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Persephone Women’s Correctional Facility
Pain shoots through her hand as a spike is driven deeply into her flesh. She cries out in agony.
Cassandra Kaine awakens with a gasp from the dream. She manages not to sit bolt upright in bed and slam her head into the top bunk. Though it was just a dream she can feel the pain in her hand still. She holds up her right hand and stares at the circular wound in her palm. In the dream it is a spike but here in the real world it was a 22 caliber bullet. But she knows it could have been worse. She could be dead. And would be if a cop hadn’t showed up. She shudders as she remembers the sensation of the 22’s barrel resting against her head. Brent would have executed her on the spot but for a timely yet ironic intervention.
“Dreaming again Cass?” a voice floats down from the top bunk. A second later an upside down face appears next to her.
Cassandra glances at Sally’s smiling face and feels her melancholy mood lifting a little. She reaches out and touches the younger woman’s cheek. “Nightmares Sally. If they were dreams you’d be in them.”
“Tease,” Sally says. Her head disappears then she drops down from the top bunk to sit next to Cass on the bottom bunk. “So only about three more hours. Then you’re out. Got any plans?”
Cass turns around on the bed so she is sitting facing Sally. She looks at the orange jumpsuits they both wear. “I’m gonna buy a new outfit for starters.” She laughs. But Sally just stares at her.
“I’m serious,” Sally slides closer to Cass.
“I know you are.” She brushes a stray lock of hair from Sally’s face. “ I’m going to be missing you. That’s for damn sure.”
“Don’t flatter me Cass.” Sally slips an arm around Cass’s waist. “You’ll find someone new out there in the world.”
Cass wishes she could deny Sally’s words but she knows they are the truth. Since arriving in Persephone eight years ago Cass and Sally have shared a physical relationship that has satisfied certain needs for both of them. But they never deluded themselves into believing it was ever anything serious. ŒBest friend with benefits,’ Sally had explained it once.
“I’m sorry,” she feels the need to inform her friend and cell mate.
“Don’t get all mushy on me Cass,” Sally leans over and kisses her on the cheek. “But I will miss you. I have never had as good a friend in here as you.”
“Thanks,” Cass says and returns the gesture but she places her kiss on Sally’s lips instead. Then she wraps her arms around Sally and draws them both to lay on the bed together.
“Anyone coming to pick you up?” Sally inquires laying her head on Cass’s chest.
“I seriously doubt it,” Cass replies. “No family. No friends. Except you. I’m pretty sure when they open that gate I am gonna have a long walk to a shelter somewhere.”
“What will you do?”
“I have not got a clue. I imagine I’ll be flipping burgers or painting walls for a while until I get things sorted out.”
“Are you gonna keep in touch?”
“Sure. I’ll swing by for a conjugal every now and then.”
Sally slaps her thigh hard. “Cass!”
“Shh.” She places a finger over Sally’s lips. “ You’ll have Ford in here screaming at us again.”
“You will keep in touch. Won’t you?” Sally repeats the question.
“As soon as I have a phone I’ll be sure to get you the number. And you just remember to come see me when you get out. All right?”
“Three more years it is,” Sally says. She turns her head so she is looking into Cass’s deep blue eyes. “You know since you aren’t tired…” She lets the implication hang in the air for a minute before she pulls herself up Cass’s body to plant a long, hard kiss on the other woman’s lips.
After they separate Cass gasps loudly then sighs. “I guess I get to talk to Ford again one more time too.” She clutches Sally’s body to hers and then gives her a kiss that makes the previous one seem positively childish.
Dressed in the black jeans, black silk shirt and boots she had worn the night she was arrested Cassandra stares through the composite plastic of her cell door to stare into the smirking face of corrections officer Danielle Ford. Her black leather jacket is slung across the duffle bag that hangs from her shoulder. There is a loud buzz and the cell door slides open. She turns back to look at Sally sitting on the bottom bunk. She winks at the woman and blows her a kiss.
Sally smiles. “Take care of yourself.”
“I will,” Cass says and steps out to stand beside Ford. Another buzz and the door slides shut. Cass does not look back. She walks at a measured pace beside Ford along the gantry of the prison’s third tier.
“Things will be quiet at night around here at least,” Ford declares not looking at Cass.
“Sorry about that,” Cass says suppressing a giggle. “We just got a little too much into it.”
“I did gather that,” Ford says. As they pass by some cell a few of the other inmates knock on the cell doors and bid Cass good bye. She waves or nods to them all in turn.
They ride the elevator down to the ground floor. But instead of heading out towards the gate Ford leads Cass towards the warden’s office. Before Cass can protest Ford answers her unspoken question. “The warden wants to talk to you.”
“I was afraid you were gonna say that,” Cass says pushing a hand through her long black hair.
They walk through the door into warden Natasha Bremer’s office. Once she is standing before the warden’s desk Cass drops her duffle bag and stands at attention much the way she did when she was in the Navy. Bremer smiles. Before becoming a warden she was a Marine instructor. And though she has never run Persephone like a boot camp she has kept order in the prison better than any facility in the state. In the fifteen years of her term as warden there has not been one riot, one murder, one rape in Persephone.
“Cassandra Kaine,” Bremer says as if surprised to see the woman in her office. She walks from behind the desk to walk around the soon to be free woman and inspect her one last time. She looks Cass over from head to toe and then laughs. “Danielle. I’ll expect payment at the end of the day.” From where she stands by the doorway Ford curses under her breath.
“Pardon?” Cass says confused.
“Officer Ford and myself had a little wager going when you were first brought here Kaine,” Bremer begins as she goes back to sit behind her desk. “She bet me five hundred dollars and a steak dinner that when you were released you would no longer fit into those jeans.”
“Glad to know I could be of financial assistance ma’am,” Cass says.
“At ease Kaine,” Bremer says waving a hand. Cass relaxes. “You’ll soon be a free woman. Promise me I’m not going to see you in Persephone again.”
“You won’t ma’am,” Cass answers. “Eight years of my life with only stone walls and composite plastic for scenery is more than enough.”
Bremer looks to Ford. “Danielle has informed me that you’ve enjoyed more than that for scenery over the years.”
Cass can feel the color running from her neck up to her face. Bremer laughs haughtily. “Please don’t blame Sally. She…” She stops when Bremer holds up a hand.
“Miss Ficsher and your extracurricular activities are none of my concern Kaine.”
Cass nods her understanding. “Is there anything else ma’am?”
Bremer stands up from her desk again and extends her hand across the table. A little surprised by the gesture Cass reaches out and grips the preferred hand. “Good luck Kaine.” Bremer nods to Ford then reseats herself and begins to pour over a mound of paperwork on her desk.
Cass gathers up her duffle bag and follows Ford out of the office.
Cass shakes Ford’s hand then turns to watch the huge titanium door that resembles nothing so much as a castle portcullis rise up and show her the way out of Persephone.
As soon as she reaches the street that runs outside the facility she suddenly wishes she could go back inside. Sitting across the street is a long black car with tinted windows. An imposing figure of a man nearly seven feet tall and barely fitting into the business suit he wears is standing by the last door on the car’s left hand side.
“Shit,” Cass mumbles to herself. She sets down her bag and pulls on her jacket. She stares at the car and the man standing by it for a few seconds. For a moment she considers just walking down the dirt road in the opposite direction from which the car faces. As if knowing her thought the huge man shakes his head and points to the spot beside him. “Double shit!”
She walks not too swiftly across the street to stand beside the man and the car.
“She’s here sir,” he says aloud .
The door beside them opens and an all too familiar voice says, “Please climb in Cassandra. I’d like to talk to you.”
Against all better judgment but knowing it will be far better for her health she gets in. The door is slammed shut behind her as she seats herself in the car’s cavernous back seat. To her right sits a woman dressed in a tailored suit with glasses sitting on the edge of her nose and punching things into a PDA. Cass reckons she can’t be more than twenty years old. She glances Cass up and down then starts frantically typing information into the PDA. But it is the person across from her that worries her. Sitting there lavishly in what has to be a five thousand dollar suit and sipping what is sure to be fifty year old scotch is Edmund Seaborn , CEO of Seaborn Industries and US senator. He hardly looks his sixty five years . But that is what millions of dollars in plastic surgery and personal trainers will get you. She hopes the disgust she feels inside does not register on her face.
“Why Cassandra,” Seaborn says grinning intently. “You look surprised to see me.”
“Yeah well. I was rather hoping you had forgotten me.” Cass crosses her arms and legs to create her own personal space inside the car.
“Oh I never forget people who fail me,” Seaborn continues. He takes a sip of the scotch in his hand.
“Especially people who fail me as spectacularly as you did.”
Cass realizes that her prospects of getting out of this car alive have just dropped considerably.
“Not only did you not get me the item I asked for. But all the money I paid you up front and all the equipment that I provided you was confiscated when you were arrested!” He emphasizes the last two words drastically. He gulps the remainder of the liquor in the glass then slams it down on the ample arm rest so hard it cracks.
“I didn’t tell the police or the FBI a damn thing about you,” she reminds him emphatically. “None of the money or equipment was traced back to you.” She doesn’t bother to point out to him that the thug he assigned to aid her tried to murder her and take the goods for himself.
“I know Cassandra,” Seaborn says. The look of disdain on his face softens a little. “That’s why you didn’t end up with a two hundred and fifty pound bull dyke for a cell mate or find a shiv in your guts in the shower. I appreciate that loyalty. But when it is coupled with failure I am forced into a conundrum.”
“I’ve already paid for my failure with eight years of my life Mister Seaborn,” Cass points out to him.
“Cassandra. Cassandra.” Seaborn pulls a bottle from a selection next to him and chooses an unbroken glass. He fills the glass then drinks from it casually. “Your time in prison hardly makes recompense for…” Seaborn pauses them points to the girl next to Cass. “How much did Cassandra cost me April?”
April scrolls through data on her PDA before turning her eyes onto Cass. With a finger she pushes the glasses back up onto the bridge of her nose. “Payment up front was seventy five thousand dollars,” she says to start then looks back to the PDA. “Equipment for contract totaled ten thousand nine hundred forty two dollars and sixty cents. And cost lost from Miss Kaine’s failed assignment ran to three point six million dollars. I have not factored in any interest Mister Seaborn.”
“It’s fine April.” Seaborn finishes his drink. “I think Cassandra gets the idea.” He turns piercing grey eyes on her. “You owe me quite a deal of money.” He taps on the glass partition behind him.
Cass represses a gasp as the car begins to move. “Brent shot me!” she exclaims holding up her wounded hand. “He stole the data disc you wanted! He would have killed me if that cop hadn’t showed up and killed him instead.”
“I hadn’t thought about that,” Seaborn looks at her thoughtfully. He turns to April. “Add the cost of all the training and conditioning I paid concerning Dave Brent to Cassandra’s debt.”
“What?” Cass screams. “This is insane. You can’t be serious. There is no way I can pay you…”
April cuts her off saying, “Approximately three and three quarter million dollars plus interest.”
“This is bull shit!” Cass shouts.
“Now Cassandra you are left with two choices.” Seaborn sets his glass down gently this time. “Either you can choose to repay your debt to me. Or…” He nods to April. The young girl draws a nine millimeter pistol tipped with a silencer from a compartment next to her.
Cass stares in horror at the gun. The memory of Brent pressing his pistol to her head while she kneeled before him and begged for her life makes her almost physically ill.
“I hope I don’t need to go with option two.” Seaborn grins viciously at the fear he sees in her eyes. He takes hold of the bottle of scotch again. “May I offer you a drink Cassandra?” He holds up the bottle to her.
But Cass’s eyes are still on the gun. April just smiles at her like a school girl showing off a piece of jewelry her mom gave her.
“I guess not,” Seaborn says pouring himself another drink. “I’m sure you won’t mind if I have another. I’m positively parched after being in this dry air for so long.”
April slips the gun back into the compartment. Cass exhales the breath she has been holding since laying eyes on the weapon. “Can I get your full name Miss Kaine.” April poises over her PDA which causes her glasses to slide back down her nose.
“What?” Cass inquires stunned by the question.
“Full name please.” April raises her eyebrows in anticipation of an answer.
“Cassandra Artemisia Kaine.”
“Thank you.” April goes back to entering data into her device.
Seaborn seems to ignore Cass’s presence as he sips on his drink and watches the scenery pass by out the window.
Cass realizes she won’t be contacting Sally anytime soon.
It’s bigger than the last time I saw it, Cass thinks as she steps from Seaborn’s car and gazes up at the monstrosity of a house before her. Reminding her a little of the Winchester House, the Seaborn Estate sprawls over acres of land and appears more as several houses fused together than any single structure. Two uniformed servants stand at the bottom of a marble staircase that leads up into an opulent porch decorated with Doric and ionic columns. Ornately carved wooden double doors grant entrance to Seaborn’s palace. She remembers why it is she had thought of him as some modern day Caesar the first time she saw this place years ago.
One of the servants steps forward to stand in front of Cass. “ I’ll take your bag ma’am,” the young man says holding out one arm.
Cass fights back the urge to tell him to piss off. But decides it would be in the best interests of her physical well being to play nice in Seaborn’s little kingdom. She hands her bag to the man. She watches April pass her to head towards the door. The girl turns intense eyes back on her. She smiles innocently then walks up the staircase.
As she approaches the door it opens and a vision of beauty steps from the house. The woman who descends the stairs is in her early twenties with long blond hair tied back into a tight braid that dangles over her left shoulder. She walks with a hip swaying motion that seems scandalous but still carries with it an air of profound arrogance. The loose fitting green silk shirt embroidered with Chinese dragons doesn’t hide from Cass’s eyes that she is incredibly fit despite being a full head shorter than Cass. The black slacks she wears seem a bit to small for her making the movement of her hips almost hypnotic. Black designer boots that Cass guesses cost more than her first car make a loud clicking as she moves still closer to the party exiting the car.
Cass cannot imagine who this woman is. She certainly was not here the last time Cass set foot in Seaborn’s home eight years ago. But as the woman stops a few feet from Cass she finds herself looking down into familiar green eyes. Oh hell no! she thinks to herself and just manages to stop herself from saying the words out loud.
