Flight from mayhem, p.23
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       Flight from Mayhem, p.23

           Yasmine Galenorn

  A muscled but lean blond-haired man reached out to shake my hand. “How do you do? I’m Yugi and this is Officer Lawrence. If you could take us to where you found the skeleton?” The man beside him was obviously Fae, dark and short, with a wild, feral look about him.

  I led them to the backyard and pointed toward the brick chamber. “We found it under a flagstone. I’m pretty sure the bones are the missing son from the Mary Smith case. She supposedly killed her family in 1938 with an axe, but the body of her baby boy was never found. We think these are his remains.”

  Yugi somberly knelt by the skeleton. “And you found him in that enclosure?”

  “Yes sir.” Tonya moved forward. “My name is Tonya Harris and I’m a witch. I’m from Port Townsend and I’m down here visiting Shimmer and Alex. We’ve been investigating the haunting in this house, and I was drawn to come out here tonight; I could hear someone crying in the wind. I had the feeling something was under the flagstone.”

  Yugi stared Chai for a moment, smiling softly. “I’ll ask you no favors as long as you offer none in return.”

  Chai laughed, his eyes crinkling. The pair understood each other perfectly. “Ask your questions; they won’t be considered favors.”

  “I’m going to assume you’re the one who pried up the flagstone?”

  “Yes. Shimmer is strong enough, but I’m stronger.”

  That was true enough while I was in human form, but part of me wanted to say, Let me just shift into my dragon form and we’ll see who’s stronger. But I had the feeling it wouldn’t be diplomatic, and it sounded too flippant when we were standing over the skeleton of a baby.

  “I see the child is wrapped in a blanket. Was the skeleton originally in that blanket?” Yugi was jotting down notes in a small notebook. Chai’s globe of light dove down to cast a glow over the paper so Yugi could see what he was writing. The officer flickered a glance at the djinn and smiled faintly.

  I decided I would answer this one. “Yes, it was wrapped—fully. We didn’t know what it was until we lifted it out of the enclosure. Although, to be honest, we all had the feeling that it wasn’t going to be any treasure chest or anything.”

  The officer laughed at that. “I wish it were a treasure chest, for all our sakes. It would save us a whole lot of trouble. And you think the bones are those belonging to a baby boy who lived here in 1938?”

  “We’re fairly certain they are. We decided we had better call you, even though I’m not sure what exactly you can do at this point.” I stared at the bundle again, feeling wistful and sad.

  “We’ll run some tests on it, but I have the feeling you’re right. It’s an old skeleton. Even I can feel the energy surrounding it, and it reeks of years gone by, forgotten and neglected.” There was a tone to his voice that made me glance a second time at him. This was no ordinary human, but neither was he Fae, nor elf. “We’re going to be here for a little while, and I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to search the house again. You say you’ve been inside?”

  “Yeah, and I have to tell you there are some dangerous spirits lurking around inside, so be careful. I don’t mean to sound forward, but if you need our help, we don’t mind sticking around.” I looked into his eyes, and I could see a spark of fear behind those cool blue irises. But he merely shook his head.

  “Thank you for the offer, but I think you should go home for now. You say you live right across the street? All of you?”

  I pointed to my house. “I own that house, and Chai is my roommate. Tonya is staying with us for the moment. If you need to ask us any questions, feel free to come over. I work nights so I’ll be up for a while yet.”

  As we walked back across the street, I glanced at the house behind me and thought, just for a moment, that I saw Mary peeking from one of the top-floor windows. But then the faint light was gone and I wasn’t sure if I had seen anything at all.

  * * *

  By the time we got into my house, Tonya was shivering.

  I motioned to Chai. “Why don’t you get her a blanket? I’ll put on the kettle for some tea.”

  I hurried into the kitchen and set the kettle on the burner, turning it on full blast. And then, because I remembered the way Tonya had been up in Port Townsend after we had exorcised ghosts from a bed-and-breakfast, I took cheese out of the refrigerator, and bread, and roast beef, and began to make several sandwiches. They would give her necessary energy. Carrying them into the living room along with a bag of cookies, I set them on the coffee table. Chai wrapped a throw around her shoulders. By then, she was visibly shivering, her teeth chattering.

