Cubicles, Blood, and Magic – Chapter 8: Into the Labyrinth

Soon we’ll reach Chapter 10, and after that chapter is posted we’ll move on to something new. Most of what is posted on Tuesdays will continue to be excerpts, but as various short stories and novels finally get published (and  print editions are released), the opportunity to share something in its entirety as a PDF will likely arise. Will let you all know if it does.

At the end of Chapter 7, Louie flung a ball of magical lightning at Dorelai. We now continue with Chapter 8 of Cubicles, Blood, and Magic. If you missed the earlier chapters, click here.  (PG-13 rating)

Cubicles, Blood, and Magic: Dorelai Chronicles, Book One

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Copyright © 2012 by L. M. May

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Chapter 8:

Into the Labyrinth

Instinctively I caught the lightning ball between my hands as I sat in Louie’s office, and it burst through my fingers into buzzing streaks around my arms, shoulders, and face. There was no pain, though I expected to be in agony once the nerve signals reached my brain.

But when I opened my moist palms to inspect them, to my astonishment I didn’t have burns on them or any other sign of damage.

I leapt up from my chair. “You sonofabitch!” I said as I circled around his desk. “I’m not your lab rat!”

Louie circled around the other side so that his desk stayed between us.

“How dare you do that without asking me first!”

“Surprise was of the essence, Ms. Trelton. Now go sit back down, because I’d much rather not hurt you if you get close enough to attack.”

The danger of me going after Louie like this came to me. He meant what he was saying. There was no fear in him in the way he’d moved away from me. More like buying time until I calmed down.

I’d been in fights with my older brothers while growing up—and as the youngest, I’d learned the hard way to pick my battles carefully. Louie held himself like someone who’d had years of martial arts training. He’d be more likely to hurt me, than me hurt him.

So I went to my chair and sat back down, folding my arms.

Louie strode back to his own chair, straightened his tie, shot his cuffs, and sat back down as well. He placed his hands on the desk before him. “Right. I apologize for the underhandedness of what I did, Ms. Trelton, but if I’d told you what was going to happen, it would have ruined the test completely.”

“You might have hurt me.”

“If I had thought there was a risk of doing so, I wouldn’t have done it. Now, if instead I’d used magic to drop a brick on your head, that would have hurt you.” He steepled his fingers again as he pondered something, then said, “I’d be willing to wager you’ve been seeing faint shadows of ‘invisible’ things since birth; magic that was supposed to be hidden from view or only visible to other magic wielders. If so, you learned how to mentally block those shadows from your conscious mind—a necessary defense, since otherwise you would have been institutionalized by your family.”

A jumbled memory flashed through my mind of being bodily hauled away by Mother and Father as I screamed and kicked and arched my back to try to free myself to go after a faint golden glow to touch it.

“Louie … I was notorious in my family for being a ‘runner’ as a young child. My parents got tired of chasing me through the streets of New York City, so for a few years they used a modified dog leash around my waist for all outings to the city. I can’t remember much of anything of what I saw, except once I was chasing after something with a Magi-like glow.”

A flicker of pity crossed his face. “The Magi patrol New York City in large numbers due to it being a favorite hiding place for rogue magic wielders. You got trained to stop seeing things. That sort of mental block can be overwhelmed by an overdose of nightmare dust since the attack done to the conscious mind is so severe. Though in your case, it was both the breakage of a mental block and a physical transformation at the same time.”

What am I?”

He rubbed at his temples as if his headache of yesterday had returned.

I folded my hands on my lap to wait.

Then it hit me. Dorelai, you idiot, he’s stalling for time. “Spit out what you’re willing to tell me now, Louie, and skip any lies you were planning to say to make me think you’d told me everything.”

Instead of being offended, Louie grinned at me. “I can see that working with you is going to be both a pleasure and a pain, Trelton. My tests have already told you what you need to know right now about your abilities, but I will tell you one other thing: you have no magical aura of any sort. You look like a typical human.”

