Excerpt from Chapter Two — The Castlewood Connection — | Part Three of The Castlewood Saga | Just a sneak preview of something coming soon 🙂
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” | Matthew 24:9-13.
Monday, October 21, 2047
Birlington Super Store, Birlington, OH
Addison ducked into the bathroom and hurried to the handicapped stall, the furthest away from the door. Shoppers in a crowded store all looked the same, didn’t they? She desperately hoped so as she shook her red hair free of its bun and let it cascade around her shoulders. Twisting the dark blue cinch bag off her back, Addison pulled out a pair of brown knee-length Uggs and exchanged them for the sneakers she was wearing. She shrugged out of her sweater and pushed it into the bag. Now clad in a gray Ohio State T-shirt and jeans, Addison set a hand on the bathroom door, tightened the straps on the bag and merged with the sea of shoppers.
Addison felt a light tap on her shoulder and whirled around in response.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” It was a woman in her mid-thirties wearing too much eye liner and a floppy summer hat. “I was just wondering if you knew where I could find some tea.”
“No, I’m afraid I don’t.” Addison smiled politely, trying to calm her pounding heart. “Not too familiar with this store.”
The woman nodded. “Thanks anyway.”
Addison ran a hand through her thick wavy hair. Get a grip, Addy, the world isn’t out to get you…at least not all of it. She decided she looked too conspicuous empty-handed so she grabbed a red shopping basket someone had left at the end of an aisle and tried to fit in.
Sliding past an oblivious shopper, whose cart was badly positioned, Addison pulled two boxes of crackers off a shelf as well as a pack of granola bars. She paused, trying to remember how much money she had with her. Counting cash in the open wasn’t such a smart idea but right now she really had no choice. Addison slid the basket higher on her arm, leaving her hands free. She shoved her hand into her jeans’ pocket and rifled through the bills. A ten and a twenty. Thirty dollars. Not bad for a last minute scramble.
Addison wandered through the aisles, on the look-out for food that wouldn’t spoil quickly. Fruits and veggies were out of the question so packaged food was ideal. She added a six pack of bottled water to her basket along with a Hershey’s candy bar. Chocolate would always be her weakness.
Feeling satisfied with her selections, Addison headed to the check-out counter, grabbing a second pack of granola bars on the way. As she turned to continue on her way, she tripped over someone’s foot and fell to the ground. Her basket went flying, accompanied by its contents.
Addison lay on the floor for several seconds as her face flushed and she turned the color of her fiery hair. Curse words rose in her mind but she struggled to push them down, her new-found relationship with God at work. To her surprise, not a soul stopped to help her. She crawled to the pack of bottled water and as her hand closed around one side, another, darker, closed around the opposite one.
Addison lifted her eyes and saw the smiling face of a very tan man, his half African American heritage clearly evident. He was wearing sunglasses, which Addison found to be a little odd since they were, after all, in a supermarket. Dressed in a black leather jacket, a black T-shirt and dark jeans, he looked as if he belonged to a gang of some sort. Addison, however, noticed the backpack over his shoulders and the contents of the red basket next to his feet which were identical to her own, save the candy bar.
She had a strange feeling he was in exactly the same situation as she was.
“Thank you.” Addison relinquished her hold on the water. “People just aren’t courteous anymore,” she said half-laughingly. Out of her peripheral vision she saw another man dressed identically to the one standing above her, picking up the scattered cracker boxes.
“I’m Asher,” the first man said as he reached down a hand, allowing Addison to ride his pull upwards. “This is my brother Jack.”
Addison tensed inwardly. People were rarely so free with personal information these days. Still, she knew it was crazy but she felt some sort of affinity with the two men based on the contents of their shopping baskets.
Going out on a limb, she extended her hand, tossing hair out of her face. “Addison. Pleased to meet you.” She straightened her cinch bag. “Pardon my asking, but are you twins? I’m a twin and my uncles are twins too, so other twins kind of catch my eye.” Addison winced. Now she was giving out unnecessary information.
Asher laughed. “No, we’re just brothers.”
Jack handed Addison her basket. “Here you go.”
