When the Boxwood Bookstore went out of business some time back; the squat empty building served as the Dreadnik’s first home. When the building was later leased to another business; they had had to move out and find another.
To Corrina and Kitty’s delight, the place was now empty again. They broke in through the back door, and entered.
Inside it was dusty and cobwebby, but nothing they hadn’t dealt with before. The previous leasers had left behind some rusty folding chairs in the back, as well as a weather-worn sign that read: “WAXLEAF MAP CO.”, loitering in a corner.
“Businesses always leave something behind when they vacate a building.” Kitty said.
Corrina said nothing in reply.
They unfolded the two least rusted of the folding chairs and sat down near the boarded up front window. The board had been attached haphazardly, and from beneath it, they could see anyone walking toward the building from the front.
“Do you think anyone else escaped?” Kitty asked.
“I don’t know,” Corrina answered sullenly, “And I don’t care.”
She still hurt from Jon’s pledge of love for Callie, as well as from her self-inflicted humiliation. She kicked herself for not taking the opportunity to kill the shank when she had the chance. As for Jon; better that he go to Ragginarck, than go away with HER.
She remembered then, the crumpled note in her pocket, and pulled it out.
“What’s that?” asked Kitty.
“It’s the paper you had stuck to your shoe back at the Wherehouse,” she said, “It’s Rynza’s stationary.”
“What’s it say?”
“Let’s find out.” Corrina answered, and unfolded it.
It read: They bring trouble with them. DON’T let them stay!
“I’ll be damned…” Corrina said. She felt her anger rising again, like toxic black fumes from a chemical fire.
“It’s a warning!” Kitty said, “Rynza was warning Jon not to let the Longstreets in! That they would bring trouble! Why would Jon disregard her advice like that? Disregard the safety of the invidium?”
“Because of HER!” Corrina said with bitter fury, “He ignored Rynza’s warning and the danger to us all; all because of that SHANK!” she spat the last word out like a wad of phlegm, “If I ever see her again, I swear I’m gonna KILL HER!!”
If there was ever a worse moment for Callie, Mike, and Edward to have the spectacularly bad timing to show up, it was this one.
And, of course, this was the moment they did just that.
Edward had led Mike and Callie there, thinking that maybe the others might be found there should the place be empty. It was, and when they saw the broken-in back door, that seemed to confirm it. So they had entered.
“Speak of the devil.” Kitty said.
But Corrina was beyond words.
“SHANK!!” she screamed, and hurled herself at Callie.
She wrapped her hands around Callie’s neck and squeezed as hard as she could. “YOU STOLE MY JON!!” she screeched.
Callie grabbed Corrina’s hands and forced them off of her neck. “He’s not YOUR Jon, and he NEVER WAS!!” she yelled back at Corrina, “Grow up, you stupid silly girl! LIVE WITH IT!”
Callie shoved Corrina back hard. Corrina stumbled back a bit, straightened herself out, and went for the syringe of undiluted Tullaxiffan in her pocket.
Kitty saw this, and walked in between Corrina and Callie; presumably to play peacekeeper, but in actuality to block everyone’s view of what Corrina was doing. “C’mon, girls, STOP this!” she said, sounding almost sincere, “This is helping nothing!”
Behind Kitty, Corrina took out the syringe, flicked off the cap, and turned it so it rested with her thumb on the plunger.
Mike and Edward had closed in on the two, ready to pull them apart; but now it seemed further violence had been averted by Kitty’s intervention. They backed off, thankful they hadn’t had to break up a girl fight; thus were not in position to be of any help when what happened next, happened.
Kitty stepped aside, and there was Corrina, weapon held high in her hand, like a dagger. She lunged at Callie.
Callie saw the syringe, and understood intuitively what it was, what it meant, and what she had to do.
As Corrina came within striking distance, Callie bolted forward and grabbed her by the wrists. Like a dancer, she used Corrina’s weight and momentum to whirl her around and around, and then let her go.
Corrina, unable to stop herself, ran right into Kitty, and the two of them tumbled and fell over the chairs they had been sitting on earlier.
They both sat up at the same time, and looked at each other. The moment was almost comical.
The hypodermic needle had embedded in Kitty’s arm, and Corrina had inadvertently depressed the plunger all the way down.
Corrina quickly took it out, but it was too late; the Tullaxiffan was all gone. Corrina and Kitty looked at each other in utter horror.
Kitty’s eyes then rolled up in their sockets in a horrible fashion, and she fell back; her head hit the bare wood floor with a loud and resonant THUNK.
Corrina stared at the body of her dead friend (the only close friend she had ever known or ever would know) with a look of complete incomprehension on her face.
Then, she screamed.
She screamed and screamed and SCREAMED.
When at last she stopped, she stood up. The others moved back, prepared for violence, but it did not come. Her face was empty. Something inside of her had jarred loose and come undone.
She walked past them, and out of the building, in a daze.
Outside, a white car parked on the curb. Two people came out of the car and walked toward her. One of them was Rak.
He looked awful. There were dark shadows under his eyes, and he seemed pale and clammy; almost as ghoulish as the man with him.
When the two reached her, the man asked, “Are they in there?”
She didn’t know who this man was, or who he was referring to; but at the same time, she did. Who else could it be at this point?
“Yes.” she answered.
The man seemed happy about this. He turned to Rak, “Is this girl one of the Dreadniks?”
“Good!” he said, and brought his hand out of his pocket, as if he meant to shake her hand; only there was an opened pocketknife in it.
In one quick motion he sliced Corrina’s throat open with it, and had it closed and back inside his pocket before her body hit the ground.
“Bring her along.” he said to Rak, “It’ll add to the fun.”
Inside the building, Mike, Callie, and Edward looked down on Kitty’s body.
“What should we do?” Edward asked.
“I think we should leave as soon as possible.” Mike said.
“Where will you go?” a voice asked.
The three looked up, startled.
“Gods!!” Callie gasped, “It’s…”
“Dad!” Mike finished her thought.
Charles Longstreet walked over to Kitty’s body, and looked down on her with a smile.
“How did you find---?!” Mike started to ask, but stopped when he saw Rak enter, dragging Corrina’s body in by the ankles.
Callie suppressed a scream when she saw her cut throat.
“Rak!” Edward cried, “What are you doing? Who---?!”
Callie put a hand on Edward’s shoulder, and pulled him back behind her. “I don’t think Rak’s himself anymore, hon.” she said.
“Perceptive as usual, Callie.” her father said, as Rak put Corrina’s body next to Kitty’s.
He took his pocketknife out, cut a red slit across his extended middle finger, and let the blood drip from it, to Corrina and Kitty’s dead faces.
“What are you doing?!” Callie shouted.
“I’m showing you what it is you are dealing with,” he said, as the blood absorbed, with sickening speed, into the skin of the two dead girls, “You should have at least a glimpse, before the end.”
Kitty and Corrina’s eyes fluttered open.
“Behold, the wonders of magic.” Charles Longstreet said, as the two reanimated corpses stood up and faced Mike, Callie, and Edward. Together, the four stood between them and the open back door.
“How is this happening?!” Edward wailed.
Both Kitty and Corrina drooled, and looked devoid of all thought and personality.
“And now…” Longstreet said, emerging from behind his new creations, “I think it’s long past time I dealt with the little bastards that tied me up and left me to rot.”
Callie and Edward ran to the front door, but it would not open.
Mike stood his ground, rooted to the spot by a sudden flash of memory. Back when they were at Rynza’s, Carissa had asked to hold their father’s ring so it would not further contaminate Rynza’s spirit room. Mike had told her to keep the damn thing, but Rynza said they would have need of it later.
If it’s not now, it’s never, Mike thought, and took the little blue bag with the ring in it out of his pocket. He fished the ring out, and held it up in his outstretched hand. “I believe this belongs to you.” he said.
Fear flickered across his father’s face, and he stopped in his tracks. “The ring!” he said, “You still have it with you?!”
“Of course!” Mike said, “Did you think I’d throw it away? Pawn it? This precious family heirloom?”
“Something like that.”
Mike realized his father was backing away from him, back behind the resurrected Kitty and Corrina.
“Why would I do that?” Mike said, “When it belongs to YOU!”
Mike threw the ring at his father’s face. His father shoved Kitty in front of him, like a shield, so that the ring hit her instead of him.
The ring hit her on the left cheek, and upon contact with her flesh, Kitty immediately turned into a living, writhing, twisting pillar of thick black gelatinous gunk, which wavered for an instant, then collapsed on the floor; whereupon it broke up into a multitude of wriggling ropes, like long black snakelets, which untangled themselves and darted off in all directions.
Some crawled up the walls, but most crawled up the legs of Charles Longstreet, Corrina, and Rak; ignoring Mike, Callie, and Edward altogether. Something landed on Mike’s shoulder, startling him, but it was Callie’s hand.
“Let’s go!” she shouted.
They ran around the besieged three, and out the back door. Mike took one last look back and saw his father and Rak struggle to remove the black snakes that threatened to envelope them. Corrina did not struggle. She simply fell, and was swarmed. She opened her dead mouth, and it was soon filled. Her dead eyes looked back at Mike with utter vacuity; before they were obliterated by the black snakes pushing through them on their way in.
When Callie, Edward, and then Mike made their way out the back, they saw the car their father had arrived in.
“I think I’ve seen this car somewhere before.” Mike said.
Callie was more on point. “I’ll bet the idiot left the keys in the ignition,” she said, “He was always doing that.”
She was right. They got in.
“Where do we go from here?” Callie asked.
“After what we just saw, I think we better give Rynza Adreynac another visit.” Mike said, "Things are a helluva lot more disturbing than we thought they were."