Witch Trials

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Witch Trials

A Mackenzie Coven Mystery

Book 5

Chapter One

 

“According to the report I received, your feline companion hasn’t spoken in days. We’ll need to address that first and open the communication channels. Only then can we tackle her biting.”

Lexie slid to the edge of her chair. “Who told you about all that? If there was any biting involved, it’s between her and me. It’s no one else’s business.”

“So you don’t deny there was biting involved?”

Lexie pursed her lips and looked down at the nameplate sitting on the psychiatrist’s desk. “Doctor Shrink.” Was that for real?

“Mercedes, please. Titles and family names create too many barriers.”

And the name Mercedes didn’t? “Mercedes. I came here—” She stopped and stared at the doctor’s raised hand.

“You didn’t come here alone. I have only been observing you both for a few minutes, but it’s been long enough to pick up on the friction between you two. You came with your feline companion. You mustn’t overlook her sensitivities. Acknowledging Luna will go a long way toward strengthening your relationship with her and bringing you two closer together.”

The scamp was glued to her side 24/7. How much closer could they get? Lexie drew in a calming breath. “Luna and I…”

“Much better.”

“We were ordered to come here.” And someone was going to pay for this intervention. Dearly.

The psychiatrist held her gaze. Lexie wondered how long she could go without blinking.

“Ordered?”

“As in, given no choice.” And when she discovered the identity of the person behind all this, she’d… she’d use her bare hands if she had to. Lexie curled her fingers around the armrests. “It’s all been a silly mistake.”

When the shrink shrank back in her chair, Lexie realized she’d spoken through gritted teeth.

Dr Shrink cleared her throat. “Making excuses only enables—”

“I’m stating a fact. We, yes… Luna and I, received notification about this appointment this morning, and I can’t begin to tell you how annoyed that made me feel. Hardly an hour’s notice—”

Mercedes made a note on her notepad. “Do you often lose your temper?”

“Huh?”

She scribbled again.

“What are you writing?” Lexie leaned forward and tried to see for herself but Dr Shrink put her hand over the page.

“According to the request I received—”

“Who from?” A lead. That’s all she needed.

“The Council, of course.”

The… The Council of High Chairs?”

“The disciplinary branch, to be precise.”

Why? How?

“A complaint was lodged against you. Several, in fact.” The shrink looked through a stack of folders and retrieved one. “Here it is. The person is not named. That doesn’t surprise me, as anonymity is often guaranteed in order to avoid escalation. Anyhow, the complaint states that your feline companion has displayed moments of aggression toward you and others.”

True, but all in the line of duty, Lexie thought.

Luna yawned.

“I suspect she is picking up some of this aggression from you.”

“Me!” Lexie nearly jumped out of her chair.

“According to the complaint, she has also alternated between extreme activity and lethargy. Does she often appear listless to you?”

Only after she stuffed herself with a basketful of roast beef sandwiches… Lexie unlocked her jaw. “She has her moments.”

Luna sat with her little paws placed in front of her, her head lifted slightly. The perfect picture of feline indifference.

“Is she communicating with you now?”

“No. And thank goodness for that. She’s been complaining non-stop for two weeks. It’s all about her and what she wants. Then she changed tactics. She’s been giving me the silent treatment…”

 

I’m happy to chat with you, but you don’t seem to be interested in what I have to say.

 

“I’d like you to say something to her now. Ask her how she feels.”

Lexie slanted her gaze toward Luna.

 

You heard her, how do you feel?

 

“Did she answer?”

“No.”

“Try again, perhaps using a lighter tone.”

“What makes you think I didn’t use a light tone with her?”

“You were frowning. Actually, you were scowling. Try again.”

 

I asked you a question, Missy. Now answer me.

 

Luna slanted her gaze toward her and gave her a head to toe sweep that spoke volumes.

 

You brought me to see a shrink? A pet shrink, no less… How many times do I have to tell you I am not a pet? I am a feline companion to an incoming High Chair…

 

“Nope. Nothing,” Lexie said.

The shrink gave a small shake of her head.

“Maybe I should send her away somewhere,” Lexie muttered.

“You want to turn your back on Luna?”

“Why is this suddenly all about her?” Who could possibly have lodged a complaint against them? Mirabelle wouldn’t dare. Surely she wouldn’t. The High Chair of the British Isles and all Circumferential Domains Pertaining to the Mackenzie Coven knew better than to tread on her toes so soon after she and Luna had rescued her from three rogue witches…

Mirabelle owed her, big time.

The shrink sighed. She looked at Lexie and then at Luna who sat on the chair next to Lexie. “I would like to try something.”

“Sure. Go ahead.” Get it over and done with so she could go home and focus on hunting down the person or persons responsible for this.

“On the count of three, I need you both to face each other. One. Two. Three.”

