R obyn stood up and looked at the pentagram and triangle that she’d drawn on the floor. She compared it with the diagram that Nightingale had given her. It looked the same. She looked at her watch. It was five minutes to midnight. On the table by the bed she had placed one of the bottles of Evian water and the salt. She mixed them in a beaker which she took with her as she stepped into the pentagram. She slowly sprinkled the salt-water mixture around the edge of the circle and then used a cigarette lighter to light the five candles that she’d placed at the five points of the pentagram.
She looked at her watch again. Three minutes to go. Her heart was pounding and she took a deep breath. Her face was bathed in sweat and she wiped her forehead with her sleeve. What she was doing made no sense, but she had promised Nightingale that she would go through with it. She didn’t believe in devils, or angels, or God. So far as Robyn was concerned, people were born, they lived and they died. There was no Heaven and no Hell, just life, and in her heart of hearts she was sure that what she was doing was a waste of time. But Jack Nightingale clearly cared about her, and as he was the only relative she had she would do it for him.
The minute hand on her watch clicked towards twelve. ‘Happy New Year,’ she muttered, and knelt down to pick up a handful of herbs that she’d taken from the pillow Nightingale had given her. She held it over the candle in front of her and let the herbs trickle through her fingers. They spluttered and sparked and the air was filled with cloying smoke that made her eyes sting. Nightingale had warned her about the smoke and she had covered the smoke detector in the middle of the ceiling with a plastic bag. She dropped a lighted match into a bowl of herbs in the centre of the pentagram and coughed as thick grey smoke mushroomed around her.
She reached into the back pocket of her jeans and took out the piece of paper that contained the phrases she had to read out. Nightingale had said that they were in Latin and it didn’t matter what the words meant; all that mattered was that she said the words out loud. She began to speak, syllable by syllable. Her words echoed around the room. The smoke grew thicker and she held the piece of paper closer to her face and blinked. She fought the urge to cough and said the last three words at the top of her voice: ‘ Bagahi laca bacabe! ’
The smoke began to whirl around her, spinning faster and faster as if she was at the centre of a tornado. The candle flames bent over and her hair whipped around her head. Faster and faster went the smoke, whistling by her ears. She felt the wind tug at her clothes and for a second she almost lost her balance, but she held her arms out to her sides and steadied herself.
Something dark began to form in the smoke, something big, something that swayed from side to side as it solidified, something that wasn’t human. Robyn was gripped by an almost irresistible urge to turn to her bed and hide under the covers but Nightingale’s warning rang in her ears. No matter what happened, no matter what she heard or saw, she had to stay within the pentagram.