“CPD bodies were uncovered today in what the first responders referred to as a macabre pit of body parts. The bodies appeared to have been run through with a sword.
The pit in the pier area of Swantin Heights was uncovered this morning by digging dogs. There is no new further information at this point but we will keep you up to date as the situation develops. I’m Sandra Wake of Coldford Daily News.”
Leona switched the television off.
“It’s upsetting ye,” she said.
Reggie laughed it off but he shuddered. “It’s the shit that goes down in the world.”
Leona poured them some tea. “We’re taught that when something like this happens, it’s St Michael bringing his temper. Those CPD officers needed to be punished, after what they did to you and to my people.”
“How do you know what’s St Michael and what’s people just being shit?” he asked.
Leona smiled at the genuineness of the question.
“I guess I don’t know,” she replied. “I just trust that whatever happens it is His will.”
Reggie took a sip of his tea.
Spin once. Spin twice. Spin three!
Little Wigan child, Ivy, felt dizzy. With Dominick’s hands on her shoulders she spun round and round. She was blindfolded so she lashed out blindly with her stick.
A woman cried out in pain. Ivy lifted her blindfold to see she had struck Barbara Tulloch in the ribs. Barbara was tied to a post on the bay and was being whacked with sticks in a game from the youngsters. The first hits had broken blisters left by the beetles. She wasn’t pleading any more. She could only cry.
“Hit her again,” said Dominick.
Ivy screamed and whacked Barbara’s blistered legs over and over again.
“Letter, Your Eminence,” arrived Peter on scene.
The priest looked up to Barbara as Dominick tore into the letter with a Penn seal on it.
“Hasn’t she repented, Your Eminence?” Peter asked of Barbara.
Dominick looked back over his shoulder. Ivy was still whacking Barbara’s legs with her stick.
“She’s been repenting ever since she arrived on these shores,” he admitted.
Peter said calmly, “then perhaps it would be time to consider bringing her back into the commune. I’d be happy to hear her confession.”
Dominick smiled at him. “Yer a good man Peter. Better than the City Dwellers deserve. Better than I deserve. I’m lucky to have ye keep me right.”
Peter took one last look at Ivy screaming and whacking the Tulloch matriarch.
“That’s enough Ivy,” Dominick instructed and the little girl. “Go and find yer mothers.”
Dominick peeled out a well formed, hand written letter which read as follows:
I have been told we are bound through my brother’s marriage to one of your church members. That bind was supposedly tightened with the presence of an unborn child that will bear my name.
The presence of your church in my City Main is a concern. I may have been incarcerated but I do pay attention and I have returned now. As it stands your trouble has been with CPD. This ceases immediately. In Main it is my duty to quash any CPD hostility. Should I find your church members at route cause of any trouble I will have no choice but to react accordingly. If my brother’s bride is of your faith it would make for terrible introductions.
St Michael’s has stood for centuries. It is important to you so that is where you contain your worship. If you do this, the streets of Main are safe for whomever chooses to walk them.
My primary concern is Reggie. If anything should fall amiss or my brother is hurt in any way all discussions cease.
Noah Wigan set forth to the island to find his following. He never returned to the city to live. Do not make me show you why that was a wise decision.
Sincerely and truthfully
Dominick folded the letter.
“He writes a good letter. Really neat handwriting,” he commented.
Having read the details Peter advised, “he’s firm but he’s not unreasonable.”
Harvester store in Main was struggling. Whether it was hassle from CPD under Billy Owen’s instruction, zealous preaching from Wigan followers or general Coldford disturbance. The store in Bellfield was open for now but for how long? All in all, everywhere Julia turned it seemed the Shady City was getting tired of the farm girl’s charm. It didn’t help that the trial for Nan Harvester was all over the newspapers.
Julia was adept at making friendly conversation. Despite the tension the Wigan cult was causing she was still able to greet Peter Millicent in her Main store with a smile.
“I bring a message from His Eminence.,” he said. “He wished to have your views on getting involved in the Whiskey Wars by siding with Bellfield?”
Julia kept an eye on Curtis. Curtis kept an eye on his cattle prod.
“I spoke to Barbara Tulloch and she told me what her son had been treating the Green Eye prisoners terribly. It was dreadful. His Eminence can understand why you felt the need to intervene and assist. We just want to gain an understanding.”
“The Mack clan stole equipment,” Julia told him. “I wouldn’t get involved in such a thing.”
“Yes,” Peter agreed. “Stolen. Either way the Green Eye will hopefully fall into better hands. May I speak frankly?”
“No one wants the kind of chaos that’s going on down in Northside and Bellfield coming any closer. You’re an ambitious young woman and your father would be proud. On my own behalf I wish you success. Your success feeds a hungry city and what brings families together better than a meal to share.”
Jacob Harvester had done a lot for the commune from which they still benefited all that time later. He had shown them how to cultivate their land. It had been where he met his wife. Peter remembered the father fondly. With respect to him he treated the daughter with kindness.
Julia replied, “thank you, Father.”
When I first met the eldest triplet it had been with a knife in his hand and blood spilled on the floor so I wasn’t thrilled with being in his company again. I was advised by those that knew Tabitha the best that I should hear what Marcus had to say and perhaps he could enlighten me in some of his motivations. No one in Coldford seemed to be beyond the extreme so really the Penns were just part of the system. That was what I told myself as I rode the elevator to the penthouse apartment accompanied by two Loyalists – Emmerson and Ivor.
The doors opened and Marcus was found to be waiting in the lounge. He stood and he shook my hand cordially. He knew I was the one that had taken the footage of Mel Wallace’s murder. I knew he knew I was the one that took that footage but there was a story to tell so we shook hands. The Penn family had been through a lot since then. There were many losses and I dare say there were regrets.
“Why do you insist on enabling Tabitha?” Had been my first question.
I had noted several questions I wanted to put to the fresh King of Main but as we sat down and I looked him in the eye, it was the one I really needed to ask.
I thought this would have darkened Marcus’ already typical stoicism but to my surprise it caused a hint of a smile on his lips. I probably wasn’t the first person to ask him about the out of control sociopath in a red dress. I would unlikely be the last.
“Do you have siblings?” He asked me.
“No,” I admitted.
I was an only child living in the suburb of Jameston. Marcus, who grew up in Main, was probably putting my outrage at Tabitha’s behaviour down to naivety. It wasn’t naivety. It was definitely outrage.
“My brothers and I have always been close. It’s difficult not to be when you have literally spent your entire existence together. Then when Tabitha came along she was like a sister to us. Before I met her I was expecting a vulnerable child. She was anything but. She was, however, In need of help. Naturally, as our sister, we would help her with everything we had. Underneath the bravado is a real girl who has suffered a lot. She is angry and determined to stop others having to suffer as she had. Abuse leaves a terrible taste in her mouth. That taste gives rise to fury.”
I took note of Marcus’ sentiment.
“Where is Mayor Feltz and his daughter?” I asked him.
“I can honestly say without the slightest hint of a lie that he was very much alive the last I saw him,” said Marcus.
“What about Mel Wallace?” I put to him. “She wasn’t though.”
There was the darkened expression I had expected. His demeanour fell so heavily and so suddenly I was a little taken aback. He removed his spectacles and wiped the lenses on the hem of the black shirt he wore. He then placed them back on his nose and his lips tightened.
“I do not pretend to be a benevolent man, as least not as much as I would like to be. I haven’t been afforded that luxury because Main relies on me to do whatever it takes to protect Her. That’s what it means to be Loyal. Over the years I have had to form a certain detachment that allows me to make the decisions necessary for survival of my dynasty and for the people who reside here. The matter was for the courts to decide and for the time being I’m here. Whilst I am here I will continue to do what it takes. I understand your trepidation. I understand your need to question. What I will confirm to you is I would never take such action unless it was necessary.”
“We disagree on what might be necessary,” I told him.
Marcus nodded. “I dare say we always will, Mr Crusow. If you ever find an alternative that won’t see this area torn apart I would happily follow.”
As Marcus said he was loyal to his sister. At a young age Reginald Penn had made a request of his triplet sons that they take care of Tabitha. For Reggie this was ‘sound’ because he and Tabitha got on like a house on fire. Two unhinged personalities had found solace in one another. There was also the abrasive, Simon, to whom Tabitha was the little sister he never really wanted but he would treat as much a Penn as his triplets. Like most siblings she and Simon did share a bond though. She challenged him in ways few others did. She refused to polish his ego and he knew he couldn’t knock her out so they learned to tease in a way that kept each other on their toes. Surprisingly they tended to bring out the best in each other. When all was said and done and Tabitha had wound Simon’s temper to the point his fists were clenched and his knuckles were crunching she would laugh. With her gapped tooth grin he had to admit she was an adorable little girl. She knew this. She pushed it. In a way she inspired him. She would always voice exactly what was in her head where he had learned to suppress.
Finally, there was Marcus. Only minutes older than Reggie but he felt it was his responsibility to follow his father’s wishes.
She didn’t need much looking after from what Marcus observed. Keeping her out of trouble was the more accurate expectance.
Marcus seemed cold hearted. He was very much so but he wasn’t without his emotions.
On a night just after Tawny had been admitted to Harbour House, Agnes had gone to Filton to speak to her brother. She was to explain to English professor Henry Wilde that she was going to take care of Tabitha in Tawny’s absence and that news would not be received well. He had already expressed his concern over what Agnes had gotten herself involved in. He had suggested Tabitha required specialist attention for her behavioural problems but Agnes knew her brother would never turn her away.
Tabitha stayed at the Faulds Building in the meantime. She and Reggie spent most of the time playing video games. Around 1am Marcus had heard some fussing from the lounge. There he found Reggie passed out on the sofa. Tabitha was seated in front of the television screen with her knees pulled up to her chest. The old Queen Corn cereal ad was playing, showing a glamorous actress, Vera Bergman, dancing. It had been muted. Tabitha’s eyes were reddened as though she had been crying. She had been so engrossed in the advertisement she hadn’t heard Marcus join her.
He eventually announced his presence by asking, “can I get you anything?”
Tabitha didn’t seem surprised to find him there.
“I’m fine,” she replied. “I miss Aunt Tee.”
“We all do,” he assured. “She’s in good hands though. She’ll get the help she needs.”
Turning back to the advertisement she said, “this ad always reminds me of her.”
Marcus had to disagree. He loved Tee too but she was no Vera Bergman. Perhaps it was the quirky, fun, lets not take life too seriously tone the had had where she drew the comparison.
“Aunt Tee was the first person to tell me I could do anything I put my mind to. Rob and the fucking egg donor always said I was good for nothing,” Tabitha mused.
“She always told me I was funny,” Marcus said. “She said I always made her laugh.”
Tabitha looked at him with a slight wrinkle in her nose. “She did talk so much shit too, didn’t she?” she chuckled.
Marcus raised an eyebrow.
“You don’t think I’m funny?”
“I think you’re about as funny as a colonoscopy. You know that thing where the camera goes right up …”
“I know what a colonoscopy is. I would argue a colonoscopy can be hilarious depending on how it is performed and who it is performed on …”
Tabitha giggled. “What do you know. You can funny.”
Reggie groaned in his sleep. The two looked over at him. Then they looked to each other. Tabitha gave a mischievous grin. She pulled a red lipstick from her pocket. She passed it to Marcus.
Marcus painted Reggie’s lips and cheeks. He even drew as accurate a rat on his forehead as the lipstick would allow.
