Read CnC 4 A Harvest of Bones Online

Authors: Yasmine Galenorn

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths, #Mystery Fiction, #Single Mothers, #Occult Fiction, #Washington (State), #Ghost Stories, #Women Mediums, #Tearooms

CnC 4 A Harvest of Bones (10 page)

BOOK: CnC 4 A Harvest of Bones
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“Will o’ the Wisps? I remember those from playing Dungeons & Dragons. They weren’t very nice in the game, either.” He took a step closer to me and felt for my hand. I squeezed, then let go and moved forward.
“This is no game, Joe. These beings have been known to lead people to their death. So keep an eye on me, and if I say ‘move,’ then move. Fast.”
He nodded as I began to inch forward, all too aware that the glowing orbs had noticed our approach. A few of the brightly colored spheres began to float toward us. I held my breath as one—brilliant green—hovered near my face, right in front of my eyes, flickering, shimmering, pulsating. Attracted like a moth to a flame, wanting nothing more than to reach out and touch it, I forced myself to look to the side, not allowing myself to become fixated on the energy.
“Are you okay?” Joe whispered. “What are they doing?”
“Yeah, I’m all right. They’re probing us. Come on, let’s head down to the basement. Watch your step.” I sidled around the globe and cautiously approached the edge of the stairs. Made of concrete, they had survived the fire and fifty years of weathering. In the beam of my flashlight, I could see where patches of grass and roots had broken through the cement and cracked the gray stone. Overall they looked safe enough. If there was a railing, it had long ago splintered away or perhaps burned up in the fire, but the stairs buttressed one wall of the brick-lined basement.
I put my foot on the first step, then breathed a little easier as it rested firmly beneath my weight with no complaints or crumbling. My light flickered on the mulch at the bottom, thick and untouched for fifty years save for the trail Kip and Miranda had left through it. Fighting the urge to run back and paddle both their butts for disobeying me, I gathered my courage and began to descend into the darkness.
The silence thickened. Joe followed a few steps behind, but it felt as if he were a million miles away as the gloom enveloped me, closing in the windswept night. Mist rose from the mulch, a low blanket of rolling fog, and my stomach tightened as I drew closer to the bottom. As we continued our descent, the energy shifted and the dancing lights swooped down around us, darting and twisting.
Should I try to reach out? Touch them? Communicate? The minute I considered it, I backed away from the thought. If I opened myself up, they’d use that wedge to their advantage. No, best to keep my thoughts to myself.
My foot touched the mulch and sank up to the ankle in leaf debris, and I tried to avoid thinking of what might be hiding in the muck. I steeled myself with the memory that I’d crawled on my belly through compost and bugs before to save my son. At least this time my feet were firmly planted on the ground. As Joe joined me, the look on his face was loud and clear: He still hadn’t gotten used to playing in the Otherworld, but he was making a valiant attempt.
The Will o’ the Wisps seemed to take a bead on him and his eyes lit up with apprehension as they drew near. I could feel their energy, tentacles reaching out to tease, to call him closer.
I touched his arm. “Hey, come back.”
Startled, he jerked around to stare at me, looking confused for a second. “Huh? Oh … yeah.”
“What are they saying to you?”
He ducked his head and I could see the worry in his eyes. “I’m not sure, all I see are twinkles of lights. But now that I think about it, I heard a low whispering in the background. Emerald, I don’t like this. These things scare me.”
“They lure mortals in. Maeve warned me about them. Just try to keep a clear head. Come on, let’s see about finding Samantha. Maybe I really did see her down here—maybe it wasn’t a hallucination.”
I took his hand and led him deeper into the basement. In the dark, with only our flashlights and the dancing orbs illuminating the night, there was no real way of telling what the place looked like now—or had looked like when the house was intact. As we neared the place where Miranda had said they’d heard Samantha, I began to trace the walls with my light. And … there, yes—the outline of a door. Rounded at the top, hardwood that was charred but not fully burnt. The door had an iron lock, and as the kids had said, it was locked. Firmly.
“I can’t open the damn thing. Can you?” I stepped back to let Joe in to give it a try. The lights were buzzing us now, whirling like pinwheels. Oh yeah, something was up, all right.
Joe dug his feet into the mulch and tried to push it open. Nothing. He motioned for me to stand back. “I’m going to shoulder bust it.”
“Just be careful.”
He inhaled deeply, blew the air out of his lungs, then lunged at the door with his shoulder. I heard a nasty “crack” as he bounced back, cursing a blue streak. One of the Will o’ the Wisps broke off and buzzed his shoulder. A bright flash illuminated the basement and Joe yelped and dropped to his knees.
“Babe, are you okay? What happened?” I knelt beside him, flashing the light in his eyes, which just made him swear louder. “Oops! Sorry.”
He winced as I encircled his waist with my arm and helped him stand. “Jeez, that thing stung me! And the door must be made of ironwood.” He stretched his neck to one side, then the other. The lights swirled around us and—not thinking—I turned on them.
“Back off, you buggers!” Even as I shouted, I realized that perhaps this wasn’t exactly keeping the low profile that I’d suggested earlier. But they retreated. “That’s better. Just chill out.”
Joe snorted through his pain. “You know, I love you. You’re such a firebrand.” He grimaced again. “My shoulder feels like it’s been stung. There’s no chance I can get through that door with brute force, Em. But before we leave, why don’t you listen at it first; see if you can hear Sammy?”
I reluctantly left his side and slogged my way through the leafy debris until I was next to the door. I pressed my ear against the wood, straining to hear any sound that might be on the other side. As the night settled around my shoulders, I heard the faint shuffle of movement. A step? A cough? A meow? There, yes, the faint meowing of a cat coming from the other side of the door.
“I think I hear her,” I called softly over my shoulder. “Sammy? Samantha?” I waited, listening, and once again, heard a soft cry.
Joe frowned as I hurried back to his side. “If she’s there, she had to find a way in, but I don’t see how. Maybe there’s an underground opening or some vent we haven’t seen. That’s entirely possible, you know? Some of these old houses had basements that weren’t finished. I wish I could pick the lock, but I’m not very adept at that sort of thing. How about you?”
“What? You think I can pick locks? How about safe-cracking, while we’re at it?” I shook my head, wondering just what other skills Joe thought I had up my sleeve. “Not one of my multitude of talents, babe. But Murray might be able to help us out. Or a locksmith.”
Joe nixed the latter thought. “I can’t bring a locksmith on this property until I talk to my lawyer. Remember? I may not actually own this place. Technically, we’re breaking and entering right now, though I imagine we could talk our way out of it. Whatever we do, we have to be discreet.”
“I don’t see why—nobody’s been in this basement since the house burned down.” At his firm but patient look, I caved. “Okay, no locksmith. But let’s call Murray, please? If Sammy is in there, I’ll be damned if I’m going to leave her. Irena Finch can kiss my ass on that one.”
He nodded. “Okay, let’s get the hell out of here. This place gives me the creeps and I’m hurting like a son of a gun.”
I let him go first. Who knew what the Will o’ the Wisps might do to an injured man trying to climb a flight of stairs in the dark? I wondered if they were like bees, who swarmed when their attack pheromones hit the air. But they left us alone. As we ascended I glanced over my shoulder, back at the door that waited, silently locked against time. Mist rose into a pillar, swirling as the lights fluttered around it, and I could almost see a figure dancing within the flowing streams of fog. With a shiver, I turned and hurried up the stairs, back to the welcoming light streaming from my kitchen window.
 
 
THE KIDS WERE hovering by the door. I hushed them before they could overwhelm us with questions. “We need to make a few phone calls, and Joe needs a bandage.”
They recognized my tone and obeyed without question. When we had stripped off our coats on the back porch and burst through into the kitchen, I turned to Randa.
“Kettle on, please. We need tea. Orange Spice would be lovely.”
She gave me a quick nod, filled the kettle and set it to heating. “What teapot do you want to use, Mom?”
I winked at her. “Your choice. And thank you, sweetie. Kip, bring me some bandages and the antibiotic ointment from the medicine cabinet, would you?” He dashed through the arch leading to the living room.
I forced Joe to sit down at the table. “Shirt off, mister. Right now.”
He grinned. “Shouldn’t we wait until the kids are asleep?” he murmured under his breath. I glared at him, trying to staunch a smile that welled up in spite of myself.
“You know what I mean. Off with it.”
I saw the look of pain that crossed his face as he lifted his arms over his head. Shit, what the hell had he done? As he stripped off his shirt, I examined his right shoulder. A dark bruise covered the side of his upper arm from where he’d shoulder-butted the door, along with several lacerations that looked like they might have come from a jellyfish stinger. Well, hell. Not good.
Kip came running in with the phone. “Mom, did you find any trace of—” he asked, breathless, but he stopped abruptly as he caught sight of Joe’s new body art. “Whoa … what happened to you?”
Joe glanced down at his arm, cautiously lifting and turning it so he could get a good look at the bruises and the lacerations. He blanched, looking slightly queasy. “Ugh. That looks nasty.”
I coughed. “Yeah, I’d say so. Randa, bring me the aloe out of the fridge, please. Kip, we may have heard Sammy over there, but can’t be sure. We’re going to try to get into that room, but I want you and Randa to make me a promise on your word of honor. I mean it. You break the promise, you’re in deep shit. Understand?”
As Randa handed me the bottle of cold gel, she caught my gaze and I saw a flicker run through her eyes. “Mom, what’s going on over there?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know yet. Which is one of the reasons I want you and Kip to promise me this: Neither one of you—together or alone—are to set foot in that lot again until I give you permission. I mean it. Not even if you see Samantha. I miss her too, but there are dangers over there. Those lights, for example. From what I can find out so far, they’ve been known to lure people into harm’s way. I’m talking about end-up-in-the-hospital trouble.”
Kip plopped down in a chair, his aura flaring. “And Sammy is over there with them.”
I sighed and placed the aloe on the counter, then knelt to stare into my son’s face. Tears were hiding behind those big brown eyes. “Sweetie, we’ll do our best to bring her home. It may take a day, or maybe a week, but we’ll keep looking until we find her. You have to trust me. You have to let me and Joe do the work. Will o’ the Wisps have been known to kill people by hypnotizing them and leading them into trouble. I can’t let you take the chance. Not even to save Samantha. Do you understand?”
He sniffed and dashed his sleeve across his eyes, trying so hard to maintain control, to avoid breaking down in front of us. “Okay.”
I reached out, intending to give him a hug, but he slipped out of my embrace and ran off. I could hear his feet as he thumped up the stairs in defeat. Not anger, like when I’d banned his friend Sly from the house, but disappointment. Randa stared at the floor for a moment, then, without a word, followed Kip upstairs. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what she was thinking.
I finished smoothing aloe across Joe’s bruises, silently ruminating on what we were going to do.
Joe seemed to sense my mood. He stared out the window. This had to be hard for him too. He’d been so excited when he told me that he’d bought that lot. We’d actually started making long-term plans, something I never thought I’d do again with anybody. I put the aloe back in the fridge and dialed Murray’s number, calling her at work first. If I remembered right, she was on duty this evening. She answered on the second ring.
“Hey babe, listen, things have taken another turn.” I filled her in on the day’s events. “We need to get into that room, to see if Sammy’s in there.” I avoided mentioning that Joe wasn’t sure about his ownership of the property. What she didn’t know, she couldn’t object to.
I could hear her tapping her pencil on the desk. “Em, I wish I could get out there tonight, but I can’t. But …” She lowered her voice. “If you really need somebody to break into the room, call my house. Jimmy’s there and I happen to know for a fact that he can pick a lock.”
“He told you that?” I asked, grinning for the first time that evening.
“Nah, it’s in his rap sheet.” She coughed. “Anyway, give him a call. Maybe he can come over. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow morning if you want me to show up.”
I put in a quick call to Jimbo and went through the whole story again. All it took was a “Can you help?” and he was out the door and on his way over.
“You know, Jimbo has proven himself to be one hell of a guy,” I told Joe. “He dropped everything without a question and he’s headed over here right now.” I started to wrap my arms around Joe’s shoulders, but stopped when I remembered his bruises, and kissed him instead. “I’m so glad you two finally became friends. Especially with Murray dating him.”
Joe flashed me a look of love and patience and exasperation all rolled into one. “Em, I have to tell you, it was hard for me to forgive him for what he did to you. The man threw a brick through your window with a nasty word written on it. He hit on you at a restaurant and you had to head-butt him into submission, for cripes sake.”
“He apologized, and he paid for the window. And most important, he helped me when I had no other place to turn. That kind of friendship you can’t buy.”
BOOK: CnC 4 A Harvest of Bones
2.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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