The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 40

the man who wasnt thereThe spell complete, Brian gathers the remnants of the witches together and together, the group sets them on fire.

The wind picked up, howling around them. The flames leaped higher and they could imagine they heard screaming coming from the center. Shuddering, they kept chanting and singing. The flames engulfed the ash mass, consuming it completely. Nearly thirty minutes later, the last flame dwindled and went out. Nothing was left of the witches, not even a mote of ash, a fleck of metal, a sliver of bone.

The tarp that had held the ashes was as clean as when they laid it down. Experimentally, Brian approached the edge of the tarp, crossing the orange line. The anticipated tingle didn’t come. He felt nothing but sleeping earth once more. Grinning, he walked to the edge of the tarp and picked it up. The ground was whole beneath it. Fresh green grass grew thickly, obscuring any scars that might have been left behind.

Cynthia Finley knelt beside him. She put her hands on the ground, prostrating herself as if she were praying. “It’s gone,” she whispered. “The turbulence that dwelt here. I never realized it was there until it left. It’s gone now. They’re truly at peace.” Sighing, she stood. “I’m so sorry my brother died, but I see that his death wasn’t in vain.”

“I wish we could have done that years ago,” Chase said. “Then maybe Dad would still be alive.”

His aunt hugged him tightly, bursting into tears. “We had to come to this place at this time,” she murmured. “It couldn’t have been done sooner. It had to be now. I don’t know why your dad had to die, Chase. I will never understand my brother’s death. But he died a hero trying to protect his family, his friends and home. Nothing can ever take that away from him.”

They got in the car and left. The others gathered around, cleaning up the bowls and other implements.

“Is that it?” Sweet asked. “Is it over?”

“No,” Brian said. “That was just the beginning. We’ve deprived him of that source of power, but he’ll have backup plans. Something will still happen Thursday night. Be sure of that and be ready. There’s something in that mausoleum, something we didn’t get rid of or kill.”

“Is it Mr. D.?” Jordan asked.

Brian tilted his head as if listening. “I don’t think so.”

“No,” Andre answered, definitively. “He’s not in there. Something else is there. Whatever it is, we don’t ever want it to get out.”

Exhausted, but proud of their accomplishments, they went home. Sleep came easily for Brian that night. He didn’t have any disturbing dreams. Instead, he dreamed of the crystalline pool and the fresh, clean water.

Wednesday morning, Brian woke with a headache. He felt slightly feverish. A hot shower and some breakfast would make him feel better. The weather was muggy, warmer than the last few had been. The air hardly moved and heavy clouds padded the sky. He didn’t feel like doing much, but today was Cliff Finley’s funeral. Brian and Miles were both pall bearers. The funeral was set to start at 10:00.

The Casey family ate a light breakfast of toast and tea. None of them felt like a heavy meal. By 9:30, the were at the church getting last minute instructions from the priest. Jordan’s family joined them there. Heath was another pall bearer. Chase and Marissa sat together in the front pew with his grandparents, aunts and uncles. His mother was still in the hospital. Dora didn’t want to put off his funeral, but the doctor adamantly refused to allow her to come.

The church filled to capacity, with standing room only. Brian looked around, wondering if they were really here to pay their respects, or if they came because of how Cliff had died. Though the real story was a secret, the idea that someone had been killed by a build up of methane gas was rather sensational. Since there had been swamp fires before, it was believable enough to get by.

The service started and the priest walked in with his deacon. Everything went by fairly quickly. Sitting next to Jordan, Brian let his mind wander until the priest asked if anyone would like to get up and share memories of Cliff.

Miles stood first, buttoning his suit jacket as he walked forward. He smiled warmly at everyone, thanking them for coming. “Not all of you know me. I’m Miles Casey. Cliff and I have been friends practically since birth. We grew up together. I’ve never known such a great guy. I have so many memories of him, I can’t even talk about them all, or I’d be here for the next twenty years.” That got a slight chuckle from the congregation.

“Cliff Finley was a great friend, a wonderful family man and a good teacher. It seems like there wasn’t much he couldn’t turn his hand to and he didn’t mind sharing what he knew with others. He told me more than once that the way to make a better world was to make better people. So, I’m here to promise him that I will do my best to follow his footsteps and share my knowledge with others. Maybe I can help make a better world too. Cliff, my friend,” he turned to the closed coffin. “The light in this world got dimmer the day you were taken from it. I miss you.”

