Chapter 31 – Crystal Lies
The ride home is very quiet as we once more are wrestling to assimilate all of the new information we’ve just been handed. Dorie is shaping up as the main suspect, unless Paul finds out something totally earth-shattering that negates all we’ve heard. I am so deep in thought that it takes Zeke two tries to catch my attention as we pull into the driveway.
“Earth to Mattie!”
“I said, why is Barry Tisdale on our doorstep?” He points by leaning his head towards the front of the house as he parks the car.
And so he is. Looking unhappy and as if he’d rather be anywhere else—sort of like the face you make when you go to the dentist. And I think we’re the ones he anticipates doing the tooth extraction. I can’t imagine why.
“Um, Zeke?” He addresses his fellow male, but nods in my direction in greeting. “I was wondering…that is, I…well, I can’t seem to get a hold of Dottie and I didn’t know who else to ask….who might know. I mean, have you talked to her lately? Do you know where she is? No one was home when I called, or when I stopped out there.”
And Zeke answers his first question truthfully. “No, we haven’t talked to Dorothy for a while.” And then the second. “But she is in the hospital right now.”
The large man is aghast. “Hospital? What happened? Is she going to be okay?”
I get the feeling that this is genuine horror and he is truly surprised—it’s news to him. Which sort of removes him from the list of potential poisoners, at least where the women are concerned. I wonder if he knows about belladonna…
“A friend went to the house and Dorie was on the floor unconscious. She called 911 and the paramedics took her to the hospital. I don’t know what the doctors think happened, but we were told that she is awake and seems to be doing well. You can always go there yourself. Ask for Detective Paul Dobson, he’s in charge of the case.”
“I thought he was in charge of her husband’s murder…” His voice trails off as the thought processes switch in. “You mean someone tried to murder her as well? Who was this ‘friend’ that found her?”
Astute question. I still wasn’t sure why Shelly Johnson was out there that night. She had never struck me as the nurturing kind, so why the story of widows sharing their grief? At the very least, it is in extremely poor taste to try and comfort the woman whose husband you’ve been screwing. Even if the wife didn’t care. Did she?
And as an echo to my thoughts, Zeke names her for Barry. “According to what we have been told, Shelly Johnson was the one who found her.”
I’m not sure why Zeke isn’t mentioning Laurie…is it deliberate, or does he figure Barry doesn’t need to know there were two victims? But the look on his face at the mention of her step mother makes me pull my attention back to the current conversation instead of pursuing my own thoughts.
“Shelly? And why the hell would she go over there? She and Dorie hated each other, ever since Dorie found out that she was messing around with John Robert.”
Really? Or was this a pat answer Dorie had given her lover, the easiest way to appease his moral views? Because she had told us that she didn’t care who John Robert was having sex with if he would just leave her alone. Although there may some truth to them not being bosom buddies…
“And may I ask, when did Dorie tell you that she had found this out?” Another good question. I’m tired of the questions. I want answers. All of the answers that pertain to our two deaths for sure. I can live without knowing how quasars work and why entertainers are more newsworthy than world crises if I could just figure out which of the people I know is a killer.
“She told me, oh it must have been mmmm, late fall. Around Halloween.” He answers readily enough.
“Do you know if she told Mike Johnson about his wife and her husband?” Zeke asks another stellar question. I can hardly wait to hear the answer, since this might move Mike off the “Not Guilty” list if he is also a cook with a deft hand at desserts.
“Oh, no! In fact, he’s the reason the subject even came up. She said something about not having anyone but me to talk to. I wanted to know why she couldn’t talk to the women in their group. You know, their ummm religious group, their covenant? Is that the word? No wait, that’s not right. Coven. In the coven.” He is trying to be polite about it but the tone conveys the same disgust as if he had said, “There’s vomit on my hand.” We don’t try to explain differently as there’s no point when someone already has their own opinions.
He does continue with his story. “Dottie just sort of laughed. You know, the kind of laugh where it’s not really funny. She told me that there wasn’t a single person in that group she would trust with any kind of meaningful talk. I specifically mentioned Shelly since they are about the same age. And that’s when Dorie said that she felt sorry for Mike. I asked her why and she said that he was so worried about his daughter and the influence her mother might have had on her that he didn’t realize he had married another woman who couldn’t be faithful.
