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   Chapter 4 Wildwood The Society Book 1

Wildwood: The Society Book 1 By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 35300

Updated: 2018-03-13 11:31

Chapter 4

Ivy dusted off her hands and went to check the laundry. The dryer was silent and when she opened the door, she automatically looked into the lint trap. "Well hell, " she said. All the lint was colored a deep magenta.

She picked up a large metal smoking chimney that she picked up on a whim at a barbeque grill and grilling equipment store. While the purchase had more or less been designed to keep the over eager sales clerk away from her while she browsed for items she might be able to use in one of her non-barbeque related plans, it had come in handy more times than she cared to count.

"Although I will never use it anywhere near anything I planned to actually eat, " she said to herself as she stuffed the magenta colored lint into the top of the chimney where the coals would normally go. After ten years of using the chimney to dispose of unwanted spells, there was no telling what sort of residue had been left behind. Checking to make certain she had gotten all of the lint, Ivy straightened and took the filled container to the bedroom.

The bedroom fireplace had been one of the reasons she had bought the apartment in the first place. In addition to finding the 'burn to ash' method of disposal handy, Ivy found she always felt better if there was the possibility of a crackling fire nearby, even if she didn't always light it.

She pulled the decorative fire grate to the side and reached into the small metal can she kept next to the bricks. Inside the metal can were twists of newspaper. Ivy picked up one of the twists and set the chimney into the fireplace. She then pinched the tip of the paper twist between her fingers and directed heat into the paper until it caught fire.

She smiled and pulled her fingers from the flames. As a fire mage she could no more burn than a water mage could drown. She cupped a hand around the burning paper and dipped down to the bottom of the chimney. She slipped the twist into the chimney and heard a satisfying whoosh as the lint caught fire. Ivy let the twist fall to burn itself out as she watched the sparks fly.

The sparks flashed the color of molten bronze as the last of the spell was consumed in the flames. Ivy inhaled the scent and thought she caught a whiff of ginger as the last of the lint was consumed. She leaned back, the show over quickly as it didn't take long for dry lint to disappear in flame.

Each mage had a distinctive essence to their magic. The bronze and ginger she hadn't seen or smelled before. Most of the Council traces she had found over the years had either burned blue and had the scent of wisteria or burned gold and smelled like peppermint. She had linked the first to an air mage named Madison who was known to work for the Shadow Council. The second she couldn't name, but as those trackers always followed visits by wolves, she guessed it to be a mage who worked routinely with shifters. It had been quite a while since the last peppermint and gold tracker, but she usually came across at least one blue wisteria a month.

While Ivy had never figured out if there was any correlation between color and mage, she knew that air mages tended to smell of flowers, particularly ones that grew in vines far from the ground and water mages tended to smell like plants associated with the water like lilies or water cress. It was earth mages who tended to smell of things that grew underground. Her brother Max, for instance, had always smelled of baked potatoes, while Alex smelled of peanuts.

"And ginger is a root, " Ivy reminded herself. "So probably an earth mage." She would have to keep an eye out. She straightened and dusted off the knees of her jeans before replacing the grate in front of the fireplace. With the last of the watching spell destroyed and the time limit for a free floating tracker elapsed, Ivy decided it was time to see what it was Albert decided to give her.

She glanced at her laptop sitting on her the desk across the room. Deciding it would be better to be safe rather than sorry, she walked instead to the dresser. She slid the middle drawer out and carefully removed the folded clothes setting them to the side. When the drawer was empty, she reached into the very back and pressed what looked like a knothole. The bottom of the drawer popped up with a click revealing a secret compartment. From under the false bottom, she extracted a thin laptop.

Knowing she would have to return the laptop to the drawer when she was done, Ivy left the clothes piled neatly on the floor and the drawer open. If anyone happened by, she would tuck the laptop away, close the drawer and claim she was putting laundry away. When creating the false bottom, Ivy had considered hiding the false bottom of the drawer with magic, but had decided against it trusting in good craftsmanship instead. After all, there were those who could detect magic and using a magic seal would be more or less like having a blinking arrow labeled 'secrets in here' flashing above the drawer.

