Red Inheritance

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Red Inheritance

Post by Gadreille on Fri Oct 26, 2012 7:00 pm

The alarm clock screamed, and Erik jolted out of a nightmare. He rubbed his face with his hands and tried not to groan. His calloused hands couldn’t ignore the stubble he felt on his cheeks. How long had it been since he shaved…a couple of days? A week? He couldn’t recall, but he was sure that whenever it was that he shaved was the last time he’d bothered to look at himself in the mirror.

Erik rolled out of bed and stumbled toward the bathroom door. He flicked on the incandescent light, revealing the first section of the bathroom which was a large counter and sink. Pictures were hung from the ceiling, stacked in file holders, and strewn about the counter. To the right of the sink was another door where the toilet and bath/shower were. Erik grabbed a few pictures he’d left on the counter and tossed them on the floor. He’d file them later. He turned on the faucet and threw some water on his face, blindly reaching for a towel to dry off with. He opened his eyes and realized that he was drying off with a dirty shirt - he threw it past the second bathroom door, pretending not to notice it land in the bathtub.

The reflection in the mirror was a sad one. Erik’s face was overgrown with black stubble that was almost long enough to be described as a beard. His brown hair stuck out in every direction and was a couple inches too long to be standing up as it was. At least it made him look the full six foot three he claimed to be on his driver’s license. It wasn’t the only false claim of his identity.

Sunken, pale green eyes hid under thick eyebrows, the striking color was obscured by the bloodshot whites that surrounded them. If Erik bothered with things like appearance, and sleep, he might be called handsome. He certainly was still fit…enough…He wasn’t bulging muscles of steel, but he hadn’t yet gotten that Italian paunch the Palladino’s were famous for.

Erik grabbed yesterday’s jeans and a fresh thermal shirt, black socks and boots. He walked the four paces it took to get to work: his living room. The apartment was converted into an office: the living room had a desk, filing cabinets, storage shelves, and two loveseats that faced each other over a wooden coffee table. The kitchen was more of a kitchenette that was walled off to give the living room a somewhat more professional feel. Not that it actually helped any…it just made the smoke alarm go off more often.

He left the kitchen door propped open as he fixed a pot of coffee. The poor machine had almost given out. The cat had chewed through the cord twice, but duct tape served well. He needed to remember to get a new coffee maker before his gave out and he died from a coma. Erik popped a bagel in the toaster and then grabbed his keys so he could go grab the mail and the newspaper. Erik might be a slob, but he was a sharp one. It was his job to know things, and what he didn’t know he had to learn. Keeping up with current events was part of his time-space percentage.

Erik shut the door behind him, reminding himself that he needed to replace the fading Palladino Consult sign. Consult was a loose term, but it was kind of stupid to put private investigator on the door. He walked past several other doors, each with their own sign on their own door, and some sad sob who was trying to run a business inside. Most lived in their office, just as Erik Palladino did.

“Office” was another loose term. These “office” spaces were actually converted apartments…crappy ones made in the ‘70’s but in a good enough location of Los Angeles to warrant a $1500 per month price tag. Erik paid it with a grudge, and passed off as much of it as he could on business deduction. That and increasing his consulting fees. When he first started, fifteen years ago, he’d charge a flat rate and do whatever he had to, to get the job done. He was older now, and wiser. Now he sells starter packages, with nicely priced add ons.

Erik paid the .75 cents for the paper, grabbed his mail (bill, bill, coupon, advertisement, bill, wrong address) and headed back to his place. He tossed the mail and paper on the coffee table, went back to the kitchen to grab his bagel and coffee, and then plopped down on the couch to do his research. No sooner did he sit down than his comm buzzed.

He sighed, got up, and pressed the button in return. “Yea?” He said. It was too early to be proper.

A female voice sounded through the speaker. “Is this Palladino Consult?” she asked.

“Yep. Who is this?”

“A prospective client…may I come in?”

“Call and make an appointment. I‘ll get you the number.” Erik wasn’t hurting bad enough to take on a walk in.

“Mr. Palladino, I promise it will be worth your while,” the female voice responded, and Erik paused. Sometimes it was really worth it, and sometimes it was just another sob story, but at this point his interest had been piqued.

“Fine, come in,” Erik said while pressing the button that unlocked that gate. He jumped up to shut his kitchen and bedroom door and then swiped the loose papers on his desk into a pile and shoved them in his designated swipe-papers-into-a-pile-and-deal-with-them-later drawer. By the time he finished, there was a knock at the door.

He opened it, prepared to give his “Come sit down” head nod, and came face to face with the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Or at least, the most beautiful woman who had ever made eye contact with him.

Her black hair was obscured by a grey silk scarf, and half her face was hidden behind large sunglasses. The vintage look ended at the neck where she had an expensive looking modern brown coat covering leggings and grey leather boots that laced up the front. Her being “of means” was confirmed when he noticed her prada bag hanging from her shoulder. Yes, he knew what Prada looked like. It was his job to know things.

“May I come in, Mr. Palladino?” Beautiful woman asked, and he coughed and invited her inside. He beckoned her to the chair that sat in front of the desk and took his place behind it.

“Can I help you, Mrs…?” He asked.
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Re: Red Inheritance

Post by Syrena on Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:09 am

Haley Steele critically eyed her coffeemaker. The Mr. Coffee wasn't working. Some sort of malfunction made the digital display clock flash bright, green numbers. And there was a long, thin crack in the glass carafe. Haley sighed; it was too early in the morning to be without caffeine.

