The Blood of the Everlasting

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Chapter 8

“No pain, no gain,” he quipped. He handed me the bottle of Excedrin and drew me a glass of water from the sink. I gratefully downed two pills. “Go take a shower, you’ll feel better,” he ordered. “I’ll cook lunch.”

I did exactly that, and he was right, I felt much better. There was something about fresh water and cleanliness that always made me feel better. The Excedrin had kicked in by the time I was done. I came downstairs dressed in a fresh pair of jeans and a button-down blouse with a pain-free head and an empty, but non-convulsing stomach. Andreas had a simple lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup waiting.

Comfort food; it reminded me of wintery days when I was a kid. My mom would always make grilled-cheese sandwiches and tomato soup to warm me up after playing outside. I would always get excited when it snowed, and my dad and I would head out back and wage war with snowballs at the lakeside until he finally, laughingly, would concede defeat, and declare me the victor, marching me back inside on his shoulders singing my praise: “All hail Rhiannon, queen of the snowballs!” I missed those days. Things were so much simpler as a child, there were no bad guys, and my dad was the hero who made me feel special and loved and protected.

We stepped out my front door after satisfying our appetites and walked the few blocks to my greenhouse in comfortable silence. The traffic was light for a Sunday afternoon. Arbor Lake was glassy and grey, reflecting the overcast sky above. We strolled down the sidewalk away from my home to 1st Avenue South, and then up to SW 128th. The Botany Bay Organic Greenhouse and Nursery sign stood proudly on the corner. My heart lifted at seeing it.

I led Andreas inside, and the familiar scent of wet soil greeted my nose. A field of sparkling greenery spread out in front of me, and I sighed, feeling instantly at home. “I can see why you love this place,” Andreas approved.

I smiled at him, and led him down the center aisle towards the back, past the rows of house plants, flowers, vegetables, and herbs until we reached the counter. Grant was behind it helping a customer with some spring herb starters. “Rhiannon!” He smiled. “Milly, can you finish ringing her up, please?” Milly took over, and Grant gestured for us to meet him in the back. I ducked through the ‘employees only’ door and took a left towards my office and sat down on the corner of my desk. Andreas casually leaned against the wall, as casual as if he owned the place.

Grant popped in the doorway. “So what did you find out?” He demanded. Andreas and I swiftly filled him in on our excursion to New York City. I left nothing out. I told him about Ariel, about Nikumbha, about the Council’s demand, about being summoned in a week, and how I was part otherkin, but no one seemed to know what part.

“They can’t demand that of you,” Grant protested. “You and your damned angel council, you think you can police the world,” he accused Andreas. “They have no right!”

I rolled my eyes. “You’re preaching to the choir,” I agreed. I was starting to feel overheated. I took my coat off. “Have you turned the thermostat up in here?” I muttered.

Andreas jumped forward. “Rhiannon, I need you to focus,” he intoned, gripping me fiercely by the shoulder.

Grant looked worried. “I need to talk to my pack about you.”

I looked up at him, surprised. “You have a pack? There’s a whole pack of you guys?” For some reason, I hadn’t imagined that part. Grant being who he was, he had always struck me as the lone wolf variety. Wolves were pack animals, though, weren’t they?

“Of course I do, I am wolf,” he shrugged.

The room seemed to get a little smaller. God, I needed to get out of there. I pulled my collar away from my neck. Grant even smelled like a wolf. I inhaled sharply, taking in all the scents around me. I could smell Milly outside, and… five strange human scents; we must have customers. The bathroom was in need of a cleaning, and fresh aprons must have been stacked on the shelf by the back sink, as I smelled Tide and Downy and clean fresh linen. I shook my head, trying to clear it. It wasn’t working. Sweat was trickling down my back, the walls were pressing in around me, and I could barely breathe. I gritted my teeth.

“I’ve got to get her out of here and away from you,” Andreas said tersely, clenching his jaw. He stepped forward and grabbed my arm, pulling me to my feet.

“Grant, I need your help controlling this, I can’t just keep avoiding you,” I hissed, screwing my eyes tight.

