Back Into the Routine – Henry, Konrad

Now, back to Henry for bit… then on to Konrad for the very end.


Henry blinked when he received the email from Konrad. He opened it and smiled faintly as he read the message. The kids had all had a fairly good first day and they had already made a few friends among their classmates. He was going to give them a snack – some apples and peanut butter – and then they would start doing any homework they might have.

Nodding, Henry returned his attention to his work. It had been two weeks since he’d been in the office. It had taken that long to get the kids settled in his home. Now, their furniture and personal belongings were in place. Liese had been to see a child psychiatrist, who confirmed that she was bipolar. She was responding well to her medication, for which Henry was grateful.

Today, since the kids had begun school, so he felt safe going back to work. Now, he just had to get back into the swing of things at his office. Most of his day was spent reading reports and gathering information. His team was specifically tasked with dealing with Singers and other such beings.

He was just reading over a report that detailed what the Bureau knew of the Singer that had killed Kamile and Adrien. It had vanished, presumably banished by Adrien as a last act before his death. It would be some time before the demon would be able to gather enough strength to harm anyone. The question was: where had their gifts gone?

Members of the Cross Families had five distinct gifts. There were the True Crosses, like Adrien. They banished demons or purified the vessels they had chosen to inhabit. They could also use their power to heal members of their family and a host of other things that went along with fighting the demons directly.

Then, there were the four Defenders. Kamile had been one such, called a Staff. She was, specifically the Balchunas Staff. Each Defender summoned a magical weapon: a staff, lance, sword or hammer. In addition to summoning their weapon, each Defender had a secondary gift. Staves had the gift of Reading – knowing the thoughts of those around them. Lances had the gift of Seeking – being able to locate the other Defenders and their True Cross. Swords had the gift of Seeing – an intuition that allowed them to know someone’s true nature. Hammers had the gift of Knowing – an intuition that allowed them to anticipate trouble before it came.

In any case, their deaths meant that their gifts were passed on to someone in the next generation. Henry chewed at his lip. Had any of the kids inherited the gifts of one of their parents? He hadn’t noticed them as having any gifts. However, it was entirely possible.

“Montgomery,” he said, glancing over at her. “How would I be able to tell if one of the kids became a Cross or a Staff?”

She stared at him for a moment before her brows furrowed. “If a Cross sings, they can… sort of feel it,” she said. Then, she shrugged. “If one of the kids is a Staff, they’ll start being able to read people.”

“Some say even latent Staves can do that, though,” Ryoga added. He shrugged when Henry frowned at him. “What can I say, Boss? Everyone I knew who was Hammer – either at that time or who went on to be one later – was strangely intuitive.”

“Liesel acts like a little Hammer,” Daryl said, nodding.

“Noted,” Henry said. It was entirely possible that their parents’ gifts had been inherited by someone in Alleman. He looked over at Sachiko. “See if you can get word to Havensburg, Alleman. Either the Engel Cross or the Balchunas Staff might have awakened there as well.”

“You got it, Boss,” she said, nodding.

At that point, Henry began pulling up the contact information for the local Council of Elders. He presumed that the Elders in Fair County had gotten in touch with them. However, if one of his children was the Engel Cross or Balchunas Staff, he needed make sure they were aware.

When he looked back down at the clock, it had gotten rather late in the evening. The members of his team were grabbing their jackets and heading out for the day. He was about to call them back when his telephone rang. Scowling, he lifted the handset out of the cradle. “Shepherd,” he said, wondering who it could be at that hour.

“Mr. Henry?” a childish voice said. “It’s Johannes. We wondered… did you want for us to wait dinner until you got home or… were you going to eat at your office?”

Henry blinked. It hadn’t occurred to him that the kids would wait for him. Perhaps it should have, though. “I’ll be there in half an hour,” he said, his tone gentle. “Did Konrad make something or do you need me to stop and pick something up?”

“Brother made Fleischpflanzerl and potatoes and green beans,” Johannes said, sounding both pleased and excited. “It should be ready by the time you get here.”

Henry blinked and nodded. “I’ll be right there,” he assured the boy one last time. Then, he hung up his telephone. He gathered his coat as he typed the word into his computer’s translation program. It returned the translation of food, which was no help at all. He was certain that it was a specific type of food. The question was: What? Clearly, it was something that went well with potatoes and green beans. At the same time… Konrad seemed to think that anything went well with potatoes and green beans. The only other vegetable he seemed to like was cabbage. His younger siblings seemed to agree.


Konrad peered out of the kitchen when he heard the door open and close. “Welcome home,” he called, giving Henry a weak smile. “I’m sorry if Hansel bothered you while you were working.”

“It’s fine,” Henry said, shaking his head. “I just lost track of time. It wasn’t anything that couldn’t wait until tomorrow.” He shed his coat, hanging it on the tree by the door. “He said you made fleisch…” Henry trailed off, obviously struggling with the word.

“Fleischpflanzerl,” Konrad said, nodding. “Flattened meatballs? You’d probably think they were like little hamburgers.”

“Hamburgers,” Henry said, his eyes widening. He nodded as he stepped into the kitchen. “Now the potatoes and green beans make sense. Not salad?”

“We’re eating them hot, so…” Konrad trailed off with a shrug. He pitched his voice a bit louder and called his younger siblings. They were scattered all over the house. Markus was in the basement, working on some project. His sisters were in their room, playing with their dolls. He realized that he didn’t really know where Johannes had gone. His brows furrowed.

At that moment, Johannes bounced into the house from the back garden. He paused to struggle out of his coat and then he washed his hands. With them still dripping, he hugged Henry. “Welcome home,” he sang.

“Hey, Sprout,” Henry said, lifting him up to set him on his hip. “Did you have a good day at school?”

Johannes frowned and then shrugged. “I made friends of two boys,” he said, his wide eyes locked on Henry’s face. “They’re Erik and Fritz and they live down the street from us, next door to Maggie!”

“That’s good,” Henry said, setting the boy back on his feet. He smiled as Liesel and Frieda came into the room. “Did you learn anything interesting in school today?” he asked.

Liesel grinned. “Emmy can hold her breath longer than anyone in the class,” she said, nodding. “Clara almost fainted trying to beat her record and Ms. Weatherly told us it’s not good to hold your breath for so long.”

“People need to breathe or they die,” Frieda added, nodding. Her eyes were wide and her tone was very serious. She pointed at the refrigerator and added, “Mr. Hopkins taught us how to draw teddy bears. Liesel’s looked better than mine does, but he said mine looks good too. I just need to practice.”

Henry looked at the two drawings that were pinned to the refrigerator with magnets. One was a very basic bear with circles for each of the paws and a round little body and head with half-circle ears. However, the other bear looked like a girl of far more than eight years old had drawn it. There was even a bit of shading in it.

Konrad had been at a loss as to what to say about the difference. On one hand, he wanted to praise Liesel for how well she’d done. On the other hand, he didn’t want Frieda to feel bad about her own effort.

Henry only hesitated for a moment before he smiled. Nodding at Frieda, he said, “Your bear looks very nice. Keep working at it and I’m sure you can do even better.”

Liesel nodded. “That’s what Mr. Hopkins said,” she agreed.

Meanwhile, Konrad had returned his attention back to the hamburgers and potatoes. He laid out the burgers on a platter. The potatoes went into a bowl. The green beans went into another bowl and he carried the vegetables over to the table. “Markus Adrien,” he called. “Dinner’s on the table.”

Markus appeared at the doorway to the basement, flushed and panting. “Sorry,” he said, his voice breathless. That was when Konrad noticed that he was also a bit pale.

He was about to speak when Henry said, “All right there, Chief?”

Grimacing, Markus held out one hand. “I cut my finger a little bit,” he said. As Henry caught his wrist, he apologized again.

“I’m not angry,” Henry said, his tone calm. He guided Markus over to the sink and ran the hand under cold water, washing away the blood, so that he could see the cut.

Konrad set the platter of hamburgers on the table and directed the others to sit down. It gave them something to do and got them out of Henry’s way. “Is it all right?” he asked, his voice soft.

After a moment, Henry nodded. “It’s not deep,” he said, his voice soft. “It’s just that it’s in a spot with a lot of capillaries.” He wrapped Markus’s hand in a towel, pressing down on it for a moment. “Hold that there while I get a bandage.”

“Yes, Mr. Henry,” Markus said, his voice faint. He sat down beside Konrad and looked up at his brother with teary eyes. “I’m sorry,” he breathed again.

“Accidents happen,” Konrad said, his tone gentle. “You don’t need to apologize.” He waited until Henry had bandaged Markus’s hand and then he grimaced. He probably shouldn’t have let Markus work in the basement without supervision.

Frieda said grace and then they began plating their food. Henry waited until everyone had their food and then he looked at Markus. “Do you want to tell me what happened?”

“I was shaping wood and… the knife slipped a little and… then there was blood and… I sort of panicked a little,” Markus said, his voice strained. Tears welled in his eyes and he shook his head. “I thought that you’d be angry at me.”

“I’m not going to be angry that you hurt yourself,” Henry said, his tone gentle. He looked over at Konrad and shook his head. “It’s not your fault either, Konrad. Like you said: accidents happen.”

“I should have been keeping a better eye on him,” he murmured. “I… didn’t even know that Johannes went outside! I was focused on making dinner.”

Henry nodded slowly. Turning to Johannes, he said, “If you want to go outside, you need to let someone know, Sprout.”

“I’m sorry,” Johannes said, his eyes wide. “I saw Maggie in her yard and I wanted to ask her if she knew Erik and Fritz, since they live near her.” He looked up at Konrad. “I didn’t mean to worry you, Brother.”

Shaking his head, Henry said, “So long as we learn from our mistakes, there’s no need to apologize.” He looked over at Markus and said, “If you hurt yourself, you need to tell me or Konrad right away. We’re not going to be angry or tell you that you can’t do your carving. At the same time, we need to know if you’re injured, so we can make it better.”

“I’ll remember,” Markus said, his voice soft. He grimaced and then said, “I kind of… left a mess downstairs.”

“We’ll clean it up after dinner,” Henry said, nodding.

Konrad heaved a soft sigh and focused on eating. At first, he’d felt like they were burdening Henry – intruding in his life. Now, he realized that Henry didn’t mind looking after them. On top of that, Konrad wasn’t quite ready for the responsibility of looking after his younger siblings. He closed his eyes and said a silent prayer of thanks that his parents had planned what would happen if they were killed. Without Henry, they probably still wouldn’t be getting back to a sense of normalcy. With him, they were already back into their normal routine.


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