Chapters One to Twenty Six
Vignettes 1 - 140

Chapters 27 to
Vignettes 141 -

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Vignette #234: He Knows

David Turner stroked the cat in his lap and didn’t bother waiting for a salutation when he heard the line being picked up. “He knows.”


“Well, not everything, but he knows enough.”

“That’s what we wanted. Isn’t it?”

“Yes.” Turner took a deep breath. “We’ve let him grope around in the dark so long, when we could have just sat him down and told him at the beginning.”

“But then we would have had to tell him everything...” The voice stressed “…Everything…and that’s the last thing we want. This way he finds out enough of the truth to correct all of our mistakes…”

“Most of our mistakes.” Turner corrected.

“Fine, most of our mistakes and we all live happily ever after.”

“You don’t know him like I do. There will be a price to pay.” Turner said almost to himself.

“Is that a problem?”

“No.” He insisted. “This just isn’t going to be as easy as it sounds.”

“It never is.” The voice added. “It never was.”

“There’s more.” David Turner bit his lip. “I’m pretty sure there’s someone else who knows or at least has figured it out.”

“How on Earth could someone else figure it out, David?” The voice scolded him. “We’re not even 100% sure ourselves.”

“Then why?”

“Then why what?”

“Why is someone trying to kill him?”

There was silence on the other end of the phone. “You’re sure? It wasn’t just a one time occurrence?”

“There have been other definite attempts. The FBI is even very discreetly involved.” Turner smiled. “I’m not supposed to know, but then I end up knowing everything.”

“Almost everything. I recall one or two important facts that managed to slip your attention.” The voice reminded him. “How could someone else figure it out?”

“I don’t know…” Turner stroked the cat and thought. “Unless…”


“They could just be guessing.”

“Like we are.” The voice suddenly insisted. “End it, end it now. It could be the only way to stop anyone else from getting hurt.”

“And what do I say? I’m sorry but the liars believed a lie that had them looking for a unicorn in the wrong garden for oh about fifty years, give or take a year, and now we feel so guilty we’ll do anything to make it up to you short of telling you the reason why it all happened?”

Silence again. “You’re right, and still it’s a shot in the dark. He may very well not be who we think he is.”

“We decided we didn’t care about that anymore.” Turner reminded them. “We decided that it was the most likely hunch and true or not he was in fact the most deserving of all the possibilities.”

“There’s still so much we don’t know.”

“I know for a fact now that he is the one.” Turner insisted.

“You have proof?”

“Finally, I do have proof.”


“Young Justyn’s not the only one with a Genetics lab on speed dial.”


“I had a DNA test of my own run.”

“Isn’t that illegal?”

He smiled. “Since when has bending the law a bit stopped us from getting what we want? That’s what started this whole mess in the first place.”

“And the test was conclusive?”

“There is absolutely no doubt that he is the one.” David Turner sighed, and his lips trembled as he said it out loud for the very first time. “Ian Justyn is my grandson.”

Vignette #233: The Color Burple

“Oh, stop.” Tippy slapped at him. “Clare’s not that bad…anymore…well not as bad…okay, she’s trying really, really hard…or maybe we’re all just getting used to her…or…”

“She’s a like a human kudzu.” Ian sighed. “She gets one finger in the door and she somehow manages to take over, strangling the beauty and the breath out of everything for miles and miles and miles.”

“Hey.” Jesse elbowed his brother. “You knocked her up.”

“Don’t you need to be buying condoms and speed dialing Sarah Palin?”

“Okay, someone has to be the adult in the room.” Ripley hiked up his britches. “I guess it’s my turn. Billy, did you come bursting in here just to tell us your daughter was listening to the baby move?”

“Oh…yeah…right.” Billy turned back to Ian. “I made a few phone calls and discovered something that may be important.”

“Okay.” Ian blinked, bracing for the worse.

“Is Kellen still here?” Billy looked amongst the group. “Kellen should hear this.”

“No. I think he went out earlier.” Tippy pointed over her shoulder. “I don’t remember where he said he was going. Do you?”

“No.” Colton thought a moment. “I saw him go out the front door, but I don’t recall him telling anyone where he was going.”

“He may have told Clare.” Reese said. “I saw them chatting just before he got up and left the house.”

“You want me to ask?” Jesse piped in.

“You just wanna hear the baby move.” Ian teased.

“I can’t help it.” Jesse blushed. “It’s cool.”

“So cool.” Ian agreed.

“Okay…once again…adult in the room?” Ripley said. “Whose turn is it?”

