We start up the beach and see a couple of rowboats tied to a tree. The island must be occupied after all.
Raffe motions for us to hide while he heads up the slope.
It looks like there used to be a row of houses on one side of the hill. On the lower ground, only the concrete foundations remain, littered with smashed boards stained with water and salt. But on the higher ground, several boarded-up buildings are intact.
We skitter behind the nearest building. It’s large enough to have been barracks of some kind. Like the others, it’s sealed up with white painted boards. They look like they’d been shut up long before the Great Attack.
The whole thing feels like a ghost settlement except for the house on the hill overlooking the bay. It’s a perfectly intact Victorian, complete with a white picket fence. It’s the only building that looks like a family home and the only one with color or any sense of life.
I don’t see any threats, certainly nothing that the locusts can’t scare off, but I stay out of sight anyway. I watch Raffe as he leaps to fly up the hill, moving behind the cover of barrack to tree, barrack to tree, working his way toward the main house.
When he gets there, gunfire shatters the peace.
Raffe flattens himself against a wall.
‘We’re not here to harm you,’ he shouts.
Another gunshot answers from an upstairs window. I flinch, my nerves about as taut as they can be.
‘I can hear you talking in there,’ shouts Raffe. He must think we’re all deaf. I guess compared to angels, we are. ‘And the answer is no. I doubt that my wings will be worth as much as angel wings. There is no chance of you being able to take me on, so stop fooling yourselves. We just want the house. Be smart. Leave.’
The front door slams open. Three burly men step out, pointing their rifles in different directions as if unsure where their enemies are.
Raffe takes flight, and the locusts follow his lead. He sweeps the air with his impressive demon wings, looking intimidating before dropping back down beside the house.
The locusts fly toward him, diving in and out of the tree line with their scorpion stingers curled behind them.
As soon as the men get a good look at what they’re up against, they run. They crash through the trees across from the locusts. Then they circle around the rubble toward the beach.
As the men run, a woman scampers out of the house like a beaten dog. She races in the opposite direction of the men. She looks back to see where they are, looking more like she’s running from them than from the winged creatures.
She disappears into the hills behind the house, while the men take the rowboats and head out on the bay.
Raffe walks around to the front of the vacated house and pauses, listening carefully. He waves for us to join him as he walks in.
By the time we reach the Victorian, Raffe yells, ‘All clear.’
I put my hand on Paige’s shoulder as we enter the yard through the white picket fence. She clutches Raffe’s feathered wings like a security blanket as she stares at the house. The Victorian is butter colored with maroon trim. It has a porch with wicker furniture and looks a lot like a dollhouse.
One of the locusts drops Beliel beside the picket fence. He lies there like a piece of meat. The ropey flesh of his body is the color and texture of beef jerky, and blood still trickles from wounds where Paige bit chunks out of his cheek and arms. He looks pitiful, but this is one locust victim I don’t feel sorry for.
‘What should we do with Beliel?’ I ask Raffe.
‘I’ll take care of him.’ Raffe walks down the porch steps toward us.
Considering all the awful things that Beliel has done, I’m not sure why Raffe didn’t kill him instead of just cutting his wings off. Maybe he thought the locusts would do it or that Paige’s attack on him at the aerie would be fatal. But now that he’s made it this far, Raffe doesn’t seem inclined to finish him off.
‘Come on, Paige.’ My sister walks beside me up onto the wooden porch and into the house.
Inside, I expect dust and mold, but instead, it’s surprisingly nice. The living room looks like it used to be an exhibit. A lady’s dress from the 1800s is displayed in the corner. Beside it, museum ropes on brass stands are bunched together, no longer needed to keep the public away from the antique living room furniture.
Paige looks around and walks over to the window. Beyond the warped glass, Raffe drags Beliel up to the fence gate. He dumps him there and walks behind the house. Beliel seems dead, but I know he’s not. Locust-stung victims are paralyzed enough to seem dead even though they’re still conscious. That’s part of the horror of being stung.
‘Come on. Let’s check out the rest of the house,’ I say. But Paige continues to stare out the window at the shriveled form of Beliel.
Outside, Raffe walks back into sight with his arms full of rusty chains. He makes quite the intimidating picture as he wraps the chains around Beliel, forming loops around his neck, the fence post, and his thighs. He padlocks them together in the center of his chest.
If I didn’t know better, I’d be terrified of Raffe. He looks merciless and inhuman as he handles the helpless demon.
Strangely, it’s Beliel who keeps pulling at my attention, though. There’s something about him in chains that keeps catching my eye. Something familiar.
I shake it off. I must be on the verge of hallucinating from exhaustion.
I was never a morning girl, and now that I’ve had a few nights with no sleep, I feel like a zombie. I want to crash onto a couch somewhere and sleep for a week.