arol had barely sipped her morning coffee when Giovanni Belletti, the Belletti capo, stormed in with three thugs in tow. “What the hell is going on? There’s paramedics all over our floor and they’ve
cordoned off Mr. Rizzuto’s room.” His party had returned from their visit to Hatley Castle the night before and had been kept away from the dead man’s room. Carol told them she didn’t really know what had happened, other than Mr. Rizzuto had been taken very ill. They had been very careful to keep the police and forensic officers out of sight; they, and the Medical Examiner removing the body, had used the service elevators, well away from prying eyes.
“I don’t usually have guests in my office.”
He slammed the door behind him. “Don’t fuck with us, Ms. Moore. You tell me straight up what is going on or there will be hell to pay. I haven’t been allowed near his room, nor anyone else, and no one has seen Mr. Rizzuto since we left last night. Lorenzo and his wife have been down to police headquarters, but we’ve heard nothing, and from what I understand, they’ve been told nothing.” His three men stepped forward. “Trust me. What you may have heard about the Mafia and their enforcers is true. How do I say this, a little unconventional chiropractic adjustments is not out of the ordinary even on holidays and special wedding events.”
These guys don’t mess around. “Okay, call off the dogs and I’ll tell you what happened.”
He nodded, and they stepped back. She sat down and began to shake, faking tears. “I, ah, I don’t know how to tell you this.” I’ve got to let go of my cool otherwise they might suspect I’m undercover.
Mr. Belletti senior nodded and one of his men pulled forth a handkerchief. “When you are ready and able.”
She almost suspected he already knew the answer. “Mr. Rizzuto is dead.”
“What! Hail Mary, Mother of God.” He formed the four points of the cross on his chest, as did the others. Yeah, they know. Lousy fakers.
She looked down at the hanky and noticed the emblem on it. An inverted pentagram, and inside of it, a picture of the being with horns and a beard. Agnes is right. “All I know is that I was called to the room when he didn’t respond. I used my master key and found him hanging from a rope. The room was locked from the inside, so no one else in there with him. Probable suicide, the police tell me.” She blew her nose heavily. “It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen.” She began to shake, doing a masterful impression of a woman having a fit of hysterics.
Giovanni directed one on the men forward as he caught Carol staring at the emblem on the hanky. “Santa Maria. It is not possible. Some son-ofa-bitch killed him and set us up. There will be hell to pay and I need to talk to the Rizzutos right away before they blame us.” He nodded to one of his men. “Check on Rizzuto’s wife, Carmella. Make sure she is safe and break her the news.”
“Alfredo, give her your hanky. I think she will need a second one. I am rather fond of mine.” He did and as Carol took it, he retrieved the first one. Small wonder no one hears much from any of the mobs’ wives, they’re probably scared shitless most of the time. Or would rather not know what these clowns get up to.
Mr. Belletti ordered the others from the room. “I want to be alone
with Ms. Moore here.”
They closed the door behind the two and stood just outside. “Now that we are alone, I can say this. Ms. Moore, Mr. Rizzuto did not hang himself. You are very aware of who we are. You are talking to members of the New York Rizzuto and Belletti cartels here.” He leaned forward, grabbed her by the back of the head and pulled her to him. “Also, now that we are alone, No Mr. Nice Guy. You tell no one else about this. Very still lips.”
“Yes.” She smiled at him more from suppressed rage than fear. If I had my way, I’d break every finger in his hand, before cuffing him. “When any news comes to you of the police investigation, you tell me first. Kapiche? It is better I tell the Rizzutos what has happened. I will mention a heart attack. Understand? He had a weak heart. Any news of anything else will lead to an open gang war and I know you don’t blood shed on these wonderful new carpets.”
“I understand,” she said, willing tears to stream down her face. “Please don’t hurt me. I only work here.”
He let go of her. “You will need to recuperate. I suggest you take the rest of the day off.” He stepped to the door and opened it. “Heart attack; and you appraise me of any developments. I trust you like the use of your legs without crutches.”
Italian bastard. He closed the door behind him. Carol looked at the second fine linen handkerchief. Other than her smeared makeup, it was blank. No wonder these guys are so powerful. They don’t screw around and I have to be very careful around them or I’ll end up in Giovanni’s back bending classes. I need to talk to Jake about these guys, he knows more than I do, and Agnes. She seems to know a lot more than she’s been telling me as well.
Just then her hotel desk phoned buzzed. “Carol, we need you at the front desk. ASAP.”
* * *
The blue being rose from its cocoon and sat still looking at its thin elegant hands. I dreamt of being a blue fairy from movies I watched. That could help people, children. Children like I was? Wings behind her fluttered. She stood up and attempted to twirl on her tip toes slightly before stumbling. I have wings, I remember. I was Cindy Amberside, I am not now.
Another voice inside the creature said, I did not, I lived in these dank pipes full of rot and excrement. I wish to walk the earth.
Who are you?
I am, I was a Lekwungen.
I don’t understand. Nor do I?
I cannot leave, the curse keeps me here. I can feel it, even though I am not Lekwungen any longer.
But I am not so.
It thought a moment. Then let us try, I remember a former life.
I too remember, a time before.
We need, we must be free of this place.
You are me, I am you, we are one.
I/we sense that is dissolving. Yes, the next cycle of growth begins.
It folded its wings in on itself assuming an egg shape again.
Will we remember more of our former lives?
Mine was not nice.
Then it is hoped we do not.
Agreed, when we begin afresh.
I like the wings.
I like our long pointy ears.
We will keep those and dream some more.
* * *
The redhead stood there, impatiently clicking her heels. “Let me see your manager on duty,” she demanded of the clerk at the front check-in desk as Carol strode up. I really don’t have time for this, what with the Italians freaking on me, one dead guest, and my missing nephew.
