Sam opens her front door to face a middle-aged, dark-haired man dressed in an overcoat. He’s displaying an official badge prominently at eye level. “Lieutenant Barton, Boston Police Department. I’d like to speak to the owner of this residence. Would that be you?”
He assesses the young woman standing in the doorway: jeans, dark red ponytail, high cheekbones. Attractive, yes. But, glamor girl material?
“Officer, is there a problem? Has there been an accident?” Sam keeps her fingers gently curled to conceal the sharpened nails. Her hands are positioned quietly at her sides.
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out. I assume I’m speaking to the owner?”
Sam thinks quickly to avert a possible trap. “This is my family residence.” She beckons him into the foyer. A detective. He’ll have already found my name on the title to this house.
“Are you Zaira Farago?”
“Farago. Unusual name. Eastern European?”
“Yes. Hungarian, actually.” Where is he going with this! Will she have to kill this human right here?
Lieutenant Barton surveys his surroundings. “This is a beautiful old place. Historic. You purchased it a year ago?”
“Approximately. Lieutenant, I am entertaining company. How can I help you this evening?”
His steady, even gaze is unsettling. She suspects that her appearance and attitude seem incongruous to him. Get into your perky Sam persona, don’t be condescending to this detective!
Lieutenant Barton waits a moment before speaking. “What model of car do you drive, Ms. Farago.”
“I don’t like to drive. I take the train into Boston. And, I like to walk.”
He notes the evasive answer and asks, “Do you know your neighbors up the road, the people who live in the yellow Victorian?”
“No. Sorry.” Trying to sound helpful, she adds, “Are they in some kind of trouble?”
“They frequent a local place, The Cat’s Cradle. Ever been there?”
“Is that in Swampscott?” Her pulse is increasing. Stay calm.
He nods. “Were you there a week ago Monday night?”
Not good. “Monday, or was it Tuesday. I stopped in briefly.” She gives him a wide-eyed Sam look. “Why?”
He notes the slight upward tilt of her eyes. Dark, almond eyes. He tries to visualize her in a fur, diamond earrings, smoky eye makeup, hair down. She might be damned gorgeous dressed like that. “We’re investigating an incident that happened near there. I’m just making some local inquiries. Thanks for your time, Ms. Farago.”
Relief. “You’re welcome, Lieutenant.” He turns to leave and she opens the door for him. She hopes her gesture appears gracious and unhurried.
He stops in the open doorway, takes something from the inner breast pocket of his coat, and shows it to her. “Have you ever seen one of these?”
Oh god! One of her caps! She forces herself to examine it for a moment while he holds it out for inspection. She shrugs. “Is it a tooth or some dental thing?” Her now razor sharp nails graze her palms.
“A tooth cap, evidently. A quite unusual one. I’ve shown it to two cosmetic dentists. They’ve never seen one like it. It was recovered at the site of the incident.”
Sam gives him a pleasant, blank look. “Oh, so maybe it’s a clue?” She shrugs again, her pose waif-like, girlish. “I don’t think I can connect the dots here.”
“That’s my job.” He puts the small white object back in his breast pocket. “Ms. Farago, could you give me a phone number to reach you? In case I need to contact you again?”
Sam returns to the living room and Gil perceives at once that she is shaken. He continues to hold the candelabra. “That was a cop you were talking to, wasn’t it?”
She nods and calls up the staircase, “Dean, it’s all clear down here.” Her nails are still too sharp. She slips her hands into her jeans pockets.
“What does he want?” Rina asks nervously, also noting the change in Sam’s demeanor.
“Nothing to do with us. Or Dean.” Sam avoids eye contact with Sandor. “Something to do with a local bar, some altercation. He said he was a detective, covering his bases, inquiring whether locals knew anything relevant.”
“Did he show you some ID?” Dean is now at the foot of the staircase and looks worried.
Sam nods. She observes Dean’s expression and adds, “It really had nothing to do with this. I’m certain.” She knows that she looks and sounds rattled.
“Sam, we can’t be sure.” Dean begins pacing the floor. “Police could be enlisted by Joel and company. They have immense resources available to them. To think otherwise is suicidal.”
