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Part Three

Back at the B&B, the group gathered in the living room. Myka made tea and set it on the coffee table. She then settled on the sofa between Pete and Claudia, cuddling close to her husband but taking Claudia’s hand in hers, Pete extended his arm around Myka’s back and reached with his other hand and rested it on top of Myka and Claudia’s. Artie stood and watched as they comforted each other.

It wasn’t the first time they lost someone they held dear and it would not be the last. Artie’s gaze went to Claudia, who kicked off her shoes and had her fishnet stocking covered feet on display. Her life was now extended due to becoming caretaker. Artie knew Mrs. Frederick had shown her years before, just how it worked but he wondered if that fact hit her yet. She would outlive them all and then some. Artie sat in a wingback chair with a sigh.

Adwin entered the B&B, surveying the group. “We’ve suffered a great loss today.” he said as a way of greeting. “Any case, anyone working on it can wait a day. Be with each other, be present.”

Steve and Liam rushed in, coming to a halt before Adwin. Adwin smiled at them sadly. “Gentleman, I’m sorry for your loss... All of our loss.” he amended. He shook their hands and left as quickly as he appeared.

“Who was that dapper gentleman?” Liam asked, intrigued.

“Adwin Kosan.” Artie said blandly, “He’s a regent. The head regent typically.”

“Oh, okay.” Liam said, still sounding lost. His gaze went to his husband, who knelt in front of his best friend. He joined Steve on the floor.

Artie watched the group and just felt out of place. Alone. “I’m gonna go upstairs for a minute.” he told them and rose. He climbed the stairs and found himself looking in Claudia’s bedroom doorway. It still had the posters he’d given her on her twenty-first birthday, and her collection of guitars but now had an adult edge to it.

He wandered in and sat down on her bed. He took a deep breath, breathing in her scent that lingered. It comforted him. He closed his eyes and laid back. He wasn’t aware of how much time had passed but he heard a soft voice say “knock, knock.” from the doorway.

He opened his eyes and saw Claudia studying him with a sad smile on her face. She stepped into the room and sat on the edge of her bed and took off her shoes, sliding them beneath the bed. She walked to the other side and sat down, then laying down beside him.

Cautiously, Artie rolled on his side so they faced one another. “Knock knock was the first thing you said to let us know you’d broken into the Warehouse.” He said fondly.

“What can I say, I know how to make an entrance.” Claudia assured him.

“That you do.” Artie agreed with a small soft chuckle.

They fell into a comfortable silence. Just watching each other. “You know, you can stay here tonight. It’s not like we don’t have rooms here. Hell, you can even sleep in here with me if you want.” Claudia offered softly. “You should be with your family tonight. Plus I don’t know if me taking over as caregiver causes any changes to the Warehouse.”

A jumble of emotions ran through Artie. “Well I do know the Warehouse would still watch over me.” He assured Claudia with certainty.

Claudia didn’t doubt that for a minute. “It’s up to you, Artie. But I prefer you not be alone.”

Artie nodded.