Snow had insisted they go home. They wouldn’t be able to move forward with anything until Agent Banks got back to them, and he had no idea how long the NHD’s research would take. It had been a stressful day and while Cadence loathed leaving the case just hanging there she couldn’t really find any reason to argue with taking a breather, so to speak. They walked through the quiet halls to their doors, right across from each other, and stopped.
“Why is it always so quiet?” Cadence asked suddenly. “Other than the other people at work I never see anyone. There’s never anyone in the halls. No coffee shops or parks, not that you’ve shown me at least. Are we all just solitary?”
Snow blinked, a little surprised at the sudden question. “No, we’re not solitary. Most just tend to stay with spirits they know. Family, friends from their old life, friends they make here if they do work on this side like we do.”
“Yeah, but even college dorms have common rooms. I get that we don’t eat or drink so there isn’t a need for a bar or a coffee shop, but surely a game room or something exists right? So people can unwind and do something?”
“A lot of times people just go to places among the living. I like to go to the movies myself. Of course, it’s frowned on for you to do something like that until you get your phone.”
“But what about getting to know your neighbors?” Cadence asked.
Snow stopped in the hallway between their doors. “I’ve never really thought about it to be honest. However, right now you need to focus on getting some rest so you can be on your game for this case. This is a dangerous case, Cadence. I need you in top form.”
“Come get me if you hear anything,” she said. “No leaving me behind on this, you got it?”
Snow nodded his agreement. “I promise. The second I hear anything I will come get you.”
“Thank you. G’night.” It seemed the appropriate thing to say, even if time had no real meaning, no clear definitions like day and night here.
He smiled and nodded, and they both entered their doors. Cadence sighed as hers closed and the lights came up. Only then did she realize that he hadn’t answered her question. She sighed and shook her head. She began walking through to her bedroom, but something on the coffee table caught her eye. She walked over to the table and realized it was two things.
The first was a phone, looking much the same as Snow’s phone did. She grinned and picked it up. She was going to call Snow to tell him she had gotten it, and to jibe him for evading her questions, but realized she didn’t have his number. She put the phone back down and picked up the second item. This item produced a much larger smile.
It was a television remote. She had finally gotten the remote and she could look in on people. She immediately clicked the television on and was instantly treated to a view of her old precinct. Her desk had been cleared, and still stood empty, but Andrew was there, filling out paperwork on something. He still didn’t look like his normal old self, but he didn’t look as awful as he had the night she died. A picture of the two of them at the Police Athletic League softball game the previous year was framed and on his desk.
It hurt a little bit to see but it felt better just to see him. To know he was doing okay. That he wasn’t still sulking around his apartment with a case of beer and her cat. “Oh Andy,” she said. “What would you say if you could see me now?” She smiled to herself as she thought of comments he would likely make. Eventually, she hit the channel up button, to see what else there was, and she saw her cat curled up, sleeping on Andy’s sofa. She grinned a bit. Life went on. There were a few more channels, and she looked in on a few other friends she had before. Eventually, it cycled back around to Andy, and she turned it off.
She didn’t even realize she had fallen asleep until the knock on her door woke her up. She rose, unfolding herself from the couch when her phone rang. “Really? I got no phone, no nothing for a couple of weeks, now door and phone at once. Lovely,” she said. She was not really as annoyed as she was pretending to be.
She grabbed the phone and answered it as she moved to the door, knowing it would be Snow. Because who else would show up at her door. “Hello?” she asked, as she answered the phone, opening the door at the same time.
“Cadence, good to see you have your phone,” Snow’s voice came over the wire. She tried to make a sound as a reply, but the sound was less an affirmative sound and more a shocked sound. There, in front of her, stood her father in full uniform.
“Uh, Oz, gonna have to call you back.” She hung up, feeling almost as numb as she had when she first found out she was dead.
Her father smiled to her and reached out his arms, enveloping her in a hug. “Cade,” he said.
She smiled and fell into his arms, hugging him tight. “Dad.” She heard Snow’s door open, but she didn’t open her eyes. If she was dreaming, fine. It was good to see him again after five years.
