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The Power (Chapter Thirteen)

"It's the Moon of Long Nights," Diana said. "And it's not just full on the ninth. There's an eclipse."

"A total lunar eclipse," said Melanie.

"Is that bad for us?" Cassie asked.

Diana considered. "Well, all witches' powers are strongest in moonlight. And certain spells are best done at the dark of the moon, or at the full moon, or at some other phase. I'm sure that if Black John is going to move on that particular night, an eclipse must be best for whatever he's going to do. And worst for us fighting him."

"Except," Adam said, "if we know he's" going to move – and he doesn't know we know it. He won't realize we're prepared."

There were thoughtful nods around the Circle. It was the day after Thanksgiving and everyone who had come to rescue Cassie the day before was gathered at Adam's house. Cassie had told them what had happened in the clearing before they came – except about Jordan asking for the Master Tools. This she'd whispered to Adam and Diana in front of Diana's house last night. Now she looked at the two of them with a question in her eyes.

Adam and Diana both regarded the group unhappily. "Right," Adam said. "I guess we'd better tell them. Since he knows, it doesn't really matter, does it?"

"Faye must have found out somehow," Diana said, looking more unhappy than ever. "She went to Black John – "

"No," Cassie said.

Diana looked at her, surprised. "But – "

"Not Faye," Cassie said, grimly and with absolute certainty. "Sean."

Adam cursed softly. Diana stared at him, then at Cassie. Then she whispered, "Oh, my God."

"What about Sean? What did he do?" Deborah demanded. Nick was very alert, his narrow eyes fixed on Cassie.

After a glance at Diana – who nodded and leaned her head on one hand – Cassie said simply to Deborah, "He told Black John that Adam and Diana and I had found the Master Tools."

"You found – you mean you guys – you mean you really – ?" Deborah was sputtering. The others looked speechless with amazement.

"Cassie led us to them," Adam said. "They were in the fireplace at Number Twelve. On the way back we ran into Sean, who said he'd seen a light. But you think … ?" He looked at Cassie.

Cassie took a deep breath. "I think Black John has been influencing him all along. I think he was the one who stole the hematite from my room. I figured it out last night, when I was trying to get to sleep. I started thinking about who could have told Black John – and I kept getting this flash of Sean the first time I saw him. He was wearing a belt with his name carved on some shiny stone. I used to see him wear it all the time, but now that it's cold and everybody's wearing sweaters, I haven't noticed it. But I'll bet he's been wearing it underneath, and I'll bet he was wearing it that night he came out in his pajama top. And I'll bet that shiny stone is – "

"Hematite," half a dozen bleak voices chorused, and everyone looked at Melanie.

"Hematite or lodestone," Melanie confirmed. "Yes, it is; I've seen that belt too. How incredibly stupid of us. It never even occurred to me."

Nick leaned forward. "So you think Faye wasn't the one who told Black John we were wearing amethysts as protection? You think Sean did that?"

Cassie looked at the hard line of his mouth. "It wasn't his fault, Nick. If Black John got into his mind – well, I know how I felt when he was trying to get into my mind. Sean wouldn't have been able to resist. In fact, we saw that he couldn't resist, at the assembly when he volunteered to be a hall monitor. I had to yell at him to break the trance."

"Sean . . . God!" Laurel said, settling back. "It's just too awful."

"I'm afraid it's worse," Cassie said. She stared down at Mrs. Franklin's coffee table, pressing one hand flat against it. She didn't know how to say this next. "You guys, I think … I think Black John used Sean to commit the murders."

There was a deafening silence. Even Diana looked too horrified to support Cassie. But Adam looked into her eyes and then slowly, shutting his own eyes, nodded.

"Yes," he said.

"Oh, no," said Suzan.

"I think" – Cassie swallowed – "that he could have written a note to Kori the night before, asking her to meet him in front of school. She wouldn't have suspected him; she'd have just thought it was Circle business. He could have come up behind her, and – "

"I'll kill him!" Doug shouted, jumping up. Nick and Deborah grabbed him, but by then Chris was shouting too, lunging for the door. Adam and Melanie wrestled him to the ground.

"It wasn't him; it wasn't Sean," Cassie shouted. "Listen to me, you guys! It was Black John; he's the one who killed Kori. If I'm right, Sean probably doesn't even remember it! He was just a – a container for the dark energy to use."

"God," Laurel said. "God – remember the skull ceremony in Diana's garage? The time the second bunch of dark energy was released? Sean and Faye started fighting, the candle went out, and the dark energy escaped. Sean said Faye started it, and we all believed him. But Faye said Sean was trying to break the circle. What if she was right?"

