Aurora stroked Aurel’s head as he dozed quietly by her side. All those years ago when she walked through the forest with Stefan and her sisters in tow, it was Aurel who appeared from behind a towering elm and led her to the old farmhouse. He had been just a cub then, separated from his pack and they had bonded immediately. Since that day he had been her companion, an equal and she relied on him often. When things got tough there was something about the strength of his presence that reminded her of who she was. Aurel was an alpha, a leader, and so was she.
“I can’t just give up,” she whispered into his fur. “I’ve got to pull myself together, but how do I do this? How do I fight the army without…”
She stopped herself from saying his name out loud. Gabriel. He had given up on their plan. He had given up on her. Now she would have to find a way to fight the Reapers without him. As if on que, Jasmyne appeared in the doorway.
“Aurora I’ve found something I think you should take a look at.”
Aurora nodded and gave Aurel one last pat before getting to her feet. Jasmyne had forgiven her. More than that, she was helping her, but their relationship was fragile. An icy pond that would crack from even the slightest pressure. She would have to step lightly.
When she got downstairs Jasmyne had retreated to a laptop set up on the kitchen bench.
“I’ve been doing some research about everything you told us,” she began. “And I think I’ve found something, a website. At first I thought it was just stupid but then I saw something.”
Over the years, Aurora had combed through site after site of myths and legends and never found anything of use. There were pages dedicated to Satan and even websites claiming to have been written by real vampires. Humans could be so strange.
“Take a look sister. Like I said, it seems stupid at first but then…”
The site was a blog called Mr Mass Murder and from what Aurora could tell, the author was some kind of weirdo who liked to keep track of mass murder sites all over the world. Throughout his posts the author described with gory accuracy, mass murders from every corner of the globe.
“This guy is sick,” Aurora whispered as she read. “Why would anyone want to write about this stuff?”
Jasmyne shrugged and shook her head. “I have no idea, but look at this.” She scrolled down and pointed to a blog entry entitled Killers Club. “There’s a few facts missing, but it mentions the killing in the Peaks that…” Jasmyne hesitated to say his name, afraid it would send Aurora spiralling again. “That he witnessed, as well as that site they found in Sweden, the one you saw on the news. It says the bodies found at the Swedish site were mutilated but there’s nothing about missing livers. And here, in the one about the Peaks it says animals destroyed the remains before forensics could conduct a complete analysis.”
Aurora sat down and shook her head. “This Mr Murder isn’t too bright, is he? He’s missed the one thing that connects the two murders.”
“Right, that’s what I thought too at first. But then I saw this.” She pointed to a red box at the bottom of the post with the heading My Theory. Aurora read the text and quickly reached for Jasmyne’s hand.
“Oh my God Jasmyne. There’s more sites.”
To anyone else it would have made no sense, but to Aurora it was the answer she had been looking for. She read it again, slower this time.
My theory, for what it’s worth, is there’s a killer’s club out there that spans generations. Let’s work back. Nine years before the US murders in the Peaks, the discovery of a mass grave in French Polynesia was believed to have been the result of tribal genocide, but it was identical to another site found nine years before that in Uganda. Go back even further and nine years earlier a group of tourists were treated to a grisly sight when they stumbled across a mass grave in southern Patagonia. According to witnesses, the remains were frozen into the ice and the tourists were so terrified the guide immediately rerouted their journey back to Chile. When the remains were retrieved, some of the bones dated back weeks while others had been in the ice for more than 200 years. That means these globetrotting serial killers must be either very old, or they’re part of an elite club spanning generations and creating a legacy – of murder.
“It’s them,” Aurora whispered. “It’s the Reapers, I know it.”
Immediately she was up on her feet and pacing. “But geographically the sites are so far apart and so random. What could they all have in common?”
Jasmyne and Aurel watched as she paced back and forth working through every piece of information. “Sweden, French Polynesia, Patagonia, Africa and here at The Peaks. What am I missing?”
“And why do they seem to be doing this every nine years?” Jasmyne added.
Aurora stopped and stared at her sister. “That’s it! Nine years.”
“Right, nine years. But what does it mean?”
Aurora placed her hands on Jasmyne’s shoulders. “Nine is the key. The number of the beast.”
Her sister’s eyes widened and she stepped back, almost falling over one of the kitchen chairs. “The Beast? You mean, Satan?”
“Yes, but it’s more than that. Nine is also the number of the human ego.”
Aurora grabbed the corner of the laptop, swivelling it around to face her. “Look, I’ll show you.”
She typed into the search bar and a list of websites flashed up. When she clicked on the first link a black site with red writing filled the screen. “Look sister, read this.”
As Jasmyne read, the text described how the number nine was indicative of the Beast, how when the numbers 666 were multiplied by any number from one to nine, they always had a way of returning to nine. It also explained how the number nine was equal to the letter I, the letter of the English alphabet representing the human self. Nine months for a human to be born, nine bio-systems to keep the body running. Nine. Time and time again.
“But if nine is the number of Satan, what’s that got to do with humans and their ego?” Jasmyne asked.
“Humans are consumed by ego sister. They serve their sense of self. That’s why all of this is happening, don’t you see? Humans serve themselves, not our planet. They care about their comfort and their progress. That’s why the atmosphere has changed. Jasmyne, that’s why the Reapers can breathe our air. This reinforces everything the Council told me. God created humans and Satan created demons. They balance each other, so it makes sense they would both work off the number nine.”
“What are you two doing down here?”
At the sound of Aria’s voice, Aurora and Jasmyne both leapt and clutched at their chests.
“Aria,” Jasmyne breathed. “Don’t do that.”
“Sheesh, on edge much?” Aria padded over to the fridge and poured herself a glass of orange juice. “You guys want juice?”
“Aria, there’s something you need to know. The Reapers, they break the surface every nine years at different locations all over the world.”
“Great, that means if they only just found those bones in Sweden then we have nine years until they come back. We’ll figure it out by then.” She passed Jasmyne a glass of juice and leaned back against the kitchen counter. “We have ages.”
“No, that doesn’t seem right,” Aurora said. “It’s happening soon, I can feel it.”
Jasmyne took a sip from her glass and looked at Aurora. “They discovered those bones in Sweden last week, but they were just that, bones. Did the news say how old they were?”
“No, just that they had been discovered and the site was similar to one found 44 years ago.”
Jasmyne nodded thoughtfully and typed into the computer looking for an update on the story. When she found a link, she clicked on it and started to read. When she got to the second paragraph the glass slipped from her hand and shattered across the floor.
“Jasmyne what is it?”
“They dated the bones Aurora, they’re nine years old.”