Shadow silence, p.19
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       Shadow Silence, p.19

           Yasmine Galenorn
 
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  Starlight cleared her throat. “Well then, I suggest we table this particular part of the discussion for later. Everybody, please . . . start thinking about potential solutions. I don’t care how crazy they sound, bring them to the next meeting. But do note, this will not include a hunting party going after the Lady. Everyone in this room knows that we can’t take her on and hope to win. She’s far too powerful and she’s been here far longer than we have. I have a feeling if we went out there, it would turn into a suicide mission.”

  Trevor noted down everything that had been said and then, again, motioned to Starlight.

  She gave him a brief nod. “As to Peggin and what to do about her mark, I leave that up to the Matriarchs. Oriel has suggested a spell and I have agreed to take part, although it’s not magical work that I’m comfortable with. But seeing that it’s the only choice and we have to do something, it is what it is. At some point the Lady will come after Peggin again, and she may well succeed. Does anyone else have anything to add?”

  Niles raised his hand. Starlight recognized him.

  “As most of you know I have managed to keep the secret entrance to this chamber hidden and in good repair. Business is down lately, and we need to replace several important parts on the locking mechanisms for the doors. I need funds to do this. I can’t spring for it all myself.”

  Starlight let out a little laugh and for once, I didn’t read ridicule into it.

  “Thank you, Niles, for a routine request. Talk to Frank about a purchase voucher for what you need. You’ll need to get two quotes for how much it’s going to cost, and submit the lower, unless it’s so low that it’s obviously makeshift. Frank will cut you a check to buy what you need. Now, is there anything else?”

  “What about the Winter Fun Fest? Should we still proceed?” Nadia asked.

  Starlight didn’t bother calling for a consensus.

  “I don’t see why not. Yes, we are facing some tough times but the fact is we are always facing some sort of crisis. The Winter Fun Fest is a tradition here in Whisper Hollow, and I really don’t want to let our traditions pass by. Our town is built on heritage and ritual, and a mutual desire to succeed and thrive. So yes, the Fun Fest will go on. Are you in charge of it this year?”

  Nadia shook her head. “No, but I’m on the entertainment committee. The mayor assigned several other members; two of them belong to the Hounds, unfortunately. But since this festival benefits everybody, I don’t think they’ll attempt anything to stop it or screw it up.”

  “Then I suggest we all go out and support the festival as much as we can. With so much going on I suggest that we meet again in a week to discuss what we’ve learned.”

  As groans filled the room, Starlight banged her gavel. She seemed to enjoy pounding on the table with it. I snorted, thinking maybe she was a frustrated drummer.

  “Hush! You all know how important the CMS is to this town. I know holidays are a busy time and we want to spend as much of it as we can with our families, but we are a family, too. And our family protects this town. So quit griping, suck it up, and mark your calendar for next Saturday for ten P.M. If there’s nothing further?” She paused, waiting. Nobody said anything. “Then I declare this meeting adjourned.”

  As everybody milled around the room, getting ready to leave, Oriel wandered over.

  “Kerris, meet us at Ivy’s tomorrow morning at nine. We’ll go out to Timber Peak and start hunting for the witch bottles. Tuesday night, you, Bryan, and Peggin will join us at the boardinghouse at eight. By then, we’ll have everything we need arranged to perform the ritual to free Peggin from the curse. I should warn you, it’s neither easy nor safe. But it’s her only hope, that I can see.” And with that she turned and hustled away.

  We had just slipped into our jackets and were headed toward the door when Clinton Brady wandered over.

  “Kerris? Why don’t you drop over to the Fogwhistle Pub for an hour or so?”

  “Now?”

  He nodded. “Yeah. I might have some family information on Joseph Jacobs and his ship. Maybe it will help you. I can tell you the stories about him and his ships that my mother told me. Maybe something among all that scattered information will ring a bell. I’ll go and dig up the pictures and family history now, if you’re up for it.”

  I glanced at Peggin and Bryan, both of whom nodded. “Fine. We’ll meet you there in twenty minutes.” As we left the garage, it occurred to me that I hadn’t been in the Fogwhistle Pub since before I left home, when I was eighteen and still sneaking into bars. It’d been fifteen years and what seemed like a million miles since then.

  * * *

  The Fogwhistle Pub really did belong out on an Irish moor, cloaked in mist and shrouded by moonlight. We had the mist, but this time of year? It was rare when the moon was able to shine through. And now, the gently falling snow just added a wonderful touch, making the entire scene seem like a Christmas card.

  The pub looked as old as it actually was, weathered gray stone two stories tall. The two concessions that the Brady family had made when bringing over the pub from Ireland were to put in sturdy windows and to replace the roof with one that was far more weatherproof and less flammable. But the pub itself, and several of the old tables and benches inside, were the same as they had been over on the Emerald Isle.

  As we entered through the large wooden double doors, we were greeted with a cheerful glow from the fireplace. Clinton had decked out the mantel in holly boughs and evergreens, and in the corner of the pub a large spruce stood, sparkling with red and gold ornaments and tinsel that shimmered in the glow of the firelight. The smells of cinnamon and eggnog filled the air, and as I looked around, I realized how welcoming this place was. Every table held crystal glasses filled with candy canes, and unobtrusive Celtic music played gently in the background.

  Peggin and I had ventured into the pub several times when we were seventeen and eighteen. Clinton had pretty much ignored us, not bothering to card us even though he knew we were underage. We always bought one drink and stopped at that, and if we had attempted more he probably would have tossed us out on our asses.

  Clinton was hustling out from the back room, his arms filled with old photo albums and a couple of journals. The bartender—I didn’t know who it was—folded the bar towel and set it on the counter, then crossed to where we were sitting.

  As Clinton approached, he asked, “Would you like eggnog? I also have fresh cinnamon buns and scones.”

  I blinked. The thought of cinnamon buns and scones in a pub seemed odd, but then again, I was used to mainstream taverns that thrived on pretzel sticks and peanuts.

  Peggin nodded. “That sounds good to me.” Bryan and I agreed, and the barkeep took off toward the back to fill our order.

  As we settled into our chairs, close enough to the fire to take the chill off, I glanced over at Peggin. “Remember when we came in here and tried to act so grown up? And Clinton here, he always brought us our one beer.”

  “You girls weren’t going to get in any trouble from one drink, and I knew you both well enough that I knew you wouldn’t push me any further.” Clinton laughed, then shook his head. “It’s hard to believe it’s been fifteen years. The both of you have grown up nicely. I wish I could say that for everybody who came in here. Sometimes I hate how time changes people . . . it drains ethics, it jades idealism.”

  “It’s been a long time, that’s for certain. So much has happened since then. I had no idea back then that you were part of the Crescent Moon Society. Of course, my grandmother didn’t even tell me about the society. I didn’t know it existed until I returned home.”

  Clinton scratched the gray whiskers covering his chin. He looked like an old biker, with a bandanna wrapped around his head, in blue jeans and a flannel shirt. He was a burly man and looked like he worked out, but there was something gentle about his nature that I had always responded to. From what I knew of him, h
e was a trustworthy man.

  “It wasn’t something I aspired to but I was inducted and so here I am. And maybe your grandma just wanted to protect you for a while longer—secrets can be dangerous things to share. So, how is your real grandfather? Duvall was a son of a bitch and I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t at all upset to hear that he went in the lake. But I am sorry about your grandmother. Lila was a wonderful woman, and it hurts to know that the Lady took her.” He glanced over at Peggin. “We’ll do everything we can to make certain she doesn’t get you, too, girl. While I can’t help with the magic, maybe I can fill in some of the blanks about that house you’re living in, and encourage you to get the hell out of there as soon as possible.”

  A waitress brought over our drinks and pastries. The eggnog smelled so fragrant that I wanted to lap it up like a cat. The taste didn’t let me down, either. As she left, Clinton spread out the journals and albums that he had brought. He opened one of the old photograph albums to a page he had marked with a Post-it note. He turned it around and shoved it across the table so we could see it. A tall man was in the photograph and he looked familiar. He was standing next to a ship. Or a boat, rather. It was a large boat and I wasn’t sure exactly what kind it was, but the name on the side of the boat was clear. The Maria Susanna.

  “This was my great-great-uncle, Joseph Jacobs. He was a boat builder back in the early 1900s in Whisper Hollow, and he built a total of seven custom boats for various members of the town. My grandmother told me that he was a confirmed bachelor, but he kept company with one of the town’s most prominent feminists of the time. I guess you’d call her a suffragette, although I don’t know if the term suffragette was even used then. She defied tradition by wearing pants, and by refusing to marry even though several men had offered. She built up quite a tidy sum for herself, and my grandmother told me that she often said, ‘Why should I let any man have access to my money, when I can take care of myself?’ I guess my great-great-uncle liked the fact that she wasn’t looking for someone to take care of her.”

  “What was her name?” Bryan asked.

  “Eugenie Everson. She was probably named Eugenia at birth, if you want to look her up in the records. I do know that she also belonged to the Crescent Moon Society, and that’s how she met Joseph Jacobs. She was on the boat when it went down. I found this when I was digging up the photo albums.” He held out a photocopy of a newspaper article. Even the photocopy looked old.

  I carefully reached for it, making sure my fingers were clean. The words were a little blurry, but I could still read them.

  November 8, 1919.

  Last night, local shipwright and woodcarver Joseph Jacobs vanished when his ship, the Maria Susanna, is believed to have sunk due to the massive storm we had yesterday over Lake Crescent. On board with Jacobs were: Eugenie Everson, Walton Thomas, Frank Beaverton, and Walter Hanover. No sign of the ship has been found, nor have any bodies. Rescue workers are continuing to search, but all ship board members are believed to have drowned. The Maria Susanna was deemed extremely seaworthy, so questions remain. But nothing can be ascertained until the ship is found.

  I looked up from the clipping. “Do we know if all of these people were part of the Crescent Moon Society?”

  Clinton shrugged. “I’m not entirely certain about the other three men. But Eugenie and Joseph were. They probably got caught in a storm. The storms on Lake Crescent can be brutal. I doubt if it was the Lady, though. She couldn’t very well climb aboard and take them down one by one—that’s not her MO.”

  Peggin cleared her throat. “So what happened? Why were they out there during a storm?”

  “That is a good question, and one that I’d like to see the answer to.” Bryan took a sip of his eggnog.

  Clinton slipped through the photo albums, showing us a picture of Eugenie. She was a strong woman, and in her time was probably called handsome. She was tall, wearing a pair of trousers, a work shirt, and a skinny tie. Her hair was caught up in a tidy bun. He showed us another couple of pictures of the ship from various angles. It certainly looked seaworthy, at least from the old photographs.

  “Your great-great-uncle looked to be a talented man. You said he was also a woodcarver?” Bryan was frowning.

  “Yes, he could carve just about anything from what I gather.”

  “There’s something I don’t understand,” Peggin said. “Why would someone use beams from a ship to build a house? Or in a house? And how would they get ahold of them? Is this a common occurrence?” She laughed. “I suppose that’s more than one question, isn’t it?”

  Clinton grinned at her. He shoved another cinnamon bun in her direction. “Eat hearty, girl. I like to see women with appetites.”

  I realized he was flirting with Peggin but I didn’t think that she noticed it. I was about to say something about Deev, but then decided that he was probably just playing around.

  Clinton took a long drink of his eggnog, then motioned to the barkeep to bring more. “Okay, here’s the deal. In general, using boards from a shipwreck? A design choice. But there were times when it was just cheaper to use found lumber. People did it all the time—an old barn gets razed, scavengers come through and look for all the wood that’s still good to use as well as other building materials. It’s nothing more than recycling.”

  I frowned. I knew that did happen, but something was off about it. “True, but generally, if someone finds a shipwreck, aren’t they going to report it, not just scavenge through it?”

  “My guess is that this Herschel Dorsey person found the wood and decided to use the lumber in his house. Maybe he thought the wreck had been reported, or maybe he just wanted free wood and didn’t want to chance losing his stash. I can’t give you a pat answer,” Clinton said. “But I’d like to take a look, if you’d let me. I can probably tell if those beams were built into the house when it was originally erected, or if they were added on later.”

  Peggin gave him a winsome smile. In the glow of firelight, she looked warm and luscious. “Of course. Although, I’m not sure if I should go back in the house with you.”

  “I’d say no. I think you and Kerris here should just stay out of there. The Lady could attack you, Kerris, if she can’t get to Peggin.”

  It made sense, in a way, though I had an odd feeling about the entire conversation.

  Peggin glanced over at Bryan. “If I give you the keys, can you show Clinton around tomorrow? I don’t want to impose if you’re busy.”

  Bryan shrugged, finishing off the last bite of a cinnamon roll and licking his fingers. “I’ve got meetings all morning, but I’m free after one thirty. Meet me at the house at two P.M.? And I agree, Peggin. You shouldn’t go back to that house until we’ve gotten rid of the mark on your arm. It’s way too close to the lake for comfort.”

  Clinton gave Bryan a nod and reached out to clasp his hand. “Two o’clock is fine. I’ll see you then. The house at the back end of the road, right?”

  Peggin nodded. “I still think it could be a beautiful house,” she said wistfully.

  “I think you should cut your losses and run.” Clinton offered us another cinnamon bun but we were all full.

  Peggin stared at her wrist. “Do you think she’ll ever really forget about me? Even if we get rid of the mark, I have this fear that she’s still going to remember me, and that she’s going to look for any way she can to . . .” Her voice drifted off into a choked sigh.

  I reached over and took her hand in mine, squeezing hard. “We will find you a house that you’ll love. I really don’t think we can clear the land and house, though I can try. But there’s no way we can exorcise the Lady, and with her siren song, there’s nothing to stop her from calling you in again. No, I think you should move closer toward the center of town, or maybe up toward Timber Peak. At least that’s away from the lake.”

  “I agree with Kerris. Don’t go back to the house.”

 
You seem determined that I move out of there,” Peggin said, staring at him.

  Clinton’s expression took on a haunted look. “I don’t want to think about how many times somebody’s gone over the side on Fogwhistle Pier, and I’ve had to run across the street to join in the search-and-rescue team. It’s almost always a recovery team, by then. The Foggy Downs subdivision is a dangerous place. There are only a couple people there now, and frankly—I have no clue how they’ve managed to survive.”

  On that note, we pushed back our chairs and headed to the car.

  We didn’t have far to go, but we had no more than started the engine and pulled out of the parking lot onto Fogwhistle Way when Peggin shrieked. I swerved to the side, straight into a ditch, my SUV precariously tilted to one side. Bryan turned and immediately unbuckled his seat belt.

  “Peggin! What the hell—”

  I fumbled for my seat belt and scrambled out the driver’s door, slipping as I did so and falling into the ditch, which was covered with an inch of snow. As I struggled for my footing, I managed to land against the side of the car and found myself staring into the backseat. There, Peggin was struggling with a black silhouette. It was one of the Ankou and it was reaching for her throat as I struggled to yank open the door.

  CHAPTER 13

  Peggin! Peggin! Can you get out the other side?” I was doing my best to yank open the side door on the backseat, but something seemed to be holding it closed. I didn’t think it was locked, but when I touched the handle, a massive jolt, like a giant spark, flung me back and I landed against the side of the ditch, rolling toward the bottom before I could stop myself. Aching, but unhurt, I scrambled up the side, frantic.

  On the other side of the car, Bryan was fighting with the other door. He was shouting, “Open, damn you! Open!” Inside, Peggin was struggling with the Ankou, which seemed to have its fingers around her throat.

 
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