“I have to be certain that Howard Perry had nothing to do with Laura’s death,” I said to Martin after we finished decorating the tree. My grandfather was playing chess with my sister, her ability already getting better since she learned the game only a couple of days ago.
“I get that, but how are you going to achieve your goal?” My grandfather said while he moved his pawn two spaces. “You said it yourself that Laura didn’t know who her killer was. Maybe her memory was messed with more than we thought it was.”
“We didn’t know about her relationship with Perry before. Maybe now it will spark something in her memory? Something the dark necromancer missed.”
“Check!” my sister squealed with surprise after taking my grandfather’s pawn with her knight. Martin moved his rook, taking Madison’s queen, and called out, “Check mate.”
“How did you do that?” My sister asked. Martin started to show her the series of moves that led up to her defeat as she listened intently.
The only way to confirm Perry’s story was to hear it from Laura first hand. No one else knew about the affair or by now it would already be old gossip. I had some time before anyone else found out. A couple of days at least until the cops figure it out. I could use that time to my advantage in tracking down the dark necromancer on my own.
Martin believed Perry, but I wasn’t completely convinced. None of Laura’s friends knew about the affair. Even Laura’s best friend, Sara, claimed she didn’t know. How had Perry and Laura kept it a secret from everyone? In such a small town it was only a matter of time before secrets were revealed. Perry’s own son didn’t even know about it. Was that even possible? Something wasn’t adding up, but I wasn’t going to figure it out unless I went back to the clearing to see Laura.
Martin tagged along in case we ran into the dark necromancer again. I made Madison stay with my grandmother for safe keeping. There was no way I would knowingly put her in danger again.
As we pulled up to the clearing I remembered the promise I made to Laura the first time I spoke to her. I would come back and save her from her imprisonment. It was the same promise I wanted to make to Matt. I would somehow free them both. I had every intention in keeping that promise, but hadn’t had the slightest idea how I was going to do it.
I led the way into the forest and up the path to the clearing. I looked up and saw a sky filled with billions of stars. I was happy here in Dumont. Before I arrived in Dumont, I didn’t know the sky could look this full. In New York when the sun set, only a few stars could be seen under the massive amount of light pollution.
Since I was little, I felt more comfortable at night. Weeks ago, Martin assured me this had nothing to do with being a necromancer. In fact spirits didn’t care what time of the day or night it was. It made no difference to them. They came and went at all hours. They never needed to sleep or rest.
Some spirits were like Mary Moore, stuck in an endless moment in time. Haunting the living with no understanding of what was happening around them. She would always be searching for the train, unable to move on. Without any help that is.
We found Laura just like before. Trapped in her invisible prison, but this time she was curled up into a fetal position floating several inches off the ground. She was frightened, and scarred her torturer would soon return.
“She’s petrified,” I said to my grandfather feeling the torment radiating off of her. Her fear was keeping her down. “We have to figure out how to get her out of here,” I said to Martin.
This necromancer is torturing her, ripping apart her soul. She will eventually fade away into nothingness if she wasn’t freed soon. Her soul had started to wither away. Pieces of her blue aura were flaking off, exposing only darkness beneath. Her hue was cracked like dry skin, and the blue mist that made her spirit was grainy, and slow.
Like Matt, Laura was being punished for something she did when she was alive. Something that pissed someone off a lot. I wondered if it was jealousy or just plain revenge.
At least Laura was able to have some peaceful moments, unlike Matt’s constant hell. She was imprisoned, but was being played with like a wind up toy. She was broken at her tormenter’s power and he used her for entertainment.
Not like Matt. Matt was in constant agony, yet Laura was in constant fear. He wanted nothing but pain from Matt. From Laura, he wanted her to be scared. He wanted her to feel helpless at his mere presence.
I didn’t think I could despise someone as much as I did. The dark necromancer had to be stopped. I hated this piece of shit with a passion. How could he do this? Was he broken? Did his mind break from stress? Was he being overwhelmed by the intoxicating power of necromancy? What provoked such a monster? More importantly, how did I avoid turning into it?
“Laura,” I called out in a gentle whisper to get her attention. “We’ve returned.”
“No more,” she begged. “Please, no more.”
She slowly sat up and spun towards me. There was confusion on her face. She didn’t know who I was. She was still frightened, unable to recognize me.
