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Excerpt for DDsE, Book 5 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



DDsE

Book 5





Sue Perry







Copyright 2017 Sue Perry

Published by Sue Perry at Smashwords

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Book 5 Table of Contents

Ella's Diary, Entries 178.-217.

Acknowledgements

About Sue Perry and her Novels



Dedication

For Leo.

178.

DD – Which way. Where to now. At first those decisions were easy. Whatever took us away from the cemetery was right. From what I could hear, Lewis and Lourdes made a good team figuring out directions, and, amazingly, he seemed so comfortable around her that he didn't just emit words. Sometimes he spoke in sentences.

I didn't hear much, though. I was Paul Paul Paul. His hair was longer and raggedy, his shirt was faded and raggedy. The backpack had ripped parts. Raggedy. The gray in Paul's eyes was darker now, maybe because he was extra serious. His face was happy, though, crinkled and stretched in the world's biggest smile which got bigger every time he looked at me. But the smile added no light to his eyes.

Grayfast stretched between us, purring so hard the rumble tickled my leg. I rubbed his favorite spots and kept hitting nicks and scabs under his fur. Recent fights?

When we got some time alone I'd hear the details, but already I could tell. Paul and Grayfast had been through rough times.

Here. Alive. Fine. Together. Was what mattered.

Paul pulled a pencil from the backpack, offered me one end. He was right, we had to assume that touching each other could still open a connection to Everweer. Of course I took the other end.

So many things to tell him, ask him. But not in front of Lewis or Lourdes. We were running for our lives together. But I didn't dare blab a secret unless I was sure it was one that was okay to share.

But I couldn't wait to tell Paul about ... I pictured myself in the changeling ocean and climbed onto a surfboard. As soon as the tingling began, Grayfast stopped purring, like he was paying special attention. Paul's loving smile turned amazed. I couldn't wait to ask what he saw! But I would have to, because Lewis was totally out of the changeling loop. He kept driving driving la la la.

Lourdes whipped around immediately, though. She frowned then grinned and began to shimmer.

Paul looked at us with shock and excitement. Then he –– lunged for the backpack, pulled out paper, and began drawing like crazy, alone in his head. Another photo drawing. Some strange lumpy tower.

I shrugged at Lourdes and slipped off my surfboard. Lourdes shrugged back and stopped shimmering. Paul's pencil moved fast over his page. Lewis held the wheel at 10 and 2 and his eyes flicked between mirrors and road like a driver's–ed demo.

Aware but oblivious. Okay. Grayfast resumed purring, Lourdes faced forward, and I just had to smile. – sE



179.

DD – I was in changeling reality. Grayfast's purr was so complicated. Its revs and rumbles were a beautiful maze. I was noticing so much that – heh. I failed to notice Lewis and Lourdes.

"Ellllllaaaaaa!" pulled me back.

"I take it that wasn't the first thing you said to me," I replied.

Lourdes made a noise too sarcastic for words. "You and Paul – perfect couple."

Paul hunched over a page, pencil flying in tight circles. He was drawing a closeup of holes in the lumpy tower.

I had assumed the photo drawing obsession would go away after he turned Everweer. Instead, it seemed more intense but that might be because I wasn't used to it anymore.

I was doing a lot of shrugging that morning.

Lewis announced, "This traffic. It's an opportunity. Decide our direction."

Lourdes added, "Or lack thereof."

Lewis replied, "Like a novel. That's how you sound."

Lourdes said, "Thank you?"

I glanced outside and jumped. When you're on the freeway you don't expect to see torsos.

People walked past our windshield like we were in a parking lot.

Lewis turned his car off. "Gas is low. Again. A getaway car. Is what we need. One of my parents' cars?" He asked in the rear–view mirror, to me, then added to Lourdes, "Out of town. They won't know." His parents were big deals at a corporation and were usually gone.

Whether we should go back to the sub was a huge decision. I wanted to ask Paul and I would have yanked his drawing away if I thought that would get his attention. But he would have kept drawing in air.

"What do you think?" I asked Lourdes.

She looked surprised and happy to be asked. "We should try it. If we're wrong – they'll stop us."

They. Grayfast and her lizard.

"I'm glad I'm not alone," I blurted.

Lewis' eyes in the mirror went squinty, embarrassed. On some level I was talking to him, too. But what I meant was, glad I'm not the only changeling.

"Agree." Lourdes reached inside a huge pocket on her flannel overshirt then rested her hand on the back of her seat. An iridescent lizard slipped from her fingers to face us. To stare at Grayfast. Who stared back.

