Authour's Note: In chapter four there is what might seem like an error regarding Mike and Liquid Paper. It is not an error. It is another of the 'subtle differences' that show these Monkees were not OUR Monkees at the beginning.
He woke early, as was his custom. Moving efficiently, he got ready for the day and made certain his room was immaculate.
Once that was accomplished, he made a quick check of the sleeping quarters. Miss Valerie's covers were down to her knees and her body was still contorted from what had obviously been a nightmare.
He didn't hesitate. He moved into her room and drew the covers to her shoulders. He ran the knuckles of one hand gently down her cheek, and smiled as she let out a sigh and relaxed, snuggling into the covers.
Smiling at that, he moved down two doors and peered in on Miss Melanie.
He nodded gently as he saw Mister Micky had arrived during the night and was holding her close as they slept. He backed out and closed the door softly behind him.
Those two would soothe each other's nightmares.
He pondered for a moment, then walked to the room across the hall from Miss Valerie's and eased the door open.
Sure enough, Mister Peter was sprawled across the covers, sound asleep. He chuckled as he walked in and tugged off the moccasin boots before tapping the ends of his fingers across a high cheekbone.
Bleary blue eyes opened halfway, and he whispered, “To bed, Mister Peter.” When Mister Peter nodded and hauled himself completely onto the bed, he raised the covers. “And what was the conversation tonight, sir?”
“Mmph,” Mister Peter replied as he snuggled into the pillows. “...'phes'ns...”
“Ephesians?” he asked as he tucked Mister Peter in.
“M-hm,” was the sleepy answer. “....mornin'?”
“Almost, sir. Rest now.”
“M-hm....” It ended in a sigh as Mister Peter fell back asleep.
He chuckled again as he left the room. Mister Peter and Miss Valerie would often talk until both of them dropped from exhaustion. Mister Peter was too much of a gentleman to stay in Miss Valerie's room, so he'd stay in the room across the hall when it was too late to return to his own house.
He sighed. A cross-town phone call was in his immediate future – the other two Simians would no doubt be wondering where their compatriots were.
Two hours later, he re-entered the bedroom. “Good morning, Mister Peter!”
The blue eyes creaked open again, and this time they stayed there. “James,” he yawned. “G'morning!”
“I have taken the liberty of having Cook make breakfast for the six of you.”
Mister Peter frowned. “The six of us?”
“Yes, sir. I took the further liberty of calling the Pad and informing Mister Michael and Mister David of your whereabouts.”
He smiled. “Micky's here, then?”
“Yes, comforting Miss Melanie.” James took a spare outfit from the closet. “I shall see you at breakfast, then?”
“Thanks, James – you're a treasure!”
James smiled and left the room.
Mister Michael and Mister David soon arrived, and breakfast was a merry time. James got the morning's mail and brought it to the table.
Miss Valerie looked through it. “James, this one is for you!”
“For me, Miss?” he frowned as he took it.
“Who's it from, James?” Mister David asked.
“I'm not certain,” James muttered as he opened it. “The envelope is typewritten.” He lifted out a single sheet of paper and began to read.
Suddenly James' face turned ash-white and he began to shake.
Miss Valerie stood. “James?” she asked, alarmed at his reaction.
Her alarm grew as a most uncharacteristic word ripped from his throat.
“James, what is it?” Valerie asked as Peter stood and walked over to them. Gently, Peter TK’d the letter to his own hand.
James was trembling. “Miss…Miss Valerie…I think I’m…g-going to…”
Davy sprang from his seat grew to an inch taller than James’ 5’8”. “C’mon, James, I’ve got you.” He guided him toward the bathroom.
Mel looked upset. “What happened?”
Peter opened the letter and his eyes narrowed. “’My dearest Jimmy’,” he read softly, “’It has become necessary for my monetary stock to be replenished. You know what to do, and you know the consequences for failure. You have a beautiful employer. It would be a shame for her to lose an ear or an eye or some such if you do not come through. You have three weeks.’” He looked up. “It’s unsigned.”
All over the room, jaws set. “He’s not going to pay one red cent,” Mike ground out.
Peter put an arm around Valerie and squeezed. “And you are going to be just fine.”
She nodded, smiling into his eyes. “I know.”
“How do you know?” Mel asked, her voice reflecting her irritation. “How can you know?”
Valerie turned the smile onto her housemate. “I know because I trust them.”
When he came back to himself, he felt strong hands supporting his stomach and head and tasted the acid whang of a sick stomach in his mouth. Weary and weak, he leaned against the body behind him for support.
Those powerful hands gently wiped his face, then stroked his forehead. “There we go,” a gentle voice soothed.
He frowned. “Mister….David?”
“Yes, James… I’ve got you. Just relax.”
He rolled his head from side to side. “Can’t…can’t ever…”
“Right now, you can. Just lean back… Where’s your room?”
James stammered it out and felt himself lifted as though he weighed nothing! “What---?”
“Easy, James, it’s only me.” Mister David carried him into his room and lay him down.
“We’ll take care of all of you,” Mister David assured him, patting his shoulder comfortingly. “You rest now.”
“…no….” But the pull of bed was too great, and he succumbed to an exhausted sleep.
Davy walked out of James’ room, his face set in angry lines. “He feels he can’t relax – that if he does, something will happen to Valerie.”
Peter showed him the letter, and Davy did what nobody had yet thought to do – he looked at the envelope. “This was postmarked a week ago.” He frowned deeply. “That would give him a week to raise the money and send it. Then it’ll be a week traveling.”
“Now hold on,” Micky put in. “The letter said three weeks. A week to raise the money and a week traveling is two weeks.”
“You didn’t hear me, then,” Davy said. “It took a week to get here.”
“From where?” Valerie asked.
Davy held up the envelope. “It’s postmarked from Alaska.”
He woke to quiet and dimness. For a long while, he simply lay in the bed, his thoughts whirling.
He did not know how he was to raise the thousands he knew they wanted. He was so tired of this game.
But he had no choice. Miss Valerie was worth more than all the money in the world. He didn’t dare refuse them and have something happen to her.
Not now that she had finally found the love she had been looking for.
He let out a resigned sigh and got out of bed. Better to take an errand day into town and clean out his accounts. The rest of the money he would deal with later.
He changed his fouled clothes and stripped his bed. As he pulled new sheets onto the mattress, his thoughts turned to Miss Valerie’s friends.
He’d seen the five of them do some extraordinary things. Hope began to grow – perhaps they would help—
As quickly as it began to sprout, James pushed the thought away. He knew they would not help. They had more important matters to tend to than to fret upon the past mistakes of Miss Valerie’s waitstaff.
No – this he would deal with as he’d dealt with it over and over.
“There’s something I simply don’t understand,” Valerie sighed. “James is the kindest, sweetest man – who would want to hurt him like this?”
Peter hugged her one-armed. “We all have some skeletons in our closets, Valerie.”
“Yeah,” Mike couldn’t resist putting in. “Some just rattle louder than others.”
Everybody groaned, and Micky pointed at Mike. “He’s stealing my lines!”
Once the wave of laughter had passed, Peter suggested. “Let’s talk to him when he wakes. There must be something we can do to help him!”
Valerie shook her head gently. “James has got a huge lump of pride. Getting him to accept help isn’t going to be easy.”
“Nothing worthwhile ever is,” Davy pointed out.
“Point,” Mike said with a single nod. “And I can’t think of anything more worthwhile than helpin’ out a friend.”
“But where do we even begin?” Mel asked. “We don’t even know who’s behind this!”
Micky smiled at her. “I think you just answered your own question, doll.”
“As for where to begin to begin,” Peter said, chortling at the repeated words, “talking to James would be a good first step.”
Mike nodded as he put the envelope down. “You’re right,” he said, tapping it. “There’s been a name and return address white-outed on the envelope.”
Davy nodded. “I thought I recognised that stuff. I’m surprised you weren’t the one to, though,” he teased.
“Oh, shut it,” Mike laughed. “My aunt and I weren’t very close, and that never really crossed my mind!”
Peter walked in just then. “What’s so funny?” Once he was filled in, he chuckled. “That’s cute… So we just scrape it off and there’ll be some information?”
Mike nodded. “If we can scrape it off.”
Peter took the envelope and lifted it to eye level. His eyes began their familiar glow.
