“She has good teeth,” I offer. Carmel grins.
“Maybe it was a bad idea. You shouldn’t force it, right?” she says, and I pretend not to notice the hopeful glance she gives me, like I should keep this conversation going. There’s nowhere for it to go.
When we get to my house, Thomas’s beat-up Tempo is parked in the driveway. I can see his silhouette inside, talking to my mom’s. Carmel pulls in right behind it. I expected to be dropped at the curb.
“We’ll take my car. I’m going with you,” she says, and gets out. I don’t object. Despite my best intentions, Carmel and Thomas have joined the ranks. After what happened with Anna, and the Obeahman, cutting them out wasn’t really an option.
Inside the house, Thomas looks like one big wrinkle plopped down on the sofa. He stands up when he sees Carmel, and his eyes do their usual googly routine before he adjusts his glasses and goes back to normal. My mom is sitting in the chair, looking comfortable and motherly in a wrap sweater. I don’t know where people get these ideas that witches all wear a metric ton of eyeliner and bounce around in velvet capes. She smiles at us and tactfully asks how the movie was, rather than how the date went.
I shrug. “I didn’t really get it,” I say.
She sighs. “So, Thomas tells me that you’re going to Grand Marais.”
“Seems like as good a night as any,” I say. I look at Thomas. “Carmel’s coming too. So we can take her car.”
“Good,” he replies. “If we take mine we’ll probably wind up on the side of the road before we even cross the border.”
There’s a brief moment of awkwardness as we wait for my mom to leave. She’s not a civilian by any means, but I try not to bother her with details. After my near death this past fall, her auburn hair has become peppered with white.
Finally she stands and presses three small but very smelly velvet bags into my hand. I know what they are without looking. Fresh, herbal blends of her classic protection spell, one for each of us. She touches my forehead with a fingertip.
“Keep them safe,” she whispers. “And you too.” She turns back to Thomas. “And now I should get to work on more candles for your grandfather’s shop.”
“The prosperity ones have been going faster than we can get them on shelves.” He grins.
“And they’re so simple. Lemon and basil. A lodestone core. I’ll stop in with another batch by Tuesday.” She goes up the stairs, to the room she’s taken over for spell work. It’s full of block wax and oils and dusty bottles of herbs. I hear that other mothers have entire rooms designated for sewing. That must be weird.
“I’ll help you pack the candles when I get back,” I say as she vanishes up the stairs. I wish she’d get another cat. There’s a cat-shaped hole where Tybalt used to be, floating in her footsteps. But I suppose it’s only been six months since he died. Maybe that’s still too soon.
“So, are we ready?” Thomas asks. Under his arm there’s a canvas messenger bag. Every scrap of info we get on a particular ghost, a particular job, he stuffs inside that bag. I hate to think how quickly he’d be tied to a stake and burned if anyone ever got hold of it. Without looking into the mess, he reaches in and does his creepy psychic thing, where his fingertips find whatever he’s after, every time, like that girl from Poltergeist.
“Grand Marais,” Carmel murmurs as he hands the papers to her. Most of it is a letter from a professor of psychology at Rosebridge Graduate School, an old crony of my dad’s, who, before buckling down and shaping young minds, expanded his own by participating in trance circles led by my parents in the early 80s. In the letter, he talks about a ghost in Grand Marais, Minnesota, rumored to inhabit an abandoned barn. Six deaths have occurred on the property over the last three decades. Three of them have been deemed as under suspicious circumstances.
So what, six deaths. Stats like that don’t make my usual A-list. But now that I’m rooted in Thunder Bay, my options are limited to a few road trips a year and places I can get to over the weekend.
“So, it kills by making people have accidents?” Carmel says, reading over the letter. Most of the barn’s victims appeared to be accidental. A farmer was working on his tractor when the thing slipped off the bricks and pinned him. Four years later, the farmer’s wife fell chest-down on a pitchfork. “How do we know they aren’t really accidents? Grand Marais is a long drive for a no-show.”
Carmel always calls the ghosts “it.” Never “he” or “she” and rarely by name.
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