On the first of the month a new chapter is posted from an as yet to be released book. The current book is Tansy Moves In. This is the first book of the upcoming Oak Hill Series. I’m a few days late this month, but I hope you think it was worth the wait.
Tansy watched the firemen fight the blaze while standing with her neighbors. Most of those around her she knew in passing. While none of them could actually get into their apartments while the firemen worked, it was clear that only those living in the eastern wing of the complex would be out of a place to live. Since about half of that wing was slated to begin renovations soon, it left about twelve of them out in the cold.
As they watched Tansy could feel the crowd separate as the fire died down and the water was pumped over steaming ashes. Those who would soon be let back into their undamaged apartments shifted to the left while those who would need to spend the night elsewhere were left in a group to the side.
No one seemed quite certain what to do. All of them arranged for places to spend the night, some with friends others with family. Harold circled by to double check and Tansy heard the various answers. Yet no one really moved. Harold bounced between the office their group and conversations with someone who looked official.
As the firemen decided to cease the barrage of water and began putting their equipment on their truck, Tansy looked around and saw that Chris was nowhere to be seen. She scanned the parking lot but his vehicle was gone as well.
Harold returned and sent those who lived elsewhere in the complex back to their apartments before turning to those in her wing.
“It will be tomorrow before anyone is allowed in the building to look for anything that remains,” Harold told them. “They have to make sure it is structurally sound enough for anything to be looked at. Plus it is now too dark to see anything.”
Tansy had to acknowledge the fact that Harold was correct. The sky was already darkening when she left the stores to head back to her apartment. As the fire was put out and the last embers drowned in a veritable flood from the fire hose, the sky darkened into night. It seemed brighter as the parking lot lights were blazing into the space.
“I have all of your contact information and will contact each f you personally to arrange a time for dealing with whatever was left behind.”
At Harold’s words the knot of her neighbors started to drift apart. “Tansy, a moment,” Harold said, stopping her before she could move back to her car. Tansy turned and walked back to Harold. Her neighbors slowed their movements to hear what Harold wanted to say to her. She really couldn’t blame them. She knew she would have stopped too.
“Do you have any way to get in touch with Chris?”
Tansy shook her head. “I just ran into him in the hallway and the parking lot,” Tansy said. “I don’t even have a cell number.”
She chewed her lip she remembered that the cell number Chris gave Harold was no longer connected. She thought of Chris’s car. It was an older model and didn’t look rented. “I think I can remember his license plate number if that would help in finding him. I’m sure he’d want to know his apartment was damaged.”
“It looked like the fire started in his apartment,” Harold said, half to himself as he pulled a scrap of paper from his back pocket. It looked like some sort of receipt. Harold patted himself down looking for a pen, but came up with nothing. One of her neighbors held a pen out to him. Tansy noticed that none of them were even making pretenses of leaving at the moment.
“Chris isn’t here,” the man handing over the pen said. His eyes scanned the crowd. Tansy only knew him as the Softball Blonde as she saw him leaving to play on his office softball team periodically.
“I haven’t seen him,” Tansy said.
“Do you know where he works?” Softball Blonde asked.
Tansy shook her head. “Like I said I only passed him in the parking lot. He usually leaves for work and comes home the same time I do.”
“But not today?” someone asked. It was a brunette woman from the first floor who Tansy thought of as Yoga Lady since she frequently saw her carrying a yoga mat.
“He left at the same time, but I stopped to do some shopping before coming home. He wasn’t here when I arrived and I haven’t seen him,” Tansy told the crowd.
“His plate number?” Harold prompted.
Tansy gave him the numbers and he wrote them down.
“You don’t think he could be in the apartment,” someone asked nervously. All of them turned to look at the building. For a moment there was the steady sound of water. The firemen dropped pumping it into the building but now it rushed out in a small river downhill towards the street and the drains leading to the sewer. The sound of rushing and dripping was loud in the quiet night. Along the upper floor, Tansy thought she saw movement, but it was quick, darting and since no one else commented, she thought she might have imagined it.
“I didn’t see his car in the lot,” Tansy answered.
“The firemen were certain they got everyone out,” Harold assured them. With the crowd assured that Chris was not a charred briquette, concern faded to suspicion. As she had no more answers to give, Tansy was allowed to leave. The others too headed towards vehicles. There was a mass exodus as they each got into their cars and left the lot, heading for the exit. Once through the exit gate, they fanned out in a wave, each going their own separate locations. As Tansy piloted her car onto the interstate and towards Oak Hill, her thoughts were darker than the sky. Chris and the other Weathersbys wanted something that they thought she had. They wanted it enough to risk breaking and entering. Chris searched her apartment and couldn’t find it and his parents tried to search Eunice’s house.
Tansy thought of the acid casserole. The macaroni noodle burned a hole through Margaret’s skirt and certainly wouldn’t have done her any good had she tried to eat it. Chris knew when she arrived home and when she left. Her trip to the store was unplanned and the fire started in his apartment. As Tansy drove she wondered if she was meant to be inside the apartment.
“A fire isn’t much different than a poisoned casserole,” Tansy said to herself. The thought sat uneasily. She had never had anyone who might possibly want her dead before. She could sort of see the logic. If Eunice, and those who came before her put protections on the house, then those who wanted to get into the house would need to bypass those protections. They tried to bypass those protections by attempting to break in before the protections passed from Eunice to Tansy.
“Which would happen after her death but before her ashes were scattered,” Tansy guessed as that seemed to make the most sense. “Which means if I were to die the protections would go down again.” She tapped the steering wheel. “Maybe.”
She wasn’t entirely certain but that seemed plausible. Tansy expected to feel fear. And she did. But as the miles clicked her closer to Oak Hill Tansy found her anger growing. Several of her neighbors were now burned out of their apartments, everything they had burned or water damaged, possibly completely beyond salvation because the Weathersby family wanted something. Tansy suspected it was the same set of rings Eunice was tracing before she died. She also suspected that because of the fire and acid casserole, Eunice might have had some help falling down the stairs at the courthouse.
“After all if death was the only way to bypass the protections that seems likely as well,” Tansy thought. “But why didn’t they break in after Eunice was dead but before I arrived in town. It makes no sense. They had the keys. Surely the protections were down then.”
Tansy shook her head, some of her anger fading back as confusion set in. “I need someone to ask,” Tansy said. Her stomach rumbled. “I also need something to eat.”
Tansy was approaching the turn off, where the interstate met the highway that became for a brief stretch, Main Street. Here there was a line of several fast food chain restaurants along with several big box stores. The area that usually held the Saturday morning farmers market was empty and bare but lights were on in the other businesses surrounding it.
“I also need deodorant and a hair brush as well as some underwear,” Tansy realized. She may have picked up a spare work outfit and some socks on her recent after work shopping, but at the moment the underwear she was wearing was the only set she had.
“I doubt that survived the fire.” Tansy pulled into the correct lane and exited into the jumble of shopping. There was less joy in it than she displayed earlier and Tansy took no time looking through the nail polishes on this trip.
She secured enough underwear to last a week, added in a couple of shirts for work and a few pair of pants to her cart. Tansy then added a hair brush, shampoo and conditioner and deodorant to her cart. In the beauty section she added a simple selection of products to get her through the office the following day, figuring she could make a list and do more in depth shopping when she was in a more fun state of mind.
Once the basics were covered, Tansy detoured to the deli section of the store. The space behind the counter was dark but in the heated rack she found a small bag of jalapeno poppers and a small container of chicken wings. While it felt more like shopping for a movie night than dinner, Tansy declared it greasy comfort food and added both to the cart.
“At least I won’t have to hit the drive through,” Tansy told herself. She went through check out, rolled the cart out to her car and loaded everything in, placing the necessities on top of the previously purchased items and the fried foods in the passenger seat next to her.
The scent of the food had her belly twisting as she drove the rest of the way to the house. As she pulled into the drive, the security lights came on. By their light Tansy unloaded the car. She left the bulk of her purchases in the living room and took the food to the kitchen. Before she settled to eat, Tansy made certain her car was locked and then locked the front door. She even double checked the locks on the back door before settling herself.
The first few bites, Tansy thought of nothing but how good the food tasted. She generally steered away from fried foods to avoid break outs, and the heavy feeling they left behind, but after the stress, worry and anger of the day, the food felt just about right.
