Is There a Problem?

Is There a Problem?

Minnesnowta lived up to its name. Last Sunday, Easter Sunday, we had . . . wait for it . . . snow. A measurable amount of snow. A shovellable amount of snow.

Easter snow“I know the people in your world have a fascination with the notion of snow at Christmas. You even have a song about dreaming of a white Christmas. But a white Easter? I thought Easter was supposed to be sunny and warm, so everyone could parade in their Easter bonnets and other frippery. How can anyone parade in this?” Dray,Elf cleric close-up 2 Dragon’s alter ego, gestured dramatically at the white landscape and the large flakes swirling outside the conference room window, a huge scowl on her face. Then, without waiting for an answer, she shapeshifted into her true form and curled up, growling and spewing black smoke, in front of her illusory fireplace.

Smoke drifting from Dragon's snout

She wasn’t the only one upset with the weather. “We had hoped to work our illusory horses.” My Gypsy frowned and pointed at the snowscape. “But riding in this weather is no fun.”

My Young Hero sighed. “Will spring never come?”

“Relax. It’s only mid-April. Spring will arrive soon.” Miles sounded confident.

Easter snowHorses by barnBut the next three days brought more snow and the following couple of days were overcast and slow to warm. It wasn’t until Saturday afternoon that the temperatures rose, the snow melted, Dragon stopped shivering and emerged from the conference room, and the lads headed for the barn and their horses.

Miles walked into my office around mid-afternoon. “Got a minute?”One Sec

“One sec . . .” I finished typing the sentence I had been composing and clicked save on the manuscript. Then I turned my attention from my computer to my husband. “What’s up?”

“I saw the lads riding their horses.” Miles gestured toward the window. “Your Foreman isn’t with them.”

I frowned. “The lads, my Old Dwarf, and even my Bounty Hunter warned me last week there was something bothering my Foreman, but I haven’t had the chance to speak to him about it yet. I was sort of hoping it was just the winter blues and that he’d snap out of it.”

“Well, he doesn’t seem to be snapping. In fact, last I saw him, early this morning, he was moping in the living room, just staring off into space. I spoke to him three times but if he heard me, he chose to ignore me.” Miles frowned. “I think it’s time you had a word with him. Maybe he’s getting sick or something.”

I nodded. “As soon as I finish this piece I’m writing.”

But between finishing my work and taking several phone calls, it was early evening before I emerged from my office, rushing to get to dinner. In my haste, I literally ran into my Old Dwarf in the hallway.

“Ooof!” A piece of the apple he was munching flew out of his mouth. He picked it up and was about to pop it back in his mouth, but I smacked his hand.

“Don’t you dare! You put that in the trash.” I pointed to my office, followed him into the room, and watched him discard the apple slice.

The Old Dwarf gave me a reproachful look. “Ye dinna be needin’ ta be doin’ thet, lass. Tha food still be good. It dinna been on tha floor fer more’n a second, an’ ye and yer mister be keepin’ tha floor nice an’ clean like. Ye two al’ays be sweepin’ an’ usin’ thet noisy suckin’ machine on it.”

I frowned. “I don’t care how often we vacuum the floor, it’s still dirty. You don’t eat any food that falls on it.”Dwarf with apple

The old reprobate sighed. “Wale, it do na be makin’ much nevermind. I still be havin’ mos’ o me apple.” He took a huge bite of the crisp Red Delicious, then spoke around the mouthful of food. “Be ye doin’ anythin’ aboot yer Foreman yet? I been toldin’ ye las’ week summat been botherin’ ’em.”

I sighed. “I’ll talk to him as soon as possible.”

The dwarf gave me a dubious look. He turned to go, then turned back so quickly, he almost fell over. “Oi, I almos’ be fergittin’. Yer mister be sendin’ me ta fetch ye. He be servin’ up dinner.”

I shook my head at the dwarf’s manners but followed him wordlessly to the dinner table. My husband and all my characters were present . . . all but my Foreman.

Living roomIt was the next morning before I tracked down my Foreman. He was standing in the living room, cattycorner to the window, a faraway look in his unfocused eyes. My brow furrowed as I studied the man. He had lost weight over the past few weeks of missed meals, and his face had become far more lined and careworn than I had previously realized. It was obvious to me that something was eating at him.

I was standing there wondering how to approach my Foreman when my Old Dwarf came in, munching on another of his never-ending succession of snacks. With his typical lack of diplomacy, the old reprobate shouted across the room to me. “Eh, lass! Ye be talkin’ ta ’em yet?” He nodded toward my Foreman.

I shook my head.

“Wale, what be ye waitin’ fer?” The rotund figure stomped across the room and grabbed my Foreman by the arm. “The lass be needin’ ta be talkin’ ta ye.” He pushed my Foreman toward me, and stomped off, still munching.

My Foreman gaped after the retreating figure, then turned toward me. Slowly, an emotionless mask settled over his features. “I am sorry Mistress. I did not know you were looking for me. Have you some task for me?”

I shook my head. “No, I thought we might talk. Would you like a cup of tea, or some other refreshment?”

My Foreman’s soft gray eyes probed my deep brown ones, as if he could determine from them what I might wish to talk about. Finally, he sighed. “Mayhap Master Miles has brewed some coffee this morning?”

 

Will my Foreman tell me what’s bothering him? If so, will I be able to help? Be sure to come back next week and find out. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

A New Problem?

A New Problem?

Dwarf closeupI found my Old Dwarf rummaging through the refrigerator. “You do know lunch is in a half hour, right?”

“Eh?” He blinked. “Be it thet late already? I been missin’ me mid-mornin’ snack!” He sighed dramatically and rubbed his bulging belly.

I rolled my eyes and pushed him aside as I began to assemble lunch for my husband, myself, and my nine characters.

Dragon in front of fireplaceThe grizzled reprobate followed me to the table and leaned casually against the counter. “Ye do na be needin’ ta be settin’ elebbin places taday. Tha beastie will na be et lunch. She be baskin’ in front o ’er illusory fireplace an’ grumblin’ aboot tha weather.”

I grunted. That made sense. Just a few days ago, we didn’t need jackets or even long-sleeved shirts as we enjoyed a day outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine. Today, it was barely above freezing, and several snow squalls had passed through the area during the morning. It came as no surprise that Dragon was cold and miserable.

“Yer Foreman prob’ly will na be eatin’ nuttin, neither.”

I furrowed my brow and gave my Old Dwarf a questioning look as I continued my task. “Oh? Why not?”

“I do na be knowin’ tha details, lass. I only be knowin’ thet summat be botherin’ ’em.”

I nodded and made a mental note to check it out after lunch, but I set a place at the table for my Foreman, just in case.Foreman closeup

I was glad I did, when – despite my Old Dwarf’s prediction – my Foreman joined us for lunch. I watched the former military commander carefully and noticed that he didn’t seem to participate in any of the conversations, and he only picked at his food. He left the table while the rest of us were still eating.

Backyard 050While Miles and I cleaned up from lunch, I discussed my concerns with him. “Are you aware of any problems with my Foreman?” I rinsed off another dish and handed it to my husband.Miles

He took his time positioning it in the dishwasher, then held out his hand for the next dish. “What sort of problem?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. He seemed very quiet at lunch, and he didn’t eat much.”

“Well, whatever his problem, I wish your Old Dwarf had it, too. Your diminutive minion ate more than the rest of us put together and prattled on all through the meal. I couldn’t hear anyone else’s conversation.”

I sighed. “You should be used to him by now.”

Miles gave me a hard look. “I’m sorry, honey, but there are some things one never gets used to.”

I sighed again.

Bounty Hunter full body 2After we finished cleaning the kitchen and putting the dishes in the dishwasher, I headed downstairs to try to work on this week’s blog. I found my Bounty Hunter waiting for me outside my office door.

