Dark Wings Rising
It was exactly two in the afternoon when Cooper arrived at the plaza where he was meeting Slim. It was at the other end of the city, the last group of buildings before the road and the rail above it slid between the twin volcanoes and disappeared into the west. He was on time. He was usually late. He could have been early for a change but he'd waited in the studio then drove around until it was damned two in the afternoon to avoid getting here too early.
Where was Slim?
He'd never been here before and wasn't sure where he was going. If there was a separate coffee shop, he didn't see it. One of the three buildings was a dress shop. One was obviously an office building. This one also looked like offices, maybe, with a bare-bones barista counter opening onto the plaza. He saw only one couple seated in there - not surprising since it looked like a lobby. That had to be the place though.
He passed the main lobby door heading for a covered patio at the far end of the place. As he approached he thought with dread and alarm that he heard a familiar voice.
He looked around between trees and shrubs - he could sit on a bench but it was in full view of the owner of the voice. There was nowhere else to go. Where the hell was Slim?
He was depressingly right. It was Camilla.
She was chatting with people he recognized, Terry Lochlan who owned real estate around the city and his pregnant wife whose name he hoped someone would mention because he'd forgotten it.
Cammie said hi and continued to talk to Terry. It was about office space. Colin wanted to rent an office and for some reason Cam was doing it for him. The pregnant wife said hello then and he finally remembered her name. "Hi Elsa, you're looking good."
She laughed and thanked him while Camilla stepped aside and began watching him.
Terry shook his hand, smiling, and they exchanged brief banter about Camilla renting office space for Colin. Elsa smiled too. Camilla's son Jay stood by the columns texting, not looking up at all.
"It looks like a good opportunity," Cooper said, reaching for something bland and polite but positive. "Something Colin would like, his style, close to the club."
"We hope so. Put in a good word for the place if you get a chance."
Everybody smiled some more, except Cam, and Jay who still hadn't looked up.
"We should be on our way. Good to see you again, Cooper."
Coop watched the Lochlans walk away across the courtyard. He waited, hoping Slim would appear at the other end or that Camilla would take her kid and follow them and leave.
She hadn't moved. She'd crossed her arms, calm, quiet. The quiet was unusual. It was foreboding. "What are you doing here Coop?"
"I'm meeting Slim." He hadn't planned on responding to a question like that since who in hell would ask it. He looked toward Jay thinking maybe the kid would say something, anything, no matter how stupid and derail Camilla's train of thought. He didn't.
A couple sitting at the nearest table began to argue. Camilla glanced at them and then back at him. "Why are you meeting Slim here?"
"It's business, Cammie. We're meeting for lunch. We do that on occasion, you know. I'm early and I thought I'd check out the coffee."
"It's office lobby coffee. Terry serves it in the lobby to get people to hang around long enough to look at the building and rent something. There's no place to have lunch here or across the street or down the block. Why would you come all the way across town for office lobby coffee?"
"It's the place, you know, it's new, might have had a cafe. Why not check it out? We thought we'd stop by, try the coffee, get some lunch down the street - that sandwich place is about a block away. The place looks great right?"
Long, long pause. Since it was Cam, maybe she'd already lost interest in the coffee.
"Gemma has an office here. Did you know that? She likes great looking things doesn't she Coop?"
He absolutely froze, stopped breathing. Surely, she didn't know anything. How could she? Why would she bring up Gemma? Camilla did not step into things accidentally. She was implying she did know something, wasn't she?
Cautiously, he tried to keep complimenting the building but he knew this was going bad. Something was wrong. "I don't know Cammie. It's a nice place, that's all I know. It looks...uh...great."
"It does doesn't it. Do you know what else Gemma likes? She likes great looking musicians. She likes you. She likes mine. She came right up to Heydon and hit on him cold at that pool party you know what it's like at a pool party, people in the pool and sun lotion and a hot tub. I was doing something and got there late and there it was. It wasn't a wink."
What the hell? Camilla and what she might know about his business and Gemma hitting on Heydon didn't seem related at all. Why was she bringing it up?
But aside from that, if Gemma had flirted with Heydon in front of Camilla or behind her back, either way she was...well dead might work.
Cautious, uncertain, also surprised Heydon hadn't mentioned it, he tried to walk her back.
"Maybe you misinterpreted something."
"Uhh...okay...well the place looks good Cam. Colin likes this kind of style and Luna's right down the street. It's a good fit for him."
"Maybe not. I take the rail past this place almost every day. I saw the build."
Jay finally quit lurking by the table and said something. He had a quiet and direct gaze, no snark, no smirk, not what Coop expected. Normal looking average teenage boy except he wore three inked stars that fell down his face from the corner of his left eye to the edge of one high cheekbone.
The voice though...
The wind picked up and whistled through the column slats. Jay crossed his arms against it, stuffing his hands into a worn blue hoodie. "All skin," he said quietly. "No bones."
The kid had grown into his voice and it wasn't Heydon's. It was the Lombardo voice - dark, cool, and powerful, It was Rafe's voice without that man's residual accent.
In other words, it was Gabe's voice.
Here he was, an hour past listening to a dead man sing, listening to a boy with another dead man's voice, waiting to meet a woman who wore his dead wife's face - a woman Camilla was probably considering beheading. He was shaken. He didn't believe in omens but this was one fucking huge set of mind grinding coincidences.
And what was that comment supposed to mean? It wasn't as strong as it looked? It was a building, it wasn't going to fall down.
Jay checked to make sure his phone was in his pocket and looked up at his mother. "I gotta go, this is my train."
"Don't fall off the cliff, don't walk up there in the dark I can't believe they don't have any lights."
He smiled. "I've got a ride, I won't fall off a cliff. See you later."
Cooper watched him walk on down the street toward the rail station in the center of the crossroads. Why was he catching the rail? Was he going to work? "Where's he going, Cam?"
"To the desert, to the dome."
To the what? "The desert? What dome, you mean the observatory? What the hell does he do?"
Camilla looked past him. "He watches the stars. Hi Slim."
Rain moved in again over the mountains, this time with a cold wind at its back.
Slim grunted something like 'hi' back at her and kept on walking. Camilla didn't attempt to slow him down. They marched away from her across the little court with the palm trees and orange flowers going past the dress shop toward the smaller building where Gemma must be waiting.
"What's Cam doing here?"
One step behind Slim, dread beginning to overwhelm him, Cooper resisted the impulse to look back at her. He knew she was watching them. Looking back felt like one more step down into the shadow with something dark and legendary and not necessarily on your side standing right behind you.
"Killing the living and raising the dead."