Thomas clears his throat.
“Well, he’s not, but I am. Where were you last night and this morning?”
“I was here,” she replies. “I’m always here.”
Outside, I hear the grumble of tires. Carmel has arrived.
“That was all well and good while you were contained,” Thomas counters. “But maybe now that you’re loose you go all over the place. Why wouldn’t you? Why stay here, where you’ve been trapped for fifty years?” He looks around, nervous even though the house is quiet. There’s no indication of angry spirits. “I don’t even want to be here now.”
Footsteps slam up the porch and Carmel bursts in holding, of all things, a metal baseball bat.
“Get the hell away from them!” she screams at the top of her lungs. She swings the thing in a wide arc and knocks Anna across the face. The effect is something like smacking the Terminator with a lead pipe. Anna just looks sort of surprised, and then sort of insulted. I think I see Carmel gulp.
“It’s all right,” I say, and the bat goes down an inch. “She didn’t do it.”
“How do you know?” Carmel asks. Her eyes are bright and the bat shakes in her hands. She’s running on adrenaline and fear.
“How does he know what?” Anna interjects. “What are you talking about? What’s happened?”
“Will and Chase are dead,” I say.
Anna looks down. Then she asks, “Who’s Chase?”
Could everyone stop asking so many damned questions? Or can someone else answer them, at least?
“He’s one of the guys who helped Mike trick me, the night of…” I pause. “He was the other one by the window.”
When I make no move to go on, Thomas tells Anna everything. Carmel cringes at the gory bits. Thomas looks at her apologetically but keeps talking. Anna listens and watches me.
“Who would do it?” Carmel asks angrily. “Did you touch anything? Did anyone see you?” She’s looking from Thomas to me and back again.
“No. We were wearing gloves, and I don’t think we moved anything while we were there,” Thomas answers. Both of their voices are even, if a little fast. They’re focusing on the practical aspects, which makes it easier. But I can’t let them do it. I don’t understand what’s going on here and we need to figure it out. They have to know everything, or as much as I can stand to tell.
“There was so much blood,” Thomas says weakly. “Who would do that? Why would someone…?”
“It isn’t a who exactly. More like a what,” I say. I’m tired suddenly. The back of the dust-sheeted sofa looks fantastic. I lean against it.
“A ‘what’?” Carmel asks.
“Yeah. A thing. It’s not a person. Not anymore. It’s the same thing that dismembered that guy in the park.” I swallow. “The bite marks were probably sequestered. Keeping evidence close to the vest. They didn’t broadcast it. That’s why I didn’t know sooner.”
“Bite marks,” Thomas whispers, and his eyes widen. “Is that what those were? They couldn’t be. They were too big; there were huge chunks torn off.”
“I’ve seen it before,” I say. “Wait. That’s not true. I’ve never actually seen it. And I don’t know what it’s doing here now, ten years later.”
Carmel is idly clanking the top of her aluminum bat against the floor; the sound rings like an ill-tuned bell through the empty house. Without saying anything, Anna walks past her and scoops the bat up, then sets it on the padding of the sofa.
“I’m sorry,” Anna whispers, and shrugs at Carmel, who crosses her arms and shrugs back.
“It’s okay. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. And … sorry for, you know, whacking you earlier.”
“It didn’t hurt.” Anna stands beside me. “Cassio. You know what this thing is.”
“When I was seven, my father went after a ghost in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.” I look down at the floor, down at Anna’s feet. “He never came back. It got him.”
Anna puts her hand on my arm. “He was a ghost hunter, like you,” she says.
“Like all my ancestors,” I say. “He was like me and better than me.” The idea of my father’s killer, here, is making my head spin. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. I was supposed to go after it. I was supposed to be ready, and have all the tools, and I was supposed to hunt it to the ground. “And it killed him anyway.”