Carol approached the indignant woman, noting the bearing the Bettie Page or what is now called the Bettie Bang style of haircut with light green eyes and overly thick eyebrows that were the modern style. The woman flicked her 1950’s style shoulder length hair over one shoulder. “How may I help you?” Carol’s attention wasn’t on the full pouty lips, perhaps plumped, but the hard look in her eyes told her that this someone that was quite used to getting her own way and probably didn’t take kindly to the word no.
“Are you the manager on duty?”
“Then I’ll deal only with you,” she said, in a when-I-say-I-want-champagne-I-don’t-wantsparkling-fizzy-lime-water-or-the-cheap-stuff-but-only-the-Bollinger-will-do, voice. She flashed a quick, forced smile trying to be somewhat polite, but obviously pleased with herself for getting the person she wanted and nothing less.
The woman pulled a picture free from her purse. “I’m led to believe you have this gentleman, one Luigi Penchanto, staying here. If so, I need to know what room he’s in.”
Carol glanced at the picture of Jake Holden. Her eyes lifted slightly, caught off guard in moment of rare surprise. “First of all, lady, ah Ms…”
“Becca, short for Rebecca, Casavanio.”
“Ms. Casavanio, under this hotel’s confidentiality rules we are unable to release a guest’s room number without their consent unless you are with the authorities, and then I’ll need to see some proper identification. Or you are of some relation to this gentleman?” “I am his fiancée,” she blurted out. What?
“And your face tells me you’ve seen him. Then I shall check-in and find him anyways. My plane was delayed, but I am part of the Rizzuto party attending the upcoming wedding.”
“Wait a minute, I don’t recall a Casavanio booked here.” Carol looked through the booked guests listed under the Rizzutos and then the guests listed under the Bellettis. “Nope, not on either guest list. You sure you have the right hotel?”
Becca stared hard at her, melting steel with her bare eyes. “Lady, don’t try screwing me over, you won’t like the bad side of me. I’m booked here. Look again.” She rolled her eyes upward. Carol held her ground and looked through the entire hotel’s bookings, confirmed, and expected. “Nope, however there’s a Best Western up the street, I can see if they have any availability and shuttle you over.”
“Do I look like I stay at Best Westerns?” Her face flushed, the anger flashing across her eyes. The woman breathed deeply, realizing this wasn’t getting her anywhere as Carol stood her ground. “Sorry,” she said through gritted teeth.
A word Carol knew she rarely spoke and never willingly.
“Bad flight, delayed for several hours. I’ll take a room anywhere in this establishment for the next two weeks if you have any vacancies at all.”
Carol waited for the please, which never came. But, if she is who she says she is, I want to keep her within my radar. Mr. Holden has a few questions to answer. Carol tapped at the keyboard, glanced through the open room list and picked one two floors away from the bulk of the guests and Jake’s room. She knew better than to say the hotel was booked solid, besides, it made sense to have her here and find out what Jake had to say about her. What was the old saying ‘keep your friends close and your enemies tied up even closer in the closet.’ “I do believe
I have a spare room in the back of the hotel. Street level so may be a bit noisy, but…”
“I’ll take it. In addition, leave Mr. Penchanto a message that I am here. Doubt the bastard will come looking, but you never know.” She smiled with the sweet grace of a leopard itching to pounce on her prey. “Then I’ll find him myself.”
He definitely wasn’t the person he portrayed. Just when I thought the crazy stuff was over and done with. Yes, Big Dan did say there’d be days like this. Now to deal with the Italians before they start a gang war in the middle of the hotel. She texted Louie, asking him to find any details of Begbie and any case involving a Marshall. Jake hadn’t responded to her earlier text. Bastard. Okay before this shit gets real, as they say in the movies, it’s going to be show time. She sent Big Dan a text as well, explaining what was happening and indicating she might need armed backup.
Louie responded quickly. “On it, but this is going to take awhile.”
Carol hurried up to Agnes’ room and found the old gal having her hair done. “Sorry to barge in, but I need a favor and quickly.”
Agnes looked at her like she was on drugs, “Can’t you see I’m rather busy trying to make myself gorgeous. When I was younger it took twenty minutes, now I need at least four hours or so.” She laughed. “What’s up, honey?”
“Is it possible for you to contact Begbie? My guy says he’ll look into it, but I’m not confident he’ll find much in the case involving him and William Marshall. I’ve got real trouble with the mob downstairs and need some answers, pronto, before we have a bloodbath.”
Agnes closed her eyes, reading what was going through Carol’s head. “Okay, girl, I’m on it.” She waved the hairdresser out of the room. “I’ll see what I can do while still in my curlers.
Man, I must like you. Might have a few contacts that could shed some light.”
“Lady, thanks, but man, you keep some strange friends.”
“Just remember you’re on that list, now beat it. I need some peace and quiet.”
“Thanks again. I think.”
Carol glanced at her phone and sent a text to headquarters. No, fresh info on Nathan. Damn, time is beginning to run out on finding him alive. She knew after three days the likelihood of him alive shrank dramatically. And there had been no contact from the abductors. As she went back down the elevator Big Dan texted, “Full SWAT team on stand-by if needed.” Okay, boys and girls, it’s party time.
* * *
An hour later Carol had gathered the two families in one of the empty conference rooms, away from prying eyes. “As Manager of this hotel I thought it wise that I get both parties together to discuss what happened the other night before the news gets out.”
The Rizzuto clan sat on one vast, plush sofa, the Bellettis on another opposite. The young wife of Antonio Rizzuto, Carmello, scantily clad in a black mini-skirt and black lace veil, sobbed as Carol continued. Carol wondered if it was an act, as unless there was some sort of pre-nup, she was now a very wealthy woman. Margherita Belletti, Giovanni’s wife, stared at her in distaste. Carson and Vidler patrolled the hallway outside as back up for Carol should anything kick off and goes totally sideways. She knew in the next room to them the SWAT guys were also waiting if shit hit the fan.
