The last job Claire and Eva worked before Labor Day was at a little farmhouse out in the country. Claire explained that it wasn’t the real real country, the house was only ten minutes from the county seat, but nevertheless the whole place had a very country feel. The house, with peeling paint and holes in the roof, was situated in a two-acre plot of land, marked on all sides by trees. You couldn’t see it from the road, which made it ideal for teenagers to explore and hide in.
“A hive of teenagers,” a cop sniffed.
The land surrounding the house was all grassland, overgrown. The previous occupants had laid down heavy gravel to the three-car garage; otherwise the grass would have prevented penetration by car. Claire and Eva hid their car behind the garage. A car meant adulthood. Adulthood meant legitimacy. They couldn’t appear legitimate, not here.
The house had, at that point, been abandoned by seven years. The owners had foreclosed on the house, had moved on to a small apartment closer to the county seat, where they had managed to find jobs. They were safe. The bank had been unable to sell the house, unable to mow the grass, unable to do repairs. The teenagers claimed the house was haunted. After seven years, the bank was inclined to agree.
Claire and Eva made their move on a Friday night in the last days of summer, when teenagers would feel the impending doom of September and act out, leave their homes, try to capture the last of the summer stars and the freedom of being young and broke. Claire was 23 and Eva nearly 21, but they still looked fairly young. They could mingle with the teenagers and lie about their age. It was better if they lied. Eva claimed 16 and Claire claimed 17. Eva’s hair was jagged and short, too short and too long to look cute; it was awkward and in her eyes. Combined with her cheeks, she could pass for 16, especially in the dark flashlight and candlelight they and the teenagers brought. Claire didn’t look 17, not even in the dark, with her long, confident limbs, neat hair, and wise face. Still, the teenagers accepted her as one of their own; lots of teenagers looked like they were in their early 20s. Perhaps Claire could get them beer later.
Claire and Eva sat with the teenagers and listened to their rituals. There was beer there. Eva was panicked slightly; they were adults and there was teenagers drinking beer. Claire and Eva had decided that the blatant illegality of the whole situation would make it more likely that their plan would succeed. Claire even assured her that her panic made the situation even better. Still, there were cops out there.
The cops had found them, the five teenagers, Claire, and Eva, sitting in the living room doing rituals. Some of it had been show-offish stuff with the candles. There was Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board. There was a telephone squeeze game. Claire had even performed a séance (entirely fake, of course). Some of the boys scared the others, pretending to be ghosts, banging the walls and breathing on girls. But finally the cops arrived, in the dark of night.
The teenagers, being teenagers, were driven back home by a pair of the cops. Only two cops remained to interrogate Claire and Eva, who were adults after all.
“Trespassing,” said the cops.
They actually had legal permission, but Claire and Eva kept tight-lipped. They were in real trouble now. Soon it would start.
“Purchasing alcohol for underaged minors,” the cops said.
“Are there any other kind of minors?” Claire asked.
Eva glared at Claire.
“We are going to arrest you,” the cops said.
“You can’t do that,” Eva said, sounding resigned but trying to sound firm. “We pay your salaries.” The cops, predictably, looked annoyed at the comment.
“We weren’t doing any harm,” Claire added. “This old house is so broken down anyway. No one even owns the place.” Claire had been doing this longer.
“Yeah,” Eva said. “Don’t you guys have robbers and murderers to apprehend?”
The two cops began reaching for their handcuffs. The two young women exchanged glances; this was getting serious, and more importantly, it wasn’t working.
Eva grabbed at her necklace, hidden beneath her shirt. The cops jumped a little at the movement. Eva was easily able to unclip the necklace. It was a cheap necklace she had bought for $2.99 eight months ago, but it was the most handy tool in her arsenal. She held it out at arms-length, away from Claire and the cops.
“Oh no,” said Eva. “This necklace was my grandmother’s. My mother gave it to me when my gramma died. I don’t want to lose it!”
The cops stared at her.
Eva felt a pull on the necklace. Her mouth tightened with effort as she pulled back. The necklace dug into her hand. She leaned back, trying to pull them, hell, trying to keep her ground. If the ghosts pulled her towards them, who knew where she would end up?
Claire gasped. There were two ghosts, flickering in and out of her sight; not one, as they had originally thought. She ransacked her brain, trying to come up with some advice for Eva, but her mind pulled up a blank. It was Repellers who handled these jobs, and there were no hard rules for Repelling. Attractors could find ghosts. Attractors were sought out by ghosts. Repellers “only” got rid of ghosts.
Oh. There was one thing she could do.
“There’s two of them!” she shouted.
“What is going on?” one of the cops asked. Claire spared them a glance; their shoulders were wide, they were looking around in all directions. It occurred to her, then, that the lights were flickering. The candles had been blown out, of course, but the flashlights were going off and on. The headlights beaming in from outside were flickering as well.
“It’s working!” Claire shouted. She didn’t know why she was shouting; technically there was no noise. But she could feel noise, in her head, the droning and humming of mundane existence rubbing against the pocket of spirituality of the house. The proximity to the rub – just a few feet away, inches from Eva’s clenching fists – drove her to near-deafness. She rubbed her ears and shouted to the cops, “We have it under control, don’t worry!” She rubbed her temple next. She rubbed the top of her head. It was inside, trying to get out.
Eva considered moving her foot, pulling back and trying to gain harder ground behind her, farther away from the source. But there would be a moment of weakness, before she gained her ground, when she would be at her most weak. It also occurred to her that the pulling wasn’t doing anything except keeping them in one place.
Claire was shouting, which meant that they were almost there. They were so close to get rid of these guys. What, exactly, did they know about these guys, except that they always did the opposite of what anyone wanted (taking out lawnmowers, breaking hammers, drying paint in the can)? But they were doing exactly what Eva wanted. They were where she wanted them to be.
Perhaps they wanted only what they couldn’t have.
Eva held out one of her hands, where another random tool sat on her ring finger, waiting to be used. A $10 ring, found at the same place she found the necklace. Cheapo and made for teenage girls who thought wearing dark clothing made them rebels.
“I hate this ring,” Eva said. “But it’s mine.”
The ghosts swarmed her hand, swirling and rubbing her hand; it was like a hundred hand dryers set at “cool” were covering her hand at once. It was hard to keep her hand still, especially since they dropped the pressure on her necklace. But they had imbued the necklace with their esoterica now. Eva draped the necklace over her hand, then twisted it and wrapped it around her hand again. In the corner of her eye, she saw Claire begin to shake; a cop grabbed her before she fell. Eva again twisted the necklace and made another loop over her hand. She did it four more times, until there were seven loops on her hand.
Everything suddenly became still. Even the cops noticed it. Eva could hear ringing in her ears. Claire slowly stiffened and straightened in the cop’s arms. She gasped something, cleared her throat, and repeated, “Seven.”
Eva nodded. The ringing was overpowering; she wasn’t sure she would be normal for a while.
“They’re gone?” Eva whispered.
“Oh, yes,” Claire said.