“Ah, lass, the scent in there is a bit overwhelming. Felt me old knees buckling, too,” he said.
Reaching the porch, she sank down to sit on the step. Jamie sat beside her. While he clearly wanted to be concerned for her welfare, he was also anxious to hear about what she might have experienced.
“Jenna…Jenna…did you see? Is he innocent?”
She looked at her uncle sadly. “Uncle Jamie, I saw—but not the present, I’m afraid. I saw Eli Lexington, and he seemed to be really crazy—he believed that his wife was a witch, and that he had to kill her. And he had to kill his sons, because she had already given them to Satan, because they’d wind up in hell.” She realized that she was shaking, her voice tremulous.
“Wonderful. That’s really going to help us.”
The deep, mocking voice came from above and behind her. Sam Hall. He’d slipped out onto the porch as well, concerned or curious.
Jenna figured it was the latter.
She stood, suddenly feeling perfectly fine. It was as if her spine had stiffened so tightly that she gained a half an inch.
“You’re going to tell me that the boy was psychologically shattered by the strict deprivation of anything societal caused by his father’s strange religion, and that caused him to see apparitions in the house?” Sam asked. His eyes were as flat as his words.
“No,” she said equally flatly. “In my mind, Malachi didn’t do it. Excuse me. If John Alden will allow it, I want to see the rest of the house. And, quite frankly, I think we should do this separately.” Of course, Sam was the one who was friends with John Alden—had gone to school with him—not Jamie. And still, Jenna was convinced that if she acted with authority, she would be allowed her exploration. She’d worked against this kind of man before.
Sam shrugged. “We’re here. What the hell.”
Yeah, what the hell. He had written her off as a kook who liked to pretend she was a medium of some kind.
In a way, of course, it was true….
But she was part of Adam Harrison’s Krewe of Hunters, and they offered so much more than Sam seemed to be able to fathom.
Well, they dealt with that belief all the time. She had to bite down and ignore his attitude, and do what she knew she could do.
She stood up and walked back into the house. Part of the stairway was blocked by crime-scene tape; a trail of blood drops ran to the upstairs.
Jenna walked into the room where Malachi’s great-uncle had been killed. The blood spatter was all over the wall. A pillow was soaked in it and had turned a hardened crimson color. She held still for a minute, but felt nothing, and no images came to her mind.
She walked across the hall to the grandmother’s room. The old woman had evidently been caught standing; the blood had soared far across the room in little drops, though the majority was on the floor, in the upper portion of the chalked-out figure there.
Again, she felt nothing. She knew she had to come back. With whatever “gift” she had, history seemed to be coming to her slowly. She’d gotten the seventeenth century today—she’d have to try again later to find out more recent events.
If she could…
She walked down the stairs, quiet and grim. The others were out on the porch.
“I still think you’re crazy,” John Alden told Sam, watching Jenna as she exited the house and joined them. “The kid is—weird. And, in his mind, he probably had good reason to kill his parents. Their brainwashing might have been some kind of mind-torture. And his prints were on the ax. That’s going to go a long way in court, my friend.”
“All right, John,” Sam said, “his prints are on the ax. But, the scenario he describes could account for that. I’ve seen it before. Kid came home and saw the carnage in his house. He was in shock. His parents were on the floor in a pile of blood. He picked up the ax, maybe pulled it out of his mom, threw himself on his parents. He had blood all over him—he couldn’t stand it. He stripped off his clothing. In shock and panic, he raced out into the night. And that’s when I found him.”
“Cool, you tell that to a jury, my friend,” John Alden said. He cast his head to the side. “Crazy, Sam, you’re plum crazy. You don’t need the publicity, God knows! You’re high on a winning streak. In my mind, you’re going to plummet—like a crazy man.”
“John, the kid needs someone,” Sam told him.
John nodded. “Sure. Well, I’m not out to crucify the boy, no matter what you might think. But I am beholden to the people here, and I have to tell you, I’m glad that one is locked up!”
“He’s safe,” Jenna said.
“He’s safe?” Alden asked, and laughed. “Yeah, sure. Well, if that’s all…?”
Sam looked at Jenna, a dry smile curling his lips. “Jenna?”
She forced a smile in return. “That’s all.”
