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We were all there that day. It was the day they released him. Kent and I, Bonnie and Simon, Nora and Anthony, Dustin and Patrick, and Darlene – We were all there. We didn't bring the kids. I think it was Nora’s idea to leave them at home. And it was Patrick’s idea to go watch the release. Chad Lamb strode forth from the prison, wearing the smirk that had won us over six long years ago. He stopped at the gate, spotting us. Dustin waved. Darlene raised a finger to her throat and slowly dragged it across in the classic execution motion. Lamb scowled, exited the gate, and turned west, heading for the bus stop. There was an empty lot across from the prison where we waited by our cars. Lamb, I was happy to see, continuously checked over his shoulder as we watched him walk away. He wasn't afraid, but he was cautious. When he disappeared from view, Nora said flatly, “It’s time. We need to go to her now.”
Three years ago, the kids had started having nightmares. They woke up crying, but would refuse to say why. They’d started making up excuses to avoid going to school. And they’d reacted with fear around Mr. Lamb, their charming, engaging new teacher. Finally, over the summer, Patrick and Dustin had taken their adopted daughter, Yuan, to a counselor who’d convinced her to open up. Lamb had touched her. He had also touched several other students. With a little more pressing, Yuan gave a few more names. Dustin and Patrick had gone to their parents and gone to us. It was hard. I didn't want to believe it, but Stan had been so scared. He’d evaded us, refused to answer the questions at first, but finally broke down. He’d been convinced he’d get in trouble. It was the same story for Violet, Eddie, and the twins, Tyler and Beatrice. Lamb had done a real number on them. The police had been wonderful.
Slowly, gradually, the children built up their courage to testify. My stomach twisted as I recalled Violet breaking down in tears on the stand in court. Poor, sweet Violet. Then again, Violet wasn't so sweet anymore. She went from a shy, helpless seven year old victim to a ten year old black belt with a mean streak. Six year old Kayla had the meanest, toughest sister in school. If only Beatrice had been so strong. Once again, I thanked God it hadn't been my Stan. Then felt horrible for the thought. I heard the car stop, and looked up. We were in front of her shop. I could see the other parents waiting in front of the emerald door. “Come on.” Kent said wearily. “She hates it when we’re late for our appointments.”
The shop was crowded with books, animal bones, statues of gods and fairies, strings of strange plants, and several ancient weapons. The glass counter at the back separated the public shop from the private meeting room. Darlene trudged to the counter and hit the bell once. A black curtain, emblazoned with purple eyes, was pulled aside, revealing Coda. “Heya parentals! Today’s the day, ain't it!” Coda was always cheerful, no matter what. He had long, sharp teeth, and nails to match, with eyes as yellow as candle flames. If I’d cared, I might have wondered what he was. The boy wasn't human. She had confirmed that. “I’ll get The Bone Woman, ‘kay?” Coda offered, disappearing back behind the curtain. “Come on!” he called, and we followed as we always had. Nora had found her. I never asked how. The Bone Woman’s might had been proven to me, and her effectiveness was all that mattered to me. We each took our usual seats around The Bone Woman’s table, and waited. Eventually, Coda returned, leading his master by the hand. The Bone Woman’s glass eyes gazed sightlessly over us as Coda gently helped her into her massive, throne like armchair. She had a thick book, bound in a shining white material. We’d seen the book before. She’d shown it to us the first time we’d visited her. The Caligo Veneficus; The Darkest Magic. It was one of only thirteen in the world. The book was bound in the flesh of a murdered priest, the stitching done in human hair, taken from a mother who died in childbirth, and the ink it was written in was mixed with the blood of a hanged man.
“Are you sure?” she asked, breaking the silence.
“We’re sure,” we said in unison. She nodded grimly, flipping the book open to a page near the center. The Iratus Motuus; The Angry Dead. Nora and Anthony looked grim and determined.
Bonnie put her hand on Nora’s shoulder. “Are you sure, honey? Completely sure?”
“This is the only way to make things right,” Anthony said, and Nora nodded.
The Bone Woman shooed Coda away. “I will need the item,” she said as he left. Nora reached into her pocket, and removed a silver necklace. A heart shaped chunk of aquamarine winked cheerfully in the fire and candle light. Anthony swallowed, tears in his eyes, as soon as he saw the necklace. I remembered that necklace. Beatrice’s favorite. She’d been wearing it even when they found her in her room, hanged by her belt. A news article proclaiming Chad Lamb’s coming release from prison clutched in her hand. Nora regretfully handed the jewelry to The Bone Woman. The shaman took it, inspected it, and nodded. “Her soul has left a mark upon this object. It will work. It will call to her.” Coda came back, holding several bottles, cans, and herbs. He dropped these unceremoniously onto the table, and then turned to a shelf in the room, fetching a brass pot from it. He set this on the table too, and vanished again.
