Finding the Pearl 3

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Did I mention that Uncle Nick was the one who got me to start singing? And right then, that was the last thing I wanted to do. But it was one of Nick's last requests he spoke of to the funeral director, over ten years ago. And now I was stuck being the only family member asked to sing at his funeral.

My family was around me. Mark wouldn't let go of my hand. Mom never accused me of getting him into what ever killed him. And even Dad, God love em, kept from implying anything. But Nick was still dead, two weeks after coming to LA to help me and Mark.

Cousin after cousin stood up to give a little bit of the man we all knew, back to us. Maybe it was a good thing he wanted me to sing. Old wounds could've gotten pulled open by a stray remark. The Director called my name and the eight piece mini orchestra gathered to the right of Nick's coffin as I sang from the podium in back of it. I would never have thought of this song for a funeral, but it fit much too well.

Billy Joel's "Lullaby (Goodnight My Angel)".

"Goodnight, my angel, time to close your eyes,
And save these questions for another day
I think I know what you've been asking me
I think you know what I've been trying to say I promised I would never leave you
And you should always know
Wherever you may go
No matter where you are
I never will be far away

Goodnight, my angel, now it's time to sleep,
And still so many things I want to say
Remember all the songs you sang for me
When we went sailing on an emerald bay
And like a boat out on the ocean
I'm rocking you to sleep
The water's dark and deep
Inside this ancient heart
You'll always be a part of me

Goodnight, my angel, now it's time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry
And if you sing this lullaby
Then in your heart
There will always be a part of me

Someday we'll all be gone
But lullabies go on and on...
They never die
That's how you and I will be" "I love you, Nick."

Mark knew just what would happen at the end and was there to keep me from falling over. I could see Mom quietly sobbing as we walked back to the pews in the chapel. Dad's eyes were closed as tears streamed down his face. Mom's hands were held in his left hand as he held her shoulder with his right one. I realized that for all of my doubts about my father, he really had changed. His wife's gay brother and his best friend was dead and his sorrow was as great as mine.

Mark got me sitting next to them as the funeral director had his last parting words before we went to the grave side. I wasn't so sure I wanted to go anywhere for a while. My Dad's next words pulled me out of my dark reverie. "I've never been so proud of your ability to sing like an angel, Rusty, as I am today. Nick knew the power of song. He was the one that convinced me to sing a love song to your mother when I proposed to her. That was the night her father gave us his blessing."

Mom sniffled and looked into his eyes. "What Nick neglected to tell your father was that singing a song was how my father proposed to my mother."

Dad frowned for a second. "He was always trying to help, even when the people he loved did the stupidest things."

The Funeral director came over and that was when I remembered that Mark and I were going to be the Pall Bearers with my brother Jake and Jennie's Husband, Scotty. Two of Nick's Marine buddies rounded it out to six. We didn't have a hard time in the chapel, since they had it on a fancy gurney. We got it off of the thing and into the hearse, then followed in the two limos the funeral home provided. We rode behind the hearse in silence, then slowly filed out of the limos at the graveside. I had to take a moment before I helped get Nick over to where we had buried Dave eight years ago. At that time, Uncle Nick kept me from saying the same words I spoke at his wife's funeral, when he flashed me a sad grin and said "I know. Right back at ya."

We got the casket positioned correctly and then we moved off to mingle with the other mourners. As I walked up to Mom, she whispered "You know he still does have your back." How in the hell do moms know just what can make you lose it. But that one had Mark crying, too.

Then I was shocked to see Lillian Jackson standing at the podium. She must have decided she could only stand one of these pieces of the whole Funeral puzzle, and chose the graveside to pay her respects.

"Oh my baby. Sad time's over. The man who loves you heart and soul is finally in your arms again. My tears are for we sad ones left behind. Left only remembering the bright shining glory of you both, and the love you shared. And the love you shared with us all. It's still here baby. In the hearts of all of the people you touched. And in the hearts of all the people Nick touched, as he struggled on without you. Oh Lord, you had to be so proud of him. His love for his friends and family never wavered, even though your death broke his heart. He said one time you were just taking point. Making it safe for all of us to follow. His words put you just outside my door. His words pulled you out of this grave and back into my heart where you should have been all along. So today we place this empty vessel of our beloved Nick, into the Earth. But in our hearts we know you are still with us, holding back the shadows, keeping us safe. Oh my baby. Sad time's over."

