Chronicles of the Night: Chasing Shadows

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Visions of Yesterday

Millennium Park, Lismore, Waterford, Ireland, 31st April, 8:45am

Their path sloped downhill like cupped hands. Lismore was full with the bustle of morning and plenty of cars streaming by the bank, up Main Street, testified to it. You could see the castle from here if you craned your neck. Neither of them bothered.

The same thing weighed on both of their minds. They both doubted they’d see each other much over the fast-approaching summer holidays, since she’d be visiting her dad in England and he’d be working in the café. If they hadn’t gone to the same boarding school, chances were they wouldn’t even be talking right now.

“Are you just gonna leave me?”

Conn laughed as Cairid dragged him into Londis, eyes on the sweets. “You never can go a second without talking someone’s ear off, can you?”

To prove him wrong, she set herself on a path to the new shop without looking back once. It was a crafts shop, she discovered, and she doubted she’d be able to find anything she could afford with the money her mother had given her. Just as she was cursing the world, she spotted the little shelf below the cash register. It was mostly pottery, but since it was its opening week there was a discount on the beaded bracelets at the till.

“Where are you from, then? On holidays, are you?” asked the shopkeeper with a smile.

Aimee paused in question before she chose a bracelet. “Nope, I’m from here.”

“Originally, I mean?”

“No, I live here.”

“Oh.” This didn’t seem to register, and the woman tried again. “How long have you been living here, then?”

“All my life.” Aimee paid for the bracelet and left before anything else could be said. She let her scowl loose the second she left the shop, and she couldn’t help but think that maybe things would be different if she didn’t go to boarding school. Maybe people would know her, at least to see her. It had been four years and she hardly saw her old friends from around town anymore. When she came back on the weekends, all she had to talk about was school, and she spent most of the summer with her dad. Her mother had moved here from Wexford years and years ago, but sometimes it felt like they were from another planet as far as passers-by were concerned.

It didn’t help that businesses started and failed so often these days. For the best of good intentions, the only luxury shops still trucking away were the jewellers and the Corcoran & Donnelly Glass Shop. Even for them, the recession had eaten up any false sense of security they had left.

Still, thought Aimee, what a stupid woman.

Further down the street she glimpsed Conn and Cairid on their way out of the newsagent and she gestured to the park. She didn’t realise she was storming until she reached the stone ice house and they still hadn’t caught up with her. The buggy patrol was out with the gossip, their toddlers plodding all around the park like little, screaming rockets. In the grey light, the red patch of flowers was the only thing that stood out.

At least with boarding school, you can have Monday mornings like this, she thought, lighting a cigarette out of sight. Conn and Cairid arrived and hunkered down beside her underneath the trees. Years and years ago, the ice house was used to preserve salmon caught fresh out of the Blackwater river. Nowadays, it was a dark, spooky place used to spin stories for the kids about monsters lurking in its depths, and the three teenagers giggled at the memory, teasing each other about it in all the ways they could think up.

“You should hide out here during summer to escape work, Conn. Become like a cave man.”

“You must think it’s boring, spending summer in a café here.”

“At least you’re making money.”

“And your summer? Let me guess: boys and beach?”

“You’re cute, Conn.” Aimee sighed, as though ‘cute’ was a synonym for ‘hopeless’. She took her cigarette from her mouth to put a hand over her heart as she coughed. For a second, the air in her throat couldn’t dig deep enough to catch hold. Pain splintered through her chest, cracks criss-crossing a mirror. “I’m dying.”

“What colour this time?”

The girl stroked her apple-red hair defensively, frowning her disapproval as she kicked him with a warbled battle cry. On the ground it wasn’t hugely effective, and he retaliated by gazing at the sky and pretending she didn’t exist.

Cairid plodded back over to them after stopping to chat with her old primary school teacher, her phone in her hand. “Hyun-su says they put up the timetable for our exams. I hate you both. Also, Tonks was sunbathing in Mum’s flowers again. There’ll be war.”

He nodded, catching Aimee frown and look over her shoulder, as if she was listening to something coming from the front of the ice house. Her eyes trailed over to where a white van was parked by the wall and as she stood abruptly, she brought a hand to her ear, bemused. “I think I forgot my phone. I’ll meet you guys at the bus stop later, OK?”

Cairid and Conn shared a look and the same thought passed through their heads. Normally if they were leaving Lismore for school they’d drive down on Sunday night. Last year they always gave Aimee a lift, but this year she rarely spent the weekends at home.

“Goodbye,” said Conn.

“See you sometime in the next few years,” said Cairid rudely.