She heard Snow’s voice as he said a quiet but surprised “Oh!” She then heard his door close again. When she opened her eyes she didn’t see him there, so she assumed he had disappeared back into his apartment, to give her some space. She ushered her father into her apartment and closed the door behind him.
“What… How…” she started trying to ask, but could not find the words to finish the sentence or question. Her father simply smiled that indulgent smile he always had for her and patted her shoulder.
“I was informed. Sam told me. I’m sorry about what happened, sweetheart.”
“It’s okay. I mean, I guess this means you get to say you told me so right?” she asked.
“I wouldn’t do that. I was very proud of you, you know. You fought hard to strike out on a path of your own, and you were a hell of a cop. I have always been proud of you. In death now too, it turns out. Most people wouldn’t turn down a piece of heaven to stay a cop.”
She shrugged as she said, “It’s what I do. It’s what you raised me to do. To do what was right and help people out. Besides, I’ve always loved my job. I wasn’t about to let a tiny detail like death stop me.”
“I know. Look I can’t stay long. But since you were cleared to get your tools,” he said gesturing to her TV and phone, “I got the okay to come and see you. Your mother didn’t get clearance to come, but she wants you to know that she loves you. She also wants you to know she is grateful to you for taking care of her right up until the end. So am I for that matter, since I couldn’t be there.”
“That sounds like mom,” she said. “Give her a hug and a kiss for me? Tell her to come and see me after this case I’m on is done. Or if I can figure out how to see you two....”
“No, it will have to be us seeing you, Cadie, if we can.” Cadence nodded and was sure there was some rule or reason for that.
“Okay, well, tell her I love her, please.”
“I will. And be careful. I’m not sure of all the details of what you’re doing, but stay safe.”
“I will Daddy.” He gave her a hug, a kiss, and turned. She returned the affection, then followed him back to the door. “I miss you guys a lot.”
“We miss you too, Cadie-bug.” He opened the door and stepped through it. “Remember, we love you honey, always, and we’re all so proud of you.” He smiled and then disappeared from the hallway. Cade leaned against the doorframe and sighed softly, a sad smile on her face. She stood there for a moment before she shut her door and crossed the hall to knock on Snow’s door.
“Come in,” he called. Cadence touched the door, and it swung in easily.
Snow’s apartment was very different from Cadence’s home. Her home was all soft carpet and softer fabrics. Snow’s was all a beautiful hardwood. Hardwood floors, paneled walls, even the majority of furniture seemed to all be matching hardwood. The fabrics that were in evidence were richly colored hunter greens or deep maroons. He had shelf, upon shelf of books and over in one corner of the living room stood his television.
Snow sat in an armchair, his legs crossed, with a book open on his lap. He looked up from the book and regarded Cadence carefully. “Are you alright?” he asked.
“Yeah, I am. It was good to see him. To know they are okay.”
“They are. And I’m happy for you, that you got to see him. But I’ve heard from Agent Banks.”
That brought her mind back to the present, and she stopped looking around the apartment and looked sharply over to Snow. “And?”
“We’re to meet her at the office. Come on.” She took Snow’s hand, more for ease of transport than anything else, and they teleported.
“I expected you two five minutes ago,” the velvet voice of Agent Banks said from their office as they appeared outside their office door.
“Sorry,” Cadence said as they stopped in the doorway to regard the agent. “It’s my fault; I had an unexpected visitor.”
“Mmmmhmmm,” was all Agent Banks said on that count. “Fine. Come in and close the door.” Cadence was once again reminded of why she hated working with the FBI. They entered their office and sat down. Banks had some charts she had pinned up to the wall of their office.
Agent Banks began her speech without preamble. “This rune is for chaos,” she said. She pointed to each rune as she named them. “The next rune is for evil and then force, shadow, and the final for life. The summoning circle is very old, although, it is more appropriate to call it a creation circle. We haven’t seen anything like it since the 1700′s of the breather’s time.”
“The 1700′s!” Cadence exclaimed.
