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   Chapter 21 Quickening Cassie Wilson Book 1

Quickening By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 39226

Updated: 2018-03-14 10:52

Chapter 21

Cassie woke up Sunday morning, thinking about the gate she opened in Sacsahuaman and wondering what the result would be. 'I'm definitely going to the bathroom and showering before leaving my bedroom and finding out if anyone is lurking in the house, ' she thought. While no one followed her into the bathroom and watched her taking a shower last time, Cassie wasn't anxious to repeat the process of getting naked when she knew not so friendly strangers were lurking just outside the bathroom door.

Once she was clean and dressed for the day in comfortable jeans and a hoodie, Cassie opened the bedroom door, eyes turned towards the floor to look for footprints in the carpet pile. She didn't see anything and she didn't have that little electric tingle that made her hair stand up.

"Okay then, " she said as she moved to the kitchen. It felt strange not to start her day with Mr. Dana's exercises and a long run, but on the off chance the others did show up, she didn't want to be in the middle of either of those activities as they would look suspicious. Thus far no one seemed to realize that the property consisted of more than the house and gardens and she wasn't about to let them in on the secret.

Planning to stay in the house for the bulk of the day, Cassie plotted her activities as she made and ate breakfast. It was finally getting cold enough that she needed to get her winter clothes out of their storage, letting them air out while she packed away her warmer weather clothing. She knew that would take the bulk of the day.

"And I did want to try making French macarons, " she reminded herself. "That seems like it would take up a lot of time." With those two activities and her remaining homework, she knew she could easily occupy herself. "And having something to do will keep the time from dragging until bed time."

She was certain that if nothing else, the conversations she overheard in The Grey Cat once she went to sleep would have changed. 'Assuming they know, ' Cassie thought. Enki and his friends showed up quickly when she opened the gate and knew immediately what happened even if they didn't see it open or close. They seemed to be able to sense something. They were also close at hand at the time so she didn't know how close to a gate one of them had to be to sense it opening. No one was around when she opened the gate at Sacsahuaman and no one came running directly after.

'Unless they were down in Cusco at the time and it took them longer to get to the gate location.' Cassie had to admit, she didn't stick around long after opening the gate. She could have left while they were still in route. 'If a gate opens and no one sees it, will they still know?' she thought as she rinsed off her breakfast dishes and set them in the dish rack to dry. She didn't know. 'I'll check tonight and if no one notices, then I can pick one with a greater possibility of an audience.'

As Cassie dried her hands and went in the bedroom to begin her wardrobe transfer, she mentally debated alternatives. Finding a spot that others could see, but wouldn't potentially cause some sort of traffic accident or news report would not be easy. She hadn't counted on 'others' needing to be nearby to sense it. 'I wonder if there will be a crowd waiting.'

Cassie opened her armoire and began taking out her winter clothes, piling them on the bed. As she worked she wondered if regular people could see the gates if they were opened. 'And if they can't, could they accidentally fall through the gate when it was opened as though it were a hidden trap door or something?'

While Cassie looked through the two opened gates, she still had no clue what would happen if someone walked through them. Given that everyone who knew about them was so nervous about the fact that they were being opened again, she didn't think letting an unsuspecting bystander fall into one would be a terribly good idea. It seemed rather reckless.

On her third trip from the armoire to the bed, Cassie thought she heard a click and then the creak of the kitchen door. She clenched her teeth and refused to frown, ignoring the sound and continuing with her task. A minute later, Cassie didn't even need to look for footprints in the carpet to know someone was watching her. The hairs on her arms and on the back of her neck were standing up. She resisted the urge to rub her arms and look around.

'Here we go, ' Cassie thought trying not to look for foot prints. "I think that's about it, " she said aloud when the armoire was empty. "Let the transfer begin." Cassie walked over to her closet and opened the door. She pulled clothes off hangers, folded them and placed the folded clothes in the armoire to be stored until the return of warmer weather. It wasn't a quick process and Cassie deliberately took her time, hoping whoever was watching was bored with the mindless repetition.

