Something Wicked This Way Comes....
Okay. So I've never been much of a scholar type. I gave up studying my family's tradition of witchcraft when I was a kid, and I had to work my butt off to become a hospice nurse. But even I know that "Something wicked this way comes," is from some play by Shakespeare. If you want to know more on that, you can ask someone I know who is smart. Two people, actually. Maggi Sanger-Stuart, this woman who shows up at my house not long after my sister's murder with a strange story about goddess chalices... or Ben Fisher, who I would really like if he wasn't the brother of my sister's killer.
Still, I can't resent Ben too hard. I already cursed him. It was an accident, but still... talk about guilt.
Now I'm leaving the country for the first time in my life. I need to find the Hekate Cup that Victor Fisher stole from my sister when he killed her. I need to commune with Hekate Herself about the misplaced curse--there's got to be some way to help Ben without letting Victor off the hook. And maybe, just maybe, I'll find a way to reconcile myself to being a witch after all.
After all, I'm named after a goddess. Kate isn't always short for Katherine.
Click below for any of the following:
"I can't wait to see if Kate makes another appearance in other Grail Keeper books. I hope so as I found her a refreshing change to how many trained and untrained pagan based practitioners are portrayed. I love the realistic portrayal and hope that Ms. Vaughn gives us more of the same."
"In this enchanting story where the extraordinary life of the heroine seems so realistic, readers are treated to a unique mix of suspense and dark humor. This is the third book in The Grail Keepers miniseries, and Evelyn Vaughn uses her deft writing gift to make this story mesmerizing on each page. SOMETHING WICKED is a spellbinding story which cleverly combines magic, emotions and destiny...."
"...Magic and mayhem blend seamlessly in SOMETHING WICKED, making for an absorbing tale that's not to be missed."
"...Something Wicked (4), by Evelyn Vaughn, is a fast-paced battle between good and evil from beginning to end."
I can tell you exactly when I became a bad guy. I can describe it down to the very moment, as abrupt as
As the blow of a hammer.
My knees squelched in blood-soaked carpet where I'd landed, trembling, beside my older sister's body. At that moment, the shock was too fresh even for tears. My mouth gaped into a scream beyond sound. Not Diana. No.
But I'd been a hospice nurse for three years; I was no stranger to death. Although I hadn't embraced our family tradition of witchcraft as Diana hadwitchcraft as in goddess-worship, I mean, not that fantasy TV stuffmy instincts were solid. And despite my sister's mottled face, now caked with blood, I knew her too well to find any comfort in denial.
She'd been a constant in my life. My guide. My friend. I'd once badly braided that long, golden hair, so different from my own, now streaked with more bloodwe'd laughed, and posed, and taken pictures. I'd often held those now broken hands, still wearing their ever-present silver rings. They'd held me, countless times, especially after losing our parents. And Diana's necklace.
Most witches wear pentagrams, point-up. The women in my family wear an overlapping circle design that our Nonna called a "vesica piscis." It's nowhere near as common.
The pendant hanging limp from this dead woman's throat looked just Mom's had. Just like mine.
This was her.
Somehow, impossible as it seemed, I now existed in a world where my big sister did not. Was not. Would not.
Sound, ugly and hurt, began to moan from my throat. The room around me shrankour small home's living room where we'd sat up to watch movies, to play games, to trade gossip.
I should be doing something, right?
In that moment, I didn't know or care what that might be. Diana.
Our belongings littered the floor. CDs and remote controls mixed with the detritus of my sister's magical intereststarot cards, rune stones, crystals. A tapestry of Greek ruins fluttered, half-torn from the wallshe'd always wanted to visit Greece. A tumble of tools, screwdrivers and pliers and a scattering of cup hooks and nails, looked incongruous amidst calligraphed pages ripped from her Book of Shadows. All the tools had pink plastic handles; we'd gotten the kit a few years earlier. Magic can't fix everything, I'd joked. Now, blinking past a blur of tears, I found myself counting pieces. The one most obviously missing was.
Perhaps instinct warned me, or common sense, or even Diana's lingering spirit.
With a gasp, I threw myself away from her body as a bloody hammer arced down at me.
Metal bit into floorboards the carpet couldn't protect. I rolled through blood and tarot cards and stumbled to my feet. My crepe-soled shoes squelched in the damp, and my arm felt sticky and cold. The air smelled metallic, deathly.
And a stranger, a killer, straightened to full height not three feet away from me. His dark eyes shone. His angular face was speckled with Diana's blood.
