WitD3: Chapter 30

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<<Start at the beginning

Chapter 30

 

The security gate wouldn’t budge no matter how hard I shook it. Everything about it appeared normal, like nothing I couldn’t handle. I’ve gotten through sturdier doors, but kicking the bars was like kicking solid rock. Stupid demons and their stupid demon magic.

Karen held her finger to her lips as I threw myself against the gate like a deranged gorilla. “Toby, you have to keep it down. They’re going to hear you.”

I ran my hands around the edges of the gate, looking for any defect. There were none. “Can you unlock this damn thing from the inside?”

“Yes, I can, but—”

“Then unlock it. Come on, let’s go.”

Karen shook her head. “I can’t.”

“Why?”

“You know why.”

Of course, I knew why. Because I would snatch her away and never look back. I gripped the thick, unbending bars as I said, “I know Khalid has you on lockdown, but don’t worry. I’ll figure something out.”

Karen put her hands over mine again. “No, it’s not like that. I can’t leave because I have to be here, in case he needs me.”

A revelation settled over me. In hindsight, I don’t know why it took me so long to arrive at the truth. I guess I just really didn’t want to see Karen in that light. There was only one reason a skinrider that pimped vampires would need a necromancer. The words sickened me as I said, “You’re Khalid’s enforcer.”

Karen frowned in confusion. “Khalid? Do you mean Lord Ahriman?”

I couldn’t look at her. “He uses you to make the vampires do what he says.”

Karen made a face. “You make it sound like I’m using my powers to hold them still while they get gang raped. It’s not like that at all. This is a business and these men and women are professionals. Some of them have been in this line of work for centuries. No one is here against their will.”

“That would be a lot more convincing if I didn’t know for a fact that they can’t leave.”

 “Yes, they can. They come and go all the time.”

“Not without Khalid’s permission.”

“Uh, yeah, because then they’d have no reason to give Lord Ahriman his cut. He gives them a safe, beautiful place to live and work, and all he asks in return is his fair share.” I closed my eyes as I shook my head, so Karen spoke louder. “I’m here to level the playing field. He gives them blood, money, and safe harbor, but you’d be surprised how many of them try to screw him out of what he’s owed.”

Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised at all. “Wow. If you can’t trust someone that’ll whore themselves out for a mouthful of blood, who can you trust?”

Karen’s eyes narrowed. “A mouthful of blood and thousands upon thousands of dollars per client. We’re not talking about your run-of-the-mill streetwalker here, Toby. People need referrals from their referrals to hire these escorts.”

“So the vampires here deserve whatever they get?”

Karen groaned as she leaned against the bars. “Dude, pick an argument. They can’t be villains and victims at the same time, Toby. Everyone that works here was recruited, not entrapped. Including me.”

I couldn’t help but feel betrayed. “Why? Why did you come here? Really, what do you get out of this?”

Karen seemed amazed that I had to ask. “Are you kidding? What don’t I get? For the first time in my life, I’m free, and I only have to worry about myself. I have a taste of what it’s like to not be dirt poor. I can go shopping at places besides thrift stores. I can go to restaurants that don’t have a freaking dollar menu.”

She’d lost me. “Money. You threw your life away and became a part of this for money. I thought you were better than that.”

“Really? Why? Because, I’m not. You of all people know what it’s like to be poor in this country, Toby. You know what it’s like to wear clothes someone else threw away and to wonder where your next meal is coming from.” Karen’s voice began to waver. “You don’t know what it’s like to watch your mother starve herself so her children can eat. You’ve never listened to her cry at night as she worries herself sick over how she’s going to make ends meet. You don’t know what it’s like to have nothing while your friends wave everything they take for granted in your face. Money equals the power to make your own decisions. For the first time in my life, I can do that.”

Karen was wrong. I understood poverty better than most. “There has to be a better way.”

“It’s not just about the money, Toby. I’m learning so much here. I’m developing powers I never knew I had. I’m safe while I learn how to protect myself.”

“I protect you.”

Karen’s face soured beneath the layers and layers of makeup. “You’ve been in prison for the last few months, Toby. You’d be there now if I hadn’t stopped you.”

I couldn’t argue with her. I was also two days away from going back for fifty years. “How long are you under contract with that fucking…Infernal?”

Karen hesitated, then her shoulders slumped. “Thirty years,” she said without looking at me.

My temper exploded like a powder keg. “Thirty years? Are you fucking kidding me?” Karen motioned for me to keep quiet, but that was impossible. “What was the plan here, Karen? You’re just going to leave your family alone with that demon in the meantime?” I felt a series of pops in my right shoe. Aside from a facial tic, I showed no reaction.

Karen made a disgusted sound. “You’re so racist.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m a dick. Everyone tells me so. I’m going to get exactly what I blah, blah, blah. Karen, your family isn’t safe with that doppelgänger.”

