Dance Hall Disaster
Kensington Shaw made her way off the dance floor and left her dance partner near concession. He was thirsty. She was not. His hands had wandered. She had slapped him hard across the face. He hadn’t appeared to mind.
There was a time when she wouldn’t have been caught dead in a dance hall like this one. But her father had reminded her of one indisputable fact; if you don’t give the papers what they want they’ll make your life hell by poking where they don’t belong. Walter Shaw had only been thinking of his youngest daughters privacy. Kensi was thinking that the very last thing in the world she needed was the press digging into her private life for reasons that had nothing to do with privacy. As a purveyor of magical objects Kensi discouraged anyone from looking at what she didn’t want to be seen. So she had shown up in a stylish sparkling dress that contained a dozen shades of blue and green. She found a headband with matching feathers and that was that. She called herself a peacock, turned up to be photographed at the sham of a Halloween party, and decided she was done. She intended to stay for exactly seven more minutes so that she could be photographed by the house photographer then she would slip out the back and go to the party she really wanted to go to. The Black Door was a proper jazz club run by a friend that would have laughed her out of the club if she had shown up in costume.
She wound around a couple at a table who had abandoned their cocktails in favor of gazing longingly at each other. She shook her head. The room was large, stiflingly hot, and between the band and the merry makers she couldn’t hear herself think let alone imagine staring at anything. She ducked behind a tall man with horns thereby managing to vanished from her dance partner’s sight. Which was good because all the glass tubes that lined the inside of her clutch were illegal and she hadn’t wanted to use them in an enclosed space. Kensi believed in being prepared. Every purse she owned had a similar set up of some kind.
The loud and crowded dance hall was just what she needed after an afternoon spent at one of her sister’s stuffy garden parties. A garden party that was held in a silent winter garden on a rooftop since it was the end of October. What she hadn’t needed was obnoxious company in the form of a werewolf with a big ego and impulse control issues. The dance hall she was in didn’t usually cater to the supernatural crowd. She wondered if the regular people knew that the tall man with horns wasn’t wearing a costume like almost everyone else. A highball glass was hanging upside down from the tip of one of his horns. He looked pleasantly drunk.
Kensi dodged in and out of people until she was standing at the bar on the opposite side of the dance floor. She had taken the first delicious sip of her Side Car when a new dance partner presented himself. Fredrick Stoddard was the son of a man that made door hinges. If she still cared what society thought of her she would never have been able to dance with him. Kensi abhorred irrelevant rules. And you couldn’t get much more irrelevant than the upper crust and their rules about new and old money never mixing. Kensi felt she was well qualified to critique the upper crust. She was the upper of the upper crust.
“Would you care to dance Miss. Shaw?” Fredrick asked, extending his hand.
“Fredrick? It’s been ages. I would love to,” she said. She would ignore the gossip rags in the morning. At least she would if the house photographer could find her to take her picture in the soup of people.
“How is your father? I haven’t seen him in a while,” Fredrick asked leading her to the dance floor.
“He’s well. He has a new cook so he eats at home more,” Kensi said.
“Perhaps I could call on you sometime and see you both?”
“I will have you know that I am no longer seven and living at home,” Kensi said.
“Did you get married? I noticed that you arrived with Snead,” Fredrick said.
“No. I bought a house. I wanted to be independent. Emily’s husband is in India on business so she’s living with father. He’s never alone for long. From time to time that house gets crowded.”
“Does that mean that you can sneak out of your very own bathroom window?” Fredrick teased.
“I have the ability to sneak out of any window I like now,” Kensi smiled. “Although I’m afraid I no longer play with little boys when I do.”
“What about big ones that have grown into their paws?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t been presented with the opportunity.”
“Would you mind if I called on you? Maybe I could take you to dinner and we could catch up?” Fredrick asked.
“Mr. Stoddard is that your way of asking me on a date?” Kensi asked teasing him.
“Then yes,” Kensi said smiling. The night had taken an unexpected turn. She was no longer desperate to leave.
“Would Friday at four suit you? We could take a walk in the park, have an early dinner and see a show.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Kensi said.
Fredrick Stoddard had a reputation for being kind and noble. As far as Kensi could tell he was exactly the same as when they were children. He wasn’t a fast talker or a smooth operator. He was that rare thing. A good man. Most werewolves were. Most, not all.
She would have danced with him all night if he asked. The song was slow and Fredrick was an excellent dancer. His green eyes sparkled when he mentioned their shared mischievous childhood. He was graceful and when he smiled at her she seriously began to reconsider her stance on marriage. With the second song the tempo picked up and Fredrick went down. It happened so quickly that Kensi couldn’t process the scene immediately. He dropped to the floor like a sack of flour. Frozen; paralyzed.
She knelt down beside him saying his name over and over. When he didn’t respond she felt for a pulse at his neck. If he had one she couldn’t feel it. She didn’t have anything in her purse to help. She hadn’t anticipated anyone collapsing. Those were the moments she wished she were prone to hysterics. At least she would be doing something. She stood up and looked around to see the entire dance hall in chaos. People were screaming and fleeing. Fredrick wasn’t the only person to collapse on the floor. There were half a dozen others. Each and every one was as still as death; frozen where they fell.
Kensi knelt back down next to Fredrick and felt for a pulse again. One spontaneous death she could see but six? There had to be more to the story. She checked Fredrick over as carefully as she could. She checked the pockets of his charcoal suit but found nothing out of the ordinary. The only thing out of place appeared to be some discoloring on his index finger and thumb. She took a long slow breath because she had seen something like it before. The difference was what happened to Fredrick was far worse. Dal had been the cause then and she was certain that Dal was the cause now.
Dal was an addictive drug found in the darkest, most affluent corners of the city. It was difficult to obtain above ground in Chicago but not impossible. It was a party drug used by the children of the rich because they were the only ones that could afford it. It was still expensive in the Underground but easy to obtain if you knew who to go to. Then again, everything could be found in the Underground if you knew where to go and were willing to pay the price.
To supernatural beings such as werewolves, witches, and vampires it created an unbelievable high. To mere humans the high was ten times higher and more often than not prolonged use eventually sent the user into a coma. Death always followed. Perhaps she had been mistaken about Fredrick. Dal was a very serious party drug.
Finite dust particles were created every time magic was used. Dal was created when very large acts of magic were preformed, only then would the particles be big enough to collect. Those collected particles were diluted and sold as Dal.
“Oh Freddie, what have you gotten yourself into?” Kensi asked him. “These marks are dark. You’re an addict, she sighed. “And you have been using for some time by the look of it.”
Kensi knew the police would descend at any moment. If she was going to help Fredrick she needed to find out what actually happened to him. She couldn’t believe that he was a party boy. It was even less likely that Fredrick was spending time in the Underground. Werewolves weren’t exactly welcomed in the Underground. They were outcasts everywhere. They weren’t entirely human but they weren’t magical. They were cursed and no one wanted anything to do with them.
“But, it wasn’t as if you wouldn’t know how to gain entry to the Underground,” she told him. “I don’t know what to think Freddie.”
She had a bad feeling that things were going to get worse for poor Fredrick. One thing was certain, the clock was ticking.
The police would believe it to be a simple case of poisoning, and to an extent it was, but magic of any kind was an extravagance that could only be bought by the wealthy. The police wouldn’t think of magic. Even the most open minded wouldn’t consider it. Kensi knew better than anyone though that magic was real.
She needed to get to the other victims before the police. If she found similar deep blue marks on the other fallen dancers she would have a place to start looking for a culprit or a cure.
She practically had the room to herself since everyone had run off. She knew she only had minutes. She went to the body closest to Fredrick. The body belonged to a girl that Kensi had gone to school with. She hadn’t talked to Myra Daniels since they were fifteen and Kensi left school but she had seen her out dancing before. Myra had been jealous of Kensi. Kensi didn’t fully understand at the time that not everyone received special admittance to college so young. There was also the fact that she was a girl. Myra was cold to the touch, had the same discoloring on two fingers, and that was all Kensi was able to surmise due to the fact that the police flooded the room.
A police officer walked in first and was so taken aback by the scene that Kensi had three seconds to get back to Fredrick. She bent over Fredrick taking his hand. He was cold as well. It didn’t make any sense. A body didn’t cool that quickly. Not by ordinary means.
“Miss please don’t touch the body. The detective will be here soon and he won’t like it if you disturb the scene,” the officer said as she stood.
He was Kensi’s age, maybe a year or two older. He was close to six feet tall with brown hair and eyes. Kensi could tell that he was one of those people who found their calling in life.
Kensi walked over to him and extended her hand. She had watched her father do it often enough. It was diplomatic. She felt that she needed to be diplomatic considering the scene that the officer was now faced with. It consisted of her former friend and the boy that had just asked her out on a date laying unconscious, without a pulse, for intents and purposes dead.
“Kensington Shaw,” she said with an appropriately sad smile. “Fredrick was my dance partner until he fell to the ground. I have no idea what happened.”
“It’s a pleasure Miss Shaw,” he said. He knew who she was. Everyone knew her even if they had never met her. “I’m Phil-Phillip- I mean, officer Stamp.” He shook her hand and motioned to the door. “There is the detective Miss. Shaw.” He led her to the door. “This is senior detective Nathaniel Kane. Detective, this is Miss Kensington Shaw. She was the dance partner of one of the victims.”
“Stamp, please show Miss Shaw into the hall with the rest of the dancers,” the detective said and walked off with out any greeting of any kind to Kensi. He hadn’t even looked at her. That simply wasn’t done in this city.
Stamp ushered Kensi into the hallway and left her among her fellow shocked dancers and his profuse apologies. The hallway was grand. It was more of a lobby. It was passable but not anything Kensi would approve of. There was far too much red velvet and gilding. She stood where she could see into the room and keep an eye on detective Kane. He couldn’t possibly understand that what she suspected was true. There had to be something she could do. She wouldn’t believe those people were dead. They were too cold to be dead. There was only one alternative. They had a bad reaction to the D. She needed a witch. She hoped there was something Betty could do. Betty was the only witch Kensi could go to about something this important. What if there was a bad batch of D out there? What if there were more people on the floor somewhere? Kensi didn’t get the chance to ponder the matter further. Ruby Dixon and Mabel Stills rushed up to her and began chattering nonstop.
“I hope that handsome detective interviews me,” Mable said.
“He isn’t just handsome he’s dashing. He belongs in the pictures,” Ruby said.
“You are so old fashioned Ruby,” Mable sighed.
