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   Chapter 6 Brownie Oxford and the Ashland Affair

Brownie Oxford and the Ashland Affair: Brownie Bk1 By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 17370

Updated: 2018-03-07 14:21

Chapter 6

It was tiring business, this questioning of the dead, especially when I had to make them substantial enough so that Swift could talk to them directly and in the end, we hadn't figured out why Mr. Salesman, now known as George Whittaker, had wanted the men's corpses raised as zombies. I was just glad that none of their minds sent nightmarish images into mine. Each time one of the spirits was raised and questioned I studied the pictures their minds presented, using my newly forming skill rather than trying to squelch it. Perhaps using it would give me the control I wanted as well as information.

All of the men, despite the time and places of their deaths, had been a part of the same group, band, clutch or whatever you called a gathering of mercenaries. Their leader was in custody, taken at the cemetery. So leadership had remained the same even though it appeared someone had cleaned house with regards to the men.

'Maybe mercenary leaders change their men out every so often, like an oil change, ' I thought. 'Either that or they saw something they shouldn't have.' What that might have been, I couldn't tell. I didn't have the right questions to ask.

I also didn't have enough questions to get too many answers about Matheson. I got the impression that they didn't know much about him. Other than his name, I picked up a sense of fear. He really spooked them for some reason and most of them tried to stay away from him and not learn anything. One thing I did learn was that one night he slipped past the guards and disappeared into the night. His disappearance did not go over well and all of the dead men had been part of the frantic and fruitless search. I had a hunch that letting Matheson escape was part of the reason a new team was assembled.

Admittedly, I didn't know if it was an escape or merely a business decision. Perhaps Matheson simply didn't want to deal with them anymore, or had stepped out to relieve his bladder and gotten eaten by something wild. Most of the scenes I saw in the men's minds had the look of places filled with wild things that would grab you in the dark and crunch down on your bones.

I was hoping for escape though. Mostly because the man looked a bit like me and I didn't want to think of him being with a group as sketchy as this one voluntarily. I hoped they picked him up like they picked up me. I wondered how to find out more information about him. He hadn't been mentioned to Swift. He asked if they knew anyone who raised zombies and none of them had seen any zombies at all. However, all of them formed pictures in their minds of Matheson when asked the question. Somehow they all suspected that if zombies existed, he would have something to do with it.

It made a curious sort of sense, after all he looked like me and I could talk to spirits. Admittedly, I had never raised a zombie, as there didn't seem to be much point in it. Spirits were perfectly fine for me. No mess, no stench of rotting corpses, no need for any sort of voodoo paraphernalia. Short of terrorizing townsfolk, I didn't see how learning to raise actual zombies would be much of an improvement. But then again, I didn't see much need to terrorize townsfolk. Perhaps it was a niche market.

I did catch one other item of interest in the personal movie bits, one of which made me very angry. One of the few people who was in the group, but not among the dead or the captured was Dave. I frowned to myself as I washed my hands in Dr. Harding's prep sink. Even though I hadn't actually touched any of the corpses, I felt the need of a good dose of anti-bacterial goodness on my skin. Dave spoke to Matheson, George and the leader the men called Captain in several of the scenes. I dried my hands, my thoughts swirling in my head.

I met Dave at the bank. We chatted and ended up going for coffee. He knew my name because I told him and my address because he picked me up for our date. I hadn't told him the apartment number, instead meeting him in front of the building. Was that why I had been taken on the street? I looked like Matheson and I was pretty sure he was the one raising zombies. Was my appearance enough to match me with the file they stole from Swift's office? Was that how they found me?

With so few clues about my family, I tried not to think too much about where I came from. I had always figured someone had me, didn't want me and left me. End of story. But was it? Did someone know the skills I would be born with and took me away from my family so that people like George would have a harder time finding me? Or was it the family they were hiding me from? After all, I had no proof that Matheson was a good guy.

I jumped as Swift's hand landed on my shoulder. "We'll figure it out, " he told me. "But I think we might want to find you a new place to live."

"Well, more space would be nice, " I admitted. My stomach rumbled and Swift smiled.

"Let's talk about it over lunch, then."

Still slightly paranoid, Swift picked up lunch at a drive through and we returned to the hotel. Instead of a burger, this time I got a large salad and a bottle of water hoping it would balance out the burger f

own figure at the Y. Nothing was coming to me. No brilliant solutions popped into my brain.

"Oh well, maybe it needs time to marinate." I rolled to my side and flipped to a new page. I entitled this list, 'things it would be good for me to learn'. Perhaps I was going about this new life business the wrong way. Maybe if I made a list of things that would benefit me, I could see where that list fit rather than just randomly scanning various career options. I didn't number this list, merely placed a tick mark to the side.

"The first item has to be nutrition, " I said as I jotted it down. I frowned. I figured the best place to get that information would be at one of the culinary schools, but quite frankly they scared me a little. The food of my world fell into very basic categories. The food at the Riverdale Girl's Home was blandly industrial, came out of massive steam trays and was only memorable when it gave me stomach upsets. Most of the foster homes, especially the ones to whom I was merely an additional source of income, relied heavily on cheap microwaveable meals, nearly all of which made me ill.

On my own, I provided myself with a steady stream of fresh fruits and raw vegetables like carrot and celery sticks with an occasional bunch of cherry tomatoes thrown in for variety. I stocked my fridge with cheese, yogurt, milk and orange juice and relied on fast food places to provide me with salads, chicken and the occasional hamburger. The closest I had ever come to cooking anything, involved a microwave bag of popcorn and even then I had to stick with the organic varieties. I had begun making lists and found out that it was mostly the added preservatives that my body had issues with processing.

"I can make tea, " I consoled myself. I had a small battery operated kettle, a small teapot, two tea cups with saucers, a tea strainer, and a box of loose tea that I took to the cemetery for my conversations with Mrs. Ellison. Even though she couldn't partake of the beverage, she liked the niceties of sitting down to tea for a proper chat. She had been born in London, only moving stateside after her marriage to a wealthy industrialist and claimed that some things, like tea were too deeply ingrained in her soul to be left behind, even in death.

Under her watchful gaze, I had long since mastered the details she deemed required to make a decent cup of tea, from the swishing of hot water through the teapot to warm up the ceramic before setting it on to steep, to the length of time the tea should be allowed to steep and what order the guests should be served. I also knew what topics were considered polite and which should be avoided as sources of potential discord. Should a duchess ever decide to join Mrs. Ellison and me in the cemetery for tea, I would be ready.

Somehow, I thought that even someone auditing a class at a cooking school should probably have actually cooked something other than microwave popcorn and tea before enrollment.

"Maybe I could get some cook books and try out some of the simple things, so I'm at least familiar with the basic terminology before I approach the school. At least that way, I wouldn't look like a complete dunce." I smiled. I had the first actionable item on my list of things to do. I would buy a cook book. Pleased at having made at least that much progress, I put my lists away and turned on the television, maybe watching reruns would spark a brilliant idea.

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