Jill spent the next few hours in study. There was still a lot to learn, and she knew she wouldn’t be able to complete her task without the help of the book. Though it weighed a tonne, she had no choice but to take it with her to the graveyard. A magic circle needed to be drawn around the grave, and she would never memorise the writing and symbols in such a short time. Along with the triangle, candles, incense, and a host of other things, her load would be a heavy one. Dusk had descended when she started to load her things into the car. She fed the dogs before locking them in for the night. Frost settled on the walls and roofs of the outbuildings, and it would be freezing by the time she was ready.
She decided to leave about ten. This would give the children time to finish their trick or treat, and it would be hours before the two pubs in the village closed. So, there should be no one to disturb her, unless some of the teenagers decided to get up to mischief, frightening one another with dares in the graveyard. Another thing that made her balk, was that she had to be completely naked under the cloak. This was embarrassing enough with no one around to see, but in the middle of winter! The book ordered she must wash, and there was an assortment of pots boiling over the fire. Each one had to be carried upstairs and emptied into the bath. Her back ached by the time she slipped into the water, and though it barely came up to her sides, she managed to scrub herself clean. The body must the spotless, the book said, so she rubbed the cloth along her skin until it glowed red. Once she dried off, she lay down on her bed and prayed. Calling on the highest, and those she loved and lost for help, she closed her eyes and tried to rest. The alarm on her phone was set for nine. This gave her plenty of time to reach the graveyard. The cloak lay across the foot of the bed, so at least she didn’t have to worry about dressing. She was weary from the night of studying and worry about her son. She counted out the rosary, using her fingers as a guide, and whispered the words aloud, as she called on the mother of God.
The shrilling of the alarm roused her, and she opened her eyes in fright. It was time.
Slipping out from under the quilt, she swung the cloak around her naked body and went downstairs. After turning off lights and making certain the fire was safely banked down, she went outside. Bess, sensing the presence of her mistress, whined, but Jill ignored her, and rechecked the things in the car boot. It would not do to leave something behind. As she had predicted, it was freezing. Small puddles that lined the lane had frozen over, and she heard the crack as the ice gave way under the weight of the car. Her stomach hurt, and not just from the want of nourishment. It was the cold realisation that for the first time in her life, she was truly alone. This feeling was nothing like the one she felt when Joe abandoned them. This was something else, an emptiness that made her heart ache. She wondered, as she drove out onto the main road, if she would ever see her home again? Was she leaving behind the things that had become familiar to her? After tonight, her life would be changed forever. As she neared the village, she was reminded once again it was Halloween. Candles were lit in all the windows to light the way home for the dead and little children darted from house to house, screaming and laughing, as they vied with one another for the best treats. It was familiar, yet she felt so far removed from it all. Last year, Toby dressed as Superman. Though she had tried to explain that the superhero had nothing to do with Halloween, he had insisted, but settled on having his face painted like a skeleton. Was he thinking about that now, she wondered? Did he even know what night it was? Stop, don’t, she warned. If she continued like this, she would be of no use to him.
The road that led to the graveyard was empty. With no houses around, the only thing that cut through the dark were the car headlights. As she figured, there was no one about when she parked. Wrapping the cloak tightly around her, she carried her first load through the gate. The wind had died down completely, so there was no fear of it whipping the cloth aside, exposing her. The graveyard, that seemed peaceful during the hours of daylight, now became a sinister city of the dead. A faint, white mist rose above the graves, adding to the sense of menace. The old tombs that had earlier just been bricks and mortar now seemed like crouching, dark beasts, ready to pounce.
She made sure the batteries in the torch were new, and it guided her way along the path between the graves. She was panting when she deposited her load beside Marie’s grave, and she felt she might wet herself from both cold and fear. With no other choice, she squatted behind one of the large cypress trees, and emptied her aching bladder. She felt the warmth of the urine rising from the damp earth, but she had nothing to wipe herself with. Afraid, if she used to cloak to do so she would in some way taint its power, she allowed the last drops to glide down her legs. This added to her discomfort, as she made her way back to the grave. Taking the cans of spray paint, she found in one of the outbuildings, out of a plastic bag, she began to trace the magic circle around the grave. A space had to be left for her to walk through, and this would need to be filled in to complete the circle later. Once this was done, using the book as a guide and with the flashlight in her mouth, she crawled around the cold grass, filling in the names and symbols. Then she set out the candles in their tall, glass containers, in case of wind. Next, the bowls of salt and water. Once all this was in place, she lit the incense and candles. The Triangle of Solomon had to sit outside to circle, and to the right of the grave. This was where the spirit would appear and be contained. While it disturbed her to think she would, in a way, be holding the spirit captive, she had to follow the instructions. The Wraith would be a being of power, but she could only control it, if her spirit was stronger, according to the book. It would be like a shadow that existed to do her will. It would feed on her emotions and strength, and without them, would cease to exist. Her senses had never been so alive, Jill thought, so if that was what it took to keep the spirit alive, there shouldn’t be a problem.
The time was right, everything was in place, and she was ready to step into the circle, when she heard footsteps approach. Hardly daring to breathe, she fell to her knees and blew out the candles. Whoever it was had a torch, she saw the faint beam through the mist. Pulling the cloak tightly around her, she huddled against the tombstone and waited.
The day had seemed endless for Paul O’Farrell, as he checked the various clues and sightings that led to nothing. Now it was dark, and the searchers had all disbanded and headed for home. Tonight, was a time for family, for gaiety and laughter. He could never figure out Halloween and had always thought of it as a nuisance. He was down six men tonight, as even those who were drafted in were called on to keep the peace in the village.
The air was freezing when he stepped out of the school, and he pulled his coat collar higher, trying to escape its touch. He came back to the assembly hall to check if there were any phone calls on the whereabouts of the boy, but there was nothing. He was going to lose him, just as he had the other three children. A group of costumed figures ran screaming by him when he stepped outside the gate, and he stopped to watch their progress. At least they were too small to get up to any real mischief. It was the older ones who did the egging and threw the firecrackers. Once the children disappeared into the distance, he walked to his car. The street was quiet now, with just the odd pumpkin lantern to mark the day, but by tomorrow all signs of this holiday would be gone. He knew in the next few days; shop windows would start to fill with toys and cards for the Christmas. Out with the old and in with the new, he thought, as he opened the car door. God, I’m a miserable bastard. He smiled at the idea, but he no longer took pleasure in any occasion. To him festivities meant drunks, wife beaters and vandals. Had he always been that way? He thought of his wife and sons. Had his scepticism been a blight on the holidays? Well, it was too late now. As he drove through the village, he saw through the lit windows family gatherings, that only served to remind him of what he had lost. Maybe, he would try and spend more time with his sons, and there were grandchildren on the scene now. At least he could make sure he did not mess them up. Ah, it’s just the season, he sighed, that makes you feel so lonely. Halloween, the night when life meets death and the spirits rise from the grave. He would not wish that on Maura, not after what she suffered. Though there was never a day that passed without him wishing things could have been different, there were some things that were much worse. Like watching someone you loved slowly eaten away by a pitiless disease. No, he wouldn’t wish that on his worst enemy.
There was no point in going home, as there was nothing for him to do there but sit and think. He could not go into the pub, as he promised Jill, he would stay off the drink, and he was not the sort who could show restraint in such surroundings by ordering a mineral water. Deciding he would call out and see how she was doing; he steered the car out of the village.
He knew the minute he drove to the yard; she had not kept her promise. He hoped she would, but the darkened windows of their house told their story. Still, he got out of the car and knocked on the door. When there was no answer, he tried the handle, but it was locked, a sure sign she had gone out, as no one in the area ever felt the need to lock their doors. Across the yard, the old sheepdog barked, the sound muffled by the walls of her cage, and he heard her scratching at the door. Raising the dead, he shook his head in disbelief, but then thought of her words. Would he, if he were in her position, not do the same thing? As it was, there were no new leads, and it looked as though they would never find the child.
He’d stopped off outside his own house just long enough to collect the things he would need. Now, he walked along the path between the graves trying to find the right one. He had a vague idea where Marie was laid to rest, and he swung the beam of the torch along the tombstones, reading the inscriptions. He didn’t dare call out. Instead he used the shovel he carried as a walking stick to lean on when he stopped beside each grave. He could not bear to think about what he would have to do when he found the right one, and it set his teeth on edge, to think of the sound it would make when the tip of the shovel met the wood of the coffin.
“Ah, there you are,” his torch beam moved over the crouched figure that huddled against the stone.
“Go away,” Jill hissed. “You’re not going to stop me.”
“I’m not here to stop you,” he held out his hand to help her up. “Come on, we haven’t got all night.”
Jill took the offered hand and stepped warily out of the circle, sure at any moment he would handcuff her. When she realised, he was not going to do so, she looked at the shovel.
“What are you going to do with that?”
“I’m going to help you raise the dead. That’s what we’re here for isn’t it?”
“We’re not going to dig her up.” She would have laughed, if she weren’t so frightened.
“Oh,” he looked at the shovel in his hand, and then threw it aside. “That’s a relief.”
“It’s done with symbols and chants,” she waved towards the circle and triangle.
“I see.” He walked closer and inspected the drawing.
“I was about to start when I heard you,” she explained.
“Go ahead, then, I’ll not stop you.”
“Okay, you move over there,” she pointed to one of the trees. “And whatever you do, don’t make a sound; no matter what you hear or see. Once I’ve started, I can’t stop, and any interruption will ruin everything and probably kill me.”
“Jesus,” he moved into the shadows. “You’re frightening me now.”
“There’s no other way,” she said, her eyes filled with sadness. “If it gets too much for you, just walk away.”
“No, go on.” He couldn’t admit he wasn’t as brave as a woman. “I’ll stay till the end.”
Jill knew the sacrifice he was making just by being there. If anyone caught them, he would lose his job, and she’d probably end up in a mental home. He remained silent as she relit the candles and incense. More aware than ever of her nudity beneath the cloak, she held tightly to its folds. Once ready, she turned to him.
“I’m going to start the chant now.” She stepped into the circle and picked up the spray can on the ground to fill in the gap.
She had just taken the cap off the tin when another set of footsteps echoed in the darkness. Dropping to her knees, she once again blew out the candles, and ran to join Paul, who crouched behind one of the larger tombstones. The footsteps came closer. Sure, of their destination, they moved quickly over the gravelled path. As they waited for whoever it was to appear, Paul looked at her.
“What have you been doing,” he whispered. “Selling tickets?”