Agent Banks frowned at the interruption. “Yes, as I said, the 1700′s. Now there are, to our knowledge, no actual accounts of how to create this circle left in circulation. No books, no diaries, no pamphlets, they have all been destroyed.”
“Then how did they get hold of it?” Snow asked.
“Unknown. It is possible that they were simply practicing. It’s possible that they didn’t know what the runes were. However, the runes are too precise for that to be a reasonable explanation. It could have been trial and error, a process of throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks, mode of operation. I’m not so sure on that, but it is a far cry more believable than they were practicing runes and didn’t know at all what they were writing down. And the fact that they had the correct supplies, the right color candles, the cat. It all leads me to believe they somehow found an instruction or instructor as to how to do this.”
“Do you think the creature itself could have influenced one of them?” Snow asked.
“No, they summoned it into existence. The runes they used created it out of nothing.”
“They can do that?” Cadence asked.
Veronica turned to Cadence. “How new are you?”
Cadence was a little taken-aback by the question. “I’ve been on this side for a couple of weeks now. Why?”
“Just trying to gauge how much you should know and why I’m wasting my time trying to talk to you.”
“Well, that was uncalled for,” Snow said.
“What’s uncalled for is a rookie on this case,” Agent Banks retorted. “Officer Snow, I’ve heard your name, you are well liked and respected so I have no problem working with you on this one. Her however? She has no place on this case. She needs to be on a milk run, some easy case to break her in. This is a serious case, the big leagues. I’m not going to waste my time holding her hand.”
“How many years did you have in the FBI before you were killed, Banks?” Cadence shot back.
“Twelve, but I fail to see how that has anything to do with this.”
Cade shot Snow a quick “I told you so” look before shrugging to Veronica. “I just wanted to gauge how big the stick up your ass was,” she said. She took particular enjoyment in throwing the NHD Agent’s words back at her.
“Excuse me?” Banks asked, drawing herself upright.
“No, I don’t think I will. You don’t get it because you spent over a decade on earth pretending you were better than any other cop out there. Preening yourself and standing over them just because you worked for the FBI. You aren’t or weren’t any more important than the cop who puts his life at risk any time he pulls over a car for speeding or shows up at a domestic dispute situation. Because you sit behind a desk and do your profiles and your research, meanwhile the cop on the street never knows if the guy driving the car has a gun. A stash he wants to hide; a warrant he is trying to outrun. Your badge may grant you the right to swoop in and take cases and evidence away from the cops who were working the job in the first place, but it sure as hell does not give you the right to think you are any better than me just because you have been dead longer. Now just answer our questions about the shit we don’t know, and stow the fucking attitude, because quite frankly all you are doing with the holier than thou attitude is pissing me off and wasting our time.”
There was a stunned silence in the room for a moment before Agent Banks turned and simply walked out the door. Cade looked to Snow, expecting disapproval and for him to scold her. He had an eyebrow arched, but the look in his eyes was not one of disapproval or anger. “I’m impressed,” he said. “I don’t know that anyone has ever stood up to an NHD agent like that.”
“Yeah, well my mouth may have just screwed us, but God it felt good to say it.” She shot him a guilty smile then looked up, closing her mouth and Banks walked stiffly back in.
“The runes were placed here like someone places the ingredients to cook a recipe,” she said, in an answer to the question Cade had asked before their argument. “You don’t simply pull bread out of a hat. You have to make it, right?” Cade nodded. “Well, that’s what these runes are, ingredients. They created the shadow creature. He wasn’t a previously existing entity. One of them somehow got their hands on this particular recipe to create a shadow creature from scratch.”
“Alright, so we’re looking into how they got hold of this recipe then.” Cadence said. “How do we go about it? They all wore hoods; we have no idea who they are.”
“They left some of their things. The candles, the chalk, they might come back for it,” Banks replied.
“All right, so what about the creature? Does this recipe have a particular order to it? Any set time before it comes back to base camp? Any particular direction it goes or things it looks for?” Snow asked.
“No, being created out of chaos, one of the runes used, we have no way of predicting what it would do.”
“How about what it wants?” Cadence asked.
