• Bonnie Randall

Divining Him ~ A Secrets & Shadows Short Story


After the very first rough draft of Within The Summit's Shadow was reviewed by my beta readers, one resounding criticism was consistent from every one of those early reviewers:


"Where was Shaynie?!"


My readers, having all been fans of Divinity & The Python, were baffled as to why, with Andrew in so much peril and trouble, his beloved sister Shaynie was not front-and-centre, protecting him and trying to find solutions.



This, in turn, baffled me, I understood full well why Shaynie was not privy to Andrew's issues. Nonetheless, I was touched that the relationship between these two siblings had made such a profound impression on my readers.

Thus I gave it some thought, and crafted this short story - an epilogue of sorts for Within The Summit's Shadow, and a deeper explanation as to why Andrew did not disclose his troubles to Shaynie...and where thins will go from here.


CAUTION: This story contains massive spoilers for Within The Summit's Shadow. Don't read it if you don't want that novel spoiled.

But, if you have finished both books, enjoy this re-introduction to two of my favorite characters, and welcome back to a setting I love.


Divining Him

Shaynie Gavin Weste deplaned and could hear her husband Cameron, behind her. “I forgot how much I love crossing multiple time zones,” he mumbled, feet clopping on the jet-way. She hustled ahead, eyes trained on her cell and thumb swiping it off airplane mode. It pinged and hummed then assimilated back to correct time and place in their city.

“Faerie!” Cameron caught up, breathless despite his much longer gait. “They won’t cough out our luggage any faster if you run. What the hell is your rush—seriously?” He ogled her phone. Pointed at ‘Andrew’, at the top of its screen. “Shaynie, it’s after midnight. The Agent is sleeping.”

“My brother’s a cop,” she replied. “He never really sleeps.” She hit Andrew’s number.

It rang. And rang.

Her belly twitched, haphazard discomfort, and after two dozen rings she finally hung up—and froze. Her husband had become a brick wall in front of her, eyes reading every expression she could feel streaming over her face: worry. Fear. Panic. “Shaynie,” he repeated, gentle yet firm. “Andrew isn’t a cop right now. You know that. He’s probably turned his phone off for once in his life. He’s sleeping.

No. Andrew would never turn his phone off. Back to her cell, she texted I’m home. I miss you. We never talk anymore, wanting it to sound glib. But when she hit send she knew she sounded far more like a plaintive child than a cavalier adult.

And her brother did not reply.

It was after two by the time she and Cameron finally got home, and closer to three when they at last collapsed into bed. She curled into him but remained open-eyed. And though summer daylight took no time at all to paint the sky, the night nonetheless seemed to stretch out acres long before the clock at last slid from 5:59 to 6:00, and she could feel somewhat reasonable about slipping out of bed, dialing Andrew again.

A dozen empty rings and she was starting to panic. A couple more, then “’Lo?”

Her legs went to dust and she shattered onto the living room sofa. Her brother kept talking as she gathered her voice, relief having scattered it, dandelion fluff on a breeze. “Was planning to call you back after seven.” His hoarse tones were as familiar as an old song. “You pee the bed?”

Tears painted her cheeks and her husband, soundlessly appearing beside her, offered black coffee and Kleenex—and a rueful, ‘told-you-so’ smile. Still “Ask where the hell he’s been,” he said, loud enough for Andrew, on his end, to hear.

She flipped the phone to speaker as her brother replied. “Tell Goliath that unlike him I’m a mortal. I’ve been sleeping. It’s what us non-Gods do.”

She could not delight in their jousting like always. Blew her nose silently and said “Andrew, are you okay? I’ve been—” ‘worried’ was lost to a female voice, on his end:

“It’s so early.” Gentle concern. “Did you have a nightmare?”

Shaynie blinked and Cameron, from the kitchen, said “‘Sleeping’? My ass.”

The muffled sound of Andrew placing his hand over the receiver was audible, yet she still heard him say “I’m okay. It’s Shaynie Grace.” Then the unmistakable sound of a kiss was discernible too and “Go back to bed, Enchantress,” he said.

Cameron whooped. “En-chant-ress.” He raised his juice glass in a toast. “Still wondering why he was ignoring you? Pita?

An acronym for Pain-In-The-Ass Andrew bestowed on her way too often. Grimacing, she hurriedly switched her cell from speaker to manual, considered, for the umpteenth time, the Tarot spread Cele had sent her a picture of while she’d been away, one she’d turned for Andrew in the throes of his investigation by Internal Affairs.

Shaynie had been expecting Swords—life’s challenges and peril.

No.

