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“I’ve come,” Ann said, “to speak with you about Josh.”

The old man looked up from his rosebushes. “Who?”

“Josh. Josh Walker. My ex-boyfriend. Your mentee.”

He sat back on his heels, gray head tipped to one side. “I don’t know what a menty is, but I know Josh. I meant who are you? Have we met?”

She sighed. “No. I’m Ann Sherwyn. I’m visiting – ”

“You’re Tom and Carrie’s little granddaughter?”

“Well. Little is a matter of perspective.”

He grunted, attention back to pulling weeds. “Heard you’d be saying awhile.”

“That’s the plan.”

“You say you’re Josh’s friend?”

“Ex-girlfriend. And ex-friend, if that’s a thing.”

“Ah. Dinner go that badly, then?”

She shook her head. “Dinner was lovely. But Josh is . . .”

“Oh, no need to explain.” He waved a dirt-smudged hand. “Josh’s a decent kid, but he’s not every girl’s slice of pie.”

Ann fixed him with a stern look. “Frankly, Josh is exactly my slice of pie. However, I’ve come to understand there are a number of complications.”

“Is that so.”

“Look, I know who Josh is. I know what’s going on. But he’s clueless. And I figure that’s your fault.” She fidgeted with the keys to her grandfather’s truck. “I don’t mean any disrespect: I just want to know why.”

The old man said nothing.

“I don’t have any experience with this sort of thing, but it seems . . . I don’t know. It seems that Josh should be something more than clueless.”

 

Still nothing.

“I can’t be the only one who thinks he might need to know about this stuff. Some of this stuff. I don’t understand why I’ve been the first one to bring it up.”

Nothing still.

Ann sighed again. “When were you thinking you’d tell him?”

A sigh, now – similar to hers. “Tell him what?”

Everything. Whatever it is he needs to know, or learn, or do, or be.”

The old man gave her a long, gruff look, then stuck out his hand. “Ann Sherwyn, I’m Bruce Fredricks.”

She took his hand and shook it. “Pleasure.”

“Perhaps we’d better go inside.”

“Is that really necessary?”

Mr. Fredricks got to his feet, brushing his hands off on his jeans. “I’d like to make some tea, if you don’t mind. Can’t do that out in the garden.”

“If you’re trying to distract me, it won’t work.”

The old man leaned in a bit. “It would perhaps be wise if we had this discussion inside, away from prying eyes and listening ears.”

Ann looked around. Mr. Fredricks’s house stood at the end of a long, curving drive up to the top of a steep hill. It was surrounded by pretty green lawn and Red and Silver Maples –  an old barn and a tangle of overgrown apple trees in a field beyond. They were very much alone. Or seemed to be.

She shrugged. “Very well.”

BlackFall 2015

Inside the kitchen, Ann perched on the edge of a high-backed wooden chair as the old man puttered about with the tea kettle. “Mr. Fredricks, I don’t need any tea.”

“It’s for me. You want some?”

She narrowed her eyes. “No.”

He walked from stove to table, a mug in each hand, and plunked one down in front of her before dragging a chair out to sit. “So, about Josh.”

“The Chosen One, Mr. Fredricks. The Chosen One is here, and the The Chosen One doesn’t know who he is or what’s coming. Do you not see that as a potential problem?”

A sip from the mug. “Perhaps you haven’t noticed, Miss Sherwyn, but this kind of thing isn’t easy to explain.”

Ann blinked, anxious to keep her eyes from rolling. “It wouldn’t be so hard to explain if the subject had been broached before now.”

“It’s not yet time.”

“Not yet time? When is it going to be time?”

Mr. Fredricks shrugged. “When the boy has questions only I can answer.”

“When will that be? When the Evil Overlord’s minions show up and try to kill him? When a friend dies? When his aunt and uncle are murdered and the farm’s burned down?”

“Well, I certainly hope things don’t come to that, but if he doesn’t think to ask questions until then, then -”

“Hope? Hope? Surely there’s some kind of plan beyond hope.”

“Of course there’s a plan beyond hope. But until an actual threat is revealed, there’s no need to -”

She couldn’t stop herself from rolling her eyes, but she did close them, head shaking side–to-side. “What if it’s too late? What if by the time the threat is revealed, it’s too late?”

“Young lady, The Chosen One cannot be late. The timing is always perfect, in its own way. Whatever happens -”

“I don’t mean too late for him, I mean too late for the rest of us! You, me, the other kids at school, his family, the town itself: the flower shop and the diner and the brewery and the library and Todd’s Tractor Repair. Look, I’m new to Waterdale, but my family isn’t. We’ve had a presence here for generations and I won’t see it destroyed just because you thought it’d be a safe place for The Chosen One to grow up.”

The old man looked away, out the window to the backyard. “The Chosen One had to grow up somewhere. Somewhere safe, like you said. Somewhere green and peaceful. I’m sorry it was here, but it had to be somewhere. If not Waterdale, somewhere like it, with shops and restaurants and ordinary folk like your grandparents.”

Ann waited for him to say more, but he didn’t say more. Simply looked out his window over fresh-cut grass and more garden and the old barn by the apple orchard.

“So what I’m hearing is you’re going to be no help at all.”

“Not yet. And not the kind of help you’re looking for. I’m here for The Chosen One.”

“Right.” Ann snagged her mug and marched around the counter to the kitchen sink. “Thank you for the tea,” she said, holding the mug high and pouring the contents down the drain. Mr. Fredricks said nothing, and she took her leave, careful to slam the door behind her.

She stopped short – a familiar face climbing the front-porch steps.

“Ann,” Josh said, more surprised than anything else. He glanced over her shoulder at the house. “What are you doing here?”

She sighed. “Trying to talk sense into him, but of course he’s too thick. I suppose you’ll have to be the one to pester him. Don’t let him evade your questions; don’t believe everything you hear; don’t settle for cryptic nonsense.”

“What?”

“Excuse me.”

He backed down the steps to let her pass. “Isn’t that right there cryptic nonsense?”

Ann arched an eyebrow at him. “I’ve tried being straight with you: you wouldn’t have any of it. Good day.”

“Okay, then.”

Men,” she muttered, stomping down the blacktop. “They’re going to ruin it all.”

 

 

*This has been Part Three of Ann versus The Evil Overlord:

Part One

Part Two