Chapter 39: Searching
I couldn’t calm my thoughts as I drove from monastery to monastery searching for Elian—searching for my only way back to Winter’s Edge to save Abby.
It struck me as odd that Kat had come back again after saving Abby. Unless Abby wasn’t in her physical body the first time. Kat had probably come back for Abby’s spirit body the second time. That was the only explanation.
And that meant Kat knew about Abby’s powers.
If Kat was the killer, why didn’t she just let Abby die? She had Abby’s body. Why not just bring it back without Abby’s spirit attached?
Then it hit me.
Let’s play a game, shall we?
Kat liked to play games, liked to mess with people. And judging from the murders, she liked the intensity of the hunt. The thrill of plunging the knife into the hearts of her victims. She liked the game of ’Kat’ and mouse, disappearing and spying on people. That’s how she’d found out about Abby’s powers.
She always complained about things. Always made sarcastic remarks like she didn’t care for the people in the city. I couldn’t believe I’d missed it all of this time.
I had to find Elian. Quick.
My search continued into the evening, and I’d nearly run out of monasteries to check. No one had heard of Elian. Hope was slipping away.
I couldn’t find the last monastery, so I stopped in at a local pool hall to ask directions. The bartender was a muscled, middle-aged man with a five-o’clock shadow and an affinity for drinking his own products.
“Oh, the monastery. Right.” His speech slurred ever so slightly. “You’re three blocks off, kid. Take a right out the door. Can’t miss it.”
The map of Denver I had in my mind was accurate, but it wasn’t always easy to figure out where the addresses fell on each street. And somehow, I’d botched this one pretty badly.
“Thanks.” I threw a five in the empty tip jar. Slow night, I guessed.
A fifty-dollar bill attached to a suited arm slammed down on the bar beside me. “My friend here will have a Coke, and I’ll take whatever your favorite drink is.”
My body tensed. That voice was unmistakable. My gaze inched to the right.
I drew in a slow breath, trying not to appear shocked.
“You know, it’s funny.” Rawlins sat on the barstool beside me. “We work so hard to keep this country safe, and people still reject our job offers. I just don’t get it.”
I started to walk away but thought better of it. Instead, I eased down onto a barstool, then looked around the place to see if anyone looked suspicious. “What are you gonna do here with all these people around?”
“Oh, I’m not here to bring you in, Ian.” Rawlins waved a dismissive hand. “I’m just here to talk.”
The bartender slid my Coke in front of me, then began making Rawlins’ drink.
“Oh, come on. I’m not as bad as you think.”
“Really,” I said.
“You don’t understand, Ian. Have you ever watched someone with powers go mad?”
I hesitated, not answering him.
The bartender finished Rawlins’ drink and pushed the martini glass to him. It looked like a girlie drink with its red hue and pink umbrella. Rawlins hadn’t looked at it yet.
“They start hearing voices. Wicked voices. They tell them to do horrible things to people. That’s fairly common for people with powers.” Rawlins took a drink and looked at his glass with a frown then up at the bartender.
The bartender shrugged. Now I understood why his tip jar was empty.
Rawlins rolled his eyes at the man, then looked back to me. “Eventually, they start listening to the voices. They have no regard for human life. They’ll kill anything and anyone.” Rawlins sighed. “It’s not their fault, though. They’re slaves to their chemical make-up. Slaves to the voices. Slaves to their powers. They can’t help it.”
“If it’s not their fault, then why do you kill them?”
“I don’t want to kill them.” Rawlins took another drink and raised an eyebrow at the bartender again. “I sincerely hope they’ll come work for me. I hope I can train them so their powers won’t drive them mad. I hope I can give them a job to be proud of.”
“Proud of killing people with powers who’ve done nothing wrong?” I didn’t try to hide the disgust in my tone.
He shook his head. “Imagine what people with powers would do to the world if they were left to their own devices. There would be far more of them out there if we didn’t thin the herd and far more going mad, killing innocent victims. Not to mention the infrastructure damage they could cause. What if one decided to take down a power plant in the heat of the summer? How many babies and geriatrics would die of heatstroke? How much money would be lost? How long would it be before the entire world economy came crashing down? Or better yet, how long would it be before terrorists started taking advantage of our weakened defenses…or before they started recruiting people with powers to do their dirty work? Who’s the real evil here, Ian? You or me?”
I pursed my lips, eyeing him.
“Don’t play the morals game with me, kid. You’ll lose.”
