Crime Diary-Chapter Thirty-Seven

Delilah had cobbled together outfits from her own closet and packed all but one in a duffel bag for me. I was grateful to have changes of clothes. She left the room so that I could get dressed.

“How nice,” I said aloud.

Plum’s skeptical voice sounded in my head, “Yes it is nice isn’t it? A little too nice if you ask me.”

“No one asked you, ” I thought angrily.

“Relax darling don’t get your panties in a bunch. I’m merely making an observation.”

“And what would that be,” I wondered.

“Isn’t it obvious? People are never nice for no reason at all.”

“Oh here we go again. You and your conspiracy theories.”

“They aren’t theories sweetheart, they are cold hard facts. If you removed those rose-tinted glasses of yours once in a while, you would see that people rarely ever do things for others unless there’s some sort of payoff.  Even if it just makes them feel good about themselves.”

“Leave me alone Plum, I don’t feel like arguing with you right now. It’s too early in the morning. I don’t really care why Delilah is being so nice.  The only thing that matters is that she’s helping me.”

“And that my dear is the reason you’re in this predicament.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean you never stop and ask yourself the tough questions. If anything makes you uncomfortable you avoid it, like the plague. Maybe, if you had asked yourself why I was being so nice, you wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“You know what Plum?  I’m getting a little tired of your smug sanctimonious attitude. It’s easy for you to sit back and judge me, as though you have the slightest idea who I am and what I’ve been through.”

Plum snickered unpleasantly, “Cue the violins.  You know darling, I was wondering how long it would take for you to play the victim card. My goodness.  That thing must be frayed at the edges by now.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“What do you think it means? Don’t tell me you are unaware of how many times you retreat from an argument by pleading that you’re a victim and consequently not responsible for your actions or lack thereof. You seem to think you’ve cornered the market on hard times. Well I’ve got news for you sweetie, everyone has a hard luck story. Life hasn’t been all moonlight and roses for me either. The difference between me and you is that I don’t wallow in misery, or turn a blind eye to it. If something goes wrong, then I try to learn from the experience and make sure it never happens again.  I don’t make excuses.”

It was my turn to laugh.  “Now who thinks they have cornered the market? I learn from my mistakes too. Do you think I’m not paying attention?  It’s not like I stumble through life with my eyes closed you know.”

“I’m not so sure about that one.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Do me a favor Patricia and stop saying that. People have better things to do with their time than to spoon feed you answers. You’re always asking people what they mean by things. It’s very annoying. You’re a reasonably intelligent girl.  Use the brains that God gave you.  Stop being so lazy.”

“I’m not being lazy.”

“That’s exactly what you’re doing.  The amazing thing is that you fail to realize that what makes you vulnerable is the unwillingness to pay attention and figure things out on your own. It’s easier to go around with your eyes closed and depend upon other people to guide you.  The problem with that is most people will always tell you only what they want you to believe.”

Delilah bustled into the room and ended the argument. I felt Plum retreat into the recesses of my mind. Things moved quickly after that. I was hustled out to a waiting van with some of the dancers from the club. Delilah took me by the arm and led me to the back of the van. I didn’t know what to think, when I was greeted by the sight of an inflatable mattress. Delilah saw the look on my face and hastened to explain.

“I guess I should have explained before we got out here. You’re going to need to be unconscious for this trip. We can’t have Plum knowing anything about our numbers or plan of attack.”

“That’s fine, I’ll just go to sleep. To tell you the truth, I didn’t sleep that great last night.”

“You don’t understand Patricia. In order to keep Plum from listening in while you are sleeping, I’m going to have to shut down the whole works.”

I didn’t like the way she waved at me from head to toe. All at once, I became acutely aware that the dancers had silently moved in uncomfortably close behind me while Delilah and I talked. Plum’s voice in my head sounded alarmed.

“Do I need to tell you that something is very wrong here?”

Delilah was smiling apologetically. I glanced around at the others and they grinned back at me as though we were sharing some funny inside joke. For one fleeting moment, I relaxed and considered that perhaps my sense of alarm might have been an overreaction. Plum sounded annoyed.

“You’re doing it again Patricia.”

Sensing that I was about to shut her out, Plum softened her tone.

“Look Patricia, I know you are feeling a little cornered right now and you don’t want to believe that your friend means you any harm. It’s natural for you to avoid those feelings, but I implore you not to do it.  Look at the situation, as though these people were strangers. If you’re feeling pressured then speak up and stop worrying about seeming ungrateful.”

My first inclination was to argue, but her words had the ring of truth to them. Delilah was again taking my arm to guide me into the van. I felt hands at my back gently pushing me forward. Plum was fairly shouting at me to do something.

“Wait a minute, I’m still not sure what you mean when you say shut down the works,” I said hastily.

“Get in and I’ll show you what I mean,” urged Delilah.

“No, explain what you mean.  Then I’ll tell you if I am willing to do things your way.”

Frustration momentarily creased Delilah’s smooth features. She quickly masked her impatience with a smile. Her hand dropped from my arm. The hands at my back fell away. Mentally congratulating myself caused me to lose focus for a moment.  I failed to process the almost imperceptible way Delilah shifted, so that her right hand was momentarily out of my sight. Plum was trying to get my attention, but I thought I had everything under control and refused to listen. The next thing I knew, Plum had somehow taken over control of my body and spun me around in time to see one of the dancers with a syringe.  She was about inject me with something.

“What are you doing,” I blurted incredulously.

“Calm down Patricia, it’s just a little propofol,” explained Delilah placatingly.

“Isn’t that the stuff that killed that singer?”

“Don’t worry Patricia it’s harmless ,if you use it correctly.”

Two of the dancers grabbed me from behind and attempted to empty the contents of the syringe into my arm. Adrenaline fueled panic gave me almost superhuman strength. I shook them off and ran into oncoming traffic, narrowly missing being struck by a truck. One risked glance over my shoulder showed me that the group was caught completely off guard by my sudden departure. I made good use of those few moments, weaving through morning rush hour traffic to the other side of the street and doing my best to find some way to disappear.

After what felt like hours of panicked running, with them at my heels, I was breathless and my exhausted body forced me to stop. I darted in to a narrow passageway between two buildings. Bent over by the effort to catch my breath, I dimly became aware of Plum’s voice.

“Are you tired of running like a scared little rabbit yet?”

“If you’ve got a better idea, then I’m all ears.”

“Let me use a little magic.”

“I don’t know Plum. There are four of them and only one of you.  How are you going to defeat four witches?”

“What makes you think those fools are witches?”

 

Crime Diary-Chapter Thirty-Six

Hope surged up inside of me so strongly that I felt downright giddy.  Plum suddenly didn’t seem so big and bad.  For once in my life, having an overactive imagination was actually going to be an advantage.  I didn’t realize how tense I had become, until a wave of relief made me weak in the knees.  I moved to sit on my couch and stumbled, abruptly finding myself in the middle of a crowded nightclub.  Shock left me momentarily immobilized.

Having the rug literally yanked out from under me was disconcerting.  I was supposed to be in control of my dream.  The need to sit down before my quaking legs gave out propelled me towards the stools at the bar.  I sat down, staring quizzically for a few moments at the strangers milling around me, before swiveling the stool around and facing the bar.  Plum’s reflection smirked at me from a long mirror behind the bar.  Her lips moved and I heard her voice inside my head.

“Did you actually think that you were in control?”

All of my hard-won self-assurance began draining away. If Plum could move me around against my will, then she would always have the upper hand.  A moment ago, everything appeared to line up. Now nothing made sense.  In the midst of my musing, Plum approached the bar and took a seat beside me. I tensed up, steeling myself for an attack.  She chattered away, seemingly unaware of my horror.

When she didn’t attack, I began to calm down. My heart stopped pounding in my ears and I realized that Plum was saying the same things she said the night we were in the same club and I stole her cell phone. She was even wearing the same outfit.  Looking around, I realized that my mind was replaying that night.  The real Plum was still glaring at me from inside the mirror behind the bar.

Her cellphone was in the same spot on the counter. I still felt guilty about taking it, which made me assume that this part of the dream was nothing more than my mind grappling with that feeling. I sat there and allowed events to unfold, uncertain of whether to let things play out or do something differently. It gradually dawned on me that some things in the dream were different from reality.

Plum’s favorite color was purple. Almost everything she owned was purple, including her cell phone. It was red in the dream and so were her clothes. That was perplexing.  I was mulling over possible explanations, when my grandmother suddenly came to mind. She was superstitious, always talking about symbols in dreams serving as signs. That memory sparked the idea that the red in my dream was symbolic in some way.

The red was so bright that it glowed in the dark club. Could it be my mind’s way of calling attention to something? One glance at Plum in the mirror confirmed that I was onto something. Fear was etched into her features. I blocked out the sound of her voice in my head. She had almost fooled me once. I wasn’t going to give her the opportunity to confuse me again.

The cellphone on the counter began ringing.  It hadn’t done that last time. I wondered if it could be an important message.  Anything was possible in a dream.   A strong urge to pick it up came over me. The dream version of Plum was making her way to the dance floor. I was reaching for the phone, when the memory of Plum’s hypnotic chant over the phone, the night I answered her phone in that motel room, made me shrink back.  She was obviously trying to distract me.

I turned my attention to the dream version of Plum. Everything was as I recalled it. She was dancing seductively with a partner while brazenly flirting.  Catching looks from men dancing with women around her, enticing them away from their partners one by one. Nothing new there.  She was always going after other people’s boyfriends and husbands.  Plum loved the competition and challenge. Halfway through the song, she had four men dancing around her.

