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Fiction Fantasy Science Fiction


A soft voice from behind me asked,


“Will you be there tonight, Miss Livingston?”


I turned abruptly to face a taller-than-average man with wavy dark hair in a longer style; some might think of it as shaggy.


It curled around his ears and the collar of his jacket. We had bumped into each other several times since he moved into the East Wind Condominiums.


But it took a minute for me to respond to Mr. Ian Jones’ question.


“Umm… Yes, I received your invitation and I’m planning to be there,”


I answered.


I was caught off guard by his blue eyes. They were a shade of blue that made me think there just might be a heaven after all. However, I doubted heaven was in his zip code as I watched Mr. Jones move across the lobby.


His stride appeared to be slow and confident, and yet somehow, he crossed the expansive tiled lobby in seconds. I couldn’t describe it; a blur came to mind.


The flight from Seattle seemed more tiring than usual, so I brushed it off as fatigue.


Something compelled me to turn for another look as I started toward the elevator, and it occurred to me that the man didn’t know the magnetism he emanated as he greeted other residents of the Upper East side condominiums. Even the subdued doorman smiled broadly and waved to him. 


My first stop was for my cat, she spends most of my time away with the old lady down the hall or ‘A. Pendergrass,’ according to the name on her mailbox. Mrs. P., as everyone addresses her, provides a cozy little kitty daycare for a few cats whose owners live in the condos. 


I used the creepy brass knocker on the old lady’s door. Was it an animal’s head, I pondered? Possibly a wolf; I wasn't sure the ugly thing needed a maximum-strength brass cleaner.


A tall younger woman with beautiful silver hair answered the door.

She introduced herself,


“Good evening, I’m


Celeste,” she added, “You must be Samantha."


She informed me that her aunt was out for the evening with a group of her close friends.


I stepped into a foyer, off the kitchen, and there it was—the pitcher of Lemonade, like Cerberus guarding the gates of Hades. Always in the same place on the breakfast bar.


Straight ahead, I could see the tall carpet-covered cat tree in front of a window that ran the full length of the wall on that side of the condo. 


The sunset in the background cast an eerie glow over the expensive antiques that made up most of the room’s decor.


Dust floated in the air, captured by a string of fading light, and a hint of burning incense hung in the room.


Presumably to cover up any lingering odor from the cats’ litter boxes. Even so, it gave me an uneasy feeling that occurred with more frequency in recent weeks, a feeling that there was something here that I was missing.


As I expected my cat occupied the top

perch. She's all black, and possesses extra toes on all four of her paws in the thumb position, thus her name—Thumbelina.


I didn’t call out to her, it was obvious by the narrow slits of her eyes squinting my way and the slow, deliberate tail switching against the soft surface that she wasn’t ready to leave.


Celeste picked up on her mood, too, and she suggested I return later.


Since I planned to be out late, I proposed returning in the morning, thinking it might work better for her aunt if I returned then for Thumbelina.


Celeste agreed, and we said,


"Goodnight."


Both condos are on the seventh floor, so it’s only a short walk to my door. I held my key fob to the sensor and let myself into a very enthusiastic greeting from a one-hundred-twenty pound Gallagher. My Irish Wolfhound with the heart of a friendly, docile Lab.


I hurried to dress, I was nearing the end of a research assignment and I hoped to finish it in the next few days. The impromptu get-together provided a means to shed more light on disturbing reports coming from the area around the address on the invitation. 


My dress was a simple dark green leather and I brushed my straight, light, auburn hair to one side, leaving it to flow over the shoulder. I chose to wear only my freckles as accessories. 


The Upper East Side society scene was never a good fit for me, but I was detailed here by my Seattle-based employer. 


Nevertheless, I remained a laid-back West Coast girl through and through, most at home in jogger-style pants and flats.


I took the phone from my evening bag to recheck the location of the night’s venue. Fleur De Lis is a member-only club on 54th Street in midtown Manhattan.


The car I arranged for arrived on time; as usual, the midtown traffic was backed up despite the late hour.