Half of the people there muttered "Amen" along with Lill. By that time the casket had been lowered into the grave, so Lill pulled a fiery red and yellow rose from her white hair, kissed it and threw it on to the casket. I grabbed her before she could walk past us. She leaned into our embrace as I kissed her cheek. "We never did get to that dinner Nick planned to cook for us. What are you doing tonight?"

"Well I guess I'm going to let two very big and handsome men take me out for dinner. Don't pick a place that has dancing or I will have to dance you both off of your feet. Just a friendly warning." I chuckled, but I did not laugh at that remark. Lill might be in her eighties, but she could still waltz, rhumba, or two-step me and Mark both into exhaustion. She was the Activities director for three different Senior Care Homes.

Mark rumbled "Don't worry, Lill. We'll be good." He kissed her cheek and gave her a sad smile.

"Well maybe I'll go easy on you two, if you take your jackets off when we dance."

"OK, Lill. Whatever makes you happy by the end of the evening. We know who is really in charge."

"Oh Red. I knew you found the right one, when he started using phrases like my boy Dave." That got a big hug from Mark, because he heard all the stories about Dave and how Mark reminded Nick and Lill of Dave. Dave had been the one that was the real weight lifter in the relationship.

"Oh Lill, you have that right. I found my Pearl. I'm trying to make him as happy as I can."

"And doing a great job. It makes me step up to the plate, a lot more often, to show him how much I appreciate his hard work. But he's worth it."

We kissed with Lill at our side and we finished to find her crying.

Mark stooped down with a frown on his face. "Is there anything we can do, Lill?"

"Aw Baby you two just did it. When you two talk like that, it's like Nick and Dave are still here."

I guess any mom can do that when she wanted to. "Aw Lil, now ya got me crying."

We got over that bump of an emotional roller coaster and told my Mom, we'd meet over at her place. Mom made sure we didn't disrupt what Lill had planned. "You're staying at Carol's tonight, aren't you Lill?"

Carol just came up to us after talking with some of her late brother's friends. "Yes, she is but I over heard two big lugs promise a dinner and a dance tonight, So you two better have her back at my place before ten o'clock or my boys will be out with the dogs, hunting you two down. Got it"

Mark and I stood taller as we told her "Yes, Ma'am!"

"Alright then. I'll see you over at your mothers." She kissed Lill and headed for her car. We followed her example and ended up staying at Mom's for a few hours. Then we collected Lill from the kitchen, after renewing our promise to get Lill back to Carol's house before ten o'clock.

Mark was letting me do the driving as of late and I decided to try the local Steak House. "I know, there's no dancing here, but you'd just dance us to death and then we wouldn't be able to drive you home on time."

Mark helped with my reasoning. "Yeah, then Carol would kill us for not getting you home on time. Dead twice."

"I will refrain from calling two hulking examples of Adult Men, Wusses. But the idea is there. Good choice anyway. I love the prime rib here." We all avoided mentioning that this was Nick and Dave's favorite Steak House in town.

We were seated within ten minutes and got our order in shortly after that. I can't remember what we all talked about. We were going over a lot of family gossip and stories. The food was great and we were almost finished when the Host seated a young lady in the booth a few tables over from ours. She looked over at us and then looked down at the menu like she was embarrassed. Hell she should be. She was the Dragon that bit me!

"I don't believe she had the nerve. What is she doing here?"

Lill and Mark looked surprised by my outburst. "Babe? What are you talking about?" He glanced over at the woman in the booth and back at me. She suddenly looked a bit nervous, but Mark was looking back at me by that time and missed her change of expression. "Who is she, Rus? Do you know her?"

I shook my head, still staring daggers at her. "I only met her once. And she looked a hell of a lot different, than she does now."

Mark looked back just as she looked up again and he could see a perfect flash of deep green eyes. That's when he got a bit excited himself. "Short brunette, deep green eyes."

"Yep. She was the Dragon that bit me." I couldn't see it but my body had swelled up just enough to stretch my clothes. Lill wasn't saying anything, but luckily my lover did.

"Rus, you're not going to get any answers shouting or being angry. All you know is that's the woman you saw in the back of your mind when the dragon bit you."

"There really was a Dragon that bit Red?"

"Yeah, Lill. I saw the tooth marks. Rus. Rus!"

I finally looked back at Mark and saw the worry on his face. Then I calmed down. "Mark. I get it. I'm calming down. But I can't just let her go without even getting a name. At least a few answers. I'll be good. But I think she wants to talk about what happened. Why else would she still be sitting there?"

"OK. But just a few questions. Then I call Detective Ayers. Figure fifteen minutes and I'm calling in the Calvary. OK?"

"OK with me. As long as you don't start doing your impression of the Duke. Pilgrim."

