Zeebrugge, Belgium

The Escalade headed through the docks away from the port. It had been an uneventful voyage during which Marsha amused the passengers with palm and Tarot card readings in the bars around the ship. They had no idea she was soaking up their credit card details as she smiled and dealt their cards along with snippets of imaginary futures full of tall dark strangers, and knights in shining armour. By the time they disembarked at Zeebrugge her account held over a million dollars. The authorities had frozen Roman’s accounts along with her business accounts and she’d barely made the port in time for her departure along with his precious dogs.

She drove away from the port weaving through the industrial heart of the town before picking up the N9 motorway through Sint Pieters into the medieval heart of Bruges known locally as “the egg” because of the canals that surrounded the city. The dogs sat in the back, sniffing at the insulated chest that gleamed with moisture despite the fierce air conditioning that blasted out of the vents surrounding it. She turned to look at them. “You won’t be seeing him for a while yet, so you may as well settle down.” The dogs whimpered as they pawed at the chest, their muzzles flecked with drool, eyes a glistening mahogany brown gazing deep into her soul.

She waited while the electric gates leading into the courtyard hummed open, before driving the Escalade along the short gravel drive that led to the impressive house where she parked. Roman had bought it several years earlier and it still took her breath away with its magnificence.

The gardens were immaculate and were surrounded by a cathedral of poplar trees that provided shade from the summer’s heat. The five bedroomed house looked out over one of the many canals that dissected the ancient city. With its enclosed garden and expansive rooms it was the perfect retreat for her to recover her energy in as she waited for his re-birth.

The dogs padded around examining their new home before running out of the French windows that led to the garden. They barked frenziedly at imaginary intruders as they played with each other, glad to be free from their recent enforced captivity onboard ship. Marsha went into the living room that occupied most of the ground floor and threw open the heavy wooden shutters. The evening sun hung low in the sky, reflecting along the canal, bathing the ancient stone of the houses alongside it in a muted purple light.

She looked around the room filled with antique furniture and the many magnificent oil paintings that hung on the walls. She walked over to a gilt embellished chaise longue that faced the expanse of glass looking over the canal. Roman always liked to furnish his homes in the same period of history, that of the french king, Louis the 14th. Unlike his Louisiana home, where the décor just seemed tasteless, in the medieval surroundings of Bruges it felt perfectly natural. She drank a glass of champagne, fed the dogs their dinner, and ate her own light supper as while she watched the last of the day’s tourist boats ply their trade along the canal outside.

Like many houses in the city it had a cavernous, damp basement that occupied the whole of the space beneath the ground floor…it would provide more than ample room for her needs. After she had cleared up she prepared to go out into the city. She needed to stock up with supplies to provide for Roman’s needs, or what he used to refer to as “fresh meat”

All of his properties were on or by the water. It was a symbol of many things, a provider of food, a route of escape, and a method of disposal. As darkness fell she set off on her mission. She’d dressed in a style that would have been seen as provocative in the environs of Baton Rouge, but would not raise an eyebrow among the groups of barely dressed teenagers and tourists that frequented the various market squares, that were a lively congregating point for the younger generation.

She made her way to the Grote market, one of the busiest markets where stalls serving food and drinks surrounded a skating rink from which loud pop music blared making conversation difficult, which was probably the point, as it was a favourite place to get drunk while making new friends. Within an hour she’d met and mesmerised a well-built American tourist in his early twenties. After downing half a dozen beers they were soon headed back to her house.

Energised with the thrill of what was to come, plus the copious amount of alcohol she’d consumed, she was looking forwards to having some fun and slaking her carnal appetite before preparing him for his more permanent duties in the basement.

Once things were set up and Roman was his new self, they could begin their plans to exact revenge on the Sheriff along with the English Detective that had brought a temporary halt to the Blackburn dynasty. She threw open the doors to the sumptuous living room, smiling at the boys reaction as he took in his decadent surroundings.

“Wow! I would die to own this!” She took him by the hand and led him to the master bedroom with its vast four poster…thinking as she did so, that he should be careful what he wished for.