“You’re an artist,” Tabitha jested.
Then they started to shake him.
“Wake up. Wake up! Reg you’re late.”
“Huh?” Reggie asked, still in a daze.
“You have to get going. You’re going to miss the interview.”
Reggie stood up. “I had better go then …” he mumbled.
They went as far as to give him a jacket and send him down to the reception. They waited in anticipation watching the elevator lights move from the penthouse down to the ground floor. It didn’t take too long for the elevator to start moving back up again. Reggie came storming out, barefooted and throwing the jacket off.
“Very fucking funny,” he grumbled. “It’s the middle of the night and I’m stoned off my ass.”
Marcus and Tabitha were rendered amused for quite some time.
Marcus knew the Boss Lady better than most. Like he she felt the need to do what was necessary for her people and they were suffering the most.
The bell of the Harvester Farm house rang around mid afternoon. Given it’s remoteness it was unusual to find passers by. It had been Glenn’s daughter, Susie who answered. Standing on the steps was a girl of similar age to herself. Perhaps she was a little older. Her long brittle, hair hung in two braids that fell by her waist. She was watching with a vacant expression.
“Hi,” said Susie.
The girl looked like she was medicated. That was what Buddy Owen called it.
“Hi,” she finally replied speaking slowly, staring at Susie.
Susie noticed the purple ribbon that was tied into her braids. It was really quite pretty. If she grew her hair longer she could do something similar.
“Is Margaret home?” the little girl asked.
“There’s no Margaret here,” Susie explained.
“Okay.” The girl nodded slowly. She turned and walked away.
The farmhands were all busy out on the fields. The little girl must have slipped past them. Either way she wandered back down the path towards the main route.
Susie was finishing her homework late afternoon when the door bell rang again. The farm hands were still out on the fields. Julia herself was in City Main checking on another disturbance. It seemed a Wigan girl had had to be driven from the store there after she made a fuss, screaming about Julia being a whore and sent by Satan himself to punish the people of Coldford.
“To be cleansed you need to rid of the whore before she consumes you all!” the girl screamed before being dragged out.
Upon answering the door Susie was greeted by the same little girl from earlier.
“Is Margaret home?” she asked again.
“No,” Susie returned. “I told you earlier there’s no Margaret here.”
She was becoming a little impatient. The girl was spaced out and not listening to a word she was saying.
“Okay,” the girl responded again with each syllable popping slowly. Oh – kay. She again turned and wandered back to the main route.
When it reached early evening, darkness would be calling the farmhands in. Before they returned the door bell sounded a third time.
Susie was not surprised to find the same little girl again. She didn’t say anything this time. She didn’t ask for Margaret. She just stared at Susie. Eventually she clenched her teeth and whistled through them.
“You cannot be saved!” she hissed.
Before Susie could call on her father she turned and dashed down the path at great speed.
When Susie told her father what had happened Glenn assured her it was nothing to worry about, just religious nuts trying to play ‘silly beggars’. Darkness fell upon the farm though.
Curtis had been having a tough day. Every day was a tough day for a Harvester farmhand but this day was particularly so. You see, dear readers, he had received news that his sister had died. She had been prostituting herself and apparently, she had happened upon a client with particularly depraved tastes. Normally she wasn’t commissioned by other women but she needed the money. After delivering the satisfaction she had been paid for to the client she was stabbed, rupturing her lung. The woman then proceeded to cut out her womb as she breathed her last.
Curtis stumbled towards the barn, mumbling to himself.
“Dangerous. Fucking whores,” he grumbled in a somewhat cohesive statement.
The continued trotting towards the barn, boozed up and feeling sleepy. Debs, the prize Harvester milking cow, shifted over as Curtis clumsily slapped her rump. The farmhand lost his footing, tumbling onto a bale of hay. There he curled up and fell asleep.
