If Ichabod Crane were to use common vernacular he would undoubtedly think that Lieutenant Abbie Mill’s dress was to die for. As it were his mind refused to conjure up any words at all as his mouth formed a small o. This reaction was not lost on Abbie. She didn’t don the outfit to get a reaction but she wasn’t above being quite pleased about it. It was a simple gauzy coral number, just short of knee length with thin straps. It billowed slightly with each puff of tropical breeze. Her turquoise sandals and beaded bracelets of the same colour made it all pop in the most glorious of ways. Topped with her curly hair, she was a sight. One that Ichabod was sure he could happily endure for the rest of his days.
Abbie flicked her hair off her bare shoulder and made to sit in the shade of the large umbrella.
“Now, this is the kind of mission I can get used to,” she sighed, hand propping up her chin as she looked up at Ichabod.
“Hmm,” was all Ichabod could manage. After a beat he added, “You look most striking Lieutenant.”
“Thanks Crane,” she answered with a smile. She might have been blushing and she thanked her dark skin for not entirely giving her away.
“Are we meant to just sit here and wait for her to come to us?” Crane rubbed at his beard and pulled on his T-shirt.
“That’s the plan and I like it,” she replied with relish.
Abbie knew that he had to be feeling at least a bit uncomfortable without his usual attire. His customary ensemble worked well enough in Sleepy Hollow where the residents had more or less gotten used to what they termed the ‘eccentric British guy in colonial threads’. Here in Jamaica he was more liable to stand out in a sore thumb kind of way so Abbie had insisted that he finally wear some of the plain clothes she had purchased for him a while back. They had mostly sat neglected in his dresser for the past two years.
Thank God for the clothes Caroline had made for him before she died. She felt a stab of sadness at the thought of Caroline. She was one of the sweetest and most unassuming people she had ever met and was one of the first friends Ichabod had made outside of her and her sister Jenny.
Abbie’s brief sadness was overtaken by a spark of anger at the way Caroline had died. Abbie thought of the Weeping Lady showing up in Caroline’s home and drowning her and she thought of Mary who the Weeping Lady used to be and how she came to be that way. Caroline hadn’t deserved that. Neither had Mary for that matter. Abbie and Ichabod may have been fighting a war filled with demons and unspeakable evil but sometimes just the selfish acts of other human beings was enough to render much destruction.
She looked over at Ichabod and resolved herself to wave away the negativity that was threatening to overtake her. They had both come so far and even now though surrounded by lounge chairs, a swimming pool and tropical flowers they were still on task. No need to dwell on the past when there was so much for them to do at present. Instead, as they waited she gave Ichabod a once over taking in his plain grey t-shirt, straight dark wash jeans and black slip on Vans. Surprisingly the jeans wasn’t the hardest battle to fight as she was so sure they would be after what she called the ‘skinny jeans incident’. That had been the shoes.
“These ... things just do not feel substantial Lieutenant, there is no ankle support!”
“They will be easy to slip on and off in the airport Crane.”
“They seem more useful as bed slippers! Speaking of which, I still do not see the purpose of disrobing to board an airplane.”
“You don’t have to disrobe and you know it. I get the feeling you just wanted to say that.”
“And what if I did?”
“Put the damn shoes on Crane please or I swear to God I will ...”
“Alright, Alright Lieutenant no need for foul language ... or threats”
She had to admit that he looked quite striking as well in his clothes with his hair in its ponytail with the usual stray tendrils gently swaying around his face in the breeze. However, she also had to admit that she missed his usual attire. It was a type of security blanket for him but maybe a little bit for her too. To get a glimpse of that coat of his or those boots during a fight was to feel safe even if for a second. Smiling to herself she admitted that it really didn’t matter what he was wearing. He was her Crane, all long hair, piercing eyes, twitchy hands and scratchy beard. The rest didn’t matter.
“Why are you smiling Lieutenant? It is always a beautiful sight by the way.” Ichabod dipped his head slightly, mirroring her expression. She arched a brow in his direction.
“Alright Don Juan we’re heavy on the compliments today aren’t we,” she gave him a cheeky smile which he returned brightly even though he did not have the slightest idea who Don Juan was.