She spotted two sets of prints in the carpet. One appeared to be lurking in the doorframe while the other shifted first near the bed and then near the closet, keeping out of her path of movement. After pausing a while by the closet, the steps retreated to stand nearer the bed.

'I guess so they can get close enough to sniff me without risking me running into them.' She decided. 'I wonder if there is a way to turn my phone on to see if they are talking.'

She paused with a thin open weave sweater in her hands. "Maybe I should keep some of them out, " Cassie mused. "I can check the weather to see what this week looks like; sometimes we get a little warmer weather before it gets really cold." Cassie moved to her desk where her cell phone sat. She pulled up the app to show the weather and quickly looked at it.

"Nope, it is gonna be cold this week." She said to herself. Cassie closed the app and engaged the video recorder. She turned a little so the camera could see who was visiting her and then she set the phone back down on the desk, leaving the recorder on.

"Really cold, " she said out loud as she stepped away. "So I won't be needing you until spring, " she told the light sweater as she folded it and put it away. Letting the recorder play, Cassie continued moving her clothes around, not talking to herself so her voice wouldn't accidentally obscure anything they said, if they actually said anything.

Before she was finished moving her lighter garments out of the closet and into the armoire storage, Cassie saw the footsteps move away from the bed and towards the door. She then saw both sets retreat down the hallway and felt the electric buzz in the air fade. She heard the back door open and then close again and sighed with relief. She pressed the button on her phone to stop the recording and then continued to move clothing from one place to the other until all of her spring and summer clothes were packed. Then she moved her winter clothes from the bed to the closet. When everything was where it should be, Cassie figured she gave her visitors enough time to clear out. She moved to her phone, plugged her headphones into the jack and played the recording.

After her own voice faded, Cassie turned up the volume, hoping to hear something. She watched the screen and saw that her visitors were Mr. Dana and Enki. 'No Skadi this time, ' she thought wondering if she was occupied elsewhere or no longer considered Cassie a concern.

"Do you smell anything, " Dana asked.

"No, " Enki replied, sounding sulky.

"Then we can go?"

"Not yet, " Enki replied.

"What is it with you and this girl?" Dana asked. "You seem obsessed."

"There is just something about her, " Enki told him. "Something none of the others we've looked into have."

"She has what Abraham gave her, " Dana replied dryly. "Which, as it was probably designed to lure you into focusing on her, appears to be working."

"He didn't know I'd be sent to look here."

Dana sighed. "I didn't mean you personally; I meant it broadly as in it would attract whoever was sent to look here."

"Still there is something, " Enki insisted.

"Maybe you just like her skills in the kitchen, " Dana suggested, sounding like he was mocking Enki. "That icing was quite good, not overly sweet like that store bought stuff. I hoped she was baking again this time since you insisted we check on her."

The two were quiet for a moment and Cassie heard some shuffling and thought it might be her moving around the room.

"Yes, " Dana continued. "I can see why you wouldn't want to miss a single second of this."

"Fine, " Enki sighed. "We can go. Clearly she didn't open the gate in Peru remotely."

"I told you she wasn't a Walker, " Dana replied. "At least with whoever it is opening the gates down in Peru, some of the others will clear out and I'll get my favorite table at The Cat back."

If Enki replied, he did so after they were out of the recorder's range. Cassie heard the sound of the kitchen door opening and shutting and turned off the recording, saving it with the one she made on their last visit.

"That's that then, " Cassie said taking out her earphones and setting them and the cell back on the desk. Feeling pleased with herself, Cassie picked up the large colorful book entitled Macarons she bought on her last visit to the bookstore and headed to the kitchen. Once there, she set the book down and locked the back door before getting started.

When Cassie finally went to sleep that night, she made a beeline to the district. Her first stop was the concession stand. Perched on the lamp post, Cassie looked around. While there were still a few people lurking about, most of the 'others' cleared out. Cassie smiled, pleased with the results. Her risk appeared to be paying off.

She moved on to The Grey Cat. While the bar was still full, it was nowhere near as packed as the night before. Flitting around the room, Cassie listened to the conversations. As expected the newly opened gate was the main topic of conversation. The big debate was if it was opened remotely or if there was now a Walker in the vicinity of Cusco.

"Walkers usually stay close to home, " someone declared.

"Maybe this one went on vacation, " someone else opined.

"Maybe they were just visiting here and now they went home, " countered another voice.

"Maybe there's two of them, " Another threw in. This quieted everyone for a bit.

"We won't know unless another gate opens. If they are being opened remotely, the Walker could be anywhere."

'This is true, ' Cassie thought, as the debate continued. 'And I'd prefer they start looking in Peru rather than here. I guess I'll just have to practice opening the Sacsahuaman gate. Well, at least if no one is there.' She guessed that if the gate opened and no one saw anyone there to open it, they would figure out pretty quickly that it was being opened remotely. If they knew it was opened, but didn't open when they were there to watch, they might believe they scared off whoever was opening the gate in the first place.

Cassie left the bar and traveled the map lines to Sacsahuaman. It was as she left it the night before. Not a single person of any variety was in sight. 'Of course, they could be hiding behind one of the rocks, ' she thought. 'I'd never see them then.' While it was a possibility, she didn't think it terribly likely given their behavior in the district.

Why would they sit on benches watching the area where a gate would appear there, but hide here? Deciding to trust the apparent emptiness, Cassie hummed along with the gate, changing pitch as needed until she was once again looking through the window into a brightly lit sky over looking some sort of ocean. The sky was darker today, the puffy white cl

ly in the bed as she tried to push the thoughts away although they kept circling back to Ina, Bert and Mr. Dana. Finally, she sank into sleep.

In her dreams, she was in a study of some sort. With nearly every dream recently starting out in the map room this was a distinct change. Although like her other dreams, she found she couldn't move anything but her eyes.

'Maybe because I was thinking of them before I fell asleep, ' Cassie wondered. 'Maybe I can be drawn to people as well as the symbols, unless someone put a symbol here. After all, I went to a private room with Skadi and Enki when he talked to his minions about searching grandfather's store.'

Cassie looked around, wondering if she could request locations for some of the others she met as well as place names. The room looked nothing like the one she dreamt of with Skadi and Enki. That one seemed cold and designed to impress visitors. This one looked more like a retreat. The walls were lined with built in shelves, each filled with leather bound books, each clearly showing wear from usage. Tucked between the books here and there were small knickknacks. They looked more like keepsakes rather than items a designer would have chosen for the space. There were no generically pleasant items and framed prints.

Off to one side of the room was a large, heavily carved mahogany desk. The wood was nicked and scratched. From Cassie's view point, she could see it had a scattering of items across it, showing that it was more for use than decoration. There were no computer related bits on its surface. No desktop, no laptop, no tablet and no cords that looked as though things could be plugged into electronics currently missing. 'If they all have the same issue with computers that makes sense, ' she thought. 'Grandfather doesn't keep a computer on his desk or in his apartment either, ' she remembered, again wondering if he was one of them.

The room's three occupants weren't near the desk, so Cassie dismissed it and focused instead on them. Three comfortably worn looking leather chairs were placed in a companionable semicircle in front of a large fireplace. A fire crackled inside it. As before, Cassie realized she couldn't really move. She could shift her eyes, adjusting where she looked, but nothing else. At the moment she was facing the fire, as were the three occupants so she could only see two of them in profile and the back of the third's head. Despite the poor vantage point, she could easily identify them. Ina sat to the right of the fire, her profile like one of the old stamped metal coins under glass in her parent's study.

Ina was huddled under a cloak or wrap of some sort, her feet tucked under her. To the left of the fire was Bert. While he was less bundled up, he looked just as cold as Ina. Mr. Dana sat in the center, looking quite comfortable in his loose cotton shirt.

"I will never get used to this sort of cold, " Bert said shaking his head and leaning in towards the fire. 'It's too wet for my taste.'