Martin’s eyes widened,“She’s completely broken,” he whispered to me. “Why is he doing this to her?”
“Laura, are you okay? It’s me, Charlie.”
“Another trick?” she asked with a stutter. “Please, no more.” Her voice was brittle, as if it would break. “Please,” she cried, “No more!”
“Laura, I’m trying to help you. This isn’t a trick.” She slowly looked up, wondering when the horrors would begin again. “We need you to tell us about Howard Perry. Do you understand me, Laura? He’s in a lot of trouble. The police found your blood in the back of his car.”
“Charlie?” Laura questioned. She was having a hard time remembering me. “Will you let me go?”
“I’m trying to free you, but I need to know about your relationship with Howard Perry first.”
“Please free me, Charlie,” she pleaded, ignoring my question. “I cannot take this any longer.”
“We don’t have time for this,” Martin said as he grabbed Laura’s hand. He gazed into her cloudy eyes as a calmness grew from his touch. “Tell us about Howard Perry. Why was there blood in the back seat of his car?”
“She’s already traumatized,” I complained. “Do you really think this is going to help?”
Martin ignored my distain and looked deep into Laura’s eyes. Her face smoothed as the agony she felt faded away. I felt it radiating out of her, leaving only something like contentment. I could feel the calmness. She smiled and straightened out. The fear and anxiety had disappeared.
“Why was your blood found in Howard Perry’s car?” My grandfather repeated.
At first there was nothing to indicate she had heard his question, but then she opened her mouth. “Howard and I were dating,” she calmly stated with a relaxed tone. “We were in love,” she smiled. “I wanted to share my love with him. We had sex in his car, but I bled, because it was my first time.”
Perry was telling the truth about their relationship, but what about the rest? Maybe he killed her in a jealous rage. It still didn’t prove anything.
“Did Howard Perry kill you,” I asked.
“Of course not,” Laura replied with a smile. “Howard loved me more than anything in this world. Our love was real. He would never hurt me.”
“Then if Perry didn’t kill you who did?” I asked impatiently.
“I do not know,” she replied in a soft voice.”
“Who else knew about the affair?” I asked, thinking of other possible suspects.
“It was a secret,” she replied. “We told no one.”
“Someone found out,” Martin said. “Someone who I’m guessing didn’t like the two of you together.”
“Can you think of anyone that might have seen the two of you?” I asked. “Maybe when you snuck out together? Is it possible someone accidentally saw you?”
“No,” she replied. I noticed a small tic in her left eye. A tell. She was lying, but wasn’t even aware of it.
“Are you sure?” I said. “Someone did see you. I can tell you are aren’t sure. What are you hiding Laura?”
“I don’t think... I don’t know...” Laura hesitated. “I can’t... no... no one knew.” She was definitely hiding something. I could feel the fear as it rose. I could feel it take over. Whatever my grandfather had done it was wearing off. She was protecting someone or something.
“Don’t be afraid,” I pleaded. “We want to help you, but you have to tell us who saw the two of you together?”
“Who saw you?” My grandfather asked again with his hypnotizing stare.
“He saw us,” Laura said. “He wouldn’t admit it, but I know he saw us. He never said anything, but I know he was standing in the shadows.”
“Who was hiding?” My grandfather asked. “Who saw you?”
“Stan,” she said with embarrassment. “He saw us together. He saw us in the car.”
Stan knew about his father’s affair? Was it possible Stan had killed Laura in a jealous rage? I looked over at my grandfather. We were both thinking the same thing.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said after a long pause. “Why would Howard’s son set him up to take the fall for a murder he committed?”
I thought back to my father’s ill-fated death, “Is it different than a father killing his son?” I knew the question was hurtful, it was meant to be, but my grandfather let the insult be. “Where do we go from here?” I asked already regretting my disrespect.
“We have to talk to Stan,” he replied. “Laura, did Stan kill you?” Martin asked still holding her hand.
“He wasn’t in the basement,” she calmly answered.
“What basement? You were killed in a basement?” I asked trying to coax a response. She was finally remembering something about the night she was killed. “Tell me about the basement, Laura. Who else was there?”
“It was dark.... so dark,” she whispered. Then her voice changed, the fear was creeping back in again. “There weren’t any windows, we were underground. In the basement. I could smell the earth. I could smell the decay. He wouldn’t let me breath. His hands were around my neck.” She was crying.
“Who was in the basement with you?”
“I don’t know,” Laura cried.
“You’re hurting her,” I told my grandfather.
Martin let her hand drop away. A moment later her calmness began to fade and her sadness started to return. Her fear grew and her spirit darkened. She retreated from us and curled back into a fetal position. She had returned to the state we found her in.
When I returned to the truck I called Stan, but it went straight to voice mail. I hung up without leaving a message and called Madison a moment later. On the second ring the phone picked up.
“Hey Charlie, how did it go?” My sister asked. “Did she tell you anything?”
“I don’t have time to explain right now, Maddie,” I rushed. “I need to know if Stan is with you?” I asked dreading the answer. “I need to talk to him,” I added.
“He was here earlier, but left with Billy over an hour ago. What’s going on. Is Stan in trouble? You told me you wouldn’t say anything, Charlie. You promised.”
“I didn’t,” I said to my sister. “This isn’t about that. Just tell me where he went.”
“Why do you need him?”
I couldn’t tell her the truth, but didn’t have to keep her completely in the dark. “I just need to ask him a couple of questions about Laura. I think he might know more than he told the police.”
“Charlie, what’s going on?” my sister demanded to know. “Did Stan do something to Laura?”
I didn’t really know, but I didn’t want her confronting him. He had already hurt her once before. He could easily hurt her again.
I felt Martin’s presence before he materialized in the front cab next to me. “I’ll call you back,” I said to my sister. “What do you think?” I said turning to my grandfather.
“She’s safe for now,” he explained, “but I can’t promise she’ll stay like that for long. It’s only a matter of time before the dark necromancer comes back to destroy what little is left of her.”
“We could wait for him?”
“It wouldn’t do us any good. He wouldn’t show himself when we’re here. We’re running out of options. We might have to go back to the barn much sooner than I wished. I don’t think we have any other choice.”
“What about the nefari?” I said with a crack of fear. I didn’t know if the feeling was left over from Laura, or if it was my own, but the thought of seeing those creatures again freaked me out. “What if he’s created more?”
“Like I said, we’re running out of options,” Martin said.
I drove the truck to the Long’s family farm. The property was abandoned shortly after the Longs discovered their son hanging from a noose in the barn. Little did they know when their son was murdered his soul was captured by a dark necromancer and left to rot in his own personal hell.
We waited in the truck as we watched the area around the barn. I had destroyed one of the nefari in front of the barn, but it’s corpse was no where to be found. It was probably dragged off by the others.
“What happens if we find more of them,” I asked. “I need a weapon to fend them off.”
“There’s something under the back seat that might help you with that.” I hopped out and pulled the rear seat forward, uncovering a long rectangular wooden box. “Open it,” my grandfather said. I undid the small metal latch and lifted the lid. Within the box was a long sword with a carved ivory hilt.
“I obtained that sword years ago when I was working with a group out of Las Vegas. That sword was specially made to destroy the nefari.”
I pulled the sword out from the molded foam and took a closer look. The texture of the handle was so familiar, but I couldn’t figure out why. It wasn’t ivory from an elephant’s tusk, but something much more porous.
The carvings were so detailed and ornate that only an amazing artist could have produced them. A scene was playing out on the hilt of a lone swordsman surrounded by advancing nefari.
“What is the hilt made of?” I asked my grandfather. “It looks so familiar.”
I felt the weight of the sword in my hands. It was natural as I balanced it alone on my finger. I had never used a sword before, but for some reason this weapon sang to me. It called out to me to use it.
“It’s made from the femur of an ancient necromancer warrior,” my grandfather replied.
I held the sword out, “Here, you can have it back,” I said jokingly.
“That sword is a very powerful weapon,” my grandfather replied. “It was made for just this purpose.”
“That’s not really the point,” I said as I took the sword in both hands. I brought the blade up to my face, examining the single sided razor sharp edge. “Gross either way,” I added as I practiced taking a swing with the blade.
“It was created by a Japanese blacksmith in the early twelfth century during the second nefari war. A necromancer general named, Marut, battled through armies of the undead with that blade. Used the bones of his father to give the sword special necromantic properties.”
“What kind of special properties?”
“Take a moment and try to connect with it.”
I held the sword in both hands and focused my will. I could feel a hum of necromantic energy coursing through it.
“I don’t understand,” I said. “What is this?”
“It has the power of every single nefari the sword has ever cut down. The power runs through the blade. The necromancer bone acts as a conduit and absorbs the energy. It’s more than a sword, Charlie. It’s also in a sense a battery. The sword will absorb the energy that is released when you destroy a nefari. You can access the power if you ever need it.”
We waited at the barn doors as I brought up the courage to go in. I knew there would be trouble, but with Martin by my side I worried a little less. I still made Martin tell me the plan one more time.
“We go straight for Matt’s cocoon and destroy the chains. It’s going to take a lot of energy to get him free. It will take a while, so stay sharp,” he said with a pun.
I ignored the joke and asked, “And what happens if the nefari show up?”
“I’ll continue to get through the chains, while you use Marut’s sword. Decapitation works best when destroying the nefari. Destroy the brain or take its head off at the neck.”
“You make it sound so easy,” I said while I practiced thrusts. “It’s just like a zombie,” I added.
“To be clear, zombies aren’t real. They’re myth.” I frowned at the revelation. “One last thing,” Martin said. “When we break the boy free, there is a chance he might try to take possession of the closest living person.”
“Now you tell me!” I barked as I followed Martin into the barn. I kept the sword at my ready in case of any nefari but was thankful when we didn’t see any. We waited, but fortunately nothing attacked us.
I looked into the spirit world and found Matt where he has been for the past year. Wrapped in a cocoon of chains. His dull blue eyes looking out from deep within. I felt the anger welling up in him towards his captor. I could feel the agony he felt at the growing pain of his prison.
“Remember to focus,” Martin reminded as he rested his hands on the blue chains. Instantly, the chains constricted like a snake, tightening their grip on Matt’s tortured soul. “Charlie, now.” I followed my grandfather and set my hands on the chains. The chains tightened further, his screams muffled, but I could feel his suffering as if it was mine.
I began to focus my power on breaking the chains apart. I could feel the ectoplasmic restraints humming under my hands as I slowly blasted them with raw necromantic energy. I could feel the chains being chipped away by our power. I could feel them cracking under our will.
Without warning Martin’s ghost flickered in and out of the real world. He was using so much of his power that I forgot he only had a limited supply.
“Martin, are you okay?” I quickly asked when he appeared solid once more.
“It’s taking a lot out of me, Charlie. I think I’ll be fine.”
He hadn’t been ready for the stress of breaking the chains. He still only had a limited amount of power and I was worried he would blink out of existence if he used too much of it. He fought to steady himself as he was able to stop the strange ghostly strobe effect. I continued blasting away the chains a little at a time. From behind me a thumping caught my attention and then the sound of sweeping made me break my connection and turn around. I could feel the necromantic energy radiating from the nefari from behind. I realized if I concentrated I could tell where the other nefari in the barn were. It was like my own nefari radar had suddenly kicked on.
I waited as long as I could. I had to stay with Martin until the last second. I couldn’t let him use up all of his reserves, but I couldn’t let the nefari kill me either.
I unsheathed Murat’s sword, pulling it from the confides of its resting place. I brought the blade up to show the nefari what it was up against. When I turned around, I was just in time to see the corpse of a soldier in green fatigues coming towards me.
I side stepped to get out of the dead man’s way and pivoted my body around. I swung the sword with both hands, using all of my strength. The blade hit the wet flesh of the nefari’s neck and buried itself between its clavicle and shoulder.
“Shit, the sword is stuck,” I yelled as I tried to pull it out of the rotting nefari, but it stepped back pulling the sword completely out of my hands.
I jumped forward, chasing the porous hilt. When I grabbed on I felt the strength of the nefari as it pulled me along for the ride. The sword would be stuck, until I could change the angle I pulled from. I shifted all my weight to the side and slide the sword back out as I stayed on my toes. When it was finally free, I regained my footing. I held the grip with both hands and swung with all of my might. This time the blade went further in, stopping half way into the nefari’s neck.
“You have got to be kidding me,” I yelled at the creature. “Why won’t you die?”
Again, I pulled the sword free and dodged its out stretched hands. I chopped at the nefari’s neck until at last the sword cut through. The corpse toppled over and its head rolled away.
