“No. Will took it. But I’ll get it back. It was my father’s; I’m not letting it go.” But then I wonder. “How do you feel it? What do you feel about it?”
“When I first saw you, I didn’t know what it was. It was something in my ears, something in my stomach, just a humming below the music. It’s powerful. And even though I knew it was meant to kill me, it drew me somehow. Then when your friend cut me—”
“He’s not my friend,” I say through my teeth. “Not really.”
“I could feel myself draining into it. Starting to go wherever it is that it sends us. But it was wrong. It has a will of its own. It wanted to be in your hand.”
“So it wouldn’t have killed you,” I say, relieved. I don’t want Will to be able to use my knife. I don’t care how childish that sounds. It’s my knife.
Anna turns away, thinking. “No, it would have killed me,” she says seriously. “Because it isn’t only tied to you. It’s tied to something else. Something dark. When I was bleeding, I could smell something. It reminded me a little of Elias’s pipe.”
I don’t know where the athame’s power comes from, and Gideon has never told me, if he knows. But if that power comes from something dark, then so be it. I use it for something good. As for the smell of Elias’s pipe …
“That was probably just something you were frightened of after watching yourself be murdered,” I say gently. “You know, like dreaming of zombies right after you watch Land of the Dead.”
“Land of the Dead? Is that what you dream about?” she asks. “Boy who kills ghosts for a living?”
“No. I dream about penguins doing bridge construction. Don’t ask why.”
She smiles and tucks her hair behind her ear. When she does I feel a pull somewhere deep in my chest. What am I doing? Why did I come here? I can barely remember.
Somewhere in the house, a door slams. Anna jumps. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her jump before. Her hair lifts up and starts to writhe. She’s like a cat arching its back and puffing its tail.
“What was that?” I ask.
She shakes her head. I can’t tell whether she’s embarrassed or frightened. It looks like both.
“Do you remember what I showed you in the basement?” she asks.
“The tower of dead bodies? No, that slipped my mind. Are you kidding me?”
She laughs nervously, a fake little twinkle.
“They’re still here,” she whispers.
My stomach takes this opportunity to wring itself out, and my feet shift underneath me without permission. The image of all those corpses is fresh in my mind. I can actually smell the green water and rot. The idea that they are now roaming through the house with wills of their own—which is what she’s implying—doesn’t make me happy.
“I guess they’re haunting me now,” she says softly. “That’s why I went outside. They don’t frighten me,” she’s quick to add. “But I can’t stand to see them.” She pauses and crosses her arms over her stomach, sort of hugging herself. “I know what you’re thinking.”
Really? Because I don’t.
“I should lock myself in here with them. It’s my fault, after all.” Her voice isn’t sulky. She’s not asking me to disagree. Her eyes, focused on the floorboards, are earnest. “I wish I could tell them that I’d like to take it back.”
“Would it matter?” I ask quietly. “Would it matter to you if Malvina said she was sorry?”
Anna shakes her head. “Of course not. I’m being stupid.” She glances to the right, just for an instant, but I know she was looking at the broken board where we took her dress out of the floor last night. She seems almost scared of it. Maybe I should get Thomas over here to seal it off or something.
My hand twitches. I gather all my guts and let my hand stray to her shoulder. “You’re not being stupid. We’ll figure something out, Anna. We’ll exorcise them. Morfran will know how to get them to move on.” Everyone deserves some comfort, don’t they? She’s out now; what’s done is done, and she has to find some kind of peace. But even now, dark and distracting memories of what she’s done are racing behind her eyes. How is she supposed to let that go?
Telling her not to torture herself would make it worse. I can’t give her absolution. But I want to make her forget, even just for a while. She was innocent once, and it kills me that she can never be innocent again.