Emily packed in a fog, or like she was watching someone else use her body to do some packing. It was surreal. Wilhelmina found the art room and was instructing the men how to pack up the tools, canvases, and everything else. The walls were thin in her house, so she heard everything that was said.
Benny jumped up onto the bed with Friskers soon following. They sat down and watched her movements closely. Each piece of underwear and each shirt and pair of jeans were possibly tallied. Green and dark brown eyes looked at her in deepest concern. Emily stopped and picked them up. Friskers began purring loudly and Benny heaved a sigh of contented relief. They needed to know she was taking them with her. “So, we have to pack for you two, as well,” Emily said, putting them down and putting her hands on her hips.
A litter box needed to go; food dishes, food, some special toys; two beds and blankets. She smiled. It was almost as if she were packing for travel with babies. The similarities were remarkably close.
The idea of packing for the animals brought a smile to Emily’s face. She could finish hers up in no time. For their bag Emily pulled from her bag closet a gym bag she had won in a church raffle several years ago. She had never used it – mostly because it had the most garish selection of pink and purple lips. It wasn’t a vulgar bag and it had been expensive, especially compared to anything Emily carried herself, and now it had a use. Satisfaction helped push down some of the panic.
Emily gathered up everything she could find she knew his royal highness would need first. Friskers would eat nothing but human food – meat of course, and cheese, and boiled egg, and anything else he thought he should try – and his Fancy Feast™ hockey pucks. Benny was not much easier to please with food – he ate people food when he could get it – only because he would eat nothing except Mighty Dog™ and he had his preferences in flavors. Leashes were packed, and collars. Catnip and the squeaky catnip mouse rested easily beside the ball and Benny’s own stuffed star. He carried it around the house all the time and often ran with it making it squeak with each strike of his front legs. Sometimes it annoyed the cat so much he tried to ‘kill’ Starfly, which brought on Benny’s wrath. The only time they ever truly mixed it up was over that silly toy.
In less than 15 minutes the animals were ready to go, and Emily even had the leash for Friskers and Benny lying over their bag. Immediately Emily’s attention focused back on her own bag. How long was she going to be gone? Would she have to go somewhere fancy? What did she need to pack other than the few items of clothing she already had? The uncertainty about everything in her life right now was just too much. She needed a voice of reason, like her Dad’s, or Mom’s. Funny, she hadn’t wanted their advice at all since they had died until this very moment. Why? Because Emily had diligently worked at pushing down all of her grief and fear, and now she wasn’t going to be able to hide from any emotion she suspected.
“No, you won’t,” Wilhelmina said from the open bedroom door. “It won’t be as bad as what you expect it will be, I suspect.” The older woman paused. “The men are packing all of your painting materials out to the front porch. Are you ready?”
“I don’t know what to pack for, or for how long. What if…?” Emily almost said What if I have to wear something special and I don’t have it? She didn’t go on a lot of hot dates, but she had hope for Clay Spells of calling her again and asking her out.
“If you need something nice, you will have it – I promise. Like a fairy godmother.” Willie smiled and came on into the bedroom and helped her zip up one small bag for toiletries and her journal and ink pens, and sketch pad of course as Emily closed the suitcase and began zipping. Surprisingly Willie or she didn’t have to sit on it while the other struggled with the zipper!
The adventure was beginning. Emily clipped Benny’s leash onto his collar, and did the same for Friskers. Walking on a leash like a dog was not one of Friskers’ most fun things to do, but kitty carriers made him go absolutely ape shit. This led to the leashes and collars for him and her carrying him in one arm with Benny’s leash in the other hand. Emily also made sure to slid her hand through the loop of Friskers’ leash, because Frisk was fast when he wanted or needed to be, and he had almost gotten away from her a couple of times when big dogs ran at them barking. Emily paid in torn flesh, but when big dogs weren’t trying to eat him, Friskers was very calm with a leash on and deigned to be carried because this let him be outside! Being outside was a big deal for the cat; Benny was able to go out much more. Emily tried to get Friskers out of the house as often as possible, always on the leash. Earlier in the summer she had even gotten a dog tie and small leash and harness and let Friskers have the run of the small front yard. When she had let his happen for him – Benny had his own steak-out and tether – something became even more connected between them. It was almost palpable.
Grabbing her own purse – thankfully she had slipped her cell phone and charger in there already – Emily looked into Willie’s eyes and declared she was as ready as she was going to be.
“Where do you live, anyway? Here in Lexington?” Emily queried as they headed down the hall and into the living room. Richard Azz and Vinnie Shields were milling around the front door as they came in. The men took the luggage right away from them and opened the doors wide.
Emily felt the men change as she and Willie approached the door. They were on their guard now. They were scanning the surrounding houses, cars, and prepared to act. Emily pulled the door too, slipping Benny’s leash loop over her wrist and locked the front door.
Are all of the lights off and…? Emily thought worriedly. She hadn’t left the house for any length of time since her parents had died and it felt…odd…to leave now.
Yes, I went through everything. All lights are off except for the scheduled lights, answered Vincenzo Shields’ voice in her head. Emily spun to face him, her eyes wide. I can’t do this often, or with many people. I know you’re scared, and I wanted you to know I won’t leave you; I won’t let you get hurt as long as you trust me. You know if I am lying or not. Emily nodded. Am I lying? Emily shook her head. Let’s not let our friends know what we talk about this way, OK? It makes Rick crazy because he can’t pick up anything. Emily nodded once more.
The weather had turned off remarkably cool from even earlier that day. It was actually downright cold, because Emily shivered. Well, it could be a little more than just the cooler temperatures that caused the shiver: It could be everything that had slammed down on top of her today and here she was heading out with absolute strangers to keep her safe from another, more maniacal stranger. Someone needed to know where she was going. The only person she could think of was Detective Spells.
Emily checked the doorknob once more, shifted her grasp on Friskers a little, and dug her cell out of her purse. Both Vinnie and Azz were packing her painting supplies and her luggage into the trunk of a stretch limousine! It took up the entire front portion of curb at the house. A broad shouldered, be-hatted African-American man, in complete chauffeur’s uniform and driving gloves, helped them. Everything surprisingly fit into the trunk of the automobile. Willie Chastain must have a lot of money. If she was so rich, why was she living here in Lexington, KY? Why was she living in Kentucky at all? These were questions she was going to ask the woman the first chance she got, but, right then, she wanted to call Detective Spells.
“Hey, what’s up? Is everything alright?” Emily smiled at the phone.
“Yes, I’m fine. A descendant of Wilhelmina Chastain’s found me. She received an e-mail….”
“She came to you?” Clay Spells was full on detective now. She felt everything about him shift. He was not thrilled, but he was excited. Emily repeated about the e-mail. Willie was in ear-shot listening, as was everyone else and no one seemed upset she was talking to a policeman.
“She believes I will be safer with her than here at my house,” Emily added, walking down the steps of her house slowly, careful not to get tangled up in Benny’s leash, and Benny himself.
“Where does she live?”
“Here in Lexington.”
“What is her name again, and her address – I don’t want you running off with strangers promising to protect you, unless I’m with you.” Emily paused. She could tell him Willie carried the namesake’s name, but something about this made her hesitant. It wasn’t going off with Willie and the others; it was in telling the police. But, this wasn’t just any street cop: Clay Spells was a detective in the Lexington Police Department. True, the police department wasn’t as big as the facilities in Louisville or New York, but it was an impressive rank.
Willie stepped up onto the lowest step and held her hand out. The breath caught in Emily’s throat as she handed the phone over. Willie started speaking in the most elegant tone. This must be how a queen would sound, Emily thought, explaining something to a subordinate.
