I sit quietly at my dining table gazing out my lovely, picture windows with a small smile of peace on my lips. A Primula Green Tea with Fresh Jasmine flower is gently opening under the influence of hot water in the bottom of the large clear glass tea cup before me. The light scent of exotic flowers fills the room. The E. L. Fudge Double Stuffed Butter Sandwich Cookies with Fudge Creme Filling are whispering my name from the small plate where they sit cuddled together. It is Saturday afternoon and I am watching the heavy snow stream down outside. It sometimes blows in circles and whooshes up and over the yard fence as the wind plays with it. I can the feel the strong wind buffet my sturdy, warm house. It has many faults but it is free of drafts and the heating system works well. It is safe here from the storms outside.
Tootsey Too snores gently away at my feet. No one claimed him and now he is mine. I smile fondly at him and pick up the cup of fragrant tea to sip some tasty warmth. Hmmmmmmm so delicious.
Bing! Bong! Bing! Bong! Bing! Bing! Bong! Bong! Bing Bong! The doorbell chants breaking into my peace and quiet. “Who in the name of Sam Hill is out in this storm and why are they at my door?” I grumble to Tootsey Too who jumps straight up in the air barking shrilly. Never wake a sleeping baby or dog.
I pull my self stiffly from my comfortable chair and make my way to the front door. I can see two young man in conservative business suits hopping up and down on the front porch. They aren’t wearing over coats! “Are they crazy? It’s in the single digits out there.” I mutter to Toots as I yank the door open.
“Please! You got to help us!” The blond one is hugging himself and looking very frantic. He keeps glancing back over his shoulder like a monster or something is after him.
“Please!” begs the red head close to hysteria. “It’s chasing us all over and won’t let us in our house.”
“It’s – it’s eyes are glowing red.” The blond seems to realize how this sounds and puts his hands up to cup his ears.
“Something’s chasing you?” I say with as much innocent concern as I can muster. I know of course what the problem is. It has to be. Can only be. “ Come in.” I say and move aside to allow them room indicating to the two young men to go on into the dining area and then I turn to face out the door. “LEX!” I yell out into the snow, “What the hell have you done now?” He appears at the bottom of the porch steps with a most eager smile on his stone face. He is having fun. “Get your ass in here now! Stop pestering the neighbors! You leave them be unless I tell you to mess with them!” He hops into the house snow falling off him and puddling at his feet. Nothing is going to wipe the happy smirk from his face. “What do you think you are doing?” I hiss. How am I going to fix this? He tries to look contrite but somehow fails completely. It is the eager look about his ears.
“Oh my God! It’s in the house! It’s going to get us!” Well crap! I step in front of Lex to hide him from the men. Fat chance I know.
“It’s OK. He’s just a baby and he thinks he’s playing. He won’t hurt you.” I start towards them, “Go back and sit down. I’ll get you something hot to drink. Help yourselves to the cookies.” I know from the look on the blond’s horrified face that Lex is peeking around my legs. Possibly with a look of gleeful “get him” on his ugly face. I sigh and glance down. His eyes are glowing a brilliant red. “Stop that Lex. Stop making your eyes glow. These are our guests and we must make them feel comfortable and safe.”
“He’s your pet?” The red head is looking at me with horrified astonishment.
“Weeeell yes. It’s a long story. Please sit down and we’ll talk about it.” I wonder if I should mention the mirror spell that reflects back any evil done or thought in my direction. Maybe it would be too much. Baby steps. “There was this lawn arts place and thinking he was a stone statue that would be fun to decorate my yard, I bought him for $35. How was I to know he was a real gargoyle.” I spread my hands and shrug. “Anyway he flies around mostly at night to protect the place. I guess he was bored or enjoying the snow today. I’m so very sorry he frightened you.” Mention of the houses he’s burned down and the people he’s chased off with his flame breath might overload them so I didn’t say anything about that. “I’m Mariah Walters. What are your names? Have you bought the house across the street?” Lex pouts in the corner.
The blond looks warily at Lex who smiles tentatively, “My name is Drew and I’m a software engineer. I work for a small company north of here. We bought the house across the street last week.”
“I’m Nate. I work at home illustrating children’s books. How long have you had him? Would you be willing to let me use him as a model?”
“Are you crazy?” Drew sputters.
“Certainly!” I respond. Lex looks surprised.
After finishing off several pots of Jasmine scented tea and all of the cookies, the two young men seem relaxed enough to get home safely, especially, if I keep Lex inside. Tomorrow, I am going to have to make a cookie run up to town.
