Disclaimer: Once again, Twilight is not mine; I just play in Stephanie Meyer's sandbox. My incredible betas Im2xshy and Kzintikiller keep me motivated and on track for which I am eternally grateful. A special thanks to Im2xshy for the quick beta on this chapter.
Author's Note: Just as I promised, here's another chapter. Merry Christmas from me. I hope you all have a very Happy Holiday.
Previously in Chapter 52: The Cullens traveled to Seattle in an attempt to head off Victoria. They were running nightly patrols but not finding anything. Jasper then discovered a pattern of strange disappearances that he attributed to Victoria, Riley and possibly newborn that might be with them. Alice had a vision of Gas Works Park and so they decided to focus their efforts there.
The next night found Bella and me floating in the dark waters just off Gas Works Park. Despite the late hour, with my enhanced vision, I could see everything just fine, although some of the park land jutted out into the water so I couldn't technically see Carlisle or Esme where they also treaded water on the other side, but I could hear their thoughts as they conversed quietly and waited for something to happen.
Earlier that evening, the four of us in the water had swam across the lake to our current location and were now treading water just far enough out that our feet didn't touch the bottom so we didn't stir up the sediment. Despite the reports that the contamination in the area had been thoroughly removed, my heightened senses could tell that the waters just off the park tasted and smelled slightly different than Lake Washington or the rest of Lake Union.
As for the others, I'd seen them moving around earlier and I could hear their thoughts as well, but they were now well hidden in the park that was officially closed for the night. Since the eight of us were so spread out, Alice had given us each waterproofed phones that were set to vibrate but were otherwise silent so that we could send out a text to notify the rest of the group if any of us saw anything suspicious.
Beside me, my lovely and much better half, floated in silence. Her hair, like Esme's, had been braided to make it easier to control when wet. As I watched her, I had to admit that I was a little worried about her. She'd seemed oddly preoccupied since the family meeting the night before.
"You all right, Bella?"
She seemed startled by my question, as if she'd been deep in thought. "What? Oh, yes, of course."
Not quite believing her, I pressed a bit. "It's just that you've been awfully quiet."
She didn't answer for a long moment. "Just trying to take it all in, I guess."
I frowned. "Take what all in?"
"All of it. What we're about to do," she said quietly.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean if Victoria does what we expect, and that's a BIG if, then we could end this all tonight and finally get on with our lives."
I stared at her. "You say that like maybe it's a bad thing."
"No, not at all, it's a great thing," she insisted.
"Then why do I still feel that there's a 'but' in there somewhere?"
She stared at me over the water. "Because you're very perceptive."
"What is it, Bella," I said gently. "What's bothering you?"
"It's a bit hard to put into words, but I guess it breaks down to the fact that this is all so new to me," she began.
"My dad was a cop, Edward, and being around him gave me a very definite sense of crime and punishment, and yet, we can't really apply that in this case. Realistically, we're not intercepting Victoria and Riley and whoever is with them tonight just so we can haul them off to jail. The idea of putting them in some kind of cell or using some kind of traditional idea of legal or judicial punishment is just not feasible or practical in this case. But we also know for sure that they're guilty and if we don't stop them, then they will keep killing and Victoria will continue to seek revenge for what happened to James. Consequently, while no one has said it out loud, the logical, even expected outcome of tonight is that we're going to kill them or end them or whatever you want to call it."
"Bella, I can see how the idea of destroying them might disturb you, but you won't have to be the one to do it. The rest of us will take care of that."
"But that's the weirdest part. Intellectually, I know that killing them SHOULD bother me, but everything inside me is almost looking forward to it and I think that's what bothers me the most."
I could certainly understand why she was conflicted. In addition to her father being in law enforcement, my love had a tender heart and it was understandable that the idea of lying in wait with the purpose of destroying another sentient being would give her pause.
"That's your new vampire nature, Bella. The grey areas in life are now much larger and you'll come to see that very little is black and white. Part of you is also now more predator than human and in the case of someone like Victoria, your instinct is going to be to destroy the threat she poses to us."
