Chapter 6

Once inside the cabin, I felt safer. Byron was within shouting distance if I needed him, which, in some ways, was also a problem. I couldn’t help but worry what Carol would say in front of him. As far as he was concerned, my mental issues were in the past and just a reaction to my father’s death. He, like the rest of the country, knew about what had happened with Dr Lynch. Well, he knew the simplified version. And I wanted to keep it that way. I didn’t want any of it to touch him or our relationship.

But after Jack’s reappearance and Carol showing up, that looked more and more like a pipe dream.

I led Carol into the open plan kitchen and dining room area. The fire blazed and warmed up the room, giving it a cosy glow. I heard the shower running, and Byron whistled a familiar tune. I couldn’t understand why it bothered me.

“Coffee?” I asked, trying to ignore the queasy feeling in my stomach.

“So, you weren’t joking when you said you didn’t have anything stronger?” She said, peering over my shoulder at the coffee tin on the counter.

“No, I wasn’t,” I said, trying to keep my voice as even as possible.

“I thought you were a tequila girl.”

“That was before.”

“Before, Jack?”

I turned away from her and filled the kettle with water. Byron turned off the water in the shower but carried on whistling. My heart rate quickened.

“One would think that with all the money you got from the lawsuit, you’d buy a better brand of coffee,” Carol said.

“There’s nothing wrong with my coffee,” I said, putting the kettle back on its stand and flicked the switch.

“It’s cheap shit.”

“I like the taste, and if it’s not good enough for you, then you don’t have to drink it.” I gave her a cold glance. I wouldn’t be bullied by her or anyone else. Not anymore.

“Fine,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “I’ll drink your swill.”

Byron came out of the bathroom wearing a towel wrapped around his waist, still whistling. A shiver ran down my spine. I recognised the tune. It was one of Jack’s favourite songs, Queen’s ‘I’m going slightly mad’. Byron hated Queen. He walked into the bedroom without noticing that we weren’t alone.

I watched as Carol’s face turned white and her back stiffened. My phone rang in the bedroom, distracting me. I heard Byron answer it, which was strange. He’d never answered my phone before.

“Just a second,” he said to the person on the other end.

“Babe, it’s Mike. He says it’s important,” he shouted; probably thought I was still outside. “Oh, there you are,” he said as he walked out of the bedroom and saw me standing in the kitchen. It was only then that he noticed Carol. It was then that we both noticed she was holding a gun.

*

It took Carol a few seconds to recognise the tune Sarah’s new boyfriend whistled. It shouldn’t have taken her so long, considering how often she’d heard it over the last two years. Jack always whistled or hummed it in her ear in the middle of the night. Usually, after visits from her uncle.

“You know that as long as he’s around, she won’t tell you what you need her to, right?” Jack whispered in her ear. She looked over at Sarah to see if she could see Jack, but Sarah wasn’t paying any attention, she was too busy messing around with the fucking coffee.

“You brought the gun for a reason, didn’t you?” Jack whispered again.

She heard a phone ring in the distance.

“That’s the good doctor, trying to warn them about you. He’s on his way to stop you too. You don’t want that to happen, do you?”

She shook her head in answer to Jack’s question as well as trying to get Jack out of her head.

“You can stop them first. All you have to do is squeeze that trigger.”

The gun was in her hand and pointing at the boyfriend before she knew what was happening.

“Go on, pull it,” Jack whispered while he played with her hair. “It’s not like you haven’t killed anybody before.”

“I haven’t killed anybody,” She whispered through shivering lips. “Denise killed Martin, and Kevin killed the other guy. I’m not a murderer. This isn’t really happening, is it? It’s all just another game, isn’t it?”

“Nobody said you were,” she heard Sarah’s voice say. “Carol, why don’t you put the gun down? You don’t want to do something you’ll regret. Don’t do what he wants you to do. You can fight him. I’ll help you. Just put the gun down.”

“Don’t you think it’s time you found out for yourself what Denise and Kevin felt like when they killed those bastards? Don’t you think it’s time you did your own dirty work?” Jack’s voice hissed in her ear. “He’ll get in your way if you don’t pull that trigger.”

The shot rang out and echoed through her whole body.

*

The loud noise shocked Michael. The sound couldn’t have been a gunshot. It just couldn’t have been. That would be too absurd.

“Byron? Sarah?” He shouted into his cell phone. “Is anybody there?”

Someone screamed. It really had been a gunshot. He hadn’t imagined it. He was too late. He shouldn’t have stopped for food.

“Ohmigod! What have you done?” He recognised Sarah’s voice, shouting.

“Hold on, Sarah,” he yelled, trying to keep his own hysteria at bay. “I’m on my way.”

He heard someone pick up the phone on the other end and then the line went dead.

With his heart beating in his throat and ignoring the strange looks he got from the other people in the restaurant, he punched 10111. He hoped the cops would get there in time.

While he waited for the emergency services to answer, he ran out of the restaurant without paying for his half-eaten meal.

*

Bael swayed and stumbled on the cobblestones as he made his way along the narrow alleyways of the pit. He was completely and utterly drunk. He’d failed to get Asmoday to see reason. Had everyone in Hades been infected by madness? Was he the last sane demon? He wept for his world as he fell to his knees. The smell of urine wafted up his six nostrils, and he vomited from all three of his mouths.

“Why do you insist on disobeying me?” Lilith’s disembodied voice resounded inside his heads. She would never soil her feet by walking along the paths that her underlings trod. She didn’t need to be within normal hearing range to communicate with her subjects. She could torment and command any one of them from the comfort of her bed whenever she wished.

“This is folly,” he whispered to the dark corners. “If he has his way, there will be no turning back. Neither world will be the same. You must see reason. I implore you, my Queen. Please listen to me.”

“I have made my decision, and yours is not to reason why, but to obey.” Lilith’s voice was loud enough to shatter all six of his eardrums. Blood trickled down his neck.

Lilith would not change her mind, and none of the other’s would risk moving against her. He had lost. His world was doomed. There was utter silence as Bael sobbed on his knees in the filth of the alley.