Yesterday morning we got back to Jade’s before 7, just like Mercy said we should. Jade was wearing a black sheet again, but this time she was sitting on the black futon, and the black curtains on the far were drawn back to reveal a deck that was absolutely crammed full of plants. The sliding door was wide open and Jade was smoking a joint and staring fixedly at the green. She was rocking just slightly.
“…is she okay?” I whispered.
Julian glanced at her, and must have guessed that I was really hoping that whatever state she was in wasn’t my fault because he said, “she’s totally fine. This is normal.”
Normal is on a sliding scale for me these days.
Mercy and Zinia were in the bedroom getting ready, and when they came out Zinia’s eyes were rolled back in her head so all we could see were the whites.
“Oh good you’re here,” Mercy said. “She’s over the threshold and knows where to go. You can follow us?”
As she spoke Zinia had already crossed the room and was on her way down the stairs.
I must have been bug-eyed because Julian explained as we followed.
“There are different ways to be psychic. Many people see glimpses of the future. Others can hear scraps of your thoughts. Others can see into your past. Zinia is magic sensitive, which just means that while she doesn’t necessarily use magic, she can feel it’s movements, and follow it’s trails. Most people are at least a little magic sensitive — you’ve been around spells a few times, you know that hum you can feel when a spell is about to go off?”
Oh you mean the hum that haunts my nightmares? Yeah I know that hum, Julian.
“Well Zinia has trained to enter a trance that helps her feel that hum even when it’s very faint. It helps her track magic users, or spells.”
“She’s basically a spell bloodhound,” Neal said. He didn’t sound thrilled about this. “It also makes her really good at sensing and clearing hauntings, but that’s not what we’re dealing with today.”
“What are we dealing with today?” I asked, and they both got weirdly mute.
Mercy and Zinia shared a motorcycle, Zinia on the back pointing where she wanted to go and Mercy drove, following her instruction as best she could while staying on the road.
“Remind me why we’re doing this,” Neal sighed, slamming on his breaks at a red light that Mercy blew through.
“You know why,” Julian replied.
“And if that is what this is about, what then?” Neal said, tapping the break with his foot so the car bounced impatiently.
“If what is what this is about?” I asked.
Neither of them answered.
We drove just a few blocks, into slightly more residential parts of the city, places with small yards fenced in with chain-link and grass poking up in the cracks in the pavement. Neither of them said anything but Neal kept taking the turns harder and harder.
Finally we turned onto Ringwood Street, which I noticed because Neal stopped at the corner and swore loudly.
“Shiloh,” he said. “Remember when I said I wouldn’t lie but I wouldn’t promise to tell you everything?”
So I said, “…yeah.”
He didn’t say anything else, just made the turn onto Ringwood and came to a stop behind Zinia and Mercy’s bike.
Zinia was practically running up the walk to a dilapidated old duplex. It was old, probably built before 1920. There was a vegetable patch in the front garden and some discarded plastic kids toys in the grass.
Zinia was trying to walk through the gate without opening it, bouncing off it blindly with increasing desperation. When Mercy opened the gate for her, she lurched up the walk, tripped on the stairs, began banging on the door. Mercy tried to intervene but Zinia fought her.
“I’ve never seen her like this,” Mercy said, looking up at Neal. Her eyes were bright and maybe fearful.
“Shit,” Neal sighed, and knocked on the door.
No one answered. There was no car in the small driveway either.
“They could be at work,” Julian said.
“We’re gonna have to break in,” Mercy said, still struggling against Zinia. “Can you check the doors?”
“We don’t need to go in there,” Neal said.
Zinia banged her poor forehead into the back door with a flat whack and Mercy scowled at him.
“Listen we can just tell you what this is about,” Julian said.
Mercy rolled her eyes. “No offense boys,” she said. “And when there’s some kind of mean beastie out here trying to eat people, I’ll give you a call, but this work, out here, that you’re seeing us try to do? This delicate energy work that you know nothing about? Maybe it’s best if you just leave it to the professionals.”
Listen bitch, if you keep saying mean things to me I’m gonna have to fall in love with you.
“You can help me break in, though,” Mercy went on. “Since that’s what I actually asked you to do.”
Julian looked so awkward I almost laughed, but Neal had become the smug, ice-cold asshole that is his higher being.
“No need,” Neal said, and knelt in the corner of the porch. He lifted the very edge board, revealing a slot of space. Out of it, he pulled a key, which he used to unlock the door. It creaked open, somewhat ominously.
Neal gestured that we could go ahead. Mercy lost control of Zinia and she surged through the doorway.
Mercy hesitated, suddenly uncertain.
“Go on,” Neal smirked. “Isn’t there some delicate energy work you have to do in there?”
There was a crash from inside and Mercy hurried after Zinia.
“Did they not change the locks?” Julian said.
“Nah, they just use the same hiding spot,” Neal replied. “I got lucky.” He was looking at the house with an expression of distaste and resignation.
“You know this means Jon Cooper is probably one of us,” Julian said.
“Oh yeah,” Neal replied and followed Mercy and Zinia into the house.
“What?” I said. “One of you?”
They didn’t answer me. They ignored me entirely.
Instead they stood awkwardly in the little entry, looking at the crooked family photos on the wall. It was a nice little home. Lived in, and a bit shabby, but clearly cared for.
Meanwhile, Zinia was out of control. She had run up the stairs and was banging around up there. I could hear Mercy trying to reason with her.
Finally there was a crash and Mercy yelped and cried, “Enough! Zinia come back to me!”
The scuffling stopped. There was a long quiet. Then Zinia appeared on the stairs. She was staring directly at the Hawthornes.
“Last bedroom on the left,” Neal said. “That one was ours.”
Zinia nodded slowly.
“I’ve never seen anything like this house,” she said.
“Yeah,” Julian sighed. “We know.”
Mercy came to the top of the stairs and glared down at us. “Alright, I’ll bite,” she said. “What are you?”
In the quiet that followed the house phone rang. We all froze, stood in silence as it rang, four excruciating times. Then the voicemail: “Dog saints” and the muffled click of the phone hanging up.
“Jade?” I realized out loud, but Mercy and Zinia were staring at the Hawthornes with this expression of total bewilderment that edged uncomfortably towards awe.
“She couldn’t have just called a cell phone,” Neal said.
“If you were as psychic as Jade is I doubt you’d ever call a normal phone again,” Julian replied. “Come on, I don’t need to be here anymore.”
And now I’m going to leave you guys without any answers, partially because the dumb Hawthornes left me in suspense and I’m bitter so I’m gonna leave you in suspense, too, and partially because our post mates got here and I’m starving lmao. See u Friday 😘