Archive | September 2017

The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 53

the man who wasnt thereDwight attacks the Rider on Brian’s shoulder, and it drops off, only to grow and become Luminous Cayce. He faces off with Opal, who has come out of the tomb. Unfortunately, Jordan gets too close and Opal manages to grab her.

A black bladed knife appeared in her hand. “Take another step, Luminous, and I’ll end her.”

He paused, considering the situation. “As you wish, Opal.” He stepped back.

“Are you f**king kidding?” Brian had revived. “What’s wrong with you?” He advanced on Luminous. “That’s my future wife that your evil dead bride has at knife point. Do something!”

“I am truly sorry,” Luminous said, grasping Brian by the shirt.

Before they could stop him, his spirit slid into Brian’s body. Opal did the same with Jordan and the two faced off. The blue flames reached for the sky, now encircling only them. Chase no longer controlled the flames, they swirled and danced at Jordan’s will. Moving apart, the two circled each other, looking for an opening.

Jordan’s hand shot out. Black goo landed on Brian, burning his skin. He laughingly shook it off. Though it left red welts behind, he didn’t seem to notice them. He hurled ice crystals at her, but she raised a shield of flames. The ice melted and Jordan threw it back, water droplets sharpened into tiny darts. Dirt rose between them and the pin shaped water drops were buried before they reached Brian.

Back and forth, they flung spell after spell, summoning the elements, countering one another. With Opal’s concentration on Brian, the adults shook off her influence. They let go of their children and stared at one another.

“What do we do now?” Harold asked. “This could go on for ten years. They’re equally powerful.”

“No,” Meru said. “She draws power from her resting place. We must destroy the mausoleum.” He raced forward, running to the dark edifice. Summoning earth, he built a mound tall enough to bring him to the top. He pulled something from his pocket and started writing on the roof.

Jordan’s arm halted midswing. The flames she was casting fizzled and dropped to the ground. Earth encompassed her feet, crawling slowly up her legs. She tried to move, but couldn’t. The dirt rose to her shoulders. Opal sprung from her as the dirt closed around Jordan’s throat.

“Brian, NO!” Jackie yelled. She hurled an air bolt at him, knocking him back.

Gasping and coughing, Brian lost his balance. Dropping to his knees, he lost control of the dirt. Following his last command, he covered Jordan. Maribelle sprang forward, water drenched Jordan. Air followed, blowing away the mud. Shivering and choking, Jordan fell to the ground.

Brian scrambled toward her. “Jordan? Babe, I’m here! I’m so sorry.”

“Get the bitch,” she whispered, pointing where Opal had retreated.

The ghost watched the action on top of her mausoleum. Others had joined Meru. He continued sketching, chanting. Teens and adults surrounded the structure. Marissa sang, her voice pure and clear in the chilly night. Andre joined her. They didn’t shape words, only sounds. It was the notes that held importance now. Anyone who could carry a tune, joined them. The air filled with their song.

Opal’s face twisted with fury. Screeching, she rose on a pillar of fire which carried her to the top of the mausoleum. The surface shocked her when she stepped on it, but she shook it off. Taking another step, she screamed, this time in pain. Her feet came to rest on the stone, unable to move. Flaming vines twisted around her legs and torso.

Meru finished his drawing. With a hop, he landed in the middle of it, head to the sky. His voice joined the song, winding power words throughout. Ribbons of color formed in the air. Strands of musical notes, each a different color, wove intricate patterns around him.

The mausoleum shuddered beneath him, but he continued to sing. Opal couldn’t move. The flaming vine held her, but now the multi-colored notes hammered at her, covering her body like splats from a paintball gun. Wherever they hit, a tiny indentation formed. The skin beneath hissed and smoked. The vines tightened. Opal screamed again, fainter this time.

The strands of notes attacked the mausoleum, diving into cracks and chinks in the stone, expanding like ice, they went to work. Tiny cracks grew into larger ones as Meru continued to sing. Brian rushed forward, placing his hands on the wall of the building. The others on the ground, joined him. Concentrating on the colors, he pushed with his mind, driving them in like blows from a hammer. The walls cracked and crumbled under the assault.

“Keep going,” he yelled, scrambling to the top.

Opal was completely covered with colors. The vines burned brighter, scorching her skin, but she fought as hard as ever. Here and there, the colors turned black, the vines faded. The areas grew larger. Soon, one hand burst free, pointing at Meru. He stopped singing, dropping to one knee.

