Interlude With Death
Copyright © 2015 Arietta Charles
Kensington Shaw bolted upright from the setee and looked around. The room was dark except for the Christmas tree. She had fallen asleep in the parlor with the tree lit once again. She groaned. Her father would have something to say if he ever learned of it. He didn’t trust the lights hung on Christmas trees. She didn’t either exactly. And she was pretty sure that he didn’t like them because he hadn’t thought of them first. It had nothing to do with fire. It had everything to do with ingenuity and invention.
She alleviated her own worries by purchasing a powder that was guaranteed to make the tree fire resistant. There was also the small fact that if anyone looked too closely they would see the tree wasn’t plugged in. She had enchanted them herself. It was a simple enchantment and Betty would have been quite proud if she knew.
She had no idea what she would do with the tree afterward. What could one do with a tree that wouldn’t burn? The label on Phoenix Fireproof Fix promised that it would never burn. Ever. Perhaps she could just leave it in the parlor all year long. The lights on the tree were considered the height of fashion. She could lead that fashion by leaving the tree lit all year. Then the elves would have a place to holiday during the summer.
She knew, of course, that there were no such things as Santa’s Elves but why take the chance? She had seen so much since she went into business for herself and most of it scared her. Couldn’t something wondrous also exist? Betty had been teasing her. She knew that. She didn’t actually believe that elves would be attracted by eggnog mixed with spider’s web powder but she couldn’t help it. She had to know for certain and had to see it for herself. If there were indeed elves helping Santa then Kensi wanted to speak to them and send a thank you note to Santa. The real Santa that brought joy. It had to be a thankless job.
Kensi caught movement out of the corner of her eye. She grasped the revolver that was under a throw pillow tight. She looked back. It looked like something dark had turned the corner into the room. She moved to turn on the table lamp.
“I would prefer if you didn’t do that,” said a voice from the darkest part of the room.
“Who are you?” Kensi asked getting up from her chair.
“My name is Marcus. I don’t mean you any harm,” he said admiring her tree.
“What do you want?”
“I thought we should speak. We seem to be in a lot of the same places recently,” he said moving toward her and settling into the chair across from her. “You can put the gun down. It won’t work on me anyway.”
She sat back down and stared at him. She couldn’t place his accent. That was really saying something since she had been everywhere. His suit was dark, his hair was dark, and yet he was pale. He had the face of an angel.
“I’ve never seen you before,” Kensi said.
“You haven’t seen me but I have seen you. You have a talent for finding the earthly remains of the souls that I collect. You have even created a few. I mean to talk to you about that. That last man was pulled into another dimension and I was unable to retrieve his soul. My books are unbalanced.” He didn’t look angry about his books not balancing he just looked- almost amused.
“You collect souls?” Kensi asked quietly. She didn’t care for the direction of the conversation.
“You needn’t be afraid of me Kensington Shaw. I’m not here to collect your soul. I have another reason for visiting. You have an unusual connection to death. I want to know how it is that you keep finding bodies? I want to understand you.”
“You just want to chat? You’re really not going to steal my soul?”
“Reapers don’t steal souls. They can’t.”
“That is good to know,” she said sliding the gun back beneath the throw pillow.
“You understand death,” he said quietly. “You have taken life so you understand.”
“No I haven’t,” Kensi insisted.
“Kensington, if I may call you that, you have taken life.”
“Not by choice. Jane was an accident and Foy was- he was holding a gun to my friends head. I wouldn’t call either of those choices,” she said straightening on the couch. “I sent Mr. Foy to another dimension? I didn’t know.”
“I’m not here to judge you Kensington, however, you did have a choice. You just made the decision that was better for the whole.”
“Why does a reaper want to talk over death with me?”
“I want to talk about how you find it,” he said.
“Here comes the and,” Kensi said aloud.
“And I want to know why you are drawn to it.”
“Why is any of that important?”
“You are drawn to death,” said Marcus. “Don’t you want to know why? I do.”
“No because I’m not drawn to it. Finding the odd dead body, though creepy and disturbing, is hardly cause for alarm. I’m not physically drawn to it. It’s not as if it’s calling to me. It is all an accident.”
“I suppose it’s possible that I am wrong,” he said.
“You don’t actually think that you’re wrong do you?” Kensi asked.
“What do you want to know?” Kensi asked. “Perhaps you could ask your questions and I will do my best not to take offense that you think I’m a killer.”
“I didn’t say anything of the sort,” he said with a smile and folded his hands in his lap.
“It’s what I heard. You really should be more careful Marcus.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” he said.
“You may proceed with your questions,” she said.
