The Gathering, Part Three: Lá Fhéile Eoin
"Bend over," Seth said with a sigh. A groan followed by a string of words Seth had only heard on the docks when fights over traps had broken out issued from his patent. His fingers traced over the thin spine. Telling people that they were underweight for what they did didn't go over well, especially with Tipper Henderson. If it hadn't been for Mort, he would have never know how bad her condition was. Sighing again he went to his cupboard and unlocked it. He knew Mort was still in the waiting room.
"I need you to hang onto the side of the bed Tipper. I know it hurts, I'm going to inject some cortisone into you, and you should have some relief from the pain shortly.”
Since Taylor and the children had left Cabot Cove, Tipper had found herself busy with work, the upcoming winter, the bitter snows, Jan's trial and a wave of deaths of local pets due to some idiot trying to poison off the raccoons before they went into their winter holes to hibernate. It was with the spring thaws that Tipper had faced that she needed to do something with the large store front that Willie had left her. Oddly, Tipper had insisted that she would do all the work herself on her days off. There hadn't been much to clean - not much had been left in the shop after the flood, and everything else had been removed when Taylor had moved away. But there were still things
that needed to be cleaned after the winter, and a new set of steps to be put in to replace the rope ladder down into the basement. Tipper had taken some basic woodworking classes, she knew how to use a hammer and saw, and was determined to do the steps herself. She would have done fine, except she had decided to unload all the lumber herself into the shop in a single day. She had been on her way back out to the rented truck when she’d slipped and slid down the three steps to the sidewalk. Nothing broken, but when she went to stand up, she ended on the ground face forward, screaming in agony. Harrison had heard her at the shop, and Mort had been there getting his morning coffee and Danish.
Mort had been the first there, allowing Harrison to call for the ambulance. Some pain killers had been dispensed to stop her screams, and later she could manage to stand - for a few seconds. Long enough for the needle to slip into the right place and deliver blissful relief. He saw her legs buckle and nodded to the orderly who gently lifted Tipper up and placed her back on the gurney on her side. An eyebrow of the orderly flickered upward at the next string of words, but wisely he said nothing.
"I'll start the paperwork, you’re staying here tonight for observation."
"Natch," she grumbled. "I have my cats to feed, and I have to get the shop locked up, and I've rented power tools that can't walk away. "
"Mort can do that. You had him properly scared, young lady…" Seth saw her eyes grow heavy as the other medication settled into her system. Brushing back a wisp of hair from her cheek Seth pulled a blanket over her. Maybe while she was in the hospital he would have an increased calorie diet given to he r- a pound or so would help her metabolize the medication she would be on and prevent ulcers. Closing his bag, he nodded to the orderly to move Tipper to the room when it was ready.
Opening the door he saw Mort pacing like an expectant father, and Jessica looking quite pale. They had been about to go to the movies when the call had come in, and Jessica had insisted on coming. Tipper was family. Mort glanced up. His eyes showed he had been crying – or close. It had to have been hard for him to have been there - he had informed the ambulance paramedics that she hadn't stopped screaming. There had to be more that he hadn't told Seth - something that upset him greatly.
"May I see her?" he asked softly.
Seth glanced back to the room. "Once she gets settled in, you can visit for a bit, but she's
pretty under right now. She was concerned about the shop, getting it locked up properly, and her cats need to be fed." Seth almost expected Mort to protest, his usual, "what do I look like, a delivery man?" Instead Mort nodded, then looked over as they wheeled Tipper out of the room down the hall. Seth prevented him from following her. "We need to talk first…" Seth said, escorting them into the small room that held Tippers x-rays. He placed his glasses on the bridge of his nose and flipped on the light switches. "When you bump your elbow and you feel the twinge, people call it your funny bone, though the pain you feel isn't funny. Tipper had the same, effect when she slid down the steps, it caught several of the spinal spurs, jarring them. If she would have stayed put, it may have been better, but she stood, and turned, and it pinched the disk
"That had to have been horrific, Seth," said Jessica, glancing over the x-rays.
Both men glanced at Jessica. There was something that Jessica was thinking, but the rest of what was to come was interrupted by a scream coming down the hall. Mort was the first out the door
following the sound. He found Tipper struggling against the restraints, her eyes wide.
"Hey, hey, take it easy, its okay!! " he said as he gently pushed her back onto the gurney. Mort felt Tipper trembling beneath his hands.
"Don't let them take me!" she gasped through gritted teeth.
"They are just taking you to your room, Angela. Its okay," he said softly, trying to sooth her.
She shook her head as far as the neck brace would allow. "No, not them … them,” she hissed before indicating to the right, along the wall. Mort didn't look, but allowed his peripheral vision to catch a glimpse at what she was talking about. For a brief moment he saw dark shadows and an icy mist coming from the corner before it melted away. He felt her relax under his hands.
"It's okay, they are gone,” he murmured. Mort walked with the orderly as he continued to push the bed down the hall to the elevator.
Tipper heard the PING as the elevator was summoned. "No…. No.. No… Not a good idea. No, I don't want to go in there… No no no…"
The orderly shot a look at Mort to calm Tipper down. The pause was enough time to allow the door to open up. Mort held his hand up and prevented the orderly from pushing the gurney in. He was about to say, "See, everything is alright,” but before the words were out of his mouth, there was an odd noise from the elevator and it began to ding signaling an error with the hydraulics. The door half closed as the elevator car dropped three feet. Mort had seen the flicker too in the corner as the orderly goggled, first at Tipper, then the elevator. "How did she know?" he gasped.
"When you have had an injury, your senses are heightened. She had to have heard the elevator noise,” stated Mort in a matter-of-fact tone.
By the time Tipper was settled in her room she was calmer. Mort lingered beside her bed, not holding her hand, but sitting with his hand on the clean linen sheets. Jessica had stood up to take a walk down the hall and get some coffee leaving Mort a moment alone with Tipper.
"Ok, level with me. I've heard a lot of screams in my day, but what you were wailing out this morning made my blood run cold. I know that the pain in your back had to have been horrible, but there was something else in your screaming. Fear. So before I allow Doc and Mrs. F back into the store to lock up and to see that everything is okay, I want to know what else is in there and what happened. Why would they be after you?"
"I don't know," she said, not being able to look Mort in the eye.
Shaking his head, Mort sighed. "That's a sure way to get them back here. You have to tell me, and that can help a lot to keep them away."
He saw her screw up her face for a moment then hiss, "Fine. I fell, and I got up, and I turned and they pulled me back down and they were going to drag me away because they said I had the smell of death’s guilt on me."
"Death’s guilt? Since when? Something isn't right here," he said, curious. He saw Tipper shake her head a fraction of an inch in the head brace.
"I haven't a clue what that could be. And if you hadn't seen them, they would have locked me up for being nuts."
"Angela, in all my years on the force, I've never heard of them speaking to the people they were planning on taking. They usually come, snag the soul and then they are off. The how-do-you-do just doesn't cut it with their crowd."
"I don't know!” she said, still not looking at him.
Mort's eyebrow raised up slightly as he regarded her. "You have a lousy poker face, Angela," he said simply.
She returned her gaze back to him. "Fine. Whatever I did, or didn't do, I didn't think at the time it would have been enough for them to try to suck my soul out of my living body. Satisfied?"
"Yes," he said at last. "I won't pretend to know how they think, or what they feel is important when other things aren't."
Seth entered the room and shooed Mort out. "I will stay with Tipper, Mort. Adele called and said that there are things you need to pick up for dinner, she left the list in your pocket this morning."
Mort felt torn. He sighed and then patted Tippers hand. "Maybe I can look around and find out the answer Tipper. Rest for now. I will be back later." Tipper nodded as Seth watched Mort tip his hat and stride out the door.
"If I didn't know better, I would say that he was smitten with you." Seth half expected a string of sputtered "Wahas?" from Tipper, but instead he didn't hear anything. He glanced down at her, and found her cheeks high with color.
"No. We are just friends Seth, and I know he cares about his friends. We are colleagues. If it was anyone else, he would do the same thing, even for you."
"Then why did I see that blush rise on your cheeks?"
"Gas. Same as why a baby smiles. Okay?"
Seth tilted his head and raised his left eyebrow. Tipper knew it as "the look" that Seth wore when he was trying to digest some fact that he found interesting.
"Very well, young lady…Do you want something for that ... gas?"
"No," she said simply.
Mort found himself at Tipper’s door and sighed. Everyone knew where she kept the key to her home - third plant pot to the right marked ‘Secret Key Holder HERE.’ Idly he opened her mail box and plucked a few envelopes from the box before opening the door. He found the cats all at once at his ankles twirling about them trying to get his attention before he made it to the cupboards. Dispensing the food and fresh water Mort turned and noticed that Tipper had kicked her sneakers into a corner of the room off of the rug, and that they had sand on them. Her everyday windbreaker was hung on a peg and curiosity drew him to the pockets where he found odd sea shells and some stones that when he wet them were pretty. They had sand on them too ...
The sand caused Mort to frown. Most of the coast line was totally rocks, there really wasn't any area that had sand on it… well, one or two - the place where the willow tree was had a sandy beach put in by the local parks to draw people to camp. There were a few islands that had beaches… most being the white sand imported in by the resorts, but this sand was different, it was the dark red purple of the mollusk that was so popular on the side dishes of lobster - people
ate them just like the rest of the world ate French fries. The other thing that was telling was the specific rocks she had picked up - stones of pink marble. Though there was a quarry farther inland, chips of the marble were dumped into some parts of the outer north section to re-introduce calcium needed for some of the shell fish industry. There was only one section of beach that would be right for that. Sighing, he drew out his cell phone and informed Adele that he was going to be a bit late for what she needed. He had a lead to track down.
Tipper shifted the best she could in her bed. She wasn't too wild about the amount of time they said she would have to spend there, and the nurse had informed her that she was going to have to share the room with someone from the psych ward. They simply did not have the bed space that other hospitals had. She fought sleep, struggled against the warmth and the drugs that induced calm into her.
Several hours later Tipper woke with a start and tried to move her head to see what was making the soft noise to her left. It was a soft `scritch scritch' of something on cloth. By shifting her shoulders, Tipper was able to focus on the sound. It was a pen being moved over something on a frame. She could see an intricate pattern that had been made from the cloth that was hanging over the edge of the bed. The woman looked normal enough , a bit of a pale face with honey brown hair that framed green eyes. She was thin as well, the bandages about her wrists were thicker than she was.
"Its not what you think," the woman said softly as she continued to draw on the cloth.
"Pardon?" managed Tipper.
"Being," she said simply before setting the cloth and pen down as if that was enough to explain everything.
"Oh," was all that Tipper could say before the need to close her eyes overwhelmed her. She could hear the rattle of trays and the voices of people passing up and down the halls. If someone thought that they would be getting rest during their stay at the hospital, they were sadly mistaken.
It was several hours before she awakened to find a floral arrangement on her nightstand with small balloons wishing her to get well. The balloons were signed with hand drawn paw prints on
them, with a small card dangling tantalizingly out of her reach. She knew, however, that it had to be from someone who knew she was a vet.
From the corner of her eye, she saw her roommate had drifted off, a spread of cloth with intricate designs that were somehow familiar to Tipper - though she didn't know why. The tray rattles came closer before stopping at her door. Tipper felt her belly rumble. She hadn't realized how hungry she was until just then. Delightful smells came from the opening door as an orderly brought what she thought was the first of two covered trays. Placing the tray down upon the roommate’s bedside table the orderly turned to push the cart to the next room.
Tipper mustered enough strength to say, "Hey, where is mine?"
The orderly stepped back into the room empty-handed. "Oh, I'm sorry Dr. Henderson, you’re NPO right now until your test results come back. You do have hydration, and a dextrose solution
hanging right now. It may be a day or so until they feel your strong enough to eat."
"Ah… I knew that…" Tipper said, sighing. She heard the soft sigh of her roommate waking up, then the low hum of her bed changing position along with the rattle of her tray as the lid was taken off of the dish.
"The poor asparagus never had a chance," Tipper heard her roommate murmur, elevating the limp washed out vegetation from the plate.
"What are you in for?" Tipper blurted before she remembered the woman was a psych ward patient.
"They think I'm quite mad," she said simply, hearing Tipper catch her breath.
"Are you?" Tipper asked, curious.
"Insane? Perhaps. Mad? No, of course not. Dogs go mad, people get angry, and I've not felt anger during all of this, only… only profound sadness that I could be so blind."
For the longest time Tipper didn't hear anything from her. She felt her belly rumble again and knew she would have to do something to keep her mind off of what her tummy was trying to say. "Want to talk about it?" she asked. She didn't hear anything for a while. "I'm Tipper, and I was named that because I knock people over all the time…" Tipper said, trying to restart the conversation again. She heard the woman sigh again and the faint scritch scritch along with a
scrape of spoon to bowl.
"Artemis Poynte, and I was named that because my parents wanted me to be something far different than what I turned out to be… So, how did you get the designer body wear?"
For the longest time Tipper didn't answer. When she did, her voice was low, and had an edge of concern to it. "I was being pulled down the steps by the shadows and I landed the wrong way."
The scritch and spooning had stopped. Tipper didn't know why she had said what she did, but there was a moment where she knew she had tell the absolute truth in all of this if even to a total stranger who she probably would never see again. "Want to tell me why they think you should be here?" she asked as she tried to get a sideways glance at Artemis.
She heard her sigh then set her spoon down again. "It's a very long story," she said at last.
Tipper shrugged the best she could. "I'm not going anywhere for a long time."
The scratching started up again. "Very well. Starting at the beginning I suppose would be best. Twelve years ago I graduated at the top of my class and I took on a teaching position at the agricultural university as first an intern to Dr. Marcus Phippson who became my mentor and my friend before replacing him upon his retirement. I married a dashing classmate of mine from high school, Ben Saunders, and we had an idealistic life working together at the university, both of us being Biology majors in college, he in research, and I in applied agricultural development. We were both working on our thesis for tenure Ben assured me that our work would compliment each others in the long run. He was forever running back and forth across the campus, and I was ether in class, or buried nose deep into the books, so I never really realized how much time had passed between us. In retrospect I should have seen it all coming - I knew the amount of work needed to get tenure, and Ben never seemed to have done any of it, though he said often enough that he was doing his work when I was in class, and I believed him. He was my husband , and I adored him, how could I not?"
Artemis stopped for a moment as she finished her bowl of soup and set it aside to work on the sandwich. Tipper waited patiently. Halfway through she took a breath and continued. " I remember the events that happened the morning before it all went bad. I was working on the thesis, and I got a call from Brianna Phippson. She was Dr Phippson's daughter and president of the college. When she was promoted, he retired so that there wasn't a conflict of interest. There was a staff party before the alumni chose who was going to stay on for the next year. I had been invited, as was Ben, but I informed them I would be a bit late, I had some additions to the information before being submitted. She was returning the cook book she had borrowed, and had asked if she could use one of the serving bowls that I had for some dip that she made for the event. I remember wiping off the counter and tossing a sprig of something that I found on the counter away before returning to my work. I knew the party was well on its way and I really didn't feel up to going but I knew I had to.
Ben had the car, so I walked across campus to the Academic Deans home to arrive just in time to see Ben shouting something at Brianna before getting into the car. He was acting like he was very drunk and she was upset with something. The car roared past me, then went out of control at an accelerated speed before slamming into the stone gate posts. I ran down to the car - I could see him slumped over the steering wheel, the air bags hadn't gone off - there was a fire starting under the hood, and the car was filling up with smoke. I don't remember breaking the window glass with my arms, or dragging him out of the car, only the need to get him to safety, but, he was already gone, and they were pulling me away from him and my world went golden. I woke, bandaged up here, with no clear memory of what had happened. They said I wouldn't stop screaming, and that they had to restrain me from going back to him." For the longest time she fell silent.
Tipper finally had the nerve to ask her, "What did you mean about it wasn't what I thought - being?"
Artemis didn't answer at first. When she did, her voice was low. "Because we are torn in two all the time, our wants verses what we do. For the longest time, I had a want, then when it happened, I wanted something else."
"What did you want?" Tipper asked curiously.
"As much as I loved my husband, something inside of me wanted him… dead," she said at last, then fell silent.
