Book 1: Enter the Witch by jaztice | World Anvil Manuscripts | World Anvil

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Kodi Gonzaga

Table of Contents

Prologue Chapter 1

Horner Paranormal horner-paranormal-jaztice-archived-1676235043
Ongoing Words

Chapter 1

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“So, another classic haunting then?”

Danny nodded and continued scrolling on his laptop, typing something every few minutes. “Looks like it,” he said. “Won’t know for sure until we do some digging–”

“Probably won’t even need to dig very far,” Jake chimed in, tinkering with one of his machines.

“–but yes, probably. Hopefully. It shouldn’t be a difficult case.”

“What’s wrong with difficult cases?” Margot asked, smirking at the boys in her rearview mirror. “They’re the best kind.”

“You just want an excuse to swing that fire poker around,” Jake mumbled.

“Oh, as if you aren’t exactly the same with all your stupid ecto-gear.”

“It isn’t ecto-gear,” he snapped. “My gadgets have a wide variety of uses, thank you very much. Only some of them are used for ghosts, and not every ghost produces ectoplasm, which you know, and also, only two of them are weapons!”

“You counting the super soaker?” Danny asked.

“Of course I’m counting the super soaker.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” Margot rolled her eyes and focused back on the road. Dumb boys. “You build, I bash. Nothing wrong with me wanting more bash-heavy cases lately. All I’ve been doing is driving the van.”

“And that’s a very valuable job,” Danny replied. “Exit fourteen!”

“I know, I know!”

Margot turned off the highway, nearly running into a rusty pickup truck that honked angrily at her as she slid onto the exit ramp. Danny continued to rattle off directions until they finally arrived at their destination: Wolfden, Montana, a classic small town hidden in the tall pine forest. According to Danny’s emails, there was an old mansion just north of town that a new family had moved into, and soon after, there’d been a slew of paranormal activity. No deaths or serious injuries, thankfully, so if they were dealing with a poltergeist, it probably wasn’t too vengeful or anything. But still, a ghost making a ruckus usually meant the ghost was upset in some way, and as paranormal investigators, it was their responsibility to take care of it.

Plus, the couple had been willing to pay in full to get the place exorcised, and Margot and the boys really needed the money. If they didn’t fuel up soon, her van would be running on fumes, and thanks to all the fast food they’d been eating, one of them was also likely to contract scurvy.

The family was staying in the town’s small inn for the time being, so Margot drove the van there and parked outside before the three of them headed in. It was a nice little inn, with a dash of Victorian and just a hint of quaint, the concierge throwing them suspicious looks as Danny asked for them to call the family down. Margot and Jake waited in the lobby, shifting from foot to foot nervously, until Danny came to join them with his hands in his vest pockets. 

“What’re their names again?” Jake asked.

“Farmer,” Danny said. “Jill and Terrance Farmer. And they’ve got two kids.”

“Cool,” Margot said, crossing her arms. “Do I still need to be here? I should really start planning out our next few cases.”

“Yes, Margot, it’s good for people to see all three of us when first introduced.”

“Even if one of us won’t end up being as useful?” Jake asked, smirking. Margot stepped on his foot, irritated, to which Jake replied by kicking her away and sticking out his tongue.

“How many times have I saved your life again?” Margot asked. “Twenty? Twenty-five?”

“And what, I haven’t saved yours?”

“Not half as many times.”

“Oh, so we’re keeping count now?”

“How am I the youngest person here?” Danny asked, pointedly trying to ignore the pair of them. Jake would’ve replied, but then they heard the tromping of various feet descending the stairs, and both Margot and Jake shut their mouths for the sake of looking professional.

A younger couple appeared in the lobby, plain-looking and nervous, the husband in a polo shirt and khakis, the wife in a sundress. Their kids followed behind, a boy and girl–the boy was younger and wearing messy overalls and light-up sneakers, and the girl had her blond hair tied back in pigtails with red ribbons.

