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episode sixteen

Chapter Fifteen

From: Arabella Hoyt < [email protected] >

To: Michaela Weem < [email protected] >

Subject: Is it done?

Michaela, you've been out of touch with me for days now. I just received communication from my grandsons. You promised me that this would be quick. I need word and soon. I'll only keep my end of the bargain if you keep yours.

Arabella

I could still hear the Sons scrambling through the house. Someone was coming up the steps behind Jude.

It was Hallam. He tackled Jude, knocking Jude flat on his face on the floor of the attic.

Behind him came a swarm of men dressed in black. Men toting guns.

But it was like it was all moving in slow motion. Like reality had just snapped whatever hold it had on me. I couldn't grasp the thread of events that had transpired. I couldn't make my brain put them together.

"Jesus, Azazel," said Hallam, "why couldn't you have waited for me?"

I looked at him. I looked through him. What was going on? I shook Jason. "Jason," I said. "Wake up."

Jason's body jerked lifelessly with the force of my shaking. His head lopped forward. His chin bounced against his chest. I shook harder. "Jason!" I said insistently.

Hallam came to me. Behind him, the Sons were restraining Jude. Tying his hands behind his back. Hallam knelt. "Azazel," he said. "Stand up."

I glared at him. "No," I said.

I turned back to Jason. I guided his head back. I placed it in my lap. I cradled him, and I rocked. "This didn't happen, did it?" I asked Hallam. "He isn't . . ." I couldn't make myself say it.

Hallam reached across me, taking Jason's wrist. He was feeling for a pulse.

"Azazel," he whispered. "He's gone. Come away from the body."

"NO!" I shouted. I clutched Jason to me tighter. "No."

I gazed down at Jason's face. Unlike Lilith's, it still looked so perfect. There was only one small hole marring the beauty of his face, high on his forehead, just below his hairline. It wasn't even bleeding that much. There was no exit wound. I traced his nose and chin with my forefinger.

He couldn't be dead. I'd just found him. It had been so hard to find him, and I'd had to go through so much. I'd shot three people in the head to find him. I'd faced the darkest part of myself. Resigned myself to future nightmares. Done things I'd never believed myself capable of. So, he couldn't be dead. After all of that, it just wouldn't be fair. It wouldn't be right.

"No," I whispered, caressing his cheek with the back of my fingers.

Hallam stood up and crossed the attic to the other members of the Sons. I heard him giving them orders, telling them what to do with Jude. Telling them to leave us alone for awhile. But I couldn’t really focus on the words. Everything still seemed fuzzy. There was a gauzy curtain between the world and me. I couldn't see straight. This couldn't be reality. Because Jason couldn't die. That wasn't the way things were supposed to go!

I loved Jason. He and I were supposed to ride off into the sunset together. He and I were supposed to live happily ever after. He wasn't supposed to die! And how, how, how, how could I possibly face the idea of being alive if he wasn't? It just wasn't true. It couldn’t be true. It couldn't be true!

I looked down at his face. It was true. Jason was dead.

The realization settled over me with icy certainty. Its truth seemed to crystallize the air in front of me. Things began to move at the proper speed. Things began to look clear again. That almost made it worse. Because everything was still going on, moving on, and Jason was dead. I felt like the world should stop. Like everything should stop functioning the way it usually did. How could everyone just keep going when Jason was dead?

Hallam sat down next to me again. We watched as the Sons left the attic. Then it was just me and Hallam. And the bodies.

"I'm sorry, Azazel," said Hallam.

"Yes," I said.

"But I'm glad I didn't have to do it," he said.

The statement should have made me angry. It didn't. I didn't really think I had the capacity for emotions right now. "You thought you'd have to kill Jason?"

"I hoped I wouldn't," said Hallam.

I held Jason close to me, still rocking his quiet body. My brain was still putting pieces together, even in the face of this. Would nothing stop me? Wasn't the death of Jason enough to stop me, even if it was enough to stop Jason?

"You've been working for the Sons this whole time, haven't you?" I said.

"No," said Hallam. "I don't work for the Sons."

"You brought them here," I said.

"It's complicated," he said.

"Were they coming to capture Jason?" I asked.

"I don't know why they were coming," said Hallam. "I just know that Weem put me in touch with them."

Right. He'd been talking to Weem. "Why were you in touch with Edgar Weem?"

Hallam didn't speak for a moment. His eyes darted from Jason's head in my lap to my eyes. "Are you sure you want to talk about this now?" he asked.

"No," I said. "Not sure about much of anything right now. But you might as well tell me."

"It's a long story," said Hallam.

"Guess I'm not going anywhere," I said. All my captors were dead or captured. The threat to me had been neutralized. Overall, I guessed I was safe. But the price . . . the price had been Jason's life, and the victory felt empty.

Shouldn't I be crying now? Shouldn't I be a mess? Why was I so calm? Dry-eyed? Was this the price I'd paid for killing my brothers and Lilith? Had I lost my ability to grieve? I remembered just minutes ago, when I'd been crying in joy at the sight of him. Now, when I'd never get to do that again, I was a stone. I didn't understand.

"Tell me," I said to Hallam, not looking away from Jason's face.

"Okay," said Hallam. "In November, you remember, I went to talk to Edgar Weem, to work the deal for you and Jason."

"Yes," I said.

"I arrived in Weem's office that evening after flying to England. Weem was waiting for me. He already knew that I had documents about Michaela, so I figured that he was sure of the scale of what I'd discovered about him. During our phone conversation, he'd seemed worried and confused. By the time I arrived, he seemed even more so. I chalked this up to my impeccable detective skills. But once I got settled and we began talking, he started to tell me things.

"He seemed very contrite and very sad. He seemed very old. He told me that the whole business with Jason had happened when he was a younger man. He said that he'd been stupid then, thinking he could create the Rising Sun. He should have known that he couldn't mess with forces like the ones he'd been intending to mess with.

"I didn't understand what he meant. I told him frankly that I didn't believe in any forces anymore. I had evidence that the entire Rising Sun debacle had been engineered by him, and I wasn't inclined to listen to anymore mumbo-jumbo about ancient powers and magics and whatever other ridiculous nonsense he wanted to spew at me. I told him that I'd had enough of that while I was working for the Sons thank you very much, and I didn't want anymore of it now. I was here to work a deal, plain and simple.

"He said that I was mistaken. He said that yes, it was true that he had manufactured Jason, that he had fathered him. But, he said, I mustn't think that because he'd engineered the entire thing that there weren't very powerful things that had transpired in Jason's creation. He told me that I didn't know what depths he'd plummeted to in the search for that kind of knowledge. Then he went on some kind of extended comparison between him and Faust, about making deals with the devil for knowledge.

"I was starting to tune him out. Look, I said to him, it didn't matter whether or not he thought Jason was actually the Rising Sun or not. The fact was that once everyone else in the Sons found out what he'd done, they wouldn't think that Jason was the Rising Sun. I had the power to destroy the organization and to destroy him if he didn't cooperate with me.

"He laughed then. He said that I shouldn't assume that he was trying to tell me that Jason was the Rising Sun. Quite the opposite, he said. He'd done awful, terrible things when creating Jason. He and Michaela had participated in rituals that were illegal and immoral and repulsive. He told me about some of them. I don't want to repeat much. He invoked powers dark and mysterious, powers that slumber in ancient texts, too horrible to be named, let alone be awakened. He said that he didn't think Jason was the Rising Sun at all.

"He said, 'No, Hallam, I think I've created a monstrosity.'

"I told him he was insane. I'd spent years with Jason. He wasn't monstrous in any way.

"Weem began to give me examples of things. He pointed out the work Jason and I had done for the Sons. Violent work. He said that Jason had taken pleasure in it. I denied that. Jason hadn't. I said that I'd never even witnessed Jason taking another human life.

"Weem said that Jason had killed members of the Sons in New Jersey. He told me how efficient it was. He said Jason's work was the work of a trained assassin, one who has killed many times. He hinted that I might not know how many people Jason had killed or when.

"I still didn't believe him, and I said so.

"He said that finally, there was the fact that Jason had killed his mentor, Anton.

"I was appalled. 'You people killed Anton,' I said. After all, it was that action which had been the impetus for my leaving the Sons. I couldn't believe he would pin the event on Jason. It was low, I thought. Low and ridiculous. And I couldn’t figure what it was Weem wanted to accomplish by lying to me in this way.

"Weem shook his head. He insisted that Jason had actually killed Anton. And he could prove it."

I interrupted Hallam. "He could prove it?" I said. "But Jason didn't do that. There's no way. He loved Anton."

Hallam sighed. "This isn't a good time for me to be explaining this to you," he said. "We should wait. Later, when you're calmer"

I silenced him with a look. "I'll never be calmer than I am now."

He nodded once. "He had a video, Azazel."

"He faked it!" I said.

Hallam shook his head. "I don't think so. Faking a video is a pretty tricky business. No, I'm sure it was Jason in the video. It was a security video. Grainy and black and white, but very convincing. If you could have seen it . . . Jason and Anton were clearly arguing. They were shouting at each other. There wasn't any sound, but I could tell they were both upset. Then Jason pulled out a gun and shot Anton. Over and over. And the expression on his face . . . Azazel, I've seen that expression. The first time I saw it was at that sorority house. He was just unloading his gun into Anton and he was . . . Azazel, he was smiling. Smiling.

"After, Jason stood over Anton for a long time. He crouched over the body. He started crying. But, there's no doubt in my mind that he killed Anton.

"After I saw the video, I was completely stunned. Weem told me that he was frightened about what he'd unleashed on the world. He said he was more than happy to sever the ties the Sons had with Jason. He wanted to wash his hands of the entire business. But he asked me to watch Jason. To see if this kind of behavior continued. To see if Jason was dangerous. And that's what I've been doing.

