by Mary W.
was working late again, as he had on so many nights since he took over
the house in San Francisco. The Legacy's work, hidden behind the reputation
of the eccentric Luna foundation, never seemed to end. There were always
more dark corners to turn and more demons to banish. There were times
when he despaired of ever seeing only the light in life and not its shadows.
But he had chosen this life of battle against the dark forces. Hadn't
Gwen hurriedly entered her private office which she had courtesy of the San Francisco diocese. Her current employment as archivist and cataloger of the local church's historical documents had been interesting and fulfilling enough to almost make her forget about her work with the Legacy. Almost but not quite. There would always be that uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach when she thought of her team mates out on another investigation without her. If only Charlie hadn't gone and wrapped his car around the damn tree, she thought wearily, I would still be in Wales, still working with the London house, still fighting with my team against the darkness She shook herself angrily and powered up her Pentium, logging on to the Legacy's database through the password that Sir Edward had given her before she left.
Login: Gwenneth Llewelyn Password: Druid
The screen lit up, welcoming her into the database. She smiled to notice that some of the suggestions she had discussed with the groups programmers to make the database more user friendly had finally begun to be implemented. It had taken her weeks of arguing to convince them that not everyone was as computer literate as they were. Looks like they finally got the hint she thought. An icon at the bottom of the screen informed her she had a message.
If you are reading this, Druid the message read then let us know where you are. The old dragon (i.e. our beloved precept) won't tell us anything.
The message was signed Warlock. Gwen smiled at the memory of the former MI6 operative who had joined the Legacy shortly before she had left London. The arrogant former agent and the dreadfully proper Sir Edward had been like mixing oil and water. Their quarrels about the spirit of the rules versus the letter of the rules had amused her to no end. She thought about her response for a moment, then grimly began to type.
her reply and moved onto the search she had worked out. The computer was
soon scouring its vast memory banks for anything having to do with the
small coastal town of Abbottsville and her deceased cousin, Charlie. It
wasn't long before several items were found. One was Charlie's obituary,
a dry literary piece which managed to get all the facts wrong and carefully
not mention the fact that the "accident" had been no accident
at all. There was the insurance investigator's report, which had managed
somehow to determine that that the accident had in fact been a suicide
without mentioning the fact that Charlie had probably been dead before
the car hit the tree. And there was an article from the local paper which
someone had entered into the database, talking about Rose Haven mansion,
the home of the Llewelyn family for six generations, which had been brought
piece by piece from Wales along with its ghosts. Charlie's name was listed
as the author of the piece.
Nick pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex Alex had sent him to, impatiently searching the sidewalk for the group's reluctant priest. He had been on his way to the rectory where he had expected to find Philip when she'd called and given him new instructions. Alex did not explain much about why they were needed back at the island. Nick had worked with Derek long enough, however, to know that when he called them all together like this, it had to be serious. Luckily, the place she had directed him to had not been far from his original destination. He pulled into the first open parking place and hopped out of the jeep, looking for the apartment number Alex had given him.
"Nick, up here." Philip called, leaning out of the second story window.
Nick glanced up and nodded, racing up the stairs with the ease of a natural athlete. He glanced inside the untidy apartment curiously. "What's going on? Alex said you might have something for us on this case Derek's sending us on."
"I did." Philip replied ruefully, moving to sit behind the desk. A letter sitting on the desk's blotter caught his eye. It looked like the message Gwen had received earlier, the one that had caused her such concern. He unfolded it carefully, reading its strange message with foreboding. "Maybe I still do. I was visiting with a friend today. Her name is Gwen Llewellyn. I've known her since we were children. Her family used to visit friends in Belfast, where I was born ." He looked at his friend earnestly. "Alex said we were headed for somewhere called Abbottsville, right?"
"Don't know. All I know is that I got a call from Alex saying that Derek wanted us all back at the mansion right away because we had a new investigation to start. And that you had someone who might know something that would help. So, what's going on? Where is your friend?"
"Gone. She got this note from someone named Ian Llewellyn telling her that her cousin's body had been stolen from the family crypt and asking that she return to Abbottsville to investigate."
"So who is Ian Llewellyn?" Nick asked, eyeing the letter curiously.
