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Tom Redding sat up in his bed. He looked over at his alarm clock. It was two in the morning and his doorbell was ringing. He got up and crossed the bedroom, leaving the light off. Somehow, he made his way to the front door. His head was a ball of anger and grogginess. His hand went to the hall light switch. He stopped when his wife appeared.
“It might be a burglar,” Liz said, peeking around the corner.
“Ringing the doorbell?” Tom said.
“You should get the gun.”
“Woman, you know we don’t own a gun,” he said.
“Wait! The baseball bat.” She disappeared into the bedroom.
Tom rolled his eyes. Turning on the light, he opened the front door. The ringing finally stopped. Standing before him was a lanky man in a long, dirty coat. It looked as if he had been running through the woods all night. He had a wild look in his eyes that made Tom nervous. Most upsetting, though, was the unconscious woman in his arms.
“What the hell?” Tom was having a hard time registering what he saw.
“Wow, you’re huge,” Silas said, looking over the man in t-shirt and pajama pants. “Like a buff Sidney Poitier.”
“Who are you?” Tom asked. “Is that Hannah Rhodes?”
“Hannah?” Liz reemerged. She couldn’t find the baseball bat, ultimately deciding on an umbrella. Dropping her weapon, she ran to the door. “Oh my God. Tom, let them in.”
Tom put an arm across the doorway. “First, tell me who you are and what happened to her.”
Silas sighed, shuffling his bundle. Taking a deep breath, he quickly blurted out: “I’m Silas Black. Hannah’s working for me. We were on a case. She got hurt. You’re doctors. She’s getting heavy. Let me in.”
Tom took Hannah. He carried her as if she was a small child. Liz was already checking her pulse as he carried her into the living room. Silas followed, shutting the door behind him. Tom gently laid Hannah on the couch. Liz put an ear to her mouth.
“I can’t get a pulse, Tom,” she said. “I’m not sure she’s breathing.”
“Hang on, babe,” he said. “You’re exhausted.”
“I’ve done 2 AM shifts before. I know what I’m doing.”
“Let me get our stuff and we’ll do this right.”
“You should use a stethoscope,” Silas said. He had planted himself across the couch in an armchair.
They cast him sharp looks. Getting up from beside the couch, Tom went back into their bedroom.
“Nice place,” Silas said. “What does this run you, like five grand a month?”
Liz stood up, hands on her hips. “What the hell happened?”
“Can’t talk about it,” Silas said. “On-going case.”
Liz’s face told him she did not accept that as a reasonable answer.
Silas cleared his throat. “Got any tea?”
Tom returned with a first aid kit, supplemented by some of his professional equipment. He took out a stethoscope and checked Hannah’s breathing. Liz watched for a moment, quickly turning back to Silas.
“We were upstate exploring a house when Hannah passed out,” Silas said. “I tried to rouse her, but no dice. So I did what any normal person would do: I brought her back to New York so her doctor friend could treat her. Found your address in her phone.”
“What kind of house?” Liz asked. “Was there mold, did she cut herself on metal, drink dirty water, hit her head?”
“None of those,” he said. “She just fainted.”
“You didn’t call 911 or get her to a hospital?”
“We were in the middle of nowhere,” Silas said. “No cell reception. By the time I got back to civilized society, it was just as easy to bring her to you.”
“You carried her all the way back to Manhattan?” Tom asked.
“I found a ride,” Silas said.
“How long has she been out?” Liz asked.
“She’s been in and out for the last few hours,” Silas said. “I got her to walk for a bit, but that didn’t last. She’s been out cold for the last thirty minutes.”
Tom removed the stethoscope and proceeded to feel Hannah’s throat for swelling. He took out a flashlight and shone it into her eyes.
“I doubt her glands are swollen,” Silas said.
“And how would you know that?” Liz asked.
“I happen to have a little medical training,” he said. “Took a few classes in college.”
“That makes you a doctor?” she said.
“Of course, not,” Silas said. “Almost a doctor.”
“So, if she didn’t get hurt,” Tom said, “why is she out?”
“She could have been drugged.” Liz leveled a glance at Silas.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Silas said.
“Shouldn’t be out for this long,” Tom said.
“Well, it was quite the scare.”
“From what?” Liz asked. “I told you to tell me everything.”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Silas said.
Silas shrugged. “All right, fine. We met a ghost. Normally that’s not a big deal, a few bumps and scratches at worst. But this banshee tried a forced possession on Hannah. Your friend was able to fight it off, but the shock of the ordeal knocked her out.”
Tom stopped examining Hannah to look at him. Liz crossed her arms, a look of disgust on her face.
“You were both drugged,” she said.
“I’m a detective,” Silas said, “specializing in paranormal phenomena. I deal with ghosts all the time. Listen, Hannah wasn’t the only one hurt. The damn thing tried to crush my larynx. Look at my neck.”
He pulled back his coat to reveal red lines around his neck. Liz moved closer to him as if to inspect the marks. Instead, she shone a light into Silas’s eyes.
“Get that out of my face.” Silas jumped up, swatting the light away.
“Pupils aren’t dilated,” she said to Tom. “But he does seem high.”
“I’m not high,” Silas said. “What I’m saying is true. I even work with the police. That’s why Hannah’s with me; this is her case.”
“She said she was covering you for a story,” Liz said.
“I’m sure she did,” he said. “The truth is, she’s being hunted by a kidnapper who’s using black magic on his victims.”
“You’re not serious,” Tom said.
“I’m always serious,” Silas said. “No, that’s not true. But I’m serious about this. Several women have already gone missing.”
“Oh my God,” she said.
“You believe me,” he said.
“No.” Liz nonetheless sat down and put an arm around Hannah. “Why… why didn’t she tell me?”
“She didn’t want you to worry,” Silas said. “And I told her not to. But I’m on the case. I will find this guy.”
“Do the police know?” Tom asked.
“They’re the ones who brought me in on the case,” he said. “Hannah showed up at the last crime scene. The irony is, if Hannah hadn’t been so eager for a story, she would never have gotten involved.”
Neither Tom nor Liz was interested in irony at the moment.
“Should we take her to the ER?” Liz asked her husband.
“Her heart rate is normal,” he said. “She’s breathing. Don’t see any injuries or signs of concussion. I don’t want her sitting in an ER all night if she doesn’t need to. We’ll let her rest and see in the morning.”
“Can’t you stick her with something?” Silas asked. “Pop her out of it?”
“You think we have needs full of stimulates lying around our house?” Tom said.
“I was hoping.”
“She should come around on her own,” he said. “Looks like she needs the rest anyway.”
Silas clapped his hands together. “You’ve got this well in hand. I’ll be on my way.”
“You’re just going to abandon her now?” Liz said.
“I’m not abandoning her,” he said. “You’re her friends, after all. I’ve only known her for…” he counted on his fingers. “Four days?”
“Still, it seems like a crappy thing to do,” she said.
The detective hesitated. “I… I know what I’m doing. She’d be better off with you. For now. Just be sure she doesn’t wander off on her own.”
“How do we get in touch with you?” Tom asked.
“She’s got my number.”
He made a move for the door. “Wait, there’s something I need to do. You got any paper? Never mind, this’ll work.”
Silas crossed to the kitchen counter where a pile of takeout menus sat. Retrieving a pen from his coat, he started writing:
Dear Butch. I’m sorry. Forcing you to work on your own case was a mistake. The lure of studying what was happening to you was too much to pass up. But I see now it was wrong.
Are you happy? I’m admitting I was wrong. Don’t get used to it.
I put you in unnecessary danger by bringing you to Crow’s Peak. That was obvious, right? But don’t worry, I’ll close the case. Stay with your friends, I’m sure they’ll do a better job of looking after you than I have. You can always crash on my couch if you want.
He looked at Hannah. She seemed peaceful as if she had just fallen asleep on the couch. Returning to the letter he signed, “Yours Truly, the Sundance Kid.”
Folding the menu, he slipped it into Hannah’s bag.
“Make sure she reads that when she wakes up.”
Tom was blocking his path to the door.
“I think we need to go over this with the police,” he said. “I’d like it if you were here when we did.”
“Trust me, they don’t want to see me any more than you do,” Silas said. “Besides, I got a stolen car I need to dump into the Hudson.”
