Authors: Alexandra Sokoloff
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense, #Mystery fiction, #Horror, #Murder, #Police Procedural, #Murder - Investigation, #Massachusetts, #Ghost, #Police, #Crime, #Investigation, #Boston, #Police - Massachusetts - Boston, #Occult crime
Go through it? Wait?
He debated with himself.
Then he eased himself to his feet and moved one quiet step at a time toward the cart. He could see dozens of precisely packed white carrier bags, double layers of plastic, each neatly knotted at the top.
He was just reaching to remove one when he heard the rustle of plastic behind him and froze . . .
Then spun, in one move reaching under his sweatshirt and drawing his Glock—
Tanith stood in the slit of the plastic.
He felt a different kind of rush, seeing her. Slowly, he lowered the gun. “Jesus Christ, I told you to call me when you got here.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
She sounded amused and it burned him. “You shouldn’t be walking around here by yourself.”
“I’m fine.” Her face was pale, almost translucent, and there were dark circles of fatigue under her eyes. She moved through the plastic and set down the bag she was holding, a large carpetbag made of an expensive-looking patterned fabric. She was in another enticingly
fitted calf-length skirt of a deep violet color, and a white blouse with a plunging neckline. Garrett felt his heart start beating faster, which irritated him.
he told himself.
“I appreciate you coming,” he said, his voice brittle. She didn’t answer him; she was already looking past him at the large sleeping lump in the bedroll. Garrett hadn’t told Tanith much on the phone; just vaguely that the witness had “mental problems,” but seemed to be familiar with the missing girl.
Tanith stepped past Garrett (
that intoxicating scent
) and looked down at the large, dirty man squeezed into the bedroll, snoring in a deep rumble.
“Schizophrenic,” she murmured, and Garrett was startled, although of course he’d made the same assumption himself.
“I think so,” he answered softly, though there didn’t seem to be any immediate danger of waking the man. “Autism, too, maybe, some developmental thing.”
She looked down at the sleeping man for a long time, and Garrett had no idea what was going through her mind, but she seemed to be studying something about him. She did not seem bothered by the smell, or even to notice it. She knelt on the concrete and put both her hands at the sides of the man’s face, as if cradling his head—except without touching him; her hands were about an inch away from actual contact. She remained in that position for at least a full minute, without moving or speaking, her eyes lowered and her face intent.
Finally, she stood, looked toward Garrett, and gestured to the wall of plastic sheeting. Garrett followed her through the slit into the wide dark expanse of the unfinished building. Tanith kept moving and Garrett trailed her, marveling at her perfect posture; she did not walk, it was more of a glide, like a dancer, like a nun.
She stopped and stood in the middle of the floor; her hands steepled under her chin, brooding. “You think he saw the killer.”
“I’m pretty sure he saw the girl. Amber. It’s hard to tell what else he saw,” Garrett answered. “His sense of reality is not . . . great.”
“No,” she answered abstractedly. “Very disordered. Extreme mental chaos.” Garrett was not sure how she would know that, as
she had not spoken with the man at all, though Garrett supposed the state of the man’s clothing was somewhat of a tip-off.
Then he remembered uneasily that mental chaos was one of the qualities associated with Choronzon.
“And what would you like me to do?” Tanith asked him bluntly. Her eyes gleamed, and Garrett had the distinct feeling that she knew exactly what he wanted her to do, but was making him say it aloud as some kind of power game. He felt a flare of anger, and also of desire.
“I thought you might be able to talk to him,” he said, keeping his voice even.
She studied him without smiling and then said, “That’s interesting of you, Detective. Is it a spell you want, then?”
He fought down the anger. “I told you, I don’t care how it gets done.”
Only that hadn’t exactly been true, had it?
“If there’s something you can do, then do it.”
He stared into her black eyes and she stared back, a long and dangerous moment. Then she lifted her head slightly. “There may be.”
She went through the wall of plastic again, and returned carrying the carpetbag. She stood in the midst of the columns, surveying the area, then pointed at a large bare expanse of floor. “I think there. And I think I should be alone with him, but don’t worry, I’ll cast the circle large enough to protect you,” she said with a perfectly straight face. Garret understood he was being teased, but tried to ignore it. He was pretty sure he’d gone off the deep end already, or he wouldn’t be here at all.
She knelt on the cement floor beside her carpetbag and opened it. From the angle she had chosen—deliberately, Garrett was sure—he could not see into the case, but he watched as she withdrew a folded purple silk cloth, several purple candles (the ever-present candles), a dagger, a silver chalice, and a smaller, square leather case.
She rose, stepped to the empty floor space, and shook out the cloth, stirring up swirls of concrete dust like smoke. The cloth was
round, Garrett saw, and when she floated it down to the floor, it made a perfect circle. She placed the purple candles at the four quadrants of the circle and lit them.
She returned to her carpetbag, and withdrew a large purple crystal, amethyst, Garrett thought, his mother’s favorite gem; and an electric light that looked naggingly familiar.
“Black light?” he asked, frowning.
“Ultraviolet, yes. Different colors have different healing properties. Violet is for mental clarity; it soothes mental disorders. The idea is to surround him in violet, like a color bath.”
She switched on the black light. The purple light glowed in the vast empty space, and her white blouse instantly turned luminous.
She opened the smaller leather case; it was full of labeled glass bottles with liquids of different colors. She removed several and poured a few drops from each bottle into the silver cup, and placed it at the edge of the silk circle with the knife and crystal.
Finally she looked over at Garrett. “I’ll get him, then.”
“Do you want me to—”
“I don’t think so,” she said with unnerving calm, and disappeared through the plastic wall. Garrett waited uncomfortably, debating whether or not he should go after her.
Then she emerged through the plastic, leading the big man by the hand. He was blinking drowsily, looking only half-awake. He shuffled on the floor like a child, and his bare feet kicked up little clouds of white dust.
Tanith led him to the circle of purple silk, and guided him carefully through the lit candles to the center of the circle.
“Just sit down here with me,” she said gently, and tugged at his hand as she sunk to the floor. Obediently he folded himself into a crossed-knee position and sat across from her, a hulking shadow in the purple light.
Tanith picked up the large amethyst crystal from beside her and held it up in front of her so that it caught the candlelight. The Dragon Man’s eyes widened.
“Pretty, isn’t it?” she said in a low, coaxing voice. “Do you like it?” He did not answer, but seemed mesmerized by the sparkling
chips of light. She held the stone for him to gaze at . . . and then spoke even more softly. “Here. You hold it.” She extended the stone and he took it hesitantly, staring into it. “Close your eyes. You can still see the stone.” He shut his eyes, and Garrett could see his breathing slow.
She stood noiselessly and unhurriedly, and moved around to stand behind the Dragon Man. He did not seem to notice her. “Lie down now,” she said, and touching her hands lightly to his shoulders, she eased him back to lie on the silk, in the circle of candlelight. He held the crystal clutched to his chest. She smoothed his brow with her fingertips, and then moved around him, gently placing his arms by his sides and leaving the crystal centered on top of his chest, then straightening his legs so they rested together. “You’re inside the crystal now, inside the purple. You’re inside that shining purple light . . .” Garrett saw the big man’s body loosen, growing more limp. “That’s good. Relax,” Tanith encouraged softly. “And now I want you to breathe in with me—breathe in that purple light. Breathe in . . .” The Dragon Man did not open his eyes, but sucked in air. Tanith breathed in with him. “Now breathe out . . .” She repeated the breathing with him three times.
She stood still and looked down on the big man in the candlelight, then reached into her shirt and drew out the dagger on its chain. Again she extended her arms with the knife pointed straight ahead; again she made a slow, steady revolution in a circle.
Her face was pale in the glowing violet light, her onyx eyes fixed in space.
She completed the circle, slipped the chain back around her neck, and knelt at the Dragon Man’s left side. She reached forward with both arms extended, holding her palms inward at the top of his head, about an inch away from actually touching him. She brought her hands smoothly down the entire length of his body, one hand on either side, not quite touching his skin the whole way down.
She repeated the entire gesture six more times, then reached for the silver bowl and dipped her fingertips into the liquid she’d mixed there. She moved to the Dragon Man’s head, where she lay
her hands gently, one on each side of his head, with her thumbs resting on his temples. She closed her eyes and was still, holding that position. Garrett found himself roiling with envy, imagining her hands on him. He shook his head, forced himself back into focus.
Tanith shifted her position so she was kneeling at the Dragon Man’s head and this time held his whole head in her hands as she spoke aloud into the darkness. “I banish chaos, pain, and fear. Mercury, I call on thee: aid his thoughts and words and tongue, that he may tell us all he’s done. This watcher now knows clarity. As I say, so mote it be.”
She sat again on the floor beside the man’s bulk and spoke tenderly to him. “You are within a circle of protection, a circle of healing crystal light. You are safe. You are loved. You can say anything, here, and you will be protected. Do you hear me?”
Garrett found himself holding his breath . . . as the big man on the floor slowly nodded.
“You can speak,” she told him. “What is your name?”
To Garrett’s utter astonishment, the Dragon Man spoke, a deep, resonant James Earl Jones voice.
“Roland what?” Tanith asked, without a trace of surprise.
“Roland Cutler,” he said, without opening his eyes.
“Roland, I’m Tanith. I’m very glad to meet you. Are you comfortable?”
“That’s good. I want to ask you questions about a girl named Amber.” The man stiffened on the floor, tensing every muscle in his body. Tanith said quickly, “You’re safe. You’re safe here.” Slowly he relaxed, not altogether, but enough.
“You do know Amber,” Tanith said softly.
“The lost girl in the park. She loves the angel,” the Dragon Man murmured. Tanith glanced over at Garrett. He nodded tightly. Inside he was reeling, a disorienting wave of paranoia.
Am I being set up? How can this guy have gone from stark raving to lucid because of some purple light?
“That’s right. That’s Amber,” Tanith said. “We’re looking for her, Roland. Can you tell us where she is?”
The big man shuddered. He did not open his eyes, but tears squeezed out from the corners and ran down his cheeks, plopping softly onto the dark silk below him. “A bad man got her. Very bad. Scares me . . .” He paused, and whispered . . . “Evil.”
The wind rippled through the empty space, and Garrett felt the chill in his bones.
“Tell us about the man, Roland,” Tanith said softly.
“He came in a car, like one of her—like the other men.”
“Describe the car,” Garrett said sharply. On the floor, Roland stiffened. Tanith glanced at Garrett, shook her head slightly, frowning.
“What kind of car, Roland?” Tanith asked. “Can you describe it?”
Roland squeezed his eyes shut, shaking his head.
“You were in the park, watching,” Tanith suggested. Roland nodded his head warily. “But now you’re only seeing it as if you’re watching a movie. That’s all; it’s just like watching a movie. Tell me about the car.”
After a moment the big man spoke slowly. “Dark blue . . . Camaro. It’s not new . . . but not too dinged up.”
Beside the pillar, Garrett moved, impatiently, opened his mouth to ask about the plates, but before he could speak, Tanith was asking.
“What about the license plate? Can you see the numbers?”
Roland frowned, moved on the silk circle on the ground. “I can’t see it,” he fretted.
“You can see it,” Tanith said. “Tell me.”
“T-O-R,” Roland said obediently. “Then there’s a nine . . .” He squeezed his eyes tightly closed, as if squinting to see. “That’s all I can see. I’m sorry,” he added.
Garrett had pulled out his notebook and was writing furiously.
he told himself.
Not magic. You’ve seen it before.
“That’s very good, Roland, thank you.” Tanith glanced toward Garrett. “Let’s talk more about the man. Can you describe him?”
Roland started to shake his head on the floor, in mute denial.