The Marradith Ryder Series: The Art of Shadows, Part 40
Fiona took a deep breath, folding her hands. She sat back in her chair, and stared at Justin.
Over the many years that they had known each other, Fiona considered Justin her best friend. There hadn’t been a time that she’d ever felt there was anything that she couldn’t tell him.
Now that he asked her about Rafael’s life; this was the first time that she weighed her response to him, and considered lying.
In the end, she decided to tell him the truth – though she didn’t think the truth would help either of them very much.
“Come on, Fi,” Justin prodded.
“I don’t know specifics,” she began. “Rafael was a warlock in a powerful coven. One of the witches betrayed the group, and the local aristocrats sent out men out to kill all the others. Rafael was almost caught, and was injured badly . He managed to find an abandoned house, and he hid there, in a basement.
“Rafael said that he couldn’t be sure how long he was there- days or hours- it all seemed the same to him. But the wound was infected, and though he was able to stop the bleeding, he was dying, shivering with fever and having hallucinations. And that’s when the demon came.”
She paused. Justin said nothing, but nodded that she should continue.
“He told me that it seemed like a dream. He asked the demon for his life , and in return, he would do his bidding. And that was when he was made immortal.”
“Does he know which demon this was…?”
“He does,” Fiona said. “He would never give me his name.”
“So all this time that he’s been a Sojourner…he’s been doing favors for this entity? When did you come to know of it?”
“Not until recently. And even then, I didn’t know that any of it involved Marradith.”
“Why did he finally tell you?”
“We got into an argument about my son. I told him that I didn’t appreciate always feeling somehow– beholden—to keep the secret of my son’s parentage. That was something Rafael forced me into when I became Sojourner, and I never agreed it. So he told me that I had no idea what it was like to be truly beholden. And he told me his story.”
“So he hadn’t trusted you with this information in all the years that you were together?” Justin said.
“No,” she replied. “He did not.”
“Alright,” Justin said. She could see he was trying to figure out how to spin this story.
“What are you going to do?” Fiona asked. “I really didn’t know. I am so sorry. You know how fond I am of your wife. I wouldn’t let anyone hurt her. If I had known this involved her safety, and yours, I would have come to you.”
“I’m not sure what I am going to do yet,” Justin replied. “But I am going to think about this for a while more. I won’t tell anyone about this until I make up my mind, and for god’s sake, don’t you tell anyone either.”
It was turning out to be a bad day.
Justin had a feeling in the pit of his stomach, like someone had shoved a fist into his gut. This news about Rafael was worse than anything he would have imagined. He didn’t care much for Castillo, and had been suspicious about him for a long time. But having his suspicions confirmed-and then some- still came as a shock.
He went up to the ground level, where a glassed in patio area served as a spot to read or have a quiet cup of coffee for those that worked at the Compound. Justin got a bottle of orange juice from a vending machine and sat down. It wasn’t past eleven in the morning yet, but times like these made him long for a bottle of rum and a good cigar.
In the absence of something to kill, anyway….
He took out his phone and sent a message to Daria. As he was finishing, the click of heels in the hallway made him look up.
Nora walked in. She stopped at his table but didn’t sit down. Instead she stared at him, with her hands planted on her hips.
Nora’s reddish hair was piled into a bun on the back of her head. She wore a gray skirt and a white blouse; simple, professional, she looked as if she might run off to go teach a class.
“I’ve been looking for you the better part of the morning,” she said.
“Sorry,” Justin smiled perfunctorily, slipping his phone into his pocket. “I was in a meeting. What can I do for you?”
She pulled up a chair and sat down.
“This is not business, it’s personal,” she said.
“Okay. Go for it.”
“Our girl is having a birthday soon.”
Justin smiled. “Yes. I know. She made sure to make mention of it.”
“Yes, well, that child always feels the need to campaign for her gifts. That’s not a problem, though. I am thinking that this is a good time for her to get out of town for a bit.”
Justin sat a little straighter in his chair. “Any particular reason for that?”
“There’s about to be some chaos in this place. With Keiko’s pregnancy, and other things…”
“I heard about that….”
“And there is still the possibility that Paul may look for Scott. I think this would be a good time to get both Marradith and Danny away for a while.”
Justin lifted an eyebrow. It would serve his purposes as well. He wasn’t sure how things would work out with Rafael, and he could get her out of town before things got—sticky.
“What do you have in mind?”
“My brother has a home in California. It’s a small town, and there are other cousins of ours that live there, too: the Drakes. There is a lot of family there and most are people with abilitites,” she stressed. Of course she meant paranormal abilities. “Marradith and Danny could go together. And I’d send maybe one or two of her old friends from back home in Texas.”
“If we can agree to send a guard with her as well,” Justin said. “I’d sign off on it.”
“Alright then,” Nora said, and stood. “We finally agree on something.”
©2011 Lori Titus
Want to know more about Nora Ryder’s mysterious past? Look for the upcoming novella, The Moon Goddess, available in November 2011 from Wicked Nights. Meanwhile, keep up with the author’s latest projects on her website: