Well, Émilie, I told you in the last report I sent that Jo was going to have to make some friends, with the admittedly risky aim of getting her murderous admirer out in the open. If she’s seen speaking to friends of the victim, I reasoned, then we might be able to draw him out. Get him jealous, get him visible. Charlie Kitson had been kind enough to give us the name of the bar his murdered underage son used to go to, so I made sure Jo had put some nice clothes on and a bit of slap and we drove over there.
Jo was a bit nervous in the car, I could tell. She was scratching at her nails and tugging at her bangs. I told her that she looked fine and she glared at me. OK, I thought. We hadn’t talked much before leaving the house. That was OK too. I assumed she knew what she had to do.
It was the first time I’d been around town at night, really. I only moved here a few weeks ago and since then I’ve made a point of leaving the house as little as possible. The last time I’d been out at night was the town meeting I organised at which I told everyone that I was a witch and that they should leave me alone. That didn’t really work out. It never does. Anyway, they all look the same to me, these small towns. There are the nice quiet streets with the big houses, big cars, big front porches, and the big back gardens and then you take a left and you’re sharing the road with people with completely different circumstances. But people are all the same to me. Wherever you go and wherever they come from. Everyone’s the same no matter how much money you have or how big your house is. Which is why I want them to leave me alone.
I took a right and saw the petrol station Kitson had told me about and the bar just behind it. We were close to the edge of town here, I suppose the kids thought the chances of law enforcement or their parents bothering to come and find them was pretty slim. A fluorescent red sign above the door told customers where they were: The Alhambra. There didn’t seem to be anything particularly Spanish from the outside. Still, I wouldn’t see the inside for myself.
“So what’s the plan then?” asked Jo, like she didn’t already know. I turned to face her.
“You go in, you ask around for the names on that list, and then you talk to them. Use your English accent to charm them. Well, that and your face. Offer them a cigarette and get them outside. Then we’ll see if the mystery man shows up.”
“How do you know they smoke?” she asked, and I sniffed.
“They’re underage. Of course they smoke.”
She took my pack of Gitanes and got out in a huff. I watched her cross the car park, her heels clattering on the tarmac. I’d nearly forgotten that she’d only been in America for a couple of days. I hadn’t even asked about jetlag or anything. Which probably meant she was fine, I mean, if I hadn’t noticed it. Probably. I found a new pack of cigarettes in the glove compartment and waited for Jo to make friends.
It was about five minutes before she emerged with three teenage boys and one girl. Even from across the car park I could tell that they’d all made an effort to look older than they were. All the boys were wearing shirts and long coats while the girl’s make up was visible from the car. Only one of them took a cigarette from her. There you go, I thought. I can be wrong sometimes. I let them talk for a little while, about ten minutes. There was still no sign of anyone suspicious. Frankly, I was getting bored.
Finally I struck on a way to find out if anyone was paying attention. I got out of the car, slammed the door, and ran over to where Jo was standing. She looked up as I approached, as did the teens, a little slower, admittedly.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I shouted. Jo looked shocked and unsure of herself. “What do you think you’re doing here? I leave the house for five minutes and you go straight to a bloody pub and start drinking! I thought we had agreed that you wouldn’t do this anymore!”
Jo stared, trying to understand what I was doing. I threw her a bone, as they say.
“I am your mother and you will do what I say! Is one of these that boy you’ve been seeing?” I practically screamed.
“Whoa, calm down, lady!” exclaimed one of the boys. His right eye was covered by a lank fringe of brown hair that he shifted with a movement that I couldn’t tell if it was deliberate or some sort of twitch.
“Yeah, you don’t need to shout at her like that!” said the tallest of the boys. He was wearing a blazer that actually fit him and you could tell he was the confident one of the group because he wasn’t attempting to hide any part of his face. Instead his black hair was greased back and there was a single ring in his right ear. The shorter, rounder boy behind him nodded in agreement but didn’t seem brave enough to say anything. Only the girl, a skinny little redhead in a leather jacket and short black skirt, seemed frozen stiff. Until she opened her mouth.
