“Is this leaving a bruise?” I ask.

Thomas peers at me. “Nah,” he says. “Will can’t hit for beans, I guess.”

“Good,” I reply. “My mom’s getting seriously tired of doctoring me. I think she’s done more healing spells on this trip than our last twelve trips combined.”

“This was different for you, wasn’t it?” Carmel asks between bites of chicken and Monterey Jack. “Anna really knocked you for a loop.”

I nod. “Anna, and you, and Thomas. I’ve never faced anything like her. And I’ve never had to ask civilians to come take care of a haunting with me.”

“I think it’s a sign,” Thomas says with his mouth full. “I think it means you should stay. Give the ghosts a rest for a little bit.”

I take a deep breath. This is probably the only time in my life that I could be tempted by that. I remember being younger, before my dad was killed, and thinking that it might be nice if he gave it up for a while. That it might be nice to stay in one place, and make some friends, and have him just play baseball with me on a Saturday afternoon instead of being on the phone with some occultist or burying his nose in some old moldy book. But all kids feel that way about their parents and their jobs, not just the ones whose parents are ghost hunters.

Now I’m having that feeling again. It would be nice to stay in this house. It’s cozy and it has a nice kitchen. And it would be cool to be able to hang out with Carmel and Thomas, and Anna. We could graduate together, maybe go to college near each other. It’d be almost normal. Just me, my best friends, and my dead girl.

The idea is so ridiculous that I snort.

“What?” Thomas asks.

“There’s nobody else to do what I do,” I reply. “Even if Anna isn’t killing anymore, other ghosts are. I need to get my knife back. And I’m going to have to get back to work, eventually.”

Thomas looks crestfallen. Carmel clears her throat.

“So, how do we get the knife back?” she asks.

“He’s obviously in no mood to just hand it over,” Thomas says sulkily.

“You know, my parents are friends with his parents,” Carmel suggests. “I could ask them to lean on them, you know, tell them that Will stole some big family heirloom. It wouldn’t be lying.”

“I don’t want to answer that many questions about why my big family heirloom is a deadly looking knife,” I say. “Besides, I don’t think parents are enough pressure this time. We’re going to have to steal it.”

“Break in and steal it?” Thomas asks. “You’re nuts.”

“Not that nuts.” Carmel shrugs. “I’ve got a key to his house. My parents are friends with his, remember? We’ve got keys to each other’s houses in case somebody gets locked out, or a key gets lost, or somebody needs to check in while the other is out of town.”

“How quaint,” I say, and she smirks.

“My parents have keys for half the neighborhood. Everyone is just dying to exchange with us. But Will’s family is the only one with a copy of ours.” She shrugs again. “Sometimes it pays to have a whole city up your butt. Mostly it’s just annoying.”

Of course Thomas and I have no idea what she means. We’ve grown up with weird witch parents. People wouldn’t exchange keys with us in a million years.

“So when do we do it?” Thomas asks.

“ASAP,” I say. “Sometime when no one’s there. During the day. Early, right after he leaves for school.”

“But he’ll probably have the knife on him,” Thomas says.

Carmel pulls her phone out. “I’ll start a rumor that he’s been carrying a knife around school and someone should report him. He’ll hear about it before morning and play it safe.”

“Unless he decides to just stay home,” Thomas says.

I give him a look. “Have you ever heard the term ‘Doubting Thomas’?”

“Doesn’t apply,” he replies smugly. “That refers to someone being skeptical. I’m not skeptical. I’m pessimistic.”

“Thomas,” Carmel croons. “I never knew you were such a brain.” Her fingers work feverishly at her phone keypad. She’s already sent three messages and gotten two back.

“Enough, you two,” I say. “We’re going in tomorrow morning. I guess we’ll miss first and second period, probably.”

“That’s okay,” Carmel says. “Those were the two periods we made it to today.”

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