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"Renaissance of Enchantment"


Prologue
About six and a half years ago...

By Y. M. Roger

“But Dad, why? I don’t understand.” Maggie was choking on her sobs as her dad handed her suitcase to the government caseworker. Her step-mother remained in the car; she had been silent and unemotional the entirety of the horrible drive into downtown.
 
“It’s better for everyone, Magpie,” he said, his voice deep and sorrowful, his shoulders slumped, “safer too.”
 
That last part Maggie heard but just barely.
 
“Better for who, Dad? For that bitch you call your wife?” Maggie’s voice rose, the hurt at being put out of her own house roiling into anger. She tried to look him in the face, even though he kept avoiding eye-contact with her, “That’s MY house, Dad! Yours and mine! It was ours before her or the others even came along!”
 
She wasn’t pleading anymore, she was desperate - desperate not to lose everything she called home.
 
The caseworker’s assistant took her arms to restrain her as gently as possible. He tried to keep it light, but Maggie fought with everything she had as she continued to try to get her father to look her in the face.
 
She didn’t understand any of this. Her mind raced, trying to put any of this unbelievable scenario into perspective.
 
“I can’t keep up the charade, not after last week,” her dad sounded broken, “I’d hoped not, but you’re too much like your mum, Magpie, and I…I can’t...I can’t do this without her. Not with puberty and…” He sobbed as he kissed her cheek, the touch gentle, although he still would not meet her gaze.
 
Her father turned to the soft-spoken caseworker. “You’ll find the proper environment we discussed, yes?”
 
The government agent wore a warm smile as she put a hand out to reassure him with a soft touch, “We have already. Your Marguerite will be well-cared for, Mr. Atkinson. You have my word.”
 
Her father nodded his understanding. Then, without even looking back, he spoke over his shoulder in retreat, “Good-bye, Magpie.”
 
Maggie stood, practically catatonic, as the car pulled away from the curb. She was waiting for someone to tell her the joke was over.
 
Time to laugh. Time to wake-up. Something…
 
But the car disappeared into the crazy traffic that was so pervasive here near the Park entrance. And she was alone.
 
No one wanted her.
 
Her mother had left them. Her father had dumped her with people she did not even know.
 
Hurt. Anger.
 
“Come on, Marguerite,” the caseworker said as the much larger male assistant gently nudged her to follow, “the Center is—”
 
Maggie felt her body go cold and seize within her only to be followed by a searing burn that shot through every nerve ending she had. She screamed her pain and her anger, and she fought the hold the assistant was trying to maintain on her. Finally, her knees gave out with the emotional and physical tidal wave that rolled through her much-too-young body, and she fell to the concrete step on which they stood.
 
Then there were the whispers and the pats and the petting of her hair and the attempted reassurances from the government caseworker and the assistant, the tugs on her arm to try to get her to stand; the offers of what could be – food, snacks, movies, a new school, a new home….
 
It was all too much.
 
She didn’t want a new home. She wanted her home.
 
Maggie resisted their encouragement, hands covering her eyes, sobs wracking her small frame until, “Go. Away!” she screamed, “Leave me alone! And go! The hell! Away!”
 
Stillness.
 
Then, the sounds of the city: the buses, the cars, bells, and horns. There were no reassuring words, no tugs, no one nearby at all.
 
Thank goodness. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes to focus on the concrete. She really just wanted to be left alone and –
 
More footsteps. Only these belonged to smaller feet.
 
Now, the gentle voices of two, or, perhaps, three children. Young boys, to be specific.
 
“Miss?”
 
“Hey, Miss?”
 
“Everything okay? You need sumthin, Miss?”
 
Maggie wiped her face and looked up. The boys were all dressed like they were in costume for the 1800’s, two of them even wore those little flat paperboy hats kids used to wear. She figured they must be rehearsing for a play at the stage here in City Park. She might have laughed at them with their oh-so-serious little faces if she hadn’t been so wrung out.
 
Maggie looked around for the two government workers as she wiped her eyes and stood, but they were nowhere in sight. In fact, there was no one in their immediate vicinity - just her and the boys.
 
Oh, and, thank goodness, her suitcase.
 
Maggie glanced around at the boys again, not really knowing what to say next.
 
“Hey? You need somewhere to stay, Miss?”
 
The speaker’s little face was so excited, so expectant – like he was thrilled she was looking at and seeing him – and he could hardly wait for her answer.
 
“Uhhhm…, it’s Maggie,” she shrugged and sniffed, wiping her face one last time, “and, I guess so, yeah.”
 
“Well, follow us, Miss Maggie!” The three of them started off ahead of her. “You can count on us from now on!”
 
Maggie just nodded, glancing back one more time before leaving the park entrance behind.

Nope.
 
Nobody.
 
No caseworker and no assistant.
 
Only the two skateboarders that had just arrived and a couple pairs of shoes some crazy young couple must have taken off to enjoy the cool grass.
 
Huh. The government workers had left her, too.

Whatever.
 
She picked up her suitcase and followed the boys. It seemed that Miss Marguerite Atkinson was on her own now.

Author Notes At exactly 950 words, this will most likely be the longest of my postings. I just didn't see how to 'split' this important introduction without losing something in the process. Thank you for your patience! :) Make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position and that your seat belt is securely fastened. Welcome to Maggie's story!

Image of 'Merchant's Gate entrance to Central Park in New York City' from Google images.


Chapter 1
Chapter One, Part 1

By Y. M. Roger

Well, the evening hadn’t gone half-bad considering the awful weather. She finished organizing the storeroom from the last shipment, and the books were done for the week. She'd even gotten next week's orders placed. And, given the looks of the remaining tables, she was getting out of here on time this Saturday evening.
 
Yep, Maggie would call it a win so far. She texted Addy to check on him. 
Had your shower and you’re reading in bed, yeah?
 
Addy’s response was prompt as always. 
Yep! With Bongo
 
Maggie rolled her eyes. That huge damn cat had adopted the two of them. She had tried to get annoyed at yet another mouth to feed, but the freaking thing actually gave her a sense of calm to be around, and, unbelievably, he helped Addy’s focus. In fact, the stealthy feline must eat somewhere else because Maggie had never seen it touch the kibble food she’d managed to pick up for the stray in the clearance buggy at the Dollar General.
 

Julio come by?
 
The aging maintenance man in their rundown building always asked about Addy and checked in on the two of them almost daily.
 

Nah. Think he just comes by to see you! :-)
 
Maggie snorted and laughed out loud before catching herself. Mr. Dejesus looked like he needed to retire yesterday, although he always seemed to have quite a bit of youth hidden in his old eyes.  
 

Punky and his pals home tonight?
 
They could do without that crew that lived across the hall. Maggie was convinced they were into things they shouldn’t be, but they never attracted visitors. The crew did nothing but politely greet her when they saw the two of them.
 

Dunno. Heard some banging around, but coulda been the storm
 
Most of the time, she brought Addy with her to work. That way, he could sit and work in the office and ask questions if he had them. The bad weather had prevented that tonight – the same weather that was the reason for the lack of customers.
 

You and Bongo eat?
 
Maggie figured the black monstrosity of a cat had more expensive taste than Perky Paws Chicken Surprise, but she put it out anyway. Truth was, the animal did have, in her estimation, nearly twenty plus pounds of itself to feed, and some Perky Paws couldn’t hurt.
 

I did. Bongo sat at the door and growled some
 
Even though Maggie had trained Addy well, she felt the panic jump into her throat when he implied someone could be outside the door. Ever since the mechanic’s garage below their foursquare of apartments closed, she worried about some of the “characters” she’d seen hanging out down there. Even though they always seemed to give her and Addy a wide berth, one could never be too careful. But, before she could even complete her response….
 

Guess he scared them cuz nobody even knocked
 
She swallowed, breathed a sigh of relief, and finished typing.
 

You know not to open the door, Addison. Yeah?
 
Immediate reply….
 

Duh, Marguerite. :-)
 
She snorted again. She could picture Addison’s little face rolling his eyes. He was a smart kid – extremely smart – a fact that was easy to forget because he was just a seven-year-old kid. But Addy was so much older than his years.
 
Heaven knew she was trying so hard to do right by him. She would work to keep him with her until her dying breath….because that’s what being without your family was like: dying to breathe. Her father had gifted her with that knowledge when she was fourteen. It had been just her, though, not her half-brothers and -sisters…and it hadn’t been sweet Dorothy’s fault the cancer had taken her so quickly…
 
Maggie’s mind was wandering into the past again.
 
“Ready for the check, Miss!” Mr. Man-bun was one of her more agreeable customers this evening.
 
Maggie shook away those memories; she wasn’t going to dwell on an angry past tonight.
 

Gotta go. Get some sleep. Should be home on time tonight.  Love you both!
 
“On my way!” She waved cheerfully heading in Man-bun’s direction.
 
Maggie pocketed her phone as soon as she glanced at Addy’s reply text which, of course, included a request to tell Twilight goodnight for him.
 
To be continued…

 

Author Notes Maggie -- Marguerite Atkinson
Addison/Addy -- young man living with Maggie, being raised by her
Bongo -- Maggie and Addy's large, black cat
Dorothy -- Addy's mother (deceased)
Mr. Man-bun -- male customer this night in the diner where Maggie works
Twilight -- Hmmm, I wonder...

Image 'Pauli's Diner Ambiance (rain, city noises,...)' from Google images via YouTube


Chapter 2
Chapter One, Part 2

By Y. M. Roger

The smell of cloves and peppermint that lingered around the young couple near the office door always made her smile. They were one of a few couples that favored that booth near the office, and, yep, every one of those couples smelled the same. And no matter which couple was sitting there, they always appeared to her to be in some sort of protective posture – of each other? Of other folks? She wasn’t really sure. It was just an impression she got.
 
Maggie hoped Lars would be in tomorrow, but the Courtside Coffee-N-Cola’s owner’s drunken binges had been lasting longer lately, and she’d had to encourage him to go home at lunch today.
 
Something else she wasn’t going to worry about tonight.
 
She smiled as she scanned Mr. Man-bun’s phone-pay with her Bluetooth adapter. The smile he returned was definitely genuine.
 
“Glad to see someone braved this awful weather to eat a little something.” She spoke as she looked around at the others lingering near the windows, “Everyone else here just seems to be sheltering from the storm.”
 
His bright smile seemed to falter a bit as he looked around, his eyes scanning the tiny shop and then looking back up at her.
 
“Uhmmm…” He paused for a bit then seemed to recover. From what, Maggie really couldn’t tell. “Yeah. So, there were other folks earlier?”
 
Maggie laughed as she handed him his container for his remaining pie, “Yeah, and the few left are my usual company-keepers. You know, they keep me company until I run them out to lock up for the night.”
 
Maggie glanced over at Big Ed in the corner – he had so many tattoos that it was difficult to tell the actual color of his skin – and raised her voice so he would know she was addressing him. “Right, Sir Ed?”
 
The over-sized biker nodded his head at her and went back to reading his book – he may have grunted, which was his way, but she couldn’t hear over the pouring rain outside. Eduardo, aka Sir Ed, stayed to walk her home on nights when she closed by herself. He would meet her at the street corner outside the shop when Lars was the one to lock up. She had never asked the gentle giant to do so, he just did. Said it was his job.
 
Whatever.
 
Maggie simply enjoyed the company, and he certainly made her feel safer on her walks home – especially when she had Addy with her.
 
Mr. Man-bun’s eyes seemed to dart around a bit more before his smile left him completely. He sped up his motions of storing his pie and stood to leave.
 
“I see,” he paused long enough to throw on his rain slicker and grabbed the container, “well, I better get going.”
 
Maggie smiled at him, wondering why in the world he might be in such a hurry all of a sudden – he’d seemed so friendly, almost flirtatious, earlier.
 
She internally shrugged. Not her business.
 
“Okay, then,” she responded in a warm tone, “try not to get soaked!”
 
But she wasn’t even sure he’d heard her as he was out the door so quickly.
 
Maggie shook her head at his odd behavior and glanced at the clock – almost twenty minutes until closing. She looked at the rain drenching the empty sidewalks – not even the usual cats that frequented the neighborhood around the shop were brave enough to face the soaking shower. She made an executive decision.
 
“Last call for purchases, everyone! I’m locking up in five!”
 
She knew none of the remaining folks would buy anything – she’d long ago figured that they were probably homeless and just hung around the diner to be off the streets. But neither she nor Lars had the heart to send them away. Most of the time, Lars just completely ignored their existence – whether he was drunk or not.
 
Maggie sighed.  At least when he was drunk, he’d politely acknowledge them when she insisted he do so. It was one of Maggie’s pet peeves that no one should be ignored.
 
to be continued…

 

Author Notes Maggie -- Marguerite Atkinson
Addison/Addy -- young man living with Maggie, being raised by her
Bongo -- Maggie & Addy's large, black cat
Dorothy -- Addy's mother (deceased)
Mr. Man-bun -- male customer this night in the diner where Maggie works
Eduardo -- waits to walk Maggie home late at night
Lars -- owner of the Courtside Coffee-N-Cola, the diner where Maggie works
Twilight -- Wasn't in this portion of the chapter, but still, I wonder...

Image 'Pauli's Diner Ambiance (rain, city noises,...)' from Google images via YouTube


Chapter 3
Chapter One, Part 3

By Y. M. Roger

Grabbing two of the day’s remaining sausages that hadn’t sold, Maggie opened the back door to check the alleyway. Sure enough, sitting up high and somehow dry despite the rain, there was the big ol’ Grey Owl perched on the rusted sign hanger. He turned his head slowly toward her; his yellow eyes framed by that caricature-like circular face pierced the thundering darkness.
 
“Thought you might be home and out of this rain tonight, Twilight.”
 
Addy had named the owl after one of the Guardians in some book series he was reading. The daunting bird of prey had started hanging around the shop shortly after Maggie started working there. The owl had to have his nest somewhere in the vicinity because she’d seen him around their nearby apartment building as often as here.
 
She speared the two sausages on a rogue nail that stuck out of the wall. “Here’s your midnight snack, sir!” The raptor always made her smile. “Oh, and Addy says ‘hi’.” Maggie just grinned as the owl blinked once at her. “Don’t stay out too late partying!”
 
She giggled as she imagined the magnificent Twilight scoffing at her comment – a proud bird like him partying, hrumph. She closed the door, sliding the multiple bolts and sealing the padlocks.
 
Maggie flipped the lights in the storeroom off and powered down the office computer before working her way into the main area. She bagged the leftover baked goods and other pre-made items that would be over twenty-four hours old by morning and surveyed the diner.
 
Only Ed and, tonight, the smaller yet no less threatening if you didn’t know him very well, Scully, remained – having taken up their waiting vigil by the front door as she finished turning off appliances and such. She hadn’t heard Scully come in, but the noise of the rain in the back alley had been quite loud.
 
“Coffee maker, Miss Maggie,” Scully whispered his reminder, his eyes darting around warily as they tended to do.
 
Maggie stopped in her forward motion and scooted back behind the counter as she spoke. “Thank you, Scully! I just get a little flustered worrying about Addy, you know?”
 
Ed grunted, everything about him smiling except his lips. “Boy’s fine, Miss Maggie.” His bass voice, deep and rumbling, provided a strange sense of comfort to her.
 
Scully nodded his head in agreement, a shy grin lighting his gaunt yet steely visage. “S’okay, Miss Maggie.” Scully scanned the soaking sidewalk out the front windows. “And we’re just lookin’ out fer ya.”
 
“Thank you both,” Maggie replied sincerely, making sure to look both of them in the eyes, as she readied her keys and pushed the door open with her backside.
 
“Here goes nothin’, guys!” She grinned as the pounding rain pelted the sidewalk just beyond the awning. Before they stepped out into the torrent, she looked at Ed.
 
“Your umbrella, Sir Ed!” She indicated that he go first. “Keep us dry as we traverse homeward, brave knight!”
 
Ed grunted with a warming heartiness this time as he raised the umbrella and held it over Maggie’s head to keep her dry. As they made their way down the sidewalk, the umbrella, designed primarily for only one person, made an effective shelter for those people under it.
 
+++++++++++
 
Maggie thanked her two escorts as she ran up the stairs of the rundown apartments-over-garage building. Ducking into the small entry alcove, she noticed a few not-so-nice men watching her from below, just down the alleyway in the shelter of another overhang. She turned to find Ed and Scully had already gone.
 
Sigh.
 
She hated this damn neighborhood, but she and Addy had to gut it out for at least a couple more months before she could even think about moving somewhere with higher rent.
 
Turning back, she watched as two of the shady characters took careful notice of her – one even toeing out his cigarette and grinning in a very malevolent manner.
 
Maggie steeled her spine and felt her nerves begin to hum.
 
“You’re not welcome here, sir; none of you are.” She spoke firmly as she fought the old locking mechanism in the outer door, the struggling and the angst created by the men’s presence spiking a bit of her temper. Her voice rose and cut-off sharply just as she managed to get the key to work. “Now. Go. Away!”
 
She stumbled into the inner hallway when the door latch gave way. Maggie growled as she turned to face the man whose footsteps she’d heard coming up behind her, but there was no one there. Leaning on the door, she peered through the rain, trying to catch a glimpse of the men.
 
Nobody. Huh.
 
Wait, that wasn’t true. There was a work boot a few steps down and another one a step behind it. Had those been there before? Yeah, she had no idea and didn’t care. The boots were soaked anyway. If they were still there in the morning, she’d drop them by the Mission Shop across the street.
 
To be continued...

 

 

Author Notes Maggie - Marguerite Atkinson
Addison/Addy - young man living with Maggie, being raised by her
Bongo - Maggie & Addy's large, black cat
Dorothy - Addy's mother (deceased)
Mr. Man-bun - male customer this night in the diner where Maggie works (not his real name)
Eduardo - waits to walk Maggie home late at night
Scully - with Eduardo to walk Maggie home
Lars - owner of the Courtside Coffee-N-Cola, the diner where Maggie works
Twilight - Great Gray Owl seen outside the diner and at Maggie's apartment

Image 'Pauli's Diner Ambiance (rain, city noises,...)' from Google images via YouTube


Chapter 4
Chapter One, Part 4

By Y. M. Roger

Maggie looked around one more time and was about to close the door when a familiar voice startled her.
 
“Ev'rysing okay, Miss Maggie?”
 
Mr. Dejesus. She breathed a small sigh of relief as the door latched.
 
“Looked like we might have some unwelcome guests, Julio.” She turned and offered a gentle smile to the old man who stood, as always, in his khaki uniform. “But we seem to have avoided their visit for the evening.”
 
Julio’s old eyes danced with laughter as he leaned to peek around her at the closed door, eyes fixed somewhere in the distance. A whispered chortle trundled by Maggie’s ear as she stepped around the old maintenance man toward her door down the short hallway.
 
“And you sen dem away, yes, Miss Maggie?”
 
Maggie sighed as she passed him, stopping to look up and address him directly this time. He looked so tired tonight, like he hadn’t been eating or sleeping well.
 
“Well, I hope so, Julio.” Her smile was open and broad as she held out the bag she’d brought from the shop. She and Addy already had some leftovers in the refrigerator, and she had the fixings for a veggie lasagna to make tomorrow morning before work. “Why don’t you take this goodie bag from the shop off my hands? Addy’s already in bed, and goodness knows I’ve been snacking at work all evening.”
 
Well, that wasn’t exactly true, but Julio looked like he could use the food a lot more than she could.
 
Mr. Dejesus’ smile was so bright it was almost unreal as he waved off the bag, never touching it.
 
“My tanks, Miss Maggie, but I not needin dat now.” He breezed by her and gestured a wave goodnight. “And you give dose two sinnabin tists to Addy – dey his favrit.”
 
Maggie sighed.
 
“Alright, Julio.” She was still a bit concerned for the old man. “But you get some rest, yeah?”
 
The old man chuckled.
 
“G’night, Miss Maggie. Sleep well.”
 
She unlocked her apartment door as quietly as possible.
 
“Good night, Julio,” she whispered as she turned back toward him, “and thank y–”
 
But the old man was already gone.
 
Maggie smiled as she latched the door to the familiar padding and purring of their adopted panther masquerading as a black cat. That comparison made Maggie snort to herself.
 
The over-sized Bongo wrapped himself round and round and in and out her legs as she made her way to the tiny kitchen – she could probably just sit down and ride him if she wanted. His purring was so loud and deep that it vibrated most of her body. And, yes, that action helped bring on the relaxation that followed a busy day.
 
Sigh. It was good to be home.
 
“Hey, there, Handsome.” She lovingly greeted the enthusiastic feline. “Thanks for watching over him for me.” She squatted down to butt foreheads with Bongo before standing to check in on Addy.
 
She opened the door to their only bedroom just to verify his little body slept soundly in the single bed therein. Smiling at his small face and messy black hair, she began to shut the door. Stopping her motion, she sniffed the air – she’d have to remember to ask Addy what kind of mint candy he’d found. The scent was fleeting, though, and it had undertones of another familiar spice, cloves maybe, and then it was gone.
 
Maggie shrugged as she closed the door. She let her long, ebony ponytail down and glanced over at Bongo who was already in his self-designated nighttime post in front of the apartment door.
 
Maggie smiled as she opened the bag of leftovers from the shop and dug in. She pulled out her phone to tally her tips and hours, transferring to savings what she could, doling out enough for rent and power into her payment account. Fact was, she hadn’t paid rent since the garage downstairs closed a couple of months back – no one had come around to ask for it. When she had inquired to Mr. Dejesus about the matter, he had grinned and told her not to worry about it. That it’d get sorted some time.
 
Maggie snorted to herself at the thought, making Bongo raise his head in concern.
 
“Sorted my ass. The day I spend it will be the day someone shows up to collect it, yeah?” she whispered and winked at the large cat, “Kinda like the whole karma thing.”
 
Bongo seemed to study her for a few moments, his head tilting from one side to the other and then forward just in the slightest, almost as if to inquire her thoughts regarding karma already having delivered its worst in her world. At least that’s what she imagined as a smile of agreement with their adopted jungle cat lit her face.
 
“Yeah, Handsome.” Maggie opened the classical music set on her music app and set the phone aside. She proceeded to pick up Addy’s completed schoolwork for the day and began a thorough checking of his math and the history essay he was to have finished. “I sure as hell would like to think we were due some good karma, too.”
 
Bongo performed his own version of a snort and raised his upper lip on one side to reveal his magnificent teeth. He then proceeded to groom before sighing and laying his head back down for the evening.
 
Maggie smiled at the animated animal as she, too, finally felt settled for the night. She was home and dry while it poured outside. Addy was safe. And she had the damn cat to keep her company.
 
“You’re right.” She sighed and nodded as a big smile pulled across her face. She winked at Bongo again. “You and Addy are my good karma, Handsome.”
 
Another heavy sigh and a long, low rumble of apparent agreement from Bongo as Maggie fell into her teacher role, grading the work Addy had completed today. She finished up about an hour or so later, moved to her bedcovers on the couch, and let sleep take her.

 

Author Notes Sooooo, that's a good set-up for Maggie. :) :) I hope you're ready for a drastic change 'cuz next chapter opens up a whole new world... :) :) :) Stay tuned!

Maggie - Marguerite Atkinson
Addison/Addy - young man living with Maggie, being raised by her
Bongo - Maggie & Addy's large, black cat
Dorothy - Addy's mother (deceased)
'Mr. Man-bun' - male customer this night in the diner where Maggie works (not his real name)
Eduardo - waits to walk Maggie home late at night
Scully - with Eduardo to walk Maggie home
Lars - owner of the Courtside Coffee-N-Cola, the diner where Maggie works
Twilight - Great Gray Owl seen outside the diner and at Maggie's apartment
Julio Dejesus - fits role of maintenance worker/building superintendent at Maggie's apartment building

Image of '. . . brownstone at 221 West 137th Street' from Google images via Harlem Bespoke [www.harlembespoke.blogspot.com]


Chapter 5
Chapter Two, Part 1

By Y. M. Roger

Attorney Geoffrey Staltson stepped out of the hospital room and closed the door quietly behind him. A heavy sigh wracked his small frame before he pulled himself into professional mode. He tried to get his thoughts in order as he walked slowly toward the waiting room.
 
He really hated this part of friendship – the part where he was left to deal with the legal issues. And the family – such as they were in this case.
 
As if on cue, Demetrius’ eclipsing silhouette darkened the end of the corridor. At six-foot-five, it really was quite the silhouette. Geoffrey smiled inwardly. Rosemary had always said Demetrius was her favorite even though just being in the same room with the dark gentleman made Geoffrey feel… well, lacking. Not scared, necessarily, but like he didn’t quite measure up to the soft-spoken yet ominous and imposing man. When Demetrius was in a room, it was like he took the remaining air away from everyone else.
 
Kind of like right now as Geoffrey stopped in front of the towering man and raised his eyes to meet that haunting gaze.
 
“She’s not coming back from this one, Demetrius.” Geoffrey thought he saw pain before Demetrius’ vision shuttered once again, those deep onyx eyes emotionless against his smooth yet so well-defined facial features. “The stroke was far too massive.”
 
Demetrius reached out his oh-so-well-manicured hand and grasped Geoffrey’s shoulder.
 
“Thank you for taking care of the arrangements, my friend.”
 
Geoffrey nodded and swallowed his sob; someone had to handle things for everyone involved. After all, he was Rosemary’s lawyer.
 
And her friend.
 
Demetrius acknowledged him with a responding sigh and tighter squeeze before pulling himself to his full height. He ran his long graceful fingers along the side of his always-perfect coif and turned to walk out into the night air, his gorgeous body encased in that perfectly-fitted suit flowing like a huge jungle cat on the prowl. Just so gorgeous in so many ways…
 
The aging lawyer shook his thoughts back to the matter at hand. So sue him. He was old, not dead.
 
Geoffrey turned his body and full attention to the others in the waiting room; all four of them stood at once, but Peadar, hat in hand with green eyes wet, was the first to speak.
 
“Wha’ needs doin, Mr. Stal’son?”
 
Always so polite, that one, to a fault almost – Geoffrey often wondered if the short, stout, and yet quite muscular man was trying to pull one over on him because something about the man screamed ‘not so nice and polite’. And, yeah, Geoffrey could say “short” because Peadar, although quite a bit brawnier, was shorter than he was. Geoffrey also knew that his own small frame was below average in the height department. Fiercely loyal to Rosemary and more than a tad bit odd, Peadar was always the one who had helped her around the huge, multi-level mansion. He could fix just about anything – no exceptions having been discovered to date – which was a good thing since the boarding house building dated back to the early 1700’s.
 
A bit hairy for Geoffrey’s taste, Peadar’s red beard and untamable copper ringlets seem to continue over his hands and feet. He also had a straight-forward, no-holds-barred personality that the retired lawyer had always admired. No one ever had to wonder what Peadar thought of any given situation; yep, would give you the shirt off his back, but would be sure to give you no end of grief the whole time he was handing it over. At least his old, gnarled pipe was extinguished and in his front pocket tonight; it usually was hard at work producing a circle of smoke to frame Peadar’s aged face.
 
“I’ll call the Order and see if they will give her a proper ceremony.” Geoffrey sighed – he had no idea if the bitches would since Rosemary had basically told them all to go eat dirt all those years ago, “If not” -  he took a deep breath - “I’ll arrange something with Murchison’s for her.”
 
He paused and closed his eyes for a moment to help him focus. Opening his eyes again quickly, he cleared his throat to continue.
 
“Either way, Peadar, please make sure the place is ship-shape and have Miss Rosemary’s emerald ensemble, that was her favorite, all gathered and ready for the funeral” - another sigh within his words - “wherever it happens to be.”
 
Peadar nodded solemnly and choked back a sob.
 
“Twill be handled, Mr. Stal’son.”
 
Geoffrey turned to Koko. Even though the tall, young, and quite fit Native American had tear-streaks on his high cheekbones, he almost glowed with the same joy he seemed to radiate every time Geoffrey saw him. He reached down and across to take Geoffrey’s hands in his. The motion caused his long flowing black hair and small braids to fall forward to frame his wise and handsome face. It also jostled the hand-carved Anasazi flute Koko carried latched to his leather pants at all times.
 
His hands warmed Geoffrey, and the attorney somehow felt a calm pass through his grieving spirit as a result of the man’s contact. Oh, yeah. He was definitely tired.
 
“She is at one with Tuwa, honored one.” KoKo’s words washed over Geoffrey and, somehow, brought a smile to his lips. “We will celebrate her life with the rising of tomorrow’s sun.” Koko released Geoffrey’s hands and snaked one arm around the Amazon of a woman beside him, pulling her forcefully against him. “Faithful Lyca here will cook.”
 
The severe-looking brunette who wiped her crying eyes might be wearing faded jean-look leggings, a shredded tunic and lots of biker and Goth jewelry, but, in Geoffrey’s mind, she was and always would be an Amazon – scary ninja skills, cryptic tattoos, and all. Even his and Gary’s wife, Charlise, with her dominatrix aura paled in comparison to Lycaios.
 
A low, muffled growl rolled up from Lycaios that would have made the best police dog cower away.
 
“Not if you want any guests to survive,” Lycaios said, tone biting, as she bared her beautiful teeth; however, she did not pull away from Koko’s embrace, which was uncharacteristic for her. “I do not cook, Chief Pissin’ Sunshine.” She quickly swiped at her watery eyes and nose again.
 
“Cut yer shite, Lyca,” Peadar interjected, his emerald eyes dancing with a myriad of emotions. “Eetz jus’ a box mix, fer the gods’ sa—”
 
“I don’t know why any of you are worried,” the massive – there really was no other word that worked here – milk chocolate-skinned Kato whispered as he stood a step or two from the group; his arms were crossed defiantly over his broad chest.
 
Kato had always been a physical enigma with his enormous size and oddity of amber eyes, motley blonde hair, and dark complexion. And Geoffrey had often wondered where the man shopped; seriously, where did one find the clothes normally designed for a teenager to fit a man Kato’s size? Gap® for Adonis?
 
“No one will come to pay any respects because they have none to pay.”

to be continued veeery soon . . .

 

Author Notes Okay so this is part one - I posted in two parts because one post would have been 2500 words (and folks fuss over 1000 - lol!)...but this introduces you to our 'new characters'. You'll see where it connects with our Maggie up in New York with the part I will post tomorrow. I did tell you to hang on to your seat, didn't I?

Thank you so much for reading me and for your patience!


Rosemary - (deceased) Sister in some unknown Order; was the proprietor of the 'boarding house'
Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents of her 'boarding house'
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of the 'boarding house', does not seem to socialize with the others
Peadar - Irish male resident of the 'boarding house', helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - Goth, warrior-looking resident of the 'boarding house', only female resident we√????√???√??√?¬¢??ve met so far
Koko - Native American male 'boarding house' resident, has unending optimism and warmth about him
Kato - large male resident who wears the clothes of a teenager
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way 'marriage' -- Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlise)


Image of 'Emergency Department - Waiting Room' from Google images via Stanford Healthcare [stanfordhealthcare.org]


Chapter 6
Chapter Two, Part 2

By Y. M. Roger

Last post ended with Kato saying in a whisper, “No one will come to pay any respects because they have none to pay.”
And we continue…

 
Koko stood to his full height and tried to encompass them all, including the cantankerous Kato, with his warmth. The action immediately had Kato cutting his bright amber eyes at the Native American while Peadar rolled his deep green ones in an obvious exaggerated manner.
 
“Well, the honorable Geoffrey will be there with his lovely spouses.” Geoffrey nodded his agreement as he wiped his nose with his handkerchief.  “And we’ll surely see the resourceful Ms. Needham from the law office as well as Gus, the dependable one, from the feed store.”
 
Everyone had their own personal adjective in Koko-speak.
 
Lycaois growled again to which Kato joined his own for a chorus, but Koko’s radiating optimism was starting to rub off on Peadar, Geoffrey could see it in the fiery man’s eyes.
 
“And I’m sure some of the youngsters with whom our beloved Miss Rosemary has been working will make an appearance.” Geoffrey couldn’t help himself but relax as Koko continued – the could-be-Chief’s calming spirit in the face of their tragedy really was infectious.
 
Geoffrey watched a smile try to tug at Lycaois’ lips – he knew a few of the handicapped children who visited Rosemary for therapy throughout the week had found a special place in her heart, especially the little blind girl who called Freki her puppy. Never mind that the ‘puppy’ was the size of a grizzly bear even though it was supposed to be some sort of Norwegian something or another.
 
But Kato, in his board shorts and plaid button-up that revealed hard abs where the material struggled to cover them completely, would not be swayed from his pessimism. Not that Geoffrey could blame him. Their small Southern town definitely had a running deficit in the neighborly department with respect to the residents of Rosemary’s unique boarding house.
 
“Their parents will not let them, you will see.”
 
But, then again, he was no match for Koko's optimism.
 
“Yes! Yes, we will see many welcome visitors to celebrate our beloved Miss Rosemary’s life!” Koko had slowly begun to usher their little band of misfits toward the doorway through which Demetrius had exited earlier. “Come, Kato, take us home so that we may begin preparations!”
 
Kato huffed, very aggravated, as he dug the keys for their Land Rover out of his board shorts. “Crazy-ass cuckoo for KoKo Puffs,” he mumbled to no one in particular.
 
As the group turned to leave, Peadar stayed behind and turned solemnly to Geoffrey, his gnarly hands twisting his hat nervously as he raised his face to speak.
 
“I dun mean to git ahead, Mr. Stal’son” - his upward gaze became piercing - “But what of a successor?” Peadar broke the gaze and stared at the floor. “You should know the place needs someone . . .”
 
Geoffrey reached out to touch Peadar’s hands in reassurance but caught himself; he sometimes forgot that Rosemary’s residents were not the touchy-feely type he tended to be.
 
Except Koko. He touched everyone…whether they liked it or not because his size allowed him to get away with it. Besides, no one ever seemed to mind.
 
Except, of course, the beautiful and dangerous Demetrius. No one ever touched Demetrius.
 
Geoffrey grinned inwardly at his scattered musings and sighed as he forced his wandering mind back to the present.
 
“Rosemary said she knew of a great-niece that should be a good fit, Peadar.” Geoffrey thought how Rosemary had insisted on making sure everything was in place. She must have foreseen this incident because she should have had many more years before inheritance was even an issue – Hell! Geoffrey had been convinced that she would have easily outlived his entire family!
 
Truth was, though, that Rosemary had not even known this young lady niece of hers: it seems she was the daughter of Rosemary’s brother’s fourth daughter. She’d only held this grand-niece at her birth and seen her once or twice before she was out of diapers. At that point, some sort of estate or birthright thing or other such nonsense had ended all contact between Rosemary and her entire family.
 
It had been so odd to him when, after the last holidays were done, Rosemary had appeared, unannounced, at his house and had been adamant that everything be in writing and lawfully airtight for everything she owned or possessed to pass solely to the young woman.
 
Who apparently she’d never met as an adult.
 
In the unlikely event of my death, dear Geoffrey.
 
Yes, she had certainly taken care and then some to assure that the Order – or anyone else, family or otherwise – had no say in anything.
 
Peadar seemed to tense up, if only in the slightest, and his eyes narrowed as his gaze again focused upward to the lawyer’s face.
 
“Should?” Peadar was understandably concerned “But, in the past, the Order . . .”
 
Geoffrey breathed in and out to calm himself. Peadar had no idea what Rosemary had sacrificed for them all to remain under her ‘protection’ as she had called it; Rosemary had wanted it that way. Seriously, though, not even Geoffrey understood the workings of Rosemary’s world – this Order that somehow thought they had owned Rosemary. Could tell her who she allowed in her boarding house. What a crock!
 
But he had always been her friend first and lawyer second. He had to continue to respect her wishes, that none of her boarders – or any travelers, as they come and go, Geoffrey – be the wiser, even though she was gone.
 
The entire Order could burn in Hell or whatever it was they believed in for eternal damnation – a vat of boiling quicksand or something, he had no idea, but he didn’t care.
 
“I doubt the Regional Order will even give Rosemary a ceremony,” Geoffrey managed to ground out.
 
Then he watched those emerald eyes begin a slow boil, and he unconsciously took a step back. “And I have to find out under which Order the niece is currently a Sister, although Rosemary had never indicated that was an issue.”
 
He didn’t even know where the young lady lived. He rubbed his forehead.
 
Again, Geoffrey made himself relax, so as to convey a somewhat peaceful aura for the man in front of him, no need to stoke animosity where there need not be any. And for the first time, Geoffrey sensed a whole lot of animosity there.
 
“But let’s handle all of this now, yes?” Geoffrey simply gestured in general to indicate the here and now.
 
Peadar never broke his gaze with the old attorney.
 
“Aye, fer Miss Rosemary.” There was a hesitation in his voice before he continued. “Fer now.”
 
It was a clear implication that Peadar considered their conversation unfinished.
 
“Thank you,” breathed Geoffrey as he nodded to indicate the nurse’s station. “Now, I must take care of the legal aspects of her passing.”
 
“Aye.” Peadar paused and then his gaze softened. “We thank ye, Mr. Stal’son” - he stood up as straight as his stocky build would allow - “for everything.” Nodding, he placed his hat haphazardly over his wild auburn locks. “We all do.”
 
Geoffrey got all choked up again, so he simply returned the nod as Peadar turned and jogged to catch up to the others.
 
Geoffrey really needed to get home to Gary and Charlise; he knew they would both be waiting up for him even though he had told them not to do so. He needed some comforting of his own.
 
He’d call Stephen in the morning and have him start the search for the young lady; he and Jinx were an investigative powerhouse for it only being the two of them. Hopefully, they’d be able to find this Marguerite Atkinson.
 
Geoffrey sighed and put on his best face for dealing with the public as he reached the nurse’s station.
 
Although he couldn’t explain it, the old lawyer could just feel in his bones that this saga was just beginning.

 

Author Notes Don't worry -- we'll learn more about these folks very soon...:) ;) Thank you for reading me! :) ;)


Rosemary - (deceased) Sister in some unknown Order; was the proprietor of the 'boarding house'
Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents of her 'boarding house'
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of the 'boarding house', does not seem to socialize with the others
Peadar - Irish male resident of the 'boarding house', helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - Goth, warrior-looking resident of the 'boarding house', only female resident we've met so far
Koko - Native American male resident of the 'boarding house', has unending optimism and warmth about him
Kato - large male resident who wears the clothes of a teenager
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way 'marriage' - Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlise)
Gary Staltson - Geoffrey's husband
Freki - Lycaois' over-sized pet 'dog'
Stephen - private investigator employed by Geoffrey
Jinx - computer hack/whiz working with Stephen, handles all the tech-forensics for investigations

Image of 'Emergency Department - Waiting Room' from Google images via Stanford Healthcare [stanfordhealthcare.org]


Chapter 7
Chapter Three, Part 1

By Y. M. Roger

The Staltsons had to park down the road from the cul-de-sac on which the boarding house and grounds were located; the place was that crowded. The old mansion looked wonderful, and there were, quite surprisingly, a lot more people than Geoffrey had expected to be there.
 
The small service and burial at Murchison’s Funeral Home and Memory Gardens had been private, and he had not known how many to expect at their gathering here.
 
“Probably a whole bunch of nosey dickheads that could care less about Rosemary or The Refuge.” Gary was kindof a bit like Peadar in the fact that you never had to wonder what was on his mind, although most times his Gary had a much better social filter.
 
Geoffrey smiled both inside and out as the three of them walked toward the boarding house that was named The Refuge. His Charlise’s forearm landed across his shoulders, her physical reassurances always welcome.
 
“Yes, but you will be civil and amicable to all those dickheads for our Geoffrey’s sake.” The command in her  hushed statement not easily missed.
 
Gary’s hand rested on Geoffrey’s lower back from his other side.
 
“Of course, Charlie,” his Gary replied in his usual jovial manner as he leaned to the side and placed a soft kiss on Geoffrey’s temple. Then his voice took on a more strident tone. “S’long as the dickheads can all do the same.”
 
Charlise huffed her feigned amusement.
 
“Well, I guess it’s just as well since I’m sure neither Peadar nor Lyca are thrilled with this crowd,” she added.
 
Geoffrey had to agree with that one.
 
“What about Kato? Probably put on a set of headphones somewhere and has tuned the whole thing out.” Gary’s words held more truth than he could know.
 
“And I’m sure Demetrius is completely M-I-A,” Geoffrey added.
 
Gary chuckled as his hand drifted southward to take firm hold of Geoffrey’s buttocks, and Geoffrey felt Charlie’s hand move to a gentle chokehold around his neck as she leaned over, caressing his pulse point, and purred into his ear, “Just remember to whom you belong, sweet Geoffrey.” He could almost feel the smile in her suggestive voice. “He might turn your head, our sexy man, but it is the both of us who share your bed.”
 
Geoffrey’s entire countenance was engulfed in a blushing smile that heated his flushed face and neck, and he swallowed slowly as he concentrated on getting his arousal under control. Their handling of him in such a possessive manner never failed to turn his crank.
 
“Oh, God!” Geoffrey whispered in a harsh and embarrassed manner, “Behave yourselves!” He tried to step away from them and toward the house. “They’re my clients. That’s all!”
 
His spouses both chuckled at his exasperation – they knew he had always ogled the perfect yet emotionally-detached Demetrius from afar. But Geoffrey was the most devoted and loving husband they could have ever asked for – their thirty year anniversary a few weeks ago was testament to that.
 
Gary grabbed his ass hard and whispered as the larger man walked past Geoffrey into the house, “That blush is mine later, sexy.”
 
Gary didn’t look back as he took the stairs to the front porch ahead of Geoffrey two at a time.
 
“Always,” Geoffrey called after him as he turned to Charlie walking beside him, “Guess you’d better find Lyca and see if she needs a hand.”
 
Charlie laughed quite heartily as she leaned over, grasped the back of his neck in that possessive hold of hers, and gave him a firm kiss. “I’ll be in the kitchen area so, be sure to pass by occasionally.”
 
“Promise,” Geoffrey murmured, lost in her scent and touch, and added, “Love you, Charlie.”
 
The athletic-looking and well-built Charlie slowly pulled away, adding a gentle kiss to his forehead. “Love you, too, my Geoffrey.”
 
And she, too, disappeared into the house.
 
Only as he was left alone did Geoffrey notice the people staring at him. He guessed it might have bothered him twenty or more years ago.
 
But not now.
 
He was an accomplished attorney, after all; a damned fine one whose clients ranged from rock stars to well-known politicians to huge names in the I-T world. To the late Miss Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge, as her legal documentation identified her.
 
Whatever.
 
To him and most everyone else, she had been the humble and welcoming Miss Rosemary, boarding house manager and inn keeper.
 
Geoffrey let his smile take over his entire face at all of the judgmental eyes fixed on him. He pulled the vibrating phone from his pocket and winked at a nearby woman about his age; she had been looking particularly offended by his family’s tactile acknowledgements.
 
“It’s the twenty-first century, Amelia.” Geoffrey shook his head, letting his grin become quite salacious just to watch her squirm. “Public displays of affection between spouses are actually legal.” He paused, but then figured what the hell, right? “I’d think after three husbands you’d have figured that out.”
 
Before Amelia could get finished her display of complete indignation, Geoffrey winked, pressed the receive button, and turned away from her.
 
“Talk to me, Stephen.” The dead ends his private investigator had encountered so far had not been reassuring. “And I hope you have something concrete this time.”
 
to be continued…

 

Author Notes The photo is NOT of The Refuge - The Refuge is an entirely fictitious boarding house and inn created entirely for this novel and has no likeness in our reality.

Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents at The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, does not seem to socialize with the others
Peadar - Irish male resident of The Refuge, helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - (aka Lyca) Goth, warrior-looking female resident of The Refuge
Koko - Native American male resident of The Refuge, has unending optimism and warmth about him
Kato - large male resident who wears the clothes of a teenager
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way marriage - Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlie)
Gary Staltson - Geoffrey's husband
Freki - Lyca's over-sized pet 'dog'
Stephen - private investigator employed by Geoffrey
Jinx - computer hack/whiz working with Stephen, handles all the tech-forensics for investigations


Image of 'Delightful Southern House Plans' at The Image Fixer [theimagefixer.com]


Chapter 8
Chapter Three, Part 2

By Y. M. Roger

“No idea when that may be, Koko,” Geoffrey replied, quite distracted. His mind was anywhere but on this conversation with Koko. And watching Gary play around the huge backyard with Freki did nothing to help his focus; his husband was simply amazing. “I fly out to meet Stephen in New York tomorrow.”
 
The house and grounds were once again peaceful, quiet and empty as Charlie, Lyca, and Peadar worked to put away the multitude of food left over from earlier. Of course, Demetrius had not made an appearance all day. And Kato? Well, it seemed Gary had called it earlier in the day: Kato had climbed into the crook of one of the enormous trees out back. He had attached one earbud and proceeded to spend the entire afternoon soaking up the sun’s rays. And even though Geoffrey had noticed that Kato kept one eye alert at all times, most people hadn’t even known he was there. Geoffrey figured such was what he had intended.
 
So, it was just Koko and Geoffrey on the back porch, and the usually cheerful Koko was introspective in an uncharacteristic manner as they watched Gary practically ride the huge wolf-like dog to bring it down playfully. Both he and Koko took another sip of beer.
 
“Her Order has notified her to expect you?”
 
Geoffrey turned and tried not to spray Koko with the beer he’d just poured into his mouth. Koko’s question was a definite land-mine if ever there was one. God, if it were only that easy.
 
Koko looked mildly amused, but his brow still furrowed at Geoffrey’s delay in replying. Of course, the frown could have been at Geoffrey’s expulsion of the beer from his mouth and a faster-than-would-be-expected recovery.
 
“According to the oh-so-helpful Sisters up there,” Geoffrey made sure to emphasize his sarcasm, “Northeastern Order records and genealogy have the bloodline ending with Rosemary’s decision not to have children.” Geoffrey’s words sounded odd even to himself – their terms and references had reminded him of the way breeders speak at the AKA dog show each year. “They stated that their claim is verifiable through World Wide Headquarters and are adamant about no ‘spark’ past her generation.”
 
Geoffrey watched Koko carefully for an acknowledgement that the Native American man may have a better understanding of that verbal gibberish than he had, but Koko simply grunted, his expression remaining unchanged.
 
Geoffrey shrugged – so he was obviously the only one clueless as to the meaning of the genealogical gobblety-goop.
 
He simply shook his head to himself. It wasn’t the first time he was not ‘in the know’ when it came to the drama inside a client’s life – heaven knows the international music scene could be the source for a decade or more of endless documentaries of intrigue.
 
C’est la vie.
 
Such had become his favorite saying in his line of work. Geoffrey took another sip of his beer, this time determined to swallow it.
 
“Then we should appeal to Rosemary’s Regional Order for-”
 
Geoffrey choked on his mouthful and coughed half of it into the climbing rose bushes lining the porch railing.
 
“No, Koko.” Geoffrey croaked in between coughing and trying to clear his throat. “Rosemary was insistent that her grand-niece, and only her grand-niece, was to replace her.” He tried to put some of the firmness in his voice that Gary and Charlie always managed without sounding bossy. “Everything here, and I do mean everything  – the house, the land, the furnishings, the accounts, hell, we’re talking specifics down to the damn cat bowls – is now in this Marguerite Atkinson’s name.”
 
Geoffrey swiped his mouth with the back of his empty hand and tried to straighten his now alcohol-smelling shirt as he gazed firmly up at Koko. “Nope. Seems you folks are pretty much going to be outside the Order for an innkeeper on this one because all of this?” Geoffrey motioned with his best trial lawyer arm actions. “It belongs to Marguerite now. Period.”
 
If he didn’t know better, he’d swear the daylight suddenly became dimmer. In fact, he glanced out across the tree line to search out the thunder clouds that must have echoed the slight rumbling that rolled through the area. There were none. Geoffrey turned back to Koko whose eyes had gone dark in a very menacing manner. Frowning slightly, he took a step back from the Native American who seemed to increase in height, if only in the slightest.
 
Another rumble of thunder, this time closer and accompanied by a threatening breeze that smelled of storm clouds and was that sulfur? Geoffrey caught his breath as he carefully placed his beer bottle on the railing and continued backing away slowly.
 
“Koko!”
 
Demetrius’ deep voice startled Geoffrey such that he stumbled back, only to have Demetrius grab his upper arm to keep him from falling – that large hand clasping his bicep like a frozen steel vice. Cold and unbelievably strong.
 
He’d just had time to register the ominous man’s presence before Demetrius had moved to catch him and moved between Geoffrey and Koko. Geoffrey found himself staring at Demetrius’ back.
 
Demetrius placed both palms flat on Koko’s broad chest. “Sipala.”
 
It was such a simple word, but Demetrius made it sound like a command from the heavens. Geoffrey could actually feel the word against his skin even though Demetrius mostly had his back to the attorney.

Geoffrey tried to peek around the large man’s frame to observe their interaction.
 
There seemed to be no immediate change in Koko’s demeanor and the breeze continued.
 
Demetrius raised a small portion of his upper lip and bared a larger than normal canine as an inhuman growl emanated from him. The action prompted Geoffrey to take another step back away from the both of them. And even though Geoffrey had no idea what that word meant or how a man could make the sound that had just come from Demetrius, he watched in amazement as all darkness left Koko’s face. In fact, the sun seemed to shine brighter out in the yard than before the odd confrontation – the smells and sounds of the distant storm disappearing.
 
to be continued…

 

Author Notes The photo is NOT of The Refuge. The Refuge is an entirely fictitious boarding house and inn created entirely for this novel and has no likeness in our reality.

Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents at The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, does not seem to socialize with the others
Peadar - Irish male resident of The Refuge, helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - (aka Lyca) Goth, warrior-looking female resident of The Refuge
Koko - Native American male resident of The Refuge, has unending optimism and warmth about him...most of the time
Kato - large male resident who wears the clothes of a teenager
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way marriage - Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlie)
Gary Staltson - Geoffrey's husband
Freki - Lyca's over-sized pet 'dog'
Stephen - private investigator employed by Geoffrey
Jinx - computer hack/whiz working with Stephen, handles all the tech-forensics for investigations


Image of 'Delightful Southern House Plans' at The Image Fixer [theimagefixer.com]


Chapter 9
Chapter Three, Part 3

By Y. M. Roger

THE VERY END OF LAST PART:  Demetrius raised a small portion of his upper lip and bared a larger than normal canine as an inhuman growl emanated from him. The action prompted Geoffrey to take another step back away from the both of them. And even though Geoffrey had no idea what that word meant or how a man could make the sound that had just come from Demetrius, he watched in amazement as all darkness left Koko’s face. In fact, the sun seemed to shine brighter out in the yard than before the odd confrontation – the smells and sounds of the distant storm disappearing.

Demetrius only turned a profile to Geoffrey as he gracefully removed a pair of sunglasses from his breast pocket and placed them on his handsome face.
 
“Thank y–” Geoffrey began, but the imposing man interrupted him.
 
“And your flight to meet Stephen tomorrow?”
 
Even though Demetrius did not look directly at him, Geoffrey realized the man looming over him still expected an answer. Had he been listening to their conversation the whole time? Where had he been standing? How did Geoffrey miss such a large presence in the immediate area?
 
The strident snapping of Demetrius’ fingers in his face re-focused Geoffrey’s thoughts.
 
“Yes, uhmm, Stephen thinks he’s located her.” Geoffrey noticed Koko’s countenance was back to his usual warm presence and found himself wondering what word it was that Demetrius had...
 
“Located?”
 
This time Demetrius turned slowly toward him. Geoffrey cleared his throat to continue as the beautiful man continued to tower over him.
 
“Well, it seems her father intended to put her in foster care when she was fourteen, but she was never logged into the system. He had a new wife and kids – Marguerite’s mother was out of the picture, apparently – and claims he dropped the girl off. He actually has the signed receipt and –”
 
“A receipt? For a child?” There was no mistaking the incredulousness and the cold menace in Demetrius’ voice.
 
“Uhm, perhaps that’s not the correct term for it.” Geoffrey swallowed as he stared up at his reflection in those completely opaque glasses. “Anyway, it seems there were clerical errors, and then a missing agent and caseworker and, well, they have no actual record of –”
 
“Did not the father follow-up on her placement?” Still so cold. So cutting. And, even though the clear maliciousness did not seem to be directed at him, Geoffrey did find the question odd.
 
Then again, who was he to tell a client what to ask, especially such an attractive and domineering client. As long as he did not disclose confidential information, it was all good.
 
“He was pretty clear that the last contact he had with this Marguerite was the day he obtained his re—uhm, paperwork.” Geoffrey soldiered on, determined to finish his complete statement this time. “But there is no record of actual placement for a Marguerite Atkinson in the system.”
 
“How long ago was that?” No emotion in Demetrius’ voice this time. None.
 
“Just under six years,” Geoffrey continued, “but Stephen and his team think they have located a young lady that fits just about all of our search criteria living in The Bronx.”
 
