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Silence the siren, p.1
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       Silence the Siren, p.1

           Jackie MacKenzie
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Silence the Siren

  Silence the Siren

  Jackie MacKenzie

  Copyright 2011 Jackie Mackenzie

  Also by Jackie Mackenzie

  Call Down the Moon

  “This might be the worst idea you’ve ever had.”

  Myles Hunter cocked one dark eyebrow at the man next to him. His partner recoiled with an apologetic grin.

  “I’m just saying, Boss.”

  Myles’ grey eyes swept over his partner, then up the wildflower-covered hillside to an imperial stone manor house. A light, abnormally warm wind blew down the hill, filling the air with the scent of sea and freshly turned dirt. A block retaining wall held back the steep knoll. It bulged away from the house, forcing the sidewalk, road and all in its path to give way.

  Myles and his partner crouched behind the hillside, off the sidewalk, behind the abruptly ending slope of the hill. Above in the mansion, lights flickered as people moved past the windows. The cozy incandescent glow spread across the slight lawn and over the top of the hill.

  Myles cracked his neck and tilted his head back, stretching. “Whatever happens,” he said, staring up into the moonless sky, “don’t kill anyone.”

  The other man snorted in an offended manner. “That,” he said, pointing a finger, “was an accident.”

  Myles gave a hushed laugh and tilted his head forward once more. “Jamie… nothing you do is an accident,” he said, looking at his partner head-on.

  Jamie grinned. His carnivorous, bright teeth glowed in the dim. “He had an annoying voice,” he said. “High pitched, and whiney.”

  Myles choked on a silent laugh. His face grew serious as he unfolded his six-three frame from a stooped, cramped position. His shoulders were wide, and beneath the elegant costume, he was solid muscle. He was dressed in a black tuxedo with black silk pinstripes, a matching bow tie, a starched white shirt, wingtip shoes and a hint of dark red kerchief was visible in his pocket. He was regal and imposing.

  Next to him, Jamie Brakes, was neither. Shorter by nearly a foot, with mousy brown hair and wide dark eyes, Jamie was thick with long arms. His hair had a high swoop in the front, fixed with a comb and hair grease and pushed back in a long loop. He moved as gracefully as Myles, with precise elegance that seemed at odds with his shape. He reached up and brushed a hint of lint from the sleeve of Myles’ overcoat and nodded.

  Myles straightened his tie, looked over his partner, then slid on a pair of dark sunglasses.

  “Just fine, Boss,” Jamie said, “Just fine.”

  “Remember,” Myles said, “don’t stop to listen to her.”

  “Right,” Jamie nodded. All traces of humor vanished from his round, cheerful face. Like Myles, his expression became fathomless and empty.

  The night was dark, without a moon, and mostly cloudy. It was early spring, but warm even for Southern California. The wind shifted, bringing the scent of approaching spring rain and car exhaust.

  The two men turned toward the sidewalk, keeping a keen eye open for oncoming traffic, and party-goers looking for privacy. Once they felt secure, they stepped onto the sidewalk, drifting like shadow until they came up the hill toward the entrance to the mansion. Just beyond its welcoming entry lights the two men stopped to polish away any dust particles from their shoes. Jamie assumed a position on Myles’ right side and the two men began their final ascent to the hilltop house.

  The Cold War and McCarthy weren’t putting a damper on the festivities in Hollywood – at least not on the eve of the largest awards ceremony in town. Up close, the house glowed like a beacon; warm yellow light cascaded from every window. Despite the stone façade, music flittered through the walls, just on the edge of hearing.

  A lone sentinel stood at the door, his black suit contrasting with the pale stone walls. Under the bright entry lamps he looked as though he was a prisoner attempting escape. He held a clipboard in one hand; a revolver was discretely on view beneath his evening coat. The man watched them approach, inspecting them with a passive expression.

  Myles followed a half-step behind Jamie, who moved up the stone walkway at an even, patient pace. When he and Myles reached the double-front door Myles came to a rather abrupt stop while Jamie gave the armed man a slight bow. Myles surveyed the doorman behind his dark lenses. He was of average height, with wide shoulders and quick, even movements. His eyes shifted constantly, taking in the men and everything surrounding them. Yet even with his quickness of hand and eye, he was steady; his thoughts and actions were deliberate. Myles approved.

