Chapter 4 (Part I)
Jezz nodded. She stood up and headed toward the back. Evey really didn't have her own office, but there was a "conference" room. Davidson was a bastard. He had Evey in the front with Jezz, even when he had an extra room that was rarely used. She knocked gently on the door.
"What?" Evey's voice was slightly strained.
"Evey, there's someone here to see you. A woman named Cei."
Evey, inside the "conference room" a little more than a storage closet with a table, blinked up a the closed door in surprise. Why was Cei here? And in the middle of the day to boot? She looked at the man who had been giving her a headache--to his amusement--for the last half hour. He took up most of the space in the small room. She didn't know how much more of this she could handle.
"Graham, I, uh, need to talk to her."
"Don't let me keep you. Remember, I'm just here to pick you up and take you to lunch."
"An hour early," she groaned.
"Yeah, well, this was safer than talking about all this at the restaurant."
"Besides I got some free time. I figured better sooner than later."
He squeezed her shoulder.
"You're okay with all this, right?"
She rolled her eyes.
"You're okay with all of me, right?"
"Course. Even with, you know, the stuff we're not sure about."
"Good. I'm fine too, Graham. But my brain is just reeling from the coincidence of all this."
"There's no such thing as coincidence."
"Well, are you going to introduce me?"
Evey's brow furrowed.
"To Cei waiting outside."
She bit her lip.
"You sure you want to?"
"Course. I'd love to meet a nice, clairvoyant vampire who hasn't told her boyfriend yet."
His grin was wolfish. God, she would never be able to think that again without rolling her eyes at the irony. She shook her head and shrugged.
"Fine. Come on. After I see what Cei wants, we hit the diner, okay? I'm starved."
"For Keatting or food."
"I'm going to kick you."
Graham laughed, the echo of it sounding through the rest of the office. Evey rolled her eyes and left the room, heading to the front where Cei waited. Graham followed behind her. Evey glanced at her friend, and wondered what Cei would think. If Cei would know about him. He was huge, standing at 6'4" with a shoulder width of at least three feet from one shoulder to the other. He was muscle-bound, roguish looking with a shadow already on his lantern jaw, longish black hair and piercing gray eyes. Now, Evey could see all the nuances about his appearance that had always made her think of him as wolfish and credit it to her observation skills. She may not have known because she'd never run into one before now, but she'd noticed despite it. She just hadn't figured it out.
"Hey, Cei," Evey said with some amusement, looking at the covered up woman. "What do you need?"
It had to be a little important if Cei was out in the middle of the day. Storm or no storm. Cei opened her eyes, having almost fallen back asleep, and sat up to look at Evey.
"Oh good! I caught you before you went out to lunch!"
She stretched her arms.
"I asked one of my friends about your missing person. He has contacts all over the city. Found out that a Russian who goes by KC just moved into a small basement room in the downtown area. Thought you'd like to know."
Cei glanced up at the man standing behind her friend.
"Cei this is Det. Brendan Graham, Graham this is Cei." Evey smiled. "Thanks, Cei. I'll see what I can find today and try to get in touch with him."
She looked from Cei to Graham and back.
"And no, neither of you are coming with me, just in case either of you had the idea."
It took Graham a moment to recover. There wasn't much of the woman he could see, after all it was midday, despite the storm and he knew she was a vampire, but damn what he could tell... She was gorgeous. He avoided cruenti as a general rule; he kind of didn't want any of them knowing about him until they did something really bad and he had to kill them, since at that point it really didn't matter.
But Evey trusted her, so he figured he'd be safe.
But damn. Evey could've warned him that she was hot as hell.
She's taken, he reminded himself, while he put out his hand for her.
Cei took it and nodded towards him, smile widening.
"Nice to meet you, detective," she said. "I imagine we'll both get to know each other better, seeing as we have a mutual friend in Evey."
She turned back toward her as she stood, yawning again.
"I really need to get back home. I need my sleep, and the sun's starting to come out. Have a good lunch at the diner, and say hi to Will for me, hm?"
"I will. And thanks again for the tip, Cei. I really appreciate it."
She walked Cei out. She wanted to ask who she'd gotten the information from, but it was better to leave that for later.
