Part 14

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Why would she take the pocket watch?

I stood in her bedroom, looking around at the Parisian styled furniture dotted with Lord of the Rings memorabilia, the wide array of pineapple decorations, and at the clothes hung in her closet in color coordinated order.  It felt wrong to be in there—we hardly ever went into the other's room.  At most, we leaned in the open door frames if we needed to speak with the other while they were in their room.  It was our unspoken arrangement: bedrooms were private.

But she'd taken the pocket watch when she'd left earlier.  And the ghosts with it.

I should have thought about her leaving before I woke up—she usually did on Sundays.  I was the night owl; she was the early bird.  It should have dawned on me that she'd be gone by the time my lazy ten o'clock morning pulled me from bed.

The Ouija board was set up in the center of her room, on the floor, a discarded pencil and an unused notepad nearby.  I checked all the trash cans for the paper she must have used to write down whatever Oliver told her, but they were gone too.  She'd most likely taken them when she left.

The apartment felt strangely empty without the ghosts haunting it.  Thinking back, it had only been two days since we'd made contact with them.  Well, two days since we could communicate with them.  They'd always been here though.  Ever since we'd bought the pocket watch.

It hadn't occurred to me that removing the pocket watch from the property meant the ghosts could leave the building.  But why would she want to take them?  Where would you take a pair of ghosts anyway?

Not to Noah, certainly.  She'd been furious that I'd try to exorcise them.  Maybe to her parents' house?  Thinking it would be a safe place to stash them while she dealt with Rose's new boyfriend?

It hurt that she hadn't trusted me enough to tell me her plan.  But then again, I really didn't have room to complain.

I grabbed my phone from beside my bed and tried calling her.  She didn't answer.  Neither did she respond to the text messages I'd sent.  A thought crossed my mind to call Rose, but the last thing I needed was to explain to our third that we'd been fighting because I'd allowed her boyfriend into the apartment to exorcise a pair of ghosts and he'd turned on me instead.

A knock came from the door and I rushed to answer it.

The thought of why Bronte would knock instead of using her key flashed through my mind a heartbeat after I turned the handle and the door inched open.

Noah stood outside, hands in his pockets, working at a loose nail on the wooden floor of the walkway with the toe of his shoe.

My blood turned cold.

His hands snapped up and out of his pockets.  He held them up in the universal sign of surrender.  "I'm here to talk.  To apologize.  That's it."

He looked terrible.  He had a black eye and there were bandages all along his left cheek from something that'd cut him.  And as he held his hands up, I noticed that his right shoulder couldn't quite go up as much as his left.

My grip tightened on the door.  "Oh really?"

He gave me a sad expression—I couldn't tell if it was regret or not.  Maybe it was even sincere.  I was the gullible one though—Rose usually knew how to read people.

And she'd liked him, I reminded myself.  She liked him a lot, she'd said.

"You can have your guard dogs standing watch, if you want," he offered.  He tried to smile but stopped when his busted lip pulled at a drying scab.

I wasn't about to tell him that Bronte had taken them away.  Instead, I moved aside and held the door open for him.

"Thanks," he breathed, stepping inside.

He lingered awkwardly near the door as I retreated further into the apartment.  I moved so that the couch was between us, trying to make it look like a completely natural, nonchalant thing.  The way his face fell though, I could tell I wasn't fooling anyone.

He cleared his throat and looked around.  "They aren't—um..."

"Going to swoop in and finish what they started?" I offered.  "No.  They aren't."

He tried not to look relieved but I caught it flash across his face.  Then he brightened.  "Not that you'd really need them to, what with what happened yesterday.  I think I figured that one out."

"Name invocation," I nodded.  "Yes, I did too."

"Yeah," he said, bouncing on his heels excitedly, "I'd never met another psychic before—I thought we all had the same powers.  But they must be different for each of us.  How we tap into life energies or whatever it is must vary depending on the individual person.  I make wards.  You command names.  Do you have any idea what Bronte's is yet?"

I shook my head and his excitement fell off slightly.  "Oh.  Well, that's ok.  I'm sure hers will manifest sooner or later.  But I think it's based off our personalities."

I frowned.  "What do you mean?"

"You do nicknames," he said, almost confused as to why I couldn't see it for myself.  "You gave Bronte her nickname and you commented on my name at dinner.  Do you give out nicknames often?"

Shrugging, I shook my head.  "I don't know?  No more than normal."

"I bet you do," he said decidedly.  "And I bet that goes hand-in-hand with how you're able to perceive ghosts.  You can hear them more strongly, you said?  I can usually see them before I can hear them.  And I'm a defensive person by nature.  It makes sense that my power would be warding."

I crossed my arms.  "Yeah, great, but I think you said something about apologizing?"

He look startled but roused himself fast.  "Oh, right.  Yes.  I am sorry about what happened yesterday.  I didn't mean to take things that far.  And then, when you...with the couch..." He turned bright red.  Looking down, he used the toe of his shoe to draw the line between where the entry's tile floor met the living room carpet.  "I am sorry."

"I'm not the only one you need to apologize to."

His head snapped up at that.  Again, another look of surprise crossed his face.  "Yes.  Yes, of course.  Can I talk to them?"

Crap.

"Maybe—maybe not right now.  Cyril's still pretty upset."  I held up my arm for him to see the bruises.

His eyes widened and he took a step forward.  Pure panic swept over him.  "Did I...did I do that?"

Double crap.

Quickly, I tucked my arms behind me.  "It's fine.  I bruise easily.  Look, apology accepted.  Just—just no more trying to exorcise the ghosts unless they want to be exorcised.  And they know that there's going to be some pain involved with—"

Something growled.

And I knew that sound.

Noah frowned, looking around.  "Did you hear that?"

I turned slowly to look over my shoulder, from the direction the sound had come from.  But I couldn't see anything.  There was nothing there.  Just the dinning table.  The door to my bedroom.  The door to my bathroom.

Then I heard breathing.  Right at my shoulder.

And I felt a puff of putrid air hit me in the face.

Triple crap.

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