Elect II—22 Temptation, part 2 of 3

Emily watched as Ferdinand Franco stepped up to President Batiste’s door.    “Batiste, we got your package,” he said.  He waved one of his people to open the big double doors while he hid.  That suggested to Emily that Franco was certainly not stupid.

The man opened both of the doors wide thinking his group had the upper hand, and he took a bullet in his chest and collapsed.  Heinrich immediately knocked over a table with his feet, to act as a shield.  He made them scoot behind a well cushioned chair for added protection, even as the ac-emily-b1bullets started flying.   But Emily first saw Batiste’s head was on his desk and there was plenty of blood flowing from the hole in his head.  The man was already dead and Emily guessed it was Captain Gouldos.

While men were killing each other, Emily sat on her hands.  She hurt her wrists terribly, but inch by inch her hands came forward.  She figured when she got them all the way down around her feet she could at least have her hands in front and might be able to grab something to fight.

Heinrich was fascinated by the battle.  His eyes poked up, dangerous as it was, and he counted the dead.  Secretary Nancy hid behind her desk.  The man with the limp and the hot pads hid around the back of the desk and trembled with his hands over his ears and his eyes shut tight.

The battle ended when Franco killed Captain Gouldos.   It was touch and go at the end as to which one would kill the other, but they were the last two combatants, so Franco ended up with the prize.  He ran into the President’s office and frisked Batiste’s body before he dumped it on the floor.  He began to tear the desk apart.

“Where is it?” Franco said before he had a second thought.  He frisked the Captain’s body and then frisked the two security lieutenants who were there and also corpses.  “Where is it?”  He roared and came to the door to accuse Nancy.

Nancy stood calmly behind the desk, one hand behind her back and the other hand held up a key.  She jingled it.  “Looking for this?” she said.

ac-nancy-1“Give it here.  Quick.”  Franco lifted his gun and put out his free hand to grab the key, but Nancy raised her hidden hand which also held a gun and she killed Franco with a perfect shot to the heart.

The man with the limp and hot pads tried to run to the stairs, but Nancy killed him also with one shot.  She was clearly an expert marksman.

Nancy turned her gun on the two behind the table.  Heinrich was obviously still cuffed, and Emily appeared to be also, from what Nancy could see.  In fact, Emily had just taken off her shoes to get her cuffed hand around her feet, but that was hidden from Nancy’s sight.

Nancy smiled.  “I can be gracious, I think.”  She set down her gun and unlocked the metal box.  “Yes.  It is important to start things on a positive foot.”  She took the lid off the box and the room filled with the aroma of apples and cinnamon.  “Goddess Nancy,” she said.  “It has a nice ring to it.” And she stuffed the apples into her mouth.

Emily moved out of desperation.  She got her hands in front and broke off a leg from the table to use as a club, but then she did not know what do to.  Forty-year-old Nancy now looked closer to thirty, going on twenty, and she was still smiling when she began to gag.

ac-nancy-3“What?”  Nancy got that word out as her body began to convulse in uncontrollable motions.  She fell to her knees and threw up, a mixture of apples and blood.  Her fifteen-year-old mouth tried to yell, “No,” but it was too late.  She convulsed even when her eyes closed and she became unconscious.  By the time she was five, she was dead, and while she stopped getting younger, she began to both decay and her skin began to harden and mummify at a rapid pace.

Heinrich stood up next to Emily.  “I would guess they did not get the recipe right.”

“It smelled good,” Emily said as she touched Nancy’s child hand with her club and watched it crumble to dust.  They stopped when there was commotion behind them on the stairs.  Emily raised her club.  Heinrich went for Nancy’s gun, but it was Riverbend and one of her elves who burst in, decked out in armor and arrows ready.  Sebastian Scott followed.  Maggie Holmes came last with a little huffing and puffing.  They all had to stop for a moment to take in the bloody battle scene.

Emily had a strange thought, but followed her inkling while Heinrich went to the man who had the key to the cuffs.  “Zoe.”  Emily had not said that word in some time and she never called to the goddess.  “Zoe.”  She called.

“I hear you.”  Zoe appeared out of nowhere.  She lifted her hand to examine things with her mind or her spirit.  “They got the recipe almost right, but only used part of one golden apple.  The rest was ordinary apple and not exactly baked to the temperature of the surface of the sun.  I’m glad they included the cinnamon sugar.  I told Hera it had to be in there.  It makes it edible, but…”  Zoe stepped up to the box which still had crumbs in it.  She licked her finger, touched an apple crumb and touched that to her tongue to taste it, to identify some substance.  When she got it, her face lit up.

“Arsenic.  A couple of other virulent and quick acting poisons, but the whole thing must have been saturated in arsenic.”

“That shipment to the science department,” Emily said.  Zoe turned to stare at her while Emily continued to think out loud.  “But that means the apples are still out there.”

zoe-1Zoe smiled that Emily understood.  “Yes, but it should be a while to figure out how to cook it properly, if ever.”

Heinrich stood with the keys in his teeth.  “She got younger because the apple was not cooked properly?”  It was hard to understand his words, but not impossible.