Kensi wanted to stuff rags into her ears and light them on fire.
“Mary Dunning dropped to the floor right in front of me. Leo swung me around and there she was falling to the floor. It was so awful,” Ruby said.
“You have to tell him the story,” Mable said.
“Do you think he’ll want to hear it?” Ruby asked.
“Why don’t you tell me exactly what you saw?” Kensi asked.
“I just did. That’s what I saw,” Ruby said.
“Did you see Mary earlier today? Did you run into her anywhere perhaps at the beauty parlor or at the drug store?” Kensi asked the question already knowing the answer.
“Now that you mention it I did see her walking on Madison,” Ruby began. She had Kensi’s full attention. “I was picking up my dress for tonight. I’ve lost a few pounds so I had to have it taken in you see. Mary was coming out of a door,” Ruby said.
“Do you remember what shop?” Kensi asked trying to appear that she didn’t really care.
“Now that you mention it I don’t recall seeing a name on the door. It was just a door in between two shops,” Ruby said with furrowed brows or as furrowed as brows could be when they were drawn on.
“Do you remember the names of the businesses around the door?” Kensi asked. Trying to get answers from Ruby was like trying to get a poodle to explain the laws of physics.
“One of them was Richardson’s shoe repair. Uncle Salvatore used to take his shoes there, God rest his soul,” Ruby said crossing herself. Kensi couldn’t help but smile. She hadn’t seen Ruby at church in years.
“Do you remember anything else?” Kensi asked.
Mable and Ruby shook their heads that they didn’t and Kensi turned her gaze to the detective who now carried his hat in one hand and had his overcoat laid carefully over the same arm as he checked Fredrick’s pockets. He looked from one body to the next studying each carefully as he went. Kensi would never admit it to another living soul but the detective was dashing if you didn’t take his personality in to account. It was a shame since Kensi considered personality everything. There was also his questionable decision to wear a raven’s feather in his lapel. Kensi didn’t know what that said about him.
“Have either of you seen Fredrick around town?” Kensi asked.
Both girls shook their heads.
“I haven’t seen Fredrick anywhere but here,” said Mable eying officer Stamp the same way Ruby was eying detective Kane.
“You shouldn’t stare so hard, your brain will burst,” said Kensi.
“We all have to do what we can to get ahead. Not everyone is in your position Kensington. The rest of us need husbands because our families can’t afford to keep us as spinsters,” Mable sent Kensi a glare that would have had a lesser woman taking a step back. Kensi had never taken a step back in her life and she certainly wasn’t about to start now.
“I’m not a spinster Mable. I’m a twenty year old independent woman who won’t be told what to do and when to do it by anyone. My family may have money but don’t you dare assume that I use it to lock myself away. You don’t actually know me. You know me to see me in the street or at a dance but don’t think that you know who I am.” Kensi walked away from a gaping Mable and Ruby.
They would have been further shocked to learn that she made a fine living all on her own. The money that her father gave her each month was given to a soup kitchen, an orphanage, her church, and the policeman’s widow and orphan fund. That would shock her family as well. Sher sisters wouldn’t understand. Thats why she made small donations to several places. She didn’t want it getting back to the family.
She was tired of standing around. She wanted answers. She set her sights set on the detective and she was prepared to steamroll officer Stamp to do it. As it turned out she did have to steamroll the object of Mable’s domestic desires but it wasn’t nearly as difficult or as bloody as she feared. She walked past Stamp doing her best to pretend he wasn’t even there and called to the detective. Admittedly she had to be a little loud so that she could be heard over officer Stamp’s exasperated admonishments but she managed to garner the detectives attention. For better or for worse.
“Miss. Shaw please,” Stamp pleaded.
“Detective we haven’t been introduced I am Kensington Shaw. I was dancing with one of your victims when the unfortunate incident occurred. Do you happen to know what caused Fredrick to collapse?”
“We don’t know yet. We haven’t even had a chance to interview the witnesses. Miss. Shaw you can’t be in here. It’s a crime scene,” Stamp said doing his best to hinder her progress into the room.
It didn’t work. Kensi stepped around his every attempt. Detective Kane eyed Kensington Shaw critically. He couldn’t help it. She had a big personality for someone so young. She couldn’t have been more than twenty and that was on the outside. He decided that she wasn’t beautiful exactly but pretty in the way dragonflies were pretty. She was also obviously going to annoy him until she got what she was after. Socialites were like that. Nathaniel Kane didn’t respond well to that tactic. More daring souls than Kensington Shaw had tried and failed. Her clothes were expensive and she walked with authority even though she didn’t have any where the police were concerned. She was rich and felt entitled. He didn’t respond well to that either. She was up to something and he wanted to know what because he was fairly certain that he just laid eyes on his Dal dealer.
“Miss Shaw if you would kindly wait in the hall until I can spare someone to take your statement,” Nathaniel Kane said.
“Do you know what’s wrong with them?” Kensi asked.
“It appears that they all died of the same thing. I need more time to be certain. Please wait in the hall Miss Shaw,” he said barely looking at her.
“What if they aren’t dead?”
“Do you know something about what happened here Miss Shaw?” Kane asked knowing full well that the victims were not dead.
“I already told officer Stamp what I know,” Kensi said.
“Then you won’t mind waiting in the hall.” Kane turned and took a step.
