A Candle for a Corpse
~ Prologue ~
The man named Ezekiel sat at his desk humming an off key tune while he created and formed ten single candles. Each was unique and deadly. Each served a different purpose in the higher plan. He made sure to put his stamp on the bottom. He always did that with all the candle creations he sold in his shoppe.
He packaged each of the candles in separate boxes. Ten little candles for ten little spies, little nuisances. All headed up by the biggest nuisance of all, Franklin Fairchild.
Ezekiel couldn't stop, so he made a few more deadly wax creations. His voice sing-songed as dripping wax flowed over capsules containing various types of dangerous apparatuses.
"Ten little spies, think they're doing fine, one gets dead, then there were nine. Nine little spies, all think it's fate, one gets shocked, then there were eight..." Over and over he repeated the odd melody. He never tired of the ditty. He would only find peace once he had his daughter back and Franklin Fairchild and the Legacy paid for their sins.
The devices on the table top before him were crude but effective. Splashes of candle wax dotted the counter top. Carefully, he submerged each electronic capsule into a wax mold. Ten metal molding forms stood like silent sentinels before him . They were innocuous looking things that usually discharged his charming, aromatic scents. But now, they would mold death into their colorful structures.
Once the wax dried he would have ten very efficient killing machines, all fashioned in the form of an innocent looking candle. He had to admit, it was a genius idea. No one would suspect harm would come from such a pleasing gift. Ezekiel took pride in making the candles elaborately designed, which was almost as important to him as the ticking bomb inside each one of them. Each candle unique. Each candle created to kill.
He was certain, one way or another, one-by-one, by their own hand, each of them would die.
~ Chapter One ~
Dyan Ransom answered the phone saying the words she had uttered at least a thousand times. The voice on the other end of the line was Adrian Zeller, international playboy and owner of Zeller's Specialty Shoppe. His voice sounded devoid of all human emotion. During the call, he informed her he had a few items for her to package and deliver for his father.
It was a very rare occurrence for Adrian to call the shoppe himself. He usually left that task to an underling. He never usually felt the need to make any of his wants about the shoppe made known. It was like he was a stranger in his own business. The man was not a shining example of a CEO. He rarely, if at all, took Zeller's Specialty Shoppe into consideration, except maybe at tax time, and maybe not even then.
A wafting scent of White Diamonds surrounded Dyan as she placed the receiver on the cradle. "Who was that, dear?" An elderly woman parted the curtains that hid the back room from the customer's view. Dagmar Krause was dressed in her usual workday smock, looking every inch the German woman she was.
Dagmar and her husband, Topper, were the only reason Zeller's stayed in business at all. It was because of their love of antiques, quirky knack at picking the best flea market finds, and devotion to Adrian's father, that they pulled in any revenue at all.
"It was Mr. Zeller, himself," Dyan quipped, her violet eyes mirrored how tired she was and it was obvious she hadn't enjoyed the conversation with her playboy boss.
"My, such a sassy tone for so late in the day." Dagmar dragged a broom across the spotless floor. "Was he his usual automated self? I swear, sometimes that man is as emotionless as a walking ice box."
"Apparently, he has a bundle of items he wants us to pick up, wrap and deliver. I guess he forgot how to use the American Postal System."
Dagmar snorted. "That man doesn't know how to do anything for himself."
"And the kicker is that he wants me to personally come over and pick up the items right now. I don't think the man even comprehends that we're short-handed and yet still running a business here."
"I imagine not. The day that man thinks about someone other than himself, is the day hell freezes over."
"I can't believe you're doing this," Rudy Kent towered over the small blonde woman in the confined elevator. The muzak was eerie, and the lights a sickly amber. "He's going to find out. Then there will be hell to pay."
"He's not going to find out."
Her voice was child-like and soft. He doubted she would ever come into a sultry tone that would drive men wild. She'd have to rely on her perfect body to do that.
"He's not going to find out," she said with a conviction of not getting caught. "Kaye is out of town. We look exactly alike. He'll never be able to tell the difference."
"Alison, this is crazy," Rudy was definitely not in favor of putting something this big over on Jared. One could never tell how he would react.
"I know," she chuckled with glee. "And so much fun! I want him, and I plan to have him. Sister or no sister."
Alison smiled wickedly at Rudy. "This is going to work. Now all you have to do is keep your mouth shut."
Minutes later after they exited the elevator, they found a delivery boy blocking Jared Quinn's doorway. He signed for the package, and welcomed them both inside his newly refurbished apartment. Like all proud condo owners, he gave them the two cent tour and pointed out the places he had worked on himself.
"Well, you two. Love to stay and catch up, but I have a date." Rudy sent Alison a stern look but she only smiled playfully at him. He was not going to watch her crash and burn. He saluted them both and disappeared around the corner heading for another apartment in the same building.
Jared closed the door trapping the two of them in his apartment alone. "Do I even want to know who the big guy is dating this week?" He placed the package he had forgotten he was holding on the coffee table. "I swear, he has a girl in every port."
"He's playing the field. What man wouldn't?" Alison smiled at him with a twinkle in her eye. She knew exactly where Mr. Kent was going to spend his night tonight. "And I have it on good authority that he's hot for the Hawaiian gal. What's her name?" She struggled to find the name in her memory.
"Nikki Carpenter." Jared knew what it was to fall for a woman like Nikki. The two of them had dated off and on for years, but they never seemed to be able to make it work since Nikki held onto the hope that her partner, Mackenzie Gray, would eventually see her as more than a co-worker.
