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datatime: 2022-10-04 06:02:05 Author:tGcRgURK

Niley stood by Linus. He was dressed in the same suit I'd seen him in earlier. They'd drawn a circle on the ground with something dark and powdery. Charlotte was inside the circle. She was food for the demon, bait.

Why are you running away, Howard?

Nathaniel crawled to me on his belly. What do we do?

In the movies there would be an altar and maybe a fire or two, at least a torch. But there was nothing but darkness and a silver wash of moonlight. The palest thing in the clearing was Charlotte Zeeman's skin. She was tied naked to stakes driven into the ground. I thought at first she was unconscious, but her hands flexed and strained against the ropes. I was both happy to see her still fighting and sorry that she hadn't passed out.

I eased up on the gun more and blinked at him. What are you talking about?

Wilkes stood not eight feet from me, to my right. He had a high-powered rifle and was searching the darkness.

You know how hard it is to make a living as a clairvoyant. So many horrible memories, and you usually end up working with the police for no money. I'd been using my powers to get myself in good with wealthy people who weren't so careful about the law. I'd promise them something, but it wouldn't be real. Then they'd be too embarrassed to go to the police about it. Or couldn't complain that they got cheated out of a stolen object. It worked. I only swindled crooks. It worked.

I know, I know, and I'm sorry. I am really, really sorry. I didn't know what he was capable of. Oh, God, let me go. Let me run away.

You know how hard it is to make a living as a clairvoyant. So many horrible memories, and you usually end up working with the police for no money. I'd been using my powers to get myself in good with wealthy people who weren't so careful about the law. I'd promise them something, but it wouldn't be real. Then they'd be too embarrassed to go to the police about it. Or couldn't complain that they got cheated out of a stolen object. It worked. I only swindled crooks. It worked.

They're going to kill Charlotte to try and find something that isn't even here, you asshole.

I sidled up to a tree, leaned my arm against it, and sighted on his shape in the bright darkness. I pulled off one careful shot and he went down. I wasn't sure how badly he was hit, but I'd hit something. He fired back, and I hit the ground.

Wilkes stood not eight feet from me, to my right. He had a high-powered rifle and was searching the darkness.

Nathaniel crawled to me on his belly. What do we do?

Nathaniel and I lay on the ground at the line of trees, watching. Jason and Jamil were supposed to be on the other side of the clearing. A moment of concentration told me where they were. The marks with Richard were open and roaring. I'd never been so aware of the scent and sounds of a summer night. It was like my skin expanded outward, touching every tree and bush. I was liquid and barely contained within my skin.

A bullet hit the tree next to my head, and I rolled back into the underbrush. Three more shots hit the bushes where I had been. Niley had a gun, a semiauto that might hold eighteen bullets if he'd modified the clip. Not good. Of course, it might hold only ten. Hard to tell in the dark from this distance.

I left him with Roxanne and the vampires and Ben. When he came to, he'd get them into the house and they'd rescue Daniel. I'd take the rest and rescue Charlotte. There would be no choosing. No either/or. We would save them both. I had to believe it as I threw myself into the black woods. I unleashed that power inside me and sent it outward, casting like a net to catch a faint, ruffling scent of evil. They'd know I was coming now, but it couldn't be helped. I ran like I'd run earlier in the day with Richard. I ran as if the ground told me where to go, and the trees opened up like welcoming hands. I ran in the dark and couldn't see and didn't need to. I felt Richard running, running towards us. I felt the hard edge of his panic and ran faster.

Nathaniel crawled to me on his belly. What do we do?

You know how hard it is to make a living as a clairvoyant. So many horrible memories, and you usually end up working with the police for no money. I'd been using my powers to get myself in good with wealthy people who weren't so careful about the law. I'd promise them something, but it wouldn't be real. Then they'd be too embarrassed to go to the police about it. Or couldn't complain that they got cheated out of a stolen object. It worked. I only swindled crooks. It worked.

They'd chosen the top of a hill that had once been meadow, but some time today they'd bush-hogged all the grass and meadow flowers so that the hill was bare and broken under the moonlight.

I eased up on the gun more and blinked at him. What are you talking about?

I felt Richard and the others moving through the trees like a solid wind. The lukoi were coming. But they were miles away, and the spell was almost complete. I could feel it growing, swelling, like a dank, unseen fog. The evil was coming.

I eased up on the gun more and blinked at him. What are you talking about?

There isn't time to rescue them both, Howard said. They're going to kill the man and sacrifice the woman now. If I get you into the house, the woman will be dead before you can get to her.

Niley stood by Linus. He was dressed in the same suit I'd seen him in earlier. They'd drawn a circle on the ground with something dark and powdery. Charlotte was inside the circle. She was food for the demon, bait.

Linus Beck was wearing the proverbial black hooded robe. I guess if it saved me from seeing him naked, I could live with it.

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