Brian reached Opal, knife in his left hand. Luminous’ ring burned with blue fire. With a swing of his knife, he severed her arm. It fell at their feet, a pile of blackened bones which he crushed beneath his foot.

“I told you not to touch her, you bitch!” He stabbed into the flames, twisting his blade.

Opal roared, black goo gouting from her mouth. It burned where it touched him, but Brian didn’t falter. He stabbed her again, wrenching up before turning the blade again.

Meru regained his feet. Taking his stance once more, he sped up his incantation. This time, multicolored flames shot from his hands, forming bonds around Opal. Brian stabbed her again. When she screamed the flames jumped down her throat. More wrapped around her head, closing her mouth, sealing it.

“Get back!” Meru bellowed.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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Red River Radio Presents What’s Write for Me with Merri and Ruth

The nip of fall is in the air (some places, not so much here in Florida), and our thoughts turn to curling up with a hot cup of tea and a good book. Wednesday’s guests specialize in fantasy, and that sounds like a lot of fun!

Returning guest, Ruth Davis Hays, is the author of the fantasy series Translations from Jorthus. Her books include: The Dawnstone Tale, The Convergence, and The Excursion.

New to the show is Merri Halma author of Indigo Travelers and the Dragon’s Blood Sword and Indigo Travelers and the Keys to the Shadowlands.

Step into another realm and join us as we chat to these two amazing ladies! Join us at 4:00 PM Eastern time TODAY on Blog Talk Radio

MerriHalma author of Indigo Travelers and the Dragon’s Blood Sword and Indigo Travelers and the Keys to the Shadowlands

Ruth Davis Hays is author of the fantasy series Translations from Jorthus. Her books include: The Dawnstone Tale, The Convergence, and The Excursion.

Wednesday at 4 PM Eastern

The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 52

the man who wasnt thereMarissa manages to get Brian’s seizure to stop. They run outside to find that the other boys have been pinned down by tree roots. Brian frees them and advances into the circle around the mausoleum, yelling a challenge.

Brian stood tall, shoulders back, head raised in defiance. His face held another aspect, more mature, weathered. “You wanted my attention, you’ve got it! Be not mistaken, I do not give my attention lightly and you will not enjoy this. Let it be finished.”

A ghostly figure emerged, becoming more opaque as it rose from the depths. It shimmered and coalesced into a solid form of a woman. Her body was draped in a pale gown that was gathered beneath her breasts. Her belly was covered in blood and it had seeped into the fabric of her gown. Her beautiful face held a deathly pallor. Her masses of dark curls were gathered on top of her head.

“Welcome, my love. Did you miss me?” Her voice dripped insincerity.

“Be gone, you evil witch.”

The woman stepped forward, fingers tracing the line of his jaw, winding in his blond curls.

Brian pulled her hands away, stepping back from her. “I hoped never to see you again.”

“Why, darling, what a way to speak to me after all this time. You can’t tell me you didn’t miss me a little bit.”

“The only thing I missed was having the life sucked from me.”

“Oh, my God,” Jordan gasped. “It’s his wife!”

“Whose wife?” Dwight gasped as he ran up next to her.

“That’s Opal, Luminous Cayce’s wife. The one who died in the battle. The one he said he was forced to kill. That bitch! She’s a witch and she’s after Brian!” Taking a running leap, she soared over the thorns, flattening them as she vaulted over. She landed on the other side, crouched and ready for battle.

“She’ll kill you!” Dwight yelled, following her.

“Like hell!” Jordan ran forward, iron stiletto in her left hand, a silver one in her right. She stopped a foot away from Opal in a fighter’s crouch. “Get away from him, you bitch!”

“Oh, who’s the kitten?” Opal crooned, stroking Brian’s jaw.

“Don’t touch him,” Jordan yelled.

“Darling, you can’t hurt me. Besides, he wants me. Can’t you see?” She gestured languidly to Brian. He stood still, slightly dazed, obviously aroused.

Jordan took a swipe at Opal with her iron knife. A wound opened in the ghostly woman’s arm. She laughed, shaking it off. The line closed, scabbed and fell away like dust.

“What a clever girl you are.” She turned to Brian. “Take care of her, darling.”

Brian advanced, eyes confused, face set and blank. Part of him fought the control Opal exerted, but he wasn’t quite strong enough to do it on his own. He reached for Jordan, big hands grasping. Suddenly, his legs flew out from under him as Dwight tackled him. The other man straddled Brian, fists pounding his right shoulder and above, in the curve of Brian’s neck. Not all the blows landed on Brian, some of them were aimed at what was apparently thin air. However, they connected with something. A dull thump sounded with each blow. It flashed dully with each hit.

Groaning, Brian quit fighting Dwight. “It’s me! Help me up!”

Dwight lifted Brian to his feet.

“Thank you. Now, let’s see about this bitch!”

“First,” Dwight said. “We’ve got a Rider to dislodge.” He held out his hand to Jordan. “Silver.”

Opal had retreated, watching the events unfold. The parents hadn’t moved, but they muttered something. The words made Jordan’s skin crawl. Opal’s smile shifted when Dwight poked the air near Brian’s right ear. The silver stiletto disappeared about an inch.

“Reveal,” Dwight commanded. “If ever we needed you, Rider, it’s now. Reveal yourself!”

Opal backed up another step, arms sweeping behind her, lips snarling. The adults chanted louder, spreading out to encompass the action a few feet away.

“This is your fault!” Dwight yelled. “Come out now, you craven, selfish, coward!” He poked harder, hand reaching toward Jordan.

She was already at his side, silver skewer in hand, she plunged it in beside Dwight’s. Both iron spikes joined the silver.

Brian screamed, staggering. Dwight caught him. Jordan steadied him. His friends ran forward as their parents closed ranks. Each pair grabbed at one of the teens. Chase slid through, placing himself between Jordan and her parents. Shielding her and Brian with his body, he summoned a wall of cold, blue fire. Their parents halted, puzzled by the sizzling cold.

Chase’s hand flew out, casting something in Brian’s direction. With another shriek, Brian went limp. A shimmer of movement on his right shoulder revealed the creature lurking there. It hopped off, limping. One by one, the skewers dropped to the ground, covered in dark blood. The figure grew larger, standing tall as he moved to counter Opal, who had stepped closer to them, despite the fire.

“You again,” he said, his voice a chilling blend of Brian and Miles’ voices.

“Hello, darling,” she crooned. “Happy to see me?”

“Hardly,” was the cool reply.

Opal stepped closer, her voice hypnotic and silky. Jordan was mesmerized by the beautiful woman. Dwight was occupied with Brian. Chase fought with their parents. No one saw Jordan take a step too close to Opal. The mottled arm shot out, grabbing the front of her shirt. She pulled Jordan before her like a shield. The hapless girl stood meekly, just as Brian had done. Whatever influence Opal wielded, it was stronger than all of them.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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Introducing So Much It Hurts – A New Novel by Dellani Oakes

Coming November 1, 2017 from Tirgearr Publishing – So Much It Hurts! This delightful romance is set in a big city somewhere up north. I’ve never given it a name, and the residents refer to it as The City.

Pia Donovan is a small town girl. Newly in the City from a tiny town in Nebraska, she is overwhelmed by the fast pace. After a long day of getting lost in the worst part of town, she arrives at her destination; an historic, grand hotel in the downtown area. Picking her way across the rutted ground in front of the building, she loses her balance, nearly falling into the arms of Flynn Chancellor. Handsome and friendly, Flynn presents a happy distraction for a girl who’s trying to recover from a broken heart.

SoMuchItHurtsbyDellaniOakes500

Sweet, sultry music poured from the open second-story windows as Pia walked across the pitted, uneven ground. Scattered with puddles and trash, it wasn’t a very inviting aspect. The old, grand hotel building loomed above her, intimidating in the dusky light after sunset. Sighing, she forged ahead, dragging her rolling suitcase after her. It bumped into a particularly deep hole and caught. Yanking, she lost her balance and teetered to the right.

Watch out!” Strong hands caught her, setting her on her feet. The same hands lifted her suitcase. “You all right, little lady?”

Pia wasn’t sure she liked being called a little lady by any man, but when she turned to look at him, she decided he had the right to. He was at least six foot three, maybe taller. She, a petite five three, was indeed a little lady. He flashed a brilliant smile at her.

You’re the newbie.” He extended his hand. “Flynn Chancellor. Welcome to the fold.”

Pia Donovan. Thank you. How does this work, exactly?”

Didn’t get orientation?” He tugged her suitcase, ushering Pia inside.

