He woke up, then looked around before awareness flooding back in. “Ash.” He started trying to sit up, only to realize he was tangled in various medical things.
“It’s alright.” A calm voice said and someone reached over to pat his arm. “You’re in the hospital. Magda said to make sure to tell you as soon as you woke up that everyone is alright and they are looking for Ash right now.”
Stephan nodded. The woman sitting by his bed looked to be in her early fifties. She was a light skinned black woman, with warm eyes and a pleasant smile. He tilted his head. “Are you Laura’s mother?”
“I’m Gabriel’s mother.” She smiled.
“You’re…” He blinked.
“He’s adopted.” She shrugged. “We thought it best if someone was on hand to reassure you as soon as you woke up…” She lowered her voice conspiratorially. “So we may have let them all believe you’re my nephew.”
“Right.” He shifted on the hospital bed. “So, Aunt…”
“Patricia Williams, but you may call me Patty.”
“Aunt Patty…” He nodded. “Fill me in.”
“Good news first.” She leaned back. “Anna and her baby are healthy. I’m not sure what all is going on and as soon as things are settled I am going to box some people’s ears, but Gabriel said to tell you that he’s ‘playing guardian angel’ and that as soon as…” She took a deep breath and shook her head disapprovingly. “Your ass can get out of bed Matthias is probably going to need you.”
“Yeah. Probably.” He started to sit up, then gave a frustrated sigh. “Don’t suppose they left any —”
She offered him a set of clothes. “I’ll be right outside.”
“The flight has two dozen people with French passports. They are being detained now.” Michaels held up a sheet of paper with pictures printed on it.
Magda raised an eyebrow. “You got a warrant that fast?”
“TSA doesn’t need a warrant. I called them up and said some folks from France were smuggling in bomb components for ISIS and the agents practically started jizzing their shorts.” Michaels shrugged.
“Dammit…” Matthias ran a hand down his face. “I’m starting to like you.” He took the paper, then blinked. “And fuck, you might actually be right. They start digging in on these folks, they’ll find shit.” He pointed at one picture. “She tried hiring me to bomb a hospital.”
“You bombed a —” Michaels started glaring.
“No.” Matthias looked insulted. “And I killed most of the shitheads who did take the job.”
“Okay.” Michaels nodded. “Gimme what intel you can and I’ll pass it to the TSA. That takes care of those, but uh, mystery voice did say it’s the guys by car that are the bigger issue. And…”
“And?” Magda folded her arms.
“Delacroix came in with a French passport so I can justify the French suspects but the APB I put out on dark blue Fords with California plates stands a good chance at tipping the bad guys off to our mole.” Michaels shook his head. “Hoping he can take care of himself.”
“Erilon, shit is going to get violent.” Matthias turned toward Laura, whose eyes weren’t glowing. “No, you’re Laura right now.”
“It’s okay, she’s listening.” Laura waved a hand. “Just conserving her strength cause ain’t nobody in the mood to get laid right now.”
“Anyway…” Matthias smiled a little. “Shit is going to get violent. If you can ID this mole so I don’t bite his head off or anything, I’d appreciate it. I’d feel bad about it.”
“He said he’d killed an alpha…” Michaels shrugged. “So warning you he’s around is probably a good idea anyway.”
She held him down, hands around his wrists, tight enough to hurt. He felt sick as she moved atop him as she’d done before, but his body responded. The collar was tight around his neck. When Sima was finished, the other one took a turn. She smelled like oranges. Patted him and told him he was a good boy and he whined happily for her. She laughed, then looked at the man who’d captured him and asked why he didn’t make those kinds of noises. The man laughed with her, and told her she liked it better when he purred.
Sima’s whispered in his ear not to worry, that she wouldn’t let the snake man hurt him. Ash was ashamed of how grateful those words had made him, especially when in the back of his mind he knew it had been Sima that had sent the snake man for him in the first place. And Sima had never protected him from Lisa. This was just part of her game. Sima didn’t protect him. Magda did.
Then the women had left, leaving him alone with the snake man. For about ten minutes, the man just sat there, cleaning pieces of a gun. The snake man set the pieces of the gun down, walked to the refrigerator, and took out two beers. He opened both, then to Ash’s surprise, offered him one. Ash looked at it, startled, and cringed away a little. “Ash.” The snake man crouched, looking him in the eye. “Get it the fuck together, and stop acting like a little bitch. You fought to defend your friends. You wuss out now, you’re going to get them hurt trying to save you.” The snake man offered him the beer again.
