A Mackenzie Coven Mystery
“Let’s get one thing straight. I’m a dog person. Not a cat person.” Lexie punched her pillow. “Also, and you should be able to figure this one out without me having to tell you, I work late, I sleep in late. You don’t see me waltzing around my apartment in the middle of the day making a racket while you have one of your endless catnaps. Well, I expect the same consideration and courtesy.” She peeled an eye open and watched her new roommate eyeing her. The golden haired tabby flicked its tail and settled at the end of her bed, an improvement to sitting by the front door as if ready to make her getaway.
Was Luna about to meet her half way?
“So how long is this probation period going to last? A week? A month?” And how would she feel if Luna decided they weren’t a perfect fit? According to her cousin Mirabelle, a cat was to choose her, not the other way around. “I think I’m doing quite well. I’d be doing better, but you didn’t come with instructions or guidelines.”
Luna tilted her head.
“You know, a bullet point list of demands. I hear you’ve all become quite fastidious and precise about your expectations. FYI, I’m a witch in training. Half the time I have no idea what I’m doing.” And a part of her was still dabbling with the possibility of finding a way out of this predicament.
She’d been avoiding her responsibilities for ten years. Now that it had all caught up with her… Well, things had happened.
So far, she’d been thrown in at the deep end, forced to deal with a deadly inky black fog, wear designer clothes, which didn’t sound so bad except for the fact that she was strictly a denim and cotton t-shirt type of girl. There’d also been the humiliating sing-a-longs. She hated musicals…
“I wonder what your pet peeves are.” Luna lifted her nose up in the air. “Chatty witches?” She rolled over. “No, don’t answer that. I mean it. I’d rather you didn’t surprise me with a Mr. Ed reply. Who’s Mr. Ed, I hear you ask? He’s Wilbur’s talking horse. Yes, I’m a self-confessed TV junkie so if you decide to stick around, be prepared to immerse yourself in back to back reruns of my favorite shows.”
A knock at her front door had them both stilling and looking at each other, eyes unblinking. “Would you mind getting that, please?” Luna inspected her paw much the same way Lexie inspected her fingernails when she lost interest in something or when she was compelled by otherworldly forces to wonder if she should get a manicure…
She sighed. “A dog would know how to run up to the door and bark until I managed to crawl out of bed. They also fetch and I’m guessing that’s something else you don’t do.”
She rolled out of bed and dragged herself to answer the front door, but it opened even before she reached it.
Snapping out of her drowsiness, Lexie sprung into action and adopted a martial arts pose. “Don’t come any closer. These hands are lethal weapons,” she warned and blew her hair out of her eyes. Seeing Jonathan stride in, she relaxed. “Oh, it’s you.”
“You still haven’t trained the cat to answer the door?”
“Her resistance is almost admirable.” Unlike hers. When her cousins had made an impromptu appearance on her birthday and tricked her into accepting her heritage and rightful place in the Mackenzie Coven, she’d tried to put up a fight. Clearly not hard enough.
“What are you doing here so early? More to the point… How did you get in? I don’t recall giving you a key to my place.”
“I brought muffins and coffee.” Jonathan slumped down on the couch and, stretching his long legs out, he gave her a head to toe sweep with his deep ocean blue eyes. “Clicked your heels lately?”
Lexie chewed the edge of her lip. “Don’t let Mirabelle hear you say that. She says I’m not taking any of this seriously.”
“And are you?”
“I’m easing into it all… trying to take it all in my stride.” Lexie crossed her arms and stubbed her toe against the rug. She’d met Jonathan the first day she’d arrived in Manhattan. After her road trip from upstate New York, she’d been eager to stretch her legs and explore her new stomping ground. She’d walked a couple of blocks from her new apartment and had honed in on O’Connor’s, the corner bar owned by Jonathan.
To this day she didn’t know what had drawn her there. She was certainly not a drinker. In hindsight, she supposed she didn’t need the mathematical skills of a genius to figure out the obvious answer. After her recent experiences with her cousins, the finger of suspicion had to be pointed at them. Yes, one plus one equaled the meddlesome two…
All that time she’d been going to O’Connor’s… she’d even started working there, tending the bar and waitressing, she’d never suspected there might be something different about Jonathan. Like her, he’d been keeping secrets. She still didn’t know the full story about him and that’s the way it would stay until he decided to face up to his responsibilities, whatever they might be, as guardian.
Jonathan gazed at her. She’d never felt self-conscious around him, but now…
The butler she’d encountered during her recent trip to England had said something revealing… disturbing. Intriguing.