  “Are you all right? Is there anything we can do?” I sat down beside her and took her hands in mine, rubbing them briskly to warm them up.

  Chai stood behind the sofa and held out his hands, not touching her but close enough so that when he began to generate heat it wrapped around her like a gentle wave. I could feel it from where I was sitting, and it was more than welcome.

  “I’ll be all right, if I can just get something to eat and something warm to drink inside me.”

  I stuffed a sandwich in her hands and she began to devour it. Halfway through, she slowed, a relieved look spreading across her face. By the time she finished off the sandwich, the kettle was whistling. I hustled into the kitchen and made a pot of tea. As I carried it out on a tea tray, along with cups and saucers, Tonya had moved on to the cookies. Chai was doing his best to help her finish them off.

  “Save one for me!” I held out my hand after I set the tea tray on the coffee table. They handed me the bag, Chai giving me a scolded-puppy look. “Oh stop that, I know you’re not sorry. I know how much you love Oreos.” Turning to Tonya, I asked, “Are you up to telling us what happened?”

  She let out a long sigh and nodded. “If I could get a cup of that tea, yes.”

  Chai poured tea for all of us. I found it amusing to watch the seven-foot djinn gracefully handling china cups without breaking them. He was extremely graceful and somehow managed to get tea to all of us without spilling a single drop. After she had managed several sips, Tonya set down her cup and leaned back, shrugging the throw tighter around her shoulders.

  “While I was using my crystal ball, I was dragged into a very dark place. At first, I couldn’t see anything around me. Then a light appeared and I realized I was in the kitchen of Mary’s house. I saw her standing there, crying as an angry man loomed over her. As she pulled her hands away from her face I could see that she had a black eye. I wasn’t sure what the man was angry about—I couldn’t hear them. But he raised his fists, and I had the feeling he was threatening her. And then the scene changed. I was seeing a bedroom, and she was sitting in a chair, holding a baby to her chest. The child was crying and she seemed to be trying to get him to stop, patting his back as tears poured down her face. The same man was there. He pointed at the child and said something. Mary shied away, looking like she was trying to shield the baby. Again—this was all silent, like some silent movie.”

  “Ten to one, it was her husband you saw.” I had a very bad feeling about how this was going to end, and the look on Tonya’s face did nothing to calm that feeling.

  “Oh, I’m sure you’re right,” she said. Her voice was tired, and she stared down at the cup and saucer in her hands. “You know, sometimes I hate having the Sight. Sometimes I hate being able to peer into business that’s none of my own. I feel like a peeping Tom, or voyeur. And half the time, I don’t want to see what I’m forced to. But I can’t help what I am, and if I can help put someone to rest or calm someone’s fears, then I feel I have no choice.”

  Chai left off playing heater and joined us on the sofa. He reached out and softly brushed Tonya’s shoulder and right then, I knew that he was falling for her. There was something about his touch—a gentleness that I had never seen in him before. He was gentle with me, but in a brotherly way.

  “You do what you have to do,” he s

  She nodded. “I know, and that’s why I forced myself to stay, to watch. Mary was still holding the baby—and oh, she looked so much younger there, and so fragile. The man suddenly yanked the child out of her arms. She began to scream, but he turned and . . . and . . . he shook the baby so hard that even in silence, I could see that he snapped the child’s neck. Mary fell to her knees, still screaming, as he dumped the child in front of her on the floor and barked some sort of an order. I think he was ordering her to get rid of it.” She spoke so flatly that at first the words didn’t register, and then I realized what she’d said.

  “He killed their baby. I wonder if that’s what sent her over the edge? Why didn’t she call the police?”

  Tonya shrugged. “My guess is he threatened that if she did, he would tell them she was the one who killed the baby. Back then, nobody believed the woman. I’m not sure exactly whether that was what broke her, but I have a feeling we’re going to find out. When Mary saw the bones, I could see the look of recognition cross her face—as if she were waking up from a dream. I think we have to be very careful. This may drive her over the edge, and who knows how powerful a spirit she really is?”