She pushed the power button again and again. Jetlag made her desperate for caffeine, but the display clock kept flashing. Haley rocked back on her heels; frustration sizzled in the pit of her stomach. She yanked the Mr. Coffee plug out of the outlet.

The clock immediately stopped flashing. Haley shoved the plug back into the outlet, half hopeful the problem was gone. The display didn't even light up; the green numbers didn't flash either. Fixing the Mr. Coffee was beyond her rudimentary problem solving skills.

Haley started to rifle through her cabinets. There was a box of instant coffee somewhere. She found the empty instant coffee box in the cabinet next to the ADT alarm unit. The ADT alarm unit was flashing like the malfunctioning Mr. Coffee.

She put the empty box of instant coffee back on the granite counter. Lack of sleep made her brain feel fuzzy. Haley peered at the security unit for several minutes before realizing the alarm wasn’t on. She blinked in surprised and punched in the alarm code. The security unit kept flashing.

Haley punched in the code one more time. She didn’t know what else to do. The security unit continued to flash insistently. Biting her bottom lip, Haley turned away from the ADT unit. She paced the length of her kitchen wringing her fingers together.

She passed the phone twice.

Impulsively, she yanked the phone out of the receiver on her third pass. She started to dial ADT’s number. But she stopped a second later. Calling the security company wasn’t going to do anything. She didn’t know what to say. Her only complaint was about the Mr. Coffee. Haley gently put the phone back and stalked into her bedroom.

Flipping on the main light, Haley looked around. The large jewelry chest in the corner was on the floor. Ornate wooden drawers were scattered over the carpet. So were pieces of brightly colored, costume jewelry. Haley walked into the middle of the room and knelt down in the middle of the mess.

“Oh my god…”

Her Tiffany earrings were gone, so was a Henry Winston necklace. Panic made Haley’s stomach feel funny; airy butterflies summersaulted in her gut. She licked her lips, and started flicking her costume jewelry into an empty drawer.

All the costume jewelry was on the floor. But the Tiffany earrings and the Henry Winston necklace weren’t the only pieces missing. Everything with a precious stone was gone; including an on loan Buccellati ruby necklace. Haley sat back, stunned.

She shuffled out of her room on her hands and knees. The Mr. Coffee was broken, the ADT security system wasn’t on, and several million dollars of jewelry was gone. Haley leaned against the food pantry. She thought about calling the security company and reporting the missing jewelry but she didn’t entertain the idea long.

Her missing jewelry—especially the Buccellati necklace—was the last thing she wanted to see in the papers. She didn’t want the embarrassment either. Leaving several million dollars of jewelry in her house was irresponsible. Stupid.

The jewelry should have been in a safe deposit box at the bank.

Haley banged her head against the food pantry. The wooden pantry shook, her head ached, and the missing jewelry was still a problem. She needed to call someone. Or get help; preferably discreet help. Haley slowly climbed to her feet. She had a business card for a private investigator somewhere in her old wallet.

Ignoring the ruined jewelry chest on the bedroom floor, Haley walked into her closet. Most of her clothes were on hangers, and she had several shoe boxes stacked in a corner. Her purses, though, were stacked in a haphazard pile. She plucked a couple of purses off the top of the pile and tossed them into a random corner of the closet until she found a white, leather Guess bag.

Haley unzipped the bag. She pulled out a faded cloth wallet. Several business cards were in the various pockets. Most of the cards were for her favorite stores; the printed names of sale associates were in cursive letters in the bottom, right corners. Eventually, she found the private investigator’s card.

Palladino Consult.

There wasn’t a map on the back of the business card and Haley didn’t recognize the address.

She snagged a grey scarf off a peg on her way to call a cab. Haley put on a pair of sunglasses, too. As a finishing touch, she covered her hair with the scarf. The disguise wasn’t very good. Large, stylish sunglasses and a grey scarf weren’t likely to fool anyone for long.

The sunglasses and scarf were better than nothing, though. And, hopefully, it was still early enough in the morning to avoid sleazy journalists looking for a scandalous rumor. Walking into a private consulting establishment would definitely cause a scandal.

Haley didn’t have to wait long for the yellow cab, but she couldn’t settle in the back of the cab. Restless energy made her shift in her seat several times during the forty-five minute ride. The taxi stopped outside an old apartment building. Haley stared at the 1970s architecture for several minutes.

A small part of her wanted to order the taxi back to her neighborhood. Or the closest Starbucks; she still wanted caffeine. But the Buccellati jewelry made her climb out of the taxi. Before shutting the door and walking up to the building, Haley told the driver to wait.

The building was in semi-decent shape. The walls were clean. No graffiti. And no one was suspiciously loitering at the corner. Still, Haley felt uneasy. Taking a deep breath, she pressed the comm button. White noise crackled on the other end.

Someone eventually picked up. “Yea?”

Haley pulled the consulting card out of her purse. She glanced at the business card name, “Is this Palladino Consult?”

“Yep. Who is this?”

“A prospective client,” Haley licked her lips. She felt nervous. “May I come in?”

Several seconds of white noise crackled over the intercom. Then, “Call and make an appointment. I’ll get you the number.”

Haley crushed the business card. Rejection was the last thing she needed. Desperation made her rash, though. She needed to get the necklace back. If she had to toss around money—or god knew what else—so be it. “Mr. Palladino, I promise it will be worth your while.”