“Of course I asked what she meant, and that’s when she told me that John Robert was having sex with Shelly. She had actually been in the house when they were, ummm you know. I was furious, but she just shrugged it off as being part of his spiritual leadership, just something he did with the women in their group.”
And there’s nothing Zeke nor I can say that would convince him that all Pagans were not exactly the same as that bastard. Abuse of power is not limited to any one person in any one particular group you’d care to name and I’m ashamed to be associated with this particular instance of abuse.
“Thank you for telling us that.” Zeke is gentle as he speaks to the unhappy man. “Mr. Tisdale, I’m sorry but I don’t think we can help you. I would suggest that you go to the hospital for yourself, if they will permit visitors. Being her…special friend, both a long time friend of the family and her husband’s business partner, I think that the nurses would let you see her.”
He nods and walks off to his car. We stand and watch him pull away before entering the sweet haven of our own uncomplicated and clean space. Vader greets us enthusiastically, with the biggest problem in his world being that he wants some belly rubbing. I envy him his doggy life.
Zeke is a force of nature, unstoppable and unyielding. I would like nothing more than to watch some grainy black and white movie, preferably a Marx Brothers or Fred Astaire, to have something else to think about besides death. But Zeke is determined to solve this messy, messy puzzle. And he wants me to be his Watson, even if I don’t think it’s all that elementary.
Once more the notebook comes out, with all of his supporting documentation. He arranges things in stacks, makes notes and mutters under his breath. At the moment, all he wants from me is to watch him. I’m not sure just what part I am going to play in his upcoming number, but I do know that I don’t like the feelings I’m getting off of him.
My fears are confirmed when he goes into the bedroom and returns with several items in his hand, the most obvious of which is a huge chunk of black quartz crystal. You’d think I shouldn’t be afraid of it, but I will not touch it except when he asks. He very rarely asks and I wish, oh how I wish!—that he wouldn’t, this time. But he does.
“Mattie, love of my life. My dearest, my heart.”
“Flattery will get you no where. Just what the hell do you think we’re going to do with that?” I am not going to be cajoled into this. Oh I will end up doing it anyway because I love him and I do trust him, but I want it requested in the same manner that you remove a Band-Aid—as quickly as possible because it’s going to hurt like hell. Don’t sugar coat it.
He recognizes my extreme reluctance and so goes into formal mode, which is the proper way to go at this. “Ma-at, Queen of Justice, I seek your Oracular Power. You are known to be wise and compassionate and I entreat your favor this night. I would ask you to show me the answers to the questions we struggle with, to find justice for the living and retribution for one who would take the power of the gods and end another’s life before their due time. I beseech you, O fair and equitable Ma-at, to grant us this request.” And he bows to me.
With each word he has spoken, I have begun my own mental work, picturing the doors opening, the windows in my mind being thrown wide, to allow the Universal energy to move more freely though me.
We both know that it is not me he is talking to. I am only the vessel, not the Light that shines through.
It’s not logical. This is a thing of the spirit, not of the mind. It’s not scientific, nor will any answers we might—MIGHT—be given stand up in a court of law. But if we can get enough information to suggest the solution’s actual path, we can point Paul in that direction. I am not counting on this, but am willing to try for love’s sake. He knows how much this wears me out and so he is very careful to only ask in extreme measures.
We don’t do this very often because we also do not count on endless good will from Those we ask—it gets annoying to have a three year old asking interminable questions…some things need to be found out for oneself, without any adult help.
We follow a routine of guided meditation which will lead me to the Meeting Place. I am using the common words of our human language to describe something that is not Earthly and has no words. Zeke is my anchor and my lifeline, for without him I could not return to my own body. This ritual will undo the normal ties of soul over body so that the Other may use my physical being to communicate. My own soul will be unfettered and if I so chose, I could travel across vast expanses of time and space. The knowledge of that freedom terrifies me. It’s actually not the travelling, it’s the idea that I would not–or could not—come back and I like Earth pretty well, thank you.
And so I arrange myself comfortably—I’ll get unpleasant cricks and such if I don’t—and hold out my hands. He places the crystal in my left hand; I get a picture in my mind of a library, long endless corridors with doorways at regular intervals. This is my way of interacting with the crystal which is a record keeper, a physical manifestation of spiritual archives. Another psychic might picture it as a filing cabinet or just a series of photos. It is a personal quirk as to what shows up when the crystal is held. Zeke only gets a sense of almost subsonic vibrations. Part of the reason I’m doing this.
In my right hand he places an ostrich feather. This is one of the symbols of Ma-at, Goddess of Ancient Egypt and She Who Weighs Our Hearts. It has strong associations for me, so I use my familiarity with it to make a rapid connection to the Power we are beseeching with this ritual.
I let go of my own sense of identity and open myself to the Universal Power, breathing slowly and deeply to enter the trance state.
Zeke is saying the words of power, the chain of sounds that both leads me to the terrifying freedom and links me to him. As I go deeper and deeper into the meditation, he lights papyrus paper to use as incense for cleansing. I am barely aware of the smudging as he purposefully waves the smoldering heap around me. I breathe in the smell of the Nile, known to me since time immemorial. Smells are the strongest triggers for our memories and not just of this life.
I can feel Mattie moving to one side—not leaving the body, but moving into a different room, to allow the main hall to be used by Someone Else. As if he is underwater, Zeke’s voice barely comes through, guiding the Guest into the waiting space. When we do this, I never get to hear the Oracle’s voice. It’s like me, the person I am today, is sitting in a little parlor in a large house and I am vaguely aware that there is someone in the hall talking. Tone may come through; it’s just a low sound that almost does not disturb the silence of my room. Like the soughing of the wind through the trees, it is a background noise. And I sit in the parlor until Zeke opens the door again.
And we have tried to do this with him as the host, but he is just too much a part of Earth. He says that because my strongest Elemental influence is water—and because I can picture myself flowing with the stream so easily—I am the one able to do this. I’d take up gardening if I thought it would ground me enough to avoid these…trips. He suspects that this talent is tied into my general clairvoyance/psychic abilities, which he freely admits that he has none of. Ah well.
On those rare occasions when we do this, I have no sense of the passage of time. I just wait in what is my eternal “now” until I’m invited to come back. This instance is no different… except… I am not sitting in the same place I was when we started. And I can tell by the general stiffness that I was out for a long time; several hours if the tightness across my back is any indication. Zeke has pulled me once more back into my body, but he’s not in my direct line of sight.
I look around to spot him in the kitchen, pulling out bread and wine. Good. I’m starving. As with any energy work, this wears out the physical almost faster than just doing something physical. As he sets a plate down in front of me and hands me a glass, I am disturbed to see that he looks as worn out as I feel. Must have been a very intense session. He almost falls into the seat next to me and we gulp and consume mass quantities in complete silence—except for the eating sounds. Finally, things begin to settle and the physical reality of wine and bread in our stomachs brings us back into convergence with our usual existence.
I can finally take a look at the table where I am not surprised to see a stack of paper. These are his notes of what was said and it looks like there was a lot. It may or may not be related to the questions he was asking. The Oracle gives the information you need at that time, which is not always what you were asking about.
We had tried recording the process digitally one time. Zeke had set up several microphones, made sure they were set to a fairly high sensitivity and we did the ritual. When it was done, he played back the audio file… which only had random white sounds, like ocean waves or a thunderstorm. No voices, not his nor mine. And certainly no permanent record of the answers we were given that time. So he sticks to shorthand and writing it all down. Tedious, but one doesn’t dare complain to the management.
“So tell me?” I reach for the last piece of bread before he can. He grabs my hand, takes a big bite and then releases it, leaving me about half. I stuff it in before he can do that again.
“Let me see…” He picks up all of his notes to shuffle through them. “She was very talkative today. Too bad most of it was NOT about murder, neither John Robert’s or Mike’s or who poisoned the women, not even the winning lottery numbers.”
Facetious and asking for trouble…but as he would tell you, being a smart ass is better than being a dumb one. It’s also one way he shows frustration. Not a good sign. He flicks through the pages and finally pulls out a single piece of paper.
“That’s it? That’s all we got? Want to tell me why we even bothered?” I can’t believe it. In his other hand, he’s holding about 6 more pieces, all covered with the weird little shorthand runes—which I can’t read. He will eventually put it all in English, but in the meantime he’s got to translate them for me.
“This has the most of what was said about the murders.” He flicks through the other pages, making an unhappy face as he scans them. “There may be a phrase or two on these that might relate, but that connection will have to wait until I transcribe them.”
I sigh. I could accept the dearth of answers if the asking weren’t so damned difficult.
“You have no idea how hard it was to keep asking politely for Someone to stay on the subject at hand. If I didn’t know better, I’d say She was bored and wanted to catch up on the news.” He doesn’t say this as if it’s a joke; maybe this is why he looks as worn out as I feel. “She was talkative, but all over the place with what she wanted to talk about.”
“Anything I should know about—I mean, that doesn’t pertain to the reason why we ummm called?” I don’t mind a little foreknowledge if it will help. Being told about a tsunami that would hit the Far East on a certain Christmas Day didn’t mean I could do anything about it, not even knowing 4 years in advance. I don’t count on these sessions for much of anything. I certainly don’t run out and buy those lottery tickets Zeke mentioned.
“Mmmm maybe. First let’s see what we did get for the question at hand.” He reads that single piece of paper. “Let’s see. ‘The girl lies, she sells untruths to the authorities and keeps the hidden knowledge like a miser’s hoard to herself.’ Could be Laurie. ‘She casts out the fruit of her body and cares not for her own life; she does not see the sacred.’ And I vote for that to definitely be our Miss Bradford.”
I’d agree. He scans down and reads another line.
“She mentioned John Robert: ‘The evil priest has earned his reward; his actions have come back to him as promised.’ but nothing about who did the world a favor. The nearest she came to the actual crime is this phrase: ‘The beautiful lady conquers the one who would defile all women.’ I think ‘beautiful lady’ literally means the belladonna.” He reads some more, apparently looking for specific words. “Oh yeah, She also said, ‘Badgered to death and they’ll weasel out of it’ which is pretty straight forward, right?”
I nod. It is, based on what we know and Mike’s own altar. I wait for him to tell me more.
“Okay, she talked a lot about widows especially those who were ‘outside widows and inside bitches’. But I don’t know if that’s about Dorie and Shelly or just one of them. ‘The widow wears her mourning garb to hide the jewels of deceit and dishonor’ and ‘Black clothing to match her black heart’. Stuff like that, sort of a recurrent theme. It would really help if I could speak Ancient Egyptian.” He stops, waiting for me to act as straight man.
So of course I ask the question he’s hoping I will. “And why is that?”
“Because then I would have had twice as many pages and I think more of it related to the deaths.”
“So what you’re saying is, She told you. But just not so you could understand it.”
“Pretty much. I tried writing it down, but I don’t know shorthand for Egyptian. I couldn’t keep up trying to do it letter by letter…so I stopped but I did let Her know that I was aware of what She was doing.”
“You have some sort of death wish? You DON’T give the Goddess a hard time!”
“I didn’t say I gave Her a hard time, I just told Her that we were trying to do a good thing and She could help if She would just speak in our tongue.”
I groan. “Dear gods, preserve me from a stubborn man.”
“Funny, that is exactly what She said.” He grins and I can’t help it. I grin back. I have to wonder if She is as attracted to him as I am or if perhaps my feelings for him affect Her when She is…in my body. She must have some softness for this man, or She would strike him dead as soon as look at him, especially when he’s being a pain. Whatever the reason, I’m glad he’s still here.
“Conclusions, my dear?” Since he’s heard the whole thing, he can sum it up for me. I’m too tired to have to figure things out. All I want is a hot bath…and maybe some more food.
“I’ll tell Paul to focus on the widow. Since that word was used a lot, I’m guessing that’s all the real information we’re going to get. At least about this.” Which reminds me of all that other paper…
“So what else did She chat about?” He looks a bit sheepish. Oh, this must be good.
“Ahhh, well ummm. She…err wanted to talk about gardening and what changes She’d like to see in the yard.” Gardening? The Goddess of Justice wanted to talk about compost and grubs? I wish I could have heard that.
He’s flipping through the pages and scanning when he suddenly gets very still. “And She gave me a sacred charge, a holy mission to accomplish.”
“Oh no, you’re not going on some quest for the Holy Grail!” I am joking. He is not.
“I don’t have to quest for it. I have my own Holy Grail and I am to guard her with my life and protect her from evil.” He looks at me, his eyes glowing like sapphires as he waits for me to grasp what he has just said.
“Zeke.” I reach for him and he’s already in my arms. I lift my mouth from his. “Hey, wait a minute. Why do I need protection? What is going to happen?”
