Annie recognized the insidious grin on her dad’s face. The same ominous expression the mailman had before he took his phantom form and dissolved into the wet paint on her porch ceiling. “What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s possessed. They both are. We must go now!”
She tugged on Annie’s arm, but the girl wouldn’t move. “I can’t leave my mom and dad here, not like this.”
“They’ll be alright until we return.” Penelope raised the bag in her hand. “I made a binding spell. The haints possessing them won’t be able to exit your house with or without your parents.”
“Wait! Where are we going?”
“To retrieve my sisters.”
“And exactly where are they?”
“My youngest sister is in Massachusetts.”
“We’re in South Carolina. It will take days.”
Penny stared silently at Annie, waiting for the girl’s thoughts to catch up.
“I suppose we could fly, but I don’t have that kind of money for a last-minute flight, do you?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Then how are we going to…”
“I’m a witch, some even say a Hoodoo Priestess, remember?” Penny motioned her hand to the right in a clockwise manner and stirred the air until it became thick. The defined area swirled and took on a bluish gel-like appearance. “Come on.”
Annie stood motionless and gazed with amazement at what this woman had done.
“Hurry up, we’re running out of time.” Penelope walked through the gelatinous blue substance, and before she completely disappeared, she popped her head back through the mystical gateway and repeated, “Come on.”
Together they magically stepped into The Crooked Crone occult shop.
“Whoa.” Annie witnessed the portal close before her eyes. “Crazy. How’d you…” She stopped speaking the instant the woman from the backroom came into view.
“What do you want, Penelope?” Katrina swept her sleeve, and particles of sand from the dried clumps sprinkled onto the floor.
“Is that any way to treat your sister?”
“I’m busy, Penny. I have enough problems of my own.”
“I see that. You’re wet. What happened?”
“Just something I needed to take care of at the water’s edge.”
“Looks like you were up to your knees in it.”
“Whatever it is, I can’t help you.”
Penny turned away from her sister’s hurtful glare. “Can’t or won’t?”
“Let’s catch up at our next family gathering.” Katrina shooed the two toward the door. “Oh, right, we don’t have one anymore.”
“You two really are sisters,” Annie chimed in.
“Who’s this? Your new sidekick?”
“This is Annie. She moved into the house across the street from me. A spirit tricked her, and I require your assistance to eliminate the problem.”
Katrina glared at Penny. “Not interested.”
“She needs— I need your help.”
Katrina sneered and walked away. The last thing she desired was her oldest sister meddling in her affairs and discovering what she had done. A picture of herself dragging Miranda into the ocean flashed in her mind. She chuckled to herself as she imagined the siren guarding the shoreline.
Annie’s emotions erupted in the silence, and she cried out, “My parents are possessed.”
Katrina paused at the beaded entrance to her backroom and turned to face the girl. “Penny’s all-powerful.” She glared at her sister. “Can’t you wink or twitch your nose and make it all go away?”
“You know we lost the Trinity powers when Samantha…” A lump formed in Penny’s throat, and her words stuck to it.
“We lost, or you lost it for all three of us?” The bitterness in Katrina’s tone cut deeply.
“If you won’t help me, I’ll ask her. Where is she?”
“If I knew, I wouldn’t tell you. You have no idea what I’ve done to keep the three of us apart— to keep that magic at bay. Without three, we can’t harness the Sublime’s power. Probably for the best.”
“What about her?” Penny ignored her sister’s words. “We could use Annie. The ghosts wouldn’t have chosen her otherwise.”
Katrina moved closer and scrutinized the teenage girl whose eyes darted between her and her sister like Annie observed a tennis match.
“She must control some magical skills, or she couldn’t transition the haints from the paint into her home.”
“Haints? Is that so?” Katrina glared at the two. “Haints and Boohags are fierce. Containing them is difficult, but removing them from their hosts? Impossible.” Katrina breached the girl’s personal space and snatched her wrist, only to immediately drop it. “No, there’s nothing special about her at all. She actually believes she’s lucid in a dream and prays she’ll wake any second.”
“How does she know what I’m thinking?” Annie’s nose scrunched into a twisted expression. She felt violated in some weird mental way.
“My sister’s gift is psychometry. She read you the moment she touched you.”
Annie crossed her arms at her chest, walked to the shop’s door, and gazed out at the bustling street. She couldn’t believe she was in Massachusetts, and that she had teleported there. Just when nothing seemed impossible, the two most dynamic women she had ever meet were too busy fighting with each other to save her mom and dad. “Can’t you teach me or something?”