Zoe repeated the thought and nodded. “She got younger because the apple was not properly cooked.  She might have gotten younger than her birth, but the poison took over.  No goddess, I’m afraid.  Just a shriveled child, and too bad about the rug.”  She stepped around the vomit, took the keys from Heinrichs mouth and unlocked the handcuffs.  “It is good to do things in a natural way, sometimes.”  Heinrich rubbed his raw wrists and Zoe spoke again when she unlocked Emily.  “My queen.  When you return in September you still have apples to find and work to do, but that can wait.  Right now, don’t you have finals?”  Zoe grinned and vanished.

“Thanks for reminding me,” Emily groused.

Everyone heard the answer, “You’re welcome.”

Emily had one final thought.  She tore the sleeve on Nancy’s dress and before that arm turned to dust she saw the tattoo.  It was a circle with three squiggly lines up top.

Elect II—12 Christmas Break, part 1 of 3

Ashish parked in the lot next to the donut shop and got out whistling Santa Clause is Coming to Town.  He liked the colored lights that edged the shop.  He stopped when he heard a deep guttural growl.  Something was hidden in the dark of the lot.

ab-elf-girl-1aA young girl ran up, but stopped on seeing the detective.  Ashish imagined a young teen out wandering the neighborhood, and he became concerned about whatever produced that growl, but when he looked closely and revised his thought.  He had to ask.

“Do you work for Santa?”  The pointed ears on the cute thing were unmistakable.

“I wish,” the girl said and the growl came again.  “Over here,” the girl yelled, and so many young people with pointed ears raced up and ran so fast, Ashish blinked and tears came to his eyes from the wind produced by their speed in passing.

Something dark and foreboding stood up between two parked cars.  It looked big and ready to run, but one of the youngsters got a rope around it.  Ashish heard a whine in place of the growl.  They got two more ropes around the neck of the beast, whatever it was.  It strained at the ropes, but people were yelling about holding it steady and not letting it go.  Suddenly, a great flash of light made Ashish blink, and they all disappeared.

Ashish rubbed his eyes, and found the first young woman with the ears beside him.  She curtsied, an exceptionally graceful thing considering she was in slacks, and she spoke.

“Merry Christmas, Detective Mousad.”  She stepped back around the donut shop corner.  When Ashish followed, he found that she had vanished.

“Merry Christmas,” he said, regardless, and he went back to whistling Santa Clause is Coming to Town while he stepped inside the shop.

###

ac-sarah-3Sara helped the girls pack for the Christmas holidays.  The spider was dead.  Maynard was put out of action and the poor students she experimented on were safely locked up for the present in the old hospital psych ward, while people worked on a more permanent solution.  Curiously, President Batiste made no complaint about Emily handling the Maynard situation without calling campus security first.

“The only thing unresolved is Lisa and her night creatures,” Maria pointed out.

“I wish I could stay here to help,” Emily said.

“I could maybe track them,” Jessica offered.

“If I focused, I might see them,” Amina said.

“Hush.”  Sara talked to them all.  “There has been no sign of them in a week, and you resolved all of your tasks and fought through your finals.  You deserve some rest.”

“But we didn’t resolve anything!”  Mindy shouted and everyone paused.  Mindy was not normally one to raise her voice in frustration.  She was seriously a genteel and petite southern belle who only squealed when she got happy or excited.  In this case, though, she yelled as she stuffed way too much into her carry-on bag.   “We have found no apples.  We have found no door.  And whatever big mystery Zoe wants us to solve remains unsolved.  We don’t even have an inkling of what the mystery might be about!”

“Rest.”  Sara responded.  “Especially you living down in that cave day and night.”  She pointed at Mindy.

“Besides,” Melissa whispered.  “I thought you didn’t like the cold.”  The New Jersey weather had turned to freezing in December.  A little moisture and they might have some snow.  Mindy nodded, but said nothing.  South Carolina weather was much nicer that time of year.

ac-heinrich-a4Emily also said nothing, but she was thinking.

“You should listen to the priestess,” Heinrich spoke up from the door.  “I will help the good detective with her night creatures.  You all need to rest.”  He stood there with one finger laid against his nose.  He had also let his beard grow and was looking once again like the proverbial Santa Clause.  Emily stepped over and kissed the man’s cheek.  The others followed and all gave him hugs as he continued to speak.  “Your tribe all made it safely to the airport, but for Greta who got picked up by her parents.”  Emily had just found out that Greta was Moravian and lived in Pennsylvania.  She thought a Moravian was odd for one considering the military, but what did she know?  “Natasha is safely on her way to Detroit, Diane is probably on the runway right now headed back to Kansas and Hilde is flying off to Syracuse.  Just a puddle-jump flight.”

“I know,” Melissa said.  “She does not live that far from me in Vermont.  We talked about meeting somewhere over the holiday and maybe going skiing.”

“Very good.”  Heinrich rubbed his hands together.  “The airport caravan will be leaving in twenty minutes.”  He looked at Sara who nodded.  Twenty minutes was enough time.

Emily looked again at the note she found in her mail box from Bernie the campus cop.  It said one word.  She handed it to Mindy with a condition.

ac-mindy-7“Promise you won’t open this and read it until you are on the plane.”  Mindy reached for it but Emily snatched it back.  “Promise.”

Mindy looked like she was still angry about something, but settled herself.  “Yes, majesty.  I promise.”  Mindy stuffed the paper in her purse.

Later that afternoon, when Mindy was safely on her way back to her warmer clime, she pulled the paper out and read the word, “Ambrosia.”  Her eyes got big and she gasped her response.

“Of course!”