Louie’s roundabout answer annoyed me, but I was certain it was all I’d get out of him this time. I thought about all the tests Louie had put me through. I have a unique ability to see all magic, even that which is supposed to be hidden … and a certain amount of invulnerability to magical substances, barriers, and attacks. “I’d make a good Magus if I joined Zaliel’s Magi, wouldn’t I?”

No, even though your abilities would be priceless for hunting down rogues. You would see everything, instead of only what Zaliel wanted you to see. Also, you’re too curious and too independent. You’d find the tactics of the Magi appalling.”

Peter.” My breath came out in a hiss.

Quite.” From the way Louie scowled, he loathed Peter as much as Eli did. “Stay away from that git as best you can. I know it will be difficult, since you are a friend of Rabbi Eli’s, and Peter is his sworn enemy.”

The steel door into the service corridor opened, but no one was there.

Louie gazed unseeing at the grey corridor as if he heard something I couldn’t. “Our conversation is over. For now. It’s time for you to go find Sariel. It’s waiting for you.”

“Sariel?”

He gave a trace of a smile, but there was a haunted look in his eyes. “My boss. All those who work for me must meet Sariel.”

Uneasily I recollected Eli’s mention of the journey he’d made into the depths of Knossos.

Louie checked his watch. “If you start now into the labyrinth, you ought to be back before sunset. I’m having afternoon tea with the mayor, so I’ll wait to eat supper until you return to join me. You will have to leave your purse and cell phone here.” He pushed away from his desk and walked over to stand next to the steel door.

The service corridor looked greyer and dingier than ever.

I looked down at my feet. Good thing I was wearing business loafers, not high heels. But I would have preferred sneakers.

So I got up from my chair and came to stand before the open doorway, not liking the rattling noise of machinery in the distance. Sounded almost like someone choking to death.

And this time the hooves were coming closer.

“The service corridors will take you to Sariel,” he said. “Just follow the sound of the hooves into the labyrinth.”

I felt something soft tucked into my hand. I looked down at it—a long strip of black velvet. It was the sort of thing a magician might wear to do a trick. “What’s this?”

“A blindfold. You’ll need to wear it to find your way through the labyrinth. And to preserve your sanity. Don’t take it off until Sariel tells you to do so.”

My heart was beating fast and my hands were shaking, but I went ahead and stepped out into the service corridor anyway.

There was nothing to be seen in either direction that was unusual. Grey walls, grey concrete floors, a few steel doors. But I could hear the hooves walking around somewhere down the right corridor.

I closed my eyes and tied the blindfold around my head, making sure the knot was tight.

The sound of the hooves sharpened. Touching my right fingers to the corridor wall, I began to walk in the direction of the hooves, letting my fingers trail against the bumpiness of the pits in the concrete.

Louie said not a word, but I could tell that the door was still open and that he was watching me wander down the corridor. I didn’t hear the door close behind me until I reached an intersection of corridors, and passed out of view by turning left toward the hooves.

*

My fear became dulled by the monotony of wandering the seemingly endless maze of service corridors blindfolded, taking careful steps in case there was a sudden hole I could fall down or an obstacle I’d trip over, using the fingers of my right or left hand to feel the walls.

The texture of the walls didn’t change, except when I would feel a closed steel door I was passing. And at times I had to pass through an opened door. But surely Knossos’ corridors didn’t go on for miles underneath downtown Mather. So perhaps I was being led in circles as part of an initiation ritual Sariel liked.

The hooves got neither closer nor farther away, instead maintaining a steady distance before me. Their sound helped me choose which way to go at each intersection of corridors, but then finally my journey changed: the corridor I was in let out into a larger space.

I paused, listening. From the acoustics, I suspected I’d reached a hub where many different corridors met.

I dug into my pocket and found a penny. I regretted having to leave my purse back in Louie’s office since I could have used lip balm to make marks I could feel and smell at intersections during the journey.

Squatting down beside the right wall of the corridor I was about to exit, I put the penny up against the wall on the ground. For all I knew, whatever created the hoof noises would get rid of it, but maybe not. At least I’d have a shot at finding the correct corridor again that headed back to Knossos.

The hooves had gone down another corridor, for I could hear whatever it was walking away from me and the hub. I felt around the right edge outside of my corridor’s wall. Curved brick instead of straight concrete was what was there. So the hub was circular.

I sidled out of my corridor to the right, facing the curved brick wall, and edged along sideways as if I’d climbed out onto a building’s ledge. And within a few steps I was glad I had been so cautious, for from the center of the chamber came a gust of air from below.

That stopped me. The gust had smelled like that from an underground cavern. And when I listened hard, the far away echo of a drip could be heard coming from the center as well.

There was a deep drop somewhere in the center of the chamber.

Spreading out my hands as far as they could reach on the brick, I began to inch onward. But all too soon my left hand reached the end of the wall. I had a corridor gap to cross.

I listened, but there was no sound of hooves from this corridor’s depths. The air from it smelled like that of a root cellar.

Even stretched out, I couldn’t touch the other side of the corridor opening, so I turned to kneel down, and crawled across the gap, making sure with my hands that there was no surprise drop in front of me.

When I reached the brick again, I had to take a few seconds to stop and just cling to it for reassurance. I’d been so afraid the corridor gap would prove to be too big to stay oriented, and that I’d get confused and move toward the center by accident.

From that point forward, I stuck to crawling so that I could check the ground in front of me for holes, and moved as quickly as I dared to catch up with my guide.

I was covered in nervous sweat by the time I found the corridor that my guide had gone down.

The air out of it smelled like a tomb. Rough sandstone hewn into blocks lined the corridor’s walls and floor from the feel of it. I stood, and touching the right wall, made my way forward.

I’d only walked for a few minutes when I realized the corridor was getting smaller—I could now touch both walls if I stood in the middle and held out my hands. But I kept to my walking pace alongside the right wall so that I could check what was before me.

The sound of hooves faded away from ahead.

I walked onward as quickly as I dared, my own breathing loud in the silence, and soon the corridor was so low I had to stoop over to keep going, and the way so narrow I had to crook my elbows to my sides so that I could run my hands along both sandstone walls as I walked forward.

To my relief, the corridor got no smaller, but the walls were getting rougher, the edges of the blocks less smooth.

My next step resulted in the scritch of sand on sandstone. There was loose sand on the stones under my foot. And with each successive step, the sand underneath got thicker until I could no longer feel stone under my feet. I was walking on loose sand like that found on a beach.

Then the walls ended at the edge of a large open space. The air from it was stale and cool, like that of an underground stone chamber.

“You may take off your blindfold, Dorelai Judith Trelton,” someone said. I could not tell if the voice was male or female.

I untied the knot, lowered the cloth, and opened my eyes while I pocketed the blindfold. Darkness surrounded me, lit only by a spherical blue luminescence floating before me.

“I shall light the torches for you,” the voice said.

Three torches bolted into the stone walls sparked to life, two to the sides and one behind me; the golden light from the torches had a firework-like glitter that reminded me of the golden sparks in Knossos’ and Louie’s auras. It made the golden light of Zaliel and the Magi seem drab by comparison.

I discovered I was within a stark chamber with a sand floor, like that of a stripped tomb. The crystalline sphere before me lay on the lap of a grey statue sitting on a throne. The human-like statue was leaning forward, his or her stone hands on either side of the sphere to hold it in place, intently staring into its depths. It wore loose robes of no historical era I recognized.

The edges of the statue were crumbling into dust, so that there was a raggedness to the statue’s hands and arms and robes. And the facial features were all gone, worn away.

I glanced behind me, and found there were two stone statues of minotaurs that flanked the entrance back into the corridor I’d come from. These had not begun to crumble as the human statue had. And deep from the corridor’s depths I could hear hooves on stone—either my guide had gotten back through without passing me by, or there was more than one guide in the corridors. Likely the latter.

“Are you Sariel?”

“Yes.”