The Three of Cups, of all unlikely augers, had been the preeminent card and both she—and Cele—had turned it many times in every subsequent Tarot spread they’d dealt for him since.

The pregnancy card.

And now there was a woman in his bed. A pregnant woman in his bed?

The possibility wouldn’t necessarily make her frantic, but…Hannah Styles was the last woman she knew he’d been sleeping with. Or, rather, screwing with. Andrew never had women sleep over at his place and never spent the night somewhere else. So…had he and Hannah upped their game? Was his internal clock telling him that someone was better than no one? Oh, please no. Not her. Even a stranger would be better than that social worker who always assessed her, long looks and calculation behind her eyes. She thinks I’m crazy. Or, rather “Mentally ill,” she breathed. For of course Hannah-the-social-worker would use all the correct terminology.

God.

Her belly churned and when Cameron handed her toast she gratefully accepted. But “Do not ask him if he’s knocked someone up,” he murmured warningly. “Brother or not, that’s not cool, Faerie.”

Because she should adopt some pointless guys’ code right now? She gave her husband a look as her brother got back on the line. “Hey.” He sounded a little breathless. She cringed. “Sorry ’bout that.”

He sounded so carefree. Lighthearted. Unbound.

Nothing like Andrew on any other day. On every other day. Her nerves were in knots. “I miss you,” she blurted. “C-can I come over? I’ll bring coffee and some sugared up thing that would rot my teeth—but make you ridiculously happy.”

“Uh….come over? How about I meet you instead? Divinity?”

Divinity? Andrew was always trying to think of ways to avoid her old morgue, not ways to get into it.

“It—uh…it’s just that my whole house is sleeping,” he added.

His whole house? How many people were there? At her brother’s house where the only overnight guest, ever, had been her?

“But you can still bring some sugared-up thing that will make me ridiculously happy,” he said, and hung up.

She stared at her phone. “An imposter,” she murmured. “Someone’s kidnapped my real brother.”

“Yeah,” Cameron chortled. “An Enchantress. Bet she used his handcuffs.”

“Oh my God!” That wasn’t funny.

But her husband laughed and plucked what was left of her toast. “Relax,” he said. “If that wasn’t him it was a mighty fine double. And judging by how happy he sounds you should be thrilled that him—or his doppelganger—is getting laid.”

She lobbed a throw cushion at him hard enough to rattle the toast crumbs off his face.

***

Divinity was puddles of jeweled summer sun through stained glass. “Well look at you,” she murmured to her old building. “Showing off this morning.”

The old place held her like a breath ready to burst into song and, momentarily comforted, she perched on her favorite spot at the window, worrying the corners of the Tarot deck she kept at the table there. “My brother doesn’t seem to be faking happy,” she announced. “So what’s going on?” She shuffled, shuffled….dealt a card.

Three of Cups.

A baby. “Oh, Andrew.” How was it that he always seemed to claw his way out of one pit only to dive straight back into another? And if it was Hannah Styles who was pregnant, why the hell did he seem so happy about it?

“Because he loves kids.” The answer came immediate and aloud. Andrew’s affinity for children was his blessing and his curse. But…had it also become something that would bind him to a woman she detested? She plopped a black stone into a jar that held a handful of others, her burdens and nightmares, and outside an echoing onyx flash nabbed her eye. She watched Andrew’s car creep off 109th and park next to her truck. He climbed out alone (thank God, but really—hadn’t he said she was sleeping?) yet mild surprise still lofted her brows. Blue jeans and a ball cap. He really was off-duty these days.

He let himself in before she could get to the door and, face to face for the first time in three weeks, she forgot to be worried or scared or feel rejected by his strange silence.

“Nice tan, Pita,” he said and she flew to him, hugged him tight. Tighter when he plopped a kiss on top of her head. “Missed you too, you know.”

She had not planned to cry. Interrogate? Yes. Lecture? Definitely. Heap on some guilt? He totally deserved it. But….this was her brother. Her guardian. The only family she had. And she had missed him. His absence had been a hole in her heart.

“Hey!” He held her away, smile gone and eyes severe, the brother she knew. “You okay? Goliath—”

“I’m fine! I’ve been half sick about you!”

His mouth opened. Closed. Then—“I….texted you,” he said and sounded so lame she wanted to shake him, rattle her real brother out of this body that looked just like him but was acting nothing like the responsible, sensible, taciturn man she knew.

“Three lines, Andrew. You sent me three lines. So short I’ve memorized them: ‘Shaynie Grace, my suspension’s been switched to compassionate leave. I concealed evidence to clear me but I didn’t remember. I’m having panic attacks and the RCMP are sending me for treatment and evaluation’.”

He was silent a moment, then—“That is what happened.”

“No.” She glared. “That was giving me a teaspoon of ocean and telling me I had a beach!”

“I also recall typing, in big letters, DON’T WORRY. I’M OKAY.”

“Which, translated, meant ‘don’t ask me any questions because I won’t bother to answer’.”

He swiped his hat off, pulled a hand through his hair.

“You need a haircut,” she snapped.

He shrugged and replaced the cap, peering at her from beneath its brim and looking so impossibly young it was both unnerving and endearing.

And frustrating as hell.

She crossed her arms. “Truth time. Have you gotten Hannah Styles pregnant?”

What? Fuck, no!”

She pivoted, dropped a quick, colored stone into a jar next to her Tarot.

He was staring. “Where did you come up with…why the hell would you think that?”

“Because Cele’s turned cards for you every day since you’ve been in trouble—a lot of us have been worrying about you, by the way—and she keeps dealing the Three of Cups. The baby card.”

He blinked, then “Baby?” he said softly. “Or…child?”

Pardon?” Since when did he question the Tarot instead of…well, question the Tarot? No trademark skepticism? No pissing her off with sarcasm and derision? “Where,” she tapped her foot, “is my big brother?”

A small and secret sort of smile found his face. “Oh, trust me,” he said. “He’s here.”

She eyeballed him but he gave her nothing. She shook her head. “A baby,” she redirected, “is a child. Now please tell me why you’re clarifying this instead of denying it.”

“What else did she—they,” He hiked a thumb at her Cards, “say?”

“Four of Swords,” she barked. “Convalescence. Repose.”

He appeared to chew that, hand climbing up to cover his chest.

Where his tattoo was, his pictorial lament. “Andrew,” she softened, watching him. “Please tell me that losing Violet Chamberlain hasn’t propelled you into a relationship you’re going to regret bitterly—”

“I’ll never regret it, Shaynie Grace.”

“—because now you want a child—”

“’Cause it’s not Hannah.”

“—if you want kids that bad—”

“It’s Elizabeth.”

Her heart skidded to a stop and her eyes felt big enough to swallow the whole parlor.

He appraised her. “Speechless?” he said. “No ‘I told you so’? Or are you waiting for me to say thank you for blackmailing her into playing at your wedding?”

“E-elizabeth?” Oh, yes. Please, yes. “You spent the night with Elizabeth? Your Elizabeth?”

“I’ve spent every night since the wedding with my Elizabeth—in one way or another.”

She had no idea what that meant. Didn’t care, for….euphoria. The last time she’d felt it was when she’d said ‘I do’ to her own husband. A grin exploded on her face. But then—“Oh, Andrew. Have you gotten her pregnant? She has a career—”

No.” He grimaced, her brother of old. “Beth is not pregnant. Jesus, Shaynie Grace.”

Her hard-ass brother, all red-faced and reticent about sex. Yet… he’d asked for clarification of Three of Cups. “So then, what’s—”

He sighed and slid his hat off, held it down by his knee. “We should probably sit.”

Oo-kay…She led them back to the window seat. He sank across from her. “How much time do you have?”

“For you? A lifetime.”

He smiled but the expression was sad, and then, as stained glass color wept blue hues on the floor he started talking, words painting a picture of murder. Gore. Molestation. Of him. Her brother. Her precious, responsible brother who had always looked after her, looked after everything. She cried as his story fell out, brick upon brick of fact and chronology. His words built a wall, a context that explained so many things always so elusive. “Andrew.” She scraped his name off the bottom of her heart, broken and aching. “I am sorry. So sorry.”

“Not your fault.”

“Not yours either.”

A lapse of loud silence ensued, then “That what Beth says. And…my therapist too.” He looked away.

He’d started seeing a therapist? Thank God. She pecked another colored stone into her jar. “But do you believe it, Andrew? That it’s not your fault?”

He quietly stared into the translucent colors spooled out on the floor. “I want to believe it.”

The colors swam at their feet.

“I’m trying.”

She chose a tangerine stone, the color of a sunrise, of a beginning, and dropped it into her jar.

He smiled a bit and lifted the jar, rattled it. The sunrise stone winked orange light back at him. “Ready for the rest?” he asked.

“Are you?” She reached for his hand.

He declined, but gently flicked her nose. “Yeah.”

She listened, rapt.

“…but Kyle was mistaken about his paternity,” he said finally. “It’s not me.”

“Then who—” She assembled facts and her knuckles came up, caught the revulsion in her mouth. “Patrick?” she choked.

