He’s quick, and ridiculously agile for something with no eyes, but I finally get through. My whole body tenses like a bow when I feel the edge of my knife slide into his side.
He feints back and puts a dead hand to the wound. My triumph is short lived. Before I know what’s happened, he’s come forward and smacked me into a wall. I don’t realize I’ve hit it until I’m sliding down.
“Bind him! Weaken him!” I shout, but as I do, he skitters forward like some god-awful spider and lifts the sofa like it’s inflatable, then hurls it into my team of magic-casters on the second level. They cry out at the impact, but there isn’t any time to wonder if they’re all right. He grabs me by the shoulder and lifts me up, then punches me into the wall. When I hear what sounds like twigs snapping, I know that it’s actually a whole bunch of my ribs. Maybe the whole effing cage.
“This athame is ours,” he says into my face, sweet smoke issuing from between rancid gums. “It’s like Obeah—it is intent, both yours and mine now, and whose do you think is stronger?”
Intent. Over his shoulder I see Anna, her eyes gone black and her body twisted, covered in the dress of blood. The wound on her arm has grown, and she lies in an oily puddle two feet across. She’s staring at the floor with a blank expression. Upstairs I see the tossed sofa and a pair of legs caught underneath. I taste my own blood in my mouth. It’s hard to breathe.
And then an Amazon comes out of nowhere. Carmel has jumped down the stairs, halfway down the wall. She’s screaming. The Obeahman turns just in time to catch an aluminum bat in the face, and it does more than it did to Anna, maybe because Carmel is way more pissed. It knocks him down onto his knees, and she strikes again and again. And she’s the prom queen who thought she wouldn’t do anything.
I don’t miss my chance. I stab my athame into his leg and he howls, but he manages to snake his arm out and get hold of Carmel’s leg. There’s a wet popping sound, and I finally see how he’s able to take such large bites of people: he’s got most of his jaw unhinged. He sinks his teeth into Carmel’s thigh.
“Carmel!” It’s Thomas, yelling as he limps his way down the stairs. He won’t get to her in time—not soon enough to keep her leg in one piece—so I throw myself at the Obeahman, and my knife goes into his cheek. I’ll saw his entire jaw off, I swear it.
Carmel is screeching and clinging to Thomas, who is trying to pull her from the crocodile. I twist my knife in his mouth, hoping to god that I’m not cutting her in the process, and he releases his bite with a wet smack. The entire house shakes with his fury.
Only it’s not his fury. This isn’t his house. And he’s weakening. I’ve sliced him open enough now that we’re wrestling in a sloppy mess. He’s managed to pin me down as Thomas drags Carmel out of the way, so he doesn’t see what I see, which is a hovering, dripping dress of blood.
I wish he did have eyes, so I could see the surprise in them when she grabs him from behind and tosses him with a crash into the banister. My Anna has lifted herself from her puddle, dressed for a fight, with writhing hair and black veins. The wound on her forearm is still bleeding. She’s not quite right.
On the staircase, the Obeahman comes slowly to his feet. He dusts himself off and bares his teeth. I don’t understand. The cuts in his side and his face, the wound in his leg, they aren’t bleeding anymore.
“You think you can kill me with my own knife?” he asks.
I look at Thomas, who has taken off his jacket to tie around Carmel’s leg. If I can’t kill him with the athame, I don’t know what to do. There are other ways to take down a ghost, but nobody here knows them. I can barely move. My chest feels like a bundle of loose twigs.
“It’s not your knife,” Anna replies. “Not after tonight.” She looks at me over her shoulder and smiles, just a little. “I’m going to give it back to him.”
“Anna,” I start, but I don’t know what else to say. As I watch, as we all watch, she lifts her fist and strikes down into the floorboards, sending splinters and pieces of cracked wood halfway to the ceiling. I don’t know what she’s doing.
And then I notice the soft, red glow, like embers.
There’s surprise on Anna’s face that changes to happy relief. The idea was a gamble. She didn’t know if anything would happen when she opened that hole in the floor. But now that it has, she bares her teeth and hooks her fingers.
The Obeahman hisses as she moves forward. Even when she’s weak, she’s got no equal. They trade blows. She twists his head around only to have him snap it right back again.