"I'll bet she was right," Cassie said. "Black John's been with us all the time. Whatever Sean saw, he saw. And when enough dark energy was released from the skull – which Black John arranged to happen whenever he could – then it worked with Sean to commit the murders."

"It would have been easy to get Mr. Fogle over to Devil's Cove, too," Suzan said. "Sean could have pretended he had something bad to tell about somebody else in the Club. I used to do that all the time; tell the principal things about – " She glanced at Diana. "Well – that was in the old days. Anyway, Sean could have asked Fogle to meet him under the rocks and then – foom." She made a pushing gesture. "Good-bye, Mr. Fogle."

"Can we let you up now?" Adam asked Chris, and "Can we trust you to act sensible?" Deborah asked Doug.

There were incoherent snarls from the Henderson brothers, and when they were released they sat up with flushed faces and blue-green eyes as bright as gas flames.

"We're gonna get that bastard," Doug said quietly.

"If it's the last thing we do," said Chris, equally quiet. Cassie hoped they meant Black John.

"But what about Jeffrey?" Diana asked Cassie.

Cassie shrugged. "I don't know how Sean could have gotten him down to the boiler room – "

"By saying you were down there, maybe," Laurel said.

" – but if he did, he could have just come up behind him and strangled him with the rope –  no, Sean's too short. Oh, I don't know how he could have done it – "

"By getting Lovejoy to sit down or lean over," Nick said, his voice crisp and low. "That's what I'd have done, anyway, if I were trying to strangle somebody that much taller. And look, if Sean had that dark energy inside him somehow, he could have had outrageous strength. He must have had, to be able to put the noose around Lovejoy's neck and haul him up over that pipe afterward."

Cassie felt sick. "It's true – I didn't see either Sean or Jeffrey at the dance for a while before the murder. Then all of a sudden Sean appeared on the dance floor, coming toward me. So I ran to the boiler room … and found Jeffrey."

"I think we need to talk to Sean," said Diana.

"No," Adam said, with surprising vehemence. "That's just what we shouldn't do. If we talk to him now, Black John will realize we know. But if we don't say anything, if we play along with Sean and pretend we don't know, we can feed him disinformation. Tell him things that aren't true, for him to pass along to Black John."

"Like tell him we don't know when Black John is going to move," Deborah said, her dark eyes beginning to snap. "Tell him we're terrified of Black John – we don't know how to use the Master Tools – we're unprepared . . ."

"Or that we're all fighting among ourselves," suggested Laurel. "We can't agree on anything. We're deadlocked."

"Right! And then that night we'll actually be ready for him. When's the eclipse, Melanie?" Adam said.

"Around six forty in the evening. That's what I'd say we have to look out for. The moon in shadow."

"The moon in shadow," Cassie repeated softly. "I think I can understand why he would choose that time." He's a shadow himself, she thought.

"And until then all we have to do is pretend to be completely disorganized, terrified, and argumentative," said Melanie.

"Shouldn't be too hard," Suzan said, raising an eyebrow.

"There's somebody I think we should talk to," Cassie said, "without giving away any of our secrets. I think one of us should talk to Faye."

"And I think you're elected," Nick said. "I can't think of anybody better for the job." He winked at Cassie, but it was a grim wink.

"We need you."

"I'm sure," Faye said lazily, examining herself in the mirror. She was trying her hair in different ways: twisted back, on top of her head, at the nape of her neck. Cassie hadn't been in Faye's bedroom since the night Faye had set a ring of red stones around the crystal skull and released the dark energy that had eventually killed Jeffrey. The room was as opulent and luxurious as ever: the wallpaper patterned with lush jungle orchids, the bed piled with cushions, the stereo system packed with expensive extras. Faye's vampire kittens once again twined sinuously around Cassie's ankles.

But there was a different atmosphere here than before. The red candles were gone from the dresser tops; in their place were stacks of paperwork. On the bedspread along with the cordless phone was a beeper. An appointment book was sitting in front of the mirror, and the clothes strewn carelessly about were of the sultry office-girl kind Faye had taken to wearing.

The room felt – pressured. Type-A lifestyle. More like Portia than Faye.

"I suppose you know that Portia Bainbridge and Sally had me kidnapped two days ago," Cassie said.

Faye shot her an amused glance in the mirror. "And I'm sure you know you only had to open your pretty little mouth and yell, and Daddy would have been right there to help."

Cassie tried not to look as sick as that made her feel. "I don't want his help," she said, swallowing.

Faye shrugged. "Maybe later."

