New Winslow S7E32
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Iris knew that telling Vivien about Rosalind and Samuel Alderidge was a mistake as soon as she saw the beautiful little car pull up outside of her shop. She looked out the front window and saw Vivien get out of the driver’s seat and start walking toward the front door. “Fuck,” she muttered.
The door swung open, that cheerful little tinkling bell sounding far more ominous at this moment. Vivien smiled at Iris through deep purple lips, but there was malice behind it. “Hello!” she said, picking up a crystal and examining it. She wrinkled her perfect nose, then came further into the shop.
“I’m here to solve your problem,” she said. “Just like I promised.”
“You didn’t tell me you were coming,” Iris said, that faint flicker of hope she was accustomed to having dashed out by Vivien still stirring to life. “My shop is open right now, I have customers.”
Vivien waved her off. “No you don’t, darling. And you should have seen me coming,” she said, then laughed, the sound tinkling like broken glass against Iris’s spine. “Or, I suppose not. Again, nothing personal, but I keep things locked up very tightly.”
She smiled sweetly as her eyes swept over the merchandise on the surrounding shelves, clearly calculating something. “How’s your friend, darling?” she purred. “Back to a life of pain and fear?”
“Back off,” she snapped, before thinking it through.
“Ooooh, protective,” Vivien said, holding up her hands. “That’s new, isn’t it? Like the pretty witch. She’ll be here soon, you know.”
“Did you call her?” Iris asked.
Vivien waved her off. “I don’t need her help,” she said. “In fact, I don’t actually need yours either. It’s all energy, remember? Just energy holding them all in place. They’ll be out of here by dinner.”
She wandered through the small aisles, running her fingers along the shelves in a way that set Iris’s teeth on edge. There was a very learned casualness to her movements, but heavy anger simmered underneath it. And so did the power, that power that both attracted and repulsed Iris. It called to her, and she wasn’t sure was deliberate, but it was so enticing that she nearly forgot, just for a second, what Vivien had done.
“Vivien, why are you here?” she asked, jerking away from that train of thought with a deliberate shake of her head.
“To fix what you can’t, darling.”
She was taking things from the shelves now, easily three hundred dollars worth of merchandise already in her hands. “Get me a basket, will you?” Vivien said carelessly. “No, nevermind.”
With a flick of a full hand, a basket trembled in the corner of the shop, then shot over to Vivien. She took it with a smug smile toward Iris, then kept helping herself to whatever she needed.
Had her power increased since their first attempt to contact Billy McBride? Iris remembered Vivien’s brief moment of hesitation when the spirits began to flow from the door she’d made and couldn’t close. But she’d been powerful then, too. So maybe it was just her control that had improved.
Either way, Iris wasn’t sure there was any way to prevent Vivien from doing whatever she was about to do.
“I’ll be out back,” she said to Iris, as though she was the one in charge in Iris’s own shop.
“Vivien,” Iris said, hurrying out from behind the counter and after her as she went for the back door to Iris’s home. Vivien paused as she put a hand on the knob, then sniffed.
“Outside it is, then,” she said, smoothly moving toward the emergency exit.
Normally an alarm would sound as that door opened, but Vivien must have disengaged it. Or Iris really needed to check in on her system. Either way, the door swung open and the summer evening air drifted into the shop.
Out back there was a tiny patch of grass, not even big enough to be called a yard. A split-rail fence divided it from the property beside hers and it was bordered by a scrubby patch of woods. Vivien went straight to the grass and pulled out her salt.
“Vivien, this isn’t a good idea.”
Vivien swatted a hand in her direction and Iris’s head snapped sideways, sharp pain slashing across her cheek. She could feel blood dripping from the cut and the fear and anger ignited inside her. “Vivien, stop!”
“Don’t tell me what to do, you child!” Vivien snapped, spreading a sloppy circle of salt in wide movements around her. “Your power is absolutely nothing compared to mine and I’ll show you. You don’t mess with me or my business. People are out there thriving who were hopeless before, all because of me. I did that! And you and your friends think you can just tell me what I can and can’t do?”
Another slap from behind the line of salt sent Iris sprawling into the overgrown grass as Vivien laid out candles around the circle. With another sharp movement, they all lit in unison. Then she lit the largest candle Iris had had in stock, holding it in the center of the circle.
“Rosalind Alderidge!” Vivien barked, gazing into the candle. “You are being summoned. Come speak to me and tell me the origins of this curse so that I can cleanse it.”
The candles around her flickered ominously, but Vivien didn’t seem to notice. “Rosalind!” Vivien continued. “I am in control of this interaction and you are going to tell me what you did!”
Smoke curled from the circle right now, curving unnaturally into a translucent dome above Vivien’s head. Iris rushed over to blow out the candles, but Vivien held out a hand and Iris was tossed backward again, away from the ritual. The side of her face scraped against the ground as she landed hard, dirt stinging her eye as she got back to her feet.
And that’s when the fire erupted toward the sky, so bright that the afterimage clouded Iris’s sight as it dropped back down. She heard Vivien scream in pain.
“Rosalind!” Vivien choked out. “Rosalind Alderidge, where are you? Speak to me and I’ll release you from your curse and what you’ve done to yourself and your town. I have the power to do that! I’m your only hope to-“
“Vivien, stop!” Iris yelled as the smoke started curling off of Vivien herself. Again, she moved forward and again, she was rejected, Vivien keeping her out as she fought with Rosalind.
“Vivien, you’re going to get killed!” Iris yelled over the sound of wind whipping up within the circle.
“I know what I’m doing,” Vivien said, despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary.
Then she was in flames, screaming as the fire instantly spread over her body. Iris ran for the fire extinguisher just inside the shop entrance, but Vivien still had her defenses up and the spray bounced off the protective circle. Iris tried frantically to break through it, throwing everything she had at it as Vivien fell to the floor, screaming and wailing, her entire body in flames.
“Rosalind, stop!” Iris yelled, trying to blow out the candles, break them, do anything to get to Vivien. But she’d put up so many wards to keep Iris out that the sphere of protection around her was nearly solid. And now her screams had faded out to a horrible silence as she lay on the floor, the wind dying down around her and the trapped smoke obscuring her from view while the flames continued to crackle.
Iris screamed, barely noticing as the door of her shop opened and someone rushed out. The foam from the fire extinguisher was everywhere, and the smoke lingered in a wide circle around the flames, kept in by Vivien’s shields. A bolt of what looked like lightning flew past Iris and struck the dome around Vivien, bouncing off like it was nothing. Desperate and screaming, Iris grabbed her rusty garden hose and tried to spray it toward the flames, but it bounced off the defense as well until the barrier abruptly flickered out.
And Iris knew only one reason why a defense that powerful and personal would go out so quickly.
Then Celine was there, putting out the fire that was now only on Vivien and the circle of grass surrounding her, keeping herself between Vivien and Iris as Iris tried not to let shock take over. The smoke was clearing now and the sight beyond was enough to make Iris stop in her tracks, rigid, charred limbs coming into focus and she couldn’t move, couldn’t call to Celine to be careful, couldn’t-
“Iris,” Celine said, her hand on Iris’s jaw, gently turning her head away from the sight. “Hey, Iris, no, look at me.”
Celine’s face was close to hers now, pale but forcing a smile. Iris’s head seemed to turn on its own, trying to look back toward the circle. “Hey, no, look at me,” Celine repeated. “Keep your eyes on me, honey.”
Her cold hand still on the side of Iris’s face, Celine walked her toward the back door of the shop, which was still wide open. The further they got from the circle, the more control Iris seemed to have over her body again.
“Call Dr. Degas,” Celine said as they reached the doorway.
“Not the ambulance?” Iris asked, as though maybe there was some hope.
As she went inside to call the police, Iris could hear Roland tapping on the window.