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episode thirteen

Chapter Twelve

Text message transcript between Jason Wodden and Hallam Wakefield, 03/15/09, 05:15 PM

Jason Wodden: any tips for cauterizing a wound?

Hallam Wakefield: are you hurt? where are you?

Jason Wodden: am fine. not my wound. have u done it before or not?

Hallam Wakefield: tell me where you are!!!

Jason Wodden: can't. i tried to do it and botched it. wound still bleeding heavily.

Hallam Wakefield: give me your location.

Hallam Wakefield: jason?

I let out a little gasp. Muffled it immediately with my hand. I wanted to look away, but I couldn't. The severed finger sat inside the stained cloth, blood still seeping from it. It was a woman's index finger. She had a long, manicured nail. "Oh," I whispered, shaking my head. "Oh, oh, oh."

Gordon pushed past Jude to see what was in the bundle. He turned on his heel and went back to Jude, grabbing Jude by the shoulders. "How did you get this? What happened?"

Jude was sobbing. Huge tears were spilling out of eyes. He didn't talk. He didn't look at Gordon. He just cried.

Gordon shook Jude hard. "Stop it," Gordon ordered. "Talk to me, Jude."

"He called me," Jude said through his tears.

"We were all here when that happened," said Gordon. "What did he say?"

"He said . . ." Jude's sobs cut him off.

Gordon shook Jude again. "What did he say?"

"He said, 'Your mother has something she'd like to tell you.' And then I heard her screaming and screaming and screaming. And then he hung up." Jude sniffled. "When I got there, I found this. It was still warm."

"Oh," I whispered. "Oh. Oh."

"Jesus," said Noah.

He did it. He did it. He actually hurt Michaela because I didn't show up. Oh God. Oh God. Jason.

"There was another note," said Jude. "It said that if I didn't bring Azazel tomorrow, I'd find more pieces." He shuddered.

"She's his own mother," said Gordon, dropping Jude's shoulders and coming to look at the finger again. "How could do that to his mother?"

"He's evil," whispered Noah. "He's just pure evil." He looked at me. "And you won't kill him."

I stood up then. "It's a trick!" I screamed.

"What?" said Jude.

I advanced on Jude. "It's a trick," I repeated. "It's not a real finger. It's not a real finger. You're just trying to get me to kill Jason. You're all lying to me!" I shoved Jude then, hard.

He stumbled back from me, surprised. There were still tears in his eyes and his nose was running. He recovered, rubbing his nose with the back of his hand, a movement that made him look so much like Jason, it hurt. "You think I'm faking this?" he demanded.

"You faked everything else," I shrieked, shoving him again.

Jude shoved me back.

"Hey," said Gordon, grabbing me and pulling me away from Jude. "Don't shove my sister."

Jude flipped him off. "Her fucking boyfriend is cutting up my mother!" he yelled. "I'll shove her if I feel like it."

Gordon put me behind him. "Jude," he said. "Give me the keys to the van."

"No," said Jude. Jude reached behind Gordon and grasped my wrist. He yanked me over to him. "No," he said. "No, I'm taking Azazel, and I'm taking the van, and she's going to tell me where the hell Jason is."

I tried to pull away from Jude. "I don't know where he is," I said.

"Jude," said Gordon, "let go of Azazel." He moved forward, reaching for me.

"No," said Jude, and he reached into his jacket and pulled out a gun.

Gordon stopped moving.

"Shit," said Noah.

"Put down the gun, Jude," said Gordon, but his voice was shaking.

Jude aimed the gun at Gordon, then at Noah. Then he put the gun to my temple. In a sick sense of d�j� vu, I remembered Jason holding me this way, tight against his body, a gun to my head. But I'd trusted Jason. I didn't trust Jude.

"We're going," said Jude. "Don't try and stop me."

Jude backed up, dragging me with him.

"Jude," said Noah, "let's talk about this."

"One more word," said Jude, "and I blow her head off."

I didn't think he was serious. After all, his big plan was to get me to tell him where Jason was, which he couldn't do if I was dead. But I didn't know. Jude was pretty upset. I willed Noah and Gordon to shut up.

They stared after us as Jude led me to the car, their eyes wide and luminous.

Once outside, Jude threw open the door to the van and forced me inside. He slammed the door after me and hurried around to the other side. I watched him as he started the car, backed up the van, and pulled away from the house. I turned away from him once, to see that Noah and Gordon had both come out on the ruined porch of the abandoned house and that they were gazing after the van as it left. Then I turned back to Jude.

