Early November 2011, a Victorian home in historic Staunton, Virginia
Footfalls pounded down the stairs from the second story. A woman cried, “They’re coming!”
Beezus? Angus Fergus lowered his leather recliner with a thump. “Who is?”
Long brown hair spilling down over her red Trekkie T-shirt dress and hoodie, Beezus Mac tore into his living room. Particularly surprising as Fergus hadn’t even realized she was in the house.
“Here!” She thrust an ornate gold box at him. “Hide this!”
He set his laptop on the end table beside the jellyfish mood lamp and ‘There is no try, only do,’ Yoda coffee mug, and sprang to his feet. Warily, he took from her hands the gilded chest, its metal cold in his grasp. The only other light in the room came from the laserpod streaming a starry blue galaxy on the ceiling making everything appear surreal, especially her find—or take.
He gaped into her frightened eyes. “What is it?”
Darting glances over a slender shoulder, she insisted, “No time to explain. They’re coming. The MacDonalds are coming.”
An old fear welled in him. “All of them?”
“Not certain. I heard shouting behind me.”
No angry bellows reverberated in the old home. Yet. “Beezus, what have you done?”
She gulped out, “I borrowed your energy field detector—”
“Absconded with it, you mean.”
“And went through the portal,” she rushed on. “Only supposed to be an in and out job, but I was seen in the crypt.”
He dropped his gaze to the shine of gold. The reliquary had a disturbingly familiar design associated with some seriously bad mojo. It came to him—Raiders of the Lost Ark!
“Cripes, Beezus. Tell me you didn’t steal the Ark of the Covenant.” According to the Old Testament, anyone who touched it was zapped by a bolt from heaven.
“The original is God knows where, and considerably larger, Fergus. This is from Persia, or some ancient place, carried to Scotland by the Knights Templar.”
That accounted for it winding up with the MacDonalds. “Any idea how many irate Scotsmen are on your tail?”
“Might only be one. Sounded like more shouting than that.”
“If it’s the fiend I’ve encountered, all it takes is one.”
Fergus raced to a corner of the room, flipped open the head on the life-sized droid, a replica of R2-D2, and stuck the jewel-like chest inside its body at a vertical angle. He snapped the head shut. Turning around, he ran into the front hall, making a mental note to find a new place to stash his stuff now that Beezus knew of his secret safe—assuming he lived that long. He grabbed the lightsaber from the Chinese urn holding canes and umbrellas in the foyer.
Beezus followed at his heels. “But that’s just a toy!”
“Actually—” He hit a switch on the end and the weapon of the Jedi came to green glowing life. “It’s a taser. I made a few alterations.”
She drew up. “Cool.” Even in her near panic, she sounded impressed.
“Grab a stout walking stick while we’re at it.”
Springing to action, she snatched a heavy knobbed cane with an impish monkey head.
“You would choose that one.” The same cane Neil had wielded in pursuit of the Red MacDonald two years ago. Fergus pivoted and made for the winding staircase. “What were you doing back in the MacDonald camp at Domhnall castle?”
She clambered behind him. “That’s where the portal leads.”
“Still? I figured the portal would’ve shifted after it closed.”
When he last passed through the wormhole connected to the mysterious door upstairs, it had been from the crypt below the castle chapel. He’d magnified the sensor in his energy field detector to pick up any activity, however slight, but not a blip or a buzz—until now. And Beezus had been the one to find it?
Annoyance and alarm melded in the flood of emotion coursing through him. “And you went through it because?”
“That reliquary should be mine. I’m the rightful MacDonald descendant.”
“How do you figure? There are hundreds of them, even got their own restaurant. You may have heard of it, Mickey D’s?”
“Not this line. And I’ve got the key to open that chest.”
She probably swiped that too. In a flash of insight he realized Beezus Mac must be short for Elizabeth MacDonald.
“Why don’t the original MacDonalds have the key?”
“Lost it during one of the raids on the castle. It turned up later in the family. Domhnall’s in ruins now.”
“And the gold box I just hid?”
She panted, “In a Scottish Museum.”
Exactly where it belonged. Fergus never should’ve told her about the wormhole linked with this house and his adventure through it two years ago. In a moment of weakness, punch-drunk from too much caffeine, lulled by those bewitching golden-brown eyes and an overpowering desire to share with someone, he’d succumbed.
She’d hung around the perimeter of his cyber circle, a geek wannabe, or so he’d thought. A recent transplant to Staunton, she’d appeared on his doorstep as though drawn to him, the fortunate chosen one. He should have realized no woman that good-looking paid him much notice without an ulterior motive. If only he wasn’t so attracted to her.
“You’re fortunate you didn’t get stranded back there. The portal’s unpredictable.”
She was practically on his heels. “This is bad enough. You’ve got to keep the MacDonalds from coming through.”
“I can’t close a fricking wormhole, Beezus. Just drive back anyone emerging through it.” Or die trying.
In his Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock T-shirt and jeans, he wouldn’t appear much of a threat to a 17th century Highland chieftain. But it was imperative to keep the Red MacDonald out of the house and the 21st century altogether. His last appearance here had fatal consequences. The man was a murderer, vowing vengeance. And none too fond of Fergus.
Well, the feeling was mutual.
Fergus tore down the upstairs hall lit by the floral china lamp on the table along one gold print wall. A full moon shone through the windows, the old glass wavy in the light.
At the end of the passage stood the intricately carved door, the oak darkened with age. The stained glass archway above it fanned out in a half circle of saffron, red, and gold like the entry to a chapel. The door to nowhere, so called as it led out onto a nonexistent balcony. But nothing could be further from the truth when the portal opened.
The aged wood swung wide.
Through the blackened archway appeared the demon Fergus dreaded ever to meet again, Red MacDonald. Shadows dulled the fiery mane blowing over his scarlet and green plaid, but Fergus spotted the great sword slung across one broad shoulder in leather back scabbard. The hilt of the claymore protruded above the giant’s shoulder blade.
One step closer and stout legs encased in full-length green trews came into view. Then those glittering blue eyes.
How he hated those eyes.
The enraged Scotsman pierced him with a glare. “You!”
A primal yowl tore from some place deep inside Fergus and he raised his lightsaber.~
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