Daniel and I convinced Mother to allow us to go for a leisurely walk with Chloe around the neighborhood. We assured her that we wouldn’t cross Bayview Avenue and would walk no further than Route One-thirty-six. She reluctantly agreed, clearly because it was a benefit for her to get us out of the house as it was her turn to host her social club’s weekly gathering and I knew she had an underlying fear that I would be the cause of some embarrassing situation for her. With both Dan and I out there was less of a chance that she would be put into a compromising position that would undermine the influence she had been meticulously cultivating within her clique over the years. The fact that the local police detectives had already been to our house twice concerning the disappearance of Josh Keyes must have caused some damage to her reputation and prized position with the group and I knew that it was frustrating for her.
As the three of us walked through the foyer I saw Mother in the morning parlor arranging chairs and setting out her Royal Albert china tea set complete with multiple tiered serving plates upon which she would later arrange a variety of simple sandwiches, petit fours, and scones for her group of female guests. I considered hanging around the house with the hope that I might overhear the conversation amongst the women believing that it might be an opportunity for me to learn more about the police investigation into Josh’s disappearance, but I realized the entirety of the discussion might only be minutes of a gathering that filled the afternoon hours. I was promised freedom that afternoon and I didn’t want to sacrifice it, plus my desire to know the details of that ongoing investigation was rather low on my current list of priorities.
Dan, Chloe, and I left the house in silence. Each of us were preoccupied with our own thoughts as we walked down the long gravel driveway and onto the street heading north towards downtown. Chloe and I were side by side as we walked along the road against traffic while my brother walked a few steps behind us.
“You know, those things are going to kill you,” I commented as Chloe retrieved a cigarette from the nearly empty pack of Benson and Hedges she kept in the inside pocket of her jacket.
“Yeah, Dad,” she scowled. “You take your medication today?”
Touché. I said no more about her unhealthy habit.
She glanced over her left shoulder at Daniel as she carefully placed the cigarette between her red painted lips. “So what did your parents decide to do about school?”
“Nuthin’,” he shrugged, burying his hands in the pockets of his zippered sweatshirt. “Not yet, anyway. I’m supposed to take lessons from Angie’s tutor for now.”
Chloe nodded as she lit the cigarette and deeply inhaled.
“Do you go to Mount Hope?” he asked, moving beside her. His maneuver positioned him in the lane of oncoming traffic, but being early afternoon on a Wednesday there was hardly any vehicles on the road.
“I did, but my Dad pulled me out after I had a few … disagreements … with my teachers.” Smoke escaped her nostrils as she laughed. “Well anyway, I’m going to Portsmith Charter now.”
“Don’t they have uniforms?” asked Daniel with a nod towards her cigarette.
“Nope,” she smiled as she passed it to him. “There’s a dress code, for sure, every school has one, but theirs is pretty liberal. I can deal.”
“Cool,” nodded my brother, holding the butt with his index finger and thumb as he brought it to his lips. He took a drag then handed it back to her.
She smiled, as she accepted it. Holding his gaze, she brought the butt to her own lips and took a long drag. He chuckled and glanced away.
What the fuck was happening? The way she looked at my brother made my stomach lurch. There was something clearly off with her and in that moment I was even more convinced that she was possessed by a spirit than I had been on the last Sunday night we all hung out. She really was in need of an exorcism. I made a mental note to refer to my copy of Sacred Magick when we returned home. I knew there would be a plethora of information on the ancient rite.
“Angie says you don’t remember anything after Sunday night,” Chloe commented, flicking the ashes from the tip of the cigarette onto the ground before offering it to me.
“What do you remember?”
“Havin’ pizza with you,” he said as he brushed her hand with his own.
Did she just blush?! Aaarrrgggghhhh.
He continued, “And then puttin’ my shit away, and then Jacob called and we talked for a while …”
“Jacob?” she asked.
“A friend of his from St. John’s,” I interrupted, handing the cigarette back to her with a scowl. I mouthed, “Knock it off.”
“What?” she pantomimed.
“Then I showered and went to bed and when I woke up and went downstairs Mom was there and she tells me it’s fuckin’ Saturday,” he shook his head. “It was whack. I thought I was crazy or drugged. I mean, ’cause when I woke up I felt kinda out of it, you know, hung over or fuzzy, but I wasn’t.”
