With all eyes on him, Stephen felt cornered, as if he’d done something wrong. He had done some questionable things in his life, some shady things, some things he had to atone for, the biggest of which was seated at the table with him, but creating a character, and abandoning him was not something he felt he had to answer for.

He was tempted to tell them all to go fuck themselves, with their accusing glares, but caught himself before doing so. He reasoned that maybe they weren’t accusing him of anything, just looking for answers, so he gave them one, “I have no answers for you. I can’t tell you anything more about VoV than what you already know. I created him, tried him in a few stories. I couldn’t make the character, or the stories. work, so I moved on. And based on the only encounters anyone has had with him, I’d say he’s on our side. He was born into darkness, but I never intended for him to dwell there forever more. And, apparently, he hasn’t.”

King’s other abandoned creation looked at him, and asked, “Do you remember what story you left him in? Was it dark?”

Stephen laughed, “Well, I’m not exactly known for writing feel good fairy tales, so I imagine it was dark. But, no, I don’t remember the story. Don’t remember anything about it. I’ve written so many, and I’ve abandoned at least as many as I’ve finished, if not more.”

Kitty and Margot looked at each other. The two were forging a telepathic relationship which was sufficiently strong enough for them to understand that they both believed what King was saying. Margot left it to Kitty to speak.

“I see no reason to worry about VoV. If Stephen remembers anything more about her, he will tell us.”

“Wait,” Margot interjected. “Did you endow VoV with any super natural powers?”

“I don’t remember,” was the answer.

Margot was disappointed. “No? The power to act as a kind of emotional mirror, reflecting back what people she encounters are feeling. Absorbing what they are putting out, then magnifying it, and reflecting it back at them.”

The idea amused Stephen. “Wow! I like that! But, no. I could have made VoV work in all sorts of stories with that power.”

Again disappointed, Margot pointed to Kitty, who said, “The bigger question, Margot, is: why had Steve not gone back into the tunnel until today. The tunnel is the most extraordinary thing I’ve ever heard of on this planet. The ability to go anywhere you want, anytime you want, in no time at all, is a gift too good to simply abandon, without good cause.”

“He won’t even be out of the labyrinth yet,” Margot said. “Actually, maybe it was just my phone that died. I tried calling him when he had to still be making his way out. I’ll try him again in a bit. But, I honestly don’t think there’s anything to worry about. I doubt there’s anything evil lurking in there. If Steve had experienced something really dark and twisted, he’d still be radiating the emotion, and I’d have felt it. I reconnected with his soul as soon as I saw him again. Once upon a time, we had a very powerful connection. If he was afraid of anything, I’d have felt it, and he likely would not have let me walk into danger. Our split was messy, tragic, even, as they all are, but it was not ugly. There was never malice between us.”

Now, all eyes were on Kitty Kaboodle. “I see no reason not to proceed, as planned, then. I believe that VoV is on our side, and that’s a very good thing. I don’t believe there is anything sinister waiting for us inside the tunnel, or even the labyrinth, or Steve would not have gone in with Margot. We may never know his reasons for not going back there for twenty five years; they may be very personal, and we have no rigt to pry. But… I say we give it another half hour, to see if he either shows up here, or can be reached by phone. If not, I say we get on with the show, unless someone has a valid reason not to, and the definition of a valid reason includes a legitimate fear.”

All at the table looked ‘round the table, but no one said a word. “Okay then,” said Kitty with a genuine sense of excitement, “in about an hour or so, Stephen and I will be in Ottawa, Lance and Madonna will be in Vancouver, Margot will be in London, and you three heroes… wait, where the Hell are you puckheads going? Who are you going to see first?”

The brothers looked at Margot, and she spoke for them, “They were headed to Houston, to see George Foreman, but there’s a change of plans.” Eyebrows were raised around the table. “The four of us are going to stay here, for a couple days, to take care of some pressing business.”

“Ah ha!” said Stephen. “There’s more going on in Montreal than meets the eye! I’ll have to inform Bruins Nation of this mysterious development!” Stephen was being playful. The brothers weren’t having it. They glared at him, without saying a word. In case he didn’t get the message, which he did, Margot made it clear, “No one in Bruins Nation should ever know about how you came to suspect there is more going on in Montreal than meets the eye, Stephen. That would be a betrayal of faith. And…”

Before she could finish that thought, Stephen interrupted, “I was joking. Only joking. I can wait to read about it in The Hockey News.”The brothers turned their glares into grins, and thanked him. The Bruins fan returned their grins, and said, “But it’s a fuckin’ eh beauty, ain’t it?”

Once again, Margot spoke for the Staals, “You’ll read all about in The Hockey News, and everywhere else, when it happens. But, until then, you’ll just have to speculate, to yourself, and wait.”

“Sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it?” Lance asked no one in particular. “Speculate and Waite, attorneys at law.”

“That’s good, kid,” said his father. “Real good. What areas do they specialize n?”

“Probate,” laughed Lance. “ Speculate on how much money the baby boomers in the family have, and who’s gonna get what, and wait for them to die to find out.”

“Very good,” Stephen exclaimed. “Really good. But… if I may… Mssrs. Speculate and Waite’s services include more than matters strictly legal. They are, in fact, a one stop shop. Undertaking services, and… familial grief enablers and facilitators. For those who have to speculate, but simply cannot wait! The best in the business, for more than two hundred years. Strictly boutique. Strictly by referral only, of course.”




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