Riddles on the Wind (8)

June 30th, 1975, England

Libby paced restlessly as she waited for the plane to taxi up to the terminal. It was twenty minutes late, and it seemed an eternity. The tannoy system crackled overhead announcing the Pan Am flight’s arrival. As the airport staff began to open the doors from the customs area, Libby could feel that tingle across her skin that told her that Papa was truly on the plane and headed her direction. She watched the crowd of people deplane. Then she saw Tilly, and behind her… “Papa!”

Andre heard Libellule call and turned towards the sound of her voice only to be tackled by a tall young woman in an embroidered peasant blouse and bell bottom jeans. He dropped his luggage as they hugged each other tightly.

“Oi! Move on!” someone behind Andre said.

Andre released Libby and turned to find the red faced businessman from the plane behind them. “What?”

“Yer holdin up the queue. Take your doxie off to one side.”

“She’s my daughter, and we haven’t seen each other in three years. So mind your mouth.”

“Daughter? You don’t look old enough to have a daughter her age. Your wife on the other hand is a bit past her prime.”

Andre clenched his fists and stepped towards the man.

“Andre,…” Tilly tried to move between the two men. Then she heard the none too subtle sub-vocals vibrating the air.

“I suggest you move on,” Libby said in a voice that made everyone around her move away.

The businessman cleared his throat and scuttled for the exit.

Libby smiled at her papa and took his hand as they walked out.

A week later, Andre stood with Tilly as they watched Libby chase rabbits across Bodmin Moor. He was amazed at how much Libby had changed in three years. She was so grown up and at the same time, his little girl. They’d talked for hours once they’d gotten to the hotel. Tilly had finally fallen asleep in a chair only to wake up hours later with a stiff neck. At breakfast, they had decided to head west to Padstow or Camelford. From there, the three of them hiked Bodmin Moor.

Tilly smiled. “You realize that she’s the reason for the upsurge in sightings of various ‘beasts’.”

Andre looked at her puzzled. “What?”

“Every time she runs on the moors or in the forests, there is a flurry of sightings about ‘hounds, beasts or wolves’ on the moors.”

Andre’s mouth twitched. Then a smile broke out on his face. “Really?”

“Yes. And she delights in it.”

Andre looked back at his daughter and began to laugh as he watched the ‘beast’ hunt butterflies.

That night as they ate shepherds pie and drank Scrumpie, Andre broached the subject of the future.

“I know what I want to do Papa.”

“And that is?”

“I want to work with shifters. With those like you gathered in the Yukon.”

“Libby, are you certain? It’s a difficult job even for trained professionals.”

“Yes, Papa. My degree is in psychology. Plus, I watch you help others before I went to University. I can hear most shifters, especially the crazy ones.”

“Even Granpere Buster?”

“Not so much. He lonely, not crazy. He went quiet a year ago, but he is not dead.” Libby was solemn as she spoke of him. “I hear the shifters here too. Some have so little shifter that they can’t shift, but still think like a wolf. I went to Spain and France last summer, and ran into shifters there as well. One still writes me.”

Tilly nodded. She’d had a long conversation with Libby over that shifter. The girl was like Jelka. Feral and yet needing people of her own kind.

Andre sighed. “How do you plan to do this grand thing?”

“You have that hospital in America. Maybe we have one here in Europe. There are many deserted manors and country houses. If we make it safe, they will come.”

Andre knew she was right. Over civilization was the biggest enemy of the shifters. Even the family stronghold west of Leithbridge was crowded. Many of the family had moved to Montana to escape. In Europe, people were packed into cities with no hope of escape. “What about money?”

“The family has made good investments, Andre. Money isn’t an issue as long as you err on the conservative side,” said Tilly.

Libby smiled at Tilly.

Andre looked at the two women. “How long have you been plotting this you two?”

“Since you disappeared.”

Libby nodded in agreement with Tilly. “It runs in the family, this taking care of people.”

Andre laughed at the pun and hugged the two women. “Alright. Where do we start?”

“Toulouse, and then into the Pyrenees.”

“Why there Libby?” Andre didn’t understand her choice.

“Mama’s grand-mere told her that the family came from there long time back.” Libby smiled. “And if that Franco ever dies, we need to go into the Basque areas of Spain.”

Andre thought for a moment. “More family history?”

“Aye.”

