Sinister: A Paranormal Fantasy (Sinisters Book 1) (17 page)

BOOK: Sinister: A Paranormal Fantasy (Sinisters Book 1)
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He turned off the lights for bed shortly after that, but it was a long time before he fell asleep. When he finally did, his dreams were of glowing amulets, red eyes, and a man chasing him with a knife.

Ϯ

Matt awoke with a feeling of dread that he couldn't place. He opened his eyes and looked around his room. Sunlight streamed in through the open blinds. It was the first time the clouds had lifted in half a month, but he still couldn't shake the feeling that something was horribly wrong. A silver urn wandered across the carpet on two stumpy legs, but he didn't blink. There was a reason he felt this way—a real reason, not one of the strange intuitions he'd been having lately. His eyes fell on his laptop computer and it all came flooding back. He bolted upright.

With trembling fingers, he grabbed his phone and dialed Anna's number. It rang once, twice, a third time. What if something had happened to her while he slept? He should have called her last night and told her what he'd learned. He should have—

"'Ello?" A sleepy voice answered.

"Hey." His voice came out breathy with relief.

"Matt? Why are you calling me at 7 in the morning?"

Belatedly he glanced at his clock. It read 7:10, too early even for his mom to bug him about getting ready for church.

"Mmm kay, I'm going back to sleep." He could hear the rustling of sheets over the phone.

"Wait!" She was up now, and he wanted to talk to someone about his discoveries. "I need to tell you what I found out last night."

He filled her in on the details of the murders, emphasizing the fact that they were all lefties. When he finished, a brief silence ensued.

"Wow," she said at last, sounding much more awake. "But you don't know for sure if they were sinisters?"

He shook his head, then, realizing she couldn't see him, added, "No."

"We need to find that out! We should talk to Luke."

He'd hesitated to mention his suspicions about the devil, since the only proof he had was his feelings, but he knew now was the time to tell her.

"About that...are you sure we can trust him?"

"Yeah, why wouldn't we?" He could hear her frown through the phone.

"He's lying to us," he blurted. "I don't know why or what exactly he's lying about, but I know there's more to this thing with Caracalla than he lets on. You know how he said he's not allowed to tell us what Caracalla's doing? That's not true." He flopped back on his bed, the pillows letting out a
whuff
of air as he hit them.

"Oh...kay." There was another rustle of sheets, and it sounded like she was getting out of bed. "Why would he lie?"

Since it sounded like she was asking herself more than him, Matt didn't answer. He was surprised she didn't ask how he knew or if he was sure, but Anna seemed a lot more willing to take things on faith than he was.

"Do you think," she continued, "that maybe he just doesn't know?"

Matt had wondered that himself, but he was starting to think there was more to it. Why would the devil, with his direct connection to God, not know what some measly human was doing? He found that hard to believe. And anyway, why wouldn’t he tell them if that were the case? He asked Anna as much.

"Maybe he was afraid of losing face. Look," she said, her tone patient, "You know Luke's lying because you can feel it, right? Well, I know that we can trust him, even if I don't know why. You have to trust me on this."

He swallowed the protest that was already formed on his lips. She had a point. He couldn't expect her to take him at his word if he didn't return the same faith. Still...

"How can we trust him if we know he's lying to us?"

"Haven't you ever lied to someone for a good cause?" It sounded like she was walking now, and he heard a door close. "Like, you probably haven't told many people you're working for the devil, right?"

I haven't told anyone, he thought. "Yeah, but that's different. I mean, who would believe me? Luke's just lying because, at best, he doesn't want to look stupid." And, at worst, he was plotting to steal their souls.

"I don't think that's it." She sounded pensive. "Can you imagine being one of the most powerful creatures in the world and then having to ask some humans to do something because you can't? It'd be like a bear asking an ant to carry his dinner because it's too heavy for him."

"Ants are actually really strong," he said before he could stop himself. "They can carry ten times their body weight."

"I know they are, Matt, that's not my point!" She sounded exasperated. "Ten times their weight is still a whole lot less than a bear."

He tried to imagine it from Luke's perspective. He was the devil, responsible for maintaining the entire balance of good and evil in the world. Despite that, he couldn't figure out what one of his own people was doing. He could see why the guy would feel stupid telling them that. How much would an eternal being worry about appearances, though? He was getting more confused than ever talking to Anna.

"We need to just ask him." He heard the sound of water running. "I'm all ready; want to meet in hell in a few minutes? We can go talk to Luke. If we can find him."

