Chapter 12: The chapter wherein our Heroine finds a zombie at her door and a lawyer behaves in a thoroughly unprofessional manner.
My alarm clock went off far too soon for my liking, but I managed to sit up and turn it off, without giving in to my desire to hurl it across the room.
“Morning,” Jenny called from the stove.
It took me a minute to remember the Ouija board incident from the night before. Had it really happened? I thought about grabbing my phone, watching the video again, but even having just woken up, found I was too tired.
Jenny sounded far too chipper. It was like she didn’t need to sleep, but then I had to wonder maybe she didn’t. I had no idea what being half-siren meant. I grunted a response to her and headed directly to the bathroom, assuming after I’d had a shower I’d feel like a person again.
Once I was dressed and enjoying the pancake breakfast Jenny had made, I admitted I was feeling better. We’d decided to get to Dee’s before the lawyer. Jenny had suggested that Dee may have books on lemurias, and I wanted a chance to look. At this point, all I wanted was to figure out how to call my mother.
Jenny promised she’d let me know if the lawyer was a Preter. I was beginning to hope that I developed a preter-detecter too. Having to rely on Jenny to tell me who wasn’t human just wasn’t convenient.
After I finished the breakfast dishes, we headed over to Dee’s. I hadn’t been back since the break-in and the house was already starting to look abandoned. Maybe it was just a feeling because it looked the same as always. Dee’s gardener was still mowing the lawn, and Mrs. Finch was picking up the mail. There wasn’t anything about the house that said “empty.” Other than it was empty.
Jenny and I headed inside, and I immediately began opening the shades. I didn’t want to be in a dark house. Jenny and I both took a moment to stare at the dining room table. It was still set for the dinner we’d never had. We stood arm in arm and struggled not to cry looking at the table.
I finally took a shuddering breath, “We should probably put the dishes away.”
Jenny gave a weepy nod.
We both began stacking the plates and taking them to the kitchen. Once they were put away, we both sat at the kitchen table. I offered to make coffee, but neither of us wanted it. Sitting in the house with Jenny felt too much like Dee was going to come home any minute, and I had to remind myself that she wasn’t going to come home.
It suddenly really hit me that if I could figure out how my powers worked, that I could talk to her again. When Jenny had mentioned it, I don’t think I’d really thought about what it meant. If I could talk to ghosts, I could still have Dee in my life, maybe not the way I wanted, but I could talk to her. I glanced at Jenny, who was staring around the kitchen looking lost.
“I’m going to start looking through her books,” I said standing.
Jenny started at my abrupt move. “Um, ok?”
I realized I was smiling, “If I can figure out how to use my…” I waved my hand, “powers, mojo, whatever, I can talk to Dee again.” I could hear the excitement in my voice.
Jenny’s face slowly transformed into a smile. “But what about the spell? We don’t know anything about that.”
I waved it away. “We can figure that out. We’ve gotten this far.” I smiled and headed into Dee’s office. I admitted to myself that I’d let the spell slip my mind. I had no idea how to undo what Dee had done, but she wouldn’t tell me to call my mother if she knew I couldn’t break the spell somehow.
I opened the door to Dee’s office and jumped a little at a knock on the front door. I frowned, the lawyer wasn’t due for another hour at least. I hoped it wasn’t Mrs. Finch. Jenny had assured me that neighbor was a human, so if she wanted to chat, we couldn’t research spells and séances.
I hurried to the door and already had it halfway opened before it occurred to me that anyone could be out there. Including whoever had broken into the house. I held my breath and was relieved to find Officer Garcia on the porch. I hadn’t seen him since he took my statement about the break-in. Kyle said he’d make sure that Garcia left out any of the preter stuff.
“Good Morning ma’am.”
“Hey, Officer Garcia.” I smiled. He looked at me blankly, like we’d never met.
“Ma’am? Have we met?”
Was this what Kyle meant when he said he’d broken regulations and ‘taken care’ of things. Did he have some way to make people forget? That was a creepy thought. “Um, no.” I tried to cover my confusion, “Can I help you with something?”
He continued to frown at me, “I’m going to need to see some id, please. This house is supposed to be vacant.”
I paused, whatever Kyle had done to Officer Garcia was quickly becoming more than creepy. “Um, sure. I’m Hero Adams. This is,” I paused and corrected myself, “was my aunt’s house.” I gestured for him to come inside and walked to the couch for my purse.
I noticed that Garcia didn’t come inside. I showed him my id. He glanced at it and then back at me.
