Because we’d grabbed our target earlier than anticipated, we couldn’t return to Saint Helens right away. It was too likely one of the Sisters would spot us. There was no way we could explain why we had a captive in the back of the van to any of them. Instead, our only option was to wait until they, and everyone else, were in bed.
We drove around the countryside for hours. Aside from our target, who grunted and spat muffled curses through his gag, the ride was awkwardly silent. Part of that was because we didn’t want to give the man any unnecessary information. Mostly, though, it was because Rue and I didn’t have anything to say to one another; we rarely did.
By the time we arrived, I was convinced of two things: I never wanted to take a road trip with Rue, and our captive was an idiot. It wasn’t a secret that things were going to get messy. I had even changed out of my police uniform to avoid getting blood on it. Still, the man didn’t seem shaken at all. He just defiantly glared at me and constantly tried to loosen his bindings.
With her headlights off so as to minimize the chance that we’d been seen, Rue pulled into Saint Helens’ long, gravel driveway. Because the trees on each side blocked a lot of the moonlight, she had to take it agonizingly slow. I was anxious to get out of the van and stretch, but I didn’t try to rush her. If I did, she would have made a point to go even slower.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally emerged from the path and Saint Helens came into view. It was a large, two-story building that reached up into the night sky. No light spilled from any of the windows, which meant everyone was likely asleep. Even so, the building wasn’t completely dark. The large front door was flanked by lantern-style lights on each side that illuminated the building’s red brick. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief at the sight. We were home.
Rue continued down the drive, past the building. After another thirty seconds or so, we made it to the storage shed. It wasn’t nearly as welcoming as Saint Helens. Instead of warm, red bricks and thoughtful lights, the shed had peeling blue paint, no windows, and a roof in desperate need of being repaired. None of that mattered, though. What did was that it was set far enough back that no one could see it from Saint Helens, nor would they be able to hear our target’s screams.
Rue pulled the van close to the shed and parked it. As we both got out and stretched, Father Vincent opened the shed door and stepped toward us. He was dressed in his usual black pastoral shirt and pants and had a wide smile across his face.
“Rue, Drake,” he said, “I trust everything went smoothly?”
“Of course,” Rue answered as she smiled back at him. Considering I’d almost been shot thanks to her refusal to let me drive, I wasn’t so sure I agreed. Still, saying so wouldn’t do me any good.
Father Vincent glanced from Rue to me and back again. “Excellent. I always know I can count on you two to do the Lord’s work.”
“You can count on me for anything, Vin—” Rue stopped midsentence and looked away as Father Vincent’s sudden glare seemed to wither her. “Father Vincent,” she mumbled. He was always a stickler about making anyone but Father Sebastian address him as ‘Father,’ especially Rue.
Before things could get any more awkward, Father Sebastian emerged from the shed and stepped beside Father Vincent. “Come on,” he said. “We’d better get the target inside or it’s going to be an even longer night.”
I loved Father Sebastian for that. Not because he saved Rue from Father Vincent’s anger, I kind of enjoyed watching her squirm for once, but because he was always there for all of us.
He was in his early fifties and a few years older than Father Vincent. Even so, he was the parochial vicar and Father’s Vincent’s opposite in a lot of ways, physically and otherwise. Where Father Vincent was slim with dark hair, Father Sebastian was broad and had short, red hair. Father Vincent often smiled, although the warmth rarely reached his eyes. Father Sebastian, on the other hand, didn’t smile much but, when he did, his happiness was infectious.
Without waiting for Rue and Father Vincent, I turned around and opened the van door. Inside, our target’s face was red and twisted in agony as he pulled at his restraints. He met my eyes as I looked down at him and he glared at me with pure, unadulterated hatred.
Father Sebastian stepped beside me. Keeping his voice low, he asked, “Did you grab him or did Rue?”
“I certainly didn’t get to drive,” I answered under my breath as I shot him a sidelong glance.
He shook his head. “Of course not. Why did I even ask?”
I had to bite my cheek to keep from smiling. Father Sebastian didn’t think it was appropriate to smile when we were about to kill someone. It was something I could never understand. We were doing God’s work. Why couldn’t I be happy about it?
“All right,” Father Sebastian said as he looked the man over. “Since you worked with him, do you think he’ll walk if we cut his legs free?”
I glanced at our target as he tried to curse us through his gag. “No, we’re going to have to drag him.”
Father Sebastian nodded. “In that case, you take his left arm and I’ll take his right.”
I did as he said, and a moment later we had the man out of the van. He thrashed and twisted around as we carried him to the shed, but there wasn’t anything he could do to stop us. Rue and Father Vincent followed, watching the entire time.
It took my eyes a moment to adjust as we stepped into the shed and Rue shut the door. The only light came from a battery operated lantern that sat on the floor, casting shadows that made the cramped area seem even smaller. The walls were lined with tools and most of the floor was taken up with various items such as paint cans, fertilizer, and other things needed for maintenance around Saint Helens. In the center, however, was an old wooden chair, which was where we led the target.
After we pushed the man down onto the chair, Father Sebastian and I began to secure him to it with duct tape. Once his legs and torso were tightly wrapped, I removed his handcuffs. Immediately, he lashed out in desperation and tried to grab me. The hard look on his face told me he knew it was his last hope of escape.
I jumped back before he could reach me. As I did, Father Sebastian shoved his thumb behind the man’s pectoral muscle and squeezed. I couldn’t help but cringe as the man’s eyes went wide and his face twisted in pain. Father Sebastian had done the same thing to me multiple times during training, so I knew just how painful it could be. Still, I didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the sudden distraction. I grabbed the man’s left arm and taped it to the chair. Then, Father Sebastian moved his hold to the man’s right arm and I secured it, too.
Once we were sure he wasn’t going anywhere, Father Sebastian and I stepped back and Father Vincent stepped forward, directly in front of our target.
“I’m going to take your gag out in a minute, but first I need you to listen to me,” Father Vincent said. The man refused to even look at him and instead continued struggling against the tape, fighting for what he no doubt knew was his life.
Father Vincent sighed, grabbed a nearby hammer from the wall, and smashed it into our target’s knee. The man hadn’t even seen it coming. His entire body tensed and he let out a muffled cry of pain.
Father Vincent grabbed the man’s chin and forced him to look into his eyes. “When I’m talking, you pay attention. Do you understand?”
The man’s shoulders slumped and he sat there for a moment, his face red as he took labored breaths. Father Vincent let him go and placed his hammer on the back of the man’s hand. “Do you understand?” he repeated.
The man vigorously nodded, finally realizing that Father Vincent wasn’t bluffing.
“Good. You need to listen to me – carefully. What happens from now on is your fault. Things will be as easy, or as difficult, as you make them. I don’t want to hurt you. I just want information. Do you understand?”
The man stared into Father Vincent’s eyes and slowly nodded.
“Good,” Father Vincent said. “Now, I’m going to take your gag out. It would be a mistake for you to yell.”
The man nodded once more and Father Vincent removed the gag.
“Who the hell are you people? What do you want?” the man demanded, his voice strained.
Father Vincent tapped the man’s scalp with his hammer. “I told you to listen carefully, didn’t I? You’re not doing so well. I just got done explaining that we want information.”
“I don’t – you’re the sons of bitches who have been coming after us, aren’t you?”
Father Vincent put his heel on the man’s shattered knee and ground it back and forth. The man shrieked in pain, but Father Vincent ignored him. “What part of this don’t you understand? I’m not here to give you information. I’m here to get it.”
“Go to Hell,” the man spat. “You’re dead! You’re all dead! As soon as the brotherhood finds—”
Father Vincent shoved the gag back into the man’s mouth and sighed. “I told you, things will be as easy or as difficult as you want them to be. Remember that. What’s about to happen is your fault.”
I glanced at Father Sebastian who looked back at me. “Vincent,” Father Sebastian said, “we’re going to wait outside.”
Rue rolled her eyes, but Father Vincent nodded as he turned and pulled a tattered tarp off a pile of junk. Beneath it was an old, rusted knife, a car battery, jumper cables, rags, a water bottle, gasoline, a lighter, and a blow torch. “We’ll call you when he’s ready to cooperate,” Father Vincent said as he stared at his tools, trying to decide which to use first.