"I guess," she said quietly.
I opened my mouth to say something else, but the opportunity was lost when I heard Emmett's mental comment as the waterproof phone vibrated in my pocket as he sent out a similar text message. "Here they come."
"They're here," I told Bella as I quietly repeated the rest of Emmett's thoughts to Bella. "Emmett is saying that there are four of them. Victoria and three others that have entered the park near the maze where he and Rose are watching, but they look like they're headed for the old machinery where Alice and Jasper are waiting." I frowned. "They're also carrying two unconscious humans."
"I wonder if the humans are unwilling recruits or dinner," Bella murmured.
I read the answer in their minds. "Dinner. But we're going to see to it that they go hungry," I growled.
Even without Emmett's input, we easily spotted the figures as they entered the park. They weren't being stealthy or quiet which didn't surprise me since I saw in their minds that they weren't expecting us and hadn't yet detected us. The plan for us was to hold our positions until it looked like they had come to a stop in one location and then we'd move in and surround them. Luckily, there was no wind that night, so it would help to mask our scents for as long as possible.
The four of them moved toward Jasper and Alice's position in the grouping of old rusting metal machinery, holding tanks and smoke stacks left over from the factory. Easily jumping over the chain link fence that surrounded the machinery, the four of them moved deeper into the structure. When they reached a small open area to the side of one of the empty holding tanks, they unceremoniously dropped the two unconscious humans, one woman and one man, to the grass. I hoped we could get to the humans before Victoria and the others drained them and that the humans stayed unconscious as it would make things easier for them and us.
Using the dropping of the humans as a signal, Bella and I nodded to each other, then sank beneath the water and started to swim silently to the shore. As soon as we stepped from the water, we stayed low and moved quickly to the fence with Carlisle and Esme joining us a moment later. Jumping over the fence on the backside of the area, we used a grouping of machinery as cover so that Victoria and the others wouldn't see us.
Fortunately, all our efforts at being stealthy weren't really necessary. The two newborns had started loudly bickering over which of them was going to get a crack at draining the human female first and the arguing quickly degenerated in to a fist fight, which a yelling Riley waded in to try and stop. Standing to the side, Victoria merely looked bored and slightly annoyed as she watched the proceedings. After all she'd done, seeing her now made a new rush of anger go through me and I had to force myself to be patient.
Mentally, I knew that she was thinking that not only did she regret changing all of them, including Riley, in the first place, but she even went so far as to try and work out how she might go about killing all three of them just for being such a huge pain. All and all we probably could have paraded a herd of stampeding elephants through the park and the four of them never would have noticed.
If they'd been paying attention, they would have known they were already surrounded. In addition to Bella and I hiding behind the holding tank, Carlisle and Esme had moved around the clearing to the machinery at the north end and Rose and Emmett were doing the same thing on the opposite side of the clearing. Between the three couples, we'd formed a triangle formation around Victoria's group. To top things off, and I meant that literally, Alice and Jasper were directly above them on an old catwalk that encircled one of the other tanks. They planned to jump down into the clearing when we were ready.
Because we could all see Alice and Jasper the easiest, Jasper mentally suggested to me that we all look to him and Alice to coordinate our attack. Agreeing with the suggestion, I nodded up to him and then I peeked out around the tank, so first Emmett and Rose, and then Esme and Carlisle could see me and I pointed up in Jasper's direction. Everyone looked up at Jasper and gave him a nod.
And then we waited.
If any of us needed to breathe we would have been holding our collective breaths. Fortunately, we didn't need to wait for long. About the time that Riley was making headway at separating the newborns, Jasper raised his hand with five fingers extended and began to silently tuck away each finger as he counted down to zero.
And when the last finger disappeared, we struck.
We knew that the newborns would be the strongest physically, so Emmett and Rose and Jasper and Alice went after them first.
"Riley is mine," Carlisle mentally growled as he and Esme aimed for Victoria's lieutenant.
That left Victoria to me and Bella, which seemed only fitting. I grabbed Victoria before she could even twitch and had both arms gripped behind her.
