The Southern Magicks Chapter 26: Escape From Thornton House

CW: Implied Attempted Sexual Assault

I had to warn Kat.

She might get out if she was careful, if it was only an alarm I’d triggered. I slowly slid my phone out of my pocket. I almost let it slip from my sweaty, shaky fingers when I realised that I had no reception.

Shit.

If anyone came, hopefully, Kat would hear and sneak out.

How did I know someone would come?

A slow feeling of anticipation had built in my chest since the paper had slid over the threshold, and I felt like I was waiting for someone important to arrive. I knew I had to get out, but I had no idea how to get out without setting off a trap.

Could the alarm have changed where the traps were located?

I couldn’t even push past the urge to stay where I was standing and pick up the mess I’d made. The person when they arrived would know exactly what I’d been looking at. I wondered how old this Siegfried was. Could he be Alissa’s killer? I did some quick math. The killer, if they were a teenager, would have to be around my parent’s age. It was a small town. Did I know the person who killed Alissa? Assuming the killer was fourteen to seventeen in 1978, they’d be between fifty-four and fifty-eight. I thought about Barton and Cynthia. Eli’s parents would have been alive and old enough to hear about the case. Barton was slightly too young to be the killer, but he would have been in school with him. Alissa’s murderer had to be magical to know that she was a Doubleganger.

An imposter.

The thought made me feel sick. Could I hear the word imposter again without thinking about what happened to Alissa?

I was startled from my thoughts by the sound of a magical portal opening. I heard a man thank someone and then footsteps head towards the room I was in.

The sandy-haired man had both a timeless appearance and looked like sex on legs. He wore a pair of tight light grey slacks, a black dress shirt with a high neck covered by a simple grey blazer. It was far too hot for the outfit he was wearing, but I couldn’t see a single trace of perspiration on him. I decided that he was probably only in his late thirties, thus too young to have murdered Alissa.

“And you are?” He clicked his fingers, and it felt like the air had been let back into the room.

I took a few gasping breaths before I could speak. “Dexter.”

“What are you doing in my house, Dexter?”

“I wasn’t going to take anything I promise.” I backed into the full-length window behind me. The impact caused the entire row of glass windows to vibrate. Could they break and leave me dead on the concrete below?

He hummed, raised an eyebrow and bent down to pick up one of the pages I’d thrown. His sickly sweet smile thinned slightly as he took in what he was reading. I had no idea what page he’d picked up, but he’d know what it was. He carefully picked up the folder and tucked the pages back into it, ensuring he had every piece of paper before he turned back to me. “Did you find what you were looking for?”

“Yes,” I responded before my mind could catch up with my mouth. The word sounded twisted like it had been forcefully wrenched from my mouth.

Kat!

He was using magic on me, and he would ask me something that would make me give away Kat.

I tried to speak and distract him, but no words would leave my mouth.

Siegfried met my eyes. “You shouldn’t speak unless spoken to.”

He bent his finger, and I nodded.

“Good boy,” Siegfried said. “You’re lucky. If you weren’t a relatively pretty young man, I’d have killed you already.”

I felt a chill run down my spine. My body was fixed in place against the window, and I was unable to move my weight from it. I felt the aged wood and glass slowly bend from the strain. My eyelids slipped closed, and I pushed against the call of sleep.

“I need a new helper. An enemy of mine killed the last one. At least I won’t have to train you.”

I felt tears rolling down my cheeks.

“There’s no need for that, Darling.” He used his thumb to wipe the line of tears from my right cheek. “You won’t disappoint me, I promise.”

My thoughts were getting more and more muddy as I stood there. My eyes closed again. I extended the mental net I used to seek out ghosts. I found myself only able to sense as far as the edge of the room.

“Don’t try that.” He moved closer to me and grabbed my jaw hard, forcing it open. He poured the contents of a small bottle down my throat. He forced my mouth closed and blocked my nose until I swallowed the bitter concoction he’d forced into my mouth. Siegfried aggressively dropped my neck.

