Howard and the Completed Pass - Part 1

Howard and the Completed Pass, Part 1, Chapters 1, & 2

By Portia Bennett

Introduction: This is another story that fits into Part 2 of the Cynthia Chronicles. Chronologically, it takes place a little more than a year after the ending of Adam and the Three Wishes. There are some interesting parallels to that story; however, there are significant differences.

If you are not familiar with the series, you should read An Incremental Journey, Cynthia and the Reluctant Girlfriend, Cynthia and the Dumpster Diver, Cynthia and the Moment of Truth, Cynthia and the High School Years, Parts 1 & 2, Charli and the Man Cave and Adam and the Three Wishes. Bobbie and the Glass Ceiling and Randi and the College Professor take place about seven years after this story.


 

This work is copyrighted by the author and any publication or distribution without the written consent of the author is strictly prohibited. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of the characters to persons living or dead is coincidental.


 

Howard and the Completed Pass

 

Part 1

Chapter 1

"Dagnabbit, The Wizard proclaimed to no one in particular as he rummaged through several shelves containing boxes of many ages and manufacture. "I know I had them somewhere. I just used them 200 years ago."

"Randi, did you do anything with my bat wings?" he shouted towards the front of the store."

"Yes Your Wisdom," Randi said as she parted the beaded curtain that separated the rear of the shop from the front. "Remember, I alphabetized everything. I see your problem. You're looking under wings, not bat wings. Remember, you have to go by the first letter of the first word. If you do forget, everything is cross referenced in the master list on the I-Pad."

Randi pressed the lower right corner of the multi-shelved cabinet, and it retreated into the wall. Now, all there was was a nice walnut panel that reminded one of a typical Victorian library. On the left side of the panel there was a smaller panel that looked like the panel in an elevator, except there were letters instead of floor numbers.

"Now, if you want Aardvark toenails, you press "A" not "T". If you can't remember what type of toenails you're looking for, press "T" on the I-Pad. Scroll down until you find "toenails". Besides each type of toenails is an explanation of what they are for. When you find the right type, go back to the main panel and press the letter for the right set of shelves. In some cases there are several layers of cabinets. Just keep pressing the lower left corner to cycle through all the shelves for that particular letter until you come to the right spot.

"Now, batwings are "B - A" so they will be in the first set of shelves under "B"." Randi pressed "B", and the proper set of shelves appeared. She reached up and pulled out a shoebox shaped box. "There you are; 200 batwings. I've separated them by species. There's a labeled sandwich bag for each. The fruit bat wings are in a separate box labeled "Bat wings, Fruit." They're in one gallon bags.

"Any questions?"

The Wizard looked at the young woman who seemed to have taken over his shop. His shop: he'd been running it in one form or other for more than 800 years. Randi had naturally platinum blonde hair, emerald blue eyes, a figure that most women would die for, and The Wizard shuddered to think that she was only thirteen years old. She was a genius of untold potential; much like her sisters, but even more so. Very early on, she'd demonstrated the ability to manipulate space, and even time for a limited area and period. She was already taking advanced high school classes in math, chemistry, and physics. And, she was doing things that The Wizard had difficulty explaining to his superiors.

Randi had been a war damaged veteran in another universe. The then Randal Mantooth suffered from severe PTSD, and unknown until late in his life also had untreatable brain cancer. Then through a phenomenon still not totally understood by the magic world, he fell into this universe from his previous universe. He had chosen to be homeless, and that continued. He accidently hastened his demise by drinking some bad homemade booze. Fortunately, Cynthia, his now older sister and her best friend Bobbie Schmedlap took him under their wings. Unfortunately, magic couldn't save him; however his spirit was transferred to the embryo Cynthia's mother was carrying. Although The Wizard and Marissa knew what was going on, no one else realized until Randi was about five years old that she was the deceased Randal Mantooth.

Randal was a mathematical genius, although that talent had never been exploited. During the later staged of his PTSD madness, he had derived over 1000 prime numbers in his head, and had memorized all of them. His talents came with her, she had always been 'she' inside, and now Randi was a talent of amazing ability. She was also a bit of a loose cannon who had to be reined in every once in a while, and her extremely powerful magical talents only complicated things.

Not too far in the past, she and her sister-in-law, Charli Brewer, Charli was a year younger and a witch, too, had performed superficial sex changes on two transgendered boys. They hadn't realized at the time that they were being closely watched; however, they had not violated any of the rules that The Wizard had established. The Wizard completed the changes for the two very happy new girls, and then tasked Randi and Charlie with showing them the ropes. He could have implanted many artificial memories; however, he knew it would be an excellent experience for the two witches in training.

