Read T*Witches: Don’t Think Twice Online
Authors: H.B. Gilmour,Randi Reisfeld
Cam deliberately avoided mentioning the most recent note to Alex. Even though her scarlet-haired twin acted like the new Six Pack expert, Kristen Hsu was Cam’s friend. And Cam wanted to think over what she’d just learned. All three anonymous notes were in Kris’s style. Obviously sent by someone who knew Cam’s locker combination.
Of course, almost any decent witch or warlock could copy Kristen’s art and open a flimsy hall locker.
Cam decided she’d spill all to Als eventually but for now she wouldn’t think about the mystery in Alex’s presence. She’d figure it out first, alone.
Luckily, barring her twin from a mind break-in
turned out to be a cinch. Emily and Dave had impulsively gone straight from work to some cultural do in Boston. Hence, the kids were free from compulsory family time around the table.
Cam made herself a salad and tuna on toast and took it to her room. She could eat, mull over the notes, and finish her book report. No way would her sister, minus parental supervision, hang in the bedroom.
She had that right. Alex and Dylan gorged on junk food — frozen pizza, cheese sticks, microwave popcorn, Skittles, and soda — which they’d taken into the family room. There, blasting the TV and jamming on guitars, the two were in Friday night pig heaven.
Alex deliberately did not tell Cam about her field trip to Bree’s. Why should she? All this time, Cam had made this big play of wanting Alex involved with her friends. But that clearly stopped short of full disclosure between them on “sensitive” Six Pack issues.
Cam had obeyed instructions to keep Alex away from Bree’s place. So that meant, in a choice between her true-blue buds and a newfound sister, blood came in second. Alex shouldn’t have been surprised, she told herself, or hurt. And if she’d learned a few things on her own, there wasn’t any hurry to share them with a two-timing twin.
Avoiding each other was what they both wanted. So when the family phone rang and Cam grabbed it first, she didn’t bother asking who was calling. She pushed down the feeling that the voice on the other end was vaguely, unsettlingly familiar, and hollered downstairs, “Alex, it’s for you. Someone returning your call.”
As soon as her twin picked up, Cam set down the receiver. Probably one of Alex’s Montana homies, she tried to convince herself, even as her gut told her it was not.
Alex took the call in the kitchen, away from Dylan’s ears.
The caller was Molly McCracken, the photographer’s widow. After some intense Internet detective work — way to be a tracker, Alex thought proudly — she’d found Mrs. McCracken on her own. There were definite advantages to going to a school with an excellent computer lab. As she’d figured, the photographer’s wife and her child were temporarily housed in a shelter in Carlston, California.
Before heading over to Bree’s house, Alex had dialed the shelter’s 800 number and left a message for Molly to call her back.
The moment Cam hung up the phone, Alex explained to the jumpy Molly that she was related to the girl who’d saved her life.
“What do you want?” Molly asked suspiciously. Alex
rushed to assure her that the only thing she wanted was the name and location of the sanitarium where the picture had been snapped.
There was silence on the other end. Alex held her breath. But when Molly finally spoke, it was only to say, “I wish I could help you. I don’t know anything about the picture. I only know that Elias was in California when he took it. But I don’t know where. And now it’s gotten him killed …”
A few hours later, in the still of the night, Alex bolted up in bed. Something was wrong. She glanced over at her sister’s bed. Cam was upright and staring at her.
“What is it?” Alex whispered. “How long have you been up?”
“I didn’t tell you. I should have.” Cam’s voice was hesitant.
That’s why she woke up, Alex thought. Cam’s conscience was bothering her. Well, that was another thing they had in common — so was hers. Relieved, Alex cut in, “There’s something I didn’t tell you, either. About Bree —”
“I got another note,” Cam said at the same time.
“One more thing,” Cam interrupted. “I know who’s been sending them. I just don’t know why —”
Sneaking out of the house in the dead of night required stealth and absolute silence. Cam and Alex were on it.
It was after midnight when they layered up in jeans, matching dark turtlenecks, and multiple sweatshirts under jackets — Cam in her pink ski parka, Alex in an old quilted camo jacket.
Brushing by the full-length mirror, Cam couldn’t help cracking, “Aren’t we the fashionistas? We look like the Riding Hoods: Little Pink and Little Punk.”
They tiptoed downstairs, slipped into their shoes — combat boots for Alex, Timberlands for Cam — and headed over to Kristen Hsu’s house.
The big puzzler? What was Kristen’s connection to their missing mom? How would she know their mother was dying?