“Never mind.” Billy didn’t know whether to laugh or roll his eyes. “Let me just get this out before we get into cyclical and linear configurations and who invented the color burple.”

“Purple.” Ripley smiled. “The color purple.”

“I have a four year old.” Billy blinked. “To her it’s burple.”

“Who did invent the color purple?” Jesse quandered.

“Well, I know who wrote it.” Tippy said. “But I don’t know who invented it.”

“It’s a color.” Ian insisted. “You can’t invent a color.”

“Stop it!” Billy interrupted. “Ian, I made some phone calls about the renovations…”

“I thought you were doing the renovations/” Colton said.

“I am.”

“But you said…”

“Okay, stop before we get way off track again…” Billy waved his hands in the air. “Everyone take a deep breath and hold it in until I get this out. Now, on the count of three…one…”

“Is this really necessary?” Tippy asked looking around the room.

“…Two…” Billy stared her down.

“Oh.” She realized what she was doing. “Maybe it is.”


Tippy and everyone in the room took a deep breath and held it.

Billy began to race verbally before people started passing out. “I called the Vespa Brothers, the people Elizabeth Elysian contracted to do the renovations that disconnected the third floor and half the second. I didn’t find out why she insisted it was done, but I did make a discovery that may answer a few other questions. One of the men in the crew doing the renovations was Blue Richards.”

Ian took a breath of air and sputtered. “Blue Richards?”

“He worked with the crew for three weeks until Miss Elizabeth insisted that he be fired.”

“She had him fired?” Tippy took a deep breath, and put her hand to her ample bosom.

“She said she was constantly finding him in parts of the house, by himself, where he wasn’t supposed to be.” Billy informed them.

“That’s odd.” Ian said.

“That she had him fired or that he kept turning up where he wasn’t supposed to be?” Jesse asked.

“Well…kinda both.”

“Focus people…focus or take another breath and hold it.” Billy warned. “Here’s the good part, Blue and another guy were specifically assigned to rebuild the master bedroom closet.”

“My closet?” The statement hit Ian like the proverbial ton of bricks. “Can we talk to the guy? The one who worked on the closet with him?”

Billy crossed his arms and shook his head. “Can’t, turned up dead in a dumpster about three weeks later.”

“Surely the investigators knew about all of this.” Tippy said out loud to herself.

“Uhm…Peyton Balouche?” Reese reminded her.

“That explains how he was able to hide in the house all night without anyone knowing it.” Ripley added.

“And maybe…” Ian looked from the couch up the stairway, “...Where his clothes are and what he took from the house.”

The group looked at each other and began a mass exodus to the master bedroom closet.

“Shouldn’t we call somebody before we do this?”

“Like who? The police think this case is closed.”

“Kellen or maybe Yancy?”

Too late, they were already in the closet ripping everything off the walls looking for latches or levers or anything that would allow entrance into the blocked off portion of the house. In seconds all of Ian’s carefully hung clothes, stacked shoes and folded shirts were a huge messy pile on his bed.

“I think I found it.” Reese said in triumph.


He ran his fingers beneath the crown molding on the ceiling. “See? This is the top of the door. I think the whole wall must just swing.”

“What, do we push it or is there a latch?” Ian shoved slightly on the wall.

“Ya’ll are silly” came the little girl’s voice in the closet doorway.

“Vonnie, Angel, we’re trying to find something.” Tippy explained.

“I know.” She said confidently. “But it only swings the other way.”

All movement and conversation ceased as heads slowly turned to the four year old in the doorway.

“Oops.” Vonnie said, folding her hands sweetly in front of her and smiling as innocently as she could possibly figure out how to do.

“Vonnie?” Her father said an octave or two lower than usual.

“Uh…Auntie Clare sent me in here to tell you something important.” She quickly changed the subject.

“Auntie Clare?” Ian’s eyebrow went up again.

“World…ending…” Jesse muttered.

“Yuh huh…” Vonnie smiled and batted her eyes. “It don’t make much sense to me, but she said it was a ‘mergency…her water broked…”

Vignette #232: Defining Goober

Billy rushed into the living room. “Okay, the world is definitely coming to an end.”

Reese shoved his little brother from behind Ripley. “Guess you’ll be calling Sarah Palin.”

“What would I call that thing for?” Jesse sniffed.

“You said when the world came to an end you’d do her.”

“Oooh! Baby Doll that would make a great television show!”

“What, my little brother having sex with a rather…let’s not even get into that…politician?”