I swallowed. My throat felt too dry. “Louie sent me to find you.”

“Percival Louis Sahir McDonough. I know him.”

Hmm, Louie had quite a mouthful for a name.

The sphere under Sariel’s fingertips flared brighter. To me it seemed as if the hollow crystal sphere was filled with whirling clouds of the antidote for nightmare dust. Or millions of blue stars. Sariel said, “Louis chooses to serve me, as do others. Why are you here?”

The whirling patterns of stars drew me toward the sphere. “Because I was sent by Louie. I had no choice but to come.”

“No, you had a choice.”

I was so close now that I could see that it was stars, not antidote specks, that I was looking at in the sphere. And the stars were changing, so that yellow and red stars were appearing within view as well as blues. No wonder Sariel was engrossed by the sight. “So Louie lied to me about my options?”

“No. He merely emphasized the choice with the greatest chance of survival. He wants you to choose to serve me. But you can turn around and leave if you so wish. You can try to kill Louis, so that he is forced to give you a quick death; or walk through the labyrinth without a blindfold, so that you go insane; or have the Magi take you to Zaliel to be consumed; or commit suicide; or try to kill Zaliel before it discovers what you are; or flee Mather to hide from the Magi and sorcerers who will hunt for you; or barricade yourself in your apartment until someone forces their way in.”

“I’d soon be dead if I chose any of those.” The spinning of the stars was making me dizzy.

“But they are still choices you could make.”

“I don’t want to die!”

“You are going to die, human. It is only a question of when and how. Spare me your whines about it.”

I looked at the crumbling stone face. “Are you immortal?”

“I shall die. There were seven of us when we first woke, but in these days only three remain: Gadreel, Azazel, and myself.” Within the depths of the sphere, stars went supernovae or winked out. “Louis tells me you have seen the eyes of Zaliel. Gadreel shaped its daimons in its own image, and Zaliel is but one of many daimons that Gadreel has wrought.”

If Zaliel was an example of what Gadreel was like, I wanted nothing to do with either of them. Perhaps Azazel might be another choice I could consider. “Is Azazel anything like you?”

The ground trembled under my feet. Dust spilled from the cracks between the sandstone blocks to fill the air, and I coughed.

“Azazel fell,” Sariel said. “To punish Gadreel by the torment and destruction of its daimons and Magi has become his obsession. He is the maker of fiends like Bebon and Mara.”

So, Azazel was even nastier than Gadreel. And had somehow gotten a gender. “How old are you?”

“Over six thousand years have passed.”

I took a moment to think about this. “Did the others die of old age?”

“All four died in our wars over what to do about humans.”

My breath came out in a whoosh.

“Humanity was never worth it,” Sariel said. “Better we had abandoned you all to destroy yourselves, and left Earth. But Gadreel and Penemue would not hear of it—they thought humans could be civilized to use magic and knowledge responsibly. They were wrong. You are a murderous bloodthirsty mindless greedy species, worse than locusts or any other living creature you sneer at. Gadreel burdens itself with the affairs of your species, to its detriment. And Azazel has become corrupted beyond redemption.”

Within the sphere, the stars continued to spin and die. Sariel’s words made me feel cold both inside and out. And yet—”Then why are you still here on Earth?”

“Louis woke me. Azazel had escaped the bindings upon him, and had gone into hiding to gather his strength. Soon now Azazel will move against Gadreel … and Gadreel shall need me. There is a chance that Gadreel can be reclaimed. We will either leave this planet, or sleep within our memories until death claims us.”

The lights in the sphere all winked out, and Sariel seemed to have become engrossed in staring at the emptiness.

All of my choices sucked as far as I was concerned. But perhaps if I stayed alive I could someday find a way to escape all of this. So I said, “I’ve made my choice. I’m going to work for you and Louie.”

“Then put your hands on the sphere.”

I did so, shocked at the coldness of its smooth surface. My hands felt frozen to it, and when I tried to lift them away, I found they truly were stuck.

