Blood & Chartreuse – Chapter Three

The doors were locked at Cebo’s Tapas Bar & Restaurant. I tried not to be annoyed. It was typical for Marcos to be late to a meeting he scheduled. One took it in stride. A price of doing business with a colorful character. I’d never begrudge Marcos the opportunity to make a grand entrance. But I wasn’t happy about standing outside of a closed business, banging on its security gate, when everyone in the area knew it was closed. It didn’t look good. I didn’t like being remembered. I knocked hard on the wrought iron gate again for good measure. It was possible Marcos had slept late, or had simply forgotten. It was also possible Tommy had told me the wrong time. Or the wrong date. I considered walking down to the bar at the other end of the building. Marcos owned it, too. If he wasn’t there, or sleeping off an alcohol fueled binge in his suite in the hotel above both businesses, the staff might know where he was.

I stepped away from the gate, and set off down the sidewalk toward the coffee bar. Of course, as I did so, the door to Cebo’s was flung open. Marcos stepped out through the door and stopped at the gate. He didn’t offer to open it. I turned with a sigh and walked back to the closed gate. He’d probably been waiting for me to stomp off.

“How are you, old man?” Marcos crooned with his lilt; an odd mixture of accents from a number of drastically different lives. He looked me over doubtfully. My entry wasn’t assured by any means. “It’s been too long. I feel slighted. Are you eating somewhere else now? Our food is no good? Why do you break my heart so?”

I shrugged and told him, “I love the food, Marcos. Can’t afford the prices. I’m a man of simple means. Times are hard.”

Marcos clutched his chest dramatically. I’d inflicted a mortal wound. It was a gesture only a flaming, unrepentant gay man could pull off convincingly. He was every inch the thin, wiry old business man, displaying his wealth in the custom, tailored suit he wore. But the colorful scarf he wore around his neck gave him away. If not for the scarf, which he flung dramatically over his shoulder to register his displeasure with me, one wouldn’t know at a glance that he was a gay man. At least not until he spoke.

“Of all who might betray me,” he continued lyrically, “I would never have considered you among them! Honey, if my wares are beyond your means, you should fling yourself into the bay and swim to the bottom. You have nothing left to live for.”

“Only your excellent conversation and highly regarded company,” I assured him.

Marcos watched me doubtfully. He glanced up and down the sidewalk, checking to see if anyone might overhear us. “Well,” he ruminated, talking mostly to himself. “I suppose it would be good karma to show compassion to a pauper such as you. Assuming, of course, you aren’t accompanied by that legion of derelicts and riff-raff you trash around with. I suspect they might loiter just around the corner, clad in similarly tattered rags, to pounce upon me when I open the gate. Honestly, the things I do for friends…”

“I assure you,” I told him earnestly, playing along as always, “my fellow derelicts are ensconced at the coffee shop on the next corner, driving themselves further into their desperate poverty by trading their pitifully few hard-earned coins for the over-caffeinated swill the purveyor of that questionable establishment panders to the uneducated, at inflated prices I suspect, as something vaguely resembling coffee.”

Marcos glanced up the street to the next corner, where college students and casually dressed businessmen sat in high chairs around tables scattered about the sidewalk, sipping coffee, reading newspapers or busily tinkering on laptop computers and cell phones. He owned the café on the corner, of course, but regarded it as if he’d just seen it for the first time.

“That was pretty good,” Marcos told me, unlocking the gate and swinging it wide so I could enter. He fit a wounded look onto his face as I stepped by him. “My prices are not inflated,” he insisted with a grin. “I charge what the market will bear.”

I laughed. “Your wares are well worth their second mortgages.”

Marcos clutched his heart again. “I was hasty in opening the gate. I always let you in, and you always insult me. What would I expect of a Russian barbarian? That he eats with a knife and fork? That he has some measure of grace and respect?” He shrugged dramatically. “Well. You are what you are. We love you because of your unrefined ways, not in spite of them.”

I nodded and stepped through the doors into the restaurant, then waited for him to lock the gate behind us. The restaurant wouldn’t open until the afternoon. It was a good place to do business. Right downtown. Near the Savoy. Near the museum. Near the yacht club. It wasn’t an accident that Marcos wound up at this location. No one would be coming or going until he opened for business in the afternoon, but the whole world walked right past his tinted windows all day long.

“You know,” I told him, inserting one last little insult, “you are always welcomed to kiss my Russian ass.”

Marcos chuckled and sighed. “You give up so easily, sugar.”

“I respect my elders.”

“Again with the insults.”

He brushed by me as if incensed, leaving me in a cloud of subtle cologne and lotion, but motioned for me to follow. I did so, weaving through the restaurant to a table by one of the side windows that faced the bay. The view wasn’t the best, but it was Marcos’ favorite perch. He pulled out a chair for me and took one for himself. I slipped in across the table from him and glanced out the window at the featureless back end of the Yacht Club’s main building.

“I don’t know why you don’t have that removed.” I said, pointing to the Yacht Club. “We could see the bay from here if you did.”

Marcos shrugged. “I’ve tried to buy it for that purpose, but the fools believe people care about boats and sailing about on the water. Maritime tradition and all that. Delusional dreamers, if you ask me, clinging to out-dated, romantic ideals. I suppose.” He sighed deeply. “Speaking of which, do you still have your boat?”

I nodded. “As far as I know. Berthed at the yacht club. Or The Savoy. I’m not sure.”

“You’ve lost track of your boat?”

“Well, I have an idea. It’s in the area somewhere. How many boats could there be?”

He nodded, considering this. “Indeed, indeed.”

Marcos looked toward the bar as a young man turned the corner, bringing goodies from the kitchen. He bore a platter of food in one hand and a wine bottle and two glasses in the other. The boy was beautiful. Ruddy complexion. Large, black, Disneyesque eyes. Full, feminine lips. One could imagine him with a sash around his waist and a saber between his teeth, whisking away unfortunate maidens on his flying carpet. It was a safe bet Marcos had not hired him for conversation skills.

“Excellent,” declared Marcos, grinning at me. He teased me, “You’ve arrived just in time for tapas. Share a meal with me, my reasonable and ancient friend.”

I feigned a dramatic nod. “I would be honored, kind sir.”

The young man approached our table, arriving awash in the wonderful scent of rich food and a hint of cheap cologne. He placed a modest platter of some kind of fried meat between us, distributed small plates and glasses to each of us, and filled our glasses with a fruity, dark red wine. With Marcos there was always food and wine. As much as he ate one would think he couldn’t walk. But I’d always suspected he never ate outside of business meetings. If not for business, Marcos might starve.

“Solomillo al whisky,” Marcos declared, sweeping his hand dramatically over the platter, “or, as some uneducated Russian might call it, fried pork scallops. Your favorite tapas, if I recall?”

I nodded my approval. It smelled wonderful. “And the wine?”

“Sangria, of course. Made at my estate by the purest of virgin girls. Which are increasingly hard to come by in this vicinity. Due, in no small part, I imagine, to brigands such as yourself.”

“You wound me, sir,” I told him with mock umbrage. “I lost my taste for virgins when they no longer reached the age of consent.”

The young man snickered. He topped off my glass. His cheeks had turned red with embarrassment. The boy smiled warmly at me. An inquisitive gaze. Inviting. Flirty. I considered him in full for the first time. A handsome boy. Early twenties, maybe. Fit but not athletic. Attractive, but not handsome. Not tall, but neither was he short. His was a persona that came and went as it pleased, leaving little wake behind him. He showed a bit more interest in me than was entirely modest, but it was benign enough to be brushed aside. I didn’t mind the flirting, but it was a little out of place in front of Marcos. At least until I knew how he fit into things.

“Thank you, Neal,” said Marcos, grinning. He motioned to me. “By the way, may I introduce William Crewe.” And to me he said, “This is Neal, my newest recruit. He’s proven quite capable in the kitchen, but I keep him on the tables. The girls fancy him.”

Neal smiled at me. “The boys tip better.”

I glanced at Marcos, not missing the inference. “I’m sure they do.”

“Thank you, Neal, “Marcos said quickly. A big grin spread across his face. “That will be all for now.”

Neal took the hint, performed a slight bow that was almost a curtsey, and scurried away. I sat back in my chair and considered Marcos.

“Have your tastes changed since last we talked?” I asked him, grinning.

“Who else,” he said softly, “could properly service an old man but an eager young man?” Then he laughed. “Eager to please, that one is. And blessed by Mother Nature.” Marcos glanced toward the kitchen to make sure the boy wasn’t listening. “But, of course, I have far grander plans for young Neal.”

“Oh? Such as?”

