The Haunting of Jennifer Kelly
A Whateley Academy 2nd Generation Tale
E. E. Nalley
Now it's happened once or twice
Someone couldn't pay the price
And I'm afraid I had to rake 'em 'cross the coals
Yes I've had the odd complaint
But on the whole I've been a saint...
Pat Carroll, Poor, Unfortunate Souls
October 8th, 2016
AMTRAC Nor'easter Express, north of Boston, MA
Jennifer drummed her fingers on the armrest as she watched the scenery fly past the window. It was still a bit early for true New England in the autumn scenery, but the country side was a pleasant change of pace from city. Some part of her vaguely remembered making this same trip, feelings of excitement and thrilling expectation and faces without the lit candles of thought for names. With each passing mile she felt more and more dread like a condemned prisoner walking her last mile towards execution.
Things would change because of this, of that she was certain, but how or to what was beyond her. She had tried to make her lover aware of her misgivings, but Sarah had only smiled and assured her of how pleasant the journey would be. They would spend the weekend in some quaint New England bed and breakfast, have a romantic get away, and finally put all these fears and worries behind them. Jennifer shook as she caught sight of her reflection in the window glass as though Wicked was watching her, waiting to strike and destroy her utterly.
Give me back my life.
Jennifer shuddered and the train rolled on down the tracks.
* * *
October 8th, 2016
Laird Hall Tunnel System Entrance, Laird Hall, Whateley Academy
The Cody children burst from the tunnel system, panting after their breath from the dead run their fear had spurred them to. They were both white-faced and pale and looked at each other to prove they had in fact seen what they thought they had seen. “What...what was that?” panted Connie. Junior shook his head to indicate his own ignorance
“I...I think Perry knows, but he won't tell me,” he panted before in his head he heard the spirit's perfect mental tenor.
It's for your own good, Young One.
“We should go to a grown up,” Connie opined reasonably. “With the stuff in the tricorder...”
Wyatt frowned and finally rested stood up straight. “And get our butts tanned for going where we shouldn't, and taking mom's tricorder? Not to mention practically all it said was 'unknown'! What good will that do?”
Connie reached for the device, still in her brother's hands. “That's not all...” she started, but the boy tried to keep control of the device and pulled it back, however Connie had just enough of a grip that there was resistance and it was pulled from both of their hands. They both fumbled for it, knocking it higher into the air until it landed on it's side on the concrete to a most unsettling crack! The screen now hung at an odd angle and none of the lights lit up.
“Oh...shit...” whispered Junior using his favorite of the obscenities he had heard his father use. “Now what are we gonna do?”
Wyatt frowned as he picked up the broken device and turned on his sister. “Stop pointing fingers!” he snapped. “We're both in it up to our necks now!”
“What...what if we get it fixed?” Connie asked.
“Who can do that?” demanded Wyatt, then at the same moment the twins looked each other in the eye and at the exact same moment they both exclaimed “Laura!” and took off at a dead run for Poe Cottage.
* * *
October 8th, 2016
Enterprise Rent-A-Car, 479 Main S Berlin, NH
“Now!” Sarah said brightly as she shut the trunk of the Ford Mustang, the two women had rented, over their luggage. “We just need directions to this school and...”
“Pardon me, Miss Sherlock Holmes,” Jennifer said drolly from looking at her tablet, “but has it proven 'elementary' to you that today is Saturday?”
Sarah allowed her full lips to pull into a frown. “As I am a doctor that would make you Holmes, but dare I ask, 'So what?'” she demanded.
“Well,” Kelly drawled, obviously enjoying teasing her girl friend. “It's elementary, my dear Williams! I don't know how they do things in Nairobi, but here in the States, High Schools aren't open on Saturday.”
Williams' frown deepened as Jennifer mentioned the city of her birth to an expatriate British Colonel and the daughter of a Maasai cattle rancher. She had won a scholarship to the University of New York School of Medicine and been granted a permanent resident green card, after graduation, for her internship and settled. She was actually quite proud of the citizenship she had earned and it sometimes irked her that her lover teased her about it. “It is a boarding school,” she replied tartly. “I don't know how things happen in the States, but in Kenya unsupervised teenagers are a disaster in the making!”
“Oh, without doubt,” Jennifer agreed, turning the tablet to where her lover could see the map on it. “But here, rank hath its privileges, and my money is that neither the headmaster nor the assistant are on the grounds today. But, as luck would have it, there is only one Hartford listed in the Berlin phone book. Shall we pay the Assistant Headmistress a visit?”
Sarah rolled her eyes, but got into the sports car, which roared to life and was quickly across the little hamlet of a town to a very upscale apartment complex. There was an entry gate, but it stood open and allowed the women to enter the complex and after a few minutes of slowly cruising they found the correct building and got out. The cocky tease had left Jennifer and she was visibly nervous as Sarah came around the car to comfort her. “You weren't really bad enough to be called a super villain love. I don't know what drove you to steal, but you're not that person any more, ok?”
Jennifer sighed and nodded, obviously pulling her courage about her. The pair walked over to the door of the correct unit and knocked. From inside, a disgruntled voice ordered, “Go away!” The pair exchanged a look and Sarah knocked again, a bit firmer.
“Ms Hartford? I'm very sorry to disturb you on your Saturday, but if we could have just a few minutes of your time...?”
