February 2009

Story27 Feb 2009 04:13 pm

“Margarete, this is my sister Rowan, you can call her Tiny for short. Tiny, this is Margarete, the most awesome of women, yourself aside, to have ever graced my presence.” Rook spoke in his best announcer voice as Rowan walked into the foyer before him, and received a thump to his chest as she stopped and elbowed him. “Hey!”

Rowan glared shot a venomous glare at her brother as she moved to hug Margarete, “I’d appreciate you not calling me Tiny, Roo is just being a pain. Pleased to meet you.” She ignored Rooks exasperated and innocent looks pointedly.

Margarete stepped back slightly and offered a hand, “Yes he does tend to do that, and at the oddest of times too. If not inopportune. I’ve noticed if you take a firm hand with him though he does what he’s told.” She managed to hide most of her amusement but a slight curve of her lips and a sparkle in her eyes gave away the lie in her last line. “So I wonder are there going to be more of us digging into things better left undiscovered?”

Puzzlement registered on Rowans face as she glanced back toward her brother, “What do you mean? We’re just here to spend some time away from the city, somewhat indefinitely…” Rooks laugh was deep and from the soul, it took him a few moments to actually recover and say anything in his defense.

Straightening he looked at his sister innocently, “Ah well what good is a vacation without adventure!” He turned a sly eye toward Margarete and caught movement at the top of the stairs as Charlie began his decent. “Some folk like to make trouble and pretend they’re not. Not me, I’m all about ownin up to the trouble I make.” His grin belied his lie and he turned to Charlie who was now near the bottom of the stairs, “Margarete this is Charlie, Rowans roommate. Charlie this is my good friend Margarete, she’ll be staying with us as well.”

Charlie descended the rest of the step thinking it better not to completely tower over the others and reached out to shake hands with Margarete, “It’s a pleasure.” Feeling somewhat reticent having not expected anyone else to be showing up.

“Likewise.” She offered the same simple sentiment in return. “Now then Rook, you’ll be taking my bags and showing me my room so I can properly socialize over tea yes?” She inferred that the rooms would be up, and began ascending the steps without waiting for Rooks acknowledgement.

Rook shook his head moving to and lifting the two large trunks Margarete had. He said to Charlie under his breath as he passed, “Ever the patient one her.”

“Rook if you’re going to denigrate me you can at least have the gall to speak up, or be quieter. Sometimes your myopia can be so very frustrating.” She moved all the way to the top of the stairs, each step sounding just a mite louder then her footfalls had been previously. Rowan glared at her brother a little harder this time thinking that he had hurt his friends feelings.

Rook on the other hand just shrugged, his smile only slipping slightly and bounded up the steps heedless of the bulk of the luggage. He wasn’t sure if he really had struck a chord or not, though he was fairly certain she was putting on a show. All the same he nodded his head down the hall and led her to her room without saying anything initially. He couldn’t gauge if she was boring into the back of his skull, or keeping the silence just to mess with his head. “I’m sorry if…”

She sniffed and made a face at him full of mock irritation, “Sorry? You? Of all people… sometimes you’re so easy to play.” She swept into her room, which was a door down from Rowans, taking one of the luggages from Rook she walked into her room. “Oh and of all things, how could you place a lawn gnome in the yard before the front door?”

Rook chuckled to himself, silly for him to bother worrying, Rowan had that effect on him though. He’d have to watch out for that. Dragging her second luggage in he placed it at the foot of her bed and turned for the door, “Well then do make yourself comfortable, I’m going to tell my other guests that you’ll be cooking some manor of lamb for supper. Till then it’s just about tea time, I should get the tea ready.” Grinning like a jackal he rushed off leaving Margarete glaring at the empty space he’d occupied.

Story22 Feb 2009 10:35 pm

“You drive like a country bumpkin,” Margarete admonished genially, her full cheeks dimpling slightly, as Rook drove his rusty old mini down the lane. 

They’d been discussing the usual – progress on their collective studies, updates on friends and colleagues, that sort of thing.  Though Margarete was several years older than Rook – she’d never wanted to ask exactly how many, but she imagined a difference of five to six years – their minds still had a very useful, and often quite comfortable, way of complementing each other.  It was fortuitous that they’d discovered each other’s work quite separately through their related studies and a mutual respect had already been established between them before ever even meeting.  On a lark, Rook had decided to spend the summer studying with her. She’d already been at her thesis for a couple years, and Rook found it absolutely fascinating – a fact that she secretly found quite flattering.  It didn’t take much to get her talking about the history of folklore and it’s basis in scientific evolution, but as the scenery became more rural, they’d found a sort of comfortable silence between them; Margarete lost in the eerie beauty of the Scottish lowland, and Rook content to rummage around in his own thoughts.

