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MY MOM DIED DURING AN EXORCISM on my eighteenth birthday. On that
ame day! an e"er#preent tatic mo"ed into my head $i%e a &'atter I
E"er ince! I thought getting rid o) the noie *o'$d be my bet hot at
'r"i"a$+$i%e a$$ I needed *a i$ence! e"en i) on$y *ithin mye$)! to )ee$ at
I *a *rong.
I croed the b$ac%#and#*hite ti$ed ,oor to the -'%ebo.! hoping /in%
0$oyd( 12ih Yo' 2ere 3ere( *o'$d dro*n o't the *aping in my mind.
4Sophia56 Mr. 0ran%$in( high#pitched! ingong "oice c't into my
7o'nd by my *aitre$y d'ty! I gripped the ide o) the -'%ebo. and
t'rned my head to*ard her. 4Ye86
She moothed in"iib$e *rin%$e )rom her pai$ey! an%$e#$ength dre.
4Chec%! p$eae. I(d pre)er to $ea"e be)ore any ec'$ar m'ic to'che my
I *a$%ed to the regiter! printed her chec%! and headed o"er to the red
"iny$ booth *here he at. 4Anything e$e! Mr. 0ran%$in86
4I *a hoping yo'(d reconidered my o9er on yo'r ho'e.6
O) co're I hadn(t. 2hy *o'$d I e$$ my inheritance 'n$e I *o'$d ma%e
eno'gh to $ea"e thi rotten to*n8
4I(m not intere+6
She grabbed my arm! and I )orced my g$are )rom her *hitening %n'c%$e
to her co*$ing )ace. I conidered p'$$ing )ree! b't i) *e ca'ed a cene! I
*o'$d be the one to go do*n. :he c'tomer( a$*ay right! a)ter a$$.
She $eaned c$oer and $o*ered her "oice. 4Yo'r mother *o'$d ha"e
*anted it that *ay!6 he aid *eet$y.
I tared bac%! 'ncertain *hat to ay. 7't I didn(t need to ay anything. She
ga"e me a $ong! condemning g$are! then re$eaed my arm! gathered her
p're! and h'rried to the chec%o't co'nter.
I get it! I tho'ght at the bac% o) her head. You think it’s my fault Mom died
during the exorcism.
2hy not8 E"eryone e$e did. A)ter a$$! it(d been my to'ch that %i$$ed her. At
$eat they *eren(t b$aming me )or my )ather( m'rder! b't that *a $i%e$y
on$y beca'e I *a i. at the time.
On my *ay bac% to the %itchen! one o) the t*o boy itting at tab$e )o'r
,agged me do*n to re&'et a mi$%ha%e. I tried )oc'ing on the order a I
ran the b$ender! b't I co'$dn(t te$$ *here the o'nd in my head ended and
the o'nd o) the rea$ *or$d began.
4I heard he( a *itch!6 the o$der boy *hipered $o'd$y.
3i )riend grinned. 4She( b$onder than yo'r iter! e"en . . . and probab$y
t*ice a d'mb.6
Right. Sophia /aron! to*n idiot. /a$e! b$onde! and bro*n#eyed. A b$and
a oatmea$! yet omeho* I *a ti$$ the r'mor mi$$( hot a'ce.
I *anted to d'mp the boy( ha%e o"er hi greay $itt$e head! b't intead!
I reca$$ed the 2iccan Rede that had o $ong g'ided me; An it harm none, do
what ye will.
:oo bad my Co$orado State Uni"erity ed'cation *a pro"ing )r'it$e.
Apparent$y! no one *anted to hire a t*enty#t*o#year#o$d )reh o't o) co$$ege
to teach hitory.
:he greay#haired boy nodded to*ard the diner( )ront door. 4<et( get o't
o) here. She( gi"ing me the creep.6
:ho'gh they $e)t! the itchy )ee$ing o) their -'dgment did not. I b$e* a
tray hair )rom my eye and ga=ed pat the booth! o't the *indo* to the
Roc%y Mo'ntain on the hori=on. 7e$$e Meado* *a thirty min'te )rom
Den"er b't age )rom the modern day. :hi to*n *a a trap! a co$$ection o)
cra=ie. Inc$'ding mye$). I) Co$orado *a the heart o) the o'th*et! 7e$$e
Meado* *a a c$ogged artery.
:he ding o) the diner( )ront door opening bro'ght me bac% to rea$ity;
b'rnt greae and co9ee on the air! a$ong *ith my d'ty to er"e *hoe"er
tro$$ed in. It -'t o happened that 1*hoe"er( *a Sheri9 <oc'mb. 3e
entered the diner *ith a p'rpoe)'$ gait! canning the room be)ore heading
43ey! Sheri9.6 I righted an 'pide#do*n co9ee m'g and began to po'r.
4Anything beide the ''a$86
3i m'tache t*itched. 3e br'hed ome cr'mb )rom *here hi tomach
b'$ged againt hi bro*n po$ice 'ni)orm and $i)ted hi ga=e. 4Mi Sophia
I topped po'ring mid#c'p. Hello8 I serve your cofee every day. 4Yeah86
>ac% came 'p beide me! drying hi hand on a to*e$. 43ey! Sheri9.
2hat( going on86
<oc'mb c$eared hi throat. 4I(m! 'h! a)raid I need to a% Mi /aron to
come *ith me.6
>ac% and I tared at each other and then bac% at the heri9.
4I thi a -o%e86 I a%ed.
I didn(t rea$$y thin% he *a -o%ing. Sheri9 <oc'mb *an(t the -o%ing %ind.
E"eryone in the diner *atched. E"en the -'%ebo. *ent i$ent.
>ac% $eaned c$oer to the heri9! $o*ering hi "oice. 42hat( thi abo't!
<oc'mb ni9ed. 4Can(t dic' it. 2e -'t need to a% Sophia ome
My heartbeat pic%ed 'p. Sheri9 <oc'mb co'$d be a nice g'y . . . in a diner.
7't I didn(t *ant to be on the other end o) hi &'etioning. Not again. Not
:rying to appear ca$m! I remo"ed my apron and gent$y p$aced it on the
4O%ay!6 I aid. 4<et me get my t'9.6
A)ter promiing >ac% I(d ma%e 'p my hi)t o"er the *ee%end! I headed to
my >eep and p'$$ed 'p behind Sheri9 <oc'mb( cr'ier.
I pent the dri"e to the heri9( o?ce in a co$d *eat. No handc'9! no
reading o) my right. At $eat thi time I *an(t 'nder arret. 3e *a e"en
a$$o*ing me to )o$$o* him to the tation.
:hat *ho$e thing *ith Mr. /etren%o+that *a $ong o"er *ith! right8 I(d
on$y found hi body.
I hadn(t %i$$ed the man. No matter *hat anyone tho'ght.
S3ERI00 <OCUM7 AND I at in a ma$$ room *ith a tab$e and t*o chair and a
cheap $ight embedded into the 'pended cei$ing o"erhead. I *iped my
pa$m on my pant! b't the *eat %ept coming.
3e p'$$ed 'p a pict're on hi ce$$ phone. 4<oo% )ami$iar86
Maybe he ho'$d("e gotten an eight#by#t*e$"e print. 2hat *a the pict're
o)8 2ood8 A reddih#orange @g're eight and a cro8 I )ro*ned and hoo%
my head. 4hould thi $oo% )ami$iar86
4Someone pray#painted thi on the abandoned grain e$e"ator!6 he aid
coo$$y. 42hy don(t yo' te$$ me *hat yo' %no*86
42hat I %no* abo't pray#paint86
4<oo%.6 3e $e"e$ed hi ga=e at me. 4Mr. 0ran%$in aid one o) the *omen
in her congregation+*e$$! her da'ghter got ic%. :hey thin% yo' had
omething to do *ith thi.6
4Mr. 0ran%$in thin% I ha"e omething to do *ith e"erything.6
42e$$86 he a%ed.
42e$$! *hat8 I didn(t get anyone ic%.6
3e p'9ed hi chee% and b$e* o't a breath. 4I(m not aying yo' got
anyone ic%! Sophia. :hey thin% yo' he.ed their chi$d by pray#painting thi
4Yo' thin% I hexed omeone8 Yo'(re %idding.6
7e$$e Meado* might be a ma$$ to*n! b't 're$y it *an(t o d'$$ that they
needed to ca$$ me do*n to the tation )or this.
4Yo'(re here beca'e Mr. 0ran%$in 'ggeted yo' might be the one *ho
"anda$i=ed the abandoned grain e$e"ator! not beca'e yo' 1c'red(
4And86 I a%ed.
42e$$! did yo'86
3e tared b$an%$y. 42hat( that ha"e to do *ith the cae86
42iccan don(t !elieve in Satan.6
4<iten! $ady. I don(t care *hat yo' be$ie"e in. 2hy don(t yo' -'t te$$ me
*here yo' *ere *hen the o9ene too% p$ace86
42hich *a *hen86
4At Co$orado State! ta%ing my enior year @na$.6 Something a )e*
min'te o) reearch *o'$d ha"e to$d him *itho't dragging me do*n here.
7eide! ho* did Mr. 0ran%$in %no* the date8 Did he ta%e dai$y dri"e
aro'nd to*n *ith her ca$endar and -o'rna$! $oo%ing )or ign o) demonic
Sheri9 <oc'mb $eaned bac% in hi chair! $apping hi hand againt hi
%nee be)ore tanding. 4I(m 're yo' *o'$dn(t mind *aiting here *hi$e I
chec% *ith the choo$86
I get'red to*ard the door. 4Go ahead.6
I *o'$d $i%e to ay I en-oyed the i$ence *hi$e he *a gone! b't there *a
nothing b't the contant h'hing in my brain the entire time.
Sheri9 <oc'mb ret'rned *ith a c'p o) co9ee and an apo$ogy. I didn(t drin%
the co9ee! b't I did a% him abo't the ic% %id! and he to$d me it(d -'t been
a cae o) chic%en po.. Not a demonic p$ag'e or anything $i%e that.
A)ter &'aring e"erything a*ay! I ret'rned o'tide to my >eep and gripped
the teering *hee$. I co'$dn(t dea$ *ith Mr. 0ran%$in( cra=y acc'ation and
the damn hiing. Something had to gi"e.
:a%ing three deep breath! I p'hed the hiing a )ar into the bac% o) my
%'$$ a poib$e. I *an(t abo't to go bac% to *or%. Someone *a bo'nd to
interr'pt my re$a.ation e9ort *ith a re&'et )or a drin% re@$$ or a comp$aint
that their -a$apeno $oa) *a too picy or their ginger#$ime chic%en *an(t
A I dro"e home! I concentrated on the road+on one mai$bo. a)ter
another! on the *ay tree branche $aced o"erhead! e"en on the g$are o)
tra?c $ight! co'nting the econd 'nti$ they t'rned green. Anything to
ditract me )rom the noie.
My >eep h'hed a$ong the pa"ement! b't the ro$$ o) the road didn(t do
me any good. :he &'ieter the *or$d aro'nd me! the $o'der the b'==ing in my
brain. Coping *a no $onger a "iab$e option.
At the $at ma-or cro treet be)ore my neighborhood! the noie in my
head roared. I $ammed my pa$m againt the teering *hee$! gritting my
Eno'gh *a eno'gh. I ,ic%ed my t'rn igna$ in the other direction and
"eered onto the high*ay be)ore my co'rage ,ed. It *a time to t'rn a*ay
)rom ca'tion and to*ard Sparro*( Grotto. :o*ard omething that might
i$ence the hiing )ore"er.