Voices whispered in the darkness. At first Tipper tried to ignore the voices, then they became less jumbled. She recognized Jessica's voice, reading something with great care.
Drawing in a breath she pushed past the cobwebs and opened her eyes. The room lights were dim, and Jessica was reading from a book using one of those itty bitty book lights. Turning her head slightly she saw that her roommate’s bed was empty, but that her things were still in place.
"Where is she?" asked Tipper curiously.
Jessica glanced over at the empty bed. "She had a visitor, and then shortly after had several
seizures. I had just come in when they started, so she received prompt medical care." Tipper noted a hesitation in Jessica's voice.
"What?" Tipper asked, curiosity getting the better of her. "What aren't you telling me?"
Jessica sighed as she lowered her voice. "I don't know if I did her a favor or not – its clear with out medical intervention, she would have died… but, well, the district attorney is building a case
against her for the murder of her husband. You see, they discovered that he had an allergic reaction to one of the spices in the dip that was served in her crockery. No one else became ill from it, just him, and it was a lethal dose… Furthermore they discovered some of the plant stem in her trash basket. The only thing that they can't figure out is if it was an accident. That particular spice has an alternative that was clearly marked in her recipe book, one that would have not been fatal to her husband…"
"She told me about what happened, she said that the president of the college had borrowed the book, and her dip dish, she had to complete her dialog for the tenure position."
Tipper saw Jessica become very thoughtful, and then sad. "Her notes for tenure were discovered, Tipper, however, the president of the college has reviewed them and informed the police they were a pale copy of what her husband had submitted two days before. They were going to announce his tenure at the gathering until they discovered her plagiarism. It wouldn't have looked good for the university, no matter how it came out."
Wishing she could shake her head she continued. "I don't believe she would need to plagiarized anything Jessica. Look over on her bed. She's been sketching that since I arrived here and I've just recognized what it is. It's DNA from some sort of plant, and its comparing it to another DNA source. If she is capable of remembering what the specific DNA looks like, I would bet you a long winning streak of the Red Sox that she's the original author of the thesis. Five will get you a C note that the person who came in to visit her was someone who wanted to keep that specific information quiet. If she was as diligent and focused on her paper as she was on the time she did the drawings, I have no doubt that she would have kept working on the paper instead of going to a social event. I find it very coincidental that just after the visitor came she had a seizure. I've got a gut feeling she's innocent, even though everything says she's not."
"I will have a word with Mort later on. As for now, I think I hear the food tray, and from what I've heard, you have been taken off of the NPO list…"
Jessica stayed with Tipper through out the afternoon, and when Tipper finally dozed off, she went over to the material that was tossed over the chair. Tipper had been correct, there was a certain brilliance in the drawing, closer to what would be seen in a text book. She felt a light touch on her arm. Gretchen stood behind her, ready to take the evening shift. Gathering her hand bag, Jessica made her way to the front of the hospital and nodded to one of the taxi drivers.
"Home, Mrs. Fletcher?" he asked, ready to make the right turn out of the hospital driveway. He waited until she was settled in regarding the expression on her face. Ben Michele had driven a taxi most of his life and he could read peoples expressions as to what they wanted to do before the person realized themselves. Had he seen the regular look on her face, he wouldn't have questioned it.
"How far is the Agricultural University from here Ben?" she asked, curious.
"Not far really, Mrs. Fletcher. Probably about half an hour.” He saw her struggle for a moment with her thoughts. "I took a fair there earlier today. A lady with reddish brown hair," he said helpfully.
Jessica blinked several times. "But you didn't bring her here?" Jessica knew that each driver had his own area that he ran, and that the areas were fiercely protected by the other drivers. Ben was a regular of the hospital - so much so that the hospital called him their second rescue crew member.
He shook his head. "No, I was doing the airport run early, then a lunch break. I was doing a drop off, so the curb guys didn't grumble much." Knowing that she wouldn't be going home with the look on her face as it was, Ben turned his car to the left and in short order merged onto the expressway. "I'll stick around for you… going to be taking a dinner break myself, and that will save you time on calling for another, who in my honest opinion, wouldn't know how to find the bay from their own back doors.”
Most universities were set up the same. In most of the buildings there was a map that directed the visitors to the receptionist desk. Jessica's sharp eyes took in the signs about the campus as they
pulled in front of the main building.
"It used to be a spit in the mud trade school where you could get your farm equipment repaired, until it merged with two others, a mail-in writers school, and a cooking school. Then they were bequeathed a chunk of farmland next to the campus so that the heirs wouldn't have to pay taxes on it, have a place to live and have younger people work the farm. It's actually tried to become a bit prestigious over the last three years."
Getting out, he opened the door for Jessica and pointed her in the direction of the Welcome desk that bore dark flowers. On a tripod was a large photograph of a handsome gentleman who had gleam in his eyes. Above the photograph was a dark bow and a card expressing regrets over the passing of one so young. It reminded Jessica of how young Frank was at his passing. For a moment she closed her eyes so that she would remain in control of her emotions. Frank’s death had been tragic, as had Grady's parents’ deaths as well.
"May I help you?" asked a strong woman's voice behind Jessica.
Drawing in a breath Jessica turned and saw a lady with short blond hair that seemed flat and unstyled next to her pressed linen suit. Something in the way that she wore the red power suit and carried herself informed Jessica that this was Brianna Phippson and she was someone used to getting her own way all the time. The only thing that seemed out of place was the excess of makeup that she wore about her eyes. Jessica recognized it as a cream concealer that was used to
cover birthmarks. There was no indication of swelling about the eyes, which ruled out bruising though there was a curious brown mark under the left temple hair.
"You must be Brianna Phippson, I'm Jessica Fletcher, A friend of mine has asked if I look into a personal matter for her on your campus.” Jessica could see several students watching with curiosity from the doors in the hallway.
"If it is in regards to the tragic death of Dr. Ben Saunders, the police have considered the case closed. "
"Actually, it’s in regards to his wife, Artemis Poynte, and the murder attempt on her today in the hospital. The hospital records showed she had a visitor prior to her seizures, and there is evidence that directly links this school with that visitor. Now, you can either speak with me, or you can have the police all over this campus as well as more news casters than can fit in your cafeteria. It’s your choice."
Mort worked his way down to the sandy beach and glanced about. There had to have been at least four tide changes since Tipper was here. Sighing, and not expecting to find anything at this point, Mort turned to return up the path to where his car was parked. Something bleached white tucked in the cliff face caught his attention. Walking over he saw that it was a bone, from the looks of it, it had been crystallized by the sea salt and sand and was pretty old. He was about to move it when he saw other stones, placed next to it and that the bone, in the shape of an arrow. There were four other small rocks in front. Playing a hunch, Mort took four steps in the arrow’s
direction and then looked down. Something was in the sand beneath him. He knew in his gut that there was - something. Sighing, he marked the spot and then went back up to his car and called for backup.
It was a scant few moments that the unearthing of a skeleton was uncovered in that same spot. According to the direction of the body, the arm had been over the head which was why that particular bone had been discovered first. People drowned all the time. Boats sank and the cold north Atlantic was not a forgiving mistress. They were able to extract bits of the clothing, and calculate that this person hadn't been dead more than fifteen years.
It was later in the evening when Mort entered into Tippers hospital room. "So, why didn't you call it in?" he asked curiously.
"Call what in?" Tipper answered, truly puzzled.
"The body, at seaboard cove." He said in a tone that informed her she should know what he was talking about. He saw the blank look on her face. Sighing he opened a folder and held up a photograph of the bone still sitting on the shelf of rock.
"That's just a bone ..." she said, shaking her head.
"Tipper, it belonged to a young woman who was murdered, shot in the back of the head. We recovered her skeleton about two hours ago. Why didn't you report it?”
For a moment Tipper was silent.
"Well?" he asked curiously.
He saw at once the weary look in her eyes, the shrinking of her shoulders into the bed. "I've had enough death, thank you. I'm not getting involved any more and I’m not going to tell my grandchildren that every time I turned around in my youth that I fell over yet another corpse. I'm tired of being shot at, losing people that I love, and having to wake up at night dreaming as I do. Let someone else have those dreams and duty."
Mort let out a soft sigh before picking up her hand. "From all that I've learned since Willie and Taylor lived here, some people just have it in them to be the point person for all of this. We can't make it stop. It's a part of us that will always bring something into our lives that others can’t handle."
"I cant do it any more, Mort. I can’t," Tipper said softly before her eyes closed in their own accord of slumber.
Mort brushed back a wisp of hair from her forehead. "I know," he said softly.
Jessica could see that her bluff wasn't going to work. She saw Brianna turn, and was about to call for the campus security when a warm male voice said behind her.
"Jessica! How wonderful to see you!
Turning, Jessica saw an elderly man with rough hands that had smudges of dirt under the nails.
"Marcus?" she gasped in disbelief.
"Yes, its me, reduced to a humble college professor ...” She saw him regard his daughter in silence.
"Father, your the Dean of Academics at this collage, that’s hardly a reduction of status!" Brianna said sharply.
Jessica noticed that Marcus straightened his spine a bit more. It wasn't that her reminder of his status had provided him spirit, rather, the tone of admonishing she had given him had raised the hackles on his back. the look in his eyes told Jessica there was more going on than he could say at that moment. "Come, let me show you ..."
"Mrs. Fletcher was just leaving, father." Brianna said abruptly. "She has a cab waiting."
Marcus flickered his eyebrow upward. "I can return you to where ever you need to be. I have been waiting for the chance to show you the hybrid roses that we started twenty years ago between Marc Anthony Rosa and Cesareans Rosa, quite a delightful combination! This way..." Taking Jessica by the elbow he guided her away from his fuming daughter.
When they were halfway to the greenhouse, Jessica said softly, "I don't remember a rose named after Caesar."
"Neither would Brianna," he said simply, gently folding her hand in the crook of his elbow. "Something is going on with my daughter, Jessica, I'm sad to say. I don’t know what, or why, or how, she has everything she could want - a successful career with status, a peaceful workplace, medical benefits, and a secret lover."
"A secret lover? She told you?"
Marcus chuckled. "Not in so many words, but a father knows."
Tipper woke and stretched. Blinking she realized that she was actually able to stretch, and the pain in her joints were remarkably absent. Her eyebrow raised slightly as she eyed what was on the IV pole. Superior pharmaceuticals! she thought, grinning. She felt warm and glowie as if she had had a long nap in the sunshine. Sitting up, she felt something. she turned, and saw she was sleeping peacefully and that it was just a shimmery image of herself sitting up. This can't be good, she thought, and looking back at the monitors found she was still in normal sinus rhythm.
"Don't leave your body, dear," she heard a familiar voice say softly.
Turning her head again to look in the other direction, she saw Toot.
"Where is Faraday?" she asked, curious, hoping to catch a glimpse of the man who'd so quickly caused all her dreams to rush together.
"Off minding another end of the family. You shouldn't be afraid of your gifts, dear heart. Aye, they are gifts, though not all see the use in what can be done. You ha' been involved since the first day ye opened your eyes and saw the world differently. Half of ye' sees what others don't, and the other half sees what others won't ever glimpse - the truth. That there is more to the world than light and shadows. You have the heart to wish to fit in, and please everyone, and its pulling you apart in many directions, and the shadows know this. They aren’t good, or bad in any direct way, they do what they must though to keep order. They make people face what they wish not to ever see again. You being, your talent, is facing death every day, and ether granting the gift of life from your hands, or easing that which be into death’s hands to be carried home."
"The markings, in the cellar - did Willie know about them?" she asked, needing to know.
"Wasn't his place to find them. The paint you tried to cover them with won't work on them - much like a parent who tries to scrub the crayon off the wall, it just comes through. They have been there for generations, and will stay there till the end of time, an no lass, they didna call the shadows to you, if that’s what your wondering. You needn't worry, though, dear heart. Only those who have been touched by grace can see them."
"If they come back, I - I can't hold them off, Toot. I can't keep them at bay anymore. they will come and take me - and I just don't want to keep getting involved anymore. Don't they understand that?"
"Each journey is for a reason, child. Even into the shadows."
Toot's hand pressed against her shoulder and eased her back into her body. Tipper felt a jolt as her body connected and the twisting pain she had been enduring came with a rush of emotions. She knew the next time she saw the shadows, they would get her, and she would die.
Tipper heard a soft laugh that she knew was Toot's. "We all die, dear heart. Just not today."
Glancing about with her eyes, Tipper saw her vital signs on the monitor unchanged.
What markings? she wondered to herself. She couldn't remember. She looked at her nails, and saw embedded near the cuticles a whitish paint that she knew was used to white wash the side of houses, but she didn’t remember doing any painting at all. She remembered fixing the steps, and
deciding just the other day to make a finished second basement with French drains behind so that it would drain properly in case of any more flooding. Harrison had been helpful in ordering the type of boards that just snapped into place and wouldn’t drain her bank account and said they would be good for a couple of generations.
Until it would be forgotten, or buried with time.
Toot had said that the shadows weren't after her because of what the writing said. If there was writing, if it had been a dream, it could have been paint from anything, she just didn’t remember.
The bone, though. As hard as she had tried to block it out of her mind, she still saw the white bone upon the sand. She knew what it was. she knew that it was something that she would regret getting involved in, and if the actions of the shadows were any indication, then it said that some how, she was involved in a way she didn’t understand.
Something moved from the corner of her eye. Blinking once, she saw it move again, low then move up and Tipper knew what it was.
The shadows had found her.
Tipper knew she couldn't run, or fight - or even scream. For a heart beat, she wondered if her life would flash before her eyes, but then a different thought took hold of her. Regret. At first, it was the regret for not bringing the bone to the attention of the authorities, but she pushed that aside. She had made a mark where it would be found - and that was the best she could do. If she was going to be damned for her regrets, then it would be for something that tore at her more. Her deepest regrets - not being there as much as she wanted to help young Frank when he was struggling with his rehab. Her duties at the clinic prevented her from being with those she cared about, knowing that for some, time was very precious. Her regret at not letting Taylor know what Willie was doing, and regret that so many good people had to lose their lives because the government had its dirty secrets and regret that she couldn’t do more to stop the injustice of it all.
She pushed deeper, bringing the pain of Faraday dying in her arms up to the surface. If she was to be condemned over a death, why not his? She was the one who had dragged him into the room, and he'd lost his life defending her. All the love she had in her heart for him - her love of life had died that day. Why hadn't the shadows taken her then and spared her all the abject misery and pain she had undergone since then?
Tears filled her eyes, not of shame, but of rage. How dare they judge her? How dare they just now decide to take her, when her soul had been ravaged all this time from the knowledge Faraday would be alive if it wasn't for her, and that a part of her had died that day as well. The shadows loomed over her, and she looked at them - looked at what was under the hood of the shadows, not caring, not feeling horror, or anything, just grief.
A silvery hand reached out and touched the tears on her cheek. There wasn’t a face at all, rather just a simple light that shown from under the cowl. Not a fearsome beast, or monster, just something as simple as the light.
Faint words whispered in her head.
Faraday would have still died, as would the others - it was their time. She felt a sense of confusion from them. She was very much alive, though they had felt her soul wax, her spirit diminish, and dark brooding thoughts filled her from all that she had seen. She was surrounded by memories of the dead, and the dead spoke to her, unheard of to the shadows save for few. She had died before, yet she lived. When she fell, all hope had left her. Her emotions, raw now, galvanized her. "I am a good person,” she manage to whisper.
There was a curious, sound, almost a chuckle. Not evil or malevolent, but parental.
'Without shadows and darkness in ones life, one does not see the light,' the soft voice said to her, resting its hand on her forehead.
"Why did you try to drag me away, and the elevator shaft? Why?"
'You were not ready.’
Puzzling over being ready for what, Tipper felt the grief that had come to the surface and crash against her ebb back into a place in her heart. She felt different, in a way she couldn't explain.
'Darkness is nether good, or evil - it is only light contained, its release is hope,’ the voice said gently before the shadows stepped back and faded in the shaft of sunlight breaking through the clouds and entering her room.
When Mort came to check on her later that afternoon he found her in bed, eyes wide open, with the nurses saying she had become unusually quiet after her nap. Mort pulled up a chair and took her hand in his.