Davy blinked. “Hold on – you’ve got that fine a control over it?”
One of Peter’s dimples showed as he quirked a half-smile. It was Mike who answered, “Yeah – but it takes a lot more concentration than moving larger things.”
Surrounded by the faint blue glow that characterized everything Peter TK’ed, tiny chips of white lifted off and fell away. After a few moments, Peter sighed and closed his eyes. He rubbed them and opened them, turning to dark blue orbs onto Mike with a second sigh.
Mike met his eyes and sent an image of eyes on fire toward Peter. Peter’s reply was a soft mental, Yeah. A bit.
“So how good did it do?” Davy asked.
Peter shook his head. “Not very good.” He passed it to Davy. “We’ve got half-formed letters, but that’s as good as I could do.”
Davy frowned at the paper. “Well… we’ve got a partial name and a partial address.” He waved it. “I’ll take this to Micky – see what he can do with it.”
“You do that,” Mike said with a nod.
James had just slipped on his shoes when a tentative knock sounded on his door. Frowning, he stood and went to open it. He blinked, startled as to who was standing there. “Miss…Miss Valerie? What…”
“May I come in?”
Frowning, James stepped aside and allowed Miss Valerie entrance. Leaving the door open – it wouldn’t be seemly to be alone in a room with his female employer with the door closed, after all – James gestured at one
of the chairs by the window. Miss Valerie nodded and sat down. James walked over and sat at his desk. “Miss Valerie –“ he began.
She held up her hand for silence. When he sputtered to a stop, she met his eyes. “I want to know what’s going on, James. And I want to know it now.”
A million thoughts coursed through James’ mind in the space of a few seconds. At last, he lowered his eyes. “Forgive me, Miss Valerie. I – I cannot tell you.”
She folded her arms and fixed him with a frustrated glare. “James – if we don’t know what we’re up against, we can’t help you!”
He shook his head. “There’s no help for it, Miss. If you’ve seen the letter—“
“Then you know the choice. And it truly is that simple. Either I pay them or they harm you.” He raised his eyes. “I can’t let them harm you.”
“You speak as thought you only have those two choices,” Miss Valerie said as she unfolded her arms.
Now it was James’ turn to give a frustrated glare. “I do, Miss Valerie! Those are the only choices I have!”
“No,” an unexpectedly male voice replied. “They’re not.”
James shot to his feet, startled. “Mister… Micky?”
The very air itself seemed to thicken and take on colour and substance as Mister Micky shimmered into view. He looked very serious and solemn – and it seemed so out of place on the drummer’s face that it shocked James. “Mister Micky?” he whispered, startled by both the ferocious expression and the blatant use of a power he’d only seen hints of.
Mister Micky held up a hand. “Relax, James –the door was open. Anyone could have walked by and heard.” James had to admit he was right. When he had relaxed from that, Mister Micky said, “But I stand by what I said. There are always alternatives, and we’re going to find them for you.”
“But you can’t –“ James began.
“You’re right,” Miss Valerie interrupted. “We can’t – unless you help us and inform us of what we’re up against. We’re all in this, James. You are more than a butler to me – you’re my family.”
James looked from one to the other – and sighed heavily, dropping back into the chair. “…oh, Miss Valerie…”
She crouched in front of him and took his hands. “James. Please.”
He met her eyes. Then he studied Mister Micky’s.
And then James began to speak.
“His name is Brian Thornton,” James said in a heavy, defeated voice. “Hers is Helen Carmichael. They are the most sadistic individuals I have ever had the misfortune to encounter.”
“How did you get mixed up with them, then?” Miss Valerie asked.
James sighed and leaned heavily against the chair back. “Helen is my sister.”
Miss Valerie squeezed James’ hand as the rest of the story poured from him. Both he and Helen had been born powerful. His was low-level empathy that manifested itself in knowing how to make people happy and content.
He smiled at Miss Valerie and quipped, “Perfect for a butler, eh?” She laughed and Mister Micky smiled.
The story went on. Helen’s power was also a low-level one – she was a healer. But instead of relishing her ability to help, she reveled in her power’s dark side. Helen reveled in the feeling causing others pain gave her.
“I’m immune to her power,” James sighed. “She can’t cause me physical pain. She just causes pain to my heart.”
Helen had met Brian in England’s version of high school. His power was much like Davy’s – brute strength. He also loved the power he would get from hurting those weaker than him. Together, they used their gifts to harm and destroy.
“It’s a match made in hell,” Mister Micky groaned out, and James agreed. “So why are your sister and her boyfriend hitting you up for money and threatening Valerie?”
James bowed his head. “We were raised to see our differences as freakish. To hide them. It… It began when I began working. They needed money and threatened to expose me if I didn’t pay.” He shook his head. “I was going to tell you, eventually. I’m sorry it came down to this.”
James looked up and there were tears in his eyes. “The last few times, they began threatening to harm you. I know them – they are fully capable of what they threaten!” He released her hands, gripping her upper arms. “I can’t take that chance – so I’ve been paying them off. I can’t take that chance, Miss Valerie!”
Miss Valerie and Mister Micky looked at each other. Mister Micky headed for the door, shimmering into nothingness as he did so. He left the door wide open, knowing James would be embarrassed if it was closed while he was alone with Miss Valerie.
Miss Valerie extricated her arms from James’ grip and cupped his cheek. “Come on, James. They need to know so they can help.”
Sniffling, James climbed to his feet. “Might I… Might I have a few moments alone, ma’am? I’m…” He gestured to his reddened nose and teary eyes.
Miss Valerie smiled as she gained her feet. “Of course, James. Don’t be too long.” She kissed his cheek and left the room, closing the door behind her.
James retired to his bathroom, and washed his face. So they know, he thought. And she’s not sent me away. His hands gripped the towel, twisting it as he set it down on the sink.
But now I’ve put them in harm’s way! My sins keep compounding. He shook his head. That letter was more strongly worded than the others. They might hurt Miss Valerie no matter what. Perhaps I can intercept them and that way I’ll be the only one hurt!
Three minutes later, James was in jeans and a jean jacket with a duffle slung over his shoulder. He climbed out of his bedroom window and began a swift lope down the hill the mansion stood on.
James was running as fast and as hard as he could when suddenly he felt something hard impact his armpits. He looked down to find his legs churning in empty air.
He tilted his head up, to find himself looking into Mister Peter’s disappointed face and softly glowing blue eyes. With a sigh, James slumped slightly into his arms. “That didn’t work,” he sighed again.
“Running from your problems never does,” Mister Peter said gently as he steered them toward the mansion. “Why were you bolting, anyway?”
“I hoped I could catch them and I’d be the only one they hurt.”
“I see,” Mister Peter nodded. “Hardly cowardice, then.”
“Hardly,” James sniffed.
“But martyrdom doesn’t become you, either,” Mister Peter said as he lowered James gently to the porch – where everyone was gathered.
Miss Valerie crossed her arms and looked sternly at James. “Martyrdom?”
“He was trying to give himself to them and spare you.” James glared at Mister Peter, who finished, “I told him he can’t run from his problems.”
James ran a hand across his forehead and let out a groan. “Miss Valerie – Mister Peter – I am not running from my problems! I’m trying to keep my sister from killing you!”
Miss Melanie stepped up. “James – five of us are as powerful or more so than she is.”
“And teamwork will make us more powerful than he is,” Mister Micky put in.
Miss Melanie nodded. “James, we can do this. We are going to be fine.”
James frowned, looking from one to the other. “Do what? I don’t understand.”
Mister Michael nodded. “We’ve got a plan. The only thing is, the crux of it relies on you.”
Slowly, James nodded. “What do I have to do?”
They walked through the crowded terminal at LAX and stormed to the curb.
She hailed a taxi and they got in. “Malibu Beach,” she ordered.
The cabbie shook his head. “I don’t go that route. You want the Cooper Company. I can call ‘em for you.”
She narrowed her eyes and reached for him, but her companion took her hand. “How much will it cost?”
He smiled. “Not a thing. Y’look like you ain’t got much money, and I’m a decent sort. You can wait in here outta the rain till they get here, too.”
“We’re in a hurry—“ the woman began.
“Not a problem,” the cabbie said, picking up the microphone. “They’ll be here in less than ten minutes.”
The man turned to his companion. “This is not a setback. We can wait a few more minutes.”