“Thanks again, John,” Sam said. He took Jenna’s arm, leading her down the porch steps. Jamie followed, and they walked across the lawn and down to the curb and Sam’s car. Jenna paused, pulling back, and looked around.
“What?” Sam asked.
“Nothing. Nothing,” she said quietly. But it was something. They were being watched.
She could feel it; she knew it.
Mrs. Lila Newbury was a very thin and nervous woman who sat behind her desk looking as if she wanted to jump up and move away. She fiddled with the things on her desk—a pencil, a stapler and a cup of paper clips. She seemed entirely out of place; the office had been decorated and adorned for Halloween. A carved pumpkin with a battery-powered light grinned evilly from the edge of her desk while garlands in black and orange were strewn around the windows. A paper skeleton dangled from the door, and paper images of black cats were taped here and there, along with typical autumn cornucopia. There were no witches, Sam noted, and he was sure that was because some of the school’s children had to be among the ten percent of the population that was Wiccan.
Lila Newbury looked as if she had been plucked up from a sixties flower garden and thrown into it all.
Sam couldn’t help but think that if this woman was the guidance counselor, many of the kids at the school would wind up like nervous terriers, running back and forth, afraid, and not even close to certain about what they wanted to do with their lives. She hadn’t been there when he’d gone to the high school himself. In fact, he hadn’t seen any of the teachers or office personnel he had known. Sure, he had graduated fourteen years ago; people did move on. Still, there had to be someone here he still knew. He’d look into that later.
“Mrs. Newbury?” he pressed softly. She hadn’t actually agreed to see him. He’d walked in while one of the office girls had been trying to call and warn her that he was there.
“Yes, yes, I’m thinking, of course,” she said.
Thinking, of course. She was thinking of a way to get rid of him.
“When this comes to court…” he warned vaguely.
“We have several hundred students here…I’m trying to recall…Malachi Smith had been pulled out of the public system some time ago. His father—God rest his soul—had decided on homeschooling.”
“But I understand that was prompted by an incident at the school,” Sam said.
“Yes,” she admitted uneasily.
“Can you tell me what happened?” Sam asked.
“He looked at a boy…and the boy was convinced that he had some kind of power that could hurt him,” she said, not looking at Sam, but toward the clock on the wall, as if the clock was going to save her if she just watched the seconds tick by long enough.
“I need to know exactly what happened,” Sam said firmly, leaning forward. He was an attorney with no power as far as law enforcement went, but he was pretty sure she didn’t understand the law at all and that he could bully her. “You’re in danger of obstructing justice, Mrs. Newbury. You can and will be subpoenaed, and if you commit perjury or continue to hinder an investigation into the truth, you can be prosecuted yourself.”
He was glad of his reputation even though it didn’t give him the power to arrest anyone. Mrs. Newbury didn’t seem to know the difference.
“Teachers and counselors can’t be everywhere, you know!” she said, suddenly angry. “The kid seemed to wear a target. Probably because he couldn’t be riled. He was different, and trust me, Mr. Hall, children can be very cruel. They liked to throw food at him in the lunchroom. Well, one of the boys was throwing food at him and he turned and looked at the boy…”
As she continued with the familiar evil-eye story he’d heard a couple of times now, he almost couldn’t wait for her to finish before he blurted out his next question: “And you believed this?” She flushed.
“No, of course not. But we had to call the parents in, and…”
“Well, the boy was David Yates. His father is one of our city councilmen,” she said weakly.
“And he asked that Malachi Smith be expelled—and someone agreed to it?” Sam demanded, outraged.
Lila Newbury shook her head vehemently. “No! It never came to that. Abraham Smith stormed his way in here. He said that he wanted his son out of this horrible place. I helped him arrange for homeschooling.” A pencil suddenly snapped in her fingers. “Look, Mr.
Hall, I did it as much for Malachi as I did for anyone. He was a sweet boy. I liked him, personally. But this is an understaffed facility, like most public venues of education. I couldn’t protect him all the time. He was going to get hurt. Like I said, children can be cruel. And, as we all know, they can be lethal, as well!”
“You just said that Malachi was a sweet boy. Do you really believe that he could have killed anyone?” Sam asked.
She looked away. He thought that she didn’t believe it herself.
But she was a woman without the strength of her own convictions. She’d never stand up for anyone if it was contrary to public opinion.