Category Archives: 11.07

Malfeasance 11.7

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“Symbols,” Alexis said.  Buying time to think.

“Symbols you went out of your way to hide,” he said.  “You really should sweep more, if you’re strategically redecorating.  There’s very blocky spaces on the floor where dust hasn’t settled, which means books or boxes were moved very recently.  It’s really obvious if you look at it from the right angle, where the sun comes in through the window and reflects off the floor.”

“So you looked and you saw the markings on the floor.”

“Yeah,” he said.  “It’s recent, probably, since they weren’t around when I was here for my grandmother’s death.”

He let that hang in the air, as if he was trying to make a point.  It’s your turn to talk, not mine.

It was obvious enough what he wanted her to talk about.

Alexis leaned over to look into the living room, where Kathryn, Callan and Roxanne were watching TV.

“Hmm,” Peter said.  “It’s a secret?  Something you don’t want them to hear about?”

Alexis didn’t answer the question.  Couldn’t.  “I’m wondering why you didn’t tell them before you came to me.”

He shrugged.

Putting the ball right back in her court.

I could have broken a window, but I didn’t like just how small a number of reflective surfaces we had nearby.  What happened when I effectively removed all the workable area inside Hillsglade House?  I’d effectively lock myself out.

I wasn’t sure Rose would go to the effort of buying mirrors just to give me some room, not when she wasn’t all that keen on me.

“It’s complicated,” Alexis said.

“I’m not surprised,” he replied.  “Hard to imagine there’s a simple explanation.”

“At least one of the people who could break in and come after us believes in things like ghosts and goblins,” Alexis said.  “We thought we could use this stuff to protect ourselves.”

“Oh,” Peter said, nodding, “That makes a lot of sense.”

“I think I’m going to go check on the others,” Alexis said.

“Wait, wait, hold up,” Peter replied.  “I’m still a little confused.  You’re willing to draw stuff around the house, and sure, I get where that’s sort of an idea, maybe, if you’re dealing with someone crazy.

“We’re dealing with a few people who could be called crazy,” Alexis said.

“Great, great,” Peter said.  He smiled.  “So why not, I dunno, barricade the doors and windows?  Or call the police?”

“Police are in on it,” Alexis said.

“RCMP, then,” Peter said, without missing a beat.  I couldn’t tell if he had the answer ready before she’d asked, or if he was just quick.  I wasn’t sure which was more impressive.

He’s as smart as Paige, I thought.  He just walked a very different path.

“RCMP wouldn’t work.”

Why not?

“Because,” Alexis said, pausing for a second to decide on an answer.

“Because what?” Peter cut in.

“Because-”

“If you have to think of the answer, you’re not being honest,” he said.

I leaned closer to Alexis’ ear, a foot away from the little picture frame I was standing within.  “Grandmother had her thumb in-”

“You’re hesitating,” Peter said.

“And you’re being an asshole,” she retorted.

“-something illegal,” I finished.

“Whatever,” he said.  “I’ll go tell Ellie, and we’ll figure out which would fuck you up more: calling our parents in or calling the RCMP ourselves.”

“Do that, and you’re just going to be fucking with everyone here,” she said.

“I’m not really seeing the problem with that.”

“Yourself included,” she added.

“Ah.  Is that if I mention the strangeness here to family or if I call the RCMP?”

“Both.”

“Okay,” he said.  “So the logical conclusion is that grandmother was involved in some sketchy stuff.  Which… kind of makes sense, given the type of people that’ve owned the house or married into the family.”

“That’s the gist of it.”

“Well now I’m more curious.  It couldn’t be drugs.  Prostitution doesn’t make sense.  Counterfeiting?  No, counterfeiting wouldn’t get the attention of the sort of crazy people you’re talking about.  Wouldn’t make this many enemies.  Stop me if I’m getting too close.”

“Tantamount to giving you the answer,” Alexis said.

“Well, yeah.  So this level of crazy has to be rooted in something.  Something with history, even.  Ideology.  Nothing militant, probably not racist or cultural, it’s a white bread small town here.  Not political, I don’t think, maybe religionReligion gets people pissed off and acting funny, but religion wouldn’t piss off the RCMP unless it was scary religion.  Something extremist or bordering on a cult.  But what’s a cult without cultists?”

“If you want to talk to yourself, can I leave you here while I go have a smoke?” she asked.

“You’ve got me curious now,” he said.  “I’m not going to be able to stop thinking about this.”

“Be curious, then.”

Super curious, as a matter of fact,” he said.  “All put together, though?  Not sure I’m buying it.  It’s a little over the top.”

“Wait until dark,” I murmured.

I saw Peter’s head turn.  “I could swear I heard something there, and it wasn’t the T.V.”

“Maybe the craziness you’re talking about is infectious,” Alexis said.  “You want proof we’re for real about all this?”

“Yeah,” Peter said.

“Then sit tight.  Spend the night here.  Then decide.”

“Giving you a chance to pull something.”

Ty walked by, carrying a piece of plywood and a hammer.

Alexis sighed.  “I’m starting to see where Rose got to be how she is.  I need a damn smoke.”

“Trying to run from me again?” he asked.

“No,” she said.  “I’m not going anywhere, only taking a break.  You hold onto that thought, or maybe even take a fucking second to think that you don’t lose anything if you wait and see.  You might even get something out of it, find some way to leverage it, I dunno.”

“Waiting was always part of the plan,” Peter said, shrugging.  “You sound annoyed.”

“I am annoyed, and tired.  I’ve barely slept and now I’ve got this garbage to deal with.”

“Aw.  Poor girl,” he said.

“Okay,” she said.  “That’s it for this conversation.  Gonna go have my smoke.  You go do whatever it is you do.”

“I’ll come with,” he said.  “I could do with a smoke too.  Can I mooch one cigarette off you?”

“Um, no, and no,” she said.  “You guys are going to get me chain smoking again, just when I was stopping.  Fuck.  This is a mess.”

“Yeah, keep pretending you have it bad,” Peter said, his voice thick with sarcasm.  “It’s kind of hard to muster up any sympathy for you.”

“Don’t presume to know who I am,” she said.

“I don’t.  I know about us though, about the family.  You think it’s bad dealing with me?  I’ve had to spend my whole life dealing with a dozen people who’re just about as bad as me.  And most of them?  They got a better end of the bargain than Ellie and me.  I was never going to get the property.  But I still had to wade through all the shit and crap that came with the fight for the inheritance.  My sister wasn’t much better off.  She never had much of a chance either.  Most of us thought Ivy had a better shot than Ellie.”

“You saying my name?” Ellie called from the next room.

“Yes, I’m calling you a miserable loser!  Now fuck off!” he shouted back.

“Fuck you!” she called back.

Peter smirked.

Standard sibling interaction for the two, apparently.

“The gist of your argument, then, is you’re using crazy to deal with crazy because shit is crazy and my grandmother was into crazy illegal stuff,” Peter said.  “And I’m supposed to just hang around and wait to see how crazy it really is, for proof?  Are you seeing the pattern here?”

“I see it, I don’t care.  You can do what you want,” Alexis said.  “I’m going to have a smoke, alone.”

She stalked off, thoroughly agitated.  Evan took off from her shoulder and joined Ty, who summarily headed upstairs.

Peter remained where he was.

I, too, stayed.

“So?” Ellie asked.

Peter craned his head to one side, checking down the length of the hall, to see if anyone was at at the bend of the stairs.  “One second.”

He took a second, walking part of the way upstairs, returned, then headed around to the back of the house.

“Well?” Ellie asked, as he came back.

“Cigarette girl is legit scared,” Peter commented.  “For her life.”

“You think?”

“Yeah, think so.  She was just about ready to swing a punch at me, on nerves alone.  She’s got a good poker face, too.  I don’t think Rose was fucking with us.  Or she was including a whole lot of truth with the occasional lie.”

“You mean Rose isn’t crazy?” Roxanne asked.  A part of me felt like Roxanne was playing up her role as the ‘child’.  The baby of Uncle Paul’s family, clinging to her position.  She was starting to approach the point where she couldn’t trade on ‘cute’ alone.  I wasn’t sure where she’d go later, from a strategy perspective.

“Not ruling anything out when it comes to Rose,” Peter said, taking it in stride.  “But a lot of stuff doesn’t add up here.”

“I had that feeling, talking to Molly,” Callan said.

“Hey, that reminds me,” Peter said, “when you talked to her, did your sister ever act guilty?  Ashamed?”

“I don’t like what you’re implying.”

“No, fuck that, Cal,” Peter said.  “This is important, and I’m not implying jack shit.  Did she seem guilty?  Like she was up to something or grandmother roped her into something sketchy?”

