Author’s note: This story is a sequel to A naval investigator in the Ozark mountains. This takes place after Donny and Dad are arrested. They go to Maryland to stay with relatives (as stated in A naval investigator). Then this story happens, and then the storyline intersects with Lonely Souls and several months later (the slow wheels of justice) Gibbs encounters the two again, when Eileen is certain she is not long for the world. And then we intersect with Lonely souls again....tension!
Mary Beckforth was shivering. She was no longer a young woman and she no longer relished sitting out in the cold. But the bus had been late and she had to go to the store…And the winds and rain did not help. She opened the door to the quiet suburban home where she lived, alone since her youngest had left the nest. Her husband, dear Mike, rest his soul, had been dead near thirty years now.
The phone rang and she sighed, hurrying to pick it up. She’d kept up the old habit of having an extension in the hall, and now she was happy she had.
“Mrs. Mary Beckforth?”
“Yes? And if you’re selling something, I’m on a limited income.”
“I understand that Mrs. Beckfort. Mary, I’m Pippa… Philipa Johnson.”
Mary sat down on the chair by the phone. “Pippa? I-I thought you were dead…”
“No, I’m not. But I was on the run.”
“On the run? Who from?” Mary asked sharply.
“Meier… Senior.” Came the hesitant reply.
Mary froze. “What did he want you for?”
“Strapping healthy sons.” Philipa’s voice was bitter.
“Oh, you poor thing,” Mary commiserated. “Pippa, not that I’m not glad you’re alive and happy to talk to you, but why are you calling?”
“I need your help. I have three daughters and one of them…”
“Has magic? You can train your own daughters Pip!” Mary told her old friend sternly.
“Not the one who’s just broken through as a Mother,” Cecelia explained.
“A Mother? Are you sure?” Mary asked rather sharply.
“I’ve made contact with my sister, my deceased brother’s one night fling is here with her granddaughter and she’s adopted said granddaughter and another child, a boy.”
Mary smiled. “Well. That sounds fairly Motherish yes. A good strong talent.”
“Tell me about it,” Cecelia noted dryly. “Mary, we need you. And there is something you need to know… all of you.”
“W-what?” Mary felt the pain and reluctance in her old friend’s voice even through the phone.
“We’re in Sunnydale. And it turns out that Marilyn McGonagall and later her daughter Catherine were possessed.”
“Possessed? By who?”
“Our Lady of Darkness? Are you joking?” Mary’s voice was sharp in her disbelief.
“I wish I was. Mary, there’s a good chance your Eileen wasn’t completely herself. There are other victims here who she manipulated or charmed.”
“Oh God…Oh…Oh my poor girl…” Mary felt her heartbeat start to rise as her anger took hold.
“It’s too late now Mary, but the High Coven of Maryland will probably re-open Eileen’s case, to see what they can find.”
“What about Black?” Mary grated out.
“Imprisoned. Apparently in a safe and highly appropriate place.” Cecelia noted with some satisfaction.
“Who told you that?” Mary demanded to know.
“What? What the Hell is he doing in Sunnydale? Has he got any idea of the mess his move made around here? Lilith is breathing ice and lightning!” Mary voice was half amused and half angry.
“He’s moved in with my daughter and seems to be quite happy,” came the explanation.
Mary snorted. “Simon Meier? Happy? Goddess, your daughter must be something else!”
“Yes, yes she is…Mary? Will you help? Considering what Penelope did…”
“Pippa… Penelope did what she had to do. I fought by her side, we all did. And I may have cried for my daughter, but I fought against her.”
“Thank you,” came the heartfelt response
Mary settled herself. “Now, on to the important things. What are your girls like?”
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Mary Beckforth hung up the phone with satisfaction. An old friend returned, in good health and with three strong, magical daughters. And one of them a Mother of a different line. It made her happy to hear such news. It seemed that though the Beckforth line was played out, the Johnsons could take over. Janet showed no interest in that part of her heritage.
Mary rose a bit stiffly and took off her coat, finally, and her shoes, placing then under the coat rack. She went to the kitchen to make tea and sat on the couch to wait for the water to boil, smiling to herself. Pippa Johnson, alive and well and with daughters and granddaughters. Grand news, grand news, the coven would be amazed and overjoyed to have such a powerful witch back, even if is she wasn’t’ active, and from the hints Cecilia had dropped, it was more inactivity due to having nothing left to defeat than anything else.
The water boiled and the tea was made. And then the loneliness set in. No children ran through the house, no grandchildren either. Mary was alone in the house and her one remaining child lived far away, she only visited on holidays, if then.
It was a sad testament to the loss of her power, so drastically diminished since the War of the Five.
It had been so long since she last thought of Eileen, her heir. The Beckforth of her generation with the mother power. Her eldest daughter who might after all, not have been so evil, or misguided, as Mary had feared. She sipped her tea. Soon it would be time to call Janet and tell her that her sister might not have voluntarily stepped into the darkness. Considering Janet’s opinion of her sister, that might not go over well.
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Mary Beckforth sighed as she cleared away the last of the detritus of lunch. Only two people, where once the house had been filled with laughter and joy. Peter’s wife Nancy had had twins on the way. Peter, typical male that he was, had wanted her to stay out of the coven merge, but Nancy would’ve none of it. She wanted to fight, defend her unborn children. And now here sat the Matriarch of Beckforth, with a single, latent, angry child remaining and her power worn down to as near as nothing as could be imagined.
The week before she’d heard that Eileen might not have been as bad as they’d all feared and she’d told Janet, her last remaining child, her youngest. Janet, who always felt left out as a child as her power had never Awakened. Her poor, jealous, angry, Janet, who it seemed she never entirely recovered from her sister’s actions, or had forgiven Mary for spending so much more time training Peter and Eileen. And her anger and grief hadn’t been lessened by that idiot she married, who wanted her leave the Air Force when anyone could see she was happy there. If only she would take a posting at Andrews, like her father, so that Mary could see her more often. *Be honest at least to yourself, Mary. She wouldn’t come by more often. She would just think up different excuses.*
Mary sat down and started folding dirty napkins so more of them would fit into the bag. As long as the dry cleaners worked by bag rather than item, Mary would fold. It wasn’t as if she had anything else to do after all.
The doorbell rang and Mary rose. Walking stiffly to the door she hoped it wasn’t a salesman. She hated them these days. Not enough money and nothing interesting to buy, after all she already owned a vacuum cleaner and a food processor. She opened the door to reveal a young woman, no girl, in a black, severe dress and a white shirt. She stood about five feet two tall and had long flowing blond hair. Her large blue eyes opened very wide and she paled so much that Mary thought the girl would faint. Her lips were full and her nose strong and…Mary felt her power react. Here was a child in need of nurturing.
“How can I help you dear?” Mary asked kindly.
“I-I’m s-sorry t-to t-trouble you m-ma’am…b-but I’m l-looking for Mrs. M-Mary B-Beckforth?” The girl stammered.
“That would be me dear,” Mary replied, soothingly.
“I-I…my m-mother t-told me about you…” The girl haltingly began.
“Did she now dear?” Mary smiled, wondering who the girl’s mother might be. An old friend? An old neighbour?
“Y-Yes m-ma’am…she told me t-to g-go here a-after…b-but…” There were tears in the girl’s eyes now, as she tried to make her point, tried to speak faster, only tangling her tongue worse.
“Just spit it out dear, I won’t bite,” Mary gently sent out the small amount of power she had available, gentling the poor girl’s nerves.
With trembling hand the girl held out an old bronze triquetra on a leather cord.
Mary staggered back as if he’s been physically hit. “W-where did you get that? How?”
The girl flinched under the older woman’s accusing tone. “M-my m-momma g-gave it t-to m-me”
Mary stepped forward on shaking legs and held out her hand imperiously. The girl teared up and put the pendant in it, turning away.
“Heavens girl, not the bauble! Your hand! Give me your hand!” Mary demanded.
The girl turned round in shock and Mary grasped her hand in exasperation. She closed her eyes and let her power flow over the young girl, so uncertain, so frightened… her granddaughter. “Now I know who you are,” Mary said with wonder in her voice. “What’s your name, dear?”
“Tara,” The girl looked astonished at her ability to speak without stuttering.
“Tara. Very good. And your last name?” Mary coaxed.
“Maclay,” the girl said clearly.
“And where is your mother?” Mary got to the crux of the matter.
“At the motel. She-she doesn’t know I’m here…” Tara’s eyes grew very wide and she tried to tear herself loose. Mary raised an eyebrow and her small amount of telekinesis grasped the girl firmly.
“Good…that means we can go see her without her running away. How is she?” Mary asked briskly.
Tara started to tear up. “N-not very well…she says…her mind…”
Mary closed her eyes. “We’ll need a doctor then. I know just who to call. Come in girl.”
“B-but…” Tara protested.
“Do you believe in the inherent superiority of magic users over those who do not wield Power?” Mary asked, her blue eyes flinty.
“NO!!” The girl was honestly shocked.