“I know who you are,” she told me. I stopped huffing and puffing and turned to face her.
“Do you now?” I asked, putting as much ice in my voice as possible.
“You’re the witch. You’re Eliza Belmont.”
The boys didn’t know my face but they certainly knew my name. They all took a small step back and stared a little harder. The tall one jutted his chin at me. “That true? You a witch?” I nodded at him. He turned to Jo, who looked like she wasn’t sure where she was supposed to go at this point. “And, what, she’s your mom?”
Jo took a step over to me and turned to face them. “She’s not my mother but you’ll answer any questions she has.” I was impressed and didn’t bother trying to hide a smile. So she hadn’t asked them anything. Not exactly according to plan, but at least she got out of the house.
“Where did your accent go?” asked the short one before figuring it out for himself and looking at the floor.
“Now,” I said, ignoring the little man’s question. “Last night, did you see Clyde talk to anyone?”
“We already told the police that we didn’t,” said the girl. “Clyde left early last night. He said he needed to go home and study.”
“Well it’s nice to see you’re honouring his memory,” I prodded. Her face dropped and the tall one spoke up again.
“We’re honouring his memory,” he said with all the sincerity he could muster. I grinned.
“So you didn’t see him talking to a guy you didn’t know, with straggly dark hair, beard, long coat? No?”
The short one cleared his throat and pointed.
“There’s a guy like that behind you.”
Jo turned first and grabbed my sleeve. I saw a man who fit the description I’d just given. He stared at us, looking us over one by one. There was a moment of silence. Even the tall kid couldn’t think of anything to say.
“Did you get my present, Josephine?” asked the man finally. Jo whimpered. “I left it where you could find it. Who are these people?”
I tried something risky at this point. Obviously you’re not supposed to attack without gauging your enemy. But I thought I could get the drop on him and I didn’t want to hang around in the open any longer than necessary. So I tried to make his heart explode. It’s a nice trick if you get it right, there’s relatively little mess, at least that you can see. So I focused hard. Tried to find his heartbeat.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing happened. He just stared at me, unblinking. I knew what to do. I grabbed Jo and ran. You don’t get to my age without learning how to run away from things. Well, not really running, if you look very closely you can see our feet weren’t touching the ground and we were going faster than a fifty year old woman and a young lady in high heels really should have been but we made it to the car and bundled ourselves in.
As I turned the key in the ignition the headlights came on. The man was walking over to us. In his right hand he held the tall boy by his skinny neck. Behind him I could see the two other boys crumpled on top of each other in a heap. The girl ran screaming back to the bar and slammed the door behind her.
The man stopped about six feet from us. As I was about to put my foot down he took out a knife and pointed it at Jo.
“I know you understand,” he said, and plunged the knife into the boy’s face, just under the hairline. He twisted the blade and began to move it downward, peeling the skin from the boy’s head as he went.
I put my foot down and drove straight at him. He didn’t try to move out of the way. He just fell under the car and I felt the bump as we ran him over. I didn’t bother looking behind us. I knew he wouldn’t stay down.
“It won’t have made any difference,” muttered Jo.
“It made me feel better,” I said.
We got home without any further incidents. Jo’s up in her room and the lights are flickering so I can tell she’s upset. I know we’re going to have a lot to deal with tomorrow when the police realise we were there and work up the nerve to ask us why, so I’m going to sign off now and get some sleep. And try to think about what kind of a monster actually doesn’t have a heart.
I hope you enjoyed part 7. We're getting towards the end of the Witch's Bile series now and I'm going to try and post the final few parts a bit more frequently than I have been. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the series so far.
I'm still planning to update the blog with more non-fiction posts so keep your eyes peeled for that. I'm also going to a post asking for title suggestions for short stories as I will be starting that up again soon!
Thanks for reading.