Authors: Tonya Kappes
“Order!” Petunia banged the gavel on the table that was placed in front of The Gathering Rock.
There were folding chairs set up in front of them for all of us to sit. Everyone hurried to find a seat as Petunia began to read off the docket.
“First I would like to welcome all the new shop owners.” She pushed a falling stick from her hair back into it, sending a few dried leaves out the other side. “Hidden Treasures is owned by Violet Draper. Violet’s son Gene is also a new member of our community. Gene will be attending Hidden Halls in a couple of weeks. Violet is a Cyclomancy spiritualist.”
I looked over with a smile on my heart. Violet was a wonderful mother, but I knew Gene was going to love Hidden Halls and I couldn’t wait to talk to him about it. Plus, it was exciting to have a Cyclomancer among us. Hidden Treasures, her consignment and clothing shop, was a perfect cover for her gift.
“Scented Swan Candles is owned by Chandler Swan.” When Petunia called his name, Chandler stood up and waved to the group. “Chandler’s spiritual gift is Ceromancy.”
Another exciting gift
I thought as the excitement bubbled up inside me. It was going to be great having these new merchants and new friends. Chandler was able to melt wax or simply gaze into a flame of a burning candle to interpret what he saw into prophecy. Fascinating.
“Cherry Merry owns Blue Moon Gallery along with her brother Perry. Our very own Faith Mortimer will have her first photography viewing over the All Hallows’ Eve week. Be sure to stop by.” Petunia leaned over as Gerald whispered something. “Oh, Cherry and Perry are both Psychometry spiritualists.”
This caught my attention. This means that she can form impressions that may come in the form of emotions, sounds, scents, tastes or images. A gallery was a pretty cool shop and a perfect way to cover up her gift.
“Please welcome Leah LeRoy.” Petunia must really like her because she gave her a clap. “I personally am excited because Leah owns Crazy Crafty Chick and has invited all of us to ceramic night tomorrow night. I’m going to be making a cute cat with a witch’s hat for Halloween. So please join us in front of the shop tomorrow night at ten pm.”
“Yes, please come.” Leah greeted everyone and smiled. “I’m a Clairsentience and thrilled to be part of the village.”
A Clairsentience was able to pick up on sensations and art was a wonderful way to do that.
“And we are thrilled to welcome a longtime friend to our village, KJ.” All the council smiled as everyone looked over at him. “He’s just like family around here and he owns Happy Herb. He is a Native American Spiritualist that has exactly what you need for any potions, spells, scents,” Petunia shrugged, “anything.”
KJ waved and smiled. It was such a joy to have him here.
“Unfortunately, our last shop owner isn’t able to attend.” Petunia stood up. Everyone’s eyes were on her. “Patch Potter owns Potter’s Pumpkin Patch. Even though the pumpkin patch is really only open to the public during peak autumn hours, he is also the head farmer of the new agri-hood. I’m sorry to remind you that Patch’s twin brother Patty was found deceased in the pumpkin patch early this morning. I’m expecting the Karima sisters to be here any minute to give us a preliminary report on the autopsy along with Sheriff Oscar Park.”
“We are here.” Oscar appeared with the Karima sisters next to him. “We are currently going to investigate Patty Potter’s death as a homicide. I currently have Sheriff Colton Lance at the station for questioning and we are asking any of you to come forward if you have seen or heard anything that might help in bringing the killer to justice.”
An audible gasp waved across the community members. A few of them leaned into their neighbor and whispered.
“Is it true a wand was stuck in his side?” Chandler seemed a bit too interested in the gory details.
“There was.” Constance Karima waddled up in front of Oscar.
“There was.” Patience joined her. She pushed her glasses up on the bridge of her nose and looked at her sister.
“The wand was just a cover as it didn’t puncture any vital organs to cause death.” Constance looked at Patience. Patience smiled at her sister.
“No vital organs.” Patience nodded.
“We found traces of boric acid in his system. Of course this is just a preliminary test.” Constance was interrupted by her sister.
“Mmmhmmm, preliminary.” Patience giggled.
Constance gave her the stink eye before she turned back to the crowd.
“This means that somehow he ingested it and they tried to cover it up with the wands,” she finished.
“If that’s the case, why is Colton in custody if the wand didn’t kill him?” Gene chirped from his seat in the front. “I mean, my mom took me to the pumpkin patch and I saw that murdered man yell at the woman with the camera too.”
“You are going to make a fine wizard.” Oscar discounted him which made me pause. Gene had a good point.
“This is an ongoing investigation. I’m just holding Sheriff Lance for questioning. Again, I’m asking any of you to come forward with any information you might have even if you don’t think it will help with the investigation.” Oscar looked over at Izzy.
“Thank you Sheriff Park for the update.” Izzy planted her hands on the table in front of her. “I’d like to talk to you about the new agri-hood and the findings of the Order of Elders.” Izzy Solstice stood up. She pushed back her long blond wavy hair before she rubbed her hands down her black a-frame skirt with small pumpkins dotted all over it. “As many of you know, Locust Grove owns all the land around us and had development plans for the new neighborhood. There has been a lot of interest in our land bringing much, too much, attention to our way of living. The Order of Elders felt it was important to get the heat off of us, so we might as well join them. I know we can keep our world a secret from them and our lives separate. Our meetings will have to be late at night, but most of us work well at night. A witch hunt is the last thing we need.”
I gulped. Ophelia’s words
we are becoming a dying breed
stabbed at my intuition. I reached into my bag and dug down deep to grab my June’s Gem as incomplete thoughts swirled around my head.
The council passed Faith’s proposal for a physical paper version of the
Whispering Falls Gazette
for the mortals while she would still deliver the paper to the spiritualists through the air. I tried to follow along but my mind was wrapped around other things. Like the dying breed statement.
What exactly did that mean? Did Patty know something that we didn’t and that’s why he was killed? Did Ophelia know something?
“That was a long meeting.” Oscar walked up next to me as Violet and Gene joined us.
“Hi, buddy.” Oscar raked his hand across Gene’s head and mussed up his hair. “This is for you.” Oscar pulled out a sheriff’s badge paper sticker that he gave out to all the kids in Locust Grove.
Gene tugged on Oscar’s sleeve.
“You said to report anything big or small.” Gene’s small voice was quickly silenced by Violet.
“Gene, you have taken up enough of Oscar and June’s time back on Tulip Island.” She laughed. “He wants to be an officer, if you haven’t already noticed.”
“You’ll make a fine officer.” Oscar winked. “I hear you are going to school at Hidden Halls.”
Gene nodded with his lips tucked together.
“June and I went there and you are going to love it.” Oscar continued to talk as I bent down to get my smudge items together.
.” The sputter of lips got my attention. “
I looked around The Gathering Rock as I collected the smudging pack and noticed a flutter of leaves swirling in the woods. I sucked in a deep breath and glanced around me. Oscar and Violet were engrossed with talking to Gene so they wouldn’t notice if I walked into the woods.
“June,” Ophelia’s eyes were bright. She looked scared. “I’m going to take you up on your offer to stay in your home in Locust Grove.”
“Okay.” My brows furrowed. There was a numbness to her as if her feelings were paralyzed.
“Like now?” she asked. Mr. Prince Charming appeared from behind her. “He’s been keeping me company.” She shrugged, a weak smile curled on the edges of her lips.
I looked down at my fairy-god cat. He was doing figure eights around Ophelia’s ankles, letting me know it was a good idea to take her.
“Come on.” I flung my bag across my torso and headed through the wooded area to the west so we’d be covered by the trees, dense as they were this time of the year.
The wooded area ran along the back of my cottage and I knew we could get there without being seen, but my El Camino would be seen leaving my house.
The snap of a branch cracked in the distance. Ophelia and I stopped, looking at each other with wide open eyes.
“Please,” she begged in a whisper. There was a scared plea in her tone. “I’m begging you to get me out of here.”
I grabbed her hand and we took off toward the house. Mr. Prince Charming darted ahead of us giving us the easiest and fastest trail. We stopped once we made it to the back of the cottage. I dug down into my bag and grabbed my keys. Without a word I held them up and gave her the nod once Mr. Prince Charming darted to the Green Machine.
After we got into the car, I started it. Mr. Prince Charming jumped up on the dash and took his usual spot. Once we were settled I put the shift in drive and headed down the hill and out of town without looking in the rear view mirror.
If Oscar saw me and I saw him, my guilt would want me to stop and let him know what I was doing, especially since he did lead me to believe he wanted to talk to Ophelia. According to the by-laws, any spiritualist who was a suspect in a crime was not allowed to leave Whispering Falls until the crime was solved.
“Thank you.” Ophelia spoke as the wooden sign on the side of the road that posted we were leaving Whispering Falls darted past us. “I know that you probably just went against Oscar’s wishes.”
“I didn’t.” I dragged my bag into my lap and dug my hand down into it and grabbed two June’s Gems, handing her one. If I ever needed a stress relief, it was now. “He never once named you a suspect, though I do believe that he wanted to. In fact, my intuition tells me that Colton might’ve swayed Oscar from bringing you in.”
“I’m telling you right now that Colton didn’t kill Patty.” Her words were bitter and sharp. She took a bite of her June’s Gem.
“Did you?” Yep, I went there.
“No!” she yelled through a mouthful of chocolate. “I’d never kill Patty even though I wanted to years ago.”
“Can you tell me what happened between the three of you when you were in boarding school?” I asked and headed straight out of town.
Mr. Prince Charming remained sitting and staring out the windshield. His body moved with the curves of the old country road between Whispering Falls and Locust Grove.
“I really want to tell you, but I can’t.” She lowered her head. Her fingers fiddled with the half-eaten Gem.
“I can’t help Colton or you for that matter if you can’t come clean with me,” I pointed out and gripped the wheel with both hands after I stuck the rest of the Gem in my mouth, hoping to get a stress relief.
“I’m sworn.” Her words disappeared into the air. “Just trust me when I tell you that Colton didn’t do it. And I don’t want to leave him. But I have to.”
“Okay.” I held tighter to the wheel so as not to lose my cool. “You said something that really struck a chord with me last night.”
“What?” she asked, looking over at me.
“You said that we were a dying breed.” I glanced over at her. On the curve, the moon penetrated the windshield and cast a shadow down her face. “Oh my God.” I gasped. “Are you a Dark-Sider?”
Ophelia said nothing and the silence hung between us as I thought about the implications. There was nothing worse than the betrayal of a best friend. The day Ophelia Biblio moved to Whispering Falls, she portrayed herself as something she obviously wasn’t. I’m not saying a Dark-Sider was a bad spiritualist. Even though according to the past, they weren’t the easiest going. But Raven Mortimer and Eloise are Dark-Siders and they are amazing.
“June, you haven’t said a word the entire twenty-minute drive.” Ophelia broke the silence once we pulled up to my family home on the outskirts of Locust Grove.
“I’m hurt.” I slammed the gear into park and adjusted myself in the seat to face her. “When you and Colton came to Whispering Falls with Alise.” I’d totally forgotten about Colton’s mom being with them. “You knew I was Village President at the time and I had just transitioned the community of Whispering Falls from a Good-Sider community only to a more diverse village, accepting Dark-Siders.”
After I’d met the Mortimer sisters, I knew that Whispering Falls was missing out on some good residents, so the first thing I did as president was to amend the law to incorporate everyone in the spiritual community.
“You knew that, so I’m not sure why you have kept your heritage a secret. Especially with me.” The hurt run deep to my toes.
Many times I’d confided in Ophelia and many times had Oscar confided in Colton.
“I’m not saying I’m not going to tell you everything,” her voice cracked. “I just need time to think about it. And you allowing me to stay here will help me do that.”
“Does your secret with Patty have anything to do with you being a Dark-Sider?” My gut told me I was on the right track.
“Please let me tell you on my own time.” Her eyes dragged up to mine. “Please promise me you will do everything in your power to figure out who killed Patty and get Colton off the hook.”
I stared at her.
“Promise me,” she begged.
“I promise.” I wasn’t sure if I’d just made a deal with my new enemy or my old best friend.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee wafted through the house, tickling my nose. Or at least I thought it was tickling my nose.
When I opened my eyes, Mr. Prince Charming was standing on top of me, dragging his tail under my nose. Oscar was sitting on the edge of my side of the bed with a cup of steaming coffee waiting for me in his hand.