Suddenly bored, I was on the verge of turning away, when Plum’s smug expression faltered. The night that it actually happened, I thought that she was just a little uncomfortable suddenly being surrounded by so many men all at once. In the dream, I wasn’t distracted with seeking an opportunity to nab her phone.  That freedom enabled me to see things in a different light. Plum loved being the center of attention. Those men weren’t grabbing or groping her. As a matter of fact, they were all staying an equal distance away from her.

I stood up slowly, leaning forward for a closer look. Their feet weren’t moving. At a distance, the people dancing energetically around them had created the illusion that the men were dancing because their arms were moving. Focusing on them, it quickly became apparent that they were moving their arms in the same sequence. Plum was beginning to look alarmed.

An overly enthusiastic dancer suddenly collided with one of the men, breaking their circle.  Plum surged away from them through the crowd and came towards me at the bar. She was unsteady on her feet and she appeared to be confused.  Looking back on my memory of it, I had previously thought that she was drunk. Reliving that moment in the dream made me realize that something else was going on.

Plum’s cell phone began ringing again, interrupting my train of thought. I tried to ignore it, certain that I was about to come to a very important realization.  It was slowly coming to me.  The ringing was so loud and insistent that it derailed my train of thought.  In another moment, I was jolted awake and realized that the ringing was actually an alarm clock.  Still bleary eyed and groggy from my drugged sleep, I couldn’t figure out how to turn off the alarm.  Out of frustration, I covered my head with the pillow.  Closing my eyes did nothing to help me fall back asleep or focus.  The details of the dream were already beginning to fade.

Delilah bustled into the bedroom and shut off the alarm. As she turned to leave, I grabbed her arm.  As soon as I began recounting the dream, a searing pain in my head made me cry out. Plum was trying to stop me. Delilah sat on the bed and waited patiently, as I slowly and described the dream to her, afraid that I would forget if I didn’t get it all out. Delilah’s face began to light up.  She made me repeat everything, her growing excitement fueling mine.

“You know what that part of the dream in the nightclub means don’t you?”

“Enlighten me.”

“Without realizing it, you witnessed the lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram being performed on Plum by those four men standing around her. Sounds like they almost succeeded in exorcising her or at least temporarily weakening her possession of the body she occupied. That’s why she was unsteady and confused. No wonder Plum didn’t notice that you had taken her cell phone.”

“What was with all the gesturing those men were doing?”

“It was part of the ritual. They were tracing pentagrams into the air, boxing her in and riveting her to one spot. Good going girl, you’ve given me an idea of how to defend us against Plum when we get to the coven!  Get dressed. We need to hit the road soon.”

Crime Diary- Chapter Thirty-Five

The powerful herbs in Delilah’s tea made me lose consciousness quickly.  My mind’s eye opened.  I found myself staring at a dingy ceiling for several moments.  The water stain running across it looked familiar.    I shifted and an errant spring in the mattress upon which I lay dug into my side.  That settled it for me.  I knew then that I lay in the narrow bed in my apartment.  Looking at the shabby walls around me was reassuring.

I laughed out loud.  Maybe the whole nightmare with Plum had been a bad dream.  For the first time in my life, the prospect of getting up and going to work made me happy.  The idea of returning to my routine of sleep, work, sleep made me positively giddy.  Life before Plum may have been dull, but it was safe.  If I needed to get a second job to make ends meet, then that’s just what I’d do.  No more looking to make easy money.

My alarm clock went off and I went into autopilot, going to the kitchen and turning on the coffeemaker before going to the bathroom for a quick shower.  I switched on the light and a gleam caught my eye as I walked past the mirror.  Something about it was disquieting.  I didn’t want to look in the mirror.  Dread rose up in me so quickly that I held my breath.  I wanted to get in the shower, but something compelled me to turn towards the mirror.

My eyes went to the choker around my neck.  I leaned in, trying to figure out why it looked different.  It slowly dawned on me that the symbols on it were backwards.  I looked up and was stunned to see Plum’s face reflected back at me.  Shock made my mind go blank.  The next thing I knew, Plum was reaching through the mirror.  I looked down at the sharp fingernails with the deep purple manicure, reaching for me.  My mind told me to move, but I was transfixed by the unreality of it.

The memory of Delilah drugging me flooded back.  Having a bad dream wasn’t so bad.  At least, Plum couldn’t harm me in my dreams.  Her laughter was sinister.

“That’s where you’re wrong Patricia.  Didn’t anyone ever tell you, if you die in your dreams you die in real life?”

“What do you mean?”

“When I kill you, your soul will leave your body.”

The thought of being evicted from my body and Plum’s life force taking up residence in it, got me moving.  Plum was faster.  Her hands closed around my throat.  Their strength was shocking.  The fingers felt like bands of steel.  My breath was abruptly cut off.  I tried not to panic over the fact that my strength was ebbing away.  Clawing feebly at her hands did nothing to relieve the crushing pressure on my throat.  As my vision dimmed, I groped blindly for anything that could be used as a makeshift weapon.

My hands closed around thin air.  In desperation, I balled up my fists and hit her wherever I could.  Plum leaned back into the mirror so that only her arms protruded and my fists were battering the mirror.  I heard a loud crack and the mirror shattered.  All at once, the pressure on my neck was gone, I fell to the floor gasping, too weak to lift my arms and shield my face from the falling shards of glass.

My brain was shouting, “Get up!  Get up, before she attacks you again!”  Fighting back waves of nausea and light-headedness, I struggled to my feet and barely made it back over to my bed before my shaky legs gave out.  The apartment was so small that from where I sat, I saw that Plum was gone.  My fear slowly eased.  I let out a shaky breath and lay back on the bed with my eyes closed.

The suddenness and strength of her attack had rattled me.  I felt powerless.  The urge to hide out in my cramped apartment was overwhelming.  But then again, it wasn’t really my apartment.  I was dreaming.  My experience with dreams was that anything could happen at any given moment.  Some people claimed that they could control what happened in their dreams.  I never learned how that worked.

The thought of Plum attacking me in my weakened state frightened me.  I felt like a sitting duck.  Panic began welling up inside me again.  I had the presence of mind to realize that giving in to fear wasn’t going to do me any good.  What had Delilah said about dreams?  I had drifted off while she explained things to me. She had something about the imagination being just as strong as any spell Plum could cast.  According to Delilah, the key was to remain focused on what I desired and repeat my intentions.  Thoughts were generated by energy, just as magic was generated by energy.

Those ideas made me feel a little less helpless, but I still had no idea where to go or what to do next.  Until I learned how to translate the words into actions, I’d continue to be at Plum’s mercy.  She had just shown me, she was merciless.  So, why didn’t I put Delilah’s assertions to the test?  My eyes flew open and I sat bolt upright, feeling encouraged.  Figuring out how to manifest something then and there might give me a fighting chance at staying alive.  So, what would make me feel safe?  I opened my hand and closed my eyes, focusing on an image until I felt something solid in my palm.

A gun had materialized in my hand.  I sat staring at it in disbelief.  It had a solid, reassuring weight to it.  Was it loaded, or did I have to dream up bullets for it?  Only one way to find out.  I aimed the gun at a picture on the opposite wall and pulled the trigger.  There was a loud report and a small hole appeared in the middle of the picture, causing a web of cracks to appear in the glass around it.

I squinted at the picture.  Was that how a bullet impacted glass or should the glass have shattered completely?  My mind automatically conjured up an image of a bigger hole in the picture with the glass completely shattered out of the frame.  In the next moment, the picture in front of me suddenly had a bigger hole and the glass fell at my feet.  I realized that I didn’t even need the gun!

 

 

 

 

Crime Diary-Chapter Thirty-Four

I knew that Plum was right about my misgivings, but I also knew that getting me to mistrust Delilah would benefit Plum.  I was still very angry about Plum invading my body and attempting to imprison me.   Just thinking about it filled me with impotent rage.  With her inside of me, I couldn’t punish her without hurting myself.  Her voice droned on and on inside my head.  She was seemingly oblivious to my growing hatred.  Plum’s voice intruded on my murderous thoughts.

I’m well aware of how angry you are Patricia.  What do you want me to say?  I would do the same thing all over again.  I was not going to let your little friend attack me without exacting a little payback!”

“Which is why I’m not helping you.”

Aw, you’re so cute.  Trying to protect your little buddy.  Five minutes after meeting some common whore in a rundown bordello, you think you’ve made a friend for life.  Open your eyes darling.  People like her don’t have real friends.   She’s using you to get to me.”

“That’s where you’re wrong.  She knew nothing about you…”

“Until two minutes after you met her.  No doubt you told her your whole life story.  I don’t even have to read your thoughts to know that darling.  You are so very predictable, I always knew what you were feeling before you were even aware of it.  Walking around with your heart on your sleeve is going to get you killed.   No, I’m not saying your precious little friend is trying to kill you.  I wouldn’t put anything else past her though, once she gets what she wants from you.”

Plum had struck a nerve with such precision that my reaction was more reflexive than intentional.  A sudden overwhelming urge to block out the sound of her voice, before she said another word, evoked the image in my mind’s eye of a brick wall.  All at once, my mind was silent.

I sat up in bed breathing heavily.  The idea of being betrayed and abandoned again had dredged up long buried pain.  Had Plum been rooting around in my memories?  The impotent rage returned with an intensity that left me trembling.  She had no right!  There were things in my past that I didn’t even allow my mind’s eye to see.  Lost in thought, I didn’t notice that Delilah had opened the door and stuck her head in until she spoke.

“What’s wrong Patricia?”

“Huh?  I….nothing, I guess I’m just a little freaked out over having someone else inside my head.”

“I know and I’m sorry you have to go through this.  I promise we’re gonna get the situation taken care of post-haste.  We’ll hit the road first thing in the morning.”

