Chapter One: A Little Reflection
Andromache Jones was lying in bed, as she had done for the last couple of days, the purple duvet pulled over her head in an attempt to keep out the world as she tried to rest. A chase around the English countryside as if your life – or the life of someone you loved – depended on it, followed by lengthy interviews with the police can be quite exhausting after all.
And yet, Mac, as she preferred to be called, had hardly slept. Every time she closed her eyes, she was instantly transported to Flinders Forest. The fear in her heart returned. The panic in her chest returned. Tall, dark, ominous looking trees loomed over her, but there was one thing that held her concentration indefinitely. A headstone on which the single word, “Iphigenia”, was engraved.
The Game. He had called it a game, but it wasn’t fun. It was deadly serious. People were already dead because of The Magician. They had failed the challenge he had set them. So had Mac, by a mere one minute, but for some reason, he had spared her. As she lay in bed, thinking of her time spent in the woods, she subconsciously rubbed her sore fingers which had bleed as she tried to rip the lid off a coffin buried in the ground.
No. The Game hadn’t been fun at all.
The final note she had received from the madman promised that this wouldn’t be the last time Mac heard from him. Three days had now passed, and he hadn’t tried contacting her. Whether he meant what he said, or whether this was just another part of The Game, one that kept her wondering and waiting for his sudden reappearance indefinitely, Mac didn’t know. What she knew perfectly well, on the other hand, if they were to play again, it wouldn’t be by his rules. She would make certain of it.
When she returned home that Friday evening, Mac was sad to learn that no one had realised she had been missing, let alone kidnapped. The Magician’s planning had been meticulous. This only served to fuel the vengeful fire that burned within her.
Of course, when it came to speaking with the police, they were more concerned about the ins and outs of her kidnapping as opposed to how she had used her more…specialised gifts to complete The Game, albeit not quick enough. Those gifts were the reason The Magician had targeted her; he had wanted to see how she used them, how they worked. It fascinated him, he had said.
Feeling despondent and depressed, not to mention cross with herself for not foreseeing such an event in her own future looming on the horizon, she had withdrawn within herself, choosing to stay in bed. Her family had gathered around her, offering their support but there was little they could do. Knowing her as they did, they understood that this was going to hit her hard. Mac always felt better when she thought she was in control of her life, due to the fact that her gifts could make things a little unpredictable. She worked best with purpose and direction; to be at the mercy of a madman could only lead to her feeling dazed and acting remote as she tried her best to find a little understanding in what had happened.
Really, all Mac wanted was a little time by herself. Having everyone around her only made her feel more frustrated and claustrophobic. Once the couple of days off from work that her boyfriend, Crabtree Simpson, had been granted were over, and she had the house to herself again, Mac could breathe a little easier.
The phone downstairs had been ringing all morning, but it hadn’t persuaded her to get out of bed. She had stretched her medium frame a few times, exploring the possibility of getting out of the nest she had constructed around her, but on each occasion she had thought better of it. The only thing that was going to convince her to get up was hunger. Mac liked her food. So, with her stomach growling at being neglected these past few days, she wrapped herself in her dressing gown, shoved her feet into her giant cat slippers, and made her way down the stairs.
She passed her reading room, not giving it a second glance. Although she was desperate to go in and raid her herb cupboard, she had forbidden herself to do so. First she needed to find out whether she could cope with all that had passed without resorting to medication, be it prescribed or herbal.
Well, I’ve lasted a couple of days, she thought to herself, walking through the kitchen door. All that meant was that she didn’t need the really potent plants, the ones that would knock her out. Yet on the other hand she knew she needed something to help ease her out of the mild depressive state she was in, as well as something that would make her sleep a little better.
When the kettle was on, and she had eaten a couple of chocolate digestives that she had found in the biscuit tin, it was time to find something proper to eat. As she went through the fridge, not finding much that appealed to her, the phone went again. Mac didn’t answer it. Instead she simply continued on her quest for a decent meal. She moved on to the cupboards; from the hall, she could hear her answer phone message begin to play.
‘I’m sorry. Both Crab and Mac are out. Please leave a message and one of us will ring you back when we can. If this is a query related to River Gardens Mystical Service, and the services provided by Andromache Jones, again, I am sorry I wasn’t in to receive your call personally, but I will get back to you as soon as I can, if you leave your contact details after the beep. Have a great day! Blessings!’
‘Umm…hello, Miss Jones…It’s me, Jean Pottersworth…again. I called a couple of times yesterday…once last night…again this morning…well…I hope I am not bothering you…but I have a problem…’ The lady began to cry. ‘I am so sorry for this, I am…but I don’t know what to do…I would be eternally grateful, if you could get back to me. I left my number on the other messages. Goodbye.’
Mac stood up, closing the door to the cupboard she had just been rummaging through.
The woman sounded quite upset, she thought, leaning on the counter. But I am in no frame of mind to help anyone. I can’t even fix myself some food.
As quickly as the concern for Jean Pottersworth had entered her head, it vanished from her mind completely.
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