“Banishing evil spirits takes a level of skill that cannot be taught in a single conversation,” Father James said lightly. “However, if you should run across one, a little prayer and faith will go a long way. Simply focus all your willpower and shout “Capsicum annuum!” as loudly as you can. You have to really mean it, but if you do it right, you should render the wraith immobile. If you need help after that, give me a call, and I’ll come banish it permanently.”
“Thanks. That’s really good to know.” I hesitated. “Does Guy know about this stuff? He never mentioned anything.”
Faather James shook his head. “I think it’s best we not mention this to my brother. Not everyone can see these things the way you and I do, and I’ve learned the hard way that you can bring more trouble to your door than is worth it by forcing people to see when they’re not ready to.”
I nodded, though I wasn’t sure I agreed. Was that what Oscar thought? That I hadn’t been ready to know the truth? Look where that kind of thinking had landed me.
I glanced at my watch, then rose. “I should get going. Thank you for saving me, and for taking the time to answer my questions.” I held out a hand. “Maybe we’ll cross paths again.”
“I would very much like that.” Father James rose, then shook my hand with a smile. “Be careful with your investigation into Tom’s death, Brooke. If my hunch is right and the supernatural are involved, things could get very dangerous for you.”
I thanked him again, then hoofed it home as fast as I could without breaking into a run. I made sure to stick to well-lit areas, not wanting to run into another shade, or any other type of fae, really. I might have some new iron bullets, but that didn’t mean I wanted to confront creatures that I still knew little about.
Once I was safely behind the locked door of my apartment, I whipped out my phone and called Uncle Oscar. I hadn’t intended on calling him so soon since I knew how he felt about me coming out here, but after the day I had, I wanted to hear a familiar voice.
“Hey kid,” he said, and his deep, gruff voice was like a balm to my frazzled nerves.
“Hey Uncle.” I sat down heavily on the couch. “How’s it going?”
“That’s what I should be asking you. Last we spoke, I thought I might not be hearing from you again for a while. You were pretty upset.”
I snorted. “If you’d really been worried about me, you’d have blown up my phone with calls and text messages.”
Uncle Oscar let out a gusty sigh. “True. I figured you were probably just simmering down after our last argument.”
“You could say that.” I let out a sigh of my own.
We’d fought bitterly before I left, had both flung barbs at each other that still stung whenever I thought about them too much. So I hadn’t thought about it, had shoved it aside so I could focus on what mattered. Finding Tom.
“So, how is it going?” Uncle Oscar asked. “Made some good use of your vamp gun yet?”
“No, actually,” I admitted. “But I did get into a fight with a shade tonight.”
The phone went silent for several seconds before Uncle Oscar exploded. “What the hell?” he shouted, and I winced as my ear rang. “What do you mean you got into a fight with a shade? You’re not trained to fight shades! You’re not supposed to even know what they are!”
“Calm down!” I ordered, hardening my voice. “I survived, okay? A priest came around the corner and shot him with some iron bullets. He gave me some, and now I know what to do next time. In fact, this might have been less of an issue if you’d prepared me for such a scenario!” A scathing tone entered my voice.
There was a sharp intake of breath, then a long silence. “Jesus, kid. Just what the hell are you getting into over there?” Oscar finally asked.
I told him everything—Captain Randall’s refusal to let me work the case, Detective Baxter’s strange inability to remember my fiancé even though everybody knew him, my encounter with Maddock Tremaine at his strange club, the motel room that was mysteriously untouched by the fire that had reportedly killed Tom, and my run-in with the shade and the priest.
“The more time I spend here, the more I’m convinced that Tom got mixed up with the supernatural community here, and it got him killed,” I finished.
“Damn right it did.” Uncle Oscar growled. “And if you keep this up, it’s going to get you killed, too.”
“Come home, kid.” There was a strange note beneath his voice, and if I didn’t know better, I’d say it sounded like a plea. “Get out of that crazy town before you end up the same way Tom did. You’re in way over your head, and you know it.”
“I’m not coming home.” I dug my free hand into the couch cushions. “I didn’t come all the way out here to turn tail and run at the first sight of supernatural activity— after all, I came here looking for it. I’ve always known there were things—supernatural things—besides vampires. It’s about time I found out what they are.”
“No, it’s not!” Uncle Oscar’s voice bubbled with frustration. “Not like this! Come home, Brooke. Come back to Chicago, let me give you a little more training. You’re not ready to deal with this stuff.”
The use of my name, plus the offer to train, gave me pause. But then I let out a bitter laugh and shook my head. “You had your chance to train me, Uncle Oscar, and instead you decided to keep me in the dark. I’m grateful for everything you’ve done for me, but I’m a grown woman now. I don’t need you making my decisions for me.”
“You’re being incredibly foolish. If you’d just let me give you some more training—”
“And how exactly do I know that you’re even going to give me this training when I come back?” I demanded. “How do I know that you’re not going to try and lock me up or convince me to abandon my investigation into Tom’s death?”
The ringing silence on the other end of the line was all I needed to hear.
“That’s what I thought,” I said quietly, my heart aching. I’d hoped that Uncle Oscar would deny it, but he was too brutally honest for that. He might have intended to train me, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t do everything in his power to prevent me from going back to Salem afterward. “I’m not doing this with you, Uncle Oscar. Not anymore. Goodbye.”