“Fine, come in.”

Relief washed through Haley as she was buzzed into the apartment-turned-office. The inside of the building wasn’t nearly as decent as the outside. Paint was peeling off the wall, and there was a pile of trash outside one of the offices. Thankfully, trash bags weren’t sitting outside Palladino’s office.

His entryway was clean.

She knocked on the private investigator’s door. Haley wrung her fingers together a couple of times and adjusted her Prada purse on her shoulder before Palladino opened the door. There was a moment of awkward silence as Haley and Palladino sized each other up.

“May I come in, Mr. Palladino?” Haley asked when the silence stretched out. The private investigator beckoned her into his office. She looked around before she sat down in the chair in front of Palladino’s desk.

“Can I help you, Mrs.…?”

“Ms. Steele. Haley Steele.”

Haley gave Palladino a half-hearted smile. She brushed the purse strap off her shoulder and placed the bag in her lap. Then, she pulled the sunglasses off. She folded the legs of the sunglasses. Haley brushed her fingers over the lenses.

“I don’t really know where to start.” She didn’t wait for Palladino to invite her to share the story. “I’ve been gone. Out of town. I came back earlier today—went home to take a shower and get a cup of coffee. My Mr. Coffee was broken. The ADT alarm wasn’t on either. I swear I set the alarm before I left.”

Haley paused. She was rambling. The broken Mr. Coffee wasn’t important. She just wasn’t ready to talk about the real problem. “The stupid thing was flashing. Even when I punched in the security code, the unit kept flashing.” She shrugged.

“At first, I didn’t care. Everything was fine. And, then, I went into my bedroom.” She paused again. This time the silence stretched out for several minutes. Haley watched Palladino’s face for any sign of emotion. She wasn’t a people reader, and Palladino was not an open book. “My jewelry chest was broken. All the drawers were on the floor.”

She started to fidget with her purse strap. Haley wasn’t sure how to continue. The truth was embarrassing. “My costume jewelry was all over the floor, too. But all of my real pieces are gone: Tiffany earrings, a Henry Winston necklace, and…”

Haley frowned. She pushed her tongue against her teeth. “And a Buccellati piece that was on loan,” Haley said in a rush. “I don’t give a shit about the rest of the jewelry. But the necklace from Buccellati is—god—it isn’t mine. And the store’s going to want it back. Soon. I know it was stupid to leave all that jewelry in my apartment. But,” Haley took a deep breath. “I don’t know what to do. I really don’t. And I don’t want anyone to find out the necklace is missing.”

“I’ve got a picture of the necklace.” Haley unsnapped her purse and pulled out a sheet of photo paper and placed it on Palladino’s desk. “Can you help me? I can pay.”


Last edited by Syrena on Fri Nov 16, 2012 12:13 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Red Inheritance

Post by Gadreille on Fri Nov 02, 2012 11:09 pm

Erik hadn't originally recognized her, but as soon as Haley said her name, her image clicked into place. Erik had dealt with few celebrities in the past, but they were almost always older men who needed a viable reason to break their pre-nupital agreement and divorce without losing any assets. That or...something like it. This was already an altogether different celebrity experience.

Erik listened to Haley's story in silence, only giving a nod here and there to affirm that he was paying attention. He didn't take notes - he didn't need to. He tried not to smile as she stumbled over a few of her words. She was obviously terribly nervous. Erik was good at reading people, and she didn't really seem like the stuck up movie star he envisioned when seeing a picture of her on the red carpet.

When she finished, Erik asked "Would you like a cup of coffee?"

Her voice caught in her throat a moment before she replied, "Yes, Thank you."

Erik excused himself and went into the kitchen. He methodologically grabbed a coffee mug and began pouring the coffee into it, all while recounting the facts so far. Fact one: Her house had been burgled. Fact two: As of now, she, he, and the robber were the only ones who knew of the burglary. Fact three: The only piece necessary for retrieval was the Buccellati necklace. Fact four: In his line of work, retrieval usually meant theft. And THAT was a slippery slope.

Erik poured in the cream and sugar to his liking and brought the mug to Haley. He grimaced as he realized he gave her a Calvin and Hobbs mug instead of one of his nicer black mugs. She accepted it without comment and took a sip.

“Miss Steele,” Erik started. “It is my understanding that you do not want the police involved. This means I would have to conduct my own investigation in your home. If and when I find evidence of the perpetrator, I have to locate him. Then, I will have to find a way to retrieve the item in question.” He picked up the picture, of Haley in a red gown with a gold necklace laden with large rubies. “Retrieval is not a part of my starting package. The price can be pretty steep. If things go wrong…that could be on you, too. Are you sure owning up to the loss wouldn’t be easier on you?”
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Re: Red Inheritance

Post by Syrena on Sat Nov 03, 2012 4:40 am

“And be accused of theft. Yeah, right!”

She took a deep breath and carefully placed her coffee mug on the desk. The colorful illustrations of Calvin and Hobbes danced across the white surface of the mug. Haley took the time to read the conversation bubbles. The comic almost made her smile. Something about Calvin’s vivid imagination was calming. Haley could appreciate Calvin’s escape into fictional worlds.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap.”

Haley started to fidget; carpet muffled the sound of her right boot striking the floor. Her nervous energy was stalling parts of her story. All the truths weren’t neatly on the table. Burglary was only part of the story. Gambling on fame and fortune was part of the story, too.

