Sequel to The Traitor Within and The Garrett House Horrors.
"There's something bad out there."
Kara Watkins finished fastening her diamond droplet earring to her left ear before giving her younger brother a look of scorn coupled with a sardonic smile. "Something Mike?" she echoed. "What sort of something?"
The siblings were seated in the large living room of their family's impressive mansion. It was brightly lit with four large lamps and discreet spotlights in the ceiling in addition to the glow from the widescreen television set on the wall opposite the plush, crimson and gold brocade sofa Kara occupied.
Michael, younger than Kara by eight years, was seated on a cushion on the wide, wooden, interior windowsill. His nose was pressed up against the tall, arched window and peering out into the gloom of the night.
Kara stood up from the sofa with a sparkling crystal and pink satin clutch purse in her right hand. With her free hand she pushed her blonde curls over her bare shoulders before striding over to her brother. Her heels left deep imprints in the thick, fuzzy, pale gold carpet as she walked.
"Come on Mike, don't keep me in suspense," she said chirpily.
Kara paused to stare outside. Their expansive garden was mostly in shadow as only a few of the lights were on. Their mother always said it was a waste of energy to have them all on if no one was out there. She hadn't appreciated Kara's suggestion that they have solar lights instead. Given how sunny Miami usually was, Kara couldn't understand the issue with solar lights.
Mike raised a single finger slowly and pressed it against a pane of glass. "Just there," he murmured.
Kara followed where he was pointing and looked out into the gloom in confusion. "Mike I don't-" Kara's voice caught in her throat as for a moment something moved out there.
Kara saw a shadowy figure moving close to the trees. Her blue eyes grew wide as she watched them stride purposely forward in their direction. She was almost ready to scream until they stepped into the path of an orb shaped light and she realised from the torch in their hand and the gun hanging at their belt that it was one of her father's security detail.
Mike started laughing loudly. "Your face!" he taunted his sister.
Kara's shock faded as her face curdled to anger. "Michael you asshole!" she snapped as she swung out at her brother with her free hand.
Kara curled her hand into a fist and punched her brother lightly in the right arm, she meant to shock him rather than hurt him but her anger drove her to put a little more force into the move.
"Hey!" Mike protested. He reached up to clutch at his arm as tears started to pour from his eyes. "That hurt!" he roared angrily.
His face turned red and the tears fell faster as he jumped up from the windowsill and ran to the living room door.
"Little shit," Kara muttered crossly to herself.
Mike opened the door and fled from the room wailing for their mother.
Kara knew she had better leave quickly otherwise her mother was liable to ground her. She hurried from the room, almost running for the front door.
She blushed when she nearly collided with James Hoyes, one of the family bodyguards that always seemed to linger around the house.
James glanced down at the young woman and flashed her a bright, teasing smile. "Is your attempting a marathon in heels and your brother crying for your mother related?" he quipped curiously. His oceanic eyes gleamed with humour.
Kara's cheeks darkened to a ruddy pink as she awkwardly pushed a curl of pale blonde hair back over her right shoulder. "Um maybe but I've somewhere to be anyway," she murmured.
James' light brown eyebrows rose slightly at this. "Well I can see that," he retorted pointedly. "Do you need a lift?"
"Nope, my friend is en route," Kara replied confidently.
"You know I'm going to have to walk you to the car right?"
Kara sighed and glanced over her shoulder. She was surprised she hadn't heard her mother's vodka slurred, rage fuelled yells yet. She turned her stare up to James briskly. "Fine, let's go." She gestured to the door impatiently.
James gave her another smile before he keyed in the alarm code and opened the front door.
The pair escaped to a calm, dry night that was promising to stay pleasant with clear skies. They followed a cream, tiled path, lit on either side with small, star shaped lights, to the large driveway.
One car waited in it, a dented, midnight blue Mercedes with its engine humming low, lights out and a loud roar of energetic pop music escaping from the front windows, both of which were fully down.
Kara smiled at the sight as she saw the driver, a female with dark hair streaked with copper, singing along enthusiastically as she hammered down on her steering wheel with both hands.
"Your ride?" James quipped. He still looked amused.
"Yep," Kara said happily. She shot James a smile. "See you later."
"Don't be too late Kara, no one's going to let you in past midnight," James warned her, "and we all remember how you tripped the alarm last time."
Kara blushed again at the memory. "Right, thanks for that reminder."
