High Voltage

Page 16

I begged every god to forgive me for killing Bridget and thanked every god that it hadn’t been Rae. Then I begged every god to forgive me for making such a distinction, as I picked up pieces with only my right hand because I had no idea what would happen if I touched them with my left, and no desire to find out.

Holding what appeared to be a fragment of the soft-spoken, effortlessly kind woman’s pale, bloody arm, I muttered, “I did this,” unaware I’d spoken aloud until Fallon snapped, “Dani, stop it. It wasn’t your fault. It was an accident. And for God’s sake, stop trying to put her back together!”

I hadn’t realized I was. I carefully placed part of Bridget’s hand and three fingers to the right of the macabre puzzle I was working.

The door flew open and I spun toward it, vibrating, shivering, dangerously close to losing control and vanishing in the slipstream. I hungered to disappear, escape gazes certain to condemn. I fisted my hands at my sides, right hand dripping blood, left hand ice-cold, and forced myself to breathe in a rhythm I’d perfected Silverside when sniping hostile targets. Inflate gut, wave the breath up to my chest, breathe out. Stop breathing. Shoot. Repeat. There’s a still, silent flawless dimension that exists on the trigger of a gun, and I could live in that place. It feels good there. Unbreathing, remote, I never miss a shot.

Kat stood in the doorway.

Bridget’s pain ended as swiftly as it had begun. But mine was a mushroom cloud of toxic emotion she must have felt and come running to discern the cause. She took stock of me, assessed Fallon, squared her shoulders, and glanced left at the demolished bookcase, the bits of bone and flesh, the mangled remains of Bridget.

I gave her enormous kudos that she didn’t double over and puke, as I wiped the last bit of bile from my chin.

“What happened?” she said quietly.

“I killed—”

“Shut up, Dani,” Fallon said sharply as she moved to join me. But not too close; she stopped a few feet away. “Dani didn’t kill Bridget,” she told Kat. “Bridget bent over her left shoulder as Dani was standing up. The black part of her is dangerous and she didn’t know it.”

“How can you exonerate me? She’s dead.”

“How can you convict yourself?” Fallon retorted, eyes flashing. “It was an accident. I saw the entire thing. You had no idea she was behind you. You had no idea anything about you was dangerous.”

“I should have known.”

“How could you know?”

“It’s my arm. That makes it my fault.”

“Stop it, Dani,” Kat said quietly. “You won’t be carrying this one, too.”

Yes, I would. But saying so would only make Kat and Fallon work harder to excuse me. “Kat, what if I’d picked up Rae like I usually do?” My voice broke on the words at the same time my knees gave out. I sank to the floor, tucked my head in my arms, half expecting my own head to blow up, fighting tears. I would weep. But in private. Alone. I would dance until I was too exhausted to hold it in any longer then I would cry. And deal. Like I always do.

“Get buckets of hot soapy water and trash bags,” Kat instructed Fallon. “Bring mops, Enyo, and a few of the Adepts.”

I glanced up and watched Fallon leave with a sharp stab of pride. An Apprentice, she’d not fallen apart. She’d lost it for a moment, then become the warrior that was needed.

Kat closed the door behind her, moved into the room and sank to her knees a few feet from me. “I’d take you in my arms and comfort you but we seem to have a wee bit of a problem.”

“A wee bit?” I mocked darkly. “I just killed an innocent woman. A good woman with a good life ahead of her. Done. Gone. End of story. Thanks to me.”

“I know some of what Rowena did to you.”

I stiffened. I know a truth—most people can’t handle the truths of my life. The sidhe-seers perform surgery on our world with anesthesia when at all possible, employing a deft technique. I hack out the cancerous spots, in brutal fashion, armed with whatever weapon is handy. The way I was taught. The way I did it the first time. I began lying young. Made compartments to store them all in, to keep track. Lying is a pain in the ass. It complicates the brain, mandates the creation of more files, consuming valuable space.

“She kept a hidden cache in her suite. When I stayed there, I discovered a collection beneath a floorboard. Some were maps of the abbey, which will prove useful as we explore beneath. There were two journals.”