“Thank you again.” Addison gave the two a quick wave. “The world needs more people like you.”
“Hey, not so fast.” Asher moved closer, picking up his basket.
Jack followed suit. “Do you think we don’t know what we’re doing? It’s risky business giving out your name to a total stranger.”
A light flicked on in Addison’s mind. “You tripped me on purpose?” She stepped away. “I take back all my previous comments about your kindness.”
“Don’t be so hasty,” Asher cautioned, shaking his head. “We can help you.”
“And what makes you think I need your help?” Addison boldly asked, fire smoldering in her blue eyes.
Jack moved out of a shopper’s path. “Your response, for one thing, the contents of your basket and the fact that you took our bait and gave us your name as well as a little too much information about your family.”
“But it was enough info for us to know that you are one we have been looking for.” Asher dug a hand in his pocket. “You’ll recognize someone in this picture, I think.”
“How do I know you’re not trying to trap me?” Addison asked, a hand on her hip.
Jack sighed. “Just settle down, okay? We’re out to do you a big favor.”
“Sure.” Addison gestured to his face. “Well since you’re out to do me good anyway, you can start by taking the shades off. The sun is not shining in here and I’d like to see your eyes, please.”
Asher and Jack removed their sunglasses, revealing brown and blue eyes. “Now, look at the picture,” Asher said firmly.
Addison snatched it from his hand and looked. She saw eleven teenage boys and girls posing outside an enormous mansion. Their arms were around each other and they had huge smiles on their faces. “Nice picture, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to be seeing.” Addison arched an eyebrow as she shifted her stare to the two brothers.
“Keep looking,” Asher responded patiently.
Addison shrugged and looked again. The mansion was beautiful; it was probably the biggest house she had ever seen. Judging by the wrinkles on the image, she figured it was not a recent picture. Then she saw it. Two of the girls had flaming red hair and two of the boys were identical. Her heart raced. “Impossible,” she whispered. Addison had only seen pictures of her aunts and uncles and from what her mother had told her, she realized that she must be staring at Aunt Livy, Uncle Jonas, and Uncle Jim. The other red-haired girl was none other than her mother, formerly Chloe Astaire now Chloe Osborn.
Addison clenched the picture. “Where did you get this?”
“Our mother gave it to us,” Jack answered.
“Really.” Addison narrowed her eyes. “Okay, you have a lot of explaining to do so you better start talking fast.”
“Not here.” Asher shook his head. “It’s too public. Check out with us and then we’ll talk.”
Jack saw Addison’s hesitation. “If you want answers, you’re going to have to trust us. Take a leap of faith, Addison.”
Addison shifted her basket, still holding the picture. “It seems you leave me no choice.” She gestured in front of her. “Lead the way, I’d rather be behind you.”
Kids these days were so foolish. A little rearranging of clothing was not about to throw any determined hunter off the scent. Least of all one as determined as she was. It had taken her three days but she had finally found Addison Osborn.
Lillian watched the nineteen year old follow two black clad men to a check-out counter. She didn’t look too happy, in fact she seemed nervous and confused. Lillian had heard nothing of the conversation that went on between the three, but she had seen it, and realized whatever had been said had made Addison upset. The two men seemed somehow familiar to Lillian and she filed their faces away for future reference.
She swung in the direction of the exit, holding a box of tea. Bypassing the check-out counters, Lillian stepped through the door, setting off the security alarm. She waited patiently as two employees held her arms while a third went off in search of the manager. Within several seconds, the manager arrived, red-faced and out of breath.
“And just where do you think you’re going?” he asked sternly, glancing towards the tea box.
Lillian smiled sweetly. “Away from you,” she replied, her brown eyes staring calmly into his own.
“I think not.” The manager motioned to the employees. “This lady will come with me.”
Lillian flashed an ID card in the man’s face. “Think again,” she said in the same cool voice.
The manager turned white as he read the ID and nervously ran a hand through his thinning hair. “I see.” He coughed. “Thank you, Frank, Howard; but Miss, um, Astaire is free to go.”
Frank and Howard released Lillian who sauntered through the door, a box of tea in one hand and a floppy summer hat in the other.
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