Midnight came around. Harvester Farm always welcomed an early morning so by then it was all tucked up and fast asleep. There was no-one awake to see three Wigan girls skip along the patch towards the farmhouse. They were laughing among themselves in a quiet snicker. With them they had the little girl from earlier who had been hitting Barbara Tulloch with her stick.
Autumn, April and River were the names of the grown women with her. They were her mothers. They were lifelong islanders and dedicated Wigan followers. It had been Autumn that Curtis’ sister had met her end at the hand of.
The farm house offered a small narrow window through which April was able to squeeze through. Her footsteps wouldn’t be heard crossing the stone kitchen floor. The creaks were minimal as she climbed the steps to the first floor.
In Debs’ barn Curtis lay quite comfortably in the hay. It was was a warm, dry, cozy place to forget life’s problems. It was a great place to forget his sister’s demise.
He was stirred from his deep sleep when he felt a woman straddle him. It had been a while but he remembered what it was like to have a woman’s thighs around him. His eyes opened to find a young woman with filthy brown hair. It had purple ribbons tangled within it. Her eyes looked huge. They didn’t look natural.
She cried a shriek, raising a knife. It wasn’t a specially designed knife. It was the basic kind you would find in any kitchen.
“You cannot be saved!” she cried, startling Debs.
She plunged the knife. There was a crunch as she broke through the chest cavity that make her laugh with joy. She stabbed again and again.
“You cannot be saved!” She called, completely enraptured by her task.
Susie had been dreaming about Buddy Owen as chance would have it. In her dream he and the bros had performed a concert. It had been quite something. His full blonde hair, his large smile, his voice. After the concert the bros had treated Susie and some select friends to pizza at Bobby’s diner. All was spoiled when footsteps by her bed awoke her.
She sat up. There was a woman in her room. She didn’t recognise her. She looked beyond ‘medicated’. She was completely fucked up. She didn’t move any further. She just stared at her with huge black eyes. Susie was glad she had gone to the bathroom before bed because she could have very well wet herself. The woman had a knife in her hand. She examined it. The smile she gave seemed unnaturally large. She had torn, frayed pieces of purple ribbon hanging everywhere.
She charged at Susie with the blade but before she could inflict a devastating blow an arm curled around her neck and yanked her back.
Julia grappled the Wigan girl named April, lifting her chin and exposing her neck. She wrestled her to the ground, pulling the knife from her. Julia pulled April’s head back and slit her throat.
“Get out Susie!” the farm girl called. “Get out.”
Susie leapt from her bed. Still dressed in her cotton onesie she dashed outside. It was freezing there but she was met by her father. The Harvester horns started to blow shattering the peaceful starry night.
The stable door was hauled closed. Autumn and River laughed and cheered as they did so. River struck a match.
“Ooooops!” she cried, throwing it inside. The hay was an exceptional kindling. The flames erupted.
“Wigan bless you!” the two girls cheered as the clutched hands and skipped away.
The horses trapped within the stables squealed as the heat of the flames engulfed them and their flesh began to sizzle.
“Burn, burn, burn!” the Wigan girls laughed. “You cannot be saved, neither can yer horses.”
They ran, leaving the devastation behind for the Harvester farmhands to tend to. The stables were consumed, leaving only behind ashes and bones.
Ding ding. Ding ding.
The whore would learn the followers of Wigan were Holy people. The people of Colddford were to repent and not be tempted by the whore’s devious ways. She should have stayed out of Bellfield.
Peter Millicent had been sat in a confessional booth in the church. The quiet darkness was soothing. Things in the commune were becoming explosive. He had been praying for some solace when he heard someone take a seat to pour their soul to him.
“I come to seek Wigan’s forgiveness,” he heard the man speak. He had known Dominick his whole life. He recognised his voice.
“You’ve come to the right place, my brother,” he said. “unburden yourself.”
