Storytelling Time: Death Smells Disaster - Chapter 2 Part II
Genre: Urban Fantasy Mystery
(c) Shereen Vedam
Chapter 2, Part II
Abbie levered herself off the sofa and followed, smiling at their enthusiastic response. For an Indian kid, unlike his sister, Jimi leaned toward western food tastes, with bread being his bestie and bacon his lover.
On her way, she tapped a quick SOS text to her Standard Bearers’ crew: Talin, Yousef, and Judith. While Judith might ignore Abbie’s calls, she would not snub that emergency SB call-out. Their super hush-hush SB club dedicated itself to responding to supernatural distress calls.
Nica tagged along beside Abbie to the kitchen, wearing her customary frown. “What are you doing about London, Abbie?”
“We’ll figure something out,” she replied and reached for a frying pan.
Nica pulled out two small pots from a cupboard. The young girl had watched a show on telly recently where a chef straightened frying bacon by placing pots on top of pieces. Ever since, Nica insisted on having her bacon done that way.
Abbie indulgently loaded the frying pan with cut-up bacon pieces and allowed Nica to monitor the frying process while she buttered bread.
“That’s a lot of slices,” Robert said as pieces piled up on a plate. “Expecting company?”
“I sent out a text that we need to have an SB meeting,” Abbie said. “Kitchen should be full soon. Jimi, please set the table for six.”
It would have been seven if Robert could eat. A downside of being a ghost was abstinence from eating anything tasty.
She flicked him a covert side glance, wondering yet again why he was still with her. Not that she wasn’t grateful for his continued presence. He was her personal guard and had taught her even more about self-defense than her brothers had. But what kept him earthbound instead of heading toward Heaven with his wife and child? What unfinished business kept him by her side? It was a question she couldn’t shake off.
The doorbell rang, and Jimi and Comet raced to answer. Abbie normally sent Robert after the tornado that was Jimi, but this time, she held her tongue. Comet could whisk the boy to safety if that was trouble knocking to get in.
Robert vanished anyway and then reappeared. “Yousef’s here.”
Yousef Kanaan was their SB group’s newest member.
“Was he driving Shahay?” she asked.
“Yes. She’s parked next to Rosie.”
The last time Abbie had seen Yousef and Shahay together, he’d shown surprising compassion toward his race car. Normally, Yousef distrusted other magical creatures.
Then, last autumn, he witnessed Shahay’s selfless gesture that almost cost her life and then witnessed her in her fae form. Abbie suspected that ever since, he had been deeply smitten. Too bad, because Shahay’s queen had cursed the willful musical fae to serve her sentence for past misdemeanors as a nitro yellow Toyota Supra.
Comet and Jimi barreled into the kitchen ahead of the handsome Jordanian.
Yousef entered at a more leisurely pace, warming the cool spring weather with his charming smile. He gave a respectful head tilt to Abbie and Robert before taking a seat. “Shouldn’t you be on your way to London, Abbie?”
“Might leave later tonight if we locate Granny Chan.”
“What’s happened?” he asked, tossing the kids each a tiny wrapped chocolate.
“No idea,” Abbie replied. The last time she visited Yousef’s auto shop, she’d noticed a bowl full of those treats by the reception desk. Milk chocolate. Her favorite. Would it be greedy to ask if he had an extra one?
Yousef must have noticed her envious glance because he tossed a wrapped treat in her direction, too. With an appreciative grin, she caught it.
“Could the old lady be in trouble?” he asked. “Is that why you called this meeting?”
“I’m hoping she isn’t in any real danger. According to Judith, she’s the most powerful witch in England. So, she should have been able to handle anything.” Which would have made her an outstanding asset as a nanny. “What worries me more is that I can’t locate Judith, either. Also, we found a dead body in their garden.”
“Way to bury the lead, Abbie.” Yousef raised an alarmed eyebrow. “Who died? Anyone I’d know?”
“Unlikely, unless you sold him a refurbished car from your lot. According to Comet–that’s Granny Chan’s broom over there–the victim is an elderly neighbor. Mr. Oliver Brown. The constable at Faversham nick said a neighbor confirmed his identity.”
From his position by the back door, which was behind the kids’ chairs, Robert mimed getting knifed.
“Stabbed?” Yousef asked, voice spiking.
The kids’ gazes swung around toward Robert.
“Sorry,” Yousef said, realizing too late that Robert was being discreet. His contrite gaze swept from the ghost to the kids and then settled on Abbie with a million unspoken questions.
Abbie noted with relief that her kids seemed to take this discussion with aplomb. Children were impressionable. In continuing to include these two kids in Standard Bearer work, was she making them more realistic about life or hardened to criminal activity? Could be both.
“Who did it?” Yousef asked her, drawing her attention.
“Unknown,” Abbie said. “Granny Chan is now considered a Person of Interest. It doesn’t help that a neighbor they questioned said she had a row with Mr. Brown yesterday.”
“About what?” Yousef asked.
“Yes, about what?” Judith Chan asked, striding into the kitchen.
Talin Higgins followed behind her and gave Abbie a warning headshake. He ran a slender finger across his dark throat.
Judith slapped her uniform hat on the table and took a seat. She looked so fierce that Abbie was afraid she would take whatever she said next badly.
Amid the resultant silence, Comet, who had been excitedly swooping between Jimi and Yousef during this conversation, slid behind Jimi’s chair and stood perfectly still, with not a spark in sight.
“I believe,” Abbie said, choosing her words with care, “their quarrel was about an invasive plant known as Japanese Knotweed.”
“That shrub has amazing healing properties,” Judith snapped. “Cultivated under controlled conditions in Gran’s greenhouse, it’s not dangerous to anyone. Mr. Brown was a busybody who should have kept his nose out of her business.”
“Do you know where your gran is?” Abbie asked.
“No,” Judith replied. “Do you?”
“No,” Abbie replied. “Have you spoken to the SIO?” At Robert’s questioning look, she elaborated. “Senior Investigating Officer.”
“I spoke to Radford,” Judith said in a subdued voice. Callum Radford, Talin’s Uncle Cal, was the Chipstead nick’s Detective Chief Inspector. Both Judith and Talin worked for him. “He briefed me on the situation and that there is an APB out on Gran. I went to the house to let the police in so they could search the place. She wasn’t there.”
About to say that Comet had already searched her home, Abbie held her tongue since the broom appeared to be in hiding. “Your gran might have been casting a spell,” she said instead. “Have a gander at this.” She passed over her mobile, highlighting the photo she’d taken.
“I noted the kitchen island’s state,” Judith replied, passing the photo on to Talin. “How did you get in there?”
“Robert, let me in,” Abbie said.
Talin studied the photo with care, enlarging it to look at various sections.
“Looked like Gran was casting a Seeker spell,” Judith said.
“Who was she seeking?” Abbie asked. “Could it have been me? I was on my way there.”
Judith shook her head. “That spell seems more elaborate than the one she uses to keep tabs on you. Sorry Abbie, but since you’re a Grimm, Gran didn’t trust you. She’s had you on a speed-dial search spell since you returned to Chipstead, so she’d always know of your whereabouts.”
Granny Chan had been tracking her? Why did the old lady agree to watch her kids if she distrusted Abbie? Explained why she’d waited until the last minute before she agreed, though. “Who could she have been looking for, then?”
Judith’s lips thinned as if she were holding back.
Abbie took a moment to study her friend. She must be worried about her grandmother. Was that what made her so upset?
“We’ll find your gran,” Abbie told Judith gently. Then a thought occurred. “Could we reverse this spell your grandmother was using to track me, to find her?”
“Oh!” Judith said. “That’s a fabulous idea!” She jumped up. “She uses a picture of you and me at school as her focus. It’s in her bedroom.”
Abbie was about to suggest she go along with Judith when the constable halted and then returned to her chair. “We’ll have to wait until tomorrow.”
“Why?” Yousef sat back down after rising as if to follow Judith.
“They cordoned off our house as a crime scene until forensics finishes combing through it. They told me to find another place to stay tonight.”
“You can use my sofa,” Abbie offered.
“I appreciate that,” Judith said, sounding more resigned than thrilled at taking up Abbie’s suggestion to use her sofa.
Jimi reached over and tugged at Abbie’s sleeve with a pleading look. “May I have another sandwich, please?”
“Yes, of course.” She gave him a fond smile. She doubted she could deny Jimi anything when he looked at her that way. The boy was a charmer. She placed a sandwich on his plate. She would have loved to give Nica another, too, but the young girl had only eaten a quarter of hers.
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