Destiny (Book 5)
Read the first chapter now… (This material holds a copyright.)
I once read a quote. I can’t remember who it’s by, but I’ve been told it’s John Ruskin’s, though I can’t prove it either way. Regardless, the words speak to me… “I believe that the first test of a great person is humility. I don’t mean by humility, doubt of power. I believe that really great people have a curious feeling that greatness is not of them, but through them and they see something divine in EVERY other person and are endlessly, foolishly and incredibly grateful for that.” I’m trying to live my life that way and every day it’s a struggle, but that is the road I was given to walk. As they say, with power comes responsibility and I have both in abundance.
I’m not really an adult and I’m sure not a child anymore. I may be seventeen, but I remember being twice that old, though my life is quickly catching up to the memories Miles gave me. I looked at my watch. All that was watcher Miles had been contained in it by a spell cast by him and our mentor White Eagle. They had been experimenting, trying to build good watcher power and to pass gifts from watcher to watcher. Miles had felt the end screaming toward him like a military jet going Mach 8, or just over 6,000 miles per hour if you’re not a math junkie. In desperation he had made a deal with a man known only as The Gypsy and now that man has contacted me several times to try to gain my trust and get me to partner with him to kill Evilia Malvada. If only that was as easy as it sounds. Just thinking it – makes me want to laugh. Last time I confronted her she nearly killed me and I still have to dye a chunk of my hair black to cover the white she left behind. Everything else healed up leaving nothing but scars, the marks of our trade.
In the cosmic balance of things I wondered what debts I owed Miles. I had his watcher gift and all his memories from about age twenty-one, when he became a watcher, to thirty-four when he knew his death was imminent. What a legacy. I hoped I wouldn’t re-walk his path. Stephan Kraeghton predicted that I would and I lived in fear of that every day. Had I loved Lucie for no reason? Would either of us live long enough to have kids of our own and raise them? Would this watcher line end with me? Would I at least be able to pass on what I knew? These would be dark and unusual thoughts for a normal kid, but I’m not normal and now I wondered if I ever had been.
Miles had paid dearly to pass all that he knew on to me. He made the ultimate sacrifice and would never live to see for sure if it would even work. It was an incredible leap of faith and gave testament to his desperation. It had taken over twenty years for me to come along and activate Miles’ watch. Now with my eighteenth birthday approaching I felt like I was almost communicating with him once more. I thought that I had absorbed all that he had to teach me but perhaps I was wrong and some lessons I had to be old enough to understand. I’m more or less used to being my real age and thirty at the same time, though it is strange. We believe that when I absorbed Miles, I wove the years he gave me into the fabric of my soul, making me a unique super watcher. I often wonder if I was really ever meant to be a mentor like White Eagle or if some of his gift got sucked into the watch too. I have since picked up or expanded many gifts that fit with my natural aptitude. Why I can do all these things, we don’t know for sure, but I am thankful for it as I now know my destiny is to fight Evilia Malvada, the biggest threat any of us has ever known. This was my endgame and perhaps my final chapter. How could I enjoy anything about senior year with that racing toward me?
Now, strangely, I was the holder of Kraeghton’s gift as well. Had it been his final act of defiance against Evilia or was it an accident? Apparently he didn’t need The Gypsy to teach him how to force his watcher gifts into an object. Kraeghton put them directly into me or was it my fault when I broke the… phylactery… amulet… charm… jewelry? No, he had called it his talisman. White Eagle had the shattered remains locked away but hadn’t been able to learn anything from the pieces so far.
Our best guess was that in the end, Stephan Kraeghton had believed that I was the best hope for finally defeating the monster known as Evilia Malvada. Part of the trick now, was figuring out how to use the ability he had forced upon me. I did not fully understand it and neither did White Eagle, but then we weren’t used to dealing in dark watcher power in this context. Fight against it – sure, but fight with it – not knowingly. Kraeghton’s dark energy had crippled me before, but not this time. Suddenly I seemed to be able to do more than just read body language, I could almost read minds, but in a different way than my brother, Alex, could. I gave people a headache when I did it and I didn’t have to look in their eyes. Worse yet, where Evilia could manipulate emotions I could manipulate thoughts but I was out of control and a danger to people around me. I felt like I was back at the beginning except this time I was mucking around in people’s heads without meaning to. I was dangerous. I had finally become the out-of-control thing that Bob feared. So really, who was the bad guy here?
