Created By Maryjane
“With a chance to make it good somehow, hey, what else can we do now?”
Now, it was up to Mary to corral everyone into a cohesive group so they could move on to their destination. Getting all of the people from the train organized on the small station platform wasn’t going to be easy. Each of the alliance members who were traveling in different cars wanted to stop and introduce themselves to one another, leaving their various bags strewn across the only viable walkway. The excitement of finally meeting each other and the anticipation of what was to come had thrown them all into a tizzy.
After many greetings and confirmations of their route, the large party of anxious travelers headed off. Walking down the planks of the platform to the sidewalk, they garnered more than a few cross-eyed glances from the townspeople loitering in front of the small shops on the street. The unlikely entourage included a man with sunglasses that were too big for his face and someone with a shockingly large head of fluffy hair, at least for these parts. Alongside them, a lithe woman was attempting to carry a small cub swaddled in a furry blanket. The young man who was walking next to her patting the baby’s back was having to hunch over to reach them, so their forward motion was hindered. Coming up alongside them, a gentleman with an odd style hat, for these parts anyway, grabbed the bag the woman with the baby was trying to haul and accompanied them on their walk.
The party included some who were dressed for a different environment. Mary was wearing heels suitable for a night out on the town where she would be driven from door to door. It was poor planning on her part and walking half a mile was proving to be a test. She had grabbed Jacks arm when one of her heels had gotten stuck in the train station platform and he was kind enough to help her on the rest of their trip down the street. He had his earbuds lodged in place and Mary tried to match her steps to the beats of the Grateful Dead song she could hear bouncing out of his ears.
The morning was warmer than any of them had anticipated for the northeast. By the time they reached the historic building that was to be their home for the next two days, JW had removed his hat and his jacket. Draping the jacket over his arm and resting the Bowler on top, he assured his companions that he had dealt with much worse. His assignment at the British Consulate allowed him the ease of travel in the US as well as many other countries. He was quite used to adverse weather conditions, he stated, as he readjusted the umbrella hanging in the crook of his elbow, and wouldn’t it be the perfect time for some tea?
Under the clear blue sky, the bell tower cut a beautiful silhouette. The marker on the front lawn declared that this was an historic property , noting the dates of construction and use before its retirement As the group of vagabonds stood in front of the building , the man holding the tiny cub stepped forward to examine the structure. Since he had designed many buildings himself, he took a great interest in what the interpretations of other architects visions might be. The foundation was laid with large, rectangular bricks, local stone, probably. The trim on the windows was wide and heavy with the corners notched, rather than clean, square angles. Someone, long ago, had taken their time with this one. It was a thing of beauty.
Kitty rounded the gathering and stepped onto the path at the side of the building, thinking that someone had to get them moving. As her friend with the oversized sun glasses stepped up to follow her, she shouted back to the remaining group.
“Walk right in…its around the back” and went on her way down the path with TT Davis and the others trailing behind.
Entering the house, she would have thought she was stepping in to the kitchen of a popular eatery on a Saturday night. Pans were clanging, directives were being issued and there were fresh ingredients lying upon the countertops. The smell of sautéing vegetables made her stomach remember that she had skipped grabbing something for breakfast. A tall Starbucks was no match for what was going on here.
As Kitty tried to process the rapid influx of sensory overload, she was approached by a woman in a white apron that was too large for her delicate frame. The apron had a pin attached to the neckband, holding it secure. It displayed the letter “X” trimmed in fluorescent green with a tag off of the bottom that read “want2believe”. Kitty could not have been more pleased. She was glad she was able to meet this old friend whom she had never set eyes on before.
The gathering was much larger than any of them had anticipated.
Their hostess had issued an invitation to all in the alliance. She had ample sleeping space, accommodations for any needs and most importantly of all, an expansive library. She boasted the country’s most sought after private collection of reference materials and specialty volumes that anyone with a mission might want to see. It was too much of a draw for any of them to turn down. As the newly arrived guests entered, the scene of excited introductions was replayed.
Alyce wasn’t running a restaurant, but it would be hard to tell looking at her kitchen. The room was huge and held multiple commercial grade appliances. Although it was rapidly filling with guests just arriving and those who had already settled in, there was ample space for all. It wasn’t until the Colonels wife came bustling in with her camera that leaving this room seemed like a wise idea. Every time her cameras flash went off, the bright light bounced off of the polished stainless steel that was everywhere in the room. It was blinding. With spots in their eyes, people began to escape into the other rooms of the home.
All introductions had not yet been made, so a small group of those who were already familiar with each other gathered around the Colonel, dressed as smartly as ever, to hear his story.
He explained to the man who had faked the heart attack and Val, the smoke signaling teacher from New York, that he and his wife had been taking an extended road trip, sampling various historic bed and breakfast establishments along the way. The collection of photographs being taken on their trip was massive and due to the limited space on the cameras SD cards, had to be printed along the way so the cards could be cleared. It was in Pennsylvania , on their way to a friend’s historic property, that they acquired their passengers. The Colonel said this was just as well since he was not looking forward to spending the holiday with his friend and his wife, who was a real piece of work.
The clutch of guests around the Colonel expanded as the young man with the small cub and the woman accompanying him joined. The two had traveled together from Texas and Bear was glad to have an extra set of hands to care for the young one. He was sad that he couldn’t be with his partner, but was almost used to it given how much he was required to travel for his job. Since the horticulturalist planned on attending the open house anyway, it only made sense that they take the trip together. During their travels, when she saw sadness pass over Bears face, she would put a smile on her own and give him a pleasant reminder that seemed to work. Do your best.
