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   Chapter 1 Brownie Oxford and the Barren Woods Blunder

Brownie Oxford and the Barren Woods Blunder: Brownie Bk 3 By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 11150

Updated: 2018-03-13 10:28

Chapter 1

'I am Bonnie Brown, ' I told myself as I used the flat iron to straighten my curls. The brown contacts were already in my eyes covering up the green. As strange as it felt to look at myself in the mirror and see straight hair instead of curls and brown eyes instead of my normal green, I knew it was a necessity.

Especially now.

After finding out that I could converse with the spirits of the dead, not through any crystal ball mummery, but in much the same manner as people everywhere talked to other people, the NCS, or National Clandestine Services, a rather shadowy branch of the CIA, sent someone calling himself Swift to recruit me into helping them out by questioning a host of unsavory dead. After seven years as his asset, I gained a wide variety of nightmares and a host of scars.

When someone named Matheson who possessed green eyes, curly brown hair, abilities similar to mine and claiming to be my uncle appeared, wanting to kill me so he could perform some sort of ritual to add my power to his, Swift hid me with a friend of his named Paul in a small town called Mayenfield. Admittedly, Swift didn't know Matheson was my uncle, as I was raised in the Riverdale Girl's Home, had no known family and he never got a look at Matheson to spot the physical similarities.

By now I figured he managed to find some sort of photo identification as Swift managed to find Cecil Matheson's house. I had the feeling once he found the photo, he would quickly put things together. Swift was many things, dumb wasn't one of them. When I left though, he just thought Matheson wanted to have me raise someone from the dead for some reason that neither of us knew.

Yeah, I lied to him.

After a necromancer showdown between Matheson and myself in the Mayenfield cemetery, Matheson died and I ran. I slipped out of town quietly and hid from Paul, Swift and the NCS. With the assistance of the dead I no longer needed the pills Dr. Harding, the doctor they routinely used to stich me up after something went wrong, created to keep my liver's bilirubin levels steady and my stomach from having constant upheavals.

With the assistance of Avery, Matheson's butler, who apparently helped my parents get me away from Cecil Matheson, I had a new identity. He made me Bonnie Brown instead of Brownie Oxford and as he spent my entire lifetime growing the identity, it had all of the background I needed to look real and not like I magically popped up from nowhere.

From there I started out on a new life. I drove across the country, found an apartment, set up a small sewing business and was accepted into the local university's fashion design program. I made friends with my neighbors and actually started to have a real life. I was well on my way to normal, when everything went pear shaped.

It turned out, my neighbors were serial killers.

Yeah. Serial killers.

They managed to kill fourteen people and as luck would have it, they buried their victims in cemeteries.

Yeah. Cemeteries.

Just my luck huh?

News spread and brought Swift, now calling himself Agent Mike Johnson, to the city. He actually apprehended my three neighbors in my apartment when one of them decided to make me victim number fifteen. He then informed my building manager, Nicole, that this was his last case, that he was retiring, taking a job with a consultant firm and apparently moving here to date her.

I finished straightening my hair and unplugged the flat iron. When he arrived Swift adopted a southern accent and exuded charm. The tall, blonde charmer swept Nicole off her feet. The fact that I thought of Swift as a cross between a surfer and a praying mantis made me a little creeped out at the thought of anyone dating him.

I tried not to dwell on the details.

The kitchen apprehension occurred the first day of my first fall semester as a fashion design student. Now we were two weeks into the spring semester and the media's interest was finally waning. I was certain that once the trial actually came to court interest would once again flare. Somehow, I thought that a full confession from all three of the murderers involved would speed things along.

Silly me.

Thinking things were taking forever to wrap up, I looked into it, since oddly enough, the length of time between arrest and trial was not covered in my junior high civics class, or if it was I was sick that day and probably have a doctor's note to confirm it.

In my random research I found that capitol cases, i.e. cases where someone was murdered, could easily take up to two years to make it to trial. The lawyers from both sides had to get their ducks in a row and then there were back and forth appeals and a host of other legal bits to get through before the trial could even begin.

And that was with one killer and one victim.

Without the Feds getting involved.

With the "Cemetery Three" as the media dubbed my neighbors, there were obviously three killers which tripled the amount of lawyers involved and I was certain probably extended the legal paperwork exponentially. Not to mention there were fourteen victims. It didn't help that the fourteen victims were not exactly working on the side of angels. In fact most of them worked for someone named Big Jimmy, who was apparently someone in the world of crime. I guess that's why they appended Big to his name.