Aimee made a ruder sign with her fingers in return and walked into the unforgiving stone of the ice house as she did, startling the two on the ground. Cairid immediately burst into uproarious laughter as Conn scratched his head and pretended not to have noticed.

Aimee rubbed her side and stuck her tongue out. “I just had a moment.”

“A senior citizen moment?”

“OK, I get it. We have a good while, so I’ll invite myself into your house and raid your kitchen. Sound good?”

Relenting, they decided they’d wait back at their house since there was plenty of food, and they had plenty of stomachs between them to fill. Conn got to the ironing, chatting to them both over the board. Once Aimee had a cup of tea between her hands, though, the well of conversation ran dry. Luckily, the doorbell rang and the tension dissolved. At this point Conn was in need of a sit down. One unexpected visitor was already more than enough this morning.

“That must be those eejit salespeople again,” growled Cairid, as she clattered to the front door with a vengeance.

Aimee looked to Conn for the explanation.

“They were selling plastic bottles yesterday,” he told her.

*

The scrawny girl narrowed her eyes when she answered the door, but she did not start screaming. That was good. It was something to work with.

“Are your parents in, kid?” Lorcan asked gruffly, turning his head slightly to hide his unusual eyes from detection.

In his peripheral field, the girl folded her arms and looked him unhappily up and down before saying stiffly, “I killed them. And we don’t want any plastic bottles.”

“You did not, you liar,” he scolded, though he had no idea what the plastic bottle remark was about.

Her washed-out green eyes narrowed further still, forehead creased in a snide frown. For a second, a flicker of recognition glimmered in her eyes. “Excuse me, but are you selling something?”

“Yes?”

“What, then? We’re actually leaving soon, so – HELL’S BELLS, the time!” the girl shrieked. He took his chance to analyse the short corridor, listening for movement from further inside. A flower vase stood on the hallway table, and old petals were beginning to float away into the water from the weak clutches of closed marigolds. A framed family photo was propped up against it; in it, the girl, a boy and the parents. An older one sat beside it, but he couldn’t make out all the figures.

“Conn!” the girl yelled, taking a nervous step down the corridor and grabbing her bag as visions of whatever trouble they’d be in if they didn’t make it to wherever flashed before her eyes. “Move! LOOK AT THE CLOCK!”

There was a clatter of cups against the drainer and hurried footsteps. Lorcan rubbed the space between his eyes with his knuckles, bracing himself.

“Aimee, run and get your phone. Who’s this?” asked the boy, and the red-haired girl pelted by to the house across the road before he could even get a proper look at her.

“This is – what’s your name, actually? Sorry, we look a bit like lunatics right now. We have to get the bus. You wouldn’t happen to mind dropping us into town, would you? If that’s the way you’re going, I mean.”

“Cairid!”

Sighing, Lorcan let his hand fall from his forehead and shook his head, said it would be no trouble at all, all the while his heart pattering against his chest. There had to be some way of doing this the right way. When they asked him what had brought him to their door in the first place, he wracked his brain and said he was looking for their father.

Both siblings frowned like practiced cynics.

“You’ll be hard-pressed to catch him. Did you know him back in the day or something?” Before he was backed into answering her question, she called over his shoulder, “Hey, Aimee! This is Lorcan, he says he’ll give us a lift…”

It was just as her brother warmed to the idea that she saw it, the gun at his side. Her eyes widened and she squeezed her brother’s arm, but he didn’t get the message. Either way, they weren’t who he was here for. Aimee skidded to a halt behind him. When he looked, Lorcan could not see the Change in her eyes from where he was, which meant no one else could either. That aside, this was a right mess he had on his hands.

There was a brief, perplexed silence from her as she looked over his shoulder, about to speak. He could sense Cairid miming furiously behind him, and he shifted his weight, trying to hide the ancient, unloaded revolver he doubted still worked at all.

Aimee screamed, leaping several feet away from him. “He’s got a gun!”

Without time to think, Lorcan aimed it at her. They went quiet, as though he’d flipped a switch. He ordered Aimee to walk to the van. Aimee stared at him, struggling to come to terms with what was happening and taking her time about it, somewhere between shocked and panicked.

“Do it,” the boy said quietly.

“Conn –”

Now, Aimee!” Conn ordered, with such a severity his sister spun and stared, aghast. Aimee jumped before slowly going to stand beside Lorcan with her back against the garden wall, keeping as far away from him as possible in the small space.

Cairid’s brow furrowed in bewilderment as she looked at the fairy. “Are you–?”

“Be quiet, Cairid,” her brother hissed, keeping his attention fixed on Lorcan. Cautiously, he moved forward so that he stood before his sister. Lorcan made no move to stop him. Now that Cairid was shielded from fire, Conn was eerily calm. He was some sort of smart, it had to be said.

“If you were here for money or anything else we own, you would have taken it already. We don’t know you. That can only mean you came here specifically for her, but she doesn’t know you either.” He glanced at Aimee, a flash of guilt breaking his austerity, and once broken it was lost. He tore his eyes from her, pleading with Lorcan instead. “What do you want with Aimee? Why are you here?”

“It’s none of your business, boy. Forget this happened, and it will make everything else a lot easier.”

He grabbed Aimee by the elbow, dragging her towards the gate.

“One of you, do something!” she hissed over his arm. Lorcan pushed her in front of him, barging out onto the street.

“What do you want, you creeper?” she demanded.

“To keep you alive,” Lorcan muttered, not in the mood for conversation, however brief. Cairid was on the move, yelling behind him, loudly and creatively, trying to attract any attention she could. Unfortunately, since Cairid was always loud and creative enough to attract attention, no one was willing to give it so early in the day.

They walked across the street, coming to a stop at the van.

“Get in,” he snapped, opening the doors at the back.

“No way!” Aimee changed her mind when he dug the barrel of the gun into her back.

Once she was in, he slammed the doors and turned on the siblings.

“... are you even listening to me?!” Cairid demanded, finishing a warning he hadn’t been listening too. Her brother ran from the house, through the gate, caught up with her in seconds, and panted as he stumbled to a halt.

“I’ve called the police. I also took a picture and sent it to –”

“Go home or become part of the road,” Lorcan growled, knocking them aside like bowling pins as he went to the driver’s seat.

Conn darted in front of him again. “I didn’t say much, but they’re on their way. You won’t get far. You can’t.”

As another car came down the road, Lorcan pushed him out of the way, and that was when his plan was killed ten times over. The moment would haunt him for the rest of his life.

This new car skidded to a halt halfway down the road when the driver caught sight of him. A man leapt out of the front seat, visibly distressed. “There you two are! You wouldn’t happen to have seen Aimee Grace?”

“Brendan! Help us!”

The man’s mouth worked automatically, but his eyes were wide and stuck now on Lorcan. Realisation dawned slowly, but nevertheless, he said weakly, “That’s Mister O’Casey to you, Cairid, thank you.”

Lorcan was dubious, his brow furrowing in confusion. If this Brendan was a Magic Hunter, he had responded to the doctor’s call in minutes and knew it was Aimee he was searching for! That meant that the Ministry had a base in or around this town. No professionals, no experience, just this one man stuck doing nothing in the middle of nowhere. Why?

Brendan’s confusion was something to work with, at least. Shaking himself from hesitation, Lorcan grabbed the closest thing he could use as a shield.

“Don’t move,” he muttered. Both he and Cairid figured that ‘not moving’ wasn’t going to be a problem with a gun barrel against the back of her head, and with his arm over her neck she’d choke if she tried to run. He’d do neither to a child, but none of these people knew that.

“Wh – how dare you? She’s a child!” shouted Brendan, whipping out his phone to take photos.

“I’m aware. Now shut up! You’re one of the Hunters, are you?”

“I – uh – that’s classified inform –”

“That’s a solid ‘yes’, then.” Lorcan had been to the cinema with Maeve before. He knew action movie-speak. “I’m going to leave now, and you are not going to follow. If you do, I’ll put a bullet through this one’s head, and then I’ll kill that boy.” He nodded at Conn, catching a glimpse of the youth’s shattered expression at the same time. He walked robotically to join Aimee, knowing that if he let Lorcan walk away with his sister the chances of him seeing her again were very, very slim.

“Is that Brendan?” asked Aimee as Conn climbed in.

Without waiting for a reply that was not going to be made, Lorcan stepped in front of the car, pulling Cairid with him. He opened the door and she climbed over to the passenger’s seat. Lorcan didn’t take his eyes from the Magic Hunter until he was in the car and in front of the wheel. As he drove off, Brendan stared a moment before putting his phone uncertainly to his ear.

“Hello? I’m sorry to say that there’s… there’s trouble in Lismore. Cain Donnelly’s children have been taken.”

The Garda car arrived minutes later, but by then Lorcan was already out of town.

Well, said the little shred of optimism the years hadn’t yet crushed, at least I’ve had my turn to cause a scene.

For a moment he forgot about the whole cursed situation, disappearing into the rattle of the old engine. Then, from her hunched position on the floor behind him, Aimee just had to go and say what everyone was thinking in a small, trembling voice: “You came to kidnap me, huh?”

Then, all three at once: “Why?
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