Authors: Kathi S. Barton
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
World Castle Publishing, LLC
Copyright © Kathi S. Barton 2016
Hardback ISBN: 9781629895055
Paperback ISBN: 9781629895062
eBook ISBN: 9781629895079
First Edition World Castle Publishing, LLC, June 25, 2016
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles and reviews.
Cover: Karen Fuller
Editor: Maxine Bringenberg
Table of Contents
Aedan smiled when he saw all the flyers that had his name on them being put into yards.
Aedan Harrison for Governor
. Who would have thought that only a short three weeks ago he’d been working for his brother’s firm, and now he was not just running for governor, but he was also having a grand time of it. He saw his dad coming out of his political offices and had to smile when he showed him the new signage.
“I had to give them a little grief ‘bout the picture. You look like a little boy in them, and I thought about having them paint a mustache on you or something; but your mom, she liked them so we went with it.” He nodded at his dad, proud as he could be about what was going on, but also a little overwhelmed. “All you boys really take good pictures. It’s in your blood. I think it’s a trait that I passed down to you, what do you think?”
Four days ago there had been an ad on television about Aedan running in the upcoming election. He was getting a late start, he knew that, but he was getting a lot of support too. The president had been in the commercial, saying that Aedan was a man of men and that he would do the best job possible for the state. Aedan had sat there for nearly an hour after it had aired just thinking about how fast this was all going down. Then he’d gotten up, done a little dance, and gone to run with his brother, Darcy, who had been staying with him for a few weeks. He didn’t mention anything about seeing the ad until they were having beers and pizza at his house later. Then after polishing off two large with every kind of meat on them, they’d talked.
“You think that when the time comes, you’ll be sitting in the big house?” Aedan said nothing. Not that he hadn’t been having the same thoughts, but he was terrified to say the words out loud. Even to his brothers. Darcy laughed as he continued, “You have a sappy look on your face. The same one you get when you’ve figured out what you’re getting for Christmas from Mom and Dad. Just so you know, you’re going to have to be better at the poker look if you’re having thoughts that big.”
“I just want to get this election under my belt, then I can go from there.” Darcy only nodded, but he did have a smile that said a lot. “How are things going with you and the new building? I’m thinking that in no time you’re going to have your own mailbox out front. Not that I’m in any hurry for you to leave here. I love hanging out with you.”
“Storm is having it made up as we speak, believe it or not. She said to consider it a building warming gift. Did I tell you that she’s going to help me with finding furniture for the building? I asked for things that would blend well with the old building, and she had this amazing desk delivered yesterday. I’m going to love being in my own place but still working for the family. Christ, she really does know people who know people.”
They both laughed, and Darcy asked about his first duty in office when he won.
“I’m thinking we need more jobs, don’t you? But as for Storm, she really does know just about everyone. And she’s being very pushy about things beyond the governorship. I’m not thinking along those lines yet. I have done some research on my opponent. He’s not very…well, I was going to say very trustworthy, but I think he’s underhanded and a jackass as well.” Darcy said nothing. “You know him?”
“I do, sort of. And this is between the two of us, but if you want to find some true dirt about him, you should look into the people who used to work for him. Both professionally as well as at his home. I understand that they’re the same, they both work for him, but I’m talking about his different staffers.” Aedan wasn’t sure that he wanted to sling mud, and Darcy handed him a file. “I got this in my inbox at work today. It’s a questionnaire. I’m pretty sure that as your brother I wasn’t meant to get it, but there are some pretty in-depth questions there.”
He told his brother that he’d look into the people but didn’t pick up the file just yet. He wasn’t even sure that he wanted to. Darcy took the decision out of his hands after it sat there for several more minutes and picked up the paperwork and flipped through it to the back. Aedan wasn’t sure what he was doing until he handed it to him. Aedan read the first three questions, then looked at Darcy.
“They asked you what you thought my sexual preferences were?” Darcy nodded. “What the hell does that have to do with anything? I mean, how the hell does he get by with asking those sort of personal questions?”
