“Oh, Mother Hecate, hear the words that I speak, and aid in my spell to find the one that I seek.”
The wind picked up, ruffling her thick locks, and warmth grew in her palm where Aubree’s shirt lay. Thin lines of smoke coiled from the fires that burst alive on the candle wicks.
“Comb the forests and mountains, and plains and seas. And show me her place so that I may be at ease.”
A flame sprung up between her hands, and the fabric curled and crackled as it was devoured. The white ash was surrounded by an orange glow, and it grew dark as it cooled.
She opened her fingers and sprinkled it across the map of the city. They fell into a pile.
The ashes sat.
“Alright. Let’s try again.”
She expanded her mind, searching and feeling for Aubree as if with a giant pair of antennae. She felt a light brush of witch energy in response.
“Oh, Mother Hecate, hear the words that I speak, and aid in my spell to find the one that I seek. Comb the forests and mountains, and plains and seas. And show me her place so that I may be at ease.”
A swirl of wind entered the circle and collected the ashes. They blew across the map in a mini whirlwind of black and settled onto a cluster of apartment buildings on Emery Street. Shay took out a pen and marked the spot off.
She blew out the candles and swept away the ashes into the grass. She folded up the map as she waited for the candle wicks to cool. She tucked it into the front pocket of her satchel for easy access.
She touched her fingers to the wicks and when she finally decided it was okay to put them away, she did.
The metal bench was cold beneath her as she sat to wait for the bus.
It came a few minutes later, stopping in front of her with a screech.
She climbed on, dropped her change in, and took an empty seat near the front. A shifty woman with beady eyes and college boy with a shaved head and tattoos were the only other passengers, and they sat in the back. The bus driver—a plump man with dark stubble—kept up a steady stream of conversation with her, and she nodded at the appropriate times in response.
Someone had written an atrocious word in marker on the vinyl of Shay’s seat and the street lights flickered to life as it started to grow dark. The closer they got to the city, the farther Shay’s stomach plummeted.
She got off at the second stop, which was two blocks from Emery Street.
It was in the worse part of the city, and there were only a few people out. Several of the windows on the buildings around her had been broken into and jagged shards of glass poked out like angry teeth. Symbols and words Shay couldn’t make out had been spray painted along the brick walls.
Shay suddenly would have given anything to be back on the bus with its gum-covered floors and the beady-eyed woman.
The building where Aubree was being kept wasn’t as bad.
It was only four stories high and the dry grass crunched under Shay’s boots as she approached the front door. A bike that was chained to a rack near the wall looked like it hadn’t been touched in years.
Shay pulled open the door, and silence greeted her from the lobby.
There was no one behind the front desk, but she could hear noise coming from behind a door that read Manager. A bell sat on the counter and a piece of paper by it instructed her to Ring Bell for Service. So she did.
The manager door opened, and a short balding man with a mustache came out. His tie was askew and he stared up at Shay from behind the counter, waiting for her to speak.
“Hi, I’m looking for Kendall. Tall. Dirty blonde hair. Kind of intimidating.”
The man grunted. “Yeah. I know her. What’s it to you?”
“She’s my cousin,” Shay told him, trying to keep her tone polite. She was in no mood to deal with this grouchy man. “She left her bracelet at my house yesterday, and I came to return it.”
“Well, you just missed her,” the man said. “She went out with a bunch of other kids about an hour ago.”
“Would you be able to tell me her room number so I could drop the bracelet off? It’s very important to her. It was her mothers.”
Like Mother Ophelia, this man seemed to not have any heartstrings to be pulled. His expression remained indifferent. Shay would have to try a different approach.
Shay sighed and unzipped one of the pockets on her satchel.
She pulled a twenty out of her wallet and slid it across the counter to the man. “I really need to get that bracelet back to her.”
The man grunted once more and folded up the bill. He slipped it into a pocket on the front of his shirt. “Fourth floor. Last door on the right. Room 408.”
He nodded and retreated back to the manager’s office. The door closed behind him.
Fourth floor. Last door on the right.
Shay repeated this in her mind over and over as she went back out the front door. She walked around to the right side of the building and tilted her head back to look up at the metal fire escape mounted on the wall.
The vertical ladder that Shay needed to reach it was braced to a railing several feet above her.
Shay gathered the air above it and brought her hands down hard, and the ladder came sliding down with a metal clank. She didn’t realize how bad her arms were shaking until she grabbed hold of the ladder.
Regardless, she placed her foot on the bottom rung and began to climb.
The stairs were easier to climb, but she didn’t really trust them anymore than the ladder, so she was able to relax a bit when she reached the fourth story fire escape. All of the windows were closed, including the one on the end. It took a lot of air pressure and energy to force it open, and Shay was breathing heavily and had to pause to rest her hands on her knees before she could go in.
She took one last breath to steady herself before she climbed over the sill.
It looked like any other apartment and it was much cleaner than she had expected. There was a tidy living room and kitchen, and three closed doors. Lying on the couch, with her hands bound and a gag around her mouth, was Aubree. Her eyes were closed and her chest moved gently in her sleep.
“Aubree!” Shay hissed as she tiptoed across the hardwood floor towards her.
Aubree’s eyes flashed open and she bolted up, almost toppling off the couch. Strands of short hair stuck up all over her head like tufts of grass. Her face grew frightened when she saw Shay and she began screaming into the gag that muffled her voice
“It’s alright,” Shay told her. “I’m going to get you out of here.”
Aubree continued to struggle and shout.
Shay narrowed her eyes at the girl. Something in her expression was confusing. She was scared, but not for herself. The fear that shone so blatantly in her eyes was for Shay.
But Shay realized it far too late because at that moment something struck her violently in the back of the head. Pain blossomed and her legs gave out.
She heard was a soft chuckling, and then she was falling into darkness.
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Author’s Note: I’m fiddling with the time frame of the day, so if it seems like things don’t match up, that’s why.