16 June 2007
It had taken some effort to find it, but Jackie was sure she’d identified a promising site to reach across the hedge. According to the water spirits, there was a ley line that crossed the Shenango River outside a little town called Pulaski. She’d heard about it early after moving to the area, but didn’t have the means or a good reason to bother hunting it down before. But now, with the search for Rick in full swing, and since Matteson had basically given her Henry’s car once she had her license set up in PA and he wasn’t able to drive her around, she was finally prepared to go investigate.
She arrived just after dusk, having gone home to change and grab a few final supplies after work. The main thing had been the blood. With Hecate’s magic not getting the results she needed, Jackie had turned her focus to the rituals passed down by her grandmother, which included animal blood. She was thankful the local butcher hadn’t asked too many questions about why she needed the blood, and knew she couldn’t risk the conversations that would happen if she tried to leave it at work during her shift. So it was in the fridge at the house, and once she had it in hand, she was ready to go.
It took about an hour and a half to set the ritual up, between making sure everything was in the right place and chanting the incantations over various elements. When everything was finally ready she took her place and pulled the ring Rick had been hiding out of her pocket. She stood silent for a moment, closing her eyes and holding the ring up to her forehead, thinking about him. About his face, her feelings for him, the moment she realized what he was about to do. The last words she ever heard him say.
“Walaya,” she whispered. “Ansarasa Richard?” The ring began to glow faintly as she kissed it and moved it away, holding it at arm’s length directly ahead. “Ansarasa kupia?” The air began to crackle and hiss as she poured her focus into the spell. She saw a road begin to form before her in her mind’s eye, a path through the hedge that led directly to the Crossroads. She tried to focus, to push farther, but she couldn’t get any more information than that. No paths from the Crossroads became clear, it was just a jumble of different roads and trails, a maze that had no end. She strained against the resistance, biting her lip until she drew blood, the ring glowing bright as day and burning her fingers as the blood dripped down her chin and fell to the markings at her feet. She could feel him there, just beyond where she was looking, if she could just identify a road. Her head started to throb as she pushed harder, but nothing came into focus. She pushed, and cried, and screamed, and repeated her incantations until she had no energy left.
As the vision suddenly departed and the ring fell from her hands, she fell to her knees and opened her eyes. Her head was spinning, her vision unclear, her body weak. She brought her burnt and shaking hands to her eyes as she cried, rocking back and forth as she battled to hold onto the last shreds of hope in her ability to find him. If this took everything she had, she reasoned, and it wasn’t enough…
“Impressive,” a male voice said. She looked up but couldn’t make out details of the man standing before her. He was dressed in a suit, and his hair looked long and dark, maybe with areas of gray, but it was hard to tell through the exhaustion and tears. “Jacqueline, was it? You’ve certainly made a name for yourself among the water spirits around here. Jacqueline the water witch, galavanting around with the Riverborn Anchor. Has he told you about me, young lady?” He knelt down before her, leaning his head close enough that she was finally able to make out some familiar features on his weathered face. “Have you heard about John’s dear old grandfather?”
Her eyes went wide as she realized this was Jeremiah, and she immediately reached out and began trying to utter a curse. But her voice was strained, and her body was weak, and she only got two syllables out before she fell over, coughing.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” he said, pulling away to dodge her hand and then standing. He looked her over as he brushed the dirt from his knee. “You have considerable skill, I’ll grant you that. But you’re far outside of your league, and made of an awful lot of water.” He raised his hand and she felt her body lift off the ground as she fought for air. “Don’t worry. It doesn’t serve my purposes to kill you right now. I just need you to be a message to John.”
She whimpered as she felt her body being pushed and pulled, her muscles being kneaded like dough. Her lungs struggled to hold what little oxygen she could get in through her gasping breath, and her heart strained against her chest as her vision started to fade.
“Sleep well, little witch,” he said, just before she blacked out.
Hecate had been very insightful. Jeremiah was unfamiliar with the concept of an Anchor before, but once it was explained to him, he understood why Henry had promised the boy would be more prepared to face Jeremiah than Henry had been. He’s assumed this whole time that was just an exaggeration, or possibly just hopeful arrogance about the way he’d raised John, but it sounded like he could be a real problem. Jeremiah was ecstatic.