Kensi heard a faint scratching sound at the front door. Then she heard it at the windows. The scratching became louder and she and Marcus sat up straighter.
“I don’t suppose that you have a very large dog?” Marcus asked.
“No I do not.”
“Is anyone else in the house?” Marcus asked.
“No, My maid Livvy is with her sister in New York for the holidays and our cook is with her children in Philadelphia.”
“You gave your staff the whole of the holidays off?” He asked her as if he didn’t quite believe her.
“Yes. Don’t tell me you have the same preconceived notions that others have about me.”
“You speak of the vampire.” Marcus said not waiting for a conformation. “Yes I know who he is. He tries to make sense of death for the living. Admirable. And, no Kensington. I believe that you are completely unique in every way.”
“You know who he is but you don’t like him,” Kensi said.
“It isn’t personal. You could say that we are mortal enemies. Vampires should not walk the earth. They are unnatural. They are dead yet are sustained by magic so they live. They shouldn’t be.”
“Well, thank you for the compliment it was very kind,” she said watching Marcus get up from his chair and go to the window. He moved the curtain aside and surveyed the scene.
“Vampires have a brother species. The undead,” he said aloud. “And you have plenty of undead in your back garden at the present.”
“Forgive me but you do not look or sound so very worried that the undead are trying to obtain access to your home Kensington,” he said.
“Listen to me very carefully Kensington. Under no circumstances are you to obliterate any souls. Do you understand? Do not send them to another dimension or scramble them beyond all recognition with your hoodoo charms. It is my job to transport them safely- without incident.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” she said smiling.
“Why aren’t you worried?” He asked.
“My home is charmed. It would take something far more powerful than zombies to breach these walls. That’s how I know that you are not just any reaper.” He looked at her as if he were pleased. “A reaper could only gain entry if that reaper were called by a soul. As you know, the call of a soul is a very powerful thing. Since you have assured me that you are not here to collect my soul, and I am alone in the house, I can only imagine that you are not in fact a reaper but something more.”
Marcus smiled slyly and walked to the middle of the room. He looked to his left and right. He turned towards Kensi. She watched as large jet black wings fluttered into existence and unfurled behind him. Kensi walked over to him. She put out her hand to touch them so that she would know they were real. Her fingers made contact with feathers that were softer than anything she had ever felt before. Marcus took her other hand and pulled her closer.
“Who sent the undead to your door?”
“Who sent them or who could have sent them? In my line of work those are very different things. I would have to make a list,” she said.
“Oh Kensington,” he said with a smile. “If you had to guess?”
“Then I would imagine it was the mob. I’ve been having a little trouble with one of the families. It isn’t anything that I can’t handle.”
He tipped her chin up with one finger so that he could look into her eyes.
“I believe that there is nothing that you can’t handle but wouldn’t it be easier to have some help with the mob and the zombies?” Marcus asked.
“Yes I suppose it would. We should probably deal with the zombies first. They are starting to make a great deal of noise. How are you with magic?”
“Kensington,” he said smiling down at her. “I am the Angel of Death. I have the greatest magic that exists.”
“I suppose you would. Do you have any suggestions?” She asked as he leaned closer.
“I suspect that you have already formulated have a plan,” he said softly when he was just a hairs breath from her. “You can’t expect me not to be curious about what your plan. I would be an utter fool, in fact, to deny you your plan,” he said taking her hand and leading her upstairs.
“You have quite the collection,” he said surveying her bottles. He opened the lid of a chest and peered inside. He continued speaking quietly and Kensi was certain that she wasn’t meant to overhear. “Yes quite the collection indeed. This must be years worth of work. Impressive.”
Kensi watched him move gracefully around the room. He moved from one side to the other and back again fluidly. She found that it was calming to watch him. He looked like someone who believed the world could no longer surprise him and then found himself very much mistaken. Someone who found they didn’t quite have control over the whole of the universe as they believed they had. Someone who didn’t mind and even welcomed it.
“My plan is to use the stone of Redeeming Grace.”
“First, I am thoroughly impressed that you managed to obtain the stone. Secondly, how do you intend to use it?”
“I can use the stone in an act that redeems grace. That’s how it works. So that means I can use it to send their souls to the afterlife and there by redeeming their grace,” Kensi said it slowly as if she were actually working it out as she said it.
“Clever. I very much enjoy the fact that you think big Kensington.”
“Hopefully we can both enjoy it when the plan works. Tell me the truth. You could just wave your hands or something and make them go away couldn’t you?”
“Yes but this is far more enjoyable. I find that I love watching you work. Please carry on.”
He moved to the table in the middle of the room and took a seat. His suit was impossibly black in the lighting of the attic. She noticed it as she watched him. How could she not? He was mesmerizing to her just as if he were a hypnotist. He looked over the vials that stood at attention in ancient wooden racks. Each one had a stopper in the end with a tag.
“You made some of these. I can tell. Do your friends know exactly what your capable of?” He asked.
“No and I would prefer for it to stay that way.”
“They will never hear it from me. How do you explain what you sell to them?”
“I don’t. They don’t know how extensive my business is. I would like for that to remain a secret as well.”
“So they don’t know you at all. May I ask why?”
“They know me. They just wouldn’t understand this end of things,” she said taking a small box from a large chest. “I am selective as to who I sell to and what I am willing to sell that person. Betty would consider that bad form. She would say that I am trying to control the universe. I love her. She’s like a mother to me but you no-doubt know how witches are,” Kensi said.
“Yes I do. Tell me Kensington,” he said taking her hand as she sat down beside him. “How exactly are you able to create these magnificent concoctions if you are not a witch?”
“It is quite possible that my mother had witch or fey blood. Either would give me the ability to create these magnificent concoctions,” she said smiling as she looked down at them. “Even if I do say so myself.
“She passed away when you were just five. No child should lose someone so important so young,” he said looking down at her small hand as he covered it with his warm one.
“How did you know that?”
“Kensington,” he said touching his index finger to his temple.
“Oh. Then no I suppose not but I did have the best father imaginable. He indulged me as no other father would. I was allowed to do anything that I wanted as the youngest. He never even asked me to marry.”
“I see why. Your sisters have plenty of children between them. Tell me the truth Kensington, have you honestly never wanted to marry?”
“I have never met anyone that I could ever marry.”
“If your detective ever came to his senses and asked surely then,” he said.
“I have never met anyone that I could marry.” She smiled tightly and removed her hand from his slowly and regretfully. “There is a certain portion of my business that isn’t illegal but that detective Kane would find distasteful, morally objectionable, and deem it as being too dangerous. And it is,” she said opening the box that contained the stone. “It is for him.”
“But not for you?”
“Not as much but then again I know what I’m up against. I can protect myself. Besides everyone dies sometime.”
“That is true but don’t ever think that you have to resort to such measures to gain my attention. Here,” he said bringing a stone with silver writing on it from his inside jacket pocket. “Just hold it and speak my name. I will come to you.”
Kensi took the stone and slipped it into the small pocket on her deep red dress.
“Does this mean I can ask you to tea?” She asked.
“If you need me call for me.”
His eyes were serious. She looked away from him. She knew what this was about. He thought her reckless. That was fine because she felt reckless at the moment. Kane gave her that look but she was sure he did it because he found her silly and vapid. She didn’t have to hide who she was from Marcus like she did Kane. He completely understood her. More importantly, he accepted her just as she was. He made the perfect friend.
“Kensington,” he said putting a finger lightly to her chin and urging her to look at him.
“I will. I promise.”
He let go of her and she got to her feet.
“So what does the Angel of Death do in his spare time?” Kensi asked as she rubbed the top of the box with fingers that were unaware of what they were doing.
“I don’t have much spare time but the time I do have I spend reading.”
“What do you read?”
“Naturally,” she said smiling.
“You are very enlightened for a soul Kensington,” he said teasing her as if zombies were not reeking havoc outside her front door. She should have been acting quickly. Minutes had already ticked away. It was only a matter of time before someone noticed. In the dark she was certain that her uninvited guests looked like revelers. All of that was fact but she didn’t want Marcus to go. She was enjoying their conversation. It felt so good not to hide so hurrying wasn’t something she was inclined to do.
“That’s what I’m told.”
“By the vampire?” He asked.
“No, no,” she said shaking a finger at him. “I believe the detective and I are making some headway but he isn’t handing out compliments just yet,” Kensi said.
She didn’t add that she would not be pulled into a conversation concerning Nathaniel Kane. She had the night off from him. Besides, she was still beating herself up over the fact that she had not realized what he was. There was also that small matter of him being shot between the eyes. That had been traumatic. She wasn’t sure why she felt a twinge of guilt about that but she did.
“He should be, but fair enough,” Marcus said.
“Oh Marcus,” Kensi sighed. “Flattery will get you a long way but not just at this moment. As I always say; zombies first, flattery second.”
“Must we call them Zombies Kensington? Perhaps ‘the undead’ suits them just as well?”
“You are the Angel of Death; I supposed you get to choose,” Kensi said as she continued to weigh the options.
“Do you have a back up plan if the stone doesn’t work?” Marcus asked.
