Chapter Ten: Running Out of Time
I didn’t know what I was expecting when I saw the computer labs of a secret supernatural organization. Something that looked like the inside of a large, industrial sized coffee shop was definitely not it. Maybe something more futuristic and high-tech, but plush red, purple, and blue couches of different hues with tables sticking up and out of the armrests? Not so much.
“You look disappointed,” Gadge whispered to me.
I shrugged, “Nah, I just wasn’t expecting to see a…” Hmm, what to call it. “Well, this.” My hands swung out as I gestured towards the expanse of the room.
“A computer lab?” He sounded genuinely confused.
“Where are the computers?” I finally whispered back as we followed behind Waylan. My insides were jumping around like jelly beans and I felt the need to tip-toe, even if there was absolutely no one else around and it was almost pitch black except for the small, yellow-ish glow of lights coming from the floor, lining the perimeter of the room against the walls. I still felt like the intruder. Kind of like a burglar. Being in a really big, clean mansion. With lots of couches.
“Serious?” Gadge laughed before I instinctively socked him in the arm. He stopped laughing and smiled at me instead, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “They’re in the tables. Kind of like tablets. We do have some in the countertops as well. We’ll probably end up using one of those.”
“Why?” I mumbled, still gazing around in wonder. The couches held a new light in my eyes. Installed tablets? Cool. Point for the Dreamcatchers, New York Headquarters.
“Questions here, and there, and everywhere!” Gadge sang under his breath before jumping away when he saw my glare. “Don’t hit me! Okay, okay.” He gave an exaggerated sigh before continuing, “Because based on the line up, if we sit at the counter or stand at the counter—whatever—then we can make an easier get away. And if people with guns come in, shooting at us, we can use said counter as a temporary shield before we pull up a portal and pop through it back to Waylan’s place. Of course then, if we had been seated at the couches, we would have been like sitting ducks and been shot down like so.” He used lots of arm waving and hand motions, miming out the entire thing for me.
“What makes you think people will come in here shooting us?” I asked.
Gadge shrugged. “Just a few precautions.”
“You certainly thought this through.”
“A little too much, if you ask me.” Gadge smirked. “It was Waylan’s reasoning. That’s what we were discussing mostly as you devoured your mom’s files. Good thing we got you a copy, or else we would never have been able to drag you out of there.”
“Sorry,” I muttered before taking a slow breath. “It’s the only thing real now.”
Gadge nudged me with a bony elbow and I looked up. He smiled a wide, goofy grin and pretended to flip his fashionably messy, gelled hair. “Girl, the only thing real here is your attitude. Get down on that!”
The effect worked and I let out a startled guffaw as he sauntered off, triumphant. I sucked in a breath and hissed, eyes watering with held back laughter, “Gadge, stop. What does that even mean?”
He waved a hand, “Not important! Girl, I knew I could cheer ya up. Say hello to Veronica. Now say goodbye.” He put a hand on his hip before turning to pretend pout at me. “She only comes out when a friend is sad.”
“Damn.” Waylan snorted before muttering under his breath. “Remind me to never get sad around you.”
Holding back laughter, I had to cover my mouth with a hand as I grinned.
“Please, you?” Gadge snorted, moving around the counter as he started tapping away at the desktop. Apparently these computers were all touch-screen too. There was a dull lit keyboard on the desktop and a screen set into the short back of the counter so the keyboardist could see it clearly and no one else could. Gadge continued as he paused in his typing, “Mister Speak-No-Emotion, Hear-No-Emotion, See-No-Emotion? Yeah, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”
“Are you saying I’m an emotional girl?” I asked Gadge. Waylan grinned and turned away, glancing down at his phone. Hermie had called to say the coast was clear. He was now supposed to be coming to hand over the card.
Gadge rolled his eyes. “Of course not, you feminist.”
I raised an eyebrow.
He added, “I’m saying you’re an emotional not-really-that-human being.”
“Wow, I didn’t seem to get that from your—” I snapped my fingers and popped a hip to the side as I raised my voice in a high-pitched giggle. “Oh my gosh, hi! I’m Ronnie. Short for Veronica. You’re welcome.”
“I think you should leave ‘Ronnie’ to me. You need a different girl name. Better yet! You can be Veronica’s best guy friend. That can be your split personality.” Gadge titled his head. “I suggest the name Vince.”
“I’ve always liked that name.”
“And it’s his middle name,” Waylan added, not glancing up from his phone.
Gadge nodded, matter-of-factly. “It’s what I’m naming my second kid.”
“Really? And you’re first?”
“Gadge Jr., of course.”
“What if it’s a girl?” I wondered, stepping up into one of the high bar stool-like seats by the computer counter.