"Here's the address," Cei said before she left, handing Evey a slip of paper. "I better get inside soon. Give me a ring later this evening, alright?"
Evey nodded, taking the slip of paper and sticking it in her coat pocket. She waved Cei off and then returned into the office. Graham was giving her an amused glance.
She reached for her purse and turned to Jezz.
"We're going to head out for lunch now, Jezz. Forward any calls for me to my cellphone?"
"No problem," Jezz said, a little sigh to her voice as her attention returned to Graham. Evey rolled her eyes.
"Come on. Lunch is on you."
"Since you decided to come early."
Graham laughed, waved to Jezz, and headed out with Evey. They took her car, and despite the traffic, they were at the diner within ten minutes.
"Be good," she told him.
"I promise," Graham replied, holding back a laugh. She rolled her eyes and headed inside.
"Just two?" the host asked.
"Just two," Evey replied. "And if possible, could you seat us in Will's section?"
"Ah, you're the friend he said would be dropping by. Right this way."
He sat them both in a booth within view of the bar, handing them their menus. Shortly, Will came by, in full uniform.
"Hey, you made it. Nice to see you, Evey."
He looked over at Graham.
"Who's your friend?"
"Will, this is Det. Brendan Graham. Graham, this is Will."
Evey grinned up at him. He was sexy in his uniform too. Was the man ever not sexy, she wondered.
"He wanted to meet you, and we were wondering if, after lunch, you had some free time so we could talk?"
"Sure," he said cheerfully. "I haven't taken my break yet, so when you're done, we can chat for a bit."
Will pulled out his notepad.
"In the meantime, can I start you off with anything to drink?"
Evey couldn't stifle her grin. She put her chin in her palm, and still looking up at him said, "I'll have coffee and water."
Graham watched Evey with a little amusement. The woman certainly seemed twitter-paitted. He hadn't seen anything from this Keatting yet to understand why yet, but he would. The man certainly looked like he could handle a vampire who came at him. He was probably kind of popular as a waiter too. There was a small twitch in his lips.
"I'll have a Coke."
Will nodded as he jotted these down.
"Alright, I'll be back in a moment," he said before turning back towards the kitchen. "Eric! Draw one in the dark with a lot of sand. I also need an Atlanta special and some city juice."
"Coming right up!" the other man called back. Evey chuckled and looked to Graham. She caught his smile and tossed him a glare.
"How long have you known the hunter?"
"Just a couple of days. Why? Does it matter?"
"It's just interesting."
"Hey, he's the first guy in years who has actually been interested in me."
"Good for you then. But don't let it stop you from being objective."
"Just because of what he is?" she smirked. "I could say the same about you."
A couple minutes later, Will returned with their drinks.
"There you go," he said, setting each in front of them. "Are you ready to order, or do you need a little more time?"
"I'll have the St. Louis chicken sandwich, please," Evey said.
"I'll take the Bacon Double Cheeseburger, medium rare, with fries. Will you join us for lunch?" Graham asked. Will glanced at some of the other booths.
"Well, it isn't busy today... let me ask my manager if I can take my break now. I'll let him know you're friends. If I can sit with you, I'll bring my lunch out with your meals."
After writing they're meals he again returned to the back.
"Be nice," Evey warned when Will was out of earshot.
"I am being nice!" Graham said and then gave her a wolfish grin. Another waiter came by to offer them refills on their drinks before Will at last came out with their meals.
"I have an hour," Will said as he sat down with them. Evey beamed at him.
She took her plate, happy with her sandwich. It looked quite good. Graham too tore into his burger and fries, and then complimented Will on the tastiness.
"I've got some updates for you," Evey said after a long moment, looking at Will. "No one will bother us right?"
He shook his head as he swallowed a bit of his BLT.
"Since you're my table, no, although Ginger may drop by to refill your drinks. What's new?"
"Cei dropped by to give me a tip on our missing Russian."
She looked from Will to Graham and back again.
"And Graham was on site of the accident yesterday. He found out the accident wasn't one."
"Brake lines were cut. We're still trying to find a connection between the victims."
Will stared at both of them in shock for a moment.
"Before I make any comments," he said, turning to Evey. "How much did you tell him?"
"Everything. He knew a lot more than he led me to believe all these years."
She arched an eyebrow at Graham.
