. The first one came in around ten this morning and the last one was less than an hour ago. Why would he call her at nine o’clock on a Saturday night with a question about office supplies? It’s surreal. She decides to hang around for a while, fairly certain he’ll call again. And, as she’s here, she may as well go by Sandor’s office.
Sandor’s office is dark except for the glow from the flat screen monitor. He is leaning forward in his chair, shoulders hunched, motionless, except for his long, thin fingers which are striking keys on the keyboard in sudden bursts of intensity. Zaira-cum-Sam watches him, fascinated that he finds computer programming so fascinating. She knows he is aware of her presence; they’d picked up each other’s scents the moment she had opened the front door of BubbleTrendz. She waits for him to acknowledge her, which he does presently.
“So you drove in. There was another call just after I talked to you-”
“Yes. They’re all from Dean. He called this evening about printer cartridges.” With concern in her voice she adds, “That’s just between you and me. Don’t mention this to Evan, okay?”
Sandor shrugs and turns back to writing code. “I can’t believe you drove all this way just to check messages. Are you going to stay at the apartment?”
“No, I’m going to wait a little and see whether Dean calls again. Then, I’m going out.” Catching his eye she says softly, “Don’t ask.”
Sam arrives late to the office Monday morning. She’s still a bit dazed and exhausted from her impulse long stride over the weekend. Not especially strenuous as such jaunts go, but she was out of conditioning for them, for the rarified metabolic state they required. Fresh blood had been invigorating, but if there was a net gain, she doesn’t feel it yet.
Disappointed, she sees that the message light is not blinking on her phone. She hears male voices near the front door, one of them is vaguely familiar. Maybe Dean is back today, bringing the new partners with him?
“Sam, please make fresh coffee and order some pastry and fruit from Lila’s.” Sam turns to face Mary, who is clearly peeved that Sam showed up twenty minutes late today.
“So Dean’s back?”
Mary doesn’t reply to this, but turns and walks toward the conference room where she welcomes three men who are standing there. Sam watches Mary usher them into the room. Dean is not among them.
Sam realizes she has seen one of them before — the guy who ate the rare roast beef sandwich in that same room only weeks earlier. But she knows he is not the leader of the group. The taller blonde guy might be Joel Anderson, his alpha human scent is unmistakable. She grabs her jacket, about to dash out to pick up breakfast goodies at the local high-end bakery known as Lila’s, when her phone rings. She starts at the sound and pounces on the receiver.
“Dean! Will you be coming in today?”
The pause is strange, ominous.
“No. Sam. I’m sorry if I seem odd, crazy, but somehow I believe I can trust you. You’re the only one.”
“I couldn’t tell you in a recorded message.” Sam hears his short intake of breath before he tells her in a quiet voice, “I have to be careful — I’m on the run now. I need money, it’s why I’m calling you. I want you to get cash with your BubbleTrendz credit card, it should be good for at least a thousand dollars.”
“How much do you actually need?” she asks him softly, scanning the hall with her eyes.
“I don’t know. I have to go now.”
“Where shall I send the money?”
“I’ll call you later.” Through the phone connection she hears new alarm in his voice. “Are there visitors today?”
“Three men, a tall blonde guy and-”
“Joel Anderson. Sam, do not trust him.”
“Why is he here?”
Dean’s wary tone now has an edge of bitterness.
“Because he believes I’m dead.”
— To be continued —