Chapter Eighty Five
I stood up and held up my hands.
"Everyone slow down for a minute! No one is killing—or eating—anyone!" I gave Simon a stern look. "As bad as this looks, we owe Eliam a chance to explain himself."
"What is there to explain, Lionel?!" Morden snapped.
"Calm your tits for a damn second!" Rik grabbed Morden's shoulder as the vampire tried to stand up as well. "All he's saying is that we should talk to this asshole first! In case you forgot, he's the reason we knew where to get the Pin of Cor-something to help Simon in the first place!"
Morden and Simon both wore sour expressions. Rik brought up a good point.
"Why the fuck would he help us with that if he was all bad?" Rik insisted. "There was nothing in it for him!"
"Wait," Judith interrupted again. "So he's been helping you kids pro-bono?"
"Well," I winced as I said it, "he claims to be a distant relative of mine."
"How, like, distant?" Luke asked. "Like, dad's-half-brother's-second-cousin's-aunt kind of distant relative?"
Morden gave Luke a condescending sneer.
"Like a-few-centuries-back-direct-descendant distant relative," the vampire said.
"Like several-'greats'-and-then-a-'grandfather' distant relative," Rik added.
"So what, he's a couple of centuries old?" Judith was smiling like it was a joke.
"Eliam made a deal with a demon for the ability to possess all knowledge," Simon said, his tone clear and lucid. "The demon made him immortal so that Eliam would have the opportunity to discover everything there is to know. So yes," the blonde smiled sweetly at Judith.,"he's a few centuries old."
Judith's face went pale.
"What did he offer in exchange?" she asked in a voice that was all-business.
"He isn't allowed to speak," I said. "That's what he told us, anyway. If he says a single word, the demon can come to claim him."
"Shit." Judith bit her lip. "A possession contract."
"A what?" Luke frowned at her.
"It's the most common type of contract that a demon would be willing to make," she said quickly. "They give you one or two nearly-impossible rules to follow along with their 'gift'. They're banking on the fact that you'll eventually mess up. And with a 'gift' like immortality…" Judith shook her head. "He has an eternity to screw up, and demons are patient creatures."
"Well, he's sewn his fucking mouth shut," Rik pointed out. "So he might be okay for a while."
Judith grimaced. Luke was frowning down at the table, oddly pensive.
"But like…" he started, then brought a finger to his lip and thought harder.
"But what?" I asked.
"Like…how do you know he didn't already mess up?" Luke asked.
Everyone at the table was quiet.
"What do you mean by that?" Morden asked, smiling nervously. But we were all catching on to what Luke meant.
"Like…" Luke shrugged. "How do you know he didn't already screw up, like, recently? I mean…dude, could you even tell if he was possessed?"
"Whoa, hold it," Rik had thrown up his hands for the umpteenth time. "Are you suggesting that the fucker we think is Eliam might actually be the demon that came to collect?"
Judith was nodding, lost in thought.
"It's possible," she muttered. "But either way, it doesn't explain why he'd ruin their family," she nodded towards Morden. "And then suddenly be helpful again a decade later."
"But like, he's not helping them." Luke jabbed his index finger against the table. "He's helping Lionel."
Again, a bewildered silence filled the room.
"Then the question isn't why he changed his mind," Judith said, looking at me with wide eyes from across the table. "The question is why does he want to help Lionel? What's he after?"
The way she was looking at me spoke volumes.
"But what about this Eliam dude being possessed or not?" Luke asked.
"Don't you see?" Judith's eyes grew wider still. "It doesn't matter. Whether he's still himself or a demon in a skin-suit, he's after something. And these two," she pointed at Simon and Morden, "these two aren't even important. They're only involved because they know Lionel. This has nothing to do with anyone else."
My palms were sweaty in my lap. I didn't like where this was going.
"Lionel and I had a nice chat this morning," she continued. "About the sorry state this city's in. There are holes leaking spiritual energy all over the place that would have taken centuries to create. And I've only noticed them because I've been spending a lot of time around Lionel, who has been soaked in the stuff coming out of those holes."
I shifted awkwardly and stared down at the table as I felt everyone's eyes on me again.
"Now based on what you've told me," Judith said, "I'm willing to bet that this 'Eliam' is behind it."
"Energy?" Morden muttered, frowning. "And it's affecting Lionel?"
"It's not hurting him, he's just storing it," Judith specified.
"Like a battery," I added.
"Like a battery," Judith repeated and nodded. "It's especially bad in this neighbourhood, which is probably why it goes unnoticed by anyone normal. Cars never come down here. It's like this whole place has been pulled into a pocket, halfway between our world and the other one."
"The other one…being the one where the demons are?" Rik clarified.
"You got it." Judith snapped her fingers. "And it attracts anything paranormal in the area to this place. But then Lionel ended up living here by some freakish mistake, and he's been soaking up all the spirit energy leaking out. He's practically marinating in it."
"You talk about it like he's being prepped as a meal," Morden said.
"Isn't he, though?" Judith gestured sharply in my direction. "He's being prepped for something, that's for sure! Because however he ended up moving to this house, he's now primed for any number of uses to the right people."
