I clutched a plush teddy bear in one hand and a pendulum in the other. Holding my forearm horizontal to the butcher block table’s surface, as still as possible, I whispered, “Is Joey in Hemlock Hollow?”
The golden pointer swung horizontally. Yes.
“Is he safe?” I asked, even though I knew the answer. My son and I had a connection. I might not be able to locate him exactly, which was why I was using this piece of junk pendulum, but as sure as my heart beat in my chest, I knew he was out there.
The pendulum gave another positive response.
I dropped it to the table and squeezed between a four-poster bed and its matching bureau to start the journey across my antique store to where I kept the maps. Mama would kill me if she saw the place now. For twenty years, she had kept Frantiques in perfect, pristine order — dressers and beds along the walls, straight rows between tables. My method was a bit more, let’s just say, organic. I was regretting that now as every item that came between me and the maps delayed my reunion with Joey.
It had been four weeks, three days, two hours, and twenty-nine minutes since my husband had taken my son from me. My sweet little boy with a head full of curls and a heart full of laughter. I could see him in my mind’s eye clear as if it had only been the previous day, giggling as he leaned precariously to the side, like a mini Tower of Pisa, thrilled that he was walking.
But that hadn’t happened yesterday. That was years ago. My boy was four, nearly ready for kindergarten, and no doubt growing and changing with each passing day. Each second hurt. It was too long for a boy to go without his Mama.
I finally reached the eighteenth century wooden water bucket filled with rolled maps of Hemlock Hollow. Shuffling through them, I found the most recent and brought it back to the table. I spread the map flat, grabbing four old vases to hold down the corners.
I positioned the pendulum over the map. “Where is he?” I choked out. “Where is my son, Joey Reynolds?”
The pendulum sat impossibly still for a moment, then started to twist back and forth. I let it roam over the surface of the map, concentrating on feeling any little tug or pull in a specific direction. But it remained in one place, twisting, twisting.
The map was from the early nineteen twenties, but the town hadn’t changed much. Deep in the Catskill Mountains, nestled between Hemlock Mountain and the New York State Thruway, it didn’t have room to expand. But even if it did, it wouldn’t have. This was the kind of town where people fought very hard to keep things the way they were.
I should know. I fell into the group of people that were “fine” but “not our kind of people, if you know what I mean.” Somehow, I was the exception to the rule. But I couldn’t claim credit. I stood on the shoulders of my Mama, who fought hard to open Frantiques. All I had to do was stay in town and not bother anyone. So far, I’d done both.
With a sharp tug, the pendulum jerked left. I clutched the clasp at the top of the chain to keep hold of it. Now we were getting somewhere. It ripped to the right, dragging my arm across the map, then back to the left. Then it shot toward me, like it was a stray dog dragging its owner — my arm — on a leash. On the next tug, it pulled so hard that the cyclone pendulum detached itself from its chain and fell to the table with a dull thud.
“Darn it,” I said, picking up the pieces. Livid, I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and dialed Liora’s number. She was supposed to be one of my best friends, but just then she was teetering on the edge of enemy territory.
The phone rang three times before a chipper voice answered. “MoonGoddess Psychic, how can I —”
“Do you know who you remind me of?” I said without introduction. I didn’t need an introduction.
“Shawna, Goddess be, what are you talking about?”
“Don’t pull that ‘Goddess be’ crap with me, Liora. Answer my question.”
“No,” she said, drawing out the word.
“You remind me of a man I know who calls himself an antique dealer…”
“Is this about the pendulum?”
“…but all he sells is crap that no one wants…”
“Did it work?”
“….claiming it’s all antique when it’s really just trash.”
“What? I’m just telling you a story. A hypothetical story.” Normally, I didn’t go around insulting people, but with Liora I felt like I could be myself. Not because she was a tall willowy hippie witch who never met a New Age philosophy she didn’t like, but because of what was underneath all that. A solid and trustworthy friend. I didn’t have too many of those.
“You said ‘you remind me of.’ That’s not hypothetical,” Liora said. I could hear her smile through the phone.
I smothered an answering grin. “Whatever. What I’m saying is that that pendulum is a piece of trash. It’s one thing to sell it to me, Shawna, it’s another thing altogether to sell it to unsuspecting customers.”
“I gave it to you, Shawna.”
“I gave it to you. And if it didn’t work, it’s not the pendulum’s fault. It’s just a metal trinket. It’s supposed to help you tap into your powers.”
I knew that. Although my witchy studies had been cut short due to my mother’s unanticipated death, I’d read my grimoire like a good student reads a textbook — cover to cover. I shook my head. “I’m telling you, that thing was junk.”
“So it didn’t work?”
“No. Is it possible that the pendulum can’t find my husband because he’s pure evil? So evil that he blots out even the good that is Joey?”
“That anger sure isn’t helping, woman.”
My voice had risen without me even noticing. “How would you feel if this happened to you?”
“Not great, love. Not great.” A beat of silence passed on the phone. “Shawna, you should really consider involving the police. I know they haven’t been much help in the past…”
I let out a harsh bark of laughter. “Sorry? What was that? Didn’t your recent brush with the law cure you of the idea that the Hemlock Hollow police department act out of anyone’s interests but their own?” Liora had spent some time in the Hemlock Hollow jail. It was not a nice place.
“I deserved it, Shawna. Plus, from what I’ve heard, the police have had quite the makeover since our little run-in with them. Your husband took your son from you. Magic can only help so much here. Maybe it’s time to give them a try.”
The eyelid over my right eye twitched and I rubbed at it, sighing. “Maybe you’re right.”
“But before you do — the universe knows where Joey is. Try to tap into it again, like we did the other day. Clear your mind of everything else.”
Liora’s voice was low and sweet as honey over the phone, but it didn’t make me feel much better. We’d been trying different things for the past week, and none of it had worked. I sighed and hung up the phone.
Picking up the teddy bear again I sat back in my chair, running my hands over its pilled fur. I closed my eyes and relaxed each muscle from my temples down to my toes. Only then did I ask the question that I really wanted answered: “Where is Joey?”
…Find out in the full-length “Witches of Hemlock Hollow” standalone Entranced, available at all the major ebook retailers: