I gasped in shock, dropping the book I was holding in my right hand as suddenly an almost unbearable pain flared up in my wrist. Then anger hit me and I gasped again, but this time I knew it wasn't my pain or my anger, but Devon's, my twin. Which should have been impossible. We weren't in were form and we didn't have either Elder or Healer potential according to Robby. Yet, it almost felt as if someone had ripped open a door into Devon's mind and pushed mine into it and mixed our emotions all together.
Then, just as suddenly, I was thrown out of his mind. Oh, not completely, I could still feel his rage and pain and fear and I knew he could feel my sympathy as whoever had just broken his wrist, pushed him into a van, throwing a sack over his head.
This little kid with red hair, wearing a pair of green shorts and a white T shirt with green trim, burst out of the library. I could tell he was a werewolf kid and even from where I was, I could see that he was frantic. My hand closed on the empty paper coffee cup crushing it, as his eyes fell on me and he started running in my direction, dodging a couple of people on the way.
He skidded to a halt right in front of me and his green eyes were wild. He was breathless, less from exertion than from emotion as he said desperately, “I need your help Gypsy Friend!!”
Making up my mind quickly, I snapped, “Get in.” and I raced around the stretch limo to get behind the wheel. By that time he was in and his hands were holding onto the dashboard tightly. “Do up your seatbelt!” I snapped and he did as he was told fumbling a little. He turned his big green eyes back on me.
He said with obvious worry in his voice, “My brother was playing baseball at Frenchman's Park and when he was walking home, a van stopped beside him and a man jumped out of the passenger seat and grabbed him. When Devon tried to struggle, this guy broke his wrist got him into a van pulled a bag over his head and chest and tied him up, then the van took off. I don't know why I can feel him, it should be impossible, but I can and somehow I knew that you were a Gypsy and that's impossible too. They're moving away from us toward the west.” he said with despair.
I said, not trying to be reassuring, because I didn't have anything reassuring to tell him, “They're probably heading for the highway.”
He cocked his head for a moment and I knew that he was listening to something else right at the moment. Then he said, “They're got a hideout in Cormier. One of them mentioned it and that's where they're going. They don't care that Devon's awake and can hear them. That must mean they aren't going to let him go. They'll kill him.”
I felt a chill go up my spine. He was probably right. I said, “We should call the cops.”
He snapped, “No, they can just use Devon as a hostage that way. Besides this is a werewolf matter. Just like I shouldn't be able to feel and hear Devon, but I can and I shouldn't be able to tell that you're a Gypsy, but I can. Devon knows that the one who broke his arm is a werewolf and he shouldn't be able to tell.”
He said seriously, “He can't be from around here, or he'd know that Benson and the surrounding area contains more werewolves as a percentage of the population than anywhere else in the world. Robby Hansen lives in Benson and he's a distant cousin of ours.”
My cell phone rang. I picked it up absently and flipped it open and I heard a shriek in my ear and then a babble. I recognized the voice at once. I snapped, “Eric, calm down, take several deep breaths and then start over.”
I could actually hear him taking the breaths and then speaking more calmly, but I could hear tears in his voice. “I'm sorry Robby. I didn't think I was so worried, I've been talking to the Gypsy driving me quite calm. Devon's been kidnapped. He was scared and the man who got a hold of him deliberately broke his wrist. He was so furious that something happened in our minds. It was like a barrier between us was torn down and I was suddenly in his mind and for a few seconds it was like I was actually him. I'm still in his mind though just touching. When I ran out of the library, I could see a limo driver drinking some coffee and I could tell that the driver was a Gypsy and I thought both were impossible for ordinary werewolves?”
I thought about that for a minute then answered him, “You're identical twins Eric. Sometimes you can develop abilities that are similar to that of an Elder and I imagine the psychic shock brought it on. In fact if I looked at you and Devon right now, you’d probably show Elder potential. But that's not important for the moment. We have to get Devon back first, so tell me what happened from the beginning.”
He obediently told me, “Okay. Devon and I went to Frenchman's Park and got there about one. Some friends of ours said that they'd probably be there for a game of baseball around two, or so. Devon and I played tag and did a lot of wrestling until they arrived. Once they did, he joined them for a game and I headed for the library. I like watching baseball on television I don’t like playing it.”
He explained, “About half the kids he plays baseball with, are a year older than us. We knew a lot of them couldn't stay long today because they were going to a birthday party, so they had to get home to get ready for it and the game only lasted about an hour. Everybody headed for home and so did Devon. He was walking down a street only about three blocks from home and a van pulled up beside him and stopped.”
Eric told me, “He didn't think anything about it for a minute, but he began to get scared when the passenger got out. When the man came toward him he got ready to run, but he didn't have a chance. The man suddenly dove for him. Devon was taken totally by surprise. He was relying on his werewolf speed but the man was just as fast and caught Devon easily by his left arm.” Despite the situation he giggled before saying, “Of course Devon being Devon swung at him with his right hand, but the man just caught it. He was looking down at Devon and a cruel look came over his face. He just snapped Devon's wrist casually. He could see the man enjoyed doing it and the pain was really bad for a few seconds.”
He told me, “The man spun Devon around and grabbed him around the waist and lifted him into the air with his hand over Devon's mouth. Devon got over the shock of his wrist being broken, but then he just got white-hot mad. The fright the pain and the anger just tore down the barrier between us and I was in his mind as he was dragged into the van. A bag was put over his head and chest then rope was wrapped around him to pin his arms to his side and then the man tied his legs together.”
“Robby,” and Eric's voice was very quiet, “Devon heard the man who grabbed him tell the driver to head for their hideout in Cormier. He didn't care that Devon heard him. They probably kidnapped him for ransom, but they don't intend to let him go.”
I agreed with him and said, “No, you're right Eric. If a kidnapper intends to let his victim go, he doesn't let him know any information about him, but he let Devon actually see him and he said where they would be holding him. Also, as fast as he moved, it's very likely that he's a werewolf. Humans do have that type of speed on occasion, but we'll have to assume that he's a werewolf.”
Eric voice got angry then, “Oh, he's a werewolf all right. Devon and I can tell. That's why I didn't have Tordell call the police. That's the driver's name. Tordell Sawyer.”
I just nodded my head thoughtfully, though of course Eric couldn't see it. “Do you think he knows that Devon's a werewolf?”
Eric said, “I don't think so. It's probably because our parents are wealthy. I imagine they've been watching us for a while, so it could have been me rather than Devon. And it's certain sure that he doesn't know what they're driving into.” He suddenly giggled and said, “Devon has to pee real bad, but he doesn't want to wet his pants.”
I smothered a giggle of my own. I told him with amusement, “Tell him if he has to pee, to go. It's going to be a couple of hours before they get to where they're going and even if he told them, they wouldn't stop just to let him go to the bathroom.” I explained, “While we once used urine to mark our territory, it was in were form. It's not as pleasant in human form and we have more sensitive noses than humans. While some of what we smell is short circuited directly into our brains when in human form, our sense of smell still is much keener than a normal human. It'll make the werewolf quite uncomfortable and a little uneasy.”