“No, that’s not what I meant. I meant is there something that might hit its radar? Is there something that it would come looking for if it caught a whiff of it?”
Banks arched an eyebrow and regarded Cadence for a moment. “Like bait for a trap, you mean?”
“Exactly,” Cadence said with a nod.
“As something like this, it would be drawn to chaos, like to like. But for energy needs, it would always be drawn to some kind of vibrancy. The newer the dead the better. Volunteering?” she asked in a sickly sweet voice.
“Uh, no,” Cade replied. “But there has got to be something we can do.”
“Short of going out in the street and canvassing your entire region, no. And even then, there is no guarantee that it has even stayed in your region. It may have moved on and be in someone else’s region now.”
Snow got up and began looking at the runes and the sketch Banks had made of the circle. “I believe the man who broke the circle was the same man who made the sacrifice to summon the creature. Agent Banks, would the creature be drawn to turn its own summoner’s life into chaos?”
“Follow the one who summoned it? Especially, if that person is the one who set it free? Yes, it might. But you said you have no idea how to track down this person, that you have no idea who it is.”
“No, we don’t. But the fact that this group very likely lives in our territory gives me the belief that it would remain in our area.”
“That may narrow down the search territory, but still makes the search itself nearly impossible. A door to door search —”
“A door to door search wouldn’t be needed,” Cadence said as she interrupted. “This thing needs energy to cause havoc right? And it gets that by consuming spirits. Snow, what are our most densely populated haunts?”
“Lexington Asylum, the University, there’s two prisons and an old mansion. Those five places harbor the most spirit presence. And since,” he said, pausing as he moved to the map, “the prisons are on opposite corners of our area, the University is over here, and the mansion here,” he explained, pointing out areas. Cadence quickly stuck her colored push pins into those areas. The three of them studied the map silently for a moment.
“So you see,” Snow said, “it was summoned at Lexington Hills, and Lexington Hills is going to be the closest place it can go for plentiful food.”
“So it will be the easiest place to try and set a trap,” Agent Banks nodded. “Very good. Let me go and get some supplies dispensed to us and we can begin.” She turned and walked out the door of their office.
“Funny how the atmosphere seems to lighten right up when she walks out the door,” Cadence remarked as she sat back down at her desk.
“Normally I would chastise you for a comment like that, but I have to say I agree. And brilliant work by the way.”
“Not really. You figured out that it would likely be going after the guy that summoned it. I just kind of followed your path and figured out the best place for it to make pit stops for food. And I may well have been heading in the wrong direction. As people love pointing out, I’m the rookie here.”
“A rookie to being dead perhaps, but definitely not one to police work. I have to say I am quite happy to have you as a partner.”
Cadence smiled under the praise. “Wow, thanks.”
“You are very welcome. So, I must say I was surprised your father came to call.”
“Getting dispensation to travel from where he was at to you is rare.”
“Why?” she asked again as her brows furrowed. “Where is he at?”
“I suppose the best and most accepted term for it is heaven. He definitely served his time in hell while he was on earth, with all those battlegrounds.”
Cadence paused and smiled softly. “It’s good to know that’s where they ended up.”
Snow smiled and settled into his seat behind his desk. “So, any more brilliant plans? You do know she won’t approve of your idea for the exorcism, right?”
“Oh shit, I forgot to ask if an exorcism would even work on a created evil spirit. And by the way, what is with that? There’s not enough evil in the world, someone had to go and make a recipe to create some more?”
“It is unfortunate but there are some who are never convinced there is enough evil in the world, just as others are convinced there isn’t enough good.”
“Well, from what I saw when I was alive there really wasn’t enough good. Not enough to balance out the evil.”
“That’s what I thought when I was on the job too,” Snow said. “I think most cops are that way. But there is a balance. I promise you.”
Cadence arched a skeptical eyebrow. “I think I’ll have to take your word for it.
An hour later Agent Banks walked back into the office with a dagger, a spear, and a net. Cadence looked at the so-called tools, then back to Agent Banks skeptically. “Are we going spear fishing?” Agent Banks shot Cadence a withering look as Snow did his best to hide his smile.
