The Secret Circle: The Hunt Chapter 22

The Secret Circle: The Hunt Chapter 22

Later that night, after the mourners had gone home, the Circle convened in Diana’s living room. They sat motionless, leaning on one another, staring into space as if waiting for something none of them could name. They listened to the sound of the driving rain on the roof and the savage gusts of wind buffeting the bay window. Outside, the night sky had turned pink in the storm: Suzan’s favorite color.

Nobody knew what to say, and there was much not being said. Those unspoken words hung in the air like ghosts in their midst: that it could have been any one of them who’d been killed. That if Cassie hadn’t shown up, they’d all have witch-hunter death symbols glowing on their foreheads. It was a strange mind-set, to be both grieving for the death of their friend while also giving thanks that they’d been spared.

Faye sat hugging her knees to her chest on the end of the couch, separate from the others. Her eyes were blank and drooping with exhaustion. Cassie understood it would be a long time before Faye was acting like herself again, and even then, she might never be the same.

Diana took a deep breath and looked at the group. “One of our own is dead,” she said. “The Circle has been broken.” Her Book of Shadows was at her side. She picked it up and brought it into her lap. “I don’t want to talk about this any more than you do, but we have to find out what happens now that our Circle is incomplete.”

“It means we’re weak again,” Deborah said. “Like we were before we initiated Cassie, before we were whole.”

Melanie nodded. “This is the worst time for us to have an unbound Circle, with the combined threat of the hunters and Scarlett. I don’t mean to sound cold, but we need to initiate someone in Suzan’s place as soon as possible.”

Laurel’s eyes welled up with tears. Cassie couldn’t blame her. She could hardly stand to think about these technicalities either. She wanted to go home, take a hot bath, and bury her head in her mother’s shoulder. But she had to stand by her friends – she had to try to help in whatever way she could.

Cassie offered the Circle the only information she knew. “Scarlett said whoever dies in a bound Circle has to be replaced by someone of their own bloodline. Whoever’s next in their family lineage. So we’re not going to have much say in the matter of who fills Suzan’s place.”

“Right,” Adam said, responding to Cassie. “But Suzan had no siblings or other family that we know about. So what happens now?”

“Maybe it becomes a wild card,” Nick suggested. “And we get to choose whoever we want.”

“I wish that were the case, but I’d be shocked if it were that simple.” Diana flipped through her Book of Shadows, searching for something. Within a few seconds she found the page she was looking for.

“This is a family tree spell,” she said, holding the book up for all to see and then setting it back down on her lap. “It could help us fill in any blanks in Suzan’s ancestry.”

Adam read the spell over Diana’s shoulder. “It can definitely tell us who would be next in line. If there is anyone.”

“I’m pretty sure Suzan’s bloodline ended with her,” Deborah said. “She was the only child of two only children, wasn’t she?”

“We can’t be too sure.” Adam looked up from the book. “Suzan’s family was notoriously tight-lipped. Her father refused to talk about the past with her at all. I think checking her family tree is worth a try.”

Diana read over the detailed instructions. “It seems simple enough. All we need is some canvas paper and …” Her voice trailed off.

“What?” Sean asked, sounding like he sensed the worst.

“We need something of Suzan’s,” Diana said quietly. “Something containing DNA. Like her blood.”

The room fell silent. Awful visions of Suzan’s body buried tightly beneath the cold ground rushed through Cassie’s mind. “There’s no way,” she said. “Forget it.”

But Laurel quickly got up and ran into the other room. She returned carrying Suzan’s soft leather purse. “I brought this so we could perform a deep peace ritual tonight. As a memorial with some of her favorite things.”

Laurel opened the purse so they could all view its contents. It was a mishmash of makeup, bubble gum, and crumpled up Twinkie wrappers. Cassie felt a lump form in her throat. There was something sacrilegious about going through a deceased person’s personal items. The purse even smelled like Suzan.

“I don’t think you’re going to find any blood in there,” Cassie said. “At least I hope you don’t.”

“That’s not what I’m looking for.” Laurel lifted Suzan’s hairbrush out from the bottom of the purse. She pulled a few tangled strands of Suzan’s strawberry-blond hair out of its bristles. “There’s your DNA,” she said to Diana. “It’ll work the same as a blood sample.”

“Laurel, you’re a genius.” Diana bolted to her desk drawer to retrieve a canvas art pad. She flipped through the pad, past a number of charcoal drawings and acrylic paintings, until she found a blank page. She tore it out carefully and brought it back to the group. Then she continued reading from her Book of Shadows.

“We’ll still need ink,” Diana said. “But it has to come from something Suzan had direct contact with. Is there a pen inside her purse? If she used it recently it might still contain some of her energy.”

Laurel dug through the bag, but she couldn’t find a pen. “No luck,” she said. “But this might work.” She offered Diana a bottle of Suzan’s nail polish. It was the same color she’d painted her nails earlier that week – sparkle-flecked magenta.

Diana took the bottle from Laurel and uncapped it. “She definitely had contact with this.”

Cassie and the others gathered around Diana, forming a circle, as she prepared the spell. She placed the canvas flat on the floor and scattered Suzan’s hair on it, as her Book of Shadows instructed. Then she trickled a few drops of the nail polish on the center of the page and said:

Reveal to us Suzan’s family tree.

And who our new Circle member will be.

Immediately, pinkish purple lines soaked into the veins of the paper like blood. Up from the bottom of the page, a tree began to draw itself in watery magenta strokes. It was thick at its base and grew upward and out in long stalks, spreading across the entire canvas. Branches formed and then names attached to each branch.

“It’s working,” Diana said. “I don’t believe it.”

Cassie watched each generation of Suzan’s family grow from the tree like blossoming fruit. The first names to appear dated back three hundred years, which meant Suzan’s ancestors must have been among New Salem’s founding families. The tree grew fast through the decades and seemed to be picking up speed as it neared the present. By the time Suzan’s parents’ names appeared, almost every inch of paper had been inked over in fine print.

“Linda Forsythe,” Laurel said. “That was Suzan’s mother who passed away in the storm. We would have known her as Linda Whittier.”

“Forsythe?” Cassie said aloud, but nobody heard her. She hadn’t remembered until now that the surname Whittier came from Suzan’s father’s side. She hadn’t given any thought at all to Suzan’s mother’s bloodline.

“Forsythe?” Cassie said again. Her stomach twisted at the sight of it. “That was Suzan’s mother’s maiden name?”

But no one responded. Everyone was too focused on the next line being drawn to the tree.

Linda Forsythe’s name connected to her husband’s and then branched out to form Suzan’s name. But then another branch formed from Linda Forsythe’s name: Laura Forsythe.

“Who’s that?” Melanie asked.

“It looks like Suzan’s mother had a sibling we didn’t know about. A sister. Forsythe …” Diana said, turning to Cassie, her face pale. “Hold on. Isn’t that – “

The final name on the tree brought Diana to a deathly silence. It branched downward from Laura Forsythe’s name and glowed in bright magenta: Scarlett Forsythe.

“No,” Cassie said. But she watched in horror as one final deep red line connected Suzan’s name to Scarlett’s. “This can’t be right,” she said. “Suzan and Scarlett can’t be related.”

“Suzan and Scarlett were cousins?” Adam said.

“Does this mean what I think it means?” Laurel asked.

Cassie broke into a cold sweat. So that was the name of Scarlett’s mother. Laura Forsythe. The woman who’d sparred with Cassie’s own mother over Black John’s affections. She had run away from New Salem, Cassie knew that. Her mother said she’d disappeared, never to be heard from again. But here she was now, long after she’d died, appearing once more as a crucial element to both the past and the future.

“Suzan definitely had no idea she had an aunt,” Melanie said. “And Scarlett must not have known either. Or else she would have gone after Suzan the same way she went after Cassie for her spot in the Circle.”

Diana picked up the canvas and stared at Scarlett’s name. “And now she’s gotten it anyway. She’s our new member, whether we like it or not.”

“Unless we don’t initiate her,” Cassie said.