|An Unlikely Alliance – Chapter Two|
Cheryl stared back at Kate for long moments, then finally shrugged her shoulders and continued.
“Look, I know you’re going to have a lot of questions right now, honey. But it’s best that you don’t dig too deeply,” she continued. “Glenn is probably the best friend in the world to have when you’re in trouble, but he’s not what he seems.”
Apparently Cheryl wasn’t either, Kate decided. Glancing over the edge of the bed while Cheryl left the room to go to the bathroom, she spotted what only could be the handle of an automatic pistol peeking out from inside her valise. Quickly composing herself on the bed, Kate anxiously waited for Cheryl’s return to the room. In just an hour or two, Kate found her life taking an entirely unexpected turn.
Sitting there in the bed, Kate was about to call out for someone when another unexpected face popped around the corner of the doorway! Giving up a frightened squeal, Kate quickly pulled up the covers on the bed up to her chin!
There, in front of her, was another stranger, a black man, dressed in the same sort of business suit that Cheryl was wearing. As he straightened up and entered the doorway, he apologized for startling her, introducing himself to her as Jeremy, another acquaintance of Glenn’s. She quickly took note of his appearance.
Starkly handsome, his clean, crisp appearance was crowned by a chiseled face, bright wide smile, and the carriage of what she was now beginning to characterize as “Glenn-ese.” She almost expected Jeremy to bow to her while kissing her hand, but soon shook that thought out of her mind.
Nodding his head towards her, he said “I just wanted to let Glenn know that the antique next door and all its parts have been deposited in his garage, and Baby is here.” Having said that, his head popped back into the hall and he disappeared. Now Kate thought, the antique was probably her junker, but Baby…? More questions than answers so far.
Alone again, Kate dropped her head back on the pillow, and tried to relax. This had already been a most eventful day, she thought. As she tried to get her head around the events of the past few hours, she slowly slipped off into an exhausted slumber.
It was a very strange nightmare, not frightening although she couldn’t say why. By all rights she should have been absolutely terrified, but instead she felt oddly comforted. A fuzzy thought in the back of her weary mind simply added it to all the other mysterious things that had taken place over the past several hours.
The room was dark, but she could vaguely make out the shadows of furniture that belonged to the bedroom in Glenn’s home, outlined by the dim light coming in from the hallway. Her left arm felt oddly warm, and as she slowly rolled her head to look, she was confronted with the specter of two large golden, luminous eyes, seemingly embedded in a large hulking mass. The heat she felt on her arm was apparently coming from the breathing of this monster. As she faded off back to sleep, she thought she could feel the warm, wet touch of a massive tongue on the back of her hand.
The next time she awoke, the room was lit, and Cheryl was sitting on her bed taking her pulse. Noting that Kate was now awake, Cheryl put on her stethoscope, pulled the sheet from her chest, and began checking her heartbeat and breathing.
When she finished, she looked up at Kate, smiled and asked her if she were feeling all right. Aside from a slight headache and a relatively sore cheek, she felt pretty good, and assured Cheryl that she was feeling just fine.
Getting to her feet, Cheryl told Kate that she had to return to her own practice, but that if she needed help of any kind, to inform Glenn and he’d see that she returned to do whatever she could for her.
While she hadn’t gotten a whole lot of information out of Cheryl, Kate suddenly began to panic a bit as she watched her gather up her equipment in preparation for leaving. There were still many questions that she wanted answered about her current situation, and she wasn’t willing to allow Cheryl to leave without at least an attempt to get them answered.
“Uhm, Cheryl?” she blurted out. Straightening up, Cheryl looked back at Kate as if she knew something would be coming. “Please, I need some answers—everything is so confusing right now,” she continued. Cheryl however, simply stood there, waiting for Kate to begin.
No out and out rejection, Kate thought, so she began. “I only met his wife one time, but I remember her as a lovely, gentle woman—not what I’d expect for someone like Glenn. Did you know them well?” Suddenly Cheryl’s brow turned into a frown, but she quickly recovered, and after a bit of reflection she replied.
