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Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Treasure of Eerie, Arizona -- Chapter 5, Part 2

By Christopher Leeson and Ellie Dauber 

Posted 04-21-18  


Chapter 5, Part 2

December 17, 1871, Continued


Myra, seated uncomfortably on a crate, was glowering down Riley Canyon Road.  Behind her, George continued chopping wood, using rapid, powerful blows.  Myra didn't want to be anywhere near the neighbor boy, but she had received her orders and the spell held her fast.  The slaves in the South must have felt more free than she did.  They, at least, could run away.

The young workman finally paused to catch his breath.  Though Myra faced away from him, he started talking.  “The stage that brought you into town in must have been the same one that got robbed right afterwards, when it moved up into the Gap.  Ain't that right?” he asked.

The receipt of another prying question made the girl scowl.  She hadn't worked out every detail of her made-up story, but had to bluff through.  She met him eye to eye, and said, “Yes.”

He shook his head.  “It must have been awful, to hear about your cousin dying on the day you came in.”

She shrugged.  “Well, I've heard better news.”

“I've been wondering.  Where did that new riding horse over yonder come from?”

Another hard question.  “I don't know.”

“Didn't your aunt buy him?”

Myra pondered.  She couldn't tell George the same story that she'd already spun for the gang.  “It wandered in by itself.  It was trying to get at the hay when Irene and me came from in from town.”

“Does you aunt recognize the critter?”

“She never saw it before.  The saddle neither.”

“If it was saddled, it must have strayed away from its rider.  Do you think it could have been Myron's horse?  It might easily have walked a couple miles from the Gap.”

“I haven't thought about that.”

George glanced at the animal in the corral.  “It's a fair-looking cayuse.  It'ld be nice if you and your aunt can hold on to it.  I don't know about Mrs. Fanning, but you ride as smart as an Injun.  How did you learn?”

Myra didn't like the way he'd asked that.  He had the eyes of a hunter tracking a coyote.  “We kept horses back home,” she answered.

He suddenly changed the subject.  “I've been wondering.  If the stage men saw Myron shot, and if he was dead, what happened to him afterwards?  Your aunt didn't mention that there'll be any funeral.”

She tossed a hand into the air.  “Search me.  The bandits must have hidden the body.”

“Could be.  But you don't seem too broken up about your cousin not getting a proper burial.”

Myra changed her tone.  “I – I feel sorry for Aunt Irene.  But I never met Thorn.  He never did so much as send us a card back East.”

“If you didn't really know Myron, when did you find out that he wanted people to call him Thorn?  I've never heard your aunt speak that name in front of me.”

Damn him!  “That – That's the name the judge and the deputy were using when they came to talk yesterday.”

“Judge Humphreys was out here?  Why so?”

Blast it!  Did he have to haggle over every word?

“The judge knows Aunt Irene.  He wanted to let her know that Th – Myron was suspected of robbery, and also to express his sympathies.”

“Was he already sure that Myron was dead, even with no body?”

“The stage people's message said that he was shot bad.  The sheriff sent somebody up to look around, but there was no sign of anything.  So everyone just assumes.  If he wasn't fit to ride off, he must have died and his body was hidden.”

George's brows knitted.  “It seems kind of odd that those outlaws rode out for three days, but then came back to Myron's house for no reason.  Or was there a reason?”

Myra thought quickly.  “They knew Myron lived close-in to the Gap, but that wasn't why they came.  They needed some pack horses to carry off the gold that they'd hidden before.”

“So, if they only came for horses, why did they need to take you back up there with them?”

Myra was again tempted to tell George to go to hell, but held herself in check.  “A couple hours before they showed up, I'd gone to the Gap with that Deputy Grant, to search around.  We found the gold and then Grant hid it in a different place, so the robbers wouldn't be able to find it if they happened to sneak back.  But by the time we left the canyon, the gang was already hiding up there, watching us head out.  They must have followed us, out of sight, and saw where I stopped at.  Then they barged in after dark to make me show them where the box was.”

“I thought you said they just came to steal a couple horses.”

“They did steal horses!” she replied sharply.  “They would have come to get horses no matter what.  It's just that they had two reasons to come.”

“What I can't get is why the deputy seemed to be so all-fired sure that the chest was hidden up there in the first place, if nobody told him.”

“Ask him.”

George wasn't put off.  “Another thing makes me wonder.  Why on earth did you need to ride up to the Gap with the deputy?  I figure he already knew where Stagecoach Gap was.”

Myra glanced away again.  “No reason.  I just asked if I could go along, for the adventure.  Buried treasure; that's exciting.”

“That gets back to the main question.  How did anyone know there was buried gold?”

The girl's fists were clenched; her nosy neighbor was just begging for a slam to the jaw.  Carefully, she said, “Nobody knew anything, but they suspected.  The law in town knows how strong and heavy those stage company boxes are, and how the drivers don't carry the key with them.  The deputy and the judge were talking about how the outlaws might have needed to hide the gold close by, so they could come back later, with tools and pack horses.”   Then she added, “Also, one of them said that a lot of stage robbers did that sort of thing.”

“I see.  But how did the deputy find the chest so quickly?  Wasn't it buried?”

Myra stood up to storm away, but couldn't move her feet.  Sitting down again, Myra finally replied, “Sure, it was buried under a pile of rocks.  But the stupid outlaws left a corner of the box still showing.”

The youth again shook his head.  “They surely do sound stupid.”

“I met them.  Believe me, they're as dumb as they come.  Why are you so interested?”

George shrugged.  “There's not much excitement around Eerie.  Anyhow, a little conversation might help us get acquainted.  I already know you've got spirit.  My oldest sister would still be shaking like a leaf if she'd been put through all that you were.  If you think I’m asking too many questions, you can get even by asking me anything you want to.”

She sniffed.  “Why should I be interested in anything that concerns you, Mr. Severin?”

“No reason; we're just passing time.”

“It seems like time isn't passing half so quickly as I'd like it to.”

“Whenever I'm busy, it just flies by.  Did your aunt ever write and mention that she had someone helping her work the farm?”

“She never wrote.”  Damn; that didn't sound likely.  “Almost never.  Just a card now and then, like at Christmas. She never said much more than 'I hope you've been well,' or 'Merry Christmas.'”

George nodded and resumed chopping for a few minutes.  Then he took another break, drew a sip from his canteen, and said, “You mentioned you're from back East.  Whereabouts?”

She raised her chin.  “My aunt told me that I had to...that I should...chat with you, as annoying as you are.  But she didn't say that I had to answer a thousand snoopy questions.”

The youth leaned the ax against the stack of cord wood.  “Why not let a person know a little something about yourself?  Are you some kind of outlaw on the dodge?”

Myra felt a jolt, then quickly forced a laugh.  “Do I look like an outlaw?”

“No, but... ” he paused.  “No, you surely do not.  By the way, why is it that you don't want to go with me to the Christmas dance next week?  Do you have a fella already?”

“Stop the questions!”

“Okay, no more questions.  What would you prefer to talk about?”

“I don't want to talk at all.”

George sat down on the woodpile.  “So, you're a girl who doesn't like to talk too much?  I didn't know that kind existed.”  He grinned broadly.  “Finding a sensible gal is like finding buried treasure.  I definitely want to get to know you better, Miss Myra.”

“I've only known you for four days and I already know everything I want to.  It's as plain as the sun in the sky that you can't stop jabbering like a parrot.”

“People say I grow on them.”

“Yeah, like a wart!”

He chuckled.  “Yessirree, you're a girl full of ginger.  I like that.”

“Maybe so, but you bore me to tears!"

This reply only added to his mirth.  “If you really don't like me being around, you can tell your aunt that you want to do all the chores by yourself.  Is that what you're aiming for, Miss Back-East Girl?”

Myra frowned.  “I can learn farming easily enough if I want to.  For all I care, you can go off and annoy someone else.”

He gazed at the cut wood he was seated upon.  “The chopping you did earlier seems decent.  You're already used to doing certain chores, ain't you?”

She stood up again, rested her hands on her hips, and faced him boldly.  “Certain chores yes, some chores no.  When are you going to stop jawing and start earning your pay?”

“I'm not getting paid in coin.  Chatting with the pretty new girl in town is my pay; I said that straight-out to your aunt.”

“Hah!  My aunt thinks I'm a kid.  She's got no call to be deciding who my friends are going to be.”

“Don't you care for your aunt?  I like her just fine.”

“You aren't the one she's always bossing around.”

“Of course I am.  She pays me to do things for her.”

“If you think she's so nice, you should take her to the Christmas dance.  Lord knows that no other man is going to ask her.”

George made a click at the side of his mouth.  “She's got a few years on me.  I want to spend time with the calibre of gal that I could get serious about.”

“That sure ain't my kind of...gal.”

“I hope that won't always be true.  There's precious few young ladies of the right sort out here.  The two of us are about the same age, I reckon we go to the same church, and neither of us is seeing anybody.  Maybe we're neighbors because Providence is working its magic.” 

She suddenly looked like a volcano ready to blow.

He smiled again, in a way to let her know that he'd only been funning.

Myra, still holding in her temper, said, “Providence is like a mule, if you ask me.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because a mule is stupid and stubborn, and all it's good for is kicking a man in the teeth when he least expects it!”

“You sound like you've been kicked lately.  What happened?”

She gave that a second's thought, then answered carefully.  “I lost both parents, or maybe you didn't get the news.”

The youth look abashed.  “Pardon, Miss Myra.  I plum forgot.”

“If that's the case, you should be working on your memory, and also working on that wood pile.  If you don't, there's no reason you should be keeping me out in the wind jawing with you.”

George seemed to accept that observation and set to work in earnest.


#

About an hour later, the light was failing and the air was getting colder.  George went to put away the ax for the night.  At the same time, Molly O'Toole got back into her carriage and set out for town, while Mrs. Fanning stood waving goodbye from the front door.   Suddenly, Irene started toward the wood pile.  At first sight of George, she called him over to speak, but Myra didn't wait to listen.  She no longer felt compelled to stay put, and so went back to the house.  About five minutes later, she heard the farm boy riding off.  Her aunt joined her indoors a minute later.

“Did you and George have a good talk?”

“No, we didn't.  I don't care much for the fellow, but you told me I had to keep him company!”

“I suppose I did.  Anyway, did you two discuss the Christmas party?”

“He talked about a lot of things.  He almost talked my ears off.”

“Young men often jabber when they happen to like a girl.”

“I know what boys do!  And I especially know George Severin.  If he hadn't been around so much when I lived here, I probably wouldn't have headed out as soon as I did.”

“You didn't like any of my helpers.”

“Good riddance to the lot of them!”

Irene changed the topic.  “I asked George if he'd be willing to clean the hog pen as soon as he has time.  If you don't care for having him hereabouts, would you be willing to take on that job yourself?”

The girl looked fit to be tied.  “Hell, no!  That work is too hard for...”

“For a girl?”

“I'm not a girl.  The work is too hard, period.  But what does it matter what I want?  Go ahead and bust my back.  You'll get me crippled.”

“You're so dramatic about everything!” Irene stated in exasperation.  “Girls clean pig pens, and do even harder chores.  I need help to work this piece of land.  Whatever you do on this farm helps us make a living.  George is at least willing to pitch in while he earns a wage.  We could save a parcel of money if you would do more of the things that I've been asking him to do.”

Myra looked away, annoyed.

“By the way, Molly suggested that I should make it clearer when I'm...I'm telling you something that is really necessary.”

The girl turned.  “When you're giving me an order, you mean.”

“That's not the way I'd like to put it.  But this is my idea.  For now, when I making a statement and call you 'my girl,' it means that I'm telling you something important and I want you to do what I say.”

“You're always bossing me around.  You're not either one of my parents.”

Irene shook her head.  “I loved your folks, too, Myra.  What happened to them wasn't anyone's fault.  Or are you only using them as an excuse to avoid necessary work?”

“I just want to have some time to do the things that I want to do."

“I don't like ordering you about like a servant, not at all.  What would you prefer?  To run off again and become a girl outlaw?”

“What's wrong with trying to better myself?”

“Better yourself with stolen money?  Look what it's cost you already?  Would you ever have robbed people if you knew that it might get you turned into a young lady?”

The girl threw up her hands.  “My only mistake was coming home to the craziest town in the world.  I don't see why a person should be criticized just for taking care of himself, as long as he doesn't get caught.”

“But you did get caught – caught by a strange fate that you truly did bring upon yourself.  Every time you look into the mirror from now on, think about how different your life could have turned out if you'd only worked a little harder at being honest.”

Myra swung away again, her arms crossed.

Irene sighed.  “You certainly don't seem in any mood to talk sense.  Now, listen, my girl.  Change out of your nice clothes, and take care that you don't dirty or tear them!”

The girl felt this new form of command taking a grip upon her.  Angry, with teeth clenched, Myra scooped up her pile of cast-off everyday clothing and stomped into the pantry, preferring to change out of sight.

Irene then went to finish supper.  This new quarrel had gotten her thinking.  Myra didn't like farm work, no more than Myron had.  Would the girl take to household tasks any better?  She considered asking Myra for help with the evening’s meal.  Then she shook her head.  That would probably be pushing things too quickly.  Patience would be needed.  If Molly knew about these things from experience, Myra should eventually start looking at life the way that most young ladies did.  It might be wisest to nudge her in the right direction bit by bit, trying not to force things too insistently, especially when she was in a mood to get her back up.



December 18, 1871

The next morning, George Severin returned for a full day's labor, already game to take on the pig sty.  Irene appreciated that her youthful neighbor was able to give her so much of his time  It would have been different, probably, if he hadn't had four younger brothers and sisters at home, all old enough to take over the chores while he was away.  The youth deployed the manure cart in a convenient spot before entering the pen carrying the farm's four-tined manure fork.  He had worn his wet-weather boots; the mess at his feet was gummy; the exacting task required a strong back.

Mrs. Fanning's niece had slipped away the instant that she'd seen the young man coming in.  The girl's aloofness disappointed her aunt; one thing that hadn't changed from when Myra had been Myron was the way that she still wore a chip on her shoulder.  Locals generally liked George and he wasn't known to misbehave – other than by pulling a few pranks.  Myron, she was aware, hadn't found it easy to make friends – at least not nearly as easy as he made enemies.  He had often complained that no one liked him, and that had probably been one reason why he had left home at just sixteen.

Irene was starting the noonday meal when someone rode in through the gate.  Through the window, she recognized the same big man who had been helping Paul Grant.  The deputy and two others, including this one, had, finding her tied up in the kitchen, cut her loose.   The two posse men had spoken with some sort of Scandinavian accent.  Her visitor was large, broad-shouldered, and very strong-looking.  She recalled that his eyes had been the color of shadowy ice.

The townsman was getting down from his horse when the farm woman stepped out to meet him.

“Is there any news about the outlaws?” she asked.

“Some gude news,” he replied with a single, exaggerated nod.  “That pack horse of deirs must have bolted loose when dey vere running and vee found it vit lots of gold in da saddle bags.   Paul kept after da bandits vith two of da men, but he sent my brother and me back to town with the gold.  They're slippery as seals, deese outlaws, and dey yoost may git avay.”

“If they do, I hope they never come back to Eerie!”

“How is Myra doing?” the Scandinavian asked.

“She's doing well.  She's a brave girl.”  Irene then frowned perplexedly.  “Excuse me.  I can't seem to recall your name.” 

“Tor,” he said with a good-natured grin.  “Tor Johannson.”

“You're from... Norway?”

“Sveden!  I come over vith my brothers during da var and right off we got drafted into da army.  After a lot of bad things, it vas over, and ve vent gold-seeking.  Ve came down to Eerie dis year.  Ve've been finding gold enough to pay for our beer and beans, but not much more!”

“You speak very good English.  Gracious!  I don't think I could learn Swedish in a hundred years.”

“Tank you, Mrs. Fanning.  You are very kind.”

“Did you come to tell us about the robbers?”

“Yes, and no.  It's a funny ting.  Out hunting outlaws, I kept tinking that it vas too bad dat you and me didn't get to speak a little more.  I t’ought you vere... a handsome woman.”

“You flatter me, sir.”

“I am very sad dat your nephew was killed.”

Irene regarded Tor.  Obviously, the deputy had not shared the whole story with him. 

“Paul said dat the boy was shot by da outlaws,” he continued.  “He said dey hid his body somevhere.”  Then the man winced.  “I am sorry.  I shouldn't be talking about anyting so awful.”

“Yes, it's very hard.”

“Vhat I came for vas to ask if you vhould let me take you to da Christmas dance next veek.  Please forgive me if you are already planning to go vith someone else.”

This surprised the widow.  She had almost no social life in Eerie and, when she thought back, she realized that she had kept making excuses to avoid socializing, until the local men had stopped asking her. 

“No, I haven't been going to the Christmas parties.  I haven't been invited in a long time.”

“Dat is a shame!  A lady like you!”

“I don't wish to be rude, Mr. Johannson, but there are bad stories about gold miners.  Do we have any mutual friends who...who could vouch for your good character?  Other than Deputy Grant, I mean?”

“Vell, I go to Styron's hardware store.  Dey know me at da Lone Star Saloon, and at da Eerie Saloon.”  He looked abashed.  “I know dat deese do not sound like very gude places to a church lady like yourself.  I yoost to go to church a lot in Sveden, but not so much in America.  Ve've spent a lot of our Sundays up in da hills.”

“Myra has said that you fought bravely to rescue her.  I'm very grateful.”

“I did vhat I had to.  I'm sorry you don't troost prospectors, but I von't be one for long, I tink.  Paul says dat da sheriff is tinking about hiring a new deputy...   Say, Paul mentioned you  know Molly O'Toole.  I know Molly, too, and her husband, Shamus.  I think they vill tell you dat I am a gude person.”

She smiled, liking the way that Tor Johannson pronounced his long 'O's', as when he said O'Toole.  “I was planning to take my niece to the Christmas party,” she said, not entirely truthfully.  “We might meet one another there on the dance floor.”

He returned the smile.  “Yes, it is very possible that ve may.  I von't be vith anyone else.”

“I'm quite sure that I won't be either.”  She made a daring decision.  “Mr. Johannson, I am forgetting my manners.  Myra and I owe you so much.  Won’t you stay and join us for dinner?”

He beamed.  “I vould be very pleased.”

Irene led him inside and showed him to a chair.  “The table will be set in about an hour,” she said.

He nodded thoughtfully.  “Vell, dat is a good long vhile to be joost sitting around.  Vhould you mind if I helped out vith da farm chores till den?”

“Oh, Mr. Johannson.  That's not at all necessary!  You have done so much already.  But if you really want to, maybe George, the boy outside, will have some suggestions.”

He excused himself and exited.  Irene went outdoors at the same time, around to the west side of the house, where Myra was doing the laundry.  The homemaker had earlier decided to test Myra's willingness to be helpful.  The girl had been predictably resistant to her suggestion, but Irene had ordered her to stop complaining and try to do the wash as best she could.  At the very least, Mrs. Fanning hoped, having some busy task to perform would take the edge off her brooding.

She now addressed the girl.  “Myra, I've decided that it would be a good idea for us to attend the dance.  I'll drive us to it in our buggy.  George will also be coming, with his family, I suppose.  You won't have to speak to him there if you don't wish to.”

The girl stopped scrubbing.  “What do you want to go to that dance for?” she demanded.  “You'll only be a wallflower, and I'll be miserable.”

“I'll fare all well enough.  This is a chance for both of us to make new friends.  Anyway, I might even find someone willing to dance with me once or twice.”

Myra frowned.  “Who are you talking about?”  Then she remembered the man who had ridden up.  “You're planning to see that foreigner, aren't you?” she accused.

“He's Swedish.  Anyway, he helped you, didn't he?  Wasn't he a good and brave man?” 

Her niece, looking peevish, said nothing.

“Please answer, my girl, wasn’t he?”

“I got no complaints,” Myra felt obliged to reply.  “But it sure was irritating, listening to him mispronounce everything, all time.”  

Irene was not really listening.  She was considering Myra's hair, liking the way that Molly had arranged it.  It had looked even nicer before her niece had slept on it.  Mrs. Fanning then, on impulse, reached back and touched the tight bun that she had been wearing ever since her widowing.  The style had grown to be so much a part of her sense of being that she hadn't even considered changing it.  But now, for some reason, it no longer seemed that tomorrow always had to be exactly like the day before yesterday.

“Dinner will be ready in about an hour,” she said absently.  “Mr. Johannson will be joining us.  I'll call when things are ready.”

Myra was left where she stood, feeling infuriated.  ‘Aunt Irene’s acting like a gooney bird,’ the maiden thought.  'And I’m gonna have to go to that tomfool dance and be a public spectacle, if she gets her way!’  It was at moments like this one that she almost wished that that dumb yak Ike Bartram had shot her dead.

Almost.


The End.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Falling Star: Chapter. 7, Part 2


Posted 04-07-18

Revised 07-15-18






An Angel from Hell story

By Christopher Leeson


Chapter 7, Part 2

Exiting the hotel by way of the stair, Jezebel filled Holly in.

“If those two aren't for real” said the ex-waitress, “it means that the bad guys  must have planted that Holiday Inn message inside the Bible.  That's not possible.  We didn't even  know ourselves where we'd end up that night.  What was it for?  Those tough guys who came for us were using muscle, not tricks.   Why would their side want to point us toward Omaha?  It doesn't add up.”

“There's one more thing that doesn't add up,” admitted Jezebel.   “The girl with the reverend had a familiar face.”

“You knew her?”

“No.  I just knew the face.  She's a dead ringer for...someone."

"Who?"

Jezebel took a breath.  "A younger version of Princess Diana.”

“The Princess Diana?”

The angel nodded.

Holly shook her head.  “But she's dead.  It has to be another impostor.”

“If it's an impostor, how could the Cabal ever think that it would be a good move to shove into my way the kind of person I want to shoot on sight?”

“That's super weird, all right.  But you said the girl was young.  The real Di would have to be in her fifties by now.”

Jezebel sighed.  “Holly, you have to toss science out the window.  Scientists are paid to hide the truth, not to discover it.  She's Nephilim.”

“What's that?”

“It means that she's descended from fallen angels who mixed with humans.”

The singer looked amazed.  “There really are fallen angels?  Are you saying that those old paintings of angels making out with hot girls come straight out of history?”

Jezebel grimaced uneasily.  “Ah, yes.  The Nephilim are half  immortal.  That lets them live about five hundred years.  A lot of them shape-shift.  They pretend to age.  Then they stage phony death scenes and funerals.  While they're supposed to be dead, they're really just lying low for a while.  Later on, they set up a new identity and go back into the world.  The British queen today used to be Queen Victoria.”  

“That's creepy.  Are these Nephilim always bad people?”  

“Most serial killers and career criminals are Nephilim.  Most terrorists and radicals, too.  Wherever there's money or power, Nephilim act like pigs at a trough.  Watch out for anyone who just shows up with a lot of inherited money.  They're probably Nephilim.”

“I guess a person wouldn't want to run into that kind.”

“You've already met hundreds or thousands.  The music industry is full of them.”

Holly blinked.  “No wonder show people seem so crazy!  But it's unbelievable.”

“It's real.  I could tell you plenty more, but why keep you awake at night?”

“If all that's possible, what should we do?”

“Normally I'd say we should get out of town, but something tells me that we should hear them out.”

“That's scary, especially if one of them isn't human.”

“I wish I could say that it'ld be perfectly safe, but I can't,” said Jezebel.

Holly nodded thoughtfully.  “Okay, Jill.  If these Neph-guys are all over the place, meeting one more shouldn't be the end of the world.”

“Not yet anyway.  We should go in separately.  I'll enter the restaurant first, and you should follow a couple minutes later.  I don't want you to be left alone for very long.”  

The Watcher took a few bills from her wallet.  “Buy something to eat or drink.  You're an actress.  Try to act like an ordinary customer.  Don't look around too much.  I'll be be around, watching out for Nephilim thugs.  If things don't look suspicious, I'll go sit down with the couple.  I don't know how long we'll be talking.  If I take off my coat, that will be your signal to come over and join us.  But if I leave Culver's without taking it off, follow me outside a minute or two later.”

“Then what?”

“Beats me.  If the Cabal knows we're in Omaha, we have to leave."  Jezebel hoped it wouldn't come to that.  To pay for food, lodgings, and gas she would probably need to steal.  Committing crimes could make them fugitives from the law as well as from the Cabal.

“Do you mind if I pray for guidance and protection?” Holly asked.

Jezebel shrugged.  “Yeah, sure, go for it.  But make it snappy.  The more time the enemy has, the more dangerous they will be.  They might have backup.  I only wish I could go in wearing a good disguise.”

“We still have that little red dress in the car,” Holly suggested.

“Forget it!”

 Jezebel stepped into the restaurant, still thinking about Frances.  A righteous Nephilim?  That idea was a tough sell.  She knew that most Nephilim were born violent, and rarely had a sense of right and wrong.  Not only Nephilim, but most Satanist children were routinely brutalized, especially emotionally, to turn them into what humans called psychopaths.  They had taken over the world before the Flood.  Drowning was a good way to kill them.  But even though Noah and his boys were of pure human stock, the Scriptures were silent about the sons' wives.  Why had the Father waited so long to act that no truly human women remained alive?

The angel was falling into the age-old quandary.  Could the Creator make mistakes?  If not, had he deliberately allowed Nephilim bloodlines to survive?  Why?  Did the Father have a use for them.  But what was his plan?  

Jezebel gritted her teeth.  Why couldn't the I Am ever do anything simply; why did everything have to be a mystery or a puzzle?  If she misunderstood the situation and made a mistake in the course of the next hour, she'd probably be held responsible for the consequences.  To avoid blame, she intended to leave the final decision as to what to do with Holly up to Holly.

Something she didn't know about was going on.  The Creator was always testing men and angels.  Was this another test?  Was the Father creating a situation so confusing that Jezebel would have humble herself and ask for discernment?  Well, that wouldn't happen.  She didn't want to appear weak.  She couldn't respect anyone weak, so how could the Father?

                                                                              #

Decorated mostly blue and white, Culver's large windows made interior feel airy.  The noonday crowd hadn't descended as yet, so empty sections still remained.  None of the staff or customers seemed to be glowing violet, and that was reassuring.  Just then, she saw Holly enter.  The girl took a quick glance around and went to the serving counter.

Jezebel turned toward the nearby window and peered outside.  Not seeing any Nephilim, she checked her watch.  It had been twenty minutes since she'd left apartment 432.  The angel wondered whether the couple would be punctual.

They were.

