*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.
Chapter 35: Part 1
I closed my mouth then ducked my head as the SWAT officer turned his attention to the driver. Luckily, the cop failed to notice my eyes and fangs. I guess he had more important things on his mind. Fear spiked in Karen’s scent as she took my hand.
“Sir, you need to get this car as far to the right side of the road as you can. We’re trying to clear a path for emergency vehicles.”
As the cop stood to walk away, the driver said, “Hey, do you know how long this is going to take? I’m not making any money just sitting here.”
If disdain could burn, the driver would be ashes. “That’s not my problem, sir. Stay in your vehicle with the doors locked.”
The SWAT officer walked into the mist, then Karen tossed a twenty-dollar bill into the front seat. She and I got out of the cab without another word.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, kid,” the driver called after us, with little actual concern for our safety.
“Thanks for the tip,” I said as I shut the door. I took Karen by the elbow then we made our way through the bumper-to-bumper traffic. We found the sidewalk deserted, and every business closed. The atmosphere grew heavy, like a warzone, as we ducked into a nearby alleyway.
Karen squinted up into the fog. “I can’t tell where the fire escape is. It’s like Silent Hill out here.”
“Yep,” I said as though I had a clue what she was talking about. “Here. Get up on my shoulders.”
“That’s a good idea.” I ducked down so Karen could climb onto my back. Once she was situated, I stood then moved closer to the building, one hand on the wall for balance. The cinderblocks were dry, as were my skin and clothes. The fog was like smoke, but without the choking stench.
“Okay, walk forward,” Karen said, her voice echoing in the narrow passage.
I did as she asked, but it was hard to not get distracted by her scent. I’d missed it like a phantom limb in prison. I’d caught whiffs of jasmine once in a while in my sleep, only to be jerked awake by painful hope. The heat of her body radiated into my shoulders and the back of my neck.
“Hey, did you gain weight?” I said.
Karen was quiet for a second, then her thighs clamped down on my neck like a vice.
“I didn’t mean it in a bad way. I’m just saying. You used to be like a stick, now you have some meat on you. It was a compliment.”
“Oh, well, in that case…” Karen slapped the top of my head. “Wait, I see the fire escape. Take about three steps forward.” I obeyed then waited as she jerked on the retractable staircase. “Crap. It’s rusted stuck.”
“Of course, it is. Hold on.” I moved my hands from her knees to her feet. “I’m going to lift you up. Go ahead and stand.”
I boosted Karen like a Russian acrobat then felt her weight shift to the fire escape. I took a step back, using the shadow of her feet to gauge her position, then jumped. I landed next to her, and our combined weight dragged the stairs to the ground with a high-pitched squeal.
“Goddamn, could that be any louder?” Karen said. “Let’s get out of here before the cops come to investigate.”
As though on cue, a burst of automatic gunfire erupted from the sidewalk. The sound hit us like a cattle prod then we sprinted up the steps.
“Go! Move, move, move, move, move!” Even as I spoke, I looped my arm around Karen’s waist to pick her up. I took the stairs two or three at a time, racing from landing to landing.
Then, without warning, sunlight washed over my face like a bucket of acid. I stumbled then fell, my skin on fire. I heard Karen yelp in pain as she barked her limbs against the metal steps. I buried my face in my hands, but it was too late. Sparkles of bright color exploded behind my eyelids, leaving me blind.
I felt Karen pull up my hood then place my sunglasses over my nose. “It’s okay,” she said, her voice soft but urgent. “You’re going to be okay.”
I blinked fast to relieve the ache in my eyes, spitting curses.
“Shhh. I know, Toby. I’m sorry.” Karen waited for me to recover, rubbing my back in comforting circles. She pushed her hair out of her eyes then stared at the sea of white mist. “I’ve never seen obfuscating fog from this angle before. It doesn’t reach past the second story. Makes sense, I guess. I’ve just never really thought about it. Can you see yet?”
“Almost.” Karen helped me stand, then I kept my hand on her shoulder as we made our way to the roof. Once there, I sat on the half-wall around the ledge to get my bearings. Nearby, Karen snapped picture after picture of the blanketing mists.
“I could never make a fog like this,” she said. “I can cover, what? Maybe a block or two for ten minutes before I’m wiped out? It’s like the whole city has been buried in twenty feet of white sand. I can’t even tell where the epicenter is.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose. “Well, I guess some necromancer coven learned a new trick.”
“How are we going to find them, though?”
I cracked open my left eye. “Why do we need to find them?”
“Besides the obvious reason?”
“Am I wearing a Superman cape? When did this become my problem?”
Karen’s eyes narrowed, then she said, “If they can do something like this, they can definitely help us against Justine.”
Goddamn it. Karen knew me too well. I sighed as I turned in a circle, trying to pinpoint where the fog was centered. Karen was right; it stretched out for miles in every direction. I made a disgusted sound then said, “You’re right, but even if we found them, how would we make them help? They’re necromancers. I can’t do shit against them.”