I had never peed my pants in my life that I could remember. But when Eric passed on what Robby had said, I stopped holding it in and I could feel the pee soaking my shorts and then trickling down between my legs. I could smell it as well of course, but it was my smell and it didn't bother me at all, though if it had even been Eric's the smell would have been unpleasant.
Immediately I could hear the werewolf start to curse and I choked back my laugh. Right now I’d gladly do anything to annoy him and the fact that he didn't like it pleased me immensely. The fact that my soaked shorts would be uncomfortable until I changed them, was nothing to my joy at being able to show my captor what I thought of him.
I could hear Eric giggling in my mind and he said, *It's not only a relief to you, little brother, but it's a relief to me, because it was almost as if I had to go as well and I don't because I went at the library.* He called me little brother occasionally, as a sign of affection because I was ten minutes younger than him.
I relaxed a little in my seat. As I told Devon, it had felt as if I had to go as well and I was relieved that he had relieved himself. The fact that it would make the werewolf passenger unhappy, made us both very content. It would probably be the only time in our lives when one of us was actually directed to pee our pants.
Tordell coughed and I looked at him. He said, “I've only been in Prescott for a couple of months and I don't really know much about werewolves. Tell me a little about them and yourself and why your brother was kidnapped?”
I could see that he was trying to distract me, but it was no longer necessary. Robby knew and with Robby knowing, I was no longer much worried. I started speaking, “All right. Devon and I, I'm Eric Jarvis by the way, are identical twins and we're ten and a half. Our father is Paul Jarvis and among other things he owns the Jarvis Construction Company. He's worth a couple of hundred million dollars and our Uncle Jimmy has a trust fund which is worth another hundred million dollars, so my family is very rich. We're not Elders, so we shouldn't be able to contact each other in human form and I shouldn't have been able to tell that you're a Gypsy and Devon shouldn't have been able to tell that the man who kidnapped him was a werewolf. Something happened to our minds when he was kidnapped, I don't know what, but Robby says he's heard of it happenin'.”
I explained, “I imagine he was kidnapped for ransom and, as I said, they didn't care that he could hear them. Robby reminded me that they didn't care whether he saw their faces either so we all know they don't intend to let him go.”
I told him, “If you've only been here a coupla months you've prob'bly noticed a lot more werewolf auras than any place you ever been before. We make up about one percent of the world population, but here in Prescott we're about eight to twelve percent. The closer you get to Benson the higher the percentage goes. In and around Benson itself it's more'n' fifty percent. Prescott is the Headquarters of the Werewolf Council and they're our primary ruling body. They make some laws but that's not their primary purpose, more importantly they set out guidelines as to how Elders interpret and make laws.”
I explained, “Elders are really more important to an ordinary werewolf than the Council is. Only a few werewolves ever come into contact with the Council, even most Elders never have any direct communication with them. But every werewolf comes into contact with an Elder, though criminals try to avoid them of course. Elders are our policemen and our judges and if necessary our executioners.” I stated flatly, “Literally. Elders have life or death power over us. Ordinary werewolves can communicate mind to mind when we're in wolf form, but Elders can read our minds whether we're in were form or in human form.”
I told him, “An ordinary Elder isn't a lot stronger than an ordinary werewolf, but as I said he can read our minds in either form. If he’s strong enough he can control a werewolf's mind but sometimes it takes a couple of Elder’s to do that. He can see a werewolf's aura and he can see a Gypsy's aura. The werewolf who kidnapped my brother is heading into an area where hundreds of werewolves can do that and he obviously doesn't know it. More important, he's heading right toward Robby Hansen.”
I said with seriousness, “Robby's only thirteen and a half, just three years older'n me though he only looks about twelve and he looks a lot like Devon and I. He's a direct Council representative, as far as I know, the only permanent one. In other words he only answers to the Council and they know he's the most powerful Elder alive. They think, looking back through Werewolf Historians minds, that he's the most powerful were of all time and he takes the protection of people very seriously. The fact that the person in danger is someone he knows personally and likes an awful lot, means that he'll be even more dangerous right now than usual.”
I closed my cell phone and slipped it into my pocket and then walked down the stairs, reaching out for Uni and Aaron who were over at the Ross's with the other kids swimming. They were more aware of me than other werewolves, even Elders and it didn't take much to get their attention. There was simply a question in their minds.
I explained, *Devon Jarvis has been kidnapped. They're heading our way, in fact they've got a hideout in Cormier. One of them is a werewolf and he broke Devon's wrist. Since I'll want to fix it and we want to get him to his parents as soon as possible, I'll force the werewolf to drive them to Seamus Riley's and call his family to fly out by helicopter. Okay with you two?*
They answered, *Sure Robby!!* with their answers overlapping. I thought with amusement about the excitement in their minds. It wasn't every day that you got involved in a kidnapping, not even around me.
Tal was sitting reading a book and I looked at my mother doing some sewing. From the size of the shorts I knew they were Barry's. She didn't do it very often but as with all household tasks she did it efficiently. Reluctantly, since she was a cop first and only then was she a housewife.
She looked up at me and smiled, but I wasn't trying to hide my emotions and she could read that there was trouble. She asked soberly, “There's something wrong, isn't there?”
I nodded telling her gravely, “Devon Jarvis has been kidnapped.” and I saw my mother's face become bleak. One of a mother's worse nightmares and I knew she was empathizing with Winnie Jarvis. She searched my face and asked, “You're not going to let me get involved, are you? Why?”
I explained to her, “A matter of an oath you swore as a policewoman. Part of it is to protect the innocent. Until found guilty by a jury everyone is presumed innocent. When I killed that first rogue it never even entered my mind, but it has since then. I've tried not to include police officers in something when I'm pretty sure the outcome is going to be death. The situation in Washington was different. The only outcome in that case had to be death and in order to protect the secret of weres I had to use a couple of law enforcement officers, even though one of them was human. Though I didn't really have a choice after they walked into a summoning.”
I told her seriously, “I had to use a very broad definition of to serve and protect in that case. If a case comes up like that around here, or if we go to the Elven World or another world again, I would have no objection in including you. But not in this instance. As an Elder I'm going to have to pronounce a sentence. The werewolf didn't bother to hide from Devon what he looked like or where they would be hiding, which tells me that he has no intention of leaving the boy alive.”
I said angrily, “He also seems to enjoy causing pain. A sadist and potential murderer of a child. Until I see him, I have no idea of what else he may have done but even with these offences, death would be the only sentence that I would impose. He's simply too dangerous to consider locking him into wolf form permanently.” and she nodded her understanding, sighing with regret.
I didn't peek into her mind to see if she agreed with me or not. I think most werewolf policemen would see no conflict between their oath and killing a killer or potential killer. It wouldn't bother them a bit, but it would bother me and I had the ultimate responsibility.
