Twenty minutes later I’m standing in the bedroom staring at the clothes Allie’s pulled out of the closet sprawled on the bed. The dresser drawers are open. The shoes are out. Everything where I can see it. Allie says a woman’s wardrobe tells a story, one she understands much better than I do. My wardrobe consist of jeans and a variety of collard long sleeve black shirts, but even with my limited expertise something is niggling at the back of my brain as my eyes wander over dresses, long flowy skirts, blouses in pastel colors, “Spring clothes.”
“Yes, good quality,” Allie picked up a soft skirt in rain washed pastels. It looks kind of Monet-ish to my untrained eyes, “But not designer. I think some of it is thrift store finds. This skirt is Nicole Miller, but at least four seasons ago.”
“How do you know she hasn’t had it four seasons.” Young wrinkled cop decides to chime in on what he knows nothing about.
“She doesn’t own any other designer clothes, and there are still tags on these boots.” Allie held up a pair of slim black ankle boots, “Clarkesville thrift.”
“Ah okay.” He nods. Lena snorts and rolls her eyes behind her laptop. She’s crossed legged on the floor doing whatever it is she does to get into places she shouldn’t be.
“Allie,” My eyes rove over the clothes. “Something’s not right, but I can’t quite see what it is.”
“It’s the black lingerie. It’s new and not her taste”
Right, the undie-drawer, there’s booty shorts and even a few thongs but it’s all pastels. Then all of a sudden there’s this black lacy stuff. She’s right, when you take in all the other clothing,…“She doesn’t wear black.”
“Maybe he bought it for her.” Young and wrinkled cop offers.
Oh Dear Goddess. Killing people is bad, Mckenna. I remain silent and wait for what’s coming next. Allie’s not done. She’s got something.
Lena doesn’t have my restraint, “Damn, way to point out the obvious, genius.”
He just shoots her an annoyed glance, but then Allie pulls the last few things out of the closet and tosses them on the bed.
And my night officially gets shot straight to hell. I stare down at the black slashing across the piles of silky pastels. “Oh, fucking fuck.” Plopping down on the bed, I rake my hand though my hair till it gets caught in my ponytail.
That gets Lena’s eyes off her screen. They skitter over the short skirts and bustiers, “That’s a lot of leather.” It takes her about three seconds to figure it out, “Aaahhhh shit!” She throws her hands over her face, falls back and punctuates her words with head bangs to the wall behind her, “This. Night. Sucks.”
“Oh, that makes sense.” Christy’s joined us and is taking in the clothes with her usual absent-minded professor gaze. That gaze fools a lot of people.
I’m not one of them, “What did you find?”
She hands me a prescription bottle, “Pain-killers, new script filled recently.”
And there it is, the final nail in the coffin of my screwed up Saturday night. I turn on the three men in the room, “No way you missed this. You’re not that dumb.”
Gerald’s staring at me in blank confusion. Okay, so maybe he’s that dumb or more likely just naive, but not the other two. They left naive in the dirt at puberty and no way they’re THAT dumb. Painkillers and black leather outfits complete with coordinating collars. Shit, it doesn’t take a genius.
The brothers face me with identical closed expressions. It’s wrinkled cop who finally speaks a terse, “We checked it out.”
“Well, you did a piss-poor job because wherever this girl is going to get beaten or whatever she’s doing with the guy who’s been abusing her under the guise of D/s is where you will find her.”
“We checked it out.”
This from GI Joe and I get it. “You’re a member.”
“No,” He shakes his head, that closed expression unchanging, “but I do know the owners. They wouldn’t condone abuse.”
I’m so amazed by their stupidity I lose the power of speech. Shit, what is it that made these men so blind? My mind races and stumbles over the information, but it’s Allie who gets there first.
“It’s a woman.”
“Shit.” Allie nailed it.
“Yep.” Lena’s tapping away on her laptop. Then, her face both triumphant and disgusted, she flips it around, “Madame X?” We see a masked woman in leather holding a whip, “Could she get any less original?”
Christy leans forward, her pert nose wrinkling, her big aqua eyes squinting through black round framed glasses, “She’s pretty though.” She looks back up at GI Joe then at his brother, pushing those glasses up her nose, “So you two are taking the word of the leather wearing kinky lady who likes to beat people over Alex Kane? “Huh,” She turns to me, “You’re right.”
Lena flips the laptop closed and leaps up from her seated position, “What’s the freak right about this time, Midge?” Following Christy from the room, Lena falls back on the nicknames we used as children. Christy got midget, as she’s the shortest of us at 5’2” Not that Lena and Allie have much on her. They both come in at 5’3”. I’m a freaking amazon at 5’7” Freak though refers to my ability to take information and draw correct conclusions. Freak of nature. Yep, that’s me.
“That thing about intelligent men and beautiful women.” Christy said.
“Beautiful women make smart men do dumb things.” I recite, following Lena out of the bedroom and into the Victorian parlor.
“Oh yes,” Allie’s the last out of the room, “They probably have a history. They helped her out of a jam once and they see her as a victim still.”