We heard glass shatter on the street below, then a woman screamed. We hurried to the edge of the building, but saw only the fog. The woman shrieked again, louder and more terrified, then the sound was cut off by a wet gurgle. The thud of booted feet ran along the pavement, then a voice shouted, “Freeze! Let her go, then put your hands where I can see them!”
The reply was a screech that made every single hair on my body stand up. I’d heard that sound enough to know it at once. It was the cry of a newborn vampire driven insane by bloodlust. There was the deafening crack of a high-caliber bullet being fired, then silence.
I swept Karen into my arms then ran. I could hear her trying to talk to me, but flight mode doesn’t know reason. I leapt from rooftop to rooftop, braced for a sniper’s bullet. When we were as close to the school as we could get without reentering the fog, I set Karen down again.
She held up her hands as I began to pace like a caged animal. “Okay, it’s over. That…sucked, and I’m sorry.” She looked up at the cloudless sky. “The fog must be blocking the UV rays,” she said, as though in apology.
I nodded, having figured that much out for myself. “If vampires really are attacking St. Josephine’s, they aren’t stuck there.”
Karen looked pained as she turned toward the school. The building jutted from the fog like a gothic island; all stained glass windows, towers, and pointed arches. We could see students leaning out of their classrooms windows. They waved their arms as they screamed for help, crowding onto the ledges. Two fire truck ladders stretched up to provide an escape route, but the evacuation wasn’t happening fast enough.
Karen gasped and covered her mouth as a boy fell. “Who would do this?” she said, breathless. “Why?”
I was too deep in thought to answer. The chances of this being the work of a necromancer coven grew smaller by the minute. A group that powerful wouldn’t have gone unnoticed by the vampires in the city. No solitary practitioner could’ve pulled off something like this, not even Karen. Well, maybe there was one. It couldn’t have been Justine, though. She’d lost her powers over the undead when she became one. Of course, the only reason I thought that was because she hasn’t used them against me yet.
“Toby, we need to hurry.”
I didn’t move. Karen stared at me, and the silence between us grew awkward. I took a step back when she turned in my direction. “Wait,” I said before she could speak the spell of subjugation. “The cops are trying to evacuate before they send in the hit squads.” I didn’t want to be in the building when that happened. How could I say as much without sounding like a pussy?
“Maybe,” Karen said. “But sixteen-hundred kids go to this school, Toby. What about the classrooms that don’t have windows? Do the cops plan to sacrifice those kids?”
“You know SWAT has the exits covered. How are we supposed to get in?”
Karen didn’t even have to think about it. “We go in through the bell tower. It’s behind the school, but if we’re careful, the cops won’t notice us in this fog. There’s a window on the third floor we can get through. Once we’re in, we find the door that leads to the fourth floor storage room. It stays locked, but it’s super easy to pop open. All you need is a butter knife.”
“What happens if we run into a cop with orders to shoot anyone they see with fangs? I don’t want to die so you can break up with your boyfriend in person.”
Karen opened then closed her mouth as she gave me a long look. “You’re right. You stay here.”
Way to miss the point, Karen. “No way.”
“This isn’t just about Trevor, Toby. I’ve known most of these kids since kindergarten. I’m not going to sit back and let them get slaughtered by vampires if I have the power to stop it. Just get me to the ground so I can—”
“No!” I’d just gotten her back. There was no way in hell I was going to lose her again. I took a deep breath as I forced myself to man up. “No. Let’s do this.”
“Toby, no. You don’t have to—”
“The hell, I don’t,” I said as I pulled her onto my back. I said a silent prayer to a power I didn’t believe in, then darted forward. I leapt off the half-wall, launching us through the air for a couple hundred feet before we dropped.
The fog closed over our heads then we landed hard. We were just on the other side of the chain-link fence that surrounded Karen’s school. I wasted no time marveling at the close call as I took off again. I had to keep a tight grip on Karen’s knees so she wouldn’t fall off my back. I could barely see my hand in front of my face, never mind the giant tree that seemed to spring up out of nowhere. I swerved to the right, then had to jump to avoid a koi pond. Luckily, I cleared it. I kept my eyes straight ahead, looking for the sea of emergency lights parked near the base of the school. Therefore, I didn’t notice the young man crossing my path until I plowed into him.
The boy and I tumbled over each other as Karen vanished into the fog. I spat out a mouthful of dirt, then unleashed a string of curses that will guarantee my place in hell. I pushed myself onto my hands and knees as I said, “Karen, are you okay?”
“No.” I heard her deep, ragged cough. “I got the wind knocked out of me. Are you okay?”
“No.” The kid was getting back to his feet. He wore khaki pants and a dark blue blazer: Karen’s school uniform. “Hey, numb-nuts. Why don’t you watch where you’re going?”
Karen limped out of the mist, holding her side. “Enough, Toby.” Damp earth and grass stains covered her lacy top. She reached toward her classmate as she said, “Hey, are you…”
Karen’s voice trailed off as the kid turned to face us. Blood soaked his shirt, even though the bite marks on his neck had long since stopped bleeding.
Karen shrank back in horror. “Ethan? Oh, my god, no.”
The ghoul’s eyes were empty as he lunged at Karen.