The Hangman's Noose

Billie Black and her friends are closer than ever before to rescuing their loved ones whom were stolen from them years ago. A journey around the country proves perilous when the coven and their allies come face to face with their greatest enemies.

A band of men hell bent on killing all that is unnatural to them - Witches, Vampires, Werewolves and many other Supernaturals flee from their path or die at their hands.

Billie can't rest till she knows her lost loves are safe but new knowledge shows they are defenseless. Learning all they can about these men they seek a weakness a chink in their chain of command and only one man may show them mercy in spite of his beliefs.

Now Billie must lead them all to safety or perish in the Hangman's Noose...

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4. Hanging Woods

Around dinner time that night, Torsten called to let us know that he was boarding a train with Dexter to Boston.  This surprised us all to know ends.

“Do you think he’s trying to shake us off his trail?” Riona asked.

“No, I was there when Rowanne gave him specific instructions to check in on Sophia and Vincent.”

“So does that mean either Vincent or my Mom could be in Boston?” Ruby asked.

“It could be just one of many stops, Rubes.” Rowanne added wisely.  “May be he’s getting a connection from Boston to somewhere else.”

“To Salem?” Lee asked.

“I doubt he’d put them in the Witch capital of the world when he knew these Preachers or Witch hunters, whatever you want to call them, would be searching for Witches and the like.” Nana said, pouring out tea as we all gathered round the dining room table.  “What we need to do now is find safe houses for us all to stay.  I love having you all here but there’s just not enough room to accommodate you all and, I can imagine, it’s not too comfortable either.”

“Perhaps Rowanne and I could take Ruby to her mother’s cottage near Penn Peaks?” Riona suggested.

“Yes, if you could take Lee with you that would be appreciated.”

“We could go back to our place.” Leonard said, pouring himself a mug of coffee.

“Though we will always be close by.” Riley promised, speaking only to me.

“Stay.” I whispered.

“If you insist.” He smirks.

“Can I move down from the loft?” Matilda asks, anxiously.

“Why?” Nana asks confused.

Matilda sighs, “To be honest, I’m just a little frightened of being on my own.  What with Chrisitian…”

 

The unfinished sentence hung heavily in the air around us.

“She can bunk with me.” Dulcie offered.  “I don’t mind.”

“Well, if that’s all right with Matilda it’s all right with me.” Nana smiled kindly.

 

 

The following morning I woke to find Riona, Rowanne, Ruby, Nana and Lee already up at the breakfast table, their bags and cases gathered at the foot of the stairs already.

“Wow, you’re not wasting any time are you?”

“It’s better if we go early so we can settle in properly.”

“Just let me change and I’ll take you over.”

 

Taking the stairs two at a time, I rushed back to find my bedroom empty.  Riley had spent the night, just like I’d asked him to, after scaling the porch roof and climbing through my open window.  Now he was nowhere to be seen.

“Riley?” I whisper.

“Behind you.” Came his voice from behind the door.

 

I snap the door shut to find Riley smiling down at me.  Taking me in his arms, he lazily carries me back to bed, kissing me all the while.

“You slept well last night.” He commented.

“The best I’ve slept in weeks.  Did you?”

“Sound as a pound, love.” He said, trailing kisses down my jaw.

I gasp.  “I said I’d take the others to Sophia’s cottage on Ivy Row.  Do you want to come with?”

“Sure.  Let me get dressed.”

 

A smile stretches broadly over my lips as I watch in awe as this finely sculptured vamp pulls on his jeans and shirt from yesterday.  He begins to climb back out the way he came in as I start to pull on a clean red sweater, skinny black jeans and a pair of playful canvas pumps.  The moment my right foot leaves the bottom step, the doorbell rings.  I smiled as I allow Riley across the threshold.

 

Knowing smiles spread across Riona and Rowanne’s mouths as Riley and I entered the kitchen arm in arm.  Ruby and Lee scraped up the last of their breakfast before following the rest of us out into the hallway.  After our goodbye’s with Nana, they all grasped my hands or arms as I teleported us into the small garden outside Kerr Cottage.

