Shadow silence, p.26
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       Shadow Silence, p.26

           Yasmine Galenorn
 
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  “Well, I assume Frank has filled you in on the Shadow People out in the forest. That Magda has been summoning them in.” I knew that Sophia kept herself in the loop, even though she wasn’t allowed to be a part of the Crescent Moon Society. She had to have some form of balance, given she was the chief of police, but we knew how she felt about the Hounds. Anything that was an enemy of Whisper Hollow was an enemy of hers.

  She nodded. “And I gather that you all are taking care of this. I know there have been a number of attacks. And I’ve instructed my people to let me know every time someone makes a report. I’ve been feeding them to Frank and he’s been giving them to Starlight. There have been at least two people who were hurt in the past week, one of them seriously. He’s still in the hospital, recovering. But he was almost suffocated.”

  “I didn’t realize it was that bad. I thought they were just scaring people. But one of them attacked Peggin the other night in my CR-V.” I let out a sigh. “I’m not sure whether the influx of the Ankou has anything to do with this other issue.”

  I was mulling over how to approach the whole situation surrounding Peggin and the Lady and the ship beams, when suddenly I realized I was free to tell them about the dream I had had about her. My words came freely.

  “When Peggin was told she had to find another place last week, she found that house. Before I even saw it, I had a horrible dream—a nightmare I couldn’t tell anyone. In the dream, the Lady took Peggin into the waters, drowning her.” I paused, glancing over at Bryan. “I wanted to tell someone, but both the Crow Man and the Morrígan stopped me. Now I realize that they did so for a reason. For some reason, they wanted her to buy that house. I don’t know why, but it has something to do with the beams we found in the basement.”

  “What beams?” Sophia asked. She was recording our conversation, and I knew full well that if it contained something that shouldn’t go in the records, the recording would mysteriously vanish. If she took notes, it was harder to make them go away.

  We explained about the Susanna Maria. I took that moment to tell everyone about the ghosts I had seen of Eugenie and Joseph when we were attacked. “I think they’re linked to the house in order to guard something, but I don’t know what.”

  “I know what they were hiding. And it would never have been found if the house hadn’t burned down. I still think the Hounds burned it down, by the way. I got the distinct sense when I was down in that basement hunting around that they had been hoping it would destroy something that’s been hidden for many years.”

  We all turned to stare at Bryan, who reached inside his jacket and pulled out a slightly charred metal box. When I looked closer, I realized the box was covered with soot, but hadn’t been burned itself.

  “Where did you find it?”

  “It was hidden in the wall behind where one of the beams was affixed. The beam had burned away, but since the foundation of the house was made from stone, this box survived inside a cubbyhole. When I went down into the remains of the basement, I saw Joseph standing beside the wall where I found this. He vanished as I headed over to him. At first I thought it might have been a trick of my imagination, but when I flashed the light over the area where he had been standing, I saw the glint of metal. I pulled it out, but I didn’t have a chance to open it. But look on top of the lid.” He held out the box and placed it on Sophia’s desk. We all leaned in.

  As I stared at the box, I realized that Bryan was right. This is what Eugenie and Joseph were guarding. On the lid, embossed in the steel, was the sign of the spirit shaman—a crow standing on a crescent moon. I caught my breath as I reached toward the box. There was something very powerful inside, something the Hounds had been hiding all those years.

  “May I open it?” I looked up at him. “You’re my guardian, I will listen to what you say.” And right then, I realized that our roles had been fixed. He was not only my guardian, but my advisor, even though I would always have the last word when it came to our jobs.

  “I think it’s meant for you.”

  I suddenly flashed back to my conversation with the Crow Man. “There are bright glittering secrets hidden down there,” I whispered. “And there are hawks looking for it. It’s a race.”

  “What are you talking about?” Sophia asked.

  “The Crow Man. He told me that there were hidden secrets in the basement. And he said hawks were looking for it. I’m not sure why he used that as a metaphor, but I think he was talking about the Hounds.” I paused, then added, “The Crow Man talks in riddles. Sometimes I have to decipher what he’s actually trying to tell me.”

  “That’s because he’s a trickster,” Ivy said. “He may be the voice of the Morrígan, but he’s a trickster at heart. When you think about it, hawks are predators, and they are enemies of crows. Therefore the hawks are the Hounds.”

  “So the Hounds knew about whatever this is.”

  Bryan nodded. “My guess is that they used the beams as an architectural design to keep this box hidden when Herschel built the house. In fact, I would guess the beams were erected as a reminder to future generations to keep guard. But the house fell in disrepair, and generation after generation of families passed through without ever realizing what was hidden in their basement.”

  Sophia picked up her pencil, tapping it on her desk. “We’ll probably never know the truth, unless we can somehow get the records from the Hounds—if there are any—but from what you’ve told me, I’d venture that they sank Joseph’s ship in order to keep him from contacting the revenuers. Prohibition had just started, and it was strictly enforced. If they did have moonshine brewing out in the woods, Joseph probably stumbled onto it. I wonder if he had told any of the other members of the CMS. I can look in the records and see if we have anything about any members of Whisper Hollow being arrested for bootlegging.”

  I still hadn’t opened the box. I felt almost reluctant. Whatever was there had been hidden for so many years, but it was valuable enough for the Hounds to hide it from the new spirit shaman. It was valuable enough that I almost lost my life over it.

  “But why Clinton? He’s a member of the Crescent Moon Society. Why the hell would he take potshots at us? I know that he secretly works for the Hounds. I saw it in his face when we were out in the yard there. He meant to kill me. I’ve always liked Clinton, we’ve never had a problem that I knew of. But tonight he was fully prepared to kill me.”

  “If he’s a double agent, then you really don’t know him,” Bryan said. “The Clinton you thought you knew is not the Clinton he really is. Don’t beat yourself up.”

  “But he lost his great-great-uncle to the Hounds. He has to know that they killed Joseph. How could he do that?”

  But then again, I thought, the man I had believed to be my grandfather all those years had actually killed my mother, the girl he had raised as his daughter. Duvall had belonged to the Hounds and he had married my grandma Lila. He had done so in order to prevent my mother being born. When that didn’t work, when my grandmother ran off and had an affair with her lover, Aidan, and gotten pregnant, Duvall had done the unthinkable. So maybe it wasn’t so strange or unusual.

  I picked up the box. It was time to see what all this was about. There was a lock on it, of course. “Sophia, can you open this?”

  She grinned. “No problem. I grew up learning how to pick locks. Do you think this is trapped?”

  “Good question. I don’t know, but it strikes me that they had it so well hidden they probably didn’t bother trapping the box. If you’re uncomfortable trying to open it, tell me what to do and I will.”

  She shook her head. “Give it to me.”

  I did a double take as she pulled a set of picks out of her desk and made quick work of the lock. We all heard the little click as it opened. But she did not raise the lid. Instead, she slid across the table to me.

  “You do the honors.”

  As I slowly raised the
lid, a soft glint of metal caught my eye. I pushed open the box and there, nestled in a velvet cloth, was a wicked-looking dagger, its blade carved from smooth, polished smoky quartz. Etched on the bone handle was the sign of the spirit shaman—a crow standing on a Crescent moon. The eye of the Crow was an inset ruby, and around the symbol was an elegant filigree of vines and leaves. The dagger let out a long sigh, as if it were taking a deep breath, and called my name. I knew in the depths of my heart this had belonged to spirit shamans before me. I slowly reached in and took hold of the hilt, raising the blade into the air. There was a soft swish and the blade itself began to glow with a faint light.

  “It looks newly made—there’s no stain on it at all.”

  “We need to ask Oriel about this. Or . . .” I turned to Ivy. “Do you know anything about this?”

  She softly shook her head. “No, but Oriel might. I’ll call her and ask her to come over.”

  As I held the dagger, closing my eyes, I realized that it fit perfectly in my hand. It made me feel stronger, and somehow—somewhere from deep in my heart—I could hear a faint whisper coming from the blade. And I knew that it was awake, and whispering, “I’m home again. Finally, I’m home again.”

  * * *

  Oriel hurried over as soon as she got Ivy’s message. By then, Sophia had sent out for a dozen doughnuts, and Corbin had called from the hospital to tell us that Deev would be all right, and that Peggin was awake and was back to her old self. Relieved to hear both pieces of news, I was able to relax and wait for Oriel to get there.

  Oriel took one look at the dagger and let out a gentle laugh. “So it’s true. It does exist.”

  “What? What is this?” I didn’t want to hand over the dagger, but finally did. I was feeling highly possessive of it, but I knew that Oriel would be able to tap into the energy as well.

  She cautiously took it, then closed her eyes. “It’s one of the Talons of the Morrígan. I thought as much. There are nine of these in existence. They were made for the spirit shamans, one for each of the great families. Six were lost—and five of those remain missing. Three of them are in the hands of their rightful families around the world. Two in Ireland, one in Scotland. And now . . . we have this one. Each has a special name, but the Morrígan will tell you what that is—it’s not for me to say. And each has one very special ability. These daggers can dispel the Unliving. You could even destroy Veronica with this, but for that, you must have permission of the Morrígan.” Oriel looked over at me. “You know why.”

  I nodded. “Yes, actually, I do.” And that was all we said about that.

  She handed the dagger back to me. “Because these daggers can dispel the Unliving, they can also dispel the Ankou. You can destroy the Shadow People with the blade, as long as you touch it into their essence. It won’t work by just having it around them. You have to actually touch them with it. But it will banish them back to their realm.”

  I stared at the glinting edge of the blade, suddenly very appreciative. “Then I see why the Hounds hid it. They like to use the Ankou for their servants.”

  “And anything that gives the spirit shaman power takes power away from them. Of course they were going to hide it. My guess is that when they realized Peggin was buying the house, they knew there was a chance you might find the dagger. I’ll bet you anything they are the ones who stirred up the Lady. But when you saved Peggin from going under, they had to do something else.” Oriel turned to Sophia. “If the fire marshal looks for it, he should find evidence of foul play. And my guess is that Clinton has something to do with it. He was listening in at the Crescent Moon Society meeting. He knew what was happening.”

  Her expression fell into a frown. “I am so disappointed in him. He’s been a member for years, and now I wonder how long he has been feeding them information. How long has he belonged to the Hounds? And how did they recruit him?”

  Just then, Frank entered the room. “There’s been a horrible accident. Clinton Brady is dead.”

  And that ended all speculation for the time being.

  * * *

  One of the Ankou.” Oriel looked around the cell. Clinton Brady was sprawled out on his bunk. No one else had been in the cell, although Frank said there was security film footage available. Bruises around Clinton’s neck showed that he had been strangled—asphyxiated. I flashed back to the other night with the Ankou in the back of my car. The Shadow People could kill, that much we knew.

  Locking the door behind us to prevent anyone tampering with the murder scene, we moved to the control booth where the digital cameras had recorded everything that went on. Frank rewound to the time he put Clinton in the cell and locked the door. Then he fast-forwarded through until he suddenly hit pause.

  A dark shadow had entered the holding cell, and Clinton jumped up, his hands in front of him. We couldn’t hear anything, the sound was off, but Clinton looked terrified as the shadow crossed his path and reached for his neck. Clinton tried to fight back but he seemed to be grappling with air, and the Ankou wrapped its meaty hands around his neck, the dark shadows closing in tighter and tighter as Clinton fought for breath. Another moment and it was over. Clinton lay dead on his bunk.

  “So nobody saw this?” Sophia asked, turning to Frank.

  Frank shook his head. “There was an alarm in another cell and there are only three of us on duty here at the station. Two of the men are out in the main office. I was guarding the cells. I ran to the other cell, only to find Stacy Johnson drunk off his ass, but in no danger. When I returned, I checked in on Clinton. I found him dead. It was just a few minutes ago.”

  “The Ankou can work fast.” I stared at the dagger in my hand. “I wish I’d been here.” But even as I said it, I wasn’t sure I really meant it. Clinton was one of the Hounds and he knew our secrets. If he was prosecuted for attempted murder, there would be a good chance he would get off with a light sentence like so many criminals. The last thing I needed was to be looking over my shoulder, always wondering if he was going to come back and try again.

  “So what do we do now? We know that the Hounds killed Joseph and Eugenie, and the other men aboard the ship, but whoever did it was dead long ago. Clinton attempted to kill you, but there’s no way we can link him to anybody else, especially now that he’s dead. As it is, I’m going to have one hell of a time explaining how he died in police custody, when nobody laid a finger on him except a shadow. I’m going to have to call on Gareth for this one.” Sophia frowned. “What do we know about Gareth, for that matter? And the rest of the Crescent Moon Society? Who can we trust and how can we find out who to trust? I can’t join the society, but I need to know that the entire organization is behind Whisper Hollow and not against it.”

  Oriel licked her lips. “Leave it to us. We’ll muddle through and figure out what we can. Did Clinton have any relatives in town?”

  Sophia cocked her head for a moment, thinking. “I don’t think so. I think he’s the last of the line. In fact, we should go through the pub before his lawyer gets a handle on it. We don’t want anything to escape that might give us information on the Hounds. And because he is a suspect—make that perpetrator—in a crime, I have the right to go into his apartment if I can get a warrant. Frank.” She turned to the officer.

  “Already on it. I’ll have the warrant in twenty minutes once I talk to Judge Aimee.” And he was off.

  They worked together like a well-oiled machine, each understanding their part in the relationship. Frank respected Sophia, and Sophia gave Frank enough leeway so that he could actually be useful to her.

  As we returned to Sophia’s office, I let out a sigh. I was tired, and the dagger felt like such a solid weight in my hand that it almost made me want to set it down and walk away. It made things real in a way that nothing else had managed.

  “Once Frank gets the warrant, we’ll go through the pub and through Clinton’s apartment—although I think he lives in a room above
the pub, actually. I can’t let you guys come along; it wouldn’t be proper procedure. Why don’t you go over and visit Peggin and Dr. Divine in the hospital? I’ll call you when Frank and I have finished our search.” She paused as we headed to the door, then added, “Don’t tell anybody anything yet. I want to see what we find before we go spilling the news. The media’s going to have a field day with this, but maybe Gareth can take care of them, too. Oriel, can you check in on Gareth tonight so that I know I can trust him?”

  Oriel nodded, turning to Aidan. “You want to help me?”

  Aidan grinned at her. “It would be my pleasure.”

  I wanted to ask what that was all about, except part of me really didn’t want to know. I decided to concentrate on Deev and Peggin and leave the strong-arming to my grandpa this time. As we headed out of Sophia’s office, I realized how incredibly tired I was. And we still had to free Peggin from the Lady’s mark.

  Peggin was sitting by Deev. He had been confined to a wheelchair, his leg extended in front of him. He was still wearing his top hat, though they had made him exchange his duster for a hospital gown, and he was wearing regular glasses for a change, which blew my mind because I could actually see his eyes. They were extremely blue, to the point of being startling. He was complaining loudly to Corbin, who was standing next to him.

  Corbin’s dark eyes danced merrily, as he just stood there, arms folded over his chest, patiently listening. A tall man, Corbin had glistening skin the color of dark peat. A handsome man, his eyes were dark brown ringed with topaz, and he had been a football player in high school, and still looked the part.

  I wasn’t sure what his wife did, but I knew his daughter was active in the community theater. In fact, if I remembered right, she had played the lead in Romeo and Juliet a month ago. Peggin had told me that it was a good production, but that Kimberly, Corbin’s daughter, had balked at kissing the lead who played Romeo. Apparently he had made some nasty comments about her best friend at school.

 
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