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A Santa Maria story
James M. Sullivan
Start from the beginning of the Santa Maria series
Rod opened the door. Before him stood a short, slender woman dressed in a smart navy pants suit, a white shirt, and crimson scarf. Her raven hair was up in a twist and she carried a black satchel slung over one shoulder. .
"Hello," he said.
"No, he's not here at the moment, may I help you?"
"I'm Kate Carmichael, from the Brotherhood of the Chroniclers."
"Oh, yes. Please come in," Rod said stepping aside and gesturing for her to enter. She did. "I apologize for this place being a mess. We're new parents," he said while shutting the door.
"Oh, congratulations. Will Ant be long?"
"Thank you. Actually, yes. Hopefully not, but likely. He and the other Gamin are searching for a missing boy. He disappeared from his home last night. I can help you, though. I know all about what Ant is looking for. Would you like something to drink? Orange juice? Tea?"
"No, thank you. I have a busy schedule, but seeing as Ant is the leader of a faction, the Chroniclers wanted to support him."
"Oh, thanks. Please do sit down." She took off her satchel and took a seat on the couch and Rod sat across from her. She opened up her satchel and pulled out a folder. Opening it, she began to talk.
"In our records the most recent connection of any sort to what Ant described is London, March 17th, 1887. Mary the Canary, a member of the Gamin, reported something slick caressing her when she Skipped. It did not happen every time she did it, but she did experience it four times before she disappeared."
"This will go much faster if you do not interrupt and save your questions for the end."
"Sorry. Please continue."
"Thank you. Mary disappeared July 7th, 1887. Her remains or whereabouts were never discovered. To this day the disappearance of her and six other members of the Gamin of London remain a mystery. Lil' Ollie, disappeared on May 14th, 1887. George 'Thatch the Snatch' Thatcher, who disappeared on December 25th of that same year. Violet 'Charm' Cartwright and Snap, were both last seen on April 4th, 1888. Rooftop disappeared two months later on June 18th. Finally, Archibald 'Hefty Lefty' Tanner, who disappeared on August 5th, 1888.
"Apparently there was little concern over Lil' Ollie's disappearance as he had been around for many decades and was prone to going off on his own adventures. Only when Mary went missing, was there some concern. After the fact, it came out that Charm and Rooftop had also felt something brush up against them, as well as two other Gamin, Patrick 'Zephyr' O'Connell and Thames Daisy. The leader at the time, Jack Dandelion-"
"Rod, what did I say about interrupting me?"
"You don't understand, I knew a Jack Dandelion. He was the head of the Gamin here in Santa Maria! Do you suppose they are related?"
She sighed. "I would presume they are same person, Rod. Gamin are very long lived."
"Yes, may I continue now?"
"Yes, I'm sorry. It was just a bit of shock."
"Fine. The leader at the time, Jack Dandelion, ordered all Gamin to avoid Skipping unless it was dire. After the disappearance of Archibald 'Hefty Lefty' Tanner, there have been no other reported cases. The investigation died off because of no evidence and due to the fact that London, both mortal and supernatural, became consumed with the Whitechapel murders. That is all the information we have about this, with the possible exception of an incident in Madagascar. We do not have the records locally, but we have dispatched a courier to bring them here."
"Why not just email them?"
"Because, Rod, we prefer to use paper. I cannot defend against a hacker or a Techo Mage, I, however, can defend this satchel and the library."
"You're a Chronicler who can fight?"
"Many of us can. It seemed wise to send warriors to Santa Maria considering how many members of our Brotherhood have fallen here. Now, do you have any questions?" She removed a paper from the folder and handed it to him.
He glanced at it. "No, I think this is great. Thank you very much."
"Very well." She put back the folder and shouldered the satchel then stood. "If there is anything else, please let us know. Good luck with the search for the missing boy. If the Chroniclers can help in any way, please contact us."
Rod stood. "Thanks, I'll let the search parties know." He shook her hand.
"Very well. I can see myself out." She turned and left.
Rod paced back and forth, stroking his goatee with his thumb and forefinger. His contemplation was interrupted by his cell phone. He retrieved it from his pocket and answered.
"Hello. Sure. I'm at home. What do you mean I have an appointment? With Rodina? Damnit. With Joel going missing I forgot all about it. Has she called yet? No? Good. I'll head down there right now." He snapped the phone shut and rushed to get ready.
Calliope spotted Brady across the street. "Brady," she shouted, while smiling and waving. The handsome street urchin dodged through the traffic to cross to her. He was dressed in ratty jeans and just a vest, as usual.
"Hey," he said with sheepish smile.
"Hey there yourself. Whatcha up to?"
"Oh, I was looking for a lost kid. All the Gamin are helping out to find the mayor's son."
"I hope it isn't serious," Calliope said.
