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   Chapter 3 Brownie Oxford and the Idlewild Incident

Brownie Oxford and the Idlewild Incident: Brownie Bk 2 By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 19994

Updated: 2018-03-07 14:33


Chapter 3

I woke up slowly blinking sleep from my eyes as I stretched my limbs under the heavy, down comforter. The sheets whispered with my movements. I sighed and rubbed my eyes. If I dreamed, I didn't remember it. Despite going to bed earlier than usual, I had the feeling I slept in later than I anticipated. My belly felt hollow and my bladder felt full. I eased myself out of the warm cocoon of the bed. As the cool air of the room hit me, my bladder became more insistent and I hurried my steps to the provided facilities.

After relieving myself, I looked at the bathtub. My stomach rumbled and I decided the no less opulent shower might be a better option. Despite the products lined up on the shelf, I retrieved my own stuff from my duffle bag and bathed. I decided that my curls would be less of an issue in this house and when I dressed I left my coat and hat off. I quickly made the bed and slipped my shoes on, prepared to find the kitchen. Before I reached the door however, I paused. This wasn't my house and I had no idea where a kitchen would be located. It seemed a bit rude to go wandering around uninvited. I sighed and walked back to the phone. I picked up the receiver and pressed the button marked 'Kitchen'. It rang twice before being picked up.

"Hello?" a female voice said. I guessed it to be Mrs. Avery as I didn't know if anyone else was in the house.

"Yes, good morning, I was wondering if you could give me directions to the kitchen, " I asked feeling somewhat stupid. She laughed good-naturedly and I felt marginally better as she told me how to get to where I hoped food would be. When I hung up, I looked around, making sure everything was tidy. Then I pulled out my small self-testing meter to see what my bilirubin levels were before unlocking my bedroom door and following the given directions. Knowing what types of food I would need to maintain my balance, as I walked I wondered about the kitchen Matheson would have, or more precisely what food it would contain.

While with the NCS, pills had been provided to cure me of my jaundice and stomach cramps, controlling my bilirubin levels. As I started weaning myself from the pills I found the chemical compound stunted my abilities. I had no real desire for more power, but I did have a need to break free of the pills as they were controlled by the NCS. Dr. Harding created them and they weren't something that could be purchased over the counter. I broke free of them by monitoring what I ate very closely.

This involved learning to cook from a host of lessons from the dead, both professional and home cooks contributing their skills, so kitchens in general no longer seemed like weird mysterious places to me anymore. However, I knew that Matheson, or Cecil as I supposed I should think of him given the host of deceased Mathesons waiting not too far away, never took the pills. He still looked slightly jaundiced when I saw him and I never got a chance to ask him about the stomach cramps, our one brief in person conversation being limited to 'join me or die'.

"Although I can't actually see him cooking, " I told myself. "I'm betting he has a cook." I wondered if it would be Mrs. Avery or if he had an army of servants lurking about the place. From my brief acquaintance I gathered he was the sort to like having an army about, after all he did hire a band of mercenaries to deal with me. "Of course he could also want privacy, " I decided. "Or be very thrifty despite the obvious wealth."

I sighed, dismissing my own speculation. I really didn't know him well enough to guess how he conducted his private life.

All things considered, I was kind of grateful for that.

My steps led me finally to the kitchen. While I no longer had the fear of the mysterious unknown when facing a world of cookery, like the house, this kitchen was a bit beyond me. Large enough to feed an actual army, vast stretches of stainless steel and marble greeted me. From conversations with a pastry chef, I knew the marble was useful for keeping dough chilled. Despite stainless steel being a kitchen remodeler's preference according to the television's renovation shows, this looked more commercial than that.

"It is a bit much, but when the Matheson's built the estate not only was the family larger, but they tended to give many grand parties. When the kitchens were updated they were done with that in mind, " I turned at the sound of the voice and saw Mrs. Avery. Now that I wasn't half asleep, I took in her details. Her hair was brown and cut into the short look that many older women seemed to favor. Given the deep laugh lines around her eyes and mouth, I was guessing the hair color came from a bottle. At a guess I put her age at late sixties, possibly even early seventies. It was the same age range I put Avery in and I had the feeling my guess was correct and they were a pair. I was going to keep my guess to myself though until one of them said otherwise, as for all I knew this was the cook and Avery's wife was a barely legal eighteen year old.