“Perhaps it is this most magnificent sunshine and the beautiful scenery all around us. I admit I have never seen anything quite like it. This world truly is a wonder.” As he spoke his eyes roamed their surroundings trying to take in everything and commit it to memory. Abbie hummed her agreement and watched him.
They had arrived in Jamaica the previous evening in order to meet with someone who had promised to provide them with a useful artefact for their mission. An elusive crystal forged in an active Caribbean volcano. Unfortunately, their flights would take them right back to Sleepy Hollow the following day so exploring the island was not going to be a possibility but Abbie was determined to enjoy the time as much as possible. Hence the summery dress, sandals and jewellery. They were seated at a small table at the outside bar near their hotel’s swimming pool shaded from the harsh rays under a large umbrella. They were surrounded by greenery and there were faint tendrils of reggae music reaching their ears from some unknown location. Every so often Abbie would unconsciously sway with the beat. From their position they could see across the pool to the white sandy beach and take in the sight of the sun’s rays refracting off the calm Caribbean waters causing the sea to shimmer and sparkle. To Abbie’s mind a pool seemed kind of redundant but it was filled with tourists and visitors, people splashing about and laughing.
A waiter stopped by their table and Abbie grabbed the opportunity to indulge just a little bit more.
“I would like a virgin passionfruit daiquiri please,” Abbie requested, already giddy with anticipation of the tropical drink.
Ichabod’s face displayed pure confusion at Abbie’s order.
“Can I just have some water please kind sir?” He looked at the waiter long enough to give his order then focused right back on Abbie.
“Sure thing. I’ll be right back with those.” The waiter smiled indulgently and headed off in the direction of the bar.
“What is a daiquiri and why does it need to be virginal?” He questioned as soon as the waiter had departed “Also, passionfruit?”
“Virgin just means without alcohol since we’re technically working and all. A daiquiri is basically a mix of slushy goodness. Namely, Rum, fruit, sugar and ice and a passionfruit is quite frankly a fruit that makes no sense to me in its natural form but makes a pretty great beverage.”
Ichabod didn’t really get everything she was saying but it didn’t really matter. He was sure he’d see for himself soon enough and he was right. The waiter returned in an impressively quick time placing their drinks before them. He departed quickly after flashing them a quick smile.
Ichabod frowned slightly at the tiny blue umbrella perched in Abbie’s glass wondering what purpose it could possibly serve. He was about to put the question to Abbie as she took a taste of her drink but the words floated away when her moan of pleasure reached his ears.
“This is the life,” she insisted with enthusiasm.
Going in for another taste she noticed that Crane was looking at her daiquiri with curiosity and also a bit of longing.
“Want to try it? It’s really cold, sweet and perfect.”
She slid it across the table to him and he took it with some hesitation. He closed his lips around the straw and Abbie was transfixed by the sight. She surprised herself by particularly liking the fact that her lips had just been on that straw and would be again in a minute or two.
Ichabod hummed appreciatively as he sucked at the sweet beverage.
“Lovely, it is almost as if they took the essence of our tropical surroundings and condensed it into a liquid form. This is heavenly Lieutenant,” Ichabod unconsciously licked his lips and Abbie’s eyes glazed over a little.
He took another taste before he slid the glass back over to her side of the table and Abbie wasted no time in putting the straw back into her mouth. Ichabod thanked her for allowing him to try it but he did not tell her that his favourite part of the experience had been the taste of her strawberry flavoured lip balm that had lingered on the straw.
As Abbie resumed enjoying her beverage Ichabod stole as much glances as he could. There was so much for him to take in here - the impossible blue of the Caribbean Sea, the sparkling white sand, the happy people milling about enjoying the tropical sun, the various colours of the flowers in the planters all around the deck - but all he could focus on was her. Abbie in that dress and that smile and those lips on that straw and just the beauty of being in that moment with her. He was so grateful to have her in his life, to be able to experience all these new things with her by his side. The road that it took to get here was one he would willingly travel a hundred times over no matter the cost. He resolved that someday he would find the words to express to her how he felt, how she made him feel. He would properly articulate in no uncertain terms how necessary and absolute she was to his very being. For the moment however, he settled for saying,
“Thank you for bringing me with you Lieutenant.”
“You’re welcome Crane. I know this is usually Jenny’s beat but I could not pass up the chance for you to see some more of the 21st Century and Jenny couldn’t pass up the chance to hear stories of you and air travel and trust me I’ve got some juicy ones for her so win win.”
“Yes it is most astonishing. Flying through the air is both utterly terrifying and completely exhilarating. It seems something unfathomable yet humanity managed to conquer it. Marvellous ... and also again, terrifying.”
“Yeah, I think you may have bruised my hand you were gripping it so hard,” Abbie was joking but Ichabod seemed distressed by her words.
“My apologies Lieutenant, I was not aware. I will endeavour to contain myself better on our return flight,” he answered sounding contrite. Abbie didn’t like his tone.
“Don’t you dare Crane,” she said earnestly, “you hold my hand as much as and as hard as you like ... just not bone crushing hard.” She smiled. “Seriously, this is new and you know you do not have to contain yourself around me. Freak out, do whatever you need to. I’ve got you ... always.”
Somewhere near the end of her declaration Abbie had become overtaken with emotion. It was as if getting those last words out had become the most important thing in the world. Her skin was tingling slightly and she felt warmer than she had a minute ago.
“Thank you Lieutenant,” Ichabod responded, his voice also thick with emotion. “Your words mean the world to me as always and you must know that I’ve got you too. Forever.”
Abbie coughed slightly trying to cut the tension that had mounted with their exchange. That had been happening more and more lately. Conversations that started innocently suddenly seemed to increase exponentially in intensity, sometimes even when there were other people present. Jenny and Frank giving them the side eye had become an increasingly common occurrence.
“I did use that turn of phrase correctly ‘got you’?” Ichabod’s head was tilted slightly as he regarded her with what she called unsure certainty. A look only he could pull off. Tension successfully dissipated, Abbie responded,
“Yes you did Crane. You’re becoming a real pro at the 21st Century way of speaking.”
“Hmm yes I suppose I am.”
He was so pleased with himself that Abbie almost wanted to reach across the table and pat his head.
“Excuse me sir, miss.”
Abbie and Crane looked up at the direction of the voice and saw a young woman approaching their table.
“Are you Ichy1749 and AmDreamz1781?
Yes we are. Ichabod Crane and Miss Abigail Mills,” Ichabod answered gesturing first to himself then Abbie.
“You can call me Abbie,” Abbie quickly interjected.
The young woman nodded slightly.
Abbie took a moment to say a silent thank you to Jenny and her impressive connections. Her sister had taken them to corners of the internet she hadn’t known existed in search of information on a creature that had been proving difficult. During their research they had found mention of an illusive crystal artefact that would be useful to them. In a secretive forum frequented by traders and ancient weapon collectors they had connected with a young woman who had been willing to help them by granting them use of one of her family heirlooms. However, there was no way to know for sure if the artefact was real until they saw it for themselves. Jenny assured the two that only legitimate users ever congregated there to discuss, trade and procure artefacts and weapons and that at the very least it was not a trap. Trusting her word and experience Ichabod and Abbie had found themselves on a plane to the tropics.
“I’m Clara Whyte but you know me as JamBear86.” She took a seat across from them and regarded them both with piercing dark brown eyes and an open demeanour. She was medium height and curvy with smooth skin the colour of mahogany. She wore a long halter top maxi dress with a white and black geometric design and held herself in such a way that she appeared regal. Her hair was done in long braids piled high on her head not unlike a crown. There were gold and black earrings dotting their way up both her earlobes and she wore a small stack of thin alternating gold and black bangles on each hand. There were at least four rings present on her fingers, each one with a small jewel embedded. Abbie was taken with how beautiful she was while Ichabod was not above being quietly appreciative.
“It is our pleasure to finally formally make your acquaintance Miss Whyte,” Ichabod said amicably, his expression open but slightly cautious. Abbie echoed his sentiments and Clara nodded her head in return a curious smile forming on her face. She sat slightly forward in her chair as she suddenly seemed to focus in on Ichabod.
“In a way you are where you should be, yet in another you should not be at all.”
Clara’s words had caught both Abbie and Ichabod off guard. Ichabod especially did not know how to respond.
“I beg your pardon Miss Whyte?” he managed after a moment.
Ichabod was receiving the full intensity of her stare and blushing slightly at the attention.
“You are not of this time Mr. Crane. You are the product of witchcraft. You are definitely the two I seek.”
“How could you know this?” Abbie asked flustered by her accuracy.