“No.” It was Tippy’s turn to roll her eyes. “An anthology comedy series about all the promises people would have to keep when Hell freezes over.”

Ian’s eyes popped. “Let me write that down.” He reached to the little drawer under the coffee table for one of his little pads.

“That one’s on your desk in the den.” Ripley reminded him. “I saw you write something on it and take it in there this morning.”

Tippy jotted a note down on something she pulled out of her bra. “Here. I want partial creation credit.”

Ian grabbed the note with two fingers and swallowed hard. “Uh…thank you?” He looked for a place to put the offensive slip down.

Billy put his hands on his hips. “I’m sure that being a Goober has its benefits, but most of the time it just means you’re a Goober.”

“What’s a Goober?” Jesse asked.

“I think it’s one of those Southernisms.” Ripley said.

“Wasn’t that a dude on the old ‘Andy Griffith Show’?” Someone piped in.

“I don’t think you can be a dude and be a Goober at the same time.” Reese mused.

“Mom, what’s a Goober?” Jesse asked.

“Well, honey.” Tippy thought a second. “Usually that’s a term we use for…”

“Obviously, I’ve just tossed another crayon on the floor in a room full of Bi-Polar children hopped up on sugar.” Billy moaned then clapped his hands. “Attention! Attention people, back on the important subject.”

“Yes, right.” Colton has to think a moment and then got back to the original subject. “So Billy, why is the world coming to an end?”

“Actually, that wasn’t the subject.”

“Yes, it was.” Ian corrected him. “You came in the room and said the world was coming to an end.”

Billy got an odd look on his face. “Oh, yeah.”

“Now who’s a Goober?” Jesse snorted.

Billy gave Jesse a playful shove. “Um, sorry, I just walked by Ian’s den and my daughter is in there, sitting on the love seat with Clare giggling and listening to her belly.”

“Vonnie? And Clare?” Ian froze at the thought.

The room was silent for a moment, finally broken when Jesse said softly. “Does any one have Sarah Palin’s cell phone number?”

“The room temp wasn’t fifteen degrees lower either.”

“I never understood what the two of them have against each other.” Tippy asked no one in particular.

“Some people just naturally don’t like each other.” Ian said.

“Like Batman and Joker.” Jesse added.

“But Vonnie’s a little girl.” Tippy retorted. “How can anyone simply not like a sweet little girl?”

“Tippy, Vonnie is my daughter.” Billy told her. “I love her without question, and wouldn’t have her any other way than she is, but let’s be honest she’s not the typical sweet little girl.”

“She’s a hellion in pigtails.” Ian smiled.

“Sometimes.” Reese agreed. “Sometimes just one pigtail with a mass of hair on the other side and a little pink ribbon screaming to get away.”

“That about sums it up.” Ripley nodded. “I adore her, but I can see how she and Clare wouldn’t be able to stand each other. They’re so much alike.”

Everyone in the room froze except for Ian who quietly turned to Billy and put his hand on his forearm. “Drown her. Drown her now. We’ll all swear it was an accident.”

Vignette #231: Other Things

“I will hurt you two.” Ian raised that one eyebrow and pointed a Reese. “I will come after you with a big stick, and then go after you with a bloody stick!” He looked at Jesse.

“Children!” Colton warned with a grin on his face. “Do we need a time out? Now…we’re all a little quirky. Ian, do you feel a little better about this now?”

“Uhm…” Ian sat back down again on the couch, resigned. “…Right now I’m going to put it down on the list of things I still need to figure out about Elizabeth Elysian but can wait until I figure lots and lots of other things out.”

“Other things?” Tippy piped up. “There are other things about Miss Elizabeth that unsettle you?”

Ian looked at Jesse, whose head was poking out from behind Ripley. Ripley looked at Ian and took another big step to the left exposing Jesse Shores. “You didn’t tell them?”

“You told me not to until you figured out why she did it.” Jesse tried to grin. “See, I’m the brother you can trust with a secret.”

“Hold it!” Tippy demanded. “What else has Miss Elizabeth done that we may or may not know about?”

“What do you know about the sale of the house?” Ian said.

Tippy looked at Colton, who shrugged and answered. “That she sold it to you at a bargain price and disappeared almost before any of us had a chance to ask any questions.”

“And that’s all?” Ian tried not to be accusatory.

“Is there more?” Tippy looked at Ian and then at her youngest son.

“Yeah, Mom.” Jesse admitted. “There’s more…a whole lot more.”

“There’s not a problem with the sale, is there?” Colton was worried.