"I know you're hurting right now, but I think this was for the best," Hallam said to me. "I think that there was a side to Jason that maybe neither of us knew about. There was a part of hima violent, dark part. It was starting to surface within him. All the fighting he was doing in Bradenton. It was just a matter of time before it got worse. After he killed Sutherland, I was worried that I was going to have to do something. Stop Jason somehow."

"Sutherland's alive," I said to Hallam.

"What?" Hallam said, looking genuinely confused.

"I saw him," I said. "At Father Gerald's rectory."

Hallam's look of confusion switched to a look of alarm. "Sutherland was with Father Gerald?"

"Yes," I said.

Hallam furrowed his brow. "It doesn't make sense. Why would Jason leave Sutherland alive?"

"He wasn't what you said he was," I said. "That's why. He wasn't violent or evil or dark. Sutherland knew that. He showed me emails he intercepted from the Sons. I'm Kali. Jason was Shiva. He was the good one. I was the dark one." I stroked Jason's face. "You were all wrong. All of you."

I leaned close to Jason. "I'm sorry," I said to him. "I'm so sorry. I love you. I love you forever."

Things had to be dealt with. I couldn't sit here forever, cradling Jason's dead body, listening to Hallam's stories. Instead, I had to get moving. My captors might be out of the way, but the Sons were here, Weem was still alive, and Sutherland was still out there. From the look on Hallam's face, that wasn't a good thing.

Tenderly, I pressed my lips against Jason's, for what I knew would be the last time. I had to leave him, let him go. If nothing else, I had to make sure that everyone understood that he wasn't what they thought he was. Not a monster. Not the man who would enslave the world. Just Jason. My Jason.

I lingered on his lips for too long. I didn't want to let go. This was the final step in accepting the horror that had just occurred. Once I stopped kissing him, stopped holding him, his death would be real. I didn't want to face that.

But I had to. I broke away from Jason. I turned to Hallam. "What do we need to do?" I asked.

And Jason coughed in my lap.

Coughed.

We both jerked our heads to look at him. His eyes were fluttering. He was coughing, as if air had just filled his lungs after a long break.

"Jason?" I whispered.

Was I dreaming?

"Hey," he said, looking around.

"No," said Hallam. "He was dead. I felt his pulse."

Jason struggled into a sitting position, putting his hand to the wound on his forehead. "I'm not dead," he said. He smiled at me lopsidedly. "Didn't Michaela Weem say that only you could kill 'the abomination?' It's not the first time she's been right."

"He was dead," Hallam said.

I touched my lips. "I thought you were dead," I said.

"Who could be dead through a kiss like that?" said Jason. He pulled me close and kissed me again. My heart stopped in my chest.

Hallam scrambled to his feet. "Isis and Osiris," he muttered. "You are the Rising Sun. Your consort breathed life into you. It's one of the signs."

Jason stood up too and helped me to my feet. He shrugged at me, taking my hand. "Well," he said, "gotta say it's good to be a dying god. But I really think this bullet didn't do much damage. It doesn't even hurt."

"You were dead!" Hallam said. "You didn't have a pulse!"

Jason laughed. "Right, Hallam. It's a miracle." He grinned at me. "Of course, I guess we did drive a bunch of men mad a few months ago. Maybe we really are, like, magic or something." He laughed again. "Come on, Azazel, we've got to get out of here."

"You can't leave," said Hallam.

"Got to," said Jason. "Don't you know that I must be about screwing up my father's business?" He took his phone out of his pocket and hit a few numbers. Holding it to his ear, he said, "I've got her. Meet me out front. When can you get here? . . . Good." Jason hung up his phone. He turned to Hallam. "You double-crossed me. You've been in touch with Weem all this time."

"Did you overhear while you were . . . dead?" Hallam said.

"No," said Jason. "No, I've got a source. Listen, Hallam, you and I have a history. Just let me and Azazel walk out of here, okay? I'm willing to just let you go. You were my friend."

Hallam looked confused. "Where are you going?"

"I never want to see you again," said Jason. "If I do, I'll have to kill you."

Jason took my hand and led me through the house. When the Sons saw us, they dropped their guns. They fell to their knees. They whispered amongst themselves things like, "He's alive" and "He is the one." On the front porch, two of the Sons were wrestling with Jude. When Jude saw us, he went nuts.

He yelled after us, "This isn't over, Jason! You killed Mother! I won't ever forget that, and I'll make sure you don't either!"

But in the tired darkness of the wee hours of the morning, with the moon sagging in the sky above us, a car pulled up in front of Michaela Weem's house. Jason led me towards it.

"Jason," I said, "who . . .?"

"You'll see," he said, opening the door for me.

We slid into the back seat together, and Jason slid his arm around me, holding me tight against him. It felt so good to be close to him.

The driver in the car turned around. "Where to, kids?" he said.

I looked at Jason in alarm.

The driver was Sutherland.

episode seventeen >>

Copyright (c) 2009 Valerie Chambers