“How about you?” she asked, “Are you still fuming about having your cover blown?”
“My cover? I was leading a perfectly normal life and then—”
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world why did I have to walk into yours?”
He ignored the remark and finished his coffee. “Are you having yours?”
“What did you get me?”
“Triple espresso with as many sugars.”
“How can I resist?”
Lexie sat on the far corner of the couch. Jonathan had occasionally dropped by her place before… before she’d taken up her so-called rightful place in the Mackenzie Coven, and she’d never had any trouble with him. No sense of awkwardness. They’d even developed one of those rare traits of being comfortable with each other’s silences. Now…
Something hung between them.
Secrets and lies?
Luna appeared around a corner, flicked her tail and settled down to watch them.
“So how’s the cat working out?” he asked, clearly not wanting to answer her question.
She sipped her coffee. “Not well,” she murmured against the cup. “Everywhere I go, she’s there, watching me. Studying my every move. I think she’s grading me. Marks off for sloppiness and sleeping in. Marks off for seeing her as a golden tabby instead of… well, Catherine insists she’s black. Marks off for grumbling and moving around like a proverbial elephant. She has to understand we weren’t all born with dainty footsteps.”
“It’s a cat, Lexie.”
She shook her head. “There’s more to her than meets the eye.”
“There is,” she insisted.
“Does she have the power of speech?”
“If she does, she’s not letting on.”
“Can she read minds?”
“Can she click her paws and disappear?”
“I’m sure she can. How else does she get around? She’s been shadowing my every step. I’m telling you, no matter where I go, she’s there. Even when I… well, you know, when I take myself somewhere else.”
“So you have been clicking your heels. Still landing in the closet?”
Lexie rubbed her butt. “I’m black and blue from all my crash landings.”
“You’ll get the hang of it.”
She slanted her gaze toward him. “Encouragement? From you?”
He sighed. “It’s ingrained. Part of the job.” He pressed his lips together and then sighed again. “See, I’m telling myself to clamp up, but there’s a struggle going on inside. The greater part of me is telling me to—” He raked his fingers through his hair.
He growled. “Telling me to… kneel.” The word spewed out of his mouth as if he’d given it a swift kick.
He gave a stiff nod.
“As in…” Propose?
“As in…” Growl. “I’m at… I’m at your disposal,” he spat out and shot to his feet.
Lexie chuckled. “Really?”
Jonathan swung toward her. “Yes, really. I’m at your disposal.”
“Wow, no need to shout. I heard you the first time.” She crossed her legs. This had to be the most interesting turn of events since her cousins had surprised her on her birthday. “So… you’re at my disposal. Is that your role as guardian? You… my boss?”
He stabbed a finger at her. “And don’t you forget it.” Another sigh. “Yes, I’m at your command twenty-four/seven.”
“I’ve come up in the world.” She nibbled the tip of her thumb. Jonathan filled the room with his presence. His broad shoulders, chiseled face… How often would he be at her disposal? Would he come every time she called him? Lexie cleared her throat. “Is this where you do a flourish wave of your hand and bow?”
He slammed his fisted hands against his hips. “Don’t push your luck.”
He’d never been so quick tempered before. Lexie took another sip of her coffee. “So you came here today to tell me this?” And the rest, she hoped. It had been two weeks now since his identity as guardian had been revealed. She still had no idea what it all meant and Jonathan didn’t seem to be in any hurry to tell her.
He threw his head back and looked up at the ceiling. “I was forced… instructed… to come.”
“That sounds ominous.”
“Ominous? More like downright annoying.”
“Oh, come on. It’s not so bad. You get to bring me coffee and scrumptious muffins.” She peered inside the paper bag. “Blueberry. My favorite. How did you know?”
“I didn’t,” he grumbled. “They picked it for you.”
His jaw muscles clenched. “The Mackenzie wenches.”
Did someone call us?
A trail of light pirouetted around the room.
“You’re looking very sparkly today.” Lexie had never met Catherine Marianna Mackenzie, her down under cousin, in person but she could easily imagine her with her copper red hair curling around her heart shaped face, her vibrant green eyes and her cheerful smile. Lexie thought her mental image suited her cousin’s sparkly personality.
Are we all here?
It had been two weeks since she’d last heard from either of them. While Catherine’s light sparkled, Mirabelle’s glowed softly. Serenely.
Luna strode toward her and Jonathan and sat down between them. Teacher’s pet, Lexie thought. “Hello, Mirabelle.” The High Chair of the British Isles and all Circumferential Domains Pertaining to the Mackenzie Coven didn’t respond. Lexie looked over at Jonathan and shrugged. “I think someone’s in a bit of a snit.”
“I’m sorry, did you say something, Alexandra?” Mirabelle asked.
“Oh, now you’re coming through loud and clear.”
“Yes, I was just establishing a proper connection with you.”
“You still haven’t told me how you do that.”
“All in good time.”
Unlike Catherine, Mirabelle preferred to maintain a more formal line of dialogue. Lexie didn’t mind because it gave her ample opportunities to mess with her.
Mirabelle cleared her throat. “I would like to call this meeting to order.”
“Meeting? I had no idea we were holding a meeting.”
“Yes, I can see that. Lexie, would you like some time to change into something more appropriate?”
Lexie looked down at her dog breeds of the world pajamas she’d purchased specifically to taunt Luna. “Thanks. I’m good.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. I’m not planning on going anywhere this morning. It’s laundry day.”
“I’m sorry to say you’ll have to postpone your housekeeping duties. We have several matters to address—”
“Was there a memo I missed? An email. A text message?” Lexie asked.
“I’m sure I sent you one. If not, my apologies. These last few days have been rather hectic.”
“Did you get one?” she asked Jonathan.
“I received a summons. Remember, I told you.”
Lexie put her hand up. “I need a secretary.”
“You have one,” Mirabelle said.
“Great. When do I get to meet her?”
Jonathan cleared his throat.
“You’re kidding. You’re my personal assistant?”
“Guardian,” Jonathan muttered.
“Secretary. Guardian. What’s the difference?”
“One tips in favor of me holding on to my dignity. At least a shred of it.”
“Oh. Okay.” Lexie smiled. Jonathan O’Connor, her secretary? Anyone’s secretary. She gazed out the window.
“Lexie, do we have your attention?”
“Yes, I was just checking to see if pigs had taken up flying.” She broke off a piece of her muffin and offered it to Luna who, after sniffing it, edged away from her. “I’d like to add something to the agenda, please. In future, I would like at least forty-eight hours notice of any impending… last minute meetings.”
Mirabelle’s soft light expanded into an orb that changed from white to bright red. “I’m afraid that won’t always be possible. Most of our meetings tend to be rather on the urgent side. In fact, it’s imperative we get right down to it without further delay.”
Lexie heard the sound of pages turning followed by what sounded like the tap of a gable. She exchanged a raised eyebrow look with Jonathan and noticed Luna peering at her with what appeared to be a hint of interest. Either that, or she’d just been given another black mark.
“Lord Bradbury of Chelsea Manor has cordially invited the Mackenzie Coven to attend his annual feline soiree. As Catherine is unable to travel and I am presently engaged in a matter which requires my full attention, we are looking to you, Alexandra, to represent us.”
What say you? Lexie mentally added.
Mirabelle didn’t wait for Lexie’s answer or reaction… or anything. “This raises a question. How are you and Luna getting along?”
“We’re… getting on like a house on fire.” Lexie sat forward. “Although, I’m still not quite sure what her purpose is? If I’m required to have a pet, then I feel I should have been given the option of choosing a dog.”
“We understand you’re rather new to all this, but surely you can grasp the basics. It’s what we refer to as tradition,” Mirabelle explained.
“Does it… she serve a purpose?”
“I’m afraid we can’t answer that.”
Lexie snorted. “Am I supposed to guess?”
“Precisely, or rather… If you are a right fit, you’ll be able to open the channels of communication with your companion.”
“What if we don’t have anything in common? I’ve already talked about a broad range of subjects close to my heart and I didn’t sense any enthusiasm from her.”
Mirabelle hummed under her breath. “Perhaps this trip will be a perfect opportunity for you to bond.”
“I don’t know. We’ve been at it for a couple of weeks now. This forced proximity is doing more harm than good. And to tell you the truth, I don’t think she’s putting much effort into it. I’m doing all the work here.”
“You need to persevere, Alexandra. Otherwise, you risk being blackballed.”
Her mouth gaped open. “Blackballed? By a cat?”
“And its entire community,” Mirabelle said. “One word from Luna and you’ll be scraping the bottom of the barrel and lucky to get a scrawny alley cat.”
“I’d hate to pull rank here, but I thought I was the High Chair of the American Continent and all Circumferential Domains Pertaining to the Mackenzie Coven head honcho. Surely she should be looking up to me.”
“Incoming and still in training,” Mirabelle whispered under her breath. “Think of Luna as a pedigree cat and then put her on a pedestal. She is the jewel in the crown among her breed.”
“If she’s so hoity-toity then how come she’s not your cat?”
“Her sister beat her to the position.”