"No, Faye. Not later. I don't ever want to see him again. But if you know about me being kidnapped, you must know what they were after. We've found the Master Tools." Cassie looked at the strange opposite-Faye image in the mirror, and then turned to look the real Faye in the eyes. "They belong to you," she said distinctly. "You're leader of the coven. But the coven is going to fight… Black John."

"You can't even say it, can you? It's not so hard. Daddy. Father. Pops. Whatever you want to call him, I'm sure he won't mind – "

"Will you listen to me, Faye!" Cassie almost shouted. "You're sitting here being fatuous – "

"And she knows big words, too!"

" – while something serious is going on! Something deadly serious. He is going to kill people. That's all he is, Faye, hatred and the desire to kill. I know it; I can feel it in him. And he's taking you for a ride."

Faye's golden eyes narrowed. She looked less amused.

"I've known you for a while now, Faye, and there've been plenty of times when I've hated you. But I never thought I'd see you become somebody's stenographer. You used to make up your own mind about things and you didn't kiss up to anybody. Do you remember how you once asked me if I wanted my epitaph to be 'Here lies Cassie. She was . . . nice'? Well, do you want yours to be 'Here lies Faye. She was a good secretary'?"

One of Faye's hands, with its long fingernails – mauve these days, instead of scarlet – was clenched on the dresser. Her jaw was set, and she was staring hard into her own golden eyes in the mirror.

Cassie's pulse quickened. "When I looked at you I used to see a lion – a sort of black and gold lion. Now I see" – she glanced down at her feet – "a kitten. Some rich guy's kitten."

She waited tensely. Maybe … just maybe . . . Maybe the bond forged during the candle ceremony would be strong enough, maybe Faye had enough pride, enough independence . . .

Faye's eyes met hers in the mirror. Then Faye shook her head. Her face was closed, her mouth tight.

"I think you know the way out," she said.

The kittens tangled around Cassie's feet as she turned, and she felt the razor-sharp nick of claws.

No, she told them with her mind, and she felt the kittens freeze, ears back. She picked them up, one in each hand, and tossed them onto Faye's bed.

Then she left.

"We have to give her until the ninth," Diana said. "Maybe she'll change her mind."

"'Maybe later,'" Cassie quoted, but there wasn't much hope in her voice.

"We'll wait until the ninth for Sean, too," Adam said.

They made it through the next seven school days without trouble – except among themselves.

At New Salem High, the members of the Club only spoke to each other in public to argue. Laurel's birthday on the first and Sean's birthday on the third of December went uncelebrated, because, according to a distraught Diana, none of them could get along long enough to plan a party. Cassie saw the looks and heard the whispers and knew that the plan was working. She concentrated on being as much like the old Cassie as possible – shy, tongue-tied, easily frightened or embarrassed. The role was uncomfortable, like some old skin she'd out-grown, and she itched to get rid of it. But for the time they were fooling Sean. They were even fooling Faye.

"I hear you and Nick have broken up," Faye said in the hall one day. The hooded golden eyes were warm and pleased.

Cassie flushed, looking away.

"And the Club isn't much of a club without me, from what I see these days," Faye went on, practically purring.

Cassie squirmed.

"I may join you sometime – maybe for the next full-moon celebration. If you're having one, that is."

Cassie shrugged.

Faye looked smug. "We could have a wicked time," she said. "Think about it."

As Faye walked away Cassie saw Sally Walt-man at her post as hall monitor. She edged up as inconspicuously as possible.

"We're ready for the ninth, like you told us," Cassie said softly. "But can you do one more thing for us?"

Sally looked uneasy. "He's got everybody watching everybody. Nobody's safe – "

"I know, but when the ninth comes, will you tell us if he does anything unusual? If it looks like he's moving? Please, Sally. Everything I told you about him is true."

"All right," Sally said, casting a hunted glance around. "Now just go, will you? I'll try to get a message to you if I hear anything."

Cassie nodded and hurried away.

The ninth dawned gray and windy, the sort of day that normally made Cassie want to curl up in front of a fire. Instead, she put on extra-warm clothes: a thick sweater, gloves, a parka. She had no idea what they might be facing today, but she wanted to be dressed for action. In her backpack, along with her school notebooks, she put her Book of Shadows.

She was walking out of French class when Sally intercepted her.

"Come with me, please," the rusty-haired girl said in crisp hall-monitor accents, and Cassie followed her into the empty nurse's office next door. Sally immediately dropped the officious tone.

"If I get caught with you, it's all over," she said rapidly in a harsh whisper, her eyes on the frosted-glass window in the door. "But here it is: I just overheard Brunswick talking with your friend Faye. Maybe you'll understand what it was about, because I sure don't. They were discussing something about arranging an accident on the bridge – it sounded like they were taking an empty school bus over there, and a car, or maybe it was a couple of cars. He said They only have to burn for an hour or so; by then the water will have risen far enough.' Does that mean anything to you?"