“Preliminary findings are that Antonio Rizzuto died of a heart attack in his room the other night.” She had talked to her advisers and Big Dan and everyone had agreed to use Mr. Belletti Senior’s line for now in order to avoid any further possible bloodshed. “His room, though, will still be labelled a crime scene just until the autopsy and all tests are completed. My understanding is that you all still wish for the wedding to commence in honor of Mr. Rizzuto.”
“Such is life, laughter and dancing one night and …”
“Death and grief the next,” said first by Lorenzo Rizzuto, now the acting capo and senior member. It was seconded by Mr. Belletti senior, the other Bellettis nodded in agreement.
Carol frowned, caught off guard as Giovanni Belletti stood up and walked across the room. She didn’t miss the clank of metal. Damn it, they’re packing heat in here. “You, not being Italian nor Cosa Nostra, would not have heard of this saying of ours. It is one of the codes we Mafiosi live by. Or as you Canadians might say, ‘life is life and whatever may be, may be.’”
The Belletti capo put his hand forward after making the sign of the cross on his chest. “We are in deep sorrow and regret Antonio Rizzuto’s passing.
He was a well-respected man among the Cosa Nostra and ourselves.”
Lorenzo Rizzuto rose and took his hand in his. They shook, much to Carol’s relief. This meant that all was forgiven, and the peace still reigned between them. In their world a handshake was better than a hundred signed pages backed up by a dozen lawyer’s signatures.
“On behalf of myself and the hotel, I would also like to express my sincere condolences to you all. If there is anything we can do at all, please just ask. As a sign of our respect we shall serve our traditional High Tea to our bereaved guests of the hotel.”
The doors opened and several waitresses entered bearing pots of tea and silver trays. Watching some of the men staring at the tiny sandwiches seemed ludicrous, especially when most were swallowed in one bite.
As Carol left the room, she heaved a huge sigh of relief. She spotted Jake chatting with the two armed men, as if he was an old friend.
“I thought I’d join the party, in case you needed back up.”
“Thanks. You could have texted me at least. I know how to look after myself, but I was pretty worried this could have gone totally sideways.”
“Yeah, I had you covered, just in case, skirt.” He lifted his jacket and a mini hand-held UZI gleamed under the chandeliers.
“How the hell did you get that across the border and into this hotel?”
Jake simply smiled. “Well it wasn’t under my bath towel when we first met, I must say, although I had other tools that I was packing at the time.”
More than anything Carol wanted to grab him by the nuts and squeeze hard enough to make him cry then and there. But a scene like that wouldn’t be good with the High Tea-ing Italians just behind the door. “You are such a man-pig. Oh, and don’t fricking call me skirt. Especially if you hope to get anywhere with me.” She turned and walked away, giving her hips a slight side-toside sway, teasing him like Big Dan had instructed. It was better to keep him off guard and interested in her.
“Fan Tan Alley, only six feet at its widest, is the entrance to Chinatown and reportedly haunted by the ghost of a young boy, Chung, who cut off the head of a young girl he loved but couldn’t have. Her name was Yo Gum,” Adam from the Victoria Ghost Tours said as he stood in front of the group and pointed down the narrow alleyway on the second night of the tour. “Now, before we begin, I did a search for our esteemed guest.” He pointed to Agnes and bowed politely. “This lady was in vaudeville and Vegas known as Mystique or properly, Ms. Teak if I am right. I like the play on words there.”
Agnes adjusted her large red hat which nearly filled the alleyway. “Yes, my good man, you are absolutely correct.” She leaned over and planted a big red lipstick stain on his cheek. “There.
I usually don’t do autographs, but that will suffice.”
Adam blushed. “Now are you getting anything here?”
As he spoke Carol watched Agnes go suddenly pale.
“Yes, I’m getting a young Chinese boy and an older very petite and beautiful Chinese woman.”
Adam and the half dozen others all opened their eyes as Carol held her up and shook her head. She is a true showman.
Agnes leaned into her and whispered, “That’s show person, dear. Show person. Get with the times.”
Carol just smirked to herself. Damn mind-readers.
They walked along slowly, the group allowing Agnes a moment to catch her breath as she took off her large brimmed hat and waved it in her face. The old gal had this usual measured slowness and pace. It was like walking with the Queen of England on tour, besides Carol wanted to soak in the feel of the place. Either her usual demeanor or more of the show. Carol had already learned it would be best to humor her and walked slowly with Agnes. Besides, Italian hunk, Tony Belletti, was eyeing the both of them, and Carol in particular. Why do I keep getting flashes of something every time I’m near him? He was a bit of a distraction she didn’t mind right about now, especially if she wanted to get in close with the mob to find out answers, because with the Rizzuto Senior’s death all concerned lips had tightened up considerably. To be expected if either side thinks the other did the killing even though the official cause of death was a heart attack. As far as she knew no one knew about the noose. “You okay?”
“Do you see the young lad coming towards us?” She lurched backwards pushed into the wall as Adam continued to speak.
“People claim they see a young boy running to them and feel themselves pressed to the wall before everything returns to normal,” he said, virtually as Agnes flattened herself to the wall.
Everyone turned as Agnes gasped and Carol gripped her to stay standing. “It was him, just then.” Agnes went blank as she slumped into Carol’s arms.
“You pay the old broad to pull that stunt off?” One of the Italians spoke up as everyone turned to watch Agnes struggle to return to consciousness as Carol clung onto her.
