Crimes of the Fay II, Chapter 13

Aidan exclaimed, “Oh no! You’re gonna ask for a divorce! No, wait, were only pretending to be married…” 

I assured him, “I don’t wanna break up! Thank goodness! I can’t imagine being stuck with an ex during Witness Protection!”

“Yeah, it’s not fun!” Aidan huffed.

“Aidan! Are you coming in?” Minna called out to him. “I’d like to know when to go upstairs… So, are you staying outside, or…?”

Aidan sarcastically told her, “No! I’m gonna camp out here from now on!”

Minna complimented him, “Good choice! I wish I could do that!”

Aidan shook his head at her ineptitude, and we heard my mom’s muffled voice address her shortly afterwards, so we could only assume she was getting informed on the correct situation. Meanwhile, I still needed to discuss something with Aidan. “Listen, about these pranks…”

“You’re not enjoying them?” Aidan gazed at my expression and made an inference, “That’d be a no! I’m sorry, I’ll stop doing them!”

“Why did they start in the first place?” I petitioned him.

Aidan shrugged. “I dunno! Once we got a hang of the planting, I got so bored! I’m used to masterminding schemes to thwart bad guys’ plans, and now I have all this pent up energy and, like, I just needed to outsmart somebody!”

I sympathized with him, “I understand that! Initially, I kinda liked it ‘cause it’s a very peaceful activity, and I can see why Mom loves it! It was a nice break from this chaotic household too, but maybe it’s a bit too peaceful! I’m used to constantly engaging my brain in order to solve crimes, and this job they have us doing really isn’t challenging enough! I’ve tried to subtly interrogate Kaleo and Kalani about that disappearing lake, but they always find a reason to separate themselves from me! I can’t tell if they’re onto us or if they simply don’t like me!”

“We can always investigate the issue tomorrow when we visit that desert town,” Aidan suggested. “Maybe someone out there saw something, or maybe they picked up on some rumors that can help us get a lead! Yeah, maybe if we spend the weekend working on this case, we won’t feel so burnt out with this farm work!”

“That’d be good!” I chirped. “Let’s get it out of our system before Monday!”

Aidan agreed, and then he inquired, “Was that all you wanted to talk about?”

I replied, “Basically! Your jokes were a little annoying, and more importantly, they were a terrible influence on the kids! Like they need more ammo to cause trouble!”

Aidan chuckled, “True! Alright, shall we go join in whatever trouble is presently brewing in there?” He indicated towards the abode, and while I didn’t detect anything too precarious, I still dreaded going in and enduring whatever chaos might ensue for the night! I nodded and braced myself for the worst as Aidan announced, “Entering!”

When we came inside of the building, I expected to see everyone hastily shifting to various different behaviors as though they hadn’t been attempting to eavesdrop on our conversation-  I didn’t anticipate all of the occupants staring at us in avid curiosity! I canvassed the group, “Uh… What’s going on?”
“Don’t you two have something to tell us?” Mom asked.

“No…” Aidan and I answered with heavy confusion in our tone.

My mom genuinely appeared surprised by this! “Oh! Okay, I’ll go get dinner then!”

I guessed, “Were you all expecting an update on the case?”

“Doesn’t matter!” Laraleigh asserted. She held out what looked like two of her children’s wands so that we could see it clearly. “You can use these! Mason and Harper’s punishment for the water balloons is using the crappy sticks Agent Hearne gave you!”

“Awesome!” Aidan jovially reacted. We handed her our old ones and took theirs very eagerly! Aidan test drove his new wand by procuring a bouquet of flowers for me! “Perfect!”

Harper defiantly spat, “This isn’t gonna change a thing! I can cause mayhem with whatever wand I use!” She strove to create a spell on my old twig and fell thoroughly short! She pouted mightily, but the rest of us breathed a sigh of relief! While we waited for dinner to be ready, I thought that perhaps living in this hovel would become slightly more bearable going forward!

In an old pickup truck, I sat between Mom and Aidan as Aidan drove the vehicle with an overly dour mood. My mother peered at her phone and then directed him, “Turn left here.” Aidan heeded her command and went left on the small, dusty road we were heading to. “Oh, the other left…” Mom corrected him.

“I did go left!” Aidan barked.

“Oh, you’re right! I meant to say right!” Mom conceded.

Aidan growled and made a u-turn. Concurrently, from the truck bed, Jackson went up on his knees to get a better view of the sandy cloud that Aidan’s maneuver created, and Laraleigh cautioned him, “Sit down and pretend like y’all have seatbelts! We don’t wanna get pulled over by a cop!”

Jackson retorted, “You could’ve left out the ‘by a cop’ part- who else is gonna pull us over?”

“Other people can pull us over, but cops are the only ones who can do it legally,” Kinsey pointed out.

“Back on those true crime sites that I blocked?” Laraleigh questioned.

Kinsey denied that allegation, “No, I saw that on tv! There’s a whole channel dedicated to murder shows! Did you know once some dude killed his gardener by taking a hose and-?”

Laraleigh cut her off, “Can we hold off on the gruesome subjects? This is supposed to be a happy occasion!”

“Talking about murders makes me happy though!” Kinsey stated.

“Don’t worry, she doesn’t show any real signs of benign a serial murderer,” I reassured Mom.

Mom didn’t seem too bothered by her remark. “Sweetie, do you forget who I was married to? Of course, when we were together, I didn’t see the signs…”

Aidan piped up, “Speaking of seeing signs, do we turn at this intersection or go straight?”

“Straight… I think…” She squinted at her screen, and then she confirmed, “Yeah… no… yeah!”

“There’s a sign there that says Kauhale Maloo is two miles ahead.” I gestured to the post on the side of the street.

Aidan grumbled, “You can’t see signs anywhere! Why did we put you in charge of the navigation?”

Mom grew sullen at that slight. “For whatever reason, I’m the only one who got a decent signal out here! And at least I got this hunk of junk that stayed unused in the Hekekias’ garage for years to run!”

“How did you manage to do that?” I wondered. “Usually, you’re not very good at spell-work!”

“I had to know how to repair cars ‘cause Wade had a habit of buying clunkers. He prided himself in getting amazing deals, but in reality, he just got sold lemon after lemon! Why was he smart in killing victims and dumb everywhere else?” my mom griped.

Kinsey’s ears perked up at this. “Did I hear someone mention something about killers?”

All three of us responded in unison, “No!” She didn’t appear to believe our claim, but oh well! We weren’t about to talk about this terrible topic with a teenager! 

When we got to the small village, we parked in a tiny lot beneath some shade trees in front of a twenty-four hour pharmacy that was inexplicably closed. Aidan noted, “Well, it’s lucky none of us are sick!”

As if on cue, Willow leaned over the edge of the truck and hurled! Laraleigh begrudgingly notified us, “It’s alright, I’ll get it!”

That episode made me slightly nauseous, so I got out of the pickup and glanced around at my surroundings in order to distract myself. We stood below a giant banner that read “Welcome to Downtown Kauhale Waloo,” and from what I could gather, the entire sector consisted of a single boulevard! The antiquated buildings all seemed to be built with outdated wood, and the gray slabs that made up the sidewalk all had cracks with red dirt between them. A variety of inhabitants roamed the avenue, but no one acted very pleased to have a presence there! I was about to comment on the lack of enthusiasm from the visitors around us when I saw him- the hooded figure from the reservoir! I couldn’t see his face, but I got the impression that he was grinning maliciously as he held up a couple of plush animals as if they would terrify me! What in the world did that mean? I had no time to contemplate this- I had to alert everyone! “He’s here! He’s here!”

“Who is?” Kinsey queried as she mimicked my focus.

“There! The person over-!” Prior to me finishing that sentence, he disappeared from my view! “He was there a second ago! He had teddy bears!”

Before anyone could delve into what I had been referring to, Mom’s phone rang. “Why is the IRS calling me? … Oh!”

I attempted to advise Mom, “Maybe you should go some-.” It was too late, she accepted the call! “Whatever!”

“Hello?” My mother greeted the person on the other end.

“This is Agent Hearne. Are you somewhere private right now?” Agent Hearne wanted to know.

Mom gazed around the perimeter, and when she didn’t observe anyone other than us within earshot, she reported, “The coast is clear!”

Agent Hearne informed her, “I just wanted to let you know that we had a potential sighting of Wade Toonella earlier today.”

We all listened intently to this development, and Mom enquired, “Where was he?”

“An anonymous tip had him in a hospital in Oklahoma,” Agent Hearne revealed. “My team is still trying to substantiate this claim, but if he has been admitted for serious care…”

“If you’re calling me to say he’s on his deathbed, tell the doctors that I’m his legal wife and I give them full permission to pull the plug!” Mom asserted.

A group of locals happened to pass by when she said that, and they stared at her quite quizzically when they overheard this! I recommended to Mom, “Maybe you should take the rest of this call in the truck.” She acquiesced as Agent Hearne began expounding on how they had to verify the identity of the possible suspect prior to anything else commencing, and after Aidan handed her the keys, I propositioned, “We should go check out these shops…”

Aidan concurred, “Yeah! We need to get to the bottom of this whole lake thing!”

My mind was speeding down a single track at that moment, so I completely forgot about that issue! “Huh? Oh yes, definitely!” I wasn’t lying, but I also intended to investigate the area and see where Wade was hiding and, possibly more importantly, why in the heck he had been holding up those cutesy toys! Aidan strolled to the locale with the brisk bounce that accompanies the onset of pursuing a juicy lead, but my heart was pounding as I contemplated a potential battle with our adversary using a child’s wand!

When we went into this souvenir shop, a few characters were engaged in a lively chat, and they fell silent upon our arrival! They gawked at us in total awe, and then one of them blurted out, “E! We actually have some tourists!”

“We better get back to our stores!” another proprietor affirmed.

“Hey! Please don’t go!” Aidan beseeched them. “We were hoping to ask you some questions.”

The man behind the counter briefed us, “The restroom is closed to the public.”

Aidan waved that off. “No, no! We’re fine there! Although… Nah, I can hold it! We were interested in finding out about an odd event that took place near our new home…”

As Aidan talked to this lot, I spotted a bin full of teddy bears with flowery shirts and sunhats on! I examined the stuffed creatures, and nothing about them seemed very remarkable! So, what could have conceivably drawn Wade to purchase these items? Or steal them, who knows!

“Do you mean Lake Ana Wai?” a tradesman pondered.

“Yup!” Aidan confirmed. I set the toys aside and gave this response my utmost concentration! The men glimpsed at each other unsuredly, and…

Crimes of the Fay II, Chapter 12

With a slightly shaky voice, Kalani responded to me, “Fay Folks with the power to make a large body of water disappear? I never heard of that! I may be new to this whole undead thing, but last I could tell, we only have one power, and that is to go into the Ploutonion! I never do though! Well, not anymore! It’s a dreadful place! It could be really nice with the peaceful clouds covering the floor, but the other Fays let all sorts of riffraff in there! It’s supposed to be our chance to appeal to the Fate Particle to get into Heaven, and here some Fays want to bring in monsters! Can you imagine?”

In unison, Aidan and I uttered, “Yes!” We both vividly recalled facing off with Wade as he tried to destroy the Fate Particle’s seal and doom all of humanity, but we certainly couldn’t admit that to the Hekekias! We both laughed it off, and while we did so, I racked my brains on how to unearth a new route to veer back to the original subject of the vanishing lake. The apprehension that this topic created for Kalani and Kaleo was practically tangible, and I had to figure out what information they were hiding in relation to this! Unfortunately, prior to me coming up with anything…

“How did you guys die?” Kinsey blurted out.

“Danielle! It’s not polite to just ask people about their deaths!” Laraleigh chided her.

Kaleo assured her, “No, no! It’s fine! I was on my way to work one day, and I got attacked… I ran into a pack of… feral pigs!”

I cried out, “What?” With the manner in which he built that story up, I was expecting a pack of gangsters or perhaps some sort of formidable creature that I wasn’t familiar with, but not this! The idea sounded so implausible! “Aren’t pigs friendly animals?”

“They can get very territorial!” Kaleo defensively asserted. “It was the last time I took the scenic route to my job! Literally! Then Kalani went looking for me, and she ran into the same pack!”

“It was awful!” Kalani recalled. “Then when we became Fays, no one wanted to visit our general store anymore! Everyone views our kind as bad luck, so they vacated the premises faster than they quit going into the feral pigs’ rainforest! We couldn’t afford to keep our shop or our home anymore, and we wound up here! That’s how I went from a pampered housewife to a farm girl in a matter of months!”

Based on the timeline established by their narrative, I deciphered that they arrived at Lani Noni sometime after the pond evaporated. So, why were they behaving in such a guilty fashion then? I aimed to delve into that, but then Jackson brought up, “Y’all seem so nice! Why’d you turn into Fays?”

Kaleo rather uneasily explained, “I did some bad stuff when I was younger, stuff I probably shouldn’t mention in front of kids…”

“Oh, please! I’m sure we’ve heard worse on social media!” Kinsey asserted. “I saw this post once where there was this dude that cheated on his wife- she killed him by taking his mistress’ curling iron and shoving it in his-!”

“Don’t you dare finish that story!” Laraleigh warned her. She sighed and added, “We’ve gotta monitor your browser history more closely!”

Kaleo went on, “Well, let’s just say I pulled tricks on men and women that I thought deserved it but probably didn’t in reality.”

Jackson remarked, “Hey, Uncle Kennedy! That’s like what you do when you…” He beheld our drastic expressions, and when he realized he was about to reveal something about Aidan’s true identity, he amended his sentence, “…when you play that life simulation game…”

“Oh yeah, I love that game! Too bad we don’t have a gaming system here…” Aidan went along with the scenario his nephew developed, but it was obvious that he wasn’t happy about it.

“So, Kalani, why did you become a Fay?” my mom casually asked with the intention of switching the discourse in this conversation.

Kalani answered, “Honestly, I was just a huge bitch! Apparently, it is a sin! Who knew!” Kinsey opened her mouth to contend with that, and Kalani accurately inferred what she was about to say. “Oh right, you’ve seen worse profanity on the internet!” Kinsey nodded, and we all chuckled. 

The planting we spent our shift doing was difficult, but we had so much fun getting to know our new bosses! We all left the field that day in good spirits… until it dawned on me that we never got back to Lake Ana Wai disappearing…

When we got home, we cautiously crept up to the front door so we could gauge whether or not we would be walking into as much chaos as yesterday, and what we discovered was that while they weren’t manufacturing any booms or bangs, they did an extensive amount of shouting! Aidan and I cringed, but Laraleigh reassured us, “Don’t worry! This is a good sign ‘cause we know where they are! If we went into complete quiet, then we should get worried! We indicated that we accepted her reasoning, and then Aidan made his announcement of his entrance for Minna and we went inside.

“Marco!” Mason called out with his eyes closed and his arms straight out in front of him.

“Polo!” Harper and Willow each articulated with a giggle.

They repeated this chant a couple more times, and then Laraleigh pointed out, “That game is meant for the pool!”

Willow petitioned her, “Okay! Can we go swimming?”

“Where do you expect to go swimming at? The vanishing lake?” Laraleigh retorted.

“Cool! I wanna play!” Jackson avidly expressed.

At that moment, Mason turned towards him but then accidentally tripped over a chair leg at the dining room table, which made him grab onto the tablecloth as he tumbled! This action propelled the vase in the center to collide with the ground, and the loud crash of glass breaking spooked the cats enough that they all zipped out of the perches and ran indiscriminately throughout the building! As Mom was fretting about her pets, I decided I couldn’t take this mayhem anymore and declared, “That’s it! I’m going in my closet!” I paused and invited my boyfriend, “Aidan, you should go too!”

Kinsey grimaced at that notion. “Gross!”

I corrected her misinterpretation, “It’s not like that! I just wanna talk to him about something, something totally innocent!” She appeared skeptical, but I let it go since it wasn’t as though I had to appease one of the younglings! Aidan’s intrigue over my request piqued, so he willingly followed me into the closet.

It was fairly cramped with both of us in there, and with my mind reeling so rapidly out there on other stuff, I hadn’t entirely calculated the consequences of this choice! I wrinkled my nose and commented, “Ugh! You could really use a shower!”

“Hey! It’s not like you smell like a bed of roses!” Aidan shot back.

“Touché!” I acknowledged as I got a whiff of my underarm. “Well, anyways, that’s not what I wanted to chat about…”

Aidan deduced, “Obviously! You would’ve sent me straight to the bathroom if that were the case! I’m guessing you wanna discuss Lake Ana Wai.”

I confirmed this, “Uh-huh! As vulgar as Lopaka’s views on Fay Folks is, is there any validity to his claim that they doomed everyone in this area?”

“I didn’t believe it ‘til the Hekekias reacted so nervously when you told them about it. They know something about that incident!” Aidan stated.

“When I asked Kalani if it was possible for Fays to effectively drain a large body of water, did you notice how she didn’t say no?” I queried.

Aidan affirmed, “That’s true! It’s very suspicious! But, the only issue here is how could they have been involved in a crime like that? It’s not like they can pull out a stopper and let it all go down the pipes! I could picture a jerk like Wade pulling a stunt like that, but it would still take forever for a magian to hex the lake dry! Somebody in the neighborhood would’ve seen them do it and would have put a stop to it! So, it doesn’t appear likely that they witnessed this atrocity. But then they must’ve been privy to some sort of knowledge on how it all went down if they’re this on edge about the whole circumstance!”

I ardently advocated, “We need to do some digging! For clues, not dirt! I’ve had enough of doing that! Somehow, we gotta get them to confess to their involvement!” Aidan clearly agreed, but before he could air his opinion on what to do next, we overheard Minna getting shocked from above us! I exasperatedly exhaled, “Let’s get out of here!”

“Out of the closet or out of Lani Noni?” Aidan kidded.

“Both!” I joked. Kind of. When we exited that room, we observed Kinsey still standing in our proximity, so I told her, “We didn’t do anything!”

She didn’t act very concerned. “I know! It’s not like the walls of the closet are thick enough to soundproof what you do in there! Besides, I doubt y’all could get past each other’s stench right now!”

I wanted to argue with that, but as much as I craved his touch, I couldn’t deny the odor would have turned me off! Aidan instantly decreed, “That’s it! I’m bathing immediately! Minna, I’m going upstairs!” As Minna jinxed herself down, she got into the path of the children’s game and made Jackson fall over! With the renewed pandemonium afoot, I let out another exasperated exhale and retreated to the closet.

“Woohoo! We managed to finish the week by planting the last sapling!” I celebrated as I placed the last tree into the ground.

“Great! Now you can help us with this shit!” Jackson suggested as he spread a bag of fertilizer around some crops.

Laraleigh scolded him, “Joey! Watch your language!”

Jackson protested, “But that’s what it is!”

“Manure is more than just poop!” Laraleigh argued.

“Oh yeah? What else is in there?” Jackson challenged her.

Laraleigh mulled it over and then concluded, “It’s good for the earth, that’s all that matters!”

Jackson nudged Kinsey and snickered, “It’s poop!”

“Oh, come on! It’s not like there’s only cow dung in there!” I contended. I second-guessed myself and then whispered to Mom, “Right?”

“Actually, it kinda is!” Mom discretely informed me.

Jackson probed, “What’d she say?”

I glanced around for a distraction, and eventually, I spotted something in the dirt and exclaimed, “Oh look! Worms!” 

“Neat!” Jackson dove to retrieve it.

“No! Don’t move it!” Kalani pleaded. “They’re beneficial to the soil!” 

Jackson pledged, “I’ll put it back!”

When he brought it out, it unexpectedly began to grow and change into a yellowish green color! “What the heck!” I shrieked. I started studying it, and fairly soon after I made that decision, it shrank back to its original size and returned to its typical hue. “What in the world?” It quickly registered to me what had transpired, and I seethed, “Aidan!”

Aidan emerged from behind some trees chortling quite heartily! “That was great! Though not as great as it should have been! I was trying to turn it into a ten foot gummy worm!”

“Spectacular! It’s a genius equal to the shovel you tried to make into a tap dancer or making the rock Kinsey was attempting to sit on migrate! “ I sardonically conveyed to him.

“Ah, well, I didn’t wanna do that! It was supposed to morph into a bean bag chair! I thought it’d be funny to watch her sink in, but then she’d benefit from having a more comfortable seat!” Aidan justified himself.

Kinsey avowed, “You’re gonna pay for that as soon as Mama gives us our wands again!”

I begged everyone, “Oh, please don’t instigate a prank war!”

“I agree!” Aidan concurred. “It wouldn’t be a fair fight ‘cause these wands don’t work very much! That’s punishment enough!”

“That’s it!” A lightbulb went off in Laraleigh’s head. “I know how to punish your siblings for the water balloons now!”

Kaleo rather concernedly enquired, “Water balloons?”

Laraleigh fibbed, “Something they did in Kentucky!”

“Oh, alright…” Kaleo didn’t seem to buy her assertion, but he didn’t appear to have the energy to investigate it either. “Okay, how about we call it a day, huh? Go enjoy your weekend, and report to the fields on Monday!”

“Yay!” Kinsey and Jackson sprinted towards the cottage like kiddies scampering to the playground at recess.

The adults very much shared their sentiments, but our bones and joints ached too greatly to speed our gait even a little bit more! When we reached our stoop, I pulled Aidan aside with a somber expression on my face. Aidan grew somewhat frightened and questioned me, “Is something wrong?”

Mom put in, “Ooh, I know what this about! Let’s give them some privacy!”

“What’s going on?” Aidan fretted.

“We need to address a recent development…” I relayed to him.

Crimes of the Fay II, Chapter 11

Aidan gazed at the hilltops before us, but he didn’t see anything significant up there. “What was it?”

I began to respond, “It was… There it is again!” I exclaimed as a hooded silhouette peeked out from the mountainous crag once more! This was no false alarm like the stupid goat’s knocking or a supposed coincidence like the near plane crash- someone was definitely watching us! I had seen this mysterious character before in the security footage of my serial murder investigation, and the culprit turned out to be Wade! My heart pounded as panic started to set into my chest! As much as I wanted to confront that scoundrel, I couldn’t do it with this lousy wand making me so woefully unprepared! Actually, a weaponry disadvantage would have been the best case scenario in this instance- if we contended with a powerful magian when we were ill-equipped and alone, we most likely wouldn’t live long enough to tell Agent Hearne what a terrible idea this was! “He’s here! He’s here!” I couldn’t muster anything else to communicate to Aidan other than to ensure he got the message through repetition!

“Who is?” Aidan whipped his head upwards to investigate what caused such urgency in my voice. I dug into my pocket to grab my cellphone because if we couldn’t match our opponent’s skills, I at least wanted to document our downfall! Or unexpected victory, whatever ended up happening! “Who was it?” Aidan asked me.

“Was? He is W…!” In the exact moment that I put my device in the optimal position to take a picture, the object of my operation had gone out of sight again! “Okay, fine, it was Wade!”

Aidan’s eyes widened upon hearing this development. “Wade? Are you sure?”

I asserted, “Of course I am!” I mulled it over a bit, and then I recanted my statement, “Well, I didn’t see his face, but who else would wear a hoodie in this tropical environment?” Doubt flickered across Aidan’s visage, so I told him, “A person was definitely there, and if they’re concealing themselves, then obviously they’re up to no good!”

Aidan relented, “You’re right, that’s fishy! Let’s go check it out!”

We drew out our wands (Not that it would’ve benefited us much, but any potential adversary wouldn’t have known that!), and we crept up towards the rocky slope. I prayed that our sudden presence would startle Wade enough that we could gain a split second advantage when we ambushed him since it would be potentially disastrous if he blitzed us, and I willed our substandard sticks to uncharacteristically pull through for us in this endeavor! We heard some pebbles crunching on the other side, so we took cover behind the tall terrain. The sound of movement grew louder and louder, and I readied myself to display a show of force! When we sensed someone within our range, we emerged from our hiding spots, and…

“Oh, for crying out loud!” I hollered once my adrenaline petered down. That same goat from last night emerged and bleated at us!

“This is what you were seeing?” Aidan very heavily questioned me.

I clicked my tongue in frustration. “Of course not! This was definitely a person, and… they can definitely hear us talking now!” We got serious again, but when we made another bid to traverse the grounds, the goat nipped at me! “Leave us alone!” I hissed. It stuck its tongue out at me, and I ranted, “Quit it! We need to see what’s around the corner! We’re trying to help you, you little sh-!”

All of a sudden, a slender man whose tawny skin bore a citrine undertone as the sun glowed off it popped up over the horizon! His narrow, almond eyes gazed at us apologetically, but prior to any remorse getting uttered, I noted that he wore a colorful polo shirt, and while his long, pulled back hair somewhat resembled a hood, nothing about his appearance indicated that he had been the man that I espied a minute ago! To me, the suspect remained at large, but if Wade had, indeed, been lurking in the ridge where this gentleman had just passed through, wouldn’t he have eliminated a potential witness? I mean, I was glad the guy was alright, but why did Wade spare him?

“E kala mai!” he relayed to us. When Aidan and I gave him blank stares in return, he translated his words, “Sorry! I always bring an animal with me for protection when I go out here, and Anela got a little defensive!”

“Is it very dangerous out here?” I gazed towards the direction where I spotted the obscure person, and I wondered if I had been incorrect in assuming that only Wade would don that sort of getup! Quite abruptly, a mosquito flew towards my forehead, and my initial instinct was that a threat had invaded my space, and I battled it with more veracity than necessary!

The gentleman assured us, “Nothing lethal really. The menehune show up every once in a while, but they’re more annoying than dangerous… They’re mischievous elves.” Once Aidan and I bore expressions of comprehension, he went on, “They’re very industrious too though! I almost let them fix your aqueduct, but I didn’t realize people were living next door to me, so I thought I’d be a good neighbor and do the repair for you.”

Aidan graciously regarded him, “Thank you! I left my toolbox back there ‘cause we thought… Hey! How did you know we were your neighbors?”

“Who else would be out here right now?” the gentleman reasoned. “The Palekanas sold their egg farm a year ago shortly after the Pomaikai family died, so I’ve been myself out here up ‘til recently. Though, to be honest, I may end up selling my place too if Lake Aopua’a goes the same route as its sister…”

“What sister?” I hadn’t gotten the impression that any other water source existed around this area, and I grew curious as to why no one was using this for their hydration supply.

The gentleman illuminated us, “Lake Ana Wai was inside of a cave down the road from us. All three farms used to source it, but then one day, it was empty! The Palekanas decided to retire early and let their birds fly off before jetsetting to the Kohala coast- I wish I could’ve followed suit! But it’s not like I could do a simple spell to allow my herds to fly off like that! … Anyways, in case I decide to stay, my name’s Lopaka.”

He extended his hand, and we shook it, but I couldn’t move on from this subject as hastily as he did! Total evaporation of cleared up why the Hekekias weren’t using a closer wellspring, but he moved on from that story as though it was totally normal for a large pond to just disappear like that! I decided to speedily introduce ourselves and then get to the bottom of this! “I’m Sophia, and this is Kennedy- nice to meet you! So, how in the heck did Lake Ana Wai vanish so fast?”

“The Fays made it go away!” Lopaka claimed. “As soon as the Pomaikais employed those degenerates, things were never the same! I warned them against using Fay labor, but did they listen? No! They doomed us all!” Aidan and I didn’t react to his slander. I’ve experienced individuals allege that they were criminals constantly causing trouble, but I hadn’t gotten wind of anyone asservating that Fay Folks had an apocalyptic nature! Oh sure, a few of them did assist with a plot to destroy humankind, but that was only because Wade had tricked them into believing in an all Fay utopia following this cataclysm! Some Fays resorted to lawbreaking due to their frequent poverty, but most were fairly ordinary citizens simply striving to make amends for their misdeeds! I couldn’t comprehend how Lopaka had reached such a drastic conclusion, but I didn’t want to cause a rift between someone who we shared a border with! Plus, he seemed like a skillful resource for mechanical stuff, which may have come in handy for us since I doubted that Aidan or I could have mended whatever was wrong with the aqueduct, but he didn’t struggle with it at all! Probably, he didn’t say how long the fixing took! “For a while there, I was worried that the Fays I saw hanging around Lani Noni had taken hold of its ownership, but they were probably scavenging the joint! Thank goodness I have regular humans next to me!”

“Uhh… They’re still there!” Aidan hesitantly informed him. “We actually work for them!”

Lopaka’s demeanor changed completely upon receiving that pronouncement! “You’re supporting their… Well, see you around!” He summoned his goat to tail him back towards his ranch, and Anela had to shoot us one last dirty glance before departing!

I chided Aidan, “Why did you have to tell him that? Now he hates us!”

“He would’ve found out eventually!” Aidan pointed out, which I had to admit was probably true. He went on, “Besides, him disliking us was fairly inevitable ‘cause  my sister’s goblins will eventually pull off some kind of prank on his cows!” I tittered at his quip, but really, I don’t think he was completely kidding! “Come on! Let’s try and convince the Hekekias to hose off all this sweat before it sets in and leaves yellow stains on our outfits! I know they’re not really our clothes, but still! We gotta wear them for-.”

“Shouldn’t we double check the mountains and clear the proximity first?” I brought up. I lingered by the hilltop and eyed the territory uneasily. I recognized that Lopaka had exited the vicinity without an incident, but that didn’t convince me that Wade or any other sinister personage hadn’t stuck around these quarters!

Aidan vied with that proposition, “If any shady business was happening out there, I’m pretty certain that Lopaka would have forewarned us! You know, prior to his knowledge of our affiliation with Fay Folks! At the very minimum, I would be willing to bet that Anela would have gone after them and not us!”

His logic seemed solid, but my stomach tied into knots with the mere consideration of leaving this scene without studying it thoroughly! If Wade was up to something out here, we could have potentially walked away from vital evidence! “What if somebody shifty is here and we miss out on the chance to prevent them from acting out their evil deeds?”

“What if we do confront them and our crappy wands crap out on us?” Aidan countered.

“I…” Didn’t I come up with that same conclusion minutes ago? I couldn’t admit it to him, but I wasn’t prepared to give up on this concept either! “Yes, we aren’t equipped to get into any altercations at the present, but maybe we should report what I witnessed to the local police…” I pulled out my cellphone again and nearly dialed the number when a cognition instantaneously struck me… “Oh, but what would I say to them? Even if a person is lurking around these parts, that doesn’t signify that they’ve broken any laws! Unless they made that lake disappear…”

Aidan agreed, “And if it turns out that this subject has a warrant, then they’d probably have plenty of time to flee prior to any squad cars getting to this location!” Aidan caught sight of my crestfallen mood, so he motioned as though he was intending to give me a hug, but then he beheld something in ahead of us that swayed his focus! “Hey! That bird is stealing the tools! Put that down!” The hawk flew from our locale preceding either of us getting close enough to stop its pilfering!

Kaleo probed, “Precisely what did the bird steal?”

“It was a yellow plastic gizmo with, like, a small screen or something…” Aidan described for him.

“Was it a stud finder?” Kaleo guessed. Aidan shrugged.

Kalani remarked, “I suppose I was wrong about you two being mechanically inclined! Although, you did do a great job fixing the aqueduct!”

I opened my mouth to correct her on that incorrect assessment, and Aidan nudged me to keep quiet. I had an extreme aversion to lying, but there didn’t appear to be a lot of validity in the premise of informing them that Lopaka helped us when he wasn’t likely to ever repeat that favor! As we joined in the planting efforts, I conversed, “I can understand why our neighbor brings a pet with him when he goes out there! It would’ve been nice to have a critter with us so it could have fended off that hawk!”

“You spoke to the neighbor?” Kaleo petitioned me, which made me cringe! Seconds ago, I came up with the judgment that Lopaka shouldn’t get introduced into our chat, and yet that’s what I did anyway! “Did he spew out a bunch of nasty comments about us?”

“Not about you, but he wasn’t too fond of the previous farmhands that worked here…” I opted to mimic my boyfriend and exercise the truth since they were bound to discover this eventually. I would’ve felt worse if they fell under the false notion of his friendliness to their kind and attempted to bond with him! It saddened me to espy the hurt on their faces over this prejudice though, so I strove to offer a smidgen of consolation to them, “I wouldn’t worry about his opinions! He doesn’t seem totally stable to me! Seriously, he believes that Fays have the ability to make an entire lake vanish!” Immediately following that sentence, Kaleo dropped the shovel in his hands, and the pair of them looked totally fretful! It was apparent that I had spooked them, but why? “That’s not even possible… Is it?”

Crimes of the Fay II, Chapter 10

“Who’s at the door?” Aidan queried as he peeked down at the scene from the loft.

“They didn’t say! They just keep on knocking!” Minna reported. Aidan became very overtly annoyed, so much so that even Minna’s usual obliviousness couldn’t prevail in this instance! “Okay, I’ll answer it!”

Aidan commanded, “No! Don’t do that! We don’t want someone that angry entering the house! See who it is first!”

Mom chided him, “Aidan! How do you expect a woman in a wheelchair to look out a window that high?”

“Oh, please! Unreachable windows never stopped me from doing what I wanted to before!” Minna asserted, which made my mother raise her eyebrows. Minna used her wand to draw open the curtains on the glass at the top of the backdoor, and then she did another spell to raise herself up to see what was outside. Despite my misgivings, I couldn’t help but feel impressed by her stalker skills being put to good use! “Woah!” Minna exclaimed when she espied what was causing the voluminous banging on that entryway.

“Who is it?” I tentatively inquired. The renewed knocking made my apprehension return, and I feared that my accidental jinx had summoned the worst person to show up at our abode right then! If Wade had materialized while we possessed such faulty wands, I was certain that we would not fair too well in this battle!

Minna squinted her eyes and studied the subject as she replied, “I don’t know his name…” My heart skipped a beat- it seemed impossible to me that her response could signify anyone other than Wade at our patio… Or did we have patio space in our backyard? I hadn’t scoped out that section of our territory yet… “Oh, maybe it’s a she…!”

My eyes blinked in confusion. I didn’t estimate that Wade would dress in drag, but that definitely would throw investigators off of his trail! “Can you describe their appearance?” I interrogated her.

“I see long, white hair, beady, little eyes, and gray horns…” Minna described to me.

“Horns?” Up until that specific detail, she had me convinced that the perpetrator truly was Wade! “Wait, it’s a goat? Why didn’t you say that sooner?” 

Minna folded her arms and pouted, “Well, you didn’t ask me whether or not they were human!”

I growled in frustration. Yes, I was relieved that our nemesis hadn’t resurfaced, but it irked me that her graceless deliverance of this fact had evoked unnecessary panic! My muscles grew less tense, but I didn’t like that I had to go down there and deal with this issue! I pressed myself against the window and shouted to it, “Get out of here! Yeah, you! Get out!” It made a strange face at me prior to its departure, and I puzzled, “Goats can stick their tongues out at people when they’re mad?”

“Cool! I wanna see!” Jackson ran to the door with excitement in his step.

“It left,” I revealed to him. He peered through the window to confirm this, and his expression doured. I continued to study our surroundings, and I observed, “Gosh, all we have around this property is a flimsy wire fence! This is supposed to keep us safe from Wade ambushing us?”

Kinsey quizzically responded, “I thought the point of all this was that we’re somewhere where that dude can’t find us!”

I opined, “Uh, yeah, that’s true, but we still need some protection in case he does turn up!”

“I don’t see how he could possibly figure out that we’re at this random farm on the complete opposite side of the country, but if he did somehow, then we’d simply have to call the police to come get him,” Laraleigh saw Aidan and I about to speak up on this subject, so she added, “The Hawaiian police! You two aren’t cops anymore- you’re agricultural workers!”

“We’re still in law enforcement!” I differed. “Once this is all over and we’re back home, we’re going right back on duty!” That sinking sensation of envisioning a bleak future that contradicted my sentiment kicked in, and I wistfully wondered how much validity my argument had!

Mom attempted to comfort me, “I know it’s rough letting other officers do your job, but…” She didn’t have a way to finish that sentence, so she switched to petitioning the group, “Who wants dinner?”

I didn’t have a cheery reaction to give her, but prior to me feigning anything, water dripped off of my clothes and sprayed the same cat from upstairs! To avoid sharing in everyone else’s mirth, I excused myself, “I’m gonna go wash up!” As I ran into Aidan on the upper level, I could tell her wanted to offer me some encouragement, so I cut him off preceding this occurrence, “I know, I know!’ I grabbed some dry clothes, and after I marched into the bathroom, I determined that I was less interested in hearing that it would all be fine someday and more gravitated to how to get to that status!

With so much on my mind, sleep seemed like an impossible feat for me, and yet, throughout my endless reel of anxious thoughts, I must have fallen asleep because I found myself waking up to the sounds of loud whispering! “We have to be quiet, everyone’s still sleeping!” Harper cautioned her siblings.

“How are we supposed to have any fun if we can’t make any noise?” Mason probed.

“You leave that to me!” Harper instructed them. “Now, Willow, go get the matches, and-.”

Laraleight shot straight out of bed and bellowed, “Uh-uh! Absolutely not!” She snatched the matches away from her, and as we all groggily roused ourselves from our slumber, we all saw that Mason was holding a box of firecrackers! Laraleigh shrieked, “Where did you get those?”

Mason tried to fib, “I dunno! It’s not like we snuck into the storage shed and saw them covered in dust!”

“You broke into the Hekekias’ property?” Laraleigh hollered.

“No! I said we didn’t do that!” Mason countered.

Aidan posed to them, “How exactly were you expecting to get away with using these? You don’t think we would’ve heard you using those?”

Harper got slightly affronted by this insinuation. “You insult our intelligence with that question! We weren’t gonna use them in here! We were gonna throw them over the fence and wake up the neighbors’ cows!”

Laraleigh grimaced, and then she vociferated, “You wait ‘til your father gets home, I-!” She cut herself off when she recognized the error in her phrasing, and then she quickly spouted out, “You’re grounded!”

“We can’t leave the perimeter though!” Mason pointed out.

“Actually, we were gonna explore a desert town this weekend, but you’re not going!” She mulled it over and then reconsidered, “Oh, but that means one of us can’t go ‘cause we’d have to have someone watching you while we’re gone! Hmm… well… You’re gonna get punished eventually! Mark my words!”

The youths stared at her blankly, and then Willow enquired, “What’s for breakfast?”

Laraleigh threw her arms up in exasperation, and I attempted to assuage the situation by articulating, “Breakfast isn’t a bad idea! We’ll need all the strength we can get for another shift in the field!”

Everyone groaned at the prospect of repeating that arduous labor, and Mom optimistically put forth, “Maybe it won’t be so bad! It’s a bit drafty in here, so the weather’ll probably be cooler at least!”

It wasn’t! In fact, it felt more hot and humid than the previous day! Kaleo and Kalani joined us outside, and Kaleo canvassed the group, “Ready to do some work?”

“No!” Jackson shook his head vigorously.

“Before you plant some more trees, we gotta water the old ones first. Any volunteers?” Kalani glanced at each of us, and nobody raised their hands to do an extra task. I didn’t have a lot of patience to stand around and debate this dilemma in this heat, so I put my palm in the air as well as Aidan’s. “Thank you!” Kalani chimed.

Aidan didn’t appear thrilled that I forced him into this assignment, but he trudged over to the spigot without objection. I aimed the hose for the initially planted sapling, which still had charred leaves on it. I don’t know why I expected it to have returned to its green form so instantly, and it disappointed me to see that reminder of my blunder! In the midst of this musing, it dawned on me that water hadn’t come out yet! It irritated me that Aidan was being so slow, but I didn’t want to needle him further by commentating on his speed, so I very sweetly asked him, “Babe, are you gonna turn it on?”

To my astonishment, Aidan answered, “I did!”

Fear flowed through all of my veins! Had the children’s escapade really depleted their water supply? I was already blaming myself for this transgression even though I admittedly couldn’t decipher a logical basis for doing so! I was out working in the field when it happened, but nonetheless, I felt as though I ought to have done something to prevent this incident from occurring! Kaleo and Kalani didn’t appear half as worried as I did, which made no sense to me! This affected their livelihood and their lives, so I couldn’t comprehend why they weren’t flipping out until Kaleoassessed, “Oh, lapuwale! There’s a break in the line! I’ll be back!”

“Hold on, Kaleo! Why don’t we have these two go fix it while we get started on the planting?” Kalani suggested as she referred to Aidan and me. She caught our eyes, and she conciliatorily addressed us, “I imagine you’re more mechanically inclined than physically, and we can save time by doing the saplings while you repair the aqueduct… unless you’d rather do the digging…”

“No, no!” Aidan declined. “Where’s your toolbox?”

As we walked across the gray, rocky terrain, I wiped yet another waterfall of sweat off of my forehead! I didn’t even pay attention to what Aidan was doing, I was too exhausted to care! At least until he excitedly proclaimed, “Yes! I did it!”

Without looking at him because I didn’t expect anything significant, I hazily questioned him, “You did what?”

“I made a jinx appear out of this crappy wand! See?” He avidly indicated to the effect he created. I took a glimpse of what he had been so keen on, and I didn’t see anything until he let go of the toolbox. It floated in the air next to him, and he proudly affirmed, “Ta-da!”

“You spent this entire trip trying to get your magic to function properly?” Suddenly, I didn’t feel so bad for volun-forcing him to assist me with the hose! And here I was thinking of what I could do to make it up to him!

Aidan’s mood dampened by my lack of enthusiasm over his accomplishment. “Not the entire trip! This thing got heavy, and I wanted to make this ordeal a tad easier!”

I sighed, “So, I’ve been the only one searching for the break in the line?”

“Hey! This is a major leak! I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t miss it!” Aidan disputed.

“Pretty sure? What if it’s a minor problem causing the shortage and we wasted a lot of energy walking here when we could quit somewhere far behind where we are now?” I pressed him. “And now I’ll have to mend the breakage by myself  due to you exhausting your stamina on trying to make the tools float!”

Aidan contended, “I didn’t try, I succeeded!” I gave him an aggravated stare, and he opened his mouth to debate the topic, but instead, he dropped the toolbox and made much of the contents of that vessel fall out! “Sorry!” he mumbled while we picked the items up.

I wanted to get vexed with him for causing a hellacious delay, but as I gazed at the ring of mountains that contained the embankment of our destination, something occurred to me. “This whole journey might’ve been a quagmire- the minions most likely sucked the last drop of hydration dry! This farm is completely doomed! No wonder the previous owners abandoned it!”

“Shannon, do you really believe the Hekekias would have bothered with this acreage if it was so poised to ruin?” Aidan challenged me.

“Aidan…” I strove to interrupt his pep talk.

He wouldn’t allow this to happen! “No! Fays have a limited lifespan on this earth, so they’re not gonna attach themselves to anything so futile!”

I more urgently tried again, “Aidan!”

“There’s hope here!” Aidan insisted. “They must have seen something that-!”

“I just saw something!” I gestured towards the hills with a frightened expression! I considered that perhaps the humid sun made my mind play tricks on me, but I was fairly positive that I was not wrong on this one…

Crimes of the Fay II, Chapter 9

As the poor little sapling burned, Jackson announced, “I know what to do during a fire!” He then proceeded to roll around on the dirt!

“You idiot! That’s what you do when you’re in flames!” Kinsey scolded her brother.

“Don’t call me names, Danny!” Jackson bickered.

Kinsey corrected him, “It’s Danielle!”

Jackson argued, “No, it’s not!”

I spotted a nearby hose, and while I was grabbing it, Aidan found the spigot and turned the water on. I doused the enflamed plant during Laraleigh’s attempt to persuade her kids to stop feuding, and during this process, I hoped that I had redeemed myself from that atrocious blunder at least slightly! It was hard to tell- Kaleo and Kalani had a lot to take in at that moment!

We all gazed at the charred leaves, and I felt so guilty for harming a living thing like that! I had no intention of doing such a terrible act, but that didn’t quell my anxiety over hurting it! Mom must have sensed my disquiet over the matter because she confidently assessed, “It’ll grow back! As long as it’s got strong roots and enough hydration…”

“I’m not quite so certain about that last one,” Kalani remarked. “We’ve scaled back on our water usage as much as we could due to the drought. Oh, I wouldn’t take any long showers if I were you!”

“I didn’t even consider that!” I commented. “With one bathroom and nine other people needing to use it, i just didn’t seem like a remote possibility!”

Jackson probed, “Isn’t this island surrounded by water?”

Kinsey edified him, “You can’t use ocean water for crops!” She mulled it over for a second, and then she asked, “Can you?”

“The salt would kill the soil,” Kaleo answered. “Believe me, we tried! Lake Aopu’a is drying up, but there aren’t any other water sources close by! We checked every corner that we could! But even if we could use seawater, we’d never be able to get an aqueduct that long! The closest shoreline is over an hour drive!”

“That would be an expensive permit!” Aidan noted.

Kalani bore a look of surprise on her face. “Oh, that hadn’t even crossed our minds! We built the one going to the lake ourselves, and we have enough issues keeping that running! We were hoping that you could use your magic to repair it…”

I assured her, “We’ll work on honing our magic! It won’t always be like this!” I really meant that! I was a skilled magian, and this was so out of character for me! I felt determined to prove my worth… unless they caught Wade and let us go home quickly, then… oh well!

“Great!” Kaleo chimed in a tone that signified that he didn’t seriously buy our claim of accomplishing that in the near future. “Until then, I’ll give you all some shovels.” He went into a small shed by their cottage and handed out spades to each one of us. “Do you guys know how to use these?”

“Of course!” Aidan smugly stated. “I mean, it’s a shovel, how hard can it be?” He shoved his into the ground, but he couldn’t pick anything up- the shovel wouldn’t budge! When he let go of it, the spade fell down! “This is why I always paid someone to do my landscaping!”

Kaleo instructed him, “Don’t shove it in like that! You gotta do it at an angle, and use your feet to give it some leverage.”

Jackson gasped, “Oh, it’s like digging for fishing worms!”

As he eagerly used his spade, he made debris fly everywhere, and Kinsey opined, “I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to make it spray all over people!”

“Why don’t we pair up to do the planting?” Kalani proposed. Aidan and I each gravitated to each other, and Kalani gingerly told us, “Uh, it would probably be best if the skilled and unskilled diggers paired together.” Aidan and I wanted to protest, but when we deliberated it, we saw that she had a valid argument and complied.

“This is wonderful! I’ve been trying to get you to garden with me for years now!” Mom rejoiced as she linked her arms with mine. I gave her a thumbs up, but I couldn’t feign any enthusiasm over this task.

Mom and I picked up the burnt tree, and Aidan and Jackson took the one behind it, which had some ash on it that they brushed off. As Laraleigh and Kinsey went for theirs, the Hekekias retrieved some spades for themselves, and Laraleigh observed, “Wow! Y’all have a whole bunch of shovels!” They gazed at her peculiarly, and she apologized, “Sorry! I didn’t expect to see that ‘cause I assumed the farmhands who came before us were good at spells!”

Kaleo explained, “They weren’t- the old owners employed Fays! After the drought started, they weren’t harvesting enough nonis to pay them, so the Fays all left. The owners got sick for a long time and didn’t touch the place, so all of their stuff remained where they always stored it. Well, not all of it- some of it got stolen, and wandering livestock ate a portion of it…”

“Dang! You guys did a lot of research on this land!” Aidan noticed.

“Yes, naturally…” Kalani agreed with his assessment, but I sensed a hint of ambiguity. I began to wonder if they were hiding something about how they acquired this farm…

At the end of the day, we all trudged back to our abode sore and tired! “How many trees did we plant today?” Jackson posed to us.

Kinsey informed him, “Sixteen.”

“How many trees are still there?” Jackson pondered.

“A lot more than sixteen!” Kinsey groaned, and Jackson followed suit.

I wearily articulated, “I can’t wait to go inside and rest!” From the exterior, we heard a cacophony of laughter and banging, so I changed my tune, “I wanna go back to the field!”

Aidan knocked on the door and shouted, “Entering!” He paused a minute, and then he opened the door and went inside.

We walked in and saw Minna backing into the dining room area while wearing soaking wet clothes, and prior to any of us voicing expressing our curiosity on how that spectacle came to pass, Harper commanded, “Fire!” A series of water balloons flew over the ledge of the loft and onto the main floor!

I’m pretty sure that we all wanted to scold them for this mischievous action, but Mom beat us to the punch, “What are you heathens doing? You’re gonna give my babies a heart attack!”

“Minna said it was okay for us to do this!” Mason justified their behavior.

“No, I did not!” Minna firmly denied that accusation. “I said, ‘Go ahead and see what happens!’ I really thought that’d get them to listen! Man, none of my professors ever covered how to deal with this type of situation!”

Without intending to say my opinion out loud, I astonishedly reacted, “You have a college degree?” I covered my mouth after those words blurted out! I hadn’t meant to act so rudely towards her, and I fretted over what repercussions might ensue this slant! I couldn’t bear to add a tiff with an unbalanced person to the list of stressors that haunted me each day!

Thankfully, Minna didn’t air her tribulations over the incident! “I got my masters in psychology. I finished an internship at a counseling center, and I was planning on getting my Phd so I can open up my own clinic…. And don’t even try saying how odd it is for someone with a personality disorder to do that!”

“I wasn’t going to!” I lied. I couldn’t fathom how somebody who made a living fixing people’s mindsets could possess such an irrational decorum with men she found attractive! I weighed whether or not I should have reported her to the Kentucky medical board, but then I opted to table the issue and shifted my attention to the more grievous development, “You all need to quit wasting so much water! This region is experiencing a drought!”

“What’s a drought?” Willow enquired.

I tersely educated them, “They’re running out of water.”

Harper disputed that, “That can’t be true! We’ve been running the faucet all day, and we haven’t had any problems!”

All of the adults winced at that concept, and I dreaded to picture what would occur if we ran out of such an essential supply! Unless we could pilfer more powerful wands, I had no inkling on how we would repair their aqueduct! And I didn’t conceive the notion to delve into how much water was lingering in that lake when we were interacting with the Hekekias! If I hadn’t been sweating for several hours, I would’ve chosen to skip my shower tonight out of an abundance of caution! My head commenced in throbbing like crazy, so I exasperatedly regarded the children, “Go play downstairs! I’m gonna lie down!” 

They were set to tote their box of balloons to the lower level, so I snatched them away and requested to Minna, “Can you destroy these?” She aimed her wand at the crate, and her jinx obliterated its contents. Unfortunately, it drenched me, which made the youths erupt in cackles! I gritted my teeth, but then I reasoned, “Well, I don’t gotta worry about bathing tonight!” I dashed upstairs without listening to their response.

“Don’t tell me everything’s gonna be okay!” I barked at Aidan as soon as I sensed him coming in.

“Why not?” Aidan rejoined as he sat down on the cot next to me.

I rationalized it for him, “I know it’ll all be okay eventually, but when? What if they don’t catch Wade for months?”

Aidan disagreed with that premise, “No way! Not gonna happen! He’s not that clever!”

“He got away with his first crime spree for months, and I was living with him for part of this duration!” I contended. “Wait, was that months or weeks? It felt like months… Anyways, he’s a master of disguise, and he might slip right under everybody’s noses!”

“Speaking of noses, they’re probably on the lookout for a horrible stench, so all he would have to do to hide himself is take a damn bath!” Aidan mused.

I iterated my point, “Exactly! This could be our lives for a really long while! Imagine all of the cases not getting solved without us around! Plus, Ben will be in charge of the low income rehab and the Center for the Recently Deceased! I couldn’t even count on him to run our finances when we were married, and now he’s running two non-profits?” A cat jumped onto my bed to offer me some comfort, but when it saw how sopped I was, it crinkled its nose and hopped off. “Instead of helping our community and finishing the day at home in our nice, cozy apartment, we’re sleeping on hay and planting trees that probably won’t even grow ‘cause the last of the water apparently went into entertaining the bratty pack! I miss our home! I know it sounds superficial, but I liked all of our stuff, and I want it back!”

Aidan related to me, “It’s not superficial! We worked hard for our stuff! And it bums me out to imagine all of the citizens we would potentially assist going without! But it makes me feel better to maintain the belief that we’ll get out of this mess soon! It drives me nuts to not have any say-so on how I sort out my routine, however, I keep thinking about the weekend and the chance for us to go on an adventure! Maybe that’ll make this whole ordeal worthwhile!”

“I hope so!” In the back of my brain, I still didn’t accept any optimism regarding this expedition, but I would have to keep reminding myself of his wisdom to trick my thought-waves into generating enough plausibility to get to the other side of this debacle!

“Now, let’s get you out of these clothes!’ Aidan proffered with a wry smile.

Immediately after that suggestion got put forth, a chorus of young voices echoed out, “Eiww!”

Aidan’s face fell, and he canvassed the juveniles, “You heard that?”

“Uh, yeah! There’s no walls in this building, remember?” Kinsey shot back.

“Oh, sweet crap! We’re not gonna get any opportunities to get lucky while we’re here, are we?” Aidan lamented.

I didn’t want to confirm that assessment and be the individual who stole the sunshine out of such a perky man, so I gave the abstraction some serious consideration. Eventually, I produced a rather implausible potentiality, “We could try sound-proofing my closet.”

Aidan furnished his wand and stared at it with a fairly inauspicious frown. “With these things? Although… We do have to get them to function sometime…”

I brought my wand out, and I recommended, “Let’s practice! We can start with a really simple hex like clearing out some of this straw so our allergies stop going into overdrive!” Aidan nodded, and we both concentrated as much as we could, or at least he did! I instantly recalled that I ought to have used the blowdryer on my hair or changed into dry clothes preceding this venture! I sincerely strove to clear out all of my woes, but they kept returning to my focus over and over again! I grew frustrated, and then I espied some sparks flying out of my wand…

All of a sudden, a series of loud knocks boomed from the backdoor! I shifted around in a distraught manner… What exactly had I invited over?

Crimes of the Fay, Chapter 8

I queried the Hekekias, “There’s only one bedroom?” I could see the area clearly, so it’s not like I had any confusion on the layout of the structure. Really, I was just hoping that what my eyes perceived had somehow been wrong! Only one door rested on the other side of this loft, and otherwise, the entire upstairs consisted of several inches of hay and a dozen cots. If there was merely a single chamber with any privacy in this place, I was prepared to fight tooth and nail for it! I would’ve trampled over the small kids, I didn’t care! I wasn’t about to spend the entire duration of this venture without a tiny iota of sanctuary! If it was a few days in a hotel, then I wouldn’t have complained, but who knew how long we were going to remain there!

“There aren’t any bedrooms,” Kaleo informed us.

“WHAT?” Almost everyone incredulously reacted upon hearing this.

Laraleigh inquired, “Then what’s in there?”

Kaelo replied, “That’s the bathroom.”

“There’s only one bathroom, and it’s upstairs? Oh man, this is gonna be rough on my knees!” Mom commented.

“How’s that gonna work with, uh, Anna?” Aidan probed.

Kalani complimented him, “Aw! That’s awfully sweet of you to show such concern over your cousin! Even though you have a restraining order against her, you still tend to her special needs!”

Aidan differed, “Uh, actually, I wanted to leave her at the airport! I was thinking that it’d be impossible for her to get through us to use the bathroom- she’d wake us up with shocks!”

“I don’t think she can get up here in a wheelchair…” Kalani concernedly opined.

“That’s what I once thought! But it turns out she’s good at spells that transport herself to spaces she normally wouldn’t be able to reach! It’s an aptitude she acquired in order to stalk me!” Aidan folded his arms in an irate memory of these instances.

From outside, Minna confirmed this, “It’s true! I did that a lot! I also learned to sleep outdoors if that’s helpful!”

Kaleo denied that proposition, “No, no! I don’t wanna be liable if you get attacked by the Night Marchers!” He saw our blank visages, so he clarified, “They’re ancient warrior spirits that roam the earth. If you make eye contact with them, you’ll get sucked away into the spirit world!”

“But if I’m sleeping, I won’t be making eye contact with anyone!” Minna argued.

“Don’t be ridiculous! You’re sleeping inside!” Kaleo decreed. “We’ll set up a cot in the dining room. Then, if you gotta use the bathroom, you can-.”

Minna guessed, “Go outside?”

While Kaleo gritted his teeth, Kaleo observed, “Oh, your luggage was already sent here! That was awfully presumptuous of them! What if we had refused to accommodate any farmhands?”

“If you wanna send us back home, we’d totally understand!” I expressed to her with a gleam of hope in my vision. It was my last shot at getting out of this mess, so I had to take it! If the Hekekias dismissed us, then Agent Hearne would have had to send us home! Or at least closer to our hometown! Or, even if we had to stay in Hawaii, we could have gotten sent somewhere with better accommodations! Sharing a space with ten people and no walls sounded like a nightmare, and I truly thought that the universe would send us into a better situation- this seriously seemed too terrible to be our reality!

“Oh, we would never do that!” Kalani assured me.

My spirits plummeted when I heard that! “Are you sure?”

Kaleo instructed us, “Well, take the day to get settled in. Then tomorrow, report to the field at nine… in the morning!” He added that last tidbit for Minna, who grew crestfallen at that directive.

Kalani concluded this orientation, “Aloha and e komo mai! Feel free to contact us if we can assist you with anything! I don’t know what a couple of aging Fays could do for a group of well-versed magians, but… Well, we’ll certainly do all we can!”

As they left, Kaleo pushed Minna into the building, and her chagrin over this action was written plainly in her body language! I didn’t understand that at all! I mean, wouldn’t she have wanted to have been closer to the man she was obsessed with? I didn’t broach the subject though because, quite frankly, I wasn’t positive that I wanted to know her rationale behind that! Besides, we were all too wrapped up in absorbing our new surroundings to pay too much attention to her oddness! Everyone stood in silence for a moment as we soaked in this unfamiliar scenery and really processed the fact that we would be occupying this abode for quite a while! It was strange to me that twenty-four hours ago I had just wrapped up a vandalism case and whisked Aidan away from our posh apartment to a fancy restaurant, and now I was due to sleep on straw and do menial chores! It was like I got thrown into some horrible reverse Cinderella story! I had my happily ever after, so why didn’t my fairytale end right there?
“Well, I dunno about y’all, but I’m fixin’ to see what they supplied us with!” Laraleigh declared. She and the kids began rifling through the baggage that had gotten sent here.

“We probably won’t be here that long!” Aidan took my hand and squeezed it gently. “Let’s make the best out of these circumstances!”

I didn’t readily accept his argument since I wanted to leave immediately and it was fairly obvious that this desire would not come to pass for us, but after I chewed it over for a bit, it occurred to me that Wade could get caught at any second, so our stay in this shanty may not last for the length I feared it would! I decided to push my anxiety aside and do all I could to enjoy myself! “We probably wouldn’t have gotten called into the station on a Saturday anyways! WE may not be home, but that doesn’t mean we can’t relax…”

Right as I laid myself down on one of the cots, Mom set down her cat carrier and sympathetically spoke to her pets, “Oh, my poor babies! You’ve been in there so long! You can come out now!”

The eight kitties cautiously crept out of their confinement, but they didn’t get very far when a loud crash emanated from the bathroom! All eight felines sprinted in different directions, and Minna apologized, “Sorry, I had to pee, and-!”

As she poked her head out, she evidently got within ten feet of Aidan and received some electric shocks! This freaked the animals even further, and the five youths all hooted and hollered at the spectacle their panic had created! This was all too much for me, so I shouted, “That’s it! I need some alone time!”

I dashed downstairs and glanced around. I didn’t anticipate discovering an unbeknownst hideaway, but I had to find one section of this hovel that I could claim as my own and visit when I needed seclusion! With the state of things at that juncture, I predicted I would wind up in that area very frequently! All of a sudden, I noticed a door under the stairs! I opened it, and the door came off of its hinges! A purple curtain with silver stars was right behind it, which definitely seemed different than the other decor of this property! Curious, I pushed the drapes aside, and…

“It’s a broom closet!” I identified as an assortment of cleaning supplies tumbled out. I gazed at the pile in disappointment. How could such a mystifying shroud conceal something so devastatingly ordinary?

“What were you expecting to see?” Aidan questioned.

I shrugged. “I didn’t have a clue what would be there, but I supposed I was hoping for something baffling so we’d have a nice mystery to solve during our stint here instead of… whatever this is!” I gestured to the chaos ensuing above us.

Aidan chuckled slightly as he related, “I know! I miss doing policework too! Yeah, we would’ve taken this whole weekend off to celebrate my birthday, but since that’s out the window, I would’ve preferred to-.”

Minna abruptly appeared downstairs and immediately got electrocuted! As Aidan scolded her for getting herself into that predicament by not giving him any warning on what she intended to do, I shoved the junk that this bizarre storage room held out, closed the curtain, and sat criss-cross on the floor. I could hear Minna and Aidan yelling, the little ones getting overly amped up, and the cats zooming around, but it was a tad more muffled than if I was in the main part of the cottage! It was perfectly pleasant, although I wished I had brought something to do while I was there! Still, I favored a slight boredom in that spot instead of the pandemonium everywhere else, so  I relished my small period of solitude! I closed my eyes, but I couldn’t fully repose… I kept wondering if this would be enough to get me through the entire stretch of this ordeal!

“How come Scott Junior, Sarah, and Vanessa get to stay inside?” Kinsey moaned.

“Yeah, how come we can’t let Anna watch us too?” Jackson whined.

While we trudged our way to the top of the field, Laraleigh chided them, “You two griped about needing a babysitter before, and now that you gotta do some work, y’all wanna be considered young enough to need a sitter again?”

Aidan added, “Besides, you don’t wanna spend an entire day with Anna if you can help it! Trust me, you’re getting the best end of the bargain!”

We parked ourselves near some potted saplings, and then Laraleigh lectured the juveniles, “Your complaining isn’t gonna make the problem improve- it just makes your woes a little louder! No one wants to do hard labor, but that’s what happens when you get older, so you learn to stuff your feelings and deal with it! You don’t hear me groaning about it, do you? Though I do gotta question why they would start our schedule on a Sunday…”

“Actually, we thought you’d like to have Friday off to explore the island a little,” Kalani told them as she unexpectedly appeared before us, which made Laraleigh jump in fright!

“We’re allowed to leave the property?” I puzzled. I assumed that the Witness Protection Program would have had us totally isolated, so the probability of doing some touristy activities seemed out of the realm of possibility for us! I was so certain she had misspoken right then!

Kalani challenged me, “Well, of course! Why wouldn’t you be able to?” I simply threw up my hands in confusion since I couldn’t come up with a decent reply. I presumed that Agent Hearne or Clifton would’ve imposed restrictions for our movement in this territory, but if I couldn’t unearth a logical explanation for any limitations, they most likely couldn’t either! This unlocked some new opportunities for me! Perhaps I could escape often and find a means of doing significant investigation into Wade’s case…

Kaleo instructed us, “Okay, all you need to do is plant these trees in a row!”

“Okey dokey!” Mom cheerily responded. She was the only individual who didn’t seem daunted by this task! “Where are the shovels?”

“Shovels?” Kaleo furrowed his brows. “Wouldn’t you rather use your wands?”

My mother’s expression fell at that prospect. “Oh, we’re using magic? The thing is… I’m not so great at doing spells…”

I contended with her, “You did fine with hexing the cat carrier!”

“I know! And I’m still exhausted from pulling that off! I’ll try though…” She took out her wand and concentrated hard on moving one noni shrub in particular, and after several seconds, she nearly fell forward from overexertion!

“Let me take a whack at it!” Laraleigh aimed her wand at the same plant, and it wiggled slightly, but then she grew out of breath shortly afterwards.

Aidan and I exchanged doubtful glances, but we knew that we had no other choice but to give it a go with the cruddy wands Agent Hearne issued us. We focused on producing the effect we wanted to occur as much as we could, but once a minute or so elapsed without anything transpiring, I got frustrated and inwardly snapped at this misfortune! I think my emotions had an influence on my jinx because sparks flew out of my wand, and for a brief instance, I believed that I achieved success! It instantly became apparent that I had not! Everyone gasped in horror at the outcome of my error, and I wondered if I would ever be permitted back onto the force following this ineptitude…

Crimes of the Fay II, Chapter 7

**Sorry for the delay in this post! I went to my cousin’s wedding over the weekend, and I didn’t get a chance to do any writing! Thank you for reading, and please enjoy!**

I held my breath and truly expected something completely daunting! For a second, my pumping adrenaline convinced me to ready myself to do battle, but when I recalled the shoddy wand in my possession, I panicked! How could any of us survive a dangerous confrontation without a proper way to defend ourselves? I probably should have ran for cover, but instead, I found myself wondering how Wade got a hold of such a powerful wand while escaping prison! All of a sudden, the perpetrator of the Hekekias unrest emerged from the bushes, and it became crystal clear what caused the disturbance…

“Oh, Romeo! You followed your instincts and discovered my hiding spot!” Minna rolled out from the brush with her arms wide open as though she was expecting a passionate embrace, and when she received none, she barreled herself towards Clifton, “Come here, you big lug!”

“Don’t touch me!” Clifton commanded as she darted towards him. He stepped aside, so she missed him, and she had been moving too fast to stop immediately, so she whirled past him and only halted when she got within ten feet of Aidan, which activated the restraining spell and evoked the electric shock effect! Once she settled down, Clifton added, “And, for the love of mercy, don’t call me Romeo! My partner doesn’t even do that!”

Mister and Missus Hekekia stared at the scene in confusion, and Mister Hekekia queried, “Uh… What’s going on?”

Clifton explained, “This is Anna Swetinbedde. She’ll be the tenth member of your crew.” The Hekekias looked positively alarmed at the prospect, so Clifton assured them, “She’s a little… different, but she won’t cause you any trouble! Just keep her ten feet away from Kennedy, legal reasons!”

