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   Chapter 4 Brownie Oxford and the Idlewild Incident

Brownie Oxford and the Idlewild Incident: Brownie Bk 2 By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 24316

Updated: 2018-03-07 14:33


Chapter 4

I stood still as Mrs. Avery circled me, an appraising look in her eyes. Off to the side, the shadowy form of Catherine's spirit wore a similar expression. "I think that might do, " Mrs. Avery said finally. Slowly Catherine nodded in agreement. She was hazier than when in the cemetery, her eyes looking like the most substantial part of her. The fact that she was with us using her own power rather than mine was something I found a little creepy. For the first time, I sort of understood why some people were afraid of ghosts.

"Yes, " Catherine said. "I think it just might."

Upon returning from the cemetery, Avery left me in his wife's hands to discuss ways of altering my appearance. I told her that I usually wore jeans and varying t-shirts, the variety including short sleeved, long sleeved and hooded, when working with Swift. I also told her that I had an entire wardrobe packed that I had never worn in public.

I didn't tell her I made them all, although I'm certain she guessed I might be involved in their creation. She helped me bring in the extra clothes from the car and I was pretty sure the dressmaker's dummy, sewing machine and large sewing basket were a bit of a hint. She didn't say anything though and when Catherine joined us it was decided the new clothes might be a good starting point.

After modeling the clothes, Catherine complementing me on my choice of dressmaker as they fit well. Mrs. Avery suggested possibilities for my hair. "Cutting or dying it would be the obvious choices, but it isn't really the color or length that people notice. It's the curls, " she said. A short while later, an electric hair straightener was plugged in and my mass of curls became straight locks. The two of them were trying to determine if the change was enough.

"It is a great deal longer, " Catherine said. I saw her pat her own curls and thought she might be wondering how long they would be if straightened. I turned to look in the mirror. The new clothes and makeup helped change my appearance somewhat, but the curls, or lack of them, transformed me. I looked like a completely different person. It was somewhat disturbing.

"One more touch and I think we can call it a success, " Mrs. Avery said. I turned towards her and saw her holding out her hand. "You don't wear prescription lenses do you?" She asked.

"No, " I said realizing that what she held were pre-packaged contact lenses. "I had laser surgery a few years ago." Swift didn't like my reliance of glasses and contact lenses, and during one of my longer recovery times, he scheduled the surgery so my eyes could recover with the rest of me.

"Oh good, " Mrs. Avery replied looking relieved. I took the contacts from her and Catherine watched interested as I put them in my eyes. The lenses were tinted and turned my green eyes to a rather unremarkable brown.

"Why you hardly look like a Matheson anymore, " Catherine exclaimed delighted with the effect.

"I think we can call this a success, " Mrs. Avery said. "We have several sets of the brown lenses that we will send with you so you don't have to worry if one is accidentally damaged. While you are dressed we will need to get your photo taken for your driver's license."

"Do you normally make fake ids?" I asked somewhat amused at the thought.

"Mr. Cecil liked to travel incognito, so he bought the equipment and set it up in one of the back rooms." She told me, wiping the amused look from my face. I thought of the fake driver's license in Matheson's wallet. Somehow I hadn't expected Mrs. Avery to be the one providing it.

"He liked to take care of things in house you see, " she continued as I followed her into the depths of the house. Catherine, having no interest in the proceedings now that the clothing had been settled, left us on our own. We went into the library and to my surprise, Mrs. Avery pressed a button on the underside of the mantle causing one of the book cases to swing out. I figured Matheson would want secret places in his house I just hadn't expected them to be so oddly stereotypical.

The space behind the book case wasn't large. It had enough space on one end for a computer and camera. Behind the set up to take the picture was the equipment I assumed was needed to print the ID. Opposite the equipment was a wall painted to look like the background one would get at a Department of Motor Vehicles. Mrs. Avery placed me in front of the camera and as the official DMV staff did, told me to look up just as she hit the flash.