“I have a task at hand. I’ve been given a mission but it’s not easy. I find myself questioning it sometimes. I have someone to turn to. My whole life they’ve never let me down.”
“Do they guide you well?” Peter asked.
“They do,” Dominick returned. “They’re like a father to me.”
“Then what bothers you?”
“Lately I have had trouble heeding his advice. He sees a world that doesn’t exist anymore. My mission asks me to be bold. He’s advising me to be steady.”
“Perhaps, this father figure just wishes to see that his son doesn’t get hurt.”
He could sense Dominick smile. “He’s a good man. He really is.”
“You seem faithful,” Peter said, “otherwise you wouldn’t be troubled. Trust that faith. Listen to the advice you are given.”
“Wigan bless you father,” Dominick returned.
Peter met Dominick outside the booth. The said nothing about what they had discussed but Dominick seemed like he had shed some of his burden. Knelt before the alter were River and Autumn. They stood when they heard Peter join them. Nodding to the priest as they passed him in the aisle they exited.
“Have you spoken to Bart, Your Eminence?” he asked. “He’s deeply concerned about Leona.”
Dominick shook his head.
“I’m sure he would be pleased to hear your words.”
“How can I?” he asked. “Leona was called. Her place was in the city. She’ll return again.”
“You are losing your focus and you are going to let it consume you. I understand your wish to push forward but you have to listen to me. Here on the bay there are deadly toxins underneath our feet. We have learned to live with them and over the years we have covered them over more and more. Now it’s safe for us to thrive. That city poison we have to learn to live with if we wish to grow.” When the church leader had fallen silent Peter pressed him. “Dominick?” he asked. “Dominick?”
“I hear ye Peter. I understand what ye mean. I’m trying to steady my hand but I feel the need to push forward,” Dominick admitted.
When Peter left, Autumn and River were standing in the yard. They were laughing to each other, snickering into each other’s ears.
“What’s so funny?” Peter asked.
The two girls giggled. “Nothing, Father,” said Autumn.
Marcus Penn was anxious although you wouldn’t know it to look at him. He carried himself in a stoic way but there was a constant tension across his shoulders. He thought it would have eased with some distance between him and The Boss but it didn’t. It was like a the great castle still weighed down on him with reminders of his mother and father. Being back home gave little comfort and he couldn’t let himself be held back by the grief. As it stood he had a lot of people relying on him. He had always known the responsibility would fall to him upon when his father met a grisly fate. His great grandfather, Adelard, had been executed too for fighting back against the Chamberlain Guard. His grandfather, Renaud, had been guillotined by the Luen Courts. Now, Reginald had been taken by a firing squad. The murder of Bobby Owen had been expected, every war has their casualties. Hickes though? That was puzzling. Marcus never doubted his father’s advice was sound. What Reginald advised was Hickes was a trustworthy man. CPD were trusted too with Hickes at the helm. A few years before these events, Marcus, Hickes and Reginald had met to discuss the security in Main. They had sat all afternoon in Walden’s wine bar. Security was discussed and they then spent the rest of the afternoon throwing darts. It had been evening by the time they came stumbling back out. Reginald had an arm around Marcus’ shoulder to hold him steady.
“When did the lights go out?” Reginald asked in jest.
Marcus rolled his eyes. Reginald laughed heartily at his own joke.
Hickes, who was just as inebriated, laughed too.
“I got to go,” cheered the detective with his arms raised.
“Sure thing. Don’t let me hold you back. You treat that lady well.”
The lady referred to in this instance was Olivia whom Hickes had been close to for a while at this point.
“I will,” Hickes replied confidently.
“I’ll get you a car,” Reginald offered. “Ivor? Where’s Ivor? Ah there you are.”
Reginald turned to face a Loyalist named Ivor. He was stood with his hands clasped, chin raised, ready to accept the King’s orders.
“Take the detective down to Swantin, would you?”
“Of course, sir,” Ivor replied.
