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   Chapter 3 Keeper of the Crossroads

Keeper of the Crossroads By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 33973

Updated: 2018-03-13 10:49


Chapter 3

Jamie reached his car and unlocked the driver's side door. He slid the satchel from his shoulder and placed it on top of his stack of papers. It was a good thing he had taken a few days off to deal with his uncle's affairs since it seemed he was taking homework to his apartment for the first time since college. He eyed the stack warily. The satchel kept the papers from flying in the breeze from the open window. After being stuck in the smoke filled van that morning he just simply couldn't bring himself to close the window. The edges of the papers shifted in the breeze as though they were crooking a finger at him and beckoning him into his Uncle's would of secrets.

'Come, ' they whispered. 'Come see what really happened in Albe's world.' Jamie turned down a side street in a short cut over to Elm. There was a fast food restaurant that he liked. It wasn't a chain, but a locally owned dive that continued to thrive long after the McDonalds and Burger Kings had moved in.

Guppies sold the best hamburgers and chocolate milkshakes a person could want. And when you ordered a hamburger with onions you got a spoonful of sautéed sweet onions piled on with hot melty cheese covering them. Jamie grinned. He had been trying to be more health conscious, but he figured there were just times when health had to take a back seat. Besides he was limiting his grease filled delight intake to only once a month and he hadn't imbibed this month. Sure, it was only the second day of the month but he was still within bounds.

The chocolate shake wasn't exactly the stiff drink he had wanted earlier, but at the moment it sounded even better. Perhaps he would feel differently about that drink after he read the papers, but for now this would work. Jamie went through the drive in, sure that if he stopped he would be delayed once again by conversations politeness demanded. Personally, he never understood why people who had never liked you in high school now felt obligated to stop and make conversation with you when you happened to pass them on the street. "Ah, the joys of a small town, " he said to himself.

Jamie got through the drive through without incident and the scent of the warm burger filled the car. He didn't want the grease dripping on to the paper work so he took the fistful of napkins the clerk had dropped into the bag and placed them between the bottom of the fast food bag and the satchel. Idly he wondered if he looked like he was a messy eater or if all of the patrons received so many napkins.

At his apartment he parked behind the building, not wanting to leave his car out front. When he parked out front it was disturbingly easy for his brother to drive by and simply drop in. Until he had a chance to stash the financial papers somewhere safe he didn't really want to have family over.

Jamie parked and let himself in the side door with his quick code. With the satchel slung over his shoulder and the papers balanced in one arm while he grasped both the paper sack and his keys in the other he went up the three flights to his apartment and opened the door. As always, the smell of turpentine greeted him. He smiled and supposed that he really had no leg to stand on when he complained about his mother's eau d' Virginia Slims when he probably went around habitually smelling like paint thinner. Of course his family rarely visited here. There was no reason.

The apartment was fairly sparse and utilitarian and if Jamie was being kind, a bit run down. Jamie had to admit that part of that was because he didn't need that much, but the rest of the shabbiness was by design. It was a defense mechanism of sorts. If no one thought you had anything, they wouldn't try and take anything from you. It had come in quite handy when his brother and kids hit town looking for a place to stay.

Jamie's place was far too small for comfort and if he had to move in a hurry all of the furniture, apart from his art supplies could go back to the Salvation Army where he bought it in the first place. He would even kick in the new futon mattress on his bed without a twinge. Everything else could easily fit inside his car.

Michael had tried bringing the kids to his place when he first arrived in town, thinking Jamie was an easier mark than their mother. That had lasted about an hour. Jamie let them in, watched them look around and decided to take out the trash while they decided to leave.

His only request has been not to touch the computer since it was work related. He didn't think there would be a problem as even though his computer equipment was top notch enough to attract both boys, Jamie had not only locked it with passwords, but added encrypted techno codes that made even his tech savvy nephews' heads' spin. He returned however to find his work shunted off to the side and the boys trying to make the computer work. Three weeks' worth of work had been crumpled into a heap while they argued over which game to play first once they broke the codes.

For the first time in their lives he put his foot down and the family was on their way to bunk with Bella well before they had planned. They left in shocked silence as not only did he raise his voice, but he declared they would not be allowed back in until they learned some manners. They still had not been back and the incident was never mentioned.

Jamie set the paper work down and sunk into his worn lazy boy recliner. It was brown and looking a little threadbare on the arms. Michael had asked why he couldn't at least get a nice chair and Jamie had replied that he wouldn't want to get paint on a nice chair.