They slanted their gazes at each other and promptly looked away.

Mercedes sighed again and wrote on her notepad. Both Luna and Lexie leaned forward to see what the good doctor had to say about them.

 

Huh? Un… Un what?

 

Lexie squinted but she’d never mastered the art of reading words upside down.

 

Uncooperative…

 

She looked down at Luna and rolled her eyes.

Luna returned the eye roll and turned away again.

“This is worse than I expected.” The shrink clasped her hands and sat back. “Ordinarily, I would recommend a series of sessions but in this instance, I believe it would be most constructive to jump in at the deep end.”

Lexie and Luna sat up. “What if I say no.”

“You may express your dissatisfaction. However, this is non-negotiable. The directive has come straight from the Council and my hands are tied.”

“Do you realize who I am?” She’d never played that card before, but surely it meant something to be the incoming High Chair of the American Continent and all Circumferential Domains Pertaining to the Mackenzie Coven.

“I am well aware of your rank. And since you mentioned it, from what I understand you’ve had a difficult time of accepting your new role. That is something else we might need to tackle. For the time being,” Mercedes tapped the folder, “The order from the Council of High Chairs Disciplinary Board overrides everything.”

 

We’re up the creek.

 

Luna turned her back on her and curled up into a tight ball.

Stop that. She’ll think you’re depressed and prescribe anti-depressants. Do you want to be synthetically happy? It’s worse than fake bacon.

I’m not talking to you. You’re horrible. You brought me to see a shrink.

 

“As I was saying. We need to jump in at the deep end.” Dr Shrink handed Lexie a pamphlet.

Frowning, Lexie looked at the front cover photo of a mansion. “Gainsborough Mansion?”

“It’s just outside Lancaster, Pennsylvania.”

Amish country? Lexie snorted. She’d fit right in. Not…

“I haven’t been there myself, but I have heard say the mansion is stunningly gorgeous. It’s owned by the Hensley Corporation. They’re running a team-building program there this week. I think you and Luna will greatly benefit from the experience.” She pointed at the front cover image. “Once you cross those two pillars, your life will be forever transformed.”

As if it hadn’t already been altered beyond recognition…

Nothing had been the same since her cousins had appeared on her birthday and forced her to accept her birthright. It seemed every other day she experienced a new surprise, and not the good type.

Murder and mayhem. Lexie should have insisted they use that as a business name. After all, that’s all she’d been dealing with lately.

Mirabelle had surprised her when she’d agreed to her suggestion they call their P.I. agency Crafty Investigations. For all she knew, Mirabelle was only biding her time, waiting for the appropriate moment to pull the rug from right under her with a fully registered alternative name. The Delicate Matters Frilly Kid Gloves Treatment Non-Intrusive Inquiries Detective Agency came to mind.

“All the arrangements have been made on your behalf,” Dr Shrink continued, “All you need to do is show up on the day.”

Arrangements already made? This smacked of conspiracy. “What exactly will I… we be doing?”

“Team building. Working together toward common goals. Relying on each other to achieve them.”

As if they hadn’t already been doing that.

If not for the existing synchronicity between them, they would never have taken down the trio of rogue witches, or saved Mirabelle’s life…

“What if she doesn’t co-operate? I can’t force her.”

 

She? She? The cat’s mother?

 

“As I said, you might want to start by acknowledging Luna.” Dr Shrink gave her a brief smile. “Talk to Luna. She might not answer at first. The onus is on you to persevere until she comes around.”

“Me? Do the talking?”

“Yes. Tell her how you feel. Reach out to her. Have you ever allowed her an insight into your inner thoughts?”

“Yes, from the first day,” Lexie admitted and remembered telling Luna how she was actually more of a dog person… “I must admit it hasn’t been easy, especially as I didn’t get to choose her. This new rule about feline companions getting to pick their owners—”

“Tut. Tut.” Dr Shrink wagged a finger at her. “Never owners. You are her companion as much as she is yours.”

Lexie surged to her feet. “Are we done here?”

The psychiatrist gave a small nod.

Luna sprung off the chair and scurried to the door.

“It’s encouraging to see Luna expressing her enthusiasm. Clearly she is eager to start working on this project. You might want to follow her lead.”

Luna lifted her hind leg and licked herself.

“Yeah, sure. I can see there’s much to learn from her.”

“I have scheduled you in for a talk therapy session. My receptionist will make an appointment with you. I will see you again when you complete the program at Gainsborough Mansion.”

 

Thank her or we’ll never get out of here.

 

“Yes. Thank you.”

They strode inside the elevator and headed to opposite corners.

Lexie looked up in time to see Dr Shrink signaling for them to stand together.

“For crying out loud,” Lexie muttered under her breath.

 

Just do as she says. Otherwise, she’ll make a note of it in her notebook.

 

As they stood on the pavement outside the Park Avenue psychiatrist’s office, they each looked in opposite directions.

“This had better not be coming out of my pocket.” Lexie rubbed her hand across her face. She hadn’t even had time to grab a coffee.

That morning she’d peeled her eyes open and seen the decree… the command… the order to attend the appointment or else, hovering in front of her eyes. The parchment had followed her around her apartment. After several attempts to ignore it, it had actually began nudging and prodding her.

She’d had no choice but to scoop Luna up and head to the Park Avenue address.

“Come on, we’ll never get a cab here. Let’s walk on a bit.” She waited for Luna to grumble. To her surprise, she fell in step with her. Lexie stopped to scrape some gum off her boot.

Luna chuckled. “Better you than me.”

“What are you doing talking to me? We’re out in public.”

“So? No one is going to suspect me of talking. I’m a cat. They’re going to think you’re talking to yourself. This city’s full of crazies. You blend right in.”

Lexie looked around for a place to grab a bite to eat. They hadn’t even had time to have breakfast…

“I’m hungry. Feed me. Let’s go to the Kitty Cafe,” Luna suggested.

“As soon as I get a cab to stop for us.”

Luna turned a corner.

“Hey. Where are you going? If you get lost, you’re going to stay lost because I’m not going out searching for you.”

“It’s a shortcut.”

“We’re uptown. There is no shortcut home.” Hunching her shoulders, Lexie followed. “I wouldn’t put it past you to lead me into a dark alleyway.”

“And do what to you?” Luna threw over her shoulder.

“I don’t know. I didn’t think that far ahead. I’m running on empty here…”

Luna gave an unladylike snort. “Is it any wonder we always end up in so many scrapes?”

“As if that’s my fault. I’m not the one dragging us out who knows where to deal with who knows what.”

“Maybe it won’t be such a bad idea to have a few sessions with Dr Shrink. She’ll pick up on your habit of passing the buck. Nothing is ever your fault.”

They came up to a café but it didn’t have outdoor tables and it didn’t look cat friendly. “I used to lead a quiet, uneventful life…”

“And that’s another thing,” Luna said, “You’re constantly complaining about me grumbling and yet that’s all I hear from you.”

Lexie stopped. “How is this a shortcut?”

“You’ll see.”

She watched Luna weave her way through the crowd. Lexie growled. “Wait for me. You’re going too fast.” She had to pick up her pace to keep up.

A woman turned and hearing her talking to herself, stepped out of the way and plastered herself against a wall.

Yes, Lexie thought, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Lexie had to stoop down and peer between people’s legs to keep Luna in her sights. When she thought she’d lost her, she stopped only to find Luna sitting and leisurely watching people striding by.

“I suppose you think that was funny. Taking off like that. You could have been trampled on. Come on, otherwise we’ll never get home.”

“Wait. While we’re here, you might as well do some shopping. We’re running low on food, as usual.”

“I’m going to start taking notes for the next appointment with Dr Shrink. Some of your phrases display passive aggression.” Lexie looked up at the storefront. “The Feline Emporium? It sounds expensive. We’re on the Upper East Side here. I didn’t bring a wallet big enough… We’ll get something closer to home.”

Luna pressed her little nose against the window. “It won’t be the same.”

Lexie tried to steel herself against the little voice full of yearning.

“Look, they have Game Indulgence. It has quail, pheasant and duck. This is the one my sister eats.”

“Yeah, well… she’s a feline companion to a fully-fledged High Chair and lives in Mackenzie Hall and you live in a cramped apartment with a witch in training on a tight budget.”

“Must you remind me how far I’ve come down in the world?”

“From what I remember, your ex owner… companion was a drunk,” Lexie muttered and looked around to see if she could hail a cab. Huffing out a breath, she turned. “All right. One can for lunch.”

Luna sprinted inside the store. Lexie followed and strode around gazing at aisle after aisle of pet paraphernalia. She didn’t dare look at the price tags. In fact, there weren’t any price tags displayed.

When she reached the back of the store, she found Luna sitting at the counter, a couple of large bags beside her.

 

What are you doing… and what’s all this?

They have efficient staff here. I pointed and they bagged it.

I said one can.

I couldn’t decide.

How am I supposed to carry all that?

 

Luna gave her a wide-eyed expression meant to melt hearts.

“Oh, she’s so cute.” The sales clerk gave her a scratch behind the ear and then she rang up the total.

Moments later, Lexie stood outside on the pavement, holding two large carry bags. “I just spent our entire weekly grocery money on you.”

“You took me to see a shrink.”

“And you’re going to milk that for all it’s worth?”

“I’m earning my keep.”

“How so?”

“I noticed something you didn’t.”

“What?”

“We’re being followed.”

 

Copyright ©2017 Sonia Parin/All Rights Reserved

 

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