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The Jagged Circle
Excerpt

Chapter 1: The Calm Before the Storm

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.
— Vivien Greene

Evangeline Gibb’s spirits were low. It was Monday of the spring break, and all her friends were away with family, either skiing down snowy slopes in faraway lands or sunbathing on romantic beaches. And here she was, mucking stalls in her grandmother Mary Parson’s four-stall wooden barn. Sixteen-year-old Evie envisioned a lonely week of boredom.

The snow should have melted by now, she brooded. Flowers should be shooting up. Birds should be singing. Leaves should be sprouting. But no. The tree branches were stark and budless against the grey, unsettled sky, and she was bundled up in her old winter jacket with her blue knitted toque pulled over her long red hair. When she exhaled, she could see her breath. The water tap was stiff with frost, and she’d had to use the hairdryer on it to get the water running.

At least the pipes weren’t frozen, she thought begrudgingly. She switched on the old barn radio beside the telephone.

Good morning this Monday, March twelfth, at two minutes to eight. The current temperature is minus four, but good news, folks! By two this afternoon we’ll hit plus seven. You heard right! Our wintery weather will be moving down to New York. Might as well &8230; they blame us anyway.

Dumb joke, Evie moped, as she put down her pitchfork to empty the wheelbarrow. The very idea of a spring thaw seemed like a distant dream.

Followed by her tall black dog, Magpie, Evie pushed the heaped cart over icy ruts to the manure spreader. In her irritation, she shoved it harder than necessary up the slippery ramp, and the whole thing tipped over, spilling horse manure and urine-soaked wood chips onto the ground.

“Arghhh!” she yelled. “Shh-shoot!”

Magpie scampered for cover, and Evie stomped back into the barn to retrieve her pitchfork. Angrily, she forked up the mess and refilled the barrow. “I can’t stand this!” she muttered aloud.

The winter had been especially long and harsh. With intense storms, high winds, and frequent power outages, it had been so bad that her grandmother had finally invested in a generator. Evie was glad, since no power meant no water, and no water meant driving miles away to haul it back for the horses to drink. And they drank a lot of water.

She dumped the twice-handled load in the spreader and carefully backed the wheelbarrow down the slick ramp. This time she managed to keep the front wheel from sliding off.

“Calm down, you jerk,” she told herself. She was acting like a spoiled brat, and she knew it. Being on a horse farm surrounded by beautiful countryside wasn’t a bad way to live. She filled her lungs with fresh air and counted to ten.

She gazed over the sloping fields and winding driveway fenced with ancient cedar split rails. The property had been in the Parson family for years, and from the first time she’d laid eyes on it, Evie had thought it was totally charming. As she stood at the barn door, to her right the lane curved up to the yellow Victorian farmhouse with a white wraparound porch. To her left, the lane ran down to the gravel road and across a meandering stream by way of the quaint wooden bridge that gave the farm its name, Parson’s Bridge.

Her spirits lifted further as her gaze landed on the four horses in the big paddock out front, munching on the round bale of hay that Glen Judge had dropped off the day before. Each horse was attractive in its own way, Evie decided, from tall and thin to short and curvy. And all with such different personalities. She took pleasure in how pretty they looked against the white snow.

Each horse wore a different coloured blanket. Calm and collected Paragon was a lanky bay, and his blanket was bright green. He’d been Gran Mary’s show hunter and was still elegant and in surprisingly good shape. The retired old chestnut racehorse, Bendigo, who’d won half a million dollars in his career and was still feisty, wore burnt orange. Christieloo, Gran Mary’s cheerful, willing hacking horse, was a palomino. Her deep-blue rug contrasted perfectly with her coat.

Last —but certainly not least, Evie thought —was her horse, No Justice. He was a sleek black and very nicely suited up in his blanket of crimson red. She called him Kazzam.

Her eyes rested on him. He belonged to her, she reflected, but really, she belonged to him. Kazzam’s bad temper was legendary, but Evie understood what angered him and why, and she felt he usually had good reason. She loved him for his distinctive personality. He returned that love by trusting her and allowing her to ride him. Together, they made a great team.