The door was snatched open and a lovely blonde with disheveled hair and bags under her eyes, from lack of sleep, stared angrily at the women. “I said...” she began, then stopped, her gaze fixed on Jennifer. “You dyed your hair?” she asked.
Jennifer licked her lips. “You...you know me?” she asked.
“What has gotten into you, Elaine Cody?” Amelia snapped. “Of course I know you! Now, what do you want and who is this?” she demanded, waving a hand at Sarah.
“My name is Jennifer,” the brunette replied. “Jennifer Kelly. The Department of Paranormal Affairs website says you entered the data for my MID, my code name was Wicked. I...I was a jewel thief evidently and...”
“What are you babbling about?” Hartford demanded. “Jennifer....wait...” The blonde stood up a little straighter and wiped ineffectually at her hair. “I...I think you both better come in,” she said finally. She stood aside and the two women cautiously entered the apartment. There was a fair amount of clutter that Amelia apologized for, picking up microwave food wrappers and two empty bottles of wine in an otherwise very nicely furnished living room. “I...I haven't been myself since the accident...”
“Accident?” asked Sarah. The question seemed to galvanize Amelia as she threw away the trash.
“Who are you?” she demanded.
“Doctor Sarah Aitapuk Williams,” she answered primly. “I am Jennifer's girlfriend! Not that it is any of your business! We do not mean to intrude on you, Headmisstress, but...”
“I no longer work for Whateley Academy.” she replied. She sank into a chair facing the couch, her two visitors sat at, and ran her hands through her hair. “I don't understand, her girlfriend? When did you divorce Wyatt?”
Jennifer shook at the names and held her hands to her head. “I...I don't know what you're talking about,” she cried. “My name is Jennifer! Jennifer Kelly and...!”
“For the love of God, Elaine, stop it!” Hartford snapped. “Jennifer Kelly is a figment of my imagination! What is this? Some sick joke? Did that little cock sucker Mazarin put you up to this?” she shouted. “How could you, Elaine! After I lost Frederick and...!”
“My name is Jennifer!” Kelly screamed at the older woman, shaking with fear and her eyes wide. “I am not Wicked! I am NOT!”
Sarah gathered her lover into her arms and comforted her. To Hartford, she said, “Jennifer was injured in the explosion of Night Death's New York Lair. The same explosion that killed Solange. She was in a coma for a year and woke up with amnesia. We...I...that is, I was on staff at the hospice where she was recovering and, when she woke up we...um...started dating. She was released from my care at that point!” Sarah added quickly.
“But, if...then...” Amelia stuttered, as her mind tried to process the information. “Elaine must have gone with Solange...of course she did! They were lov...” she looked at the emotional woman on her couch then a light come up behind her eyes. “Listen to me,” she said, coming to kneel beside Jennifer and take her hands. “Your name, your real name, is Elaine Cody. Jennifer Kelly does not exist, and never did! She was a collection of records I forged for you to go undercover and assist in the capture of a dangerous villain named Freya. Your degrees, your MID, all of it is fake. You aren't a thief, but the identity we made for you was so you could infiltrate her organization.”
“I...but..what? What?” Jennifer reared back in confusion. “Then...what...who...I don't even know how old I am!”
“Twenty six,” Amelia shot back which caused Jennifer to giggle, despite her emotions.
Turning to her lover, she said, “I guess you are the cradle robber now!”
Amelia became a bit cross. “Never mind that! Your life has been stolen from you! There is an imposter, pretending to be you on campus!” Amelia's grip on her hands squeezed her in consolation. “Elaine, you and I are victims of a conspiracy! There is a group, called the Syndicate. They replaced you and maneuvered to have me fired! Two months ago, most of the trustees of the school along with my...with Headmistress Elizabeth Carson and my fiancee, Fredrick Coveanu were...misplaced is the best word I can think of. There was an accident ... in the devisor tunnels. The tunnels beneath the school?" she added on seeing Jennifer's puzzled look. "Something ... happened. Everyone says they couldn't have survived, but I know they are still alive!" Her eyes brightened. "With your help we can save them and all your answers will be revealed!”
Jennifer looked up cautiously. “Ho...how?”
Amelia turned to Sarah. “You are an MD? What specialty?”
“I'm an Internist and a GP...” she started.
“Perfect!” Glowed Hartford with a grin. “It will take some planning, but I am not without influence at the school still. Doctor Williams, how would you like to work at the medical facility for the study of mutation?”
Williams blinked. “Doyle Medical? Well, I...I have heard of it, of course, but...”
“You will be our eyes on campus,” Amelia went on. “You'll have to be careful, but with you there, we can expose this conspiracy, you get your answers Elaine and we,” She sighed and grinned as if a great weight had been lifted and an unholy fire lit behind her eyes. “We will save my fiancee and Mrs Carson and everything will be alright again!”
* * *
October 8th, 2016
Room 211, Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
The frantic pounding on the door, in stereo no less, jarred Laura from the textbook she was reading at her desk. She reached up and opened the door to have two, tall for their age, children rush in, the boy pausing to slam the door shut then, as one, they announced, “Laura, we need your help!”
The blue skinned girl reached up to shield herself from the enthusiasm of the twins and mentally tried to call to mind where her neural dampener was. “Hey, guys,” she greeted, marking her place in the book. “What...?”
That was as far as she got before Connie thrust a beige plastic something that was obviously broken at her. “We broke it! Can you fix it?” the twins asked in stereo again. She took the device and carefully opened the cracked little cover.