In the morning, they headed back to Oxford. It took Libby three days to pack up her possessions and make travel arrangements. It took another week to visit with Gabby’s parents, Joan and Betsy. At Heathrow, Tilly took a flight back to Canada, while Andre and Libby headed to France.

The woods were quiet. Andre and Libby had been walking for nearly an hour and had stopped on a crest of a hill. He spread a blanket to sit on and Libby unpacked their lunch from her backpack. Twenty minutes passed before Libby nodded towards a copse of trees off to the right. Andre looked, but saw nothing.

Libby spoke softly. “There are two of them watching us. One shifted, one not.”

Andre went on eating slices of apple and waited. They’d been criss-crossing the area for two days after hearing tales of beasts in the woods. The wait reminded him of the time after Maria’s death, and the shifters that would suddenly show up at the edge of the fire. Longing winning out over fear and then the relief of pack all around. He was glad that he had known Jelka and some of the wilder cousins. It helped him understand the issues inherent with those of two natures. He ate the last bite of apple, put away his knife and stretched out on the blanket and closed his eyes.

“They’ve moved out from the trees. The one shifted back.”

Andre breathed slowly. He swore he could hear the footpads echoing up through the grass as they came closer. Ten minutes passed before a shadow blocked the sun. He didn’t open his eyes, but continued to lay still.

“Bonjour.”

“Bonjour. Un Beau jour pour une promenade dans les bois.”

“Oui.”

Andre could hear the subtle sniffs that told him the two people were checking to see what he and Libby were.

“Elle… est un loup,” one whispered to the other.

Libby laughed. “Oui. Toi aussi.” That broke the ice and the two men sat down next to Libby and Andre on the blanket.

It took a month to find the right spot. A long abandoned farmhouse became the newest shifter enclave. Paul and Corbett, the two shifters,helped find local builders to do the renovations. Andre dealt with the paperwork and Libby told all of them what she wanted done. By late September, the work was done.

“What now? Andre asked.

“We wait.”

Well…

To say that we have been busy is an understatement. It has been a rough few months. However, I have a place to work. I have a house! It’s painted! (20+ gallons worth) The furniture, what little we have is in place. Best of all, I’m getting back into the groove. I’ve begun to have time to sew and write!

It has been Far Too Long!

This weekend is the last of the big hairy commitments until August. While Wolf looks for work to pay the bills, I’ll be writing and creating. Some of which might generate a wee bit of cash!

I’ve changed up the website once more. The issue of blocked post links should be gone. If there are more issues, let me know.

Ah, it’s good to be ‘home’.

Crone

Duct Tape

Lynne hollered for Quin. She was tired, and his preoccupation with something on the TV was driving her crazy. She wanted to just curl up, but dinner wouldn’t cook itself. “Quin!”

“Just a minute.”

“Please, Quin. I’m tired and I just want a little help.”

“Just a minute.”

Lynne started chopping up onions, but it was more like she was chopping all of her frustrations. It had been a rough couple of weeks, and nothing seemed to be going right. She’d added the onions, garlic and spices to the meat before Quin walked into the kitchen.

“Alright, what do you need?”

“Please take out the compost and then put away the dishes.”

Quin grabbed the compost bucket and headed outside. When he returned, he washed his hands and put away the dishes.

“Anything else?”

“No, not at the moment.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure!” The words escaped her lips much sharper than she intended. “Sorry.”

Quin looked at her. “Do you need a spanking?”

Lynne flinched. It had been ages since they last played or had time for something as decadent as a spanking. “No.”

Quin smiled. Maybe you need a spanking and duct tape.”

“Why?”

“Ah, because duct tape turns ‘No! No! No!’ into ‘O! O! O!’ my dear.”

Lynne blushed and wondered if there was any duct tape in the house.

Quin walked back into the living room, smiling. He knew she was thinking about duct tape…

Riddles in the Wind (7)

Tilly stood there, her mouth open in surprise. She’d been expecting the mousy husband of a shifter who was due to give birth any day. Instead, she found Andre and standing near a huge truck, a group of men, that were thin, and worn. Shifters. Near the front of the truck, three Natives.

“Oh Andre!” She hugged him as if she would never let go. Finally, she did just that. “Come in. All of you come in. Oh lord.” She turned towards her assistant that night, Betsy. “Betsy, start tea. And get out anything there is to feed these men.”

