Stiletto Chapter 2

“Leave the lights off,” whispered Charles as he eased open the sliding glass door that led from the beach to the sunroom.  Once they were safely inside the house, he started forward again.  “The study is right around the corner.  We should be comfortable there.”

            “How do you know where you’re going?  It’s pitch black,” Scott commented just prior to colliding with a piece of furniture.  “Ouch!  I think I broke my toe.”

            “Well, watch where you’re going.”

            “Oh, that’s helpful.”

            “Cut it out, both of you,” said Kristen.  “Can’t you go five minutes without arguing?”

            “No,” Charles and Scott said simultaneously.

            “That’s a first,” replied Kristen as she felt along the wall for the light switch.  “At least you agree on something.”

            Light flooded the room seconds after the study door clicked shut.  Kristen stepped around Scott to the chair she had vacated not long ago and sat down.  She gingerly flexed her wrist, wincing as the movement caused a stab of pain.  It’s not broken.  And things could be worse.  Kristen felt something press against her side and slowly reached into her jacket pocket.  Her fingers touched the envelope and she started to pull it out, but changed her mind and pushed it a bit deeper into the pocket.  Now is not the time to bring this up.

            “What happened to leave the lights off?” asked Scott.

            “We’re in the study.  No windows here,” answered Charles as he moved to sit behind his desk.  He automatically reached to the keyboard and typed his password, instantly connecting to the Juneaux Industries network


            “That’s classified.  I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

            Scott finally sat in the other leather chairs.  “I think you’ve been watching way too much TV.  You’re starting to sound like James Bond.” 

            If  you only knew, Scott.  Kristen glanced to Charles.  “I guess we’ll stay put until morning and then figure out what to do then.”

“I already know what the next move should be,” said Scott.  “First thing in the morning, you and the spy wannabe should go straight to the police and report the shooting.”

            “What are we supposed to tell them, Scott?  It was dark, and it all happened so fast.  I’m not even sure what kind of car it was,” replied Kristen.  Besides, I don’t think I’d like to explain how we just happened to elude them.  That would raise too many questions right now. 

            The faint ring of a telephone prevented any further comment.  Kristen looked around for her purse and fished through its contents before pulling her cellular phone from its depths.  “Hello.  Nope, still at CJ’s.  Nothing at all?  Okay, just give a call if you do.  Will do.  Bye.”  Kristen clicked the telephone off and slid it back into her purse before turning to Charles.

            “That was Doug.  He’s still checking, but hasn’t found anything yet.”

            “So I gathered,” replied Charles.

            “Doug?  Why didn’t you tell him about what happened?” asked Scott.

            Kristen shifted in her seat.  She brushed a few tendrils of hair away from her face before speaking.  “He’s working on something else at the moment, Scott.  My car was broken into while I was at the mall and he’s following up on that for me.”

            “Oh.  And you just got that car too.  Was anything taken?”

            “Just the stereo system and a few other small items.”

            Scott shook his head.  “Some punks probably out looking for drug money.  They saw your car and figured it was a quick way to get some bucks.”

            Kristen glanced at Charles, who was intently staring at the computer monitor.  We need to talk about this, without involving Scott.  But how?  Maybe it was a mistake to call him, but there wasn’t any way to get back here without a greater risk. 

            “Kris, I need you to take a look at the Stockholm budget.  These guys are insane,” Charles said, without so much as a look in her direction.

            “Excuse me for a moment, Scott.  Business calls.”

            “Yes, of course.  Never mind me, I’ll just be over here reading Business Barons Monthly or something.”  Scott stood and walked to the matching leather couch.  He fell back against the corner and picked up a magazine from the nearby table. 

            Kristen moved to stand beside Charles.  Her brown eyes widened as she saw the message Charles had been typing.  BEEN THINKING ABOUT JFK.  ONLY THING THAT MAKES SENSE IS JFK AIRPORT IN NY.  THE KEY COULD BE TO A STORAGE LOCKER THERE.  She thought on this for a moment.  It did make sense and was a plausible explanation for the mysterious note.  Leaning over, she quickly typed her reply.


            Charles made a face and reached for the keyboard.  I SUPPOSE PUTTING HIM OUT OF MY MISERY IS OUT OF THE QUESTION?  He gave a low grunt as Kristen delivered a quick elbow to his side.  JUST AN IDEA. 

            Kristen tucked an errant section of dark hair securely behind her ear as she glanced to Scott.  WE DON’T HAVE A CHOICE.  HE HAS TO COME WITH US TO NY.  HE DOESN’T KNOW ANYTHING, BUT I DON’T WANT TO RISK SOMEONE THINKING THAT HE DOES.

            Charles sighed.  OK.  BUT YOU’RE TELLING HIM.

