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Authors: Fern Michaels

Tags: #Retail, #Suspense, #Fiction

Weekend Warriors (7 page)

BOOK: Weekend Warriors
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“Nikki, how will you handle it when Marie Lewellen . . . disappears?”
“Very carefully, Myra. Have you been in touch with her lately?”
“Goodness, no. I’ve stayed away just the way you said I should. She sent me a note thanking me for posting her bail. I haven’t called either. Have you seen her?”
Nikki pushed her plate to the center of the table. “No. I do talk to her on the phone. She told me her husband took his vacation. She said he had something like forty-five days coming to him and was going to do some things to the house. Their pictures are going to be all over the news and in the newspapers. Where are you going to relocate them?”
“It’s better if you don’t know, Nikki. Julia Webster is going to do some plastic surgery on both Marie and her husband once they’re settled in their new home. Children change on a day-to-day basis. We’ll have them home-schooled for a year or so until we feel they’ve changed enough not to warrant scrutiny. We have it under control, dear.”
“Okay, I’m off to bed.” She looked around. “I always loved this kitchen. I mean, I really loved it.”
Myra nodded. “I’ll clean up here and make some sandwiches for Charles for later. I know, Nikki, that you still have mixed feelings about what we’re doing. I’m hoping in time you will grow as comfortable with it as I have. If not, you’ll just have to suck it up,” Myra said cheerfully.
In spite of herself, Nikki burst out laughing. She hugged Myra good night before she headed up the kitchen staircase that would take her to her old room at the end of the long hall that ran the length of the house.
“Screw you, Jack,” she muttered as she pulled off her sweatpants. As she tugged at the bottom of the pant legs she saw the dark red X on the hem. Barbara always made a red X on her jeans and sweats so they wouldn’t mix them up in the laundry. Tears burned her eyes and trickled down her cheeks as her index finger traced the X. “We’re doing it for you, Barb. Wherever you are, I hope you understand. I miss you, Barb. I’d give anything if I could talk to you about Jack. Watch over us, okay.” She didn’t feel the least bit silly or self-conscious talking to someone who wasn’t there. Barbara’s spirit would always live in this room. The faint scent of her perfume still lingered in the air after all this time. She knew in her heart it would stay in the room forever, just like the furniture would stay as well as her clothes and her skis. She looked over at the rocker that was moving slowly back and forth.
Nikki walked over to the old rocker and placed her hand on the armrest to stop the chair from moving. It continued to rock.
“What’s your problem. Nik?”
Nikki yelped and ran back to the bed. “Barb?”
“Yes.”
“Is it really you?”
“In spirit. Do you want to give me a quiz?”
Nikki shook her head. Was she dreaming? “I’m glad you’re here. At least I think I’m glad you’re here. I need to talk to you about Jack. I need to talk to you about a lot of things. You know what’s going on, don’t you?”
“Every single thing. I have one kick-ass mother, don’t I? If you’re asking me if I approve, I do. Get them all, Nik. Make them pay for what they did to those women. I hope you can continue to do it forever. It’s about time someone took matters into their own hands. I wish I was there to help you. Just promise me you won’t get caught.”
Nikki laughed. I’ll do my best not to get caught. Can you just picture me in the slammer?”
“No, I can’t picture that at all. Promise me you’ll be careful. I wish I was there to help you and Mom and all those women.”
“God, I wish that so much, Barb. I miss you. It’s always worse here in this room. It’s like you’re still here. I can smell your perfume. I can see your skis leaning up in the corner and your mom gave me your sweatpants tonight. I started to cry when I saw the red X on the bottom of the pants leg. Jack had dinner with some good-looking redhead. My paralegal saw them.”
“They look good on you. Let’s get back to Jack. He’s just trying to tick you off, Nik. Guys do that, as you and I both found out along the way. He knew your paralegal would tell you she saw him with some good-looking chick. You aren’t going to fall for that, are you, Nik?”
“It doesn’t matter. It still hurts. So, how . . . how is it on the . . . other side?”
“Peaceful. Quiet. Beautiful. We were talking about Jack . . .”
“He’s so competitive. I can’t win the case with Marie Lewellen. We all knew that going in. You know the drill, open mouth, insert foot. He took me on. My name is going to be mud when Marie disappears. I’m not calling him, so don’t even suggest it.”
“I wasn’t going to suggest any such thing. Why don’t you call up Mike Deverone and ask him out to dinner. He always had the hots for you. And he has a brain, plus he’s an excellent lawyer as you well know.”
“That’s a thought.”
“How come I always have to do your thinking for you. Where’s Willie? Toss him over here, okay. I miss the little guy.
Nikki walked over to the twin bed Barbara had always slept in. She pulled down the spread and raised the pillow. She hugged the little bear before she tossed it in the direction of the rocking chair. She almost fainted when she saw the little bear swirl in mid-air and then stop as though someone had reached for it. She plopped down on the edge of her own bed, her emotions running wild as she stared across the room at the rocking chair.
“Listen, are you going to . . . you know, hang around or do you have to . . . go . . . back. I’m dead on my . . . sorry, I’m out on my feet and I have to get up early.”
“I thought I would sit here and rock with Willie for a while. You don’t mind, do you? I’ll watch over you while you sleep, Nik.”
“No, I don’t mind. Barb, do you come here . . . often? If I need you, what should I do?”
“Just call my name. Hey, isn’t there a song by that name?”
“Probably. There’s a song for everything, just like there’s a book for everything in the world. There’s even a song for pantyhose. You should hear that one. Someone with red hair named Corinda Carford sings it. You’d get a kick out of it, Barb, because you always hated pantyhose. I have the CD in my apartment if you ever want to hear it.”
“Okay. Good night, Nik. Sweet dreams. Don’t forget to blow out the candle.”
“ ’Night, Barb.” Nikki cupped her hands around the flame and blew it out as instructed.
“Good girl. Now, go to sleep.”
Nikki crunched her pillow into a ball under her head. One eye open, one eye closed, she listened as the rocker moved back and forth on the pine floor, the sound finally lulling her into a deep, dreamless sleep.
Chapter Four
Murphy nosed open the swinging door that led to the dining room where a buffet was set up on the sideboard. Charles, wearing a pristine white chef’s coat, presided over the wide array of food. Myra was already seated at the head of the table, her napkin spread on her lap. She looked regal as always. She motioned for the women to take their seats.
“Good morning, ladies. I trust you slept well,” Charles said. The women nodded as he poured orange juice from a crystal pitcher into elegant goblets. Myra poured the coffee from an antique, silver pot that had once belonged to her great grandmother.
“For breakfast we have ham, bacon, sausage, kippers, scones, Eggs Benedict, waffles, pancakes and a banana-pear compote. Tell me what you would like and it will be my pleasure to serve you,” Charles said.
Kathryn giggled. “I’ll have one of everything and Murphy gets the same. He eats what I eat. Who cooked all this? No offense, Myra, but you don’t look like the type who cooks.”
Myra smiled. “I told you Charles was a man of many talents. He prepared breakfast. He graciously allowed me to do the place setting. I apologize for the lack of flowers on the table.”
“Are the telephones working yet?” Yoko queried.
“Unfortunately, no.”
Yoko dropped her gaze to stare at her lap.
Kathryn bristled as the others all started to talk at once.
“Is the power on?” Julia asked.
“Yes, the power came on around six this morning just as Charles was finishing up his work. I really don’t like to talk about business at mealtime, so let’s speak of pleasantries,” Myra said as she buttered a scone, Charles’s specialty.
“Tell us about this old house,” Alexis said. “It’s beautiful. I just love old houses that are steeped in charm and character. I bought a little house before. . . you know,
before.
It was a cozy little bungalow with a garden bathroom and a real fireplace. I had window boxes jam-packed with flowers and I had these clay pots of flowers on each side of the steps. I just loved that little house.”
“Past tense, Alexis?” Isabelle said.
“I had to sell it to help pay my legal fees. I have a small apartment now with a shower and no bathtub.”
“That’s all going to change, dear. I promise,” Myra said. “You asked about this house. It’s over three hundred years old. The property spreads out over three hundred acres. My neighbors are a mile away in each direction. We really are secluded, which works to our advantage. My family was always interested in preserving the rights of others and preserving justice. My great-grandfather was a judge and so was my grandfather. My parents and grandparents never
owned
slaves. They had paid workers and after so many years of service, each family was given a generous plot of land. Pinewood originally consisted of over a thousand acres. All but the remaining three hundred acres that I own were given away to the people who worked for our family. My grandparents, along with several other families, aided the runaway slaves through the tunnels under the house.
“I feel like I’m now in a position to do my part by carrying out my ancestors’ tradition of helping others.”
“This looks absolutely delicious,” Nikki said, digging into her Eggs Benedict.
“If there’s nothing else I can serve you ladies, I’ll leave you and meet up with you again in our command center, in, let’s say, ninety minutes. Enjoy your breakfast.”
“Wherever did you find that jewel of a man?” Julia asked.
“I knew Charles in my youth. My parents at the time didn’t think his lifestyle was befitting a Southern lady like myself, so after three months in Europe, they dragged me back home,” Myra drawled. “I married later on and took over the candy company. It was just a short time later when our offices got a call from the Queen herself asking if Charles could be relocated here to us in the United States because Charles’s life was in danger. We said yes and he took over the security of the firm. It was the best decision I ever made. We both retired at the same time. And now, we’ve all arrived at this place in time. With Charles’s expertise, we’re going to make the Sisterhood work for all of us.”
Nikki stood up and patted her stomach. “That was a wonderful breakfast and I ate way too much. Would anyone like more coffee?” she asked.
“Fill it up,” Kathryn said, holding up her cup.
“I’ve had my limit,” Isabelle said.
Alexis and Julia shook their heads.
“I would prefer tea,” Yoko said.
Kathryn rolled her eyes. “Now, why did I know you were going to say that? When in Rome . . .”
Myra stood up in the hope of warding off another verbal confrontation between Yoko and Kathryn. “I’d like you to meet my ancestors,” she said, pointing to the various old-fashioned sepia-toned pictures in heavy gilt frames “This is my mother and father. On the far wall are my grandparents and next to them, their parents. The other family members, and there are many, are on the wall going up the staircase. This is my daughter Barbara when she was six. It was her first pony,” Myra said, pointing to a modern painting over the sideboard. You might not recognize her, but the picture next to Barbara on her first pony is our Nikki. They were both such sturdy little girls,” she said with a catch in her voice.
“Our ninety minutes are about up, Myra. We both know Charles doesn’t like to be kept waiting. I can clear up things here and join you when I’m finished if that’s all right with you,” Nikki said in an effort to drive away the stricken look on Myra’s face.
“Of course, dear. We can fill you in when you join us,” Myra said, leading the parade out of the dining room and down the hall to the living room. Within minutes they were all seated at the round table, their faces expectant as Charles waved a sheaf of papers.
Charles walked around the table much the way a teacher does when giving a test.
“This is what I was able to retrieve. The computers are still working and these things take time. There are motorcycle groups and organizations in every one of our fifty states. There are as many as ninety such organizations in some states while others may only have three or four. I have here eight thousand clubs. I was able to whittle that number down to forty-seven when I asked the computer to flush out just Indian motorbikes. In addition to the forty-seven organizations, there are splinter groups that I was able to track down. Sometimes they spring up overnight, so the count is not as accurate as I would like. I further condensed the number when I asked for just Weekend Warriors. The computer tells me there are twenty-nine Weekend Warrior groups. From those twenty-nine groups, nine cells have splintered off and are now calling themselves Road Warriors. A total of eleven groups that meet our criteria are located in California.
“I filled out an application to join both the Weekend Warriors as well as the Road Warriors. My application arrived while we were having breakfast. I faxed it back moments ago. When you’re accepted, you’re given a handbook with the rules and regulations, dates and times of meetings, proposed road trips, a calendar of events as well as a list of all the members along with their addresses and phone numbers. This only happens after you pay your dues, which is quite hefty: $900 a year. You have to send them a scanned picture of yourself, which I did. I gave them my credit card number. As soon as it clears, I have the choice of having them overnight the materials or I will be given a password and I can download said material. I’m electing to download. The faxes should be coming through any minute now and Kathryn can see if her attackers still belong to either group.”
“Way to go, Charles,” Kathryn chortled. He preened for her benefit. The others clapped their hands in glee.
“What’d I miss, What’d I miss?” Nikki said, taking her seat at the table. “By the way, the power went out again.”
Myra shrugged. “We’ll fill you in later, dear. Just listen to Charles for now. He is absolutely amazing.”
“I then checked the Department of Motor Vehicles and managed to secure the license plates for the Indian motorcycles in those nine groups.” Charles took a deep breath and stared straight at Kathryn. “I found one plate with the same three numbers you gave us. I now have the full license plate number. It belongs to Dr. Clark Wagstaff. He’s an oral surgeon in Los Angeles. I ran a D&B on him and the report just came back. Dr. Wagstaff owns the medical building he practices in. His net worth, excluding the medical building, is around nine million. He takes in over a million dollars a year after taxes. I’m checking his income tax records. That might take a little longer but I will have answers for you by the end of the day. Possibly sooner.”
Kathryn’s clenched fists shot upward. “Yessss. What about the one they called Lee? Were you able to pull up anything on him?”
“I won’t know about Lee until the rest of the faxes come through. I tend to think he’s a colleague or possibly a business partner. I think it’s safe to say the third man is either a relative or another colleague.”