The next day…
Hardly anyone will be out and about in town on a Sunday. Once church is over everyone goes home to a huge family dinner including all the relatives. The reflection spell should be quiet due to the lack of people to set it off. The snow has melted on the roads making them more or less passable. It will be a nice trip to the local grocery and maybe one of the fast food places for a treat.
The next day, I back my nearly an antique car out of the driveway and proceed at a comfortable pace out of the subdivision and onto the backcountry roads. I am humming a little to ensure a safe ride. I arrive safely without any problems and park my reliable transport in the most convenient place possible right in front of the door. How nice! I scoot my feet through the snow like a child enjoying a memory from childhood. The door swooshes open and I enter grabbing a cart. I should have the place pretty much to myself. I wander up and down the rows picking things out and putting them back. I sigh. I remember coming here with Al. How he teased me about my craving for Good and Plenty candies. I can’t go down that row.
The E. L. Fudge Double Stuffed Butter Sandwich Cookies are on sale two for one so I stock up. Who knows who will show up at my front door and I best be ready. I am hoping the nice young men from across the street might want to take a break from unpacking. There’s nothing like a quiet weekend sharing cookies and tea with nice people.
I make my way to the checkout.
Something is not right. It’s almost too quiet. The only cashier has a worried look on her face. She looks from me to the two young men wearing ski masks. Is that a gun? Oh dear this is not good. The reflection spell – what will it do?
“You! Old lady! Give me your purse! Now!” The taller one growls in a menacing tone to me. I sigh. It’s done. His gun hand flies up and smacks him dead center in the face. He howls in pain and shoots his partner. Really, this is just too much! I feverishly start humming and spell weaving with my hands to tone down the violence. I try to stop the bleeding and keep the poor young wounded thing alive. The person with the gun runs for the door. I whistle a Cardinal’s mating call and his wardrobe fails, tangling his feet in his pants as they dropped down around his ankles. He falls forward toward the door losing the gun and landing flat on his face. People! There’s a reason for underwear! Although, that is an interesting tattoo on his butt cheek. Something with eagles and snakes…
Tawny, the cashier is on the phone with the police. I’ve known her since she was a baby. Her mother and I used to wait with her and my oldest Violet outside the schoolhouse door for the afternoon kindergarten to start.
“One of them is wounded! He looks bad!” She yells in the mouth piece. “I don’t know! The other one smacked himself in the face and then shot his partner. There’s blood everywhere. He’s face down by the door crying! What are these people doing coming in here on a quiet Sunday trying to rob the place! Yes! Please hurry! No. Just me and Mrs. Walters. Yes Mariah Walters. I don’t know I’ll ask.” She looks at me. “On second thought you can ask her yourself. She seems to be humming and knitting with her fingers. I think this has upset her. Umm please hurry.”
The town police station is just on the other side of the Methodist church from the grocery. We can hear the sound of the siren as they rush to help us. The one by the door tries to move and the coupon rack falls over on him. A fifty-pound sack of on sale dog food slides off the top of the pile, placed to encourage buying, and lands on his back. He’s not going anywhere.
The officers arrive. I probably should know them. They must have gone to school with my daughters. I ask Tawny. “Who are they? I know I must know them or at least their moms.”
“Those are the Larkin twins Harry and Josh. They were a year behind Violet and me.”
“Oh ok,” I say.
Harry calls for an ambulance and pulls the mask from the hurt robber’s head. I can’t help myself, “Steven Marcus! Your mother is going to be so very upset when she finds out about what you have been doing!”
“What she said.” Harry cuffs the PERP. I have just wanted to use that word since I’ve been watching all those cop shows. Somehow I’m not really helping – am I?
Josh has the hood off the shooter and we are surprised to discover we don’t know him. Josh cuffs him and escorts him to the police SUV. Pants pulled up enough to hide that charming tat. At least that’s what they call them on The Worse Tattoos Ever. I try not to watch. It’s too disturbing. Josh is on the radio in the police vehicle. Possibly reporting in to dispatch.
The ambulance rolls into the parking lot and barely misses my ride. I hum. Now is not the time for a flat tire. While Steven is being placed not too gently on a stretcher and loaded into the back, Harry turns to us. “We’re going to need a statement from both of you. I need to know what happened here. I’ll start with you Mrs. Walters.”
“Well,” I say, “I came up to the counter and that rude young person pointed a gun at me and demanded my purse. Then he must have some sort of condition because he smacked himself in the head and shot the other one. He took off for the door and his pants fell down tripping him. Must be a pair of those low rider things. He knocked some stuff over in the process.”
“Pretty much what she said,” Tawny agrees. “ They came in waving the gun around as Mrs. Walters came up to the counter.”