Seaborn steps up next to Cass. “I’m sure you remember my daughter Rosemary.”
Cass stares in shock at Seaborn’s daughter. When she had seen the girl last she was a gangly fourteen year old who had for some physiological reason not hit puberty yet. Well it finally did hit her. Like a freaking tank!
“Rosemary,” Seaborn says. He points to Cass. “This is Miss Kaine. You recall her , don’t you?”
Rosemary looks Cass up and down in way that does not make her feel anymore welcome than SeabornŒs invitation. She extends a hand. “Yes. I remember Miss Kaine. A pleasure to see you again.”
The emphasis that Rosemary puts on Œpleasure’ tells Cass that she finds no pleasure whatsoever in this her presence. Still she takes the hand offered her. She clasps her right hand to Rosemary’s. As she does so she sees just under the sleeve of Rosemary’s shirt a thin pink line that she knows can only be a scar of some kind on the under side of her arm.
Rosemary for her part nearly jerks her hand back when she feels the circular scar in Cass’s palm. She turns the hand over to examine the old wound. “What is this?” she asks. She places the index finger of her other hand dead center of the wound.
Cass pulls her hand back quickly. “Nice to see you again Rosemary.”
The blonde still has both her hands held in the position they were just in holding Cass’s hand and she looks none to pleased to have her query ignored. She glances to her father. “Mister Pierce has been waiting in your office for the past hour father. He isn’t happy about being kept waiting.”
“He’ll survive,” Seaborn says with a groan. “Show Miss Kaine to her room won’t you Rose.” He passes by Cass without a word or gesture and enters the house.
Rose looks to the servant who still stands holding Cass’s bag. She makes a kind of growling sound in the back of her throat and the man takes off like something is after him. She shakes her head and turns back to begin walking towards the house. She is halfway up the steps when she turns to find Cass still rooted to the spot and quite obviously staring at her. “Miss Kaine?” she says.
Cass breaks from her daydreaming and shakes her head to get herself back into a more competent mindset. “Yeah?”
Rose points towards the ornate double doors in an irritated manner. “The house is this way.”
“Right.” Cass strides towards the steps . As she passes the second servant he turns and follows a few steps behind her. She follows Rose through the door and into the huge foyer of Seaborn’s home. Even the inside somehow looks bigger than the last time. As they enter the servant closes the door behind them and remains where he is. Cass is a little perturbed when April detaches herself from the shadows and falls into step with them. Cass wonders nervously if the silenced pistol is hidden somewhere on the woman’s person.
“Miss Kaine?” April pushes her glasses up to the bridge of her nose again as she brings up something on her PDA. “Why were you seeing the prison psychiatrist?”
Cass neatly trips over her own feet upon hearing the question. “How the hell did you know that?”
“ Just answer her,” Rose informs Cass crossing her arms and staring at her.
“I was having nightmares,” Cass admits. She holds up her scarred hand. “About this?”
“I see.” April quickly enters the data and continues. “This pertained to your nearly being murdered by Mister Brent?”
For a moment Cass considers telling the woman the truth. But decides to lie instead. “Yes. Imagine that. A near death experience gave me nightmares.”
“Intriguing,” April comments with a grin before she moves off down the hallway.
“Well I am assuming you’re going to be staying a while Miss Kaine.” Rose points to a staircase that spirals up several floors. “Or April wouldn’t be asking you anything. This way.” She walks , or more accurately saunters , to the bottom of the staircase where the servant holding Cass’s bag waits, “Follow me.”
Cass can only trust herself to nod as she watches Rose , or more accurately Rose’s ass , move up the stairs.
“This is the guest room,” Rose says indicating the lavish room around them with its four poster bed and huge wardrobe against one wall. Paintings that look medieval in origin hang on the walls.
Cass whistled. The place is impressive. During her previous visits she never saw more than Seaborn’s office and the dining room. She’d never stayed in the house over night.
“I’m certain you’ll find these better than your previous accommodations.” Rose smirks deviously. She brushes past Cass towards the door. “If you need anything just call down.” She points to a phone on the nightstand. She looks down at Cass’s bag which sits next to the door. “What’s in here by the way?”
“A change of clothes,” Cass replies.
Rose places one hand haughtily on her hip. “One change of clothes?”
“I wasn’t exactly packed for a cruise when I was arrested.” Cass copies Rose’s stance and stares back at her.
“Lunch will be at noon.” Rose picks up the bag and tosses it at Cass. “After that you might need to go shopping.” She passes out the door and is gone.
“What a bitch,” Cass comments to herself. “I liked her better as a freckle faced kid. That ass makes up for the attitude at least.”
Cass tosses the bag on the bed then pulls out her wallet. Expired driver’s license. Social security card. Twenty five dollars in cash. Three expired credit cards. She wonders if those creditors will be looking for her. And a picture of her and her parents taken at Sea World when she was twelve. She stares at the photo for a moment and starts to cry.
Alexander and Bernadette Kaine had died in a car crash one year after she had been arrested. They had never come to see her at Persephone. She had gotten one letter from them basically telling her she was disowned. Her father ,a career Navy man and SEAL had high expectations for his bright young daughter. But she had disappointed him at every turn. An extremely conservative man with some strict beliefs he had been abhorred when he discovered she was gay. Only her mother’s compassionate understanding and ability to reign in her father’s rage had kept him from throwing her out of the house. She was sixteen at the time. She had tried to win back her father’s love by forgoing college and entering the Navy. If it had made any difference to him he never showed it. Her first year she had served on board an aircraft carrier. During a middle eastern engagement the carrier she was serving on had been bombed . She’d damn near lost her leg due to shrapnel but had managed to get two other men more badly injured than her away from a burning jet fighter before the thing exploded. For that she had received the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. Her mother had called her and said how proud she was. Her father had said nothing. Determined to win some respect from her father she had followed even further in his footsteps and enlisted in the Navy SEALs. She had passed all the requirements and was nearly done with her training when an scandal involving an admiral’s daughter had gotten her dishonorably discharged from the Navy.
Her father never spoke to her again after that. Unsure of what to do she sought purpose in rebelling against anything her father truly believed in. She turned her brilliant mind and superior physical skills to being a thief for hire. She was stunned by how lucrative a business it could be. And soon she had quite a bit of money to spend. And spend it she did. Over her four years as a thief she came to far more times than she ever woke up. She lost count of the number of lovers she had. And figured she must have spent the annual gross income of some third world countries on every type of liquor she could find. Then had come the offer from Edmund Seaborn. And the disaster that followed. The letter had come to her a year after her arrest. And it had hurt because she knew that her mother not her father had written it. Her mother who had supported her no matter what her father did. She’d give anything to see her mother’s smile or even hear her father rant. What would they think of her now? Positively indentured to a bastard like Seaborn.
