I take zero credit for this story, it was written by Franco. I'm posting here on his approval.
Chapter 12: Phoenix, Arizona - Part 2
I got a wake up call at seven from the front desk telling me room service was on the way up with my breakfast and that I should be ready to leave at eight. Within minutes I heard the noise of the officer on guard checking my breakfast, then it was brought in. They hadn't asked what I wanted, but I enjoyed it, finishing all the food - scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee and juice.
I showered, shaved and got dressed in the clothes I got yesterday. Strangely, after everything that happened, I was feeling pretty good, I concluded that must have been another effect of the ability to control my emotions the aliens had given me.
There was a knock on the door, then the officer's voice, "Mr. Mannheim, your escort is here to take you to Santa Barbara."
I opened the door and the officers came in. They introduced themselves as Detective Wirtz, of the Santa Barbara Police Department, and Corporal Garcia, of the California Highway Patrol. Officially, they explained, I was to be the Patrol's guest for the flight back because we would be using a California Highway Patrol aircraft.
It was a two-engine plane, about the same size as my dad's but newer, and with turbo-prop engines instead of the piston engines on my dad's plane. The flight only took a little more than an hour.
Detective Wirtz was polite, respectful, because of my aura, and wasn't interested in interrogating me during the flight. After a brief conversation, he put his seat back and dozed off. I took the opportunity to scan him, finding out as much as I could about what he knew about the massacre.
In fact, the police didn't know much more than I did. They surmised the killers must have been terrorists of some sort, but were unclear what group they belonged to, or the reason for the attack. Though Detective Wirtz suspected I might have had something to do with the murders, while he slept I was able to build in his mind sufficient rationales to convince him of my innocence.
We were met at Santa Barbara's little airport by a patrol car and transported to the police station. Even though I was only being detained as a material witness, the police planned a rigorous interrogation of me.
A detective captain and lieutenant and an FBI agent from LA forced me to repeat my story over and over, until they were convinced I was telling the truth. Of course, by using my power I was able to convince them. Scanning my interrogators, and the rest of the department, I found the police had no more information about the massacre or my attackers than I already knew - which was very little.
When the interrogation was over and they said I was free to go, I used the police station phone to call Phoenix, asking them to arrange a ticket for me on a flight from Santa Barbara to Phoenix. After a while, Irma called back to let me know she had booked a flight leaving in about two hours. I asked the police if I could go to my father's ranch, I wanted to see what it would take to get it habitable again.
Detective Wirtz drove me. When we got to the gate, the officer posted there waved us in. Driving up to the house, you wouldn't notice anything unusual, except for the quiet and lack of movement. We parked, then went in the front entrance.
As we walked through the house toward the back, the disorder became more apparent. In the kitchen, I almost lost it again as I saw the bloodstains and remembered what caused them. In my father's office, "Is this where they got you?" Wirtz asked, looking at the broken furniture, the scattered papers.
"Yeah, I was going for my dad's gun, but they grabbed me before I could get it."
The rest of the house was in a state of disorder from the ninjas' ransacking. As we looked in Candace's room - the room she had shared with my father, and with me, once - I wondered about contacting her family. "They've been notified," he said. "Her parents are planning on having the body shipped home to Tennessee for burial as soon as the coroner releases it. They said they would fly out here, for her things, when we're ready. And we notified the servants' families too, those we could find."
I went to my room, at the end of the hall, got my bag and packed my things that the servants had unpacked only a few days ago. Then, "Let's go," I said.
In the car driving back to Santa Barbara, I thought about what I needed to do. My first concern was the safety of my women, especially Kim and Kristen. With all the publicity, my enemies must realize their connection to me.
Wirtz dropped me off at the airport saying, "Just keep us informed of your whereabouts, Mr. Mannheim."
In the terminal, I picked up my ticket, found a pay-phone. First I called my mother in Adrian. She was relieved to hear from me, though she said, "Louise called to let me know you were safe and free. That was really thoughtful of her." I agreed and asked if she would be coming to Phoenix for the funeral. "No," she answered. "I don't think that's necessary. It's better for me here with Grandma, and you can represent our side of the family."
