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A Santa Maria Story
James M. Sullivan
Start from the beginning of the Santa Maria Series
Oliver came out of Duncan's bedroom in just a pair of plaid pajama bottoms to find Rodrigo poring over books and papers on the mahogany dining room table. Rodrigo looked up from his work and gave the slender, long-haired man a quizzical look. Oliver smiled.
"I see Mac didn't tell you. He's letting me stay here. I hope you don't mind, Rod. The Faemoot is far too lonely with just me and frankly, without the pith and pluck of faeries present, the place holds no familiarity, no love.
Rodrigo shook his head. "No, of course not. I don't mind at all. If you're hungry, there's some chorizo and eggs left on the stove."
"Thanks." Oliver headed into the kitchen. "Whatcha up to, if you don't mind me being nosy?" he called to Rod as he plated up his breakfast.
"I'm trying desperately to disprove a theory of mine. I found something in the family Bible and hoping it's an error. I'm looking through all the genealogy records and other stuff my Abuelita has trying to sort it out."
"I see," Oliver said as he took his seat at the table, breakfast in hand.
"It's pretty awful, actually. I think I may be a descendant of a Ghost Lord."
"Oh?" Oliver said around the scrambled eggs and sausage.
"Yeah. The whole thing about the Shaman, and her power being trapped below the city—she was put there by the Ghost Lords, and their leader at their time was a Father Arturo Valencia. His name is in our family Bible and the date of his birth is about right for that time." Rod put down the paper he was looking at and let loose a heavy sigh.
"Um, Rod, wouldn't be impossible for a priest to be your ancestor?" Oliver asked before taken another bite of his meal.
"Hardly—he could have brothers. And let's face it, as a Ghost Lord, violating one oath of priesthood would hardly be his highest crime."
"I know you may not believe this, but the Ghost Lords are not an all-encompassing evil force. Yes, the ones here in Santa Maria were corrupt, but they aren't all corrupt. Guiding and communicating with the dead, performing resurrections—that's all very important stuff. I mean, not for my people—we have our deal with our dead¬—but overall, the Ghost Lords help more people than they hurt. It just got, you know, real bad here."
"I'm not sure about that, I mean they were all there trying to control the power of the Shaman." Rod shuffled the papers in front of him. "They were all there, fighting."
"Yes, but I'm pretty sure that was just locals, and even then, when I was there at the battle, there was a huge pain emanating from that—that thing. It may have been controlling them. I never felt that sort of evil from Douglas or Eleanor."
"What do you mean, 'felt?'"
"Those of us gifted with faerie blood in our veins can tell when something is wrong or malevolent. The more closely related one of us is to a faerie, the stronger and more fine-tuned the effect. I have a decent ability to perceive it, and it was fueled by the power of the area, but of course now the faerie gift is diminished because the battle, or the earthquake, destroyed the power of the city." Oliver looked wistful.
"That's a useful power."
"So's yours, and that makes sense if you have a powerful Ghost Lord in your heritage. These kinds of things are often genetic. Blood is a very powerful thing."
"Yeah, but this guy was bad news. I get the feeling that he did more than just dissipate the Shaman. I think he raped her. I think her child was his."
"She was pregnant?" Oliver asked.
"Yeah, she was", Rod answered. Then his expression slowly shifted from a tad morose to shocked realization. Suddenly, he said, "Oh shit, I've got to go." Rod jumped up, grabbed his coat and ran out the door, leaving Oliver to finish the leftover breakfast.
Mac ducked under the caution tape, flashlight in one hand and an empty black duffel bag in the other, and approached the damaged building.
"Well, here goes," he muttered to himself. "Hopefully something can be salvaged from this place. Mac ducked under the caution tape, shining the flashlight ahead of him.
He pushed past the unhinged red door, his gaze lingering for a moment on the bell sitting on the ground among shards of broken glass and loose roofing shingles. He entered the ruins of Enid's antique and curio shop. He smiled to himself and chuckled a little. "It actually looks cleaner," he said to the part of Enid that he knew somehow resided deep within him.
He stepped over broken china and toby jugs, toppled stacks of books, and all manner of upset curios and odd artifacts, weaving around the overturned writing desk. Guiding the beam of the flashlight over the support wall, a frown crossed his features when the light revealed a jagged fissure that followed along the mortar of the bricks. As the beam followed the deep crack, it reflected off something near the floor. Moving to the spot, Mac knelt down and searched through the rubble, where he discovered a decorative wooden box with brass hinges and latch. He picked it up and dusted it off, juggling the flashlight so he could open the box.
Once the lid was open, he fingered the contents, identifying a several pieces of jewelry, a few fancy playing cards, and a pair of small lavender-colored crystals. Rolling the crystals between his fingers he muttered, "These are important. I'm sure of it. I need your help, Enid. Help guide me." Soon, he was instinctively moving about the debris of the shop, collecting various items and placing them in the duffel bag.
When reaching for a silver, filigreed candlestick that was wedged between the now-canted bookshelves, something beneath his right leg rolled away and he nearly fell. Examining the floor, Mac found a wooden cylinder. He opened it to discover a rolled up sheet of parchment inside. Mac held the flashlight in his mouth and unrolled the document, revealing what was clearly a map of Santa Maria. It was pen and ink, finely detailed. As he moved his head to shift the light around the map, looking at the artistic images of the map, Mac frowned when he noticed a stain on the parchment. After looking at it for a moment, he nearly dropped the flashlight when he realized the stain was moving, slowly expanding. He quickly rolled it back up and replaced it in the cylinder, and headed out of the broken shop.
"Oh, thank you for seeing me so late!" Melanie said to the red-haired realtor. The full-figured woman, dressed in a smart pant suit, smiled and let Melanie in the door.
"Oh, no problem. I know what it's like being a working woman these days. I just hope you like this place. I can't believe anyone is looking for such an old home after the earthquake, but I have to admit I was quite surprised that this place suffered almost no damage at all."
"Yes, wonderful. Thank you. Do mind if just walk around?"
"Well, no, I guess not. Do you want to know the history of the place?
"No. I mean I read about it on the Internet. Thank you." Melanie answered.
"Okay, wonderful. Well obviously this is the foyer," the realtor said, gesturing with her arms. The bedrooms are up stairs, the kitchen just through the back there. Here on the left is the parlor, and the two rooms across there are the game room and the study. The door under the stairs leads to the basement. I'll be in the kitchen, if you have any questions." She offered her hand to Mel, who accepted and shook.
"Thanks again." As they parted, the redhead turned and exited the foyer. Melanie turned slowly, taking in the handcrafted woodwork of the doorframes and banister. She crossed to the wall on her right and touched the art deco sconce. When she reached heavy oak door of the game room, she smiled as she turned the handle and entered.
The room's furniture, which included a large billiards table that dominated the center of the room, was covered in white drop cloths. Melanie walked around and approached the fireplace at the back of the room. Bending to look closer at the stone carving on the mantle, she noticed a crack. She reached out and touched it, exploring the fissure with her fingers. The surface her finger was pressing gave way, and a clicking sound came from behind the fireplace, which slowly began to turn. She stepped back quickly, drawing her arm to her chest, and watched in amazement as the fireplace rotated 90 degrees, leaving half of it sticking it out from the mantel. She peered in and then took a few steps past the mobile fireplace to discover a set of stairs. She descended the stairs and gave a whistle when she entered the room they led to.
"Now this is going to be perfect!" Mel said with a smile.
Rod knocked at the door and immediately peeked his head in. "You up for a visit, Bree?" he asked.
"Sure," she said, waving him in. "What's up? Any news about the murders?"
