A lunch gathering of old friends at Richmond’s historic Hotel Jefferson finds Countess Dottie Borghase dialing 911 to report the sudden collapse of her dear friend, Camilla. The subsequent death of Camilla Rothrock, the mother of decorated U.S. Army General Stuart Rothrock, has authorities buzzing with concerns about international safety and retaliation.
When other restaurants have patrons succumb to similar illnesses and death, the Richmond Police, local FBI and their Washington profilers assist Michaela and Dottie in the chase of two nefarious and heinous mass murderers without souls or conscious.
Snake laughed and clapped his partner on the back. “Way to go, tall guy. Good deal. You know we gotta maximize our efforts. Neither one of us wants to work hard or take extra chances, especially now since they’re lookin’ for me anyway.” Snake moved closer to the glass carboy and smiled as he saw the colorless, odorless and tasteless five gallon drum of liquid. “Man, that looks good. Does it have a smell?”
Boris bent his shiny, bald head forward and sniffed deeply. “No, not that I can tell. I can’t smell anything, but I haven’t got a good nose anyway. “You give it a sniff and see what you think,” he said as he gestured towards the liquid.
Snake moved next to the large glass container and noticed additional small beakers and test tubes of fluid sitting to the side. Each container was labeled and numbered. “You must’ve been a hell of a chemist back in the day,” he remarked as he finger-combed his greasy black hair off his face. Sometimes he wore it in a ponytail but he hadn’t pulled it back today. He bent over and sniffed the carboy. “Nah. Nothing.” He shook his head and said, “I can’t smell nuthin’ either. Good job, my man,” he said enthusiastically, a slow smile spreading across his swarthy, pockmarked face. “You’re a real scientist.”
Boris lit a cigarette, coughed and said, “Man, you have no idea of the stuff I can do. You ain’t seen nothing. I got more killing recipes than Carter’s got little liver pills.” He smiled ominously and showed his rotten teeth. Snake felt a tinge run up his spine. This guy even looked like the monster his reputation claimed he was. He decided to watch himself carefully around Boris and never give him the upper hand.
Snake nodded, “Yeah. Well, I got plenty of chances to see your talents this week!” Once again he checked out his partner and sized him up. He was a dangerous, unpredictable, scary dude.
“Yeah, but I’m never tellin’ you much,” Boris assured him. “There’ll most likely be one day I’ll wanna kill you,” he admitted, the broad grin again slicing through his pale, skeletal face. This guy’s serious. He is crazy.
Snake ignored him and brushed invisible lint off the front of his blue scrubs. “Shut-up man. No need for talk like that.” He knew Boris was a madman, totally wacko. His handlers had told him to be careful. But the money had been too good to pass up and besides, he could take good care of himself. His reputation spoke for him. He had no idea who his bosses were and little was known about the Russian scientist. Rumor suggested he’d long been a mortal enemy of the United States and other stories suggested he was an assassin. Snake didn’t want to push the point. He picked up the container of fluid and placed it in front of him, his face a mask of evil.
“You know what, Boris, old man, I’m thinking we can wipe out an army… or at least a police force with this stuff. Whatdaya think?” He gave him a half smile.
Boris stared at him, his cold grey eyes, bony face and crushed skull glistened in the low light from the barred windows. His eyes roamed the room to the large aquarium that housed all kinds of prickly fish and marine life. The huge tank glowed eerily in the fading light. Boris stared at his fish fondly and gave Snake a strange look and said in a quiet voice, “Of course we can. I already said that. What do you think the plan is?”
“Dottie, where did you get that marvelous Italian leather bag? I’d die for one like that,” Camilla Rothrock gushed in her drawn out Alabama accent. “I’ve just gotta have one.”
Dottie held up her newest leather pocketbook so all of her best friends could ooh and ah over it. “I had it made especially for me in Italy,” she bragged. The bag was beautiful, soft and buttery between her fingers. “I really love it. Look, it has a special gun pocket stitched in so I can carry my very own Glock,” she said proudly as she pulled her gun holster out of her purse and swiftly returned it before anyone noticed.
