Mia parked the truck in front of Lucas’s garage and climbed out. A sharp pain spread across her forehead and she squinted and rubbed her temples. She’d been occupying Pearl’s body for close to twenty four hours now. Pearl’s conscious spirit was beginning to reject the intrusion. It was natural for that to happen. She was lucky that Pearl was so advanced for her age. Other girls around her age could usually only maintain contact for an hour or so, but Pearl was training far above her peer group. Although Maya lacked confidence in her abilities, she had been much the same. A child prodigy. At Maya’s current level, she could hold on to a departed visitor for close to a week.
Mia cursed under her breath. She probably only had another half an hour at best, before Pearl turned back into herself. She would have to finish what she was doing quickly. The head pains were getting closer and closer together. She had nearly driven clean off the road a couple of times while making the trip back. The pain was meant to signify to the spirit guest that they had overstayed their welcome and that the host was reaching their limit and needed their body back in order to rest. It also prevented a summoned spirit from taking over their host permanently. Normally, a summoned spirit would depart at any sign of strong pain – there was no pain in the spirit world and those who had crossed over had no desire to experience it once again. It was a brilliant deterrent, although today, Mia felt it was a huge nuisance.
She bit down hard on her lip as another pain wrenched through her forehead. She couldn’t leave yet. She had to warn someone about Andre and his connection to Morgan. Althea Fey would be her best bet, but Mia knew that Althea didn’t like her, or her family, due to her mother’s disappearance. Mia wracked her brain for the right answer. All of a sudden, it came to her.“Lillian.”
She thought to herself. “Lillian will listen to me.”
Although she would have to explain that what Maya told her on the phone last night wasn’t completely true, Pearl’s guardian, Lillian Fey, would definitely listen to what she had to say, without a doubt. Lillian was also a council member and had been Mia’s nanny as a child. She had also cared for Maya until she was old enough to look after herself. Her bond with the Fey sisters was strong and she would do whatever was necessary to protect them.
Reaching through the window of the truck, she placed the keys on the drivers’ seat and headed away from Lucas’s house and back towards Fey Manor. The manor gardens were empty, just as she had expected they would be. The pain was getting worse, but she just had to hang in there long enough to talk to Lillian. Maybe she could instruct Lillian to get Pearl to channel her again tomorrow.
As she approached the Manor, she heard the sound of the main gate being opened. Ducking behind a building, Mia was surprised to see Andre Fey heading up the path. He shuffled casually and carried a white envelope in his left hand. Mia moved further back into the shadows so he wouldn’t see her as he passed. As soon has he was a safe distance away, she abandoned her hiding spot in order to follow him.
Mia’s brow furrowed as he bypassed the main house and headed towards the small caretaker cottage that Lillian lived in.“What exactly is he up to?”
she thought. She was starting to get really worried about this.
She watched Andre knock on the front door and enter the house after Lillian greeted him. Once he was inside, Mia snuck around the back, hiding herself by leaning against the wall next to the open kitchen window.
“Andre dear, what brings you here?” she heard Lillian ask. Andre went on to tell her that he had a letter to deliver from Althea which concerned the upcoming Elder Committee meeting. Mia heard her thank him, before he offered to go and make her a cup of tea. Lillian accepted.“So far, nothing odd here...”
Mia thought to herself. She sighed. “I guess not everything Andre does is part of some sinister plan...”
She heard Andre rattling around in the kitchen and sunk down lower against the wall. She didn’t want him to see her. She would just wait until he left to speak to Lillian. Right on cue, a splitting pain ran through her forehead. She hoped he left soon. She didn’t have much time.
“Oh... oh my goodness...” Mia heard from inside the house. “Andre, please help me!”
That was Lillian! Mia stood up straight, listening further.
“What is it Lillian? What’s the matter?”
That was Andre. Did he actually sound sincere for once?
“Please, my pills...they are behind you. I think I’m having a heart attack!”
Mia’s eyes widened. All desire to conceal her whereabouts vanished in an instant. She sprinted as fast as she could around the side of the house and up the front steps. Panic and desperation filled her completely. Tears were starting to form in her eyes. She flung the door open, bursting into the small lounge room. But she was too late.
