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I looked back at my parents, putting on my most hopeful and love-struck face. After a few seconds of telepathic hemming and hawing between them, they both looked at me and nodded in peculiar unison.

“OK, sweetie,” my mom said. “Just for a few hours, though. And no funny stuff.”

She wagged her finger at me, though we all knew I had gotten the funny stuff out of the way last night.

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” I said with a smile. Things were slowly fal ing into place. For once.

After the library, Maximus and I had gone back to his apartment and I explained what happened with the books and seeing Demon Girl. It came down to two things. Either I was so worked up that I was imagining things (not bloody likely), or that some supernatural presence was fol owing me around (more likely). If it was the latter, we had to cleanse the house, the place where the haunting original y started. At least at that rate I would be protected in my own home and perhaps libraries and coffee shops would fol ow soon after that.

A lot of the books that Maximus had checked out had cleansing rituals in them as well as shopping lists of what herbs and oils and candles to buy. He promised he would handle all of that if I could secure the house for an evening, the sooner the better.

“What night would work best for you?” I asked my parents, knowing I’d ask it to be ASAP no matter what their answer was.

Luckily, my dad said, “I have to do some work tomorrow night, so Wednesday wil work. How about you, honey?”

My mother nodded and I breathed a sigh of relief.

When dinner was over, I volunteered myself and Ada to wash the dishes; you know, as a thank you so they wouldn’t think about backing out on our arrangement.

“Do you hate me, suddenly?” Ada hissed at me as our parents retired to the sitting room to read and sip decaf.

I made sure my parents were out of earshot before I put the plates in the sink and grabbed her arm.

“Listen, that was all a ruse.”

“What? Muse?”

I rolled my eyes. “No. A ruse. As in an act of deception.”

“You mean a lie? Speak English.”

“Yes, a lie. And I need you to be home with me.”

Her nose wrinkled up and she pul ed out of my grasp.

“Ewwww! Perry, I don’t want any part of your weird sex games with that red-headed-”

“Ada!” It was my turn to hiss. “Lower your damn voice.

And, ewww, no! Sex games? Where is your head at? No, we need you to help us do a cleanse of the house, you sicko.”

She frowned and thought that over. “Like, a ‘ghost be gone’ kind of cleanse? Or manual labor like what those guys did today in the study? Because you know how I feel about manual labor.”

“I do,” I said and turned on the taps to rinse off the dishes. “But how do you feel about being involved in some, um, magic?”

“M-A-G-I-C-K magic? I think I’m OK with that.”

“Good. Now I don’t know what Maximus has planned but-” I stopped when I noticed a look of discomfort on her face. “What, what now?”

“Nothing,” she said.

I sighed, unable to ignore it any longer. Now that I was sleeping with Maximus, her attitude was starting to grate on me. “What’s your problem with him? Seriously. He’s been nothing but nice to you. And don’t say it’s because he’s a ginger.”

She shrugged and grabbed a dish. “I don’t know. He just…”

I raised my brows for her to continue.

She continued in a drawn out voice, “He just seems a bit too good to be true. I think he might have something up his sleeve.”

“He might have something up his sleeve?” I repeated.

“What is he, a vil ain with a twirly moustache?”

“You know what I mean,” she sniped, placing the rinsed dishes in the dishwasher. “It’s just weird, you know. The minute Dex is out of the picture, oh look who it is.”

I bit my lip and turned my attention to getting a stubborn piece of stuck-on chicken off the pan.

“It’s not like that,” I finally said.

“Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. But I don’t trust him. And I think you need someone to keep a level head here. You need someone to watch out for you.”

I laughed and gave her a wry look. “Ada saves the day?”

“I’d like to be good for something other than comic relief,” she said with a smile.

“Don’t flatter yourself, kiddo,” I joked. It was something that Dex said all the time to me and it came out instinctively.

Hearing my old nickname pinched somewhere deep inside.

Ada’s soft eyes met mine at that phrase and no more words were needed between us. We continued to do the dishes with only the whir of the tap water to break up the silence.

When bedtime came a few hours later, the reality of what had been going on hit me like a ton of bricks and things were much scarier when I was alone in my room. Even though I had sent Maximus a good-night text (to which he replied “Sweet dreams darling” and I could just hear his drawl in my head), he was over at his place and I was at mine, where every little window rattle, creak of the house, door shutting, or buzz of electricity had me on the edge. I kept the bedside light on, deciding I didn’t care if I was acting like a six-year old girl. If something was coming for me, I wanted to see it. You couldn’t blame me for that.

Remembering what happened earlier, my eyes flitted over to the book I got from the library. I half expected it to start flying around the room, but it just sat on my desk, looking ominous. I hadn’t opened it yet, deciding I thought I should be around a load of people and bright sunshine when I did. The way my imagination was running I’d be thinking I was possessed by everyone in hel .

I shuddered at the thought and cursed myself for thinking such things when I was trying to sleep. I spied the clock, which read 11:40. Everyone else in the house was asleep and I hated being the only one awake.

My eyes closed eventual y, shutting out the light, and my mind began to twirl, taking my thoughts and body into a lazy, limp journey into sleep. I was halfway there when something roused my eyes open.

I held my breath in my mouth and listened past the loud beating of my heart.


Then… There. Above my head. A thump coming from the roof.

I slowly turned my head so I was facing up, my eyes flying around the empty space above.




Something was definitely up there. Something was walking on the roof.

I had no choice. I grabbed the extra pil ow beside me and covered my head with it, shutting out the noise and the light. There wasn’t much else I could do but ignore the horror before it took over completely. This time sleep would be my only escape.


The countdown til Wednesday night went excruciatingly slow. Ada was away at school during the day and I was stil on hiatus from work, even though I was starting to feel increasingly guilty about it. I hated taking advantage of the time off but I knew there was no way I’d be a reliable employee until after the cleanse, when everything would be under control. It felt like my life was on hold until then.

Fortunately, all supernatural activity around me had slowed down. Maybe Abby (or whoever/whatever it was) knew what was coming and was scared off. Or maybe she was just conserving her energy and gearing up for a showdown. Either way, the random thumps coming from the roof was the last peculiar thing that had happened and things were looking brighter. Literal y. It was like my eyes were so used to seeing shadows everywhere that everything looked fresh and clean for once.

I hadn’t talked to Maximus much and I just put my faith into whatever he was arranging, though I have to say I was a bit wary when he cal ed me late Tuesday and asked me to do a peculiar task.

“You want me to what?” I repeated into my phone.

“Get hair and nail clippings from your parents.”

I was sitting on the couch watching the news with them.

My face furrowed with disgust but they were paying me no attention.

“How...and, good God, Maximus, why?” I whispered.

“I know it sounds goofy but it is part of the banishing ritual. Just be glad you’re not charged with the task of finding dragon’s blood oil.”

“Dragon’s blood?”

At that both my parents tore their eyes away from the screen and gave me a funny look. I smiled at them weakly and excused myself to my room.

“It’s all over the place in Louisiana but I’m having a hard time finding it here.”

“I’m going to assume it’s a lot more normal than it sounds,” I said as I climbed the stairs. I paused in the hal way and with a quick peek down the stairs I quickly and quietly made my way to my parents’ bedroom and into their large, yel ow bathroom with enough light to show every pore on your face.

“And so what am I supposed to do with the…parent particles?” I asked him as my eyes roamed across the counter. I spied my mom’s hairbrush and found my dad’s in one of the drawers.

“Find a glass bottle, plastic might do, and put them in there.”

I picked up a pair of tweezers and removed the hair, holding it away from me. It was funny how hair was lovely to look at and touch when it was on your head, but the minute it was off your head it was as gross as anything.

“Mmm, you probably should have told me that before I started this,” I said with a grimace. “Where on earth I am going to get nail clippings from?”

“I guess it’s not crucial from them. The hair wil do. But we’l need the same, plus the clippings from you and Ada.

And me.”

“Is there a book tel ing you to do this?” I quickly shut off the bathroom light and soundlessly scampered back to my room before I was caught, hair stil in my hand.

“I’m certainly not making it up off the top of my head,” he answered. “Do you have a bel ?”

“A bel ?” A recal ed sound of the bel from my dreams echoed in my mind.

“Yes. You know. Ring-a-ding, darling.”

“I know what a bel is. Why do we need one?”

“Why do we need holy water? We just do. If you can’t find one they said we can substitute with an iPod.”

I laughed. “So we need holy water and dragon’s blood, but if a friggin’ bel is hard to find, well then we can just use an iPod.”

“That’s the way it is.”

“I guess so.”

“See you tomorrow, Perry. Get a good sleep.”

“Good luck with the dragon. You’l probably need a real y large needle,” I told him and hung up.

The next evening Ada and I were sitting in my room and flipping through the book on demonology plus a few she checked out herself from the school library. They were mainly witchcraft books, nothing too serious for a public school, but it was nice to know she was taking this as seriously as the rest of us.

“Holy hel ,” she said as she paused on a certain page.

“Ada,” I warned, feeling extra touchy about mentions of anything holy. I peered at the book. It was a real y old, detailed black and white drawing of some pretty despicable creatures in revolting positions. The fact that I was viewing the artwork upside down and it stil made sense spoke volumes about the depravity.