The academy moving in se.., p.14

The Academy (Moving In Series Book 6), page 14

 

The Academy (Moving In Series Book 6)
 


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  Charlie’s eyes widened, and he screamed in disbelief. A deep pained sound which tore at Brian’s ears.

  Then the scream changed into a single word.

  “Liar!”

  And Charlie rushed at Brian.

  Chapter 46: Waiting for Brian

  Mitchell and Beth were at the back of the Admin building in the parking lot. Earlier in the day, Rushford had dropped off the lead boxes, ten of them; each the size of a shoebox. They were incredibly heavy, and Mitchell had an absurd fear that he might get lead poisoning from holding one. The boxes were in the trunk of Beth’s silver Accord, and he and the detective stood near the car. They were silent as they waited, each of them holding a pair of white cotton gloves.

  “Why do we need these again?” Beth asked him.

  “Brian says the gloves stop the ghosts from getting a hold on you when you pick up an item they’re bound to,” Mitchell answered.

  Beth looked at her hands, flexed them in the gloves, and shrugged.

  Where is he? Mitchell wondered. Brian was supposed to meet them, but after the initial text from his cousin, Mitchell hadn’t heard anything else. Nearly half an hour had passed.

  Beth glanced over. “Did he say where he was going?”

  Mitchell shook his head. “Just to meet him here.”

  “We shouldn’t wait any longer,” she said, frowning. “This place is too dangerous. He could be in trouble.”

  “I know,” Mitchell agreed.

  “I don’t think we should wait to collect the objects either,” Beth said, going around the back of the car and opening the trunk. “Or split up.”

  Mitchell hesitated, and then he nodded. “You’re right. If we each take a box into the Administration building, we should be able to get the letter and the hairbrush.”

  “Which should we get first?” Beth asked, taking out a box and handing it to Mitchell.

  He grunted at the weight of the lead. “The letter. It’s the most dangerous of the two. At least whoever is attached to the hairbrush hasn’t been brought out of it.”

  “How do we stop the one from the letter?” Beth asked, taking out a second box and leaving the trunk open. “Was it steel?”

  Mitchell shook his head. “Iron.”

  “Alright,” Beth said. “Do you have any?”

  “Any what?”

  “Iron,” she said.

  “No,” Mitchell said softly. “No, I don’t have any iron at all.”

  Beth sighed. “We’ll have to do without it then.”

  “Yes,” Mitchell said, looking at the building. “I suppose you’re right. I’m worried about Brian.”

  “Give him a call,” Beth suggested.

  “Of course,” Mitchell said, shaking his head at his own foolishness. He got out his phone, called Brian, and frowned as it went directly to voice mail. He ended the call and sent a short text. Where are you?

  “No answer,” Mitchell said. “I sent him a text, but I don’t want to wait any longer. Do you?”

  Beth shook her head. “Let’s go in, then, and get this over with as quickly as possible. Where’s the letter?”

  “My office,” Mitchell said. “Follow me.”

  Fear settled into the pit of Mitchell’s stomach as he adjusted his grip on the lead box, but he led the way into the building.

  Chapter 47: Brotherly Love

  Brian knew what was coming, and he braced for it. For a heartbeat he was reminded of the fights between them, when they were boys. The knock-down, drag-out battles that had sometimes ended in stitches or broken fingers. Bruises and cuts. And epic punishments from their parents.

  When Charlie’s first punch hit Brian on the second floor of the library, all of those memories vanished. The pain was instantaneous and horrific. As Charlie’s fist struck Brian in the stomach, it felt as though an ice pick was punched through his navel. His brother’s blows were fast, maddeningly so.

  Before Brian could get a grasp on the situation, punches were rocking his head, sending him to his knees. The left side of his face went numb and for a terrifying moment, he felt as though another heart attack was coming on to finish him off. But his heartbeat, though fast, was strong.

  He closed his eyes against another blow and fell backwards. Brian let out a shout, one full of anger and heartbreak. Jenny’s beautiful face flashed before his eyes and, with a sob, he brought his right fist up, smashing it into his brother.

  Chapter 48: Back at the Library

  Herman had avoided his house as much as possible. He had walked many streets he hadn’t even known existed, and he had eaten more than a few meals at the soup kitchen. Most nights, he slept at the back of St. Patrick’s Church. The door there was always open, and he had found an unlocked side-room in the basement.

  He had seen his parents, of course, yet he had barely spoken to them. Their drinking, he had seen, seemed to have gotten worse.

  Herman passed through the lilacs and onto the Academy’s grounds. Part of him hoped he would see Mr. Weiss. He wanted to know why the man had sent him to the Mather House. Herman needed to know why.

  He passed by Adrienne Hall, followed the path towards the library, and stopped. Someone had called out. Herman turned to face the Weiss Library, listening closely. The sound of something breaking reached his ears, as did a pained yell. Herman took a few tentative steps towards the front door, and then a crash rang out from inside of the building.

  Without waiting any longer, Herman hurried up the stairs, found the door unlocked, and went in. Books and magazines, shelves and furniture, were strewn all over the floor. From the second floor came a grunt, followed quickly by another.

  His heart pounding in his chest, Herman crept warily up. He kept close to the wall, eyes locked on the top of the stairs. Lights blinked in and out, and a moment later, Herman saw a body on the floor. The figure rolled, then twisted as if something had kicked it.

  Not it, Herman realized. He.

  He recognized the man as Brian, the one who had been with the detective at the Emergency Room. The man who had helped him.

  When Herman reached the second floor, he saw Brian bring up a fist and strike the air above him. Herman felt a blast of cold air. A shriek filled his ears, knocked the wind out of him, and forced him to his knees. He felt someone race past him and warmth suddenly replaced the cold.

  “Brian?” Herman called out nervously.

  The man grunted, tried to turn, and failed.

  Shakily, Herman got to his feet, stumbled to Brian, and gasped.

  Brian had been beaten badly. Both of the man’s eyes were closed, his lips smashed and bloody. His breathing was ragged. One swollen eyelid opened slightly, the white was stained red. The eyeball rolled crazily for a moment before it fixated on Herman.

  The man raised his right hand and beckoned Herman closer.

  Herman did so, sinking down to kneel beside him. Cautiously, he took hold of Brian’s hand. Brian’s grip was surprisingly strong. The man’s mutilated lips twitched, then parted, and Brian managed a harsh whisper.

  “My ring.”

  He squeezed Herman’s hand. Herman looked down and saw a polished black ring on Brian’s index finger.

  “It’s still there,” Herman said.

  “No,” Brian hissed. “Take it.”

  “What?” Herman asked, confused.

  “Kid,” Brian said, wincing, “just take it.”

  Swallowing nervously, Herman did as he was told. He managed to work the ring off of Brian’s finger and held it up for the man to see.

  Brian nodded. “Yours now.”

  “Mine?” Herman said.

  “Wear it.”

  Herman hesitated, then he slipped the ring on his own finger. It was far too big, and he had to make a fist to keep it on. The metal was warm.

  Brian closed his eye, took a deep breath and said hoarsely, “The ring is iron. Iron stops the dead. Ghosts. You understand?”

  “Um,” Herman said, “iron stops ghosts?”

  “Yes.
Brian coughed. “Just punch with it. Nothing fancy.”

  “There’s more,” Brian hissed.

  “What?” Herman asked.

  “There are gloves,” Brian said, “in my front pocket. Take them.”

  Herman found the pair of white cotton gloves in Brian’s left front pocket. The edges of the gloves were stained bright red with blood.

  “Wear them. They’re protection, okay?” Brian said. He coughed, blood flecking his lips. “Wear them.”

  “Okay,” Herman said hastily, pulling the gloves on. He held his hands up. “See, they’re on.”

  “Good,” Brian whispered.

  “Hey,” Herman said gently, “I have to call for help. I need a phone.”

  “No.” Brian gripped Herman’s arm tightly.

  “What?” Herman said.

  “Go into the room.”

  “Which one?” Herman asked, looking up and down the hallway.

  “Closed door.” Brian hissed. “Somewhere in that room. There’s a hidden panel. Something.”

  “A hiding place?” Herman asked. He was confused.

  “Yes.”

  “What’s in it?” Herman said, forcing his thoughts to remain calm.

  “Weiss’s picture. And other things. Take them.” Brian let out a grunt. A moment later, he gasped. “Come closer. One more gift.”

  With surprising strength, Brian pulled Herman closer.

  “Listen,” Brian whispered.

  Herman leaned in, and he listened.

  Chapter 49: Going into the Office

  Beth looked at Mitchell. She held the lead box and wondered, What the hell am I doing?

  She had been entertaining doubts since she had left Mitchell Roy’s house after Anna’s so-called visit. Part of her firmly believed she had been tricked by Brian Roy. But there was another part, a deeper, more visceral portion of her psyche which believed Brian.

  You want to believe, she told herself.

  Mitchell opened the back door, and they entered the stairwell. A bitter cold drifted up from the lower level.

  Beth said, “Is there a problem with the air conditioning in here?” Her voice was disturbingly loud.

  Mitchell shook his head. “Brian said it’s the ghosts.”

  She glanced down the stairs at the darkened area and felt an involuntary shiver dance along her spine. When Mitchell started heading up to the main floor, she followed quickly. He held the next door open for her, and she stepped in, casting her eyes around for any sign of trouble. Mitchell walked swiftly to a closed office, took out a key, and let them both inside. He went immediately to a desk and picked up a picture frame.

  “What the hell are you doing?” a man’s voice came from a shadowed corner.

  Beth put the lead box on the desk, eyes searching for the man. “I’d like to ask you the same thing.”

  On the edge of her vision, she saw Mitchell hurriedly releasing the latch on the box, his face suddenly pale.

  Out of the darkness, the man raced at her, and Beth reacted instantly. She drew her semi-automatic from the holster on her hip. She didn’t have the time or the inclination to yell out a warning.

  This man meant to hurt them.

  In less time than it took to breathe, Beth had the pistol up and aimed. She pulled the trigger quickly. The report was tremendous in the confines of the office. She fired three quick shots, the brass shell casings arcing. The bullets passed harmlessly through the man as he charged towards her, the rounds slamming ineffectively into the plaster behind him.

  The man was cold and hard as he hit her, knocking her backward. She was firing again, his howl of rage filling her ears.

  And then he was gone.

  Beth twisted around, unable to see the stranger. Mitchell stood by the desk with the lead box in his hands. His face was tight and lips pressed close together.

  “Who the hell was that?” Beth asked, holstering her weapon and getting to her feet.

  “Gregory Weston,” Mitchell said. He nodded at the lead box. “He’s in here now.”

  “Jesus,” Beth said after a moment. “I guess it works.”

  Mitchell nodded. “Let’s get the other box. I’d like to get the hairbrush out of the way before we move on to the fob.”

  “Was Weston the worst?” Beth asked, following Mitchell out of the room.

  “No,” Mitchell replied. “Not by a long shot if Brian’s to be believed.”

  “Great,” Beth said. “Fantastic.”

  Chapter 50: A New Experience

  Brian felt horrible. Worse than he had ever felt before, and that included the various heart attacks, beatings, and tortures he had survived. Charlie’s rage had been terrible. Brian could hear his brother’s words echoing in his mind.

  You’re not real. None of this is real. This is a nightmare. I’m not dead!

  Charlie had hurt him badly. Then he had left, and the boy, Herman, had arrived. Herman had taken the ring, and he had understood how to use it.

  I can pass the gift on, Brian realized. The boy leaned closer. He felt warmth radiating from the teenager. Perhaps only once, like Leo. Because if Leo can pass it on, Brian thought tiredly, then so can I.

  Brian dug around in his own head, found the gift Leonidas had given him, and smiled. He knew what to say. How to bestow it. “See well, Herman,” Brian whispered. “See very well indeed.”

  Chapter 51: Vision

  A sharp twinge pulsed at the base of Herman’s skull when Brian spoke. When the words left the man’s mouth, Brian’s hand slipped off Herman’s arm. Brian’s chest still rose and fell, but he didn’t say anything else, and his eyes remained closed.

  Herman straightened up, felt for his phone, and realized he had left it at home so his parents couldn’t get a hold of him.

  Office phone, he thought. He went to turn, and he remembered what Brian had said. Herman looked at the closed door, then down at the battered man.

  It’s important, Herman told himself.

  He stepped over Brian and let himself into the room. It was small and cluttered. Cleaning supplies, bookstands, and bookends littered the built-in shelves. Herman clicked on the light, blinked for a moment while his eyes adjusted and then looked around.

  There, Herman thought, nodding. He saw a section of dark wood, a panel which looked wrong when compared to the others in the room. I bet that’s it.

  He walked to it and pushed at the different edges until he heard a click. The wood moved away from the rest of the wall, a slight opening revealed. Herman slipped his fingers into it, pulled it back, and found a small space built into the wall. Within the wood-lined area, Herman saw three items; a small wooden box, ornately carved and hinged, that was flanked by a trophy with a golden archer on it and a paperback book. The book was missing its top cover.

  Herman quickly stuffed the box into his back pocket, the book into his front pocket, and he held onto the trophy. Without bothering to close the secret panel, Herman left the room.

  Brian was still unconscious on the floor, and Herman squatted down beside him. He caught sight of a cellphone in the man’s back pocket, and he took it out. Herman tried to access it, but the phone was dead. With a sigh, he put it beside Brian, stood up, and froze.

  An old man stood at the top of the stairs. His age-lined face full of malice. The man’s eyes widened in surprise when he realized Herman saw him.

  “How can you see me?” the man demanded.

  And when he heard the old man’s voice, Herman knew who it was.

  Vincent Armand, Herman thought, and rage filled him. His left hand tightened on the trophy, and when he clenched his right hand into a fist, Herman felt the ring. The iron ring.

  He remembered what Brian had said. Herman smiled grimly even as his heart beat rapidly with fear. His absent teeth thundered with pain.

  “Because I can,” Herman said. “And it’s too bad. You’re uglier than I could ever have imagined.”

  Vincent snarled and advanced towards Herman. Herman remained where he was,
slowly raising his right fist. Vincent let out a sneering laugh, reaching out for Herman’s throat. When he did, Herman lashed out with his fist. As the iron connected with the ghost, a jolt rippled through Herman’s arm. Vincent’s eyes widened, he shrieked, and disappeared.

  Herman was left panting in the hallway. He looked at his hand, felt the warmth of the ring against his flesh, and smiled.

  “Thank you,” he said to Brian. “I’ll be back.”

  Herman raced out of the library. He had to find help.

  Chapter 52: A Shock

  They had found the hairbrush where Bradley Marion had hidden it, and Mitchell had safely removed it. Beth was carrying the lead box for the silver fob. They had reached the Mather House a moment before and gone in. The two of them stood in the doorway and looked into the single room.

  The fob was on the floor, and both of them eyed it warily.

  I have to pick it up, Mitchell realized. Beth, evidently, was thinking along the same line.

  She opened the lead box and looked at him wordlessly.

  “Right,” Mitchell said, nodding. He walked into the house, bent down and was slammed backward. He landed on the old floor with a thud, pain shooting up through his back, his head smacking the wood.

  “God damn it!” Mitchell shouted.

  Beth reached to help him, and a voice blasted through the stillness of the air.

  “How?” a man screamed. “How could he do that?”

  The man’s body flickered in and out of existence, an old face twisted with rage. The man vanished with a howl, a noise which shattered the windows of the Mather House. As glass fell, the ghost reappeared, shrieked again, and turned around.

  Beth pulled Mitchell up roughly with one hand while he reached out and snatched up the fob. He shouted out, the metal was worse than dry ice to the touch, but he didn’t let go of it.

  Unseen hands were suddenly at his throat, squeezing the breath out of him. Mitchell dropped the fob, clawed at the hands on his throat, and found nothing there. Blood pounded in his ears, drowning out everything except for his fear and the mad rantings of the ghost choking the life out of him. Darkness clouded his vision, and Mitchell pounded his fists against the floor, desperate for air.

 
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