PRESENTS

All writers find a time and a place and a mood setting influence to create their stories. For me, one of those times and places is in my writing place with the lights turned low and my computer tuned into Blues-FM with music and Danny Marks’ resonant voice rolling mystically in the back ground as I lose my thoughts in the art of writing tales of mystery and other intrigues of the night. I challenge myself to complete a story between the 7pm sign on and the hour of midnight sign off. This is the first of those stories conjured from the depths of my imagination transposed to print to the rhythm of the blues.

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The Adventures Of Jenny Jade

The Silver Rose

 

Series One

The Woman In Question

Episode One

The Silver Rose

In a world dominated by hard drinking bull headed newspaper men Jenny Jade, Crime writer, stood out like a white speck on a black lapel. And she could keep up with the best of her male counterparts, bettering some, but no matter how good she did, it was always a fight to keep from being ushered into some girlie capacity with words like sweetheart and hot gal.

Mostly she ignored them, and wondered what they would think if they knew she was her own shadow, marking every move, every action of The Silver Rose, the name she had afforded her vigilante alter ego.

The Pen is an exclusive club, a private venue for journalists, radio announcers and fiction crime writer in Gastown that came into being soon after Gassy Jack built the Deighton House and has existed as a private club ever since. Some call it the Underground House, since it resides below ground, some say where the old Deighton House once stood.

There is a Water St. Entrance which is usually called the back door, but club members normal enter through the front door which is a single man door in Blood Alley entering an underground tunnel that crosses over to the club. You must know the code knock to enter which takes some learning of the morse code.

In truth, there was little doubt of Jenny Jade’s journalistic skill and intuition. Her column covered every nasty crime that came along and she attacked it with courage and determination, sometimes to the bane of the local police inspector, Laval Notsbury. It was her intuition that grated at the inspectors nerves.

“How?” he asked once.

“How what Inspector?”

Inspector Notsbury was a regular, none member guest of the club with a standing invitation from Jenny, though he was unaware of her influence. He had been offered a membership but had turned it down citing, “I am too suspicious of you news hounds.”

Notsbury responded curiously, “How do you manage to write into your columns information no one but the police should know.”

“Ah, well, maybe I had the right back ground, like five years as a combat soldier then two years as a cop, right here in Raincity. I didn’t work out as a cop. It was all too personal to me, so I got my journalist ticket and here I am with a pretty good insight into the world of nasty people and crime.” Jenny replied lightly.

“Sure. I know all that. It’s my business to know these things but that does not explain your connection or insight to this vigilante you call The Silver Rose. You and he seemed to be shadows of each other.” Notsbury described edging on accusation.

“You’re right Inspector. I do have a connection, a psychic connection almost. It’s something we feminine type journalist have.” Jenny shot back teasingly. Inspector Notsbury took it in stride. He laughed warmly. His arrest record was closely connected to Jenny Jade. She often called him with tidbits of information that put him on to a crime in progress, too often intervene on by the Silver Rose.

“You tell him for me, next time you get psychically connected that we don’t like vigilantes in our city.” The inspector noted with minimal conviction.

"Inspector. You’d miss him if he was gone. You wouldn’t have cracked the Railyard case without him, and the…”

“Yah, yah. I got it, but my bosses don’t get it. They are more interested in their letter of the law policy and vigilantes are criminals no matter how helpful they are.” Notsbury interrupted.

“I’ll pass along your message Inspector. But for now let’s relax and hit the billiards table. I haven’t demolished you for a while.”

“Sorry Jenny. I can’t. Work calls.” Notsbury declined when his cell phone rang at the same time. The inspector’s eyes widened and his face paled, He said in a sickly voice, “Not another one.” Then he rang off and said to Jenny, “The creep you called the Jack The Hacker has struck again.”

Jenny’s skin crawled but she waited until the inspector was gone, then she made a phone call. A few minutes later she went out the front door onto Water Street and walked determinedly to her third floor apartment on Abbott.

The Hacker had reared its ugly head twice before. The second time he had hacked a victim to death Jenny dubbed him Jack The Hacker. Her first story didn’t make the headline, but column two got the whole page. Most of the information she wrote up came from the work of The Silver Rose, but even then, the information was sparse. The city, the cops were getting worried that this killer was going to end up in the annals of Jack The Ripper, because, even with all the modern technology utilized by the police there wasn’t a shred of evidence to identify the beast. Even The Silver Rose had little to go on but her uncanny intuition. That intuition was fed by something she had noticed when she visited the site of the first victim. In an alley feted with the aroma of rot, she detected lavender.

As quickly as possible Jenney changed from her classic reporters garb transforming her into the Silver Rose, a masked vigilante in a trench coat and wide brim fedora, dark, silver blue in colour that would blend into the shadows even by the light of day. The phone call she made and had left a message was replied to. She called him, The Handler, the reason she had become the Silver Rose Vigilante. She recalled the day he blackmailed her into his service. The City Chronicle was looking for a new columnist, a crime reporter with guts, her interviewer had explained. “Give me a story that’ll rock the city mad and the job is yours.” Jenny did just that, but she created the sensational crime herself, though all the elements were already in place. Lev Moddy was a creep, a pretty big creep crawling along the streets of Gastown, growing his clientele one addict at a time. He was taking over Pigeon Park. Jenny had known about him for a while but he was small potatoes then.

She had written about him in the College Trib, in her final year in journalism. Jenny set herself up as his next client little knowing that she was inventing her alter ego. Jenny bought a packet of fentanyl from Moddy, Magic Man. Two days later she bought another and arranged to buy yet a third the next day only this time she wanted him to meet her at Wendy Poole Park at midnight. Moddy was reluctant at first but she told him she would be buy ten packs. Moddy’s eyes lit up with greed and he agreed to the rendezvous. Despite all her training Jenny was nervous. She was going out into the night to get a story, but somewhere in the back of her mind it was more. She wanted a safe world for her and her friends to live in and though everything possible had been down in that old part of the city where the roots were deep, there were still elements that slithered about the dark ways and shadows. Maybe one person couldn’t fix it, but maybe one person could make things a little better. Maybe what they needed was someone to reach into the darkness and tear away at the fabric of evil.

She found a shadow to huddled in. It was ten minutes to midnight. The shadow also gave her a clear view of the street below. But no matter what view she had Jenny was not expecting that Moddy would not come alone. He had two companions, both with that dangerous look about them, the kind of look that could get her killed.

“He suspects something. I guess it makes sense. But what do I do?”

She did the wise thing. She called the police, not really knowing what would come of it Then as Moddy and his creeps got close Jenny stepped into view. “What are you made up for?” Moddy laughed. Then he saw the mask and wasn’t sure who he was talking to. It wasn’t good. The fight lasted less than a minute. Moddy and his thugs were face down on the pavement. They were all in bad shape, as still as death.

Officer Tends approached the three still bodies with extreme caution, but none of them moved. His partner approached from another angle.

Tends said quietly, “Call it in.”

“These guys have been beaten to a pulp.” Sawls noted.

“Yah and one of them is a creep called Magic Man. He’s been making waves in the drug world.” Tends replied as he leaned in for a closer look. "What’s this?” He said peeling a sticker off Moddy’s forehead.

“It looks like a rose. A silver rose.”

“Hey. This ones bad. We better bring in an ambulance.”

In the shadows, watching the police do their work Jenny grimaced wondering how bad she had hurt Moddy and his companions. But she couldn’t help smiling when one of the officers had found the silver rose sticker. It wasn’t intentional. She couldn’t even remember where it came from. She found it in the pocket of the trench coat and on a whim, peeled the backing off and stuck it on Moddy’s forehead.

Jenny sat at her computer pecking the keys rapidly telling her story about a drug dealer filling the streets with bad drugs making sure she kept it all in third person and genderizing the Silver Rose. “He came out of nowhere, this vigilante of the night. Leaving behind a single, Silver Rose sticker.”

But that was not the end of it. There had been a witness who described the scene in minute detail and advising her that one of the men she beat would never walk again. “I could use someone like you. I could use the Silver Rose to help me clean up the city.” He said.

“But I wasn’t going to make a career of being a vigilante. I just wanted a job.” Jenny had argued.

“You could lose that job as easily as you acquired it if your boss knew who he really hired.”

There was no choice. Jenny kept the Silver Rose alive or…or what…what would happen if the cops learned who she was?

“Alright. I’m in. I guess I can make it work to everyone’s advantage. But I’ll need help.”

“You’ll get it. You will be given information to help you fight the evil taking over the city. It’s more than just petty drug dealers. Something is growing like a fungus. We must cut it out by the roots.”

The next day she received a cell phone. How it was delivered she had no idea but the courier had entered her apartment and left it on the pillow of her bed, under the covers. It rang an hour later. “Keep this phone with you at all times but if it becomes compromised destroy it immediately.”