He took his seat again and Heath walked up. “Hello, everyone, I’m Heath Barrett. I grew up with Cliff, too. I moved here when I was a teenager. My folks were from here, but moved away, only to return when I hit puberty. They said I was such a trial, they needed a less stressful place to live.” Everyone chuckled. “Cliff actually introduced me to my lovely wife at a party. She didn’t like me much. I’d managed to sneak out of the house with some of Granddad’s shine and I was feeling no pain. But that’s another story. To say I was smitten would be an understatement. I was also royally screwed by my behavior. Cliff gave me what he liked to call a prayer meeting.” More scattered laughter.

After the soft laughs dwindled away, Heath continued. “What it really was, was a beating. See, the beautiful girl I’d managed to insult, was his favorite cousin. After our call to prayer, he made me apologize in front of all our friends. That beat down was a wake up for me. Even at my young age, I was well on the way to developing a bad drinking problem. Cliff made me see that my behavior was unacceptable. He also talked to Jackie and convinced her to give me another chance. Thirty years later, I’m still grateful. I still have a chipped tooth where that crazy swamp rat hit me. Goodbye, my friend.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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Lone Wolf Tales: A Lone Wolf Series Companion by Dellani Oakes

Lone Wolf Tales: A Lone Wolf Series Companion, is a collection of 9 short stories related to the Lone Wolf Series by Dellani Oakes. These short stories explore aspects of the series that are only briefly mentioned in the novels themselves. Each story is set in a different place and time. Step into the world of the Lone Wolf and meet giant cat people, evil despots and a dangerously handsome Galactic Marine.

And Itza Danced 2And Itza Danced: The character of Itza is introduced in The Kahlea – Book 4 of the Lone Wolf Series. Itza is of the Zarbanni people of Bankaywan. Constantly harassed by brigands and marauders, Itza must send a message to all comers to leave her people alone. Unfortunately, the message hasn’t been clear enough and she must fight once more for her people.

blackened coverBlackened: On a backwater planet in the middle of absolute nowhere, Wil Vanlipsig and his men have been sent on another horrendous mission. This time, the odds are decidedly stacked against them. Their objective is to secure and liberate a weapon of mass destruction. Unfortunately, it’s more than any of them counted on.

brothers at arms 2Brothers at Arms: Wil and Marc grew up together, were fast friends and even joined the Galactic Marines at the same time. When tapped for a special unit, they meet Lill Simpson, a vivacious redhead. She sets her sights on Marc, but for some reason, Wil doesn’t trust her. Is it paranoia or can she really not be trusted?

Call Me Penny coverCall Me Penny: Caught off guard on the scummy, armpit of planet Wercha, Barbara Stennis – known as Penny, because of her copper red hair – is arrested and forced to join the Galactic Marines. Something fishy is going on and the new recruits grow alarmed as many of their number start to mysteriously disappear at night. Penny finds herself in over her head when her sergeant orders her to investigate.

Fractured coverFractured: Wil’s had a crazy life. Thrown into one hellhole after another, he’s always managed to escape. After a mission goes horribly long, he’s forced to take a vacation to a distant, isolated planet called New Aussie. While there, he’s in an accident. Hovering between life and death, he’s rescued by an exotically beautiful woman named Siegra. Strange things happen in the desert, deep in the Heriatis Hills—some of which should never be explained.

forgotten coverGone But Not Forgotten: When they met, there was a spark of recognition, of longing, that neither Wil nor Matilda could explain. This tale explores not only Wil’s past, but Matilda’s, explaining why they fell instantly in love.

Awhite lie cover Little White Lie: Wil’s been on more than one mysterious mission, given ambiguous orders and dropped in a war zone. That doesn’t bother him anymore. However, this time, there is more than one agenda in play and Wil must tread carefully if he wants to survive.

Pain Killer CoverPain Killer: “It’s a cakewalk.” That’s what Admiral Greyling tells Will when she sends him on a solo mission not unlike the one he’d recently been on. Yet another crazed despot needs to be assassinated so that his people can be—enslaved by some other crazed despot. Wil goes in with only his brains and instincts to keep him alive.

rejoicing story coverThere Shall Be Great Rejoicing: This story, also set on Bankaywan, tells the tale of Sta Hyt Mai’s rise to fame and glory as the Champion of Bankaywan. How did Mai rise from her humble beginnings to become the most respected and fame filled woman on her planet?