“Nah, she didn’t seem guilty,” Callan said, reluctantly.  “Mostly scared.  Like these guys are.”

“That’s a clue,” Peter said.  He stretched, yawning, and checked again to see if there were any eavesdroppers, “They’re probably telling the truth about something coming up tonight.  We should have a plan.”

“Whatever you’re thinking, don’t rope us into it,” Kathryn said.

“You know you have to get on board.  We need the numbers advantage, or we won’t manage anything,” Peter said.

“I started my own business, I run a restaurant, and I’m a mom.  I think you’d be shocked at just how much I can manage on my own,” she said.

Peter raised his hands in surrender.

“This entire thing reeks of bullshit,” Callan said.  “You reek of bullshit, too, Pete.  I’m going to do the reasonable thing, sit back, and assume the simplest reasonable explanation is true.  Peter’s wrong, the locals are fucking with the Thorburns, just like they’ve been doing to my family since I was born.  Same pressure and all the other stuff that affected Molly like it did also got to Rose, who’s always been a loner, and that’s why she’s freaking out.”

“Okay, yeah, that’s wrong,” Peter said.  “But whatever.  You’re out, then.  Christoff’s out by association?”

“Yeah, I guess,” was Christoff’s response.

“The Walkers have walked.  Kat?”

Kathryn, Kathy if you’re somehow unable to pronounce my full name,” Kathryn said.”

Kitty, then.  are you on board?”

“You haven’t said what we’d be on board with.”

“Let’s say they’re telling the truth.  Something happens tonight.  We could take advantage, snoop while they’re distracted…”

“We can snoop now,” Ellie said.  “Maybe we get caught, but so what?  What’s the worst they could do to us?”

“The other option is that we can use Rose’s friends as body shields,” Peter said, ignoring his sister.  “Which is an idea we should be considering anyway, if it gets that bad.  You don’t have to outrun the bear.  You have to kneecap the guy who’s outrunning you.”

“Just out of curiosity,” Callan said, “Why are you implying we’d back each other?  Not counting my little bro, I despise you fucks.  Why can’t I throw you to the wolves?  I’d enjoy that.”

“Bear, not wolves,” Peter said.

“Whatever.”

“And the reason we’re not fucking with each other is because if they win,” Peter said, his voice low, pausing to look over his shoulder, “Rose wins.  And fuck Rose, am I right?  If we win, on the other hand, the house changes hands.  First to Kitty-”

“Fuck you,” Kathryn said.  “That document said it goes to Ellie after me, and I know you’re backing your sister.  You’ll have a knife in my back the second I get the property.  You’re on your own, you greasy little shitstain.”

Peter sighed.  “Ellie?”

“Sure.  I’ll slum it and work with you, how’s that?” Ellie asked.

You, slumming it by working with me?  You’ve been to fucking jail.”

“That actually sounds pretty accurate,” Callan said.  “Her slumming it.  Don’t think too highly of yourself, Pete.”

“You’re just stirring up shit,” Peter said.  “Whatever.  Ellie and me, then.  I guess it’s every family for themselves?”

“Nah, I’m with you guys,” Roxanne said.  “Got to be better than TV with only a hundred channels.”

“Not on my watch,” Kathryn said.

“You’re not my mom,” Roxanne said.

“I’m your de-facto mom, until the others get back.”

Roxanne smirked, a fake smile as cutting as any scowl or glare could be.  “Can I strangle myself with my de-facto umbilical cord, then?  I’m doing what I want to do, and I want to do this.  Remember the Christmas before last, when I didn’t get the phone?”

“Who could forget?”

“Remember what I did?  How I eventually got the phone?” Roxanne asked.  “And after?”

“Specifically?  No.  I remember it all as one prolonged, high pitched sound,” Kathryn said.

“Exactly,” Roxanne said.  She sounded positively gleeful.  “You really think you can beat me when daddy and mom couldn’t?”

“I think if you make a peep and sound the slightest bit like you sounded then, I’ll smack you,” Kathryn warned.

“I’ll call that bluff,” Roxane said.  “Hit me, hard as you can.  I’ll hurt you worse.  You have no idea how good I am at getting people in trouble.”

Kathryn scowled.  I saw her clench her fist.