When we reached my destination, I got out of the car and entered via the alley through a door with a neon sign above it that read ‘PRIVATE.’ 


The bouncer asked for my invitation in a tone that revealed an arrogant, distrustful nature. I handed it to him, not a thank you or any actual recognition from tall, dark, and gruesome, just a blank stare.


After I dropped my shrug at the coat check, I started toward the bar for a drink.


When I passed the dance floor, I observed a few couples dancing to a slow romantic ballad. There was a DJ on a raised platform not far from the dance floor. Otherwise, the room was still mostly empty. 


Blue string lights hung from the ceiling; candles flickered on the tables where a few guests talked and enjoyed their drinks while snacking on hors d'oeuvres.


With my glass of white wine in hand I moved to a small table in the farthest corner.


There, I checked my surroundings as inconspicuously as possible, hoping not to raise speculation that I was anything other than another party-goer.


It’s not that I am paranoid or afraid. But, my work for a secretive paranormal research facility in Seattle involves all things classified under the paranormal phenomena umbrella.


The most common incidents are purported UFO sightings and claims of alien abductions that lead nowhere. 


However, there are many substantiated accounts in the extraterrestrial category that have come to my attention.


Many are well-documented and credible reports from people who have been taken by unidentified craft and experimented on by what can only be described as nonhuman beings.


Then there’s my personal favorite, that being the reports of vampire attacks. It’s baffling how many young women swear they were the unwitting victim of a gorgeous vampire’s thirst.


The romance myth has been fostered in more recent years by popular literary characters.


In my experiences with Nosferatu, there is no doubt in my mind that they are creatures driven by bloodlust and not romance.


 One of my most stupefying cases involved townspeople alleging that an elderly farmer in Wisconsin was time traveling, in a time machine. Someone in that town was definitely 'trippin' alright. However, it wasn’t the farmer. 


The work is always intriguing, but sometimes the research concludes that the phenomena are more normal than the paranormal. 


I looked up to find him standing in front of my table. All I knew about our host was that he had recently moved in on the thirteenth floor of the Upper East Side Condominiums.


“Are you having an enjoyable evening, Miss Livingston,”


Mr. Jones inquired.


“Yes, I’m having a pleasant enough evening,”


I said curtly. 


Although he was not an easy man to ignore I averted my eyes to concentrate on my reason for having accepted his invitation in the first place.


Not that I expected to see anything as overtly obvious as happy hour at the Star Wars Bar, but the number of incidents in my investigation that occurred within walking distance of the club made it, if not the common denominator.


It was undoubtedly a location that I needed to rule out before moving on.


So far, the evidence collected bore out the claims contained in the case file. The bulk of complaints revealed blood sacrifices, mutilated rodent carcasses strewn about, people taken by force from several homeless shelters, and loud chanting that continued until dawn.


I finished the wine, texted my driver, and stood up to leave. Everything around me shimmered, and I clung to the table to steady myself. I remained motionless as I tried to recall the location of the entrance.


The music was louder, and lights pulsated around the crowded dance floor. A grey-clad figure turned and walked in my direction.


To my horror, I was sure I would puke on his shiny shoes if he came any closer.


The room began to spin and I spiraled downward. Someone reached out to catch me before I tumbled less than gracefully to the floor. One of my last memories was the familiar fragrance of Sandalwood, an incense used in protection spells. The scent I had detected earlier in the evening. But the thought slipped away as I realized that I didn’t know whether it was my nemesis, or my savior, grasping me tightly in their arms.


The next thing I knew, Gallagher was whining outside the bedroom door, and blurry numbers on the digital clock across from me flashed eight-forty-five. 


I rolled to the side of the bed and sat on the edge, trying to piece together the events from last evening.


Gallagher grew more insistent in his attempts to get my attention. 


As I stood up, I smoothed my dress and tried to ready myself before letting Galley in.


I barely got the door halfway open before the Wolfhound pushed past it, nearly wiggling and twisting himself into a pretzel around my legs. After which, he excitedly checked out the entire room and finally settled down for a little snooze.


