Timeline: November 30, 2008 — 2 am
Ramiel collapsed on the couch and stared at the address and name he had scribbled down next the the phone number on the bar napkin. He pulled four more number out of his other pockets and tossed them aside.
I need to find out more about this place and this girl, could she really be Serena?
After thinking about it for a little bit he knew that he needed Tara’s help. She is a private investigator after all, but what about Lyla? Ok tonight I find Lyla and tomorrow Tara, then wrap this up before I meet with Shining Temple of the Ancients.
Ramiel looked at his watch and called the Blood and Brew, it was around closing time maybe she was there.
She picked up the phone on the first ring. From that, Ramiel deduced she must be in her office there. “Blood and Brew,” she said into the phone.
“What time you done tonight love.” He said in his best sultry voice.
She recognized the voice immediately. Ramiel could hear the smile in her voice when she replied, “I’m wrapping up right now, handsome. I should be home in the amount of time it takes me to walk from here to there.”
“I’ll meet you half way.” He said with a smile. Hung the phone up and took off to meet Lyla. The air was cool in the early morning, though all the nights excitement left Ramiel feeling a bit warm and in his hurry without a jacket.
Ramiel stood waiting for Lyla shivering until he remembered he could change that, one quick spell later and he was toasty warm. His white hair reflected the moonlight with an almost eerie nature and was set into further contrast by the black of his outfit. A fine mesh long sleeved shirt, tight leather pants and square toed dress shoes. She knew in an instant that he had been out, he was dressed for it anyway.
Lyla strode out of the darkness dressed in a black, wool coat that extended to her knees. Her calves were bare, indicating she wore a skirt or short dress that night, and heels. Although she hardly needed it, she had some makeup on, lending a touch of beauty to features that were already worthy of appearing in any man’s dreams.
“Wow, look at you,” she said as she appreciated his attire and look. “You look good enough to eat.”
“I go well with chocolate.” He said with a grin. But Lyla knew him well enough to tell it was all for show. Even the outfit.
She smiled, liking the idea. But concern won out over libido. She came to him and hugged him close. “Whatever is troubling you, my love, I’m here. And if you want to talk about it, I will listen.”
He put his forehead upon hers lightly, resting there and tracing her cheek with his fingers. “You are the only one who understands me. I love you Lyla, no matter what happens, or what I do, I love you.”
He wrapped her in his arms and held her tightly to him. “I need some help. I am not sure if you can, but I know that Tara probably can. But I wanted to ask you first.
“I foolishly went out with Anne tonight, to Manchester. I just needed away from everything, after…..” He paused as the image of blood stained little fingers ran through his mind. ” …the wheel. So I took the opportunity to get away, well things happened and went as they usually do with Anne, so I came back. But I need help finding out about this girl.”
“A girl?” Lyla repeated. Her curiosity was piqued though not in any sort of jealous way. It didn’t bother her that he’d gone to Manchester with Ann-Marie and it certainly didn’t bother her that he found a girl of interest there. “I might be able to, depending on who this girl is and where she came from. I also have contacts in Manchester, as it happens, and I also have some pretty good skills of my own for finding people. But please, go on.”
“In the club I thought I saw Serena, and it looked like she was going to kill you. So I stopped her. That is what caused the trouble, and so on. Anne helped me out; I told her all I am going to on the subject if she asks. I told her I thought you were in danger, that should have been enough. It never is, but that is not important.
“What is, is that I am not sure if this girl is or isn’t Serena. She looked at me with calculation in her eyes, like she was baiting me to see my reaction. If it isn’t Serena I need to know who she is, and if she is part of the Brotherhood. I know she lives at this youth shelter in Manchester. She looks to be around 16, long near white hair.” Ramiel handed the wrinkled napkin to Lyla.
Lyla looked at the address and then sharply back at Ramiel. He noticed recognition in the look she had. “The Manchester Youth & Shelter Services?” To his eye, she even looked a bit startled.
Lyla sigh almost imperceptibly. Had he not been this close, he was sure he wouldn’t have noticed any reaction from her out of the ordinary. But he was still in her arms, feeling the press of her breasts and the beat of her heart as it sped up just a little bit, and he felt the heat of the palms of her hands.
“Yes,” she said softly. “I think I can help you. And her, if you decide you want me to.”
“What do you know about this place Lyla?” He asked her in a calm and quiet tone. The real Ramiel, the one that only Lyla knew sometimes snuck out from behind what he had grown into.
“I’ve had some dealings with them recently. They are good folks, kind people willing to take in just about anyone in need. Especially young people. But they are kind of a last resort for kids in trouble. Kids with… chemical dependencies, runaways, kids who’ve lost their parents for one reason or other, or those who’ve been thrown out by parents who no feel they can no longer … help them… sometimes go there.
