Excerpt from ‘The Crystal Skull’

Andromache stood at one of the lobby’s windows that overlooked the car park, watching the snow fall. It didn’t matter how many times you had seen it snow, it was magical and enchanting every time. Its ability to throw a pure white blanket over everything, masking the stains of the old, dirty snow, offering a fresh page and a new start, lifted her spirit. It was a good idea to come here, she thought. Some time away to let me clear my head and things will be as right as rain soon enough.

Mac’s reverie was interrupted by raised voices only seconds before the doors from the restaurant crashed open. In a nonchalant fluster – if such a thing were possible – the proprietor of Crystal Om was doing her best to calm down a tall, thin, angry lady.

‘You will give me what you promised, or so help me…I’ll…I’ll…’ The lady’s dark hair, cut into sharp bob, shook with every word she spoke, the ire rising up in her clearly evident.

‘It was a mistake. They happen. I have done all in my power to fix it, Miss Francis. I can do no more. And please do not get yourself so angry; your aura is hinting at violence, my dear,’ Tilly replied, casually attempting to sweep away the issue that had upset one of the resident’s so, in the same fashion, it occurred to Mac, as her floor-length tie-dyed skirt swept across the floor.

‘Do not presume to understand my aura. I am here for the skull, and only the skull. You can keep your made-up mumbo-jumbo for the other fools. Now fix my booking.’

‘There is nothing I can do. You will either take this alternative room with a refund, or take your refund and find somewhere else to stay.’

They both paused to look out of the window at the heavy snow that was falling. It was only then that they realised that Andromache was in the room with them during their heated exchange.

‘It seems I have no choice, does it,’ Miss Francis hissed before storming out of the lobby.

In her temper she slammed the door leading to the guest suites so hard that its vibrations caused a rather large crystal display to tumble off its table and crash on to the floor, fracturing into pieces.

Mac hurried over to help pick up what she could.

‘All this over a double-booking, Tilly?’ Mac inquired as she lifted up a particularly large crystal specimen. Tilly was an old friend of Mac’s mother, Medea, and she had been coming here to Crystal Om for some years, both with her mother and sister, and on her own. When she had turned up at the doors of the retreat, she knew that Tilly would not ask why she was there; Tilly was not very often concerned with matters of the real world for she was rather ditsy in her way. It was for this reason that she knew the secret of her whereabouts was safe, at least for a time. And only if her mother didn’t call.

‘Miss Francis doesn’t take many things lightly, Andromache, not even an accidental double-booking, but it’s more than that. She’s angry because she wanted the room closest to Leaping Lizard’s skull.’ Leaping Lizard was Tilly’s Mayan spirit guide. ‘Those rooms are all taken, so I booked her in on the second floor. Apparently that isn’t good enough.’

‘Oh, does she have any interest in such things?’ Mac asked, referring to skull, the highly prized main attraction displayed in the Exhibition Centre.

‘Have any interest? The woman is obsessed! Did you know – now I don’t partake of gossip, as you are well aware – but she – Miss Francis – was arrested in Madrid last year for interfering with a crystal skull exhibition?’

‘Really?’

‘Yes. Hit a curator, I heard. The charges were dropped, naturally, and now she is plaguing me and upsetting Leaping Lizard. He dislikes her attitude, you know. I was doing my usual channelling last night, and played the recording back this morning to find that he is very worried about the negative energy Miss Francis is giving off at the moment. He thinks it might lead to a catastrophe of some sort.’

‘What kind of catastrophe?’

‘Oh you know these Mayans, very dramatic, not to sound so flipant at such a great man’s warning. But a minor earthquake or volcanic eruption was his prediction, at the very least.’ Tilly’s eager eyes almost sparkled at the prospect, her numerous metal bracelets jangling together as she moved when she spoke.

‘An earthquake or volcanic eruption here, in North Wales?’

‘Stranger things happen at sea,’ Tilly replied, before disappearing through another door in search of a dustpan and brush, leaving Mac alone to wonder if Tilly had finally lost the plot.

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