"Nah, we think he just ran away. The mayor adopted him after his mother was killed and he's been having trouble adjusting."
"Oh. How old is he?"
"Maybe we could hang out with him sometime. It's hard being a kid in this world sometimes."
"Oh no, he's not part of this. Just a normal kid."
"Oh. Well still, it would be nice to have some friends either way."
"I guess. I've always kinda been on my own. I haven't had many friends. If you think it's a good idea, I can mention it to Ant."
"I think so. Do you want me to help you search?"
"Nah, I have to Skip to do it," he said, his eyes darting away from her.
"Really?" She reached out her hand and placed it on his bare shoulder.
"Well, when I just Skipped here, I felt like something brushed up against me. That's weird. It's never happened before and it was a very odd and unnerving feeling."
"Well," she paused for a moment. "Maybe it's because so many of you are Skipping right now? You said all of you were looking for this missing kid, so maybe you just brushed up against another Gamin?"
He smiled. "Yeah, that makes sense. I never thought about it like that. I mean, I can do it, but I don't really understand how it works yet. Thanks." He hugged her and reflexively stepped back. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to-"
"No, it's fine," she said as her face bloomed red.
"I, I should go. Look for the kid. Bye." He waved and then took off running and rounded the corner.
Joel was sitting in the sand, shoes and socks off with his toes burrowing in the warm sand. He was watching the waves of the Pacific crash onto the sandy shore.
"Hey there, Joel."
Joel looked up, startled. "Mac! You scared me!"
"Sorry, kid. I didn't mean to sneak up on you." He bent at the knees and rested his haunches on his heels. "What are you doing out here?"
"What do you care?" he said, looking back out at the waves.
"Hey, I care a lot, Joel. You're my brother."
"For all of 5 minutes. Don't pretend that there's some bond between us."
"Well, there can't be if you plan to just run off and leave us."
Joel kicked some sand towards the crashing waves. "How'd you find me anyways?"
"Once Kyle calmed down this morning he remembered you coming to the beach. There are only so many beaches in Santa Maria. I came to Old Port first because it's where kids hung out when I was your age."
"Fine. You found me. Now what?" he said, continuing to stare out at the ocean.
"I'd like to know why you left."
"I just, I just needed some time to think about things."
"Fair enough, but don't you think you could have left a note at least?"
"I guess. I didn't know if I was coming back."
"Where would you go?"
"San Jose, maybe. I don't know. Away from your weird mother."
"Hey, what do you mean by that?"
Joel looked Mac right in the eyes. "I mean, she's involved in weird stuff. My Mom wrote all about it her diary. Daphne is part of some cult or something and she uses city hall to get things done for her and her people. I don't want Kyle and me to be raised by a strange cult."
"Oh. Well, I promise my mom isn't part of any cult. Why don't you come back with me and you, she, and I can sit down and talk this out. I'm sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for everything you mom saw."
"Are you calling my Mom a liar?" Joel's eyes burned with anger.
"No. No, not at all Joel. Please, let's just back to the house and try to figure all this out. I'll buy you breakfast at the G Street Caf?r Sadie's Diner or wherever you like."
"Fine. G Street." He pulled his feet out of the sand and rubbed the clinging bits off before putting on his socks. "I'm not making any promises, though."
"I'm okay with that, Joel. I just want you to know you can talk to me any time." Mackenzie smiled at the kid. Joel scowled in return. They both got up and headed off the beach.
Rod was running late. He had dropped Helen of with his mother and now was weaving through the crowds trying to get to Rodina's store. He looked at his watch. "Damn, 30 minutes late. She's going to kill me. I wish she'd answer her phone."
He continued navigating the sea of pedestrians until he was finally at staircase to her store. He took the steps two at time and hurried pass the nail salon. He stopped short when he reached the palm reader's shop. The glass of the door was broken.
"Rodina!" he called. He cautiously opened the door and entered, bits of glass crunching under his shoes.
The store was in shambles. Tarot cards, crystals, and broken furniture were strewn about the room. He stepped farther in, taking in the destruction. He called her name again and continued walking forward. The he stepped through a beaded curtain into the back room. There he saw blood on the floor, wet blood. He followed the trail with his eyes and saw a horrifying site.
Rodina looked to have been mauled by a something large. Daphne stood over her, blood on her hands.
She looked at him.
"What, what did you do?" he asked horrified.
"Me? What? No, no! Rod, I didn't do this. I just got here."
"Then why is there blood on your hands?"
"I, I was trying to see if she was still alive; if she could be saved. Rod, you have to believe me!"
"Of course, of course. What could have done this?"
"I don't know, but she knew it was going to happen. She tried to warn me that something dark was back in Santa Maria."
"Fuck," Rod said. "Does it never end?"
Story by James M. Sullivan, Copyright 2009
Image by Rory Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2009