Monday, July 28, 2014
"Breath of the Undead" [PG-13] - 2/15
"BREATH OF THE UNDEAD"
The bell above Ostera's front door rang. Paige placed the last jar of St. John's Wort on one of the shelves and picked up an empty box. She then headed straight toward the front and found Harry standing near the counter. The clock on the wall read twelve fifty-four. Paige smiled at her boyfriend and kissed him. "Hey! Right on time."
"Isn't this a bit late for you?" Harry asked. "You usually have lunch about an hour earlier."
A hot wave of embarrassment washed over Paige's face. "Yeah, well . . . since Maddy had been covering my disappearances . . ." She paused. "We had decided to switch lunch hours for a month or two."
"Hmmm." Naturally, Harry knew about her recent trouble with Barbara. "So, that means Maddy should be returning just about . . ."
At that moment, the shop's second assistant, Maddy Oser, strolled into the shop. "Paige, I'm back!" She glanced at the red-haired witch. "Hi Harry."
"Maddy," Harry greeted with a smile. Then he turned to Paige. "Ready?"
Paige nodded. "Yeah. So, where are we going?" She grabbed his hand.
"How about the Grand Palace in Chinatown? I thought you might like some dim sum."
"The Grand Palace it is." Paige orbed her and Harry out of the shop and into an alley, off Grand. A few minutes after they had merged into a crowd of pedestrians, the couple entered a crowded restaurant.
A smiling maitre'd led Paige and Harry toward a table next to a green-and-red lacquered column. Another five minutes passed before a waitress appeared and asked if they wanted drinks. Both ordered hot tea. Once the waitress left, Harry glanced around and declared, "God, I'm hungry. I hope the waitress comes back with a menu, soon. And with one of the carts." He referred to the numerous carts that held bamboo baskets filled with dim sum. The servers pushed them around the dining room from one table to another, allowing customers to make their selections on the spot.
Paige glanced to her right and saw their waitress return with two menus in her hands. "Looks like it might happen very soon."
"Oh my God!" The woman's voice took Paige by surprise. She and Harry glanced up and found a very attractive Asian-American woman hovering beside their table. The woman stood at least five-feet six and seemed to be in her mid-to-late twenties. She possessed very delicate features that included high cheekbones, pale golden skin and dark hair styled in a long bob. "Harry McNeill? Is that you?"
Much to Paige's surprise, Harry sprung to his feet. He enveloped the woman into a bear hug. "Janet!" he cried. "Janet Hui! My God! How are you?"
"Pretty good, as a matter of fact." Miss Hui's eyes swept over Harry's figure in an appreciative manner that Paige found annoying. "Wow! You've certainly filled out since I last saw you. How long has it been since we had graduated from college?"
Still smiling, Harry replied, "Nearly five years ago, as a matter of fact. Five years in late May. Why don't you join us for lunch?"
Janet turned down Harry's offer - much to Paige's relief. "I'd love to, honey, but I'm meeting a friend for lunch. However . . . how about dinner, tonight? You can bring . . ." She glanced at Paige. ". . . your friend along."
"Paige," Harry added. "This is Paige Matthews. Paige, this is Janet Hui. She's an old school friend of mine."
Offering her hand to Paige, Janet greeted, "Nice to meet you." Then she returned her attention to Harry. "I wondered when you were going to introduce us to each other."
"I was about to," Harry protested.
Janet rolled her eyes. "Right." She said to Paige, "I hope to see you for dinner, tonight. You'll be in for a real treat."
A dim smile touched Paige's lips. "Thanks," she said in a lukewarm voice. "I'm looking forward to it."
"And you, Mr. McNeill," Janet said to Harry, "we've got a lot of catching up to do. By the way, I live at 6012 Tenth Avenue. In the Outer Richmond District."
Harry nodded. "That's not far from where Paige lives. We're looking forward to tonight. I only hope that I can say the same about your cooking."
"Watch it, McNeill!" Janet retorted with a mock glare. "I just might take back that dinner invitation. Besides, my boyfriend will be cooking, tonight. We usually have dinner around seven-thirty."
Another smile curved Harry's lips. "Then I guess I'll be looking forward to dinner, tonight." He pecked Janet's cheek. "We'll see you then." Janet smiled once more and moved on.
