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July 10, 1990
So it hasn't happened yet. Ted wants to make sure it's perfect. Plus, heaven forbid we actually did it for fun instead of for procreational purposes. So, he sent me to some doctor who taught me how to chart my cycle and figure out when I'm fertile. And that's when it will happen. The doctor says there's about a four day window when I could get pregnant. We figured out when those four days would be. And we'll be going all over the country and the world to get the blessings of as many powers and traditions as Ted thinks we can squeeze in. In four days.
I'm excited. But I'm scared. I've never done it before. I wonder if it's really going to hurt.
Jason and I hit the floor immediately, as slivers of glass flew through the air. We could hear screams. I tried to look up to see if everyone else was taking cover, particularly Mina and Chance, but Jason was covering my body with his own, and I couldn't see anything. The music was still playing in the background, but over it, I could hear the sounds of feet crunching the broken glass and of bullets ripping from the muzzles of guns.
"Do you have a gun?" I whispered furiously to Jason.
"No," he said, sounding disappointed in himself. "You?"
"It really doesn't go with my outfit," I muttered.
I struggled under him again, trying to get a look at what was going on. I managed to peer out beneath his arm. All I could see were feet in black boots and the streaks of prom dresses as people ran for the exits.
"What is going on?" I hissed at Jason.
Abruptly, he got up and yanked me to my feet. I barely had time to register the fact that the Sons who'd burst in through the windows were being gunned down by Brothers, who were streaming into the main hall from the entrances and through the broken windows.
"Run!" Jason said.
I took two seconds to jerk the high heels I was wearing off my feet, and then we did run, clutching each other's hands. We were flanked by other students and teachers, also running out of the main hall. I looked around frantically for Chance and Palomino, but I couldn't see them.
"Where's Chance?" I asked Jason.
He stopped. "Dammit," he said. We both scanned the room for a glimpse of either one of them. It was pandemonium. The DJ had fled, and his sound equipment had been knocked over. The tables were lying on their sides, rolling around. Tablecloths were crumpled on the floor, dishes broken. And among all the debris were running people. People tripping over chairs. A girl howling when she stepped on a broken piece of glass. The Sons and Brothers crouching behind pieces of furniture for cover, their bodies already littering the ground. And, I noted, to my horror, there were at least a few other bodies. Bodies in bright-colored dresses or tuxedos. Was that a black dress? Was that Palomino?
But no, her hair was dark.
"Chance!" I screamed.
"Azazel!" came a reply.
I whirled, looking for Chance. But instead of Chance, it was Professor Moretti screaming my name. He corralled the two of us and tried to push us towards the exit. "You have to get out of here," he said. "It's important that you survive."
"Where's my brother?" I demanded.
"Your who?" said Moretti, looking confused.
I twisted around Moretti, gazing out into the ruins of the main hall. Were Chance and Mina already outside?
Suddenly, Moretti grabbed my shoulders and pushed me to my knees. It hurt, and I cried out. But in the next second, Professor Moretti's chest turned red as a bullet struck him. Right where my head had been. His eyes registered shock for a second, then they went dull, and he crumpled to the ground. He was dead.
A tiny gasp escaped my throat.
Yeah. Perfect high school memory all right.
Well screw this. I wasn't sitting around watching people die while they were trying to protect me. I shot a glance around my immediate surroundings, until I saw one of the dead members of the Sons. I crawled over to him.
"Azazel!" Jason whispered furiously.
I just retrieved the man's gun from his hands and waved it at Jason.
He nodded. "Good idea," he said, and within a few seconds, he had his own gun.
We settled in behind an overturned table, peering out to squeeze out shots at the Sons. For a while, it was going pretty well. No one had any idea where our shots were coming from, and we were taking down Sons pretty easily. I hadn't shot a gun in months, but I was doing well with my aim. I even hit one of the Sons squarely in the head, which reminded me of their signature shot. Always in the head. Jason did it too.
Jason, of course, was doing better than I was. He was a crack shot, always hitting his target. Right in the head.
Maybe it was the precision of Jason's shots that tipped them off, but the Sons figured out that it was Jason and I behind the table shooting at them, and they concentrated their effort on us.