“Who are you?” Jenney demanded.

“You don’t need to know that.”

“Yah. I guess, but I need something to call you.”

“Pick a name that suits you then.”

“Ok. I’ll you The Handler because that’s what you are.”

A chuckle came in response then the line went dead. Her story about the drug dealer didn’t get on the front page but it got her the Crime Column and she knew that there would be front page headlines in the future. She could use her alter ego, The Silver Rose Vigilante.

Jenny listened to the soft smooth voice of The Handler. “You must seek out a group calling itself The Creators. They are using your Jack The Hacker to cover up something much more diabolical. I believe it is connected to some project involving genetic engineering. It doesn’t matter what the end result is. They are killing people and it must stop.”

“Where do I start?” Jenny asked.

“Look for a Dr. Lashar Nivelle. He has been seen frequenting Harbour Light Alley near Columbia St.” The line went dead.

TBC

 That Which Is Made Of Dark Things

1

Tandel Lois ran. She ran harder than she ever had before because she had never, ever been that scared. So scared that running bore less danger, even if it meant her heart could fail, was less frightening than the dark things that had attacked her from the shadows. Dark Things in dark places, living in the grave yard…if only she could make people believe her. If they didn’t Miller Junction would end up getting swallowed whole, straight into guts of hell…literally.

She ran along the main street, Miller Way, screaming, “They are coming, they are coming, run for your lives. The dark things are coming to steal all our souls and feed the demons.”

But no one listened to Tandel Lois now because she was the village mad woman, the village witch, and every full moon she did this and every full moon nothing happened. By the next morning everyone simply went on with their lives and most, despite her insane full moon rampages down Miller Way at midnight on the full moon went to her for their healing herbs which everyone agreed, seemed to work.

These rampages had been going on for so long no one quite remembered when she started them or when she began visiting the grave yard.

Then one day old Mrs. Betridge, who depended on Tandel Lois for her heart medicine, went to pick up her herbs at the cottage on the edge of town on the threshold of the grave yard, but instead of finding the herb woman waiting for her as always she found her slumped at her tea table, pale and dead with her black cat in her lap who was also dead.

On the table was a note, “Dear Mrs. Betridge. Since you are likely the one who will find me please see to the arrangements of my burial. It is very simple. It is all written up and held in trust by Mr. Cother, our village lawyer.”

“Dear, dear me. How ever did she know she would die? I suppose I had better fetch Doctor Felmar and Constable Little since this seems to be an unexpected death, except for herself knowing…but how…and in advance enough to write me a letter.” Mrs. Betridge worried frightfully.

“Oh. There is more on the back, PS. And dear Mrs. Betridge, please, please watch the Dark Things Living in the grave yard. Soon they will come for all of you.”

“Oh bother, You and your nonsense Tandel.” Emily roared hopelessly, threw her arms up in the air and ran off to fetch the doctor and the constable and of course Mr. Lonick who owned the local newspaper so he could pen a timely obituary.

It was convenient that the three were at the general store having coffee with the Old Boys Club, the wives called it. They were just getting started on discussing the World Events page in Mr. Lonick’s newspaper, which he borrowed from the internet, when Emily barged in excitedly, announcing that she had found Tandel Lois, dead and cold, sitting at her tea table and the doctor, the constable and the editor had better get along down there right away, smartly, and sharply.

Emily was known to be a force to reckon with when her dander was up. It wasn’t seconds gone before the three important persons of the moment were off, but not before topping up their coffees since it would probably be a long morning spent at the cottage on the edge of the village on the threshold of the graveyard. And they manage the journey with not a drop spilt.

Now we shall leave those folks to their business with the dearly departed.

2

Sophia, aka Sophie, and sometimes even Soph cried very hard when she heard that Tandel Lois had died. Tandel had been teaching Sophia all about herbs and potions and things like Word Magic.

Word Magic was Sophie’s favourite and she had learned some really good ones, like Robin rubrum pectus. When she spoke those words while holding out her arm the nearest robin would come and perch on her finger and sing, as long as Sophia stood very still and didn’t make another sound.

She had learned words that made flowers dance and she could change the weather but knew enough to leave things well enough alone in that department unless it was critically important. Changing the weather in one place would affect the weather in all places connected, which was just about everywhere and anywhere.

Tandel had told her once, not long before that fateful morning of her death, “Sophie my dear, someday, soon I feel, I will be taken away. It really is near my time since I am all of a century and them some old, though I don’t look it and I can still run like a girl when the full moon is rising and the Dark Things in the grave yard are out dancing and carousing. But no one listens to my warning that the Dark Things will find a way out of their grave yard and come for the souls of the living.

