When I looked into Lord Cayman's face, I knew something was still wrong. Davis made a sound of worry and looked around. Others were still moving everywhere, but I could not see any sign of an enemy.
"Mark," Lord Cayman said.
"Sir?" That seemed the best way to address him. Formal and not too personal. I still could not look at the man and think father. I suspect he had the same trouble considering me his son -- but this wasn't the time for either of us to worry about such mundane things.
"I have to go," he explained with a worried frown. "I must make certain that Darman and Portilia didn't end up somewhere else where they might do harm. That was a brilliant answer, Mark. Risky -- it could have dragged us all in -- but I fear we could not have defeated them otherwise. Good work."
"Thank you. How will we follow them?"
"Not we. Not this time." Lord Cayman looked away, and I wasn't sure what I felt just then. Betrayal? Hurt? Good job boy, but -- "I need you to stay here. Really need someone here I can trust. There is going to be some stray magic, and probably a few of Darman's creatures around and the locals will be upset. I want to stay and help but --"
He meant those words. Cayman trusted me to handle a situation that might still prove difficult. And this was my reality, after all. I understood these people.
"This is my home."
"Half your home," he replied. "When you're ready, you will find the gate."
I smiled agreement. "I'd like to go to Elsewhere without fearing something strange happening every five minutes."
"I don't know if that will ever happen, Mark. You seem to have a gift for drawing trouble. I hope to see you soon. I'm taking others with me -- they won't be safe here, and I can leave them in Elsewhere faster than having them go find the gate. The sooner things get back to normal in this reality, the better. Good luck."
He turned and signaled the others in around him. I gave a wave to friends. "Thank you! Thank you, Bog Bob! Great work!"
He bounced up once, and I braced myself, but everyone disappeared before he hit the ground. A quick breeze -- and the magic had gone. I felt --
"I guess we have a lot of work to do," Edmond said as he brushed against my leg.
Not alone. Edmond, Maggie, and Davis still stood with me. We could handle this.
It wasn't easy. I had to do a lot of talking to important people, some of whom were outraged and mistrustful. We kept calm and quiet, though Edmond had suggested he might bite a few more ankles for me. I held him in reserve.
I also met Mary Hale. Remember her? I shot Tommy Creston and killed him when I thought he had killed her. She had somehow survived. They were still working on some of the scars, but she had lived because I had stopped him. We hugged. She had come back to town just to see me and thank me.
And yeah, it made a difference.
My friends and I didn't do anything flashy, and the fact that all the other magical beings had left helped. Things got quiet and boring. Davis went back to Elsewhere. Maggie stayed with me, and she kept her wings folded, though they sometimes fluttered when she got agitated. She even visited a few people she used to know. I went and saw my mom and her family. It was nice, and we had a good time -- Edmond was a big hit -- but I had moved on. We didn't talk about my father. He wasn't a part of her world.
More meetings. I wondered how much longer I should stay.
Boredom will do strange things. Maggie and I both got our GEDs. I'm not sure why -- maybe just to prove that we were both still human enough. Edmond wandered off sometimes. He was even gone for a few days on occasion, but he must have realized how much that worried me because he stopped going.
We still met with officials at least once a week, but there were fewer and fewer questions, and it felt as though all the world had simply buried the momentary lapse into magic and people would do their best to forget it.
But I could not forget what I was, and I found it harder and harder to hold the magic back inside. I spent a lot of time away from others. I saved bunnies and squirrels because sometimes the Sanctioned Protector ability kicked in and I had to do something. I helped find two kidnapped children, but I talked the police into keeping my name out of it. They were willing to do anything I asked since they were still trying to get past the fact they had worked with Darman -- as Sheriff Creston -- for so long.
It was a long few months.
Edmond and I were sitting on a bench in the park, enjoying the weather and the quiet when Maggie arrived.
"We have a problem," Maggie said. She had a basket in her hands and opened the top as she held it out to me. "These were left with me this morning."
I looked in, worried....
Six little black kittens.
And voices. "Hello, hi, hello, hi, want out, fly, fly, fly--"
I snapped the lid shut, took a few breaths, and then took the basket. Edmond was looking elsewhere. I grabbed him and placed him on top of the basket. He was uncommonly quiet.
"What are you going to do?" Maggie asked.
"We're going to take a trip to Elsewhere."
"And do what?" Maggie asked, looking worried.
"I'm not sure yet," I said, but then I smiled. "But I'm pretty sure it will be an adventure."
Maggie smiled and brought out the compass. "Let's go."
"About time," Edmond said.