The next chapter contains lyrics from Annie Lennox's Primitive

Walk, Run, Stumble #4 Primitive


"You know, word gets out that boy billionaire Josef Kostan is out busting chops, the world is going to think I'm connected or something" Josef taunted Mick as the two of them walked away from a shivering Ben Talbot. Josef's shoulders rolled and flexed, filling his jacket back out at the right "fit", he brushed off the bits of broken glass and dust, a slight sneer at the thought of having rolled around with a ruffian..

Then Josef remembered the age old rush of physical victory…he hadn't had that in over a century.

"What, you'll have to sell Kostan Industries and go into, what "waste management"? Mick asked sarcastically as he shook out his duster and checked for obvious holes in his clothes, the "dead" giveaway of something "hinky".

"Yeah, right…..you need to understand my name and "waste" would never be used in the same sentence….You know me, Mr. Waste Not Want Not" Josef cricked his neck and readjusted his cuffs at his jacket sleeves. Josef sought his reflection to check his "smile" as he and Mick waited for The Cleaner van to show.

Ben Talbot sat, inside a white Kostan Industries van, secluded from the view of the undead attendants moving as a single choreographed unit. He rocked back and forth, almost catatonic, all he could remember was the melee, the furniture and the bumping and landing of bodies.

No cries, no screams. He wondered what he had just lived thru, was it a hallucination? Ben felt the hand of an angel, the light hand of a statuesque blond haired EMT touched his shoulder, he moved as she directed him, staring into her flashlight, nodding and answering her questions. What was she asking? The line of questioning left him oddly calm, her voice was tender and smooth, almost other worldly. Ben wondered what she was doing Saturday night; he still needed a date for his parent's anniversary party. Yeah, Ben mused, I could go for a woman like this…..

In view of Mick and Josef Beth sat sipping from a bottle of water, she was watching them take verbal shots at each other; she thought they looked like two teenagers after the Friday night football game, a pair of athletes doing some post-game quarterbacking. Mick had sacrificed his mortality for her… …. She swallowed slowly as she realized she had gained her vampire back and she took a deep breath…. … she was torn between lamenting their "loss" and celebrating their survival.

As she stared into the night air, watching the bodies moving all around her, the cell phone in her pocket throbbed. She let it go to voicemail, she was exhausted.

Sweetheart, the sun has set all red and primitive above our heads

Blood stained on an ageless sky wipe your tears and let the salt stains dry

Let them all run dry all run dry...

"You ready to go home?" Mick's arms wrapped around Beth, he had walked up behind her without her noticing. She quivered at the sound of his voice and turned to look into his eyes.

"Home? Sure, which one?" Her blue eyes were dreamy; her smile was lazy and relaxed. Beth wondered what was in the water, all of a sudden she was just "loosed" all the nerves had been snapped, must be with all the tension gone, she had nothing left to hold her together….

"Well, there's a certain reality now that sort of makes it crucial for me to go to the loft…..I am sorry, Beth…I knew it would be back, I just didn't expect it to be back so soon" Mick spoke about it as if it were a cancer in their relationship, "I need to feed, hit the freezer" his face was glum, Mick was weary.

Josh had called Beth, not to assault her with the news, just to initiate some sort of dialogue. They hadn't talked in ages. She was with Mick now, and he was alone. Josh's life had been consumed with work; his friends had been the guys in the office, the same guys who were in his fantasy football league. It was one the same guys that sold out Leni, and that series of events opened Josh's eyes to the strange talents of Mick St John. Josh remembered the way Mick strolled on the crime scene and seemed to divine all of the clues. Yes, it was odd how rapid he made it down the fire escape.

So Josh sat there with his crisis of loneliness…. It was driving him to dig into things that were more painful the more he dug. Did he need to know any more or had he uncovered truths that begged to be exposed. Curiosity killed the cat; satisfaction brought the inquisitive feline back so the adage spoke.

Would the truths allow Josh to rest? Josh hung up the phone; Beth was probably enjoying her last week before she had to go back to work….. Josh dismissed the tough of talking to her, breaking off the call before he would record a voice-mail message.

Sweetheart, take me to bed that's where all our prayers are said

Whispered silent in the night that's how all our dreams take flight

Let them all go by, all go by...

Mick's draw to the little hidden fridge was immediate, Beth stood back and dropped her purse as she watched him go thru the motions she had seen so often before. What expectations had she held when he took the cure? Had she hoped for a full year of normalcy? Had she envisioned Mick changing his career, moving to the beachfront apartment with her?

They hadn't stepped into his choice with a lot of planning; they had been blinded by the chance to be human together for a distinct period of time. They hadn't discussed what couples usually plan…would there be a child? Would they move? What would he really do for a living?

She knew as a human he'd be guarded, he'd spend every day with the clock ticking inside his head, "364, 363, 362 days to go before I "combust." So now it was with a certain peace that she watched him draw out the syringe and the blood, he needed a rapid infusion. She gave him privacy and left him to draw a warm tub for herself; she'd leave enough room in the tub in case he'd want to join her. Although she hoped he'd join her to float their cares away, she knew he'd be down there, beating himself up at the prospect of being a vampire…. In love with a human.

For time will catch us in both hands to blow away like grains of sand

Ashes to ashes rust to dust this is what becomes of us

Sweetheart, send me to sleep pray to God our hopes to keep

Take our fears and make us strong lead us to where we belong

And let it all go by, all go by...