For once, the cat showed no interest in hunting a small animal. It was like they knew each other. – sE



180.

DD – The trip to Lewis' house for a better car had issues.

Issue 1. Turns out Lewis is the only kid from a suburb who never managed to catch a lizard and this left a special hole in his heart. Good thing traffic was stopped when he spotted the lizard because he went crazoid.

The lizard jumped to Lewis' seat, skittered across his shoulders, vanished down the door. Lewis actually laughed.

Owl Leader, dangerous cemetery, getaway driver, and now a lizard. I've never seen Lewis happier than on this mission. Which made me happy for him, except for the whispers in my head.

A whisper escaped. "Helping us puts you in danger, Lewis. Bigtime."

"I know." The lizard streaked across the dashboard. Lewis laughed again.

Which made me mad. "People have died."

Another first. Lewis looked me right in the eye. "Not a game." He started the car and grabbed the wheel at 10 and 2. Traffic was starting to move again.

Issue 2. I barfed. Lewis lives near my family home and I hadn't been there since the day I packed to go to the foster family. Those streets. Day after day then never again. Seeing them shot nails into my stomach.

It wasn't much barf because we'd skipped meals, but the smell brought Paul back from his drawing trance. No point stopping to clean up, though. Lewis' house was just blocks away.

Issue 3. We couldn't stop at Lewis' house. Cop car outside. Strangely familiar scene at the front door – housekeeper talking to two cops in uniform and one woman with shaggy hair like a '70s rock star. Whaaa? The woman was Barracuda, my social worker!

"That can't be a coincidence!" I quick–explained how Barracuda had come to the Trigg house, supposedly looking for Lourdes as a runaway.

"Nobody reported me for runaway," Lourdes said in a black voice.

The housekeeper had to recognize Lewis' car, but he was her darling since diaper days and she gave no sign to the cops as we slid past the house, around the corner, away.

"They'll watch that house, we can't go back there," Paul said. "What?"

We all stared. Those were his first words since we rescued him! His voice was rusty like he hadn't talked forever.

"Forgot you," Lewis said to the mirror.

"Didn't know you noticed – anything." Lourdes made a scribbling motion.

Paul studied his fingers like they were aliens.

Maximum awkward.

"Don't look," I said to grab attention. I removed the barf shirt without contaminating my head, wadded the shirt, threw it out the window. Me sitting in my green bra until Paul found me a cleanish t–shirt. That was no one I ever met before, the Ella who could do that.

Grayfast's snoozing purr made me braver. – sE



181.

DD – It was my idea to go to the Trigg house. For the books and to try to contact the mausoleum architect, Franklin, like Aunt Axi did in the secret room inside the secret library.

Our plan: watch the house today and tonight. If we see no hint of Alcatur supporters, we'll go inside tomorrow morning.

Lourdes was expert at spying from the scraggly woods. She had Lewis park near the accident site and I froze my mind to make it just a place to hide a car. Right about there, once when I was leaving fresh flowers, I first saw Grayfast.

As Lourdes led us through trees, Lewis said, "Enemies could be spying here, too."

The woods surrounded us, full of enemy hiding places. Lourdes doh–ed her forehead. "Fast walkers – slow thinkers."

Paul made us feel less dim. "Grayfast would have felt danger and stopped us from coming here."

"Oh – same with Scatterlegs," Lourdes said, cheerful again. She ducked between sagging branches. "This is where I slept."

Scatterlegs. Her lizard. He (she?) and Grayfast zipped up a tree, not friends, exactly, but each leading the other.

We dropped our backpacks in Lourdes' hideout and she showed us where to sneak to watch two sides of the Trigg house, the patio, and the street out front. It all seemed empty, ignored.

We sat around Lourdes' hideout and shared snacks. Sometimes cars whizzed by on the other side of the woods. By the accident site. Brakes screeched on a car that must have been too fast through the curve. I shoved my feet down so I wouldn't jerk around in the crash.

No crash. The tires skidded away. But my feet kept shoving. About to crash to crash to crash.

"Ella." Paul's voice unlocked my thoughts again.

Everyone stared at me. I pointed toward the road. "That's where my family died." Some memories escaped. "A truck coming the other way. Dad couldn't swerve enough. Cops found me in the dirt. I don't know how I got out."

I wasn’t the only one who deserved sympathy. Paul with those eyes that never smiled anymore. "Paul. Doesn't even know what happened to his parents."

"Which lets me still hope," he said with a look as good as a hug.

I don't know why I needed to be the anti–Pollyanna. "Alcatur killed Lourdes' sister and she watched it happen."

Lourdes turned so no one could see her face.

