|Blood and Ashes: A Kindred Tale
Author: EireCat PM
Where is the line drawn between saving a friend and abandoning your reason for living? A tale of blood, twisted love, and unwilling betrayal set in Baltimore. Based on Vampire: The Requiem.Rated: Fiction T - English - Supernatural/Tragedy - Chapters: 10 - Words: 58,988 - Reviews: 12 - Favs: 7 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 06-11-12 - Published: 11-24-08 - id: 4675189
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I don't remember much of the trip back to Brookhaven to tell you the truth. I left Garm at the doll factory, trusting the Rottweiler to find his own way home as I swung myself up onto the tattered seat of my Ducati and revved the engine to bring me out of the maze of derelict buildings and into the rush of evening downtown traffic with the faint squeal of complaining tires. The rest is a blur of wind and traffic lights and the blare of angry car horns behind me until I pulled up under the covered awning sheltering the high glass doors that lead into Brookhaven.
I left the Ducati for the valet to deal with and pulled off my helmet as I raced up the broad stone staircase. My steps slowed when I approached the doors. I had to be careful in my initial approach, after all. The last thing you want in any Invictus court is one more reason for tongues to start wagging. I like to think I looked mostly collected as I made my way into the building, darting quick glances around to make sure no one took special note of my entrance. The quiet murmur of the building remained at its usual low levels, interspersed only with the occasional ring of a telephone or the click-click-click of hard-soled shoes on marble tile.
With the second nature born of endless repetition, I made my way through the labyrinthine maze of corridor and stairwell until at last I reached my office. I shut the door behind me, cutting off the dull white noise hum of a hundred drones at work and here, here for a moment out of sight and mind...I felt myself actually relax. As much as I ever do, anyhow. Letting my helmet fall from nerveless fingers, I sank slowly into the plush covering of the chair behind my desk and buried my face in my hands.
I'm not sure how long I sat there like that. Hours. Minutes. The space of a heartbeat or a blink while my thoughts spun around in my head like leaves in a hurricane. When staring into my hands provided, surprisingly, no answers, I pushed myself to my feet and started pacing the room. I let the thud of my heavy boots, soft against the marble floor, fall subconsciously into measured rhythm. A metronome to keep me tethered for a few moments longer to this earth. Long enough to let me think, if I was lucky. Out of habit, I lifted a hand and curled it around the small, plain locket I wore around my neck.
Lenny had made me leave him and to leave Lenny would be to lose him. To lose the man I had to admit had become my best...my only friend. He knew that just as well as I did. He counted on it. Wanted to be lost. I tugged the chain gently as I watched the glare of flashing ambulance lights pass outside beyond my window silent with distance beyond the thick glass. But to try and save him would essentially be an invitation to Alvise to give me as a gift to the sun...after he had spent a suitable amount of time making me beg Him to grant me that mercy. Simon's insolence had seen to it that the Blood Hunt remained in place and Alvise did not suffer insolence gladly, as I well knew. And could I blame him? Lenny, whatever his intentions, harbored a monster and a dangerous one at that. I should trust my Prince. To do otherwise would be treason. Blasphemy.
I tugged on the chain once more. Loss or agony. A broken heart until pain muted it or mutilated flesh and a fiery end. A choice that chattered in my ears first for one side and then the other in a voice that grated like the endless shrieking of a whirling cloud of bats.
I yanked again sharply and blinked as I felt the chain give way with a subtle snap, leaving the locket small and cold in the palm of my hand. Slow, as if half in a dream, I released the small catch and opened the bauble to run my thumb over the photograph inside as if it were a reliquary.
The photograph was old, the colors a little blurred and faded, though the image: a portrait of Alvise and myself together, the Prince standing just behind me with one hand on my shoulder, was just as clear as the night it was taken. 1956, not all that long after Gianpaulo had gifted me to the man who I now call Prince. I traced the edge of my thumbnail over Alvise's face and then slowly frowned, digging that thumbnail along the edge of the locket to peel the tiny picture out and reveal what I knew lay beneath.
Under the first small photograph, concealed save when it was taken out, lay a second. The edges of this one were sharper. The light a little more glaring like a knife that outlined my bare shoulders and the perfect arch of Alvise's foot where it was pressed down on the back of my neck, forcing my face into the smooth wood of the floor.