How proud she was to have a horse like him! A smile slowly brightened her freckled face as she thought about the ebony gelding. His ear tips almost touched together when pricked forward, and he had a crisp white heart on his forehead. His alert eyes shone with intelligence, and his profile was patrician, lending him a regal bearing and an air of confidence. He was small but mighty, standing only fifteen hands, but possessed of powerful speed. He was a Thoroughbred, bred for stamina and swiftness.

Nine months earlier, against all odds, Kazzam had won an upset victory at Canada’s most prestigious Thoroughbred race, the Queen’s Plate. Evie had been the rider. She’d just turned sixteen and had barely made apprentice jockey in time. It sometimes felt like it had all been a dream.

A training injury had sidelined their plans that year, and Evie worried about further damage being done to the gelding if they raced again. She was contemplating what other career might suit him best. For the past few months, when the weather permitted, she’d been training Kazzam to jump. It had begun as a strengthening exercise, but the small black horse had such an aptitude for the sport and was so eager to work that Evie had expanded their training schedule. She’d found the book How to Train Your Jumper at BookLore in Orangeville, and Gran Mary helped her pace out the proper striding. They did gymnastics and triples and bounces and oxers. Evie dragged out old lawn furniture for Kazzam to jump, and an old blue tarp from the barn became a water hazard. She admired his talent and his brains. He learned very quickly, and once he figured something out, he never forgot. Plus, they were having lots of fun.

She stretched out her arms and shoulders, noticing how the sun was trying hard to break through the clouds. The day was starting to look promising.

Normally on school mornings, she would get to the barn by six o’clock. She’d feed the horses their grain and blanket them while they were eating. After turning them out into the field, she’d scoot back to the farmhouse for a shower and a bowl of oatmeal before catching the school bus at seven-thirty. She mucked the stalls after school, unless Gran Mary had time to do it.

But today was a school holiday, and Evie could take her sweet time. Like mucking stalls is a holiday, she thought wryly. To be honest, though, she really didn’t mind because where there’s manure, there has to be horses.

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Tell

Tell

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Excerpt

"He said they want to talk to you, David."
"They?" I said. "The cops?"
She nodded.
"What for?" I don't think I ever worked harder at getting just two words out of my mouth. I tried to sound like I had no idea what the cops would want with me.

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Case of Synchronicity, A
Excerpt

Staring at the phone on her bed, Elizabeth sighed. The name and number for Rex flashed on the screen and she reached out and pressed the ignore button.

"Did you talk to him?" asked Angela. She was one of Elizabeth's best friends. They had met the first day of high school and had been through a lot together in the past six months.

"Yeah, I talked to him yesterday after science." Elizabeth hesitated as she put two large fuzzy sweaters on her bed. "I told him we should be friends first and see where things go from there."

"You don't seem happy about it." Angela took out a dress from Elizabeth's closet and added it to the bed.

"I'm not. Part of me wants to ignore him and never see him again, but another part of me wants to feel his arms around me and his lips on mine. Wait, why are you packing my dress?" Elizabeth found herself twirling the pink streak in her curly blond hair, a bad habit that annoyed her father.

"There might be a party when we're in Ottawa and I want you to be prepared." Angela smiled crookedly. She ran her hand over the back of her head.

"Do you miss your long hair?" Elizabeth asked. Angela had recently cut off her long black hair and gotten a pixie cut. She'd then died it dark red. It looked good, but Elizabeth imagined it must still be a shock.

"Yes, a little. I'm going to grow it out again. Hey, wait... stop changing the subject. What do you want to do with Rex?"

At that, Elizabeth blushed. Angela tried not to laugh but couldn't stop herself. Elizabeth gave her a dirty look and started laughing too.

"I don't know. Hopefully this week will give me an idea of what I want to do about him." Elizabeth sighed. She liked Rex, or at least she thought she liked him. For over a month, Elizabeth and Rex had dated and at the time, she thought she loved him. Unfortunately, their dating history was a lie implanted into their heads by an evil djinn. A wish from Rex's older brother. Because of that, Elizabeth couldn't tell if she liked him or she was just feeling the residue of the wish. It was distracting.