“Buccellati lent me the necklace for publicity.” She felt her cheeks flush pink. “Their publicity. Mine, too. I wear the necklace a couple of times. Smile. Look pretty.” Haley started to chew her bottom lip. “Look like I’m worth more than I am. That necklace is worth more than I am. Oh my god, I used to think my net value was impressive…”

She lapsed into an awkward silence and wrung her hands together in her lap. Then, on impulse, she picked up the coffee mug and took a gulp of the lukewarm liquid.

“Look. I can pay for services. But that necklace… I don’t know anyone who can afford that necklace. And when Buccellati finds out the necklace is missing, they’ll accuse me of stealing it. Or worse. I was just parading around with it and—will you help me?”

Haley squeezed her eyes shut. “Please help me. I don’t know what else to do. If there’s a fallout,” she shook her head, “I’ll deal with it. Somehow. I’ll do something. I just want a chance to get the necklace back without anyone knowing I lost it.” Haley blinked tears out of her eyes. “Buccellati will crucify me if they find out… No one can find out.”


Last edited by Syrena on Fri Nov 16, 2012 12:13 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Red Inheritance

Post by Gadreille on Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:20 pm

Erik had shown Ms. Steele the starter package with all of the work he was about to start, and she wrote him a check immediately. He took it, thanked her, and agreed to meet her at her home in four hours so that he could conduct his own investigation.

Driving up to her house in his beat up old Honda, he felt a little out of place. Luckily, this wasn't a black tie affair, so he zipped up his jacket, pushed back his hair (which fell forward immediately) and rang the doorbell.

Haley opened the door in a rush and beckoned him inside. "I'm just going to run for prints, check security, see if there is anything to see. You can hang out here or go out, its up to you."

The investigation was simple enough. Dust for prints, look for point of entry, go outside and try to locate any security cameras. It was, as he figured it would be, completely wasted effort. The robber had known what he was doing.

After two hours at the site, he finally called it quits. Haley had been sitting in another room, trying to stay out of his way as he worked. He found her, and told her the news.

"Nothing to be found here, so I'll be doing some research from the office. Keep my card on you and call me if you notice anything you hadn't before. If someone comes again...call 911. We'll deal with the PR stuff if we have to. You need to stay safe."
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Re: Red Inheritance

Post by Syrena on Fri Nov 16, 2012 12:12 am

Haley chewed her bottom lip. The possibility of PR did not sit well with her. She wasn’t ready to handle a potential falling out with Buccellati. Not with swarms of tabloid journalists and cameras waiting for headline drama.

And there was nothing she could do.

She slumped against the back of her chair. The supple leather cushions were warm from sunlight leaking into the room. She cuddled into the warmth and, clutching a cardboard Starbucks cup of coffee, she watched Erik Palladino walk around her home dusting for prints.

Watching the private detective dust for prints was surreal. She felt trapped in a dream; a ridiculous crime movie gone horribly wrong.

Haley took a sip of coffee and started to fidget. She turned to look out the window. Watching Erik dust for fingerprints was too unnerving. She didn’t want to dwell on her missing jewelry either. But there wasn’t much to see outside her window.

Her yard was picture perfect; the colorful flower beds were immaculate, and there weren’t stray weeds sticking out of cement cracks in her driveway. A wrought iron fence blocked the view of the street. She couldn’t watch people walk up and down the side walk with their kids or dogs.

Sighing, she looked at Erik’s old, beat up Honda. The car was painfully out of place sitting in her driveway. Yet, the chipped paint and dented sides were absolutely memorizing. She spent several minutes staring at the old car, and she almost forgot about the Buccellati necklace until Erik Palladino cleared his throat.

Haley jerked her attention away from the window. She immediately wished she hadn’t. The private detective looked bleak and his news wasn’t much better.

"Nothing to be found here, so I'll be doing some research from the office. Keep my card on you and call me if you notice anything you hadn't before. If someone comes again...call 911. We'll deal with the PR stuff if we have to. You need to stay safe."

She nodded slowly. “Yeah, safe.”

Hiding her disappointment was impossible. She wasn’t sure what she expected—a miracle, a quick fix? Whatever she wanted, though, was out of her grasp. Dejected, she showed Erik to the door and she watched him drive away.
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Re: Red Inheritance

Post by Gadreille on Fri Dec 07, 2012 2:23 pm

Erik had spent days scouring the internet, inquiring by phone, checking sketchy classifieds…he looked local, he looked out of town, he looked a few counties over…how long had it been since he last left the apartment? A day, maybe two…Erik looked at his watch. It said it was five-thirty, but he wasn’t sure if that was AM or PM. Hard to tell with the fall days being so short. He hadn’t found much. He tried to follow the other pieces of fine jewelry, hoping they’d lead him to the Buccellati necklace that Miss Steele was after.

He finally had gotten a lead, but it wasn’t a very good one. He was going to have to do some footwork. This was the part of his job where things got downright dangerous. But Erik was damn good at his job.

The thing is, people categorize. They categorize and label and they take out the most prominent features of a person and that’s how they remember them. If you tell someone to look for a book with a red cover, but it’s actually blue…chances are that person will NEVER find that book, even if you give the title and the author.

So, Erik puts on a blonde wig, adds a fake bruise to his left eye, hunches down a bit, and puts on an ever so slightly European accent…pair that with carrying an ID with the same blonde haired man named James Beebe, suddenly, if something goes down, your enemies are looking for James the Blonde, a guy in a habit of getting into fist fights; not Erik the Black, a nerd who hangs around his apartment too much.

