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Shadow silence, p.17
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       Shadow Silence, p.17

           Yasmine Galenorn
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  As I skimmed through the list, I saw no mention of Magda. I jumped ahead a few years. Still no mention. Then, in 1957, her name appeared on the membership lists. By then, Ellia had left home. While she was capable of many things, I was pretty sure that Magda hadn’t had anything to do with the sinking of the Maria Susanna.

  That left the questions: Who did sink her? And why?

  I thumbed through till I came to Herschel Dorsey. He had first become a member in 1912. The Maria Susanna had been taken down in November of 1919, so I skipped ahead in the meetings ledger to that point. All of the meeting notes were taken in longhand, and they were all photocopies, so I had to puzzle out the handwriting.

  Some of the words were fuzzy, but there appeared to be some concern over the Crescent Moon Society discovering hidden accounts belonging to some of the members of Cú Chulainn’s Hounds. There was also mention of a still in the woods, and apparently there had been a general discussion on how to hide it so that the Crescent Moon Society wouldn’t report them to the government. I pushed the book back, and dove into the pizza again.

  Perhaps the CMS had found out about an illegal still owned by the Hounds, and were going to use that information to close them down. It made sense, especially given the times. But when had Prohibition started? I had brought my laptop with me and now I opened it up and typed in the question.

  Bingo! Prohibition had started in 1919 and ran through 1933. Perfect timing.

  I skimmed through more of the entries during that time, and came across Joseph Jacobs’s name. It listed him as the president of the Crescent Moon Society. There was also a notation that he was trouble, and that they needed to take care of him.

  Hopefully, the CMS would have records on their side that we could look at to find out the other side of the story. I replaced the ledgers and my great-grandmother’s journal in the secret room and closed it. Then, taking my notes and my plate, I headed back down the stairs. I had enough to go on for the moment.

  I put my plate in the sink and shrugged into my jacket, then headed out back to see how Bryan was doing.

  While the sky was overcast, it wasn’t raining. In fact, the temperature felt like it had dropped a few more degrees and I could almost smell snow in the air. Jamming my hands in my pockets, I walked across the yard to where Bryan was fixing the fence. He was reaching for a stone, so I picked it up and handed it to him.

  “You know, I was thinking maybe we should take the fences down between our houses.” He glanced sideways at me, and I realized he was actually waiting for a response.

  “So that’s not a rhetorical question, is it?”

  “Well, it seems we’re here to stay. I doubt either of us is going to move from Whisper Hollow anytime soon. And given that I’m your guardian, and you’re my girlfriend, it kind of makes sense.” He grinned at me, then went back to hammering nails into the boards. “Next year this will need to be replaced anyway. Whoever built it didn’t use very good mortar and it’s chipping away all over the place.”

  “Great. I don’t have the money for that right now, given how big this lot is.” I frowned, then shrugged. “Maybe it would make sense to take it down. After all, if for some reason we have a fight, we can always just rebuild it.” I laughed, but he set down the trowel.

  “Don’t joke about that.” He was serious, looking none too happy.

  “What? I was just joking.”

  “Well, don’t joke about that. I’m not about to break up with you, not unless you want me to leave. I’m in this for the long haul. I’m not only your lover, but I’m your guardian. I take my post seriously, and even if you . . .” He paused, his gaze flickering away. “Even if you decide you don’t want to be with me, I’ll be here. If we were to break up, it would be the best breakup ever.”

  I wanted to joke that he made it sound so good we should try it, but the look on his face stopped me. I didn’t want to ruin what we had by stepping on his feelings. Even though we were still new to each other, I had to admit to myself that I was head over heels for him. I had never been in love, hadn’t even had a clue of what it felt like, but now . . . now I thought I knew.

  “I’m sorry. I won’t joke about it. I want you here, right here. In my life, as my guardian and as my lover. And yeah, let’s take down the fence. If it’s that old, then we don’t want it breaking apart and creating a mess. But what about my roses?” My grandmother had planted roses along the back fence—a beautiful row of climbing roses that I could hardly wait to see bloom. She had planted them after I left Whisper Hollow, so now I was looking forward to summer when the fragrant blooms would fill the yard.