Alex tightened her sweatshirt hood against the icy wind and finally said out loud what they’d both been thinking, “Unless she’s Thantos’s latest stooge?”
Their villainous uncle had tried to snare them before, by sending a messenger disguised as a friend. But he’d never used someone in Cam’s closest circle.
Break one: Kristen’s house was within walking distance.
Break two: Cam’s excellence-driven friend had recently moved her bedroom to the basement, where she’d have more space and privacy and could stay up studying late into the night.
Break three: The basement window was accessible from the back of the house.
Alex kept a lookout while Cam knelt in the snow, peering in. As icy slush seeped through her jeans, Cam whined, “Just once, how about you try the sight thing?”
“Mute the moaning, just tell me what you see,” Alex whispered impatiently.
The window was covered by mini-blinds. Cam focused, telescoping in on the big dark room, and saw Kris, asleep, clutching a ragged old teddy bear. Alex raised her
hand to rap on Kris’s window. “You’ll scare her. She’ll scream,” Cam cautioned.
“Better idea?” Alex challenged.
“Um … wiggle the teddy bear to wake her?”
Staring into the dark room, Alex imagined the plush toy rocking back and forth … saw its stiff little stuffed arm poking Kristen gently in the face … on the nose, she thought, amusing herself. One little stuffed sausage of an arm batting Kris’s nose.
“Very funny,” Cam scolded as Kristen’s eyes flew open and she cautiously touched her nose. Cam tapped on the glass and called out quickly, “Kris! It’s Cam! Don’t scream! Come to the window!”
The slender girl was up instantly. And out the door almost as quickly. “What is it? Why are you here? Did something happen?” Kristen was quaking. She’d thrown a robe over her pajamas, but no coat. Her questions were a run-on sentence, punctuated by chattering teeth.
“Kris, I’m sorry we had to do this —” Cam began.
Alex cut to the chase. “Why are you sending us anonymous notes?”
“If you are,” Cam backpedaled, but Kris’s reaction told her it was true.
Alex could hear the girl’s heart quicken and listened
in to her thoughts:
Finally! They figured it out! Please don’t let it be too late!
Kristen didn’t say anything out loud, just rubbed her arms in an attempt to warm up. “Maybe we should go inside,” Cam suggested.
She shook her head, her long, lustrous hair looking enviably unruffled by sleep. “I can’t. We’ll wake them.”
“Then let’s make this quick.” Alex so wished she could say, I know what you’re thinking. All she did say was, “Spill.”
The girl was shaking. Cam slipped off her ski jacket and put it around Kris. Head bent, eyes downcast, Kris admitted quietly, “I only meant to send one.”
It was the answer they expected. Still, Cam was shocked. “But you don’t know anything about her. How could you be sending those messages?”
Kristen’s head snapped up. “Who would know her better than I would?”
Alex tuned in to Kris’s panicked brain.
If they can’t save her, I … I don’t know what to do. She could die
“Who put you up to this?” Alex demanded.
Cam gripped Kris by her shoulders and implored her, “Someone is playing a trick on you, Kris. We know you’re the messenger. Just tell us where she is and how to find her.”
“Don’t worry about Thantos,” Alex added.
“Are you guys insane? She’s at home. Where else would she be?” Frustrated and shivering, Kristen cried out, “And what’s a Thantos?”
“This is our mother we’re talking about!” Cam blurted, louder than she’d intended. “Stop pretending you don’t know.”
“Our birth mother, Miranda, could be dying — and you know it.” You just thought that, Alex wanted to shout. She managed, “Or you wouldn’t be sending us those warnings.”
“Huh?” Kristen stared at Cam, then at Alex.
Alex heard the girl’s heart flutter. She repeated, “Why are you sending us notes about our mother? Who put you up to this?”
And then little Kristen exploded. A volcano of pent-up emotions erupted. She put her fists on her slender hips and, in a voice way too big for such a small-boned girl, shouted, “Your
?! Why would you think for a minute the notes were about your mother? Can you
be that self-absorbed?!”
Cam and Alex were shocked into silence.
“Well, of course they are. I mean, if not her … then … who?” Cam sputtered, wounded.
Confused, Alex asked, “Who are the notes about, then? And why send them to us? Who’s dying?”
Kristen shook her head and sobbed. “I can’t tell you. I promised. If you guys can’t figure it out … I can’t tell.”
Alex got it. “A secret.” She whispered, “Like in your collage. You made a vow to keep a secret. And now you’re choking on it.”
