Girl of Nightmares


Page 56


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"Hey," she says, and takes my arm. "Did I offend you? Do something out of order?"

"No," I say. Deep breath in, and out. She's brash, and sort of pushy. But I'm trying to remember what she already apologized for; her habit of running in fists first, without thinking. "It's just that … I don't 'send' ghosts unless they're a threat to the living."

The look on her face is genuine surprise. "But that's not your purpose."

"What?"

"You're the instrument. The wielder of the weapon. It's the weapon's will that's important. Not yours. And the athame doesn't make distinctions."

We're stopped before the steps near the exit gate, facing each other. She said the words with conviction. With belief. She's been indoctrinated with that law probably for as long as she can remember. The way she's looking at me, right into my eyes, it's a challenge to tell her different. Even if it won't change her mind.

"Well, I'm the wielder, as you say. It's my blood in the blade. So I guess now that it's in my hand, the athame does make distinctions."

"Wait a minute," says Thomas. "Is she a member of the-"

"A member of the Order of the Blah Blah Blah. Yes, I think she is."

Jestine lifts her chin. She hasn't done anything to cover up the bruise across her jaw. No makeup, no nothing. But she doesn't wear it like a badge either.

"Well, of course I am," she says with a grin. "Who do you think sent you the photograph?"

Thomas's mouth drops slightly open.

"Weren't you worried that your uncle might be pissed about that?" I ask. Jestine shrugs. I think she shrugs even more than I do.

"The Order thought it was time for you to know," she says. "But don't be too cross with Gideon. He hasn't been a true member for decades."

He must've broken away with my dad.

"If he's not a member anymore, then what are we going to do?" Thomas asks.

"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that," Jestine answers. "We've been waiting for you."

* * *

Standing in the study, Gideon stares at the three of us for a long time. When his eyes finally settle, they rest on Jestine.

"What have you told them?" he asks.

"Nothing that they didn't really know already," she replies .

I feel Thomas give me a look but don't return it. It would only add to the sense of Hitchcockian vertigo that's been slowly creeping up my throat ever since we left the Tower of London. It's the feeling that none of this is our show. Everyone seems to know more than I do, and being on the shallow end of the information pool is starting to piss me off.

Gideon takes a deep breath. "This is the turn-back point, Theseus," he says, staring down at his desk. And he's right, as usual. I can feel that. I've felt it since I decided to come here. But here we are. This is the last moment, the last second, that I could turn away, and Thomas and I could return to Thunder Bay, and nothing would change. We would remain as we are, and Anna would stay where she is.

I glance at Jestine. Her eyes are downcast, but there's this odd, knowing look on her face. Like she knows full well that we passed the turn-back point a few countries ago.

"Just tell me," I say. "What exactly is the Order of-the Black Dagger?" Jestine scrunches her nose at the Anglicizing, but I'm in no mood to tie my tongue up and butcher the Gaelic.

"They're the descendants of the ones who created the knife," replies Gideon.

"Like me," I say.

"No," Jestine says. "You're the descendant of the warrior they bonded with it."

"These are the descendants of those who harnessed the power. Magicians. They used to be called druids and seers. Now they have no real name."

"And you were one of them," I say, but he shakes his head.

"Not traditionally. They brought me in after I befriended your father. My family has ties to it, of course. Most old families do; just about everything is diluted and bastardized by thousands of years of time." He shakes his head, drifts off. He makes it sound like you can't swing a dead cat without hitting one, but it took me seventeen years.

I feel like I've been spun around blindfolded, then had my eyes uncovered and shoved into daylight. I never figured that I was an outsider to this ancient club. I thought I was the club. Me. My blood. My knife. The end.

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