Not at the prospect of having to fight an Anchor, of course, but rather the redemption of his bloodline. Jeremiah had spent decades believing his only surviving legacy in the world was a frail, albeit resourceful, mortal. That no matter what he managed to accomplish in his life, it would all go to dust the moment he died and his memory was held only by a human who hated him. It had affected his drive after a while. It almost seemed pointless to seek anything grand or magnificent, if there was no way to secure it long-term, while his own flesh and blood was constantly harassing him. But the knowledge that there was an Anchor out there, who didn’t yet know him, who might yet be turned to continue his purposes, that lit a fire in Jeremiah’s chest. It was time to step out of the shadows. To begin pulling on the threads he’d been weaving for so long, and make real changes to his fortunes. With Henry gone, and a grandson who could make real waves in both the physical and metaphysical realms, there was something approaching hope.
And, hey. If he refused, if he insisted on chasing his father’s folly, then Jeremiah would have something interesting to do with his time. And a true conquest over an Anchor was bound to improve his standing in the world of spirits. However this played out, Jeremiah intended to take the opportunity to get what he deserved. The tricky part, however, was knowing how to confront John.
He tried to go to the house, first, since it was listed as John’s inherited residence. To scout around and learn more about his grandson. Stop by some time when he wasn’t home, pop out of the metaphysical realm in the house, dig through some information, and leave to formulate a plan. His suspicions were verified when he tried; having an Anchor living in the house had completely destroyed the wards keeping him out for so long. What he hadn’t anticipated, though, was that having an Anchor living in the house also made it impossible for him to step sideways on the property. Or within a few dozen yards of the property. He could get in, of course. Locks and doors and windows were only so strong, after all. But that path would require damage, and damage was too much of a risk. He couldn’t show his hand that clearly just yet.
Then he saw the girl from the funeral come out of the house and head down the street.
Jackie, he had learned her name was. He watched her from the side of the road and considered a very short list of reasons she would be at the house when John wasn’t. The particulars didn’t matter, however; what mattered was that they were close, very close, and that gave him an opportunity.
So he tracked her for a couple days, forming a plan. It wasn’t difficult, ultimately. She was quickly shown to be a mage of some sort, one who was actively seeking out loci and trying hard to reach through to the spiritual realm. It seemed like she was looking for something. Jeremiah didn’t know what, and didn’t much care. He got his hands on a map of the local ley network, sorted out how she was searching, and which sites had the best chance of success. Some local spirits knew of a locus that was particularly weak, one she would surely be able to punch through, one she would spend time at. One where he would be very powerful. One where he could prepare to confront his grandson.
On June 16, she arrived at the site. And Jeremiah was already in the metaphysical realm, waiting for her.
18 May 2007
“You know, I’ve been tracking down experts on matters of the supernatural for a few decades now, which probably doesn’t sound long to you.” Jeremiah lifted the poker from the fire and watched as it started to cool. “But in that time, I’ve noticed that most beings who know a lot about human interactions with magic are eager to talk about it. So imagine my surprise when I go to find spirits who know about people that can degrade magic itself, and they don’t want to say a word!”
“Fuck off,” the naga growled. Jeremiah turned to face her, holding up the poker. The woman was hanging upside down, her arms bound behind her back, a metal stake stabbed through the fleshiest part of her tail and holding her to the ceiling.
“It’s amazing how people always find a way to get that one out, no matter how bad things are for them. Don’t you think?” The naga responded by spitting at him. Jeremiah stabbed the still-glowing poker into her side. The naga hissed but managed not to scream. “They really do train you well in Iravati. I’ll have to visit some time, learn some other stuff. But why all this effort? Why not just tell me what you know? Do you have some kind of arrangement to keep quiet about them?”
“I have nothing to say about them! They are a blight upon the world and that is all I care to know!” The naga gasped for air. These outbursts were growing more difficult.
“Now I doubt that very much.” He set the poker back in the fire and began testing his knives. “The rivers tell me your city has had notable dealings with beings like the ones I seek, and you’re a herald tasked with knowing what comes and goes. Are the rivers wrong?”