Whose secret would Kris be keeping …? Before Cam finished the question, she knew the answer.
, Cam telepathically reminded her sister.
Small, blond, Alex remembered. And the voice that had been frightened, but whiny, brittle.
It wasn’t our mom. It was Bree!
Cam told her.
It all fits. Bree was in the snow because she was here, not in L.A
, Cam thought,
it happened practically the moment Snibble said, “Does anyone know where Brianna is?”
Alex’s shoulders slumped. She felt horrible — not only for Kristen and Brianna, but for herself and Cam, too. Of course it all fit. Hadn’t she just found out that Bree never went to L.A.? That the girl had self-esteem issues to the max. She — and Cam — had seen and heard only what they’d wanted to instead of what was right in front of them.
Which was worse? Being blind to a friend in need
or taking three giant steps backward in the quest to find their mother? Cam didn’t know. She inhaled the cold air. It stung her throat.
Ileana knew the messages weren’t about our mother
Kristen noticed the silence but not the silent exchange. Cam put her arm around the sobbing girl. “What’s wrong with Brianna?”
“I couldn’t tell. I tried to show you instead.”
“Why’d you pick us?” Alex pretty much knew the answer.
Kristen wiped her eyes on the sleeve of Cam’s jacket and snuffled, “Because I thought you guys could help. Ever since you got here, Cam’s mojo has gone over the top. I thought this would be easy for you. I never imagined you’d be so involved in your own drama, you’d totally be blind to a friend’s — at least not you, Cam.”
Cam winced. Alex grumbled, “Thanks.”
“Just open your eyes!” Kristen implored them. “Bree can’t even see what’s happening to her. How come I’m the only one who can? When I tried to talk to her about it, she just shut down and made me swear not to mention it again, to anyone. But I’m her best friend. I can’t just let it happen.”
The puzzle pieces suddenly and sharply rearranged
themselves. The big clothes that hid Bree’s shrinking body, her sallow complexion, the nonstop exercising, stealth lunch dumps, lying, and secrecy. It was suddenly so obvious.
Brianna Waxman was starving herself to death.
There were many places spirits gathered. The ancient oak in Mariner’s Park was one; the one, Ileana remembered, where Karsh’s great-great-great-grandmother — a healer — had been hanged for practicing witchcraft during the dark days of Salem. The sacred stream that fed Crow Creek was another. And it was there that the twins claimed to have met their grandmother — the late matriarch of the DuBaer family: Leila, mother of Aron, Thantos, and Fredo.
There was another, Ileana suspected. She unfurled her cape and returned to the dark side of Coventry Island, where Crailmore, the DuBaer fortress, stood. The caves of Coventry tunneled directly under the great
stone fortress, where generations of DuBaer witches and warlocks had lived and died. It was there Aron’s spirit was most likely to rest — if it could rest, knowing the perils his children faced at the hands of his murdering brother.
Ileana hurried through the forest, then fought her way through the dense bramble that hid many of the cave entrances. By the time she found the mouth of the largest cavern, her magnificent robe had been snagged on thorns and thistles, and a crown of vines, tree bark, and dead leaves wound through her golden hair. Nevertheless, she had succeeded. Her heart quickened by victory and expectation, she knelt at the entrance to the sacred cave and assembled her tools.
Marjoram and mugwort, Ileana had brought both. Candles made of beeswax; opal, stone of the spirits, and sapphire to help find lost truths; agate geode and quartz crystal both, to concentrate and enhance her psychic powers. Touching her head to the frost-powdered ground, cleansing her hands in the snow, Ileana inscribed a circle around her and, within it, set up her candles and stones and sprinkled both marjoram and mugwort.
Then she recited the Transporter incantation.
A wave of dizziness hit her, forcing her to close her eyes. Immediately, she felt her body being lifted from the ground. A whirling wind coiled around her, droning deafeningly.
She felt as though she were caught in a tornado or a cyclone but one that was oddly warm, and embracing.
Losing all sense of time — and of danger — Ileana allowed herself to be spun in space until, with an unexpected jolt, she was dropped onto a sharp, rocky surface where an icy draft blew.
Slowly opening her eyes, she saw that she was deep inside the cave. No earthly light hinted at an entrance or exit. Yet something bright radiated a few feet before her. A glow that grew brighter and windier and colder.
“At last, you come!” a deep, almost angry voice rang out. It was not Aron’s voice, yet not unlike his.