Luckily his brother thought of him as the starving artist and thought this was the best Jamie could afford. It saved Jamie a lot of grief. Jamie stared at the stack of papers and decided to eat his burger first. He ate the burger slowly, savoring each delicious greasy bite. In between bites he took long draws of his chocolate shake.

'There is just something about burgers and chocolate shakes that just goes well together, ' he thought. He used the meal to relax. He didn't think of family, he didn't think of death or greed. He didn't even think of the pretty bank teller. He just focused on his burger and shake. It was momentary contentment, but he took it anyway. The burger was gone well before the shake and he used one of the napkins to wipe the grease off of the side of the cup and washed his hands. Somehow it seemed wrong to leave grease stains on financial papers. The thought of it made him feel like a thief.

With clean hands he once again looked at the stack, realizing he had a dilemma. He could either start with the paperwork like a good boy or he could go ahead and break out the satchel and see what was inside. He eyed the bag, temptation winning out.

"Besides, " he said to himself as he reached for the satchel. "What is in the bag might give me more insight as to what I'm looking at in the other papers." He didn't actually believe the argument, but he pulled the bag over to himself anyway. The bag looked so much like the ones he and Albe would take sack lunches and treasure maps in that a grin split his face as he remembered the games he and Albe had played. Treasure hunts and searching for the lost city of Atlantis had occupied many a summer day.

Jamie first pulled out the letter he had read at the bank. That was the same handwriting he remembered from birthday cards and holiday cards during his child hood. And as an adult when he was going through college and then starting out on his own, random letters would show up whenever Albe felt like it.

The old man had never really needed a reason to write, just the urge. He had also never taken to e-mail. Again Jamie wondered if it was Albe's age that prevented this change or if there was no internet service out there. Jamie tapped the satchel thoughtfully. Really if there was internet at Albe's then there was very little reason he couldn't relocate for a little while. After all he would have to go through the inventory. And it would be the safest place to keep all of the paperwork.

Out of the immediate family, he was the only one who even remotely knew how to get to Albe's. That drastically reduced the possibility of Michael trying to sell the land without his knowledge and of his mother backing up a moving truck to the front door on her way to auction. He doubted seriously that any of them had paid attention to the few road signs there actually were along the way. For once his family's complete narcissism made him smile in a happy way.

Jamie set the letter aside. Perhaps when he went back to the house he could bring his laptop and see what kind of signals he got. Jamie reached back into the front pocket and came out with a small box. It was this box that the letter had gotten snagged on at the bank when he tried to tuck it in.

The box reminded Jamie of his father's Purple Heart metal he had tucked away in his sock drawer and he wondered if Albe had served in one of the armed forces. The topic had never come up although if Jamie had thought about it he would have assumed the man had fought in the Second World War. Somehow Jamie couldn't picture Albe in the military though, or at least not the regular military. Jamie had no problems seeing Albe as a spy or intelligence officer as they seemed to now be called. He always seemed to know a lot about everything and he certainly knew how to move through the woods as silent as a shadow.

The box creaked open and Jamie peered inside. Instead of the metal he was expecting he found a small folded piece of paper sitting on top of a small medallion on a chain. Jamie set the box down and picked up the paper. It was the kind of paper used to mail international letters, very thin and very light, with a slight bluish tinge. He unfolded the paper and read the note. It was addressed to him and he wondered how long Albe had prepared for this day.

Jamie, This is the symbol of the Keeper. It also serves as the key. You will need to wear it when you go to the house for reasons that will become obvious as you proceed. It has already been keyed to you. To activate it, take the medallion in your left hand and close your fist around it. You may feel an odd sensation in your hand. Keep your hand closed until you see the flash of light. The medallion will then be activated. It will open the books for you alone. Serve well.

Jamie set the paper down and picked up the box again. The medallion rested on a red watered silk backing that glimmered in the overhead light like a beetle's back. All in all it seemed a bit fancy for the simple medallion resting on it.

The medallion was about the size of a dime and was dull silver. It reminded Jamie of a cheap trinket embossed with the visage of a saint; the kind you would get in a five and dime rather than a jewelry store. It had a lightning shaped hole in its center. To Jamie's knowledge there were no saint's represented by something as naturalistic as a lightning bolt. Of course he had to admit most of his knowledge of religion came more from his art history classes than from any working knowledge of church doctrine. Religion had never been one of his mother's priorities.

"She would have to have possessed the ability to look outside herself and actually admit that there might be a power higher than she in existence for that to happen, " Jamie muttered. The loop the chain ran through looked as though it had been soldered on as an afterthought, as if the person who had originally made it thought of it as a good luck piece to carry in your pocket and only later had someone decided to add a chain.

Feeling a little silly, Jamie picked up the medallion and placed it in the center of his left palm. He closed his hand, allowing the chain to dangle between his fingers. As soon as his hand closed down around the small medallion, a tingling filled his hand. Jamie almost opened his hand in surprise at the sensation but remembered Albe's instructions just in time and kept his fist closed.

The tingle felt like a small electric shock and it increased as he sat there looking at his hand. The medallion felt hot and Jamie wondered if it was going to burn him. The heat had not yet reached the point of pain so he held on. Then light flashed between his fingers and for an instant it was like his hand was being x-rayed. He could see every little bone in his hand. He could even see the lines on the bones where two of his fingers had been broken.

Jamie stood still for a moment after the flash of light and stared at his closed hand, almost afraid to open it. Dark spots danced in his vision. The heat was gone and when he slowly peeled his fingers back from the center, the medallion had not changed. There were no burn marks on his palm. The only sight that made his hand look any different were the crescent moon shaped marks where his fingernails had pressed into his own hand. Jamie shook his head and wondered if he had imagined the whole scenario or if what he had felt was real.

He had the same feeling he often had around Albe, as if his imagination had been given free reign and something had slipped out of his mind and into the real world. As a kid Jamie had always liked that sensation. As an adult he wasn't quite sure what emotion he felt.

It still had that balanced at the top of the largest hill on a roller coaster feeling, but without Albe here he didn't know if the roller coaster had passed inspection and was safe to ride. The chain was a long one and with a deep breath Jamie slipped it over his neck. It hung to about the center of his chest. He wasn't quite sure why he put it on, but it felt right. After a moment's thought he slipped the chain under his shirt and felt the cool metal against his skin. He reached once again for the satchel.

There was nothing else in the front pocket of the satchel so he unbuckled the straps holding the top of it closed. He flipped the unbuckled top flap over and peered inside. There were two books inside and Jamie pulled them out. Both appeared very old. They were leather bound and had cracks from age but they appeared well cared for. The first was a very slim volume. On its cover were flaking gold letters.

"Rules and Regulations; A Guide for the Keeper, " Jamie read aloud. This was the second time he had heard the name Keeper. Once from Albe's note and he still had no clue what the term meant. Jamie opened the cover. The leather was stiff and he was worried about cracking it. From the dim recesses of his mind he remembered someone saying old leather bound books needed to be oiled every now and again to keep them fresh. He frowned at it wondering if motor oil or the kind you cooked with would be better. Perhaps he would look that up on the internet later. He smiled, research made easy.

Idly, he flipped through the book, being careful when turning the pages but letting his eyes skim the text. It was written like a law book with no diagrams or pictures to break up the long lines of very small print. Jamie frowned, something told him he was going to have to read it. It looked like one of those dull books that teachers always liked to test out of. A few words caught his eyes and he read them aloud to himself as he flipped.

"The Keeper must maintain balance and order. The Keeper is the final arbitrator. The Keeper must place personal gain to the side. Personal opinion is not relevant." His eyes blurred with the words. The sense of what he got was that the Keeper was some sort of combination police officer and lawyer. "Maybe judge would be more accurate, " he mumbled. Beyond that the book didn't seem to be telling him much. He flipped back to the first page.

"The rules and regulations that guide the Keeper are of great import." Somehow he found himself saying the words with his best lawyerly voice. It sounded like a line from a bad play. He shrugged. It still didn't tell him what exactly a Keeper was. Jamie set the book aside and reached for the second tome that was in the satchel. This one was a lot thicker and a little larger. It was old, but it looked like it had been well cared for. Jamie bet oil had been rubbed into this binding. The book opened without a creak.

Given its size Jamie expected it to contain material even dryer than the smaller book. Instead life like color drawings with descriptions met his eyes as he turned the pages. One particular image caught Jamie's eye and he stopped.

The picture was of an extraordinarily detailed old man who seemed to be barely knee high. He had a long gray beard and was dressed in what Jamie supposed would be called homespun. It reminded him of the farmer's clothing at the living history museum he had toured as a child. There was even a small patch on one of the legs. It

wasn't an artistically designed patch made to look cute and 'ole timey' but as if that was where a hole had been.

In addition, the cuffs of the pants had a somewhat frayed look to them and had darker stains where they had perhaps come in contact with a mud puddle. The sleeves were rolled up to the elbow and there was a long scar on the left arm. It was the eyes that got Jamie though. There was intelligence reflected in them as well as humor, but Jamie got the feeling that this would be a bad person to cross. The image was so real Jamie half expected the little man to step off the page. Next to the drawing were measurements showing the approximate size of him. At the top was a heading.

"Tomte/Nisse or hob, " he read. Jamie frowned. He had heard of hob goblins before, but this looked nothing like what he would have expected. Somehow in the back of his mind he pictured something green and scaly. There was a paragraph of text under the heading. As he was alone he read the paragraph aloud.

"Although usually pictured as a small older man dressed like a farmer, a tomte/nisse or hob can shape shift at will sometimes appearing in a much larger stature. They are skilled in illusions and believed to be able to make themselves temporarily invisible. This latter skill can only be done for short bursts of time and even then only by the most skilled of the race. They possess an immense amount of strength that bears no relation to their size, somewhat like an ant.

They are usually protective and caring, but take offense easily. Once offended, retributions can range from a stout box on the ears to the killing of livestock or ruining of the farm's fortune. The tomte/nisse tend to be traditionalists who do not like changes in the way things were done at the farm. Whenever a change occurs they appear grumpy at first as they see how much this change will affect the daily operations. If the main balance remains the same they can be won over to warily accept new changes, especially if it can be proven to benefit them.

They cannot abide rudeness or the abuse of other living creatures and will sometimes react violently in their defense. The tomte/nisse is extremely territorial and will protect his chosen domain. As a gift in return, the owner of the land provides a bowl of porridge on Christmas eve for the resident tomte/nisse."

"Sounds reasonable, " Jamie said. "Although I'm not quite sure that qualifies as minimum wage so the unions might disagree." Jamie saw a note scrawled into the margin in what looked to be Albe's handwriting. With a smile he read it.

"Levas likes his porridge with a pat of butter on the top and a dash of salt. He has a fondness for milk." The word top was underlined. Jamie looked back at the image of the man and then back to his scrawled note, unsure if Albe was joking or not. Somehow looking at the picture Jamie found it difficult to believe this was a joke. Near the bottom of the page, under the drawing was a name. Figuring it might name the artist, Jamie peered at it. To his surprise it read Alexander Fulton.

"Obviously a relative, " he thought with a grin. Apparently he hadn't been the only artist in the family. He knew that there was a very detailed family tree hanging on the wall in Albe's study. When he went back to the house he would have to see where Alexander fit in. Jamie flipped through the book some more, leaving the Tomte/nisse behind.

"Levas, " Jamie reminded himself although he wasn't sure of the pronunciation. Other fairy tale like creatures greeted his eyes as the pages turned. Some were with names he knew but with different annotations added to them that made him shake his head. Some appeared to be proper names, others family or tribal designations. On one of the drawings of a fairy someone had scrawled what appeared to be a family tree at the bottom of the page. Some of the creatures were benign, others of a more disturbing ilk. Information on dealing with the peculiarities of each were on the pages. And all of the images were so life like Jamie had a hard time picturing them not jumping off the page and spinning around his apartment.

"It's like a field guide, " He muttered to himself. "A naturalist's guide to the world of the unseen creatures of the imagination." Jamie's cell phone rang and he slid it out of his pocket. Still bemusedly flipping the pages, he answered it. Given the various games he and Albe had played when he was younger he wondered why his great uncle had never brought the book out. It would have been a fabulous encounter. Searching for fairies in the garden. Fighting ogres in the woods. He could almost see the old man leading him off on one of those adventures.

"Hello, " he said absently.

"Have you gotten the inventory yet?" His mother's voice demanded, cutting through the pleasant thoughts like a hot knife. He was definitely going to have to look at changing those ring tones. Jamie glanced at the stack of papers.

"Not yet, " he lied. "Jim got called into another appointment." A heavy sigh greeted his ears.

"Well you will need to get it soon and start going through the whole place. Remember every item has to be checked off before we can start taking things out. And we will need to take things out to make the house ready to sell. You'll need to get some fresh paint on that house and make it look all right. And you will definitely need to fix that road. After all we can't be bringing investors out there with them thinking there isn't even a decent road." Jamie could practically hear her lips smack over the word investors. He fought back a sigh.