"What are you doing here?" Dyan couldn't believe her luck. What was Dare doing here? Why wasn't he off cavorting with whomever his new conquest of the week was? She didn't need this agony. She only had wanted to wash her face and brush off the dirt from her day before joining Adrian at his mansion to pick up the package he had mentioned.
"Dare, you have to leave me alone. We're separated now." Dyan made her way to the bathroom listening to Dare rant on about the reason for their separation and how he was not in favor of it.
"Not by my choice," Dare Ransom said hostilely. "And I still don't know the reason for the turn around. What happened with us, Di?
"You have to ask? she said with disgust. Dyan turned around to leave, but Dare blocked her exit, slamming a hand against the wall in front of her.
"Not so fast. We're not finished here." His voice was low and lethal. He was tired of trying to figure out why Dyan had filed for divorce.
"Yes," she said, sternly. "Yes, we are finished." She marched out of their home, or what she used to think was their home before he ruined it all with his infidelity, and slammed the door and their past behind her.
"Make yourself at home. I'm running a little late, so let me grab a quick shower, then I'll be ready in a flash." Jared disappeared into the already steamy bathroom. She could hear the shower running and giggled to herself. Tonight was going to be the first night of the rest of their lives together. She could see it now. Alison peeked into the bag the delivery boy had dropped off. Inside the cellophane package was a gorgeous and elaborately designed candle. The card attached simply said, "Light me."
"Wow," she commented. "Someone must really like you a lot." Alison noted the familiar EZ on the bottom of the candle. This was an Ezekiel Zeller original. Her sister, Dyan had quite a few similar candles in her own home. She talked to herself as she carried the candle into Jared's bedroom.
"Let's light this and set a romantic mood," she whispered to no one. It was perfect. This was the perfect prop to lure Jared into bed. Nothing could be more perfect.
Alison placed the dark blue marbleized candle on the night stand and lit it. The aroma was amazing. Definitely worth every penny someone had spent on it.
"I'm sorry to bring you all the way out here, Ms. Ransom, but it seems my father has already taken to the matter of delivering his gifts." Adrian Zeller motioned toward a high back chair, elaborately carved. Dyan knew it must have cost a fortune. "Please sit."
"I really can't stay long. Mrs. Krause can only handle the shoppe by herself for a limited time."
Adrian nodded. He leaned back, opening his jacked and tugging at his three hundred dollar tie. "I understand, but since you're already here... I thought maybe we could get to know each other better."
Dyan rolled her eyes. She only knew Adrian by reputation, but she was sure his reputation as a notorious ladies man couldn't be far from wrong. She sighed and fidgeted in her chair. What was it about her that attracted men who would could not commit to a monogamous relationship?
"Mr. Zeller, I've worked for you for three years. Why is it you didn't acquaint yourself with me then?"
Adrian smiled, and she could see his mind working on an answer. "I'll be the first to admit how short sighted I've been, but it's taken a lot of my time to prove my father's innocence and get him released from prison."
"Oh." Dyan didn't know what she had been expecting, but it hadn't been that. She never realized that Adrian had personal problems. Who could fathom that a billionaire could be a devoted son to his father, especially such a narcissistic man as Adrian. "I'm sorry. I didn't know."
"Perfectly all right. We've kept the media attention to a minimum. I just wanted to get my father back. It's hard enough knowing I'll never see my little sister again. So, I'm sure you can understand what motivated me to save him."
Dyan didn't ask the obvious question, but Adrian felt compelled to answer it anyway.
"My sister was kidnapped when she was just a child. It was hard on my family, especially my mother. She died a few years after the kidnapping. It was tough on both of us." Adrian repositioned himself in the chair and loosened his tie a bit more. For the first time since she had known him, he looked uncomfortable. "I need my father in my life, Dyan. And I will do anything to keep him safe and out of prison. Anything."
Jared Quinn let the hot spray of the shower loosen his shoulders. He'd been looking forward to his date with the beautiful Kaye Corday for weeks. It was something he never thought would happen. Kaye had always been so opposed to agents dating one another. He didn't know what had changed her mind, but he was glad she had reconsidered.
Tonight was going to be a very special night. He had to remember to take it slow. Kaye had been hurt by love before. He didn't want to spook her before they actually had a chance to explore what he knew was pulsing between them.
With only a towel slung over his hips, Jared sauntered into the bedroom. He had his gray slacks and black t-shirt lying on the bed. As the fog around him cleared, he could see Kaye stretched out atop the clothes. Maybe tonight was going to be even better than he imagined.
He sank onto the bed and leaned down putting his lips to Kaye's throat. "I never realized you felt this way about me," he whispered. "I know we've worked together for years, but I've always wanted more. I've always wanted you." He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her into him, spooning her back against his front.
It took a few seconds for him to realize Kaye wasn't moving. She looked so alive and vibrant in the soft glow of the candlelight.
"Kaye? Kaye?" Jared shook her. "What's wrong with you?" He shook her again, getting scared now. "Wake up, dammit!"
He put a finger to her slim neck. Her pulse fluttered weakly. "No! No! Not now, dammit!"
Jared reached across the bed to the phone, knocking the candle off the night stand to the floor. It blew out on its way down spiraling wisps of smoke upward. He punched in a series of emergency Legacy numbers into the receiver. "You've got to get here now!" he shouted. "I think Kaye is dying!"