“I come for Aron DuBaer,” Ileana said with as much courtesy as she could muster. She didn’t like being shouted at. Still, it was important to show respect to the spirits, even bellowing, ill-tempered ones. “Lord Aron, father of the twins Artemis and Apolla,” she explained to the strange light.
As she watched, it changed shape, took shape, transformed, as though through generations, from one murky being into another and another. Hopeful that the light’s journey would end as Aron, Ileana knelt on the floor of the cave and waited as patiently as was possible for her under the circumstances.
“You seek my son?” The smoky form before her took the shape of a woman.
Swallowing her disappointment, hoping the spirit wasn’t really finished morphing, Ileana studied the tall, stiff-shouldered aristocrat who held a cane in one of her age-dappled, bejeweled hands.
Then she realized what the woman had said. “Your son?” Ileana asked.
“Lord Aron DuBaer, father of Artemis and Apolla, husband of the widowed Miranda,” the old lady said in her booming, none-too-friendly voice.
“Then you must be —”
“Your grandmother Leila!”
Ileana shook her head. “You mean, grandmother of the twins, right?”
. The young witch trembled in honest terror.
She’s going to tell me that Fredo is my father
“That dolt!” the spirit Leila said. “My own son, and yet he is incapable of fathering anything but those thickheaded boys; vengeful, wanton dimwits!”
“Vey and Tsuris?” Ileana asked, unimaginably relieved.
The old woman waved her hand dismissively. “Tell me, why do you seek the spirit of my cherished son?”
Did Leila know that Aron had been murdered, Ileana wondered suddenly. Maybe spirits were spared the heartbreak of knowing how their children died. Ileana
didn’t know and didn’t want to be the one to break such news — even if the “news” was fifteen years old.
“Well, well, how thoughtful of you.” Leila laughed. “So there is a kind bone in your body —”
Ileana bristled. “I haven’t much time, your Ladyship —”
“Call me goddess,” Leila snapped.
Ileana was momentarily taken aback. Then she quickly returned to her mission. “Goddess,” she said, “I seek your son to ask him how he was killed. And by whom,” she added softly.
“Child, let me look at you, for who knows when I shall see you again? I am your grandmother. Truly.”
Ileana felt her chin being raised, although the woman before her had not lifted a hand.
“And as ashamed as I am of how your father hurt you,” Leila continued, peering at Ileana with gray eyes, as metallic and gray as the twins’ remarkable eyes and Ileana’s own. “Still more am I ashamed of how I hurt him. My dear Ileana, little goddess — which I called you at your birth — if not for my stubbornness and arrogance, you might never have been cast out. But then, the mighty tracker Karsh would not have reared you. And, truly, he has given you all that your prideful family could not. It turned out for the best. Yet, for my part, I am sorry.”
Ileana heard the droning start up again in her ears. Her head was addled with information and emotions. She wanted to ask the question Karsh had never answered for her — who is my father? Was there another brother no one spoke of who’d sired her? She wanted to be able to talk with Aron, to have him say that, yes, Thantos had murdered him. She would beg his spirit to appear at the dome. She wanted to know exactly what Leila was apologizing for. But the noise, the droning that grew louder by the moment, told her that the wind would whisk her back soon.
“Grandmother,” Ileana called out in desperation.
The single word, like a powerful incantation, quieted the dizzying noise, but only for a moment. Slowly, the whooshing babble and the cave’s cold breath began to well up again.
“Quickly, little goddess mine, choose your question, for each moment that I am in your world, the strength that I brought with me fades.” Leila’s voice had grown soft. The wind in the cave seemed to blow each word away from Ileana’s ears.
She had too many questions. Which one mattered? Which one, she was startled to find herself wondering, should be asked for the good of Coventry Island? The good of the people? Never, in all her years, had Ileana ever considered or cared about such an outcome. Never
had she placed the good of others above her own vain interests.
The fading light before her, the light that was spirit, seemed to glow inside her, to warm and “lighten” her. Ileana began to laugh.
“The question, the question!” Leila’s vanishing voice urged.
The trial, Ileana thought, still smiling, still feeling lighthearted. The trial was important. The twins, equally important. The truth most important of all. The community must know the truth about what happened the morning Artemis and Apolla were born. “Was Aron murdered by his brother?” Ileana asked.
“Yes,” Leila answered.
Ileana knelt. “There is little time, I know. But I beg you. Can you travel with me and reveal that truth to one and all?”
“This is what you wish? You would have me enter the sacred dome?”
“More than anything.”
Leila held Ileana’s eyes a moment more. “My child, little goddess,” she cautioned, “be careful what you wish for.”