According to his story, the Colonel planned on bringing two people to the open house. Therefore, upon arriving at the appointed spot for pick up, that there was a third person who would be joining them. Brief introductions were made as the passengers bustled into the Mercedes and headed on their way. The science teacher, he said, was bubbling with excitement about the prospect of the expansive library she would be able to explore. She had heard it contained rarely seen volumes of science texts as well as books on the supernatural and extraterrestrials. She wanted to believe she would find unique information there that she hadn’t found on the internet before.
The other woman, Rachael, was expecting something new. She was a good natured woman who had not spent the holiday apart from her family before, but was going to make the best of it. When she discovered that another person would also be alone, she felt deep compassion for the man who was essentially a stranger. After much insistence on her part, she convinced Jeff to join them on their journey. He said he would be Happy to.
Once their hostess had fueled them all with hot spiced cider, people were free to explore the building. It had clearly served a different purpose in its lifetime, but an admirable job had been done re-outfitting it for its current use. The dining area was laid out with two expansive tables with benches that appeared to be original to the space. They were dark and worn, with letters etched on the end of each. Plenty of room for everyone in attendance.
The lounge area contained several deep cushioned sofas and chairs, all angled to face the stone hearth that lay against one wall. Above the hearth was a massive flat screen television, which would be perfect, many said, for viewing the Thanksgiving football games. The opposite wall was completely taken up by two sets of large wooden pocket doors that led to what most were here for, the library.
As the various guests moved about, they began the cautious process of getting to know each other face-to-face. For some it was relaxing, putting faces to the names already known. For others, it was more of a challenge to remember what each person’s role was in the project they had all become involved in. One thing most could agree on. The Happy man was really getting under their hostesses skin. At every turn and in every conversation, the man exclaimed how Happy he was. When he stepped into the library with the horticulturalist, he practically squealed with delight at what he saw. Each wall was completely lined with shelves that reached up to the very high ceiling of the room. There were rolling ladders against each wall to allow access to the books placed even on the highest shelves. Overwhelmed and excited, the guests filtered in and mounted the ladders. There was work to be done.
After two hours of research, a list of items needed for experiments was compiled. The science teacher wanted to believe that she and the horticulturalist might have come across information that could help their cause and wanted to find a place to purchase supplies. Their hostess agreed to giving them directions to the closest major grocery and the lend of her vehicle, but only if they took the Happy man with them. He was Happy to go on the adventure and asked if they might carry some personal items he had neglected to bring. Their hostess just wanted the man to go be Happy somewhere else and practically barked her response to his question.
“You can get anything you want!”
Excepting Alyce, the rest of the group grabbed their gear and headed outside to the vehicle they were borrowing. After moving a few shovels and rakes, there was enough room for everyone to pile into the red VW microbus and head to the store, likely the only one still open on Thanksgiving day.
The preparations for the big meal were coming along nicely. Alyce had the help of some experienced chefs in her large kitchen along with others who were helping with slicing and dicing. She had given CookSam the job of wrangling in volunteers for various duties and he soon had things running like a well oiled machine. Those who were not keen on producing food were relegated to bar duty. By the time the microbus had pulled back into the driveway, cocktail hour was well under way and there were a variety of concoctions awaiting the shoppers.
The large television was broadcasting the NFL game that was already in play. There had been a protest outside the stadium prior to the game, but it really hadn’t amounted to much and cleared once the National Anthem was playing. As the platters of food were placed on the long tables, there was much conversation about which teams might come out ahead by the end of the day. In an effort to placate his host and prove himself a worthy guest, the Happy man made three trips from the kitchen carrying various dishes. Once the food was out, he shyly asked Alyce where he was to sit and she gave him as curt a reply as possible.
“I want you to sit over on that bench marked Group W”
This would place him as far away from her as possible and put him next to the people who had used poor judgement by bringing him there in the first place. As people moved about to be seated at the tables, there was a disruption on the television that caused their attention to be focused on the game rather than the upcoming meal. A member of the Minnesota Vikings team had been badly injured and was being carried off the field. All gameplay had stopped, which left the game announcers time to fill.
They conjectured about the players injury, how it might affect the game, who would replace him and how soon it would be until play began again. The cameras panned the stadium, inside and out. The camera showing the location where the protests had been was zooming in on a lone figure traveling up the street towards the stadium. The announcers, needing to fill airtime, began commenting on the approaching figure. As the camera continued to zoom in, the room full of new found friends fell silent.
Watching the screen, they observed an older man carrying what appeared to be a large sign shambling up the street. He was wearing a flannel shirt topped with a green team jersey with an angry duck on the front. The announcers confirmed that this was an Oregon Ducks jersey and laughed that this fan had landed at the wrong stadium. As the man reached the street corner, he put his sign on the ground, removed the backpack he was carrying and pulled a large bell from within it. Picking up the sign, he raised it above his head and looped an attached string around his neck so the sign was hanging in front of his body. Throwing his arm up and down in a large arc, he began ringing his bell, though thankfully none of them could hear it.
What they could hear was the Happy man muttering three words slowly, as if to himself, while his eyes were fixed on the screen that showed a close up of the words on the sign.
They said “He knows who you are!”
As the guests turned to look at the man sitting on the Group W bench, the words he was saying seemed to echo through the rooms of the old church over and over again.
There was a betrayer in their midst, and as the announcers on the television commented that the loss of the injured Vikings team member was a game changing event, the shocked members of the unlikely alliance couldn’t help but to agree with the sentiment.
A game changer indeed.