There is a fine line between worrying about what might happen and planning for what could. I sighed as I sat in the stands, this time the distinctive crash of football pads was down on the field instead of filling my senses. I felt detached. I should feel sad or relieved or something, but I just felt… empty. I’m not lost. I know who I am and what I’m meant for and how many seniors know that? Maybe I was feeling a little melancholy and nostalgic or just plain worn from it all.
“I thought I might find you here,” Marlo’s friendly voice called softly.
“Hey, Mars,” I replied without turning around. A part of me had sensed him coming before he’d even appeared at the stairs.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, sounding perplexed.
“Watching Adrian and thinking about roads not taken.”
“Sounds like awfully deep thoughts for a sunny day.”
“Yeah. Lately I can’t seem to help it. Maybe I got a little more than Kraeghton’s gift – maybe I’ve got a chunk of his dark personality,” I sighed.
“Lucie and White Eagle have worked really hard to pull the darkness out of you.”
“That doesn’t mean they were successful.”
“If you think that, then you still care and you’re still you. I hate to suggest this, but you could go to Bob for help.”
“You know I’ll never do that. After all the things he’s done. No one in my family will ask him for anything. The price is too high and the trust is too low.”
“I know, but…”
“Mars, no… just… no. Did you do what I asked?”
“Yeah, but…” he paused and looked all around before continuing. “It’s hard to hide it from Lucie and it bugs me. You know how she feels.”
“It’s because of that, that I asked you to do a little covert research. I don’t want to hurt her any more than I already have.”
Marlo looked really uncomfortable. “I hate lying to her.”
“You’re not really lying, you’re just not telling her something.”
“You used to think there wasn’t a difference.”
“A lot has changed.”
Marlo’s mouth turned down at the corners and his eyes narrowed. “Just to be clear, I hate this, but here goes. Yes, I found Piper and she’s okay – probably not happy, but okay. She’s at the University of Washington. She’s living with two of Bob’s people who pretend to be her aunt and uncle but are really her guards. They are still compiling evidence in the case against Caleb Carmichael and they have yet to catch him. There are warrants out for his arrest that even Evilia has not been able to bury and I bet that makes her very angry – though no one can find her either.”
“UDub? Why? Piper should be in her senior year like us.”
“Bob altered her transcript and pushed her on. Makes her harder to find, you know. He will also be incredibly pissed if he finds out I’ve been crawling around in his system.”
“It will be on me. I just needed to know if she was okay. Communication with Bob tends to be one way and when I’ve had a chance to ask, he shuts me down.”
“I don’t like working for that guy. How can he consider himself on the side of good?”
“Is there a side of good? My view is changing. I think it’s all shades of gray.”
“Don’t say that! That’s Kraeghton talking, not you!” Marlo exclaimed sounding sick. “I don’t ever want to hear you, of all people, say that. I’ve gotta go. I’ve got work for the right side that I need to do.”
“Mars, wait,” I said as I reached out and snagged his arm when he started to rise. “I’m sorry. I can’t help it. I was being totally honest with you. I wasn’t trying to be mean. I truly have lost sight of dark and light.”
“I know you think that and it scares me. I just pray that you’ll come back to us.” I let go and he started to walk away.
“I don’t know if I can,” I whispered. Marlo paused, so I wasn’t sure if he heard me because he didn’t turn around.
My mind continued to churn as I watched the end of practice. Maybe I should have been on the field thinking about nothing but football. Maybe I could have pounded out all the dark and ugly places inside of me. On the other hand having less to do felt… freeing.
Even if Marlo didn’t appreciate my new attitude, Adrian did. He got a kick out of this new and darker version of me. He told me that he’d always felt that Marlo and I were a little too Goody Two-shoes. What an expression, guess I could thank Adrian’s grandpa for that one. Now I fit in better with Adrian’s crowd where dark and reckless were admired.
I met up with Adrian as he exited the field. “Good practice. You guys should do pretty well this year.”
“I hope so. I get tired of losing.”
“It doesn’t matter. You’ll get noticed and get that scholarship you’re hoping for.”
“From your mouth to the right ears! Hey, the Trips have access to a boat. They were held back a year ‘cause they were preemies or have August birthdays or something. Anyway the good news is that they are eighteen so they can drive the boat, so come with us to Detroit Lake this weekend. We’ve still got a spot for you and you don’t want to miss the boat. It’s our last chance before school starts and you never have any fun anymore. Come with us.”
I thought again about my obligations and decided that nothing was worth missing some fun for. “Why not.”
Adrian actually looked a little taken aback.
“Bet you thought I forgot what fun was,” I quipped with a grin.
“Yeah, I did.” He smiled back.
“Well, I haven’t. Some stuff just got in the way.”
“Well good. Our reservation starts tomorrow night. Maybe you want to ask Mitchell?”
“Nah, he’s moving into White Eagle’s old house this weekend. The renters moved and he feels safe enough. It will be monitored and warded like the rest of our houses, so I guess it’s cool. It’s gonna be weird to have my room to myself again. You sure I can’t ask Marlo?”
“I guess you can. I like the guy, but he’s even more of a Goody Two-shoes that you are.”
“Whatever, Adrian, it’s your party not mine. Still cracks me up that you use that phrase.”
“Gramps says it all the time. Now there was a guy with a wild side. I love his stories. He was a greaser in the 50s; cigarettes in his rolled t-shirt sleeve, leather jacket, slicked back hair, jeans. He was like James Dean.” Adrian gave my shoulder a friendly smack as he walked past.
“See ya, Aid.” I watched him strut toward the locker room and I headed for the Kawasaki White Eagle had helped me rebuild a couple of years ago. I slapped my helmet on and swung my leg over almost angrily – it felt like Adrian was being unfair to Marlo and here I was letting him down in another way. Part of me hated myself and part just wanted to have a little fun for once. Besides I knew Marlo had to work for his mom this weekend and he’d have more fun not being around the jocks, right?
The sun beat down on my back and I forced myself to relax. I was tired of all the pressure. I parked my bike and hustled into the house. I was so mixed up, but I knew who could help. I found my mom in her room folding a mound of clean laundry. I cleared a corner of her bed and sat down to help.
She smiled at me. “Hey.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Yes?” she asked, stopping mid-fold to give me the full attention of her bright green eyes.
“I should be allowed to have fun, right?”
She just looked at me and waited.
“Because I want to, but I feel…”
“That right there is why you need some fun. What’d you have in mind?”
“Adrian invited me camping this weekend.”
“It’s just guys, but Marlo’s not invited.” I paused again to gather my thoughts.
“And?” she asked when I paused too long.
“I feel bad – but it’d be nice to have a break, but I don’t know if I can trust myself.”
“You should go. You need it. Marlo’s feelings may be hurt, but he’ll understand. He and Adrian have been drifting apart for a while and he might be happy to be rid of you for a weekend. Why all the angst?”
“In a word – Kraeghton. Sometimes I don’t know which are my thoughts and feelings and which are his. I start thinking things and they happen. Like the lady the other day… I don’t know what her deal was or what’s going on in her life and I made a judgment about her in my head, but I swear she heard it.”
“She couldn’t have.”
“Then she believed the thought was hers – which is perhaps worse.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Come on Mom. I looked at her… and… I wasn’t being kind or understanding. I was thinking that she was fat as I looked at her and in my mind said, ‘Stop eating’! Her fork hung in midair until the food fell off. She heard me. I… I feel like I kicked a dog.”
“Maybe she sensed your thoughts, but I doubt it.”
“She did and now I feel guilty. It wasn’t my place to judge her. I hope she’s okay but I wonder if I can trust myself. I don’t want to hurt anybody and I don’t want to become a bully.”
“Owen, that incident happened almost two months ago, right after… right after Kraeghton died.”
“Sometimes I’m scared that he’s in here.” I said tapping my head. “And only his physical form was left behind.”
“That’s not true. There is no sign of that. It’s like Miles – just the gift and the memories, nothing more. So go. It would be good for you to get out of the house.” I could see her worry even though her words sounded confident.
I hugged her and texted Adrian for the final information before I could change my mind. He was already at the grocery store. They’d be by first thing in the morning to get me and I could chip in on my share of the chow then. All I needed was my personal belongings ‘cause Adrian “had my back” according to him. He’d even already packed all the camping gear at the shop which told me he must be excited to go.
I called Lucie next. I’d been wishy-washy on the subject of the great guy camp-fest for a month. I knew she had some of the same feelings but she’d tried to remain positive. After my incident with Kraeghton our relationship had taken an odd turn. I didn’t trust myself and she was hell-bent on fixing all my broken bits. I wasn’t sure who was whose supervisor anymore as all the team leadership had fallen to her. Mitchell wouldn’t take it even though he was the oldest. He knew he was leaving when he finished his degree. He had taken three trips down to Nevada over the summer to work with Elliot Blackthorn. Elliot was a good old cowboy who kept up the property Mitchell had inherited from his former mentor Emiline. He was also the oldest watcher I’d ever met and had come out of retirement to cover Nevada until Mitchell returned. Mitchell, Eliot, Emiline – all easier thoughts than Lucie.
Her sweet voice caressed my ear through the phone line making me shiver. “I wondered when you’d call.”
“Hey, beautiful, why’s that?”
“You decided to go.” She sounded so sure, so confident but then she seemed to know me better than I knew myself sometimes.
“Yes, but how…? Never mind. I should know better. You probably knew before I decided.”
“I’ll miss you, but I think you should go.”
“What if I screw up? There won’t be anyone there to help me.”
“That is why you need to go. You need to know that you can control Kraeghton and yourself.”
“How do you know?”
“Owen, how did you know to have faith in me? You just knew. You felt it. Now go pack, you Doofus, and enjoy your adventure.”
“You too, Luce.” She disconnected before I even told her a proper goodbye. Maybe I should go see her and… and what? Maybe I missed her already or maybe I was scared to go without her. Man up. I need to man up. Doofus – she only called me that when I needed it. She was right. I was a Doofus, so why did she stay with me?
I packed up and then did what I’d been doing most evenings all summer – I sat on the deck with our dog, Beggar, until after the sun had set. I’d been so still that our motion-activated back light hadn’t even come on. I watched the branches on the trees sway in the gentle breeze and saw the shadows ripple. I am in control. I felt Miles, I knew him. I was him and he was me. Could I accept Kraeghton? Should I? Was it his darkness I had to embrace or was there enough good in him to sustain the being once known as Stephan Kraeghton. Suddenly I was incredibly tired. My body felt drained and my eyelids became heavy. A desire to sleep swept over me so strongly I’d swear someone had cast a spell. My whole body felt weary, heavy and achy. I wanted to lie down, right here on the deck. I didn’t know if I could even make it inside. The feeling was almost desperate. My eyes burned and soon I could think of nothing but closing them.
I stood on a darkened street. Rain came down slow and lazy like it often does around here. Good thing I’d worn my overcoat. Wait, what? I turned my head to look in the plate-glass window to my left. My reflection was plain as day in the window of the closed art gallery – not me, Kraeghton or more precisely a memory of Kraeghton’s had taken over.
I looked both up and down the street. I knew this place because he knew it. I was in a memory of Seattle, Washington and judging by the clothing the few people around here wore… it was the 80s or 90s. He looked young and fresh and felt powerful in this memory. He was waiting for someone. Past experience told me that Kraeghton had a lesson to share with me. I just wished he wouldn’t take over like this. Miles never did it this way. It was disturbing and scary, like a nightmare you can’t wake up from.
This memory was so vivid I could smell the acidic tang of fresh rain on asphalt. Kraeghton moved down the sidewalk. I could tell he was fully aware of everything around him – every movement, every sound had his mind busy calculating, but this Kraeghton was unaware of his passenger. I was lucky he’d looked in the gallery. What had he been looking at?
A black Mercedes-Benz pulled up. I couldn’t make out the model but I knew it was the one he was waiting for. The driver’s door started to open but the back passenger door was quicker.
Kraeghton quickly stepped out of the shadows. “Evening, Roberta. What a surprise,” Stephan Kraeghton said smoothly.
“Why Erik, what are you doing here?” she said with a smile.
“I was meeting with Mr. Burk at the gallery and happened to see your car. Since you’re here, how about if I bring you up to speed on the auction,” Kraeghton purred.
“Ma’am?” The chauffer interrupted.
