Guardian of the Dead

Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey Page A

Book: Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey Read Free Book Online
Authors: Karen Healey
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pocket every now and then to make sure it was still there, like tonguing a sore tooth.
    My usual sympathy for Circe’s frustrating position in the Odyssey kept sliding into something more frightening as I wrote. A fear of a dangerous, beautiful woman controlling hapless men was so obviously ancient-Greek paranoia. But my head was clear now, after days of fuzz and mixed-up memories. And if Mark could do magic – I touched the note again – why not Reka, with her sometimes-strange eyes? He’d asked me about her on the bus, I realised, without ever seeming to.
    â€˜Kevin likes her?’ he’d asked.
    And Mark had transferred into Kevin’s classes, and come to the theatre tonight, to participate in some weird standoff with Reka.
    Too many questions, and far too many of them concerned my best friend. I pounded out a frankly shaky conclusion and emailed the completed essay to myself so that I could print it in the morning. My knees made horrible clicking noises when I got up, stiff from being crammed under the low desk for so long. The curtains were still open. No wonder my back was cold.
    I went to close them and froze, staring out into the garden. It was dotted with wooden benches, and sitting on one was a tall figure in a dark suit, white hair in wisps around his head like a dying dandelion, waving at me.
    It was the crazy preacher from Cathedral Square. My fury returned, with an all-new target. He’d found out where I lived .
    I hauled up the sash window and climbed out, not wasting time by putting on shoes or grabbing my coat. The wet grass soaked through my socks immediately, but I covered the ground in seconds. He stood as I approached and held out a Good News Bible , looking very serious.
    â€˜This is for you,’ he said. ‘To save your soul.’
    I stared at it. It was the same copy Mark had taken, I was sure, down to the blank faces and brilliant smiles.
    â€˜Where did you get that?’ I demanded.
    The man blinked at me. ‘It’s mine. But you need it.’ He opened it to a passage underlined in red ink. ‘See? I marked it for you.’ He took a deep breath and began to read. ‘“ While I slept, my heart was awake. I dreamed my lover knocked at the door.” ’
    â€˜I don’t want it!’ I hissed, flicking a quick glance at the buildings behind us. As far as I could tell, mine was the only light on. ‘What do you know about Mark?’
    â€˜Mark?’ he said vaguely. ‘Mark’s a good boy.’
    I hesitated, then went for broke. ‘He’s a magician, right?’
    The man’s eyelids shivered nervously. There were liver spots on his hands, dark against the brown skin. ‘Mark’s a good boy,’ he repeated. ‘He can’t help what he is. He tried. She’s the demon.’
    I took a step towards him. I was on the brink of something important. ‘Who’s the demon?’
    â€˜Back off, Spencer.’ Mark was suddenly moving toward us out of the shadowy trees, his hands thrust into the pockets of his long coat. He was glaring at me, as if I were the one in the wrong. I glared back, and had the satisfaction of seeing him flinch.
    â€˜You arsehole! What did you do to me? What’s going on with Kevin?’
    Mark’s expression went pleasantly blank, and he fumbled for the bracelet around his wrist. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s nothing, Spencer. Nothing.’
    I could feel a pressure at the back of my skull, but my memory stayed intact. I fished the note out and brandished it. ‘Mark! Bible! Don’t forget!’ I quoted savagely. ‘A charm bracelet! That’s hilarious !’
    Shock flashed in his eyes. ‘Shit,’ he said. ‘You made a memory aid.’ His hand made an abortive gesture that was nearly a grab; I stepped back, clearing kicking range.
    â€˜She needs guidance,’ the man persisted, turning to Mark as if

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