Chapter Twenty- Three
“You convinced them to let me go,” Wyatt’s voice entered my head and I spun around to see him standing in my doorway.
“Yes, it’s the least I can do.”
“But what about you? What did you promise them to get them to agree to this?”
“Nothing I wouldn’t have to do anyway. I’m stuck here Leif. I just promised I wouldn’t be an eternal brat if they granted me this one wish.”
Wyatt smiled, “You do know how to be a brat.”
“Look who’s talking ‘Mr. No Girls Allowed.’”
Wyatt’s grin grew, “You aren’t ever going to let that go are you?”
“Nope and I have an eternity to simmer about it.”
His amused grin faded. I hadn’t meant to remind us both what I was in store for.
“I wish I could take you with me,” his voice had dropped to a whisper.
“Me too. But this is it. It’s my fate. It isn’t yours and I’m so thankful you’re being set free.”
“Do you think Death... er, Dank will come?”
I doubted Ghede would let him get close to me if he did. Besides what good would it do? I couldn’t allow Death to take me. Ghede would take the life of someone else I loved and we’d be back in this same predicament.
“Doesn’t matter if he does. I must pay this restitution.”
Wyatt shook his head in frustration. “This is so wrong.”
I couldn’t agree more but I was going to come to terms with it. I forced a smile. “Would you do something for me?”
“Of course,” he quickly replied.
“Would you tell Dank that I will always love him? That I’m sorry that I can’t leave here. I’m protecting those I love. But I will think of him every day and I will hum his song to myself every night as I go to sleep.”
Wyatt nodded then smirked, “That’s kind of too mushy for my taste but yeah, I guess I can relay that.”
I rolled my eyes at him and he chuckled. It was almost as if we were sitting across from each other in the cafeteria again.
“He’s returning and you know how I feel about him.”
“I love you Wyatt. I’m going to miss you,” I called out as he opened the door.
He stopped and looked back at me, “I love you too Pagan. I’ll miss you too. In every life.”
Sniffling, I managed to nod before he disappeared out the door.
“You know Dankmar, when you told me we were going to handle everything else I kind of thought maybe you were going to get backup. But a bunch of transporters and you aren’t enough to shut down an entire voodoo posse.”
I had a plan but for once Gee didn’t need to know everything. She’d done what I asked of her and that was enough.
“I got this,” I simply replied
“I’m hoping you know something I don’t know because not only are we about to confront a bunch of voodoo spirits but we’re also going to do it on their turf. Right here in their mecca. You ever heard the saying, ‘home field advantage’ well, this is the description.”
“I got this Gee.”
With a weary sigh she trudged on beside me with the hundreds of transporters in our wake. We kind of looked like the devil with heavenly host groupies but I didn’t care. My plan was sound. This was going to work or I really would charge Vilokan and take down every spirit who stood in my way. They’d asked for my fury; well, now they had it.
The door swung open after one swift knock, “It’s time,” Leif announced smiling brightly.
I really wanted to slap the smile off his face but instead I adjusted the black nightgown that I was being forced to wear and thanked my lucky stars it was long. “Let’s do this,” I replied and headed for the door. He offered his arm and I shook my head, “No, it’s not over yet. You get Wyatt safely in a transporter’s hands and out of this place, then I’ll hold up my end of the deal.
Leif seemed to think about that a moment then nodded. At least he was reasonable.
“You lead the way,” I said standing back once we were out in the hallway. I had no clue where we were going.
“You know that Dankmar will probably be here, Pagan.”
Yes, I’d already prepared myself for that. The urge to run into his protective arms was going to be strong but I had to keep my head. Lives depended on me. Lives of those I loved.
“I figure he would be,” I replied icily.
“You understand the implications if you go to him.”
“Yes Leif, I know you’ll kill off everyone I love and suck their souls down here to live in fornication for all eternity. Got it.”