I frowned, looking at my watch and knowing I didn’t have much time to get my blog written. “What can I do for you today?”Foreman closeup

My Bounty Hunter shrugged. “I thought mayhap you would share my concern over your Foreman.”

I lifted an eyebrow and scoffed. “You are concerned about my Foreman?”

A smile tugged at corners of the man’s lips, but his eyes revealed his cold and calculating nature. “But of course.”

I decided to take the bait. “Oh? What’s wrong with my Foreman?”

My Bounty Hunter shrugged again and studied his fingernails. “I have no idea. But something must be wrong.” He lifted his gaze and faced me squarely. “Five times in the past two days, your Foreman has declined my invitations to practice his swordsmanship with me. He usually relishes the opportunity to sharpen his skills, but my invitations elicited no enthusiasm.”

I frowned but said nothing.

My Bounty Hunter mirrored my frown. “I thought mayhap you would find that as curious as did I.”

I nodded. “Thanks for letting me know.”

Foreman closeupI barely had my computer booted up when my Gypsy and my Young Hero walked in and plopped down in the chairs next to me. Without preamble, my Gypsy blurted, “Something is wrong with your Foreman. You need to do something.”

I sighed. “What’s wrong with him, and what do you expect me to do about it?”

Young hero 2My Young Hero was quick to reply. “He just is not himself anymore. We were finally able to saddle up last week and do some riding. But your Foreman did not seem to be enjoying himself. He did everything very . . .” The lad furrowed his brow and chewed his lower lip while trying to find the word he was looking for.Gypsy close-up

My Gypsy offered, “What you would term very mechanically, Mistress. He did everything very mechanically.”

The other lad nodded. “Yes, that is the term. He lacked any spirit or enthusiasm, like he was just going through the motions. And he has declined to join us since then, in any activity. He does not wish to help clean the barn, or curry the horses, or mend the equipment. He does not even want to ride.”

My Gypsy grabbed my arm. “What is wrong with our friend, Mistress? How can we help?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. But I guess I had better find out.”

Foreman facing right closeup

Doesn’t want to ride? The man who is a former commander of his nation’s illustrious royal mounted guard? The man who managed his kingdom’s largest and most prestigious horse breeding and training facility? What could be wrong with my Foreman? Be sure to come back next week and help me discover the problem and, hopefully, a solution. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Eye Think We’re Done Here

Eye Think We’re Done Here

No catching movement out of corner of eyeBounty Hunter flame-cheekedIt had been a good couple of days, at least on one front. No creepy feelings of being watched. No catching movement out of the corner of my eye, only to find nothing and nobody there when I turned to look. I think my Bounty Hunter had gotten the message.

I had seen him moping around several times, but when I approached him to say something, he turned, flamed-cheeked, and walked away. I saw him do the same when any of his fellow characters drew near. I guess it’s embarrassing, not to mention rather ego-deflating, for a bounty hunter to find all his super-sleuthing and creeping about was common knowledge, to find he hadn’t managed to sneak up on anyone.

The eyes were a different story. I thought I had seen them a few times. Each time, they were gone before I was sure I had seen them, before I was sure they weren’t just a figment of my overactive and over stressed imagination.

The eyes were a different storyThe most recent pair may or may not have just been staring at me from my computer monitor. I squinted at the screen, trying to bring into focus what may have been a fading image of eyes behind the words I had been typing. Was it or wasn’t it? I squinted harder.

“Mistress?”Cleric twisting cord belt

I jumped and looked up from my computer to see Cleric poking her head into my office. Her brow was furrowed, and she looked troubled.

I put my computer in sleep mode. “What is it?”

She edged her way into my office and stood there fidgeting with her cincture.

“Well?”

“Well, Mistress, I am not certain, but I think I saw a pair of disembodied eyes watching me from the looking glass in the garderobe.” She fidgeted some more.

“You’re not certain?” I raised an eyebrow.

Cleric blushed deep redCleric blushed and lowered her eyes. “No, Mistress. I had been using very hot water, and the looking glass was steamed up. I am not sure if I saw the eyes, or if it was just a mirage caused by the swirling vapor.”

“I see.” I raked my hand through my hair. “Well, let Dragon know. If there was something there, she will want to examine the area for trace magic. She believes she knows who is behind these apparitions, but she would like to confirm her suspicions before putting her plan in motion.”

Cleric nodded and scurried away.

Murderous lookBefore I could get back to my work, my husband, Miles, walked in. I took one look at the murderous expression on his face and sighed. “What have my characters done now?”Dwarf hacking hole in wall

Miles scowled. “Well, your Old Dwarf hacked a good-sized hole in the living room wall. It may be more damage than I can fix on my own. We may have to hire someone to repair the wall and repaint it.”

My jaw dropped and my eyes grew as big as saucers. “My Old Dwarf did what?” I waved off my husband’s reply. “Why would he do that?”

“He said something about gittin’ them eyeballs.” Miles continued to scowl. “He thought he saw eyes watching him. I know first-hand how disconcerting that can be, but really! Attacking the wall? You need to talk with him.”

I sighed again. “Yeah, I’ll go find him right now.”Conference room gathering

As Miles and I walked down the hall from my office, we heard a commotion in the conference room, so we took a detour to find out what was happening. We found all my characters there, all talking at once.

I had to shout at the top of my voice to get everyone’s attention. “What’s the brouhaha all about?”Angry Dragon

Dark smoke emanated from Dragon’s snout. “It seems everywhere we go in this house, there are eyes watching our every move.”

“Yes. I thought I had seen some. Also, Cleric told me she thought she saw some in the steam on the bathroom mirror, and Miles just told me the dwarf tried to attack a pair he saw on the living room wall.”

DwarfI glowered at my Old Dwarf, who scuffed one foot back and forth on the floor. “Eh, I be real sorry-like aboot thet, lass. I be fixin’ yer wall fer ye right quick-like, as soon as I be gittin some materials.”

I nodded, then turned back to Dragon. “Have you been able to find any trace that would tell you who is behind the surveillance?”

“Not yet, but neither have I found anything to gainsay my earlier supposition.” Smoke continued to drift from the huge reptile’s nose as she narrowed her eyes and growled. “I believe I should implement my plan.”

I nodded. “You should do it at your earliest convenience.” I started to go but turned back. “Oh, don’t forget the next meeting of Lost in the Words is tomorrow night.”

Dragon nodded and grinned, revealing her terrible dagger-like teeth. “I have not forgotten.”

The Local Coffee ShoppeElf cleric close-up 2The following evening, Dragon and I arrived at The Local Coffee Shoppe well in advance of the writers’ club meeting. Dragon was in her preferred guise of Dray, a beautiful elf maiden. Her delicate features, slanted eyes, and slightly pointed ears gave her an exotic look, but she easily passed for a human female and raised no eyebrows from the café patrons. At the counter we ordered our beverages – a spiced tea for Dray, and a hot chocolate for me. Then we made our way to the large alcove where tables and chairs were already set up in anticipation of the meeting.Griff2

CrawfordCrawford and Griff were already there. Griff jumped up to greet Dray and pull out a chair for her next to him. I slid into the seat next to Crawford.

Crawford leaned close to me and spoke in an urgent whisper. “Have you figured anything out yet?”

The walls were watchingCrawford and Griff had been with me at the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store when multiple pairs of eyes appeared all around us. Crawford was the one who suggested we were, in his words, barking up the wrong tree when we suspected our young neighbor, Marisol, to be the perpetrator.
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/01/26/the-eyes-have-it/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/02/02/eye-eye-eye/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/02/09/eye-dont-know-whats-going-on/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/02/16/eye-may-have-to-reconsider/

MarisolArrogant One full body“Well . . .” I sighed and raked my hand through my hair. “We’ve discovered who is not behind the eyes. It’s not Marisol, and it’s not my Arrogant One or any of my other characters who practice magic. Dray believes she knows who is responsible, and she has a plan to deal with the perpetrator.”