Mick quenched his thirst, mindful that Beth was giving him his space….. He could feel the loss in her emotions. It was back to that, being the primitive animal that scented his prey, knew every emotion in the area. Mick cleaned his glass and bounded up to the roof. It has been the sight of their "picnics", the place where they'd watch each other for clues as how things really were between them. It was where she let him know he was her "knight in shining armor" after he killed Shepherd. Of course that was she told him with her eyes tonight, as he peeled back the gauze and she saw the fading silver in his eyes, the ragged lips.

Beth floated, the water was warm, the bath oil was relaxing, did she even want to go back to work? It would all be different with Maureen dead; she'd never get the sight of her body on the floor. Was it the right time to change jobs? What would she do for a living? Her hand ran over her incision, she was thrilled that the entire adventure hadn't sent her into a shocking episode….did she want to spend the rest of her life waiting for the "shock" to throw her back into a normal heart rhythm? Tonight was NOT the night to get into a conversation with Mick about an undead life.

Ben was treated at the scene of the crime and driven to his parent's home. Natalie, the blond EMT walked him to the front door and shook his hand before he disappeared into the large glass and stucco home on the side of a hill. His Mother fawned and made over him, "How could they NOT take you to a hospital, Ben?" She fussed as she drew a tea kettle and assembled a pair of mugs and tea.

"Really, I'm ok, the EMT's checked me out, I just wanted to get home and they wanted me to be with people. You know the whole concussion thing….." he waved her off and padded off to the bedroom she kept at the back of the house for his visits. He changed into sweats and a t-shirt and came back to the breakfast bar to lean for a conversation, or maybe not. She was eyeing his suspiciously as she poured the tea kettle's boiling contents into the mugs.

"How did you do that?" She clamped her fingers on his ear and folded it forward, spying small two puncture marks high on his neck.

Ben flung her hand off his ear, "Mom, what are you talking about?" he walked to the powder room mirror and tried to see what she was talking about. Ben had to pull a hand mirror out to see it; he barely felt the scabs with his fingertip.

"I was thrown across the room; there was a lot of broken glass, probably just glass shrapnel, nothing to worry about" he frowned at his Mother taking such a bodily inventory of him….how smart was coming over her he thought as he tried to smooth his short hair over the marks.

"Well, dear….you never know, it could be vampires" and his Mother giggled girlishly as she left the hallway and returned to her steaming mug of tea.

"There's no such thing as Vampire, MOTHER!" Ben chided as he turned off the bathroom light.


The next chapter includes lyrics of Michael Franks, 'The Camera Never Lies'

Walk, Run, Stumble #5 The Camera Never Lies


Sunday, February 17, 2008

"Why is this so weird?" Beth's smile reflected off Mick's and he grinned at her question. Moments earlier He had lept out of his freezer at dusk and literally flown to crawl into her bed, yet she hadn't been in bed.

Beth was in a wandering mood, she had spent the afternoon sorting the photos on her photobucket account, and she had reread a few of the short stories in the book on the table next to the chair at Mick's book shelf. She had cleaned out the food in Mick's cabinets, looking pensive at the old fashioned food Mick had enjoyed the short time he was human. Who ate hominy anymore, Beth thought as she bagged up the 3 cans of white hominy. Then he was right behind her and she saw his smile in the mirrored wall in the kitchen.

"It's weird because we were like this, then we weren't and now we are….." Mick had already compartmentalized the feelings. He caught her to the counter, placing both palms on the counter and pressing his hips into her toosh, he drew in her scent….God, his missed that in those past days, "and anyway I am…I'm so thrilled, to . . . . . .be… .. ..able… .. to enjoy you like this" by now his nose was pressed into her wild tangle of curls clipped to the top of her head.

"I never argue with a man before he'd been fed…..Do you get low blood sugar…or just a low blood level?" She was grinning now, pressing back into Mick's salute. They shared nuzzles and wiggles and wordless expressions of their affections.

"Can I gently persuade you to take more time off?" Mick took her hand and led her back to the sofa.

She cranked a funny smile onto her face, as if she'd never dream of leaving her job and shrugged, "You could almost talk me into anything, depending on the time of day and the mood I'm in" Beth stretched out, throwing her feet over his lap and stretching her arms up in a yawn and a "fake" as if to catch him.

"Given the situation, I was thinking we might want to take a little trip – get away for a month or so maybe longer" The man sure knew how to play to her heart Beth thought, waiting for him to spill the other wild ideas he might have hatched in the freezer.

"Let me put it this way, in any situation I'd run off with you, so tell me how to pack and whether I need my passport and I'll be there" Wait….had she just pretty much thrown going back to Buzzwire out the window? Yeah, pretty much. "So, where would you like to go?"

Mick bit at his bottom lip, made an off-handed gesture after he scratched at his jaw and shrugged, "Given my current situation, some place cool, dark…"

"You want to go to a closet for a month?" Beth made a comical expression as she sat up straight to lean into his space, she brushed her nose on his and he got the joke.

Give them their freedom - unless you do, the tide of suffering's sure to rise

You see it coming - o yes, you do and the camera never lies

No, the camera never lies

Sunday afternoon

This time, he swallowed his courage and spoke, "Beth, this is. . . . Josh. . . . I wonder if we could have coffee, you know, you and Mick and me.." he drew in a breath, shook his head and wish he was questioning perps, it would be easier, "I hope you all had a good Valentine's day and call me about coffee or maybe if the two of you would like to come by the beach for dinner" Josh swallowed hard and clicked off the phone. What was it about a coward dying a thousand deaths?

What would he do with the news about Ben being her half-brother? Why would they care? It was just one of the peripheral nuggets of news produced by his digging in Beth's background…. When he wanted to find Beth's father and get a handle on why a man did what he did, he found out his replacement was kith and kin to ex-girlfriend.