“And Chas knew,” he confirmed. “Then, when he thought the dirty secret would be outted, he…” He broke off, so clearly shaken that when she again reached for his hand he enclosed hers, held it tight. “He tried to poison him with blood thinners, Shaynie Grace. He…he wanted him to bleed to death.”

That heartless, hedonistic middle-aged teenager had tried “—to murder his own child,” she whispered, sickened.

“Grandchild,” Andrew corrected, grim.

Her stomach cartwheeled greenly. “That poor little boy. How is he?”

A lifetime of seconds swept the boyishness off Andrew’s face, left it lined and heavy with sorrow. “He cries,” he said quietly. “When he thinks we can’t hear. He tries so hard to act like none of it matters, like he didn’t really love them, but….he cries. And he dreams. Nightmares that make him scream and shrink up in a ball until he’s fully awake and recognizes that it’s just us who’ve come to comfort him.”

Wetness cut her face. “He…he sounds like someone I used to know,” she whispered and when their eyes met her tears felt hot, like a living embodiment of pain imparted upon two lonely, helpless boys. “How will he survive this?” she murmured.

“Patience,” he answered, so immediate and assured, it made her knees swim with relief. “Understanding. Love.”

“You…you said Elizabeth loves him, right?”

“Shaynie Grace, everyone loves Kyle. You’ll see why. But yeah, Beth trumps everyone else.”

She loved his soft smile, how it was, in every way, their Dad. Yet—“Where will he live?”

“Right now? He’s under the custody of Child Protection. But his caseworker agreed to let Elizabeth have an extended visit while she—and I—get our application in order for guardianship.”

Hence the other person sleeping in his house. The Three of Cups. A child, not a baby. “And Child Protection will let you be his guardian? A total stranger?”

“The Fawn’s not a stranger, Shaynie Grace. I do know him. It…it’s just hard to explain.”

She considered him, considered the history, then—“Know him?” she echoed. “As in from—don’t scoff!—another life?”

He didn’t scoff. Didn’t even reply for several long, stained glass seconds. Then—“Yeah,” he said quietly. “That works.” Then he smiled, the expression so soft and boyish that his entire countenance was spellbinding light. Then she knew—

“There’s more you’re not telling me, right?”

He laughed and this too sounded teenage. “What more could there possibly be?”

She wasn’t sure. But something. Definitely something. And whatever it was Elizabeth—his Beth—knew it in detail. And maybe his ‘Fawn’ called Kyle did too.

And that, she thought, was okay. Better than okay. “The cards were right,” she murmured. “A Three of Cups.”

He glowed and she stared. Had she ever seen her brother happy? Of course. This happy? Never. Not for even a fleeting moment.

He cleared his throat. “Elizabeth is negotiating with Da Capo to take her on as an instructor,” he said. “And we’ll be enrolling Kyle there too.”

More surprise. “He’s a musician?”

“An artist.” His chest swelled. “You should see how he draws.”

“I…I’d love to.” But more than that she was dying to meet this mystery child, this shattered boy who’d been treated like a dirty secret, so much that he’d been in the crosshairs for murder. And yet…look what this so-called dirty secret had done: given her brother this beatific, beaming glow. Pulled Elizabeth back into Andrew’s life with what sounded a lot like manipulation, but nonetheless had been sweetly sincere. Because Kyle King, her brother’s ‘Fawn’, had wanted his fantasy parents.

And now they had a son. Three of Cups.

“Do you remember Kyle from the wedding?” Andrew asked.

“How could I not? He wore your Stetson.”

He grinned.

“And he was also part of the contract your girlfriend designed, did she tell you? Kyle was to be her special guest. No Kyle, no Elizabeth. At the time I thought it was just one more way she was trying to be difficult.”

He laughed. “My girl, the ballbreaker. That’ll teach you for trying to go toe-to-toe with her.”

“Is she still mad at me?”

“Nah.” He waved a hand. “She’s actually nervous as hell to see you again. You know how she’s always tried to convince herself she’s shy.”

They shared an eye roll. It felt good. Still—“You…you cut me out, Andrew,” she said quietly.

He looked at his shoes. “Shaynie Grace…” He sighed. “I’ve always been good at you needing me. But me needing you…? That’s not how we roll, you and I.”

“But I’d do anything for you.”

“I know. And it would cut my heart out to let you.”

Their gazes caught and it was like she looked at two of him: her brother who protected her, and her brother who once—maybe still?—badly needed protecting. Yet…a third entity was present too: their Dad, the resemblance that bound them, made their relationship unmistakable to anyone who didn’t already know them.

And reminding her that no matter what Andrew thought, their Dad would expect her to always have his back too.

And wasn’t that why she’d lied by omission about Elizabeth being at her wedding in the first place? She knew, had always known, that Beth would cherish her Drew. Would love him, nurture him, and, yes, protect him.

Protect him. From a history that shredded him from within. “Andrew,” she said softly, “what are you going to do?”

He sighed. “What can I do? Except the same things I expect for Kyle: give myself patience. Understanding.”

“And love?”

Soft smile. “That too.”

“What about work?”

“That—” A big indrawn breath. “That would be the wild card.”

A ‘card’. She wondered if he realized what he said and, before he could tell her no, she shuffled her deck, flipped the top auger over.

The Hanged Man.

His eyes widened. She shooed his alarm. “Not literal,” she murmured, more relieved than she’d ever admit aloud; Andrew had never told her he was suicidal, but she’d always known. It was the ever-present storm cloud hanging on his horizon, gray and heavy with loneliness. Despair. “Th-the Cards are symbolic,” she said, and cleared her throat. “For example—you don’t literally have a third cup in your cupboard. You have a child.”

A grin (albeit hesitant) twitched on his mouth as he eyed up the Hanged Man.

“Hanged Man says look at things from a different perspective.” She squared the card next to her jar of colored stones. “Consider a new lens to look through.”

He cocked his head. “As in think of leaving law enforcement as a reward, not a failure?”

She cringed at the word failure, hoped he didn’t see.

“Beth would be happy.”

“Ah.” She smiled. “She doesn’t like you being in danger.”

“That.” His mouth corkscrewed. “But more it’s that she thinks it makes me unhappy.”

“She’s right. And she’s wrong.” She raised the Hanged Man. “She’d turn this one too.”

He laughed a bit. “I—uh—I do decent stonework,” he said.

He was an artist with stonework. She nodded, kept quiet.

“But I’m a good detective too.”

Also correct. “You love closing the door on people’s broken histories.” Cold cases (Historical Files, he would say) were his passion.

“I’ll figure it out,” he said.

“Are you worried?”

“No,” he answered, and looked as surprised saying it, as she felt hearing it. “It’s good. I’m…good.”

“No, you’re happy.” She made the distinction with a smile. “You have love in your life.”

He grinned and again looked so much like a boy it was fascinating.

She shook her head, mystified. “You are the only person I know who could go home to the mountains a lone, lonely man and waltz out a few days later with an entire family—and have it all be the most natural thing in the world.”

He laughed and Divinity lit up like a song; stained glass colors deepening, dancing. She laughed too, said “You know, I always imagined you with a houseful of kids. I just thought they’d be yours.”

“Kyle is mine, Shaynie Grace.”

So decisive. Again she wondered what he wasn’t sharing. Knew it was pointless to ask.

“Can…can I ask this old place a question?” he ventured.

She goggled him while Divinity, colors stretching, sunlight brightening through the windows, seemed to preen. “Uh….sure?” she answered, and Do you hear this? she asked her old building.

The hardwood on the floors at once got glossier. The glass light fixtures immediately seemed to glitter. She clasped a grin behind her hand. You would appreciate finally having his full acceptance.

Sunlight billowed through the windows, a colored bath.

“How many of me came in here today?” he asked loudly.

Huh? Shaynie gaped then flinched when his cell phone suddenly emitted two, rapid-succession chimes. “T-text message?” she squeaked, unnerved.

He peeked at the phone, grinning, then turned it over. Said “Which one does Beth love the most?”

Quiet sliced through the old morgue then—

Beep! Beep!

—outside on the street a motorist tapped a horn. Twice.

Andrew laughed and the sound. It was like being in the center of a Venn diagram; the present overlapping the past, his laugh both the timbre of a man and the tenor of a boy. Hair stood on the back of Shaynie’s neck and he said “I should get going.” He flashed her the texts he’d received:

Andrew plese tell me wen your coming home I am teeching Elizabeth how to make pancaks

Then:

WARNING She dosnt cook like she plays her guitar

Shaynie squinted her way through the message, laughing. “Your girl can’t make pancakes?”

He pulled a face. “My girl can chop fresh fruit and burn grilled cheese.”

She giggled. “That’s what happens when you grow up with a Dez who does everything.”

“Or a Dez who Dez everything,” he volleyed, dry, back to the Andrew she knew.

She beamed, alight with happiness—his happiness. “My big brother,” she said. “You have bit off a lot.

He nodded, rueful and grinning. “Believe me, I’m chewing.”

She laughed. “What do you need?”

He considered this, tongue poking a familiar place in his cheek and moving, contemplative. “For you to lock up and go get Goliath,” he said. “Come share pancakes with me and my girl. And my boy.”

DIVINING HIM

...and now you know!

by Bonnie Randall 2016




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