“Yes, but not here, not now, there are too many people, Rhi. Get her out of here, and fast,” he snapped at Andreas. “She’s starting to look a little long in the tooth. Take the back door. I’ll meet you back here after we close.”

He and Andreas rushed me out the back door, on the far side of the sink. I was literally shaking by the time the door slammed behind me. I clenched my fists, and my nails – claws really – dug into my palms. My knuckles were looking a little hairy. Andreas grabbed me by the arm and steered me into a forced run. My hands were shaking, my palms were sweating, I was clenching my teeth so hard I’m amazed I didn’t crack enamel, and my insides felt like they were about to boil. All I wanted to do was run, so forcing me to do what seemed so natural wasn’t too hard. “Faster,” I growled, actually enjoying the sprint – the wind in my hair, the smells on the breeze, the taste of freedom.

We ran down the street, and turned the corner onto the next block before my senses started to return to normal and the shaking and boiling sensation subsided. “Andreas,” I panted, “I’m all right, we can slow down.” I stopped and put my hands on my knees, catching my breath.

He knelt down next to me. His face was full of worry.

I turned and looked behind me, calculating. “I guess my range is about two blocks,” I said thoughtfully.

He nodded his head. “We almost didn’t get you out of there in time. You have to be more careful,” he warned me. “It seems to be getting stronger and coming on quicker every time.”

I rolled my eyes. “Great, now my guardian angel is lecturing me too,” I muttered underneath my breath. I looked at my watch. It was only ten a.m., the day was still young. The change in time zones and the rapid transit back had thrown me off. “We need a car.” I thought for a moment, and flipped out my cell phone and dialed Grant. He answered on the first ring. “Grant, I’m borrowing your behemoth truck. We’re going to see the cops about my parent’s murder.”

Bless his soul for not objecting! “Be careful, Rhiannon, don’t let any roadside angels distract you,” he teased. It’s a long drive out to Keechelus Lake.”

I shook my head. Did every man in my life think I needed parenting all of a sudden? I didn’t bother reminding him we were going 30 miles beyond the lake to the sheriff’s office. “It’s only an hour. We’ll be back before you know it.”

I led Andreas back to the Botany Bay’s parking lot and introduced him to the black beast. I figured we’d be in the truck and down the road long before I started to pick up Grant’s werewolfiness again. I had a spare key to his truck, just like I did to his house, and he did to mine. What good were friends if you couldn’t trust them to bring you a spare key when you were stupid enough to lock yours inside, after all? It had happened at least once. Oh ok, maybe twice. Plus I took care of Pierre for him whenever he was out of town. Damned he-beast of a cat. Poor cat, stuck living with a werewolf. I understood his insanity.

We headed east out of town on I-90. I was hoping the cop who had worked my parents’ case would be around, or if not, that I’d at least be able to see their file. I hadn’t spoken to him in at least a year. I used to talk to him every day. Then every day turned into every week. Then every week turned into every month. After the first couple of years went by with no new news, it just seemed futile to hold onto hope, and easier to just let it go and move on, which is exactly what I did. I contacted him once about a year ago, which was a pointless conversation in which he gently told me that the trail was so cold there was little hope, and it left me feeling depressed for days.

“Where did your parents die?” Andreas asked, as we left the city of Seattle behind us traveling east into the Cascade Mountains.

“They were killed at our cabin on Keechelus Lake. It’s about an hour east, near Hyak.” I loved that cabin growing up. We spent nearly every summer there. Having parents who were college professors allowed me to have summer vacations that were truly away from home. We built the cabin together as a family. I loved the lake. I learned how to water ski and jet ski there. The mountain-fresh water was chillingly cold, but I loved even that. The summer when I was twenty-two was the first summer I hadn’t spent with them there. I had just graduated college, and was selfishly taking a trip to Europe with Kat to celebrate. There I was, enjoying the beaches of southern France, while some random stranger was taking the lives of my parents. I hadn’t been back to the cabin since. “The Kittitas County Sheriff’s department is in Cle Elum. It’s about an hour and a half from here.”

We spent the next hour and a half mostly in silence. I was lost in thought, thinking of my mom and dad. I missed them every day. Andreas reached over and took my hand in silent sympathy as I reminisced in melancholy. If I had ever complained about a man not understanding how I felt, I took it all back. Here was a man more in tune with my emotions than was literally humanly possible. It was a little disconcerting, to say the least.