“No, nothing like that.” Ian assured him. “In fact everything is signed, delivered and air tightly legal.”

“So what’s the problem?” Reese was interested.

Ian stood again and turned to face the family, less to face them than to see if he could tell if any of them knew more than they were letting on. “So none of you actually know about the transaction, the whole transaction?”

Tippy was obviously nervous. “The whole transaction? Baby Doll, that sounds ominous.”

“Ominous? No, and maybe just another one of those little quirks of hers, one that makes me wonder why she would do such a thing.” Ian said out loud.

“Just spit it out, Ian.” Ripley said. “It’s weird, but maybe these are the people that can explain it.”

“So you know what he’s talking about.” Reese looked to Ripley, who nodded.

“I told Ripley they day I found out, and Jesse was my driver the day I had the meeting with my lawyer and accountant and discovered the…quirk.” Ian scratched the back of his head.

“It’s some quirk.” Jesse admitted. “Even I’m not sure why she did it.”

“Did what?” Tippy couldn’t stand it anymore. “Did what?”

“Without his realizing it, Elizabeth Elysian sold Ian more than the house.” Ripley mumbled.

“What?” Colton asked.

“Colton, maybe I misunderstood the offer, and I should have done more than take all the paperwork to my lawyer, I should have read it in detail…”

“So much for being anal retentive.” Jesse said quietly making Reese snort.

“Yeah, yeah…in my defense for the price I paid I could hardly believe I was getting this house, there’s no way I could have imagined what I was buying. I took it straight to Jerry Wolfe just to make sure there wasn’t something I wasn’t seeing, like more money down the road…blah blah blah…”

“It’s pretty hard to believe but by the time you found out the deal was done, way too late for questions.” Ripley added.

“Okay, okay…” Colton was losing patience. “Enough with the reasons why whatever slipped you by, I take it that there was a surprise in the real estate deed.”

It was Ian’s turn to snort. “Little surprise? Colton, she sold me everything.”


Ian nodded his head. “My accountant picked right up on it and thought I knew what I’d purchased. He kept making comments and they kept going right over my head. Now I truly know what the term ‘caviar at bubble gum prices’ means.”

“Baby Doll, we still don’t know exactly what you are talking about.” Tippy looked at Colton and then back to Ian. “She sold you everything. What do you mean by everything?”

Ian crossed his arms. “Most of the block.”

“Most of the block?” Tippy’s mouth dropped open.

Ian nodded his head. “Kellen’s house, the apartment building next door, the two at the beginning of the cul-de-sac…”

Ripley jumped in, “And from what we can tell every business and company she owned.”

“And all her stocks and share holdings.” Jesse finished up.

“Basically by the time I made the first payment on what I thought was the house and just under two acres of land, I had accrued enough profit to pay off the loan…” Ian’s trademark right eyebrow went up, “…from just the interest off the bank cds, that somehow were also part of the deal.”

“Oh…my…God…” Tippy had to sit slowly down on the couch. “Why would she do that?”

“How could she do that?” Colton joined his wife, stunned, on the couch.

“She used a codicil that’s basically used for relatives so they don’t have to pay inheritance tax. It’s perfectly legal, but rarely used for someone who’s not an intended benefactor in a will.”

Ripley added, “The only thing that wasn’t sold to Ian for the bargain price of $500,000 was her personal bank account that we know of. Everything else either became Ian’s or Ian’s name replaced hers as the bearer effective 90 days after they both signed the paperwork.”

“I don’t know what to say.” Tippy blurted out.

“Congratulations?” Reese managed.

“Which brings us back to the original question,” Ian said. “Actually two original questions; why would Elizabeth Elysian do something like that and maybe most important of all, why me?”

Vignette #230: Next Question

“Let’s just forget who didn’t tell who what or who didn’t notice what and start with the next question.” Ian plopped on the sofa.

“Like?” Tippy sat motherly on the arm beside him.

“Why would Miss Elizabeth do something like that to begin with?”

“Not tell you she’d blocked off half the second floor and all access to the third?” Jesse blinked.

“No, just not tell me…anything…at all.”

“She is in her nineties; maybe she just forgot she did it.” Ripley thought out loud.

“Her mind is still like a steel trap.” Tippy defended.

Colton shook his head. “God love the ol’ girl, but she didn’t do or not do anything unless she specifically thought it was for the best.”

“That’s not even the question, but it is certainly one of those points that gloriously seem to point toward so many other questions.” Ian jumped in the get back to the point. “I want to know why someone would just block off half a house.”

“Well, Baby Doll, the basic reason is because it was she couldn’t bear to look at it.” Tippy smiled.

“And she couldn’t stand the thought of remodeling it.” Reese interjected. “She wanted it to remain as it was. I guess she thought when you moved in you’d, you know, make the place all yours, open those walls back up and she’d never have to think about his stuff being touched again.”

“Okay, still a little lost.” Ian looked at the crowd. “What couldn’t she bear to look at and or touch?”

“The second floor she partitioned off was Herman’s bedroom and the third floor was his studio.” Colton sat next to him. “His death was a hard on her. We wondered for a while if she’d even survive it herself.”

Jesse nodded, sitting beside his father. “It was awful, just awful.”

“It came so sudden.” Reese looked at the floor. “No one expected it.”

“What happened?” Ripley had to ask. “I mean, it wasn’t something, you know, Freddy Krugerish or anything, like here in the house was it?”

“No.” Tippy smiled a little. “He did pass away here at the house, on the third floor, but it was a stroke.”

“I think what hurt her most was the fact that she wasn’t home.” Colton said. “The doctor said it was massive, nothing could have been done to save him, but she wasn’t here, by his side, when it happened.”

Ian nodded and looked to the floor. “No one wants to die alone. You always hope someone you love is nearby.”

“And she wasn’t.” Jesse sighed.

“She was at George’s shop, getting a perm and a touch up.” Tippy said. “Miss Elizabeth never was very vain, so I think the fact that she was getting her hair done when her husband of who knows how many years was dying on his studio floor was almost more than she could stand.”

“A little unorthodox,” Ian finally agreed, “But now I can sort of understand it. She blocked off their bedroom and his studio so she could remember everything as it was and find a way to continue on.”

“Well, it wasn’t their bedroom.” Tippy corrected him. “Just Mr. Herman’s.”

“They had separate bedrooms?” Ripley was a little shocked. “I understand they were part of a very different era, but they slept in separate bedrooms?”

“You did not know the Elysians.” Jesse piped up. “They may have been from a totally different era, but they in no way embodied it.”

“Maybe it was the Hollywood they were a part of,” Reese thought out loud, “Maybe they were just the first hippies but they never blinked an eye at anything.”

“Including Reese and I…” Jesse stopped himself.

“Including Reese and I…what?” Tippy raised an eyebrow.

“You know…” Jesse sputtered.

“Having sex in their pool constantly?”

“You know about that?” Ian’s jaw dropped.

“Well, we didn’t video tape it or anything but yes, we knew our sons occasionally brought dates home for a little…in the pool.” Colton admitted.

“I don’t understand what everyone is tip toeing around for.” Reese spoke out. “The Elysians never seemed to be shocked or horrified no matter what sex Jesse and I had sex with in their pool.”

“Ooookaaay.” Ian said.

“I just wanted to hear Jesse say it.” Tippy bit her lip to stifle a giggle, then leaned over to Ian. “Jesse’s the prude in the clan.”

“Ian freaks out at things like that more than I do.” Jesse pouted.

“But I was raised in the mountains by drunken rednecks. Boxer briefs still shock me.” Ian defended his defenses. “Obviously Elizabeth and Herman Elysian were two very healthy, very progressive people. So why would they sleep in separate beds?”

“Probably so Herman could get some sleep.” Colton said looking around at his family who all nodded in agreement.

“Okay…T.M.I.” Ian shook his head then held it in his hands.

Tippy let loose a snort, then a giggle when she realized what Ian was thinking. “No, no Baby Doll. Miss Elizabeth snored.”

"Miss Elizabeth didn’t just snore, she rattled the windows, peeled pain of off walls snored.” Reese added.

“Okay, well that doesn’t make me feel so icky.” Ian sighed in relief.

“Icky?” Reese teased.

“Hey, I’m the long lost big brother and I’ve still yet to collect on a lifetime of noogies.” Ian warned. “So Miss Elizabeth snored.” Before anyone could add anything else he added, “Reverberating the dead after the nuclear holocaust snored. I’m still a little confused. If she snored so terribly the love of her life had to move to another bedroom, why didn’t she just have something done? You know, one of those sleep apnea machines or surgery?”

Tippy tried to hold back the next in the latest series of giggles. “Face it, Baby Doll, when you are in your eighties that last thing you want to do is go to sleep every night with a mask strapped around your face wired to a machine unless of course, it’s the only way of waking up the next morning.”

