Silence, Page 2Becca Fitzpatrick
Hank swore viciously. “Blakely!”
“Pull him off now!” came Blakely’s gruff command to his men.
Not soon enough, the angel was dragged away. Hank lay on the ground, panting. He was wet with blood, pain stabbing him like hot pokers. Slapping aside Blakely’s offered hand, Hank climbed with effort to his feet. He felt unstable, swaying and intoxicated with his own suffering. By the gaping stares of his men, Hank knew he was a horrific sight. Given the severity of the wounds, it might take him an entire week to heal—even with the enhancements of devilcraft.
“Should we take him away, sir?”
Hank dabbed a handkerchief to his lip, which was split open and hung from his face like pulp. “No.
We have no use for him locked up. Tell Dagger the girl is to have nothing but water for forty-eight hours. ” His breathing was ragged. “If our boy here can’t cooperate, she pays. ” With a nod, Blakely turned from the scene, dialing on his phone.
Hank spat out a bloodied tooth, studied it quietly, then tucked it in his pocket. He fixed his eyes on the angel, whose only outward sign of fury came in the form of clenched fists. “Once again, the terms of our oath, so there’s no further misunderstanding. First, you will earn back the confidence of fall en angels, rejoining their ranks—”
“I’ll kill you,” the angel said with quiet warning. Though he was held by five men, he no longer struggled. He stood deathly still, his eyes black orbs burning with vengeance. For one moment, Hank felt a pang of fear strike like a match inside his gut.
He strove for cool indifference. “—following which, you will spy on them and report their dealings directly to me. ”
“I swear now,” the angel said, his breathing controlled but elevated, “with these men as my witnesses, I will not rest until you are dead. ”
“A waste of breath. You can’t kill me. Perhaps you’ve forgotten from whom a Nephil claims his immortal birthright?”
A murmur of amusement circled his men, but Hank waved them to silence. “When I’ve determined you’ve given me enough information to successfully prevent fall en angels from possessing Nephilim bodies this coming Cheshvan—”
“Every hand you lay on her I will return tenfold. ”
Hank’s mouth twisted into a suggestion of a smile. “An unnecessary sentiment, don’t you think?
By the time I’m through with her, she won’t remember your name. ”
“Remember this moment,” the angel said with icy vehemence. “It’s going to come back to haunt you. ”
“Enough of this,” Hank snapped, making a disgusted gesture and starting back toward the car.
“Take him to Delphic Amusement Park. We want him back among the fall en as soon as possible. ”
“I’ll give you my wings. ”
Hank stopped his departure, not sure he’d heard the angel correctly. He barked a laugh. “What?”
“Swear an oath to release Nora right now, and they’re yours. ” The angel sounded haggard, giving away the first hint of defeat. Music to Hank’s ears.
“What use would I have for your wings?” he retorted blandly, but the angel had caught his attention.
As far as he knew, no Nephil had ever torn out the wings of an angel. They did it among their own kind now and then, but the idea of a Nephil having that power was quite the novelty. Quite the temptation. Tales of his conquest would sweep through Nephilim households overnight.
“You’ll think of something,” the angel said with increasing weariness.
“I’ll swear an oath to release her before Cheshvan,” Hank countered, smothering all eagerness from his voice, knowing that to reveal his delight would be disastrous.
“Not good enough. ”
“Your wings might make a pretty trophy, but I have a bigger agenda. I’ll release her by the end of summer, my final offer. ” He turned, walking away, swallowing down his greedy enthusiasm.
“Done,” the angel said with quiet resignation, and Hank released a slow breath.
He turned. “How is it to be done?”
“Your men will tear them out. ”
Hank opened his mouth to argue, but the angel cut him off. “They’re strong enough. If I don’t fight, nine or ten of them together could do it. I’ll go back to living beneath Delphic and make it known the archangels tore out my wings. But for this to work, you and I can’t have any connection,” he warned.
Without delay, Hank shook a few drops of blood from his disfigured hand to the grass at his feet. “I swear my oath to release Nora before summer’s end. If I break my vow, I plead that I may die and return to the dust from which I was created. ”
The angel tugged his shirt over his head and braced his hands on his knees. His torso rose and fell with every breath. With a certain bravery Hank both detested and envied, the angel told him, “Get on with it. ”
Hank would have liked to do the honors, but his wariness won out. He couldn’t be certain there weren’t traces of devilcraft all over him. If the place where an angel’s wings fused into his back were as receptive as rumor had it, one touch might give him away. He’d worked too hard to slip up this late in the game.
Quelling his regret, Hank addressed his men. “Tear out the angel’s wings and clean up any mess.
Then dump his body at Delphic’s gates, where he’ll be sure to be found. And take care not to be seen. ” He would have liked to order them to brand the angel with his mark—a clenched fist—a visible display of triumph sure to increase his stature among Nephilim everywhere, but the angel had a point. For this to work, they could leave no evidence of association.