Jude was steering with one hand. The other hand was gripping the gun so tight that his knuckles were white. I thought about saying something to him. I decided not to. He was the one with the gun, after all. He was in charge.

We drove in silence for some time. The road ahead of us wound through the backwoods of Georgia. Eventually, we emerged in Shiloh, the small town where I'd met Michaela Weem just a few months before. Jude drove up and down the streets, looking around. Did he think he was just going to see Jason, walking around?

"He's got to be here somewhere," Jude said more to himself than to me. "He's close. Close enough to cut off her finger and leave it there still bleeding. Where is he?"

I didn't say anything.

"Where is he, Azazel?" he said, rage filling his voice.

"I don't know," I said softly.

"And if you did, you wouldn't tell me, would you?" he said.

It didn't really seem wise to answer that question. "I don't know where he is," I repeated.

Jude swallowed. "You understand why I'm so upset, don't you?" he asked.

What was this? Was he looking to me for reassurance? He was the one with the gun.

"She's my mother," he continued. "She's all I've ever had. Maybe sometimes I got angry with her. Maybe sometimes I even hated her, but I can't let anything happen to her."

"Trade me tomorrow, then," I said. "What do you care? Your mother will be safe."

"No," said Jude. "No, I can't do that. Then Jason wins. I can't let Jason win."

"Even if it means your mother gets hurt?" Maybe it wasn't a good idea to push him like this, but he seemed vulnerable. Besides, if I could focus on how Jude was feeling, then I didn't have to think about the fact that Jason had cut off his own mother's finger. My Jason. Had tortured someone. What did that mean?

"You don't understand," said Jude. "She'd never forgive me if I gave in like that." He shook his head. "If I gave you up, she'd hate me. Us finding you and getting you and convincing you to kill Jason is the most important thing in the world to her. If I ruined that for her, she'd . . ."

"She'd what?" I asked. "She wouldn't be grateful that you saved her life?"

"Of course not. Her life isn't important. Not unless she gets you to destroy Jason."

We'd reached the end of Shiloh. It wasn't a big town. Jude took a turn, taking us down another windy country road. I realized that he must know his way around here pretty well.

"Did you grow up in Shiloh?" I asked, wanting to change the subject. Maybe if I could get Jude to talk about happy memories, he'd calm down enough to think rationally. Maybe then I could . . .

I could what? Did I think Jude was still my best friend or something? He had just threatened to kill me.

"Yes," said Jude. "I've lived here my whole life. Until I went to Bradenton to find you."

Jude took another turn, this time onto a dirt road. The van bumped along the rocky road.

"I hate it here," he said. "I was so happy to get away."

He hated it here? "But your mother is here," I said.

"I hate my mother," said Jude.

What? "But you just said that"

"I know what I said." Jude pulled the car over onto the shoulder. He put his gun inside his jacket. He turned the keys in the ignition and pocketed them.

"We're stopping?" I said.

"I can't talk to you while I'm driving," said Jude. "I can't concentrate."

"Okay," I said. What did he want to talk about?

Jude shook his head. "Oh, Azazel," he said, looking close to tears again. "I don't know how everything got so screwed up."

For that matter, I didn't either.

He looked away from me. Up, at the interior of the van. "You don't know what it was like growing up here. Everyone knew my mother was Crazy Lady Weem. Everyone hated me. I defended her, but they used to beat me up anyway. And when I got home, it wasn't much better. All she talked about was Jason. All the time. The abomination. How to destroy him. How to end the madness she'd created.

"My mother got pregnant with me almost as soon as she'd had Jason," Jude said. "And she never told me who my father was. She always said that I was her second chance. That I was the great light. What she had brought into being to correct her mistake. But she never really seemed to love me. She never seemed to see me as anything other than a tool she could use to stop Jason. So, I was always lonely. But I didn't know that I was. I didn't know what it was that I wanted. I'd never had anyone. I'd never had any friends. Not until you."

"Jude" I started, then stopped. What was I supposed to say to that?

"I know," he said. "We're not friends. Not really. But that time that I spent in Bradenton, with you. Hanging out. That was the happiest time of my life. And I wasn't faking everything."

"You faked a lot," I said. "You faked who you were. You're not even gay, are you?"

"No," he said. "But I thought I'd be less threatening to Jason if you thought I was."

"That worked well," I muttered.

Jude laughed. "Yeah, I guess he was still pretty threatened."

"He knew," I said. "He saw through you." And I hadn't. And what was I doing now? Was I comforting Jude? Jude, who'd betrayed me? I sighed. "You drugged me, performed Satanic rituals on my sleeping body, hit me with a baseball bat, and most recently threatened to blow off my head."

"I know," said Jude. "And I'm kind of sorry about that. I don't know. I wish that . . . that it could be real. The way things were. The way we talked. All of that stuff."

He looked at me with sad eyes, and he was my old Jude again. Was this an act? Was he trying to get something out of me by acting like this?

"I don't know where Jason is," I said. "Saying this stuff isn't going to make me tell you where he is."

"I know that," said Jude. "I know you don't know where he is."

"So, then, why'd you take me away?"

Jude looked at his fingers. "I don't know," he said finally. "I didn't really think about that. I was really angry and upset. I didn't know what to do."

This wasn't the way that Jude should be acting after he'd captured me. He wasn't supposed to get all vulnerable and honest. How was I supposed to react to that? If he'd been cruel, if he'd been angry, if he'd waved the gun in my face, then I would have known how to act. After all, I'd been in that situation before. But now, with Jude so unsure of himself, I suddenly felt unsure of myself.

"You liked me, didn't you?" Jude asked. "You trusted me?"

I looked at him. I half-smiled. "Of course I liked you, Jude. You were my best friend. I told you everything."

"Not everything," said Jude. "You kept your secrets. Yours and Jason's. You were very loyal to that."

"I wanted to keep you safe," I said. "Back then, I thought that you didn't know anything about all of this. I thought if you knew, you'd be in danger."

"You were worried about me?"

"Of course."

"No one's ever been worried about me before," Jude said.

"That can't be true," I said. "I'm sure your mother"

"No," said Jude. "She doesn't worry about me. She expects me to worry about her, but she doesn't care if I live or die."

"Jude"

"No one cares if I live or die," he said.

We were quiet for several long minutes. Then finally, I said it, because it was true. "I care."

"No, you don't."

"I do," I said. "God knows why. You've done nothing but betray me."

Outside, twilight was stealing over the Georgia landscape. The sun was sinking slowly into the trees. I gazed out over the fields. "I guess everyone I ever cared about has betrayed me. My parents. Lilith. My brothers. You." I paused. "Even Jason. Jason went after Sutherland. He cut off your mother's finger. For all I know, he's actually a cold-blooded killer. Everyone's betrayed me." I turned back to him. "But it doesn't mean that I don't still care about those people. Maybe I shouldn't care about them. But it's like if I stopped, I wouldn't know who I was anymore. I'd lose my connection to the world. I'd stop being me. Maybe I'd stop being human. I care about you, Jude. I think I always will."

He smiled at me through the darkening interior of the van. "Thank you," he whispered.

We didn't speak again for quite some time. Outside, it got darker. The stars began to peek through the blackening blanket of the sky.

"I'm sorry about your mother," I finally said. "I don't . . . I don't know why he did that."

Jude didn't respond at first. Then he said, "I do."

"You do?" I was confused.

"He did it because of you," said Jude. "He did it because he'd do anything to get you back. Don't you remember what you said to me back in Bradenton? You said that if Jason knew someone had hurt you, he'd kill that person. Do you remember that?

I did. "Yes," I said. "But"

"You said it scared you."

I turned away.

"Does it still scare you?"

I hesitated. "Yes," I said.

"It scares me when you're scared," said Jude. "You're so brave, Azazel. I saw you take down Sutherland when he tried to carry you off outside the shooting range. I couldn't believe you actually went after him the next day. You're brave."

"I was scared," I said. "You saw me after I ran away from Sutherland."

"Yeah," he said. "You were crying. I held you."

I remembered. I remembered the feeling of Jude's arms around me and how similar they'd felt to Jason's arms. How obvious it should have been to me then. They were so similar. Why couldn't I have seen that they were brothers?

"I liked that," Jude said.

"You were very comforting," I said.

Jude's hand snaked across the van to snatch mine. "But I'm not him," he said.

"Jude?" I asked.

"I'm not as comforting as he is," he said. "I can't protect you the way he does."

I squeezed Jude's hand. "I'm not sure if I particularly like the way Jason is protecting me these days."

"Because he scares you?"

"Yeah."

"Do I scare you?"

I cocked my head, trying to look at him in the scant light, considering. "No," I said finally. "You don't scare me."

"Good," he said. "I don't want to scare you."

"Really?" I said. "Is that why you dragged me off at gunpoint earlier?"

"I just wanted to get you away," Jude said. "I don't know. I wanted to talk to you." He sighed. "It's weird. But I was upset, and the only person I could think of that I wanted to be around was you."

He was still holding my hand. It was dark inside the van, and I could barely make out his outline as he leaned closer to me, his face inching nearer and nearer to mine.

