Tainted

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Chapter 6

“Ramona?” Isobel said, putting a hand on her hip. “Is that supposed to mean something to us?”

“Not yet,” Ramona replied. The two faced each other; Ramona tilted her head slightly, as if listening for something. Her eyes never left Isobel’s. For her part Isobel was finding the prolonged eye contact unnerving but refused to back down. She hadn’t backed down for years, despite being so tired of everything. Whoever this woman was she wasn’t the girl from Isobel’s dream, she was too old. Isobel placed her somewhere in her twenties, though it was hard to know exactly where.

It was Jake who eventually broke the silence and the mounting tension. “What’s a summoning?”

Ramona’s eyes flitted to him and he flinched slightly. There was something grave about her stare, like she’d seen things that had hardened her.

“It’s when a person or group tries to summon demons or demonic spirits, usually involving a ritual sacrifice of some kind, maybe a goat, often a human being.”

“Logical,” Ramona’s eyes flicked back to Isobel. She didn’t flinch. “And you saw this ‘summoning?’” she made quote marks around the word.

Ramona’s grave eyes narrowed on hers. “I knew it was happening.”

“But you did nothing to stop it.”

“I can’t be everywhere.”

“You didn’t think to call the police then?” Anger crept into Isobel’s voice and she smiled. She knew the anger could be dangerous to her, but was too pissed off to care. How could this woman stand idly by while some poor soul was tortured to death?

Ramona smiled, beautiful but eerie. Jake found it sent chills up his spine at the same time as bewitching him. “They were busy.”

“Really,” Isobel’s tone was flat, unbelieving.

“Yes.” Ramona laughed, a low sultry chuckle. “God, you lot never change do you.”

“What?”

“You’ve been having the dreams, Isobel, Jake.”

“What dreams?” Isobel’s lie flowed off her tongue like silk, smooth and cool. She didn’t even blink as she lied. “What the hell are you talking about? How the fuck do you know our names?”

Ramona’s smile widened.

“Who are you?” The anger in Isobel’s voice becoming something hard, solid. She took a step towards Ramona.

Ramona pushed away from the wall to meet her, hands on her hips.

Isobel stopped a little shy of her, somehow not wanting to get too close. There was something in the way Ramona stood that cautioned Isobel, even through her anger; an essence of danger, contained, but eager to escape. Escape and wreck havoc upon the land… or her. Still Isobel’s back was up, she was confused and she was pissed. Who the hell was this woman?

“I’m right about what happened here aren’t I.” She said, deliberately phrasing it as a statement.

Ramona gave a small, near imperceptible nod. “You are.” She walked forward, past Isobel and looked briefly at the pentagram before turning back to them.

“What are you looking at?” Isobel asked her voice like acid.

Ramona snapped her head back round to them, a curtain of dark hair sliding back over her shoulder. She noticed Jake’s lips part at the sight.

They both did.

Both women chose to ignore it, at least temporarily, though Isobel’s eyes flicked to his face. Ramona couldn’t suppress the small smile playing on her lips. She hid it by turning back, looking down at the pentagram on the floor. “You were right about the torture.”

“What?”

“You were right,” she repeated. “The sacrifice was tortured. Then they slit his throat.”

“I didn’t think you were here.” Isobel’s eyes narrowed in suspicion, she already didn’t trust this woman.

Ramona looked round at her, “I wasn’t.” She turned back to the pentagram and pointed towards the top left point of the star. “The first wound was inflicted there,” she said. “They held him down, shoved a small knife with a six inch blade through his hand and twisted the blade so the wound wouldn’t close.”

“That’s why those spots are darker,” Isobel said moving to stand beside Jake, behind and to the side of Ramona.

Her outstretched finger shifted to point at the spot opposite. “They did the same to his other hand there.” She looked round at them, knowing exactly where they were despite their shift in position. “He screamed.”

“I can imagine,” Jake commented.

She regarded him coolly, detached. “You really can’t.” She turned back to the macabre circle. “That was the point where his bowels let go. He soiled himself, involuntary reflex. They mocked him.”

“God,” Isobel whispered.

“Then they did his feet, here and here.” She indicated the two points at the bottom. “Finally they cut his throat here.” She pointed down, regarding the floor just before her feet. “Then they drew the circle with the blood still pumping out of the throat wound. They thought they’d have plenty, but it almost ran out before the end. Almost.”

“Hence the splatters.” Isobel’s voice sounded small, her anger stripped away by the horror of Ramona’s clinical description. She was beginning to feel very intimidated by this girl.

“Hence the splatters,” Ramona concurred. “Messy, but effective. Evil loves chaos, imperfection.”

“What else does evil love?” Jake interjected.

“Blood.”

“Oh.”

“How do you know what they did if you weren’t here?” Isobel was cautious, over the last few minutes she had become increasingly scared of Ramona. The woman knew too much for someone who was supposedly not around.

She has to have been involved she thought. Are we next? Aloud she said, “You know an awful lot about this.”

“He told me.” She turned fully to face them, the subdued sun warm on her face. “I saw his soul ascend, got the lowdown.”

Isobel did a long blink. “What?”

“The sacrifice. I saw his soul ascend.” Ramona smiled, a wide, beautiful thing that lit her face and a fire in Jake’s heart. “I’m an angel.”

