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House of the Damned


The Missing Link

My fingers brush over the little black raven charm on Michael’s necklace. He hasn’t taken it off since the day he put it back on. I’m pretty sure he even showers in it. I toy with it, recalling how Michael once pointed out that when I’m nervous, my hands have to be doing something. Not that I’m nervous right now, it’s just quiet. I have nothing to say to fill the silence, so I toy with the necklace.

He smiles at me as we lie in his bed. Work starts in an hour. It’s been a while since we’ve slept in his room, since mine has the crib. It’s nice, reminds me of the old days. Before we were taking care of a child.

“So what does the raven represent again?” I ask him.

He sighs and closes his eyes. “Change, for one. Mostly, though, it’s chaos. Which is why everything has been so awful since I arrived.”

I chuckle. “Oh, Michael, all the bad things would have happened without you. None of the good things would have, though. Don’t feel bad. Just be glad we met.”

He opens his eyes and looks at me, with a smile. “Oh, I’m definitely glad for that.” As if to prove it, he kisses me.

“Good,” I answer when the kiss breaks. I lean in for another, once more thinking of Emily’s advice. A little voice in my head keeps saying, ‘Tell him, tell him, tellhim, tellhimtellhimtellhimtellhim,’ on an irritating loop, but it’s not the easiest thing to bring up in conversation. Or the subtlest for that matter.

We pull apart and he sighs again. “I wish we could just stay right here forever.”

“So do I.”

His eyes find the clock. “Half an hour. We have half an hour.”

I grin. “I think we can take advantage of that.”

He grins back. “Tempting, but I think we should start getting ready.”

I sigh. “You’re right, but I figured it was worth a shot at least. Alright, I’ll see you later.”

I duck out of his room and go get dressed in my own. We’re still working separate shifts, so later really does mean later. I won’t see him until after both our shifts. I brush my hair, pull it back, and head upstairs. I clean several rooms and meet up with Ian in the library. He’s dusting off the books when I walk in, pulling them off the shelf one at a time and wiping them off. They definitely need it.

“Hey,” I greet, grabbing the wood polish and starting on the shelves. This house is probably one of the cleanest in the world, I’d bet.

“Hey. How’s life without the kid?” he asks, making small talk. Somewhat awkward small talk.

“Peaceful. The kid’s not the stress inducer though. That would be Venus.”

He nods. “Agreed.”

We talk for a while, slipping back into our old ways. It always feels weird when we do this, but I’ve gotten used to it. He pulls a book of the shelf and chuckles.

“Remember this?” he asks, tossing it at me. I catch it and grin. It’s Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. Ian had to do a whole paper on this book. My help is probably the only reason he passed. We were up until three am the night before it was due. That was the most Starbucks I’ve ever had in my entire life. (And I don’t think we could have finished the essay without it.)

“I do. That was a good night.”

He nods and I toss the book back at him. Except, I have no athletic ability and even less aim, so it goes nowhere near him. It hits the wall of a nearby shelf and smacks to the floor. Even from where I’m standing, I can see that the binding broke.

“Oh, shit,” Ian hisses, basically echoing my thoughts. ‘Oh, shit, indeed.’

We exchange a look and I walk over to the book, picking it up and observing the damage. The front cover has pretty much come apart from the spine. Normally, I’d be massively concerned about the damage to the book and how upset Venus will be. But something else has caught my attention. A paper hidden in the binding of the book. I pull it out and unfold it.

It’s a contract.

My heart skips a beat.

The signature is Trevor McLaughlin. I don’t know him, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I found a contract.

My eyes move over to the shelves of books and the rows of shelves and I wonder, are they all here? Have they always been right in front of us all like this? I checked the books themselves, but I never would have looked inside the binding. I grab the nearest book, one I’ve never heard of (From Hell with Love by Simon R. Green) and pull at the cover, suddenly noticing that every book in this library is hardcover.

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