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 39

the man who wasnt thereMaribelle and Brian find some sort of building at one end of the burial ground. Though it’s agonizing, Brian follows the lines of the invisible structure so that they know how large it is. It’s the single worst thing he’s ever done. Even getting gored by Mr. D. wasn’t as bad as this. He tells the group that it’s a mausoleum, not even sure how he knows that.

“Why’s it hidden?” Jordan asked.

“Why not?” Sweet responded, walking up next to them.

“Would you want to have a creepy thing like that in your backyard?” Louisa asked.

“We’ve hung out here hundreds of times,” Marissa said. “Why haven’t we felt it or any of the flat-out spooky that hangs over it?”

“Cliff Finley was extremely adept at wards,” Miles said. “He had this under control—until something happened.”

“What?” Marissa asked.

“We woke it up,” Brian said. “When we summoned the Peddler.”

“Why wouldn’t Cliff warn us?” Heath asked.

“Because I don’t think he knew it was there,” Miles replied. “He knew about the witches, but they’d never caused trouble before. They were warded, protected, well contained.”

“We did this?” Jordan said, turning pale. “Did we get Cliff killed?” Her voice held an edge.

Brian put his arms around her. “No. Whatever killed Cliff, it wasn’t us.”

Miles and Heath put salt and cumin around the edge of the grave, paying special attention to the building. No one felt like disturbing it.

The last members arrived. Marissa had gathered three others to sing with her. Her father would sing bass, Louisa handled alto and Andre sang tenor. They were just about to begin when another car pulled up. Chase hopped out, his father’s sister with him.

“I know I don’t have the skills,” she said. “But I felt like someone needed to be here from the blood, besides Chase. It feels important.”

“She’s right,” Maribelle said. “Thank you, Cynthia.”

“Cliff would want me to do anything I can to help.” She sniffled, wiping her eyes on her sleeve. She stood between Miles and Maribelle.

Chase took his place in the circle, standing between Brian and Marissa. Jackie, Sweet and Meru had fashioned a small altar opposite the invisible mausoleum. The singers gathered around them as they prepared the ingredients. At a nod from Jackie, they started to sing. Their voices rose in close knit harmony as Jackie and the others completed the intricate pattern of the spell.

The earth rumbled. Stones danced across the shattered ground. A low hum accompanied the music, creating loud, discordant notes. The singers didn’t falter, never lost pitch. Holding hands, they moved closer to the Casters, singing louder. With each note, the earth shook more, opening into a giant pit. Those standing on the edges couldn’t help stepping back as the dirt crumbled away. Only Brian stayed in place, willing the ground to support him. He wasn’t afraid of falling in. He was more concerned with what might come out.

Crossing in front of the mausoleum earlier, he’d been more afraid than he’d ever been in his life. Even battling Deidrich last year hadn’t scared him as much as that excruciating walk. Whatever dwelt inside was more evil than Mr. D. He didn’t know what it was yet, but he hoped he could vanquish it before it had a chance to destroy them all.

The earth drifted away like a giant sieve. Bits of metal and bone caught the light. Cynthia Finley gasped, clutching her shirt. She didn’t speak, but the expression on her face was enough. She’d had no idea that all this lurked beneath the yard of her childhood home.

Chase’s face was calmly resolute. Only the working of his jaw attested to his emotional state. Whatever lay beneath the ground had killed his father. He wanted revenge, but more than that, he wanted to keep anyone else from getting killed. As a football player, he knew that the best defense was sometimes a good offense. Boldly, he met Brian’s eye, nodding.

The song ended and the rumbling stopped. Jackie put out the smoldering flame of the altar fire and waited in silence. All eyes went to Brian. He wasn’t entirely sure what to do next, but he felt a warm glow on his right shoulder. Images flashed through his mind. Closing his eyes, he followed the movements he saw himself making.

Gasps of surprise made him open his eyes once more. Bits and pieces of bone, glass and metal rose from the pit, swirling above the broken ground. A layer of thick ash whirled just beneath it. This went on for several minutes. Everyone watched in silence until the last shimmering metallic piece rose from the dirt.

