Prelude (An Alec Winters Series, Book 1)

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Part II: After - Chapter 14

It had been several weeks since the trial ended, and now, all of Alec’s senses were acutely sensitive and perceptive to even the slightest changes around him. He felt, heard, saw, and smelled almost everything. More often than not, his sudden appearance startled Cassidy as he soundlessly slipped about the house. It was a huge transition for the previously self-involved teen, but he struggled to adapt and tried hard to evaluate the unusual sensations and changes. Now, on the first night after he’d received his diploma, Alec’s nostrils flared slightly.

“I know I smell Grandfather Saguache’s vanilla-flavored tobacco,” he earnestly claimed before tracking the aroma to the front door.

“That’s not possible, Alec,” Cassidy protested. “My father has been dead for many years.”

“I know that, but I also know what I smell and it’s not the first time either,” he quietly insisted. “I need some fresh air. I’ll be back.”

His grandfather, Martin Saguache, was on the porch waiting for him. He casually leaned against the outside doorjamb with a mahogany pipe stem tightly clenched between his teeth. “It’s about damn time,” he grunted when Alec finally came outside to investigate.

When alive, Martin Saguache had resembled his grandson. He’d stood five feet eleven inches tall and weighed around a hundred and eighty pounds. He’d had the same startling blue eyes. Although his grandfather was well-educated and respected in the community, he had a reputation for being tough as leather. Those who knew him also knew not to mess with him. Even though Alec was only a young boy at the time, he remembered that wherever he went with his grandfather, others gave the man a wide berth. Now, Martin Saguache appeared to Alec as he was during his best years of life and Alec stood toe-to-toe with him.

“How is this possible?” Alec asked. “How do I see you? You’re dead. Am I seeing your spirit? Have I lost my mind?”

“You’re seeing me, Alec,” Martin Saguache calmly reassured with an understanding chuckle.

“What is it, Alec?” Cassidy called out. Fearful that one of the mob-mentality neighbors might strike out at her son, she came to the door and opened it a little. “What’s going on? Are you talking to someone? Has someone rolled the front yard with toilet paper again or egged the front door?”

“No. It’s all right, Mother,” Alec soothed and calmed. “Everything is quiet. The porch is clean and the yard and trees are clear. I’m only letting off some steam,” he replied to put her mind at ease.

“Thank goodness,” Cassidy sighed. She went back inside, and Alec turned back to his grandfather, immediately lowering his voice.

“What’s happening to me? Why did Catalina see me as an angel, but my father saw me as a terrifying demon? Is something wrong with me? Am I some kind of freak?” Alec fired off the questions without waiting for a response.

“I know,” Grandfather Saguache responded with another soft chuckle. “You have a thousand and one questions. Listen, Alec, I’ll explain as much as I can, but keep in mind that you were born this way. It’s in your DNA. It’s who you are. It’s who we are. This change has been with you all along. Do you get that?”

Alec considered that for a moment. It had to be true. He’d felt something snap or awaken the night his father died. Nevertheless, at that moment, he’d also known that, whatever it was, it had always been inside him. Grandfather Saguache had just admitted that it was a family trait. Hearing it put that way made Alec feel a little better, but he wasn’t sure about any of it. Still, he nodded thoughtfully as he attempted to wrap his mind around the concept.

“Please explain what you mean by that,” Alec almost whispered.

“This gift has been in our family for many generations,” Martin slowly began. “No one knows exactly when it started or how we ‘Saguaches’ were selected, but it’s pretty safe to say that it began when the first settlers arrived in New Orleans. That’d be nearly three hundred years ago, give or take a decade. It could go back further, but we know it has been that long.”

“What do you mean? How could you know that?” Alec interrupted. “No one even knows how long this home has been in the family. ‘More than five generations’ isn’t really an answer.”

“That’s also true,” Grandfather acknowledged. “However, our heritage is a different matter altogether. You see, even though they don’t know our surname, there’s a Voodoo Society here that keeps records and prophecies about the duality of our family’s special talents…about the man who is both angel and devil.”

Stunned, Alec started to interrupt again, but his grandfather held up a hand to silence him. In response, Alec remained quiet. He leaned against the porch wall beside Martin Saguache determined to listen and learn all he could about his family’s heritage. He wanted to know and learn everything he could about the Saguache family’s traits and history, especially about the angel and devil part.

“Keep in mind,” grandfather began again, “I know you have many questions. So did I. Nevertheless, you must also understand that Cassidy and Catalina can hear you. They can’t hear me.” He paused, waiting on Alec’s nod of understanding before continuing, “Your life from now on, is not your own. You were born to fight evil and protect innocence…That is our responsibility once the transformation takes effect. It’s a balance between light and dark. You are that balance because you will both redeem and punish. You will bring light to those you protect. You will bring a dark end to their oppressors. That’s who you are; it’s who you became on the night you saved Catalina. You felt it, didn’t you? That thing inside you…you felt it awaken, didn’t you?” He waited for Alec’s nod. “Once the ability awakens, it’s your primary job. You won’t be able to fight it so you must learn the correct way to use it. You must learn to control it, thereby, using it for the highest good.”