She left the laptop on the bed and returned to the living room. Carefully she gathered the jewelry up; leaving out a decorative metal broach shaped like a lizard, and put everything else back into the small jewelry box. While she was gathering, she added Albert's flash drive as well, taking the whole lot back to the bedroom. With the box still under her arm, she checked on the baking loaf and decided it still needed more time.

Once in the bedroom, she extracted the flash drive and left the jewelry box on top of the dresser. Ivy then settled herself on the center of the bed, opened the laptop and powered it up. As it went through its opening sequence, Ivy set the flash drive down and wiped her palms against her jeans, realizing she was nervous.

While she had never been a strictly follow the rules sort of person, especially if she considered the rules unjust, her not so sanctioned activities were limited to talking to her family through carefully hidden Skype sessions when she was supposed to forget they existed and designing things that she was fairly certain the Shadow Council wouldn't like.

"And most of the stuff they'd really hate is still theoretical instead of actual, " Ivy said thinking of her hidden mechanical drawings. Most contained prototypes of items she designed combining magic and technology. "And there are no actual laws against it." It was the line she used to justify her designs when her mind settled on something she just had to create.

Albert was a whole other realm. She dabbled in the gray, but he walked knee deep in the black. The computer booted up and demanded she enter her password. Ivy entered it. The computer accepted and asked for a second password. She typed it in and the computer went to her desktop.

This computer had nothing saved on it and had only basic software. Nothing either personal or professional was saved on it and if anyone were to check, the computer was registered to a Dorian Gray. The only e-mail it ever logged into started with DoeGrayMe.

Ivy smiled. All of them had chosen the names of fictional characters. The emails the five of them exchanged were very boring and related to nothing that contained any words the Council would use to link them, should they ever learn of the aliases. In truth, the emails were nothing more than coded dates and times for their video conferences.

"Fun and fabulous video conferences, " Ivy reminded herself. Knowing that whatever happened with the Council, it was likely to do something to her life, she had asked for a conference to be scheduled around 11:30 the following night. She figured that would give her enough time to get home, change into something comfortable and start to process whatever had happened before talking to her family. The conferencing session she had invited them all to attend had been labeled 'Facilitating Synergistic Data Streaming Using Multi-layered, Inter-woven, and Connective Informational Sources'.

Ivy had been quite proud of the title. She thought it might even rival some of Danny's dental related session topics for completely unrelated word choices and misdirection. While most of their kind tended to avoid technology whenever possible, there was always the chance someone might get a bright idea and go looking. She didn't think it would take a genius to type in a few key words to begin a search so they used fake names, false addresses and faux conference sessions whose titles avoided anything the Shadow Council or its affiliates would think to search.

In addition, they all lived in multi-unit buildings instead of standalone homes. If the Council somehow got wind of what was going on and managed to trace the link back to the building, there was always the possibility they wouldn't be able to determine which apartment the computer was in. Once finger prints were wiped, Ivy could easily leave the computer on a park bench or city bus and walk away with no ties evident.

"So far it has worked, " Ivy said to herself picking up Albert's flash drive. None of them had ever even felt the need to switch to one of their back up accounts. The backups had been based upon the names of long dead artists instead of fictional characters, albeit with some gender swapping. If her Dorian Gray account was ever compromised, she would become Joanna Vermeer. "Well, at least it worked if that's not what they plan to talk to me about tomorrow." She reminded herself.

It was one of the reasons that she had asked for the next family meeting after the Council session rather than before. She felt that if asked if she had contacted the others she could say, not recently, and have it stand as truth to the shifters' senses. It had been a little more than a month since their last session after all.