“I don’t have time to indulge your humor, Officer Riley,” Agent Banks replied. “We need to get back to the asylum. You will, however, be pleased with one thing.”
“What’s that?” Cadence asked.
“I’m going to be following your suggestion.”
“Which suggestion was that?” Snow answered, having a feeling he wasn’t going to like where this went.
“To use our young rookie here as bait.” And with that Agent Banks swept out of the office with the supplies and all they could do was follow her.
The darkening colors of sunset were streaming through the still open doors and whatever cracks there were in the boarded up first-floor windows of Lexington Hills as the trio appeared within it. Ramon appeared a few feet away from them in the middle of the lobby. Cadence offered the harried looking orderly a smile, which he returned.
“Officer Snow, Officer Riley,” he greeted them. He then added “Agent Banks” and a nod to her as a greeting for the NHD Agent. “No sign of the creature yet, it’s not been back.”
“Well buckle up,” Cadence informed him. “Because we think it is going to be. How’s everyone doing around here?”
“Those who are aware are nervous. But we’re handling things alright.”
“We’re going to need you to make sure everyone is securely out of the way,” Agent Banks said, cutting into the conversation.
“Sure, just tell me where you think the danger areas are and I’ll do my best to keep everyone out of them.”
“It will retrace its steps to return, so what door did it exit?”
“The back door from the kitchen,” Ramon replied.
“Then it will more than likely come back in via that door as well. If it follows the habits of others of its kind, then it will retrace its steps back to the summoning circle, then it will simply look for food. How long has it been since the youngest of the resident haunters here died?”
Ramon paused for a moment, thinking. “The youngest of the dead here died about thirty-five years ago I think? Give or take,” he shrugged.
“Good, then our plan still holds,” Agent Banks nodded.
“What plan?” Ramon asked, and Snow frowned, apparently not liking the plan.
“I’m bait,” Cadence said with a sigh.
Agent Banks looked out the open doors and nodded to herself. “It’s last light. We need to set up.”
“Wait, why is anyone acting as bait?” Ramon asked in concern.
“Agent Banks believes —” Snow began but was cut off by the Agent herself.
“It will be lurking nearby because it will be hungry. When it smells the energy of a newly deceased spirit, it’ll be like offering a starving man an all you can eat buffet. When it comes for her, Officer Snow and I will dispense with it.”
Ramon cast Snow an uncertain look. An obviously unhappy Snow just shrugged.
“No one has explained this stuff to me yet, by the way,” Cadence said, changing the topic as she fingered the net until Banks pulled it out of her grasp. “I get that the dagger is to chum the water, so to speak. But what about the net and spear? Apart from some strange secret desire to look like King Triton, I don’t get it.”
“You wouldn’t,” Agent Banks said. She sniffed dismissively before turning back to her work.
“I didn’t think weapons worked, anyway.”
“Conventional ones, those in the corporeal world won’t, of course. But these have been made in our world, fashioned out of energy for this specific purpose. That net is specifically made with energy to trap a shadow creature. The spear is made specifically to disperse negative energy.”
“So my spear-fishing analogy wasn’t that far off, then?”
“No it was actually quite accurate,” Snow answered.
“If elementary,” Banks said. Her voice still carried that haughty, holier-than-thou tone as she spoke to them from where she stood over by the summoning circle.
Cadence rolled her eyes and stuck her tongue out at the former FBI Agent when her back was turned. Snow somehow managed to look both amused and disapproving all at once. That look changed when there suddenly came a bang from the back kitchen area.
The officers all froze, eyes glued to the set of doors that screened the back of the hospital from the lobby. It seemed to get noisier around them as a phantom wind began to rise. Ramon cast them an uneasy glance, then disappeared, to make sure everyone upstairs was still sequestered.
“Heads up,” Veronica called and in a smooth motion tossed Snow the dagger. Cadence took a deep breath as she readied herself for this.
The noise started picking up even more. Howls and screeches and a general cacophony, one that was slowly growing louder as the creature grew closer. The wind in the building seemed to pick up as well, loose pieces of debris beginning to swirl and skitter across the floor. The same acrid smell that Snow and Cadence had noticed at the summoning began wafting into the room from the back of the asylum.
