The Silver GloveSuzy McKee Charnas
The Silver Glove
Sorcery Hall, Book 2
by Suzy McKee Charnas
THE SILVER GLOVE
Copyright © 1988 by Suzy McKee Charnas. All rights reserved.
Original publication: Delacorte, 1988.
Ebook edition of The Silver Glove copyright © 2011 by ElectricStory.com, Inc.
EPUB ISBN: 978-1-59729-067-8
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This novel is a work of fiction. All characters, events, organizations, and locales are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously to convey a sense of realism.
Cover art by and copyright © 2011 Cory and Catska Ench.
Ebook conversion by ElectricStory.com, Inc.
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Many thanks to everyone who read this for me—Jo, Steve, Robin, Bethinia, Lynn, Annette Schowers, Joan and Emily Gross, many others—and to my friends in the WPC as always.
3: The Claw
4: Trouble, Trouble, Trouble
5: Bad Character
6: Kite Fight
7: Mom in Love
8: Me in Shock
9: Against Orders
10: Specialty of the House
11: Dressed for Success
12: The Demon Shrink
13: In the Bag
14: The Witch’s Daughter
15: Kali’s Prize
16: On Brightner’s Ice
17: Slime-coated Men
More YA Titles by Suzy McKee Charnas
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I KNEW SOMETHING UNUSUAL WAS UP when my mom came slamming in, later than she usually comes in from her office, her arms full of bundles and fire in her eye. “Valli, who in the hell have you been talking with on the phone? I’ve been trying to reach you for an hour and a half!”
I said a quick good-bye to Megan and followed Mom into her bedroom, trying to explain how I was only helping Megan with a homework assignment she’d missed.
“You just saw the girl in school today, didn’t you?” Mom yelled, dumping her load of stuff onto the bed. “I don’t understand why you have to talk with her on the phone for hours afterward! I need to have this phone line open, Valli, in case—”
And to my horror, she flopped down on the bed and began to cry.
I was about to beat a retreat from the whole thing—crying grown-ups are a major, unhandleable jolt for me—when I recognized some of the stuff on the bed. What I was looking at were the belongings of my grandmother, who had been living for several years in a rest home in New Jersey.
Gran’s dead, I thought, going all splintery inside.
Mom looked up, wiping at smeared makeup with a tissue from the bed table. She must have read the thought on my face, and she quit crying with a gulp. “No, Valli, Gran’s all right—I mean, she’s not all right, but she will be all right, as soon as they find her.”
“Find her?” I said stupidly. “How did they lose her?”
“Idiocy,” Mom snapped. “She didn’t come down to breakfast this morning, and when they went to her room, she was gone! I was out there in Jersey half the day. Nobody knows where she is, the police are out looking, I can’t believe this—”
“But what are all her things doing here?” I said.
“I brought them all back with me from New Jersey, of course,” Mom said, opening a suitcase full of Gran’s shoes. “When she is found, I’m certainly not going to let her go back to a place where they don’t have enough sense to keep an eye on a person with Alzheimer’s! A person who might forget everything at any moment and do something crazy, like run away in the middle of the night!”
“Alzheimer’s disease?” I said, completely confused. “But Gran doesn’t have Alzheimer’s disease.”
Mom sighed. “Sit down, hon, we have to talk about this.” She blotted her eyes on the bedspread. “I should have told you before, but I guess I kept hoping it wouldn’t be true and I wouldn’t have to.”
So she told me now, and I didn’t want to hear it any more than she wanted to say it.
“Mrs. Dermott called me from the retirement home last week. They did some routine testing of their residents last month, and Granny Gran—it seems she turns out to have symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.”
“Not Gran!” I said.
Now, Gran did sometimes sort of forget who you were for a second, but she always knew when this was happening and she would start talking about shortcake, which was a private code she had developed to let you know that you needed to introduce yourself in some tactful fashion. But Alzheimer’s? Never!
See, memory lapses to the contrary, my Gran was a special person, not just a regular old lady like most people’s grandmothers. Lately my mom had taken to completely declining to even discuss Gran’s special talents, so I didn’t mention them now. Mom was upset enough already.
She went on, “The home isn’t set up to handle Alzheimer’s patients, and we can’t take Gran in here, much as I’d like to—”
So then we had a long wrangle about what to do with Gran when she was found. Mom said we had no room and she couldn’t be here all the time to look after Gran, and I said Gran could share my room and I would stay home and do my school by correspondence course, and Mom said I was sweet to offer but a girl needs her privacy and a normal education, and anyway, she had found a solution.
I could see that whatever this solution was, Mom was not very happy about it. “What?” I said. “What is it?”
