13 Troubling

Chase said, “Give me your hand?”

Spencer hesitated briefly before taking the soft hand in his own. He felt a gentle squeeze, just before Chase said, “Hold on!” Spencer stumbled a little as he realized they were no longer in the boy’s room.

“Where are we?” the man asked.

“You’ve never been here?” Chase wondered. “Of course not! This is my place. I wanted us to have some privacy, and I wanted to let you know a little bit about me.” Chase said. “This is the Temple of Solomon.”

“Why are we HERE?” Spencer asked.

“Can I trust you?” the boy asked. The man nodded thoughtfully.

“Because, and you might have heard rumors, I am the keeper of this place, the high priest of this Temple,” the boy said in his far-away melodic tone. “I come here to be more in tune, to think. Nobody really knows how often I sneak away to come here, and it’s not really safe for anyone but me.”

“Not safe?” the man asked.

“The Presence dwells here,” the boy said, walking up to the altar with the man just behind him. “Can you feel it?”

“Behind the curtain,” Spencer said.

“Yes…. The longer you are here, the more you’ll feel the desire to join it. That would be a fatal mistake, tearing your reality apart. For me, it’s different,” Chase said.

“Your power is different from ours,” Spencer mused to himself.

“Yes,” Chase answered simply, taking the man’s hand again, softly, gently, a gesture of intimate friendship. As he squeezed, he said, “What do you want to ask me?”

“My mother asked me to come. The World Congress is a gathering of wizards and witches, many loyal to us but many belonging to splinter groups. My mother is concerned that a darkness is rising and will attempt to gather followers at this meeting. She’d hoped you would support some of her initiatives and defeat these attempts.”

Chase turned to face him and said, “Insofar as your mother is seeking the good, we are on the same side. Insofar as she is seeking to consolidate her power, I’ll follow my own reason and conscience. No promises. Why don’t you tell me some specifics?” he asked, waving his hand and transporting a seat into the space so they could sit and talk.

Spencer filled him in on as much as he could, and Chase nodded while he listened. “Our interests seem to be in the same place,” Chase said when the man finished. “You can tell your mother what we talked about, though I’d prefer the where stayed between us?” Spencer nodded, and Chase added, “Before we leave, there is one last thing I’d like to do?”

“What?” Spencer asked.

“It’s complicated,” Chase said with a sigh. But Spencer looked down and saw he was in a very simple white cotton robe. Chase smiled at his surprised look and said, “You’ll find your uniform in your closet at Sebastian’s, Highness!”

Still holding the man’s hand, Chase led him to the altar, and they stood shoulder-to-shoulder. “Most high God,” the boy intoned with the powerful voice of an elder sage, “look upon your servant with favor. Shine your countenance upon the downtrodden, show your forgiveness to the oppressed. Embrace with love your little child.” Then he turned to face the man and put his hands on his shoulders. First, Spencer felt warmth spreading through his body, and then he saw the golden light emanating from beneath Chase’s hands. The last thing he remembered was the boy’s cherry red lips pressing against his cheek and a whisper he could not hear. And all was black.

***

After a long morning of working with electrical energy and a quick lunch, Carl and Edward were taking a little nap. Marcus was outside getting things ready for later, and Chris was just finishing the dishes. After he dried his hands, Chris stepped onto the porch and saw the man working at the edge of the woods. As Chris approached, Marcus looked up and smiled widely.

Chris walked up to the man and wrapped his arms around him, laying his head on the man’s broad chest. “When you’re done, you want to lie down with me for a nap?” Marcus smiled and winked at him and he said, “NO TRICKS! I promise. I just want to rest, and I prefer to rest with you.”

Marcus raised his hand to the back of Chris’s head and pulled the boy in for a passionate kiss. “I’ll be in in a few minutes,” he whispered.

Chris smiled and said, “I’ll wait.”

So when Marcus was through, Chris took his hand and they walked together to their room, where they stripped down to their underwear and crawled into bed. Chris was so tired, he didn’t even push Marcus’s buttons, and both of them fell promptly to sleep.

***

“Where is he?” Xavier asked as Chase took the baby.

“I left him in bed upstairs,” Chase answered with a cheeky grin. “He’s tired out.” Seeing the look on Xavier’s face made him laugh and add, “He’s had a rough time, Xavier, and he’s working through some things he may not have been entirely ready to face.”

“I don’t suppose I should ask?” Xavier said gravely.

“No, I don’t think so,” Chase said evenly.

Just then, a deep voice asked from the stairs, “Why is there a naked man in our bed?”

Chase smiled at William and said, “He isn’t naked. He has shorts on, for crying out loud.” Chase explained to William about Spencer’s true identity and that he had talked with Spencer about business, followed by some intense personal matters that had exhausted the young man. “I needed to do a healing ritual with him, then I brought him home to rest. How’s Avery?”

“He’s being a little childish about having to work with Sebastian, but he’s getting over it.”

***

In the evening, Marcus sat down with Chris and Carl. “We’ll continue to work on basic training in the morning, but I’d like to begin exploring with each of you the heritage of your traditions. Carl, in your case, this is easy; we know you are a Druid. But Chris,” he hesitated, “though you clearly have magickal power, we know nothing of your background.”

“There isn’t much I can tell you. My parents aren’t religious. They don’t have any real beliefs that I know of,” Chris said.

“I know,” Marcus said, “that’s why I brought this.” In his hand was a crystal. “I’m no expert with this but it should be enough to give us the insight we need. Chris, you grab the point and clear your mind,” Marcus said. “It might take a few,” he stopped abruptly because as soon as the boy touched the crystal his mind was flooded with a familiar image. Chase in priestly robes standing on the steps of the Temple. “Problem solved!”

“Really?” Chris asked, incredulous.

“The image was immediate and absolutely clear,” Marcus said.

Chris complained impatiently to a smiling Marcus, “AND?”

“You are a kabbalist, the Jewish mystical sect to which Rabbi Roth and Chase belong,” Marcus revealed.

“No way,” the boy said, suddenly quite sure it was true.

Marcus reached into his bag and pulled out a book on the Druidic tradition of magick and handed it to Carl; a moment later, he had a volume on Kabbalistic magick for Chris. “Gentlemen, study these works this evening and tomorrow morning, we’ll pick a few exercises for each of you to practice.”

“We’re not learning anything new tonight?” Carl asked, sounding disappointed.

Marcus smiled and said, “You’re learning how to learn. Practice some of the safer things on your own, and come to me if you need some help, or if you get in to trouble.” With that, he smiled and went inside, leaving the boys looking at each other uncertainly.

“I think,” Chris began, “only one of us should practice anything at a time.”

“Why?” Carl asked?

“So that the other is free to run get Marcus! What if one of us accidentally stuns himself?” Chris said, laughing.

“True,” Carl said, as the weight of possibility hit him.

They read together for hours, occasionally stopping each other to try some technique or spell without any difficulty.

***

William was changing out of his workout clothes a little later when he heard Spencer yawn in bed. “Welcome back to the world of the living,” he said, pulling up his jeans and giving the man a nice long look at his ass.

“Pleasant welcome, that,” Spencer joked. “What am I doing here and where are my clothes?” he asked, lifting the covers to find he was wearing a fairly tight, skimpy pair of shorts.

“You’ll have to ask my man about that,” William said. “I’d loan you some of mine, but you’re bigger than me.” He walked to the door and yelled, “Babe! The prince needs some clothes!”

Chase hurried upstairs and smiled at the man lying in bed. “Sorry! How are these?” he asked, reaching as if into the air and pulling out some nice casual clothes.

William shook his head and said to Spencer, “I think he just does this stuff to show off!”

“DO NOT! I’m just always learning,” Chase pretended to pout, winking at Spencer. “How do you feel?”

“Better,” the man said, suddenly remembering what had happened between them just before he had passed out. “Thank you.”

“Of course! Now get dressed and come downstairs!” Chase said, leaning against the door frame.

