“How many times do I have to say this to all of you? Don’t bring women here. It’s too risky. What if she bolts before numbnuts over here does his memory eraser..magic water..thing?”
“But Ethan, she’s not just some regular mortal, man. This could be her. The -”
“Don’t!” Ethan interrupted Rian. “We’re not putting that in anyone’s head until we know for sure and we talk to Corbin. Then there’s the whole other battle of convincing her we’re not psychotic.”
“What we should be doing is taking her to a hospital.” Cayden sat on the bed next to a still unconscious and battered Maeve, holding her hand and admonishing himself for not getting to her sooner. The other Knights were gathered around listening to Ethan rant.
“Absolutely not,” Quinn insisted. “We can’t chance being spotted at a hospital with some chick who just had the crap kicked out of her. We can take care of her. She’ll be fine,” he gave Cayden a reassuring pat on the back.
“Yes, absolutely,” Ethan agreed. “We wait till she’s awake and well enough. Keep her on this bus. Wipe out her memory, and then get her the hell home. You three took a big risk going after her unmasked. I’m still waiting for your dumbass faces to pop up on the news, and someone’s bound to file a missing person’s report for her -”
“Ethan, please,” Cayden shot up from the bed. “Re, come sit with her, bud.” Rian did as he was told with obvious worry on his face as he took the same hand Cayden was holding.
“Come look at this stuff,” Cayden urged Ethan to follow him to the kitchenette table where Maeve’s journal and backpack were set out to dry.
“Careful, a lot of the pages got soaked.”
“Don’t worry, Swayze. I’m not going to mess up Baby’s diary.”
“Just look at the book, please,” Cayden commanded impatiently, “Then we’ll talk.”
Ethan gingerly turned the pages, feigning interest at first, but then his face softened as he studied more of the leather-bound book. He looked questioningly at the young bassist once he reached the last few pages.
“She says she comes out of these trances, these out-of-body experiences as she calls them and doesn’t have a clue where the images she drew came from. But I know and you know what’s going on here, E. Whether she is or she isn’t the one, right now she’s our best hope. Unless you and Corbin want to keep entertaining the Mullis twins every time they bring their bimbos to the house.”
“Yeah,” Kyler interrupted, “She’s got a great voice, so she’ll easily fit as as backup singer, and you should have seen what she did to that scumbag’s face. She took a hell of a beating but she still packs a punch. We can train her.”
Moments of silence passed amongst the men before Ethan took a deep breath and massaged the wrinkled skin around his eyes.
“This is going to be a lot of work, gentlemen. She’s not one of us. Granted she’s not supposed to be, but this girl is so far removed from anything our people have been told.”
“That’s right. Let’s not forget we’re still people, E,” Cayden firmly declared.
“We’re gods, and she’s not, man,” Donovan interjected.
“We’re demigods,” Cayden sternly insisted. “That means at the end of the day we are no better or worse than anyone else. We had a lot to learn and we learned it. So will she.”
The Knights looked at each other before turning their eyes back to their manager. Ethan raised his hands in surrender.
“Alright, alright, I’ll see what Corbin has to say. But I’m telling you now, Romeo, if this backfires in any way it’s your ass not mine. Let me know when she wakes up.”
Ethan exited the bus and marched up the gravel driveway to the stone mansion they called home before the tour bus life started.
“Well, I guess we’re getting a visit from Corbin soon,” Quinn lobed a soda can into the trash. “Maybe we should clean up this place. It looks like a bunch of Gremlins took showers in here. Plus, why not spruce up the place for our new recruit, huh?”
“You’re the one that lives like a pig,” Donovan reminded his life long friend.
“I’m not the only one who lives here!”
“You guys go ahead. I’m going to sit with Maeve. I don’t want her to wake up and no one is there.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Quinn playfully punched Cayden’s shoulder. “We know you don’t want her waking up alone. Dude, at least wait until she’s conscious.”
“Go jerk off, Quinn,” Cayden glared at his bandmate.
“Nah, I’m good till bedtime.”