"Well, it won't win any prizes, " I said as the image came up on the screen, "but it looks like a driver's license photo." I also didn't point out that it didn't look like Brownie Oxford. It was like looking at a picture of a stranger who might be a distant relative at best.

'Which is the point 'Nie, ' I told myself.

I watched Mrs. Avery move things around, adding my photo to a template. I looked at it. The new ID listed my name as Bonnie Brown. "Is that my name now?" I asked before I thought about it.

"That's the name of the ID my husband created, " she told me somewhat proudly. "Which I believe he wants to talk to you about once we are done. When he created the first driver's license, about the time you would have gotten one, I believe he used an old photo of your mother. He then updated it each time it needed to be renewed. When the system went digital, he had a friend of his add your records in so that nothing pinged. Once this is ready, we'll have this file replace the one they have so that if you decide to get a license in another state and they check on it, everything will match the DMV's records."

"That's very thorough, " I said, surprised by the extent of the cover.

Mrs. Avery laughed. "Before my husband settled down to run the estate as his father did before him, Charles had quite the colorful life. It was how we met of course. Perhaps when you return, we'll share a few stories."

I nodded even though I wasn't quite sure I would be returning. "Um, if the house is searched and this room is found, will the computer still show a record of my new ID being made here?" I asked thinking of Swift.

"Once it is printed, the last five ID's will be erased. Then I will make a couple new ones, using Mr. Cecil's photograph so that it appears he was the last one to use them. His last ID will be deleted as well so the rental car won't be found and tied to you. They of course weren't added to the local DMV's database as he changed them out too regularly to bother, so there is no reason to suspect anything else would have been official should anyone find this room and equipment. This is on a closed circuit and connects to nothing outside the room."

"You seem to have thought of everything, " I said wondering what sort of colorful past the woman in front of me had. I may have learned a few nifty tricks working with Swift for the past seven years, but the Avery's seemed to be on a whole different scale.

"Practice, " she said with a smile. "But as I said, this will take a while to print and Charles wanted to talk with you once we were settled. Let's go find him and then I'll get dinner started." She looked me over. "Perhaps you had better change out of those nice clothes and back into your jeans. I'll meet you in the foyer and we'll go find him."

"Okay, " I said starting to once again feel overwhelmed. She led me out of the room and once again sealed up the hidden space. I went back to the guest room and quickly changed, making sure the dress I took off was carefully hung so it wouldn't crease. I then washed off the makeup and still oddly weirded out by my hair, I tied it back in a long ponytail, ignoring the fact that it now fell down my back instead of springing up in a riotous mass.

"Bonnie Brown, " I said to my reflection. I shrugged. "I suppose I can still call myself 'Nie." I smiled. "Nie Brown as opposed to Brownie. It's almost planned." My smile fell. Avery did after all know the woman who supposedly named me. Perhaps it was planned. "Everyone has plots and nefarious skills accept me, " I said turning away from the mirror. "Of course I can talk to the dead and apparently raise zombies so maybe that counts as a nefarious skill." I left the room and met Mrs. Avery in the foyer. To my surprise she was holding my coat and hat. Once we returned from the cemetery my outerwear had been placed in the coat closet.

"I guess he's outside?" I asked taking the garments from her and noticing she was dressed for the cold as well.

"In one of the older outbuildings actually, " She told me. "It's a bit of a walk."

"Good thing I have my comfy shoes on, " I told her, glad that I had changed. The last time I took a hike in heels was with the people Cecil hired to kidnap me and resulted in a blister on the back of my heel. While I was lucky I didn't sustain worse injuries, I didn't feel the need to repeat the hiking in heels experiment.

As before we exited the house though the back door and headed off across the estate. While we didn't head towards the pool and tennis court, we also didn't head back to the cemetery. Instead we moved to the opposite side of the property. While the paths were clear, we soon started to see buildings that were not as well kept.