She crumples the picture up and tosses it across the room into a garbage can. “Dammit!” she shouts picking up her bag and throwing it across the room as well. She grabs the bed clothes from the bed and slings the covers and sheets all over the room. Making her way over to a dresser she pounds on it with all her might until her hand is sore from the repeated impacts. She seizes the dressers and overturns it. She kicks it repeatedly until she feels the wood give way beneath her assault. She turns back to the bed and begins slamming her forearm into the bed post. She hits it with all the force she can summon numerous times but it refuses to give in to her anger. She stops when she feels a stinging pain running up her forearm. Then she drops to her knees and buries her face into the mattress and starts to cry harder and louder. So close. Five years trying to live under her father’s shadow. Four years immersed in the debauchery of a criminal life. Eight years in prison. She was going to make a new life. Move on. Now she is trapped. Still sobbing she crawls into the bed and after a few minutes drifts off to sleep.
She awakens with the sound of metal driving through flesh echoing in her ears. She feels her gorge rising and clamps a hand over her mouth. She rushes to the bathroom adjoining the guest room and literally spills her guts. It takes several minutes for it to all pass. She washes her face and wishes to God she could remember all the details of those bloody dreams. But she never can. As soon as she wakes up all she ever remembers is that sickening sound of flesh being pierced. She looks at the scar on her hand. Before Brent had blasted a hole in her hand she had never had the dreams. The dreams had plagued her ever since. They were the reason she spent every other week with a prison shrink. What had nearly happened to her at Dave Brent’s hands had terrified her. But she didn’t have nightmares about it. True that she shudders in fear when she remembers it in the waking world. But the nightmares were worse.
She strolls out of the bathroom to find a covered silver food tray and a silver coffee pot set on a side board next to the bed. She stares at it for moment. There is a card leaning against the tray.
You missed lunch. When you’ve eaten call extension six.
Cass lifts the cover to find a bowl of soup and a sandwich. She debates with herself whether to try and eat. She decides she is hungry. In no time she has devoured the soup and sandwich and drained the coffee pot dry. Once she has had her fill she calls extension six. Before she can say anything she hears Rose’s voice. “Meet me out front.” The phone clicks off.
“Yes ma’am!” Cass says saluting the phone before hanging it up. “Nope. I was mistaken. No ass, no matter how good, makes up for that attitude.”
Wearing the white tank top and faded blue jeans she had in her duffle bag , Cass its once more in the back seat of Seaborn’s huge car. Luckily this time the view is a bit better. Rose sits across from her wearing a black vinyl jacket over a red T-shirt printed with the name of some band she has never heard of. The black mini skirt makes it nearly impossible for Cass not to notice what Rose is wearing under them. She tries to keep her eyes fixed on the scenery passing by out the window but keeps finding her eyes drawn to the scenery inside. The fact that her leather boot clad legs are crossed only makes it harder for Cass to not stare. For her part Rose doesn’t seem to notice her traveling companion’s attention. Or she just doesn’t care. But Cass figures the blonde could not have picked an outfit more apt to draw wandering eyes to her. She sits with one arm draped across the back of the seat and the other stroking the leather of her boot. Her eyes are fixed outside. She has not looked in Cass’s direction since they climbed into the car together.
They have been riding for nearly thirty minutes when Cass attempts to make conversation. “So where did you get the scar on your arm?”
Rose sighs in a way that tells Cass she has just made a huge mistake. With the hand she has been stroking her boot with Rose reaches down inside that same boot. She draws out a switchblade knife that sports a metal loop near the hilt. “Miss Kaine,” she says turning her eyes to Cass for the first time. The look Cass gets is not at all pleasant. “I will be civil with you. I will treat you nicely because my father has asked me to.” She depresses the button that extends the blade of the knife and points it at Cass. “But do not live under the delusion that you and I are going to be friends.” Using the loop in the weapon she starts to twirl the switchblade around her finger in a practiced and easy fashion. She turns her attention back to the window and ignores Cass for the rest of the ride certain that her point has been made.
Not long after the car enters the city and it takes a further twenty minutes to get to their destination. Cass looks out and sees the store front of Anna Marie’s, a store she never had the cash to afford to shop at even at the height of her thieving career.
Rose replaces the knife into her boot then draws a credit card from her jacket pocket. She hands it over to Cass. “There’s enough on that to get yourself a whole new wardrobe. Take your time if you like. Go get something to eat. Whatever.” She draws out a small cell phone and hands that also to Cass. “Just dial 1 when you’re ready to go and I’ll be back to pick you up.”
Cass looks at the card. “Will what I spend here today be added to the debt I owe your father?” she asks letting some annoyance creep into her voice.
Rose just grunts. She presses the button to unlock the door. “Don’t take too long,” she says. “I’d like to be back before dark.”
Cass throws the door open and steps out. She leans back in before shutting the door and says , “Why? You turn into a werewolf once the sun goes down?”
Rose turns murderous eyes on Cass. But before she can respond Cass slams the door and says in a voice she hopes is loud enough to be heard in the car, “Hell. It might be an improvement.” She walks quickly away from the car and into Anna Marie’s.
She watches from the doorway until the car pulls away then she steps back outside much to the confusion of the store’s staff. Seeing their reactions she pokes her head back inside and says, “I’ll be back.”
Before she even thinks about buying any clothes she decides she wants something to eat. And that something needs to be a huge medium rare steak. While not typical prison slop the food at Persephone was hardly four star restaurant quality. Or three or two star for that matter.
She finds the nearest steak house and gets seated. She orders surf and turf along with a glass of the establishment’s best red wine. As she sits and waits she starts to worry about one thing. She has only an expired driver’s license for identification. She hopes they take the credit card Rose gave her without question. The food arrives and she suppresses a groan of satisfaction as she takes the first fork full of steak and lobster. Before she realizes it the food is gone and she is still starving. She orders not one but two chocolate mousses before she decides she has had enough.
She finishes the wine and hands the card to the waitress. The young woman opens her mouth as if to speak but stops when she sees the name on the card.
“Could you check the balance on that for me too?” Cass asks the woman. She nods and walks away to run the card.
When she returns she has the receipt and Cass signs it still wondering if she’ll be asked for her ID. Then she looks at the card for the first time and sees it is embossed with the Seaborn Industries logo of a lighthouse before a crashing wave and is obviously one of his company cards. She is sure to add a generous tip to the bill. She sips the last of her wine as she looks at the receipt and nearly spits out the wine when she sees the balance on the card. She is certainly praying that this isn’t added to her debt.
Feeling more than a bit full Cass makes her way back to Anna Marie’s and steps inside. She ignores the disgusted looks the impeccably dressed staff give her due to her own attire. She just smiles and begins to look around.
It takes her far less time than she is certain Rose thought she would take. Rose, she suddenly thinks how ridiculous that name is. Thorn is more apt. She leaves the store with several large bags. She looks around trying to decide if there’s anything else she can do before going back to her gilded cage. Ironic. Exchanged one prison for another. She spots a coffee shop across the street and thinks it might be a good idea to stay away from Rosemary Seaborn for a while. She seems in Cass’s estimation to be just as dangerous , if not more so , than her father. She is certain that scar was from a knife. “Best if I don’t make her mad again,” she says aloud.
“Pardon?” a man at a nearby table says thinking she is speaking to him.
“Sorry,” she apologizes. “ Just thinking out loud.”
