Victor had found that the difference between cleansing and freeing a ghost’s spirit was enormous. Not only was it the most important thing to do, before beginning the whole process, it was the safest. This was something that had seemed to catch him on more than one occasion, to his utmost disgust and irritation. Unfortunately for Emily, he had not only failed to cleanse the area surrounding her aura, he had also botched her passing over. Something in the necromancy community that was not only unforgettable, it was also, if found out, unforgivable.
He found Emily wandering through the trail leading to the picnic area, just as Molly came into view. Molly had parked on the street outside of the park, much to Victor’s confusion, considering there were plenty of spots available inside the park. Now, all he had to do was decide whether he should tell Molly the truth, that he had messed up, or lie and hope that one day, someone would come upon Emily and help her.
“You came back,” a high-pitched, eager voice said to his left, causing him to flinch, and in that very same moment, forcing him to decide he had to do the right thing. Emily was fainter than he remembered her. The form of Emily was transparent and her facial features blurred, but her voice was the same.
“So?” Molly asked, pushing a low-hanging branch out of her way, shifting her body just enough to ensure that when she let go, it would not come back to smack him in the face. “Have you found anything?”
“Well, I just found out I messed up royally,” Victor admitted, setting off in the direction the crime had taken place.
“What? What do you mean, Victor? Messed up as in, ‘Oh, I forgot my sunglasses,’ or messed up as in, ‘I need to repair the damage and Emily is standing right here beside me.’”
“You know, sometimes I really think you might be psychic,” he teased her, laughing.
Molly’s hand grabbed his forearm, forcefully turning him to face her. The look she threw him spoke volumes. “I am not laughing, Victor, this is not okay.” Molly’s jaws clenched slightly under the pressure of remaining as calm as possible, given the circumstances.
“I know that, Mol.”
“Do you?” Her voice rose slightly; her fingers glowed warm on his arm through his shirt sleeve, forcing him to pull back slightly.
“I said I know!” Cursing to himself, Victor stormed off before she could utter another word. He did know one thing about Molly: she was not afraid to tell him in that sweet put-on voice of hers, how many times she’d had to save his butt, only to have that sweet mouth verbally attack him with no regard to his feelings. Right now, even though he grasped the fact that he deserved everything she had to say, it wasn’t what he needed.
“You know,” Molly called after him, “if this was the first time this had happened, I would give you a pat on the back and tell you that you tried your best and this kind of thing can happen. But this is not the first time.”
With every step he took away from her, Victor could feel Molly resisting the urge to smack him, bouncing him off the nearest tree.
Pacing back and forth, trying to gather her wits about her before following him across the tree line, Molly argued her case over in her own mind. He needs my help; he messed up, but he is still learning – slowly, but learning nonetheless, and I should give him a break. But he wasn’t trying hard enough; he was doing more harm than good. What would she tell Daniel, if he asked her how his son was handling the spirits that crossed his path?
“Damn it, Victor! Get back here!”
In some ways, Victor realized, it was a good thing Emily hadn’t yet crossed over; it would help to get some details about what had happened on the night of her murder. Victor would have to be careful, though, and remember Emily was only a teenager, and Molly was already fuming. Taking in everything nearby, he did notice how the police tape had been removed, with nothing except for the torn-off edges remaining, specifically in the vicinity of the four trees surrounding the corner where Emily had been discovered.
The ground was covered with pine needles, both fresh and dead, masking what would have been the killer’s footprints left behind on that rainy night, when the soil beneath his boots was soggy and waterlogged. Now, however, following a shift in the weather, and a high of 60 degrees, everything was dry and crisp. Not that Victor was complaining. The long months of rain, snow, and even hail, accompanied by gray skies was enough to make any sane person want to throw himself under the next passing bus.
“You’ve got to love the Seattle weather,” he said, his hands on the crown of his head as he walked back to Molly.
“Maybe we should contact Daniel.”
“No,” Victor barked, clearly agitated by her suggestion. He was exhausted from the nightmare-filled sleepless nights he had been having for the last four days, and the last thing he needed was his overbearing father tut-tutting his disappointment at his son’s inabilities.
“I said no.” His tone was even but stern. “What would you have me tell my father?”
“The truth.” Stepping forward into his personal space, Molly looked him over properly for the first time since arriving, noting the bags under his eyes, once he removed his sunglasses.
“He would love that.” Sarcasm laced with spite lined Victor’s words.
“Please tell me, this is not still about that damn box, is it? It’s been fifteen months.” Growing tired of his adolescent behavior in the matter, Molly asked, “Would you prefer for him to have not given you the box? Do you know what it means for a man like Daniel to give something so precious away? And you know very well that some people in our community spread rumors that he lost his mind for doing it. That he no has longer the abilities he once did.”
Victor knew that’s why they had suddenly moved away from Twisp. When the small town gossip turned toward their own home, his parents decided it was best to pick up sticks and try again someplace new. Victor hadn’t minded, because this had happened just after Victor had had a particularly bad experience in the school cafeteria, where he’d had to watch a man hanging from the ceiling rest his feet on whoever sat beneath his final resting place. Well, his ghost form.