"This was a working farm when your family bought the property, " Mrs. Avery explained as we walked. "While they still maintain the agricultural land around the property, they lease it out to independent farmers in the area primarily for grazing land." She shook her head. "The family used to keep horses even after that, but they stopped sometime in the fifties I believe." She gestured to one of the few well-kept buildings. "It was converted to automobile storage then by your grandfather, I believe."

I nodded feeling strange as she discussed what was technically my family history. I wasn't used to having family. I was used to Mrs. Ellison and the other spirits in the cemetery near the old Riverview Girl's Home and I was used to Swift and Dr. Harding. I wasn't used to people talking about my grandparents and other relatives I had never even thought about. As we walked I realized that they were probably buried in the cemetery on the hill. My grandparents, and great-grandparents and great-great grandparents for that matter. I could talk to them, even if my parents were beyond my abilities to reach.

"William is probably my several times great grandfather or something, " I realized with a start although the fact should have been obvious earlier. Family. It was such an alien concept.

"Most of the buildings were either allowed to fall down or used for storage, " Mrs. Avery continued. "Mr. Cecil never bothered coming out this way so we used one of the buildings for you. It looks like a tumbled down wreck on the outside, but it is safe inside."

The path ended at a large half tumbled down barn and we left the path, walking behind it. There was an unpaved pathway leading into the woods. It was thin enough that we had to walk single file and over grown enough to let me know it wasn't used often.

"There is a paved path from the edge of the property to the building, " Mrs. Avery called over her shoulder. "We use that more so this one doesn't look as well-used."

"Oh, " I replied. We entered a clearing and saw a wooden building that looked like a light mist would cause it to tumble to the ground.

"Machine shed, " she told me. "They wanted the mechanical workings away from the house and separated from the animals. Apparently all the commotion spooked the horses." She walked over and opened a small door in the side. Hoping the building didn't fall down and crush me, I followed her inside. I blinked in surprise as I stepped inside.

On the outside the building looked ready to fall. Inside of the wooden building was built a slightly smaller brick and metal building that looked well-maintained. The building inside had no windows and a curtain by the door looked as though it was designed to block out the light so no one outside could see it. At t

he moment the curtain was pulled to the side and light spilled out. The inside of the building was lined with shelves and various chests, boxes and suitcases were stationed around the room. Avery was waiting near one of the shelves, a thick file in his hand. At his feet a file box sat opened, other files sticking out.

"We made it look like just general storage in case anyone happened out here, the exterior designed to make it look abandoned since it was so far from the house, " Avery told me looking around proudly. He shrugged. "Of course we never had to test the lie as Mr. Cecil never ventured out this way."

"I see, " I said slowly, turning in a circle to look around. It was quite a great deal more elaborate than I thought it would be.

"I'll leave you to it, " Mrs. Avery said, departing for the house.

"Welcome to Bonnie Brown Central, " Avery told me with a laugh. "Until now, this is where she existed."

"Really, " I said edging closer to one of the shelves, curious about my alter ego.

"Yes, " Avery said. "We have a few treasured toys and a couple of items we had engraved with various inscriptions from doting family." He gestured to one shelf. "A spelling bee ribbon, third place I'm afraid. A participation trophy for soccer, a second place medal for swimming."

"Swimming?" I asked. While running was how I shut down my brain from worry, swimming had always been the activity I used to clear my head and think.

"Yes, all of the Mathesons seem to love to swim so we figured you might as well. Old Mr. John claimed it blocked out all the external chatter so he could actually think straight. You do know how to swim?" he asked concern on his face. "We can of course not use the metal as one of your keepsakes."

"I swim, " I told him with a smile. I wondered if there was anything in the books Eustis was arranging that mentioned water. 'Or any other element for that matter, ' I thought remembering my battle of wills with Matheson and how the earth seemed to like me even though the wind obeyed Matheson. Dark thoughts threatened to surface, but I pushed them down to concentrate on Avery.

