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A "Santa Maria" Story
James M. Sullivan
Start from the beginning of the Santa Maria Series
Mac responded to the knocking with a simple, "Come in". Mac's agent, Diasuke Endo, entered the apartment. A grocery bag cradled in his arm, as always dressed in a stylish suit. After closing the door behind him, his mouth swiftly went from a friendly smile to the tight purse of confusion. Across the room Mac sat in his favorite overstuffed chair with his arms tightly crossed against his chest; his eyes narrowed in anger, glaring at Diasuke.
"Is everything... has something happened?" the well-manicured art agent probed. With no response other than the continued rancorous stare, Diasuke crossed the front of the room and set his bundle down on the smoked glass tabletop. "Perhaps we should talk over some tea and..." The blond shot out of the overstuffed chair, cutting off Diasuke, and traversed the distance between them with near-preternatural speed.
"I don't want any fucking tea!" Mac was red-faced and shaking. Diasuke stepped back deftly and swept his arm out in front of him, his palm forward, his last two fingers folded down and the other digits extended outwards. Mac visibly relaxed, but took the moment of forced calm to collect himself. He stood erect, using his height to help him look imposing. "I don't want your tea, or your balms, or your anything. All I want from you is the truth."
"I'm certain I don't know what you're talking about," the agent said in a soothing, even tone.
"No lies Diasuke. I remember what happened the night Adam was murdered, and you won't be robbing me of my memory again," Mac spat back. The two just stared at each other, each second becoming an eon.
"Mac, let's just sit down and talk. I'm sure this is very confusing for you."
"I'd rather stand. Who killed Adam?"
"No, it isn't. A name, just a name. That's not complicated at all."
"If you truly remember, then you know that the person was robed, the face obfuscated in the shadows of the hood. In fact, that's an effect of those robes. I don't know who it was, just the faction. Please, Mac, can we sit?"
"No. What faction?"
Diasuke turned and covered his mouth in thought, then quickly turned again, jumping into a defense stance. It was Mac who stepped back now. Diasuke began chanting in Japanese.
"That's enough, Diasuke!" Bree shouted as she and Rodrigo came running out of Rod's bedroom. "You want to see what I can do first hand?" She stared at him, brow furrowed. He stopped, but kept his self-protective posture. His eyes, wide with surprise, showed he was caught of guard.
"Yes," she said, crossing her arms, her face stern, "and I'm prepared to stop you from taking his memory again." Diasuke stared at her for a moment before answering.
"How did you restore it?" he asked.
"That's not important," Rod chimed in. "What is important is that you start telling us what you know about Adam's murder." Again, a pregnant pause before the enigmatic agent answered.
"He was murdered by a member of the Ghost Lords. May we please sit down and discuss this civilly?" Mac was about to protest, but Rod put his hand on the tall blond's shoulder and guided him back to his chair. Diasuke resumed a normal stance and walked over and took a seat. Bree and Rod settled on the couch. "I don't know why they killed Adam, other than he was there. I am certain the intended targets were Aubrey and I." Rod's eyes darted to Diasuke at the mention of his friend's name.
Why would they want either of you dead?" Mac asked, his voice tight from holding back shouting and tears simultaneously.
"Because of Bree... well, both Bree and Rodrigo. At the time we were not certain which one would be the new power, but it is clear now that it is Bree." It was Bree's turn to look at Diasuke, her face betraying her earlier bluff that she knew exactly what was going on. "Aubrey and I were both assigned to watch you."
"So these Ghost Lords killed Aubrey?" Rod asked.
"No. Aubrey isn't dead. She is... injured."
Rodrigo bolted off the couch. "Take me to her! I need to see her, now!"
Diasuke stood. "I can do that."
Bree stood up and looked over to Mac. "You coming?"
"No. I need to process."
"I'll stay then."
"No, go. Rod may need you and I really just need some time alone."
"You sure?" He nodded. Bree, Rodrigo, and Diasuke left. Mac got up and poured himself two fingers of scotch.
"Thanks for meeting me," Grace said, "I really appreciate it."
"Sure. No problem. I don't want to be presumptuous, but you should know I have a girlfriend." Duncan replied.
"I know." She continued before he could question her, "I know all about you, Duncan. This may be hard for you, but I'm not who you think I am. My name isn't Grace and I'm not a photographer." Duncan's response was a blank stare. "I'm taking you into a great confidence, please don't walk away until I've finished. She opened her purse and tossed a badge on the table. He picked it up and there was her picture on a Federal Bureau of Investigation badge. "My name is Evangeline Murphy and your roommate Rodrigo is under investigation."
"Drug trafficking and he is getting your girlfriend mixed up in this business." He started to say something and she silenced him with her hand. "I can't get into to details, but I am authorized to offer you a deal if you are willing to do us a little favor. If you are willing to observe those two and report the details to us, we would be willing to overlook any charges that could be brought against Bree. Are you willing to hear me out?" Duncan nodded and settled in to listen to the details.
Mac walked along the street aimlessly, lost in his renewed grief. As he brushed past people, a glimpse of something familiar caught his eye. It was a small Native American statue that had belonged to Adam. He turned his head. It was in a shop window. He did not glance at the name; he just went right through the red door, the brass bell screaming his rushed entrance.
"Hello there, moppet. What can I do ya for?" called the red-haired proprietor.
"That statue in the window, of the coyote, I want it."
"Ah, yes, moppet. A fine piece. A rendition of Coyote and Gismen, the Ohlone sun God. I'll give it to ya as a gift, provided you purchase another item from me I've been trying to shift. A decorative bow. Interested?" He stared at it. He regretted having given Rod Adam's things to sell. He had to at least get the statue back.
"Sure, let's do it."
"All right then, love. Why don't you help yourself to a fairy cake and some tea while I fetch the bow and make out a sales slip, dear." He turned and took a cupcake.