Back at the car, Hank gazed over the cemetery. The event was already over. The angel lay prostrate on the ground, shirtless, two open wounds running the length of his back. Though he hadn’t felt an ounce of pain, his body appeared to have gone into shock from the loss. Hank had also heard a fall en angel’s wing scars were his Achil es’ heel. In this, the rumors appeared to be true.
“Should we call it a night?” Blakely asked, coming up behind him.
“One more phone call,” Hank said with an undercurrent of irony. “To the girl’s mother. ” He dialed and put his cell phone to his ear. He cleared his throat, adopting a strained and worried pitch. “Blythe, darling, I just got your message. The family and I have been on vacation and I’m rushing to the airport now. I’ll catch the first flight out. Tell me everything. What do you mean, kidnapped? Are you certain? What did the police say?” He paused, listening to her anguished sobs.
“Listen to me,” he told her firmly. “I am here for you. I’ll exhaust every resource I have, if that’s what it takes. If Nora is out there, we will find her. ”
COLDWATER, MAINE PRESENT DAY
EVEN BEFORE I OPENED MY EYES, I KNEW I WAS IN danger.
I stirred at the soft crunch of footsteps drawing closer. A dim flicker of sleep remained, dulling my focus. I was flat on my back, a chil seeping through my shirt. My neck was crooked at a painful angle, and I opened my eyes. Thin stones loomed out of the blue-black fog. For a strange suspended moment, an image of crooked teeth came to mind, and then I saw them for what they really were. Gravestones.
I tried to push myself up to sitting, but my hands slipped on the wet grass. Fighting the haze of sleep still curled around my mind, I rolled sideways off a half-sunken grave, feeling my way through the vapor. The knees of my pants soaked up dew as I crawled between the haphazardly placed graves and monuments. Mild recognition hovered, but it was a side thought; I couldn’t bring myself to focus through the excruciating pain radiating inside my skull.
I crawled along a wrought-iron fence, tamping down a layer of decaying leaves that had been years in the making. A ghoulish howl drifted down from above, and while it sent a shudder through me, it wasn’t the sound I was most frightened of. The footsteps trampled over the grass behind me, but whether they were near or far I couldn’t tell. A shout of pursuit cut through the mist, and
I hurried my pace. I knew instinctively that I had to hide, but I was disoriented; it was too dark to see clearly, the eerie blue fog casting spells before my eyes.
In the distance, trapped between two walls of spindly and overgrown trees, a white stone mausoleum glowed through the night. Rising to my feet, I ran toward it.
I slipped between two marble monuments, and when I came out on the other side, he was waiting for me. A towering silhouette, his arm raised to strike. I tripped backward. As I fell, I realized my mistake: He was made of stone. An angel raised on a pediment, guarding the dead. I might have smothered a nervous laugh, but my head collided against something hard, jarring the world sideways. Darkness encroached on my vision.
I couldn’t have been out for long. When the stark black of unconsciousness faded, I was still breathing hard from the exertion of running. I knew I had to get up, but I couldn’t remember why. So I lay there, the icy dew mingling with the warm sweat of my skin. At long last I blinked, and it was then that the nearest headstone sharpened into focus. The engraved letters of the epitaph snapped into single-file lines.
A DEVOTED HUSBAND AND FATHER
DIED MARCH 16, 2008
I bit down on my lip to keep from crying out. Now I understood the familiar shadow that had lurked over my shoulder since waking up minutes ago. I was in Coldwater’s city cemetery. At my dad’s gravesite.
A nightmare, I thought. I haven’t really woken yet. This is all just a horrible dream.
The angel watched me, his chipped wings unfurled behind him, his right arm pointing across the cemetery. His expression was carefully detached, but the curve of his lips was more wry than benevolent. For one moment, I was almost able to trick myself into believing he was real and I wasn’t alone.
I smiled at him, then felt my lip quiver. I dragged my sleeve along my cheekbone, wiping away tears, though I didn’t remember starting to cry. I desperately wanted to climb into his arms, feeling the beat of his wings on air as he flew us over the gates and away from this place.
The resumed sound of footsteps pulled me out of my stupor. They were faster now, crashing through the grass.
I turned toward the sound, bewildered by the bob of light twinkling in and out of the misty darkness.
Its beam rose and fell to the cadence of the footsteps—crunch … sweep … crunch … sweep—
I squinted when the light came to a stop between my eyes, dazzling me blind. I had the terrible realization that I definitely wasn’t dreaming.
“Lookie here,” a man’s voice snarled, hidden behind the glare of light. “You can’t be here.
Cemetery is closed. ”
I turned my face away, specks of light still dancing behind my eyelids.
“How many others are there?” he demanded.
“What?” My voice was a dry whisper.
“How many more are here with you?” he continued more aggressively. “Thought you’d come out and play night games, did you? Hide-and-seek, I reckon? Or maybe Ghosts in the Graveyard? Not on my watch, you aren’t!”