Fiddlestix has just been introduced to Donna Varin. He approached her in a dive called Low Blow Gonzalez’ Bar in what’s left of downtown Daytona Beach, Florida. Varin is full of surprises, but he also has an interesting job offer.
“The contractor king?”
Varin had forged an empire by building substandard housing for the poor. Dozens of lawsuits were pending. To avoid controversy,he went into hiding. Now here he sat bold as brass, begging for her help.
” Yes,” he muttered. ” But it’s not what you think.”
” Mr. Varin was indisposed for awhile,” Blacksmith explained.
“A lot was done in my name,” Varin said fixing her with a commanding gaze. ” My affairs were mishandled by people I thought I could trust.”
Fiddlestix propped one foot on an unsteady chair, lighting a cigarette while she waited for him to continue. Instead, he turned to Blacksmith, eyes pleading.
Blacksmith stepped forward. ” What Mr. Varin is trying to say, is that while he was indisposed, things went wrong in his business and his wife disappeared.”
” Define indisposed. How could all this happen without his knowledge or consent?”
” I was medically incapacitated.”
Fiddlestix was getting annoyed, which usually meant she got violent. ” That didn’t explain at all. I want plain English, Varin, or I walk.”
” Well, I was dead.”
He nodded nervously. ” For a period of five years, I was dead. This body is a replacement, the first one died of a rather dreadful disease.”
” You’re a clone?”
” Yes. You see, I had my former body held in stasis until I could reunite my body with my psyche.”
” Spare me the details. It sounds like it’s bordering on metaphysical, let’s not go there.” She turned away, waving her hand, ending the discussion.
” I badly need your help, Miss Braun.”
Fiddlestix whirled on him, grabbing his shirt. ” Don’t ever use that name! Hannah Braun is dead.”
The bodyguards stepped forward. Buzzard laid a restraining hand on her shoulder. Blacksmith detached her fingers from his employer’s shirt front.
” I would hate to hurt a lady, but if you do that again, ma’am, I’ll end you,” Buzzard said in a mild tone.
Shrugging their hands aside, she stalked away from Varin. ” You still haven’t said what you want.”
” I hear you’re connected.”
” Maybe you heard wrong.” She lit another cigarette and waited, feigning disinterest. The set of her broad shoulders gave her away.
Varin shook his head. ” You have a relationship with two groups I most need to contact. Not many can boast the same.”
” I have many acquaintances. Which ones?” She blew smoke at him casually, as if he didn’t have her full attention.
” The Shine Clan and the Harlichs.” Varin looked smug.
” I don’t know who you mean.” It was a feeble bluff.
” You know exactly who I mean. My wife also has connections with them, which is why I need your help.”
” Maybe she wanted to leave you, Varin. Did that occur to you?”
He shook his head adamantly. ” Scarlet would never do that.”
” What connection does your wife have with them?”
” The same as you, blood bond.”
Fiddlestix fell silent, waiting.
” The name Scarlet Obert Varin should elicit a distinct response from both organizations.”
” Hannah Braun officially died eight years ago, Varin. I don’t know if my contacts will be expecting a call from me.”
” All I ask is that you try. I will pay you handsomely.”
” How handsomely?”
He named a figure that made her mind boggle. That got her full attention.
” Half now, half when the job is complete.”
” You are aware it’s a face to face. I can’t just call and expect them to talk to me.”
Varin nodded again. ” I am aware of that. The boys will accompany you.”