Where were we, Émilie? Oh that’s right. I’d just told you to go fuck yourself. You’ll have to forgive me for that little outburst. But I was quite upset. Because it seemed like you’d knowingly sent me a protégé who is being stalked by a murderous psychopath who is apparently very difficult to kill. Still, at least I now have some idea of who the person who left a dead boy’s face in my kitchen is. Well, not a name. Or a face. But Jo will recognise him when she sees him, and it’s my intention to flush this bastard out as soon as possible. I didn’t move to America to bring serial killers over. There are plenty of them here already.
I gave Jo a bit of time to calm down after she’d told me about this lunatic and how he seems to target boys she likes, or boys he thinks she likes. She went up to her room and I thought I heard her crying before a couple of our light bulbs blew. I may have to get used to these temper tantrums if she continues living with me for much longer. Stock up on bulbs. Anyway, I made a cup of tea and had a think and after about an hour or so she was back downstairs and ready to talk again.
“So, what’s the plan?” she asked.
It was a fair question. “Well,” I said, “given that you don’t know anything about this person except what he looks like and the fact that he survived a double decker bus rolling over him, we don’t really have a lot to go on. So the obvious thing to do is go and talk to the dead boy’s dad.”
“Is he going to want to talk to us? When he came to ask for help this morning you weren’t exactly helpful.”
In case you’ve forgotten, the dead boy’s father came round first thing to ask if I could help him find his son’s killer. You know my rules about helping people. I don’t. Which is what I told him. He didn’t leave in the best mood.
I smiled at her. Sometimes I forget what it’s like when people don’t know who you are, don’t know what you can do. You’re scared of people finding out, of what would happen if they knew. When you open up to everybody and you make sure they’re scared of you, then you realise that people are very easy to deal with indeed. “Trust me.” I said. “He’s going to be dying for our help.”
So I was a little bit surprised when, after we wrapped up and hurried down the street to the Kitson residence, we had the door slammed in our face shortly after it was opened by the tall, grieving man who had asked for my assistance only a couple of hours ago. He didn’t say anything. He just slammed it. But I knew better than to take it personally. Jo and I waited on their doorstep for a moment or two, listening to raised voices inside, before his wife opened the door.
“Please, come in.” she stammered. “I’m very sorry about Charlie, he’s…we’re both very…”
“I understand perfectly, Mrs Kitson,” I told her. “If we could just take a few minutes of your time we’d be very grateful.” She ushered us through her hallway and into her living room. The white carpet was covered in dirty boot prints, a clear sign that the police had been and gone. Charles was sat in the armchair and stared at us as we came in. I gave him my best smile.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“Just to talk about your son, Mr Kitson. We want to help.”
“Oh yeah?” he sneered. “What’s changed? I came to ask for your help, I practically begged you, and you told me to go fuck myself.”
I took a seat in the chair opposite him and was aware of Jo drifting to stand behind me. She’s got good instincts, that one. I thought about telling him I didn’t use those words but decided against it.
“The thing is, Mr Kitson, the thing is that my position hasn’t changed. We can’t just help everyone who asks. And I believe you and your wife both attended the town meeting I organised specifically to tell you all that I must be left alone or you would face the consequences, and I think you’ll agree that I allowed you to speak your piece, consequence-free.” I could see this last part upset him; it was probably a mistake to bring it up but too bad. He was raising his enormous hand to make a point I continued before he could interrupt me. “But while my position hasn’t changed, the situation has. I was too hasty in telling you I couldn’t help you. Obviously I can’t give you your boy back, but I can find whoever killed him and make sure that he is punished in ways that the police can only have nightmares about.”
There was a sound rather like a small bird clearing its throat and I looked over to wear Mrs Kitson nervously hovered by the kitchen door. “How has the situation changed?” she asked. I was impressed. This Mrs clearly had more backbone than I thought.
“The situation has changed because it affects me. And my friend here.”
“I thought you said she was your niece,” said Kitson. Ah. Caught on a lie. Still, a relatively minor one. No real damage. Safe to admit to.
“I lied. You know what I am. My friend is one too. What happened to your boy affects us. We would like him to stop.”
Charles Kitson got to his feet. He nearly filled the space from floor to ceiling and he had the anger of a grieving man. “Are you saying that whoever did this has an axe to grind with you? Was Clyde some sort of message?”
Clearly it was best to lie at this point. So I made something up.
“No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying that whoever did this will do it again and he has certainly done it before. One of his previous victims was someone we cared about a great deal.”
“Did he kill a witch?” asked Mrs Kitson. I laughed loudly to make sure she knew how ridiculous her question was.
“No, the chances of a witch being killed by someone like we’re dealing with her are miniscule. No, it was Jo’s…brother. Which is why we couldn’t talk to you earlier. We had to be sure it was the same person before we got involved. And now we can.”
The last lie seemed like it might have been a stretch to far but you should never underestimate the gullibility of the grieving. Especially when they think that someone might be able to castrate the ones responsible. Charles looked at his wife and they seemed to reach some kind of agreement as they stared at each other.
“What do you want to know?” he asked. I smiled like a happy saint.
“Well, it would help if you told me where he…hung out. And, more importantly, who he hung out with.”
Twenty minutes later we were back in my kitchen with a list of names and the address of a local bar that didn’t look at ID’s too closely. Jo hovered over my shoulder as I went through the list and tried to remember if I’d seen any of these boys before.
“What are we going to do with this?” she asked.
“Well, clearly he thinks you’re attracted to boys your age,” I told her. “So you’re going to go and make some friends and we’ll see what happens.”
I don’t know if you were with Jo long enough to see this, Émilie, but there’s this look she gives that’s about half-judgmental and half trying to understand whether she should be judgmental or not. It’s quite special. So that’s the plan, Émilie. We’re going to have a nap and then Jo’s going out to make some friends. And I’ll be there to see if her man shows up.
Thanks for reading. I'm interested to hear feedback on the Witch's Bile series. The instalments are intentionally a lot shorter than my short stories but I do worry that they're less fun. Anyway, I'm aiming for about 10 instalments in total for this round. Eliza and Jo will probably be back at some point anyway.
I hope you enjoyed part 6. I'm trying to update the blog more often so there may well be another non-fiction post of me rambling soon so, you know, get excited for that. Here's Distracted, a song from Sean Spillane's soundtrack to Lucky McKee's excellent The Woman