Jasper and Alice easily dispatched the smaller of the two newborns, his head coming off with a crunch. However, the newborn Emmett and Rose had chosen was rather large and apparently, volatile and he got in a lucky shot that sent Rose flying backward over the fence. Mentally, I heard Rose curse and it was followed by a distant splash.
Apparently, she was going to get her hair wet whether she wanted to or not. Luckily for the newborn, Jasper jumped in to help Emmett destroy him before Rose got back from her unplanned dip in the lake. She returned a moment later, dripping wet and in her mind, I saw that she was livid, not to mention disappointed that she wouldn't be able to make the newborn suffer by slowly tearing off pieces of him before she finished him.
As for Riley and Victoria, their expressions were priceless ... especially when they saw Bella.
I could see in their minds that we had taken them completely by surprise that they were both too stunned to even think about struggling ... for the moment. Because they weren't struggling, we didn't just dispatch them right off as we had the newborns, well, that and fact that we also wanted them to know exactly who had put an end to their spree of death and destruction. Seeing Bella would only reinforce the fact that they had failed on every level.
"NO!" Victoria screamed at Bella. "You can't be here. You're dead!" Her thoughts revealed that she was equal parts baffled and disbelieving, but anger was also beginning to make an appearance.
Given her earlier misgivings about tonight, I was a little surprised when Bella smirked at Victoria. "As it turns out, death becomes me." Victoria didn't really react to Bella's comment, except to slowly turn her head and look at Riley.
As for Riley, he was incredulous about the whole situation and, to my surprise, terrified as Carlisle held him securely in a headlock that was only loose enough for him to speak. He wasn't, however, terrified of Carlisle or the rest of us; he was terrified of what Bella's presence meant for him. He knew Victoria would likely kill him for Bella's continued existence. The sad thing was, I could read love and longing in his thoughts for Victoria, while in hers, it was all about self-preservation and she couldn't have cared less what happened to him, well, beyond any revenge she might exact from him over his failure with Bella.
"How is she here?!" Victoria screamed at him. "I told you to kill her before you dumped her body."
"But, Victoria, I ..."
"He lied to you," I supplied unemotionally as I read the truth in his thoughts. "He thought there was no way that Bella would survive the cold or her injuries long enough for us to find her, so he left her in the landfill but didn't worry about covering her eyes or snapping her neck like you told him to." The next words were hard for me to say. "He also thought she'd suffer more by laying out there in the cold. He didn't tell you because he knew you would be angry if you found out."
"Why couldn't you, for ONCE, do what I asked?" she shrieked.
"How was I supposed to know she wasn't going to die easily?" he said defensively. "Besides I didn't think that they would find her in time to change her!"
"I didn't tell you to THINK!" she continued to scream at him. "Why do you always have to ruin everything!"
"Everything I've ever done was for you!" he yelled back. "All I've ever did was love you! I hated being away from you when I had to dump her body, so I wanted to get back to you as soon as possible."
She laughed a little, but the sound was hollow and bitter. "God, Riley, you're so pathetic."
Riley looked like she'd junk punched him and emotionally, he was devastated by what she was saying. He had some grand romantic idea that she'd declare her undying love for him now that they were so close to death. He was now beginning to understand that he couldn't have been more wrong.
Before he could embarrassed himself further, I gave him the bad news. "She doesn't love you, Riley. She only loves herself."
"I loved James and you killed him," she snarled at me and began to struggle in earnest.
I growled in her ear. "Maybe you did love him and maybe you didn't, but you should know that he never loved you."
"That's a lie!"
I couldn't help but twist the knife deeper. "I saw it in his mind, Victoria. He wasn't your mate. He felt no more for you than a rider feels for his mount. He would have happily given you over for someone else if he'd had the chance."
Anger radiated off Victoria like a living thing and in hindsight, I should not have underestimated her desperation and ability to escape. Before I could even read in her mind what she was planning, Victoria suddenly sagged and in the moment it took me to shift my grip, she's slipped free of my hold and started to flee with all the speed her vampire legs had.