He had the ring, should he call her his ex-fiancé? Naw….he hadn't popped the question. The miasma of the past few weeks clouded his judgment. He knew he was getting "better", he was waking up with a hard on, even though sometimes he was in a sweat, dreaming of Beth sobbing over him as he felt Mick's hands inside him. Josh wished there was a Nicorette gum or something to step down the pangs of loss he felt.

Monday, February 18, 2008

"Well, la de dee, here comes the Princess of the airwaves, the Queen of the dead, Miss Beth Turner" Marissa was poised at Beth's desk, hip cocked at an angle, arms crossed over her breasts, a cynical smile on her face, "Welcome back, Beth, good to have you back" the saccharine flowed freely as Beth teetered on heels, the first time since she had been in the office last year. Beth grinned passively as she pushed past Marissa and logged into her computer, taking careful time to cut thru her hundreds of emails while she reran the events of her early morning.

It had been a stretch to dress this morning, "Mick….. if I quit by noon, can we be gone by sundown?" She pulled her hair up into a twist and stuck a clip in it. She started with her makeup application and realized her entire "experience" had aged her a bit….. There were faint fine lines she hadn't seen before. It wouldn't look good in high def. Beth sighed as she squeezed a bit more "age defying" serum and smoothed it over the telltale signs of her death experience.

"I thought you were going for a leave, not quit" Mick walked from the shower, a damp towel wrapped low on his waist, he actively ran his fingers thru his hair as he crossed the room. He spied her scrutinizing her complexion and kept his mouth shut. He learned from his Dad, any comments on a woman's age need be strongly reconsidered if the man wanted to live happily ever after.

"Whatever it takes….. With Mo gone, who knows who'll be in charge?" Beth pulled back from the mirror then honed close to add eyeliner.

"Would you want the job?" Mick asked, still finger styling his hair with his hairdryer.

"I wouldn't run that snake pit with a whip and a chair" Beth "'O'ed" her mouth to apply lipstick, then she stood back for a last look, "All I can say is…..I'll text message you something as soon as I know what the scoop is, get rested, I am going to need spoiled tonight when I come home, I'll be…" Beth caught herself before she could say "dead on my feet"

The morning advanced on Beth with both barrels. "Beth, hey, call on line 3" Steve shuffled by her desk, dropped off an "everything" bagel with low fat veggie crème cheese, then disappeared into the control room.

"Beth Turner" the news horse was back in the race.

"Ben Talbot here, good morning, Beth" What the hell did he want? She thought, she turned to her laptop and googled "Benjamin Talbot", and then she prepared to listen to him as she brushed up on her partner in being kidnapped.

"Good morning, Ben Talbot" she waited for him to name the reason for the call…. She wasn't prepared for his call in the least.

"I wondered if you'd be too busy to join me for lunch today, there were a few things I wanted to ask you about" he was awfully confident she thought.

"Well, you know this is my first day back and I don't know when I am actually getting lunch, can we do this another day?" she was sorry she actually sounded a little annoyed by his call, but this was too soon to start getting social calls at work.

"Right, you know when things slow down, I just wanted to grab some time, get a cup of coffee, lunch if you have the time." Ben was slowing down the rush, pacing his words, waiting to read her tone of voice in her response.

"How about, you check in with Mick this weekend, OK?" Beth deferred the call to Mick…..

"Yeah, yeah, I'll do that. So, see you on the Web, right?" Ben drew on a breath and nodded as he closed the call.

Beth craned her neck to see Steve around the corner, "STEVE, you know I can't tell you who Lost's "Smoke Monster" is, so why'd you bring me the bagel?"

"Just a welcome back, can't a crony welcome another crony back from the dead?" Steve stood in the door way taking a break from packing up his camera equipment, "I'll be ready to roll in about 50 minutes"

"Where are we rolling?" Beth's expression spoke more than her words; she wasn't ready to hit the pavement. Beth was still figuring out whom to pass her leave request to.

"Big news, my partner in excitement, we're "free-rolling" as the new team calls it" Steve's eyes rolled at the new term he had been given when he clocked in at 7am, "You meet the new boss at 11, the tech crew already got his words of wisdom" Steve wiggled his eyebrows as he waved and left the area, shaking his head.

They send the pictures by satellite somehow they travel through the skies

To all the homes in America and the camera never lies

No the camera never lies

"His….words of wisdom?" Beth shook her head and crooked her finger as Steve turned around. When their eyes connected she waved him back vigorously, "WHO is HE?"

"Dax something or other, where do men get names like that?" Steve stood actively getting a kick out of scooping Beth on the new boss.

"Dax Federer?" Beth grimaced at the name, the King of Crap, the Chancellor of the Cheap Shot, he was the new Editor?

"One and the same my dear, gird your loins for the shock of you professional career. I'll be down in photo when you pull yourself back together from the meeting." And that was all Beth needed to know, she whipped out her phone and texted to Mick:

My prof life is over. Have wine ready. I'll be home by 7.

X.O.

Beth

Beth's phone was just back in her purse when the sexually ambiguous portly middle aged man sidled up to the front of her desk, "MISS TURNER….it's so nice to make your acquaintance, Marissa told me you were here and I am so very sorry I didn't make it over here earlier….." His lips drew up as if he smelled his own upper lip; his hands were dug deep into his back pockets, arching his man boobs closer to Beth's sightline than she cared.

Beth immediately stood, just to get the sight of his nipples out of her direct vision, "Mr. Federer, always a pleasure," to run screaming from my desk… Beth thought as she searched for the end of her sentence.

