Written By: Cinnamon, Kathy Pogge and Alison Wilgus
Story Concepts by: Larry Davison and Kathy Pogge


The travel alarm at her bedside twittered softly, and Beth Maza groaned and silenced it quickly, so as not to rouse her sister sleeping in the next room. She rose, groggy from the two hour time difference, but became rapidly alert as she was over come by a bout of pre-interview jitters. She pulled two outfits out of the borrowed closet and held them both before the mirror.

"Is this too casual?" She wondered aloud, as she held the skirt and blazer before her. "Maybe this one is better." She dropped the first outfit over a chair and scrutinized a forest green wool ensemble. "Yeah. This works much better. It looks scholarly, yet uptown." Realizing how nervous she sounded she dropped the suit next to its  rival and headed for the shower.

As she toweled her hair dry, Beth reflected on her current situation. Spending the last year working on Hopi archeological digs had led to writing and submitting several articles to different historical and preservation societies in hopes of obtaining grant and scholarship funding to continue her studies. She had not only recently won an essay contest, but the attention of  ~ Antiquities Today ~, a new magazine, who had invited her to New York for an interview about a possible work-study opportunity.

And so, as she tweaked her suit jacket and smoothed her short, dark hair down one last time, she tried not to let the butterflies in her stomach get the best of her. With Dad retired from the force and all of the turmoil the rest of her family had gone through, it would be nice to prove that the baby of the family could take care of herself.

Summoning, what her mother often referred to as "that Maza grit", she quietly let herself out of Elisa's apartment, went downstairs and hailed a cab.

* * * * *

A short time later she stood before the edifice that now housed the publishing arm of Maddox Technologies. It seemed to Beth to be a pretty imposing structure for a publisher who currently issued a handful of technical trade journals and a magazine about antiquities and the ancient mysteries that were associated  with them. But she had done some research, and found that Maddox had ambitious plans for their publishing house and if their proposed expansion into the hardcover market occurred, they would be a forced to be reckoned with within the next five years. The beauty of it all was they were willing to subsidize the authors they contracted with, furthering their research by underwriting digs and field studies, a highly unusual practice.

She glanced at her watch. Five minutes to ten. It was time to go in. She smiled at the doorman as he held the heavy glass  portal open for her, and he acknowledged the smile with one of his own.

He noted her slim briefcase and slight case of nerves. "Interview?" He inquired.

Beth nodded.

He winked at her as he walked her to the reception desk. "Don't worry miss, you'll do fine." He returned to his post leaving Beth to introduce herself to the receptionist.

* * * * *

Beth allowed his words to run through her head a short time later as she sat in the quietly elegant offices of Ms. Mavis O'Connor. She listened intently as Ms. O'Connor explained in her quiet Irish brogue, why they were so interested in subsidizing the education of a soon to be Master's candidate.

"So ye see Miss Maza, we here at ~ Antiquities Today ~ are lookin' for new takes on the old stories, visions that haven't been clouded by convention. By working with ya young ones, we hope to make a few discoveries of our own about this old world.

Beth listened with interest. It sounded great. She could complete her degree at U of AZ, and they would subsidize her Master's program, providing as she transferred to a school in New York.  In return, she would be required to write a series of articles on Native American mythology, similar to the essay that had brought her to their attention. She could return to the city, and be close to her family.

So why did this lovely woman, with her quiet manners and terrific job offer, make the back of her neck itch?

Mavis O'Connor was wrapping up her presentation. "So what do you think Miss Maza. Do ya care to join our little family?"

She ought to say yes. It would be so easy. "Come on Beth." She told herself. "Take the nice lady's job offer."  She cleared her throat and rose from her chair. "Ms. O'Connor. It's a generous offer. But it's very sudden. May I have a few days to think it over?"

O'Connor gave her an appraising glance. "Of course you may. Why don't you talk it over with your family? They live here, do they not? Surely, they'll be happy ta help you think it through."

"Of course." Beth gathered her things and held her hand out to Ms. O'Connor. "I'll call you with my decision, soon."

Mavis gave the girl's hand a brief squeeze, before escorting her to the door. "I'll be lookin' forward to it." She closed the heavy oak door, leaving Beth in the reception area on the other side.

She returned to her desk, hesitated a moment as she formed her report in her mind then hit the speed dial and a code number. A moment later, in a building on the opposite side of the financial center, a phone receiver lifted. Without preamble, Mavis O'Connor

"I was right about this one. There seems to be a certain...air about her." She paused for a moment as she listened to a reply. "One way or another, we need to keep close tabs on her. I trust you can arrange that for me?" O'Connor paused again. "Good. See that you do. Miss Maza’s going to be very useful to us." O'Connor cut the connection and picked up a file folder containing the resume of her next interview. She did after all, have a legitimate business to run.
* * * * *

Beth exited the Maddox Publishing building with a sigh of relief. As she walked down the busy street, she took a deep lungful of crisp autumn air and wondered again just what it was about the entire proposition that made her so uncomfortable. Spying a street vendors pushcart she paused and ordered  a hot dog. She missed Arizona and its wide open spaces, and desolate beauty, but every so often, as she bumped down the desert highway she found herself aching for New York and the noise and bustle. Maybe that was the problem. There were days when Beth Maza just didn't know who she was supposed to be.

Lost in her thoughts, she ambled toward the park and sat on a bench. Was she meant to be a New York writer, based here the city, who went on the occasional dig to add flavor to her work? If she took Maddox's offer, despite their assurances, that's what she'd become.

She dug the premier issue of  ~ Antiquities Today ~ out of her brief case. They'd sent her a pre-production issue, so that she could see the opportunity that they were offering. It was slick and glossy, and would make a great companion to one of those cable channel documentaries about ancient mysteries. She took a bite of relish covered hot dog and chewed thoughtfully.

"You weren’t fibbing when you told Ms. O'Connor it’s a generous offer." She argued with herself. Passing pedestrians ignored the one sided conversation.
"It just seems like I should do more somehow." She argued further. "Elisa and Derek became cops like Dad. They help people. Maybe I should too." She paused for a moment as a particularly low moment in her life filtered forward in her memory. "Then again Sargent Ryan did make a valid point about joining the family business out of obligation. I’m just glad they didn’t cancel the ride-along  program because of me."

But once again, she realized she was at a crossroads, and the desire to do something important, like the rest of the Maza clan was strong. If she could only find the right direction.

She tossed her wadded napkin into a nearby trash can, and caught a cab to her folks’ home.

* * * * *
She was greeted at the door of the neat brownstone, by her father in an uncharacteristically frilly apron.

"Dad?" Her single word contained a dozen unspoken questions.

"Don't laugh. Your mother made me." He ushered his youngest daughter into the living room and removed the offending apron. "The family's gotten a lot bigger in the last year and your mother has gone on a cooking spree, getting things ready for Thanksgiving dinner." He looked ruefully at the apron. "I got drafted into helping."

A timer chimed in the kitchen. Then snapped abruptly off. A heavenly fragrance filled the dwelling as the scent of pie drifted out of the kitchen. "Is that..." Beth trailed off as her mother entered the room.

"Sweet potato pie." She confirmed. "It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it and your great-great grandmother Margaret's oyster dressing. I'm making that tomorrow." she sighed as she sank into a chair and removed a ratty blue oven mitt. "I've been baking all morning and that," she waved a hand toward the kitchen, "is the last one."

It smells wonderful. Are you doing all the cooking for tomorrow?"

Diane chuckled low. "Heavens no! Everyone is contributing something. Even your sister. We just got volunteered for dessert. I understand that Broadway is going to be the principal chef."

"Broadway?" Beth's brow wrinkled as she sought to put a description to the name. "Oh, Broadway." She grinned as she put the portly gargoyles smiling visage from a Polaroid and comments from one of Elisa's infrequent letters together. "Then I'm sure that we'll be in good hands. "He's supposed to be quite the gourmet."

"He’d certainly like to think so…." She grinned. "But enough about tomorrow. How did your interview go?" Diane queried.

"Yes." Peter chimed in. "Did they make you an offer?"

"It was fine and I don't know yet." Beth stalled. "Ms. O'Connor was really impressed with my work. And it seemed like the interview went well." She put on an optimistic face and stomped down the guilty regret she felt lying to her parents. "I guess I'll just have to wait and see."

Peter and Diane exchanged a glance. Their daughter wasn’t telling them everything. Diane shrugged her shoulders and mouthed "later" to her husband when Beth went into the kitchen for a soda.

Beth spent the rest of the afternoon catching up with her folks. She listened as her mother rattled on about her latest book and her father confessed his concerns about taking the director-ship of The Xanatos-Renard Foundation to Aid the Homeless. Peter swelled with pride as he mentioned that Elisa had been awarded a Mayor's Citation for her quick thinking in a recent hostage crisis.

"Why is everyone in my family doing something important but me?" Beth wondered as she dutifully echoed her father's proud remarks. She found herself growing more introspective as the afternoon passed. Using a last minute trip to the market as an excuse for escape, she took her mother's grocery list in hand and fled, promising to return early the next morning to assist with last minute preparations. An hour of mundane shopping did nothing to improve her mood and it was with relief that she returned to her Elisa's empty apartment, and an early lights out.

* * * * *

While most of Greater New York was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, several shops were open and business went on as usual in the Japanese community.

Many of the Japanese-Americans living there did recognize the holiday in some fashion, and certainly most enjoyed the massive Macy's Parade every year.  But there were Japanese holidays that many others in this area preferred to observe more formally. For them, Thanksgiving was simply another business day.

On a side street lined with shops and small businesses was a tidy little tailor shop run by Hiroshi Nomura and his wife, Mariko. They were called Harry and Mary by their Caucasian customers but held proudly to their Japanese heritage and kept their own names, language, and customs even after being in America for over 20 years.  They were a mature couple, both in their late 40's, with threads of silver beginning to show in their hair. They worked hard, lived quietly, and avoided looking for trouble. But this day trouble seemed to have found them.

Their shop was open for part of the day on Thanksgiving, but they planned to close at noon. Hiroshi had already given his two stitchers the day off.  After lunch he would work on some of his current tailoring projects and Mariko would do the end-of-the-month bookkeeping.  A big Thanksgiving dinner did not appeal to them, so they simply planned a quiet evening at home with their beloved daughter, Saeko.

Only now they stood together and exchanged worried looks as the brash young man, also Japanese, left the shop, and walked down the street with an arrogant swagger. He had boldly marched in only moments before, despite the CLOSED sign that Hiroshi was just hanging. He was not interested in the tailor's services. In fact the object of his interest was hiding in the darkened workroom. Now that he was gone, she cautiously opened the door and peeked out.

"Is he gone, Otoosan?"  she asked quietly.

"He's gone, Saeko,"  Hiroshi answered.  ".....For now.  I don't think he'll return today.  We told him you went to see Macy's parade and were spending the day with friends."

Slowly, Sharon Nomura came out of the darkened workroom and joined her parents. She was dressed in a plain, stonewashed denim dress and a dark blue cardigan sweater. She was 20 years old, slender and petite; with long, sleek, black hair and dark almond eyes.  And she was just as worried as her parents.

Mariko hurried to draw the blinds and turn out the shop lights. "Perhaps he will not be back *today,* Anata," She said worriedly to her husband.  "But he will be back another time.  How long can we continue to make up excuses?"

"Is there no way to make him understand?"  pleaded Sharon.  "I truly do *not* want to..."

"And you *will* not, Saeko,"  Hiroshi assured her.  "Somehow, we will make him understand he cannot claim you simply because it pleases him to do so."

"At least *this* time we saw him in time for you to get out of sight, Saeko-chan,"  said Mariko  "We'll have to keep a constant watch now."

"But surely some time he will come when we're not expecting him," said Hiroshi thoughtfully.

Mariko had no answer for that. She clenched her hands tightly and her knuckles whitened. Hiroshi, sensitive to her distress, put an arm around her shoulders.

"It's because of me he threatens you,"  said Sharon.  "If I were not here he wouldn't bother you at all."

"There is nowhere safer for you than here with your parents,  Saeko-chan,"  Mariko insisted.  "Come.  Let's go up and have lunch."
The Nomuras' tailor shop shared the building with a small Japanese grocery store across the hall.  Both shops opened out onto the street and each also had a side door into the center hallway and stairwell.  Upstairs were four apartments.  One of these, the one directly above the tailor shop, was occupied by the Nomuras.  Hiroshi locked the shop's front door and they all left through the hallway door, which he also locked, and went upstairs.

Outside it was growing cold as the November wind brought in heavy grey clouds.   But the Nomuras' apartment was warm and cheery with soft lamps, Japanese art prints, and simple furnishings. The warmth of the apartment did not help to raise the family’s spirits. They were all quiet with their own troubled thoughts as Mariko went to her kitchen to make lunch and Hiroshi tried to concentrate on reading the newspaper.  Sharon got out dishes and serving bowls and set the table.  But she moved mechanically, her brow furrowed with deep worry for her parents' sakes, as well as her own.

Their talk at lunch was carefully kept trivial, as they avoided the subject that troubled them all. "How could they deal with Sharon’s unwanted suitor?"

"I'm just as glad to not have to reopen the shop this afternoon,"  said Hiroshi, trying to focus on normal things.  "I have a lot of finish pressing to do for suits being picked up tomorrow. This holiday comes at a good time for that."

"It also comes near enough to the end of the month to get the books caught up,"  Mariko picked up from him.  "There's no need for you to come down, Saeko-chan, if you have something else you wish to do."

"I can do some reading,"  Sharon answered absently.  "But I'll clear away lunch and do the dishes first."

"Do you miss living in the dormitory with all your university friends?" Her father asked.

"I *enjoy* being there with them; but while I was there I missed being here with you both. Staying in the dorm just made it easier than commuting through the city every day. I *will* return and finish my degree, Otoosan, but I'm glad to have this break and be back at home for a year."

"As we are glad to have you home, Saeko-chan,"  affirmed Mariko.

After lunch, as they had planned, Hiroshi and Mariko returned to the workroom in the back of their shop.  After Sharon cleaned up the dishes she withdrew to the quiet of her room. She picked up a book and tried to read, but could not get beyond the first couple of paragraphs. Takeo's leering grin and mocking voice kept intruding into her mind.  And worse, images of his progressively bolder and more threatening behavior were replayed as vivid scenes from her recent memory.

She shuddered as she remembered the one and only time she had gone out with Takeo Kimura.

She had been home on break from Columbia when he had first come calling.

He had persisted until finally she had relented. It had been a mistake.  Tommy, as he insisted she call him, had taken her to his favorite club and shown her off to all his rowdy cronies as if she were a prized piece of inanimate art. Worse, he gave them all the unmistakable impression that she was exclusively his.

It was the most miserable date she had ever been on.  Once they were seated at a table with all his chosen friends, Tommy focused all his attention on his companions.  Amid the raucous laughter and rock music pounding so loudly the floor reverberated, normal conversation was impossible.

* * * * *

"That was a good joke Kimura-san. Where do you learn them all?"

The crowd of young toughs laughed raucously at their leader's attempt at humor.

As another loud burst of laughter and shouting exploded around her, Sharon leaned toward Tommy and begged. "Couldn't we leave now, Tommy? It's so loud in here, I'm getting a headache."

"Lighten up, Saeko-chan!"  he ordered.  "*I'll* decide when to take you home!  Until then you'll stay and enjoy the party!"  Tommy turned away from Sharon and addressed his friends. "See what happens when you let girls go to college? They start  believing they can think for themselves."

"And they expect you to do what *they* want," laughed one crony.

"The old traditions kept women in their proper place," Tommy shot back derisively.

A noisy round of general agreement followed, and they all shouted over and across Sharon about what constituted a "woman's proper place" until several leggy young dancers took the stage for the floor show.
When Sharon could stand no more she excused herself to go to the powder room.  The exit nearby offered escape and she fled out to the street to catch a cab.  But one of Tommy's cronies noticed her and alerted him with a high sign from across the room.  He caught up with her before she could get into the cab.

"You're not running out on me, are you, Saeko-chan?"  His disappointment was feigned and did not disguise his angry undertone.  He took her arm and firmly steered her back into the club.  "The party's just getting warmed up."

"Please, Takeo-san,"  she pleaded.  "I have to get away from all the smoke and noise. I want to go home...."

"I told you I'll take you home when it's time.  You're not going to just up and leave in front of all my friends.  You don't want them to think you're not having a good time, do you?"

It was not so much a question as a warning.  Sharon was essentially trapped and Tommy made certain she did not get another chance to slip away.  She sat, stiff and silent like the frozen piece of art while the "party" went on around her.
* * * * *

She did not date Tommy again, but he was by no means going to leave her alone.  Now her book lay open in her lap as she buried her face in her hands trying to shut out the cruel images that filled her mind.

"Gary,"  she murmured softly as tears welled up.  "I never wanted it to be this way."

She met Gary Phillips  at the university, and he had called on her at home when she did not return for the fall term.  Gentle, attentive, courteous, someone she enjoyed being with; Gary was all that Tommy was not. He favorably impressed Hiroshi and Mariko as well, even though he was not Japanese.  But Tommy would not stand for having a rival.

On a balmy autumn evening, just a block from her home, Sharon and Gary walked arm in arm talking quietly and laughing together over the movie they had just seen, unaware that Tommy was watching them with disgust.  He was flanked by several of his toughest minions.

"The girl is mine,"  he sneered to them.  "You know what to do with the gaijin.  Take them!"

The street toughs were on them before they had a chance to react.

"Run, Sharon!"  Gary yelled.

It was too late.  Tommy seized Sharon, tightly pinioned her arms, and clamped his hand over her mouth.

"Watch, Saeko-chan!"  He hissed in her ear. "Watch what happens to interlopers."

Sharon struggled in helpless horror as he forced her to witness his minions viciously work the gentle college student over until Tommy was satisfied.

"Enough,"  he ordered, looking at the unconscious boy lying in the street. "He's learned his lesson.  Stay away from her gaijin.  Saeko is mine!"

"Gary!  ...Gary!"  Sharon cried as she struggled to reach for him.

"Forget him!"  Tommy commanded, still holding her tightly restrained.  His voice was cold and mocking as he continued.  "Leave him!  Beat it, all of you!  I'll meet up with you later.... *after* I escort Saeko safely home."

The thugs all scattered as Tommy forcefully dragged Sharon the short distance to the tailor shop.  It was after hours, but Hiroshi and Mariko had left the door unlocked while they worked in the back, since Sharon was still out.  Now they rushed to her side as Tommy flung the sobbing girl at them.

"I have an announcement,"  he crowed.  "Saeko's gaijin boyfriend has wisely decided to break off their relationship.  He has come to realize, as both of you have, that I am the better man for her.  From now on she will have my undivided attention."  He went on very pointedly,  "We shall allow an appropriate length of time for a proper courtship and then,"   he savored the words,  "...we shall be married."  He looked at Hiroshi dismissively and added,  "I'm sure this meets with your approval."

* * * * *

Since then Sharon had lived in hiding while Hiroshi and Mariko made excuses and did their best to keep Tommy from seeing her.  Now his threats were becoming more blatant and she knew she had to find another way - for all their sakes.

She was a quiet and thoughtful young woman, not usually given to making rash or hasty decisions.  But once her mind was made up,  she acted decisively. Now she hurriedly threw a few essential items in a small valise.  She hated slipping away without telling her parents, but she knew her resolve would weaken if they tried to stop her.  And they would try.  She would get word to them later, once she had found a safe place.  But for their sakes, and her own, she could not stay with them until this problem was resolved.  For now,  they were safer not knowing where she was.  And she, herself, did not know where she was going.

Later, toward evening, when Mariko came to call her to help with dinner, Sharon's room was empty and a note was left on her bed.

  "To Okaasan and Otoosan,
  Please believe that I love you both too much to allow this Takeo Kimura to continue to trouble you because of me.  If I am not here, he will leave you alone, so I am going to find a safe place to stay. Don't worry about me.  I have friends at the university I will try to contact and will send you word as soon as it is safe.
     Your devoted daughter,

"HIROSHI!"  Mariko cried as she rushed back out with Sharon's note.  "Saeko is gone!"

"Gone?!  Gone where?!"

He seized the note from her hand and crumpled it up in anger as soon as he read it. "Kimura!!"  he scowled.  "Because of him we have come to live in fear, and now our daughter has been driven away from home!  There must a way to stop him and his kind!  There *has* to be!!"

Mariko was crying and Hiroshi put his arms around her.  There were no words they could use just now, so they simply stood silently together staring out the window at the empty street and the cold, autumn wind.  Their only daughter, who should be safe at home with them, was out there somewhere, and they could not help her.

* * * * *
Across town events were unfolding quite a bit differently. Beth slammed the trunk on her sister's trusty Fairlane and hefted a sack of groceries into the house. As promised, she had arrived early and assisted her mother with great-great grandma Margaret's famous oyster stuffing. They filled two large baking pans with the savory mixture that would later cook along side Broadway's roasting turkeys.

"You're not going to actually stuff a turkey?" Beth asked with a raised eyebrow and a voice that suggested the idea bordered on heresy.

Her mother wiped her hands on a tea towel then put a heavy lid of foil over the casserole dishes. "No. Broadway was watching Julia Child do an herb stuffed and basted bird and he really wanted to try it out. The seasonings will work with the ones in the dressing, so I think it will be just fine." She shared her daughters frown for a moment. "I know it's traditional Honey, but I think that we're going to be sharing a lot of new traditions from now on."

"That's not really a bad thing, is it?" Beth agreed. She fingered a small coyote head pendant that she wore on a thin silver chain about her neck. She had found the pendant in an antique shop in Flagstaff after her shared adventure with the real Coyote and had bought it on a whim. Now she never took it off.

Her mother noticed the contemplative gesture. "Beth, you've been awfully quiet since you got back. I figured you'd be bubbling over about this job offer. You seemed to be plenty excited when you called from Arizona. What's going on?"

"I don't know Mom. It seems like a great opportunity..."

"But...?" Diane prompted.

The moment was interrupted by the arrival of Peter and a couple of his old buddies from the precinct, and Diane moaned inwardly at her husbands lousy timing.

"You gals missed a great game." Peter crowed as he entered and kissed his wife and daughter.

"Yeah!" His companion, a greying man in his fifties, still flushed from the excitement agreed. "We beat those duffers from the 57th Precinct by three touchdowns!"

"It was worth the pain we're going to feel tomorrow." The final member of the trio chimed in. "And we earned a thousand dollars pledge money for the kids' cancer wing at the hospital."

"You are fine citizens one and all." Diane said proudly. "Now get out of my kitchen. Beth and I have work to do."

She snapped her dishtowel at the trio of retired cops and Peter escorted them out of the kitchen, still whooping and hollering about their grid iron glories.

Beth used the opportunity to escape a conversation she wasn't ready for.

"I'll start loading the car Mom." She picked up the pans of dressing and headed out of the kitchen.

Diane followed a few minutes later laden with a pair of the pies she had baked the day before. Finally, a somewhat more sedate Peter Maza, showered and changed, joined the procession carrying prepared food and groceries out to the car.

The true labors really began when they arrived at Derek's home in the Labyrinth. Broadway had offered to do most of the actual cooking, but in order to speed the process, he had left a long "to do" list of prep work. Everyone rolled up his or her sleeves and pitched in, peeling potatoes and other vegetables, washing salad greens and a myriad of other pre-production chores.

Meanwhile, Claw taped a replay of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, while the first of a series of football games blared from a television set in the living area. As the services of the kitchen volunteers diminished, the roars in front of the television set mounted as the watchers took sides and rooted for their respective teams.
When the final whistle blew, Diane pried the watchers away from the television set, before they could be distracted by another game.

 "Come on boys and girls." There were audible moans. "Time to go deliver the baskets."
The baskets were laden with food and clothing, and paid for by the Xanatos-Renard Foundation. A signal from above had indicated their arrival in the warehouse that housed one of the more public entrances to the compound. Not that it was visible by any stretch of the imagination. But it did allow them to receive deliveries of supplies on a regular basis. Though the drivers never knew what happened after they unloaded their trucks into what seemed to be a very seldom used warehouse.

