Read Darkness Returns Online

Authors: Rob Cornell

Tags: #magic, #horror, #paranormal, #werewolves, #action, #thriller, #urban fantasy

Darkness Returns (5 page)

BOOK: Darkness Returns
2.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Jessie peered up at the rows of windows in the building, wondering which might belong to Ryan’s room. A sparse sprinkling of snowflakes fluttered out of the dark sky, most of the flakes melting an instant after touching down. All of a sudden, as if switched when her dad put the car in park, the happy buzz over her appearance gave way to a nauseous pit in her gut.

“I don’t think I can do this.”

She felt her dad’s hand on her knee. “You don’t have to.”

She looked at him, could see in his eyes he believed it. If she asked him to, he would kick Mica out of the back of the van and drive the hell out of there to wherever she asked. But they wouldn’t get far. And she couldn’t run away from this. This was her chance to make things right.

Kress wanted her to question Ryan, find out what he meant about a
beast woman
and what he knew about The Return. Fine. Jessie, however, planned on doing more than that.

She was going to heal Ryan.

If you’ve got it in you
, her niggling voice of self-doubt added. This voice sounded a lot like Craig, but meaner. Just always so dang negative.

“Let’s make prints, peaches,” Mica said, poking her head between the front seats. That woman was such a freak.

Craig gave Jessie’s knee a pat.

Jessie nodded. “I’m good.”

The three of them climbed out of the van and almost made it to the front door before a man in a blue uniform with a Taser and a radio on his belt came out to intercept them. He looked grandpa old, with a round belly on an otherwise bony body. His white beard had nicotine stains in the mustache and around his chin. The glasses he wore had Buddy Holly frames with lenses that magnified his eyes so that he looked permanently frightened.

“You can’t park that here,” he said in a wheezy grandpa voice.

Craig pulled the special wallet he’d been given with the special badge inside and the special ID that said FBI. Jessie almost snickered when he fumbled to flip open the wallet and flash the badge.

The security grandpa squinted through his Hubble lenses, moving his lips silently as he read the ID. He really studied the thing, as if he could tell a fake FBI ID from a real one. In this case, the fake ID was issued from the same place that made the real ones, so it was a waste of the old man’s effort.

He snorted in a satisfied, Barney Fife sort of way. “Dr. Hasjef’s been expecting you.” He looked at Jessie. “This bring your kid to work day?”

“Something like that,” Craig said and moved past the guard as if he didn’t exist.

Old Grandpa Rent-A-Cop hooked his thumbs in his belt under his belly bulge and let the three of them go inside, though he looked like he desperately wanted to argue about it.

The rode the elevator to the eighth floor and stepped out into a short hall with a door on either end. Both doors were made of thick steel with small square windows reinforced with what looked like chicken wire. The hall itself smelled funky, a layer of disinfectant covering up some more sinister stink underneath. Even Jessie’s vampire senses couldn’t pick it out. Maybe her imagination, more than anything else.

The door to the left had no signage to indicate where it led. In fact, it didn’t have a handle either, just a metal plate where the handle would normally be and a round lock. The right door had a blue plastic sign fastened to the wall beside it that read:
Adult Inpatient Mental Health
. About a foot below this sign was a button that looked like a doorbell with its own accompanying sign:
Ring Buzzer for Access

Craig leaned his thumb on the buzzer. They waited no more than thirty seconds before a face peered through the window—Grandpa must have radioed up that they had arrived. Next came the sound of a bolt snapping, and the person behind the door pulled it open.

A pretty woman with ebony skin, her hair in braids, and wearing a flower-print nurse’s smock, greeted them with narrow eyes. “My name is Shanna. Are you the federal agents?”

Craig showed her the badge and ID, flipping the wallet open more smoothly this time.

She only gave it a cursory glance, her attention roving to Jessie, who stood to Craig’s left and a step behind. “She’s with you?”

“Yes,” Craig said.