“Sorry to have bothered you, ma’am.” He said curtly and began walking away. I followed his progress and saw that his cruiser was parked farther down the street between two other cars. It had made it easy to miss, but I didn’t miss that he got on his cell phone as he walked away, or that he got in the car, but didn’t leave.
I shuddered. It was like he was a zombie or something. Could Kyle do something like that to a person?
Jenny came into the living room. “Is the lawyer early?”
I shook my head and shut the door. I told her about zombie Garcia. She peeked out of the front window and confirmed that he was still sitting there.
She turned back to me, “I told you lilus were dangerous.”
I shook my head, “I can’t believe that Kyle would turn some guy into a zombie.” Even as I said it, I realized that I didn’t know him. Given his almost frantic need to protect me, I had no idea what he was capable of if he thought I was in danger.
Jenny simply shrugged, “He’s not a zombie. He’s been conditioned to follow someone’s orders. And those orders seem to be to watch this house. Who else would have done that?”
I hated how logical it sounded. No one else but Kyle would have done that. I pulled out my cell phone and called him. I got his voicemail so I left a message asking him if he’d asked Officer Garcia to watch the house. Maybe he hadn’t turned that nice guy into a zombie. And no matter how frightening I found the possibility that Kyle had turned someone into a zombie, it was more frightening to consider the possibility that someone else had done it to him. And whoever it was, had ordered him to watch the house.
Jenny waited until after I’d made the call to ask, “Should we start checking the books?”
I nodded weakly, “I don’t think he did that.”
Jenny nodded, “I know.” She sighed, “And maybe he didn’t, but I don’t want to have to think about who did do it if he’s innocent.”
I didn’t tell her how closely her words echoed my thoughts. We both headed into Dee’s office and started looking through the books. Neither of us knew what we were looking for, specifically.
Jenny scrunched up her nose thinking, “Maybe we should focus on the really old stuff. Like handwritten books.” She gestured at a shelf of clearly modern books. “I doubt any preter would publish a book of their secrets.”
“Sounds reasonable,” I answered and started scanning the shelves at the top. Most of the books there looked old. At least they were bound in what looked like worn leather.
I pulled a dining room chair into the already cramped office and climbed up. I started handing the books down to Jenny. She set them on Dee’s desk. I hopped off of the chair, “Let’s start taking a look.” I tried to sound less overwhelmed then I felt. I was afraid that all of these books would be in Greek or Sanskrit or some other language I had no hope of reading. And I was still distracted by Officer Garcia. I was sure that he was still sitting out there, just watching. And Kyle hadn’t called back yet.
I pushed all of my thoughts aside and picked up a book. Printed. Old, but printed. I put it aside and watched Jenny do the same with the book she was looking at. We made it through the first stack pretty quickly and started on the next shelf.
The first book we opened made us pause. It was a scrapbook.
Jenny glanced at me, “Have you seen this before?”
I shook my head. “Come on,” I waved her into the dining room. We sat at the table and started paging through the book. The first page was a photograph of Dee and my grandmother. It was similar to the one I’d found on the mantle, but they looked younger in this picture. I glanced at the writing under the picture, “Dorothea and Ellenore at Vassar 1940”
I looked at Jenny, “I didn’t know my grandmother went to Vassar.”
Jenny looked at the picture, “They both look so young.”
I nodded in agreement and turned to the next page. There was a flyer for a lecture at Duke University on séances. Underneath someone had written, “Our First Outing.” I frowned, “You know this isn’t Dee’s handwriting.”
Jenny glanced at it, “Are you sure?”
I frowned at her, “I didn’t spend half my high school years learning to forge notes for nothing. This isn’t her writing. Do you think it could be my grandmother’s?”
“It makes sense. This looks like it’s about them.”
The opposite page held more photos. I looked at each one and saw at least the hint of my face in the photos of my grandmother. The first picture showed the two of them standing in front of a car. I wondered if it had belonged to them, or if they’d borrowed it. I wondered if that’s how they got to Duke for the lecture. The next couple of pages were more snapshots that recorded their trip from New York to North Carolina.
I turned the page and found both of their graduation announcements pasted next to pictures of them wearing their caps and gowns. We hadn’t gotten any further when another knock on the door interrupted us.
This time it was Mr. Nix, the attorney. He wasn’t what I expected. He was older, not as old as Dee, but easily in his late 40s or early 50s. With hair graying at the temples and pair of thin-framed glasses. He wore his well-tailored suit with ease.
“Mr. Nix,” I shook his hand, “Please come in.”
