A Mackenzie Coven Mystery
Alexandra Elizabeth Mackenzie.
Stop ignoring us.
Lexie bit back a groan. She’d been doing so well, switching off the incessant chatter that had been plaguing her since she’d woken up to face her birthday. She’d almost forgotten all about the significance of the day, but then she’d heard them…
And it had all come crushing down on her.
Her time was up.
Laughter whispered around her.
Gritting her teeth, Lexie swatted the air as if that could make them go away. Belatedly, she recognized her mistake. She held her breath. The silence around her thickened.
Had they finally given up? Could she be so lucky?
We saw that. You saw that, didn’t you?
Yes, I did indeed. No turning back now.
Lexie slumped back on her chair. Was it too late to go into damage control? She’d already tried denial… Could she re-negotiate?
She’d spent days trying to figure out a way to delay the inevitable. Ignoring them had been her last resort, but now… Now she’d acknowledged them. The one thing she’d told herself never to do.
“Those pesky mosquitoes. Anyone would think I’m living in a swamp.”
Laughter tinkled around her.
Nice try, but it’s done now.
Speak the words. It is your birthright. Our gift to you. And make this right so we can be…
“Your rhyming sucks and… and I’d like to exchange my gift for something else, please,” she muttered under her breath.
The light sparkling laughter swarmed around her, teasing and taunting her.
If I ever get my hands on them…
Surging to her feet, Lexie stomped out of her apartment. They wouldn’t follow her out into the open. They wouldn’t dare.
Oh, look at the pretty lights. Is this up-town or down-town?
You’d think she’d find somewhere nicer to live. This looks like the meat-packing district.
No, I think we’re in the village. A couple of blocks up from Housten…
Her back teeth gritted. It hadn’t been a fluke. They’d pinpointed her location, right down to her doorstep.
It all looks sort of cramped.
It’s an effrontery to everything we stand for and a defiant breach of all protocols. We’re supposed to live within nature in a village or a small town. Never a city.
If she’d been on speaking terms with them, she would have pointed out the fact that Central Park was only a short distance away. In any case, she could have found somewhere nicer but living in the city had been her first step toward independence. Anywhere close to nature and she would have been at their mercy.
As it was, she had no idea how they’d managed to find her. She’d combed through her apartment from top to bottom looking for something that could connect her to them, but there had been nothing. No family heirlooms. Not a single trinket that could harbor a charm, forge a link…
Where are we going?
Lexie kept her gaze fixed on the footpath, counting the cracks as she made her way to the corner bar. O’Connor’s would be loud enough to drown out the snickering chatter. Honestly, of all the relatives who might have been sent to hound her, why did it have to be them?
Of her two cousins, she didn’t know which one she found more obnoxious. Mirabelle Louisa Mackenzie spoke with a posh English accent and had recently ascended to the top hierarchical position that came with a ridiculous title of High Chair of the British Isles and all Circumferential Domains Pertaining to the Mackenzie Coven.
I’m puzzled. Why do they have stairs on the outside of the buildings?
They’re called fire escapes, Catherine.
Ah, I see… Look at the diversity. In one block we could get pork pies. Go next door to the grog shop for a bottle of red, have our fortunes told, buy a hat we’d never wear and end up at the Laundromat to do the laundry.
Mirabelle’s unladylike snort surprised Lexie.
Give me Harrods or Harvey Nichols any day.
Well, I can’t help being mesmerized. I’ve never set foot outside Australia.
Catherine Marianna Mackenzie, her down under cousin. They’d never met and yet Lexie knew everything there was to know about her, almost as if by osmosis. She liked strawberry ice cream with her cake, loved the smell of coffee but preferred tea. On her sixteenth birthday, she’d considered running away from home and joining a circus as a trapeze artist but had shelved the idea when she’d developed a fear of heights, which to this day, prevented her from flying. Little did she know it had been a parental binding…
As the heiress of the American branch of operations—
“Operations? Is that what you’re calling it now?” Lexie clamped her hand over her mouth.
She talked directly to you. She did, I heard her.
Yes, she definitely engaged with me. That’s a game changer.
Lexie picked up her pace, crossed the street and headed straight for O’Connor’s. The bar was doing its usual brisk business but she managed to snag a barstool.
The owner, Jonathan O’Connor approached her. “The usual?”
Did you hear that? She’s a regular. That can’t be good. What if she’s a beer-swilling barfly? How can we possibly rely on her?
There was an idea. She grabbed a handful of peanuts and focused on cracking the shells.
Did you hear me, Catherine?
Give me a minute. That man is gorgeous. Those broad shoulders and the dreamy eyes. She didn’t even look at him when she ordered. And what is she doing here on her birthday alone?
She’s not alone, she’s with us.
It was Lexie’s turn to snort. Jonathan set her beer down in front of her and leaned over the counter.
“Happy birthday, kiddo.”
“Thanks, but I’d rather not be reminded.”
Why not? It’s the most significant day of your life.
“Sorry, I’m talking to myself.”
“You sure about that?” Jonathan asked.
“What do you mean?”
The edge of his lips quirked up. His gaze shifted first to one shoulder and then to the other. “Just wondering.”
Could he see them? Worse… Could he hear them? No, impossible. They wouldn’t risk exposure. It would be detrimental to their cause.
He nodded. “They’re a faint glow.”
Her eyes widened.
“Alexandra Elizabeth Mackenzie. There’s no escaping your true calling,” he said.
“What?” She nearly dropped her glass.
Jonathan looked mystified. “I don’t know why I just said that. I didn’t even know your middle name was Elizabeth.” His eyes narrowed. “The one on the right is glowing brighter.”
That would be Mirabelle and the one most likely to be running interference with Jonathan.
He’s of true Irish stock. His people have been guardians since the beginning of time. They are highly intuitive and sensitive, and like you, he shirks responsibility.
Jonathan gave a small nod. She’d almost believe he’d actually heard everything Mirabelle had said.
He did but he’s pretending he didn’t.
“Here’s the birthday girl.”
Lexie swung around. All eyes were on her as everyone burst into song. Since moving from upstate New York to the city, O’Connor’s had become her home away from home. She knew most of the regulars and had become fast friends with a few people. But, like her, they only ever came on Friday and Saturday nights. It was the middle of the week and she didn’t recognize a single person.
“Stop it, right now.”
One of the birthday wishers approached carrying a cake with her favorite chocolate frosting, the flames of twenty-five candles dancing a happy jig. Catherine’s doing, Lexie thought as she grumbled under her breath.
She swung back around in time to catch Jonathan singing right along with the rest of them, his eyes widened into a horror filled expression as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
This is much better. Birthdays are for celebrating with your nearest and dearest.
“This is the most miserable day of my life.” She took a sip of her drink. Her beer tasted like… “Champagne?”
Of course, it’s a celebratory drink for the happiest day of your life.
“Are you even allowed to do any of this?” There were supposed to be rules. Strict guidelines to maintain the delicate equilibrium between them and the rest of the world. She knew that much. “Hey. No using your powers for personal gain. What’s the penalty for breaking that rule?” She heard the sound of pages riffling and guessed Mirabelle was making a show of looking it up. “You’re checking the Mackenzie Enchilada.”
It’s called the Enchiridion and everything we’re doing is for your own good.
“Right, that’s it. I’m lodging a complaint with the Self Absorbed, High and Mightily Presumptuous Council of Hags.”
I think she meant that as an insult.
She heard more riffling of pages. Clearly Mirabelle wanted to get it right.
I found it, but it’s rather a lengthy paragraph so I’ll give you the short version. You may indeed lodge a complaint, right after you’ve spoken the words.
By which time, it would be too late because she would have become one of them. Again. “I have a forgiving nature so I’ll let it ride.” When the singing died down, she thought that would be the end of it.
“Happy birthday, dearest Alexandra.”
A box was set in front of her. Since no one she knew called her by her full name, she had to assume that had been Mirabelle putting words into the unsuspecting bystander.
“Open it. We put much thought into it. It will become your official trademark Mackenzie Coven gown and whether you’re wearing it or not, we will always see you in it.”
Feeling defeated, she gave the purple ribbon a tug.
Well, come on. I can’t wait to see what you think.
“I could save you the trouble.” Not caring who saw her, she blew a raspberry and gave the lid a flick. It was all it needed to slide off. Lexie sighed.
Striped black and white stockings…
They’re more cream than white.
A hat? A pilgrim’s hat?
Isn’t the dress divine? The skirt flares out and the bodice will… ahem… lift them up.
Lexie looked down at her chest. She wasn’t exactly well endowed—
She shook her head. Enough. She’d indulged them… to a point. Now she had to figure out a way to send them… on their way.
So… what do we say?
She sighed. “Thank you.”
But wait, there’s more. Look under the frilly underwear.
“Please tell me it’s not a cat. I’m a dog person.”
A cat? Don’t be silly. We can’t give you a cat for your birthday. Should we tell her now?
A shiver of apprehension crawled around her spine. She waited a second for whatever they were about to disclose. “What? What is it?” she demanded, her voice carrying an entire day’s worth of frustration. She heard Mirabelle’s sigh.
There has recently been a revamping of the rules. A cat will choose you for a trial period. If it’s happy with you, it will remain as your companion for life.
She hadn’t spoken the words. She hadn’t spoken the words. All would be well… so long as she didn’t speak the words. In fact, she couldn’t speak the words because she didn’t remember them.
Relief surged through her.
That was it! Her fine print.
She didn’t remember the details but she could sense a door nudging open in the back of her mind and a distant memory reaching out to her. It offered comfort and assurance that all would be well…
She reached inside the box and drew out a thick vellum card.
Read it. It’s our special gift to you.
She scooped in a breath and called for calm. There was only one way to expedite this. Get it over and done with. Indulge them.
A word appeared, followed by another and another as she read, “The knot I tied comes loose, the flow of love resumes. By my spoken word, the power within me be. Nothing mine, nothing yours, give and take to create.” She flicked the card over. “What? No hugs and kisses?”
Lexie looked up and met Jonathan’s gaze. His eyes had widened in surprise.
“You’re… You’re glowing and… and they’re swirling around you.”
He made a circling motion with his finger. “It’s all around you. A light. It’s soft. Mellow. Wait… wait… it’s sort of pulsing now and sparkling.”
Lexie jumped off her stool. “No. No. No. No. No.”
They’d tricked her.
Copyright ©2016 Sonia Parin/All Rights Reserved