“Sorry Aunt Eunice,” Tansy said as she bit into another jalapeno popper. She was pretty sure her Aunt could have made a better version but at the moment tansy was happy with what she had. As her initial hunger faded, the rest of Tansy’s concerns flooded back into her mind.
She needed to know what was going on and why. “Especially if they try to kill me again.” While Tansy was safe at the house, she would be exposed moving between the house and the office. “And I can’t just stay in the house to stay safe.”
She needed more information. As far as she could see there were two sources available to her. The first was that she could ask Petra and the others what was going on. The problem was that they wouldn’t talk to her until she made her decision about using magic. The second source were the books on magic below. They might contain clues about the rings that Eunice didn’t feel the need to mention in her notes to herself.
“But I can only open those books after I’ve made my choice.”
Tansy looked towards the pantry and the hidden door as she continued to eat. She wasn’t entirely certain what acceptance entailed. It would let her learn to use magic but it also meant that things like paintings leaking from ships tossed in a painted sea and files talking would be a part of her life. “But I did get the files to stop talking,” she reminded herself. She thought about the Weathersby Family. She doubted they would suddenly decide to leave her alone if she chose not to learn magic.
Tansy thought of Roderick’s face as he threw a green ball of fire at the house. She shook her head. Roderick wouldn’t let her walk away with something he wanted. That much she was sure of. “I’d be sure of that even if magic wasn’t involved,” She decided. She thought about the way he propelled her out of the office on the day she picked up the keys and paperwork.
“It won’t matter if I turn down the magic.” Tansy finished the last of her meal and cleaned up, moving the empty containers and chicken bones to the trash. She washed her hands and dried them on a towel. Her eyes again drifted towards the pantry door. In the morning she would have to leave for work. It wasn’t a terribly long drive but it felt like a long way to be vulnerable.
“Maybe there is a way to put a protection on my car.”
Tansy found her steps moving towards the pantry. She opened the door and then fiddled with the catches opening the secret door and walking down the short, awkwardly spaced set of stairs. The small room was as she left it. As she needed to consult the first of the training books, Tansy left it out on Eunice’s work table. She walked over.
Tansy opened the cover of the book and saw the first of the information about practicing control. She flipped through the pages and found the page to accept the oath for practice. This time the page was not blank. Tansy read over the words.
‘If you are truly certain that you wish to learn, prick your thumb pressing the drop of blood to the center of the below symbol and read the below paragraph aloud. Tansy dropped her gaze down the page. There was a short paragraph and below it were two letters she recognized from university. While she never joined a sorority she had plenty of friends who did and she often attended parties. The symbol looked like two Greek letters overlapped. To her they looked like Alpha and Omega, but she wasn’t entirely certain.
Pinned to the page as a long straight pin topped with what looked like a pearl. Tansy frowned. That certainly hadn’t been there before. ‘The book wouldn’t close properly with it there.’ Apparently the book thought it was time for her to make a decision.
Tansy scanned the paragraph, surprised to find her name was already added to the text. ‘I Tansy MacDougal accept that I have magic. I accept that it is a god given talent inherited through my blood. I swear to use it in a wise and judicious manner, controlling my talent rather than letting it control me. I swear to keep the secret of my magic and the secret of those in the community safe from the world at large.’
As far as oaths went, Tansy didn’t think it too onerous. There was no pledge to obey a secret society, just a promise to keep her mouth shut. Tansy figured that was something she could manage. ‘And mostly what I am after is protection anyway.’
Tansy pulled the pun from the page. It smelled vaguely of rubbing alcohol. She set the book down on the work table, leaving it open. She pressed the tip of the pin to her thumb. It was wickedly sharp and she barely pressed the pin to her skin when a drop of blood welled up. She moved her thumb to the page. The drop of blood fell on the symbol before her thumb connected to the page.
She pressed her thumb down anyway and read the passage aloud as directed. As the last word tumbled from her lips there was a great sigh around her and tansy looked around. The books on the shelves seemed to relax as though they exhaled with her oath and she suspected that the pages would now turn if she wanted to flip through them. Tansy lifted her thumb from the page.
Her bloody thumbprint was on the center of the symbol, but her thumb was no longer bleeding. As she watched, there was a whisper of paper in the air and the page containing her oath and thumbprint disappeared, leaving only the book behind.