I looked across at Amelie and lifted my tea cup. “To victory,” I said.
She stared at me as if didn’t understand the words I said. “Victory?” she asked. “What in the hell do you mean by that?”
“Victory,” I repeated. “We just drove the evil from Milly. It’s over. We won.”
She shook her head. “We did not win,” she said. “We survived. We did catch him by surprise, or you and Milly did, but you did not beat him. He still has his talons in both you and her. And he’s stronger than ever. He backed down for now, but he had three of us against him, and with you and Milly newly awakened it was more than he was willing to risk.”
“But, but,” I said.
“I assume this time your stuttering because you’re flustered, and I get it,” she said. “I’ve been watching him and so I know. First, if he takes her too soon he can’t attack you from his place of strength, the crypt. He did want to see you, test you, so he called you by making the girl sicker. And then he pushed her out as much as he dared when he knew you were coming to make you think he was in more control than he really was. He never meant to take either of you tonight, he wanted to make you scared. Being frightened would make you weaker. He feeds off of your weakness, it gives him strength. You can be sure that he only dropped back to regroup. Sometime when you are alone, he’ll strike again. And again. He will continue to do it, to get deeper and deeper, making you weaker and weaker and more and more frightened.”
“I’m not frightened, though, I’m exhilarated. So he lost in that.”
She nodded. “Yes,” she said. “There were some small victories. He thought he had quenched your fire so was surprised at your return. But, on the other hand, now he knows. He will now expect you to use power against him, so there are no more surprises like tonight. We also ended it differently than he wanted it to end. That was a victory. But it is going to make him more wary. He won’t make many more mistakes. He will bide his time.”
“How in the fuck do you know so much about what he is thinking,” I asked.
She smiled. “You don’t understand the power, do you?” she asked. She continued without waiting for a response. “The power manifests itself in many ways and we have many talents. I can see power and read power. I taste it and know. I can tell. And I can influence it. You can think of me as a muse of sorts.”
“So why couldn’t you do what I just did? You know, with Milly.”
“He knows me too well,” she said. “We have been skirmishing for years. He would have been able to tell, he would have known. He would have stopped me and hurt the girl even more. He believed your power was quenched or dormant. He never even suspected you’d probe and find the girl. I knew.”
“Power, power, you keep talking about this power. How many in your family have this power?” I asked.
“Most of them, but most of them don’t recognize it,” Amelie said. “That’s why I wasn’t able to put the charms back up after Rosaline passed away. I tried couple of times, but a few people thought it was sacrilegious. Well, mostly Mom.”
“With Rosaline gone, who is in control? Or is that even the right word?”
She laughed again. “Actually, I can’t think of a worse word,” she said. “I do know what you mean. My mom can be considered the head of the Hawkins branch. There are a few what you might call sub-branches, but Rosaline’s was consider the primary one. Her eldest daughter, my Aunt Betty, more or less dropped out of the line. She became white.” Amelie laughed again. “Yeah, some of her kids and grand kids still show up, particularly Lisa and her daughter Sarah, who you met yesterday. So people come to my mom when they have questions about the family, being the eldest female still active in the family. She’s just so religious, though, that she doesn’t understand what’s happening. She reads it wrong. To her there is just Jesus and the Devil and to stop the Devil you just pray harder and put your trust in Jesus. But yeah, she’s the one, if such a thing exists.”
“I guess I’ll have to work with here then,” I said.
“You can try,” she answered.
“Who is it then, who’s the strongest in your family?” I asked.
“Why you, of course,” she said.
“No joking, really, who?”
“No joking, really, you.”
I stared at her. I think my mouth was open. She wasn’t smiling. In fact, she looked angry.
“Amelie?” I heard Winnie yell from upstairs. “Where are you? Milly needs you.”
“If you excuse me, I need to go see my niece,” she said. “You can find your own way out, can’t you?”
I nodded. We got up together and I started to head towards the door.
“Oh, one last thing, “she said. I turned towards her. “I could have easily sacrificed you. Once he has you he’ll pretty much go on his own way, like he did in the past. I was tempted, you know, to save my family. I was very tempted.”
I could see a hard place in her eye. She could have.
“We all have good and evil in us, everyone. Even he does,” she said. “But every time we choose evil, even if we think the reason is right, that we are doing it for the right reason, then we become more like him. Truthfully, I did not save you for your own sake but mine. And the girl’s sake. I wanted you to know. And to know that mistakes towards evil with the power are hard to correct. It doesn’t take much to shift the balance in a person.” She turned around and started up the stairs.
Left the house and got in my car. So much had happened in the last hour, I felt so overwhelmed. Yet with all of it, only one thought was going through my mind. “I am the most powerful of the extended Hawkins clan?” But I felt so terribly weak.
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