"O-kay." I got a quick kiss before I walked over and stood next to the lady in question. It took some strength of will to keep from shouting. To turn my heart away from anger. Because I really didn't know if she was involved in my Uncle's death.

She wouldn't look up as I stood next to her. Her glance at my presence involved a bit of blinking. That usually doesn't happen on a murderers face. At least I didn't think so. Not then and not now. "I'm gonna have a hard time accusing you of something, when I don't even know your name. I'm assuming you know my name, but just in case." I stuck out my hand. "Hello, my...." It suddenly hit me, again, that my Uncle was dead. I swallowed that emotion for a bit.

"My name is Rusty Parks." Before I could get anything else out she scooted over and took my hand.

"Hello, Rusty Parks. My name is Magalee Slovak. I knew your Uncle, Nick Garrett. I was the last one to see him alive, but I didn't kill him. I tried to save him, but I wasn't fast enough." She let go of my hand and finally looked up into my eyes. Somehow I knew she was telling the truth. And I knew she was the Dragon that bit me.

"Please have a seat. I'll try to answer as many questions as we have time for. I trust your lover, when he says he'll call Detective Ayers. I'd stay for that but I don't think the other parties involved would allow any meaningful exchange of information at that point. Please sit."

I reluctantly sat next to her so I didn't have to look at her if I didn't want to. And while I knew she told the truth when she said she didn't kill my Uncle, it didn't mean that I wanted to believe her. The truth was she ...

"You just think you didn't kill my Uncle. But the moment you knocked me down and bit me, you set in motion something that ended in ... the ending of my Uncle's life." That's when I looked her straight in the eye for her to lie to me. "Can you tell me that's not true?" But all she did was frown in sorrow and shake her head.

"I wish I could. But what I said is true. I tried to save your Uncle Nick, when they dropped him in mid air. I was too far away and above them, when it happened. The gunfire was the first thing I heard. He emptied his clip and put in another and then emptied that one. It hurt them but didn't kill them. I still wasn't able to reach him before he..."

I let the awkward silence remain for a bit. She could either finish the sentence of not. I wasn't going to help her out. We sat blinking as we looked forward. But I finally had to know.

"Why did you have to bite me? I could not have been much of a threat to you? Hell! You weighed close to two Tons !! Just cause I tried to push your.. Paw off of me.."

"I didn't have much of a choice. I had just been betrayed by my older brother and lied to by the Family I had come to America to Marry."


"I came to America from Hungary, in what you could call an arranged marriage. Sarkany Clans from my Dragon families, finally agreed to a marriage with the older family of Dragons that had migrated to America from China, over three hundred years ago. I came here expecting a young Chinese-American Dragon as a bridegroom and found the head of the family planned on enslaving me. The father had married a human and never tried to convert her. She remained human and her children were Dragon-spawn."

"So that's a big No-No in the Dragon world?"

"Dragon-spawn can't breed. They're like mules. Every one of them is sterile. Stronger than humans but unable to transform or fly. And the main reason I came here was to have children. Dragon Children. Children that would be able to have children of there own."

"That still doesn't explain biting me."

"I was prepared to go through the Marriage Ceremony between two Dragons, but the groom refused to transform into his Dragon form. That's when I knew something was wrong. The father of the groom held the Pearl between us and demanded that I bite his son before he transformed. Like I wouldn't know what would happen."

"Like I would? Please keep going, I'm following you when you give all the information, but you missed a step here. Why the bite? Why a Pearl? And Transformation? All I saw was a two ton Dragon knock a wall out. I saw you, here, in my minds eye when you pushed me to the ground. But I still don't know what you really are."

"OK." She looked at the glass of water in front of her and she put her hand up next to it, palm down, and lifted her hand as she rotated it away from the glass. The water flowed out of it and turned into vapor as it did so. then with both hands she waved at the growing ball of mist and it spread onto the table top like a white mat. As she described the history of the Dragons of the world, little figures rose from the mat and the mat itself formed into a diorama of the events described.

"Long ago there were no Dragons. Only the idea of them. And great Mages came together and caused themselves to become those powerful creatures. Of course they also wished to remain human and soon that ability was also able to be passed down from one generation to another. The magic used to become a Dragon, to pass the ability on to another human, and to marry one Dragon to another; all revolved around a magic Pearl. A huge thing, as big as your fist; these Magic Pearls assist in the performance of magic, as well as record the history of the Dragon Family and the peculiar gifts each family has. Also under the influence of a Magic Pearl, a willing participant could be compelled to act, even when it might mean death to another participant."


"Yes. Normally the bite of a Dragon would not harm a human, a Dragon-spawn, or another Dragon. And it would hardly cause the transformation you will soon go through. But under the influence of the Pearl, a Dragon biting a Dragon-spawn would end their life. A Dragon's kiss, as they call it, brings forth life. But a Dragon-spawn is sterile and outside the normal avenue of life. It would kill them in a day or two. I would still be pledged to their house, but I would be at their mercy, like a cow. Able to be breed by all the true Dragon males of the family. The father kept that from his son and planned on having himself and his brothers all use me, with no regard to my wishes. With no regard to his own son's eventual death. I couldn't be a part of a family that thought like that. No wonder their own female Dragons had all fled."

"No wonder. And I still have no idea why you bit me."

"The ceremony had begun. Normally, the couple to be wed transform into their Dragon form, pledging themselves to each other and their families; then ending the Ceremony by biting each other. The Dragon's Kiss. I transformed but had not yet pledged, waiting for Yi, my bridegroom, to also transform. He couldn't. That's when he confessed that he was Dragon-spawn and that he thought he would transform when I bit him. That's when I told him what would happen if I bit him under the Magic Pearls influence. We both refused to continue the ceremony. Still the Magic Pearl was that family's Pearl and linked me with them. I had to bite someone to end it. If I had remained there they would have used the Pearl to compel me to bite the poor fool, thus ending his life and enslaving mine. With no body else in Dragon form to stop me, I escaped before they could use the Pearl on me. When I encountered you, I could tell you were all human. I had to bite you before they got to me. They probably saw me bite you and realized they couldn't do anything. I would never willingly go through the ceremony again, and the bite ended it right there. You weren't female, so they couldn't use you. I thought it solved all the problems. I never thought there were so many paranoid factions in the American Dragon community. I never thought they would threaten you or your family. Or that they would kill your Uncle Nick, for discovering so much about us."

I couldn't call her a liar. All that she said was true. It rang true in my head and heart. Then I saw something else. "You gave us the kitten, when they killed our cat."

She finally smiled. And nodded. "That was what really made me see that particular family as evil. An innocent animal, killed, just so they could frighten and intimidate you." She noticed something on the back of my head. "Your Chimu is coming in nicely. I bet you're going to be a fast flyer." She touched the back of my head and felt the new bump that Mark had been mentioning and I had dismissed. Suddenly there was a hand on my shoulder and a massive presence standing next to me. Magalee and I both looked up to see Mark standing by the booth with a stern look on his face. While the hand on my shoulder felt comforting, the look in his eyes as he spoke to Magalee, said 'Hands off! He's Mine!'

"I'm real patient with a lot of things, but when you start touching my man, I sort of lose perspective."

Her hands were in her lap before he got half way through his warning, but she didn't seem bothered by it. "I apologize for my forwardness. I assure you, I didn't mean anything by it." Somehow the smile on her face was respectful and friendly without being submissive. Sort of like an old friend that flirts with one of the members of a long time married couple.

The way he acted had me proud and horny for my man. Yet I still felt like I had to give Mark the facts. "She was just confirming that the bump on my head, that you've been worried about, was something caused by the bite. Though I have no idea what a Chimu is."

Her smile got Mark smiling. "So you really are a Dragon?"

"Yes. I really am. My name's Magalee Slovak" Her smile faltered and she sniffed the air. She sat up taller and looked at the side of Marks neck. There was the slight discoloration of a hickey I gave Mark, several weeks ago. "Mark, when did Rus give you that love bite?"

Mark frowned and reached up to where it was, before he answered her. "About three weeks ago. Why?"

"And in one week it will be a full Moon. Well. It looks like you both will be in for a big surprise."

A voice from the kitchen had us all turning toward it. "Good. I know I love surprises." Detective Ayers was at the Kitchen door and looked at the front entrance, that was blocked by a Police Officer. "I also love answers. And I think you can give me a few."

Magalee smiled and the white mat evaporated in front of her. "I'd love to help, but not at this time. I have to find a way to stay in your lovely country, so you will eventually get what you want. But not tonight. I have an urgent appointment, that I can't miss. Be seeing you." And with that she shimmered into mist that disappeared towards the air vents.

"Now that's a good one. I wish we had a camera on her, cause my superior will just not believe that."

I had to say it. "I'll put in a good word for you. And you know how your boss loves listening to me."

"Oh great. There goes my Psych evaluation."

Lill had the last word. "I hope she doesn't expect us to pay for her meal."

We got Lill home in plenty of time.

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