Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 1

“It’s all illusion, smoke and mirrors,” Daniel said as he watched from their vantage point high above the street.

Jared rested the palms of his hand on the parapet, peering down at the people walking ten stories below them. With his eyesight he had no problems distinguishing one form from another any more than his partner did. “I know that goblin," he said, pointing. "Stupid but harmless.”

Daniel spotted the one he was talking about and shook his head. “Someone should have told him that teens haven’t dressed that way in fifty years.”

“Retro my dear man, retro.”

“Still an insane form to take if you ask me.”

Jared turned to look at Daniel. “Says the were-jag who lets his hair grow down to his waist so he looks like a hippie.”

“Better than a day-walker who…” Daniel paused, trying to think of an appropriate insult.

“Yes?” Jared cocked an eyebrow, waiting.

“Okay, okay, so you’re the epitome of perfect style to the nth degree.”

Jared’s smirk said it all as he turned back to the job at hand. “We have liftoff,” he said a few minutes later.

Daniel joined him. Nodding, he checked his weapons. “Ready when you are.”

Seconds later they landed in the alley across from the building and stepped out into the throng of pedestrians. A quick glance told them their target was only a few yards ahead of them. The man was tall and muscular, wearing tight-fitting jeans and white T-shirt covered by a leather vest. He moved like the predator he was, his head swiveling right and left as if searching for the perfect prey.

Jared and Daniel closed on him fast. “Looking for something,” Daniel asked menacingly as he dropped the thin stiletto into his hand and pressed the tip to the small of the man’s back while latching on to his arm tightly with his free hand.

Jared stepped in front the man, turning to face him, a small pistol barely visible in his fist. “Silver, in case you couldn’t figure that out by yourself. Come quietly and I may not shoot, ‘may’ being the operative word there. I’m not so certain my friend is quite so inclined to mercy all things considered.”

“Oh,” Daniel said, “and don’t get any ideas about vanishing. Felines always move faster than canines.”

The man gave a low growl that proved he was just what Daniel had said. “If I come with you then what?”

“You face your peers and they will decide your punishment.”

“And if I try to flee you kill me now. Definitely a no-brainer of a decision.” The were-wolf tensed and then leapt up, grabbing the edge of a ledge twelve feet above them.

Daniel was seconds behind him, landing on the ledge just as the were-wolf pulled himself up on to it. “Going somewhere,” Daniel asked with a grin as he moved lithely forward. “Canines ain’t so great at tightrope walking even in human form. You should have run instead.” He slammed his fist into the were-wolf’s chest, the force of the blow pushing the creature through the pane glass window behind him. Before the creature hit the floor Daniel was on him, the dagger piercing his heart just as he started to shift.

A woman screamed. Daniel glanced up, smiled and shrugged.

“Looks like you have things somewhat under control,” Jared said as he appeared beside Daniel and the dead were-wolf. He shot a look at the terrified woman and her eyes glazed over. Touching her mind he wiped it of what she had witnessed before suggesting she get back to work.

Once the woman left Jared shook his head. “You had to pick the lady’s room, right?”

“Hey, not like I really had an option. He’s the one who chose to stand by the window when I punched him.”

“Excuses, always with the excuses,” Jared grumbled, but he was smiling as he said it. “Okay, let’s get this out of here before someone comes in.”

They each grabbed one of the dead were’s arms and seconds later the room was vacant.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Guardian Angels – Protection (10)

