This is the continuing story of the Succubi called Storm Clouds…
Chapter Eleven is a little longer this week and some editing of last week’s words with thanks as always to James for his kindness, time, and support in making my words better than they are…
Storm Clouds XLIII
Tom leaned against a tree watching as Brent played with his children next to a small fountain with a soaring angel in the center. He was puzzled by what the fountain was supposed to mean, and that showed on his face. After all, who would expect an angel motif in a place that didn’t seem to have a lot of angel–looking beings in it?
Camilla came around from behind the fountain, carrying a small box in her hands. When she came close to Tom, she asked if he had eaten anything. When he didn’t answer, she simply put a wrapped sandwich in his hands and, with a nod of her head, directed him to have a seat at a picnic table nearby.
After getting settled, Tom watched as she began to pick at a salad. As he unwrapped the sandwich, he asked, “Something bothering you?”
She paused and then began, “What bothers me, Thomas, is that I have lost a Sister. I suffer for that. But that’s nothing compared to Brent and his children.”
Tom picked out a slice of tomato, “How bad is it for Brent?”
She poked the fork into the salad with some force, “If he didn’t have the children, I am sure that he would … be no more.”
Tom considered that as he took a bite, “He’s still here. So are the kids. And you. He doesn’t strike me as the type to put a bullet to his head and end it all. Sorry, Camilla, I’m not going to dwell on that.”
“Heartless, aren’t you Thomas? Or is that just a means to protect yourself?”
Tom reached into a pocket of his jacket and tossed a small notebook onto the table between them: “Haven’t the time to dwell right now Camilla. Brent gave me a list of people that had something against him. I can look into the ones who are people. You game to grill the ones who aren’t?”
She turned the notebook around and opened the cover. After a moment she whistled: “I would not have guessed at any of these.”
Tom wiped his lips with a napkin, “How bad are the names you recognize? The ones I do are lousy, but I can take most of them from the list. I’m looking for a killer, and most of them are playboys, play–toys and thrill seekers. They don’t qualify.”
Another bite. “Three of them I’ll have to grill.”
She considered him, “At least your list is a short one. From this side I can see ten times that many creatures and things who would have loved to be the one to have done this…”
Tom shook his head, “Not love, Camilla. Need.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Tom explained, “Some people would love to get an advantage over someone else. That’s a wish, a hope and nothing more. Then there are those that need to get that revenge or whatever else they see it as. They have the power to do so, and more so, they wouldn’t be stopped by anything to get it. That’s need.”
She started back at the beginning of the list again, her fingers tracing down the names. Then she said, “Two that we can get to; one that I would not touch with a ten foot pole and an army of hellhounds behind me.”
Arching an eyebrow, he asked, “That bad?”
She shrugged, “Worse. We’ll need help to see that one.”
Tom considered his sandwich, “You know something? I am more inclined to believe that whoever did this is on your turf rather than mine.”
Raising her fork, she explained, “It can be that someone, as you say, on our turf started this, but you don’t understand how things work in your world. You see, Thomas, while some creatures like us can exist there and interact with your people, there are so many more that need an anchor, something or someone to believe in them and give them purchase in your world. Without that they can’t do anything physical.”
Confused, Tom just nodded for her to continue.
“Magic is thin in your world now. Creatures that once thrived in your world now can’t exist there. Oh they can look in, try to whisper thoughts and ideas into people’s minds and see what happens, but, without someone who believes, like a wizard, mage, or witch… they can’t actually do anything there.”
“Then how do you all manage to be there?”
She smiled, “Sex is a powerful thing. Love more so. If you are intimately connected with both of those, then crossing over isn’t a hard thing to do.”
He nodded slowly, “Base desires and overwhelming needs are the gateway to the soul or something?”
They were quiet for a time until Tom said, “I need to get back, get on and see those names. Can you check your list and … ?”
She shook her head, “No. You are stuck with me for the moment, Thomas. You can do your investigating there and then we’ll both see what happens.”
He frowned, “Are you telling me that I am going to have to go with you to see what you are afraid of seeing?”
“Afraid doesn’t mean I will not go there. But here’s the thing: you are a detective. You know how to ask questions and, moreover, you see more than I do. I think that you asking the questions of them will get us further than I can alone. Besides which, you have one power over them that I don’t.”
Tom looked shocked: “Power? I got nothing.”