"So, how are Effie and Terri doing?" The Wizard really knew, but he wanted to hear it from the girls.

"They are doing great. They both have boyfriends. They're behaving rather well. I mean they're not doing sex or anything like that. Charli continues to work with them on makeup and hair styling. Effie just won a violin competition, and Terri says she wants to be a beautician. She says that blondes really do have more fun."

"Where's Charli? I thought she was here with you."

"She was, but she heard a distress call from a feral cat with kittens. She was trapped in a dumpster corral by some stray dogs. Charli had to tell the dogs to go to their homes. She told two of them to report to the animal shelter, and that they'd all better behave themselves from now on or they'd be in deep 'doo doo'. I think that was the term she used. Right now she's calming the mother and the kittens down. They don't trust people. She's going to bring them over here in a while. I think she'll take them home and have Willie and the girls talk to them."

About five minutes later Charli returned with five terrified cats in a cardboard box.

"I promised them that everything was going to be okay. I know it helped quite a bit that I can talk to them. I'm sorry that we didn't bring Willie and Silky with us. I think they, especially Silky, can do a lot to quiet their fears.

"Is the box clean?" Charli asked while looking at the kitty litter box in its spot by the restroom and the skeleton that seemed to fall apart with the least provocation. "The kittens need a place to go, now"

"It is now," The Wizard said making a pass in the direction of the box.

"Okay, little ones, the toilet is ready. You have nothing to be afraid of," Charli said as she took the lid off the box. The mother cat got out of the box, and quickly took in her surroundings.

'These people will not hurt us? You promised,' the mother cat asked.

'These are good people. Like I told you, many cats and kittens live with us. There are also dogs and a wolf. The wolf likes cats very much.'

'You mean he will eat us?'

'Of course not, he is our friend. He is a father, and he has children of his own. We all work together. Remember, I told you we are magic people."

The mother cat, half slinking and looking over her shoulder made a bee line to the box, and took care of her needs. She then encouraged her four kittens to do the same. The four kittens took refuge under the skeleton, and their mother crouched in front of them while wondering what was in store for them.

"Your Wisdom, how about some cream for them; you know, the special cream that won't upset their tummies. I'll fix some Cat Chow ©," Charli added.

Because of the number of cats and kittens that frequented The Wizard's shop, there were always kitty beds available. After all, cats slept 80 percent of the time. Who could say when a nap might be necessary?

Having had all they could eat for the first time in their lives, mother cat and kittens proceeded to their after meal bath.

"Boss, is it okay if I come in," Wolf asked. He'd been quietly occupying the front of the store.

"I think it will be fine. Just don't move very quickly."

Mother cat stopped her bathing, and started to arch her back.

'Hi, I'm Wolf, and I just wanted to say hello and welcome to the family. You and your babies will never be hungry again. My wife and I will be your protectors until you learn our ways'

'What do you mean learn your ways, and how can you be talking to us. You're a wolf. Wolves, coyotes and dogs don't talk to us. They eat us.'

'You are part of us now. You will have a home and shelter. You will also have a human who will rely on you for your help. You will become a partner, and do great things.'

Wolf lay down a comfortable distance from the kittens. He let the tip of his tail twitch slightly. It wasn't long before the boldest of the kittens mounted an attack. That was all it took to break the ice.

'I want my babies to have a good life. They lost a sister early on. I just couldn't feed them all. None of my babies made it the first time. It was winter. I tried, but I just couldn't find enough food. It was so cold. If my babies could live this time, I would be so happy.'

'They are going to live a long time, and you will have many grandchildren,' The Wizard projected.

By this time, Charli and Randi were quietly crying. Charli picked up the little cat and gently held her close. "Everything will be fine," she said out loud. And the little cat understood her words. This would be just the beginning.

The little kittens tired quickly. Their mother led them to the kitty bed. They nursed briefly before falling asleep. The girls returned to straightening things up in the front of the shop. The front of the shop had always been a bit better organized than the rear; however, it was far from being perfect.

As they worked at cleaning up the dust and spider webs, they removed and stored only those webs that weren't currently being occupied, they heard The Wizard's computer give a 'ding', indicating that he was getting an instant message. Ten years before, The Wizard fought a constant battle with computers. Modern magic had not been something he dealt with easily; however, with Cindy's arrival and subsequently her friends and families, The Wizard realized he'd better get with the program.