"No. I haven't heard anything. Diasuke isn't convinced that they are supernatural in nature. He says that every day, people are quite capable of being monstrous. But I'm here to talk about something else." He crossed the room and sat down at the foot of her bed. "I need to talk to you about the baby."
"Yeah, I think it's the Shaman's baby. I think the baby was diffused and trapped in the gem with the rest of her power, and now—now I think you're pregnant with the Shaman's baby."
"I know." Her expression did not seem to convey any reaction.
"I mean, don't panic. I'm not sure, but—" he stopped suddenly. "What do you mean you know?"
"Nothing else makes sense. Besides, I can feel her, somewhat, and she feels very maternal towards the baby."
"Oh. You can feel the Shaman?"
"Okay, that went well... But I have more," he said, waiting for a reaction.
"Well, tell me," she said.
"I think I'm the father."
"What?" Bree said, her face awash in surprise.
"Okay, not really the father, but I think I'm a living relative of the baby."
"How the hell do you figure that?" Bree asked, astonished.
"Well, remember the awful Ghost Lord monk from the vision in the book?"
"Well, he's a Valencia, and I've confirmed through my family's genealogy that he was an ancestor of mine. When he and the Shaman spoke of her violation… I think they were talking about him raping her. I don't have proof, but it just seems to make sense."
"Your right, at least about the violence of the conception." Bree wiped away a tear. After taking a moment to contemplate this new information, she looked at Rod with a timid smile and said, "So, I guess we're having a baby." The both laughed and then hugged.
"I guess we are," Rod said
Martha Trujillo was speeding her car, taking turns too fast, and too wide.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck!" She weaved her car in and out of the traffic of Santa Maria. "Hang on, Hector. Keep those kids safe. I'm coming. I'm coming! Fuck! I wish I was a Gamin!"
Mac entered his apartment, cylinder in hand. Oliver was asleep on the couch. Mac quietly went to the table and opened the map up again. The spot he had noticed earlier did not appear much larger. He touched it and then examined his fingertip. No ink had come off. Mac jumped when Oliver suddenly sat bolt upright, screaming. Mac moved toward him to help, but stopped mid-stride. Oliver, still screaming as he looked at Mac in terror, was bleeding from the eyes.
Martha approached her home cautiously. In her arms she held a large device that resembled a shotgun with a globe on the end, business end extended in front of her. As she got close to the front door, she saw that it was ajar. She quickly entered, and gasped at the site before her. The front room had been ransacked, furniture smashed and objects strewn about. The disarray, however, was nothing compared to the horror in the center of the room. There was what remained of her sister, covered in blood, limbs torn from her still-twitching body. Just half a foot away was the lifeless body of her sister's 12-year-old son. Martha screamed.
"No! No, no, no!" She bit her lip. "The others," she whispered. Lower lip quivering, she moved through the room cautiously, her weapon ready in front of her. There was more blood in the hall that led up the stairs. She slowly approached the landing that divided the stairs, aiming her weapon at the spot.
A male figure jumped at her from the upstairs landing. Martha fired her weapon, and a bright green beam shot forth from the barrels. The beam struck the man in the chest and he instantly vaporized. She continued climbing the stairs. At the top of the landing lay the body of her brother-in-law, his blood coating everything in the area. She stepped over him, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"You bastards! I'm coming for you! Do you hear me? I'm coming for you! Hold on Marianna! I'm coming!" Steeling herself, she sucked in air and started down the darkened upstairs hallway. "Please," she said under her breath, "please be alive, Marianna."
Another assailant burst through the wall of the hallway. Martha turned and fired, but as she did, another figure jumped out from the shadows and began savagely slashing at her back with its claws. She screamed in pain and terror, back arching. Her weapon discharged, firing harmlessly into the ceiling. The attacker slashed again, and again. Martha screamed, trying to fire her weapon again, but in moments it fell to the floor. She followed.
Story by James M. Sullivan, Copyright 2008
Image by Rory Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2008