New Winslow S7E54
Roman had expected Jamie to be mad about having to leave New Winslow for a little while. Or maybe scared. After all, he was old enough to understand that someone with a lot more power than them had threatened him and his siblings. And he was angry about that, Roman could see it in how protective he was over the babies. But now he was back at the Countess instead of enjoying the summer before senior year with his friends back in New Winslow. He would be well within his rights to sulk on his too-small cot over it.
But what Roman didn’t expect – and realized in retrospect was just stupid of him – was Jamie’s interest in the inn. Roman appreciated the Countess for what it was. It was still the hotel for ghosts and assholes, but it was somewhere that kept him safe from the curse and close to his family. And the magical barriers set by the owners and other residents, while extremely frustrating, were comforting in their protection. But at the end of the day, that was all it was to him. He had no interest beyond what was happening right now.
Jamie, however, was fascinated with the place. When Roman gave him a cautious okay to go explore a little (within the rules, he was quick to emphasize) and let the babies nap, he went straight down to the small library. Anna had found him there an hour later, engrossed in a book on herbal magic.
“Your kid is something,” she said with a smile a little while later as Roman came downstairs for a cup of coffee.
“Isn’t he?” Roman said, pride warming him as he capped his cup. “Kid’s applying to UMass Amherst in a few weeks. I don’t know what I’m going to do when he’s gone.”
“No? Not with two other children under five years old to raise?” Anna teased gently.
“Well, other than that.”
“He got some of your wife’s skills, didn’t he?”
“I’m honestly not sure,” Roman admitted. “I mean, in terms of studying and learning, oh yeah. She’s smarter than me and he inherited all of that. But the innate magic part? I’ve never seen it and he’s never said anything. Still, that’s what he wants to do..”
“Just train him to be careful,” Anna said, her smile fading somewhat as she looked out over the peaceful foyer. “We need more people, but we need them to be thoughtful with their power.”
She straightened the sugar substitutes in their little container on the counter. “I don’t know what kind of damage she did out there,” she said softly. “She claimed to have hundreds of clients.”
“She claimed a lot of things,” Roman said, picking up a coffee stirrer from the carpet beside the drink station. “I don’t know, maybe it’ll be something. Or maybe it’ll be nothing. But she’s gone.”
There was a sadness in Anna’s eyes that turned steely before they returned to their usual warmth. “Your boy is welcome here anytime,” she said. “In fact, send him my way when he’s looking for a summer job. We’ll have plenty of work for him around here.”
That wasn’t what he’d expected and part of Roman wanted to swoop in, refuse the generous offer, and protect Jamie from the unknown. He knew he couldn’t do that for everything and there were options out there that would be a lot more dangerous. But the more Roman thought about it, the opportunities this opened up for Jamie might be exactly what he needed as he moved into adulthood.
“I’ll be sure to do that,” he said, dropping the trash into the tiny receptacle. “Just make sure you don’t go easy on him.”
Anna laughed, and Roman headed back upstairs.
The calls kept coming in, their home and mobile phones ringing constantly. Andrew was trying his best not to lose his mind and he could tell that the others were, too. But they were coming in from every direction now, some vague and generic, while others were way too specific. It was like a dam had been breached, the slow trickle of threats now a wave of fury and intimidation that made him consider whether this was all worth it. A quick reality check from Liv when he voiced this thought made him realize he was falling straight into their trap, but it didn’t make each new threat any less nerve-wracking.
Even Cleo mentioned getting threats sent to her website. Mixed in with the press requests and reviews were messages telling her to shut up, for her friends to shut up, and that they’d get what was coming if they didn’t. Cleo had almost laughed when she told Andrew about them.
“I figured it was just part of being a woman on the internet,” she said as they talked on the phone, Andrew scrubbing the back room of the Limerick after hours. “But then they started getting specific about you. And I was like, they’re not going to do that if they’re just mad about me existing.”
“No, Leo Ravesi is more likely to rail against the purity of music being corrupted, not threaten to kill someone he might maybe remember in a town he doesn’t know exists.”
“Did I tell you he reviewed the album?” Cleo asked.
“No, what did he say?”
Andrew grinned, spraying bleach on the counter. “Atta girl.”
He scrubbed at the gleaming metal as Cleo laughed. “I’d say you were right all along, but I don’t want to listen to you.”
“It’s my calling,” Andrew said. “What changed?”
“Dealing with real problems,” Cleo replied. “I have more important things to worry about right now than this man’s ego. So I’m just not looking.”
He had to admit, he was proud of her for that in particular among the sea of things he was proud about. “It’s hard though, isn’t it?” he asked, aware that they were both still thinking about the threats underneath this otherwise light change of topic.
“Oh my God, Andrew, it’s impossible,” she admitted as he heard her moving boxes on the other end of the phone. “All I want to do is read it. But I know it’s going to be shit. And I know it’s going to make me feel bad. And he’s so stupid and awful, so then I’ll feel bad about giving him that power over me. But it’s so tempting to just open that page.”
She gave a self-deprecating laugh. “But like I said, real problems now. Oh shit, I have a customer coming in. I’ll call you later.”
She hung up without another word, and Andrew kept cleaning, bracing himself. He knew the next time the phone rang, it wouldn’t be Cleo on the other end.