“Oh, dear Heavens.”
Gadge smirked at my expression as Hermie slipped into the room, entering through the opposite end of the room we had come. He didn’t look happy, but that wasn’t saying much. To me, he never looked happy. I hoped that once we figured out more about my parents, he would realize I wasn’t a demon-in-disguise trying to infiltrate their organization and deliver secrets to the enemy. Gah.
“Here,” Hermie said, tossing Gadge the card, who caught it with one hand.
“What’s with the long face, Big Guy?” Gadge whistled low as his fingers flew across the countertop, fingers tapping away. He scanned the card and something popped up on the screen. Probably the security password.
“There’s trouble in the Watcher’s cell block. Someone disappeared through it about two hours ago. That’s why I was running late.”
“We’d better be getting food after this,” Gadge muttered, half to himself. “I’m starving. Can’t believe we waited an hour to get in here. This is—.”
“Ignore him,” Waylan told me. My gaze darted to his. Apparently I had been watching Gadge too closely, eyes widening as he deftly broke past the code after only two tries and then broke the next code without even blinking an eye. There was even a finger scan required but he somehow bypassed that too. “Gadge mutters to himself when he works. Beside the constant finger tapping, it’s his ‘thing’.”
“Oh.” I nodded. I had noticed that finger tapping thing too.
“Your father is on his way here now. I just got a call to go to Security and check things out. It’s strange how this happened the same night you guys decided to bust in,” Hermie said, shooting me an accusatory glance. I scowled at him. He had made it very clear to Waylan before—yes, I had been eavesdropping a little—that if we were caught, then he had nothing to do with this. What a great friend, huh?
“My father?” Waylan murmured. “Alright then. I’ll keep watch. Keep me posted on the situation.”
“Roger that,” Hermie responded before slapping a hand on Waylan’s back and saying in a low voice—that I still heard, by the way, “Be careful. You know your father isn’t great on forgiving.”
“I know,” Waylan said, patting Hermie’s arm before Hermie stepped away and turned, moving back to the door he had come through. I looked away, back to Gadge. Maybe Hermie’s not that bad…I shouldn’t judge him too quickly. I barely know him. I thought before cringing. I barely know any of them. Sure, Gadge is goofy and nice and Waylan is…well, Waylan, but what do I know about them? Two seconds later, my answer came to me: They’re Dreamcatchers and fight demons for a living. Why did everything have to become so difficult?
“Found something,” Gadge exclaimed in a low voice.
“That fast?” I said, impressed. I had been expecting a longer wait, for sure.
Gadge shot me a Girl, please look. Apparently ‘Veronica’ was still peeking through his ‘Gadge’ exterior. “I know my computers.”
“Damn, straight,” I muttered as Waylan went to stand behind Gadge, peering over his shoulder.
“Whoa. Well, I can tell you this. It’s about your mother,” Gadge said, squinting his eyes at the screen. “It doesn’t have much information here. It’s very shadowy with lots of random information that isn’t important like—ooh, look! Evelyn Roth likes carrot cake and lemon drops.”
“What? Does she also like long walks in the rain?” Waylan whispered. “Is there anything useful?”
“Well, excuse me if I find her interests useful. What if I want to get her a birthday present. Her birthday—.”
“Gadge, find the info,” Waylan interrupted. I was glad Waylan had said something because, if he hadn’t, I would’ve. And probably not so quietly. My nerves were set on edge and at each noise, my heart jumped, which couldn’t be great for my health. You’re young. Full of life. I told myself before an image of the two demons that had been disguised as two human teenagers in an alleyway popped into my mind. Yeah? Well, you could die at any moment too. I inwardly rolled my eyes. Thanks for the vote of confidence, self.
“Here!” Gadge whispered triumphantly. “It says here that Evelyn Roth was last detected in Boston, Massachusetts. That was about three months ago.”
“No,” I whispered. “Seriously?”
“Then…” I frowned. “Who’s at my house?”
“That’s the weird part. There are no records of there ever being an agent sent as a replacement.” Gadge tapped his fingers against the empty desktop beside the keyboard, eyebrows scrunching together.
“Wouldn’t I know? Especially by looks? This…this imposter looks exactly like my mom. The only thing throwing me off is… her attitude towards things. It’s a little darker, more demanding, and…something.” I shrugged at the thought.
Waylan sucked in a breath.
I tilted my head at him, waiting for—hopefully—an answer.
“Could be a demon replacement,” Waylan said finally before adding, “They are experts at illusion and trickery, disguises being included. It’s what they use best, especially when wanting to ruin humans’ lives.”
A demon replacement? I shivered. I’ve been living with a demon for the last three months?
“What happened to my mom then?” I asked.
Gadge was already shaking his head and muttering to himself as he squinted at the screen. “Nothing good.”
Waylan put a hand on my shoulder and I turned towards him in surprise. His blue eyes shimmered slightly as he spoke in a low voice, “Hey, your mom can handle herself. We can’t jump to any conclusions until we have more information.”
“What more information?” I said, shrugging out from under his hand. He frowned at me, thoughtful. “We know her location! We can go there right now and rescue her and bring her back—.”
“We don’t know if she wants to come back, Kylie.” Gadge’s voice cut through my panic and I spun on my heel.
“What?” I blinked, wondering if I should feel angry or insulted or both.
Gadge shook his head. “She might be on a mission. And there’s no way she would want it compromised if that’s the case.” He leaned back and rubbed his forehead, pinching the bridge of his nose in a classic I-have-a-headache-but-I’m-about-to-say-something-brilliant-so-let-me-speak move. He continued, “We don’t know the situation. She might be kidnapped. She might be stuck in a dungeon somewhere, being held ransom. There is no other information to see on this computer. It’s like it was wiped away by…”
“Magic,” Waylan muttered.
Gadge looked up finally, eyes widening. He looked almost excited. “Yeah.”
Waylan’s look darkened and he muttered a curse and walked away.
I waved my arms and hissed, “What? What does that mean? Is no one going to explain anything?” I muttered under my breath, “Come on people…”
“Someone’s coming.” Waylan was already at the other end of the room, crouched down by the door.
My mouth snapped shut and I took a step toward Waylan before Gadge grabbed my arm, holding me back. Something thumped into the door with a dull thud, running into Waylan. He gritted his teeth and shoved it closed.
“What do we do?” I whispered to Gadge who looked tense. He had released me and was now typing away madly at the keyboard before he smacked his hand against the screen and a short whirring sound was heard as it shut down.
“We find a way out of here,” Gadge mumbled. “There was a door down the hall at the other end.” He shot Waylan a look before running in the other direction, his feet barely touching the ground as he made it to the door. He slid through, pausing once to glance down the hall both ways before darting through. My head snapped to Waylan as I heard another thump and a muffled shout. Crap. Crap crap crap. It was like an annoying mantra stomping through my head.
Not knowing what else to do, I quietly made my way over to Waylan.
“Follow Gadge,” Waylan whispered. “I can deal with this guy.”
“Are you su—?” I started before suddenly Waylan flew back and the door burst open, slamming into the wall. Waylan slid across the floor and hit the far wall. He was close to the door where Gadge had gone. If I could make it there in half a second, we could be out of there and—.
“You!” A deep, slightly familiar voice boomed. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s the rogue!” Another voice cried from out in the hall. There was the dim sound of running feet.
I spun around, hands tightening into fists at my sides. There stood that dark haired guard that had appeared in my dream. That seemed like ages ago. His eyes pierced into me with an intense glare.
“Thatcher, it’s not her.” Waylan was pushing himself to his feet. He winced, his hand going to his side before straightening. “She’s not a rogue.”
“I don’t trust you, Waylan. No matter how many connections you may have to this organization, do not think that I will allow you to sneak in a rogue Dreamcatcher with no consequences. Your father will hear of this.” The guy’s dark eyes narrowed as he took a step forward. “I promise you, I will—.”
My fist slammed into his face before he could take another step closer and I put as much power behind that punch as I could. His head slammed to the side and he fell back, landing into the guy that was running through the doorway, toppling both of them. Like dominoes, I thought before the pain hit me. I gasped and shook out my hand, hopping on my feet briefly as I turned to race towards Waylan who was closer to me than I expected. Before we could slam into each other and cause some sort of accident, he grabbed my uninjured hand and we were suddenly through the other door, running down the hallway.
Gadge was there waving his hand at us. The moment his hand grasped Waylan’s, we were gone.
“That was too close, Gadge,” I muttered as we drove away in Gadge’s car which we had parked a few blocks away in a nearby shopping mall parking lot. We could transport in short segments if we had to. Dreamcatchers could track long distance transports better than they could quick, random ones. “Did you clear the computer?”
“Yeah. Right before the power went out.”
“The power went out?” Kylie said.
My gaze moved to where she sat in the passenger seat and roved over her body, checking for any injuries. She was holding her right hand limply by her side and her expression was one of fierce concentration, but other than that, she looked fine. Fine…Blinking, I looked away as I answered, “Yeah, right before those guys tried busting in. You didn’t notice?”
“No, my eyes must have adjusted super fast, or something…” Her voice trailed off before she added, “Is that another Dreamcatcher thing?”
I didn’t answer as I took a hard left and the truck tilted precariously. Kylie clung to the armrest but Gadge wasn’t so lucky as he was tossed to the other side of the back seat.
“It’s a demon thing mostly,” Gadge piped up, leaning forward as he clutched the back of Kylie’s seat. I raced through a yellow light, hoping that there were no police around. It was nearly midnight. Gadge added, “But some Dreamcatchers do have good eyesight. Most demons have night vision. You know, creatures of the night and all.”
“I wonder how come I never noticed that before.” Kylie frowned. Her hair had fallen into her face and I wanted to brush it away so I could try and read what her eyes showed she was thinking. Most emotions could be seen through the eyes. You had to practice and learn to see the signs if you didn’t have a sixth sense for reading emotions.
“Could have been a multiple number of reasons,” Gadge said as Kylie turned her head to hear him over the rumble of the engine. For all the high technology he set up around him and carefully styled hair, he sure never fixed his beat up truck—ever. It was like sticking an elephant in the city and calling it a decent form of transportation. The way Gadge explained it, he reasoned that no one would want to steal it. Well, yes. And because it’s a piece of shit on a creaky frame with rusted doors. At least I made him change the tires to good, endurable ones. Once I reasoned that it would at least provide some sort of advantage if we had to go off-roading in an escape or to chase a demon, he caved.
Gadge continued, oblivious to my thoughts, “The fact that you’re half Dreamcatcher and demon itself is already unusual. When’s your birthday? Maybe your age triggered something.”
“I don’t think that’s it,” Kylie said. “My birthday is in May.”
So is mine, I thought. Before I could shove that thought away, another was snapped into place. That does not mean we are meant to be or any sort of that stupid shit like that. What’s wrong with you? Focus on the mission for crying out loud.
“Okay, then maybe your parents screwed with your memories so a certain event or word or…knowledge of Dreamcatchers and demons—this world—triggered your awareness and hyperactive senses. Perhaps, you are slowly merging with your true potential as a Dreamcatcher and…and demon.” Gadge paused. “Which could be either good or bad, depending.”
I saw his grin widen in the rearview mirror and when his gaze met mine he added, “This is so cool.”
“Dude! We were basically caught. They saw us. We’re dead. They even saw Kylie. How do you expect to explain that?” I said, hands gripping the wheel so hard I thought I would break it. Calm, Waylan. Calm. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Kylie looking at me curiously.
Gadge smiled and shook his head. “I got it covered, man.”
“How?” I asked, not trusting him in the least. Sure, he was my best friend, but that did not mean he had the greatest ideas out there.
“I asked someone for assistance.”
“What is this, an interrogation? I—.”
“Melody?” I said, before frowning. “Who’s Melody? If you brought in an outsider then…” Technically, Kylie is an outsider, my mind snickered at me. Shut up.
“Yes!” Gadge hooted suddenly, startling both Kylie and me. “It totally worked, man! Melody as in Melody The-Bomb Springs. She’s amazing! She’s in the Watcher’s division in the Spy Unit, bro.”
“How come I don’t remember her then, Oh Wise One?” I muttered. “If she’s in my unit, I’d know. Let alone my division—.”
“Because,” Gadge gloated, “Melody is special.”
I grunted as I stopped at a red light and glanced in my side mirrors again to make sure no one was following us. Gadge was practically bouncing in his seat.
“She was situated in the Watcher’s Unit the floor above. I equipped her with access to the security camera on the floor we were on. The moment Thatcher and his goons stomped in, she was working her magic.” He waggled his fingers. Kylie was watching him with curiosity and slight fascination. “She’s able to alter people’s memories. Basically, she can knock someone out with her mind. Of course, it took a lot of strength—.”
“And you left her there?” I said. No answer. “There was a break in on that floor, Gadge. It could’ve been a demon. Or it could’ve been this Melody girl.”
“Once you see her, I’m sure she’ll put your memory of her back. You’ll remember. She’s quite nice. You’ll think differently, I’m sure of it.”
“Fine,” I said. “But until then, I can’t trust her.”
Gadge shrugged. “Well, she basically saved our asses, so you should at least be grateful.”
“I am.” I shook my head. “I just can’t believe that she would have this power and the authorities don’t even know.”
“She’s kept it hidden for a long time.”
“Why’d she tell you? Let alone help us?” Kylie asked after we sat in silence.
Gadge smiled, “Let’s just say that now I owe her a favor.” He poked Kylie’s arm and added, “And, believe me when I say that I have many shining qualities that can be of service.” He winked. Kylie laughed as I moved my arm back and punched him in the shoulder. He yelped and leaned back in his seat, smirking at me in the mirror.
His look said it all. And I didn’t have any words to retaliate.
You’re falling for the girl, Waylan. You, Waylan Parker, are falling for a demon.