A Familiar Experience: A Dark Realms Tale
The young man waiting outside of her class room smiled at Dr. Angela Bernacci. She was flattered at the attention. He was well built, with short, dark hair, she noted, and his smile was quite attractive. She rarely had such an attractive man take an interest in her class, and she wondered if he was going to be another “Indiana Jones” wannabe. She tried to make sure her students knew up front that Geology and Archeology were rarely as romantic or exciting as the movies portrayed.
But then, once in a while you come across something truly unusual, like her friend Katherine in Finson, Vermont. An incident had brought the two of them into contact one summer. Angela’s ex-husband Don assaulted her at a motel in Finson, and it was witnessed by Katherine, who helped to make Don “disappear” with her magical powers. The farmer had probably never even noticed an extra pig in the pen, and Angela had been truly grateful.
Of course, she regretted sending Taylor to Katherine. The boy was simply a genius, and would have made a wonderful assistant, but she knew that she had an obligation to Katherine, and she was not about to make the mistake of trying to ignore her request. Who knew what the witch would have done if she hadn’t complied?
After class had ended, the handsome young man stepped into the room. Angela was not one for false modesty. She knew that she was still quite a beauty, even at 42. She was an internationally recognized volcanologist, and she was independently wealthy, thanks to a convenient life insurance policy that Don had invested in when they were married, and which had fortunately still named her as beneficiary.
“Dr. Bernacci?” She smiled at his accent. She loved the way the British spoke, so romantically. He smelled quite nice, and dressed well, so unlike most of her students.
“Yes, how may I help you?” She smiled, thinking that she was hoping she could help him to scratch a certain itch of hers. She was already fantasizing when he held out a badge.
“My name is James King, and I need to speak to you regarding the disappearance of Taylor Michaels.”
Her disappointment and anxiety made her quite bitchy, and she tried to send him on his way quickly.
“I’m sorry, but he has not been in my class for some time, Mr. King. I don’t know how I could be of any help to you. Now, if you will please excuse me, I need to file some papers with our accounting...”
Two other men stepped into the room. “Please excuse us, Professor Bernacci, but it is most important that you speak to us.”
“More friends, Mr. King?”
The taller of the two men pulled out his badge. No, Professor, I’m Agent Bowen of the FBI. My partner and I are assisting Seargent King in his investigation into the kidnapping of Taylor Michaels. We’d like you to come with us, Professor, there are a great many questions we need you to answer.”
Finson, the home of Debra and Laura Martin-
Laura and Mystic were relaxing in the back yard. Well, Laura was relaxing, and working on her tan. Mystic was rather clumsily stalking some birds who were gathering at the small pond in the Martin’s back yard. Laura watched through Mystic’s eyes, and occasionally offered comments and advice to the young cat.
*You need to approach them from the shady side, love. Your coloring stands out from the overly dry grass to well.*
As the birds scattered from Mystic’s pouncing attack, she conceded the idea.
*You’re probably right, dear. Please understand, I’ve never actually tried this with real birds. It’s far more difficult than I would have thought.*
*I see that, oh mighty hunter.*
*Your disparagements serve no good purpose, Oh faithless one.*
Laura giggled, as Mystic tried to blend into the shade of the hedge.
*And what do you plan to do with your kill, Bagheera?*
*I’ll admit, I’m not really sure, little frog. I really have no desire to eat one raw, and sparrows would probably be fairly difficult to roast, I imagine.*
*Oh, I’m sure. Of course, stuffing them could be a bit difficult, as well.*
Laura had to admit, she knew where Mystic was, but her colors matched those of the hedge so well that it was difficult to see her, at least until the chihuahua from next door began to bark, startling both the birds and Mystic. Laura couldn’t help but laugh as Mystic bolted to take cover underneath Laura’s chair.
*As soon as I reach my full growth, that mouse-puppy’s a goner!*
*Now, you leave little Pedro alone. He’s only a baby, you meanie.*
*Laura, dear, might I remind you that this body is not much older than Pedro-baby, so it would only be fair. Besides, as I’ve often reminded you, I’m a cat, we eat mice. Pedro makes my mouth water.*
*Mystic, you need to remember your manners.*
*Okay, but it’s going to be difficult to use a knife and fork with these paws, sweetheart.*
*You’re a bad girl, Mystic.*
*And don’t you forget it, little girl.*
Laura giggled as Mystic strutted out from under her char and jumped into Laura’s lap. She settled herself into a comfortable spot and waited for a scratch from Laura, who was glad to oblige.
The doorbell rang and Laura heard her mother cross the room to answer it.
A few minutes later, Deb and some of the ladies that Laura knew were from the Coven came out to the yard. “Laura?” Debra asked. These ladies would like to interview you and Mystic, dear.”
“Sure, Mom.” Laura lifted an almost-sleeping Mystic and walked over to the shaded table.