As they made the trip to the surface warehouse, Talon  pointed out various tunnels and their destinations. Peter was impressed .

"This is quite an undertaking son. How do you manage to safeguard  it all?"

Talon hefted the last of the boxes onto a series of carts and they began their trek back down below. " It isn't easy." He admitted. "The clones have begun thinking this is their own special protectorate and it's a great help,"  Talon told his family as they went through the long connecting hall from the  Sanctuary out to the huge main Labyrinth.  "Once they have specific assignments guarding tunnel entries they really stick to their posts."

"It's good you can count on them."  Commented Peter.

"Actually, they're more reliable than we might have thought at first,"  Talon continued. "They need some simple directions, but they do pull their share of the weight."

"How do all the people here feel about them?"  asked Beth. "Do they mind them being around?"

"They don't seem to *mind* them,"  answered Maggie,  "but they don't really try to be friends  with them.  I'm not sure they're all that used to *us* either, but they do seem glad of having a safe place to live."

"It's certainly warmer and brighter down here than out on the street at this time  of year,"  said Diane.  "What are the clones names again, Derek?"

"Brentwood, Hollywood, Malibu, Burbank, and Delilah.  They'd be glad to help distribute all these food baskets - except they're all still stone ‘til sundown."

"They are so excited about the Thanksgiving party." Maggie commented. "Elisa brought a book that explained the holiday and they've been taking turns reading it during their lessons. She's been really great about spending what time she can down here. She's made an special effort to befriend Delilah, even though it can't be easy for her."

"What do you mean?" Diane queried.

 Talon continued the explanation. He hoped his parents could take it. "Mom, Dad, I know this is kind of weird, but Delilah is cloned from Elisa, and Goliath's ex-mate Demona. It's pretty complicated, and from what I understand…," He paused. trying to figure out away to phrase the rest. "let's just say, the pair of them won't be sitting down to tea anytime soon."

Diane took a deep breath. "I see. So that means in a way, Delilah is part of the family."

"And that's why Elisa's been trying so hard to befriend her. Even though she makes her uncomfortable."

"Do the rest of the gargoyles feel the same way?" Peter asked.
"I think they feel awkward around them. The only one who spends much time with them is Hudson," Talon commented and then after a moment, "and Bronx."
"I guess it's kind of spooky having a double." Peter conceded. "But getting used to new things is part of life." He counseled his son and he clubbed him playfully on the head, the soft black fur bristled under his palm.

Claw performed one of his pantomimed messages that Talon and Maggie had  come to understand. "He says he'll come back and get them after they wake up,"  Talon interpreted.

They spent the better part of the afternoon among the homeless - making sure that young and old alike had plenty to eat.  Shortly before dusk they returned to the Sanctuary  and their own dinner preparations.

* * * * *

Across town, Elisa hitched a lift from a prowl car and found herself jogging to make it to the Eyrie Building in time for sunset.

Just as the last rays of daylight gave way to night shadows the familiar cracking of stone and collective roars of the gargoyles changed solid stone statues to living warriors.

"Hi, Elisa!"  Lexington jumped off his perch and stretched.

"Evenin', Lass." Hudson rumbled.

"Konnichiwa, Elisa-san."  The twins chorused.

They all gathered around their favorite human clan member.

"Did you get the night off for Thanksgiving, Elisa?" This from an excited Broadway.

"Not the whole night, I'm afraid,"  Elisa answered.  "I can still come down with you  for dinner though.  Matt and I drew some routine patrol duty so a couple of other patrolmen with young kids can spend time with them. Matt's going to meet us later."

"That sounds fair,"  said Broadway.

"In spite of the holiday, the city still needs protection,"  said Goliath firmly.  "I suggest  we all do some wide patrol sweeps before we join Talon's clan below.  Angela, you go with Broadway and Lexington to the West.  Brooklyn and Sata, cover the North. Elisa, why don't you come with Hudson and me?   We can sweep the East and South faster and easier from the air than you can in your patrol car."

"Can we come with you and Mother, Father?"  Graeme asked Brooklyn.

"Sure you can." Brooklyn looked at his children with pride. "But stick close." He admonished as he guided his family to the ledge.

As they all leaped up onto the wall for launching, Bronx and Nudnik looked at them with forlorn whimpers.

"Don't worry, you two,"  Hudson said, patting Bronx's huge head. "We'll be back to take you with us to the Labyrinth."

* * * * *

David Xanatos stood in the window of the castle's great hall and watched the gargoyles break off into different directions from their initial launch formation.  His expression was solemn, brightening only slightly as Fox came up beside him carrying Alexander.  She passed the boy to him and he put his free arm around her, holding Alex with the other.  For a moment they stood together as the clan members disappeared into the city skyline.

"If you *had* asked them to join us tonight, David; do you think they would have come?"  Fox asked finally.

"I'm honestly not sure they would,"  he said, with a hint of regret in his voice.  "When I invited them to move back to the castle, I wasn't sure they'd accept then either.  Goliath is not one to simply forgive and forget."

But they *did* move back,"  Fox affirmed for him.  "And you *have* worked together on a number of occasions."

"True,"  Xanatos said thoughtfully.

After several more minutes of silence Fox finally turned to face him. "Come on, David, what is it?"  she asked, cajoling him.  "I know when there's something on your mind."

Xanatos paused a moment and seemed to carefully consider his choice of words before answering.  "It simply occured to me how differently I look at things now than I did just a couple of years ago."

"Would you care to elaborate?"

"When I first found the castle in Scotland and learned about the sleep spell on the gargoyles, I wanted to bring them here, break the spell to awaken them, and.... win their trust," he began solemnly.  "And I did all of that."

"You accomplished far more than most men would even think of trying,"  Fox encouraged him.

"And all for my own purposes,"  said Xanatos grimly.  "It never crossed my mind back then that the gargoyles might have a purpose of their own that was as important to them as mine was to me."

"What is it you're getting at, David?"

"All of my clashes with Goliath and company have come about as a result of my wanting to use *their* abilities to acheive *my* goals.  Instead of winning their full trust and confidence, I only succeeded in further alienating them."  He continued thoughtfully,  "And yet, whenever the situation called for it, they've been willing to work together with me for a mutual purpose.  Goliath helped me save you from the effects of the Eye of Odin.  And he helped save Alexander from Oberon.  He and his clan even saved the entire earth from annihilation by Demona."

"All of this is true,"  said Fox.  "But I still don't see where it's leading."

"I'm just realizing how great a rift still exists between us and them; all because I underestimated the true value of their friendship."  He sounded almost sad, but just as quickly was himself again as he handed the squirming toddler back to her and put his arms around them both.  "All the same, Darling, I have everything I'm most thankful for this day right here within my grasp."

They turned together and walked toward the great hall as they continued their discussion.

"We've both begun improving ties with the gargoyles,"  Fox assured him. "Lexington is so good with Alex, and all of them are proving to be very compatible residents here.  Besides, David, everything you've already accomplished took time.  Winning their complete trust is going to take time too."

"You're absolutely right, Darling,"  Xanatos agreed.  "Talon's clan and the Maza family are a separate matter, but the establishment of the foundation is the first step toward mending relations.  There's a long way to go, but at least it has begun."

 In the expansive Great Hall a fire was burning on the hearth and the long formal table had a freshly pressed linen tablecloth spread on it.  Owen was just entering in his butler's waistcoat and scarlet cumberbund and pushing a cart laden with china, silver, and crystal.

Good evening, Sir,"  he acknowledged.  "Good evening, Madam."

"Good evening, Owen,"  said Xanatos.  "You did see that the foundation's boxes of food and supplies for Talon's homeless community were delivered, didn't you?"

"All taken care of, Sir.  Everything was delivered to the warehouse this morning just as you ordered.  I'm afraid both Mr. Xanatos, Sr., and Mr. Reynard have sent their regrets and will not be joining you this evening. How many places shall I set, Sir?  Will any of Goliath's clan be coming?"

"The gargoyles have left with Detective Maza.  It would seem they have plans of their own.  Just set three places tonight, Owen, ....and Alexander's high chair."

"Three places, Sir?"  Owen's flat voice conveyed his curiosity.  "May I inquire who else you are expecting?"

"You, of course."

"Me, Sir?"  said Owen.  "I'm honored to be included."

Surely by now you must realize you're very much a part of this family." Xanatos went right on without waiting for him to reply.  "It's going to be a very quiet family Thanksgiving this year.  It's a day to be thankful for what we have, Owen.  A great deal of what Fox and I have we owe to you."

"To *both* sides of you,"  Fox added pointedly.

* * * * *
Broadway, Lexington, and Angela were in high spirits as they circled over the West Side of the city.  All three enjoyed the prospect of any type of celebration and were anxious to finish their patrol and get down to the Labyrinth.

"This is goin' to be one bodacious feast!"  declared Broadway.  "I'm gettin' hungry just thinking about it!"

"As if we haven't heard *that* before." Lexington teased dryly.
"It does kind of make sense to have a feast to celebrate being thankful for having a good  harvest and all,"  said Angela.  "Father showed me a book in the library about the early  settlers in this country and all the difficulty they had in their first year here."

"Didn't you have celebrations like this on Avalon, Angela?"  asked Broadway.

"We did have some celebrations, but not for being thankful after  making it through hard times. On Avalon we didn't really have any hard times until the Archmage and Oberon came." said Angela thoughtfully.  "But after being through all of that.... it really does make you appreciate having family and friends that much more."

"Hey, down there!"  said Lex sharply.  "Looks like some street scum chasing someone!"

They all swept downward and watched as a slender young woman dashed across a  poorly lit street  followed closely by a trio of men.

"Why those no-good, slimy punks!"  scowled Broadway.  "*Three* of them after one helpless woman!"

"We'd better get down there fast or she won't stand a chance!"

Angela shot downward on a direct intercept course, with Broadway and Lex close behind her.
* * * * *
Sharon did not know how far she had come.  She initially thought she would go to the university where she did have some friends living in the dorms.  But the university was closed and all the students gone home for the long Thanksgiving weekend.  From there she had taken a bus into a less familiar part of the city.  She did not have a lot of money and so far had not found a guest or rooming house she could afford.  So she kept on walking, huddled in her coat against the wind, and feeling increasingly alone and frightened.

Lost in her own troubled thoughts, she did not notice the more prosperous area of the city was giving way to rundown tenements and trash cluttered streets.  Without realizing it she had wandered into a very bad neighborhood.  Dark figures peered from alleys and searched through trash dumpsters.  Clusters of swarthy-looking young men lingered on corners or sat on the steps of dilapidated buildings with cigarettes smoldering in their mouths.

Sharon looked all too much like an easy victim, neatly dressed, clearly not from the local neighborhood, and very scared.  In one group as she passed, one of the men nudged another and watched her for a moment before they fell in step behind her.  Sharon was terrified, but kept on walking, looking about for a policeman or a taxicab or some way out of the area.  She had had some basic training in sport judo, but only at a moderate brown belt skill level.  That was not enough to stand against a trio of thugs in a neighborhood where no one was likely to come to her aid.  The sinister threesome were moving closer to her.

"Hey, Lovey, where ya goin'?"  one finally jeered.

"Hey, guys,  look at the little lotus blossom."  taunted another.

"She's pretty... an' she'll do jes fine!"  added the third.  "How'sa 'bout comin' an' doin' the town with us, Honey?"

He moved up and tried to grab Sharon's arm, but she pulled away quicker than he expected. "No!"  she cried.  "Leave me alone!"

Breaking away, she turned and ran - with the thugs in close pursuit.  Sharon was quick and light on her feet, but she was also tired and hungry and running blindly in a strange area that offered no guarantee of a safe place to go.  Seeking an escape, she turned down a side street and then around another corner to get out of their sight. There she came to a sudden halt as she was faced with brick walls on all sides. She had run into a blind alley.  She spun around to escape back out again only to find her way blocked by the three thugs.  Now they grinned to each other and advanced toward her, backing her into the end of the alley.

"This is gonna be real fun,"  one was saying with an evil, leering grin.

Sharon dropped her valise and made ready to attempt her own defense, inadequate as it may be.  Neither she nor they noticed the three shadows gliding overhead and landing on the roof above them.

"She's makin' like she knows that Kung Fu stuff,"  the second thug jeered.

"Aw, she's jes' bluffin',"  said the third.  "We can take a little thing like her easy."

"*Don't be too sure of that, Bucko ! *"  shouted an angry voice from over their heads.

It was immediately followed by an inhuman screech and a rush of wings on the wind.  All three thugs turned pale and jumped back as three winged shapes dived from the roof down into the alley and straight toward them.  Sharon gave a startled cry and shrank back against the wall, but these three did not threaten her at all.  It was her attackers they went after, and she watched in shock as the three thugs were set upon by the strangest creatures she had ever seen.  In seconds one was hurled against the wall and another dumped head first into a trash dumpster.  The one remaining tried to run but was tripped by the sweep  of a long, powerful tail and cracked his head on the sidewalk as he fell.  The largest creature cheerfully collared him and deposited him in the same dumpster as his companion.

"So much for this bunch of street slime,"  said Broadway, dusting his hands.

Sharon could only stare as the strange creatures came toward her.  But they were not threatening now.  One was small and wiry  with webbing stretched from his arms. He hopped along sort of like a frog.  The other two were a huge turquoise one with a bald head and jovial expression, and a slender young female not much bigger than Sharon herself.  They seemed to expect her to fear them, so the other two stayed a little way back as the female approached her.

"I'm Angela," she gestured towards the others.  "My friends are Broadway and Lexington. You're safe now."

"Are you okay, Miss?"  asked Broadway with genuine concern.

"I....  Yes. ....I think so,"  Sharon managed to say at last, still staring at them.  "Are you the....?  I've heard some news reports about ....gargoyles."

"That's us," said Lexington. "But don't believe everything you hear on the news ."

"You… saved me!" Sharon managed to gasped.

"We patrol the city to protect people from goons and weirdoes like the ones chasing you." Lex replied as he eyed the would be muggers. They were out cold.

"Then you're.... protectors?"  Sharon seemed less frightened and more curious now.

"We've just had a really tough time convincing people that we're the good guys,"  said Broadway.

"Well...., you've convinced *me *,"  Sharon told them with relief.  "If you hadn't come just when you did I'd be...."  She didn't want to think about the probable outcome they had saved her from.  She had left home to escape one threat only to run right into another.

"But what about you?"  Angela was asking.  "This part of the city is too dangerous to be out alone in.  We can't just leave you here."

"Angela's right,"  Lex agreed.  "You shouldn't be alone after dark. Can we take you some place?"
"I'm not sure how I even got here,"  admitted Sharon.  "I went to the university first, but then I walked too far and got lost."

"Where're you trying to get to?"  asked Broadway as he ferreted  through the alley trash, looking for something to bind the would be muggers.

Angela handed him a piece of fire escape, long abandoned. He smiled at her as he twisted it around Sharon's assailants.

"Well, I.... "  Sharon faltered.  "I don't.... really know.  I mean I.... don't really have anywhere to go."

"That can't be!"  protested Angela.  "You don't seem like someone who would just be wandering the streets!  Can you at least tell us your name?"

"My name is Saeko Nomura. But most people call me Sharon."  She sighed. You're right.  I'm completely lost wandering the streets, but I can't return home because my parents are in danger if I stay there.  There is someone who....."  Sharon had not meant to blurt out so much and suddenly caught herself.  "I'm sorry!  I didn't mean to....."

 "I'd say the first thing you need is a safe place to stay." Angela said firmly.

"And we know just the place,"  added Lex.  "In fact we're on our way there now."

"Have you had dinner, Sharon?"  asked Broadway.

Sharon hesitated, still shaky and uncertain. "Well,…no,… I haven't."

"Because we're going to join some friends and family for Thanksgiving…"

"And we'd like to have you join us,"  Angela finished with a grin.

It was the most sincere and open-hearted offer she had had in a long time - and certainly the best in the immediate situation.  With a shy smile Sharon agreed.
 * * * * *

A short time later she found herself in strangely mixed company in an even stranger dwelling that was surprisingly homelike and comfortable - considering it was deep underground.  All the clans gathered in one place included four humans; eleven gargoyles of assorted sizes and colors, including two children and two wingless beasts; five more gargoyle-like creatures who kept a little to themselves and said very little, and three catlike mutates with wings. The place was bustling with merriment and permeated with the aromas of the roasting turkeys, fresh baked bread, and sweet potato and mincemeat pies.  It took awhile for Sharon to relax among them, but the young female gargoyle, Angela; and the female mutate, Maggie both did their best to make her comfortable.  With everyone trying to make her welcome, she gradually overcame her shyness and began to open up to them.

Broadway was  in his glory in the kitchen wearing his prized chef's hat and a voluminous apron  printed with KISS THE COOK in bold letters across the front.  "Hope we don't run out of anything,"  he fretted to Diane Maza.  "Do you think we have enough to go around?"

He was doing more tasting than was really necessary from the  heaping mounds of food, but Diane wasn't worried about shortages. "I think we have enough to go around more than once, Broadway,"  she assured him.  "Can you lift the first turkey out of the oven, please?"
Across the room Beth, Derek, Elisa, and Goliath stood talking.

 "I wish you two could have been with us earlier when we served the food baskets out in the Labyrinth,"  Derek was telling Elisa and Goliath.  "It's really rewarding helping all those people.  They'd all just fall through the cracks otherwise."

"I'm impressed by all this, Derek,"  said Beth.  "You're doing some  fine work here."

"Thanks, Little Sister,"  he grinned back.  "I am finding that I'm able to do more, and can have a lot more effective impact on these peoples' lives down here, than I could ever have as a cop.  ...Uh, not that your work isn't effective too, Elisa,"  he hastened to add.

"You've had quite an influence on the clones as well, Talon,"  Goliath reminded him.  "I think it was a good idea to include them in tonight's celebration." They looked over to where Peter was patiently trying to help Brentwood and Malibu grasp the principle of putting together the large jigsaw puzzle spread out on the library table.

They abandoned that project a moment later though, when Hudson turned on the VCR and started the tape Claw had made of Macy's Parade.  Hollywood and Burbank were willingly helping Brooklyn and Claw set up the big folding tables they had brought in from the outer Labyrinth, and Delilah followed Diane's instructions in spreading table cloths and setting out dishes and silver.

"Speaking of helping people, Derek, who's your new visitor?"  asked Elisa as Brooklyn and Sata came to join them.  "....Over there with Maggie and Angela."

"Her name is Sharon Nomura,"  Talon answered "Angela, Broadway, and Lex brought her in with them just before you got here. We don't know much about her except that
she had a really bad scare tonight .  They said she let something slip about her folks being in danger too, if she stays with them."

"She does look as if something is troubling her,"  observed Goliath.

"Looks like she's beginning to get used to the idea of all of us, though"  said Brooklyn.  "Lex said her real name is Saeko.  Her parents are from Japan."

"I will go and talk with her,"  offered Sata.  "Perhaps she will find it easier to talk to one from her parent's homeland."

Sharon sat with Maggie and Angela and was beginning to relax, but still said very little.  She was delighted when Sata approached and spoke to her in Japanese.  They chatted briefly, but Sata's archaic usage was difficult for Sharon and they switched to  English .

It was all too evident that Sharon was troubled about more than being lost  and chased by thugs.  Now several others also quietly gathered near her and tried to make her feel welcome.

It was Angela who finally asked her outright,  "Sharon, is there something going on that we might be able to help you with?  We really *are* protectors."

"Don't be afraid of us, Saeko-san,"  urged Sata kindly when Sharon hesitated to answer.  "You are among friends here."

"Yes.  I believe I really am,"  she said at last, giving them her shy smile.  With a little coaxing she slowly told them the whole story.

"His name is Takeo Kimura,"  she explained.  "He's called Tommy.  I met him during the summer when he came into the Japanese grocery in the same building as my father's tailor shop.  Since then he has kept coming in and hanging around pestering my parents about me.  He.... wants me for his wife. My parents know that I don't want to marry him and they've refused to give him their consent, but he won't accept refusal.  Now he is making threats that if they do not willingly agree to this marriage they'll soon regret it."

"He has no right to force himself on you, or to threaten your parents!" said Elisa.  "Haven't you and your folks filed a complaint with the police about him?"

"We can't!"  Sharon was suddenly afraid again.  "We don't dare!  Tommy is a wakashu - a gangster.  He's in.... the Yakuza."

"What's 'Yakuza?'" asked Hudson.

"The Yakuza is a massive crime organization originating in Japan,"  said Peter.  "They've had West Coast strongholds for years, and now they've moved their operations East as well."

"But why is he so pushy about *you,* Sharon?"  asked Angela.  "Can't he take the hint that you're not interested and just find someone else?"

"When Tommy first started showing interest in me,"  Sharon continued,  "he bragged about how he had just been promoted to 'daigashi.'  I think it's like being a manager because he talks about his extra privileges now that he's running his own establishment and has 'dekata' and 'sanshita' working
under him.  Those are his general and basic level workers.  But he is not content with that.  He says being a daigashi is just a stepping stone toward eventually having his own ikka, his own family, and being kashimoto-oyabun."

"You mean like the 'Godfather' in the movie?"  Broadway joined in, wiping his hands on his apron.  Any talk of organized crime syndicates was sure to get his attention.

"Yes, it is something like that,"  Sharon went on slowly.  "Tommy doesn't talk about his superiors, but he has said the ikka members are 'kobun' - like being the oyabun's children, only they're not usually his own.  They're trained as apprentices and then inducted into the family and take the family name.  They have to swear absolute loyalty."

There were several nods of understanding but no immediate comments.  But the words were coming harder for Sharon, and Angela gently pressed her shoulder to encourage her.

 "Only he doesn't want to build his ikka by training apprentices and inducting them as 'kobun.'  He wants his ikka to be....," her voice broke as she choked out the words, "all his own sons."

"And in order to have sons, he first needs a wife,"  said Talon grimly.

"So that's it,"  said Elisa.  "And he picked you - whether you're willing or not."

"Why that creep!"  blurted out Beth angrily.  "Do you mean he just wants to *own* you?"

"He's grown accustomed to having whatever he wants and on his own terms. He's decided he wants me, so it doesn't matter what I want or how I, or my parents, feel about it."  Sharon was finding it harder to talk, but it was also a great relief.  And since the unusual gathering around her did not judge nor interrupt, she struggled to get out the rest.  "....I did not want to leave my home,"  she insisted.   "If Tommy were not involved with the Yakuza, we wouldn't fear him so.  I can only hope that if I'm no longer there, he will lose interest and leave my parents alone."

"The Yakuza are not to be trifled with,"  Sata said solemnly.  "If you cross any one of them, you cross them all.  And they do not forgive or forget transgressions."

"So you left for your parents' sake,"  Angela clarified.

"That's not like any usual case of running away from home,"  said Brooklyn.

Sharon was fighting tears and gratefully accepted the tissue Diane offered her.  "I'm sorry,"  she said.  "I'm afraid I'm ruining your holiday celebration.  I want to thank you all... but especially Angela and Broadway and Lexington... for saving me in the alley and bringing me here."

"We're just glad we were able to help,"  said Angela.

"Do your folks know you've gone,  Sharon?"  asked Elisa.

"I left them a note.  I'm sure they've found it by now.  I slipped away without telling them because I knew I wouldn't be able to leave them otherwise.  I promised to contact them as soon as it's safe.  Only..... I still have nowhere to stay."

"You have a place now, Sharon,"  Maggie insisted.  "We have extra rooms here , in the Sanctuary.  You're more than welcome to stay with us."

"You'll be a lot safer here than anywhere in the city,"  stressed Talon. "And Maggie's right.  You're welcome to one of our extra rooms in here. ....As long as you don't mind being among us monsters."

"Monsters?!"  Sharon was appalled.  "You're NOT monsters!  None of you! How can anyone ever.....?"

"They do.  All the time,"  said Hudson dryly as several gargoyle heads nodded agreement.

Angela beamed.  "You don't know how good it feels to hear someone say we're not!"  She felt she wanted to hug Sharon, and apparently, it was a sentiment the others shared. Ariana crept nearer and shyly reached for her hand, and even Bronx shuffled over to sniff her gently, hoping to have his head scratched.  Sharon willingly obliged him.  Clearly, there were no "monsters" here.

