Witch Sister, Wolf Brother
A Hallowedspell Novel; Deacon Tales: Tale Five
To those with difficult families. . . which is most of us.
BookRix GmbH & Co. KG
The Big Bad Wolf
The murmur of the librarian reading to the children drew Howard Richard Deacon the Third's attention to the children's section. There, about a dozen or so kids sat on the carpet surrounded by large stuffed animals and shelves upon shelves of colorful flat books and bright cheerful posters encouraging them to read. Her voice was soothing--except when she recited the lines of the wolf as it tempted the Seven Kids to open the door of their home in the story. 'Rick' Deacon leaned on the wall dividing the children's section from the adult section, listening to the familiar fairytale. Behind him various people were using the computers to access the internet or studying at the tables with books spread out, the general murmur low. As the fable drew closer to the end, the children drew in their breaths--especially as the wolf finally tricked the baby goats with a silky smooth voice to open the door. Straight after, the children squealed as the wolf gobbled all of the kids up, except the one who hid in the grandfather clock. The children's eyes were wide, almost teary.
Then she said the mother Goat came home. She found the youngest kid and heard the tale, then promptly went to her kids' rescue. Bemused and interested, Rick listened to the children gasp as the librarian described how the she-goat filled the wolf's stomach with heavy rocks. And the same rocks summarily caused the wolf to drown when it attempted to get a drink from the river. As the Goat and Seven Kids lived happily ever after, the children cheered.
He heard one child say as she rose, "That wolf got what he deserved. They are so evil."
"Really?" Rick asked, unable to stop himself.
The little girl looked up, shocked. Yet even then she lifted her chin, tossing her rust brown hair as she declared, "Yes, all the stories say so!"
"Hmm." Rick frowned a little. "A little unfair, I think."
"Why?" Her brother retorted. He was eight, bold and almost as cocky as Rick remembered being at that age.
Rick shrugged and said, "Oh, just that people are scarier. Nobody ever asks what Old MacDonald does to the animals on his farm. Just that they make a lot of noise."
"Huh?" The girl tilted her head, staring at him. Her blue eyes were as innocent as her stare.
"What I mean," Rick said, stooping down to meet her gaze on a more equal level, "Is that we eat hamburger and fried chicken and ham sandwiches and no one calls us evil. But if a wolf looks for dinner and eats what is natural then he is… somehow."
The kids shuddered. Their eyes fixed on his steel gray eyes, which to them now seemed kind of wolfish—never mind his hair was the same rust brown as their own.
The librarian walked up to him, gently putting herself in his path. He could tell she was attempting to deflect a stranger's attention from the children. "May I help you?"
Nodding, Rick put on a grin and straightened up to his full height at six-one. "Yes, actually. I'm here to pick up a book for Randon Spade. He called ahead and said I would come for it."
"Can I get your name?" She blushed as she walked to the checkout desk. Her eyes marked the breadth of his shoulders as well as his strapping build.
"Rick Deacon—or H. Richard Deacon, if he said that."
She nodded. Her smile grew as she fought the hotness on her cheeks. "That's right. He called for two books. Do you have his card?"
Rick produced it.
The two kids snuck past, keeping their eyes on him as they carried their picture books to the nearest table and sat down. The boy leaned over his open book, peering towards the aisles in search of his mother. Rick peeked at them once with a smirk.
"Ah, here they are." The librarian pulled the two books off a shelf. She opened them, scanning the card with the inserted bar code. As she did, a woman trotted to the spot behind Rick, calling once to the two children sitting at the table.
"Jessie, Claire. Time to go. Are we checking out all those?"
There was something familiar about her voice. Unnervingly familiar. So much, that Rick's heart pounded and he jerked around to look back.
Startled, the woman lifted her eyes to his face. She had the same rust brown hair as her children, her tan winter coat hanging elegantly on her thin frame like one of those old Sixties' Vogue models. As her eyes rested on him, she drew in her breath with a start and staggered back. She dropped her books. Grabbing her children, the woman dragged them at full speed from the library. A trail of their books fell behind them.
Rick lurched after her. His eyes bugged out as he ran from counter, leaving his friend's books there. He darted after them outside, slipping once on the ice.
But she was already jerking open the doors to an SUV, shoving her little children in as if he would eat them both up. She leapt inside, locking all doors. The engine roared into life. The headlights shined a bright spotlight on Rick's face in the winter snow as steam puffed around them. Rick skidded on the slush, halting against the hood. He stared hard into the panicked face of the woman. Before he could stop her, she shifted gears and peeled into reverse—all the way out into the parking lot and into the road.