“Well,” Marcos said thoughtfully, pausing for dramatic effect while he spooned a few scallops onto his plate, “I’m not getting any younger. It’s time for a change.”

I glanced back toward the kitchen. “Oh? And young Neal is that change?”

Marcos nodded. “This old body is wearing out, Crewe. It’s time for a new one.”

“Ah,” I said, nodding, thinking of Neal. Or, more specifically, Neal’s young body. “The new model?”

“Exactly.”

I had to laugh. Ever the methodical Marcos. Only he would hire an employee with the intent of taking his body. I’d never been that bold. Or diabolical. It’s one thing to take the body of a stranger, but to take it from someone you’ve come to know personally was a special kind of twisted. But I supposed it was better to know what you’re getting into. It didn’t bother me. It was personal taste. I was hardly a saint myself. Who was I to judge? To me, though, it seemed somewhat like eating the family dog.

“You could have gotten more mileage out of Marcos,” I told him conversationally. I didn’t care either way. “You’re reasonably young.”

“Not all of us,” he mused, “care to linger around in the same old bodies.” Marcos rolled his eyes. “Christ, sugar, how long have you had that body? Don’t you ever want something you don’t have to constantly repair? Don’t you ever want change?”

“I thought you were going back to being female,” I mused, changing the subject, ignoring the stiffness of my finger and the ever-present ache in my lower back.

Marcos shrugged. “Maybe later.” He grinned and watched me for a moment as he chewed his food. His eyes danced with mischief. “Are you still uncomfortable with me being a man?”

I shrugged. It was nothing to me. I’d known Marcos for over a century. He was at least a century older than that. He’d always been a woman before. Always. For some reason he’d changed up a few decades earlier, switching to the old male body. I never understood it. Most Upir got younger bodies when they changed. Maria, as he was known then, took over the body of an already middle-aged man. A shrewd tactical move. The original Marcos was an unmarried businessman with few friends. Maria became Marcos, and inherited a thriving business and a life of comfort. It’d always seemed like an odd choice to me. Money and security mean little when you can change bodies at will.

“No,” I insisted. “Not at all. You just said you were going back. That’s all.”

“I said I was thinking about it. A very different matter.”

“Any reason?”

“For?”

“For not going back.” I opened my hands when he scoffed at me. “I’m just curious.”

Marcos sighed heavily. He dropped his head as if it was suddenly too heavy to keep upright. Then he grinned and sat back in his seat, watching me. “If you must know,” he began, gesturing in the air as if conjuring the spirits, “I discovered, much to my surprise, that I like having a cock. I also rather enjoy having a prostate. Wonderful things happen when you massage the prostate. Especially if you massage it with something warm, firm and fleshy.” He grinned mischievously. “I could show you sometime, if you’d like.”

“No,” I said quickly, but laughed. “I don’t want the wrinkled old thing anywhere near me.”

“Oh, come on,” Marcos teased. “You’ve been a woman before, sugar. You’re not unfamiliar with being on the receiving end of a penis.”

“That may be,” I insisted, “but I was a woman then. There’s nothing more disturbing to me than the thought of two old men going at it. I can hear it now. ‘Swing that old wrinkled ass around here, you dirty sumbitch’.”

Marcos burst into laughter. He laughed hard, and struggled for a moment to regain his composure. Then, wiping his eyes, he regarded me thoughtfully. “Well,” he said, chuckling, “if you ever change your mind, darlin’, give me a call. I wouldn’t miss the chance to return the favor sometime. You certainly hammered me on occasion back in the old days. Ah, the good old days.”

“You were a beautiful woman back in those days.”

“Oh,” he groused, “you’re so spiteful.”

“Anyway,” I said by way of changing the subject, again, and motioned back toward the kitchen where young Neal had disappeared, “thinking of making the change soon?”

Marcos shook his head. “Next year, maybe. Assuming he sticks around. Which he most likely will. There’s money to be had. One can lavish the young with cars and clothing. Their loyalty is cheap. I’ve already started making the legal arrangements.” He grinned suddenly. “For some odd reason everyone assumes he’s my long lost son. From Madrid, no less.”

“Funny how people make assumptions, isn’t it?”

“Indeed, indeed.”

Marcos glanced at my empty plate. To be polite, I spooned a few tapas onto my plate. I sipped a bit of my sangria and nodded my approval. It was very good, but a bit on the sweet side for my tastes. I popped a tapa into my mouth. The pork was slightly sweet, but with the faint, smoky bite of whiskey. It was familiar, somehow. I’d tasted it before. Maybe in another life.