“None of their kind come to Iravati. Not in my lifetime.”
“Do you know the last time one did?”
“It was…centuries ago, I think. It severed Iravati…from the world of man.”
“How?” Jeremiah walked to the naga and grabbed her by the hair. She took a sharp breath, but said nothing as he pulled her face closer and showed her the knife in his other hand. “What do they do? Are they all the same?”
“You’re not going to get more than that from her,” a voice said from behind him. Jeremiah turned to find a dog sitting next to the fire.
“Are you the famous Hound?”
“I am a hound. Word has it you only speak English and Aquan, and The Hound considers both languages beneath him.”
“And why should I take the word of a knockoff dog, when all the rivers speak of Iravati and its connection to the magic destroyers?”
“Iravati is a victim, which the rivers know well. The Anchors, however, are the purview of my Mistress. You are dabbling in matters far beyond your ken.” The dog howled, and the room shook. The walls melted, and beyond them lay a great landscape of roads and trails, pathways marked in the very fabric of the world. He could make out hundreds of gates, some closed, and some open, each situated directly on a path. Jeremiah looked around in every direction. “We can give you the information you seek. For a price.”
“So this naga is no longer useful to me?”
“That naga was never useful to you.”
Jeremiah considered these words for a moment before swinging the blade and slicing open her throat. He let go of her hair and walked away as she sputtered and gasped, the ichor flowing over her face and dropping in loud plops on the ground. He wiped the blade clean on his pant leg as he approached the dog.
“What is this price?”
“There was a mishap. Some beings useful to the Mistress have wandered off. Simply retrieve them and bring them to the Crossroads, and she will tell you more about the Anchors.”
“That sounds like work suited for you more than I.”
“There is very little separating us in the eyes of gods. Do you want your information or not, Riverborn?”
“Very well. Tell me about these lost beings.”
25 August 1979
Jeremiah knew a few things for certain. First, Elizabeth was going to be no help in getting Henry off his back, as she seemed perfectly content with the path Henry had chosen. Second, the oath Jeremiah had taken when Henry was born was somehow reflecting any damage he did to Henry back to him. Third, the books he’d inherited from his mother, which may have contained information he could use to circumvent that oath but which certainly contained information on hunting and killing supernatural creatures, was missing from where he had left it stored. Fourth, Jeremiah had never actually bothered reading any of those books, and therefore was woefully unprepared for how to handle someone who had. And finally, when Jeremiah returned to the house after seeking some healing magic and finding his books missing, it was warded against him; this seemed to indicate that either Elizabeth or Henry, or possibly both, were actively reading and using the books.
It wasn’t quite powerlessness that Jeremiah felt in the wake of these realizations, but it was a hell of a lot closer to it than he ever wanted to be. He found himself inching even closer to that point when he felt a bullet rip through his shoulder.
He was in Cincinnati by that point, considering his options and finding that he didn’t like any of them. There was nothing for it, he’d decided; like it or not, he was going to have to learn more about his nature and the world of magic. Thus far he’d only bothered with the stuff that was immediately useful to him, like his control of water and ability to sidestep reality. But now he didn’t know. Could he be killed so easily? If so, was it possible that the simpering little bastard he’d left behind, with no power to call on and no will to wield it, had now claimed the upper hand over him?
Is that all it took?
He was willing, albeit hesitantly, to explore that notion further, but suddenly found himself busy scrambling off a park bench and grasping the surprise wound. He frantically looked for the source of the shot, and found it when another was fired. This one just missed him, but more importantly, Jeremiah was watching where it had come from when the muzzle flashed. In one step he was out of the physical realm; then it was a mad dash aided by some water spirits hanging around for the river, and another step out to catch Henry turning to leave the roof.
Jeremiah threw a punch with the uninjured arm, sending Henry crashing to the ground. He felt the blow resonate across his own face, causing him to stumble backward. Before he regained his footing Henry was up again and landed a blow where the blood was starting to stain Jeremiah’s shirt. The pain shot through Jeremiah’s arm and chest, and he barely managed to focus his vision enough to dodge the kick from his son. He pushed, not directly against Henry, but willing the water in Henry’s body to throw him backward. It worked, and Henry crashed into the door of the roof access stairs. He felt the impact on his own back, but Jeremiah noted that he wasn’t also thrown. There were limits. He could work with limits.