Ivy realized she was stalling and pulled the cap off of the small thumb drive. "Only 8GB, " she muttered. "So probably not a massive file." The drive opened a window on her desktop. "Or files, " she amended. Several files were lined up in the flash drive window. Instead of names they had been given the numbers one through four. "I suppose I'll start with one, " Ivy decided double clicking on the folder. The file contained one text document with the ominous title of 'Testing'. Ivy clicked on it and began reading.

Despite the title, the document seemed innocuous enough. Apparently, about five years prior, the Shadow Council decided to start testing and recording the power levels of mage-born children with the hopes of pairing them with appropriate trainers. The thinking, as outlined in the document, was that if they could be paired up appropriately they could learn basic control as well as basic skills in a more efficient manner letting them move on to more advanced work sooner. The early lessons in control would help prevent public slip-ups when the children started school.

Ivy had no idea how many public slip-ups there were, but as the Shadow Council's job entailed dealing with them, she could see why they might want fewer problems. She knew that there were a few private schools whose student body was entirely composed of children born into the hidden clans. As those schools were only located in large urban areas that not only had a larger population of such families, but an array of other private schools for norm children to attend, most of the children of their world attended regular public schools, supplementing their education outside of the classroom.

Ivy frowned as she realized some of the lines of text had been highlighted. After reading the entire breakdown of the testing, pairing and training system, she went back and looked only at the highlighted text. There wasn't much of it, just a few sentences here and there.

"Testing occurs when a mage-born child reaches the age of five years by June of that year, " Ivy read one sentence. "The child is paired with an appropriate trainer to learn control." Ivy frowned. "Sounds just like cliff's notes." She shook her head and pushed on. After all as she had no children and wasn't planning to have any, there was no reason for Albert to give her the information. "And since it got me searched, it had better be important." She would not be pleased if Albert had merely decided to amuse himself.

Her eyes scanned the page. "Lessons on control completed before the child enters kindergarten, paperwork filed with the Shadow Council stating the child's power level and certifying that control has been learned." Ivy continued down the page. "Not exactly an earth shattering reveal." She saw nothing she did not expect. Was there something she was missing?

She frowned as she saw the last highlighted bit. It had not only been highlighted, but underlined. She read the section closely. "Once certification of control has been given, the files are sealed and listed power levels become irrelevant. They cannot be used as either a detriment to or a reason for promotion or status within The Society."

"Huh, " Ivy said, knowing that The Society was what the Council called all of them in official documents when they spoke about the various clans as one unit. In the kitchen she heard the timer ding. Figuring the computer was safe for the moment, she left it where it was as she slipped off the bed and went to the kitchen. She checked the loaf of bread, decided it was done and took it out of the oven.

She basked for a moment in the warm heat of the open oven, then closed the door and turned it off. She set the bread on the rack to cool and picked up the raisin bread. It had cooled and she quickly sliced two pieces and popped them in the toaster. As they browned and crisped, Ivy took the butter from the fridge and a plate from the cabinet.

The toast popped up and she began buttering the hot slices. She could easily see how the ranking of power levels could be abused. It would be very easy for those with higher power levels to feel that they were more entitled to leadership positions than those with lower levels and she could see how those with lower levels could be easily marginalized.

"And some mages really don't need another reason to think they are better than anyone else." She shrugged. Ivy met many a mage filled with a sense of entitlement. "Besides, it's how you use what you have rather than just what you have that is important in the end anyway." She had met several mages over the years who counted on simply being the mightiest in the room to get them through, using the sledgehammer approach to every situation. As a consequence, they were often quite lazy, their work somewhat sloppy. "Where someone less powerful tends to work harder." She shrugged. "Not all the time, but often enough."

She put the butter away and dropped the knife in the sink to wash later. She took the plate back to the bedroom and set it down on the bed next to her as she settled herself back in front of the computer. She took a bite of toast and looked over the document again, searching for anything she might have missed. Overall, it seemed fairly straightforward.

"And not at all strip search worthy, " she muttered. Ivy was beginning to think Albert had decided to mess with her for his own amusement. She closed the document down, closed the file marked 'one' and opened the file marked 'two'. This file contained five documents. These were given sequential numbers as well. "2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, " she read realizing they were simply years.

"Dates then." She thought about the first document. "It said that the testing had been implemented five years ago and that the reviews were done in June so everyone would be ready for fall and the new school year, " Ivy mused to herself, mentally tying them together. "Probably should start at the beginning."

She clicked on the document listed as 2009 and a spreadsheet opened up. The first column was a list of children's names. The second column contained their listed power levels, as she had expected. The third contained the names of their designated trainers. The fourth was the day the children had passed their certification test. The fifth column was labeled Birth while the sixth and final column was labeled Death.

"Well that's a bit morbid, " Ivy thought taking another bite of toast.

Then she noticed that while most of the spaces under the column of Death were blank, a few had been filled in. She shook her head remembering that the children were only five at the time of testing.

"It's a nasty world we live in, " she thought looking at the list and setting her toast back down on the plate. The children who were deceased had their information highlighted in red. "For extra gruesomeness no doubt, " she said. "Thanks Albert." She sighed and picked up her toast again. Some of the dead had tested rather high on the power level scale. Ivy froze as a thought hit her.

"No, " she told herself. She set her toast back down on the plate as her eyes scanned the names on the list again. The testing assigned levels between one at the lowest and twelve at the highest. All of those highlighted in red had levels listed at ten or higher. She shifted her gaze to the ones who weren't highlighted in red, the ones who hadn't died. None of them had a level higher than nine. Ivy swallowed hard.

"It has to be some sort of coincidence, " she said weakly. She closed the document and pulled up the 2010 document. It too was a spreadsheet containing the same basic information. Again there were lines coded red. Ivy scanned the power levels and found the same pattern. Anyone with a

ten or above was dead, anyone with a nine or lower was alive.

Ivy felt sick to her stomach. What the hell had Albert given her? She closed the document and forced herself to look at the three other documents. The pattern held. "Oh god, " she thought wondering if her few bites of toast were about to come back up. Someone was killing children. That had to be the answer. There was no way an accident could have taken out only the same select category of people every year and no one else. It looked targeted.

"Okay, " she told herself taking a deep breath and wiping her hands on her jeans again. "Don't jump to conclusions, even if they look obvious."

She closed down the last of the spread sheets and closed the file. With some trepidation, she clicked on the file marked three. There were six files inside the number three file. The first five were labeled with the years 2009 through 2013. The sixth file was labeled Chambers. Ivy swallowed hard. Felling a little like a chicken, she opened the file marked 2009 first, thinking she could work her way up to the Chambers file.

Inside were individual documents, each listed with a person's name arranged alphabetically. Ivy clicked on the first one, Aaron Anderson. It was a death certificate. Aaron Anderson had died shortly before his sixth birthday in a car crash. Knowing she had to look, Ivy slid Aaron's certificate to the side and clicked until she brought up the 2009 spreadsheet she had seen earlier. A quick scan confirmed. He had been given a power level of eleven.

Ivy closed Aaron's certificate and looked at the names listed under Aaron's. She quickly matched each to the spreadsheet and closed it down. Ivy pulled up each death certificate in the 2009 folder. The more she saw, the more the pit of dread grew in her belly. She moved through the rest of the years in quick succession, after all there was only one thing on each form she needed to check. She needed to see how they died. She reached the last name in the 2013 and clicked on the name. As expected, Xavier Zeeman, aged five, had died in a car crash.

"Just like everyone else." She told herself.

Ivy closed his death certificate and the 2013 file, realizing she had only the Chambers file to look into before moving on to file number four. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She tilted her face towards the ceiling and let the breath out slowly. She took several more slow deep breaths, trying to calm the fear that had risen up inside her.

Feeling slightly steadier, she tilted her head back down and opened her eyes. Her heart was still pounding as she clicked on the file labeled Chambers. The documents this file contained were also listed by name. First name only was given, but Ivy didn't really need more. She knew her family.

Slowly she read the names: Elizabeth, Franklin, Violet, Lilly, Marigold, Heather, Jasmine, Roger and Johnathan. Ivy took another deep breath and let it out slowly. While she, Rose, Max, Danny, and Alex had been raised as siblings, they were in fact cousins. Their mothers had been sisters. All of them had died when they were infants and they had been left with their grandmother.

Their grandmother, Elizabeth, had refused to discuss anything related to their deaths. She was equally silent on the topic of their fathers. While Ivy knew her mother's name was Violet and that she had adored playing the piano, she knew absolutely nothing about her father, not even his name. It didn't even appear on her birth certificate. If her grandmother had known anything about him or the fathers of the others, she had taken it to her grave, leaving not even a scrap of paper behind to start a search.

Ivy clicked on the name Violet before she could lose her nerve. Somehow she was not terribly surprised to find that her mother had died in a car accident. Ivy closed the file and one by one pulled up the documents with her aunts' names, finding out that the mothers of those she called siblings had also died in car accidents.

"Although it might be the same accident as the death date for each is the same, " Ivy said. She clicked on Franklin and found out that her grandfather had also died the same day as her mother and aunts. In addition to the ball of dread rolling around in her belly, Ivy was beginning to feel small licks of anger, like flames on a newly kindled campfire. While small, she knew they had the potential to grow into a raging bonfire capable of driving back the howling night. At the moment they were tentative, as though still debating whether to gently heat or to fiercely blaze.

Ivy clicked on the name Roger. Roger and Johnathan had been her grandmother's twin brothers. She remembered her Uncle Roger telling them long stories filled with pirates, lost treasure and ghosts as they pulled weeds in the large vegetable garden out back. She remembered Uncle Johnathan picking her up and swinging her up and through the air in a big circle, his big booming laugh sounding like thunder and vibrating through her body. Both had seemed like giants to her with their long legs and broad forms. She remembered their double funeral as well. They died the same day and been buried out at Longleaf Cemetery with the rest of the family.

The church next to the cemetery had long ago been destroyed, the congregation moving to a newer building about ten miles away, but the cemetery remained. They had returned to Longleaf years later to bury her grandmother in the family plot. Ivy thought about her uncles' funeral.

She had been young then and hadn't quite understood what was going on. She missed her uncles, but hadn't realized yet that they were never coming back. She was annoyed that she had to wear her stiffly starched dress with the itchy lace, white tights that bunched between her toes and shiny black shoes that rubbed blisters on her heels. It was a Sunday dress and she didn't think it fair that she had to wear it on a Thursday.

When they lowered the coffins into the ground she had been disturbed for only a minute. After all Uncle Roger often talked about how some plants slept in the ground during the winter and the weather had started turning cold a few weeks prior. He explained about the timing of planting seeds as well. She thought it likely that some people got planted too and she had wondered what he was going to turn into when he emerged from the earth in the spring.

Later when she and the others had discussed it, they decided that oak trees were the mostly likely outcome from their uncles being planted. No other tree seemed quite sturdy enough to contain them. Remembering the large oak that had fallen the winter before and been chopped up, the five of them made a pinky swear promise that they would not let anyone cut down their uncles for firewood, even if they did fall down.

The five of them had been sent upstairs at that point and told to play quietly. They were still in their starched and scratchy fancy clothes and had peered out of the window watching people parking in front of the house, bringing in covered dishes. Breakfast had been a hurried affair that morning and all five of them were beginning to get hungry. The sight of Mrs. Perkins carrying her triple layer white coconut cake up the walkway had been enough to get them into planning mode.

Ivy had been voted the quietest of their small gang and therefore the one most likely to pull off the plan without getting caught. She remembered slipping off her squeaky, too tight shoes and stepping into the back stairwell. Her stocking feet made no sound on the floorboards.