The only way out was further in, it seemed. "See you then."

Ϯ

Water sprayed from the faucet, splashing off the ceramic basin; droplets darkened his blue shirt to black where they hit. The hiss turned to a gargle as he stuck his toothbrush under the stream, wetting the paste. Minty freshness filled his mouth as he brushed and spat, then rinsed with a handful of water.

He ran his tongue over his teeth, enjoying the smooth feel. Not quite as clean as they could be, he thought. He removed the cap and squeezed another dollop of paste onto the brush.

As he turned on the tap again, it occurred to him that he was stalling. He'd told Anna he'd meet her once he'd gotten ready for the day, but he was reluctant to actually make the trip. For one, he didn't particularly want to talk to Luke. The angel had lied to them once already, so it wasn't as though he could trust anything he said this time. And, he reluctantly admitted to himself, he dreaded getting confirmation that the three murder victims were all sinisters. If that were the case, he and Anna were in a lot of trouble.

His toothbrush clattered as he tossed it into the plastic cup that rested next to the sink. With a fortifying breath, he returned to his room.

The desk loomed large in the corner, and he took careful steps over his bedding to reach it. The drawer scratched along the frame as he slid it open, making a noise like a cat sharpening its claws. He looked down. The amulet lay just where he'd left it, looking innocuous. Matt gingerly reached in to grab it, then stopped, his hand hovering inches above the stone. Luke had said the amulet would protect and transport them, but he wasn't in the mood to trust Luke's word. Or anything he'd given them. As he stood frozen, torn between keeping his plans with Anna and keeping himself safe, he longed for the simpler days before the devil had appeared in his life. Had he ever thought his life was boring? No wonder an old Chinese proverb said interesting times were a curse.

Of course, he had promised he’d meet Anna in the gathering room, and he didn’t want to break a promise. The image of the room sprang into his mind as he thought of it, the edges sharp like no memory he'd ever known. He could practically smell the wood smoke.

His left hand suddenly began to burn, starting in the palm but quickly spreading up his arm. He gasped and snatched his hand back from the amulet, but the burning continued. Could the amulet somehow work when he was just near it? He massaged his palm with his right thumb, trying to stop the tingling. His bedroom wavered around him, and the image of hell's living room stood sharper than ever. Panicked, he slammed the drawer shut. The burning spread through his chest.

Did he even need to fight this? It was exactly what he wanted. He could meet with Anna without touching the amulet. He relaxed and let the fire take him.

He landed with only a faint need to cough, which he took as a sign that he was getting better at the transport. As he opened his eyes, he spotted Seiko and Mkembe, and as he waved he vaguely wondered if they had ever left. Maybe they didn't like the means of transportation any more than he did. His body still tingled, though the burning had ended as abruptly as ever. And he'd done it without the amulet...

It was both amazing and infuriating. On the one hand, he—without any aid—had transported to hell. On the other hand, Luke had said he needed it the necklace to get here, and that clearly wasn't true. Yet another lie to add to the rapidly growing list. The evidence was piling up against the devil.

Matt took a closer look at the people in the room. Aside from the older pair he'd already greeted, there was a pair of men sparring on the mats. Though the men had fierce expressions, they looked like the type of people who, should you be lost in a bad neighborhood, would direct you to a safe place rather than try to mug you. Seiko and Mkembe had seemed likewise friendly when he'd spoken with them; and Elias, while slightly terrifying, appeared to be a good guy.

Why would all of them help Luke if he was hurting people?

He ran a hand through his hair. Would he ever get a straight answer? So much for Anna's plan to talk to Luke. The guy wasn't even here. He looked over the room making sure he hadn’t missed the devil lurking in some shadow, and he noticed something strange about the place.

"Hello hello!" Anna suddenly stood next to him, sounding as chipper as ever.

"Hey," he answered distractedly. His eyes were scanning the room, checking to see if he'd missed it.

'"Whatcha looking for?" She'd picked up on his search.

"I..." He stopped searching and asked in a low voice, "Do you see a door to this room?"

She frowned but looked around. After a minute, she shook her head.

"Doesn't that seem weird? I mean, this is hell, right? Presumably there's a lot more of it." The thoughts were falling in place as he spoke, so he stopped to let them settle before continuing. "It's as if this room was built so people can only transport here, and nowhere else. It seems to me like we're not allowed in the rest of hell. Like Luke's trapping us here."