“Oh, wow! A tricorder!” she enthused. “Man, I wanted one of these bad when I was you guys' age! I didn't think they still made the toy...”
“It's not a toy!” Connie corrected her.
“It's mom's,” Wyatt admitted. “Can you...?”
Laura turned the device over in her hands and realized it was too heavy to have been a toy as she took at first glance. Frowning, she took out a jewelers screwdriver kit and unscrewed the back cover and carefully opened it. “Wow,” she breathed as she put the cover on her desk to admire the inner workings. “This is the smallest Raspberry Pi I've ever seen! Look at this custom solder work! I'm not even sure what these sub boards do,” she declared turning back to the children. “Your mom made this?”
“She invented it,” Wyatt said proudly.
“You can buy one if you want,” Connie told her.
“GCC sells them,” Wyatt added.
Her curiosity piqued, Laura opened her laptop and called up Frangle.com. There she found the Goodkind Computer Corporation Mk III Tricorder listed for the low price of $750. “Look at all they cram into this thing!” Laura remarked, mostly to herself. “Full spectrum atmospheric and barometric sensor, broad spectrum electromagnetic sensor, altimeter, gyroscope, GPS reception with a one-inch resolution! Half a terabyte of memory...”
“Can you fix it?” Connie interrupted forlornly.
Samuels turned back to the device. The housing was cracked, but any of the school's printers could fix that. The little LCD panel was also a lost cause, but again, that was off the shelf. What she wasn't sure about were the sensor boards and the main Pi itself. “Guys, I don't know to be honest. Look it was just an accident, right? I'm sure your mom...” She watched the two exchange glances and became cross. “Mrs Cody doesn't know you took it, does she?” she demanded.
Both children found their shoes fascinating. So much so that neither answered. “Why should I cover for you two, huh? Answer me that!”
“We have to get the information off it!” Junior declared firmly.
Laura crossed her arms over her chest. “Why?”
“'Cause it...” Connie started, but Wyatt hissed her name and she stuck her tongue out at him. “I'm not going to lie, Wyatt!” she declared. “We went down the tunnel cause it found this really strange electro pattern thingy and we saw...”
Laura perked up immediately. “You've been in the forbidden tunnel? Where the trustees disappeared? How? How did you get past the guard?”
Junior stepped forward, feeling bold now that he had some leverage. “That's our secret,” he told her with all the bravado he could muster. “You want to know what's down there? We know and it's on that. Wanna trade?”
Laura narrowed her eyes and turned her head to one side to take in the young man from a different angle. “Alright you little Casanova, we'll trade. But if you're not on the up and up about what's on here, I'm telling your folks on you.”
Junior struck out his hand. “Deal.”
“Come with me to the work shop,” Laura said, gathering up the tricorder and her laptop. “I'll need some tools there.”
* * *
October 8th, 2016
Charter service terminal, LaGuardia Airport, New York, NY
“The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. There is no stopping in a red zone.”
Tansy sat in the stall on the toilet and stared at the little necklace she had removed from her handbag. A part of her deeply resented Kayda for making the magic charm, but, being reasonable with herself she had to admit that her wife's soul sister was hurt just as badly as Tansy herself had been on Elaine's death. And now, now she sat in New York and the possibility of her love being alive was before her and in a way it was worse.
Dead, Elaine could be mourned, and in a way, a kind of peace could be made, by Tansy giving up her own life to take up Elaine's. But this? This could be so much worse! Elaine alive in body, but with the mind of a stranger who wasn't the love of Tansy's life, wasn't the heroically good and honest woman who had helped save Tansy's life. And who was less of a mother for those poor children by giving them birth and not knowing them than Tansy who loved them unconditionally as her own.
She put the necklace around her neck and wished, feeling it tingle all across her skin and the hair hanging around her face went blonde. She snatched it off and instantly the tingle ran down her spine and her hair was red again. Panting, Tansy raised her eyes, not to the stained, old acoustic tile in the ceiling but beyond and with all her might prayed, Sweet loving God, please, please let her be the Elaine I knew, the Elaine I fell in love with and the Elaine who is the mother of my children. If I have earned any redemption from you, please, I beg, please let her remember us!
Tansy bowed her head, slipped the necklace around her neck again and wished. She sighed, removing her documents from the secret pouch in her purse and carefully placing Elaine's IDs into it. Finished, she stood and exited the stall and stared, transfixed into the mirror.
It had been over three years since Tansy had seen her own face.
The first two times Kayda had renewed the spell before it dropped and this last fall, even though it had dropped, Tansy had been so intent on getting the spell recast and keeping her promise she had not thought to look into a mirror. Her hair was in Elaine's haircut, and Lanie had always been a little vain about her hair and wearing it long. It hung around her face and shoulders to her back. Her makeup was a bit off, more for Lanie's peaches and cream complexion than Tansy's perfect Nordic alabaster.
But it was her face.
She stepped slowly from the stall to the sink and mirror, captivated. It was a young face, but no longer a girl's face. The sharp, hard lines of her nearly unearthly beauty was now the full, glowing beauty of a young mother, strong, sure of who she was, proud of the children she had given her husband and glowing, yes glowing with health and the subtle signal every woman knew when she was with child.
It was her face.
