|Author’s Note: the characters of Gargoyles are the property of Disney
and are used here without their creators’ knowledge or consent. All other
characters property of the author. Trinity Bay is the setting for an upcoming
series of horror novels; watch for the first of these, Black
Roses, coming soon on audio.
This story is a sequel to Bad
Girls. Mature readers only, please; includes violence, adult language,
and sexual content. 17,600 words; December, 2001.
Something in the air, approaching
over the denim-dark sea … something with wings, perhaps, like a gargoyle,
or flying in the way that a helicopter might as a camera hangs from its
underbelly, would see it as follows:
The waves, rolling endlessly toward
the shore. Lemmings of waves on a suicide mission. As each rank of swells
reaches the stony coast, the waves break apart in flumes of spray
that shine in the pale light of a half-moon.
Sweeping up, up the bluff, past
outcrops of granite, the dizzied gaze would have glimpses of tall trees
beyond. Black in the night, deepest green in reality. Shaggy-barked redwood
spires in formation as regimented as any Roman phalanx. Barely seen, the
merest flicker, might be the twinkle of light in the distance.
And there, atop the bluff, copper-colored
claws are braced against the stone. The figure stands in a way that suggests
purpose, resolution. Her legs, clad in the black-and-grey of night camo,
baggy pants with many pockets, are long and muscular. The tail held stiffly
behind her emerges from a hole slit in the seat of those pants, its color
the same new-penny copper of her skin.
A durable nylon quiver hangs at
her sturdy belt. The ends of many businesslike arrows bristle from it.
The quiver is balanced on the other hip by a sheathed blade somewhere in
length between knife and machete. All around the rest of the belt are pouches
and cases in varying shapes and sizes.
Above the belt rises a flat and
taut midriff, coppery-smooth, absent of navel. A black bandeau top has
its work cut out for it restraining full, jutting breasts. A gold chain
around her neck supports a fine pendant in the shape of a castle, which
rests at the start of her cleavage.
By the bow slung over her shoulder,
and the quiver at her side, an observer might justifiably be reminded of
Amazons and think of the incorrect assumption that those warrior-women
of ancient times practiced voluntary mastectomy, the better to not interfere
with the drawing of a bowstring. But that legend is false, and the warrior
on the bluff can shoot a pea from a post at a hundred paces without her
ample endowments getting in the way.
Her arms are, if anything, more
muscular than her legs, defined as any sculpture. They are bent, curled
fists of four sharp talons each resting on her hips. The wings that sprout
from her shoulderblades are open, tiny tri-talons at their tips poised
to grasp at the air. The membranes are a slightly darker hue, some alloy
of copper with iron. They flutter in the constant sea breeze, the only
part of her besides her hair and eyes to move.
She stares out over the water,
the land behind her. White-gold hair, most loose but some caught up in
thin braids at her temples, streams back behind a spiny ridge of bone that
rises seamlessly from her brow. This ridge is reminiscent of a tiara, of
backswept quills. It crowns a face that is both regal and fierce, beautiful
In all ways but one, she is the
very picture of defiance and strength. Only her eyes, her shadowed eyes
with their freight of pains old and new, tell the true story. She is lost.
That is the reason she comes to
this place. Or, one reason at least. This rocky headland reminds her of
Scotland. Not that she’s ever seen Scotland, and stands a continent and
an ocean from it. All she knows of it comes from stories told by her human
foster-parents long ago and a literal world away.
Still, something in this rugged
landscape touches her soul. The stones. The sea. The constant battle between
them, the land standing firm although ultimately the sea is destined to
win. Her other reason is both simpler and more complex. This place reminds
her of herself. Bleak and desolate, fraught … yet enduring.
Her given name is Hippolyta. Whether
her namer was prescient as well as a wizard, or whether she’s unconsciously
striven to live up to it, she doesn’t know. Amazon queen, warrioress. The
Hippolyta of myth met her downfall in a man called Theseus, who brought
many another female to despair.
She has not yet entirely shared
that fate, though it is in part because of a man that she’s ended up here
on this bluff with the salt-scent of the sea rich in the wave-flung moisture
that glistens on her skin.
Once, she lived a life of peace
on an island elsewhere in space and time. She hunted, she played at love
and war with her brothers and sisters. And yearned for more. When battle
came to Avalon, it whetted her like a blade. She hungered. She saw others
of her siblings follow their impulses out into wider realms, while the
rest opted for matings and breedings and eggs.
Not wanting to be bound before
she’d had a chance to truly live, she turned rebel. She resisted the courtings
of her brothers, and when the time came that some of her clan – rebels
as well – left Avalon, she was among the first to cast in her lot.
Since then, she has seen more
than a hatchling could ever dream. She has killed. She has nearly died.
She has befriended humans and made enemies. She has been a captive, a teammate,
a traitor. She has visited an alien world, seen women who were more machine
or more feline than human.
She has loved.
And failed to protect the one
She has run from her failure and
made herself a more complete exile than any decree could ever have done.
Hippolyta. Clanless and alone.
To others of her kind, she is dead … or as good as. Or should be. The two
true tenets of what it means to be a gargoyle, she’s broken. She has betrayed
her clan, adopted and makeshift though it was when it consisted of Hunter,
Hyena, and Hellcat … and she has failed in her duty to protect.
A man is dead because of her.
A good man. Kind and loyal. A man who could have brought great changes
to the world. Who could have been of tremendous help to her kind.
A man she’d loved.
The sky is lightening behind her.
As she does every encroaching morning, she turns from the sea, her wings
and her hair now whipping forward. The fog veils the trees in mist the
color of pearl.
She longs for oblivion. Without
clan, without honor, she is nothing.
“If you are dead to everyone you’ve
ever cared about,” she says to the waning night, “and to everyone who’s
ever cared for you … is it not better to truly be dead?”
It wouldn’t take much. The sun
is about to rise and her perch is precarious. A slight backward leaning
as she feels her body grow leaden with stone, and it would be over. She
would be solid before she knew she was falling, and smashed to pieces before
she could know pain, or fear.
Every morning she faces this final
test. And once again, she fails. Her determination deserts her and she
chooses another night of life.
She runs from the shore, the pounding
of the sea still reverberating through the rocky earth and ringing in her
blood. Now it is a race. Just as she and Icarus once raced the dawn, until
her taunting provoked him into pressing his luck too far, crippling him,
nearly killing him. This time, Hippolyta races alone and ground-bound,
and the path to the cave that she has called home for six weeks looms in
front of her.
It can only be seen and reached
from the coast, this cave. Nor can the headland be reached by conventional
means. A boat would be dashed to bits, and no aircraft come near. For all
intents and purposes, she might as well dwell in a cave at the ends of
The sky is now pearl and mist
above, rose and gold to the east, dusky indigo to the west. She spares
it one last glance as she ducks her head and enters the cool shadows.
Her trappings of comfort are here.
Not many of them. Scavenged or outright stolen. She equipped herself at
a surplus-supply store. Hunting and camping gear. Preserved foods with
all the taste and texture of bark. The proof of her skill in a rack of
scraped and tanned pelts, smoked and salted meat. Survival essentials.
The makings for fire, not that a gargoyle needs worry about the cold. A
few, a very few, items of luxury. A fleece blanket patterned like the sunset.
A row of books, sealed in plastic bags against the damp. A battery-powered
And, laid out like a swatch of
velvet in a jeweler’s window, ready to receive a priceless gem for display,
a tattered scrap of fabric. It is midnight-blue with sparkles woven through,
with a strap of fine-woven gold mesh. A lifetime ago, in another place,
a place of lights and dazzling glass and music, a place of dancing and
revelry, it had been a gown.
Time is short, for spring is nearing
and the dawn comes ever earlier. Even so, Hippolyta spares a second to
caress that scrap. Her roughened hands snag on it. She closes her eyes
and is dancing with him again. Daniel. Alive and unhurt. So handsome, despite
his lack of wings or tail.
Her flesh feels heavy. Her lungs
labor to draw a breath. A stiffness sets over her skin.
Hippolyta goes to one knee, the
bit of fabric draped over her talons. She hopes to dream of that timeless,
But the image that follows her
into that inner darkness is of Hunter, dressed in blood-red like an omen,
and of Daniel, and ornaments and pine boughs, and gunfire.
As soon as he saw the girl, Mickey
Lee started talking about it.
Dwayne tried not to listen. He
didn’t want to get in trouble.
But Mickey Lee wouldn’t let up.
He knew a place, he said. A place they could take her. They could do anything
to her there, anything at all, and nobody would ever know.
It was always the same kind of
girl that caught Mickey Lee’s eye. Platinum-blondes. Little thin ones,
with fine faces like dolls. Gamin … Dwayne had heard that word once and
while he wasn’t sure exactly what it meant, he thought it was the right
word. Mickey Lee liked gamin platinum-blondies with pert little noses and
pert little titties.
“We can’t,” muttered Dwayne, keeping
his voice low so that Betty at the counter wouldn’t hear. With the ear-busting
rock music from the kitchen so loud it even drowned out the hiss and sizzle
of the grill where Vince fried up the burgers, and the churning rattle
of the milkshake machine, he didn’t think Betty could hear him if he talked
regular, but he couldn’t take a chance. Being with Mickey Lee was a chance
“I work here,” he added. “They’d
know it was me.”
Mickey Lee stated that was crap.
The whole point of leaving L.A. and running north was to get somewhere
that nobody knew who he was. Like that old show, Cheers, but backwards.
Where nobody knew his name.
Except that they did. It went
on the application. Dwayne Arrens. It didn’t sound like a name that someone
would make up but was still close to his own. He liked it. Even if Vince
had gotten started calling him “Duh-wayne,” which hurt.
He sometimes thought about asking
Mickey Lee to do something about Vince. But that was no good either. For
one, Mickey Lee wouldn’t. He only liked working on girls. For two, if it
was bad to mess with customers, it had to be worse to mess with co-workers.
Without Vince to run the grill, the Blue Owl might have to close and then
what would happen to him? He’d lose his job.
While he was making his difficult
way through these thoughts, Mickey Lee had gone back to looking at the
girl and talking about it again. She was just his type. And she’d come
from the motel, which shared a parking lot with the diner. Passing through.
Not a local. If she vanished on the road, who’d be the wiser?
Dwayne squeegeed the mop extra-hard
and slapped it down vigorously, hoping Mickey Lee would get the idea that
he wasn’t interested. He slopped water over the fake-brick tiles, head
bent, a few strings of hair escaping his white paper cap to dangle in his
But Mickey Lee wasn’t fooled.
He knew that Dwayne was stealing looks at the girl.
She’d come in alone, hanging up
her jacket on the brass coatrack just inside the door, and made a beeline
for one of the corner booths. She was taller than Mickey Lee usually went
for, but she had long trim legs and a perfect little ass in her jeans,
which were low. Hipsters, Dwayne thought they were called. Slut-jeans.
Her t-shirt was cropped enough to show off a gold stud in her belly button,
and the top half of a tattoo that probably dipped below her panties. If
she was wearing any.
Bad idea or not, Dwayne started
to get hard. He concentrated on the mop, working so industriously that
the head banged against the wooden frames of the blue-vinyl booths.
Mickey Lee, all low and conspiring,
kept whispering to Dwayne about what they could do to her. She deserved
it. Hell, she’d probably even like it, at least until the cutting. That
was when they usually screamed and cried … though never for long.
The girl was loud, too, and flirty.
Not with Dwayne. Never with Dwayne. He was invisible as far as she was
concerned. He was invisible as far as most people were concerned. Even
Betty, who’d hired him and who was always so nice, who let him have a free
slice of pie at the end of his shift, generally only noticed him when he
No, the girl was playing it for
a trucker at the counter. Giving him a show. Turning her head this way
and that as she pretended to linger over the menu – on the front cover,
perched on a tree against a star-speckled sky, was a bright blue owl with
huge, sad, yellow eyes. Stroking her long swanlike neck. Fiddling with
the gold hoops in her ears. Biting sexy-like on her lower lip. When she
put down the menu, she stretched her arms over her head like she’d been
on the road all day and was achy, and her titties pushed against her t-shirt
so that everybody could see she wasn’t wearing a bra. Her little nipples
poked like thumbtacks.
Dwayne really thought Mickey Lee
was going to get them in trouble, but he couldn’t help listening … a girl
like that did deserve it. They could make it last a long time. Usually,
when it got to the cutting and the screaming, they had to finish up quick
because Dwayne was too scared someone would hear. Hear and find them. Find
them and stop them.
He knew what would happen then.
If he was heard, found, stopped. The police would come. They’d arrest him.
They’d figure out who he really was and what he’d done. What he and Mickey
Lee had done, really, but Dwayne had been very careful to never tell about
that part. They never knew it was all Mickey Lee’s idea.
Sometimes, that made him mad.
It had all been Mickey Lee’s idea, Mickey Lee picking the girls,
Mickey Lee getting to go first. But when the bodies had been discovered,
and evidence led them to Dwayne, it had been Mickey Lee telling him that
it wouldn’t do any good for them to both get punished.
He’d been through some awful stuff
after that. In prison. There weren’t girls there, and the men who were
there thought they could do whatever they wanted to Dwayne.
The mop dunked back into the bucket
with a splash, so loud that even the girl looked over. Only for a minute.
She had gotten a milkshake from Betty and was making a big deal out of
wrapping her lips around the straw. There was a cherry on top of the melting
puff of whipped cream and when she plucked it up by the stem, she dandled
it in front of her mouth teasing it with the tip of her tongue and making
eye contact with the trucker as she popped it on in.
Mickey Lee was grumbling. The
girl had come from the motel, she was probably traveling solo, would have
been easy to grab. But the trucker was big as a goddam moose, and if she
picked him up, took him over to her room … he might not stay all night,
but Mickey Lee didn’t want any damn sloppy seconds.
Dwayne thought about that, almost
pointed out that was what he was usually left with, but didn’t say it.
Mickey Lee would be mad.
He mopped, but now he was thinking about the blonde girl and the trucker
in bed. He was big and hairy and she’d probably ride him like a mechanical
bull. That pretty little ass would be slapping on the trucker’s meaty,
hairy thighs. His big coarse hands could swallow up her titties.
The picture stuck in his mind
like a bone would stick in his throat. Mickey Lee was having the same thoughts,
not happy about it, griping.
Dwayne’s shift ended at eleven. The trucker had eased over to the girl’s
booth by then, and every time Dwayne looked at him he got a sick, burning
feeling in his stomach. The trucker made him think of guys in prison. The
ones who’d done things.
Betty offered him the usual piece
of pie and noticed him long enough to say that he didn’t look so good.
Vince heard that and snorted, and said that ol’ Duh-wayne never
looked good, just went from bad to worse. Betty scolded him, but she was
smiling behind her eyes, and Dwayne’s face was red and hot.
He said he didn’t feel good, turned
down the pie. Mickey Lee started in on him, wanting to know how much longer
he was going to take that shit. He was a good worker, never late, never
called in, never came in drunk like Arnie the night guy. Some thanks he
got, huh? Some fucking thanks.
Mickey Lee said that he wouldn’t
put up with it. He’d get a shotgun and blow both their heads into mush,
that’d teach them. Dwayne objected, since he sort of liked Betty even if
she could be a little mean sometimes. Like his mother.
Dwayne’s truck was parked at the
far corner of the lot. Technically, he wasn’t supposed to have one because
he didn’t have a driver’s license. He was a good driver, but he couldn’t
pass the test. It wasn’t his fault. He studied hard, he really did, but
things just ran out of his brain like water. He’d bought the truck for
eight hundred dollars, saved up, and it ran well enough even if it was
ugly and the camper cap on the back leaked when it rained. Which was almost
all the time here.
As he crossed to it, he pulled
out a big ring of keys from his pocket. He collected keys. Keys were wonderful
things. He picked up discarded ones when he found them on the sidewalk,
sometimes just took them.
Seeing the keys, knowing full
well that some of them were copies of pass keys from the motel – the assistant
manager had come over to the Blue Owl for dinner one night and left them
sitting on the metal shelf under the bathroom mirror – Mickey Lee got excited.
Dwayne wasn’t sure why he’d taken the keys at the time except to have them,
but this would be perfect.
The back of the truck was cluttered
with junk. Dwayne had a toolbox in there, and some rope, and a sheet of
canvas, and all sorts of stuff. Mickey Lee chose a screwdriver that had
been filed to a sharp point, while Dwayne preferred a crowbar.
The fog had turned to a gentle
rain, not enough to make the cap leak. Dwayne and Mickey Lee waited on
the far side of the truck, peeking around the corner. The Blue Owl was
open twenty-four hours a day, and got busy on the weekends, but on a Wednesday
(Dwayne thought it was Wednesday, at least according to the calendar he
crossed off each night when he went to bed), it was slow.
The girl came out zipping up her
jacket. The trucker was with her, the bastard. The slut. If they got into
the sleeper-cab of the eighteen-wheeler parked in the long slots, it was
all over. But they didn’t. They headed for the motel.
Room 17. Bottom floor. End of
the row. That was good.
At Mickey Lee’s suggestion, Dwayne
drove the pickup over next to a mouse-colored Toyota loaded up with luggage.
College girl? The university was only two towns over. Dwayne, having never
even finished high school, wasn’t sure but he thought classes had started
already. Maybe she’d been kicked out. Maybe she’d flunked out. Maybe she
wasn’t as smart as she thought.
The light was still on in the
window of room 17. Holding the keys in his fist so they didn’t jingle,
Dwayne listened. He could hear the gruff voice of the trucker, and a high
laugh from the girl.
Mickey Lee urged him to open it,
so they could do this before the trucker got into her. Dwayne wondered
what would happen if he asked if he could be first sometime, but figured
he probably already knew the answer to that one.
“We oughtta wait until they’re
doing it,” he whispered. “Catch them busy, naked.”
The look he got from Mickey Lee
would have cracked glass. Dwayne gave up on his argument and slid the key
Things went fast after that. Dwayne
had only brief, stuttering images, like the room had been lit by a strobe.
The girl, down on her knees with her head bobbing in the trucker’s lap.
The trucker, sitting on the edge of the bed, pants around his ankles, a
beer in one hand and the other fisted in the girl’s short blonde hair.
His surprised bellow, ending in a grunt as Dwayne swung the crowbar. A
spray of blood. The girl about to scream, stopping when she saw the screwdriver
near her eye. Her face pale, chin trembling.
Dwayne was harder than ever and
wanted to do her right here, but knew they couldn’t risk it. Someone might
have heard. Someone might come along.
To show they meant business, Mickey
Lee plunged the screwdriver into the trucker’s neck. It went in just under
his ear, with a wet pop that made Dwayne laugh.
The girl went for her purse so
suddenly that he guessed she had a weapon of her own in there. He whacked
her arm with the crowbar, broke it. She wailed, but the sound only barely
started when Mickey Lee stuffed a wadded-up washcloth from the small attached
bathroom into her mouth.
She had let the trucker get her
out of her shirt and her small, pert titties were on full display. Dwayne
copped a furtive feel, liking the way she cringed away from him, liking
the way those pretty blue eyes were swimming with tears.
Mickey Lee told him to knock it
off, that they were wasting time. So Dwayne swung the crowbar again, hitting
her in the head. She dropped. They’d brought some of the rope and tied
her up, then wrapped her into the motel bedspread and carried her out after
a quick check. No one was coming. Bound and gagged and wrapped in a blanket,
she was a long but light bundle.
With the girl in the back, and
the camper cap padlocked, Dwayne got behind the wheel. Mickey Lee was grinning,
and he caught his reflection where a dopey grin of his own turned his fleshy
face into something like a scary jack-in-the-box. He looked away.
A sliding window let him keep
an eye on the girl. She wasn’t moving except to roll with the motion of
the pickup as he drove. The road that he eventually turned off on was twisty
and bumpy. It would have been more comfortable to take her home, but not
safe. The walls in his apartment were too thin. When the cutting started,
so did the screaming, and it wouldn’t be as fun to leave her gagged. Mickey
Lee liked to hear it.
The road, really more of a dirt
track than anything else, brought them to a clearing high in the hills.
A plywood and tarpaper shack hunched at the edge of it like a puppy expecting
a swat with a rolled-up paper. A couple of rusty old junkers stood in the
Dwayne was almost breathless.
It had been a long time since they’d done a girl. He hadn’t felt safe enough,
after prison. Not even getting out of L.A., moving all the way to the other
end of the state, and having a new name had helped much. All that time,
Mickey Lee had been nagging at him, wanting to start up their games again,
but Dwayne had tried not to listen. Only now, when they had a new girl,
could he admit how much he’d missed it.
The shack didn’t look like much,
was drafty, and only had a kerosene lamp and heater between them and the
cold night. But it did have a metal post mounted in the floor … with places
to hook shackles … and there was a chest of shackles, pliers, and other
items in the corner.
He hadn’t dared do anything,
but he’d sure been thinking about it. Preparing for it. He and Mickey Lee
together. Knowing that all of Dwayne’s objections and protests would eventually
wear down. They couldn’t change what was in their blood. It was a need.
Like food. Like air.
Everything here would be perfect.
There was even a sinkhole not too far away. A natural opening in the earth,
slick-sided, deep. A flashlight couldn’t find the bottom except as a faint
shine on what might have been water. A body put down there might never
The girl was still out. She looked
smaller now. Not so tall. Not so confident. They left her jeans on because
it would be more fun to cut them off of her while she was awake, though
they did yank them down enough to see that it was a bird tattoo, a peacock
with its tail lowered instead of fanned out, unusual, pretty. Mickey Lee
insisted on making sure she was a real blonde – he hated it when one of
the girls turned out to have what he called “shadows in the basement when
there’s sunshine on the roof.”
This was the real thing. Satisfied,
Mickey Lee agreed to cover her up with the bedspread again.
Dwayne was tired. He’d put in
a full shift, and it could be hours before the girl woke up. There was
a cot along one wall. After making sure that Mickey Lee wouldn’t start
without him, he took off his shoes, stretched out, and slept.
Her refuge had become a cell. Hippolyta
woke with the knowledge that if she didn’t hear another voice tonight,
she would go mad. Assuming she hadn’t already.
Following her capture by the Coalition,
she’d spent nearly two-score nights in isolation. The experience had bent
her mind to the point that she was pitifully eager for company. Any company.
That had led her, in desperate loneliness, to sign the oaths that she had
She both did and did not regret
that course of action. Saving Daniel Harmond had been the right choice,
she knew. Even if it had ended in tragedy. She was a warrior, not an assassin.
But conversely, she had given her word!
And then she did hear another
voice, as clearly as if the speaker were standing at her elbow. More, she
identified the voice instantly.
“Your word, given under duress,
is not binding,” Goliath said.
Hippolyta whirled. It had been
so vivid, so real, that she was more surprised by the absence of
him than she would have been if he’d actually been there. Her heart skipped,
her throat went dry.
The cave was, except for her and
her assortment of ill-gotten belongings, empty. It could barely have held
great Goliath anyway, who would have had to stoop to avoid the low, uneven
ceiling and whose wings even half-extended would have scraped the walls.
Yet she had heard him.
She was so sure of it that it took her a few moments to come to a realization
of what he’d said.
Under duress … as a confession,
obtained under torture, was not considered valid. One might say or do anything
to end the suffering. Hers, while mental, had been no less painful.
Something loosened in her chest.
She uttered a small, gasping exhalation that was nearly a sob as an enormous
wave of relief rushed through her.
“They were never my clan,” she
said shakily. “Hunter, Hyena, Hellcat … they were no clan of mine. I was
never one of them, not in my heart.”
Goliath, whether there in spirit
or merely imagination, did not reply. She had no sense of presence and
knew that of course he had not been there. He was off in Manhattan, with
his clan and his human mate, and likely had no idea of her presence outside
None of that mattered. He had
spoken to her. Guided her. Given her the wisdom that should have been self-evident,
but that she could not have told herself.
Six weeks or more since she’d
fled Washington. She didn’t know the exact count of nights, as in the immediate
grief and distress of the events she had passed many of them in a daze.
Her last coherent contact with a human had been a young police officer.
After that, excepting a few lunatics encountered on the trains on which
she’d hitched rides, she had seen and spoken to no one.
She could not go on like this.
If she planned to while away her years living like a beast, hunkering in
her cave, why then she might as well tip herself into the sea at dawn.
Gargoyles protect. She was still
a gargoyle, a tarnished and fallen one perhaps, but she could not change
her nature any more than she could will away her wings.
Thus, she would protect.
So resolved, Hippolyta left her
cave and scaled the difficult route to the top of the hill. It would have
been impossible for any human without benefit of the climbing gear, pitons
in place of talons, ropes and harnesses to catch them in the sad absence
of wings. Standing atop it with the sea at her back, she looked south and
A road atlas she’d obtained in
her travels led her to believe the name of the town was Trinity Bay. It
meant nothing to her, except that there was indeed a bay. It was sheltered
on one side by a jutting promontory that would have made an even better
death-perch than hers, except that a large house stood proudly with sweeping
views all around. On the other side, the bay was bounded by a series of
rocky islands poking up from the water. Two of these were connected by
a narrow span of natural stone.
The bay itself was small and crescent-shaped.
Her keen eyes picked out a marina, and clusters and lines of lights marking
streets, neighborhoods. Many lives there, though from a distance it looked
most quiet and peaceful indeed.
Then again, so had the island
in the San Juans, and the town of Bellingham, where she and her dissident
clan had met the Jessecs. Those places had been deceptive to the eye, peaceful,
unsuspecting that the Coalition would bring violence and death to them.
A small protectorate. Still, if
they’d have her, it would be hers.
Feeling worlds better at the decision,
Hippolyta fetched her bow and quiver and launched herself into the wet,
misty air. The scent of redwoods and clean rain surrounded her. She was
astounded to realize that she had barely glided in weeks. Her wings were
stiff from disuse, though they limbered quickly as she put herself through
a series of aerobatic exercises.
For a while, she lost herself
in the pleasures of the sky and a healthy body. Dead to her clan, she might
be … but she still lived. That was what she had to remember.
She crisscrossed the town, staying
above the level of the streetlamps. Trinity Bay was tidy, well-kept. She
noted a hospital, schools, a square ringed by shops, cars moving on the
slick-black streets. No shouts for help. No shots. No Viking invaders or
Archmages or immortal kings in concert with corrupt gargoyles.
Some people were out and about
despite the weather, which they must have been used to by now. Hippolyta
passed through a patchwork quilt of scents and sounds as she skimmed the
buildings. Some were restaurants, emitting tantalizing aromas. From others
came music and laughter. She spied a movie theater advertising Jurassic
No one noticed her nearly-silent
passage above. Neither did she notice anything demanding of her attention,
and was about to call the whole thing off, soaring in a smooth arc over
a residential district, when she did spot something and descended for a
A group of fleet-footed figures
were dashing from one shadow to the next. Their stealth and their manner
instantly assured Hippolyta what they were up to – no good.
Pulse drumming in anticipation,
Further inspection revealed them
to be young males, smelling of beer, occasionally snickering and snorting
and shushing each other. They moved along a sleepy tree-lined avenue and
came to a large brick house set well back from the street. The yard was
dense with shrubs and bordered by a stone wall with a wrought-iron gate.
The males huddled outside, whispering
to each other. Something rattled, metal cans in their hands, and Hippolyta
smothered a disappointed groan. Was that all? Well, it was enough … they’d
The gate was unlocked – which
to her mind rather defeated the purpose of having one in the first place.
The boldest of the youths slipped through and paused, more alert than she
would have credited him, perhaps waiting to see if a guard dog patrolled
this yard. When none appeared, he beckoned and one by one the rest joined
him. The last carefully and quietly closed the gate behind him and they
proceeded, on tip-toe, toward the house.
Hippolyta alit on the gate, her
talons closing around the cold iron bar on the top. She folded herself
low, chest to her knees, tail curled, wings caped tight, hands braceleting
her ankles, eyes slitted. She waited.
Beyond sight, but not beyond hearing,
the youths went about their business. Spray cans hissed like a nestful
of snakes. She heard more stifled laughter. Then, finally, their hurried
They were nearly to the gate,
spending more time looking back over their shoulders than ahead. The leader,
the bold one, came to a sudden halt with an exclamation. The rest turned,
all of them studying this dark shape hunched atop the gate.
“What the hell is that?” one whispered.
“Too big to be a cat. Owl, maybe?”
The bold one took another step,
and reached out as if meaning to tap her foot and scare her away.
Hippolyta shot straight up to
her full height, her balance never faltering. In one liquid motion, she
thrust her arms above her head with claws hooked, and snapped her wings
to full extension. Scarlet light burst from her eyes, a shrill roar from
The youths screamed in perfect
choirboy harmony. They fell all over each other as their terrified bodies
tried to backpedal, spin, and flee all in the same instant. They clawed
at the grass, at the gravel path, at their companions, as each scrabbled
to his feet.
Their screams and shouts brought
lights on in houses all up and down the street. Hippolyta dove from her
perch and flew at the boys’ backs. She snatched the baseball cap from one’s
head, gave the leader a stinging welt on the buttocks with a well-placed
whip of her tail, and bowled two more over like ninepins.
She banked at the wall, straight
up the side of the house, over a slate roof. The porch light came on in
a blinding flare. As she circled into the cover of the trees, she saw the
loops and scrawls of paint on the front wall. Obscenities. Crude drawings.
‘Littleshit sucks.’ Similar sentiments.
The front door opened. A small,
older man with a balding pate and loose wrinkles of skin stood there in
a bathrobe, holding a stick. A woman in curlers, easily four inches taller
and forty pounds sturdier, crowded up behind him.
The boys beelined for the open
door, flinging aside their cans. One was clutching at his backside, another
at his hatless head. They were gibbering. The bewildered man raised his
stick – it glinted brass, a fireplace poker – but the obvious fright and
panic of the boys made him lower it and stand aside.
Hippolyta touched down on a branch,
chuckling and well pleased with herself. The commotion had drawn neighbors
from both sides and across the street. Voices rose and fell inside the
house. Some people came back out to survey the paint-job, then went back
in shaking their heads crossly.
Soon, a brown car with a blue
flasher mounted on the dashboard pulled up. Hippolyta ducked down and made
sure she was concealed.
A woman got out of the car. She
was short and wiry, almost boyish with her tan uniform and her hair cropped
short and spiky. But she walked with an aggressive stride that bespoke
confidence and capability, and as she entered the fan of porch light, Hippolyta
saw sharp features and darting eyes. Had her ears tapered, it would have
been easy to mistake her for some sprite of Avalon, not one of Titania’s
fawning fairies but a brownie armed with arrows of thorns.
She passed within, and soon the
ruckus calmed. The mist was thicker, the night quite cool, and those who
had been lingering outside had decided the better of it and gone home.
Other cars arrived not long thereafter and more pajamaed and slippered
humans arrived. They entered the house, emerging a while later each with
a youth in tow. Parents, then, coming to fetch their errant offspring.
The boyish, spritish police officer
stood on the porch and watched them go, delivering instructions in a tone
that brooked no argument. The boys were to return with the daylight and
clean up every speck of paint, personal apologies were to be delivered
to the Mittleschut family, and she would be in touch if additional charges
were to be filed.
The bold boy’s parents were the
last ones, and the father was livid. A large man with a peasant’s stocky
build and a truculent face, he shook his fist at the officer and announced
that she’d regret this, that he was going to sue, that when he found out
who’d hit his son there would be hell to pay and with interest! They couldn’t
get away with treating him like this, he’d show them, he’d sue the family,
the officer herself, the municipality … he knew people! He had a
“Get your boy home, Mr. Neeman,
before I cite you for disturbing the peace,” the officer said brusquely.
A thin, weary-looking woman pulled
pleadingly at his arm. The youth, still rubbing his backside where Hippolyta’s
lashing tail had split the seat of his pants, said nothing. The father,
Mr. Neeman, swelled up like a puffer-fish and blustered, spittle flying
from his lips. But, seeing only level sternness in the officer’s eyes,
he stormed off dragging his son by the elbow. Grumbling the way a receding
thundercloud might, unintelligible but menacing.
The bald, wrinkled man – he reminded
Hippolyta both of a newly-hatched sparrow, or a turtle that had somehow
lost its shell – cleared his throat nervously. “Officer Dansbourne --”
“Nyx, Mr. Mittleschut,” she corrected
with a one-sided grin. “I was in your biology class not eight years ago.”
This so completely threw the little
man off his track that he floundered and looked to his wife for help. She
stepped up beside him, a wide Slavic woman with an apple-cheeked face and
dark hair salted grey. “What do you think scared them like that?”
Nyx Dansbourne sniffed disdainfully.
“A bird or a cat. Their imaginations did the rest. Any idea what set them
“Rocky Neeman got an F on yesterday’s
test,” Mr. Mittleschut said. “His advisor told him that unless his grades
picked up, he’d be off the team.”
“That’d do it.” Nyx hooked her
thumbs into her belt and shook her head. “Sorry about this. But I’m pretty
sure it won’t happen again.”
“That Neeman blowhard won’t really
sue us, will he?” asked Mrs. Mittleschut.
“Oh, he’ll try. He’s not happy
unless he’s trying to sue somebody. But he hasn’t got a leg to stand
on. Don’t worry.”
With that, she headed for her
patrol car, with that same aggressive stride that she probably used on
all occasions, even on the mildest of errands. Energy almost crackled from
her like lightning.
Hippolyta pondered. Maybe this
was a human she could approach. Great Goliath and his clan, their first
human friend had been the police detective, Elisa Maza. They were in the
same line of work, after all. Protectors. Righters of wrongs.
Excepting that the police were
authorized to do it by human law, whereas gargoyles would be considered
vigilantes at best, obeying millennia worth of instincts but without sanction.
Doors had closed, lights were
going off again, and the sleep that had been disturbed on this street was
taking hold of its subjects once more. Hippolyta straightened up, and that
was when she saw the girl staring at her.
She froze. There, in an upstairs
window … she hadn’t come down, but watched, and seen more than the rest.
A teenager with straight black hair falling from a central part, a pale
and watchful face. Garbed, too, in black. Like a specter. Unblinking, uncanny
They looked at each other for
a long moment, girl and gargoyle. Hippolyta saw no shock, no fear in that
steady gaze. She wasn’t sure what she saw. Then the girl broke eye
contact and dropped the slats of a blind.
Shaken, Hippolyta leapt from the
tree and returned to her cave. She didn’t know what to make of that strange,
pale child nor of the feisty fey-like officer, but she was otherwise satisfied
with her night’s work. It felt good to have a function again. To act with
To feel like a gargoyle again.
Doing the first girl had opened
the floodgates. It was all Mickey Lee could talk about. He was high on
it, grooving on it, jazzed. Wanted to do it again.
Dwayne didn’t want to. It was
dangerous. Because he felt all the things that Mickey Lee did, but he’d
also had first-hand experience of the consequences.
They’d been lucky with the one
from the motel. The trucker had survived, but his brains were so scrambled
by the lick he’d taken from the crowbar that he didn’t remember what had
happened. The cops thought he might have done something to the girl and
she’d hit him in self-defense. They didn’t, though, have an explanation
for why her car and all her stuff was still there.
The cops had questioned everyone
who’d been at the Blue Owl that night. Especially Betty, Vince, and Dwayne
himself, who worked there. That had been a sweat for sure, and he’d been
sick to his stomach the whole time thinking he’d give it away. They didn’t
question Mickey Lee because they didn’t know about him, and to Dwayne’s
relief neither Vince nor Betty mentioned him.
The girls had a couple of routines.
This one had started off angry, swearing, threatening what she was going
to do when she got loose. Dwayne had expected that. She hadn’t seemed like
one who would cry and beg. When she saw that cussing wouldn’t work, she’d
switched to trying to make friends, like they had something in common.
She could help him lure and catch others; who’d suspect her?
That didn’t wash either. So she
offered her body, said she’d do anything so long as she wasn’t hurt. Stupid
slut. Like her body wasn’t already theirs to do whatever they wanted.
And oh, they wanted, and oh, they
did. Mickey Lee got her first, as usual, but in this case that was probably
lucky for Dwayne because there was still a lot of fight in her, even chained
up as she was. It took both of them to hold her down. But Mickey Lee liked
it rough, and by the end of it she was semiconscious and didn’t resist
when Dwayne took his turn.
He had genuinely hated having
to go to work the next evening. Had to. Had to act like everything was
normal, go through the motions. Not give anyone a reason to wonder about
him. Had to be there when the police came to question. What would it have
looked like if he’d called in? Not good. Suspicious.
So he’d gone to work, and the
whole time couldn’t stop thinking about lucky Mickey Lee, having her all
to himself. He’d nearly totaled the car getting back to the cabin, his
willie so hard it was hurting. The girl cursed at him and kicked at him,
almost nailed him in the balls, but she had been all day without food or
water and couldn’t do much else.
Then it was his weekend, and he
told Betty and Vince that he was going on a campout with some friends.
That left him free to spend all his time at the cabin so they could really
go to work on the girl. She was bleeding and bruised by then, and Mickey
Lee had left a ring of tooth-marks on her titty that would have given the
dentists plenty to go on. If they’d had Mickey Lee’s records, which they
didn’t because he never went to the dentist. And if anyone was ever going
to find the body, which they weren’t.
She quit swearing at them by the
end of the second day. Dwayne was familiar with this stage too, the lax
and lifeless one. Her mind shut down and took itself on vacation, wanting
to ignore what was happening to her body. But he and Mickey Lee had done
plenty of experiments and knew that the first cut usually brought them
all the way back, wide awake and screaming.
This time was no different. They
played with her with knives, shallow cuts, tic-tac-toe grids on her belly
(Mickey Lee always won; Dwayne never could get the hang of it). Hash marks
for each time they fucked her, laddered up her arm. Then the hammer. This
little piggie went to market, this little piggie stayed home. And the screwdriver.
And the pliers. And cigarettes, Mickey Lee stubbing out smoke after smoke
When they both had to leave for
a while, they wedged a glass bottle up her and told her she better be careful
how she moved, or else it’d break in there. Told her that if she was good,
when they got back they’d replace it with something better. Came back to
find her in exactly the same position, so they made good on their word
and each had her again.
By then, Mickey Lee was getting
bored with the holes they’d already tried, wanted her mouth. Dwayne thought
he was crazy. It sounded to him like a good way to get it bitten off. But
Mickey Lee had a plan for that, too. It involved the pliers. And her teeth.
She’d be welcome, he said, to gum him all she wanted; it’d probably feel
Except it didn’t go well. There
was a lot of blood, and she choked on some of the teeth. Strangled on them.
Went purple and died.
Mickey Lee was seriously pissed.
He straddled her head anyway and shoved it in, yelling at her the whole
time, yelling at her what a worthless bitch she was, telling her to suck
it, swallow it. She lay there with her eyes rolled up, and the gross squishy
noises as Mickey Lee did his business in her bloody swamp of a mouth made
Dwayne want to puke.
After that, they had to get rid
of her. Down the sinkhole. She slithered from sight, hit the bottom with
a splat. They chucked what was left of her clothes down after her, and
cleaned the place up. Nobody would ever know.
It should have been enough, but
as Dwayne found out, it only made Mickey Lee hungry for more. Him too,
though he didn’t like to admit it. He wanted another one, too.
Too dangerous. Mickey Lee called
him a wimp, but Mickey Lee hadn’t been in prison, didn’t know what it was
like in there. Didn’t know what would happen. They’d taken one big chance
already, one big chance too many. Enough.
It got so Mickey Lee was after
him every day. Pointing out girls. Always light-blondes, usually short
ones. Keeping Dwayne up at night talking about how they could do it next
Then he hit on Dwayne’s weak spot.
Said that he could go first next time.
That did it. The idea of being
first … “Can she be a virgin?” he asked, wringing his sweaty hands. “Always
wanted to break in a virgin.”
Mickey Lee scoffed and told him
they weren’t labeled.
“A young one, then. Fourteen,
Mickey Lee said it sounded good
to him, and they started looking. But while they kept their eyes open for
the perfect one, another just about fell into their hands.
She was hitchhiking, and as far
as Dwayne was concerned, that meant she deserved whatever she got. Didn’t
they tell girls like her anything? Nope, there she was, in
the rain with blond curly hair sticking out from the hood of a slicker,
thumb cocked, backpack on one shoulder.
They’d be fools to turn down a
gift like that, so Dwayne pulled over. The blonde had given him a single
long, searching look as if she could tell whether he was safe or not, and
climbed right in saying something about how beggars couldn’t be choosers.
That made him mad. Ungrateful, stupid slut. He’d punched her in the head
before he put the pickup in gear.
Mickey Lee was true to his word.
He let Dwayne be first. To make it easier for him, they’d tied the girl’s
wrists behind her and made her lay on them, and gagged her because once,
a girl they’d thought was out of spirit had suddenly tried to take a piece
out of Dwayne’s ear.
She revived, naked on the coarse
blanket, and her eyes – they were green, pretty eyes, the sort of eyes
that Dwayne wouldn’t have minded slicing out of her head and keeping as
mementos – went all big as she realized what was going to happen. Mickey
Lee hung back and smoked and made comments as Dwayne cut away her clothes.
She bucked and struggled, but they’d done a good job tying her.
First! He got to be first for
a change! The other girl had been trimmed, but this one was bushy and curly.
She started crying when he cut her panties off. Closed her eyes and turned
her head away as he knelt between her legs. Going to try and ignore it.
Well, he’d see about that. One good push, and he was sure he’d have her
He was so excited he could barely
stand it. Hard as a railspike, as his pop had always said. Huge. She would
never be able to pretend she didn’t feel that going into her.
Except that he lost control and
squirted all over her leg before he could get there. Mickey Lee laughed
and laughed, slapping his knee, howling.
Dwayne figured he went a little
crazy then. That was the only explanation. One minute, he was kneeling
there, the girl helpless and wide open. The next thing he knew, Mickey
Lee was shaking him, shouting, calling him a bastard. And the girl was
He couldn’t remember what had
happened. Only that he’d been so mad. Mickey Lee said he’d flipped,
grabbed a mallet in the open tool box by the cot, and let her have it –
pow! – between the eyes. Smashed in her forehead. Probably killed
her instantly, but kept at it while Mickey Lee was too stunned to move.
Until her face was red mush.
They didn’t talk much after that.
Dumped the girl down the sinkhole with the other one. Cleaned up in silence.
Went back to Dwayne’s place and watched crap on television.
The next day, they started looking
Hippolyta enjoyed her new self-imposed
task. She spent her evenings on solitary patrol of Trinity Bay, and while
there was never much to do, she was not wholly bored.
She spotted a speeding car one
night, swerving wildly as it sought to evade the flashing lights of its
pursuers, and after ascertaining that there were no other cars ahead, swooped
down at the windshield and so startled the driver that he careened into
a ditch. She watched from hiding as he was pulled from the wreck, raving
about devils and stinking of whiskey strong enough to make the eyes water.
On another occasion, she intervened
when a dispute between two shaggy, unkempt men turned violent. One had
drawn a knife but lost hold of it when his wrist was seized in hard copper-colored
talons. That one had nearly turned troublesome, for the two men immediately
forgot their grievances against each other and turned on her, but she was
able to dispatch them both without permanent harm.
The closest she’d come to danger
was when she followed Officer Nyx Dansbourne on a call responding to a
domestic altercation. A violent man had cornered his estranged woman in
the apartment they’d formerly shared, and was yelling that he’d kill her
if anyone tried to come in, he had a gun and he would kill her. The woman
could be heard weeping, wailing for help.
While Nyx Dansbourne and another
officer, a tall gangly fellow she called Scribner, milled around out front
discussing what they should do, Hippolyta took matters into her own talons.
The apartment was on an upper floor and the man was only covering the front
approach. She glided over, landed on the balcony. Through a gap in the
curtains she could see damaged furniture and the woman, who was curled
in a corner, her dress torn, her lip bloodied.
Hippolyta slid the balcony door
open. It did not go quietly but scraped and clattered. The man by the door
spun, bringing up a black and utterly evil-looking pistol. He was quick,
she gave him that, but she was quicker by far. Draw-nock-fire, and the
gun was shot from his hand. Draw-nock-fire again, and he was shrieking
as he was pinned to the back of the door by his palm.
She darted in, slinging her bow,
and scooped the woman into her arms. The dazed and hysterical human did
not seem to notice the race of her rescuer but clung with arms around Hippolyta’s
neck. The man made one attempt to pull out the arrow and only one, sobbing
and squealing. He slid down the door instead, groped and found the gun.
Footsteps, running footsteps.
The police. Hearing that something had gone bizarrely wrong, charging the
apartment. Hippolyta sprang from the balcony, bearing the woman with her.
A gunshot, tearing-fluttering
a hole in the curtains, grazing Hippolyta’s wing strut like a line of acid.
And then away, down and away, spiraling to the grassy playyard below. She
deposited the confused woman by a children’s swingset, hearing crashes
and another shot from above.
The situation resolved itself
as she watched. The officers seemed mystified by how the woman had gotten
four floors down in one piece, and Dansbourne came out with two arrows,
one blood-streaked, poking at clear plastic evidence bags.
A few nights later, having forsaken
hunting in favor of patrol and having come near the end of her store of
food, she decided to risk direct contact. She had made a cowled cloak from
the skins of animals, a mismatched coat of many hides, but dispensed with
it, knowing that it would not disguise her.
So, in the dead hours of the night
when the town seemed at its slowest, she landed on the street and walked
into a 24-hour donut shop and bakery. The aroma of bready goodness had
been too tempting to resist any longer. Her kind needed meat, but they
had a weakness for breads.
The interior was bright but somehow
dingy, the bulbs in yellow-shaded ceiling fixtures, mustard-hued linoleum
on the floor and rising halfway up the walls, off-white paint on the rest.
To her left was a long bulletin board papered with notices and ads. The
metal tables were topped with burnt-orange Formica, the stools with vinyl
that almost matched. Each table held a chrome napkin dispenser and a dish
of sweetener packets. A low bench by the door was piled with newspapers
A bell over the door jangled as
she came in, and moments later in response to its summons, a thin young
man emerged from the back. He jerked to a halt on the other side of a display
case full of donuts, his jaw hanging to his collarbones.
Hippolyta scanned the blackboard
hanging above the counter. She wasn’t proud of the cash register at the
surplus store, the one she’d broken into and gathered the money, but necessity
had demanded. Now she checked prices, and pulled a handful of crumpled
bills from one of her many pockets.
“I would have a dozen assorted,
please,” she said. “And six cartons of milk.”
A peculiar noise emerged from
the man’s slack mouth. He was pale, and such a rash of angry red bumps
stood out on his face that Hippolyta almost reconsidered, before realizing
he was afflicted with a common human skin ailment and not some deadly pox.
“A dozen assorted and six cartons
of milk,” she repeated, slower and a little louder. She put the bills on
the counter and nudged them at him.
The bell jangled. In the curve
of the case’s glass front, Hippolyta saw a short, wiry image in a brown
uniform, and heard a crisp voice.
The counterman’s eyes shifted
to her, but he still couldn’t make sensible words. Hippolyta turned partway
and glanced at Nyx Dansbourne, who returned her gaze evenly but with keen
“She wants donuts,” Lester blurted.
“She got money?”
“So make with the donuts. Simple
He shook all over like a wet dog,
snapped out of it, and fumbled a white cardboard box down from a stack.
He jabbed randomly with tongs at the donuts.
“Thank you,” Hippolyta said.
“S’nothing. Thought I’d see you
in here eventually.”
Her brow ridge quirked up. “You
are not shocked?”
“Nope. Wasn’t I telling my boss
not six months ago that what we needed was a gargoyle around here? They
like working the night shift, I said. New York’s got them, I said. But
he tells me, Nyx, New York’s got lots of things we don’t. Like an officer
roster more than six names long. I’m Nicole Dansbourne, but everyone calls
me Nyx. You?”
Nyx stuck out a hand. Hippolyta
clasped forearms with her, belatedly understanding the woman had expected
“How long have you known?” Hippolyta
asked as Lester the Incredible Gaping Fool hit himself in the cheekbone
with the refrigerator door as he went to get the cartons of milk.
“Eva Mittleschut saw you out her
bedroom window the night we busted Rocky Neeman and his spray-paint buddies.”
“You believed a child.”
“You haven’t met Eva. She was
“Figure of speech. But she doesn’t
make up stories. If she saw a gargoyle, she saw a gargoyle. End of discussion.
I’ve been keeping my ears and eyes open ever since. Got some arrows down
at HQ that belong to you.”
“May I have them back or must
I answer for shooting that man?”
“That’s up to the chief. Come
on, Lester, if we don’t get our donuts in thirty minutes, they’re free.”
Lester jumped, stammered. “Really?”
“Oh, God help me,” Nyx said. “Just
hurry it up, would you?”
“Sure. Sure.” He picked up Hippolyta’s
money, rang the total up wrong, tried again, and finally figured it out.
He held out her change and then visibly realized he’d have to get close,
almost even touch her. His hand twitched and coins spilled on the counter.
Hippolyta swept them up and dumped
them in her pocket. She took the box, which had the six cartons balanced
on it, and moved back to let Nyx step up.
“Large coffee and a cinnamon twist.”
She took off her cap, ran her fingers through her spiky gingerbread hair,
and put it back on. “My dad was a cop, chief of police for almost fifty
years,” she said conversationally. “Knew I’d never be anything else. But
I told myself, I swore, that I wouldn’t end up munching donuts in
my cruiser. Funny how life works, isn’t it?”
“You should eat them in here,”
Hippolyta said. “Not in the cruiser.”
Nyx laughed. “Take the loophole,
huh? Nah, I’m on duty. What about you? Eating here?”
The look on Lester’s face was
one of abject terror, and Hippolyta smiled. “Perhaps not.”
“C’mon, then. I’ll give you the
So it was that, with a box of
donuts on her lap, Hippolyta found herself in the front seat of a brown
police cruiser. Nyx drove around the one-way streets that girded the parklike
town square, which she called the Plaza. Then past the marina, and up a
winding road to the large house Hippolyta had noticed before. It was called
Seacliff, according to Nyx, and had been abandoned since an earthquake
had collapsed part of the bluff.
Subtle tensions in her voice made
Hippolyta suspect that Nyx was, if not precisely lying, neither being entirely
truthful. There was more, far more, to the tale than she was being told.
But it would have been rude to press and so she did not.
“You’re the one who was in the
news, right?” Nyx asked, cutting into her own travelogue of the town
Hippolyta wiped sugary glaze from
her mouth and looked at her warily. “The news?”
“You’re the one who saved Daniel
Harmond’s life up in Seattle two months back.”
His name pierced her. “I tried.
I failed him.”
“Failed? Two saves in one week?
Sounds to me like you’re being too hard on yourself.”
“Two … what?”
“The kidnapping thing, and then
the assassination attempt at the party. You’ve been a busy lady.”
A strange cold and prickling feeling
had overtaken Hippolyta’s skin and stomach. She let a half-eaten maple
bar fall from her fingers. “But he died.”
“No, he didn’t. Some wunderkind
doctor pulled him through with heroic surgery.”
The prickling feeling spread through
her flesh and into her bones. “Daniel … he lives? He truly lives?”
“Yeah, it was in all the papers.
Wait … you didn’t know?”
“I thought he had died. A policeman
told me. I …” Words abandoned her, leaving her as tongue-tied as Lester
“You really did, didn’t you? Whoa.”
Nyx patted her on the shoulder as casually as she might have a fellow human,
further discomfiting Hippolyta. “Tell you what. It’s getting late. I’m
off tomorrow night so why don’t you swing by my place? Have dinner with
me and Ma. I’ve got a bunch of newspapers stored up, magazines too. Catch
you up on current events.” She pressed a card with an address written on
it into Hippolyta’s hand.
“I … I shall,” Hippolyta said,
hardly able to believe it. Hardly able to believe any of it.
She was barely aware of Nyx letting
her out at the end of the Agate River Bridge. Her half-eaten box of donuts
was tucked absently under one arm. Like a creature in a dream, she stepped
up on the rail and vaulted over, the river a dark ribbon below as she returned
automatically to her cave.
Daniel, alive! Stolen back from
the brink by the young clone of Anton Sevarius, she had no doubts. The
teenage boy with the mind and memories of a very disturbed adult man. Or
… and this thought was a fresh wave of prickling chill having nothing to
do with wonder and everything to do with horror … had Sevarius done something
other than lifesaving surgery? His area of expertise was cloning. Near
and dear to his heart, for deeply personal reasons.
He wouldn’t have. Couldn’t. Gregory
and Cecily Harmond wouldn’t have allowed it.
But they were so certain, so intent,
that their son would be the next President. They and the Illuminati. A
plan generations in the making. Would they be stopped by something as mundane
She knew so little of the science,
despite hours spent listening to young Sevarius brag. They could grow a
clone to adulthood in a matter of weeks, that much she remembered. And
they could, as Sevarius himself proved, transfer memories and personality
from one to another.
Had that been done to Daniel?
How would she ever know?
Dwayne was the one pressuring for
it this time. And Mickey Lee, mean bastard that he was, took the other
side and went on about how they shouldn’t risk it. Too dangerous. Might
get caught. Cops might already be looking for the missing girls, noticing
As far as Dwayne cared, none of
that mattered. He wanted his dibs, dammit. Mickey Lee had promised. Wasn’t
his fault that it hadn’t worked out.
Mickey Lee laughed at him, in
a sneery sort of way that made Dwayne turn red. He’d thought Mickey Lee
was his friend, his only real friend, and to have him laugh like that,
like the kids in school had laughed, hurt him more than he wanted to let
But Mickey Lee was maybe right
to laugh. Dwayne had been right there, ready to do it, ready to be first,
and everything had gone off too soon. Like a kid. Like that first time
at the lake with Penny Dutton, their third date and he knew she was thinking
about breaking up with him and that it might be his last chance, and he’d
kept pushing her to drink beer and she got silly enough to let him but
not so silly that she couldn’t remember. It was all over school the next
day. How he’d tried. How he’d spurted all over her. The way she’d made
fun of him.
Killing the girl like that, too
… not good. He could have waited. Would have gotten it up again in just
a few minutes. There hadn’t been any reason, any need, to beat her head
in that way.
He resolved to do better next
time. And there would be a next time. Soon. He made that clear to
Mickey Lee, and also made it clear that if Mickey Lee wasn’t going to help
him, then Dwayne would have all the fun and Mickey Lee could do without.
That worked. Mickey Lee wasn’t
about to miss out. He apologized, and they started watching for the next
girl. But it was like word had gotten out and all the cute little blondies
were staying away from the Blue Owl. The one time Dwayne saw a hitchhiker
on the way home, it turned out to be a skinny guy with the long messy hair
and beard, Birkenstock sandals, and ‘legalize hemp’ button of a leftover
hippie. Lots of those in the area, like they never realized the 60’s were
The need built up, until Dwayne
was having trouble thinking about anything else. He slacked at work, not
meaning to, but he’d start wiping the tables or mopping the floor and he’d
get to fantasizing about blond bushes and perky titties and forget everything
It made Betty scold him, and he
was so keyed up that if she hadn’t been dumpy and nowhere near blond, he
might have tried to get her. During some dead time when there weren’t any
customers and Vince went out back for a cigarette. If Vince came back,
too bad for him. They’d handled the trucker. They could handle him.
He started cruising for girls.
Would have been easier if he was after a hooker. They had those down in
Eureka. A long drive, but they’d come along willingly once he flashed them
the fifty he had hidden away for special occasions.
Except that Dwayne didn’t want
a hooker. He wanted to be first.
Then, a Friday night as he was
waiting at one of Trinity Bay’s only traffic lights, he saw the perfect
girl. Young. Maybe fourteen, fifteen … looked twelve. Curly light-blond
hair. Round face with pink cheeks, dimples. Braces. Jacket hanging open.
A pair of small bumps under a Flirty Boys t-shirt. Chattering on the corner
with a bunch of friends.
Dwayne looked away. He didn’t
want the girls to see him, because they’d point and laugh, look at that
poor pathetic dork checking us out, wouldn’t go out with him on a bet.
That was something they’d remember later when the police asked about their
He pulled into a parking spot
and cut the engine. In his rearview mirror, he saw the girls go into the
Fine by him. He’d wait.
Kaylee Neeman was enjoying herself
at her brother’s expense. Finally, for what was probably the first time
ever, Rocky was in trouble. Their father hadn’t been able to turn a blind
eye to this one, not when everybody had heard all about how Rocky and his
idiot chums had been caught spray-painting Mr. Mittleschut’s house.
Rocky couldn’t weasel out of it,
and Dad had to punish him. Grounded for a month. The money Rocky had been
saving up for an X-Box going to pay for damages.
The boys claimed there had been
something in the yard with them. Something that had knocked them over and
hit Rocky (and scared the pee out of them, too, not that they’d admit it).
Dad was hoping there’d be a lawsuit in it, but nobody else had seen anything.
Except now, some people in town
were talking. Rumors were going around. Trinity Bay had its very own gargoyle.
This news sent John Neeman into
a righteous frenzy. If there was some winged vigilante flying around, assaulting
innocent teenagers – convenient, how Rocky was innocent even caught red-handed,
literally thanks to his choice of paint – then he was going to sue the
horns off of it. But some of his bowling buddies had pointed out to him
that, assuming there was a gargoyle, why, they didn’t have jobs,
money, assets. Nothing to gain by suing one.
Dad had been in a fuming black
mood ever since, and some of it spilled over onto Rocky. If he had to get
hit, Dad said, how come he couldn’t get hit by someone that could be legally
sued for it? Rocky should, Dad said, pick his fights better.
Mom, Kaylee, and her sisters wisely
said nothing. They were used to their father’s ways, used to being ignored
in favor of their do-no-wrong brother. A houseful of girls, all just burdens
in John Neeman’s eyes.
It was really nice to see Rocky
suffering some overdue consequences. Nice to know that he was sitting at
home while everybody who was anybody at Trinity Bay High (fight, Tigers,
fight for the good old orange and white!) was having a lively Friday night
on the town.
Buffy’s Third Movie had
finally reached their theater so they could see it without having
to find rides all the way to Eureka’s Bayshore Mall. After that, cokes
and pizza and video games at Galaxy West.
Kaylee, Eva, and Jenny chipped
in for a gigantic bucket of popcorn to share. As usual, Kaylee felt like
the baby of the bunch. Jenny had been the early bloomer in their class,
and while Eva was flat as a board, she was tall and acted older than her
years. Kaylee was cursed with late-onset everything, her only consolation
being that she was yet to experience her first pimple.
The movie was great, but even
better was the Flirty Boys ad for Pepsi that came on beforehand. Joey Mack
didn’t have a shirt on and was slinking around like a panther in leather
pants. Jenny nearly spilled the popcorn.
After the movie, they went over
to Galaxy West with everyone else, but the games were too stupid to be
cool and there weren’t any neat boys around, so they left. Jenny set off
for the shortcut through the woods that led to her house, which was up
on the bluff near Seacliff. Eva walked with Kaylee as far as Cedar Street,
then they said good-bye and went in different directions.
Kaylee hummed the Flirty Boys
Pepsi jingle as she walked. She could see her house up ahead, at the end
of the street. Lots of lights on. Mom moaned every time the electric bill
came, tried to get everyone to watch TV together, but they could never
agree on a program.
A pickup truck was coming up slowly
behind her, rolling just above walking speed like the driver was searching
for an address. She wished him luck. Most of the houses here had their
numbers hidden by bushes, or so dark that it was no good at all. The city
came around every few years and painted them on the curbs in sharp black
and white, but they were due for a new coat.
She glanced at the guy in the
driver’s seat as he went by. He was hunched over, the dash lights making
him look like a zombie. Pale face, staring eyes. Kind of creepy, really.
Like he was going to stop and offer her candy, or ask if she’d seen a lost
He didn’t stop. The truck rolled
past her. It had a shabby camper cap on the back and an ancient, peeling
bumper sticker reading: I don’t drive fast, I fly low. She figured it had
probably been on there since the truck’s previous owner. This guy drove
like a nearsighted old lady.
Half a block up, he pulled over
and parked. Kaylee slowed as he got out. Tallish, skinnyish, old – twenty-eight
at least – and ugly. His face was scrunched up like a pug dog’s
and his eyes were too close together. He gave her the creeps.
Kaylee didn’t want to walk by
him, but she had to get home. If she hesitated here or crossed the street
to get away from him, it’d probably make him feel bad. Ugly people had
So she stuffed her hands in the
pockets of her jacket and hurried on. Mumbled, “hi.” Didn’t want to be
He walked behind her.
She went a little faster. Any
more, and she would really look like she was hurrying to get away from
him. Poor guy probably got treated like that a lot. It wasn’t his fault
he was creeping her out.
Her house was a block away. The
minivan was in the driveway, but Dad’s car was gone. Bowling night.
The guy grabbed her.
It was sudden and startling, but
on some level she’d been waiting for this. He threw one arm around
her waist, the other around her head, a dirty hand trying to cover her
mouth as he yanked her backward against him. Kaylee screamed, but he muffled
most of it and the sound didn’t carry more than a few yards.
He hauled her feet off the ground.
Stronger than he looked. Breathing in her ear. Hot and excited. Grunting
something, telling her to hold still and she wouldn’t get hurt.
She believed that about as much
as she believed Joey Mack was going to ask her to the prom.
Kaylee kicked and fought. He was
carrying her toward the truck. His grasp slipped and she almost got away,
sucking in a breath. She would scream, scream like a fire engine –
A fist rammed into her stomach.
Kaylee reeled, breathless, retching. She was on the sidewalk without knowing
how she got there, palms and knees scraped, jeans torn, purse flying off
into the hedge.
Footsteps pattered nearer. Sounded
like five or six people. Neighbors to the rescue.
She rose, saw the pickup truck
through dizzy eyes, and doubled fists hit her across the back of the head.
Colors – not stars, but warped amoeboid blobs – burst in her vision. She
was down again. The side of her face resting on the faded black and white
numbers painted on the curb. Going foggy and grey around the edges.
Hands on her. Lifting her. The
raised door of the camper cap like a mouth. Shoved in. Tinted plastic windows.
Smells of oil, sweat. A scratchy blanket. A man’s voice, or maybe two of
them, whispering and hissing a steady stream of dirty words. Panic slashing
like a knife through the haze in her head. Sitting up, striking the low
roof, falling down.
Blazing beams of light, bright
even filtered through the tinted glass. Then a revolving blue, and the
bleat of a siren.
Kaylee, her head throbbing, tried
to sit up again. As she did, the pickup roared to life. Tires screeched.
She was tossed against the cap’s door with such force that she thought
it would pop open and fling her into the street. Didn’t happen. It held.
The lights were receding, then
closing. The pickup swerved, throwing Kaylee around some more. The last
of her luck ran out when her head collided with a metal box, and she blacked
“Kind of weird to be taking advantage
of you like this,” said Nyx Dansbourne. “I mean, it’s my job.”
“It is my purpose,” Hippolyta
replied. “Gargoyles protect. I’d lost sight of that for a time, and you
cannot know how good it is to regain.”
“I thought cops had an overblown
sense of duty. More than that for you, though.”
Hippolyta shrugged. “If I am to
stay here, I am bound to protect my home and its people. If there is a
threat, I should know and be forewarned.”
“That’s just it. We don’t know
yet if there is a threat. A couple of missing women isn’t much to
go on. No reason to start seeing serial killers around every corner.”
“Even so, I shall be on guard.”
“What do you get out of this?
You’re not getting paid, you’re not getting recognition, zip. Most of the
people you’re protecting don’t even know you exist.”
“That is for the best. As for
payment, or recognition, I do not need these things.” She grinned. “I think
that you would be the same. If there was no job that did what you do, wouldn’t
you still do it?”
“Maybe,” sighed Nyx. “I never
thought about it.”
She perked up. They had been parked
on a side street off the Plaza, monitoring the activities of Trinity Bay’s
younger crowd on the first clear Friday night of the year. A few of the
kids had brown bags that likely held beer or wine, but Nyx didn’t bother
much with them. “Unless one of ‘em gets behind the wheel,” she added. “Mostly,
I want to make sure nobody started beating on anybody else.”
Hippolyta looked around, expecting
to see just that as Nyx’s posture changed to one of interest and alertness.
She saw no brawls, just some kids singly and in groups strolling about.
“That pickup,” Nyx said.
The vehicle she indicated had
been there for quite some time, but thinking back Hippolyta realized she
hadn’t seen anyone get out. Now the engine was running. It backed slowly
out of its parking slot and proceeded, still at a snail’s pace, down the
“He must have napped,” she ventured.
“Don’t think so. He was waiting
for someone. Look at that, he’s tailing those girls.”
Blinking, the verb having somewhat
different connotations where she was from, Hippolyta translated and understood.
True enough, the pickup was idling as one of a trio of young females split
off. It crept after the two who remained. And yes, Nyx was right, there
was something sinister and predatory in it, if nothing she could specifically
put a talon on.
“You suspect malice.”
“Comes with the territory.” She
turned the key in the cruiser’s ignition. “Two can play at this game.”
They followed. Slow. Discreet.
Hung back and observed as the two girls went their separate ways, the pickup
taking the same route as the short flaxen-haired one. Given what they’d
just been discussing, the missing women, both of them fair, Hippolyta gave
voice to her thoughts and Nyx grimly nodded.
“Could be. Hang on, he’s stopping.
The girl must be one of the Neemans. She’s going by him now … shit!”
Quick as Nyx’s reactions were,
the brief struggle was over and the girl secured in the covered back of
the truck by the time she’d gotten close and hit the high beams and flasher.
She flipped the siren once to make sure she got the driver’s attention.
He was pinned for a moment like
an animal, eyes wide and glassy in the harsh light. Nyx opened her door
preparatory to jumping out, and the movement broke his trance. He raced
for his own door, leaped in, gunned the engine. The truck’s tires smoked
and squealed. Nyx, cursing as impressively as Loki himself, got back in
and gave chase.
Hippolyta uttered an oath of her
own, because her bow and quiver were in the back seat and a partition of
sturdy wire prevented her from getting to them. She rolled down her window
as the cruiser sped down residential streets, spates of blue light spinning
across the fronts of houses.
“What are you doing?” called Nyx
over the roar of the wind.
“I am no good to you confined
in here,” Hippolyta said.
She undid her seat belt and boosted-wriggled
out the window to climb onto the roof. Clinging there by all four sets
of claws, her wings tucked tight, she worked her way to a precarious position
from which she could open the back door.
Nyx was shouting at her, something
about being out of her mind, but Hippolyta didn’t bother responding. She
snaked her tail down through the open door and hooked out her bow, her
quiver. A low trailer of leafy vine caught in her brow ridge but snapped
before it could dislodge her from the roof.
The car bulleted onto an open
stretch of road. The pickup truck was ahead, red taillights like rat’s
eyes in the distance. It was headed for the selfsame bridge that Hippolyta
knew so well.
The wind tore at her. She crouched,
and then sprung. Her wings unfurled and she rose like a kite in a strong
updraft. Now she had the bird’s eye view of the chase, and the advantage
because beyond the bridge, the road went into an ascending series of curves
It occurred to her that she might
get that young girl killed if she made the car go off the road, but it
further occurred to her that the man could not have abducted her for benign
reasons and if he was indeed of the stripe of killer that Nyx had so vividly
described, it would be a blessing to his victim to die quickly rather than
suffer the violations and torments he’d have in mind. She readied an arrow,
chose her moment, and shot out the front left tire.
The tire went with a bang and
a flatulent flapping sound. The truck veered. Its side kissed the rocky
scree of the mountainside, showering sparks. The driver wrenched the wheel
the other way and overdid it, thumping off the gravelly shoulder and nearly
tumbling into a ditch before recovering. He slowed drastically.
Nyx’s cruiser caught up, harrying
him, siren full-fledged howling now. She tapped his back bumper and almost
coaxed him into a spin but he sped up again.
Hippolyta shot at the other front
tire, missed as the truck slalomed wildly. Her arrow wedged in the hood
like a lone porcupine quill.
Too late, she realized that the
road led into a tunnel cut through the mountain. She pulled up bare instants
before she would have flattened herself like that coyote in the cartoon
shows Hyena had so liked to watch. The truck vanished into the dark gap
with Nyx’s car close behind.
She wheeled in the air, shouldering
her bow, and dove.
A gunshot, magnified and echoing,
boomed hollowly out of the tunnel.
The tire was gone, the rim making
a hellish noise on the tarmac. Worse, the arrow – an arrow, of all
things! – had done something to the engine. Steam was spitting out around
the shaft and the engine had developed a groaning clunk.
Dwayne stopped. He didn’t know
where the hell an arrow had come from, was frantic in his terror.
The police were here. They’d found him. Caught him. They’d send him back
And he’d been so close! He had
the girl! Had held her in his arms and knew, just knew that she
was a virgin. His. He’d be first, finally first … but here were the police
to ruin everything.
He could hear a woman shouting,
ordering him out of the car, hands over his head, do it and do it now.
Blubbering, he opened his door. Through a sheen of tears he could see her,
a short tough thing in the backsplash of the headlights, holding a gun
“Down on the ground!” she barked.
“Arms out at your sides.”
Then anger boiled up in Dwayne.
He snatched up the crowbar and rushed her, waving it.
She shot him.
Pain exploded in his leg. Hot,
raving pain like a hive of maddened wasps. Dwayne was down and screaming,
the crowbar clanging loudly in the tunnel. He clutched his leg and found
a pulsing mass of raw meat just above the knee, and his own touch sent
agony streaking through him. He writhed and shrieked.
“Mickey Lee! Help me!” he begged
as the cop ran up to him.
And Mickey Lee was there.
Close on the heels of the gunshot
and its attendant shrieks and pleas for help came a vicious smack, as of
a hard and solid blow upon flesh. And a cry, a human cry of pain in a voice
that Hippolyta knew.
She folded her wings and let momentum
carry her into the maw of the tunnel. She saw Nyx, laid out on the pavement
but stirring, groaning. One side of her face was a sheet of blood. More
glistened, dark and wet as ink, across the segmented line down the center
of the road. A crowbar, discarded, made an exclamation point of accusation.
The truck revved and belched smoke
from its tailpipe as it accelerated away from the scene.
Hippolyta landed at a run, came
to a halt beside Nyx. She was mumbling thickly, the words unintelligible.
Her gun was still firmly in her fist, the smell of its discharge detectable
even over the scent of blood.
“Girl,” Nyx said with difficulty.
Her cheekbone had been broken, the skin split, and blood was seeping from
her ear. She looked up at Hippolyta. “Shot … crazy … help the girl.”
“You need a physician, a healer.”
She bent to gather up Nyx, but her efforts were feebly batted away.
“What?” Then it came to her. Not
‘bag up,’ but ‘back up.’ Nyx had radioed in, and her fellow officers were
on the way.
Nyx sagged, grappling for consciousness
with an indomitable but losing will. “Girl!” she said with the last of
“I shall find her,” Hippolyta
The ghost of a half-smile, and
even that painful, was the best Nyx’s damaged face could do.
Hippolyta stood tall, senses keened.
Yes, there was the far but nearing banshee song of another siren. Nyx’s
injuries were not life-threatening, and time was ever fleeter.
She set off at a swift lope, on
all fours with her bow beating the rhythm of her pace against her back.
The asphalt was scored with fresh scrapes from the bare rim of the pickup’s
front wheel. The tracks meandered back and forth across the yellow line,
swerving from lane to lane. Crippled. Fighting for control.
At the end of the tunnel, she
scaled its arched edge of concrete blocks and took to the air. She paced
the course of the road, and soon saw the red-eyed shadow of the truck.
It was clanking and steaming, crippled indeed, but forcing itself gamely
Nyx hitched on her fanny and elbows
to the open driver’s door and levered herself into the seat. The movement
tipped the balance of nausea and she leaned forward again, vomiting between
Concussion. Maybe a broken ankle,
He was crazy. Dangerous-crazy.
And she hadn’t been able to coherently warn Hippolyta.
She’d shot the bastard in the
leg, blown his kneecap. The sort of wound that needed surgery, maybe amputation.
Crutches. Weeks of physical therapy sessions.
But he’d gotten up.
It was the weirdest thing she’d
He’d been sprawled there, holding
onto his leg and bawling. He’d yelled for help from someone named Mickey
Lee, and Nyx had looked at the truck. Expecting another guy to come lunging
out, maybe with a shotgun. Her attention had been diverted from the man
on the ground, but out of the corner of her eye she’d seen the amazing
change come over him. His expression had gone from agonized to calculating,
and he’d pistoned out both feet. Both! Never minding the gush of blood
and grinding of pulverized bone.
His heels caught her square in
the ankle. Brittle, sharp pain.
Before she knew what had happened,
he was up. Shouldn’t have been possible. The man should not have been on
his feet before Easter. Yet there he was. Moving fine on his maimed leg.
He’d gotten his hands on the dropped crowbar as he came.
She remembered raising the gun,
and then the world had gone white. Like being inside a flashbulb. Then
she was down. Teeth rattling in their sockets. Blood in her mouth. Maybe
she’d had time to cry out. Didn’t know.
Cloudy impression of the man she’d
shot, not just standing or limping or walking but running to the
pickup truck, leaving puddles of blood but apparently not feeling it. He
swung in, slammed the door, and sped away just as a leathery whooshing
heralded Hippolyta’s arrival.
Mickey Lee wrestled with the steering
wheel and spat a litany of obscenities.
Damn Dwayne. Idiot.
Look at this truck! One tire gone,
running on the rim. Engine wrecked to shit, with an arrow sticking
out of it. When had they started playing cowboys and injuns?
And then the damfool had gotten
himself shot. Had he taken it like a man? Hell no … Mickey Lee had never
heard such blubbering. Even the girls they cut on had more dignity than
Well, Mickey Lee would just have
to show ol’ Dwayne how things were done. It wasn’t too late. They’d gotten
away, they still had the girl, and by the time the cavalry showed up, they’d
have a tidy head start. Might have to run the truck off a cliff and put
it out of its misery when it was done, but those were the breaks.