“Man, you are a damn disgrace,” Kyler threw a stack of old magazines at Quinn. “Help me clean up this hell hole on wheels. You too Rian.”
Donovan stopped Cayden before the oldest Knight reached the door to the back room, carrying cold compresses for Maeve’s bruised face.
“Yo, I know you have a lot of faith in this girl, and maybe she is the one we need. But don’t get yourself in too deep. Remember what my old man used to say to us. Look for the best in everybody but always be ready for the worst.”
“Maybe that’s not always the best motto to go by, Don.”
“We wouldn’t be in business if it wasn’t true.”
“Well, our business should be more about helping people protect themselves from the worst instead of us fighting their battles for them once the shit hits the fan.”
“Man, the older you get the less fun you get.”
“And the stronger you get, the dumber you get.” They teasingly punched each other.
“Go take care of the girl, ya asshole.”
“Think potential, my friend. Think potential.” Cayden smiled at the pessimistic drummer before disappearing into the bedroom.
“We’ll see, man. We’ll see.”
* * *
“Corbin, we might be heading into some uncharted territory,” Ethan took a long sip of his cognac. “But I guess after all this time, it will be nice to see ya settle down finally.”
“Well, old friend, as much as I wouldn’t mind opening a window to possible romance, that cannot be our main priority, of course.”
Corbin took a long, contemplative exhale after inhaling from his cigar. Smoke billowed over him like a ghost. The two gentlemen lounged in front of the fireplace in Corbin’s study, staring hypnotically at the flames, both taking in the finest liquor and trying to process the information Ethan shared.
“She’ll no doubt help the boys, especially Cayden. I worry about that boy every damn day. But what about the bigger picture? What if she fails, or worse, what if she becomes too powerful. Neither side will win.”
“Perhaps, just perhaps, it is a risk worth taking. I’ve known you for decades now, Ethan. There is no doubt in your mind that they found her. I’m afraid we can’t escape the acquaintance now,” chuckled Corbin.
“He found her in a mall, boss. Of all the places men have searched over the years – a friggin shopping mall in Jersey?”
“We’re still part of this world like every other living being, my friend. Every breathing force on this planet knows there is no predictability. If there was we wouldn’t need the Caydens, The Matteos..or the Maeves.”
“The boy is in love with her, you know?”
“I’m sure all five of those boys are in love,” Corbin laughed.
“No, I mean it. Cayden. He looks at her like he’s just seen his first real Delorean. He’s fighting against it, but I can tell he’s losing.”
“Cayden Donnelly comes from a long, powerful line of sensible, disciplined, and resilient men. He doesn’t know how to make the wrong choices..usually.”
Ethan and Corbin gave each other knowing looks before turning their eyes back to the fire for a short spell of silence.
“Well, I think it’s time I meet this young woman, eh? I’ll have Simon make some hot figwort tea to bring with us. That should fix her up in no time.” Corbin extinguished his cigar.
“Fair warning, those kids live like animals,” Ethan swigged the last of his drink. The two men rose from their leather clawfoot chairs.
“We were young once, Ethan.”
“Yeah right. Whatever happened to that whole idea of staying that way?”
“Perhaps the opportunity has arrived, my dear friend.”
* * *
The last time Maeve had a serious nightmare was after her brother, Sebastian, dragged her with him and his friends to see Aliens after school. They told their parents they saw Flight of the Navigator. For months, she dreamt of the queen alien landing in her backyard after Sigourney Weaver let the bitch fall from the space station. She’d wake up screaming when the dog got cocooned and morphed into one of those face hugger aliens that laid eggs in peoples’ stomachs. But for Maeve, what was once a traumatic event became a fond memory with her big brother.
Most of Maeve’s more current dreams were forgotten or downright random and bizarre. After being attacked and left unconscious for almost 48 hours, she dreamt of yellowish light and concrete walls closing in around her. She dreamt of the perp’s hands that felt as if they were covered in Crisco, and she smelled his cigarettes and sweat. Again, she felt the pain of being tackled, slapped, and thrown against cinderblock.