Ash reached out and took it. He made a soft whining sound. “Right, the forgetting how to talk thing.” The man took a drink of his own beer. “Sima’s a grade A psycho, Ash, but the only way she can get into your head is if you let her. She doesn’t want you to have a beer…” The man smiled. “So drink the fuck out of that thing.”
He looked down at the beer in his hand. Sima didn’t want him to have that. He’d heard her tell Wren that part of getting Ash back was that Ash wasn’t allowed food or drink except what Sima herself provided. He turned the beer around in his hand, and then took a long drink before looking back up at the snake man. The snake man smiled. “She tells you not to talk, Ash, you fucking sing. She tells you not to walk, you dance.” He took a gulp of his own beer. “Be a dog if you need, but by now, you’ve spent enough time around wolves to know what teeth can do.” He reached out, and petted Ash’s hair. “Your friends are alive. You’ll be back with them soon. Soon as I get the signal.”
When the snake man stood again, Ash whined up at him. The man frowned, and Ash tilted his head and whined again. “I’m Adam.” He rubbed Ash’s hair again. “What was it the guy said…?” He frowned a little, then nodded. “That’s right.” He crouched again, looking Ash in the eye. “Your name is Bernard Rudolf Achterberg. You are a cop, not a pet. You are a person, not a dog. Her name is Sima, not mistress.” He smiled, showing teeth. “And after I kill her, your demon friend is going to drag her to the lowest fucking pit in hell, you hear me?”
“Woof.” Ash nodded.
“No, Ash.” Adam stared at him. “You hear me?”
“Wo…” Ash looked down at the beer, then finished it before looking back at Adam. “Yes.”
“Good boy.” Adam smiled.
Daniel’s eyes snapped open. “Matthias.” He tried to sit up.
“Easy.” The voice was vaguely familiar, and he turned to see Father Williams. “Matthias is fine. He’s on the hunt now. He’d be here, but whoever shot him took Ash.” Father Williams offered him an energy bar. “They are going to need you back on your feet, young man.”
“Ash is…” His eyes widened, and he grabbed the bar and tore it open. “What about —”
“Anna just came out of surgery. You are now an uncle. She and the baby are fine. The others are…” Father Williams trailed off at the sound of footsteps, then stood.
A chill went through him as four men entered the room. “Mr. Thatcher.” He shifted his jacket to reveal a gun. “You need to come with us.”
Father Williams bowed his head, then gave it a small shake. “You gentlemen should reconsider your chosen path.”
“Father, just…” Daniel shook his head. “Don’t give them a reason to hurt you, alright?” He started pulling the sensors off. Last thing he wanted was to get Gabriel’s uncle hurt.
“See, you should listen to the kid.” The man smiled.
“I am not concerned…” Father Williams sighed. “About the possibility of them hurting me, Daniel. I am asking that they not give me cause to hurt them.”
“Right.” The man rolled his eyes, then drew his pistol and aimed it at Daniel. “Need you to keep the wolf from being a problem. So come along quiet —” He cut off with Father Williams caught hold of his wrist. “Listen, Father whoever you —”
“I will not…” Father Williams narrowed his eyes. “Ask nicely again.”
Ted looked up when Daniel and Father Williams came toward him. “Daniel, good to see…” He looked from one to the other. “Everything alright?”
“Yeah…” Daniel looked up at Father Williams, grinning. “Ran into some Cabal, but uh…”
“Are you alright?” Ted immediately took a step toward them.
“Nah, we’re fine.” Daniel shook his head. “He handled it.” He jerked his head at Father Williams.
“You…” Ted blinked at him. “Handled it?”
“As my nephew reminded me some time ago, for every thing there is a season.” Father Williams nodded.
“Yeah, and winter is fucking coming.” Daniel nodded. “Seriously, it’s like those guys never watched a movie in their life. Never screw around with the dignified old guy.”
“What happened to the Cabal?” Ted raised an eyebrow.
“They are reconsidering their chosen paths.” Father Williams nodded.
“He’s really persuasive.” Daniel’s grin widened.
“Well, he does get Gabriel to show up to choir practice.” Ted smiled. He could get a coherent explanation later. Hopefully. “Congratulations, Daniel, you’re an uncle. It’s a girl.”
“Well, she said it would be.” Daniel nodded. “Stephan’s up and he and I are going to go catch up with the others, but Father Williams is going to stay here and watch your back.” He turned toward Father Williams again. “Seriously, I want to be you when I grow up. Only without the celibacy thing.” He waved before rushing off down the hall.
“I…” Ted blinked, then a horrified notion came to him. “You didn’t have to…”
“No.” Father Williams shrugged. “I simply gave them a firm reminder that I could.” When Ted looked at him, he shrugged again. “I do believe I pointed out I was not always a priest.” Then he frowned in the direction Daniel had gone. “Unless I am mistaken, that young man is dating Matthias Jarlson?”