"But don't you worry, I can still get you some breakfast, or given the time I suppose brunch would be more appropriate a term."

"Brunch, " I replied letting go thoughts of Avery's possible teen bride. "I thought I slept in, but didn't realize it was that late." After months of rising before the sun so I could get my run in early while living in Mayenfield, rising near brunch was almost unthinkable. "I must have really been exhausted."

"You did look a bit done in, " the woman told me. "Of course from what those on the hill told us, I'd be pretty done too. Do you have any preference?" She asked indicating the commercial range.

"Whatever's easiest, " I replied. I figured I would watch to see what she made and be on the lookout for anything that might cause stomach cramps. "Or I could just make myself something."

She shook her head at my suggestion. "Well, I suppose something brunch like and as you missed dinner last night, probably something filling as well." She gestured towards the wooden table placed against the wall at the end of the kitchen. "You are welcome to eat in the kitchen if you'd like, unless you'd prefer the more formal space in the dining room?" She lifted an eyebrow at me in question and I hurriedly moved to the table and pulled out one of the mismatched wooden chairs, visions of an impossibly ornate and stuffy dining room dancing in front of my eyes.

"This is fine, " I told her. "And really there is no need to trouble yourself, I could easily make myself something if you need to be somewhere else."

"Nowhere else I need to be, " she assured me as she moved to the giant fridge and began removing items from its depths, lining them up on the counter. I was relieved when everything she took out was an unprocessed item. Generally, it was the chemicals that were mixed into the processed foods that caused me issue. While eggs were fine, the powdered eggs Riverdale used turned my stomach into knots. Freshly made salad dressing was fine, but the preservatives in the store bought varieties were bad news.

The woman moved around the kitchen like she knew what she was doing and very quickly she had a plate prepared and was setting it down in front of me. "Eggs Florentine, " She replied as I studied the poached egg and spinach creation.

"Wow, that looks amazing, " I said inhaling the scent of the meal and automatically reaching for my fork. The spinach would help with my levels as well and I wondered if she knew that, but didn't want to ask for fear of revealing too much of myself.

"Thank you, it's nice to be appreciated, " She replied. "I'll get you a glass of juice. Unless you would prefer coffee?"

"Juice is fine, " I assured her, my fork already hovering over the plate. She returned with the glass and after setting it down next to my plate, she left the kitchen. It was strange sitting in a space so large by myself, but as I was hungry, I pushed the strangeness aside and ate my meal. It was good and as I ate I thought about my situation. Although the place I was in was not an entirely comfortable one, I knew it wasn't the first place Swift would look for me. It probably wasn't even the second or third place Swift would look for me. In addition, for the first time since going on the run, I was rested and could think things through clearly. Unfortunately, the clarity brought worry along with it.

I knew Swift was very good at his job. "Which means it isn't a matter of if he'll find me but when." Even after years of working with him, I didn't know how Swift truly thought of me. Was I just an asset to be exploited or did he actually think of me as a person? Would he respect my decision to leave or hunt me to the ends of the earth and put me in a small dark space only letting me leave when the NCS needed my skills?

I didn't know. I knew he would search for me initially. I thought my best bet would be to stay gone long enough for other things to claim the bulk of his attention, after all he couldn't focus solely on me forever. Sooner or later something else would come up.

"Which leads me back to him being really good at his job, " I sighed and finished my meal. After my eggs Florentine was consumed, I drained the last of my juice and took my used items over to the sink. I quickly washed the plate, glass, knife and fork. I didn't see a towel anywhere so I left them in the dish rack to drip dry. I looked around for a moment, wondering what to do next.

