Crimes of the Fay II, Chapter 3

Even though I felt sure it was wrong, I conjectured, “Wade passed on and we can all go home?”

“We can’t go home ‘til the damage is repaired,” Aidan pointed out.

“You’re right! Looks like we’re getting a hotel! Ooh, this would be a good excuse for a weekend trip!” My eyes sparkled at the concept of retreating somewhere relaxing after this strenuous ordeal!

Agent Hearne gingerly articulated, “Well, I’m glad you like traveling…”

Discerning a huge catch to his statement, I babbled, “I never used to enjoy going anywhere outside of Anaknock, I was always too afraid, but after meeting Aidan, I’ve learned to love it! Long journeys used to make me scared, but I realized I’m in control of the journey, so I got over my anxiety! I no longer mind becoming a bit lost ‘cause I know I can always come home again if things go wrong! Our house is rock solid! … Or it was! But still, once it’s fixed, we-.”

“Shannon, you can’t go back to your apartment for a long time!” Sandra blurted out. “It’s not safe!”

“It shouldn’t take the magian construction crew long to rebuild it!” I reasoned. “You could have Fays do it, it’d be a nice gesture, but we-!”

Chief Mazarine interrupted me, “You can’t return to your domicile as long as Wade remains at large! And don’t make a joke about his weight!” I had opened my mouth to do just that, but upon receiving that directive, I zipped my lips! Normally, I would never disparage someone for their appearance, but I sensed some truly ominous news in the works, so I got really nervous! Also, he did try to kill me, so of course I was a little salty about him!

Aidan queried, “So, we gotta stay in a secure location while we handle the case?”

“You two can’t working the case!” Agent Hearne revealed to us. That was disappointing enough, but we could have gotten over it if he hadn’t added, “You can’t even stay in the city!”

“What?” Aidan and I reacted incredulously. It sounded so outlandish to me that I was quite certain that I hadn’t gleaned that tidbit properly!

Agent Hearne broke it down for us, “Wade obtained a police officer’s cellphone, so he has access to our information system. That’s how he found your address! This means every second you spend in this… Yes?”

Aidan had raised his hand like a schoolboy, and once Agent Hearne acknowledged him, he asked, “How did he manage to steal something from an officer from his prison cell?”

“He wasn’t in a prison cell,” Sandra answered. “Well, he was ‘til they did a health screener and saw that his heart was failing. Officer Pálido got put in charge of escorting him to the hospital unit for tests, and apparently, she fell in love…”

“What?” Aidan and I cried out in unison again. 

Chief Mazarine assured us, “Don’t worry, she’s been fired! No one wants someone with judgment like that on the force!”

I puzzled, “Who would fall in love with someone so physically and personally vile?”

“Didn’t your mother marry him?” Agent Hearne probed.

“Yeah, but that relationship was more about dependance than romance!” I contended.

Agent Hearne went on, “Anyways… Today, as she cuffed him to the bed, he began stroking her back seductively…” Aidan and I gagged at the picture he painted, so he let us know, “Calm down! They didn’t go that far! If Wade did have any intention of doing sexual activities, he couldn’t have done much because his heart is weak and couldn’t get enough blood flow to his-.”

I cut him off, “Look, I’ve been through a lot tonight, and it sounds like I’m about to go through some more- don’t add the torture of that image haunting my dreams to the pile!”

“So, he used this, I’m assuming, desperate officer’s credentials to bypass security measures and escape?” Aidan surmised.

“Yes,” Sandra confirmed. “You wouldn’t think that dying man would be so dangerous, but within five minutes of him gaining freedom, he incinerated a building and nearly murdered ten people! It’s so bizarre! He has months to live, but he wants to make sure you go down first?”

I reckoned, “Maybe he still believes he’ll turn into a Fay! I wonder if he’ll try and destroy the world again! Like if he can’t live in it, no one can? Seriously, I doubt he broke out of prison simply to kill us! It’d be a pretty short-lived goal!”

Chief Mazarine put in “The Ploutonion is monitored internationally now, so if he did go for it again, he wouldn’t get very far.” His logic was sound, but somehow, I doubted that these measures would have stopped him if that was what he really wanted to do!

“A-hem!” Agent Hearne made a bid for our attention.

“Is your throat dry? We could get you some water,” Sandra offered.

Agent Hearne politely declined, “I’m not thirsty! Actually, I am, but we don’t have time to spare for that! And we don’t have time to analyze the case either! As long as these two are in Anaknock, everyone around them is in danger!” Chief Mazarine subtly distanced himself from us when he mentioned that, but Agent Hearne ignored that gesture as he handed Aidan and me a wallet. “Our labs have issued you new identities. We have to keep you hidden until Wade has been caught! Or he dies, whatever comes first.”

My face fell, and I lost all of the color from skin as the reality of the situation sunk in! Everything in my life was about to drastically change! “So, we might be gone for months? For months, I’ll be away from my home and my friends? For months, I’ll have to leave the job I’ve waited a lifetime to get? For months, I’ll have to go by Sophia Swetinbedde? Really?”

“I like it!” Aidan snickered at the naughty allusion attached to this moniker until he opened his wallet and saw his identity. “Oh, I’m a Swetinbedde too? Kennedy Swetinbedde, no thanks! Can’t I go by something classier like Kennedy Jagger or Kennedy Hendrix?”

“Babe, those rockstars are bad-ass, but they’re not…” Prior to me completing that sentence, I made an astute observation. “Wait, you gave us the same last name?”

Agent Hearne explained, “It makes more sense for a married couple to get a house big enough to accommodate their relatives.”

Aidan’s eyes grew wide. “Hold on, we gotta get married? I definitely want to someday, but not today! I mean, we can’t even have a true ceremony ‘cause Wade might off our entire guest list…”

“You don’t have to tie the knot, but if you do want to, I am qualified to wed people…” Agent Hearne apprised. 

“The FBI isn’t given that power!” Chief Mazarine objected.

Agent Hearne clarified, “That’s correct. My colleagues can’t do it, but I myself can since I got certified in order to perform at my buddy’s wedding.” He glimpsed our terrified expressions and concluded, “Okay, so you’re not on board with that proposal. Well, you still have to pretend to be a married couple ‘til this situation is resolved. We have some clothes ready to go, and you’ll have some food stocked when you arrive at your destination.” He viewed the tension we felt multiplying, so he tacked on to that, “I understand we made a lot of decisions about your life, and that’s probably pretty overwhelming…” Aidan and I nodded vigorously. “We’re willing to consider your wishes on where you’d like to go next. You can go anywhere, the only stipulation is it can’t be close to here or anywhere where your family or close friends live.” We remained apprehensive, so he added, “Your downstairs neighbors are set to do a nice holiday in Europe. This adventure could wind up being really romantic for you! Well, as romantic as it can get with your mom, sister, nieces, nephews, and cousin tagging along…”

Aidan inquired, “Cousin? Neither of us had any cousins at our house recently, so who… No! You can’t have Minna living with us! I have a restraining order against her!”

“Really? Shit! … Well, we can put a spell on her so that she can’t go within ten feet of you!” Agent Hearne strove to appease us, but we groaned at what a disaster this expedition threatened to become! He slid a couple of pieces of paper towards us as well as some pencils, and he instructed, “Get your thoughts off of the stressful aspects of everything by envisioning where you wanna go! Write down your top five choices, and i’ll send you all somewhere great! Oh, your family has their choices done already!” A group of documents suddenly appeared on the table in front of him, and we stared at them with appall. Clearly, neither Aidan nor I relished participating in this odyssey, and it shocked me that they were willing to partake so quickly! They didn’t even seem to take a moment to carefully consider the matter! It alarmed me how easily they were willing to leave their entire lives behind! I had no inkling to do the same! I strongly preferred to plant my roots further and defend my homestead against that monster! Was I alone in that? “…Unless you would rather rely on your family to make this decision…”

“No!” Aidan and I responded simultaneously. 

We grabbed our sheets, and Aidan began jotting something down immediately! I ached to see what he wrote, but somehow, I got the impression that Agent Hearne wouldn’t allow that to transpire. He didn’t express any rules, but he had the demeanor of a strict teacher administering an important test, so I refrained from conferring with my boyfriend about this subject! I mulled over where I would have been willing to go, and I came up blank! It would have been different if we were picking a vacation spot, but I couldn’t envision myself settling anywhere that didn’t have my loved ones close by! Plus, I had been hoping to informally investigate whatever Wade was up to. I knew he possessed an unyielding yen for vengeance against, well, mainly me since I prevented him from wiping out humanity, but did he really lose the desire to do the goal that landed him in lockup in the first place? Whatever he was up to, he would be keeping it a secret from Sandra, Chief Mazarine, or anyone else they assigned to the case! He would be lying low from the authorities… except for me! I was positive he would resurface wherever I ended up to complete at least one of his missions, so I stood the biggest chance of thwarting his efforts! I had to go where he stood the greatest chance of locating me! With that on my brain, I scrawled a few ideas down…

Agent Hearne took a minute to pore over our picks, and I could no longer tell whose document was whose! I kept my fingers crossed he would opt for a suggestion of mine, and my anticipation climbed higher the longer he took! Finally, he appeared to have settled on something! “Alright, Aidan! Hawaii it is!”

My jaw dropped! Hawaii? That was the furthest possible state from Maryland! I’m guessing, I never calculated the math on that geography! I gave him an incredulous stare, and he seemed equally baffled. When he espied my betrayed glare, he defended himself, “Babe, I put that down as a joke! My top pick was ‘Whatever Shannon wants.’ Show her! Please!”

“He’s right, he did put that!” Agent Hearne confirmed as he laid down Aidan’s paperwork.

“See!” Aidan indicated to the beginning of his sheet, and I recognized he was, indeed, telling the truth! He penciled down his preference to do as I desired first, and Hawaii had been number two! Number three was Tahiti, four was the Bahamas, and five was Cancun, Mexico! Aidan justified his actions, “I put down the rest to be funny! I didn’t seriously believe they would send us to any of them!”

I bickered, “Why not? The Anhulsyns are vacationing in Europe!”

Aidan countered, “But they’re from Europe!”

“They weren’t allowed to go near their family!” The reference to family brought up another issue I had with this plan. “Why can’t we all go separately? Send Laraleigh and the kids to Hawaii! Then Aidan and I can do one of my choices!”

“And Minna! Send her to the other side of the country too!” Aidan beseeched him.

Agent Hearne told us, “Virginia is within walking distance of Anaknock! West Virginia and Pennsylvania are short drives from here, Delaware is still too close, and Aidan has an uncle in Ohio.”

Aidan quarreled, “He lives in a trailer! He could just park his home somewhere else for a bit!”

“No, we’re not displacing anymore individuals,” Agent Hearne declined his proposition. “It was enough of a pain in the ass scrambling to file the reports needed to get you all new identities in a hurry! That’s why you’re stuck with Minna! At least for a while; I’ll work on moving her, but I can’t guarantee how long that’d take since it’s not considered an emergency.” Aidan and I grew very crestfallen at the finalization of this agenda, and Agent Hearne squirmed in guilt as he requested, “Please hand over your cellphones and wands.” I nearly fainted after he uttered that, and to prevent an outburst, he quickly went into further detail, “Wade has access to your GPS, and you can’t reveal that you’re with law enforcement by using police issued wands! Once this is over, you’ll get them back, but until he’s apprehended, we’ve issued you new ones.”

“We can’t even communicate with our loved ones?” A lump rose up in my throat. I spent years developing a social life, and suddenly, I had to throw it all away! And I couldn’t even check in with my family going forward! It was so surreal that I had to pinch myself to ensure that I wasn’t in the middle of a horrible nightmare! “Ow! This is all real!”

Agent Hearne apologized, “I’m sorry for what you’re going through! Your family will get my info, and I’ll keep them updated on your case. You have my number too, so if you have any questions, feel free to reach out! It’s listed as IRS in case anyone gets their hands on your device. No one will be tempted to call that contact!”

I gazed at the outdated phones and puny wands he passed out to us, and my stomach tied itself in knots! I dreamt of becoming a cop since I was a little kid, and it my dream career got taken from so unceremoniously! It wasn’t fair! I wanted to resist, but I knew that wasn’t an option! I slammed my cell and my wand onto the table and positioned myself to get them out of my sight! If I hadn’t peeled myself away right then, I knew I’d lose my nerve! Sandra threw her arms around my torso and consoled me, “Don’t despair! We’ll arrest Wade and get you back before you know it! And you’re going to freakin’ Hawaii! It’s gorgeous there! I’m sure you’ll have a ball during this stay!” As she said this goodbye, I couldn’t share any of her optimism for this hellish journey!

Crimes of the Fay II, Chapter 2

“Let’s save her life, and once this is all over, we can send her to jail!” I suggested to Aidan. He gave me a curt nod, and then I swung the entryway open…

“Oh, bless your heart!” Minna graciously conveyed to us as she wheeled herself in. Yes, wheeled! We don’t have an elevator, so it mystified me as to how she had access to our second story property! She also surprised me by dressing up nicely for her spying expedition! Usually, when I encountered criminals who aim to keep themselves hidden, they wear dark colors and keep their faces shielded, but that’s not what she did! She had a silver, sequined dress that gave her pudgy body a more flattering silhouette, glittery makeup that highlighted her dark-brown eyes, and a flashy barrette in her long, black, curly hair! I had no clue how we could have missed her in the parking lot as we came home! She also had a huge, Romanesque nose! That’s not relevant- I just noticed at that juncture! “I knew y’all wouldn’t-!”

Aidan slammed the door shut in the nick of time- someone crashed into our door pretty hard! “Ouch!” Wade’s muffled voice moaned. 

Mom queried, “Is that Wade? Wow, you guys have a really durable structure here!”

“Everyone into our bedroom, now!” I ordered them as I mentally prepared myself for this confrontation. “Don’t make a sound! And for the love of Pete, don’t ask any questions about what you see in there!” I cringed at the call I made; our room was the furthest point from the potential battlegrounds, but it pained me to envision the conversation we were bound to have about it later!

“Who’s Pete?” Willow posed to me.

Wade gently knocked on the door. “Don’t worry! I’m not here ‘cause I plotted revenge as my white-hot rage burned in that prison cell for years! I simply wanna talk!”