The Watcher let the pair pass while she kept out of sight.  For a moment, Jezebel stood on watch, but observed no characcters wtih bad auras following Orson and Frances.  Game to take a risk, she joined the waiting line behind the enigmatic couple.

Orson looked back over his shoulder.  “Oh, there you are,” he whispered.  The blonde nodded in silence.

The three advanced through the queue and placed their orders.  Jezebel had already eaten and so asked for no more than fries and a soft drink.  Garland and his false daughter made selections from the breakfast menu.  When the food came up, the pair carried their portions into an unoccupied area.  The angel made a final check for threats and then joined them.

Frances had taken the chair that Jezebel wanted.  “Go to the other side, queeny,” the angel said.  “I want to see who comes in through the door.”  Frances complied with a look of annoyance and Jezebel appropriated her seat.

The pair just sat there, apparently waiting for her to say something.

Jezebel took a deep breath and spoke to test them.  “So, if I were the girl you that came here to help, where would we go from here?”  

Orson appeared to be brimming with that annoying earnestness of his.  “Until you feel able to make plans of your own, Frances has agreed to share her apartment in Jasper.”

“Jasper?”

“It's a town in the Ozarks.  My church is there.”

“It sounds dull.”

The man gave a smile.  “Dull can be another word for peaceful, I like to say.”

“Well, it sure does sound peaceful.  What's its other charms?”

“We have 466 citizens at last census, and it's the courthouse for Newton County.”

“Big cities make me nervous.”

“There are some smaller villages around the area, if you'd prefer.  For a while, though, it might be a good idea to stay close by.  Frances and I will be on hand to help you get oriented and settled in.”

“Okay, say I settled into this thriving town of Jasper.  What then?”

“You'll probably want to find work.  There aren't many jobs nearby, but there's usually openings in Branson.  That's across the line into Missouri, about fifty miles away.  A lot of Jasper people work over there, so we'll be able to find you a commuter to ride with.  That should be good until you get a car of your own.”

While Reverend  Garland was speaking, Jezebel had been studying Frances.  “Do you work in Branson, too?”

“No,” she said.  “I teach at Kingston School.  Elementary.”

“Then I hope you're a vegetarian.”  She unsubtlely eyed the sausage on the woman's plastic plate.  “Oh, I guess not.”

The young woman's glance became a glare.

Jezebel's barb was aimed at riling her.  If she could make the hybrid mad enough, the girl might give something away, something that didn't jive with their cover story."

"Are you always so rude?" Frances asked.

"Usually." 

"The Watcher considered the nearness of Jasper to Branson.  Being close-in to a teeming tourist-trap could pose a risk.  Branson was a show business town and Holly – Pelosia – might be tempted to return to form.  The entertainment industry drew Cabalists in like dung flies.  The girl needed to shun the public eye.

“Jasper may be workable,” she said offhandedly.  “But what makes the pair of you get involved in hiding fugitives?  I've told you that the Cabal is involved, and that make it dangerous.”

Reverend Garland met her challenging glance.  “When the Lord asks something of a person, He always has a good reason.”

“Do you hide a lot of fugitives?”

“No, Frances was my first.”

Jezebel shifted toward the blonde.  “How you fit into all this, Highness?  Are you really Princess Di?”

The woman scowled.  “Don't speak that name.  I'm Frances Dillon.”  She was using her Arkansas accent again.

“What in hell is British royalty doing in Arkansas?  Are you hiding, too?”  

Frances' expression changed.  “Yes.  I'm not safe even from my own family.  They murdered my uncle, because he became too outspoken about Agenda 21."

“Agenda 21?  I've heard about it,” said Jezebel.  It signified the Cabalist plan to kill seven billion people and enslave the survivors.

Frances was still speaking.  “At the very least, I'd be kept under house arrest for years, until I managed to make them trust me again.  I can't let that happen.  They can twist a person's mind.”  She broke off.

“The Cabal went through a lot of work to make the world think that the Princess of Wales was dead,” the angel reminded Frances.  “Who was in that car wreck anyway?”

The British girl seemed to struggle with herself before she answered.  “A look-alike.  I had more than one.  This lady didn't happen to be a clone.  She had a soul.  She was working earn an MBA.  We talked sometimes.  When she took my place that day, she didn't know...what was planned.  But I did and I didn't warn her.  That's who I was.  I was even willing to let friends die.”  She stopped for a moment, then forced herself to finish.  “It made me realize that I’d let my handlers get into my mind.  That wasn't the kind of person that I wanted to be, but if I didn't do what I was told, what happened to Uncle James could happen to me.”  She glanced away.

“So you're claiming to be from a high-ranking Cabalist family?” Jezebel asked.

Frances shook her head.  “I've said too much.”  

She looked fiercely at Orson.  “Who is this person?  Why should we trust her with our secrets?”

The clergyman seemed unsure.

The Watcher spoke up.  “My license says I'm Jill – and you don't need to know my last name.  I was sent by God.  That's all you need to know, isn't it?”

Frances scowled.  “Who really sent you?  You have killer eyes.  I know what killer eyes look like.”

Jezebel showed a bitter grin.  “How you talk.  I haven't offed anyone since early Friday.  And they were only a pair of ghuls.”  Then she shrugged.  “Well, maybe killed a security guard, too.  I just left him lying and didn't bother to check.”

Orson looked amazed.  “I trust you're joking, Miss...Jill.”

She pointed at his chest.  “Hey, do you think that the guy upstairs likes Cabalist flunkies?”

The clergyman turned his gaze skyward.  After a  moment of contemplation, he said, “The Lord tells me that you mean exactly what you say, and He also affirms that you are, indeed, serving Him.”

“That should make you feel better,” said Jezebel.  “Did he mention whether I'm doing a good job?”

When words failed Orson, the angel gave sudden vent.  “Why is it that the Father – or the Son – talks to you so easily, but never to me?”

“I can't say,” the reverend replied.

Next to him, Frances was shaking her head.  “This might be a bad idea, Orson.  We should go.”  

The minister seemed less certain.  “The Lord gave me a name.  He spoke the name Sampson as if it should reassure me.  Does that name mean anything to you...Jill?”

She shrugged.  “Never met the gentleman.  I heard plenty about him, though.”

Orson regarded Frances.  “Sampson killed thousands, but only those who had earned God's wrath.”  To Jezebel he said, “Is it also your mission to protect the righteous, Miss Jill?”

Jezebel's eyes narrowed.  “Lately.  I've been told that if I don't happen to like a person's aura I can I can do what comes naturally.  That part of my job suits me.”

“I'm not sure this person is safe to be around,” the British princess counseled her companion.

“Believe me, lady, I'm not.”  

Jezebel decided to up the ante.  “Listen.  I'm not the person who needs protection.  That's someone else, but I'm not going to turn her over to just anyone.  Orson, here, is pretty convincing," she said to Frances.  "But you don't fit in.  Nephilim are nothing but trouble.  I'd rather bet on an inside straight than buy into the idea that you've found God.  The Windsores are Reptilian Nephilim, and royal reptilians only marry other Reptilians.  Your species considers human flesh a delicacy, especially children's flesh.  I'm not running a meat wagon to deliver your next lunch.”

Frances flushed.  “I'm not a Reptilian.  I despise every wesen species, but I hate that kind most of all!”

Jezebel studied her hard expression, and then grinned lopsidedly.  “Nice attitude.  But maybe you're just shamming.  I ought to slap you around and see if I can't make you morph.  Are you betting that I can't?”  

Frances, red-faced, looked askance at the reverend.  The latter looked troubled, but remained calm.

“Dear one,” said Garland, “the Lord is telling me that you should tell your story honestly.  It might make a difference.”

Frances seemed unsure.  After a moment, she said, “I-I don't know where to begin.”

Taking a sip of orange soda, the angel leaned back in her chair and waited.  She put a French fry between her lips.  Nice flavor.

Frances slowly drew in closer and whispered, “The Reptilians have made themselves powerful, both socially and politically, but they are still only wesen.  People call them a royal family, but my bloodline represents true Royalty.  We have no animal genetics.  I descend from fallen angels and the daughters of men.  Jacob Rottweiler is my father, and he is the real king of this world, for now.  My mother was selected from the purest Nephilim lines to be one of his mistresses.  My father chose to raise me as a Royal princess.”

Jezebel knew that Jacob Rottweiler was a British baron, but also knew the wealth and power he represented.  He had trillions of dollars in personal wealth, and controlled underlings who commanded hundreds of trillions.  Next to him, a mere queen of Great Britain was no more than an unlovely handmaiden, a servant in the truest sense.

“I was taken from my real mother young, and had no regular contact with my father.  At his behest, I was inserted into a Cabalist family called the Spinsters, one of the few great British houses that isn't Reptilian.  That was the end of my happy upbringing.  I missed my mother badly, but she wasn't allowed to come near me, and I couldn't visit her, either.

“Years before, Countess Spinster had faked a pregnancy overseas and returned with a daughter.  The girl was in reality a kidnapped infant.  They treated her like a beloved child until she was ready to go to school.  Then the Cabal took her away suddenly and I was brought in to assume her identity.  I shudder to think what must have become of the poor child.  The Cabal worships Baal, and he demands the sacrifice of children.  Every year, almost fifty million babies are sacrificed to him.

