Robert and Selene Howell
The city’s heart soothes the rushing mind of Selene Howell. She knew her husband’s job was dangerous, and his obsession with that speakeasy made her all the more worried. But so long as someone can hear the heart, they’re never too far away.
And yet, despite having him back home, Robert felt more distant than ever. He got a new clue, just a picture, but it reinvigorated him and his investigation. Selene wasn’t sure how to stop him. She wasn’t sure how to keep him safe.
For his part, Robert had tried to keep his wife from worrying. He wanted to rush out and start finding more answers the day he came home but he waited after scaring Selene by not coming home.
But it had been long enough.
They sit at the kitchen table, making polite conversation. Robert’s mind raced trying to decide how to broach the subject. While he’d taken a few days off, he couldn’t stop forever, and he’d need to go out at night to find the people who could tell him about the woman in the photograph.
“I want you to quit.” Selene wasn’t expecting to say it so bluntly, but based on how fidgety Robert had been, she knew she had to say it now.
Robert is taken aback by his wife’s suggestion. He knew how she felt about the danger of his job, but he thought there was an understanding.
“I can’t do that. You know I can’t do that.”
“Why?” Selene’s eyes focused on Robert. They seemed to bore into him, like he was mad to not even consider the option. Robert adjusted in his seat.
“We’re barely scraping by as is. I don’t have a job, you don’t have a roof over your head.”
“We’ll figure it out.”
“Like hell we will!” Robert slams his hand on the table. “We can’t get by hoping to luck into something. More importantly, I’m getting close! I got a strong lead!”
“And what happens when they come for you again? These people have so much money and they don’t care about killing you if they have to! You want to leave me alone?”
Robert’s voice gets quieter.
“That won’t happen.”
“How? How are you going to promise that?”
“I would never let anything happen to you! That is what I can promise!”
Selene’s eyes go wide. The voice Robert growled in was the same one that he answers the phone with, in the middle of the night.
“I think… I think I’m going to stay with my sister. Just for a bit.”
The muscles up Robert’s arms relax. He hadn’t realized how hard he was grabbing the table until now.
“That might be best. I promise things will be better in a few days.”
“Please. Please stop making promises you can’t keep.”
What in the hell is taking Mr. Shane so long?
Vash quietly cursed the situation she found herself in. She was sitting in the stolen car from earlier today, one whose owner was surely searching for her, thinking of how Ryan could screw up this badly.
She was expecting to waltz right in after Ryan either took out the men, or drew them away so she could get the cash, but it’s looking like he either got caught or killed.
She curses one last time, before stepping out of the car. Her suit was not conducive to this activity, so she hoped nothing was truly wrong.
She counted the floors up as she crossed the street and tried to figure out which apartment was Bella’s. If she counted right, the fire escape just around the side and little bit back should take her there.
This estimation was confirmed when she reached the bottom of the fire escape and found a ladder already down. Someone went up this way before her.
Vash climbs to the top of the ladder and slowly makes her way up the fire escape, doing her best to not rattle the metal against the building. As she gets closer, she moves slower, unsure what she will find at the apartment.
The window is lit with a soft light. They clearly want to see what’s going on, but they also don’t want to alert anyone that they’re there. Vash creeps up and spies through the window.
Inside the apartment a group of men gathered in the middle of Bella’s apartment, thankfully with their backs to the window. Some on the little couch, one on a stool, and two by the door.
Ryan stood in the middle of them, surprisingly cool for his situation.
“You said you’re helping Bella. So tell us where she is.”
Mr. Shane paces in a small circle, clicks his tongue, and responds.
“I can’t. Not just yet. You know as well as I do, she’s in danger. I won’t tell you until I believe I can trust you.”
“Now listen here boy, you aren’t in a position to-”
Ryan holds up his hand.
“I give you my word.”
Vash was impressed. Mr. Shane seemed so unsure of himself around her and in the club, but here he was standing down muscle from one of the families.
Rupert entered from the kitchen.
Hell, that’s what happened.
Vash was expecting the Belroses but instead it’s the Gaudios. At least now she gets what happened. Rupert is likely looking for Bella.
He crosses from the kitchen to the middle of the apartment with the other men, and tries to hand Ryan a drink. He politely takes it, but Vash knows he won’t drink it.
“Mr. Shane, if you truly want to protect Lady Gaudio, I am the person to tell. You supposedly know who I am, told by Bella herself. Meanwhile, I still don’t know who you are, and have no reason to trust you beyond what you’ve told me.”
Ryan’s eyes search the room, gauging the men up and down, when they catch the eyeshine just outside the window. Vash quickly motions for Ryan to look away, and he understands. He looks at the other men in the room, but whether he knows what she has planned, she isn’t sure.
Vash tests the window and finds it unlocked. As Ryan speaks she slowly opens it and crawls inside.
“Maybe, but I’m more than willing to die to protect Bella if I don’t trust you completely. If you want to know where she is, I’m going to need some proof. Some guarantee beyond you reacting to the name I said. For all I know, you aren’t Rupert at all.”
Vash moves into position behind the men, and speaks as loudly as she can without shouting.
“No worries there Mr. Shane. That is absolutely Rupert, the old bastard.”
The men nearly jump out of their seats as they pull guns from their jackets and point them at the intruder.
Rupert whips around in surprise, a surprise that doesn’t end when he sees who’s speaking.
“Oh please, Rupert. You’re far too formal. Just call me Vash. And pour me a drink, would you?”