In any case, it'll give me a chance to do some more research for African Firestorm, as I have to locate a good place for a pirate base for the major set piece that starts the final third of the novel. I plan on staying as close to reality as I can, location-wise and culture-wise.
And to keep you coming back, here's more of Merlin's Legacy, Chapter 4!
They didn't catch the van, but did put an APB out for it. Sheriff Walker, who was leading the rescue force, insisted that I be checked out by the town’s doctor. He drove me back into town and soon I was sitting on and examination table, waiting for the Doctor.
Doc Weatherbee came in, He was in his mid-50s, and strongly resembled a beardless Santa Claus. His hair was snow-white, but still thick and full, and wore rimless spectacles on a bulbous nose. His lab coat was bright white, but the Hawaii shirt and shorts he wore under it did make him look a little odd.
“We can fill in the paperwork later,” he said in a low, rumbling voice. “Let’s take a look at you. Shirt and shoes off, please.”
I removed my shirt, shoes, and undid my pants. Doc raised an eyebrow when he saw the old bruises and the new ones. “Looks like this isn't your first scuffle with someone.”
“Three masked thugs jumped me in my apartment last week. Just now, four tried it. I’m expecting five next week.”
“Well, you still have a sense of humor. That’s good.” He spent a few minutes poking and prodding me, going “hmmm,” and asking questions like “Does this hurt?”
I had to answer “yes” to the shot I’d taken across the stomach in the arm and the graze I’d taken on the other arm. He also looked at my other bruises and seemed satisfied that they were healing. After twenty minutes, he said, “looks like you have a few more bruises, but nothing’s broken. I suggest you avoid any bar brawls, mosh pits, or reenactments of the battle of Hastings for the next couple of weeks and let these bruises heal up before you add any more.”
“It’s not my fault,” I said.
There was a knock at the door and Donella walked in. “Doc,” she said, staring down at a clipboard, “I need—” She looked up and stopped when she saw I was half-naked. “Oh.”
I grabbed my shirt and covered myself feeling a bit embarrassed. From the way she was reddening, I wasn't the only one.
Doc looked from me to Donella and back to me again, raising an eyebrow. “He’s all right, Donella,” he said. “He could stand to lose about twenty pounds, but he’s healthy and fit.”
I don’t know who was redder, me or Donella. I couldn't see myself, but if Donalla was as red as I was, we could have stood in for red lights at intersections.
Doc chuckled, then went over to Donella and said gently, “Why don’t we wait outside and let the poor boy get dressed?”
They left and I scrambled into my clothes as fast as I could. I had finished button up my shirt when there was a knock on the door and Doc stuck his head in. “Sheriff wants to talk to you,” he said.
“Out on my porch.”
I glanced at my watch. It was nearly one o’clock and my stomach rumbled. Doc’s eyebrow went up again. “I’ll see about getting you something to eat, too,”
“That’s all right,” I said “I—”
“Nonsense, my boy,” Doc said. “You need food to help heal those bruises. Go on, son. I’ll bring you out something in a minute.”
I didn't see Donella as I walked out of the examination room and out into the hall. The waiting room, a large open area across the hall from the examination room was currently empty. There were a few antiques scattered around, but most of what I could see was designed for modern business.
Doc’s office was also his home, a trim blue Victorian, so when I walked out the front door, I found myself on a porch that was probably larger then a few New York City apartments. The porch wrapped around the fronts and sides of the house. Sheriff Walker was sitting in a rocking chair near a porch swing. He waved at me to come over.
I walked over to the porch swing and sat slowly, mindful of the new pain. Walker stopped rocking. “Okay,” he said, tell me what happened.”
I told him almost everything, except for the Nazgul specter and the energy wave. He listened as I told him about the attack. “You know martial arts?”
“First degree black belt,” I said. “And unlike last week, I wasn't surprised.”
He nodded. “You think those thugs were the same one who attacked you in Maryland?”
I nodded back. “The head thug told me that I should have given them the letter back then. It sounded like the same guy.”
“I see. I’ll place a call with the local detective in Maryland handling the case and see if he has anything I can use.” He looked at me. “You seems to be attracting trouble.”
“Lucian’s estate seem to be what attracting the trouble,” I replied. “I just happen to be the poor sap in the middle.”
“Who knew you were going out to visit Lucian’s grave?”
“I got the directions out of Charles Windicott, in the lobby of his office.”
“Do you know who else was in the office at that moment?”
“Well, Myself, Charlie, Margaret Teague, Cathy, Damien Brackett, and Mister Blount. I never saw Blount, as he stayed in his office and was starting an appointment with Damien. Everyone else was within earshot.”
Walker nodded. “All right, Roger. What are your current plans?”
“I have to be up at Camelot by three, because Charlie’s showing me around the estate, then I have a few hours to prepare because I’m going to be spending the night alone in the main house.”
The sheriff frowned. “Is that wise?”
“It’s part of the will.”
The front door open and Donella came out with a tray and walked over to us. “Doc says to eat this,” she said, handing me a large sandwich one a plate and a large glass of lemonade.
I took the plate and lemonade. “Thank you,” I said.
She handed Walker a plate with a slice of cake on it. “Carrot cake,” she said, “In case Sandra asks.”
“Thank you, Donella,” Walker said gratefully. “It’s been a while since I've had some of Doc’s carrot cake.”
“Donella, could you sit for a moment? I need to ask you a favor.”
I moved over to give her some room, and she sat down on the porch swing. “What do you need Sheriff?”
“Roger here is meeting Charlie Windicott at Camelot at three, but we left his car back at the cemetery. I’d run him back out there, but I have to go see Pastor Breisch about some vandalism he’d just discovered at his church.”
“Another one?” Donella said. “That’s what, the third incident?”
“Fourth,” Walker replied, taking a bite of his cake.
“Problems?’ I asked.
“A few of the local churches have been hit by vandals,” Walker said. He paused to take another bite of his cake. “Kids probably, but it’s becoming a problem. Anyway, Donella, could you run Roger up to the cemetery to get his car?”
“Sheriff,” I said, “Can I ask you a question?”
“If I can.”
“Did Lucian ever strike you as being odd?”
Another bite of carrot cake disappeared into his mouth, “In what way?”
I told him about what Charlie had told me about the will and the stipulations I had to follow. “No one seems to know what Lucian did for a living except he was some sort of consultant. He cut all connections to his relatives, yet names me, not my dad or either one of his brothers, or any of the other relatives as sole heir. And even before I find out I’m Lucian’s heir, I’m attacked, because someone didn't want me up here. And I've just been attacked again for the same reason. So who is Lucian Merlin and what did he do?”
Walker was silent for a few moments, eating his cake. Finally, he said, “I can’t tell you Roger. Lucian was a private man who always kept his distance, yet when someone needed help, he was the first person there. He did a lot of good around here, and that’s what people will remember him for.”
“He was lonely,” Donella said. We looked at her. “The sheriff’s right, Lucian was a private person, but there was a sadness in him. If you were around him long enough, you could see it. When I was thirteen or fourteen, I asked him why he was sad. He looked at me and said that he walked a path few can travel, and when he found someone to walk that path with, he lost her during the war. He said he never found another, but I think he never looked.”
Walker put his now-empty plate down and stood. “I have to get going,” he said. “Roger, I’ll be in touch if there’s any developments or if I need to talk to you again.”
“Of course, Sheriff.”
“Good day to both of you.”
I watched him walk away, then took a bite of my sandwich. Ham, cheese with tomato and lettuce, all topped with honey mustard. After the sheriff drove away, I chewed and swallowed, then looked at Donella. She looked back at me, and I felt myself begin to lose myself in her eyes.. We broke the gaze by mutual consent. “So,” I said. “Are gangs a problem up here?”
“Not really,” she said, “but there have been a number of unsolved crimes over the last six months. The Sheriff’s feeling the heat from the town council.”
“What sort of crimes?” I asked, taking a bite of my sandwich.
“Well, four of the local churches have been vandalized. From what I've know, they did a real number on the altars, wrecking them so they can’t be used. There’s been a rash of farm animals disappearing, including several cows. A couple of weeks ago, they found the remains of a cow up on Table Rock.”
“Table Rock,” I muttered, the swallowed the food in my mouth. “Isn't that where they found Lucian’s body?”
“Yes. And that’s another thing that has the council upset, even though the sheriff turned the investigation over to the county detectives. Lucian was well like and respected by everyone around here.”
I began to feel uneasy. Lucian’s death, the Nazgul wannabe, and this crime wave, all felt like they were connected. And not in a good way.
“People are scared, Roger,” she continued. “I only go out at night if I have to work and even then it’s to the Inn and back again. Aunt Abby keeps a loaded shotgun by her bead and Leal Severine lets his dogs roam the estate at night.”
“The estate?” I asked.
She made an “O” with her mouth in surprise. “I didn't tell you, did I? We — Aunt Abby and I — live on Camelot.”
My heart started beating a little faster. “Who’s Leal?”
“He’s the estate’s groundskeeper. Lucian rescued him from his brothers and gave him the job of taking care of the estate’s grounds.”
“His brothers wouldn't happen to be Mel and Gene, would they?”
She stared at me in surprise. “How did you know?”
“Ran into them last night outside the Inn. Might have gotten into a brawl with them if the Sheriff hadn't shown up and arrested them.”
“Oh,” she said. “Well, Leal isn't like them. He’s a very simple man, honest, hard working. I don’t know how, but he keeps the estate grounds looking good all by himself. He was very devoted to Lucian.”
“He lives on the grounds?”
She nodded. “He has a small house near the front gate and he lives there with five or six large dogs that he’s rescued from the county animal shelter.”
I had been working on my meal while we were talking and finished it as she was talking. “Thank you,” I said.
“For bring this out to me. I didn't realize I was that hungry.”
“Doc loves to cook. A couple of times a year, he threatens to quit medicine and open up a café.” That got a mild chuckle out of me.
Donella stood up. “Come on,” she said. “Let me get my jacket, then we’d better get going.”
Let's see how much of the writing assignment I can get done before Monday....