“Don’t know, but there are a lot more in there. Read on. At one point they ask me if I thought you were going to have affairs while in the seat. I’m thinking that if they get one person to answer yes to that, you’re going to be labeled as a pervert as well as some sort of sexual deviant. Whoever sent this out is fishing, and they don’t care what sort of catch they get. I’m having someone look into it.” Aedan laughed. “No, not Storm. If she gets wind of this there will be hell to pay.”
“Yeah, she’s a little overprotective when it comes to us. But this shit, it’s not the way I want to do things, Darcy. You know me. I’d never want to stoop this low.” He read a few more questions until he got to the last one. “It asks if there are any things that the reader can think of that might be helpful to the people of this town. There’s a number here they can call.”
“Yep. And I called.” Darcy leaned back in the couch that had only been delivered that morning. “They’re asking more questions too. Like how long have you been a drug addict. They’re not asking
you were, but how long you’ve been using. And when was the last time I’d shot up with you, and where that might have been. I assured the person that I’d never even seen you take an aspirin and they laughed. This guy told me that he had enough people calling in to talk to them that they knew that wasn’t true. Whoever is working to smear you, they’re not playing very fairly. Like I said, any of this gets out, lies or not, it’s not going to go well for you or the family. Storm will be the least of their problems when Mom and Dad find out.”
“No shit.” He leaned back as well. “I wonder who it is. I mean, with this kind of work, someone is really out to make me look bad. I’m sure if I asked Ellison he’d say something like ‘well, I don’t know’ in his best
you’re a moron
voice. Any ideas who I might have to have murdered?”
“Nope. As I said, I’m having someone look. Mason, too, is having a little fun with this. He said to tell you when it hits his inbox, he’s going to answer all the questions in his own language and hopes someone there gets a kick out of it. He’s been in and out of the offices for a couple of days now; I’ve not really found out why, but it’s fun having him around. Mason said that he’s helping out while Riordan is out of town.” Aedan asked when he’d be back. “Don’t know. Storm has been out of the country for a few days too. But I think she’s coming back tomorrow. The president has them doing something overseas, and I think they’re going to make a little vacation of it too.”
He’d spoken to Darcy, and now it was two days past when they were to have returned home and neither Storm nor Riordan was back yet. Something had come up, they’d been told. He’d never found out what it was, but he knew that it was like them to rest up after they were done working. Even Dad had been saying how he wished he’d had such perks. Then he and Mom had gone to wherever it was to help out.
Aedan was getting things put away in the kitchen when he heard someone in the drive. The house had a very long drive, lined with trees and a big fucking gate at the end, so he knew that whoever was here had made an effort in coming to see him. Going out to the back deck that wrapped around the entire house, he watched. While the car was in front of the garage, he stood there while whoever it was decided to either get out or drive away. The elderly man that finally got out of the car was no one he knew.
He stood with the car door opened and his hands on the door. Both of them. He looked more like he was hanging on rather than just taking in the view. Aedan decided that tomorrow he was going to have someone manning the gate house as Storm had told him to do weeks ago.
“Can I help you?” The man looked around like he was trying to decide if they were alone or not. Just as he was ready to ask again, another car pulled in the drive and he was relieved to see it was Darcy. Neither man spoke, but his brother did come up on the deck with him. “Perhaps you’re at the wrong address.”
“No, I’m where I’m to be. I’m here to meet someone else. It’s important that nobody knows where I am, you see, and I was told that I’d be okay here for a little while.” Aedan nodded. “You’re the boy, the one running for governor. I saw the signs in people’s yards. Congratulations on that. But you need to get yourself someone to man that gate down there. Doesn’t do you squat if anyone can come in here uninvited.”
“I was just thinking the same thing when you pulled up. Who are you?” The man looked worn out. Depressed too, like he wanted to curl into a ball and simply give up. Aedan had no idea where those thoughts had come from, but he had a feeling that they were all true. Making his way off the deck, Darcy was with him but he stayed back, like he was going to be ready should anything happen. When Aedan was nearly to the man he smelled it…blood. Old and fresh. “Are you hurt?”