I felt the exact way I did when I drank.

The ghosts were gone.

My magic was gone.

I moved my eyes to meet his and hoped they portrayed my anger.

I needed anger, even though I was terrified.

“The original Nox, vulnerable and under my power. I feel giddy.” He had an enormous smile on his face. His eyes sparkled as he bounced around the room. He chuckled and ran a finger down my cheek. “Our mutual friend will regret what he did when I send him footage of you happily scrubbing my floors with a toothbrush. I wouldn’t have had a use for you if he didn’t kill my last pet.”

Original Nox? What was he talking about?

This unhinged psycho planned to keep me as some kind of a sex slave.

Fuck that!

“Not just a sex slave. You’ll service me anyway I ask.” He lifted my dropping head up by tucking one finger under my chin. “You won’t remember why I hate you. It’s easier if you don’t. It will be easier to make you submit to my will. How rough I get will be your brother’s fault.”

I felt spittle land on my face as he yelled.

“Everyone’s been wondering if you really did it. I know you wouldn’t have been idiotic enough to break into my house if you still had your wits about you. Does it damage a person’s brain as much as they claim?”

“Did what?” My voice shook as I pushed past the barrier. I sensed everyone was still keeping a secret from me, and I needed to know what it was.

“When I hurt you, it will be his fault he made me angry.”

“You can’t.”

“Because you’re married to a Lacy? If anyone finds out where you really are, they won’t object unless they want their dirty secrets aired to the world. By the time anyone finds out you’re here, you’ll be my devoted little pet. I’d never let you leave the house until I trained you to come back.”

I didn’t respond and stared at the ground. I didn’t bother trying not to think of Kat; he was already in my head and knew about her. I could only hope that she got away while he was occupied. I didn’t want to think about what he would do to her.

“I’m not going to do anything to your little friend, Darling. I don’t get my hands dirty unless I have to.”

It took everything I had not to vomit when I realised where he was going.

He pulled a large hunting knife from his jacket pocket and waved it in front of my face. “You will take this and deal with your friend.”

“I’m not a murderer.”

“Not you. That’s your problem and why you’re no longer Nox. They had to find another way for you to support the cause. You refused to do the dirty work they wanted, and you were removed.”

I met his hard eyes. “I won’t hurt her.”

“The new guy has made an incredible amount of progress. While you refused to kill anyone, he seems to get off on it. Too bad he uses your name and looks so much like you. Precious Ralphie really outdid himself this time.”

Ralph! He was talking about Ralph. My Ralph. “My brother’s not a cold-blooded killer. You’re a lying snake.” I waved the end of the knife towards him.

He slapped me across the face. “You really are one arrogant little fuck. Never point that thing at me again. You realise you’re mine? Even the people who claim to care will not try to get you back.”

I tossed my head back, coughed up some phlegm and spat in his face.

His mouth hung open for a second before it settled into a hard line as he ground his teeth together in anger. He slowly wiped his face with the back of his sleeve. He slapped me again, open-palmed and hard enough for me to bite my tongue. He placed his hands around my throat and squeezed as he pushed me up against the wall. He ground his body into mine. “If you didn’t have a job to do, I’d make you regret that. I want you to wave it at her until she leaves. Kill someone on my property, and I’ll have you dig your own grave.”

Why the hell did he want me to get rid of her? Was this some kind of test? Vomit rose in my mouth when I felt his body press into mine. I forced my mouth to stay closed, but that only caused me to heave and a fresh wave of vomit to work its way up my throat.

“Swallow it.” He eased his grip enough for me to force myself to swallow it. “See what happens if you vomit the next time I touch you.”

I just looked at him as he let go of me and stepped back.

“Maybe they’re right about you faking queer to get your share of the Lacy money. Most queer men would be happy to have a guy who looks like me wanting to fuck them.”

“I’m clearly not interested in you.” The words tore from my throat. Sobs racked my body as it acted on its own accord. I landed flat on the floor, but before I could recover from the blow, his fingers had wormed their way into my hair. He grabbed the back of my head and pulled me from the floor.

