- 11 -
Lila attacked Alex out of the blue, beating her with an unexpected strength for such a small, frail body. Alex hit the ground near the hay, stunned, but the growing growl gave her time to duck Lila’s second charge. She rolled away from the girl and crawled until she was able to get back on her feet.
Alex ran toward the girl and dodged her at the last second. That confused Lila, who halted and spun around to charge again. But Alex was able to retrieve the shovel, and she swung it with all her strength, hitting the girl’s belly. Lila bent over and fell down with a cry.
Aiming for the part of Lila’s body where the parasite nested had been a good call. It gave Alex time to sprint to the corner and grab an old long chain from among the tools, and retrieve the fuel can. Lila wriggled and squirmed, but somehow Alex managed to wrap the chain around her.
The girl screamed, almost convulsing, as Alex poured fuel on her belly. And then, she stopped and lay completely still, even when Alex poked her with the shovel.
She was dead. Well, actually, she’d been dead for hours already.
The parasite was tough as hell, but it couldn’t stand even a drop of any kind of chemical substance.
“That’s what you get for being so damn green,” Alex grunted.
She left Lila where she lay and went back to the hole, digging to expose all the eggs. She poured fuel on them too and produced a strip of book matches from a cheap motel in Pennsylvania. The matches Aidan had given her by Beth Campbell’s burning grave.
“Keep them, Princess. You can’t go wasting a good zippo on every crazy ghost you come across.”
Alex smiled at the memory, stroke the full strip on fire and dropped it into the hole.
Claire rubbed her hands eagerly with the nailbrush. She rinsed them out, sniffed them and snorted.
Bad Romance filled the bathroom and she picked up on speaker, to keep washing her hands.
Alex sounded tired, and judging by the background noise, she was driving with her Daughtry playlist on, for a change.
“Hey, d’you know what they’re gonna do with the girl? Are they taking her back home for the funeral?”
Claire didn’t need to ask who she was talking about.
“Sarah told me Lila dreamed of living here, in Bold Peak.”
“So her parents decided to bury her here. They’re flying in tomorrow.”
“They’re gonna bury her, not burn her.”
“Yup. Where are you?”
“On my way home. I’m making a pit stop at the station to drop the body.”
“What? What did you do?”
“Like you said, don’t ask.” They chuckled together. “Did the juice work on Rob?”
“Yeah. It was a little embarrassing, trying to explain why I was so eager to take the dirty sheets away when your stuff worked. But nobody saw the worm, and I drowned it in enough bleach to clean the whole hospital.”
“That’s my girl.”
The pride in Alex’s voice made Claire smile.
“Gotta go now, kiddo. I’ll be home as soon as I get rid of the girl in black.”
“I’ll have breakfast ready.”
“Sometimes I even love you.”
“Oh, shut up!”
They disconnected and Claire smelled her hands once more, cursing under her breath. They would stink of bleach for a good while.
George waited near the open door as Alex and Claire discussed where they would place the shelves and the counter, their voices echoing in the empty store. A pleased smile pursed his lips. Alex was always a little distant and ironic, and it was the first time he saw her so happy.
She turned to him with a bright grin and pointed at the lease contract in his hand. George gave it to her with a pen. She didn’t bother to read it before signing it. Good thing about small towns: written contracts were just a formality.
“Tell Peg she’ll have her money in her account first thing tomorrow.” Alex gave him the papers back and took his hand. “Thanks, George. I really owe you.”
He pressed her hand, smiling wider. “Anytime, Al,” he said, and added, louder. “Now it’s Claire’s time to honor her word.”
“I’m cooking dinner for you tonight, George,” the girl replied. “You pick the menu.”