“Ok ladies we’ll talk more. Right now I need to get this guy to the hospital. You’ll be around later?
“I’ll be home enjoying cookies.” I smile at him, “You are always welcome to join me.”
“I get off at five. You can catch me at my mom’s.” Tawny twinkles. I think she’s sweet on him.
We wave as he leaves.
I dig some cash from the inner pocket of my purse, “Will this cover the cost of the cookies?” I offer it to Tawny with a smile. No sense being unpleasant if we don’t have to be. Tawny rings up my purchase and hands me back change. She is watching me very closely.
“Those stories about you are true aren’t they?”
My smile weakens, “I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about.”
“It’s OK. My Grammy says you’re the middle daughter of a middle daughter going back to the Origin. I just want to say thanks and I won’t tell anyone. My Auntie May is one too. She grows the best veggies.”
After a pleasant drive in the melting snow, I pull into the driveway and park Sweet Pea. Ok yes I have named my car and given him a gender. After fifteen years of getting me safely to work and back, I figure he deserves this.
Now I must get Lex under control before Harry comes to interview me. I look around. Where’s Lex? I back out and pull into the neighbor’s drive. I climb out of Sweat Pea as fast as I can and hurry, for me, up the walk. My thumb jams the doorbell and I bounce up and down. I am filled with misgivings. The door opens and there he is, eyes glowing green. Nate has a pencil and a drawing pad in his hands. I relax. “Sorry, Lex wasn’t in his usual place and I was concerned…”
“Oh he’s been over here posing for me. He’s really quite adorable in a repulsive way. I’ll send him back in a little bit before Drew gets home. Did you know he’s very good at making shish kabob?”
“Why yes! We’ve been practicing. You should try his flame-seared steaks. Very yummy!” I hesitate. I need to keep Lex out of sight and perhaps I can impose on Nate? “I have some company coming later and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind keeping an eye on him. You seem to be getting along very well.”
“Sure I don’t mind. We’re having fun. Drew won’t be happy so I’ll have to send him home about five.”
I smiled at him hoping that would be enough time. My subconscious hits me with a thought. What if Harry shows up in his police SUV? “Thanks,” I say. “There was a robbery at the store while I was there and I think the police may be coming to ask me some questions about it.”
“Are you OK. What happened?”
“I’m fine. Two young men tried to rob the place and failed. I can tell you more details over cookies if you want to come by later. You and Drew are always welcome.” I walk back to my car and simply back across the street. I leave Sweat Pea facing outward to help with getting out for work in the morning and enter the house. It’s snowing again in gentle sighs.
My weekend started out calm and went south fast. I’m not sure why these things happen to me. I feel like a magnet for trouble. The herbal decaf tea my sister Violet said Aunt Violet gave her is calling my name. I’m going to have to encourage my daughter Mariah to give up naming the same names to her children as every generation of middle born before her. This is way too confusing.
Settling into my comfortable chair in the living room I click the start button on the remote for the fireplace. The clock says four thirty. The snow is falling now with the determination to bury everything it can beneath it. I click the on buttons the TV and various components and begin searching for something interesting to watch. How can I have so many channels and nothing grabs my attention? The news will have to do. Small sips of the tea are making me feel very relaxed and unconcerned. The sensation of floating takes me into it’s arms. My nose bumps into the ceiling. What do I care. I hover there with a small smile of …
Bing! Bong! Tootsey Too goes crazy barking. Bing! Bong! I land in the chair with tea spilled all down my front. Bing! Bing! Someone is knocking on the door rather loudly! Bong! Bong! It must be Drew upset over Lex. Bing Bong! Maybe it’s Harry wanting in from the cold. Struggling out of my chair and patting my front with a napkin at the same time, I make my way to answer the chaos. No peace and quiet for me. I open the door to Harry shivering on my doorstep. The snow falls behind him smothering everything including sound making a surreal kind of hush. An angry Drew is behind Harry pointing at Lex who has one wing hugging him around the knees. Nate is behind them shrugging his shoulders and mouthing sorry. Drew must have come home early. I’m tempted to slam the door shut but I doubt that will help.
My mouth opens and the words, “Come in everyone,” escape. “Lex, let go of the neighbor, please.” He looks sheepish and rolls his lavender eyes up to look at Drew with adoration. The wing disappears behind his back. Everyone enters and parks their butts on the furniture in the living room. I serve them some of Aunt Violet’s tea including Lex. Who goes to sleep.
Where do I begin? “How may I help you Harry? I told you everything I know at the store earlier.”
Harry smiles and I know the tea is working. “Introduce me to the others?”