"Good, " he said looking relieved.

"I don't ride horses though, " I told him pointing to a junior equestrian trophy.

"We will not include that then, " He said nodding as though making a mental note. "Those boxes are filled with various school reports from your early years. We didn't add anything past high school since we didn't know what you were studying so Bonnie Brown only has a high school education."

"That's fine, " I told him. "Swift took up my time after high school so I just started looking into higher education recently."

"Excellent, " Avery said. "Although I don't know what Swift's work entailed and I don't want to, Bonnie did a lot of traveling while trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life and we have various keepsakes." Avery ran me through the fictitious life of Bonnie Brown and I nodded taking it all in. It was oddly reminiscent of one of Swift's cover stories, albeit much more elaborate.

"As for paperwork, " he said handing me the file he held. "These are the official documents, passport, birth certificate, social security card, and high school diploma. We also have cell phone records. Over the years we purchased and then upgraded cellphones to give your number a past. Various calls were made, mostly by my niece who used it as a second phone so it was actually used." Avery held out a newer model of I-phone to me. It had a case bejeweled with blue crystals.

"The laptop is the same. We purchased one and registered it to Bonnie Brown about the time we thought she would be getting one. We then continued upgrading it along the way. The latest upgrade was only a few months ago and we had all of Bonnie's photos transferred from her old hard drive." I nodded as he handed it to me.

"I have a laptop with me that I know Swift can track. After I remove the hard drive it will need to be disposed of, " I told him.

"We can handle that and anything else you need to get rid of, " Avery replied.

"I think the laptop and the cellphone are it right now." The cell phone was deactivated and I had removed the battery so the GPS couldn't be pinged, but couldn't think of a good place to leave it. All of the places I stopped looked like bad ideas since it could at least pinpoint the direction I had taken if it was found.

"Oh, " I said remembering my additions. "I have Matheson, I mean Cecil's phone and Dave's phone to get rid of as well." Like mine, they had been disabled with the battery removed. I had however copied down all of the numbers in their address books into one of my notebooks in case they were needed at some point later. I didn't think they would be, but working with Swift told me that no information was ever a waste. Somehow I didn't think he meant for me to use the information when running from him, but still I put it to use.

"I can deal with them, " Avery assured me. He indicated the file box at his feet. It oddly reminded me of the file box Matheson had in the back of the rental car. I knew it contained the file the NCS had on me as well as any other information Matheson gathered as he searched for me. At a guess I figured Avery purchased both. I was curious as I had never seen my file and was interested to see the report Dr. Harding made about the new drug he was planning to use on me once I was no longer on the run from Matheson.

It was supposed to help me question torture victims more effectively.

I didn't think it an improvement.

Thus far I left the files where they were, figuring that when I finally stopped running there would be time to read them. As Avery told me that all of my, or rather Bonnie's, past cell phone bills, credit card statements, tax returns and bank statements were located in the box, I wondered where I was actually going to be when I found time to look over the files. While I was grateful for their assistance in providing me with a good cover, I wasn't so sure I should let the Averys figure out where I was going from here. Thus far I had given them no names, although I was certain Avery knew more than he said, and all of the planning had been how to get me away and what to send with me. The where I was going, I planned to keep to myself.

Once I figured that part out.

"Wait, bank statements?" I said. Avery explained my bank statements. I now had two accounts; a regular national chain and a numbered Swiss account. I explained the two checks I carried and Avery assured me that there were ways of dealing with them so that the money would be available to me without alerting Swift as to their being deposited.

"We will of course make sure you have both plenty of cash with you as well as several pre-paid credit cards before you go, " Avery told me. "That way you can use them in addition to your normal bank cards if need be."

I nodded and thanked him, not telling him about the box of cash I was already carrying or the prepaid cards I already picked up. "While the money is appreciated, " I told him. "I don't want to take…"

Avery laughed as I let my protest die off. "Miss, all of this is yours, " Avery explained. "Not only did you inherit from both your parents, but Mr. Cecil listed you as his heir."