A classic, picture-perfect, horror-film American family, Margot thought. Right down to the sculpted hair and perfect teeth.

They felt… off to her, in a way she couldn’t quite put her finger on. But then they turned and caught sight of Danny, and the expression of relief on their faces forced her to drop the thought.

Not everyone had a screwed-up childhood like you did, Margot, she scolded herself. Stop being paranoid. 

“Mr. and Mrs. Farmer?” Danny asked, putting on a smile. Margot knew he hated it, but he really was the best at talking to people. And ghosts, and any sort of paranormal creature really, but for some reason people always tended to tire him out the most.

“Yes, that’s us,” said Mr. Farmer, walking forward with the girl clinging to his hand. “I assume you’re the, um–?”

“Horner Paranormal Private Investigators, yes,” Danny said, reaching out to shake his hand. Mr. Farmer obliged. “My name’s Danny, and these are my associates, Margot and Jake.” He gestured towards the pair behind him, and Margot flashed a sort of half smile as Jake gave a small wave. “We wanted to ask you some questions before we headed to the estate. Is there a place we could sit down?”

Mr. Farmer nodded and brought everyone to a small lobby area past the front desk with a fireplace and several overstuffed chairs and couches. Margot and Jake sat on the loveseat, allowing Danny to take the main armchair while the family piled onto the large couch. Then Jake took out his little moleskin notebook, and Danny began to ask questions.

“So,” he said. “You described the events in your email, but I’d just like to hear them again. What sort of strange things were you experiencing?”

“Well,” Mr. Farmer said slowly, “our first night there, there was no storm, no wind, but the lights would flicker on and off constantly. We thought it was old wiring at first, but the place had just been refurbished… and then, we kept hearing strange noises coming from the basement.”

“What sort of noises?” Danny asked.

“Moaning, howling, things rattling. I went to investigate, but I didn’t find anything. And the basement was cold, very cold.”

“Well, it’s want to do that, it is a basement,” Jake said. But he scribbled it into his notebook nonetheless. Always taking notes, Margot thought. Nerd.

“So was the attic,” added Mrs. Farmer, defensively. “And Jimmy’s bedroom.”

“And that corner of the music room,” said the little girl.

“Yes, all that,” Mr. Farmer said.

“Anything falling over without being touched?” Danny asked. “Faucets turning on and off? Clogged showers and toilets? Windows and doors moving of their own accord?”

“I, yes,” Mr. Farmer said, glancing at his wife. “A few days ago, one of the windows slammed shut so hard it shattered. That’s when, we um–”

“Emailed you,” Mrs. Farmer finished. The children were clinging to her like leeches, and the little girl kept staring at Margot with big, wide eyes. Margot gave her a smile, and the girl timidly smiled back–kids had always been easier for her to charm than adults. “Do you know what it is? Can you help us?”

“Sounds like your average angry ghost,” Danny said. “You probably disturbed it when you moved in. Do you know anything about the house’s history? Deaths in the house, murders, that sort of thing?”

“Um, not really,” Mr. Farmer said. “Just that it’s been in the family for a long time.”

“There are probably records in the town hall,” Mrs. Farmer said.

Danny glanced over at Jake and Margot, and Jake closed his notebook with a soft snap. “Alright, well,” Danny said, standing, “we’ll see what we can find at the town hall, and then we’ll head over to the house. Once we’ve determined what kind of a threat this actually is, we’ll discuss payment.”

“Payment?” Mrs. Famer asked, standing up along with the rest of them. “Haven’t we already paid?”

“The advance was the money it took to get us here,” Danny explained. “Gas money and food and stuff. The trip here didn’t take long, and this sounds like a pretty routine haunting, so you may not even need to pay much more once we’re through.”

“Oh,” Mr. Farmer said. “Alright.”

