Note: Another story about Martin Key. this one is told in a first person perspective, a little more challenging, but I like it. It also ends a little abruptly, but again I felt like it worked for the story. let me know what you think.
I saw her through the window. Her glasses, too big for her face, slid down her nose as she worked. Her face was pleasant, but unremarkable. She grimaced as she worked the clay on the potter’s wheel. Dry grey coated her forearms with salt flat cracks. The room she was in was vast, it made her look smaller by comparison. there were two doors, the one I stood at and the large garage door to my right. The interior was sparsely furnished, shelves full of finished pottery, a small sitting area with a few chairs and a loveseat cotton wounds bursting at the edges, kitchenette and her workshop two wooden counters coated with clay, the potter’s wheel and her. I knocked as she removed the newest pot from the wheel. She moved to the door, hips, tiptoes lead by her chest everything flowed and she ushered me in. Her manner was relaxed, she didn’t look like she owned a pair of shoes. There were trails of bare footprints weaving the span of the room. Once inside I saw an additional door.
“My name is Martin, Martin Key. Most people just call me Key.” I offered.
“Pamela.” She smiled, crows feet pleasantly spread web-like from the corners of her eyes. She went to the kitchenette and motioned for me to sit, which I did. “My place is haunted.” she spoke with her back to me as she filled a teapot. Her shirt was loose as was her skirt. She had lost weight recently. I knew what came next, but I had to separate what was true from what was imagined. “My ex died recently, he stayed here, won’t leave.” she turned to me as she lit the burner on. “I tried everything I could think of, but he won’t let go. That’s why I contacted you.”
“I’m just a private investigator ma’am, mostly background checks and insurance fraud. Why me?” She smiled, most did, like they knew my secret.
“I heard you had experience with these sorts of things.”
“Some.” I acknowledged. I tried not to take these cases, but it was always like an addiction, I resisted, but the lure of the unknown drew me, what new thing will I discover. I always gave in, but someone always ended up hurt. I hoped she was a quack.
“You’re not exactly what I expected, don’t get me wrong I love the mohawk and the tattoos, but I pictured….”
“Max Von Sydow.” I offered.
“Yeah, I guess. Nothing so punk.” She looked me over
“I get that a lot.” She snickered and I smiled. She had a natural charisma that was already drawing me in, but I kept my distance. Allure was very often dangerous. “I’m still not sure why you emailed me.”
She continued. “It’s getting worse. He gives me the days, or can’t do his thing during the day, but last night I had to leave, went to a diner until the sun came up.” The kettle whistled, she finished making the tea and sat down. I waited, watched her and the room in equal parts. There was nothing to indicate the chaos she suggested, no broken pottery, banged cabinets, the room seemed serene as the wind outside yawned in.
“Why don’t you just move.” I asked.
“I don’t want him to win. This is my place, not his, but if you can’t make it stop I will leave, this is the end for me by hook or by crook.” she sat down, placed a mug of tea in front of me.
“Nothing is broken.” I said as he blew on my tea.
“What made you leave?” She didn’t answer, I continued. “There’s a layer of dust on some of those shelves months old, you haven’t moved anything around recently, even your demeanor it seems peaceful, no trauma.”
“I’m not lying.” she defended.
“I didn’t say you were. I’m just confused, what precisely is he haunting?” The tea had cooled enough to take a sip.
“Me.” she answered. “He’s trying to possess me and last night he almost succeeded.”
I arched an eyebrow, set down my mug. “Tell me everything.” I said.
I’ve been Wiccan since high school. I fell in with this group that did rituals and danced around fires, the whole nine yards. The supposed high priestess turned out to be a fraud, but there was some truth in what she said and I wasn’t done with it. I went to classes at a new age bookstore and learned everything I could about it ritual magic, herbalism, meditation, reiki, divination all of it just soaked it in like a sponge. I started doing the pottery and worked a dozen different jobs, but the pagan thing stayed with me, I attended every ritual that came along, every holiday, every drum circle it was my life for years and I had lovers, but about five years ago Wade came into my life.
Wade was Wiccan too and he had this bad boy gypsy quality that was like chocolate to me and I couldn’t get enough. I centered my life around him, unhealthy, but I couldn’t see the forest for the trees at that point. After four years together he was getting restless, we still did the rituals, but he wasn’t satisfied with them. He got obsessed with what he called “true magic.” He got despondent and he lived here with me, but I barely saw him he’d cloister himself away in the basement.
I remember the athame on the floor next to him. “I saw the devil today.” That’s the first thing he said the day he died. That’s the first thing he said in almost a month to me. I remember he was tapping his heel, his hands were clenched in his lap, he wasn’t looking at me until he said that. Something about the way he looked at me freaked me out so I got up, I went for the door and he yelled “Stop.” I froze. His voice was like, it was like a physical thing. He stepped behind me and started circling me, looking me up and down. The athame was in his hand, he held it limply. My eyes were closed or I was crying I can’t remember, but I couldn’t see him, just felt his breath on me, he was getting more excited and I still couldn’t move.
