Flight from mayhem, p.30
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       Flight from Mayhem, p.30

           Yasmine Galenorn
 

  “Go ahead. You can come over later. Tonya, Chai, and I can take care of the ghost.” I glanced at Ralph. “Do you want to come with us?”

  He shook his head. “I’m sorry, I’m wiped. I’d like to help out but I just don’t have any oomph left in me tonight.”

  “Then go home and rest. And, I guess, start planning your wedding.” I winked at him, wanting him to know that we supported him.

  “Yeah, I guess there is that.”

  Bette tapped him on the shoulder. “You’re going to need someone to help you. Geek boys don’t make the best wedding planners. Why don’t you come over to my place? I’ve got beer, and that way Alex can go with Shimmer and the others.” She held up her hand as I started to speak. “No, sugar. It’s all right. Ralph can watch after me. Not that I need watching after. And I’ll look after him.”

  She wouldn’t take no for an answer, so Alex dropped them off at her houseboat. Ralph assured us that he could pick up his car from the office later on, and the rest of us headed to my house.

  * * *

  By the time we reached my neighborhood, it was almost three. With a heavy heart, I climbed the stairs to the front porch, hoping that somehow Coolray and Wriggly had managed to survive in their interim tanks. I hesitantly unlocked the door and we entered. I hadn’t set the alarm when we left because I wasn’t sure of how much water damage there was and whether it had affected any of the wiring. Chai struck up a light without being asked, a soft glow that illuminated the entire room.

  Alex stared in silence at the shattered aquarium and the glass that covered the floor. The standing water was gone, having saturated the carpet, drained out the open door when we left, and—I feared—soaked into the floor. There was a grimy line around the wall about six inches off the floor and the room smelled vaguely of mildew. I cringed as I saw dead fish everywhere. And even though things mattered to me a whole lot less than my fish, the sight of my ruined furniture disheartened me. My books on the bottom shelf were goners. Feeling helpless, I stood there shaking my head.

  Alex slowly walked into the room, and when he turned, the look on his face almost broke my heart. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry this happened. I promise, I’ll make it right. I’ll pay for all the repairs and I’ll replace anything that got damaged. I can’t do much about the fish that were killed, but you’ll have new fish. And Glenda will cease to be a problem.”

  There wasn’t much I could say. I knew he meant well, but until Glenda was long gone, it would be hard for me to trust that she wouldn’t come back to make matters worse. “Why don’t we head over to take care of Mary?”

  As we trooped back outside and across the street, I wasn’t sure why I felt so confident this was going to work. But something inside whispered that all she needed to do, all she needed to hear, was that we knew she hadn’t killed her baby. Somebody needed to believe that she hadn’t killed the infant.

  We cautiously skirted the holes on the porch and I opened the front door, letting myself in. Tonya followed, and then Chai and Alex behind us.

  “Mary? Mary are you here?” I glanced around, hoping she would just show up.

  A noise from the kitchen alerted us, and I headed in that direction. But I had no more than reached the doorway leading into the dining area when something came sailing through the air at me. I screamed, “Duck!” as I dropped to the floor.

  Luckily, the others reacted just as quickly as a cleaver went sailing over our heads.

  “So you want to play?” Chai whispered as he quickly moved to the front and motioned for us to stay back. “Wait for my signal.”

  Another loud noise crashed in the kitchen and I heard Chai yell, “Get in here but be careful!”

  We rushed in just in time to see a menacing figure standing there. A large man, and I knew from Tonya’s description of her vision that it was probably Mary’s husband. He turned to us and let out a thundering roar that shook the house.

  “Get out of here or I’ll kill you!” His voice reverberated through the walls, and I heard someone cry out.

  I turned to see Mary standing in the corner of the kitchen, holding her head as she rocked back and forth. “Make him stop, make him stop, please make him stop!” She was screaming and he turned to her and held out his hand. A dark plume of smoke engulfed her and she began to scream louder.

  “Shut up, you bitch! I should have killed you when I had the chance.” His voice ricocheted along the walls, knocking bric-a-brac to the floor.