We drove up into the mountains, the highway winding through the granite peaks. The pass was full of snow still, but small mountain streams cascaded downward, and dozens of miniature waterfalls trickled off the rocky faces. The effect was one of untamed beauty. I often loved driving up this route in the spring just to count the waterfalls. An hour later we were skirting the coast of Keechelus Lake. It was half-covered in a sheet of snowy ice, with glimpses of frigid water, still as glass, peeking through. My heart panged as I drove past the pull-off towards the family cabin. The headwaters of the Yakima River began at the lake. Unlike the lake, the river’s waters ran swift, but shallow. The highway roughly paralleled the path of the river down far side of the mountains.

Thirty minutes later I turned Grant’s big black beast into the driveway of the Kittitas County Sheriff’s office, right in the heart of the quaint town of Cle Elum, off of Pennsylvania Avenue. It was in a rather nondescript single story brown brick building. I wasn’t a huge fan of the small towns that dotted the Cascades, outside of the ones near ski resorts, and this one was no exception. It lay at the foot of the Cascades in a shallow valley that was flat, and expressionless. The town itself was pretty flat and expressionless, and did nothing to improve my melancholic mood, which had taken a sharp turn towards the moody side as we began descending out of the mountains. With a sigh, I turned the engine off, and went inside. Andreas was right on my heels.

I asked the clerk (a mousy thirty-something woman with wire-rimmed glasses in the typical khaki sheriff colors, who seemed to be as nondescript as the entire town – which struck me as highly appropriate) if Detective Bosco was in. She took my name, smiled politely, and asked me to have a seat, while she disappeared through the doorway behind her desk. With a long suffering sigh, I turned toward Andreas, feeling frustrated; frustrated that my parents’ murder was still unsolved after four long years, frustrated that I had to sit and wait, and just frustrated with all that had happened in the past few days.

He was already sitting in the plastic lobby seats. He rolled his eyes. “Quit clenching your jaw, and sit down. You cannot worry time into passing any faster.”

At a loss for a decent retort, I decided to simply comply. Maybe it would throw him off. I was starting to feel predictable around him, anyway, what with his mood sensing ability and all.

Worry and frustration proved short-lived, at any rate, since the clerk returned a moment later with Detective Bosco in tow. He smiled and shook my hand politely. “Miss Maddox, what an unexpected surprise!” And what a redundant redundancy, I thought to myself. “You’re lucky you caught me, this is usually my day off.”

He turned to shake Andreas’ hand. “This is my friend Andreas – ” I began, and then realized I had absolutely no idea what his last name was, or if he even had one. Did angels use surnames?

“Andreas Spyridon,” he finished, with a firm handshake. Spyridon? What kind of a name was that? Did he just make that up? No, he couldn’t have; it was too weird for him to have come up with on the fly. A made-up last name would have been something like Smith or Jones or Black, not something weird and convoluted and foreign like Spyridon.

“Detective Patrick Bosco, pleased to meet you.” He gestured for us to follow, and he led us back to his office. It was a cramped space, with no windows. Typical government office, I felt. His desk was piled high with cluttered paperwork and folders, and the file cabinets seemed to be filled to bursting. No wonder he was in working on a Sunday putting in overtime, with the amount of paperwork lying around. It would probably take him days to sort it all out. I assumed the sheriff’s department was probably understaffed. He cleared off his spare chairs, and we sat down.

“So,” he said, once we had settled down, “What brings you all the way out to Cle Elum?” he asked politely, although he knew exactly why I was here. It was the only reason I ever came here.

“I’ve come to see if any progress has been made on my parents’ case,” I said, shifting in the uncomfortable metal chair. His office needed a serious makeover. I wonder if there were any interior designers who would work for government wages. I doubted it. Or if there were, they were probably the reason his office looked the way it did. After all, you get what you pay for.

He frowned, and shook his head. “I hope you didn’t drive all the way out here just to ask me that.

