First Chapter of "Chameleon's Death Dance" by BR Kingsolver
Chameleon's Death Dance
Book 4 of the Chameleon Assassin Series
By BR Kingsolver
Copyright 2017 BR Kingsolver
Danielle Kincaid hit the Vancouver social scene with a splash. Variously called ‘a breath of fresh air,’ ‘an arrogant bitch,’ ‘refreshingly open and intelligent,’ ‘a promiscuous slut,’ ‘a spoiled rich girl,’ and probably a few dozen other labels—depending on the particular commenter’s point of view—she was certainly prominent. In a city with entrenched, and some might say fossilized, upper-crust families dating back before The Fall, the Kincaid name gave her instant access to high society that no one could deny.
Scion of the industrial dynasty founded by Daniel Kincaid two hundred years before, Danielle was a tall, dark blonde girl in her mid-twenties, beautiful, educated, and uninhibited. That she was wildly wealthy went without saying. She was a Kincaid.
Daniel Kincaid had been a visionary. Founder of a computer software company in Scotland at the end of the twentieth century, he paid close attention to the scientists who foretold an environmental catastrophe as humanity polluted the planet and changed the climate. He expanded his business empire to Northern Ireland, and then to Canada.
His three sons and one daughter inherited their father’s smarts and ambition, further expanding the business that became a dominant player in computer controls for solar, wind, and hydro energy production and distribution. Also like their father, they evidently enjoyed procreation and had a lot of children, who also had a lot of children. The business grew and prospered, and the family grew and prospered.
Danielle was the dynasty founder’s great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter. At her birth, the family probably expected her either to join the business, or to marry well and extend their wealth, influence, and power. Or both. But the older corporate families that controlled the world’s economy considered it quite acceptable for members of their newest generation to sow a few wild oats after university. Whether it was called ‘seasoning,’ or ‘gaining a broader perspective,’ it kept the young inheritors’ wild and undisciplined behavior out of the corporate halls until they were ready to settle down and get serious about making a few more billion or trillion credits to pass on to the following generation.
That would have been Danielle’s path in life had she survived past her first birthday. Not only had Danielle died at an early age, but her parents and her younger siblings, who she never met, had taken an ill-fated airplane ride a few years later, leaving no close relatives.
Since the Kincaid clan was so large, and spread so widely around the world, it was easy to take her identity and create the person she might have become. Through manipulation of various databases, including those inside Kincaid Controls Corporation, plus the planting of fake news stories on various net sites, she came back to life.
“Danielle! I’m so glad you could make it!” Marian Clark leaned close and we air-kissed each other’s cheek. Marian was the kind of effusive, cheerful woman whose speech was always somewhat breathy and excited. She was also the hottest and most exclusive hostess at the top end of Vancouver society. Her dark hair was perfectly coifed, her blue silk dress cost enough to support a middle-class family for a year, and her jewelry was even more lavish than my own.
I’d been in town for over a month, and had finally managed an invitation to one of her soirees. Of course I came. I would have crawled over broken glass to get there. If I could impress Marian and her friends, I’d be in—on the guest list of everyone who was anyone.
She introduced me to Sheila Robertson and Laura Henriquez—women who were also members of Vancouver social royalty—and turned me over to them to take me around and introduce me.
I recorded everything with a device in my bra. That was not the time to miss a name or forget an expression. Any of those people could be useful or harmful to my reasons for being in Vancouver. Not to mention linking a name to some of the jewelry they wore would help later to identify its location. In general, the jewelry was incredible. I tried not to drool, and was glad I hadn’t scrimped on my own wardrobe and accessories. Nothing about Marian or her guests could be described as understated.
Marian also was as subtle as a sledgehammer. The purpose of the cocktail party and dinner was to raise funds for Marian’s favorite charity, and I was quickly steered toward her secretary who was collecting the guests’ contributions. Cheryl Frind, who had helped me to get the invitation, suggested that ten thousand would be a proper donation. But I was playing a Kincaid, and I didn’t plan to take years climbing the social ladder. The fifty thousand I contributed caused the secretary’s eyes to widen slightly, and she gave my face a thorough study. I gave her a slight, acknowledging smile, and received an almost imperceptible nod in response. We were on the same page, and that was good.