The face she had always wanted, free of the mean lines from when she had allowed herself to become the bully she hated so much. Free of the green faced jealousy of Fey and comfortable with who she was, who she would be and the life she would live and she didn't give a good God Damn who disapproved. Helen of Troy had become Penelope, her own namesake, ever loving and faithful wife of Odysseus.
It was all she could do to keep from bursting into tears.
Grizzly appeared in the mirror and hugged her reflection which Tansy felt as the kindly nurse smiled at her. More beautiful than ever, the spirit told her. And for all the right reasons.
“I could never have done this without you, Griz,” she told the spirit. “I'm so grateful!”
You are very welcome. Now come on, and let us see what we can see. Tansy dabbed at each eye to be sure her mascara would not run and held her head up high as she pulled her purse over a shoulder and made her way to the baggage claim. Kayda and Debra were both waiting for her, having already claimed her bags.
“Tansy!” Debra exclaimed in delight and kissed the other woman's cheek. “How...?”
“Me,” squeaked Kayda, her eyes down cast. “Tansy, I...” But she could not continue as Tansy had turned her face up gently and kissed her softly on the lips in greeting.
“I understand,” she said and then smiled. “It's ok. If things go as planned, you'll be seeing a lot of me!”
“Amen!” Kayda chorused. “Ok, so I hired a private investigator and Elaine...Jennifer is sharing an apartment on the Upper East Side with an MD named Sarah Williams, we'll catch a taxi over and...”
Tansy raised her hands to ward off the flood of enthusiasm. “Hold on there Captain Eager! What do I do with my luggage while we rush over there? Have it in the hallway like I'm moving in? Or hold a taxi at the rates they charge? Not likely! So, let's get me settled and might I suggest we call before we show up on their doorstep?” Sarah Williams? Tansy thought to herself, feeling more than a bit of dread.
It was clear that Kayda absolutely hated the suggestion, but acquiesced. “Ok, ok, come on then!”
Tansy and Debra shared a glance and Matson rolled her eyes. Charitably taking control of the largest bag on wheels she led the way to where the Taxi's were standing, waiting for business.
* * *
October 8th, 2016
General Electronics Lab, Kane Hall Tunnels, Whateley Academy
Fortunately the case for the little tricorder was a known shape in the library of the fabricator so Laura had set it printing while she got the FCC ID number off the little LCD screen and was walking through the shelves of parts looking for one with the Cody Twins in tow. The racks were full of a wild mishmash of LCD screens in size due to them being ordered by their FCC ID numbers which were granted by order of application, so a twenty inch panel could sit next to a one inch and so on.
“So, what did you two see down there?” she asked as she ran through the racks of parts, looking for her number.
“It was creepy,” Connie declared. “There were black marks on the walls from...” she sniffed and bravely fought to hold back her tears.
“They were just shadows,” Wyatt proclaimed with a firmness he didn't completely feel. “What was weird was this weird...thing. It was black, and it looked kinda like a mirror, but it didn't reflect anything, but there were shadows that kept moving in it and there were these weird words that were all melted into the wall and Perry said it was dangerous and we should leave...”
“Wyatt!” hissed Connie.
The hairs on the back of Laura's neck stood up and she turned to face the twins. “Who is Perry?” she demanded. “Someone else was with you down there?”
“No,” Wyatt replied.
“They aren't real,” Connie added.
“They?” demanded the blue hued girl.
“Nice going!” accused Wyatt. The two broke into a quarrel until Laura stepped in to physically separate them.
“That's enough!” she scolded them. “Now, I want answers and I want the truth or so help me I will call your parents this second and tell them everything!” The two children looked at their feet sullenly. “I'm warning you two! Who else was down there with you?”
“Just our invisible friends,” Connie said earnestly.
Laura raised an eyebrow. “Aren't you two a little old for pretend friends?”
Wyatt Junior became surly. “She didn't say 'pretend' she said 'invisible'!”
For a long moment Laura's disbelief fought with her knowledge of who she now was and where exactly she was going to school and realized this could be much larger trouble. “What invisible friends?” she demanded.
“Mine is Perry and her's is Winnie,” Junior admitted. “Mine is a falcon and hers is a cougar, 'cept they talk. I think Perry knows what the thing was, but he won't say.”
“Falcon? Cougar?” Laura blinked as she regarded the two children in shock. “You have spirits? You're avatars!”
“You promised not to tell!” the two said in chorus and Laura turned back to the racks to think as well as to find the screen she needed. Finding it, she took one and turned back to the children.
“Alright, I won't tell your parents, if 'Perry' tells me what this thing you saw was.”
Junior's carriage changed to a much more mature stance and his eyes turned huge, dark and with a golden band on the edge that was disconcerting. In a positively musical tenor he said, “Where does this human preoccupation with names come from? What matter is it what these children saw? It was magic, and it was evil! And neither of you should go and seek it out again! That should be enough for you!”
* * *
October 8th, 2016
The Apartment of Jennifer Kelly and Sarah Williams, New York, NY
Tansy knocked for the third time, a bit more forcefully just in case the occupants were furthest from the door, but silence was her only answer. She turned to the other women with her, but before she could say anything the next door down opened and the occupant bent to pick up his news paper. Seeing the women he frowned and and muttered, “Geez, this place is turning into a dyke bar!”
“Excuse me?” Tansy demanded, astounded someone could be so crass in the open.
The man, mid forties, balding and wearing baggy jeans and a polo shirt crossed his arms over his concave chest. “You heard me, Blondie!” he snapped. “You're here to see Doctor Dyke and her little Irish case of jungle fever right? Well too bad, they left this morning with luggage.”
“Do you know...”
He turned his back and slammed his door. “Go fuck yourself,” drifted through it.
Debra laid a hand on Tansy's shoulder. “Welcome to New York,” she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. Let's go check with the door man, maybe he knows.” The trio returned to the elevator and rode it back downstairs.
“Let me do the talking,” Tansy murmured. The walked back through the lobby and out onto the street through the door, the Uniformed Doorman held for them. Tansy took a badge wallet from her purse and showed it to the Doorman. “I'm special agent Elizabeth Hartford, Department of Paranormal Affairs,” she told him. He touched his hat brim with a finger.
“What can I do for you, Agent? Taxi?”
“And some information. I understand two of your tenants left this morning, a Doctor Sarah Williams and Jennifer Kelly.” The man nodded guardedly. “They had luggage as if they were traveling with them? Do you know where they were going?”
The Door Man's eyes shot over to Kayda and Debra, then back to Tansy. “There isn't much I can say, Agent. Yes, they left this morning and I got them a cab. I know the cab was taking them to Penn Station, that's all I can tell you.” he brought his whistle up to his lips and blew, hailing down a cab whose door he opened for the women.
“Thank you for your cooperation,” Tansy told him as he touched his hat again and closed the door. The cab pulled off as Kayda turned and gave her friend a questioning glance.
Tansy smiled and shrugged. “I'm good cop and bad cop in one.” she sighed and shook her head. “All this for nothing! I wonder what Wyatt is up to?”
“It's not nothing,” Kayda told her mysteriously, but refused to elaborate for the remainder of the cab ride.
* * *
October 8th, 2016
Faculty Fitness Facility, Dr Clifford Alexander Building, The Village, Whateley Academy
The common building, or Alexander Hall as it was properly known, of The Village boasted a rather extensive fitness area for both instructors and House Parents, should they choose. It also included a boxing ring off to one side. The attendance was light for a Saturday afternoon, a few of the women were riding the life cycles, but otherwise the only activity was the boxing ring.
Wyatt touched his right fingerless MMA glove to the glove of Melvin Donner and the two warily circled each other as Sensei Ito coolly stayed out of the way. Melvin came in quickly with an attempt at an arm bar, but Wyatt was able to reverse it and push the bigger man off. “That was sloppy!” Melvin remarked with a curious tone in his voice. “Where is your mind, Wyatt?”
“New York,” Wyatt grunted as he bent over and went for Melvin's knees for a take down. Melvin grabbed the other man around his chest and picked him up to fall on him, driving him face first into the canvas. On the bounce, Melvin was able to roll and work his superior position into an arm brace with both arms and legs controlling Wyatt's arm. Wyatt struggled for a moment, then tapped out.
The two men helped each other to their feet and touched gloves again.
“What's in New York?” Melvin asked as he went for a head grapple, but Wyatt slipped from the hold and forced his left arm behind him. It was a cleaner move, but it was obvious the young man was distracted.
“My wife,” he replied as he and Melvin spun, Wyatt looking to strengthen the hold, and Melvin trying to escape. Finally Wyatt planted a foot against Melvin's. Tripping him and rode him down to the mat. Landing in the superior position he pulled on the arm, forcing Melvin to rise up to try and relieve the leverage, which exposed his neck to Wyatt's free arm to establish a choke hold. Melvin grunted in frustration and tapped out.
Released, the two men rose again and Melvin stepped back to adjust his boxing helmet. “I thought she just got back?”
Wyatt took the break to walk to his corner and squirt a drink of water into his mouth. “She did,” he admitted, holding up the bottle in offer to Melvin and tossing to him when he accepted. “It drives me nuts, Mel! Bad enough it was this once a year thing, but...!”
Melvin gave a gesture of 'time out' to Ito and walked over to return the bottle. “Easy, son, didn't I just hear she's expecting?”
Wyatt chuckled and took another squirt of water. “No speedster on Earth will ever match the speed of gossip on this campus!” Melvin clapped him on the shoulder.
“Well, congratulations! So what has your panties in a twist? That she's heading out, again, to her best friends? Son, you ought to know by now that women get chummy when there's a bun in the oven! They're probably having a shower or whatever. Don't let it trouble you.” He gestured back to the ring. “You up for the finish?”
Wyatt sighed and shook his head. “I'm not concentrating, Mel, that's not fair to you.”
The bigger man removed his helmet and shrugged. “Eh, we'll call it a draw. Why don't you hit the showers and I'll buy you a beer. You can tell me what's really eating you.”
The two men bumped fists and Wyatt ducked out of the ring to gather his things to head to the showers. Melvin watched him go, then turned back to a contemplative Ito to bow in thanks for refereeing.
* * *
October 8th, 2016
The Apartment of Amelia Hartford, Berlin, NH
Sarah threw up her hands and stood, trying to rationalize what she was hearing. “Wait! Wait!” she cried before Hartford could wind her self up further. “We just came here for some answers, so I could show my love she wasn't as bad as her red band MID led her to believe! To face the fear of her past and now you want us to upend our lives! Move to another state and get involved in some wild conspiracy...?”
Hartford was cross. “You want to face the past? The past is your girlfriend is a married mother of three, how's that for facing things?”
Jennifer got very quiet on the couch. “I...I'm a mother?”
