Beauty and the Beast: Book 7: Cult of the Golden Lion

Chapter 2

'Dad?'

Jacob rolled over on the couch listening carefully. He was sure the sound of footsteps could be heard coming up the stairs. He waited for a face to appear at the doorway.

'Am I interrupting son?'

Jacob jumped up off the couch and went to the doorway staring at his father. 'Even if you were interrupting me, it is such a rare event for you to come upstairs. Nothing I'm doing is more important than speaking with you.'

'I didn't think about it but I suppose I mostly stay downstairs.'

'Mostly? Almost always,' he affirmed.

Jacob placed an arm around his father's shoulders and drew him into the living room.

'Sit down….anywhere.'

Vincent sat heavily on the large comfy chair in the living room. His head was down, worry marring his features.

'Is something bothering you Dad?'

'Yes, I suppose. You wouldn't have seen me up here otherwise. I didn't want to worry you Jacob and I promised your mother I wouldn't but….'

'Hey, what's a little worry between father and son? It's not like we haven't had our share of rough times.'

There was no corresponding smile to this teasing and Jacob grew serious.

'You are worried.' He paused trying not to mentally access energy. He wanted any story to be his father's perceptions and not second hand energetic suppositions.

'I've been dreaming again Son. Not just dream phases but more like the powerful ones I had when I started sensing your mother so strongly after so many years. The outcome of those dreams turned out to be good. Your mother is with us, safe and sound but I must admit that the process of bringing her home was unbearably tense.'

'Is it Mama you're worried about?'

'I don't know. The elements of the dream have no meaning to me.'

'I am not a dream interpreter.'

'I know Jacob. I wanted to speak with Celeste but my time with your mother was too precious to…'

'It's fine Dad. I understand. Celeste is a better symbolic interpreter than I am. My strength is in the past, not the future.'

'I know. I know. I think I need to recall the dream out loud. There is heaviness in my heart when I think of it.'

'Tell me what you see.'

Vincent related the dream sequence to his son. 'It really is a simple vision but I am sure it has a deeper symbolic meaning,' he concluded.

Father and son pondered the idea of a large flying bird, likely a condor. Clearly the bird was a messenger. They agreed that whatever the creature held in its mouth was a message. To whom it was directed, remained a mystery.

'Let me hold your hands Dad?'

'Are you sure Jacob?'

'Of course. At most, I will only see what you have seen.'

Jacob sat on the floor in front of his father, closed his eyes and extended both hands. Vincent captured the long elegant hands of his son linking their digits and held them tightly. He created a replay of the dream in his mind and waited for Jacob to speak. He was not prepared for the violent response which ensued.

Jacob let go of his hands and started swinging his own arms around his head and body in an attitude of self protection. He waved at unseen objects shouting 'go away' in the process. Jacob jumped up and continued to move around as if pursued by some overpowering creature. Vincent realized that he must have been engaged in the same kind of behaviour to upset Catherine out of her sleep.

He could not touch or disturb Jacob in anyway. Vincent just became a silent observer hoping that whatever was chasing his son would soon be subdued, captured or chased away.

As suddenly as it started, Jacob stopped, shook himself and sat heavily on the couch.

'That was the strangest thing I have ever experienced.'

'Are you alright son?'

'I'm not sure.' Glancing down at his arms, Jacob was shocked to see red bumps coming up on the skin. It looked as if he had been bitten over and over. He placed a finger on a spot. Just as quickly as it appeared the redness disappeared.

'I wonder what this means. I know it's possible to experience a physical manifestation of something in dreams but this doesn't make sense.'

'Tell me what you saw.'

'I saw your bird. It was huge, a condor for sure. It had a twig in its mouth. The bird attacked me with its wings, but I didn't feel like it was an attack as much as being pushed along and out of the way. The twig looked like borage. That herb has some significance but I would have to look it up.'

Even as he spoke the red blotches seemed to evaporate, leaving his skin clear. 'The pecks didn't feel painful to touch but the flapping wings were powerful. For a moment the dream seemed very real.'

'Is this a sign of trouble coming Jacob?'

'We will never be without trouble. It's just that we also have to be mindful of things around us. This feels more like a warning.'

'I knew it! That tunnel is necessary. How will we get away if they come for us?'

'Dad, we don't know who 'they' is. We can't run from the unknown.'

'The safety of your mother, Cathy, Sue and the girls must be ensured.'

'We will, when the time comes. I think it's better to make our house stronger against any unknown threat than worry about an escape route.'

