Low Midnight Page 8

She was distracting herself from more concrete memories, he realized.

The tour progressed to a certain street, and Amelia grew quieter, until she stopped talking at all.

“Next I’m going to tell you what’s probably the most gruesome story on this tour—don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Judi said, with a wink and a grin, and approached one of the gingerbread Victorians at the end of the block. It was two stories tall with dormer windows in the attic, and a porch wrapped around two sides of the house, all of it painted blue with white trim, hooks over the porch where planters would hang in summer, brass light fixture by the door, the works.

Judi drew a key from a pocket and gestured them up. “I have permission from the owner to bring you inside, if you’ll step up this way.”

Cormac stopped at the foot of the porch’s stairs.

I know this house, Amelia whispered. It’s different—it stood alone, then. The street’s been built up. I would have walked right past it. But I know it.…

Judi began her lecture. “In 1900, this house witnessed a terrible murder. A beautiful young woman, Lydia Harcourt, beloved by the whole town, met her end here, murdered in what can only be described as a demonic ritual by the most unlikely perpetrator imaginable—an English noblewoman. Let’s go inside.”

Gathered on the porch, the rest of the tour-goers murmured with interest. Cormac tried to take a step—and couldn’t move. A freezing dread had traveled down his legs, and Amelia’s presence overwhelmed him.

I remember. I can smell the blood.

Her memory gave him the scent of it, like the smell of a butcher shop, tangy and foreboding.

That was over a hundred years ago, he thought at her. Let’s go in.

Their partnership worked because he kept possession of his body. Unless they were explaining or working magic—and often, even then, when Amelia fed him instructions rather than performing the movements herself—Cormac was in control. Her fear had overridden his control. She wasn’t going to let him move.

An anger grew up in him, his thoughts turning hard: Do they say “Get back on the horse” where you’re from? Just let me go in and get it over with.

The rest of the tour was already in the house, and Judi waited at the front door, looking out. “Is everything all right? I promise, it isn’t too scary for a big tough guy like you.” She wore an amused smile.

Gritting his teeth, Cormac made an angry shove at himself, and his legs moved. They scuffed on the walkway, but they moved.

Judi described the day in 1900 when the door burst open and people saw the bloody corpse of Lydia Harcourt lying on the floor, and Lady Amelia Parker bending over her, kneeling in a pool of blood, perpetrating some ungodly ritual on the body. A circle had been drawn on the floor in chalk, incense burned, lit candlesflared, the whole nine yards. Like something out of a horror movie with all the usual clichés.

The house had been restored since then, and the story clashed with the Victorian parlor setting: clean hardwood floor, a rug at the base of a staircase, padded straight-backed chairs, a mirror and table against one wall, nondescript paintings of flowers hanging at intervals. It looked like a dozen other restored houses in town. But Judi painted a picture, and Amelia’s memories rose up.

It was such a horrible crime, she murmured, recovering, her explorer’s mind returning. This all looks so … polite, compared to when I last saw this place.

Through her, he saw that scene. It was more than déjà vu, this feeling Amelia’s perspective gave him. He had two memories in one body, and her memories of this place were strong, filled with emotion—regret, anger, despair.

Her perspective shifted the setting, overlaying what had happened with how the room looked now, and the double vision gave him vertigo. He almost put his hand out to steady himself. There was the body of the girl Amelia had been accused of murdering, her throat cut deeply, her head bent back unnaturally; there was the pool of blood around her; there were the candles and mirror of the spell Amelia worked to try to question the victim from beyond the grave. That was how the locals had found her, bent over the bloody scene, a witch out of a nightmare.

“This is where the body lay when the local constabulary burst through the door,” the guide said, pointing to the side of the room near the staircase. “There was a struggle as the murderer threw her tools at them and made to flee out the back door, but she wasn’t fast enough. She didn’t escape.”

Amelia was looking at a different spot. The memories played out.

“No,” Cormac said. He pointed to an area four feet over, more in the center of the room than to the side. “The body was there. They came in—Amelia had to turn to see them. She didn’t struggle. She knew what it looked like, knew they weren’t going to listen to anything she had to say to defend herself.” His voice faded; he wasn’t sure if he’d been passing along her words, or if he was trying to explain the emotions she was showing him.

The other half dozen people on the tour stared. Rather than apologize or try to explain what he knew, he frowned back and stayed quiet.

Judi studied him while picking up her spiel and carrying on. “The horror of it ensured the crime would make all the newspapers.…”

If Amelia had a body, she might have been holding a breath that she now released. The memory faded, along with the scent of blood, and the reality of the present won out. This was a competently restored house, a moderately accurate historical tour, and the emotional hooks that dug into their skin eased away.

Prev Next