  “Good evening,” Jamie said. “May I present Colonel Asher Thompson.”

  Myles stood stiff and reserved while the doorman looked over his list, one eye still on the two men.

  “And you are?” the doorman said, glancing at Jamie, a slight sneer forming on his lips.

  Myles felt Jamie swell, though to the average eye he seemed not to move.

  “My apologies,” Myles intervened. “This is my assistant, Mr. Robert Bowling.”

  The doorman looked closely at Myles again. Myles saw his suspicion change to embarrassment as he realized how closely Myles stood to Jamie and what his dark glasses meant to hide.

  “I am so sorry, Sir. My sincere apologies. Please enjoy the party,” the doorman said, pushing open the double entrance doors and letting even more light flood the portico.

  Myles nodded and Jamie led the blind Colonel into the lavish party.

  When the two men had last seen the manor – inspecting it inside and out as pest control and eradication men – the house had been empty. Now it was filled with radiant light, the parquet floors were newly polished and a string quartet was placed in one corner on an elevated platform. Suspended over the center of the large gathering space was an enormous crystal chandelier, glittering with reflective light.

  More than fifty people moved in the room, dancing or forming arcs of conversation. The men were dressed in black or white tuxedos and the women complimented them in a range of bright jewel tones – some in sweeping gowns, others in tea length styles. Servers dressed in muted black moved among the crowd, trays of cakes and champagne flutes lifted in one hand.

  Myles sniffed, scenting the room. Next to him, Jamie followed suit.

  “Whoa,” Jamie muttered, nearly coughing.

  “Steady,” Myles said, inclining his head and smiling. Behind his glasses Myles glanced around the room, looking for their target.

  Jamie sighed and shifted his feet. His hands fisted and relaxed. “Why is it always us?” he muttered.

  Myles laughed.

  “Ah,” Jamie said, giving Myles a discrete motion towards a small woman.

  Myles grunted. He and Jamie had spent most of the past two weeks following Erin Brockle’s every move. Picking her out of a crowd was not a difficult feat. She was surrounded by several men and women – all pressing closer to her, anxious for her attention.

  She was not abnormally beautiful or generally out of the ordinary in any way. Her pale blonde hair was styled in a fashionable pixie cut, which suited her petite features. Her nose was too pointed and her eyes close together, but she was an attractive woman with a gracious, welcoming smile.

  As the men watched, the crowd around her grew, encompassing several people far too famous to fawn over an unknown woman with no connections to the Hollywood power scheme. Jamie shuffled again and Myles heard him sniff once more.

  “You smell that?” Jamie whispered from the corner of his mouth.

  Myles nodded and nudged him forward. Jamie began to lead the blind man around the edge of the party. They moved at a leisurely pace, inspecting everyone and examining the entrances and exits from the room.

  “Unexpected,” Myles said, sniffing the air once more. “Still, vam
pires are immune to her.”

  “Sure you’re not part vamp?” Jamie asked, his lips turning up in a teasing smile.

  Myles scowled.

  “Hollywood makes being a spy look so easy,” Jamie whispered. “If only they knew…”

  The two men stopped where they had a clear view of Erin and her crowd of admirers. The party swirled around them. Jamie turned away from Myles suddenly, as a woman with dark hair passed near them.

  “Is that –“

  Myles elbowed him covertly. “Don’t stare,” he grunted. “How many times have we done this? She’s an actress – not the president.”

  Jamie rolled his eyes, reluctantly turning back toward Erin. “She’s not just any actress… She’s Aud—“

  “Focus,” Myles commanded.

  Jamie fell silent, a scowl marring his cherubic face.

  Myles elbowed him once more and the two set off, still weaving gently in and out of the party, avoiding the main groups and the dance floor as they walked. The party was a cacophony of sounds and color. Liquor flowed freely amongst the guests and more than one drink was offered to the two men.

  “Where are they?” Jamie asked, twisting around, looking behind him.

  “They’re here somewhere. How did we miss them, is the real question,” Myles said.

  Jamie shuffled his feet and grunted. Myles kept his eyes on their target, allowing Jamie to scout for the unexpected complication.

  Their task was deceptively simple. Erin
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