Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 25






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!”


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


” 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?”


“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






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






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.”


“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.




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




“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




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






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




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






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.”


“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

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 19






Aidan listened attentively as Kian related her vision about her parents. When she explained about the hidden room in the cave, he was intrigued.

“We should check it out, maybe move the Ark back there with the rest of the stuff. How close is the cave?”

“We can get there in maybe ten minutes with the Jeep.”

“How much canned food do you have?”

“Not a lot. Do you think we can get to a store?”

“At last count, there were four vehicles out back and we have bugs on all of them.” Aidan checked his tablet. “All parked together. Grab your Dad’s translations with the other valuable stuff.”

“Sure.” Kian was already taking the stairs two at a time.

While she was upstairs, Aidan went through her kitchen and pantry. He estimated she had a two-day supply of non-perishable food. Then he remembered Jimbo’s appetite. That cut it to less than one day. He packed what he’d found in a box, put the bag of cat food on top and hauled it to the Jeep. After that, he went to his Land Rover, retrieved two boxes of dried meals, and put them in the back. Kian came out with a loaded backpack and an arm full of her dad’s papers.

“Where’s the Ark?”

“In my backpack,” Kian replied. “Hurry, I don’t like leaving Lucky all alone in the house.”

They shopped for supplies in town, then Kian drove back toward the house while Aidan kept his eye on his tablet. “One car is moving.”

“Where’s it going?”

“On the highway in front of us. It just went past your house.”

When Kian reached her dirt road Aidan announced, “A second car is moving.” She turned onto her road. A few seconds later he said, “It’s following us.” Suddenly afraid for Lucky, Kian floored the gas pedal, leaving clouds of dust behind.

The Jeep, made for agility, not speed, was no match for the Mercedes chasing them. Kian saw it in her rearview mirror. The last thing she wanted was to lead the perp back to her house and Lucky. As she neared the pine tree and the cut off, she took a quick left, barely scraping the tree as she flew past the deep rut. Aidan swung around to look. He saw the Mercedes hit the rut, bounce up, and sink, splashing muddy water onto its windshield. It tried to back up, but the axel was caught. “Good work, kiddo. It’ll take an elephant to get that car out. Can we get to the cave from here?”

“Lucky. I gotta go back and get him.”

“Kian, I swear to you, we’ll get Lucky, even if I have hire an army to do it, but we need to supply the cave first. It’ll take them a while to get that car out anyway.” Kian knew he was right.

Aidan’s phone buzzed. “I got bad news, buddy.” It was Jimbo. “Two more friggin’ cars showed up, and that turd-for-brains Power found out the police arrested our fake Stephen. Everyone is breaking camp and pulling out.”

The visual was too much for Kian. “Turd-for-brains?” She laughed.

Aidan did, too. “Listen,” he finally said, “Two cars left a few minutes ago. One headed to town, the second one chased us. Do you know who they are?”

“One was a guy who showed up with Power last night. He left first, and then a woman named Raven left.”

“Raven is fake Stephen’s supposed wife. Her car is hung up in a rut about half a mile from the highway. Raven was the one that killed Jacob and shot at Kian. I’ll explain later. Can you get a bug on the other two cars?”

“Already done.” He gave Aidan the codes to punch into the tablet.

When two new dots showed on the map, Aidan said, “Got them. We’re on our way to the caves. We’re stocking them just in case, and then driving back to the house.”

“Sounds good. I gotta get the hell out of here before they find me. I’ll let you know if the bitch comes back. And text if you need me to rescue your sorry ass.”

“Got it.”

Aidan watched as Kian drove the Jeep along a different trail, one that led away from the highway. After about five minutes, Aidan was totally lost. “Where is this place, anyway?”

“Not far now.”

They drove over a third rocky brook. Kian stopped the Jeep. Aidan checked his tablet. They had made a circle and were about a half mile from the stone chambers.

They got out of the Jeep. Kian picked up two of the boxes and tied the scrapbooks on top. Aidan got three boxes and then swung the backpack onto his shoulders. Kian led the way up a hill and down into a valley. Within minutes, the old growth forest obscured the Jeep. On foot, they followed a trail made by the deer. It was an easy one as it meandered through a meadow. On the far side, huge ancient evergreens cast dark shadows on the spongy ground. Kian turned to the right and stepped behind a tall rock. Aidan followed. They were at a passage wide enough for two. “Is this tunnel natural or man-made?” asked Aidan.

“Originally natural, but I think it was enlarged some.”

The deeper they walked, the darker it got. “Walk with your shoulder against the wall. It’s safer that way. I used to play here as a child.”

A small beam of light shone through a hole in the rock above. Kian put her boxes down and worked her hands around a boulder. When her fingers settled into two handholds chipped into its side, she stepped back and motioned to Aidan. “Here, look.” She took Aidan’s hands and placed his fingers into the pecked indentations. “Now lean back and pull the boulder with you.” He did and the rock moved, leaving a twelve inch opening. “If you don’t have your hands just right, it won’t move. Something about balance. Too high and you push it down. Too low and you push it up.”

Aidan peered into the darkness of the cave.

Kian entered the cave and made her way to a small table. There she felt about until she found a kerosene lantern and a lighter. It took several tries, but the lighter caught and she was able to get the lantern going. It sputtered and threatened to go out several times before it gave off the light required. “That’s a miracle,” she said.

Aidan stacked the five boxes on the floor of the chamber and placed Red’s notes on top. Kian removed the Ark and Wings from the backpack and placed them in a cubbyhole to the back of the cave. Together she and Aidan moved a large stone in front to hide them from view.

When Kian was satisfied that all was secure, she showed Aidan how to move the rock back into place to close off the chamber.

As they turned to leave, Aidan pointed down the tunnel that continued past the cave. “Where does that go?”

“Back to a bigger cave. There’s some pottery, mats, old stuff the Native people had. I’ll take you there some time, if you’d like.”

She moved in close to him and wrapped her arms around him, but Aidan pulled away this time. He rested his hand on her shoulder. “I’d like to explore a lot of things with you. But right now we can’t let ourselves get distracted. It could get us killed.”

Kian understood. This wasn’t some bodice-ripper of a novel after all. “Come on, let’s get those other boxes,” she said.

The second trip to the cave seemed shorter because the load was lighter. This time they took a few minutes to check the items Kian’s parents had left in the cave. The candles still worked, and the blankets were a bit musty but usable. The cans of food had corroded. There was kerosene in a can and two more lanterns on a shelf. When they tested them, they still worked.

Aidan asked about the water supply, and Kian took him to a stream down a narrow passage. It flowed so swiftly no algae had formed on the rocks.

“It’s a perfect place to hide,” Kian said. “We could stay here forever if we had to.”

Aidan opened his tablet. “Except for one thing. We’re blind in here.”


When they got back to the Jeep, Aidan took his cell phone and punched at the keys.

Jimbo answered. “Need me to save your sorry ass already?”

“Not yet. Where are you?”

“Out back behind the house. And you?”

Kian grabbed the phone. “Is Lucky okay?”

“Preening himself in the back window.”

She handed the phone back to Aidan and climbed into the Jeep.

Aidan pulled himself up into the passenger seat and closed the door. “Jimbo, do you know where Raven is?”

“Power picked her up. She didn’t look too happy. The tracking device indicates they are in town. All the others are scattered throughout town.”

“All the others? How many?”

“At least eleven, last count. What’s that asshole Power doing anyway?”

“Beats me. Finding out is why I got you.”

“Now you tell me.”

Aidan studied his tablet. “I still see one vehicle at the old camp.”

“The maroon SUV. They ditched it, literally. Let it roll down a ravine.”

“Got-cha. On our way.”

Kian turned the Jeep around and started to drive back to the house.