Vincent pondered the words of his son. He was already running ideas through his head to make the house a fortress against all attacks. He turned his attention back to Jacob.

' Listen Dad, the condor is a bird identified with California. If what Terry told me on the phone this morning is true, we can expect to meet up with her at sometime this year. Maybe it's all about her wedding.'

'Terry is not our enemy though Jacob. This doesn't feel friendly.'

'It's still just a dream Dad.' He paused, cocked his head to one side then continued, 'if I am not mistaken, Mama is going to call you in a minute. Let's be honest with her. Ok?'

Seconds later, Catherine could be heard calling her husband. Vincent went downstairs with a heavy heart. She would know immediately that he had discussed the dream with Jacob. He didn't feel any better about the outcome but he had shared his concerns. Perhaps two heads would be better than one.

Jacob stayed on the couch, reliving the stimulating moments of the dream. He didn't feel frightened. There was too much going on in their large family circle to believe that they would be safe from everything. He hoped that whatever the future held, they would be able to deal with it together. At least he had drawn the dream sequence from his father. He would see how the condor's actions next manifested if it was indeed a warning.

He put the matter from his mind and returned to the book. It wasn't particularly interesting. He fought sleep, trying to focus on the words but did not succeed. Before long Cathy was shaking his shoulder encouraging him to wake up.

'I suppose you deserve to sleep in a little Jacob Wells, but this is getting silly now.'

'I couldn't wait for you. It seems impossible to get a good sleep in this house. Every time I settle down, someone wakes me up.'

Cathy stood at the edge of the couch, hands on hips, toe tapping, and struggling not to smile. Whatever she planned to say got lost as he pulled her down on top of him.

'We have unfinished business from this morning,' he whispered, smiling into her face.

'You do. I was out. My business is done.'

'But I need your help with mine.'

Just as Cathy leaned forward to share a long overdue kiss with her husband, the phone rang. 'I am not going to pretend that I even care who is on the other line.'

The phone stopped. Jacob knew the messaging service would pick up the call. Within seconds it rang again.

'Apparently the person didn't hear you. I have to get that Cathy. Be right back.'

Jacob picked up his cell phone. He did not look at the name of the caller but seemed to know exactly who it was.

'Merindia, I was expecting your call.' He listened for some time, interspersing some affirmative mumbles as the call continued.

Cathy's heart sank when she heard the 'Where and what time?' It meant Jacob would be going out.

He could see her response and sensed the disappointment. 'I have some unfinished business to take care of first, Merindia. Another hour won't matter,' he said before ringing off.

'Do you have to go Jacob?'

'I do. I knew she was going to call today. She and Brian have some serious decisions to make. Edgar is declining.'

Cathy was silent. She remained estranged from her Grandfather, hating the way she and her mother had been treated by him. It was the one area of her life in which she could not find forgiveness in her heart. The simmering anger, which went against her natural inclination to reach out to people, affected her deeply. She could not get past it.

Jacob sat down, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. 'Cathy, you don't have to change what you feel about him just because he is dying. He is not sick. It is just old age. I won't be able to do anything for him again. His time has come.'

'Nothing has changed in my feelings Jacob. I don't even want to think about him.' She paused clearly wanting to let the matter drop. 'I wish you didn't have to see Merindia though.' There was something in her tone which alerted Jacob.

'You don't think I have any special feeling for her do you?' When Cathy didn't respond he repeated his question, waiting for her answer. She looked at him and shrugged before turning away.

'Please Cathy. There isn't another woman in the world for me. I am like my Dad. You should know that by now.'

'Well, if you had to make a choice right now, who would you rather be with…me or her?'

Cathy fiddled with the ring on her finger. Her lips were tightly shut. Jacob turned her head around to face him and saw the teasing in her eyes.

He shook his head. 'You sneak! What a tease. I'll show you who I want to be with….and why.' He didn't wait for any confirmation but scooped up his wife and carried her to the bedroom. Jacob intended that she would never have need to question his choices.


'You're late Jacob.'

'I told you I had some unfinished business at home.'

'Jealous wife?'

'Maybe.'

'Cathy doesn't have to fear me. I love Brian with all my heart. Just because she doesn't like him, it isn't a reason to distrust me.'

'She'll know that someday. Where are we going?'

'I think it's safer to talk in the car. No one can hear us. I'm just going to drive a little further west from here. I do have a destination but not right away.'

