The dreams have been worse since we came to Thunder Bay. The timing couldn’t be worse. I’m exhausted when I shouldn’t be exhausted—when I can least afford to be exhausted.
I can’t remember whether my dad had the dreams or not, but even if he did he wouldn’t have told me. Gideon’s never mentioned anything either, and I haven’t brought it up, because what if it’s just me? It would mean that I’m weaker than my ancestors. That I’m not as strong as everyone expects me to be.
It’s always the same dream. A figure bending over my face. I’m scared, but I also know that the figure is linked to me. I don’t like it. I think it’s my father.
But not really my father. My father has moved on. Mom and Gideon made sure of that; they hung around the house where he was murdered down in Baton Rouge for nights on end, casting runes and burning candles. But he was gone. I couldn’t tell whether my mom was happy or disappointed.
I watch her now as she hurriedly snips and grinds different herbs, measuring them out, pouring them from the bowl of her mortar and pestle. Her hands are fast and clean. She’s had to wait until the last minute because the Five Finger Grass was hard to find and she had to go through an unfamiliar supplier.
“What’s this stuff for, anyway?” I ask, picking up a piece of it. It’s dehydrated and greenish brown. It looks like a piece of hay.
“It’ll protect from the damage of any five fingers,” she says distractedly, then looks up. “Anna does have five fingers, doesn’t she?”
“On each hand,” I say lightly, and set the grass back down.
“I cleaned the athame again,” she says as she adds shakes of slivered colic root, which she tells me is useful to keep enemies at bay. “You’ll need it. From what I read of this spell, it’ll take a lot out of her. You’ll be able to finish your job. Do what you came to do.”
I notice she’s not smiling. Even though I haven’t been around much, my mom knows me. She knows when something’s off, and she usually has a pretty good idea of what it is. She says it’s a mom thing.
“What’s wrong about this, Cassio?” she asks. “What’s different?”
“Nothing. Nothing should be different. She’s more dangerous than any ghost I’ve seen. Maybe even more than any Dad saw. She’s killed more; she’s stronger.” I look down at the pile of Five Finger Grass. “But she’s more alive, too. She’s not confused. She’s not some shifting, half-existent thing who kills out of fear or rage. Something did this to her, and she knows.”
“How much does she know?”
“I think she knows everything, only she’s scared to tell me.”
My mom pushes some hair out of her eyes. “After tonight, you’ll know for sure.”
I shove myself off of the counter. “I think I already do,” I say angrily. “I think I know who killed her.” I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I keep thinking about the man who terrorized her, this young girl, and I want to pound his face in. In a robotic voice, I tell my mother what Anna told me. When I look at her, she’s wearing big soft cow’s eyes.
“It’s terrible,” she says.
“But you can’t rewrite history.”
I wish that I could. I wish this knife was good for something besides death, that I could cut through time and walk into that house, into that kitchen where he trapped her, and get her out of there. I would make sure she had the future she should have had.
“She doesn’t want to kill people, Cas.”
“I know. So how can I—”
“You can because you have to,” she says simply. “You can because she needs you to.”
I look at my knife, resting in its jar of salt. Something that smells like black jellybeans permeates the air. My mom is chopping another herb.
“What’s it for?”
She smiles a little bit. “Smells pretty.”
I breathe deep. In less than an hour everything will be ready, and Thomas will pick me up. I’ll take the small velvet bags secured with long strings and the four white pillar candles infused with essential oil, and he’ll have the scrying bowl and his bag of stones. And we’ll go to try to kill Anna Korlov.
The house is waiting. Everyone standing around me in the driveway is scared to death of what’s inside, but I’m more creeped out by the house itself. I know it’s dumb, but I can’t help but feel like it’s watching, and maybe smiling, grinning at our childish attempts to stop it, laughing off its foundation as we shake chicken feet in its direction.