"I'm not sure. But Alex told me on the phone that the new investigation that Derek wants to talk to us about is centered in a place called Abbottsville. I don't believe in coincidences, do you?"
"Maybe this is the same person who contacted Derek and asked for our help. What kind of game could this guy be playing?" Nick tore the letter from Philip's hands, glancing quickly at the brief message before crumpling it in disgust. "We'd better contact Derek and Alex. This may be some sort of set up."
Philip took the letter back from his agitated friend and carefully folded it in half. "Maybe the London house can help with this. Gwen was member of that house until about six months ago. We can have Alex send a message to them when we get back to the mansion. Come on, we'd best get moving before Derek comes looking for us himself." The young priest started toward the door, then stopped, his eyes drawn to a photo on the bookcase. A portrait of Gwen and an auburn-haired young man smiled back at him from its place on the shelf. He lifted it carefully, searching for something to tell him who the individual was. The signature in the lower right hand corner was illegible but he could just make out the name Charles Llewellyn in the message. It was the same name as was on the note.
"Know them?" Nick asked, curiously.
"It's Gwen. I think the man with her may be her cousin Charles, the man whose corpse has disappeared. Derek may want to see this." Philip pocketed the photo thoughtfully, then followed his friend out to the car.
The San Francisco Legacy house stood in the center of Angel Island, accessible from the mainland only by helicopter and ferry. Its weathered stone battlements stood watch over the lonely terrain, providing a safe home for the members of the Legacy in their struggle against the dark forces. Nick and Philip pulled off the ferry and drove up the winding driveway in silence, each lost in his own thoughts.
Why did she run away like that? Philip thought, holding the portrait of Gwen and her late cousin. He tilted the photo to catch the fading rays of daylight, vainly hoping it would give him an answer to his questions.
"Home sweet home." Nick remarked, pulling up to the front door. "Let's see what Derek and Alex have for us on this case." He bound out of the car ready for another showdown with whatever evil force was presented to him.
Philip followed silently behind, his emotions in turmoil over returning to the house and the group he had left recently left behind. Derek did not understand, even now, why Philip wanted to leave the Legacy. He would not listen when his troubled young friend tried to explain the feeling of having his soul chipped away a piece at a time by their many encounters with evil. Derek was obsessed with the Legacy and had been since he had seen his father killed by a demon that Winston Rayne had released from its sepulcher. The other's were equally determined to rid the world of the forces of darkness. But for him, the battle had become more a struggle to retain his humanity in the face of the ugliness of their battles. Now he was back and, much as he hated to admit it, he was glad to see the familiar control center and the faces of well-loved friends.
"What took you two so long? Derek was ready to send out a search part for you." Alex Moreau walked out of the study, a small suitcase in her hand. She was dressed for travel, her coffee-colored skin set off by the creme color of her jacket. "Are you all right, Philip?" As head researcher for this Legacy house, her duties had always included keeping track of research in progress and new items of interest to the House's peculiar vocation. Unofficially, she had taken upon herself the job of worrying about the other members of the house, particularly Philip. Ever since he had returned to the house, Alex had sensed that his heart was not in the work. He seemed more distracted than normal today.
"Where's Derek?" Philip asked, his soft Irish accented voice almost too quiet to hear.
"In the study." She replied, glancing past him at Nick, who stood behind him on the stairs. Nick shrugged, annoyed at the delay.
Philip lightly tapped on the study door then, without waiting, pushed it open and entered the room. Derek looked up from his desk, his eyes enigmatic. "Alex said your friend might know something about this place we will be visiting."
"She got a letter from someone named Ian Llewellyn." Philip noticed the small start of recognition in his precept's eyes. He handed him the letter he had put in his pocket as they were leaving the apartment. "She also said something about getting a phone call from a dead man. What do you know about this Derek?"
Derek read the letter thoughtfully, then dropped it back on the desk. "Ian is a researcher for the London House. He asked me to see about some problems at his aunt's home. Nothing was said about the theft of a corpse."
