Storytelling Time: Death Smells Disaster - Chapter 1 Part I
Genre: Urban Fantasy Mystery
(c) Shereen Vedam
Chapter 1, Part I
“We’re being followed,” Robert said from beside Abbie.
Her right foot automatically pressed Rosie’s accelerator and her coral red Renault zoomed forward. That shut out the kids’ argumentative chatter from the backseat.
They were doing ten k over the speed limit for this street in Warden Point, Kent, before she said, “By whom?”
“A witch’s broom,” he replied matter-of-factly.
Abbie breathed a sigh of relief, but her speed didn’t decrease. Since her best friend was a witch and she was on her way to Judith’s granny’s home, hearing a magical broom was on their tail wasn’t a total shock. Her anxiety didn’t reduce though, because trouble had been dogging her steps for months, making her edgy.
“Cool,” Jimi said, swinging around to glance out the back window. Having turned six in December, to him pretty much everything was “cool.”
“Could it belong to Granny Chan?” Nica asked. His sister, three years his senior, was more practical. She sounded as excited, though, rather than her usual reserved self, which warmed Abbie’s heart.
“Let’s find out.” Abbie switched her foot from accelerator to brake and pulled over.
She breathed deeply to calm her racing pulse. There was nothing to worry about.
She gave Robert, a centuries-old ghost dressed in full Regency attire from coattails, a patterned waistcoat, to a top hat that partially stuck out through the roof, a side glance. “Think this means trouble?”
He shrugged, doing a quick surroundings check. “No pedestrians or drivers seem to have noticed the broom.”
Only they were privy to its magical presence, then. The broom came to a halt on Robert’s side of the vehicle. It was a gnarly old thing with unruly yellow bristles tied with a red rope at one end. All perfectly ordinary if one ignored the magical sparks shooting off it.
“Jimi,” she said, “see if you can converse with it.”
“Is that safe?” Robert asked, worried.
“Shields up,” Abbie said to her ring and waited for its magical protection to rise over herself and her kids. Then she gave a nod to Jimi, who immediately unbuckled himself while Robert rolled down his window. The young boy had proven he could talk to magical things, so communicating with a witch’s broom should be a snap.
Abbie, too, had recently discovered she could interact with magical objects because of the Grimm cord embedded within her right arm. She needed a physical connection, though, while Jimi could talk without the need to touch.
“Her name’s Comet,” Jimi said, leaning forward to glance around Robert.
“She’s here to guide us to Granny Chan’s place, even though she’s not a sodding GPS.”
“No swearing,” Abbie reprimanded, but smiled at the broom to soften the reprimand.
“She says she’s sorry,” Jimi said with a shameless grin.
“All right, back in your car seat.” Abbie shut off the GPS guide on her phone before putting her car into gear. “Nica, buckle your brother in.”
Nica leaned over and did as asked, straightening her brother’s shirt before sitting back. Then she adjusted her dress, meticulously re-arranging the hem. Abbie looked away from those disturbing movements, an unwanted reminder of Nica’s developing OCD tendencies. It made leaving her so difficult.
Focus, Abbie. She then repeated a mantra she had been echoing all too often these days. You can’t control Nica’s fears any more than she can control every inch of her world. That’s her psychologist’s role.
“Lead the way,” Abbie said to Comet.
The broom zoomed ahead and Abbie pulled into traffic, zig-zagging around vehicles to keep up. She had never driven to Judith’s home and didn’t want to lose her guide. The witch constable lived in her grandmother’s basement flat.
Grimm-witch history had resulted in witches distrusting Grimms. So, Abbie’s friendship with Judith wouldn’t automatically mean that Judith’s grandmother trusted Abbie. This invite had been hard enough to get.
According to Klaus, her Tales of the Grimm book she’d consulted last night to prepare for this morning’s drive, Granny Chan’s home might be hard to find for most people. The notation had actually made Abbie feel safer about leaving her kids with Granny Chan while she attended a London tribute for her late EMT team members who died in a bomb blast.
