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   Chapter 20 Brownie Oxford and the Barren Woods Blunder

Brownie Oxford and the Barren Woods Blunder: Brownie Bk 3 By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 16764

Updated: 2018-03-13 10:39

Chapter 20

Lenny escorted me to my car. Despite the Toyota and its occupants leaving, he fancied himself a bit of a body guard. I didn't mind, especially as my adrenaline was fading and I felt completely wrung out. I was hollow and a bit queasy. By sheer force of will I kept my body from shaking, reminding myself that shaky drivers ended in the emergency room. I suspected that if he was around, the emergency room was where Dr. Harding was lurking. I climbed into my car and placed the replacement wheels in the passenger seat. Lenny waved to me as I drove out of the parking lot. He kept waving until I turned and he was lost to sight.

Somehow it made me feel better.

As did the thought of John helping to train me.

I still wanted to know about the dreams, but those questions were bumped down my list of need to know. If necessary I could spend every night for the foreseeable future inspecting the details of the various rooms in the Bradford home. I could even practice my sketching while drawing a portrait of pork chop man if need be.

The first thing I needed to know was about that Chaldean cuff and the beast it apparently linked to. I really hoped they weren't a common accessory or part of a set. I didn't want to worry about a matching belt or set of earrings. Personally, I never wanted to see it or anything like it again. I shivered and deliberately shoved all thought of it out of my mind. I knew from working with Swift that horrific events tended to rise in the form of nightmares and I suspected I would see the beast again when I closed my eyes.

"Unless I go back to pork chop man, " I told myself as I drove home. Sadly the brutal murder seemed the better option.

I was somewhat calmer by the time I reached my apartment building. I think the driving away not only put distance between me and events, it managed to make me feel like I did in fact run away from the bad thing instead of bringing it home. Home was still safe ground.

'And having Sarah, Mr. Nondescript and their cohorts gone is one less thing for me to worry about, ' I reminded myself. 'And some of the weirdness is explained, even if I can't tell Ricky.' It made me feel marginally better. Swift may want me to go with him into bad places where people armed with large weapons lived, but he didn't have shadowy beasts to sic on me.

'I wonder if the beast would have looked different if my abilities weren't on lock down?' I thought as I parked and turned off the engine. It had the same qualities as the spirits around me did at that time. Would it look more substantial if I was open to it? I suspected it would. I also knew if it did, I didn't want to see it. I didn't think it would look any better if I could see it fully.

I got out of the car and gathered my purchases. The wheels and bag of records went into the bar cart and I pushed the whole thing up the sloped walkway to the front doors of my building. I didn't bother looking left or right as I moved, I just looked straight ahead. If any more bodies appeared in the yard, I wanted to know nothing about it. I navigated the set of three stairs carefully on the dodgy wheels and reached the doors to my building.

'I wonder what Swift thinks about the body not making the news, ' I asked myself as I made it inside the lobby and squeaked my way to the elevator doors. 'He has to think that looks suspicious. Maybe that's where Steve has gone, to check it out. Since the body wasn't checked into officially it couldn't have just gone to the morgue like any other body. It would have to disappear.' I pressed the button and waited. The elevator took longer than usual, but eventually it came. I pushed my cart in and pressed the button for my floor. When it dinged and reopened on my floor, I wheeled my cart out and down the hall to my apartment door, still wondering what Sarah and friends did with the body after the test was over.

"Bonnie?" someone said as I stood, hand reaching into my coat pocket for my keys. I recognized Nicole's voice and looked around the rounded globe of the bar cart. Nicole and Swift were standing in the hallway.

"Hi, " I said smiling at the two of them and wishing they would go away. Even if I was curious about what Swift thought, as the moment all I wanted was to make it to my apartment and fall apart behind a closed and locked door. I no longer felt like I needed to crawl under the covers while a night light kept the monsters at bay, but I still wanted to sit and shake and react to earlier events. I didn't want to socialize and I really didn't want to see Swift.

I didn't think that was too much to ask.

Besides, I didn't actually have a night light.

"That is so cool, " Nicole said walking over. My hand closed over my keys and I extracted them from my pocket.

"Thanks, " I said as I fitted my key into the lock. "I saw it and couldn't resist. With a little work I think it will be quite spectacular. I am running out of room for furniture though. I suppos

looked very upset. Nathan may not mind buying baubles to indulge his pretty friend, but he does mind losing money. The man has the soul of an accountant no matter what the situation. A not so great show shows up in the books. In addition to apologizing for not recognizing my skills, there is a promotion in it for me. One with longevity, even if I am not the pretty young thing I once was. But I will have to explain that later. I just wanted to drop off these and tell you the good news before getting ready for tonight. Oh, and I'll have copies of the images to you in a few days. It just might take a little longer than I expected."

"I have plenty of time, " I told him. "Does this new promotion mean you won't be able to help me with my photos?"

"Of course not, I'm still totally in. Besides leaving you with a camera would signal the death knell of your business. While fashion is often Avant guard, you still have to have a picture of it that shows the entire garment, preferably with the models head in the frame."

"So I'm told, " I replied. "I wasn't planning on starting until summer anyway, so there is plenty of time."

"By then things will have settled, " he assured me. He turned towards the door. "Oh and I'll be back next week to discuss the designs for the gala if you have time."

"I'll make time, " I said nodding. He reached for the door and on impulse turned and picked me up in a large hug.

"Thanks for being such a good friend Bonnie, " he told me. "I really appreciated it."

"Anytime, " I said as he dropped me back onto my feet. "You've been quite a good friend yourself."

"We do make a pretty good pair." He opened my apartment door. "Until later, " he said. He stepped into the hall and closed the door. I walked over and threw the dead bolt. Even though I felt better than when I arrived I was thrilled to finally, mercifully be alone. I walked over to my couch, sank into the cushions, leaned back and closed my eyes.

Swift was moving into the apartment next door. Steve was still floating around somewhere. I doubted Swift would be following me everywhere I went. If Swift talked to Steve then I didn't think he would follow me as much either. The Sedan and those associated with it were gone, including the shadow beast and its bracelet home. I thought Steve might be here because Swift was here, so all I had to do was pass Swift's examination. Thus far I wasn't doing too badly on that front.

At least, I didn't think I was.

'And if the Sedan crew is gone then the weirdness level will drop dramatically, ' I reminded myself. 'It will be a lot easier to act normal and blend when everyone else is acting normal too.'

Honestly, I was beginning to suspect that normal didn't really exist.

'But I can work with a 'standard for here' mentality, ' I decided. 'IU spent a lot of time in plain view of Swift and Steve so they know I'm not avoiding them. I've also given reasons why I'm going to be busy and renting a storage unit.' I nodded, feeling pretty good about things so far. I was playing a high stakes game of chicken with Swift. If I didn't flinch, he'd go away and take Steve with him. I thought of the shadow beast and how I walked through it.

'I'm not going to flinch, ' I promised myself. Swift could look all he wanted. He would only see Bonnie Brown.

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