Margaret Massie glared from her from across the round table. “Oh for heaven’s sake, Dottie! Give it a rest! Whatever do you need to carry a gun around for? We’re a bunch of old ladies. No one is gonna mess with us,” she admonished as she rolled her eyes and batted her false eyelashes at her best friend of many years. “We’re hardly ever left on our own.” She glowered as her friend.
“Margaret Massie, how can you possibly be so short-sighted?” The Countess Dorothy Borghase exclaimed, disgust evident on her aging, but still lovely face. She flipped her head and a long piece of silver-white hair escaped from her elegant chignon. “After all you’ve been through?” She stared at her friend in disbelief and continued, “That’s precisely the reason we need to pack some heat. Because we are old and weak and can’t run as fast. We’re sitting ducks for most of the bad guys out there.”
Margaret squinted her eyes and frowned at her. “Pack some heat? Really. You sound like you’re in a …” Margaret paused for a moment and looked at her friends, “what do they call it, a gang. What is it? Gangsta talk, or however you say it?” she added sarcastically. As the wife of one of the wealthiest men in Virginia and a blueblood from birth, Margaret didn’t know much about gangs or crime. “But still, Dottie… really, a handmade purse… from Italy, nonetheless, especially designed for your gun? Puhleeze. That’s ridiculous, a bit over the top, wouldn’t you agree, Kathryn?” Margaret asked as she glanced over at Kathryn Lee who was watching her friends an amused look on her face.
Kathryn Lee of Wyndley Farm in Hanover County laughed, her blue eyes crinkling in the corners as she smiled over her water goblet at her friends of many years. Kathryn was the wife of law and order politician Congressman Adam Patrick Lee of Virginia and she clearly had an opinion. She was one of the best target shooters around and could shoot better than most men. She opened her mouth to respond when Dottie interrupted her.
Dottie rearranged one of the intricate wire combs holding her classic up do in place. Her silver hair gleamed under the brass and crystal chandelier in Lamaire Restaurant at Richmond’s historical Hotel Jefferson. “I didn’t design it just for my gun,” she said defensively. “I designed it for my cell phone, my makeup, for the color of the leather, the intricate stitching, the design, and beyond that, the label,” she replied in a snarky voice. Dottie paused for a moment and added, “Besides Vitrio Lanbrucci has been designing fine leather for the Borghase family for over a hundred years.”
Margaret rolled her eyes and turned to Kathryn. “So, Kathryn, what do you think? I know you’d tried to answer my question a few minutes ago,” she said pointedly as she turned to stare at Dottie, “but the Countess forgot her manners. Don’t you think Dottie’s gun purse is a little over the top?” Really,” she opined, a smirk on her face.
Kathryn opened her mouth to answer when Dottie interrupted again, her vivid blue eyes wide with concern. She stared at Camilla who looked strange, frightened, actually. Her pupils were wide and she seemed unable to speak.
“Camilla, whatever is the matter with you? Your face is flushed and your eyes are enormous. Are you ill?” Dottie asked as she rose from her seat.
Kathryn was alarmed as well since Camilla was unable to respond. Her eyes stared wildly at them and she opened her mouth but no words came out. Suddenly, she fell forward, and her head lolled on the table.
“Kathryn, call 911 on your phone. She must’ve had a stroke of something,” Dottie commanded as her heart raced with fear. It could be my head lying on the table and not Camilla’s. Life seemed very precious to Dottie at that second. I sure don’t wanna die in Lamaire restaurant in the Hotel Jefferson. What a spectacle that would be! Of course, she knew Camilla’s didn’t either and as she stood by her friend, tears popped into her eyes. I’ll have to call General Rothrock and tell him something dreadful has happened to his mother.
Kathryn flagged a waiter and moved closer to Camilla’s chair and checked her pulse. She could barely feel it as it was weak and irregular. Kathryn looked into Camilla’s eyes and her pupils that were huge and dark, liquids pools of fluid that saw nothing. Her face was flushed and red.
A moment later, a young waitress carrying a huge serving tray staggered forward and then fell to the floor, spilling food, water and wine all over the oriental carpet. She lay prone and unresponsive.
“Make that two ambulances,” Dottie motioned to the maitre’d who was on his way over.