No sign of further interjection was offered, and Demetrius’ expression stayed as neutral as a statue. No, to be honest, Geoffrey was pretty sure that statues showed a helluva lot more emotion than this man’s face. He swallowed, hoping he had not caused a rift between the two of them.
 
“Which is where I will be going when I meet Stephen tomorrow afternoon.”
 
Just as Geoffrey finished – a feat for which he was quite proud of himself given his ominous audience – the screen door opened and Charlie leaned out.
 
“Everything okay out here?”
 
She had that ‘do I need to kick some ass’ sound in her voice as she eyed his beer-drenched shirt and glanced back at Demetrius and Koko. She raised her eyebrow in question.
 
Geoffrey smiled and tried to offer her his best relaxed face; his wife really should not be privy to his conversations with his clients.
 
No matter how intimidating those clients happened to be.
 
“We’re good, Charlie. Be finished shortly.”
 
Demetrius did not turn to acknowledge her nor did his face turn in the slightest from full focus on Geoffrey. He stood as still as a stone. Koko, on the other hand, grinned like the Cheshire cat and winked at Charlise.
 
“Just guy-talk, beautiful protective one. We will release him to you presently.”
 
Charlie smiled in return; she was always a sucker for Koko’s way with words.
 
“I wish to know the father’s name.” The cold, menacing tone in Demetrius’ voice had returned.
 
Geoffrey frowned at the unexpected request.
 
“Well, I’m not sure that’s appropriate given th-”
 
Demetrius lowered his glasses to look down into Geoffrey’s eyes, and Geoffrey could not look away. The deep, desirable dark chocolate that usually defined those handsome eyes had been replaced. He had never seen such depth, such color variations in ambers and browns as this. A warm feeling suffused his being, and he felt a child-like happiness bubble up inside him.
 
“You will provide me with the father’s name and address, Geoffrey.”
 
The sentence wove its way into the forefront of Geoffrey’s mind and then throughout his entire consciousness. Of course he would give that information to Demetrius. Why had he even hesitated in the first place?
 
Silly him.
 
“Of course, Demetrius.” Geoffrey smiled up at the perfectly handsome man now repositioning his sunglasses to their proper resting place on his face. “I will be sure to get that to you as soon as possible.”
 
“Thank you, my friend.” Demetrius’ voice returned to its normal cadence, and Geoffrey felt the warm feeling subside. But not before Koko reached out and around Demetrius to grasp the lawyer’s shoulder – a reassurance of another kind began to ebb through the already smiling Geoffrey.
 
“You are important to us, honorable one.” Koko’s aura of joy had Geoffrey smiling up at the Native American. “And we are so glad the three of you joined us today.”
 
Koko stepped forward as he spoke and held the door, motioning for Geoffrey to pass inside before himself.
 
Somehow, Demetrius was already gone. Geoffrey glanced all around.
 
Nope. No sign of him. How could he have missed his leaving? He decided it was probably for the best that he not finish his beer.
 
Geoffrey shook his head – more for his own thoughts rather than at anyone else – and thanked Koko for his politeness as he stepped inside.
 
He was suddenly exhausted and ready to go home and get some sleep. He had an early flight out of Huntsville in the morning.
 
to be continued…

 

Author Notes The photo is NOT of The Refuge. The Refuge is an entirely fictitious boarding house and inn created entirely for this novel and has no likeness in our reality.

Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents at The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, does not seem to socialize with the others
Peadar - Irish male resident of The Refuge, helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - (aka Lyca) Goth, warrior-looking female resident of The Refuge
Koko - Native American male resident of The Refuge, has unending optimism and warmth about him...most of the time
Kato - large male resident who wears the clothes of a teenager
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way marriage - Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlie)
Gary Staltson - Geoffrey's husband
Freki - Lyca's over-sized pet 'dog'
Stephen - private investigator employed by Geoffrey
Jinx - computer hack/whiz working with Stephen, handles all the tech-forensics for investigations


Image of 'Delightful Southern House Plans' at The Image Fixer [theimagefixer.com]


Chapter 10
Chapter Three, Part 4

By Y. M. Roger

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.

The sun had set as Peadar rocked slowly in one of the rocking chairs on the expansive front porch. He mumbled incoherently about nothing in particular as he puffed slowly on his pipe. His hands worked deftly on a pair of Kato’s large athletic shoes the large male had, once again, managed to wear through. On a normal, inviting evening such as this, Peadar would be off somewhere up to something. But, right now was anything but normal.
 
He was, however, quite glad the whole celebration thing was done; Peadar was simply not cut out for dealing with people. Not at all. Deep puff on the pipe as his mind continued to wander. Now, if they could only get this Marguerite here.
 
“Then things kin settle down ‘round here,” he mumbled to himself.
 
Suddenly, the nearly 700-pound lion that had been napping nearby stirred, a low growl rising up from its massive frame.
 
The both of them raised their eyes to focus on the figures approaching along the front walk. The first, a large dog, black as midnight. The second, of obvious feminine stature – a hooded cape making her identity unmistakable.
 
The lion leapt to its feet, its growl much more menacing this time. But Peadar was slower to rise, taking a long and purposeful time to put down the shoe and then his needle as he spoke.
 
“Inside. Now!” his words, though whispered, were harsh and demanding. They were spoken around his pipe he had clenched tightly in his teeth.
 
The lion growled in disagreement as the hair stood along its backbone. It turned its head toward Peadar briefly and rumbled its argument.
 
“Miss Rosemary’s wards are still stron’, I kin feel ‘em,” Peadar spoke to the beast as he held the screen door to the house open, “Now. Git inside an’ lemme ‘andle her.”
 
The lion let out a short roar directed at the visitor – who was about halfway up the walk now – before turning to trot inside.
 
“Tell the others.” Peadar added just above a whisper as the massive lion brushed against his leg on the way in the door.
 
Another growl and a huff was all Peadar got as acknowledgement before he let the screen door close behind the huge jungle cat. He then turned his attention to the approaching figures. Peadar tried to calm his emotions as he prepared to speak; he had less than nothing to say to this dark bitch tonight as his anger brewed inside of him.
 
Said bitch stopped a few feet from the bottom step and lowered her hood, raising her face to Peadar who still stood on the porch. Gods be damned, but she was beautiful! Peadar had forgotten what the Sisters looked like under full spell and seal of the Order. But that realization also confirmed the suspicion he’d had of Rosemary’s leaving the Sisterhood – Geoffrey’s comment in the hospital about the arrangements having been yet another in a long line of clues.
 
Peadar had actually watched their Rosemary age over the past few years – something she had not done up to a point – something this evil bitch in front of him obviously had under control. No, it may have been gradual, but Miss Rosemary had definitely grown older before her sudden death. Oh, she’d done it gracefully and her attitude and abilities had never wavered, but the lines on her aging face had spoken volumes to him.
 
Just as the lack of those lines on the face he now beheld spoke different volumes. Volumes of lies. Of deceit. And of avarice.
 
Of an Order that had apparently set about to and had succeeded in bringing down the Guardian Protectress of their sanctuary grounds…of each of them…of all that passed through her wards and through the door of The Refuge.
 
The perfect, glowing female smiled at Peadar. It was a smile that promised many pleasurable things, and he felt his trousers tighten with the visions of those pleasures.
 
Bitch.
 
Just like the inky mongrel sitting at her side.
 
Peadar ground his teeth, removing his pipe to keep from breaking it. In the process, he felt his nails begin to elongate with his anger.
 
“Fer as ye go, manky bitch.” He breathed in and out to control his arousal the female’s scent physically induced. “The both o’ ye.”
 
Her smile never wavered.
 
“Ahhh, but handsome Peadar, if you would invite me just onto the front porch, perhaps we could come to an agreement of sorts. After all, the Order has no quarrel with-”
 
Peadar sneered as he watched her hands moving rhythmically at her sides, just ever so slightly. He knew she was tracing spells to test the strong wards Rosemary had woven around the house.
 
“Ye did no’want Miss Rosemary here anymo’, did ye? But the lass woul’ no’ give eet up, wood shee?” Peadar watched that perfect smile falter only for the briefest of moments as she reached up to release the first tie in her traveling cape. The opening revealed that luscious and calling cleavage like a cloche reveals a succulent meal at a feast.
 
“Oh, Peadar. Just a conversation. You and I out here in the moonlight.” Her voice dropped an octave, and Peadar felt his mouth begin to water as he watched her finger tease the skin there. “As I said, our quarrel is not with-”
 
“Ballsch! Ye feckin’ teez!” he exclaimed as he wiped his drool over the goods she was displaying – goods that no Sister ever intended to share, “Ye Order bitches coul’ no’ even give her a proper send off, coodyee?” Peadar let his anger steer his mind away from the building arousal game she was playing. “And jus’ ‘oo is eet, exactly, ye have ye angst wi-”
 
“With me.”
 
Demetrius’ deep voice behind him startled Peadar, but the immediate transformation of the female’s alluring smile to an animalistic snarl was frightening. She raised her hands to cast.
 
“Animal!” She screeched as a barely visible arc flew from each of her hands only to dissipate just a few feet in front of her – Rosemary’s wards absorbing it without so much as a tremor.
 
The black dog at her side set into its offensive stance; its hair on end along its spine as it bared its rows of sharp teeth.
 
“Her wards are stronger that any of yours.” Demetrius’ voice was cold and mocking. “Which is why you still cannot enter, just as you could not when she was alive.”
 
The ugly anger that had taken over the female continued to simmer as she raised her lip in a snarl to create a cacophony with those elicited by her charcoal mongrel.
 
“But she lives no more, filthy beast! And her wards will now fade with her passing, just as all natural powers do! And then you will be ours for the killing.”
 
Demetrius showed no emotion at all as he allowed a laugh, such as it was, to escape him. Peadar took one step to the side away from the towering man who radiated a barely-leashed power of his own at the moment – the depths of which Peadar was not sure he could comprehend.
 
“Ah, but what if the new Protectress is not of your Order, Femme?” Demetrius actually cocked his head slightly to one side, mocking the angered female. “I would think that might be a problem for you.”
 
Now, it was evil bitch’s turn to fake a laugh.
 
“There is none that can stand against the trained hand of a Hecate Sister, you disgusting animal!”
 
Her contempt was palpable to Peadar. It seemed the Order really wanted Demetrius for….something. But even as he wondered about the dark figure beside him that had come to reside with them a few years past, Peadar could not help the hate-fueled laughter that bubbled up from inside of him.
 
Oh, he’d really like to strangle her right here. Right now.
 
For their brave Rosemary.
 
“Horse shite! Miss Rosemary stood agin’ all o’ ye fer years, did she no’?!”
 
Evil bitch grinned with a conniving glare that reflected the moonlight in an eerie manner.
 
“We took her out slowly, like she deserved for her misplaced loyalty, you meddling creature,” she reached up and re-tied the top of her traveling cloak, a wicked almost vicious grin coating her face, “The Mighty Hecate owns a piece of every Sister, and betrayal is never tolerated.”
 
Peadar watched Demetrius’ hands fist to the point of shaking, and the towering man seemed to fight a smile. His voice, however, was as unfeeling and frigid as ever.
 
“Confession duly noted, witch.” Was that fear that momentarily flashed across her face? “But smiles are not usually worn by the hunted so you must have found enjoyment in your task, yes?”
 
Evil bitch’s eyes flashed to Peadar.
 
“There is never satisfaction in taking down one of our own.” Her voice had a bit of a different tone this time. More clipped. More unsure, perhaps. “Even if Rosemary had brought it on herself.”
 
She sneered and began to raise her hood. Peadar growled at her pointed confirmation of his suspicions as his claws fully extended, the air surrounding the shorter man filling slowly with a pink and green mist.
 
Demetrius’ fists relaxed. If, in his anger, Peadar could have gotten a better look into the man’s eyes, he would have seen a sinister delight dancing there. Like a child’s delight at solving a puzzle.
 
“So, you admit there have been others?”
 
At Demetrius’ question, the female froze in the raising of her hood – the halt in motion only momentary, but Peadar caught it. The question had taken her off-guard, and that realization alone made Peadar re-examine the dark man beside him.
 
The one who raised a slow, simple eyebrow to accompany his question of the defiant female.
 
The dog beside her began to fidget and whine, unsettled, it seemed, about something. Evil bitch then sniffed and continued raising her hood to placement. A smile slowly crept back across her perfect lips as a slight huff slipped out, the forced breath to be her only response to Demetrius’ prosecutorial inquiry.
 
“Know this, vile abomination.” She indicated her head toward Demetrius, the contempt returning to her voice. “Hecate will bathe her vengeance in your blood, and anyone who dares provide safe harbor to your kind against us will pay dearly.”
 
The female turned and walked away, her unkempt and smelly black beast by her side. Her silhouette was soon swallowed up by the darkness.
 
Peadar took a deep breath to clear his senses, and the colorful mist surrounding him began to subside. He withdrew his claws as he began to speak, turning toward Demetrius in question.
 
“Why, exactly, was sanctuary necessary for a–”
 
But Peadar was alone on the porch.
 
to be continued…

 

Author Notes I know this was a bit longer, but it was too short to cut into two (they would have been too short each). Thank you for your diligence!! :) ;)

This is the end of chapter three -- we're back to New York with the next posting...remember, Geoffrey's flight leaves in the morning. :)

Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents at The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, does not seem to socialize with the others
Peadar - Irish male resident of The Refuge, helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - (aka Lyca) Goth, warrior-looking female resident of The Refuge
Koko - Native American male resident of The Refuge, has unending optimism and warmth about him...most of the time
Kato - large male resident who wears the clothes of a teenager
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way marriage - Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlie)
Gary Staltson - Geoffrey's husband
Freki - Lyca's over-sized pet 'dog'
Stephen - private investigator employed by Geoffrey
Jinx - computer hack/whiz working with Stephen, handles all the tech-forensics for investigations
Witch of the Hecate Order -- first appearance here


Image of 'Delightful Southern House Plans' at The Image Fixer [theimagefixer.com]


Chapter 11
Chapter Four, Part 1

By Y. M. Roger

Stephen swallowed the New York style pie, trying almost to no avail to keep up with his boss. For a little guy, Geoffrey sure could put away the pizza. Stephen made a questioning face with a bit of feigned horror mixed in.
 
Geoffrey ducked and tried to cover his soft laughter with his napkin.
 
“Sorry, no time for breakfast before I left the house this morning,” he managed to enunciate before wiping his mouth and swallowing again, “Tell me what we know so far,” Geoffrey implored before flattening the napkin and securing another large bite.
 
“First” – Stephen held up a finger signally for a moment to finish his bite – “here’s what Jinx managed to find for me.”
 
Stephen wiped his hands on his third napkin and took some pages from the inside pocket of his coat.
 
“As I said, the dad apparently attempted to put her into the system just over six years ago.” Stephen indicated a highlight on the faintly printed page he flattened onto the table facing Geoffrey. “But the system has no record of it. However, I checked out his documentation and it is, indeed, legit. But when I asked the people at the front desk about the Marguerite B. Atkinson named thereon, they have no record of her placement. And here’s why.”
 
Stephen paused to take a big drink of root beer. He wiped the foam from his mouth on his sleeve and continued, that ‘I love my job’ look plastered securely on his face.
 
“It seems the caseworker’s name on here” – Stephen indicated the copy of the Transfer of Legal Guardianship Form – “disappeared completely, and the date on this receipt is the last time she actually checked into the office. Her assistant too. In fact, the missing person’s report filed by her husband at the police station was ruled a desertion of spouse along with her assistant’s that was filed by the assistant’s wife. Cops seem to think the two ran off together, and left it at that. But then I talked to both the caseworker’s husband and the assistant’s wife, and it’s pretty obvious that neither case was a desertion. Both couples were quite happy – hell, the assistant and his wife were trying to get pregnant – and nothing, and I do mean nothing, was missing from the residences of either missing person. It’s like they both went to work one day, and vanished.”
 
Geoffrey gulped some of his root beer and squinted at Stephen.
 
“So, someone waited until the dad left and, what, kidnapped the girl? Killed the caseworker and assistant? Kidnapped all three? I thought you said you found her, Stephen.”
 
Stephen had taken the pause to put another large bite in his mouth, but he chewed enthusiastically so that he could answer. It was obvious how much he was enjoying this case.
 
“Well, if you’d let me finish, bossman.” He pounded back another big swallow and set the glass down, once again wiping his foam mustache and winking at Geoffrey. “About a year later” – Stephen indicated another highlighted area further down the page – “this Dorothy Westmorland filed homeschool paperwork for a Marguerite A. Son, the ‘A’ apparently for the family name of ‘Atkin’. She was listed as Dorothy’s niece.”
 
“Mmm-Hmm,” Geoffrey interjected with a raised eyebrow, indicating to Stephen that he understood and that the investigator should continue.
 
 
“Seems Dorothy was a single mom with one son barely out of diapers and hardly a pot to piss in, but who, while working as an accountant to a couple of different small businesses in their neighborhood” - He flipped to the next page and pointed again – “managed to homeschool this Marguerite and, eventually, her own son, Addison. I’m guessing her major reason for taking the girl in and not enrolling her in the school system was partially for a live-in babysitter that she did not have the money to pay.” Stephen shrugged. “But I don’t know that for sure.”
 
He paused to take another large bite, and Geoffrey took that as another opening for his own input.
 
“So, she’s living with Ms. Westmorland now? Well, the three of them will be thrilled with their new living arran—”
 
Stephen began shaking his head adamantly and signaled for a moment to swallow, then chugged another swallow as he motioned to the waitress for drink refills.
 
“What?”
 
“No more Dorothy, bossman. Seems she died of cervical cancer a little over a year and half ago, leaving a nearly nineteen year old Marguerite and a six-year-old Addison alone.”
 
Stephen paused as Geoffrey thanked the waitress for their refills and ordered them some cheesecake for dessert.
 
“So, Addison was put into foster care and wha—”
 
Stephen was shaking his head again and grinning like the cat that ate the canary.
 
“Wrong again,” he responded lightheartedly, indicating the paper once again, “Seems the boy was M-I-A when the authorities came to collect him and, not having any record of Marguerite as part of the family household, they investigated what family they could of Dorothy’s – not much, mind you, just a crack whore mother who barely knew her own name and a brother who was in and out of jail for petty theft and such. Finally, they just listed the boy as missing, and let the case go cold.”
 
Not jumping to a conclusion this time and thanking the waitress for their cheesecake, Geoffrey prodded his investigator to continue with a wave of his fork.
 
“Sooooooo….”
 
After Stephen made a complete comedy act of tasting the dessert and rolling his eyes at its heavenly goodness, he savored the bite for a bit before continuing at Geoffrey’s prompt.
 
“So, that is about where Jinx almost lost her. There’s no longer an Addison Westmorland enrolled in the school system, home or otherwise. His records go cold around the same time of Dorothy’s death. Also, our designated Marguerite Son took her final paycheck from the diner where she was working around then, too.”

Stephen paused to put another huge bite of cheesecake in his mouth and worked it around like a little boy with his first scoop of ice cream.
 
“This stuff is ama-”

Geoffrey interrupted him with a very loud throat clearing – since his mouth was also full – and pointed at the paper to prompt Stephen to continue. The larger man nodded as he smiled and washed down the bite with another big gulp of root beer.
 
“On point, bossman.” Stephen’s grin grew wider at Geoffrey’s feigned annoyance. “Got it. But then we’ve got a Rita Bee Atkins opening a Pay-Save account at the new World Web Bank within weeks of Dor—”
 
“The ‘world what’ bank?” Geoffrey interrupted, incredulous.
 
“You know, one of those new-fangled places that doesn’t even exist as a brick-and-mortar building, boss; it’s just ‘money’-” Stephen illustrated the word with air quotes. “-that is simply deposited electronically, paid out electronically, and stored electronically.”
 
Geoffrey looked horrified. He’d known this was probably where the financial system was headed, but damn! No building at all?
 
“So, how exactly does one get their hands on cash, Stephen?”
 
Stephen chuckled as he scraped his plate from his delicious cheesecake; somehow he’d thought the piece was bigger.
 
“In the rare instance that you need cash, you can always go to any ATM, scan your code on your phone screen, and get cash for a small convenience fee. But most of the kids nowadays hardly use that option. Everything they do is ‘in the cloud’ and ‘on the phone’.”
 
Again with the air quotes.
 
Geoffrey was still mystified. Even his biggest clients still sent him a check, but now he wondered if that was because of him being old and out of touch when it came to this modern way of doing things. He’d have to—
 
“Hey! You with me, bossman?” Stephen teasingly waved the check in front of his face.
 
He must have zoned out for a moment. Geoffrey smiled at the investigator who had become more of a family friend than an employee over the years.
 
“Yeah, it’s just … that’s just … wow.” Geoffrey briefly shook his head. “Anyway, continue.”
 
“So, this Rita-Bee – oh, and that’s actually the word ‘bee’ that buzzes not an initial like in her real name – now works as a waitress and bookkeeper at a small shop down near where the Bronx meets Harlem called the Courtside Coffee-N-Cola. Lives near there in some building that, according to the city, has been uninhabited for over four months now. I’m sure she’s moved and just neglected to change her address in her bank records. Happens a lot to folks when they move but don’t have the landline phone and no paper bills, ya know?”
 
Geoffrey looked intently at Stephen as he handed the waitress his credit card.
 
His apparently outdated, old-man-prop credit card. He couldn’t wait to tell his Charlie and Gary about this ‘web bank’ thingy. God! He would be glad to get back to small town, busy-body life.
“Actually, I’m sure I don’t know, Stephen.” The comment made Stephen laugh into his root beer he’d paused to drink once again. “But do we know what happened to that poor boy she was supposed to be babysitting?”
 
Stephen smiled knowing Geoffrey – the high-price, hard-ass attorney – had a heart bigger than most men or women on any given day of the week. He sat back and patted his full stomach.
 
“Worry not, bossman,” he began, placing all of their napkins and dirty plates into a neat pile on top of the pizza pans, “Rita’s recent online purchase records include second and third grade school books along with a Kindle account that is loaded with children’s novels, nature books, family-friendly movies, and elementary science and history videos.” He grinned across at the obviously relieved Geoffrey. “Not exactly the usual stash for today’s twenty-year-old, eh?”
 
Geoffrey took a deep breath as he signed the receipt and downed the remainder of his root beer.
 
“So, I need to buy an extra return ticket for the boy, I suppose.” Geoffrey was listing off things for himself more than for Stephen. “And contact the boarding house about an additional occupant. And schools?”
 
Geoffrey looked up in question at the now standing Stephen who stepped over to pull Geoffrey’s chair for him.
 
“I’d wait on the schools, though.” Stephen replaced the chair and guided Geoffrey out with a large hand in the small of his back. “There’s probably gonna be custody issues you’re going to have to deal with in this case.” Stephen held the door for Geoffrey as he continued. “Always better to ask for forgiveness than permission or the sneak attack is the best attack. Either one applies best to government agencies.” He let the door close behind them as Geoffrey tried to take a breath of fresh air.
 
And coughed. There was no fresh air; it stunk. Was that a word? Stunk? Well, even if it wasn’t, it seemed that big cities always did it. Stink, that is.
 
And people were everywhere. In front of you. Behind you. In your personal space.
 
Stephen chuckled at Geoffrey as they continued down the sidewalk toward the parking garage.
 
“How do people live on top of one another like this?” Geoffrey was completely serious; he was certainly a small town boy at heart.
 
Stephen snorted.
 
“Come on, bossman.” He steered them into the garage and towards the elevator. “You can work in the privacy of the car while I do a little more legwork. Then we’ll have a cup of coffee or two at the Courtside, yeah?”
 
Geoffrey nodded and was about to respond when the elevator stopped, and a few other businessmen boarded. Stephen methodically stepped in front of Geoffrey, giving the lawyer his back until they reached their floor. He then guided Geoffrey out of the elevator, hand once again in the small of his back, placing himself between the strangers and Geoffrey’s exit before continuing in that same manner toward their car.
 
They walked in silence, Geoffrey’s steps seeming a bit faster than usual. Stephen held the passenger door for him before walking to the driver’s side and getting himself situated.
 
Once they were making their way out of the garage, Geoffrey spoke, although his gaze did not leave his touchpad.
 
“I do not like this place, Stephen.”
 
Out the corner of his eye, Stephen watched the shudder go through Geoffrey even though the attorney’s determination in his work never wavered. Stephen reached over and patted his thigh in a reassuring manner.
 
“I know, bossman, but we’ll be headed back south soon.”
 
As a dom himself, Stephen always looked out for Geoffrey as an unspoken accord with Charlise - she had been there for his Jinx on more than one occasion. 
 
“Not soon enough,” Geoffrey grumbled, glancing at the paper Stephen had given him to assure his message to Demetrius was correct.
 
Stephen laughed heartily at Geoffrey’s comment as the car doors cycled in to locked position, both actions having a visible effect in helping Geoffrey relax. If only in the slightest.
 

to be continued…

 

Author Notes I know, longer than most...but, once again, I really did not see a good way to 'split' this one. :) :) Thanx for reading! :) :)

Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents at The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, does not seem to socialize with the others
Peadar - Irish male resident of The Refuge, helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - (aka Lyca) Goth, warrior-looking female resident of The Refuge
Koko - Native American male resident of The Refuge, has unending optimism and warmth about him...most of the time
Kato - large male resident who wears the clothes of a teenager
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way marriage - Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlie)
Gary Staltson - Geoffrey's husband
Freki - Lyca's over-sized pet 'dog'
Stephen - private investigator employed by Geoffrey
Jinx - computer hack/whiz working with Stephen, handles all the tech-forensics for investigations.
Maggie - Marguerite B. Atkinson
Addison (Addy) Westmorland - little boy with Maggie, being raised by her
Dorothy Westmorland - Addy's mother (deceased)


Image of 'Requiem for 2016: Cropped' from VAST photo [vastphotos.com]



Chapter 12
Chapter Four, Part 2

By Y. M. Roger

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.

“Th’ dark beetch’s right, ya kin?” Peadar speared each of them around the mid-morning breakfast table with his piercing emerald gaze and slipping Irish brogue. “Miss Rosemary’s wards wi’ begin te fade soon; ‘tis only nat’ral. Ten wha’?”
 
Koko smiled which made Lycaios growl her annoyance in his direction.
 
“They will not fade before tomorrow, Peadar.” His optimism radiated outward. “Our industrious Geoffrey left for New York just this morning to bring our yet-unknown Miss Marguerite here.”
 
“And what if she doesn’t want to come from New York to this pathetic little excuse for a town? What then?” This from the pessimistic Lycaois.