“Well, according to my sources, you are one of the Eternal Lights, whose sacred glow shines across the Universe. Evil will seek to destroy you for your goodness and so you must always have a champion, the one who stands with the sword ready to strike in your defense.”
Good grief. I have enough problems being Mattie. As if he can sense my disquietude, Zeke holds me closer and keeps speaking.
“Sweetie, She reminded me that this is not a new mission for me. I’ve done it before and I will keep doing it as long as necessary.”
Even better. He’s made me cry. This somehow gets changed into kissing again, a much more desirable action. And I will let him protect me but if he starts carrying a sword, I’m having him locked up in the local loony bin.
A hot bath helps a whole lot. An early dinner finishes restoring us and we each settle into our own tasks. I get to clean up the kitchen where the man cooked with every pan we had…or at least it seems like that. He goes into the computer room to transcribe all his notes. Vader knows he stands a better chance of scraps with me, so he stays in the kitchen. He doesn’t move out from underneath of my feet until I step on him and with an aggrieved look, trots off to lie down in the doorway.
Which is why Zeke trips on him as he’s coming out of the room reading papers instead of looking down for random black dogs in his way. The dog’s smaller size and agility get him out of the way when this large human comes crashing down. Fortunately, Zeke has taken several years of tai kwan do and knows how to fall without sustaining much damage.
I stand and watch this gracefulness and try not to laugh. At least until I’m sure that he’s really all right. “Zeke? You okay?”
“Ugh. Yes. Damned dog.” He sits up and said damned dog is standing there, openly laughing at him with mouth agape and tongue hanging out in doggy humor. Zeke reaches for him and Vader skitters over to me.
“Oh no, I’m not saving you. Go over there and apologize.” I tell him. He puts his head down and looks apologetic as he slowly walks up to the alpha male. He licks Zeke’s hand then bellies up, so that he can get his belly rubbed and know that he isn’t in real trouble. Once honor is satisfied on both sides, Zeke stands up.
“I’ve got the notes transcribed. Do you want to look at them now?”
“N-n-n-o. Not yet.” I am reluctant to read them. “I’m almost done cleaning up the kitchen and I was kind of hoping we could go out for a little while.”
He raises his eyebrows. “Oh? Where to?”
“We-e-e-ell. I know it’s Monday night. I know we work tomorrow. But we’ve had dinner and I thought we might go to down to The Doghouse for a drink or two, listen to some music, maybe even polish our belt buckles.”
The Doghouse is our favorite bar; decent drink prices, excellent bartenders, good music and it has a cozy, neighborhood, “Cheers” sort of feeling. You know, where everybody knows your name. And the mention of belt buckles is a reference to Zeke’s way of asking me to dance with him.
“I don’t see why not. Sure.” He goes into the bedroom. “You going in sweats?”
“No, I’m going to change. I just have to wipe the counters.” I do that and then follow him.
He got the head start so he’s the one who starts the car while I tie my shoes and remind Vader to behave.
The bar is fairly lively for a Monday night but we find a couple of stools right up front and wave to Charlie, the owner and tonight’s barkeep. I love him because he makes the best martinis in the world. We once asked him about the name of his establishment and he told us that when he wanted to open up a bar, his then wife (number 3) told him that if he did that, he’d spend the rest of his life in the doghouse. He told her that being there was better than being at home with her…so she kicked him out. He lived over the bar for the first few years but it didn’t take very long for that to be a matter of choice rather than need. The Doghouse is the only decent drinking place in the area and there’s a steady flow of customers, most of them regulars.
We don’t do the bar scene all that often but when we do, we go there. Both of us enjoy the comfortable feeling in the overall energy of the place—a major factor for our continued commerce with any business. I also enjoy watching Charlie chatting up the ladies. I think he’s working on finding wife number 5 or 6. He’s the marrying kind…just not the staying married kind.
My martini is as perfect as I had hoped it would be and we sit in companionable silence, just watching the rest of the crowd doing its Monday night thing. Zeke asks me to dance for a couple of the slower songs…it’s as if we are the only two people on the floor, moving in unison with each other and the music. I am once again awed by how deep the love I feel for him is and how much his love sustains me. We don’t stay very late but I am restored by the time away from the storms we’ve been dealing with.