Category Archives: 11.11

Malfeasance 11.11

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When mom and dad come home, they’re going to be soooo mad.

Flooding house, oil and broken glass at the base of the stairs, shattered back windows, at least three people in need of a hospital visit, one of whom was folded into the couch.

Oh, and the bombs.

If they showed up at the wrong time and tried to force their way in…

I shook my head.  Too many ifs.  If we took too long, if Andy got to my friends, if Alexis wasn’t okay, if one of my friends were hurt, dying, or dead

I didn’t like the feeling that took hold of me as I thought on that subject.

I relocated myself to the kitchen floor.  There were places where the residue from the extinguisher made the water too muddy to reflect anything.

The mirror Peter had been holding was gone.  Covered, broken, or cast aside to a place where it couldn’t reflect anything I could use.  Peter, too, was missing.  From the water or whatever else that was on the stairs, I suspected he was already up there.

“Evan,” I called out.

Evan came flying to me from the bookshelves.  He started to land on the edge of the counter, but shied away and landed on the toaster instead.

“Water,” he noted.  “And, oh poop, witch hunter.”

I didn’t have a good angle to see Eva.

“Clever, Bloody Marv,” I heard Eva speak.

“Wasn’t quite my idea,” I said.  “Also, Bloody Marv?  Really?”

“Gotta call you something.”

I considered reminding her about my name, then reconsidered.

I’d given it freely in the past, just talking to the junior council, but there was a sense of danger about Eva.  Her willingness to harm, her sheer resourcefulness.

“Thorburn Bogeyman,” I said.

“T.B.?”

“Whatever,” I said.

I moved to the one intact picture frame by Eva, watched her pace a little.  A restless tiger in its cage.  She kicked the doormat until it blocked off the water that creeped closer to her.  Her body was dusted white from the fire extinguisher’s spray.

She had the machete in one hand, the dark green orb cupped in the other, and the fanny pack with the grenades slung over one shoulder, apparently collected when she’d run past the pool of oil.

It was, in an odd twist, a reversal of the situation they’d had with us.

One more pressing threat upstairs, a lesser, hobbled threat downstairs.  Couldn’t ignore them both.

If I went upstairs to help Peter deal with Andy, I risked letting Eva run rampant.  Much as they’d done with us.

If I stayed here with Eva, well, Andy wasn’t quite the threat Eva was in a fight, but I suspected he could deal with Peter rather easily.  Neither was a fighter by nature, but Andy, I imagined, at least had practice.  Armor, too.

The water on the stairs was coming from the second floor bathroom.  Andy would have heard.

“Only one more to go,” Eva said, unaware that I was close to her, ready to strike if her pacing brought her too close to the frame.  “Pretty sure.”

One more?

“One more what?” Evan called out.

“T.B.?” the witch hunter called, almost taunting.  “I’m talking to you.”

I could see her body tense.  She approached the doormat, putting one foot on it.

Ready to make a break for it?

I switched locations.  “I’m listening, I’m just not sure why I’m supposed to take the bait.”

She chuckled to herself.

“Evan,” I whispered, “Go check, help if you can, don’t get shot.”

Evan took flight, wings flapping as he headed upstairs.

“I’m asking,” the witch hunter said, “Because I want to know if you’re there.”

“I’m here,” I said.

By asking periodically, opening a dialogue, she kept me here, watching her, keeping her from making a break for it

She thought time was on her side.

Yet the house was flooding.  Water crept on a variety of surfaces.

“You’re a new bogeyman, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Damn,” she said.  “I always wanted to know if it sucked, being bound.  Stuck inside some old antique until someone releases you.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t know,” I said, glancing back.  Nobody in the stairwell.  Light covered much of the second floor hallway.  Where footsteps landed, the reflection was disrupted.  I couldn’t tell where the footsteps were, only the cadence.

“Andy said it’s hard, being a bogeyman.  You spend a while in the Abyss, or Limbo, or whatever name you want to slap onto the ground level of reality, and it chews you up and spits a monster out, right?”

“Something like that.  Haven’t heard it called the ground level before.  Doesn’t seem much like reality.”

“Yeah, I bet,” she said.  “You want Andy for that explanation.  Mayans or someone thinking that all reality was basically chaos and void before the first gods set it straight.  Humans following after, smoothing off the rough edges.  I’m getting bits wrong already.”

“Sure,” I said.  The entire world was essentially like the Drains, in another time?

“Let’s say I whip out a thing and use it to bind you.  Nice old fashioned thing with a lot of weight and power to it.  Do you just stay inside?  Or is it more that you go back to the place you came from, Limbo or wherever, steadily getting worse, and you pop out when the container gets opened?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Which of the two is worse?” she asked.  “Stuck inside some container or another, all dark, just waiting for a few decades or centuries, or going back to the place that made you a monster?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“When we capture an Other, there’s a guy we call.  Specializes in disposal.  All the little whatsits and doodads get relocated somewhere proper.”

“That’s a spooky idea,” I said.  “A warehouse full of boxes with monsters inside.”

She snorted.  “Fuck that.  Hole in the ground and poured cement, way out in the middle of the scads of protected land we’ve got here in the great white north.  Nobody’s going to dig much in permafrost, except our guy that’s sticking cursed items and bound monsters in the ground.”

“If you’re trying to scare me,” I commented, “I don’t feel fear in the same way, anymore.”

“Ahh.  That’s no fun,” she said.  “So if I just happened to tell you that one of the people upstairs has a bomb glued to them, that wouldn’t affect you at all?”

I glanced upstairs.

“Hard to picture something like that,” I said.

She made a sound, not quite vocal enough to be a chuckle.  “I had my bushwhacker to her throat, Andy rigged the bomb.  Level on the top.  Tube with water in it, big fat bubble?  Fluid is conductive, right?  If the bubble moves to intersect one of the wires, the current can’t conduct, the bomb blows, and you get diabolist all over the walls and floor.”

“Telling the enemy how to defuse your bomb?”

“Not quite.  I saw Andy build it, or I was in the same room watching TV while he built it, same thing, but I couldn’t defuse it if you gave me twenty tries.  I’m just saying.  Last I saw, other two were cornered, afraid to even get close.  Rune of exile on the thing to keep it from being tampered with by other spirits, keep the boom muted.  She’s shaking, trying not to shake too much, or she’ll go out with a bang.  You can’t feel fear, or you don’t feel it the same way.  How do you feel, hearing that?”

“Not good,” I admitted.  “Angry.”

She sounded like she was enjoying herself as she spoke, “How would you feel if I told you that while we were putting the bomb on her, I watched your other friends, safe inside their circle?  Every time they moved, I gave her a little tap.  Right at the collarbone.  She bled.  She screamed lots.  If it was wood and not bone, I’d have left notches.  Maybe I still did.”

“If you’re trying to get me angry,” I said, my voice low, “That works.”

I heard her chuckle.  Or cackle.  One or both of the two.

I moved back to the window behind her.

She had the cabinet by the back door open.  There were brooms and mops inside.

She spoke while she worked.  “They’re all bleeding, one’s probably dead, by the way, and the other one can’t move with the bomb strapped to her.  Forty minutes to half an hour, and none of that’s going to be different.  The boggarts and shit come crawling in through the woodwork and they’re going to do horrible things to those people, to the Thorburns you identify with, to all the others.”

She can lie, I told myself.  The self-assurance wasn’t very effective.

I watched, unbeknownst to her, while she propped two mops up against the window.  She hooked an old towel from the closet over them, so it covered the shattered mini-window.

“You there?” she asked.

I had to relocate to answer from the kitchen at the end of the hall, so my nearby voice wouldn’t tip her off that I had a little window.  “I’m here.”

“Are you really that much of a monster already?  You don’t give a damn?”

“Believe me,” I said, “I look forward to showing you just how much of a damn I give.”

She offered me that cackle-chuckle again.

When I returned to the spot nearest her, I saw that she’d moved on from the window.  Stopping the draft?

No.

She was working to set up the same thing with the window to the right, propping up brooms, not using a towel this time, but coats that had been hung up by the door.  Alexis’ was one.  She drew the billowing, shifting curtains over the coats.

She hit the light switches a few times.  The hall light and kitchen lights alternated on and off until both were off.

I was shunted.  Back to the puddle, still growing as the sink overflowed.

The end of the hallway was dark.  In the gloom, the reflections might as well have been covered by fabric.  I didn’t have a view of a surface I could stand on.

Damn it.

“Don’t mind me,” she said.  “I always liked the dark more than the light.”

“Somehow,” I replied, my eyes on the ground I stood on and the kitchen that was reflected beyond it.  “That doesn’t surprise me.”

“S.O.P. against any Others who are reliant on a certain environment.  You deny them their environment of choice.  In your case…”

She trailed off.

Looking down, I could see the kitchen ceiling below me.  Water flowed, and the surface rippled as the water made waves.

A small, dark object sailed high, flying from the patch of darkness, diagonally across the kitchen, and into the living room.

I saw smoke.

My first thought was what Andy had mentioned about an incendiary grenade.  Setting the house on fire.

My second thought that even Eva wasn’t that heartless.  She cared about her brother, and he was on the second floor.

It was only smoke.

With the kitchen light off, the light that currently reached the reflective surface of the water was the little light that came in from the living room, the overhead light in the center of the ceiling, and the slices of light that escaped around the edges of the plywood that had been boarded up over windows.

The smoke obscured that light.  A lot of it was low to the ground, maybe only waist height, if I was judging it right, but that was still high enough to block a lot of the light from the water.

I backed away before I could get shunted again.

I heard footsteps splash, and couldn’t do anything about it.

“You think you have a clever answer?  The water?” she taunted me.  “It doesn’t make a difference, Thorburn Bogeyman.  The sun is setting, and all I need to do is cut the power, and you’re outta here!

God damn, she was enjoying herself.

Why was it that only the really crazy types enjoyed themselves in situations like this?

I didn’t take the bait.  I remained silent.

“Hello?” she asked.

I didn’t respond.

“Huh,” she said.

A second later, she was running.

It caught me off guard, and my reaction was slow.

She passed me, easily.

She leaped over the puddle of olive oil, now in the process of being diluted by water, ironically impassible to me, water mixing with oil to create a mess of small reflections instead of one big one.

She was faster than me.  Or maybe she was the same speed, with the benefit of having the head start and experience.

I, however, had the opportunity to take shortcuts.

I went up.

Second floor.

Eva was cresting the top of the stairs, cradling the fire extinguisher against her body.

Hyena in hand, I cut.  She, in the same moment, saw me and leaped.

The blade grazed her boot.  Nothing more.

She landed on her side, squeezing the trigger on the fire extinguisher, carpeting the water at the top of the stairs, and many of the stairs besides.

I was forced downstairs.

I wasn’t sure why it was downstairs, when the closest position would have been just behind where she’d landed.  I didn’t have time to think about it.

I headed upstairs, putting myself in the bathroom.

Peter was inside, sitting on the counter by the sink, feet on the lid of the toilet.  One of his hands was pressed into his armpit.  The shower was on, the shower head removed, and the hose leading to the shower head dangling over the edge of the tub, gushing water onto the floor outside the tub.

“Peter.”

He jumped.  “Geez!”

“You’re hurt.”

“Ah, yep.  Guy out there got my hand.  Pretty sure I have a broken finger.”

“Guy and the girl are both out there,” I said.

“Hm.”

“She’s mucking up the water.”

“They blocked the underside of the door, too, not much water getting out,” he said.  “This was as far as I could get without getting beaten up or zapped.”

“It was good,” I said.  “Only a step in the right direction, but nice work.”

“Uh huh,” he said.  “Keep talking like that, and I’ll start thinking you’re not really some long-lost Thorburn cousin.”

“Hold that thought,” I said, absently.

I ducked back outside. The hallway was obscured, but the water had leaked across the hallway and into the room opposite the bathroom.  Rose’s.

I waited in there, listening without the noise of the shower or the distraction of Peter.

“Should have grabbed something from the kitchen cupboards,” Eva said.  “Sprinkle it here and there.”

“Wouldn’t go that far,” Andy replied.  “There’s a simpler option.  Linen cupboard.”

Yeah!

“I already checked these cupboards.  You could hunt around upstairs.”

“Fuck.  Don’t want to do chores when I might miss the fun stuff.  We could strip the bed.”

“Bedrooms are a little flooded.  Upstairs is dry and safe.  I like keeping things simple.”

“Right.”

“I’ll stay here, keep an eye on the bathroom, staircases, and watch for the practitioners.”

“You can’t just blow the bathroom door away?”

“I used all the bombs on the exterior windows and doors.”

“Shit… and on the kid upstairs?  Before they locked themselves up again?”

“…Yeah.  Look, Eva, stop stalling.  Go get the sheets.  It’ll take a minute, two minutes tops.  Almost less time than you’ve spent complaining just now.”

“Ugh.”

“I’ve never known you to prefer waiting to doing something.”

“Uh huh.”

“Am I wrong?”

“I’m supposed to be calling the shots,” she said.  “You do it off-the-job, I do it on-the-job.”

“Then call the shots, Eva,” Andy said, sounding exasperated.

“You stay put, I’m getting some stuff to throw on the ground and block the reflection.”

“Sure, Eva,” he said.  “If you say so.”

And,” she said, sounding a little more excited, “do you think you can kill the power?”

“The breaker box is probably in the basement.  With the rest of the Thorburns and the tear gas.”

“Fuck!  And they rigged the stairs, covering it with oil.  I’ll break a leg going down there.”

There was a note of interest in his voice, “Did they?  It’s fine.  Look, Eva, you want to hurt them for whatever reason?  Just make them stay put.  They’ll hurt more than anything you can do.  Right now?  They’re staying put.  We keep the Bloody Marv out of the way for thirty more minutes, and we’re free and clear.”

“Kill the power, and the Thorburn Bogeyman won’t be able to protect them when it gets dark.  Helps us now, and helps us later.  It’s part of the plan.”

“Hm.”

“No?  Yes?”

“I’ll figure something out.  Go.  Sheets.  Please.”

“Going!  Turn out the lights you don’t need!”

I heard her footsteps and the light splashes of her footfalls.  The water was probably less than an inch deep, it wasn’t much.

The light in the hallway flicked off, and the light that reached under the door disappeared.  I still had light from the bedroom window.

Before I could raise my eyes, I saw a movement.

Tiny.

“Evan,” I said.

“Blake!  I couldn’t get to Peter and I couldn’t go outside, so I came here.  You said to wait here, before.”

By the vanity mirror atop the dresser.  Right.  I hadn’t even thought about that.

Andy was possibly shutting off the power.  Eva was getting sheets to cover the hallway.

“Are you ready to kick some ass?” I asked.

“Always.”

I thought for a second.

“You can open doors.  Can you… open a way for me?”

“Huh?”

“There’s crud from the fire extinguisher in the water.  Can you get rid of it?”

He leaned over the dresser, tilting his head as he looked at the water.

“In the hallway?” I asked.

“Oh.  I can try!”

“Good man.  Hold tight.”

Had to stall Andy and Eva.

Andy first.

He worried me more than Eva did, frankly.

How to stop him from futzing with the power?

I closed my eyes for a second, visualizing the house.

Was there a chance?

I headed downstairs, dropping straight down.

The first floor was pretty flooded.  Water reached into the hallway and living room, while Eva’s doormat barricade had, somewhat ironically, helped me.  By blocking the water, she’d freed it to take the path of least resistance.

And the best path of least resistance was down.

I headed down.

The basement was flooding.  Trickles of water streamed down the walls and pooled on the floor, much of it too dusty to see.

The basement windows were small enough that even Roxanne would find them a squeeze.  The lightbulbs were old and orange.  The water made for a reflective surface, and there was light.

The gathered Thorburns were still coughing, making sounds of pain.

Tear gas, apparently, wasn’t something you bounced back from in a matter of five or ten minutes.

“Hit the breaker switches,” I said.  “Then turn everything back on in… five minutes.”

“Who?  The guy from the mirror?  Where are you?”

“Now,” I said.

I didn’t wait for a response.  My gut told me that if I tried to convince them, they’d argue.

With nobody to argue against, they’d only be able to obey.  Hopefully.

I headed back upstairs.  I moved to the bathroom.

“You locked in?”

Fuck me!” Peter exclaimed.

“Not if I can help it,” I said.

“I’m- no.  Yes?  I locked myself in.”

“Thirty seconds, open the door, head into the hallway.”

He was silent.

I had to trust my knowledge of who he was.  Problem was, Peter was both an opportunist and a coward.  Either way, he’d convince himself it would all work out in the end, whether he was avoiding a reality or taking a risk.  I wasn’t sure which of the two ideas would win out.

“You should get a chance to beat that guy’s face in,” I told the Opportunist.

The lights went off. I was shunted out the door, back downstairs.

Again.  The closest location should have been Evan, across the hall.  Annoying.

I headed back to Evan.  “Door.”

He hopped onto the doorknob.  It was faux crystal, probably made of plastic, like an oversized diamond with rounded edges.  He gripped it with his talons and let his body weight turn it.  He fell, catching himself with a flutter of his wings.

I reached through the puddle, and gave the bottom of the door a push.  Light streamed into the bedroom from the hallway.

Evan wheeled around, then flew down the length of the hallway, feathered body just tracing the water.  The grit on top of the water parted like grease in a dramatized soap commercial.

I followed after him, footsteps splashing, as a glowing road, lit by the purples and oranges that streamed through the window, opened before me.

Andy was kneeling in the water, holding a twisted length of metal in pliers, a coarse glove on the hand with the tool.  He was looking up at the light, confused.

No reason to cut the power when it was already cut.

It also served as a distraction, putting him off balance.

He turned his head as Evan passed by.

I bent down, reaching through the path that was now open to me.

I wrapped my arms around Andy’s shoulders and throat, pulling him down.

The Hyena, still in my hand, always in my hand at this point, in these circumstances, touched his neck.

E-!” he started.

“Shut!” I spat the word in his ear.  Not even a full ‘shut up’.

I didn’t have long.  My footing was destroyed.  I could only cling to him, and hope to bide time until-

Peter approached, holding the ceramic top of the toilet under one arm.  His right hand was messy with blood, especially around the fingertip.

At the last second, he swapped it to a two-handed grip, holding it at the middle.  A chunk of old, age-stained ceramic that had to weigh twenty pounds.

“Jesus, Peter,” I started.  “Don’t-”

I was relocated to the end of the hallway.  The disruption to the water’s surface too much for me to stay.

From the end of the hallway, by where Evan had perched on the windowsill, I saw Peter bring the end of the lid down on Andy’s head, Andy’s hands going up to stop it, but lacking the strength of leverage to accomplish anything.

I could hear it.  The sound of the impact.

“You’re really making me doubt your family credentials, cousin,” he murmured, slumping against a wall for leverage as he got to his feet, not out of any weakness or disability, but because he didn’t have a hand free, and it was easier than letting go of the toilet top.

I couldn’t appeal to his goodness, to mercy.

“Part of the strategy,” I told him.  “We need them alive.”

“He’s alive.  I might have broken his jaw and cheekbone, but he’s alive,” Peter said, straightening.  “Lesson numero uno for Thorburns.  Go for the jugular.  They’re trying to kill us.”

Eva appeared at the end of the hall.

I’d seen her angry, after Roxanne had tried to hurt her brother and failed.

She only stared, chin at an odd angle, a little too high, her head tilted slightly, hands behind her back.  No sheets, that I could tell.  The light from the window behind Evan didn’t quite reach her, so she was lit by the light above the stairwell, behind her.  Silhouetted.  Cold air blew in through the broken window, making her hair stir.

“Great,” Peter said.

Her voice was quiet.  “Is he dead?”

“He could be,” Peter answered.  “You take one step, I aim for his throat with the next swing.”

“Doesn’t work that way,” she said, shaking her head a little.  “He’s the one who keeps the mad dog, me, on a leash.  Taking him out of the picture is a pretty fucking stupid thing to do.  He’s the one who listens to reason, not me.”

“You refer to yourself as a mad dog?” Peter asked.  “Man, I thought my family had the lion’s share of ‘fucked up’.”

“You want to see ‘fucked up’?” she asked.  She raised her hand.

Grenade.

“Tear gas?” Peter asked.

“No.  Incendiary grenade, with the pin out.  My hand on the lever is the only thing keeping it from going off.  This house is largely made of wood.  Do the math.”

I could see Peter tense.

“If I don’t think I can carry him out,” she said, “I’ll cremate him.”

“Along with the house and its occupants?”

She didn’t respond, her eyes on Andy.

Without warning, she approached, taking long strides.

I could see Peter start to raise the lid, ready to take Andy out of action.

This time, the coward won out.  He backed away.

I moved to meet her.

She kicked the water, the resulting spray disrupted the reflection.

It bought her two paces.

Evan, though, flew past her.  The momentum of his passing, eerily out of sync with his tiny amount of actual mass, forced her to stop moving forward and put one foot out to the side to maintain her balance.

It was all the time I needed.  I twisted around, then bent, reaching through the reflection.

I seized one foot, arresting her forward movement.

She fell onto her side, then lifted her leg away from the ground.  My arm was extended, until the whole arm was sticking out of the pool of water.

I didn’t see it coming until it was too late.  She levered herself around, leg still high, and used her other leg to sweep my arm, water spraying as it skidded in the water.  A full-force kick right at my elbow.

Wood splintered and snapped.  Bone, if I had any, broke.

I barely felt the pain.  It was secondary.

I was relocated downstairs.  It cost me precious seconds, as I got my bearings again.  My arm sat at a skewed angle, and the wound crawled.  It was as if the branches were fingers, and they were scrabbling for purchase, blindly groping.

I had to put the Hyena down for a moment while I twisted my arm around into the right position.  The fingers wrapped around the wound, meshing together and mingling into a great ugly, horned knot of wood.  Feathers and bits of bone stood out from one portion as if a bird had been crushed and killed as the wood had come together.  I flexed my hand.

Back up to the hallway.

The witch hunter had drawn her machete from some sheath inside her jacket or pants or some other hidden place, and was advancing on Peter, weapon held high.

Evan flew past, trying to put her off balance.  She moved the blade but missed him.

“Evan, back off!” I ordered.  “Peter-”

Peter raised the piece of ceramic as a sort of shield, moving it right as he watched the weapon.

She punched him, hitting him from the opposite direction.

She punched him with the grenade.  Hand still gripping the grenade and the lever, she hit him full-force in the face with the chunk of metal.

The second hit came from the opposite direction, a backhand.  Peter lost his grip on the lid, balance clearly gone.  It broke as it hit the ground.