“But the shelter gives them all a second chance, no matter what they’ve done or what they’ve been through.”
Lyla raised her eyes to Ramiel and he could see something there he hadn’t seen in he didn’t know how long. It was a deep and sincere compassion for another human being. “Whether that girl is Serena or not, if she’s found herself at the youth shelter, then she needs help. If she doesn’t find help from anyone else in this world, I can only hope she finds what she needs there.”
She took a breath and let him go. Her familiar, tough, composure fell back into place in an instant. “I’ll call them first thing in the morning and find everything I can about her. I’ll need her description.”
After Ramiel gave her as good a description as he could, Lyla added, “And there’s a chance I might have to go there personally. You up for going with if it comes to that?”
He watched her and felt something inside. Images of him as a child flashed through his mind, the pain, the need to be lost, those delicate fingers dripping with his blood, the horesman, his baby, the girl in the bar, the cold anger in her eyes, the calculating deception, Serena and his own eyes.
“She has my eyes.” He said without thinking. ” I know what I am, what I would do to keep others from having to bloody their hands. I want to help her Lyla, and I will go with you. She may or may not be Serena, but she needs the same help Serena does. “
Lyla nodded. Her sympathy echoed in her eyes. “For now, take me home with you and I’ll massage away your pain. Tomorrow is a new day.”
He did and they shared a tender evening together. Ramiel was unusually gentle with her, reflecting his emotional state, but under her own sensitive ministrations, he was able to relax and after a time, sleep deeply.
When he awoke, sunlight was struggling through the shades of his bedroom window. A comfortable pressure above him made him open his eyes and look up to find Lyla, already dressed for the day, straddling him and leaning over him. She kissed him and said, “Morning my prince.”
She had on a lovely red button-down blouse which dipped low enough to reveal cleavage. She wore a charcoal skirt with it, which was currently bunched up around her thighs as she straddled his lap, and silky nylon stockings. This was a simple and good-looking outfit that she generally wore when working, though Ramiel was only now realizing this. Such business attire was not a part of her wardrobe six months ago.
“I made some calls and spoke with the woman that runs the shelter in Manchester,” she said. Now that he was awake, she slipped off him so that he could sit up. She straightened her skirt. “Normally she can’t talk about the youths that are residing there due to privacy laws and in order to protect the kids from social predators. But luckily, she knows me and we’ve got a working relationship.
“Anyway, she did confirm there is a girl staying there that matches the description you gave me. Ms. Bernstein trusts me enough to give me some background on her. Bernstein even gave me a name.” Lyla looked at Ramiel very seriously, and then sat down next time him and took his hand.
“Bernstein told me the girl has had a lot of problems. Apparently they found her wandering the woods about four months ago. She’s refused to talk about where she came from and the shelter has operated under the assumption that the girl has had to flee a pretty bad situation. She has a lot of behavioral issues — breaks the rules, disregard even for laws.” Lyla couldn’t help a small smile. “Sounds kind of familiar.
“Anyway, the girl is pretty much on her last chance. She apparently got into some serious trouble last night and that’s her second strike. Bernstein feels for the girl but she just doesn’t seem to want to listen or try to cooperate. Anyway, I managed to convince Bernstein to meet with us at eleven this morning. She’d been wanting to meet me personally anyway, and I’m going to bet that we could finesse her into letting us talk to the girl. And at least maybe get her name.”
Ramiel sat up quickly in bed as she explained things. “Do you think it could be her? Lyla is it even possible?”
He threw the covers off and headed for the shower. The water started and heard a quick intake of breath , letting her know he hadn’t waited for it to warm up. “If it is her do you think it is a trap, or a trick? Or …” The rest was drown out with water.
Within minutes he emerged from the bathroom and streaked to his closet. “What do I wear? You are so dressed up and if she sees me it is bound to be a mess, after all I nearly broke her neck last night, and probably did break her wrist.”
“Wear something that would win respect in the mature crowd,” Lyla advised. “And take your time. It’s important to look like you are responsible and collected in situations like this. As for what I think, all I can say is that it is what it is. I personally don’t take much stock in visions and prophecies and such because while they might be literally true or true in some way, they never tell you the full story. Is the girl in your vision your real daughter? Is this girl your real daughter? Are they the same person? It’s possible that the answer to more than one of those questions is yes. Or it could be no in every case.
“I really believe that the important thing here is to go in without being hindered by any pre-conceived notions and without any expectations. She deserves that much, doesn’t she?”
After further discussion, Ramiel and Lyla came up with a plan and a kind of understanding. The rest, as they say, is history.