Crawford looked questioningly at Dray. “Care to share your plan?”

Dray narrowed her eyes and a smile tugged at her lips. Before she could answer, however, the other members of Lost in the Words joined us.

Didi“Hey, strangers!” Didi slid into the chair next to me, and other members took their places around the table. “I was beginning to think you had fallen off the face of the earth!”

I smiled ruefully at the young journalist and aspiring cozy mystery writer. “Been busy.”

Robaire - fantasy“Say, did you ever figure out that problem you were having with the magic system and that strange character in your WIP?” I recognized the person leaning across the table to talk with me as one of the fantasy writers who had been at the last meeting Dray and I attended. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/09/01/still-searching-for-answers/

Arthur, angry face“We can discuss works-in-progress at the appropriate time during the meeting.” Arthur, the writers’ club president, cut off the conversation as he took his chair at the head of the table and called the meeting to order. “I see you’re back.” He glowered at me. “If you plan to join our group, you’ll have to apply for membership. We can’t have people just dropping in willy-nilly whenever it suits them. We have an agenda to follow.”

Without waiting for me to reply, Arthur addressed the meeting. “Since everyone here tonight was in attendance last time our two . . . guests . . . intruded on our meeting, there is no need for introductions. Let’s begin.”

Two hours later, four members of the group had read selections from their works in progress. Each in turn got excellent feedback and gentle, constructive criticism from the rest of the group before Arthur wielded his verbal scalpel and viciously shredded their WIPs.

When no one else had a WIP they wanted to share, Arthur turned to me and sneered. “I don’t suppose you have anything worth sharing?” He sneered and waved off my response. “No, of course not. I don’t know why you’re here. This is not a social club.”

Art - leader - multi-genre (2)Without taking a breath, Arthur launched into the announcements – a few writers’ conferences he was endorsing, a few new releases by MN authors, and several newspaper and magazine articles of interest to the local writing community. Finishing up, he reminded everyone of the date for the next meeting and gave a stern exhortation. “Please spend more time at your craft. Much of what was shared tonight was a waste of our time.”

Crawford rolled his eyes. “Arthur’s just so inspirational, isn’t he? A regular breath of fresh air.” His lips twisted into a sardonic smile.

I laughed, then excused myself. Motioning to Dray to accompany me, I approached Arthur as he wordlessly stuffed his notes back into his battered briefcase.

Arthur, angry faceLooking up at the two of us, Arthur grimaced. “I presume you wish to apply for membership.” He checked his watch. “I have some time now. I could conduct the requisite interviews immediately and save you the need to fill out the application.”

“You’re assuming they won’t meet your standards, Arthur?” Crawford raised an eyebrow at the other man.

“That is a distinct possibility.” Arthur’s expression was as sour as his words. “Come along now. I don’t have all night.”

Dray smiled. If someone knew her as I did, they would have recognized the feral smile as a sign of impending danger. Unfortunately for him, Arthur didn’t recognize it as such.

“We should move to a more private area.” Dray’s smile seemed more menacing as she pointed to a table in the corner that was well away from the other patrons. “I will get us some refills. Arthur, what were you drinking?” She gestured at his empty cup.

I waved to Crawford and Griff and bade them goodbye as Arthur and I made our way to the other table, and Dray went up to the counter to get the refreshments for the three of us.Art - leader - multi-genre (2)

With no preamble, Arthur demanded, “Why do you want to join Lost in the Words? How do you think our group will benefit you, and how do you plan to bring value to our group?”

Placing his drink and a large apple in front of Arthur, Dray slipped into the chair next to me, facing Arthur. While Arthur’s attention was on me, I saw Dray make a few arcane gestures, and I knew our confrontation with Arthur would go unnoticed by the other patrons.

Impatient, Arthur repeated his question. “I asked you why you want to join Lost in the Words. How do you think our group will benefit you, and how do you plan to bring value to our group?”

“Oh, trust me, Arthur. We can bring a great deal of value to this group.” Dray leaned forward. “And we can bring a great deal to you specifically.”

“What do you mean?” Arthur scowled. “Are you actually trying to gain admission to this group through bribery?”

“No, Arthur. We seek a different sort of admission. The admission we seek is from you, owning up to your recent deeds.” Dray fixed him with a cold stare.

Arthur squirms and stammers“Wha . . . what do you mean?” Arthur squirmed in his seat, and beads of sweat formed on his forehead.

I cleared my throat. “Arthur, we believe you are behind some recent, unsettling events. Do you care to guess to what I am referring?”

“I . . . I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He reached for his briefcase. “I have no time for such absurdity. Good night!”

But as he tried to push his chair back from the table and leave, he found it stuck fast to the floor.

“Arthur.” Dray spoke in a soothing voice. “You see, Arthur, ceilings, walls, doors, mirrors, and computer monitors are not the only things with eyes, Arthur.” She gestured to the piece of fruit on the table in front of him.

Arthur gaped at the apple, which now sported a pair of eyes.Apple with eyesDray continued, her voice still calm and melodic. “And eyes are not the only features that things can have, Arthur.” She gestured again, and the color drained form Arthur’s face as the apple bared a set of fangs.Apple grows eyes and teeth“Arthur, if a pair of eyes should ever again appear near us, you will find apples are not the only things with teeth. Do you see, Arthur? Do you understand?” Dray pointed to the wall next to Arthur.

Arthur started to hyperventilate as the image of a fanged monster appeared on that wall.

Teeth

Do you understand, Arthur?” Dray morphed into her true self and roared at Arthur. The man’s eyes looked as if they would literally pop out of his head, and his jaw almost hit the table as he gaped at the snarling beast.Warning from Dragon 2

“Arthur? Do you understand me, Arthur?” Dray spoke softly.

Elf cleric close-up 2

Arthur nodded. He could barely speak. When he finally found his voice, he stammered hoarsely. “How . . . how did you do . . .?” His voice cracked and he trailed off. Licking his lips nervously, he tried again. “How . . . how did you know it was me?”

“Oh, something someone said.” Dray narrowed her eyes and her lips slowly spread in a tight smile.

The color gradually returned to Arthur’s face, his ragged breathing slowed to normal, and he regained his composure. Slowly, his eyes narrowed as he took Dray’s measure. “So, I was right about you. I knew you were more than you appeared to be, you and the rest of your friends.”

“Yes, you were right.” Dray nodded and took a sip of her spiced tea. “You have that knowledge now . . . knowledge that you will neither share nor use in any way.”A toothy grin

Dray shimmered. “Unless you would like to have first-hand knowledge of these teeth.” Dragon flashed a toothy grin at Arthur.

Arthur jumped and rubbed his eyes. He furrowed his brow at Dray, calmly sitting next to me and sipping her tea.

Dray put her cup on the table and raised an eyebrow at Arthur. “Well?”

Arthur nodded. “I see that I have no choice. Your secret will remain undisclosed.”

“Good. Then I think we’re done here.” I smiled.

“But do not forget our applications for membership in Lost in the Words.” Dray’s eyes twinkled as Arthur scowled.

I have a feeling we’ll have no more problems with Arthur. I hope you’ll join us next week and see what’s in store next for my little band of displaced characters. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Eye Think We’re Getting Closer

Eye Think We’re Getting Closer

It was déjà vu.

in officeEyesAll morning long, I had had the feeling of being watched. It was unnerving, especially considering recent events. I couldn’t concentrate. I kept looking up from my computer, expecting to see one of my characters at the door, ready to barge in and disturb me at my work . . . or worse, still, a disembodied pair of eyes watching me. Each time I looked, there were no eyes and there was no one at the door, although several times I swore I saw a quickly retreating shadow.

It was almost lunchtime. I had just looked up from the computer and I had seen it again – just a shadow moving by the door. Suddenly, there was a commotion in the hallway.