“Yes, I do mind detective. Fredrick is a good man and I want to know how he ended up practically frozen. Perhaps if you began behaving like a civilized person we can have a conversation.”
“You have already admitted to knowing nothing about this. Perhaps if you waited in the hall we could have the peace and quiet required to solve these murders,” Kane said turning back to her and attempting to stare her down.
What detective Kane could scarcely have guessed was that Kensington Shaw had spent her life staring down her father who happened to be a lawyer in addition to a businessman. Admittedly it had been some time since Walter Kensington Shaw VI had practiced law in a court room but he still retained the ability to pin one down with a stare. She had learned from the best. Kane didn’t stand a chance. He blinked first. Not for the reason that Kensi assumed but that was beside the point.
“See here Miss Shaw,” Kane said taking a breath. “The police do not make it a habit to keep random citizens informed of theories so if you don’t mind- please wait in the hall. Thank you,” Kane said.
“Oh but I very much mind detective. Am I free to leave,” she asked?
Stamp answered no at the same time Kane answered yes. Kane wanted rid of her. Kensi was counting on that small fact. She abruptly turned and left the room. She made only one stop. She turned over her stub to the coat check girl who looked frightened and trapped in her little room. She slipped on her coat, put a pin in her hat, pulled on her gloves and picked up her purse as she walked out into the cold night air. She didn’t need to consider what her next step would be. She needed information and there wasn’t any place in the city better to go than The Black Door Jazz Club.
For the second time that night Kensi was checking her hat and coat. The Black Door was where the Underground went aboveground to have fun without human interference. It was the kind of place where the liquor was strong and the music was good. Everyone was welcome but if you caused trouble you answered to Betty. Everyone knew this and absolutely no one wanted to be on Betty DuPre’s bad side. No one. Betty was the grand dame of the supernatural scene in Chicago. She was also the closest thing to a real friend that Kensi had.
Kensi slipped into the club and up to the bar. Carl, the bartender, knew she didn’t want a drink. He poured her a glass of water without a word and picked up the phone behind the bar. He said something that Kensi couldn’t hear and winked at her. It was their silent sign that he was talking to Betty.
Kensi looked down the bar to her right. The bar ended at a wall but on the other side of it was a set of stairs. The stairs were roped off with a sign that read: private office. Kensi had been there on many occasions and knew it wasn’t an office but an apartment. She watched Betty turn the corner and walk towards her with the grace of a ballerina and the shrewdness of a woman who owned everything she saw. Kensi knew the second that she met Betty two years ago that she was making the right decision by going into business with her.
“Kensington, darling, did I forget that we had a meeting?” Betty asked as the band started a new song. Betty could have been forty or she could have been eighty. People like Betty didn’t age normally.
“You never forget anything. I came to ask if you have ever had a Dal problem here in the club. I was at a Halloween party dancing tonight and half a dozen people collapsed. It looks like Dal to me Betty but the symptoms were extreme. Don’t look at me like that. If I thought you were dealing Dal at all I wouldn’t be working with you. You know that.”
“I do but it is nice to hear that you have confidence in me. No we haven’t had any trouble, yet,” Betty said.
“What do you mean yet?”
“The Dal problem is only getting worse. It’s only a matter of time I’m afraid. The wealthy humans that are granted entrance into the club are wealthy enough and well connected enough to obtain Dal. Not from anyone here of course. That would be breaking my rule,” Betty said. Dal didn’t have the same effect on supernatural creatures that it did on humans. If taken incorrectly it could kill humans. Most of the time it did anyway.
“You’re not worried?” Kensi asked. “You don’t need to answer that but I think there is something different about this Dal. The people at the dance were frozen. They were cold to the touch right after they collapsed. They had the blue markings on their fingers but it was a deep blue not a faint blue.”
“Of course I’m worried for the poor souls that fall prey to Dal but I don’t fear for the club. I pay good money not to be raided. The same courtesy is extended to any other trouble that should befall my establishment.” That was Betty’s political and polite way of saying that the club was protected from all sides. “As for the Dal, well, there is another kind that I saw in my travels in China. It is very expensive to produce. Of course the return on the investment would be high. The street value would be exorbitant. Few, even among your ilk, could afford it. It is also dangerous to everyone who takes it. Pure Dal is very addictive not just to humans but to all creatures.”
That mystery was solved. This form of Dal was deadly even to werewolves. Kensi refused to believe that Fredrick couldn’t be saved. There had to be something. She didn’t want to think about the life that Fredrick would miss. She wanted to know him better and see what he would accomplish in his life. She didn’t want to think of the scandal that would consume his parents. As Kensi pondered this someone screamed and then another person joined in. After that it was pure chaos.
“Kensington you must go,” Betty said.
“The police will be here any minute,” Kensi said.
“Exactly, you cannot be seen here. My contact at the police will intercept this but you should still go. One Dal death can be explained away but two? The police will suspect you are involved and that is very bad for the both of us. Go and I will telephone if there is any news. Please Kensi. Go out the back, just like I showed you.” Betty gave her shoulder a little push.
Kensi hurried and retrieved her hat and coat. She pulled it on as she headed through the club to the stock room. Kensi pulled open the door and took a hand full of dust from the bucket that sat just inside door. She was very careful not to spill any. It gleamed in the darkened stockroom. She made her way around shelving until she reached the far wall and blew the dust from her palm onto the white wall. It shimmered and glowed then returned to white but rippled slightly so she knew it was ready. She simply walked through the wall into the ally beside the club. An ally that didn’t have any doors open on it. An ally that lead to a busy street so that Kensi could be lost in the crowd. The doorman at the back door could now tell the police with complete honesty that no one had come that way let alone Kensi. Betty was a genius.
Kensi scoured the morning newspaper for any mention of the dance hall devastation or the trouble at Betty’s club but there wasn’t a single word. She hadn’t actually expected anything in the paper about The Black Door but she did expect some kind of explanation about the dance hall. Didn’t the police need to explain all the bodies? She put the paper aside and rang for her maid. Livvy appeared with a tray then loaded the breakfast dishes onto it. Kensi never had to ask about domestic matters. Livvy always seemed to know what needed to be done. The trick was everything else.
“Get your hat and coat Livvy. I need you to help me with something,” Kensi said.
“Yes Miss,” Livvy replied. No one would know that Livvy was French. She had taken her move to Chicago seriously. She spoke English as if she had always lived in America.
“Livvy, I’m going to ask you to do something that you may find morally reprehensible.”
“What is it this time Miss?” Livvy asked with the wariness of someone who knew Kensi better than anyone else. Someone who knew exactly what Kensi was capable of. Someone who understood the look of determination on Kensi’s face.
Livvy slowly closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened them Kensi saw resignation in them.
“Who am I distracting this time Miss?”
Kensington Shaw had never before in her life broken and entered. She wasn’t sure if her current activity even qualified. Was it really breaking and entering if you used magic to take a quick look around? In that case she wasn’t sure if detective Kane could even charge her with mischief. The large, old, green door with it’s suspiciously new locks looked formidable. She pulled a key chain from her little black and white purse. It was actually a charm that Betty had given her at the beginning of their arrangement. She passed the charm over the locks and they opened with a series of clicks. Betty said it would open any lock and Betty was right. Kensi had yet to encounter a lock that it wouldn’t open. She twisted the knob and went through the door as slowly and quietly as she dared leaving Livvy to stand in front of the surrounding shops as a look out.
Kensi hadn’t broken into any of the shops. She had broken into the apartment above them. Mabel had said that Mary had come out of a door between two shops. There was a green door between Richardson’s Shoe Repair and Olive Petal’s Flower Emporium. The door led to a flight of stairs and that led to a second door. Kensi opened this one as she had the first. She was confident that no one was in residence because she had leaned on the door buzzer for a full three minutes. Even the neighbors hadn’t complained and that was never a good sign. That meant that no one was living across the hall. That, in turn, meant that this was a bigger operation than Kensi had anticipated. Not that she had stopped long enough to consider what to anticipate. Kensington Shaw on a mission was a dangerous thing.
Kensi opened the door on the left then slipped inside. For several seconds she couldn’t process what she was looking at. The apartment wasn’t an apartment. Which was to say that it didn’t have any traditional furniture at all. There were a couple of cheap wooden chairs in one corner. The rest of the apartment was piled with crates. They were stacked haphazardly with their lids ajar. She tipped the lid of a crate that wasn’t full and looked inside. Dal. There was crate after crate of Dal. A truly staggering amount.
She made her way around crates to the ugly beige bedroom. What she found there was even more mind boggling. They were actually producing Dal in that very room. One wall was stacked floor to ceiling with crates. A work table had been set up along another wall. It was covered with magical objects that were being physically filed down by magical means. That was what was making it so potent. They were producing pure Dal just as Betty suspected.
She picked up a ledger that was balanced on the very end of the worktable. Each page was covered with columns of the most perfect handwriting that Kensi had ever seen. Names, descriptions and dates of the objects used were cataloged. Someone was expending a tremendous amount of energy, not to mention money, to ensure that the rich were indulging in a very dangerous past time. Pure Dal, directly from the source, would be instantly addictive. It would also probably be lethal to anyone who stayed hooked. Even the people that lived in the Underground. Perhaps Fredrick was dead after all. She closed the ledger and slipped it under her coat so that she could put it in her belt against her back. It was evidence and maybe it would help Betty find a cure.
That was when she heard the door open. Voices spoke quietly in the main room. Kensi looked for a place to hide and then thought better of it. She needed to get out not simply disappear. She looked around for another door or a bathroom with a window but there was only the bedroom window. A window that Kensi could tell had been nailed shut and had been painted many times over.
She could hear the voices getting closer. She was going to get caught. She had to make a decision. She went back to the window and looked out. There was a fire escape beneath the window. She withdrew a vile of Betty’s special dust from her handbag, poured it onto her hand, and blew the contents onto the wall beside the window. Kensi had never used it on glass before and decided that experimenting at that moment would be foolish. She gave herself a running start because she was the tiniest bit scared. She flung her body through the wall towards the fire escape. Her hands didn’t meet the inside railing closest to the building as she had anticipated. They met the outside railing instead. The one that kept people from falling to their deaths. It was about to help Kensi to hers. She met it too quickly. She flipped over it but caught the metal ledge where the railing met the grate that comprised the floor. She swung herself down onto the next landing.
It wasn’t one of her more graceful exists but it would have to do. She descended the fire escape as if there were in fact a fire. Her lungs burned from her race down the fire escape. She needed to make her way back to Livvy at the front of the store and find a phone. She needed to call Betty. She should probably call that barbarian of a detective too. When she saw Livvy she looped her arm through Livvy’s and led her down the street casually as if they had been shopping and not as if she had just broken into a Dal den.
“I’m sorry Miss. I kept them talking as long as I could.” Livvy said while she worried an embroidered handkerchief between her trembling fingers. She leaned closer to Kensi. “They wanted me to come upstairs with them,” she whispered.
Livvy looked as if she were equally appalled about being suspected of taking drugs and being ‘that kind of girl’. The horrified look on her face made it difficult but not impossible for Kensi to suppress a smile. Livvy was only a year younger than her but they couldn’t have been more different. While Kensi was bold to the point of being brazen, Livvy was timid to the point of having an actual social condition.
“It’s alright,” Kensi said.
“What happened to your hands?” Livvy gasped.
“I’m fine. I saw what I came to see.”
“And what exactly was that Miss. Shaw?” Asked a voice from behind them.
Kensi would know that voice anywhere now. It had filled her dreams the night before. That voice was burned into her brain forever. Dismissive, abrupt and infuriating it belonged to the detective that had completely ignored her the night before. Kane. Kensi stopped so abruptly that Livvy whirled around, almost lost her balance, and had to let go of Kensi. Kane, however, appeared to anticipate the reaction. With cat like reflexes he had already put out a hand to steady Livvy. She gave a surprised yelp at being unexpectedly touched and took a step away nearly tripping over her own feet in an effort to get away from him. Kensi took a deep breath, put a smile on her face, and turned around to meet Nathaniel Kane.
“What a pleasant surprise detective. You have saved me from phoning you,” Kensi said. Livvy looked on as if she were witnessing the aftermath of a car crash.
“Would it happen to have anything to do with what you came to see?” Kane asked playing along. He looked at her with intelligent eyes that she would have called piercing if she were a lesser woman and given to flights of fancy.
“Yes it would. The apartment over Richardson’s is being used to manufacture and distribute pure Dal,” Kensi said.
“Shall I sound the whistle sir,” asked Stamp.
Kensi hadn’t even noticed that he was standing beside Kane. At least she could be assured that the intense irritation that she felt was mutual. Kane really didn’t like her and the situation was in no way going to help matters. What did she care? Once she had extracted herself from this mess and found out who sold Fredrick the pure Dal she would never have to see Kane again.
“You can try but they are probably long gone,” Kensi said.
“Miss it’s been minutes,” Livvy said without thinking.
“Where?” Kane demanded. Kensi pointed.
“I’m sure they saw me,” she said. She pulled the ledger out of her coat. “I want this back. It could help my friend.”
“You went in there?” Kane sort of growled it and Livvy took another step back clutching Kensi’s arm tight and partially hiding behind her. She couldn’t understand how such a beautiful man could be so disagreeable and frightening.
“I knew that I would need proof if you were going to believe me about the Dal,” Kensi said.
“I am willing to believe just about anyone when it comes to Dal and you Miss Shaw.”
“But would you have believed me? You already think that I had something to do with what happened at the dance hall. Which for the record I did not. Fredrick is my friend and if there is a way to fix him I will find it,” Kensi announced. Kane looked down at the ledger in his hands but said nothing for a moment.
“You believed that going into a building on your own was the best way to help your friend? You have disastrous instincts Miss Shaw. Your friend would be better served by allowing the police to do the job that we were trained to do.”
Kane blew out a breath and then took a slower one. Kensington Shaw was the limit. She was an entitled brat who thought she could do whatever she wanted whenever she wanted to do it. He had half a mind to arrest her for obstructing an investigation and stealing evidence. He turned abruptly with the ledger in hand and headed for the building. If he could put a major distributor out of business the entire city would at least benefit from the ulcer that Kensington Shaw was causing him.
“They’ll already be gone detective,” Kensi called after him. It didn’t matter. He was already to the building.
“Miss we’ve been standing right here. They couldn’t have come out this way; we would have seen them,” Livvy said.
“Oh sweet, innocent Livvy. There is more to this world than what meets the eye,” Kensi said with a knowing smile. Stamp blew his whistle as he and Kane walked back towards the door of the Dal den.
When Livvy looked puzzled and confused Kensi continued.
“They were using magic to run their operation. They were more worried about everyday people stealing from them than people who can use magic. Nothing supernatural stopped me from walking in. The lock was simple enough to get past with the charm I have. There wasn’t even a guard by the door. Who ever is running this operation has professional magical help. The only question now is who? Who is frightening enough that no one in the supernatural community would ever consider crossing?”
Livvy simply looked at her blankly.
“Don’t look at me like that. You’re not dim. You must have worked out that I’m not the flighty heiress. I’m not even just the independent, strong willed heiress.”
“I suspected it was something Miss. I didn’t think of magic.”
“That’s why you can’t get into the attic.”
“That is a very complicated lock you have on the door,” Livvy said. Her cheeks colored slightly.
“Thank you. I have found that a complicated lock is better than a room surrounded by wards. A lock is discrete. A room surrounded by wards is an advertisement because magic can be detected. I imagine that was the thinking here,” Kensi told her. She took a handkerchief out of her little purse and dabbed at her scrapes. She made a mental note to fix the scrapes on her palms when she got home. The fire escape was old and rusty.