“In a way we’re lucky.” She sighed, picking at the tufted knots on her bedspread. “The doctor who did the testing has a special research unit that studies people with Alzheimer’s. He’s offered to take Gran there. The cost is about what I’ve been paying the home in New Jersey, and Gran would still be within reach for visiting, though it is more of a trip.”
Alarm bells went off in my head. “More of a trip? Where is this place?”
“Buffalo?” I squawked. “Up there on the Canadian border almost, where it’s freezing cold all winter? Mom, you can’t let her go way up there!”
I knew how far it was. One summer when I was little I’d gone to a camp near Buffalo. I’ve never forgotten that endless, hot train-ride to a miserable place where there were leeches in the lake but they made you swim anyway. Those were the days when I was still a little kid, going by my baby-name of Tina instead of Val or Valli, but whatever name I remembered as being mine, those memories were horribly clear in my mind. I was truly shocked and upset at the idea of Gran going up there.
Which my mother picked up on, of course. “I’m looking into some other possibilities nearer to home,” she said, “but nursing homes are so expensive! The Alzheimer’s unit in Buffalo is probably the only realistic choice. God, Valli, this is all my fault!”
his seemed totally unreasonable to me, but typical of My Mom the Responsible One. I said, “How could it be your fault?”
“Someone must have told Gran about the clinic, and she thought I was shoving her into some horrible limbo in the back of beyond, that I didn’t want her around anymore. So now she’s wandering around alone out there somewhere, like some poor, deranged street-person—”
“I don’t believe it,” I said. “Mom, you shouldn’t believe it, either—this stuff about Alzheimer’s!” I took a deep breath and made the plunge: “Gran has talents, you know that. Special talents. She can’t get Alzheimer’s disease.”
“Talents?” Mom blinked at me.
“Talents,” I said. “You know. Magic.”
“Valli, stop it!” Mom actually clapped her hands over her ears like a person in a soap opera who doesn’t want to listen. Then she sat up straight and looked me grimly in the eye.
“Valli.” She grabbed a fresh tissue and blew her nose. “Sweetheart, I know Gran is kind of special, I’m not denying it. But that’s not what this is about. This is a plain, ordinary, awful problem about getting old and losing your grip, that’s all. You’ve got to remember that and try to get through it with your feet on the ground. That’s the way you can help me get through it, too, and believe me, I need all the help I can get!”
“I want to help,” I said. “You just turned down all my suggestions. So what am I supposed to do?”
She said, “For the moment what I need you to do is stay here in case there are any calls—especially from Gran herself.
“Where are you going?” I said.
“To talk to Kim Blaine about all this.” Kim Blaine is Mom’s lawyer, and also a good friend. “I’ve left Kim’s number on the kitchen pad, if you need me for the next hour or so. If there’s any news, anything at all, you call me there right away, okay? Meanwhile maybe you could sort through Gran’s things and put them away for me. Use the extra shelves in the hall closet.”
She hugged me hard, washed her face and slapped on some fresh makeup, and off she went to see Mrs. Blaine.
She probably thought handling Gran’s stuff—actually registering that everything of Gran’s had been left behind at the home—would convince me that Gran really was this helpless little old lady wandering around New Jersey with only the clothes she stood up in and no idea of what was going on.
Huh. No chance.
There wasn’t much to put away, really: a few faded cotton print dresses, old shoes all bulgy where Gran’s corns had stretched them, two hat-boxes stacked full of hats covered with artificial flowers that she’d sewn on herself, little plastic zipper bags of nylons and slips and stuff.
Around six Mrs. Blaine’s secretary called to tell me Mom wouldn’t be home till after dinner. Mom had gone out to eat with Mrs. Blaine. I ate by myself, did some French homework, and remembered not to talk very long on the phone to any of my friends in case Mom called, or Gran.
The phone rang.
“Hi, lovie,” said a voice I would know anywhere in a thousand years. Gran has never lost a little trace of the accent of Scotland, where she was born. “Something’s rotten in Denmark, and I’m just off to find out what; so don’t worry your head about me. It’s not so easy to nobble your old Gran, just you remember that! Did you get what I left for you?”
“No, what?” I said, clutching the phone receiver in a spasm of relief.
“Oh, goodness, don’t tell me I forgot to—” she muttered irritably. “Yes, I did, here it is in my own coat pocket! There now, it’s on its way. Keep it with you, you may well need it.”
The mouthpiece got suddenly warm against my cheek. I jerked the receiver away from me and almost dropped the thing. Through the little holes of the speaker came this pale gray mist, hanging in the bedroom air like your breath on a cold day.
If you didn’t know my Gran, you might have to be peeled off the ceiling over something like this. I knew her, and I was kind of jangled by it myself.