  “I think you’re right.” I picked up the cookie bag and shook out the last three into my hand. As I bit into one, the chocolate filled my mouth, but it couldn’t take away the sour taste that Tonya’s revelation had left in it. I knew how cruel people could be; I grew up with cruelty. But I wanted to believe in goodness, and I wanted to believe that there were parents who loved their children. Tonight had shaken both hopes.

  Chai seemed to sense my mood, and he patted the seat next to him. As I slipped in beside him, he wrapped his arm around me and I leaned my head on his shoulder, finishing the cookies. He held out his other arm and Tonya stared at him for a moment, then slid into his embrace as well, leaning against his other side. We sat that way for a long time, still as statues, unspeaking, as the tea cooled, and the flash of police lights flickered through the front window.


  It was ten A.M. before Yugi rang the front doorbell. By then, Tonya had taken a shower. She was wearing down, exhausted from the night. I was still running on adrenaline, although I had the feeling I would go to sleep early—perhaps even sleeping a full seven hours. Chai was cleaning house. He knew how much a clutter-free environment helped me think.

  I ushered the officer in. He glanced at the aquarium against the wall and smiled softly. “That’s quite a setup you’ve got there. I take it you like fish?”

  I gave him a soft smile. “I’m particularly fond of jellyfish. But yes, I love everything to do with the ocean.” I wasn’t sure if he was aware that I was a dragon—a water dragon at that—but chances were good that Chase had told him. “Please, have a seat. Would you like some coffee or tea?”

  He shook his head. “No, thank you. I have to get back to the station. I just wanted to let you know that we’ve gone through the house. You’re right, it’s extremely creepy and I have to agree that it’s haunted. Of course, that won’t go in my official report but I will be sure to tell Chase about it. He should be in the office by the time I get back there. I also had one of my men do a little research while we were waiting for the coroner. It appears that the house actually belongs to a distant relative of Mary Smith. I have her name if you would like it. Elena Johnson lives in Maine. Her mother was Mary’s niece, Cordelia. Cordelia passed the house on to her daughter. Elena has never been out to claim it. She pays the property taxes but she said that every time she thought about selling it, something bad happened to one of her family members. I have a feeling she thinks it’s cursed.”

  “In a sense, she’s right. Please do leave us her name and number. I think my friend Tonya might be interested in talking to her.” I paused, trying to think of how to phrase my next question. “What happens next? Who claims the body of the child? Did Mary have any other relatives around here?”

  “That, I don’t have an answer for. At least not at this point. You should ask Chase later on, if you want to know. Or you can call me in a few days and I might be able to give you more information.” He stood, and with a bob of his head added, “It’s been nice to meet you, Shimmer. I wish it were under better circumstances. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to headquarters.”

  I ushered him out the door, watching as he walked down the sidewalk to his cruiser. As I closed the door and turned back, pressing my back against it, Tonya appeared in the living room, a terry-cloth robe wrapped around her. She was carrying Snookums, who was draped over her shoulder, looking extremely relaxed. Tonya, on the other hand, just looked tired.

  “I have the name of the person who owns Mary’s house. If you’re really interested . . .” I let my words drift off. While I was excited at the thought that she might move down to Seattle, I didn’t want to seem pushy.

  “Yes, but first I have to figure out if I can clear the house and land. And I need to check my e-mail before I turn in for the day.” She moved toward the table holding her laptop. Chai popped out of the kitchen, another tray of tea in hand. He cleared a space on the table and carefully set the tray down. Then, without a word, he returned to the kitchen and I heard the sound of dishes rattling as he filled the dishwasher.

  Tonya fired up her computer and I sat beside her.

  “Bette will be heading toward the community center soon.” I glanced at the clock. “I believe her class starts at one P.M. I just hope she’s careful. The doppelgänger is terribly dangerous.”

  “What is Bette?” Tonya typed in her password.