"My uncle," Paul said, like Alcatur was a mistake he could apologize for.

"So much. You've been through," Lewis said. He grew a super– serious face. "Me, too. On a single Sunday morning, my PlayStation AND my Xbox broke."

Total silence.

Lourdes sprayed chewed apple and laughed. Paul laughed next. Lewis turned the super–serious on me until I broke, too. Finally, he laughed at us laughing.

You never know who or how will save the day. – sE



182.

DD – All afternoon we took turns sneaking through the woods to check the Trigg house. One time Paul and I got back to an empty hideout. A chance to talk without the others! Except he lunged for paper and started a photo drawing. Another lumpy tower.

I wished I still had Aunt Axi's camera so I could show him the mausoleum carvings. No lumpy towers in the carvings, but he might recognize other scenes. I was starting to suspect it was all connected – the Everweer art that comes during obsession sessions. Must draw. Must rhyme. Must carve. Connected.

Sorry I thought about Aunt Axi's camera because that got me remembering. Alcatur chasing her through the cemetery.

She had to get away. She has to be okay, somewhere.

You hear about people facing their fears. I eject mine. I'm a spaceship and my fears cling outside my hull where there's no air. If I let them in they'll swallow me.

Seeing the Trigg house looking so empty, I realized one reason I brought us here. Hope that Aunt Axi somehow made it back here. But no sign of her.

Scatterlegs ran down a tree with Grayfast close behind. The cat stopped by me and the way he watched the lizard. He wanted to chase it. Would definitely catch it. But he resisted his hunter side and it was so hard for him – I could feel that. But he did it.

Lourdes and Lewis flopped on the ground facing Paul and me. They moved like they had been practicing together.

Scatterlegs ran into Lourdes' pocket and stayed there. Lourdes gave Grayfast a hmmm and said, "The house still seems deserted."

Lewis stood. "We can't be sure until we see the whole house. We can only see one side from here. But you three have to hide. They're looking for you. No one knows about me. I can go look at the other side." He handed me his car keys, "In case I'm wrong."

Lourdes sounded panicky. "Don't let him go. I told him – bad idea to split up."

Paul stopped drawing. "He's right, though."

We compromised and made Lewis take the car on his reconnaissance mission to the far side of the Trigg house.

Embarrassing that I could know Lewis for so long but be so surprised by him. He was brave as a hero and he figured out important stuff even though he had zero experience outside his living room.

He's been gone a long time. Paul is drawing again, Lourdes is watching for Lewis' car, and I'm hearing imaginary clocks tick. – sE



183.

DD – Guy–shaped protoplasm. That's how Lewis describes himself. Before this mission, his claim to fame was the day he rigged a swivel seat surrounded by controllers wands joysticks so he could win six games at one time.

He drove back right at sunset. By then, we were all at the edge of the woods by the turnout watching for him.

"Reconnaissance report, sir," Lewis saluted Grayfast.

You know how cats are, they make you look like an idiot even when you aren't being one. Grayfast flicked his tail. Lewis' blotchy cheeks turned pure pink. An embarrassed stuffed animal.

"What did you see?" Paul asked.

Lewis looked relieved. "On the far side of the house. Nothing different. Just as empty." We followed him to the hideout and flopped down when he did. "I went by twice. Got gas, too."

"Good thinking," Paul said.

"Thanks. Are you done drawing?"

"I never know," Paul said cheerfully. "It's a power I don't control. Maybe someday. Maybe never."

No one knew how to react.

Lourdes arranged backpacks like placemats and divided protein bars into servings. "Keep our voices right above whisper – that's when we're quietest."

Lewis tested a different voice level with every word. "What were you drawing?"

"I never know," Paul murmured. "For a long time I only drew that one cemetery. Over and over."

"And over," I added. It was easier to whisper than to talk a notch louder. "Do any of your drawings include the mausoleum carvings?" Maybe we didn't need Aunt Axi's camera.

"Maybe. I never look at my drawings." He pulled a thick stack of papers from the backpack and distributed them. We had about two minutes of weak sunset before it got too dark to see the pages.

Lewis held up a drawing with a lumpy tower. "Mono Lake! So cool there. Couldn't believe my parents took me."

"Mono – lake?" Paul sounded puzzled. He pointed at the bottom of a drawing. "Is that water?"

"I think so. I recognized the tufa," Lewis pointed to the lumpy tower. "Tufa is a formation. Rock formation? Limestone?"

Lourdes clowned around making confused expressions.

Lewis examined the drawing. "You have an amazing memory."

"I've never been there," Paul said. "Maybe we're supposed to go."