Erik walked out his front door, noted that it was 5:30 PM, and went to check out his lead.




He ended up at a nondescript warehouse with two nondescript guards hanging outside the door.

“State your business,” said Leftie.

“I heard this was the place to get some decent stuff for cheap,” James (Erik) responded with a shrug.

“You on the list?” asked Rightie.

“I…inquired, if that’s what you mean.” James put his hands in his pockets and pulled out his ID. Rightie checked it to his clipboard, nodded to Leftie who patted James down, and then James got the clear and went inside.

Inside it sort of looked like a flea market, except no one looked happy or excited. There was tension in the air. Erik knew that the cops had been heavy on black market dealings lately, some stupid idea that fighting theft and piracy would end the bad economy. Anyway, there wasn’t nobody shouting out “Come check out my wares!” and it seemed the only time anyone felt easy was when someone flashed some serious cash.

A lot of the items here were high, high price luxuries. There were pieces of art, sculpture, high end technologies, the newest phones and cameras…there was even animals with certified pedigrees. And of course, there was jewelry.

Now a piece like the Buccellati, it wouldn’t just be sitting in a place like this. This was high end, but not that high. That piece would likely be sold out of the country. Something like that would take time. Erik (James) was starting much more simply than that.

He had forced Haley to make a very detailed description of every piece of jewelry that went missing. Erik memorized them, and then searched the stalls for one or more of the pieces that she had listed. They were expensive enough that, should he find two together, he likely would have found the source. The first two stalls yielded no results but the third….there it was, the Henry Winston necklace. And in the ring case, the David Yurman ring. Erik nearly shook his head when he found the tiffany earrings that she had described.

This was the guy. Or rather, whoever this guy got the goods from was the guy. It was just a matter of finding it out.




Erik made it back to the apartment with two new very important facts on the case. One was, the guy at the stall was not the thief. It was painfully obvious to begin with, but the trick was finding out who he got the jewelry from. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to divulge that information while a person was on their guard.

So you had to do something flashy. Erik held up the ring, the one that Haley had mentioned had her initials engraved on the inside. Sure enough, there they were. Now was the time for wild accusations.

“H.S., interesting.”

The guy behind the booth looked up. He was immediately suspicious. Erik shoved the entire stand over toward the guy, leaping over it and onto him in the process. Erik prayed that the guy didn’t have a knife on him. There were shouts, and he could hear the guards coming. The guy tried to shove Erik off, but he outweighed his victim by a good thirty pounds, and he was pinned.

“You go into my girls place and you take her stuff and you put your hands on her! YOU PIECE OF SHIT, HOW DARE YOU!”

The guy immediately squealed. “What are you talking about man, I don’t do that shit, I buy this stuff, I’m innocent. Get the fuck off me!” Then Leftie and Rightie pulled Erik off the man, and he sat up.

“You O.K. Michael?” Rightie asked. Michael nodded.

Here’s where things got risky. This isn’t a place they just call the cops. They might decide to pummel him…they might decide to take him out back and shoot him…who knows. Erik slumped.

“Oh…oh man, I’m sorry I was jus’…I was jus’ so angry and I…she’s got bruises and I… I just wanna find this guy. Erik put his face in his hands. If there is one thing a bunch of scumbags identify with…its redemption.

Michael took a look around. “Well…you’ve made a fucking mess. What cash does he have on him?” Leftie took Erik’s wallet out, and the fifteen hundred he had stashed there. He handed it to Michael. “Just get his ass out of here.”

They literally tossed me onto the street, and I walked away looking beat. But I had the info I needed, and it only cost Haley 1500 for the day’s work.




A few more days of digging, and Erik figured out who the thief was. Or, at least, where he lived. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t cheap, but he figured it out. The thing was, this thief was known for being…well, a ghost. At this point, it was out of his league. He needed to call an expert. He needed to call…

Another thief.

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Re: Red Inheritance

Post by Syrena on Sat Jan 12, 2013 4:13 am

The sailboat bobbed angrily in the wind. Serenity Richards propped herself up on the sun-warmed metal bench as her side of the boat dipped low toward the ocean. A wave slapped the boat sending a misty gust of water raining over the open deck.

Pelts of cold water hit her bare back. She twitched. Goose flesh bubbled up along her spine. The afternoon wasn’t warm enough to tolerate the spray of ocean water or her choice in swimwear. She sank back against the bench, soaking up the heat trapped in the metal.

“Coffee?”

Serenity smiled lazily. “Thanks.” Carefully, she rolled onto her back, stretched like a cat, and reached for the coffee cup. She brushed her companion's fingers as she took the cup. His hand was warm like the metal bench; she almost regretted pulling away with her coffee cup.

Her companion, Sebastian Devereaux, grinned at her. The smile didn't quite reach his eyes. And his eyes quickly dropped to the metal bench. Her blue bikini top was sitting neatly on the bench. Serenity watched as Sebastian's eyes traveled up to her breasts. His gaze lingered.

Unabashed, Serenity leaned back against the sailboat's side railing. She looked at the murky water. The ocean was no longer inviting. Spending the afternoon at sea no longer seemed like a good idea. The sailboat abruptly lurched forward as she took a sip of coffee. Hot liquid splattered against her face and neck.

She wiped her face with the back of her hand. “Fuck.” Annoyed, Serenity used Sebastian to pull herself to her feet. Her good humor vanished. She snatched her bikini top off the metal bench. “I want to go back. Now.” Turning on her heel, she escaped to the lower deck.

