Timeline: February 25th, 2008

Daniel had returned to Eldon Well. Boston and New York he knew well, but Baltimore was a different animal. In any case he had done what he had came to do and now it was back to home. Funny thing that, he had begun to think of this backwater village as home. Remember, he thought to himself, all this is to help defeat the Dark Man, whatever he is. Or perhaps to help him? Daniel didn’t know. What he had seen recently cast even deeper doubts on whether the Dark Man (or Men) were evil, or simply agents of a plan yet to be understood.

He couldn’t speak about his conclusions to anyone but Honoré. Rey to her friends — he thought her first name was nice, why truncate it? He, of course, never went by anything but Daniel. At first he didn’t know where she fit in to all this, but she seemed decent enough to invite him to a Christmas party. Again, he didn’t know why. Miss Lafitte’s kindness was appreciated, if misplaced. Daniel wasn’t a kind man. Nice, perhaps, but very, very selfish. This dominated his thoughts. What he learned about her past was certain to put several pieces together, pieces he would like to share with Lyla, Ramiel and the others but not the vampire or the ‘pack’. This is none of their business. But, he would leave that to Honoré to decide. Ethics demanded it.

He called her when he got back to his office and invited her to the office. Such talk wasn’t for bars. He had a reputation for discretion in legal matters, this was no different.

His secretary, Kari, answered the door and led Rey in. She was pretty with glasses and a bright smile. “Do you want anything to drink Miss Lafitte?” she asked.

“A glass of water would be fine, thank you.”

Kari brought Rey into Daniel’s office where he was finishing up a brief. Daniel looked up and said, “Miss Lafitte, it is good to see you. Please have a seat. How was your side of the discovery trip?”

“Okay, I guess. We found a website my best friend from high school set up when I disappeared after the attack. I got in touch with her, and she’s helped me remember some stuff. Not much was really useful, except maybe that lawyer’s name.” Rey tried hard not to fidget, both eager and afraid to learn what he’d discovered, if anything.

“Lawyer?” Daniel responded as Kari brought Rey some icewater.

“Yeah,” Rey said with a frown. “Didn’t you get the note I’d left you with the power of attorney document?”

“Yes I did,” Daniel said, “just hoping it was something new you might have discovered beyond what you sent me.” He sat back a bit and motioned Kari to close the door.

Once the door was close, Daniel opened up, “First off, I want to get some details out of the way. I’m officially calling my work here pro bono, as you are not in a position to pay, nor do I wish you to as the work has to do with a common issue. However, when I spend my time doing work away from the office, I need to know what to tell my other clients to explain my absence. Officially I was researching your parents and your past records. Which was 90% of what I did anyway. Outside this room, that is what happened. Agreed?” The statement was friendly, but purely professional.

“Okay,” Rey said with a nod.

“Secondly, what I am about to tell you could be useful for Lyla, Ramiel, myself, Michael and John as much as for you. I will not discuss it outside this room. I will not act on it in any way unless you authorize it. If it is to be shared, you have to be the one to do it. Also, I’d ask that you tell me who you advised with this information so I might know how to respond should anything come up.”

Rey frowned. “Okay… What you found out, was it really bad?” She was worried, wonder what it was he could possibly have discovered that would be important to everyone.

Daniel felt a bit sorry for her. He had lost his parents too, but he was much older at the time, “Let’s start with the lawyer you sent me to. Your parents filed no will, nor was one found in the house or around any of their belongings. All accounts were liquidated after their deaths to pay off debt, including the house, which they lived in since 1993 when you were six and in kindergarten.”

“Concerning your parents, and they are unlikely your birth parents, but I’ll get into that in a bit, they have no unusual records. They didn’t vote. They didn’t speed. They didn’t belong to any political party. They were never called up for jury duty, nor did they receive any citations or have any arrests or warnings. Not even a speeding ticket. No black marks at all.”

“I did find your birth certificate, a copy of which I procured for you. It led me to some interesting insights. In and around the date you were born there were an unusual number of infant deaths.” He paused to let her take the information in.

“Really?” Rey didn’t know what to think of that information.

Daniel continued, “Sorry to say but it is true. A number of these deaths occured in the very hospital on the very night you were born. Ten in total, though some of them were adults. There was an explosion in the hospital. Various reports called it a gas main or some such. In any case, the identities of those killed I couldn’t acquire due to privacy. The case file was sealed, and there is no way I can track down exactly who died without a legal reason to do so, even then it is a longshot. I could procure you a list of death certificates for that period, though that will require a trip to New Orleans. It could help get you started on tracking your real parents names.” He paused, “In any event, I found that your birth records were altered. The blood type was changed to match what you are today. I also found out some other things using my gifts. But do you have any questions yet?”

Rey shook her head, still trying to absorb what she had been told.

“I saw a vision that could only be described as a baby swap. I have a feeling that you parents. At least the ones you knew. Their child had died and you ‘replaced’ the dead child. That’s the feeling I get.”

He continued, “Also I learned a bit about the night your parents, your adopted parents that is, died. It is somewhat disturbing. Do you wish to know?”

Rey hesitated for a moment, then nodded. The events of that night had been hanging like a specter over her for three years. Even though the possibilities scared her, she needed to know what happened.

