Chapter 22: A Stranger Comes Knocking
Through sleep-laden eyes, Samantha checked for the time, and found a note propped up against her clock.
Dad and I are at Essences, but he’ll be home later to check on you. I’ve left food on the stove. If you need anything before he gets back, go over to the Kitchet’s house.
Zen uncurled himself in the window seat. “What time is it?”
“9:45.” Samantha pulled the covers back up over her head. Her intention was to sleep in. She needed it. After coming to the decision last night to tell her mom all she’d been up to, her mind and body completely let go. Gone was the anxiety of having to sneak around and hiding things. Samantha vowed to herself, she’d never keep another secret from her mom, ever again. Detective work is exhausting.
“Did I really hear that tree talking last night, or was I just dreaming?”
She poked one eye out to observe her cousin. He looked bright, eager, and ready to go this morning. Just the opposite of what she was feeling. “His name is Terrance, and yeah, he told you a story.”
“Oh yeah, Veil Essence, is that stuff true?”
“Yeah, remember I told you over the phone. The village of Hearthshire used to be called, Veil Essence.”
Zen opened the window, and did exactly what she had done the morning after Terrance spoke to her. “Hellooo,” he called out, too chipper for Samantha’s taste. “Can you hear me…uh Terrance?”
“He sleeps during the day.” Her voice sounded muffled from under her blanket cocoon.
“Open heart...” Zen yawned loudly, stretching his hands above his head. “Open mind.”
“Grandpa’s clues, he said that first you must have an open heart and an open mind. Having these two things would help us find the marvelous, miraculous, and magical people, places and things, or something like that. I heard Terrance last night, so my heart and mind must be open.”
He continued quoting from Grandpa Innis’s letter. “Second, be daring. Well, I’m always daring. That second clue Grandpa defiantly wrote that one for you.”
“Yeah right, you’re the brave and daring one.”
“Third, some marvels we’ll need help in finding. I would say Grandpa was talking about the Core People and their hidden world. Without the Kitchets and Addiwan, none of us would be able to find them.”
“True.” Geesh, he’s just a beacon of knowledge this morning.
“What are you doing? Get up!” Zen surprised Samantha by leaping onto her bed. Let’s go see what your moms cooking for breakfast.” He pulled the covers off her head.
“Stop!” Samantha was not in the mood for his high jinks. “Anyway, Mom and Dad aren’t home. They went into the village. There’s food on the stove.”
“Perfect, after we eat we can go talk to Kitchet. Now, get up!” He dragged the blanket off the bed, and almost Samantha too as she tried to hold on to it.
“Hey!” Samantha tossed her pillow at his head. “Leave me—”
Thump, thump, thump. It was the sound of the front door’s brass knocker.
Standing poised to hurl her pillow back at her, Zen asked, “Who can that be?”
“Probably Bess or Kitchet, you were making too much noise. But wait, they never knock.”
Thump, thump, thump.
“I’ll go see who it is.” Zen flung the pillow at Samantha’s head before running into the hall.
Slipping on robe, she was about to join him downstairs, when he came thundering back in. “It’s him!”
“The guy from the funeral!”
“I told you he didn’t get a chance to talk to our moms!”
“Oh yeah right, two weeks later he thinks to himself, oh I never paid my respects, let me pop around now.”
Thump, thump, thump. The persistent knock came again.
“It hasn’t been two weeks. Let’s just ask him what he wants.”
“Wait, where’s Gypsy?”
“Mom lets her out in the morning.”
“We’re not opening the door!”
“Gotcha, Mr. Brave and daring.”
From behind the heavy wooden front door, Zen asked in his best deep man’s voice. “How can I help you?”
“I am looking for Anna.”
Samantha noted the stranger’s pronounced Asian accent, and while Zen conversed with him, she tiptoed over to the living room window to sneak a quick glance at the knocker. He was dressed just as she remembered seeing him at the funeral, in jeans, and a pair of well-worn shoes. He held his coat together with ungloved hands, that to her, didn’t appear warm enough for Vermont’s cold February morning. A wool earflap hat covered his head and he still carried the backpack slung over one shoulder.
“She’s not available,” answered Zen. “Who are you?”
“I am family…friend. Is Anna at the flower shop?
Samantha looked over at Zen and shook her head, feeling they shouldn’t give out too much information.
“I’m not sure, but if you give me your name I’ll tell her you’re looking for her.”
