“Sydney Clarke,” he snapped. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“She told me I had to go somewhere safe,” whispered Sydney, petting Dol.
She, thought Mitch. The same she, he guessed, that was burning on the other side of the building. “And you came here?”
“The dog was dead,” whispered Dominic. “I saw it... it was deader than dead... and now...”
Mitch took Dominic’s sleeve. “Get us out of here. Now.”
Dominic’s eyes drifted up from the girl and the dog and seemed to register the flashing lights bouncing over the wooden walls and up against the high-rise for the first time. Car doors were slamming. Boots on pavement. “Shit.”
“What about Victor?” asked Sydney.
“We have to wait for him somewhere. Not here, Syd. We were never supposed to wait here.”
“But what if he needs help?” she protested.
Mitch tried to smile. “It’s Victor,” he said. “There’s nothing he can’t handle.”
But as Sydney took Dol, and Dominic took Sydney, and Mitch took Dominic, and they all vanished into the shadows, Mitch had a horrible feeling that he was wrong, and his curse had followed him all the way here.
* * *
Eli heard the footsteps, the men shouting orders as they tore toward them, through room after room of the plastic sheeting. Victor slumped on the floor, the area around the chair slick with his blood. His eyes were open, but losing focus. Eli wanted this kill to be his, not the Merit Police Department’s, and certainly not Serena’s.
He saw Victor’s knife on the floor a few feet away and took it up, crouching in front of him.
“Some hero,” he heard Victor whisper with his two last, labored breaths. Eli rested the blade carefully beneath Victor’s ribs.
“Good-bye, Victor,” he said.
And then he drove the knife in.
* * *
He went down on his hands and knees in an alley four blocks from the high-rise, a safe distance from the flood of cops and the burning girl and the guns. He cried out, and at the same time, Sydney clutched her arm, and Mitch rubbed at his bruised ribs. Pain swept over the three like a current, like a breath, something held back and now returned. And then, one by one, they realized what that meant.
“No!” shouted Sydney, turning back toward the high-rise.
Mitch caught her around the waist, wincing as she kicked and screamed and told him to put her down.
“It’s over,” he whispered as she fought. “It’s over. It’s over. I’m sorry. It’s over.”
* * *
Eli watched Victor’s eyes widen, and then empty, his forehead slumping forward against the metal bars of the chair. Dead. It was so strange that Eli of all people had thought Victor was invincible. And he’d been wrong. Eli drew the knife out of Victor’s chest and stood there in the blood-slicked room, waiting for the telltale quiet, the moment of peace. He closed his eyes, and tipped his head back, and waited, and he was still waiting when the cops tore into the room, led by Detective Stell.
“Step away from the body,” ordered Stell, raising his gun.
“It’s okay,” said Eli. He opened his eyes and let his gaze drift down over them. “It’s over.”
“Get your hands on your head!” shouted another cop.
“Put the knife down!” ordered another.
“It’s okay,” said Eli again. “He’s no danger now.”
“Hands up!” demanded Stell.
“I took care of him. He’s dead.” Eli grew indignant as he gestured to the blood-soaked room, and the dead man bound by wire to the chair bars. “Can’t you see that? I’m a hero.”
The men leveled their guns and shouted and looked at Eli as if he were a monster. And then it hit him. There was no glaze in their eyes. No spell.
“Where’s Serena?” he demanded, but the question was swallowed up by the sirens and the shouting cops. “Where is she? She’ll tell you!”
“Put the weapon down,” demanded Stell above the noise.
“She’ll tell you. I’m a hero!” he shouted back, throwing the knife aside. “I saved you all!”
But as the blade hit the floor, the cops rushed forward, and slammed him to the ground. He could see Victor’s dead face from there, and it seemed to be smiling at him.
“Eli Ever, you’re under arrest for the murder of Victor Vale...”
“Wait!” he shouted as they cuffed him. “The body.”
Stell read him his rights as two cops wrenched him to his feet. Another cop hurried to Stell’s side, and said something about a fire out in the lot.
Eli fought their grip. “You have to burn the body!”
