White Witch, Black Curse
White Witch, Black Curse
Жанр: Эзотерика / оккультизм
Год издания: 2018
“Find something?” she said, amusement in her dark eyes.
Not “Are you still here?” or “I thought you left,” but “Find something?” And her amusement wasn’t at my expense, but Edden’s, who was now behind her.
I smiled, telling her I had indeed found something. “Glenn wasn’t beaten up by Mr. Tilson,” I said smugly.
“Rachel…,” Edden started, and I triumphantly held up the yearbook and came forward.
“Have you gotten your fingerprints back yet?” I asked.
“No. It’s going to be almost a week—”
“Be sure to check them against known Inderland criminal offenders,” I said, shoving the book at him, but Ivy took it. “You won’t find them matching up to Mr. Tilson’s record, and that’s assuming he has one. I think the Tilsons are dead, and whoever is living here took their names along with their lives.”
Thanks, Alex!” I shouted, waving to the FIB officer as he drove down the shadowy, snow-quiet street to leave me standing on the sidewalk outside our church. Ivy was already halfway up the walk, anxious to be on her own turf where she had her ironclad ways of coping. She’d been quiet all the way home, and I didn’t think it was from us needing a ride because I was too chicken to open my car door and see if I exploded.
Alex’s taillights flashed as he rolled through a stop sign at the end of the road, and I turned away. The church that Ivy, Jenks, and I lived in was lit up and serene, the colors bleeding out of the stained-glass windows and onto the untouched snow in a fabulous swirl. I studied the roofline to try to spot Bis, our resident gargoyle, but there was nothing between the white puffs of my breath. The church was pretty with its Christmas and solstice decorations of live garlands and cheerful bows, and I smiled, glad to live in such a unique place.
This last fall, Jenks had finally fixed the spotlights angling onto the steeple, and it added to the beauty. The building hadn’t been used as a church for years, but it was sanctified-—again. Ivy had originally chosen the church to operate our runner firm from to tick off her undead mother, and we’d never moved to more professional digs when the opportunity had arisen. I felt safe here. So did Ivy. And Jenks needed the garden out back to feed his almost four dozen kids.
“Hurry up, Rache,” Jenks complained from under my hat. “I’ve got icicles hanging.”
Smirking, I followed Ivy up the walk to the worn front steps. Jenks had been silent on the ride home, too, and I’d have almost been willing to find out what happened on the ninth day of Christmas just so I wouldn’t have had to keep the conversation going with Alex all by myself. I couldn’t tell if my roommates, Ivy especially, had been thinking or just mad.
Maybe she thought I’d shown her up by discovering that the Tilsons were impostors before she had. Or maybe she was upset that I wanted her to go out to Kisten’s boat. She’d loved him, too. Loved him more deeply than me, and longer. I’d have thought she’d be eager for the chance to find his killer and the vampire who had tried to turn me into a blood toy.
Ivy’s pace ground to a stop on the salted steps, and my head came up when a soft curse slipped from her. Halting, I sent my gaze to follow hers to our business sign, over the door. “Damn it all to the Turn and back,” I whispered, seeing the spray-painted Black Wit and a half-scripted c trailing down the brass plaque to drip onto the twin oak doors.
“What is it?” Jenks shrilled, unable to see and tugging on my hair.
“Someone redecorated the sign,” Ivy said blandly, but I could tell she was mad. “We need to start leaving some lights on,” she muttered, yanking open the door and going inside.
“Lights?” I exclaimed. “The place is already lit up like a…a church!”
Ivy was inside, and I stood there with my hands on my hips, getting more and more pissed. It was an attack on me, and I felt it to my core after the hint of FIB animosity at the crime site. Son of a bitch.
“Bis!” I shouted as I looked up and wondered where the little guy was. “You out here?”
“Rache,” Jenks said as he tugged on my hair. “I gotta check on Matalina and my kids.”
“Sorry,” I muttered. Pulling my coat tight about me, I passed into the church and yanked the door shut. Angry, I let the locking bar thump down, though technically we were open until midnight. There was a soft lifting of my hat, and Jenks darted off into the sanctuary. I slowly took my hat off and hung it on the hook, my mood easing at the high-pitched chorus of hello-o-os from his kids. It had taken me four hours to scrape the paint from the brass the last time. Where in hell was Bis? I hoped he was okay. The “artists” had clearly been interrupted.
Maybe I should spell the sign, I thought, but I didn’t think there was a charm to make metal impervious to paint. I could put a black spell on it to give whoever touched it acne, but that would be illegal. And despite what the graffiti said, I was a white witch, damn it.
The warmth of the church soaked into me as I hung my coat on a peg. Past the dark shadow of the windowless foyer was my desk, at the back of the sanctuary where the altar used to be, the oak rolltop currently covered with plants and serving as a winter home for Jenks and his family. It was safer than hibernating in the stump in the backyard, and since I didn’t ever use my desk, it was only a matter of enduring the indignity of finding pixy girls playing in my makeup or using the hair in my brush to fashion hammocks.
Across from my desk was an informal grouping of furniture around a low coffee table. There was a TV and a stereo, but it was more of a place to interview clients than a real living room. Our undead patrons had to come around to the back and the unsanctified part of the church and our more private living room. That’s where Ivy’s Christmas tree was, with one present still under it. After ruining David’s coat trying to tag Tom, I’d had to get him a new one. He was in the Bahamas right now, at an insurance seminar with the ladies.
One front corner of the church held Ivy’s baby grand piano—out of sight from where I now stood—and across from that, a mat where I’d taken to exercising when Ivy was out. Ivy went to the gym to keep her figure. At least that’s where she said she was going when she left anxious and came home rested, relaxed, and satiated. In the middle of it all was Kisten’s battered pool table, rescued from the curb whereas Kisten himself hadn’t been.
My mood slowly shifted from anger to melancholy as I took off my boots and left them under my coat. A passel of Jenks’s kids were in the open rafters singing carols, and it was hard to stay upset with their ethereal three-part harmony mixing with the smell of brewing coffee.
Coffee, I thought as I flopped onto the couch and pointed the remote at the stereo. Crystal Method filled the air, fast and aggressive, and I tossed the remote to the table and put my feet up, out of the draft. Coffee would make everything better, but I probably had at least five minutes until it was done. After that close ride in the cop car, Ivy needed some space.
Jenks dropped down onto the elaborate centerpiece Ivy’s dad had brought over one night. The thing was all glitter and gold, but Jenks went well with it, standing on the painted sticks that looped in and around. He had one of his kids with him; the little pixy boy had his wings glued shut again, tear tracks giving away his misery.
“Don’t let it get to you, Rache,” Jenks said as he sifted dust from himself and wedged it in the fold his son’s wings made. “I’ll help you clean the paint off tomorrow.”
“I can do it,” I muttered, not relishing the idea that whoever put it up there would probably do a drive-by to see me busting my ass on a ladder. Jenks helping me was a nice thought, but no way would it be warm enough.
“I don’t get it,” I complained, then did a double take at the tiny cut-out snowflakes now decorating the windows. That’s why the glue. They were the size of my pinkie nail, and were the sweetest things I’d ever seen. “No one cares about the good stuff I do,” I said as Jenks’s son squirmed under his dad’s attention. “So what if I had to summon a demon if it all ended well? I mean, you tell me Cincinnati isn’t better without Piscary. Rynn Cormel is a way better crime boss than he was. Ivy likes him, too.”
“You’re right,” the pixy said as he gently pulled his son’s wings apart. Behind him, Rex, Jenks’s cat, peeked in from the dark foyer, pulled from the belfry by the sound of her four-inch master’s voice. Just last week, Jenks had installed a cat door in the belfry stairway, tired of asking one of us to open the door for his cat. The beast loved the belfry with its high windows. It made easy access for Bis, too. Not that the cat-size gargoyle came in much.
“And Trent,” I said, watching Rex since Jenks was preoccupied with a flightless child. “Beloved city son and idiot billionaire goes and gets caught in the ever-after. Who has to bust her butt and make a deal with demons to get him back?”
“The one who got him there?” Jenks said, and my eyes narrowed. “Hey, kitty, kitty. How’s my sweetest fluff ball?” he crooned, which I thought risky, but hey, it was his cat.
“It was Trent’s idea,” I said, foot bobbing. “And now it’s my tail in the ever-after paying for his rescue. Do I even get one thank-you? No, I get trash painted on my front door.”
“You got your life back,” Jenks said, “and an end to Al trying to kill you. Got an understanding in the ever-after that any demon messing with you is messing with Al. You got Trent’s silence as to what you are. He could have brought you down right there. It wouldn’t be graffiti on your door but a burning stake in the front yard, with you tied to it.”
I froze, shocked. What I am? Trent kept silent as to what I am? I should be thankful he didn’t tell anyone? If he told anyone what I was, he’d have to explain how I got that way, which would put him on the stake next to me.
But Jenks was smiling at his son, oblivious. “There you go, Jerrimatt,” he said fondly as he gave the youngster a boost into the air where he hung, shedding bright sparkles to pool on the table. “And if glue should somehow end up in Jack’s mittens, I won’t have any idea who did it.”
The small pixy’s wings fanned into motion and a cloud of silver dust enveloped both of them. “Thanks, Papa,” Jerrimatt said, and his tear-wet eyes took on a familiar glint of deviltry.
Jenks watched his son fly away with a fond look. Rex watched, too, tail twitching. Turning back to me, Jenks saw my sour mood. Trent kept silent as to what I am, eh?
“I mean,” the pixy backpedaled, “what Trent’s dad did to you.”
Mollified, I took my feet from the table and put them on the floor. “Yeah, whatever,” I muttered as I rubbed my wrist and the demon mark there. I had another on the bottom of my foot, since Al hadn’t traded it back for his summoning name yet, enjoying my owing him two marks. I lived with the worry that I’d be pulled into someone’s demon circle some night, but no one had summoned Al and gotten me instead—yet.
The demon marks were hard to explain, and more people than I liked knew what they were. It was the victors who wrote the history books, and I wasn’t winning. But at least I wasn’t living in the ever-after, playing blow-up doll to a demon. No, I was just playing his student.
Leaning my head back and looking at the ceiling, I shouted, “Ivy? That coffee done?”
Rex skittered under the pool table at my voice, and at Ivy’s positive call, I clicked off the music and lurched to my feet. Jenks went to help Matalina break up a fight about glitter, and I paced down the long hall that bisected the back end of the church. I passed the his-and-her bathrooms that had been converted into Ivy’s opulent bathroom and my more Spartan facilities that also boasted the washer and dryer. Our separate bedrooms were next, my best guess putting them originally as clergy offices. Though the dark hallway didn’t change, the feeling of the air did as I entered the unsanctified back end of the church, added on later. This was where the kitchen and private living room were, and if it had been sanctified, I would have slept here.
Put simply, I loved my kitchen. Ivy had remodeled it before I had moved in, and it was the best room in the place. A blue-curtained window over the sink looked out on the small witch’s garden. Beyond that was the graveyard. That had bothered me at first, but after mowing the site for a year, I had a fondness for the weathered stones and forgotten names.
Inside, it was all gleaming stainless steel and bright fluorescent light. There were two stoves—one gas, one electric—so I didn’t have to do my spells and cook on the same surface. The counter space was expansive, and I used it all when I spelled, which was often, since the charms I used were expensive unless I made them myself. Then they were dirt cheap. Literally.
In the center was an island counter with a circle etched into the linoleum around it. I used to keep my spell books in the open rack under it until Al had burned one in a fit of pique. Now they were in the belfry. The counter made for a secure place to spell, unsanctified or not.
Up against the interior wall was a heavy antique farm table. Ivy was sitting at the back corner of it, near the archway to the hall, with her computer, printer, and stacks of carefully filed papers. When we’d moved in, I had the use of one end of it. Now I was lucky if I got a corner to eat on. So of course I’d taken over the rest of the kitchen.