The three of us walked in silence for a bit, Daniel falling behind Chloe and I when vehicles passed by, then reestablishing his place beside her. He stole side glances at her as we walked along Hope Street by the harbor. I could tell that she was enjoying the attention, and yes, while I was happy that she felt appreciated by my brother; he was a decent guy, I was irritated that whatever this was between them had the potential of becoming a serious distraction for Chloe and I just couldn’t have that happen. I needed her to be focused on me and the situation we had before us. I had to stop whatever was evolving between the two of them before it became a tangible threat and caused some irreparable damage.
“Angie, you said that you thought that your aunt misused her abilities. Why do you think that? What do you think she did with them?” asked Chloe as she flicked the cigarette filter into the street.
I recalled the uneasy feelings I experienced when I gazed at the synthetic yet meticulously detailed replica of my cousin Christian standing apart from my aunt’s other completed pieces in her home studio. Something about the eyes of that duplicate had convinced me that he was not a molded piece of resin, but a living breathing person that wanted to speak with me. I was reluctant to voice my concern, but I trusted Chloe and Daniel had to be told what power our family bloodline held within it. He needed to know.
I took a deep breath then said, “It’s her sculptures.”
Chloe furrowed her brow. “What do you mean?”
“Her sculptures aren’t inanimate objects,” I explained, kicking a loose pebble. “They’re people.”
“Did you say ‘people’?” he asked. He stopped walking and looked at me, understandably confused by my proclamation.
“Yes. Aunt Rachel has an ability like mine, but instead of using sound she uses feelings,” I began as we perched ourselves on the stone wall that separated the road from the water’s edge; a crumbling stone pier just a few hundred feet away. “She can force a human spirit into The Astral Realm by utilizing the energy of The Spiritual Plane, but instead of doing it with music she uses something physical like clay or resin. She uses touch while I use sound. She can do all the same things I can; syphon energy, store energy, and use the energy for trapping people in the Astral Realm, but …,” I paused before I continued, glancing at Chloe and then my brother, “the people aren’t trapped in songs on an MP3 player. They’re trapped in her sculptures. That’s why they’re so realistic.”
“Shit,” spit Daniel.
“That’s beyond fucked up, Angie,” said Chloe zipping up her jacket.
“But not everyone she trapped was a misuse of her power,” I felt the need to clarify my aunt’s actions as not all necessarily bad. Just as I had trapped guilty parties such as Ryan, Josh, and Mr. Morrell, Aunt Rachel had trapped tormentors. “But even just one innocent spirit breaks the sacred oath we swore to Frigg, to Syn.”
“But how do you know?” Dan asked, “How can you tell the difference between a guilty person and innocent one?”
I shrugged. “I think it depends on the ability. I hear the voices of the Ancestors. They tell me who’s guilty and who isn’t. I imagine for Aunt Rachel it’s by her touch. Maybe if she touches someone or something that belongs to them she can determine whether they’re guilty or innocent.”
My brother nodded, looking out towards Walker Cove. “I get it.”
“So for me,” Chloe said with a glance at Daniel before settling her focus on me, “it would be by what I see; someone’s glow would tell me.”
“Right,” I agreed.
“For you?” Dan questioned, placing his hand on hers.
Chloe sighed and withdrew her hand.
“Yeah. I … well …,” she started. “This is gonna sound crazy, but I have abilities, too. Kinda like your sister’s, but different.”
Maybe this is what would stop the thing happening between them, which for me would be good because then I wouldn’t have to directly do anything to hurt either of them, because I needed them each in my life, but separately. And maybe this revelation about Chloe and her abilities was the motive that my brother needed to pull away from her, to create distance between them. Perhaps it would make him nervous, like he was with me when we were younger, and then he would want to move further away from her physically and emotionally. A girl could hope, right?
“Well, alright. Cool,” Dan nodded. “Sounds like you might have Genetic Memories like Angie does, and I’m just the misfit here.”
Chloe giggled and slapped his arm. “Fuckin’ shut up, you’re not a misfit.”
Damn it. All hope was lost.