I involuntarily shuddered as Father Sebastian grabbed my shoulder and turned me away from what was about to happen. We both quickly stepped outside and closed the door behind us. Once it was firmly shut, I looked over at Father Sebastian and saw some of the tension leave his body. He was just as glad as I was that we didn’t have to watch.
For a few moments, we just stood there in silence, breathing in the fresh night air. Then, the screams began.
The sound caught me off guard and I jumped. I could feel my cheeks begin to burn with embarrassment, but I ignored it. “How long do you think it’s going to take?” I asked. Killing didn’t bother me. I’d been doing it all my life. Father Vincent said it was God’s work. Besides, I kind of liked it. Torture, on the other hand, was different. I didn’t have the stomach for it.
Father Sebastian shook his head. “Not long. At least, I hope not.”
“Why did we have to bring this guy here in the first place?”
“Because he’s got information we need,” Father Sebastian replied.
“Isn’t it a little risky?”
“Of course it is, but it’s a risk Vincent decided we need to take.”
“Why? What is it this guy knows? It’s not like Father Vincent to get his hands dirty. What’s going on?”
“No!” the man shouted from inside the shed. “Please!”
“It’s complicated,” Father Sebastian answered.
I gave him a skeptical look. “Come on, you owe me more than that.”
Father Sebastian returned my gaze and hesitated for a moment before finally answering. “Be careful saying things like that. Vincent would be all over you if he heard it.”
I refused to look away. “You’re not Father Vincent.”
A reluctant smirk broke across his face. “Lucky for you, you’re right.”
The man in the shed howled in anguish. I tried my best to block it out, but both Father Sebastian and I grimaced.
“Torture is an ugly thing,” he finally said. “I despise it. As far as I’m concerned, the trade isn’t worth it. The information you receive can be valuable, but you lose too much of yourself in the process. Still, this was Vincent’s decision, not mine.”
I nodded, hoping he would take my encouragement and tell me what was going on.
He sighed and continued. “There are all sorts of things Vincent and I hope to learn from this man. While I might disagree with the means, I can’t deny that the ends are exactly what we need. Our target is evil, Drake, that much we know. The others he works with need to be stopped, too. There’s one man in particular that Vincent is looking for. In order to find him and put an end to what these people do, information is crucial.”
“Who is Father Vincent looking for?”
“I’ll kill you, you son of a bitch!” the man yelled from inside the shed once more. “No. Don’t. No!”
Father Sebastian closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose for a moment. “I’m sure you’ll find out soon enough,” he said, opening his eyes and looking at me once more. “For now, let’s talk about something else. I don’t want to think about what’s going on in there.”
I nodded. “Like what?”
“Well, why don’t you tell me how your classes are going?”
School: my own personal torture. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I could have gone to a regular school like everyone else. In fact, I wanted nothing more than to go to Meryl’s school and meet the people she so often talked about. Unfortunately, that wasn’t meant to be. Both Rue and I took our classes at Saint Helens with the nuns.
“I’d be doing better if Sister Martha wasn’t so violent with her ruler,” I said.
He shook his head. “Somehow I doubt that. Don’t forget, I’ve trained you for years. You’ve always learned how best to avoid pain faster than anything else. A little bit of it is a great motivator for you.”
“You know, I’m not so sure about that.”
The man’s blood curdling screech interrupted us. For a moment, I wasn’t sure what to say. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about it. Rue opened the shed door and yawned as she looked out at us. “He’s ready to talk,” she said with a bored voice.
Father Sebastian and I stared at one another for a moment as we tried to prepare ourselves for what was inside.
Once we stepped back into the shed and closed the door behind us, I couldn’t help but stare at the bloody mess of a man seated on the old wooden chair. What Father Vincent had done to him in such a short time, I didn’t know; I also didn’t particularly want to find out.
“So,” Father Vincent said, “You were just about to answer my questions, weren’t you?”
The man nodded as blood ran down his ruined face.
“Good. Why don’t we start with who you were following tonight?”
“Just kill me and get it over with,” the man whispered.
Father Vincent sighed. “You two might want to step outside again,” he said without looking at us. “Apparently—”
The man’s eyes went wide and he frantically shook his head. “No! I’ll talk. He was just some scientist. He’s working on that new alternative energy plan.”