"Do you want to tell him or should I?"
Graham grinned. He looked over at Keatting.
"Evey never told me everything about her, nor anything else that had to do with..."
He lifted a shoulder.
"With her dealings with the supernatural, because she knew I was more than what I let on. Just like I knew she was. I'm just as aware as she is about what goes on in this city and who lurks in it. But after last night, I figured it was about time we came clean. There were too many coincidences happening on my end, just like on her end, for us to not trust each other."
Graham took a sip of his drink. His gaze shifted to Keatting, and his eyes shifted, becoming wolfish for a moment.
"Evey had never run into my kind, oddly enough, so she couldn't identify me for what I was. Unlike you and your friend Cei. But truth be told, I've never met anyone like Evey. Have you?"
Will smiled, shaking his head as he drank the coffee he'd brought with him.
"I thought she was like me, at first, but I'll admit, Evey's abilities surpass my own."
He looked over at her, chewing on his lip slightly.
"Like at the restaurant. I couldn't have done that without getting a severe headache afterwards."
Evey blushed, taking a sip of her own coffee. Graham smiled.
"Yeah. To be honest, I didn't know the extent of her skills until she told me, but I knew she wasn't anything associated with..."
He lifted his shoulder again.
"But she was different. And she certainly wasn't anything like me."
"I'm still trying to figure out what I am."
"And the scary part is," Graham said, turning is gray gaze to her, now once again normal. "That who knows what other abilities you have that you haven't tapped into yet."
Evey's brow furrowed.
"I don't know of any others. But then, I haven't really explored it."
"I spent a lot of time mastering what I knew I had."
She grinned devilishly and gave Will a sidelong glance.
"Last night was just a taste. There's stuff I've done that you probably never thought you could do with TK."
Graham turned back to Keatting.
"I know about you and your brother. I do similar work, but no one knows about me, and I intend to keep it that way. The less anyone knows the better. Guard your thoughts as best you can."
Amusement twisted on his face.
"Actually the first I've approached without uh... 'relocating' has been your friend Cei. I tend to avoid contact with any others like her unless I am 'relocating' them."
"For good reason," Evey added. "I may not have known because I've never come across someone like Graham before, unlike you and Cei, but I'm sure she knew what Graham was the moment she saw him."
"In either case," Graham said. "We should probably talk shop. Let me know if you find your Russian, V. But as for the other..."
He looked back to Keatting.
"Tell me what do you know of your friend Cei's 'problem'? Any information that you know outside of the rumors I've heard and the little Evey knows would help me trying to locate him."
"I know very little myself," Will admitted, sighing slightly. "Cei's has been talking about him for as long as I've known her, which (comparatively speaking) isn't incredibly long. I know he's Italian, though he's speaks fluent English. From what Cei has implied, I think he's actually married to her."
He scratched the back of his head, frowning.
"Trouble is she often contradicts herself when she talks about him, so it's hard to tell what's true and what isn't. I think she's worried about dragging Jon into it all."
Graham pursed his lips.
"Well, I'll still see what I can dig up. Rumors, especially dark ones like these where most people are terrified, are hard to find the truth behind them. But I'll keep you posted if I get any tips."
He turned to Evey.
"Oh, and by the way, I found the owner of the book. You need to be careful from here on out, V."
His gaze turned hot on Keatting.
"Mr. Drecks, the owner of the book Evey picked up at Cei's, he was one of the men in the cars that exploded yesterday."
Evey's eyes widened in shock. Will almost dropped his sandwich.
"What?" he asked. "That's just a little too creepy for coincidence."
He looked over at Evey, frowning with worry.
"You don't still have that book, do you?"
"Actually... I do."
Graham nodded as well. He'd figured. He turned back to Keatting.
"You need to protect her as much as you can."
He looked back at Evey.
"Don't go doing any of your investigations without someone with you. There might be more to that book than we think. It could be hidden. Check it out."
Evey swallowed. Way too many coincidences.
"Once is chance, twice is coincidence, thrice is enemy action."
"But couldn't have the crash happening in the video store parking lot have been coincidence?" Will asked, trying to think things through. "I mean, the decision to rent a few DVDs was completely spontaneous..."
He rubbed his forehead.
"And on that note, who was in the other car?"