"She's a lady," Jamie whispered when Kip and Cass arrived to pick him up from Emily's.
Kip laughed. "That she is, but she's also a cop. She's my protector during the day, while you're staying here with Emily."
"Oh. Okay." Jamie looked at Cass wide-eyed then whispered again, "Do you like her?"
"Sure. She seems nice enough, from what little I've seen of her."
Jamie grabbed Kip's hand, tugging him toward the car. "Are you going to see her again?"
"Every day until this is over, I guess."
"Good." Jamie beamed at Cass. "Can we go on a picnic on Saturday?"
"I…umm…I'm not sure that's a good idea. Maybe"—Cass looked at Kip—"does he like movies?"
Kip snorted. "He's eight. What eight-year-old doesn't?"
"Maybe a movie instead," she said, returning her attention to Jamie.
"Yes." Jamie pumped his fist in the air before jumping into the car when Kip opened the back door.
Kip noticed—as he had earlier when they were not inside classrooms—that all the time Cass was talking, she was also scanning the area. This gave him a strong sense of both confidence that she could protect them if necessary and an occasional shiver of fear that it was even necessary.
When they arrived back at Kip's apartment Kip parked in the lot then waited for Cass to join them before heading to the building's entrance. Officer Caldwell—"Call me Mack"—was waiting there for them.
"You're big," Jamie said in awe. Which he was, at about six-two and probably two-twenty-five, Kip guessed.
Mack laughed. "So I've been told a time or three, but it's all muscle."
"Braggart," Cass muttered dismissively. "You don't have to be big to be good."
He grinned. "Nope, but it helps. Still"—now he smiled at her—"when it comes down to it, I wouldn't want to tangle with you during target practice. You're one of the best shots on the force."
"You are?" Jamie looked even more awestruck, if that was possible.
Cass nodded. "I came in second overall."
"Wow. I'm glad you're guarding my Dad."
"Me too," Kip agreed. "What time tomorrow?"
"When do you leave the apartment?" Cass asked.
"My first class is at nine."
"Then I'll be here at eight-thirty," she replied, before returning to her car.
Kip watched until she was out of sight before unlocking the front door of the building.
"You like her," Jamie said, as they went inside and crossed the lobby to the elevator.
"I told you I did."
"I mean you like her."
Kip shook his head. "I've only known her for a few hours. For all I know, she's married with…three kids."
"She's not," Mack told him, looking amused at the conversation.
"See, Dad."
"Enough," Kip muttered, which effectively ended Jamie's probing—for the time being, at least.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Three Lovers on the Grift - 31

It took Lyman several days, and all of his persuasive powers, but he was finally able to convince the powers-that-be within the Portland Police Department that they'd be better served by using Vaughn, Page, and Nigel as undercover agents than they would be by arresting them. Then there was another wait while the decision was cleared nationally and all wants and warrants against the trio were dropped.

With everything set, Lyman and Silas were again standing at the back door of the trio's house, waiting for one of them to answer their knock. The door opened, and Vaughn ushered them inside then from there, into the living room.

"I'll get the others," he said. Then he asked quietly, "Is it all set up?"

"I'd rather tell all of you at the same time," Lyman replied, keeping his demeanor serious.

With a nod, Vaughn went upstairs, returning moments later with Page and Nigel in tow. Once everyone was settled, the three lovers waited, worried expressions on their faces, for Lyman to speak.

"It's a go."

"Thank God. No, no, thank you!" Page sprang to her feet, crossing to hug Lyman so hard he had to beg her to let him breathe. She laughed, releasing her hold on him.

"I'd hug you too, but Silas might take issue with that," Nigel said with a grin.

"He might," Lyman agreed, chuckling.

"Now what happens?" Vaughn asked.

Lyman explained everything, including the fact that all possible charges against them had been dropped. "At this point, the three of you need to go talk to one of the local detectives." He handed Vaughn a card with the man's name and phone number. "He'll get things set up and you go from there."

"Thank you," Vaughn said sincerely. "Now we have one more small thing to settle."

Page went back to the sofa, settling in Vaughn's lap with a shake of her head. "Hardly small."

"True." Wrapping an arm around her waist, he looked at Lyman and Silas. "We'd like to name the two of you as the twins' guardians, just in case something happens to us."

"Are you serious?" Silas was obviously surprised, but ecstatic as well from the smile on his face.

"Very serious, if you're willing."

"We'd be honored," Lyman replied softly.

And so it came about that the three lovers were able to give up the grift, at least the illegal one. While that wasn't the end of their story by any means, it was the end of life as they'd known it, and the beginning of a new one.

The End

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Three Lovers on the Grift - 30

Page let out a long breath, laying her head against the back of the sofa. "Now what?" she asked, not looking at the others.

"We take care of the immediate problem first," Nigel said, picking up Brian. "Change diapers."

Vaughn rolled his eyes as he went to get Marcia who was half asleep on the sofa next to Page. "We'll be right back."