Laughter followed her down the short set of stairs. Sebastian's amusement was evident.

The amenities below deck weren't exactly lavish. But they were better than the average motel. Everything was clean, too. Serenity tossed her bikini top on a polished dresser and eyed the tiny bathroom. Her change of clothes and purse were still sitting on the bathroom counter.

She walked into the bathroom and yanked the door shut behind her. The tiny, circular shower caught her eye. Soapy bubbles and hot water sounded like a good idea. Hearing Sebastian's footsteps on the upper deck changed her mind about the shower.

Instead she pulled a white towel off the rack and wiped the coffee smudges off her neck. She washed her face, for good measure, before looking at her reflection in the mirror.

Wisps of her chocolate brown hair were no longer neatly pinned into a bun. They hung around her face in loose curls. Her lips looked dry and unattractive, though. Serenity frowned and reached into her purse for lip gloss. A thick coat of pink gloss made the dry skin disappear.

She smacked her lips and leaned away from the mirror. Today the windblown look suited her. Satisfied with her appearance, Serenity stripped off the rest of her bikini. Changing into warmer clothes was a relief; the bite of chilly, moist air no longer a nuisance.



Haley Steele groaned.

She kicked her bed covers in frustration. The sheets flared up around her like a balloon. Her yellow legal pad slipped onto the floor. She watched her notepad bounce on the floor. The side with her writing landed upright. She stared at the yellow paper with her loopy handwriting.

Making a list of her missing jewelry was painful. She hated describing the missing pieces. Embarrassment made her cheeks flush pink each time she thought about her jewelry sitting unprotected in her room. And her stomach turned in nauseating circles.

Haley reached down and fished her notepad off the floor. She tapped her pen against the notepad, thinking. The Buccellati necklace was at the top of her list. Descriptions of all her favorite pieces were also on her list. So were most of her other pieces.

The pieces she wore less frequently weren't on the list. Yet. She needed pictures to properly describe the pieces; especially since Erik kept hounding her about details. Haley sighed and reached for her cell phone. She clicked through her photo library, stopping at a picture of a sapphire ring.

She added the ring to her list. It was one of the first pieces she bought; although, she almost never wore the ring. Most of the time she let the ring collect dust in her jewelry box. Haley added a few more details about the piece to her notepad.

As an afterthought she added another ring to the list. A plain silver ring with a small diamond chip in the center; the ring was a gift and her initials were carved into the metal.

Frowning, Haley started clicking through her photo library again. There weren't any more pictures of her wearing real jewelry. Just a couple of pictures of costume jewelry and flashy clothes. Haley started to tap her pen against the notepad again.

Her list was nowhere near complete. But she didn't want to have to call Erik and mention her poor memory. She started to chew on her bottom lip as she went through her photo library again. Nothing stood out. Desperate, Haley opened a web browser and searched for herself on Google.

Several images popped up. Haley started to sort through them. Most of the images showcased her fun, cheap accessories. The images with her jewelry highlighted her prominent pieces, and they were already on her list. Sighing, Haley leaned back against her pillows.




Serenity lit a cigarette.

Her patience was wearing painfully thin. California wasn't her dream vacation; she was restless for activity. She took a long drag of her cigarette. The rush of nicotine didn't do much for her. Impatience and restlessness were still hot in her blood.

She ground her cigarette out against the sidewalk curb. The half-finished cigarette crumbled, and Serenity flicked the filter onto the street. Groups of people walking by carried the filter out of sight. Serenity leaned against the hood of her car, looking up at the sky.

It was partly cloudy. The clouds didn't look like they promised rain, though. Probably a good omen for pursuing an evening out. Serenity straightened and stalked away from her car. Chasing down the local hot spots did have a certain appeal.

But drinking, eating, and dancing couldn't hold her interest long-term. She contemplated stealing Sebastian's Rembrandt. The security wasn't that fantastic at his art gallery. Dumping the painting on a buyer wouldn't be hard either. Sebastian's Rembrandt was a minor work.

Serenity dropped the idea a moment later. Alienating Sebastian was not one of her brighter ideas. Sighing, she fished another cigarette out of her jacket. She stuck the unlit gold and white tube in her mouth as she walked up the street.

Looking for a job elsewhere, however, was one of her better ideas.
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Re: Red Inheritance

Post by Gadreille on Wed Feb 27, 2013 10:00 pm

It took weeks to set up a meeting.

It wasn't that Erik didn't have contacts. He did. But finding a thief wasn't like picking out a laptop at Best Buy. He had to contact mutual parties that would vouch for his legitimacy...the only proof that he was not an undercover cop was the words of these third party men. That was a hurtle in and of itself, but it wasn't even the main problem.

The main problem was that he needed to thieve a thief. And most weren't really willing to cross that line.

Whether it was a sacred brotherhood or an understanding that you aren't likely to get away with it, once he proposed the job ALL of them high-tailed it. There was an unspoken understanding that they wouldn't alert the target. After all, if Erik wasn't dead before he discovered the betrayle, he could easily out anyone and everyone involved to the police. No, they wouldn't let the target know what he had it in for...but they weren't going to help him, either.

So he was on the phone with Charlie for the umpteenth time when a new name came up.

"Serenity Who?" Erik asked.

"Ehh, Richards, Serenity Richards," Charlie repeated. "She's new here but I gotta guy who will vouch for her."