“Where do I begin? I suppose I will simply tell you what I saw and let you interpret it. I will, of course, help you interpret should you wish.” He began, “I saw a part of a fight between two men dressed in black perhaps the Dark Man, perhaps not; a lone figure in white; and your parents. I also saw a deal made between your parents and the figure in white, including a signature on paper in the white clad figures’ hands and the vision of them signing it. I couldn’t make out the text. I saw immediately after the deal they dark men step in and the fight ensuing. The white figure slew your parents, at least that is the impression I get, wounding you in the process. Based on the blow, I believe you should have died that day, but one of the dark men took the brunt of it. Too late to save your parents, but soon enough to save you. This particular dark man wasn’t so hidden. I could see that he had medium length white hair and I briefly glimpsed the face when the blow knocked him back across the room. The other dark man seemed to dispatch the figure in white and then, taking his injured partner, departed. I could see the lights of police cars through the window.”

Rey was both relieved and concerned with this information. A part of her had been afraid one of the theories that the police had were true; that her father tried to kill her, and when her mother tried to stop him, he killed her then himself. But these strangers, the figure in white, and the two Dark Men, fighting. One of the Dark Men taking the brunt of the attack. Was it intentional? Had he tried to save her, or was it just coincidence?

“You said… you said you saw the dark man’s face. What did he look like?”

“It very brief. Caucasian I believe with white hair. Not the same man I encountered in my New York apartment all those months ago, but you never know. It wasn’t extremely clear. In any case, I am coming to believe, for good or for evil that the Dark Man or men aren’t malevolent per se. Amoral perhaps, but not in the twisting mustache way. It is a case of us only seeing one side of the story. You were obviously saved by one of them. Now were they servants of a greater Dark Man that Lyla once sensed and I sometimes do now? That is a possibility, but one thing for certain is one of them threw himself (or herself) in front of an attack meant for you. I’d think about that if I were you. Consider the possibilities that much or all of what we have known is wrong. That is the enlightenment I have been trying to grasp ever since the accident. We are part of a much bigger situation, more complex than we know. After other events I have seen, this is becoming clear.”

“Unfortunately, I couldn’t find your real parents. I’m sorry. But now you have some idea of your past, unfortunately raising more questions than answers,” Daniel concluded. He passed two files to Rey; one with all his research and legal data, the other – sealed – with typewritten accounts of his visions.

“Thank you,” Rey said softly, but she didn’t touch the folders. “For a couple months, now, I’ve thought that the Dark Man – or Men, as it appears – may not be an enemy. Perhaps not an ally, but not an enemy. But who are they, really. And who was that figure in white?” She didn’t really expect an answer.

“I… you said you got the feeling I was swapped for a dead child. Was it something they did on their own, or…” Rey didn’t want to think of the possibilities. Was that explosion intentional? Did all those people die to protect her? Or was the blast intended to kill her?

“Honore, if I may call you that? I don’t know what to tell you about the true meanings of what I’ve seen or what we’ve experienced, except that we seem to be pawns in someone’s game. I don’t appreciate it, and I’m sure you don’t, but I can tell you this. When I think of the Dark Man, I get a strong feeling of someone from my past, someone I knew. It’s slippery, like when you forget a friend’s name for an instant or you can’t remember your middle-school sweetheart. Take to heart that you are alive and someone fought to make that happen. Believe it or not, I understand that perhaps better than the others. Someone came to me and helped me when I was hurt or dying too, though perhaps not quite as dramatically. Though, don’t tell anyone.”

“I won’t,” Rey said. “And I know all about that feeling of not quite being able to remember something. Most of my life from the age of 7 to a few days before my 18th birthday is like that.” She shifted a touch uncomfortably in her chair. “Though some of high school is starting to come back.”

Daniel listened and said, “Don’t worry. Whatever you say in this office cannot and will not be repeated to anyone. I have the same feeling. And I understand it; so do many of the others. It is a shared experience we have that has drawn us here. I generally loathe the small town life, nature, the great outdoors and New Hampshire in general. At least I did. Now, for some reason, I feel drawn to help my compatriots here. I fought it, but I’ve learned we all have some kind of part to play in this drama.” He leaned in a bit on the desk, “You no doubt have a part to play as well. Take that from all of this and you’ll be a stronger woman for it. You are special, insomuch as any of us can claim that. And despite all the bad that has happened to you in the past and mysteries unsolved, at the very least you have that.”

“You didn’t hear the story of how I ended up in Eldon Well, did you.” Rey smiled slightly. “I had no idea Ramiel, Lyla or the others were here. I was in trouble and a friend helped me get away. The money she gave me was exactly the right amount to get me a bus ticket here. I don’t think it was coincidence.

“But I’ve known for a long time that most of the people in this world are pawns of some kind. Powerful beings who use us for their amusement, or manipulate us to act on their behalf because, for whatever reason, they cannot. With all the spirits I’ve dealt with, it gives me a certain perspective of where I exist in the grand scheme of things.” Her voice held no bitterness or anger, but a kind of odd acceptance of it.

“You seem at ease with the whole thing. Good. But if you want my advice on this, I’d always struggle against my fate. Else, life is a ride and you the willing rider. You should drive your life within the road paved for you. Or, go off road when the reasons are right. But never sit back and let things happen. Just my opinion of course.,” Daniel paused, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Rey shook her head. “Not right now. I need some time to digest everything.”

“Very well then. I’m glad to have been of help.”, Daniel offered his hand, “take care Honore.”

She shook his hand with a firm, practiced grip. “Thank you, Daniel. You too.”

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