New Winslow S7E49
Judith Perez could not believe she was stuck not only working with Iris Davies, but trusting her as well. She hung up the phone in her office and debated whether or not she should have bitched Iris out instead of just telling her thank you for the information.
The pages still existed. Maybe. A ghost in a lucid dream had informed Iris that they still did. And it was Evelyn Harbinger herself. At least the story Iris had just told explained why Judith couldn’t find burial or family information for Harbinger. If all of Iris’s claims weren’t bullshit, that was.
And the worst part was, Judith knew they weren’t. Iris’s actions were selfish and destructive, but her information was always right. So now Judith had no choice but to believe those missing pages were actually still somewhere in town, right under their noses.
Instead of phoning Iris back and calling her every name she was currently shouting in her head, Judith was going to go out back in the parking lot of the Historical Society and have a cigarette.
She grabbed her pack out of the top drawer of her desk and ducked out the back door of the building, putting the usual brick in place to keep the door ajar. It was beautiful outside this afternoon and even just being out here in the breezeless sun made her feel a little less angry.
At least until she went to light her cigarette and the flame went out. Thinking it was just a onetime issue, Judith flicked the lighter again, relieved as the little flame went up. Then it went out again, instantly, like someone was blowing on it.
Click. Flame. Gone.
Click. Flame. Gone.
And then something blew in her ear, the burst of air like a wind tunnel in February. Judith screamed, the cigarette falling from her lips and into the dirt. As she looked on in horror, it rolled across the parking lot, moving gradually up the small slope of pavement. She should go back inside, but all she could do was watch as it slid into the woods and out of sight.
Spell broken, Judith ran back inside, cursing Iris Davies as she slammed the door shut.
“What the fuck do you mean, the pages aren’t gone?”
Andrew was sitting on the other side of the counter in the metal folding chair that Iris hadn’t gotten around to ever actually moving back into storage. He looked exhausted and, as he gazed bleakly up at her, she had to feel a little bad for dropping this on him.
But then Andrew started laughing. Iris waited patiently for him to calm down, but he kept going, the sound getting more and more hysterical as he stared down at the floor, shaking his head and laughing. Finally, he was wiping away tears and she would have thought he was actually crying if not for the continued giggles that kept escaping until he finally took a breath, wiped his face, and looked up at her.
“So we have not one, not two, but three ghosts,” he said, counting them off on his fingers. “And now those bloody goddamn pages that would have maybe or maybe not told us everything are still around, but who knows where? But that doesn’t matter because you apparently know everything on those pages, even when you’ve told me you clearly do not. So she is either cryptic or wrong. And I don’t know what steps to take because the two spirits who likely know all the answers here tried to kill you and did kill Vivien.”
“Technically only one did that,” Iris said. “But there’s more.”
“Of course there is. Please, continue.”
He waved her on, still dabbing at his eyes. “So, Harbinger says that spirits aren’t actually on the same plane, like within the spiritual world. It’s not always the case, but they rarely interact with each other anymore than typical people interact with them on a regular basis.”
“Wonderful!” Andrew exclaimed. He stood up and started to pace the wooden floor in front of the register. “So all that shit we put Noah through was for nothing and we’re back at square one again.”
“No,” Iris said quickly. “No, nothing like that. But if we’re going to ask spirits to communicate with each other, then we need to offer them vessels that will allow them to do so on the same plane.”
Andrew looked straight at her and Iris went hot and cold at the same time. “Yes,” she confirmed.
“Nobody is forced or tricked into it,” Andrew said, and that bitter shame awoke from where it was always lingering inside her. “Everyone is completely aware of the risks, and we work with professionals.”
“I can do it,” Iris said. “Celine cannot. We aren’t even asking her.”
She didn’t know the details there, beyond a comment Roman made at one point about how Celine couldn’t be a medium. And he’d been very careful with his wording when he’d told her. She expected Andrew to ask questions, but he just nodded. “Done,” he said.
The other option was hanging between them, and Iris knew she should say something. But instead she let it stay, heavy and awful. “I can ask around,” she said.
“Good. I don’t have that kind of ability,” Andrew said. “Noah doesn’t either.”
“I’ll ask some of my contacts,” Iris said, the air still tense around them. “And then we can make a plan. As for the papers…”
“Oh yes, the papers,” said Andrew. “The papers Baxter insists are gone. Lying sack of shit.”
“Or clueless sack of shit. What if he doesn’t know?”
“Then we have to be silent about it,” Andrew said. “If they still exist, and we’re going on the word of yet another ghost you spoke to in a dream, then that’s physical proof that his family knew what happened. And even if all he knows is that they’re involved, he never took steps to change anything. So he’s implicated.”
Iris took a sip of the very strong tea she’d brewed before he got here. Sure, she’d likely have trouble sleeping tonight, but maybe she’d get lucky twice in a day. It was tempting to try to contact Harbinger again, or maybe try lucid dreaming to reach the others. But the idea of catching fire in her bed was terrifying enough that she wasn’t going to even consider it right now.
“Alright, yet another new plan, then,” Andrew said. “Excellent. We contact Billy in ways that do not hurt Noah, do not risk hurting Noah. And we find those papers. Is there anything else you can do that you haven’t yet? Like some kind of other search technique?”
Maybe it was the odd sleep schedule on top of the stress, but Iris had to swallow down her irritation. “No, I’ve done everything I can,” she said, aware of the hard edge in her voice. “Just like you have, haven’t you?”
Andrew looked stung, and she immediately felt bad. “Sorry,” she said. “I just mean, I’ve tried to find them, but I don’t have enough to hold on to if I’ve never seen them. The rest of the book isn’t enough.”
“Right,” he said, nodding. “Perhaps I’ll try tonight as well. Do all I can, after all.”
Shit, this was going downhill again. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean that.”
“It’s fine,” Andrew said, waving her off. “Can’t expect everyone to do everything for me, after all. Thanks for contacting Evelyn.”
“No, that’s not what I meant. I’m happy to do this,” Iris protested. “Come on, Andrew.”
“I need to get back to work,” he said, standing up and turning toward the door. “I’ll be in tomorrow for my shift.”
“Will you just stop?” she snapped.
He turned and looked at her. “I’m sorry, I was being snippy,” she said. “And I know this sucks. Let’s just…can we not fight?”
She waited and finally he softened, relenting with a nod. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s been…it’s been a really bad week. For all of us.”
“I know,” she said.
“I’m sorry you had to witness it.”
“Let’s just focus on the papers for now,” he said. “One project at a time, eh? Give Noah a bit of a break. We’ll find them and hide them from Baxter. Then we can pull them out in front of his fucking face when it’s safe.”
That sounded both satisfying and reasonable. “I am going to ask Roman his thoughts too,” Andrew said. “Maybe talk to Celine.”
“I can handle it.”
She didn’t appreciate the way he rolled his eyes. But that sudden flash of magnified anger seemed to have filtered out of the air between them. And, as Iris caught a glimpse of sparkling specks of light falling in a vaguely phallic pattern down the outer front window of the shop, she couldn’t even blame Roland for it this time.
“I have no idea,” Celine was saying into the phone as she walked around Roman’s guest room. “Though to be honest, I don’t really know anymore than you guys do. Me and Rome tried to get him out of town for years, obviously. But we focused on curse breaking measures, not the history of it.”
Roman watched her as that cute furrow appeared in her brow, that one that showed she was both deeply focused and intrigued by something. “If you’ve tried the most obvious places, I guess we’ll have to get creative. Have we considered breaking into Baxter’s house?”
He shot her a look of alarm, and Celine waved him off with a wink. “No, absolutely not,” she said. “I don’t think it’s even possible to set magic measures like that. I mean, I could maybe try to look into his house with my abilities. But it’ll take some time, if it was even possible.”
Roman wasn’t thrilled with that idea either, but he really didn’t have any room to talk about burning out or pushing to the limits, did he?
Celine hung up the phone a few minutes later and came back over to the table, sitting down and rubbing her face with a groan. “They just can’t keep from loading on more and more,” she said. “It’s like every time we solve something, another four details come up and need to be investigated.”
Roman shrugged. “It’s a curse,” he said. “Of course there’s going to be all different threads to tug on. Some of the things we’ve come up with are just ridiculous, but if we didn’t try them and they were the ones that worked…”
He trailed off as a gentle tapping rang from the window beside them. It was nearly sunset, but there was still enough light to see that nothing was out there. But three gentle taps thudded through the glass again.
“That fucking asshole,” Roman muttered, yanking down the shade.
At least the Countess had every possible magical security measure on it. Maybe Roland would melt if he tried to get through them. Roman could only hope so.