“Either way, I’m sure we’d all love a discussion about where your money is going.” Danny gave Mr. Farmer’s hand another shake and gave the whole family another smile. “We’ll be back in a few hours. If you’d like to come with us and see the exorcism for yourself, just let Margot know so we can brief you before we go in. She’ll be outside in the van.” Danny put a hand on Margot’s shoulder and gave her a look. Guess I’m staying in the van, she thought. “Otherwise, leave it to us.”

“Thank you so much!” Mr. Farmer said, waving as they left the lobby.

“Bye!” said the younger boy, grinning wide with his tooth gaps showing.

Once they got past the front desk, Margot gave Danny a look. “So, what,” she said, “I’m not allowed to come researching in Town Hall? Rude.”

“I thought you said you had more cases to plan out,” Danny replied.

“Yeah, well.” She really didn’t have a response to that. “Fine.”

“It’s just dust and books anyway, Margot,” Jake said, smiling and bumping her shoulder. “Aren’t you allergic to those?”

“Not the books, idiot,” she said, shoving him back. He just cackled and bounded out the front door of the inn, all lanky and tall, pushing up his glasses. Dork. “Don’t let him get swallowed up by the shelves, Danny,” she said.

“It’s old town records, not a library!” Jake said, already halfway down the sidewalk. “Come on, Danny!”

Danny sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “Good thing one of us enjoys research,” he said.

“Hey, that’s what Jake’s for, right?” Margot said, punching Danny on the arm with a grin. “Now shoo. I’ve got a route to plan.”

Danny rolled his eyes and headed off down the road, hurrying his short legs to catch up with Jake’s long ones. Idiots, both of them. At least she’d be able to focus for a few hours.

Margot sighed and unlocked the camper van’s back doors, climbing inside to grab a fresh map of the United States and some Sharpies. She also grabbed the laptop, which had the list of their future clients on it as well as a much bigger online map than her phone was able to provide. She situated herself near the back of the van where she could hear the sounds of the town and feel fresh air on her face and began plotting a course to their next few cases, scribbling on the paper map with black marker.

About fifteen minutes later, someone knocked on the outside of the van’s back door.

“Back so soon?” Margot asked, looking up, but instead of Jake and Danny, she found young woman standing in front of her, fairly tall and overweight, black wavy hair not-quite contained by an elastic ponytail holder and a black wide-brim hat on her head. She was wearing a fashionable leather knapsack and a comfortable sweater dress, and for some reason, Margot thought she looked familiar.

“Not who you thought I was, I’m guessing?” the girl asked with a soft smile. “Sorry. I assume you’re Margot Queensbury? Of the Horner Paranormal PIs?”

Margot blinked, her mind trying to catch up. “Uh, yes,” she said, marker still perched in her hand. “Who are you?”

“My name is Camila Castillo,” the girl replied. She looked like she was in her early twenties like Danny and Margot, though she was certainly taller than both of them. Not taller than Jake though, the beanstalk. “I’ve been emailing your website for quite some time.”

“Have you?” Was this one of those people that’d been spamming them with emails? Margot made a mental note to pay better attention to Danny’s irritated rants in the future. “What for?”

“Well, to join, of course,” Camila said, still smiling but now a little confused. “I feel like I could be a valuable asset.”

“Really? How so?” Margot asked, preparing for the worst.

Camila Castillo simply smiled her confident smile again. “I’m a witch,” she said proudly.

Margot stared at her.

“Okay,” she said, going back to her scribbling.

It was quiet for a moment, and then Camila heaved a sigh. “I’m guessing you want me to prove it.”

“Yeah, that’d be nice.”

Margot glanced back up and saw Camila whip a wand out of her sleeve before pointing it at the Sharpie in Margot’s hand. Margot raised an eye, about to say something mocking Harry Potter fans or the like, and then Camila spoke.

Levita.”

She said it softly, waving her wand around in a strange but obviously practiced form, and a soft lavender-colored light surrounded her wand and the Sharpie, a light Margot had trouble focusing on. She felt the tendrils of the Veil reaching into her mind, blurring her vision and her senses, and something in Margot clicked. This was real. She was real. The Veil wouldn’t be acting up like this if she weren’t.