Or maybe he was actually big.

I frowned at myself in the mirror. "Or do they call big people Tiny?"

As my knowledge of the naming practices of organized crime came from b

ad movies, I shook the thought away. His name wasn't as important as the information. My murderous neighbors turned out to be the over achieving sort and used their assorted skills to find out a host of information about their victims prior to making them victims. They wanted to make certain they were actually killing people they felt deserved to die, in addition to robbing them to make ends meet after they were laid off.

In the process of doing their due diligence, they managed to unearth reams of information the local police did not have on file. I was fairly certain the police didn't have the information because they had to abide by the law when gathering information and as serial killers, my neighbors had fewer restrictions.

It was making local news more interesting lately. At the beginning of the investigation, I started watching local coverage at night in the hopes of keeping track of Swift. Even though everyone was behind bars as they awaited their trial, I decided to continue watching.

If there were any other serial killers around, I wanted to know before they tried to kill me.

This time.

While Christa, Matt and Noah were not cited as the source of information, local media reported an increasing number of raids and round-ups, most of which centered around Big Jimmy's businesses. Speculation was rampant and before the coverage was bumped to the back burner to simmer while waiting for the trial, various media outlets started referring to my neighbors as vigilantes rather than serial killers.

"That might help at trial time, " I said, shaking off all thoughts of my neighbors and temporarily focusing on me.

During the time Swift knew me, in addition to being known as Brownie, I pretty much lived in t-shirts and jeans. Most of the shirts were in dark colors so mud and blood would be less noticible. The only make-up I wore came out on the few occasions where I actually managed to get a date. By contrast, Bonnie was well dressed and always put together head to toe. I meticulously studied every inch of my Bonnie get up, more interested in concealment than vanity. Personally, I missed the jeans and t-shits, I just wasn't willing to die for them.

The hair was straight, the eyes brown. Work with the contour brush brought out my cheekbones and made my face look a little fuller. While I still looked mostly the same, Bonnie looked more like a distant cousin to Brownie, or so I hoped. The dress was an electric blue cotton with sleeves long enough to conceal the scars on my arms and a skirt long enough to conceal the ones on my legs. It also matched the headband in my hair and the flats on my feet. A chunky necklace with bright sparkling half-dollar sized chunks of faceted glass completed the ensemble.

"It'll do, " I decided. I double checked the flat iron, making certain it was unplugged and not near anything flammable while it cooled and then left the bathroom, turning out the light behind me. In the living room I turned on the television and flipped through the channels until I found one showing current weather conditions.

"Cold enough for a coat, " I decided turning the television back off and tossing the remote to the couch. "But at least it is sunny and dry." With the amount of product it took to keep my curls straight, rain was not my friend. I sighed.

In addition to staying out of the rain, I could no longer go swimming, for obvious reasons. I also had to give up my daily running as sweat was nearly as bad as rain. I compensated for the running with strategic parking, especially while on campus. The lot I was assigned when I applied for a parking permit was in the lot furthest away from campus. I added to it by parking in the most remote space in that lot and then using my walk to class to burn off some energy. As the pace was slow, due to non-running clothes and the backpack, sweat was kept at a minimum and the hair remained as I intended.

Or at least it had so far.

I had my fingers crossed for the spring as it warmed up. I also purchased a rather large umbrella that I kept in my car as well as a smaller folding umbrella to keep in my oversized purse. Spring showers were not going to catch me unawares.

Energy, or the expending of it anyway, was on my mind a lot these days. While I managed to compensate for the lack of running, with all the cemetery related issues going on, I hadn't gone to speak with the dead in a while. It was starting to make me twitchy. In addition, my dreams started getting strange.

"At least they aren't red poppy strange, " I muttered to myself as I went to my coat closet and took out my yellow wool coat. The dreams Matheson sent me when he was trying to add my power to his own, a process I'm certain would have left me dead, always started in a field of red poppies. These recent dreams weren't like that. These were more like the scenes I got when I looked through the memories of the dead while we were conversing.

Except that I wasn't currently speaking with the dead.

Weird, huh?

I slipped on my coat and decided I would puzzle things out once I returned. For now, I had a few supplies I needed to pick up for class projects and I wanted to check out one of the large flea markets. Even though it was still chilly as we neared the end of January, this was the first weekend this particular outdoor flea market was open and I was hoping that the chilly weather and newly stocked booths would result in some great finds for me.

"I can always worry once I get home, " I reminded myself.

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