Home > Strange Angels (Strange Angels #1)(8)

Strange Angels (Strange Angels #1)(8)
Author: Lili St. Crow, Lilith Saintcrow

Hey, even if you’ve got great intuition you can’t just walk up to people and ask them about the resident exorcist or the last unsolved murder that was committed during the new moon. You also can’t ask them about the haunted houses that serve as nodes or the local werwulfen hangout—where the burgers aren’t just rare, they’re raw. And served in big bloody piles.

Sometimes you have to go digging to find the pattern behind events that to other people just look like random bad luck.

Get information and you’ll find a pattern, Gran said. Find the pattern and you have your prey, Dad said.

He also said, Don’t let the backwoods woo-woo take the place of logic. He said that a lot.

I wondered where he was and took another gulp of Coke and Beam. My CD player was across the room, the concrete-block-and-plywood bookcase empty except for my clothes. There was another pile of clothes and my CD case in front of the closet, and other than my mattresses and the nightstand, that was about it. The lap of luxury at Casa Anderson. I’d stopped putting up posters or hauling my books upstairs. It wasn’t worth it and Dad didn’t care as long as the laundry got done. To my everlasting relief, he’d also stopped with the starch a few years back. The military made him big on spray starch, but I point-blank refused to touch the stuff after a while. He finally gave up doing it himself, and I manfully restrained myself from pointing out that the world didn’t explode when he did.

And they say maturity is just for adults.

The house was empty. It started talking, groans and squeaks as the wind outside rose. Everywhere you go, the air changes around dusk. Sometimes it’s soft and sweet, or whistling just enough to make you feel happy to be inside and snuggled up.

When something bad is coming, it’s different. Like a moan, only with big glass teeth.

Tonight the wind had that sound. I hoped Dad would be home soon. Once I finished my drink I fished in my bag for a pencil and paper and started to draw. The long curved lines turned into a frilly iris, one of Gran’s favorite flowers. I got into it, shading the different textures of the petals, imagining the colors—vibrant purple, snowy white, the green of the stem. I’d drawn a lot of irises, especially after Mom died and Gran got me paper and a pencil to keep me busy while she worked in her cabin.

When I think of right after Mom died and Dad disappeared for the first time, the smell of paper and the sound of Gran scrubbing something—she was always cleaning—mixes together with the feeling of a pencil in my hand. She was always washing the floors with hawthorn water or wiping down the windows, in between the other tons of work that had to happen to keep the cabin running right. Like collecting eggs or feeding the pigs or splitting wood. I still can’t pass a house without looking for the best place to put a woodpile, and I always spin the eggs once clockwise on the counter before breaking them.

Somehow she found time to keep the place clean as a whistle and rinsed down with all sorts of floor and window washes—hawthorn, mountain ash, true rowan, sometimes yarrow or lavender. Bundles of wild garlic and onions strung up everywhere, and Gran working on her spinning wheel late at night, the thump and whirr getting into my chest as I cried myself to sleep, missing Dad, wanting my mommy, terrified and lonely and not understanding.

What does a five-year-old understand about “dead”? Or “forever”? Or even about “be back in a while”?

Full night fell. The clock blinked on and on. I got up to go to the bathroom a couple times, taking the quilt with me. Once I went downstairs for another Coke and Beam. Dad would give me another Lecture—probably the one about Responsible Choices and Adulthood, and how I wasn’t close to either yet—if he ever guessed I drank while he was out. But since he put the stuff away at a pretty steady rate himself, I don’t think he ever twigged.

I went on to drawing simple shapes—the lamp on my nightstand, the bookshelves, the closet doors. Then I sketched the pile of laundry in front of the closet, taking care to shade everything just so. The clock kept blinking. I finished the second glass of Jimmy Beam lightly misted with Coke and fell asleep with the pencil still in my fingers, a jagged line sliding down the pad of paper in my lap, opened to a fresh page.

When I woke up in the morning, Dad still wasn’t there.

INTERMEZZO

He walked down a long corridor, picking his way carefully in booted feet. The concrete was crazed with broken lines and slick with fat rivulets and lakes of something best not to name; he stepped over them like a kid stepping over sidewalk cracks, break your mother’s back.

A buzzing had started in my head. I wanted to open my mouth, tell him not to go down that hall, that Something Invisible was looking at him. But the hall was so long, and it was so hard to think through the hornets in my head. They were having a fine old time building condos inside my skull, and the buzzing spread through my bones as if I’d stepped on a live wire.

I didn’t use to have these buzzing dreams often. Lately they’ve been once a month or so, usually just before I start my period, cramps and weird sleeping going hand in hand. But this one wasn’t the usual buzzing dream, where I am flying over rooftops, or even the worst dream of all that ends with me in close darkness, surrounded by stuffed animals.

No. This dream was hyper-colored. I could see every hair on his head, the fine lines of lavender in his blue irises, the nap of his favorite green Army jacket, every line and crease on his polished combat boots. The gun gleamed dully in his hand, held loosely, professionally.

There were fluorescent lights overhead, their buzz echoing the idiot noise in my head. That’s why I couldn’t speak, you know—that sound just destroys anything you might say, like static on the television screen will eat whatever you’re thinking for hours at a time. You can just sit and stare. Like some brain-sucking thing has, well, sucked your brain.

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