*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.
The steady downpour muffled the jingle of the shop door as it opened, then Gwen poked her head outside. Her eyes widened when she saw me, and her mouth formed a perfect oval. “Holy Light, you look horrible,” she said as she waved me inside. “Hurry up and get in here.”
I glared as I walked by, though my eyes were just about swollen closed. “You’re the Princess of the Mists.”
Gwen shut the door behind me. “I beg your pardon?”
“I heard an old legend today that I know it was about you and that fuck, Khalid. Seventh daughter of a great demon?” And there went my other ear. “Being enslaved to a human? That huge ass obsidian statue in his office. You’re the Princess of the Mists.”
“Oh, I’m not denying that,” Gwen said as she split in two. “It’s just been so long since anyone’s called me by my royal title. Not to mention, I’m purely amazed that you made the connection.” Gwen One went back to the register as Gwen Two picked up my arm. “Follow me before you scare away all of my customers.”
I allowed her to pull me toward the back of the shop. “What customers?”
“I have customers,” she said, as though implying otherwise had been an insult.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a disembodied shadow scuttle toward one of the wall hangings. The tapestry waved like a flag as the thing vanished.
Gwen led me through the beaded curtain, down the hall to the kitchen. There, she sat me at the table, then began to pass her hands over my face. Water hissed out of my pores, and I blinked several times as my vision cleared.
“I need your help.”
“Of course, you need my help,” Gwen said as she worked her way down my body. “You won’t be satisfied until you’re indebted to me for the next century.”
“Your ex-fiancée has Karen trapped in his fancy fucking whorehouse and I need your help getting her out.”
“Are you certain she’s trapped?”
“No.” I flexed my fingers. My skin was covered in flakey white scales, but it was dry. Movement no longer caused my joints to split open.
“I’m assuming then that you have no concept of how breaking and entering works?”
“I know how those fucking wards around the place work, and so do you. If I go in, I won’t be able to come back out.”
“Well, then, the two of you could die together. Have you no romance in your soul?”
My face screwed up is disbelief. “What?”
Gwen tilted her head, as though confused by my confusion. “What?”
Goddamn demons and their goddamn riddle-speak. I refused to let her suck me in. “Look, you have magic. Powerful magic, right?”
She nodded. “Most definitely.”
“So, use it to help me get past those wards.”
“I could.” The vapor she pulled from my flesh disappeared into her fingertips. I felt a spark of paranoia as I wondered what else she was taking out of me, but I stomped it down. “However, I won’t.”
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Of course, she wouldn’t. Bitch.
“Just as Khalid is forbidden from interfering in my contract with you, so too am I forbidden from interfering with his contracts. Among my kind, there are things that are simply not done. You don’t share your true name with anyone, and you never interfere with another’s oath. Overtly.” Gwen’s long dress twirled around her as she turned to open the refrigerator.
I watched as she removed the jug of cold blood. It was kind of weird that she kept it stocked. Or had she been expecting me? “But it does happen?”
“Constantly,” Gwen said as she dumped the contents into a large, plastic glass. The stuff was chunky, and thick like syrup. “However, if said interference is ever proven, the punishment is the stuff of legends.” She handed me the glass. “Drink up.”
I frowned as I brought the rim to my nose. It smelled like a blood smoothie, with a strong tinge of copper. “What is this? Bone marrow?
Gwen folded her hands in front of her. “Mostly.”
“‘Mostly’?” The blood was ice cold, it smelled weird, and I wasn’t even that hungry. Therefore, I can’t explain why I started to drink. The bigger chunks triggered my gag reflex on the way down. I swallowed hard then said, “What’s in this?”
Gwen placed her fingertips on the bottom of the glass to tilt it up. “You don’t want to know.”
Every voice in my head screamed, but I couldn’t stop myself from gulping it down. It was as though the vampire side of me had taken over. My monster half wasn’t satisfied until every last drop sludged down my throat. When the blood mixture was finally gone, I struggled to catch my breath. “Where did it come from?”
Gwen’s nose wrinkled as she took the cup from me. “Don’t ask. The good news is, soon you’ll stop looking like a George Romero reject.”
My stomach felt heavy, like it was full of mud, and a strange fever pulsed through my limbs. “Well, I guess it’s the least you could do, seeing as how it’s your fault I look like this in the first place.”
Gwen smiled without humor. “Yes, because nothing is ever your fault, is it? You should have your hair and claws back within the hour, but I urge you; make a concerted effort to watch your language. This hex could end up costing you your fangs, or an actual limb.”
“Fine. Look, I know what you’re going to say, but could you get the president, or king of the fairies, or whatever, to help you with this whole plague thing?”
“You seem to be under the impression that my fellow Immortals would intervene on the behalf of humans. There are many who bear no love for mortals, and few who harbor great affection for them. The majority are, at best, apathetic toward humanity’s fate. This ordeal is our burden, Toby, and you’re wasting time.”
“I’m doing the best I can, you…” Don’t call her a demon. Don’t call her a demon. “You stick-figure, ginger cunt.”
Gwen’s eyes narrowed, but her smile remained. “Well, isn’t that lovely.”
“I’ve already told you that I can’t help you without Karen, but I don’t even know if she’s okay. Maybe Khalid got pissed off that she came to me, and locked her up. Maybe she’s hurt. Maybe she’s sick again. She could be dead, for all I know.”
Gwen’s head fell back as she groaned. “Fine. Come with me. Honestly, you’re such a…” She muttered the rest under her breath, not that I gave a shit.
I followed a step behind her as Gwen led me to the creepy picture room. She removed the sheet that covered the mirror then passed her hand in front of the glass. When our reflections began to shimmer, she said, “Let’s see what’s happening with your little necromancer friend. Has she been detained, or has she finally come to her senses and cut you out of her life for good? Just so you know, if that’s the case, you’re on your own.”