"Right, set me up," Erik responded. He took down the meeting location and time. The meeting was to be in an hour, but the park was nearly an hour north, so Erik grabbed his bag and bolted out the door, praying he wouldn't hit traffic. These kinds of meetings you didn't want to be late to.

An hour and fifteen minutes later, Erik parked his crappy car and started walking the park. It was huge, but Charlie said they were supposed to meet at the outdoor amphitheatre. At the amphitheatre there were a few people sitting in the mostly vacant seats. An elderly couple, staring at the moat like fountain that fronted the stage. A man jogging up and down the steps. A few kids daring each other to get onto the stage.

And then there was her.

"Shit..." Erik said to himself as he scanned the rest of the seats, hoping for a squat middle aged woman with black rimmed glasses and unkempt hair.

No...no, the only girl sitting by herself was a lovely, lean figure, model height at more than five and a half feet (as far as he could tell, with her sitting). She wasn't too thin, just about right, maybe 120 pounds. She had European facial features but the coloring of a Brazilian goddess. She...she just couldn't be...

"Erik Palladino?"

Erik woke from his dreamlike assessment of her physical traits, just realizing that he'd been walking toward her. He ran his hand through his hair and muttered "Yeah..." Before he quickly sat down.
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Re: Red Inheritance

Post by Syrena on Tue Mar 05, 2013 10:11 pm

“You’re late.”

Erik Palladino sat. And Serenity Richards stood.

She fished her package of cigarettes out of her pocket. The red and white Marlboro box was badly crumpled. But the cellophane wrapping glittered in the afternoon sunlight. Serenity peeled the wrapping off the box. Strips of iridescent cellophane fluttered to her feet.

“Stand up. Take your jacket off. And turn around slowly. I want to make sure there won’t be company. And that you didn’t bring a gun.”

Anxiety started to bubble in her stomach. First meetings were never easy. Serenity stuck an unlit cigarette in her mouth. A hit of nicotine would take the edge off. She rummaged through her jacket pockets, looking for her Zippo lighter.

She couldn’t find the lighter. Groaning, she flicked her cigarette to the ground. The anxiety bubbling in her stomach increased. She felt restless. Paranoid. She needed to move. Serenity rocked back on her heels, hands on her hips.

“I want your phone and car keys, too.”

Serenity didn’t wait for Erik to hand her the phone or car keys. She leaned forward and slipped Erik’s phone and car keys out of his pocket. Stepping back, she tucked his car keys into her jacket and made a show of going through the contents of his phone.

There wasn’t much of interest on the detective’s phone. And there weren’t any outward signs that he was a cop. Or had friendly connections with the local law enforcement. Serenity popped the back of Erik’s phone off and removed the battery. She tucked the phone in her jacket, and tossed the battery to Erik.

“It takes fifteen minutes to walk to my car.” She slid into the aisle and started down the steps. “I’ll give your crap back once I get to my car. So start talking.”
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Re: Red Inheritance

Post by Gadreille on Tue Mar 05, 2013 10:47 pm

Erik had been in the process of standing when he suddenly, quite uncomfortably, felt an unfamiliar hand in his pocket. Her hand was in and out before he had time to register what was happening - or how nice it felt.

He'd almost protested when she started scrolling through his contacts; there were people on there whose numbers were hard to come by, and more importantly, confidential. But her eyes were looking beyond the phone, and he realized it was just a show. A power play. And why wouldn't she? If she's in this line of business, it took every trick in the book to keep ahead of the competition - and the law.

He'd met some paranoid people in his time, but this Serenity gal took the cake. He'd never had his keys stolen from him upon first meeting. He wasn't sure if that meant they were off to a poor start or that she was just really good at what she did.

"Right. Okay." Erik's voice bounced as he trotted down the stairs. Yes, trotted. Serenity moved quick. He noticed, with irritation, she didn't bob up and down walking down the stairs. No, she glided like a cat.

Erik continued. I've got a client who had an important piece of jewelry stolen from her that was on loan from -"

"Hum. So sad. She owes money. Might have to sell her Mercedes-Benz." Serenity shrugged.

"Lexus." Erik corrected without sarcasm. He was one for details. "More importantly, this piece is an antique. Haley will pay far more than what it's worth to get it back. Not being able to return it to the museum could result in criminal charges."

"And I care because...?"

"Because I know who stole it, and he is a badass in this town. No one else will cross him. I know this because I've called just about everyone else who's on the level with this sort of work. If you do it, you are back in the loop for good, you have my word." Erik stopped walking. Serenity tried to keep going, realized that he wasn't moving, and then turned around. She put her hands on her hips, and her mouth twisted in a grimace.

"Why would you think I need to get back in the loop?" She asked.

Erik reached into his jacket and into a secret pocket that had been sewn into the side seam. He pulled out a lighter and tossed it to Serenity.

"C'mon. I may look it, but I'm not stupid. I know enough of what's what in this town to know that you wouldn't come fishing here unless you needed to make a name for yourself, Serenity Richards."
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Re: Red Inheritance

Post by Syrena on Wed Mar 06, 2013 12:37 am

“Cute.”

Serenity licked her lips and slowly circled the private detective. Erik Palladino wasn’t bad looking. He was almost handsome. And his green eyes were his best feature. But something about the detective made the anxiety bubbling in her stomach grow.

“But you’re overreaching, Sherlock. It doesn’t suit you. And you know it.”

