Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 27

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CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

August 7th

 

Jimbo spent the night tucked into a tree watching the entrance to the cave.

When the rising sun cast a red glow over the valley, Jimbo decided it was time to have a look around. At the horse pasture, he watched Owen get into a squad car and drive out with the rest of the local police. Poor bastard. He got less shut-eye than I did. Get some sleep, buddy, you can’t run on empty.

From there, he checked the house. The dining table had been upturned and there was still blood on the hardwood floor where it had seeped through the rug.

Next, he checked the stone circle. There was no sign of activity, so he checked the stone chamber nearby. Pine needles and furs littered the floor. Wax from burning candles dripped down the walls. He checked the ground where Raven had buried the wings three days before and was surprised to find she had not yet discovered they were gone.

Satisfied, Jimbo hiked over the ridge and then down again, heading toward the cave.

 

Kian awoke to the warm aroma of coffee percolating over the camp stove. Normally she would have taken comfort in the morning routine, but this morning she could not. Her body, still shaking inside, ached. She had slept, but fitfully. Dreams, images intruded on her sleep; Raven breaking in, Power grabbing her, and Lucky lost somewhere as she searched endlessly through brambles and clawing vines to find him.

She swung her feet off the cot, sat up, and stretched out her sore muscles. Enough of this, she told herself. But all she could see in front of her was another day of the same.

Aidan, Cat, and Red sat at the rickety table enjoying their morning coffee. “Oh my, how I’ve missed this,” Red said waving Kian over. She did not know if he referred to the coffee or to being together again. As she leaned over to kiss him on his cheek, she suspected he meant both.

Kian sipped her coffee, and the jitters inside her calmed a bit. Aidan told them about Raven’s attempt to break in, and that Jimbo had gone out to keep watch. “I have no idea what scared her off,” he concluded. “But she left in a hurry. Even left the entrance ajar.”

Recalling her dream, Kian jumped up. “Lucky, oh my god, where is Lucky?” She called to him, but he did not come. She searched the cave, looking behind dusty boxes, under the cots, even by the steam flowing out the back. Finally, she popped open a can of food. Even that did not bring him out.

“He knows this land better than we do, I suspect,” Cat finally told her daughter. “Leave him, he’ll find his way home again, I am sure of it.”

This gave Kian some hope, but did little to dampen a growing fear within her. Somewhere outside Lucky was lost and maybe hurt, but she could not go to search for him because she had an Ark to protect. An Ark that Raven would kill to possess. She slumped forward, holding her head in her hands. “We can’t keep doing this. We need a plan.”

 

Raven had not slept, not in the traditional sense of the word. As the first hints of dawn appeared on the horizon, Raven stretched her aching body, finding it somewhat better after a few hours nap. As for her mind, it did not know how to rest.

“Ashta-molon, I command you! Attend me!” The demon flew down to her. “Come!”

Raven’s stomach growled as she crept through the undergrowth. Ashta-molon soared above, a dark silhouette against the dawn sky. Raven made her way to the stone chambers. She was here to collect the Wings.

Raven passed the stone circle. At the stone chamber, she ducked inside. It was undisturbed since her night with Power. It had been so satisfying lying there with him, withholding her little secret from him–knowing the wings were buried under her.

Taking her dagger from her belt, she moved the pine needles aside and probed the loose earth. At about three inches, she expected to find the ebony box. Her dagger sank to four inches, then to its hilt. No box. She pulled the dagger up only to find it sticky and dripping with caked dirt. She clutched the dagger with both hands, shoved it into the ground, then pried it up and raised her dagger into the air. The entrails of a small animal hung down from the blade. Raven let out a scream that echoed through the valley before pounding her fists on the hard dirt floor. “I’ll get you, you bitch,” she screamed. “I’ll make you pay!” Then she sprinted back toward the caves.

 

“Are we agreed, then?” Aidan asked.

“Agreed,” Cat said. “Red and I will set up a decoy drawing Raven off.”

“Then Aidan, Jimbo, and I wait five minutes before we go to the house and get the Jeep. We take the Ark to Jacob’s cellar. I got it.”

“The important thing is to hurry before Raven discovers what’s happening,” Cat reminded them all. “Raven is no dummy. She’ll catch on fast enough.”

Kian took the Ark and wrapped it in old rags before placing it into her backpack. Then she wrapped the wings and placed them on top of the Ark.

Cat picked up the two ebony boxes that had held the Ark and wings and placed them in a basket. She then strapped it to her back.

“Time to go,” Cat said. Kian watched as her parents headed out the tunnel and into the forest. She, Aidan, and Jimbo followed five minutes later. It would be a twenty-minute hike back to the house.

 

Following behind, Raven watched as Red and Cat made their way through the forest. She was elated. Easy prey. All she needed was a clear shot at both of them. Shoot Cat first and the cripple would be helpless.

As she waited for her chance, Raven saw Red surveying the forest, looking to the trees and to the undergrowth for unusual movement. Despite his handicap, it was Red who led the way as the two stayed low, each making minimal targets of themselves. Had she underestimated Red?

Raven followed the two, growing more frustrated at not being able to take a clear shot as they made their way deeper into the forest. A forest that Red quite obviously knew and she did not. Still, all she needed was a clean shot at both their heads. A clean shot that was not happening. She had underestimated Red. He was not so stupid as to give her that shot. Never were both of them in view at the same time. One was always hidden from her, making an escape all too easy. No, it was too risky to give herself away like that. She wasn’t the only expert tracker in the family, and obviously Red had the skill as well. She did not want to become the hunted.

Cat and Red made their way to the wet bottomlands. They skirted along well-used deer trails through marshland grasses. Red hid his steps well, Raven noted, using animal crushed grasses to hide his human prints. Even over muddy ground, he kept his steps light enough to blend in. Cat followed, also adept at keeping her tracks hidden.

Raven had the harder job, keeping an eye on hazards and on the pair she tailed. Twice she almost tripped on exposed roots. Flies landed on her skin and several bit at her, but she ignored them. When a rabbit crossed her path, she had to halt her progress and allow it to pass quietly, naturally. Otherwise it would bolt, calling attention back to her position.

She followed the pair up a hill and watched as they cautiously skirted past two deer that eyed them, but kept munching at the undergrowth.

Following at a safe distance, Raven found herself near a muddy swamp. Red picked his way over rocks, until he reached a fallen tree. Raven reached for her rifle and aimed it in his direction. If she could catch the two of them on the log, she’d have her chance. She watched Red hop up and step along, nimble despite his crushed ankle. But Cat did not cross until Red reached the far side and took cover. Again, she’d lost her chance.

The two rounded a bend in the trail and were out of sight before Raven jumped up on the fallen log. The dark murky swamp water smelled foul like rancid breath. But Raven did not care. She needed to hurry or she’d lose them in the forest ahead.

On the far side of the swamp, Raven climbed a hill and a gust of warm wind caught her full in the face. She scanned the terrain ahead and was surprised to see Cat and Red crossing a boulder field. Cat kept to the shadows and Red followed, not twenty feet behind. They were both exposed.

Patience was all she needed. She set the cross-hairs on Cat’s skull, moving the scope along as Cat hurried over the rocks. One clean shot was all she needed, then she would move the scope back twenty feet and take the second shot at Red. The fool had nowhere to hide. Taking the wind into account and sensing the tension with her finger, Raven exerted pressure on the trigger, slowly, slowly, she told herself. Hold your breath and….

Raven cursed as the wind picked up, a mighty gust this time, one that momentarily blew her cover and allowed the sun’s rays to catch the barrel of the rifle. She took the shot anyway, hoping Cat had not spotted her. The bullet hit rock and she knew she’d missed her mark.

When she looked out, her prey was gone. Alerted now, they would surely circle back to find her. “Ashta-Molon,” she screamed unto the wind, “attend me.”

 

Photo Attribution:

fir0002 | flagstaffotos.com.au [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 26

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CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

 

Kian was shaking as she, Aidan, and Jimbo eased their way back down the hill and away from the scene in front of them. Minutes later Cat joined them. From there they crept farther into the woods. Only Kian’s steps made a sound as they rushed through the dry leaves. Then she stepped on a twig. Its crack seemed to reverberate through the forest, echoing off the trees. Her mother turned to look at her and then at her hiking boots. “We need to get you some moccasins,” she commented before motioning them on.

Several minutes later, Aidan stopped, cautioning the others to be quiet. He stood stone still a moment before whispering, “Behind the boulders, quick.” They all ducked out of sight.

The figure coming at them crashed through the bushes, clearly more intent on speed than on stealth. Jimbo was the first to recognize Owen and raced out to help him.

His hands still bound behind him, Owen’s wrists were bloody from struggling with his restraints. His orange tee shirt was torn from running through brambles and his face scratched and bruised.

“Shit, man, you look like you been to hell and back,” Jimbo said as Cat and Kian stepped out to join him.

“Just about. Cut this damn thing off me, will ya?”

Jimbo pulled a knife from his belt and sawed through the plastic restraint.

“Mrs. Buchanan?” Owen rubbed his wrists and stepped forward to look at her.

“My, my, haven’t you grown. Call me Cat.”

“Raven, is she…?”

“Yes, dear, she’s my sister. I thought her dead. Instead, she left to betray us, I think.”

Aidan stepped out, the last of the group to greet Owen. His tablet illuminated his face. “Looks like they are headed for the main road through town.”

Owen grunted. “They left your boss’s body and his Rubicon behind. Along with those dead guys. Man, the coroner is going to have a field day with this one.” He wiped his sweaty palms on his pants. “Look, you guys gotta get out of here. I need to be the one to call this in, not you. It’s gunna be a long night and I don’t care who I have to wake up. I’m getting a warrant for that woman’s arrest.”

“Thanks,” Aidan said as he turned to leave.

“Kian, you call me in the morning, hear?” Owen called after her.

“Yes, dear,” Kian replied as they ducked farther into the woods.

Five minutes later they stopped to watch the dots on Aidan’s tablet. All of the cars had turned onto the main highway, some turning north and some south, back toward the city.

“Guess they didn’t care for Raven’s little temper tantrum,” Jimbo observed shaking his head. “Speaking of which witch, did you see where she went?”

“Raven ducked down into the grass,” Aidan said. “That was the last I saw of her. She could be watching us now.”

“No, she’s gone. For now,” Cat said. “We need to go, too.”