Sariel said, “Do not fight it. Let the sphere bring you in.”

The sphere’s surface gave under my hands, sucking them inside into an empty space in which I couldn’t feel anything. Then something yanked, hard, on my wrists, pulling the rest of me into the sphere.

*

I awoke from unconsciousness. I felt nothing—no heartbeat in my chest, no breathing, no air on my skin. I floated in a void dotted with moon-sized spheres of prismatic light. Staying here was dangerous. It could trigger hallucinations and even madness if I didn’t escape.

Remember this place, Sariel said in my head. You shall see it again.

The void cracked before me, and I was sucked through into a Caribbean blue sea. Oddly, I could breathe underwater, and swam around like a fish. Upon the surface of the water above, I could see the reflection of a face.

I surfaced, to find myself standing on the sands of Sariel’s chamber. But O’Keefe, much older than the human glamour I’d seen when I’d squinted at him as he drove, stood before the statue. He could not see me. There was thick grey stubble on his cheeks, and his eyes were bloodshot. He weaved on his feet, stinking of beer and cigarettes, his grey hair greasy and lank. His trench coat was filthy, as if he’d been crawling through a sewer to get to Sariel.

“Penance,” O’Keefe said. “That’s all I ask of ya. Turn me into something disgusting so I can bear to look at myself in the mirror.”

“I do not see the point,” Sariel said. “Most humans will be unable to see the transformation. Gadreel will insist that a glamour hide your strange form from view.”

I don’t care. I’ll know, and that’s enough.” He lurched to his knees, weeping. “For the love of God, change me or kill me, just don’t leave me like this.”

“As you wish.”

O’Keefe screamed as his skull began to elongate, the skin around his mouth splitting—

That is enough, Sariel said.

—I was back floating in the warm blue sea within the sphere.

Remember what you have seen, Sariel said, but you will speak of it to no one. I have shown you a transformation. Aidrian Brian O’Keefe has feelings of guilt that will make it nigh impossible for him to refuse to answer your questions or to help you.

An undersea current grabbed hold of me, and hauled me toward the curved surface of the sphere despite my efforts to swim away, and I was tossed out in a gush of water onto the sands.

Sopping wet, I pushed myself up and onto my knees, then tottered to my feet. I would have gladly spent more time swimming in that inner sea of the sphere.

“If I had let you stay within longer, leaving would have become that much more unbearable to you,” Sariel said. “Humans find it addictive.”

I brushed at the sand that clung to my sides and knees. But I was so wet that most of the sand just moved around, sticking to my pants and blouse, instead of falling off. “What now?”

“You go back. Do not return unless I give you permission to do so.”

“Must I use a blindfold?”

“Only if you wish to remain sane,” Sariel said. The torches dimmed.

Soon I would be back in the dark with only the sphere’s luminescence for light.

I dug around in my pocket, half-afraid I’d lost the blindfold while in the sphere, but my fingers closed on the fabric and I pulled it out.

The torch lights were down to embers.

Wrapping the cloth around my eyes, I tied it in place.

The hooves ran toward me, echoing off the corridor walls, until something stood before me and made a snorting breath. I thought I could smell sweaty fur. When I reached out a hand, I only found air to pass through my fingers.

“Lead on,” I whispered.

My guide gave a soft snort, and walked before me, leading me through the dark back the way I’d come.

*

My journey blindfolded back to Knossos was no easier to bear, for I was taken a different way than I’d gone. So I had to move as I had before, carefully feeling my way forward along a wall to make sure I didn’t fall to my death.

I became convinced there was something odd about these corridors, about how the walls felt, something not real (as I’d thought they were on the journey in), as if my brain were making patterns I could understand because the reality was beyond my senses.

The hooves varied in coming closer to check on me or running on ahead.

My clothes dried slowly as the cool air wicked the moisture away. By the time I reached the oh-so-welcome faint racket of machinery in the Knossos service corridors, I was dry. I felt drained, my skin cold, my legs quivery, my feet hurting in my loafers. And I was hungry and thirsty.