Leif stopped and turned back to look at me. “Pagan, this isn’t about me. I’ve told you this is my father. It’s how he operates. I can’t control him. You have no idea how much cajoling I had to do in order for him to give Wyatt’s soul back. And to be honest the only reason I think he agreed is because he sees entertainment value in you refusing to go to Dankmar and that he will be the one controlling you.”
I felt sick at my stomach. I really hated his father.
“Now please understand, no pain you have suffered is because I wanted it. I never wanted you to hurt. I always thought you’d want me. That your soul would want me. Hell when I get anywhere near you your eyes look like they’ve caught on fire. You’re supposed to want me. But you don’t. Instead you want him. And you can’t have him, Pagan. It was never meant to be.”
I opened my mouth to scream at him how unfair all of this was but quickly snapped it closed again. I needed to stop being angry with him. This was my life now. At some point I had to accept it. Today would be a good day.
Leif raised an eyebrow, “Okay?”
“You heard me, Leif. I said okay. Now let’s go.”
He looked a little taken aback but he nodded then continued to lead the way. We turned down one masked hall to another until two large doors up ahead were opened wide and I could see the familiar sight of Bourbon Street.
We walked by other inhabitants I recognized from dinner last night and I cringed as they smiled sadistically at me. I was stuck with these sickos.
“Stop it,” Leif hissed as one of the men ogled my chest area.
He pulled me up against him and I went gladly.
“May, dat is sumtin to see is it not,” Ghede called out as he walked into the large foyer. He was once again in a top hat, black sunglasses, and a tuxedo with tails.
“Don’t make her uncomfortable, Father,” Leif pleaded.
“Who me?” he asked in an amused voice. I watched as he lifted his hand and placed two cigarettes in his mouth and then turned his attention to the activities going on outside. I’d seen this once and I didn’t want to watch again.
Wyatt walked into the room flanked on either side by practically naked women. Which wasn’t surprising; I was beginning to think every female down here but me liked to wear as little as possible.
One of the women ran a long red fingernail down the middle of Wyatt’s shirt and then continued on down over his zipper. He didn’t flinch but I could see the tension in his face.
“Please make them stop,” I whispered to Leif who followed my gaze.
He shook his head and leaned down to me, “If I make a scene Father will then make it much worse. If you don’t want to see one of those two mount Wyatt right here then don’t say a word. Wyatt knows this. That’s why he’s so still.”
Swallowing the bile in my throat burned and I had to turn my eyes away from them and pray the transporter wasn’t late.
The streets outside suddenly became vacant and quiet.
“Ah, Death draws near. The fallen have run to hide,” Ghede drawled and pulled the two cigarettes from his mouth to exhale small rings of smoke before placing them right back in.
“What does he mean?,” I asked Leif
“Dank is close. The souls of the people in the streets felt him and ran. Unlike you most humans don’t cling to Death when he’s in his true form. Sure, they like the singer Dank Walker but when he’s truly in Death’s form they hide.”
I watched as the dark streets grew brighter. Whispers and giggles behind me had me wanting to run out in the road away from all this but Wyatt stirred to my left and I remembered why I was doing this. He gave me a sad smile and then Ghede beckoned him forward.
Dank, along with more transporters than I’d ever seen, filled the street in front of the doors. Gee was directly beside him. Her fierce expression scanned the crowd inside and immediately found me. I shook my head at her letting her know I couldn’t come to them. If they’d brought all these transporters to take me then they were out of luck because I wasn’t going. I couldn’t.
“Well, well, well, Dankmar and pals. To wat do we owe dis honor?” Ghede asked in a loud amused voice.
“You know why I’m here, Ghede,” Dank replied, locking his expression on me. The hard cold determination in his eyes transformed to fury as his gaze took in my dress.
“Tsk tsk tsk, I don know whut you mean. You said to let her choose,” Ghede announced brightly waving his hand in my direction. “She did.”
