Thank you again Alyce for correcting my French on "L'Ange Noir."
Warnings: Netiquette violations: language and adult situations
Further warnings: If you are a Rachel Quest fan read no further - delete now.
Disclaimer: (See Prologue)
It is six days later and we still cannot find a trace of Benton. We just aren't having much luck finding any leads as to where they took him.
The reporters are having a field day. Apparently someone isn't afraid of the Borok. The ritual murders are being stopped. The would-be victims will only say that their rescuers are a woman dressed from head to foot in black, and a man with white hair dressed all in white. The newspapers are calling the pair "L'Ange Noir (The Black Angel)" and "Monsieur Snow." The Bokor has become known as "Blanc le Diable (The White Devil)" Bets are being placed on the outcome of the Vodun holy war--good verses evil.
People are curious about "L'Ange Noir" some say she is Marie Laveau come back from the grave. Marie isn't going to let anyone steal her title of being the greatest Voodoo Queen in the history of New Orleans. At least, she isn't going to take it lying down others joked.
I tell Race that if we haven't found Benton by November 2 when we do find him he will be dead. The strain is becoming too great on everyone. I haven't slept since the afternoon of Benton's kidnapping. I have lost weight. My eyes are bloodshot from crying. Race is in little better shape. During the days while I study the arts, he has been searching in vain for Benton. At night he accompanies me in my war against Angelique. How much longer can that valiant heart of his hold out against the strain?
I have intentionally stayed away from the hotel. I cannot bear thinking about Jonny and Hadji. I don't know what to say to them. I am as lost as they are without Benton. I fight tears, what will become of the three of us if Benton is dead? I will not think this way. Benton is alive! His sons need him! I need him!
I return to the hotel. I have to see Hadji and Jonny. I know that they blame me for all of this and they are right; it is my fault entirely. They have lost their father because of me. I attempt to apologize. They have suffered so much because of me. Finally, I give up trying to talk to them. As I turn to leave the last person I expect to speak to me asks if I would mind talking to him privately. I almost say no; I cannot stand another one of Jonny's outbursts.
Not now, my worn nerves are to thin for his verbal abuse. Yet, I say yes. Why? Because I know that whatever it is he is planning to say to me I deserve.
"Will?" We are standing out near the pool.
He won't even look at me. "Dad forgot Mom because of you and now he is going to forget me after your baby is born."
I stare at him in disbelief. "Why do you say that?"
He wipes his eyes still refusing to look at me. "Because."
"Jonny did your father forget you, or love you any less, when Hadji came to live with you?"
"No," was the softly mumbled reply.
I bite my lip. "How about Race, or Jessie, or Mrs. Evans? Did he stop loving you, or forget you because of them?"
He does a quick sideways glance in my direction, "No."
I know I am going to get burned, but I can't help myself. I reach out to him, lightly touching his shoulder. "Then why do you think he will do these things now? Do you think he has changed?" It's a good sign he hasn't jerked away from me yet.
He shrugs his shoulder. "No."
"Then believe in your father; it's the one thing that he has always made very clear to me, that nothing is more important to him then you and your mother." I rub his shoulder. It's getting broad; he won't be a child much longer. "Jonny, I know I can't replace your mother, it has never been my intention to do that."
A shutter runs through him. "I guess it's not really all about Mom. All I have ever wanted was to see Dad happy again like he was when Mom was alive." He sits on the edge of the pool and pulls off his shoes. What else can I do other than join him? "Then you came along and it wasn't fair." My heartaches, but I remain silent. He needs me to listen. So, I will listen. "I just wanted him to be happy. Dad deserves to be happy. I just can't---couldn't deal with the fact that I couldn't make him as happy as he is when he is with you. I guess I was just being selfish."
By now we are both swinging our feet in the pool. "I am sure that Kathy Martin didn't fare any better with you."
I see a blush, and then a small lopsided grin. He extends his left arm so I can see his left hand. He holds his index finger and thumb out to form the letter "L." I turn my head away so he won't see my triumphant smile. "OH, Will! She was pathetic, always falling into things, sinkholes, lava tunnels, and rivers. If she wasn't falling, then things were attacking her, like bears, and turtles. Have you ever seen the movie 'Parent Trap'?" He looks at me all innocent blue eyes.
"Which one, the one with Haley Mills, or the remake?" I receive the rolling eye bit for that one.
"Well, anyway Kathy Martin is as bad as that woman when they went camping, you know the one that everything kept happening to, and she kept spazzing out about everything."
"Really? Are you sure you're not exaggerating?" I bump my shoulder against him.
"Well, maybe just a little, but not much." When he looks at me this time he flashes that full Quest charm on me. I am helpless; like father like son, I am a bug trapped in amber. I return his smile. He laughs. I laugh. Suddenly both of us are giggling at the thoughts running through our minds over poor, hapless Kathy Martin.
During a break in our laughter I cannot resist asking. "Am I a . . . ?" I do the "L" thing.
"No, you're cool." I almost fall into the pool at his comment; he continues, "You're like a Race Bannon with . . . . . !" Even in the gathering darkness I can see the blush staining Jonny's cheeks. He is unsure of how he wants to finish the sentence. When Benton gets back I will have to tell him that his son is beginning to notice the differences between girls and boys.
Then the most amazing thing happens. He throws his arms around me and hugs me. We almost topple over into the pool; somehow I manage to keep the two of us from overbalancing. I hug him back. I'm scared; he, Hadji and the baby are all that I have left of Benton. Jonny buries his face against my shoulder, "Will, what if Dad isn't going to be coming back? What if Dad is dead? I'm scared."
My voice breaks, "I know. We'll find him. We'll get him back. I promise." I know I should be out hunting for Angelique. For now it's more important for me to be here; rocking this child in my arms; murmuring assurance that I'm not sure that I can keep.
*DAMN YOU ANGELIQUE! When I find you, you will pay for this!* My inner voice screams to the darkening skies.
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