Once Harry had settled back into his seat, Paige went on the attack. "So, who is this Janet Hui to you?"
Harry calmly replied, "Ex-girlfriend from college. And a very good friend."
"So, how long did you two date?"
Harry peered closely at Paige. "You're not jealous, are you?"
"I hope, for your sake that you're not reading my thoughts!" The words came out of Paige's mouth before she could stop herself.
The red-haired man broke into a wide smile. "Well that answers my question."
"I am not jealous!" Paige exclaimed vehemently.
The smile still stamped on his face, Harry shrugged. "If you say so." Paige opened her mouth to retort, when he added, "Looks like the waitress is back with our tea and menus. And here comes the dim sum."
Paige shot a dark glare at her boyfriend before the waitress appeared at the table.
"I'm back, your Honor." Bourgh's secretary poked his head through the doorway of the judge's private office. "Just to let you know. Is there anything you need?"
Bourgh immediately stuffed a few items back inside the yellow envelope and glanced up. "No, thank you Ross," he said with a dim smile. "I'm fine."
Ross nodded. "Okay. But you should know that they will be sending jury candidates for the new trial in about . . ." He glanced at his watch. ". . . another twenty minutes or so."
Ah yes, the Becker trial. Bourgh had forgotten. Again, he thanked his secretary and dismissed him. Once Ross had left, the judge went to the door and locked it. Then he returned to his desk and dumped the contents of the yellow envelope on his desk.
The material that greeted Bourgh's eyes filled him with horror. Photographs of him having sex with his mistress inside a hotel room and at her private home, copies of bills for expensive gifts and bank statements, and a CD-ROM disk laid scattered on the desk. Bourgh picked up three of the photographs. Each one featured him and his mistress, Laura, in positions straight from the KAMA SUTRA book. His heart racing rapidly, Bourgh inserted the CD-ROM disk into his computer drive. Nearly a minute later, the judge found himself watching a video clip that featured him engaged in sex with Laura and a second woman beside a pool at Laura's Palo Alto home.
Cries and moans from the computer's speaker filled the office. A horrified Bourgh continued to stare at the screen. Then a woman's loud moan snapped the judge out of his reverie and he stopped the video clip. He was ruined. There seemed to be no doubt about that. The judge wondered if the Decker family had sent the package. It seemed like something to expect from such a corrupt family.
One last object caught Bourgh's eyes. A business card that read:
Cedric Lloyd, Attorney-at-Law (415) 653-8080
Bourgh stated at the card in his hand. He then glanced at the clock on the wall. It read one forty-eight. His first instinct was to tear up the card. But the photographs, the disk and other material from the yellow envelope made him realize it would not be wise to ignore the card's owner. Instead of using his office telephone, Bourgh reached inside his jacket pocket for his cell phone. He dialed the number on the card. Seconds later, a man's voice answered. "Cedric Lloyd, speaking."
After a brief hesitation, Bourgh said, "This is William Bourgh. I believe that you had sent a yellow envelope to my home, yesterday."
"Oh yes! Judge Bourgh! I wondered when you would call. I had expected to hear from you, yesterday." The man's voice oozed with smugness.
Feeling a shaft of anger, Bourgh growled, "You know I should have you disbarred for this! Blackmailing a Federal . . ."
A heavy sigh from Lloyd interrupted Bourgh. "Please, your Honor. I think you're the last person to be casting stone, judging from those photographs and the disk. I understand that keeping a mistress can be very expensive. You've even accepted a few bribes over the years to keep your finances in the black. Including one from a certain businessman named Paul Hans . . ."
The judge brusquely demanded, "What do you want?"
"Your help." Lloyd paused. "I suggest that we meet this evening. I know this little café on Balboa Street called Larkin's. It's in the Inner Richmond District. I'm sure that we might be able to enjoy some coffee, while we continue this conversation."
Smug bastard! Bourgh closed his eyes for a brief moment and took a deep breath. "Fine!" he finally snapped "I'll see you around eleven. Tonight."
Delight radiated from Lloyd's voice. "I'll be there. Good day." The line went dead.
Bourgh paused before he disconnected his cell phone. Then he sighed. Heavily.
END OF CHAPTER TWO