A Field of Candles
Chapter 19 And A Time To Gather Stones Together
The world turned and in its never-ending circle of the sky, the northern hemisphere slipped quietly into March and awaited spring; with all the little comings and goings of billions of humans having no effect. But comings and goings there were.
In Belgrade as the sun was rising, Amara Manos, as was her custom, got up and showered. Then she had a joint. She planned on doing some grocery shopping today, but that would happen later. For now, she turned on her computer and scanned for news. Across the street, two of the three watchers were still asleep; shift change would be in half an hour; watcher three had his glasses trained on the front window of the little yellow bungalow; he had noticed movement behind the thin curtains.
A little later, in Geneva, as the sun rose there, Louis Doukas was already up and had been for a while; he was now enjoying his coffee. He would be flying to London today and wanted an early start.
In Paris, Nils Woodford, with some assistance from Grant Shillings, had come up with a down payment (ten thousand in American dollars) for a man prepared to kill the man now enjoying his morning coffee. The stress was clearly taking its toll on Woodford but he knew his time was running out; Doukas was heading for London.
In Scotland, Rosalind Kane was still getting the hang of semi-rural life and finally beginning to relax; although she found it hard to sleep with all the quiet, and so rose early. Today she was up with the sun, doing some poking around.
In London, Alastair Stewart would not be waking for a while, sun or no sun, after a late night with more than a few pints. Following Kane’s directions he had, a little while back, dropped off a note to one of her partners with a brief and fictional explanation slash reason for her abrupt departure; something that would at least keep her employer from bringing in the police.
Kane’s absence had been noted by others besides her staff mates. One pair of eyes in particular had noted she was not at work and took interest in the rough-looking character who had visited the shop with information concerning Kane. Stewart had now become a person of interest to Olivia Sheffield.
In New York City, around six AM Eastern time, Ms. Sheffield was up and on her cell, texting the simple message, ‘Green Light’. When her associate in Belgrade received the message, the trio sprang quietly into action.
In London, Doukas’s jet arrived at Heathrow just after noon, the familiar chimes of the Great Bell, Big Ben announcing that moment to Londoners. Doukas was met by his driver and his Rolls, a personal and favorite vehicle that Doukas kept in London exclusively for his use. It whisked him downtown and to the lower level of the Dionysus office, from which he took the private elevator up to the floor with his office, and where he was met as the elevator doors opened by the smiling and enthusiastic Elena Kasmir.
“Welcome back, sir. So good to have you in London.”
“Thank you, my dear Elena. It is good to see you.” She kissed him on both cheeks.
“All the files you requested are in your office, sir, and I can assist you if you need.”
“Thank you, Ms. Kasmir. I may call upon you, but I will begin now by myself; it shouldn’t take more than an hour or two.” They were moving down the lushly carpeted dark blue hallways to the private offices; heads turning furtively to cast a glance at the infamous man. “Any directors in today?” Doukas asked innocently as they reached his door.
“Ms. Carstairs will be in this afternoon, sir, and Mr. Bard at his usual time.”
“Thank you Elena.” Doukas smiled and gently touched her cheek, “I hope to see you later.” Elena beamed up at him as he entered his office and regarded cautiously the stack of files awaiting. There was also a flash drive there by his computer, so he had a choice: old school or new. Doukas sat at his computer and started it up; he had some financial matters to look into.
“It’s Gilad,” the now well-known, warm voice answered.
“Hey there,” Amara replied. “We haven’t touched base in a bit; I’m guessing that’s ‘cause nothing’s new. Anything about your missing guy?”
Amara could hear Gilad draw deeply on his cigarette. “The answers to your questions are yes and no.” Gilad replied quietly.
“That’s it, G? C’mon, give me somethin’.”
“Well, our guy’s gone, we’re sure of that. Doubt we find even a belt buckle. And Doukas has stayed off the radar. Our guys are going to pick up his trail when he heads back to the states.”
“Still the hit out on him?”