He discovered a two year college that offered a "Computers for Dummies" course. It was an excellent course for users and didn't really deal much with the programming aspect, but it did give him some excellent training in basic operating skills. By the present time he was really quite proficient, and Jim Matthews had developed some apps for use by the witches and their families. Jim Matthews was the loving husband of Theresa, one of the newer witches brought into the group. Coincidentally, the instant message just received on The Wizard's computer was from Theresa, Terri to most everyone.

"Girls, do you have to be home very soon? Terri Matthews says she has something she wants to talk about. I'll need to shift the store over to Hartford."

It didn't matter whether they had to be home early or not. They would gladly go with The Wizard no matter where he went. "No, it's not a school night. I'll text Mom and let her know where we're going.

"Is Terri bringing Melanie? Charli and I haven't seen her since right after she was born."

"She didn't say, but I imagine she is."

With barely a blink of an eye, they were in a small shopping center in West Hartford. They were occupying the space previously occupied by a tax preparer's office. It was not that time of year, so no one was displaced while the shop was there. Terri was waiting in her car, and as soon as the shop appeared, she made her way to the door. She was carrying Melanie in a baby sling. Melanie was just three months old.

Terri was an athletic young woman who had an exotic beauty about her. Her dark brown hair framed a round face. Her eyes were dark brown, and they gave her a bit of an oriental, eastern European look. Her figure was well proportioned, and before her pregnancy and later on nursing, her breasts had been a firm, perky 34C. They would return to their original shape in another year.

Several people had mentioned she looked very much like her great, great aunt, Simoné. Not all of them knew she was a great, great aunt. After all, she was nearly 160 years old. Simoné was a bit of a free spirit, and as she would say when she finally got to meet her niece, "If you've got it, flaunt it." And flaunt it she did. She posed for a number of 'Art Photographers', and her pictures showed up at a popular web site that featured beautiful young woman. Terri, then Adam Grunewald, had seen her pictures, and had secretly coveted the way she looked. Little did she realize at the time that appearing that way was in her genetics.

Simoné was quite the free spirit and deigned aging her appearance as many witches did. She just moved around eastern Europe while having a great time. She'd had many lovers, but no children. There would still be time for that if she found the right man. She just hadn't found him yet. She sent a Russian tea set as a wedding gift for Jim and Terri. Neither of them understood its true value. Fabergé had little meaning to them at this time. They would understand more later on.

"So," The Wizard said, "tell us about this little situation you discovered."

Chapter 2

Some would consider it a strange relationship; if they only knew about it. Barrett Hamilton was an IT specialist working with Jim Matthews. He'd been hired shortly after Jim had taken over the IT Department at his company's Hartford office. He'd come over from another company in the same city. He was brilliant, and enjoyed his work tremendously. His work was all that mattered. He didn't care about moving up in an organization. He just wanted to be the best at what he did.

Barrett's best friend was Howard Hansen. Howard worked for a company that sold commercial cooking equipment. They also designed commercial kitchens for restaurants, schools, nursing homes, and other large establishments. Howard was six foot five, and out of college could have been a starting tight end for any professional football team he'd have chosen. He played one year for the New England Patriots, was NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, played in the Super Bowl, and blew his knee out during practice the next year. After the surgery and a long recovery period, he could walk with a barely perceptible limp. He would never play football again. Because of an astute agent, he could live comfortably for the rest of his life and never work another day; however, his first professional love had been to be a cook, a chef for a five star restaurant.

Barrett and Howard had been college roommates, and they had gotten along famously. Barrett was a handsome young man who could have had just about any woman he wanted, and he did have a few flings; however, nothing ever came of them. He'd just never found anyone who could follow his computer interests, and he just wasn't hedonistic enough for any of the girls he'd gone with.

As good an athlete Howard was he knew that he could not be a well paid athlete forever. All athletes had to come to the realization that their careers would end sooner or later. Some careers would end much sooner than the athletes thought they would. Howard had been a bit surprised when he'd been a first round draft selection by the Patriots, and his agent helped negotiate a five year, no trade contract that would pay several million dollars a year with substantial raises if his performance warranted it. The forecasts were for a great career, and that was substantiated by his performance that first year. Then came the injury, and a potential hall of fame career was over in one agonizing second.

Howard would collect several million dollars a year for the next four years, and he had no intentions of wasting it. Most of it went into a number of well managed accounts. He could live on what they provided. His undergraduate degree was in restaurant management, and there were some intentions in the back of his mind about maybe someday opening up a fine dining establishment. He liked to cook, and instead of moping about as he recovered from the reconstructive knee surgery, he applied for admission at the Culinary Institute of America in New York City.

