01 2.0 The Light Who Binds2Jack Tanner

July 10, 2022, Red Ages

Determined to solve the mystery of the housemother who spelled Blue, I approach the Green Tree Orphanage, ready to use my influence here for the first time in many years. The orphanage is a sprawling three-story mansion, freshly painted in a soft green and accented with white trim. A large covered porch stretches the length of the front, and the backyard is fenced in and filled with shiny new playground equipment. Everything has been well maintained. I’m glad to see my donations are being put to good use, but that doesn’t quite pacify me. I should have been informed about the spell.

I tap the brass knocker and let the sounds of small feet pattering through the home calm my anger. A sharp click of heels precedes the opening of the door, and a tall, matronly woman with steel gray hair tied tightly in a bun assesses me.

“Jack,” she says brusquely as recognition shows in the pinched corners of her eyes.

“Good evening, Matilda. May we speak for a moment in private?”

She swings the door wide. “Of course. I’m always pleased to meet with a benefactor.”

I close the door behind me and follow her into her tidy office. She gestures toward the chair. “Have a seat, please. What can I do for you?”

I sit uncomfortably on the edge of a rose velvet armchair meant for daintier frames. “When Blue was in your charge, you caught one of the mothers performing a spell on her in the forest.”

Matilda’s eyes widen in remembrance, and then she grows cautious. I scent fear.

“Matilda, why was this not in my reports?”

She pinches her thin lips together. “I was asked to provide you with reports on anything that might affect her welfare, and in this instance it didn’t appear to be affected.”

My rage grows, but I hold it in tight control. “Regardless, I need to contact this housemother. I assume you still have her employee file?”

Matilda straightens her back. “Of course.” She stands stiffly and marches over to a wooden cabinet. Using a key that hangs around her neck, she opens the drawer and hands me the folder.

I open it and read the first page. It’s Anna Marie’s termination sheet. The reason for termination simply reads “Gifted.” It doesn’t say “cast unknown spell on Bluebell Kildare,” which would actually be a decent reason for termination. But what bothers me the most is that the word Gifted is underlined three times, heavily. The page is actually indented and torn along one of those lines, as though it was written with deep hatred.

I examine the signature and see it’s Matilda’s. My intuition tells me I’m dealing with a breedist, and more specifically, a breedist who was in charge of Blue for fifteen years.

As casually as I can, I say, “While you’re at it, Matilda, I’d like to see Blue’s file as well. Her complete file.”

Matilda’s mouth pinches again, and her lined face creases tightly. “Well, that’s confidential.”

My control slips, and my fangs descend. My senses sharpen, and the smell of this hateful woman’s blood calls to me like a vengeful dream. I breathe evenly for a few moments to curb my fury and allow her to think she’s won as she sits back down. When she taps her fingers on the desk impatiently, I slowly say, “Matilda, I expect the file to be in my hands within two minutes, or I’ll disassemble your file cabinet and take it myself.”

She huffs and quickly stands to retrieve the file.

Once I have both files in my hand, I order her, “Go tend to the children or something. I have some reading to do. I won’t touch any other files, and I’ll leave a copy of these neatly on your desk when I’m done.”

She’s obviously frightened and begins to protest.

I release a fraction of my rage in a low-pitched command. “Now!”

Matilda squeaks as she runs from the room, slamming the door behind her.

After copying the material, I start reading and easily find what I wanted in Anna Marie’s file. Her real name is Maev Dermot, but it’s her emergency contact that shocks me.

I move quickly on to Blue’s file.

After a minute, my fangs start throbbing again with the desire to sink into Matilda’s flesh. The edge of the solid oak desk crumbles to sawdust beneath my fingers as I restrain myself from hunting her. Damn it! I should have known Blue wouldn’t tell me the worst of it. After fifteen minutes of reading, I carefully place the copies on the desk, taking the originals. With a quick tug, I open the window and slip out. Right now, avoiding Matilda is the only way she’ll live.

I drive down the road until my bloodlust cools, and call Mrs. Glenwood. When her butler puts her on the phone, I say, “Valerie, I just reviewed Blue’s file at the Green Tree Orphanage. Our esteemed head housemother appears to have a hatred for the Gifted. Can you please meet with the board of directors and let them know that I’m willing to quadruple my annual donation this year? In exchange, I require Matilda’s immediate termination and a complete psychological review of every staff member currently in position and forevermore in the future. I’ll pay for the reviews by a doctor of my choosing. And I want a copy of the results.”

“Are you serious? Quadruple? Do you know how that would help us expand and improve the orphanage?”

“Yes, of course I’m serious. But I want her out of the orphanage by midnight tonight. I won’t have another Gifted child being punished the way Blue was. Call an emergency meeting and give me a call to confirm their approval.”

“I’ve no doubt they’ll approve. I’ve never cared for Matilda myself, but she’s kept things in excellent order.”

I cut in. “She’s a breedist, and a rather ill one. Whenever Blue showed signs of her gift and Matilda was the only mother there, she was punished in sickening ways: locked in closets, tied to her bed, starved, humiliated in front of the other children. She outlined the punishments in detail, as if she was trying to exorcise a demon. She’s out. If it weren’t past the statute of limitations, I’d be arresting her.”

Valerie gasps.

“And any other Gifted children who are still housed there need a psychological examination and their files reviewed as well. In fact, review all the files.”

“I understand. I’ll make sure it happens. I’ll call an emergency meeting now.”

I hang up the phone and proceed to the second, equally challenging task of the evening.

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