"Are you—hang on—are you suggesting that Eliam's behind this too?" I asked, reaching my breaking point of disbelief. My heart was hammering in my chest. It had been a while since I'd had a panic attack, but this might just be enough to trigger one.
"This is getting too fucking crazy." Rik had his head in his hands. "You sound like a conspiracy theorist!"
"I sound right." Judith was smiling. "That's how I sound. And we're going to find out for sure, tonight."
"Oh man," Luke muttered.
"She's right," Morden said, ignoring Judith's look of surprise. "We need answers."
"You know you can't get any fucking answers from him if you kill him, right?" Rik asked the vampire.
"Obviously," Morden said without looking at him. "But it's like the Hunter said; demons are patient creatures." He balled his fists on the table and screwed his eyes shut. "For the sake of getting the answers we need, I can wait."
I caught Simon watching my face. I turned to look at him, and he glanced away briefly.
"Lionel," he said, chancing a peek back. "Are you okay?"
"Not really," I said, and I felt everyone's eyes on me again. My shoulders were tense. "I'm kind of silently freaking out."
"Hey," Rik leaned forward a bit from the other side of the table. "Whatever's going down, that fucker's not gonna touch you."
"Exactly." Morden nodded along. "If he tried, he'd have the rest of us to contend with."
"He'd be dead if he tried." Simon's eyes flashed red again.
Judith rolled her eyes.
"Okay, enough with the lovefest." She waved her hand dismissively. "First off, Doppelganger, you're not coming."
"What?!" Simon snapped his head up at Judith, sounding like a scolded child. "Why?! I'll be good! I can be good!"
"It's not that. You're a liability," she said flatly. "You're fairly alert now, but you might doze off again at any time. You need to recuperate or you'll only slow us down."
Simon's face fell and he pouted, glancing over at me.
"Simon, she's right," I said reluctantly, and Simon slumped his shoulders. "No! I just mean that you need to rest. I just want you to get better first, okay?"
Simon nodded, but he was completely miserable about it.
"You too, Luke," Judith added. "You stay put."
"Cool! Wait. I mean, like, why?"
"Because you're useless."
Luke blinked a few times, taken off-guard by the directness of the insult.
"…Oh, u-um, like, h-harsh..." Luke tried to hide his hurt feelings, but was failing. Judith didn't seem to have noticed.
"Right, I'm gonna go make some calls, see if I can dig anything else up on this Eliam guy," Judith said, standing up. "I'll come see you guys in a few hours, after sunset."
As Judith left the room, I went and patted Luke on the back.
"Don't mind that, she's just trying to look out for you," I said, but Rik was shaking his head.
"Fuck," he whispered in disbelief when he heard Judith slam the front door behind her. "She might just be the fucking meanest, shittiest person ever." He glanced at the doorway and lowered his head nervously. "Shit. Don't tell her I said that."
Luke stifled a small laugh under his fingers, but also glanced anxiously at the doorway.
The fear that Judith could instil in others was almost as impressive as her inability to talk to them like a human being.
I found myself sitting shotgun as Judith drove us a few blocks down. Rik and Morden sat awkwardly in back. Mostly it was awkward because Judith told them that her backseat was off-limits for 'doing the tongue twister' and now everyone was uncomfortable, including me.
"Shit, this Immortal lives pretty close by," Judith was saying, and I made a noncommittal noise.
The short ride was a relief. We all piled out in front of the house, snow crunching beneath our feet. I glanced up and knew at once that something was wrong.
"The door's open." I said in a breath, then I turned around and repeated myself. "The door, it's open!"
Everyone looked up and went stiff.
"Not surprising," Judith bit out. "There's always something."
The four of us stood in front of the door that was half-open, leading in to a dark house.
Judith passed out pocket flashlights. Morden grudgingly accepted his.
"I see better in the dark." He complained.
"Too bad, this ain't your party." Judith said as she flicked hers on and went straight into the house, crossbow in her other hand.
"Ugh." Rik bit his tongue but gave me a wide-eyed look as if to say 'I am very upset with Judith, please do something', to which I returned a shrug, as if to say 'What am I supposed to do about it? She's not shooting at us: that's progress'.
We all crept into the house, following close behind Judith, only to be met by a startling emptiness.
The entire house was vacant. The furniture was gone, the walls were bare, everything had vanished. Judith came in from another room and swung her flashlight's beam directly on my face.
"I'm guessing it doesn't usually look like this," she said, but she wasn't asking. "Looks like Eliam got wise and bugged out."
"No! No, no, no, no…" Morden threw his flashlight to the ground and charged down the hall to the room where Eliam usually was. The rest of us chased him down, only to find him standing in the centre of the dark, abandoned office.
"No—!" Morden's shoulders slumped. "Goddamn it! DAMN IT!"
I walked up behind Morden and stood beside him, and the vampire let out a heaving sigh.
"…What now?" he asked.
I glanced around the empty space. We were all asking ourselves the same question.
End of Chapter 85.
Earlier post because I work at 5:30am tomorrow and don't know when I'll get to post otherwise! Shorter chapter this week too, but there was no other space to cut it off. Discoveries next week! Have a great weekend!