“Not exactly but I will have one if the time comes.”
“They are beginning to climb the walls. I heard glass breaking downstairs. Perhaps formulating a back up plan isn’t a bad idea.”
Kensi didn’t say a word. She walked to the opposite side of the room carrying the box where the stone sat nestled on a small pillow.
“We should probably get started before they break all of windows,” she said.
Kensi sat on the floor on the opposite side of the attic. She took several deep breaths and recited the incantation in Latin. She opened the lid of the box and began chanting the incantation over and over. The stone glowed a deep blue and then a bright white. Then a burst of energy knocked her backward.
“Kensington,” Marcus yelled leaping for her.
Kensi watched as the white light got brighter and brighter. She couldn’t watch anymore and had to close her eyes. She felt Marcus’s arms go around her and pull her up against him. That was when she heard it. Wings. She looked at Marcus but it wasn’t him. When the light finally began to wane she could look back at the stone. It was gone but a woman stood just beyond the box.
She wasn’t just a woman though. She was an angel. Complete with bright white wings. She was tall and blond and looked like everything that Kensi had ever read about angels. She even wore a white dress. The angel looked at Kensi and Marcus. In turn they looked at her.
“Since when is an angel called by the Stone of Redeeming Grace, Cass?” Marcus asked.
“Since your human picked it up. Everyone is watching her. She has made some very important people very nervous. It is my turn. Why are you here? You,” Cass said pointing at Marcus. “Were told to stay away from this human.”
At no point did Cass even look at Kensi or say her name. Cass ignored her all together.
“It isn’t anyone’s business where I spend my time. It’s not even the business of the bureaucrats that you work for,” Marcus said with a smile. “If I want to be her friend I will be her friend.”
“Then why is she resorting to using the Stone if you’re such a good and caring friend?” Cass asked.
“I wanted to use it. I wanted to release the souls of the “undead” that are downstairs breaking my windows. It shouldn’t be up to him to fix everything,” Kensi said. “This was my choice.”
Cass finally looked at Kensi. It wasn’t kind and benevolent. In fact she looked at Kensi astonished. It was the kind of look Kensi would give a seal at the zoo if it began to randomly start speaking English or started to read from a dictionary.
“I will grant this one request because it benefits the whole. This courtesy will not be extended again no matter who your friends are or who you make nervous. We do not clean up the messes that humans make.”
For the very first time in her entire life Kensington Shaw was speechless. She could only nod as Cass began to radiate white light again. When it was too bright she turned her head into Marcus’s chest. Then Cass was gone.
“That was a humbling experience,” Kensi said. “I usually-“
Marcus leaned down and kissed her temple.
“I-I was going to say that I usually have a witty retort ready,” she said staring up at him.
“You are extraordinary Kensington. Would it be alright if I called on you again?”
“I would love that,” Kensi said coming back to herself.
“Alright,” Marcus said smiling as he pulled back from Kensi. “Cass fixed your windows as well as removing any trace of the undead. So you shouldn’t have any physical evidence laying around. Kensington I- your friend Detective Kane is here. I will bid you goodnight. You most likely have explanations to formulate. Your neighbors will not remember what happened here tonight but any of the various other kinds of undead will. Your Detective qualifies.”
He took her hand and kissed it.
“Good night Marcus.”
“Good night Kensington.”
“Will I see you again soon?” Kensi asked.
“I will call on you when you have almost forgotten about me,” he said letting go of her hand. “You cannot invite me for tea. It’s against the rules. You heard Cass. I must be selective about when I visit.” He met her eyes. “I will visit you Kensington.”
“What are you going to do about the mob?” Marcus asked.
“I’ll work it out. Please don’t worry for me,” she said.
He smiled. He did nothing lately but worry for this creature. He turned towards the door and vanished right in front of her. Leaving her life just as quietly as he had entered it. Kensi finally came back to herself. Kane. He was downstairs. She wasn’t sure if a single foot touched a step as she flew to the first floor. She stopped short of the front door and straightened her dress and hair.
“Miss Shaw?” Kane yelled.
She opened the door with all of the dignity and grace she could muster and looked out at him.
“Miss Shaw I’ve been beating on your door for five minutes. Are you alright?”
“Yes of course.”
“I received a report of zombies in the area,” Kane said.
“Zombies? Here? I am afraid you are quite mistaken Detective Kane. There was a party moving down the street earlier but I simply turned up my music and they were no bother at all. Are you alright? You appear to be in a great deal of distress. Would you like to come in?”
“Yes I would like to check for myself.”
“As you like but you won’t find evidence of zombies here,” Kensi said as he had passed.