“But though I grew up in that house, I never really became a Spinster, and they didn't want me to.  They they were more like servants than parents, but they had no parenting skills.  Their real children are very troubled people.  The earl divorced the countess when I was eight, but kept me with him. 

"He and his people reminded me every day that I was special, that I was a Rottweiler.  I was told that I was being prepared for something very important.  They kept me out in society, all the while making useful contacts for me.  My tutors drilled me on how to be charming and persuasive, how to be at ease in public.  I never felt I had a real family; I was an actress in training and my home was only a stage.

“It wasn't until my early teens that I was told what was expected of me.  I had been selected from infancy to become the Princess of Wales.  I was horrified.  I'd been introduced to the Windsores before and they were frightening, loathsome.  Prince Philip was the worst.  He came from a Nazi family of Reptilians with SS ties, and seemed even less human than the queen.”

The angel frowned.  “If this was some kind of drawn-out plot to make you queen, why were you allowed to divorce?”

Frances dried her eyes with a Culver's napkin.  “The divorce was planned years in advance.  Before the marriage, even.  That was the day I had been dreaming of, my beautiful, wonderful divorce.  It couldn't have come too soon.  There was nothing between Charles and me. He wanted Camilla and only Camilla.  She was a lizard like he was.”

Jezebel wasn't sure that she should believe any of this, but was willing to play along.  “So what was the deception all about?”

“For centuries, the Rottweilers had been against mixing their Royal blood with that of what they considered mongrel beasts.  But the Windsores had been successfully acquiring wealth and power, mostly through drug-running and human trafficking.  My father couldn't look at money without wanted to control it himself, even if it meant sacrificing a daughter.  For their part, the Windsores wanted to introduce true royalty into their sham of a bloodline.  Half my job was accomplished once I had given those monsters an heir and a spare.  That part of it was absolutely degrading, but how I wish that that was all that I was expected to do.  I can’t believe that any good God could ever forgive me for what I did.”  

She choked off.  This confession was either hard for her, or else she was doing a good job making it look that way.  After all, by her own confession, she had trained from childhood to be an actress.

Orson Garland touched her hand.  “Dear Frances, I have told you so many times:  Your repentance is true; I know it is, and you know it, too.  You have been long since forgiven.  There will be no damnation for you, no Lake of Fire.  Have faith.”

The girl nodded, trying to make herself believe.

“What was this other half of your job?” the Watcher asked.

Frances took a deep breath.  “My – My task was to destroy Britain.”

Eyes shut, she clenched her fists upon the table and rested her forehead upon them.  “And I did it.  May God truly forgive me,” she whispered.

TO BE CONTINUED Chapter 8, Part 1

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Treasure of Eerie, Arizona -- Chapter 5, Part 1


By Christopher Leeson and Ellie Dauber 

Posted 03- 21-18 
Updated 03-24-18 


Chapter 5, Part 1

December 17, 1871, Continued


When the new posse arrived, Myra was sitting listlessly at the table, eating breakfast.   Hearing voices from outdoors, she crossed to the window.  Paul Grant coming was coming down the carriage path, followed by a big cuss who was leading the farm's two horses.  Not surprisingly, the outlaws' saddlebags were no longer across the beasts' backs.  The rest of the posse – three mounted men – remained at the edge of Riley Canyon Road.  

Irene, who had been heating water, went outside to meet the deputy.  The big man, Tor, Myra supposed, took the horses over to the corral and tied them to the rails.  After a brief conversation with her aunt, the deputy called Tor back and the men took their leave.  The posse briskly took off down the road toward Stagecoach Gap.  Mrs. Fanning came back inside, remarking, “They didn't have time for chatting.  The Lord bless them.  I was afraid that we'd lose those horses forever.”

“Yeah,” the girl replied grumpily.  “If we had, you'd have me out pulling the plow myself next spring.”

Irene almost replied, but decided that it would be of no use. 

The young widow instead sent Myra out to do her chores.  It bothered Irene that the girl, left to her druthers, would have preferred to do no work at all.  In that, she was still very much like Myron.  Why couldn't Myra learn from her narrow escape?  Why couldn't she make the right life choices without needing to be commanded to by magic?  What lad or lass had ever done himself any good through aimless and neglectful behavior? 

Her sister Addie, in her letters, had sometimes lamented that Myron seemed ill-suited to farming.  She thought that he was too imaginative, too full of wanderlust, to accept being tied down, doing the same chores over and over.  Irene lamented that he had actually seemed to prefer the bandit life.  Myra, being a girl, fortunately couldn't do what he had done, but wouldn't she still carry Myron's restlessness inside her?  Irene paused to pray for the Lord's help in making it all turn out well.


#

After lunch, Myra went out to chop kindling for the cook stove.  She didn't care for the task, but realized that no wood would mean no hot supper.

While she busied herself, a small carriage drew up.  The potion girl recognized the visitor and gritted her teeth.  Molly O'Toole got down from her rig and opened the luggage boot at the rear of the vehicle.  Aunt Irene emerged from the house just then and welcomed the saloon operator.  Myra, expecting the worst, continued chopping. 

Irene went inside first, carrying an armful of packages.  “Are all these boxes for Myra?” she asked Molly as she set down her burden.

The Irish woman put her share of the bundles onto the bed.  “They do make quite a pile, don't they?  They should be enough t’be getting Myra started.  Women's clothes are more complex than men’re used to, though.  We'll have to acquaint her with their wearing.” 

“Men are lucky.  Their fashions are so much simpler, and not nearly so expensive.”

“But their fashions can't compare to ours,” Molly said as she and Irene began opening the packages. 

The first box that the latter unlidded contained a corset.  She regarded its plain design.  It was the type that women customarily wore under their everyday clothes.  “Myra won't like this one bit,” she thought.  Out loud, she said, “Men always think that corsets are silly.”

Molly smiled.  “Men like corsets well enough on a pretty girl.  Especially when the girl ain’t wearing much else.  Most saloon dancer outfits don't amount t’much more than corsets dressed up with feathers and lace frillery.”

Irene's tried not to blush.  “That's right, you mentioned...”  She trailed off.

“That I was a dancing girl?”  Molly didn't look embarrassed.  “It's all right t’be talking about it.  I am what I am.  I was what I was.  The fact is, I've liked t’dance ever since I was a little girl.  'Tis the Irish in me.  Stage dancing was me first serious job outside the home.”

“What kind of a life is that, especially for a na├»ve girl on her own?”


The older woman shrugged.   "Well, 'naive' didn't exactly fit me, not even back then.  The family left the Auld Country in '48.  There was lots of fever on the boat and some of us got sick with it.  Me ma and me little brother, Dermot, died in a hospital in New York.  With the gold rush just getting started, Papa went along with the excitement and took us West in 1849.  He met Fiona Bourke on the trail, and she helped him with us kids.  By the time we reached San Francisco, they were already married.

"It didn't seem right; I though he should mourn longer.  I coulda kept the house and looked after the younger ones meself.  After a year of me locking horns with me stepmother over this and that, Papa set me up to marry an Irishman named Michael.  I didn't love him, but I liked him well enough, so I said I would.  Mostly, I just wanted to get away from home.  But Mike went off to the gold fields and I never heard from him again.
 
"I was just eighteen.  I'd lost me chance to marry, but didn't want to stay home.  I went down to the busy part of town by the harbor and looked for a job.  I coulda earned pennies at pot scrubbing or doing maid work, but I found a sign that said that a saloon was looking for dancing girls.  I'd heard people say that dancers made a lot of money.  I knew me pa and step-ma wouldn't care for it, but I had me own ideas.  As soon as I got me first pay, I took a little room in the same house as me folks.  I might as well'uv moved a mile away.  They refused to talk to me for months after that.”

Irene frowned, but didn't say anything.

“Me first day on the job, I met Shamus, who was tending at the bar.  He got a little fresh the first time we spoke, but I put my foot down then and there, and his manners improved.

“Anyway, a dancer's life is a mix.  Being out of the home gave me a different picture of how things work.  I learned that a person gets out of life just about what he puts into it.  The way he earns his bread isn't all that important – so long as it's honest.”

Irene remained at a loss to reply.  At that point, Molly unwrapped another corset.  “Ah, here it is!  The one you found is for around the house.  This is the kind that girls like to wear beneath a nice dress when they're going to a shindig or a social.”

“It's pretty,” Irene agreed.  The item displayed a great deal embroidery and lace. 

“I picked up a picnic dress for the young lady, too,” Molly remarked.  She unwrapped a yellow cotton frock and held it up for Mrs. Fanning's approval.  It had short sleeves, a tight waist, and white trimming.  “This is a good one for when Myra is going out among folks.  When a young lady comes into town for the first time, most everyone is going to be interested in her.  But if she stays a mystery for too long, people start to wonder who exactly she might be.  If they guess things right, Myra won't be happy.  We need to be hurrying her along, to get her acting natural-like.”