Spencer looked back and forth between Chase and William, and finally asked, “PRIVACY?”

“You’re no fun!” Chase said with a grin as he and William ran downstairs. A few minutes later, the man followed, looking gorgeous in his everyday clothes. “Spencer, you met Xavier earlier. This is his partner, Aiden,” Chase finished introductions about the same time Sam Roth knocked on the door.

Aiden answered and welcomed the man in with a hug. “Good to see you,” he added. “Come on in! Spencer’s still here!”

“Good evening, gentlemen!” the rabbi said as he entered the living room. “And there is little Alex!” He slipped a hand beneath Xavier’s and lifted the baby from the man’s arms, teasing Alex and making him laugh.

The men chatted casually and kept the environment low-key for their guest. They were almost finished with dinner when the phone rang and Aiden answered. “It’s for you,” he said mysteriously, handing the phone to Rabbi Roth.

“Hello?” After listening, he continued, “REALLY? You’re quite sure?” And after a little more explanation, “Fantastic. I’ll meet with him as soon as you return. Goodbye!”

Seeing all eyes were on him, Sam explained, “That was Marcus. He has determined Chris’s magickal lineage, and he’s one of us, Chase. He is of our blood.”

Chase nodded with a smile. “I thought he might be.”

“You knew?” William asked.

“Not for sure, but there was a feeling I couldn’t quite place. Something familiar,” Chase explained.

“Well, when he returns from training, I’m going to have him visit me and begin a formal program with him. Perhaps you’ll join us some, Chase?” Sam suggested.

“Sounds fun,” Chase said. “That’ll give me something to do while William is off with Avery!”

Shortly, Sam returned to the synagogue with the young prince, who promised to visit soon. When Spencer returned to Sebastian’s, he found an uncomfortable silence.

“HELLO?” he called as he emerged from the portal. Sebastian’s office door was locked and the security system activated. “HELLO?” he called again on the first floor. He knocked on Richard’s door and again got no answer.

On the refrigerator, he found a note letting him know the guys had all gone out to dinner and wouldn’t return until late. Three of the four would be having a more substantive snack after dinner. Yet Spencer’s feeling of disquiet never faded. In fact, it increased. He walked around the house but found nothing out of order, so he walked the perimeter and again found nothing. At last, he called the security team arrayed around the outer walls. “Team Alpha, report!”

“No activity, sir,” came the immediate response.

“Team Delta, report!” Spencer demanded.

“No signs of life, sir,” came his answer.

“Gamma Team?” Spencer asked.

“Sir, half an hour ago, an unarmed civilian delivered a package to the front gate mailbox!” the team leader reported.

“Secure the package. I’ll meet you at the gate in five!” Spencer responded, and grabbed his Kevlar vest. He quickly jogged around the house and said, “Scan the package for magick!”

A skilled veteran of the previous war performed an incantation that revealed magick. However, only traces were present on the fingerprints.

“Explosives?” Spencer asked.

“Nothing. For sure!” a younger man replied.

Spencer grabbed the package and went to open it, when a private asked, “Sir! Are you sure you should?” but Spencer silenced him with a glare.

Inside the big envelope were two 8”X10” photographs. The first was of a busy street, the second was of a college cafeteria. They only had one thing in common. Each picture was centered on an extraordinary young man in his twenties, circled in red marker. The resemblance was uncanny; if James were ever to grow up, this would be what he would look like in four or five years.

Spencer flashed the photos in front of the private and asked, “What does this look like to you, private?”

The young man froze, but at last answered, “A threat, sir!”

“That’s right,” Spencer said, as he turned to walk back inside. “Secure the perimeter. Any more unscheduled deliveries, detain the deliveryman! Good night, gentlemen!”

Spencer walked back to the manor house and logged on to an access hub for the Council Subnet, which was secured at a lower level than Sebastian’s. But when he logged on, he got a security warning that the system was upgrading its encryption. Apparently, he was outed to the Council.

