Chapter Fifteen: Ashe
They turned as one to run.
“Wait! Mita sent me.”
That stopped Ashe cold. He spun around to confront the man. “What did you say?”
“I said ‘Mita sent me’ to find you.”
Ashe shook his head in disbelief. “My mother’s been dead for years. How did you know that name?” It was Ashe’s nickname for her, something only he, his father, and his mother had known.
“Come with me. I can help you. I’ll explain everything. “
“Can we trust him?” Jaxx whispered, his eyes narrowed.
Ashe looked around. They were starting to get looks. “How can I trust you?”
The man nodded as if he’d expected the question. “She told me to remind you about the dandelion in the garden.”
Ashe came running up to his mother. She was kneeling in the fresh-turned soil, getting ready to plant some tomatoes in her little raised garden plot by the side of the house.
But there was one patch of undisturbed dirt in the middle of the garden, and a single weed are there, defiantly.
“Why didn’t you take that one out?” He said, reaching toward it.
She pulled him gently backward. “Because it’s a dandelion. The seed blew into the soil sometime last year, and soon it will bloom with little yellow flowers.” She hoisted her little boy onto her lap, and brushed his nose with hers. “And you know what will happen next?”
He shook his head.
“It will grow a puffball of little seeds, and we’ll pick it, you and I, and make a wish.”
“What will we wish for?”
“All the good little things in the world.”
Ashe shook his head, clearing it of the memory. It had been intense, as if he were there with her again. He missed her dearly. “We can trust him,” he said to Jaxx.
Jaxx nodded, and they picked up their bags and followed the man out of the station to his waiting car.
* * * * *
The car dropped them off at a flat off of Dupont Square, on 19th Street. The man led them upstairs into a restored gray Victorian building. He ushered them into a sitting room filled with antique furniture.
“Have a seat, please. May I get you something to drink?”
“A beer would be great,” Jaxx said.
Ashe glared at him. This clearly wasn’t a beer sort of place. “A scotch, neat,” he said. Years around his father’s drinking habits had taught him a thing or two about alcohol.
“Scotch it is.” He served three glasses, and set them on the glass dining room table. “I’m sorry for the abrupt circumstances of our meeting. I’m Professor David Dressler.”
Ashe took a sip of the scotch. It was light-bodied with a long finish. “You said my mother sent you.” It was impossible—she was dead. She had to be.
“Yes. In a manner of speaking. You carry with you a key, yes?”
“And about three days ago, you released, or caused to be released, an enchantment on it, yes?”
Ashe nodded. “Maybe.”
“I knew your mother years ago when she worked for the government. I would help her with some of her cases, especially when they involved magical lore. It’s my specialty.” He gestured to the bookshelf behind him. It held a number of leather-bound books with his name on them—Spells and Sparrows, Charms and Enchantments, The History of Goblin Lore, and many more.
“Publish or perish,” Jaxx said with a grin.
“Indeed. Nancy… your mother was working on something dangerous when I last saw her. She came to me and gave me this.” He held out two pieces of parchment. On the first were the likenesses of himself and Jaxx, and on the second, a map of the country with a long dotted line.
“She said the day would likely come when her son would come looking for something she had left him, and asked me to help in any way that I could.” He pointed at the map. “Once you released the enchantment from the key, you see, it tracked you on your way here. I had them pinned to my bulletin board at school where I would see it every day. Still, it was a bit of a shock to see the images appear, three days ago.”
“I can imagine.”
“Based on the map, it was fairly easy to figure out which train you were on, and from there, to arrive in time to meet you.” He sat back, looking self-satisfied.
Ashe sighed. So his mother wasn’t alive, after all. It had been a mad hope, but it was still painful to have it dashed. And yet, it helped to know she had been thinking of him even then, in those last days.
She wanted him to find something that she had left for him.
“I found something else, a note from her that was spell-bound to the key.” He held it out.
The professor read it. “Yes, it’s not far from here. Ah, that explains the other thing she left. Just a minute. Let me go get it for you.”
He returned a moment later with a third piece of paper. “This should help.”
It was a bank statement, showing payment for a safe deposit box for a twenty year period. And it was in his name.
Ashe read it, his hands shaking.
Jaxx touched his shoulder. “You okay?”
He shook his head. “Can we go there?”
Professor Dressler nodded. “It’s not far. We can walk.”
Ashe finished his scotch for good measure, and then followed the professor out the door, Jaxx tagging along behind him.
It was a beautiful day, a little cool, but the skies were blue and clear. They walked down 19th Street and through the park in the middle of Dupont Circle. The center of the park held a fountain with three figures representing the Sea, the Stars, and the Wind.
The gorgeous male statue that represented the Wind winked at Ashe as they walked by.
Flirtatious gargoyle. They were the worst, thinking their apparent granite immobility gave them the perfect excuse to be lascivious.
They turned off onto Massachusetts and then walked half a block down 18th to the bank, an old, white marble building that felt like money. Ashe looked at the paper, and then up at the bank doors. Who knew what she had left for him? “I think I need to do this on my own.”
Jaxx nodded, squeezing his hand. “We’ll be out here.”
With a deep breath, he entered the bank.
The lobby was floored with a rich burgundy marble, and the brass of the teller windows shone as if it were brand new.
“How may I help you?” the teller, Callista, asked.
“I need to get something from my safe deposit box.”
“Just a minute.” She returned with a notebook. “Mister…?”
“Heyoka. Ashe Heyoka.”
“Thank you, Mr. Heyoka. I’ll need to see some ID.”
He pulled out his wallet and handed her his driver’s license and the statement showing that the box was in his name.
She looked it over and glanced up at him briefly. “Perfect. Sign here, and I’ll take you to your box.”
After he signed, she led him back into the bank safe. It looked like something out of an old movie; he could imagine Humphrey Bogart stopping in to leave a piece of oversized jewelry or a statue of a falcon in his box here in some silver screen classic.
Callista inserted her key into one of the boxes, and looked at him expectantly.
“What?” He saw that there was a second key hole. “Oh, of course.” He fished the key out of his jeans, and inserted it into the lock.
She turned both keys and opened the door.
“Would you like the room?”
He looked around. They were alone. “Yes, please.”
“Just lock up and come on out when you’re done.”
He nodded. This was it.
He pulled the gunmetal grey box out and set it on the table in the middle of the room. He stared at it for a moment longer, afraid to take the final step. Afraid of what it might hold.
Then he took a deep breath and opened the box.