Camilla gave a small shake of her head, “You have free will. You have the ability to choose. Most of the creatures we will have to see do not have that luxury. They are connected to other beings in ways that make them what they are. You however … you don’t have that flaw.”
He sighed, “No. I have the flaw that makes me always do the right thing.”
She munched on her salad, “That’s not a flaw. It’s a gift.”
A small smile, “Some gift.”
She just prodded her salad, “Better than most. Count your blessings Thomas.”
Tom chewed on that, and on his sandwich before asking, “Tell me something. Why is it that you always speak to me so formally? It’s always Thomas, not Tom. Come to think of it, I haven’t heard any of you use nicknames or shortened names, for that matter.”
“Manners count, Thomas.”
He gave her a look, “Well I can understand that, Mom always said that having a civil tongue was timportant, but…”
She shook her head, “No buts about it. You can get further with a kind word than with a foul one.”
Tom’s smile was just this side of wicked, “You can get further still with a kind word and a two-by-four.”
“Oh so you have met Tera before, then?”
A similar smile appeared, “You sound a lot like her when she’s in a mood, you know.”
Tom stuck the last of the sandwich in his mouth and mumbled, “Probably why she liked me.”
Taking the list back from Camilla, Tom reviewed it again trying to decide who he would try to see first. Running his finger down the list he tapped one name, “Okay. I think I want to start to get on the bad side of the big names in the city.”
Camilla put her fork down and opened her purse. Taking out a small business card, she handed it to him, “Take this. Some places, your badge won’t get you far. This will open those doors for you.”
Tom considered the card. It wasn’t made of paper. It was a solid piece of silver made into a business card. Written on it was a short line of gold text: He’s doing me a favour. And then a single handwritten letter “T”.
“You can’t be serious.”
Camilla finished the last of her salad with the reply, “Try it. But only as a last resort, okay?”
Deciding that this wasn’t a card to be thrust into a pocket to be crushed, he took out the billfold that held his badge and placed the card into the pocket on the other side of it. Snapping it shut, he replied, “Well, it might as well be next to that piece of tin, to keep it company.”
Camilla picked up what was left of the meal they had shared and tossed it into a bin nearby. Motioning to Tom, she led him to Brent and the children where she said her goodbyes to them. She spoke with Brent quietly for a moment before turning to the kids and giving them a long loving hug.
Tom knelt down to look into the kids eyes and said, “Look after your Dad, okay, kids?” The answer was just a shy nod from them both before they ran over to their father and hid behind him. Tom stood up and offered his hand to Brent, “Do her proud right?”
Brent shook the offered hand with a firm grip, “I will. Watch your back out there, Thomas. Not all things are exactly what they seem.”
Releasing his grip, Tom said, “Rarely is. But sometimes you see exactly what is there, Brent.”
He then turned away and walked to Camilla: “Let’s go. Time’s a-wastin.”
It was a short walk until they were out of sight of Brent and the children. Then Camilla’s horns and tail reappeared as she drew a pattern in the air. Moments later and a portal appeared.
“I don’t think I will ever get used to that.”
She laughed, “Be happy you don’t have to deal with a Tail.”
“Seriously: what exactly does that mean?”
Camilla just smiled as they passed through the portal and it closed after them, leaving a small whirlwind of dust in their wake.
Leaves fluttered around in the afternoon breeze moving here and there aimlessly until finally they came to rest on the green lawn beneath them. The chairs had been long taken away, the place where people had gathered to say goodbye.
Then a portal opened there, once again making the leaves spin and fly around until it vanished revealing two figures standing there. Tom and Camilla had returned to the place their journey had begun earlier that day.
Tom looked around, “Looks like they all left without us.”
Camilla brushed some leaves from her hair, “What needed to be said was. Tera would have thanked them, comforted some, and reminded them that life needed to be lived.”
“She’s a theologian too?”
A small giggle, “She is who she is.”
Tom paused for a moment to look at the scene around him, still not quite believing all that he had seen before offering his arm to Camilla, “We’d better get going.”
Together they walked side by side from the backyard, through the ground level, and out the front doors of the brownstone building.
As they passed through the front yard, they could see Tera, sitting on a balcony, high up on the third floor of the building. She was in the same dress she had worn for the ceremony that morning, concerned with what was going on and why someone would threaten her own. She rested on a wrought iron chair, a small table with some papers upon it beside that.
She watched as Tom and Camilla hailed a passing cab and then entered it. Tom was the last to enter, pausing for a moment to look back at Tera.
He touched two fingers to his left temple and then nodded to her. Tera’s reply was the raising of the tea cup towards him and a nod in return.
As the cab left, she continued to pick apart what she had learned from those that had attended this morning, and more so, those that had not. Someone was threatening her own, that was concerning, but more over, the reason why escaped her for the moment. Still she had found someone to search the mortal realm, and she had placed with him someone that could help to protect him.
She hoped that wouldn’t be necessary…
As she sipped the cup of tea in her hand, a voice broke her thoughts: “Why are we doing nothing?”
Placing the cup on the table, she answered, “We are doing something. The old ways are long gone, we cannot simply strike without aim. Come here, Daughter … It is not seemly to hide in the shadows and seethe in anger …”
A snort of derision was the only answer until Jane came into view. She walked past Tera and stared off into the city around them. Crossing her arms over her chest, she began to rant, “You place your trust in a human. Someone who has no idea what he faces. You ask one of your own to look after that human and, moreover, you tell her to submit to his will. How can you do this?”
“I can …”
“That is not an answer.”
“Of course it is, Daughter. It is the very first lesson I learned, so long ago. I can believe in others. I can trust in others. That is the first lesson in knowing yourself and what you can do.”
Jane gripped the railing with her hands, the anger within her so very clear as she twisted her hands against the cold steel. Looking over towards Tera, she remarked, “I don’t believe that Brent told us the truth.”
“I know he has. For what reason would be lie about his Eternal? Just because you do not understand does not make his words false…”
“You have trust, Tera. I do not. I buried my twin today. I have lost a part of myself that … I should have known she was in danger and helped her … I couldn’t. I want someone to pay for this. I want to be there to strip the skin from their bones and make them suffer an eternity for this.”
Tera’s sigh was long and sad, “Have you forgotten all that you have learned Jane? Are you really so willing to fall into darkness for this? You are still young in our ways, but you know well that what you ask for… cannot be.”
Jane didn’t look towards Tera, “I should have been there.”
“You could not, Daughter … You were not in a place to help her. No one was. She was targeted by someone or something that wants something from us.”
That made Jane pause for a moment, her thoughts putting what Tera had said together with the story she had read that morning. Looking to the grass below, she whispered, “I saw a story in the newspaper today. It mentioned the place where Brent had been. It said that a man had been seen leaving the place before the fire started.”
Tera shook her head slightly as if to say no, but then she brushed a finger over her lips before answering, “That would mean someone else was there, obviously. Then the question to be asked is: what where they there for and what, if anything, do they have to do with what happened there?”
Another whisper from Jane: “Or Brent is lying about what happened.”
The silence that followed those words extended for a time and then, to Jane’s surprise, she felt a hand take hold of her right wrist and begin to pull her into the building, the tea cup on the table tumbling into space as she was forced inside and out of sight of the surrounding world.
When she turned around, she saw Tera standing there with her red horns and tail visible. The tail pointed at Jane as harsh words passed through the air: “If you see an error in my ways, Daughter, say so. If you feel that I am wrong, prove it. If you have a better idea, show me. If all you have is opinion and anger, you do me and your Sister not a single bit of good.”
Tera closed the distance between them, pressing Jane against the wall behind her in fear of her Queen’s wrath. She closed her eyes, waiting for the strike of a hand against her cheek and the words of displeasure she knew were to come.
But instead, she felt a brush of fingertips against that cheek and then, for a moment, all she could do was listen to Tera’s words as her body refused to move under that touch …
“How do you think I feel, Jane? How do you think I feel when one of you is harmed? How much more do I suffer when one of you dies? How much worse is it when that is for no good reason? You talk of the pain you have for Patricia’s passing in your heart. As her mother, do you not think I share that?”
She felt Tera’s fingers stroke against her skin and then, unbidden, tears began to fall across that cheek, wetting the fingers that remained there. Jane managed a sob, “I …”
The sob was answered by a soft hush and the words, “Do not let the need for revenge or the hate that comes with it cloud your judgment …”
Jane whimpered the truth, “I can’t, Tera … I just can’t …”
She felt a tail wrap around her legs, and then she was in Tera’s embrace, the tears coming without end …
… and Tera just telling her to let it all out …