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A Santa Maria Story
James M. Sullivan
Start from the beginning of the Santa Maria Series
Helen Montgomery fluffed up the lace-trimmed pillows on her daughter Bree's bed. When she was done, she retrieved the remote control for the television from the table it and the television sat on and placed in on the nightstand next to the bell she had placed there earlier. She then went to the dresser and as she was straightening the lace runner, the door to the room opened.
"Hi, Mom," Bree said as she came through the door.
"Oh, baby doll! Sit down, sit down! You should have waited for me to help you upstairs." Helen crossed the room and took her eldest child's arm. "Honey, really; you have to be careful," she said as she began helping her daughter to the bed.
"Mom, I'm pregnant, not an invalid," Bree chided, "and I can manage just fine."
"Oh Shhh, baby doll. Now, slowly," Bree's mother said as she help her daughter onto the bed. "Let me take care of you."
"Mom, I don't want you to fuss. I'll be okay."
"Dr. Ranjani said you needed lots of rest. I'm your mother. It's my job to take care of you."
"Mom-" Bree was cut off by the door opening and her sister emerging.
"Hi guys!" Melanie said. She was all smiles and carried several shopping bags in her arms. "I hope I'm not interrupting."
"Oh Mel, thank goodness! Maybe you can get Mom to take a rest from pampering me."
"Oh hush now, baby doll! I just want what's best for my girls."
Melanie set down her bags. "Okay, Mom," Melanie said, "Why don't you give us some sisters sometime to catch up. I brought you some dinner. I left it in the kitchen."
"Oh you didn't need to do that, sweet pea."
"Mom, I know you. It's nearly ten and I bet you haven't stopped to eat since lunch. Now, go eat! You need your strength if you're going to take care of Bree and the rest of the known world."
"Fine, sweet pea. Thank you." Helen kissed her youngest on the cheek and left the room. Melanie sat on the edge of the bed and smiled at her big sister.
"Oh, Bree. I can't imagine what you're going through. Pregnant and the father has died. I know how much you loved Duncan and even though things were rough with him before the earthquake I know there was still love. I wish I could help."
"Yeah. It's rough. I can't believe you've come up to stay with us, though. I could really use your support."
"Well, I'm staying at a hotel. I am up here for a bit, but I have interviews to do and scripts to read and other work to keep my career afloat and I'll probably have to take some trips back down south. I figure it's just easier for me to have own space to do my work in the day and then head over hear in the evenings to help out and keep Mom from driving you crazy!" She ended with a laugh and Bree joined her.
"I'm glad you could do this. It means so much to me for you do be here, Mel." Bree took her sister's hand and squeezed gently. "That's a curious necklace. Where'd you pick that up?"
"Oh this?" Mel took the pendant between her index finger and thumb of her free hand and rotated the golden cube for her sister. "I actually got it from the movie. I'm told that's diamond dust filling the odd little symbols. Just a little gift I was given for the movie having such a big premier weekend. I like it. I'm sure I'll wear it a lot; it's sort of a symbol of my success."
Bree smiled. "Well that's great. I'm so proud of you! A young, black woman getting a leading role, even if it is a horror film. I can't wait until I'm watching you accept your first Oscar."
Melanie laughed. "Oh, that's a long way off, I'm afraid. Now, I should go check on Mom and keep her away for a bit so you can rest." She stood and kissed Bree on the forehead. "We'll check on you in a bit." With that she left the room. Bree picked up the remote and turned on the television. Commercials were quickly replaced by the ton o'clock news. The new caster announced that acting mayor, Daphne Nolan, had given a press conference early that day addressing the publics concern that there was serial killer preying on Santa Maria. The image changed to Daphne Nolan at a podium.
"I want everyone to know that the Santa Maria Police Department is working very hard to solve the recent three murders that have caught so much media attention. We do not have conclusive evidence that this is the work of a serial killer, or even the same individual. All citizens should be employee standard safety measures: never walk alone at night or in a parking garage or-" Bree silenced the acting mayor by turning the television off.
"Too depressing," she muttered to herself. She closed her eyes and tried to figure out why Daphne Nolan looked familiar to her.
The woman at the front of the room was tall, nearly six feet in height. She was gangly and her neck was long. Her hair was a rat's nest of shocking red. It was shot through with white and that combined with the deep wrinkles of her face and hands suggested that her age was somewhere in her late fifties or early sixties. She dressed young for her age; a flowing lavender robe over a matching peasant skirt and ivory blouse. Silver bangles and long chains of silver completed the ensemble. Sitting beside her was a man in his forties with short, dark hair that was silver at the temples. He was ruggedly handsome with a bit of stubble and a crooked smile. He was broad shouldered and looked quite fit. He wore charcoal gray suit with a light blue shirt and red, silk tie. The other eight people in the room knew them from the former Maven Praesidium council of Santa Maria.
"Welcome everyone. As you probably know, I'm Rodina Duffy and this," she spoke, gesturing to the man seated next to her, "is Antonio Uccello." Her voice had a sing-song quality and a strong southern accent. "I thought it was important that with the changes in Santa Maria, that those who follow the Covenant know who has decided to remain. The Maven Praesidium is disbanded, officially. Antonio and I have decided to remain behind for the purposes of study. If anyone of you need anything, feel free to contact either of us." She smiled. "Now, let's just go around and announce ourselves." She gestured to the woman closest to her.
The woman stood. She was in her thirties, brown hair streaked with blonde. He skin was sun-kissed as well. She wore worn, but not ratty, jeans and mint green tee-shirt. "I'm Ilene Villeneuve. The Chroniclers have sent me here. There will be no formal post, just my apartment with me and my computer. If you need something looked up, I'm available. I also wanted to mention, that the Chatu-mu that survived are staying here, but really wish to keep to themselves. If there is an emergency, they wish to contacted by Rodina Duffy only. Thank you." Ilene took her seat again.
Next Diasuke and a young Japanese girl stood. Her ebony hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She too wore jeans and her shirt was black and displayed the words "There are only 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary, and those who don't." She had a large, black laptop backpack slung over her right shoulder. Diasuke was dressed as he was most of the time, in sharp, modern suit.
"The Order of Ri-Riu has abandoned Santa Maria because it no longer qualifies as a place of power. I, Diasuke Endo, and my sister Mitsuko remain on personal business, however should need arise our services are available, within the rules of the Covenant. Thank you." The both bowed deeply and then sat.
A long hair gentleman dressed in a blue Victorian coat and plum pants. "I'm Oliver T?formally of the L?on de la Magique F? The L?on has abandoned this site, as it no longer can provide a connection to their ancestry. I have been dismissed from the L?on, but will remain in Santa Maria as an unaligned. "Thank you."
Next an incredibly handsome, long-haired blond man stood and smiled. "I'm Jack Dandelion, leader of the Gamin of Santa Maria. Every city, place of power or not, has Gamin, so we're not going anywhere. Thanks." He sat down.
Rod stood. "I'm Rodrigo Valencia. I represent the Santa Maria Coffee Klatch. All of us are staying. Santa Maria's our home and no matter what has come to pass, we'll be here and we'll protect it. Thanks, um, Thank you. Oh, and Bree won't be attending much. She's healing from her injuries. Thank you." Then Rod sat down.
The last person stood. He was young. He wore black leather pants and grey tee-shirt with black sleeves. His hair was black with streaks of red in the front and his eyes were smudged with black eyeliner. "I'm Everett Jones of the New Dawn. I will be the representative for this area. Everyone else has left except Martha Trujillo. She is remaining behind on personal business. Her cousin was murdered. Thanks." He sat back down.
Rodina spoke again. "Everett, pleaser give my condolences to Martha. Well, now we all know who remains. I should also tell you that the acting Mayor, Daphne Nolan, is aware of our world for reasons I won't get into here." Rodrigo couldn't hide the surprise on his face. "She will be a valuable asset in helping keep things secret. Thank you all for coming and please don't hesitate to contact myself or Antonio." Everyone then stood and said their goodbyes.
Mackenzie Nolan sat in a gathering of over two dozen ethereal images. He had spent several hours talking with them, aspects the own magic avatar he was now part of. They had all been humans once who provided a physical body of the avatar that now lived within Mac. He was familiar with the form of Enid, having known her when the avatar was carried within her physical form. They had all been imparting their wisdom and his responsibilities to him.
The ethereal form of a tall knight stepped forward. "Mackenzie, then you understand now, what you must do."
"Yeah, I do. Enid did a fairly good job of explaining it before, as well. What I don't really understand is why you all are here - why the avatar doesn't just explain it."
Another figure stepped forward. A young dark skinned boy in a loin cloth. "We are not really here as spirits or ghosts. We are the avatar, taking forms that are familiar. Direct communication is difficult at first. We have found this way is easier in the beginning."
Mac nodded. "I understand."
Another spoke, this one a woman. She was dressed in clothes a well-to-do Victorian era woman of England, complete with fan and flowered hat. "There is another thing you need to know. It is something new, relatively, to us. It has existed here long before the Ghost Lords slaughtered the Chatu-mu and their Shaman. Probably since the dawn of all time."
It was Enid who took over speaking. "Ah yes, Moppet. There's a prison below the surface, even deeper than the lands of the T?n. And old and dangerous prison and in recent times it has fallen to us to guard it and makes sure that nothing leaves it and nobody that isn't supposed to be in there goes in."
"A prison? Who's incarcerated there?"
"Great Evil, love. Great, great Evil."
"How am I supposed to keep great Evil in prison?"
"You'll have our help, moppet. Now come along and we'll have a look." Enid then and the others blurred, flew together and coalesced into a bright, golden ball which bolted right into the center of Mac's chest, plunging in. Mac blinked a few times, stood up, and then left to see the prison which was now his responsibility.
Justin Goldberg was sweating up a storm dancing. His shirt was tucked into his baggy pants, swinging like a metronome in 4/4 time as he undulated wildly under the flashing lights of the rave. Once the music shifted from Deep House to Trance, he decided to take a rest. He left the dance floor and walked towards the quiet room. He retrieved his shirt and mopped his face and neck. He entered the quiet room and noticed someone lying in the corner on a dark blanket. As he got closer, he slowed.
That's an odd shadow. He walked closer. Oh God, it's blood! He turned to leave and get help, but froze.
About an hour later Cyndi Nichols entered the quiet room and began to scream. Within in minutes the rave was over. The police now had two more murders to solve.
Story by James M. Sullivan, Copyright 2008
Image by Rory Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2008