            “Scott?”  Kristen waited a moment, but he didn’t look up from the magazine.  She crumbled a piece of paper and tossed it at him, smiling as it landed squarely on the page.  “Scott?”


            “It seems there has been a small crisis and we need to fly to New York City for the day tomorrow.  Would you mind driving us to the airport?  Or better yet, why don’t you come with us?”

            Scott narrowed his eyes and looked to Charles for a moment.  “If this were coming from anyone else but you, Kris, I would be immediately suspicious.  This isn’t some type of ploy to keep me from going to the police, is it?”

            “Of course, it is Scott.  While we’re on a plane bound for the Big Apple, you’re going to be bound on a plane going to Zanzibar,” Charles’ voice rose from behind the computer monitor.

            “How original, Chuckles.”  Scott rolled his eyes as he turned to Kristen.  “I don’t know how you do it.  Any way, I don’t have any appointments for the next couple of days.  What’s the point in being the boss if you can’t take a day off when you want to?”

            “OK.  Then you’ll come with us to New York?” asked Kristen.  Please don’t ask what’s after that.  I’m playing this one by ear for now. 

            “Yes,” said Scott.  “Next question.  How are we going to get there?”

            Charles gave Scott a blank look.  “Unfortunately, the company jet isn’t quite finished being remolded.  I guess we’ll have to settle for a commercial flight.  Let’s see what I can find.  Okay, there is a 7 AM flight from Raleigh to JFK nonstop.  Seats available.”

            “Looks like that’s the one,” said Kristen.

            “Do you have your Juneaux card with you?”

            “Yes.  Why?”

            “Give it to me so I don’t have to look up the number.  The tickets might as well come out of your expense account,” Charles replied.

            Kristen handed him the credit card.  “Just make sure you get the confirmation number and print out a receipt.  My boss is a real stickler for those things when report time comes around.”

            “A regular paper tyrant, huh?”  Charles replied, with a slight raise of an eyebrow. 

            “The worst.”

            “You’re booking us through Raleigh?” questioned Scott.  “For a seven AM flight?  Do you know what time we would have to leave?”

            “Before five.  So?”

            “So, do you have any idea what time it is right now?”

            Kristen looked at her watch.  It was already well past midnight.  “We’d better get some sleep then.  Five o’clock will be here in a few hours.”

            “Almost finished.  The confirmation is coming through now,” replied Charles.  He pushed the print button and in a few minutes the paper ejected from the printer.  “I’ll keep the receipt for now.  Okay, we’ll just have to make due with staying in this room. I’m staying at the desk.  This chair is mine.”

            “Kris, do you want the other couch corner?”

            “No, Scott, you go ahead.  I’ll pull up the other chair.  I don’t think I’m going to get much sleep anyway.”

            Within a few minutes, Charles and Scott were sleeping soundly.  Kristen fidgeted in the chair, her mind running in fourth gear.  She forced herself to recite the alphabet in the languages she knew.  She was halfway through the Russian alphabet when her mind shifted into idle and her eyes grew heavy.  It was then that the nightmare began.  She stood in the middle of a cold, unfamiliar room.  Kristen rubbed her arms to keep away the chill and looked around.  It was dark, but she could see the outline of a door not too far away.  She walked to the door and tried to open it; it was locked.  A sense of danger permeated the air.  Kristen frantically whirled around, searching for another way out.  There was none--no other door or window.  She ran back to the door and raised her fist to bang on it.  A resounding thud jolted her back into consciousness just as she made contact with the door.  Kristen gasped and nearly bolted out of the chair.  She rubbed her eyes and blinked a couple of times before her foggy brain recognized the image of Charles standing in the center of the room, a large book at his feet.

            “It’s time to get moving.  We have a flight to catch.”

            “That was a quick three hours,” mumbled Scott.

            Charles opened a desk drawer and retrieved a small remote control.

 He aimed it at the painting on the wall behind the sofa.  The picture instantly slid downward to reveal a couple of small surveillance monitors.  He systematically viewed scenes from the cameras positioned at various places on the estate.  None of the shots showed any signs of intruders.  Another click of the remote returned the painting to its original position.  “All clear.  No one is on the estate.”

            “Either last night’s plan worked and no one knows we’re here or there is a couple of dead bodies hidden somewhere,” commented Scott.

            “Oh ha ha,” said Charles.  “I’m going to forget I heard that.”

            “One question,” began Kristen.  “How are we going to get to the airport?  We left Scott's jeep at the marina.”

            “We’ll take one of the other cars.  I don’t think anyone is stupid enough to try anything in broad daylight.”  Charles spun the small key ring holder he kept on his desk.  “We need something comfortable, yet understated.  It feels like a Mercedes day to me.”