It seemed somewhat incongruous to Rook to see Margarete in such a rural setting – she wasn’t a “fair beauty” like one expected to see out among the heather, though she carried her own appeal, regardless of what she may think.  Rather, her dark hair and full figure, clad in tailored and refined clothing seemed to belong in a more civilized environment. In his mind’s eye, she was always in a library – her proverbial thinking cap firmly in place – or perhaps a museum, or possibly even tracking down old stories in nursing homes – but never outside of an urban environment.  It was odd – He rather liked the effect though; it was almost like looking at her again for the first time.  Add to that how excited he was to finally get to share his work with her, especially after piggy-backing off her research all last summer.  He smiled in anticipation – she would get a kick out of his gear, especially since it tied in with her own studies so very well.

“Rook, stop!” she said suddenly, her hand involuntarily shooting out to Rook’s shoulder. He skidded to a stop, swerving quite uncomfortably in the mud that still made up the country lane.  He felt his breath catch in his chest as adrenalin poured into his system, and was about to demand an explanation when the answer appeared before him.

A fox, shiny red, had regally stepped foot across the lane, paying little head to the comparatively massive auto that sputtered just a few feet away.  Rook smiled at Margarete’s reaction of pure, innocent enchantment as the fox was followed by four little kits, the last one nearly butting its sibling’s tail in an effort to keep up.

“Oh my,” Margarete breathed, her dark eyes alight.

Halfway across the lane, the vixen stopped, seeming to peer at the two of them. Rook tensed, and felt Margarete hold a breath as well.  The vixen’s eyes were a piercing gold, seeming far too intelligent for such a creature, and yet not out of place at all.

The moment was broken when the cry of raptor, flying above, not yet having noticed the mother and her babes.  With an odd tilt of her head, the fox bid farewell to the astonished humans, and quickly disappeared in the brush alongside the road.

Silence reigned for a few seconds more before Margarete let out her breath in a deep sigh.  “I feel as though I just dipped my proverbial toe into my very own research,” she said, a bit breathlessly.  Realizing how naïve and silly that sounded, she felt her cheeks heat up.  “So, which way is it then?” she said quickly, shaking her brush with the foxes off and returning to her usual manner of disciplined reason.  Rook looked at her somewhat oddly as she asked the question, his expression clearing only when she gestured to the sign post they’d managed to stop alongside of.

“Oh, look at that,” he said, his confusion morphing to understanding and then amusement.  He turned to Margarete with a glint in his eye.  “According to my sister, we should go left.”

Now it was Margarete’s turn to look somewhat puzzled.  “Is that wrong?”

Rook chuckled as he put the car into gear and took the right fork.  “Only if you want to get to my house.”

Oddly, he could have sworn he saw a pair of golden eyes peering at him from across the road, on the left, as he drove away, but when he surreptitiously glanced in his side view mirror, there was nothing but the bushes and mud.


Rowen heard the front door slam at the same time her brother called her name.  Unfortunately, this was also at the same time she’d been pouring a bit of milk into her tea.

“Crap,” she muttered briefly as her brief jump caused a bit more milk to slosh into her tea cup than she would have preferred.  Shrugging, she licked the side of the cup, sipping a bit as well to keep the over-filled cup from spilling further.

She almost risked spilling the tea entirely as Rook swept into the kitchen, nearly colliding with her.  “Rook, you moron,” she hissed, barely saving her precious liquid.

He only grinned.  “What was that?” he said playfully, putting a hand to his ear.

Rowen did her best to glare over the rim of her cup, which she was holding delicately perched by her lips.  “I said, ‘welcome home, you deserting, clumsy excuse for a brother.” Her austere expression quirked into a similarly playful half-smile.

“Oh, God, I thought you said moron,” Rook said, grinning cheekily.  Rowen sipped her tea without comment, though she set the half-empty cup down on the counter with a pointed look in Rook’s direction.

“So where were you?”

“Where’s Charlie?”

As their words collided, Rowen finally broke into a grin, shaking her head.  With a pause and a gesture from Rowen, Rook asked his question again.

“He’s upstairs, wringing out his knickers,” Rowen said, a tad smugly.  “He had a bit of an argument with the mud. Repeatedly.”

Rook laughed at that.  “You are too wonderfully harsh, dear sister,” he said with an amused shake of his head.

“Rook?” Margarete’s voice echoed from the foyer, “Where in this God-awful piece of beauty did you get off to?”

Rowen quirked a brow in Rook’s direction.  He shrugged, an impish look on his face.  “Margarete’s here.  What amazing timing, yeah?”