Gee took a step toward me and Dank’s arm shot out and held her back. He understood. She didn’t but he did.
“No. You forced her choice. That wasn’t part of the deal,” Dank replied. The venom in his voice caused me to shiver. I’d never heard him sound quite so sinister.
“Here’s the soul you came for,” Ghede pushed Wyatt toward Dank and Wyatt gladly went. A transporter stepped forward and instantly she and Wyatt’s soul were gone.
“Now is dat all you want or would you lak to axe her yourself?” Ghede turned and beckoned me forward, “Come here Pagan,” he coaxed.
Lief squeezed my arm and pushed me gently toward his father. I tried to remind myself that if I acted in any way like I was scared Dank would take me and be done with it. Then I’d lose someone else. I had to remain calm.
“Axe her Dankmar,” Ghede goaded pushing me in front of him.
Dank’s eyes bore into mine. He was trying to tell me something but I wasn’t sure what. Instead, I closed my eyes tightly and fought for strength then opened them and stared straight at him. “I want--”
“I didn’t ask you anything just yet Pagan. Hold onto that thought just a moment more,” he cut me off. His hard glare drilled into Ghede who stood behind me.
“You’ve messed with the wrong guy this time Ghede. You like your entertainment but I was never one to entertain.”
Transporters began to shift off to the sides covering the streets as massive men with actual swords hanging from their waists filled the street behind and beside Dank. Gasps and screeches and other horrified sounds came from behind me but I stood in amazement as the army around Dank grew.
“You brought de warriors for a gurl?” Ghede’s voice sounded incredulous.
“Yes,” was Dank’s only reply. He took a step forward and held out his hand to me. I wanted to grab it and run to him but I shook my head as tears filling my eyes. “I can’t,” I choked.
“Trust me,” he replied. I’d heard those exact same words from Leif so many times over the past few weeks but nothing he’d done had been trustworthy. Dank was different. He was Death. He knew the reasons why I was scared to leave. But his “trust me” was enough. I stepped forward and placed my hand in his. He pulled me up against his side.
“Bad choice leetle gurl,” Ghede hissed from the other side of the door.
“No, Ghede. You’re the only one who made the bad choice. You don’t take what’s mine.”
Dank bent his head and kissed my temple. “I love you and I got this. No one else will die. Trust me. Now I want you to go with Gee and stand back out of the way,” he whispered in my ear.
I nodded but quickly threw my arms around his neck and squeezed him tightly before Gee’s hand wrapped around my arm.
“Come on you. There will be plenty of time for that later,” Gee said tugging on me to come with her. I let go of Dank and hurried to keep up with her before she pulled my arm out of its socket.
“You took a soul that was too young to defend itself. A soul that belonged to the Creator. You changed fate and then decided to play with a world that is not yours. You stepped out of your realm and took another soul not under your rule. Now I give you a choice Ghede. We close this portal today as well as the ones found in Africa and Haiti where the warriors are now standing guard and we seal them for all eternity. Voodoo power will end right here. Right now. You crossed a line.” Dank’s loud commanding voice boomed over the streets. Even though I was over to the side further away from the opening and where Dank stood I had a clear view of the inside of Vilokan. Ghede’s amused smirk was gone.
“Or you let Pagan’s soul go. Free of any restitution. You stay clear of her and her family for all eternity and remain as you are. But I warn you if I see your son, you or any of your spirits again remotely close to Pagan I will end this religion. There will be no second chances. It’s your choice.”
Ghede turned and stared back at Leif whose gaze met mine. His father was letting him choose. I felt a small touch of sympathy for the boy who’d been in my life for so many years. I knew there were memories I’d never remember where Leif had come into my life when I needed someone. I was thankful for those times. If only he’d been the honest, pure, sweet guy that he’d seemed. But he was a product of evil. Nothing would ever change that. He was selfish and weak. He would never be enough for me. My heart could never love him. My soul could never want him.
Then he replied, “Let her go.”