Girl of Nightmares


Page 26


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"He's a warrior, this one," she says to Thomas. "A wielder of a weapon older than all of us." There's a pointed way that she isn't looking at me and her hands are curled like crabs. They skitter across the Formica, fingers tapping the tabletop. "You want to know about the girl," she says into her lap. With her chin tucked low her voice takes on a choked, froggy quality.

"The girl," I whisper. Riika looks at me with a sly smile.

"You were the one who took Anna Dressed in Blood out of the world," she says. "I felt it when she passed. It was a storm dying over the lake."

"She took herself out," I say. "To save my life. And Thomas's."

Riika shrugs to say it doesn't matter. There's a velvet bag resting on a gold plate; she empties out the contents and stirs them around. I try not to look too closely. I'm going to pretend that they're carved runes. But I think they're actually small bones, maybe from a bird, or a lizard, maybe from human fingers. She looks down into the pattern and raises her pale eyebrows.

"The girl is not with you now," she says, and my heart thumps. I don't know what I'm hoping for. "But she was. Recently."

Beside me, Thomas inhales fast and sits up straighter. He adjusts his glasses and nudges me with his elbow, I think to be encouraging.

"Can you tell what she wants?" he asks after a minute of me sitting dumb as a rock.

Riika cocks her head. "How should I know that? You want I should call the wind and ask it? It would not know either. Only one person to ask because only one person knows. Ask Anna Dressed in Blood to give up her secrets." Her eyes slant toward me. "I think she would give up much, for you."

It's hard to hear anything over the pulse pounding in my ears.

"I can't ask her," I mutter. "She can't talk." My head is starting to come out from underneath the shock; it's starting to think ahead and trip over itself. "I've been told that it's impossible to come back. That she shouldn't be able to be here."

Riika leans back in her chair. She motions tensely with her hand, toward my backpack and the athame. "Show me," she says, and crosses her arms over her chest.

Thomas nods, giving the okay. I unsnap my bag and pull out the knife still in its sheath. Then I lay it on the table in front of me . Riika jerks her head, and I take it out. The flames of the candles flicker along the blade. Her reaction as her eyes move over it is odd, just an uneasy tic of emotion in the corner of her wrinkled mouth, something that looks like revulsion. Finally, she looks away and spits onto the floor.

"What do you know about this?" she asks.

"I know that it was my father's before it was mine. I know that it sends ghosts who kill to the other side, where they can't hurt the living."

Riika shoots Thomas a raised brow. It looks a lot like the old-lady version of the "get a load of this guy" expression.

"Good and bad. Right and wrong." She shakes her head. "This athame does not think on these terms." She sighs. "You do not know much. So I will tell you. You think this athame creates a door between this world and the next one." She holds up one hand, and then the other. "This athame is the door. It was opened long ago and since then has swung, back and forth, back and forth."

I watch Riika's hand sway left and right.

"But it never closes."

"Wait a minute," I say. "That's wrong. Ghosts can't pass back through the knife." I look at Thomas. "It doesn't work like that." I take the athame from the table and stuff it back into my bag.

Riika leans forward and smacks my shoulder. "How do you know how it works?" she asks. "But no. It doesn't work like that."

I'm starting to see what Thomas meant about her being not quite all there.

"It would take a strong will," she goes on, "and a deep connection. You said Anna was not sent away with this knife. But she would have to know it, sense it, in order to find you."

"She was cut," Thomas interjects excitedly. "After the scrying spell, Will took the knife and stabbed her, but she didn't die. Or pass on, or whatever."

Riika's eyes are on my backpack again. "She is connected to it. To her it would be like a beacon, a lighthouse. Why the others cannot follow it, I don't know. There are still mysteries, even for me." There's something strange about the way she's watching the knife. Her eyes are intense, but disconnected. I didn't notice before that they have an odd, yellow tint to the irises.

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