  “Mary, listen to me!” Tonya moved forward, fumbling in her bag until she found what she was looking for. She pulled out a silver dagger and Alex flinched to the side.

  “Mary, hear me!” Tonya drew a pentagram in the air and as we watched, it took on a faint blue light. “We know you didn’t kill your son! We know that it was your husband who killed your baby. We know he made you bury it in the yard, and we know that his abuse drove you insane. We found your baby.”

  There was a sudden hush as both Mary and her husband turned toward us. The look on her husband’s face was terrifying, like some grotesque mask or demon’s face. But Mary heard us. She slowly lowered her hands and straightened her shoulders.

  “You found him?” Her focus was solely on Tonya, ignoring her husband as if he didn’t exist.

  “We found him. He’s going to be properly buried. We know how hard your life must have been. We’re so sorry.” Tonya slowly moved forward, her dagger outstretched, moving the pentagram along in front. “By the powers of Hecate, I free you from your torture. I free you from your memories. I free you from the spirit of your husband. You can go now, Mary. He can’t keep you here anymore.”

  Mary’s eyes grew clear and the cunning look that I had seen on her face was gone, along with the fear. She hesitantly stepped toward Tonya. “You mean I can leave? It’s okay for me to leave? I can rest?”

  The spirit of Mary’s husband roared and he charged toward Tonya. Chai let out a shout and within the blink of an eye was between them. The spirit froze, a look of fear crossing his face as Chai blazed with a brilliant, fiery light and held out his hands.

  “You will harm her no more!” As Chai’s words reverberated through the kitchen, Mary silently moved toward Tonya, who closed her eyes and whispered something that I could not hear. The pentagram of blue light expanded, and Mary entered it, vanishing as she touched the edges of the energy. All we heard was a soft “thank you,” and Mary was gone.

  Mary’s husband was apparently pissed off because the walls began to rattle, and it felt like we were in the middle of an earthquake. But then Tonya held her dagger over her head and began an incantation.

  “O mighty Hecate, Guardian of the Crossroads, I call to thee! I summon your power, O Mother of Ghosts. I ask that you consign this spirit, this demon to the Netherworld! Punish him for his deeds and prevent him from crossing back to the land of the living! O mighty Hecate, hear my prayer!”

  And then the earthquake stopped.

  Mary’s husband froze, and the next moment, his form broke down, flooding into a pillar of black smoke. A portal opened in the middle of the kitchen ceiling. The vortex reminded me of a spinning kaleidoscope. A sudden gust of wind sprang up, and the smoke was sucked through the portal as if into a giant vacuum. The vortex slammed shut and vanished.

  The house felt remarkably quiet, as if it had taken a deep breath and exhaled all the bad memories.

  “They’re both gone.” Tonya looked over at me and shook her head. “Mary just needed someone to know that she didn’t kill the baby, and she needed to be freed from her husband’s tyranny. Imagine, being trapped with your abuser in the spirit world. How horrible.”

  I closed my eyes, but the house truly felt empty. A soft wind started to blow through the broken window. “It’s over. They won’t be back.”

  “I think when morning comes, we’ll call Elena Johnson, and I’ll make an offer on the house. Maybe it
s time I left Port Townsend. And somebody ought to love this place. It has good bones, even with a few skeletons in the closet. Besides, until we catch Jack and make him stop, I don’t feel like returning home.” Tonya smiled, but tears were running down her face.

  We headed back across the street. “I don’t really want to stay in my house tonight. It stinks and we need to clean it up before we can move back in.”

  “I can go to a hotel for the night. It won’t hurt me any.” Tonya shrugged. “Just let me get my suitcase.”

  “You can stay at my apartment, Shimmer.” Alex headed toward the Range Rover. “I’d like that.”

  “Chai can crash in my room,” Tonya said. “Considering Skelton is still out there, it would make me feel safer to have someone else around. I doubt if he knows what’s going on here, but right now I’m a little bit paranoid.”

  “Understandable. I’d be happy to spend the night.” Chai glanced at me and glared as a smirk crossed my face. “And I’ll be a perfect gentleman. No worries there.”