The back stairs were what her grandmother still called the servants stairs and they gave Ivy a direct line to the kitchen. Having used it often, she knew where all of the squeaky boards were and quickly made her way to the landing. She crouched in the doorway just out of sight and had a good view of the kitchen. As she settled into place, the door between the kitchen and living room swung open and her grandmother led Mrs. Perkins inside.

Ivy watched the tops of their heads move to the counter as the cake was placed with the other items. Mrs. Perkins' hair had been teased up so that each individual hair was standing up like a porcupine, while her grandmother's had been lacquered into a shell by hair spray. Something about her grandmother seemed just as stiff and tense as her hair and Ivy found herself growing afraid and hunching further into the shadows.

Mrs. Perkins was an earth mage, like her grandmother and often came over for tea and a chat as her grandmother called it. Even at her age, Ivy had been told the differences between the mages and the others and that those without magic should never find out about those who had magic. The books filled with images from the witch trials had been used as evidence and had given her nightmares for weeks. Mrs. Perkins was an old friend of her grandmother's and in on most of the family secrets. They didn't look friendly at the moment and Ivy felt her heart beating wildly, scared for reasons she couldn't explain.

"It is for the best dear, " Mrs. Perkins had said. Ivy watched her grandmother stiffen as Mrs. Perkins patted her consolingly on the back. "You'll see that when you are thinking more clearly." The cake was placed on the counter and the two women returned to the front room. Her grandmother murmured something that sounded vaguely appropriate without actually being a response. It was something Ivy knew she did when she didn't agree with what was said, but couldn't find a polite way to refute the statement.

As the door swung closed behind them, Ivy let out the breath she hadn't realized she was holding and continued down the stairs. The coconut cake had been the original goal, but somehow it no longer seemed as attractive, although she couldn't quite process why. Instead, she had picked up a chocolate cake and some forks before returning to the upstairs playroom. No one questioned the switch and they had eaten themselves sick on chocolate cake. Mrs. Perkins had not returned to the house again until her grandmother's wake. Ivy had found herself still unable to touch the coconut cake the elderly woman brought with her condolences.

Ivy shook her head, clearing the memory away. She opened first Uncle Roger's document and then Uncle Johnathan's. As she remembered, they had both died on the same day. A car accident was listed as the cause.

"Only one name left, " Ivy said, her mouse hovering over her grandmother's name. "Having her die in a car accident would be very strange, " Ivy said, her voice coming out as a hoarse whisper that seemed to echo in the silent apartment.

Elizabeth Chambers had never gotten a driver's license, preferring to either walk or bike everywhere. She had a bike with a large basket on it and was known to pull off to the side and gather odd bits of plants she saw growing beside the road as well as to deliver covered dishes to those Father Francis put on the prayer list. Once Ivy's great-uncles died, the car they had bought new and kept in perfect working order since their early twenties, remained in the garage until she and her siblings were old enough to learn to drive.

At that time, the car was hauled out, gone over by a very amused mechanic who hadn't seen a 1947 Studebaker in some time, and once certified as road worthy, Father Francis taught them each to drive. Ivy remembered that their grandmother would only ride in the car when they were all going to church, even when their uncles were alive to drive the car. As an earth mage, she felt better with her feet on or at least near the ground, just as Ivy felt better with a fireplace. Ivy couldn't recall ever seeing her grandmother in a car at any other time as she even took her large basket-ed bike grocery shopping.

"And there were no dents on that car, " Ivy said firmly. If either her uncles or her grandmother had truly died in a car accident, it hadn't involved their car. When the family was split up, the car had been donated to the church and sold at an auction. It's nearly pristine condition had garnered quite a profit and enabled the church to make renovations to the community center. She had smiled when the thank you note had finally made it through the various channels to reach her.

Ivy realized she was holding her breath and let it out as she clicked on the document marked Elizabeth. "Well there is a shocker, " Ivy said dryly. Apparently, her grandmother had died as a result of an automotive accident. Ivy realized the flames of anger had died back a little and all she felt was tired and a little numb. She was certain the anger would return once she figured out what it all meant. She closed the Chambers file and backed out until she was at the first window again.

"What's left Albert?" She asked the computer as she clicked on the file marked four. It contained one document marked 'thoughts'. "Yeah, I have a few thoughts myself, " she muttered as she opened up the document. Albert's thoughts were listed as separate sentences on the page. They were even numbered.

"One, only those with power levels ten and above were killed." Ivy nodded, she had reached the same conclusion. "Two, the deaths occurred no earlier than their assignment of a trainer and no later than three days after they were certified, with both events, assignment and certification, occurring in front of the Shadow Council."

Ivy hadn't checked the dates on the deaths and at the moment was unwilling to go back through everything just for confirmation. For now, she was willing to trust his determination. After all she could always go back through the data herself later if necessary.

"Three, it is possible at least some of the trainers are involved."

"That's a chilling thought, " Ivy said as she moved to the next item.

"Four, it is possible that some members of the Shadow Council are involved."

"And that is even worse, " Ivy decided, knowing neither statement was beyond the realm of possibility. The ball of dread in her belly had grown.

"Five, trainers who can be eliminated from possible involvement need to be identified and set to work with higher power level children while the others are investigated."

"Clearly, " Ivy said agreeing with the statement. "The world needs less dead children." She noticed that a parenthesis had been added after the thought and several names had been added. She didn't know any of them, but guessed them to be qualified trainers. She noticed that two of the names had strike through marks over them and wondered if Albert had decided they were untrustworthy or if they had recently died.

"Of course they could have recently died because Albert found them untrustworthy, " Ivy reminded herself. She shivered and pushed the thought out of her mind.

"Six, a secure location needs to be established under the watch of someone not tightly tied to the Council."

"And there it is, " Ivy said looking at the list of names typed in below the sixth statement. There were only five names Albert had put on the list. "Ivy Chambers, Alexander Chambers, Maximillian Chambers, Daniel Chambers, Rosalind Chambers."

Below their names was a list of requirements the secure location would need to possess. Ivy shook her head as she scanned the list of requirements Albert thought necessary. At the moment she didn't have any of them.

"But apparently he thinks that I, or one of the others, could get them. And that the five of us are the only ones he feels can be trusted to not only not kill children, but to have a home where children aren't killed. I suppose I ought to be flattered, " Ivy thought. She rubbed at the goose bumps that had risen on her arms, not even bothering to lie to herself that her chill was related to the room's temperature.

Having reached the end of the notes and the end of Albert's files, she closed everything down without saving anything to the hard drive and then ejected the flash drive. Once it was safely capped and set to the side, she went to her control panel and cleaned out the document's history. She then had the system reboot to factory standard, just in case. Once it was clean again, Ivy powered the laptop down and put it back in the drawer.

She thought about putting the flash drive in the drawer, but decided against it. If it was found, she wanted to at least pretend she hadn't looked at the contents. Not stashing it with the laptop would help with the facade. She decided that hiding in plain sight might be a better plan.

Once her clothing had been returned to the drawer and the drawer shut, she walked over to the desk. Next to her pen jar was a small glass bowl. In the glass bowl were several flash drives. Some she used on a regular basis, others had been giveaways she picked up in random places. No two were alike and when she dropped Albert's flash drive into the mix, it blended easily with the others.

"And I could always say it must have slipped out of someone's pocket, " Ivy thought. After all, she had taken several meetings in her living room. Which was why all her furniture had washable cushion covers and she had long ago lost count of the number of trackers she had removed from the fabric.

Ivy looked at the plate still left on the bed. The butter had melted into the hot bread and then congealed as the bread cooled making the bread just look greasy. She frowned and felt her stomach rumble reminding her that she had consumed nothing beyond a few bites of toast.

"Maybe a sandwich instead, " she decided.

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