One moment everything was fine. It was a beautiful spring day, the birds were singing, the sky was bright and blue. The next, Kensi found that she had grabbed her ears to stop the intense ringing like Livvy had. She heard Livvy scream. Everything started to vibrate. She wasn’t quite sure what was happening and she couldn’t do anything to stop it. She held on to Livvy. She had learned a thing or two from Betty about basic magic. She was worried that if Livvy let go they would both be torn to bits. The street lamp vaguely resembled a tuning fork for a few seconds. Then the vibrating abruptly stopped.
Nothing in the street moved. Cars were frozen as were the people driving them. Birds were frozen in the sky. There wasn’t so much as a leaf twitching or a slight breeze. Not a single thing so much as breathed with the exception of Kensi and Livvy. She honestly thought that Livvy was going to burst into tears and possibly vomit on her.
She looked at Kane and Stamp. Stamp was closest to the door of the apartment. His arm was already outstretched towards the door so he would be ready to open it for detective Kane.
The door swung wide open knocking into Stamp’s arm. He swung around and fell over. A tall, elegant woman walked out of it Kensi knew there was going to be trouble. Jane DuPre was one of Betty’s younger sisters and one of Kensi’s magic suppliers. She passed Kane and stepped over Stamp without taking her eyes off Kensi. She snatched the ledger from Kane’s hand as she walked by. Livvy made a small squeaking sound as Jane approached then did her best to hide behind Kensi. Livvy was a good three inches shorter than Kensi but it was a warm autumn day. The warmest day in a month. Kensi hadn’t worn a coat. She had the build of a willow tree. It was fantastic for fashion but terrible for hiding behind.
Jane’s deep burgundy coat bellowed in the late fall wind like wine poured into a glass. She looked pleased with herself. It made Kensi’s stomach twist. She knew that whatever Jane had planned was going to be very bad. Jane’s bright red lipstick curved into a smile and Livvy fainted dead away. Kensi didn’t blame her. The smile on Jane’s face would have made Kensi faint too if she hadn’t been so completely angry. Kensi felt rage; pure blinding rage. It was a new emotion for her. She had been angry before, of course. She had felt injustice but true rage was something all together different.
“I bet you didn’t see this one coming. Did you dear Kensington?” Jane said it as if it were an accusation. Kensi could only gape. Kensington Shaw had seen a good many things in her life. Many things that defied the laws of the reality she knew. She would add the image of Jane walking from that building to them.
“Come now Kensi. We both know what your thinking. Everyone knows that you have a certain talent. Everyone in the know that is. Use it. Go on. Use it. Kensington Shaw golden pupil. Betty goes on and on about you. Do it,” Jane yelled and struck Kensi across the face with the ledger. Jane chuckled and took a step close to Kensi so that she was in Kensi’s face. “You can’t can you? You’re in my way. I can’t have someone like you working for my sister and sticking your nose where it clearly doesn’t belong. It doesn’t make good business sense. You have to die.”
Kensi took a step back and put a hand to her face. When she pulled it away there was blood. The lucky thing was that Jane appeared to be wrong about her gift. Mostly wrong anyway. Jane thought Kensi could read minds. She could use that to her advantage when the time was right.
“What are your plans for the future Jane? I’m having a little trouble here. Are you going to take over the Dal trade in Chicago? Do you plan to go national or perhaps international with your operation? Will there be a European headquarters? I do so love Paris in the spring.” Kensi held up a finger. “You don’t want to do that.”
“I like you Kensi. You’re plucky and you think as I do. If things were different I would take you on in my organization. Someone like you would do well but alas we cannot turn back the hands of time. My sister has taught you too much and they have been all the wrong things. Pity. Now, I am afraid, it is time for you to die.”
Jane raised her elegant hand slowly. In her palm was enough Dal to kill a dozen people. Jane started to blow it in Kensi’s face. Kensi pivoted then brought her leg up and kicked Jane in the stomach. She fell back with the breath knocked out of her.
Kensi watched helplessly as a very determined detective, who was no longer frozen, went after Jane. Jane had dropped the Dal on the sidewalk as she fell. She pushed herself to her feet then turned on Kane. He was stronger and faster than he looked. Kensi felt an instant surge of respect for him but he didn’t know what he was dealing with. Jane was dangerous.
“Kane, stop,” Kensi yelled.
Kane tried to grab for Jane but Jane was quicker. She put out a hand and red smoke slithered from the tips of her fingers and it attacked Kane like a snake. He fell backward with the smoke twisted around his throat choking him. He made a gurgling sound that Kensi would remember for the rest of her life.
Jane went after Kensi next. She lifted her arms wide and began to chant in a language Kensi couldn’t place. She got to her feet and flipped open the clasp on her purse. She removed the third vile from the left. The contents were lime in color. She threw it at Jane. It didn’t do any good. Jane pushed it away without laying a finger on it. Kensi did the only thing she could think to do. She couldn’t hear Kane and she dared not take her eyes from Jane. Fight fire with fire she thought. She slipped on the bracelet she always kept with her. It was an average silver bracelet. It didn’t even have a single diamond. What it did have going for it was that Betty had worked magic into it; wish magic. All that Kensi had to do was make a wish while wearing it.