*(Yawn) Why would they want to interview me?*
*Don’t ask me, I’m just an innocent, beautiful girl.*
*And oh-so modest, too.*
*A lady recognizes her strengths, dear.*
*Ah. I have so much to learn about being female. Do I need to practice, or is insanity simply expected?*
*Your disparagements serve no useful purpose, O master of comedy.”
*Oh, I am impressed! A marvelous return, worthy of Wimbledon!*
*I’m an American, dear-I only play on clay courts.*
*Except when you fall on your butt, then it’s your Asphalt.*
* (Groan) Puns are the lowest form of humor, love. They are beneath you.*
*Couldn’t get much beneath this, sweetheart. My belly almost rubs the ground.*
*I give up! You win!*
*Of course, was the outcome ever in doubt?*
“Um, if I may be allowed to interrupt, Ladies?” The speaker was a tall, rather plain woman, known to Laura as Mrs. White.
“Our apologies, Mrs. White. How can we help you?” Laura asked. Mystc sat up on the table, her ears erect and her tail twitching as she focused on the discussion.
“It seems that Mystic has some interesting connections in the British government. Her, um, parents have begun to make some requests of our associates in the United Kingdom.”
“I don’t understand, ma’am. What sort of requests? I thought her parents were norms?” Debra asked.
“Oh, that seems to be true, but her father is the director of the Paranormal Investigations arm of Scotland Yard, and her mother is the chief investigator for that organization. They may be norms, but their requests carry some powerful influence. We have been asked to intercede in this matter, and we feel that the request is very serious.”
My father is the director of a secret government agency, and Mother is the chief investigator?*
*I take it you didn’t know.*
*Indeed, I did not!*
*You Brits are weird, sweetie. You didn’t even know what line of work they did?*
*My love, I truly had no idea, but why does this surprise you? What part of ‘secret government agency’ did you miss?*
Laura was shaken a bit. They frequently tossed affectionate ‘pet names’ (no pun intended) around, but Mystic had never called her ‘My love’. Why did that phrase thrill her and send very pleasant chills down her spine?
*Okay, okay, you’re right, and I apologize.*
*Quick, someone call a historian, notify the press. Laura admitted she’s wrong!*
Laura stuck out her tongue at the cat, which caused a few giggles, and she blushed.
“So what do we do next?” Laura asked for both her and Mystic.
“Well, first we need to confirm that Mystic is the individual we are looking for, formerly known as ‘Taylor Michaels’?”
After a second or so, Laura rattled off Taylor’s address, phone number and official ID numbers. Yes, Mystic had definitely been Taylor. Would the coven be able to restore him?
“It would be very useful if we could locate your sister, Debra.”
“That’s not going to be easy, Ladies. Katherine is very resourceful, and could be very difficult to track down.”
“Perhaps not as difficult as you think, Ms. Martin,” another lady said. Laura didn’t know who she was, but her accent was quite noticeably British. “Her Majesty’s government has several interesting and useful assets in the area, including a detemined young man with a very effective talent for finding things. I’m sure he’s already hard on the heels of your recalcitrant sibling.”
“Mr. King is very good at what he does, I’m told.” Mrs. White confirmed.
Mystic’s ears perked up at the mention of Mr. King’s name.
*Jamie? Jamie’s here?* Her excitement was obvious to Laura.
*You know this man?* She asked.
*Like a brother!* Mystic ‘said’ happily. *He’s a bloody bloodhound! Nothing gets away from Jamie!*
Mystic looked at Mrs. White, then at Laura.
“Mystic wants to know if this means she’ll be restored to her previous form?” Laura asked.
“Yes, that is our intention, once we find Katherine.”
*In that case, you can...tell them to call them off, Laura.*
She could feel the depth of his sadness as it tore her own heart. *But Sweetie, why?*
*I will not leave you, Laura.* She looked deeply into Laura’s eyes, and she could feel the conflict and the determination in Mystic’s soul. *Not for anyone, or anything, my love.*
Laura gently picked up Mystic and hugged her. She didn’t know if it was possible for a cat to cry, but she had enough tears for both of them. Her heart broke as she realized what Mystic was willing to sacrifice.
“Laura, are you okay?” Her mother asked, seeing the tears.
“M-Mystic says to stop the s-search. She refuses to be transformed.”
Everyone stared at the small cat. There was confusion in many of their eyes.
“She won’t leave me, Mom. She won’t. She l-loves me t-too much.”
Debra looked at the dark bundle of fur that was willing to give up her humanity for the love of her daughter, and instead of tears, her heart swelled.
“Laura, you cannot be separated from Mystic if she is restored to her true form. You two are linked, bound together by bonds that can’t be broken.” Mystic looked up, not quite understanding.
Debra smiled, and stroked Mystic. “Don’t worry, dear. If you are transformed back into Taylor, the two biggest changes will be that we can throw away the litter pan and start planning the wedding. Come, relax. I want to meet my son-in-law.”
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