  “I’ll figure out something. We’ll make a rose garden out of them. If I work through the cold while they’re dormant, I should be able to transplant them without causing a problem. We can get a picnic table or maybe—how would you like me to move the gazebo over, put it in the middle of the roses? That way we can have dinner out here on summer nights, in the gazebo, surrounded by flowers?” He made it sound so romantic, I wanted to drop everything and fall into his arms right there.

  My heart leaped a beat. “It sounds wonderful. So quit trying to fix the fence. Let’s start pulling it down.”

  “Sounds good. We can get a section down now, but I’ll have to work hard the next couple weeks to get the roses moved. I’ll have my gardener come help. We’ll have everything done by mid-January, in time for the roses to settle into their new soil.” And with that, he wrapped his arm around my shoulder. “I wanted to show you something else while we’re out here.”

  “It’s pretty dark,” I said. The light had faded and it was already twilight. I had turned on the backyard floodlight when I came out, but beyond the lights, the sky was a mournful shade of silver, with a faint glow of orange near the horizon where the sun was setting.

  “That’s all right.” He led me over to one corner of the yard, where a raised bed filled with moss and other little leafy plants provided a nice green display for the winter. “See this? What do you think about me creating a water feature here? It would attract dragonflies in the summer, and frogs.”

  The realization that my boyfriend not only cared enough to protect me, but to make my yard a wildlife sanctuary, hit me square in the chest. I turned to Bryan, holding my hand out to press against his chest.

  “I’m going to say something, and maybe it’s too quick. If it is, then just tell me. But if I don’t say it now, I’m going to blurt it out at some point when it might be more awkward.” I paused as he looked at me expectantly. “I think . . . no . . . I know . . . I love you. I’ve somehow fallen head over heels in love with you. And I’m afraid to tell you this because we’ve only been dating a couple months, but the fact that you’re my guardian makes it more complicated. I don’t know—”

  “Kerris . . . shush.” He held one finger out to touch my lips, very gently. “I love you, too. I fell in love with you the night you almost hit me in the road. Or . . . at least . . . I fell in like with you. I already felt like I knew you because your grandmother told me so much about you. And you surpassed everything I was expecting.”

  I caught my breath and ducked my head, suddenly blushing. “You love me, too? No man has ever said that to me.”

  “Well, then . . . isn’t it about time someone did?” He pulled me close, his mouth closing in on mine. “I can’t believe that no one has snatched you up before now,” he whispered before kissing me. I melted into his arms, leaning my head on his shoulder after he softly pulled back.

  “They couldn’t handle the fact that their dead relatives told me the truth about them. Or that I could see ghosts—some men were nice, but they got spooked. And some . . . they just wanted to tit-fuck me . . . fetishists.” A little sob rose in my throat. I hadn’t realized how lonely I had been over the years. How much I had wanted to hear someone say those words. I had steeled myself to handle life on my own, which wasn’t a bad thing, but now I
realized how tiring it could be.

  Bryan gathered me up, looking concerned. “Here now, what’s wrong, love?”

  I shook my head. “Just . . . I’ve been alone for so long, fighting all of my battles on my own. And that’s fine. We’re all alone, when it comes down to the wire. But I need . . .” How could I say it? How could I say I needed someone to watch over me? To take care of me when I was sick? It seemed weak and that was the last thing I wanted to be.

  “It seems like you’re giving up control, doesn’t it? When you fall in love? But that’s okay. I’ll never make you reliant on me. I’ll always be here, but I’ll never take away your independence, or ask you to be anything but what you are. I promise you that, Kerris.” And once again, he leaned down to kiss me.

  As the warmth of his words rolled through me like a wave, I whispered, “I love you, Bryan,” just to see how it felt.

  “I love you, too, Kerris.” And with that, the fence between us really came down.

  * * *

  Peggin was awake when we went back inside, sitting at the table with a plate of takeout in front of her. She glanced up, a guilty smile on her face.

  “Sorry, I woke up starved. I slept like the dead . . .” And there, the smile faded. “Damn it. Now everything I say takes on a new meaning.” She had applied new makeup and had changed clothes, but her voice sounded thin, almost stretched, and I realized the stress and shock of the day was going to take quite some time to fade.

  “Never mind, just eat and enjoy the food. Do you want something to drink? Another mocha?”

  She shook her head. “No, but some lemonade or juice would be good. So, did you find anything out about Jacobs?”

  “Yeah, but let’s wait till the meeting when we tell the whole group what we found out. I’m sure Starlight will pooh-pooh it as nothing important, but I’m not letting her ride over me on this one.” I frowned as Peggin snorted.

  “You really hate her, don’t you? You feel threatened by her.”

  “I do not!” I glared at her, then looked away. Starlight Williams got under my skin, but not because I hated her. “In fact, I consider her irrelevant, and how can you hate someone you don’t think matters?”

  “Yeah, you just don’t like her from high school. Why don’t you give it up. She’s probably too tired with her kids to continue the feud you two had going.”

  “We did not hate each other in high school. I didn’t even know her very well.”

  Bryan was watching us with amusement. “I feel like I stumbled in on an argument that I’m best off leaving alone.” Then he did something that startled me. He grabbed me around the waist, swung me around to face Peggin, and said, “I told this woman I love her today.”

  Peggin squeaked and clapped her hands. “I was wondering when you two would get around to that!”

  “What do you mean?” I laughed, trying to break out of Bryan’s embrace. “I need to get Peggin some lemonade—”

  He nuzzled my neck. “She’s a big girl. She can get her own lemonade.” But he smacked me on the ass and let go. “All right, I relent. I think I could use some pizza right about now. And a few pot stickers.”

  “Save a couple more pieces of pizza for me. I want it heated up this time.” While he and Peggin heated up the rest of the food, I poured lemonade all around. Wine sounded good, but wasn’t a great idea right before a meeting. We gathered around the table, Peggin taking a second helping of fried rice.

  “Some nights, the best thing in the world is reheated pizza and pot stickers.” I closed my eyes, biting into one of the thick rolls. I loved the slightly greasy feel, the taste of the vegetables and pork mixing together along with the crispy wrapper.

  At that moment, Daphne decided to join us on the table. She landed with a thud, grabbed one of the pot stickers, and took off, racing across the kitchen floor. I jumped up.

  “That can’t be that good for cats,” I said, racing behind her. I finally cornered her, and she growled as I snatched the food from beneath her paw. “You have your own food. You don’t need people food.” I dumped the pot sticker in the garbage—it was gnawed on, and while I might have eaten it if I was alone, I wasn’t going to do that in front of Peggin and Bryan. I refilled the cat food bowls and returned to the table. “How are Frith and Folly handling their new home?”

  “They seem to be doing fine. They’re happy to be out of the kennel, that’s for sure.” Peggin’s face clouded over. “I just wish I had never found out I needed to move. Everything feels like it’s ruined. I loved my life and the house I was renting. Now I’m scared and hoping I can keep myself alive.” She frowned, staring at the table. “I don’t suppose either one of you has a time machine I can borrow? I’d go back, tell my landlady I’d pay extra rent to stay there, and hope she agreed.”

  “Hey, why don’t you try that? Call her up, see what she says.” I gave her a hopeful look.

  “Because I can’t afford double rent, and I’ve got a year’s payments to make on the Foggy Downs house, whether or not I live there. And you know that I’m not going to find anybody to sublet. Nobody in their right mind would touch . . .” She trailed off, blushing. “I guess I’m not in my right mind, am I?”

  Wanting to put a halt to the painful self-reflection she was going through, I held up my hand. “Stop. That’s enough. I know this puts you in a bind, but we’re going to figure a way out. From both that damned mark on your wrist, and from the financial pickle you’re in. I refuse to let you flounder in this by yourself. We’re best friends and we stick together. Do you hear me?”

  She nodded, pressing her lips together. But at least there was a faint smile there.

  “Good. Then enough on the angst. Maybe . . . I’ll talk to your Realtor and see if there’s some way you can get out of the lease. I’m good at persuading people.” I wasn’t, but at least I could give it a try. “I’m surprised you don’t try—you charm men like the back of your hand.”

  “Jack is gay. He’s not going to be wrapped around my finger, and before you ask, yes, he has a child. He was married before he came out. His wife was so hurt by his news that she ran off and left their kid with him. Now he and his new partner are double-dads.”

  Bryan laughed. “Yeah, good try, Kerris, but Peggin’s charms, as remarkable as they are, won’t fly with someone like that. Why don’t you let me have a talk with him? I’m sure that we can come to some agreement. Give me his name and I’ll call him tomorrow.”

  “That’s wonderful . . . I appreciate your help. But that still means I have to find a new place to live.” She stabbed another pot sticker. “Stupid rentals. I hate being at the mercy of somebody else’s whims.”

  “We’ll find you a place. Now can we eat and then head out? I don’t want to be late. Starlight gives me nasty looks, like I don’t care enough to be on time. I’d like to . . .” I stopped, looking up to see both Peggin and Bryan laughing aloud. My lip starting to twist into a frown, I finally stopped and laughed with them. Who was I kidding? Starlight was the prom queen mean girl, and I was the geek in the corner. That’s the way it had been in high school, and that’s the way it was going to stay, it seemed.

  * * *

  By the time we reached the meeting, it was starting to snow. Little flakes, very patchy, but nonetheless, it was snowing and I was delighted. I loved snow, and wished that we got more of it, but at least here in Whisper Hollow a few inches usually arrived every year and stuck for a few weeks, and that was generally enough to satisfy my snow-bunny urge.

  The meetings were held at Niles’s. Niles Vandyke was the main mechanic in Whisper Hollow and he owned a large garage. Below the garage, through a hidden entrance, was an entire level given over to the Crescent Moon Society. The first time I had been escorted to a meeting, I felt a little like Batman heading into the Batcave. It was all very clandestine, but it was also a necessity, given the ferocity and viciousness of the Hounds. They had ki
lled before; they wouldn’t hesitate to kill again.

  The Morrígan and Cú Chulainn had a long-standing feud, and the Hounds, who were dedicated to the warrior god himself, took it upon themselves to go after the followers of the Morrígan and try to subvert them at every turn possible. On the other hand, the sons and daughters of the Morrígan pretty much left everybody alone—barring the spirits. Unless we were defending ourselves. Which, at least in Whisper Hollow, we seemed to be doing on a regular basis. The Hounds were responsible for my mother’s death, and my father’s death, and a number of others who had gotten in the way.

  As we passed the guards watching over the front of Niles’s shop, they nodded us by. Gareth was sitting there. The older biker looked as tough as he was, with a number of scars to his credit. He was a fixer . . . he took care of problems for Sophia Castillo, the chief of police, that the police couldn’t officially intervene in. Sophia couldn’t be part of the Crescent Moon Society, but she knew about us and had her fingers in the pie via one of her officers, Frank O’Conner. He worked with Gareth on the side. I wasn’t sure exactly what Gareth did, but I knew that it involved some rough stuff, at times, and if I wanted someone to back me up, besides Bryan, the first place I would run would be to him.

  As we entered the janitor’s closet, Peggin shut the door behind us. I walked over to the back wall and pressed the second coat hook from the left. A panel slid open, and we were facing a hidden staircase. The railings helped, but the steps were at a steep incline and every time we came to a meeting, I was afraid I’d go sprawling face-first down the spiraling staircase and knock out a tooth or maybe scramble my brain.

  But we descended the forty steps without incident to find ourselves in a large chamber. Two doors were placed opposite each other, on either side. In the center of the room, sitting on another stool, was Michael Brannon, the owner of the Broom & Thistle. He was holding a long sword, razor sharp, which he knew how to use with precision. One wrong move and boom, slice and dice.

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