Anna Dressed in Blood / Page 83

Page 83

He’s wearing a dark, fitted jacket, sort of like a long suit jacket. It could be dusty black or even dark green, I can’t tell. On the top of his head is a nest of dreadlocks, twisted and matted, some half-rotted and falling off. I can’t see his face, but the skin of his hands is gray and cracked. Between his fingers he’s twisting what looks like a long black snake.

I give my mom a gentle push to get her farther down the stairs. If she can get outside to Anna, she’ll be safe. I’m getting a little tinge of bravery, just a wafting of the old Cas coming back.

Then I realize I’m full of shit when he turns and looks right at me.

I should rephrase that. I can’t honestly say that he’s looking right at me. Because one can never be sure that something is looking right at them if that something’s eyes have been sewn shut.

And they are sewn shut. No mistaking. There are big, crisscrossed stitches of black string over his eyelids. Just the same, there is also no mistaking that he can see me. My mom speaks for both of us when she lets out a yelpy little “Oh.”

“You’re welcome,” he says in that voice of his, the voice of my nightmares, like chewing on rusted nails.

“I have nothing to thank you for,” I spit, and he cocks his head. Don’t ask me how I know, but I know he’s staring at my knife. He walks toward us, unafraid.

“Perhaps I should thank you, then,” he says, and the accent shows. The “thank” is “tank.” The “then” is “den.”

“What are you doing here?” I ask. “How did you get here? How did you get past the door?”

“I’ve been here the whole time,” he says. He’s got bright white teeth. His mouth is no bigger than any man’s. How does he leave such gigantic marks?

He’s smiling now, his chin tilted upward. He’s got an ungainly way of moving, like lots of ghosts do. Like their limbs are stiffening, or like their ligaments are rotting away. It isn’t until they move to strike that you see them for real. I won’t be fooled.

“That’s impossible,” I say. “The spell would’ve kept you out.” And there’s no way that I’ve been sleeping in the same house with my father’s killer this whole time. That he’s been one floor above me, watching and listening.

“Spells to keep the dead out are worthless if the dead are already in,” he says. “I come and go as I please. I fetch things back that foolish boys lose. And since then I’ve been in the attic, eating cats.”

I’ve been in the attic, eating cats. I look closer at the black snake he’s been weaving through his fingers. It’s Tybalt’s tail.

“You f**k—you ate my cat!” I yell, and thank you, Tybalt, for one last favor, this pissed-off rush of adrenaline. The quiet is suddenly filled with the sound of knocking. Anna heard me yell and is banging on the door, asking if I’m all right. The ghost’s head snaps around like a snake, an unnatural, disturbing movement.

My mom doesn’t know what’s going on. She didn’t know Anna was outside, so she starts clinging to me, unsure of what to be more afraid of.

“Cas, what is that?” she asks. “How are we going to get out?”

“Don’t worry, Mom,” I say. “Don’t be scared.”

“The girl we wait for is right outside,” he says, and shuffles forward. My mom and I drop down a step.

I put my hand out across the railing. The athame flashes and I bring it back to eye level. “You stay away from her.”

“She’s what we came for.” He makes a soft, hollow rustling when he moves, like his body is an illusion and he’s nothing more than empty clothes.

“We didn’t come for anything,” I spit. “I came to kill a ghost. And I’m going to get my chance.” I lunge forward, feeling my blade part the air, the silver tip just grazing his front buttons.

“Cas, don’t!” my mom shouts, trying to drag me back by one arm. She needs to knock it off. What does she think I’ve been doing all this time? Setting elaborate traps using springs, plywood, and a mouse on a wheel? This is hand-to-hand. This is what I know.

Meanwhile, Anna is pounding harder on the door. It must be giving her a migraine to be so close.

“It’s what you’re here for, boy,” he hisses, and takes a swing at me. It seems halfhearted; it misses by a mile. I don’t think he missed because of the whole stitched-over-eye thing. He’s just playing with me. Another clue is the fact that he’s laughing.

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