I moved to pursue her, but as it turned out, my action was totally unnecessary.
"Where are you going, Victoria?" came a soft, slightly menacing voice that not only stopped Victoria but the rest of us in our tracks and a collective gasp went up from everyone assembled.
Victoria whipped around and there, in the midst of the clearing, stood the symbol of everything she claimed to hold dear, or as much as someone like her could hold dear.
"James?" she breathed, confusion, hope and desperation all running through her mind. "But how?"
James, smugness radiating off of him, just smirked at her. "Long time, no see, pet."
"JAMES!" Victoria's eyes filled with an almost unholy light and she flew to where he stood, all but flinging herself at him.
And she passed right through him, her own momentum throwing her to the ground.
Rolling over, Victoria looked up in confusion at the image of James who continued to smirk down at her. "What's wrong, Victoria? You look like you've seen a ghost."
It was Bella, of course. I'd known it was her doing this right from the start. She was using her newfound powers to exploit the one true weakness Victoria had; her supposed feelings for James.
What I didn't know was just how Bella was doing it. Up until now, none of Bella's projections had been able to talk or move; they had been much more mannequin-like than the James we were all looking at. As for Bella, she was standing stock still almost in a trance with just the slightest hint of a smirk on her face.
For the first time, Victoria looked vulnerable and a little frightened and in her mind, her thoughts were racing. I wondered if seeing James like this had finally sent her over the edge because she was thinking of him as if he were really still alive and standing among us even though part of her brain was telling her that he had to be dead.
"James? I don't understand." When neither he nor anyone else answered her, she screamed. "WHAT'S HAPPENING?!"
The image of James simply folded his arms over his chest. "What's happening, my dear Victoria, is that you're about to lose your head."
Trembling, she blinked up at him and whether it was his words or her just freaking out over seeing him like this, her instincts finally kick in. Suddenly, she flipped over and made a move to run. At the same time, Emmett, Jasper and I had the same thought to stop her, but someone else beat us to it and no one was more surprised than me when I saw who it was.
"You're not going anywhere, bitch."
And with that Bella was on her.
Given Bella's lack of actual battle or self-defense training, her attack on Victoria was surprisingly effective. Her newborn strength was an obvious advantage, but in my opinion, it was likely Bella's thirst for revenge for what Victoria had done to her and Esme that made her go after Victoria so aggressively. There was punching and hair pulling and the two of them grappling on the ground as they screamed and swore at each other.
Emmett snickered. "Some girl fight. I got fifty bucks on Bella."
"Shut up, Emmett," Rose growled.
Bella, who had a firm hold on Victoria's arm as they struggled, gave it a hard wrench to the side and with a metallic tearing sound, it came free leaving Bella holding Victoria's amputated arm. Even though it was her arm that Bella was holding, Victoria didn't pause for a second and turned to run again.
And then the most extraordinary thing happened.
Victoria ran headfirst into what appeared to be an invisible wall. Had the situation not been so serious, her expression would have been almost laughable as she bounced off of what appeared to be empty air and fell to the ground. Missing an arm as she was, getting to her feet was a little difficult but she used her remaining hand in kind of a cartwheel move to flip up to her feet and she tried running again.
Only to meet with the invisible wall once more.
Could Bella be doing this? Mentally, everyone in my family was wondering the same thing. If so, it was a talent that none of us had known about.
"What the hell?" Emmett said, verbalizing what we were all thinking.
I turned to look at Bella, but she only had eyes for Victoria and those eyes were all but aflame with anger and deadly intent. "You're not going anywhere, Victoria," Bella growled. "We're going to finish this here and now!"
Unused to being trapped, Victoria was in a full blown panic as her eyes darted from Bella to the image of a still smirking James and back again as she searched along the 'wall' for some break or opening. Unfortunately for her, there was none and it appeared that she and Bella were enveloped in some kind of large invisible bubble.
Fearing what a trapped Victoria might do to Bella in what was apparently a confined space, I started to go to her, only to be stopped by the same wall Victoria and Bella were surrounded by. Apparently, whatever invisible barrier was keeping Victoria in, it was going to keep us out as well.