They were, five minutes later. Page took the twins to nurse and when everyone was settled again she repeated her question, "Now what?"

"What do the two of you think of his idea?" Vaughn countered.

"It could be—interesting," Nigel said. "He's right about the fact that we've got the skills. And if it keeps us out of jail—"

"Which, according to him, is on our horizon in spades right now."

"Do you think he's got the pull to arrange this?" Page asked.

Vaughn nodded. "I don't think he'd have suggested it if he didn't."

She looked down at the twins with a worried frown. "It will be dangerous."

"True, and before you say it, we won't cut you out of it, but we will make certain that only two of the three of us go off on a job at any one time. That way, just in case of trouble, Brian and Marcia will still have one parent."

"That's a rather morbid thought," Nigel said, "but realistic, I guess."

"We have to face the fact this is not going to be just grifts. We'll be dealing with hardened criminals who have no intention of being caught."

"If this all happens," Page said quietly, "I want us to pick guardians for Marcia and Brian. Or rather, make it official that if, worst case scenario, something happens to one or two of us, whoever's left has no problems about having the right to keep them."

"I agree," Vaughn replied. "And I think we should take it one step further. Now don't shoot me, but Silas and Lyman came here to warn us because of the twins, which to my mind could make them possible secondary guardians."

Nigel looked at him in surprise. "We hardly know them."

"True, but there's no one else I'd even consider. Certainly no one in any of our families."

"For damned sure," Page muttered.

"Okay, before we make a decision on that, let's see if Lyman can work his magic and make the whole deal with the cops happen." Nigel looked at his lovers. "That is, if we're all willing."

"I am," Page stated emphatically. "I want this to be our home, no more running. If that's what it takes then we do it."

"I agree," Vaughn said firmly as he walked across to the sofa. He gently stroked the babies’ heads, then kissed Page and Nigel as if to seal the deal. "I'll get them back up here and we'll let them know our decision."

Monday, April 17, 2017

Three Lovers on the Grift - 29

"As you said," Vaughn pointed out, "we strike hard and fast and then vanish. We're not into the big con, the wire game, or the Tip; they take too many people and last too long."

Lyman nodded. "The same reason we keep our little side business to just the two of us."

"So I get that the word is now out about us to all police departments, nationally." Vaughn looked at Lyman for confirmation.

"Yes," Lyman replied. "And with pictures of Page, the ones she gave that mark."

"Damn it!" Vaughn glanced at his lovers. "We blew it on that. Although you were a blonde in them, Page."

"The cops aren't stupid, Vaughn, they've come up with composites with her in varying hair colors and lengths."

"Which means the department here has them too, I suspect. Hell."

Lyman nodded.

Page looked miserably at the others. "And here we thought we finally could settle down and have real lives like everyone else."

"With our help, maybe you still can," Silas responded. "Not to put too fine a point on it, how are you doing financially at the moment?"

"We're not hurting." Vaughn smiled tightly.

"So despite what we overheard, you don't have to run another con anytime soon."

"No. It's more a matter of keeping our hand in."

"Have the three of you ever considered going legit?" Silas asked.

Nigel snorted. "Doing what? The grift is all we know."

Lyman tapped his fingers together as he studied the trio. "Remember when you asked the first time we met if I ever went undercover to get a story?"

"Yeah, and?"

Lyman glanced at Silas, getting a small nod from him, and then said, "Obviously I have friends in the police department. I just might be able to act as a middleman and get them to cut you a deal."

That piqued Vaughn's interest. "What sort of deal?"

"The three of you are experts at going undercover if you think about it. Plus you have no connection whatsoever with law enforcement." Lyman chuckled, "Quite the opposite, actually. I happen to know from talking to a couple of detectives on the force that they could make use of someone with your skills. In point of fact, most police departments could when it comes down to it."

"That's hardly going to help us pay the bills, even on the off chance they'd go for it."

"Discretionary funds," Lyman told him, "plus whatever you can pick up while on the job. You're grifters; just use your skills on the people you're gathering information about."

Vaughn nodded slowly, looking at Page and Nigel, and then said, "Give us a few to talk this over?"

"Of course. We'll wait downstairs, if that's all right." Lyman and Silas stood when Vaughn gave them a sharp nod, leaving the office.