"Are these? Why you went to that cemetery?" Lewis waved a stack of mausoleum drawings.

"I think so," Paul's voice said.

It was now too dark to see faces.

Lourdes' voice said, "I take orders from a lizard – he obeys drawings. What could go wrong?"

Part of me wanted to joke about following Grayfast but the words stuck. I can't crack jokes with the group where he's concerned. – sE



184.

DD – It was a long weird night, eventually in a good way. It was so dark in the hideout that every time somebody talked, there'd be a rustle–uh! because the voice startled somebody else. Which made somebody laugh, a little. The dark was so thick it swallowed sounds and movements.

"At least there's no corn," I said toward Paul.

"I was just thinking that. Not." Lewis said.

"No Trigg will ever plant corn in our field," Paul vowed.

Scrape–rustles from Lourdes. She must have stood because her words came from above my head, "Time to check for lights in the house."

Scrape–rustles from Paul. He and Lourdes would do the walking through the woods tonight because they were the least clumsy. Most likely to move quietly. Sure enough, their footsteps made less sound than the breeze in the leaves.

After two pairs footsteps jogged away, Lewis asked without asking, "He's your boyfriend but you never touch each other."

"We can't. It opens a portal to our enemies."

Portal. Enemies. His wow filled the hideout. "How did you two acquire your magic powers?" I never expected Lewis to send such admiration my way.

"No idea. We seem to be discovering powers, not acquiring them."

His wow filled the galaxy. "Thank you! For sending Lourdes to my house."

Two pairs of feet jogged into the hideout. Lourdes whispered, "Paul and I could hear you over by the field."

Paul added, "Our voices really seem to carry so we all better stop talking."

We sat on dirt and dead leaves. Waiting for what. I touched my eyelids. Eyes still open. I pictured the Trigg house, windows black. If there was light in a secret room would it show? The two secret rooms I knew had skylights. Maybe those would glow.

My view got clearer. I was seeing through Grayfast's eyes.

… Leaves brushed my face, twitched my ears. The nest of the Other Ones was dark and its smells were old. I pressed my belly low and ran like a shadow. A line through the weeds, a circle around the nest. Stale. Quiet. Empty. No fear, baby birds …

Grayfast had figured out that we wanted to watch the house!

"Everybody get in the car! I can watch the house from there." Excitement cracked my whisper. The car would be less uncomfortable and we could talk if we kept the windows up.

For the rest of the night, Grayfast patrolled for us. I'd interrupt the conversation every once in a while, "Still dark and quiet at the house."

After a few reports, Lewis got frustrated. "I'm the only one. Wondering how you know that."

He was right. Paul and Lourdes knew some things about Grayfast, so at this point, keeping my connection with Grayfast secret basically meant excluding Lewis. I could at least raise Lewis to Paul's level of partial understanding. "Grayfast is checking the house and lets me know."

"Your cat."

"The cat, yes."

It was too dark to see expressions. Lewis' shoulders scrunched up. His silhouette head looked from Lourdes to Paul. His shoulders dropped.

"Okay," he replied. And repeated after each of Grayfast's reports, which continued until dawn. – sE



185.

DD – We stood at the edge of the woods. Across the field, the windows of the Trigg house were pink with sunrise.

"Should we go in?" Paul wondered.

"I need to try it but I can't decide for anybody else," I said.

"I'm good either way," Lourdes said in a no voice.

"Where you live. I want to see it," Lewis said. Which made me angry. Clueless Lewis. True, he doesn't have the background information. But couldn't he notice how nervous we were?

"Staring longer won't make it safer. Come on," Paul led us across the field. "I'll check inside first. Then I'll open the front door, invite you to enter, and cross the threshold in front of each of you. That should permit you to enter."

We stopped where the field met the driveway.

Paul handed me his backpack and held on to it after I took it. Our hug goodbye. "It'll take me several minutes to check inside."

He entered his house.

Grayfast and Scatterlegs stood beside us, Scatterlegs on Grayfast's back. Friends again, not hunter and prey. I wished they would go with Paul but I was relieved they stayed with us.

I pictured Paul checking from room to room. How many secret rooms did he know? How long would those take to check? He must have walked fast because I was surprised at how soon he opened the front door.

With a wave and a call, he invited us inside. Clueless ran up the porch steps and inside, right away. Lourdes and I didn't move. We didn't have to ask each other, did we remember. My head touching the house protections. My blood beret.

Sometimes you have to assume you'll be okay. We walked up the steps.

And I was. We were. It was.

Except.

Grayfast and Scatterlegs wouldn't follow. They stayed in the field. From the porch, Lourdes and I and made noises to lure Grayfast like he was some normal cat. He ignored us.

