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Rolfin's Orb
Book 1 - Obsidian
Chapter 19

Monday mornings in Inveralba were a busy time. Children rushed off for school. Their parents headed to work, whether in the village or driving the commute to the city. Many took trains. Drayton yawned and looked out the window. “At least it’s not raining.” He got dressed, hooked up his computer and downloaded all the pictures he’d taken of the book in Angus’s croft. Relieved to see a phone line in the room, he sent the pictures to an old friend, adding a note with instructions and offered a large reward if he got it back to him in 24 hours. He disconnected after that, slipped his laptop back into the suitcase and went downstairs, not worrying about the huge phone bill he'd leave Elsie to pay for.

“Oh, I’m glad to see you, Mr. Steele,” Elsie said, seeming somewhat frantic. “It appears we have a thief in our midst. You’re not missing your wallet, are you?”

He felt in his back pocket. “No, it’s still there.” An impish smile stretched across his cheeks, knowing he’d emptied the missing wallets and taken their shells out to the rubbish late in the night. He’d crawled out the window onto the roof, slid down the drainpipe and deposited the leather into the can.

“That’s not all. Several of the guests are missing their jewels. I hope you didn’t bring any with you, Drayton. Nothing’s safe until we catch the thief.” The stolen jewelry, carefully hidden under the roots of a tree before climbing back into his room, were safe for now.

“This is horrible, Elsie. If there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know,” he said.

Talk around the breakfast table was nothing but suspicions and accusations toward one another and visitors to the B&B. At the first opportunity and without casting guilt on himself, Drayton excused himself and left. On the way out he stopped Elsie. “Excuse me, luv, but could you tell me which of Angus’s many relatives he’s particularly fond of, in particular, a young girl? I’d like to buy her a gift.”

“That would be his brother’s lass, Fiona. He spends as much time with her as possible, sort of feels responsible for he since her father’s death. Have you been to Angus’s croft lately?”

“I went by yesterday, but he wasn’t home, as you predicted. I left a note. Why do you ask?”

“Angus, bless his heart, is an odd sort of character. He’s got no electricity, no appliances and a lot of cats,” Elsie said.

“I noticed. Well, I’m off. Oh, wait. Where does Fiona live? I’d like to pop by and meet her,” Drayton lied.

“She lives with her mum, Mairi. She’s a widow. I think her number is 290. Yes, it’s 290 Cheshire Road.”

“Thank you, Elsie. You’ve been of more help than you’ll ever know.” Drayton made a mental note to bring the old woman a bunch of flowers. That would flatter her and encourage her to share more information when he needed it. He went to the tree and ran his hands under the roots, pulling out the jewels. At the Post Office he bought a padded envelope and mailed them to his house in Truro. He wrote a note on the back, advising his mother not to open it, if she knew what was good for her and that he’d come to collect his mail in a few weeks.

Cheshire Road was easy to find. Drayton strolled casually down the street, looking for 290. “Ah, there it is. It’s sitting off by itself. Good.” He walked past, not seeing any signs of life. Braving it, he walked up to the window and looked inside. “Nobody’s home. It’s my lucky morning!” After he went around the outside of the house to make sure nobody was in the garden, he turned the knob. “It’s locked.” Fists pounded on the wooden door. “Why is it locked? Nobody else in this retched town locks their doors. What are you hiding, Fiona and Mairi?”

After trying both doors, he attempted to lift the windows. All were locked, except the one over the kitchen sink. Standing a bucket on end, he stood on it. Though a tight squeeze, he managed to get into the house. “Clean. Fiona and her mum like a clean house.” The kitchen cupboards, full of labeled cans, were his first target; he ripped the labels off and tossed the cans onto the floor, nicking the linoleum and denting gashes in the wood. He opened the refrigerator and threw all the food out, poured the milk bottles upside down on top of the food, and tossed the fresh vegetables into the living room. “What are you hiding, Fiona?” The bedroom drawers were emptied with haste on the floor. “Well, it looks like Fiona’s mum likes to wear pretty things.” He blew his nose on a pink frilly nightie and threw it on the floor. He tossed every box, every jar on the shelves and every item in every drawer onto the floor. “Nothing. This is one smart girl. She doesn’t want to leave anything where someone might find it.” An hour later he left, snickering at the door when he saw the mess. “Not so tidy now are we, Fiona’s mum. Naughty, naughty.” He walked down the street toward town. “Maybe it’s time to pay Angus another visit. He turned and headed toward Anstrathven Street.

* * *

Fiona didn’t come home after school. She went right to Bruce’s Meadow to meet Elspet and Callum. Both of them showed up after a half an hour wait. “Are you ready? Good. Let’s go see Uncle Angus. I can’t wait to go and visit another place. I wonder where it will be this time?” Fiona let her imagination run wild.

“It might be a cold place this time,” Elspet said. “I brought my cardigan, just incase.”

“I hope it’s another warm place. I like going to visit places where it’s warm and doesn’t rain so much,” Callum said. They ran hand in hand to Uncle Angus’s house.

* * *

Mairi walked home from the bakery, smiling, thinking about how happy she was, knowing Johnny was coming over for supper that night. When she opened the front door she screamed. “Oh no! How did this happen? Fiona? Fiona?” She shut the door behind her, running to check and see if Fiona was in her room, or worse, hurt. “There’s something horrible going on here.” She picked up her phone and rang the McAllisters. “Anne, are the men back from hunting? Good, may I speak to Johnny.” The phone went silent while she waited. Her eyes wandered from room to room. Tears rolled down her cheeks. “Johnny, can you come over. It’s horrible.” She dropped the phone and fell to the ground in sobs.

When Johnny arrived, he opened the door and went inside, finding Mairi curled in a ball. “What happened?” He cradled her in his arms and picked her up. He talked soothing words to her as he laid her down on the couch. “You sit here. I’ll get a blanket.” He went into her bedroom and came out with a woolen blanket, wrapping it around her. He sat on the floor next to her. “Now, tell me exactly what happened.”

* * *

“Is he home yet?” Callum peeked in the window.

“Why are his cats outside? He wouldn’t have left them to starve. Let’s go in and make sure everything’s all right,” Fiona said.

Elspet turned the doorknob and they went in. “It looks all right to me. Let the cat’s in. They must be thirsty and hungry.” She filled their bowl up with water and poured some fresh cat food from the bag Angus kept by the back door.

Fiona and Callum rounded up the animals and herded them inside. “He’s not home yet. We might as well wait. I’m sure he’ll be here soon.”

They sat on the couch for a few minutes. “We might as well play with his blocks,” Callum said. He found them and poured them onto the floor. Within seconds Fiona and Elspet joined him. They were building a tall tower when the door opened.

“Uncle Angus! You’re back! We’ve been waiting for you. We want to go and get the next jewel.”

“I’m glad you’ve made yourself at home. Let me eat something and unload my bag and then we’ll see what we can do,” he said. When he sat in the chair near them he whispered in Fiona’s ear. “And where do you think you’ll go this time?”

Fiona laughed out loud. “I don’t care, Uncle Angus. I just want to hurry and get those jewels. There’s some strange things happening around here and the sooner we get them the better.”

“What do you mean, strange things?”

“Well, first of all, there’s Johnny and Jimmy Thomson,” Fiona said.

“They’re staying with our family in the guest rooms,” Callum said.

“There is something strange about them, but my mum likes Johnny, so he can’t be all bad.”

“All right; enough of this gossiping and wild imagination. You stand near the fire and I’ll get the orb.” Angus took it out of his bag and sat down again. “Are you ready? Oh my, I nearly forgot. You’ll need some money.” He pulled out a wad of paper money from his pocket. “One more thing, Fiona. You now have the power to make fire. All you have to do is command it in your mind.”

“Wow! Thanks for letting me know. It might come in handy, depending on where we go. Are you both ready?” She looked at Callum and Elspet. They nodded. “Daleth shapish yam,” Fiona said and the three of them disappeared.

“I don’t think she understood what I said to her about the fire, do you, Marmaduke?” The cat sat in front of him, waiting to climb into his lap. “Ah well, she’ll find out soon enough. I wonder where their adventure will lead this time.” Angus closed his eyes and enjoyed the warmth of the fire.


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