Black Sun 020: Mysterious Ms. Abernathy (Original Draft)

Black Sun 020: Mysterious Ms. Abernathy (Original Draft)

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A small car pulled up in to the driveway of the Hollinger house, it’s passenger shutting off the ignition and reaching behind her to grab a bag. The moment she pulled it in to her lap her cellphone rang, chiming to the tune of Suddenly Seymore.

“Tina Abernathy, what can I do for you?” she answered. When she heard the voice on the other side she frowned.

“I have something I need you to do.”

“I have an appointment right now.” Tina responded, digging in to her bag to pull out her clipboard.

“I know you do. That is why I’ve called.”

Tina shifted uncomfortably in her seat, retrieving the keys from the ignition to stow away in her pocket. “She’s doing well here. I don’t want t-”

“Stow your concerns. You may not agree with my methods, but our goals here are the same. I wish to see Miss Hollinger grow up to be a capable young woman, secure and happy in her family home.”

Tina just sighed. There was no sense in arguing about it, she had little say in the matter.

Taking that as a sign of acceptance, the voice continued.

“Check the property for disturbances. Outside on the grounds and within the house. You know what to look for. Someone has become curious of Miss Hollinger, I would like to be sure they haven’t begun to pursue it.”

“As you command.”

“Mind your tone, darling. You are not the only talented Abernathy.”

Tina immediately hung up. There was still a hint of frustration as she got out of the car, but it smoothed over as she got to work.

The Hollinger house was very humble compared to the other wealthy old families of Silent Pines. Though it wasn’t likely to be the original family home, the old Victorian had been occupied by a few generations of Hollingers. It received plenty of add-ons and renovations over the years. The entire lot wasn’t even close to an acre of land, which Tina was quite grateful for as she walked across the perimeter of the front lawn in a pair of red heels. The front yard took up little space with a short driveway leading up to the unconnected garage and a stone path to the front steps. Tina frowned at the poor neglected gardens patches, even stopping to crouch next to one and pluck out a few weeds that were strangling sprouting fall bulbs.

With nothing of worry in the front, she walked along the outside border towards the backyard. No fence surrounded the property even in the back, which meant just about anyone could freely run through the yard if they wished. The backyard had a much more generous amount of space, but was still on the smaller side and easily checked over in a matter of minutes. Tina examined the literal corners as well as the directional ones. The outer boundaries seemed to be fine.

Jotting a few notes in her clipboard about garden care, she returned to the house itself, stopping just under the spot where Julian’s upstairs bedroom looked out over the yard. Tina placed a hand against the side of the house and frowned.

Someone had definitely climbed up there before.

“Well hello there,” a voice piped up from behind Tina.

It was a young man about Julian’s age, maybe a little older. He was tall with long, jean-clad legs and a snug-fitting t-shirt printed with a redheaded girl kissing a skeleton. His hair was an average, ordinary brown, though it was cut short and neat; nothing that stood out. But his eyes were another matter entirely. They practically glowed blue.

“Can I help you?” he asked, leaning his shoulder against the siding of the house and cocking his head to at an angle. “If you’re looking for a way to get in, I normally recommend trying the front door.”

Tina shifted with a start. She hadn’t heard him approach which left her glancing around carefully to make sure no one else was hiding. There was also the fact that this child was not normal. Tina was instantly uneasy, wrapping her arms around her clipboard.

“That is kind of you to offer, but I don’t believe you are the one that lives here.” she stated, taking a few casual steps backwards. He was young enough that he could be someone Julian knew from school, or more specifically this might be her new boyfriend. Which left Tina wondering why the boy was lurking around in Julian’s backyard.

“I’m Julian’s social worker and I’m here for a home inspection. Is she inside? Normally she is back from school by now.”

“She’s not home yet. Shouldn’t be long though.” He gave her a once-over- as if she were the one being suspicious (which of course she wasn’t, she had a perfectly legitimate reason to be here)- and then straightened up, offering his hand. “I’m Leo. Has Jules mentioned me?”

She was hesitant, but he was being polite and she found the fact he he seemed to be sizing her up rather amusing. Tina missed that protective streak teenage boys had over their girlfriends. Adults never put that much care and drama in to their relationships. It was always so casual.

“My name is Tina Abernathy. Ms. Abernathy will be fine. She did mention someone new in her life the last time we spoke, but we didn’t have time to get to the details.” Tina finally took his hand to shake. Oh dear. This was definitely not a normal child. She was NOT warned about this. No good could possibly come from this.

“I suppose you are waiting for her to get home? You aren’t up to anything?”

“Up to something?” He smiled, the kind of dazzling smile that probably worked wonders on girls his age. “Nope. Scout’s honor.”

Slipping his hands into his pockets, he glanced down towards the driveway.

“Yeah, I’m waiting for her to get home. I guess I hang out here a lot.” His eyes were back on Tina now. “Sorry to bug you, but can I see your business card? Just so I know you’re not ‘up to something’ yourself. I did catch you looking in the windows, after all.”

Despite the accusation, his tone was friendly. Teasing, almost.

Well. She could see why a young lady would be bedazzled by this one, he was adorable. Unfortunately, he was also quite possibly dangerous.

Tina tucked her clipboard under her arm, shifting to pull a small black case out of her back pocket. She flipped through a few cards until she found the right one, then handed it to him.


It contained her cellphone number and her work number along with an email address.

“Julian should also have one. In fact, if you ever need assistance or feel that Julian may be in a bit of trouble, I would appreciate if you called me straight away.”

Retrieving her clipboard again, and giving him one more cursory look, Tina resumed her work. …although now having to be aware of who was watching. She gestured towards the window. “Did you realize the door was a better option after trying to get in the hard way?” she questioned.

“You got me.” He laughed, rubbing the back of his neck like he was embarrassed. “I thought it would make an impression. Jules screamed, so I guess it worked.”

He turned her card over in his hands, his thumb rubbing over the raised print. Flexing the card, he flicked it, and then slid it into his back pocket.

“Is Jules in trouble?” he asked, rocking back and forth on the heels of his boots. “Or is this just a routine visit?”

“Hmm.” It was good to know he was the culprit, that would at least rule out other dangers. Tina wasn’t keen on knowing he was the window climbing type, though. She started walking again, taking a good look at the rest of the windows and even stopping at the bottom floor ones to run her fingers against the sill as if she were checking for dust.

“Until she turns eighteen, a once a month visit is the routine. Just to make sure she is all right and not running in to problems. But she has been missing appointments with both me and her therapist lately. …I’m starting to understand why.” She cast him a knowing, but friendly smile from over her shoulder.

“Does she get any visitors here? Besides Angela Mercy and yourself? Has she had any issues with people at school?”

“Nah, no trouble at school or anything like that.” Leo trailed after her, watching her work. “It’s just me, Angela, and Michael coming by. Did somebody call the cops on me, or what? It was just the one time I tried to go in the window, I swear.”

Suddenly, he hesitated.

“Is this about that guy who bothered her the other day?” he asked, blinking his big blue eyes slowly and putting his hands on his hips. “Older guy, glasses? Greying hair? Creep? Because he shouldn’t know where Jules lives.”

“I wasn’t aware that she had a run in with someone.” she frowned. That creep as he called him must be the reason why she was instructed to do a detailed look over on the property. Tina scribbled down his description on her clipboard. Michael was also a new name for her. It seemed Julian was making new friends again. At least that was good news.

“How, exactly, was he a ‘creep’ and how did he bother her? Is it something I should be concerned about? Or has it happened more than once? He may not know where she lives, but that is very easy information to get these days if you are determined to find someone.” It explained why he was following her and watching her inspect the house. The boy didn’t seem to be overly concerned or worried, but he was paying close attention.

The back and sides of the house were fine, which left Tina stepping up on to the front porch to check over the front windows and the door. She shifted the doormat to the side to make sure nothing was under it, and ran a hand over the upper frame over the door. Everything outside checked out. She let out a soft sigh of relief. Now there was just the inside to check over. Tina stepped over to the bird feeder hanging over the porch railing and tilted it to look inside.

The spare key was missing.

“Uhhh.” Leo shifted uneasily, looking flustered, and then held up the key between two fingers. “Busted. It’s not what it looks like? She just told me she’d rather have me let myself in than scaling the walls. I was about to head in and wait when I saw you.”

Frowning, he pulled out his cell phone- apparently to check the time. Absentmindedly, he stepped forward to unlock the front door for Tina.

“Where is she, anyway? She’s seriously late.”

It was clear by her responding expression that she definitely thought he was up to no good. Or at the very least doing something very naughty. Once the door was unlocked, Tina stepped through first, then rest her hand on the edge of the door waiting for him to follow her inside. If he could.

“I know that she lives here alone and that can be quite convenient for a teenage boy. I hope Miss Hollinger hasn’t put her trust in someone that would take advantage of that.” she said pointedly.

Leo stepped across the threshold and into Julian’s home.

“Believe me, Ms. Abernathy,” he said, sobering. “If anyone’s getting taken advantage of here, it’s me. She’s the one calling all the shots. And that’s okay by me.”

He glanced to the side.

“And if I thought anyone was trying to hurt her,” he went on, “I’d stop them.”

That was interesting. Tina hoped with all her heart that it wasn’t a lie. With a peculiar situation such as this, it very likely could be. There as no way of knowing for sure how much of Julian’s judgement had been compromised or manipulated and it made her heart ache a little bit.

Clipboard at the ready, Tina headed straight for the living room and started jotting down notes for her actual job. “I’m glad to hear that. I believe you were going to tell me about the man that was bothering Julian?” He had conveniently neglected to answer that question. The living room looked lived in. A few things scattered here and there, like notebooks and an empty glass or two, but was tidy enough. That was nice and normal.

“Oh yeah.” Leo snapped his fingers. He planted himself on the arm of the couch, swinging his feet, and frowned. “This guy- Walter, that’s his name- bothered her outside of a party at Margrit Berkshire’s house. And a couple other times. He says he’s a witch and he thinks Jules is one too. Weird, right?”

“A witch?” That actually gave her pause and make her look up from her clipboard in surprise. Yes, that definitely explained the urgency. A witch taking interest in Julian was a very, very bad thing. Tina knew first hand.

“That is a bit unusual. Has he-”

That’s when the door swung open again and Julian nearly hurled herself inside. She was out of breath and flushed, like she had ran the ENTIRE way home from school. Her bag gave a heavy thump as she dropped it and staggered in to the living room.

“I can- explain!” she breathed out, pointing an accusing finger at Leo before she draped herself over the back of the couch trying to catch her breath.

“It’s all right, catch your breath first.”

“Hey!” Leo greeted, leaning backward across the back of the couch and looking up at her from upside-down. “You okay there, Jules?”

Before she could answer, he moved to press his lips against her cheek, high up and just beside her ear. His hand cupped her chin, keeping her in place for the casual display of affection.

“Play along,” Leo breathed into Julian’s ear, barely audible. He made sure to hold her still long enough for her head to obscure the motion of his lips.

He pulled back with a lopsided grin.

“Where’ve you been?” he inquired, still hovering in close proximity- until he gave a sheepish glance at Tina Abernathy and retreated another few inches. “Did you get held up? You could’ve warned me your social worker was coming over. I was convinced she was casing the joint.”

Julian could feel her cheeks burning, so it was pretty lucky she was still a little pink from running. Play along with what? Oh god, what did he DO!? She wasn’t that late! Why did he have to kiss her cheek? Julian was about to slip to the floor like a melted puddle.

“Trying to forget you landed me in detention for the rest of this week? Because I sure as hell haven’t.” she asked, at least now she was getting her breathing under control. She eyed a pillow and considered smothering him with it.

Tina watched the exchange curiously, holding her clipboard against her chest with her arms crossed over it. “Detention, Miss Hollinger?”

“Uh huh. And Leo got away without suffering even a speck of consequences. Why don’t you tell Tina how THAT happened, hmm?” What the hell was even happening. Julian was interested in seeing what he bullshitted up while she tried to figure out what he was up to.

“That’s not over yet?” he asked, furrowing his eyebrows and giving her the most confused look he could muster. It helped that he was actually wondering what the fuck she was talking about. “And… Hey! You’re the one who wanted to play hide-and-seek in the school. Don’t lie.

“She made me do it,” he said, turning to the social worker with long-suffering eyes. “I didn’t want to. Worst girlfriend ever.”

