chapter LXIIIMature

If the drive to Hazel’s had been quiet, the drive back to the hotel was dead silent.  Once inside, though, they all began preparations in a flurry of activity.  Hazel, it turned out, though prickly at first, had warmed up to Gabriel rapidly, despite their shaky introduction.  The two of them were bent over an array of ingredients that Graeme didn’t even want to ask about.  Hazel’s bent fingers pointed at a bundle of sparrow bones, her lips moving feverishly as she instructed Gabriel in a low whisper.  Low enough that Graeme was sure not to hear her.

Graeme, however, she didn’t seem to warm up to. 

Sebastian sat at the desk, cleaning his blessed knives and propping his cell phone on his shoulder as he spoke to someone none of them knew, but whom he had insisted was not only trustworthy but necessary.  How necessary this person could even be, Graeme felt doubtful, but already he felt as if their group was growing too much for his liking.  Now and then, Sebastian would interrupt Hazel and Gabriel and mutter some tiny detail about the weapon’s preparation they would need to remember. 

Graeme frowned to himself in the bathroom mirror.  He’d just stepped out of the shower and the steam still filled the room like a sauna.  The scars on his arm glistened oddly in the foggy light, the Latin letters still legible.  Gabriel’s voice echoed in his head.  Cast out the darkness to make room for the light.  He wished he were going into battle.  He wished he could feel the scalding heat of fresh blood on his hands and the urge was so strong and so vivid that he was surprised at himself.  When had he become so dark and gruesome?  When had this thing that had taken root in his chest spread so vastly through his entire being?

Even still, the feeling wouldn’t abate.  It settled over him thicker still and he grew claustrophobic.  Yanking the bathroom door open, he walked out into the room in nothing but a towel.  Hazel eyed him warily but Gabriel didn’t seem to notice.  She said, “Is everything okay?”

He shook his head.  The words were stones in his mouth and he couldn’t get them out.  The minute her eyes met his it seemed everything clicked, just as it had before, when her hands were glowing like white flame and her whole body was lit up like a torch.  Words were not enough between them anymore.  Only their gazes seemed to be able to communicate.

She pulled a pair of boxers and a pair of slacks from his duffle bag on the table behind her and tossed them to him.  She said, “Get dressed.  I know where we need to go.”

Of course she did.  Of course she understood the things he couldn’t articulate.  He dressed quickly, dropping the towel right there in the middle of the room, heedless of the two extra pairs of eyes on him.  Soon enough, his life would be in their hands.  He didn’t figure a little nudity would send them scurrying home.

Despite Sebastian’s protests, Graeme left the hotel room alone.  Gabriel, brilliant as she was, seemed to know that she wasn’t needed.  What he needed to do he could easily handle on his own.  He drove the TransAm back to the factory district and parked it away from the buildings.

He could almost smell them on the air.  The stench of sulfur and copper hung heavy all around the abandoned buildings.  He followed the scent until it was strong enough to convince him that there were more than a dozen in the building.  Creeping in, his fingers toyed with the hilt of the knife in his belt.  Gabriel had piled weapons into the back seat, hidden under a blanket, thinking he would use them, but he’d grabbed only a bowie knife.  Adrenaline began to flood his system and his eyesight sharpened instantly.

The End

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