The summoning, p.14
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       The Summoning, p.14

         Part #1 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
 
Page 14

 

  “Oh. ”

  “When they're little, they're great. When they get older… not so much. ” Rae sat on the bed and shook her head. “Yeah, I'm probably being too hard on her. You know how it is. When you're little, your mom is so cool and she can't do anything wrong and then you get older—” She stopped and blushed. “No, I guess you wouldn't know what that's like, would you? Sorry. ”

  “It's okay. ” I sat on my bed.

  “Your dad never got married again?”

  I shook my head.

  “So who looks after you?”

  As we headed down to class, I told her about Aunt Lauren, and the endless succession of housekeepers, making her laugh with my impressions, and forgot everything else . . . at least for a little while.

  * * *

  That afternoon, during my session with Dr. Gill, I put on an Oscar-?worthy performance. I admitted that, as she'd suspected, I had thought I might be seeing ghosts. Now, after hearing her diagnosis and letting my medication take effect, I understood that I'd been hallucinating. I was a schizophrenic. I needed help.

  She totally bought it.

  All I had to do now was keep up the act for a week or so, and I'd be free.

  * * *

  When classes ended, Rae and I did our homework together in the media room. Simon passed the door a couple of times and I thought maybe he wanted to talk to me, but when I stuck my head out the door, he'd disappeared upstairs.

  As I worked, I thought about that patch of fog in the yard. If Derek hadn't seen it, too, I might have mistaken it for a ghost.

  Why had he shushed Simon? Was Simon somehow causing my “hallucinations”? Some kind of special effects?

  Sure, that would explain the ghosts I'd seen at school—holographic projections created by a guy I'd never met. Right.

  But something was going on.

  Or, at least, that's what Derek wanted me to believe.

  By refusing to explain and making a big deal of refusing, Derek wanted me to do exactly what I was doing right now—driving myself nuts wondering what he wasn't telling me. He wanted me to go to him, begging for answers, so he could taunt and torment me some more.

  There was no way Simon or Derek could have created the ghosts at school, but that fog would be a simple effect to pull off. Maybe Derek had done it. That's why Simon had protested, and Derek had shut him up.

  Was Simon afraid of his brother? He pretended to defend him and act like best buds, but what choice did he have? He was stuck with Derek until his father returned.

  Where was his father?

  Why had he enrolled Simon and Derek in school under false names?

  Why was Simon even here, if he didn't have a file?

  Too many questions. I needed to start finding answers.

  * * *

  We were clearing the table after dinner when Mrs. Talbot came into the dining room with a man she introduced as Dr. Davidoff, the head of the board that ran Lyle House. With only a thin circle of hair and a huge, sharp nose, he was so tall that he seemed to be permanently leaning down to hear better. With the hair and the nose, he bore an unfortunate resemblance to a vulture, head tucked down, eyes beady behind his glasses.

  “This must be little Chloe Saunders. ” He beamed with the false heartiness of a middle-?aged guy who doesn't have kids and never stops to think that a fifteen-?year-?old girl might not like being called “little” Chloe Saunders.

  He awkwardly clapped me on the back. “I like your hair, Chloe. Red stripes. Very cool. ”

  He said “cool” like I say a Spanish word when I'm not sure of the pronunciation. Rae rolled her eyes behind his back, then came around front. “Hey, Dr. D. ”

  “Rachelle. Oh, sorry, Rae, right? Are you keeping out of trouble?”

  Rae flashed a perky smile, one custom-?made for adults she had to suck up to. “Always, Dr. D. ”

  “That's my girl. Now, Chloe, Dr. Gill tells me you had quite a breakthrough today. She's very pleased with your progress and how quickly you've fit into the therapeutic routine and accepted your diagnosis. ”

  I tried not to squirm. He meant well, but being a good patient wasn't something I wanted to be publicly congratulated on. Especially when Derek had stopped eating to watch.

  Now run along, take your meds and be a good girl.

  Dr. Davidoff continued. “Normally, I don't meet with our young people until they've been here at least a week, but since you're speeding right along, Chloe, I don't want to hold you back. I'm sure you're eager to get back to your friends and school as soon as possible. ”

  “Yes, sir. ” I copied Rae's perky smile, ignoring Derek's heavy gaze.

  “Come along then and we'll chat in Dr. Gill's office. ”

  He put his hand on one shoulder to propel me out.

  Tori stepped in front of us. “Hello, Dr. Davidoff. That new medicine you have me on is working great. I'm really doing well. ”

  “That's good, Victoria. ”

  He absently patted her arm, then led me out.

  * * *

  The session was similar to the first one I'd had with Dr. Gill, filling in background. Who was Chloe Saunders? What had happened to her? How did she feel about it?

  I'm sure he could get all this from Dr. Gill's notes, and she'd stayed late today to sit in, but it was like in a cop movie, where the detective interviews the suspect, asking all the same questions as the last guy. It's not the information that's important, but how I tell it. What's my emotional reaction? What extra details did I add this time? What did I leave out?

  For all his false heartiness, Dr. Davidoff was Dr. Gill's supervisor, meaning he was here to check her work.

  Dr. Gill had sat stiff and tense, leaning forward, squinting at me as she raced to capture every word, every gesture, like a student afraid to miss a key point for the exam. Dr. Davidoff took his time, getting a coffee for himself and a juice box for me, relaxing in Dr. Gill's chair, chatting me up before we started.

  When he asked whether I'd had any hallucinations since I'd been here, I said yes, I'd seen a disembodied hand the second morning and heard a voice later that day. I didn't mention yesterday but said honestly that all had been fine today.

  I sailed through the session without a hitch. At the end, he told me I was doing “fine, just fine,” patted me on the back, and led me from the office.

  * * *

  As I passed the open media room door, I glanced inside. Derek was at the computer, his back to me as he played what looked like a war strategy game. Simon was also playing a game, on his Nintendo DS, as he sprawled sideways in the recliner, legs draped over the arm.

  He noticed me and straightened, lips parting as if ready to call after me.

  “If you're going for a snack, grab me a Coke,” Derek said, attention fixed on the screen. “You know where they're hidden. ”

  Simon paused, gaze shunting between us. His brother was giving him the perfect excuse to sneak out and talk to me, but he still hesitated, as if sensing a setup or a test. There was no way Derek knew I was here, behind his back. Yet Simon slouched in his chair.

  “You want a Coke, get it yourself. ”

  “I didn't ask you to get me one. I said if you were going. ”

  “I'm not. ”

  “Then say so already. What's with you tonight?”

  I continued down the hall.

  * * *

  I found Rae in the dining room, homework spread across the table.

  “You've got a DS, don't you?” I asked.

  “Yep. Only Mario Karts on it, though. You want to borrow it?”

  “Please. ”

  “It's on my dresser. ”

  * * *

  I walked past the media room doorway again. The guys were still there, looking like they hadn't budged since I last passed. Again Simon glanced up. I waved Rae's DS and gestured. He grinned and shot me a discreet thumbs-?up.
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  Now to find a place within range . . . I had a DS at home and knew I should be able to connect with another one within fifty feet. The media room was sandwiched between the front hall and the classroom, both off-?limits for hanging out. But it was also right under the bathroom. So I went up, started PictoChat and prayed I could connect to Simon.

  I could.

  I used the stylus to write my message: u want to talk?

  He drew a check mark, then wrote D followed by a picture that, alter a moment I realized was an eye. Yes, he wanted to talk, but Derek was keeping an eye on him.

  Before I could reply, he sent another. D 8? a box with “soap” drawn in it, surrounded by bubbles. It took a moment, but I finally interpreted that as “Derek has a shower around eight. ”

  He erased it and drew an 8 followed by yard. Meet him outside at eight.

  I sent back a check mark.

  Nineteen

  AT 7:50, I WAS HELPING Rae empty the dishwasher. From the hall, I heard Simon ask if he could go out back and shoot hoops while Derek showered. Mrs. Talbot warned that it was getting dark, and he couldn't stay out for long, but she turned off the alarm and let him go. Once the dishwasher was empty, I told Rae I'd catch up with her later, then slipped out after him.

  As Mrs. Talbot warned, dusk was already falling. Huge shade trees bordered the deep yard, casting even more shadow. The basketball net was on a patch of concrete beyond the reach of the porch light, and I could see only the white flash of Simon's shirt and hear the thump-?thump-?thump of the dribbled ball. I circled the perimeter.

  He didn't see me, just kept dribbling, gaze fixed on the ball, face solemn.

  Keeping to the shadows, I moved closer and waited for him to see me. When he did, he jumped, as if startled, then waved me to an even darker spot on the other side of the net.

  “Everything okay?” I asked. “You looked… busy. ”

  “Just thinking. ” His gaze swept the fence line. “Can't wait to get out of here. Just like everyone else I guess, but…”

  “Rae said you've been here awhile. ”

  “You could say that. ”

  A shadow passed behind his eyes, like he was scanning his future, seeing no sign of release. At least I had someplace to go. They'd been in child services. Where would they go from here?

  He bounced the ball hard and managed a smile. “Wasting our time, aren't I? I've got about ten minutes before Derek tracks me down. First off, I wanted to say I'm sorry. ”

  “Why? You didn't do anything. ”

  “For Derek. ”

  “He's your brother, not your responsibility. You can't help what he does. ” I nodded toward the house. “Why didn't you want him seeing us talking? Will he get mad?”

  “He won't be happy, but—” He caught my expression and let out a sharp laugh. “You mean, Am I afraid he'll beat the crap out of me? No way. Derek isn't like that at all. If he gets mad, he just treats me the same way he treats everyone else—ignores me. Hardly fatal but, no, I don't want to piss him off if I can help it. It's just…” He bounced the ball, gaze fixed on it. After a moment, he stopped and flipped it into his hands. “He's already mad that I defended him—he hates that—and now if I'm talking to you, trying to explain things, when he doesn't want them explained…”

  He twirled the ball on his fingertip. “See, Derek's not really a people person. ”

  I tried not to look shocked.

  “When he decided you might really be seeing ghosts, I should have said, Sure, bro, let me talk to her. I'd have handled it. . . well, different. Derek doesn't know when to back off. To him, it's as simple as adding two plus two. If you can't figure it out yourself and you don't listen when he tells you the answer, he'll keep slamming you until you wake up. ”

  “Running away screaming doesn't help. ”

  He laughed. “Hey, if Derek kept coming at me, I'd be screaming, too. And you didn't run anywhere today. You stood up to him, which, believe me, he's not used to. ” A grin. “Good on ya. That's all you have to do. Don't take his crap. ”

  He took another shot. This one dropped gracefully through the hoop.

  “So Derek thinks I'm a… necromancer?”

  “You're seeing ghosts, right? A dead guy who talked to you, chased you, asked for your help?”

  “How did you—?” I stopped myself. My heart thumped, breath coming hard and fast. I'd just convinced Dr. Gill that I'd accepted my diagnosis. As much as I longed to trust Simon, I didn't dare.

  “How did I know? Because that's what ghosts do to necromancers. You're the only person who can hear them, and they all have something to say. That's why they're hanging out here, in limbo or whatever. ” He shrugged as he tossed the ball. “I'm not real clear on the specifics. Never actually met a necromancer. I just know what I've been told. ”

  I inhaled and exhaled before saying, as casually as I could, “I guess that makes sense. That's what you'd expect ghosts would do to people who think they can talk to the dead. Mediums, spiritualists, psychics, whatever. ”

  He shook his head. “Yes, mediums, spiritualists, and psychics are people who think they can talk to the dead. But necromancers can. It's hereditary. ” He smiled. “Like blond hair. You can cover it up with red streaks, but underneath, it's still blond. And you can ignore the ghosts, but they'll still come. They know you can see them. ”

  “I don't understand. ”

  He flipped the ball and caught it on his open palm. Then he murmured something. I was about to say I couldn't hear him when the ball rose. Levitating.

  I stared.

  “Yeah, I know, it's about as useless as that patch of fog,” he said, gaze fixed on the levitating ball, as if concentrating. “Now, if I could lift it more than a couple of inches, maybe to the top of that hoop, and slam-?dunk it every time, that'd be a trick. But I'm not Harry Potter and real magic doesn't work that way. ”
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