Adam blinked in disbelief. “No, apparently Chung has returned to his haunts again. The rumor is true folks, he’s still running through the alley trying to escape his pursuers.” Nonplussed, he went along with the unexpected turn of events.
Agnes clutched at Carol’s arm. Tony waved his men back and also rushed to steady Agnes. As he did he stared into Carol’s eyes. Man, he’s even more handsome up close. She inhaled deeply. And smells damn good too. If that’s what hunky Italian male smells like normally, I want some of that. His eyes burned into her.
“Normally no. I’ve met a few in my time.” Agnes winked at Carol and pretended to swoon again.
Tony squatted on his heels and helped Carol lift Agnes to her feet. “Are you truly psychic?” “Yes.” she held his arm and slid her hand down into his.
Cagey old broad, she set this up to touch him. Gotta give her some credit for that.
Carol reached over to grab his arm. Firm hardness didn’t flinch under her touch. Oh, and Agnes is right, he’s solid romance cover testosterone fueled hardness.
Tony smiled deeply into Carol’s eyes and looked at Agnes. “We, as you know are in Victoria for a wedding. But could also use the aid of a trained psychic, that’s why we took the tour. With the death, we need some help. I thought the guide could be of help, but he’s just a mouthpiece for the company. You, on the other hand are the cosa vera, how you say, ‘real thing’. None of us, including the guide, saw the boy.”
Agnes stared hard into his eyes. Carol could see the mists run through them, like what happened when she did a reading with her in the tearoom. “I can’t help you.”
His face dropped. “But there is a curse here. It has already cost us one of our kind.”
“I know. I said I can’t help you.” She pulled her hand away. “Carol here might, you need to ask her, but I need to cut this short.” She stood up. “This has exhausted me. I need to get out of here, now. Carol, take me to the Gate of Harmonious Interest just around the corner and then back to my room.” Agnes stood and began to walk through Fan Tan Alley away from the group, bee-lining it for the gate, which was next on their stop and just around the corner in the opposite direction of the hotel. Carol would have to double time it to keep up with the old gal. Tony after her, bemused as he was being stood up, not one used to being turned down.
“I apologize for my friend’s rudeness,” Carol said to Tony. “Let me talk to her and see if I can get her to change her mind.”
“Yes.” He smiled at her. “Perhaps dinner would be nice. You and me?”
“Okay,” Carol stuttered caught off guard. “Let me deal with Agnes, leave me a message at the front desk as to when.” She looked up at the others. “Continue without us. Sorry, Agnes and I are calling it quits for tonight. She’s frail and that was quite the shock.”
Adam stared at them and pointed down the street. “Well okay then, not everyone has a pleasant time on these tours, I did warn all of you that you may encounter the unexpected. The next stop on the tour, Bard and Banker Pub, we can stop in for a drink and I’ll tell everyone the bizarre events that unfolded there that ended up making one of Canada’s famous poets.”
Carol nearly ran to catch the old broad who was moving a lot faster than she’d ever seen her move. “Hey, slow down. You okay?”
“No, around the corner and away from the mob before I speak.” She began to nearly run as they exited the alley, turned right and quickly stood under the huge oriental structure, which was just at the end of the block. “The gate was cleansed of all evil spirits when it was raised and is like a haven or refuge if one is in need and I am in need.”
The great Chinese Lion at the far end of the red and gilded twenty-foot high gate glared down at them. Agnes reached into its mouth and caressed the stone ball there, obviously knowing to do so granted good luck.
“What are you yammering about?”
“Sorry, but one never gets used to looking in the face of Bathomet.” She pulled a metal flask from her jacket chugged a quick swig before handing it to Carol. Carol snapped her head back and gagged on the straight bourbon whiskey. “A dram of whiskey is good for ya. Settles the nerves.” She took another swig and put the flask back into her pocket. “I just stared into the face of the devil. They are definitely calling him up. The Mafia are reported devil worshippers. I heard the stories and met some people that had been involved with them. The stink of hell is a smell most foul and he oozes it. They are here for much more than a wedding. They do bring a curse and it has stirred the gathered spirits, which I’ve already sensed beginning to happen. I think we need to bring forward that visit to Judge Begbie.”
Carol stopped as Agnes spoke. “Lady, what kind of crap are you spouting?” Maybe she is nuts. “But I agree I think the key to the curse lies with him.”
“Not nuts.” She tried a weak smile. “This is why I’ve lived most of my life alone. No one wants to live with this cursed affliction I have.”
“Sorry, a subconscious thought.”
“It’s okay I’m not offended, I got used to it a long time ago.”
“Okay, you’ve thrown me here. Devil worshippers? The Devil? Isn’t that worse than some displaced ghosts?”
“Carol, you’ve spent time with a shaman and a native sprite. You already know there’s way more out there than most of us realize. I can only say there are also evil spirits, some more foul than you can even imagine. He goes by several names, Bathomet, Isthar, Lilith, Azazel, Bast or, as we usually call him, The Devil, is one of those. He is not the devil of the Bible nor the king of hell. But the damage he inflicts and the corruption he can raise is tremendous. Watch your back with this lot and be very, very careful. I’ve said enough, back to my room, I need to cleanse myself and you should as well.” Agnes abruptly strode off towards the hotel.
Cleanse? I just had a bath this morning. She’s doesn’t mean the cedar branch whipping thing Charlie does to himself, does she?
“Nothing that drastic,” Agnes blurted as they walked along. “Sorry, your mind is an open book to me. Some incense and smudging yourself in white birch fungus and sage should do it. And as you were about to think it, no people don’t get used to me reading their minds. No matter what they might tell you.”
“White birch fungus and sage. Thanks lady, but I had dessert earlier. Now if they’re not here just for a wedding, can you tell me what the hell is going on?”