“Oh I am sorry! This is Drew and Nate. They’ve moved in across the street.” Nate nods and shakes Harry’s hand. Drew has his arms folded across his chest and scowls. Lex, now awake, is sniffing Harry’s holster. “Stop that Lex.” Lex drops his ears and looks contrite.
I decide while Harry is the Law in the room. Drew is my neighbor. Besides I have authority figure issues anyway, go figure, Harry can wait. “Listen Drew I think Lex likes you. He can be a very valuable friend and he’s house broken.” I’m not sure if I’m really helping. “Tell me your thoughts,” I sing softly while weaving my fingers.
“He’s scary. What if he burns down the house? We had such a terrible time at the last place we lived. We moved here out in the country hoping we’d be left alone.” He’s really upset. I can see it in his body language.
“You’re safe here.” Harry jumps in, “We take care of our own. You’re living across the street from the strongest of the local spell weavers in a community of spell weavers. This can only be a plus especially since she likes you. Besides my Aunt Mary has a smaller gargoyle who played with us as kids. Bullies don’t last long around here.” Crap he knows about me.
Lex puts his head gently in Drew’s lap and licks his hand with his tongue. His eyes are looking up at Drew a warm, dark brown color. Drew tentatively pets his head.
“Mrs. Walters,” Harry turns to look at me. “Thank you for what you did at the store today. No lives were lost and the wound to the one dude was superficial.”
I sigh with relief and sip from my tea. It’s a very tiny sip – no sense getting everyone in an uproar from me floating off my chair. Although, they are all airborne about an inch and seem not to notice. The tea is working.
“Did you know there was a meth lab next door to you? The fire investigator discovered it picking through the ruins of the house that blew up. Your neighbor was working down there when something went wrong.”
“No, I didn’t.” Further details are not needed from me I think. “How terribly shocking!” I’ve been watching too much Masterpiece Theater. When is he going to get to the burned down houses?
“The investigator also discovered faulty wiring in the homes that burned. Apparently, mice had gnawed everything through causing several shorts. If the dog and cat population hadn’t been decimated, maybe they’d’ve been ok. Anyway, we’ve been asked to notify people around here to take steps to make sure their houses are safe. Country living – every rodent and insect will find a way inside.”
“Thanks Harry.” I say with relief.
“I think Lex took care of any problems for us this afternoon while he was helping me with the illustrations for my next children’s book, “ Nate adds.
Drew looks at him with a funny expression.
“What I really came to talk about was this.” Harry pulls a hard drive in an evidence bag from his pocket. “This is from a cold case going back to the nineties. Several people have tried to get the data off it with no success. I know your job is tech support where you work and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind looking at it? We have no leads at all. All the possible avenues of investigation have been chased down with no results. I was hoping you might help us. By giving this to you it breaks the trail of evidence and renders anything you find inadmissible in court. It’s illegal in fact but we’re desperate. Maybe something, anything you find can point us in a direction we can use to solve this and bring justice to the victim. ”
“Drew is heavy into computers. I bet he could help. Right Drew? Maybe work with Mrs. Walters? See what you can get off of it – the hard drive?” Nate suggests looking at Drew.
“Place the hard drive on the cedar chest,” I use it as a coffee table, “please Harry. I’ll be happy to assist especially with Drew’s help. If he’s willing…” I turn to look at him. I know I can’t touch it. There’s something very wrong with it.
“I guess,” he says. “Maybe this evening?” He is gently stroking Lex’s head without thinking about it. The tea is definitely working. “What are we looking for?”
Harry stands up. “We don’t really know. A young girl was murdered for it and that’s all we know. She was local. We think if we find out what’s on it we’ll understand why and then maybe we can identify who did it. We want it solved because we take care of our own. That being said, I better head back to the station. Don’t tell anyone I brought it here. Thanks for the tea and so nice meeting you Nate and Drew.” Harry pets Tootsey Too’s head and rubs Lex’s belly on his way to the door.
Harry must know somehow about the talents of my new neighbors. He trusted them with this information. Interesting… Warlocks know warlocks and can instantly tell on meeting, who can and cannot be trusted. But three in the same community at the same time? Usually they travel alone so to speak.
I let him out and return to the living room where Nate, Drew and Lex are floating comfortably about two inches above where they are sitting. The tea will prevent any of them or Harry from remembering or even noticing the levitation effect. Lex has wormed his way under Drew’s arm and all three are watching the flames in the fireplace. The hard drive waits on the cedar chest. I can feel evil rising from it. The reflection spell is crackling around me in response. The evil eye bracelet on my arm tingles.
©2014 Suzy Stueben