Kian followed her mother as Cat led the way through the thick undergrowth. Kian was weary. Her legs ached and all she could think about was a safe place to lie down and sleep as they skirted the more exposed areas of the forest. Finally she saw the Jeep trail.

“I don’t like it,” Cat said and pointed back the way they had come. “A two year old could follow the tracks we are leaving.”

Kian crouched down and inspected the tread of her hiking boots. Obvious, too obvious.

“It’s not just the tracks, it’s the broken branches, the flattened leaves. Any disturbance at all can be tracked. I think we need to split up. Raven can only follow one trail at a time.”

“I got a better idea.” Jimbo picked up a sturdy branch and swung solidly at a thick old oak. The solid thw-ack reverberated though forest. They waited for a few minutes and then Jimbo gave two more sturdy whacks with his branch. “Goddammit, where are those yahoos when you need them?” Finally, he let out a loud screech, waited thirty seconds, then let out another, this time modulating his voice higher in pitch.

Cat pointed in the direction they had come, grinned at Jimbo, and nodded her approval before she led the party across a rocky embankment to a spot of safety several hundred feet further along the Jeep trail and behind large boulders. They watched as eight of the Bigfoot buffoons came into view. Jimbo let out another screech, elongating and lowering the tone. The hunters stopped.

“Where did that come from?”

“Around here somewhere.”

The eight of them began to search around, looking for any sign of the elusive creature.

Jimbo, keeping behind cover, worked his way five hundred yards back up the trail to where their tracks were the most obvious. He gave a nearby tree several solid thw-acks before ducking under cover. Five of the eight raced back down the road to survey the area.

“This way,” one of the five shouted and headed directly toward Jimbo. The other four just stood where they were, rooted to the Jeep trail.

The leader called back to his buddies, “You comin’ or not?”

“It may be out there.”

“That’s the idea you galoots, now come on.” Cautiously the four followed their leader into the woods.

Kian watched as Jimbo threw a heavy rock at the group, barely missing one of them. The distraction was enough for Jimbo to make his escape.

He appeared behind Kian minutes later. “I think those yahoos trampled our trail well enough, let’s get out of here.”

As they headed further back and away from the Jeep trail, Kian felt herself careen forward. She went sprawling. Feeling foolish, she allowed Aidan to help her up. But the hunters heard the noise and were now racing in her direction. Aidan pulled her behind a bush as the others dove for cover behind them.

“Do something,” Aidan whispered to Jimbo.

Jimbo grabbed a nearby rock and was about to hurl it when they all heard a guttural screech from the far side of the Jeep trail, followed by a barrage of rocks thrown at the yahoos. Jimbo’s eyes went wide. “Fuck, you mean to tell me Bigfoot is real?”

“We call them the Ancient Ones,” Cat replied.

Kian watched the hunters run for cover before following her mother down to a running brook and back to the caves.

 

 

Raven was exhausted, but she knew she had work to do. The loss of the Power’s minions did not bother her. But to lose the Ark, that would be intolerable. She needed to regroup, to rethink, to find a way to get “her” Ark back. “Yes” she told herself, “That Ark is mine, and I shall get it back once and for all.”

Her sniper rifle slung on her back, Raven was just climbing a steep incline following Owen’s tracks. Using all her skills, she stayed well within the shadows and cover of underbrush until she came to the spot where Owen met up with the others. Then his tracks disappeared again, as they headed back to the pasture.

But the others, at least three others, had moved on deeper into the forest. “Interesting,” she mumbled to herself, and followed the tracks to the Jeep trail, where they had been trampled by at least eight others. Try as she did, she could not distinguish her prey’s prints from those of the yahoos.

Twice she followed the tracks off the trail and into the woods. Once she found only the chaos of disturbed leaves and broken branches. The second time she came upon a babbling brook. They could easily have walked in the water, obscuring any trace of footprints until they left the brook. Raven knew it would take hours to find their trail again.

To find the Ark now, she would have to use her second sight and scry. Raven knew many ways to do that. She could use a candle, but she did not have one. Nor did she have a silver bowl. A clear clean pool of water would do, but she would need a source of light and the moon was dark. No, the only way, and it was the most powerful, was to scry with fire.

Raven found an open patch of ground near the brook. She cleared it of leaves and other combustible debris. Then she set about gathering five bundles of five sticks each and tinder. She took 12 rocks and placed them in a circle, then removed tobacco and flint from her medicine pouch. With a sharply pointed stick, she dug a shallow hole. She took a pinch of tobacco from her medicine pouch. She breathed an intent for success into the tobacco and placed it in the hole. On top of that she piled a small heap of tinder and took her first bundle of sticks in hand. She held it to the dark sky and called upon the Spirit of the Air to come and empower the fire. She took the five sticks from this first bundle and formed a teepee over the small pile of tinder. With the second bundle she called upon the Spirit of Fire itself, and then, with the third she called upon the Spirit of Water to open her vision. With the forth bundle, she called up the Spirit of Earth to make this working solid and true. Finally, with the fifth bundle she called upon the powers of the Dark Places to assist her in this doing.

Raven piled more tinder on the sticks and took her flint in hand. This she knocked against her steel dagger, causing a spark. On the fourth attempt, the spark caught and, with careful use of her breath, Raven made the tinder flame. It only took minutes for the fire to catch hold. Raven piled more tinder on the fire, then sticks, and finally small branches.

It was the embers, Raven knew, that gave the message. So she continued to feed the fire until she had a deep glowing circle within her stone pit. She sat back and watched as the embers danced. Yes, the fire was ready.

One knee placed on the ground and her other foot planted squarely on the earth, Raven took the stance of the warrior and peered unto the embers.

Raven demanded, “Where is the Ark?” as she stirred the pit three times. She could feel the heat sting her face and used the back of her hand to wipe the sweat away. She waited. An ember flared and brightened. Peering deeper into the glowing coals, Raven saw sleeping figures. She counted five of them. Cat, Kian, and that good for nothing Red. But who was the fourth? That FBI agent hanging around Kian? The embers flared. Yes, and who was the fifth? The embers did not give her an answer this time. No matter.

Raven allowed her gaze to soften even more. She could not see exactly where these people were, but she could tell they were all together in one room. When nothing more came to her, Raven picked up her stick and stirred the embers again, this time more forcefully. “Tell me where they are.”

Flames flickered before the fire settled into embers once more and now she saw what resembled dark red walls–cave walls. It made sense.

Once more she stirred the embers and this time she thought she saw a landscape with valleys, mountains, a stream and a road. “Show me the cave,” she said. An ember flared, then grew cool.

Closing her eyes, Raven sensed the brook behind her. It meandered up the valley to mountains just like those depicted in the embers.

“I got you now, sister dearest,” she mumbled to herself. She stood, removed her moccasins, scooped water onto the dying embers, and then waded up the brook. The water was cold between her toes, but felt good after the heat of the fire.

Following her sister’s trail until she recognized the landscape from her scrying-fire, she cut inland and picked up their trail once more. Kian’s boot prints led her to the tunnel entrance, where she grew cautious.

Here, she tucked her essence into herself and blended into the feeling of the rock. She crept forward in the darkness. As she moved down the tunnel, she searched, allowing her fingers to do the seeing for her. The walls were rough against finger tips that had grown soft over years of easy living.

Raven continued her search for a boulder with handholds pecked into it. Finally, after what seemed like hours, she found it. Settling her fingers into place, she leaned her weight back. She felt the rough rock dig into her fingers tips, but kept pressure on the boulder. She needed to do this slowly. No noise. Finally, having moved the rock just a few inches, she let the boulder rest and peered inside the opening. She took the sniper rifle from her shoulder.

Raven saw all five people sleeping there, just as they had been in her vision. She pointed the rifle at the nearest body. How many could she kill before anyone woke up? Three? Maybe four?

If I start with the agent, and then take Cat, I should be able to kill Red as well, before Kian and the fifth guy wake up. Then those two should be easy final prey.

It was worth a shot, she decided, taking momentary pleasure in her own pun.

Raven allowed her eyes to adjust to the faint lamplight of the cave before aiming at Aidan’s head. Just as she was sure of her sighting, something dark leapt at her. It hissed as it landed on her shoulder. Her shot aborted, Raven grabbed at the cat and, in one swift motion, she hurled it down the tunnel. She heard the cat hit rock with a satisfying th-wump.

Having lost her golden opportunity, she quickly grabbed her rifle and ran back out of the tunnels and into the forest.

 

Inside the cave, Aidan turned over. He pushed himself up on one elbow and looked around. It was quiet, but he let his senses roam. The cave door was ajar. Outside, he thought he felt Raven. But then that feeling was gone.

He rolled over and shook Jimbo.

“Fuck man, what now?” Jimbo rubbed his eyes and looked around.

“I’m sure Raven was here. I’m going out.”

“Like hell you are.” Jimbo threw his feet off the cot and stood. “Outside perimeter is my job.”

 

 

Note: While there are magical ways to build a scrying fire, the one Raven uses was invented for the story. Her technique for Scrying is accurate, however.

 

Photo Attribution:

By Emilian Robert Vicol from Com. Balanesti, Romania (Fire-Red-Hot-Coals_306412-480×360) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 25

 

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CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

 

Aidan punched at the screen of his tablet. “Damn, I’m blind as a bat in here. No cell coverage at all. I’m going out to find Jimbo. Kian, you three stay put, hear me?”

Kian bristled but before she could answer, Cat had her arm around her.

“We will, dear,” Cat said smiling at Aidan.

After Aidan left and pushed the boulder back into place, Red observed his wife over his spectacle rims. “Like hell you’ll stay put, dear.” He looked to his daughter. “She always agrees and then does what she wants anyway.”

“Secret of a happy marriage,” Cat said. “Guardians are always bossy. It’s in their nature. Doesn’t mean we have to listen to them, now does it?” She gave her daughter an affectionate squeeze.

“Mom, he’s not my Guardian.”

“He will be dear, and more than that I think. Call it mother’s intuition.”

Red looked up at the two women. “You think so, dear?”

“Sure of it,” Cat replied.

“Good, then,” Red said, “I like that young man. Now come and sit you two. Kian, tell us what happened. We are here to help. Cat, bring over some chairs will you?”

“Yes dear,” Cat replied winking at her daughter. She brought over two musty camp chairs that had been stored near the back of the cave, one for Kian and one for herself.

