I looked on in bewildered disgust at the sight of Plum standing there with a necklace of woven human hair around her neck. She saw the revulsion on my face and grinned broadly. I glared at her, seeing nothing funny about it. Plum raised an eyebrow sarcastically and turned her back on me, speaking to the others.
“Now then, which one of you ladies wants to tell me how you pulled of such a powerful spell? Surely, you don’t expect me to believe that you’re strong enough to blast someone to kingdom come without a little booster.”
As she spoke, Plum looked at each of the four women in turn, watching their frightened eyes flee from her eye contact. She bent the full intensity of her glare on the weakest one in the group and was gratified to see the woman’s gaze shift to Delilah’s hand.
“Aha, your girl has given you up Delilah. Hand over whatever you’ve got concealed in your right hand.”
Delilah’s arm began to tremble, but she resisted Plum’s request. The extreme effort exerted just to shake her head no made the veins in her neck stand out, like cords straining against her skin. Plum extended an arm with open palm and Delilah’s arm jerked, but remained at her side. Plum sighed annoyedly.
“Look, I know you don’t want to look weak in front of the others. It’s hard to let go of the reins, when you’ve been in charge for a long time, but that ship has sailed. Have the grace to acknowledge defeat, before I completely humiliate you. Hand it over!”
Beads of sweat popped out on Delilah’s forehead, as she stubbornly resisted the compelling push behind the forceful demand. Plum shook her head, looking around at the group before turning back to Delilah.
“You know, I could just rip that crystal from your hand. You’re being a bad little witch Delilah. Mama is going to have to spank you.”
Plum turned on her heels and stalked over to the desk, angrily rummaging through the drawers. My stomach twisted back into an anxious knot. She found what she was looking for and I was surprised to see a pack of cigarettes and a lighter in her hand. Plum looked up at me and chuckled.
“Why are you looking at me like that Patricia? What did you think I was looking for? One of the most irritating things about moving into a new body is having to deal with the previous owner’s bad habits. Thanks to Flame, I have the most intense craving for a cigarette.”
Plum shook a cigarette from the pack, put it between her lips and lit it while striding back over to Delilah. She took a drag, inhaled deeply and blew the smoke into Delilah’s face. Plum eyed her with contempt, turning her head to glance at me.
“If there’s one thing I hate, it’s disobedience in my coven. It’s dangerous to go into battle with someone by your side, who doesn’t do what they’re told. One muleheaded witch can get everyone in the coven killed. As long as Delilah refuses to do as she’s told, she’s useless to me. She’s no better than an ash tray.”
Plum ground out her cigarette in the center of Delilah’s chest, smiling with savage pleasure at Delilah’s screams. A third request was met with the same resistance. The smile faded from Plum’s face. She flicked the lighter on and moved it towards Delilah’s hair. I rushed towards them, prompted by the harrowing memory of Tammy’s fiery death.
Plum whipped her head towards me and I felt an invisible force knock me backwards. My head impacted and skidded along the hardwood floor so hard that I saw stars. The tip of Delilah’s hair began to smoke and her resolve failed. She handed over what looked like a gray and pearly white marbled stone. Plum shot me a triumphant look and held it up to the light.
“A moonstone, very nice…I wonder which one of the witches downstairs you stole this from. It doesn’t matter. This little lovely belongs to me now. Well, I’m glad that’s settled. Hopefully you lovely ladies learned an important lesson about obedience. We’ve got work to do. Get up Patricia…don’t roll your eyes at me. You know better than to interfere, when I’m disciplining someone. Come along ladies. Not you Delilah. Get a broom and sweep up Flame’s ashes, but don’t discard them. Put them into that porcelain vase with the lid over there.”
Plum knelt down where the little beetle figurine had fallen and murmured “ma.” It flitted up from among the ashes and landed on the gold chain around her neck, wrapping its front legs around the necklace, before transforming at once into a scarab pendant. Plum stroked it fondly, stood and headed for the door.
She walked past the ladies and waved a hand to release them from their bound state. I reluctantly got to my feet and followed the others at a distance, resentful and more than a little embarrassed about the way Plum had knocked me aside like a rag doll. We filed out into the hallway and made our way down the steps, following her lead.
One by one, Plum examined the bodies of the fallen witches, complementing the others in our small group on their successful campaign. I was a bit taken aback to see their pleased expressions. Plum was already beginning to win them over. At her prompting, they willingly joined hands in a circle around her. I stood back on guard, marveling at the trust Plum showed, in closing her eyes while surrounded by them. I was so busy monitoring them, that I didn’t realize what they were doing, until shadows began rising from the dead and coming to stand at attention around us.