“Yes, that is unlikely to change. A kill order is tough to come by and therefore, tough to squash. He gives you nothing? Any idea of where he’s going next?”
“Well, I know he needs to be in London, ‘cause it’s March and he goes through the books. I’m guessing he heads to the U.S. after that, but this gal friend he’s hooked up with has buggered the routine.” She laughed. “Hey, sorry about your guy. I know it happens in this business, but it’s never easy.” She sighed.
“No, you’re right. Watch your back, Am.”
“You too, Gil.”
Amara grabbed her hoody and slipped on her shoes and headed out; time to do some shopping. The ever-watchful eyes taking note.
In Philadelphia, Nicole had chatted with Dani upon arrival at the office and gotten the latest news there; “Your life is like an episode of the Fucking Young and The Useless; emphasis on ‘fucking’”, she kidded Dani. It seemed that Shannon should have moved back by now but the three of them were enjoying the arrangement, so Shannon had put her place out to rent.
“You guys kill me,” Nicole smirked, punching Dani’s arm. Dani simply shook her head, a huge grin on her face.
Heading down to her office, Nicole checked her cell and found two messages from Rachel. She smiled; the girl was a nice diversion, and Nicole didn’t like going long stretches without a willing mouth between her thighs; and with Geneva’s move out, and involvement with Hailey still up in the air, Rachel pleasantly filled the void.
Meanwhile, at Hailey’s school, she and Brooke gave thumbs up to each other when they passed in the hall. “Tonight.” They both said; for them, time was moving slowly.
Over at Christina’s house, Geneva was being introduced to a variety of punishment instruments. Christina knew that Nicole was not big on spankings, etcetera in general, but most other dominants were. Talking with Geneva’s new owner, she didn’t sound like a big ‘whip and chains’ gal; but Christina was interested in Geneva’s response to pain just the same. Specifically today, and to the narrow bamboo cane and the heavy leather paddle Christina was currently trying out, one after the other.
And if Christina was being honest, she liked doing this, which was the main reason for the activity. She ran her tongue up the side of Geneva’s face. “What are you, bitch?”
“Uuuunngg, um, oh, ahhhh; I’m a, Uh!! (a reaction to a smack from the wooden paddle) a, ohhhh, slave. Mmmmm.”
“Yes, that is the right answer. You’re going to be a good slave for Miss Helen, yes? You’ll serve her well and you will feel soooo good. She even has a special cage for you to sleep in. It’s going to be delicious.”
“UUUhhhhnng!” Geneva cried out, in response to the bamboo cane now being brought directly down on her crotch.
“Yes, a very good slave.” Christina crooned softly, her fingers busy between Geneva’s legs.
How humans obsess over it. We have time indicators on all our devices, we are surrounded by reminders of this…idea, the idea that time is something that exists, with all our devices relentlessly monitoring the present as it creeps along, in something we call time.
Amara checked her watch, as she moved back down the street in the direction of her little place, a small bag cradled in one arm. The tallest of the watchers now checked the time on his cell phone as well. The lady watcher looked up at the clock on their kitchen wall; the house was sparsely furnished, but there was a clock. In Belgrade it was four-thirty in the afternoon.
Amara walked past her place and came back up the little laneway, entering in through the back. The shorter watcher had the binoculars up and saw the form of the woman moving through the house. He nodded at his partner, who turned to the woman, who went into the bedroom and changed. It was time.
When the woman came out, she was dressed in the uniform of a delivery driver and the three of them then proceeded out the back, carrying a large black bag. Together they removed a tarp that had been covering a van, marked in the colors of a local delivery service. They put the large bag in the back of the van and the two men climbed in; the woman went to the driver’s side; entered, put on her cap and started the vehicle.
In Philadelphia, Olivia Sheffield checked her cell; they would call, she reminded herself, unconsciously tapping her foot, a habit of hers when she was waiting.
