Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Two Hundred and Sixty-Three : Pink and Sparkly

Chapter Two Hundred and Sixty-three

Pink and sparkly

Delphie closed her eyes and fell into a deep trance. Frustrated at their lack of progress, Jacob’s shoulders crumpled forward and his head fell into his hand.

“How many more of these . . . things are there?” Valerie asked.

“Things?” James asked.

Valerie waved her hands over the site.

“Viking burials?” James asked. “Loads. This island is filled to the brim with ancient artifacts. Historical sites and ancient burials are everywhere.”

Sam raised his eyebrows and kneeled down to roll the sod back into place. He tugged on Jacob’s jeans. Jacob looked down before dropping to his knees to help.

“Fairies?” Valerie asked. “Are there places that are specific to fairies?”

“You’ll be surprised to learn that the entire island was supposed to have been inhabited primarily by fairies,” James said. “That’s not to mention the giants who inhabited the place.”

“No giants ever lived on this island,” Gilfand sniffed. “I’ve lived here since long before it was an island, and I never saw a giant. Not one.”

“Good to know,” James said. He crossed his arms and looked down at the ground.

“Listen,” Celia said. “I know we’re frustrated. We have to settle down and figure out where to find the rest of Queen Fand. That’s not to mention where the hell to find Manannán! I don’t need to remind you that my grandchildren are in danger.”

Gilfand’s face screwed up and he sneezed, spraying tiny particles of light. The particles of light hit the earth and caused the grass to grow. When he sneezed again, the grass around him grew up to his knees.

“What happened?” Valerie asked Gilfand.

“Elder tree,” Gilfand said. “They wrapped my queen’s body in leaves from the elder tree. We fairies are deathly allergic to elder trees. Even their leaves and berries are toxic to our kind. They must have used them to keep us from finding my queen’s human body.”

Sam nudged Gilfand from where he was standing before the grass grew to be shoulder height.

“When I meditate on our problem . . .” Delphie spoke a moment before she opened her eyes. She looked from person to person, finally settling on Gilfand. “I know . . .”

She fell silent. Her eyes flicked to James.

“But I don’t know how or why.” Delphie nodded to James. “And you . . .”

She pointed to Gilfand.

“You lied about magic affecting James,” Delphie said. “You can take us anywhere in an instant. What I cannot determine is whether you lied because you are working to undermine our task, or . . .”

“I don’t like him.” Gilfand shrugged. “He reeks of Ronan.”

Gilfand said James’s father’s name as if it were a curse. He spat to clear the taste of the word from his mouth.

“My father?” James asked. “You don’t like me because my father was Ronan Kelly?”

Gilfand sniffed with disgust.

“Is that why I have no luck?” James asked. “You’ve cursed me?”

Gilfand looked embarrassed.

“Fuck this,” James said. “Cursed by the goddamned fairies because of the bastard who sired me, killed my mum, and left me an orphan.”

He stalked off toward the car. Valerie ran after him. She grabbed his arm and forced him to turn around. Jacob watched them argue for a moment before scowling at Gilfand. He shook his head at the fairy.

“Brigid,” Jacob said in his king of Marle voice. “We need you, Brigid.”

James mother appeared before him.

“Hello, Jacob,” Brigid said. “How can I help you to help my queen?”

James heard her voice and reluctantly walked toward the specter of his mother.

“We’ve run into a snag,” Jacob said. “I wondered if you could tell us about you and Gilfand.”

“I met Gilfand when I lived in Belfast. He protected me, cared for the babes, and helped us live. He was my friend and confidant. He gave me all those books that Jimmy has.”

“Ronan Kelly took your life,” Gilfand said.

“And you gave it back to me.” Brigid smiled at the fairy. “Johnny’s father . . . He’s humankind. He was the love of my human life. Gilfand is the love of my fairy life. Ronan was my husband.”

Brigid nodded as if it should make sense.

“He’s saying he won’t help James because of Ronan,” Jacob said.

Brigid scowled at Gilfand, and he looked ashamed.

“He . . .” Gilfand sounded as if he were six years old, not an ageless fairy. “He smells like him.”

Celia and Delphie laughed.

“This isn’t funny,” James said. “He cursed me.”

Realizing that he sounded like he was six years old as well, he laughed.

“Mum,” James said.

“Yes, love,” Brigid replied in Belfast Gaelic.

“Can you talk some sense into this one?” James asked in Belfast Gaelic.

“No more than I can you,” Brigid laughed.

Gilfand sneezed, and the grass started to grow around him. Brigid clapped her hands twice. The smell of the elder leaves disappeared.

“I will take my lady back to the Castle,” Brigid said. “Will you help them?”

“I’m sorry,” Gilfand said.

“Don’t apologize to me,” Brigid said. “My son . . .”

Their eyes held for a moment before Brigid disappeared with the queen’s remains.

“I’m sorry, James,” Gilfand said. “You should know that I never cursed you. In fact, I’ve helped you when I can, and when you needed it most, I sent a fairy for you. Have you ever asked her how she found you?”

Gilfand gestured to the tattoo on James’s right shoulder. James’s eyes welled up; he swallowed hard.

“Where do we need to go?” Gilfand looked at James, who shrugged. “Oracle?”

“Valerie’s right,” Delphie said. “There are more of these.”

“More of what?” James asked.

“Monoliths,” Delphie said. “Cairns or ancient graves.”

“There’s at least a million in the British Isles,” James said. “Probably more. There are places on the island that were large ceremonial areas. There are more than a few graves filled with many different cremations.”

“Let’s think this through,” Sam said. “This site was obvious. James said it had already been excavated.”

“The Celts couldn’t have known it would be,” Valerie said.

“No, but they might have assumed we would find it,” Sam said. “The rest won’t be so easy.”

“The rest? How many sites are there?” James asked.

“Four,” Jacob said. Delphie nodded.

“Can you just . . ?” James held his hands out like Jacob had when he lifted the queen from the Viking boat. Jacob shook his head. “That would be too easy.”

“How well do you know this island?” Sam asked.

“Me?” James asked. “When I was . . . recovering from an . . . injury, I spent all my time walking these sites. It helped me feel like there was life before, and there could be life after. I’ve walked every inch of this island.”

“What do we do?” Valerie asked Gilfand. “You knew these Celts, Gilfand. We know very little about them. What would they do?”

Gilfand tipped his head back and forth while he thought. He returned to his gargoyle form.

“Oracle,” Gilfand said. “Are you clairvoyant?”

“Sure,” Delphie said.

“And you?” Gilfand asked Jacob.

“I get them confused,” Jacob said. “What’s clairvoyant?”

Delphie shook her head at him.

“Clear sight,” Gilfand said.

“Okay, sure,” Jacob said. “Why?”

“Can you see the queen’s energy?” Gilfand asked.

“Sure,” Jacob said at the same time Delphie said “Of course.”

“Valerie’s better at it,” Jacob said. “Delphie and I get flooded by . . . sights, sounds . . . knowing. She sees energy.”

“Did you see the queen’s energy?” Gilfand asked Valerie.

“Pale, pinkish white.” Valerie nodded. “But I couldn’t see it under the dirt.”

Gilfand scowled.

“Why?” Delphie asked.

“I thought I could carry you up and you could look for my queen’s energy,” Gilfand said. “Ms. Valerie couldn’t see the queen through the dirt because she is also blocked by the elder leaves.”

“Makes you wonder how they knew so much about fairies,” Sam said.

“Indeed,” Gilfand said.

“What if Jake and I do it together?” Valerie said. “We used to do it as kids. He can raise me up. When he does, it gives my gift a boost, and . . .”

“It’s worth a try,” James said.

“Wait,” Jacob said. “Who wouldn’t be affected by the elder tree? Who among us isn’t fairy-kind?”

Gilfand gestured to where Sam was stomping down the sod. Feeling their eyes, he looked up.

“What?” Sam asked.

“You’re the only one who isn’t fairy-kind,” Jacob said.

“So?” Sam asked. “Is that a surprise? I don’t have any fancy powers either.”

Jacob looked at Delphie, and she nodded.

“What?” Sam squinted at them. “I know that look. You want me to do something spooky.”

“We . . .” Jacob said.

“I hate that stuff,” Sam said. “It makes me throw up, and . . .”

“You’d be able to see Celia,” Delphie said.

Sam stopped his protest. He glanced at Jacob and then at Valerie.

“It’s for your grandchildren,” Valerie said.

“Don’t do that.” Sam pointed at her. “I hate it when you take away my free will with your words.”

“Sorry, Dad.” Valerie hugged him.

“I’m not saying I will do it, but how would it work if I did?” Sam asked.

“Val and I will channel our skills into you like . . .” Jacob said.

Sam raised a hand and Jacob stopped talking. Just the thought of the last time they’d done that made Sam nauseous.

“How are you going to feel if I see and talk to Celia?” Sam asked Delphie.

“Fine.” Delphie shrugged. “Good. Happy.”

Sam shook his head in disbelief, and she smiled.

“Right now, it’s really our best chance to save Jill,” Valerie said.

Sam gave her a long look before looking at Jacob.

“I’m not going up with that thing.” Sam pointed to Gilfand. “No offense.”

“None taken,” Gilfand said.

“Will you take me up, son?” Sam asked.

“I will take you up, protect you, and bring you back,” Jacob said.

“If I die . . .” Sam nodded to Jacob, who smiled.

“You won’t,” Jacob said. “Mom will be there. Gilfand will be there. All you have to do is go up to a height where you can see the entire island and notice where the light is.”

“And the light is . . .?”

“Pinkish white,” Valerie said. “Sparkly.”

“Like that tutu you wore all the time when you were a kid?” Sam asked.

“Like the tutu.” Jacob nodded.

“Got it,” Sam said.

He put his arms around Delphie and held her close. Whatever he said was lost in the sound of the wind and nearby sea.

“We’d better get moving,” James said. “It’s going to be light in a couple hours.”

Sam was about to turn to Valerie, when he realized he was rising into the air. Below him, Valerie, Jacob and Delphie took each other’s hands. Gilfand was flying near him.

He heard a woman’s voice say, “Take my hands.” Looking up, he saw his beloved Celia.

“Celia,” he exhaled. “I . . .”

He noticed he was still rising and looked down. Jacob and Valerie looked tiny on the grassy shore. He felt nauseous.

“Look at me, Sam Lipson,” Celia said.

He looked back at Celia.

“I’ve missed you,” Celia said.

“I miss you every single day. Like a hole in my . . .” Sam put his hand over his heart. “ . . .my whole life.”

She shifted closer to hold him in a hug.

“Why are you doing this?” Celia said in a low, intimate voice.

“This stupid curse took you from me, from Delphie,” Sam said. “It’ll take Valerie one day. Hell, it could take Jill tonight. I . . . have to do something.”

As if his words needed a kind of certainty, he nodded. She smiled.

“My Sam,” Celia said. “You are a beautiful man. I’ve only grown to love you so much more since I’ve transitioned.”

“Are you and Delphie going to fight when we die?” Sam’s eyebrow pinched with worry.

“No,” Celia laughed. “We’ll share you like we do now.”

He nodded, but his brow reflected his worry. She laughed.

“I think we’re high enough,” Gilfand said. “Any higher and he’ll have trouble breathing. Are you ready?”

“It’s a long way down, Sam,” Celia said.

“I can do it,” Sam said.

Celia moved away from him, and Sam saw the dark night in front of him. He looked down. His stomach heaved.

“We should go down,” Celia said. “It’s too much . . .”

“No,” Sam said. “I would rather do this a thousand times than have to lose anyone else to this stupid curse.”

“But . . .” Celia started to argue. She saw only determination on Sam’s face.

“Would you hold my hand?” Sam asked.