I touched the picture. It was smooth and unwrinkled beneath the tip of my finger. Perfect. Like He was. In that moment, I felt something...strange rolling in my stomach. It started as an ache and quickly grew to a pulsing nausea, thrashing like frenzy as it bubbled up through me and suddenly my ears were filled with the heavy rush of blood and the sound of someone screaming in fear in pain in humiliation in hate. I threw the locket down as if it burned to touch and again and again and again as if locked in a fever dream I brought the heavy heel of one boot down on the delicate bauble.
I remember I was breathing. I think I was crying. What I do know is that when I finally calmed I knelt slowly at the scene of my crime. I took up the shattered pieces that lay scattered on the floor and held them hard enough to cut my hand before I threw them through the glass of the wide, staring windows and somewhere out into the bullet hum of the rushing traffic forty stories below.
The first floors of Brookhaven are a cage of chrome and glass. During the daylight hours, they hum with the activity of the lower echelons of power, secretaries, interns, personal assistants in sharp suits and bad shoes moving about through its corridors, some of them unaware entirely of the monsters who hold the deed to this tower. As the elevator takes you higher, though, you come to floors that can only be accessed by key code, areas where no mortal not already a collared Blood Doll or Ghoul ever passes, where the outer rooms with their bright windows facing the outside world are only for show.
Tonight, though, my destination lay downward. Deeper into the underbelly of Brookhaven Tower. Instead, I flipped open a small panel set beneath the large spread of buttons and removed from my wallet a small, slim bit of plastic about the size and shape of a business card. This was slipped carefully into a small, nondescript slot that moving the cover panel revealed before I pressed the second of a column of three small, unmarked black buttons. The doors slid shut, and with a light lurch the elevator started to descend.
When the doors slid open again with a muffled chime, the world I found myself was a far cry from the busy show of power and wealth far above me. These floors were solid cement and the walls were cinder block painted over in a shade of pale, dull green that strained your eyes to look at too long. Exposed wires ran along the hallway, bolted with thin clips to the walls every few yards and snaking up toward the ceiling where they joined bare bulbs behind wire cages. My footsteps echoed hollowly as I walked past banded doors, unmarked and locked.
My destination was at the end of this hallway: a thick steel door set deep into the wall flanked by two heavyset guards...neither of them Hounds but both of them Kindred. No one came down to those levels that still drew breath. They straightened a little as I approached and I settled the comfortable mask of chill indifference over my face again like an old friend.
The guards shared a look and took a last glance at me before the one on the left turned and fit a small rectangle of plastic into the slot beneath the handle and stepped aside again. I leaned my shoulder into the door and twisted the handle, stepping within.
The room I entered was no more than about twenty feet by twenty feet and was nearly empty. The only thing that broke the monotony of the dull grey cement was a single cot against one wall and a battered desk and chair against another that seemed to sag under the weight of several thick stacks of books. A lone figure sat at this desk, hunched over one of these manuscripts in the glare of the incandescent table lamp and looked up sharply as I shut the door behind myself.
Dr. North's pale grey eyes widened sharply and then narrowed again. She pursed her lips and put on an affectation of cool disinterest as she looked back to her book. This is not something she was ever very good at.
"I trust they're taking care of you, well enough," I said and paused for a moment before I stepped forward slowly, taking in what ambiance there was to her tiny, personal prison. The walls were bare here save for the exposed electrical wiring that fed her tiny lamp and the dim glow of the fluorescent lights above. I was gratified to see that though the lower levels of Brookhaven are well monitored, there were no cameras at least in this small alcove.
She pursed her lips again. "I am fed and occasionally given access to my books. What more could a girl ask for?" I couldn't miss the acid in her tone, weak though it was, and I suppose I couldn't really blame her for it, but I didn't have time for sympathy, deserved or not.
"I need your help-" I began before she cut me off sharply.
"As far as I'm aware, Diana, Prince Moncinegro doesn't need to send you to fetch me whenever he feels like I'd be of use to him. I'm his slave and his prisoner, after all. Wouldn't one of the brutes outside do just as well?" Her words held a tone of unaccustomed chill and her fingers shook enough to gently rattle the page she held in a vise grip. "I'm not exactly a physical match for them, and I know you must be so very busy with the matters of the realm. You know...bullying the weak and devouring the wounded."
There was the soft creak of leather on leather from my gloves as I tightened my hands slowly into fists, fighting down the anger I could feel rising in my gullet. Now was not the time. She must have seen the flash of the Beast in my eyes, though, as she shrunk back a little bit reflexively. I took a deep breath and made every attempt to cool what lingering heat might be held in my voice.