Thankfully, Margot had plenty of practice with disrupting the Veil’s influence over her–years of fighting demons and hunting ghosts did that to a person. She blinked a few times and shook her head, and the lavender light returned, wrapped around the Sharpie, which had been rudely yanked from her grasp and was now hovering a few inches from Margot’s face.

Camila gave her another grin and flicked her wand up, causing the Sharpie to dart upward. Then she flicked her wand down, and the Sharpie followed. She continued to stare at Margot, flicking her wand this way and that, the Sharpie floating about with that strange, purple glow around it, until Margot’s mouth finally caught up with her brain.

“Yeah, okay,” she said, snatching the Sharpie from where it was hovering in midair. Camila lowered her wand, and the lavender glow faded. “Sure, fine, you’re a witch.”

Camila gave her a smug, know-it-all smile. “So you believe me?” she asked.

“Yeah, yeah.” Margot narrowed her eyes. “I thought you magic people weren’t supposed to tell anyone you could do stuff like that.”

Camila snorted and tucked her wand behind her ear. “Us magic people?” she asked. “First of all, we’re called mages, not ‘magic people.’ Secondly, the Veil usually takes care of hiding us from mundies. Most mages can’t do what I just did.”

“Floating a pen in the air?”

“Yes. And thirdly, anyone can technically use magic, not just ‘magic people.’ Anyone with an active aura has the potential for magic. Like you. I’m sure you’ve used magic before without realizing it.”

“Have I.” Margot raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah. Like, say, oh! Have you ever exorcised a demon before? Using the Lithgow exorcism?”

Margot stared at Camila’s face, curious and open and completely without a hint of irony. This girl was starting to weird Margot out. Although, in their line of business, that was usually a good thing.

“The Lithgow exorcism?” Margot asked. “There are different types of exorcisms?”

“Yeah, well…” Camila winced. “It’s a little complicated, actually, I won’t get into it. Point is, you’ve exorcised a demon before, right?”

“Sure.”

“And you’ve been the one reading the incantation?”

“Yeah, why?”

“While you were reading, did the demon in question start glowing?” Camila took a step back and squinted a little. “A… navy-blue color, perhaps?”

Margot blinked and thought back to her last exorcism, or at least the last one where she’d actually read the words. It was about two months ago, back in Kentucky, and… well, there had been a dark blue color to the demon as she was reading. But she’d just thought that was weird demon stuff.

“What’s your point?” Margot asked.

“You were using magic,” Camila said. “That navy-blue color? That was your aura.”

“My aura.”

“Everyone’s got one. Mine’s lavender, as I’m sure you figured out.” Camila smiled again, irritating know-it-all, and Margot resisted the urge to strangle her. “Most people’s auras go inactive after they hit twenty-five or so, unless they’ve been exposed to the paranormal in some way. I figured you being a paranormal investigator meant you’d have an active aura. And if your aura is still active, you can use magic.”

“Uh huh.” Margot leaned back onto her hands and stared up at Camila, trying to detect any bullshit coming off of her, but unfortunately, she seemed almost completely honest. Which was really just annoying her more. “Alright. If anyone can use magic, why would we need you?”

Camila almost glared at that. Almost. Margot tried not to smile. “Can you levitate something with a magic spell?”

“Dunno, haven’t tried.”

“Can you brew magic potions and teas?”

“Can you?”

“Yes.” Camila started seething, and the side of Margot’s mouth started to twitch up. “Do you guys actually know anything about the creatures you’re hunting aside from whatever you find on the internet?”

“Whoa, whoa, hey.” That got Margot to sit up. “We don’t hunt creatures unless they’re actively murdering people. We’re not assholes.”

“Oh, excuse me.” Camila kept glaring. “Investigate. I’m sure you’ve figured out that research on the internet isn’t always the most reliable of sources. Or do you guys just go charging in with full faith in Wikipedia?”