Anna gaped at him. It was a little farfetched, he supposed, but the more he thought about it, the more confident he became that this was the case.
Why build a room with no doors if not to keep people in?

"What if he wants to keep everything else out?" Her question so closely matched his thoughts that for a second he thought he'd spoken them aloud. "Like you said, this is hell. Those little weird creatures are probably the least of what's out there."

It was possible, he supposed. It seemed like it would be easier to lock the door than completely seal the room, though. Besides, this room was for sinisters. They ought to know how to deal with a few errant souls.

"It's not just that. I transported here without the amulet."

"No!"

Her response seemed to be a statement of surprise more than disbelief, so he didn't answer. They were still standing in the middle of the room, he realized, whispering. He could feel Seiko watching them curiously. He cast his awareness toward the grunts coming from the mats, but the sparring men were utterly focused on their fight. He reeled his attention back in. It was getting easier to control.

"Do you think I can too?" she asked eagerly.

He shrugged and folded his arms across his chest. The fire was halfway across the room where the heat couldn't be felt, and his T-shirt was a flimsy barrier against the cold.

Anna cocked her head, something she did every time she was thinking. She looked like Chief, he thought with a slight smile. His dog did that every time Matt spoke to her.

"If the amulet doesn't really do what Luke said it does...what does it do?"

It was the same thing he'd been wondering, though he didn't know how to figure it out.

"I'm going back," he announced.

'But we haven't even talked to Luke!"

He ran his hand through his hair again. He wondered where he'd picked up that habit; it was new, but at the rate he was going, he'd likely be bald before his twentieth birthday. "I don't care. I'm going back, and I'm going to beat answers out of that amulet if I die trying."

If he couldn’t get the answers from that, then Luke had a lot of explaining to do. Matt just couldn’t imagine forcing the devil to tell him anything. Ever since he’d heard about the murders, he’d had the frantic feeling that there was little time left before the world came caving in. He needed answers fast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

 

 

 

 

Someone was pounding on his door. It was the first thing he noticed when he returned to his room, and by the angry cadence to the knocks, he could tell they had started a while ago.

He wrenched open the door to find a fist three inches from his chin. The hand lowered, and both it and its mate landed on Carrie's hips.

"What have you been doing?" she demanded. "I've been knocking forever!"

He said the first plausible thing that came to mind. "I had headphones on. What do you want?"

"You were supposed to help me with my project! Did you talk to Sarah's dad? You promised." Some people would sound whiny when they said this; Carrie just stated the facts. Things had always been black-and-white for her; if you said you would do something, you did it. If you didn't, you were a terrible person never to be trusted again. He wondered if he'd ever had such a simple view of the world.

"Why do I have to do your homework?" he asked, leaning against the doorframe.

She pursed her lips and gave him a look. "C'mon, Matt, you're friends with the daughter of the police chief. I'm doing a project on local government, so I need to talk to someone in the local government. He counts. It's simple."

He stood in silence, just to annoy her, until she gave a huff of frustration. He smiled. At least pestering his sister was still fun. "I know, squirt. I talked to Sarah last night. Her dad is off today and she said you can go over whenever."

She cracked a smile, irritation forgotten now that he'd followed through. "Thanks! Aren't you coming too?"

"I wasn't..." He paused as a thought occurred to him. "What exactly are you going to be talking to him about?"

She waved one hand. "You know, just what it's like to do his job, what he's working on, how he fits into the political leadership of the city, blah blah blah."

"So you'll ask him about the current cases?" He tried to make the question sound casual, but some of his urgency must have come through because Carrie gave him a puzzled look.

"Duh. That's his job."

"Okay, I'll come."

The giant knot that had formed in his gut the night before tightened, as if in agreement. Forget asking Luke about the murders; he could go straight to the man responsible for solving them to get details. He had no proof, but he knew they were related to Caracalla. He frowned. When had he started putting such stock in what his gut told him? He'd always thought facts were the only thing that could be relied on, and yet somehow here he was, chasing a feeling.

As he considered this, a flash of gold caught his eye. It seemed to be coming from Carrie. He peered at her, searching for the color. Almost without realizing what he was doing, he stretched out his consciousness to check her emotional state. He connected to her with an almost audible snap. She seemed mostly happy, and...he sucked in a deep breath. The air around her was filled with a soft yellow light, looking like some made-for-TV movie's version of angelic light. What was that?

"What?" his sister asked.

"What?" He started.

Carrie was looking at him askew. "What are you looking at? You're staring at me and it's weird."