"Good enough, I guess. I'd say you'd better hurry, but I don't think anyone is going to steal him from you."

"Come on Angela, he's a little dorky, but he's still cute."

"That's not what I meant. He's adorable, but it took a wish for him to be able to talk to you without stammering. I doubt he'll turn around in a week and find a new girl."

Nodding, Elizabeth felt silly for defending him when she had said worse things about him in the past.

"And we're just in ninth grade, it's not like we know what's going to happen. I doubt you two were prophesied to be together." Angela started grabbing shoes, boots, and other footwear to put on the bed.

"That reminds me. After I talked to Rex, I overheard Mister Therien and Miss Currie talking about a prophecy. I think it was about me." Elizabeth paused, remembering their words.

Putting her hands up, Angela said, "No Elizabeth. No mysteries or weird stuff today."

"But..."

Cutting her off Angela said, "No. We're two teenage girls packing for a trip and talking about boys, that's it. We can talk about it in Ottawa."

Picking up a stack of clothes, Elizabeth placed it in the large cedar hope chest at the foot of her bed. "If you don't want any magic or weird stuff, don't pay attention to how I pack." The hope chest was magically linked to her purse and she could take things that were in the chest from the purse, no matter the distance. She normally had a change of clothes, first aid kit, books, and various things that could be useful. The chest and purse were artifacts that she won from a wizard who had tried to change the inhabitants of Baker into mittens.

Angela gave her a dirty look and Elizabeth went on, "Okay. Since we're only teen girls talking about boys... talk to me about Jackie." Angela stalled by putting things into the chest.

"What about him?" Angela asked.

Before Angela had moved to Baker, Elizabeth's only best friend was Jackie. They had known each other their whole lives and did everything together. She had considered dating him but realized that she didn't have those sorts of feelings for him. He was practically her brother.

Angela and Jackie seemed to enjoy fighting. Last December, they fought every time they were in the same room. During one heated fight, they had started kissing. Neither of them remembered that kiss. They had been turned into mittens seconds after the kiss and when they were turned back, they had lost ten minutes of memory.

More recently, the two had dated other people. Elizabeth wondered if they had done it just to make each other jealous. The two shared another first kiss after Jackie had almost killed himself by using magic when he wasn't supposed to. It had seemed to Elizabeth that Angela's kiss had brought him back.

Jackie's father was a wizard and Jackie had magical potential but no training. His father wanted to train him, but his mother said it was too dangerous. The two had separated over the issue.

The three of them, Elizabeth, Jackie, and Angela, were going to stay with Jackie's mother for the March break. She had a small condo in Ottawa. Jackie planned to try to convince her to let him train.

"You two kissed. And it wasn't some tame peck on the mouth. It was a passionate, sexy kiss." Elizabeth sat down on the bed and looked up at Angela, something she wasn't used to. Angela was shorter than Elizabeth but almost always wore heels, which made them the same height.

"It was just a kiss. I got caught up in the moment. It doesn't mean I love him or anything. I'm sure he doesn't even remember it. Anyways, it's not like we could ever work together. We argue all the time. He's all magic and I'm all science. We're completely different and it would never work out." Angela had a habit of speaking quickly when she was nervous.

Before Elizabeth could start enumerating the reasons the two were perfect for each other, her father yelled out, "Girls, Jackie and his father are in the driveway."

Quickly putting the rest of her clothes in the chest, the girls rushed to get ready. They said goodbye to Doctor Coderre, Elizabeth's father, and headed outside, bundled up for the cold weather. Elizabeth carried her purse and one of Angela's three bags. She had refused Elizabeth's offer to store her stuff in the purse.

On the way to the car, Angela said, "I don't want to talk about Jackie with Jackie. Okay?"

"Okay, no talking about Jackie, magic, mysteries, or weird stuff. So, what do normal people talk about?" Elizabeth laughed as they got into the car. Jackie was sitting in the front seat shivering.

