Chapter 56: Wrongfully Accused
Plum left me alone, so that I could rest, with a promise to send up a dinner tray. She admonished me to eat everything, because I needed my strength. I was sound asleep, before the door closed behind her. What felt like a moment later, a nudge awakened me. Thinking that Plum had forgotten something, I opened my eyes expecting to look up into her smiling face. Seeing Delilah caught me completely off guard. My first instinct was to brace myself for a second attack, so it confused me to see her standing there with a dinner tray. I attempted and failed to sit up, eyeing her warily as she slammed the tray on the dresser across the room. She turned to me, with her arms crossed.
“Plum forcing me to serve the bitch who murdered my mother is a slap in the face! Well, you know what? She didn’t say I had to hand it to you, so get up and serve yourself!”
“I did not kill your mom Delilah.”
“Yes you did! I saw everything, while our minds were merged.”
“Then be honest with yourself and admit that her death was a terrible accident. If she hadn’t attacked me, then she would not have died.”
“You could have helped her, but you chose not to. Just like you choose not to help me get my coven back!”
“How did it become my responsibility to save you both from your own reckless behavior?”
“I hate you!”
Delilah lunged at me. Too weak to move, all I could do was lay there. She straddled my chest, pummeled my face with her fists and then started choking me. Her hands felt like a steel vise squeezing my neck. I clawed weakly at them, my strength continuing to fade as my oxygen dwindled away. Delilah did not even seem to feel my nails gouging her hands. She tightened her grip, staring fixedly into my eyes and smiling.
“At first, I was going to poison your food. But this is so much more…satisfying. I want to prolong your suffering, before I let you die,” Delilah growled through clenched teeth.
I saw stars and my vision was blurring out, when I heard shouting coming from the hallway. Someone ran into the room and pulled her off of me. All I saw was a pair of hands grasping Delilah’s shoulders. Then there was a tangle of bodies wrestling on the floor, as Carrie, Shanice, Kimberly and Crystal came running and joined the fray. Delilah was punching and biting anyone who tried to restrain her. They persisted in their efforts, yelling at her to stop resisting.
They all piled on her and held her, until she stopped struggling. All at once, Delilah uttered some sort of incantation and they went flying off in every direction. I winced at the sight and sound of them hitting the walls. Kimberly was launched backwards into the hall and struck the far wall over the staircase, before dropping and tumbling down the stairs. Delilah looked like a madwoman, standing in the middle of the room whipping her head around to glare at them wild eyed. Her her hair was standing up all over her head. In between heaving breaths, she warned them to stay out of her way. They were still struggling to their feet, when she came at me again. Carrie, Shanice and Crystal managed to get to their feet and hastily knitted together a conjuration to restrain her.
Delilah’s advance on me was abruptly halted, as she was dragged backwards kicking and screaming. She turned and uttered a counter spell consolidating their expelled energy in her hands and using it to whip them. I watched in shock and dismay as she cracked the lambent lash and it tore at the arms they threw up to shield their faces. She found their threats and pleas amusing. Delilah whipped them mercilessly, laughing and uttering imprecations over their disloyalty.
Fed up, Carrie unleashed all of the energetic force she could muster. Unprepared for the frontal assault, Delilah was blasted backwards across the room. There was a sickening crunch, as the pointed corner of my dresser pierced the back of her head. Impaled, she hung there in wide eyed shock, chin to chest with her legs bent. We all froze, staring fixedly at her body jumping and twitching like some obscene marionette, until her death throes dislodged her body. It dropped to the floor in a heap and still, none of us moved. I heard Plum at the foot of the stairs, exclaiming over Kimberly and asking her if she was okay. Then, she came charging up the steps and burst into the room.
“Are you all okay? I came in from the patio to get something to drink and I heard all of the commotion. What happened?”
Still in shock, we looked at one another for a few silent moments, at a loss for words to describe the enormity of what had just occurred. Since the whole incident had started before they had entered, I cleared my throat and told Plum about Delilah hurling accusations at me. Then Shanice jumped in. Before long, we were all talking at the same time. Carrie began weeping inconsolably, as she explained how Delilah had died. Plum consoled her, allowing Carrie to cry on her shoulder for a few moments.
She directed Shanice to take Carrie away from the distressing sight of Delilah’s crumpled body and the gore of brain matter dripping from my dresser. Plum grabbed an old blanket from the linen closet in the hallway and enlisted Crystal to help her roll the body onto it. They carried Delilah off somewhere and I heaved a shaky sigh of relief. Wordlessly, Crystal came in with a rag and bucket of soapy water to scrub away the blood and brain matter. When Plum returned a short time later, closing the door behind her, I was still all shaken up. She came and sat beside me on the bed.
“Are you alright darling?”
“I…to tell you the truth, I’m not sure. I can’t really say I’m surprised that Delilah attacked me. After all, she actually succeeded in killing me once.”
“When we came home the other day to find her bleeding, you gone and later neither of you willing to explain, I knew that something nasty had gone down between the two of you. What I didn’t realize was how resentful Delilah had remained, until she stabbed you. That kind of anger and resentment…hatred really, is toxic to a coven. It made her a danger to us both. As the founding member so to speak, of this ragtag coven, she still wielded some influence over the girls. So, there was always a chance that she could get them to turn on us, when we least expected it. That’s why she had to go,” Plum said placidly.
“You say that like you planned all of this…wait, you knew this was going to happen?”
“Well, I didn’t know exactly how things would unfold, but I knew that Delilah wouldn’t come out of it alive.”
“How could you be so sure?”
“Think about it Patricia. Delilah’s own coven pretty much abandoned her. That’s enough to piss anybody off. There was that blowout she had with you and lets not forget her resentment towards me for taking control of the coven. She was basically a ticking timebomb. All I had to do was light the fuse.”
“So that’s why you asked her to bring me a dinner tray! But she could have killed me, before anyone knew what was happening!”
“Not a chance. Why do you think there was no drink on that tray? I pretended to forget, waited a few minutes and asked Carrie to give it to you.”
“Oh, so she’s the one who pulled Delilah off of me.”
“I’m sure that Carrie going against her yet again and sticking up for you after all they’ve been through together pretty much pushed her over the edge.”
“But why put us through all of this? If you wanted Delilah gone, why didn’t you just banish her from the coven?”
“And have her out there somewhere plotting and planning against me? She might have joined a rival coven and told them everything she knows about us and how we operate or just attack me out on the street somewhere. No, she had to go.”
“Well, why didn’t you just kill her yourself?”
“Weren’t you listening a minute ago? As the founder of this coven, the girls will always feel some measure of affection for her. They knew her long before us. If I was to kill Delilah, then they would always resent me on some level. She’s like family to them. As you just saw, resentment has a tendency to fester. We are about to go up against some pretty powerful rivals Patricia. If this coven is to have any hope of surviving, then the girls must be completely loyal to me. Otherwise, our spells will be weak and at any given time one or all of them could decide to jump ship and join one of the other covens. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take advantage of this teachable moment and talk to the girls about controlling their emotions and focus during battles. Don’t look at me like that darling, I’ll do it in a sympathetic way.”