When my day comes all of this will be yours. I have made sure that Mr. Cother, the lawyer has it all written up, but only in a way that he needs to know. Only you need know all the little secrets I keep and all the secret places and of course the book of Magic Words and where it is hidden. And my dear there is a little money too, to keep you until you have learned all about herbs and spices and potions and most important, the magic that keeps the dark things from escaping the grave yard.”

“But Mother Lois,” Sophie always called the old crone, Mother Lois, “I am young, maybe too young to wear your cloak.” Sophie argued.

“Ah, well, Landers will help you along. He will come from the woods and be your guardian until you come of age.” Replied Tandel.

“Oh. I have almost forgotten about him. I have not seen him in, well, since I was child, many years ago.” Said Sophie.

“He will know when to come and what to do.” Replied Tandel.

When the news reached Sophie, she went immediately to visit Mr. Cother, not because she was in a hurry to receive her inheritance, but she wanted to make sure he knew about her guardian, Landers, which he hadn’t.

Landers in fact arrived at the cottage while the doctor, constable and the editor were still at the cottage on the edge of the village on the threshold of the graveyard. Landers quickly connected with Sophie and though strict in rule, almost from his first words, “You must obey me little girl or I can not help you,” but he was warm hearted in that old grandfatherly way old men can be, and he was old, but not as old as Tandel Lois.

“I shall miss her.” Is all he said about her passing. Then he said, “And the first thing you must do little girl is find your Landers, because a witch without a Landers is only half a witch and of course, if you don’t already have one, you must find a black cat, who must come to you willingly.”

“And how would I do all that?” asked Sophie skeptically.

Landers smiled. “Look in the book of Magic Words when it comes to you and find the Rhyme of The Cat. Memorize the rhyme and then when ever you see a black cat speak those magic words. If the cat is yours it will come to you and never leave.”

Sophie said, “I will do that as soon as I have the book.”

3

If you know anything at all about wills and inheritances and readings and the slowly turning gears of bureaucracy, then you know it takes weeks at least and some time months for all the red tape to be cut and disposed of. Fortunately, because Tandel Lois has crossed all her Ts and dotted all her “I s and did a few important things ahead of time, like tell Landers to give Sophia the book as soon as possible and to tell the lawyer to allow Sophia to begin living in the cottage, on the edge of the village on the threshold of the grave yard immediately. In short, “Give her the keys.

Tandel had also drawn a map to all the secret hiding places in and around the cottage, including a secret door that looked like an outside entrance to the cellar but actually went to a completely different room where Tandel conducted most of the brewing for her most special potions.

Essentially, under Landers’ supervision Sophia/ Sophie took over the cottage and Tandel’s place in it. And as soon as she received the book of Magic Words Sophie memorized the cat chant, “Come Cat, Black Cat, Come sit on my lap.” (Cattus agite: Nigrum Cattus, hic side in gremio meo). Of course, the key to making it work was to say or chant it three times while close to a black cat until you find just the right one who will answer with a long low purr and follow you home. It can happen quickly or take weeks or months because there is only one cat who will answer. Sometimes that cat is far, far away. But sometimes living in a village near a forest and on the threshold of a grave yard a cat could be, just a whisper away.

Sophie, with Landers guidance and sometimes instructions, studied everyday and it wasn’t long before she understood what and who she would become. She also discovered that it is not always good to memorized Magic Words and Phrases and chants. Sometimes, especially the very special ones it is better only to read them as they are needed. If you try to learn them all by heart you could confused them, mix them and that my friends could be a huge disaster in the art of magic. In fact, it was just that sort of thing that caused all the trouble that the wee town of Miller Junction got entangled in being partly their own fault but not entirely, as you will see, a point I shall elaborate on shortly.

Sophie was living in the cottage full time while still taking the bus to school away in the city some twenty miles away. She would soon graduate and had, had plans to attend college but those plans were quickly changing because she was beginning to embrace her new place in life and saw that one day she would be the village witch. In fact, the people there abouts were already coming to her for remedies, which she brewed from Tandel’s recipe books, which is actually herb lore, not magic.

Landers would come from the woods everyday but as time passed, he came less often and warned Sophie that she must soon find her own Landers.

“But how ever will I find a consort willing to live their life in the woods and?” she asked one day.

