I came to groggily, unable to open my eyes right away. I was aware of the fact that I was tied up. My arms were bound behind my back. My feet were bound together. I was lying on my side. My head hurt. I moaned softly.
I struggled to open my eyes. I recognized that voice. “Azazel?”
Her face loomed large as my lids fluttered open. She was right next to me. Her face was bruised. “What…?” I muttered. My head really hurt.
“They didn’t kill us,” she said. “I think they might have killed everyone else.”
I squeezed my eyes shut and opened them again, trying to wake up. “Hallam and Marlena?”
“I don’t know. I lost track of them.” She was close to tears. “If Kieran killed them, I swear to God—”
“We’re here,” said Hallam’s voice, somewhere behind me. “I think they had orders to round up the ringleaders and kill everyone else.”
I managed to lift my head a little and look around. We were in a dark room. It had one small window toward the top of the wall. The window had bars on it. The room appeared empty except for the four of us. The walls were made of cinder block, the floors of concrete. It seemed to me as if we were in a basement somewhere. “You sure it was Kieran?” I asked.
“They were police,” said Azazel. “Who else could it have been?”
“Yeah,” I said, “but everyone should still have been hyped up on the leaves we tossed in the water supply. How did Kieran organize them?”
“And why didn’t he kill us?” asked Marlena. She was lying behind Azazel and me as well, propped up against one of the walls, her hands tied in front of her large belly.
“I told him not to,” said another voice.
I squinted, straining to see in the darkness. A figure moved on the other side of the room. It stood up and shuffled over to us. As the figure got closer, I could make out features. It was Nancy. The witch who’d channeled Agnes and freaked me out earlier. Her arms were bound in front of her as well, but her feet weren’t tied.
“Well, Agnes told him, anyway,” said Nancy. “When she takes over, I don’t have much control. I can only watch. And that’s a recent development. It used to be that whenever she took over my body, I was completely out of it.” She turned to Azazel. “You encouraged this. You told me to let that thing consume me. And whatever it is, it’s betrayed us.”
“Agnes helped me,” said Azazel.
Nancy shook her head. “I pointed out to you that the last time you’d seen her, through me, she’d tried to kill you. But you didn’t listen to me. You said I should open the channel. Let her in. And now I’m hearing you say that everyone is dead.” Her face twisted. “Even Guy? Did you see Guy?”
Azazel turned away. “They shot the children. I didn’t see Guy particularly, but—”
Azazel didn’t say anything.
No one said anything for several minutes. Nancy broke into loud sobs. They echoed off the walls. She collapsed onto her knees, doubled over, letting the crying take over her body.
I didn’t remember precisely, but I was thinking that Carol must have been Nancy’s girlfriend and Guy her son. I didn’t want to interrupt her grief, so I waited while she sobbed. She cried for a long time. Finally, as gently as I could, I said, “Why did Agnes tell Kieran not to kill us?”
She turned her tearstained face to me. “Because Hallam knows where Chance is. And Hallam cares about the three of you. So you would be useful in making him talk. My family, on the other hand, wasn’t useful at all. And now they’re dead.” She fixed her gaze on Azazel. “Because of what you made me do, my family is dead.”
“Hey,” I said. “It’s not her fault. She had reasons to trust Agnes.”
Nancy let out a hollow laugh. “Oh, you’re defending her, are you, Jason? In Columbus, you were trying to kill her. But even after all that, she still wanted you back. She still made me find out where you were so that she could be with you. I hope you’re very happy together. I’m alone, because she wanted you.”
“Azazel didn’t mean to hurt you,” I said quietly. “Kieran did it, not her.”
Nancy got up. On unsteady feet, she made her way back to the other side of the room. The darkness swallowed her up. The only sign of her was her aching sobs, ringing against the walls of our cell.
“I’m sorry, Nancy,” Azazel said.
I shook my head at her. “Let her be alone.”
“I know what it’s like to lose people,” Azazel said. “I’ve—”
I cut her off. I couldn’t afford to focus on guilt right now, and Azazel couldn’t either. “Hallam,” I said, “he’s going to force you to tell him where Chance is.”
Hallam smiled sardonically. “It won’t even be an issue, Jason. We don’t have the protection of the witches anymore. The only reason we aren’t Kieran’s mind slaves right now is probably the lingering effects of their spell. Once it wears off, Kieran will know what I know.”
“No,” snarled Nancy from across the room. “I’ve got you covered still. I may be angry, but I don’t want Kieran to get his hands on that little boy.”
Well, that was something. My eyes swept the room. “We’ve gotten out of situations worse than this before,” I said. “We’ve got to get out of this one.”
“We had our powers,” said Azazel.
“Before that,” I said. “Do you remember Cornelius Agricola? We were chained up there, and I—”
“There were weapons hanging on the walls there,” said Azazel. “And he was one man. Kieran will come in with bodyguards. He won’t underestimate us. He knows me, Jason. He practically was me when he had my memories. He knows what we’re capable of, and he’ll be prepared.”
“I can’t let him have Chance,” I said.
“No one wants to let him have Chance,” said Hallam. “I’ll never tell him where your son is.”
I wanted to believe him.
Kieran and Eve showed up in our cell within an hour. As much as I’d tried, I hadn’t come up with any solutions. The best we’d been able to do was get untied by sitting back to back and loosening the knots that held us. That had been a group effort. We’d needed each other to talk us through it and coach each other on where to put our fingers and what progress we were making. But once we were out and able to walk around, there was nothing else we could do. The heavy door was secure. The window was out of our reach and barred. There was nothing in the room to use. We were screwed.
Kieran and Eve swept into the room with about thirty armed men. Azazel was right. They didn’t underestimate us. It was actually kind of flattering in a perverse way, I guess. I couldn’t help but take a little pleasure in the fact that Kieran thought it would take thirty guys to stop me, even though he and Eve had our powers. The men immediately strode into the room and grabbed each of us. I had about seven guys on me, four of them actually holding me in place.
“Oh,” said Eve, “you got yourselves untied. That’s good.” She sounded as if she were congratulating a group of puppies on peeing on the newspaper instead of the floor.
I started to struggle against the guys holding me and then figured it was pointless. I’d have to let it play out. But I wasn’t an idiot. Something bad was about to happen, and I knew I wasn’t going to like it.
“This could have been much easier, you know,” Kieran said to me. “You could have just told us where Chance was.”
“You really are annoying,” Eve said. “All of you. Kieran and I can’t figure out what you did to everyone in the city yesterday. We thought you were immune to our powers because of who you were. But you had some little tricks up your sleeves, didn’t you?”
“Annoying,” agreed Kieran, “but not a significant problem. After all, your little group is all wiped out now, isn’t it?”
“Of course, it was a total pain to have to bring in people from outside of D.C. who hadn’t been affected by whatever you did, but it wasn’t that much of a pain,” said Eve. “You got our attention, though, so you can feel proud of that, I guess.”
They were talking to us like children. And I realized that in a lot of ways, they were right. There wasn’t much of anything we could do to them. To Kieran and Eve, we must seem like willful kindergartners. They were going to get Chance. And I wasn’t going to be able to do anything about it.
“I don’t know where Chance is,” I said to Kieran. “So I couldn’t make it easy for you.”
“Oh, that’s right,” said Kieran. “Supposedly, only Hallam knows.”
Eve waved at Hallam. “Hi, Hallam. I don’t think we’ve met yet. I’m Eve.”
Hallam’s only reply was a stony glare.
Eve stuck out her lower lip. “He’s not very polite, is he?”
Kieran addressed us like a school counselor. “Look, we really don’t want to hurt anyone. So if you tell us where Chance is, this will all be over really quickly.”
“Fuck you,” said Hallam.
“You’re right,” said Kieran to Eve. “Not very polite at all.” He snapped his fingers at his men. “Bring Marlena up here.”
The men holding Marlena dragged her away from the wall she’d been leaning against. They pulled her in front of Kieran and Eve.
“Oh gosh,” said Eve. “You’re pregnant. You know, I would give anything to be pregnant. Anything on earth. And no matter what Kieran and I do, it’s not happening.” She reached out and took one of Marlena’s hands. “You understand, right? If something got in the way of your being a mother, you’d do everything you could for a child, wouldn’t you?”
Marlena yanked her hand away from Eve. “I don’t understand a thing about you, bitch.”
Eve’s jaw dropped in shock. “She’s rude too. I think I’m glad we’re going to hurt her.”
Then I got it. That’s what they were going to do. They were going to force Hallam to watch as they tortured his pregnant wife. There was no way on earth Hallam could keep from telling them where Chance was. I couldn’t blame him when he did. He had to.
“Oh my God,” breathed Azazel. “Hallam, just tell them. We’ll figure out a way to get him back.”
I sucked in air and didn’t say anything. Because some selfish part of me cared more about Chance than Marlena. And some part of me wanted Hallam to stay strong.
Kieran rolled up his sleeves. He stepped close to Marlena, stretching his neck. And then he punched her in the nose.
Hallam rushed forward but was caught by the men holding them.
Marlena just glared at Kieran. “That all you got?”
Eve smiled pleasantly at Hallam. “Tell us where Chance is.”
I was going to have to do something about this. My gaze darted around the room, sizing up the men who were holding us.
Hallam didn’t say anything, but his eyes were full of agony.
Kieran giggled. “Gotta say, even though we didn’t want to hurt anyone, it sure is fun to get to do it anyway.” He punched Marlena again, his fist colliding with a crunch against her face. He’d broken her nose. Blood gushed out.
“Hallam, tell him,” said Azazel. “We’ll work something out.”
We were outnumbered, and they all had guns. The guns weren’t in their hands, but in holsters at their waists. If I could get to one, I’d have a few seconds before they drew their guns to take down a good portion of them. But I’d have to kill them, and I’d sworn…
My son .
“I’m fine, Hallam,” Marlena said through gritted teeth. “Don’t tell him anything.”
Hallam was struggling against the men who held him, but he wasn’t getting anywhere.
I didn’t have use of my arms, but my hands were right at the level of the holsters on the men’s hips. Maybe if I twisted the right way, I could surprise them. I tried not to look into any of the men’s eyes. It would be easier if I thought of them as targets, not people.
Kieran’s fists swung again, but this time he wasn’t satisfied with one punch, and Marlena’s face wasn’t good enough. He drove his knuckles against her swollen belly, one after the other.
Marlena let out a little cry and sagged in the arms of the men who were holding her.
Hallam roared in rage.
Kieran punched again. And again.
“Tell us where Chance is,” Eve said, still smiling.
Marlena yelled again. Her face was bloody and twisted in anguish.
“Palomino White,” Hallam blurted out. “He’s with her. I don’t know where they live nowadays. It used to be out west in Washington State.”
I cringed. But he’d had to. Of course, he’d had to. He hadn’t had a choice.
Kieran kept swinging.
“Stop it,” Hallam rasped. “Let her go, dammit.” He strained against the men that held him.
And I made my move. I jerked myself sideways quickly. I’d been standing without moving for so long that the men holding me had slightly relaxed, so it took them by surprise. As I moved, I reached for the closest gun. My fingers brushed the cold metal.
For a split second, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to grasp it, that it would slide out of my fingers.
But then my grip found purchase. The gun was in my hand. I flipped off the safety and aimed into the first leg I came to. I pulled the trigger.
Kieran stopped punching Marlena, a surprised look on his face.
The men around me moved away. One man fell to his knees, gripping his leg, which was seeping blood. And I didn’t think. I just pulled the trigger again and again. Point and shoot. It was what I was good at. The Sons had trained me well. It felt good, like putting on an old pair of broken-in jeans. I was at home. The spatters of blood didn’t bother me. The glassy eyes of the dead didn’t bother me. The throaty screams of dying men didn’t bother me. Nothing bothered me then. I was a killing machine.
Azazel hadn’t hesitated either. She had a gun too, from one of the fallen men. I hadn’t seen her move, but she was covering me, sighting bodies and waiting for them to move. Hallam had rushed forward to support Marlena, whose face looked ashen and sick. I didn’t have time to inspect them further.
I whirled and put a bullet in Eve’s skull, but she had my invincibility power, so it went right through and sealed back up.
“Ouch,” she said. “You’re rude too.”
I turned the gun on Kieran. “Near as I can remember,” I said, “Kieran’s power doesn’t protect him from gunshots.”
I crossed to Kieran in two steps and jammed my gun against his temple. “What happens if I blow his head off? What would that do to your precious little powers?”
Kieran grinned at me. “Try it and see.”
Fine. I didn’t need another invitation. I pulled the trigger.
Kieran was right next to me, and there was an explosion of blood and bits of skull. It spattered against me, and each drop that hit me suddenly reminded me of my guilt. I’d promised never to kill again. I’d sworn—
But Kieran just shook himself. The wound on his head was already mending. “Our powers are one. What she can do, I can do. You and Azazel never quite got yourselves together enough. You never embraced it.”
I could hear the patter of feet outside the cell. Men were coming. Could we shoot our way out of this? What were we going to do? I tightened my grip on the gun, bracing for it. I caught Azazel’s gaze to make sure she was doing the same. She gave me a grim but determined look.
Kieran and Eve noticed our exchange. They laughed. We were nothing to them. Babies playing a game.
Nancy materialized like a ghost out of the darkness. She was grinning. “Imagine thinking you could escape,” she hissed.
Great. She wasn’t Nancy after all. She was that creepy Agnes thing.
“Do you want your powers back now?” said Agnes.
I looked from Kieran and Eve, who were laughing like banshees, to Hallam and Marlena, who were white faced and worried. Was she kidding? I’d do anything for those powers at this moment. I turned to Azazel, who was nodding. “Hell yes,” I said.
Agnes reached out for Azazel’s hand and my hand. She pulled our hands together, joining them.
The door shot open. We heard gunfire first. Then we saw the men pouring in. There were so many of them, and they were all shooting. I struggled to raise my gun, but Agnes was in the way.
The men swarmed the room. They were everywhere, stepping over the dead bodies and firing their guns like automatons.
“Agnes!” I said, trying to shake out of her grip.
But she was muttering something under her breath, something I couldn’t understand.
A gunshot close to my face—too close. The noise echoed in my ears. I felt a sharp pain exploding in my head and then brilliant white light consumed me.
This book is being posted on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning 1/17/2012. To access other chapters, check out the Onset Posts Archive, here.