Happy Monday, my Lovelies! After last week’s final instalment of The Bet, I didn’t want to leave you bereft of a bit of Monday morning reading candy. I’ve been in pursuit of Mr. Sands for quite some time now, and somehow he always manages to elude me. Just recently he made another titillating appearance, only to lead me on a merry chase. I lost him in North Africa somewhere and ended up recovering in Delphi, where I met up with some unexpected acquaintances. (More on that to come. )Never mind. There are worse places to end up, and I’m sure Mr. Sands will raise his oh so fascinating head again when I least expect him.
But for now, this is the story of my first vicarious encounter with Mr. Sands. It is also an introduction to the equally intriguing PI, Elise North. I hope you enjoy her account.
In Pursuit of Mr. Sands Part 1: Choosing an Inflight Meal
I followed him at a safe distance. He was fast tracked through passport control at Heathrow, as was I, and neither of us had luggage. He was my job. I wasn’t about to lose him. Once through customs and in the arrivals hall, he made his way to the first class lounge, where he got himself a coffee, and I did the same, discreetly watching him watch the woman who was ushered in by one of the first class flight attendants, who settled her into a booth and ordered her up a full English breakfast. The woman looked dazed, and her hands shook with her first bite of food.
She had good reason to be shaky, and she had good reason to be half-starved. I knew exactly what the attendant was explaining to her in hushed whispers, and so did he. He was the reason for her weakened condition. The flight attendant knew that and so did I. The thing is no one knew that I knew.
My name is Elise North. I’m a PI. At least that’s what Magda Gardener calls me, and that’s what my business card says – the one I almost never hand out. Most of the time I work under cover, and my ID changes with the job. I don’t carry a gun. It would hardly do me any good with my clients. I work on cases that need a delicate hand. I do, however, own a silver-tipped stake … more of a stiletto actually, but I know how to use it. I’m athletic, I’m fast and well trained in martial arts because, in a field as specialized as mine, if things ever go south, about the best I can hope for is to escape and run like hell. None of those skills, however, are the reason Magda Gardener hired me. I have other gifts, gifts that in the kinds of circles Magda and her people run in, are highly coveted.
Those particular gifts are the reason I was just off the night flight from New York’s JFK to London Heathrow after paying an enormous sum of money to sit across from Daniel Emerson Sands in first class. Before we were even off the runway at JFK, all the flight attendants made time to pay the man homage. A big name celebrity couldn’t have drawn more solicitous, yet quiet attention. Each one, whether male or female, approached him with a fan girl flutter of excitement. I observed the flush in the cheeks, the quickening of the pulse in throats, in temples, the moistening of lips with a flick of the tongue, the acceleration in the breath.
He kissed the fingers of the female attendants, so delicately caught up in his strong grip. Each of the male attendants he offered a warm handshake, then a clasp of the shoulder as they bent forward, almost as though they were about to share a secret … or a kiss. It came as no surprise to me that each attendant responded with a little gasp and then a grunt and a shudder of the body that would have been almost undetectable to someone less observant. Neither did it come as a surprise that with each encounter, Daniel Sands inhaled deeply and sighed as though he had just past a bakery with an open door. What also came as no surprise, and yet I still found disturbing, was the frisson of fear that accompanied the ritual. Each attendant came to Sands eager and willing, but fear was as much a part of the formula as lust. They all knew what he was. If they didn’t, he couldn’t do what he does on this flight … repeatedly.
While we taxied and took off, Daniel Sands sat quietly perusing a complimentary copy of The New York Times as though he were any other passenger in transit just wanting the journey to be over with and to arrive safely at his destination. But I knew better. I’ve known better since Magda Gardener assigned me to follow him, to learn all about him that I could. But even without the information she had given me on the man, I would have known exactly what he was the second I sat down across from him. Daniel Emerson Sands is an incubus, a particularly powerful one, and one Magda Gardener has set her eyes on. It’s a very dangerous thing to have Magda Gardener sets her eyes on you. Mr. Sands had no idea he was up against a master huntress. All he wanted was his special in-flight meal service.
The flight attendants and the woman at check-in, and all the others that Sands had contact with before boarding, they were nothing more than nibbles, appetisers, if you will. There were only seven of us in first class, but just one would be his chosen main course. As with all his inflight meals, she was upgraded from economy. I stood behind her in the line at check-in, I watched while Mr. Sands subtly bumped into her all apologetic for being so careless. I watched the way he rested a solicitous hand at the small of her back to steady her so she wouldn’t fall. I watched the way he smiled at her. I watched, and I knew from my research, that she was the one, that she would have a visit in the dream world she’d be very unlikely to forget. And she would wake up weakened and confused. But oh, the dreams. She would revisit the dreams for the rest of her life.