Kian explained about Jacob’s death and about Power.

“Power,” her father said. “I know that name well. But he’s dead you say?”

“Yes, this woman Raven shot him.”

At that, Cat furrowed her eyebrows. “Raven,” she repeated. “Gaagé?”

“Gaagé?” Red repeated.

Kian looked at her parents. “What does Gaagé mean?”

“Raven. It’s the Tineh word for Raven. Can you take me to this Raven?”

“She was in the horse pasture last night.”

“Then that’s the first place we look,” Cat replied.

Red took Cat’s hand. “I don’t suppose I can talk you out of this, can I?”

“No dear, you cannot.”

Kian followed her mother out of the cave.

 

 

“I count twelve people,” Jimbo whispered as he, Kian, Aidan, and Cat crouched together, strung across the ridgeline. Cat had been right. Aidan had raised an eyebrow when she showed up, but he had accepted her presence without a word. The lush summer cover had allowed them to creep close enough to make out bits and pieces of what was being said.

Kian, curious, raised her head and torso to get a better view, but Jimbo pushed her back down. “You need to stay flat,” he whispered. “It’s easy to see movements. Here, I’ll show you how to see better. First wait for a breeze.”

When finally a breeze picked up and ruffled the grasses around them, Jimbo flatten a space in front of her. “You always wait for the wind, Kian, then move slowly and gracefully,” he said. “No jerking.”

When the breeze stopped, Jimbo said, “Now freeze and listen. Use your ears for eyes. Do not move again until you feel the wind.”

Kian was about to ask him to explain using her ears for eyes when she felt something, a slight vibration under her. She looked at him.

“Car’s coming,” he whispered.

They all watched as a Jeep Rubicon pulled in. Two burly men jumped down from the front seat and, opening the back, dragged out a rolled carpet. They let it fall to the ground with a thump. The rug flew open exposing a large dark rotund object, a body.

Raven walked over and kicked at it. “You’re one lucky son-of-a-bitch! A bullet through the brain was too good for you.” She eyed the two men beside the Rubicon. “Get that cop out of the car and bring him to me.” After one more kick at Power’s body, Raven turned and walked over to her milling group.

The two men opened the back door of the Rubicon and dragged Owen Griffiths out.

Kian, hidden in the grasses, cringed. “Do something,” she, frantic now, whispered to Jimbo. He nodded and slid back down the slight incline away from them all. Crouching, he moved off, skirting the group in the pasture.

As the two men pushed Owen toward the center of the circle forming around Raven, a lonely animal howled from across the pasture. And then a minute later there was a second howl, this time from a different direction. Then, in the far distance, more howls joined, making a sort of chorus.

All action in the middle of the pasture halted. Several men darted behind shrubs, drawing their weapons. Raven ducked as the two men pushed Owen to the ground and then darted for cover behind some nearby shrubs.

“What the fuck was that?” A man hissed from where he was crouching.

“Damned if I know. Maybe that Bigfoot thing.”

Everyone was facing the distant hills looking for the source of the sound. Owen yanked himself up and rushed into the forest.

There was another howl, followed by a long low screech. “I’m getting the hell out of here,” a woman yelled to Raven as she hurried toward one of the parked cars. Several others followed.

“Get back here,” Raven screeched. But, when the departing figures did not turn around, she shouted to the sky, “Ashta-molon, attend me.”

Kian, crouched down in the grass, felt the wind pick up. But it was more than wind this time. She used the stirring grasses to cover her movement as she peered up into the sky. At that moment fear overwhelmed her; it seemed a dark cloud was forming, and then a swarm of flies descended on the people in the field.

“Take her,” Raven screamed, pointing toward the woman who had been the first to leave. As Kian watched, the fear now clawing at her gut, the dark cloud seemed to form into a funnel and move straight toward the woman.

Cat grabbed her by the arm. “Look away, Kian. Focus on something else.”

Kian blinked and looked at Cat. The darkness was gone. “What happened?”

“Raven called forth the demon. If you do not fear it, it cannot hurt you. It’s your fear that makes the demon real.”

Kian heard the woman scream. Unable to stop herself, Kian watched as the tormented woman writhed on the ground.

Cat took Kian’s hand. “Focus on me, not on her. The demon is real only because that woman made it so with her fear.”

“But the woman, she’s bleeding.” Kian said.

“It is her own fears that tear at her. Focus on me, Kian.”

Suddenly the pasture was quiet. Deathly quiet. The figures in the pasture stood around the fallen body and just stared at it.

“What the fuck?” Kian heard one of them say.

 

 

Then the pasture was in chaos again. Kian heard Raven shout, “Find that goddam cop. Now!”

Another minute passed before someone shouted, “I got a trail.”

“You two,” Raven shouted pointing to two other men, “help Aaron find him. And hurry.” They ran after Aaron, now heading into the woods. There was silence again.

Kian, still crouched in the grass, felt a breeze pick up and then caught movement behind her. She looked over her shoulder in time to see her mother disappear down the hill and around a granite outcropping. She turned back to the pasture and watched Raven pacing. Minutes passed and then Raven called out, “Forget the cop. Get your asses back here!”

Silence.

Raven cupped her hands around her mouth. “You heard me. Get back here.”

Silence.

” Now! Before I send my demon after all of you.”

Four of the five men rushed down the hill. One of them called out, “We can’t find Aaron. He disappeared.”

“Probably taking a leak,” someone from the group shot back. “Old man, old prostate, you know.” Several others sniggered.

“Quiet!” Raven snarled. She looked all around her, surveying the forest.

Several minutes passed, then a bloodied Aaron stumbled down the hill screaming, “Help!” All eyes turned in his direction.

One man ran toward him. “We got him,” he shouted.

But Aaron screamed, “Indians!” before falling to the ground.

Two men grabbed Aaron by his armpits and dragged him to Raven. “I think he passed out,” one of them said as he let the injured man hit the ground with a solid tha-wunk.

Raven grabbed a bottle of water, opened it, and poured it over Aaron’s head. He sputtered and looked up.

“What happened, you fool?” Raven’s voice was shrill and demanding.

“I…, I don’t know. I saw the cop but some Indian woman grabbed me from behind.” He started trembling. “I’m cold. I need a blanket.”

“Forget the blanket. Tell the story,” Raven demanded.

“I didn’t see her at first.” Aaron started trembling again and his voice broke into sobs, “At first I thought it was one of those Bigfoot monsters.”

One of the men cut in, “Did it smell bad?”

“No.”

“Then it wasn’t no Bigfoot, idiot.”

“I know that now. It was Indians.”

“Yah, right. We killed all them redskins back two hundred years ago,” a man sneered at him.

“It was Indians I tell you. A squaw.”

“Man up! Stop sniveling,” demanded Raven.

Aaron looked up to see eight faces staring at him, focused directly on him and his story. He stood up, puffed out his chest and continued. “I kicked at her hard, spit on her, and ran as fast as I could. She had to really scramble to tackle me. I tell you, I fought like the devil himself, because I was sure that In’jun was going to scalp me.

“The woman was all snarly as hell,” he went on. “Like Pocahontas, or the Queen of Sheba or sumthin’, except she had grey hair. A real piece of work, from the way she was acting. She had these three braids, and….”

Raven was now pacing but listening to Aaron. Then she stopped. “Indians. Stop the bullshit. Indians? Really?” She sneered, “Now tell me the truth.”

Aaron, suddenly deflated, replied, “No, I swear. Look, she gave me this.” He handed Raven an arrowhead with two feathers attached. “The woman said to tell you to git off her property, or she’d be sure nothing was left of us but pickings for the buzzards.”

The others milled around, stealing wary glances at the forest.

Kian could feel as well as see Raven’s fury as she reached up to the sky. “Ashta-molon, attend me!”

The dark shadow descended for a second time. Again, Kian could feel the evil, the menace. She watched in horror as the shadow descended on Aaron seeming to bite at him like a million tiny scorpions, their pincers unrelenting in their torment. Aaron screamed, “get off me” as he tore around in circles, flailing at the unholy shadow devouring him.

Kian knew she should not look. But this time her fear was too overwhelming, and she could not look away. Something or someone had captured her attention and was holding it fast.

With a guttural wail, Aaron dropped to the ground. Raven lifted his head by his stringy hair. Blood ran from his mouth and eyes. His face looked like raw meat.

Raven screamed out to the forest. “This is how you’ll end up, Sister Dearest, you and that sniveling brat daughter of yours.”

 

 

 

 

Photo Attribution:

Curtis Print in author’s collection

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 24

 

Black_Cat_in_the_Garden.jpg

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

 

Kian and Aidan set a quick pace over the ridge, she with Lucky on her back and Aidan with a small duffle over his shoulder. What had once been a Jeep trail was now overgrown with bushes and small saplings. They kept the trail in sight, but hiked through the old-growth forest where the sun had not encouraged as much lush foliage. It was easier going, and they could make better time.

Twenty minutes later they climbed out of a low ravine and found the road to the cave entrance. It would not be far now, Kian thought as she reached back to give Lucky a reassuring pat. He was still–too still. Frightened, she lowered the pack and untied it. When she reached in, he jumped out and ran into the forest. “Aidan,” she screeched.

“Wait, I’ll get him. You stay behind that boulder,” he said as he pointed to one just down the road.

“He won’t come to you,” she replied and hurried after him into the forest. Aidan set an even quicker pace, suddenly more on edge.

“Kian, I don’t like this. I feel someone coming.” He was about to grab her arm and pull her back up to the road when they spotted Lucky ten feet farther down the hill. Together, they ran down. Lucky waited until they were inches away and then turned to sprint between two tall craggy rocks. Fortunately, Kian was able to scoop him up. She shoved him back in her pack, but not before Lucky swiped at her, scratching her arm.

Aidan reached over and pushed Kian down. “Someone’s coming,” he repeated.

They watched as two people hurried toward the cave, arguing as they went. “I told you they wouldn’t be at the house. Kian left last night. I heard it in town. Come on before Raven finds we’re gone. That treasure they talk about, I’m sure it is in that cave somewhere.” The two passed around the bend.

Kian looked at Aidan. “Now what?”

“Is there another way in?”

“Not that I know of.”

Lucky let out a loud growl, pushed his way out of the backpack again, and swiped at Kian’s legs. When she bent down to grab him, he disappeared between the two craggy rocks.