“Let him go,” Liz said from the living room. “I want him out of my house.”
Tom escorted Silas to the front door. The detective stepped out into the hall, paused, and turned around.
“Any good Pad Thai around here?”
Tom closed the door on him.
Silas was feeling out of place. It was an unusual feeling. The fact that he was in a library made it worse. He always felt at home in libraries. But at that moment, he was staring at a row of computers.
He was very out of sorts.
A child was sitting in front of a computer. He was perfectly at ease. A woman, probably a librarian, was helping him. A thought flashed through the detective’s mind: she could help him. He dismissed it immediately. If he couldn’t use a computer on his own, what good was he?
But it was too late. He had been standing in the middle of the room for too long. The librarian spotted him. Silas panicked. He looked for a free seat. There was one at the table to his right. He went for it. She intercepted.
“Can I help you, dear?” The librarian wore a pink cardigan and horn-rimmed glasses. She smiled, tilting her head to the right.
“I just need a computer,” Silas said.
“I’m happy to help,” she said, broadening her smile. “What are you looking for?”
“Just doing research,” he said. “I figured the Internet would be faster than microfiche.”
“We don’t have those anymore,” the librarian said.
“Wow, a smart-looking man like you, I’m surprised you don’t have a computer of your own.” She touched the side of his arm and winked. Silas had the feeling something else was going on, but it eluded his grasp.
“It’s… in the shop.”
She laughed. A little bit longer than the joke deserved.
“Well, if you need anything, just ask. I’m Lucy.” She tapped the nametag on her sweater.
“I think I can work the keyboard on my own.”
Silas backed away from the woman and settled onto a stool. He watched from the corner of his eye as she walked away before focusing on the machine. From his coat, he produced the diary he had recovered from Crow’s Peak. Opening the first page, he typed “Alexander Daragon” into a search box. To Silas’s credit, he could type with both hands.
Search results were slim. A newspaper article from September 1930 came up first. “Magnetic Leader Founds Mountain Town.” Silas quickly read it:
Festivities abound today in the remote Upstate town of Dawn’s Ridge. After years of planning and months of labor, the town’s de facto leader, Alexander Daragon, has announced his experiment a success.
Settlers from across the globe have flocked to Daragon’s side, in hopes of finding prosperity. Critics abound, most notably local New York politician Fiorello La Guardia, citing Daragon’s radical beliefs. Some have accused the town of a front for a new religion.
Regardless, spirits were high during the event, which saw well-wishers from across the Tri-State area. Will Dawn’s Ridge overcome the challenges of the Depression and thrive when many others have failed? Only time will tell.
“Huh,” Silas said. “Journalists do love using that phrase.”
Besides the article was a photo. It had been scanned in from the original newspaper and not cleaned up well. A wooden platform was erected in the middle of a town square. Silas recognized the clock tower behind it. On the stage was a collection of well-dressed men and women. Standing behind a podium, his arms raised, was a man identified in the caption as Alexander Daragon. He looked pale, even in newsprint.
“It started so well, huh Alex?” Silas said. “Too bad you had to ruin it for all those poor people.”
The detective realized he was talking out loud. Looking to his right he saw the boy from before. He was staring at Silas.
“I’m just… mind your own business.”
Copying the name “Dawn’s Ridge,” he pasted it into the search box. No more articles popped up. He tried “Barrow Hill.” Still nothing.
He returned to his original search and found another web page about Daragon. It was an old website called, Heralds of Hecate. The entry detailed Daragon’s early childhood to his rise through the occult world. A survivor of the First World War, Daragon embraced the teachings of famous occultists. He formed his society in the late 1920s. His only notable achievement was founding the town. The entry ended there.
“His fans don’t even know much about him,” Silas said, again out loud. “How am I supposed to find him?”
A grainy image accompanied the article. Daragon was younger and looked a little less crazy. He was surrounded by young people. They stood in a meeting hall, their dress distinctly 1920s. A banner hung behind them with the words “Corvus Oculum.” Raven’s Eye. Beneath the words was an image of an eye that sprouted black wings. Inside the iris was a pyramid. Silas searched for the print button.