Sort of? They told me to report here this afternoon, but I took the wrong bus and ended up on the way to Maryville. I got as far as Walnut Street and finally figured out I was in the wrong spot.”

Ooh, not a place for a lady of your delicate sensibilities to be.”

Yeah, tell me about it. The driver wouldn’t let me out on the street. He dropped me at a satellite station and told me the right bus to take back.”

That was nice of him.”

He said he has a granddaughter my age. He wouldn’t set her loose to the wolves.”

Flynn chuckled. “Apt. I grew up in that area. It ain’t pretty.” He opened the door for her, letting her walk under his arm. It was an easy fit. “Where are you from, Pia Donovan?”

Out of state. I moved here from Nebraska. Outside Kearney.”

No kidding? What brings you up here?”

I got a scholarship to City University.”

In?”

He opened a set of inner doors which led into a large, open area. To the right and left there were arched doorways which had once led to reception and lobby areas. They were now full of cast-off furniture and crowds of men and women, all about her age. Every ethnic blend imaginable greeted her small-town Nebraska eyes.

Music.”

We’ve got several music majors here. I’ll show you around, if you want.”

I’d like that, thank you. How do I get settled?”

We talk to Amita.” He pointed to the desk area. It had formally been the receptionist’s desk — a tall, dark wooden structure that wrapped around like a bar.

When was this place built?”

Early 1900s.”

And they’re tearing it down?”

No. It will, eventually, be renovated.”

She nodded, looking around her at the early elegance of the place. It sported dark wood wainscoting, light walls, brass wall sconces. This was in stark contrast with the battered linoleum laid over the original hardwood floors, holes in the walls, and pieces of plywood over missing glass panes.

You wouldn’t know to look at it, but it was a showplace in its time. Celebrities from all over the world visited. It was built by one of the founding families, so they will never tear it down.”

It’s still got a stateliness to it, doesn’t it?”

It does,” he agreed.

No one was at the desk, but he leaned over and called through an open doorway. “Oi, Amita! Found our newbie!”

A tall, mocha-skinned woman with wildly curly hair came out, wiping her hands on a dish towel. “Hi! You must be Pia. I’m Amita, I’m the resident manager. We expected you ages ago.”

I got lost.”

Ended up on Walnut Street,” Flynn added.

Oh, my God! And lived to tell about it!”

Flynn chuckled and leaned against the tall desk, hands in pockets. Pia had a moment to take in details she hadn’t noticed outside in the dusk. He was broad-shouldered, with dancing green eyes. His chestnut colored hair was nearly to his shoulders, thick and straight, covered by a faded black fedora. Steel gauges, about the size of a quarter, stretched each earlobe. His arms were covered by intricate tattoos, forming sleeves from wrist up. His shirtsleeves were rolled just past his elbows. Rusty black pants, which looked as if they had seen better days, dangled from colorful suspenders. His huge feet were covered in clunky, leather boots. Every piece of clothing was spattered with different colors of paint.

You’ll be in the Ambassador Suite,” Amita said with a grin, handing over a registration card for Pia to sign.

Sounds elegant.”

It’s great!” Flynn said with a grin.

To Buy So Much It Hurts – Pre-order Now only .99 cents

The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 51

the man who wasnt thereWanting to get away from the crowd, the Circle members decide to meet up at the mausoleum where their ancestors are buried. Unfortunately, something has happened to the adults. They seem to have been possessed. Instead of going to the cemetery, they head to Chase’s house. Brian and Dwight head to the cemetery, but when Brian has a seizure, Dwight knows they have to join the others.

“Our folks drove us to Chase’s house. Why didn’t Brian answer?”

“He’s in a bad way, Jordan. I’m on my way. Lost at the moment. Where am I? Bloody hell. Help!”

“Where are you?”

“No earthly idea.”

“Dwight’s on the way over,” Jordan said to her . “But he’s lost. I’m shit with directions.” She held out the phone pleadingly.

Chase took the phone and gave Dwight clear and easy to follow directions. Within minutes, he pulled up. Brian’s seizure was still going. By now, he was drooling.

“Did he eat or drink anything?” Jordan asked.

“No, nothing. It started in the cemetery. I figured maybe you’d gotten your wires crossed and come here. I guess you had no choice. What are they doing?”

“No idea. Help me get him in the house,” Jordan commanded.

“Isn’t it locked?”

“Chase is here.”