He turns away without saying anything else. Cass takes her time finishing her coffee. Finding she is remarkably still hungry she orders several pieces of pastries. After finishing all she has ordered Cass pulls out the cell phone and stares at it. Then she draws out the credit card and looks at it as well. For a moment she considers using the card to get as far away from Edmund Seaborn as possible. But the moment is soon gone as she realizes that after she used the card to buy a plane or bus ticket she wouldn’t be able to use it anymore without signaling her location. And she’d be back to square one. Broke and on the run. She presses “1” on the phone’s keypad. Holding it to her ear she hears Rose’s caustic voice on the other end.
“Be waiting in front of Anna Marie’s,” she instructs Cass. Then the call is ended.
Minutes later the car rolls up and the door opens. Cass climbs in setting her purchases down in the seat next to her. She makes a point not to look in Rose’s direction. And the blonde seems to take no notice of Cass either as she taps on the glass partition and the car speeds away.
Cass dresses casually for dinner anticipating no one to be present but Seaborn. She finds herself sadly mistaken. As she enters the dining room wearing only a button down shirt and slacks she finds herself in front of a table filled with people in three piece suits and gowns. All eyes turn to her as she enters and she feels mortified. Shit! She thinks to herself.
“Cassandra!” Seaborn standing from the head of the table and gesturing her to sit down. “So nice of you to join us.”
Everyone present sneers at this woman who doesn’t have the decency to dress for such a formal dinner. It doesn’t improve Cass’s mood when she sees that the only available seat is next to Rose. She rolls her eyes and moves to the chair. She doesn’t let her eyes linger over the plunging neckline of Rose’s appropriately rose colored gown that shows off far more cleavage than should be decent around the current company.
“You spent over three thousand dollars today and that is what you wear to dinner?” Rose chuckles as she dips her spoon into a bowl of soup in front of her.
A servant brings in a bowl of soup and sets it before Cass then backs away. He glances over at Rose again. The gown she wears is long sleeved and covers the scar she noticed earlier.
“Miss Kaine is a recent addition to my employees,” Seaborn says to one of his guests. Cass turns her head to gaze at the man as he talks about her. The man next to Seaborn whispers something to the man and Cass cannot hear a word. But whatever was said sets him off in a fit of laughter that has him hitting the table with his hand.
Cass tries to ignore him as she eats her soup. But she keeps seeing Seaborn glancing in her direction before making some comment to the man next to him. She gets the idea that she probably doesn’t want to know what they are talking about. The soup gets pulled away before she can actually finish it. Beside her Rose chuckles yet again. Cass tries hard not to give into the impulse to stamp on the younger woman’s foot under the table.
Cass spends the remainder of dinner eating her food and staring intently at the top of the table. After what seems an eternity Seaborn claps his hands and directs all his guests into a sitting room off the dining room for some further refreshment.
Rose stands from the table and lays her hand on Cass’s. She leans in close and whispers, “You might want to skip the rest of the evening.” She laughs as she gets up and allows a man about Cass’s age to escort her into the sitting room. Cass keeps her thoughts about Seaborn’s daughter to herself.
Soon only Seaborn remains in the dining room with her. He steps closer and sits on the edge of the table next to her. “You don’t seem to be enjoying yourself so far. But then it is your first day.” Cass turns eyes full of hate up to meet his gaze. “Get some sleep. We can talk business tomorrow.” He laughs in a manner very like his daughter as he leaves the dining room.
Cass stands up with such swiftness that she topples the chair she has been sitting in. A servant rushes forward to right the chair and smiles at her. She glares at him before grabbing the glass of water by her plate and throws it in his face. He just stands there like she has done nothing. She tosses the glass against the wall where it shatters into numerous pieces. The man looks a little shocked and starts to pick up the pieces of glass. As he steps away Cass grabs the chair he set back up and with all her strength slams it down against the table once then twice and three times. The chair practically explodes into splinters upon the third hit. Plates, glasses, and various other pieces of table wear are sent flying in all directions during her assault on the table. Taking what is left of the chair in her hands she slides it along the length of the table before her sending more table wear flinging all across the dining room. A cook flies through the doors leading into the kitchen. He observes the mess around him and his eyes come to rest on Cass. He opens his mouth but she hurls the piece of chair left in her hand straight at him. By sheer luck he ducks out of the way and the makeshift projectile hits the wall so hard it leaves splinters in the dry wall.
Cass storms from the dining room and up the stairs to the guest room. She slams the door behind her so hard it sends a booming echo through the house. Making her way to the bathroom she turns on the faucet and splashes hand fulls of cold water on her face to try and calm herself. She lifts her head and stares at her face in the mirror. “Well that was stupid Cassandra,” she informs herself. But she just couldn’t stand it anymore. In one single day her life has been completely ruined when it should have been getting better. She starts to wonder if Brent killing her might not have been for the best. As she says the words she can physically feel his gun at the back of her head once more. She reaches back to place her hand there to reassure herself that it is nothing but a paranoid delusion brought on by post traumatic stress. Or at least that was what the prison doctor said. Cass had only been partially lying to April earlier. She had been seeing the shrink about her nightmares and for post traumatic stress. She heartily wishes she had some of the drugs he had prescribed for her anxiety.
She isn’t sure how long she stares at her reflection but she is brought out of it by an insistent and very loud knocking at her door. Cursing under her breath she stalks over to the door and opens it. Rose pushes past her into the room. “Come in,” Cass says bowing at the waist.
“What was that all about?” Rose demands to know placing her hands on her hips. Despite being shorter than her Rose still manages to stare down her nose at Cass.
“Don’t you have someone else you can annoy right now?” Cass asks fully fed up with the events of the day and caring less what Rosemary Seaborn thinks of her.
Rose’s hand lashes out and she back hands Cass so hard it almost drives her to her knees. She feels the numbing sensation running across her cheek and spins around with her own hand poised to strike the irritating blonde. But she stops when she finds the point of Rose’s switchblade inches from her throat. For a moment Cass wonders where in the hell she could have been hiding the knife.
Rose’s eyes are afire with rage as she says, “You will not embarrass me or my father in that way again . Do I make myself clear?”
Cass snaps and grabs Rose’s arm twisting it so that the blade is removed from her neck. She exerts the right amount of pressure on the smaller woman’s arm and hears the switchblade hit the floor. Placing a hand on Rose’s throat she moves them forward so that she is pushed back against the wall. “I am about sick and tired of…” Her words are cut off as Rose drives her knee into Cass’s gut . Cass doubles over then feels Rose’s free hand hammer into the side of her head. She staggers back and manages to not lose her footing. She looks up just in time to receive another slap to the exact same place as before. Then her feet are swept out from under her.
Then Rose is straddling her and the knife is once more at her throat. The green eyes gleams with menace as she stares down into Cass’s eyes. “Please try something else Cassandra,” she says almost pleading. “I’m begging you.”
Cass however tries nothing else. She lays there with Rose’s weight resting across her waist as if struck mute. Though terrified out of her mind now at the prospect of this psychopath slitting her throat she still can’t help but think Rose’s eyes are the most beautiful she has ever seen. She shakes her head vigorously to inform her attacker that she can expect no further resistance.