            Scott coughed, but remained silent as Kristen gave him a warning glare.   He stretched and yawned instead.           After a few minutes of discussion over seating, they settled in the car and drove away.  Kristen stared out of the window; she silently hoped this trip would be safer than her last outing, but she had an uneasy feeling that just would not go away.  The pre-dawn darkness only served to emphasize her sense of foreboding.  Scenes of the previous night’s harrowing chase flashed through her mind and, if she had not been involved in every second of it, Kristen would have sworn things like that only happened in the movies.  The fear had been all too real. 

            She forced her thoughts away from the terror filled encounter and instead concentrated on reviewing the events leading up to the attack.  Any detail, no matter how small, would prove helpful in their search for answers.  She pictured the short walk from the mall entrance to her car; nothing strange or out of place stood out.  There hadn’t been anyone in the vicinity of her car, so the envelope must have been dropped prior to her exit.  No one walked by or approached her while she examined its contents.  A small detail emerged from the scene with sudden clarity.  As she was retrieving the envelope from the asphalt, Kristen remembered seeing a car drive by out of her peripheral vision.  It was either gray or silver.  She glimpsed the car parked a few spaces away as she was backing out of the parking space and after she had completed her turn onto the main thoroughfare, the Corvette was several car lengths behind her.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

(find pages and correct chapter 2)

ed,  “Are we ready?”

            “No.  I keep hoping you’ll reconsider--but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.”

            “Scott, try to think positive,” said Kristen.  “You know for sure you are not booked on a flight to Zanzibar.”

            “Haha.  I suppose it could be worse.  The plane could crash and we could all end up very dead.  Or worse,” he replied.

            “There’s nothing worse than dead, unless it would be being stuck with you in the afterlife,” Charles said.

            Kristen sent another glare in Charles’ general direction.  Charles was going to be Charles no matter what she said.  “One of these days I’m just not going to stop the two of you and let you go at it.  But it’s not going to be today.”

            Charles halted the group just inside the main terminal.  “I’ll need the card to pick up the tickets, Kris.”

            “I figured as much,” she replied, handing it to him.  “Don’t forget to give it back.  I may need it later.”    

            “I’ll be right back.”  Charles returned a few minutes later, tickets and boarding passes in hand.  “We have fifteen minutes to get to terminal C gate 4.  It’s that way.  The ticket agent said they would be calling for passengers soon.”

            “Well, let’s go then,” replied Kristen, walking in the direction Charles had pointed. 

            The trio arrived at the gate just as the boarding call was announced over the public address system and a few minutes later, they were finding their seats on the airliner.  After the plane was in the air, Kristen eased the medallion out of her purse to study it closer.  The etched design was identical on both sides--four interconnecting V’s--one upright, another inverted and overlapping the first; the remaining two completed the criss-cross pattern with their points facing right and left.  It was an unusual pattern; one she did not recognize.  The medallion looked solid; there were no visible creases or even a clasp.  Kristen checked the chain for a jeweler or store identification tag, but found none. 

            The medallion could have been a specially designed piece and in that case, there would be no other identical to it.  She knew that most jewelry crafters sign their custom made pieces much like an artist would sign a painting.  Charles had gifted her with a specially crafted bracelet for her birthday the previous year.  Kristen remembered the jeweler was located in New York.  He would certainly be able to recognize if the medallion was custom made. 

            Still looks completely harmless.  But there is more to this than meets the eye.  There has to be.

            “CJ, how are we going to keep Scott distracted long enough to find out what is in that locker?”  Kristen asked after a glance across the aisle to their friend. 

            “I’ll call ahead to the office and have someone page me when we get there.  That way I can slip away and check out the locker area and you can entertain Scott.  Let him watch the planes.  That’ll keep him entertained for hours.”

            Kristen nodded.  “Sounds like the best plan to me.  We’ll have to go by the office or somewhere so he still thinks we’re here for business.”

            “Don’t worry.  I’ve got that covered.  The next dilemma is yours.”

            “Thanks CJ.” 

            “Don’t mention it,” said Charles.  “Maybe we should incorporate and call ourselves Dilemmas R Us.”

            Kristen laughed with a small shake of her head.  “I don’t think they’d go for that, but it is a thought.  It would send Carson over the edge.  On second thought, maybe we should.”


            A few hours later, the flight touched down at John F. Kennedy International Airport.  The page for Charles sounded above the din of passengers just as the trio arrived at the main concourse.  Kristen slipped him the key and the slip of paper and waited with Scott near the huge windows.  True to Charles’ words, Scott was distracted long enough by the airplanes to not notice when Charles returned a few minutes later carrying a medium sized aluminum briefcase.  Kristen paled as she realized that the medallion was more than a lost piece of jewelry.   

