“I’m not helpless.”
“Really? Conjure your whip. Go on.”
I watched as she absorbed energy into her palms, just as she had done thousands of times before. As I’d anticipated, nothing happened. Well, one thing happened: a stream of energy shot out of her palms in the form of water, drenching Luther.
Wincing at him in sympathy, she said, “Sorry, Gandalf.”
Dignified, he wiped at his face. “It’s quite all right.”
I gestured at the soaking wet Advisor. “And that is why I want you to stay behind.”
She snorted. “Tough titties. I’m going. Everything shouldn’t always come down to my gifts…unless you’re saying they’re all I have to offer?”
The woman always knew what cards to play. “Of course I’m not.” I truly wasn’t. To me, she was intelligent, skilful, determined, tenacious, strong, resilient…and still not going.
“I won’t send off my co-commander and my squad on a risky assignment while I stay home all safe and sound. Jude doesn’t have an offensive power, yet you haven’t objected to her going.”
“Jude isn’t the woman I intend to Bind with.”
“No, she’s not, but you wouldn’t allow any person to go on an assignment unless you thought they were capable enough to handle it. So am I to take this as you think she’s capable, but I’m not?”
Damn, how did she do that? How did she take something I’d done or said, twist it around, and use it against me?
“You have so little faith in me, do you?” That smile was back. She knew I was struggling with this one, and she was enjoying it. Of course I could declare that neither female was going, but in that case there would be uproar – particularly since Jude was out for blood. “You believe I’m weak like those Master Vampires who’ve come to supposedly offer their congratulations to us?”
“Stop twisting things.” I was ashamed to say that had come out sounding a little petulant. She appeared to have enjoyed that, too. “I just want you to be safe. If you can’t properly defend yourself, you won’t be safe. Right now, as much as it pains us both, you can’t—”
She held up a finger, wearing a look that reminded me of one of my old school teachers. “Quiet now. It’s your own time you’re wasting.”
Chuckles burst of both Antonio and Luther. How supportive of them.
“So I’m the only one who cares whether or not she’s safe?”
Antonio quickly sobered. Well, sort of – he was no longer chuckling out loud, but his body was still shaking with it. “You know Sam’s well-being is of great importance to me. If I believed, for even one moment, that she could not handle this assignment, I would insist that she remained behind. But Sam is right; there is more to her than her gifts. You are simply unable to look at this objectively and I understand why. Bear in mind that you will not be facing vampires, but humans. Sam may not be a Pagori or a Keja, but she is still significantly stronger and faster than any human.”
Before I could respond, Sam said brightly, “Now that that’s all sorted, why don’t I tell you my plan?”
Plan? Why did I get the feeling that I wasn’t going to like this?
“You remember I took Janine’s artificial baby bump after Jude had killed her, right? You never wondered why I wanted it?”
I would have thought that seeing a pregnant woman stumbling out of a supermarket would get a reaction out of people. Most hadn’t even noticed, wrapped up in conversations or using their mobile phones. Out of those that did notice, only one person had asked if I was okay. Some had looked at others, trying to judge if they would act or thought it necessary to. It seemed it was that whole bystander apathy thing.
It was as I reached the parking lot that a vehicle pulled up beside me. One of the tinted windows of the grey Volvo wound down just enough to show me a concerned face. This sure looked like our Wendy − if that was even her real name, of course. Approximately ten minutes ago, Jared had sent a response from Leon’s phone; giving a description of me as the pregnant woman who had been drugged.
“Is everything all right, hon?”
I continued to stagger at a slow pace as I slurred, “F-fine.” It was at times like this that I wished I’d been paying a little attention in drama class.
“You look like you need to see a doctor.”
“Really, I’m fine,” I slurred again.
“You’re not fine, hon. Come on, jump in, I’ll take you to the hospital.”
“But my car—”
“You can’t drive like that. You’re close to passing out. It’s important you get to a hospital fast…as long as you don’t mind listening to a two year old recite his ABCs all the way there,” she added with a laugh. Yes, Wendy had brought along a toddler to look unsuspicious. I wondered if he was her child or she’d borrowed him like the weirdo that she was.
Once the familiar mush by my feet had wriggled through the cracks of the rear door and was inside the vehicle, I said, “Okay, thanks.” For show, I fumbled and stumbled as I got into the Volvo.
“Don’t worry about anything, hon. You just rest. I’ll get you help.”
If I’d been adhering to Jared’s proposal, I would simply have waited patiently until he and the rest of the squad stopped the vehicle. But as my own plan had been more popular – more popular to everyone but Jared – I would be continuing the ‘I’m in agony and disorientated’ act, allowing her to lead me and the others right to the Medics.
Jared had insisted that the Deliverer would have easily told us their whereabouts. After a bit of torture, she most likely would have done. But that would have taken time. We couldn’t risk the Medics deciding to leave as this was our best chance at getting to them. I knew that Jared was still pissed, but he had been slightly placated by my keeping Denny with me.
During the entire journey, I was sure to moan in pain, and to appear as if I was drifting in and out of consciousness. Instead of taking us to an isolated spot, as I would have expected, Wendy took us deeper into the city. Once we reached a row of industrial warehouses, she stopped the car. She paid me no attention whatsoever as she took her mobile phone from her purse and dialled a number. “Outside” was all she said.
Moments later, there was a loud crashing sound as one of the yellow roller doors opened. Three people, all in scrubs, came dashing out with a flatbed trolley. Wendy lit a cigarette and watched with a bored expression as they – all humans, I detected – placed me on the bed and wheeled me toward the building. Shame I wouldn’t get to see her face when Denny materialised in front of her.