In London, Doukas stretched; he had been at the financials longer than he had planned; it was past three-thirty. But he had found what he was looking for. It was well hidden, one needed to be both good at math and interested in spreadsheets; and to have access to several bank accounts, all password protected. Doukas matched up perfectly to those conditions.
The only person who could have covered up the almost one hundred thousand English pounds that were in fact missing (a large amount to the average Joe, a tiny portion of the Dionysus budget, and thus easily missed) was one of the directors, or Doukas himself; and he had no need for such thievery.
Doukas picked up the old style telephone on his desk and pressed two; in a moment the pleasant voice of Elena greeted him.
“Ah dear girl, please be so kind as to ring Nils Woodford; I believe you have both his numbers in Paris.”
“Yes sir, I do. I will get right on it.” And she was as good as her word, calling immediately.
The delivery van went down the street that crossed theirs and then around behind, to the yellow house. Checking, the two men got out and carried the bag. Trees and fences kept the yard secluded, and the two moved stealthily to a spot beside the back door and waited.
Meanwhile the woman had driven the van back around the front and parked it, carrying a parcel to the door. Amara, ever vigilant, answered the knock and noted the truck and the uniformed driver, opening the door enough to be able to speak. The men had heard the knock as well and the tall one inserted his tools and slipped noiselessly inside as Amara discussed why the parcel was incorrectly labelled. She had just closed the door and was turning around when the man fired; there was not much sound, as his gun was equipped with a silencer.
The bullet entered Amara’s heart; the man was too good a shot to miss from this distance. Before Amara had hit the ground, the woman in uniform had opened the door, slipped inside and caught Amara as she was falling; the tall man moved quickly to the fallen victim and fired another bullet, right beside the first.
He needn’t have bothered; Amara Manos was dead before the women had caught her.
“Mr. Woodford, hope I’m not interrupting anything,” Doukas asked in a voice as smooth as satin. He had reached Woodford at his home in Paris.
Sensing danger even in the quiet tone of his caller, Woodford replied, “No, not at all, Mr. Doukas. How may I assist you?”
Doukas smiled his trademark thin smile, “One moment please,” he murmured as Elena had arrived at his door. Doukas signalled the pretty, young woman to enter and nodded at her, and she began to quickly undress. He smiled and returned to his conversation as the efficient assistant lowered her naked, light brown body; slim and soft yet still wonderfully rounded and inviting, to her knees before him.
“Yes, Mr. Woodford, I’m here at the London office as you may know, looking over the books (Woodford felt a sharp pang at this utterance) and I have noticed a couple of, anomalies I need your help with.” Doukas had murmured this sentence in his richest tenor, his hand embedded in the dark hair of Elena Kasmir, as her red mouth engulfed the hard shaft of his erection.
Kasmir had a delightful mouth, warm with heavy lips today painted a striking shade of red. She was keen and enthusiastic, her head and mouth a driving pump on her boss’s erection; rapidly moving up and down. She wanted his release; she had not enjoyed any of her other, very infrequent blowjobs to date, but she loved pleasing Doukas this way. She didn’t question why; but she wanted the warm, salty ejaculate and she worked now with purpose and vigor.
Doukas, for his part, maintained remarkable control, as he conversed with Woodford; reading off several numbers, backtracking several times, and finally pinning the man in a corner.
“So,” Doukas paused, a smile on his face, his orgasm nearing, “you can see my concern, Sir. The only explanation is that you have misappropriated funds. Nothing else works, just a moment,” Doukas covered the cell phone against his expensive wool Tyrwhitt suit.
He gripped Kasmir’s thick hair, groaning quietly as she emptied his testicles without hesitation, swallowing the fluid efficiently. Doukas chuckled softly, and holding the dark head in place, returned to his conversation. “Nils, if I may be so informal; I am calling as a courtesy; the authorities will arrive, let’s say in an hour or so, to arrest you. You need to get your affairs in order.”
Woodford sat in silence, his face pale as a sheet; the clock on the mantle of the fireplace in his office chimed the hour, but he was unaware.
