Firstly, I'm sorry that I've taken so long to update you guys. I wish I had a proper excuse -- long breaks typically mean that something awful has happened, and I know you must have been worries -- but I'm afraid that I really don't have one. The delay was mostly caused by the kind of complacent laziness that happens when all is going well and pleasant distractions abound. To occupy free time, I've gotten a small freelance job for a local paper for the remainder of the summer. The rest of my time has been spent buried in Aunt Michelle's final gift.
Let's go back to the Thursday before last.
First, Zeke arrived back at the Haven on Thursday night, not so long after my post concerning the attack. Violet and Riley had been sitting on the couch in the living room watching television, and I was in my room, pacing. Cathy and Tony had been in their room all day, and Ava was in the shower. I think everyone just needed some time to think things through.
I was at my door almost immediately when the front door clicked and unlocked, but Violet was to her feet and walking over in a split second. She stopped near the kitchen counter as, slowly, the door opened.
The moment Zeke walked through, I discovered I'd been holding my breath, because I let it out and breathed again. He looked tired, and a bit dirty. He was holding a package in his hand. He nodded at Vi as he passed her and walked into the kitchen, where he laid the light brown box down on the counter.
"Hi," I ventured to say.
He looked up at me, tried for a smile. "Hey," he said. Then he walked over and stood sort of beside and sort of in front of me, and held out his hand.
I rolled my eyes and extended my left arm, letting him unwrap the bandage and inspect the damage. The bullet itself had really barely touched me; the cut, deep as it was (and held together by butterfly stitches), was mainly caused by the superheated air surrounding it as it had passed. After checking it over for a few moments, he rewrapped the bandage and let my arm fall again.
"Should be all right," he concluded gruffly.
"Nice to see you again, too, Ezekiel," I said, bristling with sarcasm. "Not like we were worried about you or anything. Where's your dog?"
"On the hunt," he said, without asking who I meant.
"So he's not sticking around?"
"No, he'll be away for a while."
I must have looked incredibly smug, because he laughed and shook his head and said, "You two."
We stood quietly for a few seconds in the doorway as I suddenly became very conscious of Violet and Riley staring at us. I jerked my head back, and Zeke stepped into my room.
"Are you going to tell me what happened?" I asked, as I closed the door.
"Still debating it, actually."
"Okay," he said. "Maybe you should sit down."
"I'll stand. You sit."
He surprised me by not arguing, instead sitting dutifully down on the bed.
"Speak." I said. He began the tale as I paced back and forth.
They'd found Keaton, to be sure, and had a standoff with him in a very conveniently empty office building. Wren went vaguely insane, and then the tall bastard himself showed up. Listening, I slowly felt my muscles tightening, my jaw clenching subconsciously.
By the time he was done, I wasn't pacing anymore.
And yes, there was a...slight argument. Just a little one. Zeke fights; it's what he does.
But I will not be insulted. From now on I would have him and everyone else know this: I run the Gray Haven. I defend it, I say who comes and who goes, and this can and will extend to when I am at Miskatonic. I have final say. And if there are mistakes, then they will be my mistakes. No one else will make them for me.
No one; not even Crazy Zeke Bastard Strahm. The next time he goes out looking for something, I'll be going with him, and he can't do anything to stop me.
Right. Now that that's out of the way.
The package that Zeke had laid on the table was addressed to me. It had no return address on the envelope, but the letter inside said that Aunt Michelle wished it to be sent to me at the proper time, and it was signed cordially with Scott Monaghan's name and a request to give him a call before opening the small box.
I called him the evening of the next day. He picked up after two rings.
"Yes, Mr. Monaghan," I said, suddenly rather anxious. "I'm calling because I've received the package you sent."
"Ah, I see," he said. "Well, I was merely following your aunt's instructions. But I can put some context into the things in the package, and some advice. I was there when your aunt made them."
"I...see," I said, even though I didn't.
"Have you opened it yet?"
"No. Your letter said not to."
"That's good. You've got very good self-control for someone so curious, Celie," he said.
"Well, I guess I just want to do things right the first time. Might not get another," I said with a small laugh to make it sound like a joke. If he laughed on the other end, I didn't hear it.
"Do you have it with you?"
"Yes, it's sitting in front of me now. Shall I open it?"
