Loretta C. Rogers aka L.W. Rogers
My eyes adjusted to the darkened room. A moonbeam cast an eerie light against the faded floral print wallpaper. The only sound was the incessant plopping of water as it dripped off the roof and against the window ledge.
Sonya was an attractive girl, tall and slender, her mouth full, wide and curving as though laughter came easier to her than tears. Her skin was translucently pale, and dark eyes and mane of even darker hair made a striking contrast. I had never allowed my feelings for a woman to grow the way they had for her. My job didn’t encourage long term relationships. She was everything I wanted in a woman, and more. She now glared at me and stood like a stubborn goddess with her feet planted resisting my efforts to escort her from the room.
“It’s urgent we get out of here, Sonya.”
“I’m not going anywhere until you answer one question. . .well, maybe two.” Her expression giving all the emphasis it needed.
I expelled a hefty sigh. “You are infuriating, you know. Make it quick.”
Sonya jabbed a finger in the air as if she were popping bubbles. “Me? Infuriating?”
I gave a gentle tug on the hand I held. “Either ask your question or let’s get out of here before it’s too late.”
Sonya’s eyes widened. She yawned, and a larger yawn followed. “Okay, those two overgrown gorillas, frick and frack, are really your cousins?”
“If you mean Antonio and Bartelomé, yes.”
“And the red-haired flight attendant, Darla, is really your adopted sister?”
Sonya yawned again. “Okay, your mother and cousins said you were part of the Survive Seattle television reality show. Is that true, too?”
I straightened with visible surprise, and reached out to gather her free hand into mine. “If that’s what they told you, then, yes. I’m sure they gave you a T-shirt, too.”
She pulled back trying to wrest free from my tight grip. “Now, I’m really confused. I don’t know who is lying and who is telling the truth. Maybe. . .maybe you’re all liars.” A silly little giggle escaped Sonya’s throat. “Maybe, I’m asleep and dreaming the worse nightmare of my life. If so, all I want to do is wake up and hope I’m at home, in my own bed.”
I was quick to sympathize and pulled her to my chest. “Trust me, Sonya. Mel knows the truth. I wish I could tell you all of it. I can’t, so you’ll have to trust that I’m not the liar in this family. Can you do that for me?”
“Who is Anna? Is she part of your family, too?”
“You said two questions. No more. Now come on before my cousin’s return.”
She took a step and stumbled against my chest. “I feel. . .so very tired.”
I scooped her into my arms, thinking how light she felt. Her voice reflected the lethargy that was evident. “Mmm, why do you always smell like cinnamon? Is it a magic potion?”
Ignoring her question, I sniffed her breath and recognized the odor of Marsala wine and a little something extra. “How many cannolis did you eat?”
She giggled again and looked at me with one eye squinted shut as she held up two fingers. “Three great big fat ones with the best cheese I ever ate oozing out of them.”
Magic potion was right, I thought. My mother had given Sonya the special cannoli’s with enough sleeping tonic to knock out a horse. Needing to get her to a safe place, I removed the cellphone from my pocket and scrolled until I found the number. When the voice answered, I said, “Anna, I’ve got her. Call Agent M4 at the special number.” And then snapped the phone shut, returning it to my pocket.
I left the bedroom and hastened down the stairs. The woman who adopted me so many years ago reclined in her favorite chair, her eyes closed; the empty tea cup still rested in her lap. Little puttering snores told me, I had put enough drops in her tea to assure that she wouldn’t awaken until morning.
“Two can play your little game, mother.”
I found myself smiling.
* * *
The door to my room was closed; there were two of them, a thick one padded with quilted fabric for soundproofing and a conventional one. It, too, was closed. I glanced around the room and wondered how I got here. Stan had a lot of explaining to do, once I finished giving him a piece of my mind. I was getting plenty sick and tired of this cloak and dagger stuff. And for Pete sake, where was Mel? I needed to talk to her in the worst way.
The throbbing in my temples reminded me of the one and only hangover I’d ever experienced. Thing is, I didn’t remember drinking anything stronger than hot tea at Mrs. Robillio’s house.
On the table next to the bed was a hairbrush, a glass of water and a bottle of aspirin. I leaned closer to the aspirin and then picked it up and uncapped the lid. My hand shook at little as I removed the plug of cotton and poured two tablets into my palm.
The glass was midway to my mouth when the words Agent M4 seemed to echo through my mind. I puzzled for a second trying to recall if Agent M4 was a cleaning solution I heard about on TV or from a spy movie.
The wooden door opened. Anna smiled as she entered the room. “Good morning Sonya. How are you feeling?”
“Like an elephant stepped on my head. I never get headaches. Did something happen to me?” I swallowed the pills and placed the glass on the table. “The last thing I remember was talking to Stan, and hearing something about Agent M4. Does that mean anything to you?”
“Mrs. Robillio slipped you a mickey. The headache will go ahead. As for Agent M4, she’s someone close to you.”
I felt my mouth form a surprised ‘O’ and had an instant vision of a fish gasping for air. “But, I’m a nobody, a travel agent who isn’t very adventuresome. How would I--?"
Stan entered the room looking a little worse for wear. His green eyes reflected how tired he was and his clothes looked as if he’d slept in them. The subtle exchange between him and Anna added to my already agitated state of mind.
“Okay, that’s it. I’m really tired of this cat and mouse game.” I jabbed my finger into Stan’s chest. “I watched you die, then come back to life, I’ve been dragged through the freezing rain, forced to buy clothes from a thrift shop, a not so clean one, I might add, then you were arrested by FBI agents who turned out to be your cousins, and then I was fed a cockamamie story about a reality show and clues that my Aunt Mel gave you and then you wanting to forfeit the prize money, then your mother, if she really is your mother drugged me and. . .and it’s all mixed up with Aunt Mel’s voodoo feelings and someone called Agent M4 that I’m supposed to know.”
By this time I had just about run out of breath and my voice had reached an octave high enough to shatter glass. It was a good thing the room was sound proof because I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs.
Stan’s voice was calm when he said, “You’re all keyed up and nervous, Sonya. You’ve been through an ordeal, but it’ll all be over soon and then you’ll understand. All of it. Everything.”
Anna’s voice was warm with understanding. “I’ll leave the two of you alone while I make us some toast and coffee. I’ll also make that telephone call.”
As reluctant as I was to have Stan wrap me in his arms, I needed the comfort they offered and didn’t resist. Meeting his suddenly serious look, I inhaled the soothing aroma of a delectable spice and had a serious desire to bury my nose inside his jacket. “Why is it you always smell of cinnamon?”
Stan cocked an eyebrow and smiled. “You asked me that last night, remember?”
“Yes, I wanted to know if you had magic potion.”
He bent his head toward mine and kissed my lips. Icy fingers shuddered through me. I was experiencing my second voodoo feeling. I knew who Agent M4 was and why Stan always smelled of cinnamon.
I stumbled backward and nearly tripped. He caught me. My eyes were level with his. His were gleaming with wry humor. “You’ve almost got it figured out haven’t you?”
In a shattering instant the answer was there in my brain, as clear and simple as a child’s picture. “I want Mel. Now!”
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