“Yeah, I knew both of them for many years. Josie was the only person who could compare to Glenn, both in temperament and skill. Some said that she had ‘witching’ ways, because of the exceptional feats she performed in this business. Every competition they were involved in ended in a draw—it was uncanny. Some say they were truly soul mates.”
“Why did they end up here, in a ‘nothing town’ in the middle of nowhere?” Kate persisted. “And what business exactly, were they in?”
Cheryl sighed, but went on, “Glenn was always a bit on the wild side, and risked too much for Josie’s way of thinking. She had visions of growing old with him, and she feared that their future together would be cut short one day, too soon for her to realize that dream. Finally, one day fate stepped in to conquer her in a way that she’d never expected. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and given only months to live.”
Kate watched tears begin to roll down Cheryl’s face, and started to regret her line of questioning. Before she could change the subject however, she continued. “Josie did something that no one else had been able to do—she tamed him—almost completely. She got him to promise that he’d retire from the agency, and not take risks anymore. At least until she could spend her final days with him. He agreed. When she died, he died.”
“As far as the ‘business’ is concerned, honey,” she continued. “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.” The look on Cheryl’s face as she said that spoke volumes, but her mood changed almost immediately, and she smiled broadly. “Jes’ kiddin’ honey.”
Kate wasn’t so sure about that, but she did have one more puzzle she wanted answered, so she asked the one question that had been bothering her since she’d stumbled into this group. “Cheryl,” she said. “Thanks for everything, I’m indebted to you—but—one more question?” Cheryl dropped her shoulders, and leaned back on her hips, waiting for Kate to continue.
“Who is Baby?”
The thunderstruck look on Cheryl’s face frightened Kate a bit, but it just made her even more determined to find out the mystery behind this ‘Baby.’ For the first time since she’d met her, Cheryl appeared genuinely angry. Her face darkened, and she gathered up her stuff, and stormed out of the bedroom. Kate had the feeling that she’d finally stepped over the line, and fell back onto the bed to gather her thoughts.
A couple of moments later, she heard Cheryl’s angry voice chastising someone from beyond the hallway. Listening carefully, she was able to make out a bit of what she was saying. “. . . didn’t you tell her about Baby? What were you thinking? I know Baby and she scares the hell out of me, Glenn. What are you going to do when she sees her?”
Kate couldn’t make out many specifics when he answered her, but the gist of his reply was to reassure her that everything would work out all right. Cheryl didn’t sound too convinced but she told Glenn that Kate had to stay here with him under observation until she had a chance to return and give her a final checkup. Once she’d told him that, there was a long, long pause, and Kate was sure that he was going to put up a fuss about it.
Instead, after a bit of hemming and hawing, he reluctantly agreed with her that it was best for her. It was the first time that Kate had ever sensed any uncertainty in him since she’d encountered him once again, but it put a human aspect to him that actually put her more at ease. One thing was certain however, she was no longer so anxious to meet Baby, whoever she was.
A minute later, there was another knock at the door, and Kate was again confronted with Jeremy’s smiling face. Excusing himself, he stepped into her room with two large suitcases—hers she noted—and set them just inside the door. “I hope that I managed to get a proper representative of what you’ll need to wear for the next few days. By then you should be fit enough to return to your house and the comforts of home.”
She felt a little bit better about being an imposition on Glenn’s’ hospitality with some of her own clothing in her possession, but she was a little bit concerned about what Jeremy had managed to scavenge from her belongings in her house. After all, she didn’t know him that well at all. This has been a most unusual day, she thought.
Now that things had quieted down somewhat, Kate began to feel a bit hungry, and decided to check the suitcases for something that she could change into that would make her more presentable to her host. Perhaps she might be able to repay his hospitality with a home-cooked meal as well, as soon as she found the kitchen.
As she sorted through the items brought to her by Jeremy, she couldn’t help noting that he seemed to have a remarkable aptitude for packing clothing and toiletries for visiting exotic places. She smiled; everything she might’ve selected for herself had she had an opportunity to pack it herself. It was becoming quite apparent that this group knew how to treat a lady.