“Yes. I got shot a couple of days ago. I thought for sure that I was a goner, but I managed to get myself free. I’ve been on the run since, not able to stop the hole in me other than to press a towel or two on it. Hurts like someone has been doing a jig on my insides. You’re not human.” Aedan shook his head and looked the man over. “I can manage to move in a bit, but I have to rest up if you’re planning to kick me to the curb.”
“All right, I won’t kick you anywhere so long as you don’t give me a reason to. Besides, I don’t think you’d make it if I did. I can help you, if you’d allow it.” He just shook his head and continued to hold onto the door that he was near. “Who are you meeting? Maybe I can call them for you.”
“It’s me, Aedan.” He looked at Mason as he made his way to the elderly man. “He’s a stubborn old coot, but I owe someone to keep him safe. Otherwise I would have left his sorry ass on the side of the road.” The older man laughed and then coughed hard enough to make Aedan think he was in a great deal more pain than he was letting on.
Aedan had no idea why he thought that Mason was lying about his feelings toward the stranger. But Mason picked him up in his arms and asked Aedan if he could use his house. Before he could figure out why the man was here or who he was, Mason had taken him to one of the spare bedrooms on the second floor and laid the now unconscious man on the bed.
“I’ll call Ennis.”
Darcy left the room when it was apparent that the man was really hurt. Mason pulled up his shirt and they both looked at the wounds. He had indeed been shot; twice, as a matter of fact. And both wounds were seeping enough to make Aedan realize that he might have used more than a couple of towels to try and stop the bleeding.
“His name is Neal. Paddy Neal. He’s an old friend of a friend that…Browning asked me to bring him here as they’re not home yet. I would have taken him to my place, but it’s too out in the open as yet. He needs a place to hide out until I can get him somewhere safe.” Aedan asked him why here. “Because, my dear friend, your house is built like a fortress and I have been here before, so had you not been home, I could have entered and put him up. It really is important that he is safe.”
“I don’t understand why he isn’t in a hospital, or at the very least a clinic somewhere.” Mason wasn’t one to explain himself, and this time was no different. As they both waited on Ennis to arrive with his black bag, they stripped Paddy’s clothing off. Mason told Aedan what he knew…or in this case, what he wanted Aedan to know.
“Just over a week ago there was a shooting. Nothing you would have heard about here, but an undercover cop was shot several times in the chest at close range. She was about the best there was, but the bad guys didn’t care for her. This is her grandda. Paddy was on the phone with her when she was taken out and presumed killed. She wasn’t, but not for lack of them trying. Just as they were ready to put one in her head, I arrived and took her away to someplace else.” Aedan felt like he was in one of those carnival rides that spun you about so quickly
thatyou couldn’t figure out up or down. “She’s critical, in grave condition actually, but she is going to pull through. But as far as the world is concerned, the world that she works in, she’s dead. And we need to keep it that way for a little while longer. I also have her phone.”
“Her phone.” Mason nodded as he sat down on the other chair in the room. Aedan had already taken the other. “And this is making sense to me how? In the event you didn’t notice, this is not a hospital. I have no staff here that can help out, and I’m pretty sure that since you said you’d been here before, you know that this house isn’t equipped to have guests just yet. The only reason I have this room is because I got a great deal on this set at an auction.”
“This house is very old, and at one time, many decades even before your father was a glint in anyone’s eye, this house was owned by a very dear and close friend of mine. We had many…well, let’s just say that if these walls could talk, you’d be out of here in a minute.” This wasn’t funny and Aedan said that to him. “No, it’s not. But as I was saying, when Nikki was shot and presumably killed, they went after her grandda when her body and the phone that she used came up missing. I took her someplace safe, as I said, to make sure she would get the care that she needed. Also, I have taken care that the phone isn’t found. She has some pretty determined enemies because of what she’s found out about one of the drug dealers in her city. And trust me when I tell you, his little Nikki is one hell of an investigator.”