“Yes.” Ted nodded
“And here I thought you and my nephew were the strangest couple I’d ever encounter.” He shook his head.
“Well, I…” He blinked. “You uh…” He swallowed. “Well…”
“Let’s go see if Gabriel requires assistance. He was never much good with infants.” Father Williams started down the other hall. Ted shrugged before following him.
Magda hugged Stephan tightly. He returned the hug, then exhaled. “I’m sorry, Mags. I let them —”
“No.” She shook her head. “Don’t even go there. It’s not your fault and we’ll get him back.”
“Young guy, maybe twenty.” He stepped back. “Black hair, looked Asian, bit of an accent I couldn’t place. French maybe?” He sighed. “Red haired woman had a Russian accent. Tall, bit taller than him, and built like you. Both had guns and carried them like they knew how to use them. The guy knew how to fight, but it was the woman who kicked me in the head.” He took a deep breath. “They just strolled right up, laughing and joking with each other. I thought they were hikers.”
“Real professionals.” Matthias nodded. “Play it cool, cover the flanks, and attack from a distance. They know what the hell they are doing.”
“There was a voice on the radio too. Male. Voice said you guys were on your way back. I started trying to convince them you guys weren’t a fight they wanted and uh…” Stephan sighed. “That’s when the young guy ordered whoever the voice was to shoot.” He glanced at Daniel. “Daniel said the sniper had silver bullets.”
“Yeah. Fortunately he aimed for center mass instead of the head.” Matthias nodded. “Fucking hurt like hell, but probably wouldn’t have killed me.” He glanced over his shoulder at where Michaels was on the phone. “We got in a tip and Michaels took care of the ones on the plane, but more coming in by car.”
“Few tried to snag me out of the hospital. They were worried about Anna’s power and thought grabbing me first would —”
“You’re alright?” Matthias’s eyes immediately shifted.
“Yeah.” Daniel grinned. “Father Williams made one of them piss himself. It was awesome.”
“Father —” Magda looked startled. She turned toward Stephan. “What?”
“All I know is there are four cabal mooks being treated for severe hypothermia.” Stephan shook his head.
“Alright, so airplane people are now the FBI’s problem.” Michaels joined them. “Tip guy said car folks would be here by six. I’ve got people pulling over SUVs with California plates on their way into town. Two so far, found weapons in the cars. But…” He looked down at his phone. “Squad car pulled over two more riding together, called in the plates, and then uh…” He looked frustrated.
“Yeah.” Michaels exhaled. “I might have just got two of my people killed, so let’s find these fucks, alright?”
Laura’s eyes went red. “Incoming.”
There was absolutely nothing attractive about newborn babies, but both his aunt and Anna clearly disagreed. Sister Doris was fussing over both Anna and the newborn Jehanne Celeste. Anna was doing far better than any of them had a right to expect. Probably a result of having had a full fledged mystic healer fussing over her during the entire course of the pregnancy.
Gabriel stood in the doorway, watching as people moved. The very last thing he wanted to do was get into a fight in a hospital, but moving Anna was not a good idea. The strange sensation that had affected him when he’d first seen Anna was still there, beneath the surface. As much as it annoyed him not to be out helping the others fight, he knew this was where he needed to be. Report? For the record, when Matthias tells someone he’s going to tear their head off, he means it literally. Also, strangely enough, Michaels currently has the high body count. He’s got a lot of bullets and might be working out some issues. I really hope this is this battle is taking place away from Ted’s house. They tried to take on werewolves in the woods. Idiots. I’m having Laura keep her head down. Good. Pet, you’ve got some bad shit heading your way. Parking garage. On my way.
He let Ted and Father Williams know, and both agreed to stay with Doris and Anna. Then he headed for the elevator. How many? When she didn’t respond, he frowned. Erilon, how many?
Pet, you know how I tell you when you need to step up your game?
I need to step it up?
Gabriel, you’re going to need to take it all the way to the top for this. And that means I won’t be able to help you. It’s possible it means I won’t ever be able to help you again.
Gabriel, what’s coming in is bad, and Anna’s right. We can’t let them get that baby. The window is short, so the child will be safe soon, but in the meantime… She went silent again. Gabriel, I’m sorry. I’m going to need to take the chains off now.
What are you… The elevator dinged as it came to a stop, and the door started to open. A dozen men stood there, staring at him. Some of them had gold eyes. And some of them had glowing eyes. This wasn’t going to be…
He felt something fall away, and then everything went blank.