I looked at Andreas. “Well, I was also hoping I could take a look at their file,” I hinted, mustering the sweetest “helpless girl” smile I could muster. I don’t think I pulled it off well enough. I’m sure Andreas was stifling a smug smirk.

Detective Bosco sighed and leaned back in his chair. “Miss Maddox, it’s been four years, with no leads, and no progress. I’m afraid the entire case was placed in the cold case section in county storage a year ago.” He gave me a very compassionate look. I couldn’t fault him for being a bad detective, or for lack of caring. I knew as well as he that there was just no evidence pointing to any suspects. It was truly a mystery.

It was my turn to frown. I shook my head. “Well, can’t you get it for me?”

He looked thoughtful. “Yes, but it will take a couple of days. I wish you had called me first. County storage isn’t open on weekends, and it takes a day to process the paperwork.”

I groaned and slid down in my chair. Two whole days? I only had a week to spare, I didn’t want to wait two days. Andreas gripped my arm, silently willing me to calm down. I did my best. “Okay,” I conceded. “Assuming I came back on Tuesday, would I be able to look at the files and the evidence then?”

He shook his head. “The files, yes. The evidence, no. There is a chain of custody involved with evidence, and we can’t risk contaminating the quality of the specimens, it could ruin any chance of ever catching the persons responsible.” He looked genuinely sympathetic. “I am truly sorry, Miss Maddox, but everything you should need would be in the files anyway, pictures, analyses, tests… we might be a small county, but we do cover all of our bases.”

I looked at Andreas dejectedly. It was the evidence I needed, anyway. They had tissue and blood samples, surely; something for Ariel to look at. Andreas nodded his head at me, and stood up decisively. “Thank you, Detective Bosco,” he said. “We will be in touch if we want you to do that.” He shook his hand, and ushered me out of the building back to the truck.

I was not happy with him. “Who gives you the right to make that decision, Andreas?” I said, grabbing him by his arm and spinning him around. “At the very least we ought to take a look at the files, don’t you think? I’ll come back in two days if I have to.”

He climbed into the driver’s seat and started the noisy diesel engine. Where did he get the keys from? “Are you coming?” he asked tersely, looking for all the world like he would willingly drive off without me.

Cursing under my breath, I climbed in the passenger’s side, and buckled up as he drove off. “I don’t appreciate you making my decisions for me,” I snapped, once we hit the highway.

“We don’t need his help, it will take too long,” he said, waving his hand dismissively. “If you want to look at the files, then you shall look at the files. What we need to see is the evidence, and he wasn’t going to give it to us.”

“I know, I know.” I rubbed my head in my hands. “I don’t suppose you know how to break into the Kittitas county storage, do you? Or even where it’s at?” I was at a loss.

“Good god, woman!” he bellowed, swerving and taking the next exit sharply, off of the highway. “You have a dozen different emotions every minute, how do you do it? It’s draining, and impossible to keep up with!”

“Welcome to the life of a woman,” I said snarkily. “Where are we going?”

“To find the nearest coffee joint,” he growled. “Your emotional roller coaster is exhausting me, and maybe you won’t be as grouchy either with some caffeine.”

Yes, Cle Elum had a decent espresso stand, we discovered. Andreas had a point. Just the smell of my fresh caramel latte brought a smile to my face, and eased the tension in my spine. I was like Pavlov’s dog when it came to coffee.

We hit the highway, again, and this time I felt much better.

“Now,” he said, taking a sip of his Americano, “I don’t know anything about breaking and entering storage facilities, but I think I know someone who might.”

We took a slight detour just before Bellevue, at the Cougar Mountain Wildland Park. It wasn’t so much a park, as it was an entire mountain, forested and undeveloped, surrounded by suburbia. We pulled off onto a narrow side road that wound and meandered up the hillside a ways, before disappearing into a trail so narrow it was no longer passable by truck. There Andreas parked. He headed up the mountainside, disappearing into the trees, and I climbed up after him.

“Where are we going?” I asked, a little short on breath, as we were making quite the vertical climb.

“To find someone who owes me a favor,” he said cryptically, as he began ascending a near vertical rock face.

“There’s someone who lives way up here?” I said incredulously. “This is State protected wild land, no one lives here.”