“I am an Obeah-woman or you could say a witch of a certain type” she replied simply but quietly, glancing around them to make sure no one was in earshot. “An altogether unpopular thing to be in these parts. Spells leave an imprint of sorts behind and I can sense it.” She sighed quietly and added,
“So many think to practice Obeah is to be on the dark side of magic but I assure you I’m not. To practice Obeah is to test the limits and the line between good and evil and master the boundary. It is to understand and respect nature and what it can give you and what you owe to it. It is to know yourself, your strengths your weaknesses and to intuit them in others.”
Clara’s bracelets tinkled quietly as she placed her hands on the table. Splaying her long fingers out she continued,
“This fight of yours is a many splintered thing. I can tell that it has already taken you to some dark places and there may be darker places yet to traverse but I can also see love, trust, strength, faith and so much good radiating from you both that I cannot help but think humanity is in the best of hands.” Clara smiled slightly and clasped her hands nodding once at Ichabod then again at Abbie.
The moment seemed surreal and the three of them hovered in it regarding each other. Ichabod and Abbie for some reason unknown to them completely trusted this Clara Whyte and she in turn trusted them. Abbie absently wondered just how many allies they had scattered around the world.
“What I came here to give you was brought out of the active Mount Pelée volcano in Martinique by my own great grandmother and I would not be handing it over to you if I did not believe you had dire need of it.” Clara broke the moment with her words and Abbie felt some anticipation at finally seeing what they had come all this way for.
Clara’s bracelets tinkered again as she reached into a satchel that was slung across her body. She withdrew a small bundle wrapped in a square of velvety black fabric. She unwrapped it slowly to reveal what seemed to be a dull rock. Dark grey and about the size of Abbie’s fist the rock seemed very nondescript and yet there was something about it. Clara placed it in the centre of their little table and as it sat in between the three of them it felt somehow unnatural. Ichabod had the thought that it seemed to contain a void, a black space of nothingness. He shook the thought away as impossible nonsense but all he had to do was think of himself and all he and Abbie had seen and done to realise that perhaps it wasn’t such nonsense at all.
Abbie was the one to voice her thoughts,
“Something about this rock isn’t right. It’s like its absorbing light.”
Clara smirked slightly. Sliding the rock closer to Abbie, Clara told her to hold it in her hand and repeat the word dómó.
“Dómó,” Ichabod repeated, testing the new word.
“Yes, it is Ibibio, it means to light or kindle,” Clara elaborated, “also means to test, or examine. You are asking the crystal to examine and illuminate the truth of the object before it.”
Abbie picked up the rock, surprised that it was much lighter than it had appeared.
“Dómó,” she said, staring intently at the object. Suddenly, a grey mist seemed to swirl within it and the rock transformed into glassy obsidian of the darkest black. Both Abbie and Crane gasped softly as they saw images flickering within. Grotesque, twisted faces of demons flashed through each facet of the crystal, most of them a blur, all of them snarling.
“What you are seeing are the faces of demons that have been caught in the crystal’s reflection before. They leave an imprint of their image. These are the faces that my great grandmother, grandmother, mother and I have seen.” Clara’s voice had an edge of hardness, curved with a curious reverence.
Abbie and Ichabod looked on, fascinated and disturbed by the images in equal measure as Clara continued,
“Simply being caught in the crystal’s reflection is enough to reveal and banish all lower and a few mid level demons, destroying them for good. For those higher in rank, more powerful and better at concealing themselves, being caught in the crystal’s reflection will cause them physical pain that will in turn force them to reveal their true nature and their identity. Once identified they will never be able to conceal themselves from you again with or without the crystal. Knowing their names and physical form could prove invaluable in figuring out how to banish or defeat them.”
Abbie placed the crystal back on the table between them. Immediately it clouded over and once again became an unassuming grey volcanic rock.
“This will be very useful Miss Clara. Thank you so much for your generosity,” Ichabod said sincerely. It was a sentiment that Abbie shared. This crystal would be most valuable in their fight.
“Are you sure there’s nothing we can give you in return?” Abbie asked.
In their online correspondence Clara had never seemed interested in a quid pro quo which Jenny had admitted wasn’t usually the norm.