"Before we have the meeting, I'd like a word with you, in my office" Dax tilted his head toward Mo's office and Beth's smile wilted. She nodded and followed him back to the place where she found Mo with a bullet between her eyes. What bargain did she have to make with the Gods to get Dax and Mo to trade places?

Truth you can't disguise just open up your eyes

'Cause the camera never lies

"Considering the strength of your catalog, I'd like to see you step up and really grab the eyes and ears of LA. You've got the moxie to grab the public and with the transition I need a leader" Dax leaned back and focused on the ceiling, was he watching the swinging piece of dust from the air handler Beth wagered?

"I can't count on Marissa, her numbers a flagging and I'm looking to trade her off to the San Diego branch just as soon as I have the ink dry my contract" the flaccid façade he projected outside the office had toughened the minute he sat his doughy ass in Mo's chair. It was great to know she was dealing with Dr Heckle and Mr. Jive. Beth's eyes widened, figuring this morning was NOT the time to ask for a month off.

We see the faces so innocent and it should come as no surprise

That the oppression's no accident we know the camera never lies

No the camera never lies

"BTW….that Movie, "A Bit Like Now" you know the sci fi thing about the girl that time travels back and forth from the 1920's to the 2020's?" He was teetering a new pencil in his fingers, watching it balance as he alternated his eyes between the pencil and Beth's breasts.

Beth wanted to know where his conversation was going….. "AND" her question hung in her 1 word.

"There's a post-production party at some mansion tonight, I want you there to catch slurred words and elusive breasts that seem to populate these bacchanals" and he spun around in the chair and finished his sentence with his back to her, "Take Steve, look great and don't come back until you have juicy spill, Turner…."

"Did you get your daily requirement of double speak and BS?" Steve caught a look at Beth in the shotgun seat of the BuzzWire Van. Beth's expression in the visor mirror told Steve all he needed to know. He got a kick out of the curl of her lips, the serious eyes, she was a handful and he had missed her…..

"Are you ready for tonight? Got your batteries charged for a long painful evening?" Beth sipped her tea and pushed back into the seat, adjusted the seatbelt and watched the population on the sidewalk move as they sat in traffic.

"Sure am, this time I'll keep the camera from hitting me in the head and you'll be the asking the hard questions, "Mandy…besides your natural regiment of spa days and sweaty nights in deafening clubs how do you prepare for your role of a time traveler?" Steve's attitude hadn't changed since the first night Beth stood at the fountain.

"Just get me thru this day; I'll worry about the demons in the dark when it's dark" Beth could tell Steve about demons and the dark, she just didn't want to do it today.

Then her phone rang and the caller's ID brought a smile to her entire face, "hey, you!" Steve braced for a lovey dovey conversation like she held months ago.

"You have to work?" Beth pursed her lips and shrugged as the caller spoke,

"When did this come up?" she settled and wiggled in the seat, a smile broadened and Steve could almost sense her softening from her business like demeanor.

"So you have to spend tonight at Josef's because one of his associates needs a bodyguard? This associate wouldn't happen to be Mandy Fellows would it?" Then Beth turned to Steve and shook her head in disbelief as she made a "gun" hand signal and put her finger to her temple.

"Yeah, well, I'll see you there, cause Steve and I are covering the event, we'll be watching for stars falling from their lofty perches" Steve grinned at their dialogue and kept driving, he needed to eat.

They stood at the far end of the portico, it had been decorated in the manner of "the day", "I'm Beth Turner and I am here at the gracious home of film enthusiast, Josef Kostan who is host tonight to a post-production party for the film, "A Bit Like Now", Mr. Kostan, what possessed you to open your home to this celebration tonight?"

"Miss Turner, when you work hard it's only fitting to play hard. I watched them wrap this film and I knew we needed to go back in time to the 20's, the 1920's and blow off some steam, you know roll out the long nose roadsters, smack on some rouge, rolled down your stockings and tipple some cool gin" Josef stood there in that youthful Kostan effervescence….totally belying his 400+ years stalking the earth.

Beth buried a grin each time she had quizzed him off camera, she knew all of this went much deeper than a movie party. It would take a long conversation with Mick to get to the bottom of it.

Right now she found herself at a long drive way as rented vintage cars rolled toward a red carpet, the dichotomy of "future" fashions in silver or gold lame flashed against the vintage beaded dresses. The lanky young men wore short tuxedoes, echoing the Flapper years. As the young actors congregated the Flapper Slicked back hair rivaled the shaved heads of "future", they all raucously slapped each other on their backs as they pawed gin rickies off of trays from servers moving thru the crowd.

Steve filmed Beth as she seemed to know her way around the home; he'd never been to a private home this grand, it was like living at the Biltmore he thought as he panned the camera around the carved soffits, the life size portraits that looked like Sargent's works. As a pair Steve and Beth moved thru the entry hall and back out to the portico then Steve's camera work caught Beth's horrified expression as the riders alit from the 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom II.

The chauffeur left the open driver's area of the car and held the door open and Mick stepped out, head down, hand obliqueing the flash of dozens of cameras. He was breathtaking in the old style tux, hair slicked back. He stood as the cameras calmed down, he shielded the other rider as she scooted across the car seat, and he didn't want any of those prurient panty shots hitting the airwaves. The buzz of the crowd rose to a fever pitch and held, then when Mick had hoped the photographer's arms had grown tired of balancing the 600mm lenses, Mick extended his hand to the other passenger and she extended a jeweled shoe out of the car.