Freki rose from his reclining position near the back door, lumbered over to Lycaois, and laid his massive head on her lap. Peadar shook his head at Lyca’s comment but continued in the same vein.
 
“And was it no’ you” Peadar turned slightly to address Koko directly “tha’ told us Geoffrey said tis Marguerite is no’ even in the Order?”
 
Koko’s eyebrows rose and Lycaios shifted in her seat as they each began to reply at once.
 
“He didn’t have –”
“I thought he wasn’t –”
 
But they were both upstaged by Kato’s input from his mostly silent vigil at the other end of the table.
 
“Why are we even arguing about this?” Kato’s deep voice boomed around the kitchen as he placed his phone on the table top, his amber eyes lifting to each of them. “The bitch and her mongrel said they were after Demetrius. She didn’t say anything else about—”
 
Lyca shot to her feet and leaned toward him, her usual black eyes a glowing amber of their own as she dug into the table with her now-elongated nails.
 
“You spoiled bastard!” Freki rested his snout on the table, lifted his lip over his canines, and growled along with his mistress. “Do you really think they’d fuckin’ stop there?”
 
Kato stood to his full height, growling, and met her angry gaze across the table as Lyca continued.
 
“I’ve seen what they do to your kind, have you, pretty boy?”
 
Kato’s defiant countenance faltered as Koko rose to try to quell the building storm, but Peadar shook his head slightly to warn the usual peacemaker off. Peadar knew Kato needed for Lyca to finish.
 
“Do you relish the thought of being that whore’s pet, choker leash and all? As she tortures and uses you and…” Kato definitely relaxed his stance in response to that question as Lyca’s tattooed arms began to quake ever so slightly as she continued without finishing that statement.
 
Enough had been said such that the unsaid was horrible enough.
 
“I’ve been there, Kato.” The vehemence was gone from her voice, replaced by deep-seated fear? Regret? She grabbed Freki’s scruff, the enormous wolf’s snarl disappearing as he nuzzled Lyca’s side, allowing her to calm her breathing. Then she shook her head adamantly.
 
“No.” She took another deep breath and continued as Kato plopped back into his chair, maybe a bit more wide-eyed and a lot less confrontational than usual. “We’re in this together.”
 
They all seemed to nod momentarily until Peadar pushed the original issue again.
 
“But if she’s no’ o’ the Order, how kin she stan’ agin—”
 
Demetrius flowed silently into the kitchen, his mood projecting a somewhat lighter presence than last evening, though none would ever say Demetrius projected delight or even sunshine. He had donned his long topcoat over a perfectly fitted waistcoat and white linen shirt with a lace-edged jabot – the waistcoat seemed to have spatters of burgundy paint or something, although one might even miss such due to the dark colorations of the material. And, instead of the expected knee breeches and white knee-high hose to compliment the eighteenth-century garb, he wore a pair of worn and somewhat stained skin-tight leather riding pants with what appeared to be a riding crop strapped at his waist. He was ritualistically removing a pair of deeply mottled leather riding gloves as he strode toward the refrigerator.
 
Freki growled low in his throat as he cowered from the towering man who seemed to simply ignore the massive wolf.
 
“We do not wish for her to be of the Order.” Demetrius opened the swing-top from a re-purposed Guinness stout bottle and took a long swallow, his obvious enjoyment of the refreshment communicated in his face and quick-to-relax stance.
 
Lyca scrunched her nose and sneered at his actions while Kato simply shook his head and began browsing on his phone again.
 
“Why do we” Peadar clearly meant to emphasize the pronoun – “no’ wan her te be o’ the Order, Demetrius?”
 
Demetrius steeled his jaw, the muscles there protesting under the apparent pressure, as he closed the swing-top and returned the bottle to the refrigerator. He stood rigid, back to the four of them, his hand gripping the refrigerator handle such that his knuckles were almost without color. Then, within moments, his stance relaxed again, and he turned to face them as he closed the refrigerator. His sparkling black eyes took time to fall upon each of them before he spoke.
 
“The Order, such as they are” His disdain and more rode on every syllable – “were able to kill Rosemary because she had given a piece of herself to them when she took her vows.”
 
He took in the horror etched on the faces of Lyca and Koko. Kato sighed and let his chair fall forward back to four legs.
 
“Beeyatch last night admitted to the murder” Kato shrugged – “or some crap about Hecate having a hand in it.”
 
Peadar only nodded his head in affirmation as a long sigh escaped him.
 
But then Koko’s countenance suddenly transitioned from angry dark to hopeful light.
 
“And if our mysterious new Protectress Marguerite is not of the Order” Koko’s eyes lit once again with his usual joy – “they cannot harm her!”
 
Lyca reluctantly looked to Demetrius for confirmation of his statement as did Kato.
 
“But—”
 
Peadar was quickly interrupted by Demetrius who had turned to walk toward the stairs as his phone signaled an incoming message.
 
“As long as the niece is within the wards,” he paused as he opened his phone’s message app but then continued, a bit more distracted as he read, “they will draw strength from her DNA link to their designer until she can put new wards of her own design.”
 
Demetrius’ face lit with a feral delight in the message he read as he turned to take the stairs two at a time. His feet disappeared up the stairs about the same time Peadar’s phone rang out with his Uilleann pipes ringtone.
 
“Goo’day, Mr. Stal’son.”
 
All attention at the table was instantly focused on Peadar’s conversation.
 
“Aye, sir.” Peadar’s face looked a bit befuddled. “Well, there’s a sittin’ room attached te the Mistress’ boudoir.”
 
They all looked at each other with similar questioning faces as Peadar’s eyes grew wide.
 
“A boy, Mr. Stal’son?” Peadar almost couldn’t find his words, “Yes, sir. Eight years ol’, ye say? I see, sir.”
 
Lyca dramatically dropped her forehead to the table and mumbled in disgust, “Oh, gods. Another child.” She lifted her head slightly to glare across the table at Kato.
 
“Speaking of beeyatches…” Kato interjected as he barely glanced away from his phone in response to her remark and began rocking his chair on its back legs again.
 
Koko simply patted them both and looked thoughtful as Peadar continued.
 
“Aye, sir. We’ll have both rooms ready on the morrow.” Peadar looked up into the three faces intent on his conversation. “Aye, Mr. Stal’son.” Peadar actually tugged on his long red locks a bit as his eyes went from the initial surprise to resignation. “Aye, twill be, sir. Thank ye. Goo’day.”
 
Peadar ended the call, closed his eyes, and sighed.
 
“It seems tha’ Marguerite has a lil’ brother.” Peadar ran his fingers through his auburn beard as he returned his phone to his pocket. He paused as he glanced at the intense faces around the table.
“Twill be an adventure, Mr. Stal’son says…,” he trailed off, seeming to not really know where to go with that phrase of supposed reassurance. It certainly hadn’t sounded very reassuring either time to him, hearing it or saying it.
 
At first, no one spoke into the silence.
 
“Well, it will be good to have some energetic youth around here, yes? This place needs some laughter and sunshine! Just look at us sitting here and—”
 
Koko’s pep talk as well as Lyca’s acerbic response were abruptly interrupted by a knock and the familiar creaking of the front door as it slowly opened in the foyer.
 
“Hello? Is anyone home? Hell-l-lo-o-o?”
 
They all looked at each other at the sound of the angelic voice, even Kato dropped his chair back to all fours as he made to stand, although Lycaois was already headed toward the front, Freki at her heels.
 
Because they were expecting no one, and, whoever it was, had just walked right through Rosemary’s wards.
 
“Hell-l-lo-o? I’m here in respon—”
 
Just as Lyca made it to the kitchen door adjoining the foyer, she ran right into a beautifully built young woman with long, curly blonde hair who let out a slight squeal as she was knocked slightly backward by the collision.
 
Lycaois tried to catch her while chastising her at the same time.
 
“Holy hells, woman!” Lyca pulled the lighter, fairer female to a stable position. “Do your feet not touch the floor while you wal—”
 
The platinum beauty’s eyes went from surprise to resentfulness as a slight blush crept up her cheeks. She forcefully shrugged off Lycaois’ hold and held up a parchment to the much larger, much darker female’s face.
 
“I am here in response to this” She shook the parchment in emphasis – an action which immediately brought Peadar to his feet – “most urgent advertisement for an auberge factotum...”
 
The blonde wore not a stitch of makeup, yet her face glowed with a radiance all its own, the heat from her blush notwithstanding. And that radiance never faltered as she continued.
 
Peadar now stood beside Lyca, staring at the vision of loveliness before them who was now more than a bit agitated.
 
“Placed by one” she pulled the parchment close to her face so that she could focus on the page “Rosemary Fenna, Proprietor of The Refuge.” She dropped her hand to glare once again at Lyca. “That is the name of this establishment, is it no—”
 
It was at that instant that she caught sight of Peadar.
 
All discontent left her face and a genuine smile appeared across her now beaming countenance. She raised her hand holding the parchment to her chest and bent reverently to greet Peadar.
 
“Ahhh.” The female’s entire countenance changed. “My apologies, distinguished sir. I had no idea that The Refuge actually was True Sanctuary.” She gracefully tucked her long locks behind her pointed ear before holding out her hand in greeting to him. “I am Memphis. And you are?”
 
To be continued…

 

Author Notes As always, thank you for reading! :)

Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents at The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, does not seem to socialize with the others
Peadar - Irish male resident of The Refuge, helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - (aka Lyca) Goth, warrior-looking female resident of The Refuge
Koko - Native American male resident of The Refuge, has unending optimism and warmth about him...most of the time
Kato - large male resident who wears the clothes of a teenager
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way marriage - Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlie)
Gary Staltson - Geoffrey's husband
Freki - Lyca's over-sized pet 'dog'
Stephen - private investigator employed by Geoffrey
Jinx - computer hack/whiz working with Stephen, handles all the tech-forensics for investigations.
Maggie - Marguerite B. Atkinson
Addison (Addy) Westmorland - little boy with Maggie, being raised by her
Dorothy Westmorland - Addy's mother (deceased)


Image of 'Delightful Southern House Plans' at The Image Fixer [theimagefixer.com]


Chapter 13
Chapter Four, Part 3

By Y. M. Roger

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.

End of previous portion...
All discontent left her face and a genuine smile appeared across her now beaming countenance. She raised her hand holding the parchment to her chest and bent reverently to greet Peadar.

“Ahhh.” The female’s entire facial expression changed. “My apologies, distinguished sir. I had no idea that The Refuge actually was True Sanctuary.” She gracefully tucked her long locks behind her pointed ear before holding out her hand in greeting to him. “I am Memphis. And you are?”

 
Our story continues...
Peadar grasped her long, elegant hand and tried to pull his focus from the voluptuous view – complete with a fresh yet dainty floral necklace accent – displayed in front of him as he whispered his lips across the back of it. “Peadar Kavanagh, blessed one.” He finally looked up into her ice blue eyes. “Your servant, I’m sure.”
 
Memphis almost glowed with her contentment.
 
“My sincerest gratitude, Peadar.” She turned their joined hands and whispered against the hairy back of Peadar’s hand. “And you all are secure in my being.”
 
Memphis rose to full height once again. She was not quite as tall as Lycaios – who stood in awe yet still frowning about the appearance of the glowing beauty’s ear. Memphis’ bright, colorful sundress and creamy skin without blemishes were certainly a contrast to the black leather tights and chained tunic and jewelry of the dangerous, tattooed Lyca. She turned her radiant gaze slightly upward to meet that dark, frowning expression as her voice took on a much less defensive and combative tone. A gentle smile engulfed her face.
 
“I did not mean to startle.” Memphis slightly dipped her head in acknowledgement to the seemingly shell-shocked Lycaios. As she spoke, she dug her fingers into the thick, rough fur of the large wolf, Freki, that had begun nuzzling the front of her torso. “But could I possible speak with the honorable Madam Fenna who must be the Guar—”
 
“She’s dead.” Kato rose from the table and began to move toward the three.
 
Memphis caught her breath in horror at that revelation? At Kato’s size? “But…”
 
There was a low growl emanating from within Kato’s chest, his eyes glowing a soft yet piercing amber, “And how did you get through her wards?”
 
As Kato advanced, both Freki and Peadar jumped in front of Memphis as if to defend the new arrival. Koko leapt up from the table as Memphis’ eyes hardened, but it was Lycaios who intercepted the large Kato.
 
“Down boy,” Lyca growled in warning, “the wards keep out the unwanted. We just had a house full of people yesterd—”
 
Her hand landed forcefully in the middle of his chest yet her voice remained gentle and firm. Kato made to push against her, his eyes still locked on Memphis in a predatoral display.
 
“Yeah, well, she’s not people.” Kato was undeterred, his eyes and face shimmering toward shift as he pushed forward, seeming to ignore Lyca’s presence completely.
 
Lyca pushed back harder as Koko appeared beside her.
 
“Kato!” The both of them said together, although it was not yelled nor growled.
 
Kato seemed to hear them this time as he blinked his eyes in recognition.
 
“Let him through, please,” Memphis stated firmly, her eyes becoming alight with wonder. “How long since Madam Fenna’s passing?”
 
Not turning from facing Kato nor lowering her hand from his broad chest, Lyca responded.
 
“Three days.” Her voice almost more forceful than it had been toward the advancing Kato. “Memphis?”
 
It seemed Lyca wanted assurance that Memphis realized what she was asking.
 
Kato’s vision still shown amber with his amped emotions, but Memphis would not be deterred.
 
“He is young, Mistress.” Memphis stepped around Peadar and to Lyca’s side, her arm brushing the dark female’s, resulting in a chill racing up through the cryptic tattoos thereon. Lyca caught her breath and momentarily shut her eyes at the contact as she purposefully separated herself from any more contact with Memphis.
 
Kato’s eyes never left the beautiful blonde female as she opened her arms in a welcoming stance.
 
“And he longs for your departed Protectress,” she paused and opened her arms wider, her face a complete picture of a nurturing mother, “Come, Kato. They are your friends and are here for you.” She raised her arms higher and wider as his eyes darted from the waiting beauty to the perplexed group and back again. “And I would hold you if you would let me.”
 
Kato only hesitated a moment longer before he allowed his large being to fall into her waiting arms, and his body almost immediately began to tremble with his sobs.
 
“Gods, I miss her so much!” He wept into her silken hair as he held her smaller frame so tight it might break, but Memphis simply rubbed his back up and down as she somehow managed to support his bulk. “When mom left me here, Miss Rosemary promised she’d always be here, and now she’s gone, too!”
 
Memphis held him tighter as the others stood in shocked silence, their mouths hanging open in disbelief. Kato was massive; how young could he be? Only Freki stepped forward to stand beside Memphis and whine up at Kato who continued to fall apart.
 
“And everyone here hates me! I want to leave, but I can’t! Oh, Gods, I’m so fucking scared!”
 
Finally, Koko stepped up beside them and placed a calming hand on Kato’s shoulder.
 
“Of course, we do not hate you, Kato.” The effects of Koko’s touch were almost immediate as the large male’s sobs lessened, and he didn’t grip Memphis quite so tightly. “We just did not realize…”
 
As Koko’s speech trailed off and his gaze fell to the others, they all shook and then nodded their heads, mumbling in agreement with the large Native American – they really had no idea Kato was truly a youth. Rosemary kept everyone’s secret so well that they really didn’t know much about each other’s history.
 
“And the cantankerous Lyca is only like that because she’s jealous of this.” Koko continued as he yanked on a handful of Kato’s mottled and always-mussed hair.
 
“Screw you, Chief Rainbows-n-Unicorns.” Lycaios added without heat as she stepped around to Kato’s other side facing Memphis. Although she still eyed the blonde suspiciously, she playfully punched Kato’s upper arm. “Mane or not, I can still kick your ass, cat.”
 
Kato chuckled warmly as he squeezed Memphis one last time and pulled back to stand to full height again. He continued wiping his eyes and nose with his wrists and finally lifted his shirt to do the same, but Memphis slapped it out of his hands and raised a handkerchief – from whence it came was not quite evident – and quickly wiped his arms and face.
 
“Manners, Kato,” she said.
 
“Yes, ma’am.” Kato responded, a bit stuffy-nosed.
 
“When was the last time you ate, young one?” Memphis was still as radiant as ever as she fell into a strong yet maternal role to the towering male.
 
“Uhhh…,” he looked around, warily.
 
Lycaios looked affronted. “We just ate, Kato!”
 
It was Peadar’s turn to chuckle from behind them as he picked up the parchment announcement that had fallen to the floor and walked to the table.
 
“Hees fed ever’thin’ you give ‘im te tha’ mutt o’ yours, ye clueless bee—”
 
Before Peadar and Lycaios could get into another verbal sparring match, Memphis intervened.
 
“How ‘bout I cook a big meal for everyone?” She shot Peadar a warning look for his language as she reached up and tussled Kato’s hair. “You bring some apples from the trees in the backyard and perhaps I could throw together a pie or cobbler for you as well, handsome. How’s that sound?”
 
Peadar shook his head good-naturedly as Kato nearly jumped out of his skin with enthusiasm.
 
“You got it, Miss Memphis!” he responded happily over his shoulder as he turned to bolt out the back door.
 
All six-plus feet of solid muscle that defined the young lion shifter.
 
Koko smiled and nodded to Memphis.
 
“Welcome, venerable one. We are honored to have you.” He smiled warmly and turned to leave the kitchen, but then stopped to address Peadar. “What can I do in preparations?”
 
Peadar sighed.
 
“Aye, why don’ we git a look at tha’ sittin’ room.” Peadar held the parchment up as it was slowly consumed by an unidentified flame that methodically ate away the material until he dropped the last bits, only to have them dissipate into nothingness.
 
He nodded toward Memphis. “Welcome to The Refuge, Factotum Memphis. I hope ye don’ regret yer ‘pointment.”
 
Memphis smiled and nodded at Peadar as he left with Koko, then she turned her attention to Lyca who regarded her with uncertainty and, perhaps, something more in those dark eyes. That ‘something more’ being indecipherable at this point.
 
“How did you know?”
 
Memphis smiled warmly at her in response and shrugged gracefully.
 
Lycaios had to wonder if there was anything the stunning female did that wasn’t graceful, but she let that thought go. No reason to travel down roads where she was most likely not wanted.
 
“I am not familiar with your kind, Mistress.” Memphis pivoted the conversation away from herself as she reached out to touch the intricate tattoos along Lycaios’ arm. “Although I see you are blessed amo—”
 
Lycaios flinched away from her touch.
 
“Cursed,” she shot back.
“But, Mistress, how can one so beau—”
 
Hurt and more flashed across Lyca’s gaze before she managed to school her features.
 
“Just stay the hell away from me, and we’ll get along fine,” Lycaios warned without much fervor. “I won’t be needing a hug, and I certainly don’t need your fuckin’ platitudes.”
 
Memphis appeared as though Lyca had physically slapped her. Lycaios brushed past the beautiful blonde as she walked to exit the kitchen.
 
“But Mis—”
 
Lyca halted but did not turn around; although, this time, she did raise her voice.
 
“And don’t fuckin’ call me that.” She stormed past Demetrius who had appeared in the doorway, arms crossed across his broad chest, as she finished “My name is Lycaios. Period!”
 
Demetrius raised an eyebrow in amusement as Lyca disappeared into the living areas. He kept his attention trained in that direction until they heard the front door slam. He grunted and turned his attention back to Memphis, raising his eyebrow this time in question.
 
Memphis simply shook her head at him in mock amusement and busied herself with finding pots and such.
 
“Blonde?”
 
Memphis huffed and turned briefly to shrug and flash a mischievous grin at him.
 
“I find that I like it better with all the sun here, Lord.” She continued with her food preparations. “I take it I have you to thank for that parchment just happening to make its way to me?”
 
Demetrius simply grunted again.
 
“Although, I must tell you, Father was not happy about my leaving.”
 
Demetrius dropped his arms and stepped into the kitchen. He was casual now, hair somewhat damp, but still stunning in his Dolce & Gabbana jeans and Ralph Lauren easy shirt. Memphis appeared to barely notice his over-powering presence as he chuckled to himself.
 
“I figured. And I knew it was, most assuredly, a long shot,” he stated as he crossed the kitchen to reach into an upper cabinet that Memphis had been trying to reach, “but I figured there are enough environmentalists and greenies looking out for things now that you could manage some time away.” One side of his mouth curled into a sarcastic grin as Memphis chuckled. “Although, I must admit, I had almost given up. It has been some time since I sent—”
 
Memphis stopped her actions and took a deep breath.
 
“You knew, then,” she whispered quietly as she took the pan from him and then turned her head toward him, “that this Rosemary was dying.”
 
Demetrius nodded solemnly before reaching up and closing the high cabinet.
 
“So, I was your plan for what?” Memphis had no animosity in her voice, “a stop-gap measure until a new Protectress coul—”
 
It was Demetrius’ turn to shrug as he turned away.
 
“In its time, yes.” He leaned back against the large countertop and crossed his arms again. “You could have claimed the premises as yours until a proper Witch could be —”
 
“But, Lord, are you not commissioned to hun—”
 
“I am, but Rosemary had renounced her vows.” Demetrius stared off into a distance before seemingly coming back to the present. “And, truth be known, she did not know everything. She granted me asylum here solely because her former Order wanted me dead. Thus, the advertisement parchment.”
 
Demetrius’ face took on that dark, threatening visage again before continuing.
 
“I could not exactly take out a classified ad for a powerful Witch not associated with any Order.” Demetrius huffed and smiled, but it was not a smile of amusement.
 
Memphis stopped in her preparations again and focused on Demetrius.
 
“And now that she’s gone?”
 
He uncrossed his arms and leaned his hands to either side on the countertop.
 
“Now.” Demetrius paused, took a deep breath, and looked down at Memphis’ questioning face. “Now, there’s an unknown twenty-year-old successor that Rosemary designated arriving tomorrow, and I have no idea if she’s even been trained.”
 
His frustration was evident and Memphis notably demurred from his ominous mood as she continued her preparations.
 
“How do you know she is even gifted?”
 
An evil, knowing smile crept across Demetrius’ lips.
 
“Because her father discarded her about the time those gifts would have begun to manifest.”
 
Memphis dropped her spoon into the bowl as she caught her breath in unfeigned horror.
 
“Discarded? A gift from Isis rejected?”
 
Demetrius pushed away from the counter to walk toward the door.
 
“The sire will pay Her reparation in blood.” Cold. Calculating. “Although I am surprised that the slight seemed to go unnoticed…”
 
Demetrius’ voice trailed off with the sound of Kato approaching from outside.
 
Memphis had to look to see if Demetrius was still in the room.
 
He stood, back to the room, hand gripping the door frame. Tension and something else obviously laced throughout his entire beautiful body encased in those perfectly-fitted clothes.
 
“And myself? Do you still need me here, Lord?”
 
It seemed Demetrius’ muscles that pulled across his back relaxed, if only in the slightest. “That choice is completely up to you, Memphis.” Demetrius turned only his head to the side to finish speaking. “This place. These residents. Even future seekers that will undoubtedly arrive. They all need you. They will need your ageless wisdom and your . . . expertise.”
 
Memphis huffed as she thought about the fascinating yet mysterious Lycaios. “I don’t know about all —”
 
Demetrius cut her off. “All of them, Memphis. No exceptions.”
 
Memphis hummed in thought as Demetrius exited the kitchen. “A house nymph, Lord? For a sanctuary?” she called after him, the grin on her face mischievous yet uncontainable, “Is that even a thing?”
 
It was at that exact moment that Kato barreled through the back door carrying a shirt full of beautiful red and golden apples. His face shown with all the interest and wonder of the child that he truly was.
 
“I got all the ones I could reach without breaking the branches, Miss Memphis! And I don’t care if you make pie or cobbler.” His voice was filled with excitement and anticipation. “Your choice will be the best choice, I just know it!”
 
That comment followed immediately by the unmistakable sound of Demetrius’ laughter echoing down the stairwell and into the kitchen. One had to admit that Kato’s comment was ironic given Demetrius’ parting words.
 
Memphis chuckled as she started taking the fruit from the now-stretched-out shirt Kato wore.
 
“I think you just made it for me, Kato.”
 
Kato’s smile engulfed his entire face as he dumped the last two apples in his ‘shirt-basket’ onto the countertop.
 
“Really?!” he asked enthusiastically.
 
Memphis reached up and tussled his hair.
 
“Really, Kato.” She smiled and turned to look for the cutting board muttering mostly to herself. “Let’s just say that it is definitely a thing now.”
 
To be continued…

 

Author Notes Thank you so very much for reading...it's getting interesting. :) :)

Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents at The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, does not seem to socialize with the others
Peadar - Irish male resident of The Refuge, helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - (aka Lyca) Goth, warrior-looking female resident of The Refuge
Koko - Native American male resident of The Refuge, has unending optimism and warmth about him...most of the time
Kato - large male resident who wears the clothes of a teenager
Memphis - nymph from Demetrius' original homeland
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way marriage - Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlie)
Gary Staltson - Geoffrey's husband
Freki - Lyca's over-sized pet 'dog'
Stephen - private investigator employed by Geoffrey
Jinx - computer hack/whiz working with Stephen, handles all the tech-forensics for investigations.
Maggie - Marguerite B. Atkinson
Addison (Addy) Westmorland - little boy with Maggie, being raised by her
Dorothy Westmorland - Addy's mother (deceased)


Image of 'Delightful Southern House Plans' at The Image Fixer [theimagefixer.com]


Chapter 14
Chapter Four, Part 4

By Y. M. Roger

“Tell you what, Lars.” Maggie smiled and kept her voice even. “We’ll handle the delivery truck in a few minutes, and the stocking will be complete so that all you and Rachal have to do is close up for the night. I’ll even make sure the tallies are done before leaving.”
 
Maggie watched Lars’ face carefully. Maybe she was going to win again. Then the big guy winced a bit.
 
“But it’s payday, Rita.” He tried to sound knowledgeable, but he came off as pleading. What she wouldn’t give for a better job. “I, uhhh…I need to be sure you and Rachal get your payments.”
 
The plump man’s alcohol-reddened eyes became a bit more intense when he said the older woman’s name. That was fine with Maggie – her patience in dealing with the doddering owner was thin this evening, more so than usual.
 
She huffed but held onto the sarcastic comment about him never being the one to make sure any payments were made.
 
“Already handled, sir,” she stated in that cheerful tone her many years of life-acting had taught her. She turned her head to the open room and toward the bouncy, middle-aged brunette bussing a couple of tables there. “Right, Rachal?”
 
Rachal paused in-between tables.
 
