Notes from the Studio

The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Sixteen.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Sixteen        Forty-five minutes later, the caravan of black SUV’s turned off Culloden Road and onto the long private drive that bore the Ravenscroft estate’s name. Huddled in the back of the middle vehicle, Janet had pushed herself as far away from her father as possible. Her thoughts a tangle of half-truths and revelations, she hadn’t spoken for the entire length of the drive across downtown Inverness.        Finally, in an attempt to find the answer to at least one of the multitude of questions that all but consumed her, Janet asked, “So, how do you know them? The Parsons, I mean. You talked with his widow for a long time, and out of the fucking blue you offered my friend Lottie the money to rebuild her music club. But you’ve never said word one about any of them to me.”       John Ravenscroft surfaced from his own thoughts to briefly acknowledge his daughter with an ill-considered comment. “I can’t think of any reason that you need to know why?” Then he turned back to the long in-coming text that he was studying on his mobile. It concerned his wife and the secret that had for too long helped build a wall between father and daughter. Lately Janet’s ceaseless effort to tear down that wall had produced an abundance of absurd antics that only served to drive the elder Ravenscroft into frustrated anger.  Finished, John looked up and his gaze lingered on his young daughter, who too quickly was transforming into a woman as strong-willed as her mother.        “Forgive me. I…”        But Janet was staring intently out the window into the pitch-black Scottish night that obscured everything not in the car’s headlights. After a moment she quietly whispered, “My mother, what was she like? At least you can

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapters Fourteen and Fifteen.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Fourteen        Rain thundered down from a dense, sullen sky so endless that it seemed to swallow the plain of heather and granite boulders spread out below it. A great black mare surged across that moorland, regardless of the sharp broken stones or treacherous mire under its hooves. The hot breath of both rider and mount plumed out behind, leaving a momentary trail of white mist in the frigid morning air. The rider was soaked to the bone and without saddle or bridle, but his knees clamped firmly into his mount’s heaving sides kept him astride the horse. And regardless of the danger, he urged the mare to go even faster.        Just before each narrow strip of tarmac the mare gathered itself and leapt, never touching the man-made asphalt that paved its surface. Then, far off in the rainswept darkness, a flash of lightning revealed the small ring of standing stones that was their destination.        Inside the tight ring of stones, the storm was no longer of any concern to either rider or mount. Still, the mare nervously reared and pawed the air in front of the largest of the seven stones, ears laid flat back against her head. Thomas slid off the mare’s back just before the horse turned her dripping head and looked directly at him before speaking, “Where have you brought us this foul night, my friend?”       “Only where I must go.”       “Go?”       Steam rose from the dripping coat of the horse as Tom stroked her heaving flanks. “I must step through the stone and find the witch woman, Mother Hainter. There are questions I would ask of her, for I fear that the quest she tasked me with will bring grievous harm to those that I sought and is cert to bring

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Thirteen.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Thirteen        That afternoon a satisfied smile played across John Ravenscroft’s face as he picked up the new dossier that waited on his desk. It faded quickly after thumbing through an extremely thin folder that contained exactly two digitally enhanced pictures of a pleasant-looking young man. Both were taken with his own security cameras. In the first he sat a motorcycle with Janet’s arms wrapped tightly around his waist. They were at the front gate. In the other, the same man was leaping impossibly over the estates fence, all twelve feet of it. Underneath the photos were several text pages with a scant typed profile of a particular family, once prominent in the Highlands named Lynn. Quickly reading through the brief outline, he found that at one time the Lynns had been a very wealthy Highland family, but now their estate was bankrupt and fallen into ruin. The family had indeed produced a son named Thomas who, it seemed, had disappeared over 100 years ago in mysterious circumstances.        Grimly he muttered to himself, “What utter, useless nonsense!”       Immediately Ravenscroft hit the speed dial on his mobile. When the call was answered he hissed at its recipient with formidable rage, “Mr. Mackintosh, am I to understand that you and your team could find nothing on this man?”       “Yes sir. But we’re still looking. We’re hopeful that something will turn up by the end of the afternoon.”       “Hopeful? This afternoon? I see. Am I to be kept waiting an eternity then?”       “Sir, we are going through every database in our network. And hacking into others as well.”       “I should think so, Mr. Mackintosh. It is the future after all. Everyone’s life is an open book if you know how and where to look for it.        “Yes, I am

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