Right there, he stood. This was real.
"Katie, right?" His friendly grin chilled me, even more than his easy, urban voice chilled me. "The kid sister. Wow. You shouldn't have stopped by tonight, Katie. This, you know it complicates things, damn it."
"Because now you won't get away with it?" I barely recognized my own, flat voice. Emotion hurled itself against the lingering wall of my shock, a battering ram of painbut it hadn't gotten through yet. The amount that whimpered from my throat and burned in my eyes was nothing next to what fought to escape.
His grin widened, with dimples. His hair, cut neat and short, was as dark as mine, and his charisma was like a spell. If it weren't for a prominent nose, he'd be gorgeous. How could I even notice that, past all the blood?
And the dead sister. No.
Another wisp of feeling escaped. I felt sick.
"Like that's going to happen." He raised the hammer to shoulder heightand waggled his heavy eyebrows, downright playful. "Sure, you're trouble, but let's not get above ourselves. Clearly, Katie, I can handle trouble. Face it. You're as good as dead."
Numb or not, I acted. I backed away from him, sweeping my arm out to find something, anything with which to protect myself. A throw pillow? Hardly. My hand closed on our answering machine, and I threw that instead. He laughed as he dodged. The phone bounced after the machine
The phone! Scooping it up, I started to punch the magic numbers, 9-1
In a rush, the killer reached me. The hammer caught my hand with such force that I didn't even feel it at first, just saw the receiver fly across the room and only then, as if on a time delay
Pain. Like, broken-bone pain.
Once that burst through, the rest of my horror swept after it. The sound escaping me became an ungodly, animal-like wail. I grabbed a floor lamp, sparks flying as the cord jerked from an outlet, but it made a lousy one-handed weapon. His pink-handled hammer, our hammer, knocked it askew
Then the killer had me against the wall, one forearm hard across my throat, his khaki-clad thigh pinning my legs, his minty-fresh breath in my face. My right hand throbbed, agonizing, with every clutch of my heart. I wished I were one of those women who knew martial arts or kickboxing. I wasn't. He had me too tight to slip loose, and I was too short to head-butt even someone as average height as him. And damn it, my sister was dead.
My sister. My sister. My sister.
In that moment, as the madman's bright, long-lashed eyes laughed down at me, even survival barely mattered. But justice.
Suddenly, I knew how people became ghosts. Because not even death would stop my need for vengeance.
I only had two weapons left. One, politically correct or not, was my femininity. I'd already guessed that from the flush of heat off of him, the way his breath caught in his tanned, clean-shaven throat. He was turned on by this!
So I tipped my face up toward him and parted my lips as if I were as twisted as him. I tried to keep my voice from shaking as I whispered, "At least tell me your name."
"It's Ben," he offered, eyes gleaming at my unspoken invitation. "Benny Fisher."
That had been awfully easy. But hey, he didn't mean to leave me alive. Why wouldn't he tell me?
Except that his name added ammunition to my second weapon. It was all I had left.
My sister's blood. And my own.
My good hand went for his face. He caught me by the wrist, of courseI'm not one of those warrior women, remember? But we were close enough that I managed to wrench my shoulders sideways, to smear my elbowwet with Diana's bloodacross his slanted jaw.
And I said, "I curse you, Ben."
The rush of strength that flooded me in that momenteven coming from a family of witches, it wasn't what I'd imagined magic to be. It wasn't special-effects fantasy-magic, of course. But my spine straightened, and the throbbing in my hand faded under a stronger focus. My whole body shuddered with power. The power of anger. The power of vengeance. The power of standing up for myself. All aimed at him.
And something else. Something far, far older. Waking.
Whether from that power, or simple surprise, Fisher drew back and blinked.
The words came as if from a recovered memory. "I wish you agony, Ben Fisher," I hissed, my voice thick with that dark hope. When I took a step forward, he fell farther back. "I wish you despair. I wish you a long, lingering death that lasts forever too long until you scream for it to be over and still it goes on and on because release is too good for you."
He shook his head with an uneven laugh, unnerved but quickly recovering himself. "Shut up, Katie."
"Before that comes, I wish you a lonely, empty, suffering life in which nobody loves you and everything you care about shrivels and dies." I was practically shouting my curse, now, glorying in it and in the desperate hope that it might work, that there was justice after all. When he killed me, I wanted to die believing in justice. "For every moment of happiness you've stolen from my sister and me, Ben Fisher, may you know years of misery."
"Damn! You're as crazy as she is!"
