If you have not read Chapter 4.18: Dear Diary, the Blushing Oath Pendant (Pt. 1) yet, I recommend you read that entry prior to reading this one.
Dear Diary, after visiting that cemetery where there was a gaping hole instead of Viv Paris’ gravesite, Shelly and I hoofed it out of there and to someplace sunny!
Our next stop was the diner where Shelly first saw Viv and took the pictures of her. The rest of the team was supposed to be meeting us here, too. A bite to eat in a sunny location sounded pretty good to me.
Since we’d arrived in Saltwell, we’d been yelled at, chased out of the Paris home by an angry husband, and totally creeped out in a foggy cemetery. Sitting at this table right now, in the sun with the smell of the ocean wafting toward me was just what the doctor ordered.
“Look at this article Owen found and sent to me,” Daniel said. “This is the second body found in the city in this condition. It’s too weird not to be connected.”
Xalen, Shelly and I huddled close together so we could all read the article at the same time.
“What else did Owen tell you about this?” Xalen asked Daniel.
Daniel took a sip from his cup of coffee, then said, “Well, the curse is supposedly something like this: whoever wears the necklace is resurrected, but they are not the same. Not only are they violent and unpredictable, they are only a bare remnant of the person they were before. Owen found writings suggesting that whoever is under the curse of the pendant will literally suck the life out of their victims in order to gain strength.”
“So you think these two homicides that are baffling police were actually victims of Viv Paris,” Xalen said.
Daniel nodded. “I do – I mean, it makes sense if you put it all together.”
Xalen’s eyes seemed very troubled as he regarded Shelly then turned back to Daniel. “Have Owen investigate whether the two homicide victims were people Viv Paris knew before she died.”
“Will do,” Daniel said as he began texting.
“You think I might be in danger,” Shelly said.
Xalen nodded slightly. “You might be. This reanimated version of Viv may be seeking out people she knew from before. Perhaps she is able to retrieve memories or some other form of strength along with the life she takes. I do not know. But until we find out, be extra careful.”
Shelly nodded, her dark eyes darting around us self-consciously.
Xalen’s phone began to ring and he excused himself from the table. When he was finished with the call, I joined him, glad to stand up and stretch again.
“You look even more troubled now than you did before.”
Sighing, he raked his fingers through his hair. “That was Owen calling to confirm that both victims were known to Viv Paris. The first body was that of Viv’s cousin. The second body from the article we just read was one of her bridesmaids at her wedding. Shelly is an old friend to this family. It concerns me greatly that she is in danger.”
My heart went out to him as I realized how deeply he cared for his team members. “You are closer to these team members than I thought.”
Staring into the distance, he said, “I have never been married or had children until now. This team – these people – are my family. Someday, I hope you are as close to them as I am.”
“I would like that, too.”
It seemed to take a moment before the meaning of what I said dawned on him. He turned to face me, looking into my eyes. “You want to join the team?”
I hoped my eyes conveyed the immense love I had for him. More than anything in the world, I wanted him to know definitively how I felt. “I – I’m not quite ready to say that yet. I want to see what happens with this case first. But what I want you to know is that if this is your family, I do want to be a part of getting to know them and making them my family, too.”
“Have I told you lately how much I love you?”
I could feel the redness warming my cheeks when he said that and I touched them without thinking about it. “I love you, too. More than I could ever express.”
Xalen and I stayed at the diner while Shelly and Daniel went back to check on Viv Paris’ mother. The guys had spoken with her before to see if she knew anything but now that we knew Viv was most likely seeking out people she knew, Shelly was adamant that they visit her again.
Xalen spoke with several different people on the phone while I stared again at the Polaroids shelly had taken. I wished so badly I could zoom in on the necklace and read the inscription. Chances were, though, that whatever it said wouldn’t help us since the person only had to wear the pendant to make it work.
“What did Viv’s mother say when you visited?” I asked, squinting in a lame attempt to make out the engraving in the photo.
Xalen pulled a small magnifying glass out of the inner pocket in his jacket and handed it to me. “Try this.”
“You’re like Sherlock Holmes,” I laughed, holding the magnifying glass in front of me.