"Something you want to talk about?" he asked curiously.
“If you have a blue rubber ball, and its your most favorite thing in the whole world, and you find out the blue rubber ball has a yellow center, which, is very bad - do you give it up, or do you accept it as it is, because it never changed, only your perception of what is right, and wrong?"
Mort sat up, looking at Tipper keenly. He was about to dismiss what she had said to hospital psychosis, but the way she looked ... He glanced down, remembering his brother, all the problems that kid made for him, and how he never stopped loving him, but the bad things he
did made him stop liking him as a person. The later acceptance of his brother caused Mort to look back at Tipper, who was waiting for an answer.
"With time, I would accept it. Love is very powerful ... powerful enough that you would protect it too."
For a moment Tipper said nothing, then just nodded. He saw her eyes grow heavy and it was a few heartbeats later that she fell asleep.
Mort stretched to turn off the light, and in doing so, caught a glimpse of something on her hand. Curious, he turned the palm of her hand to the light for a moment, then turned it off. Quietly he left her room to stand in the doorframe. He had found the paint cans. he had been all over the store looking for clues, and had no idea where she had painted. She wouldn’t have painted at the clinic and then brought the empty cans to the store. There had to be something else.
Jessica moved among the flowers which yielded fragrant blossoms and inhaled deeply.
"This is beautiful Marcus!" she said, smiling as she turned back to him. She paused as she saw him regard a plant in a small pot. He was frowning at something. Jessica stepped closer and saw that the plant had been pinched back rather severally. She recognized it as an aromatic herb, but wasn’t familiar with its particular Latin designation. "Marcus? What is it?"
Marcus looked up at her, his eyes troubled. "I know every single plant in this greenhouse, I know the labels, and how many leaves each will weald and what use they will bring. I trust Dr. Poynte as well to know how to do her job properly."
"But you don't recognize this one?" she asked, curious.
"Oh, no, I do in fact, but, the tag isn't what it is supposed to be. It's not in her hand writing, which all of her work tagging is. It’s not a commercial grade plant - it's wrong in so many ways..."
Placing the plant down he wiped the dirt from his hands. "Jessica - I know my daughter has had some difficult times in the past with relationships and in her professional life. She has always had an ambition, to have it all, no matter who she has to hurt in the process. I am aware that she was angry with the relationship that I have with Dr. Poynte, and I had hoped by my stepping aside and allowing her to take over the university that she would be happy."
"Your relationship, Marcus - surely ..."
Marcus shook his head. "No nothing like that. Artemis is as dear to me as my own daughter, though we are closer than Brianna and I ever were. She shares the same passion I do for plants, and teaching. It was surprising, though, when her husband turned in the tenure study that he did - and then Artemis turned hers in, three days later, and it was nearly identical. Artemis's was flawless, her husband’s had one or two errors, but they were overlooked due to the ground breaking research. Yes, he was into research, but not at her level. I watched her come to those conclusions.”
Her husband, while he was here - well, not to speak ill of the dead, but while he was brilliant in his own right, he didn't serve the same passion. Brianna lauded him as the next Darwin though, and when Artemis's paper came out, Brianna, acted rather oddly. She didn’t even read it, she said it needed revisions, and sent her back to work on it the day of the party, and let Artemis know she would have her answer that evening. When Artemis didn’t show up, Brianna went ahead and announced that Artemis had been dismissed for plagiarism, and that her brilliant husband would be taking over the position with tenure. She went as far as saying that Artemis would have to remove herself from the campus. When the accident happened, Brianna informed the police that Artemis knew this, but I was there. I had seen her dismissal of Artemis's work, and I knew something was horribly wrong."
"As her mentor you would have had to have reviewed it before she turned it in. You would have seen any flaws. Why did you allow Brianna to accept Artemis's husband’s work as his own?"
Running his fingers through his hair he leaned against the bench. "I'm an old man, Jessica. There was already talk about the type of relationship that I had with Artemis - though it was entirely proper, Brianna would have taken steps to see that I would have been removed. This - this research here is my life. Without the college, I have no place to go. When she told Artemis that her paper had errors in it, it was saying to me, that she would then take steps to show that my teachings had been flawed. I had been challenging her on other things, and I needed to have all my facts before I could confront her publicly at the party, but there was no time to make it happen. I don't know if she had purposely said that knowing Artemis would go back and review her work right away, or that she was hoping to humiliate her in front of everyone. It's like I don't know what my own daughter is capable of." Sighing, he looked at the plant. "Even murder."
Jessica watched as he placed the plant carefully back on the potting shelves and dusted his hands off. For a moment he stood silently, then turned to Jessica and regarded her. "I love my daughter, Jessica. I have supported her when I knew she was wrong, and wished for the best when she was learning through her mistakes. Artemis and Brianna always have been in a sort of competition, Brianna always wanting what Artemis had, and Artemis struggling to finally be recognized for her brilliance. They grew up together and were as close as anything in their childhood. It wasn't until later that I realized that it was Brianna hanging on Artemis - using her to get what she wanted. By rights, Artemis has far more qualifications to run this school than Brianna, but she didn't want it. Both were professors here, both at the top of their class, and it was my decision that gave Brianna her position, by default. The only thing that Artemis did on her own was to marry, and quietly at that. Brianna had no problems bringing him on staff, and from there - well, things didn’t work out, I guess, the way that she planned."
"You suspect that Brianna’s lover is Artemis's husband, don't you?"
"What a horrid thing to say, Mrs. Fletcher!" was a stunned gasp from the door of the greenhouse. Brianna strode forward and stood with her hands on her hips. "I would never do such a thing!" she said with a tinge of anger in her voice. Straightening herself to her full height she regarded her father.
"I've spoken to the board, and with the untimely death of Ben Saunders, and with the dismissal of Artemis, well, there really is no need to keep these greenhouses active. I've called for their removal, and the board has granted the funding for this area to be converted into faculty parking."
Ronald Marcus Phippson regarded his daughter. He had built the greenhouse to be the finest research facility on the east coast. For the longest time he stood silently, then he began to laugh. The laughter shocked his daughter, who looked at him as if he was mad.
Wiping a tear from his face he turned to Jessica. "My daughter forgets herself sometimes. You see, Jessica, while she may wish to cover evidence of what she's done, she’s forgotten to look at the deed to the college, and what it stipulates." Turning back to his daughter he said, "Thank you, dear, for finally giving me a loophole to have you removed as president of this college. I think you have done quite enough, and it's time that the position is given to some one else who actually cares more about the students and the college than whose life she can destroy."
Brianna strode forward to slap him. He caught her wrist and held it tightly. "If you would have bothered to check the deed, it stipulates the grounds must remain unchanged for a period of 550 years. Any member of staff who defies this shall be removed from position, even the president of the college. I know what you have done, and what you are planning, Brianna, and it's over," he said firmly.
Brianna pulled away and snarled as she pulled over one of the potting benches with in her reach. Pots shattered and dirt and plant spilt everywhere. " Do you think anyone really cares what a 100 year old deed says? or that they will listen to you once I let them know you have been sleeping with that favorite student of yours? She’s a third your age!"
Catching her arm again he pulled her out the door of the greenhouse and into the open air where she could do no further harm. Jessica looked at the plant that Marcus had placed on the other shelf. He had found it on the potting shelf she had tipped over - perhaps by instinct, perhaps by luck, it was now safe, and hidden among the other plants. Picking up a pair of shears, Jessica trimmed a single leaf off of the plant and placed it in her eyeglass case in her purse. It would have to do until she could get the plant part analyzed and discover why it seemed so wrong to Marcus. She was about to go when she hesitated - picking up a larger flower pot, she took the smaller plant, placed it on the ground, pushed it under the bench, and covered it with the larger flower pot. It would be safe, and she had been very careful to not add fingerprints to it. If her hunch was correct, Mort would need to know how to find the plant, and it needed to be safe from any more of Brianna’s outbursts.
When she stepped out of the green house, she saw security guards there with Brianna in cuffs. She was struggling wildly and furious with her father. "He did the damage!" she said, pushing back the guard.
"No, Brianna, you did," said Jessica.
"She's his friend, they plotted this!!" she screamed, lashing out at Jessica with her foot.
"Mrs. Fletcher is a well respected member of Cabot Cove, and a famous author. She would have no reason to lie, and every reason to tell the truth," he said as he removed her pass key and purse.
"What do you want us to do with her, sir?" asked one of the guards, uncertain and wary of her lashing feet.
"Place her in the security briefing room, under guard, even if you have to cuff her to one of the bars, until the police arrive.”
"The police? Are you mad? For what?" she demanded
"Destruction of student property, and of government research worth over four billion dollars to the pharmaceutical companies for starters, and if anything happens to the greenhouse, I will be sure to mention it at your competency hearing. Me sleeping with students, indeed! I aught
to wash your mouth out with soap, young lady!'
Jessica took the waiting cab to Mort's office where he eyed the leaf with curiosity. He leaned against his desk then sighed. "You realize that the two people in the world who can give me answers on this are not available - Willie's gone, and yes, we were using Artemus Poynte to
do our DNA research for the lab that Willie had set up."
"I'm not a horticulturist, but, I do know cooking. Its horseradish. But the pot said something else - something that Marcus frowned over.”
Jessica took time to explained to Mort what had happened, and how she had worked to preserve the evidence. Nodding, Mort sighed and picked up his cell to call his wife. "Anywhere I can drop you off before I go to the judges office for a warrant for this plant? I'd like to see it before it gets swept away by the cleaning crew."
"I will go with you, Mort. I can show you the pot, and hopefully you can speak with Marcus so that this can be resolved."
It was a nail biting five and a half hours before the judge was back from dinner with his wife - no one knew where they had gone, or when they would be back. Mort drove through the dark with a certainty they were racing against time. It was dark on campus, something that Jessica said was odd because the lights for the parking lot were out. The students were on the front lawn with flashlights and blankets.
"What's going on?" asked Mort to one of the young jocks who had a girl on each arm holding them up as they giggled in the night air.
"Whoa - just had to evacuate the school, someone pulled the fire alarm for the whole campus and we all had to leave the dorms past lights-out."
"Mort, the greenhouse," said Jessica as she saw a light move between the plants, knowing they were not moving from the brisk breeze that moved the trees that night.
While Mort had retired, he was still in pretty good shape. Adele had seen to that and if he had any hopes of beating her at arm wrestling he had to keep up his endurance. As he approached the greenhouse, he could hear the sound of something smashing. Groaning he pushed himself a bit harder, and burst in.
"FREEZE - POLICE!" he shouted. There was a flicker of a match as someone turned, and the whiff of gasoline in the air. Mort cocked his gun and held his ground. Squeezing off a shot he blew out the window pane. The wind gushed in, blowing the match out. Mort didn’t get a good look at the person beyond their height, and that they were wearing a black ski mask over their face. Rather than giving up, the person dashed through the window, shattering it, and burst away into the darkness. Mort was about to follow when he heard a low moan in the corner and went to investigate. The elderly man laying with a bleeding scalp was no doubt Marcus, as Jessica would confirm.
Clean up crews would report later that fortunately the gasoline did not contaminate the soils of the plants, but rather was directed at the raised floors that were wooden and replaced every season. They were an odd material that resisted water, but the gas cut through the oil properties of the wood making them a tinder box. No prints were found on the abandoned can, and the little plant was discovered safe and sound by Mort, and held in a box while they returned to the jail. The doctors would inform them later Marcus would be fine, though he would have a heck of a bump on his forehead.
"Do you think your daughter had any thing to do with this, Marcus?" Jessica asked softly.
"I don’t know. I was looking for the plant when I was hit from behind. I knew something was going to happen when the lights went out, and somehow Brianna was able to convince one of the security guards to let her go, so she is at large. I’ve really nothing to hold her on, and if it was her, and not a rival drug company, then she would have seen the plant being removed from the greenhouse. "
"What is so special about that particular plant, Marcus?"
He looked at Jessica. "It shouldn’t be there," he said softly.
Tipper heard a noise of a wheeled cart coming into her room. Muzzly she blinked then yawned, wondering what time it was. She saw Seth looking down at her, a grin on his face.
"Awake I see, young lady? Good, its about time that you have something to do, rather than just
lay in bed feeling sorry for yourself."
He checked the IV drip and then pressed the button that raised the back of her bed so that she was beginning to sit up. She was mildly surprised to find that she didn’t feel any pain and raised a questioning eyebrow to Seth.
"You’re fine. The nerve block that you had last night will prevent discomfort while you do some work for Mort."
'What sort of work did he have in mind?" she asked, curious.
Seth pulled the cover off of the microscope that had been placed on a gyro platform. While the specimen would have to be kept with in a certain tilt angle, if it was small and covered with a glass plate, she could look at it almost just where she was with out leaning forward. She eyed the foam containers. "I’m not going to like what’s in here, am I?" she said.
"Nothing you haven’t seen before, except in an animal. What we need to know from the blood and contents, and even this little guy here -” he indicated a box with a rather battered plant that had evidence of fingerprint dust on it - “is exactly what killed Artemis Poynte’s husband."
"This isn’t exactly my area of expertise, Seth!" she said, wincing at the smell wafting from one of the containers.
Seth didn’t say a word as he set up a sterile field on the bed, and popped a mask on her face, as well as a fresh gown. "Nothing you haven’t done in your practice to find out what was making a pet ill. Willie was fairly confident that you could manage something like this in your sleep."
"Have you heard from Taylor? Since the babies’ births?"
"Only to say that the kids and babies are all doing fine. Shame Toot can't be released early to join them. With Willie and the others gone, she really doesn’t have any one to help her manage. Nasty
doings, with the fires ... why any one would light them is beyond me. From what I understand, there wasn't much left for George to identify the bodies except for the DNA. It’s over though - those who were responsible have been punished.”
Seth saw a far away look in her eyes as they brimmed with tears. "He was a good man," she said softly. For a moment, she held her gaze on the small plant, then said, "Somehow, I don't think that they will be letting Toot join Taylor. The laws are funny about some things."
It took the better part of an hour for Tipper to determine that the person’s histamine levels were through the roof, and to analyze the contents of his last meal. Once she had the composition, she worked backwards, and identified the specific ingredients. By chance she found a small piece of a leaf, and set it aside. Under the microscope she could see that it was the same as the plant that she had on her stand, and it would take a second test to confirmed that the sample and the plant were both the same DNA. Frowning, she picked up the plant and smelled the leaves. While the scent was faint, it was undoubtedly of the wasabi/horseradish variety. Though the most common use of the root would be for cooking, it wasn’t uncommon to use the leaves for other dishes. While she studied the plant and moved one of the small stems aside, another moved. Curious, she saw that a single strand of hair was tangled in the foliage. Using the tweezers, she picked the hair out and laid it on a napkin as she tipped some water into the plant to reduce the shock. A droplet of water fell on the hair leaving a small stain behind on the napkin.
"Now that's interesting," she said to herself.
In four hours, and in time for her dinner tray, she had some answers for Mort.
"He had an allergic reaction to a leaf from the plant that you gave me. I don't know what your finger prints have said, but I found a single hair that had a temporary rinse dye on it - Ash Brown, by the color - and I seem to remember someone with that hair color came into the hospital when Artemis had her attack."
"Well, all we could find on the plants pot was Artemis, Marcus and Mrs. Fletcher’s finger prints, no one else’s. Marcus doesn’t seem like the type to wear hair dye. Was there a follicle at the end of the hair?"
Tipper shook her head. "No, but it’s pretty distinctive. This hair has been permed, and dyed, and then had the rinse over it. I would have thought that it may have been an accidental contamination, except, well, when I tweezed the hair out, I found a few more below in the dirt, wrapped about the root. It had to have been the person who potted the plant. If they were planning this from the start, they would have worn gloves."
"Why didn’t it wash off before?"
"They watered this plant from the bottom, the hair was protected by a fair number of leaves, and my guess is that it was a fresh rinse that had been heat set. Little bits would have come off every day with watering from the top - that's the nature of the dye - but watering from the bottom, the hair doesn’t absorb any liquid at all. It’s a common shade, though - getting someone with a purchase of this, even eliminating everyone who didn’t go to the school. I'd say half the girls on campus swap dyes weekly."