  I had forgotten that Tonya didn’t know. Bette hadn’t been with us when we were up in Port Townsend. And apparently she hadn’t had time to fill Tonya in on her background.

  “Bette is what is known as a Melusine. She’s a Greek water spirit and can turn into a water moccasin. Melusines are extremely sensuous and can turn the head of just about any human. But I think there’s more to her than meets the eye. She won’t talk about her past. Or, at least, she never has to me. In fact, I kind of get the impression she’s not really sure about her past. In a sense, we have that in common.”

  “She and Alex were a couple at one time, weren’t they?” Tonya brought up her Smart Mail account and clicked on the inbox.

  “Yes, they were, but it was quite a while ago. They’re pretty much best friends at this point. In fact, that was part of the problem with Glenda, Alex’s ex. Glenda was jealous of Bette.”

  But Tonya wasn’t listening. She was staring at an e-mail. “Crap. I can’t believe he wrote to me again.”

  Another moment and she gasped, then turned her laptop so I could see what she was looking at. There was an e-mail there from Jack Skelton. The only thing in it was an image. The picture was graphic, the colors heightened. It had obviously been Photoshopped, but that didn’t make it any less disturbing. It was a picture of a woman lying on her back, naked with a knife stuck through her heart. She was bleeding and obviously had been stabbed multiple times. And the woman’s face had been replaced with an image of Tonya’s face.

  As I stared at the picture, a wave of anger swept over me. How dare someone do this? What right did he think he had?

  Tonya was shaking as she raised one hand to cover her mouth. “Why is he doing this? What does he want from me?”

  “I don’t know, but I’m calling Ralph and getting him over here right now to take a look at this.” I jumped up and headed into the living room, where I had left my cell phone. As I pulled up my contacts and tapped on Ralph’s name, I decided that one way or another, we were going to find Jack Skelton and put an end to this.

  * * *

  While Ralph examined the e-mail, I headed into the living room, where I picked up Elena’s number. After a moment, I decided that I might as well give her a call. Tonya didn’t have to buy the house, but we might as well know what the terms would be. That is, if Elena would even sell, consi
dering she had decided the place was cursed.

  After three rings, a woman’s voice answered. It was a pleasant voice, light and tinkling like chimes. “Elena Johnson speaking, how may I help you?”

  “Hi, my name is Shimmer. Officer Yugi gave me your number. I live in the house across the street from Mary Smith’s house. My friend is visiting from out of town, and she’s taken an interest in the property. We were wondering if there was any chance you might be willing to sell?”

  There was silence on the other end for a moment, and I half expected her to hang up. But then, in a slow voice, Elena said, “I’m not sure. The house has been in the family for a while, but none of us have ever lived there. Not since Mary owned it.” A pause, and then she added, “Can I assume you know the story behind the house?”

  “If you’re asking if I know what happened regarding Mary and her family, yes—actually I do. And so does my friend. But the house has great potential, and it’s on a very pretty lot. There’s a lot that can be done with it.”

  “I’m sure there is. I’ve never seen it in person, but I’ve seen pictures.” Another pause.

  I had a sneaking suspicion of what she was trying to say, without actually saying it. I decided maybe I could make things easier for her. “Just in case you’re wondering, we do know that the house is haunted.”

  Elena let out a little laugh, but it sounded strained. “I wasn’t sure how to approach the subject. In some states you have to declare whether a house is known to have ghosts. I’m not sure if Washington is one of those states. But the fact is, we tried to rent it out several times. Or rather, my mother did. Each time the family left abruptly and refused to go back. I believe there were three leases broken in the first two years. Finally, my mother gave up trying to rent it.”

  “Trust me, there’s a reason they left.”

  She let out a soft laugh. “I don’t know if I believe in ghosts, but I know that our renters did and they were so scared that they were willing to fork over the remainder of the money to get out of the lease. We didn’t ask them to—we released them without penalty. But each time, someone in my family got terribly ill. I don’t know if there’s any correlation, but I suppose that I am superstitious enough to be wary.”

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