“Thank you, Sir,” he murmured, ending the call.
Doukas then released the head he was holding and the lovely face beamed up at him. “Thank you, sweet Elena. You are remarkable,” he wiped her lips with his thumb, “absolutely remarkable. Where would you like to go for dinner?”
Elena blushed beneath her brown skin and smiled a broad smile. It didn’t matter to her; Doukas only took her to expensive, quality places. “Wherever, Sir.” She smiled, zipping him back up and gazing at him with reverence.
In Belgrade, the three assassins had placed Amara’s body in the large, black bag and bundled it out to the van. The tall man drove and the woman changed out of her uniform in the back. A mile from the scene they let her off; it would be the last time they would meet; they didn’t even know each other’s names. That was how Olivia Sheffield liked it.
In New York, Sheffield’s phone buzzed with the text, “Parcel delivered. Taking it home.” Sheffield smiled, a sense of relief washing over her, although nagging at the back of her mind was the thought of the discussion she would need to have with Mr. Doukas. The prospect disturbed her, for some reason.
By nine PM outside Belgrade, the van was headed west. One assassin would depart in Croatia, while the other would carry on to Austria. Amara’s body would never be discovered; dust to dust, ashes to ashes.
In Philadelphia, Brooke and Hailey burst into the house and stumbled, giggling, up the stairs. They fell on Hailey’s bed, with Hailey naturally lying on her back, and Brooke settling in on top. Brooke lowered her mouth and sucked on Hailey’s lips; Hailey spread her legs wider and moved her pelvis; Brooke ground her hips in response. After a couple of minutes of open-mouthed kissing, Brooke spoke, “So, how are we going to do this?”
“Wellll,” Hailey murmured, “we could place our cells so they can video us on the bed. Then, well, action, I guess,” she laughed.
“Ummmm,” Brooke replied, covering Hailey’s mouth again. “I think we need to practise first.” They both laughed.
“We should get out of our uniforms, doncha’ think; they’re going to get all wrinkled?”
“Here, let me assist you, Ma’am,” Brooke giggled, unbuttoning Hailey’s white blouse.
Hailey stretched her arms above her head and closed her eyes, “Ummm, thank you, my queen.”
Elena had just gone to the restroom and Doukas placed a call to Daphne. “Hey there,” her husky voice greeted him.
“Hey yourself. How is Geneva? Splendid as always I would assume?”
“Never assume, Louis. But, it is pleasant, although it would be better if a certain someone was around, but he had to zip off to London.” She chuckled; but knowing (a little) of what he was doing there, she asked more seriously. “So, how is it going, for real?”
Doukas filled her in a little, then remarked that he was just having dinner.
“Is the enchanting Elena your guest?” Daphne asked, smiling. She was not a jealous woman, especially with a girl as young as Elena. She knew Doukas well enough to know what any relationship between Elena and Doukas would be, could only be.
“Yes, that is perceptive of you, my dear. But then, you are perceptive.”
“Has she made you…happy yet, or is that for dessert?” Daphne smirked.
Doukas had to laugh at the audacity of the woman. “Now you are being very nosy, my sweet.”
She laughed softly, seductively. “I’ll take that as a yes; also because you are sounding relaxed.” She laughed again. It did not bother her if Elena provided Doukas with oral sex; he was a man with needs and she did not own him. Did not want to own him. He had been clear to her and she believed him; she was the only woman he had fucked in years, and he would not be fucking the lovely Elena.
Doukas laughed in response, and looked up as Elena rejoined him. “You should bring her here one time.” Daphne continued.
“Are you serious?” Doukas asked, mildly surprised. Neither of them had ever mentioned Daphne with another woman. “For me, or for us both?” He asked with a smile.
“Whatever you want, and you know I mean that.”
Doukas chuckled, “I’m going now, while I still can; but I’ll call later. We can discuss this further, but you know I am a happy man already, right?”
“Talk soon my love. Enjoy your…dessert.”
