Nail in Her Coffin (Devil's Witch Book 1)

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Chapter 35-Silence

STELLA

Dreary skies, black and sprinkled with splashes of gray here and there. I set my black ink pen down in its holder on my wooden easel somewhat satisfied.

The fishnet stockings covering my legs do little to keep the cold at bay. My teeth chatter and I itch the side of my neck, sitting up straighter on the red cushion of my stool. The mushy grass of my small front yard does not provide much of a landscape; only a bird’s eye view of the lower-income ugly townhouses across the street.

It was Val’s turn to take care of sweeping the porch off this week. Now all the dead leaves are washed and crumbled up all over it, slowly rotting the wood underneath. A moldy, distinct smell can be found now whenever entering the house.

I even caught a mouse dart out from one of the pile of leaves collected in the corner of the porch. I almost stepped on it, almost.

So I’ve been forced to paint on the lawn to avoid the smell and the mice.

She should have told me she was staying the night at Will’s. It’s so annoying when she ignores my texts, but goddess forbid I ignore hers...

I ended up leaving a voicemail because she didn’t bother to pick up at all this morning.

It’s not often I get out and actually paint like this, the only reason I was motivated to was because Colin told me I should pick up the hobby again. I painted more in high school, but after Val died I gave it up.

Hope she gets here soon, there’s no way I’m driving into town to pick her up. Will better drop her off, even I can tell their relationship is on the rocks.

So I was a little surprised to find her room empty this morning.

The only reason I went in there was because I couldn’t find my plaid skirt. I ended up searching her closet and coming up empty handed. I even checked all the drawers in her dresser, found her hidden money stash and something else too.

Well the other something else wasn’t in her closet or dresser.

It was laying right out in the middle of the floor of her room.

I pick up my easel to head inside.

The wallet I found in Val’s room burns a hole through the pocket of my thin, cheaply made black leather jacket.

Maybe I’m just a clingy friend, getting angry at her for not responding to me fast enough. Maybe I said something that made her upset, who knows what that could have been. I guess I forgot what it was like living alone those ten years without her here. When I went to sleep last night after I got back from Colin’s, the house felt so...empty.

“Hello?” I answer my phone quickly, kicking open the screen porch and juggling my artwork in my arms. I manage to make it in time to the kitchen table before I drop everything in my arms.

“Hey, I’m not going to be able to make it to the retreat this weekend.”

Does Colin really think my life revolves around him?

“What happened?” I sigh, not really wanting to show up without him.

It’s not like the whole entire coven will be there, but mostly everyone is going. The only ones staying behind are the headmaster and a few other of his closer trusted friends.

I bet Val is going to bail on the trip, Will won’t be able to convince her to go. I don’t know why she would want to anyway.

He doesn’t even deserve to be headmaster-

“Stella? Hello? Are you there, my muffin?” Colin asks me sounding goofy and I smile, his warmth really is contagious. His voice sounds a little strained though.

“Yeah, I’m sorry I didn’t hear what you said. Why can’t you come?” I repeat, tucking my phone against my shoulder.

Then I begin to wash my paint brushes off in the sink.

“Our supply chain manager just told us our dairy is going to be back-ordered until Monday. I’m going to have to stay at the store and figure something out until our normal supplier gets their act together,” Colin tells me.

Absentmindedly, I pull out the bulky wallet from my jacket and set it on the kitchen counter. I’ll have to drop it off at the station after lunch or I could show it to Val and wait for her to explain herself.

Although, I thought she wasn’t seeing her familiar. She told me she is only interested in Will, maybe she changed her mind.

“Why? What happened?”

I wonder if he messed something up on his end? His job could be at risk, but I doubt it.

“Oh...ugh. Their trucks had some kind of leak issue, gas spilled into the dairy crates. I don’t know how,” Colin replies as I dry off my brushes and put them in their designated cabinet.

Tired of having to awkwardly position my head to hold my phone up, I give in and let my magic handle cleaning the rest of the paint up from the kitchen table.

Colin proceeds to tell me about his entire week then, even though he already told me yesterday. I listen anyway and turn my head curiously toward the front door when I feel the ward around the house tremor.

The door is wide open and the doorway, unoccupied.

I didn’t think we had burglars in this neighborhood, as poor as some areas are. When I went in Val’s room this morning though, I found her broom in the corner missing.

I don’t think she would have taken it with her to Will’s. Flying is still banned, if I were Will I would have lifted the ban already. I don’t know what he’s waiting for, it’s not like any of them are in a hurry to find the necromancer anyway.

Stomping over to the door, I look outside to see if a witch or other supernatural may have dropped by to visit.

Seeing not a soul, I slam my door shut. Dumb ward must have been the mailman. Every now and then they do hire supernaturals.

After my conversation with Colin comes full circle, I remind him I don’t mind going to the retreat alone.

“Alright, I’ll see you when you get back. Bye muffin,” Colin purrs and I gag into the microphone, loudly on purpose.

“Love you too,” he adds with a laugh.

I hang up, wondering what it is he sees in me. We are complete opposites yet somehow we get along.

I swipe through my phone, sighing when seeing Valerie still hasn’t texted me back. Maybe she’s sleeping. It’s almost eleven in the morning though.

Well, who knows.

I turn away from watching the neighborhood children dash around the woods behind my house, in their bright obnoxious colors.

“Get out of my yard, you heathens!” I yell at the small humans and they squeal, probably only seeing my dark outline behind my kitchen window.