He looked around to see who was online and found one person he knew he could trust. He typed out a quick message and soon a figure appeared on his screen. “How are you enjoying the Far East, Horatio?”

“More like the Wild West these days,” Horatio laughed. “I’m afraid Roman doesn’t care for it, so he occasionally goes on little vacations, either into the countryside, or through the portals back to Italy.”

“What’s it like to be the youngest consul?” Spencer smiled.

“It’s like coming into a very complex game right in the middle, but no one else speaks English so you learn the rules by playing. But not quite that bad, because I’ve been getting advice and assists from Richard and Americ,” Horatio detailed.

“Not Sebastian?” Spencer asked.

“He tries to stay above such things,” Horatio smiled. “But what CAN I do for YOU, your majesty?”

“Highness will do, I’m not king yet,” the young man responded with a sarcastic laugh. “I have a problem and everyone else is out.” Holding up the photos, he continued, “These were delivered by hand this evening to the manor.”

Horatio leaned in and pressed a zoom button until he gasped. “IS that who I think it is?”

“I think so,” Spencer nodded.

“This is going to get nasty,” Horatio said glumly.

“Can you get someone to work on finding this guy? I think he’s been out of touch,” Spencer said.

“Will do! I’ll get back to you ASAP!” Horatio said, logging off and getting busy.

“WHAT is going on?” Spencer wondered aloud to himself as he began doing research himself, seeing if he could use probate records to follow a money trail back to the man, but it turned out he never collected his estate, limited though it was.

He was still on the computer when the guys got home, and they all stopped in their tracks when he turned to face them. “What’s wrong?” Sebastian asked, concerned.

“I’m not sure,” Spencer began with a sigh. “But I think James’s brother is in trouble.”

“Josh? Did something happen?” James asked, almost panicked. Even though his brother didn’t come to see him when he was nearly killed, or after the funeral, James felt a real attachment to his brother. They’d been so close when they were kids.

“NO! But … these were delivered this afternoon. I got here too late and security let the courier go.” As he handed the pictures to James and Sebastian, he could feel the ancient vampire’s energy coming in waves. They all could.

James grabbed Sebastian’s hand and said, “Calm down, baby! We just need to find him and protect him.”

Sebastian nodded. “I’ll get my men on it,” he said.

Spencer replied, “I’m already on it. I asked Horatio to begin a search for him a couple of hours ago.”

“Good man,” Sebastian nodded. “When we hear from him, we need to go see your brother,” Sebastian said to James. “He’ll need more protection than we can offer him in the open, at least until we figure out what this means.”

“I don’t think he’ll want to see me,” James said sadly.

“He won’t have much choice now that someone is using him to scare us,” Sebastian said firmly.

***

William put the phone down and looked at Chase. They put the baby in the crib and stepped quietly outside and went downstairs to talk to Avery and Xavier.

“That was Sebastian,” the boy announced. “It seems they got a threat at his house tonight!”

“He’s a big boy,” Xavier laughed. “He can handle it. I’m surprised he didn’t eat the messenger.”

“The message was a picture of James’s human brother. He was circled in red ink!” William explained.

“How terrible!” Chase said. “What’s this all about?”

“No clue,” William said. “But I think we should all watch our back for a while.”

“Agreed!” Aiden declared.

***

Early in the morning, Sebastian’s phone rang and James grabbed it. “Van der Meer residence.”

“James, is that you?” an Englishman’s voice asked. “It’s Horatio!”

“What do you have?” James asked abruptly.

“Good to talk to you, as well, old chap,” Horatio laughed. “But I understand. Your brother is currently living in Albany, NY.” He gave James the address. “And he’s working at an accounting firm, Johnson and Masters, which is probably where you’ll find him today.”

“Thank you, Horatio. Talk to you soon!” James said, and sat the phone in its base. Sebastian was in his office downstairs; James made his way to the first floor but slipped outside into the yard. With his wand, he opened a door to an alleyway near his brother’s apartment.

It was still early enough that his brother would be home. James took a last look over his shoulder at the house before stepping through the portal alone.