“Ye jes’ be commin’ along quiet-like, now. Tha lass’ll be wantin’ ta be knowin’ wat ye been doin’ oot here.”

Dwarf and Bounty HunterMy Bounty Hunter balked at the door, but my Old Dwarf pushed him into the room. The rotund figure followed, axe in hand, smacking the flat of his axe blade into the open palm of his other hand in a threatening gesture.

“What’s going on?” I glared at my Bounty Hunter, who brushed himself off, straightened his tunic, and quietly regained his composure.Dwarf facing right

When it became obvious that the man was not going to respond, my Old Dwarf spoke up. “I be seein’ thisun oot here tippy-toein’ around by yer door. He be lookin’ liken he be spyin’ on ye.” The dwarf gave the man another shove. “Why do na ye be tellin’ tha lass jes wat ye been doin’?”

I looked questioningly at my Bounty Hunter, who remained silent. I could feel my anger rise.

“It was you!” I sputtered. “You . . . you have been spying on me! And I suppose my Arrogant One was responsible for the eyes.”

“No!” My Bounty Hunter glared at me.

The dwarf scoffed. “Now, do na be tellin’ tha lass no fibs. I be catchin’ ye in tha act.”

Bounty Hunter full body 2My Bounty Hunter scowled. “All right. As you say, you caught me in the act.” He started pacing. “I often watch and listen to those within this house, unnoticed by the subjects of my observation. It keeps my skills sharp. I am a bounty hunter. I need to be stealthy.” He stopped and faced me. “I was bored on the illusory trip. While my companions were enjoying themselves, I returned here several times to practice, to watch you here in your office. But I acted alone. The elf had nothing to do with this. If he was behind the watching eyes – which I doubt – he acted without me.”

“We’ll see about that.” I nodded to my Old Dwarf. “Bring him. We need to talk to the elf.”

I pushed past the other two and led the way out of the room and down the hall. My Bounty Hunter reluctantly followed, prodded every step of the way by the dwarf. We didn’t have far to go. We found my Arrogant One in the conference room, in heated discussion with Dragon and my other magic users.

The small group of spellcasters – Dragon, Sorceress, Cleric, my Gypsy, and my Arrogant One – fell silent as we entered the room.

Arrogant One full bodyWithout apologizing for the intrusion, I accosted my Arrogant One. “Elf, we need to talk.”

My Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, grasped his cloak with both hands, and scowled at me. “We are busy. Can this not wait?”

“No.”

“Very well.” He frowned and sighed. “Please be quick.”

I glared at the elf. “Your sidekick was just caught in the act of spying on me. He admits he was the one responsible for several incidents wherein I felt as if I were being watched while you were all allegedly on your illusory trip. I want to know if you were with him, if you are the one responsible for the eyes that appeared in various places in this house and in the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store.”

Arrogant One facing rightBounty Hunter head shotMy Arrogant One’s face flamed, and his jaw dropped. He glared at my Bounty Hunter, then turned to me. “I have already told you I am not responsible. Did this miscreant tell you otherwise?”

Backyard 050“No, he claimed he acted alone. He also said he did not believe you were involved in the appearance of disembodied eyes.” I raked my hand through my hair. “But if he was involved in spying on me, it stands to reason that you, his best friend and cohort, would be involved.”

Dragon 2Dragon stepped in front of me. “He was not.”

I scowled. “How do you know? If the one was involved . . .”

Dragon gestured toward my Bounty Hunter. “He frequently spies on us when he thinks we are unaware. He has done this since he fell out of your manuscript and arrived here.”

My Bounty Hunter’s face fell. “You . . . you knew?”

Dragon scoffed. “Of course we knew. We humored you. You really are not very good, you know. I do not know how you survived as a Bounty Hunter in our world.” The beast turned from him and continued. “The Bounty Hunter may have snuck back here during our illusory trip in order to spy on you, but the eyes – whether illusion or something else – were not the work of the elf.”

“And I am tired of the constant accusations.” My Arrogant One’s voice was something between a whine and a threat.

“If you truly were not involved, I apologize for the accusation.” I turned to my Bounty Hunter. “But you are guilty. If you are ever found spying on me again, I will let Dragon and my Old Dwarf deal with you.”

Flame-cheeked, my Bounty Hunter nodded curtly to me, then scurried out of the room.

We are busy“Now, if you will excuse us, we are busy. We have been trying to devise a way to expose whoever or whatever is behind the disembodied eyes.” My Arrogant One unceremoniously hustled my Old Dwarf and me out of the room, slamming the door closed behind us.

dragonWhen they emerged from the conference room several hours later, my little band of magic users seemed in better spirits. Dragon approached me. “We believe we have identified the culprit and have a plan to expose him.” She grinned a toothy grin and rubbed her hands together gleefully as she explained the plan to me.

 

What is Dragon’s plan, and who does she and her colleagues in magic hope to uncover? Be sure to come back next week! We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Eye’m Afraid Eye Just Don’t See

Eye’m Afraid Eye Just Don’t See

tree

“Barkin’ up tha wrong tree? Wat do thet e’en be meanin’?”

We were all gathered in the conference room – me, my husband, and my little band of displaced characters – discussing recent events. My Old Dwarf wore a puzzled expression, and a coating of food particles from the mouthful of sandwich around which he was trying to talk.All gathered

Arrogant One scolding Dwarf“It means, you slovenly ignoramus, that this Crawford person did not believe the child, Marisol, was the one behind the appearances of the eyes.” My Arrogant One wrinkled his nose at the dwarf, who continued to chomp on his sandwich and scatter bits of food over his beard and armor as he spoke.

“Then who do be behind ’em?”

“We do not yet know, do we?” My Arrogant One rolled his eyes. “If you had been listening instead of chomping, maybe you would have heard Dragon say as much.”

Ignoring the elf’s jibe, the dwarf kept chomping on the sandwich and talking. “Well then, iffins we do na be knowin’ who do be behind tha eyes, how do we be knowin’s it do na be tha youngun?”

Dragon scolding Dwarf“Because I just told you she is not.” Dragon snorted dark smoke at her diminutive companion. “I questioned Marisol, and during the questioning I also probed her mind with my magic. The child is not behind the events. She was not even aware of them before I questioned her.”

“This is extremely disturbing.” My Foreman rubbed the back of his neck. “Did not you magic users weave a spell of protection over this property after someone interfered with one of the elf’s illusions? I thought your spell was supposed to prevent such incidents.”

weaveWeave a new spellDragon nodded. “Yes, after someone wove their magic into one of the Arrogant One’s illusions, a spell that prevented the illusion from being dismissed, we – the elf, the Gypsy lad, Sorceress, Cleric, and myself – spent a great deal of time separating the foreign magic from the spell the elf had cast. We then cast a new spell of protection over the house and grounds, protecting it from outside magic.”                                                           https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/12/15/what-has-that-elf-done-now/                         https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/12/22/tis-the-season-for-cooperation/

My Young Hero frowned and stroked his chin. “And how does that work?”

Dragon with smokeDragon snorted another puff of smoke. “Well, the spell is supposed to prevent any magic user, save we five, from casting any spells on this property, or from adding their magic to any spells we cast elsewhere.” She frowned. “Before we cast the spell, we made certain we were alone, that no other magic user or alien presence was on the property. We also ensured that no spell had been cast by any magician that would compromise, change, or block our efforts in casting a spell of protection. Once we made those determinations, I warded the room where we worked against entry and against eavesdropping, both mechanical and magical.”

My Bounty Hunter lounged against the wall, examining his fingernails. “Tsk, tsk. All your efforts do not appear to have been very effective, do they?”

“What do you know of this?” I rounded on my Bounty Hunter.Bounty Hunter head shot

“Me? Why nothing. Nothing except what you and Dragon have shared with us.” His eyes were wide and guileless, his voice petulant.

“I think it would be better to ask your Arrogant One what he knows.” Miles frowned. “If the spell of protection prevents outside magic, then it must have been someone here.”