As we watched in silence, The Bone Woman went to work. She seemed to not need eyes to identify what was what. She seized a decanter of dark, red wine, pouring it into the pot, and began to chant. Three yellow rose blossoms, a pinch of salt, seven rabbit bones, a lock of red human hair, a handful of grave yard dirt, snake fangs, on and on and on. The brew began to smoke and steam without being boiled, and The Bone Woman’s chanting grew faster and louder. I heard Beatrice’s name sprinkled in the foreign chant. She spoke Lamb’s name as well. Finally, she reached the final stage of it. “Arise, my child, arise, arise, arise! Your killer now walks free, and justice has done not its duty. The time of justice is gone, now comes vengeance. Arise, my child, arise, arise, arise!” There was a burst of sound, and lavender smoke poured from the pot, filling the room and blinding us. A tortured, horrified scream split the air.
The smoke cleared, and The Bone Woman looked at us gravely. “It is done. She shall be waiting for you at the agreed upon place. Go to her. But, Nora, Anthony, be warned. This is not your daughter. This is an instrument of revenge and unholy justice. Remember that.”
The coffin stank. And the body was disgusting. Why did she get this gig? She’d wanted a fresh corpse. The body slowly reassembled, stitching itself back together via the Shaman’s’ dark magic. The Bone Woman. Ah. Her. One of the strongest. Soon, the hands were fully reformed, and she’d slammed upwards, tearing open the coffin’s cherry wood lid. She pushed up, up, up, through the soft, icy Earth, and into the midnight air. The throat fixed itself, and she gulped down oxygen. She didn't need it, but it felt nice for the body. She pulled herself up, settling her feet on the frosty grass. She knew where to go. She rolled her still repairing shoulders, and walked. She was now heading for the iron gates, down the dirt road, towards an abandoned barn that her master had ordered her to proceed to. “They shall be waiting,” he rumbled.
The white dress was tattered, torn, the lace slightly yellowed. She’d lost a shoe on the trip up, and the other on the walk down the hill the grave was on. It was two hours to the barn, and the legs were stiff. The arms swung limply, the feet shuffling and shambling. It grew to be too much effort to keep the mouth closed, and she let it fall open, the tongue rolling out. She felt restless. She wanted to rip, tear, kill, devour. She wanted to get the job over with and go home to the fiery, sulfur-scented fields of home. The crumbling barn appeared, and she vaguely spotted several cars parked. She grimaced. Damn. Late. As she approached, she heard shouting. “The damn witch cheated us! Nothing’s here! God damn it Nora, how could you...” She got to the door, reached up, and ripped it open. Nine living humans looked over at her, startled. One of them took a hesitant step forward. “Be-Beatrice?” the human whispered. She said nothing. She gave only a raspy moan for an answer.
The human drew back, gathering together, whispering, “What did she say for us to do?”
“Uh…We send her to Lamb, I think. Yeah.”
“Okay, okay.” They broke apart, and another one approached. “Es…es vos iratus…mortuus?” he fumbled out uncertainly. His Latin was awful, but she nodded once. She pulled back the blackened lips, showing the sharp teeth granted by the spell. She held up the hands, the black, claw like nails casting shadows.
She gave another raspy, hungry moan, and one of the humans burst into tears. “Send her away, send her away!” she wailed. The one before her pointed back out into the night. “Chad Lamb.” He said firmly. “5831 Carmen Lane. Soon. Within a week. Understood?” She nodded, moaned, and turned, shambling away. Some instinct, evolved from the earliest days of her people, led her back outside, towards town. She did not run. She had time. So much time.
She took back roads, moving like a shadow through trees and backyards, quickly approaching Lamb’s house. She got hungrier with every step. She needed to eat! Good, she was sure the nose was picking up his scent. Finally, thank you high dark master, there was the house. There was her meal.
Chad was still up. On his computer, surfing his ‘special’ sites. Thank God that the American government still hadn't started monitoring what registered sex offenders looked up on the web. He was so engrossed in a newly posted video, that he didn't hear the back door open. Nor did he hear the sound of dirty, cold feet as they padded across his kitchen floor, through his front hall, up his stairs, down his hall, and then finally stopping in front of his closed office. He did finally hear the office door open, and looked up. “WHAT IN THE HELL??!!” he shouted.
Beatrice Mastin was standing in his doorway, staring in at him with puffy, sticky eyes. She smiled at him, filthy fangs filling her mouth. She shuffled through the door, holding out her arms, curling her claws in and out. Chad fell off his chair, his pants around his ankles, scrambling backwards, until he ran into the far wall. Beatrice reached him, and stopped, staring down at him.
The demon requested only one thing from the girl, from far away in another world. It asked her to say something, and she complied. After all, fear made the meat taste better. “I’m hungry, Mr. Lamb.” The man’s screams were almost as sweet as his flesh.