The Joining

by Frank Talaber about a month ago in fiction

Chapter Two

The Joining

Chapter Two

Barely an hour after dealing with Jake, Samuel buzzed Carol, this time hopefully in response to her instructions to alert her to a particular wedding party’s arrival and not because of another naked emergency at the front desk. She strode out of her office, her eyes sweeping across the newly redecorated lobby in admiration. The Fairmont Victoria was definitely five-star, all the way from the deep green Berber carpet on its lobby floor up to the multi-tiered chandelier and its quarter of a million crystals in the middle of the grey, gold and marine blue ceiling. Amazing what sixty million bucks can do.

Carol went behind the front desk and stood beside Samuel as the first guests arrived for the wedding between Maria Rizzuto and Alexandro Belletti, two prominent New York Mafia families. Her cop’s eye recorded details on Antonio Rizzuto while he walked towards Reception. Per the police files she’d consigned to memory, he was fast approaching sixty, but was still a handsome man whose appearance announced his Italian heritage as completely as did his name. As expected, he traveled with an entourage of hard-as-nails men even an inexperienced eye would peg as personal protection. She recognized a few faces from the police pictures, including one of Rizzuto’s sons, Lorenzo, who smiled as she caught his eye. The photos don’t do him justice. Didn’t catch the bad boy in his eyes. Oh, yeah, the ladies love him. Until they piss him off, anyway. Not a good guy.

The others were the men who did the real dirty work for the Rizzuto family, and judging by what she’d read about Antonio and his sons, there was a lot of it. The Mafia was a well-oiled machine with a strict chain of command and they never missed a chance to mix business with pleasure. Antonio might be here for the impending wedding, but there’s no way he and the Belletti family weren’t scoping out expansion possibilities in Victoria, which extended down into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and was virtually surrounded by the Olympic peninsula of Washington state. It was likely Victoria was a route into America, but for exactly what, only God knew at this point. For sure, the Victoria Police didn’t. Some low-level intel reports indicated they might be trying to strike up associations with the Asian gangs or, even worse, trying to make headway into the lucrative Asian drug trades which could start a possible gang war on the island. The VPD had been in touch with all the different agencies, including the Americans, to trade information but nothing firm had been forthcoming, whether because the Americans didn’t know anything either or because they just didn’t choose to share it. Damn Americans.

A blonde draped herself over Antonio’s arm, hugging tighter than a well-tailored suit. She was maybe in her twenties, with lots of curves and over-sized breasts that couldn’t get within two feet of a microwave tower without melting. She smiled at Carol with that patented golddigger look, the look that swept over other women and dismissed them as no threat. Wait until you’ve popped a kid or two and he’ll have ten on the side looking just like you, younger and with bigger breasts. Carol smiled back. Probably already has.

Antonio Rizzuto stopped and nodded to one of the men. The underling stepped forward. “The Rizzuto party will check in now.” Glad there’s not a check-in line. I’d have some pissed off guests to calm down ‘cause these boys damn sure would have cut to the front.

Judging by the bulges under their armpits, some were carrying guns that never would have made it past customs. Note to self—they have some good buddies on the Canadian side of the border. She put on the best I-am-just-the-hotel-manager face she could muster. One thing about being undercover — she had to bite her tongue. A lot.

She checked them in personally and called over all the on-duty porters she’d had waiting on standby to take their luggage up. Between the two families and all the guests, the entire top floor of the hotel was booked for the week. The bride and groom would be in later, no doubt they were still on some very expensive bachelor and bachelorette weeks, one night, or even a weekend, no longer being acceptable.

As the group turned to leave, Lorenzo Rizzuto turned back to her. “We heard there’s a ghost tour, not our thing, but the Bellettis would like it. Set it up to collect them at the front door and leave us a message about the details.” Dismissing her, the arrogant bastard turned away.

“I’ll look into the tour times,” Carol called to his back. She vaguely recalled being told about ghost tours during her induction to hotel management and Victoria in general. Ghost tours and hauntings were big for many tourists since Victoria had the title of the most haunted city in

Canada. She hadn’t thought any of this crowd would be interested.

He said something to one of his men. The subordinate turned to stare at her, eyeing her up and down, smiling with a lewd look.

Smug bastard. Enjoy it. You won’t be so smug when we’re through with you.

* * *

“Holy shit, that’s never happened before.” Brad Handley rose from the corner of the Wall of Wonder chamber in the sewers. He kicked at the smoldering blue ashes. “Not much left to try and retrieve and add to this collection.” He stared at the liquid filled vials that he had seen the first time he came down looking for his drug addicted father, jammed into the mortar, many of them were frothing, partly from the heat, but more from fear. All of the vials he’d pulled from the dead or nearly dead bodies contained something, something alive. Their tortured souls? He wasn’t sure, nor how this could be happening, except something to do with the vortex located near them. Or something to do with the Lekwungen feeding off of them. “I haven’t found anything to explain how this is happening.” Some of the vials slowed their movements. “It’s funny, I don’t do drugs and the Lekwungen aren’t interested in me. I guess I haven’t got anything they want.” He patted the medallion around his neck. “Or this First Nation’s protection amulet I bought off that old native man keeps me safe from other native spirits. In any case there’s nothing here to do but sweep up this mess and head home.”

He stared intently at the one vial that meant the most to him. “Sorry, Dad”. He closed his eyes. “I know, they ain’t happy and I don’t know what’s pissing them off. Something is disturbing this area and I need to find out what that is before all hell breaks loose down here.”

Brad turned to leave the room. In the darkness left behind several sparks smoldered, throbbing. Instead of going out they lingered on, somehow feeding impossibly off the juices leaking from the cracked vials dripping their contents.

* * *

Moments later, on the corner of Shelbourne Street and Hillside Avenue, the blue sky begins to splinter into shades of purple and orange, even though it’s midday. Houses vanish, concrete dissipates. A cat stares, confused, as all around fields of waving grass replace the concrete and cement.

Behind it a woman emerges from a swirl of dust and the past begins to bleed into the present. She stares at the cat and the crumpled chocolate bar wrapper, lifts her large brimmed hat, swipes at the sweat beading her brow, sets the heavy wrapped package on the ground and checks the time on her watch.

She stares hard at the buildings, at the cards in her hands and without uttering a word, walks beyond the borders of yesterday into today. “I’m back. It’s time to begin settling matters.”

* * *

Carol’s cell phone signaled an incoming text just as she finished up the ghost tour arrangements. A quick surveillance update on the operation.

Belletti party delayed at airport.

Carol sighed. Now that things were in motion, she’d much prefer for all parties to be checked in. Although if the delay was overnight, then she could duck out and visit Barb. She texted back.

Why and for how long?

Problem with baggage. Guess the bazookas and AK47s didn’t sit well with Customs.

Carol didn’t laugh out loud, but it was a near thing. She missed Bob Hanson and his whacked sense of humour.

“Urumph.” Samuel cleared his throat in a tone clearly indicating his disapproval of her concentration on her personal phone rather than the lobby.

She pocketed it quickly. “I’ve just gotten word the Bellettis will be delayed. You should get some lozenges for that irritated throat, Samuel.”

“Ms. Moore, may I present Mrs. Agnes Van Lunt, one of our most esteemed guests. She’s checking in and would like to have a word with you.”

Carol looked up, her bright public relations smile firmly in place. Mrs. Van Lunt looked exactly the way a normal guest on a normal day should look in the Fairmont Victoria — elderly, rich, well-bred and classy. With her fur trimmed collar and wide-brimmed hat, she could have stepped right out of a 1940’s Harper’s Bazaar fashion layout. Three carousels of luggage trailed behind her. Crap, some people take their whole damn house with them on holidays.

Mrs. Van Lunt smiled as if she knew exactly what Carol was thinking. “I asked for the manager on duty? I presume by your attire you work here. You’d think they’d give the staff a better budget for clothing.” In that one haughty comment and glare the theory of wealthy entitlement and the fact that Carol rated well down on the scale of civility swiped like a tiger’s claws at Carol’s pasted smile. What a bag. I don’t know how Samuel does it. Carol kept her submissive smile pasted on her face.

The old gal flashed a diamond ring on her finger that gleamed with nearly the same dazzle as the new chandelier installed in the front foyer as she fussed with her hat. “I do say it is a might drafty in here. Does the hotel not pay for heating or is everything set on dry air conditioning mode? Which would require me to request a humidifier for my room.”

“I’m the manager on duty.” Some damn, the diamonds in that ring are probably worth more than some third world countries’ GNP.

Agnes Van Lunt smiled at her again. “I had a few special requests I’d like to check on before I go to my room. I asked for a larger-than-normal safe in my room, one large enough for my closest and most valuable, unreplaceable traveling possessions. Your clerk seems to think they may be better in the hotel safe, but I do like to have them on hand.”

Ah! Not just rich, but a nut job to boot with the list of requirements. Carol reached into the drawer where she’d made sure to stash this guest’s list of required needs. “I can assure you, the security protocols of this hotel are of the highest standards. And yes, the larger safe you requested has been installed in your room, it’s the most secure model of its size. Samuel was just pointing out the main hotel safe may still be more secure. All your other special requests have been fulfilled, including…” She glanced down at the weird items on her list and continued. “Two twelve-inch candles of pure beeswax, the lights in the suite have all been changed to incandescent bulbs, and we’ve supplied the ten sticks of Nag Champa incense, one of which was lit about ten minutes ago to facilitate the calm entering of your spirit. And of course, I’ve made sure the room’s been smudged to encourage the exit of previous occupants’ energies.” She read the words from the email they received at the time of booking. Yes, a complete over-the-frigging-top whack job. But one the hotel charged double the going rate for her rather radical requests, so definitely a welcome whack job.

“Then I see no need to talk further here in the drafts of this lobby and you may escort me to my suite now to make sure I’m entirely satisfied.”

“Me?”

“Yes, certainly you, dear. If anything’s wrong, you’ll be the one to make sure it’s corrected, after all. Why would I bother to go through a second party? I do hope you’ve arranged the maid service I requested. You seem to have left it off your little list. I need a maid to unpack. I’ll supervise, of course, I wouldn’t trust the staff to handle my haute couture or other priceless possessions without my observation. If there’s anything damaged or out of place, I expect the management to be fully accountable.”

“Of course. The maid will come up with the porters and the luggage.” Carol breathed deeply. Between the naked man in the lobby, the Italian Mafia family and society’s upper elite, she’d definitely earned a stiff drink tonight. And to think Samuel did this every day. I’d have slit someone’s throat by now. “Yes, Mrs. Van Lunt.”

"Agnes. You may call me Agnes." She smiled slightly at Carol and pulled her fox headed fur stole more closely around her neck. Then she ran a single finger back along her throat, watching Carol’s eyes as she made the subtle gesture

Carol blinked and subserviently followed the old lady towards the elevators. Christ, that move across her throat! Like she’d just read my mind.

* * *

John Andrews cursed as his golf ball dove deep into the blackberry bush behind the sixth green of the Victoria Golf Club. “Son of a bitch! Worst shot of the day.” He danced his club across the green as the other two men laughed.

“Hey, thought this was supposed to be relaxing,” Jim Low howled, smug because he had only a two-foot putt to win the hole.

“Not when I’ve got a fifty on each hole.” He cursed as he picked up his nemesis club and used it to part the prickly bushes. No way was he going to retrieve the ball with the club. He sighed and resigned himself to reaching in to get it.

“Hey, leave it there, it’s only a ball. Take a penalty drop,” David said, as he waited to take his putt.

“It’s only a ball? Next you’ll be saying ‘it’s only a game of golf’. I take my game very seriously and that’s my lucky Arnold Palmer ball, haven’t lost yet when I use it. It’s my trusty good luck charm and I ain’t going to lose it now.” He reached in and one of the sharp pricks of blackberry needles punctured his flesh. Blood oozed, but John could open his mouth to swear the terrifying scream of a woman broke the serenity of the golf course. The bloody figure of Doris Gravlin ran by, her husband in full pursuit, his hands drenched in red. He caught up to her and grabbed her by the throat, cutting off her cries of help. Before any of the men could even register what was happening, the Gravlins started fading and vanished into the manicured fairway.

“What in the—?” The three golfers stared wide-eyed. John winced in pain as his hand moved and another prick cut into him. He pulled himself free. “You’re right, no ball is worth this. I’m out of here.” He made for the buggy. David jumped in beside him and John floored the accelerator.

“Hey, what about the game?” Jim yelled.

Turns out it is only a game of golf. You can have my money,” John shouted back.

“You gonna just leave Jim back there?” David asked, incredulous.

“This is a case of every man for himself. I ain’t going back. You can if you like.”

“Not on your life. Some people take their golf way too seriously.” David shouted back at Jim. “You can have mine too.”

fiction
Frank Talaber
Frank Talaber
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Frank Talaber

I believe in whacking a reader upside the head, toss them screaming into the book, and just when they think they are starting to figure things out toss a curveball. they say that you don't have to be mad to be a writer, but it sure helps.

See all posts by Frank Talaber