“I did it.” he whispered. “I brought him here.” He started talking about the power the devil had given him and he was yelling. His hands all over me as he was ranting. I was still trying to move. “sold my soul.” he kept on. “He gave me power. True ritual. True magic.” His hand slid to my throat and tightened. He raised that knife and I looked him in the eye. There was a moment one shimmering brief moment where the hate in his eyes dimmed. It was all in slow motion I remember the knife coming down the glimpse of humanity, the fabric of his shirt was damp from sweat. I smelled a clay pot in the kiln, a robin landed on the windowsill, each moment lived and I pushed hard, I could move and I ran.
The athame, he fell back and collapsed, the blade impaled him under the ribs. I heard him gurgling and turned back, he was bleeding all over the floor, the blood was filling his lungs and he was still trying to strike at me.
He was dead by the time the police and the ambulance arrived. It was deemed self defense.
She burned sage as she talked. The room was blustery as wind blew in through the open garage door. I was watching her and the room in equal measure, she believed what she was saying, a call to the local precinct would confirm her story. I stood and started walking towards the door. “you’re not going to help me, are you?”
“Yes I am, I need some things from my car. Holy water, sea salt, palo santo, night is coming soon and he’s not going to like that I’m here.”
“I already tried holy water. I blessed it myself, it didn’t do anything.”
“That’s because he doesn’t recognize your divinity, he thinks you’re inferior to him. That’s the problem with spirits they bring their prejudices with them. He doesn’t know my holy water it should work better. I’ll be right back.” she made a displeased sound with her throat, but didn’t say anything else. I grabbed the heavy old medical bag from my trunk, holy symbols from hundreds of religions rattled around the interior, holy water, salt these things were just foci for the power of the will, spirits once dead are creatures of belief and if Wade believed them in life at all he would trust they would work in spite of himself. It’s easy to con spirits because all they have is their id, their passions everything else was taken away when they died.
The set up was simple, but laborious, salt circled around her bed, doused the entire place with holy water, burned palo santo, sage and incense and laid mirrors on all the windows, none of these things would deter him completely, but they would make the place wildly uncomfortable and force him to go for Pamela. I marked her face arms back and chest with totemic symbols.
The night fell in quietly and we sat on her bed playing card games, she suggested a tarot reading, but I wasn’t in the mood for divination, never much cared for what the cards said. The wind was growing colder she moved to close her garage door, but I stopped her. “Stay in the circle.” The studio was silent. A block away a woman was arguing with her boyfriend, he was yelling back. Traffic lights lit the room green, yellow, red. An SUV trundled by her alley. Somewhere a cat yowled, a car alarm went off three streets over. I closed the door and felt a shift to my right. I moved to catch a glimpse, but all I saw was the girl. She stood in her earth tone skirt and thin top. “Get back in the circle, everything is fine here.”
“No it’s not.” She answered. “He’s here.” She ran to me, hugged me. I tried to pull back, but she roped her leg around mine calf to calf. “Stay close.” She whispered.
I put my hand on the small of her back. “We need to get back to the circle.” She kissed me, I didn’t resist, I should’ve, I felt the cold metal against my skin. The athame was against my back, she raised it up. “Wade.” I pushed against her, the point caught my shoulder blade. She fell against the floor. “Listen Pamela, he’s inside you, you’ve got one chance. All these things the holy water the symbols, they just focus your will, push him out.”
“Fuck you.” the words came from her mouth they were guttural, the sound of a ghost forcing a larynx to work. “She’s not cut out for it, candle magic and tarot cards don’t mean shit to me.”
“Pamela, fight him, you’re not inferior, prove it to him. Think of a song, think of a picture trace the lines in your mind, work it through, fight him.” I was watching him/her stand up, the knife was gleaming, her face was red from the traffic light. She stood swaying, her face now green she burst at me, the knife over her head. I stepped to the side tripped her. “A prayer, a song, your pottery look at it all, this is your place, this is your body.”
“Kill her Key, kill her or she’s gonna kill you.” Wade spoke through her his voice becoming more clear. I lit a chunk of palo santo as she stood again the effect was like someone getting hit by mace she hit the floor rubbed her face against the cold concrete. “You can’t touch me Wade. She’s stronger then you. She talked to him too, I showed her how, she made a better deal, signed a better contract, she’s still alive Wade and you’re dead.” I was trying to keep him off balance, hoping he believed what I was saying, belief is the key, prejudice.
“No, that’s impossible. She couldn’t, didn’t know how.” The voice was guttural again.
“You didn’t throw anything away, it was all down there in the basement the notes the incantations. You died and she had time to study, and with my help she learned how to do it, true ritual, true magic.” She dropped to her knees.
“Blessed Be!” Pamela yelled out in her own voice. A black plume flew from her mouth.
“You’re dead Wade, and you are banished from this place.” The smoke writhed and slithered folding in on itself. Wind burst through the windows smashing the glass showering us both with tiny shards. Pottery burst as the spirit tried to hold on gripping at the metaphysical edges of the room. “Blessed be.” I said almost in a whisper and then he was gone.
The room was silent again, the wind died down and the athame clanked against the floor. Pamela was in a heap on the floor. She was breathing, so I got the glass off of her as best I could and laid her in the bed. I stayed for the rest of the night and left just after sunrise.