“Do I have to do everything myself?” He placed the knife back in my hand.

I felt something wet run from my nose into my mouth; it tasted more metallic than the tears.

“You’re weak. Men like you offer the world nothing but a warm hole. Make yourself useful and shoo your little friend off my property. I need a drink.” He ran a hand through his hair.

“No.” I forced my hand to open and let the knife clatter to the floor.

“Pick it up.”

I lost all strength in my knees and sunk to the floor. My hand shot out and grabbed the knife. I clenched it so tightly that my hand hurt as I looked up at him.

“I like looking at you from this view.” Siegfried laughed above me. “You still think you will escape and live a carefree life. No one knows you’re here. No one is coming to save you.” He grabbed my hair and pulled me to my feet.

I looked him in the eyes. “Have you ever abducted someone before?”

He let me go.

I slid to the ground; my legs numb.

He stared down at me in horror and stepped back from me like he’d been burnt. I felt the spell that had controlled my body and clouded my mind fade. I looked up to see him running his hands through his hair. When I met his eyes, he said, “Fuck.”

“What was that?”

“You should be careful, the next person who wants to use you as a tool in their revenge won’t stop. Hell, the next person will probably just kill you without thinking about it.” He threw me a white monogram handkerchief.

I caught it automatically, without thinking.

“It’s clean.”

I carefully looked at it as I brought it up to my nose. I could only hope the blood stained it beyond repair. It might make him think before he assaulted the next guy. “Are you okay?”

He waved an arm at me. “No. The brother of the lunatic who killed my boyfriend broke into my house. What part of this is okay?”

I didn’t know how to respond. “Boyfriend, what the fuck was that slave shit?”

“I wanted to scare you. You broke into my freaking house.” He was looking at me like I was the one in the wrong.

Was I the one in the wrong?

“What do you mean?”

“Mean?”

“What makes you think Ralph killed your boyfriend?”

“He made sure I knew it was him.” He grabbed my chin and rubbed his fingers in the blood still leaking from my nose, then threw me hard against the floor.

“Let us leave,” Kat cautioned from the doorway.

I looked towards her out of the corner of my eye and saw she was holding a handgun. Where the hell had she found a gun? Could she actually aim? What did she think we’d do if she actually shot him? What if she shot me?

“Or you’ll what? Shoot?” Siegfried took a step towards her. “Breaking into my house and threatening me with a gun, it’s not a good look.”

“I will shoot you,” Kat declared.

I saw a drop of blood drip from his closed fist, his fingers moving against his palm. I tried to warn Kat, but he drew his foot back and kicked me in the stomach. Seconds after he opened his hand, he revealed the sigil and said a few words I didn’t understand. He looked surprised when nothing happened to Kat.

I smiled; he didn’t know everyone’s dirty secrets.

I had the feeling he’d been relying on Kat and I being related to cast that spell.

Both Siegfried and Kat were staring at each other in shock.

The laugh that escaped my throat sounded deranged, but once I started, I couldn’t stop. I rolled on my back, still laughing as blood ran down the back of my throat. I was laughing so hard I almost missed the sound the office door made when it flew from its hinges and crashed into the opposite wall.

Eli and Cory were standing on the other side of the door. I’d never seen either of them that angry, and the laughter died in my throat as Eli’s eyes met mine.

“Try to touch either of them or stop us from leaving, and we’ll kill you,” Cory said.

Eli had used his magic to take the knife from its place on the cabinet and bring the tip to rest against the back of Siegfried’s neck.

Siegfried looked down at me out of the corner of his eye.

I stood up. “Next time you try the unhinged act with me, I’ll gut you.”

“That a promise? I wish you luck with that one, Darling. I have over twenty years’ experience on you.”

Cory met my eyes then glanced at the door. I grabbed Kat’s hand, forcing her from her shock and pulled her down the stairs and out of the house.

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