The knocker was quiet, so Zen asked. “Did you want to leave a message for my aunt Anna?”
“Don’t worry. I will go see Anna at the shop.”
“Wait!” Zen yelled. “Who should I say came by?”
“Lin, Peter Lin.”
Samantha pressed her hands over her mouth to keep from screaming. She jumped back from the window, just as Mr. Lin turned and walked away.
“Zen! That’s him, that’s Mr. Lin.” She could hardly contain herself. She swiftly walked from the living room to the front door and back to the living room again, shaking her hands, trying to think of what to do next.
“Something’s wrong. It doesn’t seem right,” Zen calmly said. Then, to Samantha’s horror, he swung the door open wide, calling out, “Mr. Li—”
She shoved him to the side, quickly shutting the door. “What are you crazy?” She ran back to the window to see if Mr. Lin heard him. He was nowhere in sight. Thank goodness.
“Samantha, we need to think for a moment.”
“We need to call the police!” she yelled, racing upstairs to look for Chief Bevin’s card, with Zen following her. “What’s wrong with you? First you tell me I think too much, now you wanna waste time thinking?”
“Just ask yourself. Why would a known killer come knocking at our door, and tell us his real name?”
“Because he’s a murderer, he strangles people, he’s crazy in the head!” she answered, while pulling open drawers. “You’re the one who said he looked suspicious. Remember the day of the funeral?”
“Yeah, but now I feel something’s off.”
“Yeah, he’s off. It’s in my coat pocket.” She raced back downstairs, Zen still keeping up with her.
“What’s in your coat pocket? What are you looking for?”
“Chief Bevin gave me his business card,” she said, reaching inside her pocket and showing it to Zen. “He said to call him if I needed anything. Well, I need him now!” She reached for the phone.
“Wait.” Zen placed his hand over the receiver. “What are you going to say to him?”
“I’m going to inform him Peter Lin just came knocking at our door. I’m going to tell Chief Bevin the person who murdered our grandma and great-grandma is now looking for my mom!”
“I’m getting dressed. Don’t go anywhere without me.”
It felt like an eternity between each ring. “Please pick up.”
“This is Police Chief Michael Bevin. Leave a message, or if this is an emergency situation, call 911.” With a huff, she hung up and dialed the number on the card to the police station.
“Hearthshire Police Department, how can we help you?” A woman’s voice answered.
“Can I speak with Chief Bevin?”
As she waited, Zen came back, carrying his sneakers. “What’s happening, what did he say?”
“I’m waiting. He didn’t answer his cell so I—yes I’m here,” Samantha responded to the woman on the other end of the phone line.
“Chief Bevin has stepped away from his desk,” the woman informed her. “Would you like his voice mail or can someone else assist you?
“No.” Samantha hung up and started dialing again.
“Who are you calling know?”
“I’m trying his cell phone again.”
“While you waste your time with that, I’m going over to get Kitchet. He’ll know what to do.”
“Wait! Don’t go out there— darn, his voice mail again.” She slammed down the receiver. “Mr. Lin may still be out there.”
Paying her no heed, Zen flung the door open. “Look, he’s gone, I’ll be back.”
Locking the door behind him, she stood with her back pressed up against it. The house fell silent, too silent. She raced to the window, checking to see if Zen made it safely inside the Kitchet’s home. She didn’t see him. He must be inside already. She sat on the edge of the window seat, and waited for him to return. Somewhere in the house, a clock ticked loudly, but not as loud as the voice in her head.
Mr. Lin is going to the flower shop. He’s going to kill Mom. He’s going to strangle her with his bare hands, and it will be all my fault! All my digging around, playing girl detective. I brought that killer right to our doorstep! She clinched her eyes shut. She couldn’t stand to hear her own thoughts in her head.
Glancing out the window, she searched for Zen. Why is he taking so long! Her body was buzzing, she felt like she was going to jump out of her skin. Why am I just sitting here? I’ve got to do something. I’ve got to save Mom!
Running up to her room, she threw on a pair of jeans and a sweater, grabbed her sneakers, and raced down the hall. Halfway down the steps, someone knocked at the door…she held her breath.
“It’s us Samantha, open the door.”
Recognizing Kitchet’s voice, she allowed herself to breathe again. Unbolting the door, the small man stormed in, followed by Bess, Zen, and Gypsy.
“I told them everything,” Zen said.