She was right, of course, though Margot tried not to let it show on her face. They’d gone into bad situations equipped with nothing but scarce news articles and bits of folklore, and it’d almost cost them their lives. Thankfully, they usually stuck to ghosts and the occasional demon, which weren’t always easy but were at least reliable in their attributes and weaknesses. But vampires? Werewolves? Faeries? Every time they’d run across one of those, they hadn’t really won. Solved the mystery, sure, but they hadn’t defeated the threat.

Margot crossed her arms again and gave Camila a look. “So, what,” she said. “You’re offering to be our head researcher?”

“More like your authority on magic.” She smiled. “I’m assuming the rest of you don’t have much experience.”

“You’d be surprised.”

“Mm. I’d also like to be your ethics department, if you don’t already have one.”

Margot snorted. “Ethics department?” she asked. “Seriously?”

“Oh, you know what I mean,” Camila snapped. Margot smiled again–she was cute when she was irritated. “I want to make sure you guys don’t go around killing every strange creature you see. I wouldn’t even consider helping you if you were hunters. The paranormal are people too–”

 “Save the lecture, dude.” Margot lifted a hand and rolled her eyes, but she was starting to like this girl. Know-it-all vibes and all. “We know. We’ve made a few friends with the paranormal ourselves, actually. Met a werewolf named Gobi? Lives down in Nebraska. Real nice guy, he makes great pancakes.”

“No, I’ve not met Gobi.”

“Well, you definitely will if you come with us.” Margot grinned and then grimaced. “Not that, you’re, you know. I have to talk to the boys first, but I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t be able to join. Unless, of course, you can’t handle it.”

Camila gave her a look like she’d just accepted a challenge. “I’m a witch,” she said. “I can handle the paranormal.”

“Oh, that’s not what I was talking about. I meant you living in the van with me and the boys.”

Camila snorted again. “I grew up with two siblings and seven cousins, I think I can handle that too.”

Margot felt her mouth curve into a smile. She was really starting to like this girl.

“Oh, and you’re obligated to teach me that levitation spell,” Margot said.

Camila sucked some air in through her teeth. “That one might be difficult,” she said. “Spells are harder to learn than rituals and require more training. And I’m assuming you weren’t trained in the arcane arts starting at five years old?”

“Yeah, no,” Margot said.

“Yeah, well, I’m sorry, but I think the levitation spell is mine and mine only.”

“Welp.” Margot shrugged, not too upset but a little let down. “That sucks. I was gonna use it to prank the boys.”

“Prank the who now?” Jake said.

Margot smiled as Jake swung around to the back of the van wearing his trademark grin. He put one hand on his hip and stuck the other out towards the briefly stunned Camila. “Jake Tassel-Chastain, at your service. Who might you be?”

Margot rolled her eyes as Camila took his hand and shook, Danny walking up behind Jake with his hands in his pockets. Unlike Jake, who was the picture of ease, Danny was watching Camila carefully, almost on edge, which was always how he got when new people approached the van. Margot caught his gaze and gave him a nod. Nothing to worry about, Danny. Don’t get all worked up.

“Camila Castillo,” Camila replied, giving Jake a smile. “You’re a lot taller than I expected.”

“Thanks, I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“You should.” She winked and turned towards Danny, sticking out her hand. “Which means you must be the famous Daniel Rye. Nice to meet you.”

Danny took her hand and shook it, still tense. “Famous?” he asked.

“Well, relatively speaking. According to the reviews on your website, you’re a real live spirit medium. Pretty rare, that, even among the magical community.” Camila smirked and gestured towards Jake with the tilt of her head. “Makes me wonder why you need Mr. Mechanic over here.”

“Hey!” Jake gave her a light-hearted scowl. “My gadgets have a wide variety of uses, thank you very little.”

Camila held up her hands in mock surrender. “Alright, I’ll take your word for it,” she said.

