02 THE DARKNESS [Speck of Light]

The Darkness found Lucifer asleep in the void. Feeling at peace as no voices called to her, relieved of all responsibility for the lives of others. She was weightless and still and alone. Her light did not shine as she floated in the void. There was no reason for it to serve as a beacon. No reason to use it as a weapon. There was only the emptiness of the void. The Darkness surrounded the Speck and brought her back to a safe place.

He was unhappy with the ungrateful way that her people treated her. He had given her to them as a gift to end their bloody feud and they tossed her aside, banishing her from her home. The more recent betrayal by the Daemon upset him as well. But first he needed to nurse her back to health. He invested in a cheap apartment complex, set her up in one of the apartments, and started to renovate the place. He even offered some homeless people use of the apartments if they would work on the renovations at the prevailing minimum wage. Quite a few were willing to take him up on the free rent deal.

The Darkness was known locally as a real estate mogul who held several properties in the area. He would eventually introduce himself to Lucifer’s new incarnation. In the process of reawakening, she had shaved some twenty years off her physical appearance. Creating her new legend had meant calling in a few favors, but he felt it was worth it just to see her leading a mundane existence again.

His plans to deal with the betrayal would have to be put on hold for now. It was time to inject a little hope into Lucifer’s life. So, he ordered a company audit from her employer. It was a ploy that would boost both her esteem and her compensation, all without having to make a direct intervention.

Heolstor Umbra, the owner of Shady Estates Real Estate Holdings, Inc. made a luncheon appointment with Abraham Caine. They met at Umbra’s favorite restaurant, the Hungry Shark, to discuss the terms of the audit contract. Umbra was well aware of Caine’s opinions about real estate investing, but his reputation as a meticulous bean counter made him the perfect choice. At least that is what he told Abraham Caine.

“I suspect that someone in my company is playing fast and loose with my numbers,” Umbra told Caine. “I did some research before choosing an accounting firm to do the audit and your firm has an impeccable reputation.”

“Well deserved, I can assure you,” Abraham Caine replied. “How serious an audit are we talking here? It could run up the cost if you want a deep dive going back several years.”

Heolstor Umbra pushed a piece of paper across the table, “This should give you an idea about how serious an audit I’d like.”

Caine whistled in response to the figure quoted. “I don’t suppose you have a contract on you that I could sign,” he enquired.

“I’ll email you the preliminary contract for you to look over,” Umbra responded. “Our lawyers can work out the fine details so that it’s all on the up-and-up. I expect it to be inked before the end of the workday. Time is money.”

“You know it,” Caine replied. “I’ll make sure my people get right on it when I get back to the office.”

Abraham Caine was waiting in his office with two of the senior partners and a notary public when Umbra arrived to sign the contract for the audit. An offhand comment by Umbra about Caine stealing his best in house accounting clerk and a joke about offering her more money to come back was enough to suggest higher pay and a promotion for Helen Zaranie would be a good move on Caine’s part.

Umbra was concerned about the budding relationship between Helen and Thomas Caine. Perhaps he should have chosen a different apartment for her, one in another part of the complex. He chose one close to the pool to encourage her to use it. Floating helped ease her mind, calm her thoughts, and dismiss the bad memories as mere nightmares. But he also knew that sooner or later, she was going to have to deal with being Lucifer, the Lightbearer. He just preferred that it happened later.

Umbra watched over her as she made friends at work and did favors for them on the weekends. Thomas Caine had gone from fascinated by her to fully enamored in a matter of hours that first day by the pool. And Abraham Caine enabled their relationship. Near the end of the contract, during dinner and cocktails at the Hungry Shark, Caine confessed, “I like Helen. I like how she has made a better man out of my son. There’s something about her though that I can’t quite put my finger on.”

“How so?” Umbra queried.

“She seems too good to be true,” Caine replied.

“You have no idea,” Umbra muttered under his breath. “Well, it’s been nice checking in with you,” he announced as he rose from the table.

“Yes,” Caine responded. “I hope to see more of your business, perhaps you could let us take over your accounting in the future.” The two men shook hands and parted ways.

Sensing that there was something that didn’t quite ring true about Abraham Caine and his sons, Heolstor Umbra made a call to a private detective to do a little digging. As luck would have it, the detective was still in his office when Umbra called.

“Hello,” the detective answered, “Smith Detective Agency, who’s calling?”

“Hello, John,” Umbra replied. “It’s Heolstor. If you aren’t too busy, I have a job for you out here.”

“I’m never too busy for an old client,” John Smith replied. “What can I do for you?”

“I need a background check,” Umbra said. “One that digs deep into the past of a family that I’m doing business with.”

“Usual fee?” John asked.

“Double, plus expenses. Penthouse apartment and fancy rental car included. How soon can you get here?”

“I’ll call when I arrive at the airport,” John said. “I still have that card that you gave me for expenses the last time.”

Early the next morning, John rented a silver Maserati Levante and drove to a breakfast meeting with Umbra at his penthouse apartment. Umbra welcomed John warmly. “How was the flight? Did you get any sleep?” he asked. “Of course, you did, what am I thinking. Come in. Breakfast is ready,” Umbra pointed to a seat across the breakfast table. He waved his hand at a young woman who rushed over with a pot of coffee.

John knew better than to discuss business during the meal. It didn’t quite measure up to John’s exacting standards, but Umbra always did like his eggs a little runny. John took his time eating, matching the pace of his host and finishing the meal at the same time. The plates were cleared away and a second cup of coffee had been poured when John finally asked, “Who do you want me to dig up dirt on?”

“No, no,” Umbra replied waving his hands, “it’s nothing like that. I just want you to look into their family history, where they came from, make sure they don’t have any skeletons in their closet. That’s all.”

“I still need a name,” John asserted.

“Of course, of course,” Umbra motioned for a piece of paper and a pen. John passed both across the table and Umbra wrote them down. “You will of course keep this hush hush, correct?”

“Don’t I always?” John replied.

John looked at the two names on the piece of paper and headed for the local library. It was the best place to start an anonymous search for public information on either of the two men. There was a wealth of positive publicity regarding Abraham and Thomas Caine, but surprisingly little biographical information. A newspaper article did mention that Thomas’ older brothers were senior partners along with their father. But there was next to nothing about their mother or where they came from.

John broke for lunch and went to his favorite café. While there, he watched two couples enter the café and sit together for lunch. One woman in particular caught his eye and kept him distracted through his lunch. She reminded him so much of Lucy, if Lucy were twenty years younger. Something about her smile, her laugh, the glint in her eyes, everything about the way she moved reminded him of Lucy Morgen. He sat for a while after finishing his lunch, nursing his coffee and keeping an eye on her.

When the couples left, one of the men parted ways. It was then that John caught a glimpse of Thomas Caine. He followed the three back to the offices of Caine Accounting Services, LLP. He walked back to the Rainforest Café and engaged an old friend in conversation.

“Back again?” Lola asked as John sat down at the table previously occupied by Thomas Caine. “What can I get you?”

“Coffee, apple pie, and some answers,” John replied.

“So, the usual,” Lola replied as she wandered off to fill his order. She returned shortly with a cup of coffee and a slice of apple pie. “It’s a good thing we aren’t busy,” Lola said as she sat down across from John. “What do you want to know?”

“Tell me about the four people who sat at this table earlier. One of them was Thomas Caine. Who are his friends?” John asked.

“Let’s see,” Lola replied, “They’ve been coming here on a regular basis, so I do know who they are. The woman with the light brown hair is named Helen. The blond is Helen’s friend, Lois. And the other guy is Markus. Markus is a doctor of some kind and an old friend of Thomas’. That’s about all I know”

John slipped a fifty across the table and smiled. “Thanks, Lola, as always you’re a doll.” Lola pocketed the bill, winked, and went back to waiting on customers. John finished off his coffee and pie, then returned to the library to do a little more research. John spent a better part of the afternoon on identifying the correct Doctor Markus somebody. It was easier to find information on Doctor Markus Charles. John took notes from the doctor’s biography. At some point Markus had crossed paths with Thomas and once he found out where John could gather more information on Thomas. John decided to work backwards from there with the belief that following the son would eventually lead to the father and the rest of the Caine family.