“Thank you, Ms. Adams.” He entered the house, and I directed him to the dining room. I noticed that Jenny had picked up the scrapbook and laid it on the buffet behind her. I caught Jenny’s eye and she gave me a barely perceptible nod. So, Mr. Nix was a preter.
Once we were seated, Jenny at least remembered her manners and offered him a drink. She left us to make coffee.
“So Mr. Nix what happens now?” I asked deciding to get to the point.
“You’re direct.” He said and I thought I saw the hint of a smile. “But please, call me John.” He laid his briefcase on the table. “First, I have been instructed to give you this.” He pulled a package from the briefcase. Whatever it was, it was in a box and wrapped in brown paper.
I took the package. It was heavy for its size. Maybe it was just searching Dee’s library or maybe it was wishful thinking on my part, but it was book-sized. I itched to open it now but set it aside.
“Ok, packaged received.” I glanced at him, “Do I need to sign something?” Again, I was sure I saw the hint of a smile.
“Not yet. He pulled out a sheaf of papers.” He glanced at the top page, “You already know that you are Dorothea’s only heir, so we can return to the will later if you wish.”
“You must understand that Dorothea has an extensive estate. You are of course familiar with this property,” he gestured to the house and didn’t wait for my acknowledgment. “She also owned Nekyia Press, along with properties in Las Vegas, New York City, Boston, San Francisco, and Berkely.” He paused, “And those are just the ones in the U.S.” This time he did smile, probably smiling to see my jaw hit the floor. “Along with the publishing house, which I must say does not generate much income, she owned shares in many mainstream publishing houses, along with some later internet business stocks.”
I sat gaping at him. Now I felt like an idiot. He’d said her estate was complicated, and I’d misjudged what he’d meant. I kind of thought it meant that she owed money on the house or something. I never thought that it meant she was some business mogul. I opened and closed my mouth a few times, but couldn’t find anything to say.
I was rescued when Jenny returned with coffee. She even used Dee’s coffee service.
“Thank you, Ms. Rondalay.” He smiled at her and took the cup she offered him.
I managed to collect myself as he added cream to his coffee.
“Um, so what does all this mean? I think I misunderstood complicated when we spoke.”
Jenny looked confused.
Mr. Nix turned his attention from Jenny and I noticed the hint of a predatory smile. Maybe I’d imagined it because when he looked at me, it was gone. “It means Ms. Adams, that unless you live some sort of extravagant lifestyle, you can conceivably live comfortably off the interest and monies from her properties for life.”
Again, I gaped at him. I must have been misunderstanding him because I was fairly certain he was telling me that I was rich, and that didn’t make sense at all.
“So you’re saying that Hero is rich?” Jenny asked, her voice direct.
He turned back to her, “Yes that is the gist of it.” I noticed that he kept his eyes locked on her for a few seconds too long.
Jenny narrowed her eyes at him, “Well Mr. Nix, who handled Dee’s finances because Hero will need to speak to him or her.” Her voice had taken a sharp edge, both dangerous and husky.
“My firm has handled Dorothea’s affairs for decades. I have, of course, brought the contact information for the estate’s financial manager. Dorothea was always quite happy with Mr. Thompson’s work and,” he paused and withdrew a letter from the stack of papers, “She even wrote a few letters of recommendation for Thompson’s daughter. Ms. Thompson had planned on taking her father’s position when he retires.” He laid the letter on the table.
I watched the exchange, still trying to grasp what was going on. The idea of being rich was difficult enough but watching Jenny and Mr. Nix trying to out predator each other was just bizarre. This wasn’t the hostility I’d seen between her and Kyle. No, this was something different, and frankly, it was creepy.
I took the letter, just to get Mr. Nix’s attention back on me. “Ok, so I’m rich,” I tried not to choke on the word, “Now what?”
He turned from Jenny. “Dee established a living trust, so the transfer of ownership is relatively simple. I will need your signature on a few forms. Should you choose to continue to retain our services, we will handle everything for you.” His voice was smooth, confident. He said it as if I’d be an idiot to find my own lawyers. Of course, I didn’t know anything about lawyers or money managers, so I was stuck with them for now. I figured I’d get Jenny’s opinion when Mr. Nix left, that was if she let him leave. It wasn’t like when she met Travis, the mortician’s son. That was kind of sweet, in cougar way, this was turning into a seduction.
Thankfully, Mr. Nix kept his attention on me as he explained each form and pointed out where I needed to sign.
I cast surreptitious glances at Jenny as I signed. She seemed to be lost in thought. She kept her expression blank, but she’d wrapped her hands around the coffee cup so tightly that I was surprised it didn’t break.