Rowen rolled her eyes and, abandoning her tea, walked back out into the foyer to greet his brother’s guest.

Story09 Feb 2009 12:04 pm

An hour and fifteen minutes later, Rook stood in the hotel lobby with his hands folded behind his back, eyes roaming the somewhat shabby décor detachedly. He focussed his attention on hearing the sharp report of Margarete’s low heels come quickly down the hallway and around the corner. The German woman stopped up short and swept her cool gaze over him from toe to crown before approaching at a more conversational pace.

“Master Rook,” she smiled languidly. “Not like you to be so punctual.”

He chuckled. “We have to get back. Rowen will skin me if I’m out too long. She’s off with her roommate at the moment exploring the countryside and, while I know Rowen could be out there until next Halloween, Charlie didn’t strike me as the woodsy type.”

“Roommate. Not a beau?” Margarete arched a well-shaped brow.

“No, I don’t think so,” Rook laughed of his sister.

Shaking her head, Margarete swayed toward the door. “I swear. That girl needs to at least find herself a boyfriend once in a while.”

“I certainly don’t think so,” Rook replied haughtily, relieving his friend of her bags and following her out the door. Margarete always looked polished, but he could tell she was tired.

“You wouldn’t, big brother. Now then, where can a woman stop for a cup of coffee and a cigarette between here and Transylvania or wherever it is you’re playing house?”

Meanwhile, north of the ending trickle of the main road, Charlie and Rowen returned to Rook’s house.

“What!” Charlie exclaimed defensively. “My legs hurt! I’m not used to all this running amok that you do.”

“You city boys are sissies,” Rowen giggled as she kicked off her muddy boots on the veranda and padded inside, leaving Charlie to pick at the dirt-encrusted laces of his shoes. He muttered incomprehensibly behind her as she stopped a few paces in from the door, turning her head this way and that. “Rook’s gone,” she mused more quietly.

“Is he? Did you check for his car?”

“No, I can just tell.”

Eying her strangely, Charlie grunted as he tugged his shoes off and stretched his toes out.

Rowen had gone over to a credenza to the side of the doorway that she hadn’t noticed the day prior. On it rested a carving of a leaping fox, its head turned up toward the onlooker as if to smile, ears alert. Its eyes were little pieces of round green jade, and the wood was worked with long lines and polished as smooth as water. She ran her hand lightly over the fox’s back, feeling the almost impossibly fine texture worked in for the fur and remembering the vixen and her cubs from earlier in the day.

Also, strangely, another memory welled forward in her mind’s eye. When she was a child, the family had taken a trip to Scotland all together. She remembered very little of it, having been only four and Rook nearly six. The greyness of the weather remained in her mind, alternating between rain and suffocating fog. Their mother had been upset that they weren’t having ‘real vacation weather’ but father had laughed his round laugh and said that this was good authentic Scottish weather to be relished.

She and Rook had been indifferent to the chill, happy to run the energy out of their tireless legs. They’d been staying in a house, somewhere… in her mind’s eye, Rook’s dilapidated manor had taken its place visually but she couldn’t be sure if that was genuine memory or simple construction. Could it have been the same plot of land? Had her family known this woman that Rook purchased the property from? She felt suddenly hungry, knowing so little about any extended family or friends of her late parents.

“For heaven’s sake, John, she could have been attacked by a fox or something! They’re all over the country side,” her mother’s voice trembled with fear turning quick to anger as she clutched her daughter close. Rowen’s wet clothes clung to her body and the cold began to seep in, strangely only now that she was inside not far from the old stove glowing in the kitchen.

“She’s fine, Mary,” his father had replied calmly, trying to divert her mother’s panic. “We have her back now, that’s all that matters.”

Rowen could still feel the warm breath on her hair, the shallow pant of small, animal lungs as she sat on the ground and cried because she was lost. She and Rook had been playing hide and seek, which he normally one, though this time she’d hidden too well and couldn’t find her way back. When she’d turned, she’d been inches from the red and white furred mask of a vulpine face, green eyes glittering inquisitively.

Hopping lightly back from her, the little beast had let loose a short, sharp bark into the gloaming. That bark had guided her hand-torch wielding father toward her into the forest, though John declined from sharing that with Mary, and never saw the fox himself. Rowen, by her turn, had never told anyone that she’d seen it either, though it had been within arms reach of her.

The memory was so dim as to make her doubt its validity, as though it had been, perhaps, a dream or some other collusion of unrelated happenstance.

“Rowen?” Charlie stood right behind her, now, peering over her shoulder at the sculpture.