She ran hard and fast in the dreams but couldn’t get anywhere. At times she thought she might be dead, and if she was, how did she not get into heaven? She had to be in hell.
Suddenly there was a blade coming toward her face, one she couldn’t see until it was too late.
“Noooo!!” She shot up from a nest of pillows in a cold sweat, the sudden movement a painful reminder of how beaten up she was.
“Maeve! Oh, thank God.” Cayden had dozed off in the office chair he pushed next to the bed. Groggily, he moved to sit next to her.
“What…how?” She swung her fists in a disoriented flurry of fight or flight. Her eyes wouldn’t focus.
“Maeve, it’s okay,” he grabbed her wrists. “You’re safe now. It’s over.”
She caught her breath then recognized the face in front of her. Relief began to wash over her once she realized she wasn’t lying in a hospital bed or lying naked and beaten on the floor of a parking garage. Still, her head continued to spin.
“What…what the hell happened? How did I get..here?”
“You were attacked at the mall,” Cayden gently coaxed her to lie back down.”But you’re going to be fine. You’re on the bus. All the guys are here. Ezekiel’s here. Just relax,” he finished in a whisper as he softly stroked her bruised cheek with his fingers.
Her blurred vision dissipated and she took a deep breath though a fractured rib made that breath feel like a line drive to the torso. Cayden immediately draped a big ice pack wrapped in a towel over the side that pained her. He slightly lifted the bottom of her shirt so the coolness could touch her skin.
“Stop,” she slapped his hand away.
“I’m sorry,” he flinched. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I promise you’re safe now, okay? Remember, I’d never lie to you.”
She lie in silence for a bit, her gaze wandering from Cayden’s concerned eyes to her surroundings. Posters of cartoon characters, WWF wrestlers, swimsuit models, and rock stars lined the walls of the small room.
“Where are we?”
“It’s kind of a long story. Right now I just need you to rest. I’ll explain everything later.”
Maeve allowed him to take her hand after he placed a cool wet cloth on her throbbing head. He noticed her squinting, so he reached over to pull the curtain over the window – her hand still held securely in his.
“I feel like shit.”
“In my opinion, you definitely don’t look how you feel.”
“What happened to the creeps who attacked me?”
“They’re gone. You don’t have to worry about them anymore.” He brushed a lock of hair away from her face.
“Did he..? Did they…?” She couldn’t get the words out through her welling tears.
“No, we got there in time. They never had a chance,” he took both her hands in his. “And let’s just say it will be physically impossible for any of them to try it again.”
It took a moment for her to process that he, and at least a couple of his bandmates, had something to do with her rescue.
“But how did you..what were you doing at the mall? Especially in that garage? How was that possible at that exact moment? I don’t get it.”
“Seems to be a hell of a coincidence, huh?” Cayden gave her a soft smile.
“Have you actually been stalking me?” Even she wasn’t sure if she was joking or not.
“No, of course not. Like I said, I’ll explain everything when you’re feeling better, okay?”
“Well, why not begin with the basics now, son?” Corbin stood in the doorway holding a cast iron tea pot.
“Sir,” he jumped up from his position next to Maeve, “I didn’t think you’d be coming so soon.”
“Now what kind of host would I be if I stayed in my library all day and not introduced myself to this young lady here? Cayden, please grab me a mug from the kitchen.”
“Sure, no problem,” he looked down to give Maeve a reassuring smile before leaving the room.
She took in the striking presence before her – a tall, classically dashing man who looked to be somewhere in his forties wearing an all black suit. A broad chest and shoulders and wisps of salt and pepper hair completed his commanding but debonair look.
“Well, Maeve. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Welcome to our home, dear.”
“Home? Where?” She held the cold cloth so it wouldn’t fall over her eyes. “Who are you, and what do you want? In fact, can somebody please tell me what the hell is going on. How did you know where I was?” Cayden held the mug as Corbin poured the near-boiling cup of tea. Corbin held up his hand to pause the Knight before he could answer her.