It took all of them, but they got Brian up the steep steps to the front door. Chase let them in and they carried Brian to the kitchen, laying him on the table.

“Let me look,” Marissa said. “Boys, go keep an eye on our parents. We’ve got this.”

“You sure?”

“Positive. If anything happens, Jordan will kick ass and take names.” She gave Chase a quick kiss.

The boys left. The girls assessed Brian’s condition. The seizure hadn’t stopped. The drool had become foam.

“Someone’s torturing him,” Marissa said. “Think, dammit!” Taking a few deep breaths, she made herself stop shaking. “Okay, symptoms. Foaming at the mouth. Seizing. Arched spine. Can’t check the pupils as the eyes are rolled back.”

“What do we do?”

“Wing it. I’m not sure what this is, but I think it’s magical not chemical. He was careful what he ate and drank. He didn’t have anything at the party, like the rest of us. Okay, improvisation time. Jordan, I need a couple of your spikes, one of each, please. And some of the blessed salt. He should have plenty in his pockets. And holy water. A pot.” She reached above them to the pots that hung over the butcher’s block. Fortunately, the stove was gas and hadn’t been damaged when the grove blew up.

Marissa poured the holy water and a teaspoon of blessed salt with cumin into a pot and set it to boil. Jordan stirred the mixture with her spikes while Marissa searched Dora’s cupboard for Valerian.

“I want it for the seizure. It’s calming. I don’t know if we can get him to drink this, but we’re going to try.”

She added a measure of the herb in the water. It boiled for a minute before she poured some off and blew on it. With a silver spoon, she dipped some out and put it to Brian’s lips. He spit it out, gagging on it, but she gave him more. His seizure increased. Marissa held him as he thrashed, muttering an incantation. The girls helped to hold Brian, but he was bigger and stronger than all of them. Jordan invoked air and held him firmly with invisible bonds.

“Keep holding him. He needs the rest of this.” Little by little, Marissa spooned the salty water into Brian’s mouth. When it was gone, they waited and watched.

With a shiver, he relaxed. His eyes returned to normal and he quit gasping for breath. Jordan approached, touching his face and neck gingerly.

“Are you okay now?”

“What the hell happened? One second, I’m in the cemetery. Now I’m in Chase’s kitchen?”

They explained as he tried to stand. Wobbly and weak in the knees, he was determined to get outside.

“There’s no telling what’s going on.”

“How do you think this happened? They didn’t eat or drink anything. We were all really careful.”

“Someone very powerful,” Brian said. “If they got to me, they can get to our folks.”

“Why not us?” Marissa asked.

“Because we’re not considered as big a threat,” Jordan said. “For once I’m glad of their narrow minded chauvinism. It gives us an edge.”

They ran outside. Marissa screamed. The boys were all face down on the ground, pinned by tree roots. She tried to run forward, but Jordan and Louisa caught her.

“My turn,” Brian growled. Stepping forward, he entered the circle and strode purposefully toward their parents.

Tree roots jumped up, trying to snare him, but he tied them in knots with a swipe of his hand. Another flick of his fingers and his friends were released. They rose to their knees, the roots receding rapidly. The girls ran forward to stand by their future mates. Jordan tried to follow Brian, but a wall of thorns sprang up, blocking her path. She didn’t know if it was from the Evil, or if Brian had done it to protect her. Either way, she didn’t fight it, but retreated slightly.

“I’m here,” Brian bellowed.

The air in front of him shimmered and glowed. Like water cascading over stones, the walls of the mausoleum appeared. Where the other was white marble, this one was black. The vines covering it were vivid red with putrid green leaves. The ground around it shifted and the doors swung inward.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 50

the man who wasnt thereThey spot a strange looking couple at the ball. There are several more strangers, already circulating. The people there seem to be under a spell, and they discover that the punch is tainted. Brian realizes that the band members aren’t who they seem to be either. He gives the leader a five dollar bill full of blessed salt, and isn’t surprised when the fellow overreacts to its touch.

“No, sir. Sure won’t.” Brian walked away and the band started playing.

“What was all that?” Chase said, watching the band leader.

“Had a feeling about something. I gave him some salt. He didn’t much like it, but he didn’t act like a demon either.”

“We’ll keep an eye.”

