Raven pushed through the gathered crowd upstream, using his cane to gently nudge people aside. He had returned to his aristocrat persona, preferring it to the drabness of a priest. The doll holding Crow was tucked safely in his hat. He sidestepped news crews and photographers. There, in the center of all this commotion was the old Shinto priest. He was soaking wet with a blanket around his shoulders. Mei’s grandmother stood near him, the child clutched in her arms. She was frowning in worry and answering questions softly.
“Can you tell us how she fell into the river?” asked one reporter.
“She dropped her doll and was trying to catch it,” said Grandmother, her voice trembling. She looked as if she just wanted to fade into the background.
“Fish!” cried a distraught Mei.
Camera flashes went off like popcorn as reporters called out more questions. Raven tapped a photographer on the shoulder.
“Excuse me.” He held up a rag doll. “Is this the source of all this trouble?”
“Fish!” cried Mei in delight.
Her grandmother caught Mei before she could dive out of her arms. “Thank you.”
Raven handed the doll to Mei. “No worries.” He tipped his hat and retreated back into the park. The murder of crows settled into the trees around him, quietly watching and waiting. An hour later, after the news crews had departed and the crowd had dispersed, Fox joined him. She was back to her juggler persona in two steps.
Raven removed his top hat and pulled out the offending doll. “Now what?”
“You give me back my star ball so I can release her,” said Fox as she took the doll.
Raven reached into the hat again and removed the ball. He held it out, then pulled it back when she reached for it. “I have no patience for further trickery.”
“No more tricks,” Fox promised. She held out her hand.
Raven considered, then reluctantly handed her the ball. “Be quick about it.”
Fox juggled the ball and doll. They went round faster and faster. Green and gold foxfire spun out from the ball and enveloped the doll. There was a bright flash of light and… reality twisted.
Copyright 2013, Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved