Dear Diary, look at these two, growing by leaps and bounds! And, finally, they have hair! Rosetta’s has come in the same color as Xalen’s, in rich and thick reddish-brown waves. Holden’s hair happens to be more like mine, dirty blonde and fine. For a while, I was afraid he’d be bald for life. One time, I mentioned this to Susan who told me she thought blonde hair took longer to come in. I don’t know if that’s true for every baby, but it was true for him.
These two nuts just got done throwing food at each other and laughing hysterically. The problem is, they are so cute I can’t even discipline them. Instead, I realized the applesauce gave Holden’s hair just enough oomph to stay in a little mohawk.
Susan has expressed great concern about my laid back parenting and she is much firmer with them.
This was one of those crazy mornings where it wasn’t even dawn yet because our little monsters decided they don’t need to sleep past five a.m. Still, it’s not like I had time to sleep in or anything.
Xalen had spent the night to help care for the kids and he was the one who kept me diligent to my alarm clock. If he hadn’t been here, I might’ve just hit the snooze button a few dozen times.
“Why is Holden’s hair standing up like that?” Xalen asked as he joined us in the kitchen.
“Isn’t it adorable?” I laughed.
“Really, Marty, you encourage their behavior too much,” Susan unnecessarily pointed out.
“It is a good thing you are here, Susan,” Xalen said as he glanced at Holden again.
Was I the only one who thought the mohawk was cute? My only thought about it was that the fuddy-duddies in the room needed to chill. The twins were only going to be children once and my belief was that they didn’t need to be fussed over every time they did something slightly naughty.
“Please, their little food fight isn’t even on my radar of terrible things. Talk to me when they’re doing drugs.”
Susan’s eyes grew two times their size. “They better not!”
I laughed again. “Relax, I was kidding. I agree with your ‘they better not.'”
As if on cue, Rosetta and Holden giggled. It was creepy and weird to me how sometimes they laughed the same way. Even their mannerisms were peculiarly similar… and done at the same time. It reminded me a lot of those dancing marionette shows where someone works the strings to make the puppets move together.
I guess these weird thoughts I had about the kids was a reflection of my deep down fear. Since giving birth, I’d had this growing feeling these two would grow up really fast and become so independent and alike, they wouldn’t need me anymore. They would go on with their lives and leave me in the dust.
Isn’t that kind of what I did to my parents? Minus, having a twin, that is.
“Marty?” Xalen asked, bringing me out of my daydream. I hadn’t spoken to him about my fear because I thought perhaps he’d think it was irrational and silly. Not that he’d ever made me feel that way about anything before.
“I asked if you wanted more coffee.”
“No thanks, my eyeballs are already starting to float,” I said.
“If you’ve got the twins now for a little bit, I’ve got a few things to do.”
“Sure, Susan,” Xalen said before she left the kitchen.
Glancing into the hallway to be certain she wasn’t listening, Xalen turned to me and said, “Did she eat anything this morning?”
I shook my head, trying to hide the worry from my face. “I haven’t seen her eat in days and I’m getting really worried. What can we do? Any ideas?”
“Maybe we should sit down with her and tell her how worried we are.”
“I don’t know about that,” I said. It sounded like the reasonable thing to do yet I couldn’t help but feel that Susan would become defensive. She’d already been confronted by her last boyfriend Victor, and then, my parents and that went horribly wrong.
“I can see why you are hesitant to do that. Perhaps we should speak to a professional in this area of expertise.”
This made more sense than anything I’d heard so far. “I’d like to do that as soon as possible. Can you go with me?”
“Of course, I will go with you. But not today as I have a meeting with the team about a new case.”
And that’s all he said. He still hadn’t pressured me one bit to join The Inheritance. If there was any reason I loved him, this was a huge one.
“Will you be going out of town?” I asked.
“Yes, I do not think we can avoid it.”
“Can you tell me about it?”
Finally, he grinned slyly at me and I realized I’d left the door wide open to talk about The Inheritance. “You could come along with me and sit in on our meeting to find out.”
This made me laugh. Then he added, “If you want to, that is.”
“You’ve been so good about not bringing this up at all.” I laughed until there were tears in my eyes. It just struck me as funny, how patient he is. I never could have gone this long without an answer. Snaking my arms around his neck and kissing him, I said, “You are a saint, you know that?”
Smiling at me and kissing me again, he said, “I would not go so far.”
“Well, I adore you and I’m going with you to your meeting.”
On the long drive to the Neptune Foundation, or base house, as the team called it, Xalen and I agreed that in order to really figure out if I belonged in The Inheritance, I should go with the team on one of their cases. What better way was there than seeing first hand what I was getting into?
I already knew I would work for the Neptune Foundation as Xalen assured me there were always relics to translate and research. So, whether I joined The Inheritance or not, I had a new great job. Bye bye, teaching.
As soon as we got to that gargantuan thing Xalen called home, I called Susan to ask her if it was okay with her if I was away for a couple days. I’m sure she’d figured out by now that I’ve been watching her eating habits, so she was only too glad to be rid of me.
Without further ado, Xalen and I went through the holographic door thingy and into the control room where everyone was already waiting. Seeing what the others were doing, I sat at the enormous conference table and opened my laptop.
I thought Xalen would be the one leading the meeting, but it was Shelly who spoke.
“So this is a photo of my friend Viv Paris.”
The photos popped up on my screen and I realized Shelly had remote access to all of ours.
“Luckily, I had my Polaroid with me and was able to get these. I had sunglasses and a hat on and she was so preoccupied, she didn’t even notice me.”
“What an unusual necklace,” Daniel said.
Leaning in to look closer at the necklace, I said, “It looks like there is writing on it, but the engravement is so small, I can’t read it.”
Xalen seemed pleased with me and smiled in my direction.
“That necklace is of great interest to us,” Xalen explained. “We believe it to be The Blushing Oath Pendant which was made for Iphoyeas who was the queen of the Aptiens centuries ago. Originally, it was a circular shape but was later fashioned into a heart. Inside the locket, it is said, is a small tress of Iphoyeas’ hair.”
“What is the significance of this?” I asked.
Shelly turned away from her laptop, her eyes meeting mine and said, “These pictures were taken three days ago.”
“My friend, Viv Paris, is dead.”
“What?” I asked, thinking perhaps I’d heard her wrong. But no, this was The Inheritance we were talking about. So, nothing would be what it seemed, I was sure.
Owen tried to explain the situation to me. “Shelly went to Saltwell one year ago to attend Viv’s funeral. She drowned while scuba diving and left a husband behind. Anyway, Shelly went back to Saltwell a few days ago to pay her respects.”
“I never even got to the cemetery. I stopped at a diner for coffee and that’s when I saw her. Viv was standing right there.”
“And she was wearing that necklace,” Daniel added.
“So, we’re going to Saltwell,” I guessed.
“Yes,” Xalen said. “Owen will stay behind to try to find out where the necklace has been and who owns it now. We will go to Saltwell, speak to Viv’s husband and try to find her. We need to confirm that this photo is indeed of Viv and if that necklace is The Blushing Oath Pendant.”
After the meeting broke up, Xalen climbed the stairs to his books above. I turned to Shelly.
“What do you make of all of this?”
“Call me crazy, but I know that was Viv I saw. Whether that necklace is The Blushing Oath Pendant or not, I need to find out.”
“I can’t say I blame you. This is a very curious case. But, no one has said what the necklace has to do with you seeing Viv. I don’t really understand this.”
“Whoever wears the pendant, it is said, will raise from the dead. I’ve never seen the necklace up close and pictures of it are difficult to find, so I don’t know what exactly the inscription is. It’s considered to be bad luck to have it in one’s possession and to use the pendant’s powers is even worse.”
There was an excitement welling up inside me that I felt might burst out at any moment yet on top of that was a feeling of dread that sank into my stomach like a brick.
Shelly stepped closer to me, her silky brown eyes very serious. “Because what comes back is not what was once buried.”
Yikes. So, if this Viv lady was resurrected using this cursed pendant thing, she would be extra evil or something? This was a question I kept to myself. I was only along for the ride and thought perhaps I should just take a watch and see what happens approach.
Tilting my head back, I saw Xalen with a thick book under his arm. That didn’t stop him from looking for more, though. As he pulled other volumes from the shelves, he blew dust aside and very pointedly opened them to pages as if he specifically knew where to find the information he was searching for.
“This must be kind of strange to you,” Daniel said.
I jumped slightly, not realizing he was beside me. “Kind of?”
Laughing a little, he said, “I felt the same way when I joined. Anyway, just wanted to tell you we’re wheels up in thirty.”
And that, I learned, meant we were supposed to be on The Neptune Foundation’s private plane in half an hour.
When we left Alpine County, it was that icy kind of cold and dampness that alerts you to the fact it’s going to snow. Saltwell, on the other hand, was full of dampness but there were palm trees, not inclement weather.