Brian’s discomfort increased. Though he dribbled salt around the dance floor and rubbed it on people as he passed, he could tell it wasn’t having a lot of effect. He signaled the others to regroup. They met in the middle of the dance floor. He hadn’t seen the strangers for several minutes and that had him somewhat concerned, because he wasn’t sure they were really gone.

“I think we need to get out of here,” he said. “Maybe divert them away from here. Too many potential hostages.”

“Where to?”

“I have an idea about that. Let’s meet up at the family crypt.”

“In the cemetery? In these shoes?” Jordan said. “No worries, actually. I have better ones in the car.”

They left in a hurry, heading to their cars. Brian and Dwight stayed behind for a few minutes, making sure that the strangers knew they were leaving. Even if he didn’t see them, he knew they were still around. Brian wanted their exodus noticed. If these people had a mind to slaughter innocents, he wanted to get them as far away as possible. He and Dwight made a big show of leaving, with luck, drawing the attention of the creepy couples. They could feel half a dozen pairs of eyes on them as they walked out.

“You sure about this, my friend?” Dwight asked.

“Not at all. Got a better idea?”

“No. But I want it on record that I don’t like it.”

“Neither do I, but it seems the logical place to go. They’d love it if we went to the bad crypt. I’m not willing to endanger us that much.”

They drove into the empty, silent cemetery, heading down a narrow gravel track to the vault. When they arrived, they looked around for the others.

“They should have been here by now,” Dwight said.

“Did you see them in the parking lot?”

“No, their cars were gone. I have a really bad feeling about this.”

Brian did too. His hackles rose and his ancestor’s ring burned cold on his left hand. He could see the stones glowing. Reaching into his shirt, he pulled out his amulet. These stones glowed too. They pulsed in time with his heartbeat.

“Call Jordan,” Brian gasped, handing Dwight his phone.

“You okay, mate?”

Brian couldn’t answer. His head slammed against the headrest, his chest arched and his eyes rolled back in his head. The ground rumbled. Tombstones jittered and danced, uprooting and toppling over. The ground roiled as Brian continued to shake.

Dwight made the call, but got voicemail. Horrified, he opened the doors and pulled Brian’s stiff body across the center console and into the passenger seat. He couldn’t do anything about the apparent seizure, but he could get them away from the mausoleum. He had a feeling he knew where the others were. With a few false starts, he got his bearings in the unfamiliar town and headed to Chase’s house.

Jordan walked out of the community center and headed to her father’s car. Her clothing and shoes were in the back. She changed quickly, watching her friends do the same. Brian and Dwight still hadn’t come out and it had been at least five minutes.

“Time to head out,” Miles said.

They got in the cars with the adults driving. When they came to the main thoroughfare of town, instead of turning right to go to the cemetery, all the drivers turned left.

“Dad, what’s up?” Jordan asked.

He didn’t respond. Instead, he sped up, flying down the narrow highway at 90.

“Dad? Speak to me!”

He said nothing. Her mother was equally unresponsive. Diving into her bag, Jordan pulled out her phone. Her father’s hand shot out, grabbing it. He hurled it out the window before Jordan had a chance to react. Moments later, they pulled up at Chase’s house. The others joined them a few seconds later.

The adults got out of the car and went to stand in a circle around the far end of the clearing. By the paint on the ground, the teenagers knew that was where the mausoleum stood.

“Can we call someone?” Jordan asked.

“Dad took my phone,” Marissa said. “And Mom took Chase’s.”

“Dad threw mine out the window,” Jordan added.

A short consultation revealed that they’d either left their phones at home or had them taken away. Jordan assessed the situation and ran to her father’s car. The door wasn’t locked and she quickly pulled it open. As she’d hoped, her father’s phone sat in the hands free dash attachment. Snatching it up, she dialed Brian. It rang and went to voice mail. She called back. The third time she called, she got an answer. It wasn’t Brian.

“Dwight here. Problems all round. Where are you?”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 49

the man who wasnt thereThey all arrive at the ball, dressed to kill—especially Jordan. She’s got silver and iron stilettos in her hair, as well as quartz and lapis lazuli as jewelry. Brian came armed with holy water, blessed salt and a couple weapons. He’s still feeling the influence of the Rider, but asked Dwight to sock him in the shoulder if he gets out of hand.

Brian laughed. Music started, a song that he’d loved since he was a little kid. It was something his grandmother used to sing. She would dance him around, holding him on her feet, while she sang it. He went over to Jordan.

“May I have this dance, Miss Barrett?” He held out his hand to her.