Was, I thoughtand bitterness gave me the strength to pull the magical trigger. "I call upon Hekate, the dark Goddess, to oversee your downfall, Ben Fisher. In Her name, I curse you!"
He attacked with a panicked swing of the hammer, right at my face. Since I'm as bad at dodging as I am at fighting, he hit. The world reeled around me, or maybe that was me reeling. I heard as much as felt myself fall against the wall, a muffled thud. I slid down it, tasted my own blood, then blinked dazedly upward. The killer with the expensive haircut and dark, pretty eyes stepped closer, lifted the girly, deadly hammer again
And the door slammed open.
Sure, I hadn't securely latched it behind me when I'd discovered Diana's body. And this was February in Chicago, the Windy City itself. But as a hard breeze pushed through the room and whipped my black hair across my face, Ben Fisher's surreally pleasant expression faltered into fear.
"I curse you," I repeated a second time, through a mouthful of my own bloodand I spat a tooth at his crisply ironed khakis, for good measure.
Blood makes for classic curses.
The wind moaned, tarot cards somersaulted across the floor, and Fisher had had enough. He turned and ran, though not before grabbing something from the cabinet Diana had used as an altar. I surged forward to follow
I fell to my side, tried to catch myself with my injured hand, screamed in the resulting pain. Tears weren't the only thing blurring my vision. Head wound, some part of me noted clinically. Possible concussion. Call an ambulance. Put the teeth in milk and maybe they can be saved.
But he was getting away! And really, there's not that much magical power in reciting something twice.
If I did nothing else right, in my whole life, the shock and pain and fury that choked me at this moment meant this had to be correct. And yes, I knew the dangers. I knew the rules. Just because I hadn't seriously studied this stuff like Diana had didn't mean I hadn't picked things up.
Feeling myself list, darkness tunneling my vision, I fumbled for the closest piece of paper. I found the back of a page from Diana's Book of Shadows. I scrubbed my good hand across the bloody carpet by my sister's corpse, and I wiped it across my own blood-slick chin, and I used my finger to write, in her blood and in mine, "Ben Fisher."
I rolled the page into an uneven tube. I found a nail. Since Ben had taken the hammer, I grabbed a remote control.
"In the name of Hekate," I mumbled, dizzy now, hurting, weeping. "The dark goddess. Queen of the night. Goddess of the crossroads. In the name of her, my namesake, I curse thee, Benjamin Fisher, to everlasting torment!"
And I used the remote to slam the nail through the page, completing the spell.
I felt the nail drive homejust as the remote hit the injured hand with which I'd steadied it. At that, I passed out.
That was it.
That's when I turned to the dark side.
For one thing, magic has repercussions. Better to smack someone across the face than work a spell against them, Diana had always said, because the spell will come back at you with three times the strength. In cursing the man who'd killed my sister, I may have cursed myself.
Which, on its own, might have been so worth it.
But the rest of it the rest of it didn't come clear right away. I regained consciousness. I phoned for help. I dealt with the paramedics, with the cops, with the doctors. I dealt with my aunts and uncles and surviving grandparents. It was awful. A decade hadn't been long enough for us to completely recover from my parents' loss, and now this?
A death in the family is bad enough, but the shock of a murder guaranteed a nightmare. After my parents' death, only a tight grip on Diana's hand had gotten me through the funeral arrangements and the paperwork and the obituariesdid you know you have to pay for those by the word? Now we got to include yellow crime-scene tape across my front door, and unrelenting calls and questions from reporters and, as an extra fun-time bonus, a next-day lineup.
"Him," I said immediately, as soon as the six suspects filed into the room beyond the glass partition. I didn't feel evil, yet. I didn't feel much of anything except dizzying grief. Shock. Anger. And no small amount of pain. "Number four."
My jaw still hurt, where I'd had two of the three injured teeth reset in an emergency trip to my family dentist. My broken hand, now cast in plaster, still throbbed. The doctor had actually said I was lucky, that the ring metacarpal shaft blah was stable, with no rotation of the blah fragments or secondary blah injury. Very lucky.
Like I was in any mood to count my blessings.
My sister was dead! That bastard, right there, had killed her.
"You're sure?" asked my cousin Ray, who's a cop.
As if I could ever forget that balanced, compact stature, that angular face, those dark eyes. That nose.
Except that something didn't fit. Maybe it was how his black hair, so neat the night before, now fell in unruly curls across his face. His dark, haunted gaze swept from one side of the room to the other. His lips moved, as if he were memorizing something, or maybe praying.
"That's the man I saw," I insisted. "Ben Fisher." The name felt extra significant in my mouth, and I knew I was right. Except. "He looks sad."
Cousin Ray said, "Yeah, well, getting arrested for murder can be a real bummer. Let's get you home."
On the snowy ride back to his parents' place, where I'd be staying for the next few days, I silently tasted the killer's name and thought about the curse. Was that why they'd caught Ben Fisher so easily? Because I'd cursed him? After years of abstaining from magic, could it be that simple?
Problem was, I'd cursed myself, too. So I shouldn't have been surprised when Ray had to bring me back to the station the next day for a second line-up, this time with moral support. Aunt Maria scolded him from the back seat the whole way therewasn't it enough that the bastard had murdered my sister, without me having to face him over and over? From Ray's tight expression as he drove, though, I knew something else was wrong, and I told him so.
"The good news is, we found the murder weapon," he admitted. "The bad news is, Ben Fisher's fingerprints don't match."
I'd cursed myself, all right.
"But that can't be right. It was him."
"And he's got an alibi."
"I can't tell you anything else," he insisted, pained. "Just wait and see."
So again, I got to stand in that cold, dark room, awaiting the line-up. The same lawyers from the day before were there, plus a new one whose suit probably cost more than my car. The suspects filed into the room, and this time, Ben Fisher was #1. He needed a shave. His hair seemed to get curlier the longer he was in lockup. Shadows smudged his dark eyes, and his mouth was set.
"It's still him," I insisted. Aunt Maria was right. We shouldn't have to do this.
Then I saw who filed in as #5, and a chill of recognition raised goose bumps.
What the hell?
It was the same man. But this version didn't have shadows under his eyes. This version had a neater, more expensive haircut, and he was still clean-shaven. He looked impatient, but he also had an edge of charisma about him that #1 did not.
Other than that, they were identical.
"Two of them," I whispered, feeling sick. "Twins."
"Ms. Trillo," said the captain, "we realize that this is difficult, but is there any way you can point out the man who attacked you on Friday night?"
My gaze darted from one man to the other, ignoring the rest. Identical freaking twins.
"Katie?" prompted Ray.
I swallowed unsteadily. "Have them have them smile," I whispered. Just in case.
The captain gave the command over the intercom, and the six suspects each attempted a smile. #1's eyebrows angled in momentary shock before he reluctantly bared his teeth, clearly repulsed by the very idea. And #5
#5 smiled earnestly enough to reveal dimples, right through the glass. Right at me.
I spun away from the window and threw up.
Ray caught my shoulders with his hands; one of the lawyers gave me a handkerchief; the captain sent someone out of the room for water. Eyes watering, I looked back at the lineup, where the forgotten suspects had let their compulsory smiles fade into confusion. All except one.
He was still smiling, like a proud host at a frat party.
"It's him." I pointed. "Number 5."
"You can't be sure," insisted the most expensive suit. I guess I knew who was whose lawyer. "They're identical."
He wasn't referring to the other four guys in the lineup, either.
"No, they're not." I accepted the paper cone of water that someone handed to me. "I remember that snooty haircut. Unless that first guy has brand-new extensions."
The lawyer made a note, maybe to check suspect #1 for hair extensions. "But yesterday you said it was"
"Are you trying to talk a witness out of her identification?" demanded another suit; three guesses whose lawyer he was. And the fight was on.
"We're finished, right?" demanded Ray over the bickering, and the captain nodded. We were finished.
"You did good," Ray told me, putting a supportive arm around my shoulders. "He doesn't have an alibi, his fingerprints match, and now you picked him out of a lineup against his own freakin' twin brother. We've got this bastard dead to rights."
But it wasn't time to roll the end credits, not just yet. What you'd think of as good news was barely more than a consolation prize, for one thing. Diana was still dead, no matter what happened to her killer. And for another.
That part stood out for me, more than anything else in those first few days.
"Which one's which?" I demanded, setting my feet against Ray's attempt to lead me out to Aunt Maria. Beyond the window, the suspects began to file out.
"The one you ID'd yesterday? That was the real Ben Fisher," Ray explained tightly. "Turns out the killer is his brother Victor Fisher."
His words sounded far away as I watched #1the scruffy, haunted, Ben Fishersearch the mirrored window one last tired, curious time before he left the room. He'd been falsely arrested for murder. That, at least, could be reversed. But more than that.
I'd cursed the wrong guy.