“Why didn’t you tell your mother?”
“I couldn’t…” She stops and starts again. “But I couldn’t let him. I was going to get away. I would have.” Her face is blank. Not even the eyes are alive. She’s just moving lips and voice. The rest of her has gone back inside.
I reach up and touch her cheek, cold as ice. “Was it him? Was he the one who killed you? Did he follow you that night and—”
Anna shakes her head very fast and pulls away. “That’s enough,” she says in a voice that’s trying to be hard.
“Anna, I have to know.”
“Why do you have to know? What business is it of yours?” She puts her hand to her forehead. “I can hardly remember myself. Everything’s muddy and bleeding.” She shakes her head, frustrated. “There’s nothing I can tell you! I was killed and it was black and then I was here. I was this, and I killed, and killed, and couldn’t stop.” Her breath hitches. “They did something to me but I don’t know what. I don’t know how.”
“They,” I say curiously, but this isn’t going any further. I can literally see her shutting down, and in another couple of minutes, I might be standing here trying to hold on to a girl with black veins and a dripping dress.
“There’s a spell,” I say. “A spell that can help me understand.”
She calms a bit and looks at me like I’m nuts. “Magic spells?” A disbelieving smile escapes. “Will I grow fairy wings and jump through fire?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Magic isn’t real. It’s make-believe and superstition, old curses on the tongues of my Finnish grandmothers.”
I can’t believe that she’s questioning the existence of magic when she’s standing before me dead and talking. But I don’t get the chance to convince her, because something starts to happen, something twisting in her brain, and she twitches. When she blinks, her eyes are far away.
Her arm shoots out to keep me back. “It’s nothing.”
I peer closer. “That wasn’t nothing. You remembered something, didn’t you? What is it? Tell me!”
“No, I—it wasn’t anything. I don’t know.” She touches her temple. “I don’t know what that was.”
This isn’t going to be easy. It’s going to be damned near impossible if I don’t get her cooperation. A heavy, hopeless feeling is creeping into my exhausted limbs. It feels like my muscles are starting to atrophy, and I don’t have that much muscle to begin with.
“Please, Anna,” I say. “I need your help. I need you to let us do the spell. I need you to let other people in here with me.”
“No,” she says. “No spells! And no people! You know what would happen. I can’t control it.”
“You can control it for me. You can do it for them too.”
“I don’t know why I don’t have to kill you. And by the way, isn’t that enough? Why are you asking for more favors?”
“Anna, please. I need at least Thomas, and probably Carmel, the girl you met this morning.”
She looks down at her toes. She’s sad, I know she’s sad, but Morfran’s stupid “less than a week” speech is ringing in my ears, and I want this over with. I can’t let Anna stay for another month, possibly collecting more people for her basement. It doesn’t matter that I like talking to her. It doesn’t matter that I like her. It doesn’t matter that what happened to her wasn’t fair.
“I wish you would leave,” she says softly, and when she looks up I see that she’s almost crying, and she’s looking over my shoulder at the door or maybe out the window.
“You know I can’t,” I say, mirroring her words from moments ago.
“You make me want things that I can’t have.”
Before I can figure out what she means, she sinks through the steps, down, deep into the basement where she knows I won’t follow.
* * *
Gideon calls just after Thomas drops me off at my house.
“Good morning, Theseus. Sorry to wake you so early on a Sunday.”
“I’ve been up for hours, Gideon. Already hard at work.” Across the Atlantic, he is smirking at me. As I walk into the house, I nod good morning to my mother, who is chasing Tybalt down the stairs and hissing that rats aren’t good for him.
“What a shame,” Gideon chuckles. “I’ve been waiting around to call you for hours, trying to let you get some rest. What a pain that was. It’s nearly four in the afternoon here, you know. But I think I’ve got the essence of that spell for you.”