The sound of paper being spat out floated to him from somewhere in the room. Silas stood up and looked over the rows of computers. Not far away, Lucy the Librarian was helping another visitor. He ducked, running behind the computer screens, to fetch his papers. He bumped into several people.
As he reviewed the printout, he tsked. It looked worse than it did on screen. But he got what he wanted: the banner was somewhat distinguishable, especially the symbol. Folding the paper in half he tucked it into the diary. He made his way to the computer lab exit and froze.
Entering the library was Hannah.
Silas slunk back. He hid behind a computer. It was being used by a child. The little girl gave him a nasty look. He gave it back. Hannah walked to the info desk and spoke with a librarian. Nodding her thanks, she started toward the computer lab.
“Oh, just turn left or something,” Silas said.
She didn’t turn left. Hannah entered the room. Silas crouched lower as she stopped by Lucy. The librarian looked Hannah up and down. It seems she was describing Silas to the woman. Lucy nodded and pointed in his general direction. Silas stayed low and moved back towards the printer. Turning a corner, he plowed into Hannah’s stomach.
“What are you doing here?” he said after they got up off the floor.
“Ah,” she said, rubbing her stomach. “I’ve come to talk to you about this.”
She held up the note he had left her.
“What about it?”
“What do you mean, ‘What about it’? This is how you leave me? Dumping me on my panic-stricken friends with only a note to explain yourself?”
She pushed the note into his chest, shoving him back a step.
“And thanks for scribbling it on the back of a menu.”
“Sorry,” he said. “I don’t use stationery.”
“Why the hell did you just leave me there?” she asked.
A sharp shh filled the computer lab. They turned to see Lucy, a finger to her lips. Silas raised his hands apologetically and turned back to Hannah.
“I thought that was the best thing to do, considering what you just experienced.”
“So, you’re kicking me off the case?” Hannah said. “Don’t you need my help, anymore?”
“Perhaps,” Silas said, evasively. “But I think the risk outweighs the return.”
“It’s been risky the whole time,” she said. “I was almost kidnapped, remember? My life’s been a nightmare since this began. My only shred of hope was that you said you can fix it.”
There was a louder ahem from the librarian. Silas took Hannah by the arm and guided her to a less conspicuous corner of the room.
“I’m still on the case, Hans,” he said. “But I think it’s better if you keep a safe distance.”
“Why the sudden change?” Hannah asked. “What about all that, ‘I want to study you’ talk?”
“Isn’t it possible that I’m putting your well-being first?” Silas said.
Silas grunted and shook his head. Hannah was genuinely surprised when she realized he was being sincere. Her hands, which had for most of the conversation been at her hips, lowered.
“Yes,” he said. “And I didn’t expect you to stay with your friends forever. You’re welcome to stay at my apartment for as long as you like.”
“Glorious,” she said. “I’ll keep sleeping on your couch until I get scoliosis.”
“I’ll pick up an air mattress.”
“Why did you have to bring my friends into this, anyway?” Hannah said. “Now they’re totally up my ass. You know how hard it was to escape their apartment? Thank God the hospital called them in.”
“How did you find me?” he asked.
“I don’t know why I keep telling her where I’m going.”
“If I leave this case, it should be my decision,” Hannah said. “My life’s at stake. I’d like to be involved.”
“You still wanna do this?” Silas asked. “Face ghosts, angry cops, and God knows what else?”
“Not really,” she said. “But I’m not a quitter.”
Silas smirked. “You’ll regret that, eventually.”
“Still my choice,” Hannah said.
“You know, most people can just fire their assistant, no problem,” he said.
“You’re not most people.”
Hannah looked around the computer lab, finally realizing where she was. “So, you don’t have a computer.”
“I do,” Silas said. “Though, it’s seen better days.”
He reached into a coat pocket and pulled out a computer mouse, the cord frayed at the end.
“Geez,” Hannah said. “At least you’re trying. Found anything?”
“I think so,” he said. “But come on, I’ll explain on the way.”
Silas led her out of the computer lab. Lucy looked up from her desk, watching them as they left. A mixture of annoyance and longing played on her face. Hannah noticed.
“What’s the deal with the pink lady?” she said.