"Prince Moncinegro," I began. "Doesn't even know I'm down here." I waved her expression of shock away with one hand before she could open her mouth again. "It's Le- It's Mercer." I cast a careful glance at the door and knelt down next to her chair, pitching my voice low. As quickly as I could, I explained everything: the report from Garm, the ruin of the doll factory and what I had found there, Lenny's suicidal resolve and his last quiet words to me lost in the gloom of the decaying factory floor. When I had finished, I came back to myself to find that I was gripping the arms of her chair hard, my knuckles white and my fingernails bloodied.
"I need you to go in there and get him," I said softly. "I can't re-enter the building. His mind may be broken, but that hasn't stopped it from being powerful...too powerful for me to break his Command. But you can. Go in there and try and talk some sense into him for me. Jesus, go in there and knock him unconscious and drag him out if you have to. If there isn't any other way. Get him out of there, heal him...and I'll look the other way. You can go wherever you want after that. Leave the city, leave the continent for all I care."
Dr. North watched me closely for a long while. When she replied, her voice was nearly as soft as mine. I saw traces of hope in her eyes, but the fear in them went deeper. "Lenny is under a Blood Hunt, Diana. He's to be destroyed on sight. You know that just as well as I do if not better. How do I know you're not just...looking for an excuse to...to, oh, I don't know! To accuse me fully of treason. To catch me red-handed and aiding a fugitive?"
I paused for a long moment. What exactly was between Lenny and I...what ever it was...wasn't exactly something I broadcast. I had an image to uphold...an important one, dammit! And the image of the cold and calculating hand of the law was one I always surmised would be infinitely harder to keep in place were the general populace of Baltimore's Kin aware that Lenny occasionally showed up at my Haven and held me kidnapped for extensive marathon showings of The Three Stooges. When I spoke again, it was slowly and with care to my words.
I decided to try appealing to her sense of...comradeship. I am not...very good at that..
"You've known me a long time. You were always there to patch me up after a rough fight."
"I also know your loyalty to the Prince borders on madness," she answered me quietly. "I've never known you to disobey him before, and you'll have to forgive me if I'm more willing to trust the strength of his Vinculum than your word." I took a deep breath, forcing that easy anger down again with effort.
"And you also know that I've put my neck on the line for you and Clark. Numerous times. And it almost always came back to bite me in the ass, but I did it anyway. Madame North...Belinda," I amended myself a little begrudgingly. "If I wanted you dead, I wouldn't go through such a complicated way of doing it. You know me. I have all the subtlety and guile of a charging rhinoceros. If Alvise finds out... If He found out, I'd be just as dead as you. Please," I said softly, silently infuriated at how weak the words I couldn't stop made me sound. "Please... He's my friend."
I don't know how long we sat staring at each other. However long it was, though, her expression eventually softened before she lifted her gaze to the door
"They won't let me go," she whispered. "There's always at least two of them out there. Even during the daylight, I think." Her eyes followed me as I pushed to my feet and look down at her.
"Madame North," I said dryly. "I may have come to you for help, but I am still Reeve."
I silenced her protest and grabbed her lightly by the arm to haul her after me. The guards at the door let us pass without note. I knew they would. It wasn't them we had to worry about. To reach the parking garage and my motorcycle, we still had to make it to the maintenance elevator a few corridors away, and I had no idea of knowing who we might meet before we reached the relative safety of the street. Low ranking security guards were not a problem; most of them were too afraid of me to think to question my direct orders. However, if we had the ill luck that Keeper Rhodes or, god forbid, Seneschal Regal might have had reason to make their way down into the dark layers of the subbasement that day... Well. Suffice to day that if I was found out, I'd consider myself lucky if the only punishment I would have to face was breakfast with the sun.
I kept my hand on Dr. North's arm until we had left the guards well behind us, and in the same moment I released her, I picked up my pace.
"We don't have a lot of time," I said tersely. "And please, for the love of all things unholy, try not to draw attention to us."
"I've had some experience with that, Diana."
Through some gift of fate, we made it to the elevator without being spotted, and I treated myself to a deep breath and a slow exhale of relief as the doors slid shut behind us. We rode upward in silence, Dr. North fidgeting at my side.
"You have to keep it together," I said under my breath as a faint ripple of irritation moved between my shoulders at her restless movement.
"You'll have to excuse me," she said a little tightly and stiffened in a palpable mix of indignation and fear. "Defying the Prince at the behest of the Reeve is a little new to me."