“Your parents won’t last that long,” Katrina said.
Penelope moved toward her sister and whispered, “We can’t let this happen. I can’t bear for her to lose her parents— not to magic like we lost ours. We must help her even if that means we summon Samantha.”
Katrina took several steps back. “We’re never bringing Sam back. Get that through your head, Penny. Never. I will not allow it.”
Annie frowned. “What did your other sister do?”
The two women glanced at each other, remembering the events that separated them, and all the reasons they remained apart.
The air became thick— full of desperation and hopelessness. “Thanks for nothing.” Annie stared out the window. “I hope their other sister isn’t this mean.”
The shop bell rang, and a man entered. “Hello.”
Katrina didn’t look at him. “We’re closed.”
“I need your help, ladies,” the man insisted.
Annie glared at Katrina. “Good luck, mister. She’s not very helpful at all.”
The man raised his hand and displayed a vessel. “I’m afraid a dire situation requires rectifying.”
Annie chuckled to herself. “A lot of that going around.”
“Kat, look,” Penelope said, gaining Kat’s attention.
“Where’d you get that? It’s kind of creepy looking,” Annie said.
“It’s why I’m here.” He looked Kat straight in the eyes. “I need to know where you got this.”
“Me? I didn’t sell this in my shop.” Kat’s expression now indignant.
“Are you sure? Take a closer examination.” He shoved the container toward her.
“I’m certain. You know what that is, don’t you?”
“An Egyptian canopic jar of sorts,” the man answered.
Annie stepped between the two. “Excuse me, mister, but my parents are possessed. I really need their help, plus, I was here first.”
“Possessed, are they?” He studied Katrina, keeping his back to Penelope. “I’m Professor Warrin Asim.”
“No, you aren’t.” Penny grabbed Asim’s shoulder and spun him around.
“I assure you I am.”
“Kat, it’s Ronan.”
Hatred washed over Katrina’s face.
“Hold on; I am both the professor and the man you both knew as Ronan.”
“You time-walked here?” Katrina spat.
“Yes, but I’m not here for you. I was tracking Samantha to this time and place. Unfortunately, I walked in too close to a past incarnation, and well, here I am—Professor Asim.” The man’s hands went out at his sides as he shrugged his shoulders. “Asim’s neighbor released the bound spirit inside this vessel, and now both his wife and child are possessed by a thousand-year-old mummy and her stillborn child’s soul.”
“The jar contained a mummy’s heart,” Katrina said as a statement of fact and not a question.
Kat reached out, hesitant to touch the vessel, and instead, grabbed Ronan’s arm. She flew back like she had been tased and fell against the edge of the display case. “He doesn’t know where Samantha is.”
Penny eyed the man from their past who had played an integral role in their losing Samantha. “Why do you think Kat had anything to do with this jar?”
“Because the woman from next door, Allison, said she bought it here. When I did some investigating, I found out Kat owned this shop and,” He turned around to face Katrina, “I couldn’t believe you would sell something like this. The Katrina I remember would never hurt anyone.”
Kat smirked. If he only knew about Miranda, she thought.
Annie stepped forward. “Listen, Ronan, Asim, whoever you are. You must be awfully powerful to do what you said you did. Even if that part’s not true, your aura packs a punch the way you threw her. Ain’t that right?” She smiled at Katrina.
“We need three, Ronan, if we are going to save her parents.” Penny glanced down. Kat wouldn’t like her asking him, but she did. “Can you help us?”
“I’ll make you a deal. I’ll be your third power, but once we rescue Annie’s folks, I need both of you to help me save Asim’s neighbors.”
“Why do you care so much about this?” Katrina asked.
“Because, if you didn’t sell this canopic, I think Samantha paid a visit to your shop. We need to find out what she is up to and why she wanted this mummy brought back to life.” If Ronan-Asim’s suspicions were right, their dear sister was raising a Trinity of her own — a dark one.
“We have to go. Annie’s parents are running out of time.” Penny took Kat’s hand and guided her to the shop’s door. “The haints will want permanent possession. If we don’t hurry, they will succeed.”
“I’ll do the honors.” Ronan-Asim held out a hand, and a wand appeared in his hand. He drew a clockwise circle in the air and created a portal like Penny had done to get herself and Annie to The Crooked Crone. He took Kat’s other hand and reached out to grab Annie’s. “We go through together,” he said, remembering the last time he had time-walked with Samantha. She slipped her hand from his and sent him through alone. He had been chasing her ever since.
The four of them emerged from the portal on Annie’s front lawn.
