The Hessian, Chapter 13

“Do you know what this is?” Gabby asked Clarissa. 

“No,” she answered her, “but I… I’ll be right back!” 

Clarissa dashed downstairs and headed straight to the bar. She knew she left it down there somewhere, and she compelled her memory to jog faster! She had forgotten all about her urgent need to solve another mystery, and now that the resolution seemed close to fruition, she forced her eyes to rediscover this object with more haste! Finally, she spotted it beneath the papers she procured for Cornelius and Elmira’s wedding reception! She snatched it up immediately and climbed back to the upper level. 

As soon as she re-entered the room, Clarissa showed Gabby a small key! “A couple of nights ago, I came across this in my yard! It didn’t resemble any of the ones I already had in my possession, and I couldn’t figure out what door it unlocked until now! Perhaps… We shall see!” Clarissa nervously brought the key towards the little hole in the enigmatic chest. Apart of her hoped that it would fit, but another part of her prayed that she was wrong because whatever substance this container held probably wasn’t anything good- people rarely kept good things out of sight! Regardless of the case, she had to find out the truth, so she stuck the key in… It surprised her that the key fit! She slowly turned it, and her heart beat rapidly as they heard the cogs release the lid’s seal! They each grasped a side, and they lifted the cover…  

“Huh?” Clarissa racked her brains over what they saw! She pulled out several candles with burnt wicks and melted wax, a few black feathers, and a lock of dark-colored hair! “Wow! I truly believed we stumbled into something meaningful to our cause, but it appears as though we simply uprooted a spot where Brenner stored his waste!” She chucked a stick back into the trunk in disappointment. 

“I doubt Brenner would have gone through this much trouble to hide refuse!” Gabby countered as she gazed at the box with discernment. She found blackened soil at the bottom, and she surmised, “This earth looks burnt! The only motive for storing that would be that someone charred something that they shouldn’t have! And the rest of this would be innocuous on their own, but putting them together must hold significance to someone or else he would have disposed of them in another manner!” 

Clarissa queried, “So, what are you saying? Brenner put these objects together to make some kind of statement?” 

Gabby responded, “Maybe. But I’ve seen my mother use some of these items in her rituals…” 

“Wait, so you reckon that Brenner performed some sort of magic?” Clarissa pondered. 

“Or at least he tried,” Gabby confirmed. “I suppose he could have been mentally ill and collected random rubbish.” 

Clarissa mulled the matter over a moment, and then she reflected out loud, “Brenner’s mind went soft the more he drank, but I don’t recall any instance where he ever really behaved bereft of himself! Most of the time, he was in the tavern socializing with our guests. He did occasionally leave to imbibe with his acquaintances, but I never questioned his activities because he always came home completely muckibus! I suppose he could have engaged in devious actions prior to his inebriation, but… That’s an unimaginable thought! Brenner had his many faults, but he wouldn’t have participated in any occupations of the occult! He would have had no reason to attempt anything like that unless he figured out a supernatural means of garnering more alcohol!” 

Gabby relayed to her, “Brenner always struck me as an overt individual, but when you told me he had business books while showing a lack of interest in actually doing business, I grew suspicious of his literature. I was about to investigate them when I fell into this hole!” 

“A hole containing materials for some kind of spell…” Clarissa jumped over to the bookshelf and seized a title regarding finances. She unfolded the pages and crossed her fingers that she would behold boring information on economic practices. Instead, she found print on a more astonishing topic… “This is Loyalist paraphernalia! But that can’t be right! Brenner was always a devout Patriot! Perhaps a previous guest placed this in there by mistake!” 

“This book also talks about Loyalist ideals,” Gabby reported as she perused through a publication. 

Clarissa poured through each novel on the shelf, and she discovered that none of them contained the subject that they were supposed to! She raced through the pages faster and faster with the aspiration of unearthing something that proved the other texts wrong or pointed to a culprit other than Brenner, and when she recovered none, she grew a little faint and dizzy! Gabby aimed to assist her, but Clarissa made it to the bed on her own. After taking a minute to absorb these new sets of facts, she uttered, “I was married to a traitor! I feel like vomiting!” She could hardly fathom receiving this kind of revelation on a person she knew for over a decade! She wasn’t quite sure what to do with this news, and a sensation of being lost overwhelmed her until she noticed Gabby studying some of the tomes. “Megatie me! You can read?” 

Gabby grinned. “Drusilla used to frequently accompany her father during his meetings under the guise of wanting to spend time with Elmira, and since Elmira isn’t that much older than her, neither of their fathers assumed anything of it. In reality, Elmira would pay more attention to her paintings than her visitors, so she didn’t really care what Drusilla did during the process. Drusilla and I developed a friendship, and since she has a passion for stories, she insisted on teaching me so that I could share her pursuit!” 

“Drusilla gave me the mixture that remedied Phineas from his paranormal affliction!” Clarissa remembered. “Does she ever review literature pertaining to potion making?” Gabby shrugged. “Hmm… She either concocted it herself or she purchased it from an expert in that field- either scenario would signify that she has at least some knowledge on this lore! We need to consult her in order to make sense of this all!” 

“That could prove difficult,” Gabby stated. “After her life was threatened yesterday, Cornelius will probably keep a close eye on her. But I agree with you- we have to find an avenue of speaking with her alone!” 

Bernard walked down a row of white tents cordially nodding at his fellow soldiers as he passed by. He attempted to convey as much aloofness as possible, but inwardly, his senses were bogged down with the heaviness of the catastrophes that surrounded him! As if the war wasn’t bad enough, he couldn’t stop thinking about the mission he embarked on that no one else knew about! It felt strange to keep a secret from the men that he trusted with his life, but if it got out, valued protection of a certain region would vanish, so he refused to articulate a word to anyone on this operation! As he headed into the tent of his destination, he took a deep breath and knocked on wood for the best possible outcome! 

As soon as Bernard entered into his quarters, he saw Kenneth holding a letter with an expression full of distress! He panicked and cried out, “What is it, sir? Is it Drusilla? Or Clarissa? Did something happen? Are they okay? Did they-?” 

“Woah, woah, woah!” Kenneth interrupted his ravings. “This letter isn’t from Colfrith! And everything is fine! Well, sort of… It’s just… My mother wrote and said…” 

“Is everything fine at home?” Bernard inquired with concern. 

Kenneth’s lips pursed, and then he exhaled in an exasperated fashion prior to revealing, “My oldest daughter is a woman now!” 

Bernard gasped, “You mean she was intimate with man?” 

“No! But if she ever resorted to that, she’s obtained the ability to make me into a grandfather!” Kenneth shuddered at that concept. 

“Oh, I see! Well, I comprehend one aspect of it anyways. I fail to grasp how that’s a strenuous event…” Bernard scratched his scalp as he mused over Kenneth’s reaction. 

Kenneth fretfully exclaimed, “I’m not ready for her to grow up!” Bernard stared at him blankly, so he added, “You’ll understand one day when you’re a father!” 

Bernard wasn’t sure how to reply to the image that he raised, so instead, he used that last phrase as a stepping stone for the issue he had been wanting to raise all along during this encounter, “Speaking of fathers… Father Clarence is busy tonight. A few soldiers succumbed to their wounds, so…” 

“We’ll chat with him before he turns in for the night,” Kenneth concluded. Bernard looked baffled by that statement, so he expounded, “Listen, I’d love to go one day in this war where we don’t lose a single member of our force, but if we wait for that day to transpire, we’ll never get our chance to converse with him! I know it isn’t proper, but nothing about this dilemma is conventional! It may be a slightly out of the ordinary, but I’d do anything to save Clarissa! Would you do the same for Drusilla?” 

“Of course!” Bernard adamantly affirmed. “Yes, I’m with you, sir!” 

Gabby probed, “You want me to go in alone? Why?” 

Clarissa reasoned, “It’d be pretty odd to view a woman entering into a public building with two buckets on her shoulders!” 

“Since when did you get so easily embarrassed?” Gabby posed to Clarissa. 

“I’m not embarrassed! I’m simply fed up with being the source of gossip for the borough!” Clarissa hung her head low in shame of admitting that they had gotten to her. 

Gabby assured her, “I won’t be long!” 

Clarissa gave her a grateful smile as she went inside. While she waited in front of The General Post, she discerned that more and more passersby ogled her. She silently grumbled over her inability to avoid this fate, and right when she was debating whether she would fare better in there or outside, a voice whispered into her ear, “You’re not safe anywhere!” He startled her by his abrupt appearance, but she rejected the inclination to cower down to his sinister advances! She spun around to confront him, but he was nowhere in sight! She scanned the entire vicinity, but she saw no sign of his presence! More villagers gawked at her following that behavior, but she no longer got affected by them at this juncture! 

“So, what did you put in your letter to Kenneth?” Gabby jovially petitioned Clarissa as she re-emerged. When she saw that her act had caused Clarissa to jump in fright, she quickly cast off her gossipy mood! “What’s wrong?” 

“He’s here somewhere!” Clarissa reported. “I heard him…” 

Gabby gazed around the town square, but she couldn’t distinguish any portents of peril, so she quietly addressed Clarissa, “Let’s go to the well. He’s bound to reveal himself eventually through the course of our tasks!” Clarissa nodded, and they exited that sector. 

Until they arrived to a secluded section of the hamlet’s outskirts, they remained on high alert for the onset of Alastor’s siege, but everything was eerily normal! When they queued up behind a long line of women with pails, they visually combed over the vicinity with as much thoroughness as they could muster! Clarissa was certain he was going to strike – he wouldn’t have goaded her if he hadn’t intended to do something malign! As she examined the ladies before her, she nearly missed an important clue to a different bind… “Drusilla is here!” she let Gabby know. 

“Should we talk to her?” Gabby wondered. 

“Only if we wish to discuss things that are acceptable to fall on our neighbors’ ears!” Clarissa frowned. Getting spooked by that hellish Hessian temporarily pushed Brenner’s box of trinkets out of her thoughts, but since it renewed itself, she ached to consult Drusilla! She was so young, but if she had the ability to produce an effective elixir, she calculated that she likely had a plethora of helpful tidbits on the predicament! She wanted to maintain the belief that her late husband had an innocent motive for stashing those ingredients to perform a rite, but she could not fathom how that would be possible… 

An older girl towards the front suddenly yelled out in anguish, and her sister worriedly checked in with her, “Ophelia, are you hurt?” 

Ophelia breathily conveyed to her, “It’s choking me!” 

“What is?” her sister inquired. 

“This!” Ophelia replied in a tone far deeper than her own as she tossed her cross necklace to the ground… 

The Hessian, Chapter 12

With one swift sweep, Phineas picked Clarissa and Gabby up and threw them across the sawmill floor! They landed on a wooden table, which broke upon impact! Clarissa felt pain course throughout her body, but she had no time to nurse her injury since Phineas bounded over to them in a rapid, dog-like fashion! Gabby and Clarissa each reached for their canisters of salt, but their crash broke open the seals and the entire contents of their vessels spilled out onto the ground! When Phineas approached them, they each grabbed a handful and tossed it into his face! He roared like a beast and leapt out range of their projectiles! A couple of men with axes attempted to defend themselves, but he seized their weapons and flung them far from him! He briskly swung his newly acquired combat tools at anyone who dared to go near him- no one could get within an inch of him!

            “Gather up as much salt as you can!” Clarissa directed Gabby.

            “What are you doing?” Gabby cried out. “He’ll kill you!”

            Clarissa ignored her pleas and brought up, “His left hand isn’t as strong as his right. You see how it trembles?” Gabby was confused by her remarks until she unearthed a cross necklace that had fallen beneath the top of her dress and explained, “Harming me hurt him! Do you really think he’ll make that mistake twice?” Gabby intended to protest again, but then they witnessed a man who had been trying to subdue Phineas get hit in the top of his skull and plummet down with the axe still attached to him! Gabby and Clarissa winced, and then Clarissa proclaimed, “Lives are at stake! I’ll distract him long enough for you to gather enough salt to cast out his spirit!”

            Before Gabby could say no, Clarissa headed towards Phineas! When she got within his range, she brandished her crucifix and commanded, “Put down your blade!”

            Phineas screeched at her in defiance and vaulted to another sector of the facility! Most of the men scrambled away from the area prior to his arrival, but one man was not so fortunate… As he held up his arms in a protective manner, Phineas chopped one of them off! He made another bid for the rest of him, but Clarissa put herself between the two! Phineas growled at her and then hurried to the front of the factory.