“You mean we’re driving back to Philadelphia?”

“We’re going to have to, there’s too many of us going to get that many plane tickets at this short of a notice.”

“How many people are going?”

“I don’t have an exact number yet.  I’m still making calls.”

“Are we talking more than five?”

“Oh, hell yeah!”

“What?  Why so many?”

“Think about it Patricia.  You and I couldn’t face down an entire coven on our own.  We need backup, for even a snowball’s chance in hell of getting in and out of her place alive.”

“You make it sound like we’re heading into some sort of battle.”

“I don’t know about all that Patricia.  What I do know, is that they will probably need a little…convincing before they cooperate.  We don’t need to worry about that tonight though.  Why don’t you lie down and get some sleep?”

“I’m not tired.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to sleep again.”

“You need to get some shuteye.  I know, I’ll make you some chamomile tea.  That always relaxes me.”

I nodded grudgingly, just to get her to leave the room.  I needed to process what she had just said, and Plum’s attempts at invading my thoughts was distracting me.  Mental exhaustion was weakening my resolve and I could feel the barrier between us beginning to buckle.

Thinking that splashing cold water on my face would revive me, I went across the hall to the bathroom and flipped the switch to the left of the door.  The light hit the collar around my neck and the gleam made me stop and stare.  I leaned in close to the mirror, trying to see past the shine and make out the shapes etched into its polished surface.  Delilah walked past the open door with a mug in her hand.  Seeing the guest bedroom empty she turned and saw me in the bathroom.

“What the hell are you doing Patricia!”

“You’re kidding right?  What does it look like I’m doing?”

“Get away from that mirror!”

“Ouch, let go of me Delilah!”

“Ok, look I’m sorry.  Just stay away from mirrors.  I don’t want you looking at that collar.”

“Then maybe you shouldn’t have put it around my neck.”

“I know you think I’m being ridiculous, but we can’t let Plum get a good look at the runes on that collar.”

“You can relax, I’ve blocked her out.”

“Maybe you blocked her out from seeing what you see at this moment, but she can still access your recall of what you’ve seen.”

“Don’t remind me.  I think she already rooted around in my memories.  Who knows how much ammunition she has on me now?  If you would have just forced her out when she first invaded my body, that never would have happened!”

“Oh are we assigning blame?  Don’t forget that your interference got you into this mess.  Nobody told you to go down to the room alone with Flame.”

“How was I supposed to know that Plum had returned?  I was just trying to be nice…”

“Well, you see where that got you.  Look, let’s not fight Patricia.  I can see that you are exhausted.  Come on back in the bedroom.  Your tea is getting cold.  I’ll reheat it for you.”

“That’s okay, it’s probably still warm.”

I sat on the bed and bolted down the tea, in the hopes that Delilah would go away.  Mental exhaustion had my nerves on edge.  Delilah held her hand out for the empty mug.  In passing it to her, I noticed what looked like traces of a gritty substance in the bottom of the mug.  Drowsiness suddenly began leaching away my strength.

“What is this in my mug Delilah?  Did you drug me?”

“It’s just a little something to help you sleep.  Lay down Patricia.”

“I don’t want to go to sleep!  The minute I’m unconscious, Plum will try to take over.”

“Not if you put her in her place.”

“And how am I supposed to do that while I’m unconscious?  She’s a witch.”

“In the natural world, she is a skilled sorceress.  But anyone can be a sorceress in their dreams Patricia.  You’re only limited by your imagination.”

“What does that mean?”

“A minute ago, you said that you had blocked her out of your thoughts.  How did you do that?”

“I don’t know.  I just sort of envisioned a brick wall between us.”

“Well there you go.  In your dreams, all you have to do is concentrate on what you want and it will manifest.  You just have to believe.  You’re a lot stronger than you think you are Patricia.”

 

Crime Diary-Chapter Thirty-Three

When Plum’s essence flowed into me, my senses were thrown into such a state of flux, that I went into shock. She quickly overpowered me. In my confused state, I initially offered no resistance.  There are always those first few seconds, after something inexplicable happens, when you can’t quite believe it’s real. I had no frame of reference for what was happening to me.

As Plum completed her hostile takeover of my body.  I just kept asking myself, “What is happening?” She took root inside of me and my mind was suddenly flooded with images from her. It was like being hit by a tidal wave.  As quickly as the flood began, it receded.

I gradually came to the realization that Plum had erected some sort of barrier between us. At first, it was a relief to be free of her caustic thoughts. Then I realized that she had imprisoned me; relegating me to some disused part of my mind. Being disconnected from my senses really freaked me out. In an instant, I was blind and deaf. Fear shook me out of my daze.

Fighting back was the only option. No one was going to rescue me. They didn’t even know that I was possessed. It was up to me to free myself. Of course, I had no idea how to do that. The thought of being trapped in the darkness forever sent me into a tailspin of panic. A growing sense of hopelessness pushed me to the edge of sanity.

In Plum’s rush of images, I had seen what she had intended to do to Delilah.  Plum had to be stopped.  That was easier said than done, with nothing but the force of my will. I used it like a battering ram, to breech Plum’s wall and free myself.  Coming out of the darkness made me feel like a resurfacing deep sea diver. The return of my senses was almost overwhelming after the void. Plum was still in the driver’s seat, but at least now I could see where we were going.

She knocked on Delilah’s door and I felt frantic again. Plum was about to kill the only person who had actually tried to help me. When no response came from the other side of the door, I was relieved. Maybe Plum would leave. She tried the knob, the door opened and we were inside Delilah’s apartment before my dismay could register.

Plum and I realized that someone was behind the door right before the cold band of steel locked around my neck.  I suddenly felt like a fuse blew inside my head.  Everything went black.  When my eyes opened again, I was lying on a bed in Delilah’s apartment.  The steel cuff was chafing my neck.  One of the female dancers was sitting beside the bed and called out for Delilah, as soon as she realized that I was awake.  A moment later, both of them were standing over me.  I remember thinking how much younger they both looked without the heavy makeup of the night before.

“What happened,” I asked groggily.

“Crystal here saw Flame latched onto you downstairs and sprinted up here to tell me.  I knew there was a chance that Plum had taken possession of your body.  That’s why I was ready with the collar.”

“Speaking of the collar, can you take it off now?”

“I can see it’s uncomfortable.  Sorry, but you’re going to have to keep it on for now.  It’s the only think keeping Plum in check.”

“You mean, she’s still inside of me?  That explains why my head feels so weird.”

“What do you mean?”

“It feels like ants are crawling all over my brain.”

“Guess it’s all the extra electrical activity.”

“Well, I don’t like it.  When are you going to get rid of her?”

“As soon as we get you back to her place.  It’s too dangerous to try doing anything with her here again.  We’ll escort you back and secure her there.”

Plum’s voice suddenly echoed through my mind, “She’s lying!”

My hands involuntarily flew up to my ears, as if they could somehow block out the reverberations bouncing around inside my head.  Delilah asked what was wrong and I told her what had just happened.  She gazed at me steadily with an unreadable expression.

“Do you think I’m lying?”

“Of course not, I don’t believe anything she says…not anymore.”

“Glad to hear it.  We’re all going to have to stick together in this thing.  If you allow her to drive a wedge between us, it weakens our defenses.  Just ignore her.”

“That’s easier said than done.  How do you ignore a voice inside your head?”

“Block her out.  Focus your thoughts on something pleasant: a happy memory or future plans.  If your imagination is strong enough, then you can visualize a barrier like a brick wall or steel vault and use it to protect your thoughts but those are hard to maintain.”

Delilah could see my eyelids growing heavy.  She left the room, so that I could get some rest.  Crystal wanted to stay and keep an eye on me, but I protested and Delilah shooed her out.  The thought of trying to sleep with a stranger looking on made me feel more agitated.  Plum spoke up again, “Is that really why you didn’t want here in here?  I think you’re beginning to have doubts about your new friends.  What do you really know about them Patricia?”

“I know all I need to, they’re nice.  You have to admit that Delilah has helped me a lot,” I inexplicably said out loud.

You used to think that I was nice and helpful too.  That doesn’t make it true.  Stop allowing fear and insecurity make you turn a blind eye to the red flags right in front of you.  When Delilah said that she couldn’t safely turn me loose, you felt a twinge of doubt.  They seemed to have no problem corralling me in that enchanted circle earlier.  No point in trying to lie darling.  I can hear your thoughts just as clearly as you hear mine.  You felt another twinge, when Delilah said she was taking us back to my place, in order to turn me loose.  Both times, she broke eye contact and exchanged secretive looks with Crystal.  What was that about?  Don’t you think it’s in your best interest to find out what’s really going on here?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crime Diary-Chapter Thirty-Two

I followed Delilah up from the basement and emerged into the hallway.  The throbbing base of the club music was like a jolt back into reality.  It was a relief to leave behind the eerie dimness of the building’s nether regions with its inky pools of darkness and long shadows. Down there, everything seemed a bit sinister.

Back upstairs, everything I had just experienced seemed like a harmless dream. Delilah led me to another door which opened onto a stairwell. We walked up two flights of stairs before opening a door and emerging onto a carpeted corridor. There were closed doors lining the hall which I soon discovered led to apartments, the largest of which belonged to Delilah.

She led me into the kitchen. I took a seat a the table and looked around appreciatively at the homey decor as she made us a couple of sandwiches. Delilah served mine with glass of water and sat across from me with her sandwich.

“You never answered my question Patricia.”

“What question?”

“What is the significance of the ectoplasm you just saw?”

The directness of her stare was a little disconcerting. It suddenly felt like I was back in high school and my math teacher had just called me up to the board to work some complex problem. I had no idea what Delilah was talking about. Her expression was unreadable. No hints there.  I bit into the sandwich and chewed slowly in order to buy myself some time. That wasn’t helpful.  I finally just shrugged my shoulders.

“I don’t know Delilah, I’ve only ever seen ectoplasm in the Ghostbusters movies.  But that doesn’t apply here.”

“Why not?”

“Because Plum is alive, so she can’t be a ghost.”

“How do you know she’s alive?”

“You’re joking right?  I know because I’ve talked to her, looked at her and touched her.”

“You spoke with her tonight in Flame’s body, which you can see and touch.  But Flame isn’t Plum.”

“No, but she was channeling Plum.”

“Mediums don’t channel the living.”

I sat staring at Delilah for a full minute, unable grasp her words.  She looked back at me patiently, waiting for her meaning to sink in.  My first reaction was to smile and start laughing.  She had to be joking.  When her expression didn’t change, I shook my head in disbelief.  If what Delilah said was true, then not only was nothing and no one what they seemed to be, my senses had even betrayed me.

“But I would have sensed something like that… wouldn’t I?”

“How do you know that you didn’t sense something without understanding what it was?”

“I guess I don’t know.  To tell the truth, I’m not sure about anything anymore.  I feel like I’ve been wearing blinders my whole life.”

Delilah gave me a consoling pat on the arm and rose, “I can see that you’re tired.  You’ve been through a lot tonight.  Finish eating while I get the bed in the guest bedroom ready.  We’ll talk more in the morning.”

I nodded gratefully, not trusting myself to speak.  Exhausted tears were damming up behind my eyes and although she could sense my despair, I didn’t want her to see me cry.  Delilah left the room and suddenly, I didn’t want to cry.  All my life, people had taken advantage of me and I would just retreat into some shadowy corner and cry.  What good had being a victim done me?  Even if Plum was a ghost, there must be some way to defeat her.  I was turning things over in my mind when the front door banged open.  The bartender suddenly appeared in the kitchen doorway, looking around wildly.  I jumped to my feet and asked what was wrong.

“It’s that woman…we were going to take her to the airport and she fainted.  Now, she’s unresponsive.  Where’s Delilah?”

“She’s in the guest bedroom.”

He turned and went where I directed.  Before long, the two of them were rushing out of the apartment.  After a moment’s hesitation, I followed them back down to the basement.  They had Flame laid out in one of the small pleasure rooms.  She looked pale against the black sheets.  Delilah pushed past the dancers standing around helplessly and checked for a pulse.  She swatted Flame’s cheeks.  A few seconds later, Flame stirred and opened her eye but her pulse remained weak.  Delilah felt that it was due to a combination of dehydration and exhaustion.  They put their heads together in the hallway and decided to let her rest overnight.

I went up and got three bottles of water from behind the bar.  When I returned, everyone had left and the door to her room was locked.  I slid back the bolt lock and let myself in.  Flame lay facing the wall.  She didn’t stir.  I quietly set the water bottles down on the nightstand where Flame could easily reach them and turned to leave.  Flame began coughing.  I got one of the water bottles and moved to help her sit up.  She turned towards me without opening her eyes and whispered.

“Patricia is that you?”

“Yes, Flame it’s me.”

“I knew you’d come.”

A sudden chill raced along my spine at the sound of Plum’s voice. I tried to move back but Flame grabbed my wrist and I was stunned motionless by a jolt of energy.  A current seemed to flow up my arm from Flame’s finger tips.  I felt the hair on my arm standing at attention.  Shock temporarily immobilized me as the energy passed my shoulder and invaded my neck. My head jerked involuntarily and my scalp tingled.

I remember a growing fullness inside my head and Plum’s voice was suddenly in my mind.  The full force of her essence was filling me up.  I was helpless.  Her thoughts became my thoughts and mine became hers.  Plum’s rage was so overwhelming that she was able to start sifting through my memories before I could block her out.

What happened next is a blur of half-formed memories.  I must have shouted at some point because someone came in and separated me from Flame.  Plum had rooted herself so deeply inside of me that I no longer had control over my own body. I realized with dawning horror that Plum intended to use me to go after Delilah and I wouldn’t even be able to warn her.

 

Crime Diary-Chapter Thirty

Delilah cracked her knuckles and leaned forward, placing elbows onto knees.  Flame watched her impassively.  I sensed her bracing herself.

“First things first Flame.  Does Plum know where Patricia is yet?”

“Not exactly,” Flame murmured.

“I see, so she knows Patricia is in New York but not exactly where she is.  Interesting.  Patricia, you described Flame as a lap dog. Why is that?”

I felt myself blush involuntarily.  My strict Catholic upbringing made me feel shame over the snarky choice of words.  I wondered where Delilah was going with that question.  Embarrassment made me a little slow on the uptake.  Misunderstanding the question, I began stammering.