The phone on the fax machine rang. Charles smiled. The women sat back, their eyes glued to the machine next to Charles.
Twenty minutes later Charles stacked the faxed sheets into the printer and made copies for each woman. He handed them out. “My job for the moment is done. What you have to do now is come up with a plan to bring these three men together. I’m going to see if I can catch an hour or so of sleep. Which one of you really knows your way around a computer? Nikki?”
“I’m pretty good at it. Why?”
“Let me show you. When Kathryn identifies the three men, I want you to log on to this particular computer and type in the name. Send it as an e-mail to this address,” he said pointing to an e-mail address on a yellow pad next to the computer bank. “In an hour’s time you will have a report on each man from the day they were born. Can you handle it, Nikki?”
“Yes. Charles, who does this e-mail address belong to?” Nikki hissed as a vision of the FBI, the CIA and Washington D.C.’s District Attorney, Jack Emery, pounding on Myra’s front door flashed in front of her eyes.
“Why, the Queen of course. Ask a silly question and you get a silly answer. I’ll see you all in a bit.”
Myra picked up her pen and yellow pad. “You need a plan, Kathryn. Something that will entice these men to want to participate. You said you and your husband used to ride. What was it you liked? What kind of invitation would you consider accepting? Just how enthusiastic are bikers?”
Kathryn talked as she flipped through the faxes. “Bikers are a breed unto themselves. Alan and I weren’t bikers in the true sense of the word. We used to do back road trails just for fun on weekends. It’s the speed, the wind in your face, your hair flying behind you. That part isn’t the same anymore because the laws changed and now you have to wear helmets. It’s that free spirit thing everyone aspires to. Then there’s the camaraderie, the stories. You know, like fishermen when they say they caught a
really
big one. Maybe a contest. All expenses paid. Perhaps a prize that would be impossible to turn down. The prize could be a mint-condition Indian if you could manage to get your hands on one. I have to tell you they are almost impossible to find. A mint-condition Indian would definitely raise the stakes.”
Myra scribbled on her pad. “I think Charles will be able to find us one.”
“No, Myra, you don’t understand. We don’t need an actual bike. We’re just going to say that on the invitation to whet their appetite. To make them want to do whatever it is we come up with. We’re only inviting the three of them, right?” Kathryn asked. She flipped more pages and finally let out a whoop. This one!” she said, waving the paper high in the air. “Dr. Sidney Lee!”
“Two down and one to go. Keep looking, Kathryn,” Nikki said.
Isabelle interrupted. “No, no, no. You have to invite a select group and you really do need to have the bike as a prize. Invite maybe a dozen or so besides the three in question. It will make it look more real. You will have to award the bike to one of the others to avoid questions later on. When the trip is over, we spirit the three away and no one will be the wiser.”
“This is not going to be the piece of cake you think it is. If these men have wives, we have to set something up for them so they don’t go yapping to the cops. Maybe we could tell them they all won a trip to the Golden Door or something. Or a package deal, the wives get the spa and the guys get the road trip. Then you have to allow for the time we snatch them. How many days? And what about their offices? Are they going to be closed, open, what?” Alexis said as she doodled on the pad in front of her. “We have to get them back here so Julia can slice and dice. Then we have to get them back to California. It could get hairy.”
“We can use my rig for transport. Cycles and all. Five days driving cross country. Five days back. Maybe four if we push it. That’s eight or nine days just driving time. And that’s not allowing for sleep. We need time for Julia to hack off their balls. Unless she does it in back of the truck. We can spray some Lysol or something. What kind of time are we looking at, Julia?” Kathryn stopped turning the pages of the faxes. “This is the third one,” she said, her voice filled with venom. “Dr. Samuel La Fond.” She handed the sheet to Nikki.
“Sixteen hours at least. They’ll be sedated. I don’t have a problem doing it in back of the truck,” Julia said.
“Okay. We’ll drop them off at some place close to the area where the ride is to take place. I think it’s definitely a plan. What do you think, Yoko?” Kathryn asked.
“I think it will work. I would like to offer a suggestion. After . . . after the surgery you will want to stay to see their reaction. That will not be a good thing, Kathryn. I think you should go to their offices first so you can look at them in the bright light. You have waited many years for this. Do not deprive yourself of seeing them in their own environment. It is unlikely they will recognize you. Although, you might have to dye your hair or Alexis can change your appearance some way. I think it will help you to see them before. . . before they have their respective surgeries. That is all I have to say.”
BOOK: Weekend Warriors
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