“Sorry,” she said hoarsely, and cleared her throat. “Just… I think maybe my family knew the old woman that used to own this place.”

“The bat that believes in ghosts?” Charlie said skeptically. Rowen laughed and turned around to push him.

“No! I mean, yes, but I think maybe we visited her once when I was a kid. I have to ask my brother.”

“Where’d he go off to, anyway?”

“Not sure. I’m famished though, last one to the parlor makes lunch!”

She sprinted off to the kitchen as Charlie rolled his eyes and trudged after her, knees aching.

Story02 Feb 2009 08:40 pm

returned to examining the evidence that they had indeed come down the right fork which clearly they did not go down the previous night. Except there were no signs in the mud of the left fork that there had been anything passing that way for a week or so, the mud having a more or less unbroken lumpiness. “Charlie you know we took the left fork right?”

Charlie shrugged and shivered slightly from the damp cool air and being mostly soaked, “Don’t get so worried about it. It was hard to see it was so miserable last night, maybe we both just thought we went the same direction. Memory does funny things in groups.” He slogged over to where she stood and looked at the fork with some slight irritation on his face showing he wanted to believe what he said, but wasn’t sure he did.

“But the note Charlie, both of us remember the note.”


Margarete stretched out languidly, barely altering the massive pile of blankets that covered her. She couldn’t for the life of her remember why she was awake, so she decided to go back to sleep. Except the phone began ringing again as soon as she closed her eyes and began drifting back into slumber. Who in the world would have this number? She’d just checked in last night and hadn’t called anyone. She was content to just lie there and let the phone ring, it was far too early in the day to be getting up, how inconsiderate people could be sometimes.

The phone it seemed had no intention of shutting up, the damned kvetch. Attempting to swim through the mountain of blankets only managed to prove to her how lissom she was not. As soon as she thought her arms were free and she reached for the phone and ended up sprawled out on the floor beside the nightstand. Throwing a wild tantrum she freed herself just enough to pick up the receiver and scream into it, “What the hell do you want?”

There was a brief bit of static like a delayed connection, long enough to giver her pause to think if she wasn’t angry, but she was so she didn’t even register it. “Hey Margarete, just checkin up on ya to see when you’ll be showin up.” It was Rook, couldn’t he at least have waited till a decent hour to call like 9 or 10?

“Do you know how damned early it is? I told you I’d be there around noon. How’d you get this number anyway? You stalking me?” As per normal her rage disappeared in a matter of moments. She normally didn’t get angry at all, but she loved her sleep.

“Hon, it’s almost eleven. You’re usually up long before now.” Rook’s grin filled his voice pleasantly. She had always enjoyed his accent too, was too terribly bad he decided to leave off the research they’d started in Germany to move to this little hide-away of his. “As to the number, you told me where you were stayin you great ninny.” She pressed the fingers of her free hand into her forehead. ‘Doesn’t mean you’re supposed to call me and wake me up…’ Then she registered the time he’d told.

“Oh right, and I’m supposed to believe you over my own…” One look at the clock caused her etiolate. Almost eleven indeed, there was less then a minute till. “…eyes. Ok so I slept in. Which does happen on occasion.” Her emphasis on ‘does’ was an attempt to cover the shock in her own voice. Margarete hadn’t slept in since before highschool, and here she was, a graduate student working on a thesis, waking up three hours later than her normal routine. She liked routine. Why did she feel so tired and lost at the moment?

Rook chuckled over the line, “Must be the beds in that there building, told ya you should have just come out the rest of the way last night.”

“I didn’t feel like trying to give a cabby directions in that onslaught you could have come into town to get me ya know.”

“And leave an empty house for my sister to find in the dark and gloom?”

“Everyone likes the dark and gloom don’t they?”

“Only those that spend their waking hours deep with in macabre books, and dark library basements. Need me to come pick you up? Rowen is off showin her mate about and exploring my property.”

‘Less cab fare for me.’ She thought as she responded. “Can’t say no to such a splendid offer. I’ll even let you buy me some coffee when you get here. You sure they won’t get lost in your fallow fields?”

“You know they won’t be fallow much longer, I just need to get the right gear…”

“And stop getting distracted.”

“Good point, so shall we convene in the lobby in about an hour and a half? That be enough time for you to get checked out?”

“You’re going to make me wait over an hour? The torture.”

Rook laughed heartily, “See you soon Margarete. I’m glad you decided to come.” He hung up his end. Margarete slowly hung up hers and fell back into the pile of blankets that surrounded her on the floor. Her body told her to take advantage of the time and get more sleep, but something told her she’d not be waking up before he got here if she did. Standing up and stretching again, she slowly went about waking herself up. Something she was not used to.