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|The Reckoning(Darkest Powers #3) by Kelley Armstrong|
I checked the other screens. Dr. Davidoff was in a meeting room with Mrs. Enright, Sue, Mike the security guy, and the two others. They were deep in debate.
The rest of the rooms were dark, all except one that wasn’t any bigger than my walk-in closet at home, crammed with a twin bed, small desk, and chair.
Someone sat at the desk, writing, chair pulled as far from camera range as possible. I could see only a shoulder and arm, but I recognized the dark purple silk blouse. I’d been with Aunt Lauren when she bought it this winter.
The woman stood, and there was no doubt. It was Aunt Lauren.
I brought the demi-demon in and pointed at the screen. “What room is that and why is my aunt in there?”
“Because she was naughty. Apparently, distaste for imprisonment runs in the family. She was scarcely confined to a regular cell for a day before she tried to escape. They decided she needed more direct supervision.”
“So she’s a captive?”
“She helped you escape. Did you think they’d throw a feast in her honor? Sacrifice a goat or two?”
“They said she’d changed her mind and admitted she made a mistake.”
The demi-demon laughed. “And you believed them? Of course you did, because they’ve never been anything but perfectly honest with you.”
My face heated.
“Yes, they tried to make her see the error of her ways,” the demi-demon said. “They offered immunity and forgiveness and feather pillows. She’s a very valuable member of the team. But she refused.” She looked at me and sighed. “I suppose you want to rescue her, too.”
“Then let’s get on with it.”
I grabbed her arm before she walked away. “Rae. The fire half-demon girl. They said she was transferred. Is she here, too?”
The demi-demon hesitated, and when she spoke, there was a softness in her voice. “No, child. She’s not here. And I don’t know what became of her, so don’t ask me. She was here one evening, and come morning, she was not.”
“There’s no time for that. Your friends await and they”-she pointed at the Edison Group meeting-“will not be in there forever.”
We freed Tori first.
I tried to prepare her for the shock of seeing a dead man walking by going in first, but she caught a glimpse of him, and after a split second of surprise, said “Good idea.”
I was going to explain that I hadn’t created a zombie guard slave, but the demi-demon was already at the next door, checking the third cell, Tori right behind her. I decided that if Tori was fine with me raising the dead for personal use, then there was really no reason to tell her I’d actually made a deal with a demon.
That didn’t work so well with Simon, who knew I wouldn’t be nonchalantly controlling dead people. And I couldn’t use the no-time-to-explain excuse because we had time-undoing his restraints, getting out his IV, bandaging him, and looking for his shoes, while the demi-demon guarded the door.
So I told them the truth. Tori took it in stride. I was beginning to think Tori would take anything in stride.
Simon said nothing for a moment, and I braced myself for Are you nuts? but this was Simon. He only slid off the bed, crouched beside me while I checked under a table for his shoes, and whispered, “Are you okay?” I knew he meant the part about raising the dead, and when I nodded, he searched my face and said, “All right.” I assured him I’d been careful with the demi-demon and he said, “I know, and we’ll keep being careful.” And that was that.
“NEXT STOP, DEAR AUNTIE Lauren,” the demi-demon trilled. “Then straight to the nearest exit and”-she smiled-“freedom for all.”
“Not all.” Tori glanced at me as we walked. “We need to download the project files. There are other kids out there thinking they’re mentally ill, like Peter and Mila. Plus others who might not have come into their powers yet.”
Peter had been at Lyle House when I arrived, and he’d been released before we escaped. I hadn’t known Mila, only that she’d been there before me, and had been “rehabilitated” and sent back into the world.
“I would love to get those files,” I said. “But we don’t have time to access and print-”
Tori pulled a thumb drive from her pocket. I wasn’t even going to ask where that came from.
“You have Dr. Davidoff’s password,” she said. “We have access to his office. I can download the files while you’re getting your aunt.”
“And there’s got to be a phone,” Simon said. “I can try my dad again.”
They were right. I’d regret it if we left without those names. And I’d regret it even more if we got locked up again and had passed up the chance to tell Mr. Bae where we were.
We got to the office. It needed an additional code, but the demi-demon knew it. Then I said the demi-demon and I would get my aunt and come back.
“So the sorcerer is staying with his sister?” the demi-demon asked.
“Sister?” Simon said. “She’s not-”
“Sister spell-caster,” I said to him quickly. “She talks like that.”
When we were far enough away, I whispered, “So Simon’s dad really is Tori’s father?”
“The worst-kept secret in the building.” Her singsong tone jarred with the guard’s gruff voice. “And that, my child, is saying a lot.”
“Guess that explains why her mom freaked out when Tori admitted she liked Simon.”
“Oooh, that would be awkward. A lesson to you in keeping secrets. They will come back to haunt you in the most uncomfortable ways. Whether that one feels any guilt, though, is quite another matter. She has the morals of a succubus. I must admit, it was quite amusing, watching her attempt to seduce the sorcerer. Quite a blow to her ego when she failed.”
“Failed?” I said as we turned the corner. “But if Tori is his daughter, then obviously-”
“Obviously nothing. What do they teach children in school these days? Sex is hardly the only way to reproduce. Arguably the most fun, but if that fails, and you have access to a complete laboratory, with every excuse to procure the necessary bodily fluids…”
An alarm bell clanged right over my head.
“Time’s up, it seems,” the demi-demon murmured.
She opened the nearest door with the card and propelled me inside, slipping through after me.
“Is fine. She’s only a few doors down, safe for now. You’re the pigeon who’s not in her coop.”
The demi-demon led me across the room to a second door, opening into a big closet. She ushered me inside.