A limo met us at the airport which dropped Daniel off in the city. Xalen had instructed him to talk to locals and see if anyone else had seen Viv Paris.
Xalen, Shelly and I soon found ourselves in the house of Eric Paris, husband to the “late” Viv. At first glance, he expressed shock that we would suggest we’d seen his wife in town.
“This is absurd!” he growled. “My poor wife has been dead for a year, she is not galavanting all over the city!”
“I am sorry to bring up something so painful,” Xalen said, his voice nonplussed. With steady hands, he pulled out the Polaroids Shelly had taken only last week. “These photos look very much like your wife.”
Barely glancing at them, he looked Xalen straight in the eye. “That is not Viv. There is no possible way that could be her. As I told you, she’s dead. Shelly, you were at the funeral. You watched as her casket was closed and she was lowered into the ground!”
“I’m sorry, Eric. I would never come here and say all of this if I didn’t believe it with all my heart. Yes, I absolutely saw her buried that day. But these are pictures I took of her just a few days ago!”
“Do you hear how crazy you sound?” he demanded, shoving the pictures back across the bar counter toward Xalen. “This is ridiculous!”
“In the photo, this woman is wearing a necklace. Did Viv own one like this?” Xalen asked.
Finally, Eric looked at the closeup photo, then slapped it back down on the counter. “No. She never would have worn anything like this. She much preferred diamonds.”
Something was drawing Xalen’s attention toward the living room.
“Do you mind if we take a look around?” he mumbled.
Eric sputtered, a vein in his temple throbbing and his face turning purple. “Yes! I mind! Leave! All of you! I have things I have to do!”
With that, we found ourselves in the driveway, waiting for the limo when Xalen’s phone rang.
“Dr. Xalen Sprague,” he said.
He talked for a few moments, his eyes becoming more and more concerned.
“What is it?” I asked as he hung up.
“That was Owen calling from the base.”
“This looks serious,” Shelly said.
Xalen nodded slightly. “Owen was able to trace the necklace to a necromancer who died a few months ago. After the auctioning off of all his belongings, it was discovered, by his son, that the necklace was missing. It either got lost in the things that were auctioned or someone knew he had it and in the confusion of it all, they stole it.”
“I knew it!” Shelly said.
Looking at her somberly, Xalen said, “Let’s find Daniel and see if he has found anything out.”
“So, I was able to confirm everything Eric Paris said about his wife. She died while scuba diving and her death certificate is on file, there was an obituary in the local paper. Oh, and the Undertaker at the funeral home assured me she is quite dead.”
“That is what we expected to find,” Xalen said. “Did you speak to the locals?”
Daniel nodded. “No one has seen her but I get the feeling they don’t like outsiders asking questions.”
Shelly was standing apart from us, her arms at her sides, her palms facing forward. I watched as she closed her eyes and became very still. I’d seen her do this at every place we stopped so far.
“What’s she doing?”
Daniel glanced at her for a moment, then said, “She’s trying to see if she can pick up on anything psychically.”
“Oh,” I said as if that was the most normal thing in the world to hear.
“All right. Daniel and I are going to visit Viv Paris’ mother. I do not want Shelly to go because Viv’s mother would know her.”
“What should Shelly and I do?” I asked.
“Are you afraid of cemeteries?”
I laughed. “Uh, no.”
“You two go to the cemetery and get a few photos of Viv’s grave. Snoop around, listen for gossip if there is anyone else there. That sort of thing.”
“Okay,” I shrugged.
Once Shelly and I got to the cemetery, however, a thick fog rolled in. It was one of those creepy gothic places you’d expect to find in a horror movie complete with vampires.
“This is so creepy.”
Instead of laughing at me like I thought she would, Shelly shivered, wrapping her arms around herself. “I agree.”
It took some time to find the right gravesite. Apparently, the Paris family went back several generations in this town.
“Found it!” Shelly announced.
I was all too glad to join her even though I was only a few feet away wiping dirt from another tombstone.
“Well, that’s unexpected,” I said.
Because instead of a normal grave, we found a gaping hole with a pil of dirt next to it as if someone had shoveled it all away.
“The coffin isn’t even here,” Shelly observed.
“Do you think someone stole her corpse?” I asked. “I mean, you are sure she definitely died, so it would seem someone dug her up.”
“Yeah,” Shelly said. “Someone dug her up and put a certain cursed pendant around her neck!”
This was not good.