Bella sat in a Louis XIV chair, her legs crossed at the ankles, her hands in her lap. A blaze crackled in a marble fireplace to the left, and there was a cup of Earl Grey tea at her elbow. Marissa was across the way on a delicate sofa, drawing a strand of yellow silk up through an embroidery mesh. There was no sound to the movement.
Bella thought she was going to scream
She leaped up, energized by instinct. Zsadist... Zsadist was close by.
"What is it?" Marissa said.
Pounding on the front door lit off like a drum, and a moment later Zsadist came into the parlor. He was dressed for his business, guns on his hips, daggers strapped on his chest. The doggen right on his heels looked scared stiff of him.
"Leave us," Marissa was told. "And take your servant with you."
As the female hesitated, Bella cleared her throat. "It's okay. It's... Go."
Marissa inclined her head. "I won't be far."
Bella held herself in place as they were left alone.
"I need you," Zsadist said.
She narrowed her eyes. God, those words she had wanted to hear. How cruel that they came so late. "For what."
"Phury took your vein."
"I need you to find him."
"Is he missing?"
"Your blood is in his veins. I need you"
"To find him. I heard that. Tell me why." The brief pause that followed chilled her.
"The lesser has him. David has him."
Her breath left her lungs. Her heart stopped. "How... ?"
"I don't have time to explain." Zsadist came forward, looking as if he was going to take her hands, but then he stopped. "Please. You're the only one who can get me to him, because your blood is in him."
"Of course... of course I'll find him for you."
It was the chain of blood ties, she thought. She could locate Phury anywhere because he'd fed from her. And after she'd been at Zsadist's throat, he would be able to track her for the same reason.
He put his face right into hers. "I want you to get within fifty yards of him, no closer, we clear? And then you're dematerializing right back here."
She looked him in the eye. "I won't let you down."
"I wish there were another way to find him."
Oh, that hurt. "No doubt you do."
She left the parlor and got her coat, then stood in the foyer. She closed her eyes and reached out into the air, piercing first the walls of the entryway she was in, then the outer structure of Havers's house. Her mind cast out over the shrubs and the lawn and cut through other trees and houses... Through cars and trucks and buildings and across parks and rivers and streams. Out farther still to the farmland and the mountains...
When she found Phury's energy source, a screaming pain assaulted her, as if that were what he felt. As she swayed, Zsadist gripped her arm.
She pushed him away. "I've got him. Oh, God... he's"
Zsadist grabbed her arm again and squeezed. "Fifty yards. No closer. Are we clear?"
"Yes. Now let me go."
She went out the front door, dematerialized, and took form about twenty yards away from a small cabin in the woods.
She felt Zsadist take shape at her elbow. "Go," he hissed. "Get out of here."
"If you want to help, leave so I don't have to worry about you. Go."
Bella took one last look into his face and dematerialized.
Zsadist sidled up to the log cabin, grateful for the cold air that helped him throw off a little more of the morphine. As he flattened himself against a rough-hewn wall, he unsheathed a dagger and peered into one of the windows. There was nothing inside, just some rustic, shitty furniture and a computer setup.
Panic washed through him, a cold rain in his blood.
And then he heard the sound... a thump. Then another.
There was a smaller outbuilding with no windows about twenty-five yards back. He jogged over and listened for only a split second. Then he traded his knife for a Beretta and kicked down the door.
The sight before him was out of his own past: A male chained to a table, pounded raw. A demented psychopath standing over the victim.
Phury lifted his battered face, blood glistening on his swollen lips and beat-to-hell nose. The lesser with the brass knuckles whirled around and seemed momentarily confused.
Zsadist aimed his gun at the fucker, but the slayer was right in front of Phury: The slightest miscalculation and the bullet was going to drill into his twin. Z dropped the muzzle, squeezed the trigger, and nailed the lesser in the leg, shattering his knee. The bastard screamed and dropped to the floor.
Z went for him. Except just as he got a hold on the undead, another popping sound went off.