I narrowed my eyes, searching her gaze. How much did she know?

“Pawns are not to blame for the actions of kings. Children are not to blame for the atrocities of adults. You know now that your arm has become dangerous. That information was gained at a terrible price. But,” she said in a voice that was laced with steel, “do not damage yourself further than the world already damaged you. You’re becoming something powerful. Don’t abort that birth because of an accident. We live in a time fraught with peril, abilities we don’t understand, changes occurring so quickly it’s impossible to keep up. Put this in one of your vaults. War is coming. We’ve both been feeling that dark wind blowing down on us for a long time. Soldier up. This new gift of yours may be precisely the thing we need to tip the balance of the future in our favor.”

I knew Bridget’s death was an accident. I’d never have harmed her, and I didn’t know it was dangerous to touch me. But this was different than “the actions done by me against my will.” This had happened due to my carelessness. I’d assumed something about my arm with no basis for that assumption. I’d assumed I was safe to be around. I wasn’t and let’s be brutally honest here, I’ve never been to one degree or another; that’s why my mom locked me in a cage in the first place. That’s why I miss my crew so much. They aren’t human. They’re much less breakable.

Kat whispered, “Och, so much pain.” She was silent a moment then said sternly, “And that’s the damage that was done to you unfairly. Your mother gave up. Instead of fighting, she panicked. It wasn’t you. It was her. Don’t let those voices win. You’re not the wrong one or the bad one—”

“When did you become a bloody mind reader?”

“I’m not.” She paused then said carefully, “Kasteo taught me a few things.”

I said incredulously, “Kasteo? The one that speaks to no one?” I knew she’d worked out with him at Chester’s, but he’d taught her other things, too? I’d give my right arm for lessons from one of the Nine. Preferably, my left at this point, if someone would take the damned thing.

“Accept what happened. Grieve. But do it gently. You would never have harmed Bridget. You can’t undo it. Logic dictates you incorporate the lesson and move on.”

Same advice and absolution I’d have given to another. Same grace I never permit myself. A life ended. Because of me. Christ. Her last breath was the one she’d breathed as she’d stood behind me. She had a boyfriend. She had dreams. “The others will blame me.” I’d be walking corridors of condemnation again.

“Some will. Especially those who envy your gifts, and there are many. Living legends have long been targets for small minds. You won’t listen to them. You’ll let it roll off you and continue doing all you can to help our world and our people. Such is the price of power. Great power comes at great price. And you, Dani, my love, have always been strong enough to pay it.”

Fallon bustled into the library then with Enyo and four Adepts, buckets of soapy water, trash bags, and cloths.

We soldiered up and began cleaning the remains from the walls and floor in grim silence.

* * *


I took the long, circuitous way home, knowing I’d only sit, staring, playing Bridget’s death through my mind, seeing images of the bits and pieces of her being reassembled into a bloody whole that could never be made whole again.

There were many things I should do, as dusk took my city.

At the moment I was sitting on my idling bike in the empty lot above Chester’s nightclub. The rubble littering the pavement was hauled off years ago by the Dublin Cleanup Crew, leaving only a fractured concrete surface with deep jagged cracks and a heavily warded trapdoor.

Not, however, too heavily warded for me, and besides I’d found the back way in two years ago.

That was the night I’d discovered, locked in a storage room deep beneath the club, a small printing press and reams and reams of paper. I also found the initials RKS at the bottom of a pile of legal documents, granting Ryodan title to properties all over Dublin. I’d entertained myself endlessly trying to guess his last name. Depending on my mood, they’d ranged from exotic and sexy to absurd.

How many dragons had the man launched into my sky for me, trying to keep me too busy to get myself killed? The Dublin Daily was once the bane of my existence, occupying hours of my time, inspiring me to write smarter, try harder, take myself more seriously. It, and WeCare, which I sometimes suspected he’d created as well, had kept me fighting faceless entities rather than racing out into the streets seeking more tangible, deadly foes.

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.