Howard had no doubts about his being accepted into their curriculum. He'd been an 'A' student with a Bachelor of Arts in Restaurant Management. With his previous credits he found himself being thrown immediately into the upper division, and after a year of classroom work he entered a six month internship with a well known New York restaurant. It was there that his career took a slight turn from what he'd originally intended. He would receive his Bachelor's Degree in Culinary Arts Management; however, he realized that as much as he loved to cook, there was something else that he'd like to do, and that was design kitchens.

He had been horrified at how poorly the kitchen where he did his internship was designed. The production just didn't flow. People were stepping into and onto each other. There wasn't a night that went by that a major entrée wasn't dumped on the floor. Invariably service personnel leaving the dining room would collide with personnel leaving the kitchen. That was in spite of the strict entry and exit rules.

This was a five star restaurant, a place where the food, service and ambience were always perfect, or at least were supposed to be. That was destroyed one night when a busboy returning to the kitchen collided with a waiter carrying four perfectly prepared entrées. Howard knew they were perfect because he'd prepared them. Needless to say the collision caught the attention of everyone in the restaurant, including several UN representatives and probably several people outside the restaurant who were passing by. The frosting on the disastrous cake was the very loud "Oh, fuck!" shouted by the waiter. The two were terminated on the spot.

It was at that point that Howard realized that as much as he liked cooking and the thought of some day owning his own fine restaurant, he realized that the constant stress might be more than he would enjoy. In spite of being an All American tight end, a past professional football player, and being a still very fit six foot five 245 pounds, Howard was not your typical alpha male football player. Howard was a perfectionist to a certain degree, and any task he set out to do; he set out to do it correctly. His coaches had realized that when they saw him play. If he missed a completion, it wasn't because he took the wrong route; it was usually due to the quarter back not getting the ball to him.

Howard and Barrett had gotten together fairly often over the three years after graduation. Barrett liked his work but wasn't especially happy about the work environment. He often thought about the popular cartoon, Dilbert, and he could just about equate every one of his fellow employees with one or more of the comic's characters, including the pointy headed boss.

He'd made it to most of the Patriot's home games during Howard's rookie year, and when they went all the way to the Super Bowl, Howard sent tickets to him for each of the playoff games. It had been a great year without a doubt.

After Howard's devastating injury, Barrett made frequent weekend visits to the Boston suburbs where Howard had a classy apartment. Barrett was surprised about how upbeat Howard was about his career ending injury.

"Bear," Howards said, although he was more bearlike than Barrett was, Barrett had been Bear since the first day they'd met, "there's a lot more to life than football. I was lucky to have the size and skills that allowed me to do something that many football players have never been able to do. I'll never play another game of professional sports; however, I'm set for life, and I've decided to follow a career that I've really planned on since high school. I've been accepted at the CIA."

"What?" I thought you wanted to be a cook. You mean the CIA'd take you with that bum knee? I know you're in shape, but aren't they taking a chance?"

Howard realized his friend didn't get it. "There won't be a problem even with the bad knee. The school is going to be tough, but they're going to have me in the field next year. They tell me it's going to be very hot at times, but I think I can do it. I'm going to be up against guys like Emeril Lagasse, Mario Vitale, Alton Brown, the whole bunch."

"Who are they, spies?"

"No you idiot, they're chefs. The CIA is the Culinary Institute of America. I'm going to get a second degree in the culinary arts. Except this one is from one of the best culinary institutions in the country. I'm going to have my own restaurant one of these days, and it's going to be the best."

Well, things didn't quite work out that way as Howard finally realized that he wasn't cut out for the rigors of running a very high end eating establishment, while at the same time he realized he could apply his knowledge to something that could be interesting, fun and not nearly as stressful.

So there it was. Barrett had a job he liked with a company he hated. Howard had two bachelor's degrees, millions in the bank, no job, and probably didn't need to work for the rest of his life. But that wasn't Howard's way.

As soon as graduation approached Howard started flooding the market with his résumés. He immediately received responses. He got responses from people he hadn't sent résumés to. That was the good news. He realized that many organizations had access to the list of graduates. Several of the offers for the chance to interview were from two star hotels and restaurants. Those were insults as far as Howard was concerned.

Howard figured that he would stay in New York until his lease ran out. If he got the right offer in the Metropolitan New York area he'd just stay there. If the job was right, he'd move to wherever it was.

Essentially, Howard was pretty much free to do what he wanted to. He had his smart phone, and if someone wanted to reach him they could reach him no matter where he was. Barrett had been travelling to meet him all over the country. Now it was time to visit Barrett at Hartford.

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So, now the adventure starts. I mulled over posting this all at once; however, against my better judgment, I will post it in five parts. The story's not too long, less than 22,000 words - only four parts left.



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