“Just two promises,” Clara looked them both in the eye before continuing, “First, you win this war. Second, when you do bring the crystal back to me. They are more than rare. Only a handful of them have ever been forged and of those some have been lost. I wish it to remain in my family line.”
Impulsively Abbie reached out a hand to Clara who took it in hers. Looking into her eyes, Abbie declared,
Ichabod seconded her declaration and Clara smiled softly at them both, satisfied that she had done the right thing in choosing to meet with these Witnesses.
“You must have dinner with me and my family tonight. You will get authentic Jamaican food and more company and stories of the ‘olden days’ than you would ever care to hear, ” she said brightly, her face hopeful.
Ichabod and Abbie were only too happy to agree and Clara departed with a smile and a promise to return for them in the evening.
Early the next morning all packed and ready to go Abbie and Ichabod decided to take one last stroll on the beach before they had to head to the airport.
"This has been a most excellent trip,” Ichabod announced as they walked.
“What did I say? Best mission ever. Also, that dinner last night was some of the best food I’ve had in a while but what was with that ritual?
“The testing our bond with the wrapping of scarfs and threads and incense?” Ichabod arched a brow in Abbie’s direction remembering the strangeness but also the resulting peace and calm of the ritual and Clara’s grandmother’s insistence that they carry it out. She had seemed overtly pleased with the results even if she didn’t verbally express what those results were. Clara had just smiled indulgently and whispered a cryptic, “I told you so,” and her mother had clapped her hands in delight.
“Yea that. I hope we didn’t like get married without our consent or something.” They both laughed at the idea, surreptitiously glancing at each other.
“Do you think those charms they gave us will really work?” Abbie asked, more to change the subject than anything else.
Clara’s mother had given them each a small silver medallion stamped with intricate symbols of Ashanti origin. She had told them that as long as they had the charms on their person, no matter how they got separated, they would always be able to feel where the other was.
“The crystal works so I see no reason to believe the charms will not. It was very generous of them. Their culture and history is so rich and they share it so willingly.” Ichabod’s voice had taken on a wistful quality at the end and Abbie completely understood the longing there. It was one she shared.
“I do hope we see Clara again,” Abbie said softly, gazing out at the water.
“As do I,” Ichabod agreed.
“She is so knowledgeable and sure of herself not to mention funny. That trick of hers hurling potatoes at the tree in her backyard was hilarious.”
“And the end result delicious,” Ichabod rejoined with a chuckle.
Abbie smiled her agreement. After a moment she voiced the thought she had yesterday while meeting with Clara,
“Over the course of time we will probably find others like her. More allies to help us and Jenny and Frank. Perhaps we’re not as alone as we once believed.”
“That’s a wonderful thought Lieutenant and I hope it is so.”
They walked in companionable silence side by side their hands brushing ever so often. Birds swooped low over the sea and the first of the sunbathers were emerging out onto the sand. Abbie checked the time and sighed. Over too soon, it was time to head back to Sleepy Hollow.
Abbie tugged lightly on Ichabod’s sleeve as she turned to head back to the hotel.
“Let’s go home Crane. America must be missing me. After all I am the American Dream,” Abbie’s voice was so smug, Ichabod reflexively rolled his eyes.
Abbie had told Ichabod extensively of her time in 1781, filling him in on the fact that Katrina had intended and attempted to kill them both. Over the past year they had talked for hours on end of that day, rehashing it and distilling its contents, the weight of it examined until it had now boiled down to the more humorous moments and quips whenever they spoke of it.
“Lieutenant it’s been over a year since you first told me of your encounter with Franklin. I assure you it’s getting quite old.”
“I assure you it is not,” She retorted haughtily and then because she couldn’t help it added, “Crane go fetch my Almanac.” Abbie snorted with the laughter she was trying unsuccessfully to hold at bay.
Ichabod who was gearing up for quite an impressive rant cracked at the sound and started to chuckle despite himself. He reached for her hand and enclosed it in his.
“One day Lieutenant I will have something to ‘hang over your head’ and oh how I will enjoy it.”
“Come on Crane, less talking more fetching,” Abbie said around peels of laughter.
At the look in his eyes Abbie let go of his hand and dashed away from him her hair flowing behind her in the breeze, her laughter getting softer the further away she got.
“I think I’d much prefer catching than fetching!” He yelled after her just before he broke into a run leaving his footprints next to hers in the white sand.