Stupid dress. It was so stupid of me to wear it.
Vash cursed her own choices. She wasn’t even sure she wanted to be at this party. But if she was going to start her own club, she’d need the help of the families here.
The dress she was wearing was sleek and tight up top, while the skirt flowed down to her ostentatious heels.
It could be worse, Vash. You could have gone with that beaded monstrosity.
She looked around the party, trying to find Alessandro Gaudio, head of the Gaudio crime family in The City. Her contact said he should be relaxed in this setting and more apt to listen to her proposal.
And yet, she didn’t dare leave her little corner of the room until she knew where he was. The minute she did, these men would be on her like a dog on a steak.
“I’ve never seen you before!”
The bright and colorful voice snapped Vash out of her thoughts. She quickly looked to her side where it came from and saw a cute flapper.
“I’m new in town.”
Vash’s own voice shifted. Rather than her normal calm, directed tone, she spoke with interest and bravado.
“Really?! And you already got invited to one of these parties? They’re very exclusive, ya know!”
The girl was cute. More than cute, she was gorgeous. Her dark hair framed her face perfectly. Vash wasn’t a huge fan of the dress, but her confidence made it work.
“Who’s to say I was invited? Maybe I snuck in?” Vash says.
The girl laughs, a haughty laugh that didn’t quite seem to match the flapper dress.
“Oh, no one sneaks in to these parties.”
She grabs two glasses off a passing server’s tray and very pointedly sets one in front of Vash.
Vash takes the glass and downs the drink.
“Maybe I did.”
In the office of the Arcadian, Vash stared down Bella. After having him pour their drinks, she asked Mr. Shane to change using the spare clothes she kept at the club, and keep lookout, outside the club.
After another cocktail, Bella gathers her nerves.
“Raph and I had been seeing each other for a few months. We knew out parents wouldn’t approve, so we kept it secret. From everyone.”
“No one knew? You’re positive?”
The woman shook her head.
“No one I knew. Raph swore he kept it to himself as well.”
Vash stops to consider the Belrose family. They were almost as close as Bella’s so Raphael would have been smart enough to keep it from them.
But they were kids in love. They had to go out in public. It just took someone who recognized them to ruin it.
“When you were together, where would you go?”
Vash shook her head.
“We have to figure out who knew. I need to know who could have found out.”
Bella shakes her own head back.
“You don’t understand! We’re not fools, Vash! We didn’t go out together after we met.”
What in gods name did she mean?
Vash’s face must have conveyed her confusion because Bella filled in the gap.
“We talked on the vidphone. A lot.”
“So you weren’t together in person?”
She shook her head again.
Vash was perplexed. She couldn’t imagine a relationship being confined purely to a vid window. Bella was always a little different though.
“I know. It’s not conventional. But he loved me. And I loved him.”
Vash put her thoughts about this to the side.
“Okay. Who suggested running? You or him?”
“He did. Said we could disappear to another city; start over away from our families.”
“Your father alone has enough sway to find you most anywhere, you had to know that.”
“I do! I do now.” She gets up and starts walking around the office. “But Raph… he made it sound so easy. Get some money together, hop a train, and live free.”
Vash’s ears perked up.
“Money? How much money?”
Bella looked a little sheepish.
“Well, I mean, we were planning to start a new life. We needed something to get going, hide our tracks, and build a safe life for us!”
Vash stood up and slammed her fist on the table.
“How much did he tell you to get?”
Vash’s mouth dropped. There’s no way her pop would have given that to her, or she would have just paid off Lenny and this whole scenario would have never happened.
“You borrowed it from Lenny, didn’t you?”
“We were running away! I didn’t think I’d have to pay it back!”
Vash lets out a string of curses she’s sure Mr. Shane could hear outside the club.
“Fine. Where is the money now?”
“I got it! Stop treating me like a foolish child, Vash!”
Okay, that’s one problem solved.
“We’ll take it back to Lenny. Negotiate the interest. That will be one thing off your back.”
Vash’s anger was filling her body. She had never dealt with a situation quite like this before.
“If you can’t settle this, I’ll still need to run. Besides, Lenny says I got until Friday to pay him back. No rush.”
“Do you really think he’ll just let you keep it when word gets around what happened?! I wouldn’t be surprised if those goons weren’t with the Belroses but instead Lenny’s guys trying to collect before you skipped town!”
“Oh. I didn’t think of that.”
Vash took a deep breath and sat down. She put her head in her hands and thought things over. Lenny was a loose end she couldn’t leave hanging.
“We’re giving him that money back. Then we can figure out what else happened.”
Vash breathed a sigh of relief.
“Great. Where is it?”
“Under the floorboards in my apartment.”
Vash cursed again.