My teeth clicked together as my chin took the brunt of the fall and smashed against the bitumen. I ignored the warm trickle of blood that ran down my chin, and I lifted my head up. I heard a rumbling sigh from the woman next to me. She took a step towards me. “You were told to sit still and shut up. You’re going back in that car.”
“No.” There was blood dripping from my mouth. Fuck! In a panicked movement, I ran my tongue over each of my teeth. Careful to check the stability of each one.
“Get back in the car before you hurt yourself. Our quarrel isn’t with you; we have no desire to bring an innocent civilian into this.” She and a man pulled me from the ground.
“Innocent Civilian? You’re criminals.”
She laughed. “Is that what he told you?”
“No.” Without meaning to, I looked behind the car down the street towards the intersection of Main and Short. The fuzzy frame flickered under the dark edge of the streetlamp. My dazed mind had lost its grip on my self imposed filter. As I blinked to clear my eyes, the animal part of my brain refused to acknowledge what I actually saw. There was a reason why there was no nightlife in this part of town.
We were in her territory.
I blinked one last time, before a cold shiver ran down my spine. The realisation wormed its way into my chest. My eyes met the voids that had once been hers. What colour had they been? Under the fear, I felt a pang of sadness. At ten, she was a scary ghost, at twenty-three, she was a sad dead girl who had transformed into a monster. Who had she been? Did her mum and dad know what had happened to her? I went slack and stopped fighting the people who pushed me towards the car. She couldn’t have been older than fourteen.
She wasn’t a black and white, fuzzy flicker trapped halfway between this world and the next, she was as solid as the curb she was standing on. One with the world, her skin deathly pale, the long blonde hair that fell over her face was dirty, scraggly and matted in tight, knotty clumps. She wore a brown leather jacket, her back and one sleeve caked in mud.
Tears formed in my eyes.
When I closed them to clear the tears, I was fifteen. Kat’s nails dug into my arms as she held me back. My eyes fixed on Tara’s brown panicked eyes as she was carried off by the current. The water pulled her under again. My hope that her head would pop up died with the strength in my knees. I collapsed against Kat on the muddy creek bank. Was there a ghostly mirage of Tara standing where her body washed up? Had part of Tara been alone in the impenetrable scrub all these years while I’d had the power to free her? Eli’s vile hiss of pain pulled me from the past.
I was forced to look away from her as I was turned around and placed back in my seat. When I looked through the windscreen at the White Suited Man, White Suit, he was looking straight at me, his gloves stained with something dark that could only be Eli’s blood. He pointed at his lips, “Done fucking around, Honey? I can paralyse more of your body to stop you from embarrassing yourself further.” I heard his voice in my head. It sent a chill down my spine. Could he read my thoughts?
All his cronies laughed, but the noise faded as I watched Eli’s crumbled form; he couldn’t stand by himself anymore. What were they going to do to me after they were done with Eli? Had they heard what he said? I carefully watched White Suit… there was no way he could focus on what he was doing, project his thoughts to so many people and read mine.
He pulled a wooden object, a similar shape to a police baton, from its strap on his back and used the tip to lift Eli’s chin, looking at him as though he was admiring his handy work. “Not so pretty anymore. One last chance to tell me where your little cronies took the potion you stole.”
“I’d rather die than be a snitch.”
White Suit looked up at me again. “He’s not worth your tears, Sweetie. If you had any idea of the things he’s done, you wouldn’t be marring those pretty eyes with tears for him.”
I felt my skin crawl under the intensity of his gaze. No, he wasn’t going to do anything to me. It was an intimidation tactic. There were nearer to ten people here, they all wouldn’t watch him do anything… and if he tried to drag me off, I’d claw his eyes out with my bare hands. I’d use the soul captured in the stone even if it killed both of us. It’d be best to let him take me away from the group because it wouldn’t work on so many people at once.
“You’re going to close your eyes and put some music on. Volume as loud as you can without it hurting and make sure you keep those eyes closed as tight as you can until someone touches your shoulder.”
They were going to kill him.
I wasn’t going to let them.
I was the only one who could save him. The moment he looked away from me, I quietly opened the glove box and took a paper takeout menu from it. The blank back was perfect for what I was about to do. When I noticed his attention moving back to me, I slid the menu under my leg. I knew one spell that might help. I needed to distract them and get that prick to let go of my legs.
“I’m not doing anything until you have headphones in and those pretty chocolate eyes closed tight.”
I let out a shaky breath and pulled my headphones from my pocket. I jammed them into my ears as hard as I could and closed my eyes. I did as he said and turned my music up as high as I could.
I needed a sigil to have the best control over the ghost. I slowly slid the menu from under my leg, keeping it from sight. I dripped my bloody spit onto the blank back and started tracing the sigil, clearing my mind, I drew in everything I had. I sent my thoughts through the hole in the back of my mind. ‘Noise. Please. Make Noise. Hurt them. Make them bleed.’
I knew this was going to hurt Eli’s ears, but I had nothing else.
The lights in the street all blew with a collective shatter. I opened my eyes; the group were looking away from the car for the assailant. With any luck, they didn’t have someone who could stop her or warn them. I closed my eyes and poured my will into the sigil I was using to communicate with her again, mentally screaming at her.
The loud high pitched noise she made shattered all the windows on the street.
I pushed past the pain, ringing, and dizziness to force myself to move. I flung open the door and fell straight to the bitumen. My head spun, I closed my eyes tight and took a couple of deep breaths.
They couldn’t recover before I did.
The feeling in my legs had started to return. I ignored the pins and needles to stumble over to Eli. I grabbed him and somehow managed to get him to walk after he realised it was me. I forced back a wave of nausea when I looked at his face and threw him into the passenger seat. I slid over the bonnet of the car to distance myself from White Suit. He was looking at me with a slightly dazed expression while holding his bleeding ears. I broke from his gaze before he tried anything and dove into the car.
I sped off out of town towards a gravel back road I knew would take me to the Lacy’s land. I took several turns at a hair raising speed. Five minutes later, I was on the road.
I ripped the headphones from my ears, and one was coated in blood. Origin of dizziness revealed, fuck, I hoped someone could fix that. I called Viola using the car Bluetooth, knowing she’d be one of the only people who’d pick up. She was also the only person I trusted to have unconditional sympathy for Eli. I’d move heaven and earth for my little brother, and I knew she would do the same. The things the prick had said about Eli tangled in the back of my mind, spinning themselves into a knot of worry. If he was right or thought he was, I needed to be careful with my next move. I wasn’t stupid… I knew I couldn’t take Eli to the clinic I’d recovered at. If the accusations about Eli were true, the doors would be left unlocked for White Suit and his ilk. If Eli did what he was accused of, he had a reason. I knew he had a reason. I had to trust him. I also knew I’d be too much of a coward to ask him about it.
“What the fuck is happening, Dexter? We just got all your texts.” Viola said.
I could only hear out of one ear. Eli’s eardrums were definitely burst like the others. “Someone attacked us. They’ve hurt Eli really bad.”
“Who attacked you?”
“I don’t know, some criminal group. White and red suits, with a black symbol like the Knights Templar.”
“Don’t go to the clinic.” She snapped.
“What?” I was startled by the harshness of her voice. Christ, I obviously wasn’t that stupid. What did she take me for? An utter idiot? I forced myself to swallow my growl of anger and frustration. I tightened my grip on the steering wheel to ease my rage silently.
“Come home, and I’ll drive where we need to go. Mum can start healing him on the way.”
“I’m heading there now.”
“I’ll go wake them.” She hung up. If Eli’s mother could heal him, then she was his best hope.