            “I don’t think we should open this here.  Too risky and too open,” Charles spoke quietly.  “Looks like we found something after all.”

            “But where?”  Kristen asked.

            “I know just the place.  Let’s get out of here before we draw too much attention to ourselves,” Charles said. 

            “Did you tidy up before you left?”  She knew that Charles would leave no trace that he had ever been near the locker, but wanted to confirm for her own peace of mind.

            “Clean and sanitized.”

            “Scott, he’s back.”  Kristen called.  “We can go now.”       

            “Was the disaster or whatever a false alarm?”  asked Scott. 

            “No.  Some last minute delays have pushed the meeting back until tomorrow.  So, we’re going to spend the night here.   Now all we have to do is hail a taxi.”

            “Hail a taxi.  In New York.  You’ve got to be joking,” said Scott.  “Don’t you have a service or something?”

            “I’m not laughing,” Charles replied.  “It is possible to get a cab, especially where we’re going.  I didn’t think I’d be here overnight, so I didn’t order a car.”


            “Let’s save the debate for another time, guys.  I’m cold and tired and famished,” said Kristen.

            Charles led the way out of the terminal and without a long wait secured a taxi.  He threw a triumphant look at Scott before opening the door for Kristen.  Once all three were inside, he turned to the driver.  “375 Fifth Avenue.”

            Kristen repeated the address to herself.  I know this.  What is it?  Of course!  He would have kept it.  She turned to seek confirmation from Charles, who winked and nodded his head in Scott’s direction.  Kristen rolled her eyes.  This game of one upmanship the two of them continued to play was mildly annoying at times and amusing at others. 

            “Oh my God,” Scott breathed as the taxi pulled to a stop some twenty minutes later.  “Trump Tower.”

            “How very observant.  Now open the door and get out, so I can pay the driver,” said Charles.

            “You’re joking, right?  You don’t really expect me to believe you have a place here.”

            “I don’t.”

            “Then what are we doing here?” asked Scott.

            “My father does,” replied Charles, tucking his wallet back in his jacket.  “This is where the VIP’s stay when they are here and I’m about as VIP as it gets.”

            “It’s been a long time.”  Kristen looked up at the gleaming glass skyscraper. 

            Charles walked toward the Tower’s doors, briefcase in hand.  “We have things to do.  Let’s not stand here and gawk all day.”

            “Your father has a place here?  I thought he was dead.”  Scott looked around, realizing he was alone on the sidewalk.  “Hey!  Wait for me!”

            Once inside the spacious condo, Charles gently placed the case on the coffee table.  Kristen sat on the plush couch, remembering the last time she had been here.  She and Charles stayed here following the funerals in France.  She helped him sort through his parents’ effects and stayed for the reading of the wills.   Nearly a lifetime ago, it seems.   

            “Check out this view.  This is amazing,” Scott said as he stood close to the huge glass windows.  “I think I can see New Jersey from here.”

            “Only you, Scott.  Only you.”  Charles carried the briefcase into the kitchen.  “Kris, why don’t you see what’s in the fridge.  It’s always kept stocked.”

            “Want a sandwich or something, Scott?”     

            “Um...sure.  No pickles and lots of mustard.”

            “OK.  Got it.”

Kristen            stared at the briefcase sitting on the kitchen counter.  It was now or never; the answers to the questions she had could be inside.  “Let’s do it.  Open the case.”

            “In that case, why don’t you open it?” 

            “No thanks.   I’ll let yours be the only set of prints on there.”

            Charles leaned forward and flicked open the latches.  He slowly raised the top of the case to reveal stacks of banded hundred dollar bills and another envelope.  He glanced at Kristen before picking up the manila envelope.  The flap was unsealed; Charles shook the bottom to dislodge the contents.  Two airline ticket vouchers, two passports and another note tumbled onto the money.  “That’s it.”

            Kristen picked up the note by a corner.  She carefully unfolded it and studied it before reading, “Gatwick-205.  Half now.  Half on delivery.  As arranged.”   She lifted one of the vouchers.  The destination was marked as London, England and the date of flight was listed as a couple of days away.  “These are to London.  How much would you say is there, CJ?”

            “About twenty five thousand,” he replied.  “The passports are for two males.  Both listed as Canadian.  Daniel Porchien and Michael Hollis.  Probably forged.”

            “That does it for me.  Large sum of cash plus passports equals something definitely illegal,” Kristen said.        “But, we still don’t know any more than we did before.  None of this explains why someone is paying fifty thousand dollars for a piece of jewelry.  Or why they are willing to go to such great lengths to get it.”

            “What happened to m—“  Scott stopped just inside the doorway as he saw the pile of money lying on the counter.  “Somebody want to tell me what is going on here?”