Copyright 2012, Lazette Gifford
I knew something was strange when I first drove into the town. The place hadn't appeared on the map, this typical little town growing up around a stream bed. Midwestern in look and feel, with the tall old house, and a mostly dead down town area. My mother and my aunt used to talk about a place like this, where they'd both grown up.
I pushed the thought away.
I'd been driving for three days and sleeping in the car. Not sleeping well, with the nightmares. I needed a good rest, but it was this town that finally told me I had gone too far. I had seen no people. None at all. When I spotted the Eastern Star Occult Bookstore I knew this wasn't normal. The shop didn't belong here. In fact, I knew exactly where it did belong: A small back street in Boston where I had last seen the place three days before.
The store – at least here --sat nestled between a run-down bar, and a tack shop offering free quotes on saddle repair. I parked the car in front of the out of place shop and crossed to look through the dark window with the golden symbols painted on the surface.
I could see someone inside, waiting.
The bell jingled on the way in. I looked over at the register and the cage on the shelf behind it. Gary the ferret rattled the bars and made chirping noises, letting me know he wasn't happy to see me, which unsettled me. We'd always gotten along very well.
I turned and faced Aunt Alice. Maybe I should have been afraid, but I had never feared her in life and I couldn't see why I should now. Nevertheless, I said nothing, nodding casually as though we had only met on the streets instead of a thousand miles from where I had last seen her.
Last seen her dead.
"Do you know how hard I have been trying to contact you?" Alice demanded. She tapped her foot – oddly, her left foot, which was bare though she wore a sneaker on the right. "Well?"
"Sorry," I said. I looked at her foot again. She tapped it several times and then walked closer to me. I could see through her.
"You shouldn't have left home. I could have reached you easier there. Did you really think you were done and could just walk away?"
"I did what I could," I said. Apologetic. "They wouldn't let me do more. I left the force –"
"And left town, and have been trying to leave yourself behind, too." She tapped her foot once more. "But it doesn't work that way in our world. You know it."
"I am not on that case any longer."
"This isn't about a case. It's about me. You do this for me, or else we're going to have this talk far more often than you like."
I looked into her pale face, her blue eyes staring at me with the same intensity I had seen all those years when I had visited Aunt Alice's Occult shop, despite what my mother thought. She'd been good to talk to. She still was.
And she deserved better from me than a glib 'It's not my job' answer to her murder.
"I'll go back. I'll look for it."
She nodded, looking less real. Everything, including
, had started to slip away. "Good.
I headed back out. The door closed. . . .
And the town disappeared. Everything gone as I blinked and tried to focus on the world again.
When the world came back I found I was back in Boston, with my car parked in front of the shop. Detective Warton had just stepped out. He looked at me, startled. Behind him came David Micheal carrying a cage.
was mad. Gary
"What are you doing here?" Warton asked.
"I think I came for
," I said. David all but shoved the cage into my hands. Gary
"I thought you were out of town."
"Yeah, I thought so too. Have you found a left sneaker?"
"No. How did you know about that part?" Warton looked at me, frowning. "If you hadn't been working that night. . . Sorry with everything and the force."
"I need to find the sneaker," I said. "Are you done?"
He stared at me for a moment, glanced back at the shop, and then threw me the keys to the place. "All done. It's yours now."
So I went in. I started picking the place up.
And later that night I found the missing sneaker in the attic wedged in a crevice between the wall and the window. The window led across the roof to the old abandoned mission. There the police found Brother Michael, self-appointed Voice of God. He even told the detectives exactly what he had done.
I run the shop now, though not nearly as well as Alice did, but at least Gary's happy to be back in his place. I help people out when I can.
And Aunt Alice stops by now and then to give me a few clues.
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