You know what to do.
Caitlin arrived twenty minutes later. Dakotah had called her right after telling Yolanda he could help find the golem. He couldn’t (at least he wasn’t sure at all how to go about it), but he did know Caitlin could help him start.
He was exploring the perimeter of the burned funeral home. The old Victorian was mostly intact. The fire had started in the basement and burned fiercely down there, blackening the windows. But as far as Dakotah could tell, the house wasn’t in danger of falling over, and the fire hadn’t spread upstairs.
Yolanda looked strangely at Caitlin as Dakotah brought her up to meet the mortician.
“Sunil destroyed the Belfast Sanctuary,” Dakotah explained. “So Caitlin’s been staying with me.”
“Ah,” said Yolanda. “Well, I’ve told Guardian Dakotah everything I know. My chest contained my personal powerful objects, and a few objects of the deceased, if it was their wish to be buried with a possession.”
“And you’ve confirmed the chest is gone? Not burned?”
Dakotah nodded. “We looked. It was definitely moved.”
Caitlin chewed a hangnail and considered. “Are you sure it’s about the chest? Golems are sent to avenge wrongful deaths. I don’t even know if they can be sent on robberies. Who was being prepared for burial currently, Yolanda?”
“I only had three: Stynnys, an elf. He was a bit of a recluse. My fees weren’t paid by family, he had arranged everything himself for a private burial with no ceremony. Then there was Ribirt, a malevolent spirit banished from a house a few days ago. And then…”
“Well?” demanded Caitlin.
Dakotah frowned at Caitlin’s tone.
“We have to know,” she said, half-defending herself to Dakotah, half-insisting Yolanda talk.
“Runlu. A fallen member of the Seelie Court.”
“What Seelie Court?” Caitlin asked sharply. The Seelie Court was supposed to have disbanded.
“Former member,” Yolanda corrected herself. “For some, it isn’t enough that the court is gone. They must hunt down the old members.”
“You mean he was murdered?” Dakotah asked.
Yolanda shrugged. She seemed intentionally noncommittal. “I can’t say anything for certain.”
“Well,” said Caitlin, “Runlu seems like the obvious choice, but we’ll check them all out. Where did they live before?”
Caitlin suggested taking the Lake to Everywhere, but Dakotah wanted to walk through the surrounding area and look for clues.
“I should’ve watched Making a Murderer,” he muttered to himself. He hadn’t watched Netflix in a long time. He didn’t have time for anything beside his Guardian duties, the shop, and keeping up at school to get his mom off his back.
“You know,” Caitlin said, “I don’t care if we do this, but we don’t have to. Guardians are really supposed to deal with their own Houses, and that’s it.”
“Is that how you did it?”
She shrugged. “I thought it would be cooler than it is, you know? Enough fuggin’ trouble finds you at your own shop. I never went looking for it.” She lit a cigarette as they walked. “Practically killed someone to become Guardian, turns out it’s less magic and more arguing with sprites over zoning regulations.”
Dakotah laughed appreciatively. Actually, he quite liked the sprites. Ever since mediating a dispute within a tribe, they all knew who he was and greeted him respectfully when he happened to pass by.
“Here we go,” Caitlin said. She turned off the sidewalk just before the bridge over Ayd Mill Road. Dakotah followed her onto a packed dirt path, and then into the high grass. Everything was brown and dead even in the fey side of St. Paul, but the grasses and brambles grew high enough to allow a reclusive elf to live in peace.
They almost walked right by his hovel. The home was made of plants braided together, the entrance barely as high as Dakotah’s knee. Once he noticed the shape of the home, he saw a few others. This one, however, was set apart.
Caitlin bent and peered inside. “I have no idea what I’m looking for.”
“Can a golem fit in there?” Dakotah asked jokingly.
She rolled her eyes.
Straightening, she said, “There’s no chest, though I don’t know what a dead elf would do with that. Let’s interview the neighbors.”
Only one neighbor came to the door, and he didn’t know much of anything about Stynnys.
“We didn’t really think it was him, anyway,” Caitlin said as they walked away. “Let’s check out that malevolent spirit’s last haunting, then move on to our Seelie knight.”
My YA fantasy novel TURQUOISEBLOOD is out now! Get your copy here!