“This is the form that will allow the firm of Erinyes and Furie to continue to handle the estate. Legally we are obligated to continue to handle her affairs for the next thirty days. That should give you time to engage the services of another firm if you were so inclined.” He paused, “Even if you sign this today, you can, of course, discontinue using us, if you are dissatisfied.” He turned slightly, as if he was directing his remarks to Jenny, “But I can assure you, that you will not be dissatisfied with what we offer.”
I blinked. Something was underlying that statement, something sly and well dirty. I glanced at Jenny and saw that her eyes had started to glow again. That made me panic a little. Jenny was supposed to be my preter-backup, and in less than a half an hour, this guy had her going all glowing-eyed and looking very hungry.
I had to end this now. “I’m sure you guys are great,” I said and realized that my voice was a little too loud. I scrawled my name on the final form. “If Dee trusted you, I’m sure you’re good at your job.” I could have smacked myself when I saw his smile grow a little wider.
“I assure you, I am excellent at my job.”
He didn’t even flinch when the cup Jenny clutched cracked in her hand. Luckily it was empty, or she’d be wearing coffee. She rose from the table and mumbled a hasty, “Excuse me.”
Mr. Nix rose when she did and nodded, “It’s no problem.” He watched her leave the room and sat back down.
I heard Jenny turn on the water in the kitchen. “Is there anything else?” I was curt. I don’t know what he was doing to Jenny, but the innuendo he’d brought into our conversation was totally out of line. I almost grabbed the form that agreed to let them stay in charge of Dee’s estate.
He blinked and shook his head as if shaking off a thought. “No, that is all.” He collected the forms and glanced back at the kitchen. “I didn’t realize that you would have a friend with you today.”
I looked at him blankly. “What does Jenny have to do with anything?”
He cleared his throat and looked uncomfortable. “If I’d known about her, I would have taken precautions.” He paused as if I was supposed to read between the lines. I couldn’t, but I let him go on. “For someone with my pedigree, a woman of Ms. Rondalay’s heritage is,” he paused and cleared his throat again, “a distraction.”
I continued to gaze at him coldly, “Uh-huh.” Ok, it wasn’t articulate, it wasn’t even really words, but it was all I had. I figured he meant that whatever he was made him extra-attracted to sirens.
“I do sincerely apologize.” He looked chagrined, and I heard the backdoor open and close. “I fear I have presented a very unprofessional image.” He kept his gaze focused on me, “I simply did not expect to run into one of them.” He fiddled with the papers, “Please forgive me.”
He looked contrite, well actually embarrassed. As if he’d showed up for the meeting with the wrong paperwork. Maybe it was some freak thing with him and Jenny. After all, there’s no way she’d leave me alone with him if he was a threat. She wouldn’t have let me sign the form if she thought there was something wrong with him.
I sighed, “I’m really starting to hate the whole preterworld.” I ignored his slight intake of breath, “Yeah, I know, no one talks about it. But whatever.” I sighed again. “If we meet again, I’ll be sure to let you know if Jenny’ll be there too.”
He lowered his head slightly, “Thank you, Ms. Adams. And I do hope that my deplorable behavior won’t make you change your mind about my firm. But I’m certain that you understand how some of us interact in troublesome ways”
I shrugged. I had no idea what he meant, but it reminded me of my response to Kyle. Was my attraction to him only because of him, or was it related to him being kind of a ghost? Like lilus and lemurias created some weird chemistry. I shook off my thoughts when I realized that he was still waiting for my reply. “If you were good enough for Dee.” Now I just wanted him out of the house. I wanted to find Jenny and make sure she was ok. “If there’s nothing else, I do have stuff to do.”
He collected the papers and put them back in his briefcase. “No, there is nothing else.”
I walked him to the door.
He paused in the doorway, “Please give my apologies to Ms. Rondalay. I like to think of myself as above the base-drives of my kind, and I have failed to contain them today.”
He did look upset, almost like he was going to cry or something. He stood so stiffly on the porch and gripped the handle on his briefcase so tightly his knuckles were white.
“I’ll let her know,” I said, taking pity on him. Maybe he couldn’t help turning leachours around Jenny, and other than innuendo, he hadn’t done anything wrong. “Um sorry, I didn’t warn you that she’d be here.”
He mumbled another apology and reminded me that his card and Mr. Thompson’s cards were with my copies of the forms. “Again, I do apologize.”
I nodded and watched him leave. As soon as he was off the porch, I went to find Jenny.