Henry was trying to catch his breath from the shock of the impact when Jeremiah produced a knife and lunged. He tried to pull himself away, but Jeremiah was faster than him. Jeremiah grabbed him by the neck and slammed his head against the door again. Henry’s vision was blurred from the impact, and Jeremiah pulled him close enough to smell his breath.
“How do you think this ends, boy?” Jeremiah hissed.
“You can’t kill me. Anything you do to me comes back on you. You’re marked.”
“And you think you can use my curse against me? You think you can use my mark to benefit yourself?” Jeremiah brought the blade in, slowly, and carefully cut a line down Henry’s face. Henry screamed, but Jeremiah pushed through the feeling of the same cut opening on himself. “Your mom may be right, Henry. I may be some kind of Cain. But you? You are no Lamech.”
Henry felt the knife pull away from his face and closed his eyes, focusing on setting the pain aside long enough to finish the task. When he opened them again, however, Jeremiah was gone.
2 May 2007
Jeremiah stepped out of the metaphysical realm into a clearing in the Allegheny National Forest. The energy in the site was deadly calm, but focused on a low stone altar in the center of the clearing. He made a wide arc through the clearing, looking at footprints and the remains of magical signatures. Those remnants were the most interesting aspect of all to him; usually when someone used magic in a site, even a weak spellcaster, the mark of their magic remained loud and clear on the site for weeks at minimum.
“It wasn’t time that degraded these signatures, was it?” he asked, mostly to himself.
“No,” a feminine voice answered. He spun around and looked into the trees for some sign of who was talking to him. “Did you come here because you thought it was?” There. Two ravens sitting on a branch, one with a faint blue glow beneath its feathers, both unmistakably spirits.
“What business is this of yours?” he demanded. The blue, apparently female, raven laughed. The other, in a masculine voice, answered.
“All things are our business, Jeremiah. What business is it of yours?” he asked.
“It’s a family affair.” Jeremiah turned back and began walking toward the altar.
“Oh yes. Always a family affair with you people,” the blue raven said. Both ravens took flight, making a spiral around the clearing and landing on the altar. Jeremiah stopped and put his hands in his pockets.
“How do you know me?”
“We know everyone. That’s part of the deal.”
“The deal that allows things like you to exist,” she answered. Jeremiah quickly pulled his hand from his pocket and clenched his fist in their direction. Nothing happened. “Oh, you didn’t think we were made of wet matter like normal birds, did you?”
“It was worth a shot.”
“I very much doubt that.”
“What happened here?”
“I don’t think that concerns you yet.”
“Will you tell me when it does concern me?”
“We won’t have to,” the other raven replied. “Besides, you’re not really here to learn about all that. You’re here because you’re trying to find your grandson.”
“Is he near?”
“Not near enough to be a danger to you.”
“He is no danger to me.”
“If you insist.” The bird began preening as Jeremiah stepped forward, running his hand along the edge of the altar.
“He did this?”
“Not all of it,” the blue raven answered. “But he did destroy the magic at play here.”
“Is that not all of it?”
“That’s never all of it.”
“It must have strained him to do this much damage to this much magic.”
“Why do you only talk in circles?”
“We don’t. Sometimes we give people direct information. Sometimes we say nothing.”
“And why do I not deserve direct information?”
“It isn’t a matter of deserving. It’s a matter of the way things must be.”
“And how must they be?”
“You,” the other raven said, looking back to Jeremiah, “must take a lesson from this and prepare yourself accordingly.”
“And what lesson is that?”
“Your magic will not save you from him.” The ravens took flight again, this time circling Jeremiah once and then going straight up and vanishing from the world. Jeremiah watched them, then touched the stone again.
“Then I suppose I shall have to find something that will.” He placed his hands back into his pockets, turned away from the altar, and walked to the edge of the clearing where he disappeared.
