“Is he dead?” Carlton's words relayed a sense of shock shared by everyone in the room. Even those who had witnessed the assault were stunned. No one had expected Carter to be capable of such a violent outburst. Sure, he had a temper, but he was a pacifist to the core, and even when faced with life or death the decision to turn to violence was never so quick and brutal.
“I highly doubt it,” Carter said. He knew he'd done a number on Blades--he planned it that way--but he also knew that a being capable of shrugging off a shotgun blast probably wouldn't die so easily. His gaze turned briefly to Roderigo's sweater, now torn and soaked in blood, and his recognized that the brutal wounds had long since healed. Did Blades have the same ability?
He doubted it. Otherwise, his hand would have healed before Carter had attacked him, and his blows wouldn't have had such an easily accumulated effect. Still, he wondered if it was possible that Twitch might give him that power, and the that thought made his blood run cold. Still, he thought, he's probably out of the game for at least a little while.
“What next?” Steven asked.
All eyes turned back to Carter, who could not come up with a response. Then, Roderigo broke the silence with what seemed like the obvious statement, “We get Ash and Sabbath out of that house, and away from Dheania.”
“How do you expect we do that?” Carter said. He'd already pointed out that doing so was likely to fail, especially if it was Roderigo who tried to get them to leave. He knew Roderigo was right, that they had to get them away from Twitch before it was too late, but he couldn't come up with a plan that had any chance of working.
“I guess I could just tell him,” Roderigo said. He pulled his old pocket knife and, placing his thumb on the spur behind the blade, flipped it open. “That would sound crazy,” he said, drawing the blade across his fingers. A drop of blood fell from each incision, only to quickly stop as the wounds closed. “Then again,” he said, “a visual aid works wonders, in cases like this.”
* * *
The obnoxious racket was loud enough to fill Niles Manor. Even from where he sat, Ash could hear the grinding of guitars clear as a bell--as clear as one could call such an unfocused, industrial rift. The drum beats pounded both in the walls and in his skull, wild and unwieldy, like a young child banging on the bottom of a pan. It wasn't music Twitch was listening to, it was a shrill, droning pain, a testament to the concept of noise pollution.
Still, he grinned and bared it. Even if he had knocked on their bedroom door, Twitch would not have heard him, and as it stood, someone far more important to her was likely to be offended. Sure enough, the noise stopped. As he heard Sabbath shout, he breathed a sigh of relief, and went back to his reading.
Or he would have, had there not been a knock at the door. He casually tossed the book aside and went to answer, pausing briefly to peer through the peephole. It was Roderigo. He forced a smile and opened the door. “Hey Rod,” he said, “What's up?”
“Just wanted to see how you were doing,” Roderigo said. The normally flat monotone of his voice somehow seemed a bit more three dimensional, as if some form of strained emotion were trying to show through.
“Come in,” Ash said. As Roderigo stepped in, wiping his feet on the doormat, Ash's smile became more relaxed and confident. “You just missed the concert,” he said. “Twitch was reminding us why death metal hasn't gone mainstream.”
“She doing alright?” Roderigo asked.
There was a strange hint of dishonesty in his voice, but Ash knew Roderigo could sometimes seem insincere despite his intentions, and he brushed it off without effort. “She's fine,” he said. “Obnoxious, unruly, but fine, at least for her.”
“And how's Sabbath?” he asked, his voice losing the air of insincerity.
“Depressed,” Ash said. He motioned Roderigo to a nearby chair, and calmly took his seat. “You know how she is. A little too emotional sometimes, but she's a sweet kid. I don't really know how she's handling it as well as she is.”
“I guess she's too young to remember,” Roderigo said. “Frank's death... Anne didn't take that very well herself.”
“No, she didn't, but the women in this family are troopers. They pull through. Me,” Ash said, gazing toward the stairs, “Well, you know how I handled it when my dad died.”
“Better than you think you did.” Roderigo's face seemed to tighten, as if his mind was telling him to frown. “Better than I am,” he said.
As Ash watched, Roderigo pulled his pocketknife from his jacket, idly thumping it against his leg. For a moment, he thought it was merely strange, but as he stared down at the micarta handle it dawned on him exactly what kind of knife that is. “Holy crap,” he said, leaning forward in awe, “Is that an Emerson knife?”
Roderigo looked up, his eyes connecting with Ash's. “Super CQC-6,” he said. “Custom made, and Emerson isn't make them anymore.”
“That's a hell of a blade,” Ash said. Roderigo seemed to cringe at that word, and then it dawned on him what he had meant just moments before. “What happened?”
“She's dead,” Roderigo said. “Yvonne's gone. She was killed by a man who broke into our house the other day.”
“Holy--” Ash said, immediately stopping himself. “Why wasn't I told? Shouldn't it have been on the news?”
“That's the thing,” Roderigo said, unfolding the knife. “See, 'man,' is putting it rather loosely, and when I say he killed her, that's not exactly the case.”
“I don't follow--”
Roderigo pressed the tip of the knife against his palm, and shoved it into the skin. Slowly the blade pushed through flesh and muscle, past bone, before finally erupting on the other end. Ash was too shocked to move--was Roderigo suicidal? Should he be calling 911?
“When I say man, I mean he was one, once. But that was quite a long time ago. I guess 'demon' fits it better, although that's not quite right either. And while he did cause her death, and while he certainly intended for it to happen, he did not actually kill her. His master did.”
With that, he pulled the knife back out, and his hand contracted into a fist. Blood flowed from the wound for only a second. Ash could barely bring himself to speak. “Rod, you're scaring me. Put the knife down....”
“I'm fine,” Roderigo said. He closed the knife in one hand, and placed it back in his pocket. “Listen, there's something you need to know. It's about your daughter--”
“Twitch, I mean. She's not really your daughter. She's older than that, older than anything on this planet. She's a god, and a nasty one at that.”
“She eats souls. Living, dead, it doesn't matter to her, and the fate they suffer, it's worse than hell. She got her, Ash. She got her, and now Yvonne will know nothing but--”
“Shut the up!” Although furious, Ash was also confused. Why was Roderigo saying this? Did he expect him to believe it? It wasn't typical of him--it wasn't even right for his disorder. And why did these words strike such a raw nerve? He considered calling the police, but he couldn't, hell, he couldn't even stand. He just gripped the chair, his dull claws digging deep into the leather.
Roderigo knew he had him, and reaching back into his pocket he pulled out a rag and wiped the blood away. “I'm not really a man, either,” he said, showing him the now clean and unblemished skin of his hands. “At least, not anymore.”
Ash stood, his eyes staring at that hand in horror. Was a trick? A prank? Some sick joke? No it couldn't be--the angle he'd seen it at was impossible to fake without special effects. Even a skilled magician could not have pulled off what he had seen. “Wha... wha....” He couldn't articulate his words. It was not possible. God would not allow it.
“Please continue.” The strange voice said, each word reverberating ever so slightly. Both Roderigo and Ash looked up to see Twitch, standing there just beneath the top of the stairs, her arms dangling over the railing and gripping the bars. “It sounds fascinating.”