"Why on earth would he do that?" I asked.

"I believe it was part of a scheme to draw you out should you not be able to be found through other means, " Avery explained. "He believed he could fake his death and drawn by the wealth, you would come to claim your inheritance."

"And then he'd pounce." I finished nodding to myself. Somehow that seemed like Matheson's style. I shook my head and then a thought occurred to me. "Wait don't you need the funds to take care of …things?" Having never owned a house, let alone an estate, I didn't actually know what they needed to keep it functioning.

"From what I gathered no one can prove that Mr. Cecil has passed, " Avery said. "We can maintain the illusion that he is alive until your return. Therefore all of the general funds will still be in place." Avery assured me.

"Swift knows he is dead, " I told him. "Well, if he believes me anyway. There is no actual proof."

"Then it is a possibility he will use that knowledge, " Avery replied looking unconcerned. "In the event you are needed, a message will be sent to you. "You will notice when you power up the laptop that Bonnie Brown has a link to a secure server. I have a linked account, under a different name and I have never accessed it from any electronic device associated with the house or myself. With all of the legal issues with an estate this size it would take at least six months to settle, even if Swift had Mr. Cecil declared dead this very day. In six months' time I will post an update to this server to apprise you of the situation. If there is no message on the date we decide upon then it means that we are still under surveillance and you should continue to stay away. That way you do not have to tell us where you are going and do not have to maintain frequent contact with the estate during your absence."

"Six months, " I repeated, pleased they wouldn't demand to know where I was going.

"With all due respect, " Avery said kindly. "You'll probably need to stay away for at least a year after the estate is discovered by your friend Swift. After a year with no appearances or contact by you or anyone resembling you, monitoring of the estate will be bumped down to a lower priority, if they follow protocol."

"Oh, " I replied wondering more than ever what the couple's past entailed. Swiss bank accounts and knowledge of protocol were again beyond my skill level. 'Which Swift would know, ' I consoled myself. 'He certainly wouldn't expect me to have those.' While I was curious as to how the couple acquired these skills, I knew they would be useful for me now. Watching Avery look around the room that kept alive the identity of Bonnie Brown I could see he was proud of his accomplishment. I wondered if it was merely a job well done he admired or if being unable to save my mother, he had used this as some sort of internal penance.

Slowly I went through the room with Avery, deciding what items to take with me and which to leave behind. While it would seem strange to carry all items from my fictitious past with me, a mix of old and new would seem natural; treasured keepsakes and current needs.

I nodded thinking of the elements of my plan to run that I hadn't shared. My plan when I arrived at a new place was to claim that I had been living with my grandmother, who taught me to sew, but who's ill health kept me close and working part time jobs. Upon her death I decided to move to get a fresh start and possibly enroll in a fashion program at a university. I was still working on names for my fake dead to complete my mental scenario even if no one asked for them. Swift taught me that as well. Given my back story, the mix of old and new seemed not only plausible, but normal.

Items decided upon, Avery began to pack them up for easy loading. He informed me he had arranged for a vehicle and would load it with the items from Bonnie Central, as well as the items Eustice believed I should take with me. Once completed, I could supervise the transfer of my belongings from the rental car to what was apparently Bonnie's car. I picked up the laptop off of the shelf.

"Since I'm taking it with me, do you think it would be all right if I looked a few things up tonight?" I asked, thinking that if I spent the evening deciding on a direction, I could get an early start in the morning, not postponing the inevitable. Avery agreed it would be all right as long as I didn't ping on anything that my usual self would look into, like chatrooms and such. He also insisted I take the identification and phone with me as well. Suggesting that the ID go in my purse and wallet and my phone kept wherever I would normally keep a phone. I agreed and left him to pack, heading back down the path towards the main house.

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