Mage searched for clues of where her nemesis might be hiding, but each hunch she tried came up with nothing.
Until she tried thinking of where she, herself, would hide.
Mage called Henry and provided instructions to quietly take the kids out of town for the weekend.
“Tell no one.”
“Will you be home when we get back?”
“Possibly, but one way or another, it will be done. And, Henry, this time it is important that you turn off all the lights. If you do it one time in your life, it must be this time.”
“I mean, Henry, my life is in the balance.”
“What? It’s not like she sneaks in and turns them off…”
“If you left the lights on all the time, you’d never need to flip a switch when you entered a room, but I’m guessing you do that frequently.”
“Oh God, she’s been in our house.”
“Henry, you’re taking the kids away, and it’ll be over when you get back. But you must turn off the lights so I know she’s not in there when I go inside.”
Mage left her home before the sun started to set, the jewelry box tucked inside a heavy jacket cinched around her waist. The jacket was too bulky to be in season, but no one would be paying attention to her. The fallen leaves moved with the softest of breezes while she had to take a break from the pains in her back walking from the door of her apartment to the door of the driving service that would take her home.
Mage arrived as the sun was setting and entered the house. As the light faded, she had the confirmation she needed that Henry had kept his word. He had also left the front door locked as planned.
On top of that, she found the cordless phone was on the charger.
Mage walked to the back of the house, keeping her distance from the window, and observed the shed. Her evil twin’s hideout.
She waited until after midnight, when the last of her neighbors’ lights had been out for an hour.
The door of the shed slid open a bit, and a pair of eyes peeked out. She was checking to make sure Henry had turned off all the lights. Just as Mage would do, if that was her hiding place.
Mage contemplated turning on one of the lights, see if that might catch the nanny’s attention, draw her in, but that would be improvising. She didn’t want to do that. She needed to stick to the plan.
The door of the shed closed, and the creature was presumably getting ready for bed. She was vulnerable. This is when Mage needed to strike.
She slipped out to the shed. Reflexively, she went to unlock it, but there was no lock on the outside. Logical. The nanny had probably put one on the inside, though. At least, that’s what Mage would have done.
She knocked loud enough to be heard inside the shed but not loud enough to be heard by anyone other than the Gwenhwyfach.
There was no sound of stirring. No “Who’s there?”
Mage knew she had done the one thing she had failed to do since creating the impostor. She had finally taken her by surprise.
A light turned on inside and spilled out through the cracks. A lock rattled as it was released.
The door creaked open an inch.
Mage saw her own eyes staring back at her.
“I come in peace,” Mage said.
“Did you bring your gun?”
“I left it inside the house.”
From behind the door, the nanny revealed that she was holding one. The first one. The one she had bought instead of attending Olivia’s funeral.
Mage didn’t hide her fear.
“What are you going to do with that?”
“Protect myself, if it comes to that.”
There was an awkward moment as they sized each other up.
“What did you come here for, Mage?”
“I think we can make an arrangement.”
“I don’t like your arrangements.”
“I think you’ll like this one.”
“May I come in?”
The nanny didn’t answer with words, but she opened the door and leveled the weapon toward Mage and backed inside one careful step at a time.
Mage entered the shed and closed the door behind her.
“Lock it,” said the impostor.
Mage did as instructed. Before she turned around, she withdrew the jewelry box from within the folds of her jacket.
“What are you doing?”
“Getting out a peace offering.” She held out the box. “See, nothing special.”
“What is that?”
“Just a jewelry box. Well, not just a jewelry box. It was my… our mother’s,” she lied. She had purchased it for the fortune-teller to work his craft on.
“Give it to me.”
“You should know what’s inside first.”
She held it firm in her hand.
“A journal Mom kept. It’s from the time after Dad had abandoned us. I know you’ve been in touch with him.”
She placed it in the impostor’s hand, then added, “I can only imagine that he’s shared a rather rosy opinion of that period in our life.”
False Mage couldn’t decide which was more important: the box, or keeping the gun pointed on Mage.
“Go on, open it. Then I’ll tell you my offer.”
False Mage put the weapon down and unlatched the box. Without her lifting the lid, it sprung open, and a ghostly purple wisp flew out, spiraling around her.
The shed shook, and papers blew about in the ethereal winds from within the container.
Mage grew confident that she wasn’t going to be pulled in. Her impostor, however, had reached the conclusion that she was going to be trapped.
In one last act of desperation, she reached for the gun and fired close to Mage’s head. Blood ruptured from her eardrum. She screamed while she watched the purple winds retreat back into the box, dragging the impostor in as well.
Then the box slammed shut, and the shed filled with silence, interrupted by Mage’s cries of pain from her ear.
She pushed aside the pain and moved over to the box to examine the lid. The color of the petals on the flower showed unmistakable shades of violet.
Mage turned off the light and left the shed. Inside the house, she arranged for the driving service to take her back to her apartment.
While the events of that evening described in the journal had been plausible up until then, what she did next struck me as odd.
In the time she waited for her ride, she wrote Henry a letter. She had dealt with one problem, but she was still burdened by so many others.
Could she have been referring to the price she needed to pay for her use of dark magic?
She was going to disappear. Become someone else. And in no uncertain terms should anyone follow her.
I had known about the letter when Henry hired me. I had always expected there to be a confrontation between Mage and her creation, but her assertion that she needed to leave contradicted every entry in her journals.
She never wanted to leave or considered it as an option.
The penmanship was certainly similar, but the way the entry was written felt… less experienced. The ideas weren’t fully formed, and there were more crossed-out mistakes than normal. At first, I thought it was due to stress, but I began to suspect Mage was not the author of the entry.
In other words, I doubted not only the events documented in the entry for that journal. I was certain that it wasn’t the nanny trapped inside that floral-themed jewelry box.
I was going to have to break the news to Henry and hope that he was still good for the payment.