  Tonya gave him a puzzled look, then shrugged. “If I were worried, I wouldn’t have offered.”

  We drove back to the office, where Tonya picked up her car. She and Chai drove off to find a hotel as Alex and I headed toward his condo. It had been a long night, and I hoped that nothing else was going to drop in our lap until we had all had a good sleep.

  * * *

  Alex and I finished taking our showers, and then we curled up in his bed together. I knew it was now or never, and I knew that I had to say something.

  “Alex, I have to tell you something. When we were trying to figure out how to help Bette, before you woke up . . . Well, we were frantic, searching for any information we could find that might help us. Ralph had told us about the figure of light he saw, and we needed to know if you had anything that might shed light on what it was or if it might relate to her being kidnapped.” I pulled out of his embrace and straightened up, crossing my legs on the bed.

  He frowned, pushing himself up to sit against the headboard. He crossed his hands over that rock-hard abdomen of his and asked, “What’s going on?”

  “I looked through your desk.” I waited to see if he would understand what I was saying.

  After a moment, understanding dawned in his eyes. “I see. Did you find what you’re looking for?”

  “No. Oh, hell.” I was tired of pussyfooting around. “I saw the pictures of Glenda. And I looked through Bette’s file, but I didn’t look through mine. I only saw the pictures because I was trying to find anything that might help us with Bette.”

  He nodded, chewing on his lip. At least his fangs hadn’t descended and his eyes weren’t crimson, so he couldn’t be terribly angry. “What do you want me to do with them?”

  Flustered, I shrugged. “I’m not sure; after all, they’re not my pictures. I just wanted you to know.” But that wasn’t true. I wanted to ask, What are you still doing with them? But I felt embarrassed for having snooped.

  Alex leaned forward, rubbing the ever-present stubble on his chin. After a moment, he said, “To be honest, I had almost forgotten they were there. I’ll get rid of them. I’ll shred them.” He cocked his head, giving me a sideways glance. “You say that you didn’t look in your file?”

  I shook my head. “No, I didn’t. I thought about it, to be honest. But I wasn’t sure that I’d like seeing what you might have written in it. And I want you to know, I never would have touched your desk if we hadn’t been so frantic.”

  “I believe you. Shimmer, if there’s one thing I know about you, it’s that you don’t poke yourself in where you think you don’t belong. Tomorrow night, after I’ve talked to Frank, I want you to come to my office and I’m going to show you everything in your file. I want you to see that there’s nothing there to hurt you. And I’ll shred Glenda’s pictures while you’re there. I told you, I want us to work. I don’t know what we have here, either, but I want to see where it goes. I don’t want you to have doubts about me. I wouldn’t have given you a ring if I thought that I might want to go back to that bitch.”

  I smiled then, turning the ring on my finger. “I love it, you know.”

  “I’m so glad.” His eyes were cool, but a sparkle in them told me he truly was happy. “Speaking of Glenda, tomorrow night I’ll have a talk with a couple buddies of mine. They have influence with her. They owe me a big favor and I’m going to call it in. I’ll get Glenda off our backs.”

  I exhaled deeply, letting the tension drain with the breath.

  “I won’t ask about Bette. If I’m supposed to know, good. Until then, I won’t say a word. But if you need help, you know I’m here. I love that bad-assed broad, and I don’t have many people that I can say that about. And for what it’s worth, I’m not jealous of her. I’m not jealous of what you had with her, and I’m not jealous of the friendship that you still have. I trust Bette, and I trust you.”

  That was what it came down to. Trust. I had never thought I could say those words to anybody in my life, but I realized that I did trust Alex. And I trusted Bette and Ralph and Chai and Tonya and Stacy. I had gone from having no one to having a circle of friends.

  Alex must have sensed the shift because he held out his arms. “Shimmer, let me make love to you. I want to feel your skin under my fingers; I want to taste you. I want to slide inside you and move so slowly that it feels like time stops.”

  He folded me in his embrace, his hand trailing down to caress my nipples, to cup my breasts and then slide down toward the V between my legs. I let him touch me, holding very still as he fingered my sex, stroking gently until I ached with desire. I moaned, shifting so he had easier access. As he slid two fingers inside me, thrusting gently, I wrapped my hand around his erect penis, squeezing as two drops of pre-cum trickled out of the head.