I turned to Tal, telling him, “Take a gun along. I don't know if our werewolf is simply a sadist, or if he's actually insane. Like the leopardman in Washington, that could cause problems.” and he nodded as well.
I grinned, saying with amusement despite the circumstances, “At least we don't have to do any rushing. Apparently their hideout is somewhere in Cormier. Obviously our werewolf isn't from around here.” Both Mom and Tal looked at me with disbelief on their faces. Tal just shook his head as he got up and went over to the gun locker just inside the front door, where Mom kept her rifle and service gun and he kept an automatic pistol and a jacket.
Using his key, he unlocked it and shrugged into his shoulder holster and fastened it down. He drew the automatic and ejecting the clip, he checked it and reinserted it. He then chambered a round, made sure the safety was on and put it back into it's holster and donned his jacket.
I fondled Blue's head and he purred in enjoyment and I had my mind stretched to the limit. I began to feel a couple of werewolves and then a couple of minutes later one more. Even at this distance I recognized two as Eric and Devon Jarvis and the third must be our kidnapper. I sent a quick reassurance to the boys and then concentrated on the kidnapper. I relaxed somewhat as I found out that he wasn't insane and relieved I said out loud, “Well, one worry gone. He's got a nasty mind, but he's not insane. Eric and Tordell Sawyer are staying about a mile in back of the van.”
I saw Tal relax a bit. I told him, “His name is Tom Parent and he's French-Canadian.” I felt my anger grow as I gathered more information, “He's from Winnipeg, Manitoba. If he had killed Devon, it wouldn't have been the first child he's killed. He kidnapped a little girl by the name of Taylor Devereau, an eight year girl and killed her. She was the niece of a Jude Devereau, also from Winnipeg. He knew the girl was a werewolf and killing her didn't bother him, nor did the killing of several adults.”
I said somberly, “I mentioned her uncle rather than her father, because he's the man Parent intended to get the ransom from. He's not exactly a gangster, but he's on the fringes and he's a multi-millionaire. Whether from his legitimate enterprises or from his slightly illegal activities, Parent doesn't really know. Well, I'm certainly not going to allow Parent to live, but her father and Devereau have the first crack at him, through the primary Werewolf Law of an eye for an eye.”
“The van should be coming into sight pretty soon, so it's time you got on the highway. Drive a little slow and let them catch up to us and then stay with them.” I told Tal and he nodded as he put the van in gear and pulled onto the highway.”
I was feeling pretty tense and I was really glad when I heard Robby reassuring me and Devon and I finally relaxed. I said to Tor, which is what he told me to call him the first time I had called him Mr. Sawyer, “Robby just got in touch with me. With Blue's help he can reach an ordinary werewolf at six miles, so we're only a few miles from him and Tal.”
A few minutes later Robby contacted me again and I relayed it on to Tor. “Robby says he has control of the driver and the werewolf and he wants us to pull up to him and follow him. Since you've only been in Prescott a coupla months, you might never have been to Benson, so you should stay close. The road south to Benson is right in the middle of Cormier. It's not very well marked and you can miss it real easy if you don't know what you're looking for. I think probaby it’s not so well marked on purpose.”
Tordell asked with curiosity as he stepped on the gas, “How does he know how long I've lived in Prescott?”
Much relieved now, I grinned and I told him, “He prob'bly contacted Edward Franco in Prescott. Robby took Devon and me to see Mr. Franco's facility, as he likes to call it, once. He's got computers that have access to almost everywhere, so it's no problem to find that type of information.”
I saw that we were coming up on a navy blue van and I said, “That's prob'bly Tal's van.” I heard Robby say we were right behind them and I said, “It is. Just follow it.”
A few minutes later we slowed down when we came to the outskirts of Cormier. In the middle of the town a black van turned left followed by Tal's van and then us.
We turned onto a farm road and Eric said excitedly, “We're here. This is Seamus Riley's farm, he's a Gypsy like you. Robby keeps a helicopter here and his Clinic is here as well.”
I was amazed. I hadn't realized that werewolves had that type of resources and Eric grinned almost reading my mind. He explained, “Robby says that while we only make up one percent of the world population, it's estimated that we control between five and ten percent of the world's wealth. Since ordinary werewolves tend to be territorially aggressive especially when they get into a position of power, the Werewolf Council is necessary to keep them in line, therefore most wealthy werewolves tithe to the Council.” Obviously a direct quote since the language was much better than he had been using.
I stopped, Eric pushed open the door, jumped out of the car and rushed toward the black van at the front. There seemed to be a crowd of kids and adults suddenly gathered there as well. I followed a little more slowly as I saw the rear side door of the black van being opened by a boy looking a great deal like Eric, but slightly bigger. Obviously the great Robby Hansen.
He used a knife to cut the rope around the legs of the boy in the van and helped him to a sitting position. He cut the rope fastened around the sack and the boy's chest and pulled it off, revealing a boy who looked identical to Eric except for a tear-stained face and wild hair.
Robby stepped back and Eric embraced his brother carefully. He drew back and said in a giggly voice, “P U, you stink, little brother.” and the other boy stuck out his tongue.
He retorted, “Well, you're responsible, since you told me to pee my pants.”
He jumped down from the seat, holding his right arm carefully and he was mobbed by a little boy and girl and two men and a young woman and a much older one and I realized it must be his family. Leaving them to greet each other alone and curious to see the kidnappers, I walked to the front of the van. There were two men sitting in the front seat and they were just sitting there, with their eyes closed.
I heard a soft chilling voice from behind me, “They're asleep now, Tordell.” and I turned around to look into the coldest eyes I had ever seen. I began to sweat a little even though I knew that the anger wasn't directed at me. This had to be Robby Hansen and I knew then that he was just as dangerous as Eric had said he was.
He explained, “The werewolf whose name is Tom Parent, well he already has a prior commitment with a man by the name of Jude Devereau. He killed Devereau's niece and following the Primary Law of an eye for an eye, I'll turn Parent over to him. First he'll have Parent show him where he buried the girl and then…” He paused for a couple of seconds, before saying, “Well perhaps he'll bury Parent's body in the same grave. The human, he's simply a dupe, not very bright and he had no idea that Parent intended to kill Devon. But still he was involved willingly in a kidnapping and he's not dumb enough that he didn't know what could have happened and we can't just let him get away with that. We'll have to come up with a somewhat less drastic punishment than Parent's, that has nothing to do with the kidnapping. That's a werewolf matter and we'll keep it that way.”
His green eyes softened a bit and there was a great deal of intensity in them directed at me and I felt a warmth go through me and I realized that I would remember that look as long as I lived. He explained thoughtfully, “We appreciate our friends Tordell, the fact that you're one of our special Friends doesn't mean we appreciate what you did for Eric and Devon any less. I think you'll find that the loan you've been looking for will be much easier to come by now.”
