Shadow silence, p.27
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       Shadow Silence, p.27

           Yasmine Galenorn
 
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  “All right, I think you have complained enough.” Corbin leaned down, putting his hand on the arm of the wheelchair. “If you don’t want me to keep you here, and let Nurse Reagan give you sponge baths every time she wants to, you’re going to have to follow my directions. Which means you stay in this contraption until that leg heals up in a few days. Then you can move to crutches if I think it’s all right. But if I hear one word about you attempting to hobble around without the chair, I’m going to slap you right back in a hospital bed, truss that leg up in the air, and let Nurse Reagan go after you. Do you understand me, Dr. Divine?”

  Deev looked entirely put out, but he shrugged. “Yes, I hear you. I promise, I’ll only get out of this chair when I have to go to the bathroom. I am not using the bedpan. Is that an acceptable compromise?”

  Corbin cleared his throat, then gave him a short nod. “I think we can allow that, as long as you wheel up to the bathroom door and don’t hobble more than a few steps. That bullet went deep, and while I got it out and I don’t think there’s any major structural damage, we don’t want any more scar tissue forming than we have to have. I don’t want a knot inside your calf.”

  I decided now was as good a time as any. “How are you feeling? Both of you?”

  Peggin jumped up from where she had slumped down on a chair next to the arguing duo. “Kerris! I’m so glad to see you. How are you? Is Bryan okay? I’m so embarrassed about what happened.”

  “Don’t be. It wasn’t your fault. The Lady had you in her grasp, and we all know that.”

  Corbin’s expression darkened. “Has Oriel talked to you about the ritual yet?”

  Peggin and I both shook our heads.

  “I didn’t know you were going to be involved,” Peggin said.

  “There is a reason I’ll be there. I don’t like what it entails, I’m going to tell you that right now. But Peggin, it’s the only way to get rid of that mark. I hope you trust me.” Corbin gazed at her darkly, and a veiled hint of danger filled his voice.

  “You’re making me nervous,” Peggin said.

  “You’re making me nervous, too,” I said. “What are you talking about? Can you tell us about this?”

  Corbin shook his head. “It’s better you don’t know in advance. I’ll be there tomorrow night, though. We’ll bring you through this. Meanwhile, how’s our shooter?”

  Sophia hadn’t wanted us to say anything, so I shifted my eyes and stared at the clock instead. There was no way that they wouldn’t be able to guess; I wasn’t that good of a liar. But I could do my best. “It’s getting late. We should get home. Can I take these two with me?”

  Corbin tapped me on the shoulder and I turned to stare at him. It was like staring up at a tree trunk, he was so sturdy and tall.

  “Clinton Brady is dead, isn’t he?”

  I managed to avoid blinking, and I kept my expression neutral. “You should call Sophia and talk to her if you want to know. That would probably be for the best.”

  “I see. She’s asked you to keep quiet for now. Very well, I’ll give her a call in a while. Yes, you can take these two home. Don’t let either one of them out of your sight for the next twenty-four hours at least. Peggin was in shock, and Deev is hurt. Bullets are no laughing matter. I’ll talk to you tomorrow night. The nurse will have their medications—I’m giving Peggin a sedative to take at night so she doesn’t get up and wander away. You can give it to her if she needs it during the day, too, since we only have to get through the next twenty-four hours. Call me if you need me. My number’s on the prescription.”

  Bryan showed up at that moment. I wasn’t sure where he had been but he took over wheeling Deev toward the door as I escorted Peggin. The nurse brought us the prescriptions, and I promptly took hold of Peggin’s sedatives. I didn’t want the Lady encouraging her to throw them away. As we headed out to the car, I wondered how Gareth was going to spin Clinton’s death. And how much had the Hounds found out about the CMS from our backstabbing friend?

  * * *

  I insisted that Deev stay at my house, too. “You can sleep on the living room sofa or I can make up a bed in the office for you. One way or another, I’m not letting you go home to that old barn you call a house.”