The sound of hooves faded away like a radio being turned down.

In the distance before me, I heard a steel door open, banging into a corridor wall.

“Trelton!” O’Keefe’s voice, faint. “Goddamn it, where are ya!”

I reached up and yanked down the blindfold to hang from my neck, and blinked under the fluorescent lights. The corridor before me was empty, but there was an intersection up ahead. My mouth was so dry I could only get out a faint squawk.

“She’ll return when Sariel is done,” Louie said, “and not a second before then.”

Their voices were coming from around a corner of the intersection. And there was the sound of footsteps approaching. I tried to walk faster toward them, but my legs weren’t cooperating very well.

“It’s like giving a mouse to a cat,” O’Keefe said. “One of these days Sariel’s gonna surprise us with mouse sashimi.” More footsteps, getting louder. “I hate this goddamn maze.”

Quiet,” Louie said. “I hear footsteps.”

They stopped walking, but I continued.

Louie said, “It’s her. Same sound she made with her shoes on the concrete when she left.” They sped up, and turned the corner within seconds.

O’Keefe broke out in a run toward me, saying, “Trelton? Are ya okay?” while Louie kept to a fast walk. O’Keefe had changed into a dark navy suit, but Louie was still dressed the same as before.

“She’s dehydrated,” Louie said, “give her the water.”

Once he’d reached me, O’Keefe pulled out the water bottle in his suit pocket, twisting it open for me. He was acting the way he might act with a lost kid.

I stopped to lean my back against the wall, and guzzled the entire bottle down, trying to stop myself from drinking it too fast, but unable to do so. Louie stood nearby with O’Keefe, and neither of them said a thing as they watched me drink. It was odd.

Once I was done, I could finally speak. “Thanks.” My voice sounded husky to my ears. I wiped the back of my hand against my lips to get rid of the splattered drops.

Looking down, I saw my pants and blouse were still thickly covered with sand. So much for looking sharp for an interview.

“Yer late,” O’Keefe said. “It’s three hours past sunset.” Now he sounded just like my mother.

For a split-second, I remembered O’Keefe screaming in agony as Sariel transformed him into his present human-roach form. But I shoved the memory away, and said, “I don’t know why I’m late. Maybe the corridors took longer, or Sariel took its time in messing with me.”

“Probably both,” Louie said. He pulled out his phone to press a number. “Supper will be delivered to my office.”

I pushed off the wall and walked onward, O’Keefe by my side, as Louie led the way. We turned left at the intersection, and a ways down, there was an open steel door that led into another set of service corridors.

Once we had passed through and the steel door to the maze was slammed shut, O’Keefe visibly relaxed.

A few more turns, and we reached the steel door for Louie’s office. When it opened, a strong aroma of rosemary chicken and roasted potatoes made me want to sink to my knees from hunger.

As he stepped into his office, Louie said to me, “There’s a lavatory in the library. You may wash up in there.” He pointed toward an open wooden door across the oriental carpet of his office, where inside I could see the corner of a glossy wooden table and wooden bookshelves built into the walls beyond it.

The part of the table I could see had been set with placemats and crystal, as well as covered serving trays.

I glanced down at my sand-crusted clothes and shoes, and instead of following O’Keefe through the doorway to get out of the service corridor, I proceeded to brush sand from me onto the concrete.

Engrossed in scraping the sand off my loafers by using the doorframe, I wasn’t aware Louie had come to stand by me until I saw his black business shoes. “Trelton, I can assure you my carpets will survive a bit of muck. That’s what vacuum cleaners are for.”

I looked up to see him frowning down at me, so I stood up as nonchalantly as I could, but made sure to tilt my foot so I could scrape off the last clump of dried gunk stuck to one loafer.

His raised his eyebrows at me, but refrained from commenting. Instead he jerked his thumb at the open library door.

I walked across the carpet as lightly as I could, snagging my purse and cell phone, and went on into the library, taking in the sight of the walls with their in built-in bookshelves and O’Keefe sitting at the table pouring a bottle of beer into his crystal goblet.

