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A Santa Maria story
James M. Sullivan
Start from the beginning of the Santa Maria series
Ant pushed his stop-sign-red locks out his eyes as he tried to read the maddening gibberish that passed for instructions on assembling the baby swing her purchased for little Helen. He looked over to baby in her playpen.
"I hope you like this singing moon swing, Helen. It might just be the end of me trying to get it put together for you."
He took another look at the directions.
If I ever find the sadist who designed this I'll—
The chime of the doorbell interrupted his thoughts. He tossed the pamphlet aside, stood up, and headed to the door. On the other side was a woman in her late thirties. She has tan skin, ice blue eyes, and long brunette hair. She was dressed sharply in a pinstripe pants suit and she carried an expensive leather briefcase.
"Hola! Is Rodrigo Valencia home?" she asked with a warm smile and a thick, Spanish accent.
"No. No, he isn't at the moment. He's been called away for work. An emergency," Ant answered. "Are you the lawyer? Daphne's friend, I mean?"
"Si. Yes, Daphne asked me to meet with Rodrigo and his partner. I'm Iris, Iris Arco."
"Please come in," Ant offered and held the door open wider in a welcoming gesture. "I'm Anthony Schovajsa, but you can call me Ant. Everyone does," he said as the visitor entered the apartment.
"Pleased to met you Ant," Iris said. She walked over the glass topped dinning room table and placed he briefcase on it. "Now, are you certain you are willing to do this while Rodrigo is at work? My time is very limited, but I do understand this is a special case. I do want to help you two keep custody of baby Helen."
"Thank you," Ant said, crossing to her after having closed the front door. "Work doesn't normally call him in. This is honestly a very rare, if ill timed, occurrence."
"I understand," she said with a half smile. "Where does he work? We will need to get information about his employer for the courts. And do you work, Ant?"
"Oh. Um, where does he work? Well he works with Daphne. He's a sort of liaison. As for me, no I don't have a job. I'm a home-maker, I guess you could say," Ant replied, a toothy grin stretching across his face.
"The city, huh? Okay, have him email me his information. Now, for the gist of it; I do not think your homosexuality is going to be a concern, though very likely Montgomery's council will try to make a big deal of it. Our biggest concern is that neither of you are blood relatives or related by marriage to Helen. This is basically a private adoption, except you did know the birth mother. In California family members are typically given the option to adopt first, especially grandparents. Montgomery's attorney is going to argue that as a relative he should have been given the first option to adopt."
"Maybe so, but how can he expect anyone to have known about him? Neither Bree nor her mother ever mentioned Jackson to either of us. Do we also have to worry about going through this with any long lost relatives of Duncan's?"
"No, I have a signed statement here from Muriel and James Evans, maternal great aunt and uncle of Duncan's. They support your adoption, but of course they don't currently know about Jackson. They have stated they are too old to raise a baby themselves, but would like pictures and reports regularly and they have set up a trust for Helen. It isn't much, but it was sweet of them."
"Why is the first we're hearing about them?"
"To be honest, Ant, Daphne used her connections to push things through. On top of that, with the financial state California is in, thorough investigations into adoptee's background checks is not high on the list of things to get done. My office paid for the checks and we found the Evanses. It's all be arranged and taken care of now. I presume you don't object to keeping them updated about baby Helen?"
"No, of course not. It's too back Jackson isn't as understanding and supportive as Duncan's family is being."
"People can do strange things when it comes to family. Now, the next thing we should discuss is arrangements for—", Iris began to say but was cut off by the buzzing of Ant's cell phone.
"Excuse me," he said as he fished he cell phone out of his pocket. After glancing at the screen he said, "I have to take this, it won't be a moment." He flipped open the phone and walked away talking to whomever was on the other end. Iris walked away from the table herself and approached the playpen.
"Hello little one," she cooed at baby Helen. "You're an awfully important little girl, you know." She bent her knees to bring herself down to the child. She smiled and began to whisper in Spanish. The pattern of the words was almost melodic.
"Tierra Madre, por favor, proteger esta niña. Por favor envíe sus hijos Fuego, Viento, y Río y pídales que proteger a esta chica. Por favor envíe sus hijas Flora, Fauna, y Tormenta y pídales que proteger a esta chica. Las Hermanas Estrellas y Los Hermanos Cometas pueden ver más de su, mientras Luna Madre sonríe abajo a ella en la oscuridad. Pido que todos los de la Luz proteger esta niña en su hora de necesidad."
Soft green sparkles began to shimmer around baby Helen who giggled at the impromptu light show.
"Now that ought to do the trick," Iris said quietly, smiling at the babe.
Calliope jumped when Brady appeared in the room.
"Hi," he said sheepishly. He was dressed in usual suit vest sans shirt and blue jeans that had seen better days. His tan skin was smooth and his short brown was mussed as always.
"Brady, you can't be here. I've been forbidden to see you. She stood up from her bed, her long, pink nightgown flowing about her. She was frowning, but the sparkle in her blue eyes let him know she was happy to see him.
"I know, but I needed to see you. I needed to see that you were all right. You were nearly killed because I lost you when I Skipped with you."
She walked to him and placed her hands on his forearms. "You didn't do anything wrong. I've wanted to tell. I've been trying to figure out a way to contact you so you would know. It wasn't your fault. Something pulled me from you. I could feel it in the moment between places or whatever it is. It is very difficult to put into words what Skipping really is like, but that’s neither here nor there. Brady, it wasn't your fault. You must forgive yourself."
"What do you mean something pulled you? That doesn't make any sense. There can't be anything else there."
"Are you sure?" she asked, her deep blue eyes looking into his warm brown ones.
"I think I am," he said softy.
"Maybe you should ask Ant about it," she suggested.
"Okay, I will."
"Now you should go, Brady. We'll both get in a lot of trouble for you being here. I'm glad you came and now you know it wasn't your fault. So go now. And don't beat yourself up any more."
"Okay, one more thing and then I'll go." He reached up and brushed a curly blonde strand of hair from her face and gently pressed his lips to hers. And then he was gone. Calliope was left standing there all alone.
"There is no doubt in your mind? Mac asked, his voice raised a bit with desperation. "You are a one hundred percent certain that this is true?"
The old Native American shaman nodded his head.
"And there is nothing that can be done?"
Again the wizened Indian nodded. "There is nothing to be done. It is not just some magic upon him, but rather something infernal he has carried within his family's blood for generations. You do not see this kind of thing very often, especially in these modern nights."
"Then I must kill him?"
"It is the only way. I know you may think me cruel, Mackenzie Nolan, but trust that Eagle and Coyote know their ways and customs. As sure as Humingbird brought fire to my people, there is nothing to be done but to slay the beast. It may seem harsh and you may be concerned about our bloodthirsty nature, but I promise you that this is in no way related the strife between my people and the Ghost Lords."
"Speaking of that, what can I do to smooth things over?" Mac asked.
"There is no need for you to act on our behalf, Mackenzie Nolan. Now, go quickly to your home. Your family needs you in this dark hour."
Mackenzie, sensing the dismissal, rose and headed towards his vehicle.
"Thank you for your help."
"You have no need to thank me, Mackenzie Nolan. You are the Avatar and the Chatu-mu will always work with the Avatar."
Mac nodded and then turned and left the shaman. He got into his car and drove off.
The brunette walked into the scrying room where Jackson Montgomery was waiting for her.
"So?" he asked.
"It is done," she said with a thick Spanish accent. Victory will soon be ours."
"Kyle, Joel, I'm home," Daphne called out as the placed bags of Chinese take-out on the kitchen counter. "I have Chinese. Lots of General Tso's Chicken and Sticky Prawns with Walnuts," she continued. She busied herself with setting out the white boxes, chopsticks, and paper plates. "Okay boys, time's a wasting. Come and get it while it's hot."
"Come on guys, I'm making a real effort here," she muttered under her breath as she walked out of the kitchen. She crossed the living room and turned into the hallway to go upstairs and search for the missing boys, but she stopped in her tracks. Kyle was standing there, his cheeks wet with tears and he was shivering. "Kyle…" she trailed off as he noticed her breathe steam. She shuddered and instinctively wrapped her arms around herself. "Hey Kyle, what's going on? Why is it so cold?"
"She's here. In the house."
"Who is here, Kyle?"
He started to answer but as his lips parted he shouted, but Daphne was only peripherally away of this fact as she was being flung against the bookshelf in the hall. She slammed against it hard, sending pictures, tiny vases and various other knick-knacks and souvenirs shower down to the hardwood floor. Daphne lost her footing and fell to her floor as well.
"Kyle, run!" she screamed.
She then flew from the floor across the hall and into the living room as her unseen assailant attacked again. She yelped in pain as she crashed into the coffee table. She was trying to right herself wind the wind began to whip around the room, sending potted plants and picture frames tumbling off their purchases.
"Kyle, run! Get out of here!" she screamed at the young boy who just stood in the hall paralyzed with fear.
A strange, white light began to form in the center of the living room. Daphne pulled herself up to a standing position, her face twisted with agony. In the light a humanoid form began to take shape.
"No!" the boy shrieked and found his legs. He darted past the light and stood in front of Daphne, his arms extended as to protect her. "No, no, no!" he shouted at the glowing figure that was emerging in the blustery, chilly room.
"Kyle, I said run. Leave! Get out of here!" Daphne shouted at the boy as she tried to move around him to put herself between him and the apparition, but he struggled against her. "Kyle, you have to go. You're in danger!"
"No, you're in danger Mrs. Nolan!" he shouted back at her as she moved in front of him.
Just then the sound of shattering glass and splintering wood erupted across the wind swept living room.
Daphne and Kyle both looked over to see a gigantic wolf, with deep purple eyes that glowed faintly, snarling at what used to be the French doors to the patio.
Story by James M. Sullivan, Copyright 2009
Image by Rory Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2009