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The voices from above were getting nearer. Cassie couldn't move; a gray blanket seemed to have enfolded her senses. Chris was pulling at her arm.
"C'mon, Cassie! They're comin'!"
Faintly, Cassie heard from above: "If you'll line up in single file, we'll be going down a narrow stairway . . ."
Chris was pulling Cassie off the narrow stairway. "Hey, Doug, give me a hand here!"
Cassie made a supreme effort. "We have to go home," she said urgently to Chris. She drew herself up and tried to speak with authority. "I have to go back and tell Diana—something—right now."
The brothers looked at each other, perplexed but dimly impressed.
"Okay," Chris said, and Cassie sagged, the grayness washing over her again.
With Doug pulling in front and Chris trying to prop her up from behind, they led her rapidly through the dark, winding corridors of the dungeon. They seemed as comfortable in the darkness as rats, and they guided her unerringly through the passageways until a neon sign announced exit.
On the drive north, the pumpkins thumped and rolled in the back seat like a load of severed heads. Cassie kept her eyes shut and tried to breathe normally. The one thing she knew was that she couldn't tell the Henderson brothers what she was thinking. If they found out what she suspected about Kori, anything might happen.
"Just drop me off at Diana's," she said when they finally returned to Crowhaven Road. "No—you don't have to go in with me. Thanks."
"Okay," Chris said, and they let her off. Then he stuck his head back out the window. "Uh, hey—thanks for getting that mutt off me," he said.
"Sure," Cassie said light-headedly. "Any time." As they rolled away she realized they had never even asked her why she needed to talk to Diana. Maybe they were so used to doing inexplicable things themselves that they didn't wonder when other people did.
Mr. Meade answered the door, and Cassie realized that it must be late if he was home from the office. He called up to Diana as Cassie climbed the stairs.
"Cassie!" Diana said, jumping up as she saw Cassie's face. "What's the matter?"
Adam was sitting on the bed; he rose too, looking alarmed.
"I know it's late—I'm sorry—but we have to talk. I was in the Witch Dungeon—"
"You were where? Here, take this; your hands are like ice. Now start over again, slowly," Diana said, sitting her down and wrapping her in a sweater.
Slowly, stumbling sometimes, Cassie told them the story: how Chris and Doug had picked her up and taken her to Salem. She left out the part about the pumpkin patch, but told how they'd gone to the Witch Dungeon, and how, listening to the lecture, she had suddenly seen the connection. Pressing to death—rockslides; hanging—broken necks.
"But what does it mean?" Diana said when she'd finished.
"I don't know, exactly," Cassie admitted. "But it looks like there's some connection between the three deaths and the way Puritans used to punish people."
"The dark energy is the connection," Adam said quietly. "That skull was used by the original coven, which lived in the time of the witch trials."
"But that wouldn't account for Kori," Diana protested. "We didn't activate the skull until after Kori was dead."
Adam was pale. "No. But I found the skull the day before Kori died. I took it out of the sand . . ." His eyes met Cassie's, and she had a terrible feeling of dismay.
"Sand. To Hold Evil Harmless,'" she whispered. She looked at Diana. "That's in your Book of Shadows. Burying an object in sand or earth to hold the evil in it harmless. Just like—" She stopped abruptly and bit her tongue. God, she'd almost said, "Just like you buried the skull on the beach to keep it safe."
"Just like I found it," Adam finished for her. "Yes. And you think that when I took it out, that alone activated it. But that would mean the skull would have to be so strong, so powerful . . ." His voice trailed off. Cassie could see he was trying to fight the idea; he didn't want to believe it. "I did feel something when I pulled it out of that hole," he added quietly. "I felt dizzy, strange. That could have been from dark energy escaping." He looked at Cassie. "So you think that energy came to New Salem and killed Kori."
"I—don't know what to think," Cassie said wretchedly. "I don't know why it would. But it can't be coincidence that every single time we interact with the skull, somebody dies afterward, in a way that the Puritans used to kill witches."
"But don't you see," Diana said excitedly, "it isn't every time. Nobody used the skull right before Jeffrey died. It was absolutely safe—" She hesitated and then went on quickly. "Well, of course I can tell you two—it was safe out on the beach. It's still buried there now. I've been checking it every few days. So there isn't a one-to-one correspondence."
Cassie was speechless. Her first impulse was to blurt out, "Somebody did too use the skull!" But that would be insane. She could never tell Diana that—and now she was utterly at a loss. A shaking was starting deep inside her. Oh, God, there was a one-to-one correspondence.
It was like that slogan, Use a gun; go to jail. Use the skull; kill somebody. And she, Cassie, was responsible for the last time the skull had been used. She was responsible for killing Jeffrey.
Then she got another terrible jolt. She found Adam's keen blue-gray eyes fixed on her. "I know what you're thinking," he said.
Cassie swallowed, frozen.The Secret Circle: The Captive Part II and The Power. Copyright © by L. J. Smith. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Excerpted from The Captive Part II and the Power by L. J. Smith
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