Mary Christmas 2: Christmas in July – Chapter 24 – by lostandwhatever
Continued from Chapter 23.
Betty Baker’s Culinary Academy smelled like the North Pole. The scent of various pastries drifted in the air like a delicious fog as Candice and Carol spoke with the owner and head teacher of the academy. Her name was not Betty but Anges. Apparently, she had given in to the allure of alliteration and the power of a good brand name. Based on the number of students in the academy, the pseudonym clearly had worked.
The interview was nearly over, and the smell was making Candice hungry.
“So,” Betty nee Anges said. “As I explained, I was never very close to Mary. I don’t think any of the students were. She had a standoffish nature. She was an excellent baker, but not much for conversation.” She spoke quickly with a voice that dripped sweetness like so much whipped cream.
“Did she leave anything behind here?” Carol asked. “Did you happen to take a picture of her?”
“Oh,” Betty said. “I don’t have any of her things, but we do take a class photo when the students graduate.” She turned to the computer on the desk she was sitting behind. “Let me see if I can find it here.” She clicked around until she found a file folder and opened up an image. The picture showed a class of about two dozen women, with a few men dotted inbetween, standing in rows with Betty in front of them all. “Would you like me to share this with you?”
“Please,” Carol said. “I’ll give you my e-mail address.”
Candice wandered over to the door of Betty’s office and waited for Carol to finish with Betty. She considered trying to steal a cookie from somewhere, but thought better of trying their amature confections.
Carol wrapped up the interview, and Candice followed her out of the building with her stomach rumbling.
“Well,” Carol said as they stepped out into the rain. She opened her umbrella and led Canice towards her car under it. “This seems to be a dead end.”
“We did get a photo of her,” Candice said as she carefully stepped around puddles.
“We have photos of her. I suppose one more won’t hurt. Probably won’t help much, though.”
“So,” Candice said. “What now?”
“I don’t know,” Carol said. “The trail is getting a bit cold now. We could try checking in the bar where she met Chuck. I gave the bartender a call earlier to verify Chuck’s story. He might have more to say.”
“Okay,” Candice said.
Carol looked down at Candice. “Frustrating isn’t it?”
“How do you deal with it?”
“I just keep moving forward. Can’t do more than what I can do.”
“I think I get what you mean.”
“It still sucks, though.” Carol unlocked the car doors. “You hungry?”
“Starving,” Candice said as she climbed into the back seat while Carol held the umbrella over her.
Then, Carol got in and started the car. “I think we passed by a diner on our way here. It’s on our way to the bar as well.”
“Sounds good to me,” Candice said.
Fifteen minutes later, they were seated in a booth in the diner waiting for their food to come.
“Maybe we missed something,” Candice said.
“Maybe,” Carol said and took a sip of her coffee.
Candice stared out the window, watching the raindrops, and thought about Mary. It could happen any minute now. Mary had possession of a magical artifact of incredible power, and they had no idea how or when she would use it. Yet, here they were, sitting in a dinner waiting for their greasy meal. They had to stop her, somehow.
“Feels like we’re doing nothing. I hate this,” Candice said.
“We’re getting lunch,” Carol said. “We can’t fight crime on an empty stomach.”
“Fighting crime? Yeah, I wish. All we’ve managed to do is clean up after her messes.”
“Unfortunately, that’s how the job goes most of the time,” Carol said. “If we’re lucky, we will catch up eventually. As it is, we’re just collecting evidence and getting the stories straight… preparing a case for prosecutors later on.”
“What if there isn’t a ‘later on?’”
“Hmm,” Carol grunted and took another sip of coffee.
“So we just trust in luck?” Candice asked. “We hope she makes a mistake or something?”
“They usually do… eventually.”
Candice watched a man with a black umbrella walk his dog down the street. The dog pooped on the wet sidewalk and the man awkwardly scooped it up in a bag. Candice found herself hating the dog all of a sudden.
Then, she noticed a woman holding a red umbrella walking down the street in the opposite direction. The man paused to check her out. She had on a low cut top that showed off a lot of cleavage, which had clearly caught his attention, but Candice’s eyes were immediately drawn to the woman’s ears. They were long and pointy. Candice could not believe what she was seeing.
“Talk about luck,” Candice said. “Look!” She pointed out the window.
“Oh my God,” Carol said when she saw the elf woman.
“It’s Mary!” Candice said. “That has to be her.”
“Yeah,” Carol said. “That’s definitely her.” She pulled out some cash from her pocket, left it on the table, and the two of them headed for the door.
Carol opened her umbrella and held it over them against the rain as they followed a block behind Mary on the same sidewalk.
