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the story at the end

This is a shoulder-up silhouette of Evelyn Diedz facing to the left, backlit in profile.  She is backlit in such a way that one can just barely make out the shape of her lips and eye-sockets.  She wears her usual wide-brimmed hat and we can just make out the collar of her trenchcoat.  Her long, curly hair cascades down the back of her neck and out of sight down her back.  And I think, besides that, maybe I’m more used to seeing people die than dogs.

EVELYN DIEDZ

July 2, 2014.  Some time a few minutes past 12:00 AM.  It’s not quite the hour of the wolf, but it’s headed there.  It’s the hour I can be me, the hour I’m free to write in the book as myself — the hour I’m able to write my name.  Detective Evelyn Diedz.  That’s me.

I got lost in Drodden.  Really, really lost.  That’s what I was worried about when I first got there, when I saw those circles and the mist and the strange glow coming from Fell-Munch Road.

I helped Emmett Beery, but I still feel like a failure.  I failed a lot today.  I failed in too many ways.

But it can be said you tried.  Hey, y’know?  You really tried, Ms. Diedz.  That’s got to count for something, right?  No.  Not really.  Trying wasn’t enough.  Not for the dead.

I will never not feel responsible for the deaths of Gunny and Victor Marsh.  I was right there.  But I was too weak.  Cameron couldn’t see me — I don’t think.  Could he have been able to see me and did it anyway?  Could he and Hilda know I’m here?  I don’t see how.  The things my tethering to Mickey led me to find — the things in the book now — they wouldn’t have let me know those things.

I’ve failed before.  I’ll fail again.  I know how it goes.  But it never gets easier.  It gets harder, actually.  The weight gets heavier.  But the work goes on.  The case goes on.

Cameron’s work is all over the place.  It has to be his.  He’s why there’s blood on Fell-Munch Road — I’m sure of it.  All those numbers – 27s, everywhere.  Every number has meaning.  My teacher taught me about the power of numbers, for people like us.  Cameron must know how all that works, too.  I could feel that power trying to lock me in.  Tie me down.

But — nothing doing.  Not me.  I won’t be anyone’s prisoner.  Least of all, your prisoner, Cameron.

He has to be the cause of all this.  Everything feels wrong here.  But I broke free of the 27-lock.

But there’s more going on here than just Cameron.  There’s more going on in a lot of other ways.  Things that couldn’t possibly be all him.  The white mist.  The … the thing I can’t remember.  It was something subtle.  Something with the number four.  I look back at the book and there are blurry parts that haven’t settled yet, where the subatomic particles of blood are still moving on the page.  Like prophetic — but in reverse: an uncertainty of what has already happened.  Reality doesn’t bend unless someone is holding it down.

Hilda and Cameron have been at this …. about ten years, if I’m reading the memories right.  You’ve been here a little over a day, Evelyn.  How can you hope to fight him?  You can’t even get in-sync with Drodden.  He was right there in front of you — all torn-up and ravaged by being a possessor.  It’s always so ugly.  Can you imagine doing something like that to yourself, for something so petty?  For something so small?  But people do it.  People do it all the time.  People are the same all over.

But Cameron — Cameron’s been marking his territory.  Limiting the other spirits’ spaces.  Limiting the space of the living.  Building something.  But what?  A ritual?  A lair?  That’s the thing, though.  It’s something.  This isn’t all just random.  And doing what Cameron is doing takes skill.

Tearing up Mickey Laddow like he’s doing takes skill, too.  How can someone who’s only been doing this ten years be that capable as a possessor?  It doesn’t add up.  There’s something I’m missing.  And the more I miss it, the more  Cameron’s getting away with whatever he’s doing.  It’s got to stop — but how?  What am I missing?

Cameron is lashing out — because he’s blinded himself.   He’s like a mean, blind little dog who’s gnawing on the furniture.  Except he thinks people are furniture..  And he’s done so much damage to these people.

And Drodden itself.  And the animals.  What I think must be some of Hilda and Cameron’s early … experiments.  Monsters.  Jay’s raccoons.  That wasn’t Emmett.  There’s rot in the woods of Drodden.  And something in some of the animals’ blood.  What exactly can you do, Hilda Leek?  What exactly can you do, Cameron Stye?  And — are there others?  Not sure.  Needs more investigating.

So much still left to do here — If I want to clean it up.  Have to clean it up.  For me and for her.

Why did I lose you?  I want you back.

