Friday, 29 October 2010

Chapter Ten

They left Wells Gate behind, passing through Camberwell, and eventually found themselves in Brixton.  Black people and white people jostled for space on the wet pavement, hurrying through the rain towards their homes or somewhere dry.  Rastafarians and business men and mothers with prams were huddled together under the entrance of the tube station; talking, laughing, sulking and smoking cigarettes. 
     Jamie glanced at the Ritzy Cinema as they drove past, a place where Stokes often took her to see independent films. 
     She loved the multicultural, electric vibe of Brixton.  She always felt safe and enthusiastic walking these streets with Stokes.  Here, nobody gave her a second glance when she walked arm in arm with a black boy.  That wasn’t always the case in Wells Gate, where some of the mostly middle-class population didn’t seem to live in the twenty-first century.  But Jamie didn’t feel safe or enthusiastic right now.  All of London would have felt like a hunting-ground.
     A few minutes later, Ryan Caller parked the Mercedes in front of a shabby-looking terraced house on Effra Road.  The paint was peeling and flaking, more grey with dirt than white.  The tiny front garden was overgrown with weeds and a broken television nestled amongst them.
     “Who lives here?” asked Stokes, his eyes roving over the face of the building.
     “A woman named Vivian Locke, a spiritualist medium.”  Ryan grimaced at what he was saying.  “She helped me out a few years ago.  She’s got a doctorate in psychology, like me, but she gave it all up to become a medium.  She’s very smart but I always thought she was a little ridiculous.  I thought I knew about the unseen world, but apparently she was way ahead of me…”
     As they got out of the car Jamie noticed a silver pentagram hanging in the front window of the house.  She knew from reading about magic that it was a powerful symbol, that people in the occult used it as protection.
     Stokes slipped his hand into hers, gripping it.  She looked at him and tried to smile.  The rain was slowing down now, but the skies overhead were still dark and moody.
     “I pray that she’s home,” muttered Ryan as he led the two teenagers to the front door.
     When he pressed the doorbell, an electronic version of the famous Swan Lake started playing.  Ryan Caller wasn’t amused enough to laugh.
     They waited.  The door finally opened and Jamie was taken aback.  She hadn’t really known what to expect.  Stokes glanced at her, looking just as off-balance.
     The woman was in a wheelchair.  She was white, in her late twenties or early thirties, dressed in a black evening-gown, with blood-red dreadlocks that fell to her cleavage, framing a strangely beautiful face.  She had a nose-ring that made her look sultry and exotic.  The overall effect was striking.  She grinned when she recognised Jamie’s dad.
     “Dr Caller, I haven’t spoken to you in ages…”  The woman sounded posh, but Jamie could sense warmth and humility in her eyes.
     “Dr Locke,” Ryan nodded in response, “May we come in?  It’s an emergency…”
     The woman immediately rolled her wheelchair backwards into the corridor, peering at him with a concerned expression.  “Of course, Ryan.  Please, call me Viv.  I’m not a practising psychologist anymore, you know that.”
     The three of them stepped into the woman’s home.
     The inside of the house was cloaked in semidarkness.  Candles burned in stained-glass votives on the staircase, and Jamie could detect the lingering smell of sandlewood inscence. 
     They followed the woman as she expertly swivelled her wheelchair and rolled her way into the living-room.  More candles burned in this room.  There was a widescreen television and stacks of DVDs on the floor.  Jamie recognised a scene from the Disney movie Aladdin – the blue genie was whirling around the screen with masses of comical energy.  Vivian Locke almost blushed, and stabbed a remote control at the television.  The screen blinked off.
     “One of my favourite movies,” she muttered, seeming almost girlish in her embarrassment.  Jamie realised that she already liked this woman, and she sensed a genuine ability in her.  Maybe she would be able to help them somehow.
     “Sit, sit,” the woman added, ushering them onto the sofa.  The three of them were forced to sit in a row. 
     Jamie felt awkward facing this interesting woman who might be their only hope.  She still couldn’t believe any of this was really happening.
     “You experienced something, didn’t you?”  She peered at Jamie’s dad, who nodded.
     He didn’t bother with small talk.  He launched straight into the story, telling her everything.  Vivian Locke just sat and listened with kind, worried eyes.
     When he was done, he added, “I don’t know what to do, Viv.  Do you realise that everything I’ve been researching since I was an undergraduate…I didn’t really believe it until now?  I tried to ignore the stuff you used to say about magic, I thought it was naïve. I should never have doubted you.  I’m scared for my kids…”
     Ryan’s words made Stokes glance at him, but he turned away before Ryan could see how touched he was by those words.
     Vivian nodded and pulled a hair-band from her wrist, tying back her blood-red dreadlocks.  “Let me feel this key you mentioned, ok?”
     Ryan handed her the mysterious key, and she flinched violently when she grasped it.  Her eyes flew as wide as coins.  A million different thoughts seemed to swarm across her face, and finally she peered at them with fear.
     “This key is a vortex, my guides are confirming it for me.”  Her eyes darted back and forth as she tried to think.  “There’s more energy in this thing than a nuclear bomb.”
     What?” Ryan spat in disbelief.
     “Dr Caller, listen to me, you could level an entire continent with this thing.  I’ve never felt anything as powerful in all my mediumship.  This key is an apport of some kind.  Someone manifested it from the other side, someone very, very powerful…”
     Jamie’s dad did the smart thing and swallowed his disbelief.  “Ok, ok, can you connect with spirit to find out who created that thing?  I don’t know how much time we have, Viv.  I have to protect Marcus and Jamie, but I’ve got to know what we’re dealing with…”
     Vivian Locke closed her eyes, the key buried in her fist.  “My guides are giving me two words.  ‘Finch’, like the bird.  And… ‘Labyrinth’.  Oh, Ryan, it’s bad.  It’s really, really bad…”
     When the woman opened her eyes again she stared at Jamie and Stokes.  Suddenly she burst into tears, sobbing uncontrollably in the wheelchair.    
                     

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