30. FREED OF QUALMS
The botanical garden was divided into several areas, including a small lake in the center with a bridge crossing it, a plant nursery and a greenhouse with solar panels. It was the latter where Lucianne was ejected from a black hole. She was dizzy and confused, and managed to cushion her fall with both her hands to push herself up next. There she saw Hollow emerging from that same hole, setting his feet on the floor and standing upright to his full height, with eyes like burning embers fixed on her. A terrifying smile formed on his face making her shiver.
She took a quick glance around and tried to find something to use as a distraction, but once her eyes rested on some grass shears a couple of feet away, the demon called her attention with a click of his tongue and moving a finger in a negative gesture.
“Don’t even think about it,” he warned her, and with a single motion of his hand, the tool was tossed away from her. Hollow hunkered down with that awful smile of his, enjoying what he had planned beforehand. “We’re not quite there yet, all in good time.”
Lucianne didn’t understand, neither did she know why he had kidnapped her when she was about to meet Frank. And suddenly the thought of Franktick setting a trap to sell her out to that demon crossed her mind, turning her stomach. Hollow let out a laugh at her expression.
“Don’t make that face. The party hasn’t even started. Just wait a little more . . . ah, yes, here it comes.”
Franktick materialized before Lucianne, ejected from an unstable black hole that threw him off to her feet, looking exhausted and gasping for air. He lifted his face and without uttering a word, he just jumped over her and got into another hole, bringing her with him. Hollow did nothing to prevent it, as if already expecting him to do that.
They came out of the hole again, falling to the ground, near the lake area. Lucianne tried to get up and Franktick took her by the shoulders, with shaking hands and eyes that had almost no human trace left in them.
“Are you okay? Did he hurt you?” he quickly said, trampling the words.
She stared at his mouth as he spoke and glimpsed a vestige of growing fangs. He shut it and reacted abashed, turning away and lowering his hood again to block her sight. “I know. I’m a monster now. I outdid myself this time.”
“No, you’re not a monster! If that were the case, you wouldn’t try to protect me,” Lucianne said, preventing him from stepping away and removing his hood to watch him closer. His pupils seemed inkless and a blood point stood out in the center, which apparently had begun to spread in the white. His skin was so pale that it almost seemed blue, as if he had spent a lot of time locked in a freezer. Watching him like that squeezed her heart.
“You should stay away from me,” he advised, taking his hand to his chest with a sore expression. “I don’t know how much longer . . . I can resist these urges.”
“You’ve made it so far! Don’t let that demon control you!”
“How do you know what he is?” Franktick asked, clenching his face. He couldn’t think of a reason why she could be so familiar with the existence of demons.
“It doesn’t matter, just listen to me, anything you’ve done in the last few days, it’s not your fault, you’re being manipulated and you have the power to stop it. You have to fight. Fight his influence!”
His body trembled, overwhelmed by her words. He wanted to embrace them, to clear his conscience, but he was convinced that part of him wished the darkness too.
“No . . . The fault’s on me,” he replied, shaking his head, and suddenly a series of spasms forced him to stoop on the ground, tormented with pain. Lucianne leaned towards him, cradling him in her arms as he tried to lift his face. “I told you I’d give you all the flowers in the world . . . And here we are . . . even under these circumstances.”
“What are you talking about?” Lucianne asked, confused, fearing he had started talking nonsense. “You’ve never said anything like that.”
He remained in that agonizing position, yet a glimmer of a smile appeared on his face.
“I did . . . in a dream, I think.”
Lucianne blinked in bewilderment. She wanted to say something, but her mind had gone blank, and she wouldn’t have the time to do so, anyway. A hole appeared above them and a pair of hands yanked them inside. Within seconds they were back in the greenhouse and Hollow kept a hold of Lucianne while the boy struggled to get on his feet.
“Get up,” the demon ordered while Lucianne tried to think whether or not to use her power at the risk of revealing her identity.
She remembered the gun in her bag. With her free hand she tried to reach it, but before she could even touch it, Hollow snatched the bag and seized both of her hands.
“Oh, what do we have here?” He pulled the gun with a sneer on his face. “Did you really think you could hurt me with this? It only works for your weak race.” He threw it to Franktick’s feet, who watched it in confusion, breathing through his mouth. “Take it and stand up or the girl dies.”
The boy looked up, trying to keep his eyes open, as if looking directly to the sun. He saw the terrified look on Lucianne’s face, but at least she didn’t seem injured. So, resting his hands on the floor, he began to rise on his aching legs, and after taking the gun by the handle, he straightened completely, despite how difficult it was for him to stay steady.
“Good. That’s how I like it. That you recognize who’s in control,” the demon expressed, smirking. “Now listen, if you want to keep her alive, you’re gonna take that gun . . . ” Lucianne waited nervously for the demon to ask him to shoot himself, knowing what that would entail, and Frank seemed to expect that too, “ . . . and kill that man.”
Hollow pointed at a bulk coming down, hanging from a rope in the middle of the greenhouse. Lucianne felt a beat in her chest. Frank recognized the man immediately: Commissioner Fillian.
“Kill him and I’ll let her go,” the demon continued, enjoying every second of it.
“No, don’t do it! It’s a trap! You’ll become a demon! Don’t allow it!”
Hollow let out a guffaw at the sound of that.
“And how do you know that, girl? Are you hiding something?”
Saying this, he took her head, forcing her to face him and she writhed at the thought that he could discover who she was.
“Release her!” Frank demanded, placing his finger on the trigger with his hand shaking. The demon looked from Lucianne to him. His smile stretched even more.
“ . . . Or what? You’re going to shoot me? Just try, but be aware that if you do, I might lose control of my hand and end up tearing up her throat. Wanna take the risk? Go ahead, try me.”
Frank’s hand kept shaking. His index finger dangerously grazed the trigger while his thumb slowly began to press the lock.
“Don’t . . . Please,” Lucianne begged with a tremble in her voice. Her head was stiff while her hand was already preparing to use one of her light beams if necessary. She moved her fingers to charge them, aware that she had to be careful, make it look like it had happened from a long distance. She was ready to carry out her plan as Frank showed signs of losing control when suddenly her friends appeared several feet away, ready for combat.
She smiled with relief, thinking they were safe now, but didn’t count on Hollow’s speed. He knew he didn’t have much time so, with a flick of his hand, a negative barrier hovered over them, filling it with some kind of gas, causing Lucianne to start choking and feeling like her body was compressing on the inside.
“Do it now or she dies!” Hollow shouted, pulling Lucianne’s hair so her head bent back, showing her broken expression, short of breath.
Franktick stirred in his own agony, but just by hearing that, he opened his eyes as wide as he could, almost entirely filled with blood. The spasms were getting worse and the yelling from the demon pounded in his ears. In a fit of desperation, he eventually removed the safety catch from the gun and pulled the trigger. The shot took everybody’s breath away and drew their baffled eyes towards the target. The bullet had pierced Commissioner Fillian’s chest.
“Dad!” Lucianne cried with the little air left in her lungs. Franktick fell to his knees, afflicted by severe shakings spreading throughout his body.
“Do something! What are you waiting for?” Marianne shouted at Mitchell, making him jolt and without saying anything, he ran towards the barrier, vanishing it as soon as he went through. “Let’s go! We must get Lucianne!”
But Hollow was already prepared for the next move. Still holding Lucianne and watching the wall disappear, he gave a look at Franktick, who was bent on his knees.
“Stop him,” he ordered with a firm voice and his red eyes sparkled.
The boy squirmed at the command and suddenly jumped up, holding Mitchell from the neck and starting to squeeze him tight. His eyes were two bloodshot balls and his irises glowed like some type of fluorescent coral. His gaze was lost.
“The transformation is complete,” Marianne muttered in a serious tone. Hollow lifted another barrier then. While Mitchell was being held, no one could get through it.
“This has been fun . . . but I haven’t finished yet,” he stated, looking down at Lucianne, who had watery eyes and struggled to breathe some air. He smiled again and pointed a hand to her chest. His intentions were clear.
Mankee remained behind, not knowing how to act or what to do in that situation. They had dragged him to that place without actually explaining his role there, and even with his armor on, he wouldn’t dare to step forward.
“Snap out of it, Frank!” Mitchell yelled, trying to keep his hands off his throat, while the others also tried to separate them, but his fingers seemed clung around his neck.
“You’re here for Lucianne, aren’t you?!” Marianne said and saw a slight twitch on the boy’s face, as if the mere mention of her name made him react. “She’s in trouble, you have to help her! Look at Lucianne! Look at her now!”
Franktick’s features began to clench and his face turned with the movement of a rusty carousel towards Hollow and Lucianne.
The demon noticed they were the focus now and just smiled. With a quick motion, his hand seemed to hit her chest and a glowing sphere was shot from her back. Lucianne’s body fell lifeless on the floor, her dull eyes on Franktick. A wave of shocks began to arise from the base of the boy’s spine and through his nerve ends with small inner bursts. And then the floor began to move.
“Is it . . . shaking?” Lilith asked, trying to keep her balance.
The others fixed their feet on the ground. Samael looked at the floor, following the origin of the movement with his gaze until finding out it was coming from the point where Frank was standing. His eyes narrowed and stared back at him.
“We must stop him. Quick.”
No one asked any question, just followed his orders. They stood on both sides of the boy and held his arms firmly until he released Mitchell, who brought his hands to his throat and stepped back to catch his breath.
“Don’t just stand there! Destroy that wall now!”
“I’m coming! It’s not like I was just about to be strangled to death or something!”
Still in a daze, Mitchell approached the wall and once he touched it, they saw Hollow standing up with a wide smile on his face, holding a vessel in one hand, glowing from within. That could only mean one thing.
“Call me lucky. I came here only for the fun and came out finding one of the gifts.”
Marianne leapt toward him, brandishing her sword, but the demon was faster. Once he saw her intentions, he pushed the blade away with his free hand and then held it, immobilizing it without even releasing the container.
“You know? I can’t kill any of you. If I did, that would really upset our Master. So, I have no choice but to obey. I can’t destroy you by myself,” Hollow murmured in Marianne’s ear and, after a brief pause, he showed his terrifying shark smile. “ . . . But someone else can do it for me.” After saying this, he threw her back to the others and laid eyes on Frank. “Kill them all. Leave no Angel Warrior alive.”
His eyes flashed at the order and in response, Franktick’s eyes also sparkled, receiving the mandate like a machine programmed to kill. He broke free with a single movement, launching everyone into the air as though impelled by a centrifugal force.
The demon merely laughed as a large hole opened behind him and was absorbed by it, taking Lucianne’s gift with him.
“No, no! You can’t take it!” Marianne shouted, hitting the floor, more focused on the loss of the gift than the danger Frank represented for them now.
“Get up! We have more serious things to worry about right now!” Lilith exclaimed, helping her up and pointing to Frank, who was totally out of his mind, lashing out at anyone who got in his way like a rabid rhino. He violently threw anyone trying to hold him and they didn’t even dare to use their powers, fearing they might hurt him.
“What are we supposed to do? He’s a demon now, right? Shouldn’t we give him the same treatment as the others?” Angie asked between gasps of exhaustion.
Samael followed closely the boy’s movements and the floor. At one point, Franktick bent over, like having a spasm, and the floor began to move, but then straightened again and continued his violent streak.
“No. We need Mankee,” the angel determined after his analysis.
Mankee was hiding behind a row of chrysanthemums, nervous and confused. He looked constantly at his arm, fearing his armor would disappear and leave him defenseless in the midst of chaos.
“You keep distracting him. I’ll bring back Lucianne, maybe she can help control him,” Marianne decided, intending to creep through the floor to avoid the impact of some of the objects flying everywhere.
“Do you know what gift he took from her?” Samael stopped her with an urgent tone and she denied with her head, wondering if that was important at the time.
“No. Is something wrong?”
Samael looked away and just shook his head.
“Just be careful,” he whispered before turning around and coming back to the others.
Marianne snaked around toward Lucianne, turning her on her back. She still had crystal tears surrounding her lifeless eyes. She placed her hands on her chest, getting ready to create the extra gift, when she heard someone yelling her name. She looked up and saw Franktick heading toward her despite the other’s attempts to stop him. His strength was undefeatable, and with a simple shake of his arms, he got rid of everyone, as though they were mere flies. And now he was approaching with all the power of a stampede. She couldn’t move. It was like watching a train about to charge her. And then Samael appeared in front of her in a blink, raising a protective layer right in time to see Frank crashing against it, so hard they even heard it clatter, pushing Samael some inches back.
“Quick. I don’t know how long I can hold it.”
Marianne glanced at the boy, ramming against the layer, which was starting to crack like glass. He seemed more out of control than before, and when she laid her hands on Lucianne again, his attacks became more violent, even using his own body. She understood that was what provoked him.
“It’s for Lucianne. He thinks I’m trying to hurt her. If we pull apart . . . what do you think he would do?”
“Let me remind you that he has explicit orders to kill us.”
“Yes, but . . . ”
She stopped. Something red and liquid running down the layer caught her attention. Blood. She came closer, noticing the bloodstain overshadowing the shield.
“Look. Look at his blood! It’s red! Do you see? Ashelow had dark blood despite being human once, that must be part of the transformation process after becoming a demon . . . but Frank’s still red! His transformation is not complete! That means . . . ” She ran her eyes to the Commissioner’s body hanging from the ceiling, “ . . . my uncle is still alive.”
A rumbling. The crack spread through the layer, it wouldn’t resist anymore.
“Take Lucianne’s arm and hold on to me. As soon as this comes down, I’ll transport us to another point.”
Marianne did as told, and when the shield shattered they vanished, appearing again at the other end where Mankee was hiding, causing him a start. Samael leaned on the floor. Using his power so many times in such a short time weakened him.
“Are you okay?” Marianne asked and Samael nodded, breathing through his mouth.
“We must do everything in our power to stop him. He must not become a demon.”
“That’s needless to say,” she replied, standing up and jumping back to the battlefield.
Samael remained in the same position while catching his breath and Mankee just covered his ears, curling up in a fetal position.
“It’s a nightmare, it’s a nightmare . . . it is . . . ” he murmured, pressing his eyes closed.
“Repeat it as many times as you want, it won’t make it less real.”
“Why did you bring me here? What do you need from me?”
“What you did to Lilith, you must do the same to him,” he said, gesturing with his head to point at Frank, who was on a rampage, causing havoc in his path like a tornado. Mankee glanced at him and his eyes reflected the sheer terror of even thinking about approaching him in his current state.
“How am I supposed to do that? He will kill me if I go near him!”
“You just have to wait until we get to immobilize him, then it will be your turn. We depend on you, please.”
He stood up and left the hideout to rejoin the battle, while Mankee followed him with his gaze and looked around, everything seemed unreal to him.
“This is crazy,” he uttered, shaking his head. It was impossible to stop Frank, for he was way too strong. If anyone dared to put their hands on him, he would throw them away incredibly easy. He could see it clearly from where he was.
Mitchell jumped on his back and Frank became some sort of mechanical bull that sent the boy to the floor with a bounce. Angie and Lilith had taken a rope and between the two of them surrounded the boy from opposite ends, each one holding one side of the rope, but as the rope tightened around him, he just pulled and hurled them away. Belgina cushioned their fall with a gust of wind, although it seemed to be increasingly difficult for her to control her power.
Marianne had moved to the point where Commissioner Fillian hung motionless. It was high, but she trusted her sword and her power. She threw it in his direction and got a clean cut through the rope. With a single movement of the hand, the sword returned to her and disappeared, swallowed by it. She looked victorious for a moment, but her expression was erased at the realization that he would fall to the floor.
“Belgina!” she yelled to get her attention and she turned disoriented. “My uncle!”
The girl nodded and motioned to create gusts of wind to prevent his fall, but they barely kept him floating for half a second before they suddenly stopped and the body fell all the way down. Belgina stumbled a little, feeling dizzy. Marianne approached her uncle, fearing the fall had ended any hope of saving his life. A hola ran right through the middle of his sternum from both sides, the bullet had passed cleanly. She put her ear to his chest and got to hear a faint heartbeat inside. He was still alive, they still had a chance.
“Samael!” she called her angel now. He dodged a few attacks from Franktick and reached her, leaning against the body. “He’s still alive! You have to close his wound as soon as possible!”
Samael put his hands over the wound, but didn’t have time to do anything, Franktick had already set his attention on them and was getting closer. Still tired as he was, the angel lifted another layer in front of them, but was aware that it wasn’t strong enough to hold him and wouldn’t last as much this time. His reserves for the day were depleting.
The others tried to distract the boy, but nothing worked. Unlike them, his strength didn’t seem to wane, until Angie, fed up with it, climbed on his back and took his face with both hands. With a quick movement, he threw her away, crashing into some pots, and continued on his quest to break the layer, already starting to collapse under his fists.
“Come behind me. I don’t think I’ll be able to transport us again, but at least I’ll keep him from hurting you,” Samael said, trying to keep his hands steady above him, but the protection layer was already crumbling, and when it finally shattered, the angel stepped back, staying in front of Marianne to protect her. Franktick didn’t move forward, though, he just stood motionless, as though an invisible force would have stopped him.
They watched him amazed, wondering if it was Franktick who was trying to regain control of himself. His arms rose violently on both sides of his head then, like lifting weights. His face was deformed by the effort, accentuating his already visible veins across his pale skin.
“What is he doing? Trying to refrain?” Marianne asked, bewildered.
“No. It’s someone else,” Samael said after a few seconds, noticing a figure appearing behind the boy, taking a few steps to the center. It was Angie, with her arms in the same position as him, staring at Franktick.
They looked at her stunned. If their eyes didn’t deceive them, Angie was somehow forcing Frank to move like that, controlling him like a puppet. He replicated the movements she was doing, as if pulling his strings.
“How’s that . . . ?” asked Marianne, surprised. “Angie, are you aware that . . . ?”
“Silence. I’m trying to focus,” Angie muttered under her breath. Her jaw was completely rigid and her brow furrowed with a slight tremor from her eyelids. Had it not been for the fact that she had lost the ability to feel any emotion, she would have enjoyed that moment. There she was, the useless one. The girl who didn’t even have a defined power. The one who did ‘something’ with the feelings. Here she was at last, controlling the situation, saving the day.
With great effort, she started to lower her hands, while the boy emulated her at the same time, placing them behind his back, like being handcuffed.
“Whatever you’re going to do, make it quick! I don’t know how much longer I can hold it!” Angie hurried them, keeping her eyes fixed on Franktick so the connection wouldn’t break.
“Monkey!” Lilith cried and he poked his head from the place where he was hidden. A sigh of resignation. That was his signal. He tried to muster the courage to get out of there with unshaken legs, but once he got up, he ended up pushing the long row of plants, revealing Lucianne’s body behind.
This caught Franktick’s attention, who began to resist the force that kept his body still, like receiving a shot of adrenaline. The floor began to shake, causing Angie to lose her balance and therefore her concentration, so he recovered the control over his own body. Once he was free, he laid those unnatural eyes on Mankee, making him flinch. Franktick then flexed his legs and gained momentum, launching forward, right towards the trembling boy.
“I’ve had it! This ends now!” Marianne decided, standing on his feet with resolution, scurrying through them while taking her hands to the back of her head.
“What are you doing?” Samael couldn’t stop her, given his exhaustion. They all saw her standing up to Frank and her helmet withdrew at once, showing her face. The boy suddenly stopped, wincing for a moment, as if recognizing her.
“That’s right, I’m Lucianne’s cousin,” Marianne started to talk, keeping an even tone. “You don’t have to do this. You don’t have to follow orders from that demon, you can resist, fight back!”
Franktick seemed undecided, his legs flexed and tensed, as if divided between pouncing on them again or just stand there, but the spark in his eyes indicated that he was leaning on the first. And suddenly Mitchell stood beside Marianne too, retracting his helmet to show his face, though after a second of silence he started to have second thoughts.
“Does your idea go anywhere? Because I’m starting to have these flashbacks from our childhood and it wouldn’t be the best time for Frank to remember.”
Franktick’s chest stretched and contracted at a frantic pace, as if about to explode, and then the rest of them joined to form a barricade in his path. Helmets disappeared and familiar faces appeared before his bloodshot eyes.
The voice inside his head kept repeating the order, ‘Kill them’, but his body was completely stiff, trying to make a move, but unable to respond. Suddenly, a new surge of pain ran through his spine, forcing him to bend over in the middle of unbearable agony. It was as if each of his blood vessels had decided to perform kamikaze acts inside his body, exploding in different parts of his system. He couldn’t breathe, part of him struggled to regain control, reject the intruder. He could feel a column of black smoke filling his lungs and trying to stick to the walls, but ultimately hindered by electric shocks through his body. He began to shiver, and the ground began to shake too, this time with greater intensity.
“Is this caused by the demonic energy?”
“Yes and no,” Samael answered, his eyes fixed on Frank. “His body struggles to reject it. There are two opposite energies trying to maintain control over him, the invasive and the one that already resided in him.”
“What do you mean with the one that already . . . ?”
“I was a fool. I should have noticed it before.”
Marianne looked at him incredulous, blinking several times without entirely assimilating his words, but also understanding the meaning of it.
“No . . . Him?”
A scream of pain came from Franktick’s throat. The trembling of his limps was so uncontrollable that he couldn’t stand on his feet any longer, he fell on his knees, holding from the floor. His eyes looked like a lava lamp, blood plasma floating in the white, covering everything and then receding, his pupils getting dark and re-injecting with blood, like a kaleidoscope of constantly changing colors. And the screaming didn’t stop.
“Quick! There’s not much time left, do it now!” Samael yelled at Mankee and he startled, then glanced over everybody, already stepping aside so he could walk through.
Nerves immediately started to get the best of him. He forced himself to take the first steps robotically. Even if terror threatened to take over him, he just swallowed his fear and kept going, despite the floor shaking below his feet, until he came to a halt a few inches from Frank, watching him writhing from that hunched posture.
“What . . . What am I supposed to . . . ?”
He didn’t finish his sentence, Frank leapt up and lunged at him, starting to squeeze his throat. The others quickly stood on his sides and tried to stop him, but as soon as they touched him, an electric spark ran through their fingers.
“Negative energy. It comes and goes. It’s too unstable yet,” Samael explained, shaking his hand as soon as he felt the spark.
“What . . . is that? How’s that . . . ?” Mitchell pointed confused at his cousin’s arms. Parts of an armor began to emerge and retract again, switching from a muddy tone to a darker rusty one. Samael’s mouth tightened.
“Do it now, we’re losing him!”
Mankee couldn’t take the boy’s hands off his neck, it was too tight and the electric shocks piercing through his skin made him think he would lose consciousness at any moment, but the other’s insistence and his own conviction that he had to do something soon, eventually prompted him to stop fighting and just stretched out, resting his hands on Frank’s face. He then began to recite some words in the same language he had used with Lilith, though it didn’t seem to work. He was quickly running out of oxygen, so, in a gesture of desperation, he applied more pressure and then closed his eyes. A light went out of his palms, like an explosion that engulfed Franktick’s face, spreading throughout his body, quartering his exterior like a dry husk. It finally cracked and disintegrated, revealing a human Frank, with actual color in his skin and his cinnamon eyes staring forward with a befuddled expression.
Once the light dimmed after the blast, the boy let go of Mankee and retreated, glancing at the rest of them. He didn’t seem confused, but overwhelmed instead.
“So . . . you were them. The ones in the camp fighting against that demon . . . You were actually them.”
No one answered, they only exchanged glances, deciding who would be the first to talk, but he didn’t wait, just broke through them to get to Lucianne, putting his arm gently beneath her back and raising her head. Her lifeless eyes stared to a lost point above them.
“Do your thing with her. Bring her back to life, now!” he demanded, showing what little patience he had left. Marianne scowled, but did what she had to do and waited for her body to absorb the substitute gift. Lucianne woke up, inhaling a strong puff of air that filled her chest while Frank stood beside her.
“We need some help here!” Lilith said from the other end, leaning beside commissioner Fillian with her hands pressing on his chest. Both Marianne and Samael flocked to her call and knelt at their side. “He’s losing a lot of blood. I’m trying to stop the bleeding.”
“You can do it, right?” Marianne asked, glancing at Samael.
He just nodded and put his hands on the man’s chest while Lilith pulled away. The angel concentrated on that point, his hands began to faintly glow while his brow tensed, as if experiencing some difficulty. He paused for a few seconds, pulled his hands slightly away and saw the wound was still there, so he made a second attempt. His palms flashed intermittently and he gritted his teeth, holding his breath. Then stopped, letting out a breath and pulling back his hands. The wound was still the same, nothing had changed.
“Is something wrong?”
“I think . . . I just ran out of energy for today.”
“What does that mean?”
“I can’t heal his wounds. I guess I’ve used up all of my resources, I would have to recover my strength to try again.”
“Oh, no. What do we do now? He won’t be able to resist that long.”
“I just called the hospital for an ambulance. It’s coming,” Lilith announced while closing her cell phone.
“They cannot see us here; it will raise suspicion.”
“Hey, Lucianne is already up. She insists on going home,” Mitchell pointed at Frank and Lucianne. She was holding her head like having a bad headache.
“Okay, everyone . . . let’s get out of here before the paramedics arrive,” Marianne resolved, not sure what to do next, just aware that they couldn’t be seen in that place.
They left in time to catch a glimpse of the ambulance’s lights and police cars arriving at the botanical garden from afar. They didn’t stop, they couldn’t allow themselves to be seen and get identified. They went to the only place they thought to be safe at the time: Lucianne’s house.
She kept her hand on her forehead with closed eyes as if the light bothered her.
“Well, I think we should talk about what happened today,” Marianne started once inside the house.
“Yes, sure, let’s start by talking about why Frank had pieces of armor on his limbs, could someone explain that?” Mitchell interrupted with a passive aggressive tone.
“I had what?” Franktick asked.
“Oh, and while we’re at it, why don’t you also explain how you got involved with Hollow? It wasn’t exactly your brightest decision so far, you know?”
“Would you get off my back? I don’t have time for your childish insecurity attacks. Now I know what you are, what all of you are. So, you should be more careful with me or I could tell someone,” Frank snapped, discarding their questions.
“What we are,” Samael corrected him.
“That’s exactly what I said,” Frank replied, raising an eyebrow.
“No, you said ‘what you are’, the correct one is ‘what WE are’. All of us under this roof share a common feature. Some have learned to accept it and live with it, others are still hesitant to the responsibility that this entails . . . and then there are those who don’t realize it yet.” Franktick stared back at him, as if being in the presence of a doomsday preacher, and then Samael put his hand on his shoulder. “Believe it or not, you’re like us.”
“Don’t touch me,” Frank said, shaking off his hand, noticing everyone’s gazes upon him. “Are you implying Lucianne is one of you?”
“He’s not implying anything, he was very clear, and that includes you, whether we like it or not,” Marianne said with a harsh tone.
“Oh, well, what do you know? Maybe I like that less than you,” the boy replied with a fiery attitude, locking himself in that bubble that divided him from the rest of the world.
“Will you shut up for once? You’re making my headache to get worse!” Lucianne interrupted and the others fell silent, staring at her, but she seemed more concerned with massaging her temples than paying attention to them. She shoved Frank away and held on to the stairs’ railing, starting to climb. “I’ll go get some sleep, shut the door when you’re done.”
“But . . . your dad . . . ”
“He’s not getting out of the hospital,” she replied quite coldly, without even turning.
“Well . . . see you at the coffee shop tomorrow, we’ll be waiting for you,” Marianne said, receiving only a dismissive wave in assent and farewell.
Once Lucianne was away, they all exchanged confused glances as Frank stood at the bottom of the stairs. Nobody spoke for several seconds until he turned around and headed to the front door.
“You also have to meet us tomorrow!” He paused and glared at Marianne. “You have to go. We all need to talk . . . That is, if you want to see Lucianne again.”
“Yeah, well, whatever,” he finished with a huff, getting out of there, and then the rest of the group began to disperse.
“She didn’t even come down to say goodbye,” Marianne said, glancing at her room once she and Samael were the only ones left in the street. “You know what gift she lost, right?” Samael nodded with a somber gesture. “Just say it . . . Although I get an idea by now.”
Marianne took a breath and nodded. She still remembered the piece of paper Samael had given her with the list of gifts, and from the ones yet to appear, the most suited with Lucianne’s characteristics was that one. And it wasn’t good news.
“Do you think she still can . . . fight along us as an Angel Warrior? I mean . . . if we take what happened to Kristania as a precedent with her drastic change . . . is it possible that the opposite happens to her?”
“Honestly, I’m not sure. It all depends on how she handles herself in the next few hours. But I suggest to keep an eye on her.”
“Yeah. It will be for the best,” Marianne finished with a sigh.
She felt like they were losing more and more ground against the Legion of Darkness, but didn’t want to feel sorry about it. The gifts weren’t complete yet, so there was still hope, there was still a chance to stop them before they found them all. They were supposed to have the advantage of two new additions to their team . . . weren’t they?
“I hope you take it easy,” Marianne’s father said once she came down to breakfast the next morning. “They called from the hospital, your uncle was admitted yesterday with a gunshot wound to the chest.”
She slowed down and remained quiet, trying to think what to say and hoping her face showed at least some surprise.
“How is he?”
“Apparently the bullet didn’t touch any vital organ, it got through him cleanly, however, he hasn’t reacted since his entry and hasn’t shown any sign of improvement either, so they consider his status as critical.”
“Someone was shot?” Loui also asked, coming down behind her.
While his father updated him with the news, Marianne took a moment to think what else to say. The fact that he hadn’t damaged any of his organs was surprising and significant. It meant that either he was lucky or Franktick had aimed at an area he was sure it wouldn’t hurt him seriously. His mother was a doctor, so surely he would have acquired some knowledge from her. But what worried her the most was that he wasn’t reacting at all. Would it be that the lack of gift had also begun to affect him?
“Do they have a suspect?”
“No, the gun was never found, but I guess that just concerns the police, they’ll take care of it. You might want to spend some time with your cousin to support her. She may want to come here for a few days while everything is solved.”
“I’ll talk to her when I’m out of school. I’m leaving now.” She took a small box of juice from the fridge and went out.
“How big is the wound? Can you see through it? Can I see him when we go to the hospital?” Loui continued asking once the kitchen door closed.
The gun. If it was found, they could blame Franktick. With everything that happened, she couldn’t remember where the gun had ended up. Maybe he had taken it again.
She tried not to think about it and just kept going. She decided to shift streets just to kill some time. One street she would walk down the avenue and the next one she would go to the back street. It was right on that side when a car with tinted windows suddenly came to a standstill beside her.
Marianne stopped confused at the car. The rear window opened and Demian’s father peered out with a smile.
“Good morning there! Are you heading to school?”
She seemed taken aback. Perhaps he was going to work or to one of his trips, but then she noticed Demian was beside him, seemingly awkward.
“Oh, right, you might be wondering where we’re going. We’re on our way to the hospital, this careless boy doesn’t get tired of scaring me lately.”
“I’ve already told you several times that I’m fine! I just got dizzy, will you relax?” Demian protested with a weary huff.
“I’m not taking any chances. You and your sister are all I have and even if you label me as an overprotective father, then so be it. I’ll be all over you while I’m alive,” his father replied without losing his gentle temper and smiling at Marianne. Demian rolled his eyes and chose to exit the car.
“Well, I’m going to school now that we’re close enough and I feel fine, so excuse me,” he decided, surrounding the vehicle and passing next to Marianne. “Walk now or he’ll use you against me.”
She hesitated at his words, but then decided to get back on track, not before making a slight bow towards Mr. Donovan.
“Go back in the car, you’re being stubborn. Don’t make a scene.”
“I’m not the one making it,” Demian grumbled as the car followed them.
“Well, in that case you won’t be mad if I ask Marianne to call me at the slightest sign that you’re feeling ill. You’ll do it, right? You wouldn’t let a poor father suffer that kind of distress,” he continued, now addressing Marianne who seemed uncomfortable, not sure how she had ended up in the middle of that sort of family dispute.
Demian shook his head, disgruntled. They were already near the corner, so he decided it was his chance to scuttle away.
“Run now and don’t stop,” as soon as he said this, he took Marianne’s wrist and started to run, turning on the street where the car couldn’t follow them. They arrived at the next corner and finally stopped. “Excuse my father. You’ve seen how paranoid he is regarding my health.”
He glanced back to see if the car was still there, but it had already left. Marianne was silent, so he turned to her and realized that she was staring at his hand, still holding her wrist. Her face was slightly flustered and her entire arm was tense. He interpreted this as a gesture of displeasure, so he let go of her, practically pushing her hand away. She, in turn, took his reaction as a snub.
The two of them looked distraught at each other, as if the other’s attitude would have hurt them somehow. But that didn’t mean a thing, anyway. They had to convince the other and themselves.
“There are vitamin shots, you know? You could use some once a week, maybe you would stop getting ill so often,” Marianne said to finally break the tension. He didn’t seem to react at first, but then his face relaxed, showing a smile.
“You’re starting to sound like my dad.”
She wrinkled her nose and narrowed her eyes in response.
“Well, maybe he’s right and you should take it a little more seriously, what if you have some dangerous illness? An incurable disease that’s slowly you inside. Maybe it’s a new strain of deadly bacteria that attacks neurons first and that’s why you sometimes behave like a jerk.”
Demian couldn’t help but chuckle.
“Wow! I’m glad we’re friends now. I can’t imagine the kind of highly contagious apocalyptic virus you’d grant me otherwise.”
Marianne held back a smile right when Demian’s cell phone rang. He looked at the screen, already knowing who it was.
“It’s my dad. He’s probably ordered the driver to go around the school to intercept me,” he said, shaking his head and immediately kept the phone back in his pocket without even bothering to answer the call. “I should rush to school before he appears. Want a race?”
Marianne reacted a little surprised by his sudden challenge. He seemed in a good mood and she gave him a look, lifting an eyebrow and snapping her fingers as a response. Challenge accepted.
He slightly hunched forward, flexing his legs to run, but right before starting, he turned one last time to her.
“Oh, by the way . . . ” Suddenly and without warning, he touched her forehead with his fingertip. A quick, firm tap that took her out of balance. “You’re now infected.”
She gave him a look between surprised and outraged while he just smiled and started to run towards the school.
“ . . . That’s cheating!” she yelled, running close behind him.
When she reached the entrance, Demian was already hiding behind the door, looking intently at the street, waiting for something.
“I knew it, there he is,” he said as soon as his father’s car passed by the school. Marianne also followed his gaze and Demian’s cell started to ring. “He never quits.”
“Answer already. It’s your father and he’s just worried about you. Don’t be so ungrateful.”
Demian was about to retort to her, but the phone kept ringing. He rolled his eyes again and finally took the device to his ear.
“I’ll call you every hour if that makes you feel better, okay? Go now or you’ll miss your flight,” Demian said and he just listened over the phone for a while, then he seemed to blush and slightly turned away from Marianne to say something very quietly. “ . . . Yeah, yeah, me too.” She stifled a laugh, understanding what he might be responding to, and looked away as if she weren’t listening. “ . . . C’mon! I’m not dying, stop worrying so much! See you when you come back.” And then he hung up. He lifted his face and sighed with relief while Marianne smiled teasingly.
“Daddy loves you and you love him?”
He glowered at her and she no longer could hold her laughter.
“Very funny,” Demian muttered with a crooked smile.
“Weeeeeeell,” the sound of that familiar voice immediately put them on guard. Mitchell was standing at the door with his sister, grinning and looking from one to the other. “How unusual to see you two here so early! Did you come together?”
“Of course not! We just met on the way,” Marianne clarified.
“Ohhh, what a coincidence,” he continued with that smile and tone that got on their nerves.
“Are you dating?” Kristania said with a similar tone as her brother.
“No!” both of them chorused.
“This is ridiculous! I’m going to my class!” Marianne announced, losing patience and going into the school, far away from them.
Kristania followed her steps, which only left Mitchell, looking at Demian with that smile that seemed to be permanently tattooed on him.
“Wipe that face already,” Demian ordered with a scowl.
“I can’t, it’s the only one I have,” he replied, widening his grin even more and Demian just huffed and walked away, grumbling.
Mitchell followed him close, nonspeaking though not changing his expression either, which Demian could still perceive despite giving him the back. It was like a laser smile pointed at his neck. It was annoying, but he couldn’t do anything to erase it. There was no way to beat him in that regard.
The insistent knocking on the door awakened Lucianne. She turned slightly on her bed and the sun coming through the window hit her right in the face, forcing her to cover her head with the pillow. She grunted something like a curse and kicked away the sheets to stand up. She leaned out the window, covering her eyes with her hands, and saw Officer Perry pacing anxiously outside the kitchen door, knocking every five seconds while waiting for her to open.
She rolled her eyes and huffed. The only thing she wanted was to keep sleeping, but if she ignored him and got into bed again, the knocking wouldn’t cease and he would possibly end up kicking open the door to check if she was okay. It was a real pain. She finally went down after a few minutes and opened with a scowl, rubbing her sleepy eyes.
“What do you want? Why do you have to knock so hard? You woke me up.”
He watched her, puzzled by her attitude. She usually opened the door with the best of her smiles or at least with a shy ‘good morning’. However, he admittedly thought this time he had exceeded a little with his knocks.
“Sorry, I just . . . I have bad news about your father. I don’t know if you already know this, but . . . ”
“He’s in the hospital, I know,” she interrupted with absolute indifference. “You’re late with your breaking news. I found out yesterday.”
“But . . . have you gone to see him? He’s . . . delicate. He was shot, but that’s not why he’s like that, I mean . . . the wound didn’t touch any organ, but for some reason he just doesn’t wake up . . . ”
“He’s stable, isn’t he?” she interrupted again, undeterred, making him hesitate for a moment. “So nothing will happen to him whether or not I go. Now let me go back to sleep. I’m tired.” She tried to close the door, but he placed his foot on the threshold, looking disappointed.
“Did something happen? Could it be that you saw that boy? Did he say . . . or do anything to you?” His voice had a hint of anger at the thought.
Lucianne stared at him, tilting her head from side to side and suddenly smiled.
“You’re really pathetic,” she said with an insidious and calm tone to her voice. He froze. “You come here every day and every hour under the pretense of taking care of me, trying to ward off anyone who shows interest in me and yet you settle for being my nanny . . . my lap dog.”
Perry was silent and pale, unable to believe the words that were coming from her mouth, and then she leaned forward.
“But the truth is that I could never see you that way, as much as you fantasize with it every time you go to sleep, hoping to at least dream about me. You’ll. Never. Get. Me”
She emphasized it word for word, as if spitting them, making sure each one would have the exact amount of venom to finish him. The young officer couldn’t talk, he was too shock to speak. She stood upright without a hint of remorse on her face and smiled again, a smile so glacial that Perry could even feel tiny icy spikes digging into his heart.
“Goodbye, and don’t come back soon!” she finished, shutting the door in his face, stretching her arms over her head with a yawn.
That had meant nothing. It was actually liberating. What a wonderful feeling to be able to say what was on her mind without fearing the consequences. She felt like another person and couldn’t wait to get out and seek out new thrills. She looked at the clock, it was about time to meet with the others.
She grimaced. She didn’t feel like going on meetings to talk. She wanted action.
And then a smile crossed her face. If she wanted to have fun, perhaps she shouldn’t have to wait for the fun to come, but go look for it.
So, she ran up to her room and began to remove all the clothes she had in her closet, discarding most of them, deeming them too boring. After leaving a few ones on the bed, she left for a few seconds and returned with a pair of scissors in her hand.
Good thing she knew how to sew.
After ending his fencing practice, where he tried to ignore the whispers every time it was his turn with the foil, Demian went through the coffee shop’s door with his phone in hand after his last report to his father. He was not surprised to see the rest of the guys sitting at their usual table.
They all waved at him and he responded the same way, noticing Marianne was making a gesture with her hand imitating a phone.
He showed the phone up high and she showed her thumb up in approval. Half a smile appeared on his face in response.
He passed under the counter, settled his belongings beneath it, and as he stood up, he saw Mitchell already sitting on a stool facing him. The way he was looking at him was the same as that morning, and as if it weren’t enough, now he was wiggling his eyebrows. Demian let out a breath and put both hands on the counter in a resigned pose.
“So now you share sign language, huh?”
“Mitchell, if you keep that up, you’ll be the one who will need to learn sign language after I rip out your tongue and glue your mouth shut.”
“Oops! Well, okay, got it, I understand! Discretion is your thing, so I’ll say no more,” the boy finished, running his hand over his mouth like a zipper.
Samael arrived then with his usual ethereal halo, unaware of the attention he attracted on his path. He approached the girls with a smile, and after the usual greetings, they made room for him between Marianne and Lilith. Demian looked askance at them with an unreadable expression while cleaning some glasses. Mitchell looked from one to the other and then took his hand to his mouth to unzip it.
“Taking a break of this whole discretion thing,” Mitchell added, now settling both arms on the counter, “I would like to point out something I’ve noticed. You see, at first it was very easy to think there might be something going on between them from an outsider’s point of view, but once I’ve had more . . . exclusive access, I’ve been able to look at everything up-close and I’ve noticed their relationship is more . . . hmmm, I don’t know if siblings-like, but definitely there isn’t any romantic atmosphere in the air, nor have I ever caught any vibe like that between them.”
“And you’re telling me this, because . . . ”
“Just because. For general knowledge,” he declared, smiling and winking as if they were in cahoots, going back to his table.
Demian rolled his eyes without bothering to argue and continued cleaning the glasses, though every once in a while he looked back in their direction.
“Could you go to the kitchen?” Mankee went out, loaded with trays and a haggard face from exhaustion. “They’re trying to contact Mr. Ganzza for some repairs, but they can’t locate him.”
“I’m coming . . . Are you feeling okay? You look so tired. Too much work?”
Mankee opened his mouth to answer and saw the guys beckoning him to come over their table.
“You could say so,” he answered with a sigh and walked towards the dining room while Demian entered the kitchen.
“Do you think Frank will come?”
“I think that as long as he knows Lucianne is coming, he’ll have enough reason to appear,” Marianne said, looking attentively at the door.
“Please, I’ve told you that it doesn’t matter how many times you ask me, I can’t sit with you while I’m working,” Mankee said, leaving another order of fries on the table.
“Oh, come on! A few minutes won’t hurt you!” Lilith said, pointing to a free chair next to them, but the boy refused for the thousandth time, being called from other tables. “Apparently, it’s going to be really hard to get us all in the same place at the same time, right?”
Marianne was about to say something, but kept quiet when the door opened and Lucianne came in, leaving everyone speechless. Her blouse looked amended, sleeveless and fit to her body. Plus, the skirt was cut in the front up to her thighs and going down the sides forming a tail with the rest of fabric from the original pattern. Her face, usually fresh and natural looking, was now full of make up, as if she were going out to a night club. They could hear the sound of glasses about to fall, and several eyes around the place followed her on her steady walk to the table.
“Lucianne . . . what did you . . . ?”
“I’ll spare you the saliva, I won’t stay. I have plans to go out and have fun today. I just thought of stopping by in case any of you wanted to join me.”
“What are you talking about?” Marianne asked, incredulous. “It’s not time to go out and have fun, how can you even think of that? Your father is in the hospital!”
Lucianne raised an eyebrow and suddenly her entire body became straight and folded her arms, adopting a dismissive posture.
“So what? Your mother too and yet here you are. It didn’t prevent you from going to camp either if I recall. Way to worry about her!” she retorted coldly and Marianne’s face clenched.
That couldn’t be her cousin. Lucianne would never say a thing like that. The others were silent, realizing that something was wrong with her.
“H-Hey, Lucianne, what if you just sit for a moment and we’ll talk, okay? Maybe you’re still a little stressed about yesterday, but we just have to stay calm,” Lilith tried to cool things down.
“You’re asking me to calm down? The one who prefers to die if she doesn’t get the attention and recognition she craves?”
It was now Lilith’s turn to fall silent at her words and Marianne rose from her seat.
“Stop it! This is not you! It’s the gift’s absence talking.”
Lucianne looked at her in a nasty way and then cackled.
“Are you saying then that those of us who lack the gift can’t be considered ourselves but some sort of body snatchers? Then half of this team should be so. Clearly Belgina has become too stupid to live, otherwise she wouldn’t be canoodling with Mitchell whenever they think no one’s around.” Marianne immediately threw Mitchell a reproachful glance and he looked away, feigning dementia. “And yet she’s still here, if she weren’t herself she wouldn’t be part of this . . . select group. What about Angie who’s still useless, either with feelings or without them. And somehow, I’m the one who’s not being herself. Why? Are you upset that for the first time you’re not the one in control of the situation? Does it bother you that I’m now deciding for myself instead of going according to your plans?”
Marianne didn’t answer, just kept her hands tightened on the table and her body tense, even her lips began to quiver. She sounded like the old Kristania, but worse. She couldn’t stand it. Lucianne finished by smiling at her silence.
“I thought so. Well, goodbye. If you want to stay here, playing saviors of the world, go ahead. I, for once, will do whatever I want.”
She turned around and started walking towards the door with the same attitude as she arrived, right as Demian was leaving the kitchen with cell phone in hand. As soon as she saw him, she smirked and approached him.
“Hi, Lucianne,” he greeted her with a nod, still holding the device. “Could you please hold on for a minute? I’m trying to call—”
He didn’t have time to react, before he even realized it, Lucianne already had her arms around his neck and her lips pressed against his. The entire place seemed to stop and stare at them.
It was just a couple of seconds, Lucianne pulled back from him and smiled in a cunning way. Demian was befuddled.
“It’s a shame it didn’t work out. Anyway, your loss,” she touched the tip of his nose while he remained speechless.
She released him and turned to the door. Franktick was standing there, his face contorted at the sight.
“Ah, perfect! The cavalry’s here! You’re just what I need.” With total disregard, she approached the boy and took his arm, ignoring his expression, pulling him out of there like nothing had happened. “Come on, I wanna have fun.”
The initial shock gave way to Demian’s bewilderment once he was fully aware of what she had just done. He immediately glanced at the guys, who looked as surprised as him, but his gaze rested on Marianne. She was still on her feet, with stiff shoulders and rigid posture in general. Her face was transformed.
Suddenly, with a swift movement, she ran out of there while several glasses exploded around the dining room, causing a confusing mess inside. Samael followed her closely and the rest of them went right behind.
“Wow!” was all Mitchell said as he passed Demian and patted him, which did nothing but increase the feeling of discomfort growing inside him, in addition to the confusion reigning in the place.
“Lucianne, stop!” Marianne yelled, following her along the street, anger and outrage taking over her face. “You can’t just talk to us like that and then leave! Or do whatever you want without any kind of consequence!”
“Can’t I? I think that’s what I just did,” she said, turning to her with a cynical smile that didn’t match her face.
“For the last time, come back with us,” she said, giving her an ultimatum, but Lucianne only laughed to her face.
“You’ll have to stop me,” she finished, gesturing for a cab and getting inside along Franktick.
“You can’t go! Lucianne . . . ! She’s not being herself, Frank, you have to convince her!”
The boy looked at her like he wasn’t even there. He didn’t seem to have entirely grasped what was going on, and before he could say anything, the cab drove off.
Marianne ran a few more yards in the same direction as the car, but ended up bending over with exhaustion, holding her knees while trying to catch her breath. The others reached her in seconds and stood beside her.
“What’s going on with Lucianne? Why is she behaving like that?”
“She lost the Kindness gift,” Samael explained. “I wasn’t sure how she would react, but from what we have seen so far it may be worse than I thought.”
“Does that mean it’s something like what happened to my sister, but in reverse?” Mitchell asked as the cab was already quite far away.
“We need to find her and stop her. We can’t allow her to do something she’ll regret when she get back to normal,” Marianne decided, straightening up and catching her breath.
“I’ll call Frank and warn him to keep an eye on her while we get to them,” Mitchell said, pulling out his phone.
“We should get a car to follow them, but it will be difficult now that we lost them.”
“Then we’ll look across town if necessary. We must stop her,” Marianne said with determination, watching the little point that was the cab disappearing from their sight.
The mobile screen turned on and the device began to vibrate for the fourth time as Franktick glanced at it, sitting at the bar of what looked like a nightclub, and after several rings, he decided to answer.
“I told you I’m watching over her, you don’t have to hunt her like she’s some kind of criminal. We’re fine, at least she is, if that’s what you’re worried about . . . No, I won’t tell you where we are. I won’t contribute to your paranoia, leave her alone.”
He hung up and stared at the device for a few seconds with an upset expression. He lifted his gaze and looked at the dance floor where Lucianne was frantically moving to the beat of music. Thanks to the makeup, she looked older than she was, and he’d had no problem using one of his many fake IDs to enter.
He should be happy to be with her, but he wasn’t, he didn’t feel at ease. Not after what he had witnessed in the coffee shop and the men she had flirted with after coming to this place. That wasn’t Lucianne at all. Maybe they were right and it would be for the best to take her home, but her dance was almost hypnotic, as if everything around vanished and it was just her with her long hair rippling along her movements. He just wanted to stay there to watch her all the time.
But then the intrusion of a figure broke the illusion. A guy started to dance very close to Lucianne, putting his hands on her waist, which she didn’t seem to mind since she also rested her arms on his shoulders, carried away by the music. The guy took this as an invitation, his hands began to move down her hips slowly, but before they could keep going down, another pair of hands suddenly stopped them tightly, squeezing them so hard that the guy thought they would break.
“Don’t you dare to touch her. Stay away from her,” Frank spat, appearing alongside them, looking menacing and pushing the guy after almost crushing his hands. He looked at him, baffled and fearful, opting to storm out while Lucianne kept dancing, now putting her arms around Frank and dancing for him, even though he stood rigid like a statue.
“That was hot. I thought you weren’t coming to dance with me.”
“Why are you doing this?” he asked, remaining stoic even when she kept dancing close to him.
“I got tired of being the good girl. I’ve been that all my life, now I feel free. I can do whatever I want without regrets.”
“What you did in the coffee shop . . . ”
Lucianne laughed with that quality trait that attracted him so much, but now lacked the innocence that used to shine in her.
“If that’s what’s been haunting you all this time, you just had to say it,” she said, circling her arms around him and standing on tiptoe to bring her face closer to his.
Suddenly Frank stopped her. He gently grabbed her arms and pulled away from her.
“I think it’s time to go home,” he softly suggested.
Lucianne leaned back on her heels and rolled her eyes.
“You’re just as boring as the rest of them.”
That said, she turned her back on him and walked away.
“Where are you going?”
“To the bathroom! Are you going to follow me there too?”
He watched her going away and let out a sigh.
Lucianne went straight to one of the sinks and leaned against it, staring at the mirror. She couldn’t accept rejection and wasn’t willing to give up on her new sense of fun. Maybe it was time to take the next step and explore a little more what her power could offer. She looked around, the last girl left in the bathroom had just gone out so she looked back at her reflection and smirked. It was show time.
Franktick glanced at his phone to see what time it was. Already past nine. He put it back on his pocket and looked forward to the restrooms. What was taking her so long? He even thought she had possibly escaped through a window to avoid having to deal with his surveillance, but then, people around stopped dancing and began to swarm, obstructing his view. They all looked at one point and seemed to mumble something unintelligible until the music stopped too. He tried to scramble through to find out what was happening, and then saw a figure covered in a marble armor, advancing firmly through the people who stepped away and watched her carefully. He knew immediately it was Lucianne, considering everything that had been happening in the past hours and what he had discovered.
“It’s one of those Angel Warriors, right?” People began to comment.
“What’s it doing here? They’re supposed to appear when someone’s being attacked . . . ”
Frank just listened and stared blankly at Lucianne, wondering what her intention was, but she made it clear when she suddenly smiled and pointed her finger up. Light beams were suddenly shot, first to the ceiling and then everywhere, wreaking havoc on the place. People began to flee in terror, crowding at the exit and pushing out whoever was in front of them. It was like a repetition of the Music Center chaos, only at a smaller scale. Spotlights, crystals, part of the roof fell into pieces over people, and Frank did his best to pull away all of those who were closer to the center while Lucianne stood in the middle of it all, enjoying the chaos she was causing, laughing while she just aimed and shot.
“What are you doing? You’re gonna hurt someone! Stop it!” he yelled, trying to approach her, and Lucianne turned to him without erasing her smile.
“Maybe that’s the purpose.”
And just like that, she aimed at him. Understanding her intentions, Frank threw himself back, quickly dodging one of the light beams and jumping behind the bar.
Shards of glass rained down on him and he folded his arms and body. It was madness, he had no idea how to stop her without hurting her. He took his cell out and looked at the screen. There was only one thing left to do. He immediately searched the number and called Mitchell.
“Got it, we’re on our way,” Mitchell said, hanging up. “Seems like Lucianne is totally out of control and is attacking innocent people.”
“I feared something like this would happen,” Samael said, worried.
“How far from here?” Marianne asked, trying to remain calm.
They were standing right in the middle of a street on the so-called Red Zone where most of the nightclubs were located. They saw a group of people leaving a place, screaming and tripping in terror.
Frank remained stationed behind the bar, waiting for the others to arrive, but started to feel tired of waiting. Lucianne was still creating mayhem and people were trapped under the rubble or hidden in the bathrooms and behind the furniture. He had to do something soon. His hands clenched, his whole body tensed and his breathing deepened as he prepared to come out of his hiding. He picked up his phone again to check if he had any missed call or message from Mitchell, and then noticed something unusual: his arms began to be coated with an armor very similar to the others’.
It was true. They were all telling the truth. He closed his eyes, trying to focus and prevent the armor from spreading all over his body, but all it did was to see himself as if he were in front of his own reflection. Determined expression, hardened eyes while his body was completely covered, a single thought filling his mind: Lucianne.
His eyes snapped open following that vision. His breathing quickened and realized that now the armor had covered him full extent. He puffed in resignation.
“Of course . . . Sure, why not?”
He raised his arms to grip the edge of the bar and as he felt it firm, he pushed off his feet and gave a leap that took him back to the front, the floor pounding as his feet touched it. Lucianne momentarily stopped to see him.
“Well, look at you. It was true then.”
“Stop it now and let’s get out of here before the police arrive and . . . ”
“Oh, that’s right! The police are looking for you!” she recalled, giving a lone clap. “Imagine what they will do when they find out you’re the one who shot my father. Minor assault to an officer pales at the charge of attempted murder. It’s fortunate I kept the evidence with me.”
She took her hand at her back and suddenly pulled out a gun, expressions of terror and sobbing were heard among the people still trapped in there. Frank tried to stay poised.
“If you want to turn me in to the police with that, go ahead, I won’t object, but for now let’s get out of here.”
“Hmmm, but attempted murder is insufficient, don’t you think? Maybe . . . if we add some more . . . What about first degree murder?”
With incredible skill, she took off the safety and aimed steadily towards a girl who was trying to sneak out the door. Once she realized she was the target now, she stood petrified and started to sob.
“You wouldn’t do it,” Frank said, holding his breath.
“You wanna try me?” Lucianne snapped, smiling and squeezing her finger on the trigger, enjoying every second he tensed and the girl whimpered in terror.
She wondered what would happen if she crossed that line, if she would dare to do it, if that would turn her into a demon of some sort.
. . . But after a moment, she realized it just didn’t matter to her anymore.
And then she fired.