Rose twirls the switchblade on her finger and manages to lock it closed as she does so. “ Never behave like that again in this house,” she says practically spitting the words out.
Cass nods in reply. Rose rises to her feet and for the briefest of instances Cass can see up her gown. Her eyes go wide at the fact that under the dress Rose isn’t wearing any undergarments. Rose walks to the door but before stepping out she glances back and says, “Sleep tight.” The door clicks shut behind her.
Cass lays in the floor flush with excitement and terror. She feels as though she wants to cry but instead she starts giggling. Soon it turns into full throated laughter and she is rolling on the floor with it. Her fit continues until she is too tired to laugh anymore. Then somehow she manages to crawl into bed and after a few moments she falls asleep.
The phone by her bed rings and Cass begins to succumb to the desire to slam it against the wall. Then she remembers she is in no position to ignore the phone. She reaches over and after several failed attempts manages to grab hold of it. “Hello?” she says in a voice thick with sleep and annoyance.
“Good morning Cassandra,” Seaborn’s voice floats through the phone line with his usual feigned charm. Cass just manages to suppress the groan as he continues. “I’d like to see you in my study in say thirty minutes.”
“Yes sir,” she says with a voice neither feigned nor charming.
“Very good,” Seaborn replies and the phone clicks off.
She slams the phone back onto its cradle. “Jack ass.” She crawls from the bed still wearing the clothes she wore last night. The encounter with Rose had left her quite flustered in more ways than one. She doubts she has ever had her life threatened by so beautiful a human being before. As she thinks it her right hand reflexively clutches and she can feel the wound in her hand. She shakes her hand and strikes the bed post with her clenched fist in an attempt to drive the fleeting images of her on her knees in the mud from her mind. “Dammit! Why won’t it stop? It’s been eight years. Why can’t I get over it?” The response from the empty room is not forthcoming.
After showering and changing clothes she makes her way from her room to the spiral staircase which will lead her to Seaborn’s study which is on the fifth floor of his palatial mansion. She surprises herself by remembering the way. But then it was one of the only rooms she ever went into while meeting Seaborn in preparation for her assignment. She opens the door and finds that he is nowhere to be seen. “Guess I’m early.” She begins to walk around the study. It too has been changed since her last time in it. Now it seems to serve as a make shift museum. It is full of curio cabinets displaying trinkets and do dads from all over western civilization. She sees one cabinet filled up with old coins dating from Roman times through to the first world war. In another are the remains of weapons. Some are complete usually only small daggers. There are numerous arrow heads. And also one or two sword points. Displayed in a long glass case are various bits of bone. Next to each is a small card saying where the piece was found. She sees Athens, Rome, Alexandria, London and many others. She continues her inspection of the room and finds herself feeling a little disgusted by it all. Since every piece in Seaborn’s “collection” is so very small she gets the distinct impression they were not found by any archeologist but instead smuggled away from various sites and shipped illegally to him. She decides she will wait for him outside when she passes a lighted glass case.
Her eyes are drawn to what sits within and she stares at it intently. Inside the square box of Plexiglas is a cushion of red velvet and sitting on that is the most unusual artifact she has ever seen. It is a metallic implement fashioned from what appears to be bronze and steel. Its twisted teardrop shape reminds her of one half of the ying yang symbol prominent in some eastern religions. She cocks her head to one side in thought. She knows it is not a ritual object of any kind. She knows it is a weapon. She also knows that it is not whole. “Where is the other half?” The words come to he lips of their own accord as if she is channeling it from somewhere else.
“What was that?” Seaborn asks as he enters behind her and closes the door.
Broken from her thoughts Cass nearly tumbles backwards.
“What do you think of my little collection,” Seaborn walks in and begins to peruse his findings as he walks around the room. “Amateur archeology has become a hobby of mine over the last few years. “
Amateur grave robbing is more like it, Cass thinks. She points to the strange implement that has garnered her attention. “Where did this come from?”
Seaborn walks over and lays a hand on the case as if it were a favorite child. “I picked this up at an estate auction a few years ago,” he says taking a moment to stare down at it himself. “Quite unusual don’t you think?”
“What estate?” Cass asks staring at it herself.
“I think the name was Covington,” he replies. “The whole family had been archeologists for years. I didn’t read much about them before I went to the auction. I just thought it would be a good place to find some unique items.”
“I remember that name,” Cass says walking away from the display. She snaps her fingers trying to jog her memory. “Didn’t one of them find some historical documents back before World War Two?” She turns to face Seaborn as she asks the question and finds a bored look on his face.
“Before my time Cassandra,” he says walking around a desk to seat himself. He pours himself a drink from a decanter on the desk. “And these types of discussions are not why I asked you here.”
“I’m not exactly here out of any kindness Mister Seaborn,” Cass points out to him. “I’m here because option two didn’t appeal to me.”
Seaborn sips his drink. “Quite true.”
“And I think I am correct in assuming I’m not being kept on Œretainer’ to steal anything for you.” She leans against a wall and awaits his reply.
“Oh heavens no,” he replies with a chuckle. “When you were first incarcerated at Persephone there were still bars on the cells. Now they are fronted with a composite plastic which can take a hit from a rocker propelled grenade and remain intact. No Cassandra. When compared to security these days your skills as a thief are obsolete.”
“Eight years in prison tends to take you out of the loop,” she says.
“Please take a seat,” he says pointing to a padded chair in front of his desk.
“I prefer to stand.” She doesn’t budge from her position at the wall.
“And I prefer not to be lied to.”
“What do you mean?”
Seaborn holds up a folder which bears her name and is clearly from Persephone.
“Where …how…” Cass stutters as she stares at the documentation which Seaborn should legally have no access to.
“Miss Bremer might be above bribery but the prison shrink was more than willing to give me this for a little extra cash.” Seaborn puts down his drink and opens the folder. “Miss Kaine suffers from post traumatic stress disorder which causes her daily anxiety and debilitating attacks of depression and explosive fits of rage. She also suffers from night terrors. She explains that she cannot recall the exact nature of the nightmares but that she awakens with pain in her wounded hand and feels sick.” Seaborn looks up and frowns. “You lied to me. You said you were just having nightmares. You mentioned nothing about PTSD.”
Cass tries to work her mouth to speak but she can’t think of anything to say.
Seaborn continues to look over the file. “You were prescribed Inderal, a beta-blocker and anti-anxiety medication. As well as Paroxetine for depression. Have I missed anything?”
“Except maybe the fact that I wouldn’t have any problems if Brent hadn’t shot me through my hand.” She holds up her right hand to emphasize her point. “Then forced me to kneel down in a mud puddle and put his gun to my head! Hell! I’m only alive because a motorcycle cop rode by and ending up shooting Brent himself.”
“And these nightmares?” He points to the line in the report.
“I never had night terrors until he shot me!” She slams her fists down on the desk.
Seaborn looks up at her for a few moments before returning to the report. “There’s nothing in this report about the dosages.”
She sighs. “I received only the minimum dosage of both.”
“Because I didn’t want to end up becoming dependant on the shit!”
“That outburst last night tells me that you are obviously still having problems.”
“Don’t try to sound like you care.”
“You are now an employee in my service. And I will not have you any less than you should be. I expect you to be at your best both physically and mentally. So? Will you require further counseling or medication?”
Cass stares at him with utter contempt. He asks the question like he would ask a mechanic if his car needed more oil or gas. “I don’t know,” she says through gritted teeth.
Seaborn presses a button on the phone next to him at the desk. A voice that sounds vaguely familiar responds. “Yes Mister Seaborn.”
“Come to my study please.” Seaborn disconnects the line without waiting for a response.
He closes the folder and looks at her more closely. His eyes linger on the bruise on her cheek. “I see Rose already made our position clear. I trust there will be no further incidents?” When no answer is forthcoming Seaborn sees no point pursuing the matter further. He is sure his daughter made the point quite satisfactorily to Cassandra. “So what do you think of my daughter?”
Cassandra keeps her honest view of Rose to herself and tells a half truth. “I think Rosemary is…complicated.”
“That’s putting it tactfully.” Seaborn pours himself another drink. He drinks slowly but doesn’t say anything else.
“Are you going to tell me what I have to do to pay off my debt to you or not?” Cass asks leaning over the table to stare at him.
“While your thieving skills will be of no use to me I think I still may be able to put your martial abilities to good use.”
“My martial abilties?”
“Until the incident with Admiral Donnelly’s daughter you were nearly finished with your SEAL training. I think those skills can be quite useful.”
“Exactly what are you asking me?” She isn’t sure she will like the answer. “If you asking to …kill someone…”
“Please Cassandra. IŒve also seen your file from the Navy. Their psyche profile says you would be incapable of such an act.”
“But luckily you have people like Brent or April for that.”
“I assure you that Brent was under no orders from me to kill you. I was looking forward to using your skills again. But that is beside the fact. No. What I want you to do is far more simple.” Reaching out Seaborn turns around a picture on the table. In it Cass can see Seaborn and Rose as she remembers her from eight years ago. Smiling and a face full of freckles. “Rosemary was so like her mother that it hurt sometimes. Gentle. Giving. Compassionate.”
“I’m sure she’s learned otherwise from you over the years,” Cass states not really caring at this point what Seaborn will say.
For his part Seaborn does not lose his temper at the accusation. “I wish that were true. But I’ll have you know that I am in no way responsible for her current attitude and lifestyle. The business of import and export in which my company is one of the top in the world can be very cut throat. It requires me to be quite ruthless. Often unscrupulous. Sometimes even amoral. These are the qualities of a good business man. Were I the honest and saintly person so many people dream me to be I would not need the services of people such as you or Mister Brent.
“And Miss Kaine while I am ruthless and unscrupulous and amoral. I am not a borderline psychopath.”
“But Rose is.” Cass understands now. “Anti social behavior. Outburst of extreme violence. No concept that what she is doing is wrong.”
“While most freshman college girls were going to keggers to lose their virginity mine was being arrested for breaking a man’s jaw.” Seaborn turns the picture back around. “When Rosemary was eighteen she had a nervous breakdown. She was catatonic for two days. When she came out of it she is the woman you had the unfortunate luck to come up against last night.”
Despite her better judgment Cass starts to feel sorry for the girl now knowing that Rose’s behavior is not totally her fault.
“I am getting on in years and I want to be able to leave my business and my legacy to her. But I would be remise in leaving such a vast corporation and fortune in the hands of someone who put a security guard at one of my unloading piers in the hospital with three broken ribs and a punctured lung.”
The door behind them opens and a woman in her mid forties with brown hair and a motherly air about her enters the room dressed in a casual business suit. Cass stares in disbelief and joy at the first friendly face since she walked into the house. “Gail?” she asks not sure if she is seeing things.
“Cassandra!” Gail says just as shocked to see the woman in the house after all these years.
“It’s good to see that you remember each other,” Seaborn says looking back from one woman to the other. He locks his eyes on Cass. “Now what I want you to do for me is simple. Next week I am sending Rosemary to Europe to meet with some very wealthy men who are interested in putting large sums of money into my business. I want you to be her escort.”
“What?” Cass says turning her smiling face from Gail and rounding with ire on Seaborn.
“You will accompany her and be sure that she does not incur any problems.” He reaches for another drink but Cass grabs his hand.
“I’m reasonably certain that your daughter would rather pluck out my eyeballs with that switchblade of hers than having me following her around.” She stares intently into his eyes.
“Cassandra. This will be her first excursion into my world. A world she is going to need to understand. She has been taught by April and Gail here in how to deal with these types of situations. What I want from you is someone who can keep her physically from trouble. By that I mean someone who can protect her not only from others. But from herself. And this deal will be worth quite a large sum to me as I said. And it will go a long way to expunging your debt to me.” He jerks his hand from her grip. “The information you lost me allowed my competition to get ahead of me and I have been struggling for some years. With this deal I may make back that difference in one action. Do you understand?”
Cass pushes back from the table. She sees no point in reminding her that if Brent had not shot her he would have that information. But he hasn’t listened yet. Brent isn’t alive to blame so he turns his wraith on her. “Yes. I do.”
“Excellent.” Seaborn raps his hand in the table. “The two of you will be leaving in two days for Athens. Now I believe I will leave you in the capable hands of Miss Bullard.” He hands the folder from Persephone to Gail then seems to ignore the two of them totally.
Gail beckons silently for Cass to follow her. She does so happily.
Eight years ago Gail was Seaborn’s personal assistant. She was an oracle who seemed to see all and know all that was happening in his business and in his household. Cass is glad to see that she still is. They had met during one of Cass’s visits to the house. Gail had been so friendly and outgoing. She reminded Cass so much of her mother. A fact that now seems painful. Then they had walked together on the estate grounds discussing everything under the sun. Cass feels a little bit more at ease in the Seaborn estate as they once more walk beneath the trees out from the house.
“I never liked Brent,” Gail admits. “His eyes were empty like there was no soul in there. What Edmund ever saw in him I will never understand.” She turns to look Cass in the eyes. “I am sorry. I did not know that he had sent Brent out to assist you.”
Cass holds up her hand. “Gail. You don’t need to apologize. You were the only person in this house that made me feel welcome. You still are.”
“Was it difficult?” Gail asks stopping to lean against a tree.
“Prison?” Cass sits down in the grass in front of Gail like a daughter discussing her school day with her mother. “It could have been worse. Persephone is one of the cleanest and most well organized prisons in the US.”
“And this?” Gail waves the folder.
“I started having nightmares after this.” Cass holds up her hand to show Gail the scar. “At first all I felt was pain in my hand. Then I started to see my hand being pierced. Not by Brent’s bullet . But by a spike.”
“A spike?” Gail squats down so she is at eye level with Cass. “An odd allusion.”
“You’re telling me,” Cass runs her hand through the grass beside her. “Never had nightmares before. The shrink was far more worried about the post traumatic stress. I was more focused on the nightmares. He said one was a symptom of the other.”
“About that,” Gail pauses before she continues. “Are you going to need any more counseling? Or more medication.”