“Looks like an adequate hiding place,” Aidan offered as he peered into the darkness beyond the opening. “See if you can get in there.”

Kian was able to squeeze herself through the narrow slit in the rocks, but Aidan had to get down on his belly and slithered in like a snake.

They found themselves in a tunnel. Barely high enough for Kian, Aidan had to stoop slightly to make his way through.

They used their outstretched hands to follow the cave walls until they were well away from the narrow entrance. Aidan switched on his flashlight. Lucky was sitting six inches in front of them. He allowed himself to be placed back in the pack, but this time rode with his head sticking out.

“You think that cat knew where he was going?”

“Maybe,” Kian replied, more as a reassurance to herself than to Aidan. “He did come out of these woods.”

Two minutes further along, a shaft of light broke through the darkness. There was a small hole that opened to the sky, allowing the sun to flood in. Aidan switched off the flashlight, and they followed the tunnel to a large room. Aidan, now able to stand, arched his sore back.

On the far side of the room, seven steps led down to another tunnel. “So far only one way in, so only one way out. We can’t get lost. Let’s give it a try.” Aidan switched on the flashlight again.

Several hundred feet in, the tunnel ended at a large boulder.

Aidan carefully moved his fingers along the edge, looking for handholds. He could find none.

“Let me try.” Kian handed Lucky, now crouched down in the backpack, to Aidan. She took the flashlight and started shining it along the edge of the rock. “Nothing. Let me try the other end,” she said as she moved to the other side of the boulder. She moved the light all along the edge before saying, “I think I got it.”

After carefully placing the flashlight on the ground, she moved her fingers into the chipped ridges and pulled back. The rock tilted slightly.

“Here, take Lucky. I may be able to do it.” Aidan grabbed the rock and pulled back. It tilted again. As Aidan maintained the force he was exerting, Kian walked around and, shoving her back into the side, she added her strength to his. The rock rolled out of the way. They peered into the darkness. Aidan picked up the flashlight and aimed it. Someone darted around a corner, disappearing down a side tunnel.

“Damn, Kian, who else knows about this place?”

 

To turn and leave would expose their backs to the shadow. Safer to move forward, Aidan figured. He motioned Kian back a couple of steps as he pulled his Sig Sauer from his waist. “Keep low,” he whispered before easing his way down the tunnel. Kian crouched and held the flashlight so it was shining in front of him as he moved. Aidan turned to her and mouthed, “No, keep it behind me.”

With his back to the cave wall, weapon pointing down in front of him, Aidan eased along taking his time. When he got to the side tunnel where the shadow had disappeared, he paused. He then mentally counted down, “Three, two, one.”

As if out of nowhere the shadow exploded from the tunnel and, with a swift kick to the gut, knocked Aidan to the ground. He managed to hold onto his weapon and was raising it to take aim when that, too, was kicked away.

Kian screamed just as the shadowy figure wrapped a garrote around Aidan’s neck. Aidan hunched his shoulders upward and tightened his neck muscles as he felt the garrote jerk, just enough to cut off some but not all his air. It was enough to prove the skill of the person who had attacked him.

Aidan relaxed his neck and elongated it, making just enough room to slip his fingers under the garrote. Then he feigned rolling to the right. When he felt the shadow pull to the left, he quickly jerked his entire body in that direction, sending his opponent off balance. In one swift motion he was on top. The figure bucked.

Aidan looked up to see Kian now inches from them staring at the woman he held down. “Kian,” he shouted, “I could use some help here.”

But Kian just stood there looking bewildered. “Mom,” she finally said.

“Litu, who is this man?”

Aidan looked at Kian. “Litu? That’s Apache for ‘red’.”

“She’s my mom,” Kian told Aidan. “Please, let her up.”

“You sure?”

“I’m sure, now let her up.”

“We are not called Apache,” Kian’s mother informed him as he loosened his grip. “That’s the Zuni word for enemy. That is not who we are.”

“Tineh,” Aidan corrected himself, “‘Litu’ is Tineh for ‘red.'” He stood and, shaking himself off, he offered the woman his hand. “You must be Cat Buchanan.” She took it and stood. Graceful was Aidan’s assessment. Just like her daughter.

Cat took her daughter by the shoulders. As she looked at Kian, a slow smile spread across her face. Kian stared back, both women now with tears in their eyes. Cat took her daughter into her arms and held her for several long minutes. Aidan could see Kian was crying, and Cat was trembling as well. Neither woman said a word. Aidan supposed neither knew quite what to say.

When finally Cat broke the embrace, she looked over at Aidan. “You are?”

Kian stepped forward. “Mom, this is Aidan, Aidan Scott. Aidan’s been helping me.”

“He’s cute,” Aidan heard Cat whisper in Kian’s ear as she turned and motioned them to follow her down the tunnel.

 

Dressed in doeskins with shells dangling from the hem of her dress, Cat made a pleasant clacking sound as she walked. Around her neck was a necklace of turquoise and amber. On her feet she wore soft moccasins.

Her mother was shorter than Kian remembered, and older now, with graying hair still worn in her customary three braids. There was a commanding grace about the woman, one Kian recognized as belonging to her mother. Kian wanted to walk arm and arm with her mother. But, that was not Cat’s way. Indeed, she had been surprised at her mother’s earlier embrace. Cat held her distance in front of strangers, and Aidan was a stranger to her. So was she, Kian realized. Eighteen years was a long time. And it would take a while before they knew each other again.

After traveling several minutes, they rounded a corner, rolled another boulder out of the way, and entered the familiar cave. Kian blinked twice to focus. An older man sat at the rickety table.

The man stood. “Is this my Kian? My, my, but you have grown into a beautiful woman.” Kian rushed to her father as he limped toward her. She hugged him as tightly as she could. “Been practicing that bear hug since we left, huh?” He gave her another hug then drew back slightly and kissed her forehead. It was good to see him.

“Dad, what happened to your foot?”

Red Buchanan lifted his tattered trouser leg. His ankle was twisted and scarred. “Got it crushed,” he said.

“What he is not telling you is that someone crushed it for him,” Cat clarified putting her arm around her husband.

“That’s how we got stuck in those infernal tunnels,” Red added. “I couldn’t walk. Kian, I’m so sorry. If I’d been more careful all those years ago, we might have made it back home to you.” He looked at her, tears welling up his eyes.

 

 

Photo Attribution

By Usamasaad (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 23

Comet_Crash.jpg

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

 

Kian, relieved to have an excuse to get away from the dead body, headed upstairs and found Lucky napping on her bed. “Sorry, buddy, but we are going to have to leave soon.” She tossed her backpack next to him. After emptying it, she held it against Lucky. He would fit inside.

She rummaged through her drawers and found some drab khakis and an olive tee shirt. She pulled these on and kissed Lucky on the head. The pack slung over her shoulder, she left to find her favorite hiking boots. They were in the attic. She brought them down to the living room sofa and pushed her feet into them while Owen paced at the front window.

“Will you sit down? You are making me nervous. How’s your head, anyway?”

“I have a headache if that’s what you are asking.”

“How bad?”

“Is that Kian the nurse asking, or Kian my friend?” Owen scowled at the sun’s glare off Jimbo’s monster truck.

“What’s eating you?”

“Those two guys. I don’t like them, and I don’t trust them. We know nothing about them.”

“Aidan saved my life, not once but a few times.”

“Well, I say it’s a ploy. He and that buddy of his are up to no good.”

“Who? Jimbo? He’s a Cameron and you said the Camerons were Guardians.”

Were, Kian. Were! Not are. The Camerons were driven out. They joined the wrong side. They tried to steal the Ark. That was why your great-great grandmother had to leave here. The Camerons betrayed her. You want to know who led that little coup? A guy by the name of Power. Power, Kian, Power. Like Aidan’s boss–that dead guy over there. Why can’t you get that? They are both on Power’s side.” Owen turned to stare out the window again.

Kian walked over and put her hand on his shoulder. “No, Owen. You are wrong. Both Aidan and Jimbo are okay. I know they are. Owen, I’d feel it if they weren’t. Listen, we have to work together.”

“Okay, I have to accept that. It is part of the code.” He turned away again. “But I don’t have to trust them.”

 

 

Owen scowled at the body on the floor. Damn that Aidan. He’s made this mess; he should be the one to clean it up. He looked out the front window. Exposed, that’s what they were. Exposed. He should have removed Kian days ago, taken her to his place. Damn the FBI and their falsified reports. He should have known better. If his father was still alive…. But his father wasn’t, and now he alone shouldered the burden.

“I don’t like standing here,” he told her as he led the way through the pantry to the basement steps, the only place they could not be seen from a window. There he motioned for her to sit, but remained standing with his arms folded and his back rigid against the old doorframe.

The cool air drifting up from the cellar tasted of damp dirt, but it felt good.

Kian broke the icy silence. “I want to know more about our family history. Could our ancestors really have settled here ten thousand years ago?”

Owen remained rigid, staring ahead toward the living room. He had a duty to call in the murder of Power, he knew that. But he also had a duty to Kian, to keep her safe. She’d be questioned, and how in the world would she ever explain an FBI Director tied and shot in the head without being implicated?

“Owen, I need you to tell me what you know.”

“We came here during the last great earth upheaval. That was twelve thousand years ago. Not ten.” Owen was silent again. Damn FBI anyway.

“Last? How many were there?”

Instead of answering, Owen studied his fingernails–worn and dirty.

“Owen, don’t be like this. I need to know, now tell me, please.” She looked up. He found her startlingly green eyes both sad and imploring. Since they had been young children, Owen had not been able resist her. I wonder if she knows that?

After a long moment, he sat down beside her. “Well, there have been many catastrophic events on this planet. One wiped out the dinosaurs like everyone says, but there were others, too.” Kian laid her head on his shoulder. He wanted to put his arm around her, but was afraid she’d move away.

“I read this guy Creighton. He says cosmic waves from exploding stars cause them. I’m not sure about that, but I do know there were three major upheavals in the last 100,000 years.”

“Three?”

“Yes. The first was about 70,000 years ago, a second maybe 30 or 40,000 years ago, and then a third 12,000 years ago. Kian, our families always knew when ‘The Times of Tribulations’ were coming. That’s what we call them when the earth goes into upheaval. During the first Tribulation, 70,000 years ago, people dug tunnels and sheltered in caves. When they emerged, they had to rebuild and start again, but the knowledge was kept. I don’t just mean how to plant and harvest, I also mean the spiritual knowledge, the real spiritual knowledge. So when it happened again, the second time 40,000 years ago, people were prepared, and they moved back into the tunnels and caves. When this had subsided, they came out again and rebuilt making it even better. This would be the time of Atlantis, Shambala, and the Golden Age.

“When the third Tribulation came, we knew we had to leave our cities again. But first we buried our Temples so the earth changes would not destroy them. Gobekli Tepe, Nabta Playa, that’s when those sites were buried. And other cities, too, ones nobody has discovered yet.”

“Dad used to talk about them.”

Owen could feel her warmth, and he again wondered if he should put his arm around her, like he did when they were kids. But he let the moment pass. “It’s all recorded in the Book of Knowings,” he finally said.

“So, tell me how Uncle Jacob got the wings. I know there was a storm and the wings got lost, but how did Uncle Jacob find them?”

“Jacob’s family had them all along. One of his ancestors found them on the beach after the storm and kept them. That’s how Jacob inherited them. Then he found us. Or actually he met your father and, well, I think you know the rest.”

Lucky jumped into Kian’s lap. He cuddled in as, absent minded, she scratched his ears eliciting a loud purr. “So who do you think killed Power?”

There was a loud thump at the door. Owen jumped up, grabbed his weapon, and pointed it toward the noise.

The door burst open. “Kian, we are out of here now,” Aidan shouted. “Let’s go!”

Owen watched Kian grab Lucky and shove him into her backpack. She tied it securely, then mounted the pack on her shoulders and took Aidan’s arm. “Okay, let’s go. I have had about enough of this place anyway.” Turning, she motioned to Owen. “Come on.”

“No,” he replied. “I got to call this in.” He was still wearing his orange tee shirt.

 

 

Note:

The “earth changes,” the catastrophes, as Owen relates them are accurate. His accounting of human history during those changes is theoretical. However, there is mounting evidence to support the contention that humans have been on the planet a lot longer than previously suspected and that more advanced civilizations have thrived and then been wiped out by natural disasters.

 

Photo Attribution:

By Ben Crowder (Flickr: Comet Crash) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 22, continued

Armalite_AR-50_of_Royal_Malaysian_Navy_(Close-up).JPG

 

 

“Earth to Scotty,” Jimbo said. “I could use some help here. Grab this asshole’s other arm would you?”

“Huh? Oh, sure.” Aidan took hold of Power and together the two men hoisted him onto one of the sturdy oak dining chairs. Power’s scalp was bleeding and the rag had fallen off his bloody hand. Aidan looked over at Kian. “Get us something to tie this guy up, will you?”

Hurrying to the pantry, she found a roll of duct tape, tossed it to Aidan. Without a word to either of the men, she quickly returned to nursing Owen. “Are you ok? Anything hurt?” Kian asked, her voice soft and caring.

“Just my head,” Owen replied.

“Move your arms and legs for me, will ya?”

“Sure.” Owen flailed his extremities about, catching Kian around the neck and pulling her closer. “I’m fine. See?”

Aidan growled. Kian looked up to see him yank the tape tighter around Power’s wrists. He cut the tape with his teeth and then roughly wrapped each of the man’s legs, securing them to the chair.

Kian hurried to the kitchen and returned to Owen with a flashlight and an ice pack which she placed on his head. “Close your eyes,” she said. A minute later Kian carefully peeled the right eyelid back to shine the flashlight into it. She repeated the procedure with the left eye. Satisfied, she patted him on the shoulder. “Pupils equal and reacting to light. You seem to be okay. Can I get you anything? Hungry?”

With a boyish grin, Owen replied, “Got coffee? Haven’t had any this morning.”

Kian heard Aidan mumble, “I haven’t had my coffee either,” and watched as Jimbo feigned a punch at his head. “Maybe you need to get yourself knocked out, meathead.”

Before Kian could say anything, Power groaned, bringing everyone’s attention squarely back to the task at hand. Aidan stepped in front of Power, grabbed him by his collar and growled, “You want to explain what’s going on?”

Power’s look shot daggers first at Aidan and then at Jimbo. The room went eerily quiet as everyone waited for the answer.

Power scowled, fixed his gaze on Kian, then studied Owen who was now sitting up and holding his head. After a minute, Power turned to Aidan and spit at him.

“Seems we won’t be getting much out of you.” Aidan wiped the back of his hand on Power’s shirt.

Power let out a defiant snarl and scrutinized Kian. “Baby, you have no idea what’s going to happen next. But, you can stop it. Just give me that Ark.”

Aidan grabbed Power’s chin, forcing his gaze away from Kian. Jimbo stood with arms crossed leaning against the counter that separated the dining table from the kitchen.

“That box is mine, not hers. Her family stole it from me and I sent you idiots to find it, not hog-tie me.”

Kian took several steps toward Power, capturing the man’s attention once again. Her voice was calm and steady. “So, why do you say it belongs to you? Just tell me. Just explain it to me. If it’s yours, I’ll give it to you.”

Power jerked his chin out of Aidan’s grip as his expression softened. “I’ll tell you everything. But first bring it to me.”

“Can’t do that, old man.” Jimbo leaned forward. “It’s not here. And you aren’t getting it ’till we know how it’s yours.” He leaned back again. “So maybe you should start the story.”

“Okay,” Power smirked, “what do you want to hear first? About the Ark? Or would you rather hear how Raven opened a Demon Hole back there and what came out terrifies even me?” Power let the silence linger for a few moments. “Which is it?”

From across the room, Owen gasped, “The Demon Hole.”

“Okay, the Demon Hole it is. I want you all to listen up. Someone’s got to put that thing back and it’ll take a sacrifice, but that’s what you all enjoy so much, right? Sacrifices? Okay, so here we go.”

There was a muffled pop, like an explosion of air. Jimbo took a dive for the floor as Power’s chair fell to the side, sending the big man crashing down. Aidan and Owen both rushed for Kian, pushing her down to the floor and shielding her with their bodies. Minutes passed. Nobody stirred.

Finally, Aidan whispered, “Anybody hurt?”

“Okay here,” replied Jimbo.

“Kian, you ok?”

“If you two lugs would get off me, I might know better. I’m suffocating.” Aidan and Owen both scrambled away.

“Stay down, all of you.” Jimbo pointed toward the side window, the one that faced the shed. Shattered glass covered the hard wood floor. “That bullet came through there.”

Jimbo eased himself up onto his knees. Kian noticed something sticky on his hands. It was blood. He wiped it on Power’s shirt. “Not mine,” he said. Kian could see one neat clean hole right in the center of Power’s skull.

Aidan broke the silence. “Stay down,” he whispered. “Someone’s coming up the driveway. We’re not alone.”

“I don’t hear anything,” Owen said as he started to stand, but Kian pulled him back down.

“You won’t,” she said. “He senses things like that. Now shhh….”

Seconds later, Kian heard men coming up the driveway.

“It come from ’round ‘ere,” one man insisted. “I’m telling ya, I heared Bigfoot callin’, like the matin’ call or somethin’, and twenty minutes later I heared a shot.”

“I didn’t hear no shot,” a second man said.

“Ya gotta know what your hearin’ out here. You aren’t still in the suburbs ya know. It was high powered. A rifle. Muffled. Real big game stuff.”

“Think someone bagged one? Think someone finally got us a Bigfoot carcass? Now that would be the smokin’ gun, wouldn’t it? Get it? Smokin’ gun? Gun? Killed it? Got the proof?” He laughed.

“Don’t be stupid,” a third man interjected. “Them things is inter-dy-mensional. They blinks out before you can hits ’em.”

“Says who?” There was a challenge in the jokester’s tone.

“Those guys on the internet, the ones with all them books. They come in space ships.”

A woman spoke this time. “Okay, smarty-pants, you ever see one blink out?”

“No. You ever see a Bigfoot?”

“No,” the woman replied.

“See, I told you.”

Still arguing, the voices trailed off into the forest, and the house grew quiet again.

“Think those guys scared off our shooter?” Aidan crept over to Power’s body and placed two fingers on the fallen man’s neck. “No pulse.”

Kian crawled over to Power. The man was dead, she could see that. No amount of resuscitation would bring him back.

“From the look of the wound, I’d say he had no idea what hit him,” Jimbo offered with a shrug.

Aidan, a crooked grin on his face, looked quizzically at Jimbo. “You want to be the one to call this in, buddy?”

Jimbo rolled his eyes, “Not me, it’s all yours.”

Owen stood and confronted the two men. “Call it in? To whom? The FBI? The local authorities?” Despite Jimbo’s warning look, he marched over to Aidan. “This is no joke! This guy was tied up when he was shot. How’re you gunna explain it? You two baboons got any ideas?”

Owen’s tall lanky frame towered over Aidan, but Aidan raised his pointed his index finger pushed it at the taller man’s face, causing him to back up. “Listen, sonny,” Aidan said. “We got a bigger problem. This was no random shot that just happened to find this guy’s skull. Whoever did this is professional. That was no yahoo. That was a trained sniper, and a good one I might add.”

“I don’t understand,” Kian said. “Who would kill him?”

“Good question.” Jimbo walked to the kitchen door, opened it, and looked out. “I’m going scouting. You coming, Scotty? I could use some back-up this time.”

“Be right with you.” He turned to Kian, “Get dressed and ready to move out. Wear something that blends in with the land back there. We may have to hike out of here.”

Then he pointed to Owen. “You. Stay put until you hear from us. You say you’re her Guardian? So now prove it. Guard her. And ditch that orange shirt while you’re at it. There should be something more suitable in my duffle. I already got one dead body on my hands. I don’t need two.”

 

Photo Attribution:

By Rizuan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 22

 

Broken_window_in_a_vandalised_cottage_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1353297.jpg

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

August 6th

 

The sunlight, as it filtered through the trees, cast twinkling specks of light and shadow across Kian’s face. On any other day, she might have watched as she lay there, enjoying the bright morning sun on the gossamer curtains surrounding her bed. Almost like fairies, the prisms formed from sunbeams on sequined pillows danced on her walls.

Barely past six in the morning, the day was already hot and muggy and it would get worse, she knew. So unlike the summers she remembered as a child.