Robby held up his small hand as I started to speak, telling me, “I had Edward look at your business. It's viable and the loan looks like a good one. Gypsy’s still run into prejudice, as do blacks and other races. We are simply removing a road block. We have much more political and financial power than our numbers would indicate. We won't tolerate prejudice and when we can do anything about it, we will. We're not doing this as a reward, but as a part of our general policy.”
Robby said sympathetically, “Our reward is somewhat different. If you need something, anything that we're capable of doing, please come to us. That leaves it to you. Pride is a fine thing. It kept the Jews a viable people through almost twenty-six hundred years of a violent history that would have destroyed another people. But pride carried to extreme in itself is a type of prejudice. It can preclude asking for help when help is a vital necessity. Think about it and if someday you need help and are reluctant to ask for it, think hard about it before you turn it down.”
Those large green eyes looking at me so searchingly, were not a child's eyes, or at least only in part. Mostly what was showing was a type of wisdom that was boundless. He nodded with satisfaction and turned away and I knew that I was in the presence of someone special. I was no longer scornful of Eric's great Robby Hansen, because he was as great as Eric thought he was.
“He can be somewhat overpowering, don't you think.” A voice asked and I turned and saw a man in his mid-fifties. He had dark gray eyes with laugh lines at the corners and his hair was completely white. But he had a look I knew, that of a Gypsy, so I assumed that this was Seamus Riley. I nodded my agreement. He confirmed my supposition, when he said, “I'm Seamus Riley,” and he held out his hand and I took his very firm grip. “Eric may have mentioned they'd be coming here.”
I told him, “He did. He also mentioned Robby Hansen in such hero worshipping way that I figured he had to be exaggerating. I don't think so any more.” I shook my head in amazement.
Seamus said soberly, “When you enter Robby's world, sooner or later danger comes along. Sometimes he deliberately courts it to protect his people whether they be were or human, at other times it simply comes to him, unasked for. But usually he welcomes it, because that's what he was made to do: To take care of trouble.”
I heard the ring of a cell phone and saw Robby pull one out of the pocket of his shorts. He talked for a couple of minutes and then came towards us. He said, “That was Edward, Seamus. Jude Devereau is doing some business in New Orleans, so he can be here in a couple of hours. Edward is also on his way here.”
He grinned at me, saying, “Well, faith healers actually exist in our world. Some people have the ability to heal illnesses in a manner that seems like a miracle. I don't know how they do it, but it's certainly a much rarer ability than the fundamentalist religious establishment would like us to believe. Certain weres have the ability to Heal as well, however we take much longer to do it. If you would like to see it, you're invited to watch. It's pretty boring, but the end result is amazing.”
He held out his arms and suddenly an enormous gray and black tabby cat jumped into them, settling down comfortably as Robby began to rub his head. He walked over to the family group and said, “Devon, I want to do something about your wrist. Come on into the Clinic.”
He headed for the barn with Devon and Eric right behind him, the others following a little slower. I looked at Seamus and raised my eyebrows in a question. He said, “It's quite true. Robby and a couple of his relatives are what they call Healers. What they normally do is far outside the boundaries of Healing as we understand it. They also have the ability to do some physical Healing, though it's much more limited, broken bones and minor things are about the only things they can do right now. I've watched it a couple of times. As he said, it's boring watching it, but the results are astonishing.”
It certainly was everything Robby and Seamus had said it was. Both boring and amazing. When we entered the barn it was certainly obvious that it wasn't a barn anymore. We were in a short hallway, a door on either side. Seamus opened one of the doors and revealed what looked like a full-service hotel room, with a kitchenette and an entertainment center and two double beds.
We went along the hallway which opened onto a large room. It contained an entertainment center with a big screen television and a library of DVD's and videos. Surrounding the television was an L shaped sofa and three armchairs. Eric and the rest of his family were sitting down looking anxiously over at a hospital bed which had two chairs beside it where Devon and three boys were gathered.
Out of the seven children I could see, six boys and a girl, five of the boys had red hair. I asked, “I haven't seen a lot of werewolves and this is the first time I've seen so many together. There seems to be a lot of redheads? Is that as common as they make it seem?”
Seamus chuckled, telling me, “They're all related, some more distantly than others, but most of them are descended from the same man, Jarvis White. Many of their relatives in Benson are descended through Robert Hansen, Robby's namesake. Jarvis White was Hansen's father-in-law and they were both redheads. The twin's family is descended directly from Jarvis White. As you can see their brother and sister both have black hair while their mother and father and uncle all have brown hair. Benson does have more than its fair share of redheaded werewolves and most of them are descended from Robert Hansen.”
They had things arranged to their satisfaction now. Devon was lying on the bed and there was a boy sitting on it beside him. Robby and another boy were sitting in the chairs beside the bed, each of them was holding a cat. Robby the same cat that had jumped into his arms, the boy in the other chair a beautiful Siamese.
Once they were all in position, nothing seemed to happen, but then I realised that something was occurring. They were all unnaturally still and unmoving and Seamus said from beside me, “They're in a trance and the cats are familiars. You've heard of them in fairy tales and it's a fairly accurate account. They're as intelligent as a human being is, and, when they bond with a werewolf Healer, they'll live as long as the Healer does. They skim off excess power that the Healer develops storing it then giving it back when the Healer needs it. They can also enhance a Healer's ability, which is probably what they're doing now. That allows a Healer to do things in a much shorter period of time.”
Seamus motioned me to a chair and took one as well and we waited. By my watch it took about twenty minutes before they all began moving again. The boy hopped off of the bed and Devon sat up flexing his wrist and smiling. He said, “Thanks Robby, Uni, Aaron, Blue, Sandy. I didn't want to go around with a cast for a few weeks. Not with summer vacation starting in a month.”
Robby told him, “You're quite welcome. Next time, stay away from kidnappers.” and Devon giggled, “Your mother brought you and Eric some clean clothing. You'll be staying until tomorrow night, so I can examine your new abilities. You two go take a shower.”
“Okay!” Devon yelled and jumped off of the bed and as he moved towards the waiting area he pulled his T shirt off, as Eric was doing and they proceeded to get undressed completely unselfconscious. Naked they handed their clothing to their mother. She put them in a bag while the boys headed for one of the rooms to use the shower in the bathroom. I was amused and I looked at Seamus.
He said with equal amusement, grinning at me, “That seems to be a general trait of the Hansen-White children. Some of them are shy, but they're unconcerned about nudity, whether among themselves or in front of a stranger.”
We were greeted by a large blond haired man of indeterminate age and an equally large dark haired man of about my age and a young red headed boy who looked to be around seven or eight, the copter's blades whirring to a stop behind us. The dark haired man and the boy went to greet the pilot the boy giving her a hug, saying, “Hi, Mom.” and he was sandwiched between the man and the woman as they kissed.
The man said in a husky voice, “I never thought a week could seem like forever, Jeannie. I'm glad you're back.”