“This is very good,” I told him honestly.

“It was made especially for you. The recipe uses Old Ravenholdt.”

“Really?” I said, surprised. “A rye?”

Marcos nodded, beaming. “I know it’s a favorite of yours. If the dish earns your approval, as it has mine, I may add it to the menu.”

I ate another one. “I’d recommend it. Anyone who tries this will be hooked. Well, anyone who appreciates subtlety. The whiskey isn’t obvious, but it lingers.”

Marcos nodded again. He was watching me. Waiting. I ate a few more for good effect, and took another sip of the excellent sangria. Our niceties were playing out. Marcos could play the game for hours before ever getting to his most pressing point. My patience was not nearly as voluminous. It spoke to his need that Marcos was getting down to business so quickly.

“Thank you for coming,” he told me with a genuine, warm smile. “There are so few of us elders left in the area. It’s a pleasure to renew old acquaintances. Always.”

I spooned a few more tapas onto my plate and sat back in my chair. My instinct was to be difficult. To tease his haste. But I thought better of it. If we had passed the pleasantries already, and we had if Marcos was bringing up the old days, it was time for business. “Right to it, then?”

Marcos leaned forward and rested his forearms on the table. “If you came by more often, you might find me a loyal and trustworthy friend. We could talk for hours about the old days. But yes. Right down to it, I suppose. Isn’t it always that way with you?”

“I trust you, Marcos,” I lied. “You’re one of the few I do.”

“And I you, of course,” he said, picking up his glass and looking down into the wine. “That’s why I had to ask you here. Who else could I trust?” He watched me for a long moment, arranging and rearranging his next thoughts. It seemed to cause him some trouble. “Can I ask you something rather personal, Crewe?”

I shrugged. I’d known Marcos for almost a hundred years. He long ago earned the right to ask me anything he pleased, if not my complete trust. “Please do,” I told him.

He took a sip of wine but kept the glass in his hand, and sat back in his chair. “I need to ask you,” he began carefully, “about something I’ve never pried into. About your associations. With Jaxon. The Enclave. The Council.”

“I’m sure you know all about it,” I replied truthfully. It was almost impossible to hide anything in Saint Petersburg. There weren’t many of us. Everyone knew what the others were up to. Everyone knew I was still part of The Enclave. Everyone knew I wasn’t happy with Jaxon or his puppet Council.

“Surface knowledge,” he said flatly. “I know where they’re at. I know what they do. Who is there. Such things.” He glanced out the window for a moment, then fixed me with a direct and earnest stare. “I’ve heard rumors, sugar, I thought you should be made aware of. Disturbing rumors.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. Very disturbing.”

“Such as?”

He grinned. “Well, you tell me. You know, of course, Senator Fallon was murdered last week?”

I nodded. “Of course.”

The Senator’s murder was brazen. Everyone knew what had happened to him. A night of partying. Found dead the next morning. In his own bed? We all knew. Who can kill Upir but another Upir? Fallon was one of our best and brightest. One of our strongest. No one could have killed him in his sleep but someone he trusted implicitly. Someone strong enough to overpower him. Or someone who knew how to end it quickly before he could respond and defend himself. Either way, they had to be close.

“Rumor has it,” Marcos continued, “that you’ve had personality conflicts with The Enclave of late. Butting heads with the establishment again?”

“With some of the establishment,” I admitted. “It’s no secret I’m not thrilled with the changes Jaxon has made. Beyond that, he thinks he can reel me in. You’ve known me long enough to know how well that’s working out.”

Marcos chuckled and sipped sangria. “Has there been any unusual activity of late?”

I shrugged. “Well, if you mean Jaxon’s personal lackeys becoming stewards of The Enclave, yes. And there are more recruits than usual. I had to lead off an orientation class this morning. The third this month. Otherwise, no. I’m not happy there. I know I should leave. But I’m having a hard time walking away from it.”

“Understandably so,” he agreed. “You helped found the group. Made it what it is today.”

“I won’t take the blame for that.”

“Everyone knows what you did. Well, what you tried to do. You can’t help it if the fools voted you out of power. You’re not even on the Council anymore, are you?”

I shook my head. “No. They voted to give me a ‘promotion’. Made me an Elder. Now I’m free to have my opinions. Without a vote, of course.”

“Are you bitter about that?”

