Lance first brought us to the Darksiders’ lair where I washed myself up, the place had apparently running water, then Kaleb gave me a new long-sleeved shirt. I had to ditch the skirt since blood had leaked onto it, but the leggings were still fine. He was just a little bigger than me but he liked the same clothes I did so it was a good match, I gave him my phone number and then Lance brought me home. I walked through the door, the bogeyman plush bunny in hand and the ghosts in toe.
“Good evening Lauren.” My mother said, looking tired. It was ridiculously late, probably two in the morning, but she’d remained up…
“Hi mom…” I muttered, busted.
“Would you like to tell me where you were?”
“Just having fun with my new friends.”
“Two nights in a row?”
Crap. I was so busted. I didn’t answer out of shame.
“What is going on Lauren?” You’ve been out of yourself for the past week or so. You’ve barely talked to me, you’ve retreated away into your own bubble, I’m worried for you.”
“I’m alright mom…” It was another lie.
“Please talk to me? Are you being bullied? You look horrible honey.”
“Not any worse than usual…”
“Who are your friends? Did you get entangled in something bad?”
I shook my head. “Everything’s fine, they’re good people... “ More lies. “Can I go to bed?”
She just seemed to saddened and I couldn’t help but feel like a shitty daughter… “Yes, you may.”
I walked into my room and dropped on my bed still clothed. The bunny found a niche in the corner while the ghosts seemed to still be around, following me like puppies. murderous undead puppies but puppies nonetheless. I fell asleep quicker than I thought possible.
Mondays… I always hated monday mornings... Reality is definitely more boring than a novel, after fighting the forces of darkness, school is still there and you still haven’t finished your homeworks because of it.
I woke up with only four hours of sleep in my body and painfully stumbled toward the shower. My mom was gone for work by the time I was out, as I’d had to apply elixir to some of my unhealed wounds. My right arm was still painful and moving it was even worse, it had healed half decently on it’s own but not entirely.
I got dressed, putting a ‘The Cure’ tee-shirt and a pair of jeans on. It was a pretty warm day, My arm was covered with a bandage that itself covered the sutures, I’d made off-handed. I’d probably have to lie about how it had gotten that way.
I arrived at school late by ten minutes, the teacher didn’t make a fuss and let me in. I sat down at my assigned lab table after the usual inspection. Nothing had been left, which was good.
“Hey.” I said to Miriam, the uber-geeky girl that sat next to me.
“Hey.” She answered in a non-committal tone.
That was how most of my interactions went. A lot of people were more or less cool with me, but didn’t want to get involved for fear of being bullied like I was. Miriam was one of these people, she was nice and a great lab partner, but she wasn’t a friend. After that brief exchange he teacher gave his lesson on chemical bonds.
The next classes were English, Math and Art. I took every free moment I had to finish my homeworks.
Emma and the droogs were acting oddly, not getting involved with me, probably preparing for their next big score. In Math, I heard them talk rather than do the assignment.
“So, my father got like a promotion and he like got these tickets to like the next fundraiser thrown by the sexy Mr Coil and he like totally asked me to come.” Emma said. I wasn’t quite sure what her dad did, something about working on the boardwalk’s board of direction. Regardless it made her feel like that gave her importance by proxy. “And I get to bring a plus one.”
Her friends got too busy congratulating her and being jealous. I didn’t really get it, sure, they’d be invited to one of the most posh party in town, but I didn’t get the hype. I wasn’t a people person, so maybe that was why.
The rest of the day went on smoothly, someone praising me in art class for my drawing; that of the child-like boogieman now bound as a bunny in my bedroom. I hadn’t exactly negotiated any terms so I had no idea if the binding would do anything and if it hadn’t freed itself the moment I’d left.
When school ended, I called Coil and set up another rendez-vous, telling him I’d succeeded. Once again at a café, but not the same as last time.
He met me there, still dressed as sharply as ever. His hair had been gelled to hold the perfect shape he wanted. He didn’t wear a vest, but rather a silk button shirt and tighter-than-tight designer jeans with a gold belt. Since his sleeves were pushed back, I got the chance to see more skin than I’d ever seen and along with it, a tattoo; that of a snake coiled around his left arm. As usual, he ordered tea while I sipped a bottle of OJ.
“So, what do you have for me?” He said, setting his piercing, hypnotizing stare set right into my eyes.
“Before I tell you what I learned, I need some compensation.” I declared. He frowned. He didn’t like when people took control of a situation. “I fought not one but two bogeyman to get this information, almost got myself killed.”
“And what would you want?” He offered, hesitantly.
“Greater freedom for one, the promise you won’t dictate who I associate with. Second, I need a place, a more permanent and inconspicuous one. Safe house O-3 is what I had in mind.” As the name implied, O-3 was the third safe house in Oceanside and the one closest to the boardwalk. “I can do what I want with it and nobody goes in without my express permission, not even you.”
“Then tell me what you have and I’ll consider it.”
“Okay, first up is Lance. By all account he’s still a talent from what I’ve seen. He can travel at least five miles in darkness but only if he knows where exactly he’s going. It’s instantaneous by the looks of it. He brought us from darkside to the Abendroth’s front yard without breaking a sweat.
Then there’s Kaleb, the skinner. He’s capable of both offensive and medical use of his ability, he choked a shifter and seemingly brought her back to human form. His healing worked on me for a bad chest wound, slight scarring, but completely healed. It could be an alternative from the Abendroth’s elixir, he self-harm via cutting to charge up. Of the group he’s the one who trust me the most.
Then there’s Natalie, you told me she was a talent but she isn’t Simon Abendroth called her a Scion, whatever that is.”
As stoic as Coil could be there was genuine surprise and even the slight hint of horror in his expression but only briefly.
“A scion is a human child imbued with demonic energies, you could say a half-demon half-human being. Do you know her virtue? The idea that empowers her?”
“No, but she’s extremely protective in her own way and vindictive as well as quick to anger.” I answered. He nodded. “I don’t know much about Liam, other than he’s around six to seven years old and Natalie is the one who raised him, he’s mute due to his condition but communicate with sign language.”
“You’ve done well.” He said.
“I have more; Their base is an abandoned subway station in darkside, it’s been condemned from the top, but the lower levels work. It has electricity and running water. The place is made of stained white tiles just about everywhere in an octogonal shape., there seems to be two levels plus the train docks.
Then there’s the Abendroth, the father is addicted to opium, but the boy is of greater importance, he performed some transmutation with nothing but his hand in a second. This doesn’t compute with the information you gave me on alchemists, he either has access to some additional power or he isn’t one. He might be a construct seeing his completely emotionless behavior.”
“You’ve outdone my expectation in one night.” He said. “I’ll grant your request but at one additional cost.”
“What is it?”
“I’m hosting the firefighter fundraiser this Friday. I want you there by six. Wear something nice. I’ll transfer some funds and the ownership of O-3 to you.” He said getting up. “Continue the good work and you will go far, Lauren.”