“Something’s missing,” I said as I stared at my computer screen, the cursor blinking away at the end of the line stating ‘and, so, Avery was in jail, his bluff having failed’. “They’ve two dead, Avery is awaiting transport to Yellowstone, Levi is in a coma, fake Levi stole your laptop and all our paperwork, Seija is in the wind…” I looked at Haven. “It just feels like… something’s missing.”
The night of the last new moon, barely a week ago, HPPD had taken down Avery and Learsa. At the same time everyone in Basil’s house had been given a sedative. Turns out the Levi that’d been living with my brother and I had actually been the same individual who had impersonated Dr. Batista. That meant that he was the one who’d helped Aunt Peggy prepare the tea and hot cocoa that night. It seems he’d been after all of our research, but there had been a rousing fight when Uncle Joe had shown up.
He’d come simply to check in, but what he’d found were a handful of people he couldn’t wake up and Levi. Levi had apparently been playing along, looking shocked and worried, even going so far as to call for an ambulance. That didn’t last long once Chase showed up. Chase said he’d gotten a whiff of the chameleon’s scent and, thinking it had been Levi, had followed it only to find a very different man. Once the chameleon had seen Chase, he’d run, morphing his appearance and losing himself in a crowd. Chase’d lost the trail and come to bug his brother when he caught the scent again leading right to Basil’s side door. And the fake Levi. It was hard to think that the boy I got to hang out with, got to know and joke with, came to care about, had been a plant. A ghost.
I’d woken to Uncle Joe’s grizzly roaring as he chased the imposter, making it difficult for Chase to join in. Turned out fake Levi was just a smidge wilier than the coyote and snagged Chase’s keys before dodging around him and darting out the door. When asked a while later, after an ambulance arrived from a nearby county, why he’d just let the charlatan take his keys, he’d just quirked a smile and said, “Oh, I’m not worried.”
“Honey, listen to me,” Haven said, pulling up a chair next to me and turning mine to face his. “Avery is awaiting transport to Yellowstone for trial, the doctors are sure Levi will wake up soon, we now have the true identity of the chameleon coward,” who was a mimic octopus named Duy Nguyen as it turned out. When Chase had retrieved his car, there had been no trapped occupant as he’d seemed to expect, but there had been bits of DNA left around one of the vents, “and if Seija could’ve used offensive magic, I don’t see why she wouldn’t’ve at the mill. We’ll catch them, but, for now, it’s over and we’re safe. Alright?”
“Alright.” I pursed my lips, nodding. “Then why aren’t we going home? Why are we still at my brother’s?” I asked pointedly.
Haven coughed and looked to the side. “Because… uh,” he looked back at me with a too-stretched smile. “because we haven’t finished setting up the nursery for you.”
“Hmm? Oh, you know, me, Jaci, Nita, Basil. Everyone.”
“Basil?” I asked, incredulously. “My brother is included and I’m not? Wait, is that why he was going through all those magazines with me?”
He laughed. “Surprised you didn’t catch on sooner.”
“Well, I didn’t know you’d go ahead without me,” I said, mulishly.
“Do you trust me?”
“I don’t know anymore.”
“Fine, do you trust your brother, the architect?”
I glared at him.
“Do you trust Basil?” he rephrased.
I sighed. “Yeah.”
“Will you let him surprise you?”
“Okay, I get it. I’ll let you guys deal with the chemicals and nails and all that, but I want to go home. Sit in my own chair. Eat at my own table. Sleep in my own bed.”
Haven’s eyes crinkled slyly. “Soon.” He kissed me lightly and leaned back until our lips were just shy of touching, he said “Very soon.” Then he kissed me hard, before lifting me easily and carrying me upstairs and continuing his ministrations on the very comfortable guest bed.
Distantly I heard Basil say, “This room has a door, you know.”
“So,” AJ said a few days later, “we’re setting up a viewing party slash run on the 26th for anyone who wants to come for the combined supermoon and lunar eclipse.” The corners of AJ’s upturned eyes crinkled affably.
It was nice seeing the rec-center being proactive, it had been rather blasé when I was a kid. “That sounds fun, but what is a supermoon?”
“It’s where the moon is the closest to earth in her elliptical orbit. It gives the illusion of being larger as well as reflecting more light,” he delineated. “That, combined with the penumbral lunar eclipse between 4 and 5 am will be something to see.”
“Yeah, that sounds really fun,” I said, distracted as I saw Haven get out of his car and approach the house from behind AJ’s chair, a sour look on his face. “Sorry, but,” I started to push myself up from the porch bench and AJ moved to help me into a standing position, “I think it’s about supper time and I should really head in.”
By this time Haven had made it to the porch and had a distinctly unfriendly gaze leveled at AJ. “My apologies for keeping you,” AJ said, ignoring the territorial bison a few feet away. I could just see in my mind’s eye Haven pawing at the ground with his tail raised and grunting. “I hope to see you there,” he said, finally glancing at Haven with a nod and a small smile. “Have a good night.” With that he shook my hand and brushed by Haven.
“What was that?” I asked amusedly once AJ had driven off.
“What did he want?” Haven harrumphed.
“To invite us to a party,” I answered. “So, why were you glaring at him?”
“He,” Haven paused and looked at me. “I just don’t trust him.”
“Ah. Any reason for that?” I inquired curiously. Haven grimaced. Nodding sagely, I said, “That would be a no.” Lacing my fingers with his, I turned to head inside. “Come on, I really am hungry.” I was forced to stop as Haven refused to move. I looked back at him questioningly.
“I was thinking,” he said, a slow smile spreading across his face, “we could have dinner at home.”
It took my brain just a second to catch up as a grin split my face. “You mean… you’re not yanking my chain right now, right?”
“Hmmm, maybe later.” He smirked before drawing me toward Zoe.
I stopped, taking a half-step back toward the house. “Wait, I gotta get my stuff.”
“You forgot this,” Basil said, stepping off the porch with a grin and passing two duffels and my backpack to Haven who slung them into the trunk. I hadn’t realized I’d collected enough stuff for a whole duffle. “You can come back for the rest later.”
My eyes widened. “There’s more?”
“I think you might be a closet hoarder,” Basil rolled his eyes and winked. I snorted.
“Thank you for letting me hang out in your cave, Batman,” I gave him a tight hug, “but it’s back to the asylum.”
He hugged me back with a squeeze and a chuckle. “Take care, Arkham. I’ll leave you in Detective Riley’s custody.” With a hug and a promise to stop by tomorrow, I climbed in the SUV and we were off to Haven’s, now our, apartment. Except we didn’t stop at the apartment. Or the party store down the street, which would have been plausible since we hadn’t been back for a while and likely needed at least a few groceries.
“Um, Haven?” I started, confused. “Where are we going?”
“But we passed the apartments.”
“Are we taking the scenic route?”
He thought a moment. “Not really.” That was unhelpful.
I sighed. He was clearly in an enigmatic mood. We pulled up in front of a house with a wide lawn, winding front porch, and on the front corner was an expansive tower with tall windows. The Rusik house.
“You didn’t,” I breathed. Haven just grinned. I swallowed, irritation starting to swell. “Ha ha, you’ve had your fun. Now let’s go home, I’m starving. ”
Haven sighed and got out of the SUV, coming around to my side and opening the door. “It may still need a little work, but,” he held out his hand to me, “We are home.”