After Mike and Callie had departed, Rynza called the Judicial Complex and made some inquiries. Once she had all the necessary information, everyone migrated to her kitchen to make their plans.
They discussed the myriad obstacles they would have to overcome to free Jon, Dom, Peggy, and Wes from the holding cell where they were being held, pending trial.
Out of the blue, Kevin asked: “Has anyone seen Edward?”
They all looked at each other and shook their heads. In the depth of their calculations, they hadn’t even missed him.
“Last time I saw him, he was with you putting the supplies in Mike and Callie’s car.” Spencer replied.
“I know,” Kevin said, “That’s the last time I remember seeing him as well. I went inside before him, and I guess I just assumed he came in after me at some point.”
“Check the restroom.” Bear said, “Woodrow, check outside.”
Rynza closed her eyes and looked into the psychic stream. Though its waters were often muddy; they did, on occasion, clear up.
Both Kevin and Woodrow returned empty-handed.
“Where could he have gotten to?” Bear asked.
Rynza opened her eyes.
“He’s gone,” she said, “With Mike and Callie.”
“He snuck into the back seat of their car while they were still saying goodbye. He intends not to show himself until they are far enough away that they cannot turn back.”
“Why? Why would he do that?” Kevin asked.
“I can’t say for sure,” Rynza said, “My guess is, he felt they would have more need of him than we would.”
Bear put her head in her hands. “Aw cripes, Edward.” she said, feeling the full weight of the responsibility she alone now carried, “It’s like Jon all over again.”
“What is it with those Longstreets that everyone they meet wants to help them, run off with them, or kill them?” Woodrow asked.
“They are a wrecking crew.” Spencer said.
“Edward’s made his choice; it’s out of our hands.” Bear said, “In the meantime, we still have work to do.”
Rynza suddenly dropped her glass of tea, which shattered on the floor, startling everyone.
“What is it, Rinnie?” Carissa asked.
“Mike and Callie’s father!” she gasped, “He’s coming!”
“HERE?!” Bear asked, standing up.
“He’s on his way!”
The first thing Charles Longstreet did, upon successfully divesting an ash-grey car from its previous owner (who was currently engaged in bleeding to death in a parking lot), was to drop Rak off in front of the Caprice Motel.
“Go to my room and wait for me there.” he said, as he handed Rak the room key. Rak had already given him directions to Rynza’s place.
“I’m not coming after all?” Rak asked.
“No. Some of your friends might be there, and try to retrieve you from me. I don’t need those hassles. I just need to know if Mike and Callie are there. I’d send the frain if I didn’t think they’d muck it up again.”
“What am I supposed to do until you return?”
“I would suggest a bath. I intend to take one as well, when I get back. We both look like we just lost a battle with tar.”
“I have no change of clothes.”
“You’re a thief, steal some. There’s a laundromat across the street. Try your luck there.” Longstreet said, and peeled off.
He arrived, soon after, at Wedgewood Street. Adreynac’s place was not hard to find; the neon sign kind of gave it away. The blinds on the front windows and door were pulled down. The sign on the door said “SORRY! WE’RE CLOSED!”
The door, however, was unlocked.
He opened it and walked in.
Inside, the Dreadniks and the Adreynacs were waiting for him. Rynza had a rifle pointed at him, Bear held a bat, and the others had implements both sharp and blunt. Still, none of them were quite prepared for just how alarming he looked, covered in black ooze.
“I think you better stop right there.” Rynza said, fighting to keep her voice from quavering.
“That rifle looks ancient, lady; do you even have bullets for that thing?” Longstreet asked. He took a slow menacing step toward her. “Could you even shoot me if you did? Blood would fly everywhere.”
Bear stepped out in front of Rynza and extended the top of the bat against Longstreet’s chest.
“Back off.” she said.
“Just tell me where Mike and Callie are, and I won’t have to snap your neck.” Longstreet said.
Bear grinned mirthlessly. “Mister, I’d like to see you try.”
“They’re not here.” Rynza said from behind Bear, “We sent them away. They were too much trouble anyway.”
Longstreet looked over at Rynza. “And where did you send them, witch? To their mother? To Cathim?”
Rynza sat dumbfounded.
Longstreet laughed an unpleasant, grating laugh. “Ahh, I see you did. Just as well. I can catch them up in no time. They probably just left too, didn’t they?”
“Get the hell out.” Bear said, “You are not wanted here.”
“Why did you leave the door unlocked then? You could have locked me out. Why didn’t you? Were you hoping to see someone? A certain little thief, perhaps?”
“Where is he?” Rynza asked, “Where’s Rak?”