He turned and looked down at me as I clambered up the rock face behind him, carefully picking my footholds and handholds. “No one human, you mean.”

My curiosity was instantly piqued. Was it another angel? An elf? And why would someone choose to live up here, of all places? Andreas picked his way through the dense underbrush carefully. There was no trail to follow, but he seemed to know where he was going, as he made a direct beeline upwards towards some unknown destination. Finally, after climbing up a second precarious granite ledge, I found myself standing at the edge of a small highland meadow of young clover, watching Andreas crawling through the leaves.

I chuckled at the sight of the tall angel crawling around on hands and knees. “What’re you doing?” I asked.

“Looking for a four-leaf clover,” he replied. “Come help.”

Rolling my eyes, I, too, got down on my knees and hunted for a four-leaf clover. “I had no idea angels were so superstitious,” I teased. “But I guess we can use all the luck we can get.”

“It’s not for that,” he said cryptically. “Aha!” He announced, jumping up, a four-leaf clover clutched between his thumb and four finger.

“What’s it for?” I asked, standing up and brushing off my knees.

“You’ll find out,” he said.

“Yes, Captain Mysterious,” I said snidely. “What next?”

He sat down, smack dab in the middle of the clover, and laid back, stretching out his lanky body, keeping the four-leaf clover clutched in between his thumb and forefinger. “Now we wait,” he replied. “Come lay down.”

I sighed, but did as he told me. “What’re we waiting for?” I whispered, once I was stretched out next to him. The clover smelled fresh and green. It was still too early in spring for flowers.

“You’ll see,” he said, a hint of exasperation in his voice. “Don’t you ever just be quiet?”

“Only when I’m asleep,” I muttered. Fine. If he wanted to be a mysterious jerk, I’d let him. I dutifully shut up. I distracted myself by stretching out my newly enhanced senses. I could feel each individual leaf brushing up against my skin where it was exposed. I could probably have counted them, if I wanted. I could hear the faintest of breezes touch the field. The slight rustling was so faint I shouldn’t have been able to sense it. Off in the distance I could hear a bee hive, just waking up for the spring. In another few weeks this field would probably make a nice pollen source for them. Then I had a thought.

I closed my eyes, and reached out to touch the energy of the clover field. There it was, humming busily underneath me. I opened my eyes, and could see the glow of the numen sparkling around me. I let out a deep breath, focused my mind, and concentrated on the clover, willing it to bloom. I turned my head and watched. The light the clover gave off shimmered and shifted as tiny flower stalks sprouted across the field, with the stately precision of a well-timed marching band. I channeled energy down, into the earth, into the roots. Small purple-pink clover blossoms appeared everywhere, sending off a lovely fragrance. I sighed and smiled in delight, pleased with both the scent, and with the accomplishment. My head started to ache with the effort, and I felt drained of energy and exhausted suddenly, as if I hadn’t slept in two days. The sun was high, and I felt its energy wash over me, filling me, refueling me with a slow sedate pace. My toes tingled. It was a singularly unique, but pleasant sensation.

“Nicely done,” Andreas murmured, patting my hand in approval. I smiled, pleased.

At that point, I heard a slight buzz, almost like insect wings, and a voice, tiny, tinny, and masculine: “Myrrh, Myrrh, the angel broughtusflowers!”

I turned and looked in shock as a miniature man, dressed in a gossamer tunic, with the most amazing and beautiful butterfly wings sprouting from his back, delicately landed right on Andreas’ hands, and took the four-leaf clover from him.

I sat up, gasping in shock, and staring, my mouth gaping. Another tiny winged person joined him, this time a diminutive woman dressed in a silken shimmering gown, with silken shimmering butterfly wings that matched. “Frank,” she chided in a shrill, high pitched tiny voice, wagging a tiny finger, “Youknowbetter than to take cloverfrom strangers.”

“This isn’t a stranger, woman,” he scoffed. “It’s Andreas.”

“I wasn’t talking abouthim,” she replied rapidly. She flew over and hovered in front of my face, peering into my eyes. I couldn’t help but stare right back at the tiny creature. She had a sharp, upturned nose, a small mouth, large slanted eyes, and pointed ears that poked out of her ginger colored of hair, which was braided in hundreds of the tiniest, most delicate braids all the way down to her small waist. I wondered how she kept her hair from tangling up in her delicate wings.