She caressed the boy's head saying, “Well it didn't feel like forever, Len. I was too busy for that, but the nights were very lonely, with you not sharing my bed and knowing Uni wasn’t sleeping down the hall from me. When I got off the plane, I called Edward because Sam had a few questions he needed answers to. He said he had been going to ask Joey to fly Mr. Devereau here, but, since I was home, he asked me to take him. Do you know what's going on?”
The man glanced over his shoulder at me before saying, “Yes. I'll tell you about it in the van.” He lifted the boy up and set him on his shoulders and they headed for two almost identical blue mini-vans.
my attention back to the blond haired man. He held out his hand and
I grasped it in a handshake. His voice when he spoke was a little cool.
“I'm Tal Peters, Mr. Devereau. I'm here to take you to your destination.”
I started to demand to know what was going on and he raised his hand
to stop me saying, “Robby will tell you when we arrive.”
A few minutes later we pulled up to a gate, which was opened by another red headed boy, though he was somewhat older. At his age he was probably prepubescent, so, like Tal Peters, it was impossible to say how old he was. He could have been eleven or several years older than that. There was a sign on the lawn that said Animal Control Dept. We drove through the gate and the boy closed it behind him.
When we got out of the mini-van, I looked down at this green-eyed red headed kid. His gaze was chilling and the force of his personality was almost tangible.
He held out his hand, demanding, “You have it?!!” and I handed him the certified check for one hundred thousand dollars.
I'd intended to demand an explanation, but now I simply asked, “What's this all about?”
He waved the piece of paper in the air before putting it in his shirt pocket, telling me, with a stern look on his face, “I'm Robby Hansen, Mr. Devereau. You straddle the fringes of society and in the last couple of years you seem to have been on the wrong side of the fence much too often. So this is a little nip on the backside to warn you. Generally, werewolves like you: criminals or those on the fringes of criminality have better shields than most werewolves and many Elders simply read what is called the public part of your mind. Surface thoughts mainly. To go deeper it requires two or three Elders together. There's a second level of Elders and I'm one of them. They're less common, perhaps one in twenty-five thousand werewolves. An ordinary werewolf can't stop me from going deeper and we work much more closely with the Council. That's what happened in this case.” I saw the man who was with him give a sardonic grin and I got the impression that this kid was understating his abilities.
Robby handed me a piece of paper and I looked down and saw my bank accounts numbers and passwords listed in order. A chill went through me as I crushed the paper in my hand. He said in his soft voice, “You're a wealthy man Mr. Devereau and most of the money you’ve earned legitimately, but about ten percent was made by illicit means. In the past couple of years, it’s more like fifty percent. This tells you what I can do to you if you don't get back on the right side of the fence and stay there. You've got six months to clean up your act, or… Well I leave it to your imagination.”
I didn't know what he intended to do and certainly didn't want to find out. Feeling the crumpled piece of paper in my hand I knew that whatever he decided to do, he had the ability to do.
He sighed and there was sadness in his eyes, as he said, “Now that’s just a little sidebar and isn’t the main reason that I asked you to come.” He smiled though it was an ironic smile, knowing that the Council's request to come had been more of an order. “Unfortunately the main reason is bad news, not that you expected anything else after this length of time."
Robby explained, "A werewolf by the name of Tom Parent and his helper kidnapped a boy in Prescott today. He was a werewolf, though Parent didn't know that, nor would he have cared. He didn't care when he kidnapped and killed your niece. He KNEW that she was a werewolf child, in advance. He never intended to return her alive, he intended to kill her from the very beginning.”
I could feel my heart pounding with rage and with sorrow. While I loved all my nephews and nieces, she had been something special. She was always the center of attention, not because she tried to be, but because she was unique.
Without saying anything else, he turned on his heel followed by Tal Peters and I and we entered the building through a side entrance. To our right was a door that said ‘KENNELS’, but we turned left. We went through the open door of an office. There were three men who got to their feet when we entered. One of them was Gypsy dark. The other I knew through business, Paul Jarvis. He owned the Jarvis Construction Company and I had employed his company on a couple of projects I had done in Louisiana. I assumed being here meant he was a werewolf, and, from the cold look on his face, it was probably one of his children who had been kidnapped. I had met all of them and they were nice kids. The last was dressed in a uniform and had a badge on his shirt, which read Animal Control.
Robby said, “I think you know Paul Jarvis; and yes, it was one of his children. One of his twin sons.” Paul nodded at me and gave me a brief smile that didn’t change the look of coldness on his face. “The one who looks like a Gypsy is Edward Franco and he’s principal contact for werewolves in the southeast. Ted Peters is the head of the Animal Control Department, which is bigger than you would think. Benson is one of four townships that decided to pool their resources in that area. Benson is in a central location the other townships all around it and Ted and his department are responsible for all four townships.”
Franco simply nodded but from the lack of cordiality on his face, I gathered he was aware of my borderline activities and didn’t approve. Ted Peters nodded with more friendliness, which probably meant he didn’t know much about me. Robby picked up a clear plastic bag inside of which was an envelope.
He held up the bag, saying flatly, “This is a confession and a suicide note. Parent wrote it and he's the only one who handled it. He even licked the stamp. It's addressed to you and it’s a rambling account of his life and the crimes he has committed. It’s quite a list and it will allow four separate police departments to shut the cases on murders committed in their jurisdiction. That’s in addition to your niece. The body was buried in some woodlands in the countryside outside Winnipeg. It's in an area of woodland, and, while he remembers the approximate area, he doesn't know the exact location. In canine form we could find her body, but we’ll leave it to the authorities. When you get the letter the RCMP can send in search dogs to find her body. If the RCMP haven't got available resources just now, no one will blame you if you arrange to send in a search party. This way you will be able to find some sort of closure and comfort.”
I nodded in understanding. He was right, we would want her to have a funeral for our sake not for the public at large, though they would be aware of it.
He explained, “Just in case it gets lost in the mail, we had him make up two identical letters. This will partially explain his disappearance. The way it’s written is definitely indicative of a suicide note, though it doesn’t say so specifically. They won't be able to find his body, but they'll have to make an attempt.” Robby put the envelope back on the desk and held up. what looked like an automatic pistol.
He said in an even softer voice than he had been using and this one was devoid of pity or compassion. “Revenge and vengeance, as well as justice, are specifically acknowledged in our Primary Law of an eye for an eye, but we've never condoned cruelty as a way of applying the Law. This is an air gun and normally we use tranquilizers in it. The ones in this clip have been loaded with a poison that is used to put animals down. Painless and quick acting.”
Robby explained, “Usually werewolves are more pragmatic and ruthless than humans, but still not all of us can kill in cold blood. As a representative of the family that was affected, under our Primary Law you have the right to deal out the punishment. If you can’t do it, as your representative I will. It's your choice.”
I had to think hard about it. My heart hungered to avenge Taylor’s death and I had no problems with killing. Despite the fact that I was Canadian, I had served a hitch in the US Marines and had served in the Gulf War. I had been one of the special service operatives who had gone in behind the Iraqi lines and I had killed once using only my knife.