Shanna pursed her lips, eyes never leaving Jessie. “Seems strange having a little girl along with you, don’t it?”

“Only if you don’t know what we’re here for.”

“That’s just the thing. Dr. Hasjef doesn’t know. I don’t know. Seems nobody does, but you.”

“That’s right.”

She hung in the doorway a moment longer, as if hoping Craig would offer more, but clearly not holding her breath. Then she shrugged. “You’re the one with the warrant.” She stepped aside to let them through, had a quick change of heart, and stopped Craig by putting a hand on his chest. “That boy is very ill. Last thing he needs is some cops frightening him.”

“We’ll be delicate.”

“You better be.” She took her hand off his chest.

As they filed in, a short man in a pair of khaki slacks and a light blue button-up shirt hurried out of an office area enclosed mostly with windows. He carried a thick manila folder under one arm. He had light brown skin and spoke with a Middle Eastern accent. “I am Dr. Hasjef,” he said, sounding out of breath. He held out his free hand to Craig while simultaneously taking in Jessie and Mica. His gaze hitched on Mica and her skunk-striped hair. He lifted his eyebrows. “You are the FBI?”

“That’s right, love,” Mica said.

“Is the boy ready for questioning?” Craig asked.

“We have him in a private conference room. He is very agitated at the moment. I must admit, we are all a little concerned about this situation. It is highly unusual. Especially at such a late hour.”

“I appreciate that, but I assure you…” Craig’s voice caught. “I assure you this is an important and necessary part of our investigation.”

“But what are you investigating?”

“Can we see the boy now?”

The doctor’s lips pressed together. He stared at Craig for a couple seconds, nodded. “Right this way.”

Hasjef led them down a hall off of the main corridor and around a corner. Jessie noticed a similar smell as the one just off the elevator, but not as strong in here. Still, she couldn’t imagine working—or
—here, facing that insidious and nameless scent every day. Maybe the staff and patients got used to it.

They came to another metal door, this one without a window. Hasjef used a set of keys on a retractable chain clipped to his belt to unlock the door. Then he stepped out of the way. “This room is typically used for one-on-one sessions. I’m afraid it will be a little cramped for the three of you.”

“That’s not an issue,” Craig said. He placed a hand between Jessie’s shoulder blades. His touch felt hot even through her jacket. “She’ll be going in alone.”

A cold jolt struck Jessie through the heart. Her mouth went dry. What the hell was he talking about? She couldn’t go in there alone. Face Ryan alone.

He must have felt her tense, gave her back a reassuring pat.

The doctor looked as surprised as Jessie felt. He tucked his chin down and looked at Craig from under his eyebrows. “This young lady?”

“Doctor, you already know this situation is unusual. You’ll save us all some time if you get over it and let us move ahead without asking questions you won’t get answers to.”

The doctor’s mouth curled down. Deep lines etched his forehead. “Very well then.” He offered the thick manila folder. “This is Mr. Whitaker’s file.”

“We won’t need it, thank you.”

Standing there with the folder held out, the doctor looked as if he had stumbled onto a stage performance without his lines. His mouth opened, closed, opened. Then he clapped it shut, stiffened his spine, and said, “I’ll be in the central office if you need me. Please don’t wander the floor if you can help it.” After that, he scurried down the hall and out of sight around the corner.

“Awkward,” Jessie said.

Mica waved a hand toward the door. “Shall we take our own advice and move it along?”

Jessie’s nerves jittered. Her stomach flip-flopped. What the hell? She’d been taken captive by vampires. Turned into one by a vampire king. Possessed by a malevolent soul. Witness to slaughter. Yesterday morning, she stood in a room with guts smeared all over the floor. Yet here she stood, scared to walk through a door and face her old boyfriend.

This is what she’d wanted all along. The chance to save him.

But what if she couldn’t?

Since Mom had taken Gabriel’s soul out of Jessie, she had lost so much power. All that magic she thought was her own had really been his.