I made a promise to her.  And to my teacher.  Wondering if I’ll ever do this right.  Wondering if it’ll ever be right.  Like you’re at that point — where it’s more of a mess than a thing you’ve made.  And you’ve made it worse, trying to make it better.  Feels like that.
Scars all over this place.  People who pay attention can see it.  Effects getting to me, even.
I was too weak to do anything about it.  Couldn’t stop Cameron.  Not when he was using Mickey like that.  It made him solid.  Strong.  A possessor is only as strong as the body he’s in.   I wasn’t hiding.  I wanted to stop him.  I just couldn’t do anything.  I was frozen in place, absorbing from the tether.  And I felt so weak.  I couldn’t even get out of there to even try to stop him.  And I was disgusted with myself.  Was.  Am.  I wanted to pull myself free and let myself burn, just to not have to see another pointless killing I couldn’t stop.  But I couldn’t even do that.  Had to watch.  Like so many times before.

But then I saw Gunny’s spark .  I’ve got to get to the morgue.  What do I have — three days to get there?  Anyplace else — a lesser case — and I’d be confident I could pull that off.  But I’m not confident of anything in Drodden.

Except — that’s not true.  I’m confident that Cameron made a mistake.  He wanted witnesses.  And he still doesn’t know I’m here, I don’t think.  I’m sure of that.  He can’t know.  He can’t see or hear outside his body, and Mickey’s not sensitive.

Cameron wants witnesses, but he wouldn’t have risked someone like me being a witness.  And I don’t think he realizes that wanting the witnesses was his big mistake.

Because it brought Jay and CJ.  And it let me catch hold of Jay Redwing.  Thank fucking whatever-god-you-wish.

And that’s another thing: how many children in Drodden have almost died, and why?

Jay Redwing, with his proximity to death.  Easy to follow him.  To keep from being sent back to the start.  Can’t be shunted.  Can’t be sent back.  Can’t afford that.  Can’t risk it.

Except — have to risk everything.

So.  There it is.  End of Day 1 in Drodden.  End of July 1st.  End of total isolation.  End of namelessness.  And end of one nightmare, start up of another.

‘You make your own limitations, Evelyn Diedz.’  Thanks, Teach.  I’ll never get tired of wondering why this is one of mine.  I wasn’t exactly all timely or anything back then, either.  Time time time time time.  Easy to get lost in it.  I could get lost in a lot of things.  Lost in work.  I did, a lot.  Being honest with myself, used to be I could get lost in a bath.  I miss baths.  I want to take a ten-year bath.  And just lie back and have a hot-water jill  for ten years, too.  But I have other things to take care of.

Fell-Munch Road.  I look at it glowing here in the moonlight. There is blood — a lot of blood.  Tracks and patterns and lines of blood.  There have been rituals here.  There have been sacrifices.  There has been murder — old and new.  There’s so much there, I can’t imagine it ever being untangled.  But the mess of blood stops at the edge of that road.  It doesn’t extend past it to the Yellow House.  The Yellow House is strange.  I haven’t ever seen anything like it.  It radiates.  It glows, but not with blood.  I don’t know what to make of it.  But everything I know tells me it’s safe for ghosts.  Hell, everything I know is telling me it’s like a damned lighthouse for ghosts.  I knocked to help Emmett — but I also knocked because it called to me.  I needed to touch it.  It was a moment of weakness.  I told myself I was doing it for the kid, but I was drawn to it, too.  So why aren’t more spirits drawn to it like Emmett?  Like me?

Are there even any more spirits in Drodden than me and Emmett and Cameron?  There have to be.  No others I’ve seen though.  So many close to death, but so few ghosts.

But, yeah, I wanted to walk in the Yellow House, too.  But, I know I’ve got to resist.  I’m not going to cause another power outage and end up scrambling myself and Emmett so badly we both get shunted.

I don’t know what to make of the people who live there, either.  Penny Greenlee.  A little girl who can carry ghosts around just by touch?   Is she doing it subconsciously?  Emmett didn’t know.  But his theory has to be right.  I’ve seen people be conduits for spirits before, sure.  But I’ve never seen someone who can carry them around.

Another question — where are the rest of the Greenlees?  The cops said they called them.
But they still haven’t shown up?  Where are they?

Nothing I can do about all that now, though.  I’m glad Emmett doesn’t need to be contained.  I was worried for a little bit there.  At the police station — I wondered for a moment if my first impression of the kid had been wrong.  Of course, I’m not even attuned to Drodden enough to contain a poltergeist.