“Ugh!” Julian actually DID drop to the floor then. Collapsing on to her back behind the couch where neither of them could see her, under the guise of still being half-breathless and now annoyed with her boyfriend.

What the fuck! Whaaaaat the fuck! she screamed soundlessly at the ceiling and shaking her hands at it. How the hell was she supposed to explain this when Tina met her ACTUAL boyfriend? He couldn’t come up with something else? Her hand slapped against her cheek where he kissed her. She could still feel it. She was going to kill him.

“I am finding it hard to believe you have no fault in that.” Tina responded, resisting a smile. This was quite adorable. She was actually very glad that Julian was in a comfortable relationship. …even if that did mean a little bit of delinquency. “Although, the two of you should try to avoid breaking in to school property in the future.” Holding her clipboard outwards, she wrote down this new information, then she turned her back to them to take a look at the contents on a nearby desk.

Julian popped up on her knees, eyes squinting over the edge of the sofa. Tina wasn’t watching. She climbed back to her feet again, giving Leo a smack on the head and a hard couple of shoves until he fell back on the cushion.

What the hell are you doing! The words were mouthed at him as she circled around the couch and was reaching down to grab his shirt, probably to try and strangle him before Tina would see.

Trust me, he mouthed back, letting his features turn briefly dead-serious. His eyes slid over to the social worker, then back to Julian’s face. Witch.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ms. Abernathy make a move like she was about to turn. Leo sprang upright, tugging Julian onto the couch alongside him and slinging an arm around her shoulders.

“Jeez, Jules, did you run all the way here?” He squeezed her. “Situation’s all under control, don’t worry. Ms. Abernathy seems cool. I was just talking with her about that creep Walter and she’s promised she’s going to keep an eye out. Right?”

He shot Ms. Abernathy an expectant look.


The sudden look of horror on her face was perfectly masked by his well timed mention of Walter. But Tina was so nice. Julian couldn’t deny it, though. Once she actually put some thought in to it, she had recognized it the last time Tina was here. She just hadn’t known what it was. Which meant there was a witch in her house, that had regular access to her home, had control over what happened to her… and now the only thing keeping her from panicking was the fact Leo was squeezing her and he’d probably just plant her ass right back on the couch if she tried to get up and run.

“Yes, I am going to try. I wish you would have given me a call the first time you had trouble with him, Julian. You don’t have to take on things all by yourself.” When Tina turned, she could definitely see that Walter was a huge problem. The girl looked like she was going to pass out just at the mention of him. That would probably explain why the boyfriend had a key and was hanging around like a guard animal.

Tina held up an unmarked bottle she confiscated from the desk and shook it. “These pills aren’t a prescription. Where did you get them?”

“Uhm-” Words. Julian needed words. She was caught off guard and wasn’t prepared for knowing her social worker was a witch! “They’re from Lucinda for panic attacks and stuff like that.” Like right now!

Tina frowned at the bottle. “Do you take them?”

Julian shook her head. “I haven’t for a few months, I always forget? I don’t really need them anymore.” Except maybe for right NOW.

“…they are probably out of date by now. I am just going to keep them, okay? We don’t need to tell Lucinda you haven’t been taking them, it will be our little secret.” Tina slipped the bottle in to her pocket and marked down another statement on her paperwork. “I’m going to have a quick look upstairs, alright? And please don’t worry about this Walter person, I’m sure he’s not going to be a problem.”

Tina brushed through the living room and Julian listened to her footsteps heading up the stairs. Once she was out of earshot, Julian was turning in her seat and grabbing on to Leo’s shirt with both her hands, just barely keeping herself from freaking out. It was one thing when everybody knew what everybody was and all the cards were out there. But Julian was NOT good at lying through her teeth and trying to play it cool.

“What am I supposed to do?” she hissed.

“Calm down,” he whispered back, taking her face in his hands and ducking down to make damn sure he caught her eye. When he had, he raised his eyebrows. “Listen. Not all witches are murder-happy, okay? We don’t know that she’s up to anything. Yet.”

Leo could still hear Tina upstairs, moving around. He guessed she was likely checking out the second floor windows, as well as seeing if Julian’s room had any signs of teenage boys.

“We’re just going to play it cool until we figure that out.” His thumb brushed her cheek, unconsciously lingering over the spot where his lips had been moments before. “You can do this.”