It fell silent for a moment, everyone kind of looking at each other, and Margot realized what the boys were waiting for. “Oh, right,” she said quickly. “Camila’s been emailing us. She wants to join the team.”

Jake raised his eyebrows, pleasantly surprised, and smiled at Camila, but Danny’s brow furrowed, his gaze never leaving Camila’s face. “That’s cool!” Jake said. “What do you bring to the table?”

“Well, I’m a witch.”

“A witch.” Danny’s face went dark, and Margot watched him, unsure of what was going on. “Really.”

“She proved it to me,” Margot said. “Stole my pen, actually.”

“I gave it back.”

“A witch? An actual real witch?” Jake whistled. “I haven’t met a real witch since I left San Francisco. So, what do you do? Potions? Charms? Divination?”

“Some of that, yeah.” Camila shrugged nonchalantly, but her smile was growing smug again. “And some other things.”

“Like what?”

“Oh, you know. Combat magic.”

The three PIs stared at her. “Combat magic?” Jake asked. And then, “You’re pulling our legs.”

“I’m not. I’m a very powerful witch.” Camila smiled and took her wand from behind her ear, spinning it over her fingers with easy dexterity. “And I’m sure I know plenty about the paranormal that you guys don’t. I think I could be an asset.”

Margot moved to nod, but then Danny spoke, his voice sharp. “Could I talk to my associates for a second?” he asked, staring Camila down. Camila caught his gaze, and for a moment, they just stared at each other, not moving. What was going on?

“Sure,” Camila said, backing up, her voice walled and short. She walked away from the back of the van towards the sidewalk, leaving Jake, Danny, and Margot alone.

Danny watched her for a moment before turning back towards Margot and Jake. “I don’t like this,” he said.

“Don’t like what?” Margot asked. “Her?”

“Her and, just…” Dany gestured broadly. “Just this! This whole situation. We couldn’t find anything about the mansion in the Town Hall. Zip. Built in the early twentieth century, no changing of hands, no violent deaths of mysterious occurrences.”

“Dude, we could still find something at the library,” Jake said, but Danny shook his head.

“No, no. I asked the secretary–”

“What secretary?”

“The–” Danny paused, and then he groaned again and shook his head. “Right. Ghost. There was a ghost secretary. Sorry, forgot to mention.”

“Come on, man!”

“Sorry, okay? Anyway.” Danny sighed and pulled off the trapper hat he always wore, running his hands through his curly brown hair. “She was a little girl when the house was built and basically grew up with it. Nothing strange or unusual, no folk tales or murders, nothing. And she kept the town records for years. She still kind of does, I guess, as a ghost. I don’t know. Nothing weird enough to warrant ghosts has happened in that house.”

“Okay, but what does this have to do with Camila?” Margot asked.

Danny looked at her like she’d grown a second head. “A mysterious witch appears out of the blue and wants to join the squad?” he asked. “In the middle of nowhere Montana, right after we’ve been hired to solve a case with no leads? Isn’t that suspicious?”

Margot looked at Danny, the pieces clicking into place in her head. Now she understood his suspicion, his irritation. How could she have forgotten?

“Look, Danny,” she began, but he shook his head, hearing the doubt in her voice.

“You don’t believe me,” he said.

“Believe what?” Jake asked. “That she’s involved in some way?”

“Yes!”

“I don’t believe that,” Margot said, “and you know I’m a good judge of character. I mean she’s cocky, sure, but she just wants to help.”

“And join the squad,” Danny added. “Don’t forget that little tidbit.”

Jake crossed his arms. “You let me join.”

“Those were extenuating circumstances.”

“Danny, she’s fine,” Margot said. “Just because she’s a witch doesn’t mean she’s evil, okay? Pull your head out of your ass.”

“She’s a witch! She could’ve, I don’t know, put a charm or a spell on you or something!”

Margot just glared at him. “You’re reaching.”

“Dude, I think she’s fine,” Jake said.

