Chapter 20 - The Morning After

Maxwell came to visit Andi in the hospital.

Her and Jenny had been given a shared room. The hospital had plenty of rooms and both of the women luckily had insurance that would have even covered a private room, but neither of them wanted it.

They had just been through too much in the past few weeks to want to be alone. Andi still had that feeling running up and down her spine that Percy couldn’t possibly be dead–well, dead again if her suspicions were correct–and that he’d just come after them yet again.

Although, if he did the both of them were in trouble. Neither one of them could fight. Jenny was actually doing better. Despite having lost rather a lot of blood from the misplaced gunshot, that was fixable easy enough with a few points of O negative.

Andi, on the other hand, needed skin grafts on both of her palms. The doctors couldn’t quite decide how she’d done it, the texture of the burn was unlike anything they’d ever seen before. It looked almost as if she’d grabbed onto a live electrical wire and held on fore dear life–but an electrical wire textured like cloth.

Still, after two rounds of surgeries and some lovely pain medication, the general consensus was that she was going to be just fine. All she needed was a few more weeks rest.

Maxwell stood silently at the foot of Andi’s bed for several long minutes. After watching time tick by excruciatingly slowly while fighting for her life, waiting patiently just wasn’t as hard as it used to be. Finally, he said, “I just wanted to come by and say thank you.”

Andi smiled slightly. As if he didn’t know that if things had gone differently, he could have been the one that had put them here himself. “You’re welcome. For what?”

He shared her smile. He still seemed a bit strange at times and oddly formal, but he was beginning to warm to her it seemed. “For saving my sister.”

Ah. She hadn’t even remembered that. Jenny had said something about her being locked into some sort of sleep that she couldn’t wake her from. That had been when she’d taken the shotgun.

“She’s fine now. With the help of your book, I managed to figure out exactly what Percy had done to her. I still don’t know why he didn’t just kill her out right.”

Andi froze. He had the book? Had she been wrong all along.

He must have noticed her distress however, for he put a hand up and said, “Don’t worry, it’s still back in your apartment right where you left it. I hope you don’t mind?”

Andi slowly shook her head. Of corse she minded. You didn’t just break into someone’s house like that, even if it was for an ostensibly good reason. But on the flip side, he had basically saved her life when he gave her that sword.

“I don’t think your cat likes me much. I fed him anyways.”

Andi smiled at that. Good judge of character, cats. At one point during the past few days, she’d finally figured out why that infernal cat had acted so strangely when she’d first brought the book home. Cats, as a general rule, could sense demons. They could tell that something not quite natural was invading their space. The book, being a demon, just rubbed her the wrong way. That was likely what had set her off against Maxwell, for that matter. The number of demons the man wore… But if he didn’t already know it, she wasn’t about to tell him.

Plus, he had fed her. That probably helped to sooth matters somewhat.

After that, neither of them really had much to say. He’d said his part and she still didn’t entirely trust him. It wasn’t anymore that she thought he was a rogue sorcerer forever on the edge of going bad. Rather, she just didn’t think he’d entirely grown up. He still felt like a boy with his toys, and that worried her slightly. His toys had rather much more destructive power than usual. Still, he hadn’t actually done anything wrong. That she’d noticed. Yet.

She had one more question though, that she asked him just as he was about to turn and leave. “So what happens now?” Her voice was soft enough that it barely even carried to her own ears. But he heard it. He heard it and turned around.

“What do you mean?”

“All those people on the train. The cops that Percy crushed in the alleyway.” She couldn’t ask around, not without directing even more suspicion her way, but she wasn’t sure that any of them had actually survived their first encounter with… whatever Percy had been. “Our secrets out in the open now…”

He smiled again. More broadly this time. “Oh, that little dust up?” The way he said it made it sounds so small and insignificant. Nowhere near the largest event Andi’d ever had–or suspected might ever have–in her entire lifetime. “People have this way about rationalizing things. I checked in with the police. They’re blaming it all on a gas leak just beside the tracks. Blew out the side of the train and knocked a whole bunch of people loopy for a while. Killed a few even.”

Andi’s voice was flat. “A gas leak?” That was quite possibly the most cliche thing she’d heard in her entire life.

He nodded. “Yup. And it turns out, no one’s really looking much more carefully than that. After all, either they didn’t seen anything… or they saw entirely too much.”

He left her to digest that particular point of view. Right then, she wasn’t sure that she ever wanted to see the man again. The way he talked, it was just infuriating. Like he knew so much more and wanted to show it. ‘Of course they’re wouldn’t be any last consequences.’ ‘People don’t want to believe.’ ‘Peh.’

She had a feeling, she’d come around sooner or later. There was only so much she could learn from the book. And if she’d learned anything from this little adventure, it wasn’t that there were people who would abuse power and those that wouldn’t. It was that if you had power, you had to learn how to control it–before it took control of you.

A few hours later–she wasn’t entirely sure, as at some point she had fallen asleep–she received her second visitor. It was Officer Williams, the very same one that had come to them some weeks ago, right after they’d fought the Mrs.-Morris-demon.

He paused awkwardly at the foot of the bed. He wasn’t nearly as good at waiting as Maxwell was though, which meant that Andi out waited him easily.

“How are feeling?” he finally asked.

“Fine, thanks. And you?”

Something in her tone–cool but not cold, and completely uncaring about why he was here was what she was shooting for–must have caught him off guard. He answered, “Fine as well. Just trying to tie up a few loose ends on a few cases.”

“Oh?” It wouldn’t do to remember exactly which case he was talking about. At least not too quickly. That would imply that she’d been thinking about it all this time, which in turn would mean that she was more involved than she’d led him to believe.

“Yeah. Mrs. Morris, you remember her, don’t you?”

“Oh yeah,” she said, feigning memory slowly coming back. At least he didn’t seem to be connecting her to the more recent ‘gas leak explosion’ on the train line. “Did you ever figure out what happened there?”

He watched her for a bit, but she kept her face smooth, just a little bit of interest showing through. Enough to be polite, that was all. She was glad that Jenny was still sleeping over in her bed…

“No,” he finally admitted. “But we’ve cleared the two of you.”

“Oh?” This time she couldn’t keep the surprise out of her voice. “That’s great. I mean… how?” After tall, they hadn’t done it. They hadn’t killed the real Mrs. Morris. But that didn’t mean she hadn’t been worried about someone coming to the wrong conclusion.

“Yeah,” he said. “We found some security footage from just down the street. For the most part, it baks up your version of events. At the very least, it shows that you couldn’t possibly have been the ones to kill the old woman. She shows up on the tape too, quite obviously alive, and after you’d already left.”

That was interesting. Andi’s working theory had been that the demon must have killed her in order to take her form. But that didn’t seem to fit with his version of events. Perhaps something had come by after to clean up afterwards? Perhaps something even stranger was going on?

In the end, it didn’t really seem to much matter. The cops had apparently found her innocent and were going to leave her alone. What was better, no one had apparently been able to ID her as being on the train. It was a good day all around.

Not terribly long after, they were both released from the hospital. Andi’s hands had healed well enough that she could at least use them, although the doctors warned her that she was going to have to be careful, possibly for the rest of her life. Jenny walked slowly, making sure not to strain the stitches holding her all together, but that too would pass in time.

They went back to the scene of the final battle. Andi didn’t know if it was some sort of penance for the havoc that they’d–indirectly–wrecked on so many people’s lives or just a sense of closure. She wanted to see how the city would heal, if it was having any easier a time of it than the two women were having.;

The black patch of demon blood and guts was gone. She’d expected that all along; it had mostly faded already when they’d run. She still didn’t know exactly what sort of demon that thing had been and what it’s full range of powers were, but it was good that it didn’t last long.

The alley where they’d fought Percy was a little worse. There was no evidence of the mist body that Percy had taken, but that was expected. What there was, however, was a memorial on one end of the street for the cops who apparently had been killed, just doing their job in a world that was far stranger and more dangerous than the one they’d signed on for.

She felt terrible about that. It wasn’t her fault that they’d died–not really. But the problem was that if she hadn’t chosen to confront Percy there, the day would have come eventually. And that could have been in any other just as public a location. It was him that they had to blame, not here.

She still didn’t really believe that he was dead. Well, dead again, if her unbelievable theory that he was some sort of ghost of a sorcerer held true. But he’d come back after having his head completely blow apart by a shotgun. What would stop him from coming back yet again after being burnt to a crisp by a fire demon in blanket form?

There was a dark patch marking the ground where he’d finally fallen. She thought that must have been where the blanket sat on the concrete for no more than a few seconds between when his mist form had been completely removed and she’d deactivated it. She couldn’t even imagine how hot it had to have gotten to leave that sort of mark. She wondered briefly just how hot it could get if one left it active for hours–or even days.

Then she looked down at her hands.

No, she decided, she really didn’t need to know.

When Andi got home, the book was waiting for her on her dining room table, right where they’d left it what felt like ages ago. It really didn’t look any different. Andi didn’t have a particular sane, rational reason whit should have. It was a book after all, even if it was demon, and hadn’t been physically involved in any altercation but the very first. Of course it wouldn’t change.

There was a note left, poking out about two thirds through the book. It was in a chapter that she’d never seen before and from the look Jenny gave it, it was new to her as well. She started reading through it, her mood falling even as she did. After a moment, she skipped to the end and read the signature. Of course. Carefully peeling the note out of the book, she sat on the couch, Jenny settling down beside her.

You were right.

Percival isn’t human. Not anymore. I contacted an old friend of mine who did some digging. It’s not well known, but apparently it is possible for a human soul to remove after death. It requires arcane rituals I did not even believe were possible and binding a demon to yourself, but it is possible.

What you’ve done though, you’ve beaten him for now. My sources say it will likely take him years to reform. But when he does, you can guarantee that he won’t be happy. He’ll come for you. And then, you have to be ready.

When you decide that it’s time, I would like to meet with you once again. You saved my sister, it would be an honor to repay that by teaching you all that I know. Your book almost certainly contains knowledge that I myself do not, but there is no substitute for experience.

It has been a long time since I’ve had a student, but it’s often said that there’s no better time than the present.

Maxwell Clerk

Andi look over at her friend. She had that hungry look in her eyes once again, the same one that had once convinced Andi that she was dangerous, that she was unworthy to be a sorcerer. The thought still stung. Friends should stand beside one another, even when the going got tough.

Especially when the going got tough.

Percy would be back. She knew that for certain now. And Maxwell was right. He’d be furious with them. She’d seen it in his eyes, the first time that he’d come back as the being of the mists. That look in his eyes that just wanted her dead.

They were going to need every bit of help that they could get. And if it took allying with another sorcerer she was only beginning to get the vaguest sense that she could trust? So be it.

Andi wasn’t the only one that had to decide though. She turned to Jenny. “So, what do you think?”

“Want to be a sorcerer?”