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datatime: 2022-10-04 05:55:39 Author:HnBriRNf

Niley yelled, You cannot cross the circle, Anita. If you kill us, all you can do is watch Charlotte die.

There were shots from the house, echoing up the hill. Wilkes turned towards them and I went to one knee and sighted down my arms. The first shot hit him in the middle of his back. The second shot took him a little higher up the back because he was falling to his knees. He stayed motionless on his knees for one of those seconds that lasted an eternity. I had time to put a third bullet in his back.

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.

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 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 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.

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.

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.

Until Niley, I said.

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.

Niley yelled, You cannot cross the circle, Anita. If you kill us, all you can do is watch Charlotte die.

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.

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

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.

Until Niley, I said.

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

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.

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.

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.

Niley yelled, You cannot cross the circle, Anita. If you kill us, all you can do is watch Charlotte die.

Linus's voice rose in a singsong rhythmn that filled the night with echoes and movement as if the darkness itself shivered at the words.

Until Niley, I said.

Roxanne appeared on the other side of the tree, just there, like magic. Howard gasped. I don't think so, she said. She opened a mouth full of fangs and snapped them near his face. Howard screamed.

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

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.

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