Serenity twirled the lighter between her fingers. She snapped the lighter open and stuck the end of a fresh cigarette into the flame. Taking a long drag, she rocked back on her heels. The sudden hit of nicotine did nothing to alleviate her nerves.

“I have the references.”

A thief’s business was a dangerous topic. She didn’t want to share much, but the detective was fishing for something. Serenity took another drag of her cigarette and blew smoke in Palladino’s direction. He didn’t react, and she didn’t try the trick again.

Hesitating for just a moment, she pressed herself against his chest. He almost shrunk away from her. At the last second he held his ground. Serenity smiled smugly. She enjoyed putting the detective off.

“You didn’t find me in California. Big deal. This is a vacation.”

She was lying. California wasn’t a vacation.

Serenity stepped back. She flicked ash off her cigarette. The anxiety bubbling in her stomach was starting to become nauseating. She flexed her toes, eager for movement.

“Look international. I specialize in art and antiques.”

She spun on her heel disappearing into one of the park’s alcoves before the detective could say anything. She sprawled out on a wooden bench. The rough surface snagged her jacket in several places. It was almost uncomfortable.
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Re: Red Inheritance

Post by Gadreille on Wed Mar 06, 2013 1:02 am

Erik rubbed his hand from the back of his head, through his hair, and down his face. He tried not to sigh audibly, but this woman was frustrating. One minute she was forcing her distance, the next she was in his space, pushing her body up to him. He thought he understood her need for distance, but suddenly it wasn't there. Had he misunderstood her anxiety, or was she just testing him? Did it matter? Women...

She had left him standing there, and for a moment he thought about just leaving. She obviously wasn't going to be pressured into the job. She made it sound like she'd done bigger things. Yet, why had she bothered showing up if she was just on vacation, and why had Charlie been so sure she was in need of a job?

Besides, she still had his fucking keys and phone. Nothing to do but get them back.

He followed her into the alcove, but did not sit. Instead, he reached into his back pocket, pulled out his wallet and grabbed a business card. It was a simple thing, white with courier black lettering, with his name, address, phone number and e-mail address. It wasn't simple to look cool or mysterious. It was simple because simple was cheap.

"Look, just think about it." He tossed the card onto the bench next to her. It landed with the typed font faced downward. "Call me if you change your mind. Pardon me for interrupting your vacation. If you'll hand me my things, I'll be on my way."
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Re: Red Inheritance

Post by Syrena on Wed Mar 06, 2013 1:54 am

The last of her cigarette dissolved into ash.

Serenity carefully sat up and dropped the butt on the ground. She fished another cigarette out of the crumpled red and white Marlboro box. Flicking her lighter back open, she lit up. She ran a hand through her tangled, brown hair and took a long drag.

The anxiety bubbling in her stomach started to lessen. She felt better. Erik Palladino would either come get his keys and phone. Or, he’d take his losses and walk away. A small part of her hoped he would come get his crap. She reached into her pocket and pulled out his car keys.

He didn’t keep many keys on his ring. A car key for a crappy car. An office key that didn’t strike her as impressive. And a mailbox key. She almost slipped the mailbox key off the ring. Going through someone else’s mail was always intriguing. But the detective shadow fell over her before she could slip the mail key off the ring.

Erik tossed a white business card at her. It fluttered to the bench. Serenity watched it fall with mild interest. The black lettering landed facedown. She stubbed the cigarette out and picked up the business card. There was an elegance in the card’s simplicity. It was impossible to go wrong with a black and white color scheme. Even if the paper felt cheap.

Serenity spun the private detective’s keys in a slow circle. The keys clinked together. “I’ll give the keys back.” She held the keys out with a cautious half-smile. Play time was over. “But I’ll keep the phone until I get the first half of my payment. Cash only.”

She bit her lip as Erik Palladino took his keys. Suddenly, she knew why he made her feel nervous. They were both desperate—he needed his antique jewelry and she needed a job—and they both wanted to deny it.
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Re: Red Inheritance

Post by Gadreille on Wed Mar 27, 2013 11:49 am

Erik felt a jolt run through him - it was the reassurance that this job wasn't a completely lost cause and maybe, just maybe this girl wasn't either. He gently plucked his keys from her hand and put them back in his pocket. He already knew what numbers Haley was comfortable with spending - and knew she'd have the money for Serenity by tomorrow. Haley was desperate, and he'd wasted too much of her time already.

"...Right. Well, I won't be able to call you, so come to the address on my card after noon. I'll have your payment, and information on the target."

Erik turned and walked away, pausing about five feet away from her and looking back over his shoulder at her. "And for god's sake don't share any of those numbers! I'm called a PRIVATE investigator for a reason." Seriously. If she called any of those numbers and didn't have an amazing cover, he could lose more than a phone.




When Erik got back to his apartment, he phoned Haley via decripit apartment hall payphone with the good news. She agreed to have the money ready by that evening, for him to come pick up. That gave him a couple hours of downtime, not enough to go anywhere, but just enough for a person to get bored. He took Serenity's advice and broadened his research on her to outside of the states. Two hours wasn't enough time to answer the question on his mind: what happened to her? In fact, it was only enough research to bring about more questions than answers: Why is she here? In time he'd find out. He always did.

Erik wondered what he was getting into. He just hoped she was as good as she said she was. Erik grabbed his keys, searched his apartment for ten minutes for the phone he didn't have before he realized he didn't have it, and then locked up to go back to Haley's lavish home.
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