Julian didn’t think he understood the full scope of terror that came with the whole social worker + witch + house equation. Calming down was impossible. He was lucky she was even managing to keep her voice at a whisper, which meant half of what she was saying was all eyes and expression alone.

“This is my house.” House, Leo! The place where I sleep and go to not get murdered! “All she has to do is sign paperwork and I’m gone.” Gone to stay with some strange family, gone to a hospital, gone to Alaska. That was just the perfectly normal options and didn’t even take witch business in to account. A witch could probably send her straight to hell.

She really wished he’d quit telling her she could do things and giving her that look. Now she had to try. Julian squeezed her eyes shut and took in a shaky breath. “Thought you knew by now I’m really, really bad at playing cool.” she muttered.

“I won’t let that happen.” He wet his lips, a weird look creeping into his eyes, and he added, “…Michael won’t let that happen.”

Keeping an ear out for the social worker, Leo closed his eyes and counted to ten.

“You’re forgetting, Jules, you’re the most badass thing in this town. I’ve seen you go up against way worse.”

“You think I’m a badass.” She laughed. It was half-hearted and still very nervous, but the panic was broken. The tension eased in her shoulders and started prying her hands off his shirt. “For which part? Confusing witches with nonsense or the terrified shrieking?”

There was no time to reply though, as Tina’s footsteps were heard coming down the stairs. On spotting them, they received that knowing glance adults seemed to give when they knew you were up to something naughty. In this case, Tina had the impression some reassuring kissing was going on. A new note was written on her clipboard.

“Everything upstairs is just fine. I’m just going to take a look through the kitchen and we’ll be all done.” she said while pointing over her shoulder with her pen. They earned another quick glance before she turned.

Julian grabbed Leo’s head and planted a quick kiss on his cheek. Vengeance. “You shouldn’t have said you were my boyfriend. That’s gonna get us in trouble.” Before she could think harder on why she thought kissing his cheek was a good idea, she stood and escaped the sofa to follow Tina in to the kitchen. Because he was right. She nearly got herself killed dealing with much scarier witches. Tina was small and nice and surely she would have done something terrible by now if she was a murdering witch.

On Julian entering the kitchen, Tina turned around to hold up a piece of paper. On it was scribbled the incredibly stupid back and forth conversations between Julian and Leo with the occasional glitter ink interjection from Angela. She cursed herself for leaving that pinned to the fridge.

“Has he been sleeping over?” Tina asked curiously.

Julian went very red. “Sometimes. But not with me. Um… I guess I feel better when he’s here.” That was actually true, but the whys were a little fuzzy.

“I’m strictly on the couch,” Leo extrapolated, holding up his hands as he followed the ladies into the kitchen. “It’s… It’s okay, Jules. You can tell her why.”

He glanced down at his shoes.

“I get into arguments at home,” he admitted. “Not like, social-services-call worthy or anything, nothing like that. Just enough that I need some space. Jules lets me stay here when it gets bad.”

“I keep telling him there’s other rooms in this house besides mine, but he doesn’t listen.” Julian crossed her arms to stare at him. He was telling the truth, but he was playing it up in the most pitiful way possible. Of course HE could play this off effortlessly. She was still hanging on to the fact that Walter was a good excuse for her to look so nervous and jumpy.

Tina wasn’t sure how much of this she was buying since she did not think this boy was as innocent as he was making himself out to be. He couldn’t be. But she made her decision based on Julian’s cues.

“My offer still stands, just in case. If you or Julian need something or if you get in to trouble. If you need any sort of help at all you can call me any time. It doesn’t matter if it’s during school, or the middle of the night. I won’t ask any questions, I’ll just show up. Okay?” she cast a glance at Julian for confirmation, writing down one last thing on her clipboard before wrapping her arms around it.

“Everything checks out fine. Just be careful who you invite inside, all right? No strangers.”

Once Julian had ushered Tina out of the house, Leo relaxed.

“She seems genuinely concerned, but something’s off,” he announced, leaning against the banister at the bottom of the stairs. “She’s hiding something. I caught her snooping around at your windows. I threw Walter out there to see if she’d react, but if anything that just made her more worried, so I don’t think they’re best buds if she knows him.”

