Chapter Twenty – The chapter wherein Hero starts to get some answers, but ends up with more questions.
Jenny stood in the kitchen, her arms crossed, and wouldn’t look at either one of us. I let go of Kyle’s hand and hugged Jenny.
“It’s not your fault,” I whispered to her. I heard her sniffle and felt her shake. I realized that she was crying, and I held on to her while she cried. Kyle motioned that he was going to go check on our bounty hunter. I waved at HP to follow him.
I let Jenny cry awhile longer until she finally sniffled and pulled away from me. I glanced at the kitchen counter and grabbed a paper napkin, handing it to her. She wiped at her eyes.
“Was it awful?” I finally managed to ask her.
Jenny shook her head, “It wasn’t awful,” she whispered, “and that just made it worse.”
I wasn’t sure I understood what the problem was, “Jen, I don’t understand?”
She sighed. “If it had been awful, if it had felt gross or creepy…” she paused and took a shuddering breath, “But it felt so good.” She dropped her eyes and stared at the floor. “I felt my song, wash through him. I felt it overwhelm him. I felt his will give way to mine.” She spoke quickly but quietly, “And I liked it.”
I wanted to comfort her; I wanted to say the right thing, but I didn’t know what to say. Comforting a friend after she brainwashed a bounty hunter, never seemed to come up in my life – at least it hadn’t before. And I couldn’t lie to her and tell her it would be ok. “Jenny, you didn’t have a choice,” I was stumbling over my words; “If you hadn’t done it, he might have killed me or something.” I ran my hands through my hair, “And just because you liked it, that doesn’t make you bad. All sorts of things feel good, but you don’t do them.”
She managed to raise her head and frown at me.
I tried to smile at her but found I couldn’t. “You remember the few times we got high back in high school, right?”
She continued to frown at me but nodded.
“It felt good, and we both liked it. But we didn’t become those guys that sat under the bleachers at lunch and smoke out every day, did we?”
Jenny slowly shook her head.
“Getting high was dumb, but it felt good at the time. We just didn’t keep doing it.” I paused trying to catch her eye, “Doing this once,” I gestured toward the living room, “doesn’t mean you’re going to keep doing this.”
Jenny cracked a sad smile, “Hero, this isn’t just smoking a joint or dropping acid. That guy,” she pointed at the living room, “I took away his free will. I own him.” She hissed the words.
I chewed on my lip a moment, trying to think of what to say. Maybe enslaving someone’s will wasn’t quite the same as getting high in high school, but it was the only analogy I had. “You said it was different for preters,” I started, but Jenny cut in.
“Yeah, but I was just warning you that it may not work on a preter. I doubt I could do it to Kyle, and I know I couldn’t do it to you.” She sat heavily in one of the kitchen chairs. “But it worked on that guy, Victor. It’s like I felt his… his soul and then tied it into knots. He’s mine and I have to figure out how to deal with that.” She looked up at me, “I mean for god’s sake he’s a chimera.”
I hesitated. I had no idea what a chimera was, but I didn’t think that knowledge was the best time for a vocabulary lesson. It also meant I had no idea why what he was mattered at all. Enslaved was enslaved, right? “Look Jen, I can’t even pretend to understand what it is you did, but I’m sure we can figure out a way to fix it. I mean we have Kate and Kyle to help us, and maybe Aiden knows something.”
Jenny narrowed her eyes, “Wait, who’s Kate?”
I’d forgotten that Kate had left before Jenny had arrived back, and in all the hoopla about Officer Garcia, I hadn’t had time to tell her. “Um, Kate was a student of Dee’s. I guess she taught a lot of other Hecate,” I tried to keep the bitterness out of my voice. It was one more secret that Dee had kept from me, but now wasn’t the time to feel sorry for myself. “She came by while you and Kyle were out. She’s supposed to be pretty powerful.” I raised an eyebrow, “Maybe she can help. At least if the other bounty hunters haven’t kidnapped her too.” I glanced at my phone and felt my heart skip seeing the blinking light telling me I had a message. I glanced at the message, it was from Kate and she was on her way back to the house.
Jenny rested her head in her hands for a moment. “I think I’ve missed a lot of what’s been going on here,” Her words were muffled by her hands. “I’ll have to deal with Victor later I guess.” She raised her head and seemed to be trying to hide her tears.
“Oh Jenny,” I sighed and pulled up the other chair. “We can deal with this now. It’s important. And the world’s not gonna end, just because we stopped worrying about this Sosostris business.” I said with far more confidence than I felt.
Jenny broke into a real smile, “Actually, that’s what can happen if we don’t figure it out.”
I found myself laughing and Jenny joined in. When I could finally catch my breath, I managed to sputter, “No way, everyone keeps saying they wanted to rule the world, not end it.” I tried to stop laughing, but I think I’d finally just become too overwhelmed, and maybe a little hysterical.
Jenny stopped laughing first. But smile as she said, “Well at least it’s not the end of the world.” She took my hand, “Thanks, Hero.”
I smiled back, Um best friends, and family.” I squeezed her hand, “You’re stuck with me as your BFF.”
Her smile turned cold, “Before you say that, you should meet my new BFF.” Her voice was bitter, “You might not feel the same way.”
My eyes drifted toward the door and the living room. I could hear Kyle and Vic talking in low voices. No matter what she’d done to him, I couldn’t believe that I’d ever feel differently about Jenny.
Jenny stood up, “Come and meet him.” She said and walked out of the kitchen.
I followed after her. I wasn’t sure what I expected to find, but it wasn’t Kyle and Vic sitting around like they were talking football. Vic stiffened when Jenny walked in the room, and actually seemed to be fighting to not look at her. She sat at the other end of the couch from him, leaving me the only other chair. I watched his hand slowly shift across the couch, moving toward her, and could see his muscles strain to stop the movement.
No one was talking anymore. I glanced at Kyle, and he shrugged.
“I told you he wouldn’t be able to tell us anything. He doesn’t know who hired him, or what you supposedly stole.”
I glanced at Vic, but he was still engaged in his own battle with himself, trying to ignore Jenny. I wasn’t sure if it was a good sign or not. But if he was still fighting her enslavement, maybe it wouldn’t last. I turned back to Kyle, “Well, what do we do with him?”
His eyes flickered at Jenny. I noticed that she wasn’t looking at Vic either.
Jenny sighed, “We keep him here until we figure this out.” Her voice was empty. “We have to keep him at least until we find out who’s looking for Hero.”
Vic stiffened at the sound of her voice, and this time he couldn’t stop himself. His head swiveled to stare at her. His eyes seemed hungry for her. I tried not to shudder seeing the blind longing in his face. “You know I have to stay,” he practically growled at her.
She continued to face away from him.
He nodded sharply, his eyes never leaving her.
The room was beyond tense. I glanced at Kyle who looked just as lost as the rest of us. HP padded over and sat down at my feet. He rested his head in my lap. I almost asked him what we should do but was saved from becoming the woman who talked to dogs but Kate rushing into the house.
She was breathing heavily, “Sorry, I missed your calls.” She looked sheepish, “I forgot to turn on my phone after class.” She glanced around the room, “Um should I have knocked? Your message just sounded so urgent.”
I smiled at her, “No, it’s fine – just a really weird night. Come on in and pull up a chair.”
Kyle raised his eyebrow at me as if questioning my calm response. I shrugged at him, at this point what else could I do? I was so completely out of my depth at this point, I didn’t know what else to do. A week ago, my biggest worry was finishing up wedding photos and trying to convince some couple that they really did need those hundred extra prints. Now, I had a brainwashed bounty hunter in the living room and a dog from hell at my feet. Inviting the collegiate witch to join the party seemed like the normal part.
Vic’s eyes flickered over Kate. I would bet he could tell a lot about her at a glance. I wasn’t sure if his visual dismissal of her was positive or negative.
“I guess no one caught up to her yet,” He said with a cold smile.
I bit back a snarly retort. After all, I’d fallen for his bluff about Kate being in danger. It may have been his intention to let me call her just to lure her here.
Everyone sat in silence. I was kind of hoping that someone else would take the lead and fill in Kate, but that didn’t seem forthcoming. I gave Kate an abbreviated version of events, leaving out the Jenny enslaving the bounty hunter part.
Kate grew wide-eyed and pale hearing the story. She took a slow breath. “Did you find the charm?”
Kyle looked embarrassed and I’m sure I just looked confused. Kyle nodded at Jenny.
She sighed, “Victor, give me the charm.” Her voice was empty, and that worried me.
Victor hesitated a second before reaching into his shirt and taking off a necklace.
Kyle gave me a small smile, “See, circe love jewelry for this stuff.”
Victor held the necklace out to Jenny.
She gestured at the coffee table, “Just put it on the table.”
The small silver pendent made a dull tap on the table.
Kate narrowed her eyes at Jenny and Victor, and she looked as if she was going to say something.
I was guessing that she was wondering what was going on, and I had no idea if she could tell what had been done to Vic. She turned her focus to the necklace. She glanced at Victor and gestured at the necklace, “Do you mind?”
He turned to Jenny, “Do I mind?”
She jerked her head and glared at him, “No, you don’t.” She hissed at him. She rose and stormed from the room.
