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Excerpt from Collector

“I’d love for you to show us around,” I said, raising my voice just a bit to get Teag’s attention. He had wandered off to examine the antique rugs and finger the exquisite old linens in the dining room. To others, it might appear to be professional curiosity, but I knew his Weaver magic was busy trying to get a bead on the energy in the house and determine its source.

I intentionally kept my hands clasped behind my back. Something had charged the house with seriously bad vibes, and until I had a better idea of what we were dealing with, I did not want to get a full-blown vision, certainly not in front of a client. My intuition tingled as I passed through the crowded hallways, nearly brushing against mementos from all over the world. Some of the pieces radiated good cheer. Others were flat and neutral. A surprising number of pieces were at least slightly negative in their energy, giving a cumulative effect like walking past a long row of frowning people.

“Your aunt’s collection has quite a large scope,” I said, eyeing a suit of armor from England, a Samurai helmet from Japan, and a tapestry that I guessed was Medieval Belgian. I wished Sorren could have come with us. Given his vampire immortality, he’s lived through so much of history. Though, it makes it difficult sometimes for him to accord antiques and museum pieces proper respect when as he puts it, ‘they’re just like old stuff I used to own’.

One wall had an entire glass case of beautiful Native American pieces, including a whole shelf of Kachina dolls. I glanced back to check on Teag. We’d had a close call the last time we dealt with Native American artifacts… bad enough to trigger Teag’s gift and almost put him in the hospital.

Teag caught the glance and gave me a nervous but affirming smile.

Abby seemed more comfortable falling into the role of tour guide. She walked us through the house, pointing out unusual pieces or items that had been gifts from notable people. Throughout it, she peppered her conversation with anecdotes about her aunt, someone she clearly admired.

“Have you given any thought to pieces you might like to keep?” I asked. Even if Abby decided not to stay in the house, just a few of the decorations and furnishings would transform any home into a showplace.

A shadow seemed to fall across Abby’s face. “I don’t think so,” she said, avoiding eye contact again. “I have my memories and photographs of Aunt Dorothy. The things in the house just seem to have so much ‘weight’ to them, if you know what I mean.”

I did know, probably in a clearer sense than Abby could imagine. There’s a reason most people find themselves whispering in museums. It’s not just the dour docents or the stern tour guides. On some primal level, even people without a clairvoyant bone in their bodies sense the memories stored in items that have been present at pivotal times in history. The things that get collected or put in museums usually witnessed significant events or catastrophes, juicing them up with strong emotions. It’s why I do my best to stay out of museums, even though I’m a huge history buff. I like to look at old things, but I don’t want to experience what they’ve seen and done.

As we moved through the big home, the supernatural energy waxed and waned. I was willing to bet that a number of Aunt Dorothy’s souvenirs actually packed a magical wallop, while others were resonant with strong emotions. It would be difficult for anyone with even a bit of intuition to be present around this collection day-in and day-out. I wondered if Aunt Dorothy realized that her constant traveling might have been a way to avoid spending too much time with her treasures.

“What a view!” Teag stared out of the cupola window over the harbor. I came to stand beside him, taking in the panoramic vista.

“This was one of Aunt Dorothy’s favorite places,” Abby said, and pointed to a small chair and ottoman. They barely fit in the tiny room, but I could just imagine someone curled up with a book and a cup of tea, looking out over the water.

“It’s going to take my team some time to catalogue and pack all the items for a sale,” I said. “And for a collection like this, we would want to advertise and reach out to some of the collectors and institutions on our list, in order to get you the best price.” I named a figure for the appraisal, rounding it up somewhat because I anticipated trouble, as well as the percentage and advance for auction. To my surprise, Abby didn’t blink.

“Not unreasonable, given how much stuff there is,” she said. “How soon can you get started?”

“Have we seen everything?” I asked. It just slipped out, prompted by an inner voice that suspected there was more to the story.

For an instant, before she covered it, Abby looked scared. Then she composed herself, and her polished manner slipped back into place. “Everything but the cellar,” she replied. “More of the same, but much of it still in packing crates, since there just wasn’t room for everything.”

“Let’s go take a quick look,” I urged, “just so I know what we’re dealing with.” I had set a price expecting something like this, so my curiosity lay more with the supernatural flavor of what lay in the basement. I glanced at Teag, and he nodded, so I knew we were on the same wavelength.

On our way downstairs, we passed the glass cabinets full of Native American artifacts. Beautifully beaded dresses, leggings, and moccasins that filled one display case. Bows and arrows, tomahawks, and war axes, clubs, and knives were presented in another cabinet. The third case held a beautiful array of pottery in the bottom and then four shelves filled with colorful Hopi Kachina dolls. One look told me all of the items were old enough to be quite valuable, without adding the large, loom-woven Navaho blankets that were neatly folded on a nearby set of shelves.

I stopped to take a better look. Something in the case was supernaturally active, but the energy was slippery, as if it did not want me to fix on it. “How did your aunt come to have this collection?” I asked, bending closer without touching anything.

“Kinda creepy, aren’t they?” Abby said, and stepped back with a shudder. “I like a lot of my aunt’s stuff, but those give me the willies. They look like something out of an alien movie.”

I didn’t know much about Kachinas—yet—but I had to agree. The fanciful carvings were brightly colored, depicting figures that represented the gods upon whom tribes depended for rain fall and good harvests, fertility, and successful hunts. Each figure wore an elaborate headdress, mask, and costume. They were teaching tools, not idols, and the ability to carve them was a prized skill handed down from generation to generation.

Yet as I peered at the figures in the case, I felt a shiver run down my spine. Some of the Kachinas gave off a positive energy. Others were neutral, nothing more than carved wood, from a supernatural perspective. A few hummed with pent-up malice. I shied away from those figures, but I forced myself to take note. The Kachinas that raised my hackles were painted in dark hues. Their faces were covered with what looked to me like tentacles, a long, solid fringe that completely shrouded their features. In their hands were knives or whips. Even the posture of the dolls was menacing. Teag gave a nod when I looked his way. He’d be researching this as soon as we got into the car.