“He would have had this all wrapped up by now,” Xalen laughed. I was glad he was finding humor in the situation. “As for Viv’s mother, she claimed her daughter was dead and buried. She was not interested in hearing otherwise.”
“So, both her mother and husband deny any knowledge. Who do you suppose put the necklace on Viv’s corpse in the first place? I mean, how old is her mom? Whoever did this, dug up the coffin and everything.”
“I agree that her mother is not involved in this. I have a very bad feeling about Eric Paris, though. He denied that his wife could be up and ‘galavanting all over the city’ still, here we are with photos. I am certain Shelly is not mistaken. I would stake my life on that.”
“I believe Shelly, too,” I said. “She would never have brought us all into this without being sure of herself. And besides, I trust her intuition more than I trust some peoples’ facts.”
Xalen smiled widely at me and I knew he was pleased as punch that I had such confidence in one of his team members.
Hopefully, this would be our last trip of the day. I was keen to get home and see the twins, but I was also kind of afraid for Shelly. What a disaster it would be if anything happened to anyone on the team!
When we were all back together again, we rode out once more to speak to Eric Paris again. There were a lot of questions Xalen wanted to ask him. The bad news was, no one was home.
As we stood on the front porch deciding where to go from there, a man exited out of a side door, hurrying toward a car in the driveway. When he saw us, he paused and then strode over to us.
“Where have you people been? Are you trying to run yourselves out of business?” Before we could tell him who we were, he unlocked the front door and ushered us inside, speaking all the while. “And to come to the front door as if you’re a guest! Disgraceful! Hurry up now, Mr. Paris wants it out of here as soon as possible!”
Xalen looked at us then back to the man. “Uh, where is it?”
“Where – is – it!” the man shrieked so loudly, I thought he might have a stroke. “You are supposed to know that! Why are you asking me? Mr. Paris arranged everything with you personally! Are you stupid?”
Xalen smoothly snapped his fingers as if just remembering something. “Oh yes, how silly of me. Of course, I knew where it was when Mr. Paris called. I did not know if anyone had moved it since we spoke.”
“Moved it? Uh, no one is going to be moving that stupidly heavy stone box anytime soon, that’s why we called your company. Now get it out of here and to the storage facility immediately!”
“Yes, yes we will,” Xalen assured the man, escorting him back to the door.
When the man left, Xalen turned to us and with a triumphant smile said, “Who wants to look for a stupidly heavy stone box?”
We split up in order to search faster. After all, we didn’t know where Eric was or when he’d return and we really didn’t want him to catch us rifling through his house.
When I was finished searching some bedrooms, I mounted another staircase which took me to an unfinished attic. To my surprise, Xalen was there, going through some papers in a desk.
“I don’t think you’re going to find a heavy stone box in there.”
Smiling slightly, he said, “You are right about that. But I did find an interesting sales slip from an auctioneer who sold Eric Paris a stone chest filled with miscellaneous items for one hundred forty-five dollars. I suppose he found the necklace inside and researched it to find out what it was worth. Instead, he found out it might be the Blushing Oath Pendant.”
I raised my eyebrow and grinned at him. “Good job, Mr. Holmes!”
Xalen laughed. “This receipt is dated three months ago.”
“That’s around the time the pendant disappeared, isn’t it?”
Nodding, he took photos of the sales slip with his phone.
The attic had hallways going in two different directions. I turned to the left and decided to go that way first. There was a tall cabinet at the end of the hall but nothing else. In fact, other than the desk and this cabinet, it seemed like nothing was stored up here at all.
In a nook, I saw a box-shaped item, low to the floor with a white sheet over it. Pulling the sheet off, I found what we were looking for.
“Bingo!” I shouted down the hallway to Xalen who quickly joined me.
“Oh yes, this is definitely a stupidly heavy stone chest.”
Laughing, I texted Daniel and Shelly to let them know we found it and needed help retrieving it.
There was some trouble, though. While Xalen and I were rejoicing about our find, Eric and Viv – yes, Viv! – were home. Daniel quickly texted me back to let me know.
As Xalen and I came down the stairs, we saw Shelly talking to the couple.
“Viv, you know you aren’t supposed to be here,” Shelly said.
Viv’s voice sounded lower than I expected and hollow. Especially when she threw her head back and laughed. “Don’t presume to tell me where I should be! You have never died!”
“And I know you are not really Viv!”
“Shelly, stop!” Eric shouted. “You can see it’s her!”
Shelly’s eyes narrowed as she regarded the remnant of her friend. “She looks like Viv, but she is not Viv! Listen to me, Eric! She will kill you because now that she is here, she needs to feed on lives in order to get stronger!”
Viv let out another ugly laugh and glared from one of us to another. “You’re right, dear Shelly! I will kill you all, one by one until I am so strong, no one can ever be rid of me again!”
Eric suddenly looked horrified. “Please, tell me you haven’t killed anyone. I can’t live with that.”
“Luckily, you won’t have to!” she hissed.
“Step away from her!” Daniel said to Eric.
“Give me the pendant!” Shelly said, cornering Viv against the wall. I moved in, hoping to help Shelly if I could.
“I’ll start with you!” Viv jeered, moving closer.
Shelly threw her arms up, trying to grab the necklace, but at the last second, Viv sidestepped her and ran behind her husband.
“You’re ruining everything!” Eric yelled.
Xalen moved forward, trying to get past Eric to grab Viv and Eric popped him in the face. Xalen, stunned by the punch, bent forward, clutching his jaw.
“Xalen!” I squawked. I wanted to go to him to make sure he was all right but I found myself diagonally behind Viv. If only I could grab that necklace from where I was standing.
“I can’t live without her! Leave us alone! Please!”
“We can’t, man, you know that,” Daniel said. “Calm down and let us help.”
Viv growled at Shelly like a rabid dog and I suppose that is what she’d been reduced to in this state. It was obvious to me she was more a wild animal now than a person, why couldn’t her husband see that?
“Stay away from me and leave us alone!” Eric shouted again to Daniel.
“They don’t need to leave, my sweet, not when I can make use of them!” Viv laughed like a maniac.
“You’re not ruining this for us!” No sooner had Eric yelled that when he jumped forward, his entire body weight slamming into Daniel. Xalen moved closer, attempting to grab Eric and pull him away.
Horrified, I shielded my eyes, unable to fathom what would happen if Daniel and Xalen were overpowered.
The men grunted and hit each other and I was getting more terrified by the second. Suddenly, Daniel threw one especially hard punch that hit Eric in the face so hard, he spun around until he was facing my direction. He didn’t stay up for long, though, before the force of the hit had him bent over, gasping.
“Eric!” Viv screeched.
I don’t know what got into me but I seized that moment when Viv was distracted and I lunged at her from behind. Instead of grabbing her or trying to restrain her, I made a wild grasp at the piece of jewelry around her neck.
Everything in the room changed once I ripped the chain from her neck…
She was free from the curse. Dead, yes. But free from the evil that possessed her. Slowly, her mouth curled into a sweet smile as she gazed lovingly at her husband.
With tears streaming down his face, he told her he was sorry and that he loved her.
Gradually, she disappeared from our sight as a mist does before the summer sun.
I’d never been so happy to see snow in all my life. It was around two in the morning when we finally walked into the house and checked on the sleeping babies.
We were so full of exhaustion, we couldn’t even change our clothes. Xalen lit the fire and then we fell back on the couch, his arms around me.
“It is so good to be home.”
“Isn’t it, though?” he sighed, kissing my cheek and squeezing my hand.
“Is every case so taxing?”
“Pretty much,” he chuckled.
“Good because I feel so…. alive!”
At first, he laughed, then he abruptly stopped. “Marty… what are you saying?”
“I guess I’m saying I’m all in if you still want me.”
“Are you kidding? Of course, I want you on the team!”
We kissed and I felt strangely sated kind of like when you eat a huge meal after being really hungry all day. I couldn’t really explain it but this crazy adventure had been more than I could ever hope to have.
“Eric must have loved Viv so much,” I murmured, my eyes heavy.
“I am sure he did. It’s too bad, however, that once he saw what she was, he could not do the right thing.”
That kind of thinking could drive a person insane, in my opinion. If Xalen died, heaven forbid, wouldn’t I do whatever I could to bring him back to me if there was something? Would I have the strength to do what was right? Luckily, I would probably never know.
“We make a really good team, don’t we?”
“We make an excellent team, partner,” he said.