Archive for Sophia

Absit Omen

Posted in On Guard, Private Thoughts with tags , , , , , , , on July 8, 2010 by Author Jennifer Quail

For clarification: I am not stalking this woman (her name is Elaine, I’ve determined.) I’m simply curious.

I don’t have special senses, you see. At least not beyond what you’d expect, all things considered. Nadia is the psychic of the family, prone to dreams and visions and those portentous feelings. I’ve suggested more than once she start paying better attention to the flocks of sparrows and doves that are common to any city park, as I’m sure an auguries she drew from them would be far more accurate than those of the political, paid-off priests were. I don’t have any abilities in that regard. I don’t sense things like power, either, and I’m not even all that subject to sudden drafts, which is why that moment in the galleries is utterly nonsensical.

This Elaine isn’t especially pretty. A bit of work with the computer shows she’s Navy, graduated near the top of her class at the Academy, aviator, test engineer, decorated with some very high honors for reasons kept behind encryptions even I can’t break, and discharged for medical reasons with a small service pension. Her family is what I would call middle class–all self-made money and only recent Americans. More than comfortable, even if their eldest chose a university that paid her and committed her to a career the upper classes of today have come to look down on. Not that the army was any great honor in my day, but even among my sort a commission was nothing to be ashamed of. Unmarried, no children, no paramour in evidence, traveling alone with no apparent schedule and wandering past the normal tourist traps as if she doesn’t even see them. Exactly as the cliche says, no visible means of support.

The only surprise thus far is, besides wandering in cemeteries, she seems to have a taste for Asian art. After Arlington, she went back to the Freer and Sackler Galleries and this time spent an inordinate amount of time in the Peacock Room. It’s the entirely too-ostentatious dining room from Charles Freer’s home, paneled floor to ceiling in peacock green-blues and gold filigrees. She’s a very pale person, this Elaine Gates, but to my eye in that room something about her seemed to glow.

Every instinct I have says to follow her. Not in any perverted sense (again, I’m quite a contented man in carnal matters) but since I saw her, so soon after Sophia’s book told me someone is coming, I’ve felt as if I’ve been given a message. This is the one. The one who is coming. Prepare. Protect her. From what, I don’t know, though in the bowels of the Sackler (one of one only Mall museums that’s in fact underground) I thought I saw a shadow, though whether it was attached to her or to me I can’t say. It’s not a good thing. Our lives have a bit dull, I suppose, and if it’s her, if I’m not all who’s following, then it’s starting again and it will not be dull. We’ll be back to worrying again and that nagging sense every parting is a final one. Some part of me hopes I’m wrong.

But some part of me very much hopes I’m right. Danger or not, there’ll be a purpose. All of a sudden, after all these years, I have a job again.

Of course, the book said venitias. Plural.

I suppose I’ll have to ask Nadia where she’s been all day.


The Inventory is Taking on a Life of Its Own

Posted in Enthralled, Private Thoughts, Up Street and Down Alley with tags , , , , , , on June 26, 2010 by Author Jennifer Quail

If our stock is going to start talking to us, I wish it would be more specific.

This morning when I came downstairs to open the store, Sophia’s bookcase was hanging open for the third day in a row. The case itself is at least two hundred years old, so I had (perhaps naively) been thinking that it was finally starting to show its age. Woodworms in the latches or some such. Today, though, one of the books was out and open on the shelf.

Our security here has always been good, as one might expect. I think some days Val wishes for a break-in, because it would give him something to do at night. For all he says he’s earned his retirement, and at his age who hasn’t, I think he’s hoping for a little excitement beyond wandering through estate sales to see if a treasure has slipped through the cracks. At this point we’d even welcome a visit from Nicodemus, with all the attendant bickering and old stories, just to break the monotony. Peace and quiet isn’t all it was cracked up to be.

I may yet live to regret those words. There was no intruder who left that book open–none who could even have opened the shelf. Since Sohpia left it, it’s stayed locked, waiting for her or someone like her I suppose, only now the books seem to have other ideas. It was one of the oldest that was open and for once, the pages weren’t blank. Neither of us has ever been able to read one until now, but we both saw it, a word on one leaf:


I saw it, as well as Val, but either the book is so old that’s the only language it knows, or the message was meant primarily for him.

They come.

I had to leave off a minute there. More falling shelves and strange rattles. This time the back room, where a ship in a bottle we found at an Annapolis estate sale a few years back seems to have tried to set sail of its own accord. The bottle managed to land unbroken, at least, and whatever has decided to rearrange our stock at least appears to wait until there are no customers in the store. I wouldn’t think much of it, but when I was putting the bottle back I found something of David’s on that shelf. I don’t remember putting the astrolabe out, or even having seen it in years, but it was tucked away behind a tacky little carving (a souvenier of the Redwoods that I never expect we’ll sell, but one never knows.)

I don’t believe in ghosts, strange as that sounds coming from me, but I can’t help thinking David and Sophia are trying to tell us something.

Evening’s coming, and it’s time to close. Val’s taken it into his head we should go for a walk tonight, not that I expect anything interesting to come of it. He’s been rather pensive lately, but not the old wartime restless. Not yet. As for me, I can’t help but feel uneasily. Something is coming. Venitias. They are coming. Perhaps once the store is locked and before the sun settles far enough to make the light comfortable, I’ll take a minute and play the cards.