Finally after thinking it over for a few minutes, I said with regret, “I want to do it and I have no problem with killing, but at the same time, I can’t do it. Not and respect Taylor’s memory. She hated the thought of real violence, though, like any werewolf kid, she loved to wrestle with her brothers and cousins of both sexes. She wouldn’t approve of my killing Parent, though she would accept an Elder doing so.”
Robby nodded and for the first time since I had arrived, there was a look of approval in his large green eyes and I felt a shiver go up my spine at his look. I realized that Robby was a leader, like my friend Phil Simmons who had led me right into the Marine Corps, a time of my life I always looked upon with pride.
I thought of something that he had said earlier and asked him about it. “You said that Parent had a helper in kidnapping one of Paul’s sons. Was he involved with Taylor’s kidnapping?”
Robby shook his head, “No, his name is Dove Cotton, which is a somewhat unusual name. He met Parent less than a month ago in Kansas City. However, while he’s not particularly bright, he was quite aware that today’s kidnapping could have ended up in Devon’s death and he didn’t care. We set up something special to deal with him. To put him into the hands of the police without revealing anything about the kidnapping.”
He told me, “Dove normally acts as a courier for a Mob boss in New Orleans by the name of Tomas Santini. He moves money, or drugs, sometimes other things. He’s on kind of a busman’s holiday.” He grinned, “I decided to use it against Dove and see if I couldn’t kill two birds with one stone. Edward brought out a million dollars in counterfeit bills. Where Edward got them I don’t know and I’m afraid to ask. We placed the counterfeit bills in Dove’s mini-van and sent him on his way.”
Robby stated, “At the moment Dove knows that he picked up the counterfeit bills in Missouri. He believes he’s supposed to deliver them to Santini. We disabled the electrical system of his mini-van and a nice friendly State Trooper is going to stop him to tell him that his brake lights aren’t working. Uncharacteristically Dove is going to panic and try to run. Literally. He’s going to bolt out of his van, taking off on foot. He’s not in very good condition physically and the State Trooper won’t have any trouble catching him.”
He said seriously, “Of course the State Police will want to know why he ran. They’ll strip his mini-van and find the hidden counterfeit bills. That’ll get the Treasury Department involved in it and I imagine they’ll offer Dove a place in the Witness Protection Program if he turns on his boss. Given his lack of brains, I wouldn’t be surprised if he blows his cover sooner or later. What happens then isn’t my concern.”
I looked at him with respect and asked, “Do you expect to get Santini?”
Robby shrugged and grinned again, telling me, “I don’t know, but it’s worth a shot. Dove knows that he’s working for Santini on this courier run. He knows that he received his instructions directly from Santini and he’s supposed to deliver the bills to Santini personally, no one else. He can pass a lie detector test and even the use of truth serum or hypnosis.”
Robby explained, “Santini ends up between a rock and a hard place. He can probably wriggle out of any trouble with the Feds over it, but will he want to? The Mob is very suspicious of their people. For some reason they don’t trust each other. They’re going to wonder why Santini was so secretive about the courier run. The fact that Santini is completely innocent in this doesn’t matter. He could be dead before he can prove it. It’s very likely that he’ll take the same route as Dove and turn on his colleagues. If it works, the ripple effect could be enormous.”
We stood looking down at Parent, who was in wolf form. He was snarling at us through the wire of his kennel. Robby said in a matter of fact manner, “I’m a Healer as well as an Elder. It was a latent ability that was awakened in thanks for a service I performed. As the first Healer born in over a hundred years, with the abilities I already have as an Elder, I can do things that normally require two or three Elders. Parent is locked into wolf form and that’s the form he’s going to die in.”
Robby approached the wire and said in an emotionless tone that somehow was even more frightening, because it was said in such a soft voice. “Tom Parent, as a werewolf Elder, I judge you guilty of many crimes, including on five occasions the ultimate crime, the taking of a life. You did intend to kill Taylor Devereau, however you didn’t intend to do so until you had made a video taped ransom demand. Her death was an accident, you slapped her in order to control her and you hit her much harder than you intended to and broke her neck. While there is never a good thing about murder, we can be thankful that she didn’t know she was going to die and that it was quick and painless.”
Parent’s tail was between his legs and I could see him shaking and he was trying to get as far from the front of the cage as possible. Robby pushed the air gun through the wire of the cage and I heard the almost inaudible phftt as he fired it twice. Parent screamed out his fear as he was struck, a sound I’d never heard from a were before. It ripped right through me, yet it evoked no pity or compassion, simply approval as his canine body crumpled to the floor.
Robby ejected the clip from the gun and handed both to Tal Peters. He said, “I’ve arranged for his body to be picked up by a werewolf research team. That way he may actually do us some good, which would really surprise him.” He turned and looked at me. “I can have Tal fly you back to Prescott in the chopper, or you can ride in with Edward.”
I said softly, “I’ll go in with Mr. Franco, I want time to think about his death. I’m not sure whether I’ll savor it or not.”
Robby shrugged, telling me, “Revenge can be sweet, but after that first taste of sweetness you remember it comes on top of the bitter and it leaves a sour taste in the mind. No, you don’t want to savor his death, but then again you don’t have to regret it either. The world is truly a better place when people like Parent are where they can’t hurt anyone else. Sometimes it’s prison and at other times it’s the afterlife.”
I shook my head, wondering about Robby Hansen. A philosophic saying coming from what: an eleven year old? and one that actually made some sense, obviously with much thought behind it.
He grinned saying, “Thirteen and a half actually.” and ignoring the dead body of Parent, we left it behind us. And I, I left it behind in more ways than one.
Robby looked at Eric and I in the morning. We had just gotten out of bed and were still naked. He said, “Your werewolf kidnapper is dead. He was a multiple murderer and the last murder was of a little werewolf girl that he kidnapped.” His eyes were hard and his soft tone chilling yet at the same time reassuring. “I judged him from memories I saw in his mind and my sentence was death and I carried it out.”
I saw Eric shiver and I did as well. Not from any fear of Robby, but for the first time we realized what an Elder really was. We had always known they were our law keepers and our judges, but this brought it home to us in a way that nothing else could.
Robby’s eyes warmed up and he looked at me and asked, “How do you feel about it? You know you were very close to death.”
I said honestly, “It frightens me. I knew, since they let me see them, that they planned to kill me. But Eric was always with me and I knew that we were headed right towards you. That made me feel like I probably wasn’t in any danger, as long as I didn’t try to fight back. From things I’ve seen on television, they probably would have wanted me alive long enough either to make a video tape or a phone call.”
Teddy said cheerfully, “I woulda wet my pants.”
Eric and I giggled and Robby grinned. I said, “I did, but Robby told me to. Aside from the fact that I really had to go bad, he said it would make the werewolf kidnapper uneasy. After I peed my pants I could feel him moving uneasily. The fact that I could get back at him a little made me happy, despite my discomfort.”