“What do we do?” Candice asked.
“I’m calling it in now.” Carol said as she thumbed her phone open. “Don’t you have a team to call?”
“Right,” Candice said as she took out her phone. “Call the team. Right.” Her hands were shaking, but she managed to unlock her phone.
“She’s going around the corner to the left,” Carol said and picked up the pace. “Let’s go.”
Candice tried to keep up and dial the number, but her legs were too short to do anything but run full out. She gave up on calling for the moment.
Carol spoke into her phone as she jogged forward. Candice could only hear Carol’s side of the conversation. “Hello? … We’ve found her… We’re following her now… Yes, we saw her only a couple of blocks from the culinary academy…”
They reached the corner, and Carol said, “We’re getting close. I’ll update you on our location shortly.” She hung up and put away her phone.
Candice started to dial her team again.
“Look,” Carol said after peeking around the corner.
Candice peeked and just caught sight of the red umbrella disappearing down an alleyway to the left. She stepped out ahead of Carol into the rain and said, “She turned again… the alley.” She took off running.
“Wait,” Carol said as she tried to keep up with Candice, who had begun to sprint. “Don’t go charging in.”
Candice did not slow down. Mary was right here. They had seen her with their own eyes. This might be their only chance to stop her. Candice was not about to let her get away now. When Candice reached the alley, she turned the corner without a pause and nearly ran straight into Mary. The elf woman was standing there, waiting, holding her red umbrella in one hand and the youth gun in the other with the barrel of the gun was pointed straight at Candice.
Candice froze. She cringed. She anticipated the beam hitting her. Somewhere in her mind she wondered what it would feel like.
Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Candice felt herself being wrapped in a hug and lifted off the ground. Before she lost sight of Mary, Canice saw Mary’s finger pulling the trigger of the gun. Then, Carol’s body was between the two of them. Candice was carried in Carol’s arms past the entry to the alleyway, and the two of them fell into a puddle.
Carol released Candice and reached for her holstered pistol. Candice watched as Carol’s clothes became looser on her and her face grew more youthful. The woman dropped down through her teens into childhood in a matter of seconds. When Carol held up her gun in her little hand, Candice realized that the two of them appeared to be about the same age now. In fact, Candice thought she might look a bit older than Carol.
Carol looked at her little hand holding her oversized pistol and at the shoes that had fallen off her little feet and said, “Damn it!” Her voice sounded so small and weak now.
“Are you alright?” Candice asked.
“I’m not wounded,” Carol said as she sat up and looked down at the soaked clothes that hung from her. “Damn it. She got me.”
Candice felt a fire burst to life inside of her in the middle of the cold rain and said, “Stay here.”
“Wait,” Carol said.
But, Candice was on her feet and sneaking up to the alleyway again. She peeked down it to see Mary waltzing away under her red umbrella, seemingly unconcerned about any pursuit. Candice carefully tiptoed down the alley to a nearby dumpster and hid behind it and then quickly moved to hide behind more garbage. This time she would stay out of sight. This time she would be more careful. She refused to let Mary go. She gave no thought to what she would do when she caught Mary, though.
Mary exited the alley from the other end, and Candice crept along slowly behind her. When Candice reached the corner, she carefully peeked around it.
Immediately, she felt her neck gripped by someone’s hand. She was being strangled! The hand lifted her into the air, as she struggled to breathe. She grabbed the arm that held her and tried to pull herself free, but her attacker’s body was as solid as a block of wood. She looked at the man’s face and saw that it was Chuck’s doppelganger that had her by the throat.
Mary was standing right behind him, observing it all.
Candice wanted to curse her and snarl at her, but she could barely even wheeze. Candice kicked her legs and tried to escape, but it was all in vain. She was trapped and quickly running out of breath.
“Enough hide and seek,” Mary said as she pressed a couple of buttons on the side of her raygun. She pointed the gun at Candice and said, “Time for us to have a private conversation.”
Mary pulled the trigger, and Candice felt the strength drain from her body. She went limp as her eyelids drooped shut. Then, in the darkness, all she could sense were the fingers on her throat and the raindrops on her head. Until, those sensations faded as well, and she fell into unconsciousness.
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I wonder what effect the gun would’ve had on Candice, if Carol hadn’t guarded her. Is the gun set to regress to a specific age or subtract a number?
Anyway, really looking forward to reading more of this. I hate cliffhangers haha..
Thanks for the comment. I think it would be more like subtracting a number, but, don’t forget, Candice is an adult. It’s her glamour that makes her appear to be a child.
We are entering the climax of the story, by the way. Not the end, but we’re getting into the endgame.