Cheryl retrieved me from Sheila and Laura and handed me a flute of champagne immediately after the funds changed hands.
“I don’t know what you gave, but you impressed a couple of people,” Cheryl muttered. “I could see it in their faces.”
I smiled at the curvy, short-haired blonde who had become my closest friend in Vancouver. Barely over thirty, she had grown up in one of the city’s prominent families and married into another.
“It’s only money,” I said, taking a sip of the bubbly. “Getting in the good graces of this crowd is worth it.”
She gave me a searching look. “That almost sounded like a business comment. You’ll damage your party girl reputation if you’re not careful.”
With a laugh, I said, “Kincaids are given a shot of business with our mothers’ teats every morning. If I stumble across an opportunity, why wouldn’t I let my family know about it? They didn’t send me to university to study art.”
“You know, that’s part of what I like about you,” Cheryl said. “You don’t try to pretend you’re just a pretty face.”
I reached out and caressed her cheek with my fingertips. “You think I’m pretty? I’m flattered. How jealous is your husband?”
Cheryl blushed and looked down at her feet. And though she didn’t answer, she didn’t draw away from me, either.
“Your reputation is quite mixed.” Marian’s voice came from behind me. I turned and found her standing quite close. “It seems almost everyone who has met you has an opinion, and few of them agree.”
“Do I contradict myself? I contradict myself, then. I am vast. I contain multitudes,” I quoted.
“A Kincaid with a computer science degree isn’t a surprise,” Marian said, then smiled. “And somehow, I’m not surprised to hear you quote Whitman, either.” She nodded at Cheryl. “I’ve known Cheryl all her life. Her mother was my roommate at university. She said you were more than you appeared.”
I laughed. “She lies. She’s simply trying to save the men of Vancouver from my predatory ways. I’m just a typical trust-fund baby partying her way around the world and evading my familial responsibilities.”
Marian chuckled. “Please. That’s a little too much, even for this crowd. Well, what do you think?” she asked, looking around in a way that asked for comment on her house, and probably on the festivities in progress. I realized she was asking because a Kincaid would be familiar with grand houses and luxury.
The mansion was impressive from the outside, nestled in the forest of Stanley Island in the middle of Vancouver Bay. The winds off the ocean kept the air in the city almost breathable, and out in the bay itself, I had been told, I could take off my filter mask without danger.
Inside the house, of course, the air was filtered. Crystal chandeliers—true lead crystal, was my guess—along with hand-painted wallpaper, cast-plaster crown moldings, and other ostentatious but tasteful touches were in keeping with what I estimated to be a twenty thousand square foot neo-Georgian great house. It screamed money. Big money. Huge money.
“It rivals some of the grand houses in Europe,” I answered honestly. “It’s a little older than you are, though. Your family’s or your husband’s?”
She laughed. “The house is over a hundred years old, and contrary to some rumors, I am not that old. My family did build it, though, and since my parents didn’t have any boys, I ended up with it.”
I shook my head. “But I understood your husband didn’t marry you for your money. He had his own.”
“No, he didn’t. Remarkably, sometimes attraction and even love can also have positive business consequences.”
“I think every little girl hopes they’re that lucky someday,” I said.
“You grew up in Ireland, didn’t you?” Cheryl asked.
“Yes, I did.”
“I haven’t spent any time in Ireland or Britain,” Cheryl continued, “but here, I think love plays more of a role in marriages than it might there.”
Glancing at Marian, I saw a flash of something cross her face, and wondered if she might consider Cheryl as naïve as I did. While Cheryl’s marriage might be as serendipitous as Marian’s, it had rescued Cheryl’s father’s business. And Cheryl—stunningly beautiful, intelligent, and genotyped mutation free—was a perfect corporate-wife candidate. I had done a little research on her when she first showed an attraction and willingness to befriend Danielle.
I had done such research on Marian as well. Her marriage created a merged corporate empire that placed it in the Top Fifty—the fifty largest and wealthiest corporations in the world. Their personal wealth ran to triple figures in billions.
“I was noticing some of the art work,” I told Marian. “Some truly impressive pieces.” As I spoke, I looked directly at a Monet, one of the Haystacks series.