Rick staggered after her, watching the SUV tear off into the quaint east coast village.
She was gone.
The librarian ran outside, panting. Both books were in her hand along with Randon's card. "You... you left without these."
Turning with his shoulders hanging, Rick's doleful eyes met hers. He sighed and reached out for them. "I'm sorry."
Looking to the road, then back to him in exasperation, the librarian asked, "What... what was that all about?"
He just shook his head. "I can't believe it."
She came closer to him. "You can't believe what? Do you know Mrs. Dell from somewhere?"
Lifting his eyes, Rick's head perked. "You know her?"
The librarian nodded. "Of course. She's lived here for almost ten years. Got married here, as a matter of fact."
Blinking in shock, Rick shook his head again. He walked over to his car, pressing the car alarm on his key ring to deactivate it. "I see."
She followed him. "You do know her. I mean, from before. I remember when she first came to town. Said she wanted to forget where she came from, changed her name even, but wow...you really know her."
Nodding, Rick opened the driver's side to his car, though he looked more dismayed. "Yes. She's my mother."
A Little Nuts
"He found me!" Mrs. Dell shut the front door and locked all of the catches, including the deadbolt, as soon as her two children were sufficiently inside. Her were eyes wide and frantic in a stare at all the windows and the lights. She slapped off the nearest switch, rushing next to the lamp her husband was using to read. "We have to move! We have to move now!"
Her husband, Mr. Louis Dell, a respectable electrician with a predilection for Sudoku, mystery novels, and grilled cheese sandwiches, lifted his head with curiosity at her. But he did not move. "What's that?"
His two children, Jessie and Claire, backed into the arm of the couch just staring at their mother. They didn't even take off their coats. The entire ride home they had been deathly quiet, her panic more terrifying than that stranger in the library.
"We have to move from here! He found me!" Mrs. Dell said again, frantically searching for the knob to the lamp. Her fingers grasped around it then twisted it off. They were all in the dark now, including Mr. Dell who frowned at the blackness. He lost his spot, and the story was at a good part. The sleuth just barely escaped an attack from the killer he was hunting.
"I need the light," he said.
"No, it stays off. He'll see us." She then tripped over the rug to the curtains, pulling them shut as fast as she could find the cord.
Mr. Dell sighed, lifting his head only slightly. He had learned to take his wife's panic attacks with stride. Occasionally she had these nightmares—night terrors, sometimes—about wolves. Her therapist said they were the result of post-traumatic stress, though he could not be specific to the cause. His wife refused to talk about her past in any particulars, even with him. That troubled her husband, but he was patient.
"Who will see us, dear?" he asked.
Mrs. Dell turned around with a cringe to face her husband. He could see her barely in the glow of the LED nightlights that were stuck in almost every wall socket as she also hated the complete dark. "My son."
Mr. Dell lifted his eyebrows. He glanced to his son, Jessie, then back to his wife. "Uh, and why don't you want Jessie to see you?"
She shook her head, marching across the room to him. She crouched down, almost begging forgiveness.
Her children stared at her. Biting their lower lips, waiting for her to calm down also, they trembled.
She said, "I haven't been completely honest with you, Louis. Before I came here, I was married...to someone else."
Her children drew in breaths.
Blinking, Mr. Dell stared. He had never suspected that. She had never let on. He could hardly see her face, so he could only guess she was frowning, or hiding tears. He listened. That was what the therapist said to do when she at last decided to open up. But what could he say, though?
Nodding, she choked up with glances to her children. "I...no. The man I married, he was someone important. Famous. I used to be extremely rich."
"That, I gathered," he said. In the past, he had tried to piece together her past with what details he did have, considering himself a minor sleuth—or at least not a bad one. She always had expensive tastes in things—which on occasion had strained their budget. So he had figured she was a runway model that had, well, run away. Mrs. Dell was that kind of beauty. But her taste for Gucci and Dior notwithstanding, she always had recoiled from the society columns and all fashion magazines. She said it reminded her of a bad memory. So he had always figured she probably had done some kind of photo shoot with wild animals—and one had likely attacked her. He had thought she was running from her agent.
Apparently he was wrong.
"Rich?" Jessie murmured with a look to Claire.
"We had a son," she said.
Mr. Dell drew in a slight breath. Jessie and Claire leaned in.
"He was thirteen when..." She cringed, glancing to the window again. "Look, I doubt you will believe me. When I told my parents they thought I was crazy. They had me locked up in a mental institution... and I escaped."
Mr. Dell stared more. The kids' eyes were almost as wide as saucers now.