"It's spring in some countries," he said miserably. Jackie and his father lived across the street, which meant the car hadn't had much time to warm up.

"I thought you loved winter?" asked Angela.

"So did I, but this one seems to be lasting forever."

"Jackie loves winter when it's summer and loves summer when it's winter." Elizabeth smiled and shook her head. He'd always been that way. She imagined that he'd move to a more temperate climate when he grew up. Baker City was situated far enough from Toronto that they weren't warmed by the city but close enough to the Great Lakes to get all the lake effect snow. It meant that in winter they averaged below zero Celsius from mid-November to mid-April. On the opposite side, summers here were ridiculously warm, often above thirty Celsius.

"Professor Martin, is there a reason Baker seems to have more extreme weather than the rest of Ontario?" Angela's question surprised Elizabeth. She hadn't realized that there was much difference or that it was strange.

"You've noticed." He nodded approvingly as he drove. "The official reason is that Baker is built in a basin that dips lower than most of the rest of the province. Combined with the mountains surrounding us, it creates a micro weather formation." He easily fell into what Jackie called, 'lecture mode'. It was a side effect from being a professor for ten years.

"Would that really make a big difference?" Angela asked skeptically.

"Maybe a couple of degrees, but not the 5-10 degrees difference that we see." His English accent made his statement seem more authoritative.

"Dad, you said the 'official reason,' what's the real one?"

"Magic." Professor Martin smiled and paused. They all knew he was a wizard who specialized in elemental magic, called Evocation. "You all know that the Aether barrier in Baker is thin." The Aether was the raw magical energy that wizards used to manipulate the world. Angela was convinced the Aether was a separate dimension that was separated from our own by a particular particle that was worn down by constant use.

"The Aether affects our world even without magic users and one of its influences is the weather. Whenever an area has a weakened Aether barrier, the weather becomes unpredictable. It can be worse when there are Evocationists in the area."

"So it's your fault," Jackie said, still shivering despite the heaters. It was starting to get very warm in the car.

"In a way, I guess so." He chuckled as he pulled into the train station parking. "Do you have your tickets?" They nodded. "Good. I'll see you next week. Try not to give your mother too much trouble."

Mocking indignation, Jackie replied, "Me? Never. You have to watch out for Angela, she's the wild one. Getting us into constant trouble." Angela punched him lightly on the shoulder, a habit that she had picked up from Elizabeth.

After saying their goodbyes and taking their bags, they headed into the train station. They found their gate and waited to be called for boarding.

"So much for not talking about magic," Elizabeth said.

"What?" Jackie asked.

"I wanted a normal, non-weird day. Just one," sighed Angela.

"Oh, so does that mean you don't want to sit with us on the train? You know, mystery solver girl over there and me, the young wizard who specializes in going unconscious?" Jackie's lack of training meant that he couldn't control his power and if he did something that required too much control, he usually ended up with a nosebleed or unconscious. He didn't try to do these things, but between djinn, wizards, hags, and mummies, he often didn't get the choice.

"I guess I hadn't thought about it that way. I'm just so used to everything making sense and if it doesn't, I can look it up and it will make logical sense. I hate that any answer can be magic. But it seems like that's all I'm hearing. As much as I try to apply science to magic, sometimes I feel like they aren't compatible." She looked like she might cry.

Moving to sit next to her, Jackie's voice was serious when he said, "Everything follows rules. From what Dad has told me, magic isn't any different. I'm sure someone with a big beautiful brain like yours can figure it out."

The loudspeaker called out their train. Elizabeth stood up quickly. She suddenly felt like she was intruding on a personal moment. The other two looked at each other a few more moments before getting up and following her.

Seeing them following, Elizabeth said, "I love taking the train. It always makes me feel like I'm going to Hogwarts."

"Except in this case we're going from too much adventure and magic towards a normal and average week away from school." Angela smiled.