With a surprised smile, Jordan accepted. “Why, Mr. Casey, I’d be delighted.”

The band started singing To Love Somebody written by the BeeGees. Although he wasn’t a very good singer, Brian could carry a tune. He held Jordan close, singing along with the band. “You don’t know what it’s like to love somebody the way I love you.”

Jordan held him close, swaying to the slow music. This was how it should always be, them together like normal teenagers at a dance. Afterward, making out in his car, maybe getting carried away in the back seat. She grinned, snuggling close.

When the song had finished, Miles beckoned them over. “I almost forgot. When you and Jordan were out, I went by to see Grandma and I got this for you.”

He held up a small, worn leather bag. Tipping it into his palm, he showed them a ring. The band was white gold, set with the same eight stones Brian had in his medallion.

“Grandma said this was his wedding ring. Slip it on your left hand.”

The ring was too big for Brian’s ring finger, so he slipped it on his left index finger. Almost immediately, he felt a tingle. Fingers of doubt scurried up and down his back, lodging at the base of his spine. Movement by the front door alerted him and he turned.

A couple stood framed in the doorway. They weren’t locals, that much was obvious by their clothing. He was tall, muscular, dressed in a black tailcoat, a white shirt, blood red vest, with matching tie, and black top hat. His face and hair were as black as his coat. She was nearly as tall, spare, sleek haired. The woman looked like something out of the Roaring Twenties. She wore a long sheath dress covered in black and silver spangles. A long strand of black beads circled her lean throat. She carried a cigarette in an ebony holder. She was pale with bright red lips. She caught Jordan’s eye, smiling. Jordan shivered. Something clutched at her chest, was it fear? She couldn’t be sure. Her lips moved in a silent warding spell. The woman flinched, turning slightly away. Jordan’s smile was predatory.

“Who are they?” Dwight asked from behind him.

“No idea,” Brian replied. “But I think trouble just arrived.”

“We spent the better part of the day warding this damn place,” Miles muttered. “How the hell did they get in?”

“Public place,” Heath replied, teeth clenched.

“They could be a distraction,” Claude said. “Spread out. Look, but don’t engage.”

Smiling, they wandered off. Andre and Louisa kept the black clad couple in sight while the others walked around, dancing and shmoozing. They spotted two other couples they didn’t recognize. Of course, having strangers show up to the ball wasn’t all that unusual. The fact that all the couples wore anachronistic clothing and didn’t seem to fit in, was.

Not long after the arrival of the strangers, Brian noticed that the other guests were glassy eyed, complacent. They hardly spoke, they didn’t smile. They wandered around as if they were asleep on their feet. He passed the word among the chosen. Wondering what had caused such a sudden change, he inspected the refreshment table. The food was fine, but the punch had a strange aura to it.

“Don’t drink the punch,” he told his friends. “They’ve done something to it. I’m going to walk around with salt.” He handed a small flask to Jordan. “That’s holy water. Put it in the punch. May not do much good at this point, but it’s better than nothing.”

She wandered over, casually pouring the water into the bowl. It fizzled and steamed for a moment, then settled down. She slipped the bottle into her purse and walked back over to Brian.

“Done.”

The band didn’t seem to be affected by the punch. In fact, they seemed so unconcerned about the lack of audience response, Brian had a look at them. They had an aspect rather like the strangers who had walked in. He couldn’t put into words what disturbed him about any of them, but he couldn’t close his eyes to it.

Brian walked over to the low stage and whispered to the band leader. “Hey, could you play something for my girl and me?”

“Sure,” he said in a bored tone. “If we know it.”

“She likes the old stuff, like from the Seventies. Could you play Gold Dust Woman by Fleetwood Mac?”

The leader flashed a half smile in Brian’s direction. “Sure thing.”

Brian handed him a folded bill. Inside, he’d left a small amount of salt. The bill was so balled up, the band leader unfolded and smoothed it. Becoming immediately alert, his dark lined eyes caught Brian’s.

“You think you’re funny, kid?”

“Sorry?” Brian acted like a dumb kid, holding his hand to his ear as if he couldn’t hear.

“Don’t mess with me. You know what.”

“Just wanna hear a song, man. But if you don’t wanna play it, gimme my money back.”

The man snatched the five dollar bill away, stuffing it in a jar on the stage. “We’ll play the damn song. Just don’t give me dirty money again.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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