She blushed a bit when she came across her underclothing, wondering idly what he must have been thinking when he selected the bras and thongs that lined the suitcase. Most mysterious people, at a most mysterious time in her life, she thought.
The next few days passed uneventfully, but Kate managed to finagle her way into Glenn’s daily routine, at least to some extent. There were still odd little events occurring each day that puzzled her, and she couldn’t get over the feeling that she was under constant surveillance.
Still, easing into a routine of early rising each morning to prepare a hearty breakfast for Glenn and herself gave her a little more purpose in her life, something that she sorely needed these days.
The specter of her ex-husband however, and his threats at their last encounter, remained an ever-present cloud over their peaceful week of activity however. She knew that he’d return one day to finish what he started with them. Although her current companions seemed to be quite able to protect themselves, she was quite aware of what her ex was capable of, and feared that Glenn and his friends might have placed themselves too close to the danger that her ex represented.
By the end of the week, she was settled into a routine of sorts, and even managed to visit the garage to watch him begin the process of restoration on the wreck that he’d brought over from her house. By the weekend however, he was already directing her efforts on his behalf in the restoration process, resulting in inevitable consequences; they were beginning to establish a relationship.
The relationship developed slowly, and unbeknownst to either of them, it was forming a bond that would propel each of them into a very lethal combination of mutual concern.
“Comfort level.” We all know what that represents. Glenn began to accept the presence of Kathy without reservation over the next few days, and that in itself made her less edgy about the circumstances surrounding their current situation. The subject of ‘Baby’ didn’t come up during any of their conversations, but Kate sensed a presence about the house that she couldn’t pin down.
Throughout this period, their relationship became pretty much an exchange between friends, although Kate certainly wanted it to turn into something else. She’d noticed that Glenn wasn’t impervious to her presence either, as he displayed all the hints of sexual attraction that she’d grown up with during her life; furtive glances at her figure when he thought she wasn’t looking, and the moments of brief erections whenever he was in contact with her.
She knew he felt that he was hiding his responses from her whenever these little clues occurred, but he was no match for her female sensibilities. She was a match for him in this respect, she figured. As confident as she was in this thought, she suspected that there were still too many hidden aspects to her Mr. Blanchard that could muddle her thoughts in the days to come, so she didn’t bank on them.
Kate was a novice in the game of treachery, but she knew that there would be a ‘day of reckoning’ between her ex-husband and Glenn, and she dreaded that deeply. If only she could do something that would neutralize that day, she thought; and make it all go away.
During a long episode of antique repair on Saturday, Glenn stopped, wiped his hands clean, and told Kate that he had an idea to celebrate their reuniting. “You show your worry all over your body, my dear,” he said. “We both need a break from this sweatshop for a while, and a chance to really figure out your situation to see what we can do to make it better.”
“It’s time to enter the real world again, Kate. More for your benefit than mine,” he continued. “Clean up a bit, and let’s take a trip to the ‘Rubicon Ballroom.’ I’ve heard that their Chateaubriand is the best in this part of the country, and I’m ready for some special taste treats.”
As he said that, her heart took a bit of a jump; “taste treats” echoed in her head as she obediently walked back to her room to change. Her mind was swirling with chaotic thoughts, both erotic and fearful. Her ex-husbands vendetta rang in her head, and she had no reason to believe that he’d leave them alone much longer before making a deadly move.
Glenn didn’t seem to share her fears however, and had apparently planned a night out that would bring her back into the ‘land of the living,’ as he called it. She wondered if this ‘therapeutic date’ might pull him back into that same land as well.
Alone in her room, Kate laid out the clothing that Jeremy had brought from her house. ‘My, my, Jeremy…’ she thought. ‘What-ever were you thinking when you packed these?’ Lying on her bed were plenty of everyday items, but he’d included some evening clothing, and even coordinated them as well.
The highlight of the collection was an aqua-green evening gown, sheer and a bit daring. Backless, no straps, and cut on each side to mid-thigh, it would probably fit her a bit more snugly than she’d be comfortable with since she’d not worn it in a few years, but she decided to give it a try.
‘Must be an omen,’ she thought. It fit perfectly. Checking herself out in the full-length mirror in the bedroom, she was startled by the vision that returned her gaze. There were definitely possibilities for her appearance in her future; she needn’t worry about being the ‘drag of the ball’ going forward. Her only concern now was how Glenn would react to her ‘dress up’ for the evening.’
She needn’t have worried, as he had been consumed with coming up with the proper trappings of current dress for gentlemen. It’d been far too long since he’d ventured out into the world of today, in a world that had continued when he’d stopped, wrapped up in mourning for his beloved wife. He had finally settled on an old ageless ensemble; and Kate was about to be transported to another age.
As she carefully made her way down the stairway to the vestibule, she was pleasantly surprised by Glenn’s reaction to her appearance. He appeared stunned; and stood next to the door transfixed on her presence. His mouth was partly open, and he was as close to being hypnotized as anyone she’d ever seen.
Her reaction was equally as shocked at his appearance, as she took in his party wear. Before her stood an anachronism, a gentleman from another time. He was dressed in a Regency Tailcoat, Cobalt blue, and the period’s tan Fall Front Trousers. The period was 19th Century, and although her first impulse was to re-dress him into something more contemporary, her final thoughts were, ‘He’s gorgeous!’
Recovering his composure, he stepped to the bottom of the stairway as Kate ended her descent. Raising his right arm, his forefinger crooked before her face, he bowed. Reflexively, Kate reached out and hooked her own forefinger into his, and curtseyed. She melted at his smile and allowed him to escort her from the house.
Entering the garage from the most distant door, Kate discovered that Glenn had another surprise to reveal to her. As he turned on the lights to the bay, she blinked a couple of times, and then fell fascinated with a most unusual automobile.
Later, she discovered that it was a completely restored Rolls-Royce Phantom II, and at the driver’s seat, sat Jeremy. Once the lights illuminated the garage, Jeremy triggered the ignition of the beast, and as it roared into life, he jumped from the driver’s seat to open the rear door for their entry.
Glenn helped Kate into the rear of the auto before entering himself. Nodding to Jeremy, he leaned back into the seat and put his arm around her. She was getting a bit giddy with the attention, and felt as though she’d been swept into the 19th century, full of the grace and glitter of that age. Placing her head on his shoulder, she trembled at the roar of the machine as they left the estate for the ‘Rubicon.’ His embrace was almost enough to erase her fears of the days to come. Almost.
Reaching their destination, Jeremy left them at the entrance of the restaurant and disappeared into the darkness of the parking lot. Escorting her into the expanse of the brightly lit vestibule of the establishment, Glenn quickly confirmed their reservation, and had her stole checked in at the cloak room.
Stepping into the vast dining area, the host quickly guided them to their table, but was unable to avoid the attention of many of the already seated patrons. Kate felt the eyes of everyone on them as they approached their table, and she was worried about the archaic look of her companion amongst the company. That would prove to be the least of her worries as the night wore on.
‘He looks magnificent,’ she thought as they settled into their table. The waiter was virtually groveling over their seating, ensuring that every nitty-gritty detail had been taken care off before he left to present their order to the kitchen. Looking up at her Glenn said, “Kate, you look absolutely gorgeous; I’m so proud to have you as my escort.”
As she glowed in his compliments, she noticed a couple of her acquaintances about the dining area. Although she knew them well, once her relationship with her ex finished, they’d not had any contact, so she wasn’t sure where their relationship remained at this point. It was easy, however, to allow Glenn to direct the activities of their dinner and not worry about distractions.
The dinner was all they’d expected it to be; tender, succulent, and expertly served. The small band started up about 8pm with some progressive jazz, and finally began playing some dancing music.
Kate was a bit apprehensive about the dancing, since Glenn had never mentioned any talent or pleasure in that respect, but when he got out of his seat, and asked her to join him; she knew this was a night that she’d remember.
He was accomplished, and they swirled around the dance floor with grace. He kept his eyes on hers, and as they progressed through the various steps, she felt his hands pressing her closer and closer to his body. There was no objection, as she began to feel completely comfortable in his embrace.
Magic, she thought; simply magic. As she gazed about the ballroom, she saw envy, lust and jealousy in the eyes of the women, and fear and jealousy in the eyes of the men. Somehow, she felt tonight would be the hallmark of the rest of her life. She’d totally committed to her new existence; now it was her challenge to preserve it.
No fluff; no beating around the bush—Glenn knew how to make a woman feel special. As they wandered back to their seats after a particularly brisk dance, they were approached by a large, muscle-bound thug, thinly disguised in a suit and tie.
As he came upon them, he grabbed Kate’s wrist, and announced that he had the next dance with her. Shocked, Kate tried to pull back, but was stopped in her tracks.
Glenn, in the smoothest manner possible, turned to his escort and asked, “Kate?”
“N-No…” she stuttered.
Grinning, Glenn reached over and gripped the interloper’s wrist, and without him seeming to do anything else, Kate watched the man’s eyes snap open in surprise. He dropped her wrist immediately, trying to pull his hand away from Glenn’s grip, but to no avail.
Glenn still smiled, and in a soft voice, told the man that the lady wasn’t interested, and suggested that he return to his seat. Finally released, the brute stared at him in shock, and rubbing his wrist, stumbled back to his table.
Still frightened, Kate nervously allowed Glenn to lead her back to their table and seat her. Patting her hand, he assured her that everything would be all right, and after allowing her to gather her emotions, pulled her up from her seat for the next dance.
Glancing over at the table the man came from she noticed three other shady characters nearby.
The ballroom was closing in on her she felt, and a great sense of foreboding came over her evening, apparently not shared by her companion. Glenn was as effusive as usual, elegant and a perfect host. The only difference she could discern was the look in his eyes; icy cold and piercing.
It took a few moments for her to realize that this was a setup; ‘smoking the rats out of the woodshed,’ her father would have said. What was to happen once that took place she couldn’t imagine, but she put her complete faith in her companion this night.
The dance was as smooth and skillful as the previous ones, but she sensed new tension in the air as all eyes seemed to focus on the swirling pair. The band finally wrapped up their final riff, and the couple returned to their table.
Exhausted, Kate nervously looked about the ballroom, trying to ferret out any signs of threat, or danger. Glenn seemed to be quite composed and unconcerned, although she noted that the edge in his eyes remained.
It was late, and Glenn suggested that they wrap up their evening, and return to his home, a suggestion that Kate eagerly accepted. Although she’d had an absolutely wonderful time that evening, she sensed an undercurrent of threat that she couldn’t identify, and knowing the viciousness of her ex-husband, couldn’t trust.
Stepping out into the fresh air, Kate noted headlights of a parked car turn on, and begin moving towards the couple. As the vehicle neared them, she didn’t recognize the vehicle as the one in which they’d been transported to the restaurant, and looked to Glenn for support.
Quickly pulling her behind him, Glenn stared at the vehicle, now pulling up before them. As it came to a stop, all four doors opened, and each ejected an obviously hostile thug—there was no pretense at niceties as they all pulled out weapons of one sort or another and slowly advanced towards them.
No guns; that would have been awkward given their proximity to the police station, but knives and clubs, enough to silence any objection to their plans, were in abundance.
Kate turned to Glenn in terror, but all she saw was amusement. What the hell? A moment later she saw why.
A long black sedan roared around the corner, and plowed into the back of the now empty car in front of them, propelling it into the curb ahead, and the men scattered around it. As they came to their senses, they found themselves surrounded by figures in black suits, all poised as though they’d been there all along.
Kate recognized Jeremy, simply because he was so tall, and was wearing the same outfit that he’d had on when he brought the couple to the restaurant. No smile this time, though. Grim, and extremely threatening.
An awkward standoff took place, and after a few moments, the thugs began to move towards whatever exits they thought viable at the moment. To Kate’s surprise, no one made any move to prevent their escape. Once they’d disappeared, she noticed that the crowd had shrunk by half, and Jeremy was holding the door open on their transportation home.
It began to become apparent to Kate that her dapper host was much, much more than the old country gentleman he’d portrayed these past years. Just more questions, she thought.