Everywhere the stage was littered with fallen sheet music for the Christmas program. I glanced to the two men keeping me on my feet, and whispered. “Sing.”
“What?” the man on the left looked at me as if I had gone insane.
I probably am.
I sang, starting into “Silent Night” in a soft voice. The men beside me started to sing in a softer voice than I did, but we were heard by those around us, and it started to spread.
The effect was immediate. Bruce whirled, his face angry and yet also pained. “Shut the freak up! No freaking singing, or I’ll freaking bash your freaking heads in!”
That cowed some people, but I kept up. The man on my left nudged me to shut me up, but I kept singing, this time a little louder, and it picked up, mostly by the women, especially the mothers with children clutching at them.
Bruce and his boys took a step back. The others didn’t seem to know what was going on, but Bruce gritted his teeth and stepped forward again.
I changed songs. “O come all ye faithful,” I began.
There was some awkwardness as we changed tunes, but soon all fell into line. This time everyone was driven back two steps.
“Bruce! What the freak is going on?” one asked.
“It hurts, man!” another complained.
Bruce, though, grit his teeth even harder and held his ground. He gripped his bat with white knuckles. I didn’t know for sure, but I thought it was a struggle for him to hold onto the bat, not a sign he was going to start swinging.
We finished the first verse, and I steered us into “Hark the Herald Angel Sings.”
Two guys crumpled to their knees, dropping their weapons. Bruce went to one knee, struggling to maintain, and a ripple went through him. Muscles tense and flared, and he got back to his feet. He took a swing of his bat, but he was too far away from everyone, and no one stopped singing.
One voice rang out through the singing crystal clear. I turned to the source, a woman in her early twenties. Around her, the singers were strongest. With help, I hobbled her way.
I bent to her ear, and said loud enough to be heard, “Lead everyone. Joy to the World, next. Really belt it out, everything you’ve got. Can anyone play?” I asked, pointing to the piano.
As soon as I pointed, a woman beside the piano nodded, still singing, and sat down.
Bruce hadn’t been idle, either, taking halting steps towards the singers, who all backed away, but kept singing. With each step, the teen’s features twisted in pain and rage. The evil spirit inside writhed against the song, and I could see Bruce’s lips moving, too.
If that’s an incantation, we could be in serious trouble. He doesn’t have any materials with him, but he might intend to sacrifice Bruce’s body.
We reached the end of the verse, and the woman called out to everyone, “Joy to the World,” looking especially at the piano player.
The piano player slammed fingers onto the keys, the sound exploding onto the stage only to be drowned out by the collective voices, especially of the woman, as we sang.
Whatever words Bruce had been speaking died on his lips as he completely crumpled to the stage. He shuddered like he was having a seizure for a few moments, but then it stopped, and I felt something . . . wrong, drift out from his direction, and then it fled entirely. Bruce was out, and so were his boys.
The woman looked at me, and I motioned for her to continue, as I hobbled with the men next to me to collect the weapons. Someone else with initiative scrambled down the stage to grab a phone.
“The end,” I said.
“That’s it?” Jessie asked. “But what happened?”
I shrugged. “The cops came, cleaned everything up. Bruce and his gang were taken away. The Nativity recovered, and they held the Christmas program as scheduled.”
“Wow,” Jessie breathed. “Jen never told me that one.”
“I never wrote it down,” I said.
I frowned. “I don’t know. Just didn’t feel right to for some reason.”
I looked to Nikki, who also frowned.
“None of this explains that.” She nodded to the hat still on my desk.
“Oh, well, Christmas morning I found a letter, well, a note, under my tree.” I got up and went to one of the filing cabinets and pulled out the bottom drawer. I pulled out an unnamed file and read the note. “Matt, work on your singing. Nice job. –Nick.”
I returned everything. “I thought that Nick was the name of someone in the program, but after questioning everyone, it didn’t belong to any of them. It wasn’t until later that I figured it out.”
“Well, I believe I have my answer, at least as much of one as I will probably get.” Nikki stood, gathering her coat. “Though perhaps something else will occur tomorrow. I will see you then, Matthew.”
My eyes widened. Nikki, like most of the supernatural, tended to keep a low profile during Christmas. The belief power flying through the air tended to weaken them, just as during Halloween she was strengthened.
I smiled. “Sounds good to me.”