Brian closed the hole in the ground. Andre and Sweet rolled out a tarp. Slowly, gently, the artifacts dropped on top of it, landing in a neat pile. Brian nodded at Jackie. She brought the small metal bowl to the edge of the circle. Brian took it from her. He stepped over the line, expecting to feel the jolt he had before. Nothing happened. Taking another cautious step, he moved toward the heap. With little puffs of air, he moved the detritus into a smaller pile. Approaching cautiously, he poured the contents of the bowel evenly over the remains. Using more wind, he blended the potion into the ash, making a thick, lumpy glob. With care, he gathered all the dust with his mind, adding it to the ball. When he was done, he moved away, encouraging the others to do so.

The group took hands, chanting. The voices of the singers rose once more, supported by the chanting. Five minutes passed, six, seven. As the clock neared the eight minute mark, they saw a flicker of blue flame in the center of the ball of goo. It bubbled and fizzled, giving off a thick, oily black smoke, rising in a steady, unwavering column. The smell of burning tar filled the air.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 38

the man who wasnt thereBrian and his mother go to Chase’s house to get the dimensions of the burial site, and encounter some sort of invisible building. It’s nearly ten feet long, though not as tall as Brian is.

“Mark that wall,” she said. “Let’s map this thing.”

“Can’t you just reveal it?”

“Bad idea. Our actions send ripples into the ethereal world. Whatever this is, it’s probably warded. It’s bad enough we have to touch it, but it would be far worse if we revealed it.”

Brian painted along the edge of the wall, following his mother around. When she got back to the line of the circle, she stopped.

“I don’t dare walk in there,” she said calmly. “You have to. We need to know the length of these walls and see if we can locate a front.”

“Okay. No big thing.”

She took his arm, gazing into his eyes. “Brian, at least a dozen powerful, angry witches were buried here. It’s a big thing. Be careful.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Walking slowly, Brian inched his way along the wall, stepping further into the circle than he liked.

A tingle started in his ankles, moving rapidly up his calves and into his thighs. The tingle became an angry heat by the time it reached his upper thighs. He found the corner of the building, almost to the edge of the shed, a good ten feet. Marking it, he groped blindly around to the front. The surface felt hot, then blistering cold. Hissing sharply, he brought his fingers to his lips.

“No!” his mother cautioned before he reached his mouth. “Put your sleeve over your hand. You have to keep going.”

Nodding, he did as she told him, wishing she’d mentioned it before he got burned. His fingers throbbed. His legs felt like they were covered in poison ivy. Itching and burning, he kept walking. The other corner was closer now. He could see his original orange lines. Somehow, the distance seemed to grow. His head swam, his knees grew weak. Wobbling, he put both hands against the wall. A pulse thudded beneath his questing fingers. Jumping back, he tripped on a root and fell to his knees.

“Brian!”

“I’m okay.” I think. Standing again was the single most difficult thing he’d ever done.

The ground clung to him, tugging at his feet as he tried to walk the last few feet. He wanted to coax it back down, but was afraid to use his power. Whatever this thing was, it was malevolent and powerful. He took another hesitant step. His mother’s voice sounded tinny and distant.

“I’m here,” she said. “Come toward me. I’m right here.”

Brian saw her standing just outside the circle on the other side of the wall. He made a mark and took another ponderous step.

“Come on, son. You can do it.”

He took one more step and fell down, screaming. His body crawled with fingers of hot, searing torture. It felt like burning snakes writhed beneath his skin, biting at his spine and groin from the inside. Roaring with agony, he crawled the last few feet. His mother called to him, encouraging him with each pain lanced motion.

“Almost there,” Maribelle said calmly. “Come on, Brian. You can do this.”

His hand landed on cool grass instead of churned up dirt. His other hand followed. He pulled his legs behind him, unable to support his weight on his knees any longer. Clutching handfuls of the cool grass, he tugged himself forward. When his belt crossed the line, he could move his legs once more. Curling in a ball, he rolled the last foot, out of the ring and onto the chilly, damp ground. He lay there, unmoving, feeling the strength of the earth revitalize him.

Maribelle Casey watched her son in mute horror. There was nothing she could do to help him. She couldn’t cross the line, she knew that before they began. She hated using her son like that, but they had to know the size and shape of the hidden structure and he was the only one strong enough to survive it. She had her suspicions as to what it was, but until the others arrived, she didn’t dare investigate further. She’d had no idea that the grave would affect Brian so profoundly. Perhaps his heightened senses accounted for it? All she could do was talk to him as he made his way back to her. When he rolled free, onto the ground, she pulled him further away, checking his body for wounds. She didn’t find any. Taking a bottle of purified holy water from the car, she bathed his hands and face.