"Cemetery I guess, " I finally decided. William had after all asked that I come back for further conversation during daylight. I wondered if I should tell anyone where I was going. Unfortunately, I didn't know where anyone was or where to find them. I decided to go up to my room and retrieve my outer wear.

"Perhaps I'll pass someone on the stair, " I told myself as I put thought into action and went back up

stairs. The house seemed eerily empty as I moved through it. The space seemed vast and I wondered how big it actually was. I looked up as I moved under one of the house's chandeliers. I knew my stride was almost three feet in length and it took me two and a half strides to pass under it making it between seven and eight feet in diameter. I shook my head feeling somewhat stunned.

"Eight feet, " I muttered to myself in disbelief. I was fairly certain the thing wouldn't even fit through the door in my old apartment to begin with. I moved up the stairs and into the guest room. I slipped on my jacket, pulled my hat on, more for warmth than for concealment, although I did tuck my hair up, and dug my gloves and scarf out of the coat's pockets. Bundled up I turned to head back down stairs.

Halfway down the stairs, I realized I didn't exactly know where I was going. I knew vaguely where the cemetery was, but only from the road. I didn't know if there was a path or a trail or if I just had to hike through the woods to get there. It seemed sensible to have a path, but I also knew people weren't always sensible. Luckily as I descended the stairs, Avery walked out of one of the side corridors.

"I was asked to escort you up to The Hill, Miss as it was thought my skills might be of use in planning your next move, " Avery said, smiling politely.

"Of course, thank you, " I replied. "And please thank your wife for breakfast or brunch, I suppose. It was delicious."

"I'm sure she will be pleased to hear it, " Avery said. "I believe this is the most direct route, " He indicated a hallway and I followed him down it and through the first floor of the house to the back door. Curious, I glanced in the open doors as I passed. The first floor looked designed for entertaining and I passed a well-appointed sitting room, a large and very ornate dining room and what I thought might be either a library or a study. Seeing the condition of the dining room, I was glad I had chosen to eat in the kitchen. The library, if that was what it was, reminded me of the dream Matheson sent me. I shivered involuntarily remembering the sea of blood.

I never had gotten around to looking up the titles I saw on those shelves. Perhaps Matheson kept copies here. Everything I passed reinforced the notion of wealth, and multi-generational wealth at that. I followed Avery out of the back door and into the back yard. There was an enormous multi flagstone area that seemed far too large to be called a patio. In the distance I could see a pool, covered for the winter and what I thought was a tennis court. The net had been taken down for the season, but the court and what I thought were the support posts for the net remained. We didn't get close enough for me to be sure as Avery led me down a path leading into the woods. The path was flagstone like the patio area and well-maintained.

"Which makes sense, " I thought as I followed Avery. "If the ability to talk to the dead is a hereditary trait and each generation is expected to take lessons with the dead, the path would be used far more often than usual for a family plot." I thought about it as we walked. "Of course if the dead can move between the cemetery and the house then there is no reason the lessons couldn't be held in the house." Somehow I thought that Cecil Matheson would have had the dead come to him rather than the other way around.

In a short while, we reached the cemetery. As the ground sloped upwards I guessed this is why they decided to refer to it as 'The Hill' in conversation. Since communication was maintained after death, the less funereal terminology also made sense. I shook my head at the thought. After living so long thinking I was the only one like me, it was somewhat surreal to be in a place where my skills weren't considered odd. We paused our steps at the gate to the cemetery and Avery stepped back as I let my power slide into the ground, waking the spirits and asking for permission to converse.

"I must say, " William began when the initial pleasantries were complete. "You look much more alert today. I trust you rested well?"

"I did thank you, " I replied, settling myself on the bench. I left plenty of room for Avery, but he chose to remain standing off to one side. I wondered if that was butler protocol.

"We have been discussing your situation, " William continued. "If we may be blunt about this?"

"I would appreciate it, " I replied nodding my approval.

"Good, " he replied looking relieved. "Now clearly you cannot remain here if this Swift person is looking for you. However, you must be trained, that much is clear. We have placed watchers around the edges of the estate so no one will appear without some form of warning."