“I don’t know,” Cass says honestly. “I hated taking the shit. Especially the inderal. Made me dizzy and nauseous as hell.”
“We’ll just take it one day at a time then.” Gail stands back up. “It is good to see you again Cassandra. Though I rather wish it was under other circumstances.”
“I know.” Cass gets to her feet. “Can I ask you a few questions now?”
“Of course,” Gail replies. She points towards a garden in the distance. They begins walking again.
“Rosemary,” Cass says. “I didn’t see much of her when I came by for meetings with Seaborn. But what I did see would never indicate she’d turn into the … the…” She pauses to search for the right words.
“The unstable young woman she is,” Gail completes the sentence for her.
“That’s one way to put it,” Cass says stroking the bruise on her face.
As they round the corner of the house to enter the garden Gail indicated they begins to hear grunts and incessant yelling. Both peer cautiously around the corner. There is an open patch of ground between the house and the garden. In that patch of ground is Rose now armed with two switchblade knives and turning and whirling around into various martial arts stances. Cass watches and cannot help but be a little impressed by the precision Rose shows in her workout. She is also aware of the fluid and deadly grace with which Rose moves. Wearing nothing but a tank top and shorts that are soaked in perspiration she is a portrait of feminine beauty and lethal intent. Cass feels her breath come more quickly from her lungs and her heart rate increase. Rose ducks and dodges as if fighting invisible foes in a battle to the death. She spins causing her blond hair to whip around and sling droplets of sweat in all directions. The knives in her hands are but silver arcs in Cass’s vision. They encircle Rose and seems to surround her in a dangerous and perhaps malevolent aura that draw Cass’s eyes to her like magnet. It is only when Gail grabs her arm and pulls her back around the corner that Cass remembers that she is the same psycho that drew one of those knives on her the night before.
“Do you see what I mean?” Gail says pulling Cass towards a set of glass sliding doors that lead into the first floor sitting room. “I helped to raise that girl and she never had a violent bone in her body until Edmund brought that thing into the house.”
At last shaken from her revelry of seeing Rose’s workout, Cass frowns in confusion. “What do you mean? I thought she had a nervous breakdown. That’s what Seaborn said.”
“She did.” Gail points to a pair of chairs facing each other before a cold fireplace. “But it occurred after he brought that cursed thing home.”
“You mean that artifact from the Covington estate?” Cass asks. She fails to see any connection.
“I was there when he first brought it home,” Gail continues. “Rose was home from college for the weekend. We were both in his study. She was looking at all the new items he had acquired recently. Then he walked in carrying that…that…whatever that damn thing is.”
Cass leans in closer to listen intently to Gail’s tale. “What happened?”
“Edmund took it out of its case. I thought it was queer thing. He has told me on the phone earlier that when he had purchased that it had been dated to between two to two and half thousand years.”
“That’s impossible!” Cass exclaims. “That thing doesn’t have any wear on it at all. Looks like it could have made twenty years ago.”
“I know. Those were my thoughts exactly. I told him he must have got cheated. Just as he was about to place it in its display, Rose asked to hold it. He handed the thing to her without a second thought. She held it by the bronze part for a moment staring at it. Then she placed her thumb on the steel edge of it. Just that light touch sliced her thumb open. Next thing I know she throws back her head and lets out this blood curdling scream. I thought I would faint at the sound of it. She went rigid and just collapsed to the floor convulsing.
“At first I thought she was having an epileptic seizure. But it was over a second later and she was just laying their with this damn thing clutched in her hand and her eyes wide open staring at the ceiling. Edmund thought she was dead. But then her eyes started to move like she was dreaming. When the paramedics arrived they were stumped as to what was wrong. She was like that for two days. I was by her bedside with Edmund when she finally came out of it. Her eyes looked different somehow. I thought for certain I was looking at someone else and not Rosemary Seaborn. She looks at us then just asked in a calm voice, Œ Who am I?’ Then she felt back to sleep.”
“Amnesia,“ Cass asks thinking that explains a lot.
“No,” Gail corrects her. “When she woke up a few hours later she seemed fine. Recognized us both and asked to go home. So we took her home. During the night security found that someone was trying to break into his study. When we all got there we found Rose trying to pry open the case with that thing in it. We had to practically drag her back to bed. She kept screaming that she has to have it. That she needed it.” Gail stops speaking for a moment and Cass can see her eyes are wet with unshed tears.
“Gail?” She leans over to place a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “That’s not all is it.” Cass’s mind puts two and two together. “The scar on her arm. She tried to commit suicide.”
“The next morning one of the servants found her in the bath tub near death. She had busted open a picture frame and used the glass to cut open the veins in her arm.” Gail begins to cry in earnest. “We barely got her to the emergency room in time. When she was brought home after that she was the woman you’ve had your unfortunate encounter with.” She reaches out to stroke the bruise on Cass’s cheek. “It’s like she isn’t even Rose anymore.”
“She was trying to break into the study and steal that artifact because she wanted to use it to commit suicide.” Cass speaks the words and knows it is the truth.
“Why would she want to do such a thing?” Gail asks wiping the last of her tears away.
“Your guess would be as good as mine,” Cass has to admit. “ So is she like this all the time?”
“No,” Gail answers. “Believe it or not there are times when she seems just as sweet and nice as she once was.”
“Has Seaborn ever taken her to a psychiatrist?”
“No. She’s refused to go and Edmund won’t force her.”
Cass sits back in the chair. “I am so not looking forward to this.” She looks at Gail for moment. “I don’t suppose since I’m going to be her bodyguard pretty much that he’s gonna let me have a gun.”
Gail smirks. “You already know the answer to that Cassandra.”
Cass points outside to where she is sure that Rose is located. “That girl scares me. And she’s way too quick to pull one of the knives if things aren’t to her liking. I’d just like to be able to defend myself.”
“You know how I feel about her Cassandra. I don’t know that I could in good conscience grant your request.”
Cass sighs loudly. “I know. I’ll just have to do my best not to provoke her.”
“And I want you to make me a promise Cassandra,” Gail says leaning over in her chair so she is as close to Cass as she can get. Cass meets her gaze but says nothing. “Promise me you will not do anything …” she pauses searching for a tactful way to make her point. “Stupid with her.”
“Stupid?” Cass seems confused.
“Cassandra. Don’t take advantage of our friendship by insulting my intelligence.” She leans back in the chair again. “All I ask is that you don’t mess this up the way you destroyed your military career.”
Cass does a double take on Gail. She is a little bit embarrassed that her friend is aware of her sexual orientation. Not to mention a little bit amused that she would do anything flirtatious with Rose. “I don’t think that will be a problem.”
“I saw the way you were looking at her Cassandra.” The look on Gail’s face is a clear warning to Cass.
Cass throws up her hands to indicate the warning is not needed. “Gail. She had a knife to my throat last night. Somehow I don’t think she’ll even entertain the idea of jumping in the sack with me.” Cass wishes she had chosen better phrasing just then.
“Promise me you will not take advantage of her in any way Cassandra.”
“I promise Gail.”
Gail smiles. “Thank you.”
Back to the Academy