Teal streaks formed in the light around her. He felt her emotions shift toward curiosity, and somehow he knew that the teal represented that. He looked down at his arms and was unsurprised to find them covered in a roiling storm of purple. The corresponding emotion came to mind instantly: anxiety. It was as if he had known what the emotion would look like before he even consciously realized he was seeing emotions. He touched his arm and felt as though he'd stuck his hand into a vat of honey. He pulled his hand back and streaks of purple dripped from his fingertips. Acting on instinct, he pinched a bit between his thumb and forefinger and drew it out like taffy, then tossed it toward Carrie.

"What are you doing?" she demanded. He ignored her. The strand stretched across the gap between them and attached to the light surrounding her, now a mix of teal and red. Red for anger, he thought, though in this case it was more annoyance than anything. Purple began to bleed into her emotions, and she shivered. He tugged on the strand and willed it to flow the other direction. He didn't want her anxious too; he just wanted to borrow some of her emotion— though preferably when she was happier.

"Nothing. When do you want to go to Sarah's?" It was hard to keep focus on the connection while talking, but he clung on grimly.

She eyed him curiously, but the red bled out of her aura before she answered, "How about after lunch?"

"Sure," he spat out the word, attention back on the connection. He tugged.

Teal and gold flowed down the connection, surrounding him. He felt a weight lift off him he hadn't realized was there, as if he'd dropped his backpack on the ground after a long day at school. He felt good. Better than he had in a long time, in fact.

Carrie hugged her arms around her, as if she were trying to hold her emotions to her. She shivered again. What was he doing to her? Matt severed the line, suddenly disgusted with himself. He had acted without thinking about what he was doing, and it seemed as though the connection was hurting his little sister. This was the same little girl he'd picked up when she was three and had tripped over a loose brick in the patio, scraping the skin off both her arms. The same girl he'd walked to her first day of kindergarten because she'd thought going to school meant being in class with her big brother. This wasn't someone he ever wanted to hurt. He had to admit, though, borrowing her emotions had made him feel better. More powerful, in fact, but he pushed that thought away. He wasn't going to do anything that hurt her.

Matt reached out and hugged his little sister, something so out of character that she stiffened before hugging him back.

"Uh...okay. After lunch." She ran down the stairs, feet pounding on the steps, but he continued to stand in the doorway long after she'd left. He couldn't just feel others' emotions, it seemed. He could see and control them as well. Luke had said he and Caracalla had the same powers, ones that no one else had. If that were true, it meant Caracalla could control not just the souls he called from hell, but everyone around him as well. What would such power do to a person?

Ϯ

The house smelled of nutmeg and pine. The combination always made him think of Sarah. Her house had smelled that way since the first time he could remember coming here, and probably long before. Matt sat at the kitchen table with a mug of hot chocolate, courtesy of Sarah's mom. He loved going to the Fletchers’ house. Although the Fletchers had known Matt when he was still inside the womb, they treated him like an adult and always fed him well. He grabbed another sugar cookie from the plate in front of him and bit into it. The taste of butter crumbled into his mouth, and he let out a sigh of pleasure. He wished his mom was more like her best friend at times. Mrs. Fletcher was a stay-at-home mom and was constantly baking. She always welcomed him with a hug and a cookie. Though she and Matt's mom had gone to college together and been close friends ever since, Irene was more likely to greet him with a washcloth and an order to clean than a cookie.

"I don't get out in the field much anymore," Mr. Fletcher was telling Carrie. "Most of my work involves talking on the phone. I also meet with my detectives regularly to be appraised of their progress on cases, and I deal with any personnel problems that might arise."

His little sister also had one hand wrapped around a mug and a cookie in her mouth. Her left hand was busy scribbling notes as Sarah's dad talked.

"Wa cather the wa king ah?" she asked through a mouthful of cookie. Matt shot her a look and she swallowed hastily. "Sorry. What cases are they working on?"

Mr. Fletcher took a slurp of coffee before responding. He had a hump of a stomach that reminded Matt of a backwards camel, but he filled it with coffee instead of water. A trim mustache graced his upper lip, and what hair was left on his head was a silvery gray.

"The usual ones, for the most part. We always have robberies to deal with and missing persons reports that usually amount to nothing." He raised the mug to his mouth again and looked down in dismay as he realized it was empty. He rose from his chair and made his way across the kitchen.

"What about the murders?" Matt asked. It wasn't exactly subtle, but they'd been talking for nearly half an hour and neither the police chief nor Carrie had so much as mentioned them.