“That’s right, hunny!” Rachal interjected as she reached into her apron and pulled out an envelope. Her gum-smacking only adding to her feminine charm, such as it was. “Got it right here, thank you very much!”
 
Those lipstick-slathered lips blew kisses at both Lars and her, the former taking it as directed solely at him, of course.
 
Whatever.
 
Maggie turned back to her useless boss who was at least in ‘functioning alcoholic’ mode this evening. She took care to have that genuine, happy smile pasted on her face.
 
“Oh, and by the way, your tax refund was deposited this morning. I left a note on your monitor.” She watched his face light up with the mention of the extra money. She’d lay even odds that it would be gone by next week.
 
Again, whatever. Important thing was that she got paid.
 
In the long run, though, she really did need to find another job. She heaved an internal sigh this time because the smile still needed to be on the outside.
 
“Sooooo? Whadiya say, Mr. Carney, sir?” Maggie leaned over the elevated service counter. “I can get Scully or even Eduardo to help you close up. They’re used to the routine and could probably do most of it for you.”
 
Suddenly, the poor man looked like he was the subject of an inquisition or something equally abhorrent as he examined Maggie like she was an alien. After a pause, he shook his head and let out a long, tired breath.
 
“Rita Bee, if you weren’t such a whiz with the books and all, I think I’d look into having you committed.” He playfully shook his head and almost smiled as he began working the ball of dough in front of him.
 
Rachal appeared beside her, hands on hips, and, before the man could finish speaking, exclaimed, “Larson! What a terrible thing to say!”
 
The older waitress stepped up and patted the younger woman’s shoulder. She lowered her voice, the popping of that chewing gum very close to Maggie’s ear.
 
“Take the early night, my raven-haired beauty.” She playfully flipped Marguerite’s long, black ponytail as Lars watched her with heated eyes. “We’ll close up, no problem.” Then she raised her face and her voice toward Lars. “Right, babe?”
 
Her smile was sweet as syrup as the gum-smacking went into full-dynamic mode. You could have wiped the floors with Lars as he turned into a pile of lusting goo.
 
And Rachal knew it as she winked at Maggie.
 
“Yeah, okay.” Lars breathed the words rather than spoke them, his gaze never wavering from Rachal’s cleavage on full display as usual. “You got it, crazy kid.”
 
“There. See?” Rachal giggled just a bit before turning more serious. “Now, look at me, hunny, and keep that smile on your face.”
 
Maggie was caught a bit off-guard but did as told as she turned toward Rachal.
 
“Table four asked for you by name, but I never seen ‘em in here before.” She even stopped chewing her gum with the usual vigor. “So, you be careful and use the signal if you gotta.” Rachal used both air quotes and a noted head nod to emphasize 'the signal'.
 
Rachal’s eye’s got wide with her stern emphasis on if you gotta.
 
Maggie glanced over Rachal’s shoulder. The two older gentlemen looked harmless enough. And they certainly didn’t radiate any of what she liked to call ‘bad vibes.’
 
“They look pretty docile, Rach.” Maggie patted the older woman’s shoulder and gave her a warm smile. “But I promise to signal if I need you.”
 
There was no indication that Maggie should need to be prepared to start humming Anchors Aweigh or, as it was known in Rachal-speak, the Navy song signal.
 
You know, in case Maggie started drowning there.
 
Maggie couldn’t help the very small, amused snort that escaped her as she winked at Rachal and walked toward the table.
 
Her quick observation as she approached the table was that neither man was from around her neighborhood. That didn’t mean anything, but it also put her a bit more on alert.
 
She glanced past the two gentlemen to Eduardo who must have arrived while she was talking with Lars and Rachal at the counter just now. Maggie smiled at her large, gentle evening escort in acknowledgement.
 
She let her focus drift back to the two customers and opened her mouth to greet them. Just then, she noticed three of the neighborhood cats with paws and muzzles pressed against the large, front window pane.
 
She immediately tried to look away from the felines, but, before she could, the black-and-white one pounced on the unsuspecting calico and they fell to the concrete in a bundle of playful, tussling fur. Ed chortled at the feline antics as well, his eyes bright with restrained laughter. A giggle escaped Maggie’s lips as she managed to greet the two men whose sole focus was on her with amused interest.
 
“Good evening, gentleman.” She tried to cover her giggles with a throat clearing, as the two scuffling cats rolled into the orange tabby, causing it to arch its back and hiss in annoyance. The entire display made Ed laugh, and the sight of the tattooed tough-guy laughing like a toddler was a sight to behold.
 
“I’m Rita Bee, and you are?”
 
Maggie managed to complete that single statement before she lost her thinly-veiled control and proceeded to break into a beautiful, heartfelt guffaw as the sound of multiple feline hisses and warning mewls carried inside from the sidewalk. She just loved cats!


to be continued...


Maggie - Marguerite B. Atkinson. Maggie is Rosemary’s great-niece.
Rita Bee - Maggie’s current alias & the name she is known by at the Courtside
Addison (Addy) Westmorland - little boy with Maggie, being raised by her
Dorothy Westmorland - Addy's mother (deceased)
Larson ‘Lars’ Carney – owner of the Courtside Coffee-N-Cola, the diner where Maggie works
Rachal – other waitress at the Courtside Coffee-N-Cola
Eduardo - waits to walk Maggie home when she works late
Scully - with Eduardo to walk Maggie home
Bongo - Maggie & Addy's large, black cat
Twilight - Great Gray Owl seen outside the diner and at Maggie's apartment
 
Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order (WWHO) and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, marked for death (and maybe more) by the WWHO
Peadar - Irish male resident of The Refuge, helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - (aka Lyca) Goth, warrior-looking female resident of The Refuge
Freki - Lyca's over-sized pet 'dog'
Koko - Native American male resident of The Refuge, has unending optimism and warmth about him...most of the time
Kato - large male Refuge resident who wears the clothes of a teenager. Kato is a young lion-shifter.
Memphis - nymph from Demetrius' original homeland, now auberge factotum to The Refuge
 
Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents at The Refuge
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way marriage - Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlie)
Gary Staltson - Geoffrey's husband
Stephen - private investigator employed by Geoffrey
Jinx - computer hack/whiz working with Stephen, handles all the tech-forensics for investigations. Jinx is Stephen’s partner.



 

Author Notes It's a bit short, but this ties two lines together and Spring Break begins TODAY!! :) Hooray and hallelujah!! :) ;)

Image 'Pauli's Diner Ambiance (rain, city noises,...)' from Google images via YouTube.



Chapter 15
Chapter Five, Part 1

By Y. M. Roger

Maggie stared at the paper in front of her in disbelief.
 
…..twenty-seven room residence/boarding house legally titled The Refuge and accompanying thirty-seven acres with two out-buildings; five-stall barn with tack room and loft; and four acre lake (see attached deed and notarized survey). Four horses (see specifications paragraph 4c) and …..
 
She lifted her wide eyes to Stephen and Geoffrey and immediately narrowed them.
 
“But why are you showing this to me, gentlemen?”
 
Maggie was determined to keep a handle on the excitement that tried to build inside of her as she let her gaze drift momentarily to Eduardo and then back again. Because she knew there was no way this was real – best she could figure, it was the State’s way of getting her to reveal who she was so that they could take Addison from her.
 
“I wish I knew who this Marguerite Atkinson was so that–”
 
The larger of the two gentlemen cut her off, his voice firm if not commanding although she felt no malice flow from him.
 
“We understand, Ms. Bee, that you know exactly who she is.” His eyes were as kind as his voice was firm. “Just as you knew Ms. Son in the interim between her and yourself.”
 
Before Maggie had time to completely process that, the smaller and much gentler in appearance of the two spoke up.
 
“And Mar-…..er, Rita, we are simply the attorneys for Ms. Rosemary Fenna, Marguerite’s aunt on her mother’s side. And all we wish to do is to bring you and Addison home to the property she left for her niece. Nothing more.”
 
Maggie felt the excitement dim and the panic rise at his mention of Addison. She flashed her eyes to Eduardo who had now been joined by Scully only to find the two of them giving her reassuring nods and two thumbs up.
 
“You believe them then?”
 
Stephen and Geoffrey both looked behind them and then back at Maggie, their facial expressions awash with questions.
 
“You been lookin’ for a ticket out, Miss Maggie.” Eduardo was always so solid and even Scully looked settled with the situation. “I’d say you’d found it, heh?”
 
Scully’s face was just as excited as his inability to sit still would lead you to believe.
 
Maggie huffed and nodded at them as she let her gaze fall back to the two men in suits, a slight frown of confusion having appeared on each of their countenances. And, in the window behind the men, the kittens and a few more neighborhood felines that had gathered sat perched in the front window as if they had a front row seat to some important show. She couldn’t help but smile at that.
 
“Sorry.” She chuckled as she tried to reassure the two men seated at the table with her. “I trust their opinion.”
 
Geoffrey’s face shown in a caricaturist manner, his eyebrows raised quite high as he glanced along her line of sight over his shoulder and back to her. “The cats?”
 
Maggie snorted at his joke. At least it seemed one of them had a sense of humor – the jury was still out on the larger one.
 
Geoffrey fidgeted somewhat and looked as though he wanted to say something more, but Stephen reached over and quieted him with a firm grip on his forearm.
 
“Then we can pick up you and Addison about seven in the morning at this” – Stephen slid a piece of paper with her correct address on it across the table – “building then?”
 
Maggie felt her panic rise again.
 
Tomorrow morning?” She asked, her voice sounding a bit incredulous. She glanced at her watch and shot another questioning look Eduardo’s way, “As in, just over twelve hours from now?”
 
Geoffrey tried to smile in reassurance, although it still seemed some question remained in his eyes.
 
“Don’t worry, Rita, our flight is out of LaGuardia at noon.” He began gathering the paperwork they had gone through – Maggie tried to hand him the one she still held. “Oh, no, ma’am. You keep that copy for your records.” Geoffrey continued as he leaned across the small table and indicated the letterhead. “And this is my cell if you have any questions at all. Call me any time, okay?”
 
Maggie began to nod in compliance, but then did get a bit incredulous.
 
“But what about our furniture and stuff? I can’t just le–”
 
Stephen cut her off as he stood to pull Geoffrey’s chair for him – how very polite of the larger gentleman, Maggie thought.
 
“We can have a moving company take care of all of your larger belongings, young lady.” Once again, commanding yet gentle; how did he do that? “Just be sure to take a few pics of the place so that you can inform Mr. Staltson here of exactly what items will need to be shipped. Everything you will need in the meantime is at The Refuge.”
 
Before she had time to respond to that, Geoffrey continued as he stood with the larger man protectively at his back.
 
“Believe me, Ms. Bee, you will be much more comfortable there, and it is all yours.” He glanced around the diner and then smiled his gentle smile of reassurance again before adding with a bit more finality. “No one can take it away from you.”
 
He winked as Stephen began to escort him toward the door, a large hand gentle in the small of his back.
 
They paused as Stephen opened the door for Geoffrey and called back to Maggie as she still sat at the table in disbelief.
 
“Seven ay-em, young lady, no later.”
 
Maggie nodded as she refocused on the paper this ‘Mr. Geoffrey Staltson, Esquire’ had left for her records – another snort at that thought. The most records she had were her carefully documented records for Addy’s education.
 
She felt as though her carefully constructed life had just been upended and some weird-ass dream state had set in. She glanced up at Eduardo and Scully again.
 
“Looks like you’ll be leaving work early tonight, Miss Maggie.” Eduardo’s deep, rumbly voice was followed by Scully’s as they both stood.
 
“Yeah,” Scully added, looking around as if expecting trouble just as he always did, “You and the Addi-man will be home before dark tonight.”
 
Oh, for criminey’s sake, they were right! She had to pack for them both and get Addy to bed at a decent hour and….aack! Addy had no idea about…
 
Rachal’s hand landing on her shoulder startled her mask of calm, and she let out a slight eeep at the contact.
 
“Everything okay, Rita?” Rachal came around the table in front of her, and, when Maggie looked up, Eduardo and Scully had moved to the window just beside the door – Scully busying himself with teasing the cats through the glass.
 
Maggie snorted at the two of them as she looked up at Rachal and her gum-smackiness.
 
“I didn’t interrupt ‘cuz everything looked civil and the like, but you look a little dazed, hunny.”
 
Maggie shook her head and began to stand.
 
“Dazed?” Maggie took a deep breath – the cats outside were having a field day with Scully annoying them through the window – as a big smile began to pull across her face. “Dazed is a word, Rachal.”
 
Rachal’s gum smacking slowed as a small frown pinched her brown, but before she could inquire further, Maggie continued.
 
“But you know what a better word or, I should say, words would be?”
 
Rachal smiled and shook her head in the negative. It was obvious the older woman had no idea what kind of a response their Rita was looking for right now.
 
An inner glow lit up Rita’s face – Maggie could feel it explode on the inside as her happiness bubbled over with her words.
 
“The best words would be, ‘I quit’, Rachal.”
 
Rachal laughed and patted Maggie’s shoulder as she began to walk away. “Don’t we all wish we could, Ri–”
 
Maggie calmly pushed her chair in as she interrupted the older woman.
 
“Seriously, Rach.” Maggie felt the ‘rightness’ of the situation settle deep inside of her. “I quit!”
 
Rachal paused and glanced at her in question as Maggie turned to Lars in the small crowded café that had suddenly gone very quiet. She felt a thrill rush through her insides and manifest itself as a cross between a squeal and a childish giggle rolled out of her.
 
And, man! Did it feel good!!
 
“I quit, Lars!” She beamed as she folded her apron neatly and placed it on the service counter on her way to the office to retrieve Addy. “It’s been real and all that, but I’m moving to Alabama in the morning!”
 
Lars scoffed out loud as he shook his head in disbelief and indignation.
 
“Alabama?” His eyebrows disappeared in the hair that peeked out from the deli cap that he wore. “Alabama?!! Rita Bee you really are nuts, girl!”
 
“Lars!” Rachal hollered at him as she made to follow Maggie who had ducked into the backroom to get Addison.
 
“No, Rachal, I will not be quiet this time! That girl is certifiable!” He was ranting only to the remaining customers as both waitresses had left the main café area. He looked at one of the unsuspecting customers seated at the counter. “Does she even know what kind of crazies live in the South?”

To be continued...

*****************************


Maggie - Marguerite B. Atkinson. Maggie is Rosemary’s great-niece.
Maggie A. Son - Maggie’s alias when she lived with Dorothy
Rita Bee - Maggie’s current alias & the name she is known by at the Courtside
Addison (Addy) Westmorland - little boy with Maggie, being raised by her
Dorothy Westmorland - Addy's mother (deceased)
Larson ‘Lars’ Carney – owner of the Courtside Coffee-N-Cola, the diner where Maggie works
Rachal - other waitress at the Courtside Coffee-N-Cola
Eduardo - waits to walk Maggie home when she works late
Scully - with Eduardo to walk Maggie home
Julio DeJesus - apparent maintenance man in Maggie and Addy’s building  
Bongo - Maggie & Addy's large, black cat
Twilight - Great Gray Owl seen outside the diner and at Maggie's apartment
 
Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order (WWHO) and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, marked for death (perhaps more) by the WWHO
Peadar - Irish male resident of The Refuge, helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - (aka Lyca) Goth, warrior-looking female resident of The Refuge
Freki - Lyca's over-sized pet 'dog'
Koko - Native American male resident of The Refuge, has unending optimism and warmth about him...most of the time
Kato - large male Refuge resident who wears the clothes of a teenager. Kato is a young lion-shifter.
Memphis - nymph from Demetrius' original homeland, now auberge factotum to The Refuge
 
Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents at The Refuge
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way marriage - Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlie)
Gary Staltson - Geoffrey's husband
Stephen - private investigator employed by Geoffrey
Jinx - computer hack/whiz working with Stephen, handles all the tech-forensics for investigations. Jinx is Stephen’s partner.


 

Author Notes Don't worry, folks....the author was born, raised, and lives in the South. And Lars is just...well, he's Lars. :) :)

Thank you for keeping up with Maggie's saga -- you are welcome to pop into my portfolio and bring yourself up to speed. It is a fantasy story so, with all the nuances and clues included as the story unfolds, trying to do anything along the lines of 'summarizing' is close to impossible. Just get yourself a pitcher of tea and relax and enjoy -- You won't regret it! ;) :)


Image 'Pauli's Diner Ambiance (rain, city noises,...)' from Google images via YouTube



Chapter 16
Chapter Five, Part 2

By Y. M. Roger

FROM LAST TIME:
“I quit, Lars!” She beamed as she folded her apron neatly and placed it on the service counter on her way to the office to retrieve Addy. “It’s been real and all that, but I’m moving to Alabama in the morning!”
 
Lars scoffed out loud as he shook his head in disbelief and indignation.
 
“Alabama?” His eyebrows disappeared in the hair that peeked out from the deli cap that he wore. “Alabama?!! Rita Bee you really are nuts, girl!”
 
“Lars!” Rachal hollered at him as she made to follow Maggie who had ducked into the backroom to get Addison.
 
“No, Rachal, I will not be quiet this time! That girl is certifiable!” He was ranting to only the remaining customers as both waitresses had left the main café area, “Does she even know what kind of crazies live in the South?”


CONTINUING...
Both Rachal and Maggie, the latter with Addy in tow, re-entered the room – neither female slowing their pace in the least.
 
“You’re always telling me I’m the crazy one, Lars, so, no problem, right?” She paused to turn and look in his direction as Rachal tried to hold her other hand and calm her down.
 
“No-o-o-o-o, Rita Bee!” Lars pointed the whisk he was using in her direction as his voice began to rise. “I’m telling you – those people in the South are a special kind of crazy!”
 
The batter from his whisk flew at them and sprinkled Addison’s face. Addy started laughing with full-on belly laughter. He was enjoying this scene as were the patrons that usually just stopped in for a quiet meal on the way home from a busy day.
 
But Lars was just getting started on another one of his semi-drunken rants. He mixed the batter a little more before continuing, thus giving his whisk more firepower. Addy stepped behind Maggie out of the line of fire.
 
“They’ll eat you alive, girl! They all have guns and they shoot everything there is! You feed a stupid owl with leftovers, Rita – they’ll kill your owl, girl!”
 
Addy stopped laughing, peeking around and up at Maggie; he frowned as Maggie just shook her head.
 
“Nobody’s gonna shoot Twilight, Addy.” Her voice was calm as she reassured Addy, but she raised it again as she looked at Lars. “That’s just drunken fantasy, right, Lars?”
 
But Lars didn’t even hear as he continued without a breath it seemed, “…and they don’t even know what a bagel is and – !”
 
Oh, he was really getting worked up now. Just as he slammed the mixing bowl on the counter and a large blob of the batter splashed on him and a customer at the service counter, Maggie had had enough. Addy cracked up again with laughter.
 
“Thanks for everything, Lars!”
 
Maggie gently tugged her arm from Rachal’s hold and patted the still-gum-smacking lady on the shoulder.
 
“And thank you, too, Rachal” – she smiled genuinely at the kindly lady as she indicated their never-completely-sober boss – “Take care of the big guy, huh?”
 
Rachal leaned over and kissed Addy’s forehead – even wiped off some of the batter from one of his eye lids – before kissing Maggie on the cheek.
 
She pulled back with tears in her eyes. “I hope you know what you’re doin’, Rita girl.”
 
And Lars continued to rant even as he wiped his face and was walking back into the office.
 
“– probably try to feed you that crap they call grits! No, I’m tellin’ you, girl, nothin’ good can –”
 
Maggie looked over at Lars and back at Rachal, and had to snort out a laugh.
 
“Me, too, Rach,” she added even as Rachal patted the hand that rested on her shoulder and began to head toward their crazy – no, scratch that – Rachal’s crazy boss.
 
Maggie turned to leave.
 
“Onward Sir Ed and trusted Scully,” she exclaimed with the happiness she felt as she led a still giggling Addy toward the doorway, “we have packing to do!”
 
Lars’ bellow followed her out.
 
“You see!” It sounded as though he slammed some utensils or bowls together as he hollered again. “They’re gonna eat that poor crazy kid alive down there, Rachal! Grown people aren’t supposed to have imag–”
 
The closing door thankfully cut off Lars’ tirade. A few of the cats began to trail along behind them, and Addy finally had a chance to chime in.
 
“So, Maggie,” he began as he looked to their right and to their left, “it’s Eduardo and Scully tonight, right?”
 
She smiled down at him and then up and across at the two men who had always been there to escort her since she and Addison had moved into the neighborhood – no matter the circumstances or the weather.
 
“Yep!” Maggie answered cheerfully – it had always perplexed her how Addy could remember certain names to certain faces but then be so unsure about others.
 
But that was a concern for another time. Right now, it certainly felt like they were on the right track – no butterflies, no trepidations. But then, it hit her. This could be the last time she saw Eduardo and Scully…or the couples in the diner that always hung around late.
 
Or Mr. DeJesus.
 
Or Punky and all his weirdly-pierced friends.
 
Suddenly, she slowed her steps, but Eduardo chastised her.
 
“Oh, no you don’t, Miss Maggie.” He looked over at her as if he knew what was going on in her head. “You don’t get to go all sad on us.”
 
“Oh, no, Miss Maggie,” Scully chimed in from the other side of Addison, “you and the Addi-man deserve this. It’ll be a fresh start for the both of –”
 
Maggie stopped in her tracks.
 
“But I may never…”
 
Addison looked up at her with his little brow furrowed.
 
“What is it, Maggie? What will you never do?”
 
Maggie squeezed Addy’s hand to let him know she recognized his interjection, but she couldn’t help but look between Eduardo and Scully.
 
And Eduardo laughed out loud as he indicated over at Scully.
 
“Miss Maggie, we might just have to visit if it’s as pretty as those two lawyer-types say it is – all you have to do is holler for us!”
 
He winked over at Scully.
 
“And, with it being so far away, you can be yourself and the Addi-man can do stuff like play ball cuz nobody will know either of ya!”
 
Maggie relaxed completely and started walking again, tugging along a still confused Addy.
 
“Maggie? What….?” Addy tried to ask at the same time Maggie addressed him.
 
“Well, now, that’s great, huh, Addy?”
 
Addy looked a little befuddled as he seemed to concentrate on the last bits of their conversation – his little brow knitting further inward as he ticked back in his mind over his question and Maggie’s sort of answer.
 
“It’s great that we’ll never what, Maggie?”
 
Maggie laughed out loud as she pulled Addison tightly against her before continuing to simply hold his little hand.
 
“You need to pay closer attention, yeah?” She smiled down at him. “Allowance, Alabama is gonna be great cuz nobody knows us there!”
 
A big smile pulled across Addy’s handsome little face as they started up the steps to their building. But then it became just the slightest bit tinted with suspicion, and his steps were slowed.
 
“Really?!” he asked with trepidation that was trying to be excited, “That’s what Eduardo and Scully said?”

Maggie laughed.
 
“Of course,” she answered as she turned to thank the two of them, but they must have already scurried off for the evening.
 
Addy seemed to study Maggie just a bit before nodding to himself. He looked to either side of them again.
 
“Thank you, Mister Ed and Mister Scully.”
 
Maggie pouted only a bit as she turned to unlock the door to find Julio there waiting on them with a huge smile on his face. She really wished Addy would do better with adults – it was like he had trouble processing how to talk to them until it was too late.
 
“Congradulayshuns, Miss Maggie!”
 
Maggie was torn between frowning at Addy’s waiting until Eduardo and Scully had left before thanking them and trying to smile at Julio.
 
“Thank you, Julio.” She glanced down at Addy and tugged on his little hand to prompt his attention to Mr. DeJesus. “We’re very excited, aren’t we, Addy?”
 
Addy paused to stare momentarily at Maggie, mouth open, like she had two heads. He then huffed to himself and dropped Maggie’s hand. He continued through the door toward their apartment, speaking as he walked away.
 
“Aaaaaand thank you, Mr. DeJesus!”
 
Addy sounded more than a bit exasperated to Maggie’s ears as he stopped in front of their door, arms crossed, foot tapping with his impatience. She glanced up at Julio who only smiled and shook his head in that understanding manner.
 
“S’okay, Miss Maggie,” he assured her in his gentle voice as he turned to walk back down the hallway, “he young, an’ he jus’ donnt see tings like you do, ya know?”
 
Maggie smiled and took a deep breath. No need to start off on the wrong foot as their whole world was about to be upended.
 
She stepped toward their door for probably the last time and patted Addy on the shoulder.
 
“Alright, I know you’re tired,” she said as she unlocked their door, “but we’ve got some packing to do.”
 
“Packing? But I’ve got some science reading to finish up.”
 
Maggie held the door open for him.
 
“That’s all gonna have to wait for a few days, Addy.” Maggie could feel the excitement building inside of her again as she closed and locked the door behind them. “We’re leaving first thing in the morning.”
 
Addy stopped in his tracks and stood with his back to Maggie. Then, he spun around, arms crossed over his little chest as he pinned Maggie with a doubting and accusatory glare.
 
“Says who?”

to be continued...


Maggie - Marguerite B. Atkinson. Maggie is Rosemary’s great-niece.
Rita Bee - Maggie’s current alias & the name she is known by at the Courtside
Addison (Addy) Westmorland - little boy with Maggie, being raised by her
Dorothy Westmorland - Addy's mother (deceased)
Larson ‘Lars’ Carney – owner of the Courtside Coffee-N-Cola, the diner where Maggie works
Rachal - other waitress at the Courtside Coffee-N-Cola
Eduardo - waits to walk Maggie home when she works late
Scully - with Eduardo to walk Maggie home
Julio DeJesus - apparent maintenance man in Maggie and Addy’s building  
Punky & pals – group of young hooligans across the hall from Maggie & Addy’s place
Bongo - Maggie & Addy's large, black cat
Twilight - Great Gray Owl seen outside the diner and at Maggie's apartment
 

Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order (WWHO) and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, marked for death (perhaps more) by the WWHO
Peadar - Irish male resident of The Refuge, helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - (aka Lyca) Goth, warrior-looking female resident of The Refuge
Freki - Lyca's over-sized pet 'dog'
Koko - Native American male resident of The Refuge, has unending optimism and warmth about him...most of the time
Kato - large male Refuge resident who wears the clothes of a teenager. Kato is a young lion-shifter.
Memphis - nymph from Demetrius' original homeland, now auberge factotum to The Refuge
 

Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents at The Refuge
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way marriage - Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlie)
Gary Staltson - Geoffrey's husband
Stephen - private investigator employed by Geoffrey
Jinx - computer hack/whiz working with Stephen, handles all the tech-forensics for investigations. Jinx is Stephen’s partner.
 

