“So?” she asks. “Aren’t you going to tell me why you’re not in school?”

I take a deep breath. “Something’s happened.”

“What?” Her tone is almost tired, like she half-expects just this sort of bad news. She’s probably always expecting bad news of one kind or another, knowing what I do. “Well?”

I don’t know how to tell her this. She might overreact. But is there such a thing in this situation? Now I’m staring into a very worried and agitated mom-face.

“Theseus Cassio Lowood, you’d better spit it out.”

“Mom,” I say. “Just don’t freak out.”

“Don’t freak out?” Her hands are on her hips now. “What’s going on? I’m getting a very strange vibe here.” Keeping her eyes on me, she stalks into the kitchen and turns on the TV.

“Mom,” I groan, but it’s too late. When I get to the TV to stand beside her, I see flashing police lights, and in the corner, Will and Chase’s class photos. So the story broke. Cops and reporters are flooding across the lawn like ants to a sandwich crust, ready to break it down and carry it away for consumption.

“What is this?” She puts her hand to her mouth. “Oh, Cas, did you know those boys? Oh, how awful. Is that why you’re out of school? Did they shut it down for the day?”

She is trying very hard not to look me in the face. She spit out those civilian questions, but she knows the real score. And she can’t even con herself. After a few more seconds, she shuts the TV back off and nods her head slowly, trying to process.

“Tell me what’s happened.”

“I don’t know quite how.”

“Try.”

So I do. I leave out as many details as I can. Except for the bite wounds. When I tell her about those, she holds her breath.

“You think it was the same?” she asks. “The one that—”

“I know it was. I can feel it.”

“But you don’t know.”

“Mom. I know.” I’m trying to say this stuff gently. Her lips are pressed together so tightly that they’re not even lips anymore. I think she might cry or something.

“You were in that house? Where’s the athame?”

“I don’t know. Just, stay calm. We’re going to need your help.”

She doesn’t say anything. She’s got one hand on her forehead and the other on her hip. She’s looking off into nothing. That deep little wrinkle of distress has appeared on her forehead.

“Help,” she says softly, and then one more time, only harder. “Help.”

I might have put her into some kind of overload coma.

“Okay,” I say gently. “Just stay here. I’ll get this handled, Mom. I promise.”

Anna’s waiting outside, and who knows what’s happening back at the shop. It seems like I’ve taken hours on this errand, but I can’t have been gone more than twenty minutes.

“Pack your things.”

“What?”

“You heard me. Pack your things. This instant. We’re leaving.” She pushes past me and flies up the stairs, presumably to get started. I follow with a groan. There’s no time for this. She’s going to have to calm down and stay put. She can pack me up and toss my stuff into boxes. She can load it into a U-Haul. But my body is not leaving until this ghost is gone.

“Mom,” I say, going after the last of her trailing sweater into my bedroom. “Will you stop flipping out? I’m not leaving.” I pause. Her efficiency is unmatched. All of my socks are already out of my drawer and set in an ordered stack on my dresser. Even the striped ones are to one side of the plain.

“We are leaving,” she says without missing a beat in her ransacking of my room. “If I have to knock you unconscious and drag you from this house, we are leaving.”

“Mom, settle down.”

“Do not tell me to settle down.” The words are delivered in a controlled yell, a yell straight from the pit of her tensed stomach. She stops and stands still with her hands in my half-emptied drawers. “That thing killed my husband.”

“Mom.”

“It’s not going to get you, too.” Hands and socks and boxer shorts start flying again. I wish she hadn’t started with my underwear drawer.

“I have to stop it.”

“Let someone else do it,” she snaps. “I should have told you this before; I should have told you that this wasn’t your duty or your birthright or anything like that after your father died. Other people can do this.”

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