A Baby’s Cry

The Genre Stretch challenge this month was for a ghost story.  There’s a description of a murder.  It was interesting to be able to connect it to another set of stories that I had written long ago.

**

Sometimes we must do terrible things in the name of love.  Love had turned Henry into a killer.

It had all started out so innocently.  He’d been interested in the girl and, after seeing her a few times from afar, he’d decided to talk to her.  That was how all the great romances started, wasn’t it?  A chance encounter that led to so much more…

However, Henry hadn’t realized when he met Connie Blair that he wasn’t living a modern day romance.  If anything, he was trapped in a horror story.

It wasn’t until he had dated Connie for a few months that he met her father: Boss Jacob Blair!  Her father had big plans for Henry and he was in a position to put Henry just where he needed him to be.  Before the next month was out, Henry had been promoted and placed on a team within the wardens office.  Of the five wardens on that team, two were already in Blair’s pocket.  Now, thanks to Henry’s love for Connie, there was a third.

Even so, Henry mostly just warned Blair’s people of pending raids.  There was no harm in that, just no arrests.  That had changed when one of those calls had resulted in a death.  There was a witness that could tell the wardens where Blair’s people had gone – who had proof that they were there in the first place.  That would never do.

Henry had waited for the girl at an appointed time – late in the night, when no one would see what was about to happen.  She came out of the library and he followed her back to the garage.  Hers was the only car in sight and, as she hurried to it, he stole up behind her.

He caught her around her waist and covered her mouth.  No one had told him about the baby.  As Henry dragged the woman into a dark corner of the garage, it began to cry.  He pushed the woman to her knees and forced her to lay the infant, still wrapped in its blanket, on the ground.  Then, as the baby’s cries grew louder and more frantic, Henry did what he’d been ordered to do.  He wrapped a cord around the woman’s neck and tightened.  He used another cord to bind the woman’s wrists.  Then, he lowered her to the ground and let her die.

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To Be Resolute

Ezra looked up as his mother stepped into the room. She hated hospitals. She hated being around the sick or infirmed. He knew that and understood it. That was the reason she hadn’t visited him since he’d been admitted. What he didn’t understand was that she’d come now.

“Mother?” he said, tilting his head to one side.

She looked uncertain, which was strange to Ezra – as strange as her very presence. “Chris… said you might appreciate a visit,” she said, shifted uncomfortably.

“Well, yes,” Ezra said, dropping his gaze. In a softer voice, he added, “I never expected one, but… I do appreciate that you’ve come.” He looked up at her through his lashes. “Why don’t you take a seat?”

Maeve sat down on the edge of the bed, just a bit stiffly. She fussed with the edge of Ezra’s blanket and then looked at him. “I should have come sooner,” she said, shaking her head.

He caught her hand and smiled when she blinked at him in surprise. He shrugged. “You taught me to be self-reliant, Mother. I… I honestly didn’t expect to see you until they released me.”

“I… wasn’t certain they were going to release you,” Maeve murmured.

Ezra closed his eyes and then nodded once. Opening his eyes once more, he said, “I’m recovering faster than they thought possible. I’m – I’m determined to get better.”

A smile touched Maeve’s lips and she leaned in to kiss him on the cheek. “You’re so strong, my dear,” she said, as she sat back. “Where did you learn that?”

“You,” Ezra said. It was a simple and straightforward answer. It was also the truth. From the time he was little, his mother had pushed him to always work towards his goal – to not show any signs of weakness. She’d also taught him by her own example. Nothing ever got her down for long.

However, hearing that single word got through to her more than any of the times Ezra had told her how he cared for her. Before Ezra realized what was happening, his mother was hugging him tightly and crying softly.

Ezra let her cry herself out. Then, he eased her back and looked into her eyes, which were still shining with moisture. “Thank you, Mother,” he said, his own voice thick with emotion. “For everything.”

You did not even know how to breathe.

Ezra frowned at the mask that covered his mouth and nose. His brows furrowed and he looked around. His gaze fell on Chris, who was sitting beside his bed. He arched an eyebrow at the other, silently asking what had happened.

Chris sighed. “You were hit by some soft of spell,” he said, his voice soft. “Lyn thought they were going to lose you. Keenan was able to get you stabilized, but… the machine is basically breathing for you.”

For a moment, what Chris was saying didn’t make any sense. Then, Ezra realized what he meant. A spell had struck his aura, which was reacting violently as a result. He nodded. He looked at the machine and then at Chris, silently asking how long he would be this way.

“Want something to write with?” Chris asked.

Even as Ezra was nodding, Keenan spoke up from the doorway. “He might not be able to write yet. Give him a keyboard, so he can type.”

Chris nodded and slipped a small datapad under his hand. Ezra typed his question and then Chris showed it to Keenan. “I was wondering the same thing,” he admitted. “He’ll recover, right?”