When they got to Kian’s road, Aidan asked her to stop so he could inspect the Mercedes. It had been stripped before it was abandoned. “I don’t like leaving it here,” he said. “It blocks the back way. Always have an escape.”

“No problem. We’ll make another way.” While Aidan watched from the vantage point of the stuck Mercedes, Kian backed up a few feet, then swung the Jeep further to the right. She drove about two hundred feet, and then turned sharply left, heading back toward the Mercedes. Even with pine needles cushioning the way, Aidan could see that the Jeep bounced wildly. Twenty feet from the old track and the Mercedes, a large branch blocked the way. Kian climbed out of the Jeep. “Help me move it, will you?”

Aidan hurried over. Together they were able to swing the branch out, leaving just enough room to pass. With the way now clear, it was easy to get around the Mercedes and back to the Jeep trail.

“How many trails are there around here?”

“A lot. Most were carriage roads and mining tracks at one time. You just have to know where they are. Before my parents left, they kept the tracks cleared. Now a lot have saplings and small trees growing on them. Some are too big for me to cut and move by myself.”

When their Jeep reached the dirt road, Aidan’s cell phone buzzed. He answered it. “You are on speaker. What’s up?”

“Right after you called, a couple of the local officers showed up. Long story short, Power put out a ‘be-on-the-lookout,’ a BOLO for you, Kian, and two officers were sent to pick you up. One guy seemed impressed as hell because Power is FBI. He saw the blood on the porch and wanted to go in.”

“Are they still there?”

“Nope, I scared them off.” Kian and Aidan looked at each other.

“How’d you do that?” Kian asked.

“Did my Bigfoot impersonation.” Jimbo let out a piercing howl. “I shook a tree, threw some rocks, walked around like I owned the place.”

“Didn’t they see you?”

“Sure did. Well, anyway, seems this place has a reputation for being strange. One of the officers said, ‘Told you this place was spooky,’ and took off. The second guy followed making the sign of the cross. They left in a big hurry, I’ll tell you that.” Jimbo chuckled.

Kian and Aidan pulled up to the house as a large brown figure stepped through the trees toward them. Its shape was indistinct, eyes menacing, the creature let out a howling screech.

Kian gasped and grabbed Aidan’s arm.

A big grin plastered across his face, Jimbo stepped out of the woods and lowered the ratty old horse blanket. “Why’d you jackasses take so long?”


Photo Attribution: Percy Benzie Abery [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 18





Once showered and dressed, Kian put the books away and straightened the library. She picked up the book about Chokole and was reading on the sofa and stroking Lucky, soothed by his purr, when she heard a thud in the barn followed by loud scraping sounds.

Kian felt vulnerable. Why wait until tomorrow? She and Lucky should go to the cave today. As soon as Aidan gets back.

Kian retrieved her cat carrier from the hallway closet, grabbed a bag of unopened dry food, and placed the two next to the front door. Should she leave the Ark and Wings hidden or take them along? Could she be sure nobody would find them under her attic floor?

Kian heard someone shout outside, then a gunshot. It sounded like it came from the barn.

Oh my god! She ducked down, swooped Lucky up into her arms, and pushed him into his carrier. Her hands were trembling. She tossed her backpack over her shoulder. “Off we go, buddy,” she said as she grabbed the carrier and placed her hand on the doorknob. She peeked out one of the long glass panels next to the door. Fake Stephen emerged from behind Jimbo’s truck. She could not go out the front. There was no way to get to the Jeep. Which rule said to always have an escape?

When Kian looked back out the window, she saw fake Stephen holding his hand. Blood dripped into a small pool in front of him. He was wounded. The odds of escaping out the front were about even now. It might be worth taking the risk. She looked again. It was his right hand. She tried to remember. Was he right handed? She did not know.

When Stephen spoke to someone behind him, her heart sank. There was no way she could get past two of them. Kian would have to take Lucky through the kitchen and out the side door. She would hide in the woods until Aidan returned.

