We were in my mini-van on the way to a friend of Shadows that sold guns to desperate people at desperate prices when I received the call. "Get the phone," I said to Shadow. I was the only one to drive the mini-van.
While I was concentrating on the road, I heard Shadow say, "yes, yes." He put the phone against his chest and said, "Pull over."
I pulled into a parking lot for one of the store fronts that carried car parts. "We need to go back to the house," he said. "They didn't arrive at the safe house."
I knew who they were. Yesterday afternoon we had put John, Emily, Daisy, and Nonie on the white van. I didn't slow down as I pulled a U-turn in the parking lot, pulled into the street, and headed home.
I heard him give orders for a search from the safe house. "We'll start from our end." He said. "I have an idea what route they took."
"No, we don't" I said to Shadow. "You have been infiltrated. I suspect if we drive straight to the compound, we'll find the van there."
Shadow shook his head in agreement, but he didn't answer. It took us only a few minutes to reach the house. Shadow got out of the mini-van, sat on the ground, and took a deep breath.
I got out of the mini-van, stood in front of Shadow, and yelled at him. "We don't have time for your mumbo-jumbo. We need to find them now."
"I don't have time for this," he said. "You'll have to wait."
I wanted to scream at him, hit him, and hurt him. If I could hit something it would take away the pain in me. I had let my responsibilities go. I had let him talk me into a safer place for them.
"Whatever happened," he said. "Happened yesterday."
I flopped on the ground and pulled my lips closed tight to keep the words inside. He was right. I didn't have to like it. We had to find them now. We couldn't save them from something in the past. In this time, in this age, it wasn't possible.
Shadow pulled out a piece of string from his pocket. He mumbled something over them. It sounded like nonsense to me, and then he moved the string to the cardinal points of the compass. The string straightened out like a brick when it faced the direction of where the white van went.
"Let's go," Shadow said. He stood up and pulled me to the mini-van. I drove while he turned the string towards path the white van had taken.
When the string went limp, we would stop and Shadow would get out of the mini-van and pointed the string in different directions until it would point in the right direction. We finally reached a subdivision on the other side of the city. It seemed like hours before we were led to a small house with an attached garage.
We drove into the driveway. The magic in the string had dissipated as soon as we turned into the driveway. I could see it whoosh out of the string.
We got out of the mini-van. I could see slashing colors all around me. When I told Shadow, he asked to describe the colors and what direction. I could see a red slash across the garage door, plus there was yellow on the ground and an ugly green. There was a criss-cross of orange around the house.
"The house is booby-trapped," Shadow said. "Does the orange lines go towards the horizon?" He pointed west.
"Yes," I said.
Shadow pulled out a pair of ugly iron scissors. "Where do all the lines meet?" I walked him over to the far fence and then placed the scissors around a big knot of orange.
"Hold it," he said. Then he took the scissors from my hands. "Is it still on the same place?"
I nodded, yes.
"Then get back over to the mini-van." I left him there holding the scissors. When he saw that I was at the mini-van, he cut through the orange knot. There was a boom and Shadow fell to the ground.
My eyes were blinded and my ears were deaf for a few minutes. When I pulled myself up from the gravel, I ran towards Shadow. "Shadow, Shadow," I screamed. "No one gets to kill you, but me."
He was still on the ground. I reached towards his neck to see if he had a pulse. It was there, but faint. I listened for his breath. A whoosh came out of my mouth when I realized he was breathing.
Then he opened his eyes. He pulled me against his chest and kissed me. I wanted to slap him. He didn't let me speak, but kept kissing me until a melted into him. After the kiss I laid my head on his shoulder, "you scared me," I said.
I felt his heart beat and his breath against my ear. "I was scared too."
I sat up. "You didn't tell me it was dangerous." I wanted to slap him then.
"I said it was a booby-trap, what more could I say?" he asked. I could hear a plaintive note in his voice. But, I wasn't ready to leave it at that.
"Promise me," I said "You won't do that again."
His smile melted the last of the ice in my heart. "I can't promise."
It was like a cold bucket of water. I was on his lap and in his arms. I pushed against him until he left me go. I got up and brushed off the dirt and leaves from the ground. Then I marched to the house.
The orange lines were dead ashes on the ground. Not just anyone could see the lines of magic. From that little demonstration Shadow could see those lines too. I knocked on the door, but there was no answer. Then I looked through the windows. From what I could see, the rooms were empty. I listened for some sound. No one had lived in that house for a long time.
I walked around the house, noted the dead bushes and flowers. The grass was dried and hadn't been trimmed for a long time. Some one had let their dog in to to use it for a toilet. I swore when I stepped in some dog poop.
By the time I reached the front again, I could hear Shadow open the garage door. I wanted to vomit when I saw John in the center of a pentacle. There was dried brown stuff everywhere. Shadow grabbed the back of my shirt before I ran into the pentacle.
He pointed at the orange lines around the pentacle. "Another booby trap."
"No, you don't," I said as he pulled out another pair of scissors. I reached over and touched the lines. It was like putting my finger into an electrical socket, except the taste in my mouth was rotten eggs. I wanted to vomit onto the ground.
It was like untangling a particular had knot in yarn. I closed my eyes, tried to forget what my mouth and stomach were trying to tell me, and began to carefully untangle the orange lines. I heard a pop and opened my eyes.
I could see John clearly and he had been dead since yesterday. I could hear Shadow on the phone as he called some of his friends. I knew they would be here soon.
I stepped into the pentacle on the off-chance that he wasn't dead. I knew academically that someone who had lost that amount of blood and was sitting restrained in the center of a pentacle would not be alive. When I reached the body, I leaned down to touch his neck, searching for a pulse.
The body's eyes snapped open. "John, John," I said. I leaned over and the body
snapped its teeth. If it hadn't been restrained it would have had its teeth in my neck. I jumped back, then ran outside and vomited on the grass.
I heard John include an exorcist in his instructions.
"What's going on?" I could see shame in his face.
"They tried to put a demon into him, but it didn't work." He turned away from me to watch the body. "John asked for a special tattoo, Kat. He was afraid that he would become a demon body. They were preparing him for it before he fled."
I wanted to slap him. "John was a teenager," I said wanting to snap my teeth at him. "What was this tattoo supposed to do?"
Shadow wouldn't answer. I sat on the porch steps, waiting for the team who would clean up this mess. My heart hurt. I had brought this young man into my life and protected him.
"What happened to the others?" I whispered.
John must have heard me because he spoke with sad undertones, "They are probably with the Magii."
I wanted to scream and beat my hands on the wood around me. I wanted. I wanted. I would take this anger and use it for killing. There would be no Magii left when I was done.