It had given Victor nightmares for weeks, and when the ghost realized Victor could see him, things went from freaky to outright terrifying. The ghost would talk to him, follow him, and jeer at him. Victor never did know that his father had made a midnight visit to the school and dealt with that ghost.
“We both know that’s bullshit,” Victor said, “that my father lost his powers.”
Molly disagreed. “That man can raise a dead bird turned to bone, and that thing would sit proud on his shoulder if he told it to, singing to its heart’s content. Whether it had a head or not!” The image of Sekhet came into her mind, making her tremble. She had been thinking of going to Daniel for help but decided she could handle it herself if Sehket came back to demand her due. Brushing that thought aside, she asked, “Do you realize how many others would have loved for such a gift to have been handed down to them?”
“All the time,” Victor said sarcastically.
Some in the supernatural world called Daniel a Spirit Guide, which made Daniel laugh, because spirit guides live and grow into a higher evolvement, as do the very souls trapped between realms themselves. He always told Victor how blind those were who didn’t know their world.
“Do you know what necromancers are capable of, Victor, and why we are feared?” He had asked this on a rainy Sunday morning as they sat in the so-called sunroom off the side of the house they had purchased in Seattle following their swift move from Twisp. “They fear us because we can control the dead.”
Moving from a town with 938 people – well, living people – had seemed like a good idea. If Victor added the number of ghosts that had been floating around since the town had been settled in 1897, there would have unquestionably been more for the local gossips to chin-wag about over their morning coffee and scones.
Merging their small-town lives into a city with more than 630,000 people, which Victor
knew had increased somewhat over the last ten years, had been fascinating. Victor’s father had taken it in stride, while his mother had, to his surprise, come out of her shell. No longer the quiet-spoken lady on the street who would allow a teenage boy to push his way past her without saying a word, Victor’s mother had transformed and found her voice and confidence. Not in a negative way, but in a way that told the world she was no longer afraid to show who she was. Of course, not publicly – after all, many still favored burning witches at the stake. In place of ignoring invitations to elder meetings, now, she went to spell-casting classes to help new up-and-coming witches.
“But you were all so happy in Twisp,” Molly said, still hurting at how abandoned she had felt.
“Happy? I would have preferred his help when I was getting the shit kicked out of me,” Victor said, “because I was the creepy kid who talked to himself and ran away from shadows. It was his job as my father, as the one who passed this ’gift’ down to me, to show me, teach me. So yes – to hell with his box!”
Molly pulled out her cell phone, holding it away from him, dialing as fast as she could before he could stop her
“Please don’t do that!” His hand came around, grabbing for her mobile before the third ring sounded down the line. “I can do this! Damn it, Molly, you don’t understand this world I have found myself in.
“Fine, but if this doesn’t work, we call him.” Stopping short, Molly muttered a curse as her phone rang, displaying a photo of a shaman in place of an actual photograph of Daniel himself. It had been an ongoing joke between them, and she knew the picture that showed on his cell phone when her name came flashing was one of a greenish, wart-nosed witch laughing at the moon. “Daniel?” Eyeing Victor in apology, Molly walked a little ways away.
On her return from talking to his father, Molly said, “Don’t worry, it’s okay,” and suggested that maybe it would be better if she kept a lookout while Victor worked.
Agreeing, Victor set about righting his wrong.
“I know you’re here.” Victor’s voice was calm and gentle as he tried to coax the teen out of her hiding place. He could sense her.
Remembering his father’s words, “They fear us because we can control the dead,” Victor shivered. Shaking away memories, he turned his attention to Emily, who was now making her way toward him.
“Are you ready to leave, Emily?” Victor asked as he lowered himself to her level.
“I think so. It is scary here at night, and there is someone who chases me.” Emily looked as though she was about to cry, which made Victor grow angry, his mind turning toward the young woman he had seen sitting on the bench when he first entered the park.
“Do you have any questions for me before we begin?” Victor waited while Emily contemplated what she may or may not want to know.
“Do my parents know I am here?” Her eyes were clouded with something that even he couldn’t describe. Empty, yet filled with something. Only… what? That was the question.
Remembering to use his teen-friendly voice, Victor said, “I think they know you’re going to be someplace where you will be happy. Emily, do you recall anything from when you were brought here to the park?”
Rubbing what could have been a nose, Emily replied, “No.”
“Okay, then there is no point in your hanging around here any longer.” He had meant it in a light-hearted manner, but his voice had wavered. He wanted to find out details, accounts, something that could assist him in his investigation. But he was not heartless enough to distress an already confused ghost with horrid descriptions of why she was no longer in the land of the living. No, he would find another way.
“Come with me, sweetie.” Taking her by the hand, Victor led her toward the back corner of the circle of trees, where he began the whole process once again. Hierarchy was very important in this world, and as much as Victor wanted desperately to make sure Daniel would have no opportunity to voice his opinion, there was very little Victor could do about it, if Molly thought he was in over his head.
This time, he was determined not to fail.
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