Philip looked into his mentor's eyes, wishing he had some of the psychic gift that Derek often used to see what was hidden from the rest of the world. He knew his leader had a tendency to tell the members of the house only what he thought they should know about an assignment and sometime even less than that. He had sent Alex into a haunted tenement without warning her of the danger she would face to see if she would be strong enough to survive the experience on her own. Derek had told her later he needed to know if the rest of the house would be able to rely on her strength in a time of crisis. Alex had never quite forgiven Derek for the horror he had sent her into and neither had Philip.
"Are we going or what?" Nick's voice called out from the front hall, ringing with impatience.
"Are you coming with us?" Derek asked, rising to retrieve his coat.
"Just one more thing." Philip reached out and handed the older man the photo of Gwen he had retrieved from her apartment. "It's Gwen and Derek are you all right?"
Derek was frozen in place, staring down at the photo without actually seeing it. The woman who looked back at him from the frame was the same as the one from his vision. The one he saw in the burning room. The one who had looked back at him from behind the flames.
Gwen stopped her car at the edge of the long, circular driveway and looked around her. The grounds, normally immaculate, had an air of neglect that had not been there on her last visit. Weeds poked up everywhere, choking the flower beds that Charlie had spent so much time preparing. Dead leaves lay over the once pristine lawn, as though it had not been raked in ages. Nothing's been done since Charlie died. she thought, guiltily. I should have checked on Aunt Josette before this.
"No one expected you to come." A soft voice sounded from the bushes, causing Gwen to start in surprise. An old man walked out from behind the hedge, a rake in his hand. "It's good to see you again, Miss Gwen." Silas Martin had worked for the Llewellyn family for nearly forty years, first in Wales, then coming with the family when Charles had insisted on moving the estate to California. He had always managed to keep the grounds well in order before. Now, it seemed, he was in need of help.
"Good to see you to, Silas." She jumped out of her car and reached out to shake hands with the aged groundskeeper.
"Terrible sad things have been happening around here since Mr. Charles died." He leaned wearily against the rake handle and gazed across to the house. "And she doesn't help matters any, either."
"Who is it you are talking about?" Gwen asked, concerned.
"Mrs. Anna, Mr. Charles's wife. She's been nothing but trouble to your aunt since he died." He glanced up at his employer's niece glumly. "Things are happening here, Miss Gwen, things that aren't natural. Someone's gone and stolen Mr. Charles's body, right out of the cemetery. Who would do such a thing? That's what I want to know." The old man looked quickly back at the house and started back to his work, dragging his rake behind him. "But your aunt will tell you all about it herself. Here comes Ms. Josette now."
Gwen looked back at the house to see the upright figure of her aged aunt coming down the driveway in their direction. She walked quickly to meet her, alarmed by the other woman's hesitant gait.
"Gwen, I am delighted to see you here but I fear I must ask, why are you here?" Her aunt's patrician features were lined with sadness, her eyes still red rimmed from crying. She made no move to embrace her grand-niece, and Gwen knew from experience not to offer.
"I received a message from Ian, telling me what had happened to Charles's body. Why didn't you contact me? You knew I was just down the road in San Francisco."
"That was most inconsiderate of him, dear. I wonder what possessed him to do such a thoughtless thing?" The elderly woman turned back to the house with an exasperated sigh. "But then, Ian always was the unthinking one of this family. Park your car beside the garage and Silas will take care of it. I'll see to your room."
"The Rose Room?" Gwen asked, cautiously, looking up at the house.
"Yes, if you insist. Though why that room of all the rooms in the house " She continued her complaints as she walked back through the front door, unconcerned by her lack of audience.
Because it was our old playroom. Gwen thought, sliding back into her car. If there is are any clues to what's going on around here, that will be the place to start looking. She drove around the corner of the house, headed for the garage. Behind her, at a second story window, a curtain waved briefly, touched by an unseen hand.
Nick looked in his rear view mirror and shook his head. They had been driving now for almost and hour and Derek was still staring at the photo in his lap, as had done since Philip had given it to him at the mansion. There was something about that simple image that had troubled the normally reserved Precept. So much so that he had insisted on Alex running a search on the people in the photo, Gwen and Charles Llewellyn. There hadn't been much on the man, but the girl had been another story. Alex had discovered that the woman in the photo had belonged to the London House up until six months previous to her cousin's death. Then, suddenly, she had requested a leave of absence. No explanations, just a terse note in the file stating she was temporarily on loan to the Catholic Diocese of San Francisco.
"Why did she leave her House?" Derek asked suddenly, looking over at Philip who was seated beside him.
The young priest shrugged. "She never told me. But I think it had something to do with an investigation of some unexplained deaths in a small Scottish village a few hours outside of Edinburgh. We had talked before she left about my taking a vacation and our going back to Ireland to see my family. Then suddenly she was here, working for the church. Whatever happened, it must have affected her deeply for her to take a break from the Legacy's work. She was devoted to the London House."
Derek looked back down at the photo, trying to call back to his mind the images he had seen before. "Does she have a child, a daughter or sister perhaps?"
"No. She was an only child."
Alex glanced down at the printout she had run before leaving the mansion. "According to this, your friend Ian, Gwen and the deceased were all first cousins." She looked back at Derek with concern. "What did you see, that's got you so worried?"
"Images of fire. A woman and a child trapped behind a wall of flames. I'm not sure exactly what it means. But I am sure that the woman in my vision was Gwen Llewellyn." Derek looked up at Alex with a frown. "Did her folder say whether she had the Sight?"
"As a matter of fact, it documents several investigations when she was proven to be able to sense things about to happen that the other team members couldn't. She supposedly has some mediumistic tendencies as well."
Philip chuckled, unexpectedly. "I suspect that's more from growing up with ghosts than anything else."
"Ghosts?" Nick replied, skeptically. "Yes. Gwen told me once that the family's ghosts reached out to speak to various relatives who were more sensitive to their presence than the others. She said she had thought as a child that everyone could see their dead relations. No one ever told her that her gift was unique until she started boarding school."
"That's one way to make sure she wasn't frightened by it." Alex remarked dryly. "But it must have come as a terrible shock to know that no one else could see the things she could see."
"It was more like a revelation." Derek replied absently, thinking back to the moment when he had realized the same thing. "How far are we from Abbottsville, Nick?"
"Not far. Should be there within the hour."
"Good. The sooner we know what exactly is going on at the Llewellyn estate, the sooner we can put an end to it." Derek looked out the window, cutting off any further conversation with his teammates.
Philip and Alex exchanged worried glances. Their precept had a tendency towards brusquness when he was worried. And it was obvious that this case was getting under that famous icy control. But neither could think why. All they could do was watch the road go by and wait.
Gwen followed her aunt into the house silently, glancing up quickly as Josette led her into the darkened study. "When were you planning on telling me there was a problem around here?" she asked crossing to open the heavy drapes.
"There was no need to worry you, child." Her aunt began, when the French doors at the other end of the room flew open.
"Aunt Gwen, you're home!" a small bundle of energy threw itself across the room and into Gwen's arms. "I knew you'd come. I told you she would, didn't I Granny?"
Gwen hugged her ten year old niece fiercely, stroking her fair blond hair lightly. Charlie's daughter had inherited her father's almost white blond hair and pale blue eyes. Combined with her pale complexion and slender build Laurel, like her father, looked more like a ghost than most ghosts.
"Really, Laurel, it's most impolite to interrupt people when they are talking." Josette scolded, taking her seat behind an antique oaken desk.
"I'm sorry granny, but I couldn't wait. When I saw Aunt Gwen drive up I just had to see her." The child looked up at her aunt gravely. "Someone stole my Daddy out of the grave yard, Aunt Gwen. I see him walking the halls at night and I know it's because he's not at rest. But you'll find him and give him peace, won't you? Daddy said you did things like that, laying ghosts to rest. You'll do that for him, won't you?"
Gwen shot her aunt a withering look then led her niece to the door. "Listen, honey, your granny and I have a lot to talk about, so why don't you run back out to the garden and pick some of your daddy's roses for me to have in my room? You remember which ones he always gave me, don't you?"
"The white ones?" Laurel asked hesitantly.
"Yes, that's right. The white roses. Pick me a few and take them up to my room and wait for me. Then we can talk while I get ready for dinner, okay?" She gently shoved the reluctant child out the door then locked it behind her. Turning, she braced her back against the sturdy doors and looked coldly back at the older Mrs. Llewellyn. "Now then, Aunt Josette, we're going to have a talk about just exactly what happened to my cousin, your son's, body and why he walks the hallways of his family home. And I don't want to hear from you that it's not happening because I know it is." The two women stared at each other silently, so intent on their own affairs that the arrival of other souls went unnoticed.
Outside, Philip pulled the Range Rover parallel to the front of the house and pulled on the brake. It had only been an extra ten minutes from Abbottsville to the Llewellyn family home so it had been decided that Alex and Nick would stay behind and start digging into the facts surrounding the disappearance of Charles Llewellyn's body while Derek and Philip would go straight up to the house. Philip hoped that Derek's friend Ian had warned his aunt that they were arriving. He had a feeling that with all that had happened to the family in the last few months, having unexpected strangers show up on their doorstep would not be a welcome diversion.
Derek climbed out of the back seat and started up the walk. "We'll need to talk to Josette Llewellyn, Ian's aunt and the matriarch of the family. Hopefully she can give us some idea of what all has been happening in the house that would concern Ian enough to call the Legacy for help."
The front door chose that moment to swing open and a small girl ran from the house, a large pair of scissors in her hands. She stopped dead at the sight of the young priest and his friend on her front step. "Who are you?" she asked angrily, clinging tightly to the shears.
"I'm Father Philip Callaghan and this is my friend Dr. Derek Rayne. Who might you be?"
"I might be anyone." The child replied, edging around the two men carefully. "But I am Laurel Llewellyn and you're trespassing on my family's property. You'd better go away before Granny calls the police." She bolted past them and ran around the edge of the house, quickly disappearing from their view.
"Well, that went well." Philip remarked, looking back at his friend. It was then that he noticed the fixed look on Derek's face. He reached out and grasped his precept's arm. "What is it?"
"Nothing." Derek replied, shaking free of the priest. He turned back to the door to find a woman in a maid's uniform standing in his way. "Please give Mrs. Llewellyn my card and tell her a friend of her nephew Ian's is here to see her," He commanded, moving past her into the front hall. The maid looked down at his card then moved down the hall and entered the far door. Philip followed Derek worriedly, his eyes on his friends face.
"Maybe we should have called from town?" Philip asked, making note of the silence which echoed in the vast house.
"Too late now." Gwen replied, exiting the study with a sigh. She smiled wearily at her friend then turned to meet the silent stranger at his side. "Hello, I'm Gwen Llewellyn. I take it your Philip's precept, the one he's told me so much about."
"Derek Rayne." He replied, holding out his hand. "Your cousin asked us to look into some problems his aunt is having, problems that he believed would be of interest to the Legacy."
"Yes, well it seems he's hedging his bets all the way around. He sent me a letter asking for my help as well to locate our cousin's body, which has disappeared from its grave. But I'm sure Philip has told you all about that."
"He mentioned it. I understand you're a member of the London House?"
Gwen's eyes reflected her sadness. "That's a story for another time. One disaster at a time is all I can handle. My aunt is in her study, so if you'll follow me, I'll introduce you. But be prepared. She's not being very cooperative right now." The petite redhead motioned the two men to follow then stopped dead in her tracks. "On second thought, maybe it would be best for us to start at the cemetery and give my aunt a chance to talk to Ian. I don't think he told her about any of us coming down here. She's not terribly happy about my presence so I don't think she'll be overly enthused about yours." She led them back out the door and into the Rover. Climbing into the back seat, she gave Philip directions to the town cemetery, which was just down the road.
As they left, a small figure walked out into the road behind them, holding a fist full of white roses. Laurel watched her aunt leave with the strangers impassively, her fingers clenched around the flower stems so tightly that blood dripped down her arm.
"What are you staring at?" Philip asked, looking into the rear view mirror at his friend.
"I'm not staring." Gwen replied, shifting in her seat to talk to the priest. "At least, I don't mean to. It's just that, when I look at someone for a while, I get a sense of who and what they are. I already know what you're all about, Philip, but your friend here is something of a challenge for me."
"Am I?" Derek asked, looking quizzically at the man at his side.
"Yes. From what my precept and Philip have told me about you, I guess I was expecting...I'm not sure what I was expecting. But what I didn't expect was to find you and my favorite father-confessor on my doorstep."
"Your cousin "Derek began, then stopped, an image forming in his head. The same image he had seen in San Francisco, a room on fire. He closed his eyes and tightened his grip on the door frame, willing the image away.
In the back seat, Gwen also was seeing the image of the burning room in her mind's eye, but from a different angle. She could smell the smoke all around her and feel the heat creeping closer. She could hear Laurel crying beside her, the child's hands clinging to her arm. And in her heart there was a sense not of fear but of sadness, as though something precious had been taken from her. The door to the room was in front of her, flames blocking her path. In the doorway was a figure, a shape she knew she should recognize, that she would recognize if she could only concentrate. If only Laurel would stop crying she could concentrate
"Derek, Gwen, what do you see?" Philip demanded, pulling the Rover to the side of the road. In front of him he could see the gates to what was obviously the city cemetery.
Gwen shook her head in a daze, the vision fading from her mind as quickly as it had come. She unclenched her hands slowly, seeing that she had dug her nails into her palms. In front of her, Derek took a deep breath and tried to focus on the scenery in front of him, the image still vivid in his mind. Both looked pale and shaken. "It was a fire," She began, looking at her hands.
"You and the child were surrounded by it." Derek chimed in, turning in his seat to look at her.
"And someone was at the door, someone I...was it you?" she asked, looking into his hooded eyes.
"You both saw the same vision. A warning of things to come." Philip pulled the car back onto the road and drove it through the gates. "Perhaps we should take heed of it."
"Yes, I suppose we should." Gwen replied, looking away from Derek's piercing gaze. "Take the path to the left and go another hundred yards. That's where we buried Charlie." She lapsed into silence, trying not to notice that Philip's friend was still watching her, waiting for her to say something more about what she had seen or felt. She wasn't sure what he expected her to say. He had seen the image as clearly as she had, yet he couldn't have felt the overwhelming sadness she had experienced. Why sadness? she thought, puzzled. Fear would have made more sense. Gwen tapped her ring against the window absently, trying to make sense of what had just occurred.
"Looks like we're not the only ones here." Philip pulled the Rover into a clearing and stopped. In front of him was a Sheriff's patrol car and a long, black limousine with a chauffeur standing beside it. Two men stood near the place where Gwen remembered the family had gathered to lay her cousin to rest. At their feet was a gaping hole where his grave should have been. A uniformed officer and a man in a dark suit looked up at their arrival and started towards them.
"Cemetery's closed today folks. Best you come back another day." The officer stopped in his tracks as Gwen jumped from the vehicle. "Well, Ms. Llewellyn. I haven't seen you since the funeral. Come to see your aunt, have you?"
"Sheriff Doby, I'm here for the same reason you are, to find out what happened to Charlie's body. These are friends of mine, Father Philip Callaghan and Dr. Derek Rayne. They are here at the request of my cousin Ian, who is executor of Charlie's estate. Sheriff Doby represents the local constabulary." Gwen brushed past the sheriff, oblivious to his annoyance and moved to kneel beside the open grave. "You've had a few days, what have you found out?"
"Mr Whitaker here, he's the local undertaker. Not the man your aunt hired to take care of things for her, by the way. He says he had orders to exhume your cousin and take the body back to the funeral parlor. Says the orders came from the deceased's wife. He wasn't any too happy to tell me about it, either. Seems the lady didn't want her mother-in-law to find out she was moving her hubby to another cemetery." The sheriff smirked at the assembled men, expecting them to find the situation as amusing as he did.
No one laughed. "You spoke to my cousin's wife personally?" Gwen asked, exasperated.
"No, I received a telephone call from her shortly after the original service." Whitaker commented, looking back at the hole. " She sent a messenger with all the proper paperwork to my office, so I made the arrangements. I had the coffin taken to the mortuary. Someone must have come for it that afternoon."
"You're not sure?" Gwen lashed out angrily, straightening up to look in the embarrassed man's eyes. "Surely someone in your office must have seen who came for the coffin."
"Well, to tell the truth, most of my help were at lunch and I was presiding over another funeral. I just assumed "
"Assumptions are of no use to me." Gwen snapped, stalking back to the car. Derek and Philip exchanged looks and followed at a safe distance. "I'll be in touch, Sheriff, as soon as I get some things straightened out at the house. Good Day!"
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