"So, was there anything else that came in with that statue?" He asked between bites, "I'd be interested in any other things that came in with it."
"No, love. It came in as a single item." Mac started to think that was suspicious, but his thoughts drifted to how tasty his cupcake was.
Bree and Rodrigo stepped out of the van. Against their better judgment, they had left with a man named Oliver that Diasuke had introduced them to. He was extremely handsome and had midnight blue hair that he wore back in a ponytail. He had driven them up into the hills around Santa Maria. Looking around, the two spotted a grouping of brightly colored tents and pavilions roughly a hundred yards down from where the van had stopped.
"Come this way," Oliver said, starting off in the direction of the circus-looking encampment. As they approached, it became clear that it was more of a renaissance festival than a circus and almost everyone running about had painted faces, oddly-colored hair, and manufactured fairy wings. "Welcome to the Faemoot, Bree and Rodrigo. We are pleased to have you here."
"What exactly is this place?" Bree asked.
"I'm sure you heard about it as kid, Bree. I certainly did. The crazy hippy commune where they all think they are fairies. I always assumed it was closer to Santa Cruz." Rod said.
"Not exactly correct," Oliver replied, "but not without some merit. The Faemoot is a gathering of those who have fae blood in their veins, whether it is by descent from the famous Irish fairies or the lesser known Nanehi of Cherokee legend."
"So, there are actual fairies?" Bree questioned.
"Yes, but not here," Oliver said "No fae is powerful enough to remain on this world anymore. Between dwindling power and the increased difficulty of being on a planet so choked with pollution and disease, we do not see true fae anymore." Oliver stopped at a big blue tent bedecked in silver fabric and glass ornaments. He pulled back the cover and gestured for them to enter.
Inside there were more glass ornaments hanging from above, winking with reflected light from a plethora of candles; it effectively created a night skin. In the center of the tent was a mountain of silk pillows in every color imaginable, from taupe to crimson to violet. Atop the mountain was an old woman with long silver hair, wearing a pink dressing gown finished with black lace trim. The lady, who might have been as old a century, turned her head and smiled at them.
"Rod," she croaked, "I am happy to see you."
"Nice to me you too," he said, looking to Oliver for guidance. The old woman wheezed out a couple of small laughs.
"They didn't tell you. It's me Rod. It's Aubrey."
"No. It can't be." Rod looked to Bree, then Oliver. "No way!"
"I'm sorry Rod, but it's true," Oliver said. "She lost all of the fae magic within her, causing her physical body to match her actual age. It happened the night Bree awoke."
"What? No." Bree protested. "I can't have done this..."
"But you did," Oliver continued. "You drew in the magic around you when you woke up. You were lucky you didn't burn out your Kindler." Bree looked at Rod, then the aged Aubrey.
"I didn't mean to... I had no idea. I..."
"But you can help me. You can help Rod send me home," Aubrey rasped.
"How?" she asked.
"You can power Rodrigo so he can open the gate to T?na n?."
After much discussion, Bree and Rodrigo agreed to open the gate that would allow Aubrey to go to Fairyland and live as she once was. They entire group had moved to a clearing near the camp where there were seventeen stones, each with different mystical carvings, arranged in a circle. Oliver had instructed them in what they had to do.
Rod had pushed up his shirt sleeves and was kneeling before the stones on the outside of the circle. Bree sat crossed legged next to him, her hands on his back. Rod looked to Aubrey, then back to the circle and bent forward, planting his palms at the edge of the circle.
"I can feel it, the gate. It's cold and thick."
"I don't see anything," Bree said.
"No, I can just feel it, like energy; it's not a physical touch."
"Just concentrate," Oliver piped in.
"Okay." Rod clenched his eyelids and his arms went taught. "I can feel it, opening; slowly. It's so heavy." Rod gasped as Bree closed her eyes and did as Oliver had said; she willed her essence into him. Suddenly the runes on the stones flared in shades of blue and sea green. "It's opening!" Then a shimmering column of iridescent light filled the circle and Bree and Rodrigo were knocked backwards. Rod opened his eyes and watched a multihued kaleidoscope of butterflies stream out of the pillar of light. Blinking his eyes because they were adjusting to the bright light, he looked around. To his surprise, it was Bree who was the source of the most intense light, a multitude of sparkles whizzing about her, each a tiny supernova of white light. Everything else had changed too.
Oliver had slightly pointy ears and those gathered around had peculiar traits: Raccoon ears, fox tails, horns, tinted skin in various earth tones and greens and fangs. Some had feathers or bulbous noses or gems upon their flesh. Aubrey was the most changed; she was young again. Her hair was in long ringlets of pink and black, and she wore an intricate gown that looked as if it had been woven from spun sugar. Her ears were extremely elongated and small earrings of pink topaz and onyx adorned them. She stood and walked to Rod. She extended a hand and assisted him to his feet. She cupped his face with her hands and kissed him on the forehead. Where her lips touched he felt warmth that spread from that radius. She turned from him and waved to those assembled, then walked through the pillar. A moment later the pillar went out and everyone was as they had been.
The ancient woman stirred on her jade throne.
"A portal," she said to the empty room. She waved of her gnarled hand and the liquid inside the goblet beside her ignited. Moments later a young woman in an ivory kimono with a red obi enter and bowed deeply. "Bring me Senshi Diasuke. The Maven Praesidium must be contacted; a portal has been opened and there must be an investigation, possibly a trial. The only being that I know of present in Santa Maria capable of such a feat is the Key. Green as she may be, there are still rules to be followed. I suspect she will be learning that very soon." The young woman nodded, bowed again, and left the chamber. The old woman went back to resting.
Story by James M. Sullivan, Copyright 2007
Image by Rory Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2007