She wiggled into her faded denim cut-offs, found her lacy demi-bra, castoff the night before. She then pulled on an electric orange cami, vibrant against her tussled red hair. She went over to close the windows against the already growing heat. The rotation of the ceiling fan continued, slow and lazy. She left it running. Any movement of the air was good.

Kian opened her door and tiptoed downstairs. When she reached the living room, she was surprised to find Aidan missing from her sofa, the sheet neatly folded under the pillow. Probably out scouting around, she decided as she busied herself in the kitchen. She made coffee in the Keurig, fed Lucky, and grabbed a yogurt for herself.

Not sure what else to do, Kian grabbed her laptop from the kitchen counter and set it on the dining table. She hadn’t checked her email since Jacob’s death, and she wondered what her friends might be up to. Lucky jumped into her lap and settled there, his contented purr keeping her company.

After reading a mountain of birthday wishes, Kian opened one from Cathy. “After your unforgettable 27th birthday, hope this one is quieter.” Her message brought back the memories: Cathy shot and lying on the emergency room floor in a pool of her own blood, Kian kneeling beside Cathy trying to staunch the flow.

Now, on her 28th birthday, thugs were shooting at her. The irony of it struck her as almost funny. She scratched Lucky behind the ears and then checked the time on her computer. Only 6:30 AM. “Another eventful birthday, I am afraid. Call u later.” She did not want to worry her friend with the details. Satisfied the message said enough, she hit send.

Kian leaned back and was about to close her laptop when Lucky took a swipe at the curser. Kian kissed the top of his head before swirling her finger on the track pad, causing the curser to dance on the screen. Lucky studied it and crouched to pounce. Just as he did, there was a beep and a new message appeared. Lucky hissed and nipped at Kian’s hand as she opened it. The address read, AScott@FBI.gov. Odd he’d email me, he’s never seen me use my computer. The message read, “Meet me in shed. Urgent.”

Alerted now, Kian got up and cautiously stepped closer to the side window that overlooked the shed. She peered out. The shed door was open.

Her computer beeped again. AScott. “I saw you at the window. It’s safe. Come out.”

Apprehension growing, Kian reached out with her awareness. She was being watched, that much she knew. But she did not think it was Aidan. Standing at the dining table, she placed her fingers on the keyboard and typed, “U R not Aidan. Show yourself.” Lucky nipped at her again.

The screen remained still. For a long moment Kian held her breath. Then a new message appeared. “I have Aidan. Come out.” There was a momentary pause, then another message. “NOW! I know where Cathy lives.”

Oh my god!

Kian grabbed Lucky and pushed him toward the steps. She called after him, “Go. Now. Hide,” before turning back to her computer. Lucky tore up the stairs. All was quiet again as Kian debated about what to do next. Then she heard Lucky’s favorite toy, a ping-pong ball, bouncing on the hard wood floors above her. Dammit, Lucky, I don’t have time for this! I said hide!

Fear and anger rising, Kian turned back to her computer and pounded out, “Show yourself.”

“Come to the window.”

Kian did. This time Power stood in plain sight, one hand bloody and wrapped in an old rag, the other pointing a gun back into the shed.

“I want to see Aidan first,” Kian called out.

The Ping-Pong ball bounced down the steps. Kian snapped around to scold Lucky, but instead she saw Jimbo, barefoot and looking more like a bear coming out of hibernation than a human. “Get in front of the fireplace,” he growled when he reached the bottom step. He peered out the glass panel to the right of the front door. “Power may have friends.”

“But he has Aidan,” Kian objected.

“It’s a ruse. Nobody gets Scotty unless he wants to get got! Especially not that clown. Now, please, you need to take cover.”

Kian took three steps to her right and sat on the hearth.

Jimbo cupped his hands around his mouth and pierced the air with a guttural screech. “Let’s see how long it takes those Bigfoot baboons to get here.”

Moments passed. They heard a gunshot. It came from the shed.

“Stay down. I’ll check.” Jimbo crept behind the sofa and over to the side window. With the wall shielding him, he let out another Bigfoot howl, stole a quick glance, and crouched back down again. “Power is gone,” he said.

There were footsteps on the porch.

“Quick, get behind the sofa,” Jimbo whispered. “And stay flat.” Jimbo made his way back to the front door, using the furniture for cover.

Kian peeked out from behind the sofa to see Power peering in the living room window. Jimbo mumbled, “Cheeky bastard,” and flattened himself against the wall next to the front door.

Kian’s shoulders tighten. She ducked back down. “Is he going to break in?”

“Don’t know.”

The door rattled. “Kian, open up,” Power shouted. “I know you’re in there. Kian, don’t make me break in.”

“Guess he is,” Jimbo said. He pulled his Sig-Sauer from his waistband, and released the safety, keeping it pointed at the floor.

Kian heard the glass panel shatter, allowing easy access to the lock. She peeked out again.

Power used the butt of his gun to clear the shards away. He reached in to open the door, but before he could unlock it, there was a scuffle outside. The hand disappeared. There was a loud thud, and the hand reappeared, but then withdrew again. They heard a second thud, this one heavier than the first. Kian ducked back down.

Someone rapped on the front window.

“Hey, guys, I could use some help out here.” It was Aidan.

Jimbo reached over and opened the door. Kian rushed to his side and together they peered out in time to see Aidan stepping over two bodies heaped on the porch.

“Place is crawling with perps and Bigfoot bozos,” Aidan told Kian before turning to Jimbo. “I can’t tell which is which, or which witch is what as the case may be,” he sniggered. Kian watched the two men slap their thighs and laugh themselves silly, all the while lumbering around like Bigfoot baboons.

Finally, after a final chorus of “I’m off to find the Bigfoot,” Jimbo grabbed Power by the armpits and dragged him inside.

Still laughing, Aidan hoisted an unconscious Owen over his shoulder. With the lanky officer precariously perched and looking more like a rag doll than a human, Aidan crossed to the sofa, leaned over, and deposited him on the seat.

Too long for the sofa, Owen lay there with his head awkwardly curled against one armrest. His back was arched, his knees bent, and his feet splayed out on the floor. Kian ran over and gently lifting his head. She placed it on Aidan’s pillow. She then lifted his legs and rested his bent knees against the overstuffed back. Blood from a cut on his nose stained his orange tee shirt.

“He’ll be fine,” Aidan assured her. “He tried to stop Power but Power was too big for him. Owen got his head knocked against the door, that’s all.”

“That’s all? That’s all?” Still shaking, Kian turned on him. “This isn’t Keystone cops. You know that, right?” Disgusted, she turned her attention back to Owen.

“I thought which witch was pretty funny myself,” Jimbo muttered, still holding Power by his armpits. But Aidan was looking at the sofa where Owen groaned and began pushing himself up on his shaking elbows.

“Shhh, quiet,” Kian murmured. She checked his pulse and then placed her ear to his chest. His breathing was shallow, but steady. “You got a lump on your head,” she told him, stroking it gently. She could feel Aidan watching her, and she found it annoying.

 

Photo Attibution:

Gwen and James Anderson [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 21

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CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

 

Raven watched with amusement as the big guy in the tattered horse blanket led the Bigfoot buffoons around the forest, leading a group near their camp in the horse pasture. Good, she decided. It would keep the others under control. She smirked, make my job easier, why don’t you?

Once the man in the horse blanket was out of sight, Raven crawled under one of the cars and removed the bug. It had been useful before, but now she did not want the FBI agent to know where she was going. She left it sitting on the grass and crawled back to Power.

Nuzzling his ear and stroking his thigh, she whispered, “Let’s find somewhere more secluded. Too many people around. I have a present for you.” She stroked him playfully until she felt him “rise up.” She snuggled in closer. “Let’s go to the chamber.”

When they reached the chamber, Raven lit candles, ones she’d placed on natural ledges inside earlier that day. They cast an inviting glow and diminished the dampness within but, set high on the wall, they did not warm the natural coolness of the chamber too much.

After ten minutes of passionate sex, the two lay upon a bed of pine needles and soft furs. In the distance, crickets chirped their mating songs, and a night bird crooned to the far off cry of a coyote. The glowing chamber might have been inviting, she thought, if not for the figure now sleeping next to her.

Raven enjoyed the natural coolness one more minute, then she crawled out of the chamber and into the muggy darkness of the night. With one more glance back to be sure Power was still asleep, she slipped into her thin shift and grabbed her moccasins. She had work to do.

One particular stone–that was the reason she had enticed Power back to the chambers. She needed to be close enough to slip away and explore that stone before he woke and noticed she was gone.

The stone, triangular in shape, was placed over a small opening in the ground. On it was a shape, perhaps a hawk, perhaps a raven. She was not sure which it was, but she did know the red was rusted iron and iron was used to contain demons.

She allowed her senses to extend out in all directions, checking for danger. Thunder crackled in the distance. Streaks of lightening illuminated the old pines, and Raven saw a coyote prowling in the distance, a shadow of a beast in the flashes of light. That wasn’t the kind of danger she feared.

Raven focused on the stone. Yes, there was something there, a spell, a binding she knew, and the binding was contained in the stone. The work was well done. If there was still something inside, something sentient, she merely needed to move the stone to release it. “What do you hide?” she whispered. “Would you like to come out to play?”

Raven felt the force charge at her, a force angrier than a raging bull. It rushed at her only to be blocked by the binding and the stone. She recoiled at its fury–hot, slashing, and seeping through. This would be a challenge, even for her.

“Tell me your name,” Raven commanded when at last her heart beat normally again.

“No, I’ll give you no power over me,” snarled the demon within.

“Then you’ll stay under there for all eternity.” Raven stood and turned to walk away. Would this creature be hungry enough to call her back, to tell her the one thing that would give her ultimate power over it? I will not have a monster loose unless I control it. It would be such a waste.

“Come back!”

Raven shot a backward glance and walked on.

“Come back, I say.”

She turned her head and lowered the pitch of her voice. “Do not presume to order me.” Her words were slow and deliberate. “Give me your name, or I leave now.”

“No name,” the beast countered in return. “Just my word. Among thieves, as they say. And three wishes–I will give you three wishes. Isn’t that traditional? And then I’ll be on my way. No harm to you.”

“The word of a Trickster? No, I am no fool.” Raven turned again and took two more steps.

