“So what do we do?” Thomas asks.
I don’t particularly like being a leader. I don’t have much practice at it, and I’m much more comfortable risking just my own skin. But this is it. There’s no time for excuses or second-guessing. In the thousand ways I pictured this going down, I could never have imagined it like this. Still, it’s nice that I’m not fighting alone.
I look at Anna.
“We fight on our own turf,” I say. “And we pull a rope-a-dope.”
A more ramshackle operation I’ve never seen. We’re driving in a nervous little caravan, stuffed into beat-up cars that leave dark exhaust trails, wondering if we’re ready to do whatever it is that we’re going to do. I haven’t explained the rope-a-dope yet. But I think that Morfran and Thomas at least suspect what it is.
The light is starting to get golden, coming at us sideways and getting ready to turn sunset colored. Getting everything into the cars took forever—we have half of the occult merchandise from the shop packed into Thomas’s Tempo and Morfran’s Chevy pickup. I keep thinking of nomadic native tribes, and how they could pack up an entire civilization in an hour to follow some buffalo. When did human beings start acquiring so much crap?
When we get to Anna’s house, we start to unload, lugging as much as we can. This is where I meant when I said “our own turf.” My own house feels tainted, and the shop is too close to the rest of the populace. I mentioned the restless spirits to Morfran, but he seems to think they’ll scuttle off into a dark corner at the presence of so many witches. I’ll take his word for it.
Carmel gets into her Audi, which has been sitting here the whole time, and dumps out her schoolbag, emptying it so she can fit bunches of herbs and bottles of oil inside. I feel okay, so far. I still remember what Morfran said, about the Obeah getting worse. There’s an ache forming in my head, right between my eyes, but that might be from impacting against the wall. If we’re lucky, we’re accelerating the timeline enough so the battle will be over before his curse even becomes a factor. I don’t know how much use I’ll be, if I’m writhing around in agony.
I’m trying to stay positive, which is strange, as I tend to brood. It must be this whole leader of the pack thing I’m trying on. I have to look well. I have to appear confident. Because my mother is worried to the point of prematurely graying, and Carmel and Thomas look way too pale, even for Canadian kids.
“Do you think he’ll find us here?” Thomas asks as we pull a sack of candles out of his Tempo.
“I think he’s always known exactly where I am,” I say. “Or, at least he always knows where the knife is.”
He looks back over his shoulder at Carmel, still gently packing bottles of oil and things floating in jars.
“Maybe we shouldn’t have brought them,” he says. “Carmel and your mom, I mean. Maybe we should send them somewhere safe.”
“I don’t think there is such a place,” I say. “But you could take them, Thomas. You and Morfran could take them and hole up somewhere. Between the two of you, you could put up some kind of fight.”
“What about you? What about Anna?”
“Well, we seem to be the ones he wants.” I shrug.
Thomas scrunches his nose up in order to push his glasses higher on his face. He shakes his head.
“I’m not going anywhere. Besides, they’re probably as safe here as anyplace else. They might get some crossfire but at least they’re not alone, sitting ducks.”
I look at him fondly. The expression he wears is sheer determination. Thomas is absolutely not naturally brave. Which makes his bravery all the more impressive.
“You’re a good friend, Thomas.”
He chuckles. “Yeah, thanks. Now do you want to let me in on this plan that’s supposed to keep us from getting eaten?”
I grin and look back at the cars, where Anna is helping my mother with one arm and carrying a six-pack of Dasani water in the other.
“All I need from you and Morfran is a binding when he gets here,” I say while I continue to watch. “And if there’s anything you can do to bait the trap, that would help too.”
“Should be easy enough,” he replies. “There are tons of summoning spells used to call energies, or to call a lover. Your mom must know dozens. We’ll just alter them. And we can charge some cord for binding. We could modify your mom’s barrier oil too.” He’s got his brows knit as he rambles off requirements and methods.