 

It was in disrepair.  None of us had set foot in it since Vincent went missing a couple years back.  The grass was almost as high as our waists, spilling over unkempt onto the small path leading to the tattered red front door.  The ivy, famously known to crawl on most buildings on this street giving it its name Ivy Row, covered most of the faded peach exterior.

 

Riona, approaching the door, produced a brass key and slid it into the tarnished brass lock.  Pushing the door wide, creaking as it did, Riona stepped inside the grim dusty interior.  We all paused in the hallway as the door creaked shut behind us, making us all jump.

“There’s no one here.” Riley said.  “We’re quite alone.”

“How can you tell?” Lee asked, curious.

Riley pointed at his chest, simply answering, “Vampire.”

 

In the living room was upturned furniture and broken book cases.  It looked like someone had a fight in here.

“Do you think the witch hunters have been here?” Ruby asks.

“No,” said Riona, “Nana and I came here shortly after Vincent disappeared.  The furniture was like this then.  Look,” she said, pointing to something clinging to the creamy leather, “spider webs and more dust.  No one has been in here for over a year.”

“May be we should go find our rooms.” Suggested Rowanne.  “Then we can start to clean this up.”

“Can we do the ritual here?” Ruby asks me shyly.

“Sure.  We’ll do it tonight.”

 

The ringtone I assigned to Erin on my cell, Pink’s ‘So What’, blared out from my back pocket, interrupting the empty silence that had fallen around us.  As soon as I answered the phone I knew something was wrong.  Erin was crying.

“Erin, what’s wrong?”

“Are you in town?” she croaked.

“Yes.” I lied.

“You need to come by Lexi’s dorm.  Quickly!”

“What happened?”

“I don’t know… I think she might be dead, Bill.”

 

The words chilled me to the bone and I felt rooted to the spot but I couldn’t waste any time if there was a chance to save Lexi.

“Did you hear me?” Erin sobbed.

“Yes, Erin.  I’ll be right over, okay? I’m on my way.”

“Oh, god… thank you!”

 

I snapped the cell shut, stowed it back in my pocket and without much preamble I grasped Riley, Rowanne and Lee before teleporting out to Riley’s house.  Leonard, Faith and Willem all jumped as we appeared in their living room.

“No time for explanation.  We’ve got to go.” I said, pulling Willem into our little group.

 

Faith started to protest when I blinked and found us down the hall from Lexi’s dorm.

“What’s going on?” Lee asked, recognising his surroundings.

“Erin said she thinks Lexi is dead.”

“WHAT!?”

 

Erin opened the door at the sound of our voices.

“Thank god, you’re here!”

 

I didn’t know what to expect.  I had seen an old woman hanging from the fan in her kitchen once before – an old friend of Nana’s, Rose – swinging around obscenely until Leonard turned the fan off.  May be I thought they’d find different ways of killing us off.  Fire, that was a popular way to kill a witch, right?  Apparently they liked the tradition of a noose, strangling or snapping some innocent’s neck.

 

Lexi was pale, she looked… well, dead.  Lee ran to her aid and, with a flick of my wrist, her noose came undone and she fell into Lee’s open arms.  Willem and Lee worked on bringing her round whilst Rowanne managed to convince Erin she was never here and that she should get back to her homework.

“Her neck’s not broken.” Willem said, surveying her throat.  “We just need to wake her up and I can take care of these bruises.”

“Can you wake her?” I ask.

“I’m on it.” Lee said, spreading Lexi out in the proper position as he started to pump away on a point between her breasts.  Willem, in turn, began to breathe into her between Lee’s beats.

“Ease up, Lee.” Riley said, taking Lexi’s wrist between his hands.  “Her pulse is steady.”

“Just… need… her… to … breathe…” Willem said with every gasp of air.

 

As Willem sat up for another gulp of air, Lexi gasped, her eyes flicking open.  She sat up at once, her eyes seemed to glow, and my face fell.  Lexi raised an arm and fired at me.  The ball of fire threw me off my feet and out into the hall.  Before I could muster a scream, Willem’s hands were on me, soothing me, taking away the awful sizzled flesh as the flames dissipated.

“Sorry.” Lexi breathed.  She collapsed into Lee’s still open arms.

“Are you okay?” Riley asked, coming to help me too my feet.

“Yes, I’m fine.  Willem was quick.  Thanks.” I said, turning to Willem.

“Any time.” He said, turning to help Lee with Lexi.

“You’re still hot.” Riley said, feeling my roasting body.

“So are you.” I winked flirtatiously.  Riley scowled, trying to hide his amusement.  “Riley, really, I’m okay.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Hey, we’d better get Lex to the hospital, just in case.” Lee said, interrupting us.  “I’m not doubting your skills, man, I just want her checked over.”

“No worries.” Willem said, bending over Lexi’s desk.

“What are you looking at?” Riley asks his brother.

“It’s a suicide note.  They’re actually making their killings look like suicides.”

“Trying to cover their tracks no doubt.” Said Riley.

“We should bring this with us.” I said, pocketing the letter.  “May be there’s been more so-called-suicides that we’re not aware of.  See if some of them are witches.  If there is, we might find a pattern of sorts.”

“Good idea.”

 

With Erin out of sight we lock up Lexi’s apartment then scour it for any more clues before teleporting out to a hospital in Boston.  All that we could find was a set of fingerprints on the window ledge leading out into the fire escape.

“Well, at least we know how they got in.” I said, pointing to the dirty smudge.  “Do we know any Witches on the police force?”

“Julianne knows someone who could probably check these out for us.” Rowanne answers.  “I can’t remember her name but, yeah, she’s a Witch slash cop.”

“Okay, is there anything we can use to get a copy of this?”

“We could just cut it out.” Suggested Lee, pulling a Swiss army pocket knife out.

“That could work.” Riley nodded.

 

Lee swiftly cut wide wedge out of the white painted wood before carefully placing it in a zip-lock food bag we found in one of Lexi’s kitchen cupboards.  Riley pulls out a larger bag and slips the now innocent looking noose inside to hand over to the police Witch.  Lee lifts Lexi back into his arms, readying himself for teleportation.  The other three put their hands on me whilst I took Lee’s shoulder in my hand.

 

Mercy Hospital was the only one in Boston I was familiar with.  We’d been here once a long time ago when on a trip with my parents and Brian.  Brian had had a small injury that needed tending to so my parents brought him here.

 

A paramedic sighted Lee carrying our friend and instantly brought a wheelchair over for us.  The accident and emergency department wasn’t busy at all.  Getting Lexi checked in was a breeze compared to the time I came here as a kid.  Some nurses took Lexi into a room, leaving us to pace the outer halls in silence.  Eventually a doctor emerged and, to our relief, he looked quite pleased.

“She’s all right.  We’re going to keep her in overnight, just to keep an eye on her.  We may let her out in the morning.  Why don’t you kids go home?  You sure look like you could do with a rest.”

“Do you mind if I stay with her?  I don’t want to let her out of my sight.” Lee asked.

The doctor sighed, “Sure.  But there’s no need for the rest of you.  Go home.” He added sternly.

“Are you sure you’ll be all right on your own?” Riley asks Lee.

“I’ll be fine.  If I need you I’ll call, okay?”

“You’d better call.”

“I will.”

 

Leading the way back down to a safer, emptier spot where I could teleport, my cell blared out again.  Torsten calling.

“Hey, how’s it going, Tor?”

“I’m in Boston.”

“That was quick.  What’s he doing?”

“Checking into a hotel.  I’m right behind him.  He’s been on his cell to someone but I didn’t catch a name.  He’s going out for coffee in a couple hours.”

“Thanks.  Keep us posted.”

“Sure thing.”

 

Flicking my hand I turned a security camera away from us as we entered a deserted stair case.  Wordlessly, Riley and Rowanne offered me their hands so I could take us all back home.  We arrived in the attic room where Riona and Nana were working on a spell that might help us track down Sophia and Vincent sooner should Dexter fail us.