"I appreciate the precaution, " I said as he paused. My eyes scanned the crowd and I noticed there were fewer silver lined, green-eyed spirits present than the night before. Or at least I thought there were. I didn't really do a head count the night before.

"Luckily, as we have on occasion had more than one family member needing to be trained at a time, we have multiple copies of some of the books that would normally be used in your early education. Eustis is working with Mrs. Avery to make a collection of these so you may take them with you for study without worrying that the only copy of said works would be lost if you must destroy them."

I figured that William expected me to burn the books rather than allowing them to fall into Swift's hands. I had the feeling if Swift appeared, there wouldn't be enough time to do so. I kept my thoughts to myself as he continued.

"Now, we will need a place for you to go and a way to keep you hidden when you get there, " William said.

Avery cleared his throat. "If I may Sir, Miss, " He began addressing us both. "After Miss was removed from the house and sent into hiding, I had a false identity created for her, separate from that the State provided, on the off chance it had been discovered where she was placed. Throughout the years we, my wife and I, as well as a couple of trusted family members, have… grown the identity so to speak. Given her a history and aged the persona appropriately. The documentation can be used now if need be. It is not tied to her life previously and as it has a history, medical records, education, credit cards, cell phone and such it would not be a person popping up out of thin air and will be less noticeable."

"That's …handy, " I replied somewhat stunned.

Avery smiled sadly at me. "It was never the intention to leave you out there on your own, Miss, " Avery said. "Your parents handed you to me to hide away and maintained the ruse that you were still with them. I gave you to my cousin's sister-in-law. She was a social worker at the time and was meant to keep you until your parents could sneak away. I returned and assisted in maintaining the ruse that you were with them for nearly two weeks as they finished their preparations for leaving. They were planning to pick you up once they were clear, all three of you living under new names. They were caught before the plan could be put into action. While Master Cecil never tied my earlier leave with your disappearance, if he ever knew of my leave to begin with, it was never safe enough for you to return. The identity was maintained in case an opportunity presented itself for your return."

"I understand, " I said, feeling slightly strange about the story. I had grown up with the idea that someone had me, didn't want me and gave me away. When Matheson arrived, I suspected it wasn't quite that simple. Now the basic beliefs I held my entire life seemed wrong. It was something I was going to have to think through. 'But this is clearly not the time, ' I thought. I deliberately pushed away the tangle of emotions Avery's words stirred to the back of my mind.

"The name and identification will help, " I said after a moment of thought. "But there are still the images. Swift will no doubt have pictures of me to present to people, asking if they have seen me." I realized that Swift could probably have me branded as a wanted fugitive and have my picture splashed over the news. The thought left me cold inside. I hoped he wouldn't go that route, but really didn't know.

We discussed various methods of altering my appearance. While some of them I thought viable, I thought that finding a place to settle and blend in would be a help as well. Swift would be looking for someone on the run. He would probably be estimating how much cash I had on me and looking for a new bank account to appear with the amounts of the checks I got when my bank accounts were closed. He would probably also be looking for me to get a new job and as he normally arranged my jobs in the past, he would have a good idea where to look. I was hoping I had an answer to that, but part of it would depend on how much Paul paid attention to my daily activities while in Mayenfield.

"I believe my wife would be of more assistance in the personal appearance arena, " Avery suggested. "Perhaps as it is growing chilly we should return to the house?" He suggested after we had explored the current options and cobbled together a vague plan.

"Yes, " William said in agreement. "I believe we have rendered all the assistance we can give at this point. Once the matter with Swift is settled and you return to us, we can assist with more advanced studies. Until then, we will maintain a vigil on the estate perimeters and look forward to your return."

"Thank you for your assistance, " I said, recognizing the dismissal. I stood, my rear end long since numbed from the concrete bench. Avery and I left the cemetery, my power being pulled from its confines. As before, those born with abilities similar to my own merely faded instead of disappeared. It was a disquieting sensation to know they were watching as I walked away.

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