Author Notes Again, DO NOT panic, folks....the author was born, raised, and lives in the South - wouldn't have it any other way! And she LOVES grits - not the instant crap, real grits! - and knows what a bagel is! LOL! ;) ;) And Lars is just...well, he's Lars. :) :)

Thank you for keeping up with Maggie's saga -- you are welcome to pop into my portfolio and bring yourself up to speed. It is a fantasy story so, with all the nuances and clues included as the story unfolds, trying to do anything along the lines of 'summarizing' is close to impossible. Just get yourself a pitcher of tea and relax and enjoy -- You won't regret it! ;) :)


Image of 'abandoned brownstone at 221 West 137th Street' from Google images via Harlem Bespoke [www.harlembespoke.blogspot.com]



Chapter 17
Chapter Five, Part 3

By Y. M. Roger

Theo Atkinson mounted the steps to his front porch in a rather jovial mood this evening. The shift at the hospital was uneventful and his stop by the pub on the way home had helped to lift his spirits. He was looking forward to a quiet evening at home with his wife – surely Lyssa had the children in bed by now.
 
It was true that the twins were not his, but they were well-behaved and very respectful. They would be leaving for college soon – something that was not going to be cheap since neither Chris nor Clarissa had managed a scholarship of any kind. That really hadn’t been a surprise to him, but at least he and Lyssa would have the house to themselves.
 
When he’d first asked Lyssa to marry him, he did not realize she had children. Not that it was an unwanted surprise. Because, he had to admit, it had been close to enjoyable raising a child or children who did not require their environment be ‘just so’ and who were not seeing people and other things that weren’t there! Not to mention, he had never been stopped in a store or on the street by strange people wanting to ‘touch’ his daughter’s face. Yes, that was more than a bit unnerving on the few occasions it had happened with Marguerite.
 
Delilah’s departure nearly ten years ago left him reeling, but, looking back, he should have expected it. She was always a bit of a ‘hippie-type’ – into the ‘all natural’ and ‘Mother Earth’ mumbo-jumbo. At first, her descent into true lunacy had been when she’d begun treating their Maggie with kid-gloves, not even wanting to discipline her.

Your Magpie. The words whispered across his mind again, but he would not allow them to disturb his good mood this evening. Such was one of the reasons he’d had a few beers after shift. But Theo couldn’t help himself, it was like the memories sucked him down into a tunnel and he couldn’t climb out.
 
He froze before placing the key in the lock, remembering how Delilah had really gone off the deep end with her growing over-protectiveness of their Magpie. And he’d stood by, silently, hoping that things would turn around as that protectiveness morphed into paranoia. It was a paranoia Theo was convinced that Delilah invented in her head – a paranoia that someone or ‘some ones’ were watching her. Watching Maggie.
 
Which is what eventually led to their split or what Theo had called their split. It was his assumption or, better yet, his guess that she’d had enough or maybe even snapped. Either way, following one of their big arguments, she had left in an angry huff, the slamming of their front door on her exit the last he ever saw or heard of her. It had been the same argument from at least ten times before: Delilah begging him to take them somewhere far away where no one knew them. That something was coming for Maggie. That Maggie wasn’t old enough yet to know or to defend herself – whatever that had meant.
 
How did she expected him to do that? He needed a job. They needed a steady income – income that provided health insurance, especially with a pre-teen girl.
 
Theo tried to brush away the memories with another shake of his head as he unlocked the front door. He paused for a moment, leaning his forehead against the front door as he felt the pain inside once again.
 
She left him, left them.
 
And Theo tried, at first. He took all of his vacation and worked from home for a while to take care of his Magpie. But Delilah never returned.
 
Slowly, he began to not only resent her leaving, but he was frustrated with all of the responsibilities that came along with Maggie. He signed up for the task of ‘child rearing’ as the bread winner not the hand-maiden. And that was especially true when, within days of the whole womanhood thing around age thirteen, Maggie started ‘seeing things’ – not just animals, but seeing people that she would speak to! And her ‘sightings’ were not limited to home – they could be anywhere they went.
 
Enough. He would not dwell on this anymore and ruin his good mood. He had closed that chapter of his life for good and refused to go there anymore. He had a good life now. Delilah was a distant memory; Maggie was safe and under professional care; and he had Lyssa to warm his bed.
 
He felt a sly smile creep across his face as he took off his jacket, imagining exactly how they could warm that bed this evening. Those beers certainly had his body and his mind primed for a steamy evening.
 
“I know I’m a little late, angel.” Theo spoke as he hung his hat on the wall. He removed his tie and unbuttoned his shirt as he took a step toward the den entrance. “But I thought we could–”
 
The sight that greeted him as he rounded the doorframe took away his words and his thoughts – all thoughts save those of prayer.
 
“Good evening, Mr. Atkinson.”
 
The deep, hypnotic voice was spoken from behind him – the speaker much taller than himself – and its cadence rolled over and around him in an invisible vise, physically trapping him. He struggled to breathe as he found his feet cemented to the floor.
 
Before him, Lyssa sat, unmoving, in one of their chairs. Her eyes were wide with fright – her tears falling down her countenance. She seemed unable to move or speak just like himself.  
 
“I believe we need to talk about your abandonment issues.” That voice. Oh, God, that voice – it made his blood run cold, especially as it transitioned to a sinister chuckle next to his ear. “You know, your abandonment of a gift from the gods?”
 
A warm breath trailed down his neck as the man? Creature? He wasn’t even sure as all he could see was black hair out the corner of his eyes before he squeezed them shut. Whatever it was, it took a deep inhale near his neck before pulling up and away.
 
“Just as I suspected. Simply human.” A large hand reached up to touch his face from behind, and his eyes flew open as more memories of the past slammed into him, triggered by the scent of that hand. It smelled of the oils Delilah had used incessantly throughout the house – lavender, peppermint, cedar, thyme.
 
The hand was almost too perfect, too silken. It smoothed a slow, deliberate path back along his cheek and into his hair, and he watched in horror as claws began to extend from the ends of the fingers there.
 
Lyssa screamed in her mouth, unable to release it as she watched the unbelievable sight before her. Her body was racked with her sobs, her children in the upstairs bedroom at the forefront of her thoughts even as she watched her husband under assault.
 
Theo fought to move, to do anything, as his tears rolled over those claws and dripped a cold cadence onto his collar and upper chest. All he could manage was whimpering as his muscles vibrated with his exertion – exertion to make them respond in some way.
 
“You never even bothered to follow up on her, did you?” That hand fisted a handful of his hair and jerked his head to the side exposing the neck.
 
Theo’s mind raced as his world tilted. His eyes no longer focused on Lyssa, he searched for an answer to the question that could possibly save his life. He moaned and tried to speak – to ask this man, this monster, exactly to what he was referring…
 
He felt a rough tongue on his neck, a slow swipe over his pulse there. And a deep, rumbling growl rolled up the length of his back. “You just walked away and started over.”
 
The thing behind him stood to its full height, although it never released his hair. For the briefest of moments, Theo felt his hopes soar. Perhaps he would be able to talk to…
 
Suddenly, the perfect vision of a young, beautiful Maggie being held by a bright and lovely Delilah flashed across his mind, obscuring even his sight of Lyssa before him.
 
That is Isis’s gift to you.”
 
The deep voice was cold again, and Theo’s body tensed. Suddenly, the wonderful vision was broken, replaced by the other clawed hand – the one not grasping his hair – holding an ancient dagger with a tyet crowning its hilt. The hand held the blade so that Theo could see the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs that adorned the blade.
 
“And this is mine.”
 
A scream tried to emanate from Lyssa’s body – her face reddening from the strain. Theo had only time to blink once before the razor sharp blade sliced across his neck.
 
“Because even your blood disgusts me, filthy animal.”
 
Those smooth, silken words followed his body’s collapse to the floor. A pair of expensive men’s dress shoes and slacks stepped over him and squatted in front of him. The hand holding the dagger – no evidence of claws on those perfectly manicured, male fingers – reached out and wiped the blade on his shirt. Even though Theo could focus on the blade as it moved across his sleeve, he could not make his eyes focus on the face of the being.
 
Still unable to move, Theo watched the dark stranger – yes, it definitely looked like a man from this angle – approach Lyssa. The figure leaned over far enough to reach her chin, angling her crying face up toward himself.
 
Immediately, she gifted him with one of her radiant smiles, one that did not at all match her tear-stained face. Then Lyssa just seemed to fall asleep. Her body slumped toward the ground, the remains of happiness still etched in her features.
 
But that really wasn’t of concern to Theo Atkinson as his vision blurred and became tunneled. No, as he cried through the pain of his life’s essence leaving his body, he could only mourn the fact that he really did not understand why...
 
Why, after all the good he’d done in his life, was one mentally unstable teenager worth his death?

to be continued...


**The tyet, sometimes called the knot of Isis or girdle of Isis, is an ancient Egyptian symbol that came to be connected with the goddess Isis. In many respects the tyet resembles an ankh, except that its arms curve down. Its meaning is also reminiscent of the ankh, as it is often translated to mean "welfare" or "life".

Theo Atkinson - Maggie’s birth father
Delilah Atkinson - Maggie’s birth mother, disappeared when Maggie was about ten.
Lyssa Atkinson – Theo’s current wife
Maggie - Marguerite B. Atkinson. Maggie is Rosemary’s great-niece.
Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order (WWHO) and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, marked for death (perhaps more) by the WWHO


 

Author Notes Thank you for reading me and taking the time to get to know Maggie!


Image of 'Tyet Knot from the Tomb of Tutankhamun' from Tour Egypt [www.touregypt.net]


Chapter 18
Chapter Five, Part 4

By Y. M. Roger

Without much effort, Kato lifted the mattress to the top bunk. He then turned to retrieve the other one from the Land Rover – the usual Kato enthusiasm evident in all of his actions.
 
“Easy now,” Koko said, “I do not trust the sturdiness of these manufactured builds. It would have been better had I constructed it myself.” He ran his hand along the white frame of the racecar-designed bunk bed set he had just finished putting together. His hand stopped at one corner where the seams did not meet exactly. “And I still do not understand this choice of bunk beds.”
 
The three of them – Kato, Peadar, and Koko – had been working to clear Rosemary’s quarters of anything ‘Rosemary’ and re-do the sitting room into a little boy’s room. They had purchased the children’s bed set, dresser, and desk from the local furniture store and left Koko behind to assemble it while the remaining two went and bought pretty much everything else.
 
Much of ‘everything else’ was purchased under direct pressure from Kato – Peadar’s complaint being that the lion shifter simply wanted the computer, toys and games for himself. Kato had complained but neither had he denied the accusation.
 
Peadar just huffed at Koko as he dropped the armful of bags and packages onto the floor.
 
“Eetz a child, Koko,” he stated a bit exasperated as Kato pushed him out of the way, the other mattress flung over his back, “I doont know much, but I do know they like fun, ya kin?”
 
Koko turned to the much shorter male, a frown pulling his brows together.
 
“But he cannot drive yet, and these beds will only encourage strange dreams.”
 
Kato snorted a laugh as he none-too-gracefully stepped through the pile of bags on the floor.
 
“You guys sound like the Pride Elders – you’re so old you forgot what it’s like to be young.” He continued to speak as he walked out again. “I’m going to get the flatscreen and the X-Box out of the Rover.”
 
“Wait!” Peadar exclaimed, “Eeez there room fer –”
 
“I’m not gonna set it up in here.” Kato’s look was priceless – like anyone should know better. “There’s not enough room for one player comfort much less two in here.” He waved his large arms to make his point – the beds and the dresser pretty much filled the room. And the space under the window was reserved for the desk.
 
Shaking his head, Kato stepped over the bags to leave as Koko began unpacking the parts to assemble the desk. Peadar grabbed his arm.
 
“Wait,” Peadar began. Kato looked at the hand on his arm and back at Peadar, that lion gaze becoming quite intense. Not quickly or even in fear, the hand fell away as the two powerful males stared at each other, but Peadar simply continued. “Shouldn’t we all talk that beeg set-up in the gatherin’ room?”
 
Kato frowned him. “When was the last time anybody gathered in there?” It was obvious his mind was made up, but he continued to make his point. “We talk at the table and that’s it. Lyca goes for her runs with Freki, Koko plays that stupid flute on the back porch “– he motioned over at Koko who grunted with a good-hearted grin on his face in response, his expression all but speaking to say he agreed – “and you sit and pine on the front. I don’t see any of you rushing to gather.” He used his air quotes and rolled his eyes like the teenager that he was despite his size.
 
Peadar made to speak, but Kato continued, shutting off Peadar’s denial. “Oh, and Demetrius gathers” – again with the air quotes – “in there late at night and talks to himself. I’m thinking that shouldn’t count.”
 
The stormy look that had begun brewing on Peadar’s face was quickly replaced with a bit of amusement.
 
“Demetrius sits and talks to himself?” Peadar asked.
 
“Yes.” The answer was a chorus of both Kato and Koko, the latter looking up but briefly from his desk assembly.
 
Peadar seemed to take that in and digest it as his auburn eyebrows drew in tight with just a hint of light-play visible amidst his matching curls. He then took a deep breath and the colors vanished, although his brow remained furrowed.  
 
“I don’t pine, Kato, I j–”
 
“Of course you do!” and “Yes, you do!” were simultaneous retorts by Kato and Koko, stopping Peadar’s protest mid-statement.
 
Peadar shut his mouth and became introspective for a few seconds. He shook his head and seemed to shrug off their input, but he didn’t argue as he began unpacking the bags of supplies and linens. In fact, he did not say anything else.
 
Koko chuckled to himself, and Kato left to go set-up the gaming system.
 
Even after his almost-confrontation with Peadar, Kato was feeling upbeat and happy for the first time since Rosemary’s passing. If he were honest with himself, it was the first time since he had come of age in the Pride, and things had started to change for him. He shoved those thoughts away in a hurry.
 
Yep! He prayed to whatever god would listen that he and this Addison would get along. Otherwise, he’d move the gaming system up to his room to have it for himself. He smiled to himself at that decision as he walked to the Rover.
 
To be continued…

 

Theo Atkinson
- Maggie’s birth father (murdered)
Delilah Atkinson - Maggie’s birth mother, disappeared when Maggie was about ten.
Lyssa Atkinson – Theo’s current wife
 
Maggie
- Marguerite B. Atkinson. Maggie is Rosemary’s great-niece.
Marguerite A. Son - Maggie’s alias when she lived with Dorothy
Rita Bee - Maggie’s current alias & the name she is known by at the Courtside
Addison (Addy) Westmorland - little boy with Maggie, being raised by her
Dorothy Westmorland - Addy's mother (deceased)
Larson ‘Lars’ Carney – owner of the Courtside Coffee-N-Cola, the diner where Maggie works
Rachal - other waitress at the Courtside Coffee-N-Cola
Eduardo - waits to walk Maggie home when she works late
Scully - with Eduardo to walk Maggie home
Julio DeJesus - apparent maintenance man in Maggie and Addy’s building  
Punky & pals – group of young hooligans across the hall from Maggie & Addy’s place
Bongo - Maggie & Addy's large, black cat
Twilight - Great Gray Owl seen outside the diner and at Maggie's apartment
 

Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order (WWHO) and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, marked for death (perhaps more) by the WWHO
Peadar - Irish male resident of The Refuge, helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - (aka Lyca) Goth, warrior-looking female resident of The Refuge
Freki - Lyca's over-sized pet 'dog'
Koko - Native American male resident of The Refuge, has unending optimism and warmth about him...most of the time
Kato - large male Refuge resident who wears the clothes of a teenager. Kato is a young lion-shifter.
Memphis - nymph from Demetrius' original homeland, now auberge factotum to The Refuge
 

Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents at The Refuge
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way marriage - Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlie)
Gary Staltson - Geoffrey's husband
Stephen - private investigator employed by Geoffrey
Jinx - computer hack/whiz working with Stephen, handles all the tech-forensics for investigations. Jinx is Stephen’s partner.

 

Author Notes This is a short installment to finish up this chapter. I will post the beginning of the next chapter in another day or so (I promise!). I know I'm behind, but the end of the year is crazy.... fear not! Summer is coming and that is the teacher's time to WRITE!! :) :)

Thank you for reading me and keeping up with Maggie and the gang... things are gonna get even more interesting really fast.... :) :)

Please feel free to jump back into my portfolio and catch up any time... grab yourself a hot beverage (or a cold one!) and relax... you won't want to leave, I promise! :)

Image of 'Delightful Southern House Plans' at The Image Fixer [theimagefixer.com]


Chapter 19
Chapter Six, Part 1

By Y. M. Roger

[Previously, as Maggie and Addy arrived home...]
..............
.........
...
“Alright, I know you’re tired,” she said as she unlocked their door, “but we’ve got some packing to do.”

 
“Packing? But I’ve got some science reading to finish up.”
 
Maggie held the door open for him.
 
“That’s all gonna have to wait for a few days, Addy.” Maggie could feel the excitement building inside of her again as she closed and locked the door behind them. “We’re leaving first thing in the morning.”
 
Addy stopped in his tracks and stood with his back to Maggie. Then, he spun around, arms crossed over his little chest as he pinned Maggie with a doubting and accusatory glare.
 

“Says who?”
[begin new]
 
Maggie looked at that little face and those crossed arms and knew they’d reached another point of contention. She also knew that Addy was tired and that his young world was about to be upended yet again. But, hey, Addy was smart – that would be her angle of attack through his rising pre-teen mood this evening.
 
Maggie held out the copy of the paper Geoffrey had given her ‘for her records’ and grinned from ear to ear.
 
“Ms. Rosemary Fenna, my great aunt, has just passed in Alabama.” Addy’s curiosity took over his whole demeanor and he reached, tentatively at first, and took the paper from Maggie. “It’s all mi–” Maggie caught herself and started again. “It’s all ours, Addy.”
 
She let his little eyes scan the paper as she pointed to her name at the bottom.
 
Addy looked up at her and narrowed his eyes.
 
“But your name is Marguerite Son, right? This is for a Marguerite At–”
 
“Actually, Addy, that’s just what your mom called me so that we could be together.” She stepped forward, bent her knees to his height, and pulled Addy close to her – the look on his face whenever Dorothy was mentioned always got her right in the heart. “This is my real name.”
 
He looked at her with those big eyes that she knew placed her at the center of his world.
 
“But that’s just your nam–”
 
“No, Addy!” She raised her voice on purpose. Tears were beginning to well up in his eyes, but her voice surprised him. Good, that had been her intention.
 
She turned him to face her so that they were eye-to-eye. She wiped a tear that tried to slide down one of his cheeks.
 
“You know the deal, Addison.” His little eyes widened just a bit as it was evident he was remembering something. A little smile tried to break through as he nodded just in the slightest.
 
Maggie raised an eyebrow, allowing that to be the only question she would ask. She waited patiently for Addy’s answer.
 
“That we’re in this together no matter what?” he stated in a very timid voice as more of a quiet question.
 
Maggie frowned at him, taking his little face in her hands.
 
“No, Addy.” She smiled at him. “I do not recall that ever being a question. Try again.”
 
Addy’s countenance lit with his usual happiness.
 
“You and I are in this together no matter what.”
 
Maggie gathered him to her in a big hug.
 
“That’s right!”
 
But before she was ready to let go, Addy began to extricate himself as he almost always did, but his genuine smile remained. He lifted the paper to begin reading it again, but Maggie took the paper from him quite unexpectedly.
 
Addy was too stunned at first to say anything, but he followed Maggie to the small kitchen counter where she lay the paper down and grabbed a pen from their mug caddy. Addy stood right next to her, standing on tip-toe, trying to get a better look at what she was writing on the paper.
 
“There.” She replaced the pen and handed the paper back to Addy.
 
He scanned the paper looking for what she had written. Maggie knew he’d found his name printed next to hers the minute his whole body relaxed, and he looked up at her, a smile on his lips and in his eyes.
 
“Really?”
 
“Not ever a question, Addison, don’t you forget it.” She leaned over and kissed the top of his head again. “Now, we need to find something to pac–”
 
There was a clunking noise out in the hallway.
 
Maggie and Addy looked at each other, but then Maggie motioned for Addy to step off to the side so he wouldn’t be in the line of sight when she opened the door.
 
Upon opening it, she peered out into the hallway. There, on the floor next to their apartment door, were two large suitcases. They were certainly not new by any means, but they seemed quite sturdy. Question was, where had they come from?
 
Maggie stepped out and looked up and down their small hallway. She didn’t hear any noise from across the way at Punky’s place. Usually, they were at least active by now if not being a bit rowdy with their music which always seemed to be about ten or more years out of date. She knocked, and the door creaked open just a bit with the action.
 
“Uh, guys?” She had no idea of their real names since they always avoided eye contact and hurried away when she tried to speak to them. As she stepped just inside the apartment, she saw pieces of furniture that could not have been used any time recently. In fact, what was there had to have been gutted by rodents because only the springs and some rusted frames were strewn about the place. The dust layer on the floor was quite thick, and she thought she heard tiny critter feet skittering in the ceiling above her. Instinctively, she ducked, even though there was no good reason for it.
 
“Hello?”
 
Maggie took in the stark emptiness of the place as she wondered where all the guys and sometimes girls had gone. Hadn’t she just seen a few of them going in here a few days ago? Motion out the corner of her eye caught her attention. She turned to see a very skinny, young man – an old t-shirt hanging on his gaunt frame – busying himself in the kitchen area. His ebony skin left nothing of his bone structure to the imagination yet his motions were so fluid Maggie would say he flowed rather than moved.
 
“Oh, hey, Mags!” The slender guy stopped moving and turned toward her. His features were hollowed out – his near-black eyes so deep set Maggie just wanted to drag him across the hall and feed him. She guessed he must be an addict or something – there were just too many of them these days. “You get those bags she dropped off for you and Addison?”
 
Maggie frowned. She?
 
“Uhhhm, yes?” It was the best answer she could manage at the moment.
 
The man just laughed a hearty laugh as if he did not recognize her confusion.
 
“Good then, huh?” He seemed quite nervous, yet he was nowhere near threatening – his actions were more wary than anything. Once again, Maggie wrote it off to drugs. “She said to tell ya to be sure to pack everything important that can’t be replaced.”
 
Maggie just stood there, still trying to figure this guy out. And then it dawned on her: the ‘she’ must be an assistant or something to those two lawyer-types that were picking them up in the morning. Maggie relaxed a bit.
 
“But I thought they were going to send mov–”
 
“Dunno. Think you’re her only client here. So, who knows what’ll happen when you leave tomorrow.” He laughed again and returned to whatever he had been doing with such grace in the kitchen, although Maggie could not for the life of her figure out what that was.
 
On second thought, Maggie had been under the impression that the one named Geoffrey had been in charge. Oh, well, she’d ask him about it in the morning. She shrugged to herself and stepped toward the man who seemed to be her age or maybe a few years older.
 
 “You know, I don’t think we’ve ever formally met.”
 
Again, with the odd yet warming laughter. This time, the lanky man hopped up on the kitchen counter and squatted into a crouched position, his head moving continuously as he eyed her.
 
“Sure we have, Mags.” He scratched the back of his neck, and then seemed to swat at a fly. “I’m Punky.”
 
“But…” Maggie paused in confusion, trying to remember when she had actually ‘met’ the guy or guys she had denoted as ‘Punky’ – it was just some name she’d made up, wasn’t it?
 
Just then, Addy stepped up beside her and looked around at the deserted apartment. He gently slid his hand into hers and grabbed hold.
 
“Come on, Maggie,” Addy insisted as he began tugging her toward the suitcases in the hallway, “we have packing to do.”
 
Punky just waved at Maggie as the two of them left – a huge grin lighting his emaciated features. Maggie waved back as she was tugged by the assertive Addy out of the apartment. Addy raised his voice – turning to ‘aim’ his speech behind them – as they stepped into the hallway toward the large suitcases.
 
“Thank you, Mr. DeJesus!”
 
Once they were back out in the hallway, Addy dropped her hand and grabbed one of the cases. Maggie frowned in confusion and looked around for Mr. DeJesus, but she didn’t see him anywhere.
 
“Addy? Why are you thanking Ju- uhm, Mr. DeJesus?”
 
Addy just rolled his eyes in exasperation as he hauled one of the suitcases into their apartment.
 
“That is who you were talking to, right?” He dropped the case just inside their doorway and continued into the apartment. “Hey! Come help me find Bongo’s food!”
 
Maggie’s brow furrowed further, but she just let it go for now. Addy was probably just stressing about this whole moving thing. He was definitely a creature of habit when it came to most things, and this move was going to be so far out of ‘routine’ that even she was nervous. But she did make an important mental note as she brought in the other suitcase and locked their door: when this move was done and they were settled in their new place, she would have to see about getting Addison’s eyes checked.
 
Punky didn’t look anything like Julio DeJesus!
 
To be continued…
 
 
 

Maggie - Marguerite B. Atkinson. Maggie is Rosemary’s great-niece.
Marguerite A. Son - Maggie’s alias when she lived with Dorothy
Rita Bee - Maggie’s current alias & the name she is known by at the Courtside
Addison (Addy) Westmorland - little boy with Maggie, being raised by her
Dorothy Westmorland - Addy's mother (deceased)
Larson ‘Lars’ Carney – owner of the Courtside Coffee-N-Cola, the diner where Maggie works
Rachal - other waitress at the Courtside Coffee-N-Cola
Eduardo - waits to walk Maggie home when she works late
Scully - with Eduardo to walk Maggie home
Julio DeJesus - apparent maintenance man in Maggie and Addy’s building  
Punky & pals – group of young hooligans across the hall from Maggie & Addy’s place
Bongo - Maggie & Addy's large, black cat
Twilight - Great Gray Owl seen outside the diner and at Maggie's apartment
 

Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order (WWHO) and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, marked for death (perhaps more) by the WWHO
Peadar - Irish male resident of The Refuge, helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - (aka Lyca) Goth, warrior-looking female resident of The Refuge
Freki - Lyca's over-sized pet 'dog'
Koko - Native American male resident of The Refuge, has unending optimism and warmth about him...most of the time
Kato - large male Refuge resident who wears the clothes of a teenager. Kato is a young lion-shifter.
Memphis - nymph from Demetrius' original homeland, now auberge factotum to The Refuge
 

Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents at The Refuge
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way marriage - Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlie)
Gary Staltson - Geoffrey's husband
Stephen - private investigator employed by Geoffrey
Jinx - computer hack/whiz working with Stephen, handles all the tech-forensics for investigations. Jinx is Stephen’s partner.
 

