When Myra arrived back at Wyrd House, she was disappointed to see no open parking space on the street nearby. The closest spot was a block away, and she carefully eyed the neighborhood before she felt brave enough to leave the relative safety of the parked car. Hurrying down the sidewalk and through the yard, she didn’t feel safe until she had entered the house and locked the door behind her.
The smell of bacon frying permeated the air. There was no smell homier than bacon cooking, and she could feel herself relaxing. Walking through the formal dining room, she set her backpack on the big table near her laptop and followed her nose into the kitchen. Her housemates were all there, and the gentle hubbub of friends cooking and chatting together relaxed her further. It was hard to be worried about metaphysical dangers when she found herself surrounded by such domesticity. When she caught sight of a sandy haired man warming a pot of maple syrup on the stove, she smiled.
“Chris!” she said, walking to the stove to give the smiling man a warm hug. “When did you get back?”
“About an hour ago. Where have you been young lady?”
“Having an unwanted adventure. I’ll tell you about it after we eat. It smells delicious!”
“I love breakfast for dinner,” Nancy chimed in.
Everything was ready, and the group crowded around the kitchen table to eat eggs, bacon, hash browns, and Erin’s homemade pancakes with the real maple syrup that Chris had brought from Canada. While they ate, Chris told them about his recent trip to Vancouver. A story about a drunken passenger that he had to discourage from urinating in a storage compartment had them all laughing.
When the pancakes had disappeared, and Myra was nibbling on a last piece of bacon, Chris asked her about her unwanted adventure.
First, Chris had to be filled in on everything they knew about Max Carter, as well as the fact that he broke into the house the day before. Paige told Chris about the angry priest she found haunting Carter’s office, and Nancy rushed from the room to bring in the pictures of Carter that spanned over a hundred years. Chris took it all in stride, though he was clearly worried about the situation. While he had no metaphysical gifts of his own, he had lived at Wyrd House long enough to develop an appreciation for the talents of his housemates.
When Chris asked what was to be done about the situation, Myra outlined her plans to negate Carter’s power and explained the delay in waiting for the new moon.
“But what happened today?” Chris asked with obvious concern. “You weren’t yourself when you got home. Something spooked you.”
“I went for a hike in the hills. Carter followed me, and I didn’t notice him until we were in the middle of nowhere.”
For a few minutes, Myra’s friends expressed their concern and anger over her being threatened, and she did much to reassure them that she was all right.
“But how did you get away from him?” Erin asked.
“The usual. Called a couple of furry friends to drive him away. Did you know there are red wolves in Jefferson Memorial Forest? There aren’t supposed to be any wild wolves in Kentucky at all, just coyotes.”
“Lucky for you that there were,” Paige said. “That guy gives me the creeps. I can’t imagine that he’d be scared off by sparrows and chipmunks.”
“It was a nice surprise, but I could have managed without them,” Myra said. “Haven’t you ever seen Hitchcock’s The Birds?”
“I guess you’re right,” Paige admitted. “But I still would feel safer with wolves than crows.”
“The point is that I’m fine,” Myra said.
“No more walks in the woods for you, young lady,” Dean said. “At least, not until we know Carter isn’t a threat anymore.”
“How will we know that?” Chris said. “Even after you keep him from sucking anymore energy from other people, he isn’t going to just disappear. He’s already fixated on you, Myra, and if you mess with him, he might really come after you.”
“I know, but what am I supposed to do? Ignore him? Let him keep sucking up people’s lives?”
“Of course not,” Erin said. “I’m not going to start a theological debate, but I will say one thing. With the exception of Chris, each one of us was born with a gift. I believe very strongly that we have these gifts for a reason, and not just to make money at the racetrack. If we do not act when we see that our help is needed, then what are these gifts for?”
“Speaking of gifts, what does yours say about this situation, Erin?” Paige asked.
“I can’t tell. I guess that I’m too close to the situation. When I think about us and this house, all I can tell is that we’ll be celebrating a wedding before too long.”
Myra could feel the heat rising in her face as her friends and housemates smiled and laughed. While it was true that she was considering Jeff with much more affection than previously, they had yet to go on their first date, unless one can count wandering around in a cemetery as a first date. After the fiasco in Indianapolis, she simply couldn’t bear to think that far ahead.
“So, what kind of colors are you thinking about for the bridesmaids?” Paige said, grinning at Myra.
“Is it going to be a big ceremony?” Nancy asked, worriedly. “I really want to be there, but if it’s too big…”
“Enough!” Myra fairly shouted. “You might want to let us actually date for a while before you start planning the wedding!”
