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   Chapter 48 Keeper of the Crossroads

Keeper of the Crossroads By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 14522

Updated: 2018-03-13 11:15

Chapter 48

The inspection was more difficult than Jamie thought. In his mind he pictured dozen's of crumpled bodies lining the perimeter of House's protection. He also somehow suspected there would be a line on the ground marking the edge of House's perimeter.

"House said the perimeter extended to the tree line on this side, " Jamie told Del as the two of them tromped through the yard. "I don't see anything. There ought to be something if people kept throwing themselves against the perimeter all night." Dimly Jamie wondered if House had been mistaken and had some sort of glitch in the system.

"I think I might have found something, " Del said. Jamie walked over to where the smaller man stood looking at the ground. He looked down and for a moment saw nothing. Then a gust of wind stirred the leaves and something… more along the ground.

"Is that dust?" Jamie asked. Del shook his head.

"Ash, " he confirmed. "Apparently your House is quite thorough." Jamie stared at the shifting ash on the ground. He kept his eyes focused on the ground, but shifted his line of sight to look along the tree line. Now that he knew what to look for, he couldn't stop seeing small piles of ash. The wind was stirring the ashes, but Jamie noticed that no matter what direction the wind blew, none of the ashes crossed the perimeter.

"Even in death they are denied entry, " Jamie said softly.

"That would keep even death magic out I expect, " Del commented.

"Death magic?"

"Just scary stories from what I know, " Del said with a shrug. "Never saw anyone use it, but if it isn't just something to scare children with then it seems like a good thing to keep out."

"Oh, " Jamie replied, not quite sure how to comment. A soft rustling sound in the trees distracted him and Jamie focused his attention on the underbrush rather than on the accumulated ash. He wondered if it was the wind. Del grabbed his arm, the small fingers feeling like bands of iron.

"Whatever it is, " Del said softly, in a voice barely above a whisper. "Make it cross the perimeter first if it is able." Jamie nodded at the wisdom of that thought and took a large step away from the perimeter and towards the house. Del nodded his approval and stepped back as well. The rustling sound came again.

"Hello, " Jamie called. "Is anyone out there?"

The rustling stopped and they heard a tentative, "Jamie?" called out. Jamie frowned. The voice sounded familiar.

"Michael?" He asked. The rustling sounds increased and Jamie saw a hand reach out to part the underbrush. Slowly, his brother crawled forward into the open. He crossed the perimeter with no problems and Jamie helped him to stand. Del still eyed Michael warily as he regained his feet.

Michael looked much worse for wear than Jamie had ever seen him. His hands and arms were scratched and dirt was imbedded in his fingernails so that they looked like little black crescents above his fingers. There were scratches along his face as well and it looked as though his nose had been bleeding. To Jamie's eyes it didn't look broken, just bloody. The biggest change in Michael was his eyes. They were wide and frightened and darted around as though looking for an attack.

"Michael, what happened?" Jamie asked.

"Where am I?" Michael asked. His fingers bunched in Jamie's shirt. "Where, " he repeated, a trace of the old Michael's demanding tone coming back.

"You are at Albe's place, " Jamie told him. "Were you trying to break into the house?"

"Albe's place?" Michael repeated. "How did I get here? I was with Renee. Did she bring me here?"

"I don't know, " Jamie said frowning. He let his eyes scan the underbrush, wondering if Renee, his brother's sometime girlfriend, was somewhere in the woods as well. "We can call her house and see if she knows how you got here, " Jamie suggested. 'Of course if she doesn't answer we will have to search the woods.' He deliberately avoided looking at the piles of ash.

"Do you have your cell phone?" Jamie asked Michael. Michael fumbled his phone from his pocket and Jamie could see that his index finger was swollen and might be broken. Jamie looked to Del, who had noticed the finger as well.

"Might as well get that looked at while you give the girl a call, " Del said a little reluctantly. Jamie nodded and got M

t properly light your driveway."

"Do you remember running into the tree?" Jamie asked.

"Who remembers getting knocked out by a tree, " Michael said dismissively. "Don't be stupid."

"You weren't found anywhere near the gate, " Jamie said.

"So I walked in my sleep, " Michael shot back. "I was having nightmares." Fear flickered across his face for an instant.

"What sort of nightmares?" Jamie asked.

"That's none of your business, " Michael snapped, his fear edging into anger. Jamie knew that if he pushed, he would get nothing more.

"Renee wasn't too far from you."

"So she followed me, " Michael said. "Unlike you, I have people who care about me." Michael stretched a hand across the table towards Renee. She stared at it for a moment, but kept her hands wrapped around the mug. Michael cleared his throat and pulled his hand back.

"Clearly that's what happened." Michael pronounced.

"Did she get knocked out by a tree too?" Del asked dryly.

Michael frowned. "I don't answer to the help." He said, sounding very much like Bella.

"Is that everything?" Jamie asked, his voice hard.

"Yes, now I think it is time we go, " Michael said standing. "You will of course hear from my lawyers unless you want to make a financial settlement out of court. I'll give you a few days to think it over. Come Renee." Renee stood slowly, placing the mug back down on the table.

"Do you still have your keys?" Jamie asked her. She reached into the back pocket of her jeans and extracted the keys with a jangle. "Then we will walk you back to the gate so you get there safely." Renee seemed relieved by the offer.

"Thank you, " she said softly. Michael also looked somewhat relieved by the offer.

"If you feel it necessary, " he said, dismissively. Del led the way back towards the front door and the group of them trouped off to the front gate. It was a quiet march, with Michael somewhat sullen and Renee listening nervously to the sounds in the woods. They reached the gate and found Renee's car parked just where she thought they had left it. She quickly unlocked her door and got in, locking her door behind her. She started the engine and Michael had to scramble to get into the passenger's side before she took off and left him. Del and Jamie watched the car recede into the distance.

"How much do you want to bet those dreams weren't exactly dreams, " Jamie asked Del.

"That's a sucker's bet, " Del told him with a rather grim smile.

"True, " Jamie admitted as they turned and began walking back towards the house. "Do you know of anything that could affect their memories like that?"

"Not personally, no, " Del said. "But I might know someone I could ask."

"I think asking might be a good idea, " Jamie said softly. Even without Michael's sham of a lawsuit he had the feeling whatever this was would not fade away anytime soon.

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