The applause erupted and she played it for all she could, the foot stretched up a long, lithe leg to a jeweled garter and the lower edge of a fringed shimmy dress. Her gloved hand rested lightly on Mick's as she prepared to make long smooth steps toward the mansion. She held her head high, the ends of her black bobbed hair dancing at her jaw line. Ruby lips puckered on the onyx enamel cigarette holder and she blew a series of smoke rings before the two of them cut thru the crowd.

The chorus of photographers cried "Over here, Mandy" from every direction. Mandy would hear a familiar voice and turn, strike a pose and allow the flash to caress her as the camera recorded this second in time.

Steve recorded it all with a sideways comment to Beth "How'd you like to have that guy's job? Walking her….. nice work if you can get it, huh?" All he got back was an expression akin to the one she gave him the day they did the fashion show, "Isn't he that P.I. friend of yours?" and that was all Steve had add. Beth's hand pulled him to a side entry at the portico.

"Steve, let's get in, get this done and go home….. It is quite a long day and these shoes are a bitch and I don't want to be one too"

Beth stood covertly in the corner of the main ballroom; while outside Steve blanched at the tight formal collar he was forced into wearing while he hefted a smaller camera than usual. He caught the outside action, shooting images of purloined kisses, breasts caught by "mistake" and personalities in a bit more than a tete a tete with someone else's partner.

"How long are YOU working tonight?" Beth leaned an elbow on the bar and sipped a soda and lime; she gave Mick a long look as he kept one eye on the starlet within a foot of him.

"Josef is throwing everyone out at 11, that's then the real party starts; will you ditch Steve and come off the clock with me?" His brow cocked and danced at the prurient invitation, then he caught Beth's hand and kissed at the back of it, "You look keen for being on the clock", he spun her around the see the whole design of the black dress, "Very nice, I'd trade places with Steve in a heartbeat"

"Keen? Aren't you taking this 20's stuff a bit too seriously?" Beth ribbed with a grin.

"This is my era...I remember this music, better than I'd like to admit. Although my mother never had a dress like that" Mick thru a thumb over in the direction of Mandy and her perpetual motioning fringe.

"See you at 10:55, Casanova" Beth withdrew her hand and sauntered off to make up some sort of marketable drivel about Mandy Fellows and the band played on with a rousing set.

The driving, sliding rhythm nearly covered the bloodcurdling shriek of the victim and those who would run to discover the satin clad demi star. The costar of the movie was splayed on the marble bathroom floor, a syringe in her arm, the black red contents spilled with her hitting the marble. Dexter Morgan would have been fascinated.

Rennie Phillips was dead, at the hands of someone who pumped a lethal dose of an injectable drug. While the BuzzWire film rolled, then vampires in attendance went underground. The field day included the parade of authorities, capped off by an appearance by Lt Davis and DA Ben Talbot. When he was told the 3rd pair of eyes on the dead girl was Beth Turner, Ben Talbot was none too thrilled.


The chapter includes the lyrics of Rod Stewarts' 'Every Picture Tells a Story'

Walk, Run, Stumble #6 Every Picture Tells a Story, Don't It?


Tuesday, After Midnight, February 19th, 2008

"Where's Kostan?" Carl barked to the white coated House man.

"Mr. Kostan is unavailable, he'll be available shortly" The houseman didn't emote much, that's why he had his job.

"OK, where's St John? He's Kostan's go-to boy whenever there's a cluster-fuck" Carl paced the hall outside the bathroom, hands on hips, biting at his bottom lip, "DON'T let Turner out of your sight" Carl threw an accusing index finger to a patrol cop assembling witnesses. Beth shrugged and stepped out of her heels to let her bare feet chill on the marble.

"Can we hurry this up, Carl? This is my first day back to work after my surgery, I am a little worn out" Beth made a face, her puppy dog face, it didn't work.

"The wheels of justice move one speed, Beth, hang in there, Hey, Officer; get this lady a chair, OK?" Carl gave her a wink as the patrol cop dragged a Louis XIV chair over the checkerboard black and white marble floor for Beth. She wagged her eyebrows and sat down to wait for her turn at his inquisition.

Ben rounded the corner and nearly tripped over her, "Ms Turner, first day back to work and you show up here, just my luck we didn't end up tied to each other" There was nothing more to say at his crack, the patrol cop just rubbed his hand over his jaw, covering the snide smile on his face.

"Right, Talbot, how about you interview me and let me head home, I have new Pj's I want to break in." Steve just stared at the two of them, how they eyed each other warily. Steve had no idea where they would have ever been "tied to each other".

"You promise me to come by my office tomorrow before2 and I'll let you leave now" Ben pointed to the door, Beth rose to leave and Steve followed her. Ben held up a cautioning hand, "Ok, Camera Guy, have a seat you get a chance to spill your guts, what's on your camera there?"

Spent some time feelin' inferior standing in front of my mirror

Combed my hair in a thousand ways but I came out looking just the same

Daddy said, "Son, you better see the world I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to leave

But remember one thing don't lose your head to a woman that'll spend your bread"

So I got out

An awkward chap waited behind the pool house, he'd slithered out there when Rennie had grabbed the syringe out of his hand and threatened to shoot another party girl full of it, you weren't supposed to use the whole thing, this was vamp blood, the kind of thing you savored, got naked and savored some more later. He shouldn't have trusted Rennie, she had been loose cannon from the start and he knew he wasn't going down because of some Dumb Dora. He'd stay hidden out at the Pool house until his vamp hearing gave him the all clear.

Sure, Jack Tempe hadn't been much of a star in 1925, but all the big guys were dust and he still had his "movie star" good looks and he was working.

What Jack Tempe lacked in star power he made up for in longevity.