“Pfft.” My Bounty Hunter scoffed. “The elf was with us, on our illusory trip, when these incidents allegedly occurred.”

“Yes, I was!” My Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, grasped his cloak with both hands, and sneered. “And I resent being accused! There are four other magic users among us. Why not ask them if they are behind these appearances of eyes?”

“Because you are the only one who consistently causes trouble?” Sorceress scoffed.

I nodded. “She’s right. You are the resident troublemaker.” I held up a hand to prevent the elf’s outburst. “But you are right, too. Perhaps everyone needs to account for their whereabouts during these incidents.”

“Exactly when did they occur?” Cleric blushed and ducked her head. “I know you told us, but could you go over it again, so we can all get it straight in our minds?”Being watched

“Let me think.” I furrowed my brow. “The first incident, the feeling that someone was watching me, and the appearance of eyes in the bedroom, was the first week of January, just the day after you left on your illusory trip.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/01/05/7507/

EyesI raked my hand through my hair. “It was the following week when I saw eyes staring at me from my computer monitor.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/01/12/the-eyes-of-the-something-are-upon-me/

Eyes watching from the door

I started pacing as I tried to remember the events. “It had to be another week before Miles and I both saw the eyes on the French doors.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/01/19/eyell-be-seeing-you/

The walls were watchingGriff protects usI frowned. “And the last incident, which occurred in the back room of the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store, was just a week after that. Crawford and Griff were there, and they saw those eyes. So did Christine and Talia.”

More eyes

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/01/26/the-eyes-have-it/ https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/02/02/eye-eye-eye/

“Could any of them be behind these incidents?” My Arrogant One seemed eager to shift the blame to someone else.

“I don’t think it could be Christine or Talia, not only because the last incident occurred in their store, but because they looked genuinely surprised and shook up. And as for the other two, I do not believe Crawford has any magic ability, and Griff would have no reason.” I looked at my characters. “So, that brings us back to all of you. Can everyone account for their whereabouts at those times?”

My Gypsy shrugged. “We were all together, from the time we left on our illusory trip to the time we returned.”

Cleric and Bounty HunterCleric cleared her throat and fidgeted with her cord belt. “Not all of us.” She pointed at my Bounty Hunter and gave him an apologetic look. “There were a number of times during the trip when he went missing. I do not think, however, those times coincide with the incidents in question.”

I confronted my Bounty Hunter. “Well? Would you care to offer an explanation?”

“I do not believe I need . . . what do you call it? An alibi?” He shrugged and studied his fingernails some more. When I did not reply, he looked up and smirked. “In case the obvious escapes you, I have no magic ability. I could not be behind the appearance of the eyes.”

“But with some help?” I gestured toward my Arrogant One.

arrogant one“I did not do this!” The elf turned scarlet. “I am tired of everyone accusing me of every calamity, every disaster, every debacle, every mischief, every mishap that occurs!”

“Wale, elfie, it usually be ye wat been doin’ it!” My Old Dwarf chuckled.

Do not call me elfie!” My Arrogant One shrieked in his glass-shattering tone.

“All right, all right. We’re not accomplishing anything this way.” I raked my hand through my hair again and scowled. “Okay, if it was not Marisol, Christine, Talia, Crawford, Griff, or any of you, then who was it, and how did they get past the spell of protection? How did they cast a spell in this house?”

treeDragon half-closed her eyes and smoke drifted from her nostrils. “Crawford said we were barking up the wrong tree.” She furrowed her brow as if in deep concentration. “That phrase . . . barking up the wrong tree . . . it tickles some memory roaming through my congested and labyrinthine mind. If I could just coax it out, perchance we could identify the culprit.”

Do any of you readers know who might be behind the spying eyes? If so, we would really appreciate your help in solving this mystery! Be sure to leave us your thoughts, observations, and comments, and come back again next week. Maybe we will be confronting the culprit! In any case, we’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Eye’m No Closer to an Answer

Eye’m No Closer to an Answer

Crawforddiscussing over tea“What do you think about what Crawford said?”

We were home again, and Dragon and I were discussing the day’s events. I took a sip of tea and continued. “Do you agree with his assessment that we are looking for a powerful spell caster, or do you still feel Marisol might be responsible for the intrusive eyes?”

“I do not have enough facts upon which to base a conclusion.” Dragon took a gulp of her tea. “A perfunctory examination of the back room of the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store yielded no clues. Other than Christine, Talia, you, Crawford, and Griff, I sensed no presence in the room. Mayhap Christine and Talia, upon performing a more thorough inspection, will discover something of import. Right now, I would like to begin a thorough examination of the areas here where you discovered someone was watching you.”

in officeI nodded. “The morning it started it began with just the feeling of someone watching me while I worked in my office. It was unnerving. I kept looking up from my computer, expecting to see someone at the door. Each time I looked, there was no one there, although several times I swore I saw a quickly retreating shadow. That continued into the afternoon, with me never actually seeing anyone.”

Being watchedI placed my teacup back on the table and raked my hand through my hair. “Miles took me out for dinner and a movie, to help get my mind off things. However, in bed that night, a noise woke me. I thought I saw a shadow leaving the room, so I ran out into the hallway. I saw nothing there, so I checked the entire house, but I found nothing amiss. When I was back in bed, though, I looked up and there was a huge pair of eyes watching me from the ceiling.”Dragon with smoke

Dragon furrowed her scaly brow, and dark smoke drifted from her snout. “Then, with your permission, I will start with your bedchamber.”

An examination of the bedroom yielded no clues. Neither did an examination of the other places I had seen eyes watching me – the computer monitor in my office, and the French doors that led from the living room to the deck.

Eyes have been watching me

Dragon sighed. “I have found nothing, neither through my physical examination of these areas, nor through a more thorough magical inspection.”

I frowned. “What do we do now, then?”

Elf clericBefore answering me, Dragon shapeshifted into her preferred alter ego, Dray. To those with a discerning eye, Dray’s delicate features and exquisitely pointed ears marked her as an elf. However, to the unobservant and uninitiated, she appeared to be an exotic and very beautiful human and could blend in quite easily in this world.

Once her transformation was complete, Dray smiled and lifted an eyebrow at me. “Now, I talk to Marisol.”

Talia in sports carDray arrived at the home shared by the child, Marisol, and her mother, Bastina, just as Talia pulled up to the curb in a snazzy red Ferrari.

Dray waited at the front door for Talia to join her.

“Dray! Fancy seeing you here!” The co-owner of the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store grinned at her.

Dray returned her smile, though without the same level of enthusiasm. “Hello, Talia! Did you and Christine discover anything?”

Talia and Christine

Talia shook her head. “No, I’m afraid whoever did it left no trace. Are you here to interrogate Marisol?”

Dray frowned. “It is not my intention to interrogate the child. I merely have a few questions for her.”

Talia shrugged. “Well, don’t waste your time. She can’t be behind the spying. She hasn’t any spell-casting ability.”

“Do you really know the extent of her ability?” Dray raised a delicate eyebrow.

Talia sighed. “Not really, but I have no reason to believe she is capable of this sort of magic.”

“You do not believe her capable? So, I am to take your word for it?” Dray scoffed. “Well, I think I will speak to the child myself, if you have no objections.”

Not waiting for an answer, Dray reached around the other woman and rang the doorbell.

Bastina opened the door, and a smile lighted her careworn face. “Dray! Talia! What a pleasant surprise. Please come in.” Bastina led the other two into the living room, where Marisol sat, reading a book.

Talking to MarisolThe child looked up and jumped off the chair, the book falling to the floor. “Dray! Talia! Did you come to see me?”

“We did, sweetie!” Talia opened her arms to give the child a hug.

“I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow.” The girl accepted Talia’s embrace, then looked up at Dray. “And I wasn’t expecting you at all.”