“Simon and Tori-”
“Are, I presume, in possession of functioning ears and brains. They will hear the alarm and take cover, which is what we need to do.”
As I stepped into the closet the guard’s body collapsed. I fell to my knees beside it.
“I believe you’ll find he’s still quite dead.” The demi-demon’s voice came from above my head. “As useful as that mortal form was, this one is better equipped for sneaking about.”
“I thought you said you couldn’t get out of there without my help.”
“Implied, never said. I’m a demon. We know all the loopholes. Now, I’m going to take a look around. You still have that gun, don’t you?”
“Take it out and hope you don’t need to use it. I’ll be right back.”
A rush of warm air. Then I was alone with the guard’s body.
The alarm continued to whoop.
Did I hear the pounding of running feet? A shout? A shot?
Relax. There’s nothing you can do.
That was the problem. I was stuck cowering in my hidey-hole, shaking hands wrapped around a gun that I didn’t know how to fire, knowing there was nothing I could do, nothing that wasn’t so reckless Derek would have reason to yell at me if he were here, and God how I wished he were. I’d take the yelling just to know he was safe-
He is safe. Safer than if he was with you.
If he’d been left at the house then, yes, he’d be fine. He had Liz to watch out for him, and he had no idea where we’d gone and no way to come after us. He’d be furious, but safe.
I glanced over at the guard. He lay in a heap, dead eyes staring up at me. I thought about him, wondered-
Don’t think about him. Don’t wonder anything. Or you’ll get your wish and you won’t be alone in this closet.
I looked away quickly and erased his image from my head. I checked out the gun instead. I’d written shoot-outs in screenplays but, to my embarrassment, had no idea whether the gun was loaded or if there was a safety on it. Stuff like that doesn’t matter in a screenplay. You just say “Chloe fires the gun” and leave the rest to the actor and the props department.
It looked like a Glock, though, and from what I remembered, they didn’t have safeties. Just point and shoot. I could manage that if I had to.
See, you’re not helpless. You have a weapon. Two weapons.
Two? My gaze slid to the guard and I swallowed hard. No, I’d never-
Sure you would, if it came down to it.
Can’t even finish the denial, can you? You’d do it if it was the last resort. Controlling the dead. That’s your power. Your greatest power.
I squeezed my eyes shut.
“You can’t see anyone coming like that.”
It took a moment to realize that the voice hadn’t come from inside my head. The demi-demon was back.
“What set off the alarm?” I asked.
“I haven’t a clue, but your friends are safe. They’ve retreated to Davidoff’s reading room. The group realizes you’ve escaped, but, shockingly, they presume you actually tried to get out of the building. Fortunately, you’re nowhere near an exit. Unfortunately…”
“We’re nowhere near an exit.”
“I can get you out. I may even be able to rescue your aunt on the way. But your friends are in the opposite direction, and I can’t possibly-”
“Then I don’t go. Not until it’s safe for all of us.”
“A noble choice. However, there’s only one alternative and I fear you’ll like it even less than my last suggestion.”
As I said it, my inner voice screamed that I’d been tricked. But I could hear the shouts of the Edison Group. They really had been alerted and there was no reason for the demi-demon to do it herself, not when she could have easily escorted us out the door and claimed her reward.
“Free me and you will cripple the magics cast on this place,” she said.
“Great. That’ll help end the experiments, but how does it get us out? It’s not the magic I’m worried about. It’s the alarms and guys with guns. What I need-”
“Is a distraction. And that’s what I’m offering. My magic permeates this place. The disruption will affect far more than their spells. You will get the distraction you need.”
Our plan had failed and she had every reason to lie now and convince me to free her, before I realized I was trapped.
“I made a bargain,” she said. “A demon’s bargain is binding. Free me and I am bound by my word as tightly as these bonds.”
Did I trust her? Of course not. Did I have another option? Not one I could see.
“Tell me what to do.”
FREEING THE DEMI-DEMON WASN’T much different from freeing a ghost. I suppose that made sense, since she’d gotten here by a type of summoning.
“Almost there, child,” she said, her warm breath swirling around me. “I can feel the shackles falling. A quarter century of servitude and finally I will be free. The very walls will tremble with my leaving, and they’ll scurry like frightened mice. Just a little more. Can you feel it?”
I couldn’t feel a thing, just wished she’d shut up and let me concentrate.
She let out a cry that made me jump, and the closet filled with whirling hot air. I braced myself. The wind whipped around me, then gradually subsided to a pleasant breeze before disappearing altogether.
“Is that…it?” I said.
“Hmm. Do you feel anything else? A vibration, perhaps?”
“No.” I glowered in the direction of her voice. “You promised a distract-”
The closet shook. A dull rumble sounded overhead, like a train chugging across the roof. As I looked up, a sudden tremor knocked me off my feet.
A ceiling tile hit my shoulder. Then another. The tiny room creaked and groaned and crackled, walls splitting, chunks of drywall raining down.
“Out, child!” The demi-demon shouted to be heard above the din. “You need to get out!”
I tried to stand, but fell back to all fours. The room kept shaking and creaking, walls groaning as they ripped open. Drywall dust filled my nose and stung my eyes. I crawled blindly, following the demi-demon’s voice as she led me.
I made it out of the closet and into the main room. It was shaking just as much, the floor tiles buckling beneath me. A chunk of falling plaster hit my back. Another the size of a fist glanced off my injured arm, shattering as it hit the floor, bits flying into my mouth.
As I spat out the plaster, I smelled something other than drywall dust. A sweet scent, strangely familiar.
“Faster,” the demi-demon said. “Keep moving.”
As I crawled, the shaking stopped. The groaning stopped. The room went completely silent and still.