"A filius of an elder. His name was Roderick Vendel. A filius of the elder Jesse. Do either of you know anything about him?"
Graham looked from one to the other. He knew his share, but he wasn't as involved in that world as they were.
"Oh shit," Will grumbled, looking over at the detective. "The filius of Jesse Taylor? That could be very, very bad. He's the oldest cruentus in the city, and the head of the Council of Elders."
Evey looked at Will.
"It wouldn't surprise me if all of this was connected somehow. The book I was supposed to get for Mr. Drecks, Cei having it, meeting you and Jon, being hired by Dr. Setheh to find the Russian, the attack at the restaurant, Cei's premonition, my search for my mother, her relationship to the psychopath, and the accident last night where Dr. Setheh was, along with us, the man who hired me to find the book, and a filius of an Elder."
Her gaze slid to Graham.
"And then Graham's revelation."
"I'm going to go through all my files on homicides over the last few months. See if there are anymore pieces to this puzzle. But Evey, don't go searching on your own. The only thing all of this has in common... is you. Cei is involved more than any of us, but the only common line for all of it is you. Whatever is going on, whomever is pulling the strings, it's like what her premonition said. You two are in the middle of it."
Will was silent for a moment while he finished his coffee. When it was gone, he set his mug down slowly, hanging his head.
"God damn it all," he said. "This means I'll have to go talk to Jesse again. He is not going to be in a good mood at all. I'm sure he knows already."
He turned to Evey.
"Want to come along when I do? He's friendlier to women."
Evey blinked in surprise. If Graham was right and she and Cei were indeed much more involved in this than they expected, then it would probably be best if she knew what she was up against. She nodded.
"Yes. Will you come with me to the Russian's place?"
"Absolutely!" he said, as if the thought of not going with her had never even crossed his mind. Will took a moment to look down at his watch.
"I've got about twenty minutes left. Anyone up for dessert?"
Evey flushed at Will's adamant affirmation. She looked at her empty plate and for a moment her mind fell back to all the 'coincidences' and her connection to them. She felt like she could use some dessert at this point.
"I'll have that chocolate cheesecake. And another coffee, please?"
She looked up at him, her flush still not having completely gone away.
"Keatting," Graham said as the other man stood up. "I want your word that you'll protect her when I can't. I have less time than you do. Your second job is basically my only job. Whatever you have to do to get stronger, take it. Whatever is going on out there, I don't doubt that both Cei and Evey are a part of it."
"You know, that isn't comforting," Evey said, eyes narrowed.
"It's not supposed to be," Graham replied without looking at her. His stare leveled with Keatting's.
"Swear. I promise I'll be there to help you when you need me. To protect Cei or anyone else that needs it. It's what I do. Serve and protect. Pledge the same. At least for Evey."
Will's eyes narrowed in perhaps the most serious expression he had ever shown.
"I swear it," he agreed. "And visiting Jesse will certainly help. I just hope he's up to a small favor."
He leaned against the table, tapping his fingers.
"Is there anything you want for dessert, detective?"
Graham smiled and shook his head.
"Just a cup of coffee will do. I take mine black."
He nodded at Keatting.
Evey looked from one man to the other, brow furrowed. She had to wonder who the hell they thought they were? Supermen? As far as she knew she was stronger than even Will against a cruenti. But then, that was speculation, just as much as everything else was. She had been taking care of herself for years now.
Given though, things were not as creepy or coincidental as now.
Definitely enemy action.
Will left with a nod to get their desserts, which didn't take very long (he wasn't kidding when he said it wasn't busy that day). When he returned, he had fixed himself a milkshake, and he plucked the cherry on top to offer it to Evey.
"Cherry? In diner speak, it's called a maiden's delight."
Evey's face flamed up, then she smirked.
"That seems kind of ironic."
She was actually kind of glad for the sudden lightness. Things had gotten too serious. She'd been thinking too hard about what was going on. She opened her hand for the cherry.
Will laughed, almost forgetting Graham was there.
"What makes you say it's ironic?" he asked. "Or would you rather not mention it at the table?"
Evey blushed again, looking at Will in surprise. Up to now he'd never been so forward or playful with her. To be honest, except for the two of the three stolen kisses, she had thought he was kind of standoffish. No, wait. That first morning he'd been playful too. But he certainly hadn't been since. If it hadn't been for the kiss on the street last night and the kiss yesterday morning in her apartment, she never would've thought he was interested enough to even try. As it stood, she was kind of the one pushing it. After all, she was the one who'd asked him out twice. And showed up on his doorstep today for lunch too.
Graham was paying attention to his coffee, but Evey caught the smirk when her gaze had shifted to him for a moment.
Oh, he could deal with it. She wasn't going to pass up a playful Will. She didn't know if she would get to see this side of him very often. In fact, she wasn't even sure what had brought it on.
She was definitely grateful for it though. She smiled, her eyes meeting Will's.
"It's ironic because of the play on words. And I think you know the meaning perfectly well."
"Popping a maiden's cherry is a delight for whom?"
"You have a point," Will agreed, drinking some of his shake. "And that is where the term came from. Though I thought it was more ironic that I gave my cherry to you, and not the other way around."
Evey couldn't help the smirk.
"You're right. That's ironic too. Does that mean you want me to pop your cherry?"
She put the said bit of fruit in her mouth and pulled it free of its stem with her teeth.
"Would you be offended if I said it was too late for that?"
Will plucked the stem from her fingers and put it in his mouth, twisting it while he waited for her answer.
"No," she said, her eyes shifting to his lips and the stem for a moment before returning to his eyes. "Would you be offended if I said it was too late for that too?"
He shook his head in response, pulling the now knotted stem from his mouth. Will looked at it for a moment before looking back at Evey with a small shrug.
"I think I just beat my record for tying these things."
He looked across the table and noticed Graham was gone.
"Am I to assume that's good or bad?"
Evey chuckled, her gaze shifting to the stem, then across the table to where Graham had been.
"If I know Graham, he was just being polite by giving us a few minutes."
She looked back at Will.
"We were talking about popping cherries, you know."
"True," Will chuckled. "You were right; we really do need to arrange a date that's just the two of us."
He looked at his watch.
"Awe, damn. I need to get back to work. Need anything while I'm headed back to the kitchen?"
Evey shook her head. She glanced at his mouth again, but then turned back to her coffee.
"No, I'm good. Thanks, Will."
He was somewhat reluctant to leave, however, and sat there for a while longer.
"I think they won't mind if I finish my drink first," he said, trying to come up with an excuse to stay. "I'm not the only one here, and you're the only table in my section that has anyone."
Will drank more of his shake, albeit slowly.
"Yeah... they won't mind..."
"Surprising, all things considered. You know, with how popular you are. But then," she paused looking back up at him. "It might because it's after the lunch rush and before the dinner rush."
She smiled at him, and once more, her gaze flickered to his mouth. Will chuckled and took her chin gently. He leaned forward, grazing her lips with his, putting just enough pressure so his lips caressed hers.
Evey sighed softly into his mouth and parted her lips for him, her body trembling slightly.
Will took the offering and deepened the kiss, his tongue sliding in to rub gently against hers. His hand slipped from her chin to her nape, holding her in place as his mouth stroked hers. She tasted like chocolate and coffee. He took his time, savoring the kiss, enjoying the slight tremble in her skin beneath his fingers.
Evey kissed back, giving as much as he did, losing herself in the kiss. He tasted like milkshake and blood, an intoxicating combination.
When Will pulled away, he smiled, a little breathless.
Evey's breath was ragged. The kiss had been gentle but intense. Her heart pounded hard in her chest.
"Wow..." she breathed.
"You took the words right out of my mouth," Will agreed, sighing happily. "Absolutely worth stalling for..."
Will nearly knocked his shake over.
"Shit... I better go..."
"Keatting! You're break's over! Get back to work!"
"When are you off today?" he asked as he slid out of the booth.
"Seven, like yesterday. But I can get out a little earlier. I want to change out of my work clothes, not like yesterday," she said, wrinkling her nose.
"I'll stop by your place at seven-thirty then," Will told her as he left the booth. "I've got a surprise I want to show you."
Evey blinked and then smiled. She nodded.
Just then Graham showed up again.
"Ready? I already paid the tab."
"Aw, how sweet."
She finished off her coffee and cheesecake quickly, and then slid out of the booth. She kissed Will lightly, sending a flutter down to her belly.