It made more sense why we didn’t kill Hunters and why the guilt could drive us to madness. Maybe the Hunters weren’t as evil as I’d thought.
I decided to take a different tact. “My friends and I are no threat to you or the public. We train to control our powers so they don’t drive us mad. Why bother with us? Aren’t there worse people to deal with?”
“It’s not a risk we’re willing to take.” Rawlins tapped his glass with his thumb, then stopped abruptly, turning to me. “What would you do if someone went mad and hurt or killed your dear, beloved Abby?”
My eyes narrowed at him. “If you touch one hair on her head, I’ll make you wish you were never born.”
Rawlins’ eyebrows shot up. “So, that’s what you’d do to someone with powers.” He cocked his head. “Then you and I are not so different.”
I snorted with distaste. “I’m nothing like you.”
Rawlins leaned in close, his voice dropping to an eerily-wicked near-whisper. “My wife and daughter were killed by someone with powers who had a brush with madness. I wanted to make that man wish he was never born. Don’t act all high and mighty just because you think you’re taking the high road.” His voice became more intense. “Without me, more people’s wives and daughters would get slaughtered. I’m the one who keeps your family safe.”
Rawlins backed up, seemingly attempting to calm himself.
I drank the rest of my Coke for some more calories to burn once this all went south, then stood and walked toward the door. Maybe I’d have a few seconds to run before Hunters jumped me. I didn’t believe for a second that Rawlins had just come to talk.
“Ian.” Rawlins’ voice stopped me in my tracks. “You don’t wanna do that. This is the last time I’ll offer you this opportunity.” He came up to the pool table beside me as I turned. “A Telekinetic is too dangerous to leave loose on the streets.”
“I’ll play you for it.” I nodded to the pool table beside us littered with balls and curiously lacking players. “If I win, you leave me alone. If you win, I work for you.” He was too clever to play pool with a Telekinetic, but I needed more time to think.
“Are you sure that’s a wager you want to make?” The balls shot in all directions, disappearing into the pockets with incredible speed and precision.
My eyes widened and dread sank into my gut.
Rawlins had powers.
I could move a few objects at the same time, or use a wall of energy to move several objects the same direction like I’d done with the Hunters’ bullets, but Rawlins had moved several objects individually in different directions, and he’d done so with incredible precision.
I looked around to see if anyone had noticed. “You’re a Telekinetic?”
“No. I’m something else.” Rawlins’ narrowed wicked eyes on me. “Something worse.”
“Then how did you do that?”
“Every atom in every object has magnetic poles.” Rawlins pulled a ball from a pocket and sat it on the table. “But when those poles are shifted and amplified, they can be…” He looked to the pocket across the table. “…manipulated.” The ball shot off and sunk in the pocket.
He’d shifted poles in the atoms of the ball, making it repel the slate’s atoms. Judging from the speed, he’d amplified it massively without breaking a sweat. It was done with such ease. Had it even drawn energy from him?
Something he’d said earlier bothered me. “If you have powers, why didn’t you make the man pay for killing your family?”
Rawlins’ expression darkened. “Because I killed my family.”
I grimaced. “Why would you do that?” The words were out of my mouth before I could think to stop them.
“I didn’t know I had powers,” he said. “A man on the street tried to mug me and my wife. My three-year-old daughter was with us. The fear and anger activated my power so quickly. I didn’t know how to control it, didn’t even know what it was. Magnetic poles in everything and everyone around me shifted all at once.” He clenched his jaw. “The man flew back onto a fence spike. And when I turned around…” His face sank into woundedness. “…I saw my wife and daughter on the fence spikes behind me.” He closed his eyes and breathed slowly, then opened them again. “I suppose that image does make me wish I were never born. But I guess you wouldn’t understand that.”
My memory flashed to the scene with my dad protecting my little sister from me. “When my powers manifested, I was lucky it didn’t kill my dad and little sister.” Why was I telling him this?
“Be thankful you didn’t.” He seemed to empathize for a moment. “Had you killed them, I think we’d be more alike that you’d care to admit.”
Were we really as alike as he claimed? The question made me angry. “Look, I don’t make every other person with powers pay for my mistakes. I don’t kill them to kill my guilty conscience. You and I are nothing alike.”
Rawlins gave me a thoughtful look and shrugged. “Maybe you’re right. Good luck Mr. Sharp. I’ll be seeing you soon.” He turned and walked out the door.
Really? That’s it?
No way. The second I walked out the door, Hunters would be on me.
I went back to the bar. “Hey, does this place have a back door?”
The man nodded toward a hall in the back.
“Thanks.” I headed to the back and found a door painted by a red light and an exit sign. I slipped my head out slowly to scan the area.
Surely there were Hunters watching for me out there somewhere, but it was better than going out the front.
As soon as my feet hit pavement, I set out at a dead run toward the monastery three blocks away. Surely, Rawlins wouldn’t confront me in a monastery. Then again, this wasn’t some vampire movie where holy ground was off-limits—this was Denver.
As I rounded the last block, I spotted the closing gates of the monastery gates. I ran with the final bit of strength my legs could muster and jumped through the small gap before they closed. When I hit the ground, I slid a few feet, then turned around to check my back. No Hunters.
When I turned back to stand, I was face to face with a pleasant-looking monk.
His long, brown robe was tied at the waist with a rope. “Come inside, brother.” He motioned toward the building in front of us.
“Thank you.” I barely managed the words through my panting.
The monk walked beside me to the monastery doors and opened them. “A few of us haven’t yet eaten. Would you care to join us?”
“That sounds good, actually.” Refusing might be insulting to them, and besides, I was famished.
“I’m Brother Simon.” His short gray hair and mild wrinkles placed him in his sixties, I guessed.
“Good to meet you. I’m Ian.”
He smiled and nodded, putting his hand on my back to guide me toward the dining hall. “What is it you seek?”
“A man by the name of Elian Frost.”
“Oh, I see. And here I thought you were running from something.”
“I am, but that’s not important right now.”
He seemed to respect my answer and continued. “I knew Elian a few years ago. Good man.”
Relief washed over me as I followed the monk down a long hall with equally-long tapestries that gave the place an interesting mediaeval flare. “Do you know where he is?”
“Possibly. When he and I last spoke, he was leaving our order altogether. He said he was unable to give me the details, but he was going to another monastery of sorts, not of the Carmelite Order.”
“Do you know where that monastery is?”
“Elian mentioned Bennett.” Brother Simon pointed to the east.
“Bennett? I didn’t even know we had a monastery there.”
“Oh, you’re from Bennett?”
I nodded then started to leave. “I don’t have much time. I need to go.”
“Monasteries often lock their gates after 8 p.m. I doubt leaving now will help. Eat and rest. You can stay the night with us.”
I turned back to him feeling my empty stomach, weak legs, and parched mouth. I couldn’t go home for the night. Hunters would expect that. I didn’t really have much of a choice. “You have room for me here?”
“Of course, brother.” He patted my shoulder.
“You’re very welcome.”
A half hour later, I’d eaten a hearty meal and planned my next move. It looked like I’d be checking on my mom after all. Maybe she could tell me where the monastery in Bennett was. But I’d very likely risk bringing Hunters down on her if they hadn’t already gotten to her. I had a feeling no matter what I did, they’d use my mother against me soon, assuming they operated that way. In fact, I’d be surprised if they didn’t.
After the meal, I was shown to my room. I settled in, and before long, heavy eyes weighed me down, and I drifted off to sleep.
I find myself running through Winter’s Edge. Abby’s room is up ahead. It’s almost 10 p.m. As I reach the door, I grab the handle and yank. It’s locked. I try to breach it with a kick. No luck. My powers are gone.
I throw my shoulder into the door. It doesn’t budge. I take a step back, then hammer the door with one last kick and it flies open.
I rush in and look for Abby. Someone’s in her loft.
I scale the stairs, my feet pounding one after the other. As I reach the top, a genderless silhouette thrusts a knife down into a body on the bed. Abby screams in horror then falls silent.
Invisible chains restrain me from going to her. I fight against them to no avail. The murderer turns, bloody knife in hand, and stalks toward me.
As the faceless figure reaches me, it says in a feminine voice, “I’ve been right in front of you all along.” Its knife plunges into my stomach.
I shot upright in bed, hands to my stomach, gasping for air. No hole in my stomach. No blood.
Nothing looked familiar. Where was I?
Slowly, realization settled in and the tiny monastery room became familiar again. For a long moment, I sat trying to slow my heart.
A bar of sunlight peeked through the window behind me, illuminating the floor. Judging from its angle, it was late morning.
No. Early afternoon. Crap!
I shot out of bed and threw on my clothes. My power drain from the day before had come with a price—too much sleep needed. Hopefully, Abby wouldn’t be the one who’d pay for it.