“Are you an aficionado?” Marian asked.
“An interested dabbler,” I responded. “I would love to collect someday, but pieces such as that are so wildly expensive. I’ve decided I need to be one of those people who discover future grand masters. That way I can scoop up their works for a pittance and then revel in the accolades for my astute eye when the world discovers their genius. And, of course, sell a few pieces at a million percent markup.”
Marian laughed out loud. “Oh, I am glad I invited you. You’ll have to come to lunch sometime and I’ll show you our collection.”
“You’ll have to excuse me while I faint,” I said, laying the back of my hand on my forehead and swaying. “Would begging be considered unseemly?”
She smiled as she reached out and laid her hand on my forearm. “I shall arrange it fairly soon.”
Of the one hundred guests, I had met maybe a dozen previously. Two of the men had asked me out, and I’d gone on a date with the unmarried one. He seemed miffed when I declined to invite him up to my room at the end of the evening, and I hadn’t heard from him since.
Being smashingly beautiful, I always attracted the notice of men on the prowl, and in this crowd, also the women who swung both ways. I didn’t have to do much to attract people to talk with, and soon a group surrounded Cheryl and me.
One man caught my attention. I judged Langston Boyle—tall, dark-haired, and handsome—to be in his upper forties, with a cultured British accent and a devastating way of looking at women. When he spoke to me, I felt as though I was the only woman in the room. From Cheryl’s reaction to him, he had the same effect on her. He didn’t wear a wedding ring, and his golden tan showed no evidence that he had taken one off.
“So, what brings you to Vancouver, Miss Kincaid?” he asked in a voice that could melt frozen butter at fifty paces.
“I’ve never been here,” I responded, “and friends have told me what a beautiful city it is. I was rather bored, and decided to check it out for myself.”
“I hope that you are finding enough excitement that you’ll stay for a while,” he said, with a slight upturn of one side of his mouth—nice lips—and a twinkle in his eye.
“I’ve been having fun,” I said, “but I could use a little more excitement. What do you do, Mr. Boyle?”
He tried to effect a casual air as he said, “I’m in the art business.”
“Oh? Do you own a gallery?” I looked around the room. “I was just admiring Marian’s collection.”
“Actually, I’m the Director of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Have you been there?”
“Actually, I have.” I had spent several days roaming through the halls of the museum, one of the largest in western North America to have survived both flooding and bombing. The museum was built on a peninsula in the center of the downtown area, but the area had become an island. “I love fine art, and I love your collection. I once dreamed of becoming an artist, but when I grew older, I realized that having no talent might make that infeasible.”
He laughed. “I’m afraid I suffer from the same problem.”
Cheryl drifted away as Langston and I began wandering around the room and staring at the walls together. Unfortunately, when we were called to dinner, I discovered that Marian had seated us rather far apart. My seat was next to Cheryl’s, though.
“You two hit it off quite well,” she said as the servants served the soup. Robots could do such jobs, but the true upper crust employed human servants.
“You know I love art,” I said, “and he’s very handsome and charming.”
“That he is.”
“Married? I didn’t see a ring.”
“Neither married nor gay,” she replied. “One of the top-five eligible bachelors in the city.”
“Then he has no intention of ever doing so. At least, not until he’s over seventy. By then, I’ll be too old for him.”
She laughed. “He does like women, though. He’s a regular in the news nets. I think his hobby is attending events such as this with beautiful women on his arm.”
“Who’s his escort tonight?”
Cheryl winked at me. “He didn’t bring one. He must have heard you were coming.”
After dinner, I called for a car, and as I prepared to leave, Langston approached me.
“I would like to see you again,” he said. “Perhaps I could give you a private tour of the Gallery.”
“Is that anything like asking me up to your flat to see your etchings?” I asked with a laugh. “I would like that, or maybe dinner, or some live music?” I handed him my card. “I haven’t decided whether I should get a place of my own, yet, so I’m still roughing it in a hotel. Give me a call.”
Chameleon's Death Dance was released on December 12, 2017, and is available for purchase on Amazon.com. Happy reading!
- Updated: 17 February 2019