“Whiskey first, we talk later. Not sure myself right now. Need to talk to Cider.” Carol’s thoughts strayed to a vision of the crystal skull.
“At least she converses with me, unlike your secret friend; Bob, is it?
Carol blushed, she knew Agnes was talking about her Battery Operated Boyfriend. “You drive me crazy.”
“No, that’s Bob’s job.”
Carol smirked, “Man, nothing gets by you.”
“Yeah, not much. Now get me to my room. I need a stiff one of a different kind.”
Carol shook her head. I could get used to hanging out with this crazy old broad, she has a sense of humor similar to Charlie’s, only she was a whole lot more civil. But the reading of the mind thing is still unnerving.
Could do with a shot of whiskey or three myself.
“I’ve got more in my room if you want to join me,” Agnes said, obviously reading her thoughts again.
“And quit doing that. Whatever happened to personal space?” She glanced at her watch as they rounded the corner nearly at the hotel. Carol called on her phone, all was quiet there. Then she called Jake, he answered and agreed to meet with her for dinner. “Otherwise engaged for dinner but
I’ll talk to you after if you’re still up.”
She checked her police phone still no news on Nathan. Damn, I’m this close and I can’t get much time to help with the investigation. I feel so handcuffed.
“Ah, the bath towel hunk. But tell me who Nathan is to you?”
Carol jumped. “Quit doing that! Sorry, I apologize. Didn’t mean to bite your head off”
Agnes pursed her lips. “As do I. It is hard not to pick up some people’s thoughts, yours come to me very easily. Again, I’m sorry.”
They walked a little further before Carol let go of her anger. “Nathan is my nephew, but you probably already know that. He is the second abduction this week. My sister Barb’s only son. I can’t pull myself away from this case to help much and that is driving me crazy.”
“Well, if you don’t mind, I’ll see what I can find out through Cider. I get a sense there will be more before this wedding is over.”
Shit, Carol thought. Maybe I should quit this case in order to devote more time to helping Barb.
Agnes shook her head, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Sorry, I’ll not intrude into your sub consciousness any more tonight.”
They walked down the promenade just outside the Empress Hotel. “I know, breaking this case could lead to stopping the mob from setting up a whole new operation in the West Coast. Still he’s my nephew.” Tears threatened to stream down her face. “And I love him, the closest thing I have to a son.”
“I know, I will see what I can do trying to find out about your nephew and Begbie.”
* * *
Carol and Agnes sat on the Saanich beach in front of the house Judge Begbie. This was the spot where Adam from the ghost tour reported the judge had been filmed haunting. Cider had indeed confirmed that his ghost was felt hanging out here. “Thanks for this, I owe you big time.” Carol smiled.
“That you do lady, that you do.” Agnes rubbed in.
“Hey, I gotta say the hair looks perfect.” What she could see under the large green hat.
Agnes smiled at Carol as she unwrapped Cider, it was beginning to get dark. “You need to take a course on sucking up to people.”
“You really got to stop reading people’s minds.”
“Occupational hazard, I’m afraid.”
“So, here’s some history, if you didn’t already know. Back in the 1800’s Jacob Sehl came to Victoria from Germany. He bought the land at the end of the inner bay and began to build his furniture factory there. Clearing the land, the workers complained of boxes falling out of the trees, along with bones and bodies. Not being very respectful of native traditions, at that time, they either burnt or tossed everything into the ocean. The Lekwungen chief was outraged, claiming they’ve disturbed the dead and the spirits were now trapped here, as they believed the dead spirits still live and had set up an entire village for them to dwell in. The Lekwungens moved away from the area, fearing for what might happen. A few years later, Jacob’s house caught on fire and oddly enough at that same time a mile away, his factory did as well. Mrs. Sehl claimed she saw beings, hair aflame stoking the fires.
She died a few months later of insanity.
Beings with hair aflame. I saw that somewhere.
William Pendray then bought the land, several years later.
“Did you say, Pendray?”
“Yes, the same family that just had a son abducted.”
“Does nothing get by you?”
“Occupational hazard,” they said at the same time.
“And Google is a great tool. Now you’re messing with my story. The land was now known as Deadman’s Point when he decided to build his own factory on it. He installed a very advanced sprinkler system, at least for its time, in the factory, obviously being somewhat cautious regarding what happened to the previous owner. He went to inspect the factory one day shortly after opening and a large chunk of the sprinkler pipe overhead broke away falling thirty feet, crushing his head.
His only son, Ernest, came racing up to the factory the next day on his horse drawn carriage when the horse jolted to a stop and Ernest was flung off the carriage onto the ground in front of the horse. The horse bolted right over the prone man crushing his head. Their ghosts are the ones believed to still inhabit Pendray house at the sight of Huntington Manor Hotel next to Laurel
Point, as it is now called. His foreman, one William Marshall, was convicted of assaulting a Lekwungen shaman for trying to protect his people. In an unprecedented judgement, Judge Begbie charged him and had him hanged. One of the first times a native man won the case.”
“Wow, you know a lot of this area.”
“I do my research and these matters are my hobby. Only I don’t know what caused the Judge to try the man. Seemed very unusual for his time. That is why we are here.”
“What has this got to do with the mob?”
“My visits with Cider have told me Marshall was not his true last name, but Marchiotti.”
Carol sat on the sand rather stunned as Agnes ran her hands over the leather packaging she had Cider wrapped in.
Behind them a moaning began as a shadowy figure parted from the trees. “Someone calls me.”
“We come seeking answers to an ancient curse.”
Begbie glared at the leather package Agnes held. “Ask the one inside she will tell you the truth. I have nothing to say.”
Agnes stared at him and at Carol. “The man is of obvious intelligence to know what I’m holding.”