Irene next examined a winter coat, something that Myra very much needed, with colder days setting in.   “These are wonderful garments.  Thank you, Molly.  Before Myra tries any of them on, though, she'll need a bath.  We ought to give her one right away.  I've got a full trough warming in the sun.  It won't have gotten too warm at this time of year, but there's a kettle of water I'm heating for doing laundry.  We can add it to the tub instead.”

“Good.  Another sponge bath will be enough.  I'll fix her hair afterwards.”

The pair fetched an oval tub from the shed and placed it close to the fireplace, whose low flames Irene fed with some dry sticks and a couple small blocks of wood.   The blaze quickly grew larger and gave off a lively crackle.  Then they carried in buckets of trough water to fill the container to a little more than ankle depth.  Finally, Irene dropped into it a lump of store-bought bath soap and also a sea sponge.  It was now time to call Myra in.  When the girl sullenly appeared, suspicious of what was in store for her, Irene told her to undress for bathing.  The girl, unprepared for this event, reflexively protested.  “I had a bath three days ago!”

“Don't be silly,” her aunt said.  “You've been working up a sweat doing chores.”  Irene went to the cast-iron cook stove, where she used a pair of kitchen mitts to take a blackened kettle off the burner.  She poured its steaming contents into the cool water of the tub.  “Now, get in, use the soap, and scrub yourself well before it cools too much.”

Myra was standing close to the receptacle, reluctant to take off her clothes.  As Thorn, she had gotten over her bashfulness at being nude in front of a woman, as long as the latter undressed first, but this wasn't like that. 

“Why so shy?” Molly asked.  “Ye ain’t got nothing that yuir aunt and I ain’t seen ten thousand times.  But since ye’re not used t'having what ye have, Irene and me'll be strolling outside for our chat.  Wash yuir hair first, and use a decent amount of shampoo t’do it.”

Irene provided her niece with a terry velvet towel and a bottle of hair soap.  “When you're done, dry yourself completely.”

With the women gone, Myra worked fast, wanting to be done and covered up before the two harpies came back.  She slipped out of her shoes and peeled off her woolen socks, and then shed the apron.  Following that, she squirmed out of her flannel dress.

This brought her down to her a chemise, a garment that afforded her needed warmth for the season.  Its removal left Myra chilly, standing there in no more than her knee-length drawers.  With a glance toward the door, the potion girl completed her disrobing.  Tentatively stepping into the tub, she found it a little cool, but bearable.  An oval of white soap was floating next to her ankle, but she had been ordered to wash her hair before doing anything else.

Though the bathtub was scarcely wide enough to kneel inside, she was able to bring her head down enough to dip her hair.   With eyes closed to keep the water out, she groped for the bottle of shampoo.

Having found it, Myra dribbled some into her right palm and, with long strokes, petted it over her wet tresses.  With hair so lengthy, she had to use a larger portion of the shampoo than she had ever needed as a boy.  Still hurrying, the potion girl dunked her mane again and worked the soap thought it.  When it seemed well lathered, she hurriedly dunked her scalp and rinsed.

Myra then straightened and pressed the excess water from her locks.  It made no sense to dry it too much, since she still had a lot of washing to do.  Rescuing the body soap from the bath, Myra rubbed the slippery bar over her arms and torso.  Next, she took the sponge and used it to work up some suds.  Upon touching her breasts, she remembered how sensitive they were and how good rubbing them felt.  It gave her insight as to why Gilana would moan so when Myron had petted her pair.  Myra realized that, by comparison, male breasts didn't have much in the way of sensation at all.

But the maiden's strongest reaction came when she worked the soft, wet sponge over her pubic area.  She gasped, just like Gilana had done when touched between her legs.  Myra wondered.  Were all women's bodies like this?  The girl frowned.  If they were, why did even the sluttiest of them always put off a man until he first gave her whatever she wanted?  So many things about women made no sense.

Yet there was a lot about them that aroused a male's interest.  Thorn had always wanted a flashy, exciting sort of girl, like Gilana, not any of the drabs that most men ended up marrying.  He had learned that having a doll baby on his arm was one of the easiest ways for a man to get respect.  Spending a lot and giving folks a good time was another, but he'd never had enough money on hand to head down that road.

Myra rinsed off the lather and then toweled herself.  She was mostly dry when there came voices from outside.  She wrapped the towel around her hips, which left her maidenly breasts in plain view.  She rethought this display quickly and re-draped the wrap to conceal them.

Molly entered first and pursed her lips approvingly at what she saw.  “Come on out and dry yuirself off.  Do yuir feet first,” she said, and then went to rummage through the rows of open boxes on the meal table.

She selected a couple items and brought them over.  Myra, having dried, was standing there with the dank towel held up in front of her body.  “Here, lassie, put on yuir drawers first.  Then slip into this chemise.”

Myra had to obey.  The saloon woman's crisp orders always made her scramble.  The cautious way that Irene usually spoke left her unsure, at times, whether she was being ordered or not.  Molly O'Toole regarded the girl's movements as she dressed.  “Ye’re looking better already,” the saloon woman adjudged.  She went back to the boxes and returned with the stylish corset, light blue muslin trimmed with lace and pearls.  Myra gritted her teeth.  It was a thing that would have looked mighty pretty worn by Gilana, but the thought of putting on such a rig was enough to make her want to kill someone. 

“Usually corsets aren't so comfortable to sleep in, so ye don't have to.  But when ye’re up and about during the daytime, ye should be wearing one.  It keeps a body looking trim and full-bosomed, something the boys like to see.  And a fancy corset'll make ye feel all gussied up, even if the dress ye have isn't a fancy one.  Be careful; some girls want to fix them too awful tight, and that can be punishing.  

“This sort here is for dress-up occasions,” Molly explained.  “I also bought ye a couple plain ones for around the farm.  Ye'll find out that corsets are a smidgen constricting sometimes, like if ye’re bending or crawling.  Ye can loosen ‘em or even take ‘em off if ye get too uncomfortable, but otherwise keep yuir corset on.  Going around without one just ain’t respectable.”

“Says you!” Myra snarled.

“Aye, says me,” replied Molly.  “Besides everything else, a corset supports yuir back and makes it easy for ye t’be standing up straight.  Slouching ain’t never attractive.”

“Why would I ever want to be attractive?” the girl challenged.

“Ye'll be figuring that out yuirself, once ye get used to being a lassie.”

The red-haired woman turned Myra around, and then enveloped the girl's slim torso in the frilly, steel-boned garment.  Molly needed a few minutes to lace the draw-cords.  When finished, she tugged the strings firmly and Myra felt the infernal piece snug up around her.

“Ye feel like ye're being hugged, don't ye?  Nice, isn't it?  Since y'er not used to corsets, ye have to go easy at first.   Wear one for about two hours a day, until it remembers yuir shape.  Since ye've got three of them to break in, it'll be weeks before they'll all be fit for day-long wear.”

Next came Myra's new petticoat, looking like a lacy, starched skirt.  Myra didn't like the weight of all that material.  It felt bulky and flared out so much that it would probably knock objects over whenever she walked too close to something.  Petticoats, corsets?  Why did women choose to wear such dumb clothes?

“Ye’re lucky that hoops aren't the fashion nowadays,” said Molly.  “I hope they never come back, in fact.  Now what all the high-toned ladies like wearing is the bustle, but I didn’t get ye one of those.  There probably won't be much call for them around Eerie. 

“Irene, would ye be handing me the yellow dress?” the Irish woman requested.  Myra glanced toward her aunt to see what was coming next.  The fancy outfit selected by her Irene was the type that girls wore to look pretty in public.  For that reason, she immediately disliked it.

Molly helped the scowling maiden put the apparel on, and then adjusted the way it hung.  “I don't see it will take very much alteration,” she adjudged.  “How are ye with the needle, Mrs. Fanning?”

“I believe I can do the piece justice.”

“Please sit down, Myra,” Molly directed.  “You'll be needing t’keep your hair looking neat.”  The girl did as told and the town woman began to comb out her locks with long strokes.

Just then, there came a knock on the door.  Irene, when she opened it, found George Severin on the other side, his straw hat held in his hands. 

“Mrs. Fanning,” he said.  “I heard the news from town.  Did Myra get hurt any up in the Gap?”

Irene stepped aside.  “You can see for yourself.  She's a very brave girl.”

Myra rolled her eyes to the ceiling.  Being seen this way, by the likes of George Severin especially, was almost as bad as being caught naked.

Wellll,” George drawled appreciatively, “that's a right fine new frock.  You look ready to take off for a square dance.”

“Fat chance!” came Myra's gruff reply.  “What're you doing out here?  Hoping to find out I was kilt?”

“Hardly that, gal,” he said.  He pivoted toward Irene.  “I wanted to ask, ma'me, if you'll be wanting me around tomorrow.”  Then he glanced back at Myra.  “After such a scare, I was wondering whether your niece might be having a fit of vapors and'ld be taking it easy for a while.  I reckoned her chores would still need doing.”