“Well, I hope you are not disappointed.” Dray smiled warmly at Marisol.

“Of course not!” The child giggled.

BastinaMarisol 2Dray turned to Bastina. “Would it be permissible to speak with your daughter in private?”

Bastina furrowed her brow. “Does this have anything to do with the lessons she is receiving from Talia?”

Dray gave a noncommittal shrug. “In a way.”

“Then, it’s fine. I’m so grateful that you told Talia about Marisol. The child seems to have benefited greatly from Talia’s instructions. Since my daughter has undertaken the exercises in control and restraint, there have been fewer . . . incidents. I still don’t understand everything . . . or anything, for that matter.” Bastina shrugged and made a moue. “What I do know, however, is my daughter is better off now.”

Dray gave Bastina a reassuring smile. “I am glad it is working out.” She turned toward Marisol. “Come, child. I need to speak with you before Talia proceeds with your lessons.”

Several hours later, Dray was home and had shapeshifted back into her true form.

“Did you learn anything?” I took a sip of my tea.second discussion over tea

“Only what I already suspected. Marisol is not our spy.” Smoke started to drift from Dragon’s snout. “And I ran into Talia. She was there to work with the child on control of her powers. Talia and Christine found nothing when they inspected their storeroom.”

I sighed. “Then who is behind the watching eyes?”

“I am not certain yet.” Dragon took another gulp of her tea and narrowed her eyes. “But something Crawford said has given me . . . what is your idiom? Food for thought?”

“Oh?” I raised an eyebrow. “What did he say?”

“He said we may be barking up the wrong tree.”

tree

What tree should we be barking up? Be sure to come back next week. Maybe we can find out. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Eye May Have to Reconsider

Eye May Have to Reconsider

Dragon, Talia, Chris

“No, it can not be good!” Dragon repeated her words, this time more forcefully, as she – in her customary guise of an elf maiden – continued glaring at Christine and Talia. “Not good at all!”Glaring

Talia returned Dragon’s glare through narrowed eyes, but Christine seemed relieved at Dragon’s presence.

I smiled broadly and addressed Dragon by the name she used in public. “Dray! When did you . . .?”

But Dragon held up a hand to silence me. “My apologies for my prolonged absence, Mistress. When I returned this day, Master Miles apprised me of the recent events, and of your current whereabouts. I came immediately.” She glared at Christine and Talia again. “It would seem I arrived not a moment too soon.”

“Indeed?” Talia scowled, and pushed her hair off her face. “Perhaps if you had been here earlier, we wouldn’t have had this problem.”Dragon, Talia, Chris

Dragon ignored Talia’s complaint, and glowered at the co-owners of the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store, the establishment in whose back room we currently stood. “Have you had such an incident previous to this day’s appearance?”

Christine shook her head. “No. No one has ever been able to penetrate our wards before.”

Dragon furrowed her brow. “Are your certain your wards are in place and activated at this time?”

“Of course!” Christine scoffed.

“No.” Talia’s voice was so soft, we almost missed what she said.

“No?” Christine rounded on Talia, her eyes hard, her mouth set in a grim line. “And why not?”

Talia hung her head and mumbled. “The wards are still active for the store itself, to protect our inventory, but I released them back here. I thought it best, since we were expecting people for afternoon tea.”

“Really, Talia, what were you thinking?” Christine rolled her eyes and her mouth formed a moue. “It never occurred to you to just modify the wards to allow our guests to enter, but still keep others from intruding? Who knows what was behind this invasion or what mischief might have been done?”Talia with flaming cheeks

Talia continued to hang her head, and her cheeks flamed, but she gave no reply.

“Well, it is water under the bridge now.” Dragon sighed. “I doubt any harm has been done, though. Since this is the first time such a thing has occurred here, I doubt you were the target.”

Crawford furrowed his brow. “I would agree, Dray.”

Griff nodded in agreement. “Me, too. Marge has detailed for us what has been happening at her house. I would imagine she is the intended target.”

Eyes have been watching me

“But the fact that whoever – or whatever – is spying on Marge did so here at our store may indicate there is a connection to us as well.” Christine frowned.

Dragon stroked her chin as she considered this. She paced the length of the big room, then stopped and faced me. “Mistress, correct me if I am wrong, but I can think of only two connections you have to Christine and Talia.”

Crawford and GriffI furrowed my brow and chewed on my lower lip for several moments before nodding. “Well, I suppose it is obvious the first connection would be Crawford and Griff.” I gestured toward them as I spoke. “Crawford was the one who suggested Christine and Talia might be able to help with Marisol. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/09/08/still-looking-for-answers/

Dragon nodded. “Therefore, the second connection, logically, would be Marisol herself.”Marisol

I agreed. “But since Crawford and Griff were present here with me today when the eyes appeared, I doubt they are behind the apparitions at home.”

“That leaves Marisol.” Dragon frowned.

“Yes. This was supposed to be a celebration of sorts for her today, if I understood Talia earlier.” I raised a questioning eyebrow at Talia.

at the herb farmThe woman nodded and cleared her throat. “We recently met the child when we visited the herb shop her mother manages. We realized almost at once she was the one of whom you had spoken. Since that meeting, I have been working with Marisol, teaching her control. I was hesitant to take her as a pupil at her tender age, but she’s proven very insightful, and a quick study. Today was to be a congratulatory fete for her, as well as a thank-you to you for alerting us to her problem. Crawford and Griff were invited as a thank-you to them for sending you to us.”

I rubbed my jaw. “So, the child knew I was going to be here?”

Talia nodded.

I raked my hand through my hair. “It looks pretty clear to me that the child is behind this.”

Dragon narrowed her eyes and turned again to Talia and Christine. “You two need to see if you can determine the identity of the intruder here. I will do the same at the house. If we determine it is Marisol, I suggest you work a little harder with her, Talia. Perhaps teach the child what is and what is not acceptable behavior for one who wields powers such as hers.”

Talia nodded, her cheeks burning at Dragon’s implied reprimand.

Dragon turned back to me. “We need to go home, Mistress. There, I will attempt to determine the identity of your intruder, and how they got past the new spells of protection I and my fellow magic users recently cast. As I explained to you at the time we cast it, it is one of those spells whose failure is only revealed if someone succeeds in defeating it.”

I nodded. “Do you agree that it is most likely Marisol?”

Dragon shrugged. “She is extremely powerful.”

CrawfordCrawford furrowed his brow. “I hope you don’t mind if I point something out, but I believe you may be barking up the wrong tree. When you first told me about the child, you described her as one who has magic, but is not a magician. You said she’s not a witch or a sorceress; she cannot create illusions, she cannot conjure, she cannot enchant, she cannot cast any sort of spell.” The man paused to make sure Dragon and I were following. When we both nodded, he continued. “Whoever is spying on you is capable of casting spells. They are capable of defeating Dray’s wards and spells of protection.” He paused again, looking from me to Dragon and back again. “Ladies, I believe you are looking for a powerful spell caster.”

Powerful magician

I blinked and my jaw dropped.

What powerful spell caster would be spying on me and why? Can Dragon and the others get to the bottom of this? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Eye Don’t Know What’s Going On

Eye Don’t Know What’s Going On

Dragon and Miles“Oh! You’re back! Marge and I have been so worried.”

Miles had been going down the stairs and had practically run into Dragon, who had been on the way up.

“Why should you be worried, Master Miles?” Dragon arched an eyebrow and gave Miles a bemused look.

“Well, let’s see. Maybe because you’ve been gone for more than five weeks?” Miles frowned. “Or maybe because of the things that have been going on here. Marge had no way of knowing if any of you were behind the strange events.”

Instantly, Dragon snapped to attention. “Strange events? What strange events?” She paused, frowned, and held up her hand in a stop gesture before Miles could answer. “Wait! Five weeks? We have only been gone a few days!”