Charles Longstreet smiled, turned, and opened the door. “You’re the psychic,” he said over his shoulder, “You figure it out.”
The door slammed shut behind him.
Woodrow, Kevin, and Spencer ran to the front windows and lifted the slats of the blinds to take a peek outside.
“Is he gone?” Bear asked.
“He’s getting in his car…” Spencer said, “Okay, he’s gone.”
Bear turned to Rynza. “Do you see him coming back here?”
“No. He got what he wanted from us.” Rynza said, “He’ll go after Mike and Callie now.”
“Still, we have to leave.” Bear said, “I wouldn’t put it past him to inform Mallacharr of our presence here. We need a new place. Preferably, someplace Rak doesn’t know about.”
“I have a friend who owes me a favor,” Rynza said, “She owns a motel.”
“Good. Call her.”
“What about Rak?” Kevin asked, “If Longstreet goes after Mike and Callie, he’ll take Rak with him. We’ll lose any chance of ever getting him back, or getting him to that Rufus guy.”
“Don’t you think I know that?!” Bear snapped, looking pained, “But rescuing Jon and the others has got to come first. While they’re still in a Judicial Complex holding cell, we have a window; but that window grows smaller as the day grows older. Once they put them put on the bus to Ragginarck, it’s over.”
Rak was in the shower when Charles Longstreet got back, but had left the room door unlocked. Longstreet entered and went first to the telephone. Though he felt no particular antagonism against the Dreadniks, he felt it was necessary to repay the hospitality they had shown him on general principles. The gesture had to be made.
George Mallacharr couldn’t resist a smile as he finished up the paperwork that would put Siana Nandehl in her place.
Even with his position strengthened, some subtlety had been necessary; his maneuver did not seem unduly punitive on the surface, even if it did cut her off at the knees.
The phone rang. He picked it up and heard a familiar voice.
“Hello again, Crellat Mallacharr.” the voice said.
“What is it, Longstreet? I’m a busy man.”
“Oh, I’m sure you are, but I’m also sure you won’t be too busy for me when I tell you that I happen to know where the rest of the Dreadniks, the ones that escaped your sweep, are hiding out.”
“Where?” Mallacharr asked. His voice betrayed more eagerness than he had intended to convey; but if he could get the rest of the Dreadniks, he’d be golden. Then he could stomp Nandehl into a pale grey smear once and for all, without the necessity of half-measures.
“If you remember, Crellat Mallacharr, the last time we made a deal, and I provided information, you got what you wanted; whereas I got nothing.”
“What do you want?”
Longstreet laughed. “Lucky for you, you no longer have anything I need. So consider this a gift. The remaining Dreadniks are being aided and abetted by a woman named Rynza Adreynac. She runs a psychic business on Wedgewood Street. Even your useless men can’t miss it; it has a neon sign and everything. Happy hunting!”
The phone went “click” in Mallacharr’s ears, and he put it down.
He wondered if this wasn’t just a trick to get back at him for not delivering his end of their bargain. The fact that he didn’t ask for anything in return for this information only made it seem more so.
On the other hand, what if it wasn’t?
It was worth his while to check it out. Certainly not another frain sweep, not yet; but sending out some officers in an unmarked car to have a look-see didn’t sound too risky.
Siana Nandehl stepped out from inside the storage room.
She hurried past Mallacharr’s office, and went to her desk.
Through the vent, she had heard him talking with Longstreet on the phone. Though she couldn’t hear Longstreet’s voice, Mallacharr’s responses gave her more than enough information to deduce what they were talking about:
What is it, Longstreet? I’m a busy man.
An overexcited, Where?!
And finally, What do you want?
Then Mallacharr had called for two officers in an unmarked car to check out an address in Wedgewood Street, a psychic shop run by someone named Rynza Adreynac.
Siana Nandehl didn’t give a damn about the Dreadniks; but Mallacharr had already used them once to strengthen his position.
She could not let him succeed twice!
She flipped through her phonebook till she found Rynza Adreynac’s name and number.
She dialed it up and, to her surprise, an older girl’s came on the line.
“Who is this?” the girl asked. She sounded like she had neither the time nor patience for anything but pithy replies.
“Listen close,” Siana said, “You don’t know me, but the frain know the Dreadniks are there; and they’re coming. Right now. Whatever it is you’re doing, drop it, and get the hell out of there.”
“We figured as much already.” the girl said, “The question is: who are you and what do you want?”
“We need to meet.” Siana said, “I can help you free your friends.”
There came two seconds of silence as the girl weighed her options. “Do you know where the Caprice Motel is?” she asked.
“If it’s in the city, I can find it.”