Celia’s eyes welled. She held out both of her hands. He took her hands, and for a moment, they saw only each other.

“We’ll look together,” Celia said. “One, two . . .”

“Three,” Sam said with Celia.

Sam leaned forward to look. He swallowed back his nausea.

“There’s a lot of street lights in the cities,” Sam said. “I don’t think I’m doing it right. I can’t . . .”

Sam fell silent.

“Oh,” he said after a moment.

“You see something?” Gilfand asked.

“I see sparkling lights,” Sam said. “But . . . how are we going to figure out where . . .?”

“Where are they?” Gilfand asked. “Can you describe them?”

“Sure,” Sam said. “If the island is shaped like a football — an American football, that is — we’re at the bottom tip.”

Sam pointed to an area on the west coast midway to the tip of the island, and to one opposite, on the midway point of the east coast.

“If you connect the lines between the dots, including the Viking ship, you’d get one of those square crosses,” Sam said. “Like they had down there at that castle.”

“A Celtic cross,” Celia said. “Sam, that’s brilliant.”

“Of course, they’d use her bones to give their cross power,” Gilfand said.

“I see him,” Sam said. “He sees me too.”

“Who?” Celia said.

“Manannán, I’m sure of it,” Sam said. “He’s walking on the bottom of the ocean, just beyond the surf. He’s circling the island.”

“Finishing the cross,” Celia nodded.

“That’s only three, Sam,” Gilfand said. “Your son said the queen was buried at four more locations.”

Sam closed his eyes to gain some focus and looked again.

“I only see . . .” Sam said. “ . . . the three.”

“Let’s be certain,” Gilfand said. “I’m going to touch your arm. You follow the light to the spot on the ground.”

Gilfand touched Sam’s arm and he followed the light to the ground. He looked around. When he knew where he was, he nodded and flew to the next site. He went to all three sites.

“Good,” Gilfand said.

“We’ll gather those,” Celia said. “The three will give us some wisdom.”

“It will make the fourth easier to find,” Gilfand said.

Sam opened his mouth to say something to Celia, only to find he was standing on the ground next to Valerie. For the briefest second, he felt the crushing pain of losing Celia again. But in his heart, he knew Celia had set him down, at great cost to herself, because it was what he needed. He smiled and tapped Valerie on the shoulder. She jumped.

“Dad!” Valerie hugged him.

Valerie released him, and Sam gave Delphie a long hug. He nodded.

“Why do you look so intense?” Sam asked. “I saw the dots.”

“We were able to see them as well,” Jacob said.

Sam looked over at him. He and James were leaning over a map of the Isle of Man. He leaned over the map for a moment before jogging to the shoulder-high grass. Sam retched until he felt like he couldn’t stand. Valerie came to his side. He stayed hunched over until he could catch his breath.

“Not one word,” Sam said. “Just get on with it.”

Jacob gave his father a clean handkerchief, and he nodded his thanks.

“We think they’re here, here, and here.” James pointed. “This one is easy.”

James pointed to the spot near the north of the island.

“That spot is called ‘Cronk Surmark’,” James said. “It’s a Celtic fort, not dissimilar to this one. It’s never been excavated. Too hard because one side is a steep mountain slope.”

“That’s fabulous,” Sam grinned.

“This one is also easy,” James said. “There’s a white quartz stone in the middle of a suburban street. They call it the ‘White Lady.’”

“My queen,” Gilfand said.

“That’s exactly right,” James said. “Queen Fand is called the White Lady.”

“Sounds pretty straight forward,” Sam said.

“Yes, a no-brainer,” James said.

“We don’t know what this one is,” Jacob pointed to the fourth point on the Celtic cross, on the west coast of the Isle of Man near Peel.

Sam looked at James, who shrugged.

“Nothing?” Sam asked.

“Like I said,” James said, “there’s archeological crap everywhere on this island. It’s one of the reasons I love living here so very much. Just outside my doorstep is a glorious trip into history.”

“So there could be something here,” Sam said.

“We just don’t know what,” Jacob said.

“I could find it,” Sam said. “Gilfand took me there. You didn’t get that?”

Jacob and Delphie shook their heads.

“Why don’t I take that side?” Sam asked. “You can come with me, James, since you haven’t been there. By the time you’ve retrieved the other parts of the queen’s human form, we’ll have figured out where to go.”

“Good thinking,” Gilfand said.

“Everyone ready?” Sam asked. But only James stood near him. Everyone else had disappeared. Brigid appeared next to them.

“Are you ready, Sam?” Brigid asked Sam.

“Yes, ma’am,” Sam said.

They arrived in the early morning on a dark hillside overlooking the west coast of the island just as it started to rain.

~~~~~~~~

Friday night — 9:55 p.m. MST

Construction site near the airport

Rodney pinched his nose to keep from screaming or crying. He fought back the desire to pick up the gas company executive and toss him into the hole. DeShawn and Jason’s fists were clenched and their shoulders rolled forward. They were just untamed enough to throw everything away and simply murder this man in cold blood.

Of course, the gas company executive was oblivious to anything but his own wonderfulness.

“There’s just no way,” the gas company executive repeated. He touched his chest in a learned gesture to imply compassion. “I care as much as you do about the men and women caught down there, but if we extinguish the fire with dirt we’ll risk contaminating our entire operation. I’m confident you don’t want to be responsible for that.”

The middle aged man nodded. He glanced at the army engineers and then at Rodney. He made the mistake of looking at Rodney’s young assistants. DeShawn took a step forward, and Jason held him back.

“We understand your concern,” Rodney said. “You don’t want to risk losing your business.”

“That’s exactly right.” The gas company executive smiled.

“You’re willing to let these people die rather than risk something that might happen,” Rodney said.

“We’re not heartless, you know,” the gas company executive said. “We’re just as sorry as the next guy when these random acts of nature happen.”

“Did you get that?” Rodney turned to Jason. The young man held up his phone. “We have a policy of recording conversations with outside entities.”

Turning to Jason, Rodney nodded. Jason gave his phone to DeShawn. With a nod, DeShawn stalked off.

“He’s going to share your comments with the media,” Rodney said.

The army engineer turned away to keep from laughing. The gas company executive’s face drained white with panic.

They heard the thump, thump of military helicopters and looked up. Rodney turned to look into the sink hole.

While Rodney had been arguing with the gas company executive, Jerry and his team had set up safety ropes. MJ and Colin were standing on top of an excavator. They wore harnesses and were strapped into the support lines Jerry had run. Some of the guys from MJ and Colin’s team gave them oxygen masks and small tanks. The military helicopters lowered wires in front of them.

When the wire was three feet from MJ, he threw himself off the excavator. He caught the wire, and a general hoot went up among the military people. A soldier slid down the wire and hooked MJ onto the lifeline.

“What is he doing?” The gas company executive pointed to MJ in horror.

“I’m not quite sure,” Rodney said.

He waited a beat, and Colin jumped off the excavator.

“Excuse me a minute,” Rodney said to the gas company executive.

“We’re a go, sir,” a National Guard captain said to the army engineer.

“Go,” the army engineer said.

Across the site, a Lipson dump truck released a load of dirt on top of the methane fire.

“What are you doing!?” the gas company executive screamed.

There was a whistle, and two tall, thin soldiers, their faces obscured by oxygen masks, jumped off the edge of the pit and onto the load of dirt. A soldier threw shovels off the edge at them. The soldiers grabbed the shovels and jumped out of the way. Another truck unloaded onto the fire, and two more soldiers jumped into the pit.

The soldiers started shoveling dirt onto the fire. MJ and Colin reached the trailers. Another soldier landed nearby with an acetylene torch. The soldier lit the torch and began cutting into the trailer.

Rodney smiled. His heart swelled with hope.

The earth shifted with such sudden brutality that Rodney was knocked off his feet. He landed next to Jason, who landed on top of the gas company executive.

The earth began to shake.

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