“Torsten’s booking into a hotel.” I inform them, “He says Dexter’s arranged to meet with someone in a coffee shop.”

“Hopefully, we won’t need to use this.” Nana said, indicating the spell she and Riona were pouring over.

“Do you think we might find Vincent tonight?” Riona asked hopefully.

“May be, I sure hope so.  Just keep working on that, just in case.”

“What do we do now?” Rowanne asks as she and Riley follow me from the attic.

“Do you feel up for a little sniffing around?”

“Sure, where?”

“Old Rose Nelson’s house and then back to Lexi’s dorm.”

“That could be incredibly dangerous.” Riley noted.

“I know, but I need to know if this is the same group of Preachers.  Or how many come to attack each Witch.  Lexi won’t be talking for a while yet.  Are you up for it?”

Rowanne nods, “Yeah, let’s go.”

 

After taking their hands once more we find ourselves in old Rose’s back yard.  From where we stand we can still see the police tape covering the front garden and entrance to Rose’s house.  With one glance at Riley he gives me the nod.  No one’s home.

 

Twirling and sliding my fingers, the locks on Rose’s back door undo themselves and the door falls open allowing us entrance.  At the threshold, Rowanne shifts and her clothes fall to her newly formed paws.  She stands on all fours, shakes herself down and slowly begins to work her way around the kitchen, pausing at certain things to take a longer sniff.  My Werewolf cousin leads us out into the living room and the hallways beyond where Leonard and I could clearly tell a struggle took place here.  It still stank of magic and blood.

 

The Wolf-Rowanne took towards the stairs then turned away, shaking her furry head.  We found her in the kitchen, transformed and fully dressed once more.  She has a grim set about her thin lips.

“There were at least five here when they attacked.” She explained.

“Why didn’t you go upstairs?” Riley asked.

“I only caught one of their scents on the stairs, going up and coming back down again.  They were probably inspecting to see if there was anyone else in the house.  Let’s get out of here; my nose is filled with the smell of blood.”

“Rose’s blood?”

“No, she put up a good fight.  May be took down one or two with her.”

“I doubt one or two is going to leave a dent in the armada coming our way.” Riley spoke, leading the way into the back yard again.

“You’re right.  We need a plan.  Let’s go back and see if there’s been any progress with that spell.”

 

The spell didn’t work.  When we arrived back home it was to find them all gathered around a map of the country laid out on the dining room table.  The family spell book stood on its brass stand to one corner.  I started flicking through it at once, looking for something that we might’ve overlooked.

“We could make a potion.” I suggested.

“There’s no potions in that book that’ll help us.” Nana groaned miserably.

“No, we could make our own.  I think I know what to do.” I turned to Riona.  “Get a new map and find something personal that belonged to Sophia and Vincent, then meet me back here.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’ve got all the ingredients I need already.  I’ll start working on a potion but to make it work I need something personal that belonged to both of them.  Something they won’t mind getting dirty.”

“I’ll go with you.” Ruby started to offer.

“No, Rubes, I need you here.  You too Nana.”

“What do you need us to do?” Nana asked as she and Ruby followed me into the secret room.

“Meet me in the attic, I’ve just got to pick up a few things first.”

 

Looking confused they left as I started to gather ingredients for the potion.  Sweet basil, aster, cardamom, moss, eucalyptus, eucalyptus oil, cedar wood, sandalwood, willow bark and ragweed.  Before leaving I picked up my athame and headed for the stairs.  I’d never seen Nana look so lost before but, when I joined them beside the large cauldron in the attic room, she greeted me with a serenely proud smile.

“What do you need us to do?”

Setting the ingredients aside I pulled out the athame and explained.  “I need blood.  Being the potion creator I’ll need to sacrifice some and you two are the nearest blood kin to Sophia and Vincent so I’ll need blood from you too.”

“You won’t need as big a cauldron as that.” Ruby noted.

“There’s a lot more to go into it.” I said, patting the waist high cauldron.  “Only offer what you can, I don’t want you to make yourselves sick.”

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