“And I bet Luna is still grumbling about it.” Lexie slumped back only to spring forward. “Hey, that makes me second choice.”
Live with it.
“Huh? Who said that?”
Mirabelle tapped her gable.
“What’s so important about this cat shindig?”
“It is the most prestigious event in the circuit. Entry is by exclusive invitation only,” Mirabelle explained.
“An event? Are there prizes given out?”
“It’s not competition based. It’s more of a gathering for top breeds.”
“A social mixer for cats?” Lexie chortled.
“Yes, I suppose you could say that. Now, can we proceed?”
“Question. If Luna is the jewel in the crown, where does that put your cat?”
“Her sister, Venus, has an impeccable pedigree and shares podium position with Luna. But enough of this. It’s settled.”
“Says you. What exactly do I get out of this?”
“A fur ball, if you’re not careful,” Mirabelle disguised her remark with a well-timed cough.
“Hey, I heard that.”
“My apologies.” Mirabelle sighed. “I… I have been dealing with a backlog of concerns—”
“Ever tried delegating?”
“That’s the reason for my backlog. Now if we could move on—”
“Back up. I might only be the incoming High Chair, but that’s no reason to treat me like a kid on training wheels. Share the workload.” Lexie hoped she hadn’t just put her foot into a cesspit of trouble.
“That’s precisely what I’m trying to do.”
“But you’re still sounding flustered. Who’s the current High Chair here?” Lexie frowned. She’d never bothered to find out before. It hadn’t even crossed her mind. “I get that you can only give me what I can handle, but in the meantime, surely the current High Chair can lend a hand.”
Her remark was met with silence.
“Hey, if I’m the incoming High Chair, then there must be an outgoing High Chair. Who is it? Come on, out with it.”
“You really don’t know?” Catherine asked.
Luna gave her such an intense look, she appeared to be frowning.
Heat rose to her cheeks. “Are you going to hold it against me? When I switched off and got my ten year reprieve from this gig, I really switched off.”
“But before that… You must have known,” Catherine said.
“Duh! I was a teenager. All I cared about was… finding a way out.” Lexie’s gaze bounced between the two hovering lights. “Well, is someone going to tell me?”
Mirabelle released a long sigh. “Morgana Elsbeth Mackenzie.”
The name danced around her mind. Lexie didn’t blink and after a couple of seconds, she actually had to tell herself to breathe. “Morg? Morg? How did I not know this?”
“That’s what we’re asking ourselves.”
“Morg. My Morg.”
“My mom is the outgoing High Chair.”
“You can’t have been that self-absorbed,” Mirabelle remarked. “What did you think she did with her time?”
Lexie sprung to her feet and paced around the room. Stopping, she flung her arms out. “I… She… she’s a drama teacher.”
“That’s her moonlighting job and perfect cover,” Catherine explained.
“She never mentioned it.”
“Did you ever ask?”
“I need a moment to process this.” Lexie closed her eyes. She didn’t remember her mom ever mentioning it. What if she had and Lexie hadn’t paid any attention?
“Any time you’re ready… let us know,” Mirabelle said.
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Okay. I’ll wrap my head around this some other time.”
“Right, now that we’ve sorted that out. Could we please get back to the business at hand?”
Lexie raised a finger. “I have another question.”
“Does this Lord Bradbury of Chelsea Manor have any associations with the Coven? As in, will I come up against unusual circumstances? That encounter with the deadly inky black fog took several years off me, I’m sure.”
“No. Apart from his title, he is quite ordinary.”
“Can I have that in writing, please?”
Mirabelle’s light flashed red.
“I guess not,” she said under her breath.
This time, Mirabelle banged her gable. “I hope you’ve spent your time wisely and practiced ‘shifting’. You won’t be traveling alone. You’ll have Luna and I’m sure she’d appreciate a smooth journey.”
“Can’t she get there under her own steam?”
Luna sprung to her feet and strode to the center of the room. Lexie wasn’t sure, but she suspected Luna was in deep conference with Mirabelle. In fact, if she was privy to the conversation, Lexie was sure she’d hear them talking about her and discussing an out clause.
Luna looked over her shoulder and gave her a head to toe sweep of her eyes that spoke of indifference and possibly…
After a few more minutes, Luna hung her head and resumed her place between Lexie and Jonathan.
“Mind telling me what that was all about?” Lexie asked.
“Nothing you should concern yourself with at the moment.”
“Are you sure about that? I got the impression someone is not happy with her lot.”
“Yes, well. We must all make sacrifices…”
Copyright ©2017 Sonia Parin/All Rights Reserved