“The salt’s still in place?” Annie asked.
“Yes, but I want you to wait here.” Penny gave the girl a stern, but loving look. “You’ll be safer outside.”
“But, they’re my parents. I can help.”
“Kid, stay here,” Kat ordered. “Let’s go.”
The three marched up the front steps and entered the home’s door. An ear-piercing shriek blared through the house as black smoke swirled at each celling’s surface.
“We should contain them in something,” Penny said.
“Okay,” Ronan-Asim replied, glancing around for anything with a lid.
“No, send them to hell,” Kat barked. She began a chant.
Penny and Ronan-Asim locked eyes as they considered Kat’s demand. “Just do it,” Ronan-Asim said. Penny nodded, and they joined in, “Et daemones eiicio. I cast you out. Daemones, ut te relinquo. Demons, take your leave. Projiciam vos a facie mea. I cast you out. In comitem trium. In the count of three.”
Kat withdrew a palm-sized Nuummite stone from her pocket and held it up in her right hand. “Unus. Duo. Tres.” She turned and aimed her throw toward the open front door. “One.”
“Two,” Penny said.
“Three,” Ronan-Asim added.
The stone hurled through the opening like a comet with a tail of spirits attached.
“Keep chanting. The old man haint still possesses Annie’s dad,” Penny said. She saw Annie out on the lawn, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Et daemones eiicio! I cast you out!” Penny glared at the possessed man sprinting toward her.
With only inches between her and the possessed man, the haint flew from his mouth like regurgitated thick black smoke and coiled around Penny. The spirit squeezed her body with an anaconda’s vice-like grip. Penny’s breath became so restricted she feared she couldn’t speak.
Ronan-Asim and Kat each grabbed one of Penny’s shoulders, and she muttered the phrase with them once more.
The end of the smoky comet roared past them. The old haint suddenly uncurled and streamed out the front door. Penny, Kat, and Ronan-Asim ran to watch the haints sail down the street, but instead, they headed directly for Annie.
“Annie,” Penny screamed.
“I’m okay, I think.” Annie raised a ceramic skull and tilted the exposed top toward the haints. It was in a box stacked outside the garage with the Halloween decorations. Her mother had asked her to carry up to the attic earlier that morning. She swore, if she got her mother back, she would never argue with her again. As the haints thundered closer, she questioned her decision to interfere with their spell.
Penny watched in terror as the smoke shot inside the container. “It won’t hold them.”
Annie slapped the top in place and struggled to keep it closed. “You have to set them free. If you release them into the ocean, they can go home.” The ceramic lid chinked against the rim with the whirling force inside. “The old man told me if something is taken, something must be given.” This is all they want, this whole time, to be freed.
“Will that work?” Ronin-Asim asked Penny.
“I’m not sure,” Penny said, “but we should try. If Annie’s right, they won’t be able to hurt anyone else.”
“We’ll take them, Annie. Your parents are okay. Go inside,” Penny said, taking the container form Annie’s hands. “I’ll check in on you later.”
Ronan-Asim opened a portal, and the three of them were standing on the beach within seconds. Penny lifted the lid. She didn’t need to command the spirits. They freely soared to the water, skimming the surface at first, then diving out of sight.
Ronan-Asim’s eyebrows raised in surprise. “Wow, maybe you two should train her.”
“She’s a good kid with good instincts,” Penny turned to face Ronan-Asim. “Are you ever going to tell us what happened between you and Samantha?”
The price he paid when he left years ago had been high, but now it seems there’s an extra cost. Penny and Kat will pay the price too. He glanced back at the horizon. “One day.”
Penny took his hand, and they walked toward the street. “Are you coming, Kat?”
“Yeah, sure.” Kat, distracted by movement on a rock jetting out from the water a hundred yards or so from where she stood, didn’t budge. She squinted to focus on the object, but couldn’t believe what she was witnessing. They were in South Carolina. The shape rose up, and its silhouette came in to view.
In full siren form, Miranda launched off the rock where she sunned and dove into the school of haints.
“Kat, hurry up,” Penny hollered.
Katrina wondered why Miranda chased after the tormented souls. Her eyes grew dark as the siren’s motive occurred to her. She needed more power to join Samantha. With the mummy of Henhenet alive, she created the third in a Trinity of Evil.
Kat would stop this from happening; she would stop the mummy, even if it meant she had to kill the poor woman to do it.
“Well, ladies,” Ronan-Asim said, wiping his hands together, “now for your end of our deal. Time to assist me with my exorcism.”
This story is part of The Crooked Crone Collection.
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