Doukas chuckled and signalled the server. It was time for dessert, after all.
Although it was a Thursday night, Nicole had agreed to meet Rachel for dinner. She did not need to be in to work the next day until later in the morning, so it would be fine. She also knew that Hailey and her new gal-pal were hooking up tonight and she wanted to give them time for their fun. Hailey had agreed to tell her everything later; in detail.
Nicole sat in the restaurant by the window and noticed Rachel cross the street and head her way. She pondered again how young the woman looked; and suddenly thought of Amara. When would they see each other again? Maybe she could take her holidays over in Europe; she had been doing so well with her finances, even with nothing from Doukas.
She would call Amara on the weekend and see what she thought. Just at that moment Rachel came to the table and the two women rose and kissed, unconcerned about any stares.
Rachel slid in across from Nicole and opened her purse, pulling out a toothbrush. “Just in case you want to invite me back for a drink, I’m prepared.” She laughed, Nicole joining in, just as their server joined them.
“Hi there, I’m Holly. Care to start with a drink?” They ordered and she placed menus before them, “I’ll just give you a little time.”
Both women smiled and began looking over the selections.
In Paris, Nils Woodford placed a call to Shillings. After a few introductory comments, Woodford paused. “Grant, I need to ask you something.” There was a pause on the other end now, as Shillings waiting uneasily. Woodford then gave a cell number and a name, of sorts.
“‘R’, that’s all you know him by?”
“Yes, and that is all you need.”
“But I don’t understand….”
“Grant, I, um, may need to disappear for a, um, bit. Doukas has discovered my, em, indiscretion. But, and on this I am adamant, we need to carry on with the plan, Damn the bastard, this is important. Promise me you will follow up.”
“I will Nils, old fellow, but surely…”
“Thank you Grant. You are…a decent chap and a friend. I need to get going. Contact ‘R’ tomorrow, at eleven. That’s the time.”
“Ok, Nils, but we will need to, um confer tomorrow, yes?”
There was a pause, the mantle clock ticking away the moments. “We’ll see. We’ll, um, see. Good night, Grant.”
“Good night, Nils.”
Woodford stood and moved over to where he kept his music; he was a man who remained fixed in a different time; he had never bought a CD in his life. He took an album from his collection, Vivaldi, and placed it on the turntable. He chose the selection ‘Winter’; it seemed appropriate.
As the first movement began, he took his most expensive scotch, the Balblair 1999, out of the cupboard and poured three quarters of a glass. He sat, sipped and contemplated. How did it come to this? How could a former truck driver have beaten him? Well, it wasn’t over yet; not if Shillings came through.
He started the piece over again and finished his glass; the alcohol had definitely given him a buzz, which helped. Woodford crossed back over to his desk and opened the bottom drawer, taking out a walnut case. From it he removed his Webley revolver, and held it in his hands. How did it come to this?
The music stopped and the arm of the turntable lifted, moved back and settled. Woodford checked, even though he knew the gun was fully loaded. The sad part, it came to him, was that there was really no one for him to call. None of his wives would appreciate his situation; he was estranged from his only daughter. No, there was no one.
And it had come to this. He was not a man suited to prison, or poverty, if it came to that. Unsure why, he removed a sheet of paper from his desk and scribbled down a few words.
Under the chin or the temple, he asked, laughing at the macabre choice? He chose temple, counted to three, raised the revolver and fired; the gun falling and bouncing off his knee to land on the ground as the bullet tore through his skull and exited, embedding itself in the wall.
Woodford wavered for a moment and then fell forward, crashing to the floor and then to rest, lying by his chair.
When the authorities found him, it seemed clear what had happened. The officer in charge looked at the sheet of paper, but because he could not read English, passed it to his subordinate, who could.
It turned out to be scripture: To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven…
It was seven PM in Paris, and as Woodford’s body was being carried out to the ambulance, Doukas and Elena Kashmir were deciding on strawberries and fresh cream for dessert.
(End of Chapter 19)