New Winslow S6E41
As soon as they got back to the shop, Iris locked the doors and pulled down the shades over the windows. It was just barely sunset, but this plunged the shop into a darkness that was only broken by the small pools of pink and blue neon light that spilled out from the shelves of merchandise. She could have turned on the lights, but the darkness would fit her plans better. Plus, Iris knew her way around the shop in the dark. So she could easily gather what she needed now.
“What are you doing?” Andrew asked cautiously as she scooped candles off of a shelf and began lining them up in a wide circle on the floor in front of the counter.
“I’m going to talk to Rosalind and Samuel,” she said, hoping she sounded more confident to him than she did to herself.
“This is a different spell, right?” Andrew asked, his tone showing that it hadn’t. “I mean, from the one that got you sick.”
“Yes.” Barely. “And I didn’t get sick last time I tried, I just didn’t hear from either of them.”
She reached into her pocket and came up empty, remembering too late that she’d left her lighter upstairs. “Can you go up to my apartment and grab my lighter?” she asked Andrew as she went behind the counter for salt. “It should be on top of the fridge.”
“I have one,” he said, fishing it out of his coat pocket. “What are you going to do this time?”
“I’m putting out an invitation to talk,” she told him, taking the small purple lighter and going back to the candles that were now in a wide circle on the shop’s floor. “Judith might have a point. It’s not a summons. But maybe if I just light the beacon, they’ll come to me.”
He didn’t look thrilled, but also didn’t argue. Instead, he took the salt from her and began lining the windows and doorway as she finished lighting the candles. “What do you need from me?” he asked her.
“Just stay here,” Iris said. “There shouldn’t be any issues, but I need someone to break the circle if something goes wrong.”
Andrew opened his mouth to argue with her, but Iris shook her head. “We need to solve this,” she said. “If Rosalind or Samuel Alderidge knows how the curse was created, they’ll know how to stop it. And Baxter’s lashing out at both of us now, so it’s going to get worse. He might be all hot air right now, but it won’t be forever. He’ll get desperate. So please, let’s try this.”
She handed him his lighter and he slid it back into his pocket without a word. Then he moved to the outside of the circle and watched as she began the process.
It was a simple ritual, very similar to a summoning, but without the air of authority behind it. Iris slowed her breathing, counting the rhythm of her exhales and allowing her heart rate to slow as well. She fixed her gaze on the candle in front of her, this one bigger than the others and right in the center of the circle. As she focused her energy on the flame, she envisioned it growing bigger and more powerful, drawing the attention of anything nearby and guiding them to safety. Like a lighthouse, but far away from the coast.
Rosalind Alderidge, she thought, focusing intently on the words as the flame seemed to grow, consuming her field of vision as the room slid away. Rosalind, I’m here. I’m waiting. Please speak to me. Samuel Alderidge, please find me.
She heard a scratching and hoped it was Andrew fiddling with his lighter, but she couldn’t break her concentration to check. Instead, she closed her eyes, the flame still burning brightly behind her eyelids. Rosalind… Samuel… She wished she had a photo of them so she could visualize their faces. But instead, she focused on their spirits.
The rage came on so quickly that her breath caught in her chest. Pure fury, scrambling her thoughts and driving away her consciousness as she clawed desperately to keep it within her grasp. The room was gone, the flame was growing, and she couldn’t hear the scratching anymore. Instead, it was anger. Fear. Hate. It was hate burning through her body, scorching her. And Iris was screaming, the heat and the flames eating her flesh and searing through her soul.
She heard Andrew’s voice somewhere beyond the flames as something heavy hit her in the back, sending her sprawling to the floor. The fury fell away as quickly as it had arrived and Iris fell to the floor, steam coming off of her body. She blinked up at Andrew’s face in the candlelight, leaning heavily on him as he pulled her into a seated position. “Jesus Christ, are you okay?” he demanded.