Mort sighed. "So we have nothing except Dr. Poynte’s fingerprints on this and for all we know, it’s her hair, because we can’t match DNA."
"Did I say we had nothing, Mort?" Tipper asked with a grin.
Mort tilted his head. He would have to play poker more often with Tipper if she could keep such a face as she had while explaining things. "So, what do we have then?" he asked carefully.
"Well, it’s simple. Look, Artemis wouldn’t have cared if her fingerprints were all over this plant because if you check, they are all over every other plant in the place. She also isn’t the type to dye or perm her hair. I saw it - she has some gray, and its poker straight, but it’s also wispy fine. Ladies who have that hair type don't dare do anything to it in fear of losing what little hair they do have."
Mort considered what she had said, then nodded again. "I'll run it past Mrs. F," he said as Tipper settled back into her covers.
To her surprise, the next morning Tipper woke to find her clothing at the bottom of the bed and a nurse signing discharge papers.
"Doc says your doing well enough to go home and rest, though he said not to climb those steps of yours for a few days. You’re to relax for the next four days, and then you can return to work. The pain management seems to have relaxed the muscle spasms in your back, and you’re fine."
"Really?" Tipper asked brightly. "Do I get breakfast first?"
The nurse laughed as she went out the door. "Of course," she said as she closed the door so Tipper could have some privacy.
Once dressed and waiting for her breakfast, Tipper glanced about and then made her way down the hall to the nurses’ station. She could see the patients’ names written on the white board, and she was curious about how Artemis was doing. To her relief she saw Artemis was only a few doors down. Quietly Tipper went down the hall to peek in.
All the tubes and wires were gone except a simple IV. The oxygen and the restraints were gone, and at the sound of her footsteps, Artemis woke focused on Tipper, and gave a smile.
"I know you," she said softly. "It's good to see you up and about ... and you have faced them, haven’t you?"
Tipper found herself nodding to Artemis's question.
Tipper left the hospital two hours later, but instead of heading home as directed, she had the taxi drop her off at the shop. Her bag hit the floor with a soft thud. She could tell Mort had been here, that he had finished the steps for her. Locking the door from the inside she knew that only a key would open it, and only Mort would have the spare. he was on night duty, and would be sleeping for several hours. Stuffing some granola bars in her bag with two water bottles she opened the door to the basement. Using the rail she went down to the second basement and turned on the overhead light. Her fingers traced over the thin boards that she had used to panel the lower basement. It hadn’t been hard, really, once she had measured things, and drilled support screws
on the wall, she just had to hammer it along the main one, and it sealed up the walls. Except for one thing that she had done.
Perhaps it was part of everything that she had been through, the desire to hide things, to get her life back to normal. Willy would have known what to do, Willy should have been the one dealing with all of this, but Willy couldn’t, he had left it to her, and Willy was dead according to Mort,
though Toot was alive.
It didn't make sense, though. Toot had been the one she had seen in her dream, vision, whatever she had experienced. She only saw dead people. No, that wasn’t quite true, she had seen Margarita, but she was special, she could place herself in one's dreams. Toot had never done that before.
Her hands felt the cool breeze behind the boards. She had to know - she had to be strong enough to do this, and for now, she had to do it by herself.
Giving the board a push, it went in slightly and then the spring latch gave swinging the door open. She had the idea from one of the entertainment centers shed seen - it was flush, it was safe and only if you pushed in the right area would it open. It would open with a nudge from the other side too, so she was safe from getting locked in there.
The air was cool, and dry as the light from the room flooded in the limestone cave that had been uncovered from the water. She could smell the fresh paint that she had placed on the walls, trying to hide what she didn't understand, what had scared her witless.
She walked into the tunnel and into the room that it opened up into. She had placed ten layers of paint over the writings on the wall, and it had bled through. Now her hand went to the wall and traced what was written.
Names of people she knew. Her mother’s family name was here, as was Willie’s family, back as far as the first names that had come over and beyond. These were the names of the hidden, and the ones that were seen. It connected everyone who had been born to the line, those who had the sight. There was more, but she couldn’t deal with it, or face it.
She had seen the white marble block in the corner, with the same cut-out as the worry stone she never let leave her pocket. Something drew her at the time to place the worry stone in the cut out, and the soft scrape grind of a moving stone wall on the other side had caught her attention.
Her flashlight had caught the bones, and the cloths that had wrapped them. This place, this room had been a tomb for those who wore the ivy and clover rings. She had seen more marble in there, and steps going down carved in marble, and she had closed the door and done her best to cover what she had seen. She wouldn’t go down the steps, though, not alone, not without having some way to be sure she wasn’t going to get trapped behind the wall to die there.
She didn't know who to trust though. There was an energy she couldn’t explain when she was down in that room, and the memory of what the Fordhams were saying, that this was the gathering place, this place had the energy ... she knew, now, why, and how, and the power that could come from those who would channel the energy for their own reasons. Even if she did have the ‘sight’ to speak to those who were dead in these chambers, and to see beyond, the notion of actually doing so terrified and fascinated her at the same time. Tipper closed the room, walked back to the door she had created and closed it. She pulled up a box and sat down leaning against the wall.
Her answers were here. she didn’t know how, except by the room being sealed very well, the water didn’t destroy everything. She knew that the tunnel continued on to the now fixed water main pipe, and that there was probably more beyond that she would have to know about in
time. These were smugglers caves as well. it was telling, what this place had been used for.
Opening her bag, she pulled out one of the bars. She wasn’t going to go home until she had her answer, one way, or another.
There was probably more beyond that she would have to know about in time. These were smugglers’ caves as well. It was telling what this place had been used for.
Mort had learned of Tipper’s release when he stopped by the hospital. He had been by her home to feed her cats earlier, and the fact that the cats were pretty hungry informed him she hadn’t been there. Jessica hadn’t seen her, and intuition told him she would be at the shop. He went there, letting himself in, and looked around. A light from the basement made him curious - he was always very careful to turn it off before leaving. Going down the steps he found her sitting in a corner looking at the wall.
"Doc is going to hit the roof if he knows you’re here. You’re to be resting," he said.
Tipper didn't look at him. "I am resting. And I'm eating as well..."
Mort pulled up a box and sat down. "So, is it just morbidness that draws you here?" he asked.
She gave him a puzzled look.
"The young man was killed in this shop, and Mrs. F was nearly killed in the first basement. So, who died down here?" he asked jokingly.
There was a jerk from her which spoke volumes.
"Okay, where are they?" he asked, sighing.
"Where are who?"
"The bodies, bones - what ever you found ..."
It wasn’t fear which crossed her face, but alarm.
"You did find bodies down here! I was just teasing you before but from your reaction, there is something down here I need to know about."
"No, you do NOT need to know about this, Mort! People who do need to know end up dead, or committed," she snapped, before falling silent.
"Willie hid more guns down here?" he gasped.
Tipper frowned. "What? No, he always hid them at the school," she said off hand.
Mort's head went back far enough from surprise to almost hit the wall. "You KNEW about them and you didn't tell me? How long did you know about this? Concealing information of gun smuggling is a class one felony..."
"I didn’t help him smuggle them, I only helped him with how to destroy them with out harming the environment. You cant drop seven tons of guns and biohazards with out some impact somewhere, and it’s all destroyed, so its finished and it got him killed. This has nothing to do with the guns, and it’s a family matter, so just leave it."
Mort took a few calming breaths. Granted, Tipper had withheld evidence from him, but according to Scotland Yard that case was closed, and had finished with a bad end. A lot of innocent people had died.
"As Willie's is dead, and his family is dead, or in hiding, there isn't any harm in cleaning out this particular closet," he said, indicating the second basement.
He saw Tipper close her eyes and wilt. "It's not Willie’s family line ..." she said softly.
"Its not?" he asked, confused now. He saw her bite her bottom lip and ball up her fists.
"How on earth did your family get involved in all of this?" he asked in a breathless whisper. He was guessing. Tipper, while she cared deeply for her friends, would have no issue with speaking freely if it was just someone whom she didn’t know well. This was personal, though - he could read it in her body language.
"I don't know. I don't know enough to know, and it's like - there is going to be something really really bad if it comes out. There are things here, that shouldn’t be - somehow, they were brought over, and I don’t know how Kent Fordham knew that this was the spot to do it, but it is, and Mort, all I know is that from what we found out on the sword, a lot of good people were murdered either to keep the secret safe, or to try to get it out of them. Who would you be willing to give up? Ian? Taylor and her kids, the girls? Frank Jr. or me? Let this one go until I'm able to find a solution for it. The less you know, the better it is."
"Are you sure it has to do with what you think?"
"All right. I want to help you though, you can’t do this alone. What do I have to look for, or notice?"
Tipper blinked. The rings. But there was something about them. They were clean, and shining, and they were solid silver. Whatever was in that room took the air away, unless it was something else. She glanced over to the door and saw a fuzzy mist seeping out from underneath. The tide was coming in, the pressure in the room was changing, reacting to the rising sea water.
"Mort, we need to get upstairs right now," she said, struggling to her feet.
Mort got up and saw the mist. "I don’t think I’m going to like what that is, will I?”
She shook her head.
He grabbed her pack and guided her as fast as they could move, closing each of the doors behind them. Going up to the street level Mort locked the door and escorted Tipper to the police cruiser. "Come on," he said.
She hesitated. "Where to?" she asked.
Mort lowered his voice so only she could hear. "To the only connection that I know of which brings the family to the States."
Blinking, Tipper got into the cruiser. "But Taylor and the kids are three states away," she said, putting on her seat belt.
Mort shook his head. "Elisa Trudy. She may be babbling in the psyche ward in Portland, but what she is babbling may make perfect sense to you."
“Every myth, has some grain of truth in it its what you believe in, actually. If you can believe in something just on faith, anything is possible," began Taylor. She saw Tipper shake her head, not understanding. Taking a breath Taylor took Tippers hands in hers. "Ivy will grow anywhere, as will clover but they don't grow together. It has something to do with the soil - either the ivy chokes out the clover, or the clover overruns the ivy. It's a give and take process. Ivy lives on the dying, but clover is different, it puts life back into the soil.”
Tipper looked out the window, remembering what words Taylor had told her. They all had the silver rings with clover and ivy on them - rings that Willie had been hand carved, not cast. Special rings ...
Portland's facility was reluctant to allow Mort and Tipper access at first, until Tipper straightened her spine and said, "My name is Dr. Henderson, and I wish to discuss with Elisa matters in regards to her hallucinations. If my hypothesis is correct, they may end shortly with this discussion."
The nurses looked at each other and then slid the visitor book over to her. "Honey, if you can make her stop going on about how she feels betrayed, go for it, but you know, that it has to be recorded."
Tipper nodded, then paused. "She had a silver ring, when she came. Where is it?"
"She has it still, won't part with it, and the doctors said that she could keep it, its just some costume jewelry."
Tipper strode confidently to where the room was, following the nurse. Her eyes took in everything, and in a paranoid sense, she was looking for the hourglass symbol, but didn’t see it.
What shocked Tipper was Elisa was now bald, too thin, and her body showed signs of picking of the flesh. An odd feeling came over Tipper. She had never really encountered Elisa, but there was
something- familiar about her.
"Trua a bheith agat do dhuine," Tipper said to her softly. (“I'm sorry for you.”) Elisa's head turned and looked long and hard at her. "An Aimsir Fháistineach damáiste a fhulaingt. Adhlacfaidh mé onóraigh n onóir." (“I will do my best to repair the damages done to you. When the time comes, you will be buried with honor.”)
For the longest time Elisa leaned against the wall, not moving. Tipper went to her, and showed her the worry stone. Elisa's head looked at Mort, then back to Tipper. Blinking several times Elisa sat down on the floor and started to speak very softly.Tipper had to lean forward to catch what she was saying.
"I've known for years. Since it first came out - my grandmother knew all sorts of things and she would tell me about them … what to do, in case I would meet someone like… him. How to know them … I've know all about them, and the kin, since I was a little girl. I learned that I would have to treat them the same as I would any other person, even if they are…well… special. My grandmother told me if a good turn was done, then it would come about again ten fold. You have to take care of them, you see. No matter how they come into your life, without them, the world loses something. Even if its to find Sainmhíniú." Elisa drew in a breath and sighed. "You’re here because you want to know, because of what you see, and have found, but are not able to believe."
Tipper regarded her unblinking. "The shadows are light," she said softly.
Elisa nodded. "None of your kind should have left the woods and white rocks where you sprang from, and we've paid for the barter ever since ... Yes. The Barter. They came from the white rocks and woods sitting along the streams that ran pure, the ones that healed men of their suffering, men who paid them in the best gold. Soon they came and asked for the hands of the winsome lass's in hand fasting, and the children born spread across the land exacting the barter from others as well. And the people paid gladly to be healed ... until they learned they must continue to pay and pay to stay well, or all of the ills would return. The folk took the water by force, taking it away, and the waters stilled at the source, but when it was spilled to the ground from the vessel it ran blood. A new barter was made, to protect and find those who harmed those of wood and stone. They heal any one, but never their own kind. The weak always fail and they have to be kept safe from harm so that the barter would continue and the waters would run again to heal. But if you find one, and give them the task and they accept the charge, the barter may be ended. I've done what I could – I've seen the signs, I know that place in Cabot Cove is the place of gathering… of a new stream that will heal again. The old debt must be laid aside once and for all. I've given the bond back - I've done what I could to protect. Lay aside the debt now and release me that I may find peace!"
Tipper caught Elisa's hands in hers, and the woman jumped as if an electrical charge had passed through her.
"You have honored your vow to the family and the debt is paid. Your name is on the great wall and will not be forgotten. You will rest with those who have done great service."
"It is?" asked Elisa, her face filled with joy. Tipper nodded once, not trusting herself to say more. She had seen Elisa's name on the wall, something that now made sense - Elisa's grandmother was among those buried under the shop, or, should have been. Carefully Tipper cupped her hand and stroked Elisa's face gently.
"Trouble your thoughts no more," she said softly. Elisa nodded and then sighed, at peace for the first time since her arrival. Tipper stood, then with a nod to Elisa and then Mort, they left the room. They were met as they passed the desk by a young man who wore a doctor's smock. Tipper glanced at his hands and his lapel and was relived to see nothing strange.
"I was called when you arrived, and I observed your session. I must say, I have never seen someone who has had such a remarkable treatment as yours. Elisa is sound asleep with out her meds. I couldn’t hear what was said - what did you do, and say, to her?"
Something, made Tipper take the young doctor's hand and look him in the eye. He was genuine in his interest. "I gave her answers, and peace." she said simply. Dumbfounded, the doctor nodded, and as he turned to say something to the nurse at his elbow, Tipper and Mort used the
moment to slip away.
Once in the car Mort looked at Tipper, who wore a very satisfied expression on her face.
"Okay, what gives, why are you grinning like the Cheshire cat?"
"I've solved it, sort of."
"Oh? And do you care to enlighten me?"
"The reason why the mist came up was that I opened an area without the second counter weight, and I dare say there is a spot for the sword of Willie’s kin as well. The second counter weight would keep the sea off of the mineral that was creating the mist that came from under the door. Maybe it resets, I don’t know. Opening the area without the counter weight opens up something that isn’t good. If you have the counter weight, the passage stays clear.”
"The passage to what?"
She saw his confusion.
"Look, in the early days, when there was allot of people coming into the cove to settle it, they didn’t really care what water was good water to drink. People would get ill, and only those who had the good water were keeping healthy. So, they go to these people and pay money for the water, and they they get better for drinking it, but they don’t know they have to keep drinking the good water. When they realized they would have to keep paying, they rebelled, and blood was spilt... that may be a clue as to which mineral the water was contaminated with. People died, and they went into hiding, Elisa's family, though, had remained loyal to the people who had the good
water, and were charged with their care, and rewarded with care until their debt was paid. For some reason, the debt was discharged to Elisa, who didn’t understand what she was taking on, until too late. No one was there to tell her it was over the moment we got a stable water system.”
"So, the ‘magical’ spring is under the shop on Oak Street?"
Tipper regarded Mort. "There never was an oak on Oak Street, was there? And it’s the only
real tree name in Cabot Cove, the rest are plants.”
