Just after I arrived at work Carol, my boss, came over to ask if I really wanted to be there considering what was going on in my life. I told her I had too much work to catch up on to take time off. Besides, what would I be doing if not working?
And I was right, for as soon as I started going everything just clicked, my mind was totally committed to work. I don’t remember ever being as productive. It was if a fog had lifted and I could see things I had previously missed and understand the concepts in new and clear ways.
Carol stopped by again at around 11 AM.
“Are you OK?” she asked. “I mean, the stress isn’t making you overwork or anything, is it?”
“No, I’m fine,” I said. “I don’t feel stressed at all and am just having fun with it. All work and no play is actually good for me today.”
She smiled and we talked about one of the projects I was working on. I had some new ideas and wanted to share them.
“I guess a crisis does you well,” she said after we had wrapped up.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You are more like the old Trevor Harris I’ve known than I’ve seen in months, perhaps years,” she said. “I guess if you ever have a slow down again I’ll have to create some emergency to try to get things moving. Don’t worry, though, I won’t try to kill you.”
“Good,” I said. “One homicidal maniac in my life is enough.”
She smiled and left me to my work.
As I returned, though, I felt a presence. Amelie wanted in. I was busy, but I could use her reassurance. I let her in.
As I worked I felt her moving into some deeper areas. I gently channeled her back to the surface. The presence cooed and soothed me so I returned to work.
But as soon as I was distracted she moved into deeper territory again. I tried to channel her back again, but she kept going deeper. Something about her felt wrong. It was almost as if there was a sub-context of Benjamin; but stronger than that, I felt the presence of Bethy.
I moved my whole mind from work and violently forced her out. I shut it down so she couldn’t reenter. It felt wrong to leave it there, so I called her.
“I’m guessing you just needed to hear my beautiful voice again,” Amelie said as she answered her phone.
“That’s it,” I said. “I also wanted to say I’m sorry about the rough way I kicked you out.”
“I didn’t think it was that rough,” Amelie said. “I knew you were working and had to go. You even let me finish my song, which was sweet of you.”
“No, not yesterday, I mean just now,” I said.
“Just now? What are you talking about?” she asked.
“Oh, come on, you can’t deny you were just here, I felt you,” I said.
‘Oh yes I can and will,” she said. “I was no place close to your mind this morning.”
“You don’t think I know your feel by now?” I asked.
“I swear on all that is holy, I haven’t reached out since yesterday,” she said. “Hold on a second. I think it’s pretty obvious. Someone must have been trying to mimic me to get to places they don’t belong. Damn, I knew he’d try to exploit our relationship.”
I paused. Something about the earlier presence did feel wrong. Was someone trying to exploit our relationship? Or perhaps they were trying to cast doubt on Amelie in my mind.
I felt her again. She somehow slipped by the wall I’d set up against her as if it wasn’t there.
“Is that you?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “I wondered if I could feel a foreign presence, but I don’t.”
“Uhm, how did you slip by the wall I set up to block you?” I asked.
“What wall?” she responded. “Nothing was blocking me any more than ever.”
She withdrew. As she was going I realized that she now felt a little different. There was more heat, which always seemed to be associated with her. And I didn’t feel the others.
“Come to think of it,” I said out loud, “when I thought I felt you before there was a hint of Benjamin.”
“It could have been him trying to mimic me,” she said.
“Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking,” I said. “Anyway, I’m sorry I accused you.”
“No, no, you do need to know for sure,” she said. “And you have to be careful. If you feel me and think I’m doing something wrong, hit back with all of your force and don’t worry about me. I will never, ever try to go anyplace uninvited so it won’t be me you’re hurting. Hit fast and hit hard. Remember, he is wily and experienced.”
“Stupid question,” I said, “but I’ve noticed you never use the name Benjamin, you always say ‘he’. Why is that?”
She laughed. “I guess I hadn’t realized I did that,” she said. “But truth be told, I think it’s because I believe our adversary isn’t really Benjamin Halley, or at least isn’t just Benjamin. Remember what he told you when he was speaking through Milly? He laughed at you for calling him that name. I think by calling him ‘Benjamin’ you are limiting your understanding of who he really is. Perhaps you should go back and study the whole Halley branch more in depth. But I’d recommend starting with the great patriarch, Miles Hawkins. I think you need to understand him to unlock this whole thing.”
