“This has been one strange morning,” she muttered, and thought she might start to cry. Why was she crying? So she got clipped by a moving car, so what? Stokes was the one who had to feel the naked woman bleeding and dying in his arms.
“What happened to her?” she wondered out loud.
Stokes leaned back in his chair and grimaced. “Before you got hit, I was down in the water with her and I thought she wasn’t breathing – so I checked her mouth. She had something…something lodged in her throat.” Tears were welling in his eyes now. “I pulled this out of her throat, Jamie.”
He reached across the table and shoved something into her hand, closing her fingers around it. Whatever it was, it was vibrating and buzzing in her grasp like something electrified. She opened her hand and stared down at an old iron key. Even with her open hand it felt like the key might leap up off her palm and start clicking around on the floor like it was alive.
It was unearthly, and Jamie got chills again.
“It’s powerful, isn’t it?” Stokes said bluntly. “I mean, it feels like there’s some real energy in that thing. Something is happening here…”
Jamie was still reeling from the buzzing sensation the key was giving off. She murmured, “How…how could she call out to me when she had this…thing lodged in her throat?”
Stokes looked afraid but she could tell that he was trying hard to keep it together.
“I don’t know how, Jamie. This is more your territory, right? But I know that key is spooky. Everything about this is spooky. I’m not a fool.”
Jamie remembered trying to dial an ambulance when she was standing beside the canal. “My phone, Stokes, it started smoking in my hand. It got so hot I had to drop it.”
He nodded. “I found it when I got up there.”
He reached into his jacket pocket and retrieved her blackened mobile, dropping it on the tabletop. The phone was cooked.
Stokes said, “I don’t know if she did it on purpose, or what, but that woman somehow caused your phone to destroy itself.”
Suddenly Jamie had a sense of the implications of what they were saying. Something completely beyond the normal order of things was beginning to happen. She had felt it in the air all week, especially since last night and her dream of teeth like knives. She’d thought she was being childish.
“Jamie, do you think this is some kind of…dark magic?” The words came out of her friend so slowly, like he was afraid that saying it would somehow make it true.
“I need to speak with Dad,” Jamie blurted suddenly, now genuinely terrified.
Stokes nodded with wide haunted eyes. “There’s something else I have to tell you. The policeman I spoke to, he said this woman did it to herself. They found her clothes and her bag caught in some weeds further up the canal. I heard him tell another guy her name was Isobel Finch. They said she stripped out of her clothes and cut herself up with a razorblade. God only knows why. Jamie, apparently this woman worked at USL. That’s where your Dad works.”
Jamie felt like she was carrying around icy slush in her belly. She said, “I really need to talk to Dad.”