"Of course. I have to go, I have some work to do."

"You get started on that inventory the moment you get it from that lawyer." She told him before letting him go. Jamie hit the end button and sighed dramatically for his own benefit.

"It's a good thing the Tomte didn't pay a visit while mom was there." Jamie could not picture that visit going well. The description mentioned the creatures not being fond of rudeness. While his mother could be the most genteel and respectful person in the world, she reserved this attitude for people who were her social betters or equal or someone she might be able to get something from. She tended to refer to lawyers and other such people as the help and treated them with a rather dismissive air.

"Unless they were rich, single, older, male lawyers, " he reminded himself thinking of his mother's last boyfriend. Jamie pictured the scene with the wizened little old man chasing his mother around the yard. The thought was rather amusing, but from the description in the book he was pretty sure the reality of that would be much darker. Jamie stopped himself and shook his head realizing he had just thought of the reality of a fairy tale creature.

"Okay, " he told himself closing the book. "Play time is over." He set the book aside with a bit of regret. It was the kind of book he could easily lose himself in. Part of him twitched, wanting to get his own pen and paper out. He resisted the urge and instead reached into the satchel to see if anything remained. Inside he found a small bottle of linseed oil. Printed on the label were the proper instructions for oiling a leather bound book. Jamie set the bottle down on the small table. At least that was one question solved. He wouldn't be debating between motor oil and cooking oil later.

"Odd that only one of the books was oiled, " Jamie thought. Apparently Albe hadn't put much stock in the rules and regulations book even though he had thought to include it in the satchel. The two books and the bottle of linseed oil looked strange sitting on his coffee table next to the empty fast food bag and coffee cup from the morning. It was as if they were puzzle pieces to a puzzle he wasn't really sure he still had the box for. Albe had left him the house. There was a library in the house where the two books could have been presumably left. Questions danced in Jamie's mind.

Why did Albe want to show him these books in particular? Why lock them in the safe deposit box instead of just having the will mention them? How long had these two books been in the box? Did they have something to do with Albe's death? And what exactly was a Keeper? Jamie shook his head again and wondered that his brain was not rattling against his ears by this point. Perhaps the paperwork would tell him more. Jamie turned to the stack and began shifting through the financial bits and pieces of Albe's world.

There was plenty of money in the accounts located in several different banks and a widely diverse stock portfolio, both with amounts that made Jamie's head spin. He would definitely have to hide this from his brother. Jamie felt a bit like a heel for doing that though. After all he didn't really need the money.

Actually he didn't think anyone really needed that much money. But he knew once any money was given to his mother or brother they would never stop until they had it all. And a part of him thought that if Albe had wanted them to have any of it he would have left it to them. Jamie found a copy of the will which, when he scanned specifically mentioned both his mother and brother. Albe's comments made him feel less guilty.

With a wry smile he noticed that his mother was to be left a stern talking to about the fact that the world did not exist for her pleasure and his brother was to be left a swift kick in the pants. Somehow he couldn't exactly see Jim administering either, but it was a guilt clearing thought. Enclosed in the paperwork was also a copy of the map of the property. Jamie could tell that Albe had added a bit of land a few years back as he had thought. Albe had mentioned the possibility but Jamie was never certain if he had done so or not.

There were other odd markings on the map. Little notations made by hand as if Albe had used the map more for recording purposes rather than just as a reference. None of the maps made much sense to him. So he put it aside. After all there was time to clarify the marks on the map when he had finished. Jamie rubbed his eyes, not realizing how tired the day had made him. He eyed the inventory and decided there was nothing to be gained by looking at it now. After all he would need to be at Albe's to look at things.

The thought brought another one to his brain as if the two had been linked. He had been toying with the idea since he had finally realized that Albe was not going to come back. Jamie pulled up his phone. The first thing he did was download some ring tones. The first for his mother was 'The beautiful people' by Marylyn Manson. Somehow he knew that would tickle her since she had no clue what the lyrics actually were. She would assume it meant something much nicer and further from the actual truth.

Jamie smiled and downloaded 'Banditos' by the Refreshments for his brother. After all, the world is full of stupid people. Then Jamie thought about it. A couple of times, when he had not answered, his mother or brother in a while he had found them calling using his niece's phone number. Not really in the mood to deal with that he downloaded Aqua's 'Barbie Girl' for his niece. Not exactly appropriate for a man to give his niece, but hopefully that wouldn't ring while other people were around.

Then Jamie put the phone down and looked around his apartment. He had just completed a massive project and shipped it off. He had another project in the works that he had begun sketching things out for but the next meeting for it wasn't scheduled for another two weeks. He was actually ahead of schedule on it. He eyed his work gear.

It would be simple to break it down and fit everything he used for work into his Toyota. Once he added his clothing and all of his painting gear it would be a pretty full car load but he could make it. The furniture had mostly come second hand and would be not missed if anything actually happened to it. Jamie shrugged. He had already paid up for the month. His rent was actually on automatic draft so it didn't really matter if he was here or not.

He figured after a few days of not answering calls, he would get visits which would prevent him from working anyway. Albe's house had a back porch that would be great to paint on. Albe had even set up a small studio for him out there when he was a kid so he had a safe place to store his art supplies. There were still paintings stashed out there that Albe had been proud to keep. If there wasn't an internet connection or reliable cell service, Jamie could bring his laptop and cell phone to a coffee house or bother coming back here. The time away would let him work, start sorting through the inventory, and give him time to figure out a more permanent solution to his family's greed.

"After all Mom can't complain since she told me to get started as soon as possible, " he said with a lopsided grin. Jamie took out his cell phone and dialed his landlord's number.

"Harrison real estate, " A cheerful voice answered.

"Hi this is Jamie Fulton, apartment 54 in the Watson building on fourth, " He began.

"Yes Mr. Fulton how may I help you today?"

"Well I just wanted to give you a heads up that I was going out of town for a while. My apartment will be empty and I just wanted you to know that in case there were any issues. I may be gone for the better part of the month."

"Of course Mr. Fulton, may I ask, is this just a business trip or do you think you might be leaving us? I see you have been a resident for seven years."

Jamie nodded and then realized she couldn't see him. He cleared his throat. "No permanent plans, " he said thinking of Albe's caution to do nothing rash. "But I think my trips will become more frequent. You shouldn't worry about getting in here if there is any trouble. I am taking my computer with me so if you see an empty desk you know why. These trips will be more regular but my rent will still be drafted from my bank account. I like to know I always have a place to come back to after being on the road."

"We'll make sure everything stays safe Mr. Fulton. Is there anyone we should notify if something is wrong during your absence?"

"Actually if you could just call my cell phone I would be much obliged."

"Yes sir. I have your number as 234-567-8999? Is that correct?"

"Yes, that will be fine, " Jamie said.

"Thank you Mr. Fulton, I'll put the notes in the computer. You have a safe trip." The conversation ended with Jamie thanking her and wondering mentally how many tenants they had lost in the last few months for her to be so jumpy about him possibly moving. Jamie had very simple needs and didn't ask for much. Truth be told if something broke he generally fixed it himself. So far in this apartment he had fixed two broken window panes, his toilet and various leaks under the sink. Sometimes the skills Albe gave him came in handy for more than keeping his mother from paying a handyman.

Jamie set his phone down, and plugged in the cord to keep it charged. As his hand left the phone there was a ring coming out of it. Jamie sighed as a tinny version of the Banditos song filled the apartment. He sighed and left it to ring. Jamie pulled out a duffel bag from under his bed and began filling it with clean clothing.

He concentrated on comfortable clothing that he would be at home in whether he was painting, sorting through the house or taking a walk in the woods. At Albe's house that would be most of his effort's concentration. Jamie smiled as he quickly finished the clothing. There was very little left. Just the suit he wore to funerals and a few dress up for meetings things. After a second's though he added everything but the funeral suit to his bag. Over all he was not burdened with worldly possessions.

Jamie tugged out another bag. It held his gym clothes and he quickly transferred them to his clothing bag, wondering when the last time he had actually gone to the gym was. In the now empty gym bag he transferred the cords from his computer as he unplugged them. In relatively little time everything was packed and ready to go. He figured that it would take two trips to the car in the morning and he would be good to go.

Jamie found himself fighting a huge grin. It was like summertime all over again. He was off on another adventure with Albe. Jamie's smile faltered. Accept Albe wouldn't be there. Jamie flopped on his bed and let thoughts of Albe fill him.

Alone in his room he let the true sorrow of missing the old man wash through him. It was an ache but it still didn't seem real. He drifted off to sleep thinking of Albe's stories and the trips in the woods. Slowly Jamie's eyes drifted closed. The dreams became an extension of his memories and his mind took him back to a walk through the woods.

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