Another cold night, another session at Iris’s. It was getting late, probably closing in on nine or so. But Andrew wasn’t quite sure because Iris didn’t have a clock anymore. The poltergeist – whom she had apparently named Roland – had smashed it two weeks earlier in a nightmarish fit of rage that had kept Iris staying at a hotel for several days.
According to Iris, everything was fine now. But Andrew was still a little uneasy and extra cautious as he made his way around the store. Iris had cleaned up, but the shelves were bare and there were still some boxes and trash bags scattered around.
The store was still technically open, but Iris hadn’t had customers in days. Whether it was some kind of ominous supernatural influence or just the recent erratic opening hours, Iris apparently wasn’t sure. But they’d been here for a while now and hadn’t been interrupted by a single person.
“Alright,” Iris was saying as she stood at the counter, looking at the printouts Andrew had brought. “So we know there was a fire. I guess that might explain why there’s no news of the deal going through.”
“Yeah, but how exactly do we get from Point A: the hotel, to Point B: the curse?” Andrew asked from his stool in the corner.
Iris frowned. “I have no idea,” she admitted.
“Okay, so looping back around to the curse,” Andrew said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s tied to the hotel, yeah. But if there’s a way to set the curse, there must be a way to get around it. Or break it. There’s no way that whatever or whoever set it is omniscient. Any religious beliefs aside, I find it too far-fetched to believe that not only is there definitely a God, but that he hates this town in particular. Though, in all honesty, I wouldn’t blame him.”
“Maybe we could try something else at the town line.”
“Like what?” Andrew said. “How many curse-breaking spells have we tried there? I tried the cleansing bath and all that earned me was-”
He broke off, but Iris snickered anyway.
“Oh wow,” she said.
“Are you serious?” Andrew demanded. “Did you seriously just see that?”
“Oh, I saw a whole lot,” Iris said, a slight blush on her face.
Andrew groaned, burying his face in his hands. “Great,” he said. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to drown myself in the Quabbin.”
Iris shrugged. “Maybe he liked what he saw? I don’t really get into all the sex stuff myself, but hey, if it makes you guys happy, go for it.”
Now Andrew’s face was on fire. “No, we’re…we’re not-”
He cleared his throat. “Okay, what are our other options?”
“Altered consciousness? Maybe if you’re asleep or something you can cross the line,” Iris suggested. “Um, we could contact the Church maybe?”
“They won’t do anything,” came a voice from the doorway.
Iris and Andrew both jumped and looked over. Roman Beckett was standing at the entrance to the shop, hands buried in his jacket pocket and a snow-dusted beanie on his head.
He stepped in a little hesitantly. “The Church won’t do shit, trust me. And I’ve tried crossing the line in every state of consciousness you can imagine. Asleep, unconscious, meditating, trance. None of it worked. One time, six or seven years ago, Celine gave me her sister’s sleeping pills and tried driving over the line. I felt like shit for three days and it didn’t do a thing.”
He was at the counter with them now and looked at Andrew curiously. “I know you,” Roman said. “Why do I know you?”
“Andrew Harris,” Andrew said, holding out a hand.
“Roman Beckett.” Roman took his hand and shook. “You’re not from here, right?”
“The accent gave it away?” Andrew said with a laugh. “No, I spent five years here though, when my mum got stuck. Then I came back like an idiot and got stuck too.”
“Oh! You’re staying with Olivia, aren’t you?” Roman said, snapping his fingers. “I remember you from Christmas Eve.”
The smile slid off Andrew’s face and he saw his feelings mirrored on Roman’s face. “He hasn’t-” Roman started.
Roman sighed. “I gave him some information that might be helpful. If he wants it, that is.”
It didn’t take a genius to tell what kind of information he was talking about. “Thanks,” Andrew said.
Roman looked like he was going to say something else, but thought better about it. Instead, he turned to Iris, who was watching him with caution.
“Iris,” Roman said.
“Listen, I’m sorry for yelling at you,” Roman said, rubbing a hand on the back of his neck. “While I’m still not happy about you pushing me or taking stupid risks, I crossed a line. And I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry too,” Iris said. “I was being thoughtless. And reckless. I just got so caught up in it and forgot that it shouldn’t be treated like a puzzle or something.”
Roman held out a hand and, after a moment’s hesitation, Iris took it. They shook, and Andrew had the impression of something finally being put to bed.
“I want to help,” Roman said. “I…I don’t want to go into detail. But if this curse can be broken, I need it to be broken. Preferably as soon as possible.”
Iris looked mystified for a second, then shook her head. “Well, welcome aboard,” she said finally.
“Do you have any thoughts?” Andrew asked.
Roman looked thoughtful. “Honestly,” he said. “I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud, but I think it’s demonic. I feel like nothing good or neutral could pull off something this powerful.”
Iris nodded. “I was considering that too,” she said.
“Wonderful,” Andrew muttered. “Absolutely bloody wonderful.”
“Well, if we go down that route, it adds a whole new dimension to this,” Iris said. “We’d better get to work.”