Cliff Finley offers them very precise instructions on how to handle Mr. Deidrich. He also gives them a bag of blessed salt with cumin and tells them how to use it, along with a couple of words, whose meaning they don’t recognize.
He made Jordan and Brian repeat it.
“Good. Be careful. And if you need me, call. I can be here in less than five minutes.”
“Thank you.” Jordan hugged him, kissing his cheek. “I wish you could stay with us.”
“I wish I could too. Oh, nearly forgot.” He dug around in his pocket. “This is what I went after. You add this to the food before your parents eat it. It will help against whatever Deidrich’s put in the food.”
Brian looked at the packet of pale pink powder. “What is it?”
“Taste,” Mr. Finley said with a grin.
Brian licked his finger and took a tiny bit of the powder on his finger. “It’s salt!”
“Yes, but a very special kind. It will purify the food. Just a pinch per dish. Another pinch by the doors and windows will help keep out evil. And this.” He handed each of them a small bundle of what looked like twigs, bound in red string. “I know it doesn’t look like much, but it will protect you. That’s oak, ash and thorn tied with string dyed with rowan berries. Carry it with you.” He handed each a small bag, also dyed red. “That’s also dyed with rowan. A great deterrent for evil. I’ve made them for your parents. Slip it in a pocket or put it in their beds. It will help.”
“How do you know all this, Mr. Finley?” Jordan asked.
He looked directly in her eyes. “Because I read the information and I saw the pattern,” he replied. “Now you do the same.”
“What about Chase?”
“He’s got his own things to read and learn. Better get in for dinner now.”
“Thank you,” Jordan and Brian said once more.
They got reluctantly out of Mr. Finley’s car. Brian suddenly remembered that his dad and Mr. Finley were close friends and wanted to cry. This was his father’s job—watching over his son and protecting him. It wasn’t he responsibility of Jordan’s father or Chase’s, but his own. How could he leave when he knew his son was vulnerable? What had been so important that he’d left like he did?
He saw the pattern, Brian heard in his head. And the pattern can’t be denied.
The house seemed calm and quiet when Jordan and Brian walked in. Mr. Deidrich sat at the kitchen table while Jackie fixed dinner. Maribelle sat there, sipping her tea and smiling. Heath sat at the table too, but his expression was hard to read. Mr. Deidrich flickered his fingers before he spoke.
“Heath, why don’t you get the children something to drink?”
“Yes, why don’t I?” He got up and grabbed two sodas from the back of the refrigerator. He handed each child a can.
“Why don’t you pour it in glasses for them?” Another flicker of his fingers.
“We’re fine without them,” Brian said. “Thanks, Heath.”
Mr. Barrett nodded. Was that a wink or did he blink more slowly with one eye than the other? Jordan rinsed the cans at the sink, drying them with a paper towel. Mr. Deidrich frowned, saying nothing.
When dinner was served, Mr. Deidrich handled the plates and serving dishes. He didn’t touch the flatware, which was silver, Brian noticed with glee. He ate and drank very little, but plied the others with food, offering to serve the children as well as the adults, holding the serving spoons with his napkin. Brian and Jordan refused, murmuring the words Mr. Finley had taught them, when he insisted. Brian made sure that any food that passed his hands got a sprinkle of the salt.
Deidrich sat next to him, and flinched every time a salted dish came his way. It looked like it caused him real pain. His dark eyes grew harder and colder as the meal progressed. It was pretty obvious that his hold on the adults faltered when Jackie and Maribelle started having a normal conversation about the weather. His face showed the strain more and more as the meal drew to a close.
Brian had quite a bit of salty residue on his fingers. When Mr. Deidrich reached for a platter, ostensibly to pass it to Maribelle, Brian touched his hand. Hissing, Mr. Deidrich pulled his hand away. The platter clattered to the table, the food scattering. An angry, red welt the size and shape of Brian’s fingers, rose on the black man’s hand. Furious, he got up from the table and ran to the sink.
Heath winked at Brian, very definitely that time. He nodded slightly at the women. Brian got up, offering to pour some more lemonade for his mother. When he handed her the glass, he let the salty fingers touch her palm. She flinched slightly as if she’d received a shock. He did the same for Jackie. Even though Heath seemed fine, Brian made sure to shake his hand as he went back to his seat.
© 2016 Dellani Oakes