Imperfections of Sleep (part 4 of 6)

iosp4

Imperfections of Sleep
Part 4 of 6

The 427 horses of Sam Hill’s ’69 Caprice rumbled across the back roads of Wabash County. It was a little rough around the edges, but had it where it counted. Besides, its owner came by it the old fashion way ā€” he’d stolen it.

Granted, that theft occurred in 1971, and its original owner, a fence that went by the name Rager Creek Johnson, was dead shortly thereafter, but Hill still relished in the satisfaction that he’d swiped this ride from someone unworthy of what she had to offer.

He pressed the gas pedal to the floor, kicking up a cloud of dust, as he and Landon Connors cut a wake across the winding gravel road that led toward the Mississinewa.

“How in the hell does a girl in the fourth grade get drawn into Cairnwood Manor’s amor fati?” Hill gripped the wheel, slid through an intersection, cutting hard left, and bringing the Caprice onto pavement. The tires barked as they grabbed traction, leaving a black scar on the county road.

“There’ve been rumblings in the Nevermore for weeks, something kicking around the old place of late,” Connors replied. He wasn’t fond of his mentor’s predilection for hard driving. “Damn it!” he shouted, slamming his fist down on the dash, “We should have seen this coming.” He paused. “I should have…”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, kid,” Hill said. He cast a glance at the young man beside him. Early twenties, but he’d already lived enough for three lifetimes. He lost his mother when he was just a boy, and he wasn’t much older than that when the incident in Antarctica went down and the Connors patriarch, Ashton Connors, met his untimely demise. That was four years ago. It had left Landon with a bum leg, but more than that, it had left him with emotional scars that were slow to heal. “In case you haven’t been paying attention, we’ve been busy, or have you forgotten the peace we brokered between the land wights and the Rich Valley Sylphs.”

“Yes, I know, but…”

“Not to mention our little misadventure with Nicole van Klaveren last week,” Hill continued. “We’re a damn band-aid,” he hung a quick right, fishtailing onto a gravel road for a short spell, then cut back north. “We can’t save the world,” he added bitterly, “not when all the heavens have turned their backs on us.” He flipped out two cigarettes from his breast pocket and tossed one at Connors. “Now smoke that and focus on what’s ahead, because what’s behind us is…”

“Sam!” Connors exclaimed, both hands reflexively clutching the dashboard, his right leg stomping on a brake pedal that wasn’t there.

“What the ā€”?” Hill floored the brake and threw the Caprice into a sliding stop, the smell of rubber and smoke filling the air.

Standing in the middle of the road, fields of corn awaiting harvest on either side, stood a young woman. Connors shook his head as he climbed out of the car, his attention swiftly shifting from concern for her well-being to danger-mode as became aware of the evanescent tendrils of smoke swirling around the woman’s feet. About her, burnt into the pavement, was a nine foot circle, arcane symbols following its arc. Magic still radiated from the scar, a purple glow that faded to an almost indiscernible wisp of eldritch vapor.

Sam responded quickly, the crackle of magical energy beginning to spark at his fingertips, but the woman was quicker. She unleashed a binding spell that wrapped itself around the private investigator, fettering him within a spiraling chain of Enochian letters, pulsing with fairy fire.

This was above Connors’ pay grade, but he was learning. Prepping an offensive spell in his mind, tapping into the elements at his command, he just needed time to bring it all together. But time was in short supply. I need to take a different approach, the occult detective thought…

“That’s a neat piece of work,” he said, flashing her a devilish grin. “Where did a pretty young thing like you learn such a nasty little spell?”

“From you, you old snake-charmer,” she replied.

Connors was stunned. “From me? You must be mistaken. I think I’d remember if we’d met before?”

“Oh, we’ve met,” she said, stepping forward in the circle. “Just not yet.”

to be continued

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