Danny shook his head and put his trapper hat back on, frustrated and fuming, and Margot watched him with more than a little worry. “Okay, fine,” he said. “Fine. Let’s say I’m overreacting. How’d she know where to find us?”

“She did say she’d been emailing us for a while,” Margot said.

“Okay? And? Why here? Why meet us in this town?”

“I don’t know, why don’t we ask?”

Danny pinched the bridge of his nose, and Jake and Margot shared a look of mild concern. Then Jake yelled, “Hey, Camila!” Moments later, Camila was back near the van.

“Yeah?” she asked.

“Why’d you decide to meet us here?” Jake asked.

Camila raised an eyebrow. “I live here,” she said.

Jake lifted his head like he was about to nod. “Ah,” he said. “Right. We knew that.”

“No you didn’t,” Camila said.

“How’d you know we’d be in town today?” Danny asked.

Camila met his gaze again, and then a second later, she fished her phone out of her pocket–Margot made a mental note to be jealous about her dress pockets later–and opened something up on it. Then she turned the phone screen towards the rest of them. It was their website; specifically, their most recent blog post on the blog portion of their website.

“I see that billboard every time I go shopping,” she said, pointing at the bright yellow JESUS SAVES billboard with a Bible passage beneath it. “Every time I come back into town. And I figured the only reason you’d be up here was to solve the Farmer case. Guessing I was right?”

Danny and Margot both turned to Jake, who looked like he wanted to sink into the asphalt disappear. Though Danny was in charge of running the website, Jake ran the blog, and as a self-proclaimed amateur photographer, he was also in charge of taking all the pictures.

“Nice going, idiot,” Danny said.

“Oh, come on!”

“I told you to be careful with the pictures!”

Margot just rolled her eyes as Camila slipped her phone back into her pocket. “Look,” she said, “I get it. I’m new, I’m an unknown, I’ve got weird powers, and y’all probably don’t trust easily. I understand, just… let me prove myself or something. Prove I can help. Could you at least give me a chance?”

Margot looked at Jake, who looked at her, and then both of them looked at Danny, who was watching Camila carefully. She held his gaze, her face open and asking, and Danny closed his eyes and sighed.

“Okay,” he said slowly. “Okay. Fine. You help us solve this case, free of charge, and we’ll consider letting you on based on your performance. How’s that sound?”

Camila blinked. “A trial period?”

“You asked for it.”

“Yeah. Yeah, no, that’s fine.” She took a breath and smiled again, glancing between Jake and Margot, who smiled back. “Thank you. I get that this is hard.”

Danny gritted his teeth and grunted, turning and heading back towards the hotel entrance. The rest of them watched him go, Camila rubbing the edge of her sleeve between her thumb and forefinger. A nervous gesture. Margot catalogued it away for later.

“Did I do something wrong?” Camila asked.

“No,” Margot and Jake both said, and Margot continued, “no, he’s just… Danny doesn’t trust easy. I mean, none of us do, really, but he’s… it’s a long story.”

Camila nodded, her face solemn, but then Jake wrapped his arm around her shoulders and shook her. “Come on, it’ll be fine,” he said. “We’ve got a house to sweep. You know how to use an EMF scanner?”

“Actually, no.”

“Well then!” Jake grinned wide and started to climb into the van–Margot quickly grabbed her Sharpies and the map to get them out of the way. “You learn something new every day, huh? Come on, I’ll show you. Scoot, Margot.”

“You scoot! I was here first!”

“I’m showing her the ropes! That’s much more important. Come on, Castillo, I’m about to blow your mind.”

“I seriously doubt that…”

The two of them climbed into the van, and Margot got up and put her supplies away, jumping out of the van and looking through the hotel’s glass doors. Danny was in the lobby, talking to the family, his face still sullen and drawn.

Margot tried to ignore the twist in her stomach and shut the van’s doors, heading up to the driver’s seat so they’d be ready when he came back out.

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