Epilogue (KCLKF)

Saturday, July 28, 2415 | Bay City, Valverde 

Mortimer Goth was a patient man, by nature, but not a forgiving one. He didn’t abide by people failing to keep their word and arriving at the appointed time. He could wait for his intel but he couldn’t wait for an incompetent employee. Lateness implied a sort of impertinence that was not befitting of a person employed by the Goth family. There would be consequences.

His fingers rapped the thick glass of brandy, but he didn’t take a sip. It was too early for a celebratory drink. He was more of a bourbon man, but his daughter, Cassandra had purchased the bottle as a gift. He wasn’t going to deny the sweet girl her moment. He never understood why people enjoyed giving other people things. Gift giving was a dirty business, one he preferred to stay out of and let his personal secretaries handle.

Tonight had been tedious. Another onerous dinner of dry chicken and even drier conversation with some out-of-towners who wanted to contribute to the family foundation. Mortimer kept up the pretenses with politely worded questions and pleasant smiles. He had been in the business long enough to know when to grease the wheels and when to chew the fat.

However, he had more pressing matters to attend to so he excused himself from dinner and retreated to his study, allowing his personal assistant her moment to shine. The woman had served the family for over two decades and she knew all the tricks in the book. Just the right words to make people do and say exactly what he wanted. He had trained her well. It helped that she was half in love with him. At one point, he had convinced himself he might have loved her too.

Mortimer’s expression darkened, partially obscured by the shadows cast by the flickering light. The night was probably too hot for a fire, but he enjoyed the crackling sound of the logs. It soothed his rattled nerves, not as nicely as Nina Caliente’s long red fingernails unbuttoning his shirt and tracing her fingers down his chest, but it would have to do. Love made a man weak.

Over his lifetime, he had his fair share of women, but he wasn’t a pig. He could keep his appetite in check. He  could count on two hands, less than ten fingers, exactly the number of women he had been with. He treated them well, indulged their desires, and showered them with gifts. The very gifts he despised giving, but it was all part of the game. Lust was probably a younger man’s game, and Mortimer could admit it. Sometimes he wondered if the Caliente girl had him wrapped around her finger or if he really had her under his thumb.

He shrugged, and slugged back his evening beverage. Did it really matter who was screwing whom? As long as he got what he wanted… what were a few thousand simoleons dropped on presents every few months? And Mortimer was a man who always got what he wanted. Except punctual staff.

As if on cue, the bumbling employee tapped on the glass. A few seconds later, he hoisted himself through the window. If Mortimer were a decade or two younger, he might have been able to climb the violet trellis outside and sneak into the manor himself. His employee grinned, his bluish-tinted locks wild, his glasses fogging at the sudden change in temperature, his clothes dripping wet from the summer rains. Mortimer grimaced, hoping the jerk wasn’t ruining his Monte Vistan hardwood floors.

He was half-surprised the man didn’t knock on the front door. Mortimer had gone to great lengths to secure a suitable cover. But perhaps it was better this way. Cassandra had nearly recognized the guy from his other work, and Alexander had asked his father more recently if he was on the payroll. His children didn’t need to trifle in affairs they knew nothing about. Mortimer sighed, pouring himself another glass of the choice alcohol as he listened to the man’s repentant nonsense. He held up his hand.

“What do you have for me?”

Ever since his wife had shown her face in the Valley, Mortimer had been a man obsessed. She was supposed to be dead. Why now after all this time had she chosen to resurface? He toyed idly with his wedding band, perfect for playing the part of the bereaved widower. Everyone adored Bella. The public genuinely mourned her loss. And Mortimer did too, but for other reasons. Reasons he had never disclosed to anyone.

At first it was one appearance. A coffee shop on the southeast side of town. Rumors of sightings elsewhere had cropped up for years. Like the proverbial Elvis legend that just wouldn’t die. But not in his town. Not on his turf. Then another appearance at the Landgrabb Sell’n’Swap. She was with a guy. The same guy who had helped her evade capture before. Mortimer was a reasonable man. He didn’t want to hurt his wife. Despite her unfaithful nature. He wanted to protect her. He wanted to save her. She didn’t understand, even after all these years. Finally a third appearance at the Big Box Superstore. He wasn’t a fool. She was back. Bella was back. But why?

Mortimer reached out to the one man who could get him the answers he wanted. The man who had spent his life chasing story after story about Bella’s initial disappearance. A man who had been discredited into the point of oblivion. A man who had an obsessive nature like his own, but who failed to keep it in check.  It was his Achilles heel. And Mortimer was a master at exploiting a man’s Achilles heel, especially when that heel was his wife.

He learned she was interested in a girl. At first, she seemed like a nobody. Daughter of mediocre lower middle class parents. Member of surprisingly wealthy and politically connected Riviera family, who were, nonetheless, harmless little fish in the much bigger pond. He even agreed with most of their politics. The more intriguing bit was that she was the future stepdaughter of an undercover cop, investigating the Masons and Triple C’s, and she stepped into the middle of a mafia war without even really trying.

It was cute really. Her insistence on figuring out the pieces of a very big and very deadly puzzle. She had stormed his brother’s humble abode in search of answers. Mortimer even threw her a bone. The Altos had always annoyed him and needed to be taken out of play, and the Landgrabbs… well, they could be knocked down a peg or two. It was good for business.

“And that’s everything, boss,” the other man was saying. “She’s headed out of town tonight and I don’t think she’ll be back.”

“Right,” Mortimer said, the ice cubes clinking against the side of his glass as he stood. “Thank you for your time. There’s an envelope on the table over there,” he turned to face the bookcases. “Goodbye.”

“Wait…” the man exclaimed. “You’re firing me?”

“I’m paying you,” Mortimer sighed. “And I don’t need your services anymore.”

“So you’re firing me?” the man said in disbelief, but he, nonetheless, picked up the envelope. “This is three times my usual fee.”

“You were helpful,” Mortimer flicked an imaginary piece of dust from his red dinner jacket. “I pay my men well when they get the job done.”

“But the job’s not done, boss,” the man protested. “There’s still so much more we need to find. I could follow her. I know you want to find your wife and this girl might be the thing that brings her back to society. It’s drawn her out already three times. I don’t think she will stop just because the girl left the Valley. We still don’t have all the answers. If I could just have some more time.”

The man was too invested. He was in too deep. He cared too much. Mortimer knew it didn’t matter what he said. The man would still keep tabs on the girl in hopes of cracking the greatest and most infamous disappearance of all time. Mortimer quirked a brow. If the gentleman wanted to further ruin his career and reputation, who was he to stop him? Perhaps he would even prove useful… just not on the Goth family dime.

“I have everything I need,” Mortimer said. “That will be all,” he motioned toward the window as if shooing a pesky moth and not a full grown man and a washed-up reporter. “Goodbye, Mr. Shore.”

Author Notes: Thanks for reading. I wanted to drop some very real clues about the Bella mystery. I wasn’t ready to just let go of KCLKF without adding one final chapter with Mortimer and a certain someone who shows up later in previous iterations of Kass’s continued story. Perhaps you can guess where the story’s headed if you’ve read it before, or perhaps not. There’s a whole lot more mystery coming your way in the future. Hope you enjoyed. It’ll probably be a few weeks before I’ll be ready to continue so I’m leaving you with this cliffhanger. 😛

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