“Brian?” She patted his hands, brushing hair from his face. “Honey?”

“You lied,” he groaned.

“About what?”

“That it would hurt less than being gored.”

“I’m sorry. I thought it was true.”

“F**k,” he sighed.

For once, Maribelle let the curse slide. Her son deserved to say that and a lot more. He proceeded to do so. She didn’t say a word.

Brian was just starting to feel like himself when the others arrived. He helped his mother finish mapping the grave site. Jordan wanted to help, but he kept her away.

“No one walk on it,” he commanded. “No one. For any reason. Dad, we need some blessed salt with cumin. Lots of it. Follow the orange line. But only on the outside of the building.”

“You’re sure it’s a building?” Maribelle said. “How? I thought it was an altar or something.”

“It’s a mausoleum,” Brian said, wondering for a moment how he knew that.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 37

the man who wasnt thereFollowing his mother through a secret trapdoor, Brian finds himself in a cold storage area of the house that he’s never seen before. He and his mother collect ingredients needed for the spell.

“Where do you want these things?” He indicated the larger crate.

“It will need to go back downstairs. For now, let’s leave it over there.” She pointed to the far corner of the kitchen.

Brian lifted the crate and set it on the counter. Seconds later, it was gone. He smirked. “I love how you do that. Will you teach me?”

“When you’re of age.”

“Dad said the same thing. Why not now?”

She didn’t answer him.

“What other stuff is hidden around here?”

“Ever found any of your Christmas presents ahead of time?” She smiled sweetly.

“That’s just plain mean. It’s a rite of passage for a kid to shake his Christmas presents.”

“Uh huh.”

“Tradition.”

She beckoned him to follow her. They went back to the safe and she opened the door once more. Taking out the book, she left the map alone and closed the door.

“We need to go over this incantation,” she said.

“We need to show it to Marissa.”

“Why?”

Brian pointed to the part about singing. “She has perfect pitch. I can carry a tune, but don’t let Dad near this one unless you want epic failure.”

Maribelle laughed. Miles had a tin ear. “Good point. Can Jordan sing? I have a feeling this needs more than one voice.”

“No idea. I guess we start polling members.”

“I’ll ask your father to find out. Meanwhile, what now?”

“Meanwhile, we head to Chase’s house. His grandparents will be here to get the girls. Mom will be here any second. We’re going first, then your dad and the others will follow.”

“Why us?”

Maribelle pressed her lips together. “Because it has to be us. I don’t know why. Just trust me on this, son.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

He carried the crate of ingredients to his car. They said goodbye to his father and the Meru family before heading to Chase’s home. The damage to the place looked even worse today. Not only had the trees been smashed, they were blacked with fire. The shed was obliterated. It amazed Brian that there had been anything left of Cliff Finley.

“That can stay in the car,” his mother said. “We’re walking the perimeter. I want to see how far this extends.” She carried a can of orange fluorescent spray paint and a surveyor’s rolling measure. She fit the can into the measure and walked to the clearing. “You’re my barometer,” she told Brian. “If you feel anything, even a twitch in your nose, you tell me. With your heightened senses, this may be—uncomfortable.”

He nodded. “How uncomfortable?”

“Remember when you were gored by Mr. D. and buried alive?”

Brian shivered, feeling fear trickle up his spine. He remembered well. It was the single most painful thing he’d ever endured.

“Not that bad,” she replied. “I’ll be right here.” She stood behind him.

Brian started walking around the clearing. He felt a tingle on the back of his neck and pointed to his right heel. Maribelle painted a mark and noted the measurement with the memo app on her phone. They continued walking. Brian grew increasingly uneasy. Strongly averse to continuing, he stopped.

“What’s wrong?”

He shook his head, not trusting his voice. “Something—horrible.”

Maribelle put her hand on his shoulder, pushing gently. “We’re almost done. You can do this, son. I have faith.”

Gulping, Brian stepped over the spot and heard Maribelle mark it. A few feet further, he stopped again. This time, fear gripped his stomach and pain shot through his back from his neck to his feet. He felt something tighten around his throat. Looking up, he saw a gnarled, thick branch. He remembered that Cliff used to refer to this as the hanging tree. At the time, he’d shrugged it off, thinking it was a joke. Every other tree in the backwoods was called the hanging tree. Clearly, this one was aptly named. There had been more than one death on this spot.

“Mom?” His voice caught in his throat.

“It’s okay, Bri-Guy. I’m here.” She touched him again.

Calm reassurance filled him. Taking another step, he halted as if he’d come up against a wall. Closing his eyes, he put out his hands and pushed, meeting with resistance.

“There’s something here.” He spread his arms, trying to find the edges. His full wing span, over six feet, and he still didn’t find the corners. “It’s big.” He reached up, finding the top easily. It was far longer than it was tall. The top of it wasn’t even above his head, but came to his shoulders.

Maribelle took a step around him, to his right, on the outside of the circle they’d painted. Touching the wall, she moved away from Brian. When she finally found a corner, she was nearly three feet from him.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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That’s Quite a Character – Alvin Ripley Room 103

That's Quite a Character

Alvin Ripley has high blood pressure, acid reflux, hemorrhoids and his hair is thinning at an alarming rate. He’s not even 60, but he sometimes feels like he’s falling apart. Why? He blames Marice Houston, one of his deputy marshals. Alvin is the head of the Kansas City, Missouri Federal Marshal’s office and she works for him. We first meet them both in Room 103, a romantic suspense novel set in Pittsburg, Kansas.

Marice seems to find trouble just by waking up in the morning. There is always something going on that she feels compelled to deal with, and not always by the book. Disturbance at the college football game? She’s in the middle of it, taking out a rude drunk. Explosion on the college campus? Her hair and jacket are singed. Car bomb in the underground garage – of course, it nearly takes her out. Shoot outs, near drownings, car chases, transporting dangerous federal prisoners….

Is it any wonder that he goes off on her? This is one of my favorite scenes from Room 303, the third book in the Marice Houston Mysteries Series (Not yet published). Marice happens to be back in Pittsburg and there’s an incident. She goes with the police to investigate and the office they are in blows up. Her quick thinking gets everyone out before the bomb goes off.

CAUTION: CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE

room 103 front cover

CAUTION: CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE

On the way to the motel, Marice’s phone rang. She cringed. It as her boss, Alvin Ripley.

“Houston! What the hell is going on down there? Why haven’t you called? No, don’t tell me. You’re in the thick of it, getting shot at and blown up.”

“Not shot.”

“Jesus H. Christ, Houston. You didn’t get your man shot again, did you?”

“No, Todd’s date got shot. She’s critical. Then her office blew up.”

“Were you there?”

“What do you think?”

“Your ass on fire?”

“No.”

“Well, it will be if you don’t stop f**king around and get to the bottom of this!”

“Is that an order, sir?”

“That’s a don’t f**k this up, Houston! I swear to god, trouble comes looking for you. I never met a woman so good at finding ways to let someone kill her off. Were you born under a bad sign? Cursed at birth? Did you piss off your fairy godmother?”

She didn’t reply. Al was in full rant mode. He wasn’t going to stop anytime soon. If she said a word, he was likely to rip her a new asshole.

“Help me out here, Marice. How do you get into all this shit? You Super Girl now, or something? Is your super power, f**king shit up?”

“No, sir.”

“Good answer. To that end, the not f**king it up, that is. I’m sending help.”

“Have the police asked for our help?”

“Someone tried to blow up my favorite deputy. I don’t give a hickey in in a high wind if they want us there or not. I can stomp in wearing jackboots and f**k all their shit up. Do I need to do that?”

“No, sir.”

“Good. Make no mistake, I will do what it takes to keep you safe. I made a promise to that man of yours. If that means I put you riding a desk for the next slice of forever, I can make that happen. I like you, Houston. F**k knows why, you’re a pain in my hemorrhoids. But I will slap you on a desk so fast, it will make your head spin.”

“Thank you for the help. I’m sure Detective Scrivener will appreciate it.”

“Appreciate what?” Darla asked, flashing her a look. She could hear just enough of Al’s rant to know he was furious.

“He’s sending help. He’s also threatening to take over the case.”

“Let him. Things are too damn exciting with you around.”

“Praise be, one of you has a lick of sense. Where can we find you?”

“At Todd’s motel.”

“Might have known he’d be mixed up in this. Karma’s a bitch, Houston. You f**k with her, you’re going down.” He hung up.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 36

the man who wasnt thereAfter an uneasy dream about the witches, Brian has a very nasty confrontation with Mr. D, in the guise of Dr. Meru. The following morning, he isn’t sure he trusts the mystical man.

“We determined that the only way to burn the witches was with magical fire. Then we walked into the living room, you reached for a paper in one of the boxes and I woke in my room. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t get the door open. No matter how I tried, I was locked in. Willa would not wake. I could hear you calling out, but the words were strange. With a last yell, you stopped and I assumed you were awake.”

“Did you try the door then?”

“Yes. I was able to open it.”

“Why didn’t you come then?”

“Because I heard enough of your dream to know that you wouldn’t have wanted to see me. Even now, you don’t trust me. I accept that. Are either of the dogs about?” he asked Miles.

“Janus showed up a few minutes ago,” Miles replied. “I saw him in the yard.” He went to the back door and whistled for the dog.

Seconds later, the huge Ridgeback clomped into the room, wagging his tail, tongue lolling. He walked up to Meru, sniffed his hand and licked him. That was confirmation enough for Brian. He relaxed, telling his version of the dream.

“And you found the paper?” Maribelle said.

“Yes. I put it in Dad’s safe before I went back to bed. I think all the other artifacts should be locked up and warded. That stuff is dangerous.”

“I agree with Brian,” Miles said. “And not all in one spot.”

“Copies,” Meru said. “Scatter and hide the originals and keep copies.”

“That will take a long time, something we don’t have much of. It’s already Tuesday. Halloween is Thursday. If Mr. D. is going to make his power move, it will probably be then.”

“We need to take care of the ashes right away,” Maribelle said. “I called Mom to babysit. I’m going, too. We must have everyone we can get. Brian, call Andre and the others. Miles, you know what to do.”

He nodded at his wife and got up from the table. “Meru, can you give me a hand with these boxes?”

“Certainly, Miles.” He followed Brian’s father to the dining room.

Maribelle Casey grabbed a jacket and went to Miles’ office. Moments later, she went to the safe in the dining room. Brian joined her there while he talked to Andre. He showed her the paper and the page in the book. She scanned copies and locked the originals back in the safe.

“Time to go shopping,” she said with a smile.

“Do I need to drive you?”

“No. It’s just really cold in the storage space. Come. I’ll need you to carry things. Bring a coat.”

Puzzled, Brian followed his mother to the basement. She opened the door to the storage room and walked confidently to the center.

“Open that, please.”

There was a trapdoor in the floor that Brian couldn’t remember ever seeing before. Flush with the floor, a thick, brass ring lay in a recessed area. Brian lifted it with ease. It swung back without a sound. He followed his mother down narrow steps. The room was extremely cold. Even with his coat, Brian was chilly. Maribelle turned on a light and pulled out the list.

“Get that crate.” She pointed to a wooden crate a few feet away.

Brian picked it up and set it on the small table in the center of the room. It looked like a pantry, though the items in the glass jars were hardly things he’d expect to find in his mother’s cellar.

“Is that eyeballs?” He peered at one jar with marble sized spheres.

“Yes, from goats.”

“Gross!”

“But useful. We don’t need them though.”

“Thank God.”

“Grab that for me, Ladder Boy.” She pointed to a small glass jar full of yellow powder.

Brian lifted it down and put it in the crate. “Are you going to tell me what all this is?”

“No. That next,” she commanded, pointing to some other mysterious substance.

After ten minutes, she seemed satisfied that they had everything. Double checking her list, she beckoned for Brian to pick up the crate and follow her up the steps. When they were back in the basement, she shut the trap door and Brian couldn’t see it anymore. He felt like he should be able to see it, but it simply wasn’t there.

“Neat trick, that camouflage.”

“Very handy. Bring that upstairs,” she commanded. “Please,” she added almost as an afterthought.

This was an aspect of his mother Brian had never seen before. He couldn’t decide if he liked it or not. He was still thinking about it when she brought out a variety of small glass bowls.

“Prep time,” she said, handing him a knife he’d never seen before. The blade looked like it might be made of dark glass—or possibly obsidian. The handle was made from some sort of bone and it was inlaid with stones and pieces of metal.

Her hands moved deftly and quickly, chopping, mashing, peeling and grinding. Brian followed her movements as exactly as he could. Satisfied, she sealed the bowls with plastic lids, stacking them in another small crate.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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