“Oh, forgive us, Ms. Wicklow, please. My name is Corbin Byrne, and I am..shall we say one of the band’s managers. And right now we are outside of our manor – Fian’s Hallow.”
Reluctantly, Maeve sat up slightly and took the hot mug from Corbin’s noticeably scarred hands. The tea was unusual but fragrant, and she needed something warm and soothing. Every bit of her insides – bones, flesh, and all – seemed to ache.
“Okay, where exactly is Fian’s Hallow?” She took a slow sip and immediately felt a little more alive.
“Allow me to clarify. This is one of several Fian’s Hallows. This one happens to be in the beautiful Green Mountains.”
“Wait, do you mean Vermont? I’m in Vermont right now? How long have I been out? What day is it today? Okay, I’m out of questions for now. This is insane.” Panic rose in her voice and she took a longer sip of tea, welcoming the waves of pain relief.
“It’s Sunday morning, Maeve.” Cayden sat on the foot of the bed and gently massaged her leg over the blankets. “You’ve been out since Friday night.” Corbin watched the physical sign of affection and keyed in on the young man’s voice. Ethan was right, he thought. The boy has fallen.
“Why did you bring me here?”
“Cayden and the boys wanted to make sure you received the best care possible after such a traumatic event.”
“By taking me this far away from home?” She looked over at Cayden. “And you haven’t answered my question. How did you even know where I was and what was happening?”
Cayden anxiously looked over at Corbin who then motioned for Cayden to explain.
“I’m not..I mean, we’re not who you think we are.” Cayden rubbed the back of his neck.
“What are you talking about?”
With a bemused look on his face, Corbin waited for Cayden’s next move.
“Well, long story short..if that’s even possible,” he glanced at Corbin who gave him an approving nod. “We’re not just a band. We’re a Celtic brigade of demi-gods known as the Fianna, at least we’re descendants of warriors known as the Fianna. We all have..certain abilities and we use them to help people in danger or distress.” He decided to pause there to read her expression. She looked just as confused as when she first woke up. The rest of The Sleepless Knights made their way into the room.
“That’s..the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. What are you trying to pull here, guys?”
“It’s true, Maevey,” Quinn added. “Think about it. What reason would we have to make something like that up? We certainly don’t need the publicity.”
“I get it, kiddo,” Kyler interjected. “ I hardly believe it myself sometimes. But -” he leapt onto the ceiling and hung over her upside down with a big grin on his face. “You can’t deny what you see with your own eyes, right?” Stunned, Maeve covered her face with a blanket and sunk into the sea of pillows.
“Kyler, for the love of all the gods, get down! You’re frightening the poor girl!” Corbin scolded.
“Oh yeah, sorry. Too much too soon I guess?”
“No shit Sherlock,” answered Cayden.
“Okay, I am out of here. There is something very wrong with all of you and you need to be checked.” As painful as it was, Maeve crawled out of the bed as fast as she could and headed straight for the bedroom door. Rian, who was on the opposite side of the room, appeared in front of her in a flash.
“Not so fast, enchanted one. You are in no condition to be out of bed right now.” Rian’s lightening move made her stumble backward into Cayden. Once she felt his hands on her back, she turned and pushed him away.
“Don’t come near me! All of you. Get out of my way, Rian!” The youngest Knight looked to Corbin for approval which he received.
As fast as she could, she threw her journal and her other items back into her purple Jansport. Under Corbin’s command, none of the Knights made an attempt to stop her.
“…’Courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.’ Nelson Mandela.” Gus remained in his seat, facing the windshield.
“Go ahead and quote Ghandi next, Gus. I’m still out of here.”
Maeve zipped her bag closed and limped her way towards the door. Gus rose from the driver’s seat but as he turned to block her path, Gus morphed into Corbin right before her eyes. She froze, completely breathless, not convinced she made it out of that garage alive.
“My dear, there’s no where to go on foot. Please, you’re a rational young woman. Allow us to explain further.”
Corbin barely finished his plea when she hit the floor.