The summoning, p.25
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       The Summoning, p.25

         Part #1 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
Page 25


  “You should go back to bed. Forget this—”

  “No, you're right. I owe you. What do you need?”

  I wanted to argue but could tell he'd made up his mind.

  “Hold on,” I said, and hurried into the hall.

  He whispered an exasperated, “Chloe!” after me, followed by a halfhearted string of profanity, as if he couldn't work up the energy to even curse properly.

  * * *

  I returned with a glass of cold water and handed it to him, along with four Tylenol.

  “Two for now, two for later, in case you—”

  He tossed all four in his mouth and drained half the water.

  “Or you could just take them all now. ”

  “I've got a high metabolism,” he said. “Another part of my condition. ”

  “I know a lot of girls who wouldn't mind that. ”

  He grunted something unintelligible and drained the glass. “Thanks, but…” He met my gaze. “You don't need to be nice to me just because I'm not feeling great. You're mad. You've got a right to be. I used you and I made it worse by pretending I hadn't. If I were you, I wouldn't be bringing water unless it was to dump over my head. ”

  He turned away to set the empty glass on the table, and I'm glad he did, because I was pretty sure my jaw had dropped. Either that fever had gone straight to his brain or I was still asleep, dreaming, because that had sounded suspiciously like an admission of guilt. Maybe even a roundabout apology.

  He turned back. “Okay, so you need…?”

  I waved him to the love seat. Annoyance flickered across his face—getting comfortable was a distraction he couldn't be bothered with—but when I sat on the opposite chair, he lumbered to the couch. If I couldn't get him to return to bed, at least he could rest while I talked.

  “You know something about necromancy, right?” I began.

  He shrugged. “I'm no expert. ”

  “But you know more than me, Simon, or anyone else I can talk to at this moment. So how do necromancers contact the dead?”

  “You mean like the guy in the basement? If he's there, you should see him. Then you'd just talk, like we are right now. ”

  “I mean contacting a specific person. Can I do that? Or am I restricted to those I just stumble across?”

  He went quiet. When he spoke, his voice was uncharacteristically soft. “If you mean your mom, Chloe—”

  “No. ” The word came sharper than I intended. “I haven't even thought—Well, yes, I've considered it, for someday maybe, of course I'd like to, love to—” I heard myself rambling and took a deep breath. “This is connected to our situation. ”

  “You mean Liz?”

  “No. I—I should try to contact her, I guess. J-?just to be sure. But that's not it. Forget why I want to know. ”

  He leaned back into the sofa pillows. “If I knew why, I could answer a lot easier. ”

  Maybe, but I wasn't telling him until I had enough facts to confidently lay out my theory.

  “If I can contact a specific person, how would I do it?”

  “You can, but it's not easy and it's not guaranteed at your age. Like Simon and his spells, you're at the… apprenticeship level. ”

  “Where I can do things by accident, like raising the dead. ”

  “Well, no. ” He absently scratched his arm, the skritch-?skritch filling the silence. “From what I heard, raising the dead is the toughest thing to do, and it needs this complicated ritual. ” He shook his head and stopped scratching. “I must have heard wrong. Like I said, I'm not an expert. ”

  “Back to how, then. How do I call up a specific ghost?”

  He slouched, head resting on the sofa back, staring at the ceiling before nodding, as if to himself. “If I remember right, there are two ways. You could use a personal effect. ”

  “Like with a tracking dog. ”

  A small noise that sounded like a laugh. “Yeah, I guess so. Or like one of those psychics you see in movies, always asking for something that belonged to the person. ”

  “And the second way?” I tried not to show how much I wanted this answer, how much I hoped I'd already guessed it.

  “You need to be at the grave. ”

  My heart hammered, and it was a moment before I could speak. “At the grave. Presuming that's where the body is buried. It's the body that's important, not the grave site. ”

  He waved off my petty distinction, the old Derek sliding back. “Yeah, the body. The ultimate personal effect. ”

  “Then I think I know what that ghost in the basement wanted. ”

  I explained how the ghost had urged me to “make contact” to “summon them” and “get their story. ”

  “He meant the buried bodies. That's why he wanted me to go into the crawl space. So I could get close enough to the bodies to contact those ghosts. ”

  Derek reached back to scratch between his shoulders. “Why?”

  “From what he seemed to say, it's about Lyle House. Something they can tell me. ”

  “But those bodies have been down there way longer than Lyle House has been a group home. And if this ghost knows something, why not just tell you himself?”

  “I don't know. He said . . . ” I strained to remember. “He seemed to be saying he couldn't make contact with them himself. ”

  “Then how would he know they had anything important to tell you?”

  Good questions. This was why I'd gone to Derek. Because he'd challenge my assumptions, show me where the holes were and what I had to learn before jumping to any conclusions.

  “I don't know,” I said finally. “However they got there, I'm pretty sure they didn't die of natural causes. You're probably right, and it's completely unconnected to us, and this ghost is confused, losing track of time. Or maybe he wants me to solve their murder. ” I stood. “But, whatever he wants me to hear, I'm going to listen. Or at least try. ”

  “Hold up. ”

  He lifted a hand, and I braced for more arguments. It was a waste of time. Dangerous, too, after we'd been caught down there earlier. And, don't forget, last time I tried to contact these ghosts, I'd returned them to their corpses. Do that again, and I'd better not call him for reburial duty.

  He pushed to his feet. “We should take a flashlight. I'll grab that. You get our shoes. ”


  I WASN'T SETTING FOOT—bare, stockinged, or shoed—in that crawl space until I'd talked to the first ghost and asked all the questions Derek had raised.

  We went down to the laundry room. Derek took up a position at the side, leaning back against the dryer. I sat cross-?legged in the middle of the floor, closed my eyes, and focused.

  It didn't take long, as if the ghost had been waiting for me. I still couldn't catch more than phrases and glimpses. I told Derek this, then said, “I stopped taking the meds after you gave me that jar. But they must still be in my system. ”

  “. . . not medic…” the ghost said. “. . . block…”

  “What's blocked?”

  “Spell… ghosts… blocking…”

  “A spell to block ghosts?” I guessed.

  That got Derek's attention and he shifted forward, arms uncrossing. “Did he say a spell's blocking him? What kind?”

  I was about to translate, but the ghost could obviously hear and answered. “Magic… ritual… important. ”

  “It's important?”

  “Not… not important,” he said emphatically.

  I related this to Derek who grumbled about the imperfection of this mode of communication as he furiously scratched his forearm, then said, “Tell him to say one word at a time. Repeat it until you get it and you say it back. It'll be slow, but at least we won't miss—"

  He stopped, his gaze following mine to his forearm. His skin was… moving. Rippling.

  “What the—?” he began, then growled in frustration and gave his arm a fierce shake. “Mu
scle spasms. I've been getting them a lot lately. ”

  He peered down at the rippling skin again, made a fist, and pumped his arm, trying to work it out. I was about to suggest he see a doctor, then realized that might not be so easy for someone like Derek. I could see now that it was his muscles, expanding and contracting on their own. A side effect of his condition, I guess, muscles developing in overdrive. Like the rest of him, slamming through puberty.

  “Just as long as you don't rip through your clothing and turn green,” I said.

  “What?” His face scrunched up, then he got it. “The Incredible Hulk. Ha-?ha. Incredibly Stupid Movie, more like. ” His rubbed his forearm. “Ignore me and get back to your ghost. ”

  The ghost had heard Derek's suggestion about taking it one word at a time, and that's what we did. It worked much better, though it felt a bit like charades, him saying a word over and over, and me excitedly repeating it when I finally understood.

  I started with questions about the ghost himself, and learned he was a necromancer. He'd been at the hospital when I'd been admitted. Something about stopping ghosts from harassing the mental patients, which I didn't really understand, but it wasn't important.

  Ghosts recognize necromancers, so he'd known that's what I was. Realizing that I didn't know what I was, he knew I needed help. But before he could make contact, they moved me. So he'd followed me to Lyle House. Only it was somehow blocked against ghosts. He thought it was a spell, though when Derek challenged that assumption, the ghost admitted that it could be anything from the construction materials to the geographic location. All he knew was that the only places he could make even partial contact with me were the basement and the attic.

  As for the bodies in the crawl space, he knew two things. One, they'd been murdered. Two, they were super-?naturals. Put those together and he was convinced their stories would be important. He couldn't get them himself because he couldn't contact the dead as easily as he could before he became one of them himself.

  “But they were just skeletons and dried up flesh,” Derek said. “Like mummies. Whatever happened to them wouldn't have anything to do with us, here, now. ”

  “Maybe,” was the ghost's only answer.

  “Maybe?” Derek threw up his hands and started pacing, He muttered under his breath, but there was no anger in it, just frustration, trying to work through this problem and see a connection when he really should be in bed, nursing a fever.

  “Samuel Lyle,” the ghost communicated next. “Original owner. Know him?”

  I said I didn't and asked Derek.

  “How would I know the guy who built this place a hundred years ago?”

  “Sixty,” the ghost said, and I relayed it.

  “Whatever. ” Derek resumed pacing. “Does he even know what year this is?”

  I could have pointed out that if the ghost knew how long ago the house had been built, he obviously knew the current year, but Derek was just grouching, his fever making it hard to concentrate on this puzzle.

  “Supernatural,” the ghost said. “Lyle. Sorcerer. ”

  That made Derek stop when I relayed it.

  “The guy who built this place was a sorcerer?”

  “Dark magic. Alchemist. Experimented. On supernaturals. ”

  A chill ran up my arms and I crossed them. “You think that's how those people in the cellar died? This sorcerer, Lyle, experimented on them?”

  “How does he know so much about this guy?” Derek said. “He followed you here, didn't he?”

  “Everyone knew,” the ghost replied. “In Buffalo. All supernaturals. Knew where he lived. And stayed away. Or didn't. ”

  Derek shook his head. “I still don't see how any of this is connected to us. ”

  “Maybe,” the ghost replied. “Maybe not. Need to ask. ”

  Derek hissed a curse and smacked his hand into the wall hard enough to make me wince. I walked over to him.

  “Go to bed. You're probably right. I'm sure it's nothing—”

  “I'm not saying that. I'm just saying . . . A sorcerer built this place sixty years ago; there are supernaturals buried in the cellar; and now we're here, three supernatural kids. The group home is named after him. Is that significant? Or is it just named after the guy who built it? It seems too much to be a coincidence, but I'm just not getting the connection. ”

  “I can do this. Go back—”

  “No, he's right. We need to ask. I just…” He shoved his hand up the back of his shirt, scratching. “I feel like crap and it's making me cranky. But we need to do this. ”

  The ghost followed us into the crawl space.

  “How do I avoid what I did earlier?” I asked. “Returning them to their bodies?”

  Silence. I counted to sixty, then said, “Hello? Are you still there?”

  “Stay calm. Focus. But go easy. Soft. Your power. Too strong. ”

  “My powers are too strong?”

  I couldn't suppress a smile. I might not be certain I wanted these powers, but it was kind of cool to hear that I had more than the average necromancer. Like taking an IQ test and finding out you're smarter than you thought.

  “Your age. Should never be able to…”

  Silence. I waited patiently to catch the next word. And waited.


  He started again, word by word. “Too soon. Too much. Too…"
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