Disclaimer: Jim Butcher owns all the characters I am using to get some creative juices flowing.
Author's Note: This story is not going to probably follow the cannon of the novels, and I know that the next one comes out in November, but I thought about this for some time and figured it would be fun to get something like this out of me. I hope that you enjoy it and if I have any more chapters after this one I will post it, but this may be a one shot who knows.
Chapter One: The Man with the Staff
"Gorram it!" I screamed, slamming the front door of the house so hard it shook one of the pictures off the wall in the entry way. The large, furry carpet, laying just far enough from the door for it to open but not too far to attack anything that was a threat came in, jumped up with his teeth bared and a snarl filling the small space before noticing it was me. "It's just me, Mouse." His breath let out in a huff as he settled back onto the floor, putting his head on his front paws. I stormed through the house to the kitchen where Mom was cooking…something. She turned to me, and before I could say anything she pointed out the window to the backyard.
"He is in his shed," she sighed before turning back to the stove. "Set your bag on the table before you go out there."
"Yes, Mom," I yelled, dropping my bag on the table and stomping out the backdoor to confront the man responsible for what happened today. I threw open the door to his shed and put my hands on my hips. "You just could not stand me dating Jonathan, could you?" The large man unbent from the project on his woodworking table and turned to me, his normally warm and friendly face giving me a confused look.
"Maggie, what are you talking about?" he asked, setting down the wood burner.
"Oh don't play dumb, Dad. Ever since he started riding a motorcycle and hanging out with the biker group downtown you have been dead set against us not being together," I said, starting to tap my foot. "Jonathan told me that he couldn't date me anymore today when I saw him after Trig. Something about it was not good for the both of us to start getting so serious when we were both so young. I asked him what brought it on and finally confessed some large dude told him that if we continued to date it would be bad for his health. So, who did you send Dad?"
"What makes you think that he is telling the truth?" he asked, leaning back on the table to take some of the weight off his legs. Dad never talked to me about the accident that almost took his life, he just said we had to thank God that he was alive and live the life to the fullest.
"Why would he not Dad?" I said, crossing my arms over my chest. "I may not know much about your life, but come on Dad. How many people in the world can find a tall dude in a duster and glowing staff? Where did you find him? A child's birthday party company?"
"Maggie, what are you talking about?" Dad asked, coming over to me and grabbing me by the shoulders. He looked me in the eyes, concern filling the one good eye. "Honey, what did Jonathan say?"
"What does it matter?" I snapped, trying to shake him off. He gripped my shoulders tighter, shaking me as his face grew grim.
"Margaret Angelica Carpenter," he said, his voice growing low and gruff. "Tell me everything the Jonathan said about that man."
"He said that…that the man was tall. Taller than he was," my voice shook as I said that. My father doesn't use my full name often. He said that names have had power since the dawn of time, so he only used it once in a blue moon. It was usually when something strange happened that I wouldn't talk about or when I had done something really bad that made him angry with me, which was rare since my sister, Molly, pretty much did everything under the sun to torture him and Mom when she was my age. I took a deep breath, closing my eyes and trying to remember everything Jonathan had told me about the man. "He wore a long black duster, and he held a rod with some writing that glowed red. There was a…a pentacle around his neck that glowed a faint blue light."
"His face. Margaret what about his face," Dad said, his voice growing rougher.
"He said…he said the face he saw was something he never wanted to see again," I whispered, my hands clenching to fists by my side. Jonathan's face was filled with fear when he said that. I was still so shocked about the way he was breaking up with me that I didn't even register his fear till now. Mom and Dad always told me to make sure that I knew about reading people's body language, and had Aunt Karrin teach me about it since I was nine.
"Always know what your opponent is thinking." She told me countless of times. Aunt Karrin use to be part of the Chicago Police Department, but she left them when I was eight. She never told me why. She said she took half-retirement and never looked back. Now she taught martial arts at her Dojo downtown as well as firearms courses. She was a tough woman, and told me that she promised my Dad that she would take care of me, which basically meant beating my ass into submission five out of seven days a week.
"Maggie," Dad said, stepping back, letting my shoulders. "I need you to go inside and do your homework in your room until dinner time."
"I know what your mother likes but this once, just go do your homework in your room," he told me, turning back to his table. "I will be in to deal with your mother in a moment."
"Okay Dad," I said, taking a couple steps back. "Love you, Pops."
"Love you, Mags," he said, picking up the wood burner and going back to work on the project. I walked back in the house and grabbed my bag before Mom could see me. I ran up the stairs, Mouse lumbering behind me with his usual happy, tongue hanging out expression. He has been my constant companion for as long as I could remember. He even tried to follow me to school on the first day, till Mom gave him the stare. Even Uncle Sanya cowers under it on his rare visits. I closed my door behind me and dumped the contents of my bag on my bed. I had no homework really. I usually just sat at the table doing some sort of reading or even getting ahead in most of my subjects so when Aunt Karrin holds me over at the Dojo I can just do my chores and go to bed. I had a little bit of math which I breezed through and did some finishing touches on my paper for Medieval History. Uncle Sanya gave me some really great information from his military posting in France a few months ago, and it made my history teacher almost gasp in shock. I wish I could have a computer to do my work on, but after the fourth computer died for some sort of electrical malfunction, Dad explained to my teachers that I needed to just go ahead and write the assignments out. It was a pain to do research the old fashioned way while everyone else got to press buttons and magically have things at their fingertips, but sometimes it was much better information getting the other sources. Once I finished that, I meditated till dinner. I walked down the stairs, smelling my mother's beef stew and hearing Mom talking to someone.
"I thought he was underground for a while longer," she said. "I know it is getting closer to winter so he will be out more but it is the beginning of October. Surely he cannot be out that early."
"I will put my ear to the ground and see what I can find," I heard Aunt Karrin say. "Butters might have heard something." I rolled my eyes. Uncle Waldo was probably the geekiest man I knew, and that includes most of the boys I knew in high school. He played D&D, owned his own lederhosen, and carried a fake human skull around with him everywhere. I walked into the kitchen and Aunt Karrin nodded at me. "Glad to hear you have been keeping up with your school work.
"If I didn't you would kick my butt more than my parents would," I said giving her a hug. She was about half a foot shorter than I was, making it comical that I was afraid of her if you just met her on the street, but I have seen her take down a man three times my size. I smiled at her before turning to Mom. "Anyone else coming to dinner?"
"Little Harry might make it," Mom said.
"Great," I said, trying not to roll my eyes as I grabbed some plates out of the cabinet. Little Harry was a seriously stupid nickname. He was in no way little, six foot nine and built like an NFL star. He just started playing ball at a nearby university with a full athletic scholarship. Mom wasn't too happen about him not being able to totally focus on academics, but Dad just laughed, telling her that having four kids graduate from college should be enough and to let him have his fun. He was always getting on to me about the people I chose to hang out with and what I was doing with my life. I hate it when he comes over. Mouse padded into the kitchen and leaned heavily against Aunt Karrin's leg. I saw her get down in the floor and bury her face and hands in his fur before I went to set the table. Dad walked in as I finished setting out the last bit of the silverware.
"You finish your homework?" Dad asked in Latin.
"Yes Father," I replied in Latin. "How is the work in your shop coming?"
"It is going well," Dad replied in Latin. "Why are there five places set at the table?"
"Mother said that Little Harry might come to dinner, and Aunt Karrin is in the kitchen," I told him in Latin.
"Don't speak dead languages that other people, don't know," Little Harry said as he walked into the dining room. "I still don't understand why you speak it."
"It is the language of the church, Harry," Dad said, easing himself into one of the chairs.
"Dad, it is a dead language. Deal with it," Little Harry said, walking into the kitchen. I sat down next to Dad and rolled my eyes.
"What does he have against Latin?" I asked.
"He just doesn't want to learn it," Dad said, giving me one of his famous smiles and winking the cloudy eye. Mouse came in and sat next to my dad, putting his head in Dad's lap. Dad gave him a very serene smile, laying his hand on Mouse's head. "Ah, the ever watchful guardian. How are things in the house today?" Mouse gave him a soft woof before licking Dad's hand and settling into the floor. Dad chuckled and leaned back as Mom came in with bowls of beef stew. She set one down in front of me before giving Dad his and giving him a kiss. I made a face. Mom and Dad were always like teenagers when it came to affection, and that is saying a lot coming from a teenager. Little Harry and Aunt Karrin came in with their bowls and some bread. Everyone sat down, and Da said prayer before we started eating.
"How is school, Little Harry?" Aunt Karrin asked.
"It is school, Murphy," Little Harry said, tipping his bowl up and pouring almost half of it in his mouth. "The food there sucks."
"Language, Little Harry," Mom said, giving him a disapproving look, probably more for the dumping the stew in his mouth than the language. Mom may look like your average housewife, but I have heard her mutter more than her far share of foul language in her blacksmith shop.
"Sorry, Mom," Little Harry apologized before dumping the rest of the stew in his mouth and going back for seconds.
"That boy definitely can eat his weight in food," Aunt Karrin laughed.
"Daniel use to be the same at his age," Dad said, slowly chewing his food and swallowing it with some effort. I don't know if he does that because of his accident or if he just enjoys Mom's cooking that much. "I am so pleased my daughters at least have some manners."
"Thanks, Dad," I said around a mouth full of food. Mom sighed.
"I hope that my grandchildren will be better with their eating habits," she said as she started eating her stew. Little Harry came back and Aunt Karrin sighed.
"I want you in bed early tonight," Dad told me.
"But I wanted to get some work on our project done," I whined. I usually don't resort to it but I was so close to finishing the carvings on it that I wanted to get it done in time for Halloween. Every year the school has this wicked haunted house and my sister's husband, Carlos, gave me this awesome design from his grandmother that she uses above the door on the house for Dia De Los Muertos that protects the dwelling from evil spirits. I got a really nice piece of oak from one of the local lumber yards and Dad even showed me how to follow the pattern in the wood to use it to the fullest.
"Mags, we need you to get to bed early tonight," Dad said with the tone he usually reserved for Hope when she was heading out of the house with something on that was less than conservative. It sent Hope scurrying back to her room and into something more appealing to my father's conservative side. Me, it just made me sigh and want to bargain.
"Dad, come on, it is almost done," I said.
"I want you in bed early," he stated.
"Margaret," Mom said quietly, her voice a quiet but forceful wall. "We need some time alone with your aunt. You will be in bed early tonight."
"Yes, Mom," I said, trying not to be shocked. She rarely used that tone of voice. Mom was not very vocal when it came to setting rules about things. She had standards she expected to be met, but she rarely ever set a solid rule on something. The rest of dinner was finished in silence; the only noise was the occasional question from Aunt Karrin about Little Harry's classes or Dad asking Aunt Karrin how her work at the Dojo was coming along.
"Now, bed," Dad said, taking my bowl and handing it to Little Harry. "If you want to I can help you some in the morning before you head to school on your project if you are awake enough."
"Thanks, Dad," I said, giving him a smile and kissing his cheek. "I love you."
"I love you too, Maggie," he said, giving me a strange smile and winding one of my black locks around his fingers. "Don't ever forget that."
"Why would I?" I said, shaking my head and heading out the dining room. Mouse once again followed me up the stairs and sat outside the door while I took my shower. He once tried to follow me when I was a kid and Mom calmly told him that he could not be in the bathroom with me unless he was getting a bath. Mouse stood guard at the door from then on unless we were giving him a bath. I blow dried out my long black hair and used my facial scrub before putting on my Star Wars pajamas that Daniel got me for Christmas last year. I crinkled my nose at my reflection, checking my very light brown complexion for any blemishes before I left the bathroom. Mouse looked up at me and whined, laying his ears back. "Oh, you big baby do you always need a treat after my bath? Fine, let's go get you one." I reached midway down the stairs when I heard Little Harry say talking quietly in the dining room.
"I can come home and stay for a couple of weeks. Commuting shouldn't be an issue since most of my classes are after eleven," he said.
"No, it is fine," Dad said. "I am pretty sure he wouldn't try anything."
"How do you know?" Mom said. "He has never done anything so blatant before in her life with us."
"That is not how he works Charity," Aunt Karrin said. "You know that is not how he works."
"But he hasn't been seen by anyone for years," Mom said. "He must have some motive for what he did."
"Do you think someone has been spying on her for him?" Dad said.
"I wouldn't put it past some of the lower Fae to follow him to the end of the Nevernever and back," Aunt Karrin said. I furrowed my eyebrows in thought. Fae was another name for fairies. I used to love them when I was a kid and would always want to dress up as them. Molly told me that it wasn't nice to make fun of something like that, so I quit trying after my fantasy themed tenth birthday party. I never heard of a place called Nevernever though. I wonder what it had to do with fairies. "He always had a way about him."
"I remember," Mom said. "I just worry."
"How is she sleeping?" Aunt Karrin asked.
"The nightmares are few and far between," Dad said. "She doesn't even remember having them anymore." I grimaced sitting on the stairs and leaning against Mouse. I buried one of my hands in his fur and scratched him a bit. The nightmares were not some of the finer things of my dreams. I dream of ancient ruins, knives, and strange creatures that are warring with each other. My father told me that they were just images my mind creates, but something about them seemed so real.
"Those were a trial," Mom said.
"Butters can send Bob out and see if he can find out anything," Aunt Karrin said.
"And I can ask a couple of the locals at school if they can find out anything," Little Harry said.
"Harry," Dad said. "That is not necessary. I am sure we can handle it."
"Well I will check with Georgia and Will to see if they know anything," Little Harry said. I frowned. Why would Aunt G and Uncle Will know something about the man? "I am sure that they will know something. And I will see if I can get in touch with Mort too."
"Mom, I need to do this," Little Harry said. I can imagine him grabbing one of my mother's hands and looking at her across the table. "It will be like I am part of something everyone else has experienced in this family and will remember it this time now that I am old enough."
"I think it is time for me to go," Aunt Karrin said as I heard what sounded like her getting out of her chair. I stood quickly and made plenty of noise as I walked the rest of the way down the stairs. I gave everyone a bright smile as I went into the kitchen.
"Mouse wanted a treat," I called out as I got into the cabinet and grab a few treats from the bag and rushed back out, making it a point not to look at them. Mouse was patiently waiting halfway up the stairs, and moved out of the way slightly to let me pass. I waited till he was in my room before I closed the door and sat on the end of my bed to give him treats. It used to be my mother's sewing room, but she said that I was a delightful surprise and gave it up to give Dad a break from building onto the house. When Hope left home to attend college, she just transformed that room into it since it was bigger and to not have the headache of moving all my stuff to the other side of the house.
My parents were obviously talking about the man that Jonathan saw the other day, but bringing Aunt Karrin and Little Harry into it was strange. Dad usually dealt with things like this without any help.
"It is probably nothing," I said out loud to Mouse. He gave me a doggy grin and pawed at my knee. I laughed and scratched him behind both of his ears before turning to settle in my bed. I glanced at the window to make sure it was locked and saw a bright blue light vanish out of the right bottom corner. I walked to the window and opened it, leaning out to look around. There was nothing but the occasional car passing by and a cat let out a yowl. "Probably the reflection of a passing car," I muttered to myself as I pushed myself back into my room and closed the window. After locking the window and closing the dark red curtains so I would not imagine anything else, I set my Mickey Mouse clock for early morning and burrowed under my covers. As I drifted off to sleep, I drowsily had the thought of what Uncle Waldo might have to do with someone named Bob.