Not believing my own eyes, I stepped out beneath the canopy that spanned the entire sidewalk in front of the shopping plaza. As I did the rain slammed down in an abrupt torrent. Hidden in the roar of the water was the wail of something…preternatural.
“Oh snap!” Oliver stepped out beside me and shivered, as the temperature had dropped at least thirty degrees in just a manner of seconds. He leaned close enough to shout over the rain, “Do you hear that?”
The keening grew louder, like a banshee caught in the tempest. I doubted Oliver’s next shiver had anything to do with the cooler air.
“Over there.” I motioned to the only space that didn’t have one of the charred, disfigured signs and the general direction of the screeching.
We made our way to the empty shop. Nobody followed us, though the other four crowded in the open doorway and watched us with enough excitement to freak me out. That definitely didn’t make me feel good about any of this. Portia didn’t seem the type to scare easily, but even her face had grown ashen.
I pushed open the unlocked glass door and stepped into an empty space, save for a broken dust mop and several chunks of canvas-covered furniture. The rain outside echoed off the bare walls, and the remnants of a beaded curtain shivered in an empty interior doorway.
The bellowing wail came to an abrupt stop and Oliver reached out and gripped my shoulder. The scent of mildew and dust permeated and tickled my sinuses. I sneezed and rubbed my nose to stop a second. I took a few steps into the shop, and my breath became visible as the temperature dropped.
“Wait.” Oliver froze next to me and squeezed. “Teagan, go outside.”
My best friend rarely issued commands. The husky, reverberating sound of his voice wasn’t something I’d heard before. He was scared.
Before I could turn to leave, a deafening paranormal scream pierced the complex. Nothing about the feral, inhuman sound was of this world. I dropped to my knees and covered my ears as the sound scorched through my head. The windows rattled, the sound of the rain disappeared. I was consumed with a deafening shriek that stole my breath and left my body twisted with agony. And when I thought I couldn’t take anymore—it stopped.
Oliver snatched me by the arm and jerked me outside, where he took out a baggie of black salt and haphazardly sprinkled a fair amount of it over me. I sneezed again, all the while my ears ringing and the downpour raging on.
Mr. Howard ambled from the doorway to us. “Power’s out now.”
“I suppose that’s my fault, too?” I huffed a sigh.
“Yup.” He spat at my feet. “Damn witches. She knew what you were; you set her to crying again, didn’t ya? Right after we got clear skies. Guess I’ll go get my poncho and wade out for more sandbags.”
By now, the rain had exploited the weaknesses in the awning and mini waterfalls were sprouting up every few feet.
“Her who?” I looked to Oliver and wiped the dirt and dust from my knees.
“The ghost.” He was panting. “A witch’s ghost.”
My heart sank. A ghost, we could banish. A witch only remained if she was cursed, which made getting rid of her almost impossible. Damn it. This rain was going to last a while.