  I had never been inside Deev’s home before, but it was huge and drafty, and from what Peggin told me there were stairs everywhere because whoever had first built it had just kept adding onto it as if it were the Winchester house.

  Deev looked over at Peggin. “Is she usually this bossy?”

  Peggin snorted. “She and I are par for the course. In other words: You’re toast. I suggest you just acquiesce and deal with it.”

  Deev let out a snort. “But I’m going to need clothes, I’m not about to live in this hospital gown the entire time.”

  “Do you have any bell-bottoms by any chance? If they flare from the knee, then you should be okay. Otherwise we’re going to have to create slits so that your calf isn’t confined.” I looked over at Bryan. “Maybe you can run over to his house and pick him up a few pieces of clothing?”

  “I think we should just open a business. This is the second time in how many days we’ve gone on a clothing reconnaissance mission.”

  “Don’t even joke, dude,” Deev said. “I have no desire to see my house burned down with all my art.”

  “No problem. And yes I’ll run over there in a little while. What time is it? It must be close to midnight.” Bryan checked his watch. “Strike that. It’s past two. You can wait for clothes until tomorrow morning. I think we all need some sleep.”

  By the time we got home, the cats were sprawled out on the sofa and looked at us like we had just caused them a major insult when I ejected them from their bed. Agent H meandered off, letting out a little grumble as he headed toward the bedroom. Daphne decided it was time for a nosh and started meowing at her food dish. And Gabby walked over to the rocking chair and hopped in that, giving me a stare like you’d better not try it again, human.

  While Peggin fed them, Bryan got some sheets and blankets from the linen closet and made up a comfortable bed for Deev. I turned on the Christmas lights, and the soft glow wooed us all to stop what we were doing. We settled into our seats, and sat there for a few minutes in silence, as the stress from the day began to wash out.

  I leaned back, thinking about the dagger that was in my handbag. I wasn’t sure my grandmother had ever heard of it, but I needed to do more research. I had to learn how to use it, and I had to learn how to protect it. It was an extremely powerful piece of weaponry, and when I thought of how the Hounds had hidden it away behind the beams to keep my great-grandmother and my grandmother from finding, it made me incredibly sad and wistful.

  The Crow Man was right. Great-Grandma Mae and Grandma Lila could have been so powerful with a weapon against the Ankou. The Unliving were an ever-present threat and danger. The dagger could make things so much easier.

  After a few minutes, I began to yawn, the weariness setting in. I took out Peggin’s sedative. It was a liquid, and I was grateful for that. It would be easier to ensure she actually took it. I poured her out the recommended dosage and handed it to her.

  “I hate to act like your mother, but I need to see you drink this.”

  She gave me a soft smile. “I’m grateful that you are willing to oversee this. I don’t trust the Lady not to influence me.” She upended the medicine cup, swallowing it in one gulp. Then she opened her mouth and showed me her tongue, which was a bright cherry red.

  I laughed. “Sleep deep and well.”

  She yawned then, stretching as she did so. “That stuff works fast,” she said. I could see her unwinding, and sent her upstairs to bed.

  Deev crawled under the covers, wincing. “Damn, that hurts. Can you hand me a pain pill?” Bryan brought him a bottle of water and handed him one of the pain pills, setting the rest of them beside him. Deev swallowed the pill, d
rinking deep to wash it down.

  I left the lights on, figuring it would be easier for him to find his way to the bathroom. I set up his wheelchair next to the sofa so that he could step into it easily. Bryan headed to the bedroom and I motioned that I’d be right behind him.

  Quietly, I climbed the stairs to the guest room where Peggin was staying. I knocked, softly, but there was no answer. Carefully, I opened the door and peeked in. She was curled in her blankets, snoring softly. The ferrets were playing in their cage and I made sure they had food and clean water. I crept over to Peggin’s side and touched her shoulder, but she was out like a light. Checking to see that the windows were firmly shut and locked, I headed back downstairs where I locked the front door and the back, and then headed to bed. Satisfied that everyone was safe for the night, I stripped out of my clothes and crawled under the covers, falling into the deepest sleep that I’d had for a long time.

  CHAPTER 18

  The next morning—Tuesday—we were eating breakfast when Sophia called.

  “We got our warrant and searched Clinton Brady’s pub last night. We found a bunch of papers that indicate he’s been with the Hounds for the past two years. I also found out that Clinton owed a great deal of money. Apparently he had a secret gambling habit, and had run up a bill of over one hundred thousand dollars. He had tried to take out a loan but he couldn’t because he couldn’t prove what the loan was for. One of the Hounds works for the bank and we think he figured it out. Apparently he saw a way to get Clinton over a barrel. The gambling debt mysteriously disappeared two months after Clinton first tried to take out the loan, but there’s no indication of how he came up with the money. My guess is that the Hounds bought him off and made his little money problem vanish.”

  I let out a long breath. Gambling had taken a toll on a lot of people, and apparently it had destroyed Clinton as well. It had destroyed his ethics, and it had destroyed his life in the end.

  “Well I guess we know why he did it. The kicker is, if he would have talked to the CMS, maybe they could have helped him out.” I had the feeling that somehow they would have helped him manage his way through his troubles and his addiction.

  “I was thinking maybe it’s best Peggin doesn’t go over to the house, given how close it is to the lake. But if you want to come over today, we can sift through the rubble and see if we can find anything of hers that might still be salvageable. The place is pretty much gutted, but we might get lucky.” Sophia sounded defeated. “Sometimes it’s really hard being in my position. I watch the people of this town go through trauma, I watch them deal with loss and pain. I do what I can, but there’s never anything I can do to solve the problem after it happens. I can only come along, pick up the pieces, and try to make things seem a little better.”

  I wanted to cheer her up. She did a good job and I hated to see her depressed. “Sophia, you give police a good name. Don’t beat yourself up over what isn’t your fault. We all respect you, and look up to you. Whisper Hollow is a magical town, and it’s a dangerous town. It eats people up if they don’t respect it. And you have to deal with that aspect as well. I think you do a damn good job.”

  She paused, then thanked me. We agreed to meet at ten A.M., and I hung up.

  Peggin was still asleep; I had checked on her when I got up and she was still in bed, snuggled up under the covers. But I decided to start breakfast since it wouldn’t be long before she and Deev would be waking up. Bryan had already been up and out when I woke up and took my shower. As I heated up the waffle iron, he came through the door, holding a box.

  “I decided to go over to Deev’s to bring him some clothes before he woke up. I can’t imagine him wanting to wear that hospital gown after he takes a sponge bath. He’s not supposed to take a shower for the next couple days.” He set the box on the table and gave me a kiss. “How are you feeling this morning?”

  “Not too bad. I just got off the phone with Sophia.” I told him what she had told me. “So apparently Clinton was trying to solve his money problems, and everything got away from him. I still can’t believe that he meant to shoot me down—it’s just not in his nature. I think they must have had something else on him, but I don’t know if we’ll ever know what. Clinton was a good guy and I know it in my heart.”

  “Desperation can make people do the strangest things, and it can make them do things that are totally against their nature. Maybe you’ll end up seeing his spirit and be able to ask him.”

  I cocked my head, giving him a sideways glance. “I’m not certain I really want to see his spirit. But some closure might be good. I wonder if Eugenie and Joseph are still there now that we found the blade. I’ll find out later today when I meet Sophia at the house. We’re going to look for anything that survived the fire. We both decided it wasn’t a good idea to have Peggin out there. I don’t think she’s going to like it, but I’m going to make her take another sedative after breakfast. A little extra sleep won’t hurt her at all.”

  As I made the waffles, Bryan took Deev’s clothing in to him and helped him to the bathroom so he could take a sponge bath and get dressed. I was just finishing up the fourth waffle when Peggin yawned her way into the kitchen.

  “Caffeine, now. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll give me a quad shot.” She stuck her tongue out at me and I laughed but fired up the espresso machine.

  “Listen, Sophia called me this morning and had some information for me.” I told her what she had said. I had the feeling that I was going to end up telling the story time after time today. After I finished, I added, “She and I are going to go through the remains of your house today. You are not coming. You are going to take a sedative and have a nice long nap while I’m gone. And I don’t want any arguments.”

  To my surprise, she didn’t even try to put up a fight. “After I turned the gun on Bryan last night, do you really expect me to argue? That horrified me; I knew what I was doing even as I couldn’t stop it. It was like something was possessing my hands. I don’t ever want to be in that position again. In fact, as much as I love my gun, I’m probably going to get rid of it because I don’t think I could live with myself if I ever accidentally shot one of my friends. Or if I accidentally shot anybody else who didn’t deserve it.”

  “That sounds like a good idea to me. I like that you can shoot, and I kind of want to learn how, but the reality is that some spirits can control mortals. Around Whisper Hollow, you never know who’s going to be behind the wheel. Now come help me finish these waffles while Deev finishes his sponge bath. We’ll eat breakfast, and then I’m going to go meet Sophia. When I get back, I’ll wake you up and we can take some time to finish trimming the house. I think we both deserve a little bit of a break.” I didn’t mention the meeting that night. We were already overstressed, overwhelmed, and way too tired to deal with anything else.

  * * *

  Sophia and I spent an hour and a half poking through the remains of the house. Very little had remained, and it broke my heart to see the broken bits of china and the charred papers and what had been the boxes that were now piles of ash. At one point Sophia suddenly stood up and called me over to her side. She had found the porcelain figure of a cat. While it was covered with soot, miraculously it was unbroken.

  I slowly took the cat in my hands. “I bought this for Peggin when we were ten years old. It was my birthday present to her. Of all the things you could find, I think she’ll be happy that this is one that actually survived.”

  We sifted through pile after pile of ash and rubble and when we were done, we had managed to find some jewelry still intact, several knickknacks that had managed to escape breakage, and the miracle of miracles—Peggin’s makeup case, which must have been blown out of the window during the explosion. Some of the bottles were broken, but for the most part her thousand-dollar makeup collection was intact. By the end, we had four necklaces, three rings—all of which were diamond and gemstones—the makeup case, the
porcelain cat, three pieces of Peggin’s china collection, and a pile of flatware that would be good as new if it went through a thorough washing. Everything else had pretty much been incinerated.

  As I stared down into the basement, I thought about the blade again, and the beams from the Susanna Maria. This house had been cursed from the beginning.

  Sophia carried the box of things back to her car while I wandered around the lot. I was looking for ghosts, but everything felt silent, as if the fire had wiped the slate clean. I closed my eyes and held out my hands but there was nothing here. No lost souls. No Eugenie. No Joseph. No Herschel. The land felt empty and barren.

  I looked beyond the lot toward the tree line, where the lake glistened through the copse. Silent snow covered the trees and undergrowth, but when I closed my eyes and reached out I could hear a faint song and I knew it was the Lady. But she must have sensed me, for the next moment she was silent and the lake felt like a brooding lair, hushed and waiting for someone it actually wanted.

  * * *

  I arrived home to find Deev sitting at the kitchen table in his wheelchair, playing with Daphne. He was throwing kitty treats one by one into the living room and she was running after them. Gabby and Agent H stared at him with disdain. They ran for no person. But Daphne was quite happy to gobble up anything he offered her.

  “Well, this is all we found. And we went over it pretty in-depth.” I decided to wash up the silverware and the china before waking Peggin. I wanted them spotless and sparkling when she came down. As I filled the sink with soapy water, and immersed the silverware first, Deev wheeled himself over to my side.

  “There’s something Peggin doesn’t know about me. I didn’t want to tell her, because when I’ve told other women in the past, it’s affected my relationships in bad ways.” He pursed his lips, staring up at me from behind his crazy goggles. I had actually grown fond of them, and it had seemed strange to see his eyes so clearly the night before.

 
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