The Reckoning / Page 4

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She started for the stairs, calling, “And it wouldn’t have been one-on-one for long anyway. I’m sure Derek will join in as soon as he’s done eavesdropping.”


I ran into Derek as I came out of the bathroom.


“Meeting over?” I asked.


“Yeah.”


Simon popped his head out of their room and Derek motioned him into the hall.


“Where’s Tori?” he asked.


“Outside. She’s waiting for us, though, so we can’t be long.”


“And the verdict is?” Simon prompted.


“Gwen and Andrew believe us. Margaret suspects we may have misunderstood the situation and jumped to the wrong conclusion about Liz, Brady, and Amber being killed. Only Russell thinks we’re intentionally lying.”


“Jerk. Where does he get off-?”


Derek gave him a look. Simon zipped it and gestured for Derek to continue.


“They teleconferenced with a couple of the other senior members and-” Derek looked at me, and I read the answer in the way his gaze dipped from mine. “They want to slow down, get more information first. They’re going to send a team to Buffalo to do recon work.”


Simon glowered. “Sure, take the slow and steady path while Rachelle and Dr. Fellows could be-” He looked at me. “Sorry.”


We all stood there for a minute, simmering.


I turned to Derek. “What do you think we should do?”


“For now? Play it out.” His voice was gruff with frustration. “Nothing else we can do. We’ve got the Edison Group gunning for us. We have to stay put.”


We found Tori out back. I apologized for taking so long; they didn’t. Simon had barely begun showing us a wrist hold when Andrew summoned us inside.


Russell had already left. “Fled,” Simon muttered, “so he wouldn’t have to look us in the eye after telling the others he thinks we’re lying.”


Gwen was gone, too, but only to grab groceries and takeout for dinner. Yes, it was dinner time already. Having gotten up so late, we were skipping lunch.


We ate with Andrew, Gwen, and Margaret. They couched the plan in optimistic terms, of course-they were just doing a quick bout of reconnaissance work in preparation for the rescue operation.


“So, guys,” Andrew said, “over the next few days, your job will be threefold. Rest up. Tell us everything you can about the lab. And get some training.”


“Training?” That perked Tori up. Me, too.


Gwen smiled. “Yep. That’s what Margaret and I are here for.”


“And I’ll be working with Simon,” Andrew said, “though I know your dad’s been training you for years.”


“I’m sure he can use the practice,” Tori said.


Simon flipped her off. Andrew pretended not to see it.


“As for Derek…” Andrew said.


“Yeah, I know. No werewolf teachers for me.”


“True, but we do have someone. Tomas, a half-demon member who lives in New Jersey. You may remember him from when you lived at the laboratory. He was a member of the team responsible for the werewolf section of the project.”


Did I imagine it or did Derek flinch? I wouldn’t blame him if he did. Derek had lived in the lab until Simon’s dad took him and that section of the experiment had been abandoned. The other three werewolves had already been killed. Meeting one of his “keepers” certainly wouldn’t be a happy reunion.


“Tomas quit before you left the lab, primarily because he disagreed with the way you boys were treated. But he knows more about werewolves than anyone I know. Your dad used him as a resource for raising you.”


Derek’s shoulders relaxed. “Yeah?”


“He’s away on business, but he’ll be back next week. If we’re still waiting to act-which I hope we won’t be-it’ll give you someone to talk to, answer any questions you might have.”


Six


AFTER DINNER, ANDREW WARNED us it would be lights-out at ten. Until then, he was going to get caught up on some work and we could amuse ourselves.


Problem was, we didn’t want to amuse ourselves. Or get a good night’s sleep. We wanted our lives back-stop the Edison Group, free Aunt Lauren and Rae, find the guys’ dad, and let my father know I was safe. Sitting around playing board games would be torture…and that’s exactly what Andrew suggested, the house being otherwise diversion free.


Tori and I were heading up to our room when Gwen popped into the hall to say good-bye.


“Can I ask you a couple of things before you go?” Tori said to Gwen as she hurried down the stairs. “I’m new to all this witch stuff and I know we’re starting lessons tomorrow, but if you have time for a few questions…”


Gwen grinned. “Always. I’m usually the student around here, so I’m looking forward to this. Come on in the living room and we’ll chat.”


I felt a pang of envy. I had questions, too. Tons of them. And who did I get for a teacher? Margaret, who wasn’t exactly the let’s hang out and chat sort. Not to mention the fact that she was one of the doubters.


I trudged up the stairs and didn’t notice that the guys’ door was open until Derek reached out, fingers brushing my elbow.


“Hey,” I said, struggling for a smile.


“You busy?” he said, voice barely above a whisper.


“I wish. What’s up?”


He glanced back at the bathroom door. Light shone under it. He stepped closer, voice dropping even more. “I thought, uh, if you weren’t doing anything, maybe we could-”


The bathroom door swung open and Derek jumped. Simon walked out.


“Good, you found Chloe,” he said. “So what’re we doing? This time, I’m not missing the adventure.”


“All our adventures are accidental,” I said, “and we’d be happy to miss most of them.” I looked up at Derek. “You were saying?”


“Nothing. Just that we shouldn’t do too much.”


“Okay. So what are we doing?”


“Nothing tonight. Just…whatever.” He retreated into their room.


I looked at Simon.


“Yeah, he’s weird. I’ll talk to him. Catch up with you in a few minutes.”


I was heading into our room when Tori came up. We went in and talked, awkward conversation, thankfully interrupted when Simon rapped at our door.


“Everyone decent?” he called, and started opening it.


“Excuse me?” Tori said. “Could you at least give us a chance to answer?”


“It was a warning, not a question. I was being polite.”


“Being polite would mean waiting for-”


I held up my hand. That was all it took to stop the bickering.


“I found something,” Simon said as he walked in. He whipped an old-fashioned key from his pocket and grinned at me. “It was taped to the back of my dresser drawer. What do you think? Buried treasure? Secret passageway? Locked room where they keep crazy old Aunt Edna?”


“It probably unlocks another dresser,” Tori said. “One they threw out fifty years ago.”


“It’s tragic, being born without an imagination. Do they hold telethons for that?” He turned back to me. “Chloe, help me out here.”


I took the key. It was heavy and rusting. “It’s definitely old. And it was hidden.” I glanced up at him. “Bored, aren’t you?”


“To death. So will you come exploring?”


Tori rolled her eyes. “I think I’ll lie down and dream of being home, with kids who don’t think hunting for a locked door is fun.”


“Hey, I told you we were uncool,” Simon said. “The more time you spend with us, the more it rubs off.” He looked at me. “Coming?”


When I didn’t answer right away, he said, “No?” Disappointment dragged down his voice before he propped it up with a forced smile. “That’s cool. You’re tired-”


“It’s not that. It’s just…we need to ID that kid I saw and figure out if he has a connection to this house.”


“What kid?” Tori asked.


I explained about the ghost, then said, “I know Derek said we shouldn’t do too much tonight, but…”


“But, apparently, that warning only applies to us, because he’s off right now, hunting for clues about that kid. He doesn’t want us pitching in. He says it’ll look suspicious if we’re all poking around.”


So Derek was searching without me? I felt a pang of…I don’t know, disappointment, I guess. Then I thought about earlier, in the hall. Had he been trying to invite me along? The disappointment grew.


“How about those self-defense lessons?” Tori said.


“Sure, I guess…” Simon said. “Better than nothing.”


“Actually, there’s something else I should do,” I said. “You guys go on.”


They looked at me like I’d suggested they swim with sharks. Not a bad analogy, really. Simon and Tori doing self-defense together was bound to result in bloodshed.


“What did you have in mind?” Simon asked.


“Just…Well, my aunt…What I saw last night…I’d like to…”


“Try summoning her,” Tori finished for me. “See if she’s dead, right?”


Simon shot her a look for being so blunt, but I nodded. “Right. And Liz. I want to try contacting Liz. She’d come in handy searching for clues. The problem is that, if I summon, I might call up that other guy.”


“Which is why you shouldn’t do it alone,” Simon said. “I’ll stay.”


“Me, too,” Tori said. “If you do summon the demon kid, maybe I can get him to talk.”


She put out her hand. A ball of energy started to swirl.


“All right,” I said.


Seven


SUMMONINGS AREN’T NEARLY AS cool as they look in the movies. Basically, it’s the reverse of how I banish a spirit. I close my eyes and picture pulling a ghost out instead of shoving him back in.


Ideally, I’d have something that belonged to the deceased. I’d been using a hoodie of Liz’s before Tori’s mom confiscated it. I didn’t have anything of my aunt’s. So the only way this would work was if they were hovering around, waiting to make contact.


I suspected one spirit was hovering around-the jerk from this morning. While I was tempted to question him further, a voice in my head-which sounded suspiciously like Derek’s-warned me against it. He hadn’t been forthcoming before, and I’d pissed him off by banishing him. So as I sat on the floor in our room, I was careful to keep very clear pictures of my aunt and Liz in my head, alternating between them.


While I hoped I wouldn’t see my aunt, I really did want to contact Liz, my former roommate at Lyle House. She had been killed the night I arrived. It’d taken time for her to believe she was dead, but once she did, she refused to go to the other side. She’d stayed and helped.


Not only was a ghost the perfect spy, but Liz was the same type of half-demon as that kid from this morning-telekinetic, meaning she was a poltergeist. So, yes, Liz would be very useful right now; but, more than that, I just wanted to see her, make sure she was okay.


“That necklace is supposed to prevent you from seeing ghosts, right?” Tori asked after a few moments of unsuccessful summoning.


Simon opened his mouth to tell her off for interrupting, but I cut him short.


“Obviously I still see them,” I said. “Either it doesn’t work or things would be a lot worse without it, something I’m sure I’ll test eventually. I want to talk to Margaret about it.”


“Okay, but if it keeps ghosts away, maybe that’s why Liz isn’t coming.”


She had a point. And yet…I fingered the necklace. If it did work, what else was it keeping at bay? Something worse than that telekinetic half-demon kid?


“Why don’t you take it off?” Tori began.


“Because she-” Simon snapped, then caught himself. “Let her try a bit more with it on. These things take time, and we’re not in any rush. If you’re bored, our room’s empty.”


Tori looked like she wanted to snap back, but couldn’t, not when he’d said it reasonably.


“I’m good,” she said, and I resumed the summoning.


Because Liz was the one I really wanted to see, she was the one I concentrated on, throwing out only the occasional calls to my aunt, praying they wouldn’t be answered. Finally, when Liz didn’t respond, I ramped up the appeals to Aunt Lauren. If I wanted reassurance that she was still alive, I needed to know that I’d tried as hard as I could to summon her.


“Don’t,” Tori whispered.


My eyes snapped open. “Don’t what?”


She frowned.


“You said ‘don’t,’” I prompted.


“Um, no, I didn’t open my mouth.”


“She didn’t,” Simon said. “You must be hearing a ghost.”


I closed my eyes and concentrated on Liz.


“Don’t,” the faint female voice whispered. “Please, baby.”


My gut seized. That wasn’t Liz. But it wasn’t something Aunt Lauren called me, either. Or did she? I wasn’t sure.


“If you’re there, whoever you are, please show yourself.”


Nothing.


“The amulet,” Tori whispered. “If she can’t get through, that must be stopping her.”


I reached for my necklace.


“No!” the voice whispered. “Not safe.”


“You don’t want me to take it off?”


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