            Drusilla moved in Phineas’ direction, but Cornelius shielded her and vociferated, “I will not watch my daughter endure that fate!” Drusilla fought against her restraints, but when Phineas neared them, she ducked! Cornelius mimicked Clarissa’s move and held up his own religious talisman, and Phineas shied away from that spot. When he left, Cornelius glanced around and called out, “Drusilla? Drusilla, where did you go?”

            Phineas aimed his axe for another victim, but he managed to elude his blow and run behind Gabby. A number of individuals figured out that she possessed a repellent to the darkness within him, but as the line of salt around her diminished from both Gabby’s gathering and all of the pandemonium, their stronghold seemed less secure. Everyone fled as Gabby took a sturdy stance ready to fire from her arsenal, and Clarissa raced to assist her. When she got within his periphery, Phineas used his injured palm to shove her away from his target! She slammed into another workbench and grimaced as she absorbed the agony!

            When Clarissa opened her eyes, she beheld Gabby tossing the salt at him, but to her horror, he dodged it! As he advanced on Gabby, Clarissa didn’t know what to do in order to defeat him! All of a sudden, she felt a tug on the back of her sleeve! She couldn’t fathom who or what could have done that, so she turned around with intense curiosity. It shocked her to see Drusilla crouched under the table, but it flabbergasted her when Drusilla handed her a small vial with a green potion in it! Baffled, she gazed at Drusilla for clarification, and Drusilla nudged her head towards the pending peril. Clarissa didn’t understand all of the details of this solution, but she didn’t have a moment to spare for questions! She rose up and raced to the scene!

            Gabby evaded him with as much haste as she could muster, but Phineas was quicker than her. When he had her cornered, he raised his axe! She ducked and covered herself to the best of her abilities, and he belted out a shrieking and echoing battle cry! Then… Preceding any fatal hit, Clarissa poured the strange substance into his mouth and shut his jaw so he couldn’t’ spit it out! As the fluid descended his throat, Clarissa prayed this mysterious mixture would drive Alastor’s influence out of him!

            Phineas started to convulse tremendously, so Clarissa released him. He jerked faster and faster, and then he abruptly arched himself backward! Clarissa and Gabby noticed a cold wind fly past them, and they knew he was cured! When Phineas erected his spine, he looked around in confusion. “What the devil just happened?” he wondered out loud as he observed the aftermath of the catastrophe. When he espied his bloody clothing, he worked out what had transpired and raised the axe in his hand to himself…

            “No, Phineas! No!” Multiple people beseeched him not to do it, and Gabby as well as Clarissa lunged to save him, but they couldn’t get him fast enough! Phineas lodged his deadly device into his visage, and he quickly succumbed to his wounds! His peers all gasped and moaned in sorrow, and the two women beside him stared at his body woefully wishing they were just a fraction of a second faster! “Poor Phineas! It wasn’t his fault!” one of his coworkers lamented.

            “I don’t blame him for feeling guilty though! I’d off myself too if I knew I killed Samuel!” another sawmill worker morosely conversed.

            As a couple of employees used a belt to create a tourniquet for the victim with a missing limb, Cornelius anxiously yelled, “Drusilla? Drusilla, where are you?”

            Drusilla emerged from her place of refuge and shouted, “I’m here, Father!”

            “Oh, thank Heavens!” Cornelius exhaled in relief. She sped over to him, and as they embraced, he let her know, “Well, you got your way- I won’t have you anywhere close to this establishment anymore!” He peered directly into her eyes and asserted, “I lost your mother, I won’t lose your too!” As the entire enterprise grieved and recovered, Clarissa and Gabby decided to depart. Neither of them had gotten over the gravity of what they saw, and their presence did nothing to add value to anyone’s mood. Moreover, Clarissa wanted to exit prior to this trauma getting fully absorbed in their minds because she did not want to go through more unjust blame and slander after seeing such carnage! She didn’t think anyone detected their movements, but then Cornelius reminded them, “Don’t forget your boards!”

            “Yes, sir!” Clarissa speedily responded. She and Gabby hurriedly gathered the planks along with Drusilla’s letter that she promised to deliver, and they darted out before anyone else could utter a word to them! As they traversed Hallow’s Alley, passersby gawked at the sanguine stains on their wardrobes. They didn’t speak to anyone as the pair made a beeline back to the inn…

            Bernard held his lantern up so he could see through the fog, and he hollered, “Lieutenant Harvey? Lieutenant Harvey, are you here?”

            From a distance, Kenneth conveyed to him, “I’m down here!” Bernard rushed down a hill and found Kenneth sitting on a log that overlooked a vast array of graves. Kenneth glanced up at Bernard, and Bernard discerned a shadow of glumness on his face. “Did you worry that I got lost again?” Kenneth inquired.

            “No,” Bernard replied. “You’re just not where I expected you to be! The rest of the single fellows went to the city to fraternize with the ladies, but are you here…”

            “As are you,” Kenneth pointed out. “You’re at the age where gents covet sowing their wild oats- not interested in landing yourself a pretty, young woman?”

            Bernard disclosed, “I’ve already got one! Well, at least, she’s got me! We only had a brief interaction during my short stint in Colfrith, but I… I don’t know! I just got this premonition that I don’t need to search for any other girl! Am I mad for believing that idea?”

            Kenneth chuckled, “Of course you’re mad! But that’s what occurs when a woman captures your heart! That’s what led me here tonight…”

            “Madness?” Bernard queried as he sat beside him.

            “In a sense.” Kenneth surveyed the scenery before them. “I’m somewhat befuddled by a concept, and I thought perhaps our comrades could provide me with guidance.”

            Bernard uncomfortably mentioned, “Uh, sir… These soldiers have fallen! The dead cannot interact with us!”

            Kenneth forlornly disagreed, “I only wish that were the case! A terrible wraith has taken over Colfrith, and everyone who inhabits the region is in complete danger!”

            “You mean someone is after my Drusilla?” Bernard’s eyes widened in alarm.

            “A Hessian spy hanged for his crimes, and now he seeks revenge against every citizen in those quarters! I know that sounds totally daft! I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t seen it myself! His specter aspired to torture me to my demise, and he would have done if Clarissa, the innkeeper, hadn’t come to my rescue! It wasn’t a fever that kept me at The Leafy Taverne…” Kenneth admitted. “I gave that account to General Washington so I could carry on with my duties, but now that my secret is out, I suppose I should go say goodbye to my children and prepare myself for a life in a bedlam…”

            Bernard assured him, “No, no! This stays between us! You’re probably the most rational person I’ve ever met, so if you say there’s a violent ghost out there, I’ll believe you! Plus, I’d do anything to protect Drusilla! She doesn’t deserve to undergo that kind of torment!”

            Kenneth concurred, “No, she doesn’t! None of them do! Especially not Clarissa! She’s been expelled from their society based on lies and a lack of understanding, and it’s become her responsibility to save everyone from that murderous phantom! She has no one else to assist her in this matter, so I want to do all I can to support her! The trouble is I have no inkling on how to do that! How do you destroy a being who is already deceased?”

            “I don’t know!” Bernard solemnly articulated. Kenneth hung his head low, and as Bernard scanned the various tombstones ahead of them, he suddenly incurred a spark of inspiration! “But I know somebody who might…!” Kenneth ogled at him with incredulity and pondered if he should resist the urge to get his hopes up or not…

            “What if we simply placed a flowerpot over the hole?” Clarissa proposed as she and Gabby stared at the hole next to the bookshelf in the room that Kenneth previously occupied. “Or we could cover the hole with a rug and bar any visitors from using this space…”

            Gabby puzzled, “Why would you want to do that? Don’t you want to learn what’s in the hollow?”

            Clarissa exclaimed, “No! If any sort of wickedness is lurking in there, I’d rather have it stay there forever and not learn of its existence!”

            “Wouldn’t you reckon that whatever is in there would have been released the instant I broke through the panel?” Gabby challenged her.

            “What if we disturb something by removing it from its cache?” Clarissa fretted. Gabby gave her a reproachful countenance, so Clarissa apologized, “I’m sorry! Lately, every sliver of progress we’ve made towards solving this mystery has only caused atrocities that made our circumstances worse!  And your nightmare still haunts me as well…”

            Gabby sagely reacted to her qualms, “Yes, we may unearth more horror into the world, but what if we come across a cure instead? We could miss out on something really beneficial by relenting to our misgivings!”

            Clarissa acceded, “You’re right! We can’t risk a shot at victory over unfortunate possibilities! Okay, let’s do this!”

            As Clarissa used a hammer to loosen the nails form the broken floorboard, Gabby pulled it upwards. Inwardly, Clarissa crossed her fingers that the small chasm would prove to be empty after they finished, but as they removed the marred plank, her pulse accelerated astronomically! Someone had stashed an item in there! Gingerly, they pulled the object out, and Clarissa gasped when she beheld its sight…

The Hessian, Chapter 11

Alastor whispered into her ear, “You’re too late to save them!”

            Clarissa’s first instinct was to push the fiend away, but then she remembered that a person cannot physically move a ghost! She irately bit back, “What do you mean?” When she opened her eyes, she was bewildered to see that all of the walls of her home had vanished! Her room stood alone on a stage, and she had a view of the entire town… What was left of it anyways! All of the buildings were smoldering and in shambles! She went down the staircase, and when she got down to the street, her eyes widened in sheer horror as she beheld bodies lined up throughout the borough! She nearly vomited from the weight of it all, and once it sank in for her, she furiously bellowed, “Alastor, you demon! How could you?”

            His cackle emanated across the atmosphere above her, and as she screamed out her emotions, the spirits of the fallen rose up and called out to her, “Clarissa! Clarissa!” She couldn’t face them, it was all her fault…

            “Clarissa!” Gabrielle shook her in order to jerk her out of her slumber.

            “You’re still here!” Clarissa gazed around her chambers and then noted, “Everything is still here…”

            Gabrielle deduced, “I think you had a bad dream.”

            Clarissa reckoned that she was correct, but it still took a minute for her nerves to refrain from shaking. “He destroyed it all! Colfrith was obliterated, and everyone died! That was quite literally my worst nightmare!”

            “Well, we’re not going to let that happen in actuality, are we?” Gabrielle challenged her.

            “You’re right! There’s still time to ensure that ghoul does not succeed!” She leapt out of bed ready to take action, but then she noticed that Gabrielle was still in her pajamas. “I’m so sorry to have waken you!”

            Gabrielle assured her, “You didn’t! You weren’t alone in your nightmares! I dreamt that the letter you got yesterday came from Alastor, and it was addressed to Brenner. You were curious as to what it said, and when you opened it, you unleased darkness that consumed the entire village!”

            Clarissa recalled, “The letter! I completely forgot about that! I don’t even remember seeing who it was from! You don’t suppose…” Gabrielle’s expression fell at the prospect of her vision coming to light, and Clarissa concluded, “Well, we must investigate it now!”

            The two ladies crept down the staircase and eyeballed the piece of mail as though it were a snake ready to lunge at them as soon as it became aware of their presence! Clarissa’s mind reeled with the possibilities of what it might contain; if Gabrielle’s premonition proved to be true and the post was marked for her late husband, she couldn’t imagine what he would have communicated to him! Assuming that it held an actual message… They inched closer and closer until… “Oh, it’s from Kenneth!” Clarissa delightfully declared. “Unless Alastor did that to trick me into opening it…”

            Her hands trembled as she reached for the envelope, and Gabrielle watched in total nervousness as she broke the seal. Clarissa peeked inside and showed it to Gabrielle… “Oh! It appears you received an actual letter from a non-diabolical man! We really permitted our imaginations to run wild, didn’t we?” Gabrielle chuckled in relief. As Clarissa pulled the paper out, Gabrielle’s interest in the contents intensified. “Am I allowed to know what it says?”

            “That remains to be seen…” Clarissa poured through the message, and the further she read, the broader her grin became!

            “Did he declare his undying love for you?” Gabrielle pressed her.

            Clarissa explained, “He thanked me for my hospitality, and then he expressed his profound appreciation for me saving his life! He then tells me he hasn’t abandoned our mission and will do everything he can to discover remedies to help curtail the issue! He closed with wishing me well and hoping I’ll stay safe so that we can meet again!”

            With a wry smile, Gabrielle stated, “So, that’s a yes!”

            “He never voiced those words!” Clarissa disagreed.

            “People often relay their feelings indirectly! He doesn’t have to utter that exact phrasing to get the point across!” Gabrielle argued. Clarissa didn’t seem totally sold on that concept, but she could see her becoming flustered, so Gabrielle probed, “How do you feel about him?”

            Clarissa bowed her head as she blushed. “He’s a nice fellow!”

            Gabrielle prodded her, Very! Handsome and charming too!” Clarissa turned away to hide her embarrassment, and then Gabrielle asked, “What will you write in your reply?”