A year ago, tomorrow.
She shivered as an icy-cold well-spring of grief spurted up at that reminder of her upcoming trip. Sensing her unrest, Robert brushed her hand in cool comfort.
Abbie flicked him a swift glance before looking away, afraid if she stared into his compassionate gaze for too long, she’d cry. Something he’d witnessed her doing several nights this week. Abbie’s self-appointed ghostly guardian was aware of how much she dreaded this light ceremony. Hard to celebrate her friends’ lives when she still mourned their absence.
Compounding that horrible bomb-blast memory was the thought of leaving her children behind. She hadn’t left Nica and Jimi for more than a few hours since Abbie found them at St. Michael’s church last summer, late at night, huddled beside their murdered mother.
What if something happened while she was away? The kids had powers that villains might want to misuse. It was that thought that kept Abbie from relying on anyone but her mum—another Grimm—with their safety.
Yet, Kali, Nica’s patron goddess, had hinted that Abbie should attend this event. Abbie had planned to take her kids until she received an anonymous tip from one of her podcast listeners saying they had information about who had been behind the London bombing. The informant promised to share that vital clue during the event.
Abbie desperately wanted this information but wasn’t prepared to risk her kids in case it was a trap. Unfortunately, her parents were off on a thirty-year-delayed honeymoon in Hawaii that Abbie’s brothers purchased as a surprise. She was glad for her parents’ joy but bemoaned the rotten timing because it meant she’d lost her trusted caregiver.
She asked Judith if she’d be willing to watch the kids, but her friend said she was on an intensive course that kept her away from home for hours, sometimes for days. Her suggestion was to ask her grandmother. Since Judith said that her granny was the most powerful witch in England, the suggestion was too tempting to resist.
After not receiving a reply from Granny Chan for days, though, Abbie lost hope the old lady would accede. Then she woke up yesterday to find a note floating mid-air over her bed. The handwritten message had said, Bring the kids.
Printed below that note was Judith’s home address in east Kent, along the coast. Abbie had been so elated that right after breakfast, she called Judith to tell her that her gran had agreed.
Constable Denby had answered Judith’s work phone and said she was unavailable. He then hung up. Rude fellow.
Although thrilled at Granny Chan’s offer, before leaving for London, Abbie had wanted to check that the witch’s house would be safe for her kids and that the old lady would take good care of Nica and Jimi. If neither proved the case, she planned to cancel her trip. Her kids’ safety came first.
The broom suddenly sped up and Abbie focused on keeping up. They had only traveled a block before Comet abruptly stopped. Abbie slammed on the brakes and still ended up tapping the broom’s bristles.
The car behind Abbie honked in affront.
As she waved in apology, the car behind her sped ahead and Abbie lost sight of the broom. “Where did she go?”
“Vanished,” Robert said, squinting ahead.
“Abbie, Granny Chan’s in trouble,” Jimi said in a panicked tone. “Comet’s gone to help.”
Robert glanced at her with concern. “Can we find her home without Comet’s help?”
“We’d better.” Abbie turned her cell GPS back on and streaked down the road, praying common electronics would work well enough to identify the witch’s home after all. Hopefully, Granny Chan had lowered her magical defenses enough to allow this Grimm to enter.
Their frantic drive took them closer to the coast. Cool, salty sea air swept through the open windows on this cool February day. The breeze would have been reminiscent of a rainy seaside outing except for the high tension vibrating like a constantly ringing alarm.
Weaving around slower vehicles, Abbie sped down the street. Ahead, she spotted a home with iron gates pulled wide open, leading to a long drive bordered by flowering cherry trees, newly sprouting bushes, and wild ferns. Within that peaceful vegetation stood a two-storey, vine-covered home. A plaque by the gate post identified the place as Fern’s End.
“We’re here.” Abbie swiftly swerved into the drive, earning another angry honk, this time from a driver on the main road going the opposite way.
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