Colton nodded in agreement. “And as far as surgery goes, once again I’m not sure of the whole story but when Miss Elizabeth was younger she spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals. Back then they weren’t nearly as much fun as your recent visits.”

Ian rolled his eyes and did his best to ignore that remark.

Reese smiled at his brother. “Snoring like a constipated backhoe was stuck in her sinuses seemed to be one of life’s oddities that she and Mr. Herman learned to live with like we’ve learned to live with your obsessions about, well, practically everything.”

“Yes. We’ve decided to find it quaint.” Jesse agreed.

“Mommy, Daddy, the babies are picking on me again.” Ian whined.

“Aw honey.” Tippy smiled and pulled her husband closer. “See, we are a real family.”

Vignette #229: Up Front

“Don’t you think that’s something you should have told me right up front?” Ian seethed, uncharacteristically running his hands through his hair, grabbing a handful and pulling. “Hello, we’re your neighbors and half your house is missing!”

“Right, next time I’ll add that to the list.” Colton deadpanned. “Hello, I’m your new neighbor, your biological father and half your house is missing.”

“Uhm…and don’t forget.” Jesse added. “…You knocked your girlfriend up with twins.”

“Jesse, honey, I don’t think you’re helping any.” Tippy tried to rub Ian’s shoulder, but he immediately pulled away. “Technically, it’s not missing, Baby Doll, it’s still there, just walled off so no one can get to it.”

Ian shot her a look.

“Don’t think that’s helping much either.” Reese said under his breath. Jesse couldn’t help but giggle.

“What’s so funny?” Ian snarled.

“Sorry, but I’m kind of enjoying watching you unravel.” He smiled then took a step behind Ripley to protect himself. “You know, the calm cool collected Ian Justyn comes apart at the seams. It makes you wonderfully human, Superman.”

Ian put up his hands and took a deep breath. “Okay, okay. I’m not angry at ya’ll.”

Tippy smiled and Ian pointed his finger at her. “Don’t push it.”

“Sorry, Baby Doll, but we all know when you’re tired because that Southern drawl rears its head. When you’re angry, well honey, it sits up, wags its tail and barks ‘ya’ll’.”

He had to smile at that. “Forgive my diphthongal changes, but back to the initial question. Don’t you think that in the past oh six, seven months at one time or another one of you might just have mentioned that there was entire floor and a half of the house hidden somewhere behind door number three?”

“Son, forgive us, but we thought you knew.” Colton shook his head. “Miss Elizabeth was always extremely detail oriented. We just assumed that when she sold you the house she explained that to you.”

“Obviously she skipped that little detail.” Ian resigned.

“And we thought that’s why Billy was getting both sets of blueprints.” Tippy said. “So you could see what was hiding…well…above your head…and beyond your master bedroom.”

“Actually, behind the closet of the master bedroom.” Jesse interjected and took another step further behind Ripley.

Ian nodded his head. “Tell you what, when they prove that Al Gore actually won that Presidential Election and the country gets a do over, I’ll write a note on the back of my hand to ask Elizabeth Elysian if by any chance there’s anything behind all the solid walls in the house before I sign on the dotted line.”

“See now, that’s pretty simple.” Jesse quipped.

“Still not helping.” His father looked at him.

Reese took a tentative step into the defense foray. “And quite frankly Ian, Mr. Anal Retentive, I’m surprised that in the past oh six, seven months you didn’t notice a huge discrepancy between where your terrace ended and the rest of the house beyond it.”

“Not to mention all that, you know, space above it.” Jesse nodded in agreement, shirking further behind Ripley when Ian gave him yet another dirty look.

Ripley cleared his throat as he reached behind himself, grabbed Jesse and shoved him in full view. “In Ian’s defense, the size of the house is extremely deceptive. I never noticed myself until someone pointed it out…about fifteen minutes ago.”

“I guess unless you knew it was there, you just don’t notice.” Colton shrugged.

“Maybe, maybe not.” Ian frowned. “With all that’s gone on, I’m just gonna chalk up this new discovery as another in a series of I probably would have noticed if something more spectacular hadn’t jumped in front of the car.”

“It does seem like every time one thing comes up another pops up right behind it to take your attention off what you wanted to look at from the first…” Tippy struggled along.

“…Bomb?” Jesse helped.

“Don’t say that!” Ian snapped. “That’s the only thing that hasn’t gone off in this house since January. Let’s not encourage fate, karma, God or Harry Dresden with something they may not have thought of.”

Ripley nodded. “Probably a good idea.”