Their investigation reveals a lot, including a recipe for acid rain, which was used by the witches. The Peddler intervened when the children were attacked, though not before.
“Mr. D.,” Brian surmised.
“Yes,” his father said.
“You think he’s back?” Jordan asked.
“The question isn’t if he’s back,” Heath replied. “It’s if he ever left.”
“Dad, don’t even say that!”
“Miles flipped a few pages in the book. He found a loose paper, folded in thirds. “There’s a map here,” he said, laying it on the table for them to look at. “Here we are.” He pointed to a spot on the map. “Here is the cemetery where they buried all the good people. And here,” he tapped the map a mile or so away from them. “Is where they buried the dead witches covered in a mixture of bitter herbs and quick lime.”
“Only that doesn’t say bitter herbs,” Brian said, staring at the page. “Someone scraped off the ink and changed it. Look, every time. You can see the surface of the paper is different.”
“Maybe you can see that, Sammy Super Eyes,” Jordan said. “To me, it just looks blurry.”
“I promise, it’s been changed.” He held the book up, gazing across the surface of the page. Blowing on it, he waited a moment before showing her.
“How did you do that?”
“What does it say now?” Miles asked.
“Instead of bitter herbs, it says bitumen,” Jordan replied. “What’s that?”They talked about bitumen in the Bible,” Brian said. “Noah used it to seal the ark. It’s like tar, isn’t it?” he asked his parents. “Why would anyone use that on a grave?”
“More to the point,” Miles said, eyes not focused on anything. “Why would anyone build their family home nearly on top of a mass grave for witches?”
“What are you talking about?” Maribelle asked.
Miles pointed to their location, drawing a line with his finger to the location of the witch grave. Brian caught the significance right away.
“That’s Chase’s house!”
“Yes,” Miles replied. “Sitting nearly on top of a mass grave full of very pissed off witch ashes, quick lime and tar. Sounds like a bomb waiting to happen, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah, but what set it off?” Brian asked.
“Cliff Finley, when he tried to ward his home from evil,” Heath replied.
“What does that all mean?” Jackie asked.
“It means it’s already started,” Heath replied. “Whatever’s planned for the night of the Harvest Ball is already in the works. And it’s up to us to stop it.”
They spent the rest of the evening poring over the books, gleaning as much information as they could about what happened. An automated phone call from the school board informed them that school was canceled for the rest of the week, due to damage at the school.
Not long after, they got another call from the hospital. It was Chase.
“They’re letting me stay with Mom overnight,” he told Brian. “Thanks for helping with Katie and Lucy. I couldn’t….” His voice broke and he sobbed.
“I know,” Brian said quietly. “Jesus, Chase. I can’t even imagine.” But he could. It was less than a year ago that he’d thought his own father was dead. He knew exactly how Chase felt. But Brian had been lucky, he’d gotten a reprieve. “Do you want me to come by? We can talk.”
Chase paused. Brian knew that he did but wouldn’t want to inconvenience his friend. Determined not to make it optional, Brian continued.
“Do you want anything to eat? Do you need clothing?”
“I guess? I don’t know, man. I can’t even think.”
“We’ll take care of it. Mom and Jackie are already putting together a care package. Hang tight, brother. We’re coming.”
“Thanks,” Chase gulped back a sob and hung up.
Laden with a basket of goodies and a satchel of clothing, Jordan and Brian went to the hospital. Chase met them downstairs in the lobby. It was past visiting hours, but they were allowed to linger there as long as they were quiet.
Jordan rushed to their friend, hugging him tightly. Chase sobbed on her shoulder. Brian enfolded them both in his embrace, long arms circling them with comfort. Soon, Chase could breathe again without gasping. They sat down and examined the basket contents. With each additional treat, Chase smiled a little more.
“This is great, thank you. Tell your folks thanks. I don’t know what I’m gonna do….”
“Dad called your dad’s parents,” Brian told him. “They’ll be here sometime tomorrow. Your aunts and uncles are already making plans, taking care of living arrangements, everything. You don’t have to worry about a thing.”
“Except the fact my dad is dead,” Chase mumbled.
“I’m so sorry,” Brian said, eyes brimming with tears. “I loved your dad too, Chase. He was great. He helped Mom and me when Dad was gone. He helped save our lives the night of the bonfire. He was a great teacher. I learned more from him than from my own parents, about control. I’m glad I had the honor of knowing him and I will miss him until the day I die.”
© 2017 Dellani Oakes