"Well, they press wine and beer into oak barrels ... why not a water storage area?”
Tipper nodded, then nestled her head back on the seat’s head rest as she tried to work out why she felt as if she had missed something big.
She told mort she was fine when she was dropped off at her house and was just going to use the sofa in the living room to sleep on for a few days rather than navigate the steps, and her laundry was on the first floor anyway, so she could change - she would be fine. Going into her house she noticed the muddy footprint. She wasn’t alarmed after viewing the size of it, and realized that the owner of the footprint had to have used the bike she saw tucked under the eve side of her porch.
"Frank? what are you doing here?" She asked as she saw him curled up in her living room chair. He opened his eyes
"Waiting for you"
He nodded. "I got something in the mail this morning, with a note saying that I had to give you one... and something else..."
She noticed his back pack had something stuffed in it, and that his eyes were red rimmed. "What is it? What's wrong?"
He opened his back pack and pulled out the package. "It came addressed to me, but the note inside said to give it to you, that you would know what to do with it."
She blinked. It was Willie’s medical pouch that held every seed he had ever collected, as well as the herbs he used in healing.
"It only came from England, thats all I know, and it’s been sitting in customs a while, had to go through home land security. It was listed as an artifact/personal effects. He wouldn’t give this up unless he was dead, would he?"
Tipper sat on the sofa, and swallowed. "Frank, I have to tell you something... and I know, you above all people would understand... I see people who have passed on.”
She saw him nod. "I know, I've known that for a while... Angela, have you seen WIllie?" he asked softly.
She shook her head and bent down to his ear. "No, only Toot, and Mort thinks he is alive."
The relief on Franks face was evident, followed by a sadness.
"Hey, don't be sad. Toot said at the wedding he was a dead man walking, he knew his time had come. He is with his wife, and family, and he’s happy." She saw frank sigh, then nod before digging in his pocket.
"I think its a bit big for me, but you got one too, and from what I remember what Mrs. Trudy said, Seekers wear them, and they are given to them when it’s time, to make the way safe. I don't know what that means, except it’s going to put us in mortal peril again, isn't it?"
Tipper nodded. "Probably."
"So, do you know what is going on?"
Tipper nodded, then shrugged. "Mort and I spoke with Elisa, and she was saying that, well, our kind had water that would keep the ills at bay, and that you had to keep drinking it to stay healthy."
Frank shrugged. “Yeah, she told Ian and me the same thing, when she was looking for him to be the Seeker. He couldn’t, though, because he was of the family, and she was trying to reverse the debt. Is that like the fountain of youth place we found in the fall?"
For a moment Tipper looked at him. "Oh my ..."
Frank studied her expression. "So, you are thinking that it wasn't just the good water thing, are
you, that they really did find a way to keep time at bay, and if they didn't drink it they would get old again?"
"Frank, I know according to what I have heard, what ever ‘magic’ the spring had, it was poisoned by man’s greed. It wouldn’t do any one any good to drink it now."
"What else did you find, Angela?"
Frank had been there, at the burial, and had seen far more than his share, and was family.
"I found things I don't understand, and could be very dangerous unless made safe. The ones who would have known this, Toot, Gram, they are all gone, and we can't bring them back."
"You found the way before ..." he began.
"I had help from Margarita. I've not had those type of dreams since she left," she countered.
Frank watched her yawn. Standing he moved in front of her and bent down and carefully swung her legs onto the sofa. It wasn't until just then that Tipper realized how tired she was.
"I will take care of you, Angela" she heard Frank's voice say softly.
Pulling up the chair he grabbed a short blanket and pulled it over himself as he curled up. He had left a note for his parents that he was going to visit Angela and placed it on their note center. The
package had been there when he came home from school, and his mother was out at Dr. Seth's with his baby sister. Dad was off working. Looking outside he saw the sky's getting darker. He didn't fancy a ride home in the dark at this point, and he didn't want to leave Angela alone. She needed him. He grinned to himself. That feeling of being needed warmed him inside. He knew he would have to do something about dinner, and after feeding the cats and giving them fresh water he poked about in her fridge. Most of the stuff was microwave, or boil-water-and-microwave. Shaking his head he poked his head in her cupboards. A can of mushroom soup that was budging, and another one that was expired eight years ago were collecting dust. Removing both he placed them in the trash recycle bin. He didn’t dare open them.
It was a few hours later that she woke, sniffing the air. Something smelled pretty good. She turned her head and blinked. It had been the tink of a cup that had wakened her. Frank was sitting with a cup of soup that he was sipping from.
"What time is it?"
"About nine in the evening. You had a pretty good sleep. Are you hungry?" he asked. He rose and went to the kitchen and brought back a steaming mug of hot soupy mix that smelt even more wonderful and made her mouth water as it came closer.
“Did you make this?" she inquired. pulling herself to a sitting position
He nodded. "Wasn't hard, really. Just some of those noodles, and a can of carrots that hadn't expired, and some of the chicken meat that was canned. Dad show me how to make it, we do it all the time when Mom is out and he has to feed us."
Tipper nodded. The instant noodles were a staple of her diet, finding new ways to eat them was a rare treat. "It's late, you should be getting home..." she began before seeing Frank shake his head.
"I let them know I was staying tonight with you. You really shouldn't be by yourself."
Tippers eyebrows went up. "Oh?" she asked, the spoon halfway to her lips.
He nodded. "I don’t have school tomorrow, and with Ruth getting her shots she’s been fussy, and Mom said it was okay. I called her when you were sleeping so long and I let her know you shouldn’t be alone."
Tipper saw Frank didn’t blink or waver in what he was saying, and that he had repeated himself.
Frank had called home. At first he had left a message on the answering machine, but almost right away his cell phone buzzed. He took it outside on the deck and listened to his little sister in the background with her fussy cry. His mother was stressed. Aunt Jessica was over helping her with Ruth, and while he could have been a big help to his mother just then, Frank had looked back and looked at Tipper as she slept.
"She's just out of the hospital, Mom, what if something would happen? She doesn’t have anyone to take care of her."
His mother had sighed, then agreed. She hadn't seen the note until he had called and had worked up a fair head of steam that he wasn’t there. Hanging up the phone, she'd turned to Jessica.
"Well, at least if something happens, both of them can alibi each other..."
Jessica turned and looked at Donna. "What an extraordinary thing to say! What ever gave you that notion?" she asked, curious.
"Something always happens, Aunt Jessica. We both have seen it!”
"Oh, Donna, that just happens in ..." There was a crack in the distance and the house was plunged into darkness.
"See!" Donna said picking up her daughter and holding the wailing child close to comfort her.
"The power goes out all the time, Donna!"
From the ground came an unearthly wail as if a hundred damned souls were being released. The sound was all around them - building, shrieking - drawing Jessica and Donna closer to protect Ruth's ears from the sound.
The noise started as a rattle of the windows just after the lights went out at Tipper’s place. There was a definite sound after the shriek of a muffled explosion, then a pause, and the sound of the fire whistle being blown. Frank went to the window and looked out.
"What do you see?"
He shook his head "Only a glow down near the store. It’s not like fire or anything - it’s different. Greenish white and it’s just hanging there, like a fog." He looked at her. "If it was something that you needed to know about, Sheriff Metzger would let us know."
The door bell didn’t ring, and no one came around. In a way Tipper felt relief as she dozed on the sofa. Frank pulled up the coverlets over her shoulders and sighed as he snuggled into the chair himself. He had hoped the night would pass quickly, in a way, but in another, he wanted nothing more than a forever to watch her sleeping. Occasionally he would get up and check the goings-on down below, but the fog didn’t seem like it did anything except dissipate, and then it grew dark.
The knock didn’t come until the morning, and wasn’t heard by either Frank or Tipper. But the lads recognized Mort as he stood on the porch and fished for his key. He had rapped with his knuckles a few times, seeing them through the window, and became concerned. The lads worked their ways about his ankles not trying to trip him, but only delayed him long enough to see that they needed both food, and water. He heard the gentle snoring from Frank, and rationalized that if the cats were active, and there was snoring, they were not in immediate danger. He filled the bowls for the lads, and as they ate with a quiet crunch crunch of the kibble he strode into the living room and pulled up a chair, watching them sleep.
Frank looked like a cherub - well, an older one - his face untroubled by the events in his young life. Tipper, though - he could see her brow had begun to grow worry lines, though she looked very young for everything she had been through. Her eyes opened first, focusing on him as he
sat, holding his hat.
"The shop?" she asked, seeing something in his face.
"A possum climbed into the transformer next to the shop, and set it off, fried the transformer and the pole and surrounding tree. But something happened on Oak Street that I cant explain. The nearest thing I can think of is that your lower basement filled up with that gas we thought would go down with the tide ... well, don't ask me how, but the electrical charge made it phosphorescent, and glow most of the night. And the nearest thing we can think of was the charge was drawing it out, though we never have heard such a racket before. The fire chief thinks it was like air moving through pipes when you let the pumps go dry. The cloud turned a blueish green and just hung over the shop for most of the night, and I can’t say it was burning anything,
but the outside of your building looks like its been through a blow torch. The fire marshal said that there was no structural damage, its just covered with a fine white ash he cant explain. We didn’t call you last night because there was nothing you could do. There is concern that there is more damage to the building, and it’s possible they may recommend bringing it down. It’s up to you, Angela. I know there is stuff that is best not brought to light down there, without even seeing it. Somehow, I know. What do you want to do?"
Tipper’s eyes looked out at the patter of the rain that came down on the sidewalk.
"Is the roof okay?" she asked, not looking back at Mort.
"Yes. It’s fine. I don’t know if its safe for anyone to go in and see what’s in there, I’d all be for just taking it down to the base and rebuilding."
"We can’t, Mort, because I think the building itself holds a far greater secret to what is going on than we know."
Mort sat on the side chair with his hat in his hands and was silent for a long time.
"Angela, the thing is, no one really knows what is going on. I mean, you have hinted at things unsaid. Things I know I don't have the right to ask, or wonder about - but I know there really isn’t anyone left to ask. I'm long enough in the tooth to know whatever is happening is one of those great secrets that folks don't speak about. No one here can help you. No one knows enough of the old ways of Willie's family, and I’m guessing that’s what it really involves - that only someone of the family can understand all of this with out being corruptible. I'm not into the mumbo jumbo - I just need to understand so that the community is going to be safe. We've told the press that it was just a backed up septic system, and that the glow is a natural swamp gas effect. It smelled as much like someone dumped something in the sewers anyway."
"I don't have the answers, Mort, and even if they were looking at me in the face, even if I did have them, I don't have the authority to tell you."
"Why the hell not? If it’s a matter of trust..."
"Mort - people are being hunted down and killed for this information! I don't want you to be one of the ones caught in the cross fire!" she blurted then placed her hands over her mouth.
Mort leaned back on the chair. "Oh."
For the longest time no one spoke.
"I guess its time then that I make my own journey to Ireland and find the answers, and settle this. There is a lot to be put to rest, and hiding from it won’t make it go away. I can’t risk losing the whole town, Angela, for some secret that could remove Cabot Cove from the map."
"It's not, your journey, Sheriff," said Frank softly. "It would have been Willie's, but he's gone. Toot's gone, Gram, Mither, Rosemary, everyone over there is gone. Even the new baby that was born - they are all dead. If they didn’t stop at killing a baby, would they stop at taking someone who is older? You know they wouldn’t."
"The kids would know," Mort speculated.
"You don't have the right to endanger them, Mort," Tipper said as gently as she could, seeing the frustration in his face.
"If they were so advanced, and knew how to do all of these things, why wouldn’t they have written it down somewhere?"
"They purged with hellfire Mort, nothing survived," said Tipper with a hushed voice. She looked into her lap a long time, looking at the ring that had slid onto her finger with such ease, one that felt as if it had been on her hand the whole time. Glancing up, she saw Frank had a look, not unlike what Jessica wore when she had come across an idea. She saw Frank struggle with what he had to say, then he excused himself to use her restroom. It was a good ten min before he came back out, and he wore a flicker of a grin on his face as if he had come across some information that was too delicious to pass up.
Mort missed the exchange as he picked up his hat and dusted it off. "I'm placing a notice on the building for no one to enter, including you two, until we have this figured out. Right now, I have to head to the office and file the report. Though I don’t know how exactly I’m going to explain all of this."
"I'm not going anywhere for awhile, Mort, least ways, not to the shop, not until I’m able to manage my steps here," said Tipper agreeably. Frank dittoed it.
Mort was out the door and in his car when happened to glance in the window at them. He could see Frank speaking to Tipper. Neither had explained how Willie's medical pouch had arrived there, or how Angela happened to have a copy of the ring that Elsie had.
There would have been a time that Angela would have spoken up and told him everything he needed to know with out reservations. Sitting back, he noticed for the first time something stuck in the visor. giving it a tug, he saw it was an envelope, and from the looks of it, it had been there for awhile - the damp from the morning dew making it wet. Opening it he saw that the writing was done with a computer printer, unsigned:
:Mort - It is in your nature to need to know, or want to know. There are those who AM, and those who BE. Those who BE, will find the answers. Trust in them:
For a moment Mort didn’t know what to make of it. He hadn’t seen anyone come near his car, there was no one on the streets, and the paper wasn’t there when he arrived. Leaning back he reread the note. Logically, those who the letter referred to as the AM had to be people like Willy, and the BEs would be people like Elsie, and now Tipper, those of the family who would take care of the secrets. People were dying for the information, she didn’t want him to get caught in the crossfire, and here someone already knew that he was involved, and letting him know in their own way to let Tipper be on her own. He’d give her 48 hours, enough time to rest and recover, and hopefully for the air to clear around the shop and he was going to find answers, starting at the library...
Frank waited until Mort was gone before he went to Tipper. "They did leave us instructions, Angela."
"What do you mean?"
He grinned as he held up the ring. "I remembered something that I saw in a movie, and when I went to the bathroom I used your bottle of hand sanitizer to enlarge what was on the ring. The band about the leaves isn’t just a band, it’s writing, but it’s in some really old language that I don’t understand and I don’t know if yours is the same or not. What is under the shop anyway?"
"People went there to be buried Frank, the followers. I think I opened a door that I wasn’t supposed to, and the gas that preserves the bodies got out or something. I don’t know, Frank. I remember how the estate was, and how everything had to be right, and if someone is sending us this, then either, we are the very last of it all and have to be the secret keepers, or there is someone else of the family that is still alive and we have to keep them secret."
"What about Ian?"
Angela shook her head. "I don’t think he was with Willie long enough to be told any secrets. Why would they send this to you?"
"Aunt Emma! She was the one that would let us know how her show was going. Maybe it was sent to her?"
"Frank, did she say if her show was canceled or not?"
Frank thought for a moment then shook his head. "She just said the reviews were not as good as she had hoped ... "
For the longest time they looked at each other.
"Okay, so, how do we read these without the hand sanitizer?" He asked.
Tipper got up and went to where her medical bag was. Digging through it she came up with a headset that magnified her vision and had tiny lights on it.
"Well those are cool!"
Tipper looked at him as she placed the visor on. Her eyeballs were huge, causing Frank to giggle. "Yeah, they are.” Taking off her ring she noticed a small abrasion on her ring finger. Running her finger over the edge, she saw that there was a tiny rough spot with a thin discoloration on the silver.
"Frank, let me see your ring," she said, extending her hand.
Mort took several deep breaths at the stop sign. His preoccupation with the letter had almost made him miss a stop sign, and nearly was flattened by a semi. When he pulled in to the station, he tucked the letter in his wallet and stuck it in his back pocket. He could hear Floyd speaking with some one that had a British accent, and at first he thought that it was Inspector Sutherland. Getting closer he heard that it was a younger voice, and that the accent was different.
The lad was tall and lanky and looked as if he hadn’t slept in ages. Part of his hair was singed an there was a distinctive wariness in his eyes, as if he had seen too much suffering in his young life.
"Sheriff, we've a visitor from England, says he’s Bobby Winifred."
There was a hesitant look in the young man’s eyes. "Um, its actually bobbie, as in your police officer status. Winifred McKee, sir. Is there a place that we may speak? I’ve come a long way to have a word with ye."