Isobel laughed, the harsh, near hysterical sound of a woman pushed close to the edge of madness. So much insanity had happened to her lately, this might well be the thing that pushed her over that very high, very scary precipice and into oblivion. She met Ramona’s cool stare and burst into fresh laughter. “I’m sorry,” she said after a minute. “I’m sorry, you just look so serious.”

“I am serious.”

Isobel laughed again. “This is just too much.” She gave another short laugh and stopped, an amused smile still splitting her face. Her eyes, however, were scared. Scared that this was all true and she was on a road to nowhere good. On some instinctive level it felt true, but she pushed that thought away, not wanting to fully acknowledge it. “You’re an angel?”

“Yes.” Ramona was clearly serious, making Isobel smile wider and utter a cynical, derisive laugh. Jake belatedly joined the smiling now. The combination of Isobel’s laughter and Ramona’s solemnity was just too much.

“Why would you believe me?” Ramona’s face never changed, her eyes unnervingly never left Isobel’s. “Angels are a myth. They don’t really exist and if they do they’re certainly not here or relevant to us. They definitely wouldn’t dress like me.” She indicated her, rather sexy, outfit, “That’s what you all believe, that’s fine, suits me. Makes it easier for me to do my job. Mostly. Not in your case.”

“Why?”

“Because they’re coming.”

“Who? Who’s coming?”

“Who do you think?” Ramona indicated the pentagram. “Them. The things those bastards were trying to summon. You’ve been having the dreams, that’s why your here. You were drawn to this. It drew you in like the moon draws the tide.”

“What are you talking about? What dreams?” Isobel lied again without pause, throwing indignation into her voice. Underneath her bravado she was more terrified than ever. This girl knew something. Play ignorant and we might escape she thought. She glanced at Jake. His face gave nothing away. Except for the pinched cheeks and the ashen colour he had suddenly turned.

We’re so fucked.

“Cut the crap Isobel,” Ramona said, a small smile curving her lips. “You’re a redhead not a blonde, you can figure it out.”

“What?” All the humour disappeared from Isobel’s face and heart, replaced by a cold dread... and anger. Who the hell did this woman think she was? “How the fuck do you know that? Who’ve you been talking to? And how in the fuck do you know my name?”

Ramona’s smile widened. “I know a lot.”

“How?” Isobel’s anger was taking on a solid shape in her gut, anchoring her. “You been talking to those cunts I went to school with?”

“No. Why would I do that?” Ramona seemed genuinely puzzled as if the idea had and would, never occur to her.

“Then how?” Isobel demanded.

Ramona shrugged her elegant shoulders, drawing Jake’s attention to where her t-shirt slipped down, over her shoulder exposing a beautiful expanse of creamy flesh, broken only by the strap of her bra. “I’m an angel, I know these things.”

“Oh, because your an angel.” Isobel poured scorn on the word. “Hi I’m Ramona, the angel, I’m something that doesn’t really exist! Pull the other one, you skank!” She took a step forward, staring at her levelly, ready to fight. “Who are you really?”

“Isobel,” Jake cautioned, breaking his stare, a note of quiet authority in his voice.

“What?”

“What if she’s telling the truth?”

Isobel stared at him. Finally she said, “Don’t be fucking stupid, Jake.”

“I’m not.” His eyes held the same determination in them that they had back in her flat. “It’s no more insane than your theory that our dreams parallel the Book of Revelation. Actually the two concepts tie quite neatly together.”

“Jake...”

“She knows things. Things she couldn’t possibly know. Who else knows you dye your hair? Hmm?”

Isobel looked down, her anger rapidly dissipating, leaving despair in its wake. “No one.”

“Exactly.” He took a deep breath, let it out. Looking at Isobel he said, “This girl’s either certifiably insane or she’s telling the truth. None of this makes any sense anyway so we may as well hear her out.”

Isobel looked at him levelly, uncertain what to do. Part of her reluctance to trust Ramona, she knew, was because of the way Jake had looked at her. He was obviously drawn to her.

Who wouldn’t be, she’s gorgeous!

His clear attraction to Ramona worried Isobel. She didn’t want to lose the only person she could share her burden with. Especially not to someone who was either nuts or definitively better than her. Her eyes flicked to Ramona, standing there calmly regarding her. She could feel Jake’s eyes fixed on her and looked back at him. The steely determination was still there in his face. He was going to hear Ramona out whatever Isobel said. She sighed. “Fine. We’ll listen to her,” she agreed. “But she’s only gonna spin us bullshit and confuse us more.”

“You don’t know that.”

“God, Jake! Why are you so determined to trust her? Someone was murdered here.”

“Sacrificed,” Ramona interjected.

“Murdered,” Isobel repeated. “And she knows all the gory details about it? She knows who we are? Jake why on Earth would we trust her?”

“For precisely those reasons,” Ramona said. Her eyes shifted to Jake. “That’s what you were thinking, right?”

Jake just looked stunned.

“We need to talk, but not here. There’s a pub down the road, I’ll explain everything, what I can at least, over a drink.” She started to move around them towards the door.

“Why the hell are you here?” Isobel asked.

Ramona shot her a beautiful and alluring smile, its charms not lost on Jake. “Call it divine intervention.” With that she turned and left.

With a glance at each other, they followed.


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