Shaking his head in disgust, Jackie said, "FLW" and walked a little faster. FLW was one of his favourite expressions. It meant 'famous last words.' In books and movies, it was the point where one character said something along the lines of 'at least it's not raining' and then it would rain. It was often used in horror and science fiction, two of his favourite genres. She gave him a dirty look.

They boarded the train; the trip would take them around three hours. As they put away their luggage, they looked for seats. They found seats that faced each other, so they could talk. The two girls sat on one side and Jackie sat on the other. There was a small table separating the seats.

"Angela? Can I talk about something weird?" asked Elizabeth after she had looked around to make sure no one was listening. The train was sparsely populated.

"You don't need my permission to talk about Jackie," Angela joked. Jackie rolled his eyes and stuck out his tongue. Elizabeth smiled. "Fine, go ahead."

"After I talked to Rex yesterday, I went back to science class to get my book."

"Wait, you talked to Rex?" asked Jackie.

Sighing, Elizabeth said, "Yes. We're going to stay friends until I can sort out my feelings." She paused letting that sink in and Jackie shrugged. She continued, "Miss Currie and Mister Therien were in the class talking about a prophecy."

"Those are always trouble," Jackie exclaimed. "They seem simple and obvious but are so vague you end up completely misunderstanding it. Or worse, by trying to avoid it, you make it happen. Most of the time it's best never to know what the prophecy says, it screws with your head." He pointed at his head as he said it. He then looked at Elizabeth and said, "Well, go ahead."

"They were talking about a girl. Something about 'her wards cracking' and then Mister Therien said he didn't think it was her. Then he recited the prophecy. He said, 'The daughter of the thirteenth generation in the line of Morgana, once come into her true power, shall wield the power to undo the world. She shall slay the righteous, and all forms of fiend shall inherit the earth.'"

"That's intense and more than a little melodramatic." Angela's face looked worried.

"I wonder who they were talking about?" Elizabeth thought aloud.

"Isn't it obvious? It has to be Rachael." Jackie spit out her name as if he'd eaten something nasty and then sneezed.

"Gesundheit! Why?" Angela asked.

"Come on! She's a total bitch, tried to kill Lizzy. Three times. And she tried to kill me." Jackie was almost yelling at this point. Normally Elizabeth would have smacked him for shortening her name, but she decided to let it slip.

"Yes, but she helped us stop the scary Djinn..." Angela's voice trailed off.

Not wanting this to turn into a fight, Elizabeth added, "She's also the only female wizard of our age that we know. Unless you're not telling us something, Jackie."

For a few moments, Jackie was able to keep his angry face, but eventually he cracked and smiled at her.

"Why does it have to be a magic user?" Angela didn't wait for then to answer, "They said something about wards right?" Again she didn't let them answer, "If wards can keep things out, or affect people's behaviour, then why couldn't it bind someone's power? If I thought someone I knew was going to usher in the apocalypse, I'd definitely try to suppress their powers."

"So, we just went from one possibility to over a thousand." Elizabeth wondered who they were talking about, and she hated that she didn't know.

"What about you?" Jackie's voice sounded gravely and he cleared it.

"Wouldn't I know if my mother was a wizard?" The question was as much for herself as it was for Jackie. Elizabeth's mother had died when she was young. She remembered little about her mother and her father rarely spoke of her. The few times he did, he only said good things. Elizabeth had always assumed it hurt for him to talk about her.

"The problem is, it could be anyone," Angela said.

For the rest of the trip, they discussed who it could be, but without more information, there was no way for them to be certain. The idea that it might be her still bothered Elizabeth.

Last month she had been turned into her Dungeons & Dragons character, an evil sorceress. She had assumed it was Jackie's fault, or a freak accident, but what if she had caused it herself? The idea scared her. When she had been transformed, she had enjoyed the power and hate that had coursed through her. As a side effect, she still had all the memories from that version of herself. Combined with her real memories and the implanted ones from the Djinn, she often had to stop and assess what she was thinking, feeling, or remembering. It was getting easier, but she was always afraid to lose control.

When they arrived in Ottawa, Jackie's mom was waiting for them. He ran ahead and hugged her. She said hello to Elizabeth and Angela.