Agnes carefully exhumed Cider from the many layers of wrapping she was placed in.
Agnes spoke up, her voice a little shaky. “We come seeking information. It is reported that you hanged a man for beating a native man nearly to death and for that he cursed you.”
Begbie turned to Carol and slowly approached her. “I am trapped here because of him. I did what was right by law. You know nothing.” He seethed, his eyes glaring red. “Again, I will not talk of this matter, see inside her. She will show you what happened.”
“Now, Cider will and you sir, had better not be telling me a lie, or you will stay trapped here a long time.” Carol spoke trying to gain some control over this strange turn of events.
Begbie crossed his arms, “I am a judge of the United Colonies of Vancouver Island and the Province of British Columbia. I do not lie, nor do I find humor in your accusations.” With that he faded back into the trees.
Carol sat beside Agnes as she began to concentrate on Cider’s crystal head. “You gotta say the man garnered a lot of respect in his day.”
“Yeah, so did Richard Nixon, before he got caught cheating. Now, shh.”
Agnes closed her eyes. The beach began to swirl away and take on the confines of the provincial courtroom.
A gavel hammered on an oak block.
The weak Songhees First Nations man, his face swollen and bleeding under the bandages, was placed under oath, swearing on his medicine bag. William Marshall, the accused, had earlier held onto the pendant around his neck. The young Judge allowed this in his courtroom for those that chose to do use something more sacred to them than the Bible.
A younger Begbie rose, his face red. “This Songhees man claims that he was savagely beaten by you, William Marshall. How do you plead?”
“I plead not guilty, Your Honor. This savage was interfering with my job to clear Laurel Point of the trees, and as we soon learned, of the vile bodies they left hanging to rot away in them. He would not leave nor would he get out of our way. Every time
we cut one down, he’d rush in and dance around like some drunken madman, yelling and screaming at us. I had enough.”
Begbie looked at the battered man, his face shattered, one eye swollen shut, lip still oozing blood. In Songhees Begbie asked a few questions.
Marshall’s eyes opened in in shock at the white man yammering in a native tongue. “He tells me he is a shaman and was trying to quieten the souls of the ones you disturbed in their village.
Souls that will be very angry for what you have done.”
“His village? Your Honor, Jacob Sehl bought the land for his new fac-
tory, my job as foreman was to clear it. We did not expect to find revolting corpses hanging in the branches, maggots rained down, the smell was beyond revolting. These people are the worst savages I have ever met. I never know heathens could be so filthy and vile. They need to be sat down and taught the ways of our Lord, if that is even possible.”
“A’si’em nu schala’cha,” replied the shaman, barely able to sit, let alone stand.
Begbie closed his eyes a moment taking in what the injured man barely clinging to consciousness had said. “You destroyed their village, it was where they let the dead of their tribe reside. You burnt the bodies, tossed the ashes into the ocean. He was very upset at the total disregard for their traditions and ways.”
“Their traditions? Your Honor, these are savages, they do not bury the dead, but let them rot in trees. They are beyond disgusting. In the end when he got in our way, I had to stop him before he hurt one of my men. I had to stop him. There was no reasoning with him.”
“You could have confined him and brought him to the police station. Instead you beat him to a pulp.” Begbie seethed.
“Your honor, he deserved everything he got, he’s lucky. I should have slit his neck and I wouldn’t be here today, wasting my time. Now clear me of the charges and let me get back to my work. I have no use for this filthy savage.”
“No,” Begbie slammed his gavel down. “No, you sir, will be charged with attempted murder, as you have just admitted in front of this courthouse. I have no choice but to convict you and sentence you to be hanged by the neck until dead. This man was merely trying to protect his people.”
“People? They were maggot filled rotting corpses.” Marshall screamed and fought to break free from his manacles.
“Into the courtyard. I have to leave in the morning. Hang this man, here and now.”
Marshall screamed his rage as two men dragged him kicking and screaming from the courtroom into the dusty yard in front. A small crowd had gathered, half expecting to watch the Songhees man be hanged. They were shocked when Marshall was dragged to the gallows.
“Any last words?”
“I curse you and the vile likes of them.” Marshall spat in Begbie’s direction. As his hands were unchained in order to put them behind his back. he kneed the hangman, who collapsed in pain. Another grabbed the man before he could escape. Marshall pulled a necklace from around his neck. “These are my last words.”
Begbie held his hand up, allowing the guard to wait a moment. “Speak as you are entitled and let the assembled crowd hear what it is you want to say.”
The man began to whisper to himself a moment. “My true name is not Marshall, but Marchiotti. I am of Mafioso blood, we are warriors. I place the curse of Satan on this Shaman and his village of the deceased. They shall live below the ground, like the Bible states. And you,” he pointed at Begbie. “You shall not ever rest, above or below, the earth. Nor shall you marry, nor bear any children but endure a lonely and diseased life and die alone. I send Satan to end the life of this disgusting savage worm.” He pointed to the shaman who’d been brought out to the proceedings by two others.
“Hang him now, he has said enough.” Begbie decreed.
A black shadow lifted from the man as he chanted and wrapped itself around the weak shaman. Growls rent the air, and everyone gasped as bite marks appeared on his body as if he was being attacked by some savage unseen creature.
The shaman threw his medicine bag to the ground and waved at the contents spilling forth. Blood spurted from his body. Two other dark shapes leapt forth to attack the unknown being attacking him. Screams and growls of a bestial nature tore into the panicked crowd, which began to race from the madness of the court yard.
Marshall laughed. “He will join me in death.”
The hangman dropped the noose over his head. Marshall muttered his incantations over and over. The shaman clutching at his chest, where blood poured forth raised his hand to the man about to be dancing in thin air. ”Hay’sxw’qa gwns âne ’techul Lekwungen Tung’ex. Hay’sxw’qa si’em nakwilia,” he gasped with his dying breath.