“Gosh, this all sounds so complicated!” Missus Hekekia fretfully commented.

“I know it’s a lot to take in at once, but, trust me, it’ll smooth out as time goes on!” Clifton ensured them. “You’ll be glad that the Swetinbedde family graced your doorstep after they help you get your farm back up and running!”

Minna strove to persuade Aidan, “Don’t let this romance with Romeo make you think that my feelings for you have vanished! The waters of those emotions run too deep to ever truly dry out!”

Mister Hekekia probed, “Wait… Aren’t you two related?”

“We’re supposed to be cousins,” Aidan exasperatedly responded.

“It’s so wildly stirring! Quite the forbidden affair situation!” Minna dreamily cooed. “Ooh, and he’s with his first wife right now too!”

I pointed out, “I’m standing right here!”

Minna got affronted by that. “Rich! You gotta remind me of the one ability you have that I don’t!”

“Okay! Well, I have a lot to do back at the office!” Clifton scurried back to the van. Once he got in, he addressed us all, “Call me if you have any issues!” Minna, Aidan, the Hekekias, and I all indicated that we had dilemmas that we wished to resolve, so Clifton grimaced and then directed us, “Call me!” As he drove out of sight, I got the distinct impression that he was beseeching the universe that we wouldn’t contact him with our laundry-list of grievances!

“I’m sorry, I gotta ask…!” Laraleigh asserted after a bout of uncomfortable silence ensued. “Why did you lurk in the plantlife instead of introducing yourself to our new bosses?”

Minna shrugged. “I dunno. I’m sure Romeo gave me some instructions before sending me off, but I wasn’t really paying attention! How could I concentrate while gazing into those gorgeous, green eyes?”

I shook my head at her ridiculousness, and I theorized that Minna may wind up as useless to this couple if she had to work around my gorgeous boyfriend! I didn’t see how we would maintain our ruse as laborers with this albatross hanging around our necks! My concerns over this plan only heightened when I glimpsed at all of our getups- none of us had the appearance of experienced laborers in this field! Evidently, Missus Hekekia drew out the same conclusion because she canvassed us, “So, you guys are farmhands, huh?”

We all awkwardly hesitated on how to answer that question, and after a long beat, my mom relayed to her, “I like to garden!”

The Hekekias gawked at us with utterly bewildered expressions, and I couldn’t say that I blamed them! I would have felt uneasy too if my business and financial future depended on a group  that was half children and half childish! Really, we didn’t belong in the agricultural realm, and I had no inkling why Agent Hearne or his counterpart in conservation services foresaw this as an ideal arrangement! I feared that our inevitable failure in this venture would spoil our odds of success in this venture, but then I pondered whether or not that was such a bad thing! Frankly, if we totally botched this operation, they couldn’t do much else other than sending us home! I made my peace with this expedition, and clearly, Missus Hekekia did too because she shook off the woes from her visage and bespoke, “Alright! So, I suppose we ought to introduce ourselves! I’m Kalani, and this my husband, Kaleo. It’s such a pleasure meeting you!”

I sincerely doubted that she meant that, but I genially shook her hand all the same. “I’m Sh… Sophia, and this is my… husband, Kennedy.” It still felt strange to give Aidan that title, but then again, I wasn’t actually making that reference- Sophia wedded Kennedy, and once we got out of this predicament, we could… Well, I wasn’t certain what we intended to do! We hadn’t discussed getting hitched unless you count playing specific board games where that was advantageous! I did muse about doing it someday, but someday seemed like a far away date! It’s quite startling to have a scenario like this just thrust upon you!

“I’m Eleanor…” Mom started to inform them.

“Eleanor! That’s it!” Laraleigh victoriously recognized. When she got some particular glances directed at her, she clarified, “I’ve been calling her Mom so long that I almost forgot what her real name was!” She nervously chuckled, but when no one else shared in her mirth, she cleared her throat and moved on, “Anyways, I’m Grace, Kennedy’s sister, and these are my kids: Danielle…” She indicated to Kinsey. “…Joey…” She indicated to Jackson. “…Vanessa…” She indicated to Harper. “…Scott Junior…” She indicated to Mason. “…And Sarah…” She indicated to Willow. “And you’ve met Anna…”

Minna gave them a merry wave, and while Kaleo and Kalani ogled at her in unease of her apparently slippery grip on reality, they said nothing in regards to her presence there. Kaleo opted to let it go and proposed, “Let’s take a tour of the farm, huh?” We all nodded, naturally. What else could we do? Say no and live in the greenery that Minna was stowing herself in? “Come on in!” He gestured towards a rickety fence, and we followed him through it. Clifton’s description of the facility didn’t give me much hope for anything spectacular, but I crossed my fingers that my hunch would prove to be incorrect.

It wasn’t! A few plants near their cottage remained, but most of it seemed as though it was on the verge of dying! The majority of their acreage consisted of a vast, empty dirt lot! I could see the divisions where rows of trees once stood, and the corpses of recently deceased vegetation laid throughout this parcel, but otherwise, it was more bare than I predicted! “Yeah, this is our field where we grow all our crops!” Kaleo rather lamely announced.

“Or it will be once we get it going again!” Kalani amended her husband’s sentence.

“Ohhh!” the kids reacted in comprehension. Kinsey then asked them, “What do you grow here?”

Kaleo answered her, “Nani.”

Kinsey puzzled, “None?”

“No, nani!” he corrected her. He plucked a light green, oblong piece of fruit with small freckles on it off of a nearby tree and showed it to us. “It’s a very valuable and nutritious produce!”

“It looks like moldy cheese!” Willow observed.

Mason snatched it out of Kaleo’s hands and took a large bite. He immediately winced and pursed his lips from its obviously acrid flavor! “It tastes awful!”

Kalani educated us, “The noni fruit isn’t valued for its beauty or its palatableness, although it’s far less bitter if you cook it or mix it with other food! Its worth stems from its medicinal qualities! Many healers use it to remedy diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, and many other ailments!”

“If it’s so valuable, then why was this turf ever abandoned?” Jackson quizzed them.

“There’s a drought in this area,” Kaleo let him know. “Of course, we only discovered that after we moved in! It’s not as though we can go back to where we came from- we’re committed to this property! Don’t pry into why that is!” A couple of us opened our mouths to do exactly that, but we zipped our lips at his behest. My curiosity did pique though- what one earth could have obligated them to this disaster zone?

Kalani briefed us, “The only other section of Lani Noni left to be seen is your quarters. It’s at the end of this… Say, where are all of your belongings?”

I had spent so much time praying that we would never get to this juncture that this thought hadn’t even occurred to me! Now that it had, the location of all of our personal effects was a total mystery! Agent Hearne assured us that we would have everything we would need, but if that was true, then where was it? “Good question!” I told her. “We’re probably gonna have to make a phone call when we get to our quarters…”

The Hekekias noticeably found it peculiar that we were sent to this new spot to occupy without awareness of such a vital detail, and I definitely crossed my fingers that they didn’t encroach into it too much! Fortunately, Kalani dropped the subject and beckoned us, “Come along!”

I can’t quite finger precisely what I had been anticipating in terms of our dwelling situation, but without a doubt, I wouldn’t have guessed that the dusty, old barn in the corner of the estate would be our ultimate destination! In fact, even after they disclosed this to us, I still didn’t really accept it as reality! Kaleo somewhat lacklusterly proclaimed, “Here it is!”

“You’re joking!” Aidan gaped at the flimsy structure in disbelief. I was relieved to find that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way!

“Do I look like I’m joking?” Kaleo countered.

Aidan retorted, “I dunno! I don’t really know you, so I can’t determine what you look like when you tell a joke!”

Kalani reassured us, “I know the exterior isn’t attractive, but the previous occupants fixed the interior up nicely! I promise!”

Even though she swore that the innermost part of this abode would meet our approval, I didn’t buy her claim until we entered into the building. Aside from a shabby staircase, it actually did seem like a decent residence! We had a couch, a love seat, and some chairs that encircled a television set, a fairly modern kitchen with all of the necessary amenities, and an elegant dining room table that could accommodate us all! It was totally open concept, but that was mainly due to a total lack of walls! I assumed we would come across a bunch of hay, farm equipment, and perhaps even some livestock, and there wasn’t any of that! Well, that wasn’t completely true- by the back door, we espied a goat chewing on an old can! Willow gasped, “Ooh! You have animals!”

“No, we don’t! Shoo!” Kaleo ushered the goat out the back door. The creature gave him some grief but then quickly complied. “Apparently, some of our neighbors used to allow their animals to wander onto these grounds, and sometimes they forget people live here now! Ah, well, with all of you magians with us, we can do some spell work and finally get this enterprise running again in no time!”

“Right…” Aidan and I each articulated with complete uncertainty. We recalled the instances on the plane where we strove to make the wands issued to us function, and neither of us felt too confident on our odds of success in this endeavor! I decided to practice like crazy once we got to our room, but then it registered to me… “Hey, where are our bedrooms?” Kalani motioned for us to go up the stairs. “In the loft.” We all trekked upwards, and to my surprise, the edifice didn’t buckle under our weight! I dared to unleash a hint of optimism and imagined a few chambers filled with cozy furniture and some kitschy artwork… When we saw what rested on this floor, we all got a jolt of shock sent throughout our bodies! Not literally! Minna might have gotten some if she had not waited outside, but physically, we were fine… When everyone but her got a glimpse of this sight, our eyes grew wide and our hearts almost stopped upon seeing this…