"I'm not... I am not defying him!" I heard the words tumble out of my mouth reflexively and continued quickly to stop the scoff of disbelief I could almost sense building behind her lips. I drew myself up once more, putting on the affectation of disinterest and calm that was so invaluable in holding myself together. "It's more complicated than that. Madame North. Lenny...Mercer, I mean, is not the one the Prince is angry with. Not really. You know he has a few... Well he is not exactly the most held-together. Technically...technically the Blood Hunt was called on Simon."
I felt her stiffen beside me at the simple name.
"You know better than most that Mercer cannot exactly...control what Simon does."
I saw Dr. North's face cloud over and her pale eyes close off. "Yes," she said softly and with a trace of bitterness that fought to overcome itself. "Yes, I know."
I paused. I was well aware what Simon had done to Dr. North two years ago. I was the one who had found her once he had finished. The one who had taken the chains off of her wrists and ankles and covered her nakedness and taken her back to Ravenrook. The one who cleaned up the body of the unfortunate Blood Doll that the sweet, defenseless Dr. North had beaten to death when she awoke from her torpor in a frenzy of pain and fear.
On some level, I knew how difficult it was for her to do all I was asking, no matter how big of a smile she put on or how much she believed in the power of her own often misguided compassion. I really did. I am not, however, the best at words of reassurance, or in pulling my own foot from my mouth when I've put it firmly there. I breathed silently in relief, then, as I was saved from having to do either as the elevator gave an electric chime and the doors slid open with a smooth rumble.
I started to step forward and then froze abruptly as a tall figure stepped out of the near shadows and loomed before me with all the agility of a cat made of moonlight.
"Going somewhere, Ladies?"
Eric Clark rubbed at his jaw and gave me a baleful look from beneath his heavy brows. "Was that absolutely necessary?"
I scowled at the Carthian Advocate and rubbed my knuckles where they still smarted from connecting with his face. A quick scan of our surroundings revealed that we were otherwise alone, and I sighed in irritation as I turned my eyes on him again.
"I think you're lucky I went for a fist instead of a gun, Clark. You startled the shit out of me. What the hell are you doing down here?"
Clark cleared his throat. "Well," he said. "Whatever it is, it certainly isn't tryin' to bust out Dr. North."
"No," I felt my features crease into a deadpan glare. "Because that would be very, very stupid, wouldn't it?"
"Yeah. I mean...it looks like you already did it, after all."
I opened my mouth and then closed it slowly, gritting my teeth against protests I knew would never sound anything but forced. I fell to my secondary line of defense, then...ignoring him. I reached back behind myself and grabbed Dr. North lightly by her wrist, pushing roughly past Clark and dragging her along toward where I knew my Ducati to be parked.
"Hey!" I winced as Clark's voice echoed unnaturally in the close heat of the parking garage over the rumbling noise of the circulation vents. He trotted forward to catch up to us, and to my high irritation completely ignored the death glare I gave him and its pointed implication that he should, in fact, fuck off.
"So...where are we going?"
I picked up the pace, searching the shadows around us and shrinking back every time some phantom in my own mind seemed to make them reach out toward us. "We aren't going anywhere," I hissed, but Dr. North cut me off before I could expound on where exactly Clark could take himself.
"Lenny's in trouble, Eric. Diana told me he's planning on killing himself. She can't enter the building where he is again, so she wants me to talk him out of it."
I curled my fingers against my palms again, cursing under my breath as I felt rather than saw Clark's dark eyes slide wryly over my face.
"Let someone play puppet with your brain again, huh Agrippa?"
I didn't answer him, but I could hear the grin on his stupid face as he persisted in following behind us. That self-satisfied smile was gone from his tone as he spoke again."Come on. We'll take my sedan."
Reluctantly I stopped and turned to face him, making no effort to hide the impatience in my voice. "Who said you're coming?"
He gave an indolent shrug of his shoulders and searched his overcoat for the crumpled box of Lucky Strikes he always carried with him. He shook one out into his hand and set it to his lips, his words only barely muffled as he spoke around it with long practice. "For one, because Lenny's a friend of mine. He's the only member of the stuffed up shits you call the First Estate who ever had a sense of humor. For two...you're breaking the rules, Agrippa."