“Oh, her!” the little man replied. He flew over to join her, and the two of them buzzed in circles around my head, chattering at a pitch so high and rapid, I couldn’t understand them.

Andreas sat up, tucking his legs underneath him, Indian style. “Frank, Myrrh, I’d like you to meet my friend Rhiannon Maddox. She bloomed the clover for you.” The two excited creatures flew over and perched on Andreas’ knees.

“A four leafer and flowers!” Frank said excitedly. “We like her, we like her.” He spoke so rapidly, the words seemed to blend together, sounding more like “welikeherwelikeher.” I was in awe and wonder. They both took flight again, and hovered in front of my face. He was as delicate as her, with large green eyes, and short auburn hair that fanned about his head like a halo whenever he moved. It reminded me much of peach fuzz. He bore what looked like a porcupine quill tucked underneath his belt like a sword. He made a sweeping bow in mid air. “Pleasedtomeetya,” he rushed. “I am Frankincense, and this here is my mate Myrrh.” She made the cutest mid-air curtsy. I stifled a giggle. Frankincense and Myrrh? How cute was that? “We are the guardians of the mountain,” he said, with a formal intonation and inflection that gave off the impression it was an official and respected title.

I saw Andreas roll his eyes and shake his head behind their back. “They are fairies,” he informed me, as if that explained everything, and as if I hadn’t already guessed that by their appearance.

“I’m very pleased to meet you, as well,” I said politely, with a smile. “You are the first fairies I have met.”

Frankincense beamed at that. “And the best, of course. Andreas has excellent taste. For an angel.” He wrinkled up his nose distastefully. I got the distinct impression that fairies didn’t care much for angels.

“Frank, mind your manners,” Myrrh chided. “She bloomed the clover,” she reminded him, as if that was something important. She perched gently on my knee, her touch as light as a feather. I raised an eyebrow, and looked at Andreas curiously. He just smiled at me.

“Frankincense of Cougar Mountain, I have come to claim my favor,” Andreas said with great formality.

The little fairy flew over to him. “Very well, angel,” he sniffed. “What can I do for you?”

Andreas cocked his head in my direction. “Rhiannon is in need of some assistance, something only a fairy could accomplish, and I know of no one better than you.” Boy, he was pouring the flattery on thicker than butter, but it obviously was working, as both Frank and Myrrh straightened up and preened, looking at me expectantly.

I cleared my throat. “Umm, yes,” I started. Were these the people Andreas felt could steal the police records? I definitely had some doubts about that, but decided to not judge a book by its cover and play along. “I’m looking for someone who can retrieve a file for me.”

Frank hovered in front of my face, eyeing me shrewdly. “Is it locked up tight?” I nodded my head. “Is it guarded?” I wasn’t certain, but I nodded my head yes, again, knowing there was probably at least county-employed security guards at their storage facility.

That was all he asked. “We’ll do it,” Frank announced, bobbing his head. His entire body bobbed in mid-air along with his head.

I was astonished at that.

Myrrh jumped up and flew to him, and whispered in his ear. Frank flew over to Andreas. “But it’ll cost you,” he added.

“Here we go,” Andreas muttered. “What do you want?”

“Mangos,” Frank replied tartly. “Do you know how hard it is to find mangos? They just don’t want to grow here,” he complained.

I stifled another giggle, trying to imagine a mango tree growing on top of a mountain in Washington. What an absurd concept.

“And some dried wormwood to sprinkle around our nest to keep the insects away, and pennyroyal for the ticks,” Myrrh added.

Now that was actually a concept I was well familiar with, being the owner of an organic nursery. “What about pyrethrum flower heads instead of wormwood?” I suggested.

Frank looked a little confused, and Myrrh looked curious, but dubious.

“It’s a better insect repellant than wormwood,” I explained. “I grow it in my greenhouse, and use it all the time.” They still looked unconvinced. “It doesn’t grow here naturally, so you might not be familiar with it. I’d be happy to provide you some of each so you can compare,” I added with a smile. Herbs were my specialty, and their request was so simple to fulfill that I thought nothing of it. Andreas, however, looked a little lost, which struck me as funny, since he was such a nature guy. “What do you think, Andreas? Or do you know of a better organic repellant?” I smiled.