None of the aged books on the shelves had any sort of aura to them. And this was most definitely not a standard corporate library and conference room; it was decked out in expensive wood furniture and paneling you’d find in an exclusive London club of the 1920s.

Instead of regular lights, there were two brass chandeliers hanging from the ceiling with bulbs that made fake flames, as well as electric wall sconces in various nooks. And art from around the world tucked into wall recesses and shelf nooks. The carpeting was plush in an oriental pattern. Leather chairs were near various bookshelves, or put together in a pairs next to a tall tea table. Facing a wall of bookshelves was a huge couch with a Stuart plaid flannel blanket folded across it, and a carved coffee table sat between it and the bookshelves.

All Louie needed was a butler carrying a tray of sherry to complete the ambiance.

I noted the discreet wooden door in a far corner of the room—the bathroom, no doubt.

As I crossed the room toward that closed door, I said to O’Keefe, “Please don’t wait for me. Go ahead and eat.” Flicking the bathroom light on, I slipped inside to discover that there was not only a sink and toilet, but also a small shower stall.

I needed a shower very badly, but it would have to wait until I got home.

The 1920s decor continued in here, so that the bathroom fit right in with the personality of the library/conference room. There was even a silver bowl of dried rose petals on a shelf above the sink.

I quickly cleaned up as best I could with soap and water. Due to my dunking within Sariel’s sphere, my hair was matted into knotted lumps that made it painful to run my comb through them. And my blouse and pants had deep wrinkles and folds from my adventures that I would just have to put up with. I removed the blindfold from around my neck, and tucked it into my purse.

When I came back out into the library, I was dismayed to see that O’Keefe and Louie had waited for me before eating. But I kept my mouth shut about it.

Recorded piano music played through hidden speakers—Chopin.

Louie pulled out my chair for me, then sat down at the head of the table. O’Keefe was on his right, me on his left. There were three silver serving trays, one in front of each of us, as well as rolls already set out for us on bread plates, and slices of baklava. Bottles of beer were on the table next to O’Keefe, as well as a carafe of ice water.

Lifting the wine bottle out of its bucket, Louie reached over to pour for me—

—but I’d interposed my hand above my wine glass, covering it. “No, thank you. I’ll just have water, please.” The last thing I wanted was a repeat of last night’s stupid behavior.

O’Keefe chuckled as he pushed the water carafe to me.

A blush began to spread across my face.

Louie paused in filling his own wine glass, and stared at O’Keefe in astonishment. “What is so amusing this evening, Mr. O’Keefe?”

O’Keefe shook his head and it made his antennae bob around.

I could feel my cheeks getting hot from how red I was turning.

Louie looked at me, taking in my red face, then back at O’Keefe, then back at me. “Right.” He shrugged, and poured his wine. “Clearly you two have been up to mischief of a sort. I shan’t ask.”

O’Keefe guffawed.

Louie jammed the bottle back into the bucket, and said to O’Keefe, “You had better not have pulled a prank on Rabbi Eli.”

O’Keefe’s laughter stopped. He downed his glass of beer while his antennae whipped around his head.

Louie gave each of us stern looks.

I pretended not to notice and lifted the silver cover off the tray before me. A prepared meal of rosemary chicken, roasted potatoes, and spanakopita met my eyes.

We ate in silence to the music of Chopin, except for when O’Keefe asked for his wine glass to be filled. I stuck to ice water with a slice of lemon squeezed into it. Shabbat had ended at dusk, and I wondered if Rabbi Eli had dined alone.

************** End of Chapter 8 *****************

Chapter 9 will go up next Tuesday. (Note: If you are reading this post after June 4, 2013, click here to go to Cubicle‘s main page on this website so you can find Chapter 9.)

This e-book is available at iTunes, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Diesel, Sony, and other e-bookstores. Since the internet changes over time, these links may change, so click here to go to Cubicle’s main page where the links will be kept current.

See you next week, L.M.

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