“Have you called your mom at the shop?” Kitchet asked, rushing towards the phone.
“No, I didn’t think of that.” Samantha’s voice cracked. Tears ran down her cheeks. “I don’t even know the shop’s number!”
Bess grabbed Samantha into her arms, “Hush child. Your mom is with your father. He won’t let any harm come to her.”
“Anna, has a Mr. Lin come by this morning?” Kitchet stood, one hand balled into a fist, planted firmly on his hip. “Is Craig still with you? Close up shop, and don’t let anyone in. I will explain when I get there,” Kitchet instructed.
“What happened, did Mr. Peter Lin come in?” Samantha and Zen asked at the same time.
“Calm down, your mom said no one came in by that name, and your dad is there with her.”
“Right, let’s go,” Zen said, as he and Samantha headed for the door.
“You two will do no such thing,” Kitchet ordered, stopping both of them in their tracks. “You will stay right here with Bess, and I’ll go with Addiwan.”
“Take the passageway,” Bess said, “it’ll be quicker.”
“But—” Samantha started to protest.
“Gypsy, guard,” Kitchet cut her off, and the dog stood up straight at his command.
After Kitchet left, Bess turned to Samantha and Zen, wagging her finger, about to say what Samantha knew would be a scolding, when the phone rang. Both she and Zen dived for the phone, with Samantha reaching it first.
“This is Police Chief Bevin. I received two missed calls from this number.”
“Chief Bevin, it’s Samantha! Mr. Lin came by the house this morning. He’s looking for my mom,” she explained, as Zen and Bess hovered close, hanging on her every word.
“Are you sure it was Peter Lin?” Chief Bevin seemed shocked by the news.
“Yes, and he said he was going to Essences Flower Shop to find her.”
“I’m heading over.”
“Yes, I understand, stay away from the shop.” Samantha continued talking into the receiver even though she knew Chief Bevin was no longer on the line. “Got it.” Hanging up the phone, she turned to Bess. “Chief Bevin said he’s taking a police team over to the flower shop. You may want to warn Kitchet before he leaves.”
“Oh, you’re right. If he pops up from underneath the floor, they may shoot at him! Lock this door until I get back.”
The minute Bess was gone, Samantha turned to Zen. “Get your coat. We can go out the kitchen door.”
“What? Chief Bevin said to stay away from the shop.”
“You do what you want. I’m going into the village.”
But Gypsy ran past her, placing her large body between Samantha and the door.
“Now what?” Zen asked.
Samantha ran back into the living room hoping the dog would follow her. Gypsy didn’t move. The dog stood her guard eyeing Zen who was still in the kitchen.
“Zen, run out the front door, and shut it behind you. I will meet you on the path, hurry.”
Zen broke into a run across the living room with Gypsy chasing after him, while Samantha darted back into the kitchen, confusing the large dog, which allowed them to make their escape. Samantha ran as fast as she could down the driveway, with Zen coming up behind her.
“Wait,” he called out. “Listen, don’t you hear it?”
He pointed to the massive trees that lined the drive. “Can’t you hear them? They’re trying to warn us about something.”
It was hard to hear at first over her heart beating in her ears, but he was right. A collection of voices, both male and female reverberated along the path. “Stay away from the barrier,” the voices spoke as one.
“You hear it now?”
It didn’t matter what the voices were trying to tell them because Samantha kept on running and when she reached the end of the driveway, she encountered a haze of swirling green and white light particles. The particles were like a wall, clearly marking the division where the Fairland property ended and the road leading into the village began. No way around it, and without hesitation, she ran right into the haze, immediately feeling pressure pushing against her body, like hundreds of hands trying to force her out. Determined, she thrust herself forward, emerging on the other side. Looking back, she didn’t see Zen, and the haze of swirling particles was gone. What happened to him! Just as this thought crossed her mind, he plunged out, as if through a hidden door.
“I don’t think we should’ve done that.”
“Don’t worry about it, come on,” she urged, quickly turning to see a familiar face standing off to the side of the road near a parked car. “Look its Ms. Emily. Maybe she’ll give us a ride.”
Happily smiling, Ms. Emily beckoned and Samantha ran towards her. “Ms. Emily, can you give us a ride to my mom’s shop?”
“Hey, get off me!” It was the voice of a distraught Zen. Spinning, Samantha caught a glimpse of him tussling with a man before a hard cold surface collided with the side of her face, sending her spiraling into darkness.