Before my eyes, the mist solidified into the fingers of a long, soft silver leather glove that I grabbed and drew slowly out till it lay limply in my palm. Then I heard Gran hang up, bam.
As I’ve said, my Gran had powers.
I recognized this particular glove right away. It came from the flea market they hold on Saturdays in the yard of a neighborhood school on Columbus Avenue. My mom and I sometimes go there to look for priceless antiques, which we hadn’t found any of yet. I’d bought the glove for my Gran’s birthday two years ago. Even though there was only the one glove (for the left hand), it was so long and soft and pretty that I’d wanted Gran to have it. Also, it was something I could afford on my allowance.
I put the glove in my pocket and went back to reading The Count of Monte Cristo, which was the only thing that could keep my mind off everything else.
Mom came in late. I sat with her while she had a glass of wine to calm her nerves before bed. I had already decided what kind of approach to take about Gran’s call: the effort of not just blurting out the good news was fraying my brain. The trick was to present the news properly.
I said, “Mom, does Alzheimer’s disease make you think people are after you? You know, make you paranoid?”
“I don’t think so,” Mom said, sipping her drink. “Don’t you remember that program we saw on TV? God, I never thought it would come so close to home! Alzheimer’s is forgetting, worse and worse forgetting, until you don’t remember your own children or how to feed yourself. In the end your body forgets how to live and that’s that.”
This sounded pretty horrible, but Gran (thank goodness) was clearly in some other kind of danger. Who wasn’t going to “nobble” her? “Does Gran have any enemies?” I asked casually.
“What do you mean?” Mom said. “How could a little old lady in a retirement home have enemies?”
“Um, well,” I said, continuing my indirect approach, “it’s not impossible, you know. What if she was a secret agent once, so secret that even you never knew about it; and now somebody’s after her from back then.”
To me, this didn’t seem too bad for spur-of-the-moment.
Mom actually smiled a little. “Your grandmother was never anybody’s secret agent. You see too many movies, my girl—Granny Gran and the Temple of Doom.”
“I don’t see as many as my friends do,” I said. I couldn’t even talk to some of the kids at school if I hadn’t seen certain movies, but Mom has never been sympathetic about this.
True to form, even in the midst of her worries about Gran (one thing about mothers is how predictable they are about certain things), Mom said, “Let’s not get off on that.”
“Or maybe,” I said, closing in on the forbidden subject, “it’s something to do with, you know, Gran’s, um, special talents.”
Presto, Mom began to yell. “Look, Valentine, don’t throw TV plots at me, all right? This is real life. Old people don’t have enemies, and ‘special talents’ are not part of real problems! We live in the same world that everybody else does, dull as that may sometimes seem, and we have to cope like everybody else, too.”
She sighed and looked at me sadly. She had big dark rings under her eyes. If only she would let me relieve her mind!
She said gently, “If you’ve got some idea that there’s a dastardly plot to lock up Gran on the pretext that she’s got Alzheimer’s, please, please give it up. This is going to be tough enough as it is. I know it’s a rotten deal, honey, believe me; this is my own mother we’re talking about. I appreciate your sympathy and I know you’re trying to help, but it’s a matter of facing grim reality, not trying to sneak out from under it. Now I’m going to bed, and so are you, young lady. It’s been some day. All we need is for one of us to come down with something from being overtired.”
No choice but the direct one was left. I said, “Mom, wait. Gran’s really all right, she told me—I spoke to her on the phone today.”
“What?” said Mom. “What did she say? Where is she?”
“We never go
t around to that,” I had to admit.
Mom jumped up and paced around the living room. “Valli, why didn’t you tell me?”
“I’m trying to,” I said. “The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with her.”
“Oh, a chat on the phone and you know more about her condition than the doctors do?” Mom flared. “So she was having a lucid period, that’s all, it happens, but it doesn’t mean anything!”
“Mom,” I said. “It does mean something. I know you’re not going to like this, but you have to listen. Whatever’s going on, and she told me she wasn’t sure what it was herself yet, it’s something to do with magic.”
“Magic.” Mom put her wine glass down on the stereo and closed her eyes wearily. “No,” she said. “It’s something to do with a horrible disease that kills your brain, cell by cell. Valli, you’ve got to face it—”
“Look, Mom. She put this through the phone when I talked to her.” I pulled out the glove.
“Oh, Val,” she said, “come on. That must have been in with all the other stuff of hers that I just brought home.”
“No,” I said. “It wasn’t.”
Mom said firmly, “Then you must have picked it up in her room the last time you visited her at the home.”
“Mom,” I said, “you know Gran can do things.”
Mom held out her hand. “Let me see that.”
She took the glove and held it between two fingers as if it was poisonous. Then she whirled, opened the window behind her, and threw the glove out.