Lillian Fey was dead.
Andre stood by, completely calm. He turned to look at her, his expression impassive.
“Catch.” He said simply, tossing a small object towards her. Mia caught it. It was a small crystal bottle. Her breath caught when she realised what it must have contained. She dropped it to the floor immediately, as if it had burned her hand. It bounced on the carpet and rolled back towards Andre. He made no move to retrieve it.
Mia swallowed hard. She looked up at Andre, her eyes wide with shock.
“You... you did this!” she cried. Before he had a chance to answer, Mia turned and ran. She ran as fast as her legs would take her towards the main house. She dashed through the halls until she reached her mothers office. Slamming the door shut and locking it, she ran to the phone and dialled the number of her old office. It rang a few times. Her heart was pounding.
“C’mon...Phoenix, where are you?” Mia said impatiently.
“Hello, Wright & Co Law Offices. Maya Fey speaking” the voice on the other end of the line chirped.
“Maya!” Mia yelled into the phone.
“Mia? What’s the matter?” Maya asked.
“Maya! Oh god. Lillian! Lillian’s dead!” Mia rambled.
“What?” Maya gasped. “Mia, what’s going on?”
“Andre! He... oh god, he...” Mia began sobbing. There was no response from Maya.
“Hello?” Mia asked. “Maya? Hello?”
She tapped the receiver cradle repeatedly. She couldn’t get a dial tone. The phone was dead. She spun around as she heard the lock on the office door click. Mia froze. She hadn’t checked to see if the key was in the lock on the other side of the door. Andre opened the door, grinning at her triumphantly. He threw the key at her feet.
“I cut the line...” he said, holding up a pocket knife. “This is my father’s. I took it from his truck yesterday morning. Quite lucky don’t you think?”
Mia stood her ground, eyeing the young man warily. Her body tensed. She had no idea why he was telling her the things that he was. Was he crazy? She didn’t know, but she felt ready to spring to action at a moments notice. She had to protect Pearl at all costs.
Andre casually twirled the knife between his fingers. He smiled to himself. The only way out of that room was behind him, and Mia had to get past him to get to it. He knew she wouldn’t risk any harm to Pearl. He had her trapped.
Mia cried out as another sharp pain coursed through her head. Andre’s Cheshire cat grin grew even larger. Things just kept on getting better.
“She’s at her limit, isn’t she?” Andre asked Mia.
Mia steeled her expression and said nothing.
“You don’t have long left, Mystic Mia.” He spat.
“You wouldn’t hurt Pearl. She’s your sister. She’s a child.” Mia stammered. She’d never felt so afraid.
“The spoiled brat that mother loves best? Why wouldn’t I want to hurt her?” Andre asked incredulously.
“You can still get away with murder, Andre. If you hurt Pearl, it will all be over.” Mia pleaded. “Let Pearl go. She has done nothing.” Mia felt tears well up in her eyes. If only she hadn’t come here. If only he hadn’t seen her. Pearl was going to die because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Andre shook his head, and started laughing. His laughter sent shivers down Mia’s spine. He really was crazy.
“Mia.” He finally said. “You were a lawyer. You should know that you always have to have an alternate plan of attack. There always has to be a plan B.”
Still shaking, Mia raised an eyebrow.
“What do you mean?” she asked warily.
“This knife.” Andre said, twirling the object again. “It’s not for Pearl.”
“I don’t understand,” Mia said. “If you hurt me, you hurt her.”
Andre shook his head. “I’m going to make sure no one channels you ever again.”
Mia gasped as Andre plunged the blade into his own shoulder. He grimaced at the pain as she stood there, frozen, mouth agape. Then he lunged at her, knocking her off balance. His blood smeared across her shirt. In the few short seconds before she hit the floor, Mia realised exactly what he had done. The impact of her hitting the floor at this late stage of Pearl’s channelling would be enough to sever the spirit tie. Her prints were on the crystal bottle. Lucas would claim the knife missing from his truck.
Andre was going to pin this whole thing on her.