Gil places the candelabra back on the mantel of the fireplace and turns to Sam. “I overheard some of your conversation.” He gives her a baffled look. “So, who is Ms. Farago? Why would he call you that?”
Sandor recoils and is about to speak. Sam cuts him off. “It’s my uncle’s wife. The house is in her name. I didn’t want to explain more to that detective than I had to. That’s all.” She tries to catch Sandor’s eye, but he is staring lividly at the floor.
“This may not be a safe haven,” Dean says flatly. “I need to keep moving.”
“But, that detective doesn’t know you were here,” Sam counters. But, will he figure out the connection between Sam Rush and Zaira Farago? This thought definitely worries her.
“Sam does have a point,” Gil says, looking at Dean. “If Joel suspected you were here, why wouldn’t he just hit the place? Why send a cop to ask bogus questions? That would be giving us a jump on things. I don’t think that detective is connected with them.”
“Sam, could public records link you to your uncle and aunt who live here?” Dean asks. “Have you ever mentioned their names to anyone at BubbleTrendz?”
The question flusters her, despite her effort to hide it, and Dean notices this. “What, Sam?”
Sam can smell Sandor’s fury and angst. She dare not look at him. “Dean, no one at BubbleTrendz — except the people in this room right now– have ever heard of my family members or know of this house.” She hesitates, then decides to continue. “The detective did ask for my phone number, although there’s no land line here.” She gives a fatalistic shrug. “I gave him a false number, not my cell.”
“Sounds like he plans to be in touch. He’ll return here when he can’t reach you.” Dean is clearly unhappy.
“Probably true. So, I’m the one who can’t stay here.” Sam looks at Dean. “But, you are safer here right now than anywhere else.” She looks at Gil. “Maybe you should stay here, too.”
“Evan fired me while you were gone,” Gil explains to Dean. “Accused me of his own crimes. Perhaps they’ll decide firing me wasn’t sufficient.”
“And if this detective returns, who are we?” Dean says.
Sam shakes her head. “Don’t answer. Keep the lights off, the doors locked.” Her expression brightens. “This nineteenth-century house has an enormous cellar. The previous owner turned a section of it into a man cave — with no windows. There’s even a half bath down there.”
“Electrical outlets down there?” Gil asks, now opening the laptop he brought with him.
“That, too,” she tells him.
“Do they keep a car here, your aunt and uncle?” Dean asks.
“I’m afraid not.” How many more lies will she need to tell tonight? But, the red Porsche must not be seen by the watchful eyes of Lieutenant Barton.
Sam can’t tell Dean that there is a red Carrera, ready and able, parked in the carriage house. She also can’t tell him that, lucky for Sam, the car’s registration and title bear the name of Paula Graves of Rockville, Maryland — Zaira’s guise before becoming Sam at BubbleTrendz. She can’t disclose that Paula had been following developments in artificial blood technology conducted by a small research firm in Gaithersburg. Promising work it appeared, until office assistant ‘Paula’ concluded that the effort was mired in governmental regulatory issues and that the cofounders, both brilliant ex-academics, were becoming increasingly adversarial with each other over patent issues. No product would be forthcoming for years. Not a good investment for Kaminsky, Farago and Rhoer. So, mild-mannered Paula Graves, who never drove her car to work, quit her job and vanished. And Sam can never tell Dean that the Carrera had been an impulse buy when Zaira had felt suddenly, unexpectedly, homesick for her own kind. She can never tell him of her joyrides on country roads in the middle of the night, solitary drives which had proven to be a surprising solace for a lonesome vampire.
Instead, Sam tells him, “I’ll take a cab in the morning to the store. Sandor and Rina can help me shop for provisions. That should set you two up for a while.”
Dean smiles wryly at her. “No wonder I hired you. You’ve got a solution for every problem, don’t you?”
“Only the easy ones,” she replies, thinking again of Joel Anderson and the market crash.
Gil presents them with a screenful of news on his laptop: multiple stories about the financial meltdown, two suicides on Wall Street.
“My god, what’s going to be next?” Rina says softly.
“Monday isn’t going to be pretty,” Gil says, scrolling through pages of calamitous market news.
“We’ve got to figure out Joel’s next move and stop him,” Dean says quietly. “Time is running out.”
– To be continued