Neither Cory nor Eli said a word as Eli grabbed my hand from Kat and led me to his car. Cory took Kat in hers.
Eli’s knuckles were white against the steering wheel as he drove from the house, his face set in a hard expression. I pulled down the sunshade and examined my nose in the mirror. It didn’t look like he’d broke it. I pulled a small packet of pocket tissues from the glove box and used them to catch the blood.
Eli stopped at the rest area outside one of the national parks. Cory pulled in behind us. Kat dove from the car then ran across the clearing and promptly vomited in a bush.
“What the hell was that?” Eli said.
“I don’t know.” I sat down on the bench and looked at the dirt under my feet. “How the hell did the two of you survive childhood together?”
“It was my idea.” Kat walked back over to us. “Please don’t be angry at him.”
“I’m angry at the both of you,” Eli said.
Kat looked terrified as she took a step back from him.
“What made you think it was a marvellous idea to break into that creep’s house?” Eli said.
“We needed information for our case,” Kat said.
The look Cory and Eli gave her stated, that was the wrong thing to say.
“This playing detective thing stops now,” Eli said. “Leave it to the professionals.”
“The professionals didn’t care.” I pointed a finger at him. “They let her killer go because she was a Doubleganger, even though she was violently murdered.”
All three Mage’s paled when I said the word Doubleganger.
“It’s settled then. Mystery solved.” Cory said. “You can forget it.”
“Excuse me?” I forced myself to speak around the lump in my throat.
“You know who that ghost was and what happened. You can stop this before it gets you killed.” Cory said.
Eli turned away from me. “I can’t even look at you.”
I forced myself not to cry at those words. In a few words, it felt like he’d torn my heart from my chest, someone just tried to hurt me, and he was angry at me. I stood up. “The hell are you angry at me for?”
“You and Kat shouldn’t have been in that house,” Eli said.
“Goodbye.” I walked away from them.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Eli caught up with me.
“Away from you.” I had to clench my fists to stop myself from grabbing the little Fucker and shaking some sense into him. How was any of this my fault? “Don’t follow me if you know what’s good for you.”
He stopped walking and stared at me with his hazel eyes wet with tears.
I regretted what I’d said the moment the words left my mouth, but I didn’t care to correct it.
He wasn’t sorry for the nasty thing he said to me.
I kept walking, glad when I couldn’t hear him following me anymore after I walked into the bush and after I broke the line of sight I started running. It had been one of the longest days of my life, and I wasn’t sure where I found the energy. At some point, I threw my phone into the creek and changed to another path. Part of me wanted to disappear, but then they’d win. Everyone who’d ever bullied me or belittled me would win. I punched a tree when I stopped to catch my breath. “Fuck you,” I screamed at the top of my lungs. There was no one around to hear me. I collapsed to my knees in tears, thankful no one was around to see me break down.
I wiped the blood from my torn, bruised knuckles on my jeans and walked again.
I found myself at the door of the bunker.
The moment I walked inside, I stripped off my soiled clothing and curled up under a blanket on the couch.
As the spell struck Kat, our terrified eyes met. I watched as cracks formed on her skin; blood seeped from them until none of her skin was visible under the red mass and she collapsed to the ground dead. The door buckled in. Instead of Cory and Eli, the Demon burst into the room. Siegfried was rolling on the floor, laughing as the creature slowly ate him while it kept careful eye contact with me. I screamed and tried to run when Siegfried’s hold on me broke. The demon’s claws sunk into my ribs as it pulled me to the grou-
I snapped awake, soaked with sweat and gasping for air. It took me a second to remember where I was. Once I recovered from the coughing fit. I ran a hand through my hair. From what I could gather, Siegfried had tried to cast some kind of blood spell that had relied on Kat and I being related. I hoped she wasn’t questioning her own paternity at the moment. If Kat and I had been biologically related, she’d probably be dead right now. I screamed into the blanket I still had wrapped around me.
A collection of Dorian’s magically tailored clothing hung in a broom closet next to the small bathroom. I grabbed a towel from the cupboard and brought it into the bathroom. The shock of the lukewarm water on my body gave me enough clarity to think. Some of the things Siegfried had said scared me more than what he’d tried to do to me.
I couldn’t imagine Ralph committing murder. Maybe I didn’t know the people in my life as well as I thought. He was the psychopath that wanted to keep me as a slave. He’d only said those things to intimidate me. It would have been easier to brainwash me if I hated my family and thought they wouldn’t look for me.
Would Siegfried make Cory and Eli pay for their rescue? Would he seek revenge against Kat and me? Was I safe alone?
Thankfully, Dorian and I were close to the same size. Though the shirt was a little on the tight side and the pant legs almost too long. I assumed it was some spell keeping the clothing wearable after all these years. When I looked in the mirror, I almost felt like I was looking at a ghost. For the first time in my life, I could see my resemblance to the larger-than-life hero I’d built up in my mind.
I would bring Alissa Thornton’s killer to justice.
Siegfried’s reaction had made it personal, even more personal than it already was.
Once I was dressed to the nines, I walked over to the shelf that contained Pop’s journals and started reading 1976. I came to a standpoint when I realised that pages had been ripped from the 1976 journal and the journals from 1977 and 1978 were missing entirely. I knew I’d have to pay Wendel Milton a visit, the only person who had access to the bunker. I couldn’t understand why Dorian would vandalise the journals himself. When I noticed that the clock above my head said it was only three-thirty, I decided to pay Detective Milton a visit. I was sure I still remembered where he lived, even though I’d only been there a few times as a child.