Begbie stood back, speechless as the floor beneath Marshall gave way and he convulsed several times before the pendant slipped to the earth from cold fingers.
The shaman fell to the ground in silence. The dark figures faded into the background.
Begbie strode up to the dangling man and bent to pick up the five-sided pendant. He dropped it in horror as it burnt at his fingers. He pulled his own cross from around his neck and began to perform the sign of the cross before him, over and over.
“Have any of the proceedings in this courtyard stricken from the records.” Begbie tore the last pages from the book the court recorder was feverishly writing in. “No one can know what just happened here. The records will simply show that the man was hanged, nothing more, and woe betide any here who ever say otherwise.”
He stared up at the horrified crowd. “Go to your churches and pray for the souls of those affected today and wipe from your memory this event. To repeat it to anyone would be aiding the devil’s evil work.”
The cleric looked up at Begbie. “What did that shaman say to Marshall before he died?”
“He cursed him in return. His kind, the first-born male shall always die early and horribly until the instrument of the Lekwungen people’s imprisonment breaks the curse or is imprisoned like them.”
Begbie calmly walked from the court yard into the court room. His head already filled with visions he wanted to put into drawings as he so often did.
Agnes opened her eyes. “Now, this makes a whole lot more sense. Explains why Begbie doesn’t want to talk to us, and why Marshall cursed him. Although obviously guilty Marshall did not see anything wrong in what he had done and so considered himself innocent.”
They both repacked Cider. Begbie was nowhere to be seen. “Yes, I get he’s more than a little angry over this.” She stared into the dark trees. “Like you I work for the Justice system of this province. If there is some way, we will get you free from this.”
From the darkness a voice echoed, “Thank you.” “We will?” Agnes glared at Carol.
“Yes, we will. The man was only doing his job and…”
“And you’re a Justifier, I get it. Although in my mind I think Robin just looked at Batman and said ’how in jumping Jehoshaphat are we going to pull this one off.”
“To which the Bat dude would reply, to the Batcave and step on it.” Carol shook her head and laughed as they trundled back to her car.
* * *
“Hey Louie, that case of William Marshall I asked you to look into, I know a bit more about it. He was hanged by Matthew Begbie back in the late 1800’s in Victoria. I need whatever details you can find but specifically if Marshall was his real name. I believe it could have been Antonio Marchiotti. Need to know if this is there any relation to the Rizzutos or the Bellettis and history of first-born males.”
“Man, Big Dan told me you’d be asking some strange shit and that’s why he put me on the backup team. But how in hell did you come with this information? You a psychic or something?” “No, I just hang out with one for the occasional tea,” she joked.
There was a moment of silence. “You’re for real, aren’t you?”
“Yes. She’s a hoot, even though she can read most of what I’m thinking. Hey, by the way, look up Agnes Van Lunt, she’s around seventy or eighty, went by the stage name of Ms. Teak, and let me know what you get.” “Any news on the toys?”
“So, the weird thing about the two pics you sent me of the toys is that they weren’t made after 1990. They are of a limited giveaway set. The first one is Donatello and the second one is Raphael, both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, from Kellogg’s Corn Flakes boxes. They were the hottest rage back then.
“How do you know this?”
“I’m a toy aficionado.”
“A what? Okay stop, I don’t mean to be rude, but man, you need to get
“I know. Spent most of my life in front of the TV and playing video games or looking on
Ebay for old toys and researching their backgrounds and origins. Didn’t think it would ever come in handy on the job though. What I’m looking for currently is a 1953 Lone Ranger doll, I’ll send you a pic, in case you ever come across one.”
“How about we focus on the job but send the pic anyways. I apologize if I sounded rude, but right now I ain’t got the time.”
How do people spend their lives on such mundane triviality? Trivial lives, I guess. But the question remains now, are these clues? Especially the masked turtles. Is something being covered up? Or hidden? What happened around 1990?
Carol dried herself off from the shower and lay on the bed, finishing her second whiskey despite the late hour. She had felt as if she needed it. Is it possible that ghost I saw earlier in the hotel has up and strangled one of the mob? What about “my” ghost, who was at Antonio Rizzuto’s door. Carol closed her eyes. I’ll have to get Agnes up there. She’d know or sense some kind of Woo-woo vibrational kinda stuff.
Carol decided on a power-nap and set her alarm for thirty minutes. As sleep claimed her, in her dreams Carol found herself in a hotel room. Jake locked the door behind her, wearing only what he wore when she first met him. He lifted her effortlessly and flung her onto the bed. Only when she landed, she was in the back seat of a car. A shadowy figure was in the front driving her car along Victoria’s streets. What the eff is going on here? Someone’s hijacked my bloody dream. “Who are you?” Damn can’t even get lucky in my dreams.
“We’ve arrived,” was all it said and vanished. That voice; Agnes?
She looked up at the street sign. She was on the corner of Shelbourne and Hillside. Wasn’t this mentioned in the tour? Something about a vortex?
Only what am I doing here? And what the hell happened to Jake?
As if answering her thoughts, the sidewalks dissolved around the car. Carol opened the back door and instead of stepping onto asphalt her foot crunched on a gravel road. From in front of her mists formed and a man stepped through them. He was distinguished, dressed in Victorian style business clothes. Carol blinked in disbelief. It was him; “her” ghost. “Sir Francis Rattenbury, I presume.”
He walked towards her and stuck out his hand. “My fame precedes me even here. It wasn’t dear Agnes who hijacked your illicit dream, but me.”
“You know Agnes?”