Sarah took her head in her hands. “This is not happening! I...we...”
Amelia stood and took the chocolate complected young woman by the shoulders and her tone was consoling. “Dr Williams, I understand this is a shock to you and I sympathize genuinely with what you must be feeling, but if you care for Elaine as much as I believe you do, she needs you to be strong. I will help you both get to the bottom of this, but the personal relationships must be a secondary consideration right now. There are three children at risk to an imposter and I believe we can all agree those children are more important than anything else, yes?”
A great, heavy dread filled Sarah's heart, but her love for the woman she had always known as Jennifer was strong and with the news that her love had children, protecting them began to become a priority in her own heart, awakening her own, much delayed maternal instincts. Finally, she forced her head to nod and sighed. “Do...do they appear to be in danger? And...and what about the father?”
Amelia smiled and gently squeezed her shoulders. “When I saw them last they were happy, precocious children, perfectly healthy. And Wyatt Cody will do things best not thought about to anyone who would harm them.”
“I...I don't remember...” whispered Jennifer from the couch. Amelia went over to her desk and returned with a tablet she manipulated, then turned and presented it. Jennifer took it to see a pair of children, grinning into the camera. There was a shock of a lad with wild brown hair and the promise of a face that would mature into a major heartthrob of a young man. His arm was around a precocious little girl wearing a matching pair of jeans and white and red striped shirt to her brother. Her bright scarlet hair was trying to come loose from a pony tail and her unnaturally green eyes twinkled with laughter.
“These are the twins, Wyatt Junior and Constance Elisabeth,” Amelia told her.
Suddenly Jennifer was in a hospital room, exhausted, elated and supremely proud of herself as two small, naked children snugged against her breast as she held them, little hands flailing as they instinctively sought her breast and its milk. She saw a huge bear of a man in hospital scrubs, grinning from ear to ear and fit to burst as his chest swelled and he gently hugged her and next to her on the other side, also in scrubs, was a smiling, breathtaking blonde that she was sure she had seen somewhere else.
Jennifer blinked and was back in a cluttered apartment, staring at a picture on a computer tablet. Amelia reached down and made a swiping motion, this time revealing a child two or three years younger than the twins, wild red hair and perfect skin of his sister and the big boned husky promise of his brother. “This is Stephen Eugene,” Amelia told her.
“How...how old are they?”
“The twins are six, heading into seven, and Stephen is three, nearly four.”
Sarah sat down next to her lover and looked at the pictures of her children and there was no doubt in her mind she was their mother. She put her arm around her shoulders and hugged her. “I will always love you,” she promised Jennifer and the confused young woman laid her head on Sarah's shoulder and shook a little bit. Looking down at her, Sarah asked, “I pushed you into this, beloved and I am so sorry. I never in a million years would have thought things like this! But I will be here for you, I swear it! What do you want to do? We can go home and forget...”
“No,” Jennifer whispered softly as she hugged her lover. “I can't forget. I have to see this through, Sarah. I am responsible for those children.” She sighed and looked up into Amelia's face. “Who is this imposter?” she demanded.
“If you'll move up here I swear we will find out!” Hartford told her.
Jennifer turned to look at Sarah. “Baby?”
Her face split into her brilliantly white smile. “When could I tell you no, my Irish Rose?” She turned to look at Amelia. “What do you need from me?”
* * *
October 8th, 2016
General Electronics Lab, Kane Hall Tunnels, Whateley Academy
Laura finished turning in the final screw then flipped the device over and opened it. Immediately it lit up and began to boot, much to the delight of the twins. She plugged a micro-USB cable into the charging port and opened her laptop and watched it handshake with the little device. GCC's website gave her an app to read the files on the device, but that did no good; the shock the unit had suffered had occurred when it was booting and all the files on the device were corrupt. The little screen and it's mirror on Laura's laptop only showed a confirmation to restore the unit to it's factory state. Laura bypassed the app and went to look at the file structures themselves, but found them to be fairly heavily compressed to save space and the master file record was corrupt. That meant that while the data was technically there, it was just a useless collection of ones and zeros, the map to having them make sense was completely useless.
“Sorry guys,” Laura told them as she copied the corrupted bits over just for the sake of it and then told the device to reset itself. “The data is scrambled. I'll poke at it when I have time, but it would be faster to go back down there and...”
“I don't want to go back,” Connie said instantly.
“Well, you have no proof and just the word of a spirit,” Laura replied. “That's not going to convince anybody.”
Junior puffed up his chest indignantly. “We're not lying!” he declared forcefully.
The boy's form blurred and his clothes fell to the floor as he shifted and suddenly next to Laura was a gigantic Peregrine Falcon, the same size as young Junior had been. It leaped up onto the work bench and spread its wings, temporarily cowing the blue skinned young woman. “No, you look here,” the perfect tenor replied from the hook shaped beak. “This Child saw a machine of sorcery so vile that to even understand its base working principals might unhinge your mind! It is an engine of evil more dangerous than your powers of comprehension might allow! And you would seek it out? It would be better if it is destroyed!”
“You can shape shift?” demanded Laura in amazement.
“Dang it!” swore the Falcon in Junior's voice. He stepped down on the cable connecting the tricorder to Laura's laptop and with his other foot, pulled it free. “Run, sis!” he cried then with the little device in his talons took off and soared out of the workshop. Laura turned to find his sister had already snatched up his clothes and was disappearing through a side door.
The two had instinctively run in different directions.
“Hand cuffs,” Laura told herself. “I need to buy a set of handcuffs for those two!” Laura sighed and gazed at the screen on her laptop for a moment then nodded to herself. “I better tell their parents about this,” she decided out loud. She took out her cell and dialed. “Hello Dr Cody. Do you have a moment? There are some things about the twins I want to make sure you are aware of...”
* * *
October 8th, 2016
The Apartment of Kayda Franks and Debra Matson, Garment District, New York, NY
“Well, that was a bust,” opined Debra as she crossed the loft to a sofa and sat down. Kayda didn't stop, but instead continued on to a pair of desks that faced each other and had computers laid out on them. “Baby?” Debra asked. “What are you doing?”
“Keeping us from being busted,” she replied, sitting at the computer and logging into it. From her typing she said, “I still have some fee left with that P.I. I hired. Let's see if he can find out where they went.”
Tansy's phone began to ring in her purse so she took off the necklace, causing Debra to jerk in surprise of seeing her instantly return to being Elaine, and answered the phone. “Hey baby! What...?” Her features pulled into a frown. “Do what now? They did what? They can...? Both?”
Kayda and Debra shared a confused glance. Tansy stood and began to pace, one hand running through her hair in a gesture that so mimicked Elaine it sent chills up and down Kayda's spine. She couldn't help that her mind knew she was looking at Tansy and her memory was certain she was looking at Elaine. The 'uncanny valley' disparity gave her goosebumps, as if seeing a zombie.
“Where are they now?” Tansy demanded. “Alright, baby, I'll be on the red eye if I can or the train if nothing else. Yes, I'll text you as soon as I know. I love you baby.” She hung up and angrily threw her phone back into her purse. “Damn it all to hell!” she swore.
“What's wrong?” asked a confused Debra.
Tansy sat down and pulled at her hair as she sighed. “My children evidently are avatars and have spirits!”
“What?!” Kayda and Debra chorused.
“Junior can shape shift into a giant falcon!” She continued. Looking up at the ceiling she blew out a raspberry of annoyance. “I always knew they had a telepathic link, I could sense them in...her...womb and after this I caught little snippets of them scheming and my powers helped me keep them out of too much trouble. Kayda, I'm sorry, I have to...”
“We'll take you,” Debra said instantly. “It will be fastest by car anyway. Give us a few to pack.”
Elaine looked at her bags by the door and shook her head ruefully. “At least I didn't unpack. Look, Kayda, Elaine...Jennifer as she's calling herself, she's a courier. It might be best if we just hired her and maybe had a careful conversation instead of ambushing her at her house...?”
Kayda's dusky skin darkened in a blush. “Ok, ok, I admit, that wasn't thought out well. Maybe you're right. I can look up the firm she brokers with and see about getting us an appointment.”
“And, best she not be overwhelmed,” Tansy told her with a gimlet eye. “Perhaps Deb or I should make first contact.”
“But surely seeing me will...?”
“Overwhelm her?” Tansy interrupted archly. “That's exactly what I'm afraid of!”
“Ok,” the other finally admitted. “Just what we needed, an all night interstate road trip.”
* * *
October 8th, 2016
The Cody Residence, The Village, Whateley Academy
It was an old photograph now, unfaded thanks to modern materials, but carefully framed to preserve a cherished gift and memory. In it two beautiful women were engaged in a passionate kiss, one blonde, the other red headed, both in the full flower of their youth and beauty, lying on their backs wrapped in a pair of fur coats and nothing else. Wyatt ran his finger over the glass, tracing the lines and curves of the women within it, melancholy as he touched the memory and wished life could be different.
He remembered the simple, loving time before the horror of his final battle with The Bastard, remembered the amazed joy of finding himself the love of two beautiful women who also loved each other and wondered how he could be so fortunate to be in such a situation. He remembered his wedding night with his bride and her maid of honor, how both of them had tried to persuade Tansy into taking vows with them, and how she had worried that her work in the Committee would put them in jeopardy.
He remembered the summer they had spent in Southern Alaska, just the three of them, unplugged from everything and just healing from the battles they had fought. The summer the first of his children had been conceived and again felt the juxtaposition that something so joyful could inspire such worry. His fingers traced her jawline and he whispered, “I miss you, baby,” to himself and sighed.
Why so sad, son?
He looked up and found himself on a Mountain top over looking Horse Marine Lake and beside him his oldest friend sat heavily. For a long moment, Cody said nothing, staring at the picture still in his hands and then out at the magnificent vista before him. “Just remembering, Kodiak. Dreaming old dreams.”
For once the bear was philosophical and chuckled softly. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death.
Wyatt chuckled darkly and looked up at the brilliant canopy of stars and constellations that could not be seen in the Lower Forty Eight. “I wonder what Shakespeare would have thought of all this?”
The man had a way with words, but he had little time for anything that wouldn't put a gold sovereign in his purse, the bear replied archly. Wyatt turned and looked at his spirit side long.
“You knew William Shakespeare?” he demanded.
The big, furry brute shrugged. My host at the time, William Harvey, was quite a literary maven and something of a fan.
“Harvey...Harvey,” muttered Wyatt to himself. “Discovered and charted the circulatory system, yes?”
The bear grinned at him in a unsettling display of fangs. You were listening in college!