The mirror’s surface settled, becoming a window into a strange room. Sunlight gleamed off the satiny gold wallpaper, while it disappeared into the black fur rug. The room was dominated by a four-poster bed, upon which Aliese the Whore rode Khalid like a rodeo bull. The sounds she made were somewhere between human and rutting pig.
“Oh dear.” Gwen’s cheeks turned bright red as she swiped her hand over the mirror, then the pornographic scene went fuzzy. “Let me just…see if I can find her,” she said with a forced smile.
I watched as Gwen scrolled through the various rooms. “That didn’t bother you?” I said.
“Oh, no. Well, not really. Aliese is disgusting, but she’s good for a fuck. Her specialty is tearing apart marriages. She finds men she likes, worms her way into their confidence, then seduces them. When their wives find out, she harvests the pain. Ah, here we go.”
The mirror surface solidified again, and I found myself staring into a red cavern. Every part of the room was the color of blood. The walls, the carpet, even the light. It was as though Khalid kept Karen locked inside of a giant heart.
Karen was slumped to the side on the small day bed, her feet on the floor as her hands dangled over the edge. A surge of terror almost exploded my chest before I heard her take a deep, steady breath. She was still dressed in the heavy furs that concealed her shape. Sweat glistened on her skin, and the dark hairline that peeked out from under her blonde wig was damp.
I pressed my hand against the cold, hard surface of the mirror. “Open the portal, like you did earlier. I can be in and out of there in ten seconds.”
Gwen made no move to obey. “Your kind can’t travel through the Abyss unaccompanied.” Her tone made it clear she found me so stupid that it was exhausting. “But I understand why she wasn’t able to meet you. Look at her bedside table.”
I did. I saw a dim lamp covered by a frilly shade. A leather-bound book lay open beside it, its pages bookmarked with a black ribbon. A shiny elephant statue watched over Karen as she slept, wisps of smoke curling from its golden trunk.
Whatever Gwen had fed me turned over in my stomach. “What is that?”
“My guess is that it’s opium. Congratulations, though. She didn’t blow you off.”
My heart hammered in my chest. “She’s going to end up addicted to that shit. Please, will you just go in there and get her?”
Gwen shook her head. “I can’t, not without Khalid becoming aware of my presence.”
“Go now, while he’s busy fucking that rancid skank!”
Gwen gave me a dry look.
I pressed my hands against the glass, as though I could will myself through it. “I’m going to get Karen away from him, even if I have to kill him to do it. Especially if I get to kill him. Fuck it, I’m going to kill him.”
“You can’t kill him, Toby,” Gwen said in a flat tone. “He is Djinn. You could destroy the physical body he currently inhabits, but he would just migrate to another. Besides, disincorporating him won’t be as simple as deciding to do so. He has powerful magic, too, and he is clever. So much more so than I ever—” Gwen was interrupted by Aliese the Whore’s howling orgasm, then her entire being darkened.
I hid my surge of satisfaction. Regardless of the species, love is love, and jealous women are not to be fucked with.
Gwen’s tone became sweet as she said, “Karen? Karen, honey, where are you?”
I frowned. Her voice was different, and her hoity-toity British accent was gone. I couldn’t place where I knew that voice, until Karen muttered in her sleep, “Mom?”
“My precious girl,” Gwen said with an emotional crack. “I’ve looked everywhere for you. Please, I miss you so much. Come back to me.”
A tear glimmered as it dropped from the corner of Karen’s eye. “Mom…”
“We need your help. Come home. We need you, Karen. Where are you?”
Karen turned over in her sleep. “I can’t.”
Gwen’s tone dripped with love once again. “My poor baby. You needn’t be afraid. Tell me where you are, and I will come for you.”
“No. No, Mom, please don’t come here. It’s not safe.”
“Why isn’t it safe?” I realized what Gwen was doing, and I nodded in encouragement. She was trying to tear down the veil, to make Karen see how evil the place was for herself. “Are you in danger? Please, Karen, just tell me how to help you.”
Karen was quiet for a second. When she spoke again, her voice was a deep, savage growl. “Bastard.”
Gwen blinked, as surprised as I was by Karen’s sudden viciousness. We exchanged looks as Karen writhed on the bed.
“Traitor. Murdering fuck.” That sort of language on Karen’s lips sounded about as natural as a shark singing opera. “Why is he still alive? Killed me. Killed my baby. Why does he get to be free? Why does he get to be alive, when I don’t?
I could only watch. “What’s happening?”
The look on Gwen’s face was grim. “Your revenant and your necromancer share a soul. It goes without saying that they have a psychic connection. It appears as though Justine’s thoughts echo in Karen’s mind whenever Karen experiences REM sleep. Interesting.”
“That can’t be good for her.” If it was possible to die of shame, I would be worm food.
“I daresay not. It likely won’t be long before Karen is as crazy as the Mad Witch Serkani.”
“Hungry…,” Karen said. “So…hungry…”
I bowed my head as my eyes begin to sting. “Forget it. Never mind, just leave Karen out of this. I’ll take care of Justine on my own. With any luck, we’ll kill each other.” In fact, if I tried really, really hard, I could arrange just that.
“I doubt that’s possible now.” Gwen turned the mirror so that the view shifted from Karen’s bed to her window. The stained glass shrouded the dark figure perched on the ledge like a gargoyle, but a lily-white hand pressed against the glass. My worst fear was confirmed when the creature’s eyes began to glow like embers.
On the bed, Karen sobbed. “Why does she get to live? Why does she get to have him, and I don’t?”
The thick glass shattered as Justine punched through the window. Broken shards rained down on the carpet like falling diamonds. It was the last thing I saw before I raced out of the room.
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