I was accused

I moved on

I wasn't ready for that, no, no

"What the hell happened tonight?" Beth asked Mick as she leaned into the mirror, removing eye makeup.

"What bothers me is the immediate response by the authorities to an event at Josef's. He's not up for the inspection this is going to earn him." Mick paced the bedroom, glass of A+ in hand, "we didn't even have a chance to get the syringe out of sight, now we're having to rely on vamps on the inside to keep this under wraps" Mick's expression was worn and worried. "This had been exactly what Josef has been concerned about, you mix humans and vamps and sooner than later something goes awry". Mick put down the glass to rub his palms into his eyes, he was nervous for Josef, for the Tribe.

"What about us, we're mixing – are you saying we'll go awry?" Beth's brows knitted together, watching Mick in the mirror she realized she didn't really want to get into a discussion tonight, she wanted a glazed donut, and preferably a Krispy Kreme and a big glass of ice cold whole Milk. He moved in a heartbeat behind her and caught her shoulders in his palms; his fingers fell over her flesh tenderly as his lips lit on the top of her head. Again he took in a deep lungful of her scent and grew a mad smile across his lips.

"No, we're different; we're you and me…..not human and vamp. I'm not letting anyone label us. I've watched you for twenty some years… Now since we've been . . . . . together …."

In the bedroom Mick often spoke in euphemisms, his early 20th century upbringing bled thru his real time on the earth, "you can read my every thought. I love you, Beth". He might have spoken simple words, yet this was all she needed to feel at home and completely loved.

"Well if this is any help, I'll leave you a copy" Beth withdrew the flash drive from her bra as she walked over to the laptop on the edge of the bed table, "Want to take a look?"

"I'd rather conduct an in depth inspection of where it's been sitting for the last hour….How did you get that out?" Mick caught the flash drive from her hand to feel the warmth she had transmitted to it. He cradled it and then when it took on his cooler body temp he snapped it into the laptop. The images blossomed as the two of them pulled it onto the bed and lay on their bellies to scope out the clues. Once they made a run thru the images Mick seemed distracted, he had been silent, watching Beth out of the corner of his eyes.

Beth felt his eyes wash over her, like warm surf he relaxed her, it was so easy to float away in his arms… Mick's quixotic advances riveted her senses; every square inch of her skin danced under his hands, rose to his lips, and trembled with his breaching her.

"Sleight of hand, I swapped my empty drive with this one" Beth modestly shrugged with her sly grin rising along with her eyelashes as she peered up at Mick.

She was grateful to have the full nature of Mick in her arms again…..she felt they had come home together after his re-turning, she had her newly manageable heartbeat and he had his readjusted attitude about being a vampire … … . .

Together in bed they beat to each other's rhythm, Mick mesmerized by her heartbeat and the whoosh of her blood, Beth would surf the emotions he drew out of her until she'd swoon at his bite. Together they were more than a ying and a yang…..She was his moon and he was her stars in concert they were the night.

She took me up on deck and bit my neck, oh people I was glad I found her

Oh yeah, I was glad I found her

"Charles, grab this zipper, won't you Daddy?" Mandy backed up to Josef and presented the side zipper of her cocktail dress to him. Josef's whiskey eyes glowed as he bent close and grabbed the tab with his teeth and drew it down. The fringe shimmied as his cutie pie lowered the straps off her shoulders and the gold dress hit the deck of the schooner, the rocking of the boat only accentuated the movement.

"Did you get an earful of that Jack Gallagher? Who does he think he is? Just because he was the director, does he think he discovered me?" Mandy stood in front of Josef and held her breasts in her palms as she shook her tooshy at him. Josef enjoyed the view as Mandy pulled off the jet black wig to let her shoulder length titan tresses hit her creamy shoulders.

"He's a sap; he's what 45 years old? Between you and me we have what 500 years? I told you it would be worth to hang back, enjoy your investments and plan a cunning comeback" Josef walked up behind Mandy and he slid his fingertips down the sides of her hips. Her tap panties fell to the deck and she stood demurely in her jeweled shoes and stockings, like Venus on the half shell.

Mandy stepped smoothly across the room, as if gliding, standing right up to his side as he reclined on the chaise in the salon of the 160 foot schooner. She had two cut crystal tumblers in her hands, his was O+, hers was AB+, "Charlie, when you say cunning and come in the same sentence it gets me all bothered, you know?"

Josef extended a hand for his tumbler gave her a grin and replied, "That's what I was hoping for, Clara*, that's what I was hoping for…."

I firmly believe that I didn't need anyone but me;

I sincerely thought I was so complete

Look how wrong you can be

The women I've known I wouldn't let tie my shoe,

they wouldn't give you the time of day

Early Tuesday Morning, February 19, 2008

The sturdy low heels on her boots clacked on the linoleum floor as Beth made her way thru the main floor to the DA's office. It was all familiar, the route she'd cut to Josh's office… … … she felt awkward, dodging the stares of the office workers who remembered her as Josh's girlfriend.

It really didn't matter, she was here for professional purposes and beside she brought 4 fresh, warm Krispy Kreme donuts to share with Ben.

"Ms. Turner, thanks for coming in, you know I almost called you back last night. Your camera man had nothing on the memory of that camera….. But you knew that when you left – didn't you?" Ben sat on the edge of his desk, even though Beth would always see it as Josh's desk, especially that corner…..