"Hello Mrs. Martin." As Angela said it, her hands went up to her mouth and she added, "I'm sorry."

"It's okay, Angela. I'm still Mrs. Martin. We're only separated, not divorced." She put a hand on Angela's shoulder as she spoke.

There wasn't anything typical about Mrs. Martin. She was taller than most, smiled more than most, and looked like she was in her mid-twenties, not in her mid-thirties. She was a hardware engineer. She specialized in micro-computing. Until she left Professor Martin, she had been working at a small computer repair store. It had been her choice to take a job that let her go home early and not have to bring work home. She wanted to spend as much time as she could at home with Jackie.

When she left Professor Martin, she had started consulting with different companies. Mostly she worked on problem solving as a consultant. If something didn't work properly, she'd be asked to find a quick and cost-effective solution.

"Mom, you're in a suit. Why?" Jackie asked incredulously.

"I had a meeting with someone downtown. A certain company is having trouble with call quality in their superphones."

For Elizabeth, it was strange to see Mrs. Martin in a business suit and talking about meetings. She assumed that it must be stranger for Jackie. So much had changed for him in the past few months. He seemed to be taking it well, although he did seem a little pale.

It was an interesting contrast between Professor Martin's car and Mrs. Martin's. His was old and looked like it would fall apart at a strong gust of wind. Hers was brand new and still smelled like a new car. It was big and comfortable.

They didn't drive very far to get to Mrs. Martin's condo. It was in a new building. They walked to the front door and a man in a uniform greeted them. Elizabeth had thought doormen were only in New York or the movies. They took the elevator to the eleventh floor and walked down a quiet hall. The condo was bright and warm. There was an open concept kitchen and living room on the left when they entered and a closet to the right.

They took off their coats, and Mrs. Martin pressed a button on an intimidating panel with lots of buttons and the curtains opened in the living room. It must have been a corner unit, since two of the living room's walls were windows.

Even on the eleventh floor, they could see most of Ottawa's skyline, including the Parliament Buildings. All three of them said, 'Wow' at the same time. Jackie sneezed again.

"Bless you, sweetie. The second bedroom has a queen bed. I thought you girls could sleep in there and Jackie, the couch can be turned into a bed too."

Looking around at the apartment, Elizabeth noticed that there were fewer furnishings than most houses. There were no paintings, the only decorations being pictures of Jackie on a bookcase. Most of the books in the bookcase looked new. They were a combination of cookbooks and technical manuals. There was a large screen TV and cable box in the living room.

The second bedroom looked like a typical guest room. There was a closet, a bed with all the coverings, an empty dresser, and a desk. Elizabeth noticed that the room was painted blue and the sheets were brand new. The room had its own bathroom. That made two full bathrooms, one for each room, and a half bath in the hall.

As Angela was putting her clothes in the closet, Elizabeth heard Jackie cough. She hoped he wasn't getting a cold. He was always grumpy when he was sick and he'd be sick for most of their break.

After they had put away their clothes, Elizabeth called her father to let him know she'd arrived okay. Angela did the same with her mom, and Jackie with his dad.

Once all the calls were done, Mrs. Martin looked up from her laptop computer. She was using it on the small loveseat in the living room. She asked, "What would you three like for dinner?"

When no one answered, she suggested pizza and they all agreed. She said that she had some work to do and they could watch TV or hang out in the living room. She went into the bedroom to work. Elizabeth assumed it was to give them some privacy. They had no plans to go out that night so they had all changed into pyjamas. Elizabeth had on a pair of comfortable and fuzzy pyjama pants, with Marvel's Avengers on them. She was also wearing a black tank top, lastly a pair of TARDIS slippers kept her feet warm.

Normally, Elizabeth carried her purse everywhere but she couldn't think of any reason she should carry it around the apartment. Reaching into it, she pulled out her cell phone and put it in her pocket. On a whim, she took out a small stone from her purse.

The stone had been given to her by Merlin himself and he had told her that if she ever needed help, she need only speak his name while holding the stone and he'd be there. He promised her three such favours.

Angela's pyjamas were stylish. She wore a pair of pink checked pants with a black form fitting t-shirt that had the molecular representation of caffeine on it. In total contrast, Jackie wore a pair of old jeans and an old Batman t-shirt that had seen better days.

They didn't watch television. They just sat on the couches and looked out the windows. Jackie was wrapped in a blanket looking miserable, "You remember the old Clocktower?" The girls nodded. "It says on the plaque that it's supposed to look like Parliament, but it really doesn't."

Looking surprised, Angela answered right away, "It does, just not the Parliament that still exists. It was modelled after the original centre block of Parliament."

"There was another one?" Jackie asked.

"Yes. It burned down in 1916. The only part that survived was the library." Angela loved to talk about Parliament or politics. Other than science, it was one of her favourite subjects. Her mother was the Member of Parliament for Baker and the region around it.

The Clocktower was a mystery that had bothered Elizabeth for years. She knew that her mother had worked there as a tour guide, but only because she had found the uniform in an old chest in the attic. Her father said it was before he knew her and that she had never talked about it.

"They finished construction of the Clocktower less than a month before the fire that burnt down Parliament. It was renovated in the seventies and turned into a museum. That's also when they added the clock," Elizabeth added.

Looking at her, Jackie sighed and said, "I know that look. She wants to investigate that place."

Shaking her head, Elizabeth said, "I do, but we don't have a good enough reason, other than curiosity. But I'd really like to know why and how long the clock has been stuck at eight o'clock ."

The phone rang before Jackie could say anything. It was the pizza. Once they had eaten, Mrs. Martin rushed into her bedroom and came out with a present. She gave it to Jackie and said, "I know your birthday isn't until the end of March, but I can't wait. Go ahead. Open it."

Smiling for one of the first times that day, Jackie tore into the paper. The box under the wrapping said it was a cell phone. Looking up at his mom confused, she nodded, "Yes, it's what the box says. It officially comes out this summer, but they sent me an advanced version when I helped them fix the connectivity issues. You're on my plan. This means you can call me no matter where you are. I've already charged it and loaded my number."

Jumping up, Jackie ran and hugged his mother. "Thanks, Mom. This is awesome." He wouldn't admit it, but he had felt left out not having a cell phone when all his friends did. On his parents' old salaries, they couldn't afford it.

"You feel a little warm sweetie, why don't you three rent a movie and relax. Tomorrow I'll take you to Parliament Hill and the Museum of Civilization." She still had some work to do that night and returned to her desk in the bedroom.

Unable to help himself, Jackie started setting up the phone and telling them all the cool features. The girls half listened. Elizabeth wasn't interested and Angela had already seen the specs online. The only thing that caught her attention was the fact that the touch screen could double as a solar panel to charge the phone. He played with all the settings and became really excited that he could download books on it. The first book he downloaded was Le Morte d'Arthur from Project Gutenberg, which had digitized a huge library of public domain books. The next thing he downloaded promised to annoy Elizabeth and Angela to no end. It was a group of sounds from classic horror movies.

After a while, Jackie looked up at Elizabeth. His nose was red and he still looked pale. "You're thinking about your mom, aren't you?"

When she nodded, he came around and gave her a hug. He gave her the phone and said, "Put in your number. Now I can bug you any time of day."

Taking the phone Elizabeth paused and said, "I just wi..." She was going to say wish but didn't like that word since the Djinn. "...would like to have known her a little more. I just have vague memories." Walking towards the kitchen, Mrs. Martin heard Elizabeth and could see what happened next.

Jackie sneezed loudly and Elizabeth was surrounded by a bluish energy shaped like a giant sphere. Jackie's eyes grew wide in fear and he sneezed again.

When he sneezed, Angela and Mrs. Martin instinctively looked at him. When they looked back, Elizabeth had disappeared.

Both women saw Jackie start to collapse, but Mrs. Martin got there first and managed to stop him from hitting his head. He was bleeding from his nose, ears, and eyes.

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