I agreed with her, hung up, then called my playmates in LA. Within seconds both Claudia and Bobbi were on the line laughing and crying at everything that had happened. After they calmed down a little, Bobbi said, "Rob can you come here for a few days? We could all be together and then go to your father's funeral together."
I paused, thinking about how much I would like to be with them. "No, I have to go to Phoenix and help Louise, my dad's wife, and I want you to stay at your condo in LA. Now listen, this is important. Do you remember the girl in Las Vegas you talked to on the phone about me and the ranch?"
"Sure, Ki... " Bobbi started to answer when I interrupted with "No names." Then I continued, "Do you have her cell number?"
"We have it," Claudia answered.
"Okay, call her and tell her I want her and her sister to go to your condo as soon as possible. I want you all together so you can protect each other. They should fly to LA right away, today or tomorrow, and you two meet them at the airport. Stay inside as much as possible. When you go out, all of you go together."
"We understand," Claudia said.
"We'll do what you want," Bobbi echoed. "But can't you come here?"
"I will, after the funeral. Do you have any weapons?"
"We've got MACE," Claudia answered. "And I know how to shoot, but we don't have a gun."
"Okay we'll think about getting you more weapons later. Now, you're clear on what you need to do? I don't want you taking any chances."
"We know Rob," Claudia said.
"It sounds so dangerous, I just wish you were here with us," Bobbi said, her voice shaky.
"I'll be there in a few days. Just make sure you're ready to handle me," I laughed.
"Ohh, We'll handle you," Bobbi said the thrill obvious in her voice. "And there'll be four of us then. Can you handle four hot girls?"
"He'll handle us, all of us, don't worry," Claudia laughed.
We all laughed at that, the girls reassuring me they would do as I said. I told them to let me know if they needed any money, but they said they had enough, even to buy airline tickets for Kim and Kristen. Finally I said, "Okay, I've gotta go now. I'll see you Monday, or probably Tuesday. Remember what I said."
"We'll remember," Claudia said. "I... we love you, Rob."
"I love you too," Bobbi echoed. "Rob, I love you so much."
I told them I loved them, then we ended the call. I grabbed lunch, then boarded the plane, and in about an hour and a half landed at Sky Harbor.
Irma was waiting for me. She looked good, wearing a blue tee-shirt and tan shorts. She smiled happily, saying, "Glad you're back, Rob, and that terrible thing is over."
"Yeah, at least I'm not under suspicion," I said as we walked toward the exit. "But it's not over, we still don't know who ordered the massacre at the ranch."
"But I thought you killed them, three of them... in Las Vegas."
"Yeah, I killed them, but we don't know who ordered it, or why," I said as we reached the Lexus. I tossed my bag in the back, climbed in the passenger seat and let Irma navigate us out of the maze of roads around Sky Harbor.
Once we were on the freeway, I asked, "Will you be putting me up in the same hotel again?"
She turned to smile at me for a moment. "No, you're the head of the family now. Louise said we need to have you at the house."
Suddenly, something occurred to me. "Can we go to the hospital?"
She turned again, looking into my face for an instant. "Why?"
"Do you have Doctor Meisner's home number?"
"No... Oh, you can get it at the hospital?"
"Yeah, let's make a quick detour. I need to find out about the autopsy results."
Of course Doctor Meisner wasn't there on a Saturday. It took longer than I thought, a half hour, to find someone at the hospital with access to his home address and phone number. When I got back to the car, I had Irma drive me to his house; luckily, he was home. Using my powers, I convinced him to meet me at the hospital tomorrow so we could go over my father's autopsy.
Now, we were on our way to the house again. Irma talked about who was coming to the funeral. Reena, my dad's first wife, was already there, staying at the house. Jill, her daughter, and her son-in-law and their children were planning on coming from Singapore, where they live, but they called yesterday to say a problem had come up with the husband's business and they wouldn't be able to make it.
"And Alison is here with her twin daughters. They're so cute, everyone loves them."
"Who's Alison?" I asked.