“His aura was practically shredded,” Keenan said, his expression grim. He looked at Ezra. “It’ll take time and we can’t know how complete the recovery will be, but you’ll improve.”

Nodding, Ezra relaxed. He’d recover. He’d do whatever it took to get his quality of life as near to what it was as possible. The first goal, in his mind, was to reach the point where he could do the basic things – like breathing on his own – again.

Sing it out!

Keenan looked over at Ezra and tilted his head to one side. The young man’s brows were furrowed. “Got something buzzing around in your head?” he asked.

Ezra looked up at him and blinked. “No,” he said, ducking his head.

“Hey,” Keenan said, catching his chin and forcing his gaze upward. “You got something to say, just say it. We might all benefit from what you’re thinking.”

For a moment, Ezra just stared at him. Then, he bit his lip and his green eyes showed a hint of shy uncertainty. Then, he pulled away and said, “You want to hear what I’m thinking? Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Keenan said, his tone firm.

Ezra whirled to face him. “I was thinking that parents should use you as an example of how they should raise their children,” he said, his voice soft. A faint smile played at his lips as Keenan flushed. His own cheeks darkened and he shrugged. “My mother could certainly learn something about parenting from you.”

“Well… thanks for that,” Keenan said, blinking. He had no idea what he’d been expecting Ezra to say. He knew for sure, though, that he hadn’t expected that.

Just What I Feel

“What will you tell her?”

Ezra frowned slightly. He turned around and looked at Chris. If felt like it wasn’t all that long ago their roles were reversed. He was the one standing where Chris was, helping him prepare for his marriage to Winnie. Now, Chris was helping Ezra to prepare for his marriage to Morgan.

He looked thoughtful for a moment. “The vows, you mean,” he said. It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. They both knew that Ezra hadn’t written his vows yet. It was the day of the ceremony, but he had yet to put the words down on paper.

Chris stepped closer and said, “Are you going to write them?” The unspoken question was, Was he reconsidering marrying her? The answer was the same.

“No,” he said, shaking his head. He laughed and shook his head. “I’ll just… speak from the heart. I’ll tell her what I feel when I see her standing there, in her wedding gown.”

“You aren’t afraid that you’ll freeze up?” Chris asked, sounding nervous.

Ezra laughed and shook his head. “I’ve never had trouble talking, Chris.”

Let’s Rock and Roll

Ezra lay back on the blanket and stared up at the sky. In spite of the gathering darkness, Missy and Loki were still playing with some of the other children who had come to the park. Morgan was sitting on the blanket beside Ezra, while they waited together for the show to begin.

“It was a nice day,” she said, her voice soft.

Nodding, Ezra said, “More peaceful than normal – no complaints here.” He sat up and then looked over at the kids. “Loki! Missy! The show will be starting.”

As he was calling their children over, other parents were doing the same. Missy bounded over and flopped down in Ezra’s lap. She leaned back against him, like he was a chair. Ezra smiled fondly and settled the noise dampening headphones over her ears.

Loki knelt on the blanket beside Morgan, his eyes locked on the sky. “What are they waiting for?” he asked, sounding like the impatient child he appeared to be.

Morgan laughed and pointed at the sky. “Begin,” she said, her tone commanding. As if in response, the first firework exploded in the sky, spreading out in a spray of bright crimson and violet.

Loki looked at Morgan and then shook himself and focused on the show. “Time to rock and roll,” he said, grinning.

Ezra reached out and took Morgan’s hand. He couldn’t help but smile as he looked up at the fireworks display. The times when they could just relax and be a family together were few and far between. To Ezra, that made them all the more treasured.

Here We Go

Ezra looked at the things he’d gathered for their picnic. He had the blanket all set in the tapestry bag that it came with. The little trays were washed and ready to use. Plates, napkins and flatware were all packed in the picnic basket. He’d packed their sandwich fixings into little containers, along with their salads and some snacks. The containers were also packed into the picnic basket. Finally, there was a large thermos with lemonade. They had everything they’d need for the picnic.

He looped the tapestry bag over on shoulder. Then he took the thermos in one hand and the picnic basket in the other. “All set,” he said, grinning at Morgan.

Morgan flashed him a smile and handed Loki a bag of toys that he and Missy could use at the park. Then, she took the picnic basket from him. “We’re ready too,” she said.

“Here we go!” Missy said, as she scampered out the door past them. The little bell necklace she wore chimed merrily. It was the only remaining hint of her former nature.

Shaking his head, Ezra called, “Missy, your hat!” The growl of frustration made him smile. She was, in many ways, still very feline.

“Some of the noises she makes,” Morgan said, shaking her head in amusement. “I’m surprised that no one realizes the truth.”

“People often overlook things when they can’t wrap their minds around them,” Ezra said, shrugging. Then, they were outside and walking, while Missy alternated between running ahead of them and waiting impatiently for them to catch up.

Marching On

Ezra frowned slightly at Loki. The boy had grown, as boys are wont to do as time passes. However, some part of Ezra had felt that the spell that had made him a boy would keep him that way.