With her back to the door, Julian clonked her head against it a few times. “Why is Angela the only normal person in my life? Angela is the normal one. Do you have any idea how insane that is?”

Julian stared at the ceiling trying to push away any residual pangs of fear and get it all under perspective. “Tina has always been really nice to me.” she muttered her thoughts at loud. “I guess that doesn’t really mean much if someone is slowly plotting to do terrible things to you.” She chewed in to her lip, giving it some thought. That didn’t seem to fit with Tina though. Kinda like how Julian couldn’t imagine Mr. Anderson getting up to anything evil either.

But she knew sometimes her impressions were not always on point.

She shifted uncomfortably and crossed her arms. “If she’s a witch and worried about Walter, that doesn’t mean anything good for me, does it. I suppose he’s out there killing naughty witches left and right and just waiting for the next opportunity to ruin my day.”

“Walter practices death magic. That doesn’t generally go hand-in-hand with the warm fuzzies.” Leo crossed his arms as well, unconsciously mirroring her posture. “From what Michael told me, though? He seems to feel responsible for you, or something like that. Jury’s still out on what that means. All I know is that he could probably have made a lot more trouble for us the other night, but he didn’t.”

Cracking his neck, he turned his eyes upward. Like he could stare down Julian’s ceiling into giving him answers.

“You’ve got good instincts about people. Normally. Still, I dunno about this chick. Let’s not be in any rush to say she’s not a problem. Thus the whole…” He waved his hand between the two of them. “There’s a good chance she knows I’m a vampire, or at least not human. But I don’t think she knows we suspect her.”

Yeah. She didn’t need to be reminded that Walter kind of helped. She still didn’t know exactly what happened with Leo or how a little wiggle of fingers made it better. Witches were scary as hell.

Julian also didn’t bother to comment on the boyfriend thing again. It was done, and it’s not like all of Silent Pines didn’t already think he was her boyfriend. Adding Tina to the list wasn’t going to make much of a difference. She succumbed to being called Jules, she might as well take Margrit’s advice and just own the boyfriend thing too. She was now the girl with two vampire boyfriends.

“So now what? We wait and see what happens?” Julian didn’t care for that. In fact, the entire reason she was late today was because she was tired of just winging it when something happened.

Then she wrinkled up her nose. “…you know, you look even more devious when you’re trying to behave? I didn’t think that was even possible.”

He grinned.

“I don’t know about that. She bought it. More or less, anyway.” Shrugging, Leo looked off to the side. “…She just jumped to conclusions, and it was easier for us if I didn’t correct them.”

Okay. So apparently he felt the need to comment on the boyfriend thing.

“Sorry about getting all up in your space, but I had to make it look good. Figured you’d rather that than if I planted one on your mouth.”

…And keep commenting.

His reasoning made sense, sort of. But she was trying to dodge that whole line of conversation because-

“It wouldn’t have phased me a bit. I’m a badass, remember? Kissing you wouldn’t be a big deal.”

Because she’d go saying something like that.

“It was the witch bit that freaked me out.” she explained, maybe a little quickly. “You could have waited until after she was gone to bring that up. I wasn’t prepared for witch stuff.”

“Oh, really.” Straightening, Leo moved a few steps closer. His hands slipped into his pockets. “Not a big deal, huh? That would explain you kissing me on the cheek when your social worker wasn’t looking. Because kissing little old me is nothing. Yeah, I guess I can see that.”

Although his voice was casual, there was a tenseness at the corner of his eyes and a tightness in his smile that seemed… fake.

And then he rolled his eyes, and the moment was gone.

“I’m out. Gotta go work on the car. Unless your badass self wants me to stay.”

“At least that was mostly genuine. Since for a brief ten second period you weren’t being a pain in the ass. In the future I’ll just give you a sticker instead.” She was flustered. She knew he said this stuff just to get her riled up and she shouldn’t be taking the bait, but it still got her. Every damn time.

Julian shifted away from the door and stooped to snatch up her bag.

“As long as you come back, I don’t care.” she responded honestly. She was annoyed, but she hadn’t been lying about feeling better with him there. Especially now knowing her social worker was a witch who seemed suspiciously concerned about a lurking Walter.

“Yeah, I know.”

And before she could work out what the hell that was supposed to mean, he was shutting the door behind him.

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