Snow caught the blade easily and looked to Cadence apprehensively. “You’re certain?”
Cadence nodded. “I’m sure.” She wasn’t really. The last time she had blithely gone along with a plan it hadn’t ended too well for her, and she found herself a little anxious now that the time came.
“Do it!” Banks yelled over the noise as the floor and walls began shuddering.
Cadence pushed up her sleeve and presented a bare arm to Snow. He hesitated, knife in hand, and she frowned. “No time like the present Ozzie,” she urged. He laid the blade against her bared flesh and hoped that this would all turn out alright. He pressed and drew the blade down swiftly.
Cadence hissed as she felt the blade bite sharply into her skin. She honestly hadn’t thought it would hurt. She was dead. She didn’t have nerve endings anymore since she was incorporeal. Then she recalled Snow’s many references to expectations, mental images, and such. Her mind expected it to hurt, so it had. The realization of this did little to stop the throbbing and stinging. Silvery blood flowed from the fresh cut, dripping down her arm to splatter on the floor. There was a sudden pause in the previously steady growth of the noise that this creature seemed to bring with it, and the building stopped shaking for a moment. Then a scream of anger, anguish, and stark hunger broke through the hospital, shattering any of the glass left in the building.
“Oh —” Snow began.
“Shit!” Cadence finished for him. She suddenly went from not being sure it would work to being terrified it was working. Agent Banks moved swiftly over, net in hand, passing the spear to Snow. Cadence stood frozen between them, fear immobilizing her as if she were a deer frozen in the headlights of an oncoming train.
The double doors to the back flew open, one door tearing off its hinges completely, flying a few feet into the lobby. It landed with a thud and kicked up a large plume of dust. Swirling dark shadows heaved upon themselves as if the creature was regarding them, staring at them, studying them. Then it moved, shadows collapsing, coalescing, swirling in and tangling around themselves. A tendril reached out as if grabbing and tearing down the wall, but the wall remained.
“It’s feeding on the memories of the building, what the spirits remember the hospital looking like,” Snow said in an awed voice.
“If it can feed off the building, what does it need from me?” Cadence asked. She hoped she managed to hide some of the fear in her voice. She had no problem facing down a bad guy, even if they were armed with a gun or a knife. She knew how to fight back against humans. Waiting to be attacked by some unearthly shadow thing while unarmed and bleeding was an entirely different matter. Shadow hunting was in a totally different league.
“Living energy is different,” Agent Banks replied curtly then amended her answer as if anticipating Cadence’s argument. “You were a living being.”
During this brief discussion, none of them took their eyes off of the slowly approaching creature. It looked bigger to Snow than he had remembered it, but then it kept changing its shape as it moved, so it was hard to judge. The thing crept closer and closer, the noise that seemed to accompany it growing to deafening proportions. The wind gusted, bringing with it the now overpowering stench of the creature.
When it got within range, Agent Banks hefted up the net, preparing to throw it. Cadence shrank back a few steps, both to stay out of the NHD Agent’s way and to simply be further away from the terrifying creature. Before Agent Banks could throw the net, however, a shadow tentacle snapped out like a whip, and wrapped around Agent Banks, trapping the rope against her.
Smoke rose from the shadows where the appendage touched the rope that Veronica still held. She struggled, trying to get free, or at the very least get the net free to sling over the creature until another tentacle reached out and ripped Agent’s Banks’ throat out. It shoved the flesh it had torn from her into a gaping hole in its middle. Veronica’s eyes were wide with pain and fear, and her mouth moved as if to speak, but she was mute.
Osmond and Cadence stood still, eyes wide in shock. The creature hadn’t played by the plan. It had been supposed to grab Cadence, leaving the others free to capture and spear the thing. It wasn’t supposed to grab Banks and the net as well. Snow shook himself, leaping into action. Net or not, he began driving the spear into the thing, more smoke rising from it where it was injured.