 Same day each year for Emmett and Penny.  What would that matter to anyone but the girl and the raccoon?  What would that matter to most girls?  What would it matter to most children?  Why are so many children in Drodden sensitive?  Why have so many children in Drodden been close to death?

Penny can see ghosts.  So can Jay.  So can Mickey.  So can Hilda.  So can Rick.  So can CJ.  So can … who else?  I always feel bad for people who can see the dead.  That’s a rough life.

I think Penny understands better than the others what’s out there.  If I’m reading her right.  Our connection was limited.  I was practically vapor when I followed her.   I’ll amend that, though.  She knows one small part of what’s out there.  Because — hell —  I don’t even really know ‘what’s out there.’  Not really.  I’m all about finding out, though.

There’s lots of moonlight.  Moonlight making me feel stronger, better now.  Emmett, too.  Moonlighter solidarity.  The wind is blowing on my face.  And I’m going to stay out here and keep watch.  Keep guard.  Let Penny and Emmett rest.  Let Otis Falke rest.  The fact that he’s stayed with her all night says something.  He obviously can’t see Emmett at all — thank goodness.  That might’ve been a mess.

Not that I’m not sure Emmett’s already messing up Penny’s phone, and Otis’ if he has one.
But, I’m not going to go in make it worse wrecking the electricity, too, on top of that.  Funny how common some limitations are: moonlighters and jammers and circuit-breakers.  Like how almost all of us have  one of those.  I’ve got two.  I suspect Emmet’s maybe got all three.

They’re alone in there, the three of them.  Penny’s family hasn’t come back yet from the fishing trip.  A man, a girl and a ghost.  All together.  I can see them through the walls.  Well, the energy of them.  Funny how I take some things for granted.  Seeing through the walls.  What I wouldn’t have given to do that, before.  But no use considering it now.  And, by the way, Evelyn?  Stop it.  Keep focused on the now.  Keep focused on them.

Falke’s asleep on the sofa, looks like. Just a now-familiar outline to me.  Penny lying on her bed.  Too bright to really look at.  Ow.  Damn it.  Did it anyway.  Wait for the spots to go away.  Don’t look directly at her, Evelyn.  Okay, noted.  And I can see Emmett … in whatever-that-is.  A toy chest, I think.  Yeah, it looks like a toy chest.  He’s resting inside.  And he’s making it glow green and yellow.  Huh.  Just like he did the Really Big Willow.  Interesting.  Good that he’s resting though.    At least none of them are alone tonight.  That’s something, right?  No.  Not really.  Some are dead tonight, Evelyn.  Because you failed.

Focus on the now, Evelyn.

Let’s think for a minute about the others.

CJ Sweet — need to do what I can to help her.  I’m hoping it wasn’t a mistake to do that to CJ.  CJ’s the smartest of the kids.  She’s got a clear head.  Her thoughts are ordered.  She most observant, too.  Maybe the most observant of these sighted kids.  Barring Penny’s natural skills, anyway.  And having a natural skill doesn’t mean being observant, anyway.  Not that Penny isn’t observant.  Ugh.  I’m going around in circles.  But CJ’s nothing like Penny.  Penny notices things because she cares.  CJ notices things because she thinks about them — and then decides whether or not she cares.  I took a risk with CJ.  A lot of energy to bring out the card — energy I didn’t have.  It didn’t pay off like I planned.  We can’t win them all.  But – can I win one, maybe?  What will CJ do now?  Will she say my name again?  Will she decide to help, if I get to explain things to her?  Will she figure out what to do on her own?

Rick Boyle — now, he’s a puzzle.  How much does he know?  He’s so full of rage.  Furious Rage.  Which might be good.  Is he good?  What’ll I do if I get another chance with Rick?  I hated not being able to help him.  Rick Boyle, though — oh, man.  Somebody marked him up real bad.  Hilda?  Cameron?  I have suspicions about why they did it.

Reminder-to-Self: find out who marked Rick Boyle’s neck.

Reminder-to-Self: find out if it’s what it looks like.

Reminder-to-Self: find out how long Rick has known Mickey Laddow.

Jay Redwing — poor kid.  Poor, poor kid.  Poor, stupid kid and his poor stupid dog.  That might’ve been the worst to share.  If not for the Marshes.  And even then, I’m weird like that.  I love dogs.  Especially pit bulls.  Those faces!  Pit bull smiles!  And I think, besides that, maybe I’m more used to seeing people die than dogs.  It shouldn’t be like that, you know?  You shouldn’t get used to it.  Shouldn’t be stuck watching two people get killed.  When you can’t keep it from happening.  And you have to see it.  Right up-close.  So you push out the thoughts.  And, at the same time, you catalogue them.  So you can know the facts.  So you can stop the bad people.  Feeling the wet blood.  It made Cameron stronger.  And I had to see it.  And then, in Jay’s memories.  Seeing Risky die from the poisoned animals.  That hurt in different ways.  Hit different spots.  Spots in me that aren’t the hard parts.  The parts where it’s too scarred up for me to feel it.  Spots that make me think of myself.  When I was small.  And finding out the truth of things.  Like how there are bad people.  And how some people worship fear.  And how some people worship blood.  And how some people worship death.  And what it meant to me to try to stop it.  And how I couldn’t.  Can’t.  Will.  And now I’m thinking of all that.  Which is, you know, great.  And I’m wondering if it would be better to tell Jay about what really happened to Risky.  About who was really responsible.  Or, should i just leave him alone with how he understands it now?  Not sure which is better.  Those fucking things Hilda made.  She must’ve.

Reminder-to-Self: check to make sure there aren’t any more out here.  Did Jay get them all?  Close to death, bringing death.  It’s just.

Reminder-to-Self: check the ones he buried with Rick.

Mickey Laddow —worse off than Jay.  WAY worse off.  Oh, man.  What to do about him.  See what might be shared?  See if there’s anything to share in there?  Reserving further thought on it ’til then.  Don’t want to jump to conclusions.  Don’t want to make erroneous assumptions.  Don’t know the kid.  Didn’t really connect with him.

Reminder-to-Self: check in on Mickey Laddow.

Reminder-to-Self: accept being wrong about people sometimes.

Because — admit it, Evelyn: you just don’t like to be wrong, is all.  Especially with people.  Especially when you don’t want to be wrong.  And especially with so much at stake.  What’s at stake: the rest of the Drodden kids.

Doubting myself.

Except — no: fuck off, self-doubt.  Get in line.  I saw two people die.  I couldn’t have stopped it, no matter what.  Wasn’t strong enough.  It happened.  Focus on the now.  Still not strong enough.  All I could do was watch.  But I have to accept that.  I have to accept what happened, or I’ll never be able to help the rest of them.  That’ll have to be enough.  I have to be strong.  Because I am strong.  Because I have to be strong.  Say it enough to believe it.  Be confident, like you were when you arrived.  Wishing I had that kind of  confidence all the time.  As I do this over and over.  As I look at the book.  Wish I had the strength to act now.  The harmony to act now.  But I don’t.  Not yet.  But I want to be out doing things.  I want to chase Cameron to whatever deep, dark hole he’s cowering in and contain him.   But I’m not there yet.  I’m still harmonizing with the place.  Watching things pop up in front of me.  Watching words appear on the pages of the book.  What I’m thinking.  Blood as ink.  Used to think I was clever calling it “red letter day” when I first managed to  make my name show up in there.

Not the time.

Getting distracted.

So it’s time for me to make some decisions.  Some things I’ve decided on.  Containment and Extraction are both needed her.  But — here’s the thing.  I’m really good at both.

To summarize —

The kids of Drodden are:
A) Asleep
B) Dead
C) Protected
D) Safe
E) Unimportant
F) No longer any of the above.

F.

Hilda Leek — still a mystery.  Chasing Emmett.  Knows how to work with blood to get things done.  Maybe knows how to extract?  I didn’t see it.  I only have the things Emmett fed into the book.  Emmett’s memories are kind of a mess.  But I think she can extract.  Can she contain?  Doubtful.  She wouldn’t be chasing Emmett through the woods if she could.  Thing is — she can make things.  Emmett’s stick-things.  Those poisoned raccoons, too, I’m guessing.  She’s at the very least a witch.  And a bad one.  You might ask me how I can be so quick to judge.  It’s true that things can be complicated.  But, as far as I’m concerned, poisoning animals to kill dogs gets you a spot on the bad-guy list, no matter why you did it.

Cameron Stye – a possessor.  That’s all I need to know.

And all Cameron needs to know is that he’s finished.

He’s done.

But I’m not done with him.

Not by miles.

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Published inpart 1

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