8 August 1979
Elizabeth had a hell of a day at work, and wanted nothing more than to slip into a more comfortable outfit, pour a drink, and listen to music until she passed out. Henry was still away, and she had just picked up a new record the day before, and she even had tomorrow off. It was shaping up to be a good night, despite everything. She walked into the dark living room, locked the door behind her, and threw her keys in the bowl on the little table nearby.
“You didn’t make yourself easy to find.” That voice. Elizabeth would never forget it as long as she lived. In one movement, she had spun to face it and drawn a pistol she kept under her dress just in case this moment ever came.
“And you still ain’t taking hints, Jeremiah,” she hissed. There was a click, the sound of the lamp, as Jeremiah turned it on. There he was, in the flesh, just sitting in her living room as if he belonged there. Elizabeth corrected her aim, now that she could see his forehead.
“I don’t mean to impose, Liz. But I have some concerns about our boy and thought I should try talking to you about it.” He tapped his fingers on the wound that was still healing across his face. “Where do you think Henry is right now?”
“Ain’t none of your business what I think or know about that boy anymore. You turned killer and ran off.”
“Can’t I show a little concern? For his safety?”
“Not now. Not ever. You had your chance, when I was in court, when we were driven out of my home, when we struggled to pull a life together here! You didn’t give a shit then, and you expect me to believe you give a shit now?”
“Now listen,” Jeremiah started, pressing his hands into the arm rests. Just as he started to push against them to stand, Elizabeth pulled the trigger. It was too high, she hadn’t adjusted properly when he started to lean forward, but it hit bone and left a bloody mess on the wall behind him. Jeremiah slumped back into the seat and grabbed his head, screaming curses.
“Why should I listen to you?”
“Henry did this!” He screamed, pointing at the older wound on his face. “He’s come after me, Liz, and I can’t have that, you hear me? You stupid fucking mortals are picking a fight you can’t win!”
“You bleed like someone who can lose to us mortals.” She cocked the hammer back and leveled the gun at him again. “You run along now, Cain, unless you wanna bleed some more. You lost your home, you got your mark, and don’t you ever forget that you earned it by what you did to your family.” They stared at each other for a long moment, and then Jeremiah growled.
“You’ll regret this.” With that, he vanished.
“No,” she said, “I won’t.”
3 November 2006
As the small crowd made its way around the room to speak to John Matteson at McGonigle Funeral Home, Jeremiah slipped passed them quietly to take a seat out of the way. He watched his grandson, and paid attention to the people who seemed to spend the most time checking in on him or helping him manage the flow of people. A young Latin woman stood out, and Jeremiah made note of her. When he got up, he hovered around groups of people until he picked up her name (Jackie) and then made his way to the casket. He made note of a couple other people that were clearly friends on his way, attempting to gauge their relationship to John by the way they handled themselves and their friend. He skipped the line entirely, avoiding the damned small talk expected of people at these things, and rested his hand on his son’s cheek.
“Thank you for showing me points of weakness,” he whispered. “Enjoy your rest.” With that, he quietly disappeared out the door and then out of the physical realm entirely.
18 August 2006
Behind the Winner, overlooking the Shenango River, are a few seldom-used park benches under some trees. Henry liked to have his lunch there on days when he was out in town, just him and the water and the birds, looking toward the relatively busy area over by the bank and the old Army/Navy store and the Reyer’s Outlet. Even the relative bustle of downtown had been waning, it seemed, as Hermitage continued to build up its own commerce center a few miles up the road and Jim Winner’s fabulous failure, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, sat occupying nearly an entire block without drawing any traffic. He didn’t tend to look up when he heard footsteps coming. Generally, it was just someone taking a shortcut from one bridge to the other, or the rare resident genuinely interested in using the little balconies to look down on the green water below. But this time, he sensed magic, and he looked up just in time to see Jeremiah sit next to him on the bench, unwrapping the paper around his own burger on his lap.
“I’m not wrong often in my life,” Jeremiah said, “but when I first tried a McDonald’s burger, back when they were fifteen cents, I fully believed they would never catch on.” He looked too young to remember such a thing. For the last decade or two, he’s looked younger than his own son. But there was gray in that hair now, and even the slowly aging nephilim show the years in their eyes.