Mort heard in his voice 'in private' but he knew the young man was too polite to say that in front of Floyd. Nodding once, he shifted where he stood and said, "I was just about to head out for my rounds, we can talk on the way." Winifred followed Mort outside and had to slow his stride down to match paces with Mort.
"How long did you know Willie before the fire?" Mort asked suddenly.
Winifred missed a step. "I knew of him, and of the work he did in the city. Five good men died in car bombings before the fire ripped through the shanty town. I was the one who found the body wearing his blue coat after the fire. I gave him my life."
Mort flicked a look upward at him. "You’re the first one who's wearing one of those that has admitted that."
"One of those?" Winifred looked puzzled.
"One of the silver rings they wear."
"Oh, that. That was given to me by Inspector Sutherland," he said matter-of-factly. Mort’s eyebrows went up, surprised. "You have seen them before?" Winifred asked. Mort didn’t answer. Winifred realized Mort didn’t have to answer, because the answer would be yes.
"You came a long way for answers, though I think we both may get what we need to know.”
For a moment Mort walked quietly. "I think you have been through enough to know everything that I’ve come across here... and I have learned that any involvement with Willie changes a man."
Winfred nodded. "It was the same, back in the town."
"The closest thing I know is that Willie's family had married with another family, the Fordhams, and there was a tragedy, as well as an act of treason. The Fordham family was involved with the Phoenix Park murders, and tried to implicate Willie’s family, but they escaped. Since then, it’s been a cat and mouse game, of who was going to kill whom. Willie’s grandmother was a healer. She took in one of the Fordhams as an apprentice, and he brutalized her, and committed murder, trying to frame Willie. It didn’t work - Willie had an alibi. Willie had discovered that the Fordhams had much of the town addicted to belladonna, and when it was all done, Willie wrote a book about it. The publishing company that handled the book was legitimate at first, then somehow one of the Fordhams got into the publicity department of the company and created a cult around the book, but they twisted it, making it another avenue to addict more people here, and use Willie in the process. It took him years to shut them down, and good people were pulled into their network. People here, that I thought I knew, and thought I could trust."
"And you don't think I would be one of them?" Winfred looked at Mort, curious.
"The fact your wearing the ring tells me otherwise" Mort said with a grin. "Last year Willie went home in the company of some of the residents who live here in Cabot Cove, and there was treasure that was found, and the people came back different. ..There was a seriousness that they never should have had to face. They went to a wedding. it was to be a wonderful time and a trip of a lifetime for some of them, but something changed them. It was in the fall that things began to happen that made me question my commitment to the police force, to duty, and protecting the innocent. Willie had worked at a bombing a few years back of an elementary school, and he and some others discovered that it wasn’t the IRA that had done the bombing, but, someone higher up. Someone who wanted the discord to happen so that the laws could be twisted to take away the rights of the individual. He left his wife, and went back over to finish it. It got to be soon after that those who knew him had their phones tapped, and that they tried to frame one of his friends for a brutal murder. I could understand if it was a mercenary group, or a drug cartel doing this...."
"It was the head of Scotland Yard," Winfred said softly. "He resigned the day after I delivered the letter given to me by Willie. I made sure that it was done in a way that there was no connections to me, because I’d seen what they were doing to those who were trying to get it to stop. I got his healer’s bag from the ruins of the shanty town, and I gave it to Inspector Sutherland. I thought it would be the last that I saw of him. Willie did what he had set out to do - he stopped the guns and the bombings, and there is a bliss that has settled over the community. I’ve watched it change the way people look at their neighbors, the community is looking after its own now. He came to me one night, when I was on my beat, and gave me the ring. He said that I would find my answers here, in Cabot Cove, as to what it means. I had read that Willie had lived here for a while, and that there was a need.”
“I went home to my wife, and she was crying, and sad, and she said that our son was ill. The doctor didn’t know what was wrong with him at first, he just wasn’t growing right. A woman came to her at the market place and said to find a Dr. Boomer, here, in America. I didn't know what it all meant, so I went to my super and told him that my child was ill, and that I was told his cure was found in the States and I didn’t know what to do. And he got a look on his face, he
looked at the ring, and he just nodded and said, ‘Then you need to take your wife and child to the States and do what you can to save him.’ We sold our flat, and we applied for a visa, and it arrived not long after. We arrived a day past, and slept a while, and I told my wife that I needed to come and speak with you."
Mort looked at him, curious. "Is either you or your wife Irish?"
He shook his head. Winfred saw Mort puzzle for a moment before Winfred said quietly, "I’ve
only just married. The others - the others have been told that the baby was from a relative that died in the fire bombings and we are his only kin. We have adopted him as our own.”
"Winfred, I know the doctor that you’re looking for, and it just might be wild coincidence, but I think I know who your baby’s parents were. His father died in a factory explosion and his mother, his aunt and his grandmother died in a deliberate fire. I don’t know how the baby got to you, and I’m speculating this because his older brother had the same symptoms as your child, and he said the same thing ..."
"He has kin, then? Or had kin? Are they still alive?"
Mort hesitated. "I don’t honestly know. They had lived here, until last fall. Their aunt moved
with the children because she couldn’t manage them and her own health issues."
"Then, the family would be wanting him back ..." Winfred said softly, and Mort saw the distress this thought.
"I don’t think so. It’s not that they wouldn’t want him and love him and give him a home, it’s just that, so many of the children were being killed that the family took steps to hide the children - entire lines of the family just disappeared to preserve the linage." Mort stopped walking. "Elisa," he said softly.
"Elisa has a ring, like yours. She inherited it from her grandmother. She said that the ring was used to identify those who would be of aid to the family, so that they would know they were safe with that person. It’s not something that the Fordhams would know, or care to know, or know how to use against them." Mort looked at his watch. "Seth should still be there - let’s go back to the cruiser and pick up your wife and son..."
Winfred followed Mort back to the station, and in short time with the child in the back in a carrier, he drove them to the hospital. Seth was at the nurses station signing orders when Mort
came in. "Afternoon Mort. Just off to see Jessica regarding a certain pie for the Women’s Auxiliary Bake, want to see if she would help me with the brandied rubarb that sold so well."
"Mrs. F is going to have to wait a bit, Doc, till you see this little tike."
Seth was about to inform Mort that there were plenty of doctors who would do just as well, but then he looked at Winfred, saw the burns, and nodded as he led them into the room. Mort went to the desk and opened his wallet, taking care of the bill. The Nurse raised her eyebrow slightly. “Friend of the family," Mort murmered with concern in his eyes.
It was about two hours later that Seth led them out of the exam room and back over to the desk. "Mr. Angus McKee will be needing to be admitted to the pediatric wing, room 223, and he needs this prescription filled." The girl nodded, and placed the information in the file. His nurse nodded again. "The staff upstairs says the room is ready.”
Mort sighed. From the room and ward that Seth placed the child, it looked to be long term care, and he knew that the wing was what had been set up as "Free Care - Critical Illness." A glance at the address had placed them at one of the care houses in Cabot Cove, but puzzling to Mort, it wasn’t the one Taylor had left to Seth. The whole floor up there was long term, it was split between pediatrics, and adult, though few adults ever left there.
He felt a soft hand on his, tugging him forward. Brought out of his musings, he looked down at the upturned face of Winfred’s wife. "Come, Mort," she said, pulling him forward.
He followed her into the elevator and road with them up to where the room was. The ward was quiet. Mort followed them to the room where he saw Winfred’s wife cover her mouth. There was the child’s bed, and places where adults could sleep as well. There was a common room with children playing with IV poles behind them, and parents who sat on comfortable sofa's sipping tea in the room. He saw an adult in a robe sitting on the floor at one of the tables and she was drawing on paper, and explaining to several children who would listen what the plant was and why it was important.
Curious, he went over to room and stood in the doorway. It took a moment to recognize that this was Artemis Poynte and that she had awakened from her incident. He knew that if she had memories of the event, that Seth would have told him. He could see there was some damage to the one side of the body from the way she held her pen as she worked. From the fire chief’s reports, the greenhouse had been almost a total loss, and the current president of the school was not inclined to use funding from the sports stadium to replace it.
There were oohhs and awwws from the kids - as she made some of the plants that she drew have funny faces. For a moment she paused, then her hand went down, dropping the pencil. One of the kids picked it up for her then said seriously to her, "It’s time for your nap, Ma’am."
She nodded. Mort stepped forward and offered his arm to help get her back up into her wheelchair that she had tucked behind.
"I will help you get back to your room," he said to her quietly. Even if she didn’t remember, she still may have some insight as to what had happened before.
Mort wheeled her back, then lent support as she got back into bed. As he moved the tray back to where she could reach it the lid of the water pitcher came off. He was about to put it back in place when he saw that there was something in the water itself giving it a light pink appearance. Swearing under his breath Mort sighed. "Don't drink the water," he said to her. He looked around and opened her bathroom, then checked the closets, and then saw something under the bed. It was a cap to a syringe. Using care he picked it up and bagged it, then getting a box from her close, he carefully placed the water container and the lid into it so that he could dust for fingerprints.
As he worked, he asked her, "Mrs. Poyte, do you remember anything about what was happening at the university and the president of the university?”
She sighed. "I guess I made the connection between my husband, and Brianna long ago. I was married to him but in truth, it was more of a marriage of convenience between us. I did love him, in a way. But he was never there for me. He said that he couldn’t be seen to take favorites over issues, because that would jeopardize his career as well. I didn’t realize that his lectures were ones I had given years ago. He was incapable of independent thought at times."
"Why did you marry him?" Mort asked softly.
"As fulfilling as the greenhouse and the classes were, I was lonely. I didn’t want to be found three days later when I didn’t show up for class. I needed someone to be there, someone to talk to, and his ideas on developing vegetation spectrometers intrigued me. I knew that they had discussed it in different forums, but no one wanted to delve into the practical applications
because it would put many researcher out of work."
"If you could place any plant in a machine, and in an hour it would tell you what medicines it could be used for - there would be no reason to have many many researchers studying distillation of plants to see what they might yield."
They were interrupted by the arrival of Floyd, who took the box and the fingerprints with him to the lab to be tested. Mort got her a clean cup and pitcher, and informed Seth that he was staying on to keep an eye out on the wing, and to review security tapes.
The last time she had been attacked it had been a dark haired woman; this time, it looked like a red-headed man, a bit broader in the face, but the same height but the walk was different for a man. Mort could see that in the tapes right away. He saw the door to the room open and Winfred come in.
"Sheriff, I've just learned that the bills for all of this have been taken care of, though I don't know how, or who to thank. It’s all been a bit much for the Missus. Your Dr. Seth was ever so kind to explain about Angus, that there is hope for him. In all that we have at home, we have nothing like this at all. How is this all possible?"
"Willie made this hospital wing possible, as well as the care so that no child would go without care because of need, or lack of knowledge.”
"Not to sound ungrateful, but why? Why would he do all this and know that he was risking his family’s life, as well as his own?"
"I guess it didn’t matter whose child needed saving."
Elizabeth McKee cuddled the young infant in her arms. By what Dr. Seth had told them, he was about five months old, though he looked much smaller. He moved his arm that held the IV in it and she shushed him, singing a simple lullaby to him as he nodded off to sleep. She heard a soft sound and looked up. There was a young boy who had dark hair, and long lashes regarding her from the doorframe.
"What did you name him?" asked the child.
"Angus John McKee, after my husband and my father."
She saw the child nod, and relax. "Tis a good name." He slipped into the room as light as air. She could see he was in hospital scrubs, and hospital booties.
"My name is Elizabeth McKee, what's yours?"
"Ian McAvery," he said softly. He sat beside her and carefully touched the blanket-covered toe. She saw such, sadness in his eyes. "I never was able to say a proper good-bye to mum. She packed me up away to my uncle’s, then when the baby came, she packed my sisters up too, and I was cold in my heart to her, and to him. That she could just give up on the kids who loved her more than anything for a baby, and a chance to find a husband. I had to be strong, to be the man of the house for my sisters. We felt her die... her, gram, and my aunt...It was a pain that ripped me up inside and I felt the worst of it because of how I had set my heart. I didn’t know she'd be gone so soon in my life, and I didn’t have time to tell her I love her just one more time ..."
"She knows you love her. Every mother does."
"I suppose you’re right ... Tell Dr. Seth that Ian says, corn syrup. He will know what to do." Standing up, Ian kissed the baby’s head, then her cheek before going out the door, leaving her a bit bewildered.
Seth made his rounds later that night and found Elizabeth McKee up. Checking on the baby he scolded her to get some rest as he had planned to do the same and it had been a long day.
"Dr. Seth, there was a lad in here,” she said. "He said, ‘Tell Dr. Seth that Ian says, corn syrup,’
and that you would know what that means. What is corn syrup? Or syrup, for that matter? And how can it help the baby?"
Seth sat down quickly in the chair, as if the wind had been knocked out of him.
"Ian was in here?" he asked softly.
She nodded. "Yes. Why, what's wrong?
Seth stood, then handed the baby to Winfred and took her hand leading her to an isolation ward. In the bed was Ian, wrapped in soft blankets with an IV in his hand and a ventilation tube on. Beside the bed sat Taylor looking worn, but not defeated.
"Is that the boy you saw?" Elizabeth nodded then looked to Seth for answers. "We knew that Ian's immune system was compromised a long time ago, he caught a bit of a cold, that he couldn’t shake, and it went into his lungs. he's not moved much in the last 72 hours." Elizabeth went into the room, donning a yellow smock and a mask to prevent germs from getting from her to him. Seth nodded as she walked in and Taylor looked up at her tilting her head at Seth, and seeing him nod.
For the longest time, she said nothing, then she went over and took Ian's hand. "I saw him in my son's room, earlier," she said. "How is this possible?"
Taylor blinked twice. "You know in your heart how," she said, reaching over the bed half standing as she took Elizabeth hand in hers. Elizabeth saw the ring on Taylor's hand. A bit scared, she tried to pull away, but Taylor held her hand so she couldn't. "You can not run from this, Elizabeth. The child was given to you so that the family could be hidden once again, and not hunted to extinction. Many have died so that this may be so."
"But - they are of an abomination - devil’s spawn ... the wee folk that steal souls and murder those who oppose them while they sleep."
"They were hunted because the race of mankind was greedy for the knowledge that they held. They were slaughtered and their families were killed out right because they held true to their convictions. Your son's family were good people who have suffered greatly and now are buried because someone burned them while they slept. The child was saved, though we thought him dead until only a while back. I have cared for Ian and his sisters since my marriage to their uncle, and their mother knew that this would happen, she knew by stepping out of being hidden, that she made herself a target. She did it to protect the children she had."
"They are the wee folk!" she said in the softest of whispers, pointing to Ian's ears that were identical to his brother’s. "How else could he be here - and come to my room!"
"Love," Taylor said softly, releasing Elizabeth’s hand. "He had said as much that he had wished to see his brother before he died."
For a moment Elizabeth looked at Ian. "He said to me, about corn syrup..." she said at last. "What was he referring to?"
Taylor gave a soft smile. "He loves corn - corn bread, corn mush, corn on the cob, anything with corn, and he thrives..."
Neither saw the movement at the door, as Taylor fell silent.
"Young corn has antibiotics and antifungal properties. It is his body’s instinct, telling him what he needs to survive. "
Taylor stood up, walking to the source of the voice, and moving aside the curtain that had blocked the door she discovered Artemis in her chair regarding them. There was a look on her face, one of intense scrutiny.
"The news last night told of a shop that glowed in Cabot Cove, and as I watched I knew of a type of algae that has gone to spore in the mist that would glow like that, like certain ones that are found near where the dead have been buried. A dose of copper sulfate would fix that before it contaminates the ground water. It would turn it red, and make all who drank it ill. Copper sulfate, can be consumed in small doses, making the water free from the algae. Much like the red tide that washes through an area of the ocean."
With that Artemis withdrew, returning to her room. She saw something in the corner, a shadow ... Blinking slowly she looked down and saw the edge of a shoe behind her door. With deliberate calm she rolled her chair to where the nurses desk was and said softly, "There is a ghost in my room"
"A ghost?" the nurse asked, keeping her voice down.
Artemis nodded. "I see a set of shoes under the door, and the shadow of someone in the corner from the light of the hallway.”
The nurses looked at each other and pressed two buttons. There was a short click, beep, as the doors to the exits locked. One nurse stood, and pulled Artemis's wheelchair into the nurses’ lounge out of sight, and placed another nurse with her to keep her safe. The next thing they did was lock down the children’s ward and the doors to the other patients’ rooms.
When Mort and Floyd came to the wing, they found the window open, and a rope tied to the bed frame, It went down to the next balcony, which was empty.
"Come on, lets go," Mort said, sending Floyd running down the hall and using his pass key to get into the elevator to try and head off the person. Mort sent him on, and returned to the room. He was about to call an all clear when something sharp clipped him behind his left ear sending him into darkness. Fifteen seconds later, the fire alarm sounded, releasing the magnetic locks on the doors,and plunging the hospital into emergency lighting. Mort picked himself up off the floor and found a dumbfounded nurse with a flashlight checking the room.
"Are you all right, Sheriff?" she asked, then she gasped seeing the gun that was on the floor beside him. Mort picked the gun up with a pencil, then dropped it into a plastic bag and sealed it.
For the longest time Mort looked for prints. There were so many from the hospital staff - everyone on this floor had been fingerprinted. It was during his work behind the door that he hit pay dirt with a smudge of makeup. Remarkably, it held a partial print. For a moment Mort had to think how and why the print was there.
He was about to call for the photographer to take evidence photos when he turned and nearly jumped out of his skin seeing Jessica there, looking intently at him, regarding the marking.
"Cripes, you scared the daylights out of me, Mrs. F. You’re a lady ..." Jessica smiled at Mort stating the obvious. "How does one get a fingerprint on one’s makeup like that?"
"By using a cream base concealer to hide something under a thick layer."
"Like ...? What or whom are we looking for, Mrs. F?"
Jessica borrowed Mort’s flashlight and shone it at an angle against the wall behind the door. Its surface was smooth, yet something was stuck almost invisibly against it. Using a pair of tweezers, Jessica pulled it from the wall and showed it to Mort. "Someone who uses temporary color rinse..." Jessica looked up at Mort, her eyes flashing. Mort recognized that look and took a
breath - she knew who had committed the crimes, and from the way she moved when she grabbed his hand and pulled him out the door saying, "We need to make a phone call first, then I will explain on the way ..."
Dawn came, leaving an uneasy silence over the community. Taylor lifted her head off of the edge of the bed that she had been resting it on to find Ian regarding her through sleepy eyes. After a discussion with Seth hours before, Ian's treatment plan had been changed, and with the remarked improvement to his vital signs the breathing tubes had been removed, allowing just the line of oxygen and the steady drip of the IV's.
A tear formed in the corner of his eye. "I saw Mum," he said softly, and then he began to cry.
The call from Seth had interrupted Tipper’s sleep but she had been grateful for it, and with Frank in tow early in the morning they went to the hardware store first then the fire company where she spoke to Lt. McKee in regards to spraying down the interior and exterior of the shop with copper sulfate to prevent the spore contamination from spreading. Together they went into the shop with masks and hazmat gear to work their way down and examine the contamination level.
When they arrived at the basement door, Lt. McKee regarded her. "You know in your heart what to do, Lass, tis why Willie chose you to be in charge of this shop."
Tipper regarded Lt. McKee. While he didn't wear one of the family rings, she knew that he had stood beside Willie during the gun smuggling, and that he was one of the few people who were on the inside that were unknown, but still marked. She hesitated. Something made her stop before she reached the second basement. Willie knew whom he could trust. who was in the family and in her studying of the lines on the wall, McKee's was not on them. She had told him briefly that the spore had come from a spot behind the regular wall, but hadn't been specific.
"Do you think there will be as much gold as what you found in at the manor?" he'd asked, curious.
Tipper weighed her words carefully and watched his face as she replied, "Treasure comes in many forms - unlikely, though." She saw disappointment on his face, and something else...
He was standing, leaning against the secret door's entrance, his arms folded across his chest. "You have no fear of the breath of the past, love," she heard him say.
Tipper felt the press of the sharp edge of the ring against her skin. It tingled there. She had thought to press it back into the ring, but something made leave it. She knew, then, that there was something else about the ring, something that whomever sent it to her would have put on, knowing about this.
"Your heart is pure, Angela." Faraday said softly, then looked directly at McKee.
Calm. Yes, she felt surprisingly calm right then, and she knew that McKee’s reaction indicated his heart was beating faster than normal. His sense of excitement was overwhelming her, pushing up his metabolism. He had mentioned gold.
It wasn’t that she didn’t trust him. Willie did with the guns, because McKee had felt the same as Willie - guns were wrong. McKee could support the destruction of guns, but gold and treasure were something different.
"I think it would be best to tent the place and then fumigate it for a week, that would take care of any of the mold that grew, and get it past the next few days of rain.”
She backed upwards to the steps, going out. McKee nodded and gave a last glance to the basement.
McKee offered to arrange the contracting of the group, and she nodded. "When they are ready we can open the windows and the doors, but I don’t want someone stumbling through the floors by accident," she said firmly. She made it a point to lock the door behind them as they went out to the sunshine and off of the porch. They were taken into a room where they were squirted off with a fungicide, and even then, the water at her feet turned dark blood red. Blinking a few times, Tipper remembered the blood red fluid that came from the post at the manor. Somehow, she reasoned, copper sulfate wasn’t going to be enough. She struggled to think of what it could be, something that she had forgotten.
"I need to speak with Taylor before we do anything..." she said to herself, "but I have no idea how to get a hold of her."
While traditional calling on the cell had worked, and Taylor had let her know that the babies had been born. Getting a hold of her had been difficult: she'd called and was told by the butler that Madam was not in residence at that time and was not available for a while.
"Ach, she and the wee lad went to the hospital here the other night. She said she only trusted Dr. Hazlitt to take care of him. They are still there, as far as I know. Twas listed on the call sheet of who's been placed in the hospital."
Nodding thanks, Tipper sprinted to her car the moment that they said she was clear, and drove to the hospital. She found Taylor and Ian in the room playing a quiet game of chess. Carefully she hugged them then sat down on the edge of the chair and said. "Did Willie ever tell you about what’s under the shop?"
Taylor shook her head. Ian regarded her then said just as softly, "It would stand to reason, if it’s what it should be, it was where they tended their own. It's why I was so keen on following the Princess. It had to be somewhere here in Cabot Cove."
"It’s under the shop, it’s creating problems, and there is a list of names, of everyone who's been born and it ties the families together. All the names are there back for many generations, and I couldn’t get paint to cover it, no matter how hard I tried. It was going to be fumigated with copper sulfate to kill the algae spores, but when they did that, when they washed off the decontamination suits, the mold made the water red, like in the story. When we poured the liquid down, it turned red as well, but there was no feeling like the spores were going to harm anyone, it has to be a simple way of keeping people out and still controlling the mold...”
"Aye. Would be the blood electrolytes, the sodium and which that you chose to kill the spores."
Tipper blinked. "That’s why he was killing the children? The electrolyte level? I didn't see any bottle when I first glanced in. It didn’t look as if the copper sulfate killed it, so, what would? I don't want the whole town’s water supply to be contaminated. Even the instructions on the ring aren’t clear as to what to do. I don't know what to do anymore, or who I can tell about this, or how to keep you all safe. Frank is in the same way, There is only so much that he feels he can tell his father, and I have no idea how we can manage to keep this a secret, and not explode at the same time." Dropping her voice she leaned into them, hissing, "And Willie took a fine time to go into hiding because this would have been the FIRST thing Gram would have taught him!"
Taylor drew in a long breath, then looked at Ian, who was mildly surprised, looking back and forth from Taylor to Tipper and back again. There was hurt on his face, as if he had been betrayed.
"Ye tell her, an you don't trust to tell me?" he said, swallowing back the lump in his throat.
"I only see dead people, and Margarita, when I dream. I saw Toot, and according to Mort, Toot is still alive and well and had been released. Aunt Emma didn't say the show was closed, or canceled, only that the reviews..."
"Stop, please," interrupted Taylor. Closing her eyes she compressed her lips. "Willie was the one who made that decision, not me. I don't agree with it either, and its not made my life any easier. He came for the birthing, and that’s been the last contact that we have had. I don't know where he is, or how he is managing, or even who was able to help him get here. I lost him all over again
because of those stupid guns and a war that some idiot decided to wage against innocents. It was the only way to keep you all safe.” Taylor closed her eyes again as tears began to fall. "He is gone," she said finally.
Ian laid his hand on hers. "I’m sorry, Aunt Taylor."
Lt. McKee worked his way around the building wearing the hazmat suit. Tenting the shop didn’t take long at all, and it wasn’t hard to use one of the skeleton keys that he had on his ring to get into the shop to open the windows and then the basement doors to allow the copper sulfate to be pumped in. He took a breath. According to the directions, it should have killed the spores on contact. Feeling confident, he worked his way down the steps of the basement to do an inspection. She was hiding something - the way that she looked when he mentioned gold - why shouldn’t he have some when he had been so loyal to Willie, risking everything, his livelihood, his family ... Setting his jaw he walked around the lower basement tapping the new paneling, the copper sulfate still swirling about the air. When he came to one that was sounding different, he began pushing, and by luck pushed the proper place to trigger it. The door swung open silently.
There was just the stone room with white wash paint on the walls. Angry at feeling foolish he began to bang on the walls around him, not seeing a crumble of dirt coming from one of them until a small stone hit his foot. His sharp eyes took in the seam of the door, and as he stepped back, he placed his hand on the area of the counter weight. The door slid open. His heart racing, he placed a stone on the counter weight area and walked in, confident that he would find his treasure.
He saw lumps of things wrapped in cloth, and his mind dismissed what would be under there. beyond it there were steps that spiraled down. Clicking the high intensity beam on he pointed the beam down the steps. They seemed solid enough - it was just a matter of turning his foot to fit the tight stair case as it wound down. He had seen steps like this carved out when he was in the Bahamas, the coral was something you could carve quickly and it was durable. The steps lead
to a hall that had water puddles. Well, as wet as the place had been, it wasn’t unexpected. The tunnel split and he followed it to the left through a wooden door that was off of its hinges. There were jars, sealed and lined against the wall with a soggy looking liquid that had bits floating in it. turning he nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw the skeletal figure sitting in the corner with a broken jar at its feet. The bones were different - they almost looked like opals, but he couldn’t be sure.
Backing out of the room he turned and realized when he looked back the way he came, there were three openings. He checked his watch - he had about an hour left of air in his tank in the hazmat suit, and he didn’t fancy breathing the copper sulfate or what ever the spores were. Retracing his steps, he knew he would have to come back down here in order to do a proper search, Would be easy enough, he would just have to tell Tipper that it wasn’t safe yet, and he would have at least a day or so that he could get in and out with out her knowing.
It was with relief that he found the steps upward, just as there was a gurgle from down the hall, Seawater began to come in as he made it up the steps and out of the door into the first room. He was frustrated, and angry beyond belief. All that work, and nothing to show for it. Going to the lumps under the cloth he lifted one. For its age, the cloth didn’t tear.
The body beneath looked as if it had just died, though it was no one that he had known. There was a sparkle that he saw- on the hand and he realized that it was a ring that looked to be pure gold. That had to be worth something, he rationalized. Carefully he removed the ring then covered the body again, so that it would look undisturbed. Just as he was about to leave, he saw a ring hole in the door frame, and upon impulse , he took the ring and put it in the hole and gave it a push.
Nearly dancing with glee he saw a second door open across the hall from where he was. Unmindful of the danger, he went across to where it opened up. Shining his light in, he saw more bottles filled with the liquid. There was nothing else beyond it. Swearing he went back to the doorframe and retrieved the ring before going to the rock and moving it off the counter weight. No need to let her know he had been there.
Going through decontamination, he hurried home with the ring safe in his pocket. He had managed to get it decontaminated with him, carefully holding it in his hand but letting the water and copper sulfate run over him. He regarded the ring. He could keep it, or sell it. Wondering if it fit, he slid it on his ring finger and admired it for a moment. He was never a ring man - there were too many ways that it could get caught on something, or that someone would notice it. Sighing he took off the ring wincing as it pulled over the knuckle. Frowning, he looked closer at his hand. The ring had gone on easy enough, but now his hand looked a bit puffy. Shrugging he went to the kitchen to look for something to eat. He winced again as he touched the cool of the refrigerator, and looked again at his hand. Swallowing he realized he had a pepper fine rash on both hands that was causing swelling.
Swearing under his breath he went to the sink and turned on the water, using an antibacterial soap to scrub them. He nearly fainted when he saw the water turn blood red. he knew it wasn’t from him, rather, a cold feeling came over him that he had been infected with the spores.
His first thought was, how far had he spread it? Did he come in contact with anyone? No. The spores down the drain would be a problem. Opening his medicine cabinet he grabbed the bottles of alcohol he kept there and dumped it down the drain. He saw that the red retreated, and turned grayish. Breathing a sigh of relief, he dumped it on his skin and screamed in agony but continued pouring it as his skin boiled with angry blisters. Gasping, he staggered over to the cabinet where he kept his whiskey and using his teeth to pull off the cap he drank straight from the bottle, draining it. He fell to his knees holding a second bottle. That much alcohol in him would probably kill him but knowing the nature of the spore, one death was preferable over the other. He saw something move in the corner of the room, and nearly giggled when he saw it raise over him.
The ring that he had clutched onto fell from his hand as he slumped to the floor. It rolled slightly to one side before stopping and falling to its side with a sudden certainty.
Tipper sighted as she pulled her small car around the corner of Oak Street to see the progress - and was flabbergasted to see workers going in and out of the tented area. Pulling the car over at the Mini Mart, she told Frank to stay put as she walked briskly up the hill.
She looked around for McKee, and not finding him looked for the person in the white hat. "Who opened the shop doors?" she demanded. "The only people that have the keys to this place, or SHOULD, are Sheriff Metzger - and he’s off with Mrs. Fletcher - and myself! I gave strict orders to NOT go in the shop until we were certain that the biohazards could be contained! Whoever has been in that place needs to be evacuated NOW to the nearest CDC facility for TOTAL
"Lt. McKee said you left the key with him."
Tipper pulled out her keys. "No, I didn’t, and before you believe that I’m overreacting, the fact that the spores STILL turned red when water hit them is a clear indication the copper sulfate IS NOT WORKING! Get your men out NOW."
She saw the chief hesitate. He knew his job, he had done this many many times, there wasn’t a mold alive that could stand up to what they were pumping in.
One of the workers came out. "Hey, Chief..." he began, then staggered and fell to the ground.
There was a rumble, then a belch from the shop as a cloudy mist issued forth, covering Tipper and the chief as well as some others.
Frank watched in horror, and was about to open the car door when a soft voice said to him, "Stay here, lad, don't open the door, not for anything - best you lock them, and keep them locked."
"But Toot, it’s Angela, she - she’s in all of that."
"She's fine, lad. Just stay put. It’s the others that will be panicking for a way out that you need to worry about.”
Tipper realized that the man who had fallen had been right above where the rumble had created an epicenter, knocking him off of his feet. She had to think about what was down there at that point, and realized it was just to the left of where the opening had been. There was something different, though, in what she smelled - she recognized it as the same smell from when the liquid had been poured down the hole at the manor, and recognized what it was.
"Salt water!" she gasped. It would stand to reason: nothing grew in salted earth.
Mort and Jessica pulled up to the university’s parking lot near the staff quarters. Just before they departed from the car, Mort’s cell phone rang.
"What do you have for me Andy?" Jessica watched as Mort focused on the conversation, and his face showed surprise before he nodded and said thanks. "Well, Mrs. F, I have this one wrapped up."
"Oh?" She saw his face was incredibly smug.
"Earlier in the week Dr. Henderson discovered bones of a murdered woman on the
beach, one that had been shot through the back of the head. The bullet was still in the skull, but didn’t match anything we had. Turns out that the gun recovered tonight was the same murder weapon, AND the bones have been positively identified as a female student who went to this very campus and disappeared before finals. She was a prize student of your friend Marcus and rumor had it then that they were cozy with each other. After she disappeared he resigned from his position, and placed Brianna in charge. The gun also belongs to your friend Marcus as well. And I’ve heard the same type of rumor that he’s involved with Ms. Poynte. Would be simple to slip the wrong spice into the mix and then pick up as a friend to comfort her... She rejects him and he takes steps to permanently end the relationship... What, what are you looking at me like that?"