After a quick shower and change of clothes, I walked down the hall to the old lady’s door.


Before I could knock, the door swung open; she greeted me with a wry smile, invited me in, and shut the door. Standing at the end of the hallway, holding a glass of lemonade, was a dark figure I recognized immediately. 


“Good morning, Miss Livingston,” he drawled.


The old lady placed her hand on my arm as she said,


“Samantha Livingston, I believe you know Mr. Jones, Ian Jones?”

“Oh yes, yes I do,”

I answered tentatively.


I tried to act nonchalant, even though I seethed inside, as I walked past him to Thumbelina, still sitting on her throne exactly where I had left her.


I looked the mysterious Mr. Ian Jones over for a minute, then I mumbled,


“We need to talk,”

he nodded in agreement.

“Now,”

I added a little louder than I intended to.


“I’ll be back later for Thumbelina,” 

I told Mrs. P. 


He finished the lemonade, placed the glass on the counter, and kissed her on the cheek as we left.

 As soon as the door closed behind us,


I whispered, 


“How can you drink that obnoxious sour concoction?”


Mr. Jones answered me with a crooked smile that turned up a corner of his lips.


My voice rose a couple of octaves after we entered my condo; I demanded he tell me,


“What in the hell happened last night?”


Mr. Jones answered,


“I believe you may have passed out.”

“No” I insisted loudly; I was drugged!”


He eyed me calmly, and in turn, I glared

at him.


Our heated conversation made Gallagher nervous, and he sauntered over to me. He whimpered softly and wagged his tail as he sniffed out the situation and parked himself at my feet to keep an eye on things. 


When Mr. Jones spoke, his voice had a hint of a British accent that I had somehow missed before.


He conceded that he knew someone added a drug to my drink but didn’t want to say for sure until he had further information.


“Excuse me, Sir,” I said, “Please do not mistake me for some little lady who needs your protection.”


Mr. Jones acknowledged my remark with a slight tilt of his chin.


At the moment, my priority was finding out how he got me home without causing a scene at the club or, more importantly, here in the condominiums.


Mr. Jones's smile seemed a bit apprehensive as he tried to ease my concern. He believed no one at Fleur-de-lis's noticed or cared if they did see that I was in distress or that he assisted me in leaving,


“It just so happened that your driver pulled up to the curb as we approached the corner,” 

he assured me.


As for here in the downstairs lobby, the staff on duty expressed concern but didn’t ask questions or interfere.


Trying to remain calm, I asked, my voice trembling because my work requires a low

profile.


“Are you positive that no one noticed you either at the club or in the lobby here, helping a drunk-appearing woman to the elevator, to my door... To my bed?"


“Absolutely not, Mr. Jones interrupted, I acted discreetly. As far as anyone knows, you were feeling dizzy! Nothing inappropriate happened Ms. Livingston.”


Mr. Jones’ voice softened to a whisper as he expressed how lovely he thought I was lying there on the bed.


That caused my heart to beat a little faster and my cheeks flushed in a bright crimson hue for a second.


Then the enigmatic man from the thirteenth floor mentioned that he, along with a worried Gallagher, stayed with me for several hours to administer an antidote minimizing the drug’s effects on me.


Of course, the first thing that came to mind was, did I drool?


It hit me then, who in the hell is this Ian Jones? What did he know about drugs and their antidotes? What did he know about me?


Mr. Jones asked that I sit down, motioning to a chair next to the window. With Galley in tow, I did as he asked, and he took a chair directly across from mine.


His handsome face showed some hesitation as he explained his reason for being in New York.


It was to observe certain

covens, as in witches’ covens.


“I’m the head of a council of watchers whose purpose is to govern those who wield the power of magic.”


The secret society oversees and monitors the motivation behind practitioners of magic using their gifts. 


“Miss Livingston, he said, his voice becoming serious, “I am what you might call a warlock, a male witch, from a long lineage of of witches before me.”


I straightened in my chair and tried not to act impressed,


"A warlock from a whole dang family of witches, that explains a lot,”


I said sarcastically.


Ignoring my remark, Mr. Jones continued to explain the differences in certain ritualistic practices and the use of Wicca- a nature-oriented religion that he follows.


It was a tutorial I didn’t require and I was growing impatient. So, I reminded him in a rather brash manner,


 “Ah... I told the old lady I would be back for my cat this morning.”

And without taking a breath, I asked,

“Oh, by the way, why were you there earlier—anyway?” 


Turned out the old lady is his Great Aunt; he emphasized her name,


“Agatha,”

when he said it.


I assumed she was one of the long lineage

of witches.


To my surprise, her niece, Celeste, is his mother. I remembered the blue eyes, though I didn't find them as facinating as her son's.


Great Aunt Agatha practices only

white magic and she hoped to put a stop to the increase in black magic rituals on the Upper East Side.


Since I’d failed to engage with her, Agatha thought I might be more forthcoming with her niece.


I never discussed my work or its findings with outsiders, it is covert research and not for public consumption. 


As far as Celeste was concerned, I met her on one occasion, and I was in a rush to dress for his party.


Why was the pitcher sitting there in full view, in the same place as when the old… I mentally corrected myself, as when Great Aunt Agatha was home.


Besides the fact it tasted like something brewed in a cauldron, I’m confident the lemonade was an amulet or a conduit to invoke a spell for protection, purification, or something connected to friendships. Either to protect existing friends or to draw others in or both.


“Does Mrs. P.’s kitty daycare serve only as a means to gather information,” I asked,


He admitted,

“Yes, initially, it was to gain information on other residents to discover if sorcery was practiced in the condos. 


His party the prior evening was also to gain information for

his Great Aunt. It was successful in drawing someone out, but it remains unclear who that was and why they targeted me.


As for the mages who delved into sorcery and the black arts, they would be sanctioned internally by the council of watchers


Before he got to his feet, Mr. Jones informed me of his plans to remain in Manhattan for the foreseeable future.


As I escorted my guest

to the door, he turned to me with a cajoling smile and said softly,


“Samantha, I was hoping you might consider working with me to ferret out the evil afoot in the city. Will you think about it?” 


I expressed my concerns about Seattle’s reaction to that, and he quickly pointed out that they would likely see the benefit of our working together to find perpetrators of the attack on me.


The prospect of working with him was tempting and I promised as the door closed,


“Mr. Jones, I will call you.”


Gallagher nuzzled the back of my leg. It was time for a walk, and on our return, we would stop for Thumbelina.












September 26, 2023 16:19

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7 comments

Karalee Ratliff
22:01 Oct 04, 2023

An interesting read indeed. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to follow in this format. I am an old paragraph writer. This style boggled my brain. I did like the thought behind the story and concepts. Liked how the cat got her name and that only wore freckles. I giggled. I am not much for adorning exterior items either. Good job.

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Judith Jerdé
01:17 Oct 05, 2023

Karalee, tell me more, I’m pretty new to writing and have much to learn. Thank you so much for reading the story. I

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Danie Holland
12:56 Sep 29, 2023

"She's all black, and possesses extra toes on all four of her paws in the thumb position, thus her name—Thumbelina." - clever name, I liked this "I chose to wear only my freckles as accessories." - great line Thanks for the read, gave off great "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" vibes. Best, Danie

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Judith Jerdé
13:50 Sep 29, 2023

Danie, Thank you so much for the review.

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Mary Bendickson
06:06 Sep 29, 2023

Seems like this story has much more to it.

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02:34 Sep 29, 2023

An interesting urban fantasy story you've written. I'm intrigued how they are all connected and what Ian Jones' agenda is. Some of your character descriptions are really vivid and well written, lines like.. "Something compelled me to turn for another look as I started toward the elevator, and it occurred to me that the man didn’t know the magnetism he emanated as..." One editing suggestion, where's there's dialogue, the he said she said part is usually on the same line right after the ",". so delete the line break in places like this -> “...

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Judith Jerdé
03:09 Sep 29, 2023

Thank you so much that is very helpful and I appreciate you reading the story

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