Bullets started tearing through the wood of the table, splintering it.
Jason and I both went face down on the floor, flattening ourselves.
I was beginning to wonder if our best idea wouldn't be to get out of the main hall. Where was the exit?
Jason probably already knew where it was. He checked exits the minute he got in a room, and he'd taught me to look for them too, and to keep their location in my head at all times. But I was slipping, and I couldn't remember. I rolled over on my back, my gun leveled at my feet, and craned my neck behind me to look.
Okay. There it was. Maybe twenty feet, but there were overturned chairs and broken glass in our path. Could we crawl there?
And then I heard it. "Azazel!" yelled a voice.
I saw him then. He and Palomino were crouching in the corner, not ten feet from us. They were behind a table like us. Chance had his arms around Mina, and she was clutching the lapels of his tuxedo, hiding her face in his shirt.
The fire Jason and I were drawing from the Sons was too close to them. A stray shot could hit them.
I couldn't let that happen.
Another bullet burst through the wooden table Jason and I were behind. It skimmed between us. Too close for comfort.
Jason was still face down, but he was starting to crawl for the exit. "Let's go," he said.
I shook my head. "Chance," I said, gesturing with my head.
More bullets came through the table. I closed my eyes and pressed my cheek against the floor.
If one of those bullets went a little off course, it could kill either Mina or Chance. And Mina was pregnant with my niece or nephew. I didn't have a lot of family left. They were it.
I shot one last glance at Jason, who seemed to be quickly contemplating the distance between the door and Chance.
And, in a flash, I understood my dream. Here it was. I had to choose between protecting Jason and protecting Chance.
Jason could take care of himself.
I stood up.
"No!" Jason screamed.
I opened fire in the general direction of the Sons, not bothering to look or aim as I dashed to Palomino and Chance. A bullet grazed my cheek. It stung and blood started to trickle down my face. I wiped at it furiously.
"Run," I screamed at them. "They don't care about you. They care about me and Jason! Run now, while they're not looking at you."
I took my eyes away from them and surveyed the room. Quickly, I took in the Sons who were firing at me. There were only three. I took careful aim and pulled the trigger. The shot caught one in the stomach. He went down, but I didn't know if he was dead.
I turned back to Chance and Palomino. "Run," I said furiously.
"Zaza" Chance protested.
"Go!" I growled.
They got up and started for the exit in a crouching, halting run.
And that was when the bullet lodged itself in my arm.
It really hurt.
But I didn't make a sound. I just looked at it. Looked at my shredded skin. At the flow of red blood. And thought, Well, at least it's not my shooting arm.
I took another shot at the Sons. And that was when I realized the gun I had was out of bullets.
"Fuck," I muttered. I usually reserved that word for periods of time when circumstances were really, really dire.
I looked around me, searching for another dead guy with a gun that I could get to easily. As I did, I couldn't help but notice that the room was littered with dead men. It was difficult to tell the Sons from the Brothers. They were dressed alike. But there was no one standing anymore except the two Sons who were shooting at me. The Brothers might very well all be dead. But they'd done their job well. There were bodies everywhere.
And none of those bodies were particularly close to me.
I looked back at the two standing Sons. They were going to kill me, I realized. This was it. I was going to die.
At least Chance was safe.
Then I noticed it. It was a sound I didn't think I'd ever heard beforea kind of strangled, half-sobbing cry of rage. It had been going on since . . . since I'd been shot.
The head of one of the Sons exploded.
I was confused. Or maybe I was getting lightheaded from the loss of blood.
Jason was on the other side of the room. He was behind the Sons.
How had he gotten there?
And he was making the noise. His face was twisted, ugly, kind of a sneer. Almost a smile. He'd just shot one of them. I'd never seen Jason move so fast.
The other one, the guy who'd shot meJason tackled him, knocking his gun on the floor.
The man hit the floor with a thud. Jason was on his feet. I'd never seen him move so fast. He grabbed the guy by the collar and wrenched his body off the ground. Then he flipped his gun over in his hand so that he was holding it by the barrel and began to bash the man in the face. Blood spattered onto the floor. Onto Jason's face.
Jason threw the man onto the floor, and Jason ground his foot into the man's face. I heard a crunching noise and the man twitched. Then he was still.