I tried to catch my breath as I brought the sword up into a ready stance and scanned the room. There was more than just one nefari in the barn with us. I could feel more necromantic energy pulsating at the corners of the enclosed space.
“It’s a trap, there are more of them.”
“I’m through the chains,” Martin called out. I was finally able to see Matt as the blue chains snapped off one by one and turned to mist. Matt’s spirit was dull blue and his complexion was cracked like a shattered mirror.
“Charlie, don’t get too close,” Martin called out cautiously.
When Martin cut through the last chain holding him prisoner, Matt’s spirit was released. The spirit fell from his shackles, but before hitting the ground began to float again. His spirit was cracked and flaking around eyes.
“Charlie, watch out,” Martin yelled, “He’s going to jump.”
As the only living being in the vicinity, Matt’s spirit flew directly at me. I tried to block him with my sword, but I couldn’t stop the ghost from dispersing into my eyes. As his soul spread out through me I could feel how fragile Matt’s spirit really was. Somehow I knew I would be able to expel him, but I had to be careful I didn’t destroy him in the process.
“Charlie, are you okay?” My grandfather asked. “You still in control?”
I could feel Matt’s spirit, but where he began and ended was a blurry line. Although, I could still separate who was who inside my head, the feeling of someone else taking up residency was discombobulating.
“It’s okay,” I finally said after a couple of moments of silence. “It’s still me.”
I let down my guard and stopped fighting. Matt didn’t waste any time filling my head with his thoughts once I let him. Without worrying anymore I let him take possession of me. I wasn’t concerned with him taking over my body. I could easily overpower him. It took several moments, but by the time he realized what had happened he was already docile. He was safe as I let him absorb my energy so he could heal.
“Charlie, what are you doing?” Martin asked.
“It’s okay, I think I’m charging him like a battery.” I started to displace energy letting Matt absorb it. I had an unlimited supply, enough to share with a struggling weak spirit. It was like feeding a baby bird when it fell out of its nest. Or charging a phone when it was low on battery.
“Matt, you don’t have to fear us,” I said out loud while I felt Matt fighting back under my control. He hadn’t meant to possess me. “I didn’t hurt you, that was someone else. We need your help stopping the one who did this to you. He’s hurting others as well. Right now he is tormenting your friend Laura McDermott. She was killed a month ago and is still being terrorized by the same ass hat who did this to you. We need your help, Matt. We need to know who he is. Who did this to you?”
I could feel Matt’s struggle turn to remorse over the death of his friend and he lost interest in fighting back. Instead a calm sadness took over. He was ready to help us and without a single word showed me what happened.
I accepted the offer as a flood of his memories poured into my mind. Matt, when he was a child playing baseball, with his mother and father in the park, and then hanging with his friends. The scene changed. Matt was with Diana, they were happy. They were friends and then came together as lovers. At first everyone was happy, but after graduation their fighting increased. Diana went to college, Matt stayed in Dumont. One night there was an argument that stood out. He wanted her to come home, but she couldn’t. He didn’t think she loved him anymore. He was upset, said things he didn’t mean. He missed her so much, but all he could express was his frustration.
He went out with friends, drinking, trying to forget. He was with friends. He was safe. There was Stan, his friend since preschool. Billy his friend from before he could remember. Billy, his best friend. They were celebrating. Celebrating Matt being single. He was free to date other girls. A lie he told himself to quickly get over the heartache of loosing his first love.
“To hell with her,” Stan snarled from the back seat. “Hey Billy, now you might finally have a shot at Diana.”
“What are you talking about,” Matt asked his friend in the rear view mirror.
“I don’t know what he’s talking about Matty,” Billy said with apprehension towards Stan. “Bitch must have hit his head.”
“Are you interested in Diana, Billy?”
“No, man, Stan is full of shit.” Billy looked back and added, “Don’t be a dick Stan. Stop messing with our boy.”
Matt turned around to get a better look at Stan. He saw a small amount of fear that he said something he shouldn’t have. Stan was fully aware that he threw Billy under the bus.
“Billy, pull over,” Matt said. “I’m getting out.”
“Chill out. So I wouldn’t mind hooking up with Diana. That doesn’t mean anything. Most of us would do the same.”
“Did you try anything while we were going out?” Matt’s anger rose with each breath.
“Dude, no way,” Billy said in defense.
“Stan, did Billy ever try to get with Diana while I was dating her?”
“Why are you asking me, man?”
“Just answer the question.”
“I’m not getting in the middle of this.”
“Is that a yes?” Matt snapped. “That is so messed up,” Matt added when Stan wouldn’t answer. “How can you say you’re my friend, man?” He said to Billy.
“Come off it,” Billy shouted. “You’re not with her anymore, why do you care?”
“How could I not care?” Matt unbuckled his seat belt. “Just drop me off here. I’ll walk home.”
“Whatever,” Billy shot back and instantly the car unbuckled and the sound of screeching brakes filled the air.
Matt flew forward and hit the windshield head first. When the car came do a sliding stop Matt crumpled and reached for his head. From Matt’s point of view I could hear the ringing. The pain was so great that it numbed his entire head.
“You okay, Matt,” Stan asked from the back seat.
“No, I’m not okay,” Matt yelled. “That hurt like a bitch.”
“Sorry dude,” Billy smirked. “Guess you should have been wearing your seat belt.”
Matt tried punching Billy in the shoulder but his balance was off and landed his fist at Billy’s jaw.
The scene shifted into chaos. Billy popped his seat bel and attacked Matt the instant he was free. Billy wrapped his hands around Matt’s neck and then he began to squeeze. Stan yelled for Billy to stop, but Billy was enraged. He was strangling his best friend. Matt couldn’t breathe and Billy wouldn’t let him breathe. Billy was killing him. Matt tried to fight back but he was so caught off guard by the attack he couldn’t even defend himself.
Matt needed to breathe, but he couldn’t breath. Then I couldn’t breathe. I was being strangled. I was dying. I needed help, but Stan wouldn’t move a muscle to intervene. He watched in fascination while one friend was killing the other.
Matt wanted to live. He wanted to see Diana again, and more importantly he didn’t want to die. When Matt lost consciousness everything ended. There was a bright light and a warm sensation engulfed us. Matt tried rising to the light, but was pulled back into the world by Billy’s own hand. Matt’s next memory was being pulled into a cocoon made of buzzing blue energy. Now there was despair. Pain and punishment.
The bond broke and I was back at the barn. Matt was no longer inside my head. He was floating besides me. His eyes were closed and small translucent blue tears rolled down his ghostly face.
“It was Billy,” I said, informing my grandfather of what I had seen. “Billy killed Matt. Stan watched as Billy did it. He didn’t even try to stop him. He just let it happen.”
Just like the living, spirits could experience trauma. Matt had been through a whole year of it. He needed some time to collect his thoughts. The ride back to the Sunnyledge was extremely surreal. With all the questions that were zipping through my mind I didn’t know where to start.
“Is Billy the dark necromancer?” I asked my grandfather. I saw him kill Matt, in Matt’s own memories. He was the one to put Matt in the cocoon. To think Billy was a necromancer was insane. How could that even be possible?
I pulled out my phone and dialed Billy’s number. It went straight to voice mail so I tried calling Stan again. Again, the call went to voicemail.
As I walked into the Sunnyledge I was almost tackled by Madison who built up momentum on her way down the stairs. She almost knocked me over as she tried to embrace me. My grandmother soon followed, but greeted me with a gentle hug in comparison.
“I was worried sick about you,” my grandmother cried while she kissed me on the forehead.
“I just called like ten minutes ago.”
“You did?” my grandmother asked with surprise. She looked over at my sister who’s face appeared lightly flushed. “Maybe in my panic I forgot to relay that message,” she nervously laughed.
“Madison, I need to find Stan,” I said with importance.
“He called before you guys got back. He sounded pretty upset.”
“Where was he?”
“He said he had to visit a friend.”
“Was he talking about Billy?”
“I don’t know,” my sister admitted. “He’s never mentioned a name before.”
I told my sister and grandmother all about Matt’s death. How Billy killed his best friend and the way Stan just let it happen.
“Where do you think Stan is going?” Madison asked. “Could the friend he mentioned be Laura? He could be going to the cemetery to visit her grave.”
“Wait,” I whispered. “He’s not going to her grave. He’s going to the clearing. He knows she’s there. That means Stan knows all about her.”