Kate watched her go, “Do I even want to ask?”
I shook my head, “We can deal with it later.” I pointed at the necklace, “Can that give
us any clue who hired him?”
Kate hesitated before picking up the necklace. “It might…” she bit her lip and gingerly picked up the necklace. She quickly dropped it back on the table and rubbed her hands on her jeans.
I bit my tongue to hold back my demands for information. Something was hinky about the necklace, but Kate looked a little too shaken for me to demand answers. And the last time I’d gotten annoyed with her, things hadn’t gone so well.
“That thing is awful,” Kate whispered. “I hope whoever made it is long dead.” She dragged her eyes away from the necklace. “Hero, no one should have this thing. No one should use this thing.” Her head swiveled to face Vic, “You probably couldn’t tell, but that thing could have done some really bad stuff to you.”
He snorted and his lips twisted into a sour smile, “Somehow I think I was better off with it.”
I glanced at Kyle, who had remained silent but still looked concerned. He glanced at Vic and shrugged. “Kate, what can you tell us about the necklace?”
Kate turned her attention back to us and frowned, “Not a lot, and not who made it. It’s old, like really old – like at least 60 years.”
I stifled my annoyance. The young and their assessment of “old” had started to irritate me once I’d passed 25. Instead, I simply nodded for her to continue.
“This was made by a coven, with someone really powerful directing the magic. But the energy they used…” she shuddered and began absently wiping her hands again as if she’d been contaminated by simply touching the necklace. Her eyes drifted back to the necklace.
I glanced at Kyle, “Do you know what she means about energy?”
He shook his head. “Kate, can you explain this energy thing?”
She kept staring at the necklace, “To make something like the necklace a circe has to raise energy, even a hecate would.” She forced her eyes away from the necklace. “Hero, when you speak to ghosts and when you called HP, how’d you feel afterward?”
I wasn’t ready to tell her how little experience I had in the talking to dead people department, but I thought I understood where she was going. It wasn’t like I could forget Jenny’s life-force, chi, energy transfer thingy. “Um tired, hungry. Maybe tired isn’t right. Exhausted is more accurate. Like the weekend when I worked at three weddings and was up for 24 hours or something.”
Kate nodded, “It’s like that for us too. Hecate can use their own energy as you do. Circe are much more limited. They don’t seem to have the same amount to use that we do. That’s why they rely on covens. The group kind of shares energy and uses it. But there are other ways to get energy.” She glanced at Kyle, her pale cheeks regaining some color as she blushed. “Sex is one way and fear is another – and fear usually means torture, rape, or murder.”
I took a second to process what she was implying. I frowned at the necklace, “Wait you mean this thing is powered by fear?” I didn’t really want to have to think too much about what kind of fear the sicko who’d made this thing had used to charge his or her metaphysical batteries.
Kate nodded slowly, “It was made with torture and murder.” Her voice was flat, “It means that it won’t run out of power anytime soon, and it’s been used a lot.”
I shuddered and noticed that even Vic looked a little disconcerted by the information. But it might have just been Jenny’s absence upsetting him.
“What should we do with it?” I asked not sure if I was asking Kate or Kyle, or even Vic. At this point, I just wanted it gone.
Kate stood up, “If it’s cool, I’m pretty sure that Dee had a few boxes left over for this kind of thing.”
I nodded and followed her into Dee’s office. I stood in the doorway and watched her enter the room without hesitation. She went directly to one of the bookcases and rummaged around the bottom shelf. I felt my eyes well up a little. This girl knew more about Dee than I had. She was comfortable in Dee’s space. Comfortable in a way that indicated she’d spent time in this room. A room Dee had always kept me out of. Kate was comfortable in Dee’s real world, and I wasn’t.
I rubbed my eyes with the back of my hand before Kate could see me almost in tears.
She pulled a small wooden box off of the shelf and flicked her fingers over it in some complicated pattern. The box sprung open. The interior appeared to be metal from where I was standing.
“It’s lined in iron,” Kate said noticing me watching. “It insulates the energy of the object. I was researching whether a different combination of metals could drain an object of power. It was kind of like my dissertation in hecate studies.” She closed the box and stood up.
I managed to hide my pain again. Dee had been important to Kate in a way that I couldn’t understand. Even my favorite professors in college didn’t come close to the level of friendship that Kate and Dee had found.
I stayed in the dining room, looking into Dee’s office while Kate took care of the necklace.
The office didn’t tell me anything, it was just a room. All I wanted was time to grieve and time to understand all the secrets that had been kept from me. But someone out there wasn’t going to give me that time. I finally reached out and firmly closed the door to Dee’s office.