“It will happen if you simply keep an eye out for that spirit that touches your spirit.” Said Landers.

“Were you lovers?” Sophie asked bluntly.

“We were everything together, but we were solitaries as well, as you will become because all her secrets will soon be yours and you must keep them secrets.

And Sophie did find all Tandel’s secrets, but I can't tell you about them because, after all they are secrets.

Sophie also found her Landers whose name became Walden, but that and this story do not happen together.

4

Sophie had never thought about being alone, truly solitary, until Landers came one morning and said, “My time is done little girl. I can teach you nothing more in this world. I will soon go off to find Tandel. This will be my last visit, but before I go listen to my final words.

Upon this coming full moon, the dark things lurking in the grave yard will rise and it is now that you warn these people that they are coming for their spirits, to steal them away into the dark places where dark things dwell.”

“But who are they?” asked Sophie.

Landers said as he went away, “Maybe the real question is, who were they?”

Sophie replied thoughtfully and simply, “Of course.”

She never saw Landers again, and the whispers that once spoke of him in the forest fell silent and all the creatures there lamented his passing. Yet within that lament lived a new song waiting for Sophia to hear it. And in time she did.

***

Somethings we cannot see or hear are still there.

If one but allows the spirit to watch those things can be sensed and felt and at times when the balance is equal those things that are not seen can be seen. But it takes that balance to bring on such manifestations.

Yet not all things unseen that are there are good. Somethings are dark things, hiding in dark places waiting to devour the light, the spirit the balance.

Hope is the only weapon against the darkness and those or that which dwell within it, and hope manifested in the village of Miller Junction took on the physical form and drifted at last from one spirit to another, from Tandel to Sophia, as it had drifted across many generation, watching, waiting, preparing for the dark things to break out and ravage the light and living things of this world.

Sophie sat in the chair at the tea table where her benefactor had sat contemplating for many decades before. It is where Sophie would carry on for many decades ahead. It is where she would sit every night of the full moon rising and succumb to the madness and go running along Miller Way crying out the warning which she had inherited. “They are coming, they are coming, run for your lives. The dark things are coming to steal all our souls and feed the demons.”

And no one listened.

And Sophie returned to her chair by the tea table in the cottage at the edge of the village on the threshold of the grave yard.

And the full moons of a year came and went, and the dark things came from their dark places and danced the dance of demons and stormed the threshold of the grave yard.

***

Back now to the day Tandel Lois departed her body, for something extraordinary happened then.

The doctor, the constable and the editor stood gazing at the still, quiet from of Tandel Lois, cold, and dead and looking more like the moon hag than ever before. It was just coincidental of course. that she should have had a bent spine and wizened face, but her mad excursions every full moon left the people of Miller Junction wondering if she truly was a witch, a moon hag, whimsically of course since no one truly believed in such things, at least they had not believed in such things for many generations. Not since witch craft had been proven to be naught but slight of hand, with some knowledge of herbs and spices and poisons that any student of chemistry could learn and of course there was the charlatan aspect.

But the witch, with real magic did not and had never existed and those who had suffered the tortures of witch hunters were exonerated of their crimes, at least by the folks of Miller Junction.

Said Doctor Felmar as he examined the body, “It was inevitable. Her madness has put too much stress on her heart this time. She did, if you did not know, have a troubled heart because of her twisted spine. It happens with scoliosis you know.

I will of course make a closer examination as the local coroner, but I am certain the cause of death will not vary. She simply succumbed to a heart attack.”

But even as he spoke the air rippled and something misted into the air. And Constable Little replied, “Then it is your opinion that there will be no need for an investigation?!”

“No need what so ever Constable,” the doctor answered.

“But there is a story here to be told, I think. A story of madness, of schizophrenic delusion and how it can be as deadly as any murderous act can be. And I dare say she was, at least in her own mind, tormented by dark things that dwell in dark places in the grave yard.” Cried out Editor Lonick as he scribbled in his note book.”

“Indeed, this will bring exciting reading to your paper though I dare say more of a tabloid nature than pure news of the event.” The constable scolded.

“My readers want sensation in their dull, uneventful lives and there has been precious little save Tandel’s full moon frolics, which I must say has become stale and I have run out of ways to make the event exciting,” Mr. Lonick spouted defensively.

5

It was the anniversary of Tandel Lois’s passing. It was the day Sophie was obliged to carry her predecessor’s ashes deep into the forest and spread them among the trees. It was on that day that Sophie went far into the forest and found and old shack, old but well made.