“OK, great, I’ll do that. Let’s get started, what do you know?”
“Not much,” she said. “You talked to my mother yesterday and so can guess how little I got from her regarding the family. Most of my knowledge came from my grandmother, Rosaline. And her knowledge was, well, a bit tainted. She understood the issues in a deep way, but knew few real details.”
“I liked Rosaline, the little I knew her,” I said. “Of course my cousins called her a witch.”
Amelie laughed. “Yes, that she was,” she said. “Or at least I can see why people would call her that. Her mother, my great-grandmother Maria, considered herself some sort of voodoo princess. That’s not the term she would have used, of course. Maria was born in New Orleans, the bastard child of a white Catholic priest and a black immigrant from Haiti. My great-great grandmother taught her the ways of the islands. Maria had power and ambition so when she was old enough she traveled up north. It didn’t take long for her to meet my great-grandfather, Abraham Hawkins. Are you sure you want to hear this, you’re working, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I’m working but I was about to stop for lunch, so go ahead with the story. I not only want to hear it but I need to hear it.” I said.
“Alright, I’ll go on. So Abe was the patriarch of the Hawkins branch and took great pride in it,” Amelie said. “He still followed the old rituals and knew the history. But Rosaline felt more attuned to her mother. She did follow the rituals, but put an Afro-Caribbean twist on them. One thing, great-grandfather Abraham could have passed as a white man while Rosaline was a deep rich color, like her mother. Rosaline was very proud of her African heritage and studied everything she could find on sub-Saharan beliefs. Of course a lot of the books were written by Europeans who thought of my people as savages, so it’s hard to guess the message she got. I know there was a blend of earthy spirits and heavenly beings, with a smattering of mystical creatures and fiery demons. Most of what I learned came from Rosaline, so there is that twist.”
“And because of that twist it can’t help me,” I said.
“Exactly,” she answered. “My great-grandfather Abraham lived to be 101 and I talked to him a few times before he passed. I learned enough from him to know I had to take Rosaline’s version with a grain of salt. But I also heard some people in your branch might know the history. Uhm what’s their names, William and Stanley? Cousins of yours?”
“Yeah, Bill and Stan are my cousins,” I said. “I’ll call Bill. He’s our unofficial historian.”
“Yes, you should call,” she said. “Anyway, I’ll let you get back to work. Take care. And be careful.”
“Thanks, I will,” I said. “Bye.”
It was lunch time and I was hungry yet something kept me at my desk. I was staring at my office phone when it rang.
“Trevor Harris?” a voice said. “This is Sargent Billings. I wanted to let you know that we released Bethany, aka Bethy Murphy due to lack of evidence and improper procedures being followed.”
“But you had recorded confessions,” I said.
“The first recording was taken from a private phone conversation and taken without her consent or a warrant,” Sargent Billings said. “The second one she only confessed under duress.”
“Duress?” I asked. “I was several miles away and never threatened her yet she continued to threaten me. Did you listen to it?”
“I did but it is not up to me to decide if it would be admissible in court,” he said.
“What about the prescription medication?” I asked.
“She admitted it was hers and Mr. Clark’s, but she denied putting it in your coffee, saying you did it to frame her,” he said. “Of course her finger prints were on the bottles while yours weren’t, but then it was pointed out that they were handled incorrectly and so would be inadmissible.”
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Google the name ‘Victor Mitchell’. Be sure you have the Boston based attorney, not one of the many honorable men with the same name,” he said.
“And there is nothing more you can do?” I asked.
“I already did too much talking to you,” he said. “Have a good day sir.” He hung up the phone.
I sat there stunned. In the span of twenty minutes I discovered the woman who had tried to kill me was free and armed while the one small piece of stability in my life had been cast into doubt, even if it was a small doubt.
I wasn’t sure where to turn next.
I called my cousin Bill. Perhaps Miles Hawkins would show me my next move.
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