“Ah, Ms. Teak and I have chatted over tea on occasion via her friend
This has to be a figment of my imagination and sarcastic humor run wild. Okay got to play this by my guts. “To what, sir, do I owe the pleasure?”
“It is the approach of the full moon and the gates between realms are thin. In addition, much unrest has been stirred by the arrival of personages that you are in acquaintance with.”
Carol thought for a moment. “You mean the Mafia that have come for the wedding?”
“It is they. Some have deep curses on them brought about by an ancestor involved with that heretic Chief Justice Sir Matthew Begbie.” Carol remembered the signs of the cross the Belletti group made while her and Agnes were at Helmcken Alley. “Curses that bring much unrest and threaten to awaken he-who-cannot-be-named, among others.”
Ah, man here we go with the Harry Potter crap. Wish I never saw those damn movies. “Okay, so the he-who-cannot-be-named dude is coming by for a visit. So, what can I do to help?” I’m not liking where this is going.
“You are a justifier.”
“Are you kidding me? This is because I helped Sprity in the past, isn’t it?”
“The earth knows and remembers.”
“Ah crap! That’s what I get for not caving in and getting lezzie with
her isn’t it.”
He stared at her blankly. “The earth doesn’t remember everything, and the term “lezzie” is unfamiliar to me.”
Carol quickly filled him in with the details how Sprity admired her and at one point grabbed her and kissed her deeply, supposedly as part of her ritual to change her into an earth spirit. “She was a little disappointed, I could tell, that I didn’t reciprocate the passion of that kiss.”
“Ah! Kissing someone of the same gender is not anything widely practiced in my time. In any case these Mafia persons do have amongst them one that is very bad and has a curse placed on him. The curse needs to be satisfied, or the deceased will begin to exact their revenge.”
“How can this be?”
“Very powerful energies do the Mafioso manifest. Part of the curse involves the unrest of the dead. The living cannot live as the need for justice grows.”
This isn’t sounding great. “But the head of the Rizzuto clan is already dead.”
“He was not the cursed one. My time is closing, I can’t talk anymore. This will be the first of many meetings.”
“Not the cursed one? Then who? Many times? But do you know who you are, you’ve been dead over a hundred years.”
“Last time I checked, my passport said Sir Francis Rattenbury.”
“How is this possible? Legends say that you are a great architect that was killed brutally by your estranged lover or her young boyfriend. You’re not telling me that you want me to find out who killed you?”
“No, I know who killed me and that doesn’t matter. I am not here for myself.”
“Oh, wrong guess, then. But you were buried in an unmarked grave.”
“Does the world have to know who I was? If my birth was marked by a civic holiday and marching bands went up and down main street celebrating my passing in front of the legislature I built would that make me a greater person? Or this a better world?”
“No, but your ghost is reported in the Empress Hotel and the Parliament buildings you designed and built.” Carol had no idea, for once, where this conversation was going.
“Well, one cannot fault a gentleman for wanting to admire that which he is proud of, even after he has passed away.”
He looked up. “The vortex is collapsing. I must be quick.”
Carol looked around, only grass fields seen everywhere. “I don’t see anything.”
He pulled her close and whispered in her ear as he vanished. Concrete erupted under her and a car honked its annoyance at her standing in the middle of the busy road.
Carol woke up before the alarm. Okay that cuts it. I’m staying off the whiskey and switching to red wine. At least I hear that is healthy for you.
* * *
The blue being sat in the corner of the sewer room, tears streaming down its face, the dreams still fresh in its mind.
The dreams, I remember so much now. My mom was obsessed with running. I hated her.
She’d make me run to the school bus stop every morning, loaded with my back pack. When my sister was born, she’d push her in the stroller and make me run in front.
I lived off scum, I used to live in a native village on one of the hillsides where you have buildings in the harbour. I went there once through the sewers to see. The sun hurt my eyes, someone walking their dog saw me. I smiled, and they ran off, screaming. The dog howled and wanted to tear my flesh. I was horrid to them, ashamed I returned here to live off the filth. The stink of excrement is what I awake to, urines cloying acrid sting. Acridness cast from the sting of memories. It cried a while before continuing, I remember the offending smell of trees and flowers that day. That smell, distasteful from what I live with now. Yet, I remember that smell. Why is it?
They both begin to speak together. We hated our existences. Never a hug nor a smile. Just run to the bus stop. I asked once in grade one to leave early so we could walk. She slapped my face several times a day sometimes and washed my mouth out with soap. I never asked, nor disobeyed her again. I learned not to speak. Yelling, always her yelling at me. I don’t remember my mom ever saying much kind to me. She often blamed me for everything wrong with her life. Her pregnancy left her trapped with my dad. A man that threatened to beat her silly and sometimes did at night after they’d had a few drinks or did some drugs.
I ran away from home as soon as I could, lived a life as a hooker, eventually getting hooked on the drugs I swore I’d never do. But they took away the pain, made my life bearable.
The half that was Lekwungen was silent for a long moment, absorbing the other’s misery.
I live shivering in the cold dankness of the sewers. No breakfast, no warmth, no love. Always shivering. Run away from the ones awaiting our caress. I have only vague memories of my former life before being down here. We don’t seem to age, just fade away, one day here, suffering in the dankness, then when we give up, gone into the blackness.
We found the effect of living off the drugged ones, by absorbing their residue we get sustenance and numbness, it makes the being down here bearable. We could even enjoy touching one another.
Always shivering for a hug, they both thought.
We shall no longer.
Agreed, we must begin by forgiving and find the reasons for our entrapment.
For now, we must rest and be reborn again.
We are weak, but we will find strength from our misery.
And we must not be found. The others, the Lekwungen will not understand. They will destroy us.
Agreed, we are truly alone.
The blue being folded in, forming a blue haze around itself in a safe cocoon.