Jacob relaxed. Merindia handled the vehicle well. She seemed to have changed so much from the shy runaway who found her way to Cathy's underground women's shelter, hiding from an arranged marriage. The cult, whose members held long standing ties to Vincent and Jacob, were an ever present danger. Her powerful father had been neutralized but the change created new enemies. Jacob gave up trying to figure it all out, although his father's dream triggered some anxieties.

He thought about Kardin, Merindia's father, who was at risk for failing to follow through on a promise to provide a virgin bride to cement illegal ties to another branch. Of the eight families who were locked in a centuries old battle of wills only two others remained. Vincent and Jacob were considered exemplars of the cult and therefore untouchable. Vincent's power and persona brought them immunity. Neither father nor son had any interest in being involved in the illegal trade of drugs and human trafficking which characterized the organization. Kardin and Merindia were the only ones left to do battle with Virgil. Even as he thought about the name, Jacob was shocked to realize that the unknown Virgil generated an uncomfortable sensation at the pit of his stomach.

'What are you afraid of Jacob?'

'Is there anything you don't know?'

'The past and the future. I wish I could see either, or both for that matter.'

A short time later, Merindia pulled into the parking garage of a large home. She shut off the engine and turned in her seat to face Jacob.

'Who lives here?'

'I do. This is my home. It is an unregistered property listed with other holdings. We have another official residence which is used for identification. Do you want to go in?'

Jacob sensed no danger and nodded his assent. They entered through a side door from the garage. There were alarms inside which Merindia quickly disabled. The windows appeared to be open to the outside but were not. The house was modern and sparsely furnished. Merindia invited him into a comfortable living room.

'Everything you see from outside is totally different from inside. At times it will appear as if people are walking around in here but a camera projects objects on the windows which in turn reflects outside. It is the best deterrent for criminals. If they get past the alarm, there is another inner door which would lock them in.'

'Very clever and very safe.' Seating himself on the couch, Jacob observed Merindia carefully. She was so self assured. He was amazed at her transformation and told her so.

'Brian's love has helped me to put my life in perspective. We have both changed for the better I hope.'

'I hope so too. Tell me what you wanted to see me about.'

'Jacob, my father is returning to India. He sees no sense in waiting here for the inevitable clash which will manifest when Virgil comes to collect me. His previous mindless urge to rule the world seems to have turned into a philanthropic dreamstate.'

'That's not such a bad thing.'

'No…. except that switching from a criminal to altruistic nature at midlife and for no apparent reason, does not sit well with his associates.'

Jacob and Merindia talked together for over an hour. It was useful to share their distinctive perspectives on being children whose lives are driven by a unique destiny. Hearing Merindia's stories helped him to get a better sense of her world and the stress generated by her Father's changed state. He drew easy parallels with his own life. The tunnel world had its own distinctions and similarities but evil did not exist at the heart of it. The family history was significant but he took a different meaning from her shared knowledge and their mutual history. Jacob had no idea that his father carried such a potent and convoluted history.

'You must have been very sheltered Jacob,' she offered when he seemed surprised by her information.

'I was. You have seen where I lived as a child.'

'I haven't seen it all but I will soon. I have known from day one where my destiny lay. My tattoo was imbedded in my psyche and skin before I could comprehend much of anything. Now, I have decided to take matters into my own hands. What you did for my father has enabled me to marry for love.'

'So what happens now?'

'Edgar is dying, as I am sure you know. Father wants to relocate back to India. Both those things put pressure on me to settle my future. I have to marry Brian before I can live with him.'

'Why?'

'I must be a virgin on my wedding night.'

'I thought you didn't care about all that cult stuff.'

'At the very least, I always wanted to have a big wedding. There are other issues around the need to be a virgin.'

'So what's the problem?'

'Virgil.'

'I don't get the connection.'

'Jacob…..I was supposed to marry Virgil, not just to unite the powerful criminal elements of our family but for a deeper cultural security. I am the designate daughter of the Diosa for our entire family. I am the last female. If I don't marry Virgil, our signatory the Leminscate, will be gone forever. It was conferred on us by the Romans before the time of Christ. To preserve our centuries of grace, the only other person I can marry is you.'

'Well, that's out of the question.' He chuckled remembering Cathy's feigned jealousy.

'I know it is, but Brian is a relative in your branch of the family. You are the Exemplar. If you and your father come out of hiding and authorize my marriage to Brian, Virgil will have to back down.'

'Merindia, you can't be serious. My father will never expose himself or his family to that kind of risk.'

'I am deadly serious Jacob.'

Looking into her eyes, he could see the truth of her words.


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