The phone in the entrance hall rang, interrupting the laughter that followed Myra’s outburst. Erin was old fashioned enough to still have a landline, which had been a godsend for Myra. She’d given up her cell phone when she’d moved down to Louisville and money had been tight. Now that she’d sold some pictures to Jeff’s company, she would have to start thinking of getting some things. A cell phone, car, and a playmate for Xander were top on her list, and she could now afford all of them if she wasn’t too extravagant.
“Myra, the phone’s for you. It’s the groom,” Erin said.
She fled the kitchen as her amused housemates broke into fresh laughter.
“Hey, it’s Jeff. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing is wrong,” Myra said, shaking her head and trying to get weddings and scheming roommates out of her mind. “I’m fine.”
“My uncle came to talk to me. Um…my dead uncle Carl. He keeps an eye on the house when I’m out of town. He said that a car followed you when you went out today, and that you looked worried when you got back to the house. So, I’m asking again. What’s wrong?”
“I’m fine, Jeff. I just had a scare. Carter followed me when I went hiking in the hills today. I had some furry friends drive him away. I’m perfectly fine, I promise.”
“I’ll cancel my meetings tomorrow and get the first flight back that I can.”
“Jeff, you don’t have to do that. I’ll be fine.”
“Don’t be stupid,” Jeff began. If his tone of voice hadn’t been so affectionate, Myra would have been offended. “There’s nothing we are doing tomorrow that can’t wait. How am I supposed to sit in meetings all day if I’m worried about you?”
“I guess I’m not used to having people worry about me.”
“Get used to it. There. I just booked an eight in the morning flight, and I should be home by ten. Do me a favor and please don’t leave the house before I get there.”
“I promise. But I still think you are making more of a fuss than you need to.”
“I talk to dead people, but that Carter is a real spook. We don’t know what he’s capable of. He’s already broken into your house and followed you in the woods, and that’s just because he’s suspicious. We have no idea how dangerous he’ll become when he finds out that you are actively trying to stop him from harming others. Stay in the house, and call the cops if you so much as see Carter.”
“Since I’m coming home early, why don’t we have dinner tomorrow?”
“Is this a date?”
“Of course it’s a date. I’m good for more than just a walk in the cemetery, you know.”
“Jeff, my last relationship didn’t end very well.”
“Is that a no?”
“No, I’d like very much to go to dinner with you. I just wanted you to know that I’m a little gun shy.”
“Are you still in love with the guy?”
“Do you want to kill him with fire?”
“No. I guess I did at first, but now I’d be just as happy to never see him again.”
“Sounds pretty over to me then. Let’s go to dinner.”
“Good. I’ll be over as soon as I get home and check in with Tadashi.”
“I’ll see you then.”
After a little small talk, and affectionate goodbyes, Myra hung up the phone. For a few minutes, she stood in the hallway, looking off into space as she tried to come to grips with the changes in her life. Three months ago, after an ugly break up and a heated argument with her family, she had left Indianapolis with a heavy heart. It had felt as if her entire life had imploded, leaving nothing behind. Now, here she was, living with people who knew and accepted her. She had a brand new job, money in the bank, and was going on a date with a man she admired. It astonished her how quickly the world could go from thunderstorms to sunlight. Three months ago, her life had been over. Now it was full of promise. She wasn’t about to let a spook like Carter get in the way of that.
Carter on her mind, Myra stopped by the kitchen long enough to bid her cheerful housemates goodnight. A quick search of the living room and she found Xander, fast asleep in Mystra’s cat bed. Taking the groggy ferret upstairs, Myra settled in to get some work done. It was true that she could take no direct action against Carter until the full moon, but the protection amulets were not going to make themselves.
Once Xander was settled in his favorite hammock, Myra sat cross-legged on the floor next to a wooden chest that held most of her paraphernalia. Inside were jars and plastic bags of herbs, fur gathered from various animal friends, squares of silk fabric dyed a variety of colors, her box of leather, silk thread, and cording. On top, was the rowan wood she had collected the night before, carefully denuded of leaves and cut into small sticks with a pair of silver scissors. There were other things in the chest from the natural world. Stones, crystals, seashells, and feathers all had their place in the chest.
Having made a variety of protection amulets through the years, Myra did not have to consult her books to choose the items she wanted. First, she pulled two pieces of soft, thin leather, one red and one white, both colors of protection. Taking her featherweight sewing machine out of the closet, she spent the next two hours making small leather bags, red on one side and white on the other. She used red silk cording to make drawstring tops, leaving the cord long enough that the pouches could be worn around the neck, if the wearer wished. When she was finished, she had nine bags in all. One for herself and each resident of Wyrd House, one for Jeff, and two extra in case anyone else was drawn into this mess.
It took another hour for Myra to choose which dried herbs she wanted, and make nine tiny bundles of each, wrapped in colorful silk fabric, and tied with brightly colored silk thread. Mistletoe, clover, fennel, and marigold all had strong associations with protection. Each herb got it’s own color of fabric and thread, in colors of strength, power, and protection. This would not only help her tell them apart when she started the ritual, it would remind her why she specifically chose each. There was no actual power in the objects that she chose. The power of the spell would come from Myra and the world around her. The ingredients were symbols that spoke to her very being about exactly what it was that the objects were meant to accomplish.
The hardest part of the preparation was over. It took her little time to make nine bundles of rowan, each with three small twigs wrapped together with white silk thread. Rowan was a strong symbol of protection to Myra’s people. An amulet made with rowan wood should be very powerful. She took out a segmented plastic box that had a variety of small stones next. She wanted clear quartz for power, and she had more than enough to use nine tiny crystals. She had wanted to use garnet for protection, but discovered that she was running low, and had only three of the deep red pebbles left. Carnelian would work just as well, and she had plenty of the brownish orange stones. Looking through her case of stones, she also chose nine small crystals of bluish green beryl, which symbolized a successful end to conflict.
The last thing she took from her wooden chest was a heavy jelly jar filled with dimes. Throughout her life, Myra had searched her spare change for any dimes minted before 1964 and kept them in this jar. The dimes were made before the United States had switched to making dimes of copper and nickel, and were an easy and inexpensive way to add silver to the amulets. Silver would amplify the power of the spellwork.
When her preparations were finished, she gathered up all of her ingredients into a pretty basket woven of oak branches and lined in white silk. Three red candles and a bag of sea salt were added to the basket before Myra put the handle over her arm and headed downstairs.
Though she didn’t like the idea of going outside alone in the middle of the night when Carter might be prowling in the shadows, magic workings were best done without an audience. The casting would be stronger if done outside in the moonlight, and Wryd House had a small back yard with a tall privacy fence. Hopefully, Carter was tired by his game of hide and seek with the wolves today and would not make an appearance.
The house was quiet, and dimly lit. Only a few lamps were left on, so that people could navigate the stairs safely. Creeping barefoot down the stairs, she was not surprised that her housemates were sleeping. A look at her watch showed Myra that it was almost three in the morning. Making her way to the kitchen, she approached the back door of the house with some trepidation. What did she know of psychic vampires anyway? For all Myra knew, Carter had sucked up so much life force that he didn’t need to sleep at all.
Opening the door as quietly as she could manage, she took a few minutes to observe the back yard. At nine days until the new moon, the moon was still larger than half, and shined brightly enough that she could see the small yard fairly easily. It suddenly struck her as interesting that she was making nine amulets nine days before the new moon. Numbers were symbols as well, and it seemed serendipitous that this was so.
The backyard was calm and still. Nothing moved while she watched. Myra’s ears told her more than her eyes did. Crickets were chirping in the grass. A lone bird was singing a variety of bird songs and the cheerful racket made her smile. They had a mockingbird that frequented the yard, and the species were notorious for chattering all night. If Carter was anywhere in the yard, she wouldn’t be hearing these nocturnal noises.
Confident that she was safe for the moment, Myra stepped out onto the grass, shutting the door behind her. The night noises stilled for a moment at the sound of the door clicking shut, and then started in again almost immediately. Making her way to a flat bit of lawn in full light of the moon above, she set down her basket and took out the container of sea salt. Making a circle in the grass with the salt took a few minutes, and then she sat in the circle with her basket. The three fat red candles were lit next, and placed in a triangular pattern around her. The stage now set, she sat cross-legged on the grass, closing her eyes in meditation. Sending her will outside of herself, Myra felt as if she became one with the earth, one with the night.
After mentally reaffirming what she intended to accomplish with this working, she opened her eyes and began to work. As she added each item to an amulet, she spoke aloud about what it represented. When all the amulets were finally complete, Myra closed the drawstrings tightly and gathered the bags up into her hands. Holding them near her heart, she drew the energy of the world around her into her being and mentally thrust it into the amulets. When she opened her eyes, the candles had blown out and the circle of salt had vanished into the lawn.
It had been a powerful working, and Myra was suddenly exhausted. She took the time to drape one amulet around her neck, and gather the rest and the red candles back into her basket. Inside the house, with the back door securely locked behind her, the climb up the stairs to her bedroom seemed harder than the steep hills south of the city. Setting the basket on the floor, Myra collapsed onto her bed and fell immediately asleep.