Victoria tried to back away from Bella but she quickly encountered the wall again and there was clearly no place to go. "What are YOU?!" she screeched.
Bella's eyes were almost feral as she slowly stalked Victoria and softly answered. "I'm exactly what you made me."
"Riley, help me!" Victoria screamed as her mind searched for any possible way to get out of the situation she found herself in and found nothing.
As for Riley, he was in no position to help himself, much less her. Even if Carlisle hadn't still been gripping him in a secure choke hold, Riley was mentally defeated and had already resigned himself to his fate.
"No one is going to help you now," Bella growled as she advanced on Victoria. "Just like you didn't help me all those times I begged you to."
Apparently tired of being on the defensive and having nothing left to lose, Victoria screamed and charged at Bella.
"Bella!" I screamed in alarm.
I needn't have worried. With surprising grace, Bella launched herself over Victoria and landed squarely on the other woman's shoulders. Then, grasping Victoria's head between her hands, Bella gave a forceful twist.
And the image of James was the last thing I saw in Victoria's mind before Bella ripped her head from her body.
Then it was over.
"That was for Esme," Bella spat, as she jumped from Victoria's falling body with the severed head still gripped in her hand.
"I second that," Carlisle said as he unceremoniously snapped Riley's neck and pulled his head off, as well.
"Bad ass," Emmett murmured with great appreciation.
Then the night went silent and still as a great sense of relief flowed over all of us and we stood for a moment taking in the fact that the long nightmare was finally over.
Ever the practical one, Jasper spoke first. "Come on everyone, we need to get these two humans somewhere safe and we need to burn these bodies."
Turning to Bella, my relief melted into concern when I saw her. She was staring down at Victoria's face, and I saw from her horrified expression, her humanity was reasserting itself and she was absorbing the fact that, deserving or not, she'd just destroyed another sentient being. Suddenly, she dropped Victoria's head as if it burned her, fell to her knees and buried her face in her hands as great dry sobs began to wrack her small frame.
"Bella!" I exclaimed, going to her.
Or tried to go to her. I was greeted by the same invisible wall Victoria had encountered earlier.
"Bella!" I said, beating at the barrier. "Please let me in."
Everyone else tried to get through the barrier, as well, but they had no better luck than I did and Bella was too consumed by her pain to respond to our entreaties.
"She may not even know she's doing it," Jasper said.
"And even if she does know, it's likely she can't control it," Carlisle added.
I looked at Jasper. "Maybe if we can calm her down it will collapse on its own. Could you try using your powers to sedate her?"
He nodded. "Of course. I just hope the barrier doesn't keep out emotions, as well."
"Me too," I agreed.
Jasper took a moment to mentally prepare and then he focused in on Bella. At first, I didn't think he was having any impact, but then slowly, I saw that her shoulders had began to relax and her sobs began to quiet. Then, almost like a puppet with its strings cut, she suddenly sagged sideways until she was lying quietly in the grass. Lifting my hand to the barrier, I pushed.
And felt nothing. The barrier was gone.
Without another word, I rushed to Bella and gathered her in her arms as the rest of my family set about moving the still unconscious humans out of the way and then collecting the various vampire body parts to burn. Once they set the bodies on fire we'd have to leave ... quickly. The park was exposed enough that the fire would likely be visible to many of the surrounding waterfront homes, not to mention any boaters out on the lake.
"Bella?" I said gently brushing the hair away from her face.
She was awake, of course, but her eyes were dazed as she looked up at me and all but whimpered. "Take me away from here."
"Go take care of her," Carlisle said. "We'll see to things here."
Not needing to be told twice, I stood with Bella in my arms and carried her off into the night.
Author's Note: Whew! Victoria has finally been dispatched! But now how will Bella deal with the fallout? Don't worry, just a little angst, nothing too drawn out.
Thanks to everyone that gave me the idea of Rose taking an unexpected dip in the water and that Bella should project James to get to Victoria.