Jackson remarked, “That’s a relief!”

“Everyone do as she said!” Laraleigh ushered her children into the back of our abode. Minna and Mom followed suit, and I used my wand to shut the door. I considered doing extra protection spells for them, but I needed to save all of the energy I had for the inevitable foray! I hardly believed that Wade had broken out of his detention center only to have a friendly chat!

“Ooh! Strawberries!” Willow exclaimed.

Aidan glimpsed at me curiously. “Strawberries?”

I originally intended to privately reveal this gift to him later, but I highly doubted that we were going to get a chance to use them later, so I told him, “Yeah. There’s whipped cream and chocolate sauce too!”

“Dammit! Wade, I’ll kill you!” Aidan growled when he realized what he was missing out on.

“You could wait a few months and let it happen naturally!” As if he could see the puzzled expressions we bore upon hearing that pronouncement, Wade elucidated, “Something’s wrong with my ticker! The doctor says I’ll make it to Christmas, but I have a funny feeling I won’t even make it to Father’s Day! And don’t fret about getting me any presents- I’m sure it’s strange doing that for your stepdaddy!”

I inwardly noted that I needed to query my mother on the status of her divorce with him, and then I sardonically shot back to him, “Yeah, that’s why I don’t get you any presents! It has nothing to do with you trying to murder me or your attempt to destroy the world!”

Wade either didn’t catch on to my contempt or he ignored it as he went on, “Exactly! I knew the warden wouldn’t permit me to have any visitors, so that’s why I had to escape! I gotta make amends with you all before I kick the bucket!”

“How did you escape anyways?” Aidan pressed him.

“That’s not important! I’m sure your colleagues will arrive in a matter of minutes, so we gotta do this quickly! Invite me inside and I’ll show you precisely how sorry I am!” Wade requested.

I scoffed at that pathetic effort, “And I don’t suppose you’ll declare yourself not sorry at all and then proceed to attack us?”

Wade, who was clearly lying, fibbed, “I would never! They don’t call them correctional institutes for nothing!”

“That only counts if you’ve served your sentence!” Aidan pointed out.

“Basically, I did! I got life in prison, and I’m already at death’s door!” Wade argued.

I corrected him, “No, you’re at our door! We’re not letting you in, and we’re calling our colleagues to bring you back to lockup! I’d love to cuff you again, but you’re not worth removing our protective spells!”

Wade didn’t make any noise for a few seconds, but I could hear the wheels turning in his head as I initiated a nine-one-one call. Prior to me hitting the call button, Wade speculated, “So, you used protective magic, huh? I wonder if your neighbors did…” Before we could warn him not to, we felt the ground below us tremble, and the crackling of fire floated into our eardrums! “Oh, I guess they don’t!”

“Son of a bitch!” Aidan growled as he dashed out onto the balcony.

“Hey! Don’t bring that jezebel into this!” Wade spat.

As Aidan leaned over the ledge to do an extinguishing jinx, I recalled that the terrace could be seen from the stoop! I seriously didn’t want to risk any damage to our house or any of the innocent bystanders within its walls, but I wouldn’t have been able to bear it if anything serious befell on Aidan, so I had no choice but to bite the bullet and allow him access inside! I wasn’t about to let him get past the foyer though! I opened the door, and…

Wade had been leaning in a fashion that clearly indicated he intended to strike Aidan shortly! When he saw me, he hid his sausage fingers behind his back and acted very nonchalantly. I instantly raised my eyebrows at this sight! I mean, it’s hard to look sinless and pure-minded when you’re in a prison jumpsuit in the middle of a private sector! His sandy skin (both in the color and the dirt) didn’t paint the portrait of a man on his last leg, so I had difficulties buying his claims of a short mortality! He did appear smaller than when I first met him, but I reminded myself that he was wearing a fat suit to disguise his identity, so of course he had a slimmer frame in this instance! He did smell like he was dying, but he carried that stench even at his healthiest! I would’ve thought the caretakers in his cell block would’ve bathed that odor out of him! He twiddled his scraggly, white beard that melded perfectly with his unkempt hair, and he bumbled, “Oh, I’m so glad you opened up! We have so much to discuss!”

“Actually, at the moment, I’d like to advise you that you have the right to remain silent!” I quipped. I then aimed my wand’s trajectory in his direction, but he pulled his back out and deflected my projectile!

“Now, now! If you start a fight, you won’t get a chance to see my beautiful apology!” Wade sent something towards me, but I counteracted it. He repeated the process a couple more times, and I reverberated them all! He cursed me between words, “Why… don’t… you… let… me… make… everything… right?” He suddenly grew out of breath, so I took this opportunity to make another bid in detaining him. He dodged it by lunging forward, but then he fell through our living room floor!

Aidan ran over and assessed, “I snuffed out the blaze, but the construction is weak in certain areas… obviously!”

We overheard Wade politely address our neighbor, “Oh, pardon my intrusion, ma’am!”

“Durnyy cholovik! Scho ty zrobyv z moyim budynkom?” an elderly lady hollered.

“Freaking bohunk!” Wade muttered.

I directed Aidan, “Hold my hand!” He grabbed my palm as I bent down to peek inside of the quarters beneath us. I saw the Eastern European woman glancing around her apartment in complete confusion, but I didn’t spot Wade anywhere, so I inquired, “Hey, Missus Anhelsyn! Where’d he go?”

Missus Anelysun shrugged. “I do not know! He poofed and he gone! What is this word, bohunk?”

“Pay no attention to that! Slava Ukraini!” Under ordinary circumstances, I would have illuminated her on that derogatory term, but we didn’t have a second to spare! Wade was on the move, and we had to pursue him in order to prevent a more permanent disappearance! However, the odds of us accomplishing that seemed bleak since the ground crumbled beneath me as I stood up! As Aidan pulled me to safety, we stared at the front door longingly! How were we supposed to get out of there without damaging anyone or anything?

“I think my phone is ringing!” Aidan reached into his pocket, and sure enough, it had been vibrating from a call from the Slygow County police headquarters! Aidan held his mobile so that we could both hear the speaker and greeted the person on the other end, “Hello! You’re speaking to Officers Maddox and Vidette!”

A somewhat deep but still gentle voice responded, “Hi, this is Agent Evander Hearne with the FBI. Are you two sitting down?” 

Two chairs by our kitchen table fell into the hole, so after I shook my head, I urged him, “Just go ahead!”

“Okay… Well, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but Wade Toonella has escaped from prison, and we suspect that he may be traveling to your proximity!” Agent Hearne dramatically revealed.

“Sigh! You’re a little late for that notification! He was already here!” Aidan let him know.

Agent Hearne stuttered, “He was… What?”

I advised him, “He escaped, so could you send a crime scene unit here asap?” The chasm expanded and sent the coat rack by the entryway tumbling into Missus Anhelsyn’s space, which made her cat screech with fright! Realizing we would have to find another way out of this building, I added, “And someone with a ladder!”

Walking into the Bull Pen in a non-work capacity felt so weird! In addition to being at my job when I wasn’t on the clock, I had family members with me! Scoping out the two long rows of cubicles, I didn’t see a single person typing up reports or communicating to potential leads, and that really threw me off! I hadn’t ever been in here when it was empty before, it was like stepping into an odd dream! When we got to the end of the row, Mason peered into the cubicle closest to our break room and excitedly observed, “Hey! Thai guys’ got a picture of us in it!”

“That’s my desk,” I corrected him as kindly as possible. I took a beat to forlornly survey the photos and various knick-knacks that I had collected over the last couple of years. A part of me wanted to console myself with the fact that I would be back at this seat on Monday, but another part of me got this inexplicable impression that I wouldn’t get the chance to view any of this again for a very long while!

“Are we getting arrested?” Harper asked as we came to the hallway that contained the bathrooms, observation rooms, interrogation rooms, and the chief’s office at the opposite side.

Aidan assured Harper, “Of course not! You’re witnesses, not criminals!”

Harper grimaced. “Darn it!”

We gave Harper a peculiar regard, but we didn’t have a minute to spare in order to broach the subject in more depth because a man in his sixties with russet skin, umber eyes, and a big beard met up with us… in his pajamas! We had a serious matter to deal with, and yet I couldn’t concentrate on anything else but his night wear! It was rare to catch him in anything casual, so to see him in this… He appeared to have beheld my focus and briefly explained, “What? It’s Friday night, I’m tired, and I wasn’t expecting to take on this mess tonight!”

“I’m sorry, sir!” I swiftly apologized. I had a lot to feel anxious about right then, I truly didn’t want to have to throw in angst over getting bad assignments too!

“There’s a team waiting to speak with you all in that room. You two…” He indicated to Aidan and me. “… come with me!”

We followed him into the interrogation room across the hall from the others. Chief Mazarine parked himself in a chair between a platinum blonde woman with sparkling blue eyes and a slightly older but very genial demeanor and a tawny-skinned man with a nearly shorn off head, honey eyes, and a strong jawline. The unknown man had a very sober expression, but the woman merrily waved to us! Aidan eyeballed her country-like costume and conversed, “You and the husband out square dancing?”

Sandra’s eyes darted around in a shifty manner. “Uh… yeah! That’s exactly what we were doing…”

“Hi! I’m the agent you talked to earlier.” Agent Hearne extended his hand for us to shake.

“I suppose you wanna get all of the details of this incident?” I guessed.

Agent Hearne relayed to us, “Actually, we have all we need from the crime scene reports. We have something more important to go over with you…”

Crimes of the Fay II, Chapter 1

Here we go again! It feels like just yesterday I was writing the prequel to this book! Well, in a way anyways! So much has changed since my last adventure that me at thirty-three seems so different from the version of me I know today! Before, I got a new job and a new home, and now, I have a new job and a new home… It’s complicated…

I’d say let’s start at the beginning, but really, to fully understand the craziness that became my life, we need to start at the end of the first installment, so if you haven’t read that yet… Why are you checking out this one? To those who have perused through the first novel, here’s a refresher: Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to work in law enforcement because they fought the Fay Folks and I wanted to be, like, a superhero by combating them! Thwarting this band of undead fiends causing all kinds of mayhem sounded like a dream! And it was since it didn’t work out like that in reality! To begin with, the Fays are just like regular humans! Well, not in looks! But their neon-colored skin, sharp claws, and pointy teeth aside, they behave in the manner most people do- except they can’t do magic like us and they have the memory of how they died! They got sent back to Earth so that Fate could decide whether they belong in Heaven or Hell, and at the end of the day, aren’t we all wrestling with that conundrum? Anyhow, being a detective wasn’t as glamorous as I pictured it. It rarely involves foiling the schemes of brilliant supervillains- mainly, it involves cleaning up the figurative messes that folks with faulty judgment set in motion! Rape, kidnapping, murder- those are rarities! Thank goodness! On an average day, I solve crimes like the mystery of why that dude was breaking into individuals’ homes to lounge in his French maid costume or the enigma of why a woman kept leaving pumpkins on people’s porches while singing a spooky song in April! There’s a lot of outlandish criminals out there, but we deal don’t deal with them on a normal basis, which is a blessing! I couldn’t handle my world getting turned upside down from constantly dealing with dastardly evildoers like Wade Toonella…

Yes, it’s a goofy sounding name, but that hillbilly was one of the most notorious lawbreakers the town of Anaknock has ever seen! … As well as my mother’s most rotten ex and the most ghastly roommate I ever had the misfortune to habituate with! About that… My former husband, Ben, apparently had an addiction to hookers, and I actually caught him red-handed while I was on the clock! To add insult to injury, he drained our financial accounts, and the bank was mere days away from foreclosing on our place! I was so involved with work that I had nowhere else to go but my mom and Wade’s mobile home in Brigid’s Garden, an establishment not known for its safety or serenity! It was a rookie working on a bicycle theft case, and it turned out it was used to make an ominous sign at a murder site! Wade apparently committed a string of murders so he could “liberate” them into Fay form! He really believed he was doing them a favor since he was going into the gateway between the living world and the beyond in order to destroy this dimension and evoke the apocalypse! It was a challenging experience, and a bit reckless due to the Ploutonion being out of Slygow county’s jurisdiction, but I was at least able to prove my worth to my boss, Chief Mazarine! And I made some friends from the experience too! Oh, additionally, it lead me to my truest love, Aidan…

Aidan Maddox is the most striking man I’ve ever met! He has gorgeous, slicked-back, blond hair, sparkling, light blue eyes, a broad, toothy grin, and a finely sculpted body! I still can’t believe a woman like me could land such a hunk! When I attained a plus-size figure, I never imagined that I could ever get dubbed as a trophy girlfriend to someone as swoon-worthy as him! But he says he loves my curves along with my golden-brown eyes, chestnut hair, and light-beige skin! I hadn’t considered those features as unique prior to him, but he says they are! How did Wade’s wickedness lead me to him? Um… so… he was my number one suspect in that spree I mentioned a minute ago! In fact, initially, I only agreed to go out with him so I could shell out more clues for my case! I guess you could say it was a meet-cute! Aidan eventually got proven innocent, and he helped me take Wade down! The only reason Aidan got involved with that fiasco was because he was trying to recruit Wade’s Fay sidekick into his “business” where he tricked bad guys out of their riches! But after this incident, he went from a modern Robin Hood to an undercover cop! He recently graduated from the police academy, and he adores his new and legal method of screwing over reprobates! We trade stories about our workday every night in our cozy little apartment, and everything is perfect! Well, it was until Aidan’s fortieth birthday…

“BUUUURRRRP!” Aidan let out a large belch as we walked up the staircase to our abode.

“Oh, that’s attractive!” I sarcastically responded to his eructation.

We reached the stoop, and Aidan kidded me, “You know you still have the hots for me!”

I admitted, “Somehow, regardless of how disgusting you act, you ARE still irresistible to me!”

“I don’t know why! You realize you can do so much better, right?” Aidan probed.

“I disagree!” I smiled warmly at him hoping to convey the sheer honesty of that statement.

Aidan grinned and then wrapped his arms around my waist. “Thank you for a fantastic celebration!”

With a wry expression, I informed him, “The evening’s not over yet! Just wait ‘til you see what I have in store for you in the bedroom!”