"It's this Tommy Kimura and the Yakuza who are the monsters,"  said Elisa. "They have a huge criminal network that's begun to infiltrate more of the city, and that we've been unable to crack.  They're very careful to keep themselves clear of any incrimination, and they're as dangerous as the Mafia, if not worse." Her face softened.   "As for your parents, Sharon,  I'll go talk to them first thing tomorrow and let them know you're safe."

Sharon's face showed the strain of all she had endured, and Diane gave her an encouraging hug as Talon assured her, "You can stay here as long as it takes to get this Takeo Kimura and the Yakuza off you and your folks' case, Sharon."

"Okay, Everyone!"  announced Broadway.  "Dinner's on!"
* * * * *

They gathered around the arrangement of tables linked as one. Talon's place was at the head with Maggie and Claw on his left and Diane, Peter, and Beth on his right.  Sharon was shown to a seat between Sata and Angela with Broadway on Angela's right and the twins and Brooklyn on Sata's left.  Elisa sat between Goliath and Hudson.  Finally, when everyone was seated, Talon, as host, cleared his throat and called them all to attention.

"Every year for as long as I can remember, there's been a special ritual in the Maza family for this day,"  he began, nodding toward his parents.  "No matter what problems we had during the year, we always managed to find something to be thankful for.  So every Thanksgiving Day, as we joined hands around the table and each of us told of something we were especially grateful for, we usually discovered it was something that applied to us all. This year, with all the additional extended family we have now, we should total up quite an impressive list."  He reached to take Maggie's hand as he started the ritual.  "So, I can say that I'm thankful for friends who have become family."

He turned to Maggie who hesitated a moment before she added quietly,  "I'm thankful for a warm and safe shelter to live in."

Claw needed both his hands to gesture that he was just thankful to be here tonight, which Talon interpreted for him.  Then he joined hands with Maggie and Brooklyn.

Brooklyn looked meaningfully at Sata and the twins as he spoke.  "I'm thankful for all I found on my journey and for having a home to come back to."

As he took Graeme's hand, the young gargoyle piped up excitedly,  "I'm thankful for having new adventures!"

Ariana looked around at all her new uncles and human friends.  "I'm thankful for finding Father's clan and having a home here,"  she said finally.

Sata seemed to think a moment, as this tradition was odd to her. But then she spoke in her careful and deliberate way.  "I am thankful for freedom to venture beyond the limits of my old world and to share the wonders of new worlds with my mate and children."

Sharon was shy and even more hesitant, but she too finally spoke in her quiet way,  "I can name many things - like my home, my friends, my education.  But *tonight* I'm especially thankful for rescue and refuge."

Angela did not need to think about it at all.  "I'll always be thankful to Princess Katharine and Guardian Tom and Magus for raising me on Avalon," she said without hesitation.  "But I'm especially thankful now for my father who found me there and brought me here to be part of this clan."

Across the table Goliath's eyes twinkled with fatherly pride as he nodded to her.  Angela joined hands with Broadway, and he too did not need to think about what mattered most to him.

"I'm thankful he brought you here too, Angela,"  he said.  "and I'm glad to be living back in Castle Wyvern again with the best kitchen and the best library anywhere in this century."

"I'm thankful for being in this century too,"  followed Lexington,  "for all its technology that's better than all the sorcery from our old century."

The clones sat along one end and were not quite sure what the ritual meant, but they still tried, not wanting to be left out.

"I am glad to be a guard,"  said Brentwood, carefully enunciating each word.

"I am glad to have people to guard,"  Malibu went a little further.

"I am glad have dinner,"  offered Hollywood.

"I am glad to live in Lab'rinth,"  said Burbank.

"I'm glad I learned to read,"  Delilah finished.

No one could say the clones didn't understand what the day was about.

Finally the round reached Hudson.  He gave a crusty scowl, but was not going to be passed by.
 "Ach!  At my age I can be most thankful for good memories of times gone by - and for enough years still ahead to make plenty more memories."

Elisa already knew how she would respond as her turn came.  "I'm just thankful to be part of this gathering of family and clan - today and every day."

As she reached her hand to Goliath and felt it warmly enclosed in his, he spoke in his deep, calm voice.  "I am thankful to have found a place in time, a purpose to live for, and -"  turning to Elisa,  "happiness in unexpected places."

On his other side, Beth needed a few seconds but finally said,  "I'm thankful for freedom to choose - and opportunities to choose from."

For Peter it was simple.  "I'm thankful for seeing family traditions upheld and put to good use."

And finally Diane said,  "I'm thankful for a heritage to be proud of and children to pass it on to."

Finally the circle was complete and they all were linked hand in hand around the table. As Talon raised his hands they all followed.  "May we always share our blessings,"  he said.  "Dig in everybody!"

The feasting began in earnest. Hudson looked up at Goliath after a time and said, "You know lad this reminds me of the mid winter festivals we used to have back at Wyvern. Maybe we ought to bring that tradition back.  What say you?"

Goliath looked up at his old mentor. "That is an excellent thought Hudson. We should celebrate our own traditions as we embrace new ones."
Elisa reached for a roll and found the basket empty. "Hold that thought. I want you to tell me more about this."  She rose from the table and her mother followed.

"This is sure a great evening, Mom,"  said Elisa.  "Wish we could get together like this more often."

"Your father and I enjoy whatever time we can have with you three children,"   answered Diane, adding pointedly,  "...and your friends."

"I guess we're especially lucky that way.  Not every parent can accept friends like these." Elisa filled a basket, thought a moment and filled a second. She turned to rejoin the feast, feeling another one of "those" conversations about to start.

"Well, Honey,"  her mother smiled knowingly,  "Even when you were a girl in school you always did bring home the most *interesting* friends." She raised an inquisitive
eyebrow.  "You  and Goliath are 'just friends', aren't you?"

"MOTHER!" Elisa picked the baskets up off the counter and turned to face her mother. "I'm happy... we're happy. It's taken us a long time to get here, and we're taking it one night at a time." She smiled at her mother. "Didn't you tell me to seize the moment, because you never know how many moments there'll be?"

"Wait a minute! I though you were asleep when I said that."  Diane scowled at Elisa in mock consternation.

"I heard a lot of stuff when I was in the hospital." Elisa grinned. "How cute you thought I was when I was five and got into your make up…" She crossed her arms in mock anger at the childhood memory.  "I didn't think you were ever going to let me out of the corner!"

"Well…" Diane conceded, "time changes lots of things."

"Sure mom." Elisa hugged her mother briefly.

"What was that for?"

"Just because."

Diane wondered if she would ever understand her oldest child. The two women went back and rejoined the party.

* * * * *

Hudson was explaining the intricacies of the Mid-Winter Feast. Deep in conversation with the elder gargoyle and Goliath, she missed her mother lean over and whisper in earnest to Peter. A moment later Maggie and Angela had joined the conversation.

"We could call it Family Night." Diane said enthusiastically. Several heads nodded. So at one end of the table while Goliath and Hudson explored the idea of reviving an old tradition with Elisa, at the other end, a new clan tradition was born.

The clans and family adjourned back to the living room for dessert. Angela, Maggie and Sata drew Sharon and Delilah into what could only be described as a session of  "girl talk". The other clones returned to try and figure out the large jigsaw puzzle with Graeme and Ariana’s eager assistance.  Matt joined them late, having stayed behind  at the station so that he could finish up the paperwork. He balanced a plate on one knee as he chatted with Broadway and Elisa.

Peter watched his elder daughter lightly slug her sometimes partner on the shoulder and get up to join Goliath who was deep in discussion with Derek. He didn't fail to notice the warning glance that his son bestowed on his sister as he excused himself and left the conversation.

He cocked an eyebrow as he observed Elisa and Goliath.  The gargoyle leader looked away from Derek to give her a tender smile, then carefully took Elisa's hand in his own, holding it gently as they conversed.   Her eyes were shining as she beamed up at him - a look Peter knew all to well.  He'd worn it many times, back when he and his wife were that young.

"Elisa and Goliath seem to be.... especially good friends,"  he told his wife as he took  a sip from the cup. He kept his voice carefully neutral.

"Yes, they are,"  Diane agreed.

He frowned.  "Don't you think we should *do* something?"

She looked him in the eye for a long moment.  "Yes," she said finally.  "I think we talk about Beth."

Peter nodded and leaned back in his chair, understanding her implied consent and giving his own.  Smiling again, Diane sipped her coffee and asked, "Have you gotten much of a chance to talk to her since she's been here?"

Peter shook his head.  "I get the feeling she wants to talk, but she doesn't have the words yet. She made a comment earlier to Derek about how important it is to make a difference, and it seemed to set off another round of the blues. She's been very carefully changing the subject whenever anyone asks her about moving back to New York." He looked at his watch. "Darn confusing hours these folks keep. We need to get going for the airport soon. Maybe we can get something out of her on the way over."

Diane made her way to where Matt was now engaged in tentative conversation with her youngest child. It seemed she and Peter weren't the only ones discussing Elisa.

"They make such a great couple." Beth sighed. "You know, I could tell there was something going on between them back in Arizona, but Elisa denied it...big time." She hastily changed the subject when she saw the couple in question approach, followed closely by Peter and Diane.

Elisa had a curious expression on her face and Goliath rumbled something encouraging in her ear.  The detective was uncomfortable as she addressed her sister. "Beth, I know we haven't had much of a chance to talk since you've been here. My crazy hours and all, but ..." She  lowered her voice. What's a Qaletaqa?"

Beth looked perplexed. "That's not a word you hear in everyday conversation."

"Do you know what it means?" Her sister pressed.

"Sure. It's Hopi for Guardian of the People. Why?"

Elisa lowered her voice slightly embarrassed. "Coyote said I should make sure you knew what it meant next time I saw you."

"Oh no." Peter groaned. "Not again."

"Relax, Dad. He did me a major favor."

Goliath nodded, confirming the act but respecting Elisa's desire not to re-tell the tale.
Peter glanced at his watch again. "Elisa we are going to talk about this… soon. But right now I need to get your sister to the airport. Come on Beth. You're gonna be late for your plane." Peter herded his wife and daughter out of the Sanctuary, as they rapidly said their good-byes.

The ride out to J.F.K. was a quiet one, with each member of the Maza clan embroiled in their own thoughts. The mention of Coyote's name had managed to derail Peter's plans to try to talk to Beth as he wondered just what the fay had done for Elisa. Beth for her part, quietly fingered the Coyote head pendant and wondered why her sister had all the adventures.

She boarded her red eye flight back to Arizona and fell almost immediately into a fitful sleep as soon as the plane hit cruising altitude.

* * * * *

Hiroshi Nomura had barely opened the door to the tailor shop when Takeo Kimura walked in.  He had been waiting outside for nearly an hour and was in a surly mood.

"Good morning, Nomura-san."  His "polite" greeting was anything but polite.  "How did your daughter Saeko enjoy the parade yesterday?"

Hiroshi had to be careful.  Sharon had not returned after they found her note yesterday, and she had not called yet either.  He and Mariko did not dare to call the police for fear of reprisals from Takeo and his Yakuza Ikka.

"Saeko is not here, Kimura,"  he said curtly.  "Neither she, nor her mother and I, want you to continue trying to see her.  She is not interested in...."

"If I want her, Ji-san,"  Tommy cut him off,  "it is of no concern to me whether *she* is interested in me - or whether you and her mother approve.  The sooner all of you realize that, the better off you'll be.  You already know what happens to anyone else with any interest in her.  Now, where is she?  If she doesn't stop evading me, misfortune might fall on her parents."

"I'd say that sounds like a threat,"  said Elisa calmly from the doorway.  Both men turned around sharply as she walked into the shop.  "Threatening a private citizen can get you arrested."

"Arrested, huh?"  Tommy sneered back.  "By who?  You?  This is none of your business anyway."

Elisa showed him her badge.  "Yes, by me.  Public safety is my business,"  she told him.  "If you don't want half the police in the precinct in here in the next three minutes, I suggest you leave - now."

Tommy kept up his show of surly bravado. "Tell your lovely daughter, Saeko, I'm disappointed I missed her,"  he told Hiroshi in a jeering tone.  "I'll be back to see her again - soon."

Outside one of his "sanshita" waited for him.  He gave the man some curt instructions then dismissed him. The sanshita nodded his understanding and slipped into the grocery store. From there he hung back a moment as he heard Mariko come down the stairs and enter the tailor shop.  As soon as she closed the shop door he slipped into the center hall and over to the door where he could hear the exchange going on inside.

"This is Detective Elisa Maza, Mariko,"  Hiroshi was saying.  "She says she has seen Saeko."
"You have?"  Mariko responded urgently.  "Is she all right?  We've been frantic with worry not knowing where she is."
"She's in a very safe place,"  Elisa answered.  "I can assure you of that.  Tommy Kimura will not find her now."

"She told you about him?"  asked Hiroshi.

"How he's been threatening all of you?"  Elisa added.  "Yes, she told me.  I promised her I 'd let you know not to worry about her," she paused  "But I also came to see if you're willing to work with the police to help shut down the Yakuza operations in this area."

"No!"  insisted Hiroshi sharply.  "There is nothing the police can do for us.  As long as our daughter is safe we have no need to involve them."

"There *is* reason if this Kimura is harassing you,"  Elisa encouraged them.  "You can file charges against him,"

"What good would that do?"  demanded Hiroshi.  "He has powerful supporters who would have him released on bail in less than an hour.  Then he would come straight back here to take out his anger on us!"

"Not if we can establish a strong enough case ." Elisa argued "We know about the Yakuza, but without people willing to stand against them,  we can't  shut them down.  The police are here to help defend the people, but we need the help *of* the people to be able to do that."

Elisa made her point and for a moment the Nomuras seemed to consider it as they looked at each other.  But just as quickly they backed off again.

"There is nothing we can do, Detective,"  Hiroshi decided.  "If our Saeko is safe we cannot risk anything that may put her back into danger.  Our best hope is that all of this will blow over quickly and she can return home."

Realizing the obvious strain they had been under, Elisa nodded her understanding and did  not press the issue. Still she wanted to give them some encouragement. She handed them her card with the 23rd Precinct phone number.

"I understand your concern for her,"  she told them.  "But if you should reconsider, you can reach me at this number.  I'll be seeing Sharon again and will tell her I talked to you."

"Thank you for coming to tell us about her, Detective,"  said Mariko.  "Please give her our love and tell her to stay where she is safe."

The eavesdropping sanshita  waited until Elisa drove away before he left through the food store and hurried to meet Tommy.

"So she's in a safe place,"  Tommy sneered at the reported information.  "One thing is sure; she has to be somewhere still in the city."

"What do you want us to do?"  asked the stooge.

"Find her of course, you dimwit!!"  Tommy shot back at him.  "Put the word out on the street.  The bums know every hideout there is.  Sooner or later someone will have to see her. She's probably not alone, so find where people band together."

"How soon do you want.....?"

"*Yesterday, fool!* Now get going! Everyone else  too!"

* * * * *

The sun rose over the San Francisco Mountains as Beth Maza stretched and yawned and tossed the last of her camping gear into her duffle bag.  The red eye flight had been a killer, even if she had slept most of the way home. She wished she had a free day before
she had to head out again.

"Opportunity waits for no one."  Beth lectured herself as she prepared for a long drive ahead and even longer day

She poured orange juice into her go cup and then pulled a five-gallon water can out of the closet. She lugged her pack and the empty can down to a faucet that hid discreetly in the manzanita bushes, filled the water can until it was brimming, then loaded it all into her battered pick up truck. Beth ran lightly up the stairs to make sure she hadn't forgotten anything, grabbed a notebook and sketch pad and as an afterthought, tucked an old wooden flute gently into her carry bag. Finally she pulled her favorite denim jacket on over the heavy sweater she already wore as protection against the morning chill.

At last, she decided, she was ready to roll. She tuned the truck radio to a Native American station and listened carefully as the announcer gave the time and weather in Navajo before switching to English and giving the information again. She repeated the phrases carefully, mindful of accent and cadence, adding to her growing knowledge of the Navajo language.

She merged from the well maintained Highway 40 onto the distinctly more rural route 89, thankful that her folks had subsidized new tires and shocks for the aging truck. She flipped the headlights on as a general precaution, and settled herself against the sheepskin seat cover.  She drove all morning and most of the afternoon towards the ancient city Sikyatki, ancestral home of the Coyote Clan, and the current site of a dig being conducted by her Department Advisor, Professor Walter Pena.

As the day worn on and the road grew progressively rougher, Beth sipped at a cola that had been fresh when she purchased it from the filling station vending machine, in Tuba City, but had long since gone warm and flat. She grimaced and took her eyes from the rough road for just a moment as she settled the cup back into its holder.

It was exactly the wrong moment. A coyote darted across the highway, chasing a rabbit. Beth  looked up in time to see the creature, caught in her headlights and slammed on her brakes. She fishtailed as her tires bit into the rough pavement, and squealed to a halt.  Vaulting out of the of the truck she scanned quickly, looking for the  injured animal.  It wasn't lying on the road, or beside it. She walked a bit further, over the rough  embankment and onto the sandy shoulder. Nothing. Perplexed, she walked a bit further, poking an occasional mesquite bush to see if the animal had taken refuge, but there was no sign of a coyote, dead or alive. Beth  rubbed the coyote head talisman and slowly returned to her truck and the journey ahead.  A short while later, the old truck  climbed the final steep mountain road that would take her into Sikyatki.

The juxtaposition of ancient city and student campsite was  jarring to Beth as she pulled up to the dig. She got out of her truck and allowed the ancient city to overwhelm her, for it was splendid even in its current state of decay. She closed her eyes and tried to imagine what it had been like  a thousand years ago when the city was alive and vital.

"It takes your breath away." A cultured voice with just a hint of a Hispanic accent, murmured quietly,  echoing her impression.

"Professor! I was just..." Beth jumped, startled.

"Perdonme, Beth. I did not mean to frighten you," he apologized. "I did exactly the same thing the first time I came here, and every time after. It's hard to believe that there was a rich complex culture right here in the midst of nothing. Can you imagine what it must have been like in 1895 to have been on the dig team that exposed this city out of the sand and sage brush? It takes my breath away."

"But Professor, they left so much for us to discover. The Fewkes team only exposed a small portion of the site. It's such a fascinating place. Sikyatki is a place of legend, protected by the Hopi people. I don't understand why Fewkes abandoned the dig, and how we got so lucky." She looked at the professor.  "How did you get permission to dig here anyway?"

Pena looked across the mesa at the dying sunset. The moon had already risen, giving the desert an eerie glow.

"That's the odd thing. I've been petitioning the Hopi for years, trying to get permission to re-open the dig. Always I was denied. " He frowned a bit.  "But then, a few weeks ago,  I was contacted by  a representative of the Coyote Clan.  They claim this place as their ancestral home, you know, and have the final say about what happens here." He paused for breath and continued his complicated explanation. "Anyway, he said that the Clan had decided that the time had come to remember Sikyatki. Those were his words, 'remember Sikyatki',… and that if we began the dig now, instead of waiting for spring, they would give us their blessing." He shrugged again. "How could I pass up the opportunity? I got you students together and several members of the Coyote Clan, who had been aiding me with some translation work, and here we are."
"Amazing" Beth breathed. "I can't wait to get started. You know my grandparents were Hopi. Grandma died when I was little. But my grandpa…"  Her smile was bittersweet "We didn't see him much, 'cause we lived in New York, and  he and my dad  weren't on great terms,  but whenever we'd visit, he told the most amazing stories."

The professor hefted Beth's gear out of the truck and escorted her toward the groups camp site. "Stories or family history?" He queried. "With the Hopi the two can be one and the same." He chuckled at the strange look she gave him. "Come on.  I want to brief the group on our plans for tomorrow."

A campfire blazed in the midst of the researcher's tent city. Someone had started several large pots of coffee and a thick stew bubbled merrily on a propane stove. Beth helped herself to both as she greeted her fellow students and exchanged bits of holiday gossip.

"Yeah the trip home was great, if short." She told Annie; a young Hopi woman who she shared several classes with. "I wouldn't have missed this for the world though." She hugged her jacket tighter around her. It had been a brisk 50 degrees during the day, but the temperature was dropping  rapidly as the wind picked up. "Do you suppose it will freeze tonight?"

They were joined by a tall, blonde fellow who shivered in his down jacket. "Without a doubt." He moaned. "Hey Annie. Miss me?" He inquired hopefully.

She giggled and Beth joined her. Bob Watson, poor soul, belonged in a library, not on a field dig. He was allergic to everything, and suffered from the elements terribly. But you had to give him points for trying.

"Maybe you should mention the ~ Antiquities Today ~ job to Bob." Beth thought to herself. "It'd be right up his alley."

For all of his faults, Bob had endless patience and was a gifted  translator. At times Beth envied his skills.

"Come on you two. I think the Professor wants to get started." Annie grabbed her friends by their coatsleeves and drug them over to where the dig team was assembling for its briefing.

The professor began to map out for the group what their dig strategy for the next few days would be. Beth and the others took notes as assignments were handed out. So immersed in the  professors lecture, Beth didn't notice that she had gained an admirer. One of the Hopi men who had come along to supervise the dig was watching her closely.

Class dismissed, the group called it a night, banking the fires and retiring to their tents so that they could begin bright and early the next day.

Beth bunked down next to Annie in the "girls tent". She yawned and snuggled down into her sleeping bag, glad she had opted for the flannel liner.

"So you really had a good time back home?" Annie prompted again.

"Yeah, I did." Beth admitted sleepily. "But my family keeps really strange hours and I'm beat. Talk to you in the..."

"Beth?" Annie jostled her friend. But it was no use. Beth had fallen asleep.

* * * * *

Beth found herself back on the highway next to her truck. There were heavy skid marks on the pavement, the result of slamming on her brakes. She looked high and she looked low, but the coyote who had darted in front of her truck was gone.  Eerie music floated over the mesa. She recognized the sound of an Indian flute and drum and a moment later one of the ancient chants. The words were Hopi, and even in her dream she felt a great frustration well within her. The search began  again. This time she thought she spied a foot print in the soft desert sand. Following the endless trail, first one paw print then another, then another, she traveled through the desert. But eventually the trail was lost and she stood alone, surrounded by the melancholy song of the flute and the cry of the coyote.

* * * * *

It was late afternoon when a scruffy, unshaven man in dirty, ragged clothes was ushered into Tommy's gambling establishment by one of his sanshita.

"He says he knows something about a secret hiding place, Takeo-san,"  the sanshita announced.

 "If you know something about the girl I'm looking for, you'd better talk fast." Tommy  did not mince words.  The old street bum had thought he might get a reward by coming in, but now seriously doubted it.

"It's a Japanese girl you're lookin' for, right?"  he asked.

"You've seen her?!"

"Well, I ain't exactly *seen* her.  But I heard some talk...."

"What have you heard?  Spit it out!"

"Last night in the soup kitchen there was a feller with his wife an' three little kids next  to me at the table.  They was talkin' 'bout the shelter they been stayin' in an' how they really hate it there on account o' there's drug dealers hangin' around.  They's wantin' to find some better place to stay."

"Get to the point, Old Man!  Do you know anything about the girl or don't you?"

"Well, like I says, I ain't seen no Japanese girl.  But this feller last night was talkin' ter another feller, see?  An' the other feller says how he heard 'bout this place where they  ain't no drug dealers or guns or nothin' like that - where it's real safe and protected."

"So where is this place?"

"Well, I don't rightly know, but the second feller was sayin' the place is so safe 'cause nobody can find it underground."

Tommy was out of patience. "Get him out of here!"  he scowled dangerously.  The nervous  man stepped quickly back from him as the sanshita turned him toward the door.

But just as he left, Tommy suddenly stopped short. "Underground?"  he wondered aloud. "The sewers!  .....Hey, Yoshi, get some of the sanshita together and meet me outside! I've got an assignment for you!"

* * * * *

Beth woke the next morning bleary eyed and exhausted. She had one strange dream after
another and in each she had searched with little result for the coyote on the road. She
wondered what it meant, if it meant anything at all, and went to find coffee.

After a quick breakfast and sketchy wash, the team began their work. The started with photographs, first of the site, before they began any excavation. Then, as the layers were slowly peeled back, photos of each marker and reference point. It had been decided that the team would start in the Eastern quadrant, away from where the initial digging by the 1895 Fewkes group had done their work.

It was mid morning when they made their first discovery. Beth, Annie and Bob were carefully washing down a slab of rock that had appeared under the yellow sand. Using small whisk brooms they carefully revealed carvings in the ancient stone.

 "Professor!" The trio shouted in a single voice. "Look!"

Professor Pena came running with the camera. He studied the settings for a moment, then snapped several photos. "Most unusual. It looks like... uh huh. Muy bien."

The students bristled with excitement. "Well?" Beth asked.

"Can you make out the inscription?" The professor inquired.

The trio studied the pictographs. Beth removed a small note book where she kept a key of known symbols. Annie traced the air above a coyote head, and a circle with four dots.

"This is the Coyote Clan symbol." Bob pointed to the animal head. "And this is the symbol for the tribal elders praying. Could we have found a kiva?"

"Let's find out." They cleared more earth and soon the roof of a small chamber was revealed. The Hopi contingent came forward and conferred with the professor for a time and then nodded their consent.
"We have permission to enter." Making sure that the cameras were fully loaded and that someone had put a fresh tape in the cassette recorder, the team descended into the kiva.

What they saw took their breaths away. The room was pristine. A small alter stood at one end of the room, on it were placed small bowls of corn pollen and ceremonial tobacco. Kachina dolls representing Coyote and Kokopeli, the humpback flute player were given places of honor. Behind the alter, Kachina masks and costumes stood ready to be used in ceremonial dance, their feathers and paint, bright and new.

Beth stood in the center of the chamber, near the fire pit. Unnoticed by her fellow researchers she crumpled slowly to the floor, unconscious. Minutes passed.

 "Beth." Annie cried out as she marveled at a carved bone flute. "My father plays..." She paused realizing that she wasn't with the rest of the group. "Beth?" She broke away from the alter and began to survey the rest of the room, thinking that her friend must be taking photographs of the pictographs that dotted the chamber. She nearly tripped over her in the dim light. "BETH!"

Her cry of alarm brought the others.

"Quick get her out into the air!" The professor ordered.

Bob scooped her up and carried her up the ladder in a fireman's grip all the way back to the campsite. Several of the others followed in his wake. They stood in a loose circle over Beth.

"Maza, wakey-wakey!" The student cajoled.

"Whaaaaat?" She mumbled as she tried to rise from the mud where her consciousness seemed to be stuck. Slowly she swam to the surface and opened her eyes. "What happened." She tried to sit up and swayed dangerously.

"Whoa there. Just slow down." Bob put a hand behind her head and helped steady his groggy friend. "You fainted down in the kiva."

"I did what?"

"You fainted, you know, took an unscheduled nap? You must of hit a pocket of bad air or something."

Beth climbed to her feet as Bob watched ready to catch her again if necessary. "I doubt that, but I have been feeling kind of wonky since last night. Maybe it's jet lag?"

Bob shrugged. "Maybe. In any case we should let the professor know you're okay. Can you walk?"

"Better than you can." She looked down a  tear in his jeans. "What happened to you?"

He reddened. "I tripped getting the first aide kit."

Beth punched her friend playfully, and he grabbed his arm in mock pain. "You are so hopeless. Come on. I want to go find out what we missed."  She looked up at the curious onlookers and blushed. "Hi everybody."

"Hi Beth!" Her friends chorused back.

"Show's over. Move along." She rose to her feet and they all rejoined the dig in progress.

* * * * *

As the team broke for lunch, the radio blared on the cook table and everyone was suddenly alert to the weather report.

"....clear, but cold weather is projected for the next forty-eight hours and then....," the announcer's voice lifted in a cheerful warning tone, "it looks like we may have some snow coming, Folks."

"Snow!" a couple of the students echoed in unison, as Bob groaned audibly.

"We'll have to finish the initial survey quickly then," said Professor Pena. "Let's get through lunch and get as much done as possible while the daylight lasts."

The team quickly consumed their peanut butter sandwiches and chicken soup and headed straight back to work.  Beth manned a camera while Bob and Annie took notes on locations of carvings and artifacts.

"I wish I had  your  instinctive understanding of all this,  Annie," Beth remarked  as she studied a carving.  "It's partly my culture too, but I didn't grow up in it."

"But you did come back to learn about it," Annie encouraged her.  "That's more than a lot of others have done."

Beth shrugged,  wishing she could do more,  and went to get another roll of film.

 A Hopi worker appeared at her side. Beth blinked, hard. One minute he was dressed in flannel and denim, like everyone else in the crew. The next he was clad in a short buckskin kilt, seemingly impervious to the cold. She shook her head and he was dressed in red flannel and blue jeans again and holding out a small object.

"I noticed that you wear the symbol of Coyote." He pointed to the chain around her neck and exposed a duplicate that hung at his own throat. "You are of the Clan." He did not question, rather stated the fact.

"My father was Coyote Clan," Beth acknowledged. "as was his mother before him."
The guide nodded, understanding Beth's reluctance to claim that which was not strictly true. "This place affects you, strongly. Though your blood is not pure, your heart and spirit are true." He handed Beth a small paho, the eagle feathers fluttered in the breeze.

"A prayer stick?" She marveled at the careful craftsmanship. "It's beautiful."

"Use it to guide you." The Indian instructed. "Return to the kiva tonight when the moon rises."

"But..." Beth was talking to air. The guide had vanished. She shook her head and spent the rest of the afternoon, searching for the Hopi who had handed her the paho, It was small and she had tucked  it into the layers of shirts that she wore against the cold. Every once in a while she moved wrong and the stick nudged her in the ribs, reminding her of the odd conversation.

Later, as the sun began to fade, she crossed to Annie who was talking to Professor Pena. The funny feeling came over her again and her vision swam. When it cleared, Annie had changed. Her hair was long and curled in twin squash flower buns. She wore a dress of white cloth, as though she was dressed for the Butterfly Ceremony. Beth blinked again. Her friend was clad as she normally was in high-top sneakers, black denim jeans and a heavy wool sweater. Her hair was cropped in a decidedly non-traditional wedge.

"What is happening to me?" She muttered.

"Did you say something Beth?" The professor inquired.

"No nothing. I just brought the last of my film. I drew k.p. and we need to get started."

The professor took the bag of film canisters and watched her carefully as she headed toward the other two students who were preparing the evening meal. The girl seemed distracted, and she fumbled the can of chili she was attempting to open. She made a good recovery and saved the contents, dumping it into a large pot. The other students ribbed her about it and she laughed good naturedly in return.

After dinner, when the pots were washed and stowed away for the evening, they built up the campfire and someone pulled a battered guitar out of their duffel bag. Out of nowhere a bag of marshmallows appeared, leading to an impromptu search for mesquite twigs to roast the fluffy confections over the fire. Beth stole away from the festivities and made her way down the ladder into the kiva.

A fire had been laid in the fire pit and someone had left a tin box of matches at the edge of the ring. Beth hesitated then struck a match. She lit the tinder, which quickly caught and soon a small blaze began to fill the room with aromatic smoke. She sat cross legged on the floor and wondered what to do next. The paho stuck her in the ribs. She winced and removed it from her shirt and planted it in the soil before the fire.

Beth still felt like she should do something. She rose from the floor of the kiva and approached the alter. There stood the bowls of sacred cornmeal and tobacco and the ritual flute. She gathered them up and returned to the fire.  Casting a tobacco leaf on to the fire, She closed her eyes. "Carry my message on wind." The smoke wafted up through the sipapu, a small hole in the roof, that represented the route from one world to the next. She next cast a pinch of corn meal on to the fire. "I seek wisdom from those who would grant it." She raised the flute to her lips and began to play. Strange music Beth didn't even know she had in her, escaped into the still air.

Her sight dimmed and the blood in her ears began to roar. Beth felt that she might faint again, but she ignored the vertigo and continued to play. After a time the music ended and she found she was not alone.

The room was filled with costumed figures, each representing a different Kachina. They faded in and out of sight as if they did not fully exist in her dimension. Several began to dance, chanting ancient rhythms  and pounding their feet against the sandy floor to keep time.

Then Beth was conscious of a new sound. The deafening roar of an engine shattered the tranquility of the dancers. A Harley Hog appeared out of nowhere, it's rider clad in a leather road suit and a Coyote Kachina mask. He spun the bike around the dancers who ignored him and killed the engine. When he removed the mask he wore in lieu of a helmet Beth was face to face with young Peter Maza.

"Coyote?" She stared, disbelieving.

"Miss me?"

Beth continued to stare and did not answer. Coyote could see that she wasn't up for witty repartee so he tried a different approach.

"I thought you'd appreciate all the trouble I went to get your attention, Beth. I wanted to let you know that you've been chosen."

"Chosen?" She repeated.

"I can see this is going to be a one way conversation. Maybe I went too far." He mused.

"No sorry, It's been a really rough couple of days, even before you started messing with my head. I had this interview when I was in New York, and I just can't decide what to do about it. It would be a great job, and I could be close to Mom and Dad and Elisa and Goliath and Derek and all of the family. But..."

"Something's holding you back. Right? A sense of purpose that would be utterly lacking writing for a magazine with lots of pretty pictures?"

"Well, yeah."

"And besides when you're out here you have a real feeling of connecting to the land and the people, don't you. I've been keeping an eye on you know. Volunteering to drive that water truck on the weekend and checking on the old folks, is good work."

"I like doing it. The people tell me stories, I've been compiling them, saving them, so that they don't fade away."

Coyote was utterly serious. "Beth, I know you've had doubts about your place in the world. You thought that if you went back to New York you could do something to help your brother. Then when you got there you realized that even as a mutant he was making a real contribution to those around him. Your parents too. Each has a life that is full and necessary to those around them.

"And Elisa." Beth added.

"Oh yeah. We can't forget your big sister. Her life is pretty full."

"She's happy." Beth said wistfully. "I saw her looking at Goliath during Thanksgiving dinner."

"She has a lot to look forward to." Coyote agreed, but didn't elaborate. "Then again, so do you. I had to wait, to see what decisions you would make, just as I had to see which path Peter would choose. But you've proven yourself and now it's time for show and tell."

"What do you mean?" Beth was perplexed. Coyote was grave, totally unlike the fun loving trickster she had met before.

"The fay have gathered back on Avalon. Even now I should be there with the rest. But Oberon has decreed that those of us who were particularly close to the people we protect could leave the island long enough to appoint one to stand in our stead. It has been the role of Clan Coyote to always act as Qaletaqa. The last to close the door on the old world, the first to protect in the new. This is the role that has been chosen for you Beth Maza. Each member of your family is  Qaletaqa. This shall be your protectorate."

"My protectorate? I'm not like Dad or Derek or Elisa! I'm no cop!" She rejected Coyote, shocked. "How can I protect anybody when I have no skills?"

"There is more to being a Guardian than enforcing the law. Even your mother is Qaletaqa, though she is not of the People."

"My mother is a teacher. She writes books!" Beth protested.

"And because of her people remember the old ways, the old stories." Coyote crossed to Beth and took her hands. He pressed a tiny silver ear of corn attached to a thin silver chain into her palm. "Wear this alongside the Coyote symbol that already hangs around your neck. Never take it off. It will protect you from what lies ahead." He arrested her attention with his intense gaze. "Protect the People. Learn their ways. In knowledge there is strength."

"I will." A new sense of resolve flooded through Beth. "I won't let you down Coyote." She promised.

"I know." He smiled. "No member of your family ever has. Take care kiddo."

Beth swayed. When she opened her eyes, everything was as it was before. The kiva was pristine, no fire had burned in the sacred fire pit,  nothing on the alter had been disturbed. Beth's hand flew to her neck. On a silver chain hung the Coyote head and a small silver ear of corn. She returned to the campfire and joined in the sing-a-long, no one the wiser for her absence.
* * * * *
Takeo Kimura liked using his authority and he lorded over his little band of wakashu, making sure they understood what he expected of them as he briefed them before they descended into the storm drain.

