The Dark Ones are Party Crashers

Any other time, Frieda would have been enjoying spending time with her cousins, aunts, uncles and the other friends that she’d made on their visits to Opa’s house.  Tonight, she was distracted.  It was one thing to say that they had to be on the lookout for someone that might have opened the portal.

The problem was that it could have been nearly anyone.  Someone who was tainted by darkness didn’t change outwardly.  It wasn’t as if they grew horns or a tail.  They didn’t suddenly have a dark aura surrounding them.  They didn’t begin speaking in strange languages or cackling menacingly.  They seemed normal.  That was the danger of evil: it seemed normal, even reasonable.

It would have been great if she could have pointed at Aunt Nancy, who still hadn’t quite accepted them, and said that she was clearly tainted.  Edward, who was always disagreeable and enjoyed taunting the younger kids, was also an easy target.  That, though, wasn’t how evil worked.  They were simply unkind.

True evil was a sneaky thing.  Sometimes, someone who was tainted seemed kind and sweet… until they were poised to act.  Even the Singers smiled while they got ready to kill you.  No, it wasn’t as simple as looking for someone who looked dour or acted disagreeable either.  That left Frieda with a problem: how would she recognize that someone was tainted with darkness?

Tevas stepped over to her and handed her a plate with a hot dog and some potato salad.  It gave him an excuse to check on her.  “All right?” he asked, his voice soft.  “Sensing anything?”

Frieda took the plate and met his gaze.  “How am I supposed to know?” she asked, her voice faint.

“Trust your instincts,” Tevas said, squeezing her shoulder.  “Is there anyone here that makes alarms ring in your head?”

“Not yet,” Frieda said, her brows furrowing.  Now, she had something to go by.  She knew what Tevas meant by alarms in her head.  It was more than simply disliking someone or having trouble getting along with them.  It was an uneasiness that didn’t go away no matter what she might do.

Tevas patted her on the shoulder and headed over to check on Markus.  Frieda watched him whisper to her elder brother before heading back over to where the adults were working at the grill.  Frieda carried her plate as she made her way over to where Liesel was with chatting with Meredith.

Meredith grinned brightly as she joined them.  “Are you going to come with Mom and me when we visit the craft store?” she asked.

Frieda nodded.  “Probably,” she said, returning her cousin’s smile.  She wasn’t getting any sense of uneasiness from Meredith, so that was something.  She turned to Liesel.  Her sister was eating mostly fruits and vegetables, but Uncle Andrew had barbequed chicken too, so she was enjoying that.

“Did you tell Meredith?” she asked.  There was no need to explain what she meant.  Liesel would know immediately.

Nodding, Liesel said, “I’m not sure what we’re supposed to look for, though.”

“Tevas said… someone who makes us nervous, even though they shouldn’t,” Frieda said, frowning.

Meredith’s eyes widened.  “What about Mr. Thurman?” she whispered.  She nodded towards him.

Frieda and Liesel glanced over at him.  Mr. Thurman lived next door to Opa.  His wife was the one who fed the neighborhood birds and squirrels on their deck.  Mr. Thurman was smiling and laughing as he chatted with their Opa and Tevas.  Konrad was sitting beside Opa with a strange sort of expression on his face.

Frieda and Liesel frowned at each other and then turned to Meredith.  Tevas’s family wasn’t from the Haven community – there wasn’t one in Minnesota – but that didn’t mean that Meredith couldn’t have special gifts.  Frieda took a step closer to her cousin.  “Does he make you nervous, Meredith?” she asked, keeping her voice soft.

Frowning, Meredith nodded.  “He never used to, but… he seems different,” she said.  “He keeps smiling at Johannes when he thinks no one is looking and it’s not a happy sort of smile.”

Liesel nodded.  “I’ll watch him,” she said, her voice soft.  “You and Meredith can sneak around and see if any of the other guests makes you nervous.”

Nodding, Frieda finished her potato salad and set the plate down.  Taking her hot dog, she beckoned to her cousin.  “Let’s go and get a drink,” she said, for the sake of anyone listening.  Like bringing her something to eat had done for Tevas, it would give them an excuse to move around among the other guests.

“Right,” Meredith said, as she climbed down from the jungle gym where she’d been chatting with Liesel.  Together, they made their way over to the table where the food and drinks had been set up.  While Frieda grabbed a couple bottles of water, Meredith greeted her parents.

“Have some more salad,” Aunt Sophie invited her daughter.  In a softer voice, she added, “I don’t want to bring it home.”

Meredith chuckled softly and nodded.  “Sure thing, Mom,” she said, nodding.  “We’ll have to get out plates from the jungle gym, though.”  As Aunt Sophie flashed Meredith a smile, Meredith the bottle of water from Frieda.

They slipped through the crowd, back towards the lawn, by an entirely different route.  Frieda used the need to bring a bottle of water to Johannes as an excuse for the change.  As she handed him the water, she said, “Mr. Thurman is watching you.”

“I know,” he breathed.  Giving her a weak smile, he added, “Liesel and Konrad are watching him.  I’m fine.”

Nodding, Frieda followed her cousin back to the jungle gym.


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