He lustfully told me, “What if I don’t wanna wait?”

I simpered, and we began kissing each other passionately! I took off his leather jacket, and he unzipped my dress, but before we went too far in public, Aidan reached into his pocket and used his exquisite, red alder wand to open the entryway. I joked with him, “Okay, but I get to dig into your pants next!” He chuckled as he shut the door, and I unzipped his jeans, but before I could pull them down…

“SURPRISE!” a cacophony of voices blurted out as several figures emerged from behind our furniture! Aidan and I screamed and instinctively brandished our wands at the direction of the noise! Once the initial shock wore off, I recognized the perpetrators were family members! A lady with short, poofy blond hair, thin limbs, and my golden-brown eyes instantly grew even paler than usual, and a young woman with features much like Aidan’s dropped her jaw at this sight! Five young children (two boys and three girls) were clearly frightened and appeared as though they wanted to cry. For a heavy moment, everyone froze in an awkward silence.

“Why was she taking off his pants?” the nine year old boy asked.

The five year old girl answered, “She was probably gonna give him a bath!”

Aidan and I rolled with that explanation and spouted, “Yes! Exactly what we were gonna do! Uh-huh!”

The eight year old seemed to know we had fibbed, but she couldn’t quite ascertain what we were covering up. I could tell the eleven year old boy and the fourteen year old girl weren’t fooled for a second, and suddenly, I felt incredibly embarrassed! I mean, if I had any idea they were there, I wouldn’t have attempted to romp with Aidan, but still, I felt bad for creating the discomfort of seeing their uncle in such a compromising position! My mom cleared her throat and strove to smooth things over, “Bathtime will have to come later- it’s party time now!” She chuckled, but only the youngest two laughed. Mom then directed the fourteen year old, “Kinsey, can you turn on the radio?” Kinsey seemed glad to have an excuse not to gaze at us any longer and bolted over to the stereo.

“Do you wanna give him your present first, Jackson?” Aidan’s sister queried the eleven year old.

“Uh…” Jackson averted his eyes and blushed.

The five year old girl volunteered, “I’ll go! I think I left it in here…”

She reached for the doorknob of my bedroom, and I shouted, “No, Willow! Don’t!” Willow got taken aback by my abruptness and halted her footsteps. It’s not as though my “present” to Aidan was that salacious, I just didn’t want to hear her question it out loud and have to cook up another whopper to account for it!

“We’ll do presents later!” Aidan’s sister asserted. She raised an eyebrow at us and then instructed the eight year old girl and the nine year old boy, “Harper, Mason, go ahead and bring out that cake!”

“Thanks for the visit, Laraleigh!” Aidan regarded his sister in a slightly bashful fashion.

Laraleigh shrugged. “I thought it’d be fun since the hubby is visiting his pappy. He’s not doing too well! He forgot how to speak English- all he speaks is French now! And we’re pretty sure it’s mainly swear words! I didn’t think the kids should hear that, so it seemed like the perfect weekend to do this!”

Aidan’s eyes bugged out upon hearing this. “Did you say weekend?”

“Oh no! Uncle Aidan is old now and going deaf!” Harper exclaimed.

“Hey! I’m not so old that I can’t hear!” Aidan rebuffed that slight.

Kinsey offered, “Did you want me to get that?”

Aidan puzzled, “Get what?”

“There was a knock on the front door. Didn’t you hear it?” Kinsey pressed him.

“That doesn’t mean anything!” Aidan contended to Harper, who appeared very much triumphant.

Another knock resounded across the apartment, and this time, we could all hear it! It had the level of volume that would suggest it was someone desperate, which I found strange until a foul odor wafted by my nostrils… “It’s Wade!” I declared. “He’s broken out of prison, and he’s out for revenge!”

Mom differed, “Sweetie, that’s impossible! He has all of the highest security surrounding him at that facility! Believe me, I did my research on that ‘cause I came to the same conclusion after passing an open sewer! There’s virtually nothing he could do to get out! Besides, even if did escape somehow, the warden would let us know immediately! Don’t worry about that ever happening!” Her logic was solid, and I knew my theory had the hallmarks of total lunacy, but my instincts indicated that I was totally correct! My stomach lurched at the very premise of that notion, and I held my wand at the ready in the eventuality that my hypothesis panned out…

“I’ll see who it is!” Aidan assured me after the rapping at the entryway intensified. As he peeked through the peephole, my heart pounded wildly! I fully expected Aidan to announce that the sinister scoundrel had, indeed, arrived at our doorstep, and that feeling only got exacerbated when Aidan fretfully reacted to what he saw, “Oh, shit!”

“Ooh! Uncle Aidan sweared!” Mason called out.

Aidan put all of his weight on the door and commanded, “Somebody call the police!” He shouted to the person on the other side of the entrance, “Get out of here, you psychopath!”

I advised everyone, “Get back to your hiding spots!” They heeded my word, and I prepared myself for a lengthy battle.. But then…

“Aidan! Please let me in!” a woman with a thick southern accent pleaded.

“You’re not welcome here! The restraining order should have made that perfectly clear!” Aidan angrily addressed her.

I didn’t recall Aidan ever mentioning having a restraining order against anyone! Oh sure, he screwed over a lot of crooks, but he always wore disguises, so it seemed unlikely that he would go through such a measure for them! I couldn’t fathom why he kept this from me, so I grilled him, “Aidan, who is this person?”

Aidan filled me in, “She’s my ex-girlfriend from high school. She didn’t handle our breakup well and started stalking me! I was positive I’d never see her again once I left Kentucky! Seriously, it’s been over a decade, I thought I lost her!” The knocking grew more erratic, so Kinsey made a bid to let her in, but Aidan stopped her from doing that. “Don’t invite her inside! She’s not stable!”

“Actually, I got much better after they put me on these meds!” the woman quarreled.

“Then what are you doing here, Minna?” Aidan challenged her.

Minna professed, “I followed your sister here! But I wasn’t gonna do anything! I only wanted to watch your windows and pretend that I belong here! If you mull it over a little, you’ll see that act as very romantic!”

Aidan retorted, “I see it as creepy! Do you really imagine I’d be cool with this lawlessness? I’m sure you already figured out that I’m a police officer now!”

“I did! Never mind how I knew that though! I need to get in there lickety-split!” Minna beseeched him. “Someone’s after me!”

“Yeah right!” Aidan shook his head. “How convenient!”

With that foul odor getting stronger, I wondered if her appeal had any merit. “Who’s after you?”

Minna reported, “I don’t know! He didn’t say his name! Plus, he had a hood covering his face like your neighbor here is… Uh oh! It’s him! He’s coming up!”

The Hessian, Chapter 23

Everyone screamed as they beheld this horrific sight- Alastor’s specter hovered above their heads! Clarissa, Gabby, and Drusilla were too numbed from their shock to make a move, and while the others began to run for cover, all Clarissa could do was wonder what they could do! Drusilla’s sage was still burning, the salt that Gabby used against Elmira during her possession remained on the floor, and Clarissa’s crucifix was still very visible, but since none of that deterred him at the present, she could not fathom what other actions they could take to combat this relentless foe! Her mind went blank, and prior to the point where she could drum something up, Alastor bellowed, “Don’t think that this ends my crusade against you traitors! Vengeance shall be mine one way or another!” 

His arm elongated and barreled towards Clarissa! As his outstretched grip neared her, Kenneth raced over to intervene! To his astonishment, someone beat him to the punch! Lucelle jumped in front of her, arched her back, and hissed at the ghostly marauder, and Alastor recoiled! Clarissa smirked and prodded him, “What’s the matter? Are you allergic to pussycats?” 

“Delay your demise if you must! I’ll get to you eventually! I’ll get all of you! But today, I’ll start with this one!” He unexpectedly lunged his extremities to Elmira! Elmira made a bid to leap out of harm’s way, but Alastor still got her! She desperately tried to anchor herself to the floor with her fingernails, but he was still able to drag her out the door, shrieking resoundingly as she disappeared into the night!  

“Clarissa, wait!” Kenneth clasped onto Clarissa’s wrist as she attempted to dart into a rescue effort. Clarissa couldn’t understand why he would delay any assistance to anyone who was in urgent need of it, but instinctively, she knew that a dedicated officer like him wouldn’t have done this unless he had a very good reason for doing it, so she gave him her utmost attention! He swiftly revealed, “A great blessing can drive out an evil presence! Only a strong spirit of good can overpower great evil!” Clarissa nodded in comprehension. She had no inkling on how she would implement a defense like that, but she reckoned that she would figure it out when the time came and ran out of the building!  

She could espy Alastor’s eerie glow heading towards the northern woods. Several trees and rocks blocked her path, but Clarissa pushed past each and every one of them! She had a hunch where they were heading, and although she didn’t follow the motive for doing so, she knew it could not have stemmed from anything good! Sure enough, she found the two of them above his unmarked grave, and Clarissa was alarmed to see Alastor covering her mouth with some sort of oily substance! Elmira could do nothing more than grunt in fear- she lost her ability to move her jaw! As Elmira’s eyes filled with frightened tears, Alastor maniacally mocked her, “Any last words?” Elmira strove to express herself and couldn’t, and Alastor relished in his cruelty towards her! 

Clarissa spoke up, “You know damn well she would plead for her life, which you would try to deny her! Try! She’s going to get out of this scrape because she deserves it!” 

“What are you doing?” Alastor questioned Clarissa. “Do you actually believe you can negotiate a favorable outcome in this matter?” 

“This isn’t a request! This is the truth!” Clarissa declared. Her logic puzzled over this move, but her instincts took the reins on this undertaking! Some inner truth indicated Kenneth’s insight was accurate, so she rolled with it without hesitation! “She doesn’t deserve this fate!” 

Alastor scoffed at that. “Really? After all of the mistreatment she’s dealt to you, you’re still going to defend her character?” 

Clarissa could discern that he aimed to sway her from this path, so she resolved to pursue it further! “Elmira only acted from what she thought was morally proper! She isn’t a bad person!” 

“She absolutely correct!” Gabby joined in after she, Drusilla, and Kenneth arrived on Kenneth’s steed. “She may hold some misguided views, but she’s not wicked!” 

“She enslaved you! She treated you as less than human!” Alastor argued. “How could you-?” 

Gabby did not get deterred by his antics. “She may have done some less than optimal deeds, but she didn’t come close to the inhumane behavior that you’re displaying right now! She did not merit this punishment!” 

Drusilla concurred with this sentiment, “I agree! She’s chosen actions I may not be partial to, but she’s family, and I want her to live a happy life!” 

“She’s a loyalist!” Alastor hastily brought up to Kenneth. “Don’t tell me you support her cause!” 

“I don’t approve of her rhetoric, but I’ll fight for her freedom to express herself in any manner that she pleases!” Kenneth affirmed. “Her liberty should not get taken from her like this! Especially when a reprobate like you tricked her into it!” 

Bernard rode into that locale with Cornelius and Oceanus behind him, and Cornelius immediately ran towards his bride! “Elmira!” She gazed at him pleadingly, and his heart visibly ached for her! 

Clarissa ardently addressed Alastor, “She isn’t perfect, but she is loved by many who want her to return to them safely and soundly!” 

“My daughter is still so young!” Oceanus marched up to the area and robustly remarked. “She has yet to experience motherhood, raising a family, all of the things a woman ought to experience in her lifetime! She has so much potential as a new wife! And a painter! She even painted you! How could you do this to her?” 

“I never liked that portrait!” Alastor spat. “And she’s not the only one who will meet their doom! You’ll all pay for condemning me as well as the rest of the planet to anarchy and-!” 

Clarissa interrupted him, “You got yourself hanged, not her!”  

Alastor retaliated, “If more people like your boorish husband listened to me, none of this would have occurred! Instead, this snake watched as her fiancée killed me!” 

“She also saw you kill people she cares about! Why should she pity your demise?” Clarissa retorted. “We pity her plight because she did nothing to garner such torture!” Clarissa could see his eyes flickering between the various townsfolk arriving on the scene, and he seemed bothered by the empathetic expressions staring at his victim, which struck Clarissa with inspiration! She grabbed both Kenneth and Gabby’s hand and stated, “May she be safe! May she be prosperous! May she be blessed!” 

“May she be safe!” Kenneth asserted. 

Gabby tacked onto that, “May she be prosperous!” 

Drusilla took Gabby’s hand and recited, “May she be blessed!” 

“Stop it!” Alastor growled. 

“May she be safe!” Bernard took Drusilla’s hand and joined in. 

Cornelius didn’t fully recognize why this activity seemed beneficial to them, but his gut compelled him to take Kenneth’s hand and shout, “May she be prosperous!” 

Oceanus took Cornelius’ hand and firmly vociferated, “May she be blessed!” 

“Silence, you simpletons!” Alastor hollered. 

“May she be safe!” the apothecarist echoed. 

Mister Basker yelled, “May she be prosperous!” 

Pastor Absalom called out, “May she be blessed!” 

Slowly, more and more citizens of Colfrith participated in this practice, and Alastor’s anguished cries for them to desist grew more and more frantic! The villagers increased their volume as his bluster appeared to diminish, and Clarissa could feel the air getting less and less heavy! The atmosphere became pleasantly warm, and Clarissa beamed with pride as her community came together for this cause! Alastor displayed intense hysteria after a long stretch of this, and Clarissa could sense Alastor’s presence waning to the brink of breaking! She inwardly prayed that no obstacle would impede their progress! Then, all of a sudden… 

Alastor let out a piercing wail as he dropped Elmira to the ground and balled himself into a cradling stance! As his image gradually began to vanish, he bellowed, “This changes nothing! I’ll be back one day soon!” 

Clarissa shot back, “Not if we can help it!” Alastor gave her one last glare, and within seconds, he was no longer apparent! 

For a moment, no one budged an inch! Everyone remained quiet as they glanced around at their surroundings in order to verify that this was no deception, and when the distant sound of chirping birds reached their ears, Drusilla spoke up, “It appears he is truly gone!” 

“We’d better investigate the vicinity just to make sure he isn’t luring us into a trap!” Kenneth recommended. Clarissa agreed, and she, Drusilla, Gabby, and Bernard slowly crept forward towards the fallen log where his unmarked grave rested. Clarissa’s pulse raced- she wanted to believe that this nightmare was over, but she didn’t want to give in to her optimism in case she was going to receive a terrible upset! When they reached their destination, Clarissa was almost too reluctant to peek at what existed on the other side not wanting to invoke another episode of supernatural wrath, but she forced herself to do it because they needed to know the truth, and… 

“Aaahhh!” Elmira screamed and flailed her limbs wildly! The crowd gasped, and for an instant, Clarissa worried that she had become possessed once more! She was in a fetal position when they found her, and for a while, it seemed as though their dilemma had yet to diminish! When Elmira realized that she was no longer in peril, she breathed a sigh of relief! She felt around her mandible and joyfully discovered, “It’s gone!” She craned her neck up and gladly exclaimed, “He’s gone too! And I’m still alive! Thank heavens!” She sprung up and tightly wrapped her arms around Clarissa. “Thank you! Oh, thank you! You saved me! I can’t imagine why, I was horrible to you, but I’m so grateful!” 

Clarissa smiled at her gratitude, but it took a bit to process all of this! One minute, she was battling to thwart the worst outcome from befalling on them, and in the next, everything was fine and the person who had been the least kind to her was embracing her and genuinely offering benevolent accolades to her! It was all surreal as though she had entered into some sort of dream! She didn’t know what to say back to her other than, “It was the right thing to do!” 

Elmira faced her and dissented, “No, it was more than merely right! I treated you most unfavorably, and you still came to my aid! Most people in this situation would have let me succumb to my downfall, but you rescued me! I would like to apologize for all I’ve done to you, but somehow, I don’t think an ordinary apology will suffice! You’re a better human being than I am, and I am very much in debt to your service!” 

“As am I!” Oceanus echoed. 

“Me too!” Missus Morrison put in. 

One by one, everyone took a knew before her in order to beseech her forgiveness! Clarissa got so overwhelmed that she didn’t know what to do with herself! She was profoundly appreciative of this gesture, but she became so affected by her emotions that she nearly fainted! Kenneth caught her, and she was able to brace herself against him! She stared deeply into his eyes and told him, “If it weren’t for you, I… I simply…” She couldn’t vocalize how profoundly she valued his dedication to her, and she settled on honestly blurting out to him, “You know I love you, don’t you?” 

With a broad grin on his visage, Kenneth responded, “You know I love you too, don’t you?” They kissed each other passionately! Clarissa’s entire body lit up with ecstasy upon his touch! She had no clue that bliss like this could exist on Earth or that she would be fortunate enough to feel it! 

After they broke apart, Bernard suggested, “Lieutenant, we’d better leave before General Washington sends the entire Continental army to get us!” He turned to Drusilla and assured her, “We’ll be back though!” 

Bernard gave her a peck on her hand, and Cornelius appeared as though he wanted to object initially, but then he opted to convey to him, “You and your fellow soldiers will always be welcomed in Colfrith!” 

Kenneth and Bernard both mounted their horses, and the entire congregation waved goodbye and gave them a hardy send off! Once they were out of sight, Clarissa squeezed Gabby and Drusilla and enthusiastically regarded them, “It was so opportune to have you two assisting me in this journey! You’ll always be like my sisters! Always!” 

“It was our pleasure!” Drusilla reacted jovially. 

“Indeed!” Gabby concurred. “No, how about we don’t spend the happy couple’s wedding night on a mass murderer’s final resting place?” 

Cornelius decreed, “This site shall not be dedicated to him! He cannot claim this forest as his! I’m hereby ordering that a memorial be built to honor all of who perished due to this brutality!” 

Elmira added, “But my painting of him should remain here! If he hated it, it should stay above him forever!” Everybody agreed, and as they pleasantly gabbed during their return to the inn, the deadened trees began to blossom once more! 

“And that’s why every Halloween we keep this tradition up!” the tour guide concluded his narrative. “No one ever truly learned what became of Alastor, so on the anniversary of the Coles’ wedding, the city gets cleansed! And that’s why we govern ourselves by decency and goodwill! If Alastor can get past the wall that Cornelius had made for those who were tragically lost during that dark period…” The tour guide used his cellphone to show the commemorative edifice in the north woods. “… then he’ll be met with a resistance of a loving community!” 

“But what happened to Clarissa? And Kenneth and the rest of them?” a young boy asked him. 

The tour guide answered, “Cornelius and Elmira ruled over the borough with a devotion to lightness, and they supplied the patriots with more supplies to secure their fort! After hearing rumors about this region, Gabby’s mom was able to find her and reunite their family at last! Drusilla and Bernard got married, of course, as did Kenneth and Clarissa. Clarissa became a mother to his children as well as a couple new ones of their own, including my ancestor whom I’m named after! Kathan Harvey, at your service!” Kathan took a bow, and all of the children applauded. 

As everyone dispersed to do various other Halloween festivities, the woman from Boston complimented him, “That was a beautiful story! See, this is why we moved her after my divorce! I wanted to belong somewhere with such accepting values!” 

“Well, you’ve certainly got that here! Maybe later we can get some coffee and I can tell you more about it!” Kathan proposed and looked to her hopefully. 

“I’d like that!” she beamed at him, a gesture that he mimicked. As they exchanged phone numbers, her little girl felt a cold wind blow past them! She couldn’t tell if her mind was playing tricks on her or not, but she swore she heard a malevolent cackle drift away from Elmira’s painting… 

The End! 

The Hessian, Chapter 22

As Gabby hastened herself towards the bar with an armful of dishes, the apothecarist beckoned her, “Hey, you! Come here!” 

Gabby curtly informed him, “I work here voluntarily, and I choose the tasks I wish to complete, so with all due respect, I’m not inclined to stop what I’m doing to serve anyone! So, if you’ll excuse me, I need to attend to my own bidding! But if you have a spare minute, could you spread the words to the other guests?” 

“I’m sorry to interrupt, miss!” the apothecarist apologized. “I only meant to ask you to dance!” 

“Oh!” Gabby seemed quite taken aback by this revelation. “Forgive my rudeness, it’s just that… well, no one has ever asked me that before!” 

Clarissa took the plats out of her hands and encouraged her, “Go on, enjoy yourself for a moment! The cleaning probably won’t get done tonight anyways!” 

Gabby sheepishly accepted his offer, “I suppose I can join you for a song or two!” 

The apothecarist locked arms with Gabby and led her to the dance floor. All of the tables had been pushed aside so that the string quartet could play and all of Cornelius and Elmira’s attendees could regale themselves freely, and as they passed the archway that this furniture had made, everyone stared at this odd pair! While Clarissa doubted anything romantic would blossom between Gabby and a man old enough to be her grandfather, it was gratifying to see a kindly friendship forming amidst the bafflement of many close-minded individuals! After Clarissa set the dinnerware onto the counter, she sat down on a nearby chair and surveyed the scene. Everyone swayed with smiles and laughter, even Elmira! Although she put more distance between herself and her new husband, she beamed as they swirled around together! Lately, Clarissa had only seen her scowling and yelling, and even though Clarissa didn’t particularly care for her, it was refreshing to see her mood so tremendously lifted! Indeed, the entire town abandoned their dreariness and festively celebrated this occasion, which made her wonder if Alastor would strike tonight at all! She couldn’t fathom how he would gain the fortitude to withstand such merriment, and yet, she couldn’t shake the notion of something colossal in the works… 

“Egad! A hostess should not have to hide in the corner of her own party!” Kenneth suddenly stood before Clarissa with a wide grin on his face! Clarissa’s jaw dropped- she had no idea she would see him again so soon! He held out his palm to her, which she graciously took. As he guided her to an upright position, he inquired, “Did I shock you?” 

“You most certainly did! I just…” Clarissa had so many emotions brewing throughout her that she didn’t know where to start! “How did you…?” She wanted to query him about getting time off from his military duties, but she decided that wasn’t important enough to fret about at this juncture. “I’m so…!” She almost blurted out how thrilled she was to see him again, but she refrained out of concern of being too forward. “It’s Elmira’s party really, I’m simply…” She rid that trivial point off of her tongue and instead chirped, “Let’s dance!” 

As they entered onto the area of jubilation, several people stared at them with narrowed eyes and a discerning expression, which Clarissa had gotten used to by now, but the reason behind this most recent judgmental scrutiny caught her off guard! While the others took precautions to muffle their whispers, Abigail did not! “Unbelievable! It’s been less than a month since her husband’s death, and she’s already got her claws on another man!” 

Her male companion let out an exasperated sniff. “See! She’s glad Brenner is gone! And yet she continues to claim she bears no guilt in his demise!” 

Those two pranced out of earshot, and Clarissa couldn’t refute their allegations, so she put that business off temporarily and turned back to Kenneth to assure him, “I played no role in his downfall!” 

“I never entertained that concept for an instant! But… it has been mere weeks since he departed, so are you…? Um, if a man did want to court you, wouldn’t it be far too soon?” Kenneth gingerly asked her. 

“Not at all! I’ve already waited an entire lifetime for some romance, so I…” Clarissa saw Kenneth gazing at her questioningly, so she clarified her remarks, “I grew up on a pumpkin farm several miles from here. Colfrith was the closest village to us, and we came every Sunday for church, but we never stayed as long as I would have liked! I yearned to belong here because I grew up quite lonesome at my family’s home! My parents freed our laborers, so a lot of the friends I got to know sought their fortunes elsewhere- not many stayed even though they were offered wages to do so! I dreamt of finding a way to stay in Colfrith, and that’s when I met a lonely bartender. Brenner and I enjoyed each other’s company, but I don’t think either of us were ever in love! I’ve read so many books on amorous adventures, but everyone said that most marriages weren’t like that, they were made for convenience! Still, I had always hoped that Brenner and I might turn our relationship into something more passionate, but we never did, especially not when he began drinking! I was quite fond of him, and I could tell he was on the verge of leaving this earth after years of this, so I grieved for him ages prior to his dying day! He very much convinced me that falling in love only occurred in fairytales, but in the recent past, I’ve learned that’s true, and…” 

Clarissa cut herself off and profusely blushed at her own admittance! She hadn’t intended to announce her private thoughts like that, but she got the impression that she could act with honesty around him, so she turned off the filter of what she should or shouldn’t disclose with the public! She did not reveal his name, but she knew he would inevitably question her on it, and she couldn’t escape from his hold in order to hide! All of a sudden, it dawned on her that if he found that confession so disturbing, he would have loosened his grip, not tightened it! She glimpsed back up at him, and he peered at her in a very serious manner. She didn’t know what this signified until he leaned his head closer to hers! Clarissa’s heart beat wildly as his lips got within inches of hers, and… 

The door burst open, and everyone turned to see who had shown up so late. It was Bernard! Clarissa assumed he had come for Drusilla, and Drusilla had come to the same conclusion and happily skipped over to him. Clarissa was delighted for her opportune luck until she heard Kenneth swearing under his breath! Clarissa grew confused- she presumed that the two were friendly! Preceding her probing into the matter, Kenneth informed Clarissa, “Listen, I don’t have much time! You have to know… I may have found the key to driving Alastor off of this land! You see, it’s-!” 

“No, no, no!” Elmira screeched. The musical instruments came to an abrupt halt, and everyone desisted in their revelry as she ranted, “I do not want these traitorous vermin at my wedding celebration!” 

“Darling! That is no way to talk a visitor!” Cornelius gently scolded her. “Let’s see what affairs they have here and-!” 

“No! They weren’t invited! They’re here to ruin everything!” Elmira raged. 

Bernard attempted to placate her, “Beg your pardon for this intrusion! We won’t be here long!” 

Drusilla frowned at that. “You won’t?” 

“Not of our own volition! We’re under strict orders!” Bernard regrettably relayed to Drusilla. 

“And what would those orders be? Hmm? To terrorize our district some more?” Elmira accosted him. “What are you going to do? Punish us because we no longer support your cause?” 

Drusilla objected to that assertion, “That’s not true!” 

Elmira hissed, “Silence, you jezebel! I’m glad Cornelius kicked you out of our home!” 

“Elmira!” Cornelius reacted in aghast. 

“Oh, are you switching sides now as well?” Elmira confronted him. “Do you support lawlessness and anarchy too?” 

Clarissa dug her hand into her pocket and clutched onto her vial of salt. Elmira was beginning to use Alastor’s language, and he was long overdue for an ambush! The only thing stopping her from dowsing her in that cleansing powder right then was that painting she made of him. She may have simply admired his character and aimed to mimic his words, so she waited to make her move… 

Cornelius disputed Elmira’s accusation, “I’ve taken no sides! That’s my daughter! We may disagree on some viewpoints, but that doesn’t mean we hate each other!” 

“We’re leaving now! You can go back to your ball, we’ll be gone in a trice!” Bernard made this declaration before Elmira could blow her top again, and while she stood there steaming, she did not prolong her tirade. The musicians hesitantly resumed their tunes, and a few of the participants nervously went back to dancing, but everyone paid close attention to the soldiers’ actions with apprehension- no one relished the reoccurrence of her flaring temper! Bernard approached Kenneth and urged him, “Come on, Lieutenant! I know I’m not one to give you commands, but they’ll charge you with desertion if you don’t go back immediately! The only reason they haven’t yet is that I convinced the general that your actions stemmed from a delirium from your massive blood loss!” 

“Massive blood loss?” Clarissa echoed with fright. She was bordering on fainting at the very image of him sustaining such a severe injury, and her stomach lurched with guilt- she sincerely hoped his encounter with that malevolent apparition hadn’t left him too vulnerable in the battlefield! She admonished herself for not doing more to prevent him from getting caught up in that situation! 

Kenneth austerely articulated to her, “Don’t worry about that, I’m fine! Please listen, there’s a possible method to drive out that evil spirit, and it involves-!” 

Elmira marched over to them and bellowed, “You’ve spent more than enough time here- you need to go now!” 

She attempted to push him out of the exit, but Kenneth resisted her effort. “I need to say one thing before-!” 

“No! You must leave this place forthwith!” Elmira roared in a low voice very much unlike her own! People screamed as she lunged for Kenneth, but prior to her laying a finger on him, Bernard put himself between the two and bore the brunt of the assault! 

“Stay away from him, you fiend!” Drusilla hollered as she used a candle to light some sage she hid in her dress! Elmira hissed and leapt from the vicinity while Kenneth stooped down to tend to Bernard. Gabby and Clarissa took out their salt and ran towards the afflicted. 

Elmira chased the crowd on her hands and legs, and while most of her targets got away, she managed to catch a little girl! As she raised Jane towards her mandible, Cornelius shouted, “Elmira, don’t! It’s your wedding day, remember?” 

She ignored him and pursued another cornered group. Gabby flung some salt into her face, and she let out a hideous wail before bounding to another sector. She locked eyes with Mister Basker, and Clarissa swiftly addressed her, “Cornelius is right! You were so excited to say your vows!” 

Elmira snarled and rolled in another direction, which made her land at a pair of boots belonging to Oceanus! “Daughter! What has become of you?” She paused for a moment, but then she hopped over to Missus Morrison, who tried to stab her with a hat pin! Elmira knocked it out of her grip and lunged towards her neck! 

Clarissa dangled her cross necklace in front of Missus Morrison, which made Elmira recoil! As she pulled back, Clarissa urgently spoke to her, “Elmira, your father is scared! Don’t do this to him!” 

“Don’t heed advice from that snake!” Elmira’s alter-ego warned her. For a few seconds, Clarissa worried that Elmira’s prejudice against her would tempt her into siding with Alastor, but then she recognized that Alastor was trying to negotiate with her, so she must have been fighting his influence! 

“You’re a Cole now! The Coles run this borough, you’re harming your own citizens!” Clarissa pointed out. 

Elmira’s alter-ego spat, “You don’t want these dregs under your jurisdiction!” 

Clarissa disagreed, “Yes, you do! You used to paint them as you watched them in your father’s coffeeshop! Don’t forget!” 

“Elmira, darling! Please don’t give up!” Cornelius tearfully beseeched her. “I lost one bride already, I cannot bear to lose another!” 

“Cease this-!” her alter-ego attempted to quarrel. 

Elmira croaked out, “No!” 

The alter-ego howled, “Do not ally with the so-called patriots!” 

“Don’t let him control you!” Clarissa advocated to her. 

“Silence!” the alter-ego barked. 

Elmira vociferated, “You be silent! And vacate my body forever!” 

With one last ghastly yelp, a fierce gale of wind flew out of Elmira! When she fell to the floor, she appeared completely cured of her plight! Cornelius bent down to assist her, but all other eyes were on the ceiling! It instantly became apparent that their danger would not end there! 

The Hessian, Chapter 21

“No! Don’t burn that refuse!” Kenneth ardently requested as he leapt out of his cot in the sick bay. He immediately felt lightheaded and slumped back down. 

“Lieutenant Harvey! You mustn’t rush up like that!” the nurse with a box full of odds and ends whom he had been speaking to kindly but sternly lectured him. She set the box down and checked on his vitals. “Your pulse is awfully high! What is in this box that got you so worked up?” 

Kenneth told her, “I left something very personal in my coat…” 

The nurse assured him, “I’ll retrieve it for you. You rest!” She combed through the crate of assorted, disposable objects and pulled out his bloodied jacket. She dug into one of the pockets and produced a gold watch. “Was it this?” 

“No. While I would like that back, I had something more important in mind…” he explained. 

“Hmm… There’s nothing else in here except some drenched papers…” she informed him. 

Kenneth urgently demanded, “Give me that!” When the nurse gazed at him quizzically, he grew flustered as he clarified, “It’s a letter from… Well… There’s this woman who…”  

The nurse spared his further embarrassment by cutting off of his sputtering, “Say no more!” She handed him the watch and the mostly red paper, and then she directed him, “Now, you lie still! It takes an entire twenty-four hours for your body to replace the blood it lost, but it’ll be longer if you put a strain on your heart!” 

“It’s too late for that!” Kenneth cryptically remarked. The nurse gave him a quick and polite smile, but she didn’t delve into what he meant by that assertion. She simply went back to her previous task and brought the box out of the tent. 

“Did I hear that right?” another soldier from the row of beds across from Kenneth exclaimed. He shifted his face so that he could keep his casted leg from shadowing his vision, and then he very keenly asked Kenneth, “There’s a woman out there that finally captured your interest?” 

Kenneth felt his cheeks furiously redden, and then he more pertly regarded him, “I’m not prepared to discuss my private life, Sergeant Rainier! Don’t forget- I outrank you!” 

Sergeant Rainier acquiesced, “Alright, alright! I won’t pry! I just remember it was mere weeks ago when we would invite you to go meet some women with us, you would always say you’ve already met the best one! I’m happy for you! I thought you’d be pining for your late wife forever!” 

“So did I!” Kenneth admitted. 

“I was married once, so I completely get the grief,” Sergeant Rainier related to him. “I didn’t want to even think about courting another woman for the longest time! But after a while, I realized that Edith would not want me to spend the rest of my life lonely! So, I no longer believe that a person can only fall in love once- it will happen for me again one day!” 

Kenneth kidded, “Wow, Sergeant! With all of your distasteful jokes you continually tell, I never would have pegged you for a romantic!” Sergeant Rainier chuckled. Kenneth sat himself and posed to him, “When you still had Edith in your life, how far would you have gone to keep her safe?” 

Sergeant Rainier responded, “For Edith? Why, I would have done anything for her! I would’ve gone to the ends of the earth to protect her! I would have even died for her!” Kenneth seriously contemplated this statement, which Sergeant Rainier took note of. “Why?” 

Kenneth bit his lip- he revealed too much! He didn’t know how to address his query, and while he certainly didn’t want to consider saying anything about his plan to help Clarissa deal with Alastor’s diabolism, he knew he couldn’t just leave his comrade in silence after a comment like that! Fortunately for him, the nurse returned, so he affirmed to him, “I’ll tell you later!” As he rolled over and feigned sleep, he felt a twinge of guilt for making him that promise since he had no intention of fulfilling it… 

The physician walked into the facility the next morning, and since most of his patients were sleeping, he did not greet anyone. He nearly took his position by the operating table when he had to do a double take from a peculiar sight! He petitioned the nurse, “Did you discharge Lieutenant Harvey?” 

“No! He said you did so he could take care of an emergency!” the nurse reported. She chewed on her fingernails as she stewed over her actions. “I was busy with burning the rubbish, so I assumed that you had gone into the tent and-.” 

“I most certainly did not authorize that!” the physician hollered. He espied some curious eyes peek open upon hearing this development, so he canvassed the group, “Where did he go? Did he hint at it to any of you?” 

Sergeant Rainier piped up, “He went to the ends of the earth I expect!” The physician and the nurse gave each other puzzled glances as they pondered the meaning of that reaction. 

The physician burst into Kenneth’s tent, and he growled when he saw that it was empty! One of his neighbors heard the commotion and inquired, “What’s going on?” 

“Lieutenant Harvey is missing!” the physician frantically uttered. 

“Calm down! I was one of the men who brought him to you, remember? I know how frail his condition is! He couldn’t have gone far!” the officer reasoned. The physician nodded at his logic, and his nerves were slightly assuaged by this rationale. The officer knocked on the tent next to his and commanded, “Get up! We’re forming a search party!” Bernard poked his torso out of his lodging a few spaces down in a manner that suggested he needed clarification to what he thought he overheard. “Scour the grounds, everyone! He’s got to be around here somewhere!” Bernard swore under his breath because he very much doubted that proclamation to be true! 

After extensively searching over the camp, the commanding officers huddled together in a panic. One of them anxiously queried, “Do you think the British mercenaries got him?” 

Bernard made them flinch when he abruptly relayed to them, “His horse is gone. He’s left the premises! But I’m almost positive I know where he went…” 

“We can’t wait any longer!” Gabby relayed to Clarissa. “If we don’t leave now, we’ll miss the ceremony!” 

“Oh, I now! I just…” Clarissa ceased her nervous sweeping around her freshly and ornately decorated tavern and confided to Gabby, “I’m reluctant to leave The Leafy Taverne! Alastor knows that all of Colfrith will be in here, so it would be the optimal time for him to exact his revenge! And with no one guarding the establishment, who knows what sort of traps he could lay out in our absence!” 

Gabby pointed out, “Alastor does not lay out traps- he chooses a victim to possess and inflicts horror upon the people around them! Right now, his entire selection pool is at that church! Well, unless he decided to target one of us, but somehow, I can’t imagine that he would do that because it would take away his ability to blame us for his crimes!” 

Clarissa ceded to her argument, “You’re right! Perhaps we can discover his object of manipulation before he can get his hands on them! Actually, he’s a ghost, so he doesn’t have any hands…” 

Gabby and Clarissa laughed at her quip, and then Gabby recommended, “Come on! Maybe this wedding will be fun and give us a much-needed break from all of this tumult!” 

Clarissa set her broom down and walked towards the exit with Gabby. “Somehow, I doubt that will be the case! Even if Alastor doesn’t show up, Drusilla has pronounced that gown’s Elmira forced her party to wear as horrendously garish!” The two ladies chortled again as they went outside. After Clarissa locked the door, she glanced back at her home and hoped that she made the correct decision! 

Their late arrival forced them to get seats in the back of the chapel again, but Clarissa preferred it this way in this instance so that she could study the crowd in its entirety. The little boy who spoke up in their support yesterday gazed up at them with his eyes sparkling in admiration, so Clarissa politely greeted him, “Hello!” He shyly leaned into his mother upon that acknowledgement, which made Clarissa grin. She glanced across the aisle and spotted Nigel staring at her in fear, and when his mother shielded his vision from her, she noted the stark contrast between the boys’ behavior. But they weren’t alone! She could see several necks crane back at her with intrigue, but plenty of others stared with blatant mistrust! Clarissa whispered to Gabby, “The fact that half the borough despises us comes as an improvement is a feat I never thought I would celebrate!” Gabby chuckled, and they both returned to their watch over the masses. As far as Clarissa was concerned, no one especially stood out to her, so she could not fathom who Alastor would mark as his next means of chaos! 

All of a sudden, a string quartet blared out from the altar, and practically everyone jumped from this abruptness! They hastily shifted their attention to the end of the aisle where the groom’s party solemnly walked down to the dais. The bride’s party went next, and as Drusilla marched past Gabby and Clarissa, she nodded towards her dress and subtly cringed at it. Clarissa’s amusement over this prompted her to consider engaging in some merriment until she detected a howling wind swooping around the building! She knew it had to have emanated from that vengeful phantom because that sort of occurrence did not happen naturally! She didn’t reckon that someone with so much evil in their soul could enter onto sacred grounds, at least not without severe repercussions anyways, but then again, she realized that he managed to overcome the barrier around cross necklaces… She then wondered if they were safe inside of this structure… 

When Elmira entered into the room, everyone stood up as she regally made her way to her betrothed. Clarissa recalled trembling from nerves at this stage of her nuptials, but Elmira didn’t seem to bat an eyelash during this process! Clarissa found this somewhat perplexing, but then she reminded herself that Elmira was not about to marry a man who would end up betraying his people and boxing them into a nightmarish fate! Of course, she didn’t have any inkling of that when she took his hand, but perhaps a part of her sensed the deviousness in his character… She mused that if she were to ever to tie the knot with Kenneth, she couldn’t picture herself feeling quite so petrified… 

A gust of air momentarily shook the parish, and while a minute number of guests seemed slightly concerned, the majority of the audience paid no mind to it. As the gale sounded as though it was slowly gaining strength, Elmira appeared more bothered by Drusilla’s presence than a potential attacker’s! She shot Drusilla a resentful glare as she passed her, so Clarissa deduced that Drusilla’s participation had been enacted at the behest of her father. Drusilla’s expression indicated that it took all of her willpower not to roll her eyes at that gesture, and Clarissa tittered, but she kept her grip at the ready to deploy her measure of protection at a split second’s notice… 

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony…” Pastor Absalom began the ritual. The billowing breeze grew quite audible, but Pastor Absalom simply talked over it, “Elmira Montgomery, wilt thou have this man as thy wedded husband to live together after God’s ordinance in the estate of matrimony?” 

“I do!” Elmira avowed as the screech of the wind became impossible to ignore. 

Pastor Absalom went on, “Wilt thou obey him, serve him, and honour him in sickness and in health?” 

Elmira affirmed, “I shall!” 

“And wilt thou forsake all others, keeping thee only onto him, until death do you part?” Pastor Absalom enquired. 

“I will!” Elmira promised. The edifice shook until the brink of breaking until she made that pledge! As soon as she attested to that agreement, the potent tempest vanished! The attendees furrowed their brows and softly murmured amongst each other, and Gabby turned to Clarissa for answers. Clarissa was clueless as to its significance! Even after the commemoration concluded, no one ascertained a trace of that unusual weather current! 

Once it was over, Cornelius and Elmira stood on The Emerald Rose’s steps with radiant smiles as their well-wishers congratulated them. Clarissa and Gabby departed from the scene early to open up the inn for the reception. As they journeyed by the lamppost where Elmira hung her painting of Alastor, Clarissa could have sworn its lips curled into a wry smirk! The skies were eerily calm, and during her route back to her home, Clarissa couldn’t help but anticipate the worst was far from over… 

The Hessian, Chapter 20

“This town shall burn to the ground!” a demonic voice shouted. Clarissa, Gabby, and Drusilla raced out the apothecary and were horrified to have seen the candle shop on fire! But that was hardly the most disturbing sight that they saw out there… 

“Father?” Drusilla cried out when she espied the man who appeared to have produced the frightening pronouncement. 

Cornelius instantly turned around upon hearing that recognition, but he did not look like himself! His eyes were severely dilated, and he bore a wicked smile! He raised one of his hands as if he was about to throw something, and Clarissa could see that Drusilla was in too much shock to evade this maneuver, so she seized her and dragged her back inside! They made it within a split second of his projectile landing where they once stood, and the lightning bolts he emitted left a scorch mark on the cobblestone! 

Once they were out of his scope, Clarissa grunted in pain as she winced at her aching arms! Gabby nearly commentated on this, but then she saw Drusilla nearly dart of the door, so she immediately grabbed her! Drusilla shouted, “Let me go! I have to save my father!” 

