Flight from mayhem fly b.., p.22
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       Flight from Mayhem (Fly by Night #2), p.22

           Yasmine Galenorn
 

  “To be honest, I can’t answer that. I never met my family, and among my kind things are very different. Ancestry is extremely important. If you dishonor your family, your parents have every right to kill you. I suppose it’s very much like an honor killing. And if a spouse dishonors his family and his partner, well—that happened not too long ago and ended up with a white dragon being destroyed. You know who the D’Artigos are?”

  Tonya shook her head. “I don’t think I ever heard of them.”

  “I guess it doesn’t matter. They’re half Fae from Otherworld. I think their mother was human. But anyway, one of the sisters is married to a dragon. His father was excommunicated and executed because he kidnapped and tortured her, dishonoring his wife and his son and abusing family relations. Even those of us who don’t live in the mainstream society of the Dragon Reaches heard about that.”

  There was no easy way to explain the complicated rules of my society to her, especially when I wasn’t entirely sure of all of them myself.

  “I suppose sometimes not having a family is a blessing in disguise,” I said, after a moment.

  By that time we had reached the back of the house. I was surprised to see how big the yard was. It spanned at least three full-size lots. Heavily wooded, the yard was pretty, even in its abandoned state. Of course the gardens were overgrown, and the grass was knee high. The trees needed a good pruning, and the old shed out back was leaning precariously, about to fall down. But otherwise, the lot and the house had once been beautiful.

  “You know, this really is a lovely place. Or it could be,” Tonya said. She cocked her head to the side. “I wonder what it would take to clear this land of the ghosts.”

  “You mean the entire neighborhood? The district is pretty large—”

  She interrupted with a shake of the head. “No, I just mean this house and the yard. Maybe it would be a good thing if I got out of Port Townsend. I would probably do much better business down here with my shop than up there, and now that my mother is dead there’s really nothing to hold me there.”

  After a pause, she added, “Not even Degoba.”

  Chai cleared his throat. He looked distinctly uncomfortable, and I almost teased him by saying, Well, you wanted to come along with the girls. But I kept my mouth shut. It felt like we were walking on eggshells with our conversation and I wondered how much of that was because of our surroundings. It made me slightly nervous knowing that Mary might be listening to us, now that I knew the truth about her.

  “Do you think there’s anything we can do about Mary?”

  Tonya shrugged. “I’ve been thinking about that. We need to know whether she really understands why she’s here. I’m beginning to think that all the monsters in the house are the parts of herself that she’s pushed away and that she’s denying. Almost like having MPD. Only instead of fragmenting into separate identities, she fragmented into separate entities.”

  “MPD? I’m not familiar with the term.”

  “It stands for multiple personality disorder. Sometimes when a human is traumatized, a part of their identity will splinter off, in order to cope with the traumatic event. There are people who have hundreds of personalities and each might as well be a separate, distinct individual. They all coexist within the same body. In a few cases, the person is actually possessed by other spirits, but mostly this happens in cases of severe abuse.” She stopped abruptly.

  “What is it? Do you see something?”

  Slowly, Tonya shook her head. “No. It just occurred to me that . . . I wonder. Do you think that perhaps Mary was abused by her husband? Back in that day, it wasn’t against the law—nobody looked into domestic violence cases. And nothing in the articles I read ever mentioned it, but I doubt if they would have. If she was the victim of traumatic domestic violence, that might account for what happened to her.”

  I wandered over to a dilapidated picnic table and gingerly sat on the bench. What Tonya proposed made sense. Or maybe I just wanted it to make sense, because I didn’t want to believe that Mary could deliberately destroy her family. Tonya must’ve noticed the expression on my face.

  “You want her to be innocent, don’t you? You want her to be everything she says she is.” She rested a hand on my shoulder.

  After a moment, I shrugged. “I suppose you’re right. I guess I do prefer happy endings. I haven’t had very many of them in my lifetime, and that spans a hell of a lot of years. I know not everything is going to work out the way I want, and maybe Mary is just the spirit of a cold-blooded killer, out to play us even from the spirit world. But I hope she’s not. I hope that—if she did kill her family—she was truly possessed by demons. Not everyone is strong, and that’s something I’ve had to learn since I came here. I had to be, I had to push my emotions to the side, to fight for everything I got. And now I’m learning that some people just can’t do that. Sometimes, they just don’t have the ability to fight off the darkness.”

  “Come over here,” Chai called.

  We turned to see him examining something near the back hedge. The foliage had grown up to crowd out the sky, at least thirty feet tall. I wasn’t sure if they were trees or bushes, but they provided a dense barrier to the lot behind Mary’s house. Tonya and I cautiously crossed the yard. He was kneeling in the grass, brushing a tangle of the tall weeds to one side. As we approached, he held out his hand and a globe of light flickered above his fingers, bright enough so that we could see what he was doing. Dawn was streaking across the sky, but here in the shadow of the hedge, it was still dark.

  “I found a flagstone that doesn’t seem to belong here. There aren’t any others, so I doubt that it marks a path through the yard. And I sense something here. A presence, although it’s faint, and I can’t hear anything.”

  Tonya joined him, kneeling in the grass. She placed her hands against the stone and closed her eyes, cocking her head to one side as she listened. I had the distinct impression that she was hearing something that we couldn’t. After a few moments, she pulled back, resting her hands on her knees, staring at the flagstone.

  “You’re right. There’s something here. I can hear a faint cry in the wind and I felt a great sadness when I touched the stone. I think we should dig this up. Is there anyone who would care? Who owns this house, now? I know you said that Mary told you that her children did, but her children are dead.”

  “That, I can’t tell you. We should check into it. If the city owns it, then they sure haven’t done anything with it.” When I had been searching for a house to buy, Mary’s had not been on the list of available ones. Again, I wondered if Tonya really was interested in the house. “You’re really thinking of buying this, aren’t you?”

  She gave a slight shrug as she attempted to pry the flagstone out from the dirt. “Maybe. As I said, it might be time for me to leave Port Townsend.”

  Setting the globe of light to float in the air, Chai motioned for her to move aside. He took hold of the flagstone, digging his fingers into the dirt, curling them beneath the wide stone. With seeming ease, he jostled the rock until he had pried it loose. The heavy stone gave way with the sucking noise and Chai turned to set it aside. The light lowered itself until we could see that we were staring into a small chamber dug into the ground. It was lined with brick and about the size of a violin case, and about two feet deep. There was something at the bottom wrapped in what looked to be a tattered cloth.

  A sinking feeling hit my stomach. I didn’t want to know what was inside the shrouded cloth.

  Tonya glanced first at Chai and then at me. In a hushed voice, she asked, “What do you think it is? Do you think it’s—”

  “I don’t know, and I’m not sure I want to know. But since we’ve come this far, we might as well go all the way.” I started to lean down to gather the cloth in my arms, but Chai stopped me, resting his fingers on my wrist.

  “Let me do it, Little Sister.” His voice gentle, he motioned for both Tonya and me to back away. As he lifted the bundle out of the chamber, I thought
I heard a faint cry go whooshing past. Tonya let out a gasp and I knew that she had heard what I had heard. Chai very carefully placed the cloth on the ground and began to pull back the cloth, corner by corner. He motioned for the globe of light to hover over the bundle so that we could see. The cloth gave way, exposing the gleam of ivory bones. They were the bones of a child—a baby.

  “Mary’s lost son.” I knew that, without a doubt, we had found the bones of her baby boy.

  Tonya glanced up, looking beyond me toward the front yard. Her eyes widened and she let out an “Oh!” as she slowly rose to her feet. I quickly turned to find myself staring at Mary. This was the first time I had ever seen her out of the house, and instead of the cheery smile she was staring in horror at the bundle of bones on the ground.

  “No, no . . . No, no, no!” Her voice grew progressively louder, culminating in a shriek as she raised her hands to her face, disbelief giving way to horror. “I don’t want to remember. Please don’t make me remember!”

  I half expected her to turn violent and attack us. But instead, the spirit moved forward and knelt by the fragile bones. She lowered her head and reached out one ghostly hand to run them over the rib cage of what had been her child. “He wouldn’t let me keep him. He couldn’t stand that I was happy. He threatened to take everything away from me.”

  She spoke as if we weren’t there. Leaning forward, she brushed the forehead of the little skull. “I’m so sorry. I tried to stop him, but I couldn’t. I never meant for any of this to happen.”

  And then, slowly, Mary rose and softly passed by us back toward the house, where she vanished through the wall. The early morning fell unnaturally silent. I had the feeling that we had witnessed something terribly private and intimate.

  Tonya was the first to speak. “I think there’s a lot more here than meets the eye. I know ghosts can lie, and I’ve dealt with some pretty skeevy characters, but in my gut something tells me that this is no open-and-closed case. Something happened here—more than a demon possessing Mary. More than her going berserk and killing her family. I don’t think she’s the one who put the baby in this chamber.”

  “I think you’re right. I know that whatever happened here took place decades ago. But it feels like it’s still going on. I haven’t been able to decide whether Mary is benign and under attack, or whether she’s the instigator. But now I think that she was the original victim in all of this.” I brushed the wet leaves and dirt that stuck to my knees off my jeans and arched my back, stretching. “So what do we do? Do we take these bones to the police?”

  “Remember what happened at Patrick’s. We had to turn over the skeleton we found. But first, I’d like to do a little scrying over these bones. I want to see what I can pick up. Who knows, maybe I’ll come up with some of the answers that we’re looking for.” Tonya turned to Chai. “Is there a way we can protect these bones without appearing to have disturbed them too much? I don’t want the cops asking what we were doing with them.”

  Chai frowned. “If I bury them again, who knows what’s going to happen? If something is out to protect a secret, it might decide to get rid of the bones. Whatever you’re going to do, I would do it now so that Shimmer can call the authorities.”

  The last thing I wanted to do was put in another call to Chase Johnson, but he was the only one I could think of. I wondered if I should contact Alex first, but then realized that would take all day—until sunset. Reluctantly, I pulled out my phone and scrolled through my contacts. Finding Chase’s name, I hit the Call button.

  “Faerie-Human Crime Scene Investigation unit, Yugi speaking. How may I help you?”

  I remembered that Yugi was Chase’s right-hand man. I wasn’t sure exactly how he figured into the hierarchy at the station, but I knew he was fairly high up. “Hi, this is Shimmer, and I work with Alex Radcliffe at the Fly by Night Magical Investigations Agency. We’ve talked before.”

  “Oh yes, hello. What can I do for you?”

  “I’m calling about the house across the street from mine. We have a situation here.” I explained to him what was going on. I knew that he and his men were all well aware of the ghostly activity in the Greenbelt Park District, and so I felt comfortable telling him all we had found out about Mary and the house. In fact, this seemed a good enough time to ask who owned the place.

  After listening to everything, Yugi asked me to stay put and said he would send out a patrol car. “In fact, I’ll come myself because this sounds a little complicated to explain to my men. I’ll be there in about fifteen minutes. Until then try not to disturb anything else about the scene.”

  After I hung up, I told Chai and Tonya what he had said. Tonya sat down by the bones, careful to avoid disturbing them, and pulled a crystal ball out of her bag.

  “I guess I’d better get busy before they get here,” she said.

  * * *

  Tonya didn’t have time to tell us what she found out, although the look on her face told me she had discovered something. Before she could say anything, the lights of the prowl car flashed from the curb in front. Tonya jumped to her feet, slipping the crystal ball back into her bag. She backed away from the bones. I went to meet the officers.

  A muscled but lean blond-haired man reached out to shake my hand. “How do you do? I’m Yugi and this is Officer Lawrence. If you could take us to where you found the skeleton?” The man beside him was obviously Fae, dark and short, with a wild, feral look about him.

  I led them to the backyard and pointed toward the brick chamber. “We found it under a flagstone. I’m pretty sure the bones are the missing son from the Mary Smith case. She supposedly killed her family in 1938 with an axe, but the body of her baby boy was never found. We think these are his remains.”

  Yugi somberly knelt by the skeleton. “And you found him in that enclosure?”

  “Yes sir.” Tonya moved forward. “My name is Tonya Harris and I’m a witch. I’m from Port Townsend and I’m down here visiting Shimmer and Alex. We’ve been investigating the haunting in this house, and I was drawn to come out here tonight; I could hear someone crying in the wind. I had the feeling something was under the flagstone.”

  Yugi stared Chai for a moment, smiling softly. “I’ll ask you no favors as long as you offer none in return.”

  Chai laughed, his eyes crinkling. The pair understood each other perfectly. “Ask your questions; they won’t be considered favors.”

  “I’m going to assume you’re the one who pried up the flagstone?”

  “Yes. Shimmer is strong enough, but I’m stronger.”

  That was true enough while I was in human form, but part of me wanted to say, Let me just shift into my dragon form and we’ll see who’s stronger. But I had the feeling it wouldn’t be diplomatic, and it sounded too flippant when we were standing over the skeleton of a baby.

  “I see the child is wrapped in a blanket. Was the skeleton originally in that blanket?” Yugi was jotting down notes in a small notebook. Chai’s globe of light dove down to cast a glow over the paper so Yugi could see what he was writing. The officer flickered a glance at the djinn and smiled faintly.

  I decided I would answer this one. “Yes, it was wrapped—fully. We didn’t know what it was until we lifted it out of the enclosure. Although, to be honest, we all had the feeling that it wasn’t going to be any treasure chest or anything.”

  The officer laughed at that. “I wish it were a treasure chest, for all our sakes. It would save us a whole lot of trouble. And you think the bones are those belonging to a baby boy who lived here in 1938?”

  “We’re fairly certain they are. We decided we had better call you, even though I’m not sure what exactly you can do at this point.” I stared at the bundle again, feeling wistful and sad.

  “We’ll run some tests on it, but I have the feeling you’re right. It’s an old skeleton. Even I can feel the energy surrounding it, and it reeks of years gone by, forgotten and neglected.” There was a tone to his voice that made me glance a second time at him. T
his was no ordinary human, but neither was he Fae, nor elf. “We’re going to be here for a little while, and I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to search the house again. You say you’ve been inside?”

  “Yeah, and I have to tell you there are some dangerous spirits lurking around inside, so be careful. I don’t mean to sound forward, but if you need our help, we don’t mind sticking around.” I looked into his eyes, and I could see a spark of fear behind those cool blue irises. But he merely shook his head.

  “Thank you for the offer, but I think you should go home for now. You say you live right across the street? All of you?”

  I pointed to my house. “I own that house, and Chai is my roommate. Tonya is staying with us for the moment. If you need to ask us any questions, feel free to come over. I work nights so I’ll be up for a while yet.”

  As we walked back across the street, I glanced at the house behind me and thought, just for a moment, that I saw Mary peeking from one of the top-floor windows. But then the faint light was gone and I wasn’t sure if I had seen anything at all.

  * * *

  By the time we got into my house, Tonya was shivering.

  I motioned to Chai. “Why don’t you get her a blanket? I’ll put on the kettle for some tea.”

  I hurried into the kitchen and set the kettle on the burner, turning it on full blast. And then, because I remembered the way Tonya had been up in Port Townsend after we had exorcised ghosts from a bed-and-breakfast, I took cheese out of the refrigerator, and bread, and roast beef, and began to make several sandwiches. They would give her necessary energy. Carrying them into the living room along with a bag of cookies, I set them on the coffee table. Chai wrapped a throw around her shoulders. By then, she was visibly shivering, her teeth chattering.

  “Are you all right? Is there anything we can do?” I sat down beside her and took her hands in mine, rubbing them briskly to warm them up.

 
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