Was he going to kiss me?

Jude kept leaning in towards me.

He couldn't be trying to kiss me, could he?

His nose brushed mine.

He was trying to kiss me.

I hesitated for a second, and then I let him. I held my breath as his lips touched mine. They were warm and soft. I slid my hands inside Jude's jacket, tracing the outline of his ribcage.

And grasped his gun, drawing it out of his pocket.

Jude pulled back, surprised, but I already had the safety off and my finger on the trigger. I whipped the gun up, resting the barrel under Jude's chin.

"That was very, very stupid, Jude," I said softly.

His eyes were wide. "Azazel?"

"You couldn't have really thought that I wanted to kiss you, could you?" He'd bought it. He'd actually thought that I was feeling sorry for him. He'd thought that I had romantic feelings for him. I didn't. Jude disgusted me. I might sort of half-pity him, like a wounded dog or something. But he wasn't my friend.

I smiled, feeling pretty damned proud of myself. "Here's what's going to happen, Jude. Very slowly, you're going to give me the keys to the van. I'm going to take them. Then you're going to open the door and get out of the van. You're going to start walking away from the van. While you're walking, you're going to count. You'll keep walking until you've counted to, I don't know, a hundred. And you're going to keep walking and counting, even if you hear the van start and you hear me drive away, because if you do turn around, I'm going to shoot you. And you were with me when we went to the shooting range, Jude, so you know that I could very probably hit you, even if I'd driven the van away. You might think that maybe I'd be paying attention to driving and that I wouldn't see you turn around, but you aren't going to want to take that chance, so you're going to keep walking and keep counting. Do you understand?"

"Yeah," Jude said hoarsely, still looking astounded at this turn of events.

"Good," I said. "Give me the keys."

Jude reached into his pocket and handed them to me.

"Now open the door and get out of the van," I said, moving the gun away from his chin and aiming it at his forehead. "Slowly."

Jude tried to move slowly, but he lost his balance and tumbled out of the van. As he got up and brushed himself off, I moved into the driver's seat. I rolled down the window and pulled the door shut, aiming the gun at Jude through the open window. "Now turn around," I said. "And walk."

Jude started walking, his back to me.

"Count to a hundred!" I yelled after him as I started the van.

And I peeled out of the dirt road as fast as I could, without one look back at Jude. Back on the main road, I turned back towards Shiloh.

It was harder to drive the van than I'd imagined. I'd never driven a car that was this high above the ground before. Also, it was disconcerting not to be able to see the nose of the van. I didn't feel bad at all for leaving Jude out in the middle of nowhere. It was only a few miles out of town, after all. Plus, he'd taken me away at gun point.

Mostly, I guessed I was grateful. An emotional Jude had been much easier to get away from than both of my brothers and Jude. I also now had wheels. Things were definitely looking up for the first time since I'd been captured in Bradenton.

It was odd that Jude had bared his soul to me in so much detail, but I really didn't care. There were much more important things to worry about, like where Jason was. If I could get to him, then I could get him to stop hurting Michaela Weem. The both of us could get out of here.

Would we go back to Bradenton? Would we be safe there? What if Gordon and Noah tried again? Was I going to spend the rest of my life on the run from my brothers?

It didn't matter right now. I needed to find Jason first. We'd figure out the other details later. Right now, the only thing I should be focusing on was where Jason might be. And that was the problem, because I had no idea. We didn't have anywhere to stay in Shiloh. When we'd been here before, we'd stayed in a hotel outside Shiloh. I couldn't picture Jason checking into a hotel with a hostage. So, where was he? Was he in another abandoned house like we were? Wherever it was, Jude was right, it had to be relatively close. By the time Jude had returned, the blood on the cloth binding her finger had still been wet.

I blanched inwardly at the thought of Jason cutting off someone's finger. How could he have done that? What was happening to him? But I shook it off. I didn't have the luxury of worrying about that either. I had to find Jason.

I just had no idea where to look. If only I had my cell phone. I could just call him. But I didn't have a cell phone. Sutherland had taken it. And even if he hadn't, I was sure my brothers would have taken it when they captured me. I'd look for a payphone, but I still didn't know Jason's number. Was there any real point in trying to find a payphone, then? And where did they even have payphones these days? Convenience stores?

So what was I going to do? Drive up and down the streets looking for Jason? Go looking for other abandoned houses? Go door to door asking, "Have you seen a teenage boy and a fingerless woman?"

That was ridiculous.

I drummed my fingers against the steering wheel, willing myself to think. Think. I didn't have anywhere to go, except back to Florida. Could I do that? Was Hallam there, or had he gone out looking for us? If I could call Hallam, he would have Jason's phone number. Of course, I didn't know Hallam's phone number either. God. This was so stupid. When I'd been back in Bramford, I'd had everyone's phone numbers memorized. Back before I'd had a cell phone. They were nice and all, but there were definite drawbacks.

Suddenly, I was beginning to feel as if things were not exactly looking up now that I was away from Jude. Sure, I wasn't being held captive anymore, but I didn't know what I was going to do. And what about Lilith? Sure, I hated her, but could I really leave her at the hands of my brothers?

As if to add insult to injury, a car abruptly pulled out in front of me, a few hundred feet up the road. It halted in the middle of the road, blocking my lane and just stayed there, like it was a police roadblock or something. I swore and slammed on my brakes, screeching to a halt just a few feet shy of colliding with the car. It was dark, but I could see that the car was a shiny, new expensive one.

I leaned out my still open window, hurriedly stowing the gun inside the waist to my jeans. "Everything okay?" I called.

The door to the car opened, and Noah stepped out. "Azazel?" he said. "Where's Jude?"

Jesus! How had he gotten that car?

I threw the van into reverse and backed up at full speed, putting as much distance as I could between their car and the van. When I saw that Noah was getting back in the car and they were starting to pursue me, I immediately put the car in drive and turned around in the middle of the road, my tires squealing.

I took off at top speed, frantically checking my rear view mirror. They were in hot pursuit. And their car could go much faster than the ratty old van.

Damn. Damn. Damn.

Where had that car come from? I'd thought they were stranded back at that abandoned house. They'd gotten a really, really nice car lightning fast. How had that happened? How?

I had to slow down for the turns in the road, because I wasn't used to driving it. With every passing second, Noah was gaining on me. I tried to go faster, but I was losing control of the van as I rounded the curves. I pushed myself to take them faster and faster, not to worry about being able to navigate the road.

But then it happened. I hit a turn way too fast and when I turned the steering wheel and braked a bit, I skidded. Panicking, I pressed harder on the brake, realizing belatedly that was exactly the wrong thing to do. The skid deepened and the van wobbled. It tumbled off the road, falling on its side.

I wasn't wearing my seatbelt, so I was thrown to the other side of the van�hard. I thudded against the passenger side door. The crank for the window jabbed my thigh. My head cracked against the window. Pain shot through my body, bright like carnival lights. I bounced, collided again, and was still.

I groaned.

I knew that I needed to get up and run, but everything hurt so, so bad.

"Azazel?" Noah's voice.

"Zaza, are you okay?" Gordon's voice, getting closer.

I felt in my pants for the gun. It was still there.

Oh God. That had really, really hurt. I'd never wrecked a car before. I knew it was supposed to be a normal teenage experience. Trust me to make sure I had it in the most abnormal way possible, running from my crazy Satanist brothers who were trying to get me to murder my boyfriend. Could this possibly get any worse?

Oh yeah. They'd found me. I'd escaped, and now I was getting recaptured.

The driver's side door to the van opened. It was funny, watching it open above me like that. Open onto the night sky.

Noah and Gordon peered in at me.

"Are you hurt?" Gordon asked.

"I'm fine," I managed.

"We've got to get you out of there," said Noah.

"So you can tie me up again? No, thanks," I said. This really, really sucked.

"Zaza, you must realize we're just trying to help you," said Gordon.

"You're not helping me," I said. "You're ruining my life."

"How can you say that?" asked Noah. "We're saving the world."

"By sacrificing your baby sister?" I demanded. "You two stood by while Toby almost raped me. Brothers who cared would have stopped that."

"Well, it wasn't exactly rape, now was it?" said Noah. "Honestly, Azazel, you're overreacting."

"Really, Zaza," said Gordon. "Do you have any idea how much time I've had to take off of work to be here?"

That was the last straw. His work?! Really?

I ripped the gun out of the waist of my pants. I didn't think. I didn't speak. I didn't threaten. It was quick. It was easy. It was very, very simple. And it felt natural too. Like the most obvious, most normal thing in the world to do.

I shot them both very neatly in the forehead. Their bodies toppled over into the van. They hadn't even had time to cry out.

For a few very strange seconds, I felt calm and relieved. I felt proud of myself. I'd just fixed everything.

Then I looked into their faces, dangling over mine, blood dripping over their eyebrows and down their noses.

And I convulsed.

What had I just done?

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Copyright (c) 2009 Valerie Chambers