You didn’t need Gabriel to bring Mom back to sanity. Why would this be any different? Get in there, shed some blood, and do your fucking mojo like a big girl.

If she wanted to get drop dead honest with herself, though, it wasn’t only a fear of failure that made her hesitate. The real issue? What would he do, after all this time, when he saw her? Would he even recognize her through his insanity? Would he know enough to blame her for his suffering these past years?

“Jess,” Craig prodded.

“I know,” she said. “I’m going.”

Then she opened the door and went inside.

“You don’t understand,” Ryan said through his clenched teeth, spittle spraying Jessie’s face. He gripped the collar of her jacket, his nose a few inches from hers, his eyes wide, redlined, and puffy around the edges as if he’d been crying all day. “The beast woman will ruin everything.”

He had one thing right for sure. Jessie did
understand. The moment she stepped into the small room, Ryan began his rant. He’d shown no sign of recognizing her, of ever knowing her at all. From a short sofa tucked against one of the room’s narrow walls, he had leaped up with the sort of happy to see
desperation a person had after spending too many hours alone. Jessie had the feeling she could have come in without the makeup job, fangs bared, and dressed in a chicken suit, and Ryan still would have clutched at her with frantic gladness.

She had wasted a good five minutes trying to hush him, calm him down, get him to sit, asking if he knew who she was. He had rebuked all of that, going on and on about the world’s end and the failure of The Return.

And this craziness about the
beast woman

She wanted to shake him by the shoulders and tell him she
the beast woman, and she didn’t plan on ruining anything. Especially now that she was back in control of herself. But she knew he wouldn’t hear her. The only good thing out of the exchange was that it looked like his prescience—or
in this case?—was about old news. Somehow he had had a vision about what happened to her with Gabriel and was convinced it had yet to pass.

At least, that was Jessie’s best interpretation of his nonsense.

It was good enough to put in a report for Kress anyway.

Now she could focus on what she had really come here for.

Jessie placed her hands flat against Ryan’s cheeks and looked him in the eye. He had aged since she last saw him. Duh. But not just normal aging. More than the deepening of his voice and the first sprigs of facial hair on his cheeks. Some of his hairs had turned gray. He had crow’s feet at the corners of his eyes more appropriate to a man twice his age. His face had a sunken, shadowed look.

She hushed him. “I’m going to make you better, Ryan. You have to trust me.”

He batted her hands away. “Aren’t you listening? I thought you came here to listen.”

“I’m listening. I understand.”

“Then get her. Stop her.”

She tried to touch his face again. “We already have.”

He flinched away, face crushed up like a stomped soda can. “Liar!”

“Let me help you.” It was hard speaking through the stone in her throat. She couldn’t take seeing him like this for much longer. With a fingernail, she cut a line across her wrist. The blood flowed quickly and looked especially bright against her gray skin.

Ryan gasped. His lips quivered. Eyes darted back and forth as if he stood wide-eyed in the middle of REM sleep. “What are you doing?” His voice cracked.

An electric hum filled the room as Jessie concentrated on drawing power from her blood. She had cut deep and wide enough so that her skin split open like a mouth, yet she barely felt any pain. Pain—the physical kind, at least—seldom bothered her anymore.

“I’m going to help you,” she said.

“I don’t need your help,” he shrieked. He skirted around her as if he meant to go for the door, but the close space gave him little room to maneuver. He bumped against the desk tucked in the corner opposite the sofa. A cup full of pens tipped over and spilled red and black ballpoints across the top of the desk.

Jessie dipped her fingertips into the blood like a painter dabs a brush at her palette. Then she reached her red-tipped fingers toward Ryan. “Let me touch you. All those voices in your head will stop. All those mixed up emotions will clear. I promise. I can bring you back.”

He froze. His eyes opened wide with realization. For a hair of a second, Jessie could see a clarity come over him that brought goose bumps out on her arms.

BOOK: Darkness Returns
2.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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