Chapter 7

A local realtor informs me that there are only a dozen places in Los Angeles that fit my description of a tall apartment building with a large pool. The one with the largest pool is in Century City, at Century City Park East. Seymour and I decide to go there first. The place is exclusive, with twin towers that rise twenty stories into the sky. There is valet parking, a gym, and a tennis court beside the wonderful pool. I let the valet take the car, but I don't immediately head for the woman at the reception area.

"I appreciate what you said about this being a trap," I say to Seymour, who insisted on coming so that he could serve as lookout. "But the chances are she doesn't know we're here. I don't want to walk in and request her by name."

"Chances are she's working under a different name. Did you bring a picture of her?"

"Yes. I have several of her token when she was fully grown. But I don't want to tip our hand. If we quiz the woman at the desk, and show her Kalika's picture, she may tell Kalika someone was looking for her. These people are trained to do that. I would rather check out the underground garage first If Kalika has a car, it will probably be new and I should be able to smell her on it."

"She could be out," Seymour says.

"It is a possibility. But I want to do this first."

So we head underground. We're dressed prop?erly, like rich sophisticates, so no one pays any attention to us. On the second garage level a new white Mercedes catches my eye. From where I am standing, forty feet away, I don't smell my daugh?ter. Yet there is something about the car that draws my attention. I wonder if the vehicle is emitting vibrations. Certainly my daughter has a very pow?erful aura.

A moment later we have our hands on the car.

"If this is hers," Seymour says, "she has good taste."

"I need to smell the interior," I say.

Seymour points to a tiny flashing red light inside. "Don't set off the alarm."

"I see it," I mutter as I flex my palms over the driver's side window. Very slowly I begin to push the window down. A crack appears and I let go and stick my nose dose to it. There is a faint musky odor, which, according to the Vedas, is Kali's smell. But I don't need my knowledge of the Vedas to remember what my own daughter smells like. The odor fills me with nostalgia for her, but I don't know why. Ray and my darling daughter never allowed us to have a normal family life. He was a ghost and she was a demon. I glance at Seymour. "This belongs to her."

He is not as happy as he was a moment ago. He may not remember the stake through his back, but he was there when Kalika opened Eric's throat. I carefully push the window back up and wipe away the faint impressions my palms have made on the glass.

"We'd better get out of here," he says.

I study the number at the front of the parking spot. "Eighteen twenty-one. It must be her suite number. We need to stake out this building."

"Not down here," he says quickly.

"No. We'll cross the street to the high-rise office building and find an empty office that has a view of the valet parking area. When she leaves, I'll break into her condo and search it."

He swallows. "Do we have to do that?"

"You don't have to do anything. I'll do it."

"But then you'll think I'm a coward."

"I know you're a coward," I lie.

He is insulted. "Is that why you won't sleep with me?"

"No. It's because you're still a nerd. Let's get across the street."

Back outside we cross Olympic Boulevard and enter one of the triangular towers that overlooks the condo towers. This commercial building has forty floors, twice what the condo towers have. A glance at the office listings in the main lobby tells me that 3450 and 3670 and 3810 and 2520 are empty. I steer Seymour toward the elevator. We are alone as we rise up to the thirty-sixth floor.

"Maybe she never goes out," he says. "We could wait all day for her to leave."

"You're free to go to a movie if you like."

"That's not fair. You're a vampire. You don't have to fear her the way I do."

"You will recall that last time I tried to attack her on the Santa Monica Pier, she grabbed my foot before I could touch her and snapped my ankle." I shake my head. "She can kill me as easily as she can kill you, if she chooses."

"But you do think a bullet in the head or in the heart will stop her?"

"Who really knows?"

Suite 3670 appears empty. I listen at the door for a moment before breaking the lock, stepping in?side, and closing the door behind us. Suite 3670 directly overlooks the condo towers. We have a clear view of the valet area. If Kalika comes down and asks for her car, or simply gets it herself, we will know. Briefly I scan the portion of the eigh?teenth floor that faces us. It is possible I can see 1821, but I can't tell without examining the interi?or of the building or seeing a floor plan. Yet all of the condos on that floor have closed vertical blinds, so even if I was staring directly at her place, it would do me little good.

Seymour and I sit down on the floor and take up the watch. Actually, it is only my eyes that are of any use. This high up, Seymour wouldn't recognize his own mother if she came out of the building across the street.

An hour goes by. Seymour gets hungry and goes for a sandwich. While he is gone I see a beautiful young woman with long dark hair come out of the condo tower. She hands the parking valet a dollar after he brings up her shiny white Mercedes. I am staring at the Dark Mother, the scourge of Suzama's prophecies, my own daughter.

"Kalika," I whisper to the glass. "What do you want?"

She climbs into her car and drives away. I am out the door in a flash. I run into Seymour on his way back with a sandwich for me. One look at my face and he is a mass of nerves. I raise my hand.

"I want you to stay here," I say. "I'm going into her condo, and you'll just get in my way."

"But you'll need a lookout," he protests.


"But I can't stay behind and let you take all the risks."

I decide not to be too quick to crush his brave initiative. Also, I am not in the mood to argue.

