Girl of Nightmares


Page 77


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"So what do you suggest?" Burke asks. "That we open the door and allow a dead murderess back into the world? Do you think that's in accordance with the will of the athame?"

"Let the athame choose," Clements says suddenly, like inspiration has struck. He looks around the table. "Open the door and let Jestine go with him. Let them both go. The warrior who returns is the worthy bearer of the Biodag Dubh."

"And what if neither of them returns?" someone asks. "Then the athame will be lost!"

"What if he pulls the dead girl back?" asks someone else. "She can't remain here. It can't be allowed."

Thomas, Carmel, and I exchange glances. The resistance came from Burke's staunchest supporters, but the rest of the table seems to be with Dr. Clements. Burke looks ready to chew glass, but in the next second, his face breaks into the warm, slightly embarrassed smile of a corrected man.

"Then that is what will be," he says. "If Theseus Cassio is willing to pay the price."

Here we go.

"What's it going to cost?"

"Cost?" He smiles. "Plenty. But we'll get to that in a moment." Incredibly, he calls for coffee. "When the athame was created, those who created it knew how to open a door to the other side. But those magics have been lost for centuries. For tens of centuries. Now the only way to open the door resides in your hand."

I look down at the blade.

"The door can only be opened through the Biodag Dubh. You see, you've had the key the whole time. You just didn't know how to turn the lock."

I'm getting tired of people talking about the knife like it isn't a knife. Like it's a gate, or a key, or a pair of ruby slippers.

"Just tell me what it's going to cost," I say.

"The price," he says, and smiles. "The price is your life's blood, leaking out of your gut."

Somewhere around me, Thomas and Carmel gasp. Burke looks regretful, but I don't believe it for a minute.

"If you insist," he says. "We can perform the ritual tomorrow evening."

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

My life's blood, leaking out of my guts. Oh, is that all? That's what I should have said. I shouldn't have let him see the fear shiver through me . I shouldn't have even clenched my jaw. It gave him too much satisfaction, knowing I was scared, and that I wasn't going to turn back. Because I'm not. Not even with Thomas and Carmel giving me their bug eyes.

"Come on," I say. "I knew from the beginning that it might end up like this. That I might have to walk a fine line between breathing and not breathing, if I was going to save her. We all did."

"It's different when it's just a possibility," Carmel says.

"It's still just a possibility. Have some faith." My mouth is dry. Who am I trying to convince? They're going to practically gut me tomorrow, to open the door. To Hell. And once I bleed it open, they're going to shove me and Jestine through.

"Have some faith," Carmel repeats, and nudges Thomas to say something, but he won't. He's been behind me on this. All the way.

"This might not be such a great idea," he whispers.

"Thomas."

"Look, I didn't tell you everything my grandpa told me," he says. "They're not backing you. All of his friends, the voodooists, they're not looking out for you." He glances at Carmel. "They're looking out for us."

Some kind of disgusted, disappointed sound comes out of my nose and throat, but it isn't real. It's not surprising. They made their position about bringing Anna back pretty clear from the start.

"They think it's out of their jurisdiction," Thomas goes on. "That it's the Order's business."

"You don't have to explain it," I say. Besides, that's just an excuse. No one but us wants Anna in the world. When I pull her out of Hell, it's going to be into a room of people who want to send her right back. She'd better be ready to fight. In my mind I see her, exploding into the room like a dark cloud, and lifting Colin Burke by his puppy scruff.

"We can find some other way to help Anna," Carmel says. "Don't make me call your mother."

I half smile. My mother. Before I left for London she made me promise to remember that I'm her son. And I am. I'm the son she raised to fight, and do the right thing. Anna is trapped in the Obeahman's torture chamber. And that can't be left alone.

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