Maya sat her desk, taking notes from one of the channelling texts that she had borrowed from the library. She still spent time studying, but as long as it wasn’t the only thing she ever did and she didn’t pass on any more burgers, Phoenix told her he didn’t have a problem with it. He promised to tell her if she was pushing herself too hard. He even claimed that if she slipped back to her old ways he would throw her over his shoulder and drag her outside to go and do something fun.
Maya giggled at the thought of that happening. She had told him that it definitely wouldn’t have to come to that, but deep down she found the idea of Phoenix carrying her off caveman style rather amusing. Although, she could never tell him that. It was bad enough having to face him this morning after Mia’s efforts last night. Phoenix hadn’t mentioned a thing though. She was glad.
He had tried to get her to go out and help him do the grocery shopping, but she had declined, opting to take a little study time while he was gone. She had argued that doing the groceries wasn’t fun anyway and that she would put the books away when he returned. That was good enough for him.
The phone on Phoenix’s desk rang, snapping her out of her thoughts. Casually, she wandered over to pick it up.
“Hello, Wright & Co Law Offices. Maya Fey speaking” she answered cheerily. Maybe this was a potential client.
“Maya!” Her sisters’ voice on the other end of the line was frantic.
“Mia? What’s the matter?” Maya asked, an unsettling feeling starting to grow in her stomach.
“Maya! Oh god. Lillian! Lillian’s dead!” Mia rambled.
“What?” Maya gasped. “Mia, what’s going on?” Her heart started hammering. How? Why?
“Mia? Mia, hello? Mia, are you there?” Maya cried frantically. She hung up the phone and redialled the number.
Hanging up, she tried again.
Busy signal again.
Her heart was pounding and her breathing uneven. She began to sob. She dialled again.
Still the busy signal.
Shaking, she buried her head in her hands. What was she going to do? Fey Manor was the only place in Kurain with a phone. She dialled Phoenix’s cell.
“Forget something Maya? I’m buying more pudding.” Phoenix said as he answered the phone.
“Nick!” she cried desperately.
“Maya? What’s wrong?” Phoenix asked, panic in his voice.
“Nick, please come back now. I don’t know what to do!” Maya sobbed.
“I’m on my way. I’ll be two minutes.” He said resolutely.
Phoenix turned around and dashed out of the supermarket, leaving his cart full of shopping behind. He sprinted up the street in the direction of the office.
“Maya... please be okay.”
Groceries could wait.
Pearl Fey opened her eyes to find her cousin Andre sitting across from her, bleeding from a wound on his shoulder. A bloody knife sat on the floor across from her. She blinked a few times. She was tired and confused. She didn’t know where she was, or why she was wearing clothes that didn’t fit her.
“Andre! What happened!?” she asked, frowning. She was scared.
“Mystic Mia...” Andre spluttered. “She went crazy. She attacked me. And she... and she...”
Andre began to cry. Pearl ran to his side.
“What is it, Andre?” she said, placing a small hand on his unwounded shoulder.
“She killed Mystic Lillian!” Andre sobbed, crying openly.
Pearl sunk to the floor. She had channelled Mystic Mia, and Mystic Mia had... she had killed Mystic Lillian?
“No...” Pearl said shaking her head. “No, Mystic Mia wouldn’t do that...”
“I’m so sorry Mystic Pearl,” Andre said softly, wincing at the pain in his shoulder for extra effect. “I don’t know why she did this...”
Pearl was silent for a moment as she tried to understand what Andre was telling her. She didn’t think he would lie about anything like that, and everything around her was seemingly proof of his claims against Mia. Her lip started to tremble as the reality of what had happened started to sink in.
“It’s all my fault!” Pearl said, bursting into tears. “I’m so sorry Andre! It’s all my fault!”
She buried her head in Andre’s shoulder and he wrapped his uninjured arm around the small girl.
“Shh little Pearl...” he soothed. “It wasn’t you, it was Mystic Mia. We just have to make sure no one channels her ever again.”
Pearl sniffed and nodded, tears still streaming down her little face.
“I’m so confused. What do we do? We need to contact Mystic Maya.” she said softly.
“Help me up,” Andre asked. “First we need to go find Mystic Althea and tell her about this tragedy. Then we’ll contact the master.”