“W-Well, I was upset…”

“This isn’t a confessional Patricia.  I’m assuming you called her a lap dog because she does Plum’s bidding right?”

“I…well, yes that’s true.”

“How tightly does she grip the leash?”

“Huh?”

“Does she constantly have to report back or is she more like Plum’s right hand?”

I gave it a few moments of thought.  Not for the first time, I wished that I had paid more attention to the people around me in that house.  My obsession with Plum had overshadowed everything else.  I couldn’t remember much about anyone else around us.  When in doubt, always go with your gut.

“Flame wasn’t Plum’s right hand.  She acted like she was but, I got the feeling she was little more than a guard dog.”

Delilah nodded as though I had confirmed what she already suspected.  Flame glared at me and I felt her anger wash over me.  As it receded, I caught a trace of humiliation.  So, I was right.  Delilah gave me an approving look and immediately looked perplexed.

“So, why would Flame not immediately let Plum know that she had found you?  She sat out in the club for a long time.”

“Maybe she was waiting until she had me.”

“That’s possible, but I doubt it.  Your Plum sounds like the type who likes to call every shot.  Flame here looks like a good tracker but not necessarily smart enough to make the right decision when magic is involved.”

“Then you don’t think she’s a witch?”

“Definitely not, a witch wouldn’t submit to being tied up unless she had a trick up her sleeve.  Pardon the pun but Flame isn’t that bright.”

Flame hurled obscenities at the two of us, daring us to remove the handcuffs.  Delilah laughed and shook her head, smiling broadly.  Flame tried ineffectually to lunge at her.  She looked so ridiculous straining against the handcuffs that I had to laugh.  I looked over at Delilah in time to see the smile slide off of her face.  She stood up and rushed around behind Flame and pulled her into a chokehold.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

“What are you doing Delilah?  You’re going to kill her!”

“Relax, I’m just putting her to sleep for a few minutes.”

“Why?”

“Did you not see what she was doing with her hands?  She’s trying to channel Plum.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“You’ll see soon enough.  Now be quiet, I only have a few minutes left.”

I opened my mouth to ask another question and thought better of it.  Delilah removed the black scarf holding back her curls and tied it over Flame’s eyes, cinching it tightly.  She called the dancer back in and sent her off after something.  I watched in fascination as she used her heel to trace a pentagram into the dirt floor around Flame.  She completed the task and murmured an incantation under her breath.

The dancer returned  with three other scantily clad dancers.  She handed Delilah a vial  and each dancer secreted themselves in a different shadowy corner of the room.  Delilah unstoppered the vial and poured its contents into the valley in the grooves of the pentagram created by her heel.  Delilah returned to her seat and we waited quietly for Flame to come to.  She slowly sat up straighter and turned her head slowly from side to side.

“I know you two are still here.  I can smell you.”

Delilah looked over at me and rolled her eyes, “You can smell us? Then you’re actually a halfway decent guard dog.”

I laughed and elbowed Delilah.

Flame snarled at me, “Now that I’m blind and bound, you’re feeling bold huh?  You’d be laughing out of the other side of your mouth, if my hands were free.  What’s with the blindfold?  Do you think that’ll keep me from channeling Plum here?”

“On the contrary, I’d like to meet her.”

“Well, take these handcuffs off..”

“Nope.”

Flame sighed exasperatedly and resigned herself to working with her hands cuffed behind her back.  I watched in fascinated silence as she relaxed her body in stages, humming deeply to focus her attention inward.  Seemingly all at once, she went limp.  The next movements weren’t her own.  Plum was with us. I recognized the poised posture and arrogant tilt of her head.  A sly smile played across her lips.  She blew her breath out sharply and the blindfold fell away from her eyes.

“That’s better, I like to see who I’m dealing with. Aren’t you going to introduce me to your little friend Patricia,” Plum purred.

“You’re not going to be here very long, so you don’t need to know her name,” I said with a bravado I didn’t feel.  Her eyes were boring into mine.

“My aren’t we suddenly brave.  Do you think she’s going to save you?”

“Save me from what?”

The angry smile that spread across her face made my blood run cold.  In it, I saw a foreshadowing of the danger to come.  I wanted to warn Delilah but couldn’t seem to tear my eyes away from hers.  My mind went blank.  All of the well-reasoned arguments I had come up with for returning the stolen items and parting ways with Plum dried up under the heat of her glare.  She shouted a word that I had never heard before and the handcuffs suddenly fell away from Flame’s wrists.

I shrank back in horror as she stood and prepared to lunge at me.  Delilah waved her hand and flames shot up from the pentagram.  It halted Plum’s aggressive advance only momentarily.  The dancers emerged from their hiding places, hands raised with palms open towards the pentagram, chanting in unison with Delilah.  The flames grew higher and brighter. Heat blasted my face and knocked Plum back a couple of steps.  She quickly recovered from her surprise and turned to focus her energy on stopping Delilah’s voice.