“What alternative energy plan?”
“Don’t you watch the news?”
Father Vincent glared at him. “Enlighten me.”
“I don’t know the details, but they’re trying to replace oil. Supposedly they’re close to doing it, too.”
“So your group is targeting these scientists?”
The man nodded, but looked away. “The scientists and I think some of the investors, too. I’d say they’d kill me for telling you this, but you’re going to do that anyway, aren’t you?”
Father Vincent ignored his question. “What’s so special about this project? Why are you targeting everyone involved with this alternative energy?”
“I don’t know,” the man said as he stared past Father Vincent and his eyes began to glaze over. My only guess was that he wanted to retreat into his own thoughts for a moment’s reprieve.
“Rue,” Father Vincent said without looking away, “give me the knife again, would you?”
The man shook himself out of his stupor. “No. Please, I’m telling you the truth. They don’t tell me shit. Look, you know about us, right? You’re the people who killed Lampades and Lamiae, aren’t you?”
Rue handed the rusty knife to Father Vincent, who neither answered nor took his eyes off of the man for even a moment.
“I’m Mormolyceia, the lowest one in my guild.”
“Mormo-what? That’s a weird name,” Rue said with a chuckle.
Father Sebastian glared at her. “They’re code names. Now be quiet.”
She gave him a dirty look, but didn’t say anything else.
“Yes, exactly. Code names. You do know about us. Then you should know I’m telling the truth. I don’t need to know why we take the jobs that we do. I just need to know that I’m being paid.”
Father Vincent glanced at Father Sebastian, who nodded. Father Vincent then shook his head and sighed. “Fine. Who is paying you for this job?”
“I have no idea,” the man replied.
Without hesitating, Father Vincent sunk the knife into the man’s bicep and slowly began to pull it down his arm.
The man screamed in pain. “I swear! Stop! I swear I’m telling the truth! I don’t know!”
If I hadn’t been so fascinated by knives, I would have probably thrown up right then and there.
“That’s not good enough,” Father Vincent said with a cool, detached, voice. “I’m looking for answers and you’re not giving me any.”
“They didn’t tell me! I don’t know! Just kill me!”
Father Vincent stared into the man’s eyes and pulled the knife out. “Tell me what you do know, or the knife goes back in.”
The man wheezed as tears streamed down his face. “All I know is some demonstration is scheduled for a month and a half from now. We’re supposed to kill everyone important before that.”
Father Vincent nodded. “Good, that’s what I’m looking for. I have one more question for you. For your sake, I hope you can answer it.”
“Please,” the man begged, openly crying now, “I don’t know anything else.”
“I want to know about a man. Thick, muscular, I’d say he’s in his fifties by now. Blond hair and a bad temper. The most sadistic,” he broke off and glanced at Rue and I before continuing, “piece of filth you’ve ever met. Years ago he was known as Persephone in your little group.”
The man’s entire body trembled. “Styx. You have to be talking about Styx, the guild leader.”
Father Vincent’s face darkened and his mouth twisted with hatred. A violent, oppressive silence fell over all of us as he tightened his jaw and his body seemed to coil, ready to strike at any moment. “He’s alive? Where is he?”
“I don’t know.”
Father Vincent thrust the knife into the man’s belly. “I want to know where he is!” he shouted.
“I said I don’t know!” the man cried as Father Vincent twisted the knife. “He’s somewhere in this city, the whole guild is. That’s all I know, I swear.”
“He’s here?” Father Vincent asked.
The man’s veins popped in his neck as he vainly tried to push himself away from the blade. “Yes.”
With that, Father Vincent tore the knife out and slashed the man’s throat in one fluid motion.
“Requiescat in pace,” I said under my breath as the man choked on his own blood.
Rue shot me a dirty look, but didn’t say anything.
Father Vincent turned, trembling, and looked at Father Sebastian as he dropped the knife. “After all these years, Sebastian, he’s here.”
“Yes,” Father Sebastian said.
Father Vincent took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “You three take care of the body. Sebastian, when you’re done, I’ll be in my office. We have a lot of work to do.”
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