Phoenix burst through the office door and found Maya standing behind his desk, tears falling fast as she dialled the phone. Frustrated, she let out a small grunt. She slammed the receiver down, before picking it up and dialling again.
“Maya, what’s going on?” Phoenix asked.
“Something bad. Something bad has happened...” she managed to stammer before turning her attention back to the phone. “Why doesn’t the phone work? Argh!”
She slammed the receiver down again. Phoenix walked around behind his desk and placed his hands on her shoulders, turning her around to face him.
“Maya, I need you to calm down for a second and tell me what happened, okay? I can’t help if I don’t know what’s going on.” He said calmly.
She paused for a moment, trying her hardest to compose herself. She couldn’t do it. She flung herself against him, sobbing into his shoulders. He wrapped an arm around her, and stroked her hair soothingly.
“Mia...” she started, her voice cracking. “Mia rang. She said Lillian was dead. Then she said Andre’s name... then... then the phone cut out.” She sobbed.
Phoenix’s shoulders stiffened in surprise. He led Maya over to the couch and sat her down. He had to try and remain calm to get more information out of her. He took a deep breath before speaking again.
“Who is Lillian?” he asked gently. Maya sniffed.
“She’s Pearl’s legal guardian. She was my nanny too. She’s a council member.” She replied. Phoenix handed her a tissue and she began to wipe her eyes.
“Do you think Mia was trying to tell you that Andre had something to do with it?”
“I don’t know. I’m just scared that something happened to Pearl. The phone went dead!” Maya said, breaking into a fresh fit of sobs. Phoenix stroked her back, wondering what on earth this poor girl had done to attract such heartache.
“Do you want to go to Kurain? We can get the next train.” Phoenix offered.
Maya was about to answer when her cell phone started ringing. Startled, she jumped to answer it.
“Hello?” Maya said quickly. “Mia?”
“Hello Mystic Maya,” an elderly woman’s voice said gently. “This is Mystic Marion. I’m afraid I’m calling you with some bad news.”
Mystic Marion was another of Kurain’s elders. While she was a sweet woman it was no secret that she always followed Althea’s every request.
“Mystic Marion, what is going on?” Maya asked worriedly.
“It’s Lillian, dear. I’m afraid she has passed. Mystic Althea instructed me to give you this message. She has asked that you return to Kurain tomorrow.”
“What... what happened?” Maya stammered.
“I’m afraid I don’t know, dear. All I know is that she is no longer with us. Such a terrible tragedy...”
“Pearl! Is Pearly okay?” Maya asked frantically.
“Mystic Pearl is quite upset. She is resting right now.” Marion answered.
Maya breathed a sigh of relief. Pearl was okay.
“Mystic Marion, I have been trying to call the phone at the main house and have been unable to get through. Is there a problem with the phone?” Maya asked, some of her composure returning.
“Yes dear, the line is down. It was fortunate that one of our channelling appointments brought her cell phone with her today. She graciously allowed me to borrow it to contact you.” Marion replied.
“I see.” Maya said. “Tell Althea that I will be there tomorrow morning.”
“I will, dear.” Marion said simply.
Maya hung up the phone and slumped back down on the couch. She turned to face Phoenix, who was watching her with a concerned expression.
“Pearls is okay?” he asked hopefully. Maya looked away and nodded in response. She didn’t know what to say. Everything just kept on getting worse.
“But you’re not okay... are you?” Phoenix asked, placing his hand on top of hers.
Maya turned to look at him again. She frowned slightly before shaking her head to signify no. Her shoulders slumped and new tears began to fall. Phoenix pulled her into his embrace as she cried. He pressed his lips gently against her the top of her head, trying his hardest to soothe her sobs.
He pursed his lips together. He was so furious he could barely hold it in. What right did that stupid insignificant village have to break this girl over and over? He continued to stroke her arm as he mulled over his own anger.
These people, her people, just expected her to weather the harshest storms as if it was her duty. They didn’t help her. They didn’t support her. There was never any recognition for hard work, only the expectation of her to do more. She needed support. She needed a rock.
Tomorrow, they would go to Kurain, and whether the elders liked him or not, he was going to support Maya every step of the way.