Finally, they return to where they belong which is away from me.

To think humans spawn so many of those things.

Witches rarely have more than one child.

My herb garden is now trampled, killed by the wretched children. They are lucky I am not my mother. Saddened by my ruined plants, I walk outside to see if any of them have survived. Of course, they’re all dead.

Getting a weird feeling, I look back at the kitchen window where the children spotted me from earlier. For a second, it looks as though someone walks by it. Someone is in the house and they were watching me. Well, I’ll teach them a thing or two about messing with me. Must be a human too, otherwise, my ward would have notified me of their arrival.

Wait, I did feel it react earlier. No one was there though. Every witch knows a ward should react twice. Once, when a supernatural enters it and once again when they leave.

If it was a human it wouldn’t have reacted at all.

I walk around the house, watching the windows for any more signs. I don’t see anything else odd though and when I get to my mailbox, I find it empty. It wasn’t the mailman or a human. A witch would have known to leave me something of use in my mailbox before stepping onto my property.

My magic opens the front door and I storm up to my house, not afraid of any trespasser. Only a naive supernatural would break into a witch’s home on purpose.

I feel my ward tremble again, they must have just left. I look around my yard though and don’t see anyone. Confused, I walk back inside. Feeling paranoid, I text Valerie and ask her if she’s home yet. If she really was though, deep down I’d know I would sense her here.

She’s not.

No one is, but me.

“I must be going crazy,” I huff while looking around the kitchen with a frown.

I walk over to the kitchen table slowly, noticing the police chief’s wallet missing. A dreadful feeling floods into me, as I catch sight of a tall figure in the corner of my vision. My heart lands in my throat. My skin gets clammy all of the sudden and with a shaky breath I jerk around.

Never have I been so scared, especially even after finding no one there.

I clutch my trembling hands together below my chin and count to three in my head shutting my eyes, to relax and regain my composure.

“Valerie?” I squeak, opening my eyes.

Startled again, but this time by the sound of a door shutting upstairs.

Painfully slow, I walk over to the bottom of the staircase and grasp the railing as if expecting to see her there. Instead, I find a basket with a pile of black fabric neatly folded in it at the bottom of the steps.

With a shaky hand, I snatch up the small folded piece of parchment tied around the basket handle with string.

The paper is blank and I let it slip through my fingertips. Much more interested in what could be in the basket, I lift the fabric up and realize it’s a cloak. It must belong to someone in the coven. Relief floods into me, but whatever witch dropped it off should not have just came and left without so much as introducing themselves. My house isn’t a lost and found center.

It must be Val’s cloak because I happen to be wearing mine.

Maybe she got it dry cleaned, that would be the day. No, they probably found it at Wally’s or something. Maybe in a dumpster. I check the tag and sure enough, scribbled on it is her name and phone number. A tacky thing we are all forced to do, in case the essential garment of clothing were ever to be separated from us.

Instead of taking her cloak upstairs and dumping it off in her room, I hug it to myself like a safety blanket.

“Please, just hurry up and come home.” I grumble into the soft material, wondering why I can’t see any trace of magic that my unwelcomed guest should have left behind.

***

WILL

Meetings, meetings and then more meetings. All day long I have been stuck in my apartment meeting with various werewolves and their alphas. All so we can narrow down which one of them is messing with demonic craft.

They can’t even handle magic, yet they are trying to and failing quite miserably.

Many of them, we have found dead outside of town. We keep finding their bodies covered in the remnants of black magic, ash. It’s only a matter of time until we find which worthless werewolf revived Valerie. I still think they would have needed the strength of a witch to help them.

Several local hunters have turned in the dead weres to the police station too.

We did not require or ask for the assistance of the ‘cops’ before. However, we know the packs are disgruntled about us interrogating so many of them with no solid evidence. We don’t have any choice and werewolves can be a pain when they are grumpy enough. So we have asked the vampires with badges to aid us in our investigations.

After we release the last alleged innocent dog free, I close my folder with all the profiles of the red diamond pack. All of their alibis are on point, I can’t lawfully pin any of them as the necromancer. They did, however, all have traces of magic on them.

They were the last werewolf pack in our area that we needed to check.

We’ll have to find another way to bring them back in. They may not have been around a witch using black magic, but some witch was using magic on them. That alone is illegal. I check my phone for what must be the fiftieth time today, still nothing from Val. I didn’t mean to leave our date so early yesterday and I did get her texts last night, but I only had the time to read them right before work this morning.

I didn’t even get to reply to her messages from last night until an hour ago when I finally got a break.

It takes a long half hour for the vampires to force the dogs out of my small apartment. I didn’t want to bring them to the station, if they started anything there it would have been a bloody mess.

The chief didn’t come today, but the giant vampire showed up and took care of his kin in his boss’s place.

Dupont should have been here today though, leading his unit.

He’s absent at times when his presence should be seen. This investigation is no joke, he should have been here today like he promised. If he wants his unit to be taken seriously, he should be here voicing their authority.

The vamps kept it together without him, I’ll give them that.

“Enjoy the rest of your day, William McCaster,” the big brute vampire tells me, sounding as gleeful as a school girl.

Wonder what he’s so happy about.

After they finally all leave in their cars, I try calling Valerie, but it goes straight to voicemail. However, the automated response tells me her voicemail box is full. With new frustration, I decide to call the police chief to update him on the results of our progress today.

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