The Evil Inside
“Yes, but you know, I assume, that the police were watching him in the cases of the farmer, Peter Andres, killed in Andover, and the neighbor, Earnest Covington, who was just killed last week.”
“Well, Peter had been a substitute at his school, and, as far as I know, he was well enough liked. Maybe Malachi, in that crazy mind his parents created, thought that Peter was responsible for his misery.”
“What about the neighbor?”
“Maybe he saw Malachi doing weird things, who the hell knows? Look at me—I’m no cop!” Yates chuckled. “But, look, I believe in justice, and I don’t loathe you for defending him. I’m assuming you’ll work on an insanity plea, and I’m sure you’ll do well. Trust me, I’d hate to see him thrown into a hardened prison population, but when it comes to locking up the boy, I’m all for it. I feel sorry for him, but I don’t want him loose.”
Sam decided not to tell Andy Yates that Malachi Smith claimed to be innocent.
“Would you mind if I talked to your son, Andy?” he asked.
Yates laughed softly. “I wouldn’t mind—but you’ll have to talk to my wife. Our two kids are her life—she’s a veritable barracuda when it comes to them.” He paused, scratching out a number on a piece of paper. “You call her—I have to live with her!”
Sam smiled and accepted the piece of paper. He was definitely interested in meeting the boy who had beaten himself in the head because of Malachi’s evil eye.
He exchanged a pleasant set of goodbyes with the councilman and dialed the number right after he left the office. Mrs. Yates hung up the minute he identified himself. He tried again. This time, she had a few words for him.
“You leave me alone! Don’t you dare go near my son—you’re slime, pure slime! You think you’re a hotshot, getting killers off? Well, you stay the hell away from my son. I’ll have you arrested if I hear that you’re within a hundred yards of him. You go to hell, Mr. Hall. You’re trying to defend the devil, and you’re a demon yourself for doing it! You’re a crooked, money-grubbing bastard, and you will stay the hell away from my son!”
Again, the phone went dead.
Sam wasn’t sure if he was amused or dismayed. He decided to start at it all from a different angle. Surely, there was someone out there who wasn’t entirely biased.
He hesitated, and then put in a call to Jenna Duffy.
“What are you doing?” he asked her.
He thought that she hesitated a minute. “I came out to see the Andres home in Andover,” she said.
He frowned. “Alone?” He didn’t know why that worried him. It was broad daylight and, according to everyone, Peter Andres’s murderer was in custody.
Did he believe that himself now? He just didn’t know.
“I called the Realtor,” Jenna said. “She’s nice. I admitted I was looking into the case—on my uncle’s behalf. She was okay with it after I explained. I’m not sure she believes she’s ever going to sell the house anyway, unless she finds someone with a really morbid curiosity.”
“Anything helpful? What did you see?”
“I’ve seen the house and the barn where he was killed. It’s wiped clean,” she added. “And you?”
“I was thinking of shopping and sightseeing. Actually, there’s one old friend I want to stop in on—at a witchcraft shop on Essex Street. Want to come?”
“Sightseeing and shopping,” she said drily. “Sure.”
“I’ll meet you there in thirty minutes. I’ll text you the address.”
“Sam! Sam Hall! I’d heard you were here!”
The words were spoken by a dark-haired young woman standing behind the counter of A Little Bit of Magic. Her pretty features were lit up, and she came walking around the sales station and threw her arms around Sam’s neck and gave him a fierce hug. She pulled away quickly and gave Jenna an apologetic look. “I’m sorry. I haven’t seen this boy in a long, long time! Not since the funeral.”
“I haven’t been back since the funeral, Cecilia,” Sam said. “Do you remember Jenna Duffy? She’s Jamie’s niece. I think you two tortured my parents together years ago.”
“Oh! Oh, of course! Jenna—I didn’t recognize you at first. How could I have missed that red hair? I didn’t mean that rudely—it’s beautiful hair. Jenna, how are you?” Cecilia asked, overly emphatically.
“I’m good, thank you, and honestly, Cecilia, I didn’t recognize you at first, either,” Jenna told her. Sam had said they were going to stop in on an old friend. She hadn’t realized that it was a mutual acquaintance. Cecilia Sanderson. She was a year or two older than Jenna, but Salem hadn’t been a big place, and when they were young, she’d lived close to Jamie—and to Sam Hall’s parents’ home. Naturally, the two girls had been thrown together on those occasions when Jenna visited.
Cecilia grinned. “Well, I have changed a great deal. My real hair color is mousy-brown—for some reason, if you run a Wiccan shop, you’re more alluring with very dark hair. And black clothing, of course.”
“Cecilia is a Wiccan now,” Sam explained.
Cecilia elbowed him. “Sam doesn’t believe in anything. We’re a recognized religion.”
“Hey, I just question what you really believe!” Sam said, not offended.
Cecilia waved a hand in the air. “This is really still a small town,” she said. “People talk, and judge. Most of the time, our ‘traditionalists’ are pretty tolerant and grateful that people love coming up here just for the Wiccan shops and curios, and so on and so on. People are more tolerant when there’s money to be had.”
“And,” Sam said, leaning casually on the counter, “you know as well as I do that half the people who come here to open up shop are playing at being Wiccan.”
“Better Wiccan than fanatical!” Cecilia said. “I believe in cause no harm to others. Some fundamentalists of other religions believe in killing in the name of God, Sam.”
He smiled. “I’m not judging you, Cecilia. I promise. I know you’re a good person.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah!” she said and laughed. “How do you like the shop?”
“It’s really beautiful, so well decorated and laid out,” Jenna told her. She was sincere. The windows were decorated for fall, with shimmering silk flowers and leaves, and mannequins wearing fine velvet Wiccan capes and beautiful silver jewelry. Handsome signs done in curving but legible calligraphy pointed out that herbs and jewelry were in the front, curios and books in the center section and clothing to the rear.
Cecilia smiled. “I always wanted my own shop! Well, it’s almost my own. Do you remember Ivy Summers?” she asked.
“Could I forget?” Sam asked, and rolled his eyes. “She broke my Nintendo!”
Jenna laughed. “I remember Ivy, yes.”
“We actually own the shop together. Ivy is at home, working the computer sales, which are fantastic. We’re really pleased.”
“That’s great,” Sam told her.
“Ah, well, not as great as being an attorney who shows up on the front page of the Huffington Post, CNN—you name it! And now, so I hear, you’re defending the Smith boy!” she said, her voice curious and excited. “Give! Is it true? Sam, that whole family was whacked-out crazy, you know.”
“Cecilia! Would you be judging others?” he asked.
She shrugged. “No. Yes. Well, you have to judge them. Wiccan, Judeo-Christian, whatever! The whole rest of the town thought they were all crazy.”
“But there are people who think you’re crazy,” Sam reminded her. “Sorry, I don’t mean you. I mean all Wiccans.” He smiled broadly.
She waved a hand in the air. “Hey, yeah, well, people are people, and we don’t all get along. But that’s different.”
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend!”
“You are exasperating!” Cecilia said. She looked at Jenna. “So…are you two dating now or something?”
“No…” Jenna said, startled and looking at Sam.
“Malachi Smith was Jamie’s patient at one time,” Sam explained. “She’s helping me, because her uncle believes in Malachi’s innocence.”
Cecilia seemed puzzled. “But—it’s all cut-and-dried, isn’t it? Aren’t you going to pursue an insanity plea or whatever?”
“I can’t really talk about that,” Sam said, shifting gears. “So, you give! Any great grudges dominating the town talk these days? Any shopkeepers stolen the customers of another? What’s the rumor mill like? Any idea how the local pot and meth trade are doing?”
Cecilia looked at them both incredulously. “Wait, you think that the Smith family was murdered over drugs?”
“Probably not,” Sam said. “But, hey, I thought I’d throw some stuff out there, since you talk to everyone, figured you’d know about town dynamics. Like, was Abraham Smith fighting with anybody?”
Cecilia laughed. “Anybody? How about everybody? No one liked him much, but no one bothered with him much. His wife never left the house.” She frowned. “Oh, there was a fellow—a councilman—who had wanted to buy the property. I think someone else wanted to buy it, too. Wiccan gossip at the bars late at night…” she explained. “I’m sorry, don’t know if it’s true or not, but—oh, there was something in the local paper about the councilman vying for the place.”
“Councilman Yates?” Sam asked.
“Um, yes, I think so,” Cecilia said. “And someone else…a magician, a medium, someone like that—oh, yes! Samantha Yeager.”
“Two interested parties—for a house with that reputation?” Jenna asked, trying to refocus Cecilia’s energetic talking.
“Well, of course! What a tourist attraction—the only reason that they talk about it in the paper like that,” Cecilia said.