Agent Banks kicked at the creature. She dropped the net, as it seemed the tool was useless against the thing. Her hands beat against the shadows as she tried in vain to free herself from its grasp. Silvery blood dripped from the grotesque hole in her neck, the ragged flesh around it dancing obscenely as her body jerked as she fought.
The creature screamed shrilly again, and Cadence involuntarily clapped her hands over her ears to muffle the sound. Then it did something none of them had thought it would. It tore Agent Veronica Banks in half and began consuming her, shoving her incorporeal and still twitching body into its shadowy mass.
“Run!” Snow ordered, shoving the dagger into her hand and yanking her away from the creature before teleporting himself. She momentarily forgot the tricks and trade of being a ghost and ran. Back through the double doors, she went. She remembered she could teleport once she hit the middle of the dining room, but she had no idea where Snow had gone. She heard the creature scream behind her, and she turned. She could see it through the door that it had torn down when it entered the lobby. It was turning around and seemed to be searching. A tendril of shadow hit a splash of her blood on the floor, and it let out a howl.
That’s when she decided she wasn’t going to teleport. She was going to continue running. She was still bleeding, and she wasn’t about to leave the inhabitants of the hospital alone with no protection. If she could draw the creature away from the ghosts of the hospital, however, then maybe they’d be safe for a time. She probably still smelled yummy, and if it was still hungry, there was the hope it would chase her out, away from the smorgasbord of ghostly vittles. Of course, what she would do with it once she got it away from the hospital she had no idea. An NHD Agent and an experienced officer had just failed at defeating this thing, but defeating it was no longer her main priority. Her main priority was just to get the denizens of the hospital safe.
She flew out the kitchen door and ran across the yard, towards the tree line. Her arm still stung and throbbed but the bleeding had slowed. That was good, she hoped. She could see a faint flicker of lights through one of the windows on the second floor that wasn’t boarded up and for a moment her heart froze. What if her plan had just backfired? What if, instead of leading the thing out of the hospital and away from the haunting spirits, she had simply just left the building, leaving the spirits alone with a monster?
A sudden increase of noise and a howling scream from the back door both relieved her and frightened her. It seemed to be following, to be coming for her. She raised the dagger in her hand and braced herself. With a primal bellow, the shadow creature began to charge for her, moving faster, and appearing more solid, than she had seen it before. She wasn’t expecting the hand that grabbed hers, making her jump. Snow nodded briefly, and then reality swam, and she was suddenly in the hospital, on the second floor, in a room that looked out over the back. Through the broken window, she watched as the creature crashed right over the spot she had stood and did not stop, moving back into the trees.
She stood there, watching the trees in the forest twitch and move despite no wind, her body trembling. A gentle touch on her injured arm made her jump, and she looked to find Ramon there with gauze. He offered her a silent smile then began to bandage her arm.
“That was very brave, what you just did,” Snow said solemnly after a moment. “There was a modicum of stupidity to the plan, but it was very noble.”
“I just… The only thing I could think when our plan went to hell was that I needed to get it away from everyone here.”
“Well, believe me, we all thank you,” Ramon said.
“How did you know where to find me?”
“I told them,” an elderly voice said from across the room. Cadence looked over and saw Ruby, still cuffed to her chair. Cadence was speechless.
The old woman gave her a genuine smile; then she shifted herself in her seat as her usual curmudgeonly demeanor fell back into place. “Not about to let these cock-suckers throw away the only good person we have running this joint.” And just like that Ruby was back to being Ruby. “God knows the peckers between their legs are the only brains they got between them. Once you get her patched, you get the hell out of my room.”
Cadence tried to hide the smile at the old woman’s rambunctiousness and word choice. “Come on, I think Miss Jones has had all of the uninvited guests she’s going to tolerate tonight,” she urged, gesturing for them all to leave.
“They go. You I want to talk to.” Ruby’s tone brooked no opposition. Ramon finished the bandage and nodded to Cadence. He and Snow both left, leaving Cadence to face whatever Miss Jones had to say alone.
Ruby squinted up at Cadence for a moment. “Not that many people would be willing to sacrifice themselves for us. Even when we were all alive. Some here may be too lost in their realities to know it, but what you did was mighty rare. I saw you ready to face down that thing. You’re one hell of a woman, Libby.”