"I had to. No one would believe me, though I know it is the truth. I know it!" she said.
"What, dear?" He kept his voice soft, hardly glancing at his children. He had to keep calm for them.
Looking to the window again, she whispered. "He lied to me."
"Your son?" Mr. Dell puzzled. The children just listened.
She shook her head. "No. My ex—Howard Richard Deacon the Second."
Staring hard, Mr. Dell was not sure if he had heard that name before or not. It was familiar, yet he was not one to follow names of famous businessmen. The only names of such men he knew were Bill Gates and Donald Trump. He didn't read tabloids either, so he also didn't follow why those two were famous where others were not. But looking at his wife's eyes he could tell this Mr. Deacon was someone incredibly influential.
"I see," he said, still trying to be a supportive husband. "So, he cheated on you."
Mrs. Dell shook her head vigorously. "No. In that...in that he was faithful. I mean..." She looked over her shoulder again then rushed to the door, peeking out the peep hole. Her children inched backwards, towards the stairs.
She saw nothing on the road. No car. No stray dog. Not even their white Persian cat, Mo-Hair. But then in the snow Mo would have blended in. Only his amber eyes would be visible, especially in the dark. Mrs. Dell turned with a sad look to her husband. "He didn't tell me an important secret before we got married."
Mr. Dell beckoned his wife to come closer, still trying to maintain an understanding expression. He urged his two children to go upstairs while Mommy and Daddy talked. They could play Safari in the Dark if they wanted.
Jessie and Claire hastily ran up. Dad would make everything better. He always did.
"Dear," he said, once they were gone. "What is it that is really troubling you?"
He was never judgmental, not in his words or his voice, something that Mrs. Dell needed and craved. She returned to his side, kneeling at the edge of the sofa. She gazed up at him, pained and sad. Her worry eased, though was not gone.
"Louis, I'm afraid you will hate me. I don't want you to think I have lost my mind."
Sighing, Mr. Dell reached out and touched his wife's face, cradling her chin with his thumb and forefinger. "I don't know what trauma your first husband put you through," Since it obviously was not an agent she was hiding from after all "—but if you felt it was necessary to run, I will understand. But I can't help you feel safe if I don't know what you are hiding from."
"Now, dear, you can whisper it. Your secret will be safe with me. I won't judge you," he said.
Nodding again, Mrs. Dell whispered it faintly. It came so faintly that it came out as hardly a breath.
"He is a werewolf."
Mr. Dell blinked. He wasn't sure he heard right, so he whispered back, "What?"
Whispering just a little louder, Mrs. Dell said, "When my ex-husband was out of the country on business, I was left alone with our son, Howard. Little Howie was thirteen, going through a growth spurt and... well, puberty. He was getting really hairy. Bushy eyebrows and almost mutton chops. At the time, I was in half a mind to cut his hair myself. We had already scheduled an appointment.
"It was night." She shivered. "Just barely September. I was in the rose garden cutting flowers when I heard my son calling for me, asking about dinner. I turned to answer, and he was coming out into the garden. But the next thing I know, I see him lurch at me, fall over with hair sprouting out all over him... until right in front of me is this wolf in my son's clothes."
Mr. Dell held his breath, eyed-wide in the dark.
"Then he growled, like he would eat me."
He leaned a little closer. Tears rolled down his wife's face. She was wiping them off with the back of her hand.
"I ran out of there, calling for our butler. He was always there when I needed him. I had thought at the time some kind of wolf had broken into our yard, and Howie had run back into the house. I had no idea..." she choked up. "The wolf chased after me. I thought it was going to kill me. But then our butler came with the shotgun. But when I told him to shoot the wolf, our butler just stood there and stared."
Butlers... Wolves... Mr. Dell swallowed, trying to take it in.
"The next thing I know our butler sticks his hand out to the wolf and calls to it as if he knows the thing." She shook her head, placing her hands over her face. "I relive this day over and over again when I close my eyes. His words haunt me. He said, 'Come young master, follow me. I'll take care of you'."
She stiffened, lifting her eyes towards her husband. "He only called Howie young master."
Mr. Dell blinked hard.
"The butler knew." She shook her head. "I watched the wolf just stare at me. Just stare. It didn't attack. Then... I don't know how, but like my son does when he shy over something, the wolf ducked its head and whimpered. And then it walked to our butler obediently. That's when I knew."
It took a moment for Mr. Dell to remember to speak. She had paused for him to say something. The therapist said she needed frequent validation and support. But how could he? What could he say? His shock had taken out all thought from him except one—his wife's mind had separated entirely from reality. Her son from a former marriage turned into a wolf? Was there even a Mr. Deacon?