:3E 0OR:Y#MINU:E DRIAE to Cripp$e Cree%! home o) Sparro*( Grotto! *a
*orth pending the bit o) cah I made at the diner. A 2iccan hop *o'$d not
)are *e$$ in 7e$$e Meado*! b't! than%)'$$y! the 'rro'nding to*n had p'$$ed
theme$"e into modern America.
I hr'gged o9 my eatbe$t and grabbed my $it )rom the g$o"e
compartment be)ore tepping o't o) my >eep. A *ad o) @ngerprinted g'm
b$oc%ed the par%ing meter $ot. No *ay *a I h'nting do*n another pace. I
d'g the g'm o't *ith the b$ade o) my car %ey and )orced a &'arter pat the
:here. :*enty min'te )or me.
I tared at the hop I(d @rt et )oot in *hen I *a i.teen+the p$ace that
a$*ay pro"ided an*er. Doctor hadn(t been ab$e to he$p *ith the noie.
:innit'! they(d aid! a i) thi *ere on$y a ringing in my ear.
:innit'! my a.
7't I(d gone to them @rt beca'e magic *a omething I t'rned to on$y
*hen neceary. A)ter today! I *a con"inced thi *a one o) thoe time.
I ho"ed my tho'ght aide and headed into Sparro*( Grotto! *here
coyote @g'rine pro*$ed the he$"e! patcho'$i and anda$*ood in)'ed the
air! and note o) Ce$tic m'ic re$a.ed my ner"e. :he *a$$ oppoite the
chec%o't co'nter *a tac%ed *ith boo%! and the center ai$e *ere @$$ed
*ith herb! oi$! cand$e! cha$% and a$t! ma$$ dihe! and other rit'a$
imp$ement. Athame! bo$ine! and other harp ob-ect *ere %ept $oc%ed in
/a$oma! the hop o*ner and my $ong#time mentor! b'rt thro'gh a
beaded c'rtain! her o't#*'ng arm brea%ing the image o) bamboo hoot.
3er $ong hair! bro*n a cocon't h'%! tang$ed in her $arge! go$d hoop
4Oi! Sophia56 he aid. 4It( been )ar too $ong56
4Yo'(re te$$ing me. 3o*("e yo' been86
0o$$o*ing a &'ic% bo't o) chitchat! he re"ie*ed my $it! her ga=e on$y
interr'pted )or a moment a he *iped a tray hair )rom the 'n#*eathered
%in o) her )orehead. 42hat ort o) rit'a$ do yo' ha"e in mind86
4Something )or poiti"e energy.6 <e demanding than a rit'a$ )or i$enceB
I ne"er )e$t right ma%ing demand *hi$e 'ing magic.
4Ah!6 he aid! tapping a @nger againt her $ip. 4I($$ ee *hat I can do.6
She diappeared behind her beaded c'rtain *hi$e I admired a )e*
anti&'e on a he$) near the co'nter. A ma$$ "io$in charm made me mi$e. I
et the charm beide the cah regiter. It *o'$d be a per)ect addition to the
brace$et Grand)ather D'nne had gi"en me hort$y be)ore he died. 3e(d e"en
remo"ed e"era$ $in% o it *o'$dn(t $ip )rom my *rit.