But what if Aidan was walking into a trap?

She took one last glance out the front window and heard Aidan call to her. “Kian!”

“Aidan, be careful, they’re out front,” she shouted back.

“I know. I got him.” Confused, Kian looked out the small glass panel again. Fake Stephen was approaching the porch steps, Aidan following behind and holding him at gunpoint. “Open up, will you?”

She opened the door and stepped back.

“There’s a dirty tee-shirt on my bag. Toss it to this creep,” Aidan said. Kian grabbed the garment and threw it to Stephen who immediately wrapped his bleeding hand.

“Get everything off the sink,” Aidan said. “Anything this bastard could use as a weapon.”

Kian hurried in front of them. She didn’t think the spice jars constituted a lethal weapon, but the paring knives did, so she shoved them onto a pantry shelf along with the cutting board. She hurried back to remove the plastic dish drainer stacked with last night’s dishes–all breakable, Kian figured, and the sharp edges could be dangerous.

“To your left and into the kitchen,” Aidan growled. Kian turned to see Aidan press his gun into the man’s lower back, pushing him forward two steps. “Put that hand over the sink. Kian, is this the guy who claims to be Jacob’s son?”

“Yes.” She reached for the wall phone.

“Ms. Buchanan, I’m bleeding. You gotta do something,” the man pleaded as he walked past, holding out his wounded hand. His voice shook, the tone wildly out of control, and his brow dripping from sweat.

“She is doing something. She’s calling the cops. Should be here in ten minutes, so unless you want them to find a corpse with a shot-up hand, you better start talking. There is a man called Power walking around out there. How do you know him?”

“Look, man, he’ll kill me if I say anything, I swear. Man, you don’t understand.”

“No, I don’t. So spit it out. How do you know this guy Power?”

“He brought me in for questioning on bond trading. The trading wasn’t, well, exactly kosher.”

“Power brought you in for illegal bond trading. Then what?”

“He threatened me. Said I’d go to jail. So I told him to wait ’cause I got a wife and kids, and I can’t go to jail.”

He looked from Aidan to Kian. She saw pleading in his eyes. This cold-blooded killer was pleading with her. She wanted to slap him. Hard.

“Go on,” Aidan demanded.

“Threatened my family, too. Called it Power’s Finishing School. Man, it didn’t take a genius to know what he meant by that and every time he talked to me, he said it again. Don’t you see, I was stuck?”

“Tell me what Power wanted you to do.” Aidan’s tone was sharp now as he scowled at Stephen.

“It seemed clear enough.” Stephen replied. “Raven and I. We had to pretend to be Jacob’s son, his daughter-in-law.”

“Raven? I thought her name was Charlene, or Mary, or something like that,” Kian shrieked, shaking with rage. She didn’t really want to talk to him, she wanted to make him pay. With blood. She glared at him, staring straight into his now terrified eyes.

“Raven,” he managed to choke out, looking down to avoid her stare. “We called her Charlene. It sounded better. Classy. Kinda French.”

“Go on, why did you pretend to be Jacob’s son?” Aidan’s scowl deepened.

“To get him to change his will. Leave everything to me. Then I would turn around and give it to Power.”

“You didn’t have to kill him.” Kian spit the words at him. She could barely hold herself back now. She wanted to go at Stephen with rusty razor blades.

“Wait, lady, wait! I didn’t kill the old guy. Raven did. Not me. She’d have killed you too. Only I stopped her. I pushed her. When she shot at you. Lady, she’s a crack shot. Doesn’t matter how much weaving you did. She’d have hit you for sure.”

“I think you are just trying to save your sorry ass,” Aidan countered. “I should turn you over to Power. Let him finish you.”

“Man, no, please! I’m telling you the truth. Look, I didn’t want to kill the old guy. That was Raven. I just tried to scare him. Power wanted to know about this artifact. A pair of wings or something. Look, I tried to be nice. Get on Jacob’s good side.”