Teddy, Aaron and Barry scrunched up their noses and giggled as well as we got dressed, which was quick since none of us put on more than a pair of shorts and sandals before heading down to breakfast.
Robby had been up for a couple of hours and he’d had his run and a shower. That meant he always had at least two showers a day and Eric and I thought that was overdoing it. One a day, like we had to take, was bad enough.
Eric and I made blueberry pancakes for breakfast. Jonathan Masters, who calls himself a man of all work, was more like family than an employee. He was a great cook who had actually been a chef in one of the hotels in Prescott for a while and he’d taught us all how to cook. Cooking was always fun, because you knew right away that it was appreciated. Since we made the mess when we were cooking, usually we’d clean it up, but Robby wanted to test us to see what Eric and I could do, so Teddy, Barry and Aaron volunteered. Like us they had a dishwasher, but neither of our families used them very much. They had kids to do that.
In our family us kids were given five dollars a week in allowance and we got five dollars more for doing chores. While we got paid for chores, we were also expected to do them. If we didn’t, we could actually get fined and lose some of our allowance. Our house wasn’t a mansion, but it had been built in the late eighteen-forties. Our family had been well off even then and our ancestor had built a big house with a big lawn and trees and all sorts of vegetation all around the house, so there were always chores to be done.
Most of our friend’s families were well off, since that was the type of neighborhood that we lived in. Some of them helped around the house, but a lot of them didn’t and thought that those of us who did were dumb. But with those kids we could tell that the houses they lived in were just that, but to us, our house was a home. At times, like any kid, we were reluctant to help, but most of the time we didn’t mind. We were proud of the fact that our home looked so good, because we had a major part in making it look that way.
Robby handed Eric the Prescott paper. There was a story circled by a marker. The two boys sat down and read the article. They looked at Robby and asked in unison. “Why are you showing us this?” and then they looked at each other and grinned.
Robby said to Devon and Eric in his soft voice, “Dove Cotton was the man who helped kidnap Devon yesterday.” Devon made a sour face and Robby grinned, “I arranged a little punishment for him.” His voice got softer and harder, “He’s never killed anyone, yet he knew that the kidnapping could have ended in Devon’s death. Yet he didn’t care. This will end up in his being punished. He normally works for the Mob in New Orleans. We provided the counterfeit bills, but Dove ‘knows’ he picked them up in Kansas City on the instructions of the Mob boss. He ‘knows’ he was supposed to bring them directly to his boss.”
Robby explained, “The fact that what he ‘knows’ is a complete fabrication I put into his mind, doesn’t matter. He ‘knows’ it’s true. The only way he’ll stay out of prison is by helping the Treasury Department get his boss. He’ll undoubtedly wind up in the Witness Protection Program and then he’ll spend the rest of his life always afraid to walk around the next corner because he’ll be putting a target on his back just asking for the Mob to use it for target practice. If they ever find him, they’ll do exactly that and he knows it.”
He said soberly, “If he could think it through, he’d stay quiet and go to prison, but he can’t think it through because I put a prohibition in his mind which won’t allow that. He’s been in prison so often that he almost thinks of it as home. Still, while he certainly doesn’t want to go back, this punishment is far worse for him than if he had wound up in jail.”
The two boys looked at each other and then at Robby grinning with complete approval. Robby looked at Devon and said, “You’re taking what happened yesterday very calmly at the moment. But as the old saying goes it’s the calm before the storm. You only slept the entire night last night because you were emotionally drained. If not tonight, certainly in the next couple of days, you’ll wake up screaming because of what happened. It’s natural and nothing to be ashamed of; I’d be more worried if it didn’t happen and so would your parents. Another Eric. Eric Jansen, Carrie’s cousin who I’ve told you about, the one who was kidnapped by Molan, woke up screaming and shaking the first night he was home. It took close to a month before he could sleep through an entire night and he still wakes up screaming on occasion.”
Devon nodded unhappily and then said hesitantly, “When I woke up this morning my heart was pounding like crazy until I remembered where I was, but then I could feel Eric and things weren’t as bad.
Robby nodded, telling me, “It’ll get worse before it gets better. The fact that you and Eric are in the process of forming a bond, will probably help, but it might not be as helpful as you’re thinking right now.” turning his eyes on Eric who moved a little uneasily. “Quite possibly you’ll be affected as much as Devon. While you weren’t there, you were almost there. Sometimes worrying about someone else can affect us more deeply than if we’re worried about ourselves.” Eric nodded, just as unhappy as Devon, but even more aware of what Devon was feeling than Devon was, since he was seeing his twin’s mind from the outside.
Robby, looking to make sure that they understood that the next few weeks might be unpleasant, continued, “In a couple of weeks I’ll teach you how to shield your minds, but for the moment the bond is still forming and, unless I have to, I don’t want to interfere with its natural development. In the long run that could cause more problems than it relieves.”
The two younger boys nodded their understanding. Robby said, “You know about Werewolf Historians and obviously their very name tells what they do. However you’ve probably never thought about it. Through them we have an enormous amount of information about our past and it’s far more personal than humans have. The Historian, usually an Elder but not always, takes thoughts directly from another werewolf. With the Historian’s help, you can actually experience an important event or events in a werewolf’s life. You could in fact go into those histories and view someone like Lincoln or Washington through the memories of werewolves of the time.”
He explained, “While the amount of information is enormous, at the same time it’s sporadic. There are enormous gaps in our history, because the Historians, who gathered information of those periods, died before they could pass them on. The further back you go, the more sporadic the history becomes. When Molan tried to kidnap Aaron, I went through my mind, which contains the memories of Healers and before they became Healers, Shamen.”
Robby shrugged, saying, “I knew at the time that the possibility of finding him was probably remote, but I had a feeling that he would be there and he was. The event was captured by one of our ancestors who was a little boy at the time but was an apprentice Shaman.”
Eric asked, “How do you get information, say if the event might have happened in Japan and you need information for somebody living here?”
Robby explained, “We send out a question to all of the Japanese Historians. If it’s there then one of them will find it. Depending on how important the information is and how much detail we need, they may simply send a report back. If we need everything they know then a meeting of some kind would be arranged, perhaps in Japan or perhaps they would come here.”
Eric and Devon nodded thoughtfully as Robby continued. Robby said, “Now getting to your newly awakened abilities. It’s rare but not unknown. Perhaps twenty-five to thirty times in a generation the talent is awakened. Elders or Healers can’t detect it, and, since we can’t find it, we can’t awaken it, though we’re always looking for it, especially in identical twins, but we don’t know what we’re looking for. Even looking for something with you two, I couldn’t find it. If I couldn’t that makes it very unlikely that anyone else can do so, at least at the moment.”