“Meet us there in half an hour.”
“I will. I’ll be the blond haired woman in the light blue suit.”
“Come alone or it’s off.” The girl replied, and hung up.
Had she considered the matter, Bear might have let Rynza’s phone ring and not answered it; but as she was the closest to it when it rang, she had picked it up without a thought.
“Are we sure that was wise?” Spencer asked, once Bear described the content of the call, “What if she’s a frain?”
“Of course she’s a frain,” Bear replied.
“It’s a trap, then.” Woodrow said.
“If I thought so, I wouldn’t have agreed to have her meet us.” Bear answered.
Just then, a red pick-up truck stopped in front of the building.
“That’s Clyde,” Rynza said, “Our ride.”
Clyde Diggins was a twenty-something young man with light brown hair and a tall thin build. Moderately wealthy by an inheritance Rynza had helped him to uncover, Clyde was only too happy to be of assistance. The pick-up was a survivor of his scrap yard days, and a constant reminder of his humble beginnings.
“Are you ready, Rinnie?” he asked, upon entering.
“Yes, we’re ready.”
They exited the building. Kevin had composed a note that read:
The note was taped to the front door window.
Once they were all outside, Clyde lifted Rynza out of her wheelchair, and put her in the passenger seat. The wheelchair was folded and placed in the back of the pick-up, where the Dreadniks were going to ride (except Woodrow, who was short enough to be squeezed in between Clyde and Rynza, to his horror). Carissa locked up, and joined Bear, Kevin, and Spencer in the back.
The truck pulled away from the curb, and off they went.
Rak stepped out of the shower feeling unburdened of the sticky black mess he’d been coated in. He dried himself, and put on the clothes he had taken from one of the dryers at the laundromat. The trousers and shirt were about two sizes too big, but he made do by rolling up the leg bottoms on the pants, and cinching it at the waist with his original belt; which was amenable to washing off and towel-drying. The shirt he just let hang long. He threw his soiled clothes in a corner.
“C’MON BOY!” Longstreet yelled from outside, “I need to wash this crap off before it congeals any further!”
While buttoning up his new shirt, Rak caught a glimpse of himself in the bathroom mirror, and stopped cold.
There was something wrong with his reflection, he couldn’t quite put his finger on it; something wrong with the eyes.
Rak put his face very close to the mirror.
“What are you looking at?” he whispered.
“You.” the mirror Rak whispered back.
For a moment, Rak was unsure he had really heard that, or just imagined that he had; then the mirror Rak spoke again.
“You don’t belong there.” he said.
Suddenly Rak understood what was wrong with his reflection; the eyes of the Rak looking back at him from the mirror were not the dead eyes of the Rak Longstreet’s Malevolencia had created; they were the eyes of the old Rak.
“What can you do about it?” Rak replied, “You’re trapped in the back of my head. Imprisoned.”
“No prison can hold me.” mirror Rak said. He extended his arm across and through the mirror plane, grabbed Rak by the hair on top of his head, and pulled.
Rak’s head hit the mirror, but it was he who shattered.
Longstreet was about to bang on the bathroom door, when it opened.
Rak walked past him.
“All done.” he said.
Longstreet only got as far as removing his shirt, shoes, and socks, when there came an insistent knock on the bathroom door.
“What is it?” he shouted.
There was no answer.
“Dammit boy, answer me! I command it!”
No answer, but the knocking started once again.
Longstreet growled, got out of the shower, and opened the door.
There was Rak, standing there, waiting for him. Longstreet felt a sudden stabbing sting on his side, then collapsed to the floor; the now-empty hypodermic syringe jutting out of his ribs like a tiny flagpole.
“That bath will have to wait.” Rak said.
He looked down on Longstreet’s face, and kicked it…hard.
“Bastard,” he said, kicking Longstreet’s face again, “This is for making me betray my friends, you SON OF A BITCH!”
He kicked Longstreet’s face again, and again, and again. By the time he stopped, he was sobbing. Charles Longstreet didn’t so much as grunt, deep under as he was; black blood oozed from his mouth, nose, and various points of broken skin.
Rak turned and went back to Longstreet’s duffel bag. There he had found the forgotten syringe of Tullaxiffan. Now he went and took the money out of the wallets he had pounded earlier, back when the world had been brighter, and darkness was but a shadow.
He was about to leave the room, when a ripping, searing sensation tore through his body like an electric shock, and made him double over in pain.
Rak fought through the pain, until it abated.
There was no hiding from the truth: the darkness deep inside him, the darkness Longstreet had given him, wanted to take back control; and it would not stop trying until it succeeded in doing so.