            “I’ll inform him that we spent a lot of time researching cures to our ghostly conundrum! But first, we must do that task so that I’m not lying to him,” Clarissa answered her. Gabrielle looked slightly disappointed that she no longer desired to spill any salacious gossip, and she begrudgingly stepped away from the table. Clarissa retrieved the books she borrowed from behind the bar, and as she set them by her seat, she remarked, “Perhaps fortune will favor us and we’ll uncover the solution in the beginning of the literature I choose to study first!”

            “Maybe I’ll pay a visit to the Cole household,” Gabrielle considered out loud. “Drusilla is quite fond of reading, so maybe something in her collection can aid us in this endeavor!”

            Clarissa mused, “It couldn’t hurt to query about it! Unless her father decides to interfere! I wouldn’t put anything past that grump!”

            Gabrielle brushed that notion aside, “If he upsets either of us, then he’ll lose his deposit and his reception plans will tear asunder since he won’t be welcomed here!”

            As Gabrielle ascended to the upper level, Clarissa tittered at the picture she painted. While Gabrielle got dressed, Clarissa flipped through the tome in front of her. She frowned at its apparent lack of usefulness, and she prayed that this would change as she carried on. After a bout of silence, Gabrielle made her jump slightly when she shouted, “Hey, there’s some books in this area! Would any of them have helpful information?”

            “I doubt it!” Clarissa responded. “Those were my late husband’s business materials. I’m not sure why he had them, he rarely participated in any professional-.” Suddenly, she heard a large crash blare out from above her, and she immediately sped up to check it out. “Are you alright, Gabrielle?”

            “Call me Gabby!” she requested.

            Clarissa puzzled, “Huh?” When she walked into the room previously occupied by Kenneth, she saw Gabby’s right leg stuck in a newly formed hole in the floor! As she assisted her in getting out of this scrape, she surmised, “So, you’re not terribly injure, are you?”

            Gabby laughed, “Not a chance! And my friends call me Gabby. After everything we’ve been through, there’s no need for anymore formalities!”

            “Fair enough!” Clarissa grinned. She glanced at the gap on the ground, and then she frowned as she pronounced, “It appears as though we’ll have to take Mister Cole up on his offer sooner than I anticipated!”

            “Where are you going, Drusilla?” Cornelius inquired to his daughter as she passed through a seating area situated before a bustling factory full of sawing, axing, and packing.

            Drusilla hid an envelope behind her back, and she over-sweetly replied, “Nothing!”

            Cornelius commanded, “Give it to me!” Drusilla reluctantly did so, and Cornelius expected to unearth the worst. It perplexed him when he beheld what she aimed to keep hidden. “It’s a letter to Aunt Martha!”

            “I know! I just wanted to get you going!” Drusilla cheekily informed him. His expression grew stern, but before he could admonish her, she added, “I’m bored, Father! I’ve grown weary of being here all day! I’d rather go back to spending all day taking care of the household! Why do I need so much supervision?”

            “I…!” Cornelius spotted Clarissa and Gabby standing within their vicinity, so he swiftly switched what he intended to convey, “We’ll talk about this later!”

            Clarissa cleared her throat out to rid herself of the awkwardness gained from this interaction, and then she notified Cornelius, “I apologize for the interruption, but The Leafy Taverne needs lumber to repair a dangerous section of its flooring…”

            Cornelius rather reluctantly acquiesced, “Very well! I suppose we cannot risk any of our guests getting injured! Phineas!” One of the men sanding down planks of wood stopped what he was doing and rushed over to do his bidding. “Fetch this lady… What? Will four boards do?”

            “Actually, one board will suffice,” Clarissa disclosed.

            “Take four in case more problems arise,” Cornelius advised her. “I want no mishaps to transpire on my wedding day!”

            Clarissa shrugged. “As you wish.”

            Cornelius reissued his order to Phineas, “Give her four boards.”

            “But, sir!” Phineas objected. “That’ll make us short for the Rockfall purchase! And there isn’t a lot of useable trees out there to make up for any dearth!”

            “Fine! During my reception, you can occupy the quarters that she spoke of!” Cornelius shot back. Phineas still seemed reluctant, but he heeded his direction nonetheless. While Phineas retrieved the items, Cornelius questioned Clarissa, “What caused the damage? It’s not a frequent occurrence, is it?”

            Clarissa assured him, “Oh, no! It was a totally random site that was hollow underneath!”

            Cornelius contended, “Hollow places are never random, especially when it comes to architectural structures! Someone always puts it there for a reason- usually for secretive purposes…” Cornelius gave Drusilla a reproachful look, and she shifted in a guilty manner.

            Gabby and Clarissa’s discomfort renewed, but luckily for them, Phineas returned with their ware. “Here you are, Miss Harbin! I’ll hand them over to your laborer.”

            “She’s my employee,” Clarissa corrected him. “She’s a free woman who earns a wage. We’ll split the burden.” As Clarissa grabbed some of the timber, Phineas’ visage contorted in confusion, but when he turned to Cornelius for clarification, he espied that Cornelius was rolling his eyes. Clarissa caught a glimpse of Drusilla’s despondence, so she kindly offered, “I have to bring a letter to the post shortly, so I’d be happy to bring your letter there!”

            “Oh, thank you!” Drusilla chirped as she set her correspondence on top of the wood.

            Cornelius raised an eyebrow at that preposition. “I didn’t know you had any acquaintances outside of our county…”

            Clarissa took offense at his insinuation, but she kept her cool as she educated him, “As a matter of fact, I do! He’s a lieutenant in the Continental Army, and-.”

            “You’re communicating with that traitor?” Phineas grumbled.

            “Traitor? He works out of the fort you played a part in building!” Clarissa pointed out.

            Phineas defensively uttered, “That was a mistake! But it wasn’t our fault! Alastor pretended to work for the other side, so naturally, we took his word as the truth!”

            Clarissa was shocked to hear loyalist rhetoric from a man who was once a devout patriot! She could only assume that the vengeful spirit had a hand in swaying his allegiance, but she also estimated that it would have been futile to try to persuade such a hard-hearted individual into accepting the reality of the circumstances in this war! Additionally, Cornelius’ grimace plainly worried about a disturbance in the workplace, so Clarissa opted not to quarrel with Phineas. She bad Cornelius, “Have a good afternoon!”

            “Wait!” Phineas blocked Clarissa and Gabby from exiting. “I can’t let you leave until you promise you won’t associate with that anarchist!”

            “Oh, don’t be ridiculous!” Clarissa brushed him off and attempted to weave herself out of his barricade.       

            Phineas lowered his arms to halt her departure, and he seethed, “If you won’t swear to it, you won’t leave!”

            Clarissa spat, “You can’t keep me here!”

            “Would you like to bet on that?” Phineas growled.

            “She won’t write to him, okay?” Gabby fibbed.

            Phineas snarled, “You’re a liar!”

            The entire assembly line halted to witness this scene, and Cornelius pled with him, “Phineas, please! Just let it go!”

            In a deep, frenzied voice very different than his own, Phineas bellowed, “Stay out of this!”

The Hessian, Chapter 10

Clarissa felt on edge as she swept the tavern. Every bit of noise that resounded throughout her empty abode made her jump! She was so sure it was Alastor back for another attack! It seemed inevitable since he had yet to go a day without an assault! She kept an ear out for any disturbances taking place in town and braced herself to take action when it did, and when Colfrith stayed quiet up until the beginning of twilight, she grew worried that something had occurred without her knowledge! Clarissa wouldn’t have fretted so much if more people implemented some effective methods of combating the specter’s violence, but so far, she and Gabrielle were the only ones one did more than just blame a non-existent witch’s magic when victims underwent Alastor’s siege! Gabrielle went into the village for an errand, but she should have returned hours ago, so Clarissa feared that she had abandoned this mission! She wouldn’t have blamed her if that had been the case- it was a very trying burden to bear! However, it would have been very hurtful to have acquired an ally and lost it all within the span of the sun’s cycle! She also considered that perhaps that dastardly menace got to her prior to Gabrielle resurfacing at the inn, and as the light in the sky began to diminish, she pondered if the obligation of rescuing Gabrielle had fallen upon her… Was this Alastor’s plan the whole time, luring Clarissa into a trap?

            All of a sudden, she heard the small, shrill scream of a child ring out in the distance! She dashed out the door and mentally prepared herself to face whatever nightmare that malevolent ghost had in store… To her surprise, she didn’t see anything out of the ordinary going on! The young girl who lived a few doors down from Clarissa gave her father a look of sheer defiance as he lectured her, “Jane! Do not speak to your elders in that manner!”

            “But I want cake!” Jane wailed.

            “Cake is not a good dinner!” Jane’s dad lectured her.

            Unexpectedly, Gabrielle turned up by Clarissa’s side, and she commented, “My word, I wish a lack of a dessert was the worst problem in my life!”

            Clarissa flinched at Gabrielle’s abrupt appearance. “Tarnation! Don’t sneak up on me like that!”

            “I didn’t sneak! I passed by your neighbors over there, it’s not my fault that you didn’t spot me!” Gabrielle shot back with a grin.

            “Right…” Clarissa felt embarrassed by her obliviousness, but she was relieved that Gabrielle didn’t seem miffed by her shouting. She supposed that she should have been more grateful for her coming back safely and soundly, but now that it was apparent that nothing too detrimental transpired, Clarissa became slightly agitated from the accumulation of anxiety that she endured from Gabrielle’s needlessly lengthy absence! She picked up one of the sacks of salt from the cart that Gabrielle had toted, and as she re-entered her home, Clarissa joshed her, “Nice salt! Did you walk to New Jersey and procure it from the ocean yourself?”

            “Almost!” Gabrielle breathily heaved the sack she was carrying onto the bar counter and let Clarissa know, “The proprietor at the general store refused me entry, so I went to Burtown to purchase this ware.”

            Clarissa reacted in astonishment, “Burtown? But that’s seven miles from here!” Gabrielle nodded and shrugged as she trudged towards the remaining sack of salt. “No, please sit down! After a fourteen mile round trip, you need the rest!” Gabrielle appreciatively slunk down into a seat as Clarissa retrieved the remainder of the inventory, and once she had completed that task, Clarissa graciously regarded Gabrielle, “You didn’t have to go through so much trouble like that!”

            Gabrielle put her aching feet on another chair as she disagreed, “Yes, I did! Where else would I have gotten our only weapon against the Hessian?”

            Frowning at the lack of any discernable alternatives, Clarissa resumed her sweeping and remarked, “We need to find some other approach to battling that fiend! Eventually, this isn’t going to be a sustainable practice!”

            “How do we do that?” Gabrielle asked as she leaned her head back and rested her eyes.

            “That’s a good question!” Clarissa answered. “I got some books on the subject, but Mister Basker wasn’t very confident that they would prove very instructive! I wish there was an expert we could consult so we could do something to prevent disaster rather than merely reacting to it after it’s already happened!”

            Gabrielle mumbled, “If somebody like that existed, then why wouldn’t they have acted thus far?”

            Clarissa mulled that concept over and came up with an appalling possibility, “Perhaps they want all of this mayhem to continue! Perhaps that barbarian has some assistance within Colfrith! After all, it isn’t as though he manifested in that form on his own! Don’t you think?”

            “Actually, I’m not thinking a whole lot at the moment!” Gabrielle kidded with her lids still shut.

            “Would you like me to make up your bed?” Clarissa offered.

            Gabrielle declined, “Not unless you’d like to carry me up those stairs!”

            Clarissa tittered as she carried on with her cleaning. Just then, the front door swung open, and she got a jolt of shock to view Cornelius and Elmira walking into her establishment! They didn’t seem particularly keen on this visit, so they stepped in with stiff shoulders and gloomy expressions. When they beheld the dynamic of a wealthy woman working and a former laborer blissfully reposed, Clarissa could practically see their minds boggling with bewilderment! Partly due to their unfavorable history with one another and partly because she knew that their presence could not have stemmed from amiable avenues, Clarissa decided to further beleaguer them by meekly querying Gabrielle, “May I take a break from my chores to speak with our guests?”

            “I’ll allow it!” Gabrielle responded while making herself even more comfortable on her perch.

            “Darling, we need to leave immediately!” Elmira demanded.

            Gabrielle and Clarissa hid their smirks as Cornelius addressed Elmira, “We’ve been over this, my love! We have no other options! We have to do this…”

            Clarissa probed, “Do what?” At first, she nearly panicked on the assumption that they went there to get vigilante justice for the crimes they perceived that she committed, but she esteemed that they did not appear to be armed. With that theory debunked, she puzzled as to what business they could have had with her…

            “I have a letter for you,” Cornelius informed Clarissa, which made her brows furrow. He was standing right in front of her, so she couldn’t comprehend why he didn’t choose to communicate with her directly! She reckoned that her sentiments on this exchange must have been evident since he followed that with, “It’s not from me! A postal rider came by a few minutes ago, and he seemed reluctant to approach this dwelling…”

            “Unbelievable!” Clarissa took the letter with irritation. “A total stranger traversed our terrain for a short stretch and already became privy to the gossip that has plagued our borough! Who could have possibly spread that rumor in that short of a period?”

            Elmira shifted around in a guilty fashion, and Clarissa’s incense for this vexatious varlet immediately increased! Sensing some pending tumult, Cornelius loudly spoke up, “The main reason we dropped by has nothing to do with your mail… We would like to make a deal with you…” Clarissa fully expected him to attempt a buyback of the Montgomery laborer, and she readied herself to sternly remind them that Gabrielle had been freed and is no longer eligible to get sold, but then… “We would like to book this venue on the thirty-first.”

            It would have stunned her if anyone had uttered those words to her at this juncture, but it flabbergasted her to hear that request emanate from this couple! Everyone in this district thought ill of her at the present, but Elmira had been especially vocal about her mistrust in her! She couldn’t fathom why she and her fiancée would decide to utilize this building for any of their transactions, especially when the bride-to-be’s father owned a coffeeshop where they could easily hold meetings! She grew suspicious of their motives for doing this, and she imagined that this enterprise likely had a horrible catch attached to it! She had no proof of any malign intentions on their part, but if any sinister aims did exist, the only way to draw them out was to let them unfold on their own, so she went behind the bar and pulled up the paperwork for this arrangement. “Alright… How many tables do you need?” she inquired.

            “All of them,” Cornelius replied. Clarissa’s quill darted out of her grip upon receiving this bewildering revelation, and Cornelius clarified, “We are opting to host our wedding reception here.”

            “Opting?” Elmira grumbled. “It’s not as though we have a real option! Nowhere else in Colfrith can accommodate our full guestlist! You simply had to invite every single individual to participate, didn’t you?”

            Cornelius chided her, “Elmira, we’ve been over this! I absolutely have to permit my employees to participate in the proceedings! Production is already suffering enough from all of the deadened trees, we don’t need another cause for efficiency to falter!” Elmira pouted, and then he turned his attention back to Clarissa. He handed her money that he took out of his pocket and briefed her, “Here’s a deposit to keep our reservation, and we shall provide the rest of the funds upon a successful completion of the event. Should you need any lumber, feel free to stop by the sawmill and I’ll deduct the fee from what we owe you.”

            Clarissa agreed to those terms, “Fine by me.”

            “Wonderful! Come along, my love!” Cornelius held out his arm for Elmira, and once they linked together, they rushed out of the facility! Elmira shot Clarissa one last leery look prior to her departure, and Clarissa sighed at the prospect of how tedious this occasion threatened to fare for her.

            “Are you sure we don’t want to pour some salt on those two just in case?” Gabrielle sleepily joked, which made Clarissa chuckle as she resumed the use of her broom.

            At nightfall, Clarissa and Gabrielle walked through the almost empty Hallow’s Alley, and as Clarissa raised the level of her lantern, she told Gabrielle, “If this gets to be too much for you, you’re welcome to go back to The Leafy Taverne!”

            Gabrielle rejected that notion, “And leave you to contend with that wicked phantom on your own? I think not!”

            “But you already did a lot of traveling today!” Clarissa objected. “I would hate for you to injure yourself on my behalf!”

            “I’ll be okay!” Gabrielle assured her. “I had to frequently make long journeys for Mister Montgomery, and as wealthy as he was, he never did buy transportation for…” A gust of wind howled past the pair of women, and Gabrielle consoled herself, “It’s regular wind! Regular wind comes by sometimes…!”

            Clarissa hypothesized, “I really doubt that Alastor would forewarn us about his scheme! He’d want us as far away as possible so he could do maximal damage!”

            Gabrielle concurred with that rationale, “Absolutely! We’re completely safe right now!”

            Despite their declaration of confidence, the two ladies moved with extreme caution and hardly created a sound! Clarissa kept her ears peeled for signs of peril fully expecting an assailment to commence at any second… When a considerable span elapsed, she intended to reestablish her conversation with Gabrielle, but then, suddenly, a man’s holler echoed into the atmosphere! The women raced to the source of the clamor, and when they got close to this specific cottage, they leaned in to decipher if they had, indeed, stumbled across a crisis…

            “My insides…! They’re all twisting!” the man moaned. Gabrielle and Clarissa picked up on some guttural grunting that left no ambiguity on the gravity of his pronouncement, so they hastily started to pour salt beneath the door and window! Clarissa hoped that they discovered this soon enough to rescue the poor soul, but that aspiration quickly got squashed…

            “What are you two doing?” a female emerged from that residence and scolded them. Clarissa and Gabrielle strove to protest, but she went on, “Don’t you dare spread your witchcraft here! Be gone, snakes!” Gabrielle and Clarissa listened to the afflicted’s torment and made another bid to assist, but she advanced on them as she bellowed, “I said be gone!” Clarissa and Gabrielle were disheartened to abandon this endeavor, but they didn’t want to risk enduring her bludgeoning, so they swiveled around and begrudgingly stepped aside. As that poor man’s wife went next door and urgently relayed the issue to Doctor Cuthbart, Clarissa desperately prayed for that individual’s ailments to heal! Afterwards, they headed back to the inn in total silence…

The Hessian, Chapter 9

Her first instinct was to jerk her hand back and pray that she hadn’t been too late to avoid whatever curse Alastor had in store for her, but after this recoil, Clarissa didn’t observe any sign of danger! She had to take a deep breath in order to invite her more rational self back into her thoughts; she was so sure that a paranormal ambush had befallen her that her adrenaline spiked and coursed throughout her body, and she found it difficult to convince her nerves to cease their jangling! Once it finally sunk in that she had not encountered a perilous obstacle, her curiosity rose up about what she actually stumbled onto. She came in contact with the dirt underneath a shrub, so she sifted through the earth until she discovered it…

            It was a key! Not one that she recognized from her own ring either! Initially, she theorized that Kenneth had inadvertently dropped it during his visit or that perhaps it slipped out of Bailey’s saddle during his agitation over his owner’s plight, but it was buried enough that it suggested to her that it had been there for several weeks, which would have been odd since she didn’t have any guests following her husband’s death… It then occurred to her that maybe this had belonged to Brenner! But she gained possession of all the keys used for the inn ages ago, so if its purpose hadn’t been business-related, she wondered what the dickens it could have gotten used for…!

            She picked herself up, but she hadn’t lost interest in the object she had acquisitioned! She hadn’t heard of any keys crafted for decorative purposes, so it had to have unlocked something! And yet, if it had belonged to the man she married, she couldn’t decipher a rationale for him locking up anything that she wasn’t privy to! She didn’t want to believe that he may have been hiding a commodity he desired to keep secret from her unless he had been planning a surprise of some sort! Brenner wasn’t good at ensuring that information stayed clandestine, his over-consumption of liquor didn’t allow his cognition to maintain any subtly and his memory had become abysmal! She was thoroughly puzzled by this thing’s origin now- it had to belong somewhere, it didn’t appear out of nowhere! Then again, with all of the mystical events taking place in Colfrith, she considered perhaps it did…

            Clarissa rushed into the tavern with the adamant determination of solving this mystery! If it was manufactured by that malevolent spirit, then she conjectured that this discovery could possibly lead to Alastor’s downfall! She also toyed with the idea that this key got gifted to her by a more friendly entity who desired to aid her with this harrowing cause, but she wasn’t sure if luck like that could ever grace her favor! Still, regardless of the basis for this token arriving into her ownership, it grew absolutely vital for her to work out what this facet opened up! She checked every nook and cranny in her establishment, but it didn’t seem to fit in anywhere! After sunset, she decided to investigate the upstairs. She hadn’t gotten to comb through much when suddenly…

            A knock sounded at her door! She froze as her heart began to race- she couldn’t help but feel that she was getting close to the answers when fate decided to intervene! The knocking intensified into something more urgent, and she speculated on whether or not Alastor saw her approaching the truth and sought to intermeddle! She descended the staircase and steeled herself up for a fight! Picturing a person under the ghost’s dark magic waiting for her on the other side of her front door, she swung it open and…

            “Gabrielle!” Clarissa gasped. “You scared me! Why did you-?”

            “Something’s happening at the smithery!” Gabrielle reported to her in a compelling tone. “Mister Bartlett was there buying some shoes for his oxen, and then, out of nowhere, he starts throwing anvils at people!”

            Clarissa’s brows furrowed at this revelation. “Throwing anvils? But those are at least a hundred pounds! How could he… Oh!” Comprehension finally dawned on her face- there was only a single avenue for a man to gain the strength to perform that kind of feat! “Oh dear! We must get to the church immediately and… No! The blacksmith is located on the route there! How can we get holy water if-?”

            Gabrielle interrupted her, “Do you have any salt?”

            “Salt?” Clarissa responded quizzically. “Well, sure! But how will that-?”

            “Bring it!” Gabrielle directed her. Clarissa hesitated out of confusion over her instruction, but prior to her having the chance to question it, Gabrielle insisted, “Hurry! People have died!” Clarissa’s eyes widened at the prospect of multiple getting killed, and she hastily went behind the bar to retrieve her pewter of salt. She couldn’t fathom how a spice from the kitchen could be of any value in this scenario, but Gabrielle spoke with such authority that she didn’t dare protest! She left the key on the counter resolving to get to the bottom of that enigma later, and then she followed Gabrielle out of the building!

            A small crowd was gathered outside of the smithery watching activity that made them quake in sheer horror, but all Clarissa could hear was a cacophony of clashing! At the point the masses thinned out, Gabrielle abruptly seized the salt pewter. “Give me that!” she asserted. Clarissa could not understand her motives for an action like that, a sentiment that only intensified as she poured some of the powder by their feet! She almost queried Gabrielle as to why she had done that, but then a sword flipped through the air and threatened to land in their position! It stunned Clarissa when the projectile unexpectedly veered in another direction! She pondered if the salt had generated that effect, but after Gabrielle shoved in back to her and commanded, “Go!”, she went under the assumption that it had and made a beeline for the blacksmith!

            Clarissa’s stomach tied itself into a knot when she gazed into the ironsmith’s workplace! The owner of that enterprise was lying on the floor with an anvil on his head and blood trickling out of his skull! Just outside of the perimeter of the property, a couple of individuals appeared to be pinned down by more anvils while others looked significantly injured from various tools that were hurled into the street! Some did not lose their locomotion, but the status of certain unmoving bodies was not so clear! She was appalled as she witnessed firsthand the local butcher tossing a sledgehammer at a small woman in the vicinity! His lofty height and heavy density had never given her any warrant for anxiety prior to this juncture, but with the peril he was posing, he gave quite the foreboding impression! When he picked up an axe and aimed it for a child, she impulsively yelled, “Hey!”

            Mister Bartlett turned to her instead, and Clarissa realized that her act of concern set herself up as his next target! She managed to pour out some salt early enough to avoid his weapon’s impact, but he quickly shifted his attention to new prey! Clarissa hurried towards him, but he caught on to her ploy and tried to strike her once more! After he missed her again, he let out a monstrous roar before racing to the fireplace! He reached into the flames with his bare hands and started slinging pieces of coal at people! Clarissa poured out a trail of salt and ran alongside of it for the sake of getting closer to him, but the more she inched towards him, the more brazen his onslaught became! She soon grew adjacent enough to deal him a serious blow, but unfortunately, he leapt out of range! He cowered in the corner of the shop, but he was snarling and growling at her like a beast! Clarissa recognized that she would never garner the ability to combat him if she stayed behind her powdered protection, so she stepped over it! Mister Bartlett barreled towards her, and she mimicked his move with her defense ready to spring out! They came within feet of each other, and…

            A loud thud blared out, and Mister Bartlett fell to the ground! Clarissa spotted his wife outside of an open window of the facility with another oxen shoe in her hand, and because Mister Bartlett had not gotten knocked out, he commenced in crawling to her like a spider! He propelled himself with swiftness, but Clarissa was a little faster! Not only did she put a briny boundary below the window, but she dashed with enough acceleration to encircle the besieged man! He blasted out terrible screeching noises as his frame convulsed with nightmarish jerking! Without warning, he emitted one last hideous howl and went into an inanimate state!

            “You slayed him!” Missus Bartlett bellowed.

            “You don’t know that!” Clarissa refuted. “He may still have a pulse…”

            When Clarissa stooped down to check on his status, Missus Bartlett blocked her from accessing him! “Keep your wicked touch off of my husband! This is all your fault! You see what your reckless spells have done? You get to be the troublemaker and the hero like this, don’t you? You’re not fooling us! Stay out of our lives forever!”

            Clarissa backed away, but additional irate participants surrounded her! They all shouted such voluminous vehement at her that she had become totally overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do! All of a sudden, she espied Gabrielle’s palm pop out from beneath a couple of bystanders’ arms, and when Clarissa clasped it, Gabrielle pulled her out of the throng! The villagers had more cross words to dole out to her, but the two women ignored them as they ran into the darkness!

            Escaping from the horde’s animosity did not allay their unrest! As Gabrielle and Clarissa fled, a gusty draft flew by and taunted them, “What have you gained from your resistance? You think you’re defending against a damned destiny, but your efforts have done nothing to diminish my prowess! You shall never find relief, and your land shall never know peace! I will get you snakes for your lawlessness! No one can throttle my barrage!” Clarissa and Gabrielle reached the porch of the inn, so they no longer withstood the chilling force, but prior to their entrance into this safeguard, Alastor belted out a final dig at them, “No one!”

            The two ladies slammed the door behind them and took a minute to catch their breath. After witnessing that level of atrocity, Clarissa had no clue what to tell herself, so it baffled her on how to break the ice with someone she was barely acquainted with! She felt compelled to converse with her guest though, especially after going through an ordeal like that, but the images from this evening kept flashing across her senses! At least one neighbor met his demise while many others received severe afflictions, and an ally in her profession whom she had known for years almost slaughtered her! Granted he had no authority of his acumen, the visualization of murder in his eyes would never cease to halt burning in her memory! And, once again, her intervention had prevented the serious circumstances from worsening, but everybody blamed her for the catastrophe nonetheless! So many emotions swirled within her that she found it too difficult to pick a sole subject to discuss until…

            “I suppose I need to find another butcher!” Clarissa half kidded. She astonished herself by jesting in this instance, but when she beheld the table where Kenneth gave her advice on coping with perpetual tragedy, she mulled over what message the deceased might convey to her, and the joke emerged from her without any further consideration! She lamented their loss, but she was also resolute in obtaining closure on this matter so none of their loved ones would endure the same suffering that they had!

            “That’s okay, you’ll have to wait to purchase meat anyways since you don’t have anymore salt to preserve them!” Gabrielle somewhat anxiously chuckled.

            Clarissa inquired, “How did you know the salt would work against evil spirits?”

            Gabrielle explained, “Wherever we lodged, my mother would sprinkle some underneath the entrances to ward off any harmful energies that tried to get inside. Honestly, I was skeptical about the principles of Hoodoo until tonight! Something deep in my intuition told me it was the right thing to do, so I followed my inner wisdom! It makes me wish I paid more attention to Mama when she taught me more of their remedies!”

            “Did you happen to catch any of their remedies on how to rid an area of a vengeful ghost?” Clarissa probed. She inwardly crossed her fingers that Gabrielle inherited some guidance that could settle this dilemma once and for all!

            “I’m afraid not!” Gabrielle dismally articulated. “My family got auctioned off when I was seven, and after they separated us, I never got an opportunity to communicate with them again! I always prayed that someday I could track them all down and we could reunite once more! Maybe I can do that now that I’m a free person! But, how free am I really with the Hessian plaguing this village?” The two women turned around and gazed at the billowing breeze humming as it flew by…

The Hessian, Chapter 7

The whispers of the wind wafted by her eardrums and drowned out her footsteps as she traversed through the street. Clarissa knew that Alastor was attempting to spook her so that she would turn back and go home, but she would do nothing of the sort! Originally, yes, she had intended on skipping the funeral because yesterday was so emotionally taxing and she didn’t esteem that she contained the fortitude to withstand their intense negativity, but she thought about what Kenneth would have advised her to do if he had been able to stay, and she reckoned that he would persuade her to ignore the contentious lot in order to do the right thing. Saying goodbye to a neighbor was an incredibly courteous act of service to do, but she recognized a more urgent reason to attend this ceremony- she felt quite sure that if the majority of the town was all congregated in one spot, trouble was sure to follow! She didn’t believe that this evil specter could step foot inside of a holy site, but she had no way to verify this hunch! Plus, she feared what may come once everyone left the church! Clarissa anticipated that his letters would question the activities regarding the protection of Colfrith, and she wouldn’t have been able to stand it if she had to write anything that would show she did not try her hardest to keep them all safe! Her initial hesitation caused her to be late, but she became resolute in not allowing anything to prevent her from acting with righteousness in pursuit of their critical mission!

            As she grew closer to the chapel, she saw no other activity in the town square but a few carpenters fixing some slate shingles on a cottage next to the parish. When she passed them, they glared at her in a reproachful manner. She grimaced from the assumption that this would was a portent of her experience in this venture, but she reminded herself that she made this visit for motives far more vital than making friends! Still, she did not relish having to go through this ugly process! It would all be worth it one day, but not that day- this morning was bound to prove rough! While she stared at the heavy wooden doors of her destination, she crossed her fingers that an uncomfortable social situation would t urn out to be the worst issue she dealt with indefinitely, but she had a feeling it would never fare that way for her! She took a deep breath, and as she entered the building, she hoped her prediction would emerge as unfounded…

            “Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today to-,” Pastor Absalom ceased his speech as he detected the congregates’ attention waiver. He heard the tardy entrant, but he thought nothing of it until the crowd had evidently deemed it as noteworthy, and when he espied that the source of the disruption had been Clarissa, he could comprehend why their focus had swayed!

            “I’m shocked that she had the nerve to attend this!” one person quietly opined to the individual beside them. With the silence of the room coupled with the acoustic nature of the sanctuary’s walls, that remark clearly resounded throughout the space!

            The masses began to murmur in agreement of the previously stated comment, and Clarissa’s neck craned low in discomfort. She had guessed that no one there was likely to enjoy her company, but now she fretted that her presence would incite a ruckus that would ultimately have her kicked out of there! Pastor Absalom gazed at her piteously, and then he cleared his throat. When nobody’s awareness shifted back to the altar that he stood upon, he repeated that gesture more audibly and then sternly reminded his flock, “Remember, all are welcomed in the Lord’s house! Everyone, please have a seat so we can proceed…” The attendees obviously didn’t think highly of his decree, but they unwillingly obeyed and swiveled back to a more forward position. Clarissa gratefully smiled at Pastor Absalom, and he gave her a quick grin before returning to his sermon.

            Clarissa proceeded toward the front where she had normally sat, but each pew that she went by had people shifting so that it appeared completely full. Not a single person made eye contact with her, but their faces hardened as she neared them. Clarissa sighed and decided to watch the commemoration while standing in the rearmost section of the structure. She felt odd to get placed amongst the servants, but she strove to ignore her awkward inklings and channel all of her care into watching out for signs of Alastor.

            “Hmm! You don’t look like you’ve burst into flames!” Gabrielle, a laborer she had previously seen working at the coffeehouse, softly spoke to Clarissa.

            “Huh?” Clarissa responded with slight confusion.

            Gabrielle clarified, “Everyone is saying that you’re a witch, but from my understanding, a wicked soul cannot set foot onto sacred grounds, so you must be alright! Would you like to sit?”

            Clarissa was completely taken aback by somebody actually showing her some kindness, she almost didn’t know how to react to it! When Gabrielle scooted over and created a space for her, she was so touched that she simply had to accept her offer in order to avoid hurting this generous woman’s feelings! As Pastor Absalom narrated the details of the deceased’s life, Clarissa grew curious about Gabrielle’s knowledge. If she had that bit of information regarding sorceresses, then she deduced that perhaps she had more lore on the occult that she could share! She hoped that after the gathering disbanded, she could press her for recommendations on how to defeat a vengeful ghost…

            “Roger worked hard to provide for his family, but he also put considerable effort into assisting his community.” Pastor Absalom glanced around the area and peered into specific men and women’s eyes to really emphasis his point. “Whenever he could, he would stop what he was doing to lend a hand! He truly exemplified the spirit of giving, and it meant a lot to him to play a part in his community’s well-being! If Roger could communicate anything to us right now, he would plead with his neighbors to follow his example and do all they can to make the village, the entire village, thrive…” Most of the assembly seemed reluctant to adhere to this message, but before he could move on, an earsplitting scream reverberated from outside!

            “Nigel, what did you do?” a woman cried out hysterically. Everyone in the church glimpsed towards the root of the unrest with alarm, but Clarissa was the first to get up and see what was going on. Her foresight had already prepared her for a contentious battle, but she prayed that this conflict would not develop into a deadly dilemma in this instance…

            “Good heavens! Is that man dead?” Elmira gasped as she stood with her father on the stairs of the chapel. As the parishioners exited the establishment, they immediately beheld a man laying facedown on the ground, but they soon learned that the blood trickling out of his skull was the least of their worries…

            A small boy crouched on the rooftop with completely dilated pupils and his lips seething profusely! His mother frightfully commanded him, “Nigel, get down from there!” Nigel stood up and stretched out his foot as though he planned on casually walking off, so his mother urgently requested, “No, not like that!” The child let out a devilishly delightful laugh as he crouched back down again!

            Clarissa emerged from the place of worship with a wooden goblet and raced towards the scene! As Nigel’s mother struggled to convince her son to get off of his dangerous perch, one of the two remaining carpenters mutedly queried to the other, “Do we really want him down here while he’s still… in this condition?”

            Prior to the other carpenter getting a chance to respond, Clarissa pushed past them and darted to their ladder. She clasped the cup using her teeth as she ascended the rungs, and as she heard the astonished buzz emanating from the spectators below, it occurred to her that she had put herself into a potentially perilous position- no one was holding the base of the rail, so the evil inside of Nigel could have propelled him to push her so she would meet her doom! She opted to cast that ominous possibility from her mind! This had to be done, there were no alternatives around it! She told herself that if he charged after her, it would actually work out to her advantage since it would give her a window to strike! When she reached the pinnacle, all she could do was refuse to entertain the notion of any outcome where she didn’t escape unscathed!

            The air grew eerily quiet as Clarissa made eye contact with the besieged boy. Clarissa held on to the ledge with one arm as she took the chalice out of her mouth and clutched it in a fashion that would permit her to move it at the proper moment, and Nigel gawked at the contents of that vessel warily. She waited for a few seconds to see if he would grow inquisitive and approach it on his own, but when he didn’t, she beckoned him, “That’s for you, Nigel! Come over and get it!” Nigel turned to her and bristled, but Clarissa still went on, “It’s a gift! You’ll love it!” Nigel started to gutterly growl at her, but she continued, “Don’t you want to see it?” His snarling intensified, but he didn’t budge an inch, so she discerned that mere baiting wouldn’t suffice! “If you don’t want to retrieve it, I’ll bring it to you!”

            For a brief beat, Clarissa got the impression that he would grant her access to his perimeter, but before she could do that, he lunged towards her! He rapidly crawled like a spider in her direction, and Clarissa readied herself to hurl the essence of the basin at the afflicted youth, but the Nigel abruptly veered off of the side! His mother as well as the rest of the witnesses present screamed as he crawled down the walls of the abode like an insect! Clarissa clung onto the roof fully expecting to lose her solid footing, and it stunned her when he headed straight into the throng instead!

            Everyone tried to flee, but Nigel managed to pounce on one man and knock him to the floor! The man hid his visage, which prompted Nigel to bite his arm! As he tore apart his clothing, Clarissa grabbed the goblet and descended the ladder with as much haste as she could generate! Pastor Absalom reached the pair preceding the finish of her endeavor, and he swiftly propped open his Bible. Nigel gnarled at him, but despite that, Pastor Absalom read out loud, “And forthwith, Jesus gave them leave! And the unclean spirits went out, and-!”

            Nigel shoved Pastor Absalom with enough exertion to make him smack against the cobblestone surface! Clarissa was horrified at this sight, but thankfully, he landed on his limbs and did not seem gravely injured! She then viewed Nigel chasing more bystanders. Her earliest instinct had been to tail him so she could catch him and subdue him enough to endure her impact, but his movements were too fast to pull that off! Fortunately, she dreamt up another idea…

            “Nigel, no!” the kid’s mother desperately pled with him, but he ignored her as he terrorized the multitudes! He stumbled into an elderly fellow on a cane, and sensing his feebleness, he made a beeline for his body! The old gentleman sought to scurry, but he could hardly maneuver with nimbleness! Nigel roared as he reared his dentition, but prior to him sinking his fangs into his flesh, Clarissa popped out and put the chalice in his trajectory! Nigel attempted to free himself, but it was too late! Clarissa forced him to swallow it, and after a bit of writhing, Nigel’s alter-ego let out one last hideous howl! After that, Nigel’s pupils returned to normal, and he passed out! “Nigel!” his mother screeched.

            “Mama!” Nigel wailed as she cradled him. She sobbed uncontrollably as she held him, and he croaked out, “Mama! I feel ill! What happened?”

            No one had the heart to explain it to him! Clarissa surveyed the square, and several individuals were aiding one another in arising after their tumble. A few people nursed the wounds and abrasions that they got during the fracas, and Doctor Cuthbart examined Pastor Absalom. “It looks as though you’ve sustained a humerus fracture.”

            Pastor Absalom winced as he asserted, “I’ll be fine! Please, check on my flock!”

            “You attacked a child! Have you no shame?” Elmira hollered to Clarissa.

            “Is there nothing I could say to convince you that I bear no guilt in this crime?” Clarissa challenged Elmira. Elmira simply persisted in her cold stance, and Clarissa was in no mood to argue, so she shook her head in disgust and marched out of the vicinity. As she aimed to return to the inn, she totally disregarded the snickering that the bitter breeze brought her as it passed…

The Hessian, Chapter 6

“Abigail, no!” a man cried out as this small, petite lady let out a deafening roar while her hands clasped around Clarissa’s throat! Kenneth immediately dismounted his horse to save Clarissa, but he no long had any need to rescue her… As soon as Abigail’s fingertips grazed Clarissa’s cross necklace, she fell backwards as if she had received a huge jolt of unbearable pain! The kindly individual that had uttered that urging stooped down to help her, and as he lifted her up, he counselled her, “I know she angers you, but this is not the way to-!”

            “Argh!” Abigail’s alter-ego hollered as she swiftly swiveled around and strangled him with so much force that everyone around them could hear his bones cracking! A nearby fellow attempted to wrest her hands off of him, but he couldn’t make her budge an inch! Another tall and muscular guy joined in this effort, but he couldn’t produce any results either! Within seconds, her victim fell to the floor! As soon as he left her grasp, she hurled the males attempting to wrest her across the square!

            More individuals tried to seize her, but she flung them away easily like they were mere flies! Clarissa marched up to her brandishing her crucifix, and when Abigail beheld it, she averted her eyes from it as fast as possible! Bystanders used her momentary distraction to pounce on her, but it took five robust men to keep her still! She continued to struggle as they held her back from further attacks, and everyone gazed to each other fretfully to wordlessly seek advice on what to do next…

            Right then, a gray-haired pastor burst out of his church and made a beeline for the chaotic scene carrying a simple wooden goblet, and Abigail put up even more of a fight upon his arrival! He firmly but gently commanded her, “Drink this, my child!”

            “No!” Abigail’s brutish voice resisted. The pastor strove to place the contents of the cup onto her tongue, but she sealed her lips tightly enough that nothing could penetrate them!

            “Here!” Kenneth used his palms to force her jaw open. Once the pastor poured in some fluid, Kenneth hastily shut her mouth.

            Abigail howled in searing agony, and when Kenneth was sure that she had swallowed the liquid, he let go of her chin. She belted out an acrimonious wail, and then she shrilly shouted, “It burns! It burns! What did you put in this?”

            The pastor assured her, “It’s only water! Nothing more!”

            “You’re lying!” Abigail yelled. She let out another sinister shriek, and when her captors felt the strength leave her body, they let her go. She collapsed onto the ground, and after a bit of writhing, she curled into a ball and ceased her movements! The crowd peered over her curiously, and then, quite abruptly, her lids widened! The onlookers jumped back in fright of her potential puissance, but in her own speech, Abigail queried, “What happened? How did I end up here?” No one knew how to tell her the truth until…

            “He’s dead!” a woman lamentably announced. Everybody whipped their focus over to her, and after taking a minute to sob over the strangled man, she pointed a finger to Abigail and proclaimed, “You killed him!”

            Abigail gazed at her bewilderment and denied that accusation, “No! I would never do that to Roger! He was an invaluable friend to-!”

            Roger’s wife wept, “He only wanted to assist you! Why would you do that?”

            “I wouldn’t!” Abigail insisted. “Last thing I remember, I was talking to Clarissa, and…” She trailed off as she turned to Clarissa, and then she probed, “What did you do to me?”

            “I didn’t do anything!” Clarissa adamantly refuted that charge.

            As some of the townsfolk aided her in standing up, Abigail jogged her memory, “One minute, you were saying something bad would occur if we didn’t listen to you, and the next thing I know, I’m lying on the street with no recollection of how I got there! Don’t tell me that took place naturally!”

            Clarissa argued, “You’re mischaracterizing my statement! I came down to warn you of danger and prevent a tragedy from transpiring!”

            “Abigail wasn’t herself during that ordeal!” a witness vocalized. “Something took over her being and controlled her actions! She didn’t take on that evil spirit willingly! Someone put it there!”

            “It wasn’t me!” Clarissa exclaimed. “It was Alastor!”

            Another person contended that remark, “Alastor is dead! How could he have done it?”

            Clarissa let them all know, “His physical presence perished, but his specter did not! He never really left Colfrith…!”

            “How is that even possible?” that same civilian challenged her.

            “I… I’m not sure…!” Clarissa admitted.

            An irate member of the mob decreed, “Let’s apprehend her and try her for murder!” The others agreed and advanced on at once…

            Kenneth stood in front of Clarissa and vexedly spoke up, “Are you daft? Abigail nearly choked her first! If she enacted a deadly spell, why would she use it against herself?”

            “She couldn’t touch her though! Something repelled her…” another observer noted, and the people around him murmured in suspicion.

            “You speak as though she had a mystical charm! That ghoul was repelled by a symbol of our Lord! Are you insinuating that this is an act of evil?” Kenneth spat as he gestured towards Clarissa’s jewelry.

            The spectators appeared to reluctantly accept this fact, but they also seemed steadfastly committed to condemning Clarissa. Prior to anyone else taking the opportunity to further castigate her, the pastor jumped in, “Listen, it is not up to us to judge one another! If any wrongdoing was committed, our Savior will have seen it and shall punish accordingly! Meanwhile, the source of wickedness has disappeared, and now we must focus on the departed…”

            Somebody objected, “But, Pastor Absalom!”

            Pastor Absalom staunchly advised them, “Our attention should not linger on trifles when a poor soul has lost his life! A husband and a father is gone, and we all watched something horrific befall upon our town, so let us all be good neighbors and support each other during a crisis!”

            No one seemed eager to heed his word, but instead of persisting in their bickering, most of the mass chose to disperse. Some people tended to Roger’s wife, but before Pastor Absalom could do the same, Clarissa gratefully told him, “Thank you!” He smiled, gave her a friendly pat on the back, and then went over to console the grieving widow. Clarissa turned to Kenneth, and neither of them had to say out loud that it wouldn’t be wise to continue their mission anymore that day. They mounted Bailey, and their hearts ached as they heard the piteous mourning behind them! Their empathy got lost though when the wind carried the faint sound of malevolent laughter!

            “We’re being invaded!” Cornelius Cole declared in aghast as he eyeballed a small group of Continental soldiers riding by him.

            “What are you talking about?” the youngest soldier in the bunch, who just happened to be closest to him, responded quizzically. “We’re fighting for your freedom, and-!”

            Cornelius snarled, “You’re nowhere near a battlefield!”

            Drusilla piped up, “I disagree, Father!”

            “Hush, Drusilla!” Cornelius ordered her before shifting his attention to the young soldier again. “You have no right to be here!”

            “Father, they’re probably just searching for Lieutenant Harvey!” Drusilla pointed out to Cornelius.

            Cornelius scolded her, “Don’t you help another one of them! It’s bad enough that the last scoundrel brought the downfall of my top logger! Who knows what the doom the rest of them will bring about!”

            With a discernable twinkle in her eye, Drusilla feigned acquiescence, “Alright, fine! I won’t tell him that Lieutenant Harvey is at The Leafy Taverne!” She gave the young soldier a covert wink, which made his emotions stir magnificently!

            “I’m taking you home before you cause any more trouble!” Cornelius took her by the wrist and yanked her away from the vicinity.

            “If you need anything, my name is Private Bernard Malin!” he called after them. Drusilla glimpsed back at him with a grin, which made Cornelius drag her away faster! That didn’t stop Bernard from staring at her movement as long as she was in his sight!

            One of his brethren parked himself next to Bernard so that he could wave his hands in front of his face. Bernard woke himself out of his torpor, “Huh?”

            His fellow soldiers all snickered in amusement, and the one closest to Bernard joshed him, “Private Malin, may I remind you that you’re still on duty…!”

            “How do you expect me to concentrate on a recovery operation right now? The most beautiful girl in the world just winked at me!” Bernard cooed.

            “Well, I have a gorgeous wife at home, and she’s done a lot more than merely wink at me! If I can summon concentration, then so can you!” The older soldier playfully hit his arm and then recommended, “Come on! The sooner that we find Lieutenant Harvey, the sooner we can finish this war and return to our lovely ladies!”

            Bernard reported to them, “Actually, I found out where he is!”

            Clarissa approached Kenneth with a bottle of wine and offered, “Care for a drink?”

            “Only if you’ll join me!” Kenneth courteously reacted. He observed her shakily pouring some port into a glass by his empty plate, and after she sat beside him, he expected to serve herself a bit too, but instead, she began guzzling straight from the bottle! “Careful not to overindulge! Alastor could strike again at any time, and you’ll need your wits about you!”

            “How do you do it?” Clarissa asked him. “You say that so calmly like what happened today was purely routine!”

            Kenneth took a swig of his beverage before answering her, “It comes with the territory of my position. There are no bloodless wars! It’s either kill or be killed out there! And, if one of our own perishes, we bury him quickly, say goodbye, and then carry on with our objectives once more! It’s terrible matter to deal with, but then we always consider what the fallen would want for us. If they could give us any sort of message, the presumption is always the same- they would beg us to stay safe and to persist in what’s important! Roger’s death was tragic, but if he could communicate with you right now, what do you imagine he would recommend for you?”

            Clarissa mulled it over for a minute, and then she came up with, “I suppose he would want to make sure that the force that caused so much distress and turmoil got thwarted so that no one else would have to go through this!”

            “There you go! It’s not as though this process is ever easy, but it is the frequent outcome of combat, so don’t let it break you!” Kenneth nestled her shoulder in a sympathetic gesture.

            “What would I do without you?” Clarissa squeezed the hand currently resting on the top of her limb and beamed at him appreciatively. His hold was so strong and comforting that she no longer felt the need to consume any alcohol for solace! For a moment, no worries existed in her mind- everything else seemed to vanish as he gazed at her in a manner that made all of her nerves tingle! Her heart suddenly beat wildly as he leaned in closer…

            The front door unexpectedly burst open, and the pair hastily stood up and braced themselves for the potential for peril! Their anxieties were quelled when a small band of Continental soldiers entered into the facility! Bernard rejoiced, “You see! I wasn’t wrong about the intelligence we gained!”

            Another soldier suggested to Bernard, “Don’t brag, Private Malin!” He transferred his regard to Kenneth and probed, “Lieutenant Harvey! Are you alright?”

            “I’m better than I was! I apologize for my absence! I got lost on my reconnaissance expedition, and then…” Kenneth hesitated, and Clarissa got the sense that he was struggling to describe the tribulations he underwent without his troops labelling him as deranged as others in his recent past had done. He finally went with, “I received an injury in the woods and rested in this inn.”

            “Are you well enough to return to Philadelphia?” the older soldier questioned him.

            Kenneth appeared reluctant to reveal his optimal condition, so Clarissa reassured the soldiers, “He needs to repose for a while, but I’m certain he could manage the journey without incident!” Kenneth stared at her in shock, and she reiterated her sentiment to him, “You’ll survive, I promise!”

            With a slight crackle of hurt in his tone, Kenneth inquired, “What about the… the dilemma in your midst?”

            “I’ll take care of it on my own! No, really, I will!” She replied confidently to him, but inwardly, it made her insides ache to know that she would have to let him go! “I’m positive I won’t have to deal with it alone for long!” She viewed the hurt he displayed with mounting misery, and it took all her might to ignore her self-interest that yearned to beg him to stay! She took a deep breath and then encouraged him, “You should head back with them! Your men need you! Your country is counting on you! You have to leave!”

            “But I’ll miss… I won’t forget your hospitality!” Kenneth gave her a hug, and they clung to each other as if they never wanted to release each other! Kenneth forcibly tore himself from her, and then he petitioned Clarissa, “Can I write to you, madam?”

            Clarissa gladly accepted this, “I’d like that, sir!” He lingered for a flash, and then he stormed out as if he had to do it instantly or else he would lose the will for departure! His fellow soldiers waved goodbye to her, and Clarissa stepped onto her stoop to watch them take off. Kenneth glanced back to her, and Clarissa felt a tear roll down her cheek as his figure disappeared into the night! She leaned against the shoulder he had touched, and as she stood on her porch, she heard the howling wind resume. As the faint noise of Alastor’s chuckle was detected, Clarissa realized that being by herself would prove difficult for many reasons…

The Obsessive, Part 14

BEGIN SHOWDOWN MONTAGE.

Play Europe’s “The Final Countdown.”

SCHOOL GYM

The crowd arrives at the gym.

BUS

Kora looks dismal on the bus.

SCHOOL GYM

Once the beat begins, show crowd get fired up.

BUS STOP

Kora gets off the bus near a forest.

SCHOOL GYM

The cheerleaders get ready to introduce the team. Julian and Andrew wait for Kora to arrive.

FOREST 1

After fifty five seconds, the beat changes. At this point, Kora enters the forest.

SCHOOL GYM

The football players and coach run into the room. No sign of Kora.

FOREST 2

Kora walks cautiously through the woods.

EUROPE (O.S.):
(singing)
We’re leaving together, but
it’s still farewell.

SCHOOL GYM

The pep rally begins. Julian and Andrew cannot find Kora.

EUROPE (O.S.):
(singing)
And maybe we’ll come back
to earth, who can tell?
I guess there’s no one to blame.

FOREST 3

Kora keeps walking.

EUROPE (O.S.):
(singing)
We’re leaving ground,
will things ever be the same again?
It’s the final countdown!

SCHOOL GYM

As the pep rally continues, Julian and Andrew grow more and more anxious.

EUROPE (O.S.):
(singing)
We’re heading for Venus and
still we stand tall,
’cause maybe they’ve seen us
and welcome us all.

FOREST 4

Kora keeps walking.

EUROPE (O.S.):
(singing)
With so many light years to go
and things to be found,
I’m sure that we’ll all miss her so.
It’s the final countdown.

SCHOOL GYM

During instrumental solo, Andrew and Julian give up.

JULIAN:
She’s not coming. Where could
she be?

ANDREW:
Let’s go find her.

JULIAN:
Where?

ANDREW:
I know where she is.

JULIAN:
How?

ANDREW:
Trust me.

FOREST 5

Kora is still moving.

ANDREW’S CAR

Andrew races down the highway with Julian to get her.

FOREST 6

Kora is still moving, but she starts to hesitate.

EUROPE (O.S.):
(singing)
It’s the final countdown.

BUS STOP

Andrew parks by the bus stop. Julian and Andrew race towards the forest.

EUROPE (O.S.):
(singing)
It’s the final countdown.

RIVER BANK

Kora runs out of breath.

EUROPE (O.S.):
(singing)
We’re leaving together…

FOREST 7

Andrew follows subtle clues, and Julian follows Andrew.

EUROPE (O.S.):
(singing)
The final countdown.

RIVER BANK

Kora rests on a tree trunk but looks worried.

EUROPE (O.S.):
(singing)
We’ll all miss her so.

FOREST 8

Andrew and Julian keep moving. Andrew seems to know where they are going, and Julian looks uncertain/scared.

EUROPE (O.S.):
(singing)
It’s the final countdown.

RIVER BANK
Kora looks ready to embrace something.

EUROPE (O.S.):
(singing)
It’s the final countdown.

When the music comes to an end, Velos appears.

END MONTAGE.

EXT. RIVER BANK. DAY.

Velos looks at Kora, who stands up and faces him.

VELOS:
My beautiful bride, what are you
doing here in the middle of nowhere
all by yourself?

KORA:
There’s only one way for my family
to safe.

She holds out her hand. Velos looks greedily victorious. He takes her hand. They are about to disappear.

ANDREW:
No! You can’t have her!

Kora looks horrified when she sees Andrew racing to them closely followed by Julian.

KORA:
If I don’t go, he’ll keep harming
my family in this lifetime and next.
I’m ending the cycle today!

JULIAN:
So, you’re gonna stand by his
side while he and his men destroy
the world?

VELOS:
That’s right! She will live, and
you won’t. You lost, so let her
go! She made her choice-she belongs
to me!

ANDREW:
No-she belongs to me!

VELOS:
What?

KORA:
What?

ANDREW:
I know her. That’s how I knew the places
she would go. I knew she would try to
sacrifice her own happiness to protect
her family. I know how she’s feeling, and
why, without her telling me, she does the
things she does. I’ve known this in every
lifetime, haven’t I? It’s why you disappear
when I’m around. You’ve seen both of our
souls and they match, don’t they? We both
claim she belongs to us, but unlike you, I
don’t view her as a prized possession. I
belong to her as much as she belongs to me.
Why do you think I’m risking everything to
save her? I wish I realized this several
lifetimes ago! She’s my soulmate!

Kora is surprised, but deep down she know it is true. Velos holds her close.

VELOS:
She’s mine! She promised herself
to me!

KORA:
No, I didn’t. I just held out
my hand.

VELOS:
Be that as it may, your souls only
belong together if you marry your
soulmate. Too bad you don’t have
time to go down to the city and do that!

ANDREW:
We don’t need time! We can do it here!
He can marry us!

Andrew points to Julian. Kora and Velos look to Julian.

ANDREW:
He owns a boat, and a ship captain
has the power to marry people!

JULIAN:
That’s true! Legally, I can marry
people.

Kora shoves off Velos’s hands and holds Andrew’s hands. CLOSE UP Andrew and Kora clasp hands. CUT BACK.

JULIAN:
Um, Andrew, do you take this woman
to be your wife in this lifetime and
each one that follows?

ANDREW:
I do!

VELOS:
No!

JULIAN:
Kora, do you take this man to be
your husband in this lifetime and
each one that follows?

VELOS:
Kora, no! I love you!

Kora glares at Velos and faces Julian.

KORA:
I do.

VELOS:
No! She’s mine!

JULIAN:
I now pronounce you husband and
wife. You may kiss the bride.

Andrew and Kora kiss. Velos bitterly shrieks. When they break apart, they see Velos is bitterly crying.

VELOS:
Fine! I would’ve treated you like a
queen, but enjoy the suffering that
Earth may bring! Don’t think you’ve
seen the last of me! My men and I will
take over the world, and I’ll have no
problem destroying you!

Velos leaves. Andrew, Kora, and Julian cheer and hug each other. Kora cries out of relief and happiness. Andrew strokes her hair.

ANDREW:
It’s over, Kora!

KORA:
I can’t believe it!

JULIAN:
I can’t believe he cried! I almost feel
bad for him.
(laughs)
He did love her, in a sick, obsessive
way. But that’s not real love. True
love is comfort and trust, it lets
you make your own decisions ’cause you
know each other so well that you know
that they’ll do the right thing. Or
if your love wants to do the wrong thing,
the other will balance out that wrong and
make it right. You guys seem to have that!

ANDREW:
Yeah, this is awkward. Our souls know
each other, but we know very little
about one another.

KORA:
Yeah, awkward! Well, we’ll have plenty
of time to get to know each other now
that we’re married…

JULIAN:
Spiritually, you’re married. Legally,
you’re not. You would need to sign a
marriage license.

KORA:
Let’s hold off on that for a while!

ANDREW:
Yes! This is sort of backwards. We
got married and now we’ll begin
dating. I mean, only if you want to.

KORA:
You’re my hero, why wouldn’t I wanna
date you?

The three laugh.

JULIAN:
Oh my god, let’s get out of here!

KORA:
Seriously!

Kora walks between Julian and Andrew, though she is still holding Andrew’s hand.

EXT. BUS STOP. SUNSET.

Police have gathered by Andrew’s car. Harold and Merna are a mess from worry. Dylan looks anxious and eyeballs the forest expectantly. He spots Andrew, Kora, and Julian emerging from the woods.

DYLAN:
Look! There they are!

Everyone gathered has cheered. Harold and Merna run up to Kora and hug her tightly.

HAROLD:
We thought we lost you!

KORA:
You almost did! These two
saved me!

Harold and Merna hug Julian and Andrew.

MERNA:
So, all the craziness is over?

KORA:
Basically.

POLICEMAN:
Did you get the man who was
attacking her?

ANDREW:
He’s history!

DYLAN:
So, what now? Should we just go
to the Homecoming game?

KORA:
Sounds great!

ANDREW:
Before you go, are you still
looking for a job?

KORA:
Oh right, I guess I’m back to
that old search again!

ANDREW:
You’re tough as nails, plus you’re
so smart and clever. I think you’d
make an excellent detective. I mean,
you would have to start off as a
police officer, but we need more
women on the force. I think we need
to start a domestic violence unit.
So, what do you think?

Kora looks skeptically. Andrew interrupts her before she can object.

ANDREW:
We would offer you equal pay, if
that makes a difference.

Harold and Merna laugh. Kora smiles gratefully at him.

KORA:
I think that feels like that
right place for me.
(beat)
You’re amazing, you know that?

Andrew smiles. Kora and Andrew kiss. The family looks on fondly.

EXT. CARIBBEAN BEACH. NIGHT.

SUPERIMPOSE: Bahamas 2152

FUTURE KORA and FUTURE ANDREW (elderly) dance on the beach with a bunch of people. There is a banner that reads: Happy Fiftieth Anniversary. The song “Caribbean Queen” by Bill Ocean plays.

FUTURE KORA:
I’ve always liked nineteen-
eighties music. I don’t know
why!

Future Andrew laughs. They keep dancing. PAN TO ASHANTI (young, African-American, lots of curly hair, nice body) dances happily. The view of the scene changes to Velos’s screen, and he sees Ashanti’s golden orb. ZOOM IN on Ashanti’s orb over her heart. Velos breathes heavily.

FADE TO CREDITS.

The Obsessive, Part 13

INT. JULIAN’S LIVING ROOM. NIGHT.

Kora watches television despondently. Julian comes downstairs.

JULIAN:
So, I see you’ve put trash
bags over all the mirrors in
my house…

KORA:
Well, I’m not gonna make it
easier for him!

JULIAN:
Fair enough, but just so you
know, I’m gonna have to use
the mirrors on my car in the
morning.

KORA:
Oh, right.
(beat)
Have you thought of any solutions?

JULIAN:
Like I’d keep that from you if I
did!
(beat)
Wait, he wants to marry you. So,
what if you just got married?

Velos appears behind them.

VELOS:
Nice try! When you lived in
Ancient Greece, you were married.
You were a princess because you
married Emperor Keres’s son. You
did not love him, but you were
comfortable.

KORA:
Keres? Isn’t that the name of
the guy you killed?

VELOS:
One of them, yes. He was an
important tool in the Order.
I was sad to see him go. But,
like I said before, I’ll kill
anyone who stands in the way
of our love!

JULIAN:
If you want her, you’ll have to
go through me!

VELOS:
(chuckles)
Oh, you want to join your ex-
boyfriend? I can help you drown
like he did!

JULIAN:
You son of a bitch!

Julian rushes to him. Velos uses magic to us Julian’s lamp to knock him out.

KORA:
Stay away from him, Velos!

VELOS:
Kora! Come with me! Now!

Kora pulls out a knife.

KORA:
Never!

VELOS:
Okay, I’ll can go next door
and kill your family!

KORA:
You wouldn’t dare!

VELOS:
You don’t think so?

Kora rushes to him, brandishing the knife. Velos grabs the arm she is using to brandish the knife and pushes her down. He goes after her, but she manages to grab the knife again and stabs him in the eye. He looks like he is in pain. Kora watches as his eye quickly heals/reforms. Kora tries to run, but he grabs Kora with both arms.

VELOS:
It’s time!

Suddenly, Velos is flung away from Kora. Julian has gotten up. Velos brandishes his dagger, but Julian holds him back. Kora is frantic, not knowing what to do. All of a sudden, Velos disappears. Andrew is in the living room with his gun drawn.

ANDREW:
Where’d he go?

KORA:
He disappeared.

JULIAN:
Why did he disappear for you?

ANDREW:
You’re injured.

JULIAN:
I’m alright.

ANDREW:
(to his radio)
We have some head trauma, we’ll
need an ambulance sent to this
location.

DISPATCH (O.S.):
Copy that.

ANDREW:
(to Kora)
Are you alright?

KORA:
I’m alright.

ANDREW:
No, you’re not. But you will
be. We just gotta figure out
how to send this guy to the
dimension of hell he belongs
in! Yes, I know.

KORA:
You don’t think I’m crazy?

ANDREW:
Seeing is believing. I watched
him use magic to kill that
waiter. As soon as he knew I
was there, he disappeared. I
told you I’d figure it out. Like
it or not, I’m involved now.

Andrew had a slight grin. Kora looked away, slightly annoyed. Andrew put his hand on her back. She looked back at him more softly.

KORA:
Damn it, Julian! I hate it
when you’re right!

Julian smirked. Before Andrew could ask what they were referring to, the paramedics enter. They escort Julian to the ambulance. Andrew and Kora follow them.

EXT. JULIAN’S HOUSE. NIGHT.

Julian gets put into the ambulance. From Kora’s house, Merna, Harold, and Dylan come rushing out.

MERNA:
Kora? Oh, thank God!

Merna gives Kora a hug in relief.

ANDREW:
Go with your family, get some
rest. I’ll see you when Julian
gets released from the hospital.

KORA:
Thank you!

Andrew smiles at her and then heads into the ambulance.

HAROLD:
We’re glad you’re alright!

KORA:
I’m glad you’re alright!

MERNA:
Why wouldn’t we be?

DYLAN:
It’s cold out here-let’s go
inside!

HAROLD:
Yes, we’ll go get some rest.
You won’t be alone, Kora. Your
mom doesn’t have a flight
leaving ’til the afternoon, and
I’m taking the afternoon off to
see your brother at the Homecoming
pep rally. And you can have your
brother in the room as you sleep.
You’ll be okay, Kora.

KORA:
I hope so! He’ll never leave me
alone, but he better leave you alone!
(shouts to the air)
Leave them alone! You hear me? Don’t
you dare touch another loved one!

Everyone else had left, so the family is confused as to who she is talking to. They shrug and escort her inside.

INT. KORA’S ROOM. NIGHT.

Kora sleeps in her bed while Dylan sleeps on the floor in a sleeping bag. Velos strokes her hair. Kora wakes up and looks around everywhere. Velos is not there. Kora groans and tries to go back to sleep.

INT. KORA’S ROOM. DAY.

Kora wakes up groggily. She checks around the room. She decides to act quickly. She undresses as fast as she can. When she is in only her bra and underwear, Velos tackles her. He holds a hand over her mouth to muffle her. He looks at her with great interest. As he bows his head to kiss her, a knock is hear on her door.

DYLAN (O.S.):
Kora?

VELOS:
(whispers)
I’ll take care of him!

Unable to move, all Kora can do is shake her head and plead with his eyes. He is about to use magic against Dylan when the DOORBELL RINGS. Velos looks a little frightened.

VELOS:
Damn it!

Velos disappears. Dylan bursts into the room protectively.

DYLAN:
I used a paperclip to jimmy-open
your lock. I heard a man in here!
Where did he go?

KORA:
He disappeared.

DYLAN:
The man who’s attacking you really
is a demi-god, isn’t he? I don’t
think you’re crazy. I mean, why
would you be afraid of your cat
for now reason? And a man was in
here and then he wasn’t! Anyways,
I believe you.

KORA:
Thanks Dylan.

Merna walks in.

MERNA:
What’s going on?

DYLAN:
Kora fell down. I was just
seeing if she was okay.

Merna does not quite believe him but decides to not press the issue.

MERNA:
Okay. Well, there are people waiting
for you downstairs.

Merna and Dylan leave the room. Kora gets dressed.

INT. KORA’S LIVING ROOM. DAY.

Kora sits in the living room with Julian and Andrew.

JULIAN:
I can’t believe how much glass was
stuck in my head! They were all in
little chunks too, so it took forever
to get out! The doctor ordered me to
go on bed rest. I could totally work
today if they’d let me!

ANDREW:
You got a serious hit to the head.
I think it’s a good idea to monitor
your behavior to make sure you didn’t
get brain damage. Besides, it’s only
one day, and then it’s the weekend.

Merna and Dylan enter.

MERNA:
Niners are playing this weekend.

KORA:
Hmm?

MERNA:
You love watching the forty-
niners play!

DYLAN:
Mom, she’s a little stressed
out right now.

Merna looks deeply concerned.

MERNA:
You’ve given up everything you
loved-baths, music, dressing
cute, and now the Niners…
Are you gonna be okay?

KORA:
Probably not.

ANDREW:
She’s going to be fine. We’ll
stay with her. Go ahead and take
your son to school, Mrs. Nicodemus.

Merna still looks concerned but she and Dylan leave.

KORA:
Velos almost got Dylan.

ANDREW:
When?

KORA:
This morning. I was getting dressed
and he pinned me down. Dylan knows
about him. My family isn’t safe with
him around!

JULIAN:
We need to end this! When I was in
the E.R., I had a lot of time to think.
We don’t have a solution, but I think
there’s strength in numbers. The more
people we have on our team, the better
the odds are of someone finding a
solution. If seeing is believing, we
just need to show people who Velos
is and what he’s capable of.

KORA:
How are we supposed to do that?

ANDREW:
Your brother has a pep rally
today, right?

KORA:
Yes, but how would we get Velos
to surface with that many
witnesses?

ANDREW:
Dress up really cute and go to
the coach. Give him a kiss, and
hang on his arm the whole time.
It’ll drive Velos crazy, and
eventually he won’t be able to
stand it and probably try to attack
someone. I mean, that’s how I
would react if the girl I loved
did that! It’s instinct that takes
over, not logic! He’s bound to
take the bait!

KORA:
That will probably work, but what
if he kills the coach or some high
school kids?

JULIAN:
Once he calms down, he’ll get
overwhelmed by the people that
saw what he did, so he’ll disappear.
then we will step up and recruit
people for help.

Kora looks skeptical.

JULIAN:
Come on, you have to try! I
mean, how much longer do you
wanna live like this?

KORA:
I can’t let him hurt my family.
Something must be done.

JULIAN:
Exactly!

Andrew eyes Kora suspiciously. Merna returns.

ANDREW:
I gotta go.

JULIAN:
Me too. I really need a nap-
I got no sleep last night, if
you can imagine that!

ANDREW:
We’ll see you at the pep rally…
right Kora?

KORA:
Yes….
(beat)
It’s time for a final showdown!

The Obsessive, Part 12

INT. KORA’S KITCHEN. DAY.

Kora’s family is just finishing with breakfast when Kora walks in.

HAROLD:
We saved you some pancakes.

KORA:
Thanks.

MERNA:
We got a phone call. Someone
you know died.

KORA:
Of course they did.

Harold and Merna both look surprised that she is not surprised.

MERNA:
It was your friend from Seattle.
He lost his battle with AIDS.

KORA:
Oh! Oh no, that’s awful.

HAROLD:
There is something wrong with
you! Tell us now!

KORA:
You won’t believe me!

MERNA:
Try us anyways.

KORA:
Okay, well, I have a demigod
trying to take me as his bride
and kills anyone who stands in
his way.

Merna and Harold exchange looks of concern.

INT. PYSCHOLOGIST’S OFFICE. DAY.

Kora begrudgingly sits before a psychologist.

PSYCHOLOGIST:
Tell me, Kora, who is our
current president?

KORA:
Ronald Reagan.

PSYCHOLOGIST:
Good. Do you know where we are?

KORA:
A shrink’s office.

PSYCHOLOGIST:
Do you hear voices that no
one else does?

KORA:
No.

PSYCHOLOGIST:
Do you have any hallucinations?

KORA:
No.

PSYCHOLOGIST:
Are you feeling paranoid?

KORA:
No.

PSYCHOLOGIST:
How do you feel most days?

KORA:
Fine as long as I’m not being
attacked.

PSYCHOLOGIST:
Who’s attacking you?

KORA:
Some creep.

PSYCHOLOGIST:
A Greek demi-god?

KORA:
At least he thinks he is.

The psychologist writes some things down.

PSYCHOLOGIST:
Okay. Excuse me.

He leaves.

INT. PSYCHOLOGIST’S WAITING ROOM. DAY.

Harold and Merna sit anxiously. When the psychologist enters, they stand up anxiously.

PSYCHOLOGIST:
She seems normal, though whoever
is attacking her is not!

HAROLD:
Normal? But there’s obviously
something wrong with her! In
the past few days, she has
completely changed her personality.

The psychologist shrugs. A CRASH is heard from inside the psychologist’s office.

MERNA:
Maybe her mind is fine,
but her soul is not…

INT. CHURCH. DAY.

Kora sits defiantly as a pastor performs an exorcism.

PASTOR:
Satan, be gone!

Beat. The pastor grabs a vial of holy water.

PASTOR:
The power of Christ compels
you!

He throws the holy water on Kora. Kora finds it annoying but otherwise does not react.

PASTOR:
I don’t believe she is
possessed.

MERNA:
Are you sure?

Behind them is some stained glass, and only Kora can see Velos in the window laughing.

KORA:
Can we go now?

Merna and Harold reluctantly agree.

EXT. BAY VIEW RESTAURANT. DAY.

Julian waits at a table at a restaurant by the bay. Kora arrives, looking annoyed.

JULIAN:
Finally! You know I only have
like ten minutes ’til I gotta
get back to work.

KORA:
Sorry, my parents were trying
to heal my mind and soul.

JULIAN:
What’s that on your neck?

KORA:
That would be holy water. My
parents missed a shift at work
for this crap.

Julian looks slightly amused.

JULIAN:
Well, I have something that will
make you happy.

He opens up the library book back to page nineteen.

KORA:
Oh my gosh! I forgot!
(reading)
Deep in the Underworld rests the
Headquarters for the Order of the
Snake, a group that has existed
since the dawn of time. Named after
the snake that tempted Eve, the
Order’s soul purpose is to use magic
and manipulation to induce humans to
bring about the end of the world, when
they will be free to roam the Earth.

JULIAN:
From the sounds of it, I think
this guy is your stalker.

Julian points to the book.

KORA:
Velos!

The waiter comes over to them.

WAITER:
Hello, beautiful! Can I get
you anything?

KORA:
No, I’m fine.

WAITER:
Yes you are!

KORA:
Oh god, don’t hit on me!
Seriously, you have no idea!

WAITER:
Sorry, you’re just so pretty…

JULIAN:
Here’s the money for my meal.
Keep the change and get the
hell out of here.

The waiter raises an eyebrow but leaves. Kora stares at the bay. INTERCUT to the bay and CUT BACK to Kora.

JULIAN:
That poor bastard!

Andrew enters.

ANDREW:
Don’t worry, I’ll keep an eye
on him.

KORA:
Oh good, then you’ll have to
leave me alone.

ANDREW:
But you’re never alone, are you?

KORA:
Shut up!

JULIAN:
Kora, since your family still thinks
you’re unbalanced and you don’t wanna
sleep alone, why don’t you stay at my
place ’til this thing is over?

KORA:
Good idea! Thanks, Skipper!

ANDREW:
Skipper? Like Barbie’s friend?

KORA:
No. He owns a small yacht, so he’s
nicknamed Skipper.

JULIAN:
How do you know about Barbie
stuff?

ANDREW:
I had to buy a Skipper doll for
my niece’s birthday once. It was
super embarrassing!

Julian snickers. The waiter comes out and heads to his car.

ANDREW:
Looks like our potential victim is
on the move. I gotta go-unless you
wanna tell me-

KORA:
No!

ANDREW:
Then goodbye-for now!

Andrew goes to his car and follows the waiter.

JULIAN:
Very nice! Does he have a gay
older brother?

KORA:
What?

JULIAN:
Don’t be coy! I can cut the
sexual tension with a knife!

KORA:
Sexual tension? With him? You’re
crazy! He makes me so mad!

JULIAN:
Uh-huh.

KORA:
First he accused me of murder,
and now he won’t leave me alone!
I can’t tell him what is happening!
You saw how my parents reacted when
I told them.

JULIAN:
Alright, alright.

Kora looks out at the bay sadly. INTERCUT to the bay and CUT BACK to Kora.

KORA:
The ocean used to give me hope.
Now I don’t feel like I have any!

JULIAN:
Don’t say that! We’re a step
closer now.

KORA:
So, we know his name now. And that
super creepy group he’s a part of.
What does that do to help me?

JULIAN:
This guy is in love with your
soul. How do we stop this creep
from following you in this life
and next?

KORA:
I can’t die-he lives in the land
of the dead. So, what do I do?

Julian hands her a ten.

JULIAN:
Go buy some tequila and margarita
mix. I’ll make tacos and we’ll have
a fiesta for dinner!

Kora gives him a small smile.

JULIAN:
I’m late for work. I’ll see
you later.

Kora watches him go to his car and leave. Beat. A few police officers race down the street. Kora drops her head to the table in anguish.