"It's not that bad, Bes, " Mr. Dana replied with a wave of his hand.

"Maybe not for you, but we're both from warmer climes, " Ina replied shaking her head and pulling her wrap tighter around her shoulders. "Desert areas."

"Well, we didn't come here to discuss the weather, " Dana said with a shrug. "We came here to discuss Cassandra."

"She prefers Cassie, " Bert or Bes reminded him.

Dana snorted and waved the comment away. "And I prefer Cassandra."

"I thought it was Enki who preferred Cassandra, " Ina replied. Bert chuckled.

Dana frowned. "He said there was something to the girl and I told him it was just the old man's doing. He might be right after all."

"But then again, you might be right, " Ina said with a shrug. "Abraham's been here for years. The blocker he put on her isn't new, which means he's been in contact with her for years as well. There's no telling what he's told her."

"Which put her in danger, " Bert growled. "Playing games with a young girl's safety."

"The blocker makes her noticeable to us, " Ina agreed. "But unless we will it, she can't even see us, so it's clear she isn't a Walker, which makes the danger less, " Ina said. "I tested that tonight. She nearly jumped out of her skin when I called out to her. She didn't see me before I spoke to her and she certainly didn't see Enki watching her from the shadows."

"There is that, " Dana said, leaning back in his chair. "So she isn't a Walker, since they can see us unless we take extra precautions, but I can't help feeling there is something about her though. Something I'm missing. I find it annoying."

"You find the thought that Enki might be right about anything annoying." Ina replied.

"True, " he confirmed.

"And you risk becoming as obsessed as he is, " Bert reminded him. "She came to us to learn how to defend herself against predators and she's concentrated only on defense, more or less ignoring all our advice about attack. It would be poor form to allow obsession to make you become a predator now."

"She did pretty well today, " Dana replied, ignoring the implied criticism of his behavior.

"True, she has good instincts and could be a good fighter if she tried, " Bert said nodding. "However she lacks the drive. She simply doesn't want to hurt others."

"And when did you hear of a benign Walker?" Ina said.

"They weren't always what they became, " Dana said. His eyes were focused on the fire and his voice sounded far away, as though seeing something in the flames.

"No they weren't, " Bert agreed. "But that was long ago." The three lapsed into silence and the crackling of the fire was loud. Cassie decided she learned enough and that those here weren't going to come after her. She felt strangely reticent to eavesdrop on their conversation. She closed her eyes and thought of the map room. She felt the jerk and the flying sensation and opened her eyes in the familiar line filled darkness.

"Sacsahuaman, please, " she requested. Again she flew through the darkness. When she arrived in the ruins however, they were not as she left them. "I guess I know where everyone in the plaza went, " she said to herself as she looked around. All of those she spent the last few weeks dodging and pretending not to see were in the ancient Incan ruins and now studying the empty space the way they formerly studied the concession stand.

"At least I was right about them not hiding." Cassie said to herself. There was no lurking behind stones waiting to jump out on an unsuspecting Walker for this lot. They were sitting in plain view, waiting for the Walker to appear or the gate to open. Cassie decided not to open it and left the area, returning to her own bed.

As she drifted into normal sleep, Cassie wondered what would happen if she didn't open the gate there again. Would they think they chased her off? If she waited for an appropriate length of travel time and then opened another gate elsewhere, would they think she was just moving around and follow, relocating there to wait? Would they believe that their presence scared her off?

"I wonder if I could lead them on a worldwide goose chase?" she said to herself. "And I wonder if it is just the ones who can't or don't hide their odd bits who would chase." Cassie was hoping that Enki and Skadi would join in, following the others to Peru. While it was a few days since her last Skadi sighting, Enki remained a presence in the district.

"And those from class didn't go anywhere. I wonder if there is a difference between the two groups. The ones with feathers, fur, scales and whatnot and those without them, other than just appearances." Slowly Cassie closed her eyes, letting her questions fade as she slid into the embrace of a regular sleep.

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