"All right," I say. "But if she rips your head off don't blame me."

He throws the sandwich in the garbage and we grab an elevator.

This time, at the condo tower, I have to speak to the receptionist, but I purposely keep the conversa?tion short and silent. Catching her eye through the glass, I press her with my fiery will and mouth the words: "Open the door."

A moment later the door swings open.

Suite 1821 is naturally on the eighteenth floor. I do not want to break the lock because I still hope Kalika will know nothing of my visit. With a couple of pins I have brought for just this purpose, I quickly pick the lock. The door creaks open. Seymour stands behind me, the color of a hospital bed sheet.

"It's more fun to write about this stuff than do it," he says.

"Shh," I say as we step inside and close the door. "Stand on the front balcony and keep a lookout for her white Mercedes."

"What are you going to do?"

"Look for evidence of her state of mind."

Kalika owns, or rents, a two-bedroom corner condo. She has twin balconies and glorious views of the city. The place is elegant, the plush carpeting new, the white paint fresh. Her furnishings are few but tasteful. She seems to prefer traditional to modern, but nothing she has is old-fashioned. There are no magazines in the living room or dining area, yet she has a rather large TV, and I wonder how many channels she subscribes to and what her favorite programs are.

While Seymour stands outside on the balcony, I step into her office, the first bedroom on the right. She has a desk, a computer, a fax machine. Her drawers are unlocked and I rifle through them. Not entirely surprisingly, I find several maps. Most of them are of California, blow-ups of Big Sur, Mount Shasta, and Lake Tahoe. She has travel books on these areas also. There is also a guidebook on Sedona, which is located in Arizona. In another drawer are more books on these same places, but these are not typical travel guides. They contain personal accounts of the spots. I scan the books--I can read over thirty thousand words a minute with total comprehension. Quite a few of the stories describe how powerful the vibrations are in each place. I am fascinated because Kalika appears to be doing a lot of research on spots that have been New Age retreats for the last couple of decades.

"Do you like these places?" I whisper to myself. "Or do you think the child will be drawn to them?"

I move into my daughter's bedroom. Her queen-size bed is neatly made, covered with a hand-made quilt from China. In the corner, on top of a chest of drawers, a white silk cloth has been spread, almost as if a small altar has been set up. There are only a few books and a small Shiva Lingam set beside a brass incense holder in which a stick of musk incense has recently been burned.

The lingam is a polished gray phallic-shaped stone with three red marks on it. The shape and the markings are natural to the stone, I know. When I was a child, still a mortal, five thousand years ago, our tiny village had a Shiva Lingam. The rocks are supposed to contain the energy of Lord Shiva himself, Mahakala, who is the spouse of Mother Kali and the supposed destroyer of time at the end of all ages. Geologists describe lingams as the offspring of meteor crashes. In either case, they are highly magnetic. Brushing my hand over the stone, I feel its charge.

Kalika has three books beside the lingam: the Bhagavad-Gita: the Upanishads, the Mahanirvana Tantra. The Gita is the gospel according to Krish?na, the Upanishads are collected stories of divine knowledge from ancient rishis, and the Mahanir?vana Tantra describes Kali in her different avatars, and details her various modes of worship and innovation. All this reading material is entirely spiritual in nature. But try as I might, I cannot understand what that means. If I should be relieved or frightened. It is an old and regrettable truth that more people have been killed in the name of God than anything else.

I am picking up her copy of the Gita when Seymour bursts breathlessly into the room. "Her car just drove up," he says. "She wasn't gone long."

I replace the book in its exact spot. "It will take her a minute to get up here. Come, we have time."

Back out in the hallway, however, standing in front of the elevators, I begin to have doubts. As Seymour starts to push the down button, I stop him.

"Even in the garage basement," I say, "she might note the elevator going up to the eighteenth 0oor. She is shrewd--she might consider that more than coincidence." I pause. "Let's take the stairs."

"I just want to get out of here," Seymour says with emotion.

Halfway down the stairs I stop Seymour. Strain?ing my ears to listen far below, I hear someone climbing up the stairs. The person is in no hurry and it could be anybody. But I don't like the fact that this person stands in our path, and that I can't see who it is--each floor is partitioned off. Sey?mour watches me anxiously.

"What is it?"

"Someone's coming up the stairs."

"Is it she?" he gasps.

"I can't tell." I pause. "I think it is a woman. This person has a light step."

"Oh God."

"Shh. She is far below still. Let's grab the ele?vator."

In the elevator, Seymour starts to push the button for the lobby, but I stop him for the second time and push the button for the second garage level. Seymour throws a fit.

"Why did you do that?" he asks.

"It is the last thing she'll expect us to do, if she thinks we know where her car is parked."

"But for all we know she's still in her car."

"Relax, Seymour. I knew what I'm doing."

I hope. When the elevator whooshes open, I am tensed for an attack. But none comes. We appear to be alone in the underground garage. Signaling for Seymour to remain where he is, I step lightly into the garage and stretch my sensitive senses to their limits. There is no sign of Kalika. I signal to Seymour to join me.

"Let's just get our car and get out of here," I whisper in his ear.

He nods vigorously. "I am not cut out for this crap."

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