And when she went into the shack, she found it lonely and forsaken and knew that it had been Landers home, but of course there was no sign of him, yet all that was his in life remained wrapped in the squalor of neglect.

Sophie spread Tandel’s ashes nearby, neath an ancient oak, said a simply farewell then returned to the shack and shed out the loneliness and the squalor. And from that day on she kept it ready for he that would one day be her Landers.

Once back at the cottage, sitting at the tea table Sophie wondered in a whisper, “Who will you be? Do I know you yet or are we yet strangers and how long before you come to take your place in the forest?” She wondered this with whimsical anticipation. Then Sophie went to her daily studies lurking through her benefactor’s diaries, journals and herb recipe books then spending a little time leafing curiously through the book of Magic Words.

Then for the first time since her inheritance Sophie ventured into the secret room, the room where the real magic potions were brewed and was ever so amazed that it was kept to immaculate tidiness. And when she saw the tiny creature nestled unafraid in a quiet corner she was only mildly surprised, surprised that Mistifal truly existed even though the creature had been named in the diaries of Tandel Lois.

“Welcome Hag Sophie. Are you ready to transcend into your natural form?” asked the Sprite.

“Is this not my natural form?” asked Sophie.

“It is the form to be seen by mortals, but you are a moon hag, and your true form should reflect this.” Answered Mistifal.

“Will mortals see my true nature?” Sophie queried.

“Yes, but only once in many moons. Only on those years of thirteen moons and only on that moon called the Blue Moon.” Mistifal explained.

“What of the madness?” Sophie asked anxiously.

“It is not madness dearie. You, as was Tandel and all those before her, back to those terrible days of mayhem, the messenger that the dark things living in the dark places of the grave yard are. waiting for their time of vengeance. You have all made certain that Miller Junction never forgets for if they do all will be lost.” Answered the sprite.

“When will these dark things break down the threshold that yet holds them in, at bay.” Sophie asked.

Mistifal did not answer. Instead she asked, “Have you come to brew a true potion?”

“I came to look see, but now that I am here, I will brew a potion.” Sophie replied.

And she did, but only a simple thing that would bring light to a shadow where there should not be a shadow. On the edge of the village before the threshold of the grave yard, a shadow in the shape of rotting wood. The potion would revitalize the wood and re-strengthen the threshold.

6

Every morning there after Sophie would examine herself in the mirror on the wall over hanging the wash basin in the bathroom. She marveled at the vison of her own youth seen through the eyes of her wizened moon hag which manifested faintly behind the girl. It was the moon hag from which she now had all the knowledge written in the book of Magic Words, the book of magical potions and the Book Of Dark Things That Dwell in the Dark Places of the grave yard. And through the moon hag she knew all their names, the victims of an ancient rapt of misinformation that declared witch craft a black art. And that witchcraft was neither good or evil, it simply is and defined by the wielder who is good or evil. And there is evil, great evil, powerful evil in the world and dark malicious spirits who value power over all other things, power over the spirit of the weak.

And a living darkness masked in kindness came to Miller Junction on the wings of deceit, a shadow of past, possessed by the past, obsessed with the past.

His name was Garrison, Janard Garrison, a name long in the past of the village but thought extinguished in that past and though some what removed, a relative of Wex Lonick, a cousin of sorts.

“I would never have known of Miller Junction or anything about you cousin Wex, had it not been for a marriage, some generations ago between a Randell Janard Garrison and Manny Lonick.” Janard explained.

“Hmm. I have a recollection of a great, great, maybe even greater aunt, but I never knew she married. Of course, I am not up on those off shoot members of the family.” Replied Wex Lonick.

“Well, the truth is, according to my research into family histories and the family tree Manny came visiting after she married but never returned to her city life. It is said she simply vanished and there were rumours that she was accused and condemned as a witch and thus executed. I have come to see if she was given a grave.”

Wex Lonick grinned and said, “If she was buried here it would have been in the old grave yard at the edge of the village. You can search the grave stones, but you must remember that many of those who died in the 1890 pandemic then called the Russian Flu are buried there. It might be suggested that this aunt, many generations removed maybe have died then.”

“Unlikely since she disappeared in the mid- 1800s and during a resurgence of the old witch hunts.” Janard shot back aggressively.

“I think in that case you may want to speak with our local authority on that subject. We have our own resident apothecary, a witch who studies those old histories and is well respected here abouts, though, like her predecessor she goes a little mad every now and then, mostly on the full moon rising. She lives in the cottage at the edge of the village on the threshold of the grave yard.” Wex advised.