Wyatt snorted in derision. “Me am Doctor you know,” he said gruffly as he turned back out to the valley and its lake which was perfectly still and seemed to be full of stars. “Is there any end to reincarnation, Kodiak?” he asked finally. “Lanie and I have evidently been walking the Earth for thousands of years. Does it end?”
The Kodiak raised a massive, heavy paw and laid it across his host's shoulders. I don't know, son. And I'm not entirely sure I want to know. The world and Creation is a wonderous place, my boy. From those endless worlds spinning over our heads to that blade of grass there, wonders upon wonders. It's easy to dispair, Wyatt, but look at the beautiful children you are raising! Lives that will go on and remember you decades after you have gone, and stories they will tell to their children and perhaps centuries from now, there will be a man with your DNA in his cells and your blood in his veins who will come here and remember you the way you and I sit here and remember William Harvey. It is the only immortality allowed Man.
Wyatt looked out and sighed. “Maybe it will be my soul in his body,” he said after a moment of contemplation. “Maybe I should go carve 'Wyatt Cody was here' in the cave.”
Don't get carried away, the bear advised him.
He looked down at the photograph again and sighed. “I miss her, Kodiak.”
I miss her too, son, the bear thought at him. I miss her, too.
* * *
October 9th, 2016
The March of Dreams
“You don't exist,” the voice informed her in a surprisingly off-hand tone.
Jennifer became aware she was staring at a fire in a stone hearth, sturdy and functional, but more than a little rustic, were one inclined to be charitable. There were a pair of pewter plates and tankards on the mantle and a small cauldron hung near the fire keeping a thick looking stew or porridge warm. She turned to find herself in a small house, flagstones for a floor, a big central room with a table, a pair of chairs, both rough hewn from wood with a cupboard and shelves built into the wall. But closest to her, near the fire was a chaise lounge, covered in furs to make its craftsmanship unviewable.
And on the lounge was the wild haired, wild eyed warrior woman. There was no woad on her now, but she was shamelessly topless, intricate knot work tattoos around her biceps, flanks and navel, and in her arms was an infant, suckling. The banshee looked up from her daughter and smirked. “Not what you were expecting, eh?”
Jennifer looked down and found herself incongruously wearing jeans and the sweater she had worn on the trip up to New Hampshire from New York. “Who are you?” Jennifer demanded.
The Banshee sniffed in disdain and looked back down on her infant. “Your great, great, eh something like forty nine or fifty more of those greats, grandmother.” The hard emerald eyes came back up from the infant. “Or at least that's what our soul wore in that life. Strictly speaking, I am you. Or, perhaps more correctly, you are me.”
“You're talking nonsense!” Jennifer snorted. “This, this is just some strange dream...”
“...Brought about by reading The Margrave's Mistress” finished the warrior. “Yes, yes, I know. How do you read that trash, by the way?”
“Look here, you...!”
The Banshee's voice became mocking and dripped with scorn. “Oh your highness, how ever could so simple a girl as I ignite such fire in your loins?” She blew a raspberry between her lips. “Do people talk that way?” she demanded. “Ever?”
“I am not going to defend...”
“I was courted by a Duke, who I merrily told to go fuck himself and you can be assured there were no sighs or longing gazes! Rubbish!” She stood from the lounge, and tucked the infant into a little cradle next to it before she pulled on a woolen tunic that in the fire light was a difficult color to guess at somewhere between blue and green. She turned, back, belting the tunic against her and walking over to the fireplace. “Who am I? I am Laneth, Lady mac Óengusa Bean Sith, this is my house, in the village of Morlock, in the Kingdom of Circinn and it is the Year of Our Lord 783. Circinn is on the north east coast of what you call Scotland.”
“Charmed,” Jennifer replied with a roll of her eyes.
“You are just a jumble of facts without a history,” Laneth declared. “The conjured fantasy of another woman and an imposter in our own body...”
Laneth became cross. “Oh you are dense, aren't you? You are a personification of my mind trying to deal with it's lack of memory upon waking from injury. I am the soul that inhabits our body, or at least the sum total of the memories of this life that soul lived. I must be honest, while my mother was a witch the study of the Craft is a bit beyond me.”
“Oh, this is Jung's neurotic wet dream!” Jennifer said as she walked over to the chair by the table and sat down. “I am going mad,” she muttered to herself. The world shimmered and swirled and suddenly Jennifer was on the roof of a tall building back in New York.
Jennifer spun at the sound of the voice, unused to the view in an attempt to center herself and made out the Emerald Tower across the street, but this also showed her a dozen men, most unconscious, but some moaning in pain, all dressed in black tactical gear and all of them handcuffed.
And looking up from the last one being subdued was Her. Wicked's wild red mane was in a braided pony tale as she stood from the guard she had just subdued. Toned, and fit, she wore the red leotard like it was spray painted on her with tactical boots and a set of leggings that gave the impression of thigh high boots. “You want to talk about mad?” she hissed as her hands dipped into a set of carriers and came out with deadly looking hand claws nearly a foot out from her fists and her face twisted in a seething rage.
Jennifer raised her hands and took a step back. “I...I don't want any trouble...”
“Trouble?” Wicked shouted. “You kept me from mah husband! From mah children! From mah god damned LIFE! Bitch, you don't know what trouble is! If you won't listen to her for reason, then Ah'll just fucking kill you!” Wicked leapt forward, claws first and Jennifer screamed...
* * *