The first of November came up all of a sudden. At least it seemed like it to me. I gave the Scoddameyer Ranch the hay bales and pumpkins I used for decorating my front porch
I thought the pumpkins would be OK because I didn’t use candles. I used glow worms and fireflies instead. Neither penetrated the flesh of the gourd or made a home either. They seemed content to find a warm and safe place to be.
As for the hay bales, I needed something to put my pumpkins on. I didn’t know what to do with them afterwards so I asked around. That’s how they ended up at the Scoddameyer Ranch, and it seemed like the normal thing to do.
Mr. Scarecrow was torn apart and thrown away. None of it could’ve been saved or donated. I thought about making him real, but that would draw too much attention. There’s always next year.
It was a fun time seeing the young ones dressed up. So many different ideas.
After that, came a time for the whole family to come together and feast. Some do have a family while others may not have one. Instead, a group of friends celebrate in the same way. When one had neither, one was not so sure where to go. That was me and Wilfred.
I gathered the mail from the postal box and set them on the counter. I poured myself a Pinot Gris before sorting through them. As expected, most were of no consequence. Either selling me something I didn’t need or making me believe I did something wrong and only they could help. With a flick of my wrist they turned to dust.
That left a reminder that living in this world wasn’t cheap. In amongst them was a letter from a stranger. I opened it up to satisfy my curiosity.
A family wanted to hire me to search for their lost daughter. It seems she had gone to see the Ring of Brodgar and disappeared. They hoped I would be able to find her or at least find out what happened to her.
They would pay for all the expenses including airfare, transportation, food and lodging, and provide me with anything I needed. However, they would not be willing to tell me what they knew. They wanted me to find out if the rumors they heard were true.
I never told anyone here my true nature. For fear of being put away and examined under instruments only scientists would be able to operate. I told people I worked as a private investigator. I even offered to show my license upon request.
“Excuse me, Mistress, but it is time for me to dine,” Wilfred said
I looked down at him. Still a big ball of grey fur. It was easier to show him as a cat rather than a dragon. “In a moment, Wilfred. I have to finish this letter.”
“Oh. Come now. We have lived in this world for at least five decades. Isn’t it time we return to ours?”
“You know better than to ask me that. I suggest you wait or I will turn you into a lizard. The choice is yours.”
He meowed as he walked away.
I put the letter back in the envelope. I finished the wine as I thought about the request. I would need to research the area to find out if there was the possibility of anything magical. Someone may have opened a doorway and forget to close it. If that was the case then it would be easy. If it was something else, then it might be something more difficult. I wouldn’t know until I got there.
They finished by letting me know they booked a flight for me to leave here in two days. It was first class of course. It seemed they had a reputation to protect.
I put the letter back in the envelope while I got Wilfred’s food out. It would give me the opportunity to stretch and to wander around a bit. Get a breath of fresh air, as it were.
“Wilfred, your dinner has been served.”
He ran back to me and meowed before moving over to his food bowl. Gone in two seconds as usual. One might presume I never fed him if they saw this. “The food was adequate. I would prefer fresh salmon next time.”
“Wilfred, I have to leave for a while. Someone needs me to look for their missing daughter. She was supposed to have gone to Scotland and return in a week’s time, but she never returned. I need you to stay here.”
“Very well. I don’t suppose… you could… this once… .”
“No. I won’t return you to your dragon self. Not until you learn the value of life. You know that.”
“I had to ask. It wasn’t that bad.”
I stood up and walked to him. “Not that bad? Not that bad? It is because of you that we are here to begin with. Not a living creature was found in two villages. A child’s favorite pet had disappeared and started looking for it when you were found with it in your mouth. Not that bad you say?”
“I was hungry. I hadn’t eaten all winter. I could always transform to my human self.”
“We tried that. You almost were found out after you had broken the glass door of a pet shop because you were hungry. You will stay in that form until you learn. That’s final.”
He left the front room to return to my bed. I needed to change the sheets anyway.
With him moping and messing on my bed, I went to the library to research the area a bit before I left. Once I got there, I heard all of them cry for my attention.
I found an older woman pushing a book cart around and placing books upon the shelves. She might know where I could find the information I needed.
“Excuse me, I was wondering if you could tell me where I could found out anything about the Ring of Brodgar.”
She looked at me and smiled. “Oh. Well. I never heard that name before. Would what you’re looking for be fiction or nonfiction.”
“Nonfiction. It’s a ring of stones in Scotland.”
“Oh my. That’s a problem. You see, we don’t have many books on foreign countries. Lucky if we have anything about America. Your best bet would be to go to the university and ask to use their European library. That’s not a guarantee but they might let you.”
“All right. Thank you.” I left the library and did what she said. Lucky for me, everything was within walking distance.
Why was it the places of higher learning here seemed so… what was that for it… well they never appeared to be a university. A place for higher learning. They always seemed so inadequate.
I went into the front building, marked administration, and found a map. The place I needed was out the doors and to the left. I went there and the library the lady mentioned was open.
I heard the voices of the books whisper and the minds of the students concentrate on other things. Unless they were indeed studying the latest concoction for getting wasted, as they said.
I found the section about Scotland and went through each book. None of them had any information on what I was looking for. They had no idea what or who the ring was about to begin with. That meant I had a lot of work to do once I got there.
It came time for me to leave. They provided someone to transport me to the airport. It would’ve been easier for me to transport myself. However, that would’ve brought unnecessary attention towards me. The airport was always so busy with a crowd of people.
Three hours before departure seemed too much, but with everything I had to go through I realized the wisdom of this practice.
They provided me a first class seat. All by myself no less. It was the perfect journey to an unfamiliar destination.
I arrived at the airport and went to the baggage claim area. I didn’t bring anything along, but I needed to see if they provided me with baggage without telling me.
I looked at every tag on every suitcase and they didn’t have my name or the name of my client. I went to the area and walked towards the exit when I saw a saw a sign marked Esma. At least they spelled my name right.
The man holding it couldn’t have been more than sixteen. A mix between whiskers and pimples on his face provided the clues for me. Of course, there was always a chance I was wrong. Not often.
“Yes, I am Esma. You would be?” I smiled.
“Uh. Yeah.” He shrugged. “Oh, and uhm, Scott.” He shrugged again and put down the sign. He dug into his pocket and pulled a key ring. “I’m supposed to take you there. And no, we’re not from here. Long story. Let’s just go.”
I raised my eyebrow at this young lad and followed him all the way to the car. It flet a bit cramped inside, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of my height or it was indeed a small car.
We left the city, and took various roads to arrive at the final destination. We got out of the car and walked the trail.
“Yeah, uhm, look I’m supposed to drop you off. Someone else will be here later. I don’t know. Later.” He left.
Not a very talkative young man.
I looked around at the stones around me. No visible markings although they did have a strange energy around them. It didn’t feel as if the energy came from this area. Maybe someone used these for a ritual or something else magical.
Since nobody was around, I took the opportunity and did some magic work. I put my hand on the one in front of me. “I, Wizardess Esma, am asking for you to speak to me. A young woman was here but had vanished without prior knowledge. Would you know anything?”
The stone opened its eyes. “We have witnessed something otherworldly. A dark force had taken a sun colored woman from here. Destination unknown.” It closed its eyes.
It seemed that particular one was the only one willing to speak. The others never answered. Still nobody there, and with the sun still up, I conjuired a mirror to reflect the prior incident.
It didn’t show anyone, but a mysterious doorway did open and she walked through. It wasn’t revealed if she had any magical ability.
There was the old story of a person without ability to cast spells who happens an old document. They may be able to document and do so out loud. Something magical happens, and out of curiosity, goes on adventure. Often times, it was thought of as an excuse, but as many times it turned out to be true. Could she have happened upon a magical spell and not realize it?
Footfalls came in my direction. I turned to see who it was and an older woman smiled at me. Her steps seemed rather forced. A hard enough step to make an impression on the grass. The narrowed eyes and thin lips were the other clues.
“Ms. Esma, you have been here long enough to take a look around. It is time to come home and make yourself useful.”
I tried every trick I could think of not to change her into something cold and slimy. “Ma’am, my name is Esma. If you are a member of the family that hired me, then you would know the reason why I am here. I am fifty-three years old. Not three.”
“You’ve got a mouth on you. If you want to stay here be my guest. I don’t care. It does get rather cold here at night.”
Maybe, I better go to the house on my own, since this woman may incite an incident. “I will find my own transportation. Thank you. I do have your address.”
“Suit yourself. Can’t say I didn’t warn ya.”
I watched her leave. I don’t blame the daughter for leaving with a relative like that. I know I would be miserable.
Back to the matter at hand, I could sense where the doorway was. Other than that, there was nothing I could find that would indicate any force beyond normal. I had a feeling it was back to that old story.
There was one way to find out though. There was a golden key. Such a thing could open any magical door. However, it would open one door and then would vanish. The only way to keep it from doing so was to be sure it understood it had a purpose. That required a lot of magic and would require me not to use any of my powers until I could replenish.
The sun was about to set and that meant I had to leave. Nobody around still and that gave me the opportunity to transport myself there. While, of course, hoping nobody was around to see me reappear.
An uneventful trip to the residence, as it should be, and I walked up to the house and knocked on their door. A lot of shouting going on. I tried again, and this time, rang the doorbell as well.
“Oh. It’s you. Welcome. Welcome.” A man waved me inside. He closed the door behind me. “We have some food ready to be served. You do eat meat. Yes?”
“That sounds delicious.”
“Excellent. Excellent. Go ahead and get yourself cleaned up. Come back here and we can sit down and talk. Oh, what would you like to drink?”
“Some coffee would be fine. Thank you.”
“Splendid. It’s down the hall. Second door on the left.”
I nodded and proceeded where he told me to. I closed and locked the door behind me. I looked at myself in the mirror and agreed I did look a little rough around the edges. What I got for traveling. Thoughts of me contacting Wilfred did go through my mind. However, in an effort not to draw attention I opted not to do so. The less magic I used the better. I had a feeling I would need it.
When all was done, I returned to the front room and followed the loud conversation. That led me to the kitchen. It seemed one was happier than the other about me being here. They needed ansers and felt I was the only one to get those answers. While the other, voiced that since the missing daughter was a full grown adult, she could pay the consequences of whatever trouble she got herself into.
Oh my black cauldron. Well, I was brought here to find her. Not to negotiate a quarrel.
“Oh. You’re done. Good. Go ahead and find a seat at the table. Sit anywhere. The food will be out in a bit. We are having roasted goose with potatoes and some green vegetables. Your coffee will be out in a bit.”
“All right. I can help. I do know my way around a stove.”
“I’m sure you do. I have everything taken care of though. We’ll be along in a bit.”
I nodded and made my way to the table. The arguing continued and that would’ve been the reason to get me out of the kitchen. It took a little bit, but, the food was brought out and everybody sat down around the table.
We held hands and lowered our heads as we gave thanks for our food. When that was done, everything was passed around until our plates were filled.
“So tell me, who paid for your education?”
“Please, excuse my wife. She must not have slept well,” he said through gritted teeth.
“My name is David McGee. This is my wife Donna and our son Scott.”
“Yo,” Scott said.
“My name is Esma. I was brought here to look for your daughter then. For ease of conversation, what is your daughter’s name?”
“Megan,” Donna said. “I named her.”
I nodded. “When the sun comes up, I will set out to go back to the Ring of Brodgar and continue with my search. It may be a while before you here from my. Don’t panic. I will be back to tell you what I have found out. I cannot guarantee she will agree to come back here. What I can guarantee is bringing her to a location that all of you can meet to talk.”
David nodded, Donna laughed, and Scott shrugged.
“Why not just pick her up and bring her back here. We are paying you, after all.”
“Yes, I do realize that. However, I would guess she is an adult capable of making her own decisions. Therefore, I cannot and will not force her. It is up to her to decide what to do.”
“Fair enough,” David said. “Let me refill your cup.” He stood from the table.
We continued with the rest of the meal with only the noise of eating utensils. After the meal, was as silent as during. It reminded me of those long dinners filled with foreign diplomats. Everybody had something to say, but not a word was muttered.
“Scott, why don’t you escort our guest to her room while your mother and I clean up. Huh?”
Scott smiled. “OK.”
I followed him down the hall. The last room on the left side was appointed as my bedroom it seemed. A small bed with a side table and a drawer set.
“I’ll be right back,” Scott said. He came back a moment later. “I never gave you these.” He set down a box and left the room.
I closed the door and opened the mysterious present. I looked inside to find a lot of books. My guess would be Scott was appointed as their guardian.
There were seventeen plus books in here and all of them had something to say. Maybe the answer to everything lie in these pages. I had to read them all to find out more about this dilemma or was it circumstance. These labels wouldn’t mean anything until I get answers.