“Does it bother you?” he asked. He flushed when Loki looked up at him with a confused frown. “H-having to grow up all over again, I mean.”

Loki looked thoughtful and then shook his head. “It did at first,” he admitted. Then, he smiled and shrugged. “School is boring, since I’ve been through it all before. At the same time, though, I spent my first childhood wanting to grow up. Now, I’m just enjoying being a child.”

“So… does it bother you that you’ll leave this childhood behind as well?”

Looking up at Morgan, Loki grinned. “Beats the alternative,” he said, shrugging. “Time passes, the world keeps turning. What choice do we have but to keep moving right along with it?”

“None, I suppose,” Ezra said, nodding slightly.

butterflies and hurricanes

Ezra felt a bit of trepidation as he stepped out in front of the press. He seldom felt nervous when addressing them now. He knew the butterflies in his stomach had far less to do with the press and far more to do with the fact that his mother still hadn’t called him.

Shaking his nervous tension away, he stepped up to the podium. He had just opened his mouth to speak when his cellular rang. His eyes widened. For a moment, he was torn. That ring tone was the one he used for his mother’s cellular! But the press…

“That’s my mother,” he said, his brows furrowing.

“Answer it,” Danny said, nodding. Several other members of the press corps nodded. A few echoed Danny’s words.

Ezra nodded and spun away. Yanking the cellular out of his jacket pocket, he flipped it open. “Mother?” he said, his voice strained.

“Hello, Ezra,” his mother said. From her tone, she might have been calling him from the hairdresser’s, rather than a place that had been struck by record setting rainfall, high winds and flood.

He chuckled softly as all the tension slipped away. “You all right?” he said. He was now keenly aware that several members of the television press were filming him. He didn’t care.

“I’m fine, Darling,” she said. Sounding just a bit annoyed, she added, “The house is a wreck and I’m at a shelter with about a hundred other people, but I’m fine. My cell was absolutely soaked! It’s finally all dried out and charged up. That’s why I called. I’m sure you and Connor were worried.”

Ezra nodded. “We were,” he said. Tears filled his eyes and he shook his head. How could he be smiling so much that his face hurt and still be crying? “Thank you for calling, Mum,” he said. “I’ve got a room full of press here…”

“I’ll let you get back to work, Darling,” Maeve said, chuckling. “I love you.”

Blinking, Ezra nodded. “Love you too,” he breathed. His mother almost never said those words to him. It was a testament to just how bad things were in South Cove if she were going to say that. He closed the cellular and tucked it away again.

Sighing, he said, “Now, then… morning announcements…” He brushed away his tears and then ruffled through his papers, struggling to refocus on the task at hand. He was still smiling, though. His mother was safe and well. That, to him personally, was all that mattered.

Murder

“Master?” Ezra called, as he entered the little cottage. It had been some time since he’d even written to his old teacher in magic. He was more than a little surprised when she’d called him. He was disappointed that he’d missed the call. She left a message asking him to meet her there. Where was she?

He frowned and looked around. The house was silent and seemed empty, except that the door had been unlocked. “Master Chloe?” he called. This time, he heard what sounded like an answering call.

He moved towards the sound and frowned. It seemed to be coming from a room down the hall. “Master Chloe,” he said, as he peered though the open door. She was lying on the floor. He froze when he noticed the spreading pool of red around her.

“Master!” Heart pounding, he ran to her and dropped down beside her. His hands fell on the gaping wound on her chest. Then he looked at her face. Her eyes were glazed over – sightless.

“Dear Lord,” he breathed. He set a shaky hand against her neck. There wasn’t a trace of a pulse. Tears blurred his vision briefly, then the door banged open. Without giving it a second thought, he grabbed the first thing his hand fell on: a long, slender blade.

“Drop the knife,” a harsh voice ordered.

Ezra blinked as he realized it was two wardens that had burst in on him. He swallowed thickly and set the knife down. This was not going to look good. “I – I didn’t do it,” he said, shaking his head firmly.

“Just put your hands behind your head and lace your fingers together,” one warden said.

His eyes flicked to his hands. They were covered with his master’s blood. “They – they’re bloody,” he said, tears welling in his eyes once more. His stomach turned and he swallowed the bile that threatened to erupt. He squeaked when one of the wardens grabbed his hands and pulled them behind his back.

“Well,” one said, “this looks pretty open and shut. We found him sitting over her, knife in hand.”

The other one – the one who had handcuffed him, snorted. “Let’s see what the forensics team has to say,” he said. He pushed Ezra out of the room and asked, “Would you like to tell me your name and what you were doing here?”

“E-Ezra Pemberton,” Ezra said, blinking at the warden. “I – I – Master Chloe called me yesterday – a-asked me to come see her. I got here and – and…” He trailed off and his knees buckled. At the same time, darkness closed around his vision.

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