"While it’s Marcus's gun, it wasn't used by him..." she said, getting out of the car.
Brianna swore as the door bell rang insistently. Wrapped in a robe, a towel about her head, she had been arguing with her father about the state of the campus and how his dreams were just that - dreams that the campus could ill afford.
Marcus looked tired when she stormed to the door. "What do you want?"
Jessica's eyes flicked upward at the towel, and then into Brianna’s eyes. There was a cold, calculating fury in them.
"Only a moment of your time," she said, glancing in the door.
She saw Marcus standing there. He seemed a bit out of sorts, but to her relief, his gray hair looked as if he had been pulling it out all day.
"Just to inform you that the police have discovered that the murder of a young woman committed fourteen years ago and the attack on Dr. Poynte are connected, and they will be moving in to arrest the person responsible shortly.”
Brianna turned and regarded her father. "See? I told you Artemis was responsible for his death!"
"No, Brianna, Artemis doesn't wear makeup, or hair dye. The hospital videos do show a woman with her hair shade walking the halls, but at the time, Artemis had been restrained - to prevent her from removing the IV's, she was told - but then I learned that you insisted they be placed on her, saying she was a danger to herself. Restraints that prevented her from reaching the nurses call bell when you went in and tried to kill her a few days ago."
"ME?" she gasped.
"While you may have been trying to point the finger at your father, you were leaving important clues behind in trying to disguise yourself as Artemis to belay suspicions. Strands of your hair were found in the root of the plant used to kill Dr. Poynte, colored to the same shade as Artemis's, but she never has used hair dye. After her attack, when I came to the campus the first time, you had just washed the dye off of your hair, you tried to hide the fact you had just washed your hair by pulling it back in a tight bun. But you missed a spot of dye on the side of your face. I noticed it, then, but didn’t make the connection. I'm sure the mug shot taken by the police will show it as well. I can understand why you felt you needed to get Artemis out of the way, along with the baby that she would undoubtedly discover was her husband’s, but what I don’t understand is why you felt the need to kill a young student fourteen years ago? One that you
started rumors about, that she and your father were having an affair."
Brianna's eyes grew cold. "It had nothing to do with my father. The chit was making moon eyes at every young man on campus, oh, how they simpered after her!! When she was in the room, no one noticed me. The boys would only date me during finals week, trying to get the answers to the tests, but she had no problems getting dates. So, I just took her out of the playing field, and the
boys just flocked to me then... Artemis was the same way: the boys just adored her, like my father - always doing what she asked because of her gentle nature, and sweet disposition. I grew sick of it rather quickly. Her husband though ..." She gave a wolfish grin "Her husband appreciated me." Her grin faded, to be replaced with anger. "He was, as they say, a cad. He told me after I let him know his tenure paper was accepted, that we were finished. Done. He laughed at how easily he had used me... and he didn’t care about the consequences, he wasn’t leaving his precious wife who was blind to his activities. I went to the farmer’s market, dressed down like Artemis, so that if the police traced the plants purchase, they would describe her...I put the plant with the rest of hers , and I knew it would be there if ever I needed it. I knew the gun had been used all those years ago... Father was so very careful about where he hid it, he forgot about it himself. It would have been so simple just to pull the trigger. I had my escape all planned...she didn’t come in to the room, though, and when I got back here, the water was turned off." Reaching up Brianna removed the towel from her head, revealing the temporary rinse dye still in her hair. "I had nothing to lose...He wasn’t ever going to leave her, baby or not, and with her out of the way, the greenhouse would be demolished and the investors who wanted to use that space
for other endeavors would be very grateful."
"But why Brianna? She loves you as her own sister!" said Marcus, shaking his head.
"A daughter you never had, was how you put it so well, father ... haven’t you noticed, I’m not good at losing."
Brianna’s smile grew cold as her hand reached in her robe pocket and withdrew a small snub nosed revolver. It clattered to the floor as Mort caught her hand in his. "Brianna Phippson, I am arresting you for the murder of Dr. Poynte, of attempted murder against his wife, and the murder of Erica Jemstin. You have the right to remain silent.. "
"Silent? Me? You must be mad," she said as Mort escorted her through the doors to the waiting cruiser.
"I feel as if I have failed the world, Jessica."
"Marcus, no, you haven’t ... Brianna failed herself.”
Marcus was about to answer when they felt a rumble beneath their feet.
“That felt like an earthquake!" gasped Marcus. Jessica nodded. Going outside she saw that where the greenhouse had been a plume of haze and debris was slowly filtering down from the center. She turned to Marcus and saw, in his own way, some understanding. He blinked a few times and it seemed as if he sighed in relief.
"What the heck was that?" Mort asked, coming over to them.
"Pandora's box closing, I hope," Marcus said softly.
Mort’s cell phone rang. Irritated, he regarded it, then answered it. "Yes, Andy?" He listened. "Is anyone hurt?...What do you mean, Dr. Henderson hit the roof?... He did, did he? Where is he? ... What? Oh, for the love of Pete... No, just don your hazmat gear, and keep the crowds away... We will be there shortly. I have to transport a prisoner to the county seat on the way." Hanging
up the phone he looked at them. "The shop that Willy left to Tipper just imploded from the inside. Now, before I start calling people, I find it just a bit coincidental that this blew about three minutes after.”
Jessica regarded him "Do you, Mort?" she said softly.
For a moment Mort fell silent. "It’s why the founders didn’t want anything else built here, isn't it? Just like at the shop, it’s what Tipper said. What the heck is going on?"
Marcus and Jessica looked at each other.
"It is all right, Aunt Jess. He would have to be told someday," said a voice behind them.
"Grady? What are you doing here?" asked Mort with a tone of surprise. Grady looked older - far older than he should be, but there wasn’t the nervousness in him that he had ages before.
"Attending to business," he said, drawing in a breath.
"You only work for Willie's family business - so, there is a connection?"
"Seeds, pharmaceutical production of heritage seedlings. Willie had been working with this college for almost twenty years in the research of drugs from plants, without genetic alterations to them. The school grew around the green house, and it was a shelter for something else..." Grady extended his hand and escorted Mort to where the greenhouse was. Marcus and Jessica stayed behind.
"It will change him forever, as well as your relationship with him."
Jessica breathed out slowly. Her time spent over in Ireland with Willie’s family had given her an insight of some things, not that she believed in them. There had always been stories, when she was growing up, about the curious folk of the wood. There were things, she had decided, she really didn’t want to know.
"I think Mort will manage , and do very well…” Jessica said. Mort would have to make his own decision of what he would believe. Tucking her hand in the corner of Marcus’s arm, the two of them walked away from the greenhouse, leaving Mort and Grady alone.
Grady lead Mort to where the stone furnace area was and opened the door. Modern times made smaller furnaces, the one to heat the greenhouse was just the size of a dishwasher for an apartment. Grady walked to a wall, and removing his ring, took it off and placed it in a nondescript hole and pushed. There was a click, and the stone door which was very solid swung back on an easy pivot. There were still clouds of dust hanging in the air, but there was no sign of structural damage. It opened to a small room, and using a small stone much like what Tipper
carried, Grady placed it in the depression, then took the ring again and placed it in the wall. A second panel opened, to a bigger room that held containers of dried plants, and what looked like mineral salts.
Grady sat on the corner of a small ledge. "You, know, the story that Frank wrote, for his final over the summer - you read it, and heard the accounts. What it didn’t go on to say was that many of those who went into hiding came here to America, some settling in Cabot Cove, and they brought their seeds and their way of staying healthy. They are prone to illness, they always have been, and normal medication doesn’t work on them - they have to keep the water they drink free from micro-bacteria, and it was a way of life for them, growing herbs and plants to keep them healthy, purifying the water source. They knew that the process would create its own hazards, a fungus that is difficult to kill at best from the particulates that have been filtered out. Ironically, it’s the only thing that they are immune to. When treated and broken down with anaerobic bacteria it actually helped the plants that they grew to help them stay well - almost like their version of a super antibiotic, but normal people can’t tolerate it. Somehow, they learned how to filter the water and control the fungus down in these lime caves, and they survived. The flood damage to Willie's shop shifted the balance though, fresh water makes the spores grow out of control, and while it takes a while, with the right conditions, if unchecked it would have taken over Cabot Cove, and the eastern seaboard ... but there was always an answer to make things safe, and that was the lime and the seawater. Both would make the spore die, but still be usable in the soil. The explosions you felt were the fail-safe that they put into place to release enough lime to render the spores safe. There is a safety valve that is pressure directed. If the air pressure changed in the caves, the fail safe would happen.”
"Your telling me this spore can help people who have no immunity at all? This could be a cancer cure, or AIDS..." Mort blinked. "It’s why they hid it, because it wouldn’t work on everyone, just the people who have the specific illness, right?"
Grady nodded. "The pure water they sold - it was better than the filth they were drinking. The herbs they grew as well - they were potent medicines."
"So, they just are brilliant chemists who found a work-around against a genetic ...."
Grady didn’t blink, didn’t move. He just looked at Mort.
"They aren’t -"
Grady didn’t move.
"OH, COME ON ... Do you expect me to believe that they are some supernatural ..."
Grady’s answer came softly to Mort. "If you believe in the shadows, you believe in the light."
“So, who are the bodies underneath Willie’s old shop?”
Grady shrugged. “Just family members. They were legally buried there, for their time, and sealed so that the spores that they had come in contact with wouldn’t infect anything around them. The spore prevented the decay of their bodies. It’s a symbiotic relationship between how the spores are created, and what kept them alive.”
“Grady, don’t you think by now, all of the truth should come out? At the very least, let these bodies be buried properly.”
Grady shook his head. “The world isn’t ready, Mort. I don’t even think that I am ready to know everything that’s happened, but I don’t have much choice in the matter. As for a proper burial, unless they were taken back to the mountains, the soil would be contaminated with the spores and would contaminate the water system.”
“What happens then?” Mort asked, curious. He watched Grady as his eyes held sadness.
“Well, if you’re not of the family, then a rash develops followed by a neurological breakdown of the cells. You don’t die - not from that, but living isn’t as comfortable as it would be normally. Robert McKee found out the hard way. He’s been taken care of - the others will be fine.”
“And now? Didn’t Marcus refer to this as a Pandora’s box?” He watched Grady carefully as he flickered his gaze above.
“There are seeds that have been kept in the vaults, the greenhouse will be rebuilt, and the seeds planted. These seeds are both a blessing and a curse, Mort. Sometimes, though, the world isn’t ready to know the truth. Arrangements have been made for the shop to be rebuilt, and the room below sealed again after the burial.”
“Wait, who’s being buried there?” Mort saw Grady’s young face was unreadable. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Tipper stood looking over at the foundation of the building that had been cleared by the dump trucks. The workers had gone home for dinner; most everyone was inside now, the curious long since departed. They had been able to salvage almost every thing of value: the looms, the wool, the dyes, all of the heritage that Willie had brought over. She had a long discussion with Grady - there wasn’t anyway to know what part of the structure was safe. It was brought down, and once cleared away would make room for a new heritage museum . According to Grady, the way was safe now, the spores neutralized. Most of the debris had been cleared, and the area posed no danger. Her new steps were still there - just about the only thing that had survived. She heard the advance of the cars. Grady, Mort, Taylor and Ian came with a person who was wrapped in blankets. They waited in the cars until she nodded. Tipper lead them to the basement, to the wall where she touched the tile and the door sprang open.
Taking a breath she took the first step in, followed by a very weak Elisa Trudy. Guiding her to the wall, Tipper held up the candle in her hand showing her the names. Elisa traced them with her fingers. When she was done, she opened the room where the bodies lay. Elisa went to each of the bodies and carefully lifted the wrap. She found one, kissing its forehead, then turned to Tipper who had tears in her eyes. “We don’t die, we only sleep,” she said. “When it is my time to sleep, place me here, next to my grandparents and mother.”
Tipper nodded, then led the frail woman out. She knew that it would be Elisa’s time much sooner than the doctors had said. They had recommended against the journey, but it was something that Tipper knew would give her peace. Grady had informed her what was below, and in Tipper’s honest opinion, the sea could claim it all if it made Cabot Cove safe. They had come to Cabot Cove, and dug their wells, purifying the water - creating tunnels to hide in while the others hunted them - tunnels that stretched for miles to the shore, and inland. Some of the tunnels were collapsed now, the rest made safe. She had made a promise to Elisa, and she was going to keep it then the way to this place would be sealed forever. The names would be hidden here, along with everything else.
She knew it wasn’t the end of the family, or their ways. Grady had told Elisa as much, that a new bond had been created, and while all the names of the fallen would be remembered, the family had found a new center for keeping their children safe. She understood. Both Grady and Tipper watched them drive Elisa home, knowing her time on the earth would be short.
“The others?” Tipper asked, needing to know.
“Up on the mountain, Willie and Emma helped to bury what was left of them. .. Angela, you should know, the Fordhams kept records too - Kent left records of everyone who had been converted, or addicted to the drugs. They used belladonna with the spore…they were of the blood as well, but were denied entrance to this, as well as burial in the mountains. Superstitious lot that they are, they believed that they wouldn’t die, only sleep - you saw the bodies, how they were preserved… like the undead.”
She regarded Grady. “Which would explain how the kids’ names showed up on the wall even after this area was sealed, and no one could get in or out to do it?”
He only shrugged. “There are always ways in, and while the world believes that this will be sealed shut, it can never be. Do you know why, Angela?” he asked very seriously.
“Because without light, there is no darkness,” she replied.
Grady took her hand and led her back down into the sub-basement, back into the room, back into where the bodies rested. She held back, but he drew her further down the steps, where she heard the dripping of water. There was a kiva with a basin pool that held a single clay pitcher on a small shelf beside it. Water dripped from above into the basin pool below.
“Is this it? The fountain?” she asked.
Grady looked at her. He pointed at the skeleton that lay to the side, a cup in their bony hands. “He thought so. Maybe it is, Angela. Perhaps we will have a need for it someday. The way needs to be made secure, but not in the way that Mort wishes.”
“Another secret?” she asked.
“Only if you chose to have it made so,” he said.
Tipper closed her eyes. “I can’t – be responsible for something like this. I can’t – ask the children to carry this burden.”
“I know,” Grady said softly. “But the choice is yours to make as you are owner of this site.” ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
It hadn’t been hard, once Tipper understood the mechanics of hidden doors - How to Hide Things in Plain Sight 101. Glancing over at Grady she nodded to the foreman who began to pour the new concrete foundation on the interior side of the shop. She had been informed once the foundation was up, the building would be framed first, then completed in about two months. It had been a bit of a battle with Mort to keep the bodies where they were, to keep it out of the press, and official reports. The greenhouse was being rebuilt as well - Marcus and Artemis were handling that end.
She heard the crunch of gravel behind her. She knew it was Mort and she knew there was so much that she wanted to tell him. She couldn’t, though. While he knew some of the secrets, she couldn’t tell him everything.
“You owe me.”
She blinked a few times. “Oh?” She turned, curious, and watched him nod.
“Big time for all of the fright you put me through - for holding out on me…”
She saw there was a twinkle in his eye. Her own eyes narrowed. “I take it you have something in mind…”
His twinkle turned to a grin. “Maybe.” Sliding his hand into his coat pocket he handed her the ring that had been stolen by McKee.
“He is going to be paying for what he did a long time,” Mort said grimly. They had found him babbling about ghosts and shadows, and begging them to heal the sores he said covering his body. He wouldn’t listen that it was all in his mind, until they realized he had lost it.
Tipper regarded the ring. Sulphur dioxide had changed the silver ring to resemble gold. “There is a lot we won’t ever know about them, Mort. I don’t know that we should, or shouldn’t.”
Mort glanced over to where the foundation was almost finished being poured. “ You made the right decision, Angela.”
Closing her hand around the ring, she sighed. “I don’t know that I have, Mort.”