“Then I will pay her a visit.” Replied Janard.

After Janard departed Wex Lonick was on the phone to Doc Felmar and then Constable Little. He said to each, “Call it a gut feeling but this distant relative of mine feels off, dark. He is going to upset an apple cart or two if he goes digging around for unwanted memories. I sent him to Sophia. She will know what to do.” 

7

Sophie sat at the tea table in the tea nook with a window that looked equally toward the village and on the gate to the grave yard. She took her tea like Tandel did, at two pm come hell or high water and fortunately in both their lives neither had come. It was just a saying, mostly.

She watched as the middle-aged man approached the cottage and instantly, she shivered. She knew in her bones, the bones of her moon hag that this person would bring no good to the village, though as yet she could come up with no inkling of why, what, or how. And his arrival was not a great surprise since Doc Felmar had telephoned her.

When the man knocked on the door she said in a soft, girl’s voice, “It is not locked. You may enter if you wish.” Though she wanted to say, “If you dare.”

The door opened. Janard Garrison enter. And the air in the cottage turned chilled. Sophie shivered a little and when she took in her guest through the eyes of the moon hag, she saw his aura. It was dark, a cold dark like the dark things in the dark places of the grave yard and in that moment Sophie knew that the threshold of the grave yard was on the verge of being stormed and that she may not be able to hold back the dark things when they broke out.

He closed the door gently and in a soft, alarming voice said, “I have come to learn of my family roots and was told you are the go to person on the subject.”

“The tea is still warm. Please sit and take a cup with me.” Replied the moon hag.

Wariness flashed in the man’s eyes, but he came and sat in a chair so that when looking out the window he could see the gate of the grave yard.

Sophie poured the tea and offered him the cup. He studied it for a second longer than necessary then sipped it tentatively. Deciding then it was good he took a real taste then set the cup down and took a crumpet from a plate sitting in the middle of the tea table.

It to was good. He grew confident that the witch was unaware of his real purpose and nature.

“What do you wish to know?” Sophie enquired after a few silent moments.

“I am looking for the grave of someone I am related to though several generations removed. Her maiden name was Manny Lonick.” Janard described.

“Have you spoken with Mr. Lonick. He owns the Newspaper here?” Sophie asked, knowing full well Janard had already been to see the editor.

“It was he that sent me here.” Janard replied with just a hint of tension in his tone.

Sophie smiled. “Of course, he would.” She purred.

“Dear me.” Sophie spouted then went to the door at the back of the cottage that opened onto a garden. She chanted, Cattus agite: Nigrum Cattus, hic side in gremio meo, three times and a breath later a beautiful sleek black cat curled around a hawthorn bush and with no further fanfare followed Sophie into the cottage.

When Sophie took up her chair the cat leaped into her lap and on a single glance hissed softly at Janard.

“Her name is Essa.” The voice of the moon hag whispered in Sophie’s mind. “She senses evil in this man. It is why she came now.”

Sophie smiled and said. “I will look in the book of records. If such a person is buried here it will be written in, but I have other tasks to accomplish first. Return in three days and I will tell you what I find.”

“If it’s merely a matter of looking in a book then it could be accomplished now, and quickly,” argued Janard.

“It is not my way. Return in three days or not. Please now. Go your own way.” Sophie replied flatly.

“Very well.” Janard groaned and departed moodily.

8

Sophie retired to the secret room. She said to Mistifal, “Evil has come knocking at my door and I feel the dark things stirring in their dark places in the grave yard. Is it now then that they may storm the threshold?”

“It is not that they will storm the threshold but have conjured or cajoled an agent from without to do their bidden and open the threshold for them. The moon rises full in three days. This timing is uncanny.” Answered the sprite.

“And a cat has come to me in this same timely fashion. Tell me what I must do.” Said Sophie.

“You must listen to the moon hag. She knows the way.” The sprite advised. “And you will need this.” The sprite added and handed Sophie a twisted branch no more than a foot long and ever so delicate looking.

“You can’t be serious. A wand.” Sophie responded doubtfully. “Not just a wand. This is the branch from a great oak, the very oak tree from which wood was cut to execute the women of the witch burnings long ago in Miller Junction.” Mistifal answered gravely.

Suddenly Sophie began to vibrate, then shook and nearly convulsed and when she was at last settled the moon hag had emerged.

“This time has been long in coming. The ancients come to take revenge on the children of their executioners.” Said the hag.

“But they are not responsible for the evils of their forbearers.” Said the sprite.

And the cat purred.

“That is why we have long stood guard over the threshold of the grave yard where dark things live in their dark places. “The battle will be raised when the next full moon rises, and the people of Miller Junction must awake and come to their own defense for even a hag and a cat and a sprite of power can not stand alone against this storming.”

“He will unlock the gate. He cares nothing of ancestry, though he lies not about his heritage. He is their minion to act in world where they can not until the moon is full and the moon hag is in flight warning the village of its plight.”

Sophie nearly collapsed. She knew all that had gone on. She knew what she must do and her only hope to raise the alarm so that people would listen was through the very thing that would bring destruction upon them. She must draw out the harbinger and his purpose.

She found the name he wanted and called upon him. “I was rude before and should have heard your plea. Come now into the grave yard and find your ancestor.”

Janard looked upon Sophie with suspicion. “I am no longer so certain that my claim is worthy of attention. I have new information that suggests that I am wrong in my assessment.”

Sophie could hear the lie in his voice. She urged, “But the information you brought has proved accurate. There is a Manny Lonick buried in the old grave yard and she died a terrible death. Burned as a witch.”

Wex Lonick came from the peripheral of vision. He was anxious and excited. There was news to be written up in his paper. “Extra, Extra, Read all about it,” echoed silently in his head. “Come along Janard. Let us visit the old grave yard.” He urged.

“No. It is too soon.” Cried Janard as he ran off.

“Now what’s that all about?” Wex Lonick gushed disappointedly.

“They are coming Mr. Lonick and Janard is the one who will open the threshold.” Replied Sophie.

“Oh. That. Old news. Old news. I want new news.” Wex blubbered.

9

Sophie knew there was only one place to be on the night of the full moon rising. Before the gate at the threshold of the grave yard. She knew she could not stop Janard from sundering the barrier of the threshold for if it was the only Magic Words he knew, and they were all he needed to lose the dark things that live in the dark places of the grave yard. Dark things that would rise together in a battle of vengeance against the living whose ancestors had caused them such torment and agony.

She had gone madly up and back along Miller Way pleading for the villagers to take up a guard against the army of dark things, come to steal their souls and feed them to the demons of darkness. But they hid behind their doors and windows, all but three, Doc Felmar, Wex Lonick and Constable Little who came for their own reasons and uncertain what good they could do, if indeed there was anything that needed doing, for they were pressed to believe.

Janard stood at the threshold of the grave yard before the twisted iron gate. His voice was raw and angry and the words that spewed chanting three times past his lips were deadly. “Ab iniuria caesum locat aras starent metu liberet habitantibus reatu.” And when the chant was complete the threshold exploded in shards of blackness and the iron gate was sundered into twisted wreckage on the ground. Janard turned to face the foe, his army of dark things closing in behind him waiting to rage on through the village to rip the spirits from their mortal bodies.

But it was not going to be made easy for them. In that moment Sophie with her fragile wand and the cat, who was now a panther with fire claws and a steaming breath and Mistral the sprite barred the way. And behind them the three brave spirits now possessed of warrior’s souls, glimmering like exploding sunlight. All waiting for the battle to rage. And all their spirits united to be one great power of light.

“One cast of energy from this wand will destroy all of you and you will never find peace, if anything of you remains, for this energy is the only force that can destroy all life force.” The moon hag cried out to the wreathing dark things.

Janard spoke for them, “We demand justice.”

“This is not justice for these are not those who bestowed such atrocities on you mortal selves. This would be but vengeance and in the whole of all things there is no satisfaction to be had from it.” Replied the moon hag.

In the end they came in force and the night beneath the full moon rising exploded in a blinding light and there echoed across the ages the voice of death from the those that were dark things once hiding in dark places in the grave yard, now rendered to nothing in the vast reaches of the universe.

And the full moon rising wept. And that which is made of dark things fell like dusty dark rain into the earth of the grave yard and no more did dark things dwell in the grave yard on the threshold of the village.

Green things and flowers grew between the grave stones ever after and the witch of Miller Junction found her Landers whose name is Walden. There were no more mad filled episodes on the full moon rising for all was at peace and forgiven. And if you go ever and anon on a quiet afternoon drive you may stumble upon Miller Junction, a place of quiet, blissful peace. Or you may pass by if you get a little dust caught in the peripheral vision of your eye.

And somewhere in the night upon the full moon rising the Moon Hag sings.