Jason didn't stop though. He kicked the man's face again and again.
And the face didn't look much like a face anymore. It was mangled and meaty, features askew.
Jason was still leering or smiling or whatever he was doing.
I started forward. "Jason," I said.
He didn't look up.
"Jason," I said again, walking shakily across the main hall to him.
When I was so close that I could touch his shoulder, I did.
And he looked up, startled.
"I think he's dead," I whispered.
Jason's face was white with fury. He backed away from the man, his breath coming in gasps. "He shot you," he gulped out.
"I'm okay," I said. But that lightheadedness . . .
Jason stripped off his tuxedo jacket and wrapped it around my arm. He started to lead me away, out of the main hall. We gingerly stepped over the bodies.
This was our style all right. Wherever we'd been, we left a mess. We weren't exactly great guests.
"So," I said to Jason, "you were saying that we were safe here?"
He glared at me. "You're bleeding," he said. "Let's joke later. Okay?"
I was in a hospital bed when Jason and a Brother came into the room. Jason was carrying a bundle of clothes for me. I'd asked him to get them from Mina.
Apparently, those hotel rooms that the rich kids had booked turned out to be useful after all. The campus had been pretty much immediately evacuated. Students were all being sent home. Chance and Palomino were already at the airport, booked on flights back to the States.
I was going to be released soon. The gunshot wound wasn't too bad. It had entered the fleshy part of my arm and missed most of the muscle, just going through fat. I'd never really liked the fact that my arms were a little pudgy at the top, but I was pretty grateful now. I'd been stitched up and bandaged up. The staff had instructed me to change the bandage often, apply antibiotic ointment and watch for infection. My stitches would supposedly dissolve on their own, so I wouldn't need to come back to the hospital.
"How are you?" Jason asked, looking concerned.
I grinned. "These pain meds are awesome!" I said, giving him a thumbs up.
He smiled, but came over to sit next to me and hold my hand. "It kills me that you got hurt," he said. "I should have been watching."
"Not your fault," I said. "Maybe trying to provide a diversion so that Chance and Mina could get away was not the brightest of plans."
He kissed my forehead. "You're brave, Azazel. I've always said so."
The Brother who had come in with Jason was looking uncomfortable. Let him. As long as he didn't start kneeling to us, I didn't really care. "So," I said to him, "how many of the Brothers survived?"
He shook his head. "Two of us, including me," he said. "The other is in intensive care."
That was bad. "I'm sorry," I said.
"Many are lost in pursuit of the Purpose," said the Brother. "It is a deep honor for us to die in your service."
Oh gross. "Okay, well, don't do us any more honors," I said. "I don't like people dying for me at all."
"Me either," said Jason. "This is Haversham," he introduced me to the Brother. "He wants to take us somewhere remote."
"Remote?" I said.
"I have access to a private plane," said Haversham, "and I know of a very small island off the southern coast of Africa. I don't think you would be discovered there."
An island? That could be kind of cool, maybe. It would be warm. There would be an ocean. Then I remembered Florida. That hadn't really turned out really well. I shook my head. "They always find us," I said. I looked at Jason for reinforcement.
"I don't know if they would," said Jason.
I bit my lip. "Hand me my clothes," I said.
Jason gave me the bundle he was holding. "If we just disappeared, maybe this whole thing would blow over."
I shook my head, looking at the outfit Jason had brought me. "You said something like that before," I said. But I didn't really think it would happen. "But they're obsessed with finding us, Jason."
"Of course they'd look for us," he said. "But if they couldn't find us, after a while, they'd give up."
"And if they didn't? Would we just spend the rest of our life on an island?"
"If we were together, would that really be so bad?"
I considered, unfolding my pants. "Hey, I wore these pants a week ago," I said. "I haven't even washed them yet."
"They don't look dirty to me," said Jason. He changed the subject back to the matter at hand. "Think about it. It would be somewhere that no one has ever heard of us. We could just . . . be. No one would be chasing us. We could relax."
These were the pants I'd worn the night I'd found Jude and Jason, weren't they? And there was something in the pocket . . . The leather journal I'd taken from Jude! I pulled it out. I'd had a dream about this thing. I couldn't believe I'd forgotten all about it.
"What's that?" Jason asked.
"Jude had it," I said. I opened it up and began to read from one of the pages. "'Ted says we need to gather as much power as we can to imbue to our sonthe Rising Sun. We're leaving the Sol Solis School for Rome.'" The dream! I looked up at Jason. "This is Michaela Weem's diary. It explains everything that she and Edgar Weem did to create you."
Jason looked confused. "How do you know that from reading one sentence?"
"I had a dream . . . I just know, okay? And I think this is important." I didn't think I would have dreamed about it if I weren't supposed to do something with it. I paused, examining the ramifications of that statement. I'd thought the word "supposed." Meaning that I thought there was some kind of destiny wrapped up in the journal. That I thought something was meant to be. That went against everything I'd ever thought. "Jason, I don't want to go hide on island and pretend this is going to go away. I don't think it's going to go away."
Jason reached out his hand for the diary. He flipped through it. "What else are we going to do, Azazel?"
I took a deep breath. I couldn't believe I was actually going to say this. "What if it's true?"
"What if what's true?"
"What if you really are the Rising Sun?"
"Oh, and then you're the Vessel of Azazel?" he asked. "Then I think you're supposed to kill me, right?"
"I assure you," said Haversham, "there is no doubt in my mind that you are the Rising Sun. And you," he gestured at me, "are his consort. You complete and feed each other. Your duality is echoed in countless mythological traditions."
"Yeah," said Jason, "we know that you think that. But we" He broke off and looked at me. "I thought we were going to make our own destiny."
"By running away and hiding on an island?"
He didn't say anything.
"Things happen to us, Jason. Weird, weird things. Most recently, I think we made an entire campus of people like us."
"Okay," he said. "That was weird. But it's just like everything else that happens. It happens to us. We don't control it. It just happens. And, yeah, you're right. It's weird."
"I don't know," I said. "I mean, before the Sons went nuts in Shiloh, I sincerely wanted us to get out of there alive. And when you came back to life, I really wanted you back. And tonight, at the prom, you said that it was perfect. I mean, before the Sons came in. We got crowned prom king and queen. Some part of you wanted that. Some part of me wanted it. We might not know how we're doing it, but I think, maybe, we are controlling it."
Jason kept flipping through the diary. He was quiet for a long time. Then he looked up at me. "Maybe," he said.
"So," I said, "maybe we could find out more. I mean, maybe we use this diary. Retrace Michaela and Edgar Weem's steps. Maybe if we knew more, we could figure out how we're doing what we're doing. And then, if we really were as powerful as they seem to think we are . . ."
"We could make them stop bothering us," he finished.
I nodded. "Yeah."
Jason stood up. He walked back and forth in front of my hospital bed several times. Finally, he stopped. He turned to Haversham, suddenly all business. I was reminded of the time, back in Bramford, when he'd given orders to my father like a commander in the army. There was something inside Jason that was good at thisat leadership. "Okay, if Azazel and I are going to do this, we'll need a little bit of cover. That means, Haversham, you are to take the plane to the island, and act as if we are with you, should anyone ask. Don't tell anyone, no matter who they are, or what their allegiances are, that we're anywhere else. Can you handle that?"
Haversham raised his eyebrows. "I feel that I must voice my own concern for your safety. After all you are too important to"
"Can you handle that?" Jason cut him off sharply.
Haversham bowed his head. "Indeed," he said.
"Good," said Jason. "Secondly, we're going to need money, and we're going to need transportation. I have a contact in the states that I usually go through for credit cards and stuff, but I don't think she'll be able to help us here. Can you help us with that, Haversham?"
Haversham considered. "A car is no problem, sir. However, since the Brothers have been cut off from the Sons, we haven't had much access to funds. I might be able to put together some cashmaybe a few thousand eurobut it would take me several hours, at least."
Jason's eyes widened. "A few hours, a few thousand euro? That should be more than sufficient. Thank you."
"Of course," said Haversham. He bowed his head again.
"And one more thing," said Jason.
"Stop with the bowing stuff."
"Yeah," I agreed. "It's totally creepy."
Copyright (c) 2009 Valerie Chambers