The girl stood up stiffly.  “I've rested enough.  I got more wood to cut before dinner.”

George grinned.  “In that fancy new dress?  You might tear it.  I got an hour to spare.  What would you ladies say if I finished the chopping while Myra is busy being pretty?  No charge for the work.”

Irene blinked bemusedly.  “Oh, we can't ask for favors, George.  We wouldn't want to take advantage of a boy who must have plenty to do at home.”

“Well, it seems to me that there's a kind of pay that I'd powerfully appreciate.  I was wondering if Miss Myra might do me the kindness of keeping me company while I finish the chopping.  That would be payment enough.”

“I don't think so,” the girl answered with a chilly tone.

The youth didn't looked too dejected.  “To be honest, Miss Myra, I was mostly hoping to talk a little in private, so I could ask about something.”

“The answer is no, whatever it is!”

“What did you wish to ask her?” inquired Irene.

George glanced down.  “It's just that there's the Christmas dance coming up next week, ma'me.  The younger ladies hereabouts are all married, too young, older than me, or they're being courted by someone.  Your niece doesn't know many local people yet.  I'd like very much to escort her to the festivities.”

“No!  Absolutely not!” Myra declared.

Irene looked askance at Molly.  She was thinking that it might be too early for Myra to be going to socials.  The Irish woman, on the other hand, seemed to be considering it.

“Myra,” Mrs, Fanning said, “be polite.  Go chat with George while he works.  It isn't much to ask in exchange for all the help he's giving us.”

The girl's eyes flashed, but she had her orders.  She started for the door in stockinged feet.

“Don't be so eager, Myra,” Molly cautioned.  “Put on yuir new shoes first.  And be careful ye don't get y'er fetching new dress dirty while ye’re outside,” she added.

The lass returned a surely look and paused to don her footwear.  Molly stepped up behind her.  “Let me tie your hair, so it doesn't get tangled in the breeze.”  With a red ribbon, she created a bow to fix Myra's lengthy tresses into a sleek ponytail.  The girl, not wanting to see her reflection, resumed her departure.   With the sun shining in a clear sky, the day wasn't chilly and so she didn't bother putting on a coat. 

Irene glanced at Molly.  “Did you have some advice?”

“About whether it’s too soon t’be sending Myra out among folks?”

“Yes.  She's so embarrassed about people looking at her as a pretty girl.”

Molly rolled that question around in her mind.  “She's tough-minded for her age.  The dance ain’t for a week; so here's my advice:  Take her into town for a wee bit of shopping tomorrow, or the day after.  We'll both see how she handles herself out among folks.  If she braves it out well enough, I think she might be doing right well at the party.  Getting her off the farm as soon as possible might even be a good idea.  We don't want to give her time t’be settling into reclusive ways.”

“Are you sure?”

“To be telling the truth, I've never worked with a potion girl so young.  There's Emma O'Hanlan, but upstanding folks like her parents keep their kids clear of us saloon people.  I know the older potion girls, but socializing is probably going to be harder for Myra than it was for them.  They didn't have to pretend to be normal among hoity-toity people.  The saloon crowd gave ‘em allowance if they made a misstep now and then.  Myra is bound and determined t'make people believe that she's a lassie like any other.  It might be a harder trick to pull off than any of us know.”



END OF PART 1; Continued in Chapter 5, Part 2

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Falling Star: Chapt. 7, Part 1

Posted 03-07-18
Revised 03-25-18



An Angel From Hell story

By Christopher Leeson


Chapter 7, Part 1



The girl from Hollywood didn't have much more to say until the snow started falling.

“I enjoy snowy winters,” she murmured. “I used to walk in the park whenever the snow was falling. It was prettier than in summer.” She paused briefly, her face mirroring sadness. “I guess I wouldn't be allowed to do that anymore. Mom says there's a lot of drug dealing and assaults happening in the park lately. That's crazy. We aren't even a big city.”

The Watcher had just turned on the windshield wipers. She said, “That's sort of times we're living in.” Jezebel could have said much more, could have informed her about what was behind the chaos, and who was benefiting from it. But knowing more than she did wouldn't have made the ex-singer feel any better.

In mid-afternoon, they hit Omaha proper. An exit and five minutes of weaving between apartment buildings took them into a basement garage beneath the low-rent complex where Jill Arendel lived. 
Had lived.

Jezebel led her guest into the nearest elevator that took them to the third floor. She unlocked her apartment door and entered first. Holly followed carefully, avoiding the clutter on the floor.

“It sure is a mess,” the blonde admitted as she set a bag of groceries down upon the kitchen counter.

“Yeah,” the singer affirmed quietly.

Jezebl claimed a spot on the couch that was vacant of misplaced objects, magazines, and empty boxes. Holly crossed to the easy chair, from whose cushion she removed a week-old newspaper.

“I feel like crying,” the latter remarked.

The Watcher nodded. “Housekeeping and I aren't on a first name basis.”

“No, it's just that I can't stop thinking.”

“About what?”

“About how bad things have gotten in the last couple days. And I thought I'd hit bottom in Manville. My name and my job have been stolen. I don't know how I'm supposed to live, or where I'm supposed to go from here.”

“The last part is easy,” said the other woman. “We're supposed to go to a certain Holiday Inn room tomorrow.”

“I wish I could tell my mother that I'm all right.”

Jezebel shook her head. “Like we discussed before, that wouldn't be a good idea.”

“I could at least write her a letter. From a different state from where I'm living, I mean.”

“Think about it. You'd have to say that you're being impersonated. You'd probably want to warn her that she's being watched constantly. You'd also have to explain that you're a fugitive, that the police can't help you, and that you can probably never come home. If you just say nothing, she'll go on believing that you're making a success of yourself in Hollywood and enjoying the high life. The worst thing you could do to a mother's peace of mind would be to let her know that her child is sad, afraid, and broke.”

“Why can't this be fixed?”

“Because it can't be. The power against you is too great. You've already done the only thing you could have; you ran away.”

Holly's glance dropped to the carpet. “You never asked why I ran away.”

The Watcher tossed her shoulders. “It was Hollywood. I can think of a thousand good reasons to run away.”

“I wish I could tell you how awful things were.”

“Would you feel better talking about it?”

Holly sighed. “I don't know. Mostly, I've been trying to forget. Do we have anything else we can talk about?”

“We can talk about how great its going to be having bananas for supper. Or should I say dinner? In the farm country, dinner was the mid-day meal.”

The waitress regarded her. “You're a farm girl? That's nice. Did you have a horse?”

“Not really. There were lots of cats, though.”

The topic didn't inspire any more discussion; moreover, something else seemed to be on Holly's mind.

“Can we be friends, Jill? You're not an easy person to get to know, but I've been lousy at picking friends. The industry people I knew either wanted me to do bad things, or else they wanted to do bad things to me.”

The angel decided to humor her. “Sure, we're friends,” she said. But Jezebel was not in a good mood herself. Occupying Jill's apartment was making her more depressed by the moment. If the dull ache she was feeling wasn't loneliness, she didn't know a better name for it.

“If it doesn't hurt too much, you can tell me whatever you want to,” she told Holly.

The girl looked unsure, reluctant to take the lid off a box of memories that contained so many horrifying objects.

She finally said, “I was supposed to kill a kidnapped baby at a party, and...drink its blood. They thought I should bite and chew, too, but that was optional. There was going to be maybe fifty people watching me do it. So many smiling faces; not one of them seemed surprised.

"Then I was supposed to smear the blood all over myself while they chanted. It was supposed to bring in a demon to possess me. Friends were saying that it was a good thing, that no star ever stayed on top for long without a demon keeping him or her great. They told me that all the best people had demons, including the queen and king of cool, Ceyonce and Lay-Z.” At that point, she choked.

Jezebel waited, expecting more.

“You aren't even horrified?” Holly asked.

The Watcher held her face steady. “There's nothing that can surprise me. I know the kind of people you're talking about.”

Holly's stare was incredulous. “When you talk that way, you sound like a spy character in some weird horror movie.”

The angel held her eyes with her own.  “Where do you think the people who write those movies get their ideas? It's not like they have imagination. It's from the things they've seen and the things they've done.”

“Why doesn't someone tell the president?”

“The presidents have all known. Ngugi wa Nazizi, George W. Beans, Bill Skragg, and H.W. Beans all knew and didn't care. They actually hosted parties worse than the ones you were at.  Take it from me.”

“The new one, too? Champion?”

“It's too soon to know. Bad people hate him, though, so maybe that's a good sign.”

Holly shook her hanging head.  “It's like I've ended up on an alien planet. Why would anyone want to go on living in a world like this?”

“Because the alternative is so much worse?” Jezebel suggested.

Holly sighed. “I feel like Alice in Wonderland. Is there any way out of this rabbit hole?”

“None that I know of.”

The brunette looked up. “Am I going to have to be alone from now on? Will I have to go into a witness protection program?”

“Maybe we'll find that out tomorrow.”

“Jill, if we're friends, please tell me who and what you are! You never seem afraid of anything, and you fight like a soldier. You frightened me at first, but you've been risking your life to get me out of trouble and I don't know why. I'd almost think that you're from the government, except you don't seem to trust the government.”

