…Back to the Beginning…
…Last time in When Skies are Gray…
Crow’s cell phone vibrated in his pocket. He released Olive to check the caller ID.
“What did you see in your vision?” Olive asked linking her hands behind his neck.
“Hold on, it’s Stan,” he said flipping the phone open.
“Did you leave before the police got there?”
“Yeah, I couldn’t resist the visions anymore, so we got out of there. Manson’s royally angry. And, I found out he’s losing his connection with the spirit world. Dove said his soul’s too torn to sense it like he should. According to her, the whole spirit world is singing Olive’s name right now. I’m sure Dove will be coming soon cause he’s not gonna be content to just let this go.”
“Will you put it on speaker,” Olive asked.
Crow switched it to speaker and held it between them.
“Stan, I’m here. I noticed some interesting magical lines when I healed the house, ones Crow probably couldn’t see before due to the inheritance in him being so small.”
“Or cause we’ve never gone back to a crime scene to see what Manson left behind,” Stan said.
“Or,” Crow added, “this is something he’s done recently.”
“That too….or three,” Olive said. “I think Manson not only gets a high destroying their souls, but he maintains a buzz by feeding off the rips in the souls of the families and friends. I saw the same vein-like magical lines linking Manson to the body as I did leading away from it. I think we need to follow that vein and see where it leads.
“What if it leads back to Manson?” Crow asked.
“It isn’t the main vein, but an off shoot. And besides, Colin can tell us if we’re headed right towards Manson. I’d be willing to bet it leads to Robert’s family. If I’m right, we may be able to do more healing.”
“Which means more pissing off Manson,” Crow said.
“Alright kids,” Stan said. “Let’s meet back in the town square in front of that antique mall.”
“Make sure Aunt Rose comes with you, I want her to look at the magical lines,” Olive said shifting to her feet.
“What about Jack?”
Olive raised an eyebrow in question at Crow.
“He can come if he wants or he can stay with Fortunatus since the sun’s out right now. But I want him to have a cell phone….”Crow paused. Old nightmares flashed through him.
“Crow? Olive? You still there?” Stan said, a hint of fear in his voice.
“Yeah….bring everyone, even Fortunatus with you. I don’t want anyone alone.”
Now Stan went silent on the other end of the phone. Crow imagine Stan saw the same bloody nightmares he had. Absent-mindedly, Crow rubbed the list of X’ed out names on his shoulder. Olive took his hand and kissed the tips of his fingers.
“Will do, Crow,” Stan finally said, “See y’all in a second.”
“Keep your cell phone with you. I’ll call Fortunatus and wake him.”
“Got it. And one more thing, an Agent Syracuse of the FBI is waiting to interface with the detectives assigned to Noles murder. You remember Detective Richards? When I called him, he sent me to Syracuse. Apparently the FBI decided to assign her anything that smells strange.”
“You mean anything magical?”
“Yeah, but they don’t call it that, they call it strange. Also, the detectives assigned are Blaine and Stark.”
“The ones who dropped by the house the other day?” Crow said. He couldn’t believe it was just a few days ago, felt like years.
“Same two guys.”
“I thought they were Dorian PD?”
“Chesterfield’s too small to have that big of a police force, Dorian’s helping out.”
“That worries me.”
“Me too. I gotta go. See you in a sec,” Stan said and then hung up.
Crow hung up, scrolled down to Fortunatus’ number, and listened to it ring.
“We have to move out. Manson’s figured out what we’re doing and Olive found a link from the murder scene to what we think is Robert’s family. We want to deal with that before Manson gets Dove or the Greeks here.”
“The sun has just crossed the line into noonday. The Greeks will not be able to arrive until tonight.”
“We’re moving you around in the daylight, so why couldn’t they do the same? Manson’s not that far away and it won’t take him long to get going. Stan’s gonna pull up in the covered drive and let you in the back of the van. I don’t want anyone staying by themselves. Even you.”
“How considerate of you, and it is so nice to see you learning lessons from the past.”
Crow flipped the phone shut and stood up.
“You’re gonna have to learn to be polite to more people than just witches,” Olive said taking his hand.
“It’s considered polite to say good-bye when ending a conversation before you hang up.”
“Not when you are talking to someone who had a hand in your parent’s death and continues to be a prick.”
Olive sighed. She took a large white feather out of the pocket of her pouch and brushed Crow’s shoulders off.
“What are you doing?”
“Trying to get rid of the chip on your shoulder. Someday you’ll have to accept the fact that your parents died, and that Fortunatus, who’s now forgiven, had a hand in it. Someday you’ll have to face the fact that the only person you can be angry at is God. Then you’ll have to decide if you have the right to be angry with Him.”
“I think I do if he killed my parents.”
“Everyone dies. Everyone loses their parents. The child whose mother dies of cancer while he watches helplessly is in no different position than you. God wrote your parents story, and out of that he gave you the tools to beat Manson. Don’t lose them in your anger and resentment. Trust the King.”
Crow studied her. He stared deep into her glowing green eyes. She was right. If he defeated Manson with hate and anger, he would be a hollow shell at the moment of Manson’s death. He would be a ghost with no purpose but to find something else to hate. Unless he laid his anger at the feet of the King and took hold of the hope offered back, he had no life outside Manson. The pain of hope, sharp and clear, hurt almost as much as damnation.
“Are you okay?”
He tipped his head back, blinking away sudden tears, while he pinched the bridge of his nose. Olive came around him resting her hand on his chest. Crow took a deep breath. He filled himself with the good, clean, beautiful scent of her.
“My curse lifted the day I mixed you up with one of Manson’s attempts to trap me. You healed me first.”
She put her arms around him. “Then I have the greatest gift ever.”
“What’s that?” Crow wrapped her in his arms and kissed her forehead.
“You. Whole, healed, and filled with hope.”
Taking Olive’s hand with Zephyr on his shoulder, Crow the only dhampir – cursed with damned gifts from his Father and Mother – left the forest with a pure heart. It was time to end the reign of Manson, the witch of Serial Killers.
The white van pulled up in front of the Antique Mall. The glass eyes of old dolls watched Crow and Olive climb inside through the sheer pane of their jail window. Crow noticed new license plates on the front and back. After this was all done, he would need to contact this Agent Syracuse and detectives Blaine and Stark to make sure no innocent people end up in trouble. In fact, if this came to a head as soon as he hoped, they would need to contact them sooner. Rose held up her mirror until she found the same pulsing vein Olive had found at the apartment hiding one block over in a dirty alley. Checking for traffic, Stan pulled out. Jack threw his arms around Olive and Crow as they settled in the van.
“Glad we’re back, kid?” Crow said.
“I was worried.”
“Do we know, for sure, where this magical line goes?” Stan asked from up front.
“Not to Manson,” Colin said from the back. “If that’s what you’re worried about.”
“That’s exactly what I was worried about.”
“See,” Jack smiled. “I’m not the only one who’s worried.”
Sunlight glinted in Rose’s mirror dancing and flickering like a trapped fairy. She watched the blood-stained trail Manson left linking something – Olive believed the suffering family – with the body in the spare room. Stan obeyed all the speed limits and traffic signs to avoid drawing any unnecessary attention to themselves. They left the few blocks of Main Street, drove through a tiny school zone in front of the elementary school and the town library, and turned into the country road leading out into the flat Texas plains studded with wild mesquite trees. Stan listened to his police radio while he followed Rose’s direction.
“Not even a little chatter about us. This is too easy,” Stan said rubbing the back of his neck.
Crow felt exactly the same. What was he leading his family into? He checked the Jade Gun’s magazine and the extra ones. All the bullets he had loaded this morning were still there. He drummed his fingers on the arm rest.
“Just because we have a path to follow doesn’t mean it is a trap,” Olive said.
“You haven’t been in one of Manson’s traps before. Usually someone dies a horrible death. Makes a person kinda jumpy.”
“Um, Stan. You have me the way I am because I’ve been in one of Manson’s traps. Remember?”
“Sorry.” Stan blanched still rubbing his neck. “Sorry. I forgot. You’re just the first one to every come out ahead after Manson got ahold of ‘em. It’s hard to remember he did.”
“No it’s not,” Olive whispered examining her hands in her lap.
“We can’t help it,” Crow said. He wrapped his arm around Olive not wanting her to think about what Manson did to her. “Since the day he found my mom, he has always been one step ahead. We’ve never caught up. If he’s not laying low sending his spawn out into the world, he’s dancing in front of us setting traps and we just keep running into them.”
“Almost there, dears,” Rose said.
“I know, guys,” Olive said lifting her head with a smile. “But I also know from your vision, Crow, and what I felt in that room, that this isn’t a trap. This is payback.”
“Here we are.”
Rose pointed to a little white house set deep on a large lot with a plethora of ivy climbing on it. Though still mostly brown from the winter, here and there new green leaves burst from the main vine to collect sunshine. Potholes dotted the dirt drive washed out by the spring rains. Three large pecan trees stood sentinel over the yard, green buds gracing every branch tip. A shadow covered the house though not a single cloud broke the wide blue sky.
“Oh, the poor things,” Olive said, seeing the depths of the spell and magical lines that no one else could.
“It smells like Manson,” Crow said tossing his head.
“You’re telling me,” Colin said. He turned to Olive. “So what you’re saying is that me, Crow here, and Ms. Rose, can see the magical lines – which I can. But we can’t see ‘em like you see ‘em?”
“You could probably pick the lines apart to see the true spell underneath them,” Olive said.
“But she didn’t have to,” Crow said. “They were visible to her right off the bat.”
Olive blushed. “I’m gonna start on the outside of the house first, and then I’ll have y’all join me to help the family heal. Crow, I think there you’ll play the bigger part. Aunt Rose, will make my magic visible so they can see what I’m doing?”
Rose nodded and they all watched Olive climb from the van. She stepped to the front and faced the house, unmoving. Rose reached inside her beaded handbag and pulled out a larger mirror with an autumn leaf embedded in its back. She levitated it so everyone in the van could see through it. A wave of magic passed over the group. All the hairs on Crow’s arms stood up.
Olive became visible in the mirror, stalwart before the haunted home. Crow was right. He saw her TrueSelf every day, all the time, but this version glimmered more – like the TrueSelf of her TrueSelf – reminding Crow of the angels in the Spirit Plane more than any witch on this one. Her skirt and tank top faded into a long sunshine yellow dress with a belt of orange maple leaves. Living vines sprouted and wrapped her bare tattooed arms forming circle after circle of spring green. Snowflakes, white and sparkling, pinned her hair up in a pile of multi-colored curls. She bent down and held out her hands. Tendrils of ivy, branches of the pecans, and flowers from the front planters came to her like injured dogs finding comfort in the hands of their master. She stroked the plants cooing softly to them as she danced amongst them. New leaves budded. New flowers bloomed. Sunlight flooded the yard shattering the shadow.
She stopped, stood completely still, and held out her hand. On a breath of a crisp breeze, a blood-red leaf swirled and landed on her palm. Olive held it up to her face, like a masquerade mask, and looked at the house. Colin gasped. Bile rose in Crow’s throat. Manson’s line of pain and torture expanded to cover the house like a net made of veins. It collected all the anguish from the broken family, and sent it pulsing back to Manson.
Olive held out her other hand. A gust of cold, snowy air swirled around her dropping a sword of ice in her fist. She clasped the frozen hilt with both hands and lifted it high over her head. The sun caught the clear ice and blazed from the blade. Crow swore as it momentarily blinded him. With a cry, Olive brought the ice sword crashing down. It sliced the vein in two before shattering into a thousand pieces. The net over the house throbbed, blackened, and died.
Rose lowered her mirror. “The spell’s been destroyed. We can go out now. She’ll need help with the family.”
…Join me, next Friday, for the continuation of the tale…