the Bermuda Triangle
Chance jumped as far out as he could. This time his dive was clean. When he surfaced, there was Julia, bobbing like a cork and clinging to an oversized oar that must be Cedric.
Above them, Sam Begay cupped both hands around his mouth. "You two okay down there?"
If he noticed the drastic change in 'Millicent', or that she was riding on the water's surface rather than swimming in it, Sam uttered not a word.
Chance waved a hand. "Just peachy."
"Don't go away. I'll be right back with a boat." Sam trotted off, heading for the opposite side of the ship.
He draped an arm over Cedric, letting the oar/broom support him in the water. "Julia," he said, "we've gotta get out of here. I…killed a man. It was an accident, but - "
"Oh, you're right. You mustn't be brought to trial. Even an acquittal would generate too much publicity."
"Can Cedric fly us?"
Julia stroked Cedric's glossy wooden neck. "I don't think so. He's terribly weak. All that smoke and heat almost killed him. Besides, someone might see us."
While rescue operations were focused on the opposite side of the ship, spotlights from helicopters and rescue vessels swept the waters on both sides, searching for missed survivors. Someone could spot them any minute. Sam would come to retrieve them as soon as he commandeered a boat.
"Can't you just cast another 'ignore me' spell?"
She shook her head, producing a spray of water droplets. "He'd need all my powers amplifying his to fly. Especially carrying two. I can't hide us and help him - why are you grinning?"
Chance tugged the EAD free of his shirt and held it above the water. "Because I've still got this. Right over there is an empty inflatable. Do you think Cedric can push it?"
"Christopher! You are amazing! Cedric, dear, do you think you can change again? We need a dolphin."
Chance had an Evinrude outboard motor, maybe 40 horsepower, in mind, but wasn't going to quibble.
Cedric abruptly sank, yanking Chance spluttering beneath the surface before he could let go. A moment later, with a swirl and a splash, a huge bottle-nose dolphin appeared, a large fish struggling desperately in its jaws. The dolphin - Cedric - gulped down the fish, then disappeared, only to re-emerge, carrying the flotation ring like a dog carries a Frisbee.
Julia closed her eyes, squinched up her face, and chanted a string of syllables. As if propelled by a gust of wind, or hundreds of little duck feet, the inflatable skittered over the water to them. Cedric swam in circles, flipping the flotation ring into the air and catching it again.
"Looks like he's recovered," Chance said, sounding a little sulky.
He cut a length of the flotation ring's rope for a tow-line and secured it to the inflatable. With Cedric tugging impatiently at the ring, now over his head like a horse-collar, Chance boosted Julia in and clambered in after her. Julia glanced past his shoulder.
"Here comes your friend. Use the device."
"Wait. Even if we're gone, won't he remember seeing us in the water? Wonder where we went?"
"No, the amnesia's retroactive. He'll lose about ten minutes. Forget why he's here. Maybe think he saw someone, but he won't remember who. Now hurry!"
Chance squeezed the device. Julia cried, "Go, Cedric!" The inflatable took off through the water with a jerk that almost sent Chance sprawling overboard.
A dozen yards away, Sam Begay idled his rescue boat's motor. One hand rested on the charm he wore at his throat as he watched 'Marty Gage' and the hot little red-head go zipping across the waves, towed by a dolphin.
"Good luck, my friend," he said, "wherever you're bound."
Sam had told Chance about his Code Talker father. He hadn't had occasion to mention that his mother, her mother, and for as many generations back as the Dineh walked this land, their mothers before them had watched over the Navajo, curing their ills and healing their minds.
As he released the charm, a talisman against spells and skinwalkers, Gage and his red-haired woman blinked out of sight.
… … … … …
Records would show eleven passengers and eight crew lost in the Cassiopeia disaster, including passenger Millicent Tuttle, whose body was not recovered. Among the crew, three officers and a steward shot by the deranged crew director, Hubert Oglethorpe, and Oglethorpe himself from a skull-fracture of undetermined cause. Also missing, his body presumed consumed by fire, Assistant Purser Martin Gage.
"He was a hero," Sam Begay told a reporter from Life Magazine waiting on the dock for the rescue ships. "Many of the crew were new and not very experienced. Gage led the way, getting lifeboats over the side and passengers into them. Just when we thought everyone was off, we heard someone yelling for help. A lady was stuck in her cabin porthole.
"He got her out and they were in the water, safe. Then he went back - I guess someone else was still in the cabin. He never came out. I looked for him and that woman he saved, but I never saw them again. Me an' Gage, we were pretty lucky to survive when the Sea Witch blew up. I guess Gage's luck got used up on this one."
… … … … …
About the same time Sam was giving his interview, Chance and Julia came ashore on a tiny islet a few miles from Cat Island to let their clothing dry and give Cedric a chance to rest and graze. Julia set a pile of driftwood ablaze with Witchfire, the green flame invisible beyond a dozen feet, then strolled into the trees. She emerged a short while later carrying a palm frond basket filled with figs and mangos.
Chance gave her the eye. "So, tell me, my little witchling, why didn't you melt when you hit the water?"
She put her hands on her hips and glared. "Honestly, Christopher. That only happens in Oz."
She had transformed Millicent's pink polyester jumpsuit into a flowered silk sarong that was giving Chance all sorts of ideas. Before he could decide which one to suggest first, Julia spoke again.
"Why do you think in olden days they tied women up and threw us into ponds? If we drowned, oops, big mistake, we weren't witches. If we floated, they knew we were." She looked sad, as if recalling an unpleasant memory. "Then they pulled us out and burned us. That's why I got stuck in the porthole. I was so frightened I forgot the counterspell I needed to change back. Until you came to my rescue."
She batted her eyes at him. He scowled.
"What the hell were you doing, pretending to be Millicent Tuttle? I was ready to jump ship to get away from her."
"I was instructed to keep an eye on you. If you didn't decide to come home, I was supposed to convince you."
He gave an exaggerated shudder. "Another 24 hours of Millie would have done it. Do you have any idea how heavy Cedric is? And what's with that voice? I've heard rusty hinges sound better."
Julia preened. "Pretty awful, wasn't it? So…are you ready to come home?"
He was. He might never obtain absolution for all the lives he'd taken, but when he thought of how many he helped save on this voyage, he felt good about himself. Damn good.
"So, how do we get there? Is Cedric recovered enough to fly?" He'd never admit it, but he was beginning to enjoy flying broom-back.
"I'm sure he will be soon, but we'll stay here until tomorrow night. This is the Bermuda Triangle, after all. We can catch a moonbeam home."
"When are the next nude midnight revels?"
the land of the Fae
November 24, 1963
AUTHOR'S NOTE: If you skipped over the Prolog, you might want to go back and read it before reading the Epilog.
Jack Kennedy, Halfling, smoothed his green velvet jacket and gazed down from the Great Hall mezzanine at the ballroom floor below where dancing figures performed intricate steps to the music of fiddles and lutes. Just as card-sharps were compelled by nature to cheat, and glow-worms unable not to glow, the Fae lived to dance. Even a simple crossing from table to cupboard was accomplished with a lightness of foot Gene Kelly or Barishnacoff would drool over.
He drew deeply on his cigar. Cuban. Smuggled in by one of Her Majesty's minions, a nixie or pixie, he still couldn't remember which was which.
It wasn't such a bad place at that, he mused. He'd always enjoyed parties. Here almost every night some Lord This or Lady That hosted a gathering. Daytime meant attending another caucus where bigwigs plotted their next raid or coup d'état. He even was invited to join the Wild Hunt, but begged off to spare his bad back.
He took a sip of whiskey. Its rich, smoky flavor beat anything he'd tasted back 'home', and never caused a hangover no matter how much one overindulged. As for the women, well! Finding a bedmate was almost too easy. He took them on two, even three at a time. His back these days was sturdy enough for that.
Yesterday's assasination of John F. Kennedy had caused scarcely a ripple in Faerie. Kidnapped in June, he dodged Lee Harvey Oswald's bullet by a mere six months. No chance of someone taking a potshot at him here. No bullets existed. No guns. The iron needed to forge firearms and ammunition was as deadly as holy water to the Fae. Too bad about his half-brother, though. Jackie would have it pretty tough for a time. Worse, Caroline and little John-John would grow up without a father. He regretted that.
He chuckled softly as he recalled his outrage, and to be honest, outright terror, the night the Selkies came for him.
"We found a nice, quiet guest house right above the sea," Secret Service Agent Jerry Blaine had told him. "Private suite, private bath, great food." The innkeeper's daughter, a lovely, buxom colleen, proved delighted to provide the special service he solicited.
Jack Kennedy might be a Halfling, but he was no wuss. He fought like a spriggan - he'd met one or two since, and the simile was apt - to shake off the great bearded beings who burst into his bedchamber, naked and reeking of the sea. All those years playing football had taught him a trick or two. But they were three and he was one and in the end his back betrayed him. The beings with their webbed fingers pinioned his arms and stopped his shouts with a nasty seaweed gag.
"Come along, then," one captor said. "So long as ya behave, no harm'll come to ya."
He caught a glimpse of the other - his friggin' double - in the courtyard, chatting animatedly with Agent Blaine, demonstrating a goddammed football pass! Someone from God knew where - Russia or maybe even the damned Mafia - they meant to pass off as him.
Well, he'd told himself, Bobby would figure out what happened soon enough. Jackie would know in a heartbeat. The two of them would expose this bastard imposter. Put a stop to whatever scheme was planned for America. Then they'd send the rescue squad. Green Berets. Or the Navy SEALS. Who'd damn well show these lunatics you can't kidnap the president of the United States and get away with it.
As his captors hustled him down to the shore, he was already working on his speech thanking his rescuers for their swift response and praising their valorous actions. Then, to his utter bewilderment, his captors rummaged among the rocks and tide pools where each found a thick fur cloak that enveloped their muscular bodies like a second skin. One by one in their seal forms, the Selkies slipped away into the sea.
The woman who arrived after the Selkies departed wore a garment more moonlight than textile. Her long dark hair swirled softly, as if stirred by a breeze he could not discern. She smiled, not quite showing the teeth he would learn were a bit too pointed for a human female.
"Come with me, Jack. It's time to see your new home."
When he clasped her long-fingered hand, somehow what transpired in the world he came from faded into insignificance. No, his new home, this land of the Fae, wasn't a bad place at all.
It was his last thought before the first stone-tipped arrow pierced his aorta, the second smashed through his ribs and penetrated his heart.