Iris coughed and nodded, her head against his side. “I’m fine,” she said. “Am I on fire?”
She could smell singed clothing and realized dazedly that it was her. The heavy thing that had hit her was apparently Andrew’s coat, which was still draped across her shoulders from when he’d smothered the flames. “What the hell happened?” Andrew asked her.
“I put up a beacon and it was just on fire.”
“You put up a fire?”
“No, something answered me with fire.”
The Alderidge home had burned down and she was now certain someone had died that night. Was it their rage that she’d just touched? “You can’t do that again,” Andrew said. “You were literally on fire, that could kill you.”
She wanted to argue that it was worth it if it got answers, but thinking back to what had just happened, there hadn’t actually been any answers. So instead, she sat up and tried not to let the crushing disappointment overwhelm her.
“It’s fine,” she said, as though it actually was. “We’ve got one more option.”
Billy McBride wasn’t Iris’s first choice. Or second. Even if she could get the kid to actually talk to her this time, she was banking on him being able to connect her to the other ghosts. Or that maybe he’d have some insight that she didn’t, just because he was a ghost who had known the Alderidges in life. But if there was no possible way to reach them directly without incinerating herself, then Billy was her next best option. And if he didn’t show, then she had no others.
She got to the Countess and went straight up to the fourth floor, hoping that Missy and Anna wouldn’t notice she was here. Not that they’d care, but because they were so sure that Billy wasn’t in the house. He had to be. She could hear the footsteps, even now as she brought out her spirit board in an empty bedroom lined with storage boxes, but wide enough to give her space.
Not a summons, she reminded herself again. A conversation. As the footsteps walked past the open door, she could count the pattern against the steady thrum of rain outside the window. By this point, Iris could mark the rhythm in her sleep, the footsteps taunting her.
“Billy,” she said, leaving the board alone for the moment. “Billy McBride, I really need your help.”
She turned on the voice recorder on her phone, letting it pick up the silence. She gave it a moment, then continued talking. “There’s a curse on New Winslow. You remember New Winslow, right? You lived there. And I’m sorry you couldn’t go back. I’m sorry you died so young, you deserve better. But I need you. The curse is hurting people and I think it has to do with your friend, Samuel Alderidge. Do you remember Samuel?”
Iris was quiet for a moment, giving him time to answer. If he wanted to speak to her through EVPs, she would gladly take that. “I know you’re here,” she continued. “I just heard your footsteps. This was where you lived, right? This was your home? Did you come home anyway? Billy, I can’t reach Samuel or his mother and I don’t know what to do. But I think maybe you could reach them for me. Could you do that?”
She waited for another long moment, feeling somewhat foolish. Even after years of working in this field, she always felt a little silly doing EVPs. “I’m going to be quiet for a moment,” she said. “And you can tell me anything you want to. I’ll listen to this when I leave. Just please, if you hear this, I really need you. You might be my last hope.”
She set her phone down to record the empty room and waited for a long moment. Last night’s events were still lingering in her mind, even after doing everything she could to cleanse and purify herself after Andrew had left. She should do the spirit board after this, but maybe she should come back later to try that approach instead of cramming both into one brief session. And not just because she wanted to go home and sleep for ten hours. And after five minutes of silence, she picked up her phone and headed out to do just that.
So of course she heard the last voice she wanted to hear as she was descending the staircase. Vivien was lounging on an antique chair in the main foyer, her luggage beside her. “I heard you up there,” Vivien said, flashing dazzling white teeth as Iris reluctantly walked into the foyer.
Her smile faded as she studied Iris for a moment. “Something happened,” Vivien said. “You smell like smoke.”
She didn’t, not after three showers. But it was probably still lingering in her aura. “You must let me help you,” VivIen continued as Iris gazed longingly at the front door. “Not tonight, I’m teaching a class in an hour and then I’ve got clients to see for energy wiping. But we’ll find him. That little boy is up there, I’m sure of it.”