  “I want you,” I whispered, lowering my lips to fasten around him. I slid down his length, gripping him with my mouth as I stroked his rock-hard cock with my tongue. And right then, I realized that this was the only place I wanted to be.

  Alex gently pulled me up to face him. “Let me love you, Shimmer. Let me prove myself to you. Let me make you happy.”

  “Love me, then. Love me, because I meant what I said. I do love you.” The words echoed strong in my heart.

  And then Alex made love to me until the sun rose and dragged him into his deep slumber.

  As I quietly showered again and then curled up in the spare bedroom, drifting as the weariness of the past few days took hold, I thought about my life. We would repair the damage done to my house, and Chai and I would move back in. Tonya would buy the house across the street, and I would introduce her to Stacy. I thought they would make great friends. And Ralph . . . dear Ralph would soon be married with a family of his own.

  And one day, when it was time, we would find out what Bette’s secret was.

  As I drifted off to sleep, it occurred to me that—for the first time in my life—I had a family. And that was a treasure greater than any dragon hoard I could ever accumulate.

  THE PLAYLIST

  I write to music a good share of the time, and so I always put my playlists in the back of each book so you can see which artists/songs I listened to during the writing. Here’s the playlist for Flight from Mayhem:

  AC/DC: “Back in Black”

  Air: “Playground Love”; “Moon Fever”

  Android Lust: “Here and Now”; “Saint Over”; “Stained”; “Dragonfly”

  The Animals: “Bury My Body”; “House of the Rising Sun”; “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”

  Arcade Fire: “Abraham’s Daughter”

  Arch Leaves: “Nowhere to Go”

  The Black Angels: “You on the Run”; “Evil Things”; “Don’t Play with Guns”; “Holland”; “Always Maybe”; “Broken Soldier”

  Black Mountain: “Wild Wind”; “Queens Will Play”; “Buried by the Blues”
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  Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: “Feel It Now”

  Black Sabbath: “Paranoid”

  Bobbie Gentry: “Ode to Billy Joe”

  Boom! Bap! Pow!: “Suit”

  Broken Bells: “The Ghost Inside”

  Cher: “The Beat Goes On”

  Cobra Verde: “Play with Fire”

  Commodores: “Brick House”

  Crazy Town: “Butterfly”

  Dire Straits: “Money for Nothing”

  The Doors: “People Are Strange”; “Hello, I Love You”; “Roadhouse Blues”

  Eastern Sun: “Beautiful Being”

  Eels: “Souljacker Part One”

  Fatboy Slim: “Praise You”

  FC Kahuna: “Hayling”

  The Feeling: “Sewn”

  Fluke: “Absurd”

  Garbage: “Queer”; “#1 Crush”; “Push It”; “I Think I’m Paranoid”; “Bleed Like Me”

  Gary Numan: “I Am Dust”; “Sleep by Windows”; “Here in the Black”; “Love Hurt Bleed”; “Remember I Was Vapour”; “Petals”

  The Guess Who: “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature”; “American Woman”

  Harry Nilsson: “Coconut”

  The Hollies: “Long Cool Woman”

  Jace Everett: “Bad Things”

  Jay Price: “Something Bad”; “Baby Where Are You?”; “Boneshaker”; “I Don’t Want You Anyway”; “Number 13”

  Jeannie C. Reilly: “Harper Valley P.T.A.”

  Jessica Bates: “The Hanging Tree”

  Johnny Otis: “Willie & the Hand Jive”

  Joy Division: “Atmosphere”

  Julian Cope: “Charlotte Anne”

  The Kills: “Wait: You Don’t Own the Road”; “Future Starts Slow”; “Satellite”; “Dead Road 7”; “Murdermile”

  King Black Acid: “Rolling Under”

  Ladytron: “Black Cat”; “Ghosts”; “I’m Not Scared”

  Little Big Town: “Bones”

  Lorde: “Yellow Flicker Beat”

 
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