The next morning, Eddie was in his apartment, trying to call Chad. His friend’s ringtone, Soundgarden’s “Drawing Flies,” just kept playing and playing.
“Come on, Chad, answer!” Eddie growled.
After a minute of letting the ringtone play, Eddie hung up.
I called him twice late last night and got no answer, he thought. I emailed him and got no reply, either. Please, God, let it be that he met a girl last night, and he’s so into her that he doesn’t wanna talk to me. One girl, not three!
Nancy went to the occult bookstore, Raising Power, around lunchtime that day. A heavy-set, forty-something-year-old woman with her hair dyed black, in a black dress, and wearing goth makeup was sitting by the cash register.
“Hi,” Nancy said. “Are you the owner of this shop?”
“Yes,” she said, getting up and shaking Nancy’s hand. “I’m Deanna. How can I help you?” She looked in Nancy’s eyes as if, strangely, she already knew the answer.
“Nancy Sayers. I’m a reporter, investigating the string of bizarre deaths that have been happening over the past few weeks. Do you know about that?”
“I’m not responsible for them, if that’s what you’re implying.”
“Oh, no. I didn’t mean that. I just wondered if you’ve been following the story in the newspaper.”
“A number of young men,” Deanna said, “one died in a motorcycle crash, one flew off his bicycle and got impaled on the fork of a forklift, one got sliced up by an airplane propellor, and one fell off a building and got impaled on a flagpole.”
“Oh, no. That last one almost happened, but I stopped–“
“Oh, it happened. Believe me.”
“It didn’t happen to your brother, Eddie,” Deanna said. “It happened to his friend instead.”
Nancy’s eyes bugged out at this revelation. “Chad died?”
“Yes,” the bookstore owner said, with the utmost conviction in her eyes. “He saw three hot babes at the time.”
“How do you know all this? How could you know their names, and all? That information wouldn’t be accessible to you.”
“How do you think I know?”
“You’re a psychic, I take it.”
“Correct.” Deanna had a slight smirk.
“How much of this case do you know about, beyond what I’ve reported?” Nancy asked, still fighting her incredulity at Deanna’s abilities. “How much of it have you…psyched out, as it were?”
“Quite a bit.”
“Do you know who’s behind all this?”
“A young woman named Serena Lavin bought a book here on how to raise spirits. She wanted to get revenge on the young men who…wronged her.”
“So, you know she’s responsible for these killings, and you never reported her to the police?”
“What police detective is going to believe a woman is using spirits to murder people? What policeman is going to believe what a psychic says?”
“Of course, but you didn’t try to use your own…powers…to stop her yourself?”
“I warned her of the dangers of bringing bad karma on herself,” Deanna said. “But those young men deserve to be k–…well, to be punished, anyway.”
“My brother was almost killed by her spirits!” Nancy was looking at Deanna with accusing eyes.
“Your brother is as guilty as his friends are.”
“For what crime do they all ‘deserve’ to die?”
Deanna looked Nancy hard in the eyes. “They all gang-raped Serena almost a month ago.”
Nancy gasped. “How could you know that?” Her eyes widened.
“I felt it…Serena’s trauma, in all the vibrations in her body and around her. All those boys did it.”
No, Nancy thought as her jaw dropped. Not Eddie, too! Please, God, don’t let my brother be one of the rapists. He just watched his friends do Serena, surely that’s all; and he was too cowardly to stop them, but he didn’t participate. Please, God, let that be the truth! Deanna may be right about a lot of this, but her psychic powers aren’t strong enough for her to be right about all of it!
“Nancy?” Deanna asked. “You look a little dazed. I know this is hard for you to hear, and I assure you, I never meant for Serena to use the book to help her get revenge on those guys. I warned her not to let feelings of hate into her heart when chanting the book’s incantations. I told her: be in a calm, meditative state when reciting the words; allow the forces of karma to flow without your emotions to misguide them, for if you say the words with an angry or hateful attitude, those spirits will not only bring about far too harsh a revenge, but one day they’ll come back to you and make you destroy yourself, just as you, in your secret thoughts, want those boys to destroy themselves. I told her that; I guess she refused to listen.”
Nancy let out a big sigh. “Is Eddie the only remaining one of the boys that Serena wants to kill?”
Deanna closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and ‘felt’ the psychic energy in and around her for an answer. After ten seconds of intense concentration, she said, “Yes, he’s the last one.”
“How do I stop those spirits from killing Eddie?”
“Try keeping him immobilized, restrained somehow. The spirits are Sirens, essentially: they kill you by luring you into a dangerous situation with their singing and seductiveness…at least usually that’s how they do it. The idea is to make the victim kill himself with his own desires. The Sirens are agents of karma; they kill you with your own sinfulness.”
“So, I could tie Eddie to a chair, or something?”
“That…could work…maybe. But you’ll also have to confront Serena herself. Otherwise, Eddie will have to be tied up indefinitely.”
“I’ll have to fight this woman? How? Is there any magic you can teach me to use on her?”
“I’m uncomfortable teaching anyone how to use magic in confrontational situations. I’ve already gone too far with Serena; I sold her the book out of compassion for how much those boys hurt her, but now I realize I shouldn’t interfere–“
“But she’ll kill my brother!”
Deanna took a deep breath. “Karma may intervene to stop her. Eddie’s near-death, where Chad died, may be enough to have scared him into repentance. That may be enough karmic retribution to stop her from killing him again.”
“I need better assurance than ‘may be enough to stop her,’ Deanna!”
“Perhaps I can do some kind of ritual to help you. I can keep my emotions out of it, then there won’t be any karmic risks for you.”
“Thank you,” Nancy said. “Please do something to protect him–as soon as you can.” I can’t believe I now believe in magic and spirits, she thought. What a fucked-up day.
“I’ll do what I can. I feel responsible for selling Serena that book, so I have to take care of my own karma. I’m more than motivated to help you.”
“Thank you. I’m gonna go find my brother now.”
“Good. And if you confront Serena, remember not to let your emotions govern how you react to her, no matter what happens to him. The spirits will sense your hate, and react to it in a way you won’t like.”
“OK.” Nancy left the bookstore.
She found her brother standing in the hallway in front of her apartment, his phone to his ear.
“C’mon, Chad!” Eddie said. “Answer!”
“Chad is dead,” she said with a blank look on her face.
“Oh, no!” he said, putting his phone in his jacket pocket with a shaking hand. “How did he die?”
“The same way you were supposed to die. I talked to the owner of that occult bookstore, and all it took was one chat with her to believe that spirits, psychic powers, all that shit, really exist. It was mind-blowing how she could know so much about this case with what little I was able to report about it.”
“She knew your name, Chad’s name, things never made public. It was eerie.”
“What am I going to do? All my friends are dead. Those ghosts have only me to kill now.”
“Come inside,” Nancy said, unlocking her door. “Stay in here with me, and you should be safe.”
“How?” he asked as they went inside.
“You’ll see. Go sit on the sofa; I’ll be right back.”
She looked for some rope.