I opened my mouth, but he cut me off with a sharp wave of his hand before lighting his cigarette. "I entirely endorse this. But as I'm pretty sure you want to remain under the radar on a rescue of someone who's under one of Moncinegro's Blood Hunts...that means you won't be usin' one of the cars from the motor pool. That leaves your bike. Which last I checked, couldn't hold you, Dr. North, and Lenny all at once, 'less you got some upgrades recently you haven't told me about."
He smiled at me in the way that only Eric Clark possesses. The way that I wanted to hit very badly but could never quite manage to. I sighed and turned away from him, giving the lapels of my duster a savage tug.
"So where'd you park that shitmachine you call a car?"
Traffic through downtown kept us slowed to a near crawl on the trip back toward the decrepit doll factory Lenny had chosen as his mausoleum. The glow of brake lights and neon advertisements for tit bars and pool halls turned Clark's brown eyes a dull red as he stared ahead into the line of motionless cars.
"What I don't get," he said, breaking the silence after a long while. "Is why Lenny would try and off himself in the first place. I mean...the guy was ash once. So he knows what being dead dead is like, right? I can't imagine that's any better than what we have goin' here. I mean, it's not perfect. But it's not, you know, total oblivion or screaming and hellfire or whatever it is that waits for us." I saw his dark eyes drift up to the rear view mirror reflexively to where he knew Dr. North was seated, though the reflection held no evidence. "Did he say anything when you brought him back the first time?"
Dr. North gave a tight shake of her head. She was leaning against the driver's side passenger seat, staring out the window as if some great message was hidden in the glow of the city sky. "I didn't bring him back," she said softly.
Clark frowned. The patched leather of his chair creaked as he half turned to look at her over the seat back. "What're you talking about? Lenny got Ashed. Saw it with my own damn eyes. Fucking Gangrel split him in half. He was dead as we get, and you're the only one who can do anything about that, last time I checked."
Belinda simply shook her head again. "It wasn't me. It wasn't until much later...as far as I know long after Lenny's death that I gained the ability to have...restored him. I remember...I remember soon after I'd unlocked the power, that Vince Marcus came to me. You remember poor Vince... He had a...a soup can or something he'd been keeping Lenny's ashes in. He wanted me to bring him back. But when he opened it...there was only shattered glass inside. Pieces of a broken mirror. And then a few weeks later, Lenny was walking around again. I don't know how it could have happened."
"Nobody does," I broke in softly. I looked up from the barrel of my gun from where I had been restlessly opening and shutting the chamber. "Not even Len...not even Mercer."
Clark raised a brow at me. "He didn't tell you anything? I mean, fuck, if I'd got a glimpse of the afterlife, I'd sure as shit have something to say about it. Especially if it included how to make your way back if it wasn't your ballgame."
I shook my head again and turned my eyes out the window. "It wasn't something he really liked to talk about. He told me a few things, but most of it was...confused at best. He told me about finding himself in a world between worlds. Where everything is a possibility and you could shape your surroundings and yourself in whatever way you could imagine...but nothing was real. Then he'd laugh like none of it mattered and talk about something else."
Clark went silent for a while, concentrating on not rear-ending the vehicle in front of us. "I like the guy. I don't want to sound like I'm insulting him or anything, but...how do we know any of that even happened?"
I shrugged. "We don't. You could ask Mercer that and he wouldn't know either. But the simple fact is...something happened. He was ash and now he's not. For what it's worth, I think it's possible. You saw for yourself what he could do with mirrors. The way he could step through one and appear out another on the other side of the city in half an instant. There's a lot of strange shit in this world. If only proven by the fact that three vampires are sitting in a sedan and discussing the fact. Who's to say that between one mirror and another isn't a world ruled by impossible possibilities?"
"A literal Through the Looking-Glass?" Dr. North spoke up behind us softly.
I shrugged and spun the chamber of my gun. "I've seen stranger things in this city alone. But then again...it's just as likely that there's some other explanation and it's all simply another one of his hallucinations." I exhaled slowly and snapped the revolver shut again. "Perhaps that's why he's doing this after all. Perhaps...he's just tired of not knowing."
The sedan gave a lurch as we finally left the tangle of downtown traffic. We descended once more into uncomfortable silence as the streets began to roll by more smoothly and the cluster of buildings thinned out around us to the decrepit urban sprawl of the outskirts of Baltimore.
The hunched building seemed to stare back at me from across the alleyway where I stood leaning against Clark's car and drawing deeply and ineffectually from the black cigarette clenched tightly between my fingers. I don't think I can describe to you how maddening that half hour was as I stood and watched Dr. North and Eric head boldly into a building I couldn't, for all my age and power, hope to enter myself. I'm not sure you'd want to hear it even if I could.