“Kitty,” Peter said.  “I’m offering to take her off your hands, when the time is right.  Stop arguing by reflex, and take three seconds to consider the blessing I’m bestowing on you.”

There was a brief pause.

Kathryn frowned.  “You forfeit all remote privileges, Roxie.  You sit there, you shut up, you sit still, and you don’t fuss while Callan, Christoff, and I watch what we want to watch.  I won’t get in your way when Peter needs you.”

Roxanne squirmed.  “Ugghh.”

“Take the deal or leave it.”

Alright,” Roxanne said.  She looked at Peter, “If this isn’t any good, I’m taking it out on you.”

“We’ll manage something good,” he promised.

Peter, Ellie, and Roxanne.

The three most problematic cousins, banding together.  I let my head tilt forward, forehead hitting the glass.

“What was that?” Peter asked.  “That didn’t come from upstairs.”

“I heard it too,” Ellie said.  “Is it that bird?”

“Didn’t see a bird,” Peter said.  “And I’m pretty sure the bird is upstairs.”

I could see Peter looking around, triple checking this time for eavesdroppers.  “Let’s call this discussion quits for now.  We’ve got about, huh, when does the sun set, this time of year?”

“Around five,” Callan said, sounding exasperated, his attention now on the television.  Christoff had the remote.

“Then we’ve got just over five hours until it’s dark.  Let’s sit back, observe, and see what opportunities arise.”

“Whatever,” Ellie said.

“I’m gonna walk around the grounds,” Peter said.  “See what’s up.”

“And pester cigarette girl?” Ellie asked.

She’d overheard more than she’d let on.

“And pester cigarette girl,” Peter said.  “Keep the pressure on, see what cracks.”

Ellie shrugged.

I sat and watched a bit longer, as Peter got his boots and jacket on and stepped out the front door.  The others settled in to watch the television.  Only Ellie seemed restless.

Right.  Safe enough to move on.

I popped upstairs.

There was, going by the windows and picture frames that were still intact, no way into the library except to leap to the point where the full-length mirror was.

What were the odds the circle had been fixed and that I’d be trapping myself by leaping in?

No, I’d tested my luck and found it wanting.

I headed downstairs, checking on the other family members, and then collected the document with all the terms and conditions of the custodianship and inheritance.

I sat down opposite the library doors, and I set to reading.  I wasn’t just going over the legal terms, but the notes in the margins.  Three different handwriting styles.  I could assume one was my dad, or Rose’s dad, one was Uncle Paul, and one was one of my aunts.  Very possibly Aunt Irene trying to keep her eye on things.

About five pages in, I realized this wasn’t the first draft.  One or two notes in the margins were a part of something bigger that wasn’t present.  Copied over or reworded from a previous draft.

This was the product of several examinations of the document, the family poring over every page as a group, picking apart the word choice, turning their minds to how they might take advantage.  They’d debated it, brainstormed, and collaborated.  Then they’d gone to the beginning and done it all over again, with a fresh set of eyes, maybe different people reading it.

Reading it thoroughly, front to pack, notes included, I could imagine what a chore that had been.

It would have been heartwarming that they’d made the effort as a collective, if it weren’t for the fact that they were doing it to screw a fellow family member over.

I saw a shadow move across the hallway.  It came from the staircase, and I didn’t have a vantage point to see.

I headed upstairs, bringing the paperwork with me, thumb as a placeholder.

I caught a glimpse of Ellie on the staircase.  Heading further up.

The ‘fourth floor’ was only one room.  The ‘tower’ with the Barber dwelling in a circle.

Tense, I headed down to the ground floor, looking for some window I could use to communicate with Alexis.

Nothing.  No window I could peer through gave me a view of Alexis.  There was only Peter, walking as far away from the house as he could get without walking on a slope, treading a circle around the property.

I headed back up, straight to the third floor.  There was the mirror in the hidden library, but there were so many ways that could go wrong.  What was to say Rose hadn’t set a trap around it?

I’d break a window.

I was in the process of drawing the Hyena when Ellie reappeared.

Too fast a reappearance.  Either the door was locked, or there was some other deterrent in play.

Fuck me.  It was too dangerous to have someone wandering around.

She moved down the length of the hallway, passing me, checking every room.  Satisfied that she was unobserved, she moved quickly through each room.

As she got closer to me again, operating in a room opposite a picture frame, I was able to watch her work.  She opened the topmost drawers of a dresser, lifting up socks, bras and underwear in a variety of muted colors – blacks, beiges, whites and grays.  Tiff’s or Alexis’, I imagined, since Rose was making do with whatever she could use of Grandmother’s stuff.  Ellie retrieved a sealable freezer bag filled with jewelry from one back corner.  It disappeared into her backpack.

She turned her attention to the top of the dresser – pill bottles were checked.  Two bottles disappeared.  She opened little boxes and kits on top of the dresser, finding more jewelry, bracelets she held up to the light, before stuffing them into a sock and slipping the sock in her bag.  The now-empty box went back onto the top of the dresser.

Another box was opened, flatter, once a shiny black, now worn in places.

I recognized the old fashioned tattoo machine that Ellie held up.  One of the ones, if I remembered right, that Alexis had considered making into her implement.  As far as I knew, she hadn’t gone ahead with it, but it was something she put a lot of sentimental value into.  One had been a birthday present from me to Alexis, a thank-you for the work she’d done on my arms.  Others had been birthday presents she’d given to herself, bought at a time when she’d had to scrimp and save for weeks to get a few hundreds of dollars together to make the purchase possible.

Ellie slipped it into her bag.  The box went back where it had been.

Two more boxes checked, nothing taken.  She put everything that remained into the position they had been before she’d raided it.  More or less.

She stepped out into the hallway, then paused.

Listening.

I reached up, and I knocked on the picture frame.

I could see her startle.  I could feel the fear that simple action provoked.

Good.

I knocked again.

She spun around, looking to the end of the hallway.

Somehow, she managed to convince herself it was nothing.  She disappeared into the next room.

A phone, plugged into the outlet by the bed, was slipped into one pocket, quickly enough it could have been an unconscious maneuver.

A box was pulled out of a luggage suitcase and opened- revealing a set of home-made knives.

Ty’s stuff.

Box shut.  The box with the knives included were slipped into the bag.  It rattled.  She paused, grabbing a set of socks, and stuffed them in, jostling the bag.

Not a cat burglar by any stretch of the imagination, but she’d done this before.

I held my tongue and kept to watching as she went through everything, a kind of rage simmering within me.

Ty’s room took only a minute.

She headed down to the second floor.  Same pattern.  She checked every room first.  This time, however, she was interrupted.  Stepping out of what would’ve been Rose’s room, she found herself face to face with Alexis, who was heading up the stairs.

“Can I help you?” Alexis asked.

“Which room am I sleeping in?  Want to drop off my shit,” Ellie said.

“Beds are all taken,” Alexis said.  “If you want to stay here tonight, you’re staying in the living room.”

“Whatever,” Ellie said.  She brushed past Alexis as she headed downstairs.

Alexis went up to the third floor.  I considered following her, but something held me back.

Some people put a lot of stock in the better part of human nature.

I believed in the worse parts of Thorburn nature.

Ellie reappeared, not fifteen seconds after Alexis had gone upstairs.  She started doing another quick check of each room.  She didn’t enter the rooms, but she definitely looked.

Right.

I headed upstairs, just in time to find Alexis entering the library.

“Alexis,” I said.

She jumped.

Christ,” she said.

“Do me a favor?  Hold the door for me, and move that mirror out of the circle?  I’ll update you when I’m back.”

She frowned a bit.  “If they find this place-”

“I’ve got your back.  Please?”

She offered me a little nod.

I returned to Ellie.  From the mirror atop Rose’s dresser, once grandmother’s dresser, I had a view of Ellie as she collected antique brooches, pins, earrings, necklaces, and other old fashioned jewelry.  I lurked to one side, so I wouldn’t be right in front of her.  When I’d spoken and moved before, I’d drawn attention.  They probably didn’t have a clear view of me, but they could see glimmers.

I moved to the bedroom window.  I knocked, sharp.

She spun around.

I was already back in the mirror atop the dresser.

She didn’t look in the mirror as she resumed her looting.

I refocused my attention.  I let the bag she was piling the stuff into be reflected into my space.

Reaching into my chest, I found a spirit.  It almost quivered with anticipation, sensing the emotion.  Feeding on it, even.

The bird fluttered a little as I shoved it into my version of the bag.

“Bonds of sympathy,” I whispered.  “I bind like to like.”

Ellie stepped back, walking around to the door, peering through to make sure she didn’t have company.

She was working faster when she returned to work.

“Both contain the stolen belongings of Alexis.  Both contain the stolen belongings of Ty.  Both contain the stolen belongings of Rose,” I whispered.

I saw her pause again, looking up.

I felt the connection.  I wiggled the bag.

“I do this,” I spoke to the spirits, “In retribution for actions against me and mine by Ellie Thorburn.”

Ellie fidgeted a bit, gripping the strap of her bag a little tighter.

Did she feel the sentiment.

She reacted, as her bag moved, looking down.

Ellie!” I screamed the word, slamming my hands against the mirror, face thrust forward, eyes wide and teeth bared.

She threw herself back, ass hitting ground, and tossed the bag in the process.

I winced, realizing the damage that might have done.  The bag on my end moved as hers did, flying through the air, tearing out of my grasp.

There was a weakness to this technique, I realized.  The people and the objects in the real world had more weight.

All the same, she’d let go of the bag.  Her first thought and priority was her own well being.

My priority here was the bag.

I slid it across the floor, into the open closet, and lifted it up onto the top shelf.

It was almost in plain sight, if she took one step to the right.  But Ellie had picked a darker fabric, and it bit her in the ass now.

With a measure of satisfaction, I watched as she scoured the room, her attention on the ground, under the bed, behind furniture.

Her actions grew more frantic.

With every worried glance at the mirror, I felt myself regain a bit more power.

Dangerous, I knew, to risk indoctrinating one of the innocent, but I was pretty sure this little stunt had more than paid for itself.

I’d protected my friend’s things, too.

She did a double-check, examining every obvious surface, ignoring the less obvious location that was the closet.

The sound of a distant door opening and voices ended her search prematurely.  Deciding on discretion, she quickly stepped out of the room.

Her fear continued to feed me in little ways.

I hoped it fed both parts of me, bolstering the aspect of me that was Blake Thorburn, thoroughly pissed about what she’d done to my friends.

Before heading upstairs to reunite with the others, I checked on the Thorburn group downstairs.

There weren’t many surfaces I could dwell in, and the surfaces I did have available weren’t good ones.  The reflective side of the toaster in the kitchen, the window in the hallway, the staircase window, the window by the back door, and the window in the back door.

My view of the scene was consequently very limited.  A tall woman striding into the front hallway, passing by the picture frame so quickly that I couldn’t make her out.

From the toaster, my view was slightly distorted.

Eva.  She’d walked right by the doorway between the living room and the front hallway.  Nobody had glanced at her long enough to realize they had a stranger among them.

The front door opened again, closing quickly.

“Hey Peter,” Ellie called out from the living room.  “A word?”

“Mm hmm,” A male voice responded nonverbally.

Andy, not Peter.

My view of the front door was narrow, when I watched from the picture frame in the hallway.  I had to press my head against the side of the mirror to view from the right angle, watching as the door leading into the hall closet was opened.  Andy no doubt stood so the door would block any view of him.

I saw Ellie step into the hallway, and knocked on the glass.

She paused.

I knocked again.

Too little, too late.  She turned back around just in time to get a mitt pressed over her mouth, simultaneously pressing her against the wall.  Andy shoved a taser into her neck.

He held it there, easing up the pressure enough that she could slide down the wall to the ground.

The pair shifted positions, Eva at the corner by the kitchen, where she could watch the staircase, kitchen, back door, and hallway at the same time, a machete in one hand.  Andy stood to the right of the door leading into the living room, taser in hand.

Directly opposite me.  Eerily calm, brown hair slightly in his half-lidded eyes, beneath a dumb hat with ear flaps, brown on the outside, lambskin or something on the inside.

He pulled off one mitt with his teeth, then shoved it into one pocket.  He let the taser dangle from a wrist-strap while he pulled off the other mitt.

He moved his hands in a series of gestures.

Eva responded.

I watched as she stuck out her tongue, then bit it.  Her eyes closed, her head rested against the corner of wall.  Almost as if she were meditating or in a daze.

Andy slid down to the front door, opened the door, then closed it.

“Ellie?  Peter?”  Kathryn called.

Eva took the distraction to move past the kitchen door, disappearing around the bend to the space where the back door was.

I beat her there.  For one instant, we made eye contact.

“Hi,” she said.

I swung the Hyena, aiming to break the glass.

She beat me to it.

Glass shattered, a few stray shards tinkling as they hit the floor by the back door.  I relocated myself to the little window that was part of the door.

She broke that too.

Toaster.

I had a view of the Thorburns standing, ready to investigate.  Callan grabbed a poker from beside the fireplace.

This was going so wrong so fast.  If we failed here-

How would we even survive the night, when all the creepy crawlies and Others had a chance to come out of the woodwork?

I headed upstairs.

Alexis was waiting by the door.  She looked anxious.

“Witch hunters,” I said, before she could say a thing.

I could see the color drain out of their faces.

“Should we-”

“Anything you can send is good,” I said.  “But don’t come down yourselves.  Lock yourselves in.”

“I can help,” Evan said.

“Come out, stay in Rose’s bedroom,” I said.  “There’s a mirror in there.  I’ll signal you if I can, to come free the others.”

“If they don’t kill the others,” Ty said.  “Because Witch Hunters can kill people.  Even innocents.”

I swore under my breath.

I ducked back downstairs.

The little picture frame I’d been using to peer into the hallway and living room was gone.

Only the toaster remained.  I could have used the television set, but it was on.

They knew about me, they were planning for me.

Andy was nowhere to be seen, from my limited vantage point.

Eva wasn’t in the kitchen or the living room.

The pair had outright disappeared.

“I don’t care what she said,” Callan said.  He had a phone in hand.  He held it to one ear.

“That sounds suspiciously like a dial tone,” Kathryn said.

“Fuck me,” Callan said.  “Not 9-1-1, then.  I know some guys.”

It took him a second to dial.

“Dial tone again,” Roxanne commented.

Shut up!” Callan hissed the words.

“This is fucked up,” Christoff said, his voice small.

“Yeah,” Roxanne said.

“Ellie isn’t responding, so she either ran or something happened,” Kathryn said.  “Peter, far as we know, never came back.”

“Those assholes,” Callan said.  “They planned this.”

I would have laughed, if the situation wasn’t as bad as it was.

The explosion, I suspected, caught everyone by surprise.  There was no clink of metal on hardwood.  Nothing thrown.

Andy’s work.

Light, noise, disorientation.  I recovered fast, but I could feel my eyes crawling, as if they were healing from some minor damage.

I saw Eva striding into the room.  If Callan was able to see, he would have only caught a glimpse of the girl with the machete before she disarmed him, blade striking the poker.  He was doubled over, and she brought her knee up into his chin.

I had never, not once in my varied years, seen someone deliver a roundhouse kick in real life.  Eva did it like it was easy.  One step forward, another, pivot, kick.

Kathryn threw her arms up in a vain attempt to protect her head.  It wouldn’t have made a difference, had the kick connected with her head.  Instead, the blow hit her right in the stomach.

There was nothing I could do.

Christoff ran, staggering, disoriented.  He reached the hallway, and walked right into Andy’s waiting attack.  A jab with the taser.

The kid was barely a teenager.

Eva’s kick hadn’t taken out Kathryn, or Callan for that matter.  That wasn’t how it really worked.  One well-executed blow didn’t usually knock someone out, and when it did, it often came with brain damage and long-term impairment.  It did, if done right, essentially take them out of the fight.

Eva thrashed Kathryn, blow after blow, until Kathryn fell and made no motion to get up.  She stepped back to assess the situation, saw Callan trying to struggle to get up on all fours, a crawling position, and stomped on his shoulderblades.  His already-bleeding chin collided with the floor.

Leaving only Roxanne.

I couldn’t act without cluing Roxanne in, and I wasn’t sure there was much I’d be able to do, even then.

“Please,” Roxanne said, eyeing the boarded up window.  “I’ll tell you where the others are.”

“Do,” Eva said.

Roxanne scrambled to get away from the older girl.  Like Christoff, she moved straight for Andy.

“They’re upstairs somewhere.”

“That’s not clear enough,” Andy said.

“Please.  I don’t know anything more.  Tie me up, but don’t hit me,” Roxanne said.

“I’ll zap you,” he said.  “You-”

With a knife or a letter opener, Roxanne stabbed him in the groin.

There was a metal on metal sound.  Andy backed away, stunned, but unbleeding.

“Stab my fucking brother!?” Eva screeched.

Her foot collided with Roxanne’s face, full force.

Again and again, she kicked the fallen girl.

I watched, silent, as Andy eventually managed to wrestle Eva away.

“Upstairs,” he said.  “We have a job to finish.”

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