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Chapter 20 -- Spring Cleaning
Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.

Mark reminded me that we hadn't eaten yet, and suggested ordering a pizza. I hadn't seen a telephone in the house, but before I could ask Mara pulled a cell phone out of her purse. I did indeed have much to learn.

I hadn't experienced pizza yet, so I let my friends decide what to order. The pizza delivery man seemed uneasy delivering to the old house, but I paid including a tip (as Mark had taught me) and that seemed to make him happy.

We ate on the back porch. The grisly contents of the basement made the house seem an inappropriate place to eat. The back yard was spooky, and overgrown, and after we had eaten Mark and I walked out into it.

The yard was surprisingly deep, considering how little front yard the house had. It was all downhill from the house, surrounded by a vine-laden picket fence. At the very back, the lowest point, we found a small family cemetary. It had a sort of a low fence of black-painted metal, and inside the grass was tall.

Mark said, "Look, a path!" and I could see the trail through the tall grass. It led to the foot of a large, flat gravestone, a sort of a lid or cover. The nameplate was eroded and illegible. "Someone important to the old man... his mother maybe?"

"I don't think so," I answered. I bent down and felt around the lip of the "lid," and I felt the hidden handholds I was expecting. I had to pull hard to start it, but then some magic or mechanism took it the rest of the way up, revealing a stone staircase descending.

Mara approached at that moment, and I said, "Both of you wait here, I'll be back shortly." Then I went down.

What I found was the answer to a question which had occured to me as I listened to Dreamwalker's story. Where did he hide the bodies?

Here, in this catacomb, cut back into the hill below his house. It was larger than I expected, several sections of what I later learned was fairly standard mausoleum accomodations. The last section was mostly empty spaces, and piled at the end of it I found the covers or lids (I have yet to learn the correct name) along with a bucket and trowel, both poorly cleaned, and a half a bag of dry mortar.

It seemed as good a place as any to dispose of the bodies.

If that seems wrong to you, the reader, think about my position for a moment. What court of law would understand the situation? By that time I had determined I had to take control of Dreamwalker's house and property, some way or another; even had I not wanted it for myself, the massive Tap would surely attract other mages or even monstrous creatures. So I had to cover up the mess.

If you have thoughts of turning me in, trust me, the evidence is long since gone or I wouldn't be admitting this here.

I rejoined my friends, telling them of my plan. Mark had to leave soon but promised to come Monday and help with whatever remained.

I spent the rest of the afternoon going around the house with a tightly focused Mystic Vision spell, looking for traps. There were plenty; I lost my right hand to an exploding box, and Mara and I had to flee quickly from a book which released poison gas. I could see I would be at it a while.

After I cleared each room, Mara began cleaning them out, removing old things she declared were trash, dusting and beginning to work out how we could use the house. I had wondered if she would be able to be at ease here, but it seemed it would be no problem.

Twice Mara called me back into a room I had thought clear, to point out something that "didn't look right." Both times she was right, having somehow discovered a hidden trap I had missed. Her subtle powers came in handy many times since then.

After nightfall I summoned several Spirit Servants (for even I didn't want to touch the heads) and together with Mara and the servants we moved the bodies and heads to the catacombs. I had to clean the small room myself; Mara said, "You made the mess, you clean it up," but this time she smiled as she said it.

I wanted very badly to burn a number of evil things I had found in the house, but Mara counseled me that it would be a mistake. We found a box of large trash bags and bundled up everything that we wanted to be rid of, and Mara told me we could rent a truck to transport the more sensitive items to a place where burning would not cause trouble. (In the interest of avoiding legal action I won't reveal that location.)

Exhausted, we decided to sleep. The bedding was among the things we were disposing of, so in the end we slept on the floor. Though uncomfortable, it seemed the lesser of all possible evils.

I won't burden you further with minute-by-minute descriptions of all the cleaning and searching we did that weekend. We found some items of interest, though, including several stashes of paper money, a filing cabinet full of documents, and a library of arcane knowledge. Mara spent a couple of hours that Sunday afternoon counting the money while I puzzled over the books.

They were in Latin, and Spanish, and French; very little was in English. I still didn't know any spells of comprehension so most was useless to me, and the few books in English were puzzling in the extreme. It seemed that the theories of magic used in the writing of those books were different than I had been taught by Ket. It was many weeks before I learned how to interpret them.

The documents in the filing cabinet were as meaningless to Mara as to me, but we could easily see that some were very old. I decided to go over them with Mark; he had a good analytical mind and a better grasp of this era than I, and I hoped he might be able to figure them out.

Sunday evening Mark called Mara to say that he had dropped off Emily, and did we need any help? I said to tell him to rent the truck we needed, and come over. We all climbed into the cab and went shopping.

It was late that night when we finished, ah, "making" our bed. Mara chose a front bedroom which had been used for storage, feeling that Dreamwalker's room on the first floor and the apprentice's room on the second were both "spooky." By then I knew enough to trust her feelings.

The next day Mark joined us again, and we went over the documents. It was evening before we really understood them.

Dreamwalker was using the name "Lucas Brown" when he built the house over a hundred and fifty years before; that would have been just about the time he made himself deathless. Thirty years later he sold the house to a "Caleb Smith," who sold it in twenty-two years to "Jacob Jones." The next owner, in another twenty years, was "Lucas Brown!"

He was selling the property to himself! The names repeated, in cycles; the later cycles averaged about eighteen years.

For each identity Mark found papers appropriate to the era. The last two, Lucas Brown and Caleb Smith, had papers which Mark called "suspicious." Then he came upon a new folder titled "Jacob Jones."

"Look here, Solo! The other identities were all about sixty years old when they 'purchased' the house, but this last one would only be about thirty!" He turned a few pages. "Here, look! This Jacob Jones is buying the house from Caleb Smith. These papers were written this week!"

"As soon as he realized what my ring could do for him, he made plans to be younger," I mused.

"Solo, there's something here which is conspicuous by its absence," he said. I shook my head; then he said "Photo ID. There are no pictures of him here."

"Then..." I began.

"You could be Jacob Jones!" he said triumphantly. Mara heard him raise his voice and looked in, so we explained it to her.

Mark found tax returns, filed faithfully since the United States began charging income tax; he believes that, each time Dreamwalker changed identities, he laundered some of his ill-gotten gains. He found receipts for the sale of stocks, concurrent with the sale of the house, where Dreamwalker made his assets liquid; then he evidently bought new stocks in the new name to provide him income for his new life.

I won't tell you how much money we found, but suffice to say we were able to hire professionals to do much of the repair work without cutting too much into the money. I called the lawyer who was handling the sale of the property the next day. He complained that the whole sight-unseen closing was irregular, but in the end he just wanted more money. I obliged him.

Mark helped me get a state photo ID card, to make it easier for me to do business, and then I got a bank account, depositing a part of the money there. I invested part of it, and we began to make plans.

After all, the cash would run out eventually. I suspected my needs in that area would be more than Dreamwalker's had been; for one thing, I intended to keep up the house and property.

I decided to hire Mark; he set up my office, in Dreamwalker's old downstairs bedroom, with all the computer equipment a modern businessman needs (to burn music CD's and play games, evidently... I kid him often about that). He created my website, named the business (Solo Jones, Supernatural Investigator), and generally worked out all the real-world details. He decided to remain in his apartment, but with his first generous paycheck he purchased a car. He even promised to teach me to drive.

And of course, Mara and I got married... but that's another story entirely.

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The Adventures of Solo Jones Last Updated 07/18/2005