to enlist his aid. âShe nearly sees things.â
âThrough a glass darkly, and with extremely bad timing,â Mark said, and sighed. âSpencer, this is my father. He is actually trying to help you. Dad, this is Ellie Spencer.â
My mouth dropped open. I registered, again, the clean and ironed clothes.
Markâs father bent to grasp my free hand, and I was too shocked to resist. His palm was rough and dry. âWhat a charming young lady. I met a charming lady, once.â He kissed my hand and straightened, giving me a smile of such sweetness I felt tears prickle at my eyes.
âSo if you can stop harassing him . . .â Mark said, putting his arm around his fatherâs shoulder.
âWhy didnât you just say it was your dadâs Bible? Why does he think I need help?â I tried to sharpen my voice, but the sunken sorrow of Markâs father blunted my most righteous efforts.
Mark ignored the second question and answered the first. âBecause you said he grabbed you. And the last thing he needs is assault charges.â
âI wouldnât do that,â I muttered.
âDid I do something wrong?â Markâs father asked, hopeless and sad.
âNo, Dad. I did.â Mark lifted a shoulder, grimacing. âSorry, Spencer. I should have just said.â
It was ridiculous to feel mollified just because heâd baldly admitted to being in the wrong. And it wasnât the point anyway. I settled back onto my heels. âWhy were you even talking to me? What did you do to me?â
He didnât bother to lie again. âIâm not going to tell you right now.â
âHypnotism?â I tested.
âSure. If you like.â He gestured at my note. âCan I have that?â
I smiled unpleasantly and tucked it back into my jeans. It seemed to vibrate faintly between my fingers. The soles of my feet were going numb, the toes tingling painfully in the chill, but I refused to dance from foot to foot with Mark bloody Nolan staring at me.
The old man held out the Bible again. âYou need it,â he said.
âYou really donât.â Mark sighed. âI donât think it can help you. Anyway, Iâll take care of everything.â
I started to ask him about âeverythingâ, but the old man began to cry. He wept like a child, noisy and unembarrassed, but with an agony that was entirely adult. I thought of my own father, so far from me, and flinched away.
âOh, Dad,â Mark said helplessly. âPlease donât.â
His father worked his hands together, dodging nervously away from Markâs embrace. Tears collected in his wrinkles, dropped onto the lapels of his jacket. âYou see me now, but never again. If you look for me, Iâll be gone. Donât let your people practise divination or look for omens or use spells or charms. You will know them by what they do! Itâs in the Bible!â
The whole situation, I decided, was well beyond awkward. When Markâs father tried to give me the Bible again, I took it from his calloused hands.
Mark didnât seem to care. He took off his scarf. âHere, put this on.â
The old man let Mark wrap it around his neck and tuck the edges into his jacket. âLike a cloud that fades and is gone, we humans die and never return; we are forgotten by all who knew us.â
âI know you, Dad. You did what you came to. You warned her. Letâs go home.â
âHome,â the old man agreed, blinking at Mark. âYouâre a good boy. You canât help it.â
Mark flinched. âSpencer,â he said.
âJust forget about it for now. Iâll take care of it. Trust me.â
âBut I donât,â I said, and saw him accept that with the same pained resignation he gave to his fatherâs madness. He took his fatherâs arm and they made their slow way out of that wavering circle of light.
I managed to climb