/a$oma ret'rned *ith )o'r p$'m#co$ored herba$ po'che tr'ng h't *ith
thin b$ac% cord. 4I hope yo' don(t mind! b't *e(re o't o) agrimony. I("e
'btit'ted *ith eyebright.6
4I tho'ght agrimony *a bet )or banihing negati"e energy86
4:he eyebright *i$$ bring ba$ance. My mother 'ed thi )or a imi$ar rit'a$
in 7e$Cm *hen I *a yo'ng. In 7ra=i$! *e gre* agrimony in o'r garden. :he
*eet apricot cent i $o"e$y.6
I bit my $ip. Eyebright *a not part o) the p$an! and I hadn(t come a$$ thi
*ay )or air )rehener. Menta$ c$arity might he$p! b't it genera$$y *an(t
'ggeted to r'h into a rit'a$. :hat inc$'ded changing detai$ at the $at
min'te. One herb co'$d change e"erything! and I didn(t ha"e time to redo a$$
7't I needed the noie gone+yeterday.
43a"e I e"er teered yo' *rong86 he preed.
She had a point.
4One more thing!6 he aid! retrie"ing a $arge boo% )rom 'nder her
co'nter and handing it to me. 4A gi)t. 0or yo'.6
:he $eather binding dip$ayed a $abyrinth o) $ea)y pira$ and branche o)
$a're$. A hand*ritten co"er page read Maltorim "ecords, #olume $$#I, alem
4Are yo' 're86 I a%ed. Gi)t a$*ay made me )ee$ a tho'gh I needed to
do omething nice in ret'rn! and I co'$d ne"er @g're o't *hat. 4It $oo% . . .
4Yo' mean it $oo% o$d8 :hat( *hy I(m gi"ing it to yo'.6
4Yo'(re gi"ing it to me beca'e it( o$d86
She *a"ed me o9. 4Yo' %no* *hat I mean. Yo' t'dy thoe ancient te.t
and a$$! don(t yo'86
4/a$eography!6 I aid! 'rpried he remembered the pecia$ interet I(d
had in co$$ege. I) the boo% *a hand*ritten! I(d certain$y en-oy ana$y=ing the
4I("e no 'e )or it!6 he contin'ed. 4In ome peop$e( hand! that boo%
*o'$d end 'p a a gag gi)t and e"ent'a$$y a door top in ome o$d man(
ho'e *ith too many cat and too many bac% copie o) ne*paper! not to
mention that one *oman *ho 'ed to come here to b'y boo% -'t to b'rn
4Yo' mean Mr. 0ran%$in86 I a%ed! on$y ha$)#-o%ing.
4I(m ramb$ing again! aren(t I86 She $et o't a brie) igh and get'red
to*ard the boo%. 4Conider it an ear$y birthday preent.6
Ear$y *a an 'ndertatement. :he tart o) September *a a )ar cry )rom
4:han% yo'! rea$$y.6 I p'$$ed ome cr'mp$ed bi$$ and a )e* :ic#:ac#i=ed
ba$$ o) $int )rom my poc%et.
/a$oma tapped e"era$ %ey on her regiter. 4A dico'nt! ince I didn(t
ha"e the agrimony!6 he aid. 4No* ho* abo't a c'p o) tea be)ore yo' get
2e chatted in the bac% room! the $ight aroma o) green tea hidden beneath
the cent o) hot ceramic. I mi$ed at the mimatched croc%ery tac%ed high
in /a$oma( pa$e b$'e! door$e cabinet and her ec$ectic e$ection o)
orphaned piece o) dining room )'rnit're. 0or the @rt time a$$ day! I co'$d
a$mot re$a.. A$mot+i) on$y the hiing in my head *o'$d top b$otting o't
/a$oma *anted to hear more abo't the rit'a$! b't e"ery time I opened my
mo'th! I to$d her abo't omething e$e intead. I -'t co'$dn(t bring mye$) to
te$$ her abo't my c're+ye! a c're. :he inceant hiing *a too dread)'$
to thin% o) a anything e$e.
A)ter *e ca'ght 'p! he a* me to the door and made me promie to ca$$
i) I needed anything.
4Anything at a$$!6 he preed! c$oing the door behind me.
I *an(t ha$)*ay do*n the *a$% be)ore I to$d mye$) I(d miread the
concern in her "oice.
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