Storytelling Time: Death Smells Disaster - Chapter 2 Part I
Genre: Urban Fantasy Mystery
(c) Shereen Vedam
Chapter 2, Part I
Abbie met Jimi’s downtrodden gaze and, with her lips tilted in a smile, she tipped her head toward the broom and winked.
He didn’t hesitate to straddle Comet.
“But Abbie said, No,” Nica cried out.
Taking Nica’s hand in hers, Abbie approached the broom. Touching Comet, she said, “If you promise to be careful, you may take both the kids to my car.”
“I shall be extra cautious,” Comet said. “I don’t want to be in here anymore until Granny returns.”
“What do you say, Nica?” Abbie asked the little girl. “Want to ride a broom?”
The consternation on Nica’s face was heartrending as she struggled to overcome her fear of giving up control of her world. This child had been waging this battle since her mother died. Her psychologist suspected that fear of losing control might be the source of Nica’s OCD habits, and now she picked at her food.
Abbie held her breath and waited.
If the child jumped on that broom, it would be her first step toward recovery. Better than years of therapy.
Abbie had been waging a similar battle since her teammates died and she gained responsibility for these two little ones. She didn’t want to release Nica’s hand.
Slowly, Nica pulled out of Abbie’s hold and, striding over to the rear of where her brother sat, she hopped sidesaddle onto Comet. The smile she flashed to Abbie was both tentative and triumphant.
“Lock the car doors once you’re in,” Abbie called out, deeply touched by Nica’s growing courage.
The children nodded as Comet retreated to the garden through the open back door. Then, to their cries of delight, the broom swooped up high.
Abbie’s breath caught and her heart hammered in dread. Had she really suggested they ride that spirited broom?
“They’ll be fine,” Robert said from behind her. He sounded calm but he, too, gazed up with a concerned frown until Comet vanished from sight. “No one’s likely to see them since they hadn’t seen the broom on the main street.”
Abbie nodded, having come to the same conclusion. Still, unable to settle her nerves that continued to flutter, she hurried through to the inside kitchen door and it swung open, leading her straight into a dining room. Another door across the dining room invited her into a corridor that led to an entryway with a wide staircase on one side, across from the front door bordered by two narrow windows.
As the doorknob turned, she said, “Stay closed,” and the knob quieted and stilled.
Abbie gazed outside through the side window until Comet came into view and gently set Nica and Jimi on their feet. Once the kids entered Rosie, Abbie stepped back, shoulders relaxing.
About to walk away, she noticed coins on the windowsill along with a feather. Odd. Maybe that was a Chinese custom. She held her hand over the coins and a strong vibration of energy stung her palm. Protection. Robert had entered this home, but a human or even a supe would have had a difficult time of it.
Shaking her tingling fingers, she headed back to the kitchen, passing a wall of photos, a Bagua painting, and a book titled I Ching on an end table. In this section of the house, there was a sweet scent of incense. Every door she approached automatically opened for her.
“Children secure?” Robert sent her an indulgent smile as she returned to the kitchen.
“Yes,” she replied, sheepish at having checked on them. “I haven’t seen Nica smile so wide since…well, never.” Cherishing the warm glow that thought churned, Abbie looked around this room with renewed interest.
“Mrs. Chan appears to have been juggling two jobs before she vanished,” Robert mused from beside the oven. “Baking biscuits in here while performing a magical ritual over there.”
The kitchen island he pointed to held a melted black candle stub, charred yellow pieces of paper, and what looked to be a black onyx mirror, cracked. Also, there was a square of ash that could have been anything. Her gaze swung from there to the papers. There were a couple of Chinese characters still visible on the unburnt bits.
Using her phone camera, she took a wide-angle shot in case she’d missed a clue.
“These charred pieces and that cracked mirror suggest that whatever she attempted to do did not go as planned,” Abbie said. “I wonder if trespassers interrupted her work, causing her spell to go awry?”
“More than one person?” Robert asked.
“Mr. Brown is dead, and if Granny Chan didn’t kill him, someone else must have.”
“How can we be certain Mrs. Chan isn’t the culprit?” he asked, ever the objective major.
“The police will speculate about that as they search for a suspect and motive,” she replied. “Not sure the neighborly quarrel was serious enough to instigate a murder, though his appearance in her back garden could have been the last straw and she lashed out. The dead body makes her disappearance suspicious. Let’s hope the dagger in Mr. Brown’s chest didn’t belong to Granny Chan. And why can’t I reach Judith?”
“Could they be together?” he asked.
That thought hadn’t occurred to her. Her concern for both women spiked as a siren sounded. “Let’s get out of here or I’ll have to explain how I entered.”
“Right.” Robert shut and locked the back door after them. Non-corporeal entities left no fingerprints. They rushed around the house toward the front drive.
By the time the police unit pulled up, Abbie was leaning casually against Rosie. Comet lay flat on the floor beneath her kids’ feet. According to Jimi, the witch’s broom intended to return home with them.
That worked to Abbie’s benefit, as she had a few questions for Comet about her mistress’s planned activities this morning and Judith’s whereabouts. Could grandmother and granddaughter have been working on a spell together?
Abbie and her kids spent the rest of the morning at the Faversham nick which oversaw criminal activity in this eastern coastal section of Kent. First, they had to wait while someone fetched a key to the station, which didn’t open until eleven. Once they were let in, there was only one constable on duty. Luckily for Abbie, he didn’t bother to ask her kids to verify Abbie’s statement.
She kept her report short and to the point. She’d arrived as scheduled at Granny Chan’s home, and when no one answered the door, she’d asked her kids to stay in her car while she went around to the back garden. Why do that? Because Granny Chan was a fervent gardener. There, she found the quilt-covered body.
Though it was a school day, the kids had an exemption from needing to attend today because of Abbie’s impending weekend trip to London for a tribute service.
No, she did not know Constable Chan’s whereabouts.
Finally released, Abbie drove her kids back to St. Michael’s car park. She owned this abandoned church and its graveyard, as well as the cottage next to it where they all lived.
“Oh, it’s lovely,” Comet said with admiration, as she sailed through the front garden.
Abbie brought up the rear, ushering everyone inside before ducking under the doorway’s low lintel herself. Knackered by this morning’s activities, she was glad to be home. She and Jimi kicked off their shoes and traipsed into the parlor before flopping onto the sofa. Nica stayed behind long enough to arrange all the shoes neatly by size on a tray before following them in.
Robert gazed out the front windows, arms at his back as if expecting company. Or a threat. Did he ever let down his guard? Not as long as she’d known him. He was careful in both his manner and dress. Weston on Bond Street could have tailored his pristine waistcoat, shirt, and pants. A gentleman straight from a Jane Austen movie.
Comet sailed over to gaze out the window beside him, standing ramrod straight, her bristles shifting as if she, too, held her hands at her back. Cheeky.
He faced Abbie then and rolled his eyes at Comet’s mimicry of his behavior.
Abbie grinned in response.
“What now?” he asked.
Abbie sat up. “Oh, I have an idea!”
“What?” he asked
“Yes, what?” Nica said.
Even Jimi sat up, expectant.
“I can ask Klaus. When I asked about Yousef last autumn, he showed me his whereabouts.” She held out her arms. “Klaus, come.”
In a shimmer, the heavy book landed in her arms and she set it on her lap.
“Show me Granny Chan.”
The book stayed unmoving. The cover didn’t even flip open.
“Klaus, show me Granny Chan,” Abbie said again, afraid the book hesitated because all it could show her was a corpse.
Then the cover flipped open, and the pages rustled. When they stopped, it was on a blank page. Abbie turned the page over and back but saw nothing on either side. “No luck.”
With a sigh, she closed the book and sent it off with a mental note to keep looking. “I’ll try again later.”
“What does this mean?” Nica asked, sounding worried.
“Don’t know. Could be that wherever Granny Chan is, Klaus can’t reach her.” She met Robert’s frowning gaze and then the children’s. “Let’s not mention this to Judith, all right? Not until we find out more about why the book can’t reach Granny Chan. No need to worry her needlessly.”
“Okay,” Nica said, shoulders slumping.
Jimi and Robert solemnly nodded, and then the boy added, “I’m hungry.”
“You’re always hungry,” his sister replied, and sat on a chair opposite them.
Abbie checked the clock on her mantel. Lunchtime already. Since she planned to be away until late Saturday, her refrigerator and larder were fairly empty. Now she mentally searched her remaining stock for what she could use to make a meal. “How about bacon sandwiches?”
“Scrummy!” Jimi cried and raced to the kitchen.
Comet sailed after him, spitting sparks.
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