“Of all the things you’ve been mistaken about, you pick that one to confess.”
“Still teaching history, Henry?”
“Well. ‘Teaching’ implies someone is learning from it.” Jeremiah chuckled and bit into his burger, and the two watched the cars across the river for a long, tense moment. “What are you doing here?”
“Look at us. Sons of devils, bickering about intentions. Can’t an old man have a nice lunch with his son once a century?”
“Depends on the old man.”
“And the son.” They both ate some more of their food in silence. “You’ve done well, you know,” Jeremiah finally said.
“Hiding my grandson from me.” Henry stopped and set his food on his lap, but showed no other reaction to the words. “And his power.”
“What do you know?”
“I know he has a gift, a great and mighty gift. One that may even make him worth the name you’ve carried so fruitlessly all these years.”
“You won’t touch him.”
“And I know you won’t be here to stop me much longer.” Henry turned to face Jeremiah for the first time since the man had sat down. “When I heard, of course, I thought about just killing you and getting it over with, making sure I had the last move in our little game. But I fear that would be too satisfying of an end for you. But cancer.” He popped the last bite of burger into his mouth, shoved the balled up paper into his pocket, and then stood and dusted himself off. “Cancer must feel like futility. Like a fight you can never really win, even as every ounce of your being demands you keep fighting. And that, I thought, sounded too fitting to interfere with.”
“You came just to gloat? About something you didn’t even do?”
“No, Henry. I came to say goodbye, and assure you that little Jonathan will be in good hands after you’re gone.”
“He’ll be more ready for you than I ever was, Jeremiah.”
“Good. I miss having a challenge.” With that, Jeremiah turned and walked away, leaving Henry to seethe over the remains of his lunch.
5 august 1979
Elizabeth believed Henry when he said he was going camping, and there was even a certain degree to which he was telling the truth. He did sleep in a tent most nights, but he was not spending time in campgrounds. This summer, he was hunting.
He hadn’t been sure exactly what he was looking for at first, until this past spring when he came upon a tracking spell in one of his books. It was imperfect; he would have to be a mage to use it accurately, and he would need something of the target’s to narrow the focus. His aim was to find Jeremiah, and the only things he had with any remaining connection to Jeremiah were the books, the necklace, and himself. He tried the books first, but they were apparently much more connected to him than to his father. The necklace just took him to a quiet spot on the Ohio River, and he didn’t really know why. When he tried to use himself as the focus, however, he learned that there was something still binding them together. He wasn’t sure if it was just blood relation or if there was more to it, but he didn’t much care. At that point, the only objective was to prepare for a fight and follow the trail.
Since he was not, in fact, a mage, and was using a decidedly inferior connection to his target, the best he could do was a general area. So now he was in Connecticut, driving into Hartford each day and looking for information that might help him narrow his search. At first, it was mostly about newspapers, but he quickly realized that he would need to find something strange to know for sure that it was Jeremiah, and the only people who are willing to own up to the really strange details are people comfortable with being taken as strange themselves.
That’s when he fell in with a group of homeless people. For the most part, he had found, homelessness was just a sign of economic difficulties that may or may not get sorted out, and the majority of that population was not going to help him in any way he needed. But once he found a smaller section of the homeless population, the ones just unbalanced enough to carry the weight of the crazed hobo stereotype, he latched on and listened intently. For their part, they were mostly happy someone was listening, and the lunch he brought each day helped as well.
Through their stories, he learned that the mob had taken to working with some mysterious stranger, but the relationship had turned south, and now they were being targeted. Most of the deaths were pretty mundane, knives mostly, and that much was being covered in the news. But there were a few that didn’t line up with the prevailing theory of a rival gang. An enforcer reduced to a dessicated husk when he had only just stepped away to use the restroom. A gangster’s wife, drowned in her perfectly dry bed. Her husband found a week later with his spine ripped out. Someone, some thing, was angry, and powerful, and vindictive. It was over a week of the stories and rumors and ravings before he was able to piece together enough to verify that it sounded like Jeremiah’s work and who he might strike next. Of course, tailing a member of the mafia was not going to be safe, either, especially if that guy was presently terrified of someone tracking him down, but Henry was young enough to believe it would be fine.
He was only partly wrong. The mark did catch on that he was being tailed, almost immediately. And he did catch Henry, and he was fully prepared to kill Henry on the assumption that the boy was spying for whoever had killed his associates. The mystic books he was carrying did not help his case. And he certainly would have died that night, if it hadn’t been the exact night Jeremiah arrived to strike his next target.
Henry wasn’t able to get loose from the rope in time to save the mobster, and in moments when he was honest with himself he would admit that he might have been if he’d been a bit more concerned about actually saving him. One of his eyes was already practically closed from the swelling, the places left by two newly missing teeth stung like hell, and the blood running down his arms was somewhat distracting, but Henry managed to get to his books and his captor’s knives before Jeremiah turned on him. But the boy wasn’t trained for this, and the man he faced off against had been killing people and fighting with spirits for decades. It wasn’t long until Jeremiah got his first hit in, a swipe of the knife that Henry barely dodged enough to ensure it wouldn’t be fatal. To everyone’s surprise, however, when the knife sliced across Henry’s face, a matching wound suddenly appeared on Jeremiah’s. The man stumbled back, grabbing at his face and staring angrily at Henry.
“What did you do?” he hissed, his grip on the knife tightening. Henry was breathing hard, and holding his own knife all wrong. And as the years of rage and pain flashed across Henry’s eyes, Jeremiah finally recognized his son. It hadn’t been that long, of course; but children grow fast, and Jeremiah had made it a point not to think about the life he’d left behind. “Henry?” Henry lunged forward and swung at Jeremiah again, the surprise of the moment giving him just enough of an opening to connect and draw blood from Jeremiah’s stomach. The older man growled and grabbed Henry’s hand, snapping two fingers before recoiling at the sensation of his own breaking as well. That was when Jeremiah understood, when he remembered. He shoved Henry backward and stepped to add more distance between them.
“I’m going to stop you. I know what you are, and I am going to make you pay.” Henry spat the words out, along with some blood. Jeremiah grabbed the place where his gut was bleeding and smiled.
“If so, child, you better be more prepared next time.” Henry went to reply, but before he could, Jeremiah stepped sideways out of reality and was gone. Henry stayed on guard for a few more minutes, but there was no sign of his father returning. And then he realized he was bleeding, holding a knife, and standing in a room with a man recently stabbed to death. He stole the knife, grabbed his books, and ran.
1 February, 1975
There was no way to avoid the fact that Elizabeth had a dead white man laying on her lawn. By the time police arrived, word had spread around the neighborhood about the incident, and damage control among the community was being hotly debated. As a community organizer, the police were eager to charge Elizabeth and make a spectacle of her case, but there was simply too much evidence provided that pointed instead to her fleeing husband. The DA recognized that maybe the case against her would fly in other states, but Pennsylvania was trying to maintain a more progressive image, so the worst they could slap her with was conspiracy to murder and, possibly, aiding in Jeremiah’s escape. It was a flimsy case, and they knew it; there was no reason to believe Jeremiah had planned the murder or even knew the victim ahead of time, and Elizabeth was very willing to cooperate.
The trial attempted to cast all of her work in the community in the light of her alleged goals of white murder. The prosecution tried to bring Henry’s school records into the matter as evidence that he was being raised in a household that encouraged violence, but there was little there they could use. The ACLU provided a defense, which focused on the the glaring holes in the prosecution’s logic, Jeremiah’s mysterious origins and sudden disappearance after signs of agitation at his job, and the positive work Elizabeth had dedicated herself to carrying out in Erie.
It was a happy surprise when Elizabeth was found not guilty, but everyone knew remaining in Erie was going to be impossible for her and Henry from that point on. Instead of a celebration welcoming her home from the ordeal, the neighborhood helped them prepare to move and said their goodbyes. They stayed with cousins outside of the city for a time until their old house was sold, and then moved on to a little house in Sharon.
It was here that Elizabeth finally sat Henry down and explained what she knew of Jeremiah’s true nature.
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