Theo Atkinson - Maggie’s birth father
Delilah Atkinson - Maggie’s birth mother, disappeared when Maggie was about ten.
Lyssa Atkinson – Theo’s current wife

 

Author Notes ATTENTION: If you want to catch up, this weekend is the time!! :) :) I have promoted this under the 'balloon' that EVERY back chapter will earn you 5 reviewer points plus funny-money -- Hooray! You'll actually earn and be all caught up if you act this weekend! Don't miss the wonderful opportunity!! :) ;) :) :)

As some of you know, these next five to six weeks are going to be all-consuming so, you may or may not see another installment before then.... Sometimes the crazy blonde writes as an 'escape from stress' so you just never know!!

Thank you all for your continued support -- it means a lot on this end!! Thanx for reading me and take care! :) :)

Image of 'abandoned brownstone at 221 West 137th Street' from Google images via Harlem Bespoke [www.harlembespoke.blogspot.com]



Chapter 20
Chapter Six, Part 2

By Y. M. Roger

[Welcome Newcomers! School's out and the teacher is writing again - Hooray! I have placed a special on the whole book such that you get points for reviewing any of the previous chapters up til now...please avail yourself of this opportunity to catch up and hang on for the ride of the summer! :)  For those current followers, remember: Maggie and Addy are packing to leave New York with Geoffrey and Stephen. Demetrius paid a dark visit to Maggie's father and step mother. Peadar, KoKo, and Kato spent all day yesterday preparing a room for Addy that is connected to Maggie's bedroom there in the refuge. And Kato set-up a gaming system in the Gathering Room for him and Addy. They have not received another visit from the Order since the one a couple of nights ago.]

“So, do any of ye know anythin’ of Demetrius’ quarrel with the Order?”
 
The conversation around the breakfast table halted with Peadar’s question. Even he paused from putting a bite in his own mouth when the silence fell. Memphis – her back to the room at the moment as she took another pie out of the oven – paused in her actions.
 
Everyone looked at everyone else until Kato shrugged and started eating again, obviously making up for lost nutrition over the past few days. Lyca reached across and slid his plate closer to him – under his chin and to the edge of the table – to help catch some more of his inevitable crumbs. He paused in his chewing and lifted his frowning face toward her.
 
Lyca’s whole attitude toward Kato had changed since yesterday, as if she had accepted his youth and decided to take on a maternal roll rather than that of an irritated sibling. In keeping with that noted change, instead of meeting Kato’s glare with a returned one, she lifted a single eyebrow in question and let a playful yet admonishing partial grin grace her lips.
 
Immediately, Kato’s frown disappeared and he nodded his compliance, returning to his eating with somewhat smaller bites – and less mess – this time.
 
As the others’ silence lingered, Memphis resumed her activities and seemed poised to answer Peadar when KoKo spoke up, an unusual frown ghosting across his brow.
 
“We will speak not of anyone’s reasons for sanctuary. The now-departed Ms. Rosemary granted his request, and we will honor it.”
 
His voice carried a very firm intonation of finality, and Lyca nodded her agreement with the large Native American.
 
Peadar noticed Memphis’ stature relax just slightly with KoKo’s response. Peadar being who he was, that noted reaction alone was enough for him to push for more details.
 
“Factotum, did ye ‘ave somethin’ te add?”
 
But that line of question never had a chance to get off the ground as a warning growl rolled up from Lyca.
 
“You’ll leave her out of your fishing expeditions, Irishman.”
 
She and Peadar locked gazes across the table, neither being giving an inch in their unmoving battle of wills. One of the tattoos that adorned the side of Lyca’s neck changed its appearance from a rosebud on a leafed, curved stem to a dagger: the stem becoming the blade with the leaves and the rosebud becoming the guard and the pommel. And, just as one side of Lyca’s lip lifted in the beginning of a challenging snarl, a yellow-green mist began emanating from Peadar’s side of the table, his eyes a noticeably brighter shade of green.
 
Frekki joined Lyca’s deep-throated growl – his hair standing on end along his back; however, whereas Lyca stayed seated in her stand-off with Peadar, Frekki positioned himself in front of Memphis such that he stood firmly between her and the breakfast table.
 
Kato dropped his fork – eyes ping-ponging between Lyca and Peadar – and slowly slid his chair away from the table. But KoKo stood suddenly, his chair falling backward onto the floor.
 
“No more questions about one another, honorable ones!” His voice brooked no room for argument or response, and a clap of thunder was heard over the house. The sunlight streaming through the breakfast windows noticeably dimmed. “This is what they would want – for us to turn on each other! It is their key into our secure home that the venerable Ms. Rosemary gave her life to provide!”
 
Lyca’s head angled her head down just a little further, but as she did, her snarling lip lowered. Peadar never broke their visual connection although he did relax his stance – the mist dissipating and his eyes calming to their emerald hue – and he rolled his shoulders in noted acquiescence. In response, Lyca lifted her face to a casual position and ran a hand through her coarse black hair, the tattoos on her arm going through some indistinguishable transitions as well. She took a deep breath and lowered a hand for Frekki to nuzzle into, the large wolf’s soft whine echoing in the silence that reigned again.
 
The thunder rolled again and again, although it seemed to be moving away now, and the sun resumed its previous brilliance across the table.
 
Kato looked between the two of them – sparing a glance at the now-relaxing KoKo – and pulled himself back to the table to resume eating, once more seeming to tune out everyone.
 
Peadar stood behind his chair – hands gripping the back of it with his head bowed – as he took a few cleansing breaths.
KoKo retrieved his chair from the floor and returned it to its proper place at the table.
 
“Our thanks, devoted one, for your patience,” he said to Memphis as he passed her on his way out the patio door. As he rested his hand on the knob there, he continued speaking without looking back, “Things will settle once our new Protectress arrives this evening.” With that, he stepped onto the patio and shut the door.
 
It was not long before the soothing tunes of KoKo’s flute flowed gently through the kitchen. Even the air seemed to sigh in relief.
 
“Eeez rite, Dear Memphis.” Peadar raised his head to look at Memphis who turned her head around to look at him. “We ‘re grateful fer ye presence wi’ us.” He paused and focused on Lyca who just stared at her plate, obviously still calming herself. “I git it, Lyca.”
 
Lyca immediately raised her face to meet his gaze, her countenance harsh yet questioning.
 
“Ne’er agin, ye ‘av my word.”
 
Lyca’s expression softened just a bit as she nodded in response. Her gaze returned to her plate as Peadar exited the kitchen toward the interior of the house.
 
The flute’s mellow tunes continued to dance through the kitchen as Memphis placed a slice of fresh apple pie beside Kato. The beautiful nymph’s disposition was decidedly lighter than a few minutes ago.
 
“Would you like a slice, Mistr–, uhm, Lycaois?”
 
Lyca paused, shutting her eyes tightly, and then downed the rest of her drink as she stood.
 
“No thank you, Memphis.” Lyca continued over to the sink and placed her dishes there, her eyes never meeting Memphis’. As she passed by the table, she rapped her knuckles on the table beside Kato. “Put your dishes by the sink when you’re done.”
 
She waited for him to look up and acknowledge her before she and Frekki headed for the patio door. Just as she was reaching for it, Memphis called to her.
 
“Lycaois?”
 
Lyca paused. She said nothing and did not turn around.
 
“Thank you.”
 
Lyca’s only response was a slight nod as she opened the door for her and Frekki to leave. As she did so, the sounds of KoKo’s flutes intensified, and Memphis found herself smiling despite the contentious atmosphere just minutes before.
 
In fact, she poured herself a drink and sat beside Kato as the tunes that reminded her of her homeland wrapped softly around her. She could almost see her beautiful Nile Delta as she hummed softly for herself and for Kato.
 
And Kato contentedly purred right along with her.

To Be Continued...



 
Theo Atkinson - Maggie’s birth father
Delilah Atkinson - Maggie’s birth mother, disappeared when Maggie was about ten.
Lyssa Atkinson – Theo’s current wife
 
Maggie - Marguerite B. Atkinson. Maggie is Rosemary’s great-niece.
Marguerite A. Son - Maggie’s alias when she lived with Dorothy
Rita Bee - Maggie’s current alias & the name she is known by at the Courtside
Addison (Addy) Westmorland - little boy with Maggie, being raised by her
Dorothy Westmorland - Addy's mother (deceased)
Larson ‘Lars’ Carney – owner of the Courtside Coffee-N-Cola, the diner where Maggie works
Rachal - other waitress at the Courtside Coffee-N-Cola
Eduardo - waits to walk Maggie home when she works late
Scully - with Eduardo to walk Maggie home
Julio DeJesus - apparent maintenance man in Maggie and Addy’s building  
Punky & pals – group of young hooligans across the hall from Maggie & Addy’s place
Bongo - Maggie & Addy's large, black cat
Twilight - Great Gray Owl seen outside the diner and at Maggie's apartment
 
Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order (WWHO) and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, marked for death (perhaps more) by the WWHO
Peadar - Irish male resident of The Refuge, helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - (aka Lyca) Goth, warrior-looking female resident of The Refuge
Freki - Lyca's over-sized pet 'dog'
Koko - Native American male resident of The Refuge, has unending optimism and warmth about him...most of the time
Kato - large male Refuge resident who wears the clothes of a teenager. Kato is a young lion-shifter.
Memphis - nymph from Demetrius' original homeland, now auberge factotum to The Refuge
 
Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents at The Refuge
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way marriage - Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlie)
Gary Staltson - Geoffrey's husband
Stephen - private investigator employed by Geoffrey
Jinx - computer hack/whiz working with Stephen, handles all the tech-forensics for investigations. Jinx is Stephen’s partner.

 


 

Author Notes Well, here it is! The first of (hopefully!) many installments... unless more unplanned craziness happens on my end, it's just me and the keyboard and few random doctor's appointments here and there! :)

Image of 'Delightful Southern House Plans' at The Image Fixer [theimagefixer.com]


Chapter 21
Chapter Six, Part 3

By Y. M. Roger

Maggie dropped the big suitcase by the door. She hadn’t realized how few clothes and shoes and such she actually had until now – she had room for pretty much everything personal in the one suitcase. She laughed to herself as she turned to tidy the little kitchen.
 
“Addison?!” She opened the refrigerator and sighed. They’d cleaned it last night and the few plastic containers they had were in the drying rack. There was just enough milk for Addy to have a good bowl of cereal and take his vitamins. She grabbed the carton. “You and Bongo get out here and eat something!”
 
The door to Addy’s room opened just a bit. One shoe flew out and landed near the couch. There was a bit more rustling around behind the door followed by thump and an un-energetic ‘ouch’. Then another moment’s delay before another shoe joined the first. Finally, a half-asleep Addy stumbled out – sock ball between his teeth – still buttoning his jeans. His t-shirt had made it over his head, but only one arm was through the proper hole.
 
“Hmmphh-mmmffmmph-mmmfffthch,” he said through the socks, his focus entirely on the uncooperative zipper.
 
Maggie had to laugh as she finished pouring his cereal and made herself a cup of coffee – Addy had never been a morning person. She refrained from stepping over to help him, though. He had recently entered that ‘defiantly independent’ stage and insisted on doing things for himself. At least that’s what all of her online ‘mom blogs’ had said of ‘what to expect’ during these ten to twelve years of age. Yes, that was a couple of years older than his actual age, but she’d found that was where Addison fit developmentally. And, according to all the blogs and even some of the medical websites, every child was different and matured at different rates. Well, Addy was right on track for about two years ahead of his calendar age and seemed to be following just fine.
 
“What did you say?” she asked as he pushed his other arm through the t-shirt and yanked the socks out of his mouth.
 
“I said, Bongo’s out here with you.” Addy grabbed his shoes and plopped himself on the couch and pulled on a sock. “He didn’t sleep with me last night.”
 
A very cold feeling started in the pit of Maggie’s stomach and began to work its way outward. Bongo was not out here with her. The big cat had been by the door when she fell asleep, but, when she woke up to find him gone, she had assumed he was with Addy as was his way when Addy had bad dreams.
 
She placed the coffee mug on the countertop and glanced at her watch. Those lawyers would be here to pick them up in under an hour. Maggie swallowed her panic and smiled as Addy hopped up to his chair and began to pour his milk.
 
“I’ll look under the furniture while I pack your room.” She turned away so she wouldn’t have to act so well much longer. “I’m sure he’s sound asleep in th–”
 
 
“I a’ready packed e’ryting,” Addy proudly announced through a mouthful of cereal.
 
Maggie didn’t pause in her steps.
 
“You have, huh?”
 
She smiled to herself as she took in the suitcase on the floor beside Addy’s bed with bits of clothing hanging out one of the sides. She lifted it onto the bed, opened it up, and walked to his small chest of drawers, checking in each of the drawers to be sure he had everything out of it. She noticed a few of his books that he had basically outgrown, but that he had always insisted on keeping with him. It had been a security blanket of sorts, she had theorized – a tie to Dorothy. She lifted them up and flipped through The Very Hungry Caterpillar, smiling as she spoke.
 
“You forgot your books here in the bottom dra–”
 
“You said Mr. Staltson told us to only bring what we needed!”
 
Addy had donned his ‘edge of aggravation’ voice. Maggie stopped and peeked out the doorway to get a look at his face. Yep, he had that little furrow of consternation to his brow.
 
“But I thought you would wan–”
 
Addy huffed and Maggie stepped back out of the doorway to keep from laughing at his cute determination and, perhaps, feigned annoyance.
 
“I don’t need those, Maggie.” She could hear the eye roll through the wall. “They’re just some kids’ books I don’t read anymore.”
 
She heard the tapping rhythm of his shoes against the back of the lower cabinets increase just in the slightest with his words and had to smile to herself. He was trying so hard to grow up.
 
“Well, what if I stick them in my suitcase?”
 
The tapping paused but then resumed at the accelerated pace.
 
“Maggie, I don’t need those things anymore!”
 
 “Alright, Addison.” She wouldn’t lie to him. “You don’t need them anymore. I get it.”
 
She nodded and huffed out a little chuckle as she placed them out of sight in his suitcase, continuing her re-packing of Addy’s ‘packing’ to include folding his clothes rather than just crowding them in the suitcase pell-mell.
 
She finished about the time she heard Addy washing his dish, and, once again, she felt the dread of the missing Bongo rise up in her. Looking at her watch, she tossed in Addy’s stuffed lion and the fuzzy yellow throw pillow he’d won at the street carnival last year and latched the suitcase. He probably didn’t need those either, but she wanted him to sleep.
 
Especially if Bongo was gone.
 
“Double-check that there’s no other food in the refrigerator and take the garbage out, please.” She lifted the suitcase off the bed and made a lame attempt at looking under the bed, although she knew there was nothing there but dust.
 
She heard Addy go out as she stepped back into the main room, the feeling of loss starting as a lump in her throat. Just at that moment, she heard the big cat’s friendly growl from behind her.
 
Maggie jerked and turned her body to look over her left shoulder, but she felt the cat brush by her right leg heading out of the room as well. Quickly turning back – the move putting her just a bit off-balance with the suitcase – she started to speak to the mischievous feline.
 
“What am I gonna do wi–”
 
But there was no Bongo, no nothing but an empty kitchenette/living area. Maggie stepped toward the couch to peer over it – perhaps the cat was simply out of her line of sight…
 
“Bongo?”
 
But there was just the couch – no more, no less.
 
As she stood, bewildered, Addison burst back in the door, his little eyes alight with excitement.
 
“A really big truck-car-thing just pulled up outside!” Maggie could tell his nerves had kicked in again because he was talking must faster than usual and his little feet could not stay still, even in place. “Is that what we’re gonna be riding in? Is it, Maggie?”
 
She couldn’t help herself but grin at his enthusiasm. Oh, yeah, he was vibrating with it.
 
“Most likely, Addy.” Maggie searched one last time for Bongo before making the mental decision to go with Addy’s excitement and not mention the cat’s absence. There was a chance with all the goings-on that he would overlook it – at least initially.
 
She put Addy’s suitcase down and sighed internally – time to put on yet another false happy face for her charge. She needed to think of a distraction. Fast.
 
Suddenly, it was as if the warmth of the large animal was standing right next to her leg and purring – she could feel the vibrations along with the warmth! She looked down, but, of course, there was nothing there.
 
Maggie did a quick mental inventory as a firm knock sounded on the door to the outside of the building. Okay, she was pretty sure she was still sane today. She pushed herself to move toward the door already falling back into her protective mode – she’d file the cat sensation away as something to ponder later.
 
“You watch the suitcases; I’ll get the door,” she said as she approached him, “and don’t try to pick them up.”
 
She tussled his hair on her way out the apartment door, and he feigned annoyance at the move that was usually reserved for ‘little boys’. “I don’t want you hurt when you get to fly on an airplane for the first time, Mr. Independence.”
 
Addy laughed as he followed, stopping dutifully at their door’s threshold and watching Maggie’s back.
 
To be continued…

 

Maggie - Marguerite B. Atkinson. Maggie is Rosemary’s great-niece.
Marguerite A. Son - Maggie’s alias when she lived with Dorothy
Rita Bee - Maggie’s current alias & the name she is known by at the Courtside
Addison (Addy) Westmorland - little boy with Maggie, being raised by her
Dorothy Westmorland - Addy's mother (deceased)
Bongo - Maggie & Addy's large, black cat
 
Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order (WWHO) and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, marked for death (perhaps more) by the WWHO
Peadar - Irish male resident of The Refuge, helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - (aka Lyca) Goth, warrior-looking female resident of The Refuge
Freki - Lyca's over-sized pet 'dog'
Koko - Native American male resident of The Refuge, has unending optimism and warmth about him...most of the time
Kato - large male Refuge resident who wears the clothes of a teenager. Kato is a young lion-shifter.
Memphis - nymph from Demetrius' original homeland, now auberge factotum to The Refuge
 
Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents at The Refuge
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way marriage - Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlie)
Gary Staltson - Geoffrey's husband
Stephen - private investigator employed by Geoffrey
Jinx - computer hack/whiz working with Stephen, handles all the tech-forensics for investigations. Jinx is Stephen’s partner.

Author Notes Image of 'abandoned brownstone at 221 West 137th Street' from Google images via Harlem Bespoke [www.harlembespoke.blogspot.com]


Chapter 22
Chapter Six, Part 4

By Y. M. Roger

[Your chance to catch  up on the action! Through Saturday, you can read ANY and ALL previous chapters for funny money and points so that you will be caught up to enjoy the Summer Fun! Just pop over to my portfolio and dig in! Thanx for reading me!!]

Stephen carried both suitcases to the SUV with the excited Addison talking non-stop beside him. To be fair, Stephen was a hulking man, but he carried with him a gentle and protective air that Maggie found comforting. And it seemed that Stephen enjoyed the extremely nervous and, therefore, talkative Addison as much as Addy was enjoying talking to him.
 
She and Geoffrey took one last pass through the apartment together – Maggie noting things for Geoffrey to list on the moving request. When she had decided they had covered everything, Geoffrey went ahead to the vehicle. Maggie stopped at the front door facing inward.
 
“Oh, Bongo, of all the times for you to disappear,” she whispered to no one in particular. She felt the lump threatening in her throat again. No, she would not get upset over an animal, she just would no–
 
“Movin’ day, eh, Miss Maggie?”
 
Maggie startled at the old man’s voice then laughed at herself.
 
“Oh, Julio, I didn’t hear you come up the hall!”
 
Julio grinned and shook his head dismissively. He was still looking very peaked, but the smile was there in his eyes today.
 
“Gonna miss you round ‘ere, Miss Maggie.” Julio smiled as he looked up and all around. “An’ it won’t be the same for long. You got ev’rysing for you and the Addy-man?”
 
“Our clothes and stuff, yeah, but I can’t find Bongo.”
 
Julio laughed out loud, probably more than she’d ever heard from the frail-looking gentleman. She wondered if she had said something funny or what…
 
“Miss Maggie, that cat’ll always be yours. Don’t worry ‘bout ‘im.” Julio peered around Maggie and into the apartment and indicated a small table near the door. “What about Addy’s hist’ry reader there tha’ you pick up fer ‘im las’ month? He really likes ta read dat one, you know?”
 
Maggie smiled at the fact that Julio knew how much Addison enjoyed his history reading. Gosh, she was so going to miss the man….miss this place.
 
“Oh, that can wait for the movers that Mr. Stalts–”
 
Julio began shaking his head emphatically before he opened his mouth. Just at that moment, Maggie was sure she felt Bongo wrap around her legs again, but she ignored it to pay closer attention to Mr. Dejesus. Besides, the feeling was probably just stress anyway.
 
“No, you needs ta take it wi–”
 
Maggie began to close the door, dismissing Julio’s concern.
 
“We’re out of room in the suitcases, Julio, and it’ll just be som–”
 
Julio flowed past her and into the apartment’s small living area. He stopped next to the chair near the table where the book was sitting open. His voice took on a more insistent tone.
 
“He can read it on de plane, Miss Maggie.” He stood there, arms crossed, patting his foot beside the chair. “Take it wit’ you. Please.”
 
Well, this was odd. Maggie cocked her head in question but then had a thought: perhaps Mr. Dejesus was right. What if Addy didn’t like flying? She sighed in concession. They would be checking their suitcases for the flight, so keeping up with a single book shouldn’t be that bad.
 
“You’re probably right, Julio.” She stepped in to retrieve the rather large book and looked up, only to find the old man already back outside the door again – he must definitely being feeling better today. “He’ll probably need the distraction.”
 
She felt a bit of sadness again, but it didn’t have time to take hold before the outside door opened and in marched Addison. As he cleared the entrance way, Stephen entered behind him.
 
“All ready to go, Marguerite?” the big man asked as he stepped up beside Addison. She couldn’t help but smile at the warmth he exuded – definitely a good man.
 
Maggie took one last look inside their small apartment and closed the door as she spoke.
 
“Well, Julio” – she turned toward the maintenance man and held out the key – “I guess this is yours, now.”
 
Maggie tried handing it to the smiling man, but the key fell to the floor instead.
 
Stephen took a step in her direction. “Wha–” But Addison grabbed his hand and – looking up at Stephen with big, pleading eyes – shook his head emphatically. Stephen halted and looked from Addison to Maggie and back to Addison and just shrugged, although he continued to frown.
 
Maggie laughed nervously as she bent over to retrieve the key. Julio chuckled, shook his head and started to turn away.
 
“I am so sorry, Julio! I didn’t realize you weren’t paying attention.” She inserted the key into the deadbolt and turned it, allowing the key to remain in the lock. “I’ll just leave it here for later.”
 
“It don’ matta, Miss Maggie,” he said as he began walking away back into the building just as Maggie turned to address Stephen and Addison, “you an’ the Addy-man take care an–”
 
“Wait, Julio, I was going to introduce you t–” When she turned back to the hallway it was empty.
 
“Bye, Mr. DeJesus!” Addy called out down that same hallway. He still stood beside Stephen, but he was waving his little hand enthusiastically.
 
Hearing Julio laugh somewhere in the building’s interior, Maggie shook her head and turned back to the two of them.
 
“Well, I guess that’s that.” She extended Addison’s book toward him. “Mr. DeJesus said you might want to read this on our trip, Addy.”
 
Addy’s face lit with excitement.
 
“Yes!” He stepped forward, took the book, and excitedly tucked it under his arm. “Thanks, Mag–…I mean” – he raised his voice again placing one hand beside his mouth so as to direct the sound down the hallway – “Thanks Mr. DeJesus!”
 
It was Maggie’s turn to chuckle as she reached down and took Addy’s hand in hers.
 
“Pretty sure he might not have heard you,” she said as they approached Stephen’s position by the outside door. The big man still had a very deep furrow in his brow. He seemed to be examining the entrance area and their little hallway with quite a bit of interest.
 
“Oh, I heard him, Miss Atki–”
 
“Not you, silly!” Addison interrupted as he practically pulled Maggie through the front door past Stephen who still seemed a bit unsettled. “She was talking to Mr. DeJesus! Gosh – didn’t you see him there?”
 
Addison’s tone was almost comical as they stepped out the front door of the building, but it did border on disrespect and Maggie wasn’t having that.
 
“Addison!” Maggie chided as she pulled up short, jerking Addison to a stop. “Do not take that tone with another adult.”
 
Addison turned to Stephen.
 
“Sorry, sir.”
 
Stephen politely accepted his apology but then turned to Maggie.
 
“Are you just going to leave the key in the door like that?”
 
Maggie frowned at him. “Oh, don’t worry. Jul– eh, Mr. DeJesus will take care of it.”
 
Addy grinned up at Stephen like the cat that just ate the canary and seemed to muffle a slight giggle.
 
“Yeah.” Addy said as he resumed leading Maggie down the steps to the waiting SUV. “Mr. DeJesus will take care of it.”
 
His tone was still a little more – mocking? teasing? – than Maggie would have liked, but she smiled at Stephen, the look on her face almost apologetic.
 
“He’s just excited about the flight.”
 
She turned and followed an enthusiastic Addison to the vehicle, leaving Stephen with a look of true bewilderment on his face. He hesitated for another moment, stepping back inside to take one last look around. He heard a long, low feline growl that almost seemed threatening, though he saw no cat anywhere.
 
“Everything okay, Stephen?” Geoffrey hollered from the front seat of the SUV.
 
Finally, Stephen just shook his head and shrugged as he pulled the door shut to the abandoned building. He nodded and waved a quick dismissal to Geoffrey.
 
He needed another cup of coffee.
 
*********
 
Addy watched Maggie with rapt attention – the tip of his little tongue firmly between his lips – as he mimicked her actions of fastening the seatbelt. She had, of course, tried to do his for him, but that was not happening. Mr. Independence could do it himself.
 
It had never occurred to Maggie that Addison wouldn’t know how to operate or use a seatbelt. It made complete sense, though, as the only vehicles in which they had ridden were city buses. She’d chuckled to herself at the thought that walking back and forth to work had been nice, but it did leave an important aspect out of Addy’s experiences for the modern world. She made a mental note to somehow remedy that when they were settled in their new place in Allowance.
 
Stephen climbed behind the wheel and shut the door with a very final sounding ‘thud’. He lowered his head and glanced up at Geoffrey with a very skeptical if not intense look. Geoffrey knew not to ask any questions at that moment, but he also knew there was something Stephen wasn’t telling him.
 
Stephen looked into the rear view mirror as he adjusted it a bit.
 
“Everybody locked in back there?”
 
“All ready, sir!” Addy was vibrating again, and Maggie was glad because she was anything but excited.
 
She smiled a courteous smile at Stephen’s eyes in the mirror and nodded her head at him. She then turned her focus out the window at the brownstone doorway she knew she would never see again. And all she could do was long for that stupid cat.
 
The building blurred with the tears that welled in her eyes and, as the SUV pulled out into traffic, she asked whatever gods would listen to take care of him. She closed her eyes to try to get a hold of herself for Addy’s sake – he did not need to see her upset right now.
 
Just as she got her breathing evened out, she felt a comforting vibration wrap around her legs. She knew it was simply the floor board of the big vehicle humming with the engine, but it was nice to imagine it was her Bongo. She smiled to herself and looked over at Addison.
 
Her inquisitive little man was busy playing with all of the electronic controls both on the door and on the console. Even as the speakers switched through different music genres – the radio stations changing with Addy’s tinkering – she found a peace with their leaving. She closed her eyes and let her head lean back against the headrest.
 
She was so relaxed that the multiple fire engines that passed them heading in the opposite direction – their sirens blaring and horns sounding – did not even phase her.
 
That part was probably for the best. Marguerite Atkinson did not need to see another phase of her life go up in smoke....

Or flames, as was happening to the old abandoned building that had been their home for the last few years. Moving forward was always best.
 

To be continued…
 

Maggie - Marguerite B. Atkinson. Maggie is Rosemary’s great-niece.
Addison (Addy) Westmorland - little boy with Maggie, being raised by her
Dorothy Westmorland - Addy's mother (deceased)
Julio DeJesus - apparent maintenance man in Maggie and Addy’s building  
Bongo - Maggie & Addy's large, black cat
Twilight - Great Gray Owl seen outside the diner and at Maggie's apartment
 

Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order (WWHO) and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, marked for death (perhaps more) by the WWHO
Peadar - Irish male resident of The Refuge, helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - (aka Lyca) Goth, warrior-looking female resident of The Refuge
Freki - Lyca's over-sized pet 'dog'
Koko - Native American male resident of The Refuge, has unending optimism and warmth about him...most of the time
Kato - large male Refuge resident who wears the clothes of a teenager. Kato is a young lion-shifter.
Memphis - nymph from Demetrius' original homeland, now auberge factotum to The Refuge

Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents at The Refuge
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way marriage - Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlie)
Gary Staltson - Geoffrey's husband
Stephen - private investigator employed by Geoffrey
Jinx - computer hack/whiz working with Stephen, handles all the tech-forensics for investigations. Jinx is Stephen’s partner.

Author Notes It's Summertime - Hooray!! Back into our action-packed saga....be sure to keep your eyes open! ;) ;) And, as always, thanx for reading me! :)

Image of 'abandoned brownstone at 221 West 137th Street' from Google images via Harlem Bespoke [www.harlembespoke.blogspot.com]


Chapter 23
Chapter Seven, Part 1

By Y. M. Roger

“Aaay, Mr. Stal’son, sir,” Peadar said as he adjusted the last few pillows on the bed and turned out the light in what was to be Maggie and Addy’s part of the house, “we ‘av ev’rythin’ ready……Yessir, we’ll be waitin’ fer ye ….. G’day, sir.”
 
He took a deep breath to calm his own nerves. It was time.
 
“Kato!” Peadar hollered as he made his way to the gathering areas. The rooms for Maggie and Addy were finished, but Peadar wanted to be sure the gaming system and the books and such they had purchased for Addy had been set up and put away properly. “Ka-a-ato!”
 
Geoffrey had said they would be here soon. Peadar snorted to himself. He had always marveled at the use of the word ‘soon’ as it never actually meant the same to any two people at any given time.
 
He shook his head at his own musings as he stalked rather than walked through the long hallway. And although Peadar tended to walk that way out of habit rather than anger, this time he was simply determined to find the young male within his limited time frame of ‘soon’.
 
“Kaa–” Entering the large den that was lined with picture windows to the front porch and yard, Peadar lost his words and slowed his pace.
 
Kato stood at one of the floor-length windows, his large muscular body obviously tensed and his breathing such that Peadar could barely discern its existence. Kato’s focus was out the window at the huge Live Oak tree that was sprawled across much of that side of the lawn. From his current vantage point, however, Peadar could not discern anything in particular Kato could be watching.
 
But, whatever it was, it was being watched with great intensity.
 
Peadar knew not to startle the predator before him poised in an obvious ‘ready’ stance.
 
Conjuring a slight measure of protection around himself, he stopped and spoke in a low and – for Peadar at least – gentle voice.
 
“Kato? Wha’ ees it, lad?”
 
A low though not necessarily threatening growl rolled up from inside Kato with his answer.
 
It doesn’t belong here.”
 
He turned his face toward Peadar and quickly back to the window. The glance was just long enough that Peadar could see that the lion was riding him hard, the amber shining fiercely through his eyes.
 
Peadar got the message: something out there was a threat…or at least Kato perceived something out there to be a threat. Considering Kato had used the pronoun ‘it’, Peadar felt he could breathe a little easier knowing it wasn’t another one of the dark bitches this evening.
 
Again, Peadar kept his voice even and monotone. “I’m gonna step up nex’ te ye, okee, Kato?”
 
Kato’s only response was a simple grunt that might have morphed into a slight growl, but Peadar was not quite sure about the latter.
 
Slowly and cautiously, Peadar walked to stand beside Kato. When he reached the young male’s side, he looked up – as was necessary due to their height differential – to see exactly where Kato was focused.
 
Letting his gaze fall across the lawn and slowly up amidst the branches of the grand old tree, Peadar finally located that which had Kato’s rapt attention. And it truly was magnificent, although its presence did not deliver any forebodings inside of him. It was just a…
 
“Our Shaman always said that a lone Gray always has a reason for its prolonged presence.” Kato’s voice was steady but deep with a hint of feral cat to it. “I just don’t remember if it was a good or a bad reason.”
 
Peadar harrumphed a bit at that as he casually and without much thought reached up to gently pat Kato’s shoulder in a reassuring manner.
 
“How d’ye know eez alone, lad? Ee might jus’ be visitin.”
 
Kato huffed, and a low growl accompanied it, although the young male’s body seemed to relax a bit with Peadar’s proximity.
 
“We don’t need any unknown visitors,” Kato replied with less lion and more person this time, “especially not one that big and ugly.”
 
Just as Peadar began to laugh, he shut it off – as though in response to Kato’s derogatory comment, the awesome Great Grey had turned his head to focus on them. From its perch, it maintained its stare and lifted a clawed foot. The owl flexed the knife-like talons thereon and placed it back down. It then proceeded to lift the other one and do the same. Finally, it angled its large head downward and a tad to the right before turning away, its gaze once again falling up the street away from the house.
 
“Did he just challenge us, Peadar?” The lion had crept back into Kato’s voice.
 
Not only had Peadar’s laughter at Kato’s comment died, but the hairs on the back of the Leprechaun’s neck had reacted to the oversized bird of prey’s actions. Peadar stepped closer to the window, and he felt Kato step up right behind him, the heat rolling off the exercised Kato lingering there.
 
“’Tis strange tha’ eez out durin’ th’ day.”
 
Kato rumbled his agreement.
 
“Who’s out during the day?”
 
Both Peadar and Kato startled at Memphis’ question. She breezed into the room and took up a position at the windows near the two of them.
 
“That owl right there.” Kato pointed over Peadar’s head. “We’ve nev–”
 
“Aaaah.” Memphis smiled and the aura she carried glowed somewhat brighter. “It seems Lord Demetrius needn’t have worried so. If she has such a sizeable attendant, then her presence will be more than enough to –”
 
Peadar tore his gaze from the owl and looked over at Memphis.
 
“Ye mean te say that thin’ belongs to this Marg’rit?”
 
Memphis chuckled warmly as she inclined her head toward the sizeable owl.
 
“Well, I’m sure he would not agree with your use of ‘belong’, My Lord.” Memphis bowed her head slightly in deference to Peadar. “But the creature is most certainly hers.”
 
Once again, as if on cue, the Great Grey turned toward the window. This time, however, the large bird nodded his head in what appeared to be an acknowledgement before turning back toward the street.
 
“No way! Did you see that?!”
 
Kato’s voice was a mixture of amazement and aggression, and Memphis reached out to rub her palm up and down his bicep in gentle, rhythmic strokes. Before she could issue any calming words to accompany her actions, however, Kato tensed up all over again.
 
“Listen! Car’s coming….sounds like Mr. Staltson’s sedan.”
 
“I don’ eer  anythin’, lad, but yer eerens a site better ‘an mi…look out!”
 
As Peadar had begun to speak, the Great Gray had spread its massive wings and taken flight, angling itself such that it was headed straight at the window. Both Peadar and Kato ducked out of pure instinct, while Memphis stood unmoved. As it pulled up at the last second to avoid the window, the Grey let out a loud hooting screech before disappearing over the roof.
 
“Magnificent.” Memphis’ steady voice was filled with awe as she reached outward as if to touch the bird as it flew upward and away. “She must truly be –”
 
Her words were interrupted by a very aggressive growl from Kato who had gone from slightly on edge to extremely tense in a matter of seconds. Both Memphis and Peadar turned toward him – Peadar taking a few steps away as Memphis stepped directly in front of him and raised her voice.
 
“Kato! Kato, look at me!” She demanded, looking up at the towering young male.
 
Those luminous amber eyes did not seem to acknowledge the beautiful nymph’s presence, and Peadar took a few more steps back as the young male’s hands and teeth began to show signs of shift. Peadar looked back at the front yard as Memphis waved a hand near Kato’s face to break his line of vision with whatever held it –
 
But from behind her Peadar sounded wary. “Memphis? We migh’ av a wee problem…”
 
Memphis had begun stroking Kato’s arm and whispering softly to him. When she turned to see that to which Peadar was referring, however, she caught her breath. A large black cat was skulking from around the other side of the Live Oak and walking quite unafraid toward them, toward the front porch. Although its posture was not threatening, it was, without a doubt, focused on the three of them through the window as it moved closer to the front steps – defiance and determination in each graceful step.
 

And the closer the black cat came to the house, the more Kato lost of his person. Memphis held fast to his shoulders as he fell to the floor on all fours, a purely lion growl telegraphing his shift.
 
“My Lord, to the door! It will not enter without her!”
 
Peadar hurried to the door and planted himself in front of it.
 
“Th’ cat ees 'ers, too?” Peadar tried to keep his nails from extending with his growing irritation with the whole situation. “By Artio*!”
 
Memphis huffed at Peadar. “She won’t be much help, I’m afraid,” she said under her breath, her ministrations finally beginning to have a positive effect on Kato.
 
“Not a threat to you, Kato,” Memphis crooned in her low voice, “He’s just a cat. That’s all. Just a big cat.”
 
Memphis pulled up short with that comment. She really wasn’t sure if it were true, although she suspected it probably was. Honestly, they were all going to have to wait and see.
 
“He’s here for Marguerite, Kato, not you,” Memphis continued to whisper as her words coaxed him to lie down in front of her. She continued petting his arms and head that were now fully human-form again, the amber glow finally fading from his eyes.
 
Peadar relaxed and began walking away from the door, his scarlet locks of hair flowing back and forth with his head shake. “Wha’ kind o’ witch ‘as two –”
 
Lyca chose that moment to walk into the big room.
 
“Hey, what’s going on in here?”
 
With the surprise distraction, Kato leapt to his feet and was past Peadar before the Leprechaun could move.
 
“They’re here!” The young male announced as he flung open the main door, leaving only the storm door between him and the front porch...and the large black cat at the bottom of the stairs.
 
“Kato!” Peadar and Memphis called out in unison, but Kato ignored them and proceeded to open the latch on the storm door as Geoffrey’s car was pulling up to the front curb.
 
Lyca looked at Memphis in question, and Memphis nodded at her.
 
“Kato!” Lyca demanded, and Kato stopped all forward motion at the sound of the dark female’s voice. He ducked his head, let the storm door re-latch, and turned around to face her – his entire posture non-aggressive and pleading.
 
“But there’s another cat out there, Lyca!” If Kato hadn’t been so large, the scene might have been more like a child pleading with his mother.
 
Lyca’s face went from authoritative to annoyed in the blink of an eye. “What do you mean there’s  a…?”
 
She trailed off as she stepped up beside Kato at the door. Lyca tensed as the intruding black cat turned to face them, his chartreuse gaze narrowing in defiance.
 
“What in Hells’ name is that panther doing here?” Lyca turned and directed her question solely at Memphis.
 
Just as Memphis was about to open her mouth to answer, the back door to Geoffrey’s car flew open and Addy burst out, running as fast as he could across the expansive lawn toward the cat.
 
An ecstatic Addison hugged the cat as the large feline simply allowed him to do so.
 
Memphis’ arm gently brushed Lyca’s as she moved into the doorway to get a better look at what was happening out front. At their contact, Memphis felt Lyca tense up at first. Shortly, however, Lyca’s muscles returned to normal. At least Lyca did not pull away this time, and, for some odd reason, Memphis was secretly grateful for that small victory.
 
Addy laughed and teased the cat, and the enormous feline seemed to have all the patience in the world with the young boy. Memphis smiled and chuckled before stepping back to give Peadar her vantage point – she’d meet their new Guardian Protectress soon enough.
 
“Welcome to The Refuge, Marguerite Atkinson,” Memphis said to herself as she made her way to the kitchen, shaking her head slowly at everything that had just transpired, “I have a feeling it will be an experience for all of us.”
 
To be continued…
 

Maggie - Marguerite B. Atkinson. Maggie is Rosemary’s great-niece.
Addison (Addy) Westmorland - little boy with Maggie, being raised by her
Dorothy Westmorland - Addy's mother (deceased)
Bongo - Maggie & Addy's large, black cat
Twilight - Great Gray Owl seen outside the diner and at Maggie's apartment in New York
 

Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order (WWHO) and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, marked for death (perhaps more) by the WWHO
Peadar - Irish male resident of The Refuge, helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - (aka Lyca) Goth, warrior-looking female resident of The Refuge
Freki - Lyca's over-sized pet 'dog'
Koko - Native American male resident of The Refuge, has unending optimism and warmth about him...most of the time
Kato - large male Refuge resident who wears the clothes of a teenager. Kato is a young lion-shifter.
Memphis - nymph from Demetrius' original homeland, now auberge factotum to The Refuge
 

Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents at The Refuge

 

Author Notes Artio -- Celtic Goddess of Wild Life, Transformation and Abundance

This is only the first part of arrival day, and you can be that Memphis is correct about it being 'an experience' for them all! :) ;)

Thank you for reading me... :) ;)

Image of 'Delightful Southern House Plans' at The Image Fixer [theimagefixer.com]


Chapter 24
Chapter Seven, Part 2

By Y. M. Roger

[Previously]
"What in Hells’ name is that panther doing here?” Lyca turned and directed her question solely at Memphis.
 
Just as Memphis was about to open her mouth to answer, the back door to Geoffrey’s car flew open and Addy burst out, running as fast as he could across the expansive lawn toward the cat.
 
An ecstatic Addison hugged the cat as the large feline simply allowed him to do so.
 
Memphis’ arm gently brushed Lyca’s as she moved into the doorway to get a better look at what was happening out front. At their contact, Memphis felt Lyca tense up. Shortly, however, Lyca’s muscles returned to normal. At least Lyca did not pull away this time, and, for some odd reason, Memphis was secretly grateful for that small victory.
 
Addy laughed and teased the cat, and the enormous feline seemed to have all the patience in the world with the young boy. Memphis smiled and chuckled before stepping back to give Peadar her vantage point – she’d meet their new Guardian Protectress soon enough.
 
“Welcome to The Refuge, Marguerite Atkinson,” Memphis said to herself as she made her way to the kitchen, shaking her head slowly at everything that had just transpired. “I have a feeling it will be an experience for all of us.”

 
**************
[Now...]
So very thankful, Maggie reached up and touched Geoffrey’s shoulder from her back seat position.
 
“That’s why you sent your assistant last night.” Maggie smiled at him and then turned back around to watch Addison play with their Bongo. “You had Bongo shipped here by special courier.” She turned back briefly to Geoffrey and Stephen. “You don’t know how grateful I am. Thank you.”
 
Before either of the men had the chance to respond, Maggie got out and shut the door. Stephen looked at Geoffrey who sat, speechless, with a look of complete disbelief and perhaps a bit of confusion on his face.
 
“Geoffrey,” Stephen had that dom edge to his voice. “What in the blazes is that girl talking about?”
 
Geoffrey didn’t answer at first. He just remained seated and silent – his mind obviously searching or calculating something.
 
“Geoffrey!”
 
Instantly, Geoffrey snapped back to the present and looked at Stephen.
 
“Sir–uh, what?” Geoffrey fumbled as he was still contemplating what Maggie had just said.
 
Stephen frowned at Geoffrey and then let a faint smile play on his lips. He gently touched Geoffrey’s arm.
 
“You have no idea what she’s talking about, do you?”
 
Geoffrey took a deep breath and spoke in a loud whisper, as if to avoid having Maggie overhear him.
 
“You know, when she thanked me for the suitcases this morning, I agreed because I knew we really needed to get our bags checked and all else taken care of.” Geoffrey glanced at Maggie standing on the lawn outside the car, hands on hips in a relaxed stance with her back to them. “But an assistant and the cat? Stephen, I have no idea what in the world that sweet thing’s talking about!”
 
Stephen chuckled as he turned to reach for the door.
 
“Well, all’s well that ends well, eh?” That was Stephen: only worry about that which needed to be worried about. “Let’s get those suitcases out and into the house.”
 
Maggie just stood, staring at the huge house. Sure, she was watching Addison and Bongo, but the size of what was now hers was more than a little over-whelming.
 
“Maggie! He’s here!”
 
Addy was so excited. When Maggie had tried to explain to him on the plane that Bongo wouldn’t be coming with them, he had seemed lost for a time. It was almost like someone had taken away all of his spirit. She had promised him they could get another one at the local shelter – that since they owned a house now, they didn’t have to wait for another cat to adopt them. They could adopt a cat for real.
 
“And I think he’s happy to see you!”
 
Her platitudes and promises had done little to snap him out of his doldrums. But then, seeing Bongo waiting there at the front steps for them? Addy had immediately launched himself out of the car and something inside of her had relaxed a notch or two. At that moment, she had decided that Mr. Staltson was definitely okay in her book.
 
That maybe this was going to be a good thing after all.
 
Stephen stepped around her toward the trunk, but, when she turned to help, he assured her they could handle the suitcases.
 
“You go meet your tenants, young lady.” Stephen chuckled as he patted her shoulder, indicating the figures they could barely discern standing inside the front screen door.
 
Tenants. Yes, there were people in this house already. She had not just inherited a house and stables and land and….well, the package came with people, too. And now it looked as though she would have to thank those people – she paused in her thoughts as a small voice inside corrected her – to thank her tenants for caring for their Bongo today.
 
Hers. Maggie took another deep breath.
 
Behind her, she heard the trunk shut and the two men passed her, Geoffrey pausing to allow her in front of him as Stephen continued toward the front steps carrying their two suitcases. When she didn’t move forward immediately, Geoffrey smiled and touched her arm.
 
“You okay, Marguerite?”
 
Maggie let her mask of responsibility slip back into place – the one she’d worn since the day her father had left her in Central Park. She squared her shoulders and let that easy smile of complete control slide across her lips.
 
“Just fine, Mr. Staltson.”
 
She could be over-whelmed tonight in the privacy of her own room within this ridiculous monstrosity of a property. That thought, at least, made her giggle inside – just enough to get her moving toward the door beside Geoffrey.
 
“Good. Now, just like I said, there’s nothing at all to worry about,” Geoffrey said as they followed Stephen up the long front walkway, “the folks here are a bit odd at times, but they’re good people. Your Aunt Rosemary was very fond of all of them.”
 
Maggie swallowed hard and nodded as she listened. She had been psyching herself up for this part throughout the whole plane ride as well as during the car ride from the airport. This whole thing was legally hers. She was an adult now. She could do this…do formal introduction…do ‘being in charge’.
 
As they reached the steps, she decided it best that she and Addy walk in together. She stopped to squat down and butt heads with Bongo.
 
“Good to see you, Handsome,” she whispered to the big feline. The cat growled low in return.
 
Hearing the screen door open, Maggie stood and took Addy’s hand in hers. She noticed Geoffrey staring almost wide-eyed down at the cat.
 
“That is a really big cat!”
 
Maggie and Addy both laughed.
 
“Don’t worry,” Maggie bantered nervously, “I’m pretty sure he won’t bite.”
 
Geoffrey did not even crack a nervous smile as he made his way cautiously around the animal. In front of them, a rather short but quite solid-looking gentleman stepped outside to let Stephen in the house. Maggie’s laughter died on her lips although Addy continued to giggle as Bongo twined himself around the boy's legs.
 
Having to look slightly up as they were on the bottom step and Peadar was on the top, Maggie’s eyes met his and, immediately, she felt her entire body relax. Then he grinned, and that rough face of his was transformed into one of the friendliest and almost comical faces Maggie could remember. Removing his hat and bowing – he actually bowed to her! – the man spoke in a thick Irish brogue.
 
“Welcome, Mistress Marguerite.” The man radiated some sort of aura that she could feel along the hairs on her arms. It was an odd sensation she’d never experienced before, and she halted half-way up the steps to get a better look at him. “Wuz ye travels tolerable?”  
 
Before she could answer, Geoffrey tugged her gently up the last few steps along with him and stepped in with introductions.
 
“Marguerite Atkinson, this is Peadar.” Peadar held out his hand as Geoffrey continued. “Peadar, meet Marguerite At–”
 
Standing a good foot taller than Peadar, Maggie reached out and grasped his large hand as she interrupted Geoffrey.
 
“Maggie.” She’d learned that a smile and a casual name went a long way in easing any tensions. She figured it would work just as well here as it had on the streets up in New York. She stumbled on her words just a bit as the warmth that had simply graced her skin now flowed in waves at their point of contact. “You can call me Maggie, Peadar.” She resisted pulling her hand back and continued her smile, but she didn’t shake for long.
 
Peadar didn’t seem to notice her reticence. In fact, his smile grew with her words and he added some enthusiasm to their handshake as he replaced his hat on his head.
 
“Ay, Mistress Maggie, eetz goo–”
 
“Just Maggie, Peadar,” She so wanted these introductions to go well, but she really did not want all the formality of ‘Marguerite’ to follow her around here. “And this is Addison.”
 
As if someone had snapped their fingers, Addy took his cue and ran with it.
 
“Oh my goodness, Mr. Peadar!” He excitedly held out a hand for Peadar to shake. “Are you a leprechaun?”
 
Geoffrey and Maggie just laughed and Peadar grinned at his enthusiasm, although a mischievous grin crawled across Peadar’s face as he took Addy’s offered hand.
 
“Ay, lad, that I am,” Peadar answered calmly, one eyebrow raised, as he glanced between Addison and Maggie, as though to gauge their reactions simultaneously.
 
Maggie just continued to smile as she reached over and patted Addy’s back.
 
“Wow, Addy.” She winked at Peadar. “How cool is that?”
 
Peadar let his gaze linger on Maggie for just a bit longer, narrowing his eyes, before looking back at Addison who was practically vibrating with excitement. Oh, yeah, Addison believed him.
 
“Awesome! So, do you really have a pot of gold somewhere?”
 
Something dark passed over Peadar’s face and was gone in an instant. But Maggie saw it and felt the disturbance across her skin. Instinctively, she jerked Addison’s little body back, breaking his handshake with Peadar.
 
Maggie’s laser focus bore into Peadar, and he took a step backward, bowing slightly and with much more humility this time. It looked as though he was going to say something when Maggie stepped in front of and past him, toward the door.
 
“Maybe you can ask Mr. Peadar about that another time, Addy.” She threw Peadar another warning glance as they followed Geoffrey inside.
 
“But, Maggie, I –”
 
Maggie tightened her grip on his little hand.
 
“Addison.” Her tone was firm and brokered no argument. Addison noted it right off and didn’t argue – it was an unspoken agreement between the two of them that when Maggie put her foot down, so to speak, Addison listened. No questions asked. But Addy did spare Peadar another smile and a small wave as he walked obediently beside Maggie.
 
And Peadar hesitantly returned them both.
 
Maggie made a mental note about Peadar including a plan to talk to Addison about the man later this evening – she wasn't exactly sure what to think at this juncture, but a fair amount of caution was warranted until she figured it out. Because if there was one thing that was a constant in Marguerite Atkinson's life it was this: that she always went with her vibes and feelings. They might not make sense all the time, but they had never steered her wrong. So, that wasn’t going to change any time soon…no matter where they were living.
 
To be continued…

 
 

List of Characters:
Maggie - Marguerite B. Atkinson. Maggie is Rosemary’s great-niece.
Addison (Addy) Westmorland - little boy with Maggie, being raised by her
Dorothy Westmorland - Addy's mother (deceased)
Eduardo - waits to walk Maggie home when she works late (back in New York)
Scully - with Eduardo to walk Maggie home from work in New York
Julio DeJesus - apparent maintenance man in Maggie and Addy’s building in New York
Punky & palsgroup of young hooligans across the hall from Maggie & Addy’s place in New York
Bongo - Maggie & Addy's large, black cat
Twilight - Great Gray Owl seen outside the diner and at Maggie's apartment in New York
 

Rosemary - (deceased) Rosemary Fenna, Sister of the World Wide Hecate Order (WWHO) and Guardian Protectress of The Refuge
Demetrius - tall, mysterious male resident of The Refuge, marked for death (perhaps more) by the WWHO
Peadar - Irish male resident of The Refuge, helped Rosemary with upkeep
Lycaois - (aka Lyca) Goth, warrior-looking female resident of The Refuge
Freki - Lyca's over-sized pet 'dog'
Koko - Native American male resident of The Refuge, has unending optimism and warmth about him...most of the time
Kato - large male Refuge resident who wears the clothes of a teenager. Kato is a young lion-shifter.
Memphis - nymph from Demetrius' original homeland, now auberge factotum to The Refuge
 

Geoffrey Staltson - Rosemary's lawyer and friend to the residents at The Refuge
Charlise Staltson - Geoffrey's wife (they have a three-way marriage - Geoffrey, Gary, and Charlie)
Gary Staltson - Geoffrey's husband
Stephen - private investigator employed by Geoffrey
Jinx - computer hack/whiz working with Stephen, handles all the tech-forensics for investigations. Jinx is Stephen’s partner.

 

Author Notes Gonna try to get a few out over the course of the next week or so....teacher meetings start this week so, summer's almost over...ugh. :) ;) Thank you for reading me! :)

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