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   Chapter 19 Brownie Oxford and the Barren Woods Blunder

Brownie Oxford and the Barren Woods Blunder: Brownie Bk 3 By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 15962

Updated: 2018-03-13 10:38

Chapter 19

I was glad I was facing away from the pair a moment later. I still didn't know what a Chaldean cuff was or what it was supposed to do, but I could feel it when it became active. I didn't need John to tell me when the test started. It felt like a giant leviathan rising from the depths of the ocean. I felt it as it broke the surface and I tightened my shields as it began to surface.

I pasted what I thought might pass as a pleasant, thoughtful look on my face and I turned back to face the front of the booth. Deciding I spent enough time here given I wasn't buying anything, I stepped out of the booth and into the central pathway the booths lined. I swung my bag of records a little as I moved, trying to look carefree even as I felt a cold sweat break out at my hairline.

I moved to another stall. This one contained mostly furniture and as I didn't really need any furniture at the moment, I would normally pass it by. Rather than back out of the stall, admitting I chose it blindly, I wandered around looking at the various pieces displayed. I let my eyes scan the pieces that came into view, not really seeing any of them. My skin prickled and they hair on the back of my neck rose. I felt as though a large animal was right behind me, sniffing, tasting my scent.

'If you run they will chase you, ' I reminded myself. 'If you don't run you might be safe. Maybe.'

These were the people who left bodies on the lawn. Getting found out by them might actually be worse than being caught by Swift. Still, it took every ounce of courage I had not to run away screaming. Behind me I heard a low growl.

'It's not there. Nothing is there.' I told myself. Even the voice in my head sounded shaky.

"It's a bishop's chair, " Someone said. I jumped and she laughed. "Didn't mean to startle you."

"That's fine, " I said recognizing the stall owner. In turning to face her I not only saw the stall owner, I saw behind her. Looming behind her was a large shadowy shape. Like the dead, the features were indistinct, but I got the impression of sharp teeth and long claws. The fact that it was still growling, a deep, low sound that vibrated my bones inside my skin, didn't help. I tightened my shields again until I felt almost breathless. I smiled at the stall owner. "Is it a bishop's chair?"

I turned back to look in the direction I was facing. Sure enough there was an enormous wooden chair with a vaguely gothic looking back on it. It looked like it weighed twice what I did.

"I was wondering what that was, " I told the stall owner, ignoring the low and threatening growls.

"It came out of a church that was torn down. We salvaged what we could before the rest was hauled away.

"Oh, " I said. "I would have thought they would have taken it to the new church."

"I don't think there was a new church, " the owner said with a shrug. "I think the congregation either died out or merged with another one."

"I see."

"Are you interested?"

"Not in the chair, no, I don't think it would fit in my door and it would probably look like a throne in my living room. There are worse things I suppose, " I said with a laugh. "I was just curious." I looked around, looking for a plausible reason to be here. "Actually, I was interested in bar carts, " I told her, spotting what I thought might be one as I turned. It seemed small and manageable in size. I kept my eyes focused on hers and ignored the shadowy, growling shape behind her.

"We actually have several, " she told me. "This way."

I followed her across the space she roped off for her wares. We picked our way through the strange jumble of furniture, most of which I couldn't focus on. I more or less just registered them as shapes not to run into while telling myself there was no sharp clawed, fang toothed predator pacing and growling behind me. I still heard the growling and I could almost swear I felt the hot breath of whatever followed behind us on the back of my neck. I tried not to shake as we stopped in front of a row of bar carts. Behind my pleasant smile I clamped my teeth down to keep from screaming. As the owner said, there were a number of bar carts to choose from. She stood back while I took in the variety and slowly walked down the row.

Even though my request was driven mostly by my need to look interested in something other than the formless thing with sharp teeth, I found myself drawn to one cart in particular. It looked oddly enough as though someone took an oversized diver's helmet and attached it to the top of a brass framework then attached wheels to the bottom so it could be easily moved around a room. The diver's helmet was easily two feet in diameter and the front, where the face mask would be contained two

is good for something, " he told me. "Although you are too strong to go without training. There are those who will be attracted to your strength and will use your ignorance to their advantage." He sighed and ran a hand though his hair. "I suppose that's where I come in. We'll start next week. I'm not entirely certain how good a teacher I'll be, but it seems neither of us has much of a choice at the moment."

'Thank you, ' I told him, not pointing out that he could easily choose to ignore me. John nodded. Lenny came striding over, a large grin splitting his face.

"They've gone, " he announced. "And I'm pretty sure they'll be leaving town. They talked about picking up the others and heading in to get their next assignment."

'Really?' I asked.

"Yeah, they said something about you being even more clueless than the other woman they tested. So they have decided the serial killers and the events around them had nothing to do with anyone of power. Mostly they talked about someone named Gerald who is going to be upset by the extra expense. Testing you wasn't a cheap endeavor, honey pot."

'Which technically, they didn't have anything to do with my ability, ' I said. 'I just have poor judgment in friends, at least among the living. Wait; did you say the other woman?'

"I did, because that's what they said, " Lenny replied.

'Nicole, ' I said to myself more than to them as pieces clicked into place. 'She has dark hair and eyes and is the building manager so she'd sort of be involved. I wonder why they were only testing women.'

"Were there men involved?" John asked.

'Ricky and his boyfriend, ' I replied.

"Do either of them have dark hair and eyes?"

'Blue and hazel, respectively and brown and dirty blonde on the hair.' I told them. 'So they didn't fit, but Nicole and I did. I suppose that explains it.'

"If it makes you feel any better, the expensive test was for both you and this Nicole, from what I gathered. They had to rent uniforms and stuff." Lenny added.

'Rent…they weren't real police, ' I almost smacked my forehead. 'Of course they weren't real police. That's why it wasn't on the news. And why Nicole's attackers didn't look worried about being arrested. Seems kind of elaborate, but I guess if your test involves a body carved with strange markings you have to expect someone to call the cops and deal with the call in and the official looking stuff.' Realizing I was close to babbling I stopped, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly.

'Thank you guys for everything, ' I said. 'Including listen to me babble.'

"It has been a rather trying morning for you, " John said.

"Now they are leaving, " Lenny said. "Leaving just Lenny here to follow you around sweet pea." He winked at me and I smiled.

'There are still Swift and Steve, ' I reminded him.

"Not here, " Lenny reminded me.


"You look a bit worn, " John said. "And I'm not surprised. There is no use in attempting a lesson this week. For now, you need rest."

'Yeah, I think I'll be heading home. Even with the lurking agents it is quieter there.'

"Good, rest up. Next Saturday we will begin our lessons." John told me.

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