Yet at last he mustered up something. "Knew what?"
Mrs. Dell bit her lip, gazing painfully at her husband. "I know you don't believe me."
He was glad it was dark so that she could not see his discomfort.
"My parents didn't either. They told me that I had had a psychological break and that I needed to see a shrink. They blamed my ex for it. They blamed him for taking me from New York into Middleton Village where all those witches are."
"New York?" Mr. Dell latched onto that one solid piece of reality. He hoped she would fix onto it also. Everything else made no sense. Witches and thirteen-year-old kids turning into wolves....
Nodding, Mrs. Dell said, "Yes. I used to be a debutante, a New York socialite." She gazed off dreamily for a moment, sighing. "Miss Emmaline D. Richardson."
"Emily?" Mr. Dell leaned in closer, a little sad he wasn't married to a former supermodel after all. "Are you saying you are from New York?"
She nodded again, sighing once more. Then she met his gaze. "Yes. You never thought your Emily Smith was a New Yorker?"
He shook his head. "No accent."
Chuckling, Mrs. Dell replied, "Well, the upper crust does not acquire city accents. It would be undignified."
That was her prima donna self speaking. He recognized it. At least that part of reality stood explained.
"When the charming young CEO of Deacon Enterprises had wooed me, he left out that one, frightening detail about himself," she murmured, staring off into space again. "He told me everything else. He even asked me if I minded living in a small town full of witches."
Blinking hard, Mr. Dell felt his stomach drop back into that sick disjoint from reality. She was speaking so sincerely, so convinced. There was no way he could talk her out of believing that she had lived among witches and that she had once been married to a werewolf—because obviously that is what she thought.
"Our butler explained everything to me that night, and had our son... who was now a wolf... hunting live chickens in the family gym," she murmured. "The morning after, Howie was a boy again. He just stared at me with shifty wolf-like eyes, yet even more in need of a haircut than the day before." She shook her head. "I had the butler send him to school. Then I packed."
Mr. Dell lifted his head, listening with an "Uh hmm."
"I moved back in with my parents after that. They helped me write up the divorce papers." She lowered her head. "Howie's face still haunts me though. He just stared at me during the divorce proceedings with those wolf eyes. His father and I settled out of court, him promising any reparations I wanted. But Howie kept crying, begging me not to leave. I haven't seen him since that time. Not until today."
Drawing in a breath, Mr. Dell frowned. All the nonsense about werewolves aside, he understood one thing. Someone from her troubled past had come to his town, and it needed to be sorted out.
"Dear?" Mrs. Dell peered into her husband's face. "You do believe me, right?"
He rose up, kissing her on her forehead. "My darling Emily. I love you so much. And when we married I swore to protect you, no matter what. If someone from your past his bothering you, I will make sure he leaves. All right? You will feel safe. Ok?"
She nodded, breathing more easily.
"Did he say where he was staying?" Mr. Dell asked.
Mrs. Dell shook her head. "No. I ran out of the library as soon as I saw him."
He sighed. Of course she had. It could have even been a stranger she saw that reminded her of her ex for all he knew.
"You didn't hear a thing about what he was doing here?" he asked, still giving the support her therapist said she needed.
She shook her head again. "No. I had assumed he sniffed me out."
Nodding, Mr. Dell sighed again. "Ok."
He walked to the living room wall and flipped the light switch on again. It glowed warmly, something necessary to take the macabre feel out of the room. He extended a hand to his wife.
"Dear, I'm sure we'll be safe tonight. The doors and windows are locked. I don't think a wolf could possibly track you in your car, besides. You should go upstairs and get some rest," he said. "Put on that meditation tape you like. Have a soak with bath salts."
Cringing, Mrs. Dell glanced to the door once more. "I would, but... I just remembered. I have one more errand I have to run."
"We can save it for tomorrow," Mr. Dell said tiredly.
She shook her head. "No. It is for Mo-Hair. I have to pick up his medication from the vet's. I called ahead, and the assistant said he'd keep the shop open for me."
A moan escaped from his lips without meaning to. Mr. Dell thought their cat Mo-Hair was a fluffy pest. Maintaining the fat cat's luxury lifestyle took a large chunk out of their budget. Yet gazing at his wife's stressed-out and pinched grimace of worry about their one real luxury (since buying Dior was out of the question), he exhaled and relented.
"Ok. I'll go pick it up."
Sighing, Mrs. Dell nodded. She walked to the stairs.
"Open the door for no one," he said, mostly to assure her he took her seriously. She needed to think he believed her.
