First, the winners, as I promised. Two from each Blog Hop.
The winners of the Vampire Bite Blog Hop are:
Sue Adams and Angela Dawson!
The winners of the Swept Away Valentine's Day Blog Hop are:
adoFFae6 and Sherry!
I'll be contacting the winners by email to pick a prize! Congrats to all the winners and thanks to everyone who came by!
Last week, as you'll recall, Stan and Ollie took the pause that refreshes while waiting for Egbert to arrive at the park so they could talk to him about his late fiancee. Now - the talk. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers, whose links follow my tale, and see what is up with them!
Stan and Ollie #17
Egbert looks between us, brow furrowed, eyes baffled as he tries to make sense of my words. And when their meaning penetrates his awareness, his eyes grow wide in disbelief. “No, no, no.” He shakes his head and pulls away from our joint grasp. “Consuelo isn’t dead. I know she isn’t. She can’t be. I’d feel it… I’d know.”
He paces back and forth, obviously agitated, wringing his hands. Ollie and I stand helplessly by. His reaction is not unexpected and this is not the first time we’ve had to give such tragic news. All we can do is wait out his reaction. Until he gets past the initial shock, he won’t be willing to listen to anything else we have to say.
I slide my arm about Ollie’s waist, feel his slight tremble. This is harder on him than he lets on, but I know him too well not to realize it. I’ve never met a more compassionate, sensitive man. Every day it amazes me how he ended up with someone like me. I know he tells me it was meant to be, that he knew before he came here that I was the one for him. His mate.
That still blows my mind.
Egbert stops pacing suddenly and takes up a stance in front of us. I look into his eyes. I can see he’s no closer to believing what we’ve told him. He raises one hand, points an accusing finger between us.
“Where is Consuelo?”
It takes me a moment ‘to realize he thinks we’ve kidnapped her or something.
“I told you before, Bodean isn’t very worried about her. He won’t pay to get her back. I don’t have the money he does, but whatever it is, tell me and I’ll find it. Somehow.”
Ollie sighs. He reaches out for Egbert in an attempt to calm him but the other man takes a step backward.
“We’re not kidnappers,” Ollie insists. “Please, I’m so sorry… I know it’s not easy to hear. But Consuelo… she came to us. She’s lost, and we’ve come to find her.”
“Lost? But you said… I thought… Gah, why should I believe you? What proof do you have?”
“We have no physical proof,” I interject. “That’s what we’re looking for. We want to find Consuelo so she can be at peace…”
“At peace?” Squeezing his eyes shut he wails, a mournful sound that cuts right through me. “At peace?”
Ollie breaks from my grasp and pulls Egbert into a hug. The stunned man holds himself stiffly for a moment before he suddenly breaks and begins to sob on Ollie’s shoulder, great racking sobs. And I know he’s accepted the reality of the situation.
I stand there, keeping an eye on them. This is the part Ollie does best. He’s more of a tea and sympathy kind of guy. I’m here to make sure no harm befalls him. Some people don’t react as nicely as Egbert. One tried to blow Ollie’s head off. Turns out he knew about his wife being deceased, because he was the one that killed her.
When I’ve decided Egbert’s had enough time, I speak up. He lifts his head and sniffles, looking at me.
“Egbert, we need your help to figure out who did this to Consuelo.”
“Did this—? You think someone h-hurt her? Deliberately?”
“Yes,” Ollie says gently. “In our experience, those who do not go peacefully are the ones that seek us out.” I’m the one that insists he says us not me. I don’t want anyone to single him out, just in case.
“But who?” He sniffles again, pushes his glasses up his nose. “Who would want to harm her? We-what did she tell you?”
“She is concerned about you. She loves you, very much.”
A long shuddering sigh ripples through Egbert. “I was thinking—”
But whatever his thought might be, the sound of a car engine cuts it short, as a black compact car pulls into the parking lot. The owner parks near to the church. Egbert rushes toward the newcomer. I take Ollie’s hand, and hurry after him.
“Egbert, I came…” The man is tall and slender, with high cheekbones, a wide mouth, and dark eyes. He’s comfortably dressed in a brown heavy knit sweater and dark slacks. Something about him reminds me of some of the politicians I’ve met—that air of affability and confidence. He eyes us curiously.
“Pastor Robinson, thank you.” Egbert waves toward us with one hand. “These men have brought news… of Consuelo…” His voice breaks.
“Oh?” His eyes seem to flash, and a chill runs through me, but the next moment the illusion is dispelled.
“Yes. Oh God, she’s dead. She’s dead, Will, what am I going to do?”
“Now, now, Egbert,” he soothes him. “Why don’t we go into the church and discuss this there? Gentlemen, you are—?” He gives us an expectant look.
“Our names are Stan and Ollie,” I offer and wait for him to reciprocate. I’m none too pleased with the interruption. And neither is Xylina, who has followed us from the car. She hisses at the stranger. For once, I agree with her.
“This is Pastor Robinson,” Egbert supplies the name. “Will.”
“Won’t you come in, gentlemen?” he invites us. Before we can respond, he adds, “Egbert, come.” He drapes an arm about the other’s shoulders and they head toward the church door.
Great, now what? I guess we have no choice but to follow.
Ollie stands rooted to the spot, staring at the church.
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Take my hand,” he whispers and I clutch it, feeling my anxiety level rise for no discernible reason. “Close your eyes and look…”
I obey, almost fearfully. At first, nothing. Darkness. But then an image… blurry at first, then more distinctive… It appears to be a country road… tree lined… desolate.
“Lost…” Ollie whispers. “Lost…”
“Ollie? What do you mean? What is it?”
And then he faints.
to be continued
Now go visit the other Wednesday Briefers to enjoy their flash fiction offerings!
Chris T. Kat
Until next time, take care!