The Copycat Killers(5)

By: Paula Millhouse

A vulture’s view.

She thinned her lips. I’m going to shake your hold over this city.

Sure, the Old Woman laced legitimate tentacles throughout the glittering steel and glass village below, but her grandmother’s criminal activities interested Tia the most.

Why Miss Aida held back the information regarding his killer confounded her. Her grandmother’s neglect of her duties as matriarch made no sense. This Family never tolerates threats, much less murder. No explanation, no follow-up visits from the wise-guys? Tia scratched her head, pulled on a long strand of ebony hair.

“She’s going soft.” Tia rubbed her palms together. Anticipation flared. “We’re gonna inherit sooner than we thought. Old Woman’s losing her touch…”

She turned away from her future kingdom and invaded Miss Aida’s personal space. She assumed she’d find what she needed here, in her grandmother’s boudoir, in the big safe. She removed the heavy piece of artwork from the wall and dialed in the combination.

It opened, and Tia peered in.

Her eyes flew wide when she took in the contents of the safe. Her hand thrust out and seized a hardback book, hoping for details and accounts related to Marino Industries. Tia grimaced. It was a simple novel, a book titled Sins of the City. Useless. Why would the Old Woman keep a book in her private safe? She moved to throw the thing back inside, then her eyes narrowed.

Among the stacks of unmarked bills, and jewels she’d never seen Miss Aida wear, a monitor flickered to life. Tia’s mouth dropped open wide. Her grandmother’s face stared back at her through a live feed from her desk. Tia reared back. How the hell does she do that!

Miss Aida smiled at her. Raised brows and sapphire eyes waited for an explanation. She pointed at Tia. “If you needed some extra money, child, you simply should have asked. Why don’t you come join your little accomplice here in my office, and we’ll discuss what you’re really after?”

Tia shook out her hair in the reflection of the glass doors leading to Miss Aida’s office. She opened the doors and strode through the enormous entryway.

People were everywhere, working, dressed to the nines. Miss Aida insisted on the utmost professionalism at Marino Industries. The women were beautiful, and the men dressed to kill. One day soon this will all be mine, people. She nodded to familiar faces as she stalked into Marino Industries hallowed halls.

She stopped inside the grand double doors to fish out a penny to toss into Miss Aida’s ornate copper fountain. The fountain stood as focal point of the facility. Her grandmother paid a fortune to have the oriental Feng Shui talisman installed when Tia was a child. The basin was big enough to swim in, which she and her twin indulged in as children much to their grandmother’s chagrin. Tia loved the fountain.

She chose a particular wish to cast today. She laced her penny with the request for the name of her father’s murderer and tossed it into the water. Her penny floated down from the seven-tiered waterfall and spun down into the massive catch-basin carrying her wish out into the universe.

She turned and stepped toward Miss Aida’s office. She joined her brother on the silk-covered couch, and settled in. She cast a smile Miss Aida’s way, embarrassed she’d gotten caught pilfering her safe. The pinched look on the Old Woman’s face doused the glow on hers.

Miss Aida narrowed her eyes on the beautiful beasts. “Your father’s case is closed and I’m not telling you any of the details.” She gave them credit, though. They’d berated her with the same question for weeks.

Sure, they phrased the key question differently each time. Cloaked it in unassuming words and phrases. Jimmy graced it with tears, asked her quietly. Tia forced it with profanities. They disguised it with gifts hoping to distract her.

They wanted the name of their father’s killer.

Miss Aida stared them down.

Tia crossed her arms, leaned forward, and glared.

Miss Aida forced a smile, blood whooshing through her ears. She reigned in her anger.

She swung her glare over at Jimmy. He preened his hair on her opulent, silk-covered couch opposite her monstrous wooden desk. Marino Industries owned the entire building, and she’d chosen the 65th floor specifically to enjoy the landscape of everything happening in the city below her.

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