“I’m fine, Howard. This is a dear friend of mine. He’ll see me in.”
Kraeghton took her elbow. I could feel the smooth, expensive fabric of her royal blue raincoat and the frail bones of her arm underneath. At their approach a uniformed doorman held the door. “Good evening Mrs. Stalworth, Mr. Alexander,” he said touching his hat in respect.
“Charles,” Roberta Stalworth replied back.
Then I felt it – an uncomfortable heat, right under my sternum. Kraeghton was using his gift. The doorman hit the button for the elevator and then the button for the penthouse the moment the doors opened.
Kraeghton, posing as Erik Alexander, kept the conversation light and friendly – asking about her day, her projects, and finally he brought up the art auction. I felt like he had taken his time with this one. He had researched and studied her intently before posing as someone from the art world. He had been patient and meticulous. These traits, I could learn from him. I could respect the process, but yet I was afraid. I knew what was coming and I could neither stop it nor stop watching. I was about to watch another innocent person die. I tried to wake up. I tried to rip myself away, but his hold was too strong. I was trapped again.
I watched helplessly as he poured wine and added a quick dissolving powder into her glass – yes, poisons – his signature. I could still feel him using his gift on her – manipulating her. Had he manipulated me in Florida? What about Mom and Alex? Maybe he couldn’t. Did we block him? What was the lesson this time? He didn’t block my thoughts in the dream but I could neither control what was happening nor communicate with him. It was so frustrating.
He rambled on. She was lucid enough to tell him he should go. She wasn’t feeling well. “Yes,” he told her. They could talk tomorrow. He silently lifted her keys and pocketed them. He left and took the elevator down.
He spoke to the doorman on the way out. He turned back. “My mistake,” he said smoothly, his power burning in my chest. “I forgot to give her this.” Kraeghton pulled out an envelope. “Would you please give her this tonight?”
Kraeghton watched him walk to his desk and dial. The doorman nodded and headed for the elevator. Kraeghton smiled and walked down the street. At the corner he paused. He glanced around as if waiting for the crosswalk light to change and then turned and walked around the corner of the building. He walked its length to the entrance to the underground parking area and walked in with purpose to where he pulled a hat and gloves from behind a fire extinguisher. He put them on, turned up his coat collar, rounded his shoulder, affected a hitch in his step and kept his knees bent before walking right up to the back door like he belonged and used her key to enter, keeping his head averted from the camera. He could be any man from the building on this rainy night. With the gloves and hat anyone watching would not be able to get skin or hair color.
He turned and headed to a door labeled “no admittance.” There were no cameras back here. An empty janitorial office sat to the right. Stale cigarette smoke and the musty odor of old stored items tickled my nose. Up ahead was a service elevator. I felt Kraeghton smile. He turned back and rummaged in the office until he located a key, hung neatly on a hook and conveniently labeled “service elevator.” Key in hand, he headed to the doors and used the key to activate it. While he waited he glanced at his watch, just after ten. He rode up to the penthouse. He glanced around the corner in time to see the doorman leave.
He walked down the hall to an unmarked door, removed Roberta’s keys from his pocket and entered the back side of a storage room. He moved silently to the opposite door, listened and turned the handle. He watched Roberta get ready for bed. It was clear she wasn’t feeling well. He moved down the hall to collect the envelope she had clearly touched. It had contained another dose of poison on the sheet inside. Kraeghton carefully pocketed the letter and envelope and then moved to her office. He took a brief moment to admire the view before he broke into her safe. He used every pocket he had to take as much as he could, leaving the harder to sell items behind. He reclosed the safe and removed a painting from the wall. He quickly returned to the storage room where he cut it from the frame and placed it in a mailer tube. He picked up another painting, took it to the office and rehung it in the spot. Then he walked to Roberta’s room where she appeared to be sleeping. He pulled a small vial from his pants pocket, opened it and poured a small, delicate, almost oily stream into her mouth.
She gasped once, her eyes rolled up in her head and she ceased to move. With one still gloved hand he held her mouth shut, with the other he pinched off her nose. He did not move until the second hand on his watch had made four revolutions. He closed her eyes and folded her hands over her chest.
He returned the keys to where he’d found them, put the mailer tube under his arm and left the way he came in.
Book 5 will end Owen’s adventures… will there be more?
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