Smiling and wiping away yet another tear, she nodded. "Thank you."
Mr. Dell's drive to the veterinary clinic gave him the solitude he needed to think.
Her therapist had warned him of something like this. Her nightmares were all the same, about wolves. Most had been of two ravenous wolves coming into town to kill her, though some had been about witches turning her into a wolf. Once she even dreamed of him transforming into a wolf and killing her. Though, she had more dreams about their children doing that. He had been trying to put it together since he left the house, since the supermodel theory was clearly out.
If his wife had truly been married, and that part had not been imagined, then her ex-husband must have been some eccentric billionaire. One of those psychos who kept a wolf as a pet. And, if this was so then clearly it had escaped and attacked her. After all, she had been an heiress. He believed that part. Money must have been no object for her. Plastic surgery surely could have gotten rid of any scars.
He arrived at the veterinary clinic, pulling into the faintly lit parking lot. Two cars were there, parked side by side. One was a sleek hybrid, new model style with Massachusetts plates. The other was a recognizable clunker belonging to the veterinary intern everyone knew in town as the Cat Man. The Cat Man specialized in cats. He had an affinity for them as if he understood how their minds worked. He also didn't like dogs that much and often passed them along to the other assistants when he could.
Pulling in and parking, Mr. Dell heaved a sigh, wondering how much he ought to tell her therapist. Like her parents, her therapist clearly would most likely put her on heavy anti-psychotics. Mrs. Dell would not like that. At all. In fact, Mr. Dell was afraid she might run away if they did. After all, she had done it before.
Mr. Dell climbed out of the car then marched over the salted walk to the clinic door. He tugged on the handle to see if it would open, as the lights were dim inside. He could see two figures standing at the front desk, talking.
"...supposed to do? I feel like I've had my heart dug out again."
"But at least you know she's alive, right?"
Mr. Dell walked in, the bell clanking against the door glass.
The veterinary assistant lifted his head with a nod. He was a young dark-haired man with gem-blue eyes that almost stared like a cat's. The assistant then gestured for the fellow he had been talking with at the desk to look behind himself. The young man did, blinking at Mr. Dell with wonder. Perhaps a little younger than the vet intern, this man had unusual steel gray eyes. And his hair was strikingly like his wife's, though it was cut short and fluffed on top his head like a dog's. The young man drew in a breath, blinking at Mr. Dell.
"Hi," Mr. Dell walked up to the counter, trying not to stare. There was something unnerving about this stranger's gaze. Animal. The feeling that he could be prey. "My wife sent me to get our cat's medication."
The veterinary assistant nodded, reaching under the counter for the prepared bag. However, he shared another glance with his friend. The visitor had shifted to the side to allow Mr. Dell to have the assistant's full attention.
"Uh..." The friend cringed, bracing before speaking. "Are you Mr. Dell?"
Blinking slightly as he tilted his head to regard the youth, Mr. Dell nodded. "I am."
The friend exhaled hard with another glance to the assistant. "Your wife..."
Mr. Dell took a step back from him. His heart almost caught in his chest. Peering harder at the young man's face, he said, "Are you the man who went after my wife in the library today?"
Immediately the young man shook his head, replying in earnest, "No. Oh no. I didn't go after her. She startled me." Then he cringed with another step back, regarding Mr. Dell carefully. "I'm sorry. We didn't start this right." He extended his hand. "I'm Howard Richard Deacon the Third."
Holy cow. Same name. Another piece of what he had thought was fantasy had now become reality. A rush of chills washed over Mr. Dell as he stared at Rick's hand. Eventually he took it in a cautious shake. The young man's grip was firm, business-like, yet warm.
"She... uh... I suppose she has already told you something about me," Rick stammered. His face colored with real anxiety, emotion sweeping over him. "I don't know what she said, or anything. But I swear I didn't know she was here. I didn't come to seek her out or anything. I was as just surprised to see her as she was to see me. I just came to..." he looked at the veterinary assistant, swallowing, "you know, help out a friend. Randon here is an old pal from school."
Mr. Dell lifted his eyes to the Cat Man who gave a harmless shrug and a smile.
"I had no idea she was here, I swear," Rick said again. Then he ducked his head into his shoulders, peeking out at Mr. Dell. Hope was in his looks. "But, uh... I just need to know. Is she ok? I mean... is she happy?"
Already this was a large amount of information to process. Especially the fact that her son was real—and a lot older than he had imagined him. In his mind, her imaginary son was still thirteen years old. Yet Jessie was eight. This man had to be at least twenty-four.