[et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ admin_label=”Black Sun Beta Header” fullwidth=”on” specialty=”off” background_image=”https://www.worldofsilentpines.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/black-sun-header.png” transparent_background=”off” background_color=”#040506″ allow_player_pause=”off” inner_shadow=”off” parallax=”off” parallax_method=”on” make_fullwidth=”off” use_custom_width=”off” width_unit=”on” make_equal=”off” use_custom_gutter=”off” global_module=”2851″][et_pb_fullwidth_header admin_label=”White Night/Black Sun Header” global_parent=”2851″ background_layout=”light” text_orientation=”center” header_fullscreen=”off” header_scroll_down=”off” parallax=”off” parallax_method=”off” logo_image_url=”https://www.worldofsilentpines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/blacksunti.png” content_orientation=”center” image_orientation=”center” custom_button_one=”off” button_one_letter_spacing=”0″ button_one_use_icon=”default” button_one_icon_placement=”right” button_one_on_hover=”on” button_one_letter_spacing_hover=”0″ custom_button_two=”off” button_two_letter_spacing=”0″ button_two_use_icon=”default” button_two_icon_placement=”right” button_two_on_hover=”on” button_two_letter_spacing_hover=”0″ /][/et_pb_section][et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ admin_label=”section” transparent_background=”off” background_color=”#000000″ allow_player_pause=”off” inner_shadow=”off” parallax=”off” parallax_method=”off” padding_mobile=”off” make_fullwidth=”off” use_custom_width=”off” width_unit=”on” make_equal=”off” use_custom_gutter=”off”][et_pb_row admin_label=”row”][et_pb_column type=”3_4″][et_pb_post_title admin_label=”Chapters Post Title” global_module=”241″ title=”on” meta=”on” author=”on” date=”on” categories=”on” comments=”on” featured_image=”off” featured_placement=”below” parallax_effect=”on” parallax_method=”on” text_orientation=”left” text_color=”light” text_background=”off” text_bg_color=”rgba(255,255,255,0.9)” module_bg_color=”rgba(255,255,255,0)” title_all_caps=”off” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid” saved_tabs=”all” /][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text” background_layout=”dark” text_orientation=”justified” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]
Halloween night. For most people it was the kind of holiday that brought tasty candy, creative costumes, and all in good fun scares.
For Julian Hollinger it was a whole different kind of scary.
Which was half of the reason that instead of doing what most teenagers did on Halloween (terrorizing children on the streets or trying to scare each other in ‘haunted’ places), she was curled up on the couch and buried under her family’s ratty afghan in the dark. The only light came from the TV screen. Normally surrounding herself in the dark was the last thing she’d want to do, but without it little kids would bang on the door looking for candy, and as long she stayed on the couch and didn’t do anything, nothing weird would happen.
Because weird things always happened on Halloween. Always.
And it didn’t help that she had other reasons for brooding too.
The sudden knocking made Julian jump, but she remained in her cocoon of safety. The intruder on the other side of the door would have to go away.
Of course, either Angela Mercy didn’t hear Julian’s silently beamed thoughts, or she didn’t care. She kept on knocking, the sound getting louder until the faint complaints of her voice could be heard with it. All of a sudden it stopped to be followed by a jangle of keys. Julian sighed as the front door opened and the living room lights flickered on.
“Why do you even bother knocking in the first place.” Julian muttered from under the blanket.
“I don’t want to walk in here when you’re naked.” Angela responded, her voice hovering above Julian from just behind the couch.
“That’s never going to happen.”
“It should. Being naked is fun. What the hell are you watching? Is that Labyrinth?” Angela wrinkled up her nose. Right now there was a very interesting shot of David Bowie playing with his glass balls.
“We watch it every Halloween. It’s Dad’s favorite.” grumbled Julian. She sunk further in to her nest.
Angela rolled her eyes and circled around the couch. She stopped in front of Julian, blocking the view of the TV. Then she reached down and snatched the afghan off Julian’s head. “Okay, that’s enough brooding for you. I gave you a couple days to wallow, and now you’re DONE. Tonight we’re going out and having some fun.”
Julian blinked. She had an eye full of pink fabric. Her gaze flickered downwards first, then upwards as she took in the full detail of Angela’s costume. It was no retail store cheap knock-off. This was hand made with loving attention to detail and a surprising amount of craftsmanship. Her hair was braided in a long strand with little pink and yellow flowers woven in.
“Hello Rapunzel.” Julian sounded amused, but her face was still impassive.
Angela’s hands dropped to her waist and she scowled. “He freaking ambushed me. Apparently Dadi spent two months working on it and I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’m too old for this shit. He looked so stupidly proud of himself, the dork.”
“I think it’s his best one yet. Even better than Merida.”
“It IS! And I might as well show it off, so come on. Get up and get dressed.” Angela gestured her hands.
Julian didn’t move. “It’s Halloween. You know what happens. Even Michael thinks it’s best for me to stay here.”
“Michael would probably have you locked in his castle dungeon if he thought he could get away with it.” Angela complained. But after another pointed stare, Julian was still refusing to get up. “All right. You want me to be the bad guy? Fine! Now I’m the bad guy!” Angela quoted, as she reached down to grab Julian’s legs and pull her off the couch.
“My will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great… you have no power over me.” Julian responded in monotone, throwing her arms behind her head and still refusing to move. She was a lifeless lump of dead weight on the floor.
“Your dad would be SO proud. You fucking dramatic Hollinger nerds!” Angela kept dragging. She made it all the way to the staircase when Julian finally burst in to laughter. It was the first time since the other day that she actually laughed and Angela was grateful for it.
“Okay, okay…! You win. Last thing I want is you giving me a concussion on the stairs. I have some stuff to give you anyway.” Julian picked herself up off the floor and followed Angela up to her room.
On strolling through the threshold, Angela skipped over to the vanity to rummage through Julian’s makeup. She earned her victory reward. A palette of eye-shadow got flicked open as she searched for a brush. Julian headed for the closet, cringing when she passed by a standing mirror. The motion didn’t go unnoticed.
“Hey, what was that?”
“Nothing. I just… I told you, Halloween is weird.” she mumbled, kneeling down to dig for something in the back.
Angela was too curious to let it go. After all, this was part of very important Psychic Julian research. “Like you’re seeing stuff in it? Right? …There’s not any ghosts in here, are there?” She glanced around warily.
Julian laughed softly. “No ghosts. But yeah, seeing stuff. Flashes of stuff that’s happened in here. Or I guess it’s technically stuff the mirror’s seen? I don’t know. It happens sometimes.” Julian’s hands found a box and she dragged it out to take over to the bed.
“That’s cool! What’s in it now?” Makeup was abandoned in favor of surprise presents. Angela bounced over to the bed and plopped down on a corner. She followed Julian’s gaze as the girl cast a quick look towards the mirror and grimaced. Whatever Julian saw, she didn’t like it.
“Leo being an asshole.” she hissed. The tone of her voice didn’t quite match her expression though and now she was focused on pulling stuff out of the box. “A week or so ago I did a little shopping around for useful stuff. I suppose now I’m really glad I did since Leo’s gone and Michael doesn’t want me to-” she cut off and sighed, there was a roll of her eyes again. “Anyway, I’m not always going to be around to protect you so I figured you better be able to protect yourself.”
First out came a small bottle with a beautifully crafted stopper and filled with a greenish gold liquid. She passed it to Angela. “This is a perfume made with real oils, rose being the main the one, so it’s basically vampire repellent. I figured you wouldn’t wear it if wasn’t designer and special. It’s a custom Angela-Only blend.”
Angela opened it up and took a sniff. It smelled amazing. She immediately put a dab behind both her ears. “You know me so well!” She cast her friend a side-eyed glance. “I guess you haven’t heard from Leo at all.”
Julian shrugged her shoulders. “He’s not forced to stay anymore, so why stick around.” She tossed a keychain with a tiny mace sprayer on it in to Angela’s lap. “THAT is a weaponized version. Rose and pepper spray. Good for anything with eyeballs IF you actually remember to use it.”
The blond scoffed. “Because he totes loves us and he lives here? Pretty sure he’ll turn up soon.”
“He doesn’t live here and he’s not coming back and I REALLY don’t want to talk about it.” Julian snapped. Angela didn’t have time to comment further because a new item was thrust in to her face. A silver stick of metal with engraved swirls and a little sun at the top. It looked like one half of a pair of hair chopsticks. “That’s for stabbing werewolves.”
“It’s not pure silver is it?” Angela asked, holding it up close to her face and examining the metal. “If it’s too pure, the metal won’t be strong enough. I mean, it’ll still poke a hole if you’re stabbing the right spot hard enough but I’m not sure how well it’ll hold up.”
Julian blinked in confusion, her mouth twisting as she tried to remember. “Um, I don’t know. It feels the same as this though.” She held out her hand, showing Angela the ring Silvia stuck on her a few days ago. The silver was polished and reflective, with the head of a wolf just barely raised out of the metal. “Silvia gave it to me. Apparently the Whelans have some family tradition about giving people that don’t get the bite a silver weapon so they can protect themselves from enemy packs. These days it’s just symbolic stuff like this and she’s all offended because she still intends to be a wolf.”
“If you wear it on your punching hand, I bet it’d still fuck a werewolf up.” Angela offered. The suggestion succeeded in making Julian crack a grin again. “Now put on something COOL. We’re going to a party.”
The party was at Margrit Berkshire’s estate. With her parents out of town for the week, having a Halloween celebration at her house was way better than out in Devil’s Wood, where lately no one really wanted to risk venturing out to after all the recent dead bodies showing up. By the time Angela and Julian arrived it was already at full swing – worse than full swing. There was a LOT more people than expected, and many of them didn’t look like they belonged in high school let alone were the type of people Margrit would call friends.
Julian, having refused to wear a costume, almost stuck out among the crowd. She just wore some random band shirt from her dresser, a pair of dark jeans and her jacket. Angela almost blurted out that she was being Leo for Halloween, but she wanted Julian to actually LEAVE the house and decided to keep it to herself. The further they got in to the house, the more antsy and uncomfortable Julian got. She’d pass someone and wince, or shirk away when accidentally brushing up against a person.
Once Angela found the table with all the booze, the first thing she did was hand Julian two shot glasses. “Here, drink these.”
She took the glasses without argument and downed them in succession. Then Julian coughed and grimaced. “Ugh, gross, what was that?”
“Tequila!” Angela watched her for a few moments. “That feel a little bit better?”
Julian looked dubious, handing Angela the empty glasses. After another few seconds her body seemed to release from it’s coiled tension and she nodded. “A little bit.” she admitted. “It’s still really-” she made an exploding motion at her head with her fingers, “everything. It’s just everything.”
“Don’t think about it. We’re going to dance!”
“THANK GOD. Julian, here, drink these.” Margrit appeared out of nowhere. Dressed from head to toe in gold and looking like a 1920s flapper having one really BAD night. Her makeup was a little off, her hair was all out of place, and it looked like she must have been rolling around somewhere because the dress was slightly skewed and her shoes were scuffed. She handed Julian another pair of shot glasses.
Before Angela could tell her not to, Julian drank those down too. “I already gave her some!” she shouted, and followed up with a sigh. Julian coughed again, handing them back to Margrit.
“It doesn’t matter, more is good!” Margrit shoved the glasses at Angela, then took Julian by the shoulders and started guiding her in the direction the music played the loudest. “I need Julian to do that thing she does! My brother’s obnoxious college friends showed up and everything is getting out of control!”
“What is that thing I do?!” asked Julian, sounding a little alarmed and amused at the same time.
“The THING where you fix everything! Just do it, okay? These assholes are trashing my house.” Margrit gave her a hard shove and Julian stumbled away in to the fray.
Angela abandoned the glasses on a side table, then stopped next to Margrit and crossed her arms. She watched as Julian got pulled in to dance with some guy. The girl threw her head back in a laugh, then leaned close to whisper something in his ear. Her hand slipped in to his pocket to pull out a set of keys, and while he wasn’t looking she threw them across the room. They danced a bit more before she wandered off to chat with someone else.
“Is you brother here too? I haven’t seen him in forever.” Angela asked.
Margrit shook her head. “As usual he showed up for five minutes, ruined everything, and left me with his mess. What’s wrong with Julian? I know she’s always a basket case on Halloween, but she’s been distant and weird the past few days.”
“Problems with Michael. And Leo left town. She’s not taking it very well.”
“Well I’m not surprised. Michael is a sophisticated, old world sort of man that requires a certain amount of reserve and class to maintain his interest and his reputation. And Julian is, well.” Margrit tilted her head. Julian was busy throwing her arms above her head and dancing with abandon with anybody that danced with her. Ever so often she paused just long enough to subtly push someone in another direction, throw their keys across the room, or take their drink away to dump out in a potted plant. Those plants were going to be RUINED just like everything else in Margrit’s house. “Julian is another sort of creature all together.”
“I don’t think that’s the one she’s most upset about.”
The conversation didn’t get any further as Julian had made her way back. She held out three differently shaped bags in her open palms. One, a generous amount of pot that Angela snatched immediately and made disappear somewhere in her Rapunzel dress. The second looked like it had a dozen prescription pills in it. Margrit scowled and took that one. The third was someone’s stash of chocolates. Julian looked all too pleased to tuck that away in her jacket.
“You’ll have at least a dozen people to help you clean up in the morning and no one is doing to die!” she chimed cheerfully. Those extra two shots did wonders for her mood, and dancing certainly helped too.
“Thank you! You may carry on.” Margrit gestured her hands at them to dismiss them, then she scooted away to resume her hostess duties.
Angela threw her arms around Julian and squeezed her in a sideways hug. “What a good little psychic you are! Now who wants to help her bestie find a cute boy to make out with in a closet?”
“You are just the worst kind of friend.”
“Oh, I don’t know about all that,” a voice cut in drily from their left. “You could do worse.”
The first thing that Julian noticed was the particularly vomitous shade of his brown tweed coat. When she’d recovered from that, her gaze was drawn to the large, round, hornbeam-framed grandpa glasses- and then down to the intersection of a houndstooth shirt, pristinely knotted tie, and lumpy cardigan vest.
And… Oh god. His pants matched the coat. Who even MADE tweed pants?!
“Evening, ladies,” Walter greeted them, twirling a pen between his fingers, and rested his hip against the double French doors of Margrit’s sunroom-turned-refreshments-center. His gaze raked the crowd of teenagers and twenty-somethings from under an arched eyebrow. “I see that the sloppy drunks have started early this year. It’s not even nine o’clock.”
“Well hello there Hot Grandpa.” Announced Angela first, her posture changing subtly in that oh shit, there’s an adult, run for it sort of way. Unlike most of the teenagers there, Angela was pretty sure her dad couldn’t afford to get her out of kid-jail if she got caught with her bra filled with the weed Julian confiscated.
Julian didn’t seem all that alarmed, though. She was eyeing him up and down with a curious frown. “You almost look like a completely different kind of person every time I see you, Walter.”
“Oh sick, I just called the murder witch hot? Hey- Fuck you, Walter!” Angela then ducked behind Julian, tilting just enough so she could look around her and now give the guy a real look over. So this was the witch? What a weirdo. She hoped this was some sort of costume because the guy didn’t look anything special to her.
“I’m pretty sure this isn’t your kind of party.” said Julian, slowly crossing her arms. “Unless you’re here to be creepy as usual, and then I have to warn you that I am apparently in charge of Doing The Thing I Do and I think that involves getting rid of creepers.”
“I’m only here to retrieve you.” Walter’s eyes turned to Angela, eyeing her with about as much skepticism as she was radiating his way. “This would be, what. Your sidekick? Charming.”
He pulled his sleeve up to check his watch (wristwatch, although the way he was dressed, it probably wouldn’t have been far-fetched for him to pull out a pocketwatch) and tilted his head in a considering manner.
“Ten to nine,” he mused. “Later than I thought. No time for all of this nicety shit, then. You’re going to insist on bringing this one along, aren’t you.”
“Are you kidding? She’ll see something scary and cry. She’s not going.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Angela interjected, grabbing Julian’s arm to turn her around. “Hold the damn phone! He shows up saying he’s here to retrieve you and you’re just gonna walk on out the door with him no questions asked?! I’m pretty sure he’s not taking you out for ice cream, Julian!”
Julian blinked, and judging by the expression she gave, that was EXACTLY what she intended to do. “Yes? He helped Leo, I owe him a favor.”
Oh fucking christ. Angela sighed heavily and pinched the bridge of her nose. Julian was on auto-pilot – she was two shots too many in to Julianland, no thanks to Margrit. Perfect for a really good game of Truth or Lie and keeping her from freaking out about stuff, but fucking terrible when you didn’t want her being all psychic and chasing every impulse she got.
This was so bad.
“LEO owes the favor. You don’t owe this lunatic anything. You’re not even thinking about how weird it is that he knew where to find you. Or the fact you don’t know ANYTHING about him besides the fact he has no problem killing somebody right on the spot.”
“Leo isn’t here.” Julian very nearly hissed, dropping her hands in to balled fists at her sides. The rest, though, gave her some pause. At least enough that she was twisting her mouth and considering it. “I’m not drunk, if that’s what you’re thinking. And Walter isn’t going to get me killed tonight, if that’s the other. I’m too useful and scrappy.”
“There’s worse things that could happen to you than dying.” Angela tried to insist. She could see it wasn’t getting anywhere though. And now she was starting to suspect it was more than just a lack of psychic inhibition that was making Julian so eager to jump in to a scheme with Walter. “FINE. Sign me up for this caper. I’m going!”
“You’re not going to like it.”
“Stop wasting time, Jules, we’re clearly on a time schedule here, and I have a curfew. Lead the way, Walter. I’m watching you.”
“While listening to you two have a ‘private’ conversation is fascinating,” commented Walter, tapping his wrist, “I didn’t come here to observe teenagers in the wild.”
He stowed his pen behind his ear and swiveled on his heel, slipping through the doors and out onto Margrit’s backyard deck. With a dexterity which belied his age, he hopped over a pool chair- in fact, the very same pool chair that Julian had been sitting in, the last time she and Walter had both been at the Berkshire Estate.
“I’m just cashing in my favor,” he called over his shoulder to them. “I need help. Jules wants to help, and afterwards we’re even. It all works out nicely for everyone involved, see?”
“As long as I don’t have to deal with zombies or dead bodies, I’m good.” Now that she wasn’t bickering with Angela, she was paying a lot more attention to him. The watchy deciphering kind. Her fingers twitched a little bit at her sides. It kinda figured he’d show up on the worst day ever, so Julian wanted to get what ever ‘weird’ thing that was bound to happen good and over with.
Julian caught up to him, though it wasn’t easy with the way Angela was clinging to the tail end of her jacket. “Do you want to hold my hand, princess?” she asked, casting a rather wicked grin.
Angela couldn’t see it, but she could hear it in her voice. “Fuck you! You’re not my boyfriend! I’m just trying not to get lost in the dark here.”
“Hrrrmgph.” Julian sucked in a breath and groaned. “I forgot to tell Michael I left the house.”
Angela snorted. “Might as well text him and tell him we’re partying with Walter now. I’m sure he’ll be totally thrilled. Hey, where ARE we going!”
“My car. And then somewhere else.” Walter clicked his tongue. “This talking thing, is it going to be an all-night thing? Because at some point you’re going to have to shut up.”
He threw a glance Julian’s way.
“Sorry,” he deadpanned. “Am I being a dick again? You know my people skills aren’t my strong point.”
Walter reached into his pocket, producing the tell-tale jangling sound of keys- and a moment later, producing the keys themselves. He jogged over to a car that was parked under the shade of one of the old, gnarled trees lining the Berkshires’ long drive. It was the same car from the evening he’d given Julian a ride home.
“Specifically, I’m shit at trusting people. Call it old age fucking with my already well-developed and practiced paranoia.” The locks popped. Walter opened the driver’s side door and slid inside, reaching for something sitting on the dash. “Someone’s lying to me. I intend to find out who and why, and you’re going to help me.”
“I’ll make sure you know exactly when you’re being a huge dick.” commented Julian when she slid in to the front passenger seat.
Angela plopped in the back, making sure the fabric of her dress didn’t get caught in the door. She glanced around at the plush interior, running her hand over the seat beside her and wrinkling up her nose. “This thing belongs back in the 70s.”
Julian peered over her shoulder just to make sure Angela wasn’t doing something super weird. Her hand slipped in to her coat pocket and curled around her phone. On pulling it out she glanced at the blank screen, thumbing over the power button. When she and Michael spoke the other day, she agreed to make sure he always knew what she was up to so he could be involved and not so worried about her. He promised to be more forthcoming when there were things she needed to know and not wait until last minute to fill her in.
But right that moment it just felt like he was trying to keep her on a leash. She didn’t recall him promising to tell her where he was at and what he was doing during the day.
Julian turned off her phone and shoved it back in her pocket.
“And how am I going to do that?” Julian asked. “Are you going to introduce me to your minions?”
“I’m now imagining you playing Truth or Lie with a bunch of old wizards in stupid looking sweaters and it’s fucking hilarious.” chimed in Angela. It was pretty much the funniest thing she could think of.
“You’re about two decades early,” Walter informed Angela smoothly. “And that’s funny. This car is newer than your costume, Zelda Fitzgerald.”
He turned the key in the ignition- that key with the plastic British flag and rabbit’s foot keychain- and rolled down the windows. It still smelled like wood-smoke in there, too, but one thing was different; what looked like a dried-up snarl of vine was tied in a loop around the rear-view mirror.
Unlike Leo, Walter drove like a sane person and didn’t peel out of parking spaces as if there were hellhounds chasing his car. That was probably a good thing for slightly-tipsy passengers. It didn’t help, though, that there were about ten million cars lined up outside of Margrit’s house and blocking up the driveway. It took a few extra minutes before they reached the end of the drive.
“I’m not going to introduce you to anyone,” were Walter’s first words once they’d hit the road proper. “Fuck that. I’m taking you to spy, not to meet new people.”
Angela stuck her tongue out at him in the rear view mirror, regardless of whether or not he was paying attention. “Good luck with that, Walter. Julian sucks at subtle spying even when she’s not full of tequila.”
“I can spy just fine.” Julian muttered taking offense. “I just don’t like your brand of spying.”
“And yet, that’s exactly what we’re about to do I bet. Are we going to be slinking around in people’s houses while they’re not around? I like a little crime.” Speaking of which, instead of putting on her seat belt like a responsible young lady, Angela was trying to get her hands on everything she could see and touch in Walter’s car. Including checking for stuff in and under the seat.
“You tricked this out with witch stuff didn’t you.” she asked.
Julian blinked, taking another curious look around his car too, now that the witchy bit was brought up. The first time she was in it, she was too focused on not freaking out about Walter himself to really get a feel for things. The very first thing she did was reach to mess with his radio.
“ARE we going to be lurking?”
Angela’s search wasn’t in vain. From the pouch on the back of the driver’s seat, she pulled out a small, smooth black stone. She fished a small satchel that smelled like cinnamon and pine from between the seat cushions. And in the cup holder under the passenger-side window there was a sticky, grainy residue that didn’t look like the usual spilled soda- and was out of place in the otherwise spotless car.
Meanwhile, the radio flicked on- but no sound emitted from the speakers until Walter reached over and cranked up the volume dial.
“Breaking and entering is for children and thugs,” he scoffed, over the wail of an electric guitar and an intriguingly on-the-nose tune. It would have been an awful coincidence, but the radio screen read “CD”. It was just what Walter had been listening to, evidently. “What I have in mind is more like following and watching. Jules, you remember your good friend Tasha?”
Angela mouthed a what the fuck at the sticky stuff. Weird. It would have been even weirder if she poked at it, though, so Angela kept her fingers to herself. The stone was interesting, but she couldn’t tell what kind it was at a glance. She pulled back the collar of her dress and prepared to drop the rock in there for safekeeping.
“Put it back.” warned Julian, who hadn’t turned around or as far as she could tell even glanced in the rear view mirror. Angela watched her fingers wiggle at the radio before she leaned back in her seat.
Then she dropped the rock down her bra anyway.
Julian turned to look over her shoulder, peering at Angela as she fished around in her bra. She nearly started grinning. “I remember the most horrifying fifteen minutes of my life, yes.” Julian responded to Walter, as she resettled in her seat.
“So we’re trailing and staking out. That doesn’t sound too bad. Why do you even need Julian for that?” Angela asked, scooting in to the middle of the backseat so she could lean forward between the two of them. She side-eyed Walter pretty hard, debating whether or not she could get away with a little pick pocketing. She tested the waters by using a finger to subtly tug at his jacket pocket.
“Keep your fingers out of my pocket or I’ll cut them off.”
So pick-pocketing was off the table, then.
“As you might recall, there was a reason I killed that cunt friend of your more-nauseating pet vampire. She killed my friend. And see, I can’t quite figure out why.” He glanced at Julian over the top of Angela’s head. “Well. I know why; she wanted wares that Claudia wouldn’t sell to any old two-bit witch who walked into the Seventh Star. But it’s why she was after them in the first place that’s bugging me. That spell she worked that night…”
Angela was going to put that threat to the test, but Julian grabbed her hand and pushed back in to the backseat where she belong. The blond huffed and crossed her arms, but didn’t make another complaint. She did, however, smirk wide at nauseating vampire.
“Killing her wasn’t the right thing to do.” commented Julian with a slight frown.
“I agree.” chimed in Angela. “You’re supposed to get your answers first and THEN kill the evil bitch. Wasted opportunity.”
That wasn’t quite what Julian meant, but that did have her start shifting uncomfortably in her seat. “He tried to get the answers a different way.” she said slowly. “You did the death magic thing on her? Not with any real success though. Or we wouldn’t be on a fieldtrip now.”
“You do catch on. Very good.” He smiled. It wasn’t a very nice smile. “A dead person is usually much easier to get answers from, actually. But not so with Tasha. It took a few tries for me to realize that someone else was blocking my calls.”
The first song of the CD wound down and shifted to the next. Walter tapped one thumb on the steering wheel along with the prominent bass line, his eyes on the road ahead.
“There’s a reason I’m in charge of the witches in this town, Jules,” he went on, after a thoughtful pause. “Witches don’t do well without a little regulation. When there aren’t rules, you get shit like Tasha was up to going on all the time. Nasty shit. And this shit stinks. Why would a lone out-of-towner nobody come to Silent Pines and perform a ritual involving one of the Bloodlines? She wouldn’t. Unless…”
“It’s big magic. Bad magic…” Her head tilted as the thoughts rattle around in there. Julian fidgeted with her hands, spinning the silver wolf ring on her finger. “She was trying to help bring something really old back. Or someone.”
“I think it’s interesting that she made herself good buddies with a Hightower and a Lanier, and then went fucking around with the Whelans. That’s three of the six families right there.” Angela added, scooting forward in her seat again. This music had to be older than her dad. She squished between them trying to reach for the radio.
Julian caught her by the wrist and just held her there for a second. “What is the Iron Star?” she asked. “Tasha said ‘The Iron Star still shines beneath the rust.’ …You know, right before you killed her and pretty much ruined anyone else’s chances at getting information out of her.”
“I’m sorry. I think you’ve mistaken me for someone who gives a shit.”
Walter reached up to yank at his tie, pulling it loose, and then inside his shirt collar. He produced the same grubby, blackened pendant he’d showed her on their last drive together and dropped it into her open palm.
“Take a good look,” he said.
If Julian looked closer, if she rubbed away a bit of the grime, the faint lines of the engraving came clearer. It was a n interlocking set of narrow triangles, all the angles converging to form a certain symbol. Julian could see it in her head, could see what it looked like shiny and new.
“I’d have thought you’d know a little something about the Iron Star,” continued Walter, as Julian inspected the mark. “And the Golden Sun and Argent Moon, too, with all the company you like to keep. You and Tasha have something in common.”
“For the Witch King of Silent Pines, you’re really bad at stalking teenagers and getting your research. Julian never got her debutante ball debut in to the supernatural. Why don’t YOU clue us in?”
“Overlord, we’re going to call him Overlord.” Julian corrected. Her brows furrowed as she traced the symbol with the pad of her finger. The thing kind of vibrated. Not literally, but something about it just kind of buzzed. “I’ve seen this before.” she muttered.
Angela reached out to take Julian’s hand and pulled it closer so she could take a look at the thing. “Really? When?”
“Um… a vision. The other day.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about that?” Angela asked, giving Julian a scowl. Then she was examining the pendant again, putting the symbol to memory. She’d seen a few similar sort of symbols in a couple books but couldn’t recall seeing this one specifically. But she hadn’t been looking for it. The names were pretty familiar too. Only in her notes it was Black Sun, Triple Moon and Sacred Star, and the guy that wrote it was crazy obsessed with demons. Her wheels started spinning.
Angela decided not to mention of this out loud to Walter.
“It was kind of a bad day, I forgot all about it.” Julian muttered, shifting uncomfortably in her seat again. “There were trees on fire and scorched lines in the grass. But it was only six of them. One of the points was missing. It didn’t have this one here.” she tapped the missing corner.
“Interesting,” remarked Walter. “Six, hm? It would be six. All this fuss about the damned Big Six, when really it’s only ever been the Three.”
Going for the glovebox, he leaned across Angela and Julian. When he opened it, a jumble of papers tumbled out onto Julian’s lap.
“So. Really? You run around with the Whelan pack, and you have the Lanier and Hightower boys doing your bidding, and yet you’ve never dug deep into their family histories. What kind of psychic are you, Jules. Tsk tsk.”
Amongst the text on the scraps of yellowed paper were more of the same star as Walter’s pendant bore, alongside two other symbols. Always the same three together.
“The High Orders of Silent Pines,” said Walter softly. “Originally headed by the Three Bloodlines and controlled by the founding families of the town. And the Iron Star, the most powerful of them all, is the ordainment that was passed to me.”
Angela wanted to be in the front seat so bad. As it were, she was trying to squeeze between the seats so she could get her hands on those papers.
“The kind of psychic that was minding her own business?” Julian grumbled, picking up one of the papers and frowning at the symbols. She leaned to show Angela before the girl ended up crawling in the front. “Moon eclipse.” she pointed at the joined crescents. “Solar eclipse.” her finger poked the twisted sun. “That was in my dream too. Both eclipses at the same.”
“Yay! We’ve learned some symbolism. Won’t that be useful later?” the blond chimed cheerfully. She didn’t know what Julian was talking about earlier. This was GREAT fun so far. Angela gestured to the star. “The star is for witches, and the moons are the wolves, I’m betting. So what’s the sun for? Oh, man if Margrit is part of a family of super assholes I am SO gonna enjoy slaying the hell out of her.”
Julian wasn’t finding this at all amusing. Especially considering the rest of her vision. Between the burning monster that wasn’t a monster and the dead hands digging their way out of the ground, she was pretty sure the only place this was headed was bad. Especially if it were anything like her Blood Moon vision. Tonight wasn’t going to be weird, it was just going to be bad.
Being a psychic really sucked.
“You didn’t happen to stash some of Margrit’s booze in that dress, did you?” Julian almost squeaked.
“Uh, no. So unless you want Walter to roll you a joint – which I’m not ready to experiment on you yet – you’re gonna have to not freak out. I could call L-”
“Don’t.” she said quickly. “It’s fine. I just… need to know what we’re getting in to. Where we’re headed, do I have to talk to anyone, or are we just going to follow something and see what happens?”
“Tasha didn’t decide to work a spell involving a blood moon and the Argent Moon Bloodline all by herself. I met Tasha. That bitch couldn’t scheme her way out of a paper bag.” He scoffed and ejected the CD from his radio, tuning it back to the local classic rock station. “Someone contacted her. Someone in town. We’re going to find out who’s on my naughty list this year. I have a few suspects… and we’re going to go check up on them. If they’re going to make their move, they’ll do it by midnight.”
Walter swiveled in his seat to snatch the sheaf of paper away from Angela, tracing a finger over the lines of the drawings.
“And no, you little dumbass. The Golden Sun were witches too. It was just the Whelans who broke that pattern.” Tilting his head, he locked eyes with Julian. “You thought you were in a vampire story, didn’t you? Well, you guessed wrong, Miss Psychic. This was always a story about witches.”
“You’re the dumbass that needs help from spunky teenage girls, Giles. I’m just warming up!” Fucking Walter. Angela loved him. He was a huge shit talking asshole, super hilarious, and sure he killed somebody, but Julian was dating a condescending dick vampire so it was totally okay if she entertained herself for five minutes with a crush on a murder witch. It wasn’t like she would actually hit on him, he was as old as Hades.
Julian just sighed and frowned. “I am always wrong when I think about stuff. I’m more right about the stuff I blurt out at random than I ever am about the things I try to figure out.”
“Yeah, you’re kinda dumb. But we still love you!” chirped Angela.
She earned a smack in the forehead as Julian shoved Angela back in to the backseat.
The radio clock flashed from 11:43 to 11:44. As if on cue, Walter’s head hit the top of the steering wheel, narrowly avoiding an accidental blast of the horn. The move knocked his ridiculous glasses askew.
“Fuuuuuuuuck this,” he spat. “I shouldn’t have bothered with being subtle. Or bringing witnesses.”
Walter’s car was parked catty-corner at the end of a cul-de-sac and mostly obscured by a monstrous black Ford F150. They had a good view of the house directly across the asphalt circle, but no one looking out the window could have been able to spy their stakeout in return. It had been about 11:20 or so when they’d pulled up for their third stop of the night (fourth, if you counted the burger joint drive-through), and so far… there hadn’t been a peep. There was a red sedan in the driveway and a light on in the upstairs window, but if the porch light had ever been on for trick-or-treaters it had been out by the time they’d arrived.
It was looking like this was going to be as much a miss as every other witch they’d scoped out tonight.
“You’re not getting anything?” demanded Walter, lifting his head to glare at Julian. “Not even a bit?”
“Nothing. Not unless you care about the naked old ghost still mowing his lawn.” Julian was a little mesmerized by that one. For one, how much did that guy care about his lawn to wanna mow it after he’s dead? And two, why was he NAKED? Maybe if this stake out business wasn’t a huge failure of both Walter’s investigative skills and her psychic mojo, she wouldn’t have gotten distracted with staring at a nude ghost.
Even Angela had already given up. After she was fed, all her complaints about being bored simmered (Especially after Julian caught her trying to text Leo and had to confiscate her phone.) and she slowly slumped further and further down in the seat until she tilted over and passed out. Now she was a dozing mess of pink fabric with her feet propped up and hanging out the back window.
“It’s weird that’s it’s a bunch of nothing. Most of my day was the opposite of nothing. I think your asshole witch is a few steps ahead of you.” she muttered, running her hand sleepily through her hair.
“Maybe you’re right.” He didn’t look particularly happy about that admission. He straightened his glasses, leaning back in his seat. “But maybe we’re just not seeing the whole picture. This is just… so much bullshit. There are only a handful of people powerful enough to interfere with my spells and stupid enough to try. Winona was taking her youngest around to beg for candy, that Levesque woman is slutting around at the mayor’s party, that stupid old hag isn’t the type so I didn’t even bother checking up on her, Claudia is dead and Buchanan is upstairs, doing who fucking knows what while a naked ghost mows his lawn. There can’t be anyone else.”
While one hand curled into a fist, the other reached for the door handle.
“It’s got to be him. I’m going in there and getting it out of him,” Walter decided. “If he doesn’t squeal now he will when I cut his throat.”
Julian very quickly grabbed on to his arm before he opened up the door.
“You can’t just go killing people.” she hissed. Glancing to the side to make sure Angela was still asleep before she continued. “That didn’t work so great with Tasha and I bet it won’t now either.”
Not to mention the fact Julian didn’t want to be an accomplice to murder.
She let out a frustrated huff. “We could talk to him. You’re good at being creepy and making threats. And it’s a lot easier for me to pick up stuff if I can touch things. I’m sure we can terrorize and confuse him in to spilling something useful.”
“Plus, I’m not gonna help if you’re just gonna go around killing everybody.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, are we all moral now?” quipped Walter. “How many people do you think your boyfriends have killed? Do you help them out?”
He twisted in his seat and clapped a hand down on the opposite side of Julian’s head, hemming her into her seat. His eyes had gone all black again, but he didn’t appear to be working any particular spell that she could see. Still, she could practically hear a hum in the air.
“Those fuckers killed Claudia. Do you remember her, Jules? Hm?” he prompted. “Nice lady, never hurt anyone, always smiling. When Tasha was done with her, she didn’t have a face left to smile with. What do you think people like that have planned for the rest of the town? A picnic? You really think people like that are going to just walk away if we reason with them?”
He stared at her, mouth pressing into a grim line.
“You know, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I wish your pet leeches were here. They’d tell you I’m right.”
Over Walter’s shoulder, Julian caught a flash of movement across the street.
If she could shrink herself any smaller in to her seat, she would have. Instead she was frozen stiff and afraid to make even the tiniest of movements because she was all too aware he could just wiggle his fingers and make her dead in an instant. This was dangerous. He was dangerous. Why was she helping someone so quick to solve his problems to deadliest way available. Whose dumb idea was this?! Who did she even think she was, jumping in to this mess!
He hurts and he can’t fix it.
Slowly it all dawned on her, with that sharp aching clarity. Just like all her ghosts, Walter was lost and he was just doing the only thing he knew to do. She let out a breath, her body melting away from it’s rigid posture as she chewed in to the side of her mouth.
“You’re being a dick, Walter.” Julian finally muttered. Her hand rose up close to her face, her staying close to her body as she pointed behind him.
“And there’s something outside.”
Swearing under his breath, Walter sat up and whipped around.
The movement Julian had seen was the front door of the house across the street. A man had come outside, dressed in plain clothes and holding something up to his face. Kicking the door shut behind him, he shuffled with haste towards the red sedan in his drive.
“That’s Buchanan,” breathed Walter. “He’s… on a cell phone? Who the hell is he calling at nearly midnight, I wonder? And where is he going?”
When he turned back to Julian, the inky swatches had receded from his eyes and his face was a calm mask again. He smiled.
“I’d love to find out, wouldn’t you?”
Now that there was a target in sight, Walter had given up on more immediate violence. Instead, they tailed Buchanan’s car from a safe distance. Walter was quiet for the most of the ride, but when they turned onto a certain road leading out of town…
“Is he going to the Whelan farm?” he muttered. “I’d thought we were done with these shitty woods and that bunch of fleabitten dogs already. I hope you girls are ready to stomp around in the wilderness.”
“Stomp wah?” Angela was still half asleep, but at least now she was sitting up and leaning against the door. Julian had to prod her and get her to bring her feet back in to the car before they started following Buchanan the mystery witch.
“Don’t say the W word.” Julian whispered. Casting a quick glance at Angela in the back, before frowning at Walter. Driving in to the Devil’s Wood was the LAST place she wanted to be. Why did everyone have to do all their scary business out in the woods in the middle of the night? Julian had the impression there was more dead bodies out in the woods than there were in all the graveyards of Silent Pines. And that was terrifying.
“W who- No.” She was wide awake in an instant and casting both of them the nastiest of glares in the rearview mirror.
Angela said the word so gravely that Julian had to cover her mouth with her hand before she burst in to nervous laughter. Once she swallowed it, she made sure not to look directly at Angela or else her soul would be turned to stone.
“You should probably stay in the car. Less of a chance to get eaten that way, right Walter?”
“Less,” he agreed, distractedly. He looped around in a circle before going after Buchanan’s car; that made sense, given that it wasn’t exactly a high-traffic road. They wouldn’t be able to follow as closely. They could still make out his dim taillights up ahead though, specks of light in the tree-lined path.
“You’re pals with the family, aren’t you? Why don’t you call and give the good doggies a heads-up,” Walter forged on, oblivious to the brewing teen drama in his backseat. “They might be useful.”
“NO.” Angela said again, this time with even more volume.
But Julian was already digging out her phone and swiping through her contacts to find Caleb.
“Julian!” she barked, scooting forward and reaching her arms around the seat trying to snatch it. Julian ended up trapped thanks to her seat belt, which left her trying to defend herself with one arm, while attempting to hold her phone out at a distance and text with only her thumb.
“Get off! Two teenage girls and crazy old guy aren’t exactly the best witch-hunting team!” Despite Angela’s advantage, Julian was still stronger. She grabbed a hold of Angela’s right wrist and held it tight.
The girl just ended up throwing her other arm around Julian’s neck like she was going to strangle her. “I don’t want the first time he sees me again to be me dressed like Rapunzel! Do you know how lame that is?! Giiiive iiit!”
Julian’s thumb slipped send with an unfinished text.
chasin witch in your woofs nee halp
“Ha! Got it.”
“Shit!” Angela cursed. But she was quick. While Julian was distracted trying to resend a text that actually made sense, Angela was able to steal her own phone back.
And vengeance was swift.
GOOD NEWS BOUT TO KILL JULES BEFORE SHE KILLS HERSELF K BYE
Smug as could be she held out her phone so Julian could see the text sent to Leo.
Julian went dead still. Narrowing her eyes and sucking in a deep breath, she hit the speaker call button with all the spite she could muster.
Caleb’s line started ringing.
“What the shit are you two doing?!” Walter wanted to know.
“Julian?” Caleb’s gravelly voice issued from the speaker. “What’s going on?”
“Fucking hell. If I lose Buchanan because of this, I’m going to kill both of you instead.”
“Who is that?” If possible, Caleb’s voice went even lower in pitch. The boy gave Christian Bale a run for his money with all the throaty growling, as it turned out. “Tell him he’s the dead one if he touches you.”
“That’s Walter and he’s just upset because he doesn’t know how to talk to girls.” Julian responded, coolly.
Angela retreated to her seat and was now dead silent. She looked a mix between swallowing something really horrible, or watching a puppy get ran over.
Confident she could speak without getting strangled, that icy glare finally melted from her features. A sheepish tone crept in to Julian’s voice. She didn’t want to torture Angela, but if there was trouble for the Whelans, they really did need to know.
“That Blood Moon nonsense is part of a bigger problem and I am helping Walter figure it out. We’re following this guy and he’s driving in to Whelan-wood. I thought you should know, just in case you need help. Or we need help.”
There was a pause.
“You’re helping Walter? What did I miss?”
“Probably a lot of important things,” Walter cut in. “Long story short, Whelan? I’m not your enemy unless I have to be.”
“…Alright. I’m calling the pack. Keep in touch. And if you see my sister, tie her up.” Click.
“Nice boy,” remarked Walter. “Seems like he’s doing a good job as top dog since his parents did their vanishing act. Tell me, Jules, are there any supernatural teen boys in Silent Pines who AREN’T squabbling over a chance to die for you?”
Julian flushed crimson. That was just ridiculous.
“I’m NOT the girl every boy in Silent Pines is in love with, just so you know. You might have more friends too, if you weren’t such a dick all the time.” she slipped her phone back in to her pocket, and finally dared to turn around in her seat to peer at Angela.
The girl had graduated from silent, stunned horror, to a resigned shade of green. “Will you at least trade clothes with me so I don’t look 14 when he sees me? I’ll look hella hotter in your chick-Leo getup.”
Julian glanced down at her clothes and scowled. She didn’t even- There was a soft hiss as she pulled her jacket tighter around her frame. “We’re not swapping clothes in Walter’s car. I promise, everyone is going to be way more worried about not dying than giggling at you.”
“Shut up, both of you.” All traces of dry humor had fled from Walter’s tone. “He just turned off the main road. It’s not the farm he’s going to.”
Sure enough, the taillights ahead of them were gone. …No, not gone. Julian could still see lights dimly filtered through the pines. Walter made a turn onto a tiny dirt road, still giving Buchanan a long lead.
Julian knew where this road led.
“I didn’t do it,” whispered Leo, reaching for Julian with a blood-stained hand. Ash clung to his shirt and skin, smudging his face.
It started to rain.
The rain washed away the blood and remnants of ash, leaving him clean. It somehow didn’t soak into his clothes, though. Those remained untouched.
“I couldn’t find you,” he sighed, his eyes fluttering closed. “I got lost.”
She blinked and he was gone. The scene shifted, shadows filling in the sky and turning it black as night. Fire flickered from somewhere at her feet, casting a light on figures standing between the stones. Familiar faces caught in the glare of the fire.
Michael, face pale and pained.
David Hightower, his features twisted in terror.
A flash of angry blue eyes.
Julian tilted forward in her seat, pressing hand against her chest where it felt like something just twisted everything nice and tight. Everything was all disjointed, sectioned? It wasn’t all the same moment, but she couldn’t figure out what went where and what order.
Not that she ever could.
Angela reached out to grab her arm, any traces of her irritation were gone and replaced by a narrow-eyed look of concern. “Hey, I got you. That’s a waking one, right?”
Julian nodded, leaning back in her seat again and knocking her head against the head-rest.
“What’s the right now part?” Angela asked.
“I don’t know it’s all mixed up.” she hissed back.
“Relax and breathe. How many fingers am I holding up?”
“C’mon, how many.”
“What’s on page 23 from the book on the nightstand?”
“Something halaodralalablah colider something atoms?”
“That’s good enough. How many hats were at the party.”
“I fucking hate that question.”
“So cranky, what’s the part you’re most worried about right now?”
“Two stupid Hightowers and a Lanier.” Julian paused and blinked, turning in her seat to give Angela an astonished stare. “I’m not sure if that’s now now. Or what they’re doing with David in a graveyard in the middle of the night if they are.”
Angela shrugged a shoulder. “Stop thinking about it. Walter can go in stabby-kill, you do what Margrit told you and Do the Thing You Do.”
“You heard her, Walter, you might get to play with her boyfriends after all!”
“You mean to tell me that those two might be in the middle of this?” Walter swore again. “That is not good news. That is fucking terrible news. Why do you think I didn’t ask you to bring them along?”
In one sudden jerk, he hauled on the wheel and brought the car to an abrupt stop- halfway in a ditch- at the side of the trail. Buchanan’s taillights disappeared around the bend ahead, but Walter was already killing the engine and pushing his way out of the car.
“Only one place he could be going, so let’s get this over with. You want to wait here, Zelda, or are you tagging along?”
Angela just kind of glared at Walter for a second when he got out of the car, but then she peered at Julian with a questioning frown. “Julian?”
“I’m not sure if it’s a good idea. You’re not exactly Kitty Pryde. …But I also don’t want to leave you here by yourself only to find out you’ve been murdered by evil witches, kidnapped by rogue wolves, or eaten by a crazy hungry vampire.” Julian muttered. “It’s up to you. But you need to run and hide if I tell you to. No freezing up.”
Angela gave it some thought. Finally she decided it was better to hang with the Murder Witch and God Tier Psychic than it was to sit alone in a car in the middle of Devil’s Wood.
“You got it. I’ll leave the panic attacks to you!”
With that decided, it was both girls getting out of the car. Julian pulling her hair back to twist in to a quick pony-tail, and Angela looking like she was about to take a stroll through a Disney Haunted Forest. It didn’t help that she smiled sweetly at Walter with her fingers splayed at her sides and started skipping past him.
“That’s the wrong way, you idiot.”
“Fuck. I can’t tell which way is which in the dark!”
“Be quiet,” Walter told her, grabbing her by the arm and steering her around. “Your mouth might get you killed, but I won’t let it do the same for me. Trust in that.”
The wrought iron gates of the old cemetery hung open. As per usual, someone had cut through the bulky chain that was supposed to keep them locked up; the remnants lay in a pile on the ground like a coiled steel serpent. Fresh-trodden earth showed Buchanan’s footprints heading in through the gate, but the man had already disappeared amidst the dark silhouettes of the headstones.
Walter held a finger up to his lips and followed the trail.
As they picked their way through the markers- sticking to the shadows as much as possible- Julian began to recognize the path they had taken. It was the same way she’d gone with Michael on his birthday, when they’d visited his parents’ graves. Certain names popped out at her as she passed: Mary, Peter, Roscoe, Caroline, Harvey, Luke…
William and Virginia.
The footprints wound around that pair of headstones and continued onward. Up ahead, a dark monolith loomed.
The Hightower mausoleum.
At least Julian was getting used to the dead people.
It was the dark that was making her skin crawl. Because they were trailing the witch, she couldn’t dig around in her pocket for the tiny little flashlight she hid in her pockets along with her other ‘in case of emergency’ goodies. Which meant they only had light from the moon and stars, which meant everything was cast in eerie shadows.
Angela didn’t seem to have a problem, though. Running around in a graveyard on Halloween wasn’t exactly a new thing. It was just the first time she had Julian in tow, with that added bonus that the jump-scares would be totally real. This was terrifying but also fucking cool. She was still mad she missed the last adventure.
Julian counted the graves and the names as she passed them. Even Michael’s parents, with that vision of his father’s death kind of literally rolling around in her head. When she passed the stone Michael had sat down on in weary shock, she turned around to walk backwards. Her brow furrowed and she lift a hand to wordless point a finger.
And then she tripped backwards over a smaller stone, giving a muffled squeak as she stumbled to right herself and catch up with Walter and Angela.
Angela mouthed smooooooth at her and Julian huffed quietly.
The were headed towards the big stony mausoleum and all kinds of NO! was shouting in her head. As if the graveyard wasn’t disturbing enough.
The mausoleum door was ajar. As they crept closer, they could hear muffled voices coming from inside. Walter took both girls by the elbow and yanked them off to the side, waiting.
“-have the bones,” one voice was saying. It was a nervous, nasally kind of voice. The sort that inspired the image of a balding accountant. Julian didn’t recognize it, but one look at Walter told her this had to be Buchanan. “Look, I don’t know about all this. What are we going to do if he finds out?”
“He’s not going to find out,” the second voice answered. This one was deeper, colder. Something about it sounded eerily familiar, but it was like it had been run through a filter or something; it wasn’t quite right. “And if he does, it’s already too late. We have everything we need.”
Walter leaned in, his mouth an inch from Julian’s ear.
“This is where you come in,” he hissed. “Are they alone? Who is it?”
Angela inched herself close enough so she could listen, but not so close that she was the first one someone would try to throw a knife at. She even crouched down lower to the ground in a pool of pink satin, pulling her dress skirt up just enough so she could sprint away if Julian gave the order.
Julian half-waved half-swatted a hand at Walter to get him to ease up out of her space. Being in her bubble wasn’t so much of an issue as she didn’t want to accidentally get Walter-vision. It was hard enough trying to get these things to happen when she wanted to, let alone about who she wanted to.
But that voice was so, so familiar. She heard the voice somewhere before.
Julian leaned against the mausoleum wall, tilting forward just a bit as she strained to listen as well as ‘listen’ to what was inside. Buchanan was antsy and uncomfortable. He radiated that feeling of someone being in way deeper in to something than they wanted to be, but was already too far in to get back out.
The other was something else all together…
There was something very wrong with the man Buchanan was speaking to.
He was human- or rather, he had that bee-in-a-jar buzzing sensation about him that screamed witch, but he wasn’t that hellfire hot or ice cold that she’d learned meant vampire. She could almost see his outline right through the stone wall of the crypt, his presence was just so… there. He was tall, easily six foot or more.
And she definitely knew him. Whoever he was, Julian had met him before.
But whenever she’d met him before, he must have done something to block her out, or else she’d not been properly looking at him… because the man standing on the other side of that wall felt like shadows and death and most of all a horrifying, intense, gnawing sense of isolation.
She couldn’t get a glimpse of his face, but…
“Give them to me,” the man was telling Buchanan. “…Liam. What is this?”
“The bones!” Buchanan sounded even more nervous than before. Julian could hear him wetting his lips. “I got them just like you said.”
“I wanted the father’s bones.”
“Why didn’t you get them, then? Haven’t you been right here?” blurted Buchanan. He paused. “I… I mean. Bones of a child are just as well, aren’t they? If I dug up one of the graves they’d notice.”
That earned a chuckle from Buchanan’s companion.
“Oh, don’t you worry about that. No one’s going to notice a little grave robbing. Not when we’re done here.”
Now she needed to know. If she knew this person, she’d couldn’t imagine how she had forgotten. The why and hows she kept forgetting all of these big important things was really starting to nag at her.
She inched a little closer to the opening. Closer was better to get a feel for things. She waved a hand behind her, in a brushing motion towards Angela to signal her to go hide somewhere. If Buchanan had the wrong bones and he was worried about grave-digging, he could pop out of there any moment to go fetch.
Angela blinked, but she got the hint quick. She tiptoed along the side of the building and rounded the corner to find a place out of sight.
Julian flicked a quick, squinty glance over her shoulder at Walter for him to stay put. She could feel him getting antsy, and antsy Walter meant dead people and no answers. Then she tuned back in to listening.
Gods, please don’t be zombies. Raise a demon or more ghosts. Anything else.
From Julian’s new vantage, she could see just a sliver of the mausoleum’s interior. Someone had lit a torch that was mounted in the eaves, casting strange shadows and illuminating just a bit of the wall. There was a symbol carved there… the very same sun symbol Walter had shown her earlier in the car.
She could see the side of Buchanan’s face, but the other man was out of her line of sight.
“You don’t have him here, do you?” Buchanan asked, shifting where he stood.
“No,” replied the stranger-who-wasn’t-a-stranger. “But he’s taken care of.”
“And I’ll get my reward,” Buchanan went on, more confidently.
“Of course.” Buchanan’s eyes, wide and glassy, looking up from the dirt. “I always keep my promises.”
“We need to go in there,” whispered Walter, who hadn’t really paid much heed to Julian motioning for him to keep back. He was at her shoulder again, eyes narrowed. “What they’re doing, it’s already in motion. It needs to be stopped.”
The witch was going to get himself dead. Julian chewed in to her cheek. Could she stop that? Should she even try? She didn’t like Walter’s opinion that some people needed to die, and she couldn’t ignore the fact that whatever they were getting in to had already killed someone already.
It was probably going to kill someone else.
So even thought Julian frowned and cast Walter that disapproving stare, she nodded in agreement. They had to stop this before it went too far.
“After you, Walter?” she whispered back, slipping her hands in to her pockets. One hand curled around the little rosepepper spray bottle she made for herself, and the other gripped on to her phone. Wolf-sized help would be a quick swipe away.
Walter gave her a terse nod.
In a flash, he was up the short steps and hauling open the door. She caught a glimpse of his eyes melting into dark pools as he slipped inside.
“Liam, Liam, Liam,” he piped up. “Shut the fuck up and I might not slit your throat.”
Buchanan stumbled in surprise, crashing backwards into the wall. His face was sweaty and strained under the dim glow of the torch overhead. A brown sack slipped from his fingers and fell to the stone floor, its contents rattling. Something small and pale rolled out of the opening and across the room.
“Walter- How did you-”
“I’m not a fucking idiot,” Walter pointed out. With just a tiny flick of his wrist, there was a knife hovering at Buchanan’s jawline, close enough to make the man yelp and send a dribble of blood running down his neck. Walter stalked forward, but he managed to keep his body between both of the other witches and the way out- and between them and Julian, by association. “You, though. You know that I know that you’re a dab hand with blood rites, spells involving family lines. Bet your friend here knows that too, hm? Who is your new best pal? I’m gagging for an introduction.”
The other witch stood with his back to the torch, just in the right place so that he was cast completely in shadow. Like one of those old-time metal cutouts that people put in their yard. All Julian could really see was a bit of shine on brown hair at the back of his head. His hands were in his pockets, and he didn’t move an inch at Walter’s abrupt intrusion. Not even when Walter flung out his other hand and another knife shot out to menace the mysterious figure.
“Game’s over,” announced Walter, smiling from one to the other with palms open and arms outstretched. “Naughty naughty, you’ve been caughty.”
There was a moment of quietude, like the eye of a storm. And then…
“Julian?” asked the second witch. The shadowy head angled to one side, peering around Walter. “Julian Hollinger, is that you?”
That was when his face moved into the torchlight.
It was no wonder she’d had trouble placing his voice. The man she’d met had been quiet, shy, his voice softer and full of false starts. She’d only really spoken with him once or twice- briefly- as well… but there was no mistaking him once she laid eyes on him.
It was David Hightower.
The mausoleum door slammed shut behind Julian.
The torch blew out.
One of which liked throwing knives everyone, one was unpredictable and in a panic, and the last.
The last was David Hightower.
“David.” she responded in a bewildered whisper. What was she supposed to do with this? Maybe if it wasn’t pitch black dark she could think beyond the flood of white noise that was now rushing through her head.
Julian squeezed her phone and yanked it out of her pocket. With a press of the power button it lit up, casting a weak but workable beam in to the mausoleum. She spun around pointing the screen at every angle and corner to get an idea of who was where.
“David what are you doing here?! Just- …Why!”
“You should have stayed out of this, Julian.” The light of her cellphone found him, still up against the wall with Walter’s knife keeping him in check… though he didn’t look very concerned. It was like he was a completely different person from the man she’d been introduced to at Michael’s house.
“Hightower?” Walter actually looked as stunned and bewildered as Julian. “No. You’re not a witch, you can’t be. Your line is a bunch of duds.”
“Oh really?” David blinked slowly, his head turning in Walter’s direction. “Want to test that theory?”
“Please don’t kill me, Walter, he made me.” That was Liam Buchanan. The man was wriggling under the press of Walter’s blade, probably cutting himself worse in the process. “I just wanted to get back in. He said he’d fix everything if I helped, but he’s insane, the things he’s trying to do-”
“Do you ever shut your mouth?” interrupted David, his head whipping towards Buchanan.
Buchanan croaked and scrabbled at the smooth stone to his back. One hand rose jerkily to wrap around the handle of Walter’s knife and in one swift motion ram it through his own gullet. There was a spray of blood before he dropped to the floor with a thud, still gushing and twitching. Walter had to jump backwards to avoid the body.
“It’s really hard to get loyal help, isn’t it?” asked David, as if inquiring about the weather. “Well. Actually, it isn’t. I have more where Liam came from. He’s served his purpose.”
Julian cringed and she might have made a soft mmrmfg sound. That felt forced. Like he wasn’t the one stabbing himself through his own neck at all. She could even almost feel the blade piercing through his skin and scraping again bone. And worse, the slow detaching of Buchanan’s soul as his blood pooled on the stone floor.
Don’t think about it.
She took in a ragged breath and put her focus on David.
“I don’t know what you’re doing.” she murmured, her voice shaking. “But you have to stop it. Whatever it is, you have to stop.”
Julian shot a look to Walter. This was HIS area of expertise. She got the distinct impression that her brand of talking people down from crazy wasn’t going to work here.
“I can’t stop,” said David. Like she was the crazy one.
“You will stop,” Walter told him grimly. He stepped over Buchanan’s body and moved toward David. “It’s over, Hightower. I am the Iron Star.”
“You’re not the Iron Star,” David scoffed. He reached out and curled his fingers around the blade of Walter’s knife, but unlike Buchanan, he wrested it away from himself- slicing his hand open in the process. Blood dripped down from between his fingers. “You’re no Lanier, Walter. But I’m a Hightower. You think you can pull rank on me?”
“It’s not about rank, you sorry piece of shit,” replied Walter. His jaw clenched, and the knife vibrated in David’s grasp. “We’re talking about the Order here. It’s about power. It’s about duty.”
“My duty is to my family,” answered David, his expression hardening. “As always.”
David hissed a word that Julian didn’t understand, and an orb of fire appeared in his hand. He tossed it at Walter as if he were throwing a softball. Ducking, Walter rolled to the side and sent a knife hurtling back in return.
“Get down!” he barked at Julian. “And call your dogs!”
“Oh great, we’re going to start throwing FIRE now!” Julian shouted. She didn’t have to be told twice to move, though. She got the hell out of the way, nearly crashing in to a corner and then sliding down to the floor.
The Iron Star. Order and rank. Duty and power.
Witch business was full of crazy. She couldn’t process this fast enough.
Julian swiped her screen and pressed it to her ear, dipping her other hand in to her pocket to snatch out her rosepepper spray. Sure, it wasn’t going to be much against flying fireballs, but it was better than nothing.
The second Caleb picked up, she blurted out. “Hightower Mausoleum! Angela is outside and I am stuck in here with Walter and David Hightower.” She crawled across the floor, mostly just feeling her way by senses with the phone’s light being blocked. “Oh jesus.” she muttered and squeezed her eyes shut when she found Buchanan’s body.
This was bad. This was so awful. Why? Just WHY.
Julian dropped her phone for a second to reach forward and grab the knife stuck in Buchanan’s neck. Tugging it out with a quick jerk and hiss of breath. She cringed, making another strangled sound before snatching up the phone again.
And now she had two weapons.
“Angela is there? David Hightower?” She could hear how badly Caleb wanted to ask questions, but he didn’t hesitate. “We’re on our way. Stay safe.”
Then Julian was on her own again.
Meanwhile, Walter and David were still duking it out. They were all over the place, throwing knives and fire and slamming each other into walls. It was hard to keep her head up along enough to see who was keeping the upper hand.
And what was she going to do if Walter lost? The door to the mausoleum was heavy, not made to budge, and it had sealed up tight. Magically tight. How long would it take Caleb and the pack to show up? What would David do to her if Walter was no longer there to get in the way?
There was only one real source of cover in sight: the large stone tombs that held old Hightower dead. She could hide behind one of those- or if need be, inside one.
Walter was getting his ass kicked by the guy she thought was shy and sweet. For someone who first scared the daylights out of her, he was sure dropping the ball tonight. In a morbid-yet-terrified way it was all incredibly funny. Maybe if she didn’t die, and Walter didn’t die, and whatever insane spell was getting charged up didn’t go off and kill everyone she would harass him about it later.
Angela would make a better witchy overlord of Silent Pines and she was outside plucking up blades of grass with no idea what was happening inside the mausoleum. That was also funny. Suddenly everything felt too funny, which must have meant Julian was seconds away from being completely hysterical.
She had to roll when a knife went whizzing past and clattered against the stone wall behind her. Was he even AIMING anymore? Where was he getting all these knives? Or was it the same ones getting zipped around like little metal birds? Julian bit in to her lip and scrambled across the floor to duck behind one of the tombs. For the briefest moment she considered climbing inside, but fuck that. There was probably a skeleton in there!
A ball of fire shattered above her head and she nearly shrieked.
This is a bad idea. Bad bad idea. Why did I leave the house. I am never leaving the house.
Using the knife the pried at the stone covering until she could get it moved just wide enough for her to slip through. Julian fell inside with a clumsy flail of limbs, and angled her phone so she had enough light but didn’t have to see what was in there with her.
Except… the tomb was bigger than she thought it would be. She dropped like a stone, landing feet-first and hard enough to smart. The clattering noise she made echoed around her- and it became pretty obvious pretty fast that she was in a space MUCH bigger than a tomb meant for a single occupant.
From the light of her phone, it looked like a tunnel.
Overhead, she could still see the flash of fire and hear Walter shouting something indecipherable. It was too high up for Julian to easily haul herself back up; it looked like she was stuck down here.
Before she could make a move, a hand clapped down over her mouth and an arm looped around her waist, hauling her back against a solid frame and pinning her in place.
The thought didn’t even get to finish before she hit the ground. Reflexes from her dance class was the only thing that kept her on her feet and not stumbling over. This was a surprise as the tomb box above sure didn’t look like it would open up like this.
Julian wasn’t able to get a good look though before something grabbed her. Her phone and knife slipped out of her hands to drop to the ground as she tried to scream and grasp at the hand covering her mouth. The light went out and instincts kicked in. She fought. All flailing limbs and muffled screaming, before she thought to bite down hard and try to drive her heel in to their foot.
“Shit! Jules, shh, shh, it’s me. It’s me,” a voice hissed. The arms around her refused to budge, and when she grabbed at them she got a handful of leather jacket.
“Calm down, sparky,” Leo told her, and then finally peeled his fingers away from her mouth. It was dark, but she could see him shaking his hand out, flexing his fingers. “You’ve got some killer chompers there for a girl without fangs. Damn.”
Even knowing it was Leo it still took a few moments for that to register. Julian was stiff and breathing hard, her nails still digging in to the leather of his jacket. After a few quick huffs, she hissed and dropped her head back against his shoulder. Her body melting and limbs going slack. All but her fists, which were still balled up tight in the leather at his arm.
“You sonofabitch.” she gasped out with relief. She wanted to be angry, but she was just that. Relieved! “I’mma bite you again when I catch my breath!”
“Don’t threaten me with a good time,” he replied, not missing a beat. His breath was warm against her ear.
“Are you okay?” he asked, loosening his hold just enough that she could break free if she wanted to. “What are you doing here? Is Michael up there?”
“I’m not okay.” she admitted, casting a glance upwards from where she tumbled down. Alright, physically she was okay, outside of a few scuffs of dirt and the drying blood of a dead witch on her hands. But everything else was definitely not okay. NONE of this was okay.
“It’s David up there.” Julian mumbled, still dumbfounded by it. She tried to tell herself to pry her hands off his arm, but her fingers weren’t moving. Worse, she held on tighter with that sudden impulse not to let go EVER. The whole world went batshit crazy while he was gone. This was the first moment of it being not wrong in days.
“David and Walter having a wizards duel.” she explained, squeezing her eyes shut sucking in a frustrated breath. “I should’ve asked questions before they started flinging hell at each other. I wasn’t thinking.”
“David?” They were pressed so close that she felt his whole body go tense. “David is… Okay, I’ve missed something.”
His hands were on hers, easing her fingers loose and nudging her to turn around in his arms. The next thing she knew, he was holding her face in his hands.
“Hey,” he prompted. She couldn’t see his eyes, but she could feel them boring into her. “We probably need to talk, but first things first. Where’s Michael? He texted me saying to meet him here. Have you seen him?”
“You missed something?” she said with some surprise. SHE was the one epically missing things. The whole point of her being there was to figure things out! Now that she was turned around her hands grabbed on to the edges of his jacket. She pulled, just a hair of a fraction almost ready to shake him. Julian couldn’t let go. He didn’t understand how impossible that was right now.
And she couldn’t even see his stupid face. She hadn’t seen his stupid face for days.
“I don’t know. I haven’t talked to him since this morning. Then I went out with Angela knowing it was a bad idea, and then on an adventure with Walter knowing that was a bad idea, and all I’ve got for it is that David is a witch and he’s doing something crazy bad too, Leo.”
“Jules.” She heard him swallow. “…Go find him. I’ll take care of the brawling witches up there, try to talk some sense into them. Follow the tunnel. You remember when we practiced here? All the crypts are connected, there are exits all over the cemetery. Get up and get out of here.”
“That’s a bad idea too. Every time I let you go, you do something stupid and dangerous.” she breathed out barely above a whisper. Maybe he could see the indecision on her face. The way her brows furrowed and she chewed in to her lip. She even squeezed tighter on his jacket again – when did he get that back?
Once she did finally let go, she didn’t step back. Julian just took in a deep breath and tried to get herself back together. Walter wasn’t an idiot, he was the witch overlord. Leo would help. Caleb and his family of wolves had to be somewhere nearby already. Michael would be there too, and in the back of her head she was trying to figure out what that meant in the bigger picture of things. She could still do this.
Julian opened her mouth to say something, then hesitated. After a split second, she actually spit it out.
“Don’t get lost.”
She heard him inhale sharply, and then release the breath as a strange, strangled laugh.
“See you on the other side,” he told her. His hands slid down and around to wrap her in a tight, fierce hug. “Don’t get killed.”
In a flash, he’d jumped up- high, way higher than a normal person should’ve been able to- and gotten a grip on the lip of the tomb’s opening. He hauled himself up and over, spilling out into the mausoleum above.
There was something in the pocket of her jacket that hadn’t been there before. When she moved, Julian heard the crinkle of paper.
Julian was more worried about him getting killed, but now wasn’t time to argue about it. She stooped to retrieve the knife and her phone from the ground. A flicker of light appeared as she pressed the on button, pausing in confusion at the crinkle in her jacket. Her hand slipped in to her pocket, fingers unfolding an envelope with a familiar scrawl of handwriting on it.
“If we don’t get a chance to have that talk, read this.”
She glanced upwards with a scowl. He was going to get himself killed.
“Fuck that.” she muttered, tucking the knife under her arm and motioning to open it up and read it NOW.
But the light on her phone started dimming. It gave a few pitiful beeps before it went out.
“No, no, no!” she squeaked in the dark, almost dropping it as she fumbled trying to get it back on. The battery was dead. Panic nearly set in before she realized she still had that tiny flashlight in another pocket. The phone was replaced by the jangled of a tiny keychain and a muted beam of light.
It was even worse coverage than the phone, but at least she wasn’t in the dark.
Reluctantly, she stuffed the letter back where she found it and stood. Julian turned slowly, casting the light in different directions and trying to get a feel for the place. The tunnel was empty and quiet, but not. She doubted the place was haunted, it didn’t quite feel like anyone was trapped and hanging around. It felt more like… curious spectators.
Nice to know her life was the dead’s favorite new soap opera.
Julian chose her direction and started walking, squeezing Walter’s knife in one hand and trying to keep her flashlight steady in the other. Somewhere around here was Michael. If Walter was concerned about them both being out here, it was possible that David’s new bloodline spell was going to involve one of them the same way it nearly involved Silvia.
That wasn’t going to happen.
As she took her next step, Julian lurched out of her body and up, up, up.
Superimposed, she saw David waiting alone in the crypt, his face clear under the light of a freshly-lit torch. He pulled something out of his pocket: a cell phone in a silver case. Across the cemetery, Buchanan’s car pulled up.
The images swirled and reformed to the same place, another time.
Walter, his lip bloody and eyes wild, standing on top of a tomb. His shoulders heaved. David, hair tousled and soot on his face, pointing one finger calmly back at him even as a live flame wrapped around the digit and jumped and licked at his skin. And Leo, standing between them with arms outstretched.
“David, what the fuck,” he breathed. “Since when are you a villain mastermind?”
“Leo, don’t be so dramatic.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Since always, I suppose. If you’re going to look at it like that. Wasn’t hard to fool the two of you, though, was it? All I had to do was tell each of you what you wanted to hear and you lapped it right up.”
“You don’t say.” Behind Leo, Walter reached for his pocket; Leo took a quick sidestep, more firmly putting himself in a position to block Walter’s line of fire.
“Leo, you have to help me!” David’s face transformed almost instantly, an expression of terror twisting his features. “Help, help, big bad Uncle Michael is locking me up in the tower!”
He took a step closer to Leo. His gaze slid away, and when he looked back again it was with a shy, nervous smile.
“Michael,” he went on. “Are you sure it’s alright to let Leo stay here? I think… I think maybe he’s a little too interested in that girl you like. I’m… I’m worried.”
Leo’s eyes narrowed.
“Shut up,” he snapped, but he didn’t lower his arms.
“Face it. If the two of you weren’t so up each other’s asses all the time, you might actually notice when you’re getting conned. Who do you think called Tasha and helped her find out all about her mother’s family? You think her meathead werewolf was the brains of that outfit? Hm?”
“Fucking Hightowers,” muttered Leo. “Never met one who wasn’t a selfish ass. I should have known.”
“Selfish? You don’t have a clue. Michael’s the selfish one,” said David. “Do you know what he did, that night? Do you know about how he screwed it up for all of us?”
It was Walter’s turn to laugh hysterically.
“You actually believe that garbage?” He snorted. “Oh, that’s good. Nothing like a deranged cultist to brighten up my Halloween.”
“Not Halloween,” David corrected, unfazed. He smiled. “It’s already All Saint’s now. And you should remember something about ‘cultists’, Walter the Nameless…”
The door to the mausoleum burst open, and a group of figures in black cloaks- just like the one Tasha had worn on the Blood Moon- came pouring through the stone portal. They spread out around the room, surrounding the trio- Walter, Leo, David.
“There’s never just one,” he finished.
What happened next occurred in less than a minute. The witches started chanting; Walter made a leap off the top of the tomb and grabbed onto one, tackling them to the ground. Leo started to turn, and David’s outstretched finger made a flicking motion, sending the flame curling around his fingers to fly directly at Leo’s face. Leo ducked… but not fast enough. As he went up in smoke, he gave a hoarse shout and dropped to the ground, rolling across the stone floor.
David stalked forward.
Julian could still see the overhead image of the cemetery. At the gates, grey and black and brown shadows slunk through the wrought iron. She heard the beat of paws on dead grass. The pack was arriving, but they were too far, it would still take them minutes to cross the graveyard-
“You should have left town after all,” said David, as he crouched down next to Leo. Julian couldn’t see what was happening to Walter, but it sounded like he’d decided to take on the whole group of David’s fellow witches. Leo, meanwhile, was struggling to put some distance between himself and David, his skin still sizzling. There was a nasty-looking burnt patch on his cheek and throat. “Lucky me that you were stupid enough to stay. I’d have a bitch of a time finding Lanier blood another way.”
“There’s a long list of things I should have done different since I came to town,” Leo replied. His face was stretched into a grimace. “David, I don’t know what the fuck your story is and I don’t really care. But you have to realize this is fucked. Come on.”
“So stop me.” David leaned in. “Kill me. What’s stopping you?”
There was a pause. It wasn’t long, but somehow the silence was thunderously loud.
“…I can’t,” he admitted, so quiet that he was scarcely audible at all. “I won’t. Not until I know you can’t still be saved.”
“You’re serious?” David rocked back on his heels, staring. “Oh, Leo, Leo. What has she done to you?”
Leo didn’t answer.
After a moment, the man sighed and leaned in, clapping a hand on Leo’s arm. Leo hissed and flinched, lips pressing together in a thin line.
“…I’m sorry, Leo.” His other hand shook as it moved to press against Leo’s chest, just over his heart. “It’s been too late for me for a long, long time.”
The last thing Julian heard was the scream. The last thing she saw was a pair of brilliant blue eyes going wide and fading to a dull, glassy blue-grey- along with the rush of crimson soaking through a white t-shirt and spreading slowly across the crypt floor.
Except… a flash of numbers, digitally rendered. 1-5-6.
That was all she got before she was thrust back into her body.
Her knees hit the stone hard before she knew what happened. Pain jolted up through the bone, but it was the burning sensation that had her raising a hand quickly too her cheek and pulling it back expecting to see blood or burned flesh.
Little pieces of her chaotic sleeping premonitions were clicking in to place, aided by the clarity of this one. This was right now. This was about to be now? Julian wasn’t sure, but she was staggering to her feet again and ignoring the sharp throb in her head that was trying to cloud her vision.
She took off running down the tunnel. Michael could find her or be found on the way, Leo was the one that had to get his stupid face in trouble. Why did she let him go? She knew she shouldn’t have.
“I need help! Stop watching me and help me.” she shouted at the dark to whomever was listening. They were there. A shadow flickered in the dim light in front of her and turned a sharp corner in to another tunnel. Julian nearly skidded past it, her shoes sliding against dusty stone as she staggered to make the turn.
“C’mon, c’mon. I need the way up!”
In similar fashion, shadow figures played hide-and-guide with Julian as she dashed madly through the catacombs. She could hear the burgeoning chorus of whispers as she passed under grave after grave, each of the dead stirring and adding their voice to the din in her wake. Little by little they showed her the way.
She reached a fork, the tunnel diverging in two prongs. In the split second that she paused to look for a sign, the lefthand tunnel shook. The ceiling crumbled, dirt pouring in to block the passage from above… and leaving only one way to continue.
Julian had scarcely made her way down the tunnel when she heard a second crash from up ahead. As she drew closer, she saw bits of debris still tumbling down… and moonlight filtering down to illuminate the small flight of stone steps that marked the dead end of this passage.
A shadow flickered for a moment on the stairs before disappearing back into the dark.
When Julian came up, she was back amidst the Hightower headstones. The secret entrance had been concealed in a false grave. She came face to face with the marker as she scrambled up into the night air.
1877-1877, Our Loved One.
The mausoleum was yards away… but still in sight. The door hung open.
The gravestone received a queer look. Right, of course. Then she was scrambling towards the mausoleum and shouting Angela’s name.
“Here!” the blond called out before she appeared a few seconds later. Where ever she had been hiding it must have been a good spot out of sight and out of earshot of graveyard lurkers. “What the hell is going o- Is that blood?!” Julian was covered in dirt and there was a blotch of red on her hand where she was clutching what looked like a knife. Where the hell did she get that thing?
Julian clutched the knife tighter and threw an arm back to point behind her. “There’ll be wolves at the gates. If you see David Hightower or anybody in a freaky robe shows up just run. Get as far away from here as possible.” When she reached Angela, she pushed the girl in the right direction.
“Huh, why?!” asked Angela, flailing her arms trying to keep her balance with the shoving.
“I don’t know, I just do! LEAVE.”
The tone was enough. Angela didn’t think twice, gathering up the pink satin of her skirts and running for the gate.
Julian shot towards the open mausoleum door. “DAVID!”
On her way in, Julian stumbled across a lifeless body wrapped in a black robe. Across the room, Walter had one witch pinned against the wall while the others circled him, hurling fire and shadows and other stranger things that she didn’t have the mind to process right now.
The room smelled like cooked flesh.
It took only seconds to find David, crouched on the floor. Leo was there- alive, still alive, still moving- propped halfway up with his back pressed against one of the tombs.
David turned, eyebrows arching at Julian’s sudden reappearance. His expression was startled, but guarded. Impassive.
Leo, though… Julian had never seen him look so panicked as when he stared up at her from that floor.
In the split instant that David hesitated, Leo twisted and brought both fists together as one down on the back of David’s head. The witch cried out, and Leo was flung wide. His skull grazed the edge of the tomb with a sickening crunch.
Meanwhile, David was clutching at the back of his own head and staggering up onto his feet.
“You bitch!” he swore. “You fucking bitch!”
Don’t panic. He’ll be okay now.
Julian stalked forward with purpose, stopping only a few paces away with the knife pointed at him.
“You have a choice, David.” she stated slowly, deliberately. Her voice shook a little, but it was low and mirrored that fierce, questioning look she stared him down with. As if she were trying to look right at his soul.
“Stop now. And you can walk away. You can even come back to menace us another day, I don’t care. Just. Stop. Now.” She flung her other hand to point at Leo. “Because if you don’t and you try to hurt any of my people I am going to make sure you feel the death of every soul in this stupid graveyard until we have to drop your crumpled insane body in to one of these crypts with all the rest of your ancestors.”
Julian didn’t know if she could even do it, but there were enough shadows lurking around that she was sure as hell going to try.
“…You’re no psychic,” said David. He lowered his hand and stared down at the blood dripping from between his fingers, then looked back up at Julian with hollow eyes. “What are you?”
They were still standing like that, staring each other down, when the wolves came through the door.
The nearest witch shrieked as 200-plus pounds of teenage wolf slammed down on top of her, snarling and snapping. Another preempted his attacker and hissed something that materialized silver chains to bind one of the wolves to the wall, amidst frantic yelps and whimpers. A large brown wolf that Julian instinctively recognized as Caleb went straight for the witch closest to Walter.
David’s mouth twitched, resignation settling in around his temples.
“Enough!” he yelled, turning away from Julian. “Leave the vampire! We’ve got what we need.”
A swatch of shadow swirled around him, and he was gone. Within moments, each of the other witches had winked out like dead stars, leaving confused werewolves in their wake. One of the wolves crashed headfirst into a wall, his target having disappeared while he was mid-leap.
Leo hadn’t moved since David threw him.
What am I?
That was just. What.
There was no way to process that. Then David and all of his cult witches just VANISHED, leaving Julian standing there flabbergasted and confused. They could DO that?!
She shouted the witch’s name as she spun around on heel and staggered straight for Leo. Walter could fix this, he fixed this last time. Julian dropped to her knees next to Leo, grabbing him by the jacket and turning him to lie flat on his back. Her hand brushed against the bloody spot on his head. She couldn’t tell if he was healing or not, he was a mess. An infuriating, still as the dead mess.
“Leo, you’re NOT dead. I’ll know if you’re gone.” she hissed at him.
His cheek and part of his throat were charred and cracked, just like in her vision. He stirred a little as she touched his head-wound.
“Fiiire and my skull,” he slurred. “Two of th’feww things’t can ackshly fuck me up. Lucky bastard…”
His head flopped to the side, and he didn’t move again, no matter how hard she shook him. He was out cold, not breathing, no pulse. The only reason to believe he was still alive was her gut.
“You stupid asshole!” she shouted at him, despite the fact he was too gone to hear her. Was it insane to punch an out cold vampire? Probably. But the temptation was there in the middle of all her panicking. Logically she knew she didn’t need to be freaking out, it would be fine. But logic had no control over the way her heart was trying to claw it’s way out of her chest.
Her head shot up as she scanned the room. “Walter, fix him. Fix him right now.”
Fuck it, she’d fix him herself! Michael needed blood when he was poisoned. Julian suspected a nasty witch spell and getting your ass kicked probably required a little healing help too. She snatched up the knife she dropped on the floor next to her when she went grabbing for Leo, and pressed the blade to her palm.
He was going to be so god damn pissed. But he’d be alive and pissed.
“Julian. Julian, Walter’s gone.” That was Caleb. He must have shifted back to human once the witches had fled. He’d also grabbed the dead witch’s robes and wrapped it like a giant black beach towel around his lower half- because oh yeah, that’s right, werewolves got naked when they shifted- and was crouching down next to her, reaching out to still her fingers. “They took him.”
He eyed her carefully, his expression grim and searching. He knew exactly what she was thinking.
“Are you sure?” he demanded, and she could hear the words he wasn’t saying: I think you’re stupid, but I won’t stop you. And just a hint of He’s the one I’ll stop.
They took Walter?
She could only fix one problem at a time.
Julian frowned at Caleb. He thought she was crazy. He didn’t even have to say it. It didn’t matter that it barely showed across in his features. She knew.
“I have to.” she pulled away from his hands. The knife hesitated only for a fraction of a second before she dragged the blade across her skin. It was sharp, sharp enough that she only felt a slight pressure at first. The pain didn’t start until the blood starting pooling in her palm. All dullness that slowly began to burn just a little.
Julian tilted Leo’s head towards her, using her thumb to open his jaw wide enough to squeeze her hand over him and drop a bit in his mouth. Then she clamped her hand over it.
“Is Angela good and far away?” she asked, her eyes not leaving Leo’s face.
“She’s with Tanner. I told him to take her back to the car and get her to the farmhouse.” He looked away when she sliced her palm open, his eyes narrowing. “We should all get back there. Dylan and Kyle are hurt too. …He’s going to need rest, even with…”
“Nn,” Leo’s muffled sound interrupted. He twisted, coughing, and Julian felt what little blood she’d tried to force down his throat spray the inside of her palm. He didn’t seem any more conscious or lifelike, though; it must have all been reflexive.
That was something at least. Not nearly good enough, but something. And Caleb was right, they couldn’t hang around in the graveyard. Leo needed to be somewhere safer.
And where exactly was Michael? Julian now doubted it was Michael who sent the text for Leo at all.
Julian could feel a sore, aching lump in her throat as she tried to swallow. Her whole facade of reckless heroism was starting to crack and tears were burning with a threat to fall. She brushed the arm of her jacket over her face quickly, then nodded at Caleb.
“Help me get him out of here.”
[/et_pb_text][et_pb_button admin_label=”Next Chapter” button_url=”https://www.worldofsilentpines.com/black-sun-024-war-council/” url_new_window=”off” button_text=”Next Chapter” button_alignment=”right” background_layout=”dark” custom_button=”on” button_bg_color=”#2c3036″ button_letter_spacing=”0″ button_use_icon=”default” button_icon_placement=”right” button_on_hover=”off” button_bg_color_hover=”#484b50″ button_letter_spacing_hover=”0″ button_border_width=”0″ saved_tabs=”all” /][/et_pb_column][et_pb_column type=”1_4″][et_pb_post_title admin_label=”Black Sun Featured” global_module=”240″ title=”off” meta=”off” author=”on” date=”on” categories=”on” comments=”on” featured_image=”on” featured_placement=”below” parallax_effect=”on” parallax_method=”on” text_orientation=”left” text_color=”light” text_background=”off” text_bg_color=”rgba(255,255,255,0.9)” module_bg_color=”rgba(255,255,255,0)” title_all_caps=”off” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid” saved_tabs=”all” /][et_pb_text admin_label=”White Night/Black Sun Chapters” saved_tabs=”all” background_layout=”light” text_orientation=”left” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid” global_module=”2844″]
- Black Sun 001: His Name is Michael (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 002: Leo Through the Window (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 003: The Crypt (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 004: The Seventh Star (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 005: DJ Got Us Falling in Love (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 006: Dance Class (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 007: A Real First Date (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 008: Psychic Impressions (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 009: Angela’s Confirmation (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 010: Margrit’s Little Helpers (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 011: Blood Moon (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 012: Trust (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 013: Reconnecting (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 014: Angela’s Bad Date (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 015: Hide and Seek (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 016: A Chat with Mr. Anderson (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 017: Michael’s Birthday (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 018: Vampires and Laundry (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 019: Angela’s Supernatural Silent Pines Flowchart (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 020: Mysterious Ms. Abernathy (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 021: Ride Home (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 022: Ghosts and Festival (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 023: Halloween (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 024: War Council (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 025: All Saint’s Day (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 026: Not Meant to be Together (Original Draft)