It took Cadence a moment to remember that she had introduced herself by her middle name to Miss Jones. “Thank you, Miss Jones. Don’t worry; we’ll take care of that thing, so no one here has to worry about it again.” Ruby nodded and gestured with her head. “Go on, they don’t deserve you, but I reckon they’re waiting for you.”
Cadence smiled and nodded. “Goodnight Miss Jones,” she said and then left the room.
A wave of weakness and exhaustion passed through her as she made her way down the hall towards the nurse’s station where Snow and Ramon stood talking. The world seemed to start spinning a bit. They stopped speaking as she approached.
“You don’t look well,” Ramon commented, concern crossing his features.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of her,” Snow said, moving to help support her as she leaned on, and nearly passed through the desk. “You’ll be safe for now, and we’ll concoct a plan for the next time it comes back.”
Ramon nodded, looking back to Cadence. “Thank you again, Officer Riley.”
“Cade,” she said dismissively waving a hand at the thanks. “Call me Cade.” She felt a little drunk, like the world was spinning, even though she hadn’t had anything to drink. For some reason, it made her giggle.
“Alright, time to go home,” Snow said, recognizing what was happening. He nodded to Ramon and then they disappeared from Lexington Hills and reappeared in the hallway in front of her apartment. She laughed again at the transition and lazily slapped her hand against the door and grinned when it popped open in response.
“That is the neatest thing,” she said. She chuckled a little, finding the door funny. Snow maneuvered her inside and to the couch, unsure if he could help her get any further.
“Why am I drunk, Ozzie?” she asked as she flopped down onto the sofa. “Did you get me drunk? Did Ramon get me drunk?”
“No one got you drunk dear; you just spent a little too much energy tonight. Get some rest and you’ll feel right as rain in the morning, I promise.”
She laughed, even as she slid sideways on the couch to a laying down position. “Right as rain!” she declared. “Is rain right? Are… Are we like… On the right, and when we think rain is falling down it’s falling to the right?”
“Oh my, you are power drunk, aren’t you?”
“Power drunk? Who spiked the punch with power?” she asked loudly as if there was someone else in the apartment to ask. Then she burst out into another fit of giggles. Snow watched in a mixture of concern and amusement as the giggles subsided and she fell asleep.
He looked down at her arm, at the bandage that had a silvery mark on it as blood, or at least what constituted their blood, seeped from the healing wound. He sat down in the arm chair, weary. “I hope the cut isn’t too deep,” he said. He pulled his phone from his coat and dialed a number, settling back with a sigh.
“Non-Human Division.” A female voice answered with velvet professionalism.
“This is Officer Snow. Sadly, I need to inform you that Agent Veronica Banks went down in the line of duty tonight.”
There was a slight pause of comprehension, then, “I’ll tell her superior. Thank you, Officer. We’ll be in touch.” The line clicked dead before he had a chance to hang up his end. The loss of the Agent was going to be a sticky thing, but they hadn’t done anything wrong. There had been no reason for the creature to go after the Agent like it had. But on the other side, he was very glad it had chosen her over Cadence. He’d grown rather fond of his brash young partner.
He hadn’t expected her to run out the back doors. He thought she would teleport back to the office, or to the second floor for safety. She had still been trailing blood, and being young as she was it was a certain draw for the creature. The creature had indeed been drawn to her, and followed her blood splatters out of the asylum. Her plan had created an unforeseen consequence, however. The energy that replaced human adrenaline, she had used in luring the monster away, the fear she felt, the pain from the wound, and it had all combined to make her very solid and visible. So much so that Ruby had seen her from her window and voluntarily called the two men into her room. He shuddered to think what would have happened if she hadn’t called them.
He settled in more deeply to the arm chair. He had no intentions of leaving her alone tonight. He had never had a younger sister, despite his having constantly pestered his parents for more brothers and sisters as a child. He realized now, that he thought of Cadence as the little sister he never had. And with that, and the events of the evening still rolling round in his head, he fell asleep.