STONEHENGE | WILTSHIRE
“Right then, Marilyn. I can call you Marilyn, can’t I?” John asks, frowning like my name is stuck on the end of his tongue.
No way are you getting a “Maz” invite, Mister!
A grin spreads across his clean-shaven face as he taps his boot on the frozen grass, almost like he just heard what I thought.
I ignore him and spin around to stare at the spot a minute ago led back into the London Antiquarian — to the concerned faces of Tom and Jane.
Did I do the right thing, coming here with John Munro — the scruffy looking man who yesterday threatened us all with a shotgun? We came just to “poke around the site,” as he said. Well, Logan is still unconscious… and I did need some fresh air. And after cleaning himself up, John Munro seems a hell of a lot friendlier than either of the Trackers. With his leather jacket and cleaned-up look, he looks just like James Dean from my bedroom poster. My stomach drops as memories of Steve trying so hard to copy the pose from the poster spreads guilt like wildfire through my mind. Did I only come here with John because he looks like James Dean?
I take a deep breath and turn my attention to the stone monument in the distance — Stonehenge, the real reason I’m here. I’ve seen it on TV and in books, but even from way back here on the path, I can tell it’s much more huge than I ever thought… In fact, it’s freakin’ massive. I watch a tour guide lead a crowd of people in bright hats and scarves around the path. They look like tiny Q-tips against the imposing stones.
John suddenly clicks his fingers and points at me, snapping my attention away from the monument. “I’ve got it… I’ll call you Blondeshell.”
“Blondeshell?” I ask, although deep down, I already know the answer.
The grin fades fast from John’s face, replaced with a sorrowful frown. “Sweet Norma Jean,” he says, his voice almost a whisper. There’s an accent ripping through his quiet voice — Scottish. An accent I hadn’t noticed before. A brief memory of Dad in fits of tears, laughing at his favorite comedian, Billy Connolly, flashes through my mind. A long-lost memory — a warm and welcome long-lost memory.
John’s eyes open wide. He smiles in an attempt to cover up his moment of weakness — maybe.
“You look so much like her, you know,” he says, his voice still quiet. He stares at me, his eyes suddenly full of a mixture of sadness and protectiveness — a strangely fatherly look. It fills me with a bizarre mix of annoyance and nostalgia; I don’t want to be seen as a child by freakin’ James Dean… but what I wouldn’t give for a father to actually care about me again.
“You don’t say.” I change my tone, eager to hide how I’m feeling.
He rubs his chin, then clicks his fingers again, grinning. “Wild guess… was it your mother? Was she the fan?” He nods his head, like he’s having an internal conversation. “And that’s why she named you after Marilyn Monroe.”
Is it that obvious? I’ve tried so hard to move away from it — from that life. I should dye my hair. “Yeah, not ‘so wild’ a guess!” I say, twirling my gloved finger forcefully through my hair. “And she put me in every freakin’ beauty pageant going, too!”
“Shit…” John drags out the curse, still grinning.
I nod, unable stop joining in with his grin. “I was up for everything. Little Miss Canada, Little Miss Nova Scotia… Little Miss Freakin’ Everything.”
John grins again. “Blondeshell it is then.”
I’m beginning to think a freakin’ grin is his normal expression. “So what nicknames do you have for our two Tracker friends back at the bookstore?”
“None!” Pausing, he narrows his eyes. “You know what they do, right? They track down people like us — Enchanters. Innocent or guilty, they don’t give a damn.” He shakes his head. “I only give nicknames to people I like.”
“Wow! I feel so honored,” I say, unable to hide the sarcasm in my voice.
John winks. “You should be, Blondeshell. And you should take it as an honor to be named after Marilyn Monroe. She was one of the most caring people I knew…” He pauses, lost in a thought. “She was one of us, too.”
“Marilyn Monroe was an Enchanter?”
John nods, smiling. “And one of the best friends I had.” He narrows his eyes. “She had this gift. People trusted her. She knew secrets… big secrets. Secrets that…” His voice trails off, and his pained expression tells me not to ask questions.
Marilyn Monroe was an Enchanter. I guess we’re more alike than I thought.
We walk along the path towards the massive monument and the tourists. John reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a… Polaroid camera. The leather pocket stretches well beyond its limits to allow the camera out. I look from the pocket to John, unable to hide the shock on my face.
John shrugs and smiles. “Magic pockets.” He brings his finger to his lips. “But don’t tell the Trackers… and keep quiet about Marilyn too. Not a lot of people know she was one of us.”
“More freakin’ secrets!” Crap! I didn’t mean to say that out loud. “Sorry, just everyone keeps dumping their problems and secrets on me.” Logan’s innocent face drifts into my mind. I’m so glad he didn’t hear me say that. My stomach drops at how much of a bitch I sounded like just now.
“Don’t take it as a curse, Blondeshell,” John says, his voice soothing. “I guess you’re more like Marilyn Monroe than you realize. People must trust you for a reason… Me included.” He pats his “magic pocket” and winks.
I turn my wrist over and pull off my glove. Maybe this trust goes both ways. “Do you know anything about these things?” I ask, showing John the red thumbprint on my skin.
“Jesus Christ!” John’s eyes open wide as he grabs my arm. “A Catena, a blood promise… Who the hell gave you that?” He holds up his hands. “Crap! Don’t tell me.”
I slide my glove back on. “What happens if I break the promise?”
There’s no grin on John’s face now, just a deep frown of concern. “Put simply, you die if you break a blood promise — sometimes even if you just think about breaking it.” He rubs his hand through his hair. “A few days in this life and you’ve already been tagged with a Catena.” He grins again, another attempt to cover up his true feelings — or maybe an attempt to make me feel better. “You definitely jumped in at the deep end.” His eyes drift back to my wrist. “Just ignore it, Blondeshell. Don’t even think about it.” He shudders. “They only last a few weeks.”
“Easier said than done,” I say, pulling my coat sleeve down further.
“Just ignore it.” John brings the Polaroid camera to his eye and snaps a picture of me, grabbing the ejecting photo before I can get to it. “I need to test the camera; it’s not been used in twenty-five years.” He shakes his head and looks up into the gloomy sky.
“I’m surprised it still works,” I say, keeping my eyes fixed on the developing photo. Logan’s picture of Penny’s ghost flashes in my mind, followed by the photo of the door — the Polaroid that started this freakin’ journey.
John sighs. “Twenty-five years for me…” He taps his pocket. “A couple of days for the camera. Like I said, magic pockets.”
“Twenty-five years?” I ask.
He narrows his eyes. “Have you heard of the Archanter?”
“The prison under the Vatican,” I say, nodding my head.
John taps his chest. “That’s where I was.” Anger suddenly rages through his voice as his Scottish accent rips through his words again. “I caught the evilest Enchanter, a woman that murdered hundreds… the woman that murdered my family, and I caught her.” He turns away, pressing his lips together. “And what did I get for a reward? The same treatment Scarlett did. A prison cell.”
Scarlett. The woman stalking Logan… The woman he helped escape. I bite my lip. “I’m so sorry, John,” I say, wishing he’d grin again.
He pulls a folded piece of paper from his pocket — a letter. He snaps his finger on a list of names “Henry Church, my so-called friend, was the chair of the committee that sanctioned my imprisonment.” He shakes his head. “He’s a right… scunner!”
The last sentence was full on Scottish. I guess “scunner” must be some kind of Scottish curse. Not the best time to tell him we are technically working with Henry Church.
John takes a deep breath and slips the letter back in his pocket. “Sorry about that,” he says, a genuine grin returning to his face. “You should be a therapist. I said the same thing to Genie – to Marilyn. For some reason people open up to you — I open up to you.”
“Believe me, it’s not by choice,” I say.
“Don’t worry, Blondeshell,” he says, loosening his shoulder. “I think that was all the therapy I needed. I just need to let off a little —” He stops mid-sentence and runs to the perimeter fence protecting the stones. “Can you see it?” He asks, waving me over.
Stood between two of the giant stones is a white door. The same as the one in Hellgate Forest — the same as the one that Logan’s sister was dragged through.
The whir of the Polaroid snaps my mind back as John takes another photo. “A static Traverse.” He shakes his head. “Must be how they get into your Vault Six.” He looks left and right, then places his hand on the fence, ready to jump over.
I grab his arm as a security officer comes into view on the path behind him. I keep my eyes fixed on the guard as he walks towards us – as he walks right through the tourists like they aren’t there.
“Oh my god! Did you see that?”
The Polaroid whirs into life again as another photo ejects from the front. John gabs it and grins. “I sure did… Must be guarding the door.” He glances over his shoulder. “And probably using the same perception magic that hides a Traverse.” John suddenly tenses and turns away. “Don’t look at the door, or him.”
I turn my attention to the stones as John takes a photo of them.
“We don’t want him to know that we know,” he says, taking another photo. “Let’s just act like tourists.” He takes a sharp intake of breath. “Jesus Christ! Look at that!”
I quickly glance to the left. Three men in white lab coats push a gurney towards the white door.” I look away as the security guard inches closer to us on the path.
“They’re taking it through the door,” John whispers.
Keeping my eyes fixed on the stones instead on the door, I nudge him in the side as the security guard walks away from us. “I hope you’re taking—” The whir of the Polaroid camera interrupts me.
“Don’t worry, Blondeshell,” John says. “I’m on it… I’m so on it.”