He wished he’d been able to nab
the lady cop, too. She wasn’t his type, but it would have been a kick to
tie her up and let her watch. But she might have been yakking on the radio
all along, more cops expected any minute. More important to get away.
His leg hurt. Didn’t it just figure?
Seeing Dwayne blasted in the knee like that. Sympathy pains. The cab of
the pickup stank of blood and piss. Dwayne had pissed himself. Mickey Lee
figured they were lucky not to be riding along with a pantload of shit,
They took a hard jolt as he turned
onto the dirt road leading to the cabin. He checked the mirror first. No
sign of pursuit. They’d never know which way he’d gone. As long as the
truck held out –
It died fifty yards from the clearing.
Out of sight of the road. Would have to do. Good enough.
He got out, mentally reviewing
the gear in the shack. No gun. Kept saying they should get one, kept putting
it off. Too late now. A gun would have been nice in case the cops found
them. Shoot it out, save the last round for himself if the cops didn’t
take him down first.
Screw Dwayne. It was all because
of Dwayne that his balls were in this crack. Let Dwayne go back to prison.
He whined about it often enough.
Ironically, it was Dwayne’s whining
and stories that made Mickey Lee so determined to go out in a hail of bullets.
But that was an option that cowardly Dwayne would never take. He might
say that he’d rather die than be back in stir, but put him to the test
and he’d turn wimp. He’d let himself get caught.
And Dwayne’s dirtiest little secret,
the one he didn’t know that Mickey Lee knew (but of course Mickey Lee knew
more about Dwayne than Dwayne himself) was that he’d kind of, in a nasty
way, liked prison. Liked the punishment. Thought he deserved it.
Craved the humiliation of being bent over a barrel and fucked up the ass
until he bled.
It reminded Dwayne of his stepfather,
that was the real secret. He’d never told anyone about that except Mickey
Lee. The things his stepfather did to him. Hating it, but getting turned
on by it in some twisted way. And his mother, the alcoholic bitch, knowing
about it and not doing anything. Caring more about keeping her new husband
happy so she didn’t lose his money, his rich-man lifestyle. So what if
she traded her son for it? She got a Mercedes, furs, liposuction, twice-weekly
trips to the beauty shop to keep even a hint of grey from her platinum-blond
Dwayne might never have escaped
them, if not for Mickey Lee. He’d been the one to see that something had
to be done. Nobody else would help. Dwayne’s stepfather was a wealthy and
powerful man. Friends in high places. Who’d believe such a story?
No, the only thing to do was kill
them. So Mickey Lee had. Made the bitch-mother look like an accident: drugged
her booze and dropped a cigarette into her bed. The stepfather, though,
he’d done good and personal. Cut him.
Mickey Lee sometimes felt like
that was the night he’d really been born, really come alive.
Now here he was having to get
Dwayne out of another jam. Well, this was the last one. If they got through
it, fine and dandy, but it would still be time to call it quits. If not,
if the cops showed up, Mickey Lee was going to let Dwayne worry about his
own ass for a change.
He snorted laughter at the unintentional
joke and opened the boot of the camper cap. The girl was still out, had
taken quite a beating from the bumpy ride. Mickey Lee dragged out the blanket
with her on it, and dumped her on the ground.
She’d be a fun one. Pretty. Nice
Dwayne wanted to be first. Mickey
Lee told him to shove it, and picked up the girl. His knee buckled and
he damn near fell down. He was feeling a little disoriented, a little weak.
Why not? It had been a hell of an eventful night.
The girl lolled in his arms as
he carried her, limping badly now like a pegleg pirate crossing a pitching
and heaving deck. But as messed up as he was, the prospect of getting at
this sweet little slut was warming him right up. He’d rest first. Wait
a while. Let her be awake to share the fun. A girl should always be able
to remember her first time, especially if it was going to be her last.
He regretted that, but it had
to be that way. Couldn’t afford to keep her around for long. It’d be a
quickie. Do her until he couldn’t do it anymore, and then the cutting.
A shame, a waste, but it was a tough old world.
Hippolyta nocked and drew, and
If she shot him from here, the
arrow might go through him and hurt the girl.
She circled and came down, backwinging,
legs flexing smoothly to absorb the impact as she landed in front of him.
The man, whose entire lower leg
was a mess of blood and whose knee was a pulped and churned mass of red
peppered with flecks of bone, inhaled sharply but did not scream. His eyes
ticked over her, avidly, hatefully. Empty eyes. Insane. They flicked to
her hair and a fire seemed to burn in them.
“Put her down,” she bade him,
pulling back on the bowstring with the arrow leveled at his face.
He hurled the small, senseless
body at her. Up and out, so that if she fired she would surely strike the
wrong target …
Except that Hippolyta was far,
far quicker than he. Even as the girl left his grasp, limbs flopping, Hippolyta
had angled the bow downward. She loosed the arrow under the girl.
It struck unerringly into the
raw meat of his knee. At the same moment she heard it hit, she was swinging
her bow aside with her left arm and catching the girl in her right. The
body draped against her like a rag doll.
The man was flat on his back,
teeth gritted and tendons standing out. His hands were pressed to the sides
of his leg. The arrow was embedded at a slant in the earth some paces away,
having indeed passed through.
She set the girl down with care
and went to the fallen man. He began to rant and rave, spittle flying in
foamy curds, alternately cursing and crying. He seemed to be … he seemed
to be arguing fiercely with himself, all but oblivious to her.
Hippolyta paused, nonplussed.
He acted as if two spirits inhabited the same shell of flesh. As if possessed
somehow, and the minds within him were warring one with the other.
He was bleeding quite badly now.
She stripped off his belt and tourniqueted his leg with it. It would be
no great matter to let his life run out into the already-soaked earth,
or to put another arrow splitting his adam’s apple, but she conquered those
This man would be left to human
justice, to be judged and sentenced as fitted his crimes. Whether that
meant committal – for he was clearly mad as a badger – imprisonment, or
execution, she knew not. But some justice would be done.
A crude fence, old and rusted,
lined half of the clearing. She went to it and yanked up one of the poles,
tearing away the diamond-crisscrossed links. She bent the pole into a U
and drove the ends into the ground on either side of him, trapping his
midsection in the belly of the U.
With him secured, she attended
the girl. Bruised, smote on the head, and most rumpled and dirty. But unharmed.
She found evidence within the
shack that this girl was luckier than others. Hippolyta touched nothing,
leaving that for the police as well, but with her hunter’s tracking skill
followed a trail to a hole in the ground. The reek of decomposition wafted
up from the gap.
The man was going nowhere. The
girl needed attention. Nyx and her fellow officers would not know where
to find them.
Hippolyta collected the girl again,
and began walking down the dirt road.
Hippolyta held out the basket,
festively adorned with ribbons and filled with foil-wrapped chocolate rabbits,
hard-boiled eggs in painted shells, and sugared marshmallows shaped like
Nyx Dansbourne looked from it
to her, and grinned. Her grin turned to a wince and she rubbed the bandage
that covered her from chin to ear.
Reconstructive surgery had been
required to repair her shattered cheekbone, and the staples weren’t due
out for another three days. On the brighter side, dealing with her face
had kept her from complaining too much about her cast-sheathed ankle and
her orders to stay off of it and then to use a crutch for a few weeks thereafter.
Orders that chafed, that rankled.
“Kaylee Neeman gave me this,”
Hippolyta said, her brow ridge furrowed. “I fail to understand the symbolism.”
“It’s an Easter basket, Poly.”
“How does it connect to the resurrection
of a man-god?”
“I’m a cop, not a theologician.
Has something to do with spring festivals and fertility rites.”
She extended the basket to arm’s
length, eyeing it warily. “Fertility?”
“Don’t worry. Nobody’s ever gotten
pregnant from eating jelly beans. Kaylee just wanted to say thanks. We
all owe you a lot more than a basket of candy.”
“Your mother told me that the
man has been taken to the asylum.”
“Yeah. I guess the docs at Blue
Lake State are in a tizzy over Mr. Darren Michael Wainlee or whatever the
hell his name is. First real case of MPD any of them have ever seen.”
“Multiple Personality Disorder.
Split personality. In his case, they say it’s a pretty extreme case. The
two sides of him really thought they were different people. That’s why,
when I shot Dwayne, Mickey Lee was able to get up. He honestly didn’t believe
it had happened to him.”
“He is a madman.”
“Oh, yeah. They had to amputate
his leg, you know.”
Hippolyta shrugged. “He has his
life. For that, he should be grateful.”
“More than his victims can say.”
Nyx scowled out the window, as if her gaze could, like that of a Gorgon,
slay at a distance. Even if it could, Blue Lake State Hospital was many
miles from the Trinity Bay Medical Center. “The preliminary count is sixteen,
including the two they found in that sinkhole. Sixteen women, in towns
from here to San Diego. All of them blondes.”
“They will not, then, let him
“Well, he won’t stand trial. He’s
too nuts for that. But he’s going to be spending a long time in a soft-walled
room.” She made a sourly amused sound. “And John Neeman is doing cartwheels
– turns out there’s a psychologist in Los Angeles who recommended letting
our guy go. All the families of the victims are putting together a massive
“I am glad for Kaylee.”
“Doubt she’ll see any of the money.
But she’s doing okay. Seeing a counselor, but who can blame her? She’s
got McGuire. McGuire’s good. He’d better be; he’s the only one we have.”
Hippolyta gazed out the window.
Nyx’s room had a view of Agate River, and beyond that, the lights of the
town. “What will happen now?”
“Life goes on. You thinking about
how everyone in Trinity Bay knows about you now? Don’t sweat it, Poly.
We may be a podunk small town, but we’re open-minded. And we know how to
keep our secrets and look after our own. Believe me. After some of the
stuff that’s gone on here the past few years, we have to!”
“I am welcome to remain?”
Nyx threw her head back on the
pillow and scoffed. “Are you kidding me? Scott James is already asking
me what it’ll take to sign you up as an officer. You want to stay, you’ve
got it. Just say the word.”
“I should like that. I’ve been
long without a home.”
“Might be rough, though. Being
the only one of your kind. There aren’t any other gargoyles around here.”
“For now, that may be best.” She
sighed, her breath fogging the windowglass and blotting out Nyx’s reflection.
“I have seen and done much this past year. I need time to relearn who I
am ‘ere I try to mix with other gargoyles. It would be good to have a place
where I am needed while I do that.”
“You could do a lot worse than
Trinity Bay,” said Nyx.
“Yes,” said Hippolyta. “I see
that. And so, I shall stay. I shall be a clan unto myself. A clan of one.”