“Holy Shit, Allie!” I freeze beside the fainting couch, “That is brilliant.”
I’m ashamed to admit it, but Allie’s so beautiful, sometimes even I forget the sharp mind behind all that feminine perfection. I spin around and go for the closest idiot. Wrinkled cop was the first one out of the bedroom. I walk up to him, pull my hand back, and pop him on his ear, “How long?”
He’s shaking his head, probably trying to stop the ringing. The boxing of the ear has been around so long for a reason. Maximum pain with minimal effort. “What the…” He covers his ear with one hand, “You just struck a cop.”
Oh, for fuck’s sake, “What? You think anybody’s going to give a shit if dumbass cop got slapped by Alex Kane? Answer the question.”
“Okay now, everybody just calm down.” Poor Gerald is looking between us wild eyed and sweating.
“Gerald, did your partner happen to mention that he and Madame X are old acquaintances?” Allie’s voice is sweet as sugar and smooth as silk she shifts the tide.
“No” He looks over at his partner, “Is that true?”
“Yes.” The admission from Jack, the young and wrinkled, is tight and furious.
“You didn’t say anything.” Gerald’s looking pissed now.
“Because it didn’t matter.”
Gerald’s shaking head falls down, his hands on his hips, “Not your call to make, Jack.”
“I’m telling you. It’s a dead end.” GI Joe joins us. Somehow we are all right back where we started. Spread out in the Victorian parlor rehashing the same old shit. Wasting time May Rose doesn’t have.
“Holy Baloney! You guys are stupid!”
The shout came from Christy. Sweet, quiet, nerdy Christy marches up to Killer Joe and pokes him in his muscled chest, “You don’t have a clue. You said so.” Her finger leaves his chest and points at me, “This is Alex Kane. She’s telling you where you messed up. Alex Kane, you know the top secret source above everybody’s pay grade? The one who is never ever wrong.” She turns to Jack, and shoves her finger into the air in front of his face, “And you want to waste more time arguing? Good, fine,” My baby sister takes her whole hand and shoves Jack in the middle of his wrinkled shirt, “You stand around being wrong and useless. We are going to get May Rose from the beast who’s been abusing her right under your noses. You worthless poot-heads!” With one more shove and a toss of her stubby ponytail, Christy spins around, marches to the lead, and beats us all out the front door.
There goes my wild-card.
Jack the wrinkled is staring after her with the face of a man who just had a cute little Pomeranian puppy jump up and bite his nose off, “Did she just call me a poot-head?”
I ignore him and follow my sisters out the door. The men can tag along after us or not. At this point, I’m leaning towards Lena’s solution and ready to shoot them all in both feet. The idiots. Well, maybe not Gerald, as Allie seems fond of the guy and he looks after his mama.
“Way to go little sis,” Lena tugs on Christy’s pony tail, “Worthless Poot-heads, huh?”
Christy’s stalking beside her, flip-flops slapping the sidewalk in quick agitated strides, “I should have said poot-for-brains.”
“Save it.” I hear the door behind us open, the men following us out into the night and the mess we’re diving into head first, “Before the night’s over I’m sure you’ll have an opportunity to use it.”
“So Gavin’s little cousin is the famous Alex Kane. Damn he kept that under wraps.” GI Joe, or Randall Conover, and everybody calls me Rand, speaks up from the back seat. He and his brother Jack are riding with us. Gerald’s behind us in Rand’s beat up truck. They left the unmarked and still very recognizable police car behind.
“Cause Gavin didn’t know.” Lena mutters from the driver’s seat.
“What’s that?” Rand Conover leans forward.
“Dammit Lena, what the hell?” I smack her shoulder. This is why I ride shot-gun. Though usually I’m smacking to get her to slow the hell down, not shut the hell up.
“What?” She shrugs that shoulder, “He didn’t know. Not that he would have told him anything if he did.”
“Nah, but I have a feeling she wouldn’t have been doing it anyway…” Rand’s words drift off then slowly pick back up like a jet engine revving, “I’ll bet that’s why Alex Kane seemed to just drop off the face of the earth. There one day gone the next. He found out didn’t he?” Rand pauses for just a bare second, then “Shit! that op he was involved with for Homeland, his last one. The op in Scotland ended up in a fire fight at that damn castle. That guy Sawyer got beat to shit.”
“Yeah, he shot Mac. It was an accident, so Gavin didn’t kill him.”
“Lena,” I slap her shoulder again, “Shut up.”
She shrugs it at me again, “He’s going to find out anyway.”
Probably, but the fire fight at McGovern Castle is not something I want to revisit just now, “We have more important things to discuss.” I flick my gaze to the rear view. I have it situated so I can see Rand who’s behind Lena and Jack who’s by himself in the back seat, studying the back of Christy’s head like he’s never seen a ponytail before, “Tell me about the woman.”
“We grew up with her.” Jack said his eyes still locked on that ponytail. What the hell?
“Keep going.” I encourage.