"She was the last of Eric's women to have children. They're twin girls, about eighteen months. You're gonna love them."
"So you doing okay?" I asked.
"Sure," she said, turning to smile at me. "It's been a lot worse for you, with everything that happened. I just wish I could have got pregnant by Eric, but... "
Irma had seemed so normal, even cheerful, I hadn't bothered to check her, to find out how she was affected by her grief. When I scanned her psyche, I found that the colors were wrong, disordered, sharper than they should be. Perhaps she wasn't as affected as Candace, because Irma had the companionship of Louise and Carol, and she had preparing for the funeral to keep her occupied, but everything indicated a disturbed psyche.
I probed further, finding she was twenty-four years old and had been my father's mistress for a little more than two years. She had been a student at ASU studying Business Administration and was modeling part time when she attracted my dad's attention. I saw the passion, the love of their relationship, and her despair at his death.
I closed my eyes, leaning back and concentrated on adjusting Irma's psyche, helping her reconcile herself to her grief, to realize that she had her whole life ahead of her. I must have dozed off for a few minutes, because I awoke suddenly when we pulled up in front of the house, a mansion really.
As I exited the car, Louise came out, rushing to the car, hugging me, saying, "Oh Rob, it must have been terrible, being kidnapped by those horrible people. Well it's all over and you're safe now."
I didn't bother to correct her as I grabbed my bag and let her lead me inside. I saw others in the sitting room, but, "You probably want to freshen up," Louise said, leading me upstairs, then through the double doors of the master bedroom.
"What's this? I don't need to take your room."
"No, Rob you're the head of the family now. I'll sleep in the guestroom with Reena, while Alison and her girls will be with Irma. Now, the bath's right through there," pointing at an open door leading to a huge bathroom. "You freshen up and come on down and meet Reena and Alison."
I used the toilet, washed my face, changed my shirt and went downstairs to the sitting room where I was introduced to Reena. Though I guessed she must be about sixty now, my father's first wife, was still an attractive woman. She was very exotic in appearance, hard to place, until I learned - later - she was the daughter of a black GI and a Viet Namese woman. "So your children couldn't come," I said.
She looked at me, a pleasant expression on her face. "Jill's husband is involved in international business, in Singapore. I guess at the last minute something came up and made it impossible for them to attend, though I'm sure she's heart-broken at missing her father's funeral."
Irma asked if I wanted a beer, and when I gave her a quizzical look, Louise said, "It's okay, Rob, you're the head of the family. Besides, we got some light beer especially for you." Sipping on the beer, poured into a glass by Irma, I asked Reena about her relationship with my father.
I gathered she was his first conquest after the aliens gave him the power. She was an undergraduate while he was in graduate school; that was before he gathered a harem. They married, and had two chidden. Reena looked into my eyes, "Our son Rick, Eric, was a Navy pilot, he was killed in combat. Now all I've got left is Jill and her children."
I looked into her psyche, finding she was at ease with my father's death. It hadn't really affected her, their relationship ended a long time ago. Scanning Carol and Louise revealed they were more troubled, not as much as Irma, perhaps because they had their children. I adjusted them enough that they would be able to come to terms with their grief.
The children were outside, with Alison and her twins. Louise led me out to the garden. Jimmy, Carol's son, was running over the grass chasing Louise's two children, while Alison was kneeling with her back to us, a twin on either side, helping them examine the flowers.
"Alison, Rob's here to meet you," Louise said. Alison stood, holding one of her girls by each hand. As she turned to face us, I saw the most beautiful woman I had ever encountered.
"Hello Rob," she said. "I'm Alison Linde, and these are my daughters with your father, Linda and Cathy."
For a moment, I was so overwhelmed by Alison's beauty I was unable to speak. She was tall, slim, with shoulder length, blonde hair combed back from her face. Her complexion was fine, flawless except for a few light freckles dusting the tops of her high cheekbones and the bridge of her nose. There was a sparkle in her unusual blue-gray eyes as she looked at me while I struggled to think of a response.
With effort, I managed to say, "Hello."
"Hell-Yo," said one of the girls.