"I don't care what you do with any others you find down there,"  he told them.  "Just deliver  the girl to me alive and unharmed.  Her old man's stubbornness is trying my patience.   Once I have her, he'll have to agree to the marriage to save her honor.  He'll learn not to defy a Daigashi of the Yakuza!  Now get going!  And don't come back without her!"

One of his wakashu felt compelled to point out,  "Kimura-san, there are hundreds of miles of tunnels under the city.  It could well take days to search them all."

"He's right, Kimura-san,"  another agreed.  "Without some kind of tracking signal on her,  we'll have nothing but sheer luck to go on in finding this girl."

"Spare me your excuses!"  Takeo commanded.  "Whatever it takes, you'll find her or you'll stay in the tunnels yourselves.  Unless you return *with the girl,* don't bother coming back up to the streets again!"

They offered no further argument and set off into the maze of tunnels.  They knew there were at least sure to be discernible signs as to which  were used regularly and which were never used.  And facing Takeo's wrath would be worse than failure.  His privileges as daigashi included rewarding and punishing his wakashu as he saw fit.

Meanwhile, Sharon had settled into a small but cozy room in the Sanctuary and begun to learn her way around.  There were two ways into the mutates' private quarters.  One  was through a warehouse on the surface owned by Xanatos that connected to an  abandoned subway tunnel.  The other was through the connecting hallway leading from the huge outer Labyrinth that had once been the Cyberbiotics underground facility. That structure opened into the endless maze of subway tunnels, sewers, and storm drains  that formed a massive crisscrossed network under the roots of the city.  It truly was a "labyrinth."  It was a strange, alien world totally unknown to the vast majority of people  living on the surface.  It was strange to Sharon too, but at least now she did not feel so afraid down here.  Maggie, Talon, and Claw had shown her the outer Labyrinth and the  homeless community there, as well as some of the tunnels that led to various entrances  from the surface in the event an escape route were ever needed.

Now that she knew the homeless people were there, Sharon liked going out among them.   Most were families, or fractured parts of families, who could not tolerate the high crime  rate in the areas where shelters were located.  Many, for whatever reason, could not  qualify for public assistance - the ones "falling through the cracks," as Talon had put it.  They, like her, felt safer in the Labyrinth.  Then, there were the clones.  The people  there accepted them only from a distance, but Sharon was more open to them and even  stopped to talk with them at times.  Already she had learned their names - much to their delight.

Now, barely into her third day in her new shelter, she went from the Sanctuary out to the main Labyrinth for the first time alone.  She liked being with her new friends, but she wanted time to think somewhere beyond the confines of her small room.  She walked slowly this time, grateful that she did not feel rushed or hurried, and decided to venture a little way down one of the tunnels to find some privacy.  Brentwood and Burbank were standing their assigned guard duty at the tunnel she chose.  Their blank,  impassive faces actually brightened when she came up and stopped to talk to them.

"Hello, Brentwood.  Hello Burbank,"  she greeted them warmly.  "Do you remember my name?"

"You Sha-ko,"  answered Brentwood.

"Well, that's pretty close.  I'm Sharon.  My other name is Saeko, but I think Sharon is easier for you."

"Shah-ron,"  repeated Burbank.  "You live here now?"

"For awhile I do.  I hope I can go home soon."

"Where is home, Shah-ron?"  asked Brentwood.

"Up in the city. With my parents."

"You go there now?"

"No, only a little way into the tunnel where it's quiet.  I'll be back soon."

"We standing guard.  You want guard?"

"No, thank you."  Sharon smiled at their eager willingness.  "These people need you to stay here and protect them.  I won't be long."

They watched her walk on down into the dimly lit tunnel.  This was one that Maggie and Talon had shown her and she knew the way to it's outlet through a storm drain  just about a mile from the Labyrinth.  The grate covering the drain allowed a stream  of sunlight through from the surface and Sharon wanted to have that sunlight to sit in.  When she reached it though, the only light filtering through from above was from the street lights above.  Of course!  She realized now it was already night; the clones were awake  from their stone sleep!  All the same, Sharon wanted a little time alone and sat down on an old crate left by a work crew the summer before.

She would be forever grateful to her strange new friends and was glad to be with them, but she missed being at home with her parents.  Elisa had talked with them and they at least now knew she was safe.  She could not let them know exactly where she was  staying nor invite them down here.  Maybe soon it would be safe enough to risk going  to see them.  But the catch word was "risk."  The reality was that none of them would ever be completely safe unless something was done to break Tommy and the Yakuza.  They were a solid and very old organization that knew how to get around all the laws  of both Japan and America.  But no matter how powerful they seemed, they kept control principally through fear.  By keeping people so totally afraid of them they were assured no one would ever testify openly.  And without such testimony against them,  the law could not touch them.  Elisa had said it would only take willing witnesses to break the entire organization.  Now Sharon's mind crashed with inner conflict.  She remembered what had happened to Gary Phillips.  And that was only a warning.

Even though she was now safe down here, Hiroshi and Mariko were still living in their apartment and running their business as usual.  For fear of their safety she could  neither return home nor go to the authorities.  Likewise, for fear of *her* safety, they could not risk talking to authorities either.  They did at least have Elisa they could contact quietly - someone they knew they could all trust.  If nothing else, Elisa was now the source by which she and her parents could safely contact each other.

Sharon did not know how long she had sat alone in the tunnel, but now suddenly felt it was probably later than she thought.  The mutates would be wondering where she had gone for so long, and she had promised to cook dinner tonight.  Besides, Angela had said she would come down to visit.  She and Maggie and Sharon were all becoming very good friends.  Sharon looked forward to getting to know Sata and Elisa better too. Even Delilah liked to join them when they got into a round of "girl talk," though she seldom had very much to say herself.  She was still thinking of all the new friends she had found as she finally got up and started back down the tunnel the way she had come.

This tunnel had dim flickering lights at wide intervals, but opening into it were several unlit passages.  Sharon was only a little way back toward the Labyrinth when she thought she glimpsed the beam of a flashlight down in one of those dark passages.  She had never seen any of her new friends use a flashlight.  In a sudden rush of fear, she moved faster and turned to run, wishing the Labyrinth were not so far away.  But she ran right into the waiting grasp of Tommy's wakashu goons!!

"Good plan, Yoshio-san!"  congratulated the one called Akira, holding the struggling girl. "Using the light down a side tunnel to scare her into running right to us made grabbing her easy!"

"Kimura will be pleased we got her for him on the first day in here,"  Masao agreed.

"LET ME GO!!"  cried Sharon.

"No way, Doll!  We've got orders to be sure you're not late for your wedding."

Two of them, Akira and Junzo, held her in tight grips she could not break and were dragging her back toward the storm drain exit, but she kept on struggling and finally managed to free one hand.

"OWW!!"  yelped Junzo, when she raked his face with her nails.  Angrily he grabbed her  by her hair and yanked her head back.  "Don't play rough with us, Lovey!"  he growled.  "We just might forget that Kimura wants you unharmed!"

"A little bruising won't really harm her any!"  Yoshio suggested cruelly.

They liked that idea, but didn't have the chance to act on it.  From down in the  tunnel came a sudden roar and the same inhuman screech that Sharon had heard  in the alley a couple of days earlier.  Bronx hit one of her attackers like a battering ram  and slammed him into another, flooring them both.  Talon blasted another with a precisely aimed electric charge and Angela and Elisa rushed the fourth together.  The ensuing struggle  was brief and Sharon was released and thrown aside.  Moments later the tunnel floor was  littered with the sprawling forms of the wakashu goons and a shaken, trembling, but unharmed Sharon was helped to her feet by Talon and Angela.  Bronx gently nuzzled her to be sure for himself she was all right.

"We got worried about you, Sharon,"  Angela told her.  "Maggie said you went out to the  Labyrinth awhile ago, and Bronx followed your scent from there."

"I wasn't looking for trouble!"  said Sharon tearfully.  "I just wanted to be alone for a bit...  to think."

"You have every right to your privacy, Sharon," said Talon.  "But maybe you should let one  of us know where you'll be.  Usually the tunnels are safe from intruders, but it's still easy to  get lost in here."

"They were..... looking for me!"  Sharon began, indicating the pile of unconscious goons.  "They *knew* I was here!  Tommy sent them!  They said they came to take me to him!"

"Somehow they must have found out you've gone underground,"  ventured Elisa.  "But I don't believe they could know anything about the Labyrinth or Sanctuary."

"But what if they *do* know?!"  cried Sharon in distress.  "You've given me a safe shelter and now I've put all of *you* in danger too!"

"Not so!"  Talon countered.  "The safety of the Sanctuary stands, and none of these goons  or any others are ever going to find it.  We can seal off this tunnel, or any other, if we have to."

"We won't let them get to you or your family, Sharon,"  Angela assured her.  "Let's get on back to the others."

Sharon was quiet as they all made their way back through the tunnel.  She still believed  they were right and she was far safer here than in the city above just now.  But she could  not help feeling that, by helping her, all her new friends were now at risk themselves. Again the thought surfaced that only by people being willing to testify could the Yakuza  threat be broken.  When they reached the Sanctuary and joined Maggie, Brooklyn, and  Sata, Sharon knew she would have to help stand with them all against the mobsters.

"Elisa,"  she said resolutely, when they finally all were back in the mutates' living quarters.  "I want you to go and talk to my folks again.  I know you have already asked them to contact the police and they are afraid to.  My father is no coward, but I know he and my  mother worry for my sake.  Please tell him....,  *urge* him to help break the Yakuza threat.  I think he has some information that may help.  Assure them both that I am safe and  will come to see them as soon as I can.  Tell my father I remember what he always taught me - that there is a time to remain silent and a time to speak out.  We have all been silent long enough.  Maybe now it's time to take a stand and speak out."

"I'll go and see them tonight, Sharon,"  Elisa promised.

* * * * *

Beth stood at the window watching the snow fall. She took several deep breaths then lifting the receiver she quickly dialed  the telephone.  The receptionist at Maddox Publishing connected her with Ms. Mavis O'Connor's office and she was on hold for the merest of moments before the publisher answered her personal line.

"Yes? Ah Beth, how are ya this evening? Did you think over our proposition?"

"I did, Ms. O'Connor, and as generous as your offer is, I'm afraid  I'll have to decline."

"And why might that be. If you don't mind me asking?"

Beth looked up at the prayer stick mounted above her fireplace and the small dish of corn meal on the hearth. "I've found my place, Ms. O'Connor. It was right here all along." She hung up the phone and found she had no regrets at all.
* * * * *

The tailor shop was closed, and Hiroshi and Mariko were in their apartment after dinner, when they were startled by Elisa's knock at their door. Hiroshi opened the door cautiously with the guard chain secured.  Standing with the young detective were two plainclothes policemen.

"Mr. Nomura?"  began Elisa.

"Detective,"  Hiroshi acknowledged tensely.

"What is it, Hiroshi-san?"  asked Mariko as she came up beside him drying her hands on a dish towel.

"Detective Maza and.... ."

"This is Officer Jim Clark and Officer Ray Underwood."  Both men showed their badges as Elisa introduced them.  "They're specialists in organized crime."

"How did you....?"

"The building manager let us in downstairs,"  she answered Hiroshi's
obvious concern.  "May we come in?"

Hiroshi and Mariko looked briefly at each other before Hiroshi released the guard chain and opened the door.  Elisa and the two men stepped inside.

"Our daughter, Saeko....?"  ventured Mariko carefully.

"I saw her earlier this evening,"  Elisa assured them.  "She asked me to see you again, and *I* asked these two men to come with me."

"I assure you, Mr. and Mrs. Nomura, your confidence is safe with us,"  said Clark.  "From what we understand, you've been troubled by some Yakuza harassment."

"We did some background checking before coming here,"  his partner picked up.  "If you don't mind, we'd like to talk with you."  There was a brief moment of silence as Hiroshi and Mariko exchanged looks of visual understanding.  Finally Hiroshi closed the door and gestured their visitors toward the living room.

"You'd better come and sit down,"  he told them.

"I'll go and make some tea,"  said Mariko softly.