“Hello, I am Wilhelmina Summerland. I received a startling e-mail stating someone was going to murder this young woman and I will not be satisfied leaving her protection in the Lexington police department’s hands, even though they may be capable enough.” Willie listened for a moment. Emily could hear the hum of Spells’ voice rise from the phone.
“Not at all Detective Spells. I have already filed papers with the proper authorities and I am sure, should you look, you will find all of the pertinent information and details of the e-mail I received. My solicitor is Williams, Cokesberry, and Stapleton. I will be coming into the station for a formal statement tomorrow. For now, I am going to get Ms. Post to safety. “ There was another short pause. “Of course, Detective, the address is 230 Pisgah Pike, Versailles. Yes, that’s right. You are welcome anytime, Detective. Would you like to speak back with Ms. Post? Good-bye.” Willie gave the cell back to Emily with a bright smile. “He agreed my house would be safer for you than your own. Now, let’s go. You’re exhausted I can see, and you need to get some rest, and some food. I don’t believe you have eaten in a while.” Willie gave Emily an up and down appraising look before sliding easily into the back of the limo.
“Hello?” Emily said cautiously. She didn’t move from the step she was on. When she did move there was no going back somehow. Her course was set.
“Do you realize who this woman is, Emily?” Emily’s heart nearly stopped.
“That woman is Willie Summerland! She owns the Versailles Castle, which is where the Queen of England stays when she comes to Lexington for the different events! She is a billionaire and a big uppity-up in society, here in America and elsewhere!” Spells was completely smitten. “I didn’t know her last name was Chastain, though. This worries me some. She did say I could come and visit any time. Would you mind if I did? Come to visit?” Emily couldn’t help but smile.
“No, I wouldn’t mind,” she said happily. A loud whoosh of air came from the other side of the cell. Had Spells been holding his breath waiting for her answer? It pleased Emily at the very thought of it.
“We’ll follow in our car,” Vinnie Shields called as he and Azz headed to where their car was parked just a little ways behind the limo.
“Who was that?” Clay Spells’ voice dropped an octave and sounded just a little more tart, even rough. It was a frightening voice.
“It is…Ms. Summerland’s…bodyguards.” Emily looked quickly to make sure Shields and Azz were indeed in their vehicle. She didn’t want them to hear her lie. Willie, however, heard every word and nodded in agreement.
“I’m sorry…I should have realized she would have brought some extra protection with her.” Spells chuckled softly and Emily sensed his mood lighten considerably. “Call me when you get settled? Or, you can text if you prefer.”
“I’ll let you know when I’m settled,” Emily promised sliding in beside Willie. Benny jumped lightly into the car and then up onto the seat beside her. Friskers mewed pitifully because this was not the normal ride he had when he went out with mom. Emily petted him almost absently as she looked up into the chauffeur’s face. It was a handsome face, smooth. His eyes were brown and observant. He smelled good, and his uniform fit him very well. He also didn’t slam the door shut. He closed it with a soft click. As he moved around to the front of the car he moved like a man who knew his worth from inside out.
In all her life, Emily had never been surrounded by so many devilishly handsome men. She was intoxicated by them! Emily was also very aware of her clothes and appearance and how none of them would ever truly show her any attention once this whole business was over – except for, perhaps, Detective Spells. He seemed to like her.
The car pulled easily from the curb and headed out into the neighborhood. Willie didn’t give the chauffeur any directions. Since he had gotten Willie to Emily’s house it was probably an easy reversal to get her home.
Friskers found a nice spot in the back window and stretched out with one final, pitiful meow only to begin blinking lazily. He was stretched out like a royal panther.
Don’t get too used to this, bub, this isn’t our lifestyle.
“It could be, you know,” Willie said quite happily.
“This could be your lifestyle. You aren’t a normal human. You have gifts, and I don’t believe they are all psychic. You are an artist and ignoring your talent because you don’t want to put yourself out there for all the criticism. Are you afraid you aren’t strong enough to take what people say? Or, are you afraid you really are good enough and people would expect more from you?” Emily’s stomach clenched tight enough to cause a wave of nausea to wash over her like an angry, dominant wave.
Emily didn’t answer, and she tried very hard not to think.
“All right, I can see this is a little much for you. I expect this is the proper reaction, but, sooner or later, you have to make decisions about your life and its direction. Those are never easy. I let my family and decorum dictate my life for years, and then, in 1907 I accepted no one could make my life better except for me and that a good number of people could make it horribly worse, even with their best intentions at heart.” Willie looked out the window at the scenery sliding by and was silent.
Emily watched as they eased onto Man O’ War and headed toward Alumni Drive. From there she let the scenery fade and her eyes just see the colors. Soon certain images from trees bent one way or another started to pop out at her. At a stop-light in town she saw an old man with a bag of groceries and a gray stubble on his chin. He was stooped and his hair was uncombed beneath the tattered hat he wore. He had been a proud man once, but now he felt as if life had defeated him. Emily had never felt so sorry for anyone in her life as she did him, and she wanted to help him so very much!
“Reginald…” Wilhelmina’s voice was barely a whisper. As if she had given him a command the chauffeur pulled the car over and promptly stepped from the car once the traffic was clear.
Reginald walked straight up to the man Emily had been looking at and spoke a few words with him. The old man looked to the limousine. Together they walked to the passenger side of the car. Reginald had not left the car running but Willie lowered the electric window with a swift flip of a button.
“Which war were you in, sir?” Wilhelmina began softly.
“Vietnam.” The old man’s voice was cracked and raw, like he hadn’t used it for a while.
“Are you working anywhere?”
“No ma’am. I’m disabled. I get a check from the VA.”
“I hope it isn’t shell shock,” Wilhelmina said softly.
“No ma’am, I was shot in my leg.” The man rapped against his lower right leg. Wilhelmina nodded. “I don’t mean to be rude, ma’am, but what the hell do you want?”
Wilhelmina smiled joyfully. “I want to hire you – cash, of course.”
“To do what?” The old man’s eyes were bright now. He was sensing to see what kind of game was trying to be played on him, and, if it wasn’t a game, just how crazy the rich woman really was.
“I need someone to make certain I get my mail every day. My estate is quite large and the man I had in my employ recently went to live with his family in Texas. I will give you room and board to boot.” Emily couldn’t help but smile.
“Are you shittin’ me? Seriously? To get your mail?” Wilhelmina didn’t nod.
“If you don’t want the position just say so. I only hire military personnel. They have a tendency to be direct and do their job and if they turn out not to be trust worthy they have a tendency to leave.”
“What if I steal everything you have, lady?”
“Trust me, that is impossible, although I do not abide thieves.”
“If you are on the up-n-up I can start work for you now. I just have a room with a friend. I don’t have anything of value.”
“Do you have any belongings to need to secure?”
“Just my duffle.”
“Reginald…?” The chauffeur leaned down to the old man, Emily didn’t realize how stooped the fellow was until that moment. The old man nodded and the two of them moved away. The old man moved as quickly as he could.
“What is he thinking, feeling?” Wilhelmina asked as the window of the car went up. Shields suddenly appeared at the window. His eyes were very concerned.
“Is everything all right?”
“Yes, Mr. Shields, or should we just be calling you Vinnie from here on?”
“Vinnie is fine…Willie.” Willie smiled and nodded.
“A gentleman in my newly in my employ has gone to get his bag. We are waiting for him.” Vinnie looked to where the two men had ambled off to. He was concerned for their safety. “You don’t have to worry, Mr. Shields…Vinnie. Aren’t you and Mr. Azz here to protect us?” Vinnie smiled as if he had been caught the punch line of a joke at his expense.
“Yes, ma’am.” Vinnie then leaned his back against the limo as the glass went back up again. He crossed his arms over his chest and then his ankles.
Vinnie wasn’t upset. He was amused and his estimation of Wilhelmina Summerland Chastain had gone up.