“I've had a selfish reason to help you. But, no, I'm not from the government. Not your government, at least.”

The girl in the chair met the angel's glance. “Are you a...Russian?”

Jezebel gave a weak smile. “No, but I can pull off a pretty good Russian impersonation. Do you want to see it?”

Holly seemed on the edge of crying in earnest.

“Look...Susan..., the angel said, “you're here because someone wants to help you. It's not that you deserve help. You made some bad choices and trusted some bad people. Despite all that, there's somebody who thinks you can amount to something, if you change your ways and figure out what's really important. If you do, he's going to keep on helping you.”

The looked girl looked askance. “Who? Is it somebody I've met?”

Jezebel looked away. “I'd rather not say.”

“Why?”

“If I started spilling secrets, you'd want to know more and then more. You'd keep us up all night. I'm not good at answering questions; it makes me cranky, and you don't want to see me cranky. Anyway, I used to think I could have it all, too, and it made a mess out of my life. I don't think that I'm the best person to set you right.”

“Right about what?”

“About the way the world really is.”

“Then who can set me right?”

“I hope we find that out tomorrow.”

#

The Holiday Inn was located at the western fringe of downtown. The note they'd found in Alliance hadn't given any special time of day, so the Watcher drove Holly to the address right after breakfast. She parked in the visitors' lot and led her ward through its glass doors.

Having reached the fourth floor, Jezebel tensed. She realized that if hostiles lay in wait, she'd be very vulnerable. She had gone into bed early the night before,even though it would have been wiser to have gone to a pick-up bar where she could have gotten recharged with lust-energy.  She worried that she had experienced one of those emotional reactions that made human behavior so erratic. Even a young and vital mortal body like Jill Arendel's apparently had severe limits.

There was a sign down the hall from where the girls stood.  It read, “Stairs.”

“Holly,” Jezebel told her ward, “hide behind that stairway door and wait for me to come back. I don't know who or what we'll find up here. We need to play it safe.”

“Will you be safe?”

“No, I won't be.” She handed the girl her purse. “Take this. If I don't get back in ten minutes, or if something happens that frightens you, head out of Omaha. Take the car. Maybe go into Iowa.”

“Then what?”

“Then you're on your own.”

Holly looked dismayed.

“If I'm able,” Jezebel promised, “I'll try to find you. I'm good at finding people. I have...connections.”

The Watcher then advanced down the hall like  stalking hunter. She arrived at a door displaying the number 432 and braced herself. In Jezebel's right coat pocket nestled her Walther; it was all she had to depend on. With her finger resting lightly on its trigger, she knocked.

 The door opened quickly, as if the person on the other side had been waiting for someone to arrive. A young woman was looking out at her, while over the girl's shoulder stood a middle-aged man wearing suspenders and a white shirt. No weapons were in view, nothing seemed materially threatening. But the sight of the girl put Jezebel aback! She glowed violet like a Nephilim, and possessed the face of a dead woman.

A particular dead woman.

Diana Spinster, Princess of Wales!

With speed, Jezebel shoved her welcomer into the room, twisted her bare right arm behind her back, and quick-drew the pistol. This she held aimed at the man's breast.

“Who are you?” the male asked, stepping back until his legs touched the still-unmade bed.

“I'll ask the questions,” the angel said. “Who are you and why are you here?”

“My daughter and I are vacationing?” he said cautiously. His accent was upper-South.

“In Omaha in January? Yeah, I bet you're having a wonderful time. Did you know your 'daughter' isn't human. Or that's she's wearing the face of a deceased member of English royalty?”

“How can you see that?” the man asked with apparent amazement.

“You do the answering first. And be careful. I'm pretty good at picking out lies.”

The Southerner, looking perplexed, lifted his stare to the ceiling. Jezebel quickly glanced upward to see what he was looking at, but noticed nothing out of the ordinary. The male's brows were tensed, as if listening to something. Then he began nodding, like one who was receiving instructions.

Jezebel took the risk of weakening her hold on the girl while she shut the door behind her and locked it. The Nephilim didn't make a break-away attempt.

“The truth is, we were waiting for someone to join us,” the man said. “Might that be you?”

The Watcher had sized him up as harmless, but wasn't willing to bet her life on a mere physical impression. She asked, “What's the matter? Don't you know whom you're expecting.”

“We were told to await a young woman. But we weren't warned to expect anyone so...formidable.”

“Warned by whom?” Jezebel demanded, feeling as tense as a bow string.

“By one who wishes our visitor well,” the male answered.

“What's the name of the girl of yours?” she asked.

“Her name is Frances. Don't hurt her.”

Who was he kidding? Frances was the middle name of Diana Spinster. Jezebel knew that many Nephilim were shape-shifters, but why would this one have chosen to wear a guise that millions would have recognized from television and tabloid covers?

“Listen, Buba,” said Jezebel, “I'm not asking who this masquerading bimbo is; I want to know who's the girl you're waiting for.”

“We don't know. The message only told us that she needed help and refuge. Please – no shooting, no violence. The Lord wants me to be frank with you. Ask us anything; there is no danger or guile here.”

Jezebel frowned and said, “Okay, tell me your name, where do you come from? Prove that...Jesus...talks to the likes of you.”

The man took a second gander at the ceiling. “The young lady is asking for confirmation, Lord. What shall I tell her?” He again listened – or pretended to listen.  A moment later, he looked at Jezebel and said, “The Lord speaks two names. I don't know what they mean.”

“What names?”

“Jezebel and Delilah.”

The angel blinked. Nobody on Earth, not even Holly, should have known those names. The easiest explanation was that the man really did have contact with the Son, but not everything added up. “Your so-called daughter is descended from fallen angels. What kind of a mother does she have?”

He sighed, as if caught in a lie. “I am her guardian, not her parent. You are correct. She is a...Nephilim. Of her own free will, Frances has come from a place of darkness, renouncing evil and seeking salvation. There is no reason to fear her.”

During this conversation, the angel had been looking through Frances' violet aura, but at that moment its color changed to silver-white.

Jezebel shoved the girl away, but continued to hold the gun on both of them.

“She's able to turn aura colors; what's going on?”

“What are you? Who are you?” the Nephilim suddenly asked.

“Shut up and answer my questions,” Jezebel snarled. The Watcher wasn't sure what to do. A silver-white aura signified divinity, a  high degree of spiritual refinement.  It betokened everything that a Nephilim shouldn't possess.  All of this might all be a trick. Experience had taught her that when in doubt, execute the enemies in front of you and make a fast getaway.

“I'm Orson Garland, Reverend,” the man said. “From Arkansas. My church is small, but I have an Internet ministry as well. This lovely young lady with me is...”

The Nephilim clenched her guardian's sleeve. “No, Garland. She might be an enemy.”

He shook his head. “Open your heart, dear Frances. The Lord is with us. See our visitor through His eyes. Your insight may be able to confirm for us whether she's friend or foe.”

“Princess Di” still looking unsure, did as told. “I've been under the protection of grace since 1997,” she told Jezebel.  

The girl's accent had changed. Before, she had spoken with an Arkansas drawl; now she had the diction of an upper-class Londoner.

“You shouldn't have been able to see my aura or discern my real face,” Frances continued.

“Yeah, well, maybe grace isn't all it's cracked up to be,” replied the Watcher.

“Is your name Jezebel or Deliah?” asked the reverend.

Jazebel's answering tone was cold. “Jill will do. I didn't pick those names, and I don't care for either one of them.”

Orman Garland smiled. “Our names are usually bestowed by those who love us best. Was that not true in your case?” When the angel stayed stony silent, he said, “But we shall call you Jill, if you like. Why are you seeking refuge, child?”

Jezebel still couldn't make head or tail of things. Why would the Father put a Nephilim in her path, unless she was suppose to eliminate it? “I'm willing to hear you out,” she said, “because this setup seems just too crazy to be part of any Cabalist con.”

Orman's brows went up. “The Cabal is involved? I did not realize that. This is very serious.”

“How much do you know about the Cabal?”

“What I know is little, but even that much is terrible. They work to prepare the world for the Anti-Christ. They seek to destroy the righteous.  Every evil they prefer to call good, every good they prefer to call evil.  They have already built many death camps for the faithful of God, using the peoples' own tax money.”

“Yeah, that's the package,” Jezebel confirmed. “Listen, I can't stay here. This could too easily be a trap.” She noticed a hotel-provided Omaha Visitor's Guide next to the television set. Taking it in hand, the Watcher flipped through the pages, while still keeping one eye on the couple.

“There's a fast-food place called Culver's. It's an easy walk southwest of here. Give me a twenty minute's head start and then buy a lunch there. Sit at the most private table available. I'll join you when I decide it's safe, and then we'll talk things out. Don't bring any uncongenial friends along to murder me, because I'll know if you do.”

Then she lowered her Walther, just a bit, and evacuated the room cautiously.

TO BE CONTINUED in Chapter 7, Part 2