She sighed and nodded. “He’ll learn the folly of not obeying orders,” she growled softly.
Her companion kissed her. “Patience, my love. Lean against me and rest.” As her eyes closed, he rubbed her temple and growled, “Soon, James. Soon.”
James was pacing the living room when Mister Peter walked up. “Are you going to get changed?”
“Changed?” James looked down at his jeans and sighed. “Yes – I suppose I'd better, to pull this off.”
Mister Peter stepped forward and put a hand on his shoulder. “You need to believe, James. It will all be all right.”
James studied the dark blue eyes, reading the absolute sincerity there.
“Try it,” Mister Peter urged. “Look past your own fears and your doubts. Find the trust--”
“--and I'll find strength in it,” James whispered. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
Mister Peter's eyes closed and his lips moved in prayer.
“All right,” James said, a new strength in his voice. “Thank you, sir.”
“Anytime,” Mister Peter smiled, releasing him. As he watched the butler walk off with a renewed confidence in his step, Mister Peter's smile grew and he called after him, “We'll be just fine.”
The taxi deposited the pair several blocks from the Cartwright mansion. As they walked, they amused themselves with scenarios of pain and mayhem.
He suddenly stopped and frowned. “I think we're being watched.”
“What?” She turned round in a circle. “I don't see anyone...”
“Me either...” He shook himself. “Let's go.”
They marched right up to the mansion and he smiled at her. “Ready, Helen?”
She smiled back. “I'm ready, Brian.”
Brian's smile grew. He lifted his fist as if to knock.
A moment later, the door blew inward. They walked inside as if they owned the place – which, in their minds, they did.
A man in a butler's uniform came barreling out. “What in the world is going on here?”
Helen smiled coldly at him. “Well, hello, James. Come and give your sister a hug!” She opened her arms.
James stopped and narrowed his eyes. He folded his arms and gazed at her coldly. “You must be mistaken, miss. I have no sister.”
Helen frowned at James’s pronouncement, then she burst into laughter. “Oh, James, that is rich! I’m right here – how can you say I don’t exist?”
“I never said you didn’t exist,” James countered. “I just said you are not my sister.” He frowned. “And your letter said three weeks. It’s barely been one!”
Brian chuckled. “Helen had a feeling you won’t pay this time. So we came to collect in person.”
“Personally, I’m hoping you won't pay,” Helen chuckled. “It’s been too long since we’ve had a chance to commit mayhem…”
All laughter stopped and two pairs of furious eyes focused on James. “I’m sorry,” Helen said coldly. “I think my hearing went for a moment. What did you just say – Jimmy?”
James glared at her. “I said ‘Get out’. And I mean it. You’re not welcome here!”
“Oh…” Helen began to smile cruelly. “That pretty employer of yours is going to pay!”
Immediately, Brian lunged toward the foyer entrance. He struck an unseen barrier just inside the doorway with such force that he was knocked from his feet and slid across the floor to land at Helen’s feet.
James slowly began to smile.
Brian staggered to his feet and lunged at James, fist swinging.
SMACK! His fist was stopped in mid-air with the unmistakable sound of flesh and bone hitting naked flesh. Brian’s eyes widened. “Holy—!” he gasped. “Someone’s got me!”
“What?” Helen gasped. “Use your strength!”
“I am!” Brian gasped, his face rapidly reddening from strain. “It’s not budging!”
Suddenly Brian was lifted… carried…. And dumped head-first out of an open window!
Helen yelled and launched herself at James. James grabbed her bare wrist and she screamed and screamed as she collapsed onto her knees.
Helen felt hands lifting her and carrying her to the window – but she couldn’t see anyone! A last scream from her, and she joined Brian outside.
James watched as Mister David and Mister Micky shimmered into view. “I can’t believe that worked!” he laughed.
“Don’t rejoice yet,” Mister David said grimly, heading for the door. “It’s not over yet.” Mister Micky followed him outside.
After a moment, James followed them both.
As Helen and Brian picked themselves up, they saw four men converting on them. One was transparent. One was easily eight feet tall. One’s wrists were pulsing with an angry red light, and one’s eyes were not visible behind a bright blue glow. James joined them a few seconds later.
“So,” Helen snarled. “You are the ones my coward of a brother is hiding behind?”
“He’s no coward,” Mister Mike snarled, and James felt his heart swell. “You’re the cowards – comin’ in here and hidin’ behind threats of harm—“
“For what?” Mister Peter interrupted. “For money?” He snorted. “That has to be the stupidest reason in the world!”
“Do tell?” Brian shot back. “And where is your wealth, big man?”
Peter smiled and indicated his friends with his hands. “Right here.” James felt his heart swell again – he’d been included in that gesture.
Both Brian and Helen laughed. “Then it’s you who’re the stupid one!” Helen spat. “To trust in people—“
James spoke up. “People are unpredictable, yes – but money can’t love you!”
Mister Peter smiled warmly at him.
“Enough talk!” Helen roared. “Destroy them, Brian!”
Brian grinned and popped his knuckles. “With pleasure.”
Mister David took a step forward, ready to match strength against strength.
“Davy,” Mister Peter said firmly, “Do you really feel like a long, drawn-out slugfest right now?”
Mister David shot him a wide grin. “I sure do – I’ve not had a good one in some time!”
Mister Peter and Mister Mike looked at each other and – in perfect unison – threw up their hands and cut off their powers as they stepped back. Mister Micky sighed, “Call us if you need us?”
“You got it.” Mister David shrank to match Brian’s five-eight and they circled each other.
So intent was Helen on watching the pair, she failed to notice James edging closer to her. Suddenly a shrill scream pierced the air as James’ fingers closed around her bare wrist. She struggled to break free, but James pulled her close, flung his other arm around her shoulders, and grabbed her where shoulder met neck. All ten fingers dug slightly into her skin, and he held on.
Helen arched in agony, screaming as if she were being ripped in two.
The scream distracted Brian just enough that when Mister David tackled him, he was caught by surprise. Soon, the super-strong duo were wrestling and throwing punches fast and furious.
Helen, meanwhile, sagged in her brother’s grasp as she passed out from the pain. James abruptly released her and she collapsed in a boneless heap. “Could one of you please confine her till they’re finished?” he asked. When he looked up at the battle, he sighed. “Wonderful – I’ll have to get the groundskeeper to work overtime…”
The others smiled as Mister Micky enclosed the unconscious Helen in an invisible bubble. “It’s good to hear you sounding like yourself again,” Mister Peter chuckled.
“The threat’s gone,” James smiled back. “So now I can get back to normal.”
“By the way,” Mister Mike asked with a slight frown, “How’d you hurt her?”
James’s smile turned sad. “Her power is healing, but she uses it to cause pain. I’m a low-level empath – but I’ve more than enough ability to reflect her own power back on her.”
Mister Peter clapped him on the shoulder, then grabbed him and shot into the air as Mister David and Brian’s wild thrashing brought them that way.
An hour later, the sound of splintering bone rang through the late afternoon air. Mister David and Brian both froze.
Then Brian went limp and a panting Mister David rolled onto his back. It took the others a moment to recognise the strange wheezing sound he was making was laboured laughter.
“Davy?” Mister Mike called as they dashed over.
“Oh… oh, brother!” Mister David laughed. “That….that was fun! Get… get him too the lockup….we had the cops….design to hold me.” He laughed again. “And a…doctor!”
“A doctor?” Mister Micky asked as he crouched beside the unconscious Brian – and winced. “Ouch.”
Mister David nodded. “Yeah…” He held up his bloody fist. “I broke his nose!”
“That hurts…” Mister Mike frowned. “But it wouldn’t knock him out!”
Mister Micky looked up at him. “His knee’s at a really weird angle.”
Mister Mike knelt beside him. “Severely dislocated. Same time?” At Mister David’s nod, he nodded as well. “That would do it…”
Mister Micky extended the bubble Helen was in to surround Brian as well, and hauled them into the air. He was gone a moment later.
Mister Peter smiled at James as they headed back toward the mansion. “Well, James,” he couldn’t resist teasing. “You’ve gone through an adventure similar to what we have in the past… How’d you like it?”
James studied him for a moment before answering gently, “If it’s all the same to you, Mister Peter? I believe I’m much happier sticking to the background!”
Their laughter rang through the gentle hills of the estate long after they’d vanished inside.
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