"I'll see you at seven-thirty."
"I guess the kiss was my tip," he laughed before he headed back into kitchen. Evey glanced at Graham in confusion. He shrugged.
"I paid with my card. I gave him a hefty tip."
"Thanks. I'm sure that'll surprise him when he leaves tonight."
"My pleasure," Graham said.
Together they left and headed back to her office. She walked Graham to his car. He turned to her, his expression serious.
"Evey, I meant what I said. Don't go anywhere without an escort. Either me or Keatting, and both of us are still at work. Get out early if you have to and wait for Keatting before doing anything, but don't do anything stupid."
"I promise!" she chirped. Graham snorted and got into his car.
"I'll call to check up."
She rolled her eyes.
"Don't push your luck, missy."
Evey laughed and waved him off until he was out of sight. She frowned and headed back into her office. Jezz blinked up at her when she walked in.
"Did you have a nice lunch?"
"Yup, and I promise, I'll take you tomorrow. I'm clocking back in and then I'm out. I've got a tip. Oh, and uh, don't tell Davidson anything about the book, will you? I need to find someone to pay Mr. Drecks's bill."
Evey picked up a folder and her gun. She stuffed the folder into her purse, but grabbed her shoulder holster and put it on, placing the gun into it before putting on her jacket again.
"Because he was murdered last night."
Jezz's mouth dropped. Evey gave her a rueful smile.
"Exactly. Forward all calls to my cell."
"Will do, Evey."
With that she left the office again, and headed to the address on the paper Cei had given her. She'd promised not to do anything stupid, and checking on Cheslavich wasn't stupid. It was good sense. She wasn't going to confront him. She just wanted to see where he lived so she knew how to address the situation.
Besides, going with anyone would probably set him off.
She was the only... semi-normal one in this eclectic group she suddenly found herself a part of.
It was one of those apartment complexes that could easily be mistaken for an empty warehouse, and was hard to spot as anything more than such from the street. It was very dingy on the outside, stained by rust and mildew, and several of the windows were boarded up or simply broken. It was hard to believe anyone would (or even could) live there.
Evey knew she shouldn't, but she parked the car and got out anyway. She wanted to take a quick look around the area, the entrances and the exits, figure out where Cheslavich could be hiding and which would be the best way to approach him.
She was careful as she moved around the place. She kept her footsteps silent and watched for anything out of the ordinary. There were some rather unsafe looking fire escapes along one side of the building down an alley, and steps leading up from the basement level that must've been for the tenants on that floor. The door of the exit was on a broken hinge and wasn't closed all the way, and looked as if it was being held shut by a bungee cord hooked to the inside handle. Along the streets were several parked cars, but not many pedestrians.
Evey cursed mentally. She would have to get closer to find out where Cheslavich was, have an idea for when she came back with either Will or Graham. That or she could just try talking to him now.
It would save time after all.
Evey headed inside, being careful all the while, her eyes missing nothing, her senses attuned to any vibes that seemed out of the ordinary. The first thing that hit her was the smell: that moldy, old book smell, but with a strange, almost metallic undertone to its stench. The basement level looked more like a boiler room with pipes making up most of the ceiling, a constant dripping echoing down the musty halls. There were only ten rooms on this level, and the note Cei had given her said that KC was in room nine.
Evey headed carefully down, looking at each of the faded or chipped numbers, counting slowly in her head as she passed each. When she came to number nine, she paused, observing the door, making sure that it was safe, and listening for sounds of anyone behind it in the room beyond.
The faint noise of television static and the jingle of a pet collar were the loudest sounds, nearly masking what seemed to be snoring and the patter of small feet. The dripping from the surrounding hallway blocked out any other noises.
Evey took a deep breath, comforted a little by the sounds. She went to the door and gave it a knock. Her hand lowered to the doorknob. She figured it was locked, but it was always best to check first. If it was and he didn't open, she'd try to talk him out. She hoped he would trust her enough. She focused her aura so it appeared calm and soothing and concerned. She was all those things, but she dampened her own worry and fear, and expressed those more obviously so he would be sure of her intentions.
She knocked again.
The snoring jolted, and the floor groaned as someone crossed it to answer the door.