“Yes, they are. Hell, they’re better off. She holds my place in the house and at school, but she requires nothing. She doesn’t eat or drink or need new clothes. Mom only needs to provide for herself and Scotty. Plus, the doppelgänger filters the money I make into the house.”

“It’s not that simple, Karen. Your mom’s not stupid. She can tell something is off about Bad Karen.”

Karen arched an eyebrow with a laugh. “Bad Karen?”

“Yes. Your mom knows that’s not you, and so does your little brother. Scotty came to the Sanctuary and begged me to get rid of her.”

At last, I appeared to be getting through to her. Karen’s little brother was and always would be her kryptonite. “What do you mean?”

“Bad Karen might not need human food, but she still needs to feed. Scotty is terrified of her.”

Karen bit her bottom lip, a faraway look in her eyes. “Maybe Lord Ahriman was right,” she said, more to herself than to me. “I should let everyone think I died.”

“What? Karen, no. Are you crazy?”

“I can’t just walk away from Lord Ahriman, Toby. Even if I wanted to. I’ve signed a contract in my own blood.”

“Your contract is void if I kill that motherfucker.”

Panic flashed across her face. “No, Toby, don’t do anything stupid. I’ll let my family think I’ve had a relapse, or something. The doppelgänger won’t have an excuse to stay and Mom will be able to pay off her debts with my life insurance.”

I had about two seconds to steer her train of thought into the nearest ravine. “And she will never be happy again. Your mother’s heart will ache for you for the rest of her life. She’ll cry herself to sleep every night. Every year on your birthday, it will be all she can do to keep from eating a bullet.”

Karen’s eyes welled up then spilled over. “What choice do I have? I’m vulnerable when I’m alone. I’m not ready to face what I’m up against, as a witch and especially as a necromancer. Until I learn how to control this…,” she gestured toward herself, “I’m a danger to everyone around me.”

“You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for. Besides, you’re not alone. You have your family. You have me.”

Karen’s expression hardened. “For now, and for how long? I know you plan to change your plea to guilty the first chance you get. What am I supposed to do then? I can’t count on you, Toby. I won’t.”

I remembered the real, non-selfish reason I was supposed to find Karen in the first place. “I need your help. Justine isn’t just a ghoul anymore, Karen. She’s become something much worse.”

Karen’s eyes narrowed in distrust. “What are you saying to me?”

“Thanks to that voodoo bitch’s resurrection spell, Justine’s become something called a revenant. She’s like a bat-shit crazy ghost-ghoul-vampire. She’s attacking people, Karen. She’s eating them. I’ve seen the bodies. But, worse than that, people are getting sick.”

Karen’s brow drew into a tight knot. “Sick? Sick, like she made me sick?”

“Worse. According to lore, revenants cause plagues. Like, Black Death style plagues. A lot of people are going to start dying soon, and they’re all going to come back as ghouls.” Karen was white as snow, her eyes wide in horror. It was the perfect time to drop the A-bomb. “Michael is sick.”

Karen flinched as though I’d slapped her. “Father Cooper?”

A wave of guilt washed over me, so powerful that my throat closed. I could only nod as I bowed my head.

Karen put her hands on the sides of my face. “No. It’s not your fault that this happened. You can’t blame yourself.”

“It is my fault. I’m the one that turned Justine into a ghoul. The why of it makes no difference, because we still end up here. That’s why I’m the one that needs to stop her, but I can’t do it on my own. Karen, I need your help.”

Karen trembled as she wiped away tears. “I can’t. I can’t get that close to her again. I can’t feel that sort of pain, or get another peek inside of her head. Not if I want to stay sane. Look at what happened last time.” Karen turned then lifted her dark hair. Around the nape of her neck, the fine hairs had turned silvery-white.

“I know. I know it’s scary and that it’s hard. It’s scary and hard for me, too. But I can’t turn my back on this and I can’t do it without you. We only have to face her one last time, then her suffering ends forever. It’ll be the last thing I ever ask of you.”

I could feel her skepticism. “Oh, so you don’t need me to turn you into a Pure vampire anymore?”

Shit. I’d forgotten about that.

Karen took a step back. “I can’t. Fighting a revenant to stop the ghoul apocalypse is superhero shit, Toby. I’m just a witch in training.”

“You’re more than that. You can do this. I know you can.”

Karen closed her eyes, her lips pressed together. “Fine,” she said. “Meet me across the street after dawn. We’ll go look for Justine then.”

I resisted the urge to cheer. “Dawn is…” I checked the clock on my phone. “A little under three hours from now. Promise me that you’ll be there.”

“I promise,” Karen said with a sigh. “But after this, we’re done. I’ll help you stop Justine because it’s the right thing to do, but then you have to leave me alone. This is the life I’ve chosen and you have no right to mess with it. When Justine is laid to rest, you stay away from me.”

My resolve turned to granite as I glared into her eyes. “You got it.”

<<<Chapter 29

Chapter 31>>>

 

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