Chapter 9: Coming Clean-ish

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Chapter 9: Coming Clean-ish

Standing in Central Park watching Lucia talk to the dead was like peeping in on someone having a conversation with an entire cadre of their imaginary friends – in a blizzard. Lucia’s powers required no special ingredients, just the right locale and some willpower. Any “normal” – as she called them – who walked by would think she was a lunatic, but there wasn’t much traffic in the park tonight, especially not in the wooded area she’d chosen, which was a considerable distance from the nearest footpath. The blustery weather seemed to be keeping everyone away.

Lucia was turning in slow circles, occasionally pausing to issue commands, instructions, pleas. The snow whirled around her, making her seem ethereal, and the waning light of dusk only increased the otherworldly effect, thanks to the dense cloud cover and the storm.

We couldn’t contact the dead at her house, Lucia had explained on our way here. It was one of the few rules that could not be bent: spirits weren’t able to enter private residences unless they had died there. Plus, we needed a lot of ghosts – as many as we could get – which was what had brought us to the park. Just like the living, the dead saw this as a place to gather and commune.

Observing Lucia work made me feel less freakish, even if I was allegedly one half of a supernatural nuclear weapon.

But I wasn’t thinking about that, or what it meant. Because whenever I did, I was haunted by that line that Fredrick would always quote when some evil dictator or warlord did some horrible thing to his or her people: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Look at what Garstatt and his sorcerer had ended up doing with their power. All that death, all that pain…

Yet here we were reaching out to him. It was madness, and what was it going to prove? There was no knowing if he would answer my questions, let alone if he had the information I was seeking.

I yanked my cellphone out of my coat pocket to check the time; not only was the cold wind biting at my bones, but I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to hold myself upright much longer. Exhaustion dragged at me with each cloud of breath I exhaled. As my eyes flickered over the screen, a hard knot formed in my gut: half a dozen missed calls and twice as many frantic texts from Bruce. Oh no! I’d completely forgotten to turn the ringer back on after I’d muted Mikey’s incoming messages, and Bruce had been trying to reach me – for hours. There’d be all kinds of hell to pay for this. I’d just broken rule number one: Don’t be out of touch, ever.

I had to get back to the apartment. This wasn’t something a phone call was going to fix. This required grovelling, begging and apologizing – and I still might end up back in Pennsylvania.

“Listen, Lucia,” I said, loathe to interrupt her. “I have to go. Some crap’s going down at home.”

“That’s okay,” she replied, and stopped spinning. “I’m done. The dizziness should pass in a minute or two, then we can get out of here.”

Standing still like that, Lucia could have been an illustration on a blustery Christmas card or a tiny, lonely plastic figure in a violently shaken snow globe. She looked so much younger bundled up in her oversized winter coat and cap, the ends of her scarf whipping in the wind like a pair of long, errant woolly tentacles. I walked over to where she’d been holding court with the dead. The temperature dropped as I approached. I wasn’t sure if it was a trick of the storm or a physical remnant of the spirit communication that had just taken place.

“I sent your request out through multiple channels,” she said. “It’ll better the chances of it getting to him fast and intact. I get the feeling that intact is important with this one.”

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