The kitchen clock ticked away. Time was running short. The local authorities would be arriving in two or three minutes.

“Tell me what happened Thursday night,” Kian demanded. “I want to know what you did Thursday night.”

“I slipped that date rape drug into his tea. To loosen his tongue. It made him dopey. When Raven found out, she lost it. Told him to kneel on the floor. He didn’t, so she pushed him down. Tied his wrists with duct tape.” Stephen looked up at the clock and then at his bleeding hand.

“Go on.” Kian wasn’t sure she wanted to hear the rest, but she had to know. She just had to.

Stephen continued to stare at his hand and at the blood now dripping onto a soapy sponge. “She took this leather cord. Wrapped it around his neck. Said something about a Three-Fold Death.”

“Then what?” Aidan demanded.

“The old man kept falling. Passing out. She got mad as hell and yanked him up.” Stephen looked up at that moment and caught Kian’s eye. She saw him shudder. “She’s cold! You have no idea.” With his good hand, he wiped first his right, then his left eye before continuing. “Her temper. She was screaming. And twisted the cord again. Too hard. I heard his neck go pop. Then she took her knife. Slit his throat.”

Aidan demanded, “And what did you do, you scumbag?”

“I kept shouting, ‘Let’s leave.’ But, no. She got this bowl. Put water in it and shoved his face in it. Then she looked me straight in the eyes. ‘That’s the Three-Fold Death,’ she said. ‘Remember it. I can do it to you, too.'”

Kian continued to glare at Stephen. Uncle Jacob was probably too drugged to know what was happening. But that thought did not make her feel any better. She heard a police siren in the distance.

“You got one more minute to answer my questions,” Aidan growled. “Why didn’t you let Raven kill Kian?”

“I was sick to my stomach. Her killing the old man and all. I told Raven, why kill the girl? We need to find this Ark thing. Even Raven had to agree to that.”

Aidan scowled at him. “When you had your chance, why didn’t you leave?”

“Look, I’m no hero. If I leave, I’m dead and it won’t be pretty. And they will go after my family. Don’t you see? If I run away, someone pays. It’s that simple.”

The police car pulled up to the house. Kian opened the door and watched as her childhood friend, Owen Griffiths, took three long strides up the steps.

“Are you okay?” Owen looked around the large open room, a frown crossing his face when he saw Aidan. “What’s he doing here?”

“Helping me,” Kian replied, a warm smile on her face. Owen scowled at her again, then looked at Aidan who was checking Stephen’s bleeding hand.

“You’ll live,” Aidan said. Without turning around, Aidan addressed the responding officer, “FBI. My ID is on the table.”

“I know damn well who you are.” He looked past Aidan to the suspect. “Well, well, if it isn’t Stephen Steiner, con artist and murderer. Where’s that ugly wife of yours?”

Looking sullen, Stephen ignored the officer.

“I take it I am arresting this man,” Owen said, handing an old plastic bag to Stephen to wrap around his bleeding hand. “What’s the charge? Homicide?”

“Start with breaking and entering, and drawing a weapon on an FBI agent,” Aidan said as the officer cuffed his suspect. “I don’t think we can charge him with dropping that weapon or shooting himself in the hand, but accomplice to murder sounds good.” Aidan secured his own weapon.

“Fine.” Owen looked at Kian, “I’ll be back later. Stay put.”

Now Owen was ordering her around. Kian felt her hackles rise, but she held her tongue.

Owen scowled at Aidan one last time before turning to leave. By the time his prisoner reached the bottom step, the officer had read Stephen his rights.

Kian closed the door just as Lucky let out a piercing howl. “Oh, no!” Kian bent down to open the carrier door. Aidan looked at the carrier, the bag of dry food, and Kian’s stuffed backpack.

“Going somewhere?”




Photo Attribution:

Hardenacke at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons