The Ghost and the Graveyard
The End of a Rough Night
"The sun is rising. He'll have to go to ground," Rick said as he reformed inside my attic window. He paced, fists clenching and jaw tight.
"You mean, he'll have to dig a hole, to sleep underground." I was such a rookie.
"Yes, our best chance is to wait and find him during the day. Once he rises, he'll try to find a free coven to protect him."
"Free coven?" I asked, shaking my head.
"Vampires you haven't sentenced to the underworld," Rick clarified.
"What? Living among us?"
"You didn't think they were all behind the gate?"
I scowled. "Yes, actually I did." Now that I thought about it, Prudence had mentioned that Marcus had help from the outside, but the notion that there were supernatural beings living among us, outside the graveyard, hadn't registered until just now. There was so much I didn't understand.
Hands on his hips, Rick snorted, and shook his head. I didn't think he was being critical. More likely, he was frustrated at the turn of events. So was I.
"So how do we find him? Can you hunt him down?"
"We can do it together. If you can cast a spell to determine his general vicinity, I'll be able to track him once we're close."
"Damn, I don't feel good about him being out there."
Rick gave a sideways nod, like any husband in America might give his wife. "I am sorry, mi cielo, that I failed to kill Marcus. This is twice he has evaded me."
"It's my fault. I should have thought of a way to keep Michelle safe. Holy crow! Michelle!" I raced back to the room I'd disguised as her apartment, where I'd left her with Prudence. Prudence was gone, but Michelle sat on my replication of her Pottery Barn sofa, sipping ice water and looking extremely confused. I quickly closed the door to her pseudo-apartment behind me.
"What is going on?" Michelle asked, her head tilted.
"What do you mean?" I squeaked nervously.
"Well, unless I've had the worst nightmare of my life, your house is haunted, your boyfriend is a shape-shifter, and I just survived being possessed by a vampire."
"Worst nightmare of your life," I offered, nodding.
"Hmmm, I don't think so. I'm covered in something gooey that smells like turkey stuffing, and I'm sitting in a room that looks exactly like my apartment did six months ago."
Oh, crap. Michelle had decorated her apartment the same way since college, in neutral tones. But now I remembered that six months ago she'd broken down and redecorated. She'd kept the couch but thrown in some sari print pillows and a jute rug. She'd draped some gauzy stuff over the windows. I'd been to her home. I'd seen the changes. But in the stress of the situation, my brain simply reverted back to the apartment I'd spent most of my college years living in.
"How's this?" I closed my eyes, and the new items appeared in their places.
"Holy shit!" Michelle cried. Her mouth opened and closed several times. "It's really disturbing, like one of those 'find what's different' games. I know this isn't my apartment, but I can't tell you exactly what's different. Tell me what's going on while I try to get my head around what you just did."
I told her. I spilled my guts about everything-Rick, Logan, Prudence, my history and Monk's Cemetery. I told her because she was my best friend, and I trusted her more than anyone. Plus she already knew most of it and, for her own safety, needed to understand the rest. When I was done, she sighed deeply and took my hand in hers.
"So, Rick and Logan are the two guys you were talking about at Valentines?"
"Damn. You know, if I hadn't seen this with my own eyes I would have thought you were crazy."
"I suppose that's why you weren't completely truthful?"
"I forgive you." She gave me a tight hug. "But no more lies, okay? I believe you now so there's no reason to keep this from me anymore."
"Absolutely. But Michelle, I think we should keep this between us. Don't tell Manny. It's too weird." Not telling her husband would be hard for Michelle, but I needed this to stay between us.
"Of course," she said. "Anyone else would either think we were insane or plot some way to use this to their financial advantage. And Manny doesn't need the stress. I love you, Grateful. I wouldn't do that to you."
"Good," I said.
Our conversation was interrupted when Prudence walked in. "Excuse me, but the sun is about to rise, and I was hoping you could name me before it breaks the horizon. I'm not excited about spending another day in this attic."
"What do I need to do?"
She brought me a silver bowl. "Concentrate on me, and who I was will come to you. When you know where I belong, say 'Prudence Meriwether, I release you' and where you release me to." The last part she said in a whisper. "Then you provide a sacrifice of blood, and I will go."
"What do I sacrifice?"
Prudence looked down at her feet. "The bowl needs blood. You used your own in your past life. A sacrifice to open the portal."
"Oh, I see."
I picked up my sword and positioned it on a small table that I conjured. Prudence bowed her head. I took her in. When I say I took her in, I don't mean the normal way, when you see someone on the street and scan the person from head to toe. My magic seemed to bloom and envelope her. Her life played out before my eyes, from her simple beginnings on a farm to her death in this house. Prudence had lived a good life. She'd always been there for others and becoming a nurse was simply an extension of the altruism inherent in her character.
"Prudence Meriwether," I said in a strong, clear voice, "I release you to heaven." I sliced my forearm with as small and gentle a cut as possible and watched a drop of blood drip into the silver bowl.
Prudence's head shot up. With a smile as bright and warm as the sunrise that pressed against the horizon, she broke apart into pieces of light that swirled toward the ceiling. In a funnel cloud of positive energy, she ascended and disappeared beyond my attic to a place I knew somehow was everything she'd wanted it to be.
"Logan," I called, "it's your turn."
He appeared in front of me, looking less excited about the process than Prudence had. "Are you sure there's enough time? We could wait until tomorrow."
"Now, Logan," I said. "Don't put this off."
I concentrated on him. I saw his life in a series of images. He was running through bright green grass in a yard as large as a park. A woman I understood was his mother ran after him, swooped him up and planted a kiss on his cheek. I saw him as a teenager swinging a bat on a baseball field. He was in high school and a girl, maybe seventeen, was under him.
Pictures flashed one after the other, but it was the feelings that came with them that told me about him as a person. I wasn't surprised when I saw him in culinary school and then cooking in a restaurant. A string of relationships flashed through my brain. As thoughtful as Logan had seemed with me, he'd been a selfish lover in the past. But there was another side to him. He could be exceedingly generous with his time and money.
I took Logan in and what my magic told me was that he was balanced-some good, some not so good. But he wasn't evil. He didn't belong in the underworld. If I had to say anything about his soul, it would be that he was unfinished. He was in-between.
But I was the witch, and I needed to send him home. I'd named him Logan, but I sent my magic into him to find his real name. I'd decided. I would send him to heaven, not because it was clear to me that he belonged there but because it was clear he didn't belong anywhere else.
Nothing came to me. It was as if his soul had forgotten its own name. Was this what Prudence warned me about? Was this the great forgetting? Was I too late to save Logan?
My magic receded, spitting Logan out as if I'd rolled him in my mouth like a candy. I wasn't sure what was happening until I turned my head and saw the first rays of light cascade in through my broken attic window on the crest of a warm breeze. The light washed over Michelle's living room, and as it did, my illusion disappeared. My magic evaporated in the light of day. All that was left after the light touched it was a sanded wood floor and chipping white walls. And then it was just me, Michelle, Rick, and a filmy version of Logan, standing in an ordinary attic.
"Sunrise," I said. "I'm sorry, Logan. I'm too late."
Logan was barely visible in the light, a human-shaped outline, but he turned toward me and shrugged, the type of gesture that indicated he was okay with what had occurred. Then he dissolved completely into the light. He was still there, somewhere, in some form. Wearily, I looked toward Rick with no idea what to do next.
"Do you have plastic to cover the window until I can fix it?" he asked.
"In the kitchen, but don't we need to go find us a vampire?" I approached my spell book, which thankfully had not disappeared but rested on a stand at the center of the wood floor, near an antique wooden trunk. The book, at least, was a physical thing that would survive the day. I walked over to it and flipped to Locating Paranormal Entities: Vampires. The spell was complex, and I was fresh out of eye of newt. "How do I create a spell to find Marcus without my magic to conjure these ingredients?" I asked.
"I have all of these at my house," Rick said, "but I think you should get some rest first. You've been up for over twenty-four hours."
"No. We can't lose Marcus."
"Marcus is dead until sunset. You have time, mi cielo. It will be safer if you face Marcus well-rested."
Michelle, who was now sitting on the wood floor, since her couch had disappeared, blinked sleepy eyes at me. The salve on her clothes and in her hair made her look as pitiful as the bags under her eyes.
"Okay, I think you're right. It's time we call it a night. Or a day. Hell, I don't care what you call it. I just need some sleep. Michelle, I'll show you to the shower."
"Thank God," Michelle said.
Rick nodded, then used his super speed to retrieve the plastic wrap and duct tape from the kitchen. While he sealed my broken window, I descended the stairs and put what had happened in a hole in my mind. I shed my magic for a cloak of normalcy like one might change clothes in the morning. I settled Michelle into the guest bathroom with some soap and fresh towels, then flopped onto my own bed. I didn't object when Rick crawled in next to me and wrapped his body around mine. In the safety of his arms, I slept.