“Stan is going to see Laura’s spirit?” Madison asked. “He wouldn’t even be able to talk to her.”
Stan knew Laura’s spirit was trapped there. That also meant she knew about Billy’s abilities. It’s why he’s so scarred to tell anybody about the murders. He was to scared to go to the police. He knows everything.
“He must feel guilty over Laura’s death,” my sister added. “I think, he might have loved her.”
I drove fast to the clearing and pulled the truck into the gravel lot. I parked the car and ventured out and into the woods. I followed the path over the hill and through a cluster of trees. A couple of minutes later I entered the small clearing in the forest.
I found Stan alone in the clearing, mumbling to himself. I was too far away to hear what he was saying. I thought I could see tears rolling down his cheeks. I walked into the clearing, but didn’t see Laura’s ghost. I focused my power, but she wasn’t there.
“Where is she?” I asked calmly.
Stan spun around so fast that he lost his balance. He tripped over his own feet, falling to one knee. He stood up as he wiped the dirt away from his jeans.
“Dude, you scarred me,” Stan said catching his breath. “What you doing out here, Charlie?”
“I know, Stan,” I simply said.
“What are you talking about?”
“I know what happened to Matt and I have a pretty good idea of what happened to Laura.”
“What are you talking about?” Stan asked nervously.
“Where is she? She was here the last time. Where did Billy take Laura?”
“Laura’s dead, man!” Stan said raising his voice.
“I know Laura is dead, Stan. Believe me, I know she’s dead. Now tell me, what happened to her. Where is Laura’s spirit?”
“How the hell do you know about that,” he yelled out.
“You were there when Billy strangled Matt,” I said with venom in my voice, “You were there and did nothing to stop Billy from killing him.”
“Did Billy tell you that,” Stan asked, “Because that’s a lie.” Sweat dripped off his forehead. He was getting worried. “Is that what Billy told you?”
“Billy didn’t tell me anything,” I calmly said to Stan.
“How do you know about Matt then?” Stan started to get agitated. He couldn’t stand still, he was pacing in place.
“I know you already know all about Billy’s secret,” I continued. “He showed you his abilities. He showed you what he could do. That’s why you’re so scarred of him. That’s why you won’t go to the police. Where is Laura’s spirit, Stan?”
“How do you know about this?”
“I’m a necromancer, Stan. I know about everything.”
“Then you can see her,” Stan suggested. “She’s here.”
“No, she is not,” I replied.
“Wait, what do you mean?” he asked with a serious tone. “Billy said she was here. I’ve been talking to her for weeks.”
“She was here, but not anymore,” I answered. “He must have moved her.”
Why didn’t Stan know she was gone? He was completely surprised. Billy wasn’t telling Stan everything. Billy must have taken Laura without telling him. Stan was just a manipulated pawn in Billy’s sick game.
“Did you know Billy killed Laura?” I asked, guessing at the details.
Stan nodded, tears rolling down his face.
“So, you let your dad take the fall for her murder, while Billy plays torturer with her soul?”
“Billy wasn’t hurting her,” Stan said in disbelief. “He was taking care of her.”
“Billy was torturing Laura every day since he killed her,” I barked. “Just like he did with Matt.”
“That’s not true, Charlie. They are happier now. Billy said so. He spends time with them. He takes care of them. They don’t have pain anymore.”
“Do you honestly believe they were better off dead or as spirits?” I snarled. “Do you think Billy was doing them a favor?” I waited for a response but Stan was silent. He couldn’t look me in the eye. I wondered how long he had been lying to himself.
I left Stan alone to stir in his own misery. There wasn’t much I could do to make him feel worse than he already did. This would weigh on his conscious for the rest of his life. I wondered if Stan would ever find peace after this.
There was only one other person I had to see before I confronted Billy. I returned home and called for Martin. Seconds later my grandfather floated down through the ceiling and into the foyer with Matt following closely behind.
Matt was already looking better. His spirit wasn’t whole, but it was slowly regenerating. The cracks were thinning and the peeling stopped.
“We have a problem,” I said as the two ghosts floated by my side. “Billy is the necromancer. I don’t know how that’s possible, but it’s him.” I tried to catch my breath.