I sipped my sangria and watched Marcos. He watched me. There was obviously more going on here than his concern for my welfare. Marcos didn’t call me there for a pep talk. Obviously, this was leading somewhere.

“If you have questions,” I told him, “we would both be better off if you simply asked them. I have nothing to hide from you, Marcos.”

“Of course not,” he said quickly. “As I said, I trust you without reservation. Which, of course, is why you’re here. And why Jaxon is not. I need to know what’s really going on. I know you’ll tell me the truth.”

“Which is why I need you to just ask. What do you want to know?”

Marcos sipped more sangria and leaned toward me. He glanced at the table, spooned some tapas onto his plate, and stared out the window. “It isn’t easy,” he said without looking at me, “to ask you such things, but someone needs to. There are those who want to know.”

“Yes…”

He looked at me. Watched me. Looked down at the table. “Is it possible,” he began, “that The Enclave had something to do with killing Fallon?”

I grinned. But it faded quickly. He wasn’t joking. Marcos watched me closely, just to make the point that he was serious.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked him. “They’re too busy playing dress-up to orchestrate something like that. A murder? Of an Upir?” I shook my head. “Marcos, please. You’re giving these people far too much credit.”

“Or you’re underestimating them.”

I threw out my hands. “Entirely possible. But unlikely. What reason would they have to kill Fallon? The man was a saint. Virgin breasts squirted milk whenever he walked by. The Enclave is all about hero worship, and Fallon was the biggest hero they had.” I shook my head. “Look, putting all that aside, I just can’t imagine where you’re getting this. It’s like asking if Barney Fife took part in a commando raid.”

“In the months before his death, Fallon blocked three big-money, high profile projects from being developed. One here in Saint Petersburg, one in Tampa, and another out in Tierra Verde. With your real estate connections, I’m sure you heard of them.”

“Sure,” I told him. “Condominiums. Big money bought up property, tried to muscle in, and the locals declared jihad. Fallon blocked the development and made a lot of friends in those areas. I still don’t…”

“Jaxon and at least two members of The Enclave council had heavy investments in the company that spearheaded those developments. They lost millions in potential profits when Fallon blocked those deals.” Marcos nodded, watching me and gauging my response. He reached under the table and produced a manila folder, which he laid on the table between us. “It’s all there. Investment structuring. Stock holdings. Property acquirements. Business proposals. Take this and consider it at your leisure.”

“Where would Jaxon get that kind of money?” I asked him, my voice trailing off as the obvious answer presented itself. “The Enclave?”

“I’ve heard it’s growing at an alarming rate,” Marcos said flatly. “Some of us have wondered where Jaxon might be getting that kind of capital. It can’t be from memberships, I’m sure. There aren’t any millionaires in your ranks.”

“There’s no obvious money…”

“Other than the credit union on 4th Street? No. Nothing to speak of. But Jaxon and a few council members have made some major investments. If the money isn’t coming from your members, where is it coming from?”

“Someone outside, obviously. But who? And why?”

“That’s the question, isn’t it?”

“Listen, Marcos,” I said quickly. “If you think I had anything to do with…”

“Heavens, no!” Marcos snapped. “If anyone did, sugar, this conversation would not be happening. Everyone knows you better than that. You’re the one guy who might be universally trusted among us. Not because, as you said, the virgins squirt milk,” he chuckled, “which was funny, by the way,” he winked, “but because you’ve never once tried to keep your hand hidden. Everyone knows where you’re coming from. We all trust you because of it. Jaxon, on the other hand…” He shook his head. “Well, it was a dark day on our community when he showed up. What were you thinking, anyway? Why didn’t you just kill him when he started moving up the ranks?”

I shrugged. “Weak, I guess.”

Marcos chuckled. “That isn’t a word one would associate with you, my friend.” He grinned broadly. “Your strength is the reason I needed to speak with you. No one is going to move against Jaxon without proof of his involvement. We need you to help us with that. If he was involved, you’re probably the only one who can find out for sure.”

“I’m not among the trusted,” I told him honestly. “I’m not sure what proof you think I could provide. No one of importance confides in me in The Enclave. Is there nothing in those files there?”