She drove a knee into his middle, knocking him over.

I bent down, catching her foot with one of my own, and pulled them out from under her.  Stupid, to knock her over when she held the grenade, but what other option was there?

We didn’t all go up in flame, which was nice.

I even managed to grab the machete, pushing it away.  It practically hydroplaned on the thin layer of water that covered the hallway.

All three of us brought down, fighting at its ugliest, in a heap, scrabbling, fighting dirty.

I had to step away, waiting for the water to settle.

Peter wasn’t putting up much of a fight, but I might have said he’d lost the fight from the second he took that first punch unprepared.

Getting on top of him, she hit him over and over again.  Right, left, right, right, right, left.  Whichever fist and direction would hit better in the moment.

Evan hovered around her, out of reach.

He can do his thing twice.  But every time he goes for a third try, they get him.  It had happened with Ur, during the fights with Conquest, with Duncan…

Seeing the opportunity to act again, I reached through the water.  My arms encircled Eva’s head and shoulders in a full Nelson, pulling her backward and off Peter.

“I’m letting go of the grenade in five, four, three-”

I switched my grip, seizing the hand that had the grenade.  I was losing my grip on reality, sinking back into the mirror realm.  As she twisted her wrist around, preventing me from getting her, I found my hand on only metal.

“Heh,” she said.

She let go, then rolled away, twisting out of my grip.

If I’d been one to experience true fear, that might have been the moment I’d lost it.

Instead, I found myself shunted, no place to go but the nearest reflection, a live incendiary grenade in one hand and a body made largely of wood and feathers.

I didn’t let myself experience paralyzing fear or panic.  I hurled the grenade into the great expanse of darkness between patches of light.  It found a patch of light far away from Hillsglade House, instead, skipping across darkness much as I might have.

I headed back upstairs.

I’d expected to see her taking Peter to pieces.  Instead, she was kneeling by her brother.  Peter was limp on the ground.

“I hear you,” she said, without looking my way.

“Hi Eva.”

“Survived?  Damn.

“Survived.”

The fury had gone quiet again.

What was going through her head?

“There goes my trump card,” she said.  “Other trump card didn’t do much.”

Other?”

She held up the green orb as her answer.

“Can I ask?” I asked.

Her voice was low, almost menacing.  “You can ask, I’m not saying.  I’m going to give it back to the owner on my way to the hospital.  I’m proposing an exchange of prisoners.  I walk out with my brother, you look after your… numerous wounded.”

I didn’t answer.

“Right,” she said.  “Taking that as a yes.”

“Eva,” I told her.  “The claymore or whatever by the back door, the bombs on the windows, the bomb on the front door… double edged sword right now.”

“Seems like one edge,” she replied.

“If you try to leave,” I told her, “I’ll throw something at those bombs.  At the door, the claymore, whichever.  I’ll take out you and your brother.”

“Not smart,” she said.

“Doing what I have to,” I replied.

“Your beaten up buddy there-”

“Isn’t a buddy.  But if you go after him, I’ll fight you.  We can continue to lock horns until the sun goes down.”

“Ahhh.  That’s your plan.”

“Yeah.”

“You don’t expect me to help.”

“I expect you to try to survive the night,” I said.  “Correct me if I’m wrong, but what’s coming is pretty damn indiscriminate, isn’t it?”

“Nah,” she said.  She smiled at me.  “You’re pretty boned.”

I stared at her, long and hard.

I am a Thorburn, in one way or another.  I know deceit when I see it.

This wasn’t the first lie she’d told me.

“Evan,” I said.  “Go upstairs.  Unlock and open the door.  Talk to the others.  So long as Andy’s hurt, Eva’s mostly a non-threat.  She won’t leave him so long as I could go after him.”

She scowled at me.

“There’s no bomb on any of them.  See how they’re doing.  We have only a few minutes to prepare for sundown.”

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