Stell gave a signal, and the cops dragged Eli back through the plastic curtains.
“Stell!” shouted Eli again. “You have to burn Vale’s body!”
His words echoed on the concrete as the detective and the blood-soaked room and Victor’s corpse vanished from his view.
TWO NIGHTS LATER
Sydney readjusted the shovel on her shoulder.
The air was cold but the night was clear, the moon overhead illuminating the broken gravestones and the dips in the grass as she wove through the cemetery, Dol trotting along beside her. It had been harder to bring him back the second time, but he flanked her now, as if his life were truly tied to hers.
Mitch followed close behind, carrying two more shovels. He’d offered to carry hers, too, but Sydney felt it was important she hold her own. Dominic lagged several yards behind them, buzzed on painkillers and whiskey and tripping every few steps on a clump of weeds or a bit of dislodged rock. She didn’t like him this way—useless from all the liquor and mean from all the pain—but she tried not to think of that. She tried not to think of her own pain, either, of the gunshot still burning a hole in her arm as the muscle and skin slowly healed. She hoped it left a scar, the kind she could see, the kind that would remind her of the moment when everything changed.
Not that Sydney thought she’d ever forget.
She readjusted the shovel on her shoulder, and wondered if Eli would live forever, and how much of forever someone could reasonably remember, especially when nothing left a mark.
Eli, incidentally, had been a press field day.
She and Mitch had seen it on the news. The madman who’d murdered two people at the Falcon Price building, all the while claiming to be some monster-slayer, some hero. The press said he’d killed a young woman in the construction lot, and burned her body before torturing and then murdering an ex-con on the ground floor. The woman’s identity hadn’t been made public— they’d have to go by dental records—but Sydney knew it was Serena. She knew even before she made Mitch hack the coroner’s reports. She could feel the absence of her sister, the place in her where the threads had been. What she didn’t know was why Eli would have done it. But she meant to find out.
The members of the press weren’t nearly as interested in Serena as they were in Eli.
Apparently Eli had stood there over Victor’s body, covered in blood, still holding the knife and shouting that he was a hero. That he’d saved them all. When no one bought the hero line, he tried to claim it had been a fight. But since his opponent was shredded and he didn’t have a scratch on him, that line hadn’t worked so well, either. Add that to the papers found in the satchel in Eli’s hotel room—he clearly didn’t have Victor’s foresight to burn anything that could be construed as evidence—and the profiles on his computer, and Eli’s body count quickly jumped into double digits. The news never touched on the Merit Police Department’s own involvement in a good number of the recent killings, but Eli was now awaiting trial and a psych evaluation.
There was no mention of him being an EO, of course, but then again, why would there be? All it meant for Eli was that if someone shanked him in prison, he’d live to have it happen again. If he were lucky they’d put him in isolation, like Victor. Sydney hoped they didn’t put him in isolation. She thought that maybe if they found out he could heal himself, hurting him would become the most popular game in the facility.
Sydney made a mental note to leak that detail wherever he ended up.
It was too quiet in the cemetery, what with only the sounds of grass-muffled steps in the dark, so Sydney tried to hum the way Victor had when they’d gone to dig up Barry. But it sounded wrong in her mouth, eerie and sad, so she stopped and focused on finding her way by the map drawn in Sharpie on the back of her hand. She’d drawn it in daylight, but the Merit Cemetery, like most things, looked different at night.
Finally she caught sight of the fresh grave, and quickened her pace. The grave was unmarked except for Victor’s book, which Sydney had set like a stone at the top of the patch of dirt that morning, waiting in the shadow of a stone angel for the diggers to finish and go away. That detective, Stell, had been there, too. He’d stayed long enough to watch the simple wood coffin get lowered down into the hole and covered with dirt.
Mitch caught up to her, and the two looked down at the grave for a moment before Sydney drove her shovel into the ground, and set to work. Dol wandered the plots nearby, but never let Sydney out of his sight, and Dominic eventually wandered over, and sat on a gravestone, keeping an eye out for trouble as the other two dug.