“Drusilla, your father isn’t here right now!” Gabby emphatically uttered to her. Drusilla started to object, so Gabby reiterated her original message, “Alastor’s got him! Focus on defeating him!” 

“Alastor’s got him? Do you mean that fellow is possessed?” the apothecarist puzzled. 

Cornelius bellowed, “Your shelter shall not save you! One way or another, you shall face me!” 

An electric flash enveloped their periphery for a brief instance, and when it vanished, the walls were covered in flames! Clarissa queried the apothecarist, “Does that answer your question?” 

“We have to get out of here! Oh, but as soon as we set a foot on that road, he’ll incinerate us!” Gabby fretted. 

“Not necessarily!” the apothecarist disagreed. “You could send out the mugwort first!”  

Clarissa quizzically responded, “Send out the what?” 

Drusilla broke free from her hold and determinedly declared, “Unhand me! I got this!” She weaved through the small blazes and went behind the counter. She quickly grabbed two bottles and rejoined the others by the entrance. She placed the small one in Clarissa’s palm and directed her, “Drink this!” She told the apothecarist, “Someone on your remedy waiting list is going to have to wait!” Before he could react, she threw the larger bottle that she retrieved out onto the street… 

As soon as Cornelius saw movement out of that exit, he hurled lightning to it! The instant his trajectory hit the vial, smoke billowed up high! Gabby grasped the apothecarist’s wrist and pulled him out of the fiery building, and Drusilla as well as Clarissa dashed out shortly afterwards. They all hid behind some large barrels, and as the fog cleared, Clarissa downed her elixir. She could feel its warmth trickle down her throat, but it hadn’t quite reached her limbs yet when the haze cleared. She considered shielding herself until it did, but then she heard something that let her know that she wouldn’t have time for this tonic to become effective… 

“Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion goes about seeking whom he may devour…” With one extremity in a sling and the other holding a Bible, Pastor Absalom had read out loud to Cornelius! Cornelius swiveled his focus to him, but prior to him striking Pastor Absalom, Clarissa burst out of that hiding spot and flung salt at him! Some of it hit his skull, and he let out a roar so voracious that its soundwaves knocked Pastor Absalom and Clarissa to the ground! 

“Your malevolence shall be your downfall!” Gabby thunderously announced as she used the inferno that Cornelius had set to light her strand of sage, and after it ignited, she held it up like a torch and marched towards Cornelius. Cornelius let out a gust of wind that snuffed all of the combusted material in the area, including her sage! He didn’t stop there- clouds appeared out of nowhere and raised him several feet into the sky above them! 

Drusilla stoutly addressed him, “Father, you dropped this!” She tossed a cross necklace to him, and mid-flight, Cornelius shot it down! He aimed his palm at her, and… 

For a moment, Clarissa swore she saw a flash of Cornelius’ green irises! He swiftly shook his head, and his dilation returned while he attacked some bystanders! Clarissa’s mind reeled from witnessing that spectacle! The strength imbued in the medicine she took kicked in, and she used it to pick herself up! She posed in a stalwart stance and braced the heightened gale as she mentally prepared herself for this critical juncture… 

“Lucy wants you to come back, Cornelius!” Clarissa vociferated. 

“Don’t talk to him!” Cornelius growled following another burst of jade hue shined through the darkness. 

Clarissa ignored that directive and urged Cornelius, “I saw you fight him, Cornelius! Keep going! Do it for Lucy!” 

Cornelius hollered, “Cease your blather!” 

He gestured as though he intended to emit more bolts, but Clarissa interrupted this process, “What about your daughter, Cornelius? See what you’re doing to her!” 

Clarissa alluded to Drusilla, who was on the floor cowering down with tears rolling down her cheeks! Cornelius’ visage nearly normalized, but then something violently jerked his neck in another direction! “Don’t pay attention to her!” Cornelius’ fiendish alter-ego commanded, which made Clarissa’s heart flutter with hope of her plan’s effectiveness! 

“Lucy would hate what you’re doing to her!” Clarissa ardently articulated. 

“She’s lying!” the deepened voice within Cornelius argued as the mist slowly lowered him down. “This town deserves to get destroyed for the monstrous anarchy it unleashed onto the world!” 

Cornelius’ normal tone croaked out, “No!” 

His irregular voice differed, “Your bid for freedom will initiate disorganization and tumult throughout the earth! You know this to be true! We must destroy these people!” 

“But these are my people! And this is my land!” Cornelius’ usual talk countered. 

“You don’t deserve it!” his alter-ego hissed. “You need to give it up for the sake of humanity!” 

Cornelius shot back, “For the sake of humanity? You claim to care about your fellow man, but you continually commit atrocities against them!” 

His alter-ego quarreled, “If they simply did the right actions all along, none of this would be necessary!” 

“So, you believe it’s necessary to torture and slaughter innocent people? How does that aid your cause?” Cornelius challenged him. 

“I-!” the alter-ego attempted to justify his behavior. 

Cornelius cut him off, “No! I don’t want to hear it! Away with you! Now!” Clarissa, Gabby, and Drusilla watched as Cornelius’ eyes flickered between black and green, and they could see the control of his movements constantly shifting in its nature. The trio of women crossed their fingers and hoped for the best, though the event’s lengthy duration gave them momentary doubt on the odds of its success. Clarissa inwardly speculated whether or not they should intervene, and then suddenly, Cornelius fell backwards onto the cobblestones! They heard Alastor’s angry roar above their heads, and a forceful breeze vacated the vicinity! 

Clarissa, Gabby, and Drusilla were almost certain that the bloodthirsty specter had departed from that sector- almost! None of them wanted to fall for one of his traps, so they wordlessly agreed that they needed to approach the situation with caution. Drusilla slowly edged closer and closer to Cornelius and petitioned him, “…Father…? Is that you…?” Cornelius didn’t respond, and as she approached his very still body, Gabby and Clarissa readied themselves to defend her. “Father, are you alright?” She stood over him, and… 

Cornelius abruptly grappled her and pulled her down! Clarissa and Gabby raced towards the pair with their adrenaline pulsing high from the expectation of a fight, but instead, they saw that Cornelius was beaming as he gave her a hug! With teardrops of immense relief, Cornelius conveyed to her, “Oh, Drusilla! I’m so glad that you’re safe!”  

“Why? Why would you rejoice her safety when she’s the one who put you in this debacle in the first place?” an onlooker snidely commented. 

“She would dare to go after her own family! What a shame!” another member of the crowd chimed in. 

A woman refuted that claim, “She and her colleagues helped relieve him of his symptoms! Why would they incite the incident and then remedy it?” 

A man contended, “To appear blameless for the crime! They should not get credit for cleaning up the mess that they created!” 

“They made him appear regular again!” a small boy piped up. “They made him get better!” 

“Only because they made him worse before that!” a little girl asserted. “My mother said they’re saying a dead man is doing all this scary stuff, but how is that possible?” 

Clarissa notified them, “It was witchcraft, but not from our hands!” 

One of their neighbors folded her arms and probed, “Oh really? Who committed this sorcery then? Was that the dead man too?” Some of the spectators chuckled in agreement, and Clarissa wasn’t sure how to quiet this critique. She knew that her late husband did the brunt of that heinous ritual, but based off of what they gleaned at the apothecary, Alastor obviously played a role in that misdeed! She knew eventually she had to overcome her discomfort of disparaging Brenner’s upstanding reputation, but she didn’t know how she could expose the truth when she was still striving to decipher what the facts of this scenario even were! She felt pressured to make a decision hastily- her silence was starting to insinuate her guilt! 

“Maybe if we lock them up in a prison cell, they couldn’t get their clutches on us anymore!” an additional neighbor suggested, and many of his peers vehemently concurred with his sentiments! 

“Absolutely not! I’ve heard enough!” Cornelius authoritatively yelled. He tried to pick himself up to make his point, but he couldn’t exactly muster the strength, so Drusilla, Gabby, and Clarissa aided him in this endeavor. He leaned on them like a crutch as he avidly orated, “I will not have unfounded accusations ruling my village! You cannot confine a person based off of a hunch or rumor! Unless you have proof of any laws that they have broken, you have no justification for jailing them! Now, go about your lives and be thankful that you still have them!” A few instantly heeded his word, but several individuals seemed somewhat defiant. Cornelius gave them stern glares, which made them obey, but Clarissa could hear a lot of mutinous muttering that pondered whose side Cornelius was on. 

As the masses dispersed, Gabby inquired to Cornelius, “How are you feeling, sir?” 

Cornelius replied, “Like a weight got lifted off of my chest! It felt so odd- one minute, I’m running a simple errand, and the next, I have this orb within me controlling my every move! I could sense my muscles getting used, but my vision was blackened and my nerves were numbed to all of my activity! It was like I was in a dream, and I had to struggle to wake myself up! It is a miracle that I can control my own locomotion again!” 

“Indeed, amen to that! Your bride will be so grateful for this blessing too!” Pastor Absalom brought up. “Unless you are too ill to carry on with the ceremony…” 

“No, no! I’ll be in tiptop shape before tomorrow! Oh, but speaking of my fiancée, I was supposed to grab some… Oh!” He glanced at the scorched candle shop with mournfulness. 

Pastor Absalom offered, “I have some that you may borrow. Feel free to lean on me!” 

Cornelius accepted his proposition, “I appreciate that!” Prior to his leave, Cornelius genially regarded the trio of women, “Thank you for everything! I’ll see you all at the wedding tomorrow!” And, with that, the two parties went their separate ways. 

On the route back to the inn, Gabby remarked, “It feels sort of funny that something so ordinary as a wedding could transpire in the midst of all of this chaos!” 

Clarissa stated, “I doubt that anything about this wedding will be ordinary!” As they climbed the steps to the tavern, they detected some furious wailing echoing from the northern woods… 

The Hessian, Chapter 19

“Prepare the operating table!” the physician of a large tent full of sink and injured soldiers directed the two nurses behind him as four men brought a person in on a cloth stretcher. 

“My wounds aren’t that serious!” Kenneth objected in a very labored tone. 

The physician used alcohol to sterilize his hands as he disagreed, “If your maladies were so minimal, then you would have entered into this facility on your own accord!” 

One of Kenneth’s peers relayed to the physician, “He lost a lot of blood out there!” 

“A bullet merely grazed me! None of this is necessary!” Kenneth proclaimed as they lowered him onto the surface that the nurses prepared for him. 

“I admire your willingness to serve, Lieutenant, but you won’t be of any value to the Continental Army in this condition!” the physician sternly addressed Kenneth as he utilized his scalpel to cut the bloodied and holed-up shirt off of him. “If this laceration reopens on the battlefield, you may not be fortunate enough to visit my ward next time!” A nurse handed the physician a wooden spoon, and the physician held it near his mouth. “Bite down on this!” 

Kenneth protested, “I don’t have time for this! I need to warn…” 

Bernard peeked his head into the enclosure and observed another officer assuring Kenneth, “We’re well aware of the British scouts who invaded our territory! Thanks to you, the Red Coats won’t learn of our location!” 

“No one is safe! I need to go!” Kenneth attempted to sit up, but his body wouldn’t budge! 

“What you need to do is bite down on this spoon while I treat your injury!” the physician retorted. 

Kenneth wanted to resist, but since he didn’t have the ability to walk away from this scene, he reluctantly relented, “Fine! Let’s get this over with!” 

As the physician began to untie Kenneth tourniquet, an additional serviceman reassured Kennth, “Don’t worry, sir! We have our camp well guarded- no harm shall befall us!” Kenneth’s eyes expressed doubt in this premise, but he couldn’t object since the physician started to sew up his wound. Bernard knew exactly why Kenneth was so distressed over security, and it wasn’t for their own! As that same gentleman comforted Kenneth, Bernard prayed that Kenneth’s agitation wouldn’t cause him to reveal their secret! “We’re just lucky that you needed to replenish your ink supply when you did! Wait, were you trying to send a warning to someone? Is there more danger that we should know about?” 

Bernard panicked at that invitation to divulge his classified information, but Kenneth was in too much pain from the stitching process to reply to him! His alleviation multiplied when the physician told Kenneth, “Don’t speak! Take in deep breaths through your nose!” Bernard cringed as Kenneth groaned from the procedure, but once the physician finished, Bernard released his tenseness! The physician notified Kenneth, “You can relax now! The hard part is over!” 

“I… don’t… agree!” Kenneth breathily disputed. 

“You’ll be alright!” the physician gently pat his wrist. While he wrapped a bandage over the legion, he instructed the nurses, “Prepare a bed for him.” 

Kenneth argued, “No, I can’t stay here!” 

The physician dissented, “You can’t hold your own head up let alone a rifle! Besides, I need to watch for signs of infection.” The four soldiers that brought Kenneth in transported him to the cot that the nurses indicated to, and the physician went on, “You should be back on your feet in the next day or two!” Kenneth nearly sounded off again, but the physician cut him off, “This isn’t up for debate! You must rest!” Kenneth steamed over this concept, but he didn’t have the strength to do anything more than give him a defiant look, so he begrudgingly accepted his finality. Once he saw this, the physician sympathetically queried to him, “Is there anything else I can get for you?” 

“Get me Bernard!” Kenneth requested. “I mean Private Malin!” 

“Will someone go fetch him?” the physician petitioned the men who carried him in. 

Bernard stepped in and announced, “I’m right here!” His comrades gazed at him in surprise, and Bernard sheepishly apologized, “Sorry! I saw the entire event transpire, and I wanted to see if he was alright!” 

One of the troop members cordially regarded Kenneth, “We’re glad you’re okay, Lieutenant Harvey! If you’ll excuse us, we must brief General Washington on the incident.” 

Kenneth weakly lifted his healthy arm to salute them, and they swiftly returned the gesture as they exited the area. As the medical staff cleaned up the surgical sector, Bernard knelt by Kenneth’s ear and whispered, “Do you want me to write that letter to Clarissa?” 

“No!” Kenneth quietly declined his offer. “The postal rider won’t come by until the region has been cleared! Our correspondence won’t arrive fast enough!” 

“Well, what else are we supposed to do then?” Bernard asked. 

