New Winslow S5E52
As much as Iris tried to show nothing but professionalism and an aura of calm at the archive, by the time she got back to her apartment that night, she was shaking. A third Harbinger, with part of its pages removed? Proof that the town was trying to erase all history of the curse? And it was simple enough to link back to Charles Baxter. Who had made it clear he’d harm Iris if it came to it.
Even though she knew her wards were strong, Iris slipped back down the stairs and into her shop. Normally, the shop felt like an extension of her home. Every inch of it was familiar to her, and the charms and protections were always solid. Roland’s wards were still secure and there were no signs of attempted breaks or tampering evident. Same with her everyday protective seals. The front door was locked securely and when she finally got up the nerve to go into the dark back room and check in there too, the back door’s four locks were all still in place.
It was fine. She was safe at home. But fuck, what had she gotten herself into?
Iris went upstairs, checking every charm on her way up the narrow wooden stairwell. There were a few that looked like they needed repairing, so she stopped and did them right then, using the small Sharpie that she always kept tucked in a little nook in the wall. Once those were solid again, she finally went into her apartment and locked the doors. Then turned on all the lights and closed the curtains, trying not to hyperventilate as she did so.
Iris collapsed onto her small couch and stared up at the ceiling for a moment, gazing blankly at the wooden beam above her as she tried to settle her mind. This was her world, Alicia had been right about that. And it wasn’t a world that everyone else understood. Including Charles Goddamn Baxter. So, if he was going to threaten her, he better know what she was capable of.
Nothing, a nasty voice in her head whispered.
Maybe it was time to bring in some help. But who could she possibly call? Vivien was out of the question. Not just because Iris didn’t have her contact information, and as far as she knew, Vivien was still terrorizing some poor community elsewhere. Missy and Anna were already helping as much as they could. But even though they were connected to this world, they couldn’t do any more than they already were.
Celine? If she didn’t murder Iris first, maybe that was a possibility. But if Iris was scared of Baxter, she was even more afraid of Celine Beckett.
She needed to go back to the Countess and try to contact Billy again. Now that she knew for sure that the Alderidges had been his next-door neighbors, maybe using Samuel’s name might get his attention. She’d call The Countess tomorrow and see if it was alright for her to stop by. The shop was probably going to be packed again tomorrow, but Andrew was going to take the morning for her so that she could focus on trying, once again, to reach Billy McBride.
Iris wasn’t feeling much better when she arrived at The Countess the next morning. It was so cold outside that stepping into the warm foyer should have felt good. But instead, it felt ominously like walking into a fire. For a split second, she was even sure that it hurt.
She knew she didn’t look any better than she felt as she saw Missy’s greeting smile fall. “What’s wrong?” she asked as Iris took off her coat.
“It’s too much to explain,” she said. “But we’ve got a big lead and I’m trying hard not to make it a big dead end. And we need to solve this as soon as we can.”
Instead of questioning why a hundred-year-old mystery had to be solved immediately, Missy just nodded. “You’re welcome to stay as long as you want to,” she said. “But Iris, I’m just not convinced he’s up there.”
“He has to be,” Iris said. “Who else could it be? The same footsteps, the young presence. He was a kid, leaving home forever when he wanted to stay. I know there’s other energies here, but Billy McBride has to be one of them.”
Missy shook her head. “I’m not going to tell you not to do it,” she said. “I just don’t want you to get disappointed.”
“I won’t,” Iris lied. “It’s fine. He hasn’t answered yet, but I think now I’ve got something that will get his attention.”
She walked up the stairs, following the familiar flights until the plush green carpet turned into uneven wooden boards on the top floor. The same chair was there, that stupid fucking chair she wanted to kick across the floor as a remnant of Olivia’s remembered fear shivered through her. But instead, Iris walked straight past it and set up her spirit board in the middle of the room.
“Billy McBride,” she said as she turned on the silly little fake tea light candles and set them in a circle around it. “I just want to talk to you, that’s all. You can either use the spirit board or you can talk directly to me. It’s okay, I’m not going to hurt you.”
He’s a kid, she reminded herself, allowing her tone to soften as she put her hands on the planchette. “I’m here as a friend,” she continued, taking a deep breath and trying to clear her mind as she continued. “I need your help. It’s your friend, Samuel Alderidge. Do you remember Samuel? I heard you two were very close.”
Silence both in the room and in her mind. She thought for a second she might have heard the faint rustle of wind somewhere down the hall, but it might have been her imagination. “Please talk to me, Billy,” Iris said. “I know you went through a lot, but it’s over now. And I need your help to figure out what happened to Samuel and his mother. They were your friends, right? Were they kind to you?”
Another long pause as she sent out every welcoming message she could. The faint mental buzzing of other spirits in the building knocked against her awareness, but none of them were Billy, so she ignored it.
This went on for a couple hours, Iris sending out messages with increasing desperation, then waiting in silence. None of the other entities that flitted across her awareness were what she was looking for, but they started to grow more insistent as the time passed. Finally, head pounding from the energy and desperately needing a bathroom break, Iris shut the door and broke all connections. The hallway went from humming with energy to deep silence so quickly that her ears rang as she cleared up her tools and made her way back downstairs.