Jane advanced and pushed her hard against the building, her head hit it hard enough that she saw stars. She still couldn’t hear Kane and now she couldn’t move to find him. She wasn’t going to allow Jane to kill anyone else.
Kensi used the bracelet. She wished Jane back. It glowed green. Jane took a step back in disbelief. Kensi did it again. This time Jane took several steps back and tried to use the parked cars to help her stay on her feet. Kensi wished again so hard that it looked like a physical blow. Jane twisted and didn’t quite recover. She wobbled and fell backwards into the street hitting her head on the road. With Jane unconscious time had no choice but to move forward. An unfortunate thing for Jane who lay in front of a car that began moving again at full speed.
“Are you alright Miss Shaw?” Kane asked. He put a hand on her elbow then turned her away from Jane.
“Quite alright. How are you?” There was sarcasm in her voice but she was shaking.
“Who was that?” Kane asked.
He watched the scene over her shoulder. The street erupted into chaos. Kane motioned for Stamp to deal with it.
“Jane. I think she was responsible for the Dal problem at the dance hall,” Kensi said.
“Let me take you home Miss Shaw. I think we can handle it from here,” Kane said.
“Livvy and I can see ourselves home detective,” Kensi said. They both looked over to where Livvy laid sprawled on the sidewalk. “Well as soon as she wakes up obviously,” Kensi told him looking up at him. “I have a question. You couldn’t move and then you could,” she said.
“That was more of a statement,” Kane told her. She only looked at him. “It has been an eventful day. I think that is a topic for a different one,” he said removing his handkerchief and touching it to Kensi’s cheek wiping the blood away.
She nodded. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know more anyway.
“I believe this is goodbye,” Kensi said
“Miss Shaw, whatever will I do without you medaling in my investigation?” Kane asked as he put his handkerchief in the inside pocket of his coat.
“I think you and your sarcasm will figure it out. Good day detective.” She turned to Livvy as Kane began to walk away. He stopped and turned back to her.
“It may interest you to know that I learned that your friends all attended the same party before going dancing. They all ingested the Dal at the same time. That’s why they all collapsed at once. Do tell your friends to be more careful when you wake them up. By that I mean staying away from Dal.”
“They aren’t my friends,” Kensi said.
“Good day Miss Shaw.” He said and walked away.
Kensi picked up the ledger from the sidewalk.
“What a shame,” she said to an unconscious Livvy. “No formal goodbye. I had thought we meant more to each other than that.”
The next afternoon Kensi used her key to enter The Black Door. Since it wasn’t quite noon the club was as quiet as a tomb. Kensi made her way to the stairs. She walked up them slowly concentrating on the quiet and her own sense of guilt. She had to beg Betty’s forgiveness and not just because she wanted to save Fredrick but because Betty was practically family. Kensi may have found Betty for professional reasons but Betty had practically taken her in. Betty understood what it meant to need to build something for yourself. She didn’t think Kensi was crazy for not wanting her father’s money. The fact that Kensi had wanted to earn her own fortune hadn’t shocked Betty. She understood her in a way no one else did. On top of it all she had accepted her for who she wanted to be. That kind of friendship didn’t come around everyday. She knocked on the door at the top of the stairs and braced herself.
“You mustn’t look so grim yet my dear. I know about what happened in the street today and it isn’t the end of the world,” Betty said as she opened the door.
“What?” Kensi asked.
“Jane knew better and you know better than to think I would blame you. As I understand it, she came very close to killing you, Livvy, and a detective. I may get to sad and heartbroken eventually but right now I can’t get past the anger of betrayal. Come, I’ve put the kettle on and I have news on your friend,” Betty said quietly.
“You can tell me. I can take it,” Kensi said and followed Betty into her apartment. She sat down on the couch and ran her finger over the tassel on a pillow.
“I did what I could for them. I was only able to revive Myra Daniels. She and Mary Dunning purchased the Dal as I understand. They had a party before going to the dance. Kensington I’m so sorry.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong. It just doesn’t seem fair that Myra gets to live and Fredrick died.”
“If I had been any later she would have died too. I finally found the spell I had seen used in China. I was up all night in my library,” Betty explained.
“Thank you. Does Myra know how lucky she is?”
“Trust me, I explained things to her,” Betty said.
“What about the man who died in your club.”
“Just a heart attack. I would have thought officer Stamp would have told you. My contact was busy with other matters. Officer Stamp was keen to know if I knew you. You should be careful of that one. He’s smitten.”
“What did you tell him?”
“That every wealthy person in the city knew one another because we all have our coins polished at the same place,” Betty said with a smile. “I told him that everyone who is anyone knows you. Your father is the richest man in Chicago after all.” Betty moved and sat down next to Kensi. “Don’t lead that boy on. He’s not meant for you. He’s ordinary.”
“Thanks for looking out for me Betty,” Kensi said with a conspiratorial smile. “Why did Jane think that I was physic?”
“She got it into her head somehow that you had a gift. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to allow her to keep thinking that. I know who and what my sister was. I’ve always worried about you doing business with her. I’m sorry that you were caught up in her madness and that I didn’t see this coming.”
“I’m sorry for my part in it,” Kensi said.
“Do you know what? I find that the best thing in a sad situation is a raspberry tart and it just so happens that I picked one up at the bakery today. I hope you’re hungry.”