“We were in the system together.” He’s giving up information one tooth at a time.
“Fosters.” I help it along, frustration mounting. I’m about a quart low on patience.
“Yes.” I get a confirmation and that’s it.
“Shit!” Lena throws one hand in the air, “Just fucking spit it out already. I mean damn, it’s not like you’re going to tell her something she hasn’t already figured out. Shit!” Lena has no patience to begin with, so she’s operating on a deficit and she’s pretty much right. While I don’t know the details, I don’t have to. Both men are radiating helpless anger and a hefty amount of guilt. The girl was hurt on their watch. That they were just boys at the time wouldn’t mean a thing to these men. They’re protectors.
“The house we were in, wasn’t a good one.” Jack said, “The woman’s boyfriend had an eye for young girls. Rachel was thirteen. It had been going on a while before we found out.”
“What happened?” It’s a useless question, and it’s greeted with silence, but I don’t need an answer. I damn well know what happened. I meet every one of my sisters’ eyes in the rear view. They know too.
Finally Rand answers, “Nothin’” He looked out the window, loose as a goose, “The man got drunk one night, fell down some stairs. Broke his neck. Died.”
“Yeah, a fall down the stairs will do that.” Lena nods.
“Necks are fragile,” Christy turns around and faces Jack, “It’s a strange quirk of evolution, just one tug in the wrong direction and Snap, you’re dead.”
Jack blinks at her, “Uh, yeah I guess so.”
“I did a thesis on it.”
“Did you?” The anger melts from his face and he’s looking at Christy in amused bewilderment. That’s a new one, usually we just get the bat-shit crazy stare.
“Yes,” Christy nods, smiling happily about neck snapping, “My supposition was it’s nature’s way of evening things out. You know, we’re the most evolved, at the top of the food chain, but physically we are more fragile. I got an A.”
“Christy always gets A’s.” Allie tugged the back of her ponytail, “She’s our little genius.” And I watch Allie with nothing more than a subtle glance, warn Jack away from her baby sister. Damn, that’s what that look was. Male interest. I’m slow tonight. Of course male interest is something Allie knows all about. Jack sits back with a shrug. Allie, satisfied turns back around, but I continue to watch him in the rear view, in under a minute his eyes are back on the back of Christy’s head.
“No.” I’m shaking my head.
“Not happening.” Lena blocks the door to the club.
“You could catch a contagious disease.” Christy wrinkles her nose, eyeing the door behind Lena like it’s some nasty thing she found in under a dumpster attached to a furry ball of let’s-keep-him.
“It’s a solid plan.” GI Joe puts in two cents nobody asked for.
I round on him, “This is family business. Stay out of it.” He throws his hands up and steps back. I turn back to Allie, “You are not going in there.”
“It’s a good idea, Mac.” Allie raises her delicate chin, “You know it is.”
“I don’t care. It’s not happening.”
“I’ll stay with her.” Rand volunteers, “She’ll be safe.”
“Again,” I round on him once more, “Not your business and we’re wasting time arguing.”
We arrived at the club relatively drama free, but then Allie had the bright idea of going in incognito to try and gather information and/or act as bait. The last time Allie went to a club there was a riot. The police carted six full grown men away in a paddy wagon. Yes, she’s that beautiful. And in a room-full of kinky who knows what the fuck…. Goddess only knows what could happen.
“You have to walk through the club anyway to get to the office.” Jack butts in.
I look Allie over head to toe, clouds of blond hair, black lace bustier, skinny jeans, stilettoes, and that angelic face. She’s every man’s fantasy, sensual and innocent… “You’ll wait in the car.”
Before Allie can get a deep breath to form a protest GI Rand pipes back in, “No, bad idea.” He points up around the parking lot, “There’s no monitoring out here. She’s safer inside.”
“Man’s got a point there.” Lena shrugs me.
I look Rand up and down – 6’2” solid muscle and the eyes of a killer. I’d like a matching set, but his brother’s no slouch, problem is he can’t keep his eyes off Christy. Killer Joe will have to do, “Stay with her. I don’t care if the building catches fire. You don’t leave her.”
“Got it.” Rand nods in the way of a man who knows his job well.
“Alright.” I take a step towards the door. Lean’s right beside me, “You ready?”
“Shit, no” She gives the door a disgusted look, “But the sooner we’re in there the sooner I can burn everything I’m wearing, scrub myself with Purell, soak in a bleach bath, and shave my head.” She rubs her hands over her face, “Goddess what a night.”
Yeah, first pagan naked and now leather naked. Damn.
Rand goes to the door and punches a code in the key pad. We walk through the doors and into a lobby. It looks like a reception area for some boring financial firm except for the huge hulking man in head to toe leather and the woman wearing nothing but a thong and a collar. Again leather.
“Oh fuck me…” I press my hands to my eyes, and will the headache blooming to go away.
“I..uh wouldn’t say that in here sis,” Lena hisses in my ear, “Somebody might try to take you up on it and we didn’t bring the sulfuric acid.”