Copyright © 2013 Yolanda Sfetsos
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
I stared at this seemingly healthy young girl and for the first time noticed the dark circles under her eyes, and just how thin she was. “I don’t know what to say.” I bit down on my lip, fighting the itch to grab a pen and start writing this down into my grimoire—under my family history. This was bizarre. She’d allegedly died four times already and had somehow—obviously—been revived. How was that possible?
For just a moment, I honed in on my spook catcher skills, hoping to eliminate the fact she could very well be dead right now and not know it. But no, she was very much alive.
“It’s okay. Most people don’t know what to say or how to react.” She looked down at the desk. “All I know is that every time I come back, I feel a little different. A little heavier, if that makes any sense.”
My heart sped up. How had my mother dealt with another anomaly? And what could be wrong with Willow that she kept dying but came back? It explained why she’d reached out to me. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder how her father fit into all of this, and how he even knew about me. How long had he known? I still had a hard time believing my mother actually told him.
“Listen, I don’t want to pry into your business, but does your father know you’re here?”
Willow’s head jerked up unnaturally fast and her blue eyes widened, shining brightly. So bright it almost looked as if shimmering light was filtering from within her. “Why?” Her soft voice suddenly had a rough edge.
“I’m curious, what does he think of all this?”
“My father has nothing to do with this.” The long strands of her hair lifted around her like slithering snakes being whipped by a sudden gust of wind.
What the hell was going on? My hair sizzled from the electrical charge I associated with poltergeist activity, or phantasms. “Willow, are you okay?”
“Yeah, just dandy,” she replied, and a flash of light exploded behind her, revealing the writhing form of a tall, thin boy with longish brown hair. He weaved around her, his body charged like an electric eel. Yet she didn’t seem to notice him or the sparks.
When another form appeared behind her, this time in the shape of a dog, I jumped out of the chair and took a step back.
I raised my right hand. “Okay, Willow, you need to calm down.”
“I am calm. I’ve never felt calmer, because being around you feels different…in a good way.” A rueful smile spread across her plump lips. “You’re exactly what I’ve needed all this time. You can help me.”
The monitor between mine and Ebony’s desk flickered on, and so did the overhead lights. A few manila folders flew off the top of the stack and began swirling around, an assortment of pens following close behind.
If I couldn’t get her to calm down, the poltergeist activity would wreck the office.
What had set her off? I’d said something that made her angry and it was now manifesting with violent electrical, telekinetic energy. It wasn’t the evidence she’d presented, or even discussing the fact she’d died several times. No, it was the question about whether her father knew she was here.
“Yeah?” she asked while the boy writhed around her. He seemed to have eyes only for her, just as the small dog did.
“Tell me about your favorite movie, or book.” I knew next to nothing about this girl, so distracting her in a positive way was going to be quite a challenge. Usually to calm poltergeist activity, I needed to connect with the source but these attachments didn’t seem to be in control. She was. And that wasn’t the only thing that made everything so confusing, because poltergeists rarely revealed themselves. It was usually like dealing with an invisible telekinetic entity. So how could a live person have poltergeists with her and make them appear? No, that wasn’t quite right because I was pretty sure she couldn’t see the kid and the dog.
But I certainly can.
Her smile widened. “Oh, Jamie and I loved to watch scary movies together. It didn’t matter how old or B-grade they were, we loved them. We especially loved the old hack and slash ones from the 80s.”
The hovering boy turned to look at her with what could only be described as adoration on his face. His bluish shimmer made her glow like some kind of celestial being.
“Do you have a favorite?”
“Oh, we loved The Nightmare on Elm Street movies the best. I was never scared, but liked it when Jamie held my hand.”
“Who’s Jamie?” I sat slowly, wincing because the electrical charge was so close my skin was crawling. “He sounds like a good friend.”
She was quiet for a moment, staring at the desktop as if she was lost in the past. “He was…he was my boyfriend.”
“Willow, what happened to him?” I asked softly. Anything, even the wrong tone of voice, could set her off again. At least nothing was flying around the office now. “How did Jamie die?”
The poltergeist boy I assumed to be Jamie continued to glide around her.
Her eyes met mine. “He died in a car accident. We were in the car, and…”
I didn’t push her. “I’m so sorry.”
The flashing lights around her started to fade. “I miss him so much.”
As much as I hated to do this, I had to test my suspicions. So I took a deep breath and, on the exhale, asked an insensitive question. “Did your father like Jamie?”
Willow’s eyes glowed fiercely and the lightshow intensified around her again. Her long hair whipped over her face and the scattered folders on my desk savagely flew off and hit the floor.
“I’m sure Jamie misses you too, but he wouldn’t want you to be in so much pain,” I whispered, trying to help her get control of the situation.
She nodded and the computer flicked off. The overhead lights left us in the overcast gloom, and the boy hovering behind her disappeared entirely, followed closely by the dog. Willow’s hair dropped back down to her shoulders and tears glistened in her eyes before sliding down her cheeks.
This is crazy. Surely she shouldn’t be able to switch from lightshow and back to normal so quickly?
“Willow, are you okay?”
She touched her face. “Why am I crying?”
“You don’t remember what happened?” This was interesting.
She shook her head. “I—I’m here because I wanted to meet you. We’re half-sisters and I was hoping you could help me figure out what’s wrong with me.”
“What makes you think something’s wrong?”
Willow licked her lips. “Sometimes I see things, and I zone out too.”
“And you don’t remember anything that happened while you zone out?”
She shook her head again. “I just did it again, didn’t I?”
“Willow, is Jamie one of the things you see out of the corner of your eye?”
She looked at me, surprised. “Yes, he is. How did you know about him?”
“I don’t know how this happened, or even how it’s possible, but it looks like you’ve got several poltergeists attached to you. They seem to manifest when you get angry or upset.” It was too soon to pry about why the mention of her father prompted such a severe reaction. And after testing the theory, I certainly didn’t want her to go there again.
“What do you mean by poltergeists?” Her eyes were wide as she looked around the office. “I remember watching the movie, but how can I have one attached to me? It doesn’t make any sense. Do you know what’s wrong with me? Does it have something to do with me dying so many times?”
She threw too many questions at me and I couldn’t answer them yet. I’d encountered plenty of poltergeists, but they were usually the mischievous spirits of dead teens or children. I’d never seen anything like this before, but just like the poltergeist phenomena, her reaction stemmed from strong emotional responses.
“I don’t know why or how this happened to you, but it has.” I was glad the charged energy was gone. “But I’m going to help you figure it out.”
“Really?” She looked so young and hopeful.
“Thank you, I knew meeting you was the right thing to do.” A small, apologetic smile curved her lips but the sadness lingered in her eyes.
“There’s just one problem,” I said.
“I’m going to have to ask you a bunch of questions you might not want to answer.” I paused to let that sink in. “Do you think you can handle it?”
Willow was thoughtful for a moment before she said, “Yeah, I can.”
“Good.” I hoped that I could handle this, because only a messy situation—or situations—could have put her in this position. The first thing I needed to confirm was how she’d gotten this condition, though I was pretty sure it was an inherited curse.
I felt bad for her, and could certainly relate to receiving a gift disguised as a nuisance.
She sat quietly in the chair, looking around.
“So, where are you staying?”
I pointed at her bursting backpack. “You’ve got a whole bunch of stuff packed in there.”
“Oh,” she said, hugging it to her chest and reminding me of Lavie’s peculiar habit. Except, I was certain this girl wasn’t stowing any severed demonic body parts. “Yeah, I’m staying with a friend.”
“I’m glad.” I probably wouldn’t have offered her a place to stay just yet, but it struck me as weird that she hadn’t made a day trip for our meeting. There was certainly something strange going on with her father, but now wasn’t the time to find out. “Look, I don’t want to overload you with prying questions, so how about you pop back in here tomorrow and we’ll get started? We can meet at…four. How’s that sound?”
“Okay, sure, that sounds good.” She instantly shot to her feet and placed the backpack straps around her shoulders. “I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon.”
“Great.” I extended my hand and she shook it. “I look forward to seeing you again.” As hard as I tried not to make this feel like a business transaction, it kinda did.
“I’ve got a bit of money, so I can pay you for—”
“No, I won’t take your money.” This might feel reminiscent of the cases I usually dealt with, but I wasn’t taking money from a confused kid who also happened to be my half-sister.
“Are you sure? I don’t want you to think I’m taking advantage of you.”
“I know you’re not.”
“Thank you.” Willow flashed a pretty smile and headed for the door. She stopped just outside, turned and said, “I’m really glad I found you. I’ve always wanted a sister and you’re even better than I imagined.”
I smiled back and felt a warm glow inside. She might come with a few otherworldly problems, but who didn’t have some kind of baggage nowadays? “I’ll see you tomorrow, Willow.”
She strolled out the door and I turned back to my office.
After picking up the folders and stacking them where they belonged, I decided there was no way I would get any work done now. Besides, it was almost time to meet Papan in the city.
I shut the window, put on my mostly-dry jacket and made sure my dagger was still secured between sock and boot. I loaded up with keys, wallet, and phone before heading for the door, wishing Oren would hurry up and teach me the incantation to make my pockets deeper than they really were.
After closing the door behind me, I made sure it was locked before rushing for the stairs. I might have walked into my office in a morose mood, but I was now filled with a sense of hopeful energy.
I’d helped poltergeists before without being able to see them. I could handle this for my sister.
Wow, it feels good to say sister.
As soon as I stepped out of the building, I smacked right into someone. When strong arms wrapped tightly around my midsection, I struggled to squirm out of the vice-like grip.
Oh crap, not again!