Mary smiled. If Eileen had raised her daughter, her powerful daughter, to think this way, maybe there was hope for the mother as well as for the daughter. “Then stop your waffling and get in here! I need to call your Aunt Janet and hope she’s not flown out yet, come on, chop-chop!”
“Flown out? She’s a wand wa…focus user?” Tara blushed at her slip even as she scurried inside.
Mary suppressed her grin. Apparently Mary had transferred some of the family
prejudices… “No dear, by plane. She works in Texas. Come on! In you get!”
Mary dragged the girl into the sitting room and plumped her down on the couch. She sat herself and grabbed the phone, dialling quickly, thanking the newfangled mobile Janet had gotten.“Janet? This is your mother.”
“Yes mother, I heard.” Janet’s voice was dry. “I’m flying out in an hour mother. And we already said goodbye…”
Mary winced. Janet really was like a cold shower on her happy mood.“Yes, I know… Janet, I need you to come back here,” Mary took a deep breath. “Eileen needs medical attention.”
“Mother!” Janet growled. “I can’t just call my commanding officer and tell him one of your friends has an ingrown toe nail! Tell her to go see her own doctor!”
Mary rolled her eyes. “Not Eileen McPherson from next door! Our Eileen.”
There was a startled gulp from Janet. “E-Eileen? Are you s-sure?”
“I’ve got her daughter sitting next to me. A very pretty young lady called Tara…”
“Tara Janet Maire MaClay,” Tara supplied wide-eyed.
There was a cough from Janet. “Did she say Tara Janet?”
“Maire MaClay, yes,” Mary said with some amusement and a wink at her blushing granddaughter.
Janet sighed in defeat. “Tara…Where’s she staying?”
Mary turned to her stunned granddaughter. “Tara, what’s the name of the motel?”
“A-Andrews Inn, room 114,” Tara replied.
“Andrews Inn, 114. Janet, isn’t that that awful dive?” Mary asked, suddenly even more worried.
“Yes,” Janet answered, her voice disdainful. “Yes it is. I-I’ll go there now. Tara, can you tell me… Is it bad?”
Mary looked at Tara again. “The impression I get, yes. Very.”
Tara gulped and nodded.
Janet hung up. Mary sighed and put the horn in the cradle. She looked her newest granddaughter up and down. “Do you always dress like this, dear?”
Tara blushed. “N-No…but mom said you were always strict…”
Mary grinned. “Yes, but ‘dress below the knee’ doesn’t mean you have to dress like a nun dear. Unless you want to become one?”
Tara blushed, shaking her head. “No!”
Mary laughed. “Ah well, probably just as wise, with our powers. Well, we’ll drive. I don’t like driving anymore. But needs must. Can you drive Tara?”
“N-no ma’am, I’m not old enough,” Tara answered.
Mary hid another grin behind a stern look. “Please stop with the Ma’am, Tara. I’m your grandmother, not the queen of England.”
Tara smiled a little. “Yes…grandmother?” she tried the formal address.
“Gran will do,” Mary decided. “Now, let’s get to your mother.”
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Janet Fraiser, neé Beckforth swore as she drove the borrowed car off Andrews Air Force base. So much for getting home from this leave early, and so much for her peace of mind. Just when she thought she’d left magic behind her, that she’d entered the world of science and normality, just then her stupid sibling-killing mass-murdering evil sister had to show up. And maybe not be a stupid, mass-murdering, sibling-killing, evil sister. Or at least not voluntarily. Well except for the sister part…
Hah! Like Janet would believe that! Mother had always liked Eileen best. Just because Eileen could access her magic. God, how Janet hated
And of all places, the Andrews Inn! If it got out her
sister had been staying there
! Janet gritted her teeth. Stupid bitch! Her reputation, her career, might be destroyed forever! She’d fought long and hard for her position in the Air Force, for the respect she’d earned. And the stupid, conniving murderous bitch shows up and her mother expected her to let everything drop.
She accelerated. She honestly didn’t care if she got a ticket, or in trouble. It was time to have it out with the bitch-witch once and for all.
She drew the car up next to the disreputable three story motel in the badly maintained parking lot. She grabbed her bag, got out and locked the car. A huge laundry bin stood outside the back door of the hotel. Well they needed it; hardly any of the rooms were rented out for longer than a half hour after all. Janet strode past the desk and glared at the man in the dirty vest who stood behind it, his matted hair and dirty, unkempt five day beard did not make him any prettier. And he stank.
“Hello sweet cheeks! Someone paying extra for the uniform?” The man leered and Janet reached out and grabbed his nose. She was not in the mood to be insulted by brainless morons. Not that she ever was, but now she was willing to act out her anger.