“That’s why you’re here,” Alec acknowledged.

“Yes. During your pre-imposed sabbatical from school, I’ll show you how to use this ability. Protecting Cat was your first experience with this gift. You saved her from Buck’s brand of wickedness and abuse. I commend you for that act.” He stopped briefly again, waiting for Alec to acknowledge his understanding. After another dutiful nod, Martin explained more. “I can easily assume some of your questions and concerns, after all, when this gift first manifested in me, I was about your age. I had plenty of questions myself. With that in mind, let me assure you that you didn’t kill Buck. He died just the way you thought he did…from fright and his heart gave out. He drank too much, ate too much, and whored too much. Buck Winters couldn’t get enough of anything and he grasped life by the balls, stuffing it down his fat, thick throat. He over-consumed whether it was food, drink, or women. Because of that hedonistic lifestyle, his arteries were blocked. It would have happened eventually without your involvement.”

“Really?” Alec asked, desperately needing the reassurance.

“Yes, really,” Martin stated. “Take a look in his medicine cabinet. He had all kinds of prescriptions that he didn’t take correctly. There was something for each of his major ailments: high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, and angina to name only a few. He’d also hidden some uppers and downers in old pill bottles that he combined with booze on occasion. It was just a matter of time. While he was terrified by what he saw when he looked at you, his heart gave out. It’s that simple. Moreover, to answer your other concerns about his death, yes, you are some kind of scary-as-hell devil. Only bad people see that side of you though. Your mother, Sabrina, Cat, and your friends, even the people in your neighborhood and around the city…none of them will ever see you that way.”

“How can you be so sure,” Alec replied with dismay. “It seems like everyone at school and in the neighborhood thinks I’m a monster, an evil person capable of murdering my father.”

“You feel that way, especially after everything that has happened, but I can assure you that only bad people see your devil persona. Trust me.”

Alec sighed with relief.

“I can see that makes you feel better.” Martin studied his grandson closely. “On the flipside, those you protect will see you as a beautiful angel even if they don’t have the words to describe you. Even if what they see is overpowering to them. The angelic light can blind those who see it. That makes it difficult for them to remember or describe what they saw. It might also reassure you to know that most people will never see you as anything other than an ‘unremarkable’ man. In other words, they won’t be able to describe you in detail. Young children, and those that society has labeled as ‘crazies,’ will see your angel persona. They still have a doorway in their consciousness that’s open to the other side. It allows them to see what is true. For children, the doorway will close in time and as they get older and mature. Most of the time, it closes when they stop believing. Still, there are some who maintain their child-eyes for their entire lives. You’ll recognize those gentle souls when you meet them.”

“Knowing that my family and friends won’t see the side of me that scared my father to death does make me feel better,” Alec softly acknowledged, “but what about Catalina? She saw me as an angel. Is she damaged in some way? I mean, that didn’t sound right. What I meant to say is does she still have that doorway open?”

“Yes, Catalina’s ability to see the other side is active. What Buck did to her sent your sister over the edge. A child can’t easily reconcile such violent actions, especially when a trusted adult or parent is responsible for that pain. However, there is more at play here than you realize.”

“Please explain,” Alec said.

“Catalina is your sister. She is the product of Cassidy and Buck’s union, just as you are. The Saguache bloodline runs through Cassidy’s veins as the giver and the receiver blood ran through Buck. The combination meant that gifts passed to you as well as Catalina. Just as your mother has always been sensitive to a higher mind, which enables her to teach universal concepts and ideas, she passed certain abilities to you and your sister. So did Buck Winters. Do you understand, Alec?”

“Not really.”

“What I’m trying to say is that Catalina would’ve had her own gifts even if Buck had never harmed her. Those gifts would’ve become active during her mid-teens; however, it probably wouldn’t be as pronounced as it is now. The Saguache family passes on our abilities to our offspring when we’re paired with our genetic match. It’s simply the way it is. That uncertainty is the main reason that Saguache families usually have only one child. No one really knows what effect the bloodline will have on the second or third child born of such a union.”

“I still don’t understand,” Alec admitted.

“You will in time,” Martin reassured. “For now, let’s focus on how this ability actually works…You’ll be led to those you should protect. Somehow, the ‘bigger picture’, ‘universe’, or whatever you choose to call it; will bring innocent victims across your path. You’ll inexplicitly be in the right place at the appropriate time to intervene and protect those in need. There are only two rules: you must never use the gift for personal vengeance and you must make yourself available to do this work.”

“How do I make myself available?”

“We’ll start your training tonight and the education and preparation will continue for several weeks. It’s in your genetic makeup to learn quickly and to do this job with speed and agility. Otherwise, the ability wouldn’t have awakened in you. Just as you are an excellent athlete, you’ll excel at this work also. Still, you need guidance. Are you ready to begin?”

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