“Come back,” the demon shouted into her mind, but Raven did not turn this time. Instead she continued her slow measured pace and moved farther away. “Please.” Still, Raven kept walking. “I will give you my name, but you must come closer. I will not shout it.”

Raven turned slowly and studied the stone, calculating the risk. Names, true names were words of power. With this creature’s name she could summon him anywhere, any time. He would have to do her bidding. But he could also trick her by giving a false name. Hungry to possess a human form once again, she would be his first victim. The only way was to use the name, to throw it back at him, but that would not work through the binding. She’d have to draw him out and into a protected space, one where she’d have the control, one that would contain him as the binding and the rock had done. She knelt down beside the rock.

“What have you found, my Lady?” Power stood over her, sweating and naked. He thrust his soft erection toward her, inviting her to respond. She wondered if he could even see his “thing” under that protruding belly. He reached out to touch her shoulder. Memories of his wet, sloppy lovemaking made her shudder. I should have switched his Valium for his Viagra.

“My Lady, did you hear me? I asked what you found.”

“My Lord, I have found one who can help us. Cast a circle, I will draw him out.”

“This could be dangerous.”

Raven whipped her head up, narrowing her eyes as she glared at him. “I did not come all this way to turn back now. That Ark is going to be mine.”

“Yours?” He drew one well-manicured fingernail, kept just a bit too long, roughly down her cheek. It left a long red welt on her smooth olive skin.

“Ours,” Raven conceded as she forced herself to look up at him. She smiled sweetly, allowing her hair to brush across his protruding flabby penis.

“I did not spend years training you only to have you take what is rightfully mine,” he bellowed. “Work with me and it can be ours. Work against me and, trust me, you will regret it.”

Raven lowered her gaze to the ground. “Together, we work together. As always. I did not mean….” Her voice trailed off.

Power stood before the Demon Stone. “The demon’s name is Ashta-molon. It will take both of us, I think, to safely bring him out. Cast the circle.”

Raven drew the dagger from her belt. Facing east, she held it in a two-fisted grip and pointed it to the sky. Hidden in the darkness, coyotes seemed to howl in response. “By the powers given to me in veiled-times and shrouded-places, I cast this circle of containment.” She lowered her arms to point the dagger out before her and slowly circled Power and the Demon Stone. When she got back to the east, she turned and bowed to Power. “It is done. The circle is cast. Our work may begin.”

Power pointed to the stone. “Demon! Arise before me.”

The very ground under them shook even as the forest itself remained deadly still. “Unbind my hole,” cried the demon.

Power smirked. “Raven, my dear, lift the stone.”

Once out, the demon would be hungry to possess the warmth of a human body and Raven knew she would be placing herself in danger. Once the stone was lifted, she needed to use its name before Power did. Then it would be under her control, not his. She knelt down and placed her dagger on the ground, making sure it was in easy reach.

The stone was heavy, heavy enough to give Raven an idea. “My Lord, I need your strength. I am not powerful enough to move it alone.” She smiled seductively at Power.

He knelt beside her. “But foolish enough to have tried, I see. We shall release this thing together.”

Raven stroked her fingers up Power’s inner thigh and watched him grow hard again. “Together,” she whispered in his ear.

“Ah, my dear, twice in one night. This time I shall make sure you come slowly, oh so slowly.” He reached down into the top of her shift, teased her nipples until they sat hard and yearning on her breasts. Then he reached for her mouth with his wild searching tongue.

Raven reached out to take up her dagger.

Power pulled away. “Later, my dear. First the demon.” He grabbed one end of the Demon Stone. Puffing out his pudgy chest, he heaved. When he had gotten it away from the hole, he beamed at Raven, just as she raised her knife.

“Ashta-molon!” Raven screamed as she sliced down deep into Power’s right hand.

 

 

“Fucking Bitch!” Power screamed and then lunged at Raven. Grabbing her, he threw her to the ground. The demon soared above them, the warmth of human flesh now within easy reach.

“Ashta-molon, I give you this man,” Raven shouted, still lying on the ground.

The demon soared down, drawn by the blood and the naked body below. Power pushed himself away and grabbed a rock.

The demon lunged at Power, but he wielded his rock like a hammer, striking blow after blow at the demon as they struggled. Power could feel the demon inching into his mind. Despite the heat of the summer night, Power felt himself grow cold and colder still until he dropped the stone no longer able to grip it.

Think man, think.

The binding stone was behind him. I need to position the stone between myself and the creature. If I do, it might be enough.

Power threw himself backward and scrambled over the stone. The demon, unable to cross, withdrew his grip on Power and circled to the left.

“Ashta-molon, leave me,” Power yelled, trying to stare down the demon who now circled to his right. Power circled to the left, just enough to keep the stone squarely between them.

The demon approached again, this time from the left. Again Power called the demon’s name and circled, keeping the stone between them.

Raven, unsure of the outcome, used all her stealth to open the circle she had cast, and using all her skills, disappeared into the forest.

The demon, hungry to take form, any form, human or animal, shot into the air and disappeared into the night, looking for easier prey.

Power, exhausted, sank to the ground as he stared at his injured hand. “Fucking bitch!” His manicured nails now dirty and tattered, his body exhausted, what he needed was a plan.

 

 

 

 

Photo attribution:

Louis Le Breton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 20 continued

 

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CHAPTER 20, continued

“Glad we got that settled.” Jimbo had been intently watching the interaction. He grinned, a mischievous twinkle in his eye. “Can we move on now?”

Owen looked deeply into Kian’s eyes. “No more secrets, I swear,” he said. “Just tell me what you know already, Kian, then I want to hear about your friend’s boss.”

“No, we start with my boss,” Aidan growled as he grabbed the two fat folders from the coffee table and slammed them down in front of Owen. “This is what my boss got while he was stalking Kian. Oh, and he was stalking Jacob Steiner, too. It’s all in there.”

While Owen looked through the folders, Aidan explained about Power and how he had blackmailed the fake Stephen, how Stephen’s fake wife was really called Raven, not Mary. Aidan was animated but Owen just listened, eyes shifting between Aidan, Kian, and the folders.

After Aidan finished talking, there was a long awkward silence. Owen continued to scan the information in the folders, face stony.

Finally, Jimbo jumped in. “What we don’t know is how this Raven broad fits in. She’s much too clever to be just one of Power’s jackasses. Not the type to be blackmailed into pretending to be fake Stephen’s wife.”

Owen remained silent, now staring ahead but still stone-faced, and probably seething inside, Jimbo figured. Aidan looked rather smug.

It was Kian who broke the stand-off. “Owen, we have the Ark. My mother sent it.”

“You have it, you have the Ark? Kian, you should have told me.”

“And you should have told me you knew about it. A long time ago.”

“Point taken,” Owen said. “But do you know Jacob has the wings that open it?”

“We do now and we got them,” Aidan said. “And we opened the Ark.”

Owen continued to focus on Kian. “Oh my god, you opened it?”

“Yes, we found some pipes to call up the Elemental Kings and some sheets of soft metal with lines and writing on them. But we don’t know what they are.”

Owen crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back, now focusing on Aidan. “Those are the maps to the other Arks.”

“One other thing, my parents are alive. They sent me the Ark.”

“That’s great news,” Owen said leaning forward. There was genuine softness and caring in his tone. Kian did not pull away.

Jimbo looked at Aidan, but his face was inscrutable.

“So, now tell us what else you know about the Ark,” Kian said.

“First the history of the Ark,” Owen replied. “Here’s the thing. Ten thousand years ago, a fleet of ships set sail from what is now the Orkneys and Scotland. On board were four families of the old blood. They had the Ark with them. One woman, a Priestess of the Old Ways, she was the Keeper. The three other families were Guardians. My family was one of the Guardians. We were the Gryffuds back then. The Bucknuns, your father’s ancestors, were also Guardians and one of the Bucknun sons was married to the Priestess. These four families were our ancestors, Kian, yours and mine. They settled here with people from an earlier migration, one just after the floods and the earth upheavals that sank the ancient homeland.”

“So, when Mom and Dad married, they knew they were Keeper and Guardian? But doesn’t that get confusing. I mean, what does that make me, Keeper or Guardian? Or Both?”

“Not confusing at all. Keepers and Guardians marry all the time. One of the girls, usually the oldest, would be the next Keeper. The boys in the family take the role of Guardian.” Owen caught Kian’s eye and smiled, “Marriage between sacred families is quite common. It happens all the time.”

Jimbo watched as Aidan’s neck tightened and bulged, a sure sign his buddy was not happy with that news. He needed to break this up fast. “So, what are you thinking, Scotty? Is this guy legit?”

“Seems so,” Aidan replied. He eyed Owen closely, “So far anyway.”

“Agreed,” replied Jimbo, still leaning against the kitchen counter.

Owen turned to face him. “Good, maybe you’ll stop probing me. It’s annoying as hell.”

Jimbo withdrew his senses and slapped his thigh. “Scotty, we may have found us a genuine ally here.” Looking at Owen, he continued, “Trooper, the odds are now at least eleven against three. Four if you count Kian.”

“We don’t count Kian,” Owen snapped. “Haven’t you guys been listening? She’s got the old blood from her mother. She’s the Keeper now.”

Kian stood and crossed her arms over her chest. “No, you count me in. Counting me out is what got us into this mess in the first place.”

“Kian, that’s against everything I know.” Owen was pleading now, but at least Aidan’s neck had relaxed. “Keepers are to be protected,” Owen continued. “They are never to be put in harm’s way. That is my job now, to protect you.” He looked over at Aidan, “Mine alone.”

Aidan’s neck tightened again. Jimbo had all he could do to keep from reaching out and shaking his friend. Distractions cost us, buddy. Remember that.

 

 

Aidan, seething inside, pushed himself away from the table. “Like hell, its yours alone,” he told Owen as he marched over to his computer on the coffee table.

“Distractions, buddy, distractions. I’m making that rule number five,” Jimbo said. “I’m heading out. Touch base later.”

Distraction, my ass, Aidan wanted to call out as Jimbo left through the kitchen door. But he knew Jimbo was right. Distractions cost.

Ignoring Owen and Kian talking softly at the table, Aidan checked his tablet. The cars seemed to be gathering again, this time in the horse pasture at the cut off. He texted Jimbo, then did a quick Internet search on the name Griffiths. Their history went back as far as the Buchanan’s. Like Kian’s family, the land had been deeded to them in the early 1600s based on a “prior claim.”