More composed now, "Well, hello," I answered. "Are you Linda or Cathy?"
"Linda," she answered, sticking her fist in her mouth, moving to hide behind her mother's legs.
"I'm Cathy, she's Linda," the other twin said loudly.
"Glad to meet you Cathy," I laughed. "I'm Rob."
We, Louise, Alison and I, sat down at one of the patio tables, while the twins played in the dirt of the flower bed. The Mexican housemaid brought out a tray with a pitcher of lemonade. We were joined by Carol, Reena, and Irma, bringing me another glass of light beer. I took a swallow, waited till Louise finished pouring lemonade into glasses for the others, took another swallow of beer, then filled the top half of the glass with lemonade.
I looked at Alison, intrigued not only by her beauty but also by the uncomfortable feeling that I had met her before. When I asked, she laughed, "You must have seen one of my films."
"That's it, you were in the last James Bond movie."
"The second from the last, and I was just one of the girls, one of the Bond girls. Then I met Eric, and had those two," her eyes shifting to the twins.
"You're British?" I asked, having noticed she had a slight accent.
"Swedish actually, but I attended university in Britain, at Cambridge, and I've been living in the States now for four years, I thought my accent had disappeared."
I assured her the accent was nearly undetectable. We talked some more. I learned she lived in Connecticut, on a farm my father had purchased and deeded over to her. She was twenty-nine and had been my dad's mistress for about five years. Apparently, they met while she was making the Bond film in London.
The maid came back to check if we wanted anything, and Louise said, "Josie, we'll want to eat dinner in about an hour, in the dining room."
"Yes Miz Mannheim," she answered, hurrying back inside.
"I better get the twins fed," Alison said, standing, taking the girls' hands leading them inside.
Reena, who had been quiet most of the time, began speaking now, entertaining us with stories of her early married life with my dad. I gathered that when my dad first got his powers from the aliens he didn't understand their potential, or maybe he just chose not to use their full power.
It seemed like their life then was like that of most young newlyweds, full of love and poverty. We all laughed when she described how while painting their little apartment she tipped a gallon of paint on my father's head. How he pulled her down from the ladder, gave her a bear hug smearing paint over her, and they fell to the floor laughing hilariously.
She described their joy at the birth of their first child, Rick. Then she told how my father was away from their home more often on diplomatic missions for the UN, and becoming involved with other women. By the time Jill was born, my father was away more and more, and involved with more and more women. Eventually, the marriage ended, though he made sure Reena and her children were well provided for.
"The time we had together, it was wonderful. Even with the way it ended, I wouldn't give it up for anything. He was a wonderful man," Reena concluded, her eyes bright with tears.
The others echoed Reena about what a wonderful man my father was, and they were all tearing up now. I cleared my throat and stood, saying I wanted to clean up before dinner.
I peeked into the kitchen, where Alison was cleaning up her daughters after their meal. Seeing me, "Their table manners aren't quite what they should be. They need their bath after eating," she laughed.
The girls were in a double highchair. As she started to pull one up, the other twin grabbed her sister's leg. "Cathy, let go!" Alison said, holding Linda in one arm while trying to loosen Cathy's grip with her other hand.
"Let me help," I said, taking hold of Linda so Alison could pry Cathy's hand off her sister's leg.
Soon we had both twins standing on the floor, Cathy looking at me with a smug expression on her little face.
"Now it's bath time," Alison said. "Come on, you two, you need your bath." Holding their hands, she led them out of the kitchen toward the downstairs bathroom.
I grabbed some paper towels and was wiping off the highchair when Josie, who had been setting the table in the dining room, joined me wiping the highchair with a damp cloth. "Let me do that sir," she said. "That's not a job for you."
I thanked Josie as I left the kitchen. Climbing up the stairs, I could hear the twins splashing and laughing in the downstairs bathroom. In the master bedroom, my room for now, I found my bag had been unpacked. Josie must have done it, or her husband, the gardener. They were the only servants at the house, and wouldn't be of any help in an attack. I considered hiring guards, like at the ranch (though they hadn't been able to protect Candace and my dad's records), but decided I'd think about it more later.