He shrugged. “You’d know better than me. Wild nature is my forte, not tamed and controlled flora.”

I smirked. Myrrh looked stunned. “Both?” she gasped, shocked. She scratched her ears, as if she was afraid she had misheard me.

Frank buzzed over and perched on my shoulder. “You have yourself a bargain,” he agreed.

“Excellent!” I said, pleased with my fairy negotiating skills. “Now, what I need is the files from Kittitas County storage regarding my parents’ murder, and all the evidence that goes along with it.” I wasn’t having trouble imagining the two tiny people getting into the storage facility, but I was having definite trouble imagining them procuring and carrying a banker’s box of files and evidence. “Do you know where that is?”

Myrrh looked thoughtful. “Your parents, you say?” I nodded my head. She looked up at Frank, who was buzzing excitedly on my shoulder.

“We can find it,” he said. “We’re fairies, we can find anything,” he boasted proudly, placing his hand across his heart.

Andreas rolled his eyes. “And take anything, too,” he muttered under his breath. Frankincense ignored him.

The little fairy fluttered over in front of my face again, and Myrrh joined him. “You have my word, Rhiannon Maddox,” he intoned formally, “Myrrh and I will retrieve what you desire tonight and bring it straight to you at the bewitching hour.” He bowed in mid-air. Myrrh just smiled and nodded her head in fast agreement.

“That’s midnight,” Andreas whispered.

“Great!” I beamed. “We’re going to be at my greenhouse, and I’ll have your herbs ready.”

“We shall find you, Rhiannon Maddox,” he gushed excitedly. “We fairies can find anything!” On that note, the two fairies darted off, leaving a trail of glittering dust behind them, and I gaped in awe.

“Holy crap!” I said to Andreas. “Those were fairies!”

He chuckled. “You have a gift of stating the obvious.”

I ignored the jibe. “Do you really think they can get it? How on earth are they going to carry that? And how are they going to find it, and me?” I was full of questions.

He stood up and brushed off his jeans. “Oh, absolutely they can get it. Fairies are notorious thieves. There are few locks that can stop them, and nothing human-made that I am aware of. Magical barriers are the only thing that might deter them.” He headed back to the rocky slope, and we began our descent back down the mountain. “I have no idea how they carry what they carry, and I don’t want to know, but they have some magical means of transporting all sorts of items,” he explained, as we reached the bottom of the first rocky ridge. “Fairies are also excellent trackers. Once they have met a person, they have an uncanny ability to find them again.”

When we finally climbed back down through the tree-lined slope and reached the truck, I found I had one last curiosity for him: “I thought they owed you a favor, why am I paying them in mangos and herbs?” In my experience, one didn’t pay the person who owed you a favor when they were fulfilling the favor. That was just backwards.

Andreas groaned a complaint as he started up the engine and backed out onto the main road. “I saved Frank’s life last summer, when I stumbled upon him tangled in a stinging nettle bush, where a hungry fox was about to pounce on him, but no favor from a fairy is ever repaid back fairly. There is always a price.”

By the time we reached the outskirts of Seattle, it was only 3 p.m. We still had a couple of hours before we had to get Grant’s truck back to the greenhouse. Andreas navigated the big truck smoothly through traffic like he had driven the roads a million times. For all his detest of concrete jungles, he was obviously familiar with Seattle. We stopped at a Safeway and picked up some mangos. Fairies love fruit, Andreas explained to me, and mangos were a particularly sweet delight to them. I bought a couple of pomegranates, as well, figuring they’d probably like those, too.

“You’re going to spoil them rotten,” he warned softly as we were in the check-out line, “and then you’ll never get rid of them. You can only trust a fairy as far as you can throw him.”

I elbowed him in the ribs, shocked at his intolerance. “Try to be a little nicer, would you?” I whispered harshly. “If they can actually get that stuff tonight, they deserve it. A little kindness can go a long way.”

We loaded our purchase into the truck, and headed back to my house.

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