"At the time I hadn't realized it, when I undressed later I realized it, but I knew I'd see you today and it's well before the 2pm deadline you had asked for" Beth wasn't cavalier, just pleasantly confident, "we have photos of all the couples as they came in …. Rennie was with her handler when she walked in, but I do have one of her with a man we didn't see the rest of the night" Beth pointed to the images on Ben's monitor, it was a larger monitor than Josh's had been, "Want a Krispy Kreme?" that caught the focus off the images when she held up the still warm wax bag to Ben.

"My Mother hates when I bring these home, sure I'll have one!" Ben noticed an odd look on Beth's face at the mention of his Mom, Ben offered as he walked to the coffee pot on the credenza. Beth watched as he pulled a mug off the tree, his hand went for the black mug and she spoke up.

"May I use the pink one?" She knew it was inane; she always drank from that pink mug. Ben stopped in mid grab and filled the black mug for himself then passed Beth the pink mug.

"So where was Rennie last time you saw her?" Ben leaned back on the desk corner, blowing the coffee before he sipped it.

Beth and Ben were tippy-toeing around each other prefacing their questions and responses in "Ms Turner", "Mr. Talbot". There were ghosts in the room, Beth's reticence was from straddling Josh in his desk chair after hours when she'd come in from a late report. It was the same chair Ben was heading around to sit in. Beth lowered her eyes into her coffee and chewed.

Then when the first donut slid down Ben's throat in 4 bites he laid into "Ms Turner", even though he really enjoyed blonds.

"I know these are still images, so it's just their body language that you have to interpret and that's not enough for evidence" Beth pointed to the series of photos, Rennie turning in circles holding a drink aloft, playing to a group of equally drunk observers. Lindsey Lohan would have been so proud.

"Well, in your venue that's enough to hang her by a jury of her peers" Ben's deprecating manner was beginning to prickle on the back of Beth's neck.

"What do you think BuzzWire is, Mr. Talbot?" Beth's voice nearly shook out of anger. Her stomach was going sour; the coffee hadn't been near as good as the coffee Josh had brewed. A bitter taste was developing in her mouth.

"A tabloid, whether it's on cheap paper or the web, it's just a generation from movie magazines…." Talbot's face drained to a sneer.

"Mr. Talbot, one of those news stories got Maureen killed and us tied together, in fear for our lives" Beth leaned in to stress her point; there was no way to cover her anger with Ben now.

"Let's just agree to disagree, Ms. Turner. What I want to know is... .. The day we were tied up at that doctor's office. . . We heard all hell break loose." Ben folded his arms and stood, wishing he had a more imposing façade. "Now I know our saviors were Mick and his boy billionaire buddy, Kostan". His lips twisted quizzically as Beth sat half lost in the last memory of being in this room. The other half of her was calculating exactly what Ben was expecting from her.

"I thought you knew who it was" The ball was in his court; Beth's expression mirrored Ben's.

"So St. John is Robin to his Batman?" Ben volleyed back, with a toss of his head back, almost an insolent nod.

The commentary pushed Beth back in the chair, almost with a snort at the consideration of Mick and Josef in a black Ferrari fighting crime in the streets of LA, "I doubt we have a "Men in Tights" scenario, they are old friends".

Beth sniffed at an odor in the room, old carpet, perhaps a sandwich in a drawer, the unpleasantness of it grew as she sat there.

"And you, kidnapped at age 4, police really didn't produce a lead and a P.I., wasn't the other day a bit much for you, didn't you have a déjà vu experience?" His voice dropped to a quiet bass.

That was it….. ….. ….. Beth was steaming, "That experience is not up for discussion, it's what you call a cold case?" He had upset her, made her sick to her stomach; she put the coffee cup on the desk opposite her, the sour taste of the bitter brew travelling back on her tongue.

She bit at her bottom lip as the taste and smell of kerosene permeated the room, she felt an overwhelming waft of heat from flames licking at wooden walls. Beth drew back palm and dragged it across her mouth, trying to escape the sourness of his words. She recalled the smell of old leather, the leather jacket her guardian angel wore as he carried her out of the room. Beth was frozen in the past, not frozen with his words yet Ben was none the smarter he thought he had scored one for hi team.

"Look, I had to know more about the person I was tied to, tell me you didn't Google me?" Ben was up on his fingertips, the posture of a silver back gorilla over his desk, instead Beth saw Josh leaning across the desk for a kiss, either way she stayed in her chair. He wanted to know what wasn't written, what was recorded in the heart and memory.

"You know" Beth inhaled deeply and bent to retrieve her satchel, "I think we are done, these photos are up already. Did you require anything else?" her chin raised she sniffed and swallowed.

"Ok, I'm not the bad guy here, Ms. Turner, it's my job to peel back the…

"Scab?" Beth fairly spat as she turned to the doorway.

"Cover, shed light in the darkness" Ben finished his sentence then sighed, with his entire body.

Beth walked to the doorway and turned, drew down from inside herself and smiled softly, "Mr. Talbot, once you know what is, in the dark it's a lot more comforting to walk amongst it" then nodded good-bye.

"Beth Turner" she swung the phone to her hear without reading the caller I.D.

"Beth, it's Josh, did you get my message?" Beth cringed at the thought of hearing the 4 voice mail messages she had from yesterday.

"You know, you know that death at the movie party? I was up late and then I had to go back into Talbot's office in fact I'm just coming out of his office, I'll bet you his mother had a loud bark" Beth stopped at the corner to think, she wasn't capable of walking and talking right now, she was that incensed.

"Why don't we take an early lunch, I had some things I needed to unload, well that wasn't how I wanted to say that…." Josh was getting flustered.

"You know, Josh, as much as I don't have the time, I know I'd feel better for making the time. How about I pick you up, we can get a table at that bistro on the beach". She was heading for "comfortable", relaxed; she was heading for a congenial meal with an old friend.