I fumbled with the tape a little, but got the box open. Reaching around the little blue packing peanuts in the box, I eventually pulled out a book. It was well-worn and beaten, and the cover sported generic romantic sepia images of Paris. A little more rooting around in the box revealed a small box, containing a necklace, and nothing else.
"Okay. It's a...journal and a necklace," I said.
"It's your aunt's journal and necklace," he said. "It arrived at your house yesterday, July the seventh, exactly twenty-four years from when she started it."
"Do you see the tape on the pages?"
"I can see some of it, yeah."
"That's where she put her research."
"Research...into what?" I asked.
"Add that question to the list. Why is the Haven so well-hidden? Why does it have a panic room with a phone that can call only nine other numbers?"
I paused and blinked; I had seen the phone in the panic room, but I hadn't noticed that particular limitation before.
"I think you already know the answer to these questions, Celie," he said. "You're a bright girl."
There was a silence. A long silence.
"Aunt Michelle knew," I said.
"More than any of us," he said. "She held the knowledge, and knew that she must pass it on someday, to someone worthy."
"Which was me?"
"Which was you."
"Why? Why not you?"
"I was with her when she discovered these things. I helped her set up the seven safehouses and I was by her side when she couldn't tell up from down in this world. Twenty-four years is an awfully long time to be haunted."
"So I'm meant to read this book?"
"Yes," he said. "If you don't, you'll be wasting a great source of knowledge."
"I've had some bad experiences involving notebooks before," I said.
"I know. But trust in this book. Trust Michelle."
"A word to the wise, though," he said. "You will find things in this book that are...strange, even fantastic for your mind to behold. Pace yourself. Make sure that you come to terms with each part and understand all implications before moving on to the next. That is vital."
"I will," I said.
"Very good," he said. "You can call me if ever you don't understand anything or there are missing pieces, as there are bound to be."
"What about the necklace?"
"Ah, that," he said. "That is something Michelle picked up in England on her travels."
"What is the symbol on it?"
"What does it look like?"
"Er..." I stammered, confused; was this necklace like an ink blot, where different people saw different things? No, I decided. There's only one thing there. "Three rabbits, chasing each other in a circle."
"Hares," he corrected patiently. "The symbol is called the Three Hares. Do you notice anything strange about them?"
Another pause as I examined the pendant. It's medium-sized, about an inch across. "Umm..."
Suddenly, it leaped out at me, from the center of the symbol. "There are only three ears."
"That's right," he said. "They each share their ears with the other. It's a very old visual puzzle, dating back to medieval China. Each can be viewed correctly, by itself; it's only when you try to see them as a whole that something becomes wrong."
"What does it mean?" I asked.
"A lot of things have been attached to it over the years," he said. "Many churches in England and France use it in their motifs, often next to the Green Man. But no one has been able to say for sure what the original from China was meant to signify. The most popular theory is that it's a hieroglyph of the phrase 'to be.'"
"So why did Aunt Michelle have it?"
"That is for you to find out for yourself, in the book."
"Okay. Thank you, Mr. Monaghan."
"Please, it's just Scott. We're practically family."
"Okay. I'll speak with you soon, then."
"All right, Celie. Good evening."
Fortunately, there are no mental warnings involving this book; I don't feel the inherent hatred toward it that I do toward Rose's diary. Instead, only that feeling that I know so well, that all journalists feel: a certain curiosity, a hunger for knowledge.
I've gotten through the first few pages, but I'm holding off so that I can take some pictures and show you guys as I go. Right now my camera is kind of borked, so I'll have to find or borrow another one.
As for the necklace, after a quick Google search, I wasn't able to find the exact design, but I found something similar. The necklace looks like this, only without the backing, so that between the hares there is only empty space:
It's quite pretty, but I really don't understand what it has to do with Aunt Michelle.
On a rather sad note, the Delmonts left a few days after my call with Scott. They didn't say too much about their reasons, and I didn't want to ask. I've decided to make that sort of a rule: don't ask why people come here, don't ask why they leave. They'll tell you if they want to tell you. I assumed that it's because of their daughter, at least in part.
With them and Wren gone, that just leaves five of us here: Violet, Riley, Zeke, Ava, and me. We survive, and we prosper, for now at least.