“Look, I’ve had a bad night, so you’ve got ten seconds to apologize. And you’re very lucky I don’t call the cops. Understand?”
“Yes…AH…let go of by dose, bitch!” the man called out.
Janet twisted a little more. All that medical training had to be good for something. ”Not a wise thing to say, sleazebag. Now, I’m waiting for that apology?”
“I’m sorry Ma’am! It won’t happen again!” the man squeaked.
“Good. Good evening!” Janet strode on, up the stairs counting room numbers until she reached 114, room fourteen on the ground floor. She knocked. There was no answer. She knocked again. No answer. She tried the door and was amazed to find it opened. A little. Something was in front of it. She pushed and heard a groan.
Janet reached through the small gap and felt a body. Warm… alive. The door to number 115 opened and Janet went up to it, barged past the surprised and highly embarrassed looking airman in uniform and the young woman with him and glared. “You’re very lucky I’m here on a medical emergency. You’re a disgrace to the uniform!”
Janet walked past the two as both of them answered and then looked in astonishment at the other.
“Well, yes. I suggest you two wild kids go somewhere else. I need your balcony.” She opened the balcony door and quickly climbed over the rail that separated it from 114. The door there was cracked open and Janet managed to unhook and open it. A small room, two beds, all quite clean. And a woman pale, dark hair spread out on the floor, lying in front of the door. Janet’s training and calling kicked in. She was through the door in seconds and beside the woman.
There was blood on her face, from her mouth, eyes, ears and nose, bright red blood. She was older, heavier, her face worn by grief and care. But it was her. Eileen.
“Stupid bitch, got yourself a man who beat you up did you? Is this the reason why you sent your daughter away?” Janet turned her sister fully on her back and examined her. Jeans. Shirt. Sweater. Sensible flat shoes. Not the outfit of streetwalker. Janet frowned.
“Tara…must save Tara…hurts…” Eileen murmured.
Janet blinked. “What hurts Eileen?”
“Man…car…wanted to hurt my Tara…stop…hurts…” Eileen whispered.
Janet’s eyes widened. “Holy Mother Mary.” She whispered. She took a medical flashlight from her bag and turned it on Eileen’s eyes. The pupils did not respond. A quick look showed that her eardrums were burst.
Janet quickly called 911. And then her mother.
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Tara sat huddled in the chair in the Andrews Air Force base hospital emergency room, crying. Mary sat beside her, holding her close.
“It’s my fault…It’s my fault…”
Mary found it really hard to comfort the young woman. It really was her fault in a way… Travelling from the Inn to her grandmother’s house by hitchhiking, of all the benighted ideas! It had taken most of Eileen’s strength in her weakened state to keep her daughter safe from the man who’d taken her there. An actual exertion of her Mother Power on the active level. If Eileen were not currently lying in a near coma, it would be a fact of great pride for Mary.
But now she had a distraught granddaughter to care for, a granddaughter who knew very little about the real world, almost an innocent. It was Eileen’s fault too, for not contacting her earlier, telling her about Tara. As if Mary would have blamed young Tara for her mother’s crimes.
“I killed my momma…” Tara sobbed.
Janet Fraiser left the intensive care ward with a heavy heart. She wasn’t sure that she really minded that her sister was dying. She hadn’t seen the woman for decades and they had more arguments than anything else before Eileen left home.
But out there was her niece, a girl who knew nothing about the world outside her small Ozark community, did not know about rapists or prostitutes except by name, barely knew the value of money, and was…well…sweet.
And whose life and innocence had been saved by her evil, murdering brother-killing sister.
“Tara?” Janet spoke gently.
“Yes?” Tara asked tearily.
“I’m afraid it’s very bad. Your momma, she badly overtaxed her brain, her power. There is bleeding and I’m afraid she won’t make it honey,” Janet spoke as kindly as she could.
Tara broke down; there was no other term for it. She collapsed in on herself and sobs tore through her.
Janet sighed and put an arm around her niece. “We’ll do our best Tara, but I’m afraid even if she recovers consciousness she never will be able to walk or talk again.”
Mary rose and walked purposefully to the phone on the wall. She dug out a battered notebook and dialled a number. If what Cecilia had told her was true, and she saw no reason to doubt her, there might be a way for Eileen to live long enough that her daughter at least need not bear the guilt of her death.
“Danielle Moritz,” spoke the voice on the other end.
“Danielle? It is
you…so it is true…Danni, its Mary Beckforth. And I need the biggest favour ever…” End note: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Tara Maclay belong to Joss Whedon Stargate SG1 and Janet Fraiser belong to Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner, originally based upon the Stargate movie. No infringements of their rights is intended.