Kenneth answered, “We’re going to have to go to Colfrith ourselves in order to tell Clarissa and her allies what we learned from Father Clarence!” 

Bernard responded in astonishment, “Go to Colfrith ourselves? Sir, at the present, you couldn’t leave even if you were physically able to!” 

“As soon as I’m fit enough to mount my steed, we’re departing for Colfrith!” Kenneth declared. “You’ll likely have to create a distraction so that I can escape from sick bay!” 

“With all due respect, sir, that plan seems so risky!” Bernard fretfully remarked. 

Kenneth shot back, “So is every moment that goes by where we don’t give them this tool they need to stop that murderous ghost! Do you want the ladies to keep gambling with their lives as they fight this heathen?” 

Bernard’s expression flooded with misgivings on this prospect. “Of course not! I simply… Well… I’m going to pen that message in case we can mail it sooner than expected!” Bernard hastily vacated the tent, and Kenneth moaned in exasperation. With an avid appearance of sheer determination, he strove to pick himself up! 

Clarissa, Gabby, and Drusilla were sitting at a table reading in silence when they heard scratching at the front door! That put them all on edge until they heard some mewing accompanying the scraping! “Oh, it’s Lucy! I’ll get it!” Drusilla cheerily volunteered. 

“Who’s Lucy?” Gabby inquired. 

“It’s what we’re calling the pussycat who frequents this yard!” Drusilla replied. “She’s named after my mother.” 

Gabby opined, “Well, that doesn’t seem fair! You got to grow up with your mother- I lost mine as a small child! We should call her Ellen after my mother!” 

Drusilla asserted, “But at least you have a chance of seeing your mother again! I won’t get that opportunity until my time on this earth has ended!” 

“You have a potential beau to comfort you. What do I have?” Gabby countered. 

“We’ll call her Lucelle after both of your mothers,” Clarissa decreed. The other two women still seemed a little litigious, but they accepted her pronouncement. Clarissa struggled to turn the page, and after an arduous minute of attempting this feat, she noticed that the other two had been watching her do this. “I’m okay! Well, not completely, but it’s nothing to fret over! My arms got sore after holding on to that lamppost for so long.” 

Gabby advised her, “You ought to see Doctor Cuthbart about that!” 

Clarissa declined that preposition, “I’ll recover after a trice of relaxation!” 

“And what if we must tend to another victim of possession?” Gabby challenged her. “These attacks have become more brazen, so what are the odds that you won’t need to your limbs today?” 

“I’ll get that!” Drusilla let the others know after the meows and scratches returned. 

Clarissa initiated a counterargument, “If we invite him in, then-!” 

Drusilla let out a shrill scream, and Clarissa as well as Gabby instantly stood up and readied themselves to assist her. Drusilla stepped aside and let them view the offense that set her off. “A mouse! Oh, but it’s dead!” Gabby observed. 

“It appears as though Lucelle brought us a present! I suppose she heard of our meat shortage and aimed to help!” Drusilla kidded. She was about to shut the door when… 

“Good afternoon, ladies!” Doctor Cuthbart politely greeted them from the front porch. 

Clarissa gave Gabby a quizzical glance, and Gabby attested, “I had nothing to do with this!” 

Doctor Cuthbart corroborated that claim, “She’s quite correct! I was sent here by… some concerned citizens. They entreated me to examine you after what happened yesterday.” 

“We hardly sustained the most precarious maladies! Surely, we are not your highest priority!” Clarissa commented. 

“Well, your physical well-being isn’t what evoked their disquiet…” Doctor Cuthbart gingerly revealed to them. 

Clarissa rolled her eyes, and then she probed, “How much of a payment would it take for you to leave us be?” 

Doctor Cuthbart took exception to that, “How dare you! I swore an oath to care for my patients, and money does not…” Clarissa held up a small pouch of coins, and he changed his tune in a flash, “Have a nice day!” He accepted the funds and vacated the property. 

“The nerve!” Clarissa slammed the door and immediately regretted it! “Oof! In my fit of anger, I temporarily forgot about my injury!” 

“Perhaps you should have had him examine you!” Drusilla weighed in. 

Clarissa refuted that, “He was sent to test my sanity- I would have only given him an opening to manufacture evidence for that cause!” 

Gabby somewhat anxiously articulated, “But you need medicine!” 

At that moment, Clarissa got struck with an idea. “I shall get medicine, just not from him!” 

As the trio of women walked down Hallow’s Alley, they fixed their eyes downward while they traveled. Drusilla dolorously mentioned, “I’ll be glad when this is all over and we can interact like normal people again!” 

“The worst part of it is that we have no inkling how long it will last! We might not get a window of normalcy for months or even years!” Gabby lamented with dread. 

“Oh, come now, you two! We must think positively! We already have enough to stress about, let’s not drum up anything to add to it!” Clarissa advised them. She heard a strange buzzing sound and wondered out loud, “What’s that racket?” She picked her head up and saw a storefront with an exorbitant amount of flies flocked beside it! “Oh good! It’s an abnormal occurrence, but not one we have to deal with! Oh, we’ve arrived!” They discerned that the apothecary abutted the infested candle shop, and they avoided the insects as much as possible as they entered inside. 

An exceptionally older man with slightly milky eyes greeted his patrons, “Welcome! How can I help you?” 

Clarissa conveyed to him, “We need an anecdote for pain.” 

“I’m afraid I’m fresh out,” the shopkeeper apprised them. “A lot of folks have suffered from this symptom lately, so much commotion! The world’s gone mad! Anyways, I can put you on a list and have it made for you in a few days! Or, if you’d prefer, I can sell you the ingredients and have you brew it yourselves! You would simply need my book of… Oh no, wait! I lent it to another fellow! And his friend who may have been foreign. He said something in a funny language…” 

“The people you loaned the novel to… were their names Brenner and Alastor?” Gabby enquired of him. 

The old man pointed a knobby finger at her and exclaimed, “That’s it! They were the ones!” 

Drusilla interrogated him, “And this literature they borrowed… Did it have spells in it?” 

He confirmed, “Yes, but I don’t use them! I only reference that publication if I can’t remember a recipe!” 

The trio of women stared at each other incredulously, but prior to them delving into this matter any further, a scream rang out from the candle store… 

The Hessian, Chapter 18

“Oh, it’s you!” Clarissa exclaimed as she stepped out onto her front porch. She gazed down at the friendly, black kitty, and it licked its chops as it eyeballed the contents of the small, white bowl in her hands. “How did you know that I had food for you?” Clarissa placed a hand on one of her hips as she stared at the feline incredulously, and as it blinked at her with a blank look on its face, Clarissa expressed her thoughts out loud, “I don’t know why I’m expecting an actual response from you!” She set the bowl down and told the cat, “It’s just a bit of potatoes and gravy. I hope you like it! I’m not really sure what you eat!” When she stepped away from the bowl, it sniffed the chow a little and then, to her delight, it began gobbling the meal down right away! “Oh good! I’m glad this is acceptable! I don’t really have any meat to spare! You see, I upset the butcher… Not on purpose! Actually, I did the right thing and helped him! But somehow, everyone thinks I’m the one invoking the ghost that’s possessing them and my rescues aren’t heroic since I caused them, but I did nothing of the sort! Nor would I ever!” She sat down on the stoop, and as her animal companion munched away happily, Clarissa chatted with it, “Do you know about the Hessian phantom that’s plaguing our village? I imagine you must! Well, I’m toiling away trying to save them from this murderous specter, but the more I assist with this matter, the more cause I am for their bane! It’s really quite frustrating, but one of these days, I’ll figure out how to defeat this villain! Then they’ll beg for my forgiveness after they realize what they’ve done! I bet the Hefersmith will be more than willing to supply me with a plethora of meat when that day comes! I promise you won’t want for hearty sustenance then!” She glanced at the creature who was eating, and she remarked, “Why am I telling you all this? It’s not as though you can understand me! And yet, somehow, I feel as though you are listening!” It paused its consumption to focus on her, and while she gave it a pat, she decided, “It you’re going to stick around, then you’ll need a name! What about Washington like the Continental Army’s great general?” 

“That’s a female,” Drusilla stood in the doorway and indicated to the critter. “Lucy has a nice ring to it…” 

Clarissa puzzled, “Lucy? Isn’t that your mother’s first name?” 

Drusilla confirmed, “Yes. It seems like a fitting moniker for this pet because she’s here for our protection! Plus, I’m sure my father would like to know that I have a form of her guarding me!” 

“He wants to keep you from physical harm, but why doesn’t he stand up for you when you undergo a verbal assault?” Gabby probed as she joined them outside. 

“Public opinion matters to my father! It has to- it’s his public!” Drusilla defended him. “He’s a very logical man, so it didn’t take him long to figure out the truth of the situation. Can you picture the revolt that would ensue if he denounced the vast majority’s opinion?” 

Gabby ceded to her point, “That does seem likely! I wish more people would see the light so that we didn’t have to put up with so much darkness!” 

Clarissa encouraged the other two, “They will when we put an end to this saga, so we must do all we can to hasten that anticipated event! With that in mind, I propose we continue to rifle through the literature regarding supernatural encounters until the entire collection has been studied in order for us to eliminate them as a resource at the very least! At best, we may find another clue that could get us closer to eliminating this threat!” 

“We’d get better answers if we consulted my mother’s old book on magical lore,” Drusilla put in. “Father hid it from me, but I think I know where he stashed it- it’s somewhere in his fiancée’s house!” 

“Are you suggesting that we seek a favor from Oceanus?” Gabby queried. “He’s not terribly fond of us at the present…” 

Clarissa added, “Neither is his daughter! She’s our most outspoken critic! I really doubt that she would grant us admittance to her dwelling so we can search for an object that her intended husband doesn’t want us to have!” 

Drusilla argued, “She’s getting married at the end of the week, so I doubt very much she’ll actually be anywhere near the Golden Nook Brew!” 

“Hmm… We may be able to persuade Oceanus to let us canvass the building if we convince him that he has a tool for witchcraft within his walls!” Gabby articulated. 

“He might!” Clarissa acknowledged with a slight giggle as she envisioned Oceanus’ reaction when they communicated this to him. ‘I guess if he says no, it would still be worth the trip to patrol the area and watch for signs of Alastor! Okay, let’s head out!” 

As the trio of women walked down Hollow’s Alley, the noticed someone nailing a fixture to the lamppost near the coffeeshop, and Drusilla wondered, “Why do I get a foreboding feeling about this activity?” 

Gabby responded, “Because nothing unusual going on in this town has benefited us as of late!” 

“That’s not true!” Clarissa refuted. “It was unusual for a soldier to find himself lost in Colfrith, but it seems like this occurrence came out to our benefit!” 

“Twice!” Drusilla commented with a wry grin. 

Gabby sparkled with interest upon hearing this tidbit. “Wait, is this pertaining to the man you said you were in love with?” 

Before Drusilla could spill this gossip, Clarissa cautioned them, “Ladies…!” She gestured to what laid ahead of them, and the person attaching a large feature to the lamppost turned out to be none other than Elmira! The other two sobered up in an instant, and dread started to seep through Clarissa’s veins- their difficult task became even more complicated from that juncture going forward! 

“There! It’s perfect!” Elmira declared as they approached her vicinity. Very curious about her handiwork, Clarissa and her company went behind Elmira to get a peek… When they beheld this this spectacle, they gasped! Clarissa’s heart nearly stopped upon seeing the dreadful subject- a portrait of Alastor! “Isn’t it lovely?” Elmira swiveled around to gauge their reaction. 

“It’s… very lifelike!” Clarissa anxiously conveyed to her. She sincerely didn’t want to upset Elmira when they needed a favor from her, but she couldn’t prevent herself from becoming spooked by this art! It was so eerily realistic that she could’ve sworn that it had the ability to follow her movements! 

Drusilla inquired, “Why would you display this in the public square?” 

Elmira replied, “You mean other than the fact that it’s a brilliant masterpiece?” Drusilla didn’t say a word, but Elmira ignored that and went on, “Mister Derstreich cannot be here to see my wedding, so by positioning his picture here, he can still see a part of it! Pastor Absalom wouldn’t allow it in the church, and I’m assuming the proprietor of our reception’s venue won’t permit it in her establishment…” Clarissa folded her arms at the allusion to herself as though Elmira hadn’t been acquainted with her or realize that she was there, but she certainly would never let this compel her to assent to having his chilling image anywhere near her residence, so she did not disagree with her claim! Elmira gritted her teeth with an obvious displeasure to having no control over this issue, and then she returned to her original statement, “… He will have to contend with watching us exit the chapel and ride our carriage down the lane!” 

“How… lovely!” Clarissa lied. “Listen, we stopped by because Drusilla left one of her belongings in your household…” 

“No, she didn’t!” Elmira differed. “Everything in there is owned by the Montgomery family! Well, with the exception of a few odds and ends from my fiancé!” 

Drusilla filled her in, “Actually, one of those objects is mine! I’m positive he brought it here in error! It won’t take me long to locate it, so if you’ll excuse me, I’ll…” 

Elmira got within inches of her blustered, “I hope you’re not referring to that tome about the occult!” From Drusilla’s surprised expression, she inferred the reality of the circumstances. “That is the purpose of your visit! How dare you come to me and ask me to aid you in your sinful ambitions!” 

Drusilla denied that accusation, “Oh no, no, no! That publication was my mother’s! It has a sentimental value to me- I simply want it for comfort!” 

“Don’t play me for a fool!” Elmira hollered. “I’ve heard accounts of the diabolic performances you’ve engaged in! I shall have no role in this practice!” 

“Gadzooks! These sorceresses are recruiting!” a passerby exclaimed as he and his affiliate paused their gait to view this proceeding. 

Gabby countered that, “For pity’s sake, we’re merely trying to get an implement to combat against this evil reign! We have no interest in partaking in any dark rituals!” 

The other man centered around this slowly growing crowd bickered, “Oh really? So, what would you call the behavior you exhibit during these attacks?” 

“Life saving!” Gabby spat. 

“Perhaps, but what sinister ceremony evoked the life-threatening ambushes in the first place?” the man challenged her. 

Gabby sardonically shot back, “Hmm… I don’t know! It couldn’t possibly be the traitorous spy who vowed to seek vengeance from beyond the grave!” 

The man shrieked, “You have the audacity to besmirch the soul who only wanted to help our village!” 

“How exactly did he help us, Corey?” Clarissa posed to him. “He did nothing more than attempt to sell our information to the British!” 

“It would have been for our own good!” Corey ardently articulated. “We were on the wrong path due to this bid for freedom, and he needed to thwart our efforts in order to keep us safe!” 

Clarissa laughed derisively at that concept. “Oh, yes! Our village has known nothing but safety since his arrival!” 

His male friend who spoke up earlier warily warned Corey, “Don’t vex them- you’ll end up as their next victim!” 

“Oh, this is so pointless! It does nothing to vie to open the mind of one who’s sealed his thoughts shut!” Clarissa motioned for Gabby and Drusilla to follow her back to the inn. 

“Come back here, you snakes!” Corey yelled after them. 

His cohort strongly recommended, “Please, let’s forget about them and go back to our errands!” 

In a deep voice that made the trio of women immediately freeze in their steps, Corey bellowed, “No!” Clarissa, Drusilla, and Gabby turned around and saw Corey’s eyes darkening as he seethed, “They must get punished for their lawlessness!” 

To everyone’s horror, Corey ascended into the air above them! The trio reached for their means of protection, but before they could lay a finger on anything that could have shielded them, Corey spread out his arms and emitted a strong gust of wind! They managed to grab onto the lamppost, but others were not so lucky! A powerful gale enveloped around him, and several people went flying! Many hit the shops adjacent to his proximity, and a couple of individuals did not move again prior to their impact! A few people, including Elmira, clasped onto the fencing around the java room, but their source of refuge showed signs of buckling! 

“What do we do?” Gabby asked Clarissa. 

“We pray!” Clarissa answered her. “That’s about all we can do!” 

Gabby and Drusilla shut their lids, and Clarissa could tell that they were desperately beseeching the heavens to put a halt to this terror! Clarissa mimicked their move, and as she begged the universe for a remedy to this peril, she felt the force of this billowing air intensify! Her hold barely stayed fastened, but she refused to entertain the notion of her pending doom! She continued to implore the atmosphere to calm itself down refusing to bend to the premise of her or anyone’s demise! 

All of a sudden, the blast shifted in the opposite direction! Clarissa and the other two opened their eyes, and they could see the tempest encircling Corey at a burgeoning velocity! He appeared to be suffocating from the typhoon’s effect, and Clarissa cried out, “No!” She raced towards him, and Gabby as well Drusilla closely tailed her! They surrounded him with salt, and in a flash, the turbulent draft flew upwards and away from their periphery! The trio assumed that they had saved him, however… 

The fury that sustained his levitation left without returning Corey to the ground, and the second that it vacated his body, he let out a deafening scream as he plummeted back to the surface! Clarissa did not have the grit to watch what would inevitably come next, so she veered herself away from this sight and covered her ears! This posture didn’t muffle much though- she heard every bone inside of him break! She had no desire to observe his condition, and she harbored the hope that he may have survived the assault, but when blood trickled past her shoes, she craned her neck to verify his status and ascertained that he was no more! 

A heavy silence befell the masses as everyone processed this scene. After a very somber minute, Elmira indignantly requested, “I say my marital vows in two days. Could you kindly refrain from your transgressions on that occasion?” 

The Hessian, Chapter 17

“Move!” Clarissa commanded as the elderly lady on the rafters above them loosened her grip, and the three women below her jumped out of the way just in time to avoid her pouncing on them! Clarissa, Gabby, and Drusilla ended up in different sections of the hat shop, and as the elderly lady snarled at them, the three women reached into their pockets to draw out their means of protection. Clarissa furnished her salt, Drusilla produced a potion, and Gabby held a Bible. The elderly lady seemed unsure of who to choose from, and each woman silently debated whether or not one of them should take a pre-emptive strike… 

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord…” Gabby opened the Book and began reciting from it. The elderly lady turned to her and growled. “…And in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God…” The elderly lady crept closer to her, and the other two readied themselves to spring into action. “…that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…” 

The elderly lady vaulted towards Clarissa, but prior to her being able to reach her, Drusilla ambushed her from her left side and pushed her to the ground! Drusilla prepared herself to administer her potion, but the elderly lady was quicker than her! The elderly lady lurched towards her and managed to pin her to the ground! Drusilla’s arms were rendered incapable of movement, so she couldn’t stop her from lowering her jaw towards her neck! The elderly lady reared her teeth, but she didn’t have a chance to inflict any damage because Clarissa flung salt into her face! The elderly lady hissed and hopped back onto the roof in a single bound! She scurried towards the front entrance, and Clarissa wanted to prevent another mass casualty, so she raced over to pour salt around the doorway. The elderly lady tackled Clarissa, but before she could impose any further harm, Gabby rushed over with some burning sage! Clarissa thanked the heavens that the shopkeeper ignited her fireplace prior to her possession! The fumes made the elderly lady shriek, and she swiftly crawled to the back of the building. 

None of the three women caught where she had hidden herself, so no one was willing to venture into the posterior of the place. “We can’t risk our safety! We need to draw her out somehow!” Drusilla advised the other two. 

“What if we removed the salt?” Gabby suggested. “Then we can trap her as she tries to escape!” 

“No!” Clarissa rejected that preposition. “We cannot gamble with the lives of any innocent bystanders!” 

Right at that moment, the girl who had accosted Drusilla strolled inside! She searched the area to find Drusilla, but preceding her discovery of her, she noticed that she walked through a powdery substance. “What on earth is this?” she wondered. 

Drusilla shouted, “Margaret, no! Get out of here!” 

“She’s in here, Mister Cole!” Margaret yelled out into the street. 

“Don’t you dare endanger the life of my father!” Drusilla hollered. 

Margaret questioned her, “What are you talking about?” 

As Clarissa and Gabby positioned themselves to assail the elderly lady if she chose to re-emerge at this juncture, Clarissa warned Margaret, “You need to leave! You’re in great peril!” 

Margaret scoffed at that idea, “Danger from what?” 

Immediately after she spoke those words, the elderly lady resurfaced! Gabby and Clarissa strove to deal a blow at her, but she propelled herself with too much speed for their trajectories to hit their mark! Margaret’s eyes widened, and Clarissa prayed that she would have the wisdom to flee, but unfortunately, her senses got too overwhelmed by fear for her to do anything other than scream! The elderly lady got her neck, and blood shot out from her skin like a fountain! 

“Unhand her!” Drusilla ordered as she threw Gabby’s holy text at the elderly lady. She belted her in the jaw, which caused the elderly lady to convulse in pain! She dropped her prey, but regrettably, Margaret was no longer breathing! Clarissa encircled her with salt, and as Gabby’s smokey sage penetrated her defenses, she could do nothing more than howl in agony! With her mouth wide open, Drusilla decanted her elixir. The elderly lady writhed with violent anguish, and with one last moan, she closed her eyes! For a minute, the three women worried that they had lost her… 

“You three?” the elderly lady suddenly exclaimed. “What are you doing in my millenary?” 

To their bewilderment, Cornelius went inside and rebuked her, “Missus Morrison, do not speak to them in that tone! They saved you from a potential lethal setback!” 

Missus Morrison seemed unmoved by this plea. “Perhaps, but did their presence invite malice into my quarters at the onset?” Cornelius appeared as though he wanted to admonish her for that, but he retracted his sentence before it left his lips! Missus Morrison glanced around her establishment and denoted, “You three made an awful mess in here!” She finally observed Margaret’s limp body beside her, and she griped, “Oh, lovely! How will I get this stain off of my floor?” 

Cornelius and the three women gazed at her callousness in disbelief. They couldn’t comprehend her indifference towards a loss of life! Drusilla showed signs of wanting to tell her off, so Cornelius prevented this provocation by cordially regarding Missus Morrison, “We’ll find some men to recover the deceased on our journey home. Come along, you three!” Clarissa and Gabby gladly accepted the invitation to vacate the premises, but Drusilla’s ire made her reluctant to budge. After she watched the other two tread carefully over Margaret’s remains, she gave a final glare at Missus Morrison and joined everyone outside. 

“We did the right thing, and she’s trying to punish us?” Drusilla raged as they traveled down Hollow’s Lane. 

“Doing what’s right isn’t always easy!” Cornelius wisely responded. “Which is why it wasn’t easy for me to come to the conclusion that you ought to stay at The Leafy Taverne!” All three women’s expressions contorted into shock upon hearing this. “If anyone asks, I kicked you out of my home for fraternizing with two ‘witches,’ and bear in mind this: the evil plaguing the region seems unwillingly to penetrate the inn! Reside there until this is over, but please, make sure that this is over as fast as possible!” He became aware of the townsfolk around them pausing their pursuits to stare at the scene. Clearly attempting to remain in his neighbors’ good graces, he painted a scowl onto his face and then vociferated, “I shall not have your so-called freedom in my village! Society is nothing without rules!” 

The small crowd vehemently agreed with his sentiment, and while Clarissa had no desire to get into a contentious dispute, she didn’t want to leave Cornelius in an awkward standing with the people that he governed either, especially not when he may have been on the verge of becoming a secret ally to her! So, she decided to finish their interaction with a snappy comeback that she could exit the site with, “Rules are like fences, Mister Cole! You need enough to keep your herd in its field, but you don’t want so much that you trap everyone in a territory you’ve made smaller with your overextended boundaries! Have a nice day!” Clarissa led Gabby and Drusilla away from that location before Cornelius could utter another word, but as she trekked back to her dwelling, she had a feeling that he was relieved for that! 

Bernard burst into Kenneth’s tent and announced, “Sir, we’ve got it!” 

“Already?” Kenneth reacted with a pleasant surprise. “I would have suspected it to take another day at the very least to circulate in the post!” 

“He didn’t mail it to me under Aunt Martha’s name as we recommended.” Bernard pulled a piece of parchment out of his pocket and briefed Kenneth, “As I finished target practice, I passed a group of fellows that happened to include Father Clarence. As they brushed past me, he held this scrap of parchment low enough so that no one else could see it and indicated that I should take it. So I did, and…” 

Kenneth urgently pressed him, “What does it say?” Prior to Bernard having the chance to reply, Kenneth snatched the message away and read it for himself, “Tonight, after sundown, I am blessing the fallen of a mass grave. You should join me to pay respect to the departed.” Kenneth set the correspondence down and absorbed this development for a beat. “A gravesite, huh? Wow! I guess I was correct when I made the conjecture that those tombs held the answers that we needed! Unless he was handing these slips to other members of our troop… 

Bernard assured him, “No, sir! He only had one letter, and he handed it to me.” 

Peeking at a watch that originated from his coat, Kenneth concluded, “It’s nearly sundown now, so we had better embark to this destination forthwith!” 

Shining a lantern upwards to see the enormous rows of tombstones, Bernard queried, “Do you know which mass grave he was referring to?” 

“Which mass grave?” Kenneth dolefully repeated. “It saddens me that there’s enough of them that we should get lost searching for one in particular!” 

“Sir?” Bernard motioned to him that they needed to pick a pathway. 

Kenneth surveyed the vicinity, and when he glanced down at the grass below them, he told Bernard, “Those footprints are fresh. Let’s follow them.” 

After tracing the tracks for a stretch, they eventually espied a partially covered pit with a small light beaming from the innermost part of it! As they gawked at its breadth, Bernard inquired, “What if this is a trap? It would be an effortless avenue of cornering us…” 

Considering this premise for a short instance, Kenneth replied, “Alastor’s reach has not extended this far yet! Father Clarence is our brother in arms, and if we can’t trust him, then we can’t trust anyone! Let’s go!” 

The two of them climbed down the sooty walkway. Kenneth peered around the walls that surrounded them. Despite his vote of confidence that he recently expressed, the lack of escape routes put him on edge! He didn’t believe that the spectral Hessian had any influence in these quarters, but he pondered if this would last for very much longer! If Father Clarence had ever set foot in Colfrith, he imagined that he would not be above that phantom’s sphere of sway! He then recognized that he and Bernard visited that borough- did they bring some sort of curse with them? He vied to cleanse himself from the foreboding possibilities that plagued his thoughts, and as he marched forward, he took in a deep inhale. As he exhaled, he felt his boot touch something softer and springier than the dirt! He shifted his lamp to illuminate the surface underneath them, and he beheld a lifeless soldier- the first of many! 

“Watch your step in here!” Father Clarence advised them as he sprinkled a bit of water onto a corpse at the other end of the structure. 

“Thank you for meeting with us, sir!” Kenneth politely addressed him as he averted his eyes from the ghastly spectacle beneath them. Bernard had to swallow some air to prevent himself from vomiting, and Kenneth got somewhat queasy as well, but when he remembered the purpose of this rendezvous, he determinedly focused his attention on nothing else but obtaining the intelligence they urgently required! 

Father Clarence kindly encouraged them, “No need for any formalities in this circumstance! I am not acting as my capacity as an officer presently! Please, call me Father Clarence!” 

Kenneth obliged, “Alright, Father Clarence… We have a fairly unusual subject matter that we need clarification on.” 

“What do you need to learn about, my son?” Father Clarence prompted him as he did the sign of the cross over another victim.  

“Well, we… How do you…? How does one…?” Kenneth stammered. He then collected himself and got straight to the point, “What can a person do to get rid of a murderous ghost?” 

Father Clarence almost dropped his vial upon hearing that! He composed himself and then probed, “A murderous ghost?” 

Kenneth elaborated, “Someone performed dark magic at a town close to here, and now an apparition is possessing blameless individuals and forcing them to commit atrocities!” 

“Oh, my word!” Father Clarence grew aghast at this notion. “I never know that such a feat was possible!” 

“Neither did we until recently!” Kenneth remarked. “But now that we know it has, we have to find a method of freeing them from this torment!” 

“I know of various exorcism practices, but that is designed to remedy a single soul! To cure a whole district…” Father Clarence trailed off. 

Kenneth petitioned him, “Can you come up with anything that might help them?” 

Father Clarence contemplated the matter for a bit, and then he reported, “There’s only one thing I can think of…”