Oh no...you don't understand. I had the physical ability to walk across the street and storm into the building, of course, following hot and hard on Dr. North's heels and demanding explanations from my best friend for how dare he staple himself to a chair. But I didn't. I couldn't. That's what you have to understand. I couldn't. That's what vampires can do. If I can tell you anything about what we can do it's to scream at you that we can take away your will. Your very goddamn self. Think about that a moment. The lingering effects of the Command he had given me to never enter that building again were no easier for me to ignore at that point than it would be easy for you to stop breathing because someone told you to. And then again, perhaps my own inability to save him was his parting gift. And there are no words in your language for how much I hated it.
Time passes...differently when you're waiting for something, you know? Maybe you don't, but I have to think you've waited for something at some point, and you know how the tick of seconds passing can start to line up with your heartbeat...if you have one, that is. I didn't at that time. So there was no way to mark the passing minutes save what my own mind could come up with. It couldn't come up with much. I was relieved, then, when after what felt like fifty years later but what really couldn't have been more than forty-five minutes, I saw dark figures make their way through the tangle of the doll factory's old iron gate. I pushed myself off of Clark's sedan and trotted across the street as far as I could force myself to go to join them.
I could make it no further than the very boundary of the fence that surrounded the derelict property, though, before my feet slammed to a stop of their own accord. I felt my teeth grind together a little as the Command I had been given held tight and I couldn't force myself one step closer. Instead, I peered through the gloom, waking the magic in my blood to heighten my senses.
My heart sank faintly as I made out only two figures coming toward me through the cluttered darkness of the parking lot, and neither of them were Lenny.
"What happened?" I asked sharply. "Where is he? You were supposed to get him out of there, god dammit!" I turned to kick the fence sharply, whirling around again as I felt Clark place a hand on my shoulder. "I never would have sent you in there if I thought you'd just let him Dominate you straight back out again!"
Clark gave a low growl that was cut off by Dr. North's soft, sharp voice lifting in the air between us. "Diana, you don't understand."
"What's there to understand?" I shut my mouth abruptly, taming back the rising anger and desperation I could hear creeping into my voice. "I needed you. I -needed- you." I turned away from them both abruptly and rubbed one gloved hand over my face. "You were supposed to save him."
Clark gave that low growl again. "That's what we've been tryin' to tell you."
Dr. North placed a hand on Clark's arm and stepped forward toward me slowly. "Diana..." I could feel her voice soft between my shoulder blades. "We went through every room we could find in that place. And we didn't find anything."
I frowned and turned slowly to study her face. "What the hell are you talking about?"
She lifted a thin frail hand and pushed a fall of fine, pale blond hair out of her eyes. "There was nothing there. Nothing," she repeated softly. "Just dust and mold and machinery and old broken dolls. And...and..."
"There was a chair," Clark broke in from behind her, his voice once more slightly muffled by the filter of a slightly bent cigarette. "Busted chair on its side. Fuckin' blood all over it. One of the arms was missing. Looked like it'd been gnawed off by somethin' big. Dog, maybe."
I felt my features draw into a frown. "If something had happened...there'd be ash. If he were destroyed...there'd be-"
"There ain't no fuckin' ash, Agrippa. And there ain't no Lenny." Clark's voice was a little annoyed, but whatever he saw in my face as he peered at me through the haze of cheap smoke caused him to soften it a little as he spoke again.
"Diana, I don't know where he is. But he ain't in there. If he ever was in that factory...he's gone now."
I gazed up slowly at the factory that loomed silently above us and stared down with shattered windows framed into a grin of jagged glass teeth. I'd been too late. He was gone. Gone... Not to meet the sun, perhaps, but that was cold comfort if it was comfort at all. Lenny wanted to die. So whoever had gotten him out of the death trap he had constructed for himself...it wasn't by Lenny's choosing. And I also knew without question that the only others who would do so with Lenny's best interests in mind were currently standing beside me.
I turned my eyes to the dull dead glow of the sky above Baltimore, thinly veiled from my sight now by a cold mist that was blowing up off the bay. His plan hadn't worked. He hadn't been destroyed. I had to hold to that. He was out there. Somewhere. But he had slipped through my fingers once more. The city and the night had swallowed him up again, and deeper than the comfort of the possibility of his escape was the undeniable knowledge that wherever Lenny was...Simon stood much closer to his side than I did.