Mr. Fletcher grimaced. "Ah, the murders. I suppose that's on everyone's mind right now, though we've been trying to keep it as quiet as possible. The newspapers are having a field day."

He refilled his mug and returned to the table. "I can't tell you much about an ongoing investigation, mind you. We can't have confidential information getting out, but..." He shook his head. "It's bizarre, truly. I've worked many a case in my day, and this may be the strangest one I've seen yet."

A tingle ran down Matt's spine. It seemed his instincts might be right after all.

"None of this is to be repeated." He fixed them all with a stern look, and Matt suppressed a smile. Every time there was an interesting case at work, Mr. Fletcher would tell them he couldn't talk about it and then proceed to tell them nearly every detail of the case.

"We've declared the cases all homicides, to be sure. Betty Fossey was the key; she supposedly drowned but her lungs had no water in them. The thing is...we don't have any idea how they died. The autopsy reports make it seem like..." He shook his head in bafflement. "It looks like all three of them had massive brain aneurisms. Normally that's indication of a natural death, but for it to happen to three people, all found under such suspicious circumstances? Trauma and drug abuse can cause them, but the coroner would have found evidence of those. It's as though they all just dropped dead."

He sat back in his chair and picked up a cookie. Matt set his down, suddenly not hungry. The talk of bodies and autopsies was making him feel queasy. The strange cause of death seemed to support his theory, at least. His stomach clenched at the thought. Was Caracalla responsible, as Luke had indicated? Or was it Luke himself? Anna wanted to trust the devil, and his gut told him the deaths were caused by Caracalla, but he couldn’t explain the fact that Luke was lying to them about something. He just didn’t know if that something was merely his lack of information, or something far worse.

Ϯ

Soccer practice was supposed to be easy that day. Then again, it was supposed to be fun, and Matt wasn’t enjoying himself at all.

He'd spent all of Sunday afternoon poking, prodding, and generally doing what he could to make the amulet reveal its secrets. He'd stopped short of physically mutilating the amulet, but his growing frustration was making that seem like a better and better option. On top of that, the temperature had plummeted overnight, leaving a fine coating of frost on the grass that had sparkled like broken glass. Matt could barely feel his fingers as he sprinted after the ball, feet sliding on the ice.

Jorge reached the ball first and kicked it to the far side of the field. Damien took possession, and Jorge threw Matt an apologetic look. Though Jorge was on Damien’s team for the scrimmage, he was well aware of the rivalry between Damien and Matt and tried not to make Damien look too good.

Matt sprinted back to the far side of the field, his breath rasping harshly as his lungs tried to warm the cold air. One of his teammates grabbed the ball and passed it over to him. He dribbled up the field, watching out of the corner of his eye for competitors. He started to reach his mind out, feeling for the emotions of his fellow players, but hesitated. Would it be fair to use that connection to see where his opponents were? No one else could, but then again, plenty of people couldn't sprint like Usain Bolt, but that didn't stop the man from breaking world records.

Wrapped up in his thoughts, he failed to see the attack coming.

Wham!
Something smashed between his shoulder blades with enough force to throw him forward. His feet got tangled in the ball and he fell, instinctively sticking his hands out to catch himself. He hands hit first, quickly followed by his knees crashing into the ground to take most of the force of the fall.

Coach’s whistle blew in the background as Matt lay on the ground, assessing his new injuries. His back throbbed and he could feel a bruise starting to form on his right knee from where it had landed on a rock. He winced, pushed himself off the ground with his good hand, and turned around. He wasn’t even slightly surprised to see Damien behind him.

“Whoops, my bad.” Damien’s grin didn’t look particularly apologetic. Matt could feel anger welling inside him. He instinctively started to push it down and then stopped. Being polite wasn’t the same as getting pushed around, and he was tired of dealing with Damien.

“You. Need. To. Back. Off.” Matt accented each word with a poke to Damien’s chest. The boy’s eyes widened, caught off guard by his rival’s sudden change of behavior. “I am sick and tired of dealing with you. It’s pathetic that you cheat to win the starting spot, and it’s even more pathetic that you push around other people to make yourself feel better about your own pathetic life. You need to stop cheating and stop bothering me. Or I’ll make it happen.”

Bam!
Damien’s fist thudded into Matt’s stomach, making him curl over in agony. He gasped for breath, which flooded down his throat like fire.

BOOK: Sinister: A Paranormal Fantasy (Sinisters Book 1)
7.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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