"An accident would block the bridge to the mainland," Cassie said slowly.

"Sure, but why?" Sally asked impatiently.

"I don't know. I'm going to find out. Sally, if I need to see you again, will you be in the cafeteria at lunch?"

"Yes, but you can't talk to me there. Portia's been looking at me strangely ever since that night in the clearing – I think she's suspicious. Her brothers went away mad, and she didn't believe a word you said about Brunswick. If she catches me with you, I'm dead."

"You may be dead if I don't talk with you," Cassie said. "Go on, get out of here, I'll leave in a minute."

Cassie reached the old science building at a run. Waiting on the second floor was the rest of the Club – minus Faye and Sean, who hadn't been informed of the meeting. The plan had been to nab Sean right after lunch, even if they hadn't learned anything about Black John's plans by then.

"But we do know something," Cassie said breathlessly, sitting down on a crate. "Listen." She told them what Sally had said.

"Well, that explains it," Deborah put in when Cassie finished. "I just saw him and Faye walk out of the building, and the secretary said they'd be gone all afternoon. So they're going out to wreck a school bus. Cool."

"But why?" Cassie said. "I mean, it looks like he wants to block the bridge, but what's the point?"

It was Adam who answered. He'd been sitting by Doug, with one of the earphones from Doug's Walkman pressed to his ear.

"The point," he said, "is to keep everybody on the island. There's just been an update on the news – anybody remember that hurricane they were talking about the last couple days? The one that they were afraid was going to hit Florida, but then it turned north while it was still out in the Atlantic?"

There was head-shaking around the group –  most of them hadn't been too interested in the news lately – but Melanie said, "I thought they downgraded that to a tropical storm."

"Yeah, they figured it was just going to dissipate out in the ocean. Look, I know a little about hurricanes. This one isn't supposed to be a threat, because they're assuming it's going to turn northeast at Cape Hatteras. That's what hurricanes usually do when they hit the low-pressure trough around there. But we all know what happens when they don't." He looked around the group grimly, and this time there were nods from everyone but Cassie.

"When they don't turn at Cape Hatteras, they come barreling straight up here," Adam said to her, then. "Like the one in 1938, and the one a few years ago … and the one in 1976."

The silence was absolute. Cassie glanced from side to side at the faces in the dim room.

"God," she whispered, feeling dizzy.

"Yes," said Adam. "Winds a hundred and fifty miles an hour, and walls of water, forty feet high. Now, they're still saying this storm is going to turn – they just mentioned on the radio that it's supposed to stay well off the Atlantic seaboard. But" – he looked around again, deliberately –  "anybody want to take bets?"

Laurel jumped up. "We've got to stop Black John. If that bridge is blocked, everybody on the island is in danger."

"Too late," Deborah said briefly. "He's already gone. Remember? I saw him leave ten minutes ago."

"And everybody's not just in danger, everybody's dead," Melanie said. "That storm a couple years ago just nicked New Salem, but this one could wipe us out."

Cassie looked at Adam. "How fast is it coming?"

"I don't know. Could be fifty miles an hour, could be seventy. If it doesn't turn at Cape Hatteras, they'll issue a hurricane warning – but it'll be too late by then, especially if the bridge is blocked. It could get to us in maybe seven, eight hours. More or less."

"Around the time of the eclipse?" Cassie asked.

"Maybe. Maybe a little later."

"But before it hits us, it'll hit Cape Cod and Boston," Diana whispered. "It will kill people there." She looked stunned and dazed at the idea.

"Then there's only one thing to do," Cassie said. "We've got to stop it before it hits land at all. We've got to make it dissipate, or turn back out to the ocean, or whatever. Or we've got to make him do it. And before that we've got to warn people on our own – tell them to do whatever you do in a hurricane – "

"Evacuate," Adam said dryly, "which may not be possible, even in boats. Listen to that wind." He paused and Cassie heard not only the wind but a pattering on the boarded-up windows. Rain.

"If they can't get out, they'll have to dig in," Chris said. "Anybody up for a hurricane party?"

"It's not funny," Nick said sharply, and Cassie said, "All right, then – tell people to do that. Do whatever they can. And we'd better get back to Crowhaven Road – "

"With Sean," Adam cut in swiftly. "I'll get him and meet everybody at my house. Let's do it, people."

They left their uneaten lunches – except Suzan, who snagged hers and ran after the others – and headed for the school.

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