Scatterlegs disappeared into the weeds. The cat trotted away like he was following the lizard.

"They won't come in? Or can't?" Lourdes asked.

"I'm going to try to ask Grayfast," I said. Lourdes snorted like she got why I was uncertain. Then she nodded and went quiet, like I did. SUCH a relief to know another changeling.

I pushed into Grayfast's mind and felt only calm.

Lourdes shrugged, "I guess the house is okay for us."

We went inside and Paul showed us around. Lourdes and Lewis were all, no way you live here. Which reminded me how amazing the Trigg house is. But mostly being inside made me notice the giant hole left by Aunt Axi.

Sometimes you have to assume they'll be okay.

Paul continued the tour and I went to the secret library. – sE



186.

DD – Everweer books are annoying. Useless. No way to tell which ones could I read. It would take so long to check every book for readable words. I opened a few, saw words here and there. Nothing helpful.

I counted cases shelves books and flipped the latch to the secret room. The bookcase door slid aside with silly squeaks like mice were involved. I laughed, which made me notice how tense I was.

Of course I was tense. Aunt Axi had warned me it was dangerous. What I was about to do. Trying to contact Franklin, the mausoleum architect. Because he might know about the mausoleum carvings.

I stared at the wall where Franklin had appeared for Aunt Axi. To connect with him, I would open a connection to enemies. That I wouldn't know how to fight.

If I could even figure out how to connect. Did the connection require powers? I searched the room for levers or dials. Nothing. Not even a light switch. I couldn't find a motion sensor either, if that was why the ceiling lights glowed when I stepped inside the room.

"You'll get it Ella, you can do this," I gave myself a pep talk. Out loud. Words are more real than thoughts.

This was basically an empty room – not many hiding places. "Sure. You can do this." My pep talk turned sarcastic. I flopped in the chair where Aunt Axi had talked with Franklin. I smacked my hands on the arms. Frustration is my least favorite feeling.

My exhale sounded like a jet engine. I held my breath until I couldn't.

Oh. Aha. Back when I smacked the chair arms, one of them sounded hollow.

So Everweer. One chair arm slid to reveal a secret compartment. With buttons and dials.

I had done it. Found the screen controls. Now I was like a gif animation that repeats. Reach toward the controls, pull away. Toward. Away. Toward.

Away. Tupac. I was scared to push the buttons.

I stomped back to the secret library. An empty bookshelf gave me courage. It once held Galalena's journals, now stuffed in the trunk of Lewis' car. Galalena tried to figure out her role as a changeling by interviewing bad guys. She was super brave. So were the other changelings she met.

I wasn't alone. Doh.

I imagined slipping off a surfboard into the ocean. My changeling tingling started. I reached my mind out to Grayfast. He and Scatterlegs were keeping watch outside. He was still calm and stayed that way when I shared thoughts about contacting Franklin. If he understood me, he approved.

OK I could do this.

Soon.

I'm back in the library but the frustration is gone. I'm stalling but it's fine. I'm writing a list of questions so I don't forget to ask Franklin anything. That's my last excuse. – sE



187.

DD – A piece of paper made me feel much better.

In the secret room, inside the chair arm next to the screen's control buttons was a folded piece of paper with Aunt Axi's beautiful handwriting like every letter was art. She writes as fast as anybody but this comes out.

I touched the paper and memories filled me. Aunt Axi made me a dessert pizza. She giggled about reading Stephen King. She protected us in Chicago. She leaped from the burning van and ran from Alcatur.

She survived. The feeling was so strong. I had to believe it.

The paper said CHEAT SHEET. It showed the buttons and dials in the chair arm, with words and arrows saying what did what. Pushing buttons in different order created different codes. At the bottom were names with button codes. Franklin was the name I recognized.

The CHEAT SHEET was such an everyday thing it got less scary. What I was about to do. I pushed buttons. Open. Connect. Franklin.

The screen turned red and a deep voice grunted in pain. "Who?" Franklin gasped between grunts.

"Um." I searched the CHEAT SHEET for the disconnect code.

The red screen washed into brown and orange. I call it a screen but it was more like an opening. The room had been stuffy and now had a draft.

The brown and orange were leaves on dirt. Franklin, knees bent, carried a crate of dirt and grunted with each step. He dumped the dirt onto a compost pile, searched the "screen", found me.

"Brave and resourceful," he greeted me and I felt hope. He dropped the crate and his hair bounced. His dreadlocks were in pigtails. I stared and he touched them. "My granddaughter coiffed me."


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