Miles shook his head emphatically. “No, it has been five weeks. You left for your illusory trip on January 4, and it is now February 9.”Angry Dragon

Dragon scowled, and dark smoke drifted from her nostrils. “I must have lost track of time. It certainly did not seem that long. My sincere apologies. Now what is this about strange events?”

Miles detailed to Dragon the events that had started shortly after Dragon and her fellow characters had departed for their illusory trip. “Marge felt as if someone or something was watching her. She said she kept catching movement out of the corner of her eye, but when she turned to look, no one was there.”

Dragon scoffed. “That is curious, but hardly worrisome.”

“That was just the beginning.” Miles’ voice was grim.

Dragon’s eyes narrowed. “Go on, Master Miles.”

Eyes have been watching meMiles then described the three times his wife had seen giant eyes, first on the bedroom ceiling, then on the computer monitor, and finally on the French doors from the living room to the deck. “I saw the last pair of eyes myself. They were staring right at us, then they quickly disappeared. Marge and I thought maybe one of you was trying to contact her, that maybe you were in trouble. We also considered the possibility that her Arrogant One was up to some mischief. Either way, the longer you were gone on your trip, the more worried she became.”

“It was not the Arrogant One.”Bounty Hunter, Dragon, Miles

Dragon and Miles both jumped at the sound of a new voice. The Bounty Hunter was leaning against the railing, just a few steps behind Dragon, studying his fingernails. “The elf was enjoying the trip too much to engage in such antics. And, to the best of my knowledge, none of us were trying to contact Mistress Writer. We had no reason.”

Dragon locked eyes with the other character for a few moments, but the Bounty Hunter seemed unperturbed. Finally, the big beast turned away from the man and looked around. “Where is Mistress Writer?”

Miles shrugged. “She’s not here today. She received an invitation to an afternoon tea at that New Age store.”

Dragon’s eyes narrowed. “Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store?”

Chris-Tal Clear

Miles nodded.

The giant reptile growled. “I am so disappointed I did not receive an invitation from Christine and Talia as well. I guess I am just going to have to . . . what is the phrase you use? Crash the party?”

And she was gone.

* * *

I screamed and pointed.

As my legs turned to rubber, Crawford and Griff grabbed a nearby chair and positioned it for me to collapse onto it.

Christine and Talia whirled around to see what was causing my hysteria. An ornate pair of eyes hovered in midair.More eyes

Talia seemed rooted in place. Her mouth moved, but no sound emerged. She seemed unable to do anything but stare into the huge eyes.

Christine was close to hyperventilating. She clutched her throat, and her eyes grew almost as large as the disembodied ones that were slowly disappearing. “That can’t be good!”

“No, it cannot!” Dragon, in her customary guise of an elf maiden, strode in, glaring at Christine and Talia.Dragon, Talia, Chris

* * *

Bounty Hunter full body 2Still . . . very still . . . silent and motionless . . . barely breathing . . . watching and listening, always watching and listening.

My skills, so necessary for my profession as bounty hunter, grow ever sharper. I knew the dull-witted human inhabitant of this world would never notice me as I crept up on him while he conversed, as I listened to every word of the exchange. I knew I would remain unnoticed, as if invisible, to that one. But imagine my surprise and my elation when the scaly beast also startled at the sound of my voice. It took every ounce of self-discipline and control to not grin like a fool, to remain nonchalant, as if I had no idea I had just snuck up on them unnoticed.

* * *

Eyes blinkedThe eyes blinked. Watching . . . watching . . . always watching. Yes! I must be watching! But I must be more careful. I have, more than once now, come too close to being exposed. But I will remain vigilant. I will discover their secrets . . . eventually.

 

Who is watching, and why? What does my Bounty Hunter know about it? And what is Christine and Talia’s involvement? Will Dragon be able to figure it all out? Be sure to come back next week. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Eye, Eye, Eye!

Eye, Eye, Eye!

“What’s going on?” Crawford’s eyes were almost as wide as mine, his breathing almost as rapid.

“I wish I knew.”

My two companions, Crawford and Griff, gaped at me, and I realized I was shaking like a leaf. My mouth was dry, and my hands were sweaty as the three of us huddled in the center of a large backroom in the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store. The afternoon tea to which we had been invited was set out and waiting for us on a nearby table; but as we had been looking around, wondering where our hostesses were, the repast was not all we had seen. On three sides of us, the walls were watching us.

The walls were watching

Well, not precisely. Something appeared to be watching us. The walls were covered with staring eyes.

Eyes have been watching meAs we continued to crowd together, shrinking from the gawking eyes, I quickly brought my companions up to speed. I explained how several times in the past few weeks I had felt as if someone or something had been watching me at my house. I described the appearance of pairs of eyes watching me from my bedroom ceiling, from my computer monitor, and from the French doors opening from my living room to the deck.

Griff protects usAs I detailed the terrifying incidents, I could see Griff starting to change. In short order, a griffin stood with Crawford and me, his wings extended protectively around us. His wicked beak snapped, his lionish tail whipped back and forth, and one taloned foreleg rose, claws extended threateningly.

Crawford slumped against the creature’s feathery shoulder. “It’s times like this when I really appreciate Griff’s abilities.” The man turned toward me as he spoke. “So, now what do we do?”

I shrugged. “I’m not sure. Each time I saw the eyes watching me at my house, they disappeared almost immediately after I had noticed them. These eyes don’t seem to be going anywhere.”

Crawford furrowed his brow and stroked his chin. “Do you think Christine and Talia are behind it?”Talia enters room

“Do you think Christine and Talia are behind what?”

Startled, I looked in the direction of the voice, which sounded simultaneously annoyed and amused. Talia, one of the co-managers of the store, was standing causally by an open door I had not previously noticed.

In response, I pointed at one of the walls. Then I blinked. The wall was devoid of any eyes. I looked at the other two walls, but they, too, looked completely normal.

afternoon tea

Talia gave me an arch look. “I repeat – do you think Christine and Talia are behind what?”

Griff2Griff took a few steps forward. I was startled. Just a moment ago, he had been in his true form, that of a griffon. Now, in the blink of an eye, he was back to his assumed identity of a very human-looking being.

“We were just wondering if you and Christine were behind this fantastic tea, or if you had it catered.”

Talia laughed a deep, throaty laugh. “What? Are you casting aspersions on our cooking? Didn’t we impress you with our culinary skills the last time we invited you and Crawford to a meal?”

Griff and Crawford grabbed their stomachs and pretended to gag.

”Oh, no, we were quite impressed by your cooking . . . as were the staff of the emergency room when we both showed up there the next day with food poisoning!” Crawford winked.

afternoon teaTalia laughed again. “Don’t listen to them, Marge. They’re just teasing. Christine made the food for the last meal we shared, a festive Yule nosh, and no one got sick.” She gestured toward the table with the offerings for today’s tea. “I prepared today’s spread, and I can assure you it’s perfectly fit for human consumption.”

I forced a smile, then glanced around at the walls again, looking for signs that we were still under observation.

“So, where is Christine?” Crawford looked around, too. “It’s not like her to be late to eat.”

“She was just finishing up in the office. We were doing inventory today.”

I turned back toward Talia. “Oh, that reminds me. When I got here, I tried the front door. When I found it locked, I looked in the window. What happened to your store? It looked totally trashed.”

Another deep, throaty laugh. “Oh, that’s just our security system. If it looks like the business is derelict, no one will bother trying to break in.”

“I see. And are disembodied eyes part of your security system?” I arched an eyebrow at the other woman.

“Disembodied eyes?”

Chris enters roomWe all turned toward the new voice, a thin, reedy voice that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Christine glided into the room, looking as dreamy and diaphanous as the first time I had met her. “What is this about disembodied eyes?”

My companions and I explained to Christine and Talia what we had seen here in the backroom of their store. I also detailed the recent incidents at my house. As I spoke, their eyes got wider and wider.