"Have a good night Kara," James added sincerely.
"I will, thanks."
Kara hurried over to the car, waving to the driver energetically before she jumped into the passenger seat.
The driver obligingly turned down the music slightly as she started to turn the car. "Evening Kara baby," she greeted merrily as she spun the wheel fast, sending stones from the driveway hurtling through the air.
James watched on with a shake of his head.
"Oh you are just in time Cady," Kara greeted her friend as she reached for the seatbelt. "My little asshole of a brother Mike played a prank on me and when I hit him in response he went squealing to her ladyship. I swear, just two minutes more and she would have pounced on me."
Cady glanced over at her Kara with cheerful brown eyes. "Always glad to be your knight on a blue steed," she said happily.
Cady hit the accelerator hard, taking them dangerously fast and close to the iron gates that guarded the property. She giggled as she slammed the brakes and the car swerved to a halt.
Cady revved the engine impatiently as they waited for the gates to open.
Kara meanwhile tried to compose herself, smiling in an attempt to laugh off her friend's driving even as she felt her heart slam against her chest with alarm. Cady's driving was always a good way to be reminded of one's mortality.
"So, which club are we hitting first?" Kara pried.
"Midnight Secrets," Cady answered as the gates finally swung open and she sped off to the road.
"Never heard of that one," Kara retorted, "sounds like a strip club."
Cady laughed at this. "Doesn't it? But no, it's a classy place, you'll love it, promise."
"Well if you promise," Kara mused sardonically. "As long as there is champagne and good music I'm happy."
Midnight Secrets was all Cady had promised and more. The queue for it had gone on forever, down the length of the street and then round the block. Even the waiting list had a small queue gathering at the infamous red rope which could offer entry or bar it. Kara was not pleased to learn Cady had gotten them onto the list by name dropping Kara's father. At Cady's promise of two rounds on her, Kara had attempted to shrug off her rage before they entered the club.
Kara spent three hours in the club.
It had three floors, each purposely dimly lit, furnished with black ceilings with winking white lights designed to mimic stars, booths with seats of dark blue velvet and tables painted in a deep purple, and dark wooden floors. Even the bar areas and dance floors had a limited light. The strobe lights were shades of white, silver and gold with the occasionally beam of blue or violet.
Once Kara adjusted to the gloom she could see it wasn't so dark that people were liable to bump into each other. The lights were subtle and carefully placed, just enough to avoid a lawsuit and invoke a sense of mystery rather than confusion.
It also meant there were many, many areas for people to hook up, make out and, in some private areas shrouded from public viewing by heavy curtain drapes, do much, much more.
The clientele was an eyeful as were the staff. The place seemed to have hired low key models as waiters and waitresses and had them all dressed suggestively in tight garments of midnight blue laced with silver. Their uniforms were just enough to be tasteful rather than tacky.
Kara didn't know where to look but that was the point. She and Cady were here for some action so it was nice to have some choice.
It was just after they had been there an hour that Kara was chatted up by a tall, toned, brunette male with an easygoing confidence and charm.
Two hours later and Kara and Cady had drifted past tipsy from the drinks the male and his companions had bought for them. It led to a merry Kara and Cady jumping onto a table and linking arms to give the men a display of some mock tangoing before they spun each other around and Cady fell off the table. Luckily, she was caught by a waiting man.
By the third hour Kara knew she was too far gone. Everything was spinning, she was starting to feel nauseous and all she could think of was a need for air.
The young blonde stumbled to her feet and cursed as her heels gave way and her shoes slumped sideways. She staggered forward awkwardly before grasping a column for support.
Feeling the vomit stir in her stomach she gave a groan before glancing down at her shoes accusingly. They were a blur. Forgetting how much they cost, Kara tried to bend down to unfasten the straps.
Kara fell hard on her rear with the effort. She let out a giggle at herself before reaching for the straps of her shoes again. "Off, off," she muttered to herself.
Most of the club goers didn't even notice her, she was by the tables and chairs, not blocking anyone's passage yet and not making enough noise to be audible over the music.
"Yes!" Kara exclaimed happily to herself as she freed the straps. She kicked off the shoes, reached for a chair and used it to get herself to her feet again.
Feeling vomit movement again, Kara raised a hand to her mouth and let out a soft belch. "You need air girl, yep, air," she murmured to herself.
She started walking again and was surprised and angry when her feet still stumbled. "Hey!" she snapped angrily as she looked down at them. She wagged a finger at them scornfully. "Lesh...get it together...yeah, you're a mess, come on."
Kara started stumbling forward again. With effort she made it to the stairwell. With less effort she made it down, letting gravity take her most of the way, as she grasped the bannister several times with both arms when she nearly fell and let out a giggle to anyone who sneered at her with disgust.
One man laughed at her. One woman waved a hand in front of her face and mocked the smell of booze. Another did offer help but Kara shooed her away.
"Got my bestie here somewhere," Kara assured. "Bestie where are you?" she called down the stairwell. The thought nagged at her a little. Cady. Where was she? Kara shook it off, air first.
Kara reached the main entrance and staggered past the bouncers. She hit the red rope just as the fresh air hit her and rewarded the patiently queuing people with a large mouthful of vomit.
Jeers, cries of disgust, swears and angry protests followed rapidly along with the clicks and flashes of phone photography.
Kara stood upright with a groan and tried to wipe the vomit from her face with the back of her hand but she only managed to smear it across her chin. "Shit," she groaned. "I mean, better but..."
Only then did Kara realise she didn't have her purse with her, which meant she didn't have her phone. She turned and made to head back into the club but found her way barred by two strongly disapproving bouncers.
"Scuse me," she mumbled, "I need my purse."
"Lady you are wasted," one bouncer retorted bluntly, "there is no way you are getting back in there."
"More than wasted, did you take something, do we need the cops?" the other quipped as he looked at her with suspicion.
Kara turned white at the mention of 'cops'. She wasn't so far gone that she couldn't imagine the implications of the cops being called on her publicly. "No, nope, nope. I'm going." Kara turned and fled to the rope again.
One of the bouncers stepped forward and unclipped the rope, better she was the street's problem than the club's.
The crowd was quick to shrink away from the vomit stained woman as if she were a leper.
Kara took advantage of the gap and slipped through. She stumbled away from the sneers and jeers and the flashes of light that made her head hurt. Suddenly the music humming from the club seemed too loud and her head was aching with it.
Kara stumbled down the concrete path barefoot, barely aware of the dirt on the ground that her exposed soles were picking up. She wondered again about Cady and what she was going to do. She wondered if maybe she should just wait near the club for Cady to appear.
"Shit," she cursed.
Kara pressed back against a wall and sucked in another breath of air.
"Hey lady how much?"
Kara glanced up at the voice and saw two men in a car leaning out the window and sneering at her. She gave them the one finger salute and they laughed and whistled before the car sped off.
"Shit, shit," she muttered.
She wondered if there was a payphone around, were payphones still a thing? She glanced around and saw a newsagents store still open just a few feet ahead, maybe they would be nice and let her use the phone. Maybe or maybe they would mention cops again.
Kara decided it might be worth the risk. She started walking forward again. Conscious of a dark alleyway beside her, she moved closer to the edge of the road.
She heard the rumble of an engine as another car pulled up beside her.
"Get lost," she grumbled.
"Lady I was just seeing if you needed a hand," a man called out to her in a calm voice.
Kara glanced at him suspiciously. She blinked a few times as his image swayed before her. She thought he looked plain and harmless but he was blurred and looks could be deceiving.
"It's alright, I'll handle this," another voice said. This came from just behind Kara, male, authoritative and calm.
The driver blushed as he realised how his gesture might have been misinterpreted. "I was just offering help officer," he babbled.
The man, a police officer, nodded and waved off the man. "I know, you can go, I'll get her home."
The driver nodded with a look of relief and hurried off.
Kara was now facing the cop, he was a bouncing blur but she recognised the unmistakable taupe and brown uniform of a Miami-Dade police officer. She took a nervous step back from him.
"Please don't arrest me," she begged.
He gave her a wide smile. "I'm not gonna do that," he assured, "I can see you're in trouble and it's not safe out here. I just want to get you home safely."
Kara groaned and reached a hand to her throbbing forehead. "That might be worse," she grumbled.
The officer laughed at this. "I can do without sirens, nice and discreet," he offered. "Come on, my car isn't far and you have no shoes on."
Kara swallowed hard and figured she had to admit defeat. She couldn't help but feel relief as well given her circumstances. That was her mistake.
Kara headed off with the police officer never thinking that her early thought of how deceptive looks could easily apply to people in uniform as well.