“No. Nothing to speak of. Well, nothing beyond the obvious fact that Fallon’s meddling cost Jaxon a lot of money. The investments are there as a matter of public record. Which might establish motive. But there’s no proverbial smoking gun.” He took a deep drink of his sangria and refilled his glass. “That’s where you come in, my old friend. I’m sure you could find some motivation in your heart to help us bring these people to justice. Assuming, of course, that they’re guilty. And assuming that you might like to see Jaxon and his flunkies removed from power. You could set aright the course of The Enclave in one fell swoop.”

I nodded absently, and took a long, deep breath. It was a lot to take in. I’d known that something was up in The Enclave for some time, but I’d dismissed it as Jaxon moving against me personally. Could he possibly be responsible for the murder of a fellow vampire? There is no more heinous crime an Upir could commit against one of his own. Jack Fallon was over three hundred years old. With his death, all his experience, knowledge and personal history were just… gone. Could Jaxon have been involved in that? And if so, how could I have missed it? Had I become that blind to the world around me? Had I become a drone?

My fingers tapped upon the manila folders. How could I have missed that? So I doubted it at once.

“I’m not sure what you think I can do,” I told Marcos, “but I’ll keep my ears open. And if I’m convinced that Jaxon had something to do with Fallon’s murder, I’ll personally feed him to the sharks. Alive and kicking.”

Marcos relaxed somewhat, as if a weight had lifted from his shoulders. “I knew we could count on you. And by ‘we’ I mean the community. If Jaxon had something to do with this, it could bring a lot of unwanted attention into the area. Fallon was a senator, for Christ’s sake. No one wants that.”

I nodded absently. My mind was spinning. Marcos was absolutely right. If Fallon was murdered by Upir and that knowledge got out, the Feds would be all over the local community. None of us would be safe. We couldn’t risk the government viewing us as a threat again. They’d already tried to wipe us out before. They couldn’t know how extensive the culture was in the Tampa Bay area. It would be open war. That was not a war we could win. Past experiences had shown us that.

“I’m in,” I told Marcos, “if that’s what you need to hear. If Jaxon and members of the Council had a hand in this, I want them held accountable.”

“To the community, of course.”

“Of course,” I agreed.

“No authorities.”

“Marcos, please. Who are you talking to?”

“My friend,” he said, reaching across the table and squeezing my hand, “you have always stepped up when we needed you. It’s why we all trust you. Even though you don’t fellowship with us and you constantly complain about my prices.”

I sighed dramatically and rolled my eyes. “That means I’ll be getting a bill for these few leathery bits of pork you’ve forced me to chew upon, doesn’t it?”

“Visili Kruvoi!” Marco snapped, holding his heart and gasping for breath. “You wound me! Have I ever charged you for a meal?”

I grinned. “I wish you would, actually. You always make me feel like a beggar.”

Marcos shook his head. “You saved my family. It’s a debt I can never repay. As long as I live, you will never want for food. Or a roof over your head.”

“Marcos. Please.” I waved my hand to stop him.

The air got thick between us. Marcos refilled our glasses while I tried to let the subject slip away. He knew I didn’t like to talk about it, and so he didn’t push it. I studied his weathered face and tried to imagine the beautiful Maria he used to be. I got Maria’s family out of Spain because it was the right thing to do. Franco’s death squads were looking for them and she had no one else to turn to. But Maria had balanced that debt decades before by serving me, and Marcos had continued paying that debt with simple friendship. The offering of food and wine in thanks had become an unwelcome tradition. It was one that embarrassed me, and kept me away. Every free meal made me feel like a manipulative bastard. I hadn’t rescued Maria’s family for a permanent seat at Marcos’ buffet. I did so because I was in a position to do so. Simple as that.

“Now,” Marcos said suddenly, resting his forearms on the table and leaning toward me to kick off the next order of business, “we need to discuss the lies you’re going to tell the FBI when they visit you on your boat tomorrow. We must redirect their investigation.”

I blinked at him a few times before the words sank in. “Um… FBI?”

“Yes. They’re already poking around. Now. Where did you dock your boat?”

“Um…” I blinked and shook my head, backpedaling. “Excuse me? FBI?”

“Of course,” Marcos grinned. He knew I’d already taken his bait, and that he had played his hand masterfully. “You said, did you not, that you would help however you could? There are some things I need you to do.”

“Marcos,” I protested. “I’m not going to talk to the FBI.”

“Well,” he said, smiling and re-filling my glass with sangria, “I would never ask such a thing myself. But they asked for you personally. Apparently, as much as we might wish otherwise, Visili Kruvoi is not easily forgotten. Nor is William Crewe.”

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