Based on his special request, she rang him from a few blocks away to give him time to limp to the curb; she admired the carved cane he threw into the front seat before he swung into the seat next to her. Once Josh was buckled in he nodded and patted her shoulder, "How are you doing, back at work already?" sure the tone was a little like a father to a daughter yet that was ok with Beth.

"Yeah, no rest for the wicked, right?" Beth nodded and kept her hands on the steering wheel as she pulled the car into traffic for the bistro.

"You, wicked?" Josh shook his head as he sat back, that's when Beth realized he ha 12 plastic envelope on his lap.

"That could be first-rate, only the good die young, right?" Beth pushed her sunglasses back up her nose as she tried to see what the envelope might say, she didn't want to ask.

"Then I'd say the two of us were equally lucky, right?" Josh watched the traffic on the street as the car pushed down the road, the beach-side bistro in sight. Beth nodded, her mind lost in the morning's conversations in a familiar place with an unfamiliar person.

"I'll pull up; use the valet park, OK?" Beth offered as she pulled to a stop, the valet opened the car door before Josh could oppose her.

They sat under the umbrella, watching the lunch crowd arrive as they reviewed the menu and sipped soda, Beth made a point of turning off her phone before their entrees arrived, Josh had called her for a reason and she wanted to give him his due.

"When we were together, you and I had some conversations about your dad" Josh started his dialogue as the server carried away his salad plate, he sat, hands in his lap while Beth finished spearing the ribs of romaine in her Caesar salad, "You always thought he was dead". Beth's eyes flashed confusion, amazement at his statement yet let him roll on, actually she was dumbstruck.

"Your father, is alive", Josh pulled a photo out of the envelope and slid it across the table for four set for two. Beth gingerly picked up the photo and searched for similar features, something that branded him as her father.

"Why did you do this?" Beth was incredulous, didn't her have something else to do?

"I don't know why it seemed like a priority, when we were together there seemed to be so many things that hinged on you knowing more about him" Josh sat silent for a few seconds, measuring his next words, had he lost his mind? Was Beth ready for more?

"Is this it? Any other bombs you want to drop?"Beth gently place the knife and salad fork in the bowl and pushed it away from her, swallowed gulps of tea and drew a long exhalation, "What else?"

"Bob had a family before he was with your Mom; he left her with a son."Josh's voice was deliberate, gently delivering this confounding news.

"Great, he was a serial father" the corners of Beth's mouth cringed at her own comment. Josh held up a cautioning hand, careful not to reach out to catch her hand. The last thing Josh wanted to do was put the "mash" on Beth or think that he was attempting to.

"Your Mom did a great job with you Beth; you know if you needed a kidney he might do the right thing."Josh tried to up-paint the scenario.

"So where did all this happen, did I grow up down the street from my own half brother?" Beth seemed comically flustered, preparing herself for the worst while hoping for the best.

"Funny you say that, your half brother is in the LA area, now" Josh pulled out the printed info he had put together and slid it to cover her Father's photo.

Beth nodded as her finger traced down the data, then her eyes flew open when she read the line, "Benjamin Talbot" Beth's head flew up from the page as her flat hands flew to cover her face, she wiped the heat from her face and looked at Josh, "For crying out loud, I spent this morning being cross examined by my own flesh and blood", Beth's hands slapped the table top as she shook her head in disbelief.

The server rounded the corner and saw their body language and backed off for a second, a platter in each hand, Josh saw her and waved her over. "We're good," he sat back to accept his plate and then leaned across the table, enunciating quietly to Beth, "Whatever happens, he doesn't know any of this, you don't have to act on any of this info. You can walk out of here after lunch and leave it at that"

"Well that's a little like collecting all the feathers after you've tore open the pillow on the mountaintop" Beth cocked her head and gestured with the fork before she tore into the chicken over the wild rice. Beth was silent as she ate her way thru half the oval plate, then she pointed the tines of the fork in the air, "excuse me, I know better, I am so sorry to be pointed and waving to hell and back" She chewed voraciously on the meal as she shook her head, "You know I have to say something…. "She took another bite and rolled her eyes as she invented her response.

"So, Josh, are you planning on going to work anytime soon? Or are you going to get entrenched into this investigation stuff?" her tongue sought to dislodge some food yet her expression left her looking a bit obstinate, a little wary and a whole of resentful.

Tuesday Evening, February 19, 2008

"Rennie was a casualty of the Hollywood drug wars" Josef paced his office, his shoulders rolling to pull the tension from his joints, "Starlets and wannabees grasping for the higher high" His hand mimicked a butterfly traveling upward,

"BC had spawned a cadre of vamp groupies, those few survivors held out for a replacement drug….and before I knew it someone from up north had realized their fatted calf would be an injectible drug, something called, "the Juice".

Josef finished his lap in front of his liquor cabinet and poured two glasses two fingers high, he sauntered to Mick, seated on the sofa; his ankle balanced on his knee his head in his hand, nearly tired from watching Josef pace.

Mick accepted the glass, "Nothing surfaced until your party, Josef; this is all going to come down on you"

Josef's lips curled, not at the scotch, at Mick's prognostication, "Then we have a dynamic problem calling for a genius solution"

And if they had the words I could tell to you to help you on the way down the road

I couldn't quote you no Dickens, Shelley or Keats 'cause it's all been said before

Make the best out of the bad - just laugh it off, You didn't have to come here anyway

So remember, every picture tells a story don't it, every picture tells a story don't it

every picture tells a story don't it, every picture tells a story don't it

To Be Continued...