Matthias snarled as he grabbed the smaller werewolf by the throat. With his other hand, he grabbed the top of the beast’s snout and ripped, tearing the top half of the thing’s skull off. He heard a shot, then turned to see the man taking aim at his back fall with a hole between his eyes. A glance to the left showed Michaels reloading. “I…” Michaels shook his head before nodding to the corpse Matthias was still holding. It was slowly changing back to human. “Am going to have nightmares about that later.”
He tossed the corpse aside. “Suck it up, buttercup.”
“Then again, my partner did kind of kick your ass, so…” Michaels shrugged.
“He got lucky.” Matthias tilted his head to first one side, then the other, then stared down at Michaels from full were form. He felt a grudging respect for the fact that even after the previous events, Michaels didn’t flinch.
“He took out a vampire nest by himself.”
“Seriously?” Matthias followed.
Michaels smirked. “Well, I did shoot a few mooks.”
“Huh.” Matthias glanced at where the sounds of fighting could be heard. “Want to go shoot some more?”
“You’re buying after.” Michaels started heading that way.
Ted smiled down at the baby. She certainly didn’t look like a potential apocalypse, though she was a little on the red side. He touched her cheek. She weighed almost nothing. The little hands were a marvel, the fingernails so small he wouldn’t have been able to see them without his glasses. With more than a little reluctance, he handed her back to Anna. “Anna?” He brushed his hand over Anna’s hair. “You sure you are alright?”
“I made a person.” Anna nodded, smiling wide-eyed at her daughter. A baby holding a baby. At least Anna would have support. Anna had her own personal army. He was opening his mouth to comment on just how much hair the infant had when Anna’s head came up. “Oh.” She swallowed. “Oh.”
“Anna?” He put a hand on her shoulder. “Anna, what?”
“She fixed him…” Anna’s voice was incredulous. Then her face started to tremble. “No, she shouldn’t have done that. She shouldn’t have…” A tear rolled down her cheek.
“Anna…” He crouched to look her in the eye, then glanced over at where Father Williams guarded the door. The priest’s face showed concern bordering on fear. He looked back at Anna. “Anna, what do you mean?”
“She fixed him and he went away.” More tears feel from her eyes. “I’m sorry, Ted.”
His stomach lurched. His friends were fighting. They were in mortal danger. “Anna, who did we lose?”
She sniffled before looking back up at him. Then she said the name. “Gabriel.”
For a moment, he just stared at her. He only vaguely heard Doris’s horrified gasp. Then he stood and started for the elevator. Father Williams started to hold up a hand to stop him, then gave him a heartbroken look before simply stepping out of the way. “Go.”
Two years ago, seeing his girlfriend with another man would have broken his heart. Watching Wren rape Ash though had just filled him with sympathy for the other man. He took another drink of his beer. “Need you to remember some names. Can you do that, Ash?” He tried to keep his voice gentle. Guy’d been through almost the same hell he had. Everyone broke in different ways.
It took Ash a moment to respond, but he met Adam’s eyes. “Yes.”
“Giroux. He leads the crew in Paris.” He listed of the names of all the other high ups and their locations, every single one he knew. Ash repeated them back, his voice steady. “Bitch with Sima is Wren Tierney. Full on witch, but the part that makes her dangerous is she’s insecure and immature. Thinks she deserves it all.” And it had taken him far too long to see it. “Your friends beat her, so she’s going to keep coming after them. She needs to win, needs to be the best. To be the fucking queen.”
Ash nodded. “She is your mistress.”
“Yeah.” Adam finished his beer. “She wears my soul around her neck. So let’s be clear, Ash. Try to escape before the signal and I’ll show you just how bad a jellyfish sting hurts. It’s a neurotoxin. Dials all your pain centers up to high for about four hours. If she tells me to hurt you, I will hurt you.” He set the empty bottle down. “And if I go up against your friends, I won’t be pulling my punches. Don’t think you’re safe around me. I am her weapon.”
“I…” Ash slowly nodded. “Weapon. She’s turning her weapon on my friends.”
“Yeah, Ash.” He sat on the edge of the bed. “Give me those names back.” He smiled when Ash got them all right. Ash was fragile. Very fragile. The amount of risk he was taking here was not lost on him. The only advantage he had was that Ash couldn’t exactly tell Sima anything if Sima forbade him from talking. Using the woman against herself did have an appeal. “It’s going to be a bit before I can help you. At least a day, maybe more. Can you keep it together?”
“My name…” Ash lifted his head. “Is Bernard Rudolf Achterberg.”
“And that…” Adam patted his shoulder. “That’s a hell of a name.” He started to stand.
“The man was your friend…” Ash’s soft voice arrested the motion.
“Yeah…” Adam closed his eyes. Patrick hadn’t gone for a gun. Hadn’t fought back. Even while Adam was killing him, Patrick hadn’t been willing to hurt Adam. “Best I ever had.”
“Sima made me kill Sarah, after Lisa had hunted her down.” Ash reached up and took Adam’s hand. “Made me use my teeth to crush her throat.” He squeezed Adam’s hand gently. “You didn’t have a choice.”
“Doesn’t…” He started shaking his head. He couldn’t think about that right now. If he cracked, he would shatter. And then he and Ash both would be lost.
“Not now.” Ash squeezed his hand again. “But it will. It just takes time.”
“I…” Adam swallowed. “Thank you.”
Daniel threw himself to the ground as an actual fireball was thrown at him. Another was thrown at Stephan, only to wink out of existence about twenty feet from the man. Stephan shrugged before shooting the guy who had thrown int. “Where the hell are these people coming from?”
“I came straight from hell…” Another started for him, his voice echoing strangely. “Tremble before — ”
“Oh…” Laura’s eyes glowed just a little brighter. “Seriously?”
He blinked as the one coming toward him recoiled so fast he fell. The man started scrambling backward. “No.”
“You pretenders cause entirely too much trouble —” Erilon’s eyes narrowed. “Daniel, sweetie…” Her smile showed teeth. “Don’t look.”
That uh… He immediately turned around. A heartbeat later he added covering his ears. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Stephan’s face turn horrified before he did the same thing.
A hand came down on his shoulder a few seconds later, and he humped. Laura shrugged at him. “Safe to look now.” Her voice was hers again.
Reluctantly, he turned. There was no sign of the man. Not a trace. “What happened?”
“She didn’t let me see either, but uh…” Laura twitched a shoulder. “She takes that kind of shit a little personal.”
“She called it a pretender.” He turned back toward the others.
“Yeah. They are.” Laura grinned. “She just laughs though, when I ask her to explain.”
“We just killed like, thirty people.” Daniel fought the urge to throw up.
“Probably shouldn’t put this on my college app.” Laura folded her arms.
“Got to phrase it properly. ‘Showed teamwork skills under adverse conditions to overcome obstacles’.” Magda looked around, then sniffed. “None of these were the ones that took Ash.”
“Erilon, what’s the situation back at the hospital?” Matthias turned toward Laura.
“Under control.” Laura’s eyes glowed faintly. It was a little disturbing just how comfortable he was getting with the fact that there was a possessed sixteen year old girl working with them.
“So…” Michaels looked around. “We won?”
“No dead Sima.” Magda looked around. “So not yet.”
Stephan put a hand on her shoulder, and she returned to human form before turning toward him. He put his arms around her. “We’ll find Ash.”
She hugged him back. “Damn right we will.”
“These goons came by car.” Matthias shook his head. “We’ll never track them over the road.”
“Let’s get back to the hospital, see if we can trace any of those assholes back.” Michaels nodded. “They’ve got to have a base or —”
“We can’t go to the hospital yet.” Erilon shook her head.
“Look, not denying Gabriel is good…” Matthias folded his arms as he resumed his own human form. “But even with Giovanni backing him —”
“What?” Magda suddenly turned toward him. Then her eyes widened. “You mean Father Williams…”
“Uh, okay.” Michaels inhaled. “Going to need that explained to me at some point because I’m pretty sure his name is Oliver.”
“We’ll explain on the way.” Matthias started for the truck.
Erilon put Laura’s hand on his chest to arrest the motion. “It’s not safe.”
“All the more…” Matthias started to push past her.
“It’s not safe for you.” Erilon shook her head. “Not with the blood on your hands. He won’t know who you are, Matthias. He’ll kill you. He’ll kill all of you. None of you are innocent.”
“Uh…” Stephan frowned. “Erilon…” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Are you talking about Gabriel?”
Immediately, Michaels shook his head. “Gabe would never hurt me or Laura. Or anyone here.”
“Hero Boy would die before he hurt you, Michaels.” Erilon’s smile was sad as she took a deep breath. “But the left hand of God will strike you down without hesitation.”
“Erilon…” Magda stared at her before making the sign of the cross.
“Uh…” Stephan glanced at Magda.
“When Anna called him an angel, she…” Erilon looked away. “She was not speaking metaphorically. I’m sorry. To protect the child, I had to take the chains off. Gabriel, our Gabriel…” She looked up, and the glowing eyes were filled with tears. “He’s gone.”
Ted felt a chill when he entered the parking garage. A body lay a few feet from the elevators. The head lay a couple feet further. He swallowed. Michaels had tried to give him a gun. A little thing. For a moment, he wished he’d taken the man up on the offer. The body wasn’t Gabriel’s. Slowly, he moved forward.
Other bodies lay. They looked as though they’d been cut open. This… Gabriel didn’t do this. Did he? Gabriel and Michaels carried guns. None of the bodies had been shot. He heard a sound and moved in that direction. To his shock, he saw a werewolf scramble backwards through a door. Matthias had showed him what were form looked like, and this one was easily the same size as the alpha. Its face was clearly terrified despite the canine features. And to his shock, he realized the thing was begging.
The light on the other side of the door flickered, and then something followed the wolf. A sword, wreathed in fire. The hand that held it glowed faintly with a warm golden light. Then he saw the rest of the figure come through the door. Ted took a step backward of his own.
Gabriel was wearing armor. A silver breastplate, etched in a dizzying pattern. And from his back emerged a pair of wings, feathers shimmering white. His whole body was bathed in that same golden light. Gabriel was glowing. Gabriel had wings and he was glowing and… And somewhere in the back of his mind he realized what it was he was seeing.
He almost missed the death of the werewolf. The fiery sword took its head off. It took him a moment to process the action as the head rolled under a car and slowly began returning to human form. Then he swallowed, and took a step closer. “Gabriel?”
The eyes that immediately turned toward him were white fire. There was no trace of the usual green. No recognition crossed Gabriel’s face as he lifted the sword and started toward Ted.