Next he did a quick search of the name, Gruffudd. Literally translated from ancient Welsh, it meant “Chief with a strong grip.” Handy for a Guardian, Aidan mused.

Aidan got up and returned to the table. “Look, we need to work together. Are there any more Guardians we should know about?”

“My brother, but he’s only fourteen. I don’t want to drag him in. My dad died a year ago. Kian was an only child and so was her father. She may have some cousins, but I’m sure they don’t follow the ancient ways.”

The old grandfather clock struck eleven.

“It’s late,” Aidan said as he stood, drawing himself to his full height.

Owen rose and feigned a yawn. “I’m going back to town,” he announced. “I’ll let it be known Kian took off for the city. My partner has spread that Bigfoot story all over anyway so I’ll just say she got spooked or something.” Aidan nodded and Owen continued, “You may get some yahoos looking for Sasquatch tonight. Bet there will even be a video on YouTube by tomorrow.” He chuckled and then added, “I’ll text if I know anything. We all better get some sleep.”

“Thanks,” Aidan said as he moved to shake Owen’s hand.

“No problem. Look, about what I said earlier…. I’m glad to know I got some help. Aren’t many Guardians left, you know.”

“What about that third family? You never said.”

“Their name was Cameron,” Owen replied half way out the front door. “Forget them. They’re gone, too.” He closed the door, calling through the glass panels, “Don’t forget to lock up.”

 

Jimbo spent the next two hours dodging Bigfoot hunters. For him, it was like a game, first exposing his bulky blanket-wrapped frame, then leading them along before disappearing up a tall tree or under some dense brush. At first he led them away from the stone chambers where they might do some damage and then toward the forest surrounding the overgrown horse pasture where Power and his coven were bedded down for the night. Satisfied that the twenty-odd men and women stalking the legendary beast would keep Power’s minions pinned down, Jimbo crept unnoticed onto the front porch and rapped at the window. “Hey, lover boy, let me in.”

Aidan opened the door and Jimbo strode into the room. “I gave those Bigfoot aficionados some good YouTube footage, and I checked on our friends. They won’t be going anywhere tonight, not with all those crypto-zoo-whatever type people out there. Cheez, how do those baboons expect to find that ape with all that commotion?”

Jimbo plopped down into the overstuffed armchair, his exhausted body sinking into the tattered green velvet. “I tagged two more cars. We now have eight.” Jimbo entered the new codes into Aidan’s tablet. “Power’s people won’t be going anywhere tonight.” He set the alarm. “And if they do, we’ll know about it.”

Aidan chuckled and took the tablet from him. “Good. We both need some shut-eye.”

“True that. And besides, someone has to chaperone you and the pretty lady upstairs. Shit, a blind man can see how you two feel about each other! She’s pretty smitten, ya’ know.”

“With me or with that Owen guy? I saw how he kept looking at her.”

“Jealous are we, lover boy?”

“No, I’m just saying….”

“Scotty, you two belong together. That one’s a ‘Keeper,’so to speak.” Jimbo laughed at his own joke.

“No argument with that,” Aidan replied. “You sleeping on the sofa or am I?”

“You are. There’s a spare room upstairs with a squeaky old cot and smelly sheets. I’ll take that.”

 

 

Photo Attribution:

By Francesco Pizzigano (Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 20

 

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CHAPTER TWENTY

 

Once inside the house, Aidan encouraged Kian to go hide in the caves. She refused. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying here and we are doing this together.”

“She’s got a point, Scotty. We are stronger if we stay together.”

“Yes, well, that depends on what the BOLO says,” Aidan replied as he opened his computer and did a search of the FBI database.

Kian stepped up behind him. “What’s it say?”

“You are only wanted for questioning. I guess even Power can’t get a search warrant at this point.”

Then, without warning, he slammed his laptop closed. “Someone’s coming I can feel it. Kian get upstairs.”

Kian did not move.

Aidan turned off the living room lights as Jimbo peered out one of the glass panels framing the front door. “That’s the shithead BOLO guy.”

“Now, Kian,” Aidan demanded. “Get upstairs now! And stay there.”

“Fine.” She turned and mounted the steps two at a time. “But you are not my boss.”

Aidan, intent on watching the figure approach, did not respond. “Bet he is here for Kian,” he told Jimbo.

“Probably. No other reason to be. I’m goin’ out. Need to check for more of them.”

Aidan heard the kitchen door slam just as he recognized the man approaching. Owen Griffith, Stephen’s arresting officer, the guy who tried to keep him away from Kian at the crime scene.

Aidan ducked back behind the door and waited. There was a bold knock. “Yes, tell me what you want,” Aidan called through the door.

“I need to talk to Kian.”

“About?”

“Not your business. Where is she?”

“And that’s not your business.”

Aidan took a quick glance through the glass panel in time to see Owen close his eyes and take a deep breath. When he let it out, Aidan felt a ball of searing hot fear slam into his solar plexus. He felt himself draw back and watched his right hand reach for the doorknob. Mustering his willpower again, he withdrew it. Damn, where’d this kid learn that? The last time someone had thrown a fireball at him, he was confronting an old sorcerer out west.

“Sorry, jerk, that won’t get you anywhere. Now what do you want?”

Fearing the guy might have more tricks up his sleeve, Aidan peered out the glass panel again. He was right. The officer, it seemed, had grown larger, more imposing. He’d taken on what was often called the ‘Glamour.’ Aidan closed his eyes and shot a ball of fire at the young officer’s solar plexus causing him to stumble back off the porch. The officer looked bewildered, fear now in his eyes.

At that moment Jimbo appeared from behind and grabbed Owen’s arms, holding him in a lock. Aidan rushed out, disarmed the man, and then patted him down for good measure. He found a knife strapped to the officer’s ankle. Once disarmed, Aidan and Jimbo showed the officer into the house.

Aidan scowled at the young man. “Where’d you learn to throw fireballs?”

“Look man, you don’t understand. In fact you have no idea.”

“Try me,” said Aidan.

“You won’t believe me. I need to see Kian.”

“She’s not here. Now talk to me. Why are you here?”

“I could ask you the same thing,” Owen countered, pointing to Aidan’s duffle beside the sofa. “Why are you staying here?”

“Because someone is shooting at Kian and I don’t see you or your department doing anything about it. Now you.”

“It’s a long story.”

“So tell it.” Aidan pointed to the dining table and motioned Owen to take a chair. He sat across from the young officer while Jimbo, arms crossed, leaned against the open counter between the kitchen and the dining table.

“I know this is going to sound crazy,” Owen said, “but our families, Kian’s and mine, we go back more years than anyone would believe. I’m going to be straight with you. Kian’s in more danger than you realize. She may have something priceless, beyond anyone’s measure. Something I was sworn to protect, as were my ancestors before me. And, something your scheming boss wants.”

Aidan looked at Jimbo. Maybe he was legitimate, Aidan figured. Or maybe he wasn’t.

Jimbo nodded. “See, well, we already know that, shit-for-brains. Now tell us something we don’t know.”

Aidan could see the officer getting agitated. He watched as Owen closed his eyes again. Aidan prepared himself for another fireball, this time raising an invisible shield that would turn it back on the young man. But instead, the air became lighter and brighter. It felt like open empty space.

“She’s upstairs, isn’t she?” He turned toward the steps. “Kian, get down here now!”

 

 

Kian heard men arguing. She crept back to the top of the staircase to listen and recognized Owen’s voice. Had he said he was sworn to protect something, as were his ancestors before him? She was jolted. The Ark? Had to be. Paralda said there were Guardians for the Ark. Oh, now it all fits.

Then she heard Owen ordering her downstairs.

“All right, that’s it,” Kian muttered as she descended the steps and rounded the corner into the dining area.

Aidan was the first one to see her. “Kian, get back upstairs.”

Kian glared at him. “Stop ordering me around.”

“Way to go, girl,” Owen said.

“And, Owen Griffiths, don’t you tell me what to do either.”

She gave her words a moment to sink in as she took a seat at the table. “Now, what’s this all about?”

Jimbo, still standing leaning his back on the counter to the kitchen, was the first to speak. “Officer Griffiths here was one of the officers on the BOLO.”

“Owen? Were you going to take me in?”

“No, I wasn’t. But better I should be here than someone who doesn’t know you.”

“Point taken,” Kian said as she turned to Aidan. “Owen’s a friend of mine, always has been and always will be.”

Owen reached for her hand and patted it gently. “Kian, we need to talk privately.”

She pulled her hand back. “You can talk in front of them.”

“Kian, I am serious.”

“And I am tired of being treated like a child. Now why are you here?”

“Because of them.” Owen pointed first at Aidan then at Jimbo. “Do you know who their boss is?”

“Power is Aidan’s boss, not Jimbo’s and, yes, I know. What we don’t know is why you have not arrested Power yet.”

“They can’t get a court order,” Aidan jumped in. “At least that part is clear.”

Owen nodded before continuing, “Look, Power is after something….”

“I know. The Ark,” Kian said.

Owen’s eyes went wide. “You know about the Ark? Jacob finally told you?”

“No,” Kian said exasperated. “I had to find out for myself. The hard way, with people shooting at me. Why does everyone keep secrets from me?”

“We decided it would be safer,” Owen said.

Owen went to take her hand but, again, she yanked it away. “Who’s ‘we’?”

“Jacob, my parents, me,” Owen responded. “Listen, when your parents did not come back, we figured maybe Power killed them. Because Power and a couple of guys showed up here after that and they were stalking you….”

Kian, growing angrier, had all she could do to keep her voice steady. “And you were planning on telling me about being stalked exactly…, when?”

“Kian, calm down and just listen to me. Your parents went to get the Ark. When they did not come back, well we thought maybe Power got it. But when he showed up here, we knew he wouldn’t be watching you if he had the Ark. So now you were in danger, too.”

“Go on. That doesn’t explain why you never told me.”

He looked at her, and Kian could see true concern in his eyes. “See, the problem was that we thought Power might use you to find the Ark, so we decided as long as you didn’t show signs of knowing things or of having the Second Sight, then he’d leave you alone. That’s why you went to Boston instead of living here with us.”

“So you just shipped me off, let me think god-knows-what about my parents, and then ignored me. That’s great, Owen, just great.” There were tears in Kian’s eyes.

 

Photo Attribution:

By Christos Doudoulakis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons