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   Chapter 13 Councilor

Councilor: Book Six of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 44127

Updated: 2018-02-26 16:41


Chapter 13

After breakfast, Thompson walked Elena home, leaving her at the door with a toe curling kiss before heading off to do whatever it was he planned. For her part, Elena went inside, made a long list of things that she needed to pick up to make life a little more civilized on Haven and then started on a grocery list for the two weeks they would remain in town.

"Can't stock up too much as we don't want to leave anything to spoil, " she told herself, erring on the lean side of things. In her mind it would be better to leave the cupboard bare than let her fridge carry on its own sort of science experiment in her absence. When Jennifer returned, the two of them set out on what she was certain was only the first of many such shopping forays. Once they arrived in the parking lot of the store, Elena parked and waited until they were far enough from the car to avoid being overheard by any bugs that might have been placed inside.

"There is a good chance we may not be returning for a really long time, " she cautioned her apprentice in a low voice as they crossed the wide expanse of asphalt surrounding the big box store.

"I had the feeling, " Jennifer said. "Meghan and I spotted a couple of people just sort of lurking around since we came back." Elena nodded, thinking Thompson might have been right. Those watching her wanted her to know that she was being watched. She had the feeling that if they didn't, she wouldn't be able to spot a single one of them.

Jennifer's eyes went wide at the scale of the store, but she seemed to settle as Elena seemed confident. It was a far cry from both the DF's market and the local stores near her apartment. As she and Jennifer picked out a cart and prepared to load it down, Elena wondered what their strategy could be. Would they increase the watchers making her feel paranoid and cornered with Tina swooping in to make them all go away if Elena agreed to cooperate with her? Was the group Tina worked for trying to make a point of some sort?

Thinking about it made her head ache and she realized that like the possible recording of her night with Thompson, there was little she could do about it. She would just have to wait and see what happened when they decided to stop watching and made their move.

"I'm just glad it's only audio bugs and not video, " she muttered to herself as she picked up a stack of washcloths to add to the cart.

"What?" Jennifer asked, her eyes still scanning the store as though trying to take everything in at once.

"I think they have portable DVD players on sale if you want to pick on up for video, " Elena told her. "Now that we have the recharging station up and running. You could pick up some movies to take with you." Elena shifted her thoughts back into shopping mode.

By the time they returned to the apartment, Elena felt almost as though she and Jennifer sacked a small city. "Or at least planning to outfit the bed and baths of one, " she thought. She smiled at the image of rampaging Visigoths showing up with fluffy towels and scented candles. She made a mental note to have Victor add their stash to the cargo already being shipped out.

"Probably ought to go ahead and make a list of things to get done, " she muttered. Leaving Jennifer to organize her section of newly acquired booty for transport, Elena retreated to the bedroom with a notebook and a pen. She turned on the bedroom television and flipped through the channels until she found an old black and white movie. The movie already started so she didn't catch the title, but it featured a dancing and flirty Fred Astaire. She let it play in the background as she organized her thoughts. If she was going to leave in two weeks for an indeterminate length of time, there were a host of things she needed to get done.

"Why anyone ever wants to be in charge of anything is beyond me, " she muttered as her list seemed to grow exponentially by the minute. The list she began in the hotel room a few nights ago had started to morph into a mass undertaking.

By the time she went to bed, Elena felt as though the lists were scrolling across her closed eyelids. Jennifer had long since gone to sleep and the apartment was quiet. As it was Sunday night, even the street traffic was subdued as though everyone ended their weekend fun and was preparing for a grueling work week. As Elena began to count sheep, she wondered if the dreams of the carnivorous sheep would return.

"I'll have to pay attention to the trade agreement if I'm going to figure out why I wanted the sheep in the first place." She told herself as she began to drift off. Instead of returning to the fields of blue-gray, sharp toothed sheep, Elena's dreams once again took her to the deck of the Storm Chaser.

Again, she took her ship through the Marta channel. As the weather was fine and the channel deep, the passage was smooth. After she sent Thompson to make certain his father didn't fall overboard, Elena looked around at the people on deck. This time many of the faces were clearer. In addition to Thompson's father, Elena spotted Lisa and her husband Bob as they strolled around deck. Lisa, despite the fact that she had only been out on one trip, was trying to look as though she were accustomed to such travel, while Bob openly marveled. Stephen was also on deck and looked as though he was rapidly shifting between scientific curiosity and open wonderment.

Elena looked over and saw the statue of Bast in the corner of the pilothouse. She turned as Jennifer opened the door to the Pilot house.

"Apparently Spin likes Will's father as much as she likes Will, Captain." Jennifer said as she shut the door behind her.

"So it would seem, " Elena replied spotting the cat following the two men around the deck. "But as he also likes sharing his catch of the day, it isn't terribly surprising."

"It's a good thing to have the ship's cat like you, " Jennifer said. Elena nodded. She heard stories of Captains refusing passage to anyone the ship's cat didn't like as it was a commonly held belief that a channel riding cat had a sense about people. "It's also good the others shipping out from Mother Nelson's House are going on other ships. The Storm Chaser's hold is full. I checked the cargo though, everything is secure."

"Good, " Elena told her apprentice. "Luckily, it is still early in the season. I have the feeling every channel rider shipping out is going to be heavily loaded for a while." Elena felt the dream start to fade away around her and realized she was waking up.

As she blinked awake, Elena frowned at the ceiling. The dream on the ship took place much earlier in the season than on the previous mental run through. The channel was much deeper and the sky and air in the Atlantic felt less autumnal, the waves not nearly as choppy as they would be later in the season.

"It's like the dream shifted to my next trip out rather than at the end of the season." As she stretched and prepared to rise, Elena wondered why the shift occurred and if it meant that once she shipped out, she would not return this season or if was due to her conversation with Thompson.

"Maybe since he asked be to take them on my next run the sheep come later in my timeline, " she mused as she began to get ready for the day. "And the conversation was different."

The fact that she was attempting to find logic and sequential order in possibly prophetic dreams threatened to make her head spin, so she pushed it aside in order to face the firmer reality of her day. Taking her lists with her, Elena headed into the office. Victor was just putting on a pot of coffee when she arrived. Lisa and Stephen had yet to make an appearance, as it was still early she wasn't worried.

"You're here early, " Elena commented as she entered the office. Victor smiled.

"I had the feeling with the meeting over the weekend there would be a host of things that needed doing. I also figured you would not be in a terribly good mood, so coffee at the ready sounded like a good idea." He looked over at her. "Although I have to say you don't look as grumpy as I would have expected after a weekend dealing with Council business."

"Half a weekend actually, " She told him. As the coffee brewed, she filled him in on recent events.

"You live such an exciting life, " he told her shaking his head. "But at least Thompson is back and released from servitude so that will help. I'll take a look at your cousin's new friends and find out what is known about them Guild-wise so you can have a file to take with you when you ship out at least." He walked over to his desk and unlocked the bottom drawer. He took out a box and handed it to her. "Those would be the last round of security disks, I'll make a note that they aren't to be erased from now on. You should be able to watch them on your laptop."

Victor picked up a pen and jotted a few notes. Elena could see the bullet points he was jotting down and knew that as she got started with the records and surveillance footage, he would put out word of the soon to be skyside relocation to her house, as well as tell James that the time for his people to make their decisions about leaving was running short. She left him to it and settled herself at her desk with her laptop, the sales records and the surveillance disks.

She was halfway through the first disk and already marked down three separate occasions in which the man Thompson named Paul was filmed making cash purchases at both of her stores when the phone rang.

"Elena, " Roger, the manager of Nibbles began. "There are some men here who claim they are to remove Andre's belongings."

Elena swore to herself. "I'm sorry I didn't think to call, " she told him. "I didn't think they would arrive so quickly. Andre gave his notice on Friday and said he was sending people for his stuff because he couldn't get back. I'll be over in a minute." Roger seemed relieved by both her explanation and her impending supervision and she realized he didn't know what was considered store property and what Andre brought with him. Elena shut down her laptop and locked everything in her desk drawer. She let Victor know what was going on and quickly headed out of the front door and down the street.

Elena was out of breath by the time she arrived at the store, but the relief on Roger's face made her attempt at a speedy arrival worthwhile. Elena frowned as she realized Peter sent his brother Nicolas to supervise two burly men as they packed up Andre's belongings. While Nicolas didn't have exactly the same menacing mob boss look to him that Peter did, he had the definite air of second in command to a menacing mob boss. It wasn't a look that inspired comfort and understanding, especially with the two movers looking like enforcers. Elena sighed and escorted them all upstairs.

"Don't you lot have some sort of innocuous looking office drone you could send to do stuff like this?" she asked Nicolas as his men began to collect Andre's things. Nicolas looked surprised. He frowned and looked to the stairwell as though thinking through the situation in light of her question.

"Not terrorizing the townsfolk didn't actually ping on the radar as an idea did it?" she asked. Nicolas shrugged.

"Not really. Anya was always the one to think of things like that." He told her with a smile.

"Anya?"

"Peter's wife, " he clarified. "She was good at the details that didn't concern us, like sending those who looked more innocent to places like this. It made things run more smoothly." He leaned in conspiratorially. "Fewer terrified townsfolk."

"Ah, " Elena replied, not knowing what else to say. She knew Peter's wife died, but little else about her. The men packing Andre's things seemed to finish rather quickly and she frowned.

"You are certain they got everything?" she asked.

"Fairly certain, is it that big an issue?" Nicolas asked her. "Anything left behind would be small enough that it could easily be sent on."

"After Peter dropped me off I had a conversation with Tina, " she looked to Nicolas who nodded, letting her know he understood the current situation and its players. "When she asked about my meeting, I told her it was to discuss a replacement graphics designer. She suggested a friend of hers."

Nicolas nodded slowly. "It would give them unfettered access and extend the period during which they are content to watch and wait. A bold move keeping them so close." His eyes scanned the workspace and the apartment beyond. "I will do a more thorough check personally so that you need not worry over something left behind by us."

"Thank you, " Elena said as he moved forward. Elena had to admit he seemed as though he planned to be thorough as he opened drawers and tapped them looking for false bottoms and peeled back the throw rug to inspect the floor for hidden compartments. As she designed such a space between her floorboards for concealment in her apartment, she couldn't fault him for looking. She also thought that in the future she might try to find a less obvious hiding place. After all, the floorboards were the second place he checked.

"

r John Smith or Smithe, " Elena said as she powered down the laptop and tucked it into a drawer. "Although they did manage to get the John in there somewhere. Maybe they get bonus points for that, like a bizarre scavenger hunt." She rubbed her eyes and stood up. She felt her back groan and realized she spent too much time sitting in one position.

"Not good, " she mused. The rest of the office was dark and Elena was pleased that everyone else had the foresight to go home when the workday was over. She turned out her light and crossed the darkened space. In the hallway, she locked the main door and headed downstairs. Even though she was late leaving the office, there was still daylight. It was that particular early spring evening type of sunlight that combined with the burgeoning heat in a way that made it feel almost tangible.

Elena took her time walking home, enjoying moving slowly through the thick golden gossamer light and letting her eyes adjust to looking at the world rather than at a computer screen. She thought through her day as she walked and found herself rather pleased with what she accomplished. "Well me and my team, " she mentally amended. She knew without their help virtually none of what was going on would actually have happened. "Or at least not as rapidly or smoothly."

However, with Victor's planning and scheduling, all of James' people and whatever goods they were taking with them would be relocated before the end of the season. Roger's willingness to work with the new designer would help whoever Tina, or her employers, sent settle in and with luck extend the length of time they were content to wait and watch. Personally, Elena was hoping it would at least last the season so she could get everyone moved, settled and most importantly out of interrogation reach. She was also pleased Lisa hadn't decided to write her off and that while Bob may still be skeptical, he didn't think she had gone completely insane.

"And since Lisa knows quite a lot at this point, having her safely away might be a good idea. Whoever is watching might be nervous since I left and stayed away throughout the closed season last year, " she mused as she walked thinking keeping Lisa out of lock up was a good plan. "Of course they could be counting on that as well, hoping to gather more information when I am not here to watch and see what goes on." In that scenario everyone would be watched, but left alone which she felt a least a little better about. Elena couldn't decide if they would want to study things while she was out of the loop or if they would want her where they could keep an eye on her.

"Probably want both, " she said to herself as she reached her building and went inside. "I know I would. But if I could only have one, I'd choose the information, after all, I'd know I was coming back." Elena dug her keys out of her bag and unlocked the door, wondering if her logic was the same sort of logic others would use. Perhaps government training gave others a different sort of logic. "Or the ability to form a multi-pronged attack so they could get both." Elena shook her head. "I can't be considered that important in the grand scheme of things. Surely there can't be more than a handful of people involved."

To her surprise as she was wondering about logic and strike forces, she walked in to find Thompson arguing with Jennifer and Meghan. "If it isn't on the list, then your list is defective. It should be on everyone's list." He told the two girls in a tone that sounded like a pronouncement.

"Did I miss something?" Elena asked as she set her purse down and put her phone on the charger. To her surprise the stack of items being sent along ahead of time seemed to have grown, despite missing a few of the bags she placed in the stack. On one she thought she saw Thompson's name written on the attached luggage tag.

"'Young Frankenstein' is not on their list of must see movies, " Thompson explained huffily.

"It's not?" Elena said, turning away from the bags. "Huh, I love that movie. And I agree it is a classic must see. Actually, there is a copy in the case under the television if you want to watch, " she told them.

"Fabulous idea, " Thompson said. "I vote for pizza and a movie tonight." Elena noticed that he was wearing faded jeans and a t-shirt. His shoes were kicked off and placed out of the way in the corner. As the two girls agreed and the three of them began discussing toppings for the pizza, Elena realized they looked much more at home in her place than she did and decided to change that.

"Let me just get changed, " Elena told them after giving her toppings preference. She headed into the bedroom and quickly exchanged her office wear for her own jeans and t-shirt combo, leaving her feet bare. She turned as she heard footsteps approaching and saw Thompson appear in the doorway.

"Quick change, " he commented with a smile.

"Yup, sorry no strip show, " she returned grinning.

"Maybe later, " he replied. "Hope you don't mind the invasion."

"Considering the rest of the day, you are actually a bit of a relief."

"Really, plotting something nefarious?"

"That depends, how do you feel about pugs?" She asked.

"I think that they always look at me as though they are either laughing at me or suspecting me of doing something horrifically evil and are deeply concerned for the state of my soul. My neighbor growing up had three. It wasn't very good for my self-esteem."

"Yes, you appear to have suffered horribly." Elena countered with a laugh. "I'm afraid you are doomed to suffer a flashback if you ship out on this next run with me."

"Really?" Thompson started to laugh. "Pugs in space, " he said using the same overly dramatic tone used by the Muppets for their Pigs in Space, Star Trek based sketches. "I'll pack some dog treats as well as liver flavored kitty treats. Always a good idea to get in tight with the four legged friends."

"In case you have to pull a heist in the middle of the night?"

"You never know, " he told her. "Oh and I should warn you, I plan on showing up a lot in the next two weeks."

"Do you now?"

"Yup, I figured as soon as you land there will be a million people looking for a moment of your attention. So I'm getting in my extra time now."

"Well as long as you have a plan, " Elena told him.

"So you don't mind?" he asked raising an eyebrow in question.

"No, " she told him realizing that she was really glad he decided to show up. With the likelihood of her apartment being bugged, she knew she couldn't discuss anything with him, but she liked having him around. "I really don't mind you here. Although, I am curious about the luggage?"

"Saw the extra duffle bags did you?" he said with a laugh. "Well I know how big a stickler you are for the fifty pounds of personal gear rule, so I figured I'd just send everything else as cargo. You are welcome to go through it if you like. The bulk of it is clothing. Haven's laundry doesn't have anything remotely resembling a delicate cycle and I find people respond to me better if I am not running around town naked or in rags. Just a personal choice."

"Understandable actually. Having multiple options will increase longevity. If Evalene hadn't been quick with replacements I think naked might have become the new standard. My jeans took a heavy beating, I can't imagine the pajama pants several new arrivals started with would have fared any better."

"One dressmaker, staving off the birth of a nudist colony, sounds like a bad movie plot." Thompson said.

"I think you have to have a monster in there for that sort of plot."

"Maybe the monster is sending out mental waves trying to get the people to form a nudist colony and only the dressmaker is immune."

"Not bad, " Elena replied.

"Pizza's here, " Jennifer called from the front.

"That was quick, " Thompson commented. "Before we rejoin the others." He pulled her in for a kiss that left her feeling breathless. "Just have to take advantage when I can."

"I see, " Elena replied noticing he was looking pleased that she needed a second to regain her equilibrium.

"So how did the pizza get here so quickly, do you have a devil's deal with the delivery driver?" he asked as the two of them returned to the living room.

"The pizza place is only two doors over, " Elena replied. "You might want to watch out though, it will be really hot. I've scalded myself with cheese a few times." With that bit of advice, she pulled out her binder full of movies and pulled out the 'Young Frankenstein' disk, slipping it into the waiting DVD player. Thompson had a seat saved for her next to him and she slid into it comfortably settling in for a night of pizza and movies with no plotting or scheming allowed.

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