He told them, “Normally it occurs the way it did for you two, with a sudden psychic shock, though occasionally it blossoms naturally. That much we know through our Historians. Ninety-five percent of the time it happens between twins and eighty percent of the time it’s between identical twins. The other five percent are siblings. We have no record of it ever happening outside of an immediate family, not even with cousins.” Robby shrugged again, saying, “That doesn’t mean it can’t happen or has never happened, simply that if it has happened, it hasn’t been passed down to us.”
He explained, “In most cases once the ability is awakened, those who have it show the potential to be Elders and that’s true of you too. You are beginning to show that you are potential Elders. It hasn’t reached the point that an Elder could see it yet, but as a Healer I can see your human aura as well and I see a third color forming in yours.” He grinned, “Elders see a were aura like a combination of light, which is usually yellow and some abstract art. The light surrounds the body and for an ordinary werewolf the light is uneven. In places it’s very thin and in other places it looks like someone just placed thick blobs of paint on a canvas.”
He told them, “Teddy is showing Elder potential and his aura is no longer that of an ordinary werewolf. It’s much smoother now and while there are still blobs of color, they are getting fewer and fewer with each passing month. However, even though he has the potential, it will still take years to develop completely and usually doesn’t do so until close to the end of our extended prepubescent period, or later. Cindy for example, who is past that phase, is getting very, very close. For her it’ll only be about another six months to a year before she reaches the point where she can be initiated. That doesn’t mean she will be initiated at that point. Quite often we wait for a couple of years after the full development occurs.”
He pointed at us saying, “With you two, as I said, the auras that an Elder can read haven’t even begun to show the changes that are occurring in your minds. That sometimes happens to potential Elders as well. They’re like Maisie Maillet and it takes time before their auras show what they really are. By that time they’re not simply potential Elders, they’re Elders who simply haven’t been initiated yet. Of course many of them simply don’t become Elders. Though they have the ability, they don’t have the other qualities necessary.”
Robby paused for a couple of mintes to let Devon and Eroc digest the information he had given them. Then he said, “Some of the abilities you’re showing for instance aren’t that unusual. You can’t see auras, you simply know that they exist and it tells you when a person is were, or like Tordell Sawyer, a Gypsy. It’s not that unusual and almost every werewolf has it at least in part, though for most werewolves it’s a subconscious ability. In fact it's one of the ways we find mates or friends of our own kind when we go among people we don’t know. It’s what tells us, even before we use mind-speech when we’re in canine form, that another canine is probably werewolf rather than simply being a dog.”
They spent the rest of the morning doing tests. Eric and Devon could talk to each other, but not to any other weres, except for Elders and Healers. Robby had me drive Eric towards Prescott and their range for mind-speech was about ten miles which was further than Robby could do, even with Blue’s help, unless the other were was also an Elder. Eric tried, but he couldn’t contact Robby at that distance.
Between ten to twenty miles Devon and Eric could feel each other’s emotions, but when there was more than twenty miles between them, even emotions faded away. They could still feel direction but that was all.
I had spent most of my adult life with part of what I did on the fringes of criminality, but I had never gone beyond that and I had begun to leave that behind me in the last week. However, I had never approved of those who we called gangsters or the Mob and I had been glad to read in the paper that the snare Robby had set for Tomas Santini using Dove Cotton, had actually worked. The shot he had taken had gone as he had hoped. Santini, afraid for his life, had turned on his compatriots in order to keep himself alive.
The damage he had inflicted looked like it was going to go far beyond New Orleans, affecting places as disparate as Los Angeles and London, England and Rome, Italy and it gave me a sense of satisfaction.
I wasn’t surprised when Robby Hansen and the Jarvis twins and Tal Peters showed up for the service we were holding for Taylor. Everybody in the family recognized them from the descriptions I had given and the mood seemed to lighten for some reason. It didn’t lessen the sorrow we felt, but it seemed to make us more aware that we would see her again some day.
I heard the buzzer announce the opening of the office door. Looking at my watch, I saw that it was almost five-thirty, so the receptionist would have left at five and turned on the buzzer.
I got up and went out and found Robby, Eric and Devon. Robby looked at me and smiled, saying, “The twins wanted me to be here. Normally I wouldn’t refer to them simply as the twins, but in this case I think it’s appropriate. They’re feeling a little shy, which must be a first. They have a gift for you.” and he pushed them forward and they went red with embarrassment.
Eric and somehow I just knew it was Eric, handed me a wrapped present. I quickly opened it and found a book, The Rescuers by Margery Sharp.
the front cover I found a note telling about the book.
‘THE RESCUERS: A Fantasy.
Sharp, Margery. THE RESCUERS: A Fantasy. Little-Brown, 1959. Very slight fade to cover edges, else fine. Illustrated by Garth Williams. Basis of Disney film. Carnegie Awards Commendation 1960. First Edition. Binding Hardcover. Price: $103.01’
Robby said easily, “It might not seem like much. It’s only a book. However while their family is rich, they’re not. Their parents are very strict about the amount of money they get. They get five dollars a week allowance and they get five dollars a week for doing chores around the house, but that’s it. They aren’t allowed to take outside jobs either. If they do any helping around the neighborhood and they do, they can’t take money for it. They’ll be allowed to take paper routes if they want when they’re old enough, but you have to be eleven in Prescott before you can get one. Normally they have to budget their money very carefully, because if they want to rent any new videos or go to any movies or get candy or treats, they have to pay for those things themselves. For them one hundred dollars is five weeks of allowance and chores. So as well as the book, they’re giving you a piece of their lives.”
A lump came into my throat and I said to the boys, “Thank you very much. I’ll treasure it for the rest of my life.”
Eric and Devon looked at each other and then at me and then Eric said earnestly, “It’s something we thought of ourselves. Something we wanted to do. It’s something that whenever we think about it, makes us happy. That’s why our parents don’t allow us to make a lot of money and don’t give us presents all the time. We know other kids whose parents are rich and some of them are spoiled rotten. They get money whenever they want and almost as much as they want. They get presents all the time when the mood strikes their parents.”
Eric explained seriously, “Money doesn’t mean anything to them, because they can get it just by whining to their parents. As Robby said, the most money we can get is ten dollars a week.” Eric grinned, “Our parents have a large video library but they don’t get anything which was made after nineteen-ninety-five, unless they’re ones that kids wouldn’t like anyway. Normally us four kids pool our money when we’re getting newer videos, so we get ones that all of us like. One of the things our parents do get is popcorn that we can pop and soft drinks and there’s usually plenty of it around when we watch videos. We usually can’t afford to get treats when we go to movies. Just the cost of the movie wipes us out.”
He said soberly, “Presents come on our birthdays and Christmas, never any other time, so we appreciate the things we get and take care of them. That doesn’t mean that the presents at that time aren’t nice ones, but usually we get clothes and stuff as well. That’s why we wanted to give you a present and why we’re telling you this. So you’ll know that to us presents are important and mean something special and we want to give you something special because you helped save Devon’s life.”
At that point they attacked me, or at least it seemed like it as they rushed to hug me and Robby winked at me over their heads and I grinned as I returned the boys’ hugs.