Betsy ran for the little kitchen wondering what she’d find. Realizing that there was little to eat for two, let alone over a dozen men. She put the kettle on and ran for her mum’s house.

Tilly pulled out chairs, cushions and blankets for the men. She counted three Natives, Andre and twelve shifters. The kettle boiled and she went to see to it. As she poured tea and wondered where Betsy had gone, she looked out the window to see Betsy, and her sisters Jane and Mary coming down the road, arms heavy with baskets. Tilly opened the door and helped the girls set down their burdens.

“Mum says if’n you need more food, she’ll get it,” said Jane.

“Thank you dears. Help me take the food out to the men. They look starved.” Tilly grabbed the first tray of tea cups and the pot and headed out to the main room of the clinic. Tea was handed round, followed by sandwiches, cold chicken, potato salad and bread rolls.

Andre took a cup of tea and sipped it as if it were the best thing he’d ever tasted. It wasn’t so much the drink, as the kindness that poured from Tilly and the girls. The men murmured thanks and ate until there was nothing left. Even the lemon biscuits and welsh cakes were nothing but crumb memories. The girls cleared up the plates while Tilly added wood to the stove. Then she sat and waited for the men to tell their tale.

“Then this man, Big Bear with his son, helped us on the train and then to the truck out there. Uncle there drove for a bit until George remembered how. Tilly, you are the best sight I’ve seen in nearly three years.”

“Andre, you have no idea of how glad we are to see you.” She smiled and wiped more tears from her face. She looked at the men, some of which had fallen asleep. “And all of you are welcome too. We will help you find your families.”

“Tank u.”

“Thank you ma’am.”

“Good to be home.”

The rest of the men echoed the sentiments.

“Please sleep where you are comfortable. There are rooms, or if you want to puppy pile, I understand.” Tilly turned to the three Cree. “I have bedding for you as well.

“Thank you. We have bed rolls in the truck,” said Big Bear. He nudged his son who got up to get the bedding. Uncle just smiled.

“Thank you for helping my family.”

“You have a good heart. Not shifter, but good heart,” said Uncle.

It was Tilly’s turn to nod.

Tilly woke to the sound of pounding on the clinic door. “Just a moment!” she called. Grabbing her sweater, she headed for the door. When she opened it, she found a number of people standing there. Some had come by car or horse. Others had walked. “Yes?”

“Our men. We hear that they have come home, yes?” said one woman.

“Aye! Hear that Andre, he ghost walk home with family.”

“You! Let us in!” growled an old man, who was more wolf that man.

“Of course. They were asleep, although I suspect that they are all awake now.” Tilly stepped aside and let the people filter in. She moved across to where Andre slept and crouched down next to him.

“It seems that my homeless men have homes that missed them,” he murmured softly as he watched families welcome home the lost amidst tears and cries of joy.

“So it would seem.” The scene unfolding in her clinic reminded her of when the men came home from war. Even the two men who swore they had no family had people come to them and greet them.

“Thank you! I thought he was lost,” said one old woman.

“Bout time eh?” said another as the lost man and his family moved towards the door.

“You! Good job!” The old man with the tufted ears smiled as he walked out with George on one arm.

Tilly just smiled. In the years that she had lived with shifters had shown her just how changeable life could be. One instant, all was quiet. The next, life exploded. As the families reunited, they thanked Andre and Tilly and then left. Soon, the only ones left were the three Cree, Andre and herself. They had almost gotten back to sleep when the door rumbled again under the pounding of a fist. Andre opened it this time to find a small man standing in the moonlight.

“Me wife. The baby. I… I need Tilly!”

Tilly appeared behind Andre before he could turn. “First child. Want to come?”

Andre took a whole second to decide. “Let’s go.”

“Bbbbut?” the man stuttered as he looked at Andre.

“He’s a doctor too,” said Tilly as she began to head up the road at a fast pace. The man and Andre followed.

By the time they had returned to the clinic, Betsy had cleaned up, fed Big Bear, Pasquah and Uncle and was readying the clinic for the day. Andre sat at the table while Tilly headed upstairs to shower.

Big Bear looked over at Andre. “We head back to Calgary. You need us, this the number of Uncle’s garage. Just tell him to get us.” He handed Andre a phone number.

“Thank you.” Andre folded the paper and put it in his pocket. Then he stood and hugged each of the men in turn. Big Bear hugged him while pounding him on the back. “You a good man. Strange, but good.” Then, before Andre could say anything, the three men walked out of the clinic, climbed into the truck and drove off.

Betsy brought more tea and a plate of hot pancakes with bacon and eggs to Andre. He thanked her and began eating.

“You the talk of the valley, Uncle Andre.”

“Uncle?” Andre was confused. “Honorific or family?”

“Family. My papa Brian. His papa be Henry and his papa be that Brian married to GranMere Natalie. Jane and Mary my sisters. Twins.” Betsy ticked family off on her fingers.

Andre blinked and then nodded. If he had ever seen Betsy before, she’d have been an infant. In his mind, logic dictated that the family had expanded. Then he realized that the girls would be about the same age as Libellule. Libellule! He stood up and walked to the stairs. He was about to head up when he realized that Tilly might still be in the shower. He returned to the table and finished his breakfast while he waited for Tilly.

“Where did the Cree go?”

“Home. Tilly, where is Libellule?”

“Oxford. Once we buried Marie, she went back to school. Her heart wasn’t in it, but she knew that she’d go stir-crazy sitting here.” Tilly nodded thanks to Betsy as she began to eat.

“Can we go to her?”

“Of course. Do you want to call her first?”

“No. I couldn’t cope with just hearing her voice.”

Tilly nodded. “We need to get your papers in order. I’ll make arrangements later this afternoon.”

Andre nodded. “Marie?”

“She is in the cemetary, next to her granmere Celia. We brought her home.”

Andre nodded and left the clinic.

The wind blew his hair as he knelt next to the stone that marked Marie’s grave. Tears traced down his face. His fingers dug into the rough grass. If he could have howled, he would have. “Marie…” A shadow eclipsed the stone for a moment and then David, Micah, Paul and Felix were there beside him. They looked at his tear streaked face and nodded. They understood his pain, as they felt it too.

Tilly turned towards the cemetery as the sound of howls rose and curled in the wind. Tears came to her eyes as Andre and his ‘pack’ honored Marie.

Riddles on the Wind (6)

1972 Oxford.

Tilly watched as Libellule ran. She felt a bit daft standing there with a leash in her hands, but it was the only way that they could manage even in the semi ‘wilds’ of the open lands near Oxford. It had been a week since Tilly had spoken to Rose. No one had heard from Andre or Maria. Libellule had pinpointed an area on a map where she had last ‘felt’ her parents to be. Family had headed up there, but so far the search had proven worthless.

She ran. It wasn’t far enough, but she kept going. Round and round the green grasslands skirting the edges of trees and brambles. A rabbit nearly died of shock when it ran out in front of her, but she knew it wasn’t good to eat it here. Too many two-legs. After a while, she headed back towards Tilly.

“You do know it feels absolutely daft to have my niece on a leash. Oh heavens! It rhymes!” Tilly laughed as she lead her “wolfhound” back to the hotel.

An hour later, the two woman sat in the restaurant of the Royal Oxford Hotel sipping tea and eating crumpets.

“What do you want to do Libby?”

Libby sighed. “Part of me wants to go back to Canada and help search for Maman and Papa. The other part wants to get back to school. I feel guilty about that, because finding my parents should be more important. And yet I think that maybe they’d want me to get on with my life. I’m terribly conflicted.”

Tilly nodded. She didn’t admit to Libby that she had the same thoughts. The hospital was short handed enough with her gone, yet she knew that Libby needed her at the moment. What frustrated her was the lack of information from the family. “Well, you need to make a decision. Trinity term is half over. You’ve lost weeks at this point.”

“Yes. I don’t think I’ll be able to catch up. I’ll have to start up at Michaelmas. Perhaps I can do both. Go home until August and then return.”

Tilly thought about that for a moment. “Perhaps that would work. The warmer weather may help in the search.”

Libby nodded.

A week later, Libby had withdrawn from St. Hilda’s with a promise to return in the autumn. She’d said goodbye to her friends and places her belongings in storage with Gabby’s parents. The flight from Heathrow to Calgary seemed to take forever. When they finally cleared the baggage area, they found Rose, Quintus, Mary and a few of the cousins waiting for them. They all piled into cars and headed off to Rose’s house.

“So, we find that burned plain. Plenty dead bones. None of them your parents,” said Quintus.

Libby and Tilly listened as they ate dinner.

“Then we find that camp. Bits and pieces of gear all over. Signs of wolves, man all over. Don’ recognize any of them ‘cept Andre. So much snow, it hard to track clear. After a day, we finally find that cairn.”

“Maman’s grave?”

“Aye. My son Brian, Alice’s Luc and I talk long time. Decide to bring Maria home. Ground, it too frozen. So, we mark it good and come home.”

Libby nodded. It was nearly May, and there was still deep snow in the mountains. “Where is Papa though?”

“No one has heard from him. No reports from the Mounties. And before you ask, yes, we’ve reported him missing,” said Rose.

“When the weather warms up, I want to go with you to bring Maman home.”

“Aye.” Quintus could see by the look on her face that there was no dissuading her.

Time passed swiftly as Libby caught up with her cousins and the family. Alexander and Jelka were happy to see Libby. Andrew, didn’t know what to make of her. Libby couldn’t decide if he was just shy or tongue tied. Every time she spoke to him, he blushed or his voice squeaked. Some of the family came up from Montana. Quintus’ son Brian brought his family up. Lutitia was a willowy toddler, while Helene was a sturdy two year old. Belle, their mother was pregnant with their third child. Margaret’s son Duncan was enamored with John Wayne and refused to answer to his name. The entire family had finally given in and began to call him Duke. Lewis had been happy to see Libby and tell her all about his lumber business.

Mid-May Quintus, Luc, Brian and Libby left for the Yukon and the site of Maria’s grave. The bush plane pulled up next to the burned wreck that Quintus and the family had found earlier. It was a short hike in from the lake to the campsite. The snow had begun to melt, leaving slush patches amidst the hardpack snow. Quintus winced when he realized that some of the brown patches were not mud or debris, but frozen blood. Before he could distract Libby, he saw her kneel and inspect one of them.

“Not Maman.”

Luc looked at her quizzically. “What?”

“There is a lot of blood here. This is not Maman’s.” Libby stood and walked over to another spot near the blackened ring of a fire pit. “This is Maman’s blood.”

“Libby, you say we have more than one dead here?” asked Quintus.

“Aye. I think maybe there is more here than what we see.” She walked a little farther. “This is a third spot of blood. Different than the other two.”

Brian walked up to his father. “There is wolf scat over near the trees. Must have been a pack of shifters. Maria mebbe she gather shifters?”

Quintus walked over to where Brian had been. He saw the same signs and nodded. He was puzzled now and wondered what had really happened. He walked past the campsite and headed up to the grave.

It took them a while to move the stones and dig down to Maria’s body. What they found was a sleeping bag wrapped in a tarp. It was a frozen cocoon. They excavated as best they could. In the end, they levered the wrapped body and took it back to the plane. Once they got back to Calgary, they took the body to a local mortuary run by family. When the body thawed, they discovered the cause of Maria’s death.

“She’d been shot?”

“Yes, Tilly. Shot. Three wounds. One fatal.” explained Quintus. He’d asked to see the body when the mortuary assistant had called and explained what had happened. The subvocal growls had shaken the room.

“You think Andre and that pack of shifters kill the men and burn the plane to hide things?” asked Rose.

“Aye.”

“It’s the only logical answer,” said Libby.

“And the only question left is where is Andre?” Tilly asked.

Two days later, Maria was buried in the family cemetery up in the valley next to her Grandmere Celia.

A Little Bit of an Explanation

I fell off the blog sphere. Big time. A while back, I mentioned that there had been another death to deal with. That was my ex. It made for a very tangled mess. Trying to sort out everything between our children, family, and legalities was crazy. Now to complicate matters, we discovered that my name was still on the house. So, all of a sudden, I owned a home again. (yeah!) And a mortgage. (Boo!) Oh, and the house was a wreck. Filthy. My mind boggles when I think of the state of the house when we first took over the keys. We’ve spent a month cleaning. Bleaching, mopping, sanding, hauling trash, sorting, painting, more painting, scraping, spackling. You name it, it has eaten our lives. Wolf and I have been working so hard, we haven’t even had time or energy for sex! (oh the horrors!)

However, we are beginning to turn the corner, and will soon be moving into our new home. I will have a studio. Wolf will have an office. Better yet, we will have some private space. (do you have any idea of how hard it is to have a good spanking in a house full of people?)

And… I will be doing my best to write! Oh how I’ve missed writing!