The blaze of pain shot through Z's shoulder. He knew he'd been plugged a good one, but he couldn't think about that right now. He focused on getting control over the lesser's gun, which was the same thing the SOB was trying to do to Z's Sig. They struggled on the floor, each trying to get a grip on the other in spite of the blood that was oiling them up. Punches were thrown and hands grabbed and legs thrashed. Both guns were lost in the grappling.
About four minutes into the fight Z's strength started to flag with alarming speed. Then he was on the bottom, the lesser sitting on his chest. Z gave a push, willing his body to throw the weight on it off, but though his mind gave the command, for once his limbs refused to obey. He glanced at his shoulder. He was bleeding out, no doubt because that slug had hit an artery. And that shot of morphine didn't help.
In the lull of the fighting, the lesser was panting and wincing, like his leg was killing him. "Who... the fuck... are you?"
"The one... you want," Z shot back, breathing just as hard. Shit... He had to work to keep his vision from phasing out. "I'm the one... who took her... from you."
"How... do... I know that?"
"I watched the scars... on her stomach heal. Until your mark... on her disappeared."
The lesser froze.
Now would have been an excellent time to get the upper hand, except Z was too spent.
"She's dead," the slayer whispered.
"She lives. Breathes. And you will... never find her again."
The slayer's mouth opened and a primal scream of fury came out like a blast.
In the midst of the noise Z calmed down. Suddenly breathing was easy. Or maybe he'd just stopped altogether. He watched as the slayer moved in slo-mo, unsheathing one of Z's black daggers and lifting the thing overhead with both hands.
Zsadist tracked his thoughts carefully because he wanted to know what his last one was going to be. He thought of Phury and wanted to weep, because no doubt his twin wouldn't last long. God. He'd always failed that male, hadn't he... ?
And then he thought of Bella. Tears came to his eyes as images of her flickered through his mind... so vivid, so clear... until from over the lesser's shoulder, a vision of her appeared. She was so real, it was as if she were actually standing in the doorway.
"I love you," he whispered as his own blade came down toward his chest.
"David," her voice commanded.
The lesser's whole body jerked around, the dagger's trajectory getting transferred so it landed in the floorboards next to Z's upper arm.
"David, come here."
The lesser lurched to his feet as Bella held her arm out.
"You were dead," the lesser said, voice cracking.
"I went to your house... I saw the portrait. Oh, God..." The lesser started to cry as he limped closer and closer to her, black blood trailing after him. "I thought I'd killed you."
"You didn't. Come here."
Z tried desperately to work his mouth, gripped by an awful suspicion that this was no vision. He started to yell, but it came out as a moan. And then the lesser was in Bella's arms and weeping openly.
Z watched as her hand came around and went up onto the slayer's back. In it was the little handgun, the one he'd given her before they'd gone to her house.
Oh, Sweet Virgin... No!
Bella was in a state of weird calm as she brought the gun higher and higher. Moving slowly, she kept murmuring words that soothed until the barrel was on a level with David's skull. She leaned back, and as he lifted his head to meet her eyes, he brought his ear right to the muzzle.
"I love you," he said.
She pulled the trigger.
The explosion kicked her hand out and spun her arm away, throwing her off balance. As the sound faded she heard a thud and looked down. The lesser was on his side, still blinking. She'd expected his head to blow up or something, but there was just a neat little hole at his temple.
Nausea hit her hard, but she ignored it, stepping over the body and going to Zsadist.
Oh, God. There was blood everywhere.
"Bella..." His hands lifted off the ground and his mouth worked slowly.
She cut him off by reaching for his chest holster and taking the remaining dagger from him. "I need to do it in his sternum, right?"
Ah, hell. Her voice was as bad as her body. Wobbly. Weak.
"Run... get... out of"
"In the heart, right? Or he's not dead. Zsadist, answer me!"
When he nodded, she went over to the lesser and pushed him onto his back with her foot. His eyes were staring up at her, and she knew she was going to be seeing them in her nightmares for years to come. Grabbing the knife with both hands, she put it up over her head, and plunged it down. The resistance the blade met sickened her to the point of gagging, but the popping sound and the flash of light were a closure of sorts.