“Are you sure?” Madison asked. “Just because he’s the killer doesn’t mean he’s also a necromancer. You know all thumbs are fingers, but not all fingers are thumbs.”
“I found Stan at the clearing trying to talk to Laura. He had no idea she wasn’t there. I think he would have gone back every chance he got to have a captive audience with her.”
“What do you mean she wasn’t there?”
“Her spirit wasn’t in the clearing anymore. Billy already moved her. Stan pretty much confirmed it. He thought Billy was taking care of them.”
There was a knock at the door. I turned to my grandmother and she shrugged. I waited for Madison to take a peak out the peephole. She turned back to me and said, “Charlie, I think you should take this.”
I went up to the door and looked out. The timing could not have been worse. I unlocked the door and pulled it open, revealing Diana slumped over against the wall. She was wearing a tight pair of jeans and a loose fitting sweater. She pushed off the wall and almost tackled me wrapping her arms around my shoulders. I could smell the stench of booze on her breath. If that was any indication of how drunk she was, then I guess I would say Diana was completely hammered.
“Diana, what are you doing here?” I asked in surprise as I embraced her and practically holding her up. “Looks like you’ve been drinking.”
Matt flew over to us like a jealous boyfriend, but stopped short when he realized there was nothing he could do. It wasn’t my intention to hurt his feelings, but I wasn’t sure how to handle their relationship just yet.
Diana slipped her lips over mine, feeling my tongue with sweet intensity. The taste of bitter vodka was overwhelming. I pushed her away, but not in revulsion. The timing could not be any worse. She was instantly insulted and slurred when she talked.
“Charlie, why didn’t you call me back?” Diana asked while she waved her finger in front of her face. She was trying to be seductive, but failed in her haze. A small string of drool hung from her chin, and her eyes were red.
“I’m mad at you,” she said slurring her speech. “I thought we had a good thing going. You were almost like a real boyfriend. We were almost there.” Her face grew sullen and her lips contorted into a frown. “Then you decide you’ve had enough of me. I’m not good enough for Charlie Kane. You know I thought this place was haunted and really freaked out being here, but I wanted to spend time with you.”
“I want to spend time with you too, but right now I think you might be really drunk.” I said informing Diana of something she already knew. I was practically holding her up. “Could we do this later? How about you sleep this off while I take care of something.” I gently laid sat her on the couch. Something she had said made me ask a question, “Did you say, boyfriend?”
She closed her eyes and fell into the cushions to her side. As soon as her head hit the soft surface she was out. “Aren’t you my boyfriend?” She mumbled. Then she uttered something I couldn’t understand, but sounded like, “Hershey ike you.” A moment later she was asleep.
“You think she drove here like that?” Madison asked.
“Not the time, Maddie,” I snapped. “Let her sleep and you can scold her when she wakes up.”
Matt drifted over to my side but remained quiet as he watched Diana sleep. When she snorted he smiled almost forgetting everything he had to endure at Billy’s hands. He was experiencing a sense of peace he hadn’t known since he was alive.
“What I wouldn’t trade to be with her,” Matt said.
“I was going to tell you about her,” I said truthfully. “Everything has happened so fast. I’m sorry you had to find out this way.”
“It’s alright, Charlie. I’m not mad,” Matt quietly said. “I’m glad she’s happy, I really am,” I could feel his happiness, but knew underneath there was a small amount of jealousy. “Seems you need to pay more attention to her.”
“As soon as we stop, Billy. I’ll be able to give her my complete and undivided attention. Until then she can sleep it off.”
“Charlie, be careful dealing with Billy,” Matt cautioned me. “He killed me because he wanted Diana. He’s not going to like you getting in his way. He won’t stop until he gets what he wants.” Matt didn’t take his eyes off Diana. “You see what he’s capable of? You’ve seen how he manipulates even his closest friends. What makes you think you can stop him?”
Failure was not an option, I thought to myself. The truth was, I had to stop Billy because no one else could. No one else knew how. And besides, there wasn’t anyone else to try.
“I don’t see anyone else stepping up to the plate,” I replied.
“He could be anywhere by now,” my grandfather said. “How do we find him?”
“We need to start somewhere,” I replied. “Matt, do you know where Billy lives? He took me there once, but I wouldn’t remember the way.”
Matt smiled, exited to be of help. “I’ll show you.”