Hickes climbed into the back of the car. He blew his cheeks against the window as it drove away which drew even more laughs from Reginald. His arm tightened around Marcus’ shoulder.
“Come on, boy. Let’s go throw some dice at the casino.”
Hickes surely would have brought Reginald to see them in The Boss. He would have protected Reggie. None of it made any sense. There had been some talk among the Loyalists who had maneuvered with the Fleet that Hickes had supposedly betrayed them. Marcus couldn’t believe that. The Loyalists had always carried out the dirty work. Hickes would have had to react accordingly to the Freefall massacre but there were agreements in place for that sort of thing. The understanding was the Luen courts would make decisions on the fate of the Main royalty. Reginald believed he would never see a fair trial in Coldford. Either there would be too many against him or too many trying to support him. The Luen courts wouldn’t carry any favour, barons and marquis titles didn’t hold any weight in Luen. The guillotine would fall on a titled man’s neck just as easily as it would any other. The hunger of Buzzkill was an entirely different matter. That would have been why Reginald had gave himself to the Good Gang. Like the Luen courts, their judgement would at least be fair.
There were so many questions and still so much to resolve. For the time being Marcus had his place to think of, his brothers to care for and the people of City Main to protect from religious zealots.
He slipped back into the bathtub, allowing himself to become submerged in the warm water. The pulsating in his ears beat steadily as everything else became a murmur. The bathroom’s soft lighting started to dance above him as the water consumed his vision. He held his breath. His chest tightened. He could let it all slip away. He could allow the soft, warm water to fully consume him. It would be the ultimate quiet. He could drown in a proper rest.
Just as his lungs were about to give an involuntary gasp there was another thudding. It wasn’t in time with his pulse. He sat back up. Standing in the bathroom was the Wigan girl, Leona.
Simon hadn’t been keen on the girl having free reign around the apartments but she was Reggie’s wife so she had some entitlement. Bathing wasn’t a private affair in the commune. They would shed robes together and walk into the sea. Marcus had to assume that was why she was watching him without shame. She was holding a bag of herbs.
“Reggie was worried you might be stressed. This is figroot. It’s guaranteed to calm. I could add some to the water for ye.”
She started to wander towards him. Before she could approach any further, Marcus climbed out of the tub. She stopped. He was watching her closely with a warning in his stare. She took a couple of steps back. He didn’t look in the least bit vulnerable in his nakedness.
“I’m done,” he said.
She departed without any further word. Marcus shook his head and snatched up a towel.
Chaos was ensuing at the Dalway Lane gallery as preparations for the auction of the Finn painting was underway. Harper Lane was overseeing the packing of the painting to be moved to the Auction House when she felt her son under her feet. The au pair who was supposed to be caring for him came chasing after him.
“So sorry, Miss Lane,” the au pair lifted Elliot away from her.
The little boy objected.
“There’s a lot going on here today,” Harper snapped. “I need you to keep him occupied.”
With another apology from the au pair she said, “I’m just taking him to the park.”
Harper relieved herself of the stress a little. She kissed her son.
“You enjoy the park, sweetness,” she said with a smile.
“No,” Elliot shook his head.
It was his favorite word. He said it in response to almost everything.
“Do you want a nap?”
“Do you want vegetables?”
“Do you want a story?”
Elliot loved all those things. He was just wrapping his little head around the consequences of refusal.
The au pair caught a quick glimpse of the painting before it was sealed away from view to be taken to the Auction House.”
Zipping up the little boy’s jacket, Wigan beads slipped from the au pair’s blouse. Elliot tapped the wooden cross on the end and gave a laugh.
“My name’s autumn. Can you say awwwww tummm?”
“No,” Elliot replied.
Autumn dangled her Wigan cross and laughed as Elliot tried to catch it.
“We are the children of Wigan and we know we can’t relent until the flesh of every sinner burns or we learn to repent!”
“You cannot be saved!”
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