She let herself fall back and hit the floor, but two breaths were all she could spare. She went to Zsadist, tearing off her coat and fleece. She wrapped the pullover around his shoulder, then stripped off her belt, looped it around the thick wad, and cinched it up tight to keep it in place.
The whole time Zsadist struggled against her, urging her to run, to leave them.
"Shut up," she told him, and bit into her own wrist. "Drink this or die, your choice. But make up your mind quick, because I need to check on Phury and then I've got to get the two of you out of here."
She held her arm out to him, right over his mouth. Her blood welled and dripped onto his closed lips.
"You bastard," she whispered. "Do you hate me so much"
He lifted his head and latched onto her vein, his cold mouth telling her all she needed to know about how close to death he was. He drank slowly at first and then with increasing greed. Little sounds came out of him, sounds at odds with his big warrior body. He sounded as if he were mewing, a starved cat at a font of milk.
When he let his head fall back, his eyes closed with satiation. Her blood seeped into him; she watched him breathe through his open mouth. But there was no time to stare. She raced across the shed to Phury. He was unconscious, chained to the table, bloody as hell. But his chest was going up and down.
Damn it. Those steel chains had Master locks dangling from them. She was going to have to cut him free with something. She went over to the left, to a horrific selection of tools
And that was when she saw the body in the corner. A young female with short blond hair.
Tears welled and flowed as she checked to make sure the girl was dead. When it was obvious she had passed unto the Fade, Bella swiped her own eyes clear and forced herself to focus. She needed to get the living out of here; they were her first priority. Afterward... one of the Brothers could come back and...
Oh... God...oh... God...oh... God.
Shuddering, close to hysterical, she picked up a Sawzall, fired the thing up, and made quick work of Phury's restraints. When he didn't come around after all the shrill noise, she got terrified again.
She looked at Zsadist, who had fought to get his upper body off the floor.
"I'm going to go get that truck by the cabin," she said. "You stay here and conserve your strength. I need you to help me move Phury. He's out cold. And the girl..." Her voice choked up. "We'll have to leave her..."
Bella ran across the snow to the cabin, desperately hoping to find the truck's keys, trying hard not to think what she would do if she didn't.
Merciful Virgin, they were on a hook by the door. She grabbed them, raced for the F-150, started the damn thing, and gunned it around to the shed. A quick skidding turn and she backed it bed-first to the doorway.
She was just getting out of the driver's side when she saw Zsadist weaving like a drunk between the jambs. Phury was in his arms, and Zsadist wasn't going to last long holding up all that weight. She popped the lip on the bed and the two fell in, all tangled limbs and blood. She shoved at their bodies with her feet, then jumped up and pulled them farther back by their belts.
When they were in far enough, she threw one leg over the gunwale of the truck and hopped to the ground. She slammed the lip shut and met Zsadist's eyes.
"Bella." His voice was a mere whisper, just a movement of his lips backed up by a sigh of sadness. "I don't want this for you. All this... ugliness."
She turned away from him. A moment later she hit the gas.
The one-lane road that led away from the cabin was her only option, and she prayed she didn't meet anyone on the way. When she came out onto Route 22, she said a prayer of thanks to the Scribe Virgin and headed for Havers's at a dead run.
Tilting the rearview mirror, she looked into the truck bed. It must have been freezing back there, but she didn't dare slow down.
Maybe the cold would slow the blood loss for both of them.
Phury was aware of an icy wind blowing over his bare skin and across his bald head. He moaned and curled up into himself. God, he was cold. Was this what you had to go through to make it into the Fade? Then thank the Virgin it only happened once.
Something moved against him. Arms... there were arms coming around him, arms that took him in close to a kind of warmth. Shivering, he gave himself up to whoever it was who held him so gently.
What was that noise? Close to his ear... a sound other than the roaring wind.
Singing. Someone was singing to him.
Phury smiled a little. How perfect. The angels that were taking him unto the Fade truly did have beautiful voices.
He thought of Zsadist and compared the lovely melody he heard now with the ones he had listened to in real life.
Yes, Zsadist had had a voice like an angel, as it turned out. He truly had.