Plum turned the lights off on her way out of my room. I lay in the darkness turning things over in my mind, frantically searching for a solution and despairing when I found none. Things seemed to be going from bad to worse. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Plum using me to set a trap for Delilah. Added to the pressure of having to live my life under the oppressive cloud of an active criminal investigation for shady real estate transactions was a hex about which I knew next to nothing. To top it all off, every time sleep came, images of Delilah’s violent death would startle me awake.
Seeking to distract myself from such dark musings, I allowed my mind to wander back to the time before I met Plum and recalled how uneventful it was. Back then, life seemed to be passing me by. My loneliness felt like a life sentence. I would have done anything, just to have someone to talk to. How ironic. My wish finally came true and I was surrounded by people, but none of them could be trusted. That made me feel even lonelier than those solitary nights I’d spent crying my eyes out. Plum was my best friend and she had basically ruined my life. I actually felt safer, back when I had no friends. In light of all the trouble my new circle of “friends” was drawing down on me, being alone suddenly didn’t seem so bad.
But the hex had effectively ended any serious thoughts about striking out on my own. As maddeningly selfish as Plum could be, I felt safer by her side as long as that curse was on my head. In the midst of my troubling thoughts, exhaustion closed over me. I dropped into a deep dreamless sleep. Moonlight was streaming in through the window beside my bed, when a chill in the air roused me. The temperature in the room had dropped several degrees. Only half awake, I shivered. My comforter was on the floor and realized I couldn’t retrieve it because I could not move. Startled fully awake, I sensed a presence in the room. Unable to lift or turn my head, my eyes scanned the room and detected the dim outline of someone in the darkness by the door.
That shocked me, like cold water dashed in my face. For a desperate moment, I allowed myself to hope that Plum or one of the other ladies had just slipped in to check on me. The shadowy figure stayed in the opposite corner, still as a statue. That definitely wasn’t normal. My heart leapt into a gallop, making it hard to breathe. I gasped and saw my hot breath huff back out cloudy in the cold room. I suddenly recalled all of the witches who had recently died in that very house. A chill raced down my spine. I tried and failed to speak, to cry out for help. My vocal cords seemed to be paralyzed, along with the rest of me.
I could feel the shadowy figure intently watching me from across the room. Menace radiated out in my direction. In the blink of an eye, the figure shot across the room and I finally saw who it was. Moonlight shone on Delilah’s dead face, as she bent over me, leaning down until our faces were inches apart. The blood and gore from her crushed head had dried and crusted on her ashen skin. Delilah’s voice was an unintelligible croak as her hot breath blasted me in the face.
My eyes went wide with disbelief, as her bony fingers slipped around my neck and began crushing it. Everyone always says your life flashes before your eyes, when you’re dying. That did not happen to me. I was in too much pain. My entire focus was on getting oxygen into empty lungs, which felt like they were on fire. I must have blacked out, because the next thing I knew the lights were on and Plum was asking me if I was okay.
“Hell no, I’m not okay! Delilah just tried to kill me again,” I sputtered.
“Sorry about that sweetie, we really should smudge this room.”
“That’s not going to help me. I’m cursed remember? That makes me a sitting duck. Delilah will just keep coming back, until she succeeds in killing me. How do I get rid of the hex?”
“I told you, Hiromi has all the answers. The person who cast the spell has to be the one to break it.”
“Well, then I am royally screwed. Hiromi doesn’t care about me. Once she realizes that I failed in the mission she sent me on to kill you, she’ll be far more likely to kill me than to help me. “
“That’s why we’ll have to force her hand. Are you up for it?”
“At this point, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to break this curse.”