 

 

“Are you positive of what you saw?” Talia’s voice was strained.

“I’m sure.” I nodded.

“Well, that certainly can’t be good.” Christine chewed on her lower lip for a moment, then brightened and gestured toward the table. “Well, we can’t do anything about it now. Why don’t we enjoy our tea?”

Taking Marisol by the handBefore any of us could respond, Talia spoke. “Yes, I’m afraid our other guests cancelled at the last minute. We had invited Marisol and her mother here, too. This was going to be a sort of celebration for the child.”

“Wait! You know Bastina and Marisol?” I gaped at Talia. “When we came to you for help with the child, I suspected you knew of whom we spoke, but you never actually confirmed you already knew them.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/do-we-get-any-answers/

Talia shrugged. “Well, because we didn’t. We only met recently. Christine and I needed a new supplier for our herbs, so we checked out a few local places. When they were unable to supply what we needed, someone suggested the herb shop that Bastina and her sister, Danica, manage.”

Christine nodded. “While we were there, we met the child, Marisol. We immediately realized she was the one of whom you and Dray spoke when you asked for our help.”

Talia smiled at me warmly. “I have been working with Marisol, teaching her control. I was hesitant to take her as a pupil at her tender age, but she’s proven very insightful, and a quick study. Today was to be a congratulatory fete for her, as well as a thank-you to you for alerting us to her problem. Crawford and Griff were invited as a thank-you to them for sending you to us.”

I wrinkled my brow. “I’m sorry Marisol and her mom weren’t able to come, then. But what of Dray? I don’t believe she received an invitation.”

“Oh, didn’t Dray get her invitation?” Christine frowned. “It must have gotten lost in the mail. But you should have brought her with you. You must have realized we would have invited her.”More eyes

I narrowed my eyes and tried to gauge the woman’s sincerity. Gradually, I realized something else was studying Christine as well. A huge, ornate pair of eyes was slowly materializing in mid-air behind her and Talia.

I screamed.

 

 

What is going on? Will I ever find out? Be sure to come back again next week and see if any answers are forthcoming. We’ll leave the porch lights on for you.

The Eyes Have It

The Eyes Have It

Backyard 050“I’m starting to think you’re right.”miles for blog 2 003

Miles gave me a surprised look. “Historic moment! My wife admits I’m right about something. Now . . . about what, exactly, am I right?” He cocked an eyebrow at me questioningly.

Falling out of manuscriptI stuck out my tongue at him. “Very funny. I often admit you’re right, wise guy!” I frowned and chewed on my lower lip. “I’m starting to think you’re right about my characters. They’ve been gone on their illusory trip for more than three weeks. Maybe they did find their way back into the manuscript. Or maybe they do like wherever they went on their trip better than they liked living here with us. Maybe they don’t even remember us.” I sighed gloomily. “I just wish we knew for certain.”

Grocery billsMiles took my hand in his. “I know you miss them terribly. And, as much as I complain about them, I must admit I miss them, too.” But then he smirked. “Of course, I don’t miss the grocery bills!”

“There is that. May I presume we don’t need to go shopping again this week?”

Miles lifted his eyebrows and shook his head. “If they don’t come back, I don’t think we’ll need to go grocery shopping for the foreseeable future, except for milk and other perishables.”

I sighed again. “Well, at least you and I have more time together.”

“Don’t sound so thrilled.” Miles winked and chuckled. “I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it.”

“So have I, honey!” I gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “But I’m afraid I won’t be spending this afternoon with you.”

Miles frowned. “Oh? Why not?”

“I received an invitation from Christine and Talia, from the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store. They would like me to join them for afternoon tea today.”

Chris and Talia

“Afternoon tea? And I’m not invited?” Miles pretended to pout for a moment before grinning.

I grinned back at him. “Nope, sorry, the invitation was just for me.”

Miles furrowed his brow. “Just you? Not you and Dragon?”

I shook my head. “Just me.”

Dragon studying scrollMiles started pacing. “Isn’t that a bit odd? Why would they invite just you, and not Dragon? Wasn’t Dragon with you when you first met Christine and Talia? And wasn’t it Dragon to whom they provided two much-needed spells?”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/do-we-get-any-answers/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/09/22/an-unfulfilling-resolution/

I cocked my head and rubbed my chin. “I never thought about that, but you’re right. It is odd that they didn’t include Dragon . . . not that she’s here to accompany me.”

“Maybe they know she’s not here?” The furrow in Miles’ brow deepened. “Maybe they’re the ones who have been watching you?”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/01/05/7507/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/01/12/the-eyes-of-the-something-are-upon-me/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/01/19/eyell-be-seeing-you/

My eyes widened at that thought, but before I could say anything, Miles continued. “Marge, something doesn’t feel right. Maybe you shouldn’t go there alone.”

I shrugged uneasily. “I’ve already accepted the invitation. Besides, what’s going to happen? I don’t think Christine and Talia are dangerous.”

“But you don’t really know much about them. And who else is going to be at this afternoon tea?” Miles was really frowning now, and I could see the worry in his eyes.

“I wasn’t apprised of the guest list. But really, Miles!” I gave my husband a reassuring hug. “I’m sure I’ll be just fine.”

I hoped I sounded more confident than I felt.

Later that day, I drove to the small town where Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store was located. As I approached the area of the hamlet where the store was located, the streets seemed dirtier, the buildings looked more dilapidated, and more of the businesses appeared derelict than they had the last time I was there.

 

Looking in windowWhen I reached the store, I parked my car and walked up to the storefront. There were no lights on inside, and the front door was locked. I took my hand and tried to wipe away some of the grime from the window. When I peered inside, all I saw were empty shelves and overturned display cases. I gasped.

Wondering what was going on, I decided to go around to the back door. As I rounded the corner, I almost ran into two figures walking along the alleyway.

“Well, hello!”Met Crawford and Griff

I was startled to see Crawford and Griff. Crawford was an acquaintance whom I first knew as a repair technician. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/03/17/not-exactly-deja-vu-all-over-again/

Later, I had discovered Crawford was also a writer and member of the writers’ group Lost in the Words. He was the one who had directed me to Christine and Talia when one of my young neighbors caused a baffling problem. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/09/08/still-looking-for-answers/

“Hello!” I returned Crawford’s greeting with a smile.

Invitation 2“Are you here for the afternoon tea?” Crawford held up his invitation, a gilt-edged square embossed with black lettering.

“Yup.” I produced my own invitation, identical to his.

“Isn’t Dray with you?” Griff looked disappointed. Like my own characters, Griff had arrived in this world from the pages of a manuscript. He and Dragon were very taken with each other.

“No, she’s not.” I chewed on my lower lip while trying to decide how much to divulge. “She and my other friends are on a trip at the moment.”

“Oh.” Griff’s shoulders slumped.

Crawford reached out and patted Griff’s arm. “Well, we better go in. We don’t want to be late.” He reached out and opened the door.

afternoon teaInside, the room was bright and airy, with sunshine pouring in the windows. A nice afternoon tea had been set, but the room was otherwise empty. There was no sign of Christine or Talia.

Crawford looked at me and shrugged. “I guess it would be rude to start without our hostesses.”

I looked longingly at the delicious treats but nodded my agreement to Crawford. Suddenly I gasped.being watched at afternoon tea

“What is it?” Crawford turned to me.

I pointed. There on the wall, over one of the windows, a pair of eyes watched us.

Before Crawford could say anything, Griff grabbed both of us and turned us toward the